In the run up to the Xbox Series X, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Phil Spencer would kick off the boots, put his good slippers on and have a well-deserved rest. But no! The Xbox One is absolutely pumping the hits out. The ‘Holiday Season’ is ramping up, and the big hitters are in the process of arriving. FIFA, Watch Dogs: Legion, a Star Wars game – they’re all here, vying for the Christmas Number One spot (which will be FIFA, unless 2020 pulls another fast one).
It is also October, which means Halloween. Expect a few games on the list to shamble about in your peripheral vision, readying a jump-scare. But it’s not all blockbusters and spinechillers: there’s a few stylish indies there too.
Treat yourself! Sprinkle a few of these onto your October!
1STAR WARS: Squadrons – 2nd October
So far, it’s been too good to be true. We’ve been crowing about a lack of X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter for long enough that it’s become a meme, and then EA won all the internet points by going and making one. THEN news came that it would be something of a budget title – £34.99 on the Xbox Store – but without any microtransactions (at least on launch, it should be cynically noted). We’re waiting for the ‘but’ – perhaps Jar-Jar is the onboard AI?
There’s a chunky campaign that switches from New Republic to Empire and back again, and plenty of multiplayer dogfighting options. Can they capture the magic of the movies better than Abrams ever did? We don’t have long to find out, as Squadrons lands on the 2nd of October on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
2Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time – 2nd October
Ah, the sweet days when we’d get a Mario, Sonic, Spyro, Crash, Sly, Ratchet and Jak every year (maybe a Gex, Medievil and Croc for good measure). The big budget platformers are behind us, so perhaps we should grab hold of games like Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time and treasure them while we get the chance.
Hot off the heels of the N.Sane Trilogy, we get a mainline Crash that’s gone for the high concept. No, it’s not Crash: The Musical (saving that one for Crash 5, obvs), it’s a time travel edition. Neo Cortex is doing something nefarious with quantum masks, and that means crashing through time to stop him.
There’s a passing thematic similarity to Ratchet and Clank’s proposed Rift Apart, so it’ll be interesting to see who wins that particular rivalry (like a slightly B-list Mario vs. Sonic battle from the ‘90s). Crash wumps onto Xbox One, PS4 and Switch on the 2nd of October.
3FIFA 21 – 9th October
Having seen PES adopt the will-this-do expansion model for the 2020 iteration, FIFA has shrugged and gone for a full-blown game. Queue the usual carping about whether enough has changed to warrant a full price release, and then everyone buys it anyway.
The pandemic makes the issue more acute/fascinating, as football has faced its own struggle to start back up again, and other sports games have faced backlash from fans about missing expectations. FIFA is probably the flagship of EA Sports, so it’s fascinating to see what impact all of this will have, if anything.
There are 30 official leagues and 700+ official teams, so the authenticity is there (and that’s what’s important to most players anyway). The newness comes from Volta football, a run at samba football and five-a-side in FIFA, which makes us all feel like perhaps, just perhaps, FIFA Street is back.
FIFA launches on Xbox One, Switch, PS4, PC, Stadia and the Nintendo Game & Watch on the 9th of October.
4The Survivalists – 9th October
It’s been a real question mark – why haven’t there been any really good ‘castaway’ games? It feels like there’s a golden nugget at the centre of the idea: you start with nothing, you slowly salvage resources, and you build a camp that makes you slightly better at gaining resources. That’s gamey loopy!
If anyone is going to get it right, it’s Team17. You’d struggle to find a publisher on a stronger run of hits than them. And in The Escapists, you’ve got the framework that can be lifted and slapped on a completely new genre.
Being Team17, they couldn’t just play the idea straight, of course. You make friends with monkeys and use a mimic system to train them to do what you want, because why not? Then there are Zelda-like labyrinths to conquer, as if making hammocks out of twigs wasn’t hard enough.
The Survivalists drifts onto shores on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch and PC on the 9th of October.
5Remothered: Broken Porcelain – 13th October
Not many people played Remothered: Tormented Fathers, but perhaps they should have. Keiichiro Toyama, creator of the Silent Hill series, has made it clear that he wants to work with Stormind Games, the Italian studio behind Remothered, and it’s for good reason: Remothered has a fantastic sense of atmosphere that belies its indie origins.
The original release was one of those rough diamonds that made you wonder what the studio would do if they had more time, more money and a sequel. Well, now a sequel’s here, and we’re eager to see what they’ve done with it. Plus it’s Halloween! Scare the crap out of yourself!
The story continues to follow the poor, hapless Jen, escaped from Flemington Girls’ Institute and now interned in Ashmann Inn. Wherever she goes, the horror and symbolism follows.
The Remothering begins on the 13th of October on Microsoft Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch and PC.
6Foregone – 13th October
Sometimes you see a trailer and you want to grab a few people and make them watch it. My wife and kids looked confused when I forced them through it, before turning back to Bake Off. Maybe you’ll hear me out.
It’s not as if it pushes many conceptual envelopes – Foregone is an action platformer with a serviceable story, from what we can see – but it’s the animation, of all things, that really makes this game stand out. Dead Cells kicked asses in a similar way, with fantastic, kinetic animations that look like they’re pulled straight out of a high quality anime, and we’re hoping it can be half as enjoyable as that GOTY.
Plus it’s got a name that makes reviewing it a dream. It’s a foregone conclusion, we’ll give it four-gone out of five, etc, etc. Find out when we review Foregone for its launch on 13th of October on Xbox One, Switch, PS4 and PC.
7Cloudpunk – 15th October
You know those budget DVDs you see in Tescos that exist, mostly, to trick people into buying them? Supernatural Activity rather than Paranormal Activity, that kind of thing? Cloudpunk could be mistaken for the gaming equivalent, with a certain other cyberpunk game cresting over the horizon.
But wait, woah there – Cloudpunk is most definitely more than that. For one, it’s got more kinship with Death Stranding, casting you as a near-future paperboy/Amazon drone, delivering packages in a city that doesn’t like aeons (or neons) away from Blade Runner. It looks and sounds beautiful, too.
Reviews have been erratic on PC, where it’s seen some early access, but quite a few reviewers have loved it. We’re eager to see if it works on Xbox One when the post comes in on the 15th of October. It also launches on Switch and PS4.
8Raji: An Ancient Epic – 15th October
Another game that’s coming to Xbox One a little later than other systems is Raji: An Ancient Epic. It’s been on Switch for a couple of months now, and it’s getting strong reviews.
Why do we like the look of Raji? It’s not your conventional setting, for one: forgive us for getting a wee bit tired of America, post-apocalyptic wastelands and space stations. It’s set in Ancient India and throws you into the deep end, chosen by gods and cast into a battle with demons.
Most of all it looks beautiful, there are some Ubisoft-era Prince of Persia vibes here and there, but it’s its own thing, pulling from Ancient Indian myth to create something we haven’t quite seen before. And hey, we’re into championing the indies here!
Raji is already out on Switch, but is out on Xbox One, PS4 and PC on the 15th of October
9Scourgebringer – 21st October
Just watching the trailer for Scourgebringer makes us want to jump back into Hyperlight Drifter. Not to take anything away from Scourgebringer: it’s just got that same pixelated ballet of hacking and slashing that makes you want to pick up a pad.
We get a fair few Metroidvanias and Rogue-lites through the doors here, but it does mean we’re finely tuned to the ones that will stand out. Dear Villagers have put together something that steps up the pyrotechnics, amps up the enemies but also hands you more power (lasers!) to deal with them. It feels overblown, and that’s a very good thing.
Better still, Scourgebringer is launching on Xbox One Game Pass, so there’s little reason for us not to bring the scourge. It’s also out on Switch and PC.
10Transformers: Battlegrounds – 23rd October
Sometimes a franchise takes a left-turn into bonkers territory, and it’s enough to thrust it into an Up Next article. Take Transformers Battlegrounds, which dodges the explosions, giant robots and wrecking ball testicles of the movies and more recent games (it’s been five years since Devastation and nine years since Dark of the Moon!) and goes for…a turn-based battler. Sing it with me: it’s X-Com in disguise.
It’s our editor-in-chief’s choice of the month, so there’s that, but it really could go either way in terms of quality. It’s Bandai Namco, which doesn’t give us much of a clue: they produce some of the best games in modern memory, and then they produce Ben 10.
Looks-wise, it’s gone for the chunky, cel-shaded aesthetic of the modern cartoons rather than thrusting more LeBoeuf on us, which is something. Alongside the GI Joe game, also out this month, we’re going to be playing with an arched eyebrow and hoping for the best.
Transformers: Battlegrounds rolls out on Xbox One on the 23rd October, and it also Starscreams onto Switch, PS4 and PC.
11Carto – 27th October
We hadn’t heard of Carto before prepping this article, but now we can’t wait. The newest game out of the Humble stable, who are giving us indie banger after banger at the moment, it’s got a lot going for it.
To start with, it’s got a central map-swapping concept that feels like it’s going to naturally lend itself to a puzzle-adventure. Each map is a square, in much the same way as a 2D Legend of Zelda game, and you can lift them up, rotate and flip them. Join up rivers to get them flowing, connect bridges to cross the river, and so on. It’s a board game idea lifted into a video game and it sounds shwifty.
Then there’s the looks. We’ll admit to being smitten with the watercolour aesthetic, with an environment that feels like it’s been fingerpainted or printed on. Carto is a looker, and it’s got a softness of touch that might make it a crossover hit.
Carto gets dabbed onto the canvas on the 27th October on Xbox One, as well as PS4, Switch and PC.
12Ghostrunner – 27th October
Ghostrunner is a hell of a tech demo. Boot up the trailer and have a watch: this is a game that looks fantastic, beyond what most AAA games could achieve. So the question obviously has to be asked: can it leapfrog the tech demo status and into ‘actually, that’s quite a good game’ territory? Mirror’s Edge managed it, so let’s hope Ghostrunner can too.
As well as Mirror’s Edge, there’s a healthy dose of Revengeance DNA in there. This is a parkour hack-and-slash (oh, go on, let’s chuck Vanquish in as a reference), and it looks like it’ll juice up the old adrenaline as you play it. From the trailer, it needs to tighten up the combat collision to make it feel a bit more weighty, but it looks like it could be a contender.
Find out when we give it the old review on 27th October, when it launches on Xbox One. It’s also making a run for it on PS4, Switch and PC.
13Watch Dogs: Legion – 29th October
Gaming gets crowded – there are a lot of games out there. Sometimes you have to find that back-of-box bulletpoint, the ‘Unique Selling Point’, to even get noticed. It’s true of AAA games just as much as indie titles (just ask Bleeding Edge, or whatever it was called. I forget).
Blimey and guv’nor, Watch Dogs: Legion knows this more than everyone. While Watch Dogs 2 wasn’t exactly a mis-step and did tidy business, it wasn’t the barnstorming release that Ubisoft were hoping for either. So Watch Dogs: Legion leans into the USP thing HARD.
You get to recruit and control every single person in the game. It was crazy when they announced it, and it’s still crazy now. The thing is, we want to play to find out just how crazy it is. They’ve got us, dammit. They USP’d us.
There’s other stuff, like it’s set in a futuristic London and there’s multiplayer content bundled in, like a co-op mode and bareknuckle boxing but, honestly, we just want to wear the milkman’s face.
Watch Dogs: Legion is coming to Xbox One on the 29th of October. It’s also sneaking onto your PS4, PC and Stadia. Don’t forget that Ubisoft are also guaranteeing a free upgrade on Xbox Series X and PS5 via its Smart Delivery technology, whatever that is.
14The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope – 30th October
Arriving with neat Halloween timing is Little Hope, the latest in the Dark Pictures Anthology series. Not going to lie, I had a whale of time with Until Dawn, and I am yet to jump into Man of Medan, so this is a perfect opportunity to have a bit of a Halloween double-bill.
For those who haven’t been exposed to the games of Supermassive Games, they’re cinematic experiences that tend towards the horror, with enough exploration and on-the-spot combat to make them more than your traditional walking simulator. We find them to be IMDB bait too, as we desperately try to place the actors (it’s him, Will Poulter, from Black Mirror and that We’re the Millers meme!).
It’s a standalone experience, tossing four teens into a town that has been ringed by mist. Apparitions are tormenting them, and there’s some connection to old witch trials in the area. You’ll have to nudge the college kids in the right direction before they get dragged to hell, or some other nuisance.
Little Hope: Dark Pictures Anthology is perfectly timed for a co-op party on the 30th October, coming out on Xbox One. It’s also ghosting its way onto PS4 and PC.
In some ways, October is just the calm before the storm: November sees the arrival of the Xbox Series X, and a small game by the name of Cyberpunk 2077. If any of us emerge from the fight over who gets to review it, there will be another Up Next article at the end of October to chart the titles coming in November.
See you then, (cyber)punks!