The best games for Christmas on PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S
- Murray Robertson
- 15 December 2020
Star Wars: Squadrons
Records are set and broken as the year's biggest releases battle it out
Gaming has proven to be a resolutely comforting hobby throughout this dreadful year. As we've hunkered down through various lockdowns and other restrictions, the opportunity to virtually visit faraway places has never been more enticing. Christmas is the crunch time for the most popular releases, especially this year with the recent launches of the new PlayStation and Xbox consoles. Here's a round-up of the biggest and best titles vying for your attention.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)
Ever since Assassin's Creed Origins broke the series' yearly release cycle, Ubisoft's top IP has gone from strength to strength. While its story isn't quite as captivating as 2018's Odyssey, Valhalla is a fantastic, deep RPG set in the wilds of a beautifully rendered 9th century England, all verdant green trees and burnt ochre sunsets. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that you play a Viking warrior, the emphasis on stealth has all but disappeared, making this a much more brutal affair.
Buy Assassin's Creed Valhalla at Amazon.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)
Set in the early 1980s when the Cold War was at its warmest, the latest Call of Duty pushes the series in new directions, with brand new RPG (that's role playing game, not rocket propelled grenade) elements and stealth sections inspired by the Hitman series. It's not as generous as last year's entry (although that game's biggest feature, Warzone, is now free to play) and the campaign is over before you know it but it's as technically accomplished as ever.
Buy Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War at Amazon.
Star Wars: Squadrons (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Back in the early 1990s, George Lucas's company LucasArts produced a series of space flight simulators, most notably X-Wing and TIE Fighter, based on the most iconic ships from Star Wars. That genre stagnated for decades until EA resurrected it with this stunning multiplayer-focused effort which honours the original games' mecahnics with modern graphics and audio. A single-player mode acts an entertaining long tutorial.
Buy Star Wars: Squadrons at Amazon.
Watch Dogs: Legion (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)
Post-Brexit London is the setting for this third Watch Dogs game which manages to condense the vast city into a manageable chunk. The hacker mechanics are present and correct, together with the game's signature feature: the ability to play as any NPC you meet on the streets. While it's fun to populate your crew with unlikely characters, the voice work consequently suffers, making it somewhat less engaging that Watch Dogs 2. Nevertheless, near-future London is a fascinating location to explore, with a much more vertiginous focus than its predecessor's San Francisco setting.
Buy Watch Dogs: Legion at Amazon.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands (PC)
Sixteen years since its release, World of Warcraft reigns supreme as by far the most popular MMO game and, in November, Shadowlands briefly took the title of fastest-selling game of all time (usurped just over two weeks later by Cyberpunk 2077). This eighth expansion adds five new zones located in the eponymous realm of the dead, and it attempts, yet again, to nail the endgame experience for top-level players. Time will tell if it succeeds on that front.
Buy World of Warcraft: Shadowlands at Blizzard Shop.
And one for next year …
Cyberpunk 2077 (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)
While it's impossible to measure hype, Cyberpunk 2077 is probably the most anticipated game of all time. After eight long years in development and numerous missed release dates, it finally arrived just in time for Christmas. But unless you're playing on an absolutely top-end PC or one of the latest consoles, your experience will likely be one of terrible framerates and game-breaking bugs. Best give it a few months until its myriad issues are patched.