As 2016 comes to an end, reflection starts to set in. The year has seen the console market change slightly, with all of the ‘Big Three’ either announcing or releasing new hardware. Sony’ Playstation Pro, Nintendo’s Switch and Microsoft’s Scorpio, they’ve all drawn their line in the sand.
For this post, we’ll be focusing on how 2016 treated the Xbox One. The system has welcomed in some familiar faces, as well as a few new ones. Third party support has been strong, as you’d expect, with a healthy amount of good games releasing.
Killer Instinct Season 3 may not have had as much media coverage, but it’s well worth highlighting. The game has grown into one of the finest fighters on the market. Each new season has brought in a fair amount of content, resulting in a truly complete package. Season 3’s roster additions included three major surprises. Rash from Battletoads, Arbiter of Halo fame and Gears of War’s General RAAM all came into the fold.
Season 3 was yet another success for the season by season process Killer Instinct deployed. The game itself has became one of the key reasons to own an Xbox One, giving the system something of a edge when it comes to fighters.
Quantum Break is arguably the system’s most ambitious release of the year. The combination of time bending mechanics, blended with narrative told through TV-like episodes, was worthy of note. It may not have been a overwhelming success, but the effort is there to see. Gameplay wise, Quantum Break flowed well, feeding the player options to compliment the action. Arguably, the selling point of the game was its biggest weakness, the live-action television show.
Breaking up the pace and action of the actual game, each episode took the player out of the action. The episodes gleamed with fairly high production values, boasting established actors. In terms of content, they never felt quite ‘there’. A few steps away from the punch, a theme that would dog the game overall. In more positive dealings, Quantum Break became the best-selling original property released by Microsoft on the Xbox One.
ReCore was supposed to be more than what it was. Developed by Armature Studio and Comcept, the game garnered interest due to the links with Keiji Inafune and the makers of Metroid Prime. Championed as one of the few original titles on the market, ReCore promised third-person action-adventure in a vibrant setting. Unfortunately, the final product wasn’t all that thrilling.
Trying to match up to Triple A titles exposed RecCore’s weaknesses. Empty and flat environments caused the overall experience to feel adequate at best and frustrating at its worst. The loot and crafting system never felt all that robust, feeling like an addition put into the game just to tick strike off from a checklist.
A few weeks after ReCore’s release, Forza Horizon 3 launched. There’s a fair argument to be made that Forza Horizon 3 shows the Xbox One’s capabilities at its best. Stunning visuals became a focal point of most reviews, along with the expected smooth gameplay. Although some fans still cry out for a traditional Forza title, Horizon’s charms and quality was irresistible.
Maintaining the purest sense of video game fun, all while stunning the player with beauty, is what Horizon 3 does so well. Each second spend in the game felt rewarding, never coming close to feeling like a hassle to play through. Fairly strong sales, along with a positive reception, allowed Forza Horizon 3 to become one of 2016’s better games. Easily one of the system’s best assets, Horizon 3 was a shinning jewel in the Xbox One’s crown.
All That Juice X4
In October, one of the franchises that defined the Xbox brand made its return. Gears of War 4 marked the franchises focus back on its traditional themes. After the disappointment of Judgement, fans were happy to embrace the new generation of Gears.
In truth, it may not have added much new, but it was exactly what fans were looking for. Loud, proud and beefed up, Gears of War 4 sold and reviewed well. As a series, it may not have the importance it once did, but that didn’t stop it from being a blast.
The Xbox One’s year has been neatly rounded off with another brand defining franchise, Dead Rising 4. Even with the much discussed changes, both to the core of the game and voice actor of Frank West, the game is still solid. Killing zombies, cracking jokes, having fun, it’s just more of the same, with a minor tweak here and there.
2016 has been a solid year for the Xbox One’s exclusives, be it timed or not. Entries into popular supplied a steady flow of familiar titles, none of which were in anyway bad. Attempts to create new original games,in the case of ReCore and Quantum Break , were admirable. Regardless of success or failure, original titles can define a system.
Don’t Call It A Comeback
Away from the new titles, Microsoft’s continued efforts to expand the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility have been successful. Most of last generation’s biggest games have been added, along with a few cult hits. Recently, the JRPG void was nicely filled with the addition of Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon.
Backwards compatibility has grown into one of the Xbox One’s best features, even more so for those new to video games. It opens up a whole world of past classics, allowing people to relive old memories or find new favourites. 2016 marked more progression in buffing up the service, a true credit to the system.
Overall, this year has been good for the system. A healthy supply of updates has allowed the system’s features to become far more reliable. Xbox Live Gold’s ‘Games With Gold’ service has slowly been progressing, along with the Xbox Live service as a whole. The solid supply of games,both new and old, leaves the game selection in a healthy state in 2017.
Microsoft may not have had the best of years, shutting down the likes of Fable and seeing a number of games delayed, but the Xbox One is fairly well placed to grow by the time 2016 ends.