It is finally here! The Xbox One—the next generation of Xbox gaming. I’ve had enough time to really sit down with the console, learn the new ins and outs, and the things I look forward to in new updates.
The box is big. It dwarfs the PS3, and is a few inches bigger than my Xbox 360 slim. It has a nice matte finish over the disc portion and the rest is glossy. The side USB is nice and hidden so if you do need to charge, it just can hang off the side. This sucker is also heavy, but should fit right where your Xbox 360 was before no problem. The bottom line, it will look good, so don’t worry! No disc tray also is a nice improvement. Just pop the disc in the slot and you are ready to play. As before you can have the system start the game immediately or just take you to the home screen. Also you will notice a HDMI in and HDMI out, which allows you to input any HDMI device into the Xbox so you can use it as a pass through. If you have a cable provider, it can be used to watch TV through your Xbox, view program scheduling, and get your full multimedia experience. It also has an optical audio out. You have a couple of USB slots and your Kinect 2.0 input as well.
New Controller vs Last Gen Controller
This is really my favorite part of the Xbox upgrade. I think the slightly higher analog, makes for a more precise control. I can really speak to driving in Forza, the gradual turning is easier, definitely an improvement. The face buttons are near identical (at least I can’t tell the difference). The force feedback is there again, but this time, each trigger has individual feedback - with Forza you can feel the gas or brake respectively. This is a great little addition. For me, this technology the equivalent of when Gran Turismo introduced the force feedback on the left or right of the controller. The bumpers are more “buttons” this time and seem to work well. The start/back buttons have been replaced with icons, but function the same. The headset jack is changed, but the buttons are a great improvement, easily mute or change volume without looking. Hitting the mute button yields an orange light with is great to quickly glance and see if you are talking online or not. And the headset build quality is improved, along with a non-tangle flat cord. A side note, the voice communication is much clearer, very noticeable. If you are a PC gamer and have used Vent or Teamspeak, you will appreciate this change.
This is a big change, and one of the big selling points. Microsoft went with the new Windows 8-like design of boxes, you choose the color, and you quickly navigate around either with the traditional controller or use your voice. I have to talk about the voice recognition. This is not a new technology; we’ve seen people trying to use this for at least the last two decades, if not more. This version works well, very well. But I find when I have a room full of people, and I want to show it off...it just doesn’t listen. I can only speculate this is because the Kinect is supposed to ignore casual conversation if you say ‘xbox’ while talking. I’m not sure, but I have to say it works best when its just you playing, as opposed to four people. The verdict is still out if they integrate any games with this, but I really enjoy using the voice communication to navigate. The ‘snap’ feature allows you to run multiple apps on your sidebar, similar to when you PC game and use two monitors, and can watch netflix on one, or TV while you game or wait for your party to join up. This is nice, but not a system seller. I am frustrated they do not offer music playback while gaming (in full screen) as of writing this. This feature was a huge selling point for me with the Xbox 360, I really do enjoy rocking out to some music while playing online, and then the music will soften if you have a cut scene or something automatically. I am hoping this is updated soon.
The Game DVR is one of my favorite additions, you can record up to 5 minutes at anytime using the Game DVR while gaming. Or you can say ‘Xbox Record that’ and snag the last 30 seconds to edit/upload after your match. Let me also point out, you can just quickly navigate out of game, edit and update, then return to your game no problem. You have the option of adding audio,inserting a small window of you talking beneath the footage or you can string up to five clips together. (view my public folder here to give you an idea:http://sdrv.ms/197zuut) The multitasking is really quick, and it is nice to not have to restart the game every time you jump around. You can also browse your friends’ videos quickly as well via the Game DVR, and view videos by game if you are curious what other games people are enjoying. This is really a nice feature, again I don’t feel this is a system seller but is a nice little feature.
Well the launch library is fairly thin, but definitely enough to have a good time. Let me run through a few titles, not all I have played yet.
Forza 5 -This is the reason I got this system, and I am a huge fan of the series. Without going into a full blown review, if you enjoy cars, get it. If you enjoyed Forza before, get it. If you like an approachable car game, get it. This game is a gear head fantasy. Modeled interiors, great engine noises, fun narrative pieces by Top Gear, everything you want from a car game. Also important, the Drivatar feature is the biggest selling point, your single player experience will never be the same again. The game models AI opponents in single player after real people on your friends list and leaderboards.
Ryse -Exclusive, and plays most similar to the recent Batman titles, so not a bad thing. Also some of the best visuals you will see to date on any game. I do not personally own this game, but it is something you would get if you are into third person brawlers.
Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts -I lump these because it's more or less the same experience you will get on your other consoles, or the PC. The obvious choice is PC for both if you want the visual advantage, but the consoles offer the easiest way to jump in and enjoy playing right away. I do own Call of Duty: Ghosts, and it is the same game we have been playing for years with minor changes. I did run the PC version side by side, and the Xbox One is a long shot from the PC quality. I would argue Ghosts was first made for current gen and ported to next gen just upping some visual fidelity. If you want a FPS fix, I suggest BF4 to show off your new hardware, or if you have two people, Ghosts is a better option because it allows splitscreen online play.
The Xbox One is the direction the current generation was going. More online functionality and multimedia functionality. Multi-tasking has always been present with PC gamers and now its coming to the home console as well. The visual improvement is not nearly the jump (yet) from say, the PS1 era to PS2 or even the PS2 to PS3 jump. The joke on South Park, “Graphics are about 10% better” actually appears true at this point. I think this generation is more about online, and multimedia along with your gaming experience. Not to mention the seemless cloud use. Your friend list can also increase now past the 100 mark, and will allow you to follow particular friends too. The little things add up, but nothing is a homerun yet.
The big question is whether you should buy it. The price point is higher than the PS4, but the difference really is just the Kinect. (PS4 and camera is around the same) If you skipped the last gen, then yes, get this immediately if you are interested about jumping into console gaming. The Xbox live subscription still exists and really is a requirement if you want to use the console as it is intended so that is an added expense. If you are a smart shopper you can usually get away with spending between 30-40 dollars annually. The library will build, and the interface will (hopefully) only get better from here on out. I think it would be a fun purchase if you wanted something new to add to your entertainment center, but if you have a nice backlog, you could wait it out until some more big releases drop. I feel this is true with almost every generation, but more so this time around; just give it some time and it will gain some momentum. I look forward to the years of releases and updates to Xbox live.