With the launch of the Xbox One just nine days away, this time last week I was lucky enough to get extended hands-on time with some of the console’s day one titles at preview event. I’m not going to go into great detail about every single title I played, I’ll save that for the reviews that will go up shortly after launch, but I will tell you about what surprised me, what I really enjoyed and what didn’t really impress me. I’ll start with Crytek’s Ryse: Son of Rome.
RYSE: SON OF ROME – XBOX ONE’S SURPRISE
I’m going to cut to the chase here, Ryse was the big surprise of the Xbox One preview event. Surprise as in it was better than I expected it to be. Not utterly amazing or groundbreaking by any means, but still a nice little surprise nonetheless. After seeing the game at E3, I was left with the impression that it would be just one massive QTE-fest, but Crytek has listened to comments on the web and made changes that turn from what could’ve been Ryse: Son of QTEs to a respectable third-person action title. Don’t get me wrong, QTEs are still present, but the intrusive button prompts that were shown in the E3 build have been eradicated. Instead, when the situation calls for it, you’ll be greeted by a coloured glow on your enemy’s body that corresponds to one of the face buttons on the Xbox control pad. It’s not exactly game changing, but it keeps the action flowing slightly better and gets you that bit more immersed in the fight scenario.
Staying on the topic of QTEs for just a bit longer, they’re not forced upon you like you’d think. Yes, they’re still a part of the game, but you only really make use of them during executions. Beat up an enemy to a certain point and they’ll get an skull icon above their head. Once that happens, simply press RT and you’re in execution mode. As mentioned above, the enemy’s body then glows with different colours, telling you that you need to press one of the face buttons (red for B, green for A and so on). You can completely skip these brutal executions if you want, so how many QTE situations are triggered during the game is up to you. If you want, you can just kill enemies normally and not partake in executions at all. You can just stick to the standard combat which is decent, but not up there with the genres best. This might sound strange, but the combat is actually closer to the recent Batman games than say something like God of War. You have just one attack button, with other face buttons reserved for parrying and blocking. See, told you it was quite similar to the Batman games. However, sadly, it lacks the fluidity and free-flowing nature of those titles. With the era the Ryse is set in, this might be intentional (after all, big Roman soldiers won’t exactly move like a ballerina), but the slow-ish nature of the combat is very much noticeable. When you do get a high combo going, attacking and parrying like a pro, it does feel satisfying, but you’re just always wishing things were a bit more fluid which is a shame.
Running at 900p in 30 frames per second, Ryse looks stunning. There is no other way to put it really. On a visual level, it’s arguably the Xbox One’s best title. It’s one you’d definitely put on to show your friends or family (over 18, of course) the power of your shiny new next-gen console. Environments are filled with detail, the lighting is utterly gorgeous, animations look natural and the character models are great. Watching the armour of a solider glistening in the sun, reflecting flames or just the general background never got old. However, the most impressive visual aspect is the detail in the character faces, it’s just astounding. I would go as far as saying they’re probably the best I’ve seen in a video game to date. If this is what developers can do with 900p and 30 frames per second, I can’t wait to see what happens when they get used to consoles and go 1080p and 60 frames per second!
The few hours I spent with Ryse: Son of Rome definitely left me with a far more positive impression of the game than I left E3 or even gamescom with. It’s gone from a ‘not interested” title to a ‘might pick this up’ which is a credit to what Crytek has done in terms of improving based on feedback. The visuals are mighty impressive, but only the full game will reveal whether or not it has the substance to go with the style. I saw a somewhat basic upgrade and XP system during my time with the game to go along with decent combat system, but didn’t have the time to delve into it fully. Ryse even features a multiplayer mode too, which I very briefly got hands-on with at gamescom. By brief I mean around 20-30 minutes, not enough really. 22nd November will be time for the full verdict, and hopefully we’ll be there soon after to provide you with ours.