The Xbox One has been surrounded by one of the most controversial launches in gaming history. The console was announced to an overwhelming negative response which meant that Microsoft had to scramble to re-think the Xbox One’s core functions. Did they manage to pull the experience together in time for launch? Read our review to find out!
The Xbox One design is quite a blast from the past. It resembles something that would’ve sat in our entertainment unit in the late 90s. It’s clear that whilst designing the Xbox One, Microsoft didn’t push for a whole lot from a technical aspect. The console itself is half matte and half glossy which we like however we just can’t get our heads around the fact that it’s biggest than the original Xbox 360 with a huge external power brick.
This won’t be an issue for most however with my particular setup it’s quite a nuisance. The fact that Microsoft took away the option of standing the console vertically or horizontally is a bit of a mind bender. Microsoft clearly wanted to go with a safer design this time around and one that would ensure great ventilation and avoid overheating. One thing that we have to absolutely praise the Xbox One with is the amount of USB ports. The console features 2 ports at the rear and one on the side for easy access. There’s nothing more that I hate than when consoles only provide your USB ports at the front. It’s extremely ugly and not practical.
Another small gripe that I have with the Xbox One is just how sensitive the touch power button is. You can accidentally brush past your console and have it turn off right in the middle of your game. Whilst it looks nice and feels great to push every single time, we wish that Microsoft went for something a little less touch sensitive.
The Xbox 360 controller was one of the most highly praised controllers of all times. It is clear that Microsoft tried to keep as much of the design as possible whilst changing enough to keep people happy. For the most part, the Xbox One is every bit as good as the Xbox 360 controllers. The triggers, analog sticks and the face buttons are just as good as ever before. Unfortunately the controller feels like it has taken a step back in some regards. The bumpers are now incredibly clicky and are moulded in a way that make you fingers feel awkward when they’re sitting on them. It’s something that I’ve slightly adjusted to but I still can’t help but feel that it’s worse than it was on the 360 controller.
The Dpad is worlds better than it was on the 360 controller but still doesn’t sit equally with Sony or Nintendo’s Dpads. One of the biggest game changing features on the controller is the force feedback vibration that sites in the triggers and around the controller. Being able to feel the vibration as you speed across the track with your favourite car in Forza really puts you in the moment. I can’t wait to see how developers use this going forward as I think that it is a small but amazing feature.
Unfortunately, the Xbox One controller still uses AA batteries in order to function. Thankfully you can at least use the controller with a Micro USB cord. The battery back is now housed inside the controller which means that you lose that awkward bulge that was found on the 360 controller. Whilst I appreciate the fact that Microsoft give buyers the chance to choose whether they want to swap out batteries or pay extra for a play and charge kit, I can’t help but feel that the controller feels worse off for not just including a built in battery. Battery technology has come so far in the past 8 years and it’s ridiculous to think that we have to worry about our AA batteries running out in our controller.
The UI of the Xbox One will look family to anybody that has used Windows 8. This has positives and negatives. The UI of the Xbox One is incredibly crisp, clean and fast in the way that it works, but I can’t help but feel that it is a bit undercooked. Things are hidden under menus and it just feels like it takes a few too many steps to do things, like go to settings. Microsoft have incorporated pins which allows you to place whatever applications you like in the front page for easier access, however this just seems like a lazy design choice and only a temporary solution for something they might revise in future library updates.
The biggest issue of all that we have with the UI is that it feels incredibly dumbed down. When updating applications it’s never really clear if it’s actually downloading an update or installing a game from the disc. Microsoft seems to have incorporated both into a similar progress bar without much of a distinction from the two. Another huge flaw comes from the fact that you can’t really access any sort of deep storage management. There is no real way to see what is taking up what amount of space in your hard drive. This drove me crazy and I’m sure I’m not the only one that has this complaint.
Thankfully the UI is incredibly fast and things like browsing the internet or checking your friends list whilst playing a game all work brilliantly. Another feature that I absolutely loved was the resume/suspend feature. Being able to turn my Xbox off when I go to bed and then being able to turn my Xbox One the next morning and continue my game EXACTLY where I left off with barely any loading truly feels like a next-gen experience.
Snapping is a new introduction to the Xbox One UI. Whilst it is a great experience in theory, I felt that it lacked any applications that used it to any sort of benefit. Once Twitter and Facebook apps are released and enabled to be snapped to the side of a game then I will be able to see it as being useable. Not being able to snap Skype to the side of a game when it seemed like Microsoft were really pushing Skype as a built in function really disappointed me. Once again it feels like this sort of functionality will be built upon as time goes on.
The Xbox One store is a lot faster than the 360, but it still feels a little weak in terms of content discovery. One problem that I always had with the Xbox store was that it was hard to find things. It works for now but we’ll be interested to see if it still holds up next year once more content is added.
Kinect 2.0 is a huge improvement over its 360 counterpart. What once was a clunky, separated experience is now a seamless, enjoyable one. Kinect’s strongest asset is just how well it picks up and understands your voice. 19 out of 20 times I will bark a command at the Kinect and it will instantly take me to where I need to go. Thankfully this makes up for some of Microsoft’s lazy UI design. It’s much quicker to order Kinect to take us to settings than it is to find it.
The camera on the Kinect is also miles apart of what it was on the original model. Its wide lens makes it the best Skype device we’ve ever used. The camera is so good that it can instantly recognise you and log you into your account. Even if there are multiple people in the room it will instantly detect your face and log you in. The biggest improvement is that it’s able to function in the dark or even if there’s another light source getting in the way. It was great to know that I could rely on Kinect under any circumstance and know that it would work.
As far as software there isn’t a whole lot to show the device off. There is a demo of Kinect Sports Rivals up on the Xbox Store which seemed to work a whole lot better than previous iterations but there’s just not enough out yet to see how well it’ll work with other games.
Gesture controls are also back and are pretty similar to what they were on the 360. We’d only recommend that you use these if you lose your controller. Voice commands or the controller will always be quicker and more practical. Kinect 2.0 impressed me the most when we said “Xbox Use a Code”. Within 5 seconds, Kinect’s camera had popped up, scanned a QR code through the camera and redeemed it. No longer do I have to enter long and tedious codes. Whilst this is a minor feature, it’s these small details that all add up and work together to provide a next-fen experience.
The launch lineup for the Xbox One is quite a diverse one. Whilst none of the games are perfect by any stretch of the imagination, there is something there for everyone. Forza is one of the best racing games that I’ve played in a while. Ryse and Dead Rising 3 are nowhere near perfect but are extremely passable experiences that can only be had on the Xbox One. Killer Instinct is an extremely fun re-entry into the series and Loco Cycle shouldn’t be touched with a 10 foot pole.
From that very first press conference, the Xbox One was touted as an All in one device. For the most part this claim stands strong. Being able to plug my Foxtel box straight into the Xbox and have friend requests and messages pop over the top was one of the coolest things that I’ve experienced in gaming. It all works seamlessly well, which is something it needed in order to be a feature that could excite gamers.
Multimedia apps in Australia are minimal, but what is there works well. The Ten Play app works absolutely incredible and looks great on the Xbox One. YouTube is also a great experience. We also downloaded Netflix and were a little disappointed with what was on offer.
The Xbox One welcomes a Bluray drive and using it to watch a movie was exactly as you’d expect it. You can use the controller to pause, fast forward and stop whilst still multitasking to things like your friends list or activity feed.
The Xbox One is a very promising console that has a lot to prove over the next few years. Microsoft had a very clear vision from the get go with this console, but I can’t help but feel that the execution isn’t quite there in some instances. The UI needs to be fleshed out and more credit needs to be given to the user as there are some glaring omissions that just shouldn’t have happened. The console is extremely stable which is the most important thing. It should become a welcome addition to your entertainment unit once more games hit.