So here we are at the start of a new calendar year and the Xbox Games With Gold scheme is once more delivering four free titles to the masses. But following on from the awesome December 2016 offerings, January is going to have to bring us something damn great in order to top it.
Does it? Well, no. Not at all.
But then, no matter what games the team back at Xbox HQ decided to deliver this month, anything was going to struggle up against the likes of Burnout Paradise, Sleeping Dogs and Outlast. And perhaps it is that reason why we are sitting here a little disappointed.
You see, whilst the Xbox 360 free games (which are as always fully playable on Xbox One with the Backwards Compatible feature) start with the rather awesome puzzler, The Cave and finishes with the utterly delightful, family friendly, Rayman Origins, neither are as good as, or as appealing as the scares found in Outlast. That said, you wouldn’t be upset if you had purchased either of those two games as both are well worth a playthrough.
The Cave is quite easily set up for both gaming veterans and newcomers to enjoy, with the former no doubt being drawn to it thanks to the legendary Ron Gilbert of Monkey Island fame being behind it. It doesn’t ever reach the heights of Gilbert’s most successful title though and is over before you know it. But should you be looking for something to test the old gray matter, then it just about does a job.
Rayman Origins meanwhile is super colourful, super bright and super nuts – all in a good way. With the main character being instantly recognisable, and one to appeal to gamers of all ages, then Origins for free is a no brainer. Platforming goodness never fails to excite gamers and when you throw in just the right amount of difficulty, something Origins has in spades, then it should ensure a great start to 2017. We can only sit and hope that it also means that the even better follow up – Rayman Legends – will appear as an Xbox Games With Gold title in the coming months.
So, that’s the 360 side looking just about good, but how do we feel about the Xbox One free titles? Well, meh sums it up brilliantly.
From day one of 2017 we are treated to even more Van Helsing, with the World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap trying to tempt us in. With two ‘Incredible Adventures of’ Van Helsing titles already available on Xbox One (one of which was also given away for free), we can only hope that Deathtrap fares a bit better. This is because neither of the ‘Incredible’ titles were actually that, settling instead for a lukewarm experience at best. But hey, this time round Van Helsing is ditching the incredible tag for something a bit more hardcore and on paper Deathtrap certainly sounds like it’s got everything going for it.
The problem is, old Van is also going for a bit of a tower defense hybrid, one in which we can battle it out with others in the Van Helsing universe. With the whole Tower Defense addiction ending long ago, and previous Van Helsing titles never proving of high enough quality, we just can’t get enthused about this free game. Time may tell differently though, but we’d be hugely surprised if it does.
Thankfully, Killer Instinct Season 2 Ultra Edition perks us up a little, bringing plenty of hardcore fighting action, and a decent array of characters for us to get our fight on with. Now, if KI were a fully fledged AAA priced blockbusting fighter, then we’d love to be seeing it given away with the Games With Gold scheme. But it’s not, and the base game itself is completely free-to-play. Which means all we’re really getting here are some new characters, skins and premium accessories – not something we really look for with a free Games With Gold addition, no matter how good a fighter it may be.
So, January had a lot to live up to, but unfortunately it falls utterly flat. It has to be said in fact that it is the Xbox 360 titles which prop up an otherwise disappointing looking Xbox One roster. On the heels of December’s brilliant free games, January looks even worse – but then, should we ever really complain about free stuff?
No, no we shouldn’t. Which is why you’ll see us downloading all four titles the minute they appear on our Games Store. But will we still be playing them still come the end of January? Not a chance in hell. We’re already looking forward to what February can bring.