The best Xbox Game Pass Games

If you’re getting or giving an Xbox for the first time this holiday season, it’s worth considering signing up for / gifting a Game Pass subscription alongside it. If you’re unfamiliar with Game Pass, it’s a subscription service where for $9.99 a month you get instant access to a library of 100+ Xbox games. You’ll be able to download as many games from the service as you like, and play them as often as you like (while subscribed to the service). One huge plus, is that all first party Microsoft games will release on Game Pass going forward (meaning that on launch day you can download and play the game without paying more as long as you’re subscribed to the service). Recently, AAA games such as Forza Horizon 4 and Sea of Thieves have launched on Game Pass.

With that said, here are some of my personal favorite games currently available on Game Pass:

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 is an incredibly beautiful game, especially on the Xbox One X. It’s an open world racing game that is a little more arcade feeling than the traditional Forza series, but the driving feels more “real” or grounded than games like Burnout Paradise or The Crew 2. The changing of seasons is a pretty neat idea, and the roads feel different depending on which season you’re currently in. The racing feels great as is always does in the Forza series, and the relatively seamless multiplayer experience is a plus as well.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Whether you grew up playing the Halo games, or you’ve never touched one before, The Master Chief Collection is an incredible package. It had a rocky launch, but my experiences with it lately have been overwhelmingly positive, and it looks great since becoming X Enhanced as well. You’ll be able to play through the campaigns of Halo 1-4 solo or with friends, and of course you’ll have access to all of the multiplayer action as well. Halo 5 is also available in Game Pass, but I greatly prefer the MCC multiplayer.

HITMAN

HITMAN is an absolute masterpiece of a game. If you’re unfamiliar, you’ll be thrown into a variety of environments with the goal of assassinating several targets in each. There’s such a wide variety of ways to accomplish the missions, however you’ll be able to find some ‘guided’ story elements to pull off particularly entertaining assassinations. There’s so much opportunity for hilarity, chaos and pulse pounding action in the game. For some idea of what the game can bring, check out some of the Giant Bomb features on it.

These are just a few of my favorites featured in Game Pass, but there are so many more. Other hits include:

DOOM
Gears of War 4
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
PUBG
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Rocket League
State of Decay 2
Sunset Overdrive

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Should you get an Xbox One X if you already have an Xbox One / S?

Going into the holiday shopping season a lot of people may be asking whether they should purchase an Xbox One X. As someone who has had an Xbox One since launch, and upgraded to an S once we got our first 4K TV, I thought I’d share my thoughts on upgrading to the Xbox One X.

UI

If you’re expecting the Xbox One X to make the atrocious Xbox UI to run faster or smoother, you’ll be disappointed. The UI on the One X is just as painfully slow as it is on the other versions of the console. When I first launch it and go to ‘my games and apps’ it can take 10 seconds or longer for my games to load in. What’s worse is when I scroll down to updates it can take up to 30 seconds for those to load in (I used to have it set to automatically update, however I had to stop once I was routinely blowing through my 1.2TB data cap downloading updates for games I would probably never play). I currently have 20 games awaiting updates, but even when I’ve had lower numbers the load time seemed just as long.

On the plus side recording gameplay clips on the One X doesn’t seem to cause my games to lag (which I experienced a lot on the S, most notably with Madden where it would record a clip after every touchdown, which on more than one occasion caused a lag spike that made me miss the PAT).

Load times

One of the things I like most about the One X is that it has noticeably decreased load times in games. When my brother was out visiting we set my One S up alongside the X and were playing Destiny 2 (both using s 200mbps internet connection with an open NAT). Every time we would go to a planet or load into a mission or strike I would load in somewhere around 15 seconds before he would. That may not seem like a long time, but stop reading for a second and count to 15. It adds up in the long run for sure. I’ve also noticed I load into games of Madden much, much quicker than I did on the S, which has significantly cut down on the time I’ve spent browsing Reddit on my phone between games.

Graphics 

One of the biggest selling points of the Xbox One X is that it’s the ‘most powerful console’ on the market, and it shows. Games like Forza Horizon 4, Tomb Raider and Red Dead Redemption 2 look stunning in 4K with HDR (well Red Dead’s HDR is less impressive, but that’s not the Xbox’s fault). Everything looks so crisp, and I’ve been blown away many times by games. I know I’m not doing it justice by describing with text, but it’s truly something you’ll have to see for yourself. What I can say is that I also own a PS4 Pro, and while it looks really good as well (Uncharted: Lost Legacy amazed me), I’ve played games on both, and the One X is certainly the superior experience.

UHD Blu Ray capability

Another added benefit of the Xbox One X (and the One S as well) is that it will play UHD Blu Rays. These look great, and are a wonderful way to show of a 4K TV. I’ve rented and bought UHD videos through the Microsoft Store, and UHD Blu Rays still look superior. If you’re into movies, having a UHD Blu Ray player is a plus, and something that the PS4 Pro lacks.

What if I have an Xbox One, but not a PS4?

If you already have an Xbox One and are happy with it, it may be worth looking at picking up a PS4, depending on what type of games the purchaser (or gift receiver) likes. If you’re the type of person who mostly plays third party games by EA, Ubisoft, etc. that are available on both systems, then the One X will likely improve your experience of those games. However, if gaining access to an entirely new library of games sounds appealing, your money may better be invested in a PS4, especially if you can get a hold of a good holiday bundle. You’ll then be able to get into a great selection of games, including Horizon Zero Dawn, Yakuza.0, Spider-Man and God of War. I can’t speak to the difference between the PS4 Pro and the standard model, as my only PS4 has been the Pro. That said, games look and run well on the Pro, though it chugs at times, even with first party games when set to the higher graphics settings.

Is the Xbox One X a good investment?

In my opinion it is, but I’ve had mine since its launch. Something I would consider over the next year is that the next generation of consoles have been strongly hinted at releasing as early as 2020. Also, if you don’t have a 4K TV, you’ll still get the benefit of faster load times, smoother gameplay, and slightly enhanced graphics, but the cost is still a little high for what you’ll get.

An update, and my experience with the Xbox One X so far

Hello there, it’s been months since I’ve managed to post anything here and it feels like it’s been days. I’ve started a new job, my wife and I bought a house and life has been busy. I feel like I’ve been playing less video games than ever (may or may not be true) while there are more quality video games than ever vying for my attention. I still need to finish Tacoma, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, What Remains of Edith Finch, Persona 5, Horizon Zero Dawn and so much more. I’ve recently gotten into Civilization Beyond Earth (I really dig the look of it) and have spent a lot of time playing PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS on both PC and Xbox. Also a few weeks ago I decided to purchase an Xbox One X and have been pretty much blown away by it.

Since getting into PUBG on Xbox I think I’ve had more fun than ever, despite its shortcomings. When I first launched it on the Xbox One I felt that I made a mistake. The textures looked so horrible and I hated that I couldn’t see the buildings while I was in the plane. Despite all of this I’ve had so much fun finally being able to play with my brother who is primarily a console gamer. We’ve had so much fun hiding in boats or escaping a firefight on a motorcycle only to ram it into a tree and die moments later.

The Xbox One X has so far been a worthy purchase. I have a moderately capable gaming PC (GTX 1060, AMD FX8320), however it’s tucked away in my ‘man cave’ and doesn’t have access to a 4K TV. Sure Forza 7 still looks really nice and runs well on it, but Forza 7 in 4K HDR is beautiful. Add to that having 5.1 surround sound in the living room and I’m in love. Last weekend I finished Wolfenstein II on the X and it was an incredible experience. The game looks beautiful on the One X, but the sound design really blew me away. The thumps from the subwoofer as I fired various guns mixed with the exciting soundtrack really sold me on the game. I loved every moment of it! Beyond the visuals, I’ve also been impressed by the improved performance the One X offers. In Madden 18 I would often notice slow downs right after scoring plays (usually while the Xbox was processing the auto recording game clips). With the One X I’ve noticed everything runs so much smoother, I haven’t noticed a single slowdown yet in Madden. PUBG also seems to run smoother and of course looks better, but I haven’t played enough yet to know if I just got lucky with a good connection to the server or if things really have dramatically improved on the X.

Hopefully things start to slowdown soon so I can get back into the habit of blogging. I feel like as I get older each time I accidentally take a break from blogging the gap between posts gets longer, and I occasionally wonder if I should just let this domain disappear into the cobwebs of the internet. I enjoy blogging, but I often don’t feel that I have the attention span any longer to write something worth reading. I almost wonder if I should try to hold myself to some sort of schedule, but ultimately every time I feel obligated to sit down and write I’m less motivated than ever. I wish I could say ‘look forward to hearing from me again in “x” days, but that’s unlikely. So until next time, thanks for stopping by.

Tacoma isn’t working for many Xbox One gamers

I was excited for the release of Tacoma on the Xbox One, especially after how much I enjoyed playing through Gone Home a few months ago, but when I tried to launch the game today I was met with disappointment.

For some reason I’m unable to progress past the ‘Press A to start’ screen. I tried restarting the Xbox but had no luck, so I went to Twitter and tweeted out to the game’s Twitter account. To their credit, they were quick to reply with some suggestions (do a hard reset and clear local 360 saved games), but neither of those worked. I also tried moving the game from internal storage to an external hard drive, but I still have been unable to get the game to start. It seems like this has been happening for many other Xbox users as others have reached out on Twitter, and there are a series of 1 star reviews on the game’s store page.

Currently I’m left debating whether to wait it out and hope for an update, or to attempt to get a refund and purchase it on Steam where there doesn’t seem to be any issue.

If I find a way to get the game working I’ll be sure to update this post. If you’ve found a workaround please share it in the comments.

Hopefully they get the issue ironed out soon!

The joy of couch co-op with Gears of War Ultimate Edition

This week I’ve been playing Gears of War: Ultimate Edition (which is ‘free’ via Xbox Game Pass) with my brother, in split screen, on a couch in a living room. Couch co-op is often something gamers reminisce about, a seemingly left behind method of playing video games. Even if more games offered split screen co-op, I wouldn’t get to experience it as I live 2,382 miles away from my brother and visit once a year. I’m glad to have the ability to play through games via the internet, but there’s certainly something about sitting together on a couch that makes gaming more fun.

There have been moments of hilarity, as one of us stupidly runs toward a group of enemies bullets flailing sloppily past them only to die at a boomer’s feet, and moments of triumph as we hunker down and methodically advance toward an enemy position. We’ve been having a blast playing through the campaign, and have played for longer than we probably would have had we been playing online.

I don’t think I ever played through the first Gears of War on the 360, so it’s been nice to finally experience the start of the franchise. I’ve enjoyed each mission so far, and it’s been incredibly satisfying to shoot the variety of weapons in the game.

Once we finish Gears we’ll probably dive into working through the Halo campaigns in Master Chief Collection (I’ve only ever finished Halo 3, Reach and ODST).

Unfortunately, there’s not as many opportunities to enjoy a local campaign as there used to be. I remember having a blast in Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon games back on the N64 and first Xbox. I can’t think of many games on the current platforms that offer complete co-op experiences (Gears 4 is a notable stand out). On the bright side, during the 350 other days of the year there’s plenty to play together online, so I really can’t complain.

Battleborn’s last breath?

Earlier today the struggling shooter Battleborn effectively went “free to play”, validating the long standing rumor that it would indeed end up being free. Most would agree that Battleborn’s troubles are mostly due to the fact that the game launched just before Blizzard’s Overwatch, which quickly took off to become one of the hottest games of 2016. It may not have been fair to compare the two games, as they play quite differently, but they were similar enough in most people’s eyes that they decided to pick one title (Overwatch for most) and stick with it.

I was incredibly excited for Battleborn’s launch, especially after reading about how it would blend MOBA gameplay with a shooter. As someone who was a casual fan of MOBAs (but never any good at them) it seemed like it would be the perfect game for me. I eagerly awaited its launch, and early on I found it to be fun, if a little slow moving. As days went by, however, I found that the hardcore player-base got so good that I couldn’t have fun playing anymore as I would be overwhelmed by more skilled players. What made things worse was that teams of randoms never seemed willing to communicate, and I would often get matched against teams of players who were mic’d up.

As Overwatch neared release I started to get more and more excited by the hype surrounding it. I caved and bought it for PC on release day which ultimately led to me never returning to Battleborn. I had so much fun in Overwatch from the very first moment I launched it that I couldn’t see myself wasting any time playing Battleborn that could be better spent in Overwatch. Once or twice, out of curiosity, I tried to give Battleborn another try, but each time I was met with longer and longer matchmaking times (on the Xbox One) only to have to spend thirty minutes or so to complete a match when I finally got in. This didn’t prove to be fun, whereas in the same time span I could’ve played two or three games of Overwatch. More recently I launched Battleborn one last time, only to sit at the matchmaking screen for a full twenty minutes without finding a match (there were no server issues reported with either Xbox or Battleborn at the time).

I’ve always felt like if Battleborn ever wanted to make a splash at all, it should have gone free to play long ago. It remains to be seen if the free to play model will have a significant impact on the game’s player-base and perception going forward, however I personally think that I’ve already had my fill. Still, I’m going to try it out on PC (I already own it on PC from a Humble Bundle) to see if the new influx of players can make things fun. I’ll be sure to post an update after playing a round or two of the PC version of the game to see if any of my feelings have changed.

Xbox Game Pass is here, and it’s a great value for new Xbox One owners

When I first heard about Xbox Game Pass earlier this year I was excited, especially after finding out that you would be able to download the games as opposed to streaming as you do with PlayStation Now. $9.99 a month gives you access to over 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 (backwards compatible) games that can be downloaded and played as much as you like as long as you’re a subscriber. This is a great way for anyone who is new to Xbox One to get a great library of games for very little upfront investment. Many of the games have been available at deep discounts or for free as part of Games with Gold, however there’s still plenty to try out even for those who have been gaming on the Xbox One for awhile.

Last night I queued up several games, including NBA 2K16, Mad Max, Payday 2 and Grid 2. I’d download many more, but my data cap wouldn’t be happy. Other notable titles (most of which I already own) are Halo 5, Gears 1-3, Massive Chalice and Roundabout. There’s plenty to check out, and there’s even a free 7 day trial if you’re unsure of the service. If you have the bandwidth I’d recommend enrolling in the trial and downloading any games you might have missed out on over the years.

I’m looking forward to seeing what additional games come to the service as it ages, and am glad Microsoft is continuing to support Xbox One owners with another great service.