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Xbox One Essentials: The Games

So you've pre-ordered your console. It'll be here in less than a month. Now... what do you want to play on it?

  • Text: Bengt Lemne & Mike Holmes

With less than a month to go until Xbox One launches we've taken a look at the games that will make up the launch line-up and what's set to land in the months that follow.

Launch - First-party

Microsoft has a very deep first party line-up at launch, even with a few titles slipping into 2014 (Kinect Sports Rivals, Project Spark). It's a diverse line-up headlined by Capcom's Dead Rising 3 (published by Microsoft Game Studios), Turn 10's Forza Motorsport 5 and Crytek's Ryse: Son of Rome. The first party titles do a great job of complimenting the range of launch titles with third parties providing first-person shooters, sports, and family friendly titles.

Dead Rising 3 ups the stakes of the zombie apocalypse, providing players with a larger world and far more zombies to take out in a variety of hilarious ways. The fact that you can now create combination vehicles says something about the scale of the zombiecide we're about to engage in. Forza Motorsport 5 looks set to deliver another strong instalment in Microsoft's flagship racing franchise. While realism, physics, graphics and exotic cars are all worthy headlines, it's the new racing AI system - powered by the Xbox One cloud - that we're most excited about.

Crytek's Ryse: Son of Rome has taken a detour to make it onto the Xbox One launch line-up. In fact, it started life as a Kinect title for Xbox 360. The larger-than-life story of Roman soldier Marius Titus and his rise through the ranks certainly looks stunning, even if we still have some reservations about what appears to be a heavy focus on scripted gameplay.

Forza Motorsport 5 is one of the first titles racing onto next-gen.

The long awaited sequel to Rare's classic fighting game, Killer Instinct, is also set for launch. This time Double Helix Games are handling the development, and the game features a rather strange tiered business model where you can play the game with one character (Jago) for free and you can unlock more by purchasing a couple of different content packs. There is also a season structure where more content will release over time. It remains to be seen how this plays out and how well it will play.

The road towards Xbox One launch for Crimson Dragon has been long and winded as it was originally announced as a Kinect title for Xbox 360, and while it retains some Kinect functionality it is now using the controller as the main input. It's spiritual successor to the Panzer Dragoon series, with its creator Yujio Futatsugi at the helm. The twisted minds at Twisted Pixel are responsible for such delightful original creations as Gunslinger and Splosion-Man, and this time they've created LocoCycle, a vehicular combat game you won't believe. The Zoë Mode developed Powerstar Golf is a free-to-play answer to Hot Shots Golf and Zoo Tycoon is the console debut of the longrunning simulation series.

In addition to this, Xbox Live gold members will have access to Xbox Fitness; an exercise programme that leverages the power of the new Kinect to measure your activities more accurately than ever before. Xbox Fitness will become a paid service after the first year.

Dead Rising 3 - Executive Producer Interview

Forza Motorsport 5 - Dan Greenawalt Interview

Ryse: Son of Rome - Design Director Interview

Crimson Dragon - Senior Game Designer Interview

LocoCycle - Jay Stuckwisch Interview

For further reading on some of these titles check out the following stories: Ryse: Son of Rome - Hands-On Impressions and Bringing the canon of Dead Rising together - Interview with senior producer Jason Leigh.

Launch - Third-party

Many of the third-party titles that are set to land on Xbox One are also destined to grace current-gen consoles. We're expecting some of the next-gen offerings to thoroughly best their 360/PS3 counterparts, though there's always one or two ports that end up underwhelming and that fail to take full advantage of the increase in horsepower. Keep checking back on the site in the coming weeks as we'll be comparing the different versions of games wherever possible.

First up, it's going to be a pirate's life for all of us when Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag sets sail on Xbox One. The game looks great, and takes advantage of some of the nautical themes that resonated so strongly in ACIII. Whether or not we're starting feeling over-saturated with Assassin's games is the only major question mark hanging over the title.

In the first-person shooter corner we're being treated to Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts. Both will feature destructible/evolving environments to some extent, and both are looking mighty polished. At the end of the day it's going to come down to individual preference, and that generation-old question: CoD or Battlefield? The players in this two way battle remain the same, even if the platforms are different.

Battlefield 4 vs Call of Duty: Ghosts. New platform, old rivalry.

There's a wealth of sports titles coming with the next-gen consoles. FIFA 14 is obviously the stand-out title from a UK perspective, and EA look like they've done a good job in updating the game for the new consoles. Xbox One owners will also get the benefit of Ultimate Team Legends. Basketball fans are well catered for with NBA 2K14 and NBA Live 14 both aiming for a slam dunk next month. Madden NFL 25 looks like a beast of a game, though how much general appeal it'll have remains to be seen. Throw into the mix next-gen versions of Zumba Fitness World Party and Just Dance 2014, and there's plenty to keep sporty types happy.

Younger audiences will have a couple of titles to choose from. Lego Marvel Super Heroes continues TT Games' tradition of converting new IP to the Lego brand. Skylanders Swap Force brings a new generation of interchangeable figurines to the next generation of consoles. Peggle 2 is also a good shout, though PopCap's game will likely hold appeal to gamers of all ages. We're certainly looking forward to renewing our Peggle addiction.

Need for Speed: Rivals is going head-to-head with Forza Motorsport 5 in the racing genre, and will likely enjoy additional traction in the coming months thanks to Ubisoft's decision to delay the release of The Crew. Last up there's The Fighter Within, a Kinect fighter that we're curious to try out when it launches.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Game Director Interview

Battlefield 4 - Patrick Bach Interview

Call of Duty: Ghosts - Mulitplayer Interview

FIFA 14 - Nick Channon Next-Gen Interview

Lego Marvel Super Heroes - Arthur Parsons Interview

Need for Speed: Rivals - Craig Sullivan Interview

Peggle 2 - Producer Interview

Skylanders: Swap Force - Guha Bala Interview

If you want to read up some more on some of third-party launch titles we recommend: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - Hands-On Impressions (PS4 version), Battlefield 4 - Multiplayer Hands-On, Call of Duty: Ghosts - Campaign Preview and Multiplayer Hands-On, FIFA 14 - Next-Gen Impressions, Lego Marvel Super Heroes - Preview, Need for Speed: Rivals - Preview, and Shaping the Vision: Vicarious Visions and Skylanders.

Within the first six months

If all things go according to plan Xbox One looks set to enjoy a very strong first six months, with several noteworthy titles appearing early in 2014. Among the exclusives we find create-your-own-game title Project Spark (launches into beta in January), the body-powered Kinect Sports Rivals, Respawn Entertainment's eagerly awaited multiplayer feast Titanfall (which was just given a release date in March), the musical adventure that is Fantasia: Music Evolved from Harmonix and PopCap's delightfully deranged co-op shooter Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.

As far as games that aren't exclusive goes, there is also plenty to be excited about. Zenimax Online Studios are bringing large scale MMOs to Xbox One with The Elder Scrolls Online, which will likely satisfy the appetites of those waiting for another entry in the core series from Bethesda.

Watch Dogs: delayed but not forgotten.

Halo creator Bungie's next game Destiny launches into beta early in the year with a release planned for the second quarter. We're being promised a huge amount of variety, with PvP and co-op, rich lore and deep gameplay. Our fingers are well and truly crossed, because if Bungie can deliver we could be looking at a truly special game. It would also, ironically, make up for the fact that there's no Halo launch title coming to Xbox One.

Eidos Montreal are set to resurrect Garrett and bring back Thief, while Ubisoft look set to deliver the recently delayed hacker adventure Watch Dogs. The delay of the latter was a particularly disappointing outcome, as there were no doubt plenty of gamers on both sides of the console divide who were looking forward to getting the teeth stuck into what looks like a compelling and unique new IP.

Project Spark - Game Designer Jared Greiner demos the creations tools

Fantasia: Music Evolved - Game presentation and interview with Daniel Sussman

Catch up on some of these titles with the following stories:

Titanfall Hands-On Impressions and Interview with the lead artist, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare - Producer Interview, The Elder Scrolls Online - Creature Combat Designer Interview and Hands-On Impressions (PC), Destiny - Joseph Staten Interview, Thief - Hands-On Impressions and Joe Khoury Interview, and Watch Dogs - Hands-On Impressions and Interview with Jonathan Morin.

Beyond the first six months

Below is the next game from Capybara Games, and its real-time roguelike gameplay has us almost as interested as its distinctive visuals. D4 is an episodic murder mystery from Access Games and Hidetaka "Swery65" Suehiro (the team behind cult title Deadly Premonition). The Crew, as we mentioned earlier, was recently delayed and pushed back from its planned Q1 2014 release. Despite the delay, we're still looking forward to its fusion of racing and RPG elements, and can't wait to drive coast-to-coast across the US of A.

There's a few fantasy themed titles that should keep genre fans happy. Dragon Age: Inquisition from Bioware looks like it's going to be a treat. Powered by Frostbite 3 and likely weighted by Bioware's trademark mix of choice and action, RPG fans have something to really look forward to. Fable Legends is a co-op focussed entry in Lionhead's series, with players teaming up to battle the beasties of Albion. There's also the option for one player to assume a dungeon master-like role and attempt to foil them. Final Fantasy XV, originally announced under the name Final Fantasy Versus XIII, is also on the way to next-gen consoles. The same is true of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the next instalment in the series from CD Projekt Red. This time the linear approach of old is making way for an open-world adventure.

Whether or not the Halo that was announced at E3 is Halo 5 or not remains something of an enigma. We expect that's exactly what it is, but there's still confusion in the air. Many fans were hoping that the next chapter in Master Chief's story would end up being a launch title for Xbox One, but it looks like we're going to have to wait until 2014 before we get our hands on the shooter from 343.

Master Chief is returning sometime in 2014.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is hitting next-gen formats in 2014, but the Xbox One entry is the one we're concerned about here. Solid Snake and friends (if you can call them that) are taking to an open-world vision of Afghanistan this time around. Also arriving from the East is Comcept's Mighty No. 9, which is set to hit nearly every platform imaginable following its successful Kickstarter campaign.

Mirror's Edge (or Mirror's Edge 2) is the long-awaited followup from DICE. Like its stablemate Star Wars: Battlefront, it'll be powered by DICE's Frostbite 3 engine. Consider us equally excited about both titles. Another game that has us excited is The Division. With a story penned by the late Tom Clancy, it's an open world tactical third-person shooter with RPG elements. It looks like a truly next-gen experience and we can't wait to get our hands on it.

Quantum Break is an Xbox One exclusive from Alan Wake devs Remedy Entertainment. There's a TV series also in development, and the game and show will inform each other. Quite how we're still unsure, but nevertheless we're intrigued. Such was strength of Insomniac Games' ties to PlayStation, it was something of a surprise when Sunset Overdrive was announced as an Xbox One exclusive. The studio hasn't had a big hit for a couple of years now, so it remains to be seen how this one will turn out.

The Division - Extended Interview with Ryan Barnard

DICE Interview with Karl Magnus Troedsson (incl. Mirror's Edge, Star Wars: Battlefront)

For more details on some of the aforementioned titles check out these articles: Dragon Age: Inquisition - Preview, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Open world narrative evolved, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain - The Mysterious Mr. Kojima.


Xbox One might have lost the PR battle with Sony's PlayStation 4 pre-launch, but the line-up for the console over the coming months is very strong, and should see it through the first the year of its life cycle. The first-party exclusives look great, and the third-party offerings nicely compliment the selection on offer. MS haven't been shy about splashing their cash around to ensure key third-party exclusives, and there's already a dedicated community of Xbox fans who'll likely stick to their favoured brand for this upcoming generation. Some back-peddling over DRM, ownership and second-hand, along with a stellar launch line-up, will likely ensure that the new console from Microsoft secures enough early adopters to thrive long into the future.

If you want to read up on the hardware and launch of Xbox One we kindly ask you follow this link to our Xbox Essentials: Hardware and Launch special.