OverAchiever – Point Hunter Field Guide

So you eat sleep and breath achievement points? You’re a man of strictly numbers. A man who scoffs at others jealous of your numeric stature and their petty “observations” that most of your achievements didn’t require any real skill. Their “logical” arguments are made simply out of insecurity of their own Gamerscore. Ignoring such quibbles you only point with satisfaction to the massive stockpile of (utterly useless, completely ambiguous) points you have accumulated and smile with pride. You can’t do anything with them, many require no talent to achieve, and some can even be scammed out of the game but that doesn’t matter, because you have a lot of them. Good news my friend. Christmas has come early and I’m here to bestow a wealth of (practically) free achievements to all the good boys and girls. If your bad please don’t read any further.

The strategies and tips mentioned here will work in the long term for dedicated achievement hunters but can also be used to nab some fast achievements for those looking to quickly boost their score higher than a buddy’s so they can lord it over them. This is not a guide for completionists or those looking to tackle the toughest achievements. Because the only thing you get out of that is personal satisfaction and that’s not good enough for us. Only a ridiculously inflated Gamerscore will make us happy. But let’s get right to it. You didn’t come here to waste time reading. There’s points to be had!

Play Often. Play Cheap.
The real trick is to concentrate on rentals. It’s the best way to maintain a steady flow of points with easy games and simple achievements without shelling out a fortune on multiple games or being stuck with just a few to labor over the tedious ones. This way you will also have access to a number of games that ordinarily would not be worth your money (certainly not $60!) or time but offer simple achievement supremacy. The best solution for dedicated point hunters are online game rental programs. Subscription services such as Gamefly or GottaPlay offer programs similar to Netflix and allow you to rent unlimited games per month a set number at a time. The services can seem a little pricey, especially when compared to similar DVD rental programs, but they’re generally cheaper than renting them at a local store. The only real drawback is the delay for shipping them back, having a new one sent, and receiving it (generally 3 days or more) but the available selection of games and reduced price vs. that of your average retailer makes up for the slight inconvenience. It should be noted though that games in high demand such as newer or more popular titles may take longer to ship.

In store or online, either way, if points alone are your prize then renting is an essential strategy because while 100% completion is often a time consuming challenge most games offer a variety of simple achievements that can be acquired during the natural course of the game and require little additional effort, special skills, or practice from the gamer. These points can be grabbed over the average rental period and the game discarded (ahem…returned) when the going gets tough. For instance Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 offer achievements simply for completing levels on most any difficulty setting and there are some games that even reward failure, while harder achievements, such as finishing the game on the toughest difficulty setting require a greater investment of skill and patience. This is why maintaining a steady flow of rentals is a key strategy for point hunters. It allows them to score a lot of the basic, easy points and move on when the achievements demand to much time to be worth it.

Sigh…More Reading
Research is an important part of a successful point campaign as well. It pays to know which games will reward you the fastest and most liberally and to plan an efficient course of action for playing them. Websites such as xbox360achievements.org and easyxbox360achievements.com are great resources that provide lists of the easiest game achievements as well as guides and community forums by and for fellow point hunters. Xbox360achievements.org has a comprehensive listing of achievements and tips and Easyxbox360achievements.com even categorizes a handful of easy games by approximately how long they take to max out the achievements as well as lists of “time consuming” and “hard games.” It’s easy to google specific games and achievements and youtube.com will typically have walkthrough videos for pretty much any.

Being aware of achievement ‘habits,’ if you will, is helpful as well. High profile games (Mass Effect, Fable 2, Halo 3…) and accomplished publishers (Epic, Valve, Ubisoft…) typically balance the achievements and their difficulty very well, spreading the challenges throughout the experience in order to strategically extend the lifespan of the game. This can make accumulating the individual achievements more time consuming, often requiring multiple playthroughs. The ratio of time spent vs. points gained generally becomes skewed more towards time spent.

This doesn’t mean that hard work won’t pay off in many cases, however. Call of Duty 4 offers a stiff challenge for completionists (particularly if you want to join the “mile high club”) but hardcore gamers will find that, because of it’s brief campaign and absence of stubborn online achievements, with a little effort it is actually one of the quickest ways to accumulate a large cache of achievement points. It’s also one of the best games on the console which means the process is also very enjoyable (fun, remember?) This is where research can pay off in finding the games with the best balance of achievement points and entertainment value. It might be worth the extra effort if you’re actually enjoying the experience.

Crap Pays
Sadly it does indeed, and the best place to score huge amounts of points fast is with smaller publishers and games licensed from movies, comics or other media or games designed with kids in mind. Typically these games are lazy attempts by corporations simply to cash in on popular brand names or non video game characters and franchises. On a scale of crap to 10, let’s just say these games generally aren’t anywhere near 10. Since gaming greatness isn’t what motivates these games’ unnecessary existence, there is usually a minimum of time put into their design as companies rush completion to coincide with a movie debut or simply capitalize on a popular franchise quickly with minimal effort. Quality isn’t a necessity since the brand name will sell the product regardless.

This sad but successful corporate cycle consistently produces some of the worst software abominations in gaming history (Superman 64, E.T., Iron Man. The proud tradition continues…) but more importantly it has now finally begun to pay gamers back for the years of abuse inflicted on those niave enough to buy them or unfortunate enough to receive them as gifts. The small consolation now offered to 360 owners comes in the form of easy achievements. The lack of thought put into the actual game design means they are generally pushovers for points.

They may not be the most enjoyable gaming experience but you typically don’t have to play for very long since they usually offer quick and easy ways to cash in on the 1000 points offered. After that you never have to look at them again. Avatar and TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) as well as movie games (primarily child oriented) such as Cars, Wall-E, Kung Fu Panda and Pirates Of The Caribbean: At Worlds End, are good examples of this. King Kong will award you with 1000g simply for completing the main quest (approx 5-6 hours) but not only that there are cheat codes such as “God Mode” that you can use and still score the achievements! Avatar, however is the Grand Pubah of easy achievements. With only five, all based on hit count, it’s actually possible to score 1000 points in just a few minutes. No joke.

Odds and Ends
Sports Games should also be mentioned as a viable source. You’d think securing all the achievements in a genre structured and honeycombed with a variety of statistics would be a tedious exercise but the EA and 2K sports franchises, mainly the NBA and NHL, feature some fairly lenient entrees, though primarily in the ’06 seasons (in truth EA learned with time and the achievements in each subsequent season have gradually increased in number and difficulty). Most of the achievements are pretty basic, but if you have trouble you can usually play as both teams in a game. This should make things considerable easier since you’re bound to be a far more forgiving opponent.

One of the final things to consider when selecting games is access, or lack there of, to Xbox live, as some that feature multiplayer will orient many achievement points around online play. Just like offline achievements these can range from simple accomplishments such as finishing one match (“Player Match Debut” Guilty Gear 2) or be so difficult or time consuming only players who eat sleep and breath the game will ever complete them (“Seriously” Gears of War – 10,000 kills online). If you don’t have a Gold level subscription you can’t even begin to think about scoring those points no matter how easy they are, though a silver membership would allow you to access XBL Arcade for a handful of achievements in downloadable games. A few gems can be found but these little gaming nuggets are not cost effective enough to purchase for the points alone.

A successful achievement campaign involves research, planning and preparation. Skill really should have been in that list somewhere (we are talking about “achievements” after all), but alas, incompetent gamers rejoice. If you play your cards right, even hopeless noobs can attain achievement greatness. Using these strategies and a Gamefly membership, in theory it would actually be possible to rack up around 3000-4000g during their 10 day free trial alone and probably average 500-600 points a week thereafter. So stop wasting precious achievement time reading! Get out there and earn some points! Just remember the cold, sad truth is that while everybody admires their own achievements nobody cares about yours but you. Happy hunting!

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