December is a big month for games. Most of the big releases came out in October and November but many a gamer won’t get their hands on these titles until Christmas. The holidays also bring in a slew of new players on both consoles and this means a lot more Xbox Live and PlayStation Network subscribers, too. Both companies have rounded up an all-star lineup of titles to give older players something new to try out and new adopters a couple of free games to try their hand at on Christmas day. But which service offers a better bang for your buck? Come with us as we crunch the numbers and see what is on offer for the month of December.
INSTANT GAMES COLLECTION
Here is the lineup and usual prices for PlayStation Plus’ batch of games:
- Stories: Path of Destinies – $15
- Invisible, Inc. – $20
Vita/ PS4/ PS3
- Hyper Void – $10
- Tiny Troopers Joint Ops – $8
- Color Guardians (also on PS4 with cross-buy) – $15
- VVVVVV – $8
The PlayStation slate of games for December is full of indie darlings, each with their own unique play style and graphics. There is something for everyone here, from whimsical action games to mind-bending platformers. If you own a PS4, there are actually five games you can get your hands on thanks to cross-buy. The cream of the crop are definitely the PS4 exclusive offerings, though.
Stories: The Path of Destinies is a beautiful isometric action RPG starring a hardened fox warrior. He slices and dices through his enemies, working his way through the gorgeous fields and fantastical locations. The action is fast and deliberate, requiring you to time your parries and choose the right moment to counter attack.
Also on offer is Invisible, Inc. This stylized strategy game has a lot of heart and incredibly well-balanced, thoughtful gameplay. You play as a group of agents and hackers, infiltrating a mysterious corporation and slowly working your way through rooms of deadly enemies and menacing traps. The gameplay is similar to that of the new XCOM games, giving players a chance to plot their routes and make the perfect move.
If you own a PS4, Vita, or a PS3 you can grab Hyper Void and Tiny Troopers Joint Ops. Both are quirky indie offerings. The former is a fast-paced shoot ‘em up where the camera is positioned just behind the ship, letting you bring down enemy ships as they barrel towards the screen. There are a ton f levels to work through and patterns to memorize, offering plenty of challenge. Tiny Troopers offers isometric shooter gameplay with a much slower pace. You control a team of adorable soldiers as they waddle across the battlefield and slowly fire off shots at distant enemies. It’s a nice change of pace for those who want something a little lighter and more deliberately paced.
The last two offerings are mainly for Vita owners, though Color Guardians is also available for PS4 via cross-buy. But the title to snag is VVVVVV. This gravity-flipping platformer tests a player’s reactionary skills and puzzle solving ability, featuring some incredibly difficult gauntlets that you will not beat on your first try.
For those who just have a PS4, you are still getting $68 worth of games. This alone covers the $60 price tag of a year of PS Plus. The majority of the titles on offer are small indie experiences, but it’s always nice to have a smaller game to distract you from all the AAA titles releasing this time of year.
GAMES WITH GOLD
The titles from Games with Gold also offer up some pretty great savings:
- Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition – $30 (December 1-31)
- Outlast – $20 (December 16-Janurary 15)
- Outland – $10 (December 1-15)
- Burnout Paradise – $15 (December 16-31)
Xbox owners don’t get as many games as their PlayStation counterparts, but December’s titles are top notch. It’s also worth noting that every Xbox 360 game featured in Games with Gold is backwards compatible, meaning that Xbox One players actually get four titles instead of two.
The highlight of the Xbox One side of things is undoubtedly Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition. Wei Shen is an undercover cop working to ingratiate himself with the gangs of Hong Kong. Gameplay is similar to that of a Grand Theft Auto game, featuring a sprawling cityscape, and an abundance of crime. But what really sets it apart is the hand-to-hand combat, which plays very similarly to that of the Arkham series. You can take on a crowd of gangsters, throwing them into fans and even impaling them with a swordfish. The world is dark and whacky, making every moment a joy to play through.
Outlast is also a fantastic game to get your hands on. Set in an abandoned insane asylum, players take control of a journalist as he explores the broken ruins with nothing but a video camera. But it turns out that many of the inhabitants are still there, and their treatment hasn’t been going too well. All you can do is run and hide as you try to figure out what is really going on.
Xbox One players definitely get a better deal, but that isn’t to say that this month’s Xbox 360 games are anything but fantastic. Outland is a gorgeous action platformer, set in a minimalistic world where colors shine through the pitch-black backgrounds. The player can switch their color to safely interact with certain obstacles and work their way through the seemingly endless rooms. Traversing the world is a joy, especially given how nimble the protagonist is. It is incredibly different from anything else on offer this month and certainly earns its place on this list.
But despite how fantastic Outland is, Burnout Paradise may just one-up it. The world is entirely open, letting you drive wherever you please, but driving isn’t all there is to this title. Wrecking the lovingly crafted cars that populate the game’s world is just as fun as driving them. And this destruction translates to races and other events as well. Causing your opponents to veer off the road and explode in a spray of metal and rubber is immensely satisfying, adding an interesting wrinkle to simply driving around a world inhabited solely by cars.
Xbox One owners get all four titles that would usually cost them $75, while those still on the Xbox 360 will save $25. The lineup of games is great, just in time for all the people planning on picking up an Xbox One for Christmas. The only negative is that you need to check when each title is available because they aren’t all going to be up for grabs all month long.
Not only is Xbox’s lineup of games better, but Xbox One owners save $75 compared to PlayStation Plus’ $68. Both programs give players a slew of quality titles to enjoy over the Christmas break, making the $60 membership price for both services seem a little more manageable. Both publishers are likely expecting to sell a lot of new units and memberships during the holidays, and Microsoft clearly went above and beyond, offering up the best games and the best bang for your buck.