A Gamer’s Week With The Xbox One
Since its announcement, Microsoft’s new console has had a huge array of nicknames: Xbox One, XBOne, and X1, just to name a few, so it is difficult to know what to call this machine. The second entrant into the next-gen console fight comes in barely a year behind Nintendo’s Wii U but a week ahead of Sony and the Playstation 4. It packs a punch to the bank balance at $599AU but is it worth every penny?
Being released a week ago in Australia, and after a difficult launch day attempting to track one down, I finally had the chance to sit down with the console and have a bit of a play.
The Xbox One comes bundled with the new Kinect sensor, one wireless controller, and all the requisite cables. The box itself is nothing unexpected. Almost entirely black with a few strips of silver around the middle. The Kinect sensor has changed, however. Now, like the console itself, the lines are straighter and very square. It’s all very modern with its glowing insignia and cute start-up jingle. In all, it feels like a bulked up version of the Xbox 360-S.
One major drawback of the console is the pre-release pictures did not aptly demonstrate its size. Xbox One is huge and is not exactly light either. Trying to find a place in a room for the box can be a challenge and may require some rearranging. Worse still, Kinect has also put on a bit of weight. It recommends a higher placement but its sheer size is not conducive to being placed on a flat screen TV. Not knowing many people who have shelves directly above their television set, it may be difficult to meet the standards requested.
“You are the controller” was the tagline when the Kinect was released back in 2010 for the Xbox 360 and that thought process has not only been carried over to the Xbox One but also expanded. Most of the functionality boasted in the Kinect set up process handles menu navigation with a smattering of in-game features.
Navigating the menu and controlling the console can be tricky to start with but becomes more than a novelty before long. The home screen can be overwhelming with its onslaught of coloured boxes and does not feel intuitive or elegant. The voice commands go some way to helping with this and allow you to dive straight into subsections without going through the entire menu.
The quality of the image captured by the Kinect camera is staggering. With three times the fidelity of the sensor’s first iteration, it is able to detect finer details such as facial expressions. Supposedly this will allow the Xbox to determine if you are looking at it and, therefore, will not register a voice command if you are not. It also allows the console to log a person in to their account based entirely on appearance. The response of the camera to movement will make games like Just Dance 2014 and Fighter Within less of a pain than previous Kinect titles but probably equally cumbersome in anything but a huge living room.
The Xbox One has leapt into the next generation with an update to its disc drive. It adds the ability to play BluRay movies but this is something that Sony has boasted for many years. Although rumour has it that you will require a free download from the Xbox store to utilise this function. Once it is working, it stands to be quite a treat with the Kinect’s voice control functions.
The Xbox One’s cloud supposedly allows for up to four times the processing power of its predecessor. What this means for gamers is that the console can technically pull of 10,000 independent A.I.s simultaneously. A feat that is noticeable in Dead Rising 3 as the streets are literally full of zombies – apparently the quarantine can stop zombies getting out but not in. As this generation moves forward, it will be genuinely exciting to see what developers can do to fully realise the potential of this technology.
Smartglass is another feature returns that to Xboxes for round two. Smartglass is an application available for most smart phones and tablets and lets the device connect to the Xbox One. In theory, you can use your phone as a remote to control your console or even access additional content of the game you are playing. For example, Dead Rising 3 again, the smartglass application lets players call for the cavalry of survivors from the middle of action and a slew of other features. A word of caution, though, the application caused my Samsung Galaxy S3 to stop receiving text messages until it was uninstalled so it is clearly not without bugs.
This is one section on which the Xbox One has the Playstation 4 beat. Sony’s launch titles double up on genre or generation and mutually devalue each other. Even the launch window titles suffer from the same problem. While there is Infamous: Second Son to spice things up with open-world exploration, players interested in the game would have bought it on their PS3 (Injustice: Gods Among Us) and buyers of a PS4 may be unlikely to see the need in getting Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, AND Killzone: Shadow Fall. All different but very same-same.
The Xbox One, however, boasts a healthy variety in its initial repertoire of games. Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 cover the first-person shooters, with Fighter Within and Just Dance 2014 covering the more active, movement-based games, and Ryse: Son of Rome and Dead Rising 3 rounding out the rest.
It’s all well and good to say that the Xbox boasts the latest technology, quirky features, and impressive games but what matters most is whether or not it is worth its price.
The idea of an entertainment centre over a gaming console is one that has become increasingly popular. It has its merits in that you can do away with buying a DVD or BluRay player, saving space in your living room set up. In the end, though, it feels like consoles are trying to do too much and so many features go either unexplored or simply wasted. By stripping some features back, the price tag may even be able to be dropped.
I am not one for buying into console faction wars. Over the course of the gaming generation, it would make sense to invest in both an Xbox One and a Playstation Four. For the initial launch, however, an Xbox would be a good choice. The Kinect features can be fun for a while and the games certainly have more promise than those announced for the competition.
It is a hefty investment to be going on with. Three games and the console can easily bring you up to $800 if not more. Perhaps it would be best to get as much life out of your current Xbox 360 or PS3 games before making the switch. At least waiting one more month and putting some Christmas money toward it.