Tucked away in a cosy, green-lit basement in central London, a select few were invited to get some hands-on preview time with a collection of Microsoft’s Xbox One launch titles. Having only had a mere one lap experience with Forza 5 at this year’s Eurogamer Expo (EGX), minutes before the doors were closing, I had to take up this opportunity to play Microsoft’s lunch line-up, minus the hourly-long queues and odd smells.
After first observing the varied mix of games that were on display inside Microsoft’s underground lair of next-generation titles, I came to the conclusion that there are just three main launch titles that are worthy of your attention, and would you know it, they are all exclusive to Microsoft’s new console. So stand poised dear soon to be Xbox One owner, for here is a run down of what three games you should be picking up when they all release out of the gates on November 22nd.
RYSE: SON OF ROME
Ryse was my first stop, after doing a quick scout of the games on show. The queues at this year’s EGX were far too off-putting to only get hands-on a short arena demo of the game, so with up to three campaign chapters on offer at the Xbox One preview event, on top of all the multiplayer arena action, Ryse was my first go-to game of the evening.
Unfortunately, my first impressions wren’t so great. The lack of visual loading prompts between navigating screens had me a worried that the controller wasn’t accepting my button presses. The loading of chapters took their lengthy time too, and after all this talk of quick loading times on the Xbox One, it had me doubting such bold claims.
However once in the game Ryse certainly looks and sounds great. Cinematic audio pored through my headphones, with clashing swords and charging soldiers, all playing their part in capturing the action of all the Roman carnage that was taking place on screen. Combat in the game was quickly experienced in the first chapter I played. Slashing, blocking and countering enemies was a breeze, whilst taking control of oversized crossbows had their own purpose in setting flammable cauldrons ablaze to fend off big gatherings of my foe.
As much as I wanted to love Ryse, there were far too many niggles in my preview play-through that dampened my desire to enjoy the game. The first of them was with the game’s camera, which seem to have a mind of its own. Even whilst being tamed by the right analogue stick, the camera soon wanted to wander off, leaving you in a situation where you are constantly adjusting it. Turning to a nearby developer, we both concluded that it maybe due to the Xbox One’s quite sensitive analogue sticks. However if this makes itself into the release build, which at this time of writing is very likely, it will no doubt frustrate gamers fairly early on in the game.
If you’ve been following Ryse closely, you’ll be aware about the quick-time event controversy. Although these may have been dampened, or more like forgotten recently, after a short amount of play-through it is clear they are still here, but under the guise of execution moves. To quickly end your opponent you can pull on the right trigger, when they are at their most vulnerable, to pull off a series of gruesome execution moves. Once this move is triggered, their entire body lights up (read QTE) to a corresponding face-button colour – X (blue) or Y (yellow) – each appearing dynamically so that it doesn’t feel all too repetitive. However, after a few minutes of doing this, it really did feel repetitive. I just hope in later levels you will have less reason to use executions to quickly finish off your foes every time.
Skipping the later chapters, I wanted to sample the multiplayer gladiator arena mode. There was no online connection in the preview build I played so I had to opt for the solo mode against a bunch of enemy AI. Once again, more hack and slashing is required here (hey, it’s that kinda game), changing weapons is easily done by heading over to various weapon points located around the arena, all while dodging falling fireball catapults and such. Personally I can’t see multiplayer doing so well online, so this leaves me to say that Ryse, to me, will be a campaign only game. I am sure many will pick it up at launch and be disappointed after their first completed play-through and then eventually trade it in for something else. So keep an eye out in bargain bins or second hand markets with this particular launch title, I am saddened to say, however it is a game that is worth experiencing in all of its next-generation glory.
If you are a driving fan like myself, and you’ve been lucky enough to bag yourself a Day-One Xbox One console with Forza 5 thrown in, then you are in for a treat come launch day.
Forza 5 continues Turn 10’s exclusive racing franchise for the Xbox. To some it might look like a polished Forza 4, and I see where you are coming from, but getting behind the wheel in this next-generation racing sim will uncover all the joys you don’t get to experience from a couple of screenshots or some hyped YouTube video.
The most striking thing to experience is the Xbox One’s new rumble triggers. Feeling the grip of your car is paramount in racing, which is easy to experience in real life, however unless you are equipped with a force feedback wheel in hand, there is no other way to experience this with a controller, that is until now. Thanks to the Xbox One’s new vibrating triggers you are given tactile feedback of your vehicle’s grip on the tarmac.
Other exciting feature I experienced in the game was the new Drivatar system. I won’t bore you with the technicalities, but the game’s new AI behaviour system, and how it generally works, really does make for a more thrilling racing experience than I’ve ever seen in past racing titles, on any platform. Cars take on their own characteristics, making their own (natural looking) racing lines, make their own mistakes (incorrect out-braking rather than colliding off other dumb AI cars) and they even attempt to close the doors on any moves to pass them on the inside line. With a few months of racing data on their servers I am sure this will get better and evolve over time to make racing offline feel like you are racing some real seasoned professionals.
There were a few downsides to this playful joyride of a game though. Playing the preview build I noticed that Easy mode is, well, a bit too easy. To a point where it all felt like you were on rails, and if you didn’t want to follow the racing line I noticed a serious jolt from the highly overzealous racing assists nudging you, literally, back on track. Don’t fret though racing fans, professional and veteran modes will have you racing under full control, and with the latter switched on, and with all the assists off, you best have a set of wheel and peddles connected, otherwise, with the rather sensitive Xbox One controller you’ll making grass donuts in no time!
Froza 5 had plenty of cars on offer. Maybe not the amount gamers have been accustomed too in previous versions of the franchise, with vehicle counts in the two hundreds rather than the five hundred found in Forza 4. The reason for this is that Turn 10 has focused on quality rather than quantity, building new high-poly vehicles from scratch or importing and improving existing high-poly vehicles from Forza 4. Expect 50 additional cars to follow via DLC, however, to best honest, the amount of variety in the stock cars on offer had me struggling to make a final decision on what car to drive next – there were so many classics to choose from!
One disappointment with the preview was the tracks, or lack of. You could count the total amount of locations with just two hands. Once again Turn 10 announced that their past tracks were no longer accurate and many had to be rebuilt. The few tracks on offer had a number of alternative route and reverse options available to them, such as the many configurations of the Top Gear test track, but it is very clear that racing fans will no doubt be asked to pass over more cash for extra tracks over the months to follow after the game’s release. If you want the complete experience of Forza 5, I think you best save up for that Season Pass.
DEAD RISING 3
My third and final game of the Xbox One preview event goes to Dead Rising 3. This is yet another exclusive title to get a fresh new lick of next-generation paint, but with Dead Rising 3, fans of the zombie killing franchise are going to absolutely love what comes in this third instalment!
The game takes all what fans know and love from the first iterations of the franchise and supercharges it into a something that feels like GTA V with zombies – a very compelling idea I am sure many gamers would die (and turn into a zombie) for.
The control and combat of your character feels very responsive and intuitive, and the world around you is smothered in many zombies (and I mean many, many zombies!) and items you can pick up, eat, throw and combine with other items right where you stand – there is no need to find combo benches any more – yay! You can combine vehicles too. At the beginning of my play-through I was able to combine a motorcycle and a steamroller to form a contraption that I know Daryl from The Walking Dead would be proud to ride on.
Racing through the streets unveiled groups upon groups of zombies. The amount of them drawn on screen was very impressive and is easily achieved with the power of Microsoft’s new console. I didn’t experience any slowdown whilst ploughing thorough wave upon wave of zombies that were littering the path in front of me. Some peopled mentioned there were some texture issues in the game, but in my play-through I didn’t witness any of this happening – I was just having too much fun to notice!
In my short time with Dead Rising 3 I felt encouraged to carry on and explore what else was around the corner or what items I could find and try out on any unexpecting flesh eaters. Tapping on the map button I was show by the developer that I had only sampled a tiny portion of the game’s map – an area barely the size of Dead Rising 1 and Dead Rising 2, combined! This soon raised a smile on my face at the thought of what else is out there. It gave me even more respect to what the development team have achieved in this third and far more exciting instalment of the franchise.
So these are my top three games from the Xbox One preview event that I believe should be on your list of games to pick up, or at least check out, in just two weeks time. It was great to finally get some quality hands-on time with each of these launch titles. It was clear to see that Microsoft has gone for a varied mix of launch titles for the Xbox One. Something for everyone you could say.
Even though Call of Duty Ghosts, Assassins Creed IV, Peggle 2, Killer Instinct, Kinect Sports Rivals, D4, Zoo Tycoon and Just Dance were also on show, for ‘core gamers, nothing stood out as much as these three titles for me. If you’re unsure which games to pickup alongside your shiny new Xbox One on November 22nd be sure to at least consider these three gems.