Microsoft’s Xbox One console caused a great deal of hype and controversy in the gaming industry when it was first announced. Microsoft leaned towards enforcing Digital Rights Management (DRM) in the early stages; however, the company saw fit to reverse the decision in order to capture its audience once again. While Microsoft hit a massive hole in the road with DRM, the truth is… that was then, and this is now. The Xbox One has been around for just over a year, but has the console moved from strength-to-strength over that year?
In its first year, Microsoft has proven to gamers that its Xbox One console has indeed made great strides since launch. While the console only had a handful of titles during its launch phase, it now has an expansive library of games that include some rather highly anticipated titles. While Forza Horizon 2, Dead Rising 3, and Ryse: Son of Rome showcased the consoles ability and power, there are however a great deal of upcoming titles that could push well beyond the current graphical achievements of Microsoft’s Xbox One.
One year later, Xbox One owners can look forward to the following titles over the course of 2015:
– Fable Legends
– Halo 5: Guardians
– Batman: Arkham Knight
– Dying Light
– Mortal Kombat X
– Battlefield Hardline
– The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
– Quantum Break
– Rise of the Tomb Raider
While the Xbox One seemed as though it was a bit of an underdog when it came to Sony’s PlayStation 4 console, especially when it came to processing power, Microsoft unveiled that developers can now reclaim an extra 10 percent of the console’s GPU power back with the removal of the Xbox One Kinect. While regular consumers won’t essentially notice the difference by removing their Kinect… it will however offer developers the opportunity to, when it comes to future titles, improve the performance of upcoming games.
The Xbox One can be used with or without the Kinect, but it is still an accessory that Microsoft needs to invest more time in. The Xbox 360 did not entirely work too well with the original Kinect; however, Microsoft has taken note of the original flaws of the original device and addressed them in the latest version of Kinect. This can be seen in the improved functionality of voice commands as well as heightened accuracy when it comes to motion capture and facial recognition.
Staying on the topic of voice commands, the Xbox One allows players to multitask rather smoothly and effortlessly. The feature that allows for this is called Snap. When you Snap an app, you essentially move it to one side of your screen, where it will continue to run while you play a game or watch a movie. This is great if want to access apps faster or even have a full blown Skype conversation while venturing through the epic world of Dragon Age: Inquisition. When looking back at the Xbox 360, I wonder how gaming survived without the ability to multitask. Granted, the Xbox 360 had some multitasking ability, but it cannot be compared to the Xbox One.
The Xbox One is a great console overall; however, it does have a few key issues that need to be brought to light. AAA titles are becoming enormous in size, which means that these days consoles need to install games to the system hard drive. While most games tend to install rather smoothly on the Xbox One, there are others that don’t. Assassin’s Creed: Unity as well as Dead Rising 3 are prime examples of games that took anything from 30 minutes to just over an hour to install. Additionally, the Xbox One tends to combine update downloads with the installation process. This lead to me taking the console offline and installing a game, and then reconnecting it back online in order to download the updates. To add to this, some of the update files for specific Xbox One titles are fairly large – with some clocking in at 13GB and above. If you have uncapped ADSL this may not be much of a problem, but for those running mobile data it may be best to avoid updates at times.
When it comes to design, the Xbox One is fairly large device. While initial reactions to the design were raised, the console actually looks great when placed on a TV stand or wall unit. Back when the Xbox 360 was launched it faced a plethora of system failures, which included the Red Ring Ring of Death. These faults were caused by the console overheating. Thankfully, Microsoft has tried to combat any failure issues with the Xbox One’s rather chunky design. I suspect that the reason behind the console’s rather chunky look is to provide better air circulation throughout the console. If you crack open the console you will also see that Microsoft has incorporated a massive fan into the device in order to keep things cool.
Moving onto the controller… I must admit that the Xbox 360 had one of the best controllers around, which is why Microsoft seems to have stuck to the original concept and worked to improve it. The Xbox One controller is rugged, comfortable and visually appealing. To add to this, the controller features force-feedback vibration, which is a great feature to utilise while playing a variety of games. Although the Xbox One’s controller does not feature a touchpad, like Sony’s to the PlayStation 4 controller, I didn’t really miss this feature too much. Another thing that surpised many people was the fact that the Xbox One controller takes batteries. While this is very old school, the controllers last for up 20 hours – depending on the make of the battery. Additionally, Microsoft has also introduced rechargeable battery packs for the Xbox One controller, which eliminates the need for batteries entirely. This gives gamers a choice, rather than forcing them to buy a control that needs to be charged every 4 hours. Overall, Microsoft has hit the nail on the head when it comes to the Xbox One’s design, even though it is a large console, as well as improved on the design and comfort of its controllers.
When it comes to the interface, the Xbox One still needs a bit of work. While it seems to represent the tiled theme that accompanies the Windows Phone OS, it does start to feel slightly cluttered at times. Microsoft completely overhauled the Xbox 360’s interface in order to combat this by using the blade system. This leads me to the conclusion that the blade system would work rather well with the Xbox One as well. There were many times where I would get lost in the console’s interface. To add to this, scrolling through the Xbox Live store can also be a bit confusing at times on the Xbox One. It would be great to have the same style of the Xbox 360 dashboard on the Xbox One, which would result in a much smoother user experience.
One notable thing about Microsoft is the fact that they are listening to consumers. Over the last year more than one hundred tweaks and new features have been applied to the Xbox One. This goes to show that Microsoft is indeed trying to provide a gaming and entertainment platform that appeals to the masses. Let’s just hope that the gaming giant can improve on installation times as well as improve the navigational structure of the Xbox One’s interface.
While the Xbox One has a great library of games now, compared to after launch, Microsoft still needs to ramp up its Games With Gold offerings. While the service is great, I mean you can’t ask for more than free games, Microsoft needs to pull out all the punches if it wants to keep up with the PlayStation Plus Lineup offered by Sony each month. If Microsoft does indeed offering up some great titles with Games With Gold it would definitely offer an online service that is a force to be reckoned with.
While Games With Gold is a bonus, Microsoft did however take on EA Access as an additional service. The service, according to EA, works as follows: Upon downloading the EA Access hub from the Xbox Games Store, users purchase a membership in either one- or 12-month increments. Memberships can be purchased through the Games Store or from select retailers. During the membership period, users have unlimited access to the full versions of a selection of games published by EA, dubbed “the Vault”. The games are downloaded to the console’s storage device and remain available as long as users continue their membership. If membership is suspended, access to the games is restricted, but all progress and game saves are retained. Users may purchase games available in EA Access outright, along with other EA games, at a discounted price. While Games With Gold still needs work, the option to access EA Access is a great exclusive for Xbox One owners.
Xbox One owners also have to a lot more apps to choose from, which can be used in conjunction with the console. These apps include the likes of: Skype, Vevo, YouTube, BBC Player, WWE Network, GoPro Channel, Twitch, Netflix, Vine, and plenty more. Just note that some apps may only work depending on the country you live in. While testing out Skype, the Xbox One Kinect performs rather well. Once connected to a video chat, the Kinect tracks your movement – within reason. This is great when you need to move around the room or focus the camera on other items.
One year later and the Xbox One has most definitely started moving in the right direction. Yes, there were concerns over DRM, especially when users lost access to their digital copy of Far Cry 4; however, Microsoft has ensured gamers that DRM will not surface once again.
While the Xbox One is a pricey piece of tech it does however seem worth it at the end of the day. Microsoft is pushing for some great exclusives and the console already has a great library of games. To add to this, the Xbox One does not only focus on gaming, but also offers up a fantastic overall media experience. The consoles plays CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays with no issues as well as allows USB and streaming support.
Overall, the Xbox One is a great console. To-date, Microsoft has already added more than one hundred tweaks and improvements to the system. If they keep this up as well as change up the user interface, improve install times and tend to the layout of the Xbox Live Store then Microsoft is sure to be a force to be reckoned with.
While Games With Gold is a plus, it is also another service that needs to be ramped up in order to offer greater appeal to gamers Thankfully, Microsoft made the right move when partnering up with EA to offer gamers EA Access. As EA Access even tops PlayStation Plus at times.
Looking for games to play? IT News Africa recommends the following titles to start of your Xbox One experience:
– Sunset Overdrive
– Halo: Master Chief Collection
– Dragon Age: Inquisition
– Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
– Far Cry 4
– Forza Motor Sport 5
– Wolfenstein: The New Order
– Killer Instinct
– Evolve (upcoming title)
– Dying Light (upcoming title)