Last November, it was a battle of political heavyweights. Next month, capitalist titans Microsoft and Sony will be going toe-to-toe as they release new, highly-anticipated video game consoles.
Unlike politics and most video games, there’s expected to be two winners in the console wars.
First out of the gate will be Sony’s PlayStation 4 ($400) on Nov. 15. About 725,000 U.S. customers have already signed up for a PS4.
On Nov. 22, Microsoft’s competing Xbox One ($500) will hit store shelves. More than 525,000 units have been pre-ordered, according to Forbes.
Due to demand, it may be difficult to find either console in November.
Friday, Microsoft was in Atlanta pimping the successor to the Xbox 360, released way back in 2005. The Xbox One Tour is only visiting six U.S. cities prior to the Nov. 22 release. The event at 200 Peachtree runs through Sunday, and is open to the public, but attendees must be 18 or older.
About nine games were being demonstrated, and I played ‘Dead Rising 3′, ‘Ryse: Son of Rome,’ ‘Forza Motorsport 5,’ ‘Battlefield 4,’ ‘Kinect Sports: Rivals’ and ‘Killer Instinct.’
All of the games looked great, particularly the gladiator themed fighting game ‘Ryse: Son of Rome,’ which seemed to take the most advantage of the Xbox One’s improved hardware. ‘Forza,’ which routinely has the best looking racing game on any platform, looked stunning too.
Despite recent rumors on the Internet that the Xbox One is limited to 900p (1600 x 900) resolution, I was told all games that supported it were outputting at 1080p (1920 x 1080) during demonstrations, but that may be upscaled resolutions.
‘Dead Rising 3′ has a much more “zoomed in” third person perspective that allows greater visual detail, but I noticed a bit of lag when I ran across the demo map and the game spawned in what looked like hundreds of zombies. The camera seemed to get lost when in corridors or other tight quarters.
‘Battlefield 4′ features a subdued color palette, like most war games, but distance detail seemed improved over similar 360 titles. Sound effects seemed a bit tinny. The controls were very familiar, but I died repeatedly, which was also familiar. This game will obviously be huge online and is the second highest pre-ordered game on both new systems. ‘Call of Duty: Ghosts’ is the No. 1 launch title on both systems but was not being demonstrated in Atlanta.
The new Kinect motion sensing controller seemed to work pretty much like the 360 version, but I am told it is able to capture much subtler movements. I raced a personal watercraft in ‘Kinect Sports: Rivals’ and it was a workout. It takes time to adjust to the Kinect, but I feel even with the improved sensitivity it is best left for party games.
The Xbox One demonstrator said Kinect is now able to recognize faces and will be able to provide customized menus for individual players. Exercise games are planned soon after launch and Kinect can now detect a player’s pulse rate.
Unlike previous incarnations of the Xbox, the One is designed with “home entertainment” (aka streaming media) as a priority.
Xbox Live Director of Programming Larry Hryb (gamertag “Major Nelson”) was in Atlanta Friday and explained some of the Xbox One’s unique features. Unlike other consoles, the Xbox One has an HDMI input as well as output. This means cable or satellite boxes can be passed through the X1. Nelson said this would allow Xbox Live messages to appear on screen while players are watching television.
“Players can use a voice command and switch over to quickly join a friend in a game,” said Hryb.
Other consoles, such as the Xbox 360 or even a PlayStation, can also use the HDMI input, which allows the two consoles to use only one HDMI input on the TV, said Hryb.
Perhaps the coolest feature is a “second screen” experience. Microsoft is providing a free app that can be used with Android, Apple and Windows phones and tablets. The phone or tablet can then be used by video games. As an example, Hryb said Dead Rising 3 has a segment where the on-screen protagonist uses his phone to call the player.
“How meta is that!?” said Hyrb.
Madden NFL 25 and the free app, called ‘SmartGlass,’ will allow players to use their touchscreen device to select football plays, said Hyrb.
“Now the person you’re playing can’t see your play selection screen,” said Hyrb.
Voice chat sound quality is also vastly improved, said Hyrb. Microsoft owns Skype and is using their codec on the Xbox One.
Here’s a few tech specs of the Xbox One: