Big­ger and Meaner, but is it Bet­ter?

HWM (Singapore) - - Front Page - by Alexan­der M. & Aaron Yip

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.

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