Helpfully marked by its fancy sign and incessant green glow, we managed to lithely sidestep the lepers section at EGX. When it came time to get our Xbox One on, there was no single giant queue threatening to make us curl up into a ball in terror, ardently screaming about not being able to handle another one, to point us in the right direction. Nope, Microsoft were perfectly happy to let us frolic about their designated Green Zone as we saw fit; though once we’d shuffled past a giant statue of a Roman and awkwardly excused ourselves round the IRL sports car, and finally elbowed our way through the crowd of rowdy football fans violently wanting their picture taken, it turned out there were less actual XB1 games there than we first thought. Which was almost a surprise.
Fortunately, though, we got to try a couple of the bigger batters, and most importantly of all, we got to spend a good while delicately running our fingers along the edges of the new controller, before accidentally pressing the Guide button and being pounced upon by angry stand attendees. ‘Get off that screen!’ one of them said as we tossed the controller in the air in a panic, setting fire to a nearby cosplayer, before leaping into the supercar taking up space on the Forza stand, and speeding off through the wall in a blaze of nonchalance.
Back in the muggy mundanity of reality, we meekly said sorry and left the stand. We weren’t really sorry though; not entirely. Anyway.
Undoubtedly the biggest moment of our Xbox One playtest was finally getting to violate the new controller. Could Microsoft improve the nigh-on bout of perfection they splattered all over the 360 pad design? Turns out they could, although only very slightly. Fortunately, the pad is, of course, instantly familiar, and we daresay blindfolded, we may not even have told the difference between the new and the old straight away. The face buttons are less comparable to jelly bean shaped bubbles, which makes a significant yet subtle difference that will be forgotten about once the controllers become standard issue. The d-pad is noticeably improved, though let’s face it they’d have done well to make it any worse, and it’s still a little way off being completely faultless. Lastly, the left and right bumpers were a little underwhelming, carrying the stodginess that sometimes plagued the 360 pads over to this generation albeit in smaller quantities.
We sort of miss the Guide button’s shiny, mirrored prominence as well, but with the classic offset twin sticks, the new rumble triggers and the kind of comfortable ergonomics that’d put one of those fancy office chairs to shame, we were more than happy with Microsoft’s next generation pad. Score one.
The box itself is a hulk of a thing; nothing in comparison to its Grandad sure, but you’d definitely do some damage if you dropped one on someone’s head. It’s about as boxy as they come, with the only real definition a slight angle on the front most plane, underneath the disk drive. The ‘media centre’ ambitions of Microsoft evidently involve the XB1 literally elbowing every other device you own off the shelf under the telly. Like when someone who’s spent too much time at the gym tries to use public transport. Sort of.
Onto the games then, and if Dead Rising 3’s live zombified actors were anything to go by, the new title will offer a whole new world of personal space invasion. Our ten minute blast saw us let loose on the streets of a nondescript city square, populated by, you guessed it, hundreds of Jeremy Beadle impersonators. Improving on DR2’s rather flimsy core mechanics, but retaining enough of that classic Dead Rising feel to keep it appropriately familiar, everything has been expectedly ramped up for the series’ next gen debut. The visuals are better, though nothing you’ll be tearing your eyeballs out over, and the number of Jeremy Beadle impersonators on the screen at one time is, of course, boosted significantly by the new hardware as well. Interestingly, you can now tape together your ragtag improvised Homebase-sourced weaponry on the fly, dispensing with the need to lock yourself in an airing cupboard for 20 minutes before getting to see exactly what the DrillChair does. And sort of wishing you hadn’t bothered. Similarly, and quite inexplicably, vehicles can now be combined as well as DIY products and furniture. We were told to stand next to a digger and an ambulance, hit the corresponding button and TA DA, a shiny new armoured truck type affair appeared, complete with weaponry. Peculiar.
When it comes to mindless zombie-killing action, Dead Rising has no competitors, and it certainly looks like three will make a fun and fitting addition to the XB1 launch line up that’s unlikely to shock you, but will undoubtedly entertain.
Tour De Forza
As a fan of the Jeremy Clarkson Simulator, it seemed only right that we loudly edge our way onto a Forza 5 pod. We only spent one short lap with the latest iteration of the racing masterclass, but undoubtedly, all the critical components of the Forza series will be making the next gen leap. Of course, it’s a salacious, eyeball caressing, visual party and whilst the glimpse of the presentation we got to see didn’t seem to offer anything worth cooing over, the sun-soaked tarmac, the gorgeously sprawling scenery and the heavenly detail that stretched to every inch of the carefully crafted cockpit most certainly did. The revered physics engine looks to make a welcome return to glory, though our playtest didn’t seem to highlight any noticeable improvements. It’s barely speculation to say the thing will have been at the very least tweaked and sharpened to work as hard as possible on the XB1.
Forza has long been at the very peak of the racing simulation genre, looking down on former champions with a smug sense of youthful satisfaction. It’s getting older, but like a fine wine or the adeptness for moral outrage, it seems only to be getting better with age, and our money’s definitely on this ol’ girl as we greet the next wave of consoles.
With Ryse and Killer Instinct both bringing up the rear, we’re really looking once again to the multiplatform chart squatters to make launch day purchases worthwhile. The younger sister of the 360’s unequivocal pad will be a big win for Microsoft, as will the familiarity of Xbox Live. As far as Eurogamer Expo 2013 goes though, Sony seemed to play the stronger hand, delivering a touch more variety in the exclusives on offer. That said, the Xbox One has gone from being the exclusive choice of an insatiable madman with more money than cognitive function, to a genuinely feasible choice, what with Microsoft’s backtracking and policy switching, and with the ineffable Titanfall heading to the console next year; without a doubt, we’re far from counting the Bone out. More on Respawn as we get it kids.