Tuesday 21 August 2018

My Xbox Experiences: Part 2

I’m back again with my Xbox experiences, and this time it is all focused on the Xbox One. This is the machine that really accelerated my respect of the Xbox brand and allowed me to try a lot more of the first party lineup. However, at no point between 2013 and 2015 had I ever thought I’d be interested in getting one.

In 2013, I’d covered the Xbox One reveal conference and felt the One was unimpressive from what was shown, making note of the fact that E3 really needed to be great for them otherwise the One would be the losing console of the three – which is saying something considering we know how things turned out. E3 2013 gave a lot of u-turns on a number of things, and it had a whole host of games, but the WiiU looked a whole lot more attractive with Mario Kart 8 and the already released LEGO City Undercover.

I’d skipped out on covering E3 2014, but come E3 2015, it was clear I’d been won over.  Despite the little showing it got, Forza Motorsport 6 interested me greatly, and knowing that the console already had Horizon 2 on it made it a more attractive option. And this was also the E3 which Nintendo had faltered in a bad way. So, in October of 2015, I finally became an owner of the Forza Motorsport Edition Xbox One – complete with a download code of Forza Motorsport 6. Which was a surprise, as I was expecting a disc. It also meant I couldn’t get stuck into it until the next day, letting the game download overnight through the wired connection to the student home internet. And the next year and a half proved my reasoning for not keeping the 360 around was pretty weak when both the WiiU and One sat side-by-side in front of my TV.

When I played the game, it was as great as I was expecting, with some of my favourite tracks from the fourth returning and some interesting new ones that I found just as good. However, I wanted to explore more of the games on offer that I had missed over the last two years. Cue EA Access and the Vault, giving me access to full games within EA’s library. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare and Titanfall were the two games I first tried, and both were pretty fun. I had reinstated my Gold subscription, and took advantage of the Games With Gold I was now able to claim again. Dirt 3 was one of the first, but didn’t get played beyond the first try. Forza 6 was just that good for me. Even the lure of a new Need For Speed wasn’t enough to pull me away from Forza Motorsport 6, though I did get a number of hours played on the trial. Same goes for Star Wars Battlefront [though ultimately I went PC on that one].

2016 and 2017 were packed full of releases and new additions to both EA Access and Games With Gold. The first lot being an average game called Zheroes and the charming Unravel. Oh, and GTA V. Yes, I’d already bought it on Steam and had made a great amount of progress in making my Online character a part of the world with houses, cars, and a style similar to my own, but I’d never touched the offline story content of the game. The Xbox One version would make sure I did. And I had fun with the story, much more than I was expecting. I already knew what I was getting come the end, and made the only choice that makes sense. Occasionally I’d be booting that completed save back up to pick the boys up again and go hiking up Mount Chiliad only to ‘accidentally’ knock one of them down the side of it. I enjoyed Titanfall more than Garden Warfare, but that didn’t stop me getting the second Garden Warfare game once it became available in the Vault. Perhaps not surprisingly, I played it less than the first. I had fun with Defence Grid 2 when I claimed that through Games With Gold, but just like the first it was a played once and never touched again game. I seriously have no idea what it is with me doing that with free games. Even ones I like.

Sunset Overdrive was also claimed on Games With Gold, and this one I didn’t find all that good. There was just something that felt stilted about it, almost as if the freedom that was advertised wasn’t there to the degree I was expecting. Though I have no idea what my expectations regarding the game were in the first place, so I can’t really be saying that without giving it a full chance. If Crackdown is any indication, I’ll pick it up again sometime soon and find myself in the groove enough to complete the main storyline. The Xbox 360 got a bit of love as I bought Midnight Club: LA Complete, though at the time didn’t dedicate enough time to it. This is another game I’d had fun with on the PSP, but with this one being the full game, it was easy to consider. As for the Xbox One, it was time to play catch up with the Forza series, buying both Horizon 2 and Motorsport 5 before Horizon 3’s release. While Horizon 2 kept me busy, Motorsport 5 just sort of sat there, and I had to admit to myself that the regular track racers just weren’t as exciting to me anymore. Or maybe it just five being a downgrade of six, as I was still playing the latter.

I won’t say much about this one, as I’d already reviewed it, but LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens released, and since the massive discount I was expecting the Steam version to have didn’t happen [after all, LEGO Jurassic World was cut massively in price just after launch] it was to the Xbox One for the game. Not only that, but 2016 was when I started dropping off from PC gaming, so nearly everything went to the One. Red Dead Redemption became part of the Backwards Compatibility of the One, and had a sale going for it, so I jumped at the chance to buy it. Worms WMD and a small game called Obliteracers were bought around that period, with Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate and SSX 3 being claimed from Games With Gold and the Vault respectively. There wasn’t much happening in 2017 with new games until April came with two at once. LEGO City Undercover had already been fully completed on WiiU, and while I wasn’t going to be repeating that, I did want to have the game on a console I was using a lot more. And Yooka-Laylee arrived as well, though I didn’t play it as much as I was expecting. I’d also downloaded Skate 3 from the Vault. And with Star Wars Battlefront now in the Vault, I could now play more, and also took the opportunity to get the season pass for it – something I had neglected doing on the PC version.

The Switch was taking over my gaming time as game after game released on it for me to buy, but I still found time for the One trying out both Watch Dogs games, along with playing through other games. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2 had made it onto the Backwards Compatibility list, so it was time to replay the game I had originally played on the Wii and made some progress in on Steam. Needless to say, I didn’t get very far but had fun doing so. A number of games came along as well, with Need For Speed Payback being played through EA Access trial, Game Pass being introduced which allowed me to play Gears of War 4, and purchasing Sonic Forces and Star Wars Battlefront 2. Payback fixed the control issues I had with the 2015 game, but I didn’t find much to keep me playing. Gears was fun for the amount of time I played it, but I just couldn’t continue to the end as it got pushed to the side and eventually had to be deleted to make space. As mentioned previously, I was falling out from PC gaming, and a year after I’d bought it for PC I now had Steep for the One.

2018 was mostly Game Pass and Games With Gold for new additions, with Crazy Taxi, Split/Second, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. I even trialled Burnout Paradise Remastered and The Sims 4 through EA Access. And then, the blowout of original Star Wars goodness. Both original Battlefronts were bought, along with Jedi Starfighter. I covered those three for Star Wars month, along with both Force Unleashed games and both EA Battlefronts. The next game I tried from Game Pass was Zoo Tycoon, and one that I found quite good. Sure, it doesn’t have the customisability of the old ones, but it’s still a decent simulation management game. Sea of Thieves was also through Game Pass and it is a great sandbox to explore. I don’t mind the fact there’s little content for it, as exploring the world and coming across secrets is fun. And the last game on this post is Fortnite – the great survival 1v100 game. I did try PlayerUnknowns’ Battlegrounds during a free weekend, but found it to be slower and less action-packed.

These six years with Xbox might have had gaps with few new things happening for me, but the games I have were definitely fun. I might still be a Nintendo-first gamer, but the Xbox has given me a new favourite series in Forza and allowed me to try out new games that Nintendo would never get. Plus, Microsoft seem to be going more user friendly in terms of services – so if Backwards Compatibility and Game Pass carry over onto their next console, I am so there day one.