Xbox One: How the launch games are shaping up before release
The Xbox One arrives on the 22 November. After its fair share of criticism, especially in terms of visuals, how are Forza 5, Ryse and Dead Rising 3 looking? Here's everything you need to know...
Dead Rising 3
Much, much improved in terms of resolution, world population and texture quality.
Combo weapons are excellent: boxing gloves with rubber ducks on them, a series of megaphones taped together that delivers a (deliberately so) Skyrim-style vocal blast. Oddly it reminded us of the Simpsons episode where Bart puts the megaphones together and annihilates Springfield. Others include jazz hands, where you get gloves made out of gun barrels that enable you to literally point and shoot.
Combo vehicles are also cool. Apart from the already seen steamroller cycle (where you combine a motorbike with a steamroller), there's another which has fireworks that can be deployed to clear zombies off the top of the vehicle. Furthermore, hitting zombies on the road with these fireworks sees them launched into space, akin to what happens when you attach a gas can to someone in Just Cause 2.
The game has a darker atmosphere, which was described to us by Capcom Vancouver producer Mike Jones as the developer wanting to get away from what he called "the increasing clown shoes nature" of the series as it went on. It was being categorised as "that stupid zombie game" despite its darker overtones. He also stated that it was obvious people would react this way, simply because the new tech will naturally give the game a "more realistic" look.
That said, the elements of the game that do take place in the day are ridiculous, and far more light-hearted, thanks to the lighting engine which makes the location look like a nice, sun-drenched place to hang out. As night falls, though, there's an oppressive sense of slowly-encroaching doom, helped immensely by the sheer amount of zombies on screen. Driving a car through them, getting slowly more bogged down and losing speed, is actually quite frightening.
Dead Rising 3 is absolutely rammed with stuff to do: mission threads, multiple side missions on the go at any one time, survivors to encounter, and maniacs to battle. Customisation, too, looks deep: mix and match outfits and other pieces of clothing, upgrade your character over multiple different attributes (health, melee and so on). There's also blueprints to find with which you use to combine items to make MacGyver/A-Team style apparatus. A good reason, if needed, to explore the world. They also provide the nonsense players want.
Forza Motorsport 5
Forza's gameplay is the same as its looks: mechanically impressive, occasionally capable of delivering a genuine thrill, but for the most part it feels rather sterile despite its obvious accomplishments.
There are still moments of excitement, however: slaloming my new model Subaru between what was first and second to take the lead at the peak of the winding Bernese Alps stage was undoubtedly entertaining. Handling is also excellent, striking a fine balance between letting the player express themselves but also giving definite barriers that can't be crossed.
It does seem to suffer from a curious lack of speed: everything seems to be going in slow motion, completely at odds with the driving, drum-heavy soundtrack that plays over the top. This wasn't just with the the Subaru either - driving The new McLaren P13 and an Audi also yielded the same effect.
Of all Microsoft's launch games, Forza is probably the least conducive to getting a real appreciation of how it will actually play in the long term. After all, three races can't hope to encapsulate the Affinity system, which is related to your relationship with your car and manufacturer, nor how the sprawling campaign progression will work.
Most importantly, it can't hope to display the Drivatar system, which Turn 10 hopes will revolutionise single-player racing by uploading telemetry data from real players. It's a system that could revolutionise how sports and racing games are played. But for now, Forza seems destined to appeal to petrol heads and graphics junkies.
Lastly, there's heavy cross promotion with Top Gear, including the Dunsfold test track and lots of Jeremy Clarkson voice over. Make of that what you will.
Ryse: Son of Rome
One of the most visually impressive next-gen launch titles on either console, Ryse has the production values of a summer action epic. It also, seemingly, has the same amount of depth and complexity.
Ryse knows exactly what it's all about, and that is showy recreations of Roman architecture and battlegrounds that go hand in hand with enough ultraviolence to make Alex DeLarge look like Alex Kidd.
We played through the first three levels, and during the course of them, killed everyone that had ever lived. Maybe. The first two are centred around barbarian assaults on Roman strongholds, and the scenery is impressive, both in scale, distance, and up close in the texture work.
You'll get plenty of time to enjoy the sights as you traipse through villas, streets and forums, punctuated by you stabbing the population of the continental US. Combat is fun if rarely taxing - timing and QTE based, you'll have to slash, dodge and block your way to an opening before hitting right trigger to really lower the boom.
When you do so, your enemies will flash a colour that corresponds to a button. Hit it quickly and correctly and you'll kill them in a gory fashion, lopping off limbs and smashing skulls (but, weirdly, not actually seeing slash or stab wounds). It's a fun system that may well grow to become too repetitive, even with the various upgrade paths. By the third mission we felt our interest had started to wane.
That said, Ryse is far more enjoyable than many are currently expecting, helped enormously by stable frame rates, excellent fire and weather effects, and the aforementioned scenery porn.