Season's greetings everyone! Xbox Season (aka empty wallet season) officially begins this week with the launch of Forza Horizon 2, Microsoft's first AAA exclusive of the holiday season. The highly anticipated action RPG, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor and investigative adventure game Crimes & Punishments: Sherlock Holmes also hit retail and digital shelves this week. And starting tomorrow, Xbox Live Gold members can download the new co-op platformer Chariot for free. That's a lot of fun in store for Xbox One owners!

Forza Horizon 2

Race the streets of Southern Europe.

All of you racing fans get ready to put the rubber to the road when Forza Horizon 2 from Playground Games and Microsoft Studios releases this week! The game centers itself around a massive music festival where racing culture and music culture clash. Race around parts of Southern France and Northern Italy such as Côte d'Azu and Tuscany while jamming out to nearly 150 songs curated by BBC radio host Rob da Bank.

Some of FH2's biggest additions this year include a dynamic weather system and the introduction of Forza Motorsport 5's Drivatar system. We hope to see you guys on the streets now that Forza Horizon 2 has launched. Stay tuned for our full review, coming later today!

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

There is only one Lord of the Ring.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is probably the biggest RPG game of the year, but the fact that this one takes place in The Lord of the Rings universe makes this one even more special. In Shadow of Mordor you take on the role of Talion, a ranger of Gondor's who gets murdered along with his family. He is then revived with new wraith-like abilities and charges into Mordor to seek revenge.

SoM's most talked about feature is the Nemesis Sytem. Every enemy a player faces is unique and differentiated by their personality, strengths and weaknesses. These enemies are created by their encounters with the player to create personal arch-enemies. For example, if a player is killed by an enemy, that enemy will be promoted, gains new armor and abilities, and will even have a new introductory taunt the next time you encounter him. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is now available.

Crimes & Punishments: Sherlock Holmes

Solve mysteries as fiction's greatest detective.

The latest game in the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series draws inspiration from Dostoyevsky's novel Crimes and Punishment. Taking place in a gritty version of Victorian-era London, Holmes will investigate six different cases. The great detective has 14 different investigative mechanics at his disposal. One such mechanic is "Sherlock Vision," a feature inspired by BBC's Sherlock TV series. As Holmes looks around, his vision will highlight evidence that bears examination. Likewise, his thoughts and observations will appear as text on-screen. The game really dramatizes Sherlock's hyper-observant and analytical mind.

Naturally, Sherlock has the ability to select the suspect of the crime. From there, he can choose what to do with him or her as well. Will he give her to the police, or sympathize with her plight and let her go? He can even choose two suspects for a crime, making things even more complicated. One of the game's themes is the blame and regret that Sherlock feels about his actions.

We'll have a full review of this one soon!


The princess and the chariot.

This week, Microsoft gives Gold members a special treat: Chariot will be free on launch day. Chariot is about a princess who is given the job to put her father's remains in its final resting place. However, her fiancé must assist her with her task because the chariot is extremely heavy and must be guided through dangerous and elaborate mazes.

The game is a platformer filled with puzzle solving and physics-based gameplay. One unique thing here is that it only offers couch co-op, which will surely add a different dynamic to the gameplay. Chariot launches tomorrow on Xbox One.

What new game are you looking forward to playing this week?