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Free Xbox games: the best downloadables you can play for nothing

Published on June 30, 2013 in Xbox 360

Free Xbox games for all time

Feel free to drop us a comment about a freebie we’ve missed, or a suggestion as to what Microsoft should give away next.

Spartacus Legends

A free-to-play fighting game from Ubisoft, modelled on the Spartacus TV series, which proffers “multiple fighting styles and thousands of different weapon combinations”. It’s supported by micro-transactions, which mostly apply to new gear and weapons, though you can also unlock many of the latter by winning matches and earning in-game currency. There’s online and local multiplayer, and Ubisoft plans to hold weekly tournaments.

Harm’s Way

A startlingly high-polish, pleasantly aggressive kart racer from the Doritos brand (lately the cause of some upset of the woe-unto-games-journalism variety). There’s a twist, and it’s this: if you’d rather not race, you might take command of the turrets around each course and do your best to make life difficult for the drivers. Spawning track power-ups are available to both drivers and turret commanders, which makes for an engaging back-and-forth, and there’s lots of playful randomness to be had in the shape of destructible track furniture and dynamic weather conditions (e.g. sandstorms). A genuine surprise.

Happy Wars

The first true free-to-play title on Xbox Live Arcade, a moderately entertaining class-based MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) for up to 30 players a match. The basics are just that, swiftly degenerating into mashsville, but there’s a respectable amount to customise for both cosmetic and tactical advantage, and the maps are fat, gaudy platters of fortifications and siege weapons. Additional gear and the like can be bought at the in-game store and the developer will remind you of this relentlessly, but from what we’ve played/heard, Happy Wars steers clear of “pay to win” territory. The aesthetic is rather charming, almost as though somebody had weaponised the cast of Disney’s “It’s a small world” attraction.

Air Band

So devoid of imagination that you can’t actually picture the thing you’re pretending to play, for the amusement and instruction of loved ones? Get ahold of Air Band, a Kinect Fun Labs sim which recognises musical gestures and teleports in an appropriate instrument. Well, most of the time. Our efforts to conjure up a harpsichord haven’t met with great success.

TotemBall

“The Ptolmec tribe needs your help”, lazy good-for-nothings that they are. In particular, they need you to “guide Pterry the Pturtle through his jungle home”, using your Xbox Live Vision camera to “navigate across islands, over bridges, and through ancient ruins”. Don’t have an Xbox Live Vision camera? Guess you won’t be helping no caricatured aborigines, then. There’s a fun collection element which layers up the soundtrack as you add tribesmen to your rolling stack – the soundtrack itself isn’t particularly listenable, however. In short: it’s a cheap, cheerful, peripheral-exclusive and motion-guided platformer that probably won’t make your arms fall off immediately, like certain Kinect games, but probably isn’t worth even the incredibly low price of an obsolete gaming peripheral. TotemBall doesn’t work with Kinect, bizarrely.

Doritos Crash Course

For a game that owes its existence to somebody’s burning desire to sell crisps, this is rather a hoot – 15 levels of platformer “mayhem” starring your very own Xbox Live Avatar, who must contend with both a selection of gladiatorial hazards and the leaderboards. There’s splitscreen support, the controls are sharp and the branding is thankfully low-key.

Doritos Crash Course 2

The illustrious sequel, proffering four new worlds and the opportunity to race against ghosts. You’ll have to be connected to Live to play it, however, and there’s now a micro-transaction system which is thankfully limited to cosmetic options. The basic controls and play objectives are more or less the same.

Aegis Wing (US only)

A side-scrolling space blaster for up to four players, offering ugly but diverting 3D backdrops and an actual orchestral score. Triple-A confirmed? It’s not a patch on the likes of Sine Mora, but if you arethinking of buying Sine Mora in light of Log’s ravings, but you’re not sure the prospect of weaving through bullet patterns really appeals, consider this a useful reintroduction to the schmup in general. Shame the weapon effects aren’t a bit sparkier.

Mars Rover Landing

A celebratory Kinect effort in which you use gestures to steer a probe through the Red Planet’s atmosphere – the more precise the gestures, the better condition your rover will be in when it lands, though you’ll get a “well done” either way. This one’s definitely more of a novelty than a game, but perhaps there’s a kid in your household who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Incidentally, Kinect latency makes a lot more sense when there’s a million, million miles of interplanetary void to account for, doesn’t it? Look, here’s somebody who’s related to somebody who was in space to demonstrate the thing.

Kinect Party

A wonderful mini-game compilation from Double Fine, which shows how much Kinect has to offer given considerate design (pro tip: just say “hey television” to bring up the menu), an emphasis on having fun rather than winning, and a reluctance to just transplant ideas from genres that grew up on controllers. The free base download comes with five “channels” – you’ll need to pay for the rest, but what’s here is worth the non-price of admission alone.

Battle Stuff

Step 1: hold nearby household object in front of Kinect. Step 2: force virtual representation of household object to smash one of its brethren around using Kinect commands, while a crowd of domestic paraphernalia bays for blood. Step 3: realise inner comic potential, swap household object for your own, engorged genitalia. Step 4: invite friends to see the results. Step 5: look for new friends.

Hexic HD

This comes pre-installed on most Xbox 360s, but perhaps you’ve deleted your copy. It’s an easy to pick up, hard to master match-3 puzzler – group hexagons into clusters of three or more to clear them away. Arrange tiles to form a flower shape, and you’ll reap additional bonuses when they evaporate. Good, clean fun.

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