Microsoft’s Xbox One is now out – you can read our full review here – and you may have already got one of Redmond’s big black boxes of gaming and media magic sat in your living room. Indeed, if that’s the case, you’ve probably been pondering what games you should purchase to play on your shiny new system.
Let’s face it, Microsoft has been at a disadvantage to Sony since both companies unveiled their consoles, with all manner of controversies such as the always-on Internet debacle – which Microsoft swiftly did a U-turn on – not to mention the issue of the bundled Kinect and higher price tag of the Xbox One. Does all of this add up to the kiss of death for Microsoft's latest console? Well, no; not necessarily. In fact, not at all…
Say what you will about the aforementioned challenges, but it's hard to deny the crushing strength of the Xbox One's launch game line-up. And, really, it's all about the games. The Xbox One sports numerous enticing (and exclusive) titles that will let gamers engage in hard-hitting combat, thrilling races, and intense shooting action. In comparison, the PS4’s launch games look a bit anaemic, in my opinion (and also that of Grant Brunner’s in his piece that asks: Why are most of the PlayStation 4’s launch games boring?).
So, what are these great Xbox One games? That’s what we’re going to tell you in this article – these are the titles which will carry you through to 2014 (the year when the really hot games will begin to pop up in stores and on the Xbox Live digital marketplace).
All that said, many third-party Xbox One launch titles are intergenerational games that also appear on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (and indeed the PlayStation 4). Naturally, the Xbox One (and PS4) versions will likely have graphical improvements and/or extra game modes, but don't expect any radical changes.
Not everyone shares my opinion, of course, and some critics believe that the Xbox One's launch library isn't very strong – but if you've been keen enough to buy Microsoft's latest console on launch day, then you can consider the following games must-have titles.
As always, please let us know your thoughts on the Xbox One’s games library in the comments section below. Now, read on for our chosen top games, starting with…
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (£48)
Ubisoft's historical stealth-action game takes place in the 18th Century Caribbean when pirates ruled the high seas. Like Assassin's Creed III, Black Flag features hunting and open-world gameplay, but also includes an upgradeable ship and new in-depth naval warfare. And fanboys, here's another reason to bicker: The PlayStation 4 version will contain enhanced graphics and side-missions starring Assassin’s Creed: Liberation’s female protagonist, Aveline.
Battlefield 4 (£47)
The Frostbite 3-powered Battlefield 4 is easily one of the most visually impressive titles for current-generation video game consoles, the PS4, and, of course, the Xbox One. The DICE-developed shooter’s detailed destructible environments are the talk of the town, but it's the game's scale that truly impresses. Battlefield 4's Xbox One, PC, and PS4 versions have an incredible 66-person multiplayer mode (64 traditional players plus the two returning field commanders) that ensures lots of chaotic military-themed fun. Kinect functionality lets the player issue voice commands for a more immersive experience, too.
Crimson Dragon (£16)
Crimson Dragon, the spiritual successor to Sega's beloved Panzer Dragoon and Panzer Dragoon Orta on-rail shooters, is here to satiate your longing for dragon-piloting action. Originally conceived as a Kinect title, Crimson Dragon now lets gamers fly, shoot, and level up using an Xbox One controller, but additional functionality is available if you let the all-seeing Kinect ride shotgun. Also, this one carries a budget price tag as a downloadable game, so it’s a good option for those feeling cash-strapped after plunking down £430 for the console.
Dead Rising 3 (£45)
Set ten years after the events depicted in Dead Rising 2, Capcom's Dead Rising 3 ups the zombie ante by tossing wave after wave of unwashed undead at survivor Nick Ramos. Items found in the massive open world can be combined to form hundreds of weapons, so careful exploration is vital to success. Xbox SmartGlass and Kinect functionality add more missions, weapons, and new environmental sensing that lets zombies detect light and noise in your real-world living room.
Forza Motorsport 5 (£45)
The Xbox One's handful of killer exclusives includes Forza Motorsport 5, Microsoft's critically acclaimed racing game. It has all the bells and whistles you'd expect – sexy cars and thrilling race tracks – but the big addition is the “Drivatar” feature. This collects your racing data, uploads it to the cloud, analyses your patterns, and downloads all this into other people's single-player games so that it feels like they're racing against another human being. Very cool indeed…
Killer Instinct (free, but £4 for extra characters)
Killer Instinct began life as Rare's over-the-top hard-hitting 3D fighting arcade game that gobbled up an insane number of coins in the mid-nineties. Fast-forward 20 years and Killer Instinct is back as an Xbox One exclusive title, courtesy of Microsoft and new developer Double Helix. Jago, Sabrewulf, and Glacius are some of the familiar faces who return in a game that looks radically different to its source material. Killer Instinct sports new comic book-style visuals which are a departure from the original's very CGI-looking graphics, but the long combo strings, combo breakers, and verbose announcer are still key components here. The pricing model is also innovative – the game itself is free with one character, Jago. If you want to play as other fighters, you need to purchase them at £4 a pop – or you can make a one-off payment of £16 for all eight characters (note that the current roster is only six, with two fighters still to be released at a later date).
Ryse: Son of Rome (£45)
In Ryse: Son of Rome, gamers play as Marius Titus, who witnessed his family being slain by barbarians in the last days of the Roman Empire. Naturally, this tragedy sparks a quest for vengeance that sees Titus waging war against all who dare stand in his death-dealing path. Kinect functionality lets the player bark voice commands to Titus' troops to help gain a tactical advantage during combat.
For more on the Xbox One, check out our piece on whether Microsoft's console is a true living room revolution in the making, or a mere box of gimmicks. You might also want to read our closer look at the final hardware tech specs of the Xbox One and PS4.