Still playing Starfield? Of course, why wouldn’t you be? All that we ask is that you put the controller down for a moment – just a wee one – and see what might be competing for its attention in the coming weeks. We’ve narrowed it down to a cool 14 of the best new Xbox and Game Pass games for October 2023.
It being October, with the shadow of Christmas looming over the horizon, you can expect some rather tempting rivals for your affections. Perhaps Forza Motorsport will stop you exploring planets? Assassin’s Creed: Mirage? Or maybe Alan Wake II? It’s going to be increasingly hard to stay Starfield-monogamous, as the silly-season of releases rolls in.
We empathise with a feature within NHL 24. It’s called the Exhaust Engine, and it’s been specifically created to convey feelings of fatigue in your players. We feel you, NHL 24. We most definitely have an Exhaust Engine.
Oh, there are other features packed in there of course. EA’s penchant for funkily named mechanics pays off with Vision Passing, which allows you to pull off trailer-worthy passes with a simple combination button-press, while Total Control Skill Moves allows you to pull off cocky manoeuvres.
With cross-play (as long as you both have the same generation of consoles), NHL 24 may have you joyriding your zamboni into the sunset.
The confusingly titled Forza Motorsport (where’d those numbers go after Forza Motorsport 7?) arrives on Xbox in October, and there’s going to be much sulking and gnashing of teeth if our resident Forza fan Paul Renshaw doesn’t get it for review. You thought Metro and Eurogamer got petulant when Starfield didn’t turn up? He’s in his pram, and he’s got toys ready to throw out of it.
We can kind of see why he’s excited. Forza’s more stuffed than a turducken. There’s 500 cars and 20 tracks for starters, as well as a new Builders’ Cup Career Mode. Power players who just like winning get adjudicated multiplayer matches, while there’s a nifty list of fixes including cutting edge AI, advanced physics, tire and fuel strategy, plus driver and safety ratings.
Lords of the Fallen
Speaking of confusingly titled games, 2014’s Lords of the Fallen gets a 2023 sequel named, um, Lords of the Fallen. What next? Gears of War releasing a sequel to Gears of War 5 named Gears of War 3?
Anyone who played the ramshackle but satisfying Lords of the Fallen Part One will be rubbing their hands with glee. This is a big budget step up for the series, taking place in a map that’s five times the size of the original game. The profits from the first game have clearly been funnelled into the art, as this is as pretty a third-person RPG as you’re likely to see.
Will it manage to scratch the Baldur’s Gate itch before it comes out on Xbox? That’s a tough ask, but we’re eager to give a verdict.
The generally accepted rule of thumb for Sonic is the fewer dimensions he’s running in, the better the Sonic game. Sonic Mania was arguably the last time that Sonic was truly great, and that was a triumphant return to two dimensions.
While Sonic Superstars doesn’t embrace the 16-bit, MIDI soundtrack and pixel artwork of original Sonic – at least not as much as Sonic Mania did – it certainly shares a similar love for its forebears. This is a 2D game with little 3D touches that bring it into the modern era.
Perhaps the most exciting inclusion is full four-player co-op, which allows Amy, Knuckles and Tails to collaborate with Sonic on some fiendish Eggman-controlled levels. Together, you can rush up waterfalls, snaffle Chaos Emeralds, and bonk Eggman on the nose.
Ah, we can hear the Green Hill soundtrack already.
Amplitude Studios is one of the most underrated studios in gaming, and they are none more underrated than on Xbox. That’s because their artful, procedurally generated RPGs rarely come to the big black box, with the exception of Dungeons of the Endless. But now we’re getting a simultaneous, cross-platform release of their next title and we couldn’t be happier.
Endless Dungeon is a roguelite tactical action game that can be played solo or with two friends in tow. It thrusts you into an abandoned space station with a crystal bot to protect. This little dude is your key to harvesting the Core at the centre of the station, but it’s also weaker than my nan’s tea.
Each run becomes the most epic of escort missions, as you protect the bot against hordes of relentless monsters. They explode into loot, so you’re trying to stay ahead of the curve so that you don’t die.
This being Amplitude, you will die. Lots. But it’s the circle of life, and you will only come back stronger.
Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged
You haven’t felt pain until you’ve stepped on a Hot Wheels car. If you HAVE felt that pain, perhaps it’s time to move from physical to digital. Box up the cars for the charity shop and pick up Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged.
There are an eye-watering 150 cars in Hot Wheels Unleashed 2 – Turbocharged, with the roster being bolstered by ATVs and motorbikes. They can be upgraded up the wazoo with a new RPG-like system that allows you to max out the stats that you prefer. You’ll need them to protect yourself from your opponents, as new moves including a lateral dash and single and double-jump make them all the more threatening.
With five new areas to race around in, this is more fun than you could possibly get from a shoebox full of rusty cars.
Cities: Skylines II
Got any of that free time left? Perhaps you’d like to spend all of it on Cities: Skylines II, the sequel to celebrated Sim City-beater Cities: Skylines.
A lot of games will try to dazzle you with new features and fancily named mechanics. A few of them are in this Up Next. But all Cities: Skylines II offers is greater depth than ever before. If, somehow, you felt that Cities: Skylines was a little shallow, then be prepared to fight gentrification, balance budgets, and create infallible infrastructure.
Everything has been opened up to allow you to really get in there and tinker with things yourself, and we don’t know whether to be daunted or excited.
Edit: Cities: Skylines II has received a last minute delay on Xbox and PlayStation. It’ll still be releasing on PC and into PC Game Pass in October, but the console version has been pushed back to Spring 2024.
The Metal Gear Solid games have dallied with the Xbox, but rarely have they committed so wholeheartedly than Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol 1.
In the box (we imagine Snake jumping inside and hiding) is Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and – as a wee bonus – the 16-bit classics of Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 2: Solid Snake.
In a world of remakes, it can be hard to understand exactly what you’re getting. A Resident Evil 2-style glow-up, or a Grand Theft Auto Trilogy dropping of the pants? Well, the Metal Gears in the collection are the originals you know and love, tweaked to 60fps and optimised for Series X|S.
Frankly, we’re just happy to play these on our favourite console, and the threat of a Volume 2 only makes us happier.
A bit of a favourite in the office is ol’ Ghostrunner. Slick as oil, it made us feel like ninja-assassins moving at full pelt. The experience only improved over the DLC, as you got the impression that developers One More Level were mastering their Ghostrunner art.
Earlier than we expected or hoped comes Ghostrunner 2. Set one year after the events of the first game, it widens the lens to take in something like an open world. Motorbike sequences are extended, boss fights are more interactive, and generally you’re given more of a leash to engage your opponents how you want to engage them.
Plus there’s the fire soundtrack, which reels in Daniel Deluxe, We Are Magonia, Gost, Dan Terminus, and Arek Reikowski for more electronica-infused killing.
Alan Wake 2
We were convinced that Alan Wake 2 was a next year game, but here we are, writing an Up Next article about it. Oh, what a lovely surprise.
Alan would have wanted it to come out sooner. He’s been locked in the Dark Place for the past thirteen years, racking his brain for a way out. The solution comes in the form of a video game that he creates: starring FBI agent Sage Anderson, it’s a parallel narrative for you to play through as you try to drag both her and Alan out of the Dark Place and back into the Remedy-verse that Remedy kicked off with Control.
As a plot, it’s as meta and twisted as you would expect from Alan Wake, and we can’t wait to play this game within a game.
EA Sports UFC 5
We’re not sure ‘more realism’ is what we want from a game like EA Sports UFC 5, but that’s exactly what we get with this, the fifth iteration of the title. Most of that additional blood, sweat and BO comes from the Frostbite engine, which has been employed to dial the leg-breaks all the way up.
So, we get all-new damage systems, allowing you to open your opponents’ skin in new and imaginative ways. Doctor stoppages interrupt the action in an authentic fashion, while cinematic KO showcases allow you to replay your best kills over and over until your mate tells you to effing stop it and get on with the next match.
With a calendar that updates with the matches in the real-world, UFC has never been this true to life.
Jusant has a clear pitch. Games are so interested in going forward; but what if they were more concerned with looking up? From Don’t Nod, the minds behind Life is Strange and Vampyr, comes a climb-a-thon where progress is over your head.
With your little buddy Ballast, you will be scaling a massive, mysterious tower located in the middle of a desert. You start with barebones skills and tools, but as you reach the different tiers of the tower, your skills improve, allowing you to hoist yourself up even further. By moving aloft, the secrets of the tower will unlock for you, revealing how on earth the tower was built in the first place.
We’re betting on ants. The clue’s in the title.
Gangs of Sherwood
Picking up Robin Hood and placing him firmly in the future is Gangs of Sherwood.
It’s a hack-and-slasher for up to four-players at once, as you each take a different character from the Merry Men and then perform missions which have you stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
Aside from looking rather spiffing, we’re interested in Gangs of Sherwood for the sheer carnage of the four-player cooperative option, as well as the floating castles and sky-cannons of its premise.
We can’t recall a Robin Hood property being so loose with its source material, which is something the over-used property desperately needed.
Shotgun Little John when we play it in October.
Assassin’s Creed: Mirage
Whisper it, but Assassin’s Creed is back. We know that it’s never really gone away – Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has been pumping out DLC for the past couple of years – but Assassin’s Creed: Mirage is a return of a different kind. It’s back to basics, as we ditch vikings for stealth, quiet kills and clambering over rooftops.
Mirage takes us to 9th Century Baghdad, where things are very different from the past decade of Creeds. Gone are the sprawling maps, and we’re instead returning to the confined spaces of Unity and Syndicate. That’s because Mirage is more of a black-box stealther: you know what you have to do, but the puzzle is finding the best (or only) way of doing it. You can’t just charge through the gates and thunk an axe into a mark’s head; you have to plan it out.
Even the runtime is down. It’s been confirmed that Mirage is a more compact, focused fifteen hours long.
But there’s more
The Holiday Season wouldn’t be the Holiday Season without a truckload of games that is impossible for any working individual to play. And so it goes with November, which is looking to be every bit as good as October.
Start a spreadsheet and see if you can fit Football Manager 2024, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III and Persona 5 Tactica into your life.
Until then, all the best, and look out for never-ending articles on Forza Motorsport. Blame Paul Renshaw – we can’t stop the mad lad. We think he might be a tad obsessed.