I was fortunate enough to attend the Dallas stop on the Xbox One “One Tour” this weekend (photography was technically not allowed), where I was able to play Microsoft’s new console, along with a plethora of upcoming titles.
I currently own Battlefield 4 on PC and have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with it thus far; while its Xbox One counterpart is beautifully rendered and features astounding detail not found in previous generations, it doesn’t quite match the same graphical quality of the PC version- PC>PS4>One>Current Gen. I participated in a CTF match (“Capture the Flag”) during the event; on most instances, textures would load in several stages, leaving me with muddy environments during the initial stages of battle. Apart from initial texture problems, Battlefield 4 on Xbox One is a solid, responsive shooter that cuts nothing from its other-platform counterparts.
For those who are skeptical about the One, Dead Rising 3 is one of three games on this list that might change your tune. The DR3 demo threw us right into the middle of a ravaged urban district, overrun with the undead. The hallmark of the Dead Rising series is the ability to weaponize anything- Dead Rising 3 had me nailing zombies with paint cans, traffic signs, manikins, flamethrowers, even park-benches. The sheer number of zombies on-screen at any given moment was staggering; the One was able to render every model in amazing detail, without “tearing” or having to sacrifice frame rate. Vehicle control is tighter than in previous titles, as my choices of mowing over zombies consisted of a forklift, minivan, hot-dog cart and a bus; at one point, the player next to me was driving a truck with oscillating blades on each side- I couldn’t find it in my game, so I just continued wreak havoc with my gun-gloves, shooting bullets from each individual finger.
Is the new Kinect superior to the current model for 360? Yes.
We played the “wave race” game within Rivals, both single-player and head-to-head in a tournament…I won. The new Kinect has an impressive range- an obvious improvement but it lead to a few technical difficulties, as it had the tendency to register people behind me as the actual player whenever I was prompted to raise my hand for “Player 1”. That aside, the new Kinect is much more accurate than its predecessor: The controls for the demo had us hold both arms out as if holding the handles on a jet-ski; opening and closing our right hands would accelerate and decelerate, even if it was just a few fingers and not the entire hand; I’m not entirely sure if it was a built-in mechanic, but squatting down as if I was actually sitting on the jet-ski seemed to increase the acceleration, and help with sharp turns- players can execute sharp, sliding turns by squatting, and pulling hard to either direction. With two players on the same system, the Kinect was able to sense both of us perfectly; no hiccups or interference between players.
………I wasn’t sure what to make of it then, and I’m still not entirely sure what I experienced, other than it was one of the most entertaining titles at the event. From what I gathered, players control a “living”, self-aware futuristic motorcycle, who drags her mechanic- definitely against his will- behind her by his leg; the cycle can attack with mounted guns, a swiping melee attack with the front wheel, and can hurl the mechanic forward as a long-range melee weapon. LocoCycle was undoubtedly challenging, but that might have had to do with loose movement controls, as I found the protagonists hard to control at times, “pinball-ing” between walls and cars. I love the bizarre nature of this title; from the warped relationship between the callous cycle and the confused, Spanish-speaking mechanic (he only speaks Spanish, and has subtitles), to the blistering pace and plethora of enemies each stage has to offer, LocoCycle is a title to watch out for whenever it launches.
Dead Rising 3 was one reason to get an Xbox One- Killer Instinct is the other. Killer Instinct is the most beautiful 3D-fighter that I’ve seen this year; the color-palete is vibrant and flashy, stages gush with life as if they are characters themselves, iconic characters have been re-imagined in glorious 3D while staying true to their 2D counterparts, particle-effects are in full without any hardware or frame lag from the One. The new title doesn’t play exactly like the old Killer Instinct titles on SNES and N64, but with enough prior knowledge of the series, anyone can drop Monster Combos in just a few matches. The build that I played only went so far as Chief Thunder (i.e. Jago, Saburewolf, Glacius, Chief Thunder); so no Sadira, Orchid or Spinal; I didn’t encounter any sort of balance issues, unjust exploitable frame-traps, or hit-box priority issues- Killer Instinct is a solid fighter, and a killer-app launch title for the Xbox One….pardon the lame pun.
Crytek continues to hammer away at the graphical boundaries of digital reality and realism- Ryse: Son of Rome is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m curious to see what CRYENGINE is capable of when pushed toward its limits; Ryse looks better than most groundbreaking titles that have pushed the boundaries in recent history- it looks better than Battlefield 3, looks better than Crysis 3, even better than Battlefield 4….on consoles. However, “looks” shouldn’t win wars, especially those within ancient Rome: I played some of the “arena” mode for Ryse; while it ran flawlessly and was truly awe-inspiring to watch, the actual gameplay was rather slow. Each attack has “weight” behind it; if I was going to attack someone, I was going to commit to it- same went for dodging. While it’s slower than other action titles, this adds a bit of strategy, as I actually had to plan and think-out each strike….except at times when I was in a group of enemies, then strategy was replaced with blind controller-mashing. An interesting mechanic that was featured was having to choose a God before the arena began, as each God correlated to a special ability; I was quite fond of Ares, and my ability to engulf my immediate radius with fire. Other abilities included slowing down enemy-movement and regenerating health. Ryse is certainly a beautiful title, and it handled well once I got accustomed to the mechanics, but it’s hard to give a verdict off of just arena gameplay, other than I had a blast venting my frustrations in an ancient Roman gladiator pit.
I didn’t get to spend as much time on Forza Motorsport 5 as I did everything else, but I can leave with this; Forza 5 may set the new benchmark for racing simulations. On a peripheral note, Forza 5 was the only game that I played which took advantage of the rumble feature within the triggers on the Xbox One controller; for every turn, terrain change or hard shift, I could feel the feedback in my fingers. As uncanny as the initial sensation is- as no other controllers have had a vibration feature in the triggers, it gave me an extra sense of absolute control over what I was doing in Forza 5– not that I could go out and drive a McLaren P1 around a track right now, but that little extra bit of immersion really makes a difference.
Whether you love or hate the games, it doesn’t matter if the controller is awful. Fortunately the Xbox One controller is incredibly comfortable, the best one yet in the Xbox line; it’s a tad smaller and users can have a more ergonomic grip that probably won’t cause cramps during those long, marathon sessions that we all do at some point; the D-pad is actually a responsive D-pad- not that “disc” on the 360 controller- and was perfect during my time with Killer Instinct; the triggers have a bit more resistance to them, adding some extra satisfaction every time they’re pulled; buttons are recessed into the controller and have an extra “click” when pressed, much like Razer’s Onza and Sabertooth controllers.
I certainly enjoyed my time with the Xbox One and the software line-up that was offered this past weekend, and have no doubt that it will do well at launch, especially with killer-apps such as Dead Rising 3 and Killer Instinct. Is it the superior next-gen console? That’s not for me to decide; that’s voted on by the wallets and voices of consumers.
The Xbox One + Kinect releases on Nov. 22 for $499.99.