First Nintendo; then it was Sony; now Microsoft has officially entered the console race with the launch of the Xbox One.
Revealed to the masses at a special unveiling prior to E3, the Xbox One (or Xbone, as it has been so tastefully christened by many) has had to fight a rigorous uphill battle to win gamer enthusiasm. While a few optimistic spectators marveled at the potential of the new black box, the vast majority of the gaming world (critics included) was set ablaze with anger, confusion, and uncertainty by a litany of design choices. An always-online requirement, unsavory used game policies and restrictions, a focus on multi-media purposes and online services over gaming, and a required Kinect connection to use the system were some of the fiercest controversies to hit the system, and gamers made their discontent felt with such tenacity that Microsoft was forced to do a complete reversal of nearly all of its policies within weeks.
The reversal has supposedly served the system well, as the XOne has followed in the footsteps of the PS4 to sell over 1 million consoles in 24 hours. It has also shadowed PlayStation’s steps with a console launch fraught with online bugs and faulty hardware. And like the PS4, even if the system didn’t suffer from technical issues, would it be worth a day-one purchase?
Two of the major selling points of the system were its launch lineup of exclusive titles and its online services. The “all-in-one living room” services, particularly the television integration, have been well received thus far and Microsoft has promised to expand on the online facilities in the future (for a more in-depth analysis of the “living room” functions, I’d recommend Polygon’s review).
The gaming lineup, however, has been somewhat divisive. There are three AAA-titles that Microsoft has promoted for most of its advertising; Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, and Ryse: Son of Rome. Dead Rising and Forza Motorsport have been well-received by critics, sitting at 78% and 82% on Metacritic, respectively, with Rising receiving praises for it’s open-world and combat and laments for it’s story and characters in equal measures while Motorsport has been recommended for its visceral gameplay despite it’s rather light features.
Ryse, on the other hand, hasn’t fared so well. Microsoft’s answer to God of War, Ryse: Son of Rome has been universally praised for its stunning visuals and spectacular production values, yet it’s gameplay and story have been much more divisive, with some critics enjoying the hack-and slash mayhem and simplistic tale while others have bemoaned the story as cookie-cutter fodder and the gameplay as QTE-heavy and overly limited. Much like the PS4, the lineup of third-party multiplatform titles like Call of Duty: Ghosts and FIFA 14 have proven superior on the XOne as opposed to the 360.
But while the notion of upgrading current gen titles to next-gen for merely $10 is promising, the prospect of them driving sales over exclusive titles is not. Largely devoid of indie games, the XOne is instead relying on smaller titles from studios to round out the lineup, with a parade of games including Lococycle, Crimson Dragon, Killer Instinct, Zoo Tycoon, and Fighter Within. Trouble is, most critics say they’re not particularly good. The two Kinect titles Crimson Dragon and Fighter Within have been largely reviled by critic due to faulty controls, uninspiring level design, and wonky storytelling, and Killer Instinct is the only smaller game that has managed to score a Metacritic grade higher than 70%.
As it stands, the Xbox One appears to be in a similar, possibly better, position as the PlayStation 4.The online capabilities that are there are sound, and despite the largely throwaway lineup there are still a few gems that should tide gamers over until heavy hitters like Titanfall and whatever Black Tusk Studios is developing.
And with a slew of multiplatform games like Watch_Dogs, The Evil Within, Thief, and many others, neither Xbox One nor PS4 owners should have any trouble finding something to play this coming year.