Xbox One Review

Posted: November 25, 2013 in Reviews

X1_Logo

The next generation has begun in Europe as of Friday. And as I always am, for better or worse, I am an early adopter. First and foremost, I’m a Sony guy. My PS3 gets a hell of a lot more use than my Xbox 360, but at the same time I am not a “fanboy” who dedicates himself totally to one console. If there is an exclusive on the 360 that is worth playing, I will be all over it. Be it Splinter Cell: Conviction, Witcher 2, Dead Rising 1 etc, I love them all. Apart from Halo, I think Microsoft has a great stable of exclusives.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Xbox One. I picked up the only 2 games I wanted to get for the console at launch: Dead Rising 3 and Zoo Tycoon. Forza Motorsport 5 was also included in the box as I was one of the lucky people to get a Day 1 edition. Reviews for some of these will probably come at a later stage but as this is a new blog and is just me contributing at the moment, I feel like these will take a back seat to some of the PS4 launch titles. But the console is what I am here to review for now so lets get to it.

Setup

I approached the midnight launch of the console with cautious trepidation. After the PS4 launch in the US presented some minor to major issues for people and with no real visibility provided by Microsoft on hardware and other things, I was concerned that I would plug it in and it would just explode. Luckily, the setup process was pretty painless. The initial day one patch was only 360 megabytes and because my internet connection is quite fast, this was all completed and installed in about a minute. Setting locale and other base settings is painless. Kinect setup is the same as it was on 360, only this time, there was no calibration card required. All in all, I was up and running in a few minutes.

User Interface

The one thing that I think will divide people with this console is the UI. It’s obviously taken a lot of cues from the Windows 8 “Metro” interface and this can be both a good and bad thing. Voice commands will be your friend with this interface (if you are in the right location and can use them) as this makes it easier to find and navigate things. The whole UI is broken down into 3 areas:

  • Pins
  • Home
  • Store

Pins is where you can place your most used apps, games and areas that you visit (Settings, Store, Achievements etc). This will be used mostly by people who do not have voice commands enabled in their area.

Mine is not green and gaudy.

Home is where the main content is, like the disc that is currently in your console, and your most recently used apps and areas.

X1_Home

Store is pretty self-explanatory and is split up into Games, Movies, Music and Apps. There is also a “Search with Bing” feature at the bottom of the store page.

X1_Store

It’s simple, but deceptively complex in reality.

Things like Achievements, Store, Game DVR and other apps that will be used quite regularly are buried within the “My Games and Apps” section of the Home screen. You can pin them and they will appear on the Pin screen but the fact that this is required for the basic things like Achievements and so forth is a strange design decision. It seems like they went with a very minimalist, less is more approach here but it puts a lot of work on the user to get the kind of experience they want. As I mentioned before, voice commands are your friend.

NOTE: If you are in Ireland like me, voice commands are not supported in our locale at launch. There is however, a way around this. Even though Albert Penello says that the locale for voice commands is tied to where the console is sold, I changed my locale to United Kingdom and ta-dah, voice commands are working for me now.

Kinect

X1_Kinect

Kinect and myself have a tenuous relationship at best. I am not a fan of tacked on motion controls but I love the ease of use of voice commands and gestures. Unfortunately, after 3 days, I have not been able to use the Kinect in any great depth for gestures as my living space to not be enough for the new Kinect, but was perfectly fine with my first generation one on 360. I tried to clear more space but it seems to just not react to me for whatever reason. This is simply for navigating the menus however. When I booted up Zoo Tycoon, I was able to use the Kinect successfully to feed the animals, pet them etc with a good degree of accuracy but it feels completely tacked on (more on that later). I will continue to work with the Kinect, and plan to move it to my wifes TV later and place it on top of it (it is at the foot of my  TV as mine is paper thin) to see if this helps in any way so stay tuned for updates.

Games

X1_Games

The meat of any new games consoles will always be its games. Microsoft would like to make you think, at times, that games are not the most important part, but if you are dropping 500 euros / dollars on this machine, you are probably some form of gamer. I will be trying more of them out over the coming weeks, but at the moment I am focused on 3 in particular:

  • Dead Rising 3
  • Zoo Tycoon
  • Forza Motorsport 5

These are 3 of the exclusives for Xbox One and they all have their strengths and weaknesses in my brief time with all of them. Forza Motorsport 5 is obviously the graphical powerhouse of the 3 from what most of us have seen but what we have seen in the videos and screenshots does not do justice to how it actually looks. This game is gorgeous. The cars are practically real, the tracks are great, and the sounds really help sell the package. There were some times when things like barricades and trees looked a bit square but then your focus goes back to the cars and you will forget all about it.

Zoo Tycoon and Dead Rising 3 are not exactly made to show the power of the console but they are both incredibly fun. Zoo Tycoon has the before mentioned tacked on Kinect controls but these are thankfully optional and everything can be done with a controller. This was something I was concerned with before launch as I really wanted to play the game but I didn’t want to use the Kinect for it. I was relieved when I realised that I had an alternative option. The voice commands are useful in times when you don’t feel like navigating the often-cumbersome menus as they can get tiring but overall, it’s good fun and harkens back to the older games, but adds enough new things and cute animals to make it feel fresh.

Dead Rising 3 was the one I was most excited about. I am a huge fan of the franchise and because it was exclusive, I would have had to buy the console day one to play it alone. It doesn’t break any barriers in terms of innovation and it isn’t something that will push the console to it’s limits (maybe not even half way there) but it’s a lot of fun and still looks great. There was one thing that I noticed that bothers me as it relates to the hardware and that’s that when I pause the game to talk to someone, sometimes it would randomly un-pause because I said something a fraction similar to the word “Resume”. All the menus are voice controlled as well as by the controller and as of now, I haven’t been able to locate any way to turn this off. I have died a couple of times thanks to Kinect which doesn’t help me love it any more.

Controller

X1_Controller

I believe the controller deserves it’s own section because it is a remarkable improvement over the 360 controller. I may be in the minority here, but I was not a fan of the 360 controller. Maybe it’s because I loved the Dualshock since it’s inception years ago, but I could never get used to it. This has made enough small changes without altering too much to make it great. The feedback is great, the analog sticks are responsive, and the triggers are much improved over the previous generation. One thing I was surprised by was the fact that with the new “Start” and “Select” buttons, neither are used to instantly share clips to Twitch or UStream. Obviously, the PS4 controller has the “Share” button, so I expected MIcrosoft to have something similar. Actually, I found the process of sharing a clip quite cumbersome  on the Xbox One, as compared to how I believe it works on the PS4 (Will have to wait until the 29th of November to know for sure). To share a simple clip in Dead Rising 3, I had to go back to the menu, go to Upload, start recording, go back to the game, do what I wanted for the clip, go back to Upload and end the recording and then upload the clip using Upload Studio. Thats 7 steps for those not keeping count, far too many to do something so simple.

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