Xbox One Launch Lineup Preview: Potential, Little Substance
How different is Xbox One’s FIFA 14 from its current-gen cousin? At first glance, you’ll notice the increased resolution, which sharpens the game’s slick menus and makes character models appear more real. Then, the other added bits of flavor, including more detailed sidelines and fleshed-out crowds that react to the events on the pitch. More power under the hood also means that the game can now render iconic stadiums inside and out, which deepens immersion and gives players a good look at places they’ve heard a lot about, but might never visit.
Other changes are more subtle — but so much more important. According to series producer Santiago Jarmillo, FIFA 14 on Xbox One boasts up to five times the number of motion-captured animations of its current-gen predecessor. Quality mo-cap has propelled FIFA to dominance over the last decade or so, but the FIFA team seems to have outdone itself this time around.
The increase in animation quality might not mean much to a casual fan. The game already plays well on 360 and PS3. But to a dedicated player, happy to invest the time necessary to see that vast variety of animations triggered, Jarmillo’s claims are tantalizing. More animations means a more unpredictable, authentic game. Movements and turning will be more precise, tackles more robust. Increased hardware horsepower also means improved rendering, better physics, and smarter AI. I wouldn’t buy an Xbox One day one just to play better FIFA. But I would consider it.
Forza Motorsport 5
Disclaimer: I’m not much of a racing game guy, and have historically stuck mostly with the Burnout series. But…
Presentation on Forza Motorsport 5 is through the roof. It’s gorgeous, and running at 1080p and 60 frames per second. Even the menus in this game look amazing. And they sound heavenly, thanks to an all-female choir cooing in the background while you select some rare, exotic Ferrari with an exterior polished to a blinding sheen. Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson does cool vocal intros to each level, too.
Though efforts are made to make Forza 5 approachable, it has a … let’s call it 45-degree learning curve. Not quite vertical, but certainly tough. Forza is about precision, not crashing cars or turbo boosts. You’ll need to develop a more nuanced gas strategy than “full throttle or zero throttle” to make turns, overtake opponents and win races.
To help with all of this, Forza 5 has a ton of options for computer assisted braking, steering and path-guiding that can be toggled on and off to accommodate less-experienced players (e.g. me). It’s the kind of game you can spend hours upon hours mastering … if that’s your thing.
Opponent AI is very, very smart, as it’s all based on real-life profiles of other Forza players’ driving strategies — even your own. Finish enough races, and Forza will create a “Driveatar” for you, which is a snapshot of how you drive. Your Driveatar will even face other Forza players and compete on your behalf when you’re away from the game, and earn you rewards in the meantime.
The only fighting game available at launch, Xbox One’s Killer Instinct reboot is fast and easy to get into, but difficult to master. If you played the original, you’ll likely feel at home. I played as returning character Sabrewulf, and I was able to string together multi-hit juggling combos without much pain, even though I’m no fighting game master.
The basic flow of combat is simple enough — start with an “opener,” or a simple special move. If you’re Sabrewulf, try back-forward, then light punch, and he’ll do a sort of slashing strike; from there, you want to chain another attack in your combo to keep it going — a medium attack, perhaps. By landing successive hits and special attacks you can do all sorts of mean stuff to your opponent, with combo counters easily up in the double digits.
There are three meters to be aware of: The red “Combo Length” meter, which eventually tops out as you do damage, ending your combo; the yellow “Comeback” meter right under your health, which fills as damage is done to you (and when full allows you to unleash “Beast Mode” for extra damage); and a blue “Shadow” meter, which fills as you do damage and allows you to unleash medium-power Shadow attacks for additional damage.
Each character also has an “Ultimate” combo, which can be triggered only when the opponent is down to low health. Once there, hit back-forward and all three punches at once, and you’ll unleash it. They Ultimate combos are crazy, existing as kind of the KI calling card, and look just as flashy and ridiculous as they always have.
Fighting games are another genre that’s really difficult to get a handle on without extended play, but I can say with confidence this isn’t a prohibitively complicated fighter to just pick up and get into with a pal at launch.