With a lineup of games that includes everything from cybernetic super-soldiers to old-timey animated devils, the coming year is shaping up to be big for the Xbox One. And it needs to be, if Microsoft wants to gain ground on an unrelenting rival.
At this week’s X15 event in Toronto, Microsoft invited nearly 1,000 fans to check out two dozen games that will be landing on the Xbox One in 2015 and 2016, with titles that encompass everything from massive franchise sequels to unique indie experiments.
The coming months are particularly important for Microsoft as the company tries to gain ground on Sony’s PlayStation 4, which has outsold the Xbox One by a margin of nearly two to one worldwide since the consoles were released in late 2013. Microsoft has started to close the gap in recent months – in North America, monthly sales of the two consoles have drawn roughly even – but there’s still a lot of catching up to be done.
While X15 featured a slew of cool games that will be coming to both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 over the coming year or so – including the likes of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, NHL 16, Tom Clancy’s The Division and Just Cause 3 – there was a solid lineup of Xbox One exclusives on display, ranging from one of the heaviest hitters in the realm of first-person shooters to a unique blend of a video game and a TV show. Here’s a look at five must-play games making their console debuts on the Xbox One.
Halo 5: Guardians (Oct. 27)
Master Chief is back, and he’s bringing a lot of friends with him. The newest instalment in Microsoft’s sci-fi shooter franchise will also be the first to debut on the Xbox One, with cybernetic super-soldier Master Chief facing off against new nemesis Spartan Locke. The gameplay is familiar yet fresh, and the online offerings – including the sprawling 24-player Warzone mode – look very promising indeed. Hopefully this one will even have a story that we’re actually able to follow.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (Aug. 25)
The gaming landscape is awash in re-released versions of last-generation titles, but this redux of 2006’s excellent Gears of War might be the best-looking of the lot. Vancouver-based studio The Coalition, which is currently working on next year’s Gears of War 4, created more than 3,000 new high-resolution art assets for the game, while retaining the familiar duck-n’-cover-n’-chainsaw action.
Cuphead (TBA 2016)
Developed by tiny Ontario-based Studio MDHR, Cuphead looks like a 1930s Disney cartoon and plays like an old-school, hardcore side-scrolling action game. The animation is astounding – it’s easy to think you’re watching a cartoon reel from some studio’s dusty archives – while the gameplay is uniquely challenging, as the titular hero battles bosses that run the gamut from a giant carrot to a leering devil.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Nov. 10)
Lara Croft returns in this follow-up to 2013’s Tomb Raider, which marked a reboot of sorts for gamedom’s venerable crypt explorer. Lara is now a more confident adventurer and warrior, jetting around the world to a variety of beautiful but hostile environments. The game is shaping up well, not fixing anything that wasn’t broken while adding new weapons, foes and bigger tombs to plunder. (Rise of the Tomb Raider debuts Xbox One this fall, but developer Crystal Dynamics has said it will make its way to the PlayStation 4 during the 2016 holiday season.)
The makers of Max Payne and Alan Wake are blurring the line between video games and TV shows with this ambitious action title, which centres around a guy who can bend time to his will and use it as a weapon. Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, The Wire), Lance Reddick (The Wire, Fringe) and Canada’s own Shawn Ashmore (X-Men: Days of Future Past) star in both the game itself and its live-action sequences, in which players can make choices that will affect the direction of the story. It sounds nuts, but it looks fascinating.