Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Xbox One Hands-On Impressions.

Last nights Xbox One hands-on started off good. I got a call stating it'd been pushed forward by half an hour and when I arrived there was no delay of any kind in getting into the event, so no I wasn't stuck outside in the cold being hounded about preorders thankfully. The excitable Xbox One reps laid down some ground rules, notably NO pics or videos! With there being security at the event too it was impossible to snap anything. Sorry. Now onto the second part of the Next Gen hands-on!
Im gonna go with the controller first again. In truth, the jury is still out on it for me. In pictures it looks similar to the 360 controller but once Id got a hold of it, it just didn't sit right. Remember the controller S for the original Xbox? It kinda reminds of that in size and feel, just a tad less bulky. The top of the controller too seems incredibly narrow which makes it feel a little awkward when resting your fingers on the triggers. I like the 360 controller, but I'm unsure of whether to regard the X1 controller as an improvement from my hands-on. Aside from shape, everything else about the controller has improved though. Obviously better D-Pad, the analogs don't feel as restrictive as on the 360, the buttons have improved a lot over previous Xbox controllers & of course, dem rumbling trigger (more on them later) At the moment my thoughts are mixed on the controller. While there's obvious technical improvements, its shape rubs me up the wrong way. There's just a nagging feeling that its not as comfortable as the 360 controller for me.
The console was surprisingly smaller than I thought it would be. Some pictures make it look huge, but it doesn't seem to be much larger than the Ps4. With the consoles being shelved instead of locked in a booth it was easier to get a proper look. Also the noise levels from the cooling weren't as bad as I was expecting, seeming to be roughly the same as a slim Xbox360. The way the Xbox logo lights up on the front of the console looks nice too. Unfortunately, I have no info on the UI. Unlike the previous night where you could exit games and browse the UI on the Ps4, the Xbox event was more like a hands-on with the games than the console. Each console had a specific game booted and any attempt to deviate from that had the security twitching. Its a shame really after sampling the Ps4's last night it would've been good to get a feel for the Xbox One's too, but I guess that wasn't to be the case with a more controlled event.

How'd the games fare....

Forza5 - I'm starting with the game I probably enjoyed playing the most. Funnily enough I'm not really a racing fan though, but Forza was easily the most impressive of the bunch. 1080p60 has long been confirmed, so I can only confirm that to be the case from my hands on too. There was only one track on offer, Laguna Seca, and 4 cars to choose from (I think I was the only person to give the Ford Focus RS a go) but I still gave it a few go's. Handling seemed to be more similar to the rest of the series and less like the casual offshoot, Horizons. No doubt your wondering about the triggers. Yes, Forza was the only game to make use of them. I'm not really much of a fan. Sure its quirky and fun for a few minutes, but in truth I can't really see many games making good use of them outside of racing games. Forza5 was good to use them with, but how would other types of games use them? I dunno. It would've been nice to have another track or 2 to try and show off a little graphical flair, but I was still impressed with what I saw and the game returning to its series staple instead of continuing with Horizon can only be a good thing.

Ryse - Lets put some concerns to rest. Yes, the game does still feature QTE based executions. Anyone that says otherwise is a moron. The game plays like a hack & slash, albeit a slow and clunky one at that, where you go from enemy to enemy dispatching them in numerous ways. 1 or 2 hits with the light attack brings up an icon over your target which instigates the execution when you press 'B'. Here the QTE comes into play, although they've tried to disguise it so Ill explain. Say an execution has 3 stages. An aura will appear in multiple colours around your target (The game has slowed down at this point too) IF during the 3 stages the aura goes yellow, blue, yellow - guess what you do? Yep, Press 'Y' 'X' 'Y' to complete the execution. Now imagine doing this over & over & over & over again and that seems to be Ryse in a nutshell. Co-op could be a bit of a saving grace (the hands on was with co-op enabled with the player on the Xbox next to me joining in) but aside from dual executions, it never really came into play in any other way during the hands-on. Its a shame as the graphics are pretty good (confirmed at 1600x900 though so no 1080p goodness) with some beautiful fire effects played out during an arena bout in a coliseum, but the gameplay is so clunky. I actually became stuck on a wall at one point for about a minute before an enemy hit me n broke me free, plus enemies would freeze in all manner of weird postures at a time. It may be due to it being based on an older build of the game, but if not - I really don't see what the hype is about. As a Hack & Slash, its way behind almost everything else Ive played in the genre recently.

Dead Rising 3 - To be honest Ive never really been interested in Dead Rising. Played a little of the first one but that's about it. I was looking at this game to surprise me though and maybe be a dark horse for the Xbox. It didn't turn out that way. What came to pass was just another Hack & Slash. Your given a big hammer and dropped into a street with zombies. Thats it. My playthrough mainly consisted of bashing 'X' with the occasional 'Y' to do a heavy attack to clear zombies from around me. I picked up a pistol at one point which switched things up a little, but it was back to the mashing once my ammo ran out. It could just be the area of the game that I was given to play, but I don't remember Dead Rising being this monotonous!? The amount of Zombies onscreen is quite impressive, but drawbacks in resolution (less than 1080p again without a doubt) dull colour palette, lacking fine texture detail (for a next gen title anyway) and some awful aliasing take the sheen off the game. The framerate seemed fixed from E3 though and stayed relatively smooth so there's a good point from my hands-on! I dunno with this. Maybe the full release will add the variety that the hands-on segment I got stuck with was lacking. It has potential but who knows if it will be fulfilled.

There was also Killer Instinct to play but I passed on it due to it being a 1 v 1 with an Xbox rep. After watching the guy pummel a few people I thought 'Whats the point?' I wouldn't be getting a feel for the game, Id just be getting stomped. Can't base a hands-on with being stomped into the dirt due to the rep obviously playing the game at every event! It looked impressive though.

This .gif sums up my feelings on the hands-on perfectly. It was a clear missed opportunity by Microsoft. With the games being the typical dudebro yarn, it was hard to get excited from a niche gamers perspective. There wasn't even a quirky indie title to give the event some variety. I spent 3 HOURS there, quizzing the reps & playing games - and left unimpressed. With all the Battlefield 4 news yesterday too with regards to the next-gen iterations, Microsoft needed to wow me with some exclusives to drum up some excitement, but I was left wanting at the fidelity on show. It was a far cry from the 1080p crispness, colourful & detailed Ps4 hands-on the night before. I'm going to play the waiting game with the Xbox One, my opinion on it can't really get any lower after last nights hands-on so it has to improve at some point. Microsoft are quite clearly not aiming for the demographic that's going to frequent an Otaku gaming site though.

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