All the Video Games We’ve Been Playing for the Last Month – Super Mario Odyssey and the Xbox One X

The fall video game release season just ended, and that means we’ve got yet another humongous backlog to get through — oh who are we kidding, we’ve never gotten through any backlog. I’ll decline to list the games I’ve bought on Steam and haven’t played, because we have a lot more awesome stuff to talk about that we actually have been playing!

A brand new (and expensive!) console hit the market, and our favorite red-hatted man (I think Nintendo said we’re not supposed to call him a plumber anymore?) has made his Nintendo Switch debut! We’ll give you the quick version — our reaction to what we’ve been playing, and whether or not you should be playing right alongside us!

Next page: Xbox One X

Xbox One X

But, before we get to the games, let’s get to that new console! The Xbox One X isn’t exactly a new console — we’re still in the Xbox One generation, so if you’ve got a bunch of Xbox One games, those are all compatible with the Xbox One X. Same goes for any of your accessories or Xbox subscriptions, like Game Pass or Xbox Live.

Games certainly won’t look the same on the Xbox One X, though. The Xbox team gave this console a major hardware boost, making it the first home console ever to be capable of playing games in true 4K resolution at 60 frames per second with HDR on. That’s the hot trifecta in gaming right now, and it used to be something reserved for the PC gaming crowd.

Many games now and in the future will be developed to take advantage of all that new power, which means much sharper, more detailed graphics. That doesn’t mean those games won’t work with older versions of the console, though — Microsoft has stated pretty firmly so far that there will not be any games that are only made for the Xbox One X.

Microsoft has also been busy rolling out updates to older games. We revisited Gears of War 4 and noticed more detail in character faces and backgrounds than before — we were able to compare gameplay on the Xbox One X to a PC running on an older GPU, so we didn’t have to go from memory!

So, should this be on your wish list? Kinda depends! While the Xbox One X will even give a graphics boost to people without 4K TVs, we wouldn’t recommend buying the console unless you can take full advantage of it — it is $500, after all. If you don’t have a 4K HDR TV, the slimmer Xbox One S should do just fine.

Thanks to Microsoft for providing us with the console!

Next page: Star Wars: Battlefront II

Star Wars: Battlefront II (Xbox One, PS4, Windows)

Well, if you’ve got a new console, you’re going to need something to play! Star Wars: Battlefront II brings back the same online multiplayer of the first reboot. It’s a third- or first-person multiplayer shooter, but with tons of Star Wars characters and locations. Battles with up to 40 people can take place online, and you can upgrade to playing as heroes and villains from all three trilogies.

The main multiplayer modes are large-scale team battles staged on the ground and dogfights with some of the most iconic ships from the Star Wars series. Those are objective-based, so you’ll be trying to defend areas on the map or take out a superweapon of the other team’s. But, if you want something more traditional, there are smaller-scale team battles using regular soldiers or heroes and villains, which have more of a frenetic deathmatch feel.

Unlike the first rebooted BattlefrontBattlefront II does have a single-player campaign, featuring an all-new story that is canon. The story starts with a new character named Iden Versio, a high-ranking commander of an Imperial special forces squad. We won’t talk much about the story, but suffice it to say it’s a very short campaign (we’ll touch on this later) and it does have some clear connections to both Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It’s OK, but there’s not much to it.

The meat of the game is the multiplayer, which, while fun, is sort of bothersome from a design standpoint. Battlefront II made headlines at launch because of characters like Luke and Darth Vader being locked from use in multiplayer. You’d need to buy crates with in-game credits to get them, and it originally would have taken tens of hours of gameplay to get just one. Of course, it was possible to spend real money to get those credits, so EA was slated for a gambling-like approach of trying to get people to spend more money for the chance (not guaranteed) to get the character they wanted.

EA got immense blowback from this, and the blowback worked — it now takes far less game time to unlock those characters, and microtransactions have, at least for now, been removed from the game. That’s great, but we’d still love to see the loot box era of multiplayer gaming come to an end. It’s annoying to play any game with other players who have clearly either played the game more than you or paid the game more than you. It’s not possible to only play the game every once in a while and expect to be on a level playing field from the beginning of a match — other players will have more powerful characters or items acquired in the form of in-game cards. It’s another game that you’ll have to commit to playing regularly to enjoy fully. EA makes a lot of games like this, and for the record, we’re super not into it!

Before their plans changed, it seems clear to us that EA steered this game towards microtransactions from the start. The multiplayer is the most fleshed out part of the game — the single-player campaign clearly didn’t get much of the budget. It’s too short, and while the main characters are well-animated and voiced, you can tell there was a little skimping around the edges. I couldn’t help but feel like the single-player campaign was an extended tutorial mode for the multiplayer, which isn’t exactly what I’d call inspiring!

The game isn’t bad, but it is one that requires commitment. If you’re someone who only plays games when they get the chance, it’s really hard to recommend — multiplayer will be frustrating more often than not. But, if you love all things Star Wars and are OK with not playing any other games for a while, the multiplayer is pretty enjoyable — with so many ships, characters, power-ups, and items to choose from (y’know, once you unlock them all), the different play styles you can experiment with is just about unlimited.

Thanks to Microsoft for providing us with this game!

Next page: Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)

Sometimes, you just know a game is going to be good from the first minute. You’re not sure why, but you get that smile, and you just know you’re going to be in for a good time. Super Mario Odyssey is one of those games.

It’s a real testament to Nintendo’s complete lack of fear to try new things with their most beloved franchises. We’ve seen so many video game franchises basically stay the same from game to game with just the story changing, and Nintendo is never content to do that. Right from the start of Odyssey, you can tell that the game is going to be familiar and totally fresh all at once. That’s mostly thanks to Mario’s new friend, Cappy, who can help Mario take over objects or enemies. That game mechanic is deeply infused into the game itself — instead of giving you a new toy and then directing you to the exact places where you should use it (like so, so many other games), Odyssey encourages you to go explore. You’ll find yourself able to do something totally unexpected in just about every world.

So far (we’re far from finishing it), the game isn’t too tough, and it’s not punishing even if mishaps befall Mario — dying means you lose a few golden coins, and believe me, there is no shortage of those in this game. The controls, no matter what control scheme you use (Nintendo recommends using the two Joy-Con controllers separated from the console, one in each hand) are precise and let you move Mario around quickly — the game flows really well.

Another thing we appreciate about Nintendo — they never have the most powerful console, but they always make the most of what they have. The animation and art in Odyssey is fantastic, and Mario has never looked more emotive or endearingly goofy. His hilarious facial expressions set a light-hearted tone that makes it almost impossible to not enjoy the game.

We’ll make this one simple — if you’ve got a Nintendo Switch, you need to get Super Mario Odyssey. You won’t regret it.

Bought Super Mario Odyssey with my own cash! It’s been worth it.