Xbox One Impressions 3 Months On
When the Xbox One was revealed just before E3 last year, I was not excited in the slightest. I still felt the 360 (and also the ps3, for that matter) had quite a lot to offer and both Microsoft and Sony were premature in launching their new consoles. On top of that, the Xbox had to endure what I felt was the most horrific PR campaign I have ever seen for a product in my lifetime, and it was easy to see why I was quite neutral about transitioning into a new console. I had always planned on getting either a PS4 or Xbox one at some time, but neither really jumped out at me, so I decided to wait. It turned out that the only delay was in me getting a pre order. Microsoft was offering a full version of FIFA 14 with an Xbox One, and I figured that was a good enough deal and ended up getting one on launch. I had every intention of keeping all 3 consoles and the 360 to remain my primary source of gaming (only because of the games and friends I have on there) and to progressively move to the Xbox One.
Now, as we are nearing the 3 month mark of the console’s release, I have decided to finally do a review of it. This is not a rushed, unboxing/ review that we saw just before and after the launch. I have already used the system for over 100 hours and feel I have used it enough to give all the pros and cons on this device (my God I sound like a nerd…)
As I said before, my expectations for the Xbox One were quite low and the only reason I got one on launch was because of the inclusion of FIFA with the console. In fact, I was so indifferent about it, once I got home after picking it up, I spent an hour on Skype talking to my cousin about this website before even opening the box. Once I did get to setting it up, I was surprised at the sheer size of the unit (think of an old VCR, that’s about the size of it), but still fit nicely in my entertainment unit. The set up process was as straight forward as possible; all I had to do was enter my gamertag and the Microsoft account information that was associated with it. After that, I had to download a system update and I was ready to go.
It took a while for FIFA to download (I assume there was an abundance of people downloading from Europe) but I was able to start playing some basic game modes when the download was at 15%, which was a nice feature. The controller is much more comfortable to hold than the 360, but not as easy to operate as the bumper buttons are actually larger and impede on the trigger buttons. They’re still completely functional, but just not as accessible as its predecessor.
Some of the games don’t exactly look next-gen, but boy, do they play like next gen. Take Madden 25 for example; it looks slightly better than the 360 version, but the depth of the AI on both user controlled teams and the CPU is staggering, and gives a much better experience. FIFA is the same, as every little effort counts. If a CPU teammate makes a cut, the opponent reacts, and opens up space for the man with the ball to operate. NBA 2K14 is probably the best looking game on this generation so far, but it also received an overhaul in regards of gameplay. Spacing and help defence are just as critical in this game as they are in real life. It’s funny to actually hear some of the criticisms thrown at 2k for being “too tough”. It’s realistic. If you know how to play basketball in real life, you’ll understand exactly what’s going on here.
But perhaps the most important game so far has been Forza 5. Just like NBA2K14, Forza is amazing graphically, but what’s under the hood (talk about a pun!) is what separates (and will potentially define this generation) this game. What Forza 5 does is collect data on your driving habits and creates an AI of you and your behaviour, and uploads it to their server and sends it out to other gamers so when they play, they are playing a virtual reality version of you. Now, this is not an original idea at all. ESPN NFL 2K5 was the first game to come up with this idea, but that was strictly for their play with a celebrity mode. Forza’s ability to share this data has the potential to shape a new direction in gaming. Imagine if this concept is adopted by shooting games? Think for a minute doing a mission in GTA and you’re not trying to defeat a generic AI character, but instead of that generic AI, it’s a clone of someone as crazy as you are and they get in a helicopter and start shooting rockets at you like we all inevitably do in that game? Or if you’re playing Dead Rising and the zombies start to get on steamrollers in an attempt to crush you, just as we do to them. Or if you’re playing NBA2k and suddenly all the players on the court have individual virtual intelligence and start playing completely different to what you’re used to. The possibilities are literally endless as every game or level becomes unique based off the user that has been downloaded for you to compete against, and this has the potential to be something very, very special.
The widely condemned DRM and installation policies before launch were scrapped, but only for the physical disk copies. I have 2 games that use and require the disk (Forza and Dead Rising) and 3 games that are downloads, and to be honest with you, the digital versions are a better way to play. I have to give David credit here, because he was the first person that I know that defended Microsoft’s original Xbox policy. He was right in everything he said here, and Microsoft should have done a much better job in explaining and publicising the new policy so the public didn’t have anything to fear, but the actual concept was sound and I prefer to buy my games from the Xbox store and download them just so I can reduce the hassle of finding the disk and putting it in, then taking it out when I’m finished, and then making sure it’s clean etc. I also don’t know why a greater effort wasn’t made to bring some of the arcade games from the 360 to the Xbox one. This would have given a lot of 360 user’s incentive to go purchase an Xbox one rather than a PS4, whilst allowing Microsoft to use this as a marketing tool because the sheer library of games available would have been greatly increased.
Connectivity and Interaction
360, and Microsoft 8/ Surface, users will be right at home with the layout and feel to the Xbox One, and it does a good mix of incorporating general entertainment (TV, Movies etc.) and games. Everything is relatively easy to get to, and the Bing voice search works well, even for those with an accent. What is frustrating, however, is the anal way that they have made it to connect to a friend’s game. On the 360, it was simple: Just go to their profile, and if there was room available, click “join session in progress”. Now, you have to be in a party with them to even have the option to join their game. It works, but it’s a step down from the 360 system.
The Friends section on the Xbox One also received an upgrade with the introduction of the newsfeed. You can see all your friends’ activity here, ranging from what they’re playing to gameplay clips they have recorded. These are nice features to have, and even though they don’t define the console by themselves, they definitely add to the experience.
This was by far and away the most surprising aspect of the Xbox One to me. Before the launch of the console, I was on the record saying that “I didn’t care about the other features, I want a video game console to play video games, and that’s it”, and boy, was I wrong. I run everything through this now! When I want to watch TV, it’s through the Xbox one. Netflix? It’s through the Xbox One (Thanks, Ashley :D). If I want to watch NBA League Pass, or anything from my laptop on my TV, it’s via the Xbox One. The ability to use picture in picture whilst playing a video game and having the TV or media in the background has made this the centrepiece of my entertainment unit. How big of a change has it been? Well, put it this way; I ended up giving my TV away because I no longer needed it. I have a relatively small entertainment area, so I couldn’t get a large TV, and the max resolution a 26″ TV I could get is 720p (which isn’t bad, but it isn’t the best either.) So with the versatility afforded to me because of the Xbox One, I was able to get a 27″ monitor (which displays at 1920 x 1280) and get a set top box for TV, and plug that directly into Xbox and watch television through that. The same applies for when I watch something from my laptop – All I have to do is use the HDMI input on the Xbox and sit back and relax, or play a video game with the media in the background.
I use these features much more than I play games, and that is shocking when you consider my stance before the launch.
I’m honestly very happy with the Xbox One, and the proof isn’t in the words, but my actions. I have sold my PS3 and am contemplating selling my 360. This is significant because when I got a ps2, it was years before I got rid of my PlayStation one (or PSX, as it was called). When I got my 360, I ended up swapping my original Xbox for Crackdown (a 360 game), so there is a precedence here. But never have I moved to get rid of my old consoles so quickly because they weren’t being used. The Xbox one has made those devices nothing more than dust collectors. Hell, it even moved me to replace my TV with nothing more than a computer monitor. I was very sceptical about it pre-launch, but I do recommend it. If you don’t like sports games, and already have a media centre, however, it probably won’t be for you.