Xbox Floors It Through September, Leaves Behind Sluggish Games With Gold
The release of Microsoft’s new Xbox console, the One X, will be arriving in just a few short months, and the Games with Gold freebies available for the month of September suggest that the folks in green would prefer for the time between now and then to just … kinda speed by. Two racing games of different stripes, one of which was a launch title for the original One, and a dated first-person multiplayer shooter hallmark the offerings, while an under-the-radar graphic adventure rounds out the rest of the roster. There’s minimal excitement waiting at the starting line this month, unfortunately, but at least an indie gets a moment to shine. Here are the offerings.
Forza Motorsport 5
Every new console has its heavy-hitting graphical powerhouses to jumpstart enthusiasm for its capabilities. For the Xbox One, the one-two punch of Ryse: Son of Rome and Forza Motorsport 5 filled that void as launch titles, and there’s nothing like a polished, realistic racing game to get one revved up for the next generation of visuals. These games rarely fail to deliver on the prettiness front, but the energy dedicated toward making one a technical or realistic success can also steal some of the attention needed to ensure that it’s also a substantial gaming experience. Such is the case for Forza Motorsport 5, which was celebrated for the precision of its graphics and the realism of its overall execution, yet lacked in the content and functional competition departments. Naturally, this made it quite easy for Forza 6 to zoom right passed and leave it in the dust.
By comparison, you probably couldn’t have a more dissimilar freebie for the second half of the month than Oxenfree. More slanted toward the graphic adventure subgenre, this tale from Night School Studio follows a group of teenagers as they investigate the paranormal happenings on an island, happenings they unintentionally released onto the environment. The player controls Alex, one of the teenagers, as he explores the landscape and makes dialogue choices mid-walking, solving puzzles and crossing barriers using the functions of Alex’s handheld radio. It’s the kind of experience that swings entirely on atmospheric storytelling and subtle tweaks to the narrative’s pathway based on the player’s choices, embracing eeriness, sleuthing, and mild divergences in the ending above the challenge of gameplay.
Hydro Thunder Hurricane
Back during the early rounds of gaming consoles, players likely built fond memories of speeding around in water-based racing games, and many of ’em probably didn’t have any interest in jet skis or speedboats. When surrounded by car simulation titles that can feature countless real-world vehicles or high-paced, combat-driven competition kart racers featuring popular videogame characters, the appeal of these games sunk a bit; Jet Moto may have stuck around for a few years, but lesser known ones like Hydro Thunder dissipated. It took over a decade, but Hydro Thunder finally received a revamped follow-up with Hurricane, which updated the visuals and breakneck pacing while also retaining the original’s design of mastering courses and discovering hidden or tough-to-navigate shortcuts. Bold graphics, a variety of boats, and a handful of game modes throttle this second Hydro Thunder ahead.
What place do first-person shooter games with a clear focus on multiplayer have several years after their release? In that time span, even if a new console hasn’t been released to update visual quality, so many other shooters will have stolen the spotlight and improved upon the formula that returning to one, no matter how polished, can feel like a step backwards. Therefore, unless it’s the likes of Halo or Call of Duty that sustain a niche competitive audience regardless, these games must rely on the longevity of their single-player campaign to propel them forward. When it was dropped over half a decade ago, the campaign for Battlefield 3 was given a pass because of the robust multiplayer functionality and visual polish. In the here and now, following the release of several other games — even more Battlefield games — that vie for online attention, Battlefield 3 now understandably doesn’t possess enough firepower.