The next generation of consoles is currently sparking debate and news headlines as Sony and Microsoft prepare for all-out platform warfare at the end of 2013. While the Xbox One is certainly dividing opinion, Microsoft’s last console is still not quite done, with the company having announced one last Xbox 360 refresh to match the styling of their next-gen machine.
There’s a surprising amount of free Xbox 360 content for Xbox Live Gold subscribers to download. In addition to avatar items, themes and the odd bonus item Microsoft has been known to release whole free Xbox 360 games and DLC, particularly for Kinect and Xbox Live Arcade users.
Whichever console you buy at the end of the year, be sure to see the 360 off in style with as much free content as you can fit on your hard drive.
I mentioned Doritos Crash Course in my last round-up of free content, and since then Doritos have released another game with their name on it, though not an awful lot has changed this time round. Doritos Crash Course 2 is more of the same 2.5D endless running, platforming and wiping out. This time round you must use stars you find to unlock new content, but there’s also a new premium currency called coins, which can be purchased with Microsoft points.
There’s both asynchronous multiplayer that lets you compete with your friends even when they’re offline, and a real-time split screen multiplayer mode. It’s not great, I’ll be the first to admit it, but it is free, so that’s something!
Happy Wars was one of the first free-to-play game for Xbox Live Arcade, released in October 2012. The game takes the form of an online multiplayer “role-playing strategy” game. There is a small single player mode too, but this is rather short and the multiplayer mode offers more rewards.
There are three classes to choose from: the warrior, the mage and the cleric; each with their own unique abilities. Two squads of 15 players must go head to head and battle with the aim of destroying the opposition’s castle to win the match. Free to play, but spending some real currency in the form of Microsoft Points will give you the edge.
A bonafide classic, Hexic HD was the first Xbox Live Arcade game I played on Microsoft’s console, way back at the beginning of the generation. It’s an addictive single player gem-swapper in which you must create clusters of colours and clear them from the board.
It’s a simple concept – swapping gems to earn special clusters and bonuses will win you the game – but it’s incredibly addictive especially if you find yourself gravitating towards Bejewelled and other similar Xbox 360 games.
Discovered (Kinect Required)
Ever dreamt of being a big shot action movie star? Or maybe a “more money than sense” rockstar? Featuring some people who are meant to be famous, it is Intel’s Discovered game that puts you in the action thanks to Kinect.
The game uses Kinect and live video play to put you in a range of situations, from punching and kicking to posing for photographs. The download is 1.8GB, so there’s a lot of video in use here and you’ll need a Kinect to play but at least it’s free.
Kinect Fun Labs
My initial experiences with Kinect Fun Labs were not great. In case you missed it, Fun Labs is Microsoft’s free and rather flawed app suite for getting “more” out of the Kinect. It’s a bunch of free applications you can download that let you create bobble heads, scan objects and so on.
Well since my initial article there have been a lot of Kinect Fun Labs releases, not least starting with Avatar Kinect.
So it’s not really a game, per se, but more of a chat room app. Avatar Kinect lets you sit in your living room, and talk to your Kinect while the representation of you on screen mimics your actions. It’s like talking to someone with the gimmick of a 3D model in front of you!
This is really just an example of how much Microsoft has improved the Kinect’s technology since the initial release – you can make facial expressions which the Kinect can supposedly recognise (and mimic), for instance. Still, it’s worth a download if you want to chat via Kinect.
You read that correctly – Battle Stuff is the name of the game, and battling… “stuff” is what you’re expected to do. Finally, Microsoft made some use for the Kinect’s ability to “scan” and model items by allowing you to fight them!
It’s probably not the Kinect game you’ve been waiting for to justify your sensor purchase, but it’s free (and at 200MB won’t waste too much space).
Did you know people once used to buy karaoke machines? Well no more, thanks to Microsoft’s free Karaoke app for Kinect which promises “over 8,000 songs from the latest hits to the oldies but goodies”. Eight. Thousand.
According to Microsoft songs don’t need to be downloaded first and can play immediately, which surely means terrible MIDI-esque backing tracks abound. Still, this is probably one of the coolest freebies Microsoft has ever released.
How would you like to play and be fit? I think that’s what Microsoft were going for when they came up with Kinect PlayFit, an avatar dashboard app complete with achievements. Hold your horses though, PlayFit isn’t a standalone “game” as such but a tracking app.
The app plugs into your already compatible games (such as Dance Central, Just Dance, Happy Action Theatre and so on) and tracks the calories you burn and the progress you make before rewarding you with gamerpoints and statistics.
Ever wanted to pretend you are a super hero and blast objects? Well now thanks to the power of Kinect you can… pretend some more. Really, that’s all there is to see here – some pretty effects that eminate from your fingers. It’s pretty cool for 30 seconds, but it won’t change the world.
Recreate the iconic Mars Rover landing in this Kinect game. Your body controls the craft direction and thrusters, adding a predictable twist to the game (it is Kinect, after all).
There are achievements to be earned here too, as well as some NASA themed avatar items to unlock.
There are a handful of other Kinect Fun Labs apps, but on the whole quality is fairly low. They may keep your children entertained for a short while, but eventually you’ll probably prefer the hard drive space. The few I didn’t feature include Musical Feet and Air Band, two rather self-explanatory concepts and Mutation Station.
Don’t forget: You can login on Xbox.com using your Live credentials and “purchase” these items, then when you turn your Xbox 360 in and login your downloads will auto-complete (this works for all the things listed here).
Do you have any favourite free Xbox 360 game downloads I’ve not featured? I’d be shocked to find out I’ve left out something good, but I do love being corrected in the comments!
Explore more about: Xbox 360.