With lockdowns easing and summer sun on the rise, the difficult problem of balancing ‘going out’ and ‘staying in’ spending has just been made that little bit easier by Microsoft. As is customary, Games with Gold is on hand to dole out 4 free games – 2 current gen, 2 retro classic – over the course of June that will save your wallet and broaden your gaming horizons in one fell swoop.
Of course, Games with Gold are only free if you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription, but, let’s face it, most Xbox owners do anyway. If, however, you’re new to the ecosystem or swithering over subscription renewal, I would highly recommend checking out the Game Pass Ultimate as that includes Gold, along with a treasure trove of games new and old that are updated every month.
THE KING’S BIRD
The GWG title available all month-long is an unusually tranquil, momentum-based 2D side-scroller developed by Serenity Forge. The King’s Bird effortlessly combines precision platforming with physics-based gliding to create a zen-like gaming experience – like a much more therapeutic Super Meat Boy – offered by few other games. Boasting a gorgeous minimalist silhouette art-style, The King’s Bird casts players in the role of an escaped captive discovering their backstory as they flee the clutches of a terrible tyrant through a secret world.
Available from June 1 to 30.
NEOGEO BATTLE COLISEUM
Over this gen and last, Xbox has cultivated a reputation for curating gaming history through a robust backwards compatibility emulator and GWG often lets players experience classic games through this function with no strings attached. Although not as popular as its console peers of the era, the NeoGeo had a loyal fanbase and offered a popular alternative fighting franchise to Streetfighter and Mortal Kombat in the King of Fighters series. Battle Coliseum brings together a wide swathe of characters from KoF titles for spectacular 2D side-scrolling tag-team beat ’em up action that transcends time and, frequently, reason! Fight against AI opponents in the tournament mode, against friends in couch versus, or online against competitors around the world.
Available from June 1 to 15.
The third instalment in the Heretic Kingdoms saga, Shadows: Awakening is a single-player isometric fantasy RPG that combines elements of Diablo and Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. The recently assassinated members of the Penta Nera council have re-emerged in the mortal realm as power-hungry demons and are wreaking havoc on the kingdom. As a last-ditch attempt to stop the chaos, players assume the role of a freshly summoned devourer demon: a creature able to absorb the memories and abilities of the fallen and manifest them as their puppets.
Embark on an epic campaign to stop the demonic council, filled with challenging gameplay, dimension-switching problem-solving, atmospheric visuals and a gripping storyline. Defeat powerful opponents and harness their abilities to create a customisable party with the skills to take down all who stand before you. But will you relinquish the power you take after winning the day or plunge the kingdom into darkness forever…?
Available from June 16 to July 15.
INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US
Forget about Batman V Superman or week-long alternate cuts of Justice League, if you want to see super heroes and villains really knocking seven bells out of each other, Injustice: Gods Among Us serves up all of the over-the-top action you need. Drawing from DC Comics’ rich multiverse lore, NetherRealm (they of Mortal Kombat fame) create a spectacular story backdrop to explain the disbanding of the Justice League, allying of lifelong nemeses and just how Batman is able to go toe-to-toe with Superman!
Tricked into killing a pregnant Lois Lane and destroying Metropolis by Lex Luthor, Superman becomes the tyrant ruler of our world, forming the One Earth Regime from heroes and villains alike: a dictatorship that enforces their law at any bloody cost. Less than comfortable with the idea of a Kryptonian god enforcing their own brand of justice on the planet, Batman recruits members of the Justice League from alternate timelines and forms the insurgency: a rag-tag rebellion charged with permanently removing the Man of Steel from power. Imbued with nanotech technology created from Kryptonian DNA that grants them enhanced speed and strength, the insurgency wages war on the Regime with the fate of the world in the balance.
While retaining the bones of NetherRealm’s popular MK combat system, Injustice is very much its own thing, eschewing multiple bout fights for one longer fight with each opponent, taking place in expansive iconic DC locales (like the Batcave or the Fortress of Solitude) complete with high-octane transition animations that allow players to throw or hit their opponents into adjacent areas. Of course, super powers, weapons and hi-tech gadgets are all integral to combat, depending on the character being played and fought, with charged super-meters providing signature special moves that can destroy environments and/or interact with items in the background to cause extra damage.
With an impressive cast of characters such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, The Joker, Harley Quinn, Deathstroke and Bane to name a few, Injustice comes complete with fighting game staples like a story mode, tournament mode, training mode, online or couch versus and a comprehensive challenge mode.
Available from June 16 to 30.