Xbox One Launch Lineup Preview: Potential, Little Substance

 

D4

Mark Burnham

From developer Access Games, who brought you Deadly Premonition, comes D4: a really … interesting-looking Kinect game.

Some things you should know right away: it stars David Young, a “time-traveling detective” (yes…) on a quest to stop his wife’s murder in the past; it’s bizarre in a way only Japanese games can be; and it has cringe-worthy voice acting, cheesy dialog, and protracted QTE-infused combat sequences that are shockingly violent. I can’t tell if it’s kooky and charming, or if I hated it. It at least gets points for originality, particularly next to the Kinect’s otherwise-stale lineup.

The hands-off demo of a pre-alpha build I was shown took place in an airplane cabin, and demonstrated how the basic Kinect controls work. Players use hand gestures to interact with objects like doors, walk down hallways, solve puzzles, talk to characters and eventually get in really odd, violent fights. You’re apparently trying to unravel a crime involving a mysterious person known as “D,” who is somehow involved in the distribution of a drug known as “True Blood.” Young encounters a criminal on the plane named Rabbit, who may be somehow connected. After curb-stomping the marshal transporting him to near-death, Rabbit instigates a fight with Young.

What followed was the oddest use of the Kinect I’ve ever seen. The fight played out like an ultra-violent on-rails ballet, as Young and Rabbit threw each other around the cabin, while QTE prompts flashed across the screen. Good timing of hand and voice commands (such as shouting into a megaphone, because that’s totally what happens in fights) dictate your success in combat, and it appeared there were multiple paths the fight could take. Good timing will earn different messages of encouragement (i.e. “PERFECT!”), which flash across the screen.

I don’t really know what to think, and maybe that’s a good thing?

 

Need For Speed: Rivals

Ben Richardson

Like my collaborator Mark (see his Forza impressions below), I’m not much of a racing fan. So I asked the Need For Speed: Rivals representative at hand what his pitch was for people like me, who aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to get their hands on a new Need For Speed game. “The hybrid of single- and multiplayer,” he immediately answered, arming me with a controller and setting me loose.

Need For Speed: Rivals plays a little bit like a Grand Theft Auto game in which you never leave your car. Right from the outset, you’re tearing around a vast open world that looks vaguely like central California. The developers get plenty of mileage out of the Xbox One — I kept getting distracted by the draw distance and the profusion of fallen leaves blowing around, and ended up crashing a lot. I also crashed a lot because I suck at driving virtual cars.

Back to that signature blend, which developers Ghost Games call “Alldrive.” In practice, this means no menus, no server browsers, no nothing. A simple combination of button presses will drop you right into a race or a pursuit, which appears, conveniently, just down the road. It’s also simple to drop right back out again, or to changes challenges mid-drift. Most impressively, these various chunks of gameplay can draw in friends, strangers, or simply AI bots to race against you. It’s all taken care of behind the scenes, particularly on souped-up next-gen hardware, which supports more networked players at a time. As far as I can tell, there’s no reason to ever stop driving — even mundane tasks like repairing your ride or banking stockpiled experience points are easily accomplished via pedal-to-the-metal pseudo-pit-stops.

Two familiar factions — cops and racers — return, and each features a separate upgrade path. Most Rivals players will choose one or the other, but those who dabble in both will notice the differences. Cops, for example, have to unlock cars by completing in-game tasks, rather than buying them with ill-gotten cash. Both sets of players will also work towards an array of just-this-side-of-Sci-Fi gadgets: EMPs and other toys that fit with the game’s hyperbolic presentation.

Ghost Games’ vast, pliable, single- and multiplayer rack track is certainly an impressive technical accomplishment — the QA alone must have cost a fortune. I’m not sure it’s enough to convince this non-racer, but if you’ve got a Need For Speed and it can’t wait for you to navigate menus — even just a few — then this game’s for you. Rivals releases on Nov. 29 in North America.

 

Dead Rising 3

Mark Burnham

If you’ve played any of the Dead Rising games, you won’t be shocked by the third installment. Dead Rising 3 is good, dumb fun with a few welcome additions thrown into the usual formula.

The campy, violent zombie apocalypse is still happening, but here are a few twists:

  1. Next-gen console power. It won’t floor you, but it helps with a game focused on a city sprawl and hundreds of enemies on screen. Loading times between areas are also a thing of the past.
  2. In addition to “combo weapons” from previous games, now there are “super combo weapons,” which combine more than two items together into something goofy and way overpowered. For example, I caused a lot of trouble with a traffic light/car battery combo that became an “elemental staff,” which alternated between lightning, fire and ice attacks. That’s … not even fair.
  3. Combo vehicles: stand next to two vehicles close together, and you can combine them for crazy results. I combined a bus with some other vehicle, and somehow ended up with a SWAT-style van mounted with a .50 -Cal and Ben Hur-style extendable scythe blades.
  4. Kinect voice and motion controls, which allow you to delegate orders to NPC “partners” and tell them where to go.
  5. Microsoft Glass integration, which allows friends to contribute to your game from the couch by doing stuff like calling in airstrikes.

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2 Comments on Xbox One Launch Lineup Preview: Potential, Little Substance

john smith

On November 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Little substance what? So what’s this clown think of the PS4 launch lineup?

Mark Burnham

On November 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm

@john smith
“Like all consoles upon launch, the Xbox One is like a nicely built ship traveling at an extremely slow rate of speed. The initial game lineup is thin, risk-averse, and underpowered — and that isn’t really anyone’s fault. That’s always how this goes.”

Notice the word “all.” Console launches are always this way.