168 hours with the Xbox One.
And no, I haven’t been playing games constantly for all of those! But how have I found my first week with the Xbox One? Is it a worthy upgrade to the 360 and has it redefined what gaming consoles are all about?
Well, there’s no debating it’s a big old box with the sharp lines and overall size bringing back memories from a by-gone era in which VCR’s were all the rage. But whether that’s a bad thing or not will be open to opinion. I personally like it and although with my setup the One could do with being perhaps an inch less wide, I’ve managed to squeeze it in nicely under the TV. Things would be a little easier to manage if I could have stacked it with my digital satellite box but due to the large air vents on the top and the larger than average footprint, that wasn’t something I would have been happy with. A vertical standing unit would still be preferred but with that no longer being an option, I guess we’ll just have to learn to love it for its own horizontal ways.
The disk drive is a massive improvement over my old 360 and what was once a clunky loud opening and closing drawer, has now been replaced by a sleek drive hole that reassures with a loving beep each time you remove a disk. Yes there have been a few issues around the world with dodgy drives, but with such a huge amount of consoles sold, there were bound to be a few problems and thankfully Microsoft have acknowledged those few with problems and have promised to get a new console out to them asap.
Onto the new dashboard and again things are very sleek. I had a slight issue in that I didn’t believe the dash was going to be as fast as shown in the numerous videos before launch. Well, it is as quick as they promised and switching between apps and profiles is an absolute breeze. Microsoft got criticised from all quarters for placing TV and content firmly at the forefront of their thinking but if anything, this has just made me want to play games even more. I’m not a massive TV watcher but the ease in which you can switch between TV and games makes it more likely I’m going to grab a quick five minutes here and there. Even easier if the game is a digital copy and I don’t have to drag myself from my sofa to change disc.
Unfortunately, whilst digital would be the ideal way forward, the prices on the Xbox Games Store are still way too high to allow anyone other than the super rich to get involved on a regular basis. If Microsoft really want to push the sales of these games, then they have to get them lower than the current crop are. Ideally they need to fix it to a price at least 10% lower than a retail version and that would then maybe tempt gamers in. As it stands, the price and the ability to trade in or sell on physical copies, means that noone in their right mind is going to pay £68 for a copy of Dead Rising 3. Day One Premium Edition or not!
Notifications have however taken a big step backwards. There are many Xbox owners out there who take a great deal of satisfaction in collecting cheevos and whilst the collection of them hasn’t changed very much, the way you are notified of them has. What was once a quick press of the big X button, now involves holding said button down. You are then not so gracefully whisked to another screen that show the achievement in full. And whilst you can customise your notification to your favourite colour, the joy of seeing them pop has been somewhat diluted. Whilst on the notification subject, I no longer get pop ups when friends come online. What the hell is that all about? If there was one thing that needs to show it’s when a certain person comes online. I may have missed the setting of this but a quick check doesn’t show anything out of the ordinary and I would have thought this should have been set to ON by default anyway.
Aside from the games, there is plenty of other action to keep you involved. Snap mode allows you to have two apps running side by side (gaming whilst watching TV perhaps) and this snaps into place perfectly. Again there have been issues with UK TV working properly but I can personally say I don’t have any issues with it. I’d like to see the BBC iPlayer and Sky Player apps integrated from day one, but I’m sure they will be popping up sometime soonish and I’m happy enough to wait.
Kinect brings another dimension to the party and the new system is a huge improvement over the previous incarnation. Whilst it still isn’t 100% perfect, the voice commands work extremely well and for the most part are picked up on immediately. ‘Xbox Record That’ is a joy to say and the ability to save 40 seconds or so of your favourite multiplayer action is genius. It’s all about bragging rights and to be able to show off certain match moments or race overtakes to friends at a later date is great. I feel Kinect is still learning too. It most definitely seems to improve every time it is used and the voice commands become second nature after only a few days. I still find slight issues in it hearing me first time when there are other people talking in the room, but eventually it gets there. The same goes for first thing in the morning, and it seems that Kinect isn’t an early bird and needs to wake up before deciding to work properly.
There will however still be a few out there who refuse to use Kinect to it’s full capabilities and whilst it’s all personal choice, why anyone would want to kill something that works so damn well is beyond me. But for those who do, they’ll need to get to grips with the new controller.
And whilst it stays true to the 360 controller that we all know and love, there have been enough subtle changes to make it it’s own man. The bumper buttons are slightly harder to press and take a little getting used to, whilst the analog sticks have a superb rough ring around them to stop your thumbs slipping. These shouldn’t wear out like the sticks on the old controller used to, but we’ll only find that out after a few months of game time. One major addition is the inclusion of force feedback through both triggers. Coming into play exceptionally well in Forza 5, you get to feel when your car is skidding out or needing a gear change and will possibly mean that racers could actually do away with a steering wheel. *Cue the hate from those who love their wheels!*
Roughly the same size as it’s older brother, it has however grabbed a new battery compartment and removed the raised ringed X button for something smaller and brighter. Whilst this is all well and good, there seems to be an issue with battery life. I’m not one for rechargeable packs and got fed up with the play and charge kit shortly after first using it, instead relying on good old Duracells to keep me gaming. I knew when these were low thanks to the old ring flashing on the controller with a good few hours of gaming power left. At the moment, and this may of course be just me not being used to it, the light on the controller will flash a few times and then basically die. Not something I want happening whilst in a tense last lap showdown with friends on Forza or whilst defending a 1 goal lead deep into injury time on FIFA. Yes, the feedback stops way before it fully dies, but I’d like a bigger notification window or perhaps even a note popping up on screen, half hour before they are going to go the way of the dodo. Or at least give us something to check out battery life with!
Plugging in to that controller for most of your gaming time will no doubt be the new improved Xbox headset. The new one is much neater to look at and has obviously been designed with the the same crisp lines as the console in mind. And you know what? It works perfectly. Sound quality has been improved immensely from the older one and the point where controller meets headset wire has now been beefed up, with the mute and volume controls included. What I first thought was a strange idea, turns out to possibly be it’s best addition, as it’s now so much easier to hit the mute button instead of having to scrabble around finding it on the wire. Genius MS, genius! Unfortunately, the new connection system means that any old Turtle Beaches or the such like, that became staples of our gaming lives, will have to sit in the corner for the time being. An adapter has been promised but that’s looking some months off yet!
And then we get on to the games. Ah, games are games are games nowadays and that means we have to say a sad farewell to our friends on the Xbox Live Arcade and Indie Marketplace, at least for now. Ideally I’d want to be playing my old arcade games on my shiny new console but with that not currently being possible we instead have to make do with some cheaper digital games. Whilst still arcade games at heart, the likes of Powerstar Golf and LocoCycle are worthy additions to the gaming lineup and supplement the big hitters really well. With the Xbox Games With Gold programme coming over to Xbox One, it’s these titles that I’d expect to be seeing given away in the months and years to come.
I’m not going to go into details about each and every game here, as they can be saved for individual review posts coming in the next few days or so. Our Angry Birds Star Wars review is already live and we’ll also have full round ups of Forza 5, FIFA14, Powerstar Golf, Zoo Tycoon and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes amongst others, popping up on TXH soon.
So there we have it, my thoughts after living with the Xbox One for the last 168 hours or so. On the whole, a great experience that works as well if not better than I hoped it would. There are still a few little teething issues but these will no doubt be sorted with software updates over time. Just wish I could use my old 360 Turtle Beaches!
So, is the One a worthy successor to the much loved 360?
Has the Xbox One redefined gaming?
Is it a must buy console?
Yes. Yes. Yes!