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Our monthly update on new games being added to PlayStation Plus, Xbox Game Pass and other subscription services.
The following hand-picked games are either part of a subscription services at the time this articles gets published or were made available recently.
Forza Motorsport (2023)
(Included in Xbox and PC Game Pass since 10.10.2023, Author: Patrick)
Forza Motorsport was released about a week ago and as a first-party game from Microsoft the racing simulation’s Standard Edition was included on day 1 in Xbox Game Pass and PC Game Pass. We played the new racing simulation from Turn 10 extensively on both the Xbox Series X and the PC.
The game offers a career, a free mode (individual race with any conditions) and a rival mode (time trial against ghosts) in singleplayer, as well as public and private modes for multiplayer racers, exclusively online – the developers opted not to include a local split-screen mode for performance reasons. After an extensive intro series we compete in five different series in the game’s Builders Cup – Modern Tour, Enthusiast Tour, Power Tour, Legacy Tour and Open Class Tour – with each consisting of four cups with five to six races each and a showcase event. In addition, new Featured Tours are unlocked weekly. A total of four cups and a showcase event with a weekly changing spotlight car are planned for October. More tournaments will be added in the next few months.
The heart of Forza Motorsport is its career mode, which is characterized by pure gameplay without any kind of storyline. Before each racing series, we buy a car from a small selection for money (credits). The game offers over 500 cars right from the start: from sports coupes like the BMW M4 to sedans/limousines and muscle cars like the 1970 Buick GSX to old Formula 1 cars like the 1967 Brabham BT24, which are gradually unlocked. There are no microtransactions in the game. Some cars cannot be purchased because they are part of DLC packs and are partly included in the Deluxe and Premium Editions. Before every race the game wants us to do a training session with two to three laps to get used to the track and the car and we can optionally try to beat a target time. The training can be skipped in the menu, but then you will lose valuable auto experience points (AEP) and credits. Each track is divided into segments. If we drive these segments in a reasonable time or overtake rivals, we receive AEP. If we have collected enough AEP for our current car, its car level increases and we unlock new vehicle parts and collect car points. Every success in training and races also increases our driver level, which we use to unlock new cars.
In the Builders Cup we face 20 varied tracks from all over the world: from Le Mans to current F1 tracks like Silverstone, Spa and Suzuka to classics like the Nürburgring, Mugello Circuit and Laguna Seca, the track selection offers little to be desired. From next year on we will also be able to race through the Green Hell, the infamous Nordschleife at the Nürburgring. In the Builders Cup, the circuits are repeated quite often, but the races are different each time due to the varied vehicle classes and differences in weather/time of day conditions. Before each race we choose from eight different difficulty levels and three rule types (club, sport and expert). If we drive according to club rules, we only suffer cosmetic damage in an accident; according to expert rules, the damage is simulated in addition to fuel consumption and tire wear. Neat: We’re able to pick the difficulty levels and the rules for each race and based on our lap times in traning the game calculates our chances of winning the race depending on our starting position. The higher the level or rule and the lower the freely selectable starting position, the more credits we earn after the race.
After the start of the race, it quickly becomes clear that the handling of the cars is very different from that of the sports cars in the current arcade spin-off of the Forza series Forza Horizon 5. We have to be use gas and breakes with great care, turning too hard leads to squealing tires and you should avoid the curbs in the rain as much as possible. The artificial intelligence (AI) not only fights with you for positions, but also duels with each other and makes mistakes every now and then. Overall, the AI is significantly more dynamic than in other racing games, but, similarly to F1 23, it suffers from the fact that it often sticks too much to the racing line and takes everything in its path with it, come what may. In contrast to the Codemasters racer, the AI drivers in Forza Motorsport collect penalties significantly more often due to accidents or violations of track limits. The game checks every violation of the rules right away and judges accordingly. In the majority of cases, the violations are punished in a comprehensible manner or understandibly not at all. If we leave the race track without gaining an advantage, we will not be penalized for it. On the other hand, if we deliberately drive over the chicane at the Nürburgring without taking any losses into account, we will likely get a significant time penalty, which will be added on after the race.
A majority of the racing in the Builders Cup takes place either in the dark and/or in the wet. Turn 10 is seemingly particularly proud of the reflections and light/shadow effects, there is just no other way to explain this decision. The dynamic weather and the day/night cycle ensure a varied racing experience, because the spray during aquaplaning doesn’t only look impressive, you can also feel it trying to keep the car on the track and see it in your increased lap times.
Multiplayer racers can let off steam (but shouldn’t) in the featured (public) and private multiplayer modes. Again, we must first go through an introductory series in order for our skill and safety rank to be created. These ratings are supposed to be constantly updated and ensure balanced races, both in terms of driver skills and fairness. In specification events, time-limited racing series such as Formula Mazda, LMP or touring cars await you, and in special events and open events we either use pre-tuned cars or self-optimized cars. While Forza Motorsport struggled with stability issues in the first few days after release, these seem to be slowly disappearing. Newcomers have to get used to the unusual scoring system: If you go off the track during qualification, your fastest time will be counted, but you will be given an exclamation mark and moved to the end of the field. Only if you beat this time with a faster clean time, you’ll be in contention for the top places – unless everyone cuts the corners as much as you did. In addition in team mode the race times of both drivers are added together, an unusual decision. Nevertheless, the online multiplayer races are fun, but a split-screen mode would also have been desirable.
Forza Motorsport offers detailed vehicle models, beautiful environmental landscapes, impressive weather effects and great ray tracing reflections. As we all know, where there is light there is also shadow and so the technical condition of Forza Motorsport is not exactly perfect. On Xbox Series X as soon as we used the console’s Quick Resume feature, the game crashed every single time. We also experienced crashes during individual races. Ray tracing causes problems on the PC and so we had to contend with a widespread graphics bug that caused the brake light to constantly flicker on the ground. In addition, with our Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070, the option for DLSS frequently disappears in the menu and is replaced by the AMD counterpart FSR, which, in contrast to DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling technology; up to 25% higher frame rates), does not provide any significant performance advantage. With version 1.0, which was released today, the performance on the PC seems to have been increased and we can achieve 60 to 80 frames per second in 2K resolution at maximum details with DLSS in quality mode without ray tracing, even if both our state-of-the-art graphics card as well as our somewhat older AMD Ryzen 5 3600 are not even remotely utilized and languish at around 50% load. With Ray Tracing the frame rate drops to below 60 FPS (frames per second) and without DLSS it is even halved. On Xbox Series X we chose the Performance RT mode, which ran smoothly at all times and was graphically impressive. There is no 120 Hz mode.
These screenshots werde captured on PC.
We’re also disappointed by the rudimentary damage model – apart from a few scratches in the paint, there’s little to see. The visual fidelity on Xbox Series X matches low to medium details on PC, while RTAO (Ray-traced ambient occlusion) seems to be on par. Although the reflections are pretty, even without ray tracing, they are far from the quality of the game’s spectacular intro, in which all the environmental details are reflected on the bodywork in highest detail.
Turn 10 and Microsoft have decided not to license music for Forza Motorsport. The atmospheric score by Kaveh Cohen and Michael Nielsen is a great choice for the game and, like in its predecessors, the engine sounds are at a very high level. We have rarely heard a more authentic soundscape during a race than in Forza Motorsport. Even though you don’t hear them a lot, the voice overs are equally well done.
Forza Motorsport is an extensive, detailed racing simulation with sophisticated driving physics, competitive AI and interesting design decisions in terms of the rule/penalty system that other racing games can learn from. Compared to its biggest competitor Gran Turismo 7 on PlayStation 4 and 5, Forza Motorsport offers a similarly high level of scope, although GT7 in its café mode offers significantly more background information on the subject of automobiles than Forza Motorsport in the short opening sequences of the individual racing series of the Builders Cup Community market for skins and additional modes. However, Forza Motorsport seems to be more beginner-friendly than its Sony competitor and offers more options for adjusting the difficulty level and a significantly better punishment system. Racing game fans will have a lot of fun with Forza Motorsport despite its current technical flaws. We hope that Turn 10 will continue to improve the performance and stability of the game and add a few game and graphics modes.
Sea of Stars
(Included in PlayStation Plus Extra and Premium as well as Xbox und PC Game Pass since 29.08.2023, Author: Isaac)
Sea of Stars released near the end of August, over 3 years since the original Kickstarter campaign. It released day 1 on Xbox and PC Game Pass, along with Playstation Plus Extra for the PS4 and PS5 versions. We played through the entire game, testing the PC release on both a standard PC and on Steam Deck.
As with a number of recent indie RPGs, Sea of Stars is inspired by many classic JRPGs from the SNES to PS1 era. While what this means differs from game to game, in the case of Sea of Stars, this inspiration is mostly felt in the visuals and overall presentation.
This is a beautiful game, featuring detailed sprites and a memorable soundtrack. Each major area features a new theme, and it’s always a joy to start exploring more places across the game’s world.
What makes Sea of Stars’ visuals stand out is not that it merely tries to copy oldschool JRPGs, but that it goes beyond that. 2D sprites are combined with shadows and lighting not possible on old hardware.
Everything on the presentation side is expertly crafted, and looks great even on the smaller screen of the Steam Deck — you’ll get a smooth 60 frames-per-second (fps) and great battery life to boot as well. This is the sort of visual style that I’ll compare other future RPGs too, it’s just that impressive.
Where things start to fall a little flat is the story and gameplay. You’ll journey across the world as Valere and Zale, picking up new party members along the way as you face off against the Fleshmancer and their minions.
Sea of Stars doesn’t take too long to set up its narrative, though there is an oddly placed flashback sequence that happens only a few minutes in. The problem is that this simplicity doesn’t really change much throughout the 30 or so hours it takes to see the endings.
Valere and Zale are bland protagonists, both acting as generic heroes that rarely have a chance to shine. Both are also very similar to each other personality wise — you could switch the sprites for each at random points of the story and it wouldn’t change much.
Other characters rarely fare better, having one or two story beats at most before falling into a predictable pattern. There are only a few memorable moments that stand on their own, outside of the game’s excellent presentation, and they’re not enough to hold up the story from predictability.
On the other hand, combat and exploration start off fairly strong. Areas make use of verticality and light platforming (though it’s mostly automated). You’ll climb up cliffs, walk across tightropes, and slide blocks to create new paths forward.
The problem is, that’s all areas really are. There are a few side rooms and secrets, which can make exploration rewarding if you feel like checking everything out. But many areas boil down to taking down some groups of enemies before completing a basic puzzle.
Combat also suffers from a lack of diversity. Action commands to increase damage dealt or taken do add a little spice to each fight. However, the variety of options pales in comparison to something like the Mario RPG titles — most special skills boil down to a single button press and nothing more.
A couple of extra mechanics are revealed as you progress — enemy skill can be interrupted by hitting them with the right elements, using skills builds up combo abilities, and you eventually unlock ultimate attacks. However, most fights are basically over within the first few turns, with boss fights boiling down to a drawn out formality rather than a fight to the death.
Despite the issues, Sea of Stars is still fun enough as a casual experience. The game’s presentation really does carry it, with exploration being boosted by the visual design of each area. And combat feels more exciting merely through the soundtrack that offers a healthy amount of battle tracks.
Sea of Stars never reaches the heights of the games it takes inspiration from, outside of its overall presentation. It’s a simple enough game to play through until the end, and ends before feeling like too much of a drag. I just wish that more emphasis had been placed on telling a compelling story.
It’s easy to lose track of new games being added to the countless subscription services. Catch the latest titles below. All information is subject to change. We try to update this post as soon as new titles get announced.
PlayStation Plus Essential
€8.99/£6.99/$9.99 per month. Included in PlayStation Plus Extra/Premium. Playable on PlayStation 5/PlayStation 4. Available from 3.10.-6.11.2023.
- Callisto Protocol (PS5, PS4)
- Farming Simulator 22 (PS5, PS4)
- Weird West (PS5, PS4)
PlayStation Plus Extra
€13.99/£10.99/$14.99 US-Dollar per month. Included in PlayStation Plus Premium. Playable on PlayStation 5/PlayStation 4. Available since 17.10.2023.
- Alien: Isolation (PS4)
- Dead Island Definitive Edition (PS4)
- Disco Elysium – The Final Cut (PS5, PS4)
- Eldest Souls (PS5, PS4)
- Elite Dangerous (PS4)
- FAR: Changing Tides (PS5, PS4)
- Gotham Knights (PS5)
- Gungrave G.O.R.E. (PS5, PS4)
- Outlast 2 (PS4)
- Röki (PS5, PS4)
- The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes (PS5, PS4)
Left PlayStation Plus Extra on 17.10.2023:
- Astebreed (PS4)
- Clouds & Sheep 2 (PS4)
- Far Cry 4 (PS4)
- Far Cry 5 (PS4)
- Gal*Gunvolt: Burst (PS4)
- Goosebumps: The Game (PS4)
- Inside (PS4)
- Limbo (PS4)
- Naruto To Boruto: Shinobi Striker (PS4)
- The Crew (PS4)
- The Medium (PS5)
- The Quarry (PS5, PS4)
- TorqueL (PS4)
PlayStation Plus Premium
€16.99/£13.49/$17.99 per month. Playable on PlayStation 5/PlayStation 4. Available since 17.10.2023.
- Dragon’s Crown Pro (PS4)
- Star Ocean First Departure R (PS4)
- Star Ocean: The Last Hope (PS4)
- Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (PS2)
Left PlayStation Plus Premium on 17.10.2023:
- Yakuza 3 Remastered (Premium) (PS4)
- Yakuza 4 Remastered (Premium) (PS4)
- Yakuza 5 Remastered (Premium) (PS4)
Xbox Game Pass Core
€6.99/£6.99/$9.99 per month. Playable on Xbox Series/One.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
Xbox Game Pass for Console / PC: €9.99/£7.99/$9.99 per month each, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (Console + PC + Games with Gold): €12.99/£10.99/$14.99 per month. Playable on Xbox Series/One.
- Gotham Knights (Cloud, PC, Xbox Series X|S) – 3.10.2023
- The Lamplighter’s League (Cloud, PC, Xbox Series X|S) – 3.10.2023
- Warhammer 40,000: Darktide (Cloud, Xbox Series X|S) – 4.10.2023
- Forza Motorsport (Cloud, PC, Xbox Series X|S) – 10.10.2023
- From Space (Cloud, Console, PC) – 12.10.2023
- Like A Dragon: Ishin! (Cloud, Console, PC) – 17.10.2023
- F1 Manager 2023 (Cloud, Console, PC) – 19.10.2023
- Cities: Skylines II (PC) – 24.10.2023
- Dead Space (Cloud, PC, Xbox Series X|S) EA Play – 26.10.2023
- Frog Detective: The Entire Mystery (Cloud, Console) – 26.10.2023
- Mineko’s Night Market (Cloud, Console, PC) – 26.10.2023
- Headbangers: Rhythm Royale (Cloud, Console, PC) – 31.10.2023
- Jusant (Cloud, Console, PC) – 31.10.2023
- Wartales (Cloud, Console, PC) – 31.10.2023
Left Xbox Game Pass Ultimate:
- Eville (Cloud, Console, PC) – 15.10.2023
- Overwhelm (PC) – 15.10.2023
- Shenzhen I/O (PC) – 15.10.2023
- The Legend of Tianding (Cloud, Console, PC) – 15.10.2023
- Trek to Yomi (Cloud, Console, PC) – 15.10.2023
- Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (Cloud, Console, PC) – 15.10.2023
- Gunfire Reborn (Cloud, Console, PC) – 31.10.2023
- Kill It With Fire (Cloud, Console, PC) – 31.10.2023
- Persona 5 Royal (Cloud, Console, PC) – 31.10.2023
- Signalis (Cloud, Console, PC) – 31.10.2023
- Solasta Crown of the Magister (Cloud, Console, PC) – 31.10.2023
Nintendo Switch Online
Nintendo Switch Online: €3.99/£3.49/$3.99 per month or €19.99/17.99/$19.99 per year. Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack: €39.99/£34.99/$49.99 per year.
- Nintendo Switch Online – GameBoy
- Castlevania Legends
- Nintendo Switch Online – NES
- Devil World
- The Mysterious Murusame Castle
- Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack – Nintendo 64
- Mario Party 3 – 27.10.2023
EA Play: €3.99/£3.99/$4.99 per month. Included in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. EA Play Pro: €14.99/£14.99/$14.99. Available on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series, Xbox One.
- EA Play
- Dead Space – 26.10.2023
- EA Play Pro
- EA Sports UFC 5 – 24.10.2023
- EA Sports WRC – 31.10.2023
€14.99/£12.99/$14.99 per month, available on PC. Ubisoft+ Multi Access: €17.99/£14.99/$17.99, available on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Amazon Luna.
- Assassin’s Creed Mirage – Deluxe Edition – 5.10.2023
- Anno 1800 – Annoversary Edition – 17.10.2023
€9.99/£8.99 Pfund/$11.99 per month. Available on PC from 5.9.-2.10.2023.
- A Juggler’s Tale
- Lords and Villeins
- Metal: Hellsinger
- Mr. Prepper
- Rebel Inc: Escalation
- Spirit of the Island
- The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes
- The Quarry Deluxe Edition
€8.99/£8.99/$14.99 per month. Available on PC.
- GRUNND [Amazon Games App] – 5.10.2023
- Ghostwire: Tokyo [Epic Games Store] – 5.10.2023
- The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters — Deluxe Edition [GOG Code] – 12.10.2023
- Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp [GOG Code] – 12.10.2023
- The Textorcist [GOG Code] – 19.10.2023
- Golden Light [Epic Games Store] – 19.10.2023
- Super Adventure Hand [Amazon Games App] – 26.10.2023
- 22.10.2023: We included our impressions of Sea of Stars in the Editors’ Picks section.
- 26.10.2023: We added Mario Party 3 (Nintendo Switch Online).
- 31.10.2023: We added Wartales (Xbox Game Pass), Devil World, The Mysterious Murusame Castle and Castlevania Legends (all Nintendo Switch Online).
- 02.11.2023: We added EA Sports WRC (EA Play Pro).
We captured the screenshots of Forza Motorsport with Xbox Series X, where not otherwise noted. The Sea of Stars screenshots were taken on the PC. Xbox and PlayStation provided us with access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and PlayStation Plus Premium.