If you own an Xbox console you probably know about a feature called Xbox Live. It is an online multiplayer gaming and digital media service created by Microsoft back in 2002 for the very first Xbox system. Updated version of the service became available for the Xbox 360, and a further enhanced version came out in 2013 with the release of Xbox One.
Xbox Live is available as both free and subscription-based service, known as Xbox Live Gold. Gold membership provides premium services like special avatars, cloud storage, free-to-play game bundles called Games with Gold, live broadcasting and many more. It is first announced during E3 2013 for Xbox 360, and later extended to Xbox One when it came out.
Certainly, the biggest benefit of owning Gold membership is availability of new free games every month. Since June 2013 players were given free many games, and on a regular monthly basis. Many popular titles appeared on the list, starting with Fable III and further on including games like Assassin’s Creed II, Dark Souls, Dishonored, Darksiders II, The Witcher II, Bioshock Infinite… well, you got the idea. It’s totally worth it.
So, how much is it actually worth? Well, you can choose between 1, 3 and 12 months membership, with prices being $9.99, $24.99 and $59.99, respectively, or you can google free codes for Xbox Live if you’re short on the money, but eager to participate. Whatever you choose, the value of games you get in return will surpass the amount you payed… by far. Not to mention that Gold membership provides discount on some other games that are not given for free.
October’s Games with Gold also featured a couple of games for both Xbox 360 and Xbox One, so let’s take a closer look at each of them.
Gone home (Xbox One)
Gone home is a first person exploratory adventure that slowly unravels one of the best stories ever experienced in a game. It revolves around you as a player poking around big and beautifully created house, examining each room, note and artifact bit by bit.
Wherever you look, something interesting can be found, and every room has a warm feel to it. There is a messy kitchen, teenager’s room full of posters, working rooms full of science notes and books, liquor cabinet… all of which makes the house look very real and familiar to all of us. And every little item you find tells its own little story, which slowly fits into bigger picture together with other stories you glimpse as you progress through the house and access more and more rooms.
In the end, Gone home tells a beautiful story of a teenager coming to age, complicated marriage intricacies and why you, as a player, left home in the first place. And all that without saying a single word, but with wisely crafted environmental story telling. The game tells nothing and suggests nothing, but lets you draw your own conclusions and interpretations, all with a sense of dread hanging in the air.
The Turing Test (Xbox One)
The Turing Test can be seen as a traditional first person puzzler. You will find yourself traversing a series of rooms in a desolate research facility, solving puzzles while questionable AI guides you.
Although there are no portals, good acting and writing are doing a good job revolving around existential questions of free will and what it means to be human. Similarly to Gone home we mention earlier, The Turing Test features some aspects of environmental storytelling with you as a player going through the personal stuff of researchers who once inhabited the facility.
Although there are many puzzles in the game, they are all intuitive and seem familiar to every player who played a puzzle game in the past. Seems like they never actually reach the heights of its inspirations. After solving them, the player is left with a sense of merely scratching the surface of a puzzle mechanic, never really digging deeper into it.
Nevertheless, this nearly 7 hours experience is something worth trying out, especially having in mind it’s super smart twist in the second half of the game that flips everything upside down.
Rayman 3 HD (Xbox 360)
Rayman 3 is Ubisoft’s action platformer featuring well known video game character, but this time in HD. It should come as a surprise if we say that the game’s visuals most benefited from HD upgrade. It now runs on widescreen at a constant 60 fps, together with updated textures. Although there has never been a bad looking Rayman game, touch to this game’s texture design and color pallet makes it really shine in high definition.
Still, all but the youngest players will know this is not a current generation title, with games environments and it’s characters still featuring some easy to spot polygons.
Rayman 3 is (uncharacteristically, one might say) a talkative game, but the voices still don’t sound quiet as crisp as in modern titles. The same applies to diverse soundtrack. But having in mind that this is an update of a 10 years old game, it can be considered a success.
Nevertheless, having in mind the gameplay and the story, Rayman 3 is still the weakest of the primary Rayman games. Camera is still buggy, and only rarely sits directly behind Rayman. In most of the cases, it just struggles with the game’s environments. Also, it’s lock-on targeting is inconsistent and control is slippery, especially when jumping is concerned.
All in all, Rayman 3 HD still offers a lot of content for free, and you should definitely try it out.
Medal of Honor: Airborne (Xbox 360)
In it’s prime, Medal of honor set the standards by which all other FPS games were measured by. It provided cinematic and action packed experience looking at how horrible and traumatic a war can be.
With time passing, other games like Call of Duty slowly took over the spotlight away and became the go-to for World War 2 shooters and it was time for innovation to be added to Medal of honor formula.
Fortunately what developers came up with brought one of the best World War games in a long time.
The game puts you in control of an airborne soldier in the US army as you battle the Nazis in various locations. The missions start with mission briefing done by your superiors, explaining what you objectives will be, followed by jump out of plane. After landing, you are free to complete your objective in any way you see fitting.
Talking about the gameplay, this title is not a big departure from other games in the genre, but it is refined to a level a few can reach. The ability to pursue any objective you want means the AI has to keep up with you and react accordingly, which it does surprisingly well. Whatever you do, your allies will keep pace with you.
Interestingly, the game feature very weird control scheme and default button mapping, with only a few options for change, so it will take some time until you get used to it, but in the end you will. Also, the graphics are a bit disappointing, and while faces and levels look decent, effects like explosions or environmental damage in cut scenes looked a little bit outdated.
And that’s it. We hope you’ll find something you like among these titles, which, we believe, will not be so hard. Good luck and enjoy October’s free games.
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