Initial Thoughts on XBOX One – Console, Controller, Games

XBOX One Tour

Alongside the PS4, the XBOX One will be competing for a pie of the gamerspace cake this winter. With only a few weeks left for the launch, Microsoft’s marketing team is on a spree. There have been several tour events doing the rounds in the UK to spread the buzz, and potential customers to have a go at the console and a few of its launch titles. I played the XBOX One first at the Eurogamer Expo 2013. But, as you know, my experience was plagued by endless queues. I only got to try a very few XBOX One titles – viz. Titanfall, Ryse, Forza, and Killer Instinct. Thankfully, with the #XBOXONETOUR doing the rounds in Shoreditch in London, I could get some more gaming time with Ryse, Forza and Killer Instinct. I also had a go with the new Kinect Sports, Dead Rising 3, and Battlefield 4. My impressions are given below:

XBOX One - Console

Console: To be brutally honest, I am not a fan of the big black box design that MS has gone for. I really like the last iteration of the XBOX Slim. And the XBOX One looks like a retro nod to an AM radio player.

The UI looks very familiar with the current gen. So, there are the usual Metro tiles to navigate. Features such as TV, sharing, and quick switching between game and other apps such as Netflix remain to be seen. These were disabled as part of the testing. But the main dashboard looks as intuitive as the current gen XBOX UI.

Apart from that, the console is silent. And for those who have waited this long for a BluRay player, XBOX One comes with a BluRay drive.

XBOX One - Controller

Controller: The XBOX 360 controller is the best controller right now. And sadly, the XBOX One controller cannot top it. It feels a little bit cramped in comparison. The overall form factor remains the same. The rumble triggers do feel great, especially with games such as Forza. I’m sure there will be enough comparison videos out soon on NeoGAF and IGN once the consoles get released. Until then, this vague review has to do. IMHO, the XBOX One controller is inferior to the XBOX 360 one.

XBOX One - Kinect 2.0

Kinect 2.0 : I have had a love-hate relationship with the current gen of Kinect. As much as I love Dance Central, the current generation of Kinect Games have not really impressed me. The novelty wears out after a few sessions. And also the fact that we live in small houses in London, where the availability of a large living room is a luxury that not most of us can afford, limits the love that Kinect deserves. With Kinect 2.0 being bundled as part of the XBOX One, things could change, and more mainstream games, such as COD, AC, or even the next gen Halo could have Kinect features.

The Kinect camera however, is not a beautiful looking piece of tech, and almost resembles its brick looking parent console. The new Kinect Sports games are again very unimpressive. Neither the graphics, nor the gameplay seem to interest me. The jetski racing game reminded me of the podracing in Kinect: Star Wars, only less fun.

The only thing I found really impressive was the facial recognition features. I couldn’t explore it completely, and as I am not getting a XBOX One, I think it will be some time until I get around to trying it.

GAMES:

Killer Instinct: A retro fighting game rejigged as a next gen launch title. KI has all the bells and whistles for it to look like a next gen title. The animation is absolutely superb, and yes there are plenty of particles flying around (apparently, that’s what next gen hardware is going to be used for). How much you end up playing KI depends on your liking for fighting games of course. KI comes as a free to play title at launch, but with limited characters. I certainly enjoyed kicking ass as Glacius, the ice monster.

XBOX One - Forza

Forza: I have to admit that I am an arcade racer. I will take Burnout or NFS any day over Forza, PGR, or Gran Turismo. I just cannot handle the immense amount of technical expertise you need to master these racing simulators. Yes, the cars look very nice, and so do the maps. But I feel like that science dog meme when I am playing it.

Having said that, I think every Forza fan would feel right at home when playing the next gen Forza. The rumble triggers are made for this game. Now only if I don’t keep driving into the dirt at every corner.

XBOX One - DeadRising 3

Dead Rising 3: I remember Dead Rising 2 to be a lot of fun. The DR3 announcement at E3 this year, made it look like a new direction for the franchise. The game goes open world – so it’s going to be basically GTA with zombies. Although, I am not sure how big the map is. From the demo that I played, this was the most frustrating game. Here’s why. There seemed like a no story to what I was doing in the demo. It felt like I was just thrown in the middle of an abandoned city, with limited resources, and I am surrounded by zombies – not a few, but a city full of them. Yes, there are a lot of them. I drove through them, I burnt them, hacked them, slashed them, punched them, and eventually got bored of the repetitiveness and gave up. The E3 teaser made it look like DR3 would be a great game. Sadly, I couldn’t find that greatness element from the demo.

On the other hand, the first person zombie-parkour game Dying Light (which I played in EGX) looks much scarier and atmospheric. Sadly, Dying Light is not a launch title.

XBOX One - Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4: The current gen versions are already out, and most reviewers have complained about how BF4’s single player is a complete wastage of time n space. Well, obviously no one buys BF4 just for single player. It is multiplayer where BF shines. And I played 4 rounds of it. And it works as fluidly as it should, and it looks like a million bucks. That’s all you need to know. I did play BF4 beta on the PS3, and I can easily say that the wait for the next gen version is worth the wait. Unless, you are happy to spend an extra tenner for the upgrade.

RYSE: Out of all the titles that I played, RYSE looked like the most next gen title. The graphics were almost photo-realistic, not just in the cutscenes, but even during the gameplay. Having said that, the game play was the weakest feature in RYSE. I played two separate demos – one at EGX, and the other one at the XBOXONETOUR. Both had some form of spartan performance in front of an audience. It is touted as the XBOX equivalent to the Playstation’s God of War. But where God of War excels in QTE and third person attacks, Ryse often feels like it has serious latency problems. I kept button mashing, and my warrior responded only a few times. I would use the L and R key for it to dodge attacks, and it would stay there like a dumb fool. And this was not a controller issue, as the controller worked perfectly ok when I was going from point A to point B. I hope they fix it before release. 

Titanfall: I could only play a brief 10 minute session for this at EGX, and I had to wait an hour in the queue for it. This was being played on PCs, rather than the XBOX One. It is quite uncanny, for a game with only multiplayer to have received so much acclaim and applause way before its release. And there is a reason for that. The gameplay is super interesting, and clearly stands out among the highly crowded FPS genre. Why you say – one word – Mecha! You have to play it to know it. Sadly, Titanfall is going to be a XBOX One exclusive for consoles throughout the lifecycle of the game. For me, the wait for Titanfall 2 has begun.

Overall Impressions:

As with Sony’s PS4, I am currently pretty much underwhelmed by the XBOX One launch lineup of games. I have been more of a Playstation gamer this current gen, and I will mostly be on PS4 side for the next gen. Unless, Microsoft release a killer title which compels me to get the XBOX One. I already have a few titles which I am looking forward to playing on the PS4, and I find that lacking in the XBOX One-verse. Yes, that includes Halo, and Titanfall. Maybe Sunset Overdrive will be the game changer for me. Until then, I will stick to waiting for the next Naughty Dog title.

Check out my initial thoughts on PS4 here

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