It’s taken quite a bit of time, but after a number of good games have been released, ditching the Kinect altogether, and releasing a slimmer console, the Xbox One has put Microsoft back on the map in the eyes of the public. By carrying all of the mainstream AAA titles like Call of Duty and Titanfall it is now a true battle between the Xbox One and the Playstation 4.
That being said, the road that Microsoft took to get where they are now has been long and bumpy. After a lot of decisions that left people scratching their heads, we all knew that it would take no small amount of work for the company to right their wrongs. After all, the original vision for the Xbox One was terrible (no used games or backwards compatibility whatsoever- are you kidding me?).
However, despite how you feel about the console, at the end of the day, it comes down to one thing: the games. Are they good? Is the experience they provide worth investing your time? While that is largely subjective and everyone’s tastes differ, there comes a point when a genuinely bad game is released. And in the early days of the Xbox One, moments like that occurred very often, especially with their exclusives. However, since then, they’ve been able to recover a bit and have some notable original titles that now make the console worth the price of admission. Here are the 10 worst Xbox One exclusives followed by five of the best.
The 10 Worst:
10. Zoo Tycoon
For animal lovers, the Zoo Tycoon series is THE franchise to invest in. Becoming the manager of your own zoo and creating it the way you want is something that your inner child screams with delight over. Because of it’s popularity among fans, Microsoft decided to try their hand at making a new entry in the game for the Xbox One. Apart from the clunky aspect of using a controller instead of a keyboard and mouse, it sounds like a pretty good proposition overall, right? Unfortunately, the game never delivered on this and what we got was a watered-down and poorly constructed version of what the series has offered in the past. Gone is your ability to fully craft whatever zoo you want; instead the game offers the best “suggestion” for the facility and “aids” you by practically building the zoo itself. Furthermore, the menus are a pain to slog through and seem more like a chore than a fun aspect of the game. Not to mention, nearly everything you need is locked by Research and Conservation, which used to be a fun way to get new exotic animals, but is now a necessary pain to actually build the exhibit you want. I could go on and on, but I believe I made my point.
9. Halo: Spartan Assault
The Halo series has always been one of the big selling points that Microsoft has in their arsenal, but that doesn’t mean that it will always be used correctly. Halo: Spartan Assault debuted on Windows Surface devices, being fairly well-received until it was eventually ported to the Xbox One. Spartan Assault is not your typical Halo game though, and you don’t take control of the Master Chief. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing (as seen in the case of Halo Wars), here it’s used to negative effect. The game takes you in a top-down perspective, very reminiscent of the arcade games of old. You walk around and shoot waves of enemies as you move through each level. Simple enough, until you find the little additions packed inside. For starters, the Xbox One version of the game is filled with microtransactions, which is never a good thing, especially for a console game. With these transactions, you can easily buy your way to victory, awarding yourself with weapons and other performance-enhancing items. Furthermore, the game also takes away many of the things that Halo is known for like a good multiplayer aspect, and wielding an energy sword. That in and of itself is a travesty.
8. Kinect Sports Rivals
Ever since Nintendo launched the Wii with the ever-successful Wii Sports, many other game companies have tried to capitalize on it and recreate the success for themselves. Fortunately for the Big N, no one has even come close to it, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying. One of the wort examples of this comes in the form of Kinect Sports Rivals. The hairs on your neck are probably already standing up at my use of the word “Kinect”, and there’s a good reason for that. While Kinect Sports Rivals has some “fun for a little bit” games like wakeboarding and rock-climbing, its missteps far outweigh its victories. It’s worst aspect is easily the insulting “move your foot to kick the ball” mode that they try to call soccer. If you have this game, that’s the mode I’d encourage you to stay away from. Furthermore, the Kinect is temperamental in this game, never really giving you any consistency. The final nail in the coffin is that there isn’t much originality with it as well- the island it takes place on is even strikingly similar to Wii Sports Resort’s Wuhu Island.
7. Ryse: Son of Rome
Many times in recent memory, a game company bridges the line between a video game and a film. With so many stories that you become invested in, games like The Last of Us become more than just games- they’re stories being told through our control. Then there are games like Ryse: Son of Rome that sometimes forget that they’re games and instead focus on the wow factor.
Let’s get the good out of the way first. Ryse: Son of Rome is a very gorgeous game with a well-told story so those following it will have an enjoyable time. However, Crytek unfortunately sacrificed gameplay for the visuals alone. As a hack and slash action game, Ryse doesn’t really deliver. The combat is stale and repetitive, and by the time you’re halfway through the game, you’ll have pretty much seen it all. Despite its amazing visuals, Ryse was simply just a basic title there only to display what the Xbox One could do in terms of graphical fidelity. It had the potential to be the best launch title to get, but ultimately dropped the ball in the process.
6. Crimson Dragon
Rail shooters are a bit of a dying breed, and it was an interesting change of pace to see an entire game be created around that genre, especially for the Xbox One. The result was something that had a lot of potential and should’ve been way better than it turned out to be. Crimson Dragon puts you in the role of a dragon rider. Riding a dragon for a rail shooter? Sounds pretty awesome! Like the other entries on this list though, Crimson Dragon misses the mark more often than not. First off, the graphics simply don’t hold up to the standards of the Xbox One, especially when compared to other games like Ryse. There isn’t anything about it that stands out. On top of that, the game has little to no variety and throws you into the same situation over and over again. You’re never given any kind of control over the dragon (even in the “free flying” boss stages), and it feels like your hand is being held the entire way. Then to top it all off, the game hurts people’s eyes. The way the camera moves as you take on enemies is so hard to follow and jarring to focus on. Not the makings of a good game by any means.
If you’ve ever played a quirky game like Battleblock Theater or Goat Simulator, then you know there is fun to be had appreciating the weirder aspects of the human mind. Lococycle is another game that attempts this, but obviously falls short. It is a motorcycle game, but with one small caveat- you’re controlling the cycle as opposed to the person driving it. There is a human, but you simply drag him around through the game. While that sounds funny on paper, Lococycle doesn’t have much heart or innovation to keep players interested. For starters, where Crimson Dragon’s graphics aren’t good, Lococyle’s are just terrible, looking like something that came out of the original Xbox as opposed to two generations later. The game also feels very linear, and by linear I mean scripted. While all games are essentially scripted, they at least provide enough immersion that you never notice it. It’s easily noticeable in Lococycle. And if a game can’t even abide by the cardinal rule of video games, it’s probably not worth buying.
4. Xbox Fitness
Fitness and exercise plus a Kinect. Need I say more? Xbox Fitness was Microsoft’s attempt to appeal to the healthier crowd that would also want to get a video game console. See the problem there? Anybody that has decided to work out is already doing so, and people that buy an Xbox One aren’t doing it for Xbox Fitness.
Concept aside, if the game was done well, I could ultimately excuse it being somewhere it doesn’t really belong. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Perhaps the developers were trying to discourage people from playing video games altogether, because Xbox Fitness is frustrating to navigate through. It could take you quite some time just to figure out how to turn on voice commands, which don’t always work, mind you. Furthermore, the game doesn’t do anything to personalize it to you (which is what the premise of workouts are), but instead chooses to throw in with the sharks and leave it to you to decide which of their many videos are the best. If, for some reason, you buy an Xbox One solely for exercise, this is not the game I would choose. Even so, Microsoft is discontinuing the game next year, and the service itself will be inaccessible, so you’ve got that going for you.
3. Zombie Driver: Ultimate Edition
The zombie craze has affected many of the higher ups in recent memory, and because of that we have received a plethora of zombie-based movies, TV shows, and video games. However, the interesting factor is seeing how each person interprets the walking dead differently and seeing how they keep it fresh. Zombie Driver: Ultimate Edition really does neither. It’s another top-down game, but this time you are in control of a car and have to go around plowing over hordes of the undead. You are also handed a slew of weapons on the sides of your car as well, such as machine guns and flamethrowers. While that sounds good and fun for at least a little while, Zombie Driver quickly turns into a passable game with no uniqueness or depth to keep you coming back for more. The moment you boot it up, you’re always doing the same thing- find the zombies and kill them in some vehicle-themed way. With something that holds so little of your interest, this game is not worth your time or money.
2. Powerstar Golf
I love Wii Sports, but it’s because of them that we have games like Powerstar Golf. So many developers have tried to capitalize on golfing games, and to be honest, none of them are really that good. Powerstar Golf is probably the bottom of the barrel though. Released as a launch title for the Xbox One, the game puts you in the shoes of a golfer who wants to become the champion by getting the lowest amount of hits over the entire golf course. If that sounds a little barebones, that’s because it is. Powerstar Golf simply creates a golf simulation and nothing else. It doesn’t offer anything new or exciting to make it stand out- it simply lets you play golf. It is a bit cartoonish, but we’ve seen that done before. The characters look creepy as opposed to goofy. The game also relies on microtransactions to get that extra dollar out of people who didn’t feel like they paid enough for the game already. Then to wrap it all up in a lackluster package, the graphics (apart from the sunsets) are bland. I’m confident that this game could easily run on the Xbox 360 and look no different. So tell me why it needed to be on the Xbox One?
1. Fighter Within
One of my dreams when it comes to gaming is to be able to play a fighting game where I myself control the character and my movements perfectly reflect what he/she performs in-game. Whether that’s accomplished through VR or motion controls doesn’t matter to me, I just want a game like that. I’m also very sure that I am not alone in that wish. That’s why Fighter Within seemed like a promising launch title to set the Xbox One apart from its competition. Unfortunately, as many of you know, it didn’t even come close. Fighter Within takes the most valuable aspect of any fighting game, control, and throws it out the window. I’m not talking holding your hand the entire way. I’m saying the game is so buggy and difficult to control that you might as well not even try. It runs through the Kinect, and that was probably the biggest mistake. Your movements are not well-received, and matches are left entirely to whatever the game thinks you’re trying to do. Not only is it one of the worst fighting games ever created, but it is also probably the worst Kinect game ever created. Whatever you do, don’t touch this game.
So now that we’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel, here are the games that are worth getting an Xbox One for.
5. Forza Horizon 3
When it comes to “thunder from down under”, Forza Horizon 3 is the king. The Forza series has long been loved and cherished for its car designs and beautiful landscapes, and this installment only builds on the groundwork that was laid before it. Taking place in Australia, you’d think that Forza Horizon 3 would have little to offer in terms of variety. Luckily for fans of the racing genre, that is nowhere near the case. Turns out that Australia was the perfect setting. From cruising along the Pacific coast to scuttling across the Outback, there is so much detail and difference with each track that it all feels so real. You’ll be hard pressed not to stop in the middle of a race and take in the sights. Then come the cars themselves. This is where the Forza system has never been better. Excellent customization options and mods are at your very fingertips. All of these facets come together to provide a truly fun racing game, exclusive to the Xbox One.
4. Ori and the Blind Forest
For those of you that just see Ori and the Blind Forest and judge it from the box art it seems similar to games like Child of Light and Unravel, but that’s only somewhat true. Ori and the Blind Forest instead takes beautiful scenery and emotional moments, then ties them together with a “Metroidvania” style of gameplay. Because it’s so comparable in that respect to games like Steamworld Dig, understand that this game is no pushover either. Difficulty will increase as you go, but you will also gain new abilities as you progress to further combat your foes and traverse the world around you. Furthermore, Ori and the Blind Forest actually takes the most mundane part of any Metroidvania game, backtracking, and makes it quite enjoyable. The world is sprawling with hidden crevices and caves that you can only discover after acquiring certain abilities, and as you roam through a particular area, you’re bound to find something new each time. The Xbox One may not be known for platformers, but if that’s a genre you love (and you’re not a fan of the quirky beauty that is Rayman Legends), then this is the game to consider.
3. Rare Replay
What’s the only thing better than one great game? How about 30 of them? The developer Rare has been at the game-making scene for quite some time now, and it’s no secret that they’ve made some really great titles along the way. Rare Replay 30 puts this company’s greatest games into one comprehensible package. Some of the titles included are Viva Pinata, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and Battletoads. Many of these games were very well-received back in their day, and it does the company such an amazing service that they are now re-released for the current generation of gamers. If you love variety, then this package has you covered. Each game in Rare’s massive library has something new about it that will keep you coming back. And if you don’t like a particular genre, that’s totally fine, because all the bases are covered in Rare Replay. Perhaps the only downside to this collection is that they were not able include their Nintendo games, like Donkey Kong Country and Goldeneye. Nonetheless, Rare Replay is a great buy and will ensure you putting in a massive amount of hours on your Xbox One.
2. Sunset Overdrive
If there’s any other developer that deserves to get as much recognition (other than Naughty Dog also), it’s probably Insomniac. Since the Playstation One era, this company has been making quality games for some time (ever heard of Spyro the Dragon or Ratchet and Clank?). However, it came as a big surprise when it was announced that they would be making a game exclusive to the Xbox One. After all, they’ve been making Playstation exclusives for a really long time. Regardless of how that happened, Insomniac was determined to keep their good name , and that resulted in Sunset Overdrive. Probably one of the “comic-bookiest” shooter games ever created, Sunset Overdrive is brimming with style, direction, personality, and art. A charismatic slew of weapons lies at your fingertips, just waiting to take down every kind of enemy you can think of. While the structure of the game is very linear, it’s not about the end result. It’s about the process of getting there. It’s probably the only game where not taking fast travel is actually the more enjoyable option. It’s safe to say that Insomniac has done it again, and Sunset Overdrive is worth adding to your Xbox One library.
1. Halo 5: Guardians
After Bungie had their ride of the Halo train, people were unsure of what to expect going forward. Halo was one of the Xbox’s best-selling franchises, and fans of the series felt that it ended on a sour note. Eventually developer 343 Industries picked it up, and did everything they could to restore the Master Chief to the top of the Xbox library. While they began with Halo 4 as a polishing of the tried and true formula, Halo 5: Guardians builds on it. While the campaign may not be the best in terms of story, where the game really shines is in the gameplay itself. Halo 5’s pace is much faster than previous entries in the series, but still maintains the precision necessary to be good at the game. With the addition of excellent modes like the competitive Arena, and the MMO-inspired Warzone, the game succeeds in a lot of its ambitions. The multiplayer is also better than it has ever been, and fixes a lot of the errors made with The Master Chief Collection. A first-person shooter packed with content, excellent polish, a great multiplayer, and top notch gameplay, Halo 5: Guardians is sure to keep you coming back for more after many months.