A mere week after Sony unleashed PlayStation 4, here comes Microsoft’s Xbox One, just in time for all those crazy Black Friday sales. I’ve been using the One for about a week now, and have come to love and hate certain aspects of this next generation of consoles.
Full disclosure: I’m pro early adoption. Fun fact: my gamertag (pajamo) on Xbox Live has the motto “late adopters are dolts.” Word. I’ve been pretty excited for a new generation of consoles, but I’ve also been happy that it’s taken much longer than normal for their emergence day. The 360 debuted way back in 2005. Imagine: no iPhones, no Netlifx streaming, no Hulu to speak of.
This week. I’m focusing on the Xbox One the machine as opposed to the launch games. Specifically, Xbox One’s 7 big wins and 3 total fails:
7. Thanks, Internet! Microsoft’s 180 Dance.
Hey, if this didn’t happen we wouldn’t have gotten Coke Classic.
Let’s go back, shall we to earlier this year when Microsoft did a big swing and a miss debuting the Xbox One as an always-online unit that wouldn’t play used games, but needed Kinect to always be plugged in to operate. Gamers were furious. Sony took advantage of this and pretty much claimed the opposite for their PS4. The final blow was pricing the device a hundred bucks cheaper than the Xbox One.
Still, despite this, lines were still long at 12:01 am at Best Buy last night. Clearly, there are a lot of us early adopters out there. I’m not all that convinced that MS damage control will matter much in the long run. While I am happy that those restrictions were lifted, I’m not sure it ever made much of a difference to me.
So why is this in the ‘Big Win’ category? The reason is pretty simple. I admire when a big company like MS wises up and realizes that their customer base is important. Think about all those years that Paramount really didn’t care at all for the opinions of their Trekkers. Microsoft does not wanna be seen as that. For now, they have managed to erase all those fears.
6. The Voice Recognition Really Works! Mostly.
We’re still years away from “Xbox: Finish Halo on Legendary”, but it’s good know that the tech (mostly) works. Beyond those silly hand gestures on the original Kinect – which you can still do if you please – Kinect 2’s big wow factor is solid voice recognition. “Xbox: On” turns on the unit and your television. On the downside, games with long titles need their full names announced like “Forza Motorsport 5” instead of saying just “Xbox: play Forza.”
Honestly, I don’t want to go back to a non-listening console even if there are weird hitches like “Xbox: play Blu-ray player”, but when you get to the pop-up menu you need to use a remote to actually play it. There’s something so fun about it all, so sci-fi dream realized.
In retrospect, I think all the hand motion stuff was never gonna be Minority Report cool. So talking to the machine, even if I must sound ridiculous to my neighbors, is a godsend.
5. All-in-One Gimmick No Joke: Live TV Feature Rules!
The “One” in Xbox refers to Microsoft’s hopes that its device will be the center of all your media universe. The Live TV app might make it so.
How it works: in the back of the device is an HDMI In for your satellite or cable box. (I have TiVo.) On the home screen or dashboard of is the “Watch TV” box which opens up anything connected through that HDMI port. (See #1!) Even better, Xbox One will ask about your device and television preferences. It then allows you to operate both your TV and TiVo via voice. It can’t do it all just yet: choosing a show to watch still needed my TiVo remote. Turns on/off the TV, fast-forward/rewinds, plays, pause, your shows which quickly became second nature for me.
4. New Controller’s Boss, Pretty Much Same as Old Boss.
The 360 controller is arguably the best controller of all-time. So why would Microsoft change, well, anything? Good news: they didn’t. Sure, the directional pad is tighter and the triggers feel tweaked, but overall, Xbox One’s controller is pretty much the same controller FTW.
3. Game DVR has Potential.
We all saw this coming. The age of Facebook, Instagram and Vine would usher in the age of game sharing. So, along with Xbox One being connected to all your other social medias, Microsoft created the Upload app. While playing, the Xbox One is always recording up to five minutes of footage. All you do is say “Xbox: Record that” and it already has.
The gameplay is captured in full 1080p that can be edited and posted for all to see or whatever your privacy settings have deemed “see worthy” for your adventures in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. All those pirate battles! Captured forever!
This is one of those features that I’m hoping will blow me away even more in the years to come.
2. Playing Games While They Install.
This was almost in my fail section because when Xbox One debuted, Phil Spencer, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Studios, claimed no more load times.
Yeah, the load times are still long and annoying.
First, I got a code to download Dead Rising 3 which my Kinect scanned in. No more typing that long 25-character code! Woot! Next, I saw that the game was 19 gigs, which is small compared to the 39 gigs for Ryse: Son of Rome, but still promised to be a time suck. To my surprise, I was playing DR3 within minutes at only 10% installed. I’ve heard that in the future, developers will be able to prioritize according to gamers needs. So if multiplayer is your thing in COD: Ghosts that’s what will DL first.
Either way, I am impressed. Works like a dream.
I also like how when inserting a disc, you can still watch live TV while One announces “Forza Motorsport 5” installing. Awesome.
1. The Most Awesome Way Xbox One Shows A Brighter Future.
Okay, it’s really just using the HDMI In to play Wii U games. Zelda on Xbox! Cats and Dogs living in harmony! Anarchy!
3 Ways Xbox One Fails
3. By the Gods, Xbox One Is ’80s Era VCR Bulky.
Weird, but true: both the PS4 and Xbox One are about the same weight. About 6 pounds. That’s where the similarities end. Not only is this VCR-inspired unit big, but it cannot be used in a vertical position. (Thankfully, it is quiet, unlike the first-gen 360s) Then again, the power plug is still a big brick. Speaking of the AC power, the cable for some reason doesn’t stick in. When hooking it up I had to re-attach the power supply like three times. Now that I have it working, I will never move it ever.
Remember to make space not only for the Xbox One, but for, ya know, air. The One, like the 360 before it, tends to get hot fast when playing games. When just watching TV or other apps it’s fine. Phew!
2. Specifics Gone: Why Can’t I Manage Media? Play Media Files? Flash Drives?
What about all your other media? Your mp3s for music? Your mp4 for videos? Out of luck, at least at launch. This will be frustrating for 360 users who were used to popping in a flash drive or external drive to play their media. A patch could fix this, but Microsoft has said that owners can use their SkyDrive to stream photos, vides, music. I tried it. Photos were cool. Mp4 didn’t work.
1. New Games Mediocre, Current Games Not Playable. WTF.
The biggest FAIL, though? As most know, gone are the days when consoles came with instant classics like Super Mario Bros. Now all we get is pretty version of the previous generation’s hits like this year’s COD: Ghosts.
As for launch titles? Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, and more. Dead Rising 3 is barely 360 pretty, but it was the most fun I had on Xbox One’s launch line-up.
None of these titles is a must-own. Not like GTA V, which took five years to develop and is one of the last great games of this current generation. So it’s frustrating to hook up your shiny now consoles which can do seemingly everything BUT play great games.
Verdict: As expected, Microsoft’s new machine is powerful. I can’t wait to play Bioware’s latest Mass Effect or Rockstar’s Red Dead follow-up and so on. For now though, it’s less about the games and more about that all-in-oneness. “Xbox: Impress me!”
Previously by Peter Paras:
9 Ways Batman: Arkham Origins Soars (Even When It Gets Too Punchy)