Xbox One Hands-On: Five Launch Games Tested

Yesterday morning, we were given a hands-on demonstration of some of the video games that will be launching alongside the Xbox One including Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3 and Kinect Sports Rivals. If you're still sitting on the fence about whether to buy the console at launch, these are the games that will make you jump one way or the other...

On 22 November, Microsoft's next-gen video game console will be hitting stores across Australia. Exactly one week later, the PlayStation 4 will be making its debut. If you're brand agnostic, the choice of which console to buy on launch day will mainly come down to the games that are available.

With that in mind, here's a look at some of the flagship launch titles for the Xbox One. [Note: once we've had some hands-on time with the PlayStation 4, we'll report back on how the hardware, controller and UI compare.] We've awarded each game an 'excitement' rating to indicate how psyched up they make us for the console's impending launch. So without further ado, here are the games...

Kinect Sports Rivals

Kinect's answer to the phenomenally successful Wii Sports will be returning to the Xbox One with a whole new range of arm-flailing games to partake in. As its name implies, Kinect Sports Rivals concentrates on competitive sporting activities such as tennis, bowling and, er, rock climbing.

With veteran developer Rare still at the helm, it promises to deliver a more responsive and reliable gameplay experience than Kinect Sports on the Xbox 360. Or at least, that's the idea in theory.

Here's what Kotaku editor Mark Serrels had to say after spending a few minutes with the game:

I wonder how this is all going to work in the real world. I stood for 10 minutes as the Kinect scanned me from all angles. It scanned my face, it scanned my body. It did so clumsily. On multiple occasions a Microsoft representative had to ask me to take a step forward or a step backwards. These instructions didn’t appear on screen. At one point Kinect Sports Rivals asked me to rotate my head three degrees to the right then three degrees to the left. If I moved slightly in either direction the scan stopped in its tracks. All this effort and the end result? A cartoon video game render that looked bugger all like me. The 3DS and its ‘Mii’ system did a better job of representing my face with one dreadful low-res picture.

 

So I was already cynical. ‘If this is difficult with a Microsoft representative guiding me through the process,’ I wondered, ‘how hard will it be for Joe Blow in his living room by himself?’

 

Then, finally, the game itself. I chose the rock climbing one because I like rock climbing. This new Kinect is much more responsive and accurate than the last I’d been told, on multiple occasions. That may be true but it was difficult to tell because Kinect couldn’t recognise me initially, and had my limbs contorting like some Lovecraftian flesh puppet. A quick reboot later, however, and I was good to go.

 

Kinect Sports Rivals was simple dumb fun, but my concerns with gaming on Kinect remain: there is no feedback. You are not holding or using anything tangible. Despite Microsoft’s claims, there is still lag and it is noticeable. Sometimes movements aren’t picked up correctly, and in general I had difficulties getting the game to do exactly what I wanted it to do. I haven’t seen a single piece of software (besides maybe Dance Central) that has convinced me that Kinect can work in a video game. Kinect Sports Rivals, I suspect, isn’t going to change my mind on that front.

To summarise, it appears that the Kinect still has significant technical issues when it comes to actual physical gaming.

That said, we doubt there's a single gamer alive who plans on buying an Xbox One specifically for the Kinect functionality. In other words, its effectiveness as a gaming peripheral isn't a deal breaker and will be largely irrelevant to the vast majority of gamers.

Excitement factor: 3/10

Forza Motorsport 5

A console launch wouldn't be complete without a racing game — but is it better to appeal to the diehard simulator enthusiast or the arcade racer fan? Microsoft's Forza series has always tried to cater to both types of gamer at once; a formula that has proved highly successful.

For its debut on Xbox One, developer Turn 10 Studios has overhauled every aspect of Forza's engine in a bid to deliver the most realistic and sexiest looking racer yet. Indeed, if we had to sum up the ultra high-resolution graphics in a single phrase, it would be 'provocatively pornographic' (as evidenced by the inappropriate grunting sounds made by self-confessed "car nut" Luke Hopewell during the demo).

The dynamically rendered car damage looked incredibly impressive; you can even make out individual speckles of mud and dirt on the car's chassis during gameplay.

Here's what Luke had to say about the game after taking a Mclaren P1 and Ferrari F12 Berlinetta for a test drive on Prague's Laguna Seca raceway:

The paint job is way slicker as you'd expect, but they've also really doubled down on the physics engine — the difference is really noticeable. I also love the little details like the way each car's spoiler behaves realistically and differently for each model. While it's still a racing game, dismissing it as 'more of the same' wouldn't be accurate.

Aussie rev-heads will also be pleased to hear that Bathurst has been confirmed as a race track. There will also be a Limited Edition available which will include multiple car packs and a VIP membership for the game.

Excitement factor: 8/10 (Note: If you're a petrol head like Luke, feel free to add a point or two to the score.)

Killer Instinct

Old fart gamers may remember the original Killer Instinct from the arcades back when Timezone was still a thing (there was also a solid Nintendo 64 port). Developed by Rare during the height of the fighting game boom, it was like a brawnier, cartoony sibling to Mortal Kombat. While the series had its fans, it never took off like other fighters, resulting in a premature retirement from the ring. Well, until now that is.

To coincide with the launch of the Xbox One, Killer Instinct is staging a comeback. Like the recent Mortal Kombat reboot, the game retains a traditional 2D playing field without any of the bobbing-and-weaving trickery that has marred recent fighters. This gives it a pleasingly old school feel despite the jacked up graphics.

During our hands-on session, I played a few bouts of the game as the culturally dubious Chief Thunder; a feather-festooned Native American armed with twin tomahawks. As a Tekken fan, I struggled to adapt to the controls which seemed to throw out combos at random but I suspect a bit of practice could lead to some highly strategic smackdowns. Even as a frantic button-masher it was still quite fun.

Intriguingly, Killer Instinct is being offered as a free download with four playable characters to choose from — you then have the option of purchasing additional characters via DLC. We think this is a much better approach to a traditional demo (i.e. 0— instead of buying the whole game, you can choose to only add content that appeals to you. Like the saucy vixen Black Orchid, for example. Hnngh.)

Excitement factor: 6/10

Dead Rising 3

Dead Rising 3 was probably the most impressive launch title of the bunch. (It was also the only game we didn't get to play personally; instead, a Capcom representative took the reigns.) For those who haven't played the previous games in the series, Dead Rising is an action horror game set during the zombie apocalypse. The series' main claim to fame is its customisation system which allows you to lash together all manner of outlandish weaponry — from Shotgun Pitchforks to Chainsaw Motorbikes.

Dead Rising 3 ups the ante to a ridiculous degree. In the short time we spent with the game, Capcom showed off a dizzying array of combo weapons that were assembled from at least three separate components. Our favourite was probably the stuffed bear/machine gun/shopping trolley combo. The process has also been streamlined this time around, which means you don't have to hunt around for workbenches or instruction blueprints. You can even combine vehicles into heavily-armored beasts for an added dose of destruction.

As befits a next-gen sequel, Dead Rising 3 is much, much larger than its predecessors: it boasts a true open world that can be explored at will without the annoying loading times that marred its predecessors. Promisingly, Capcom stated that there are currently no plans to release the game on current-gen consoles — the hardware simply wouldn't be able to cope with the amount of action on screen.

While Dead Rising 3 definitely got us excited, we couldn't shake the feeling that we'd seen it all before (albeit on a much smaller scale). If you're looking to be wowed like never before, this wont be the game to do it — but Dead Rising fans will happily gobble it up.

Excitement factor: 8/10

Ryse

Crytek's hack-and-slash brawler Ryse: Son of Rome caused a bit of a stir at this year's E3 gaming expo due to what was perceived as an overreliance on quick-time events (which you didn't even need to pull off correctly). Suitably chastened, Crytek has since retooled the controls extensively (we were told that the E3 demo had been rushed to semi-completion and should never have been shown to the public. Hmm.)

We were given a taste of the game's co-op mode set in a gladiatorial arena which boasts randomly generated combatants and environmental structures. Despite all the dire warnings, we found the game to be a tonne of fun — the combat is easy to get to grips with and the swordplay flows beautifully. The much-maligned QTE events didn't bother us in the slightest; because you aren't penalised for pulling them off, it's something you can safely ignore. Personally, I think this is a good thing.

Of the five games we looked at, Ryse also gave us the strongest sense that we were playing something on a next-gen console: there's simply no way these environments could exist on an Xbox 360. Provided that the single-player campaign and story deliver, this could be a surprise hit on launch day.

Excitement factor: 7/10

So there you have it. The handful of launch games we've tried thus far are solid for the most part, but we've yet to see something that really made us sit up in our chair and get excited (i.e. — what marketing types love to class as "killer apps").

The rest of the launch lineup doesn't appear to contain anything special either; it's mostly sequels and multi-format titles that will likely be hamstrung due to current-gen machines. That said, we'll reserve final judgement until we've seen more, hopefully at this week's EB Games Expo.

See also: Xbox One Launch Post-Mortem: The Good And The Bad | Xbox One Vs. PlayStation 4 | Why I Won't Be Buying An Xbox One

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Comments

    Have to point out that Killer Instinct was on the SNES and the port of the 2nd arcade game was on the 64.
    I do that because I am a hopeless geek. :p

      Ha ha ha I was wondering if I would be the only one to pick that up. I still have my SNES cartridge, complete with instruction booklet and copious hand-written notes on getting the best combos. Ahh the nostalgia...

        I could've sworn I played that game on N64 -- turns out it was 'Killer Instinct Gold'. This is why game sequels should have numbers. :-P

        It's not complete without the actually pretty awesome soundtrack CD that came with it.

          Hell to the yes! I remember that soundtrack, even now I think that games music was perfect for a fighting game, all the songs were very well fitting to the stages/characters. I can still remember Spinal's creepy stage theme.

          To be honest I think Killer Instinct was a great fighting game, it didn't take itself too seriously and still managed to include the combo systems you'd want in a current gen fighting game. I hope the new incarnation of the game can actually hit the fighting game scene as a decent game.

    Forza day one for me. Everything else is a question mark until release time.

    the kinect issues are going to kill any momentum for kinect gaming if they don't sort it out soon. the scanning feature had issues getting features right for people at Gamescom too. i suppose it could be fixed by time the game releases in a few months.

    something i really wanted to know was the UI and the operating sound of the machine during gaming. any news on this, Chris?

      I didn't notice the console making much sound, but that may have been down to the noisy media environment.

      The UI is similar to the current iteration of Xbox 360 with the same metro-style tiles. They've included some neat tools to the dashboard though, such as an edit function that lets you record game footage while you play and then add edits and voice-over.

      Yes but your talking about kinect issues on a game not coming out till may ish 2014.

      Unlike this article indicates, Kinect Sports Rival is NOT a launch game. Presumably the reason it was delayed was to iron out any kinect issues it may have.

      Last edited 25/09/13 1:48 pm

        Actually, it's a "launch window" title, which means it could appear anywhere between Day 1 and March, 2013. Either way, that doesn't leave much time for tweaking -- the discs need to manufactured, packaged and shipped.

          You are incorrect.

          http://www.polygon.com/2013/7/25/4557026/kinect-sports-rivals-for-xbox-one-delayed-to-spring-2014

          Which indicates sometime during or after march.

          "Launch window" is also market spin Hogwash when you try and claim a 6 month period. Its either in the first few weeks or its not at launch, despite what company's try to tell you.

          Last edited 25/09/13 3:26 pm

            Regardless of what constitutes a launch title, the original point stands -- in its current form, even the basic game mechanics don't work properly. It's doubtful whether a few extra months of tweaking will fix this.

              I'd have to disagree.

              The title itself probably hasn't even been in production that long. the extra 6 + months (minimum, hardly "tweaking") could easily be a 30-50% increase in production time.
              An AWFUL lot of things can be done in that length of time, especially if all they are doing is fine tuning kinect inputs, recognition and player feedback(on screen and the like).

              While I'm not disputing how awful it may currently be, i think its a bit short sighted to just dismiss it as a failure already.

                Well, time will tell I guess! (Incidentally, the included "score" was there to indicate how excited the game currently makes us as opposed to a conclusive assessment.)

            Honestly, if u would delay a game because of serious issues u have to fix - would u present it to the press to try it out?
            Just think about it =)

          March, 2014

      I really feel the Kinect Technology is just not ready for delivery yet. Kinect games are meant to appeal to kids and people who want to pose for their TV. Now imagine you got two excited kids wanting to play this game. Imagine getting them to stand still for the scan. And seriously turn your head three degrees? I wonder how many people could spot a three degree deviation as opposed to a two or a four and a half. Your going to know it's not straight but you'll need to measure it.

      Microsoft are telling us it's a Jet Fighter, but we're still looking at whacky tri planes we may not be in the Wright brothers era but we haven't moved on very far yet. These things may work, but they are a long way from commercial viability in my Humble Opinion.

      I'd also like to say thank you for calling it as you see it and not sugar coating it for Microsoft.

    First game for me will be Killzone: Shadow Fall... oh wait...

    Why is it when i read articles like this i see hardly anyone talking about battlefield?!?!?! That is pretty much the only game you will need for the launch window!

      Battlefield wasn't there, natch. Otherwise it would have been included.

    PS4 launches one week earlier than XBone, PS4 launch is Nov 15th

      That's only in the US. Australia is getting the PS4 on 29 November: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2013/08/sony-announces-playstation-4-australian-release-date-ps3-and-vita-price-drops/

      I hope this was a read stroke of irony on your part, however.... i presumption dictates a fail.

    Laguna Seca is in California, not Prague.

    Day one for me: Forza, Fifa (obviously), Watch Dogs, Assassins Creed 4. Don't think i'll be picking up a PS4 as early as i thought.. looks like i'll be busy :)

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