While Sony got a one-week head start and sold 1 million PlayStation 4s in 24 hours at launch, the next-generation battle is clearly just beginning. Microsoft (MSFT) and Sony (SNE) are both expected to sell 3 million consoles by the end of the year, according to Wedbush Securities video game analyst Michael Pachter. The real clash will occur next year when there’s more supply, and Microsoft serves up exclusive tentpole games like 343 Industries’ Halo 5, Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall and Lionhead Studios’ Fable Legends.
Microsoft’s Xbox One costs $500 (compared to $400 for the PS4), but that includes a second-generation Kinect device that has been integrated into both entertainment and gaming experiences. Having the Kinect installed in every box will give developers more incentive to take advantage of the voice and motion control capabilities of the device, which can now recognize individual family members through facial and voice recognition and deliver custom content to each user. There are some cool next-gen Minority Report functions that Xbox One opens up. Microsoft is clearly marketing a full entertainment experience to consumers, delivering a one-stop console that can connect to your cable or satellite box for a unique cross-platform offering.
Microsoft designed the Xbox One for games, first and foremost, and here are 10 great titles to jump into the next generation of gaming.
Sega Saturn (remember that?) fans will be in for a trip down memory lane, but with much improved eye candy. Crimson Dragon is a spiritual successor to the Panzer Dragoon games and comes from the same Japanese game designer, Yukio Fatatsugi. This on-rails shooter lets players take control of dragon riders as they fly through gorgeous landscapes, battling waves of enemies in the unfriendly skies. In addition to the upgraded visuals, this old-school shooter adds Kinect voice controls for ordering your dragon to go on the offensive or prepare defensively. And moving your body right or left can dodge attacks, which especially comes in handy when facing off against huge enemy bosses. For $20, you get 26 missions, customizable dragons, and a three-player co-op mode. This is a fun and affordable next-gen experience that stands out from anything out there.
Dead Rising 3
Zombies continue to dominate every form of entertainment these days, and the undead have never looked better than in this addictive open world offering from Capcom Vancouver. While there’s plenty of gore to go around, Dead Rising 3 embraces the humor of previous franchise installments. But it introduces a new cast of characters and is perfect for newbies to jump into the mayhem of Los Perdidos.
A zombie plague has turned what seems like hundreds of thousands of residents in this huge city into very intelligent (for zombies) enemies that will gang up on you (and a friend in co-op mode). Thankfully, the sandbox gameplay is chock full of objects to build weapons with. You can even customize killing machines and mow through hundreds of zombies as you traverse the city in the story-driven campaign mode. But the most fun is had just exploring the Southern California city and taking out zombies creatively.
Ubisoft is serving up a unique Kinect 2.0 experience with this Xbox One exclusive fighting game. Prepare to get a real workout. The game allows up to two combatants to fight in the living room. Punches, kicks, and dodges will be performed based on real fighting styles (depending on the pugilist you choose to control), but these blows will only land in the virtual world. Kinect will track every move by both players to replicate the action within the game’s next-gen fighting arenas. Fighter Within is the perfect compliment to Killer Instinct, replacing carpal tunnel-inducing button-mashing with an intense workout that could actually help you in the real world, assuming you memorize these moves. You’ll grimace with each punch landed virtually with bruising, blood, and sweat enhancing the experience. It’s a great way to settle disputes, since you’ll both be worn out by the end of a bout.
FORZA Motorsport 5
While arcade racing fans have Electronic Arts’ Need for Speed Rivals on Xbox One, driving purists will want to get behind the wheel of Forza Motorsport 5. Turn 10 Studios has developed this racer from the ground up to take advantage of the new console. This turbo-charged game revs at 60 frames per second and brings exotic tracks from around the world (like Abu Dhabi, Prague, and London) to life with photorealistic visuals at a full 1080p. Each one of the more than 200 vehicles featured in the game has been meticulously crafted from the way the tires handle the pavement to the sound of the engine as gears shift. A deep campaign mode allows players to drive everything from Italian supercars like Ferraris to American muscle cars like the El Camino. This offline racing experience is more challenging thanks to Drivatar technology, which captures real online racing data and translates that into the computer-controlled drivers. Up to 16 players can race online, and there will be a steady flow of downloadable content to keep this experience fresh.
Microsoft is bringing back the classic 1990s fighter with this next-gen take on Killer Instinct. The digital game, which is free to download with one character, features a roster of eight pugilists at launch for $20. An extra $20 will get you all the post-launch downloadable content and exclusives like the original arcade game. For those new to the fighting franchise, Double Helix has incorporated a Dojo mode that offers 32 tutorials that reveal how to pull off damaging “auto doubles” and “ultra combos.” Each fighter has special moves and capabilities. Of course, defensive combo breakers even the field. Everything from the amazing locales (which include a stormy mountaintop with jagged cliffs) to the finely detailed fighters (Count Von Sabrewulf’s werewolf hair bristles, and cyborg Fulgore’s metal reflects its surroundings) smacks of next-gen. The game is beautiful to watch and runs at a blazing 60 frames per second to keep the action fast and fluid. And there’s always an online opponent to compete with.
Kinect Sports Rivals Preseason
While a full game experience will launch in Spring 2014, Rare is offering players a taste of this new Kinect-focused extreme sports game for free. The Preseason game focuses on Wake Racing, one of the six events — bowling, target shooting, tennis, soccer, and rock climbing are the others — that will be in the final game. The new Kinect has been drastically improved for Xbox One, and this game takes full advantage of the enhanced camera. The one-to-one precision of the camera, which can identify multiple players through facial and voice recognition, enables games like the rock climbing experience to be challenging and fun. Scaling a cliff side will likely give you vertigo, even though you’re standing in your living room. Wake Racing really showcases next-gen visuals with unbelievable water physics as players jet ski through challenging courses moving only their bodies. The final game will scan your face and instantly create an avatar that looks just like you. The multiplayer replay value of this game is extremely high, and it’s a great way to show off your new console to friends with head-to-head gameplay.
The developer behind innovative and humorous indie hits such as ‘Splosion Man, The Maw, and The Gunslinger is at it again. LocoCycle lets players drive I.R.I.S., a sentient motorcycle that just happens to be dragging a mechanic named Pablo along for the ride. The fact that he’s on his back being dragged behind the fully armed chopper opens up fighting gameplay to the mix. With a never-ending stream of armed cars, trucks, helicopters, and other enemies, I.R.I.S. and Pablo learn to work together to take out the opposition. Players will race through an assortment of landscapes, balancing offensive and defensive maneuvers as they contend with those who want control of the new weapon, including the evil sentient motorcycle, S.P.I.K.E. Hollywood actors Freddy Rodriguez (Pablo) and Robert Patrick (S.P.I.K.E.) help deliver the laughs through dialogue and full-motion video cut scenes.
Golf fans only have one choice on next-gen consoles, and this is it. Powerstar Golf proves that you don’t need Tiger Woods to deliver a fun and addictive golf simulation. Although this game offers an arcade take on the sport, complete with power-ups and colorful cartoonish characters, the actual golf simulation from driving to putting is realistic and challenging. The game comes with four courses that showcase the visual fidelity of Xbox One through eye candy like authentic ocean waves and flower seeds that float through the air. Each course offers its own challenges that will keep players (up to four can golf at a time) returning to the greens for more. There’s also a deep role-playing game element to this title, as players choose a “class” of golfer from an assortment of caricature figures and build up special skills and purchase equipment to better their game. The only thing missing from this surprisingly deep game is online multi-player.
This next-gen version of Microsoft’s Zoo Tycoon franchise lets players build their own spacious zoo and then micromanage it. From realistic ponds and lakes to trees that provide shade to visitors and vegetation to animals, this game is beautiful to look at. Kinect gameplay allows users to do things like wash an elephant with their hands. And there’s single and multiplayer gameplay to keep you engaged. It’s also extremely deep with over 100 animals to choose from as you map out your growing endeavor. The game won’t allow tigers to be placed in the same enclosure as their prey. The purpose of a zoo, after all, is conservation and education. While making money is one of the game’s goals, that’s achieved by keeping the animals happy as well as guests. Microsoft is also taking conservation into the real world with this game. It’s going to challenge players to raise and then release into the virtual wilderness specific animals. And when those challenges are met, the company will donate real money to organizations that protect those animals. This is a great game for parent and kids to experience together.
Although not available until next year, Project Spark is worth including in this round-up because it’s so unique. The game turns Kinect into a game development tool, allowing the player to build a game world using voice commands and their arms. The intuitive toolset offers an amazing amount of detail. Sculpting mountains and digging lakes takes minutes. Once the world is complete, it’s time to add characters and gameplay mechanics to your unique experience. Unlike Minecraft or SimCity, the focus here is on building photorealistic worlds filled with nature — the perfect setting for a role-playing adventure or platform action game. But gameplay can expand into any direction. Once fans get their hands on these tools, there will be a never-ending stream of new games to experience through Project Spark. It’s as much fun making a game experience as playing through one with this title.