Xbox Rings In 2018 With a Tense, Yet Uninspired Games With Gold Slate

By on January 10, 2018

There’s no shortage of action to be found in Xbox’s Games with Gold offerings for January, though there’s a notable lack of originality and substance involved with their selections to start off the new year.  The two Xbox One picks for the month revolve around the horror genre, though one’s the third sequel in an under-the-radar series and another is a port of a game from a prior console. For the Xbox 360, there’s an appearance from the lovely Lara Croft and a co-op shooter, yet one proved to be the last gasp of familiarity for a franchise before a much-needed reboot and another involved little of the boasted innovation it promised.  On the positive side, plenty of intensity and excitement can be found in the tunnels, tombs, and warzones throughout ‘em all, enough to occupy interest until the next round.  Let’s take a look at what’s in store.

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van helsing xbox


Xbox One

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III

The attention drawn by the likes of Diablo III, Pillars of Eternity and Torment: Times of Numenera proves that single-player fantasy games from that top-down, isometric perspective still hold onto a niche among gamers both old and new. Now on its third iteration, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing has tapped into that fondness with its series of hack-‘n-slash adventures, delving into a (liberal) extension of Bram Stoker’s Dracula universe for its 19th-century setting. As the son of the original monster hunter Van Helsing, the protagonist navigates the gloomy, stony expanses of Borgovia, an eerie fictional city where a civil war has recently concluded … and doomsday prophecies have emerged.  Van Helsing must wage war on the evil creatures populating the city, driven by standard third-person combat controls.  Both critics and fans indicate that it’s more of the same, yet lacking features that’d scare up a higher ranking.


Zombi has enjoyed a unique, prolonged existence across several consoles, starting out as a launch title for Nintendo’s Wii U and later resurrected for other systems three years later. While the tablet functions have obviously been abandoned for the newer version of the game, Ubisoft Montpellier has retained the immersive and tense survival horror aspects, hinged on a zombie outbreak around London, England. Exploration is rewarded through the discovery of safe houses and connective tunnels that help the lead character traverse the landscape, but, of course, the core of the gameplay comes in bashing in the skulls of zombies, whom can be pretty terrifying. Despite its raising from the dead, Zombi received a mixed response to its translation to the standard console format, but the central aspects of its terror are strong enough for it to hang on in the survivor-horror genre.


Crystal Dynamics


Xbox 360

Tomb Raider: Underworld

Coming up in a few months, the recent reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise will be receiving a new film adaptation starring Alicia Vikander, marking the first time that Hollywood has taken a second, non-sequel crack at a videogame storyline. She’s a more realistic iteration of Lara Croft who has been updated for the common era, given roughness, practicality, and naivete in her physical and emotional presence.  The last title that captured the legendary raider of tombs in her confidently heroic and unabashedly sexualized form — the one embodied by Angelina Jolie on the big screen — was Tomb Raider: Underworld, in which the title character embarks on a search for her mother in submerged environs powered by Norse mythology. Some questionable tweaks have been made to the combat and to the skimpiness of Lara’s attire, and problems persist from prior installments regarding camera angles, but the wall-climbing, puzzle-solving, and gunplay make for a rush of a final hoorah with this version of the lady Croft.

Army of Two

Army of Two infiltrated the shooter scene at an awkward point in that console generation’s life cycle, where gamers had experienced a hefty amount of the same-old, same-old from the genre, evolving little to that point. Claims emerged that this game from EA Montreal would revolutionize things, especially from the co-op side of the gameplay, in their depiction of mercenaries weaving through current battle zones throughout the Middle East and Africa. Designed with strategy and tension involving a pair of soldiers in mind, the game properly hurls player into the throes of engaging battles that absolutely demand two responsive entities, which can either be a single-player with a computer-controlled partner or, more desirably, with two players cooperating. Revolutionary isn’t a word that critics and gamers fired at Army of Two, though, instead regarded as a passable third-person shooter with loosely applied gameplay concepts drawing attention to one soldier or another.

About Thomas Spurlin

Film, home-media, and videogame scribe who digs green tea and walking his dogs.

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