25th November 2013
Xbox One – The 48hour review
First impressions were really good. Yeah it’s not pretty but it sits nicely under my TV and I didn’t buy it for its aesthetics, more because it’s a working gaming console. It had a really simple setup which was good. And the day one update only took 5mins to download and install. With a few details input, my Xbox live account was integrated and now I could update it with the brand new 1020p avatar logo.
So the first thing I wanted to do was play. To do this I had to start the mammoth download of Forza 5 – its something like 40Gb so its gonna take a while. So I got that downloading in the background and started to explore other features. One of the first I tried was the blueray drive. Weirdly you have to install the blueray app to be able to use your blueray drive. Surely someone at Microsoft would’ve thought to factory install this as it’s something the majority of people would use. This is when you encounter the problem that the Xbox One cannot do download asynchronously (I.e. download more than one thing at a time). And it uses a queuing system. So with a quick jiggle of the download queue, I download the blue ray app and now can sample the delights of Bolt while downloading Forza in the background. As expected, it’s beautiful. Fantastic picture quality, no image smearing or pixilation. Thumbs up.
Next is Kinect. This is installed when you power up for the first time and does various audio tests to calculate the acoustics of the room. You can setup auto login with face detection which is quite cool. Another great feature as part of the kinect is the ability to speak commands to your Xbox. I think the best feature is “Xbox snap” which snaps a side panel onto the right side of the screen allowing you to listen to music, see what friends are up too, chat, and record your favourite moments. You can also play, pause and stop video and navigate your Xbox using only voice commands. It’s a fantastic feature and works about 90% of the time. It can be quite frustrating when it doesn’t work and I’ve found this when you’re either too far away from the console or there’s alot of background noise. There are also gestures that you can do that generally involve you waving your hands around to get your Xbox to do things. I haven’t been massively successful using gestures so I can’t really comment on their brilliance.
And then there is music. I think this is probably the most disappointing part of the Xbox One experience. It uses Xbox Music, which on first glance is abit limited in regards to the number of songs in it library (Microsoft recently brought Nokia so maybe they’ll integrate the two music experiences and this may improve the library collection). The music app works in snap but is abit temperamental with the odd crash here n there. The Xbox is not iPod compatible nor can you plug in a USB (at the moment – Due in the future) so to continue to listen to music after a short introductory period, you have to subscribe to the music service. Hopefully there will soon be an app to rival this allowing network streaming, with iTunes compatibility.
The New Controller
The new controller is nice. I wouldn’t say it was massively different from the old 360 version but it fits nicely in the hand. It does have a ‘built in rumble system’ in the triggers which takes abit of getting used to, but I can’t complain about it.
And then there’s the game experience, the primary reason why anyone buys an Xbox One (I imagine). Forza Motorsport 5 is just beautiful. The game graphics are fantastic and there are moments where I wondered if I was watching a video or whether the car is rendered by the game. It’s actually stunning. Game play is smooth and challenging. They have gotten rid of AI bots to race against and now you race drivatars, which are real people’s ghost cars downloaded from the cloud. So you’re not only racing against real people in the game but your track times are also plotted on an international leaderboard and your challenged to beat your time and other people playing the game including your friends. This is a fantastic feature that makes the game more engaging and competitive. Forza utilises the kinect by using head tracking to pan the camera. This means when you trying to get around a corner maybe abit quicker than you should be, you instinctly left lean allows you to see what you’re going to crash into before it happens, allowing you to brace for impact.
What the game lacks, at the moment anyways, is the number of tracks. There promises to be a number DLC’s to boost the number of cars and possibly tracks in game and there is already a in game purchase system, allowing the user to buy into accelerated experience gain for a short period of time so the user to rank up quicker. This follows the trend of recent, whereby more games are implementing the in app DLC system to squeeze every last penny out of the user (or their parents). I’m not against the system as it’s a valid way of increasing the games breadth and I do actively pay for DLC’s on games I love, like with Call of Duty: Black ops 2. However I don’t plan on buying into the Forza in app service. The Game also lacks weather. Yeah the game looks fantastic but there seems to be always sunny. I’ve seen a hint of cloud but nothing more. And after playing the game for a while you notice that some of the pre game animations are the same. Would be nice for abit of variety.
Overall it’s a fantastic game. With a few tweaks it could be incredible.
Xbox One Features
Game DVR and Upload allow the user to capture their favourite moments in game. I think they are fantastic tools and I have created a few humorous videos using them. They are intuitive, with not too many options to create confusion and can export videos straight to your skydrive and the Xbox One Live community.
The YouTube app looks great, allowing you to sync up to your YouTube account and witch videos. You can also connect devices to it (like a phone) allowing you to control the onscreen content remotely. It’s quite cool I think. Not much else to say about that. An idea would be to develop snap integration so I could listen/watch to YouTube during game play.
The TV integration, one of Microsoft’s Unique Selling Points for the Xbox One, is another source for disappointment. It will only work if you have a set top box with hdmi output. My TV has built in freeview and so no hdmi output so the TV functionality on the Xbox is lost. The Xbox guide wouldn’t work anyways given that I live in the UK.
One of the reasons I opted for the Xbox One over the PS4 was its ability to play with Xbox 360 players. This meant I could continue playing/chatting with my friends who had yet to upgrade. So far I haven’t played online vs. Xbox 360 players(waiting for Battlefield 4 to do this) but I have tried to chat using Xbox chat but to no avail. Apparently I can’t chat to Xbox 360 users through my Xbox OIne due to the Xbox One using a new Audio Codec for ‘better sound quality’. So this is disappointing. I have managed to Chat to another Xbox One player using Kinect and although the chat seemed alright, I couldn’t tell if it was of better quality.
So overall, although I am rather critical of the Xbox One’s shortfalls, I am quietly impressed with my Xbox One. Fortunately I have not come across any of the problems that have blighted some of the new Xbox Ones (most worryingly the grinding/ticking of the blueray drive). If you buy the Xbox One for the gameplay and graphics you won’t be disappointed. Forza 5 looks absolutely stunning and that’s just the first of a long list of titles available for the new console. Game DVR allows you to record and distribute your favourite game moments, a fantastic tool and great fun. Kinect adds to the gaming experience with auto login using face detection, head tracking in Forza 5, Vocal commands and snap. The rest of the Xbox one ecosystem still needs abit of work, especially the Xbox music side. But it has great potential and I’ll be really interested in future developments.
If I were to give it a rating it would be: 85%