The announcement of the Xbox One was shrouded in doubt, as many Xbox owners felt betrayed by the fact that the console would not allow used games, that the system would require an Internet connection 24/7 and that Microsoft seemed to be more focused on making this device a media center rather than a system that plays great games. In the time since the announcement, almost every hated policy has been rescinded: Online connectivity is not required to use the console, used games are perfectly fine to play and everything will function in the same way the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 function now.
While consumers still have every right to feel burned that some of their rights were almost taken away, that is no reason to discredit the Xbox One. It is an ambitious device that wants to be your hub for all entertainment. But even if that doesn’t succeed initially, the Xbox One still has much to offer software-wise.
A key component in the evolution of the Xbox from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One is the inclusion of the new version of the Kinect. The Kinect included with the Xbox One is a much more powerful and capable device compared to the original Kinect for the Xbox 360. Although some find it an annoyance that the device needs to be plugged into the console at all times, its inclusion with the base of the console will allow game developers to use it in creative ways by accounting for a player’s voice commands or hand gestures.
It is questionable whether the Xbox One’s push for a unified entertainment system is a viable future for the device. Because the console has an HDMI input, users are able to hook up their cable box into the Xbox One and surf channels, even while they play games. While this feature does sound interesting, it seems too complicated and excessive for any user to use effectively.
That said, the Xbox One is an ambitious console that may not succeed in everything it will try to do, such as being the medium by which you will watch TV. Compared to the PS4, which is $100 cheaper, the Xbox One offers little more than its counterpart. Other than a couple of exclusive titles — none of which should sway a person from one console to another — and the Kinect, the two consoles are virtually the same. However, it still stands that the Xbox One’s software, both in its launch lineup and future titles, is solid, perhaps making the Xbox One worth its $500 price tag.
Ryse: Son of Rome
While Ancient Rome might be a tumultuous era in history, video game developers have not been able to make the period as satisfying to play as it is to learn about. Ryse: Son of Rome seeks to redefine this underdeveloped category of video games with enhanced graphics and an innovative combat system.
In Ryse, the hero is general Marius Titus. The story centers on Marius climbing the ranks of the Roman army in a war against barbarians who are responsible for the death of his family.
Crytek has a reputation for bringing high-quality graphics to the video game industry. This reputation, combined with the new graphical prowess of the Xbox One, will make Ryse one of the most beautiful games of the new generation.
But looks are not enough to make this game successful — core gameplay is crucial.
Ryse brings real war tactics and authentic Roman fighting styles into the game, resulting in a fresh fighting experience. Ryse’s combat system is reminiscent of that of the Bourne Conspiracy, which was praised for its engaging in-game fights. Ryse’s fighting system is set around simple button-mashing then goes on to quick-time events resulting in brutal kills. Marius’ role as general also allows players to adjust tactics during battle, adding even more variety to gameplay.
This game also features “gladiator mode,” a cooperative multiplayer component. Players battle in the Colosseum against hordes of enemies and fight together to progress through the levels.
This component, along with improved graphics and gameplay, makes $60 a reasonable price to pay to travel back to this colorful time in human history.
Forza Motorsport 5
With the delay of Driveclub on the PlayStation 4, Forza Motorsport 5 is the only simulation driving game released as a launch title on the next-generation consoles. Forza 5 is pure eye candy, a great example of stunning visuals that are only possible on a next-generation console. Running at 60 frames per second at 1080p resolution, the game should play incredibly smoothly, something previous simulation racing games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 could never do.
Of course, the welcoming framework of Forza returns as well, where players can fine-tune their difficulty according to their skill level. New players can adjust the game by turning on every assist so they can focus less on the minutiae and more on driving, while skilled players can turn off every assistance system and treat the game as if they were actually driving a McLaren P1. Forza maintains the perfect balance of realism and fun by letting you choose how realistic the game will be and then allowing you adjust that balance whenever you feel more skilled.
A touted new system, seemingly only possible on the Xbox One, is Drivatar, which takes play styles and statistics from your game and forges artificial intelligence racers against whom other players around the world can race. Thus, instead of racing against prestructured computer-controlled racers, each racer will be dynamic and have a unique personality.
Forza aims to please anyone interested in driving and cars. Car aficionados will even find a mode that allows them to explore any of the available cars both inside and out, yet even casual players will be amazed by a beautiful, almost real-looking game.
Nineteen years ago, Killer Instinct came out on arcade systems and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Since then, a lot has changed within the world of fighting games — namely, the addition of 3-D graphics, the death of arcade machines and the introduction of online play. When Microsoft acquired the Killer Instinct intellectual property in 2002, many wondered when the franchise would return on home consoles.
Finally, Killer Instinct has been resurrected as a launch title on the Xbox One, and it’s the only fighting-game launch title on the next-generation systems. Though developed by Double Helix, a studio with a somewhat mediocre track record, the core of Killer Instinct”seems to be intact: Expect over-the-top character design, the return of an iconic announcer and high-count combos.
Unfortunately, the game is being launched within an unusual pricing structure. Technically, the game is free to play at launch, but you will only be able to select one character. There are $59.99 and $39.99 versions of the game with all characters, costumes and other collectible items unlocked, but if you just want to play the game with all eight characters available at any time, you only need to pay $19.99.
All that aside, Killer Instinct is set to be a solid launch title, especially because of its affordability. Killer Instinct has a good balance of being accessible to players who enjoy mashing buttons while still rewarding player skill. Any Xbox One owner even partially interested in fighting games or wanting to play a local multiplayer game should try out Killer Instinct — if not at the price of $19.99, at least for free.
Dead Rising 3
Dead Rising 3 will be released as an exclusive Xbox One launch title, but will it be able to stand out from a long list of zombie video games?
As the first zombie title on the next generation, it might do so.
The original Dead Rising was set in a typical American mall. The second Dead Rising installation was set in Las Vegas. This next installation is set in a fictionalized version of Los Angeles, bringing an entirely new open world in the context of zombie games. Navigating across sunny California while running over zombies and crafting weapons is sure to bring some much-needed variety into the zombie genre.
Dead Rising 3 promises to give the player more than 300 weapons to kill brain-eating zombies. These weapons can be crafted from items found in the environment. Different combinations lead to different weapons, forcing players to find all of the combinations to get the most out of their experience.
In Dead Rising 3, the protagonist is Nick Ramos, a reluctant mechanic who finds himself in the middle of a zombie-filled quarantine zone. As with the previous installments in the Dead Rising series, Ramos meets and interacts with other survivors of the apocalypse. Each of these survivors has his or her own personality and story, bringing more charm to the game and its characters. But these characters don’t necessarily continue to progress as Ramos does and can die through the course of the game.
Despite the overwhelming presence of the zombies in mainstream entertainment, Dead Rising 3 looks to be an entertaining reinvention of this otherwise exhausted genre.