Hands On Xbox One – New Controller and Game Exclusives

Last month I went to Microsoft’s Xbox One Tour in Chicago. This event gave gamers the chance to get their hands on the new Xbox One and many exclusive games before launch. Many of the games available for play were: Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza 5, Kinect Sports, Killer Instinct, Crimson Dragon, Battlefield 4, LocoCycle, Zoo Tycoon and even Skylanders. Also, we got to check out the console and experience the new and improved Xbox One controller for ourselves. Being first in line leading a group of around 50 gamers inside to Xbox glory, I must say that this Xbox One tour was an experience that shouldn’t have been missed. Microsoft really went all out with this event since there was a DJ spinning hot music, tournaments to win prizes, refreshments available and even Gamestop was there pushing pre-orders. Even Major Nelson was out on the floor for a little while! I mingled with other Xbox gamers while testing out the games for myself to gather a nice opinion to share with you all on most of everything that I got to play. Anyway let’s dive into the most important part; console and games!

Console & Controller

The Xbox One is just as big & boxy as the internet has been complaining about. I want to say that the console is similar in size to the original PS3 model but just a huge block. I found that the design was not all that ugly, while it had a pretty nice shiny sleek look to it. The Kinect also went through a transformation. Instead of it’s bulkier previous design, it’s now a bit smaller. Looks like a little shiny Xbox block with one eyeball watching you.

As soon as I grabbed the controller, I instantly felt a difference. It’s now a little smaller and more comfortable to hold in your hands. It’s less bulky than the Xbox 360 version due to it not having the protruding battery pack in the back, allowing more space for your fingers to sit. Also, it was much lighter and had a perfect weight to it. The guide button is placed a higher and glows a white light instead of the usual green. The D-Pad feels better to use since it’s not raised anymore, and the analog sticks are slightly smaller with new groves in them. The new impulse triggers are wider, stick out less and seem a bit more responsive than the 360’s. Overall the new Xbox One controller fits perfectly in your hands! I’m in love with it.

Now, let’s get right into the games!

Dead Rising 3

The first game I rushed to after running through the Xbox field line was Dead Rising 3. I’ve been wanting to check out this game since it was announced at E3, and let’s just say that I was not the least bit disappointed in playing this 10 minute demo! Instantly from putting on the headphones, you’re bombarded with the noises of zombie hordes.

The demo starts you off as Nick, the main protagonist, staring out into a sea of zombies. A kill counter ticked down as the focus came into view and it was apparent that I need to find a way through these undead freaks. Instructions were clear, kill zombies! With unlimited health, a large arsenal of weapons and vehicles, I was ready. I started flipping through controls and found a barrage of weapons in Nick’s arsenal. Weapons ranged from shotgun gloves, to flametourches and even an electro hammer. One amazing thing highly focused on in this game is the amount of weapon customization! Nick can build hybrid weapons on the fly and a tool bench is no longer needed. Another neat feature is being able to combine weapons with vehicles. I scrambled to create a Motorcycle flame thrower steam roller vehicle hybrid. That was very effective against the zombies.

Dead Rising 3 looked crisp and clear through it’s 35 inch TV screen I was looking through. This game has a darker vibe than the previous DR games which is a large improvement. The town is large and the game plays out more of an open world. Though the graphics were impressive, the gameplay felt smooth and I did not find the frame rate chugging at all even though I bet hundreds of zombies had taken up my screen at some point. This is when I knew that I was officially playing Next Gen! I didn’t get to interact with survivors or play any objectives other than bashing zombies, but I found it amusing to drive off ramps in my electrocuting police car all while wearing my daddy bear costume. Gosh this game was extremely fun to play and it will have to be a Day 1 game for me! This game really showed me a test of the Xbox One’s capabilities. –8.5/10

Ryse: Son of Rome

I have mixed feelings on Ryse. On one hand, it’s visually stunning. But on the other hand, I wasn’t shown anything that really wow-ed me. The waiting line had been one of the hottest of the day. The gameplay demo was set up in a Gladiator style arena with an adoring crowd of fans watching from above. Before grabbing the controller I was given a brief explanation on how to execute enemies and that I had a set time take on many incoming waves of enemy soldiers as possible while also completing a couple various tasks. Okay, bring it on!

Ryse first starts you off with a choice between 4 of the Gods powers ranging from slowing time, speeding up, stronger attacks and another one that escapes my memory. The combat first of all was alright. It had a bit of “pause” then “perform action” and from there you either miss your chance at execution, or add another man to the kill count. This beat-em-up style reminded me much of Batman Arkham City, but it was not as fluid. Combat is a combination of attacking with X & Y, dodging with B and using A to counter. Occasionally you get to use your power once your meter fills up. AI was impressively aggressive as some would lay out traps for me, and most needed a bit of strategy to take out. I was killed before I got to the real multiplayer aspect where I challenged the other 13 people in the room with me.

The combat was a little too clunky for my taste. Ryse had been the best looking exclusive game that I’d experienced based on character models and design alone. The gameplay just didn’t have that polish that it needed. Many others at the event raved over the game, so maybe it’s just me that didn’t enjoy it too much. I wonder if I had picked a different power up, would my gameplay experience have been better? This multiplayer demo was just one aspect of the game and I am curious to see what the story mode will entail. If you’re into action games and gladiators you’ll probably like it. Though enjoyable, I think I’ll really be passing on this one for launch. – 7.5/10

Killer Instinct

The one game most Xbox fighting game fans are gonna be hyped for is Killer Instinct. Let’s just say that this game was my FAVORITE out of all! To those who do not know, Killer Instinct is a reboot of the Nintendo fighting game series. First thing that I need to say is that this looks amazing! Graphics are EXTREMELY crisp and clear. “ULTRA COMBO! COMBO BREAKER!! ULTRA COO COO OMBO!!! The booming voice of the announcer brought back the nostalgia. For an Xbox live Arcade game, you’ve got to get this.

Fighters available were Glacius, Saberwolf, Thunder and Jago each with a couple different color options to pick from. Character models were impressive whether you’re noticing the subtle blow of wind through Saberwolf’s fur, or the detailing on every sexy ripple of Jago’s muscles. Level design looked great as usual and I found the battlegrounds to catch my eye ever so often while not being distracting to the gameplay. Graphically and animation wise, this game IS next gen! The combo and attack animation really made this game sparkle with Next Gen.

This was the one game that I really got to test out the D pad and I must say that having it not raised, had a big difference in my play style. Usually I like to play stick, but the D-Pad felt better on the fingers and didn’t feel this “clicking” that I ‘m used to with the 360 controller. It’s a huge improvement especially for the fighting game lovers. Inputs were fast, smooth and super responsive. Everything works beautifully with the Xbox one controller. While I did lose out on the KI tournament, this game had me coming back to it at least a good 2 more times. Killer Instinct was massively fun, and it will be Free To Play on the Xbox One. Double Helix did a fantastic reboot of our loved series. –9.5/10

Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 played beautifully on the Xbox One. Graphics are amazing of course and anyone who has played BF4’s beta knows exactly what to expect. Character and shooting animations were smooth like butter and graphics looked crisper than ever. The multiplayer demo set us up on an 8v8 Domination match. The map that we played on was Zavoid 311, the abandoned tank factory stage in the BF4 demo. The map Zavoid 311 left more to be desired. It was pretty small and dull looking, but I bet there are better looking maps beyond this demo.

Half of the station was sitting and the other set up for standing. Kinects were set up to some standing stations and played pretty nicely with the gameplay. When you lean your head, your character leans around cover to see what’s beyond there. I find myself naturally doing this while playing and didn’t expect the Kinect to react to it like that! This did not distract from the gameplay but added a neat little touch that made the gaming interaction a bit more fun. With FPS games being one of my favorites, the new Xbox controller really got some good play here. The new impulse triggers were fast and responsive. There was a bit too much recoil from my gun though when shooting, but maybe that’s due to my inexperience.

BF4 was the most popular gaming station of the night. I found that it was a fun experience playing BF4 on the Xbox One. I personally didn’t feel that it was that much different from BF3, but it is what it is. That is one good looking Xbox One game. –8/10

Forza Motorsport 5

This was my first time playing a Forza game and it’s quite different from the racing games I’ve been used to such as Need for Speed. I’m very new to this type of game so I’ll keep an open head about it. The demo was only a 1 lap race between myself and some AI cars. I came in last place but I don’t care, I was getting distracted by taking in the realistic detail and getting used to the rumble shock in the controller. And there’s a whole lot of rumble!

From the select screen I had a tough time figuring out which car I wanted to drive off in. There is so much detail put into every single vehicle and the paint jobs are just beautiful. The outside world looked pretty realistic from the cockpit view and inside looked just like I could imagine in real life. A high amount of detail is added into giving the effect of that realism. Light glistened off every object so perfectly. There were twists and turns that I needed to follow on top of racing other AI cars. Doing a hard sharp turn set off both triggers into a rumble and ramming into another vehicle started a hissy fit in my hands. Driving was smooth depending on your vehicle. This game will probably be amazing to play with the Madcatz racing wheel. While many others loved this game and it looks beautiful with detail, I found the gameplay a little too plain. Disappointingly, I did not have fun playing this demo. I couldn’t wait for it to end so I could hop on some more fun games. It did play extremely smoothly and looked good, but it’s just not my type of game. –7.5/10

Kinect Sports Rivals

This was the only true Kinect game at the event and it was still pretty impressive. The station was pretty dead as expected. I’m hoping for the Kinect to be a neat device since I did enjoy mine for the 360, so I wanted to test this out to see how it is.

Wakeboarding was the only playable mode and the Kinect responded very well with player body movement. We started in a 3 lap race against all AI characters. Gameplay and controls were simple since you were to race through a trail of rings. To play, you stood with your arms out in front of you. Once the race started you pumped on the gas by stomping your foot on the ground, and to turn the wakeboard you would pull your left or right arm in towards you. Shifting more of your weight over would make a sharper turn. There were moments where you could make huge jumps off ramps if you did a squat-jump. I won’t lie and say that it felt like I was really wakeboarding, nor did I feel cool wriggling around like this. But it was a pretty fun game. My arms started to get tired after a while, but I have to say that the exercise was well disguised in the fun that I was having. –7/10

Skylanders: Swapforce

This game really shocked me in how good it actually was. I mean, we’ve all seen Skylanders marketed everywhere like crazy from Walmart to Gamestop. Could this child’s game really be worth checking out? Since this is an adventure game created in essence of the Spyro games, I was hoping this would be pretty cool. Anyway, I took the controller and checked it out.

The game itself has a really unique play style. The demo started me off with an opening animation (which looked brilliant through the large HD screen! From there I was able to explore this world with a fire type character. Fighting enemies, reading onscreen tips and solving mini puzzles while moving forward was the gist of the game. I then reached a door that prompted me that I switched out my character for a flying type, I could proceed on. There were a couple of different action figures laid out for me to switch between and place on a platform connected to the console. I picked up my character off the platform and the game waited in real time, while I placed the flying type character on it. Instantly the game recognized which character I’d switched and I entered an awesome flying mini-game. THIS IS SO COOL! Maybe this has been done before with other games but whatever, it was an awesome experience. –8/10

LocoCycle – XBL Arcade

What an oddly enjoyable little game LocoCycle was. You’re being dragged down a freeway by a motorcycle while tons of enemies are out to get you. Sounds comedic enough but was it actually fun? Yes it was! This is less of a racing game and more of an attack shooter type of game. Our main character speaks Spanish and is completely confused as to what is going on, while our tron-like LocoCycle speaks to us in that has a mind of it’s own. It was fun hearing them interact with each other. Controls were pretty simple to grasp. The demo didn’t explain why any of this was happening, but just go with it. It’s a funny game. It’s a race against time while you attack as many as possible while keeping your attack chain together. While the game didn’t look or feel next gen, it’s probably going to be a neat game to have in your arcade collection on launch. –7/10

Crimson Dragon – XBL Arcade

I didn’t really enjoy this game. Originally this was supposed to be a 360 Kinect game, and it would have probably been more enjoyable in Kinect form. This game did not look or feel next gen. It’s a rail shooter, which is pretty neat. Although it did not have a smooth feel like Child of Eden. The game consisted of flying around as a dragon, shooting enemies and collecting orbs. Music and sound was just okay. What I did like about the game was the feel of the impulse triggers, as LT was the main shooting button, it gave a little rumble kind of like the feel with Forza. The game had a decent difficulty level. If you’re fan of old-school sega shooters, you may enjoy this. I walked away after a couple of minutes because this was not that entertaining to me. I did give it a try though, I truly did. -4.5/10

Zoo Tycoon – XBL Arcade

I was not expecting this game to look as good nor be as entertaining as it was. Okay, I like tycoon simulation games. Especially a little series called Rollercoaster Tycoon (which really should make a comeback *wink wink*). Graphically it’s amazing. The animals are greatly detailed, character models look pretty lifelike and animations are spot on. The game had two modes of play. Planning/Building mode is where you set up your park, attractions and get feedback. Zookeeper mode is where you get to walk around the park interacting with things and see how everything turned out. With talks of 100 animals from the start and 4 player co-op, this will be a pretty fun launch title. A large portion of my gaming time will be guaranteed to this title! Don’t judge me, simulation games are too addicting! –8/10

There was also Fifa 14 and Max: Curse of Brotherhood, which I did not get to play. Though watching pros take a hand at Fifa, this game looks pretty good. I don’t know anything about the mechanics of the Soccer games but I’ve heard gamers announce that it’s a big step up for the series. Sports fans, I’ll leave that one up to you! Also I played Peggle 2. It’s honestly just the same old Peggle with a 2 logo. Nothing exciting there at all. I really wanted to try some Project Spark and Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare but I can wait a little while for those games.

Overall my experience with playing on the Xbox one has been pretty great. There were some titles that I knew would be amazing that just were, and some other titles that were not impressive at all. We have an amazing new controller that I think many are going to love. Especially those who always felt the 360 controller was uncomfortable or just too large to use. Not only that, but we have a great lineup of games including some of those Arcade titles right at launch. Whether the games are in 720p/1080p, I don’t really care. It all looked good to me on the big screen! Microsoft really did an awesome thing by letting us, the gamers, have a chance to preview it beforehand. Big props to Microsoft! I will be getting an Xbox One in the future, but in this moment I still need to enjoy/catch up on some current gen games before I invest into the system!

Xbox One’s release date is November 22nd. How does everyone feel about the Xbox One at this point? What exclusives are you looking forward to getting?

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