The lights are on
In recent years, it isn't uncommon for $60 to buy you 8-10 hours of gameplay. Titles like Vanquish don't offer any sort of multiplayer, and other games like Bioshock 2 and Singularity feature tacked-on multiplayer modes that don't offer much in the way of lasting appeal. While games like these might leave you wishing you'd have rented instead of ponying up the full retail cost, others stay entertaining long after their initial purchase. Here are some of the best games that just keep on giving.
First-Person Shooters (Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield: Bad Company)
Boot up any Call of Duty game, go to your friends leaderboard, and check out the "time played" column. If your friends are anything like mine, you'll see people that have put 9, 10, or more full days into its multiplayer. We're talking hundreds upon hundreds of hours of shooting enemies, capturing flags, securing objectives, and posting hilarious kills to YouTube. If it were the same thing over and over again, things might get boring. That's why it's great that this generation of FPS titles typically features persistent ranking systems that keep on rewarding you with new goodies and weapons. These rewards could mean the difference between playing 10 hours of a game's multiplayer and playing 100 hours of it.
Ever since its debut, the Rock Band series has been a go-to when it comes to party gaming. It's easy enough for casual gamers to pick up and play, and hardcore gamers can grab a couple beers and appreciate it just the same. Whereas other party games tend to be on the simple side (example: pretty much any Wii game with "party" in the title), Rock Band's varying difficulties ensure that gaming vets can still be challenged while their non-gamer parents or significant others bang away at their instruments without fear of failure. It's fun whether you play for 15 minutes or three hours, and it's always a great game to have in your collection for those times you have company over.
Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit
While almost all racing games have some sort of multiplayer component, the new Need For Speed's autolog system lets you compete with your friends regardless of whether or not they're even online at the same time as you. By allowing you to post your times to a wall (not unlike Facebook), there's never a time where you can't compete against your friends. It's a constant back-and-forth of beating your friends' times, then struggling to improve yours even more when they eventually reclaim the crown.
StarCraft came out in 1998, and it's still being played in 2010. Because of that, it's safe to say people are going to be playing StarCraft II for a long, long time. They may have taken their sweet time with developing the game, but that time paid off in its fantastic gameplay and addictive multiplayer. It's one of those games that makes a six hour session feel like 30 minutes, so you can easily rack up dozens of hours before you even know it.
World of Warcraft
Blizzard has the RTS thing down with StarCraft II, but they're obviously the frontrunner in the MMO field thanks to the juggernaut World of Warcraft. Games like Call of Duty may feature playtimes in the hundreds of hours, but with WoW it's just as likely to see thousands. Granted, this is the only one on the list where you have to pay to play, so it may not be as much "bang for your buck" as the others. However, its millions of players have proven that they're more than willing to pay month in and month out for more of the biggest MMO in gaming.
I didn't put this one in the FPS category because it's such a different experience than the CODs and Halos of the world. It's strictly cooperative unless you're in a duel, and players can pop in and pop out of Pandora with ease. You can be driving around blasting skags by yourself, and all of a sudden a buddy can jump into the fray. These sessions can last ridiculous amounts of time as you level up and find rare loot together. With several DLC packs available for the game, it's not hard to put a couple hundred hours into this RPG-inspired shooter.
Pinball FX 2
Like Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Pinball FX 2 can be a non-traditional multiplayer experience. It's a concept almost as old as gaming itself...get a higher score than all of your friends. The beauty of this game is that you're not just telling your friends about your awesome score (that you may or may not have made up), but it's posted for everyone to see. If someone is feeling confident and starts approaching your score, they'll see it (and your avatar) mocking them from the corner. Top the leaderboard and your avatar even gets a little crown to show off with. In a holiday season packed with AAA titles, it's saying something that the GI staff has been talking about Pinball FX 2 even more than Black Ops or Halo.