The next generation of video gaming has officially arrived with the release of the PlayStation 4, which managed to sell more than a million units in a single day on Nov. 15, and the Xbox One, which will be hitting stores Nov. 22. On Monday in the McCarthy Quad, USC students were able to get a sneak peak at the console.
In collaboration with the USC Program Board’s Special Events Committee, the Xbox One Test Drive Tour stopped by campus with an assortment of screens and Xbox One titles available for intrigued gamers to come by and test out the new console before its debut.
It was, however, strictly a gaming affair; the consoles weren’t connected to the Internet, nor were the screens equipped with a Kinect, the motion-sensing technology that is reportedly a fundamental part of the operating system.
The advertisements have emphasized that the Xbox One can function as an all-in-one entertainment system for uses, with entertainment apps, Internet Explorer, Skype, even acting as a DVR receiver for TVs. First and foremost though, it is a gaming console — and many excited gamers waited in anticipation while the Xbox One-branded SUV was setting up to have a chance to test it out before anyone else.
The event had three different games that students and other curious passersby could try on the system: EA’s industry standard soccer game FIFA 14, Microsoft’s franchise-exclusive racing game Forza Motorsports 5 and fighting game Killer Instinct. The introduction of Killer Instinct was met with some nostalgia, as the title is a reboot of the long-dormant series — the last KI game was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1996. All three of these titles will be available on the Xbox One’s launch date.
Killer Instinct in particular emphasizes a potential online-centric software sales model encouraged by the Xbox One. Though the initial game will actually be available for free through Xbox Live, it comes with only one playable character. The rest of the playable characters must be unlocked through downloadable content purchases.
As for playing the games themselves, the new Xbox One input devices don’t feel too different from the Xbox 360 controllers. The little details, however, are noticeable — the triggers feel more pressure-sensitive, the bumpers now ergonomically combine into the lower trigger buttons and the joysticks have a little more grip to them. The 360 controllers were already perfectly serviceable, but the subtle improvements do enough to make a difference.
Unfortunately, there was a series of errors with the demos. Either through a lack of consistent power or a wiring hiccup, certain consoles weren’t able to work properly. While this might seem like an omen, these weren’t necessarily retail models of the Xbox One; they were “dev kits,” or units that are specifically used for developing and testing software. Though this does explain the glitches in performance, it leaves an unfair impression for someone who isn’t aware of the distinction.
When the consoles were functioning properly (sadly, the screens that were meant for Forza Motorsports 5 weren’t able to work when they started to allow students to test out the games), they were definitely enjoyable and looked great. Killer Instinct moved at a silky smooth 60 frames per second at 1080p, with stunning particle effects, environments that reverberate with the characters’ attacks and hyper-detailed models. Not to mention that a gamer who remembers the original Killer Instinct games will have a definite rush of nostalgia hearing the game narrator shouting “COMBO BREAKER!”
FIFA 14 doesn’t seem that different in gameplay from its 360/PS3 counterpart, but the graphical enhancements are certainly noticeable. The models look more detailed, move realistically and the crowd looks appropriately alive whenever something exciting happens in a matchup. It looks crystal clear, running at a smooth frame rate with hardly a hiccup in sight. FIFA 14 is more so a polished version of an already good-looking game rather than a fundamental shift in graphical quality.
The games were certainly entertaining to play, but it’s somewhat disappointing that people weren’t given a chance to try out anything with the Kinect or the Internet interface, which is the major selling point for the Xbox One compared to the PlayStation 4. Having a game such as Ryse: Son of Rome, another Xbox One exclusive that makes heavy use of the motion-control features of the Kinect, would’ve been a more appropriate and convincing title to have instead of FIFA 14, which is a multiplatform title.
It’s going to take more than just great-looking games to convince people to pay the extra $100 for the console — Xbox One retails for $500 while the PS4 is available for $400. For one thing, there was little emphasis on the Xbox One’s potential to be a primary source of entertainment in users’ homes in an effort to distinguish it from the PS4. It remains to be seen if the Xbox One Test Drive Tour was effective in convincing consumers that are on the fence to “go green.”