The time has finally come: The Xbox One has officially been released and is being put through the paces from gamers all over the world. I got my hands on a "Day One Edition" right at midnight, and I've been chugging away ever since, and the more I dig in, the more impressed I become with what Microsoft has to offer. Let's take a look at our first impressions of the Xbox One!
Let me get this out of the way first and foremost. I'm an avid Xbox 360 gamer. I've been an early adopter for the 360, One, as well as the PS3. I had preferred my 360 over my PS3 mostly due to the controller. Luckily, I never had any issues with my consoles "red ringing" or anything of that nature. My only issue was a stuck disc drive that I was able to actually fix myself. I loved both consoles, but playing over Xbox Live and the community aspect kept me coming for more. But with the new Xbox One? All I can say is "WOW."
The new look and feel of the system OS is daunting at first, but refreshing once you get the handle on what commands to say and where to find some of the things you are looking for. The Windows 8 look has had good and negative feedback when it comes to PC's and tablets, but for the Xbox One, I feel it works and works very well. Things are layed out in 3 sections: Pins, Home, and Store. Pinning makes it easier to navigate to your most used apps and limits the amount of "digging" you have to do in order to find it. Of course, you could just say "xbox, load Netflix." Kinect 2.0 makes it easy, as well as very fluid to be able to load your apps and switch between them at a seconds notice. When I seconds, I mean literally 2 seconds and the next app is loaded. The smooth transitions and the ability to quickly move back and forth between apps and games allows you to not waste any time. Microsoft insisted on having a Kinect with every console, and I'm sure this is the biggest reason why. They have completely changed the game as far as interacting with your console and have made it something from the future. Whether it's the system logging your gamertag in by facial recognition or telling the Xbox what to do next. It makes it enjoyable but not cumbersome. Through my time with using the commands, not once did I have any issues with Kinect not recognizing my voice or commands nor did I feel navigation with a controller was bad either.
Much has been said about the insides of the Xbox compared to the PS4, that argument I'll save for my full on review. I'll compare the One to the 360 within this section. The One is definitely bigger and beefier compared to the 360. It's almost if the original Xbox and the 360 had a child, now you have the Xbox One. Some of criticized the design of the casing, but to me, it looks similar to a lot of cable and satellite set-top boxes you'd get from Directv or Comcast. In my opinion, Microsoft intended it to be this way to fit seamlessly into your entertainment system as they've touted the Xbox One as being your total entertainment console. The One has a very large and visible cooling fan on the top of the unit. Microsoft learned from their designs on the 360 and the overheating issues they had that plagued them early, and designed the One to be able to breathe. And breathe it should, because if you were to take advantage of all the features, the console would need to be powered on A LOT!
The controller is essentially a newer, sleeker version of the 360 controller that has become the industry standard as to what a gaming controller should be. They have tweaked it just a bit to modernize and improve upon their previous design. The thumbsticks now concave a little bit in the middle, as well as have a nice "kung fu grip" around the edge. This design keeps your thumbs on the sticks without any slipping during intense gaming sessions. The triggers and bumper buttons have been angled just a bit to allow a more natural feel as your hands wrap around the controller. The triggers also have precision rumble built into them. In NBA2K14, this allowed the triggers to vibrate independently from each other and would correspond to which hand my character was dribbling with. In Forza 5, you can feel the car shifting up or down as well as strips and other debris on your course. The Xbox logo button now lights up a bright white, instead of showing the green color ring to indicate which player number you are. The D-pad has been redesigned as well, giving it more usefulness than the disc based D-pad of the 360 which was the worst part of the 360 controller. The new design allows it to at least be function during fighting games like Killer Instinct, but I still think they could have improved it even more than what they already did.
A lot of fuss and criticism was thrown Microsofts way because of Kinect being bundled with every console, thus increasing the price and making it $100 more than the PS4. Valid criticism as far as price goes, but the spying and foil hat wearing conspiracies were a little beyond reasonable! The ability to log in on facial recognition, scanning of QR codes and instantly loading content, as well as the improved voice recognition system makes your navigation easier than every before. The 1080p video capabilities also lend it very useful for those who plan on using the Skype app. For me, that's a nice feature as my family lives a few states away. This will enable us to be able to talk and see each other, especially when my daughter is born at the beginning of 2014. The social aspects as well are a nice addition. Currently, 1st party developers are the ones trying to utilize the motion detection the most, while 3rd party are still sticking for voice commands for the time being. As devs get more comfortable as well as understand what the Kinect can become, I foresee them using this piece in every game with essential features.
I won't go too in depth here with games as I will be reviewing a few of them next week once I've dove into them thoroughly. But so far, I'm impressed. Battlefield 4 has been very smooth online with their dedicated servers, as well as looks amazing during 32vs32 conquest mode. Being able to see in the distance on a vast landscape, watching the enemy team move into position has been a very enjoyable experience, where as before, you may have gotten texture and landscaping pop in due to the limited resources for online games. The single player looks stunning as well. In NBA2K14, the player models are scary good. So good in fact, to those who don't game, would think they were watching a full fledged NBA on TNT broadcast. Never have I seen graphics and gameplay be as good looking and fun to play in a sports game. The crowd actually has some differentiation within the fans, the players look and move like their real life counterparts, and the gameplay is just stunning. If this is what we are to expect from Next-Gen games, count me in!
I've only spent the weekend with the console, but so far, I'm loving my experience. The new OS is easy to navigate once you get the hang of it, the hardware itself is still pretty solid, of course the controller is top notch like most thought it would be. The games, oh man the games, they are fantastic. Never have seen a launch of a game console have so many stellar games be released alongside it. Between NBA2K14, Battlefield 4, Dead Rising 3, and Forza 5, most critics have rated those games just as good, if not better, than some of the top tier games for the PS3 and 360. And to be honest, that's really what counts. Gamers need a reason to upgrade what they currently have, and if the games aren't up to par, then they won't upgrade, plain and simple. But I'm here to tell you that yes, the games are worth it and if you have the cash and can actually find one on a shelf, the Xbox One is a fantastic console, at least through my first weekend.
I'll be doing a full on review once I check out a few more games thoroughly as well as continue to dig into what the Xbox One has to offer.