Hands on with the Xbox One
After having to give up my ticket to Eurogamer, I was delighted to hear I would still get a chance to check out Microsoft’s next generation of console when they rolled in to my local GAME store for a lock in event. Not because I am a fanboy, or because I had already pre-ordered an Xbox One, as neither of those statements are true. Yes, I currently own a Xbox 360, but before it I had a PlayStation 2, and I even still have an original PlayStation. My decision for the current generation was made purely on the fact that the PlayStation 3 kept getting delayed, and the Xbox 360 was already out. But what of the upcoming generation?
So far I sit on the fence. Have Sony done enough to tempt me back? Have Microsoft done enough for me to part with £430 to upgrade from my 360? So far I think not on either case, even though there are some nice features about both consoles. This is why I wanted to get my hands on the Xbox One, to see if it would help me make up my mind.
On display were four games, all exclusives to the Xbox One. Forza Motorsport by Turn 10 Studios, Dead Rising 3 from Capcom, Ryse: Son of Rome by Crytek and Killer Instinct from Double Helix and Rare. The Xbox One consoles, we were told, were the same dev kit ones used at Eurogamer and that, while the games were running from a disc, the disc drives couldn’t be opened. Each console had its Kinect sensor there, though at least a couple of them were completely unplugged. The one thing they couldn’t keep hidden was the size of the power brick. It really is a brick! But both the console and the Kinect sensor weren’t as big as original press materials had made them out to be.
First up I had a go on Ryse: Son of Rome. The game has received a fair bit of stick in the media since E3 where they showed gameplay that seemed full of quick time event, followed by confusion about the resolution the game runs at and how Crytek have had to rewrite so much to get the game working on the release version of the Xbox One. It’s hardly surprising though that they’ve had to rework a game that was being developed for a console that itself was still under development. The actual gameplay of the Ryse demo, the multiplayer arena mode, was as if it was taken straight from the Gladiator movie, to the point where I almost shouted “Are you not entertained” after playing it (I said it to myself in my head, and the answer was yes). I looked for button prompts while playing and there were none. Controls were fairly standard.
This was the first time I’d held the new Xbox One controller, and it feels fantastic. Switching from the PlayStation 2 to the Xbox 360 I took some time getting used to the controller, but now Sony’s controllers feel alien to me. I do have slightly smaller than average hands though, and the new controllers slight reduction in size is perfect. It just feels as if the 360 controller has been on a diet, with the huge battery pack gone and the overall size being more slender. And with the size reduction also comes quite a considerable weight reduction. All the buttons feel more lightweight to press too, especially the new triggers. It wasn’t until I played Forza Motorsport that I really got a feel for the new triggers and their feedback motors.
Firstly, we all know how good Forza looks. Every Forza has, and the upcoming Xbox One version really shows off the power of the new console. I took the first race, a single lap around Laguna Seca, as a chance to really feel the controller. The feedback in the triggers lets you know just how much your wheels are spinning as you get away, or if they are locking under breaking. A shunt from behind and the controller felt as if it lurched forward in my hands.
The first race was actually a little disappointing. However, I realised this was because the game had been left on easy. After the painstakingly long loading times on this demo version, I ramped it up to hard and took to the track again in a Ferrari. This time the AI was a lot more aggressive, and the car was a lot harder to handle. It gave for a gripping race where I finished a close 2nd.
By this point, everyone else had had a shot of Dead Rising 3 and it was sitting empty, so I jumped straight on. Ryan Esler has already given us an in-depth look at Dead Rising 3 from his Eurogamer experience, and I have to fully agree with everything he said about it. It was just a load of ridiculous fun. Blasting zombies with a chest microwave beam, forged from a microwave and a chainsaw, or running hordes of them down with a steamroller it was satisfying. Perhaps too satisfying though, as there was never really a point where I found myself panicking.
I didn’t manage to play Killer Instinct, but it looked great. Those who played it seemed to enjoy it, yet it wasn’t hugely popular with the crowd there and it sat empty on more than one occasion. My advice to you, if you are attending one of the Xbox One Tour events and they give you the choice of what to play, play Forza first. It will give you best experience of the new controller, and save you waiting in the queue for it later.
So, did I pre-order a Xbox One before leaving the store? No, I didn’t. The games on show were all fantastic, in their brief demo formats. But, as much as I hate to admit it, my Xbox 360 is being used less for games these days and more for TV by my kids, and for watching movies and sports (easiest way to watch full replays of NHL games) by myself. Everything Microsoft has said on those parts through their various media conferences show those to be strong areas for the console, but I ultimately want to see it in the works before making my decision. The gameplay experienced was hugely enjoyable, and the new controller a delight, but I’m not quite throwing my £430 at you yet Microsoft.
GAME have now also announced PS4 lock in events. You can check if either console will be in a store near you here.