August must be good if we’re having to cram thirteen new Xbox games into our Up Next. Yep, rather than edit the Up Next down by trimming out some of the fabulous games coming in August, we decided to include every single one of the Xbox games that got us excited. And there is a lot to get excited about.
There are the big guns in the form of Saints Row and Madden NFL 23, the medium guns in Two Point Campus and F1 Manager 22, and the little guns that we secretly want to tinker with before the bigger guns, like Thymesia and South of the Circle. So buckle in, as this thirteen is far from unlucky.
Team17 have a nose for a good game. When you see their logo slapped on a box, you can be sure it will at least be imaginative and worth your time. And it’s this seal of quality that makes Thymesia tantalising. Normally, a Dark Souls-a-like would make us groan a bit, but now it’s got our attention.
Thymesia is an action-RPG where you play a plaguebearer called Corvus, as you wander a disease-addled world called Hermes in the search of alchemical materials that might help you fight back the plague. You have to defeat hulking, pustulous beasts to claim plague weapons, as well as unlock new combat abilities, and it all looks rather punishing and fun.
Two Point Campus
If you carried some love for the PC classic Theme Hospital, or fancied some simulation-strategy goodness on the Xbox, then you likely played Two Point Hospital. The 2018 hit from Two Point Studios did the business, with a number of DLC add-ons bolstering its appeal.
Two Point Studios have since been looking around for the next topic for their madcap strategy template. And they’ve found it in the drinks, drugs and lectures of the university simulation. Two Point Campus pits you as the Don of a new university, and it’s down to you to construct the buildings, hire the teachers, and construct a syllabus of wildly imaginative subjects that gets your students top marks and makes them employable. You can even make your own Hogwarts.
Tribes of Midgard
If the name Tribes of Midgard rings a bell, then you may have spent some time around a PC player. A decent success with the master-racers, Tribes of Midgard has quietly been building a community around its co-op play, season structure, and hack-and-slash lootery since the middle of 2021.
Now it’s the Xbox turn to see what the fuss is about. The structure’s reasonably simple: guard your base and its sacred tree from fierce opponents, and then head into Midgard with your co-op allies to raid resources, defeat enemies and bolster your base. It’s got a touch of the roguelite, with a hint of survival in there too, and it should be a snug old fit for the Xbox.
Way of the Hunter
If you’ve ever harboured a fantasy of running away to somewhere remote, building a log cabin and subsisting off the land, then may we introduce you to Way of the Hunter. Fans of theHunter: Call of the Wild should definitely take note: Way of the Hunter is straying onto the same territory.
Brought to you by THQ Nordic, this snags our interest by being a co-op survival sim. You and a friend can choose from a range of modern weaponry to head into the wilds to track and kill some game. There’s two vast territories of 55 miles each – one in the USA and another in Europe – which should be more than enough land to find a bush and face a call of nature.
Madden NFL 23
You already know if this is your brand of corndog. Madden NFL returns this year with the 2023 iteration, and it’s got the late John Madden gurning from the cover.
There are plenty of reasons to choose Madden NFL 23 as your return to console-based American Football. There’s a souped up Face of the Franchise, where you can choose to play in your choice of position, navigating a single-year ‘prove it’ contract before starting your career proper. Then there’s the Franchise mode, as you switch from player to coach, scouting players, organising training and building a playbook to reach the play-offs.
And, of course, there’s the cash cow: Madden Ultimate Team. Lock up your wallets.
It was a shock to the system when Saints Row, the 2022 reboot, was announced. But as much as we loved the 3rd Street Saints, Gat and the rest, there wasn’t anywhere left to go. Superheroes, aliens, dildos and POTUS himself had gotten involved, and the shark had well and truly been jumped. A hard reset was probably the best way to go.
But it doesn’t stop the new Saints Row from being a hell of a punt. There’s a large audience who love the madcap, kitchen-sink open-worlds of the previous games, and – somehow – that needs to be re-found. Initial signs seem to be good, however: previews have come back positive, and the character creation editor has been in people’s hands for some time, and it’s just as exhaustive as you’d hope. Maybe this one will work out after all.
F1 Manager 2022
There’s no one that we’d rather be making F1 Manager 22 than Frontier Developments. The undisputed masters of the management sim, having tackled dinosaurs and rollercoasters in Jurassic World Evolution and Planet Coaster, they are now turning their attention to the world of Formula One.
We’re used to being behind the wheel of F1 cars thanks to Codemasters long-running series, but this game ‘pits’ you as the constructor head. Pick from a roster of official 2022 drivers and staff, and build everything you need to win the 2022 season: the car, the factory and the strategy.
This one promises to give you control over every small function of a constructor, and that will be music to the ears of F1 enthusiasts.
Soul Hackers 2
One day, an ATLUS RPG will focus on something mundane, without world-ending forces and bonkers plots involving demons, but Soul Hackers 2 is not that RPG.
The story focuses on an AI called Aion that has evolved into sentience, and in doing so has seen the end of the world. It believes that a series of events will lead to demons bringing about the apocalypse, and it has determined that the only method of holding said armageddon back is by creating Ringo and Figue, two soul hacking agents who have mastery over demons themselves. So begins an operatic saga that will swallow hundreds of hours of your life, as is the way with all ATLUS games..
Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed
If you like your action-platformers puerile and bombastic, then may we introduce Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed. A ground-up remaster of the PS2 and Xbox (minor) classic, it once again hands you control of Crypto, the alien menace, and unleashes you on Earth.
Taking revenge on the KGB for downing your ship, this time round you are partnering up with some human allies, rather than simply mushing them up to make DNA cocktails. It’s all about the big weapons, like the Meteor Shower, as you play on your own or with a co-op partner, jetpacking around and laying waste to whole neighbourhoods.
There’s nothing high-brow here. Everything is the lowest of monobrows.
Bizarrely enough, Arcade Paradise is only the second game this year where we’ve had the opportunity to own a laundromat bolted on to an arcade. Arcade Spirits: The New Challengers pulled the same trick, but Arcade Paradise is a very different game.
During the day, complete chores in the laundromat, removing gum from the worktops, unclogging machines and – most importantly – gathering coins. Then, in the evening, spend your coins on arcade machines, upgrade them and then have a bit of a go on them yourselves. You won’t recognise any of the games – these are homages to the originals – but the real fun comes from beating your punters’ highscores and mastering the games yourself.
There’s room on the Xbox for a Pikmin clone. There’s certainly room for a Pikmin-loving game that looks as lavish and colourful as Tinykin, which transplants the Nintendo classic’s zoomed-out approach to a zoomed-in 3D platformer.
There’s a fascinating premise here too. You play Milo, who arrives on Earth, only to find that they are magnitudes smaller than the humans that live there. But more curiously, there are no actual humans around, and a day hasn’t passed since 1991. Something is clearly amiss, and you and your motley band of little aliens are going to find out what caused it all. Being an alien, Milo has a different way of doing things: in this case, tossing aliens at household objects. Whatever gets the job done.
South of the Circle
Having done the business on Apple Arcade, South of the Circle arrives on the Xbox. This walking simulator/narrative adventure is a story in two halves. The first half finds you navigating the Antarctic, having crash-landed only to find that everyone seems to have abandoned their various outposts. The second half rewinds back to the events leading to the expedition, as the main character, Peter, attempts to build up the courage to finishing his climatology paper on clouds.
While there might not be much in the way of gameplay, and – as per our review of South of the Circle – the dialogue options are presented in a bizarrely complicated manner, this is a spectacularly told story with some of the best voice acting that we’ve come across.
Just take a nip of whiskey before you go, as you’ll need to keep warm.
Cursed to Golf
Video gaming has taken golf to a number of unusual places. It’s been an RPG in RPGolf Legends, a party game in Party Golf, and a narrative adventure in Golf Story. Cursed to Golf pushes that envelope even further, turning golf into an action-platformer.
Play as The Cursed Golfer, fated to stay forever in golfing purgatory unless they can place first in a golfing tournament. You’re as damned as LIV golfers. With your undead caddy in tow, you will be navigating 2D platforming environments and tackling enemies with a well-placed pitching wedge to the noggin.
Hopefully you can see why we stretched the Up Next to thirteen: there’s quite the buffet of options this August.
September, of course, is when the silly season starts, and we’re as blessed with games as you might expect. There’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle R, LEGO Brawls, Biomutant (Series X|S version/free upgrade), Warhammer 40,000: Darktide and Grounded (full game) to name but a few. We look forward to presenting September’s wares in a month’s time.