Put your wal­lets away, read­ers, this round is on us

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - DAVE MEIK­LE­HAM

When it comes to games, the best things in life are rarely gratis. Keep­ing up with this fine hobby can be cruel to your wal­let/purse/fanny pack, with most big-bud­get, triple-A ti­tles re­tail­ing for £50 or more. But not ev­ery Xbox One game worth your time de­mands hard­earned cash. A lit­tle dig­ging around the Xbox Store re­veals a clutch of ab­sorb­ing free-to-play ti­tles that all dodge that dreaded pay-to-win tag through their depth, pro­duc­tion val­ues and sheer amount of con­tent on of­fer. Over the next few pages, we’ve ranked the best free games you can play on Xbox One right now, and while all have vary­ing de­grees of mi­cro­trans­ac­tions (which we’ve hand­ily sum­marised for you, too) each one can still be en­joyed with­out spend­ing any money what­so­ever.


We’ve not been this im­pressed watch­ing teeny balls trick­ling into equally teeny holes since Martin Kaymer sunk that five-foot putt on the 18th dur­ing 2012’s Ry­der Cup. Man, that mir­a­cle in Me­d­i­nah was some­thing else. As for this gen­er­ous, sparky golf sim, de­vel­oper Zoë Mode has done a lovely job im­bu­ing the ac­tion with dis­arm­ing warmth. Whether you’re try­ing to make the fair­way as a vol­cano spews lava all around you on Coy­ote Canyon or us­ing a power-up that cre­ates four du­pli­cates of your ball, Powerstar Golf con­stantly revels in a silly sense of fun. Un­like most free-to-play ti­tles, it’s not overly money-grab­bing, ei­ther. It’s ac­tu­ally more re­ward­ing to grad­u­ally un­lock new golfers and cour­ses through pro­longed nat­u­ral play, rather than splurge on the time-sav­ing game un­lock that costs £15.99. Gen­er­ously, al­most ev­ery piece of con­tent in Powerstar can be earned with­out spend­ing a sin­gle penny. Par ex­cel­lence, in­deed.


With a lit­tle pa­tience, ev­ery­thing in-game can pretty much be un­locked for free. It’s more fun this way, too.


Talk about the Babe Ruth of vir­tual pinball games. This free-to-play sleeper hit isn’t just heftily pro­por­tioned – there are a frankly ridicu­lous num­ber of ta­bles to play on – it’s also a true great when it comes to smash­ing tiny balls about. While the core game won’t cost you any­thing, your wal­let will get lighter if you de­cide to buy the va­ri­ety of pre­mium ta­bles Zen Stu­dios has cooked up. Which one’s the most de­sir­able, you ask? It has to be the pack that’s fo­cused on a cer­tain Far, Far Away gal­axy. The Star Wars Pinball Sea­son One pack may cost £23.99, but with ta­bles that of­fer ev­ery­thing from Ewok-slaugh­ter­ing ac­tion on En­dor to frosty fun on Hoth, there’s some se­ri­ously ap­peal­ing Force-tinged fan ser­vice go­ing on here. But if you’d rather play on ta­bles fo­cused on Nikola Tesla than lov­able rogue Han Solo, Zen’s more vanilla packs are priced at a more rea­son­able £7.99 and £11.99… you big Star Wars-hat­ing mu­tant, you.


The game’s free ta­bles won’t tide you over for long. When you feel the Force call­ing, your cash may em­brace it.

08 hawkenPub 505 Games / Dev Ad­he­sive games, K2 Net­work

There’s noth­ing quite like a lit­tle mech-on-mech mur­der to brighten one’s day, wouldn’t you agree? There’s a tonne of free ro­bot slaugh­ter on dis­play here, with six modes and three very dis­tinct types of mech on of­fer. Hawken has enough va­ri­ety to keep its on­line scuf­fles fresh, but is it Ti­tan­fall good? Not quite, though there’s some­thing to be said for the clunkier, more meaty feel of its mechs over Respawn’s free-flow­ing fights. Re­gard­less, fir­ing hails of rock­ets with reck­less aban­don is al­ways good for a hoot. Pro­vided you’re ded­i­cated (and have a whole lot of spare time) you can earn most of the game’s worth­while un­lock­ables with­out spend­ing any ac­tual hu­man cur­rency. Of course, if you’re time-poor you may want to stump up for Me­teor Coins – 1,870 cost £15.99 – to quickly un­lock the su­pe­rior Brawler and Bruiser mechs, or to buy fancy new skins. Whether you part with cash or not, Hawken’s ro­botic ac­tion sat­is­fies.


The start­ing free As­sault class will leave you at a dis­ad­van­tage against the pre­mium Brawler and Bruiser units.


Port­ing a PC MOBA suc­cess­fully over to con­sole is roughly as sim­ple as recit­ing the Saint Crispin’s Day speech… back­wards… while jug­gling acid-filled sy­ringes. That’s part of the rea­son Smite is so lik­able: it not only serves up in­ter­est­ing slices of strat­egy-laced com­bat be­tween mytho­log­i­cal gods, it ac­tu­ally works well on a con­troller. Thanks should go to the game’s largely cus­tomis­able con­trols, which help Smite play far bet­ter on an Xbox One pad than many other PC strat­egy ports. This is also a free-to-play ti­tle that, re­fresh­ingly, doesn’t try to fleece you at ev­ery turn. The vast ma­jor­ity of the game is com­pletely open from the off, and if you really want to own ev­ery one of its Greek and Ro­man deities, you can buy all 80 char­ac­ters for a pretty rea­son­able £23.99. See­ing Her­cules whale on Cupid, or Zeus and Me­dusa bat­ter each other, really is a campy de­light.


Mi­cro­trans­ac­tions mainly fo­cus on char­ac­ters and cos­metic items. Keep those purse strings drawn.


Team OXM may be rather heroic when it comes to fix­ing ty­pos, but we doubt that’ll get the Jus­tice League re­cruiters on the phone. At least we have DC Uni­verse On­line to act out our cape-don­ning fan­tasies. Day­break’s more-than-ser­vice­able MMO has been around for years, but it still of­fers plenty of snappy (al­beit grindy) su­per­hero ac­tion, even if its span­dex is a lit­tle out of date. Its real-time com­bat of­fers punchy, throw­away fun, while tak­ing on mis­sions for the sadis­tic Joker, or go­ing out on dun­geon crawls where you prune Poi­son Ivy for goods, of­fer spinet­in­gling thrills for comic-book fans. Sure, buy­ing Mar­ket­place Cash for real money can be costly. But pro­vided you’re not des­per­ate to buy loads of kit for your cus­tom hero or vil­lain (the char­ac­ter creator here is se­ri­ously good), there’s plenty of free fun to be had in DC’s in­vig­o­rat­ing on­line play­ground.


The vast ma­jor­ity of DCUO can be en­joyed for free, but iconic cos­tume good­ies may en­tice your wal­let so be­ware.


It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No wait… it’s ac­tu­ally a mas­sive ro­bot that can seam­lessly con­tort it­self into a tank, Trans­form­ers- style. Hey, we won’t com­plain. This weird lit­tle MOBA/ tower de­fence ti­tle boasts not only ad­mirably flex­i­ble ro­bot war­riors, but also some of the most dar­ling sup­port units you’ll find on Xbox – even the T45 tur­rets are cute. With a rea­son­ably beefy 15-level sin­gle-player of­fer­ing, and tac­ti­cally sharp 3v3 on­line en­coun­ters, there’s a lot of free meat on AirMech’s bones. Any mech or unit that can af­fect game­play can be un­locked through grind­ing for in-game Ku­dos, with de­vel­oper Car­bon Games sen­si­bly de­cid­ing cos­metic up­grades should be the only items that must be bought with the pre­mium Diamonds cur­rency – a stan­dard bun­dle costs £15.99. It’s a de­ci­sion that means this lik­able MOBA never crosses that seedy ‘pay-to-win’ line, en­sur­ing all play­ers have a chance on these car­toon bat­tle­grounds, re­gard­less of how much they spend through­out the game.


All mis­sion-crit­i­cal items here are free, and you can eas­ily stay com­pet­i­tive with­out stump­ing up your dough.


Some­times, sub­tlety is so over­rated. Who needs strate­gic on­line scuf­fles when you could be tak­ing part in 15v15 Panzer bat­tles? WorldOfTanks is an un­com­pli­cated, de­light­fully fu­ri­ous mul­ti­player con­coc­tion. With more than 400 ar­moured ve­hi­cles and six game types, there’s an out­ra­geous amount of con­tent here for the princely sum of noth­ing. Is Wargaming’s on­line blast-‘emup in­tim­i­dat­ing at first? A lit­tle, we’ll read­ily ad­mit. Per­sist though, and you’ll be re­warded with fre­netic ve­hic­u­lar slaugh­ter that’s rarely short on spec­ta­cle. You can stump up £15.99 for the Pre­mium Starter Pack, giv­ing you a mil­lion in Silver to splurge on new tanks, but really, you can en­joy WorldOfTanks with­out spend­ing a sin­gle red cent. So if you’re short on funds and want to know what would pre­vail in a bat­tle be­tween Poland’s proud T-34-85 and the Hun­gar­ian might of the Turán III pro­totí­pus, this is your game.


Pretty much ev­ery tank in the game can be snagged if you em­brace the grind. Put that money away!


This un­fussy MMO/RPG hy­brid ticks a good few boxes. First, it’s free. Sec­ond, it lets you ride a gi­gan­tic bee­tle as a mount… though ad­mit­tedly, you have to pay for that priv­i­lege with Zen ( Nev­er­win­ter’s in-game cur­rency that costs real money). Still, if you’re not overly pre­cious about buy­ing cos­metic up­grades or sit­ting re­splen­dent on the back of an over­sized crab, this on­line fan­tasy proves charm­ing. Con­trols work bet­ter on a pad than you might ex­pect, while com­bat wisely fo­cuses on ar­cadey slash­ing over re­strained turn-based bat­tles. Cryptic Stu­dios hasn’t crafted a world that will floor you with its sprawl – Nev­er­win­ter feels a lit­tle boxy and lin­ear – and the com­mu­nity isn’t ex­actly that lively, but its fan­tasy fisticuffs re­main en­dear­ing. Get­ting to the level-60 cap will also take ages, mean­ing you’re get­ting a whole lot of bang for pre­cisely no bucks.


Grind­ing to level 60 takes an age, and you could well be tempted to pay for those oh-so-fancy mounts along the way.


On the sur­face, this has ab­so­lutely no busi­ness be­ing good. A res­ur­rected Rare IP no one had seen in two gen­er­a­tions, de­vel­oped pri­mar­ily by a stu­dio with such ‘hits’ as G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Co­bra and the not ex­actly beloved Silent Hill: Home com­ing to its name. And yet, against all odds, Double Helix’s launch hit re­mains one of Xbox One’s most beloved beat-‘em-ups. Yes you have to buy fighters, but the game’s ever-ex­pand­ing ros­ter has been gen­er­ously padded over the course of three sea­sons, so it’s hard to grum­ble. Killer In­stinct also ben­e­fits from be­ing tremen­dously ac­ces­si­ble, and its un­pre­ten­tious movesets and flashy C-CC-Combo Break­ers have helped it fos­ter a ded­i­cated (and uni­fied) cross-plat­form com­mu­nity on Xbox One and PC. Oh, and it lets you pit Gears Of War’s Gen­eral RAAM against a Bat­tle toad. We ap­prove.


You’ll want to pay for the game’s coolest com­bat­ants. Sea­son Two char­ac­ters are free if you have Xbox Live Gold, though.

01 war­frame Pub dIGI TAL eX­TREMES / Dev dIGI TAL eX­TREMES

Dig­i­tal Ex­tremes’ ath­letic, supremely stabby on­line ac­tion ti­tle has been in pretty rude health these past cou­ple of years since launch­ing on Xbox One. Thanks to reg­u­lar up­dates, War­frame has at­tracted a ded­i­cated com­mu­nity, and the game’s blend of grav­i­ty­de­fy­ing melee ma­noeu­vres and crunchy sci-fi blast­ing are un­like any­thing else out there. Cru­cially, de­spite be­ing free-to-play, even the stingi­est shooter fans can en­joy its fran­tic mul­ti­player en­coun­ters with­out ever pry­ing open their dusty change purses.

Feel­ing flush? Then by all means buy some Plat­inum on the Xbox Store. 170 coins of this in-game cur­rency will set you back £7.99, and can sub­se­quently be spent on all man­ner of cos­metic up­grades, such as sig­ils, cus­tom an­i­ma­tions and Syan­dana scarves for the tit­u­lar ex­oskele­tons – and yes, do they flut­ter in ul­tra­al­lur­ing style. You really don’t have to pimp out your Tenno with sci-fi bling to en­joy War­frame, though. The al­to­gether free plea­sures of zip­ping about with its som­er­sault­ing stars is grat­i­fy­ing enough. In it best bul­let-dodg­ing mo­ments it even re­calls a lit­tle of Sega’s sub­lime Van­quish.

Whether div­ing into quest-driven PVE ac­tion or dab­bling in com­pet­i­tive death­matches, War­frame al­ways feels like its own unique en­tity. It helps that maps of­fer such var­ied in­ter­ga­lac­tic sights to savour. Pluto, the Moon, the dwarf plan­ets of Ceres and Sedna; it’s enough to make even Ge­orge Jet­son’s planet-hop­ping head spin. With so many dif­fer­ent types of War­frame ar­mour and weapons to pick from, and nu­mer­ous ways to slice and dice foes – do you go for close-range katana kills or the snip­ing sub­tlety of plung­ing ar­rows into en­e­mies from half a map away? – there are hun­dreds of hours of en­ter­tain­ment here for the grand price of ab­so­lutely noth­ing. Well, if you can re­sist the urge to splurge on mi­cro­trans­ac­tions, that is. Clearly, war really isn’t hell after all.


Core killing is strong enough you really don’t have to of­fer your hard-earned un­less you really want kit your Tenno out.











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