116. I was the 116th person waiting in line on Monday, June 10. Hundreds waited in front of the Century City Microsoft Store, eagerly awaiting a chance to check out the Xbox One, and to get a chance to speak with the Xbox Team. A large display for Windows 8 blocked any hope of getting an early peek into the store. After an eternal wait, my group and I were allowed access to the coveted store.
As an aside, the Century City Microsoft Store is fantastic. The staff there is kind and welcoming enough so that even technophobes feel at home. Light wood tables across the floor are reminiscent of an Apple Store. However, a screen spanning the perimeter of the store is unlike anything I’ve seen. This store-wide screen is ideal for displaying stunning adverts for tablets like the Surface, or for the latest Gears of War game.
Back to the event, once inside I was treated to chaos. Lines spanning the sides of the store led to crowds of people. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I moved on over to the store’s front desk where a developer for Sunset Overdrive was giving away some snazzy looking t-shirts and free three month Xbox Live cards. Having seen the cinematic trailer for Sunset Overdrive I was already eager to find out more about the game. Unfortunately, details were sparse, as the game is still being fleshed out. However, one important fact is that the game is not an MMO. It has set lobbies to play with friends, but the world is not continuous among players.
After trying to decide what to do next, it was announced that Major Nelson (Larry Hryb) would be coming to the store. Having been a fan of Major’s Minute, I was eager to at least meet him. However, it seems many of the event’s attendees were equally as eager. With enough people stepping ahead, I walked away with my tail between my legs only to be greeted by Major Nelson himself. He was extremely polite, and even posed for a photo. However, during our conversation it became apparent that he was exhausted. As a matter of fact it was obvious that anyone with an E3 lanyard around their neck was wiped out. Of course, given how much was going on at E3 it’s no surprise that anyone in attendance would be too tired to do anything.
Merging into a line, I eventually found myself at an arcade cabinet playing Killer Instinct. This cabinet used two Xbox 360 fight sticks that were inserted into the frame of an arcade cabinet. Whether the game was running on an Xbox One or a 360 was not revealed unfortunately. What I did find however, was that Killer Instinct is very noob friendly. Being a casual fighting game player, I was impressed watching some tournament level fighters going at it. Yet when it was my turn at bat, I found the controls to be smooth and combos were easy to pull off even with no prior instruction. I found it interesting how large both characters’ health bars were, so even after being pummeled, a match still isn’t over. There are many opportunities to change up the flow of the round, and I left the game ultimately satisfied and looking forward to the free-to-play title.
Finally, after slinking out of a victory with Killer Instinct I made it to the line with the Xbox One controller. Having been an Xbox 360 native for the past generation, I was very eager to try my hands at the future of the Xbox controller. To say the Xbox One controller is an improvement is an understatement. The frame is slightly smaller than a 360 controller, yet the controller doesn’t feel cramped at all. The thumb sticks have been thoroughly improved with concave tops allowing for much easier control, especially after long gaming sessions. The buttons felt relatively unchanged, they still feel solid and responsive. Though the biggest change comes from the D-pad. 360 gamers will be the first to say the D-pad is the worst part of an Xbox 360 controller. It feels stiff, unresponsive, and difficult to maneuver. The new controller is a different story, with raised edges and the awkward diagonal plastic gone, controlling the D-pad is much easier. The newest part of the controller is the four independent rumble packs. Two are in the traditional locations by the palms, and two are in the trigger area. Several tech demos showcased this feature, including a gun which, when fired, would rumble only where the trigger is. The possibilities are endless, for example reloading a gun would most likely rumble specific parts of the controller as the animation ran. Obviously it’s hard to quantify the benefits of having these four rumble packs, and whether they’ll become an essential part of gaming in the future or if it’s just a novelty.
Regardless, I left the event impressed. The controller felt like a large improvement to its predecessor, and Killer Instinct may be the next hit fighting game. While I have yet to see the Dualshock 4 in person, it has a lot of ground to cover to have me rooting for it as the next generations’ ideal console controller.
*To clarify, the Xbox One controller tech demos were hooked up to a PC not an actual Xbox One. This article discusses the controller alone.