By rights, December should have no new Xbox games of note. It’s the end of the year: who has any disposable cash? And what’s the point in going up against the Christmas juggernauts of FIFA and Call of Duty?
We’re grateful that a few studios have said pooh-pooh and released games anyway. Absolute mad lads. It certainly makes writing this Up Next for December 2022 easier, as we have had no trouble in finding eleven new Xbox games to bring to you.
Got cash? You might want to pick up Marvel’s Midnight Suns, The Callisto Protocol, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VI Reunion and more besides. Not a bad triple-header, that.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns
It’s the team-up we never knew we wanted. Firaxis, makers of the glorious X-Com and masters of the tactical RPG, uniting with the Marvel universe. After a moment of confusion, we started rubbing our bellies. Hell yes, that’s a hell of a snack.
It’s a motley crew of heroes at your disposal. While it’s possible to play as big-hitters like Captain America and Spidey, the focus is on more leftfield heroes. Wolverine, Ghost Rider and Blade are among the more central characters, as you take a fight to Lilith, the Mother of Demons, who is looking to summon the arch-demon Chthon. You can always tell a villain by their lack of vowels.
As mentioned, this is a tactical, turn-based RPG in the vein of the X-Com games, with heroes forming friendships and tactical boosts with specific other heroes. Who knows what mainstream Marvel fans will think of it.
The Callisto Protocol
It doesn’t look like we’re getting any closer to a mainline Dead Space sequel. Dead Space 3 really did a number on the franchise (although, we can’t deny that the Dead Space remake is looking hawt). With that all in mind, we’re thankful that there is such a thing as The Callisto Protocol.
In many ways it is another Dead Space. It’s helmed by Glen Schofield, the co-creator of Dead Space, and has thirty of Dead Space’s original team working on it. It’s a space-based survival horror, and even has a holographic health indicator on the back of the main character’s neck.
But early trailers show that The Callisto Protocol is its own, gnarly and just as horrifying beast. Located on Jupiter’s moon, Callisto, it tells the tale of an alien invasion taking place in a prison complex. You’re Jacob Lee, a prisoner on Callisto, and it looks like the warden may be orchestrating it all. Shawshank by way of Dead Space? Yes please.
Hello Neighbor 2
One of the bigger surprises of the past few years has been Hello Neighbor (we’ll casually ignore the Americanised spelling). Effectively a game of hide-and-seek with a moustachio’d villain, it had you ransacking a house without drawing attention to its Nemesis.
Rather than rest on their laurels and just release a sequel that buffs the graphics and removes the bugs, the Hello Neighbor team have taken an admirably ambitious approach. This is an open world with several neighbo(u)rs, all with their own behavio(u)rs and house layo(u)ts. It’s a town-wide game of hide-and-seek, and Hello Neighbor 2 is coming to Game Pass on day-one. Just avoid the creaky floorboards.
The Rumble Fish 2
Up Next is often an education for us, and we will admit that we hadn’t heard of The Rumble Fish before coming to it. But we’ve been ignorant, as The Rumble Fish has a huge following, appearing at several Evo tournaments, as well as being the thinking-person’s fighter.
The original Rumble Fish came out in arcades in Japan in 2005, but never made it over to our shores. Finally, we’re getting the sequel – The Rumble Fish 2. Sixteen characters are available to control in this 2D fighter, with two gauges to manage, and the patented Smooth Model Animation giving everything a flowing, dynamic edge. Expect to see it at next year’s Evo.
CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION
Passing this bit over to others on the team, as Neil Watton talks you through Crisis Core.
Fully remastered, new 3D modelling, improvements to the battle system and dialogue covering both Japanese and English locales. The only thing that could raise the excitement surrounding the arrival of CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION would be if there was a newly arranged soundtrack from Takeharu Ishimoto – the composer of the original. What’s that? We’ve got that too? Sweet.
You should really know what to expect as CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION comes to Xbox some fifteen years after launch as a PlayStation Portable exclusive, fully rebuilt and capable of sorting out a modern audience. But in case you need a bit of a nudge, it’ll have you following the life of one Zack Fair, covering as many bases as it can in the process – dreams, honor, links to Cloud. Standard FF stuff.
Should you be in need of the retelling of a classic, CRISIS CORE –FINAL FANTASY VII– REUNION will be one to hunt down.
High on Life
We get our money’s worth from Game Pass this month, as High on Life follows Hello Neighbor 2 as a day-one exclusive onto the subscription service. Coming from the bustling mind of Justin Roiland (Adventure Time, Rick & Morty) it also arrives with our favourite premise for a video game this month.
Humanity is under threat. An alien cartel is invading and wants to use humanity as ingredients in drugs, getting their high from our dead bodies. It’s less than an ideal fate, so it’s down to you and your arsenal of talking guns to take down Garmantuous, and perhaps pop him in a spliff to smoke yourself. It’s Justin Roiland, so who knows.
We’re back down to Earth with Blacktail, a first-person action-narrative game that is no less imaginative. It centres on the Slavic folktale of ‘Baba Yaga’, a familiar name who crops up regularly in modern media (Hellboy, for example) as a witch who lives in a chicken-legged house.
But rather than do the obvious and have you facing off against her, Blacktail lets you play as her. You are an early-years Baba Yaga, cast out from your village and forced to face the spectral demons of your past. It’s an origin story, and it looks fantastic, very grim and gloomy. So, harness your spells and bow, and fight both the physical and spiritual to forge your own myth.
We tend to be invested in anything that Humble Games puts out (their hit rate is almost second to none), but Infinite Guitars catches the curiosity more than most. It’s a rhythm-action RPG, a game where you control mechs and use the power of rock-and-roll to defeat your enemies. It’s Godzilla with drums. Pacific Riff?
You’re going to need to turn your speakers up to eleven, as Infinite Guitars has a fantastic soundtrack. It’s coupled with some superb anime-style graphics, which make it look like a stylish cousin to Scott Pilgrim. You can probably tell that we’re up for Infinite Guitars, and have the guitar pick ready to give a verdict.
Style is not in shortage this December. Wavetale is a gorgeous-looking apocalypse adventure from Thunderful, who have been quietly releasing fantastic indie titles like Lego Brick Tales, Lonely Mountains: Downhill and White Shadows. Their latest takes the setting of Waterworld and has you surfing about its surface, thanks to a magical blessing given to you by your late grandmother.
There’s a touch of parkour here, too, as you can use a handheld net to fling yourself about the various buildings and towns of Wavetale’s world. Your aim is to take down an evil warlock who’s been pestering the fisherpeople, and try to return the world to a semblance of peace.
Firefighting Simulator: The Squad
Ooh, just seeing the word ‘Simulator’ in a game’s title is enough to give us goosebumps. We like nothing more than elbowing our way into someone else’s vocation and finding out what it’s like. Invariably, they come from a German development house (the Germans love nothing more than simulating things), and have some fantastic bugs to find.
Firefighting Simulator: The Squad fits the template perfectly. We’ve had a Firefighting Simulator before in Firefighters: The Simulator, but Firefighting Simulator: The Squad acknowledges that most call-outs are a group effort, and has you working as a team. It sets you up in the US, where things are always bigger. There are forest fires and warehouses alight, and it’s your job as a team to extinguish them.
Ooh, now this one has potential. Togges is a debut from Regular Studio, and it’s got the same freewheeling imagination and love for vibrancy that caused us to fall in love with de Blob and Rain on Your Parade, among others.
It’s hard to put into words. You’re what looks to be a Roomba, hovering over a colourful, fantasy land. But everywhere you move, you dispense blocks in a chain, and those blocks may well have a use. They can lift your roomba up to higher platforms, block enemies and more, so using your Tron-bike-like trail is important if you want to survive.
It’s a family-friendly adventure that can’t help but catch our eye, and we’re eager to give this one a verdict.
And with that, 2022 comes to a close. Expect our Game of the Year lists to start landing over the course of December. Will Elden Ring take the coveted top spot? Oh, that would be telling.
January 2023 should, you would imagine, be a bit of a damp squib in comparison to this December Up Next. A quick scan tells us that there’s still a few worth watching. Expect A Space For the Unbound, Dead Space and both Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden, which should keep the Lord of the RPGs, our very own Paul Renshaw, rather happy.
In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year, and we’ll see you on the other side.