Xbox One Review

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The Xbox One managed to generate quite the buzz following it’s announcement back in May of last year; unfortunately it wasn’t all positive. Consumers were very upset about the online-only practices and restrictions on used games. Well six months and several policy changes later, the Xbox One is out in the wild and selling like hotcakes. 

I picked up the Xbox One at launch and when I say “launch” I mean 12:01 AM. This sexy box was in my hands as soon as I could possibly get it there. At this point I’ve had plenty of time to learn the ins and outs of the next generation of Xbox. My experience has been very positive overall. Microsoft’s new machine isn’t perfect, but it’s a huge step in the right direction and a solid next-generation gaming platform.

Love at First Sight 

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I love the way the Xbox One looks. It’s slick combination of modern and retro aesthetics give it a very non-obtrusive design. You could easily tuck this into your entertainment center without anyone suspecting you were a hardcore gamer. The top panel uses an alternating grid of matte and glossy texture to add some excitement to an otherwise flat surface. The side and back panels provide plenty of ventilation for the massive amount of hardware tucked inside.The front of the Xbox One is bold, yet minimalistic. The faint glow of the Xbox “X” is all that can be seen in a dark room and the front-loading disc drive is simple and functional.

[youtube http://youtu.be/KLc8ullX5uc]

People have compared the design to a VHS player, but I love the “boxy” look. That being said, this new machines is pretty massive. My Xbox One sits in the same compartment of the television stand as my Wii U and it’s easily three times the size. It makes the Nintendo console look like a Roku streaming device. The Xbox One is large and in charge; kind of like my aunt Bertha.

One Console to Rule Them All

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Many people were worried that Microsoft was shifting it’s focus away from gaming with the announcement of the “All-in-OneXbox. I can assure you that this is no shift. This is an expansion. The great gamer-centric qualities of the Xbox 360 have been expanded upon with the Xbox One. I’ve been able to play fantastic new games and incorporate entertainment applications like never before. The octa-core AMD processor delivers a seamless multi-tasking experience. I’m able to play Dead Rising 3, jump over and call some friends with Skype, jump to the web browser and YouTube “monkeys wearing tuxedos,” jump to my Achievements list, and head back to Dead Rising 3 without closing a single program. Sure, none of this seems absolutely necessary, but you’ll be amazed by how much you miss it when you hop back on your Xbox 360 or PS3.

The amount of applications included with the Xbox One is a little overwhelming. Are you familiar with the phrase “there’s an app for that?” Well, that is absolutely the case with the new Xbox. Wanna play blu-rays? There’s an app for that. Wanna play CD’s? There’s an app for that. Wanna view your achievements? There’s an app for that. It get’s a little cumbersome for some of the more basic functions, but works incredibly well for things like Netflix and Hulu. There was a fairly substantial app list at launch and it grows almost every day.

[youtube http://youtu.be/xhe6jV-APwM]

The incorporation of your cable television plays a large role in the design of the Xbox One as well. An HDMI input allows you to feed nearly any HDMI signal into your Xbox. From here you can pause live television and again get lost in a strange chain of unrelated multi-tasking activities. Personally, I’m not big on cable television, but the Xbox One delivers a true “Smart TV” experience without shelling out a couple thousand for a new TV.

The New and Improved Kinect

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The new Kinect is an enormous improvement over the previous installment. The latency issues are almost completed alleviated, the voice commands work significantly better, and the hardware opens up a world of amazing possibilities.

The initial Kinect setup is a little annoying, but critical in ensuring your device functions properly. Take the time to do it right and you’ll be amazed with the results. Rush it and you’ll be bashing your head against your TV stand in frustration. It took me a couple times to get the settings right for my room, but once I got it correctly calibrated it worked like a charm.

Voice commands are my new best friend. The new operating system looks very similar to Windows 8 and you can immediately tell that it was designed with the Kinect in mind. Navigating the Xbox One by voice is faster and easier than fumbling through the menus with a controller. The new interface seems slightly clunky if you only plan on using a controller, but I was amazed by how much I enjoyed using the new voice commands. I was “snapping,” “opening,” and “closing” programs without even touching my controller and pretty soon that became pretty commonplace. The new Kinect has spoiled me. I’m annoyed when I have to grab my controller to turn my Xbox 360 on. With the Xbox One it’s as simple as saying “Xbox, on.” I didn’t think I’d be a huge fan of voice navigation, but now it’s hard to imagine a world without it.

[youtube http://youtu.be/JaOlUa57BWs]

I must point out that I haven’t had many opportunities to try motion controls with the new Kinect. Currently there are only a handful of games that utilize the upgraded Kinect sensor and many of those are either terrible or Just Dance. The demo for Kinect Sports Rivals was very impressive however. The only playable sport was jet skiing, but I could tell immediately that the motion controls were much more responsive than the previous generation. With the slightest turn of my wrist I could adjust the speed of my jet ski. The controls were very natural and after a brief period of smashing into walls, it just became second nature. The biggest thing I would like to point out was that I never experienced a noticeable delay, which was a crippling issue with the original Kinect. I can’t say that the new Kinect is perfect, but it has me incredibly excited to see what the future holds for this new technology. 

Improving the Best Controller in Gaming

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I immediately fell in love when I first got my hands on the original Xbox 360 controller. The joystick placement was incredible, the buttons were solid and precise, the the triggers felt smooth and responsive, and it just felt great to hold. It quickly became my all-time favorite gaming controller. The controller for the Xbox One doesn’t deliver the same drastic overhaul as it’s predecessor, but it’s got subtle changes in all the right places and I once again fell in love with a controller. Trust me people. Less is more.

The Xbox One controller is the most comfortable controller I’ve ever held. The overall size of the controller has been shrunk oh so slightly and the clunky battery pack from the 360 controller has been removed and integrated into a small back panel that is almost completely unnoticeable. The controller grips have been shaved down into sleek and almost sharp handles delivering an excellent holding experience and the buttons and joysticks have been shifted towards the center of the controller.

[youtube http://youtu.be/m4SYaTLCWL0]

Sure it looks nice, but how does it play? Well, amazingly. The d-pad everyone hated from the 360 controller has been completely redesigned and sculpted into the front of the controller. The new d-pad is perfection. You can feel a solid click every time it’s pressed and it’s delivered incredible accuracy with all my time spent in Killer Instinct. The new triggers have much more feeling than the previous generation and the haptic feedback delivers a unique play experience, especially with games like Forza Motorsport 5. Microsoft has also incorporated an IR receiver on the top of the controller that works in conjunction with the new Kinect. So far all I’ve used it for is to shake the controller to get zombies off me in Dead Rising 3.

Let’s Get This Party Started

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The party chat system for the Xbox 360 completely revolutionized the way we play games with friends. No more were we restricted to in-game chat. We could chat with any of our friends, while playing any game we wanted, from the comfort of our living room. It’s hard to imagine myself playing Xbox Live without it. I was incredibly excited to see how the new party system would work on the Xbox One… until I tried it.

Microsoft, what happened? You took something that worked perfectly and incorporated a bunch of cumbersome features that make it drastically more difficult to play games with your friends. In theory some of these new ideas are good. An auto-invite system that keeps everyone in the battle playing in the same game works well for large groups playing Call of Duty or Battlefield, but what about games that only support two players like Ryse or Dead Rising 3? It creates an absolute disaster. Let me a describe a scenario that has become all to common for me lately. I’m playing Ryse with my little brother online in an Xbox party and then my friend Anthony hops online and wants to join the party. With the 360 that was not an issue, but with the Xbox One having a third person in the party restricts me and my brother from playing the game online. “This game only supports a party of two players.” This message has been a nagging demon haunting my otherwise grand Xbox Live experience.

[youtube http://youtu.be/B4AHUjl4erQ]

One cool feature that has been used to counterbalance the incredibly flawed party system was the introduction of Skype into Xbox Live. All Xbox Live Gold Members get access to Skype premium features and hopping from game to Skype can be done fairly quickly and you can even call friends with voice commands. My experience with Skype on the Xbox One has been fantastic, but I’m hoping Microsoft releases an update soon that addresses the many problems with the new party system.

The party system may be slightly annoying now, but the headset included with the Xbox One is another huge improvement over it’s predecessor. The design is very sleek and stylish and the digital buttons are a much welcomed addition. No more twisting a cheesy, little wheel to adjust the volume. You now have precise, digital control over your chat volume.

Next-Gen Video Capture

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I went insane when Microsoft first announced that Twitch streaming was coming to the Xbox One. “Finally! I can stream console games! Oh man, that’s going to be so awesome!” I was  later crushed when I learned that Microsoft wouldn’t support Twitch streaming at launch, but a couple of other cool features have satisfied my recording itch.

The Game DVR is easily one of my favorite things about the Xbox One. This application makes capturing those magic moments in gaming incredibly quick and simple. The process is constantly running in the background, so if something outrageous happens during your playthrough all you have to do is say “Xbox, record that” and your machine will capture and save the last 30 seconds of gameplay. This may not seem like a great deal of time, but I’ve managed to capture some perfect moments in Dead Rising 3 and Ryse. You also have the ability to snap the Game DVR to the side of your screen and use it to manually record up to five minutes of gameplay. I’m hoping this length is eventually increased, but for now it’s still a great feature for the more hardcore gamers out there. My only complaint is that you are not given the option to record your voice in real time. I think the Game DVR should give players the option to record party chat when manually recording game clips.

Once you’ve amassed a nice collection of game recordings, you can head on over to Upload Studio to edit and share your videos with the world. I was honestly pretty impressed with the capabilities on Microsoft’s on-board video editing software. It provides a nice variety of simple editing features and effects and even allows you to record narration over existing videos. You can combine up to five videos in a single slip and add a nice little intro/outro via the Kinect video recording. Once you have the footage looking the way you want it, you can instantly share it with the Xbox Live community. If you want to share it with the general populous, you will need to upload the video to your SkyDrive and from there upload it to YouTube or Facebook. This sounds more tedious than it really is. I believe Microsoft should incorporate YouTube and Facebook sharing from Upload Studio, but getting my videos on YouTube only took a few minutes.

Here is a collection of hilarious videos recorded, edited, and published from my Xbox One:

[youtube http://youtu.be/wyb6TQ01xsA] [youtube http://youtu.be/vS6PWyfdwK0]

[youtube http://youtu.be/5VSA3Ch_LM0]http://youtu.be/5VSA3Ch_LM0

The Final Word

No matter how you look at it, $500 is a lot of money, especially for a gaming console. The key question we need to ask ourselves is “does the Xbox One deliver $500 worth of value to the consumer?” I would undoubtedly say, yes. The Xbox One not only delivers an amazing gaming machine, but it offers many more features than both of it’s competitors. The all-in-one focus focus will deliver a ton of great features you didn’t even know you needed. The console needs a major overhaul to it’s user interface and party system, but it’s a solid gaming console worthy of any gamer’s collection.

Xbox One Review

72 comments

  1. Back on the 360, I had nothing but bad experiences with the original Kinect. Going in to the Xbox One, I immediately assumed I was going to relive these unsavory times, but I’m absolutely in love with the voice technology. I’ve become so spoiled with Kinect voice commands. If I’m sitting on my bed and feel the itch to watch Dexter, “Xbox, on” and “Xbox, go to Netflix” are my best friends. Even using the commands inside of Netflix is a breeze. Some games even incorporate basic voice commands, like Ryse, where it adds to the game and makes quality of life easier. I’m stoked to see where the technology will go from here.

    I agree the interface can be a bit clunky. I’m not a fan of Windows 8 to begin with, but navigating via voice commands makes moving about a whole lot easier. My Pins page is slowly becoming overwhelmed with apps and digital download games.. and I’ve only had my console since Christmas. I don’t want to fathom what it’s going to look like in 6 or 7 months.

    The controller is pure sex, though. I love the D-pad, the gripped analog is an awesome touch and the vibrating triggers bring a new feel to games that I didn’t even know that I needed.

    I regret nothing. I love this console.

  2. One thing I noticed here is the price point. I live in the UK and the console was and is still currently on sale without a game for £429.99. I’m not really up on current exchange rates but I assume this is a hell of a lot more than $500. This would undoubtedly mean the Xbox One is over $200 more over here! Would your review change if you had to pay over $700 for it?

    1. I would do terrible, terrible things for the Xbox One… So chances are I would throw $700 at it. Plus it’s our home console and we have to represent. Red, white, and green!

  3. I love my Xbox One, I love the features that it does have and I love the features that it will have. My problem with it is that a lot of the features that it will have, the 360 already has. The system needs work, but at least it’s not as bad as the blades the 360 originally came with.

    Regarding streaming, it was available on day 1 with the PS4, so I wonder if there’s a reason it’s not available on the One yet, maybe they intend to simultaneously let you stream to Youtube or something like that. I just hope it’s not so that they can release it for the 360 around the same time, that would be a very bad idea.

    1. It was very shocking that Twitch was delayed on the Xbox One. I hope they are trying to figure out a way to offer higher res streaming than the PS4. Chances are they are trying to figure out the best way for the machine to process the Game DVR and Twitch steaming at the same time.
      -Mileson

  4. I don’t know how I forgot to complain about this in my first comment, but of all the things the Xbox One does right, why are we still using battery operated controllers like a bunch of pilgrims? Even Nintendo gave up batteries with the Wii U.

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