One month with the Xbox One

If you’ve been following my periodic reviews of this console, you would have worked out by now that I’m in it for the long run. So I’ll be writing a number of reviews over the years to come, as the console develops and changes. If you weren’t yet aware, I am one of the lucky few who managed to procure an Xbox One on release day. My heart goes out to those of you who are still awaiting your next-gen console, (One or PS4), because in truth, you’re missing out. There is so much to love about these new consoles that, if I were not in a low paid graduate job in the charity / museum sector, I would have bought both. A couple of my friends have the PS4, and through conversations with them about their lovely new console, it’s clear to me that they couldn’t be happier with their choice. The same goes for those of my friends who purchased the Xbox One. I think it’s important to remember, in the console wars, that it isn’t about which one is better than the other, it’s about which one is the best for you. For me, I love the fact that my Xbox One acts as the hub of my media centre in my room. I adore the fact that my console works well with Kinect and I always use the voice commands to navigate from watching telly, to playing games and even listening to music. You can’t do that on the PS4. That’s not to say that the PS4 is automatically worse because it can’t do all of those things, it just means that the PS4 isn’t the best console for me. When you’re paying between £400 – £500 for a games console (plus all of the trimmings), you want to make sure that it’s the one you want, not the one you’ve been told to get by the critics.

So, along that vein, I’ve had my Xbox One for exactly a month today and I couldn’t be happier. So I’ll tell you what I love about my games console, and I’ll tell you about the stuff that I dislike and hopefully paint a picture of life with an Xbox One. But, in the most part, the games are fantastic. They look incredible, they’re far more powerful than their predecessors and the level of detail in each title is immense.

There’s a lot to love about the Xbox One and it’s difficult to think of some sort of structure to explaining it’s awesomeness. So I’ll start from the beginning. When you sit down in front of the Kinect and say “Xbox, on”, the console automatically boots up. Kinect then recognises your face and greets you with a comforting “Hi, Alec!”, to which I reply, “Hi, Xbox!”. It then loads your dashboard with all of your favourites and the apps / games that you’ve recently played or used. In the main tile of the dashboard, your most recently used app or game pops up, lovingly awaiting you to click on it and get going. For me, it’s usually the TV app, and the Xbox plays live TV in the centre of the dashboard. I then have the conundrum between watching telly or playing Xbox – which isn’t usually a tough one, considering that evening TV is rather crap, these days. When you click the tile, or choose a game or app to play, it loads almost instantly. You can even say, “Xbox, go to *insert app / game*” and the One will then start to load that instead. Though if you decide to go back, it’ll pick up where it left off. It’s the seamless interface that I love the most, the flitting back and forth between different things at the touch of a button, swish of a hand or simple voice command. It really is simplicity at it’s best, and it makes the perfect hub for all of your home media.

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Gaming wise, you would have to read our reviews to get the best idea of what we think of the games on the console. Check our reviews of Dead Rising 3, Lego Marvel Superheroes and FIFA 14 for a glimpse of their gameplay and some detailed reviews of the titles. But, overall, the games are fantastic. The graphics are crisp and the gameplay is fluid and incredibly engaging. The games run perfectly and, so far, I’ve found very few bugs. You can see the blades of grass on FIFA 14, the guts and rotting flesh of each zombie in Dead Rising 3 and the spurts of blood from the decapitated barbarian limbs on Ryse. The detail really is astonishing, and the majority of these games don’t actually run at 1080p (a minor drawback, especially if you own a fully HD TV). I don’t actually have a fully HD TV, mine is a rubbish old 720, but I’m working on getting a better one. When I do, I’m sure I’ll be slightly disappointed in the games that don’t play in full HD, but at the end of the day, it’s only a slight difference.

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I’m still getting used to the new controller and it occasionally feels slightly uncomfortable after a lengthy gaming session. But, it’s noticeably less uncomfortable that it was at first, so I’m sure I’ll wear down the abrasive bumps in no time! I’ve had a better chance to play with the Kinect, and I’m impressed so far, but still holding out for better games to go with it. At the moment there is Just Dance and a Sports Rivals demo that are fully kinectable. These are relatively good, though I’ve only played a short snippet of both to get a gauge of the Kinect’s abilities. Both games are responsive and it seems to track my movements with relative ease. I also have a very small playing space, and this doesn’t seem to make a difference to the overall gameplay. But I am disappointed with how few release games there are, considering that we were forced to buy the console with the Kinect, it would have been nice for Sports Rivals to have been released with it.

I guess I should admit that it isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the console is fantastic, but nothing is ever perfect. There are one or two flaws which I really hope Microsoft work out sometime soon. The biggest being the new party invite system. The old system on the 360 was simple and effective. The system on the One, however, seems unnecessarily laboured and annoying. Often, party invites don’t show up on your screen. When they do, if you don’t hold the centre button quick enough, they’re lost forever. Once you’ve accepted them, you then need to sit and wait until you’re able to click ‘turn on party chat’. Party chat allows you to actually talk to the party (why you’d join a party but not actually want to talk to them is beyond me). This takes time and is, quite frankly, a stupidly unnecessary process. The game invite system is just as stupidly unnecessary. The old message system has been done away with. The invites now, in most cases, sit in the dashboard of the game itself. Accepting these invites, however, often proves more trouble than it’s worth. But, once you’re finally in the party and actually able to play a game together, I have no complaints. Staying in the party is simple enough and it’s only on a very rare occasion that you might be kicked from it.

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Oh! I forgot to mention the final cherry on the top of this sundae of a games console. The Xbox One comes with a Blu-ray player … welcome to the 21st century, Microsoft. Though the console itself does look like a VCR player, so I guess it’s still a little backward (just not backward compatible, my final pain in the arse). I actually had to plug in my old 360 the other day to play the first episode of the second season of The Walking Dead … blasphemy!

So that’s what I think of the Xbox One after gaming, (and watching TV), on it for the past month. There really is a lot to love about this console … and tiny a little bit to dislike as well. It’s the best £420 I’ve ever spent.