Yet another holiday period is passing and yet another stellar set of Xbox One games have launched. Over the course of the past three months, Microsoft has given gamers plenty of reasons to be thankful this holiday. Whether you’ve gotten lost in the beautiful world of Forza Horizon 3 or you’ve been enjoying HDR gaming on your Xbox One S, this year has been good to gamers.

Earlier this month, Microsoft released the highly anticipated open-world game Dead Rising 4. It is the second iteration in the series to come to Xbox One since the system launched in 2013. The game takes players back to Willamette, CO, and they star as franchise star Frank West. Dead Rising 4 has joyous instances like zombie-slaying, photo-taking and hilarious cutscenes.

It may seem funny, but the Christmas themed setting of Dead Rising 4 adds a wonderful flavor to the game’s atmosphere. The world is massive and gives those who explore plenty of rewards for doing so. Along the way, you can find all kinds of weapons as well as blueprints for creating more powerful weapons.

A favorite is the electrically charged wreath that is tossed around a zombie’s head. From there, it sends shocks of electricity, killing any zombies within its radius. Another favorite is the Blast From The Past, which combines a sledgehammer and grenades. Using this weapon can kill a bunch of zombies at once. Additionally, the weapon’s special attack kills zombies for several yards within the area you are aiming. Weapons in Dead Rising 4 are spectacular and a ton of fun to use.

The game’s progression system grants you the ability to upgrade Frank’s skills and attributes. Completing missions, killing zombies and finding collectibles all help gamers level up. Unlocking new moves or increasing weapon damage provides a wonderful level of addictiveness.

Dead Rising is a series with a great emphasis on light-heartedness in its tone. Dead Rising 4 is no different, as it combines that light-heartedness with periodic seriousness. Frank West is hilarious and his dry humor fits perfectly. Cutscenes are a joy to sit back and watch because he and his supporting cast provide a funny dynamic throughout the experience.

Dead Rising 4 turns out to be one of the most fun open-world games in 2016. This game will have you smiling from ear-to-ear as you charge through the crowded, zombie-ridden streets. No matter if you are sprinting through the hordes or driving vehicles through them, you can’t go wrong. Dead Rising 4 is perhaps the most fun you’ll have this holiday. The game is available now on Xbox One and Windows 10.

Frank West triumphantly returns in Dead Rising 4 (Courtesy of Microsoft).
Frank West triumphantly returns in Dead Rising 4 (Courtesy of Microsoft).

Switching gears, let’s talk about another excellent open-world experience, Forza Horizon 3. This game is dripping with all kinds of thrilling gameplay, whether your charging through a dense jungle, rolling hills or sandy beach. Australia serves as a marvelous setting, and I still can’t get enough of the excellent gameplay Playground Games has delivered. Everything from races, to discovering barns, to danger sign jumps, to showcase events, Forza Horizon 3 delivers excellent fun around every turn.

Presentation is everything as you race across the diverse setting of Australia. The game’s audio is incredible. Sounds you hear when flooring the gas pedal or when decelerating are spot on. Forza Horizon 3 sets a new benchmark for vehicular audio, and that’s true for the entire racing genre, not just for open-world racers.

Not only is the audio incredible, but so is the visual element. Forza Horizon is a staple for visuals in any game. Playground delivers a consistent frame rate, while pairing it with precise and stunning visuals. The game’s sky is a feature the developer touted heading into launch, and with good reason. Nighttime and daytime are great showcases of how the sky fits perfectly. Other developers may have created a phony-looking sky, but Playground Games seamlessly blends the real-life sky of Australia with Forza Horizon 3‘s gorgeous world.

It was a tall task for Playground Games to top the amazing experience they delivered with Forza Horizon 2. However, that is exactly what they have done with Forza Horizon 3. Whether you’re a racing fan or just love open-world games, Forza Horizon 3 is a must-have experience. The game is available now on Xbox One and Windows 10.

The world is as immersive as ever in Forza Horizon 3 (Courtesy of Microsoft).
The world is as immersive as ever in Forza Horizon 3 (Courtesy of Microsoft).

A game I feel got a sour deal in 2016 is ReCore. It always seems like there’s a game or two critics decide to revolt against and unfortunately, that happened to this game. I, however, found the game to be an experience with addicting combat, characters I cared about and an intriguing world that rewarded those who explored.

Games that can reward the inner discoverer in us all provide loads of meaningful gameplay. In ReCore, part of this comes in the form of cores you extract from enemies. Some cores can provide powerful rewards to players, or more directly, to your character Joule. If you can harvest a core from an enemy boss, then you’ll enjoy immense benefits like upgraded weapon damage for Joule or the same for your companion bots Mack, Duncan or Seth. Tug-o-war has never been so rewarding.

The blend of combat and platforming within ReCore‘s dungeons creates thrilling instances. These will force players to be on top of their game, and mindful of their abilities. Understanding the environment around you can provide an edge in combat strategy. With the game’s different ammo types and different enemies you face, being able to think quickly, and fluidly change from one ammo type to another, will all help you succeed.

I have a soft spot for characters like Mack, who is Joule’s companion throughout ReCore. He’s a character, with great versatility, and this helps Joule conquer some of the most complicated situations. The game has some very imaginative platforming sequences and they challenge even the most practiced platforming gamer. I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative, world and gameplay of ReCore, and think plenty of folks out there will feel the same. You can pick up ReCore now on Xbox One and Windows 10.

Joule and Mack form the perfect duo in ReCore (Courtesy of Microsoft).
Joule and Mack form the perfect duo in ReCore (Courtesy of Microsoft).

Finally, Gears of War 4 is the last game we’ll profile today. The Coalition has made one of the best iterations in the series. It does a fabulous job of extending its lore and characters. Combat is as great as it has ever been and its weapons provide some of the most memorable, awe-inspiring moments.

I must say that at times Gears of War 4 comes across more as a survival-horror experience than anything. The Coalition creates many creepy atmospheres, much like previous iterations in the series did. That, paired with new enemy types in Gears of War 4, like the seran swarm, and you can find yourself feeling quite uneasy. Tone is just as gritty as I remember previous Gears of War games being.

Several new weapons you’ll find in Gears of War 4 are all about the kill. Well, all of the game’s weapons are, but I’m referring to the Buzzkill and Overkill. The former shoots out sawblades that scream towards enemies and deliver devastating damage. The latter sends a very powerful shotgun-like burst, which deals plenty of damage.

Split-screen co-op is a rarely seen feature in games these days, but Gears of War 4 brings it in spades. Enemies are far more difficult when playing with others, either locally or online. Those who can execute well as a team will find they can blaze through the campaign quickly and enjoyably. Gears of War 4 delivers a wonderful experience, no matter if you want to play with friends or on your own.

Multiplayer is a bloody fun time as it always has been. Among the many modes available in the multiplayer, I spent most of my time in Horde mode. Horde has you take on 50 waves of enemies, requiring mental endurance between you and your teammates. Bosses tend to be randomly sent in every 10 waves, and they are extremely intense. Gears of War 4 is a complete experience, which features a breathtaking campaign and addicting multiplayer. The game is available now on Xbox One and Windows 10.

There are plenty of intense moments in Gears 4, but the same is true of light-hearted ones too (Courtesy of Microsoft).
There are plenty of intense moments in Gears 4, but the same is true of light-hearted ones too (Courtesy of Microsoft).

There are many options for gamers this holiday and Xbox One is home to some of the best. All of these games provide something unique for every type of gamer, and the fun won’t be stopping with 2016. The next release from Microsoft is Halo Wars 2 and it’ll arrive on Feb. 21, 2017. Other titles like Scalebound, Sea of Thieves and Crackdown 3 will likely debut next year too. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on Xbox.

About Steve Ruygrok

Gaming, Spirits, and Craft Beer enthusiast. If you say you don't like beer, then you just haven't had the right type yet. Great spirits keep away the bad ones. Video games are kind of amazing, just do it...or something like that. Contact me at weplaythingssteve@gmail.com

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