As most of us aim low with our holidays this year, video gaming is aiming particularly high. They’re taking us further afield than Clacton-on-Sea, with the opportunity to explore Romania, Russia, Knockout City, Planet 4546B, and the Milky Way. If three-dimensional travel is a bit passé for you, then a spot of time travel will also take you to the Medieval Britain of 1194, America of the 1870s, and – just to show off – 2183.
That’s the joy of video gaming for you: taking you to the fringes of human experience, to places and times that you may never get to experience where you won’t even need a Covid passport. But what are the 9 Xbox games you should be playing throughout the month of May 2021? This lot should suit…
Resident Evil Village
Round of applause to Capcom’s marketing people: Resident Evil Village has had an attention-grabbing start so far. If you’ve got them, use them, as they say, and in Lady Alcina Dimitrescu and her daughters, they have some astounding antagonists who have formed the basis of some killer trailers. They’ve also flipped a switch on a lot of people’s dormant fetishes.
With all the rubbing of thighs, it’s easy to forget that Capcom have been hitting their stride with their franchises, and Resident Evil Village has every chance of crushing it. It brings Resident Evil 7’s Ethan Winters and Chris Redfield together, it looks the absolute business, it comes partnered with the beloved Mercenaries game mode, and pre-orders pack in Resident Evil Re:Verse, a multiplayer take on survival horror, for free.
We’ve come a long way from Barry Burton.
Hood: Outlaws & Legends
If Payday 2 and GTA Online are feeling old and samey, and you fancy some old-timey heist action, then Focus Home Interactive are offering up Hood: Outlaws & Legends. This is a stealth-and-steal multiplayer game with two teams of four gunning for the same chest of treasure. Your job is to skulk into an outpost, claim a key from the Sheriff – who happens to be armoured to the teeth – find the treasure vault, and then lug a chest to your side of the map. The problem is that another team has exactly the same aim.
While we could have come up with the four classes in less than four seconds – the stealthy Hunter, rangey Ranger, tanky Brawler and healing Mystic – it does look like it has something to it. There’s plenty of opportunities to undermine your opponents, the maps are littered with ins and outs, and it allows you to use your winnings to bling your base and weapons. Yeah, we thought Robin Hood gave away from the rich to the poor, too.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition
Mass Effect Legendary Edition was supposed to be a myth. Like Half Life: Episode 3 and a reissue of Scott Pilgrim: The Game (oh, wait) this was the game that was never meant to be. But if the past couple of years have told us anything, it’s to be prepared for the unexpected. So here we have all three of the good Mass Effect games (sorry Andromeda), bundled in with 40 lots of DLC, give or take some irretrievable old code.
*Slaps roof of car* – this bad boy can fit an awful lot in it. You’re getting three modern classics, remastered and optimised in 4K Ultra HD. You’re getting choices tracked across all three games. Most importantly, you’re getting the first Mass Effect, hoisted to the levels of Mass Effect 2 and 3, with improved Mako controls and improved AI.
We can already hear the map music. So, whether you’re here to relive the experience, to shag everyone, or save more people than you originally did in the climax of Mass Effect 2, then take a lift up the Citadel and dance like Shepard.
Now we can start campaigning for a Dead Space collection.
Subnautica: Below Zero
If you ever thought that superlative survival game Subnautica needed to be more unfriendly, then – woohoo – welcome to Subnautica: Below Zero! We hope you packed materials to craft a hot water bottle, as you’ll be needing it.
This is a standalone adventure set again on Planet 4546B, as you hunt for your sister who was lost along with the other researchers in her unit. You’ll be following the same patterns of the original, pushing as far as you can into increasingly hazardous areas to recover materials that can then be crafted into doodads. With those doodads you can push further outwards, and uncover some story and the odd leviathan.
Unknown Worlds, who also developed the original Subnautica, are at pains to remind that this is a Game Preview game, so won’t be completely finished, but we have every confidence in the very same studio that fed us to fish and boiled us alive more times than we can count.
What a surprise Knockout City was when it was presented in last year’s game showcase. A 3D multiplayer dodgeball that seemed to take cues from Arms and Splatoon on the Nintendo Switch, it was a breath of fresh air among the glut of Royales and deathmatches.
From then on, the surprises have continued to hurtle at us like medicine balls. Knockout City is cross-play out of the gate, and the Beta has shown that this is more than the throwaway game that it very well could have been. We tut and sigh at EA for charmlessly pressing CTRL+C and CTRL+V on all its franchises, but this is a genuinely exciting new IP and is more than a little risky for the risk-averse publisher.
Of course, we could be staring at microtransactions and battle passes very soon, but we shall be positive for the moment. Although, should you go down that route, we will take some Patches O’Houlihan and White Goodman skins, EA.
Wait, hasn’t this launched already? It feels like Biomutant has been on the slate for years, and could challenge Beyond Good and Evil 2 for the ‘least likely to get released’ prize. But, well, here we are in an Up Next article.
Perhaps it was just waiting for the next generation of consoles to bed in, as Biomutant looks ravishing. Like, really, really beautiful. There are enough different terrain types to get Peter Jackson location-scouting for a new Lord of the Rings, and the fauna looms over you as if every single one of them was a cutesy Dark Souls boss.
Understanding what Biomutant actually is can be problematic, though. We don’t know a huge amount about it, but we suggest from the trailers that there’s a hefty slice of at least two different Legend of Zeldas – it’s a bit Breath of the Wild in its world exploration, but also Wind Waker in how it lets you shift to various vehicles – and there’s Borderlands-style looting as well as FromSoftware bossing. That’s a heady mix, especially when you consider it’s also somewhat Pixar-ish in its animal-heavy world. Whatever it is, colour us curious.
The Amazing American Circus
Card games are so hot right now. But card games with a subject matter that doesn’t involve combat? Well, that’s downright novel.
Perhaps taking some notes from the success of The Greatest Showman, The Amazing American Circus focuses on the joys of the carnival, at the height of P.T. Barnum’s successes. You are the master of a newly formed circus, with only a few ragtag acts, and you aim to make a name for yourself by taking the show on the road. From the metropolises of America’s east, to the cowboys and saloons of the west, you have wildly different crowds to win over.
The enemy in The Amazing American Circus, aside from your competitor P.T. Barnum, is boredom. Your acts need to keep the audience’s interest, and you do that through the playing of cards at the right time. It also means accumulating the best acts between performances, as The Amazing American Circus is, at its heart, a deckbuilder.
So, whether you’re a card game fan, you’re curious about the setting, or you really, really like clowns, then The Amazing American Circus might well be your bag of popcorn.
Rust Console Edition
In a month that brings us the latest in survival games in the form of Subnautica: Below Zero, it feels appropriate that one of the genre’s forefathers gets released too. Rust, first launched onto Early Access way back in 2013, has taken eight years to make its merry way to console.
Whether or not it holds up after all this time is a big question, but it’s certainly used those eight years wisely. Maintaining a solid audience, it’s been able to refine and create a streamlined experience, rather than – you know – sit there and rust.
Rust sits somewhere between Fallout 76 and DayZ, as you attempt to hold back thirst, hunger, cold and radiation through one of two methods: you can salvage what you can and craft your way to success, hoping no-one finds your base in the radioactive wastelands as you make what you need to live, or you can go gung-ho and head to the big-ticket areas, where you’re almost guaranteed to meet other people. With big risks come big rewards.
If Fallout 76 wasn’t quite impersonal enough for you, then Rust might just be your thing.
What would happen if WALL-E decided to colonise Earth before humans evolved from apes and ruined everything? It’s a question that roughly no-one has ever asked, but The Colonists has come to answer.
Somehow making the invasion of Earth look adorable, it pitches you as a group of robotic colonists looking to make a home for themselves in the forests, lakes and deserts of pre-humanity. The music is chilled, the gameplay is laidback, and it has a definite wind-down-after-a-few-pints feel to it.
We’re also getting serious Anno and Settlers vibes from The Colonists – even some Kingdom of Keflings, should you remember THAT little classic – and it looks to be built from the ground up for play on console. Everything is simple and chunky, and decisions can be made on controller-friendly radial menus.
This is our pick for the sleeper hit of the month, so make sure you take time out from Mass Effect: Legendary Edition to give this one a spin.
As it turns out, there may well not be enough time in May to play all the games we want to play. Once we carve out enough time to give Resident Evil Village and three sodding Mass Effects a go, we’re not left with much time to spare. So, construct your schedules wisely, as May is the first month of 2021 that feels knockout.
We’ll see you in June, when yet another big trilogy makes us question our free time. Ninja Gaiden: The Master Collection is the first of the big releases in the traditionally quiet summer months, and we’re hoping that we’ve retained enough muscle memory to complete them over again.
For now, enjoy taking down lady vampires and the Geth. We believe in you.