by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 15th May, 2018
We live in the time of subscriptions. It all started with music, the part of the entertainment industry that suffered the most from piracy. Album sales are in decline for decades now, and while music publishers tried to tackle the problem for a long time they just didn't found the right remedy. And then Spotify happened. The first couple of years were hard for the service because most publishers wanted more and more money; they weren't satisfied with streaming royalties. But Spotify stayed and shown how other types of entertainment will be consumed in years to come. Today, most of us have Spotify, or some other music streaming service, subscription and that works rather well. Music piracy is in decline and everyone is happy (sans those greedy publishers).
Netflix did that for movies and TV shows, and the massive rise of the service along with the appearance of many other similar offerings (like it happened with Spotify) showed that people like when they can pay a fixed monthly subscription in order to have access to digital entertainment. Sure, physical releases are still selling, but in numbers that are way lower than a decade ago. It is simple, people like the comfort of being able to stream any movie, TV show, or music they want at any given time of day, without the need to go into the store or video club to get some.
And, this might also become the future of how we play video games. Game subscription services aren't really a novelty. Electronic Arts and their Origin Access (for PC) and EA Access (for Xbox One) subscription programs showed that games can be accessed by paying a monthly based fee since both services are getting more and more popular. Sony's PlayStation Now allows PC gamers to play PlayStation games by streaming them, but for it to become a viable choice the service has to get over some hurdles like image quality and the issue of noticeable lag in controls, not to talk about its too steep price of $20 per month. Microsoft recently also entered the subscription game service market with its Xbox Game Pass, which lets you download and play a wide array of X360 and Xbox One games for just $9.99 per month.
The service offers over 100 of titles and many of them are AAA games that every console owner should play. The good thing is that the service will get a steady stream of new titles as time passes, and if you wish to make a break from it, you can cancel anytime like with any other subscription-based service. If you want to check it out just visit the site and sign-up for $1 for the first month, or pick a 14-day free trial (which is located on the end of the page, just scroll down). The service is great because it allows gamers to download their games, unlike Sony and its streaming service (which we cannot recommend unless you have 100mbit/s internet plan and don't mind control lag). Also, the price of $10 per month is a pretty good deal, and if you just got the Xbox One the Game Pass is a perfect way to get access to many great games for cheap. If you think that $10 is too much, just read our article that shows which games make Xbox Game Pass worth its price.
Every single Gears of War game can be played on the Xbox Game Pass. From the phenomenal first entry that is available in its Ultimate Edition format that saw its visuals completely overhauled to the Xbox One level, to the latest entry in the series, Gears of War 4 that started a new story with the son of Marcus Fenix, J.D., and his group of soldiers who have to face a new threat to humanity. The story continues and we will probably get new games in the future, which will probably be available on the Game Pass, maybe even from day one, which could be awesome.
Amazing graphics is the main feature of every title, with the original trilogy being one of the best gaming trilogies of all time. More than a solid story, lots of hours of playtime along with excellent as ever multiplayer found in Gears of War 4 make a lucrative offer on their own. If you want to replay Gears of War games, or haven't played them until now, these games alone are worth the price.
The original Crackdown was one of the best superhero-styled games ever, and it jumpstarted the Xbox 360 by being one of the best exclusives in the infant years of the console. The addictive orb-collecting gameplay and your character's superpowers that slowly became more and more powerful guaranteed an excellent gaming experience. Add to that great combat, a huge city to explore and a crazy story and you got one hell of a fun game.
The sequel gave us more of the same, but it somehow managed to screw the perfect formula of the original, failing to give gamers Crackdown fix they waited for years. Eight years passed since Crackdown 2 and we should finally get that fix during 2018. And we are certain that Crackdown 3, once it gets out, will be a game that's extremely fun to play. Collecting orbs and jumping over buildings never can get old, and if developers include a passable story and combat that's on par with the other two games we will receive the best game of the series.
And the best thing about Crackdown 3 is the fact the game will be available on Xbox Game Pass on day one of the release. So, instead of pre-ordering the game and shelling out $60 you can invest the same money on a six-month Game Pass subscription, play some great games in the coming months and then play Crackdown 3 once it arrives (and it should be out sometimes during this Fall).
Bioshock games are still some of the best first-person video games you can play at the moment. Sure, the first two are more than a decade old but their huge levels placed inside a rotting underwater city, a once utopia that transformed into a wretched and horrific opposite of itself along with excellent gunplay, superb voice acting, well-written characters and stories that you won't find in any other FPS titles are more than enough to qualify them as required read for every single gamer out there.
Bioshock Infinite took things to the skies and tackled the issues of religion, time travel, and parallel universes. If this sounds like a crazy mix of story elements it is because it is. While the gameplay is a classic, but explosive and masterfully constructed, gunplay without light RPG elements found in the first two games, Bioshock Infinite offers an excellent story, huge levels to explore, lovable characters and the explosive mix of gunplay and use of biotic powers. Another must play title.
The Swapper is an indie puzzle game that puts you into boots of a future astronaut that must overcome obstacles in a creepy alien world. The gameplay revolves around creating clones of yourself in order to solve clever puzzles that will boggle the mind but won't make you frustrated.
The game features unique take on graphics, excellent and uneasy story as well as a solid length and is one of the best puzzle games to come out in quite some time. In a market dominated by AAA titles that put visuals in front everything else, The Swapper and its masterful puzzles, unique graphics, and thoughtful story make the game definitely worth playing.
Another indie hit, The Final Station takes place on a train. But not on any old train. This one circles the post-apocalyptic world and is filled with desperate survivors who just want to stay alive and stay on the train.
Your task is to keep survivors alive and take them to the final station. But the trip won't be easy. You will have to scavenge for supplies, to make stops in the barren wasteland in order to take new passengers and to fight infected ones who will kill every last one of the train passengers if you don't stop them.
And intriguing campaign with a solid post-apocalyptic story and varied gameplay, The Final Station is one little gem of a survival game and is definitely worth playing in case you opt-in for the Xbox Game Pass.
Terraria is basically Minecraft in 2D. You have a giant open world that is completely yours to explore. You start as a humble and weak survivor who will use resources to craft different items and become powerful enough to conquer all foes.
And the game also offers limitless possibilities when it comes to exploring the world and creating anything you want. Graphics are sprite-based and reminiscent of the good old days of SNES, and the game offers hundreds of hours of fun and is a worthy addition to the Xbox Game Pass. It isn't a full-fledged AAA title but if you haven't played it, Terraria will give you many hours of fun.
Sunset Overdrive is one of the hidden gems on the Xbox One. The game came out four years ago and is probably the best Xbox game of 2014. Sunset Overdrive features a post-apocalyptic story with an insane premise of people turning to zombies after drinking energy drinks. Its huge open world is a jot to explore because movement mechanics are done phenomenally. You can wall-run, glide on zip lines, or grind on rails, allowing for some fast-paced movement across the huge city.
Combat also is excellently done, with original weapons and frantic gunplay. Another strong side of the title is its visuals that look like a comic in motion. Chances are you missed Sunset Overdrive when it came out making it an excellent title for a game subscription service.
Another game that will be available on the Xbox Game Pass as soon as it comes out. State of Decay 2 is a sequel (which also is available on the Game Pass) of an excellent zombie apocalypse title that got released in 2013 and becomes the biggest sleeper hit of the year. The original features large open world environment split into urban zones, forests, grasslands and more. Players took care of their settlement while trying to survive in a harsh world and escape the Trumbull Valley where the game takes place. Like in The Walking Dead, combat was a choice only when everything else fails, making the game a perfect gritty survival adventure.
The sequel should bring a larger open world with many more places to explore, it should make base building even better and its pool of characters will be larger than in the original. Add excellent graphics, co-op mode, more balance needs of your group of survivors (these needs could really get in the way of enjoying the game in the original) and you got yourself a game that should become one of the best zombie games ever. Definitely worth playing once it comes out on May 22.
The sequel to the excellent Tomb Raider debut, Rise of the Tomb Raider places Lara Croft inside even a bigger adventure. She will traverse through some amazingly designed environments, will again be in the middle of an epic quest for ancient artifacts.
The game is placed in Siberia and features frozen areas that look magnificent. Lara can acquire new skills, perform some exciting combat moves, and jump and climb her way into discovering secrets of the legendary city of Kitezh, trying to keep her secrets away from bad guys from the Trinity organization.
Rise of the Tomb Raider features interesting story, lots of different adventures, lengthy campaign and amazing visuals and is worthy of multiple playthroughs. One of the best titles to be offered on the Xbox Game Pass.
When it first came out Limbo became the biggest indie hit since Braid to appear on the Xbox 360. And many years after the game debuted, it still is an incredibly haunting journey that takes players on a dark journey through the sorrowful and disturbing black and white world where all is dead and gone, but still somehow moving and trying to kill you.
The game's short campaign is brilliant, music is hauntingly addictive and the gameplay is fluid and engaging. A definite choice for anyone who opts-in for the Xbox Game Pass.
What to say about these games? Halo 5 continues Master Chief's epic quest that takes him across the universe and into new adventures. And aside from the bombastic campaign that can be conquered with a friend in co-op, Halo 5 returned the series' phenomenal multiplayer that lacked in Halo 4.
And Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2 are the best RTS games you can find on the Xbox One at the moment. The both feature lengthy campaigns and solid stories along with interesting and engaging gameplay optimized for playing on a controller. Great deals, all three of them.
Braid is, along with World of Goo, Limbo and few other titles, the most important game that started the indie games boom a decade ago. Back when Steam and Xbox Live Arcade jumpstarted the trend of digital distribution, one man made a game that will become a cult classic.
A free-form story about love and loss, that can be interpreted in any way you want and a time-bending gameplay that reflects the game's story that isn't really about love and loss but about the subjectivity of time in our minds. The only place that supports time travel, in which we can rewind time and relive out dearest memories is our mind and this is what Braid tried to tell us. Add to that the game's watercolor painting-like visuals and you get one of the best indie games of all time.
While Sea of Thieves offers the prettiest water surface at the moment along with the rest of its visuals being strikingly stylized and beautiful, and while the game offers around two weeks of quality time, many think that the game isn't worth its $60 price tag. And if you play it on the Xbox Game Pass you won't have to shell out money for the premium price.
Create your own pirate crew, ride your ship and attack poor souls who cross your way and have good times with friends while sailing the sea and singing rum-infused songs, all that for paying just $10 instead of $60.
The last but not least are the two Darksiders games. Based on a comic book of the same name, the two games are excellent action adventures that take place during the Bible Apocalypse, and each follows the adventures of one Horseman of the Apocalypse. The first one is about War, while he is trying to figure out who launched the apocalypse because no one made the order. You will travel through ruined cities and many epic places found in different tales of the apocalypse. The game features many cool abilities, relatively slow combat that relies on making powerful combos and comic book-like graphics.
The second game is about Death, who is looking for his brother, War. Set during the events of the first game, it builds upon it with better (purely subjective opinion) combat that is faster paced and more fluid, and by adding equipment that makes your character stronger. Now you can loot enemies and search for better armor and weapons while slashing demons and solving many puzzles. Not the best action adventures of all times, but pretty good games, both of them. And since the third game of the series is set for fall 2018 release, this is a perfect time to visit the first two games of the series.