Xbox's yearly pre-holiday offering always seems intentionally rushed, but this year it was rushed and small. X13 was an Xbox One-only event, and it compensated for that by churning media through a two-level storefront operation on Bloor St in two-hour blocks. Since it's a console launch, the number of games available is limited, but yes, everything does look very spiffy, and there's an impressive amount of third party support thanks to Battlefield 4, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, and Skylanders Swap Force. But it's the exclusives that I'm always most interested in, because let's face it: you don't buy a six-hundred dollar system to play a game you can get on your existing living room hardware.
I will say that Xbox's marketing team is working hard to overcome a disastrous E3, and since Playstation has been pretty quiet leading up to its release, only the most hardcore gamers will continue to be swayed by the bad pre-release PR. Xbox is still a contender, even though the controllers are still too damned big for my tiny hands. Here are the top 3 things I enjoyed from the launch:
3 – Dead Rising 3
As pretty as Forza 5 looked, it's another racing game, and will pretty much sell itself. In terms of fun factor, you have to love Dead Rising's goofiness. Taking the bizarre weapon crafting one step further for the 3rd instalment, the game will allow you to create crafted custom cars with which to flatten, incinerate, or otherwise destroy zombies. To my eyes the graphics didn't quite look next gen, but if you want that, play Forza. Forza is shiny.
2 – Ryse Son of Rome
Yeah yeah, it's not popular to like this game, but it looked really really great – not surprising for a Crytek product. What was surprising was that the Kinect voice commands worked in a loud, crowded room, demonstrating that the Kinect has improved from its previous incarnation. Speaking of incarnations, games that go through as many as Ryse tend to end up disjointed, but I'll stay hopeful that the heavily-embargoed story lives up to the shiny graphics.
1 – Xbox Fitness
No one is more surprised than me that the game I was most impressed by wasn't actually a game. Xbox Fitness is, so far, the most compelling rationalization for a revamped – and expensive -- Kinect. Using existing fitness franchises like the P90X program, Xbox Fitness provides feedback on things like body temperature, and which muscle groups are being used at any point in the exercise, all in real time, right while you're working out. Random challenges help stop things from getting boring, and Xbox was extra clever with its pricing: the service provides free content for Xbox Gold Members worth more than the cost of the membership – and it's also much cheaper than joining a gym.