Xbox One

xbox-one-logo

Before I begin this review, I have to state that I wear a PS3 hat. I used to own an Xbox 360 but I jumped ship about 2 years ago to PS3. So the Xbox One needs to do something special for a floating gamer like me, to prise me away from Playstation. So is the Microsoft’s Xbox One that machine? Lets find out…

Xbox One is billed as thee entertainment hub. Its a games machine, live TV service, Blu-Ray player, music and movie streamer, Skype and catch-up TV provider. Chiming in at £429.99, its £80 more expensive than the PS4 but it comes packed with the Kinect camera for “active” gaming.

The first thing you’ll notice about the console when you unpack it, is how enormous it truly is. It measures 274 x 79 x 333 mm, making it a heck of a lot bigger than a PS4 or even the Xbox 360. You don’t need a tape measure to figure that out though, the thing just looks huge, and it’s ugly too. It looks like a beta-max if someone in the 1970’s imagined what Beta-max’s in 2013 might look like. Its slightly reminiscent of the original Xbox – but bigger.

Setup & Specs

Out of the box you get : the Xbox One, a Kinect, a powerbrick cable adapter similar to 360, a Xbox headset & adapter, an HDMI cable and 1 Xbox One controller. You’ll also get a 14-day free trial of Xbox Live Gold.

Round the back it sports : ethernet, HDMI out, power, S/PDIF optical audio, three USB 3.0 ports (2 on back, 1 on side) and an IR out. Additionally, there is a port for the Kinect, and a passthrough HDMI-in, for your TV/satellite signal.

Xbox One is powered by an AMD processor, backed by 8GB of DDR3 and 32MB of ultra fast ESRAM. In this regard, the components are similar in spec to PS4.

Storage-wise, there’s 500GB hard drive. But you cannot remove and replace the harddrive with a bigger one, unlike PS4. It could be physically done, but that Xbox warranty will be voided.

When it comes to booting up, the Xbox One is very fast at 30 seconds from stand-by (takes a minute from cold, if power has been knocked off). Pressing the Xbox button does the trick, or – If you like to use the Kinect’s nifty voice activated command, you shout “Xbox on” at it.

When you first switch the system on you’ll go through a setup wizard which will dial home and look for the latest updates (about 2GB of patches).

One Controller

Moving from the 360 to the One, Microsoft has hardly altered the controller, which was one of the best ergonomically designed.

The main difference is – its slightly lighter, the sticks have extra grip and the Xbox button has moved, which is now at the top rather than in the middle, making it harder to accidentally tap in the middle of a bout of frenzied button tapping. You also get rumble feedback through the triggers now as well, which nicely simulates the kickback of say – a gun.

As a PS-head, I have to concede that I always thought the Xbox controller was slightly better designed. That said, Sony’s controller has a few features, Microsoft should adopt. The Xbox One is still laughably using AA batteries for power, while PS has a rechargeable cell. Microsoft sells that functionality separately in the form of the Play and Charge Kit. At £19, it’s asking a lot, since controllers normally cost £44 on their own.

The Xbox One’s controller doesn’t have motion features – like PS’s DualShock 4, which basically has ‘Move’ built right in. But since you get the Kinect. also no ‘touchpad’ is present. The only design flaw is that the triggers feel less solid, than Xbox 360. But all in all, its all an improvement on the 360 controller.

On no!..not Windows 8??

On no!..not Windows 8??

Once you get too the home menu, a strange cold shudder should set over you. Yip! Xbox One’s tiled Home screen is the bastard child of Windows 8 (the unpopular and fiddly current Microsoft Windows System!).

Homescreen & Menu

It’s made up of tiles and divided into three sections: Pins, Home and Store. It’s somewhat customizable, letting you pick the colour of said tiles, but mostly works by automatically populating itself with your recently accessed apps and games. It runs pretty fast and you can zip between menu’s, apps and games with ease.

If you have used Windows 8 before, prepare to do a bit of “app snapping” – app snapping lets you run two apps at once, splitting your screen up into chunks.

In theory, this is a good feature, say – for browsing the web and Skyping. But otherwise its a little distracting and cluttering and gaming on only one side of the screen (whilst browsing or skyping on the other) is probably going to give you major eye-strain.

Oneguide

To watch TV on the console, you need to plug a HDMI cable into the ‘in’ HDMI slot. You then need to access the ‘OneGuide’ to navigate the channels. But frustratingly UK customers will have to wait as the Oneguide doesn’t yet work (built for US cable!) but they can plug in a digi or Sky box in the HDMI in port and watch that. A future firmware update will unlock the Oneguide feature for Sky subscribers.

Xbox One also integrates streaming services that you’re currently subscribed to, and helps you find what you’re looking for across all options. BBC iPlayer and 4OD are not currently supported but they’re on the way.

If you want to watch a film, you search for it and the Xbox One Guide will tell you if you can watch on Netflix, buy it on Amazon, or through the Xbox Marketplace.

Kinect

The new Kinect is larger than the 360 version, comes with the ability to tilt it for optimum position. The Kinect is a combination camera and microphone. It lets the system see you, hear you, react to your commands or just your presence. It also has an Infra Red blaster that can interact with your TV and other appliances.

You don’t need a Kinect to work the system but you might aswell use it as it comes in the box and it opens up other possibilities including voice activated commands and the Kinect only titles (Zumba, Xbox Fitness, Golf and more still to come).

In this regard, its a much better device currently than the more novelty driven PS Camera.

Share Gaming Moments & Smart Glass

Like PS3, you can record your gaming moments by shouting “Xbox record that” to Kinect and then you can share them to your Xbox activity feed or SKYDRIVE in 720p glory, where the clips can be downloaded to a PC and edited in MP4 format. Unlike PS4, you can then do what you like with them and are not limited to ‘just’ uploading them to Facebook or PSN.

The Xbox remote Smartglass app is back for remote access to the system through a phone or tablet. It lets you navigate menus and see system information on your tablet or smartphone.

You can also launch in-game apps on Smart glass, such as an in-game map or extra game controls. Smartglass also provides a keyboard which makes it much easier to navigate the Xbox One menu’s and the OneGuide for TV viewing. It also has a nifty feature of allowing you to bring up a browser page and the user can literally “throw” it onto your TV screen.

Xbox-Smart-Glass-App

Store & Xbox Live

The Store is similar in layout to its predecessor. It’s divided into Games, Movies & TV, Music and Apps. There’s also a Bing search bar below it.

Paying for an Xbox Live Gold account has always been necessary to access online and play multiplayer. That was a major coup for the PS3, which gave away online functionality for free.However, PS4 now also charges but then gives you free access to things like Netflix and other streaming services.

The Xbox One requires you to pay £35 before you can have access to video services, which is expensive in the current climate. And whilst the Xbox One has more online features, it means you have to pay to access these.

That said, Xbox do have quality servers backing their games which hardly ever went down or lagged – unlike PS3. So some of the Xbox live cost was justified as supporting this continued service.

Your account from Xbox 360 will carry over to the Xbox One automatically and other than that, the service still looks pretty much the same as 360. You can message friends, join groups for voice chat and jump right into a game or message friends.

There are no truly free games yet available for Gold subscribers on the Xbox One. Xbox really needs to offer a few free goodies like PS Plus does to lessen the blow of the membership cost.

call of duty one v 360

Launch titles
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Ubisoft
Battlefield 4 – DICE
Call of Duty: Ghosts – Infinity Ward
Crimson Dragon – Grounding Inc., Land Ho!
Dead Rising 3 – Capcom
FIFA 14 – EA Sports
Fighter Within – AMA, Ltd
Forza Motorsport 5 – Turn 10
Just Dance 2014 – Ubisoft
Killer Instinct – Double Helix
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – TT Games
LocoCycle – Twisted Pixel
Madden NFL 25 – EA Sports
NBA 2K14 – Visual Concepts
NBA Live 14 – EA Sports
Need for Speed: Rivals – Ghost, Criterion
Powerstar Golf – Zoe Mode (Kinect)
Ryse: Son of Rome – Crytek
Skylanders: Swap Force – Vicarious Visions
Xbox Fitness – Microsoft Studios (Kinect)
Zoo Tycoon – Frontier Developments
Zumba Fitness: World Party – Zoe Mode (Kinect)

The Games

And now the important bit – gaming. Every game on the Xbox One requires at least a partial installation before it can be played. These installs are slightly lengthier than on PS4, but not by much.

It’s generally still a good idea to pop the new game in the drive well before you want to play it still. However, store downloads can be played mid-download, like PS4.

One advantage the Xbox One has over the PS4, is that discs are not required to play after inital install, which is a nice feature PS4 could do with.

Getting to graphics and gameplay, the Xbox One disappointingly (and bafflingly) runs everything in 720p (as opposed to PS4’s – 1080p!). The layman won’t be able to tell buts its an odd thing for a supposed HD-next gen gaming console. Its a similar oversight to the release of first gen Xbox 360’s, which didn’t even come with a HDMI port.

Xbox will need to change this in the future as PS4 has slightly better graphics. Although framerates and speed are largely similar. Its just that extra clarity 1080p gives.

The Xbox One is also hit or miss with its 5.1 sound integration which is still in BETA testing.

The best thing Xbox did was bite the bullet and include a (Sony) Blu-ray drive in the machine. After the disaster that was HD-DVD add on drives, at least you can say Xbox have learnt their lesson. But it must be pretty galling to include rival Sony software in the Xbox One. The Xbox One also plays CDs, something the PS4 (currently) doesn’t do.

Summary

In summary, The Xbox One wants to be the daddy of entertainment media centres and encompass everything. In that regard, it excels as it has loads and loads of features, some of which the Xbox do better than the PS4 – other it doesn’t.

The Xbox One has a better launch game lineup than PS4 with fun titles like Dead Rising 3 and Forza Motorsport 5 (the rest are available on both machines).

The ability to shout voice commands at the Kinect is great but it is no Siri. It struggles with more complex commands and it isn’t great for transversing the Oneguide. Sometimes it doesn’t even register something simple like “Xbox on!” – to boot the system.

Xbox One’s gameplay video sharing is better than PS4’s, you can do more with the clips – if your into that sort of thing.

Xbox One costs £80 more than PS4 and that is alot, although you do get the Kinect bundled. The PS camera is seperate and costs £40, so gamers will have to weigh up the pro’s and con’s on that one – depending on what they deem important.

Things to hate – the Windows 8 style menu layout, overly cluttered menu’s, snapping apps, HD-lite 720p gaming, batteries in controller, wireless controller kit seperate, Gold subscription still more expensive than the PS Plus, no free games with gold sub (unlike PS plus).

The Xbox One pretty much embodies the Jack of all trades, master of none cliche. It does alot, there are tons of features. Some are better than PS4, but its let downs are huge. No 1080p gaming? What were they thinking?

If you come to this from 360 then its a competent step up but if you come to this from PS, well you wouldn’t really would you? Xbox have missed the boat in attempting to ‘turn’ PS3 gamers who won’t be impressed by the things missing. I won’t be moving back to Xbox anytime soon.

For a Playstation verdict, check out my PS4 review here.

Spaceman