All screens in this piece are from the first hour to avoid spoilers. The text below is also free of significant story details. I’m planning to write a clearly spoiler-tagged follow-up about this game soon.
We’re almost ten years on now from Microsoft’s most high-profile failure in the gaming space: The Xbox One. Launched with a big focus on TV programming, an expensive Kinect sensor in every box, and a weaker GPU than the competing PS4, the Xbox One struggled out of the gate and never fully recovered.
It was almost even worse, with announced and messy plans for universally-hated always-online DRM that would have tied every single physical and digital purchase to one specific account. Microsoft had to backpedal those plans, and they also eventually relented on putting a Kinect in every box. Then they tried to course correct even further under the eyes of Phil Spencer with the Xbox One X, an over-compensating power monster that bumped up the price and still didn’t win them the market’s favor.
Microsoft is still reeling from these blunders to this day. In 201, both console makers were also dealing with indifferent publishers, who were somehow convinced that the game-buying public no longer wanted game consoles. It took huge PS4 sales numbers to win everyone over again — and it’s sort of shocking that this even happened when you look back at the launch games.
The PS4 launch lineup was a bit of a mess, and the Xbox One day one library is often remembered the same way — but I think it actually had some real winners. Microsoft publishing good exclusives? Imagine that! Forza Motorsport 5 was a true masterpiece, with beautiful graphics and breathtakingly responsive sim racing controls. It’s wild to me that it and its two follow-up games are no longer on the market due to Microsoft’s indifference to expiring car licenses; if you want to play a Forza game today, you’re stuck with the more arcadey Horizon arm of the series as of this writing.
Ryse: Son of Rome was Crytek at their graphical peak, trying to show that their engine was still one of the best choices…