I can still remember lining up at Midnight well over a decade ago for the original Xbox. It was such a great thing, and I didn’t quite know why. Over the years the concept has evolved, changed looks the newer 360 version was released yet at its core it was a games machine which took Microsoft well out of its comfort zone. The Xbox One is the next big thing for Microsoft and they have to get it right as they battle head to head with Playstation.
EFTM has been using the Xbox One for a little while now, and I want to be clear up front, we’re coming at this from the casual gamer angle. I love playing games, but with a lot of work on and a young family it can be hard to find quality screen time. Perhaps though, that is why I’ve always tended toward the Xbox?
Sony have been promoting the upcoming Playstation 4 as “#4TheGamers” – which is a clear positioning statement that they are focussed on gaming and anything else that comes is a bonus. There are plenty of good reasons why that will pay dividends for them – but more on that next week!
What Microsoft have done is try to create a powerful gaming system which can sit happily between your “TV platform” and your screen.
It’s obvious right from the get-go. At the back are two HDMI ports, one for “Sat/TV In” and one output to the TV. By connecting a Digital set-top box or your Foxtel IQ box “in” to the Xbox you are able to pass through the Xbox your normal TV viewing which starts to make the Xbox a lot more than just a games machine.
In Australia it won’t yet do things like actually change channels, you’ll still need your other remote, but using very Windows 8 like techniques you can “snap” the TV picture to the side of your screen while doing any activity on the Xbox One – even playing a game.
I for one cannot wait to get to the Bathurst round of the V8 Supercar championship this year – with Forza 5 running V8’s on the mountain, I can watch the coverage on Channel 7, snapped to the side of the screen while doing my own hot-laps in competition with the TV. Crazy fun.
More likely you’ll snap the TV to keep an eye on a sport score or TV show while you play a game or browse the web.
The “Windows 8” like experience starts with the tiled look, and goes through to things like Internet Explorer which is on the Xbox One quite possibly the best big-screen web-browsing experience I’ve seen.
Kinect is upgraded and is so much better – recognising faces in the room for login and gaming, and when games start to really harness the Kinect sensor we’ll see real examples of what is easily Microsoft’s most valuable piece of technology as they move forward.
Voice controls are still there, and are much improved, although I really still do feel like a complete dick when talking to the TV – perhaps I’m the only one.
The entire main menu system is simplified making usage just that bit easier, while finding games, movies and other content is quite easy in each area.
Your controller has been slightly re-designed and does feel even better in the hand, although the new black buttons with coloured letters does make it hard to see some controls at night if you’re not one who remembers exactly which is which for the rarely used top three buttons:)
One key feature I think you will love, and this also applies to the PS4, is the start before complete game install requirement.
If you buy a game on a CD or for digital download, the game will be playable before the installation is 100% complete. This is just brilliant, and for some games it’s a very early percentage of install required before you can plan, others – like Call of Duty Ghosts seemed to be upwards of 60% install before I could play. Regardless, it’s better than it was!
Updates will continue to be the bug-bear of users for years to come. Day one switch on required a download of more than a GB, while one of the disc install games I had required a 500MB download. That said, this was a pre-release console and pre-release game, however I would advise you to assume some “install time” before you’ll get playing on day 1.
There really is too much to mention about this console, from game recording on the fly, to cloud saving of your game progress, this device is more than just a leap forward, it’s a much-needed leap forward if not a few giant leaps.
The overall interface is excellent, and the power of the machine as a true part of your multi-media setup is excellent.
I can’t help but be impressed by what is a classic and elegant physical design, combined with a hardware specification which should see some stunning titles come to the platform this year and in the years to come.
The new Xbox One won’t be unwelcome in any household this Christmas I’d expect, so check it out from this Friday November 22.