Now this is more like it! While January took a month off, February has been conscientious and produced a banger, with numerous new Xbox games lined up.
If there’s a theme this February, it’s games that got shunted out of 2021. Blame it on COVID or feature-creep, but Elden Ring, Dying Light 2: Stay Human and Life is Strange: Remastered Collection have all been kicked down the road at least twice. 2021’s loss is 2022’s gain.
It’s hard to choose a favourite from the list: do we opt for Elden Ring, the collaboration between FromSoftware Inc and George R. R. Martin? Or Dying Light: Stay Human, which might be closer to a part-time job than a game, with 500+ hours of play crammed into it. Add Life is Strange: Remastered Collection and GRID Legends to that list, and you have what feels like the proper start to the year.
But what are the Xbox games you should be playing throughout February 2022 and beyond?
Life is Strange: Remastered Collection
They’re not old exactly, being seven and five years-old respectively, but Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm are worthy of a remaster. Life is Strange in particular took the narrative-game baton from Telltale Games and ran with it, creating a woozy, dreamlike little teen drama with a soundtrack that found its way onto plenty of playlists.
Life is Strange: Remastered Collection is a 4K sprucing of the originals, with improved textures, lighting, animations and more. It’s been rendered natively in Unreal 4 and Unity to make the faces and animations more expressive and believable. Side-by-sides really make the emo fringes and eyeliner pop, so we’re fully expecting the emotional wallop to be taken up a notch or two.
Dying Light 2: Stay Human
So, that “500+ hours” quote rattled some cages, didn’t it? Ever since the designers of Dying Light 2: Stay Human boasted that it packed 500 hours of gameplay into its playtime, it’s been the topic of many a gaming forum. Should games be that long? Is it something to be proud of? Does it put off as many people as it attracts?
Well, feel for the person who has to review it. We’ll be sinking half a thousand hours into this bad boy (well, rounded up to the nearest 500 hours), and will have a verdict soon.
For now, know that this is, in its own words, a vast open world with two-to-four-player co-op, some brutal combat, and plenty of opportunities to make choices and influence your surroundings.
This hulking beast could be a bit special.
The King of Fighters XV
It feels like an age since we’ve had a truly killer, top of the league beat-em-up on the Xbox. That may well change with one of the grandparents of the genre releasing its latest iteration. We’re going to need football-style brackets for this one: King of Fighters XV (Fifteen) releases with 39 (thirty-nine) combatants to pick from, with heroes from Orochi, NESTS and Ash Sagas all making an appearance. It’s a haul that Smash Bros would be proud of.
As with previous KOF entries, it’s all about the 3-on-3 battles, with heroes slotted into the Point, Middle and Anchor positions, and gaining bonuses depending on where you’ve put them. It also introduces the Shatter Strike system, which lets you nobble a player’s attack and counter before it’s even started. Get practicing if you want to make EVO (whenever it kicks back up).
As a Game of Thrones reader, it makes me all sulky to write that George R. R. Martin has been working on Elden Ring. Put pen to paper you old slacker! But at least he picks his collaborators with style: if you’re going to stray into video gaming for the first time, you could hardly do better than FromSoftware, masterminds of the Souls series.
Elden Ring’s been a bit of a closed box, so we can’t tell you a huge amount. But FromSoftware Inc’s boss Hidetaka Miyazaki has been doing the rounds recently, giving interviews about Elden Ring being slightly more accessible, and slightly more flexible to a rubbish player. Not that it’s going to be that easy: he’s also been talking about adding multiple poison swamp sections, which you wouldn’t trumpet if you were making a piece of piss.
Gah – just give it to us already. We’re done with the speculating, and fancy playing one of the likely highlights of the year.
It breaks us a little to know that there are now five GRID games out there. Did we timewarp? It felt like GRID only kicked off a couple of games ago. Go figure.
Codemasters know their way around four wheels and a chassis, so we’re pretty confident that GRID Legends will be one to watch. If there’s a defining characteristic of GRID Legends, it’s muchness: there is just so much here that something will snag you.
There’s a Race Creator for generating devious tracks to subject your mates to. There’s a ‘Driven to Glory’ career mode, which puts you in a variety of race scenarios. And there are 130 routes to complete, authored to take advantage of the huge range of cars that GRID Legends has to offer. Expect bombast and some fantastic game-capture opportunities.
The OlliOlli games have always been stylish takes on skateboarding that you could fit into your pocket. Well, hold onto your butts, as that’s about to change with OlliOlli World. Gone are the discrete levels, and in comes the open world, with Radlandia ready to be kickflipped and grinded to your heart’s content.
Reading up on OlliOlli World, it feels like it’s got the RPG bug. Characters will give you missions, taking you across Radlandia, and you can earn experience and cosmetics for your skater boy or girl. At various points, you can trigger a race or trick competition, making an entry into a League that your friends can try to outdo.
It’s OlliOlli with the stabilisers taken off, and we’re eager to give it a go.
CrossfireX is a huge name in gaming, yet many players would shrug at the mention of it. Imagine a game with the flavour of Counterstrike, and with a similar player base, as it is extremely popular on the Asian scene. That’s CrossfireX, and it’s being brought to the Xbox with the help of Alan Wake and Control honchos, Remedy.
There’s a cinematic single-player experience here, but its appeal is in its many multiplayer modes. This is pure FPS combat, as you join a squad of Global Risk or Black List mercenaries across a variety of multiplayer modes, accessible to players of all skill levels and interests. If you want to get good, then you’ll need to put the hours in.
Edge of Eternity
The lavish and massive JRPG is becoming a rare old butterfly nowadays, with Final Fantasy and the Tales series being some of the few to appear in stores. While Edge of Eternity doesn’t quite have the pedigree of those games – and likely not the budget, either – it looks the part. It’s clearly aiming to emulate the classics of the genre.
It’s got the overblown storytelling down pat. There’s not one but two apocalypses here, as an eternal war has been disrupted by one of the sides unleashing a bio-terror called the Corrosion, which is turning humans into tentacled abominations. Sounds like the job for a team of young and asymmetrically barbered heroes!
Martha is Dead
The Town of Light developers LKA Games are flexing their horror chops with Martha is Dead. Much like their first game, this is a narrative heavy and twisted tale, aiming to unsettle and emotionally rattle you in equal measure. It tells the story of Giulia, whose sister – Martha – has been found drowned. She’s investigating the death and demands answers, which would be simpler if it wasn’t 1944 Italy, as she finds herself sandwiched between German and Allied forces.
Why do we like the look of Martha is Dead? It just seems a million miles from the slightly janky The Town of Light, and it’s leaning heavily into its setting: this is steeped in Italian folklore and superstition, as well as delivering Italian voice-acting as default. With games like Roki and Black Book doing such a fantastic job of bringing less-exposed cultures to the fore, the idea of grappling with Italian ancient folklore takes our fancy.
What a smorgasbord of gaming February 2022 has turned out to be. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of these games making their way onto 2022 GOTY lists (as long as recency bias doesn’t shatter their chances), and we can’t wait to get our mitts on them. Who knows: Microsoft hasn’t fully announced its Game Pass line up for the month yet either, so perhaps a couple of them will end up being available on subscription too.
Can March keep the run going? We’ve got high hopes for Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands and Marvel’s Midnight Suns (as long as they both escape the delay-prod, pushing them further back into the year). In the meantime, enjoy these fine additions to your backlog.
Do any of these games tickle your pickle? Let us know in the comments below, or on social if you are more that way inclined.