The Five: 1 vs. 100
The Skinny: A television game show is the flagship title that kicks off Microsoft's new "Primetime" programming on Xbox Live. Is 1 vs. 100 ready to compete on the same turf as the likes of "Two and a Half Men" and "Dancing With the Stars"? I played a few rounds in the Canadian open beta of the game, masquerading in a Canuck Xbox Live account (provided by Microsoft). Here's the scoop:
1. Check your local listings. 1 vs. 100 on Xbox Live marks a return of "appointment TV," that quaint relic from an era when there were three networks plus the one that came in fuzzy. You can only play 1 vs. 100 during scheduled primetime blocks, and the game will have 13-week "seasons."
2. Not much is lost in translation. The Xbox 360 version stays close to the play of the TV show. A contestant, "The One," answers a series of trivia questions at the same time as 100 other competitors, "The Mob." It's a cutthroat game: Get a question wrong, and you're gone. The One racks up money (Microsoft Points in this version, naturally) as she outlasts members of The Mob, but if The One makes a misstep, her winnings get divvied up among The Mob. Since the main game only accommodates 101 players per round, the 360 edition of the game adds "The Crowd," where the rest of the XBLA rabble can compete in little groups of four to see who boasts superior knowledge of topics like "Which country invented pizza?"
3. Your Google-fu won't help you now. Yes, the questions were a little easy in the beta, except when they drifted to Canadian pop culture, in which case they were completely impenetrable. (That is, until I figured out that "hoser" was the correct answer more than half the time.) I was afraid that the game would turn into more of a Google contest than a battle of brains, but the questions come too quickly for computer aid to be effective, and since there's a score bonus for answering quickly, speed matters.
4. All that's missing is the long, skinny mic. The hosting duties are handled by a blonde whose dialogue is prerecorded, but Chris Cashman provides live commentary throughout the round via his Xbox Live avatar. Cashman was a great choice -- I was charmed by his loose, down-to-earth approach, and I hope he doesn't tighten up when the game is played for realsies.
5. The TiVo, it does nothing! One element of my play session that gave me pause, literally, was the inclusion of commercial breaks. I thought that the game was good enough to sit through the pauses, and it remains to be seen how they'll be implemented -- in my beta session our "commercial breaks" were just long periods of silence -- but I wonder if the DVR generation will tolerate this throwback to premillennial TV convention.
The Crispy Forecast: 1 vs. 100 looks like a compelling online multiplayer option for people like me who never got into online deathmatches or massively multiplayer online games. With its prime-time scheduling, 1 vs. 100 has the potential to create a sense of community among gamers without falling back on the tried-and-true genres.
This preview was based on hands-on playtime in the live open beta, provided by the publisher.