It’s that time of the month again folks. The time where gamers collectively gather all over the internet to criticize what free games they get this month. So, who plundered the other’s fanboys for all their self-worth and gratification in life? Who was the victor in July? Let’s take a look.
Games with Gold:
Last month’s GWG lineup was the embodiment of meh. It had one of the year’s best games, The Banner Saga 2, but it also had Tron Evolution. That’s like having a delicious Pizza…covered in naked mole rat droppings. But August is a new month and another chance, so how did Xbox respond? Well, with its usual offering — great last-gen games accompanied by not so great Xbox One games. Now, I understand some of you are excited for WWE 2K16 — but sadly my tables and ladders fix has been fully satisfied this year: courteous of the 2016 presidential election. Ba Dum Tssh
Here’s the full list of games on offer:
- WWE 2K16 (Xbox One) (Available August 16 – September 15)
- Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate (Xbox One) (Available August 1 – September 31)
- Spelunky (Xbox 360) (Available August 1 – September 31)
- Beyond Good and Evil HD (Xbox 360) (Available August 16 – September 15)
It may surprise you, but WWE 2K16 is a wrestling game, and has nothing to do with West Waffles Eatery. Developed by Yuke’s Co. Ltd — long time developer of WWE games and The Dog Island (never forget) — WWE 2K16 is essentially WWE 2K13, but in 2016. It’s a fine game, if you enjoy wrestling. If you don’t enjoy powerbombing Bam Bam Bigelow or flying off the top turnbuckle with The Honkey Tonk Man — then this game has very little application for you. Besides subpar graphics, WWE 2K16 does everything “good enough”, and offers a ceaseless amount of content.
Original Release: October 27, 2015
Metacritic Score: 72
Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate
Rule 347: Never play a game with both “warriors” and “ultimate” in the title.
Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate’s addition in this lineup feels like an instance where the GWG guy at Microsoft forgot a second Xbox One game, and so literally five minutes before publishing the lineup, in panic, threw this in there. WO3U is not a bad game — but if you’re not a fan of the Dynasty Warriors-like hack and slash cult-genre, then you likely didn’t even know this game existed. The problem with its inclusion in this lineup is that it’s a difficult type of game/genre to jump into for the first time. For fans of the genre who haven’t dipped their toes into WO3U yet — what you will find is a game with a metric ton of content and that is inescapably fun at times. However, dodgy AI, ill-advised design choices, and overall poor graphic presentation hold it back.
Original Release: September 2, 2014
Metacritic Score: 73
Spelunky is the best game on offer this month by Xbox. A 2-D platformer with randomized levels that offer a unique and satisfyingly exigent experience each time you journey deep underground. A great manual of game design, Spelunky boasts tight, mastery-reliant controls, robust mechanics, high replayability, and retro charm second to very few. If you’re a controller-flinger, struggle with impatience, or just don’t feel like sweating buckets, then Spelunky may not be the game for you — as it constantly walks that fine line of challenge and impassable absurdity. You will die..and die… but it will never fail to suck you back in. But make it through Spelunky and you will be left with a degree of satisfaction rarely offered by a video game.
Original Release: July 4, 2012
Metacritic Score: 87
Beyond Good and Evil HD
Beyond Good and Evil broke the pre existing barriers of traditional action-adventure gameplay when it released in 2003, and cemented itself as a bonafide cult classic. Timeless in many ways, Beyond Good and Evil seeps originality, charm, and witty humor. Time doesn’t treat many games very well, however, Beyond Good and Evil has aged like a fine wine (though those headache-inducing camera angles are still far from ideal). With a nice HD coat of paint, if you haven’t played this game: do yourself a favor, sit down, and DO IT RIGHT NOW!
CHILI CON CARNE!
Original Release: March 2, 2011
Metacritic Score: 84
PlayStation+ Free Games:
Luckily for GWG, PlayStation’s offering for the month of August is equally stodgy. In fact it may be the worst offering of 2016 so far. Last month was also a particular disappointing month, but it did have one redeeming factor: Furi (a game that currently sits in an honorable mention spot in my personal Top Ten Games of the Year So Far). This month doesn’t have that one redeeming game — and as a result there have been multiple bloodbaths and Xbox trollings in comment sections detailing this month’s offering. #Yakuza5CouldntStopThem #WhyTrickyTowers #ItsNotYourFaultRebelGalaxy
Here’s the full list of games on offer:
- Tricky Towers (PS4)
- Rebel Galaxy (PS4)
- Yakuza 5 (PS3)
- Retro/Grade (PS3)
- Patapon 3 (PS Vita)
- Ultratron (PS Vita, PS3, PS4)
Tricky Towers is a Tetris-inspired physics-based puzzler that will keep you entertained for a few weekends — if you have friends to play it with. As a multiplayer game, Tricky Towers packs a punch of adrenaline, innovative but well-thought-out controls, and a dosage of pure simple fun. As a single player game it packs a punch of boredom, exasperating game design choices, and a dosage of “the blues”. It provides a unique twist on the Tetris formula, incorporating a Jenga-like transmogrification, but alas fails to incite anything more than a desire to go play Tetris itself.
Original Release: N/A
Metacritic Score: 69
Rebel Galaxy is a great game….on the PC. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the PS4 version, a streamlined, far less complex, and in every way inferior, take on its PC brother. Everything you could want from a space action exploration sim is present, but besides the game’s trading system and ship-to-ship combat, it all feels an eensy bit shallow and lacking polish. The biggest downfall of the game is perhaps its incredibly repetitive mission design, which is not aided by the fact that the universe you are hyperspeeding around feels empty and void of any kind of tonal presence. It’s a decent swashbuckling space-sim adventure, but more often than not it feels like an overly ambitious project undertaken by small studio Double Damage Games.
Original Release: January 5, 2016
Metacritic Score: 64
Yakuza is a quality series unfortunately foreign to many western gamers. Yakuza 5 specifically was one of the best games in 2015, but due to it being trapped on the PlayStation 3, and the series’ inability to grab a really strong footing in the western market, it was overlooked by many gamers. The crime action-adventure game boasts some of the best looking graphics you can find on a PlayStation 3, an interesting never dull plot, a myriad of varied content, and a fully-realized setting matched by very few from last generation. For many I imagine this will be their first toe dipping into the Yakuza series — but I imagine it won’t be their last.
Original Release: December 8, 2015
Metacritic Score: 83
I’ll save you some time with this one: Retro/Grade is a game built on a unique idea. Further, it provides a very refreshing take on a genre (rhythm) that has largely been stale. Retro/Grade is a well-designed music game, and is an easy recommendation for any fan of the genre. Not a fan of genre? Then Retro/Grade is likely a waste of your time — as it lacks the quality to convert any to its cult genre.
Original Release: August 21, 2012
Metacritic Score: 78
Patapon 3 is the worst game in one of the best series on the PSP (yes this game on Vita is just a PSP port — yes you’ve been quick dogged).Though, that’s more of a compliment to the first two installments than a knock against the third, which is equally addictive and equally entertaining. However, unlike the previous games Patapon 3 injudiciously requires an exhausting amount of grinding, lacks the innovation and evolution on original ideas, and for all the content it possesses, it lacks that personality pop the first two games indulged in. If you’re going to try out one of the two rhythm games on offer this month, Patapon 3 is the better choice if not purely for its RTS infusion. But if we’re being honest: just go play the first Patapon, you’ll like your life better.
Original Release: April 21, 2012
Metacritic Score: 74
Yearning for some Ultratron? I don’t believe you.
The gameplay of an old-school arcade, updated for the 21st century, Ultraton does do an exquisite job of merging the old with the new. It’s 80’s arcade style is spot on, its fast action, twin stick bullet-hell gameplay is up to snuff, and its difficulty is a welcoming mixture of brutally unforgiving and gratifyingly fun to master. Unfortunately, Ultratron embodies the issue with many of the games on offer in recent months: not good enough for a revisit, nor for a first time playing 4/5/6 years later after release.
Original Release: May 8, 2015
Metacritic Score: 74
Those are the lineups. Now to the exciting part — choosing a victor.
According to the Critics:
This is determined by which line-up has the higher average Metacritic score. Here’s how each category is scored:
Current-Gen: For PlayStation this is calculated by adding the two Metacritic scores of the PS4 games and dividing by two. For Xbox the same thing is done but with the Xbox One games.
Last-gen/portable: For PlayStation this is calculated by adding the four Metacritic scores of the PS Vita and PS3 games and dividing by four. For Xbox, it’s calculated by adding the two Metacritic scores of the Xbox 360 games and dividing by two.
Whole lineup: Because PlayStation offers six games to Microsoft’s four, only two of the highest scoring four last-gen/portable are used when determining the whole lineup score, while the lower scoring two are tossed aside. Further, because current-gen (PS4 & Xbox One) games are the salient games in this clash – their scores are counted twice.
Whole Lineup: 78
Whole Lineup: 71
The critics have spoken — and the critics like Xbox. Series score: PlayStation: 2 — Xbox: 3
This is the worst current-gen offer by both services so far this year. You know GWG and PS Plus Free Games isn’t firing on all cylinders when I’m breaking out my PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to play the month’s games. The last-gen/portable games are supposed to be the freebies, the cherry on top, not the cake itself. In regards to PlayStation’s offering, if you take away Yakuza 5, the list of games on offer is soul-crushingly woeful. On the other hand, Xbox has two strong last-gen offerings and WWE 2K16, which is at least good for some anesthetized stunner frenzies.
If this was a gladiator match, PlayStation would fall to death due to exhaustion after three seconds, and Xbox would win just for merely being present.
Series Score: PlayStation: 2 — Xbox: 3
Tyler Fischer is an Associate Writer for MONG who plays video games when he’s not busy researching alien conspiracy theories at 2AM. You can find him on Twitter.