Last week, we were given a hands-on demonstration of some of the video games that will be launching alongside the Xbox One including Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3 and Killer Instinct. If you're still sitting on the fence about whether to buy the console at launch, these are the games that will make you jump one way or the other...
On 22 November, Microsoft's next-gen video game console will be hitting stores across Australia. Exactly one week later, the PlayStation 4 will be making its debut. If you're brand agnostic, the choice of which console to buy on launch day will mainly come down to the games that are available.
With that in mind, here's a look at some of the flagship titles that will be appearing during the Xbox One's launch window. [Note: once we've had some hands-on time with the PlayStation 4, we'll report back on how the hardware, controller and UI compare.] We've awarded each game an 'excitement' rating to indicate how psyched up they make us for the console's impending launch. So without further ado, here are the games...
Kinect Sports Rivals
Kinect's answer to the phenomenally successful Wii Sports will be returning to the Xbox One with a whole new range of arm-flailing games to partake in. As its name implies, Kinect Sports Rivals concentrates on competitive sporting activities such as tennis, bowling and, er, rock climbing.
With veteran developer Rare still at the helm, it promises to deliver a more responsive and reliable gameplay experience than Kinect Sports on the Xbox 360. Or at least, that's the idea in theory.
Here's what Kotaku editor Mark Serrels had to say after spending a few minutes with the game:
I wonder how this is all going to work in the real world. I stood for 10 minutes as the Kinect scanned me from all angles. It scanned my face, it scanned my body. It did so clumsily. On multiple occasions a Microsoft representative had to ask me to take a step forward or a step backwards. These instructions didn’t appear on screen. At one point Kinect Sports Rivals asked me to rotate my head three degrees to the right then three degrees to the left. If I moved slightly in either direction the scan stopped in its tracks. All this effort and the end result? A cartoon video game render that looked bugger all like me. The 3DS and its ‘Mii’ system did a better job of representing my face with one dreadful low-res picture.
So I was already cynical. ‘If this is difficult with a Microsoft representative guiding me through the process,’ I wondered, ‘how hard will it be for Joe Blow in his living room by himself?’
Then, finally, the game itself. I chose the rock climbing one because I like rock climbing. This new Kinect is much more responsive and accurate than the last I’d been told, on multiple occasions. That may be true but it was difficult to tell because Kinect couldn’t recognise me initially, and had my limbs contorting like some Lovecraftian flesh puppet. A quick reboot later, however, and I was good to go.
Kinect Sports Rivals was simple dumb fun, but my concerns with gaming on Kinect remain: there is no feedback. You are not holding or using anything tangible. Despite Microsoft’s claims, there is still lag and it is noticeable. Sometimes movements aren’t picked up correctly, and in general I had difficulties getting the game to do exactly what I wanted it to do. I haven’t seen a single piece of software (besides maybe Dance Central) that has convinced me that Kinect can work in a video game. Kinect Sports Rivals, I suspect, isn’t going to change my mind on that front.
To summarise, it appears that the Kinect still has significant technical issues when it comes to actual physical gaming.
That said, we doubt there's a single gamer alive who plans on buying an Xbox One specifically for the Kinect functionality. In other words, its effectiveness as a gaming peripheral isn't a deal breaker and will be largely irrelevant to the vast majority of gamers.
Excitement factor: 3/10
Forza Motorsport 5
A console launch wouldn't be complete without a racing game — but is it better to appeal to the diehard simulator enthusiast or the arcade racer fan? Microsoft's Forza series has always tried to cater to both types of gamer at once; a formula that has proved highly successful.
For its debut on Xbox One, developer Turn 10 Studios has overhauled every aspect of Forza's engine in a bid to deliver the most realistic and sexiest looking racer yet. Indeed, if we had to sum up the ultra high-resolution graphics in a single phrase, it would be 'provocatively pornographic' (as evidenced by the inappropriate grunting sounds made by Luke Hopewell during the demo).
The dynamically rendered car damage looked incredibly impressive; you can even make out individual speckles of mud and dirt on the car's chassis during gameplay.
Here's what Luke had to say about the game after taking a Mclaren P1 and Ferrari F12 Berlinetta for a test drive on Laguna Seca raceway:
The paint job is way slicker as you'd expect, but they've also really doubled down on the physics engine — the difference is really noticeable. I also love the little details like the way each car's spoiler behaves realistically and differently for each model. While it's still a racing game, dismissing it as 'more of the same' wouldn't be accurate.
Aussie rev-heads will also be pleased to hear that Bathurst has been confirmed as a race track. There will also be a Limited Edition available which will include multiple car packs and a VIP membership for the game.
Excitement factor: 8/10 (Note: If you're a petrol head like Luke, feel free to add a point or two to the score.)
Old fart gamers may remember the original Killer Instinct from the arcades back when Timezone was still a thing (there was also a solid Nintendo 64 port). Developed by Rare during the height of the fighting game boom, it was like a brawnier, cartoony sibling to Mortal Kombat. While the series had its fans, it never took off like other fighters, resulting in a premature retirement from the ring. Well, until now that is.
To coincide with the launch of the Xbox One, Killer Instinct is staging a comeback. Like the recent Mortal Kombat reboot, the game retains a traditional 2D playing field without any of the bobbing-and-weaving trickery that has marred recent fighters. This gives it a pleasingly old school feel despite the jacked up graphics.
During our hands-on session, I played a few bouts of the game as the culturally dubious Chief Thunder; a feather-festooned Native American armed with twin tomahawks. As a Tekken fan, I struggled to adapt to the controls which seemed to throw out combos at random but I suspect a bit of practice could lead to some highly strategic smackdowns. Even as a frantic button-masher it was still quite fun.
Intriguingly, Killer Instinct is being offered as a free download with four playable characters to choose from — you then have the option of purchasing additional characters via DLC. We think this is a much better approach to a traditional demo (i.e. 0— instead of buying the whole game, you can choose to only add content that appeals to you. Like the saucy vixen Black Orchid, for example. Hnngh.)
Excitement factor: 6/10
Dead Rising 3
Dead Rising 3 was probably the most impressive launch title of the bunch. (It was also the only game we didn't get to play personally; instead, a Capcom representative took the reigns.) For those who haven't played the previous games in the series, Dead Rising is an action horror game set during the zombie apocalypse. The series' main claim to fame is its customisation system which allows you to lash together all manner of outlandish weaponry — from Shotgun Pitchforks to Chainsaw Motorbikes.
Dead Rising 3 ups the ante to a ridiculous degree. In the short time we spent with the game, Capcom showed off a dizzying array of combo weapons that were assembled from at least three separate components. Our favourite was probably the stuffed bear/machine gun/shopping trolley combo. The process has also been streamlined this time around, which means you don't have to hunt around for workbenches or instruction blueprints. You can even combine vehicles into heavily-armored beasts for an added dose of destruction.
As befits a next-gen sequel, Dead Rising 3 is much, much larger than its predecessors: it boasts a true open world that can be explored at will without the annoying loading times that marred its predecessors. Promisingly, Capcom stated that there are currently no plans to release the game on current-gen consoles — the hardware simply wouldn't be able to cope with the amount of action on screen.
While Dead Rising 3 definitely got us excited, we couldn't shake the feeling that we'd seen it all before (albeit on a much smaller scale). If you're looking to be wowed like never before, this wont be the game to do it — but Dead Rising fans will happily gobble it up.
Excitement factor: 8/10
Crytek's hack-and-slash brawler Ryse: Son of Rome caused a bit of a stir at this year's E3 gaming expo due to what was perceived as an overreliance on quick-time events (which you didn't even need to pull off correctly). Suitably chastened, Crytek has since retooled the controls extensively (we were told that the E3 demo had been rushed to semi-completion and should never have been shown to the public. Hmm.)
We were given a taste of the game's co-op mode set in a gladiatorial arena which boasts randomly generated combatants and environmental structures. Despite all the dire warnings, we found the game to be a tonne of fun — the combat is easy to get to grips with and the swordplay flows beautifully. The much-maligned QTE events didn't bother us in the slightest; because you aren't penalised for pulling them off, it's something you can safely ignore. Personally, I think this is a good thing.
Of the five games we looked at, Ryse also gave us the strongest sense that we were playing something on a next-gen console: there's simply no way these environments could exist on an Xbox 360. Provided that the single-player campaign and story deliver, this could be a surprise hit on launch day.
Excitement factor: 7/10
So there you have it. The handful of launch games we've tried thus far are solid for the most part, but we've yet to see something that really made us sit up in our chair and get excited (i.e. — what marketing types love to class as "killer apps").
The rest of the launch lineup doesn't appear to contain anything special either; it's mostly sequels and multi-format titles that will likely be hamstrung due to current-gen machines. That said, we'll reserve final judgement until we've seen more, hopefully at this week's EB Games Expo.
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