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The midway point in a month means three things for Game Pass: games get hoisted out of the service, having reached the end of their contracts; a couple of new games tend to go the other way, to make the loss less sharp; and Microsoft start preparing their announcements for the game’s coming in the second half of the month. 

Let’s work through that list then. The games leaving Game Pass today are (deep breath):  Aliens: Fireteam Elite (Cloud, Console, and PC), Breathedge (Cloud, Console, and PC), Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (Cloud, Console, and PC), Firewatch (Cloud, Console, and PC), Lake (Cloud, Console, and PC), One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 (Cloud, Console, and PC), Neoverse (Cloud and Console), Race with Ryan (Cloud, Console, and PC), Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth (Cloud, Console, and PC), Rory McIlroy PGA Tour (Console) and Transformers: Battlegrounds (Cloud, Console, and PC). 

To sweeten the deal, we see some oldies-but-goodies arriving today. Hot Wheels Unleashed (PC and Console) and Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan (Cloud, Console and PC) are here, and they both bring paint-pots of colour to the Xbox. 

Hot Wheels Unleashed is a hugely customisable and versatile racer that will bring out the kids in all of us. It’s two-player, hi-octane racing for local players, or races with up to twelve players online. There’s a track editor for endless entertainment, and the courses themselves have plenty of environmental interactions that change the lap each time round. If you have had a favourite Hot Wheels car, it’s likely to be in this exhaustive collection. 

What did we think of it? Quite a lot, actually. We gave it a 3.5/5 in review, saying “physics issues and little minor annoyances stop this from reaching the very highest step of that podium, but if you’re a Hot Wheels fan, Unleashed is well worth a visit – and should continue to grow with the promise of a huge amount of post-launch content”. Which reminds us: there’s a fair amount of DLC available, should you get hooked on what’s here. 

We can be more confident in recommending Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan. This is the very definition of lovely, with a friction-free RPG-puzzle experience, family-friendly storyline (albeit with some exploration of mental-health topics) and Cuphead-style artwork that harks back to the early days of animation. It’s great, and well worth the 4/5 that we slapped on it.

The only remaining question is whether there will be any other additions over the final half of December. Tradition tells us, yes, Microsoft do tend to offer the odd surprise while we’re all home in our Christmas jumpers. Expect some announcements from Phil and the gang soon.

It may be snowy white outside, but on Xbox and Game Pass it’s all rainbows and hot wheels. Let us know which of the two you pick in the comments or on our social media. 

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