Despite a rough start for the Xbox One, there’s no denying 2015 was great for the console. Microsoft chose to focus on what gamers want the most out of their hardware: games. Since then, the company hasn’t looked back, and is now pushing an initiative to bridge the worlds of Windows 10 and Xbox. As a result, 2016 is already turning out to be interesting—the publisher/developer is doubling down on gamer investment by filling the year with exclusives like Quantum Break. We’re also going to get more AAA titles as the One makes its way to the PC. This could be the beginning of a brand new era for Microsoft.
Still, you want a better idea of hat to expect from Microsoft’s games, right? Well, we recently had the pleasure of getting extensive hands-on time with several of Microsoft’s upcoming games, including the highly anticipated sci-fi shooter from Remedy. Allow me to give you a look at Quantum Break (Xbox One, PC), Killer Instinct Season Three (Xbox One, PC), and Minecraft (PC) on the Oculus Rift.
I went hands-on with Quantum Break for two hours, playing through two major sections of the game. I took control of Jack Joyce, portrayed by Shawn Ashmore, and was soon controlling time, reversing wreckages, and taking down enemies in warehouses. In between these instances, I was able to make choices that changed the narrative of the live-action television show segments, which tells the story from the perspective of the baddies.
Let me just get this out of the way: I’m worried about this game. I understand that Remedy was pushing to create an immersive narrative that merged a television show and a video game, but the gameplay felt so unpolished. Most of the gameplay I experienced was the standard third-person shooter action, where you’re ducking behind crates and such for cover. These moments got boring rather quickly, as did pew-pewing my way through waves of unimaginative armor-clad baddies.
Special time manipulation powers at least made some of the moments more engaging. There were four abilities at my disposal. One charged up and blasted the enemies like a more lethal grenade; another dropped a shield; then, there was a power that let me dash and cause damage; and finally there was the time reversal. Unfortunately, however, none of these abilities felt all that impressive, as there was no interesting way of using them in such standard shoot-outs. The level layouts, and the fact that the shooting mechanics felt floaty, didn’t help.
When I wasn’t in a scrum, I was solving simple puzzles that for the most part only required me to reverse time. Then there were the mild platforming sections, that were lackluster as well. Jumping around felt like a chore, and nothing about it was smooth. You won’t be confusing Quantum Break with your favorite platformer.
On the other hand, the narrative is actually fantastic. Getting the villains’ side of the story through a live-action television show is awesome. The acting is fantastic, the directing is on point, the clips are actually long enough to be a television episode, and I could actually see it being turned into its own show outside of the game. But, because Remedy chose to go this route, decisions in the game can’t alter the storyline too much since the show has already been pre-recorded. Still, having multiple outcomes to the show can definitely add replay value.
Side note: I was playing the Windows 10 version, so it’s possible that the controls are tighter on the console version.
Killer Instinct: Season 3
If you’ve played Killer Instinct on the Xbox One, then you know how hectic matches can get with screen-filling specials and combos. So, as strange as it may have originally seemed, Arbiter (Halo) and Rash (Battle Toads) actually fit right into the brawler. Four of the eight new characters of Season 3 were playable (Kim Wu and Tusk were also available), but I’m going to be focusing on the two star additions.
Using Arbiter is all about using his long reach, blaster, and grenades. His quarter-circle combos are devastatingly quick, and can reach fairly far thanks to the energy sword. What’s so cool about this addition is that he can use his blaster with the same trigger button you click in the Halo games. Same goes for the grenade. So, long-time Halo players will already know how to cause some damage.
Rash is special. He’s flashy and still kicks plenty of ass. His taunts are second to none, and he has great anti-air attacks thanks to his giant boot. But, what makes him special (other than his Miley Cyrus-esque wrecking ball attack) is his tongue, which can be used to propel Rash in different directions. This means you can circle your opponent with ease. His tongue can also be used to swallow up fire-balls. Rash, is a total blast to play as.
Fans will also be pleased to know that all 20 stages (including the new ones) have had a graphical overhaul. Killer Instinct looks better than ever.
Minecraft on the Oculus Rift
Before getting into this game, let me just say, Microsoft was smart to partner up with Oculus. The mega-company now has a VR headset for their platform to compete with Sony without having to actually produce a headset.
With that out of the way—holy cow! I am now a believer. Here’s how it works: there are two ways to view the game when you have the Rift on: the first-person perspective, and in a virtual living room on a big screen. One is obviously more interesting than the other. Sitting in the virtual living room is nice if you’re prone to motion sickness, or if you want to play the game normally on a massive television screen… but yeah, it’s all about the first-person mode.
This is where things get interesting. In this mode, the world comes to life, and everything just seems bigger. And I know you’d expect that, but it’s honestly breathtaking when you actually experience it. I was able to explore an already crafted demo area that felt like a giant theme park. I went on several roller-coaster-like rides on karts, walked on glass floors from incredible heights, and even got an arrow shower raining down from above my head. It was so immersive, and I can’t wait for the community to build all types amusement park-like locations.
The camera controls do take some time to get used to in the first-person mode. The movement is restricted to forward motion only, but you can of course still look around as much as you’d like by moving your head. Moving the camera to walk around in different directions requires you to make the shift using the D-pad and the screen sort of jumps to that perspective. It’s disorientating at first, but it works. I’m assuming free movement caused too much motion sickness.
Players on the Rift will be able to play with friends on Windows 10 and the mobile version.
These three games are on Windows 10, so again, it’s absolutely clear that Microsoft is doing all it can to bridge the world of Xbox and Windows 10 together. Honestly, it’s a smart move on their part. None of their competitors has the capability nor the resources to match this move.
At this point, in its infancy, the move might infuriate those that buy Xbox Ones, potentially making them feel like they’re “losing” exclusives like Quantum Break to the PC. But it’s more about expanding the ecosystem. As a result, it blurs the lines between the two platforms, which means innovation.
As for the games, two out of three really impressed me, but we’ll have full reviews at a later time. Let’s all hope that Quantum Break actually gets better in later sections.
Which of the above games are you most excited about? Do you mind that they’re all heading to Windows 10? Let us know in the comments below!
Image Credit: Microsoft, Remedy, and Mojang