Xbox One's fate depends on Destiny

20140731_xboxonecontroller_AFP.jpg

Xbox One's fate depends on Destiny
People look at a screen showing a controller during the presentation of the Xbox One in Shanghai on July 30, 2014.

The reason that many gamers bought the original Xbox, back when it was launched in 2001, was a game called Halo.

Just one game.

Halo had a fantastic plot, great graphics for its time, plenty of aliens to kill and a vast array of weaponry with which to kill them.

But where Halo really shone was in its controls. In those days, I hated playing first-person shooters on a console because the gamepad lacked the precision of a keyboard and mouse. Most of the shooters then had the feel of having been ported over from the PC as an afterthought.

Halo was a different animal altogether. Aiming and shooting was a surprisingly smooth and precise process. From the ground up, the game had been made for a console's gamepad. It established a new benchmark for console shooters.

Many of us geeks, including some PlayStation fans, bought the first Xbox because of Halo, which was exclusive to the console.

About two months from today, the war between Xbox and PlayStation will erupt again. On Sept 23, the Xbox One will finally launch here - nine months late to the party. Its arch rival, Sony, launched its PlayStation 4 console here last December.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, Sony is planning to hijack the Xbox One's thunder. It is launching its new white PS4 with a Destiny game bundle on Sept 9, two weeks before the Xbox One's launch here.

I believe that many gamers who have not yet invested in a next-generation console will buy one in September and October.

Destiny, Evolve, Assassin's Creed: Unity, Dragons Age: Inquisition, Shadow Of Mordor and Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare are some of the A-list console games launching between September and November that gamers such as myself regard as must-plays.

Interestingly, none of these titles are exclusive to the Xbox One or PS4, so the war will not be won on which platform has better games.

For me, the kingmaker will be the game Destiny. The game was opened up to the media and to those who pre-ordered the game for a special 10-day beta test which started two Fridays ago. Since then, I have spent almost every minute of my free time playing it. Created by Bungie, the same developer behind the Halo series, Destiny is best summed up as the game which marries Halo with World Of Warcraft.

Unsurprisingly, the sci-fi shooter plays like Halo. However, Destiny offers so much more. It combines role-playing elements with a strong "play with your friends" social element reminiscent of massively multiplayer online games.

It reaches out to gamers who like to team up with their friends to take on AI enemies, as well as to those who like to go up against other human players in the mayhem of team deathmatches.

While success still depends largely on your shooting skills, acquiring better armour and guns makes a difference in survivability. As you kill, your character levels up and gains new abilities, just like in any role-playing game.

The success of Xbox One here may rest on how well it handles the Destiny issue.

The game is definitely a console pusher. It will be the first blockbuster launched for the holiday season and gamers will want to play it as soon as it is available. Microsoft faces two challenges.

Unlike Sony, it does not have an official bundle with the game. More importantly, its console is launching here two weeks after Destiny becomes available, which gives PS4 fans another head start.

For gamers who have yet to buy a next-generation console, that two-week lead may turn out to be the deciding factor.

There is an element of irony here. Bungie, which created both Destiny and Halo, was acquired by Microsoft in 2000, but broke away in 2007. It continued to produce the next two Halo franchises until 2010.

Destiny is Bungie's first original franchise since the breakaway, and it looks like Bungie will once again make its debut with a gigantic bang.

ginlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 30, 2014.
Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

Become a fan on Facebook