On Friday, Microsoft launched its next-gen console to the gaming public, the Xbox One. Kicking off the next-gen scene in Australia, the Xbox One has already become a huge success, with one million units sold worldwide in 24 hours, along with EB Games mentioning the Xbox One as the biggest launch in Australian history. Brendan, Kochie and Chris got their hands on the console from day one and review all key aspects of the Xbox One.
1. The Console + Kinect: Unboxing and Initial Setup
Upon opening the lovely black box housing our new toys, the first thing that presents you is the Kinect sensor which sits on top of the console. Surprisingly, the Kinect weighs a lot more than its Xbox 360 predecessor, making the Xbox One seem quite light, especially for its size. The Xbox One measures in at 33cm x 27cm x 8cm, and is noticeably larger than the first revision Xbox 360. The Xbox One also comes with a wireless controller, an Xbox Live headset and a 4K-capable HDMI cable. The cable is certainly a nice addition to have, given that 4K quality HDMI cables can go into the hundreds of dollars. The Xbox Live headset however, is quite small and this is even when the earpiece is fully extended.
A disappointing sight to see was to find the console shipped with fingerprint marks across the top and front after unwrapping. While fingerprints are usually easy to clean, the glossy surface on the Xbox One is easily prone to light scratches and requires a bit more care than using a paper towel or a Chux wipe.
After turning the console on for the first time (and waiting for 15-30 seconds), you will be greeted with a day one update. With the update sized at 580MB, it should take roughly 15 minutes to download (based on an 8mbps connection). The console will then run you through the typical setup options such as date/time, Xbox Live profiles and Kinect setup. The process is very user friendly and quick to finish.
2. The Controller
The Xbox One controller has improved in a number of areas when compared to the Xbox 360 controller which most of us thought was perfect already. The overall weight of the controller seems to be lighter mostly due to the battery compartment being embedded into the rear of the controller instead of a bulky attachment. This allows for more finger space and a more comfortable grip. The triggers have in-built vibrators which add for an extra level of realism, especially in racing games and first-person shooters.
At an overall glance, the buttons feel very sturdy and durable, with the only exception being the bumpers (LB/RB) which have been moved to a slightly higher position. The bumpers have also been increased in size, making it somewhat difficult when trying to use both the triggers and bumpers at the same time. They also make a louder, click type noise which can feel cheap at times if you don’t push it correctly. The sticks have also been upgraded and while they do look a little smaller, they have been fitted with a textured design. This impoves grip when pushing from the outside of the stick, and feels really nice to use.
Used in conjunction with the Kinect the Xbox One controller can be assigned to your Xbox Live profile, so when you turn the console on using your main controller Kinect will immediately recognise your profile and sign you in. This is a handy feature for extra family members or roommates who also have profiles saved on the one console. There is a problem with this though as unlike the 360 controller, you can’t actually tell who is assigned to what controller by looking at it. This can be frustrating if the Kinect does not automatically detect a controller switch between players.
3. The Kinect & Voice Controls
The Kinect has also received an upgrade, not just in size but in features as well. With extra voice recognition software, you can easily switch between programs (as long as you get the accent right). By saying a phrase like “Xbox, Go to, Forza 5”, it will take you directly to the game from whatever you are doing. While it can be argued that it’s just as easy using the controller, it does have a different feel to it which is a nice change to see.
With the Kinect being cemented as a core component of the Xbox One, it means that developers know that their consumers will have a Kinect and can add extra features to the games to enhance the experience. While there aren’t many launch titles that use Kinect, it will exciting to see what kinds of things developers will be able to implement in the new system.
4. The Games
Usually the only issue with a new generation of gaming is that you go from having 100’s if not 1000’s of games at your disposal to less than a dozen, and this generation is no different. In saying that, there are a few games which we’ve tried out and enjoyed nonetheless. These will be first impressions followed by full reviews a little later.
Forza Motorsport 5
After being able to preview Forza Motorsport 5 at EB Expo this year, we have been excited to get our hands on it again. When the hosts of Top Gear are done talking to us, we have been having a blast driving with many different cars on a variety of challenging tracks.
With the addition of the Drivatar system (Kochie hates the name) it means that even if your friends aren’t playing, you can still race against a simulated version of their racing abilities. Every Drivatar will take each corner of each track differently, and you will see which of your friends is either a smash-heavy, rage-filled driver or a person that drives a perfect line in every track (except for Laguna Seca).
Kochie spoke about how the lighting and reflections play a big part of Forza, and this carries over to the full game. With the upgraded graphical updates from the Xbox One hardware, it is amazing to see how realistic the cars and surroundings look. Even after a race you, will see every scratch and patches of dirt that the car has acquired during the race. It’s an attention to detail that Kochie loves the most, and in a simulation styled game it’s exactly what we want. The loading times still suck though.
Another year, another FIFA game with updated rosters… Moving on!
FIFA 14 is this year’s latest addition to the Football franchise (anyone who’s says Soccer can get out), which came free with the pre-order of Xbox One. The Ignite Engine has been added to FIFA 14 adding to the experience. This includes both graphical and gameplay changes exclusive to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, such as True Player Motion which creates more realistic movement from the players, and more realism to the way environmental features occur. An example of this is weather and stadium crowd dynamics that develop during play.
All other features have returned, such as creating your own player and even using the FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) mode giving a personal to an already established game. If you are already a FIFA fan, then you will enjoy this installment as much as the last one.
When the Xbox One was announced, we were led to believe that Microsoft were going to give us Killer Instinct FREE with all purchases. This was the case, however the problem is that only one fighter is available with the game (Jago), along with one stage to play on. While the gameplay itself is pretty good, the biggest qualm has been the lack of content, which is scheduled to be released in the coming months after launch.
The combat system itself is pretty good using a L/M/H style of punches and kicks, which seems to flow fairly well between the fighters. A notable new feature to Killer Instinct is the addition of “Instinct Mode”. By filling up a secondary bar beneath the character’s life, each character can trigger a unique enhancement for a limited period. It’s a fun new feature that can turn the tides of a challenging fight.
5. The UI + Entertainment Apps
One of the first things we looked at after setting up the Xbox One was installing all the relevant apps to complement the overall experience. When checking out the range of apps available, Chris followed VideoGamer.com’s guide, ‘9 things to do when you get your Xbox One‘ which includes a neat little list of Applications people may miss or other settings to play with. The Store also has an option to add a 6-digit PIN to your account for either Logging In or Purchasing Items from your account, and we thought this was an excellent security addition. Since a button combination is required instead of a numeric keypad, an easy way to utilise this functionality is to base your PIN on your favourite cheat code.
First up was the typical Xbox Applications (Xbox Music, Xbox Video etc), quickly followed by the Blu-ray Player Application. After these, Skype, Twitch and Upload Studio were queued up, along with a handy little application called ‘Speech Tutorial’. This particular app is exactly as the name suggests, a little tutorial on some of the speech functions Kinect will recognise and let you do. It is certainly something you’ll want to do, so you can learn some of the different commands you can use.
We then came across quite possibly the best part of the application install process on any platform to date. When you’re in the Store (Games/Music/Apps, it didn’t seem to matter), there is a little tile that you select to enter codes (or now that you’re comfortable with Voice Commands just state “Xbox, use a code”). In addition to the 25 digit code, content cards for the Xbox One now include a QR code which can be scanned by the Kinect. Instead of typing the code, the content card can be held up to the Kinect and it will ask you to confirm installation/activation of the item(s). This was tested with FIFA14 as well as with the Day One Edition Achievement.
We tested out the UI from pinning apps to our preferred places, to using the Snapping features of different apps (including making a Skype call while accessing other areas of the Xbox One), and the main thing we all noticed was how quick and responsive the UI was to all our commands.
Unfortunately, one application that Chris pointed out not being available (yet) was Plex Media Centre, which allows for movies/TV to stream through the Xbox One instead of having to rely on DNLA Streaming. In the coming weeks there will be more apps and more content being delivered, and will hopefully thrive like the 360.
6. Final Thoughts
While the Xbox One may have had a rough announcement earlier this year, it is amazing that Microsoft have managed to turn the tables and launch the console as being a worthy competitor in the next-gen battle. I’m quite impressed with the range of innovative features built into the console, such as voice control, snapping apps while performing other functions and switching between TV, movies and games without the need to use any form of physical remote control. Ultimately, I feel this makes the Xbox One not just your basic games console, but a user-centric device which integrates seamlessly in any lounge room/entertainment setup.
After having spent most of this week playing around with the Console and whatever features I could get my hands on, I must say I’m thoroughly impressed. I’ve followed the information from day one, including all the negativity surrounding both Microsoft and the Console itself, and I have to say I think it’s come out on top. I’ve not had any issues with the UI, none with Games, I was even able to Pre-load Ryse to the HDD before I purchased it (as my brother owns it) saving me download time when I do get it. I’ve been using Kinect pretty much constantly with the voice commands to switch in/out Apps as well as general usage. I can’t wait to see the list of Applications grow and hope that Plex comes soon (hint hint).
With the Xbox One’s launch, it has had the ability to take me away from PC on more than one occasion. Using the upgraded controller adds a new experience to games like Forza 5, that was previously unachievable without the purchase of a force feedback steering wheel, and I have to to say that I’m really enjoying it. The Kinect sensor is very accurate and picks up voice even if there is background noise making it very user friendly. I am very excited to see what games/features developers will come up with using the added features of Xbox One and bring on the gaming year of 2014!