Christmas is almost here and with it, we love to explore winter in video games. Whether it’s memorable campaign sequences set in arctic temperatures or neat multiplayer maps with Christmas themes, games often deliver the festive goods. As the current generation is coming to a close, we’re going to look back at the best snow levels the Xbox One has brought us, over the last six years.
The introductory level to Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the most memorable sequences this generation. Our gang of outlaws dragged themselves through some of the most impressively detailed snow drifts ever seen in games. Whilst the majority of Red Dead 2 sees a lot less snow, this intro sticks out over a year on. Hunkering down in wooden wild west huts whilst the wind howled and the snow fell reminded us of those cliché Christmas mornings. Admittedly, opening presents isn’t typically followed by lawless gunfights but nevertheless, Red Dead 2 definitely began with some festive ambiance.
Winter Crash in Modern Warfare Remastered may have been a remade map, but it went overboard on Christmas joy. The central helicopter location was filled with Christmas presents, and much of the traditional lighting was replaced with festive lights. Of course, the level was also coated in a blanket of snow, but the festivities didn’t stop there. On death, players burst into a pile of presents, and the traditional airstrike killstreak was replaced with Santa’s sleigh. This wasn’t the first Christmas-themed remake, but it is one of the most Christmassy maps seen in a multiplayer shooter.
Nothing shouts SNOW quite like Siberia; Russia’s remote Eastern landscape. The second of the latest Tomb Raider trilogy began in this freezing location, showing off some incredible mountainous scenery. However, the most impressive technical showing was how the snow adapted to Lara’s footsteps. This wasn’t the first time we’d seen this tech, but Rise of the Tomb Raider took things to another level. Huge snow piles would form at the side of Lara’s path, and the deformation tech was incredibly accurate. Sadly, there was no option to lay down and make snow angels because Lara has things to do apparently…
Killing Floor 2 has been supported extremely well since its launch on Xbox One in 2017. Countless levels, weapons and events have been added, with the developer often releasing themed maps. These have included a variation of Christmas-themed levels, including Santa’s Lair, Shopping Spree and even Krampus Lair. Krampus Lair sticks out the most, as its labyrinth of snowy platforms, scary shrines and steep drops provides a darker backdrop to a Christmas level. Are you on the naughty list this year? Fight your way through the Krampus Lair to find out.
Far Cry 4 moved the series to the Himalayas, and with it became a lot more vertical. Certain sections of the open-world shooter were set high up in the mountains, and a trusty grappling hook was granted to help traverse these areas. It was the game’s main expansion that felt really wintery though. Valley of the Yetis was set on a separate map in the Himalayan mountains and saw the main protagonist, Ajay, face off against huge yetis. The snowmobile came in real handy for this expansion as it was wise to stay on the move when fighting gigantic abominable snowmen.
It’s hard to mention heavily-updated multiplayer games this generation without talking about Fortnite. The immensely popular battle royale title has seen its fair share of updates, including those tied to a specific season. Way back in the beginning, the game saw its first Christmas update. Visual changes swept across the world of Fortnite, adding Christmas décor to the map, including shiny lights on the game’s trees. Since then, the map has added a snowy section but back in 2017 things were a lot more green. It was neat to see Christmas changes though, and it was the start of a long list of updates for the ongoing battle royale game.
In a game that revolves entirely around the Christmas Period, Dead Rising 4 brings tons of festive fun. You can equip a ridiculous array of weaponry and wreak havok on Black Friday. You might have seen people fighting over those last-minute Christmas deals before, but not like this. In Dead Rising’s fourth entry, Frank West returns, this time to a shopping mall in Willamette. Here, you can mow through hundreds of zombies whilst Christmas shopping, using lethally-combined weapons, explosives and even vehicles like karts and tractors. It may be less serious than the Xbox One launch game, Dead Rising 3, but it’s a load of crazy Christmas carnage.
Gears of War has frequently released themed updates, often with maps and modes to match. From the ridiculous Thanksgibbing where you fire turkeys from a boomshot, to candy cane skins and snowman heads, Gears hasn’t shied away from having a festive laugh. However, it’s the snowy maps that stand out the most, and Gears 4 saw a classic return. Avalanche was brought back from Gears 2 and looked stunning on the Xbox One X. Featuring a dynamic weather cycle that involves an actual avalanche occurring, this classic multiplayer level was ready for a return. Back in 2008, Gears of War 2 featured an entire map pack filled with wintery levels call the Snowblind Pack. We’d love to see something similar come to Gears 5 in the future.
Few things go hand in hand like Christmas and New York City. The famous American city is synonymous with Christmas, with movie and TV references galore. However, one of the best realisations of a snowy NYC has the be the world of The Division. Ubisoft’s first crack at the looter shooter released in 2016 and is set shortly after a Black Friday disaster. An attack was launched on the biggest shopping day of the year, and a pandemic spread in the aftermath. There may be a distinct lack of Christmas joy here, but it doesn’t stop the environment evoking some serious winter vibes. It may be more The Revenant than Home Alone 2, but The Division’s harsh snowy landscape deserves a spot on this list.
We hope that the next generation of consoles continues to forward in-game snow technology. However, we know for sure that Christmas will always appear in games, one way or another. Whether its quirky online updates or entire games dedicated to the winter season, we love to wrap up warm and explore the digital snow. Happy Holidays!