A few weeks ago Microsoft held X16, their annual holiday lineup showcase, right here in Toronto’s distillery district. They brought with them a variety of titles old, new, yet to be released, those from third party partners and smaller indie games as well. I wanted to take the opportunity to spotlight three exclusive Xbox One/Windows 10 titles, games that I think will be the highlights of Microsoft’s 2016 fall line up.
There’s no place better to start than ReCore, a unique action-adventure shooter. ReCore is developed by Armature Studio in partnership with Comcept. Both these studios have impressive lineages. Armature is made up of former employees of Retro Studios, the folks behind Metroid Prime. Comcept is headed by former Capcom legend and Megaman creator Keiji Inafune. Sadly both studios have thus far failed to live up to those legacies. Armature’s Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate was considered mediocre at best and Comcept just released what many believe to be the most disappointing game of the year, Mighty No. 9. That said, what I played of ReCore ran and played really well. You play as Joule Adams, a young woman who volunteered to help humankind settle a distant space colony. You wake up from cryogenic sleep to discover that things haven’t exactly gone according to plan. With your robot sidekick, it’s up to you to find out what went wrong and how to fix it.
The demo I played consisted mostly of puzzle rooms filled with enemies to shoot up. Enemies are colour coded and Joule has to take care of them with blaster fire with the corresponding colour. Rooms also have obstacles such as moving platforms and a variety of different environmental puzzles for you to take care of. Because of all this the game has you managing multiple things at once. This would ordinarily sound like a recipe for disaster but in the case of ReCore it provided for a rhythmic and satisfying gameplay experience. However, there are reasons to be concerned. Environments look drab and uninteresting and most of the enemies have forgettable designs. It’s possible such a game may have pacing issues but the fact that ReCore is $20 cheaper than the average boxed Xbox One game suggests that it is a shorter experience that won’t outstay it’s welcome. ReCore is set to launch on September 13th.
Gears of War 4:
What can I say other than, “it’s Gears of War.” It looks really good, probably the best looking game at the show and it plays just like previous titles in the series. The demo I played had me going through a set piece environment with scripted events while mowing down countless locust. Everything you’d expect from Gears of War is present, cool melee and finishing moves, burly tree trunk shaped characters, farcical levels of machismo and, let’s not forget, active reload. It played well and it was comfortable to go back to. I haven’t sat down to play a Gears game since the original and I can tell you that not much has changed on a fundamental level. There are improvements but they refine rather than redefine. If you’re looking to get back into the series or just want to take down hordes of mindless ugly monsters this is the game for you. Gears of War 4 will be available on October 11th.
Forza Horizon 3:
I have a soft spot for the Forza Horizon series. I’m not a car guy by any stretch of the imagination but I love the type of game Forza Horizon is. In the glory days of the Original Xbox and Xbox 360 I used to be fan of the Project Gotham Racing series. PGR represented a unique blend of sim racers like Gran Turismo and arcade titles like Burnout. Forza Horizon 3 continues PGR’s legacy. The demo I played had me racing against a helicopter carrying a jeep. A helicopter carrying a jeep. While that sounds over the top the game still keeps one foot in “reality,” there are no boost pads or weapons to be found. The game is gorgeous. Environments are lush and detailed and a joy the behold. If you like these types of games, Forza Horizon 3 is pretty much the only game in town but it doesn’t abuse its monopoly by resting on its laurels like a Madden or FIFA, it looks to continue to push its genre and provide players a good experience. Forza Horizon 3 is due on September 27th.