It's a black set-top box. It's a media streamer. It's dependent on an internet connection. It's a living room hub. It wants to be your everything. But really, the Xbox One (or any new, next-gen console for that matter) is nothing without launch games. To get a real sense of that lean-in experience on the Xbox One, we spent some time in Microsoft's (very green) E3 booth playing the various available demos. So join us then, as we deliver some brief impressions of what to expect when you boot up that Day One edition console later this year.
Forza Motorsport 5
The Microsoft rep we spoke to wouldn't quite commit to calling it a racing simulator, but did go on to say Forza Motorsport 5 would be a mostly "authentic" racing experience. From the jump, the Xbox One's dazzling graphical capability is noticeable in the surrounding "track" -- in this case, a nearly architecturally faithful Prague, Czech Republic. Everything from the environmental lighting when passing under trees, to the hyper-realistic rendering of the cars themselves and even the ability to view the background from the car's side view mirrors should astound early adopters.
The demo allowed us to select from two car options, after which we were able to tweak some assist settings, as well as set difficulty (i.e., Hard, Advanced and Expert were the three maximum options). Gameplay is fairly straightforward, with acceleration mapped to the right trigger button and braking on the left. Surprisingly, the game also features a rewind button which lets gamers reverse fortunes should they encounter some embarrassing spin outs. As for the driving experience itself, gamers will be pleased to know that you can feel the car accelerate from the bottom half of the controller, while feedback like braking is fed directly into the triggers. In all, it should make for an enjoyable, though predictable racing experience.
If you're looking for the Xbox One "showcase" demo of E3, Ryse: Son of Rome is probably it. It's a gorgeous display of fire, falling rubble, bloody combat and general Roman superiority. It's pretty fun, too. The deftly animated melee combat reminds us a little of Batman:Arkham Asylum, but with a more mature bent. After chopping away at a few enemies, players are presented with a kill sequence allowing them to follow a few on-screen button prompts to up the ante of the execution sequence. Once this sequence starts, your character is pretty much guaranteed to come out victorious. The challenge of Ryse is in mastering the gameplay. It was fun, challenging and darn pretty. All in all, this feels like a solid launch title and an exclusive that really shows off what the hardware can do.
This is definitely one of the kookier games shown off at Microsoft's booth and also one that's headed to Xbox 360, as well. This Twisted Pixel effort puts players in control of I.R.I.S., a motorcycle equipped with combat moves and weapons... as well as a human character being dragged by its rear wheel. From a graphical standpoint, LocoCycle lacks the wow factor you'd normally associate with next-gen games, opting instead for a more cartoonish presentation. Still, the actual gameplay experience was fun, if not a little disorienting, letting you zoom around terrain on various rails to (what else?) fight baddies. The game definitely zips along at a solid framerate, so you won't be lamenting speed, especially if you use the available turbo boost. Is this an essential day one purchase? Hard to say. It seems more of a fun diversion, than must-have for your initial Xbox One library.
There's nothing harsher than walking up to a well established fighting game and getting your rear handed to you by a frame-counting enthusiast. When it comes to fighters, we're mere amateurs. Lucky for us, the Killer Instinct franchise has been quiet for a few gaming generations, and our E3 opponent was just as rusty as us. Microsoft provided us with a proper analog fightstick for our inaugural match: Saberwulf vs Jago. It didn't take long to see the trapping of the series shine through its new HD graphics. Our game's trademark dual-lifebar match dictated who was the victor (hint: it was us) and we even stumbled upon a few automatic combo sequences. It's hard to get a sense of a fighter after only one match, but Killer Instinct feels like a solid reintroduction for the series. At the very least, it's worth a few pick-up rounds.
It's hard to deny: dragons are pretty cool. But dragons flying through a seemingly active volcano? Even better. This Xbox One on-rails shooter (an exclusive) is a pretty exciting display of the new console's graphics, but it's still fairly simple gameplay-wise. Despite all of the action unfolding around our flying reptile, Crimson Dragon's E3 demo felt unchallenging, providing only limited control of our Dragon and an enormous targeting reticle that made our target exceptionally difficult to miss. Even so, it reminds us of the side-scrolling shooters of yore. It doesn't seem deep, complex or particularly challenging. But if you're looking for some mindless fun, it should do the job.