With each console iteration a vast majority of features are improved and expanded upon. Microsoft's trio of exclusive titles, Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, and Ryse: Son of Rome each exemplify a different aspect of the Xbox One's new prominence.
Forza Motorsport 5
For racing fanatics, Turn 10 Studios has conjured up the latest title in the Forza series which continues to focus on what really matters: the cars. With greater fidelity than ever it looks absolutely fantastic; from the cars and tracks to fan created liveries. Combine this with utilization of the new impulse triggers that go off based on feedback from the car and everything meshes together better than ever. Drivatar, the innovative Xbox Cloud feature that analyses the way you drive and creates and AI unique to you is by far the biggest game changer since rewind was invented. Racing against friends and foes decked out with custom liveries is something the genre has never experienced before and keeps everything feeling remarkably fresh.
Our largest complaint about Forza 5 is the credit/trinket system which leaves us with a bad taste in our mouth. Credits are earned by completing races while trinkets are bought from the marketplace for real world cash. And while every car in the game is able to be bought by either method, until Turn 10 rebalanced the economy, it felt as if the entire thing was pushing, practically punishing, players for not throwing cash into the game.
That shouldn't keep you from purchasing the title however, it's still one of the best racing simulation games to date. The number of cars is stupendous and even more are available if you decide to buy the season pass which sets you back $50. The number of tracks on the other hand is relatively limited with only 14 available, and the studio didn't even bother doing different variants of the same track other than forward and reverse.
Overall Turn 10 nails the clean, pure, modern feeling that we love to experience in a racing title. Some of that is lost in the lack of depth in the campaign which quickly devolves into the same sequence - pick a league (which determines the car type), pick a car, and race. At times it's practically put us to sleep with the sheer predictability. It was only when we ramped up the difficulty significantly that we actually had to put in an amount of effort that kept us awake. The cycle simply isn't rewarding enough to justify excitement except upon completion.
For the most part, multiplayer also aligns with our previous thoughts with everything being a bit too predictable. Online racing games are infamous for dirty racing, and Forza 5 is no exception. However, there are some interesting game types that make a return from the previous installments and while they're certainly welcome, they're not enough to keep us wanting to jump into multiplayer.
There's depth in Forza Motorsport 5, just be sure that you're willing to go deep enough to get the right value for your money.
Ryse: Son of Rome
Ryse: Son of Rome on the other hand focuses purely on a cinematic experience. Crytek focused intensely on getting down to the nitty-gritty while at the same time highlighting the beauty that was the Roman Empire. Various vistas and events are highlighted as the game takes control of your camera almost too often. The thing is, these are some of the highlights of the game - combat on a massive scale is breathtaking and the game does a good job of emulating that.
What many thought was basically a series of quicktime events is certainly more than that. At it's core, Ryse is a fighter, with combat focusing on combos and then a quick execute series that sees enemies impaled or hacked limb from limb. And while this does grow repetitive over time, players can upgrade hero Marius Titus including his health bar, health slots, focus, and unlock more executions. All of this is purchased via XP of coins, the latter of which is earned through the completion of multiplayer games and can be done on the fly. Ryse works a lot like the Xbox One as pausing the title brings you back to the main menu where you can do everything you can while the game keeps the state it was in running in the background. Meaning it's feasibly possible for you to gain a bunch of XP, buy a new execution, then go right back into the action and use that move only seconds later.
This isn't without it's costs however with a tremendously long initial loading screen regardless of whether the game is fully installed. Multiplayer isn't as deep as it could be, it completely lacks competitive play which is a missed opportunity, but instead Crytek focused on players cooperatively accomplishing various challenges. (Read: Killing different enemy types while maximizing score as fast as possible).
It's a brutal experience that could certainly be better, but as an Xbox One launch title and exclusive Ryse: Son of Rome does well to exhibit exactly what the Xbox One is capable of.
Dead Rising 3
Developed by Capcom Vancouver, Dead Rising 3 is startlingly western. Gone are the hardcore elements, wonky controls, and overall Japenese feel. It's a welcome change for those who enjoyed the series but were put off by the entire experience being on such an unforgiving timeline. If you're into that, fret not as Nightmare Mode does exist which sees the return of brutal enemies and saving only through toilets.
And while we still miss the good old days of taking pictures with Frank West, we're glad to see DR3 nail down it's focus. The second installment really lacked an identity outside of more Dead Rising but this time around it's clear: this game is all about combining objects together and killing zombies with them. No longer do you need to find a bench to make weapon combinations, those can be done at any time through the inventory. And while you still need to find blueprints before you're able to create the item, it's a much more welcoming system. Weapons, vehicles, food, Nick Ramos can combine it all.
The story, while bland and predictable at parts is actually pretty well put together and does link back to the previous two titles. That being said, previous experience is not required as the game does a good job of explaining the connections.
Just about everything has been fleshed out. There are more survivors who are actually interesting, more zombie variations, and each area has a distinct aura about it. It's a deep experience that welcomes you and a friend in coop with open arms, marking each collectible on the map for you.
Easily the most accessible installment yet, Dead Rising 3 is perfect for any fan of zombie games.
The biggest benefit of these three titles being Xbox One exclusive is the amount of utilization of console features. All three take advantage of Microsoft's new achievement and challenge system. Not only are these worth accomplishing for the sake of gamerscore and reputation, but they actually come with rewards which can be as simple as an extra piece of concept art or an actual in game item such as a reindeer hat in Dead Rising.
In order of strength, we'd recommend Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, and then Ryse: Son of Rome. That doesn't mean the latter two titles are bad by any means but DR3 is the strongest of the trio by leaps and bounds. Regardless, any of them would be appreciated by an Xbox One owner this holiday season.