MICROSOFT XBOX ONE
Bigger and Meaner, but is it Better?
CONCLUSION The Xbox One has many slick features, but somehow feels like it still has a lot to prove as a “next-gen” console.
When it was introduced last May, a vocal contingent of gamers objected to some of the nextgen console’s initial policies – required internet “checkins” at regular intervals was one notable example. But Microsoft did something unheard of: it listened to consumers and rallied with a more tempered vision sacrificing some its more “draconic” digital features.
There has been a reversal since, and Xbox One has clawed back some of that gamer goodwill, but unfortunately internet rage lingers on.
The Xbox One is a big and heavy monolithic box, but upon first start-up, you will discover it is mercifully quiet. The user interface is a huge improvement over Xbox 360’s mess of content. The main screen has all the key options, an area to the left allows you to pin a selection of your favorite games, music, movies or apps, and the digital store is on the right. Of course most entertainment apps such as Netflix are region-locked, requiring a VPN workaround to access.
The UI also allows you to quickly switch between different tasks. For example, if a friend calls for a Skype chat while you’re playing a game, you can take the call and pause the action. It’s all very smooth and seamless, though some may prefer the more flashy vibrancy of the PlayStation 4’s interface.
The older Xbox 360 controller was a huge favorite among gamers, so there isn’t a lot Microsoft needed to improve. Nonetheless, the new controller has many little clever design updates – such as a more ‘grippy’ texture on its analog sticks. Even the Kinect sensor went through a rather major overhaul, with quicker and higher resolution motion and voice detection. The Xbox Fitness app even senses your pulse by monitoring fluctuations in skin tone. It’s weird to imagine how that will be used in horror games.
On the subject of games, the launch lineup ranges from mediocre to pretty good. Forza Motorsport 5 is a beautiful driving simulation, but the zombie thriller Dead Rising 3 struggles to match the fun of its predecessors, and the graphically rich but interactively limited Ryse: Son of Rome feels like a Zach Snyder action movie in search of a game. Conversions of recent big recent releases such as Battlefield 4 and Titanfall are fine, but few try anything apart from adding visual detail, and in this area the PlayStation 4 has edged ahead.
There is much potential here in this big black slab, and there is a lot of functionality still to discover. When big new titles such as Halo 5, Fable Legends and Minecraft creator Mojang’s Cobalt arrive, Xbox One will start to look extremely enticing.
But for now, Sony’s PlayStation 4 just feels fresher and more seductive. Sony ended this generation with one of the true great games, The Last of Us (Ed: Sony has also announced that a remastered version of the game will come to the PS4 this summer), so when it does officially launch this September for Asia, the Xbox One will have a lot of catching up to do.
The Xbox One features a similar Tile UI with Windows 8 for a homogeneous experience across Microsoft’s range of products.