Last night I headed over the Microsoft Store in the Boston, MA to get some hands on time with the Xbox One. Xbox announced recently that they will be touring to various Microsoft Stores around the country to show off the One over the coming weeks and this was the second stop on the tour. I made sure to get there extra early (2+ hours) as it was both a Friday and in a generally crowded mall. When I arrived, they had ropes set up in front of the store to organize a line, which I really appreciated considering at events at other stores, participants are left to try to police the line themselves. I was near the front of the line and expected the whole evening to be very orderly given my initial impression. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
At 7:30 they began letting us into the store. Prior to this, we had been told by a store employee that there would be three stations: one for Forza Motorsport 5, one for Killer Instinct (in an arcade cabinet complete with joysticks instead of standard gamepads), and one where we could feel the new controllers. The impression the clerk gave us was that you would move from station to station in the order of the line. As we filed in, it appeared this was the case, as we (the initial line) moved to the controller testing station. While waiting for the people in front of me to finish trying it out, I realized that there were actually separate lines for each of the three stations. At this point it seemed they’d maybe let the first 25 people or so into the store to try out each station and then as people left, they would allow more people to enter from the additional line. Again, this was not the case. Instead, the initial line proved near meaningless and the two-plus hours I waited were essentially worthless.
The controller testing station actually proved somewhat useful. Each gamepad (three total) were connected to a laptop where you could sample a variety of game mechanics (shooting, driving a car, flying a helicopter, etc.) and fell how the vibrating triggers would respond. I wouldn’t say the triggers quite have force feedback, which is something I would have really liked to have seen, but they really do react to what you are doing in game. For example, depending on the type of gun you are firing (and its rate of fire), the right trigger used to fire the weapon will vibrate accordingly. So a shotgun delivers a strong but short vibration while an automatic rifle has many fast, but weaker, vibrations.
After I finished with this station (no more than 5 or 10 minutes after initially entering the store), the store was completely packed. People who had not even been in the initial line were allowed to simply walk into the store and get in line for any of the stations. Consequently, lines for each of the stations were nearly going out the door. I made a judgment call and because I have little interest in Killer Instinct, decided to skip it and check out Forza 5 since it’s both a title I’m interested in and one that actually uses the new controller.
By the time I made it to the other side of the store, there were maybe 15 or 20 people ahead of me in line to race. Considering the race was only one lap (maybe 1:30 total race time) this should not have been an issue and the line should have moved quickly. But, before each person could race, they had to select a car, pick a color, look at multiple (unskippable) vanity shots of the car, and go through a few loading screens. Additionally, the store employees would urge you to try out the race rewind feature if you messed up at all, which would obviously make the process take much longer.
I waited about another hour and half before I was able to get my turn to play. At this point the store was closed. When it was nearly my turn there were still 20+ people behind me. One of the employees came over to the employee running the station and suggested they limit people’s time to a minute so everyone would get a chance to play. Of course, because of all the fluff on either side of the race, that is not really possible. I suggested they pause and restart the race right near the end of the lap in an attempt to skip the extra steps. They seemed to like my suggestion but never got the chance to implement it. Instead, while I was racing, I heard an employee behind me say to everyone still in line “You guys are not going to like me very much. We have to cap the line here,” which amounted to a few people behind me.
Forza 5 itself was actually pretty fun. Besides the new trigger vibration feature and the beautiful visuals, the title did not seem too different from its predecessors in the time I got with it. That said, feeling the right trigger rumble as I gassed the engine and the left shake as I braked, was pretty cool. I did the whole race in first person and seeing the driver’s sleeves wrinkle as his arms moved to turn the wheel really reflected the updated graphics. Sure, it is just cosmetic but compared with Madden 25 running on a 360 next to it, it looked phenomenal. Plus, after the race you are shown close ups of your car to see the damage (if any) you did to it (scuffed paint, broken lights, etc.).
In total, I spent four hours waiting in various lines at this event and didn’t even get to play everything. In fact, had the store not stayed open after their marked closing time, I would not have actually gotten to play a single game, even after arriving to the event two-plus hours early. The fact they only had one kiosk for each game (a total of two) is ridiculous. During the whole night, every 15 minutes or so, Larry Hryb (Major Nelson) would speak over the PA system to introduce himself, thank everyone for coming, and telling us how he was having additional Day One Edition consoles being delivered to this store special if we had not yet preordered (and of course every employee urged you to do so). Additionally, Major spent the night walking around the store with a Day One Edition Controller showing it to people waiting in line. I do not blame him for the poor experience delivered at the event as he was very friendly (as always) and genuinely seemed to listen to suggestions and criticisms from customers. That being said, if the “Xbox One Tour: Road to Launch” is coming to your area, I would recommend skipping the event and just waiting to try the console out at a later time. It just is not worth the time.