After the eventful launch that was the Sony Playstation 4 (PS4) it was Microsoft’s turn with the new Xbox, the Xbox One (known as the Xbone or XO). Much like Sony, Microsoft (MS) has been hyping up its new hardware that was unveiled prior to E3 this year. When the XO was first shown all MS talked about was TV, NFL, and Call of Duty, it was the worst unveil of new hardware I had ever seen. On top of the terrible unveil MS did the gaming community at large no favors when it first talked about the draconian copy protection methods it wanted to include with the system (always on internet requirement, no resale of games, Kinect required for use) following the E3 conference. Following the large outcry from the gaming community and ridicule by Sony (which resulted in the Xbone naming) MS backtracked on all of their silly DRM (digital rights management) schemes, but it was at the expense of some neat sharing ideas for digital content that would allow the end user to share games with up to 10 friends/family members.
The one thing that came out of E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) was the announcement of Forza Motorsports 5 as a launch title. At that time DRM schemes be damned I decided to preorder an Xbox One as I am a sucker for racing simulators and I had hopes that MS would backtrack on a lot of their stances with the hardware/software.
Enough on the background that lead up to the release of the Xbox One, now to talk about the system, the controller, Kinect, and the games.
The Xbox One much like the PS4 is an all black affair with both Matte and Gloss being well represented on the casing. The system runs very quiet and boots up fairly quickly from its standby mode (~15sec), with a full power on taking about twice as long. The XO, like the PS4, required a day one patch, but unlike the PS4 which was not required (but did add some functionality) the XO’s day one patch is required to even use the system, which is pretty crappy on Microsoft’s part and just continues to emphasize that companies are ok with shipping incomplete products that they will patch later. But after that patch there was no major issues with the system, just a lot of grabbing apps and inputting codes for Xbox Live (XBL) and game content.
As I don’t know the best place to throw this I will mention the TV functionality at this point. Basically one can hook up their Cable or Satellite box to the HDMI in on the Xbox One and run their TV through the system. What this allows you to do is “snap” the tv app into the UI while playing a game or using an app. I cannot say how it works as I did not try this feature as I was more interested in if you could turn the Xbox off and still watch TV. The answer is no. Not hooking my TV up to the Xbox again.
Kinect 2.0 is a much improved version of the original Kinect on the Xbox 360 and if not for the fact that it almost feels required for functionality I would just leave it in the box and forget it exists. What does Kinect add to the system, facial recognition, which will automatically log you in once you register your gamertag… to your face… The Kinect also adds voice commands to do basic things, which is hit or miss in understanding the user and I don’t find much use in it. At some point the Kinect may become more worthwhile but it should have been left out of the package to reduce cost by $100 so that the XO was more comparable to the PS4.
The controller is an evolution of the Xbox 360 controller, but with haptic feedback triggers, an actual D-pad that works, and the removal of the battery hump (moved to internal flush mounted compartment with replaceable AA’s or a Li-Ion). Although it is an evolution of the 360 pad, which I really liked, I have found that the new controller actually fatigues my hands faster as the ergonomics of the… uh… handles? (my brain has decided to dislike me….) dig into my palms unlike the Dualshock 4 or 360 controller. Which is very weird but I think its down to dimensional changes to the radius on the “handles”, so as of now I favor the Dualshock 4 controller this generation, but time will tell (comparison below).
On to the final piece of the Xbox One puzzle, the software (games). Much like the PS4, the XO saw a number of multiplatform games release along with the hardware (ie Sports games, Call of Duty, Assassins Creed 4) as well as some platform exclusives.
I picked up the following games day one:
Forza Motorsport 5
Dead Rising 3
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Similar to the PS4 the XO installs games to an internal hard drive (HDD) and plays the games off the HDD with the disc’s used to authenticate the games only. This internal HDD is only 500GB and roughly 100-150GB is used up front for the OS and other essential items leaving not a lot of space for games. And let me tell you these games are large in file size like of the PS4 with Forza 5 taking up 31GB (w/ a required 6GB day one patch). Know this is were I was upset, I could not start gaming until the required updates were downloaded for each game (ranging from 600MB to 6GB) and than the required 25-75% install of the disc to the HDD and this process was not fast. Opposite that the PS4 would allow me to start games after 30seconds to 3minutes of install (disc based games) and would download game patches while I played, which is a much better system I think.
Having played a bit of all the games except Crimson Dragon [curse you Forza] I would say that I have enjoyed what the system has to offer. Forza looks amazing (sadly I have yet to figure out how to pull content off of the system, as the XO does not have a share feature like the PS4 at this time) so I cant share it’s beauty unless you count the cropped Jag E-type in the opening photo. Call of Duty Ghosts is much improved over its predecessors but is still much of the same (good, bad, other) and Dead Rising 3 looks great and allows for a lot of Zombies on screen at once.
In general though the games are what make the hardware desirable and drive the masses to one system or the other. In this regard neither system has the clear advantage as both systems will get 95% of the third party multi-platform games and each has their first/second party exclusives. So it is tough to give the nod to either system entirely as I am loving Forza 5 on XO and Lego Marvel Superheroes on PS4 (yes I know it is multi-platform but I am giving it to the PS4 for now). It will be interesting to see how this generation plays out as I feel it will be a longer cycle then the 7th gen given that both Sony and Microsoft will start pushing the Cloud as the future.
So I would rate the Xbox One launch as an 7.0/10.
Being a $100 more and requiring XBox Live membership for basically everything really hurts. In addition the HDD (which was confirmed to be a SATA II 2.5″ drive) is not replaceable which is a dick move and guarantees that MS will release a new system with a larger HDD in a year or two. The saving grace was the release of Forza 5 at launch, if not for that I may have waited a little longer to pick one up.
Here is a quick comparison photo of the Xbox One’s size to the Xbox 360 Slim 1.