Over the past few months, we’ve spent a great deal of time discussing the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. Both consoles offer a unique take on the next generation of gaming: the PlayStation 4 is a streamlined, lightning fast device that lacks some very basic media functionality, while the Xbox One is a mostly successful all-in-one media center replacement that still needs some polishing to capitalize on its potential.
Although BGR settled on the PlayStation 4 as the better of the two consoles so far, both boxes would be little more than paperweights without a decent game lineup. Unfortunately, console launches aren’t historically paired with great games. Developers haven’t had much time to learn the ins and outs of the hardware, and many are still hard at work on games for the last generation consoles.
In this feature, BGR has done its best to comb through the stark lineup to find the diamonds in the rough, the games you should pick up over the holidays for your brand new Xbox One. Here are the five best Xbox One games money can buy so far.
Dead Rising 3
Dead Rising 3 is my second-favorite console exclusive of the holiday season, and it’s also the most full-featured release on either the PS4 or the Xbox One so far. If you’re a fan of the series, you might be a bit taken aback when you see just how radically Capcom has changed the formula. First off, the countdown timer has been removed from the primary difficulty of the game. Individual missions are still timed, but Dead Rising 3 gives you more freedom to explore its world than the previous titles ever did.
And that’s the best part of this game. Most launch titles are understandably constrained. Developers would rather release a solid, tight product than an ambitious one that doesn’t hit the mark. Capcom managed to do both. Dead Rising 3 is mechanically sound and impressively huge. Every stretch of road is littered with dozens of unique weapons, many of which can be combined with other items to form some of the most ridiculous combinations in the history of weapon crafting systems.
The tone is a little off, and moving around the world can be tedious without the right equipment, but Dead Rising 3 is a great evolution of a series that has lacked accessibility in the past. If you have an Xbox One and you’re only picking up a single game, this is my recommendation.
Forza Motorsport 5
There are two racing games now available for the Xbox One, and they both also happen to be the only two racing games that made it in time for launch. Forza has been a staple of the Xbox since 2005, and although Forza Motorsport 5 is a back-to-basics car simulator (as opposed to the open-world Forza Horizon from 2012), the game has plenty to offer fans of the series and newcomers alike.
One aspect of the game that has been universally panned is the microtransaction system that Turn 10 has shoehorned into the game, impeding your progress and forcing you to spend more money on top of the price of the game to progress at a faster rate.
Both Microsoft and Sony exhausted their next-gen lineups at launch. Every PS4 game you can play before 2014 was released on or around November 15th. The same can be said of the Xbox One, save for a single downloadable title that Microsoft saved for December: Peggle 2. The original Peggle was a phenomenon in the same vein as Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga, but without any of the negative associations that those games have acquired over the years.
Peggle 2 is the long-awaited sequel, although when a game is basically just a pachinko simulator, there’s not much room to improve upon the formula. So Popcap stuck to their guns and released a game that is nearly identical to the first. There are a new host of companions offering a new set of powerups, but you will still spend your time dropping a ball into a field of pegs and then praying to all that is holy that your last ball will hit that final peg, because you are not going to replay this level for the fifteenth time today.
OK, maybe you’ll give it another go. But this is the last time!
Now, wait a minute. I know what you’re thinking. Zoo Tycoon sounds like the title of a game that might have been developed for the sole purpose of appealing to a younger audience. Kids love cute animals, therefore they’ll ask their parents to buy any old garbage with the word “zoo” in it. That might be the case, but Zoo Tycoon is much more than a $60 diversion.
Frontier Developers has combined two of their most popular titles, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 and Kinectimals, to turn what could have been a niche product into a game that the whole family can enjoy. Building a zoo is simple and exhibits click into place without much effort. If the strategy and management of running a zoo is something you’d rather not dedicate your time to, there’s a separate mode that allows you to build your zoo without money constraints.
Overall, it’s a bit simplistic compared to some of its simulation ancestors, but with the inclusion of some fun social elements and the most interesting use of the Kinect of any game in the launch window, Zoo Tycoon is a bright, colorful antithesis to the guns and zombies that populate other Xbox One titles.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
I’ll admit, I had my doubts about Ghosts. The series has always been hit-or-miss for me, and it didn’t look like the latest rebranding would bring anything new to the series. And for the most part, it didn’t, but I found myself enjoying the game regardless.
The campaign doesn’t break any new ground — America is once again attacked by a mysterious terrorist cell and your team of highly trained soldiers are tasked with rendering justice on the attackers. But this time you go into space.
Despite some solid performances and an ending that rivals the likes of Modern Warfare 2, the formula continues to grow tired. All in all, it’s an adequate addition to a game with much more to offer to its multiplayer fanbase.
The two primary draws of Call of Duty: Ghosts are the ubiquitous online multiplayer and the revamped Extinction mode. If you’re at all familiar with Call of Duty multiplayer, you won’t find many surprises in Ghosts, but after playing every next-gen shooter on the market, there’s no denying that Infinity Ward still knows how to dangle that carrot just far enough from the players to keep them coming back for more.
Extinction is also a welcome surprise. In this mode, aliens take the place of the zombies that have appeared in the past few titles, and players have to destroy alien hives while fighting off the speedy extraterrestrials and completing challenges.
It’s easy to be cynical about Call of Duty, and Ghosts is arguably a step back from Black Ops II, but if you’re a fan of the series, there’s a whole lot to like about the latest entry.
Check back tomorrow to find out which PlayStation 4 games are worth picking up before the end of the year.