All 23 Of The Xbox One's Launch Games, Reviewed

The Xbox One launches today with 22 games (and some workout titles) you can play right off the bat. So we're here with some micro-reviews of games we've either reviewed officially or spent ample time with.

The PS4 got the same treatment last week, now it's the Xbox One's turn.

Angry Birds Star Wars

What, you don't have a phone? Angry Birds Star Wars is brilliant, combining the slingshot physics puzzles of the world's most popular mobile game franchise with the lore and mechanics of the original Star Wars trilogy. It never feels like the cheap cash-in it looks like — in fact, in many ways this game is superior to the original Angry Birds.

That having been said, most of this content is available on mobile devices for next to nothing. There are 20 exclusive console levels and a pair of multiplayer modes which seem like fun, and the game does look lovely and crisp on the big screen. It's just the concept of paying $50 for a game that's nearly free otherwise. Tons of fun to be had here, but the economics are flummoxing.

Our review.

Reviewed on iOS, also played on PS4.

***

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Though comfortable enough on both rooftops and treetops, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag comes to life on the open seas. The story's a mess but the scenery's great; it's easily the most aesthetically pleasing game in the series, particularly on next-gen.

It may succumb to the series' overly gamey habits and weirdly compulsive RPG loops, but Black Flag remains a significant improvement for the series, a gorgeous piece of digital entertainment that makes good on its outsized ambition with remarkable regularity. Did it need to be an Assassin's Creed game? Hmm. Does it feel like an essential continuation of the Templars/Assassins storyline? Maybe not. Does it let us dress up like a pirate and sail the Caribbean, looting and plundering in style? Sure does.

Our review.

Reviewed on PS3, also played on PS4.

***

Battlefield 4

Though the campaign is subpar—even with the big action setpieces and glossy-looking graphics—the multiplayer is better than ever. Particularly thanks to a few fantastic modes—like Obliteration, a favorite that entails capturing a bomb and planting it on the enemy's base—as well as a silly thing called "Levolution."

Levolution exists on every map, and lets the player trigger some kind of destruction of it that drastically changes how the map looks and how players play in it. A counter-knifing system also gives players an opportunity to combat a knifer when attacked from the front, something that'll both piss you off and make you happy depending on which end of it you're at.

Note that the Xbox One and PS4 versions, like the PC version, supports 64 players in multiplayer matches.

Our review.

Reviewed on 360, also played on PS4.

***

Call Of Duty: Ghosts

Typically, Call of Duty gets unfairly criticized for yearly releases with allegedly 'more of the same'—but in this case, it's actually true. It's an especially noticeable misstep after last year's Black Ops II tinkered with the formula a bit by providing things like multiple endings. This year, the franchise relies on cheap, hollow thrills in the single-player, along with uninspired levels and action sequences—but even so, there are highlights such as Riley the attack dog.

The multiplayer still provides the signature twitch shooting that Call of Duty is known for, but some modes are mysteriously absent and players who have dabbled with the multiplayer before may not feel particularly excited about this year's offering. The exception would have to be co-op mode Extinction where you can play what is basically horde mode against aliens—it's a good way to play with friends without having to deal with the larger community. Plus, y'know. Aliens are cool and feel like a breath of fresh air.

Our review.

Reviewed on 360.

***

Crimson Dragon

While this dragon riding game starts out hitting all the right notes, it asks you to replay sometimes recycled levels and doesn't meaningfully expand on your relationship with your dragon.

But if you don't mind that, you can enjoy about eight hours of kind of easy rail shooting through an alien world—and you can do so with the company of dragons owned by other players.

Our review.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

***

Dead Rising 3

Dead Rising 3 is a substantial launch game for the Xbox One, and offers players hour upon hour of enjoyable open-world zombie-maiming. It's at its best when at its bloodiest, gleefully powering a steamroller through a thousands-deep crowd of the undead as the experience-points rain down.

Its good qualities are marred somewhat by annoying boss battles and tone-deaf writing, and it suffers from surprising technical hiccups and framerate dips. But on the whole, Dead Rising 3 is just the kind of game a new console owner should want: Big, deep and above all else, fun.

Our review.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

***

FIFA 14

More lifelike ball physics—bend it like you-know-who, for example—and smarter teammates, and opponents, distinguish the next-generation of EA Sports' globally dominant sports franchise. All features from the Xbox 360 version are here. Visual upgrades will be most evident in a more realistic and energetic crowd, particularly in their euphoria when you score at home.

Otherwise, the game is largely a solid continuation of its best-in-class performance on the past generation, with enough refinement to be worth trading in an old copy to start all over on a new machine.

Our impressions.

Played on PS4 and Xbox One.

***

Fighter Within

Fighter Within is a kinect-centric fighting game where you use realistic moves to fight—the idea is to have a bout at a similar tempo to that of an actual bout. Unfortunately, despite multiple reinstalls and attempts to play, the game doesn't move past the title screen whenever we've tried to boot it up. This could be an issue with the game or the Xbox One, we don't know yet. We'll keep trying and will update you on the game sometime next week.

Played on Xbox One.

***

Forza Motorsport 5

Forza Motorsport 5 is a passionate tribute to the majesty of the automobile. From our time with it, it seems more a car-lover's game than a driver's game, and lies more to the "simulation" end of things than its fun-loving next-gen cousin, Need For Speed: Rivals.

The game presents car-porn of the purest order, letting players explore the inner workings of some of the most incredible motor vehicles on the planet before climbing behind the wheel and taking them out for a spin. It presents perhaps the best use of the Xbox One's rumbling triggers, which keep players surprisingly anchored to the connection between the tires and the road.

Player-trained "Drivatar" AI opponents seem to drive more aggressively and unpredictably than past AI competitors, though it remains to be seen just how far that concept will evolve once the public begins to play. (One day they will rule us all.) That Forza 5 has substantially fewer tracks and cars than its Xbox 360 predecessor Forza 4 is an eyebrow-raiser, but we haven't played enough of the game to be able to say for sure whether it feels light on content.

What we've played has been clean, enjoyable and lovely to behold, all wrapped up in a shiny interface and winningly narrated by the hosts of the British driving show Top Gear. For more in-depth, car-focused thoughts on Forza 5, check out what our friends at Jalopnik have to say.

Played on Xbox One.

***

Just Dance 2014

The choreography may not be anything fancy, but it's a fun party game and even a pretty good work-out featuring some popular and classic songs. It's just not better than Dance Central, but it's a good replacement for anyone who doesn't take dancing as seriously as Dance Central players probably do, and it's even a bit more kid-friendly. You can get away with mostly just using your arms instead of also following the steps for your feet, and there are even some tracks—like one from Aladdin—that makes it a very family-friendly game.

There's a really interesting mode where you can dance with anyone across the world who is also playing Just Dance 2014 and even compete and make friends with them for future rounds. The Kinect even feels like it can register your moves at closer proximities—as promised by Microsoft for their advanced Kinect that comes with the Xbox One—which will be convenient for people trying to cram a few partners into their dance routines. There's a lot of versatility with how many songs are available, the modes, and customization options new to the next-gen versions.

Played on Xbox One.

***

Killer Instinct

This old-school fighting game franchise gets resurrected as a free-to-play title to usher in a new era of console hardware. Players start off with one character and Killer Instinct's purchasable roster includes monsters, martial artists and aliens whose punches and kicks can be knitted into whirlwind combos.

Killer Instinct's initial chunk of game may feel a bit underweight, but the sharp visuals and distinct fighting rhythms will be a strong draw for making you want to experience more.

Our review.

Played on Xbox One.

***

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

The free-roaming Marvel Super Heroes game fans always wanted, only blockier. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes gives players 100+ iconic heroes and villains from throughout the Marvel Universe, drops them in them middle of LEGO New York City, and lets them go to town. Sure, there's a story mode, something about the entire world being in danger or some such, but the real plastic-y meat of this game is exploring the free-roaming bits, uncovering secrets and unlocking new characters.

Is it the best LEGO Adventure yet? If you make yours Marvel, then indubitably.

Our review.

Reviewed on Xbox 360, also played on PS4.

***

Lococycle

Definitely not for everyone, but a fun arcade-style beat 'em up where you play as a two-wheeler. The main protagonist is funny in her obliviousness to the poor mechanic she's dragging around behind her throughout the entire game. It does get tired, though, as the combat formula doesn't change too much except to eventually introduce bosses that demand repetitive responses to simple commands.

If you like beating things up a lot, Lococycle will remain fun so long as you have more upgrades available to keep things new.

Our review.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

***

Madden NFL 25

Madden's next-generation edition is a slow burn. Longtime players may rightly wonder what the fuss is given animations that are largely the same as the past generation and graphics that, though improved, take a keen eye to see at full speed in the middle of the play.

Where Madden NFL 25 makes its bones is in better offensive line blocking, making your running back much more effective, particularly on delayed handoffs and other slow-to-develop plays. He's not superhuman, though; the defensive line attacks more intelligently and is able to apply pressure at the line of scrimmage much more effectively than on the Xbox 360. The first game with Madden 25 on the Xbox One, you'll wonder what the fuss is. After the 12th, you won't want to go back.

Our review. Our PS4 impressions.

Reviewed on Xbox 360, also played on PS4.

***

NBA 2K14

No sports video game did more to distinguish its next-generation edition than NBA 2K14, which piled a rivalry storyline—complete with cutscenes and dialogue choices—into its already excellent MyCareer superstar mode. MyGM is the new career mode, putting a player on the other side of the desk, trying to keep players happy, trying to sign free agents, and breaking the bad news of a trade to an old veteran.

One caution, however, a career begun online—accruing the virtual currency it offers—can only be played online once started. This effectively makes the game an always-online sports title, as it does not advise you of this restriction, and many will start MyCareer or MyGM connected to the 2K servers, which have a spotty record of service.

Our review. Our impressions on PS4.

Reviewed on PS3, also played on PS4.

***

NBA Live 14

There is a distinctive game inside NBA Live 14 but you have to dig deep to find it, and work hard to make it come to life. EA Sports climbed back into simulation hoops for the first time in four years with the reconstituted NBA Live, but the effort on a whole falls short thanks to inscrutable controls and often buggy gameplay. Other sports titles can get away with modest visual upgrades, but NBA Live can't when the series hasn't published since 2009.

The "Big Moments" and "NBA Rewind" modes are a neat way to connect gamers to the real world doings of the league, but unfortunately they get swamped by demanding gameplay that doesn't give you the courtesy of a tutorial or an instruction manual. You have to be nursing a grudge against 2K Sports, and willing to put in a lot of trial-and-error play, to choose NBA Live over NBA 2K14.

Our review.

Reviewed on PS4.

***

Need For Speed: Rivals

The latest game in EA's racing franchise makes an impressive debut on next-gen consoles, with some of the best visuals on the newly released machine. The driving action offers up a great mix of car combat and precision control, with a line-up of rides that are a car lover's dream. Rivals is definitely one of the best launch games for the new consoles.

Our review.

Reviewed on PS4.

***

Powerstar Golf

Nintendo's got Mario Golf. Sony's got Hot Shots Golf. And now, for Xbox One, Microsoft has their own cartoony golf game, the Zoe-Mode-developed Powerstar Golf. At its core, it's the cartoony golf game you'd expect: triple-tap swing meter, putting greens overlaid with slope lines and a bevy of power-ups that can make your golf ball rocket, weave and more. But there's some RPG here, as you can earn experience points the more and the better that you play. And there's a whole elaborate system for buying booster packs that contain semi-randomized perks and gear (you can use real money to buy those packs, too, of course).

The biggest hook is that the game is social in a pleasingly asynchronous way. As you play a hole, you'll see where your friends landed their shots. You'll see the seemingly impossible placement of the world record holder, too. You can play rival rounds against your friends' characters and you can even borrow your friends' caddies—special caddy perks and all—to play through a course with them. There's no traditional online play, but the game does support local mulitplayer.

Played on Xbox One.

***

Ryse: Son of Rome

Oh, Ryse, you controversial game, you. Are you but a collection of tap-the-right-button-in-time quicktime events? A gory, macho adventure of a Roman soldier that's full of combat that is nearly impossible to fail? Well, kind of. But not really.

Ryse is a visually-stunning, relatively short, very linear adventure of a Roman soldier named Marius Titus who fights with sword and shield from Rome to Brittania in the time of Nero. It's a third-person hack-and-slash with a focus on elaborate finishing moves that are dubbed "executions". Trigger an execution and the enemy will die, but the game doesn't simply play itself. Patient players will indeed tap buttons in sync with Marius' moves, the most skilled of those players using that system to chain combos, rack up points, purchase even wilder executions, level up their hero and make their own version of success.

Plenty of fun can be had here if you can stomach virtual severed limbs and a less intricate combat system than you'd see in a Devil May Cry or God of War. And, wow, this game looks amazing.

Our review.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

***

Skylanders: Swap Force

Activision's bajillion-selling toys-meets-games franchise is back and better than ever. Tons of new toys to collect and play, many featuring the game's signature top-and-bottom-swapping gimmick, a fresh graphics engine, and the ability to (finally) jump, make Skylanders: Swap Force the best entry in the series so far.

Our review.

Reviewed on PS3, also played on PS4.

***

Xbox Fitness

You may be surprised to find out that Xbox Fitness isn't quite the same as having a personal trainer in your living room. If you've ever used an exercise video, that's basically what Xbox Fitness is. The app essentially takes those videos and adds some bells and whistles like achievements, or fireworks coming out of your hands as you exercise. The kinect is great at detecting your body and showing little highlights on which parts of your body are ostensibly being exerted, but occasionally gave me points for doing something like moving a chair when I was supposed to be kicking. It seems that Kinect just makes sure you're moving the right body part at the right time, rather than trying to match a silhouette like in Dance Central.

The workouts cost anywhere from $8 to $30, but there's a good collection of workouts that come free with Xbox Live Gold. Both the paid and free workouts include well-known trainers like Jillian Michaels and programs like P90X. If you're looking for a normal workout video with a little something extra to keep you interested, Xbox Fitness will be perfect. But if you want something that's really going to help push you to exercise harder, start saving up for a trainer.

Played on Xbox One.

***

Zoo Tycoon

Zoo Tycoon might just be the surprise hit of the Xbox One's launch. It's what you'd expect from the franchise, with plenty of animals, meters and graphs. The basic idea is simple: either build up a zoo from scratch or work through campaign mode, rescuing troubled zoos from various problems. The surprise is the game's Kinect integration. All of the menus are enabled (but not required) with voice commands, and you can feed and interact with animals with gestures. Making faces at chimps and having them mimic you is enough to put a smile on even the biggest Kinect cynic's face.

There are minor issues with the game that mainly show up as your zoo grows. You'll get notifications that a specific feeding tray needs to be refilled, but you can only jump to the exhibit, not the item that needs your attention. So each time, this requires going through several menus to do mundane tasks. Other than that, the basic gameplay is solid, and it's a ton of fun to drive an elephant-shaped golf cart around a zoo that you've designed, racing medicine to a specific exhibit. Especially if you have kids, this game is worth checking out.

Played on Xbox One.

***

Zumba Fitness: World Party

Zumba Fitness is a lot like Just Dance 2014 in that it's basically a dance game, but with more of a focus on fitness. So the features and the UI are all molded towards that angle. It's kind of like a virtual personal trainer, in terms of keeping track of your calories and your goals, except without the awkwardness of one actually staring at you. The workouts span many popular songs and dance styles—in fact, this game lets you travel around the world to experience the dance styles most popular in those regions—so it's almost like a more intense Just Dance. There are a series of modes to help you choose whatever workout feels less daunting to you. Quick play, a series of classes, or take the world tour to pick your region. But navigating anything on the game's menus is a pain, because you're limited to the godawful gestures or the much more reliable voice commands.

Zumba Fitness works as well as you want it to. Meaning that you can cheat your way through the dance moves, or you can take it seriously, even using the practice/tutorial mode to nail down those dance moves in a slowed down environment.

Played on Xbox One.

Note: We've played and reviewed some of these games on current-gen consoles and later tinkered with them again on the PS4 and Xbox One where we've had the opportunity to.