Xbox One's Hidden Gems
Since the launch of Xbox One at the tail-end of 2013, its hard to believe how many quality games we’ve received. Huge titles like The Witcher 3, Overwatch, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Destiny; multiple games in the same franchise such as three Call of Duty games (and one remaster), three Battlefield games and plenty of sports games; remastered titles such as Dishonored and Halo: The Master Chief Collection among others.
But what of the games that slip through the cracks? Games that may have been received well critically, but not hit their stride in terms of sales? Lets take a look at some unappreciated games from the first three years of the Xbox One’s lifetime…
The Hitman franchise has always been similar to it’s protagonist Agent 47: every game in the series has been quietly excellent. From the PC exclusive original up until 2012’s Absolution (admittedly not one of the fanbase’s favorites), Hitman games have been doing an excellent job of giving you tools and opportunities to eliminate targets in inventive and often hilarious ways. When 2016’s Hitman was announced to be released in episodic form, I think most people were surprised and others were disappointed (including myself). How wrong we were, however. The initial episode’s release gave us two training scenarios which were worth the price of entry alone before we were dropped into the biggest map in the franchise yet – Paris. With an intelligent way of tracking opportunities and a near limitless way to take out targets, the game was updated with more and more content before dropping multiple episodes of similar quality all year long. Themed events such as eliminating the burglar from the movie “Home Alone” at Christmas have long endeared the “live” nature of the title to fans and newcomers alike.
Xbox One Exclusive from the creators of Alan Wake and Max Payne? Check. Performances from actors who have featured in some pop-culture phenomena as Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and X-Men? Check. Ability to bend and manipulate time and kick some serious ass? Check and Check. Remedy’s third person action/adventure title has some great ideas including an intelligent story interwoven with full TV episodes that are affected by the game’s plot and some great time-bending gunplay and puzzles. Freezing time to take out a room full of enemies never gets old, nor does using your powers to ensure a barrage of bullets all hit their target simultaneously. The title was also an early precursor to Microsoft’s “Play Anywhere” initiative – buy it once and play on PC and Xbox!
Ok, here’s the thing. I’m a real “scaredy cat”. I’m a big fan of intelligent horror movies and “jump scare” movies alike – but I still find myself hiding behind the nearest cushion. Horror games, however, I can’t deal with – except for Dying Light. While many will argue it isn’t that frightening, there is just something about the daylight waning that fills me with dread. In a sea of lookalike zombie games, Dying Light stands out for two reasons. Firstly, killing the hordes of undead (and there are plenty of them!) is rarely an option. Secondly, scavenging at night can bring it’s own rewards – but it also introduces you to terrifying insta-kill monsters who will chase you until you make it to a safe-house. Thankfully, your character is able to run, jump and climb with parkour skills comparable to Faith from Mirror’s Edge - and you’ll need all of those skills. Being caught a couple of kilometres from home after-dark is a sure-fire way to give yourself nightmares!
Ah Insomniac Games. A developer that prides itself on bright colours, inventive weaponry and a tongue-in-cheek sense of adventure. Often aligned with Sony (see Ratchet and Clank), Microsoft threw down enough money to ensure that Sunset Overdrive is an Xbox One exclusive. And we’re certainly glad they did. In a post-apocalyptic Sunset City, a regulation-dodging energy drink has turned citizens into mutants and its up to your customisable character to clean the city up. Grinding along rails, running up walls and somersaulting off of vehicles which are bouncy (something never really explained – but good lord its fun), you can traverse the city without touching the floor – and its something you’ll want to do as you unlock more stylish and hilarious weaponry such as the TNTeddy – a weapon which fires exploding teddy bears. Sunset Overdrive’s writing feels like the natural companion for the Deadpool movie – breaking the fourth wall, pop culture references and plenty of self-referential videogame jokes. It doesn’t get much funnier than this on Xbox One.
Not A Hero
Quite likely the most hilarious game on this list, Not A Hero is a quirky title by the creators of OlliOlli. A rabbit politician known as Bunnylord forsees the end of the world as we know it if he doesn’t get voted into office and as one of his campaign staff your job is to kill vast amounts of people who are attempting to derail his campaign. Its entirely as bizarre as it sounds, and the wildly irreverent humour throughout ensures you won’t want to skip any of the mission briefings. The charm here, however, is our fluid the gameplay is once you’ve got the ebb and flow of combat down – imagine a 2D side-scrolling version of Hotline Miami and you’re on the right track. Each playable character has a specialty and their own unique (and expletive filled) dialogue. While it may look cutesy on the outside, it really is a barbaric, cathartic experience – just don’t play it in front of the kids…
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege
Rainbow Six: Vegas and Vegas 2 were two of my favourite Xbox 360 shooters of all time. I even preferred their cover system to the now universally-imitated one from Gears of War. Then I went online… and… it wasn’t pretty. So when I heard that the next Rainbow Six instalment would be a multiplayer focused title with a similar learning curve, I had some tense flashbang flashbacks. When I composed myself and jumped into Siege, however, I found a balanced (but still unforgiving) game with a sense of danger around every corner and behind every wall. Happy-go-lucky this isn’t, and sprinting around in the way you would in a more twitch-based shooter will certainly give you a lead-filled headache. Play smart, however, and nothing is quite as rewarding. Copious amounts of post-release content have really filled out the initial skeleton of a game and learning each character’s offensive and defensive strengths can lead to some incredible emergent gameplay options.
Divinity: Original Sin
Final Fantasy XV, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Skyrim Special Edition are all sensational RPGs. But if you, like me, yearn for the days of turn-based combat, Divinity should scratch that itch and then some. Originally a crowdfunded project for the PC, Divinity features writing that can put triple-A developers to shame, smart combat mechanics which make use of environmental hazards and elemental strengths and weaknesses AND two playable characters which you can control with a friend in co-op. It’s as if Larian Studios went through a ticklist of features they knew RPG fans would have in their head and created something incredible.
What are your hidden gems for the Xbox One? Let us know!