We had a chance to take the launch line-up of Xbox games on Windows 8 for a spin this past week. These games are available for play on any Windows 8 or Windows RT device, including laptops and tablets. I played them all on a slick Asus Vivo Windows RT tablet, which was nice as its detachable keyboard and USB port for a standard Xbox controller made for a really flexible system.
Just like with Xbox 360 games, all of these Xbox Games for Windows 8 feature achievements, and more support leaderboards, co-op, and more. It's the full Xbox experience on something other than your Xbox, which is pretty neat.
There's already a fairly broad selection for launch, and many more are in the works. We've prepared a quick rundown of the launch titles in this preview for you.
Rocket Riot 3D
Before I get to anything else, if you somehow haven't heard of Rocket Riot 3D before, I have to mention the background music. It's hilarious! The song's vocals sing about the game, making the crazy bombing action that much more nuts.
This pixel-y, arena-based shooter has you blasting around freely with one thumb on the tablet, while flinging rockets and other projectiles with the other, just like you'd expect with a twin-stick shooter. Or, attach a mouse/keyboard or Xbox 360 controller if you'd like. It's an expanded, upgraded version of the Xbox 360 release, and it's a lot of fun. My memory isn't what it used to be, but I think it looks better than the original with its new visual effects. The Windows 8 version adds 24 new levels, taking the total to over 100.
Skulls of the Shogun
Developer: 17 Bit Studios
This amusing/weird strategy game just dropped for Xbox 360, so if you're playing it, this Windows 8 version would make a perfect companion version with its cross-platform saves and resumes. Speaking of cross-platform, asynchronous play is supported for this game across Xbox 360, Windows Phone and Windows 8.
As we said in our review, this is a solid SRPG where you'll play as an undead samurai, commanding an undead army for revenge's sake. This game does away with your standard tactical grid, using circle-of-movement fields instead. For the tablet version, it's nice to poke at and drag units over using a controller. I like this portable, easy controlling version a lot.
Hydro Thunder Hurricane
Developer: Vector Unit
HYDRO THUNDER! While a new version of this water racing franchise will never fully compare to the loud, crotch-vibrating original arcade cabinet, hitting the waves is always a good time. Hydro Thunder Hurricane looks respectably nice on Windows 8, but the gameplay experience feels more like a mobile game and less like the splashy, tight turning console one I loved so much.
Developer: Southend Interactive
This cute game had my face buried into the tablet most despite having played it before. The puzzle action it offers is just as cute as it was on Xbox Live, but it somehow comes off as more impressive on a tablet. The touch control scheme is sufficient, but I found myself longing for buttons and a stick after a bit.
The "+" in the title means that the Windows 8 version adds new levels, chapters and cubes.
Pinball FX 2
Developer: Zen Studios
The tablet version of Zen Studios' XBLA hit game looks really great on the small(er) screen. And with the tablet turned sideways, it's like carrying around a little portable pinball machine. This version also fully supports all leaderboards, and a four-player/one device multiplayer option is now available. They're working on more tables for the Windows 8 version, too.
Developer: HitPoint Studios
The find-the-hidden-thing graphical adventure type play of Adera didn't speak to me, but it's really the perfect kind of game for a touchscreen device, and I could see fans of that type having a good time with it. It sure looked great running on this Asus Vivo.
The game's chapters come by way of episodic releases, and cloud save/resume is available across Windows 8 and Windows Phone devices. A nifty spectator mode lets other Windows users watch in and provide hints for the game's puzzles.
The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running
Developer: Other Ocean Interactive
This runner moves from Kinect to Windows 8, adding touchscreen and tilt controls for tablets, or mouse and keyboard for bigger rigs. I'll tip my cowboy hat the game for its presentation and use of skeleton outlaws, but gameplay is clunky and very mobile-ish, taking some of the fun out of it.
Reckless Racing Ultimate
Mobile top-down racing game Reckless Racing HD gets an upgrade for Windows 8, adding leaderboards, multiplayer invite support and more. From a gameplay standpoint, this plays exactly like it would on a mobile phone, so don't go in expecting a console-like experience.
Other launch titles:
4 Elements II Special Edition -- Your tween girl is going to love this item hunt game
Tap Tiles -- Mahjongg, but in 3D space, with cubes that you can rotate
Toy Soliders Cold War -- Army men come to life in a strategy game
Windows 8 Microsoft casual launch titles:
Microsoft Mahjong -- Supports cloud saves, leaderboards and achievements
Microsoft Minesweeper -- Adds touch control and a new Adventure mode
Microsoft Solitaire Collection -- The loneliest game ever
Wordament -- Popular Windows Phone competitive word search tournament