Silly season is all about the sequels in 2021. Not one of the games we’re about to list is an original IP. It’s almost as if the gaming industry is afraid of losing a few bob and wants to hang its bets on proven moneymakers.
But we’ll drop the cynicism, as we’re not talking about any old franchises releasing on Xbox here in November 2021. We’re talking Call of Duty, Battlefield, Forza and frigging Grand Theft Auto. These are the goliaths of gaming, all coming out to fight in the same month. It’s like Godzilla vs Kong vs Just Dance, and we’re all in for seeing who emerges as champion. Unless FIFA steals in and wins it like it always does, the scallywag.
Just Dance 2022
Wash the panda suit (we know you all have one), as Just Dance 2022 is here! Ah, we can already foresee the moment on Christmas Day, our bellies full of brussel sprouts, when our tiny rotters will get us up to waddle around in front of Shakira. Our hips definitely lie.
Ubisoft have hit upon a fun and family-friendly formula that they don’t like shifting up too much. It’s more about the content, baby, as the biggest hits get choreographed by bendy people in jumpsuits. We have 40 new tracks here, and where do we start? There’s Level Up by Ciara, Funk by Meghan Trainor, Rock My Body by Justin Timberlake, and – bringing a smile to our millennial faces – Freed From Desire by Gala (with the perennially misheard lyrics of “my lover’s got no money, he’s got his trampoline”). There’s obviously more, but we’ll leave it to you to search them out.
If you like a jiggle or want to oscillate some of that fat off your body, then Just Dance 2022 is the ticket. But will it differ enough from Just Dance 2021? Stay tuned for our review.
Call of Duty Vanguard
In one of gaming’s finest hokey-cokeys, Call of Duty is back in WWII with Call of Duty Vanguard. One year it’s controversially modern, then the next year it’s back in safe hands with some old-timey wars.
Vanguard likes to fight on many fronts. You’re going to the Eastern Front, the Western Front, Africa and the Pacific, as you and your squad are pinballed around the world. Oh yeah, we should probably note that Call of Duty Vanguard has a campaign, as all good Call of Dutys should.
But Call of Duty has evolved far, far further than its single player. You are getting the holy trinity on top of it: Multiplayer, Zombies and Warzone.
Multiplayer is the swolest offering so far: there are twenty maps on launch, including four close-quarters, and they span the regions we’ve already told you about. Zombies has been getting exponentially bonkers with each game, and it doesn’t stop here. You’ll be going tete-a-tete with Kortifex the Deathless, because of course you are. And Warzone continues to bring Call of Duty to free-to-play, coinciding with Season Six, which introduces hidden bunkers, extra weapons and Ghostface from the Scream series.
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy
It’s The Orange Box for the 2020’s. We’re hard-pressed to think of a more generous, overstuffed launch than Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy, which brings roughly two-hundred hours of old-school gaming to the Xbox.
You get Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City and San Andreas, all crammed into a green case. Except, the green case doesn’t come until December 4th – what you’re getting on November 11th is the full digital release of these landmark games.
What makes the deal so sweet is that GTA V controls have been brought to all three titles, and they have each been extensively remastered so that you’re not cutting yourself on their polygons. There’s little news on whether the soundtracks remain preserved – we suspect that not all tracks will make it – but we can hope.
Forza Horizon 5
After being thoroughly treated with Forza Horizon 4, taking us through our very own isles, we’re off to pastures more exotic in Forza Horizon 5. We’re headed to Mexico, where the map’s roughly 50% larger, and mountains, volcanoes, jungles and beaches take over from quaint little hamlets in Suffolk.
It’s also one of our favourite times of the year, as you get to play Playground Games bingo, spotting the gimmicks and bizarrely named game mechanics. There’s the ‘EventLab’, where players can create custom games and races, as well as ‘Local Weather’, where you can spot tornadoes in the distance and beeline straight to them like you’re Bill Paxton. ‘Horizon Arcade’ also allows you to play cute car-based minigames, as Forza Horizon 5 somehow starts to take notes from Shenmue.
But most of all, Forza Horizon 5 looks and plays astonishingly well. We have ray-tracing, we have photogrammetry data being used to create levels, just like in Microsoft Flight Simulator. This one could be special.
Football Manager 2022
If you’ve been sat on the sofa, bemused at the elfen incompetence of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, then Football Manager 2022 may well be for you. Boot it up, ditch the Fred/McTominay partnership and unleash the Sancho, and watch as Manchester United start tickling the toes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City.
This year’s iteration has some gems in the bulletpoints. For one, the slightly drab-looking matchday has been improved with new animations. AI improvements make the characters less robotic, and you can fiddle with the pressing systems on the fly, which makes each game more natural. And the number of available teams has been hiked to 2,500, which is a ridiculous number. Hopefully you can take control of the England v World XI charity match and gift Lee Mack a hat-trick.
There’s an emphasis on the impact of the media in Football Manager 2022, as you decide whether to take an interview yourself or shove Harry Kane in front of the camera to face the critics. We’re going to brush up on our Eric Cantona non sequiturs.
Typing Battlefield 2042 into Google gave the first hit of ‘What is the point of Battlefield 2042?’. It’s a harsh question, but you can sense where it’s coming from. There’s just so many questions surrounding this iteration.
There’s no campaign in Battlefield 2042, which will hurt the sniffy solo players. And Battlefield Hazard Zone has only been extremely thinly outlined: just what is it? The multiplayer beta came and went with 128-player battles, but the maps were perhaps a little too expansive, as it was possible to go a couple of minutes without seeing anyone. Will it come together to be a coherent package?
But there’s enough to still get excited. Conquest and Breakthrough are nailed on classics, and Portal has all the ingredients of being a fun alternative. Plus, it’s DICE, so we’re talking one of the best-looking experiences that money can buy.
Jurassic World Evolution 2
I work just round the corner from Jurassic World Evolution 2 developers Frontier, and there are disappointingly few dinosaur noises coming from them. And we’ve not seen Jeff Goldblum turn up at their offices once.
Jurassic World Evolution 2 knows what players want, which is more of the same as that delivered in the original Jurassic World Evolution, and at greater depth. So you’re getting a much more narrative-driven campaign experience, set in the moments after Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom, with the voices of Jeff and Bryce Dallas Howard to add authenticity. There are ‘What If?’ scenarios that twist your favourite moments from the movies into quirkily different shapes. And a cast of 75 different dinos are supplemented by the ability to bioengineer them, creating your very own Indominus Rex, should you fancy it.
Clearly, Frontier Developments have spared no expense.
Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One
It’s Sherlock Holmes: The College Years, as fanatics Frogwares (now on their ninth Sherlock Holmes release) take us to the moments before he became the notorious detective. It’s a fascinating prospect, as we explore what made him the laudanum-loving, waterfall-diving detective that we know and love from the Arthur Conan Doyle books.
Frogwares have also been mastering their art with each game, and Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One feels like the game they have been threatening to make. It takes place on the open-world island of Cordona, and the only word for it is ‘sumptuous’.
But it’s in the almost Hitman-like number of options that Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One really shines. You can approach a case in any way you see fit, adopting disguises, extorting people and stirring rumours. It’s absolutely possible to fail a case, or undermine it in some way, and Frogwares is absolutely fine with that. It will be a marvel to see if it all comes off.
Farming Simulator 22
It may be odd seeing Farming Simulator 22 on a list that contains Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, but by golly do a lot of people love this franchise. This is a game that, very quietly, has an esport tournament with a €250,000 top prize. That buys you a lot of hay.
Now, we’re not one of the people that get mesmerised by the joys of Farming Simulator 22, so excuse us if we fumble the new features. What you’re getting with Farming Simulator 22 is incredibly deep and authentic simulations of agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry, but this time with seasonal cycles. We’re a wee bit surprised that previous Farming Simulators didn’t have seasons, but there you go.
Also included are over 400 machines from over 100 different brands, including John Deere (we recognise them!), CLAAS and Case IH. There are new crops to use them on too. What sounds like the most interesting addition is that you can farm cooperatively with other players. So, bring along a budding Jeremy Clarkson and see if they can slum it on your farm.
The Honourable Mentions…
Excuse us as we try something new! November 2021 is so fit-to-bursting that it’s worth showcasing some of the other games that you can get your mitts on before Christmas. Just missing out on the list was Evil Genius 2: World Domination. While it might be more suited to PC, it’s great to see the sequel to the Machievellian classic make it to a simultaneous console launch.
We’re a little later to the party to a few other games, including Beyond a Steel Sky, Mike Bithell’s latest The Solitaire Conspiracy, and the underrated Switch classic Mr Driller DrillLand. All of them have been receiving strong reviews on other platforms, and are finally arriving on Xbox.
In the land of indie, we will be keeping a close eye on The Binding of Isaac Repentance, as the original was just so grotesquely more-ish, while Treasures of the Aegean is our pick for Indie of the Month. It’s a 2D Tomb Raider with exquisite comic book touches.
And continuing the sequel theme, we have several titles coming out in November that are a touch more niche than the ones we highlighted. Get your rocks off to Gear.Club Unlimited 2, MXGP 2021 – The Official Motocross Videogame and Cricket 22, which are also out this month.
So there we go: November 2021. While there might not be enough turkey to go around this Christmas (thanks, Brexit), we’re certainly getting our fair share of games.
There’s more still to come in 2021, too, with the small matter of Halo Infinite. Now that the space-gorillas have been brushed up to look less pants, this one could be the pièce of all résistances. We’re going to be fighting for that review code.
In the meantime, enjoy November, and let us know in the comments about the games you’re most interested in.