Monday, November 25, 2013
Gadget junkies love a new machine. The Xbox One is fun to mess around with, whether you're experimenting with the voice and motion controls of its Kinect camera or using such apps as YouTube and Netflix to feed Internet video to your big-screen TV.
But most early buyers will want to know what games they can play. The Xbox One launches with 22 games you can buy online and download. You can also buy 18 of them — the good ones — the old-fashioned way, on disc. The Xbox One itself went on sale in North America and Europe on Friday for $500.
The standouts are high-definition versions of games that have already been available on Microsoft's previous console, the Xbox 360. They include Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag," Activision's "Call of Duty: Ghosts," Electronic Arts' "Need for Speed Rivals" and 2K Sports' "NBA 2K14." All of those are also available on Sony's competing new console, the PlayStation 4.
There are a few Xbox One exclusives:
— "Forza Motorsport 5" ($60) is the system's visual showstopper, from the chrome of an exotic Ferrari to the vistas of Australia's iconic Mount Panorama racetrack. Its most intriguing innovation is Drivatar, which creates digital doppelgangers based on the driving tendencies of each human player. The result: Even when you're competing against computer-controlled cars, it feels like you're racing against other people. It's exhilarating.
— "Ryse: Son of Rome" ($60) is a classic sword-and-sandals epic about a soldier named Marius Titus who seeks vengeance against those who killed his family. It has a lovely cinematic sweep, but may end up being best remembered for its copious bloodshed, as Titus finds ever more dramatic ways to eviscerate his opponents.
— "Dead Rising 3" ($60) doesn't deviate much from previous entries in Capcom's zombie-survival franchise, but it makes up for its lack of originality with sheer scale. Instead of sending a dozen or so zombies your way, "Dead Rising 3" fills the screen with hundreds of them. And each one seems as though it has a different way of getting to your tasty brains.
— "Zoo Tycoon" ($60) is much more family-friendly. The goal of this easygoing simulation game is to build an animal sanctuary. It doesn't get so bogged down in business details that kids won't enjoy it. Besides, they'll be too busy using the Kinect to interact with the gorgeous tigers, elephants, giraffes and other critters that populate this virtual Eden.
The four download-only titles in the online Xbox store are a mixed bag. They are also exclusive to the Xbox, though these online-only titles come across as lower-budget efforts.
—"Killer Instinct" is a solid one-on-one brawler that's free to play, but if you want to expand your roster of fighters, they cost $5 each.
—"Powerstar Golf" ($20) is a lighthearted trip around the links. It's cute and challenging, but doesn't put much strain on the Xbox One's high-powered graphics chips.
— "Crimson Dragon" ($20) briefly promises the thrill of flying your own winged beast, but the flight paths are so tightly controlled that it never takes off.
— "LocoCycle" ($20) combines clunky, repetitive vehicular combat with a story that's supposed to be campy but comes off as racist, particularly against its hapless Hispanic protagonist. I consider it the worst game I've seen on any game system this year, and I've played more than 100.