Next-gen gaming is finally here with the arrival of the Xbox Series X and now that you have your shiny new console setup, you’re probably wondering what the best games are to show off the capabilities of your new system.
After playtesting the Series X for a few weeks now, I can tell you that there’s plenty to play on the Series X at launch but not all of the games will necessarily be new releases. Some of the Xbox One-era’s best games have been retooled to leverage the power that the Series X has to offer, making it a great time to revisit some of those stellar titles that you might’ve missed the first time around.
Here’s a list of the eight best Xbox Series X games available now, writes Krishan Sharma.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
For Call of Duty lovers, every holiday season is first and foremost about the next CoD title and the good news is that the latest entry in this annualised franchise doesn’t disappoint. The single player campaign is some of the best to come out of the franchise in years and, outside of some server and matchmaking hiccups, the multiplayer modes are a total blast. Zombies mode in particular has a strong foundation that I hope to see fleshed out (pun intended) further with future updates.
The campaign is as over the top as ever but this time around you’re also given plenty of choice throughout including optional side missions, whether to kill or capture particular antagonists and various dialogue options. Even though your choices don’t materially affect the overall story, it’s fun to replay levels and try out different options to see how the scene plays out differently. Most missions are broken up with a healthy dose of action which serves as a nice palette cleanser before the next big action set piece.
The multiplayer suite has plenty of options and modes for players of all types, but it all features the same excellent gunplay and choice that have formed the core of Call of Duty for years. The real draw, however, is ‘Fireteams’ which features large-scale, team-based firefights similar to Call of Duty’s free-to-play battle royale, Warzone. It’s more focused and less chaotic than Warzone and if you enjoy working with your friends in big battles and huge maps, Fireteams is where you will be spending most of your time. That being said, multiplayer in Black Ops is missing some key mechanics that were in previous entries, such as mounting weapons and switching a weapon’s fire rate, which made transitioning from Warzone a little jarring.
The much loved Zombies mode makes a welcome return and this time around players can bring their own loadout into the massive undead slaughterhouses instead of solely relying on what you can find in the map. Zombie mode also supports split-screen, making it a great option for some couch-based co-op fun.
Cold War is also a visual tour de force on the Series X which is a little surprising given that it’s also a title that runs on last-gen consoles. It’s the only title available at launch that lets you keep ray tracing enabled while running the game at 4K and 60fps. Although the ray tracing is limited to shadows, it can make a significant difference to the image quality in certain scenes. Better yet, with ray tracing disabled you can run the game at up to 120fps, making for the most responsive and fluid Call of Duty on consoles to date.
I also have to commend developers Treyarch on the bombastic sound design that truly shines with a proper surround sound setup or on a quality pair of headphones.
Yakuza Like A Dragon
The latest entry in Sega’s hit Yakuza series, Like a Dragon, might not scream next-gen thanks to its last gen roots but don’t let that fool you – this is the most substantial console exclusive in the Series X|S launch lineup and one of my personal favourites of 2020. Like a Dragon originally came out in Japan on the PS4 almost a year ago, but it is making its western debut on Xbox. The Series X version has the option for a 4K/30fps mode, but by default, it runs at 1440p at 60fps, which is the best way to play. The graphics look similar to the Xbox One X version, however, it runs twice as smooth thanks to 60fps and load times are virtually non-existent.
Like a Dragon takes place in a fictional recreation of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, called Kamurocho, and while it mighn’t be as large as some other open world titles, it is much more densely detailed and more fun to explore. You’ll spend countless hours on foot than in previous Yakuza titles, giving you ample opportunity to get distracted by the game’s hilariously entertaining side quests or stop by a nearby arcade for a few rounds of Virtua Fighter 2 or Outrun.
The characters and story are fantastically well realised and the new turn-based combat system is easy to grasp, but surprisingly deep. For the unfortunate few who have yet to play a Yakuza game, Like A Dragon presents a great entry point as it has an all-new cast, a different setting and a radically altered gameplay style to its predecessors. My only real qualm with Like A Dragon is that it can take a few hours before it actually gets going and it can drag a little towards the end but otherwise this is a fantastic Japanese crime drama filled with an oddball mix of goofball humour and sincerity.
Gears of War 5
(Available on Game Pass)
2019’s Gears 5 was arguably the best entry in the franchise’s history and for the Xbox Series X outing, there’s a host of visual improvements including a native 4K pixel count and 60fps for the campaign as well as 120fps support for multiplayer. The visual quality has been upped to match the PC versions most demanding ‘ultra’ graphical settings while also sporting new features not found on the PC version such as ray traced global illumination.
Gears 5 is one of the few games on the market that support good old couch-based split screen cooperative mode, making it a great reason to dive back into this game with a friend.
Forza Horizon 4
(Available on Game Pass)
If there was ever a game that was more deserving of Series X treatment, it’s Forza Horizon 4. Upgraded to run in native 4K resolution at 60fps with significantly reduced load times, Forza Horizon 4 is set to wow players all over again on Series X.
Of course, there’s more to a game’s visuals than just resolution and frame rates. The graphical quality of the effects and models are just as important, and on the Series X, you get improved car model quality, real-time reflections and better particle effects. Forza Horizon 4 doesn’t quite match the PC version’s best settings so hopefully there’s another patch coming down the road that improves things like shadow quality and the animation speed of your driving avatar.
Forza Horizon 4 is one of the finest driving games ever released with a vast open world packed full of fun challenges from racing a train across a wintery landscape to racking up a huge number of skill points by hitting big jumps. Meanwhile the ever-changing weather system adds a new dynamic to races be it street races, rally racing, cross country drives or one of the many story missions.
It is simply the prettiest and most content-filled arcade racer around that will hook both diehard and casual racing fans alike.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
(Available on Game Pass)
Ori and the Will of the Wisps won our hearts earlier this year with an endearing tale and a soulful aesthetic as well as a gameplay system that is richer than the original. While its debut on the Xbox One was marred with technical issues, on Series X those performance issues are a distant memory with a native 4K presentation and a hyper responsive 120fps as well as higher fidelity audio. There’s also the option of running the game in 6K supersampled mode at 60fps, which makes the stunning artistry on show really leap off the screen.
Regardless of the mode you choose to play in, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a fantastic metroidvania that shouldn’t be missed.
Tetris Effect: Connected
(Available on Game Pass)
Okay so Tetris isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think ‘next-gen’ but overlook Tetris Effect Connected at your own peril – this is as pure and addictive as gaming gets. A revamped version of the 2018 original, Tetris Effect Connected adds a host of co-op multiplayer modes and features that should make it a mainstay on your Series X for years to come.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
AC Valhalla continues the action-packed RPG formula from the series’ last two entries but this time the setting shifts to 9th Century Viking-era England and a greater emphasis on exploration. It has its flaws with a combat system that isn’t particularly deep, which is a shame since you’ll be doing a lot of it, and the game drags on a little too long for our liking. It also won’t win over those who yearn for the series to return to its stealth and parkour roots where momentum through movement were key pillars to the gameplay.
That said, if you’re looking for an action packed full-scale open world RPG to sink your teeth into, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla fits the bill nicely and it plays better on Xbox Series X than any other console with a native 4K presentation and a locked 60fps.
Watch Dogs: Legion
One of the big new features of the Xbox Series X is hardware support for ray tracing and no other game at launch takes better advantage of it than Watch Dogs: Legion with improved lighting, reflections and shadow detailing that make the game’s neon-soaked near-future London setting pop.
Legion also delivers a unique gameplay experience with the ability to recruit and play as anyone you see in its open world city complete with their own backstory, personality and skillset that keeps the experience feeling fresh. There’s also a substantial online multiplayer update coming on December 3rd that should offer a dense online experience with new 2-4 player co-op missions and PvP modes.
That said, the experience isn’t as polished as it could be with some patchy AI on non-playable characters (NPCs) walking into walls and oncoming traffic and we also encountered a handful of mission ending bugs but hopefully these will be ironed out in future updates.