December 1, 2013

My Week with the Xbox One

So I wasn’t really planning on getting either of the new systems on Launch day, however I walked into my local Target during my lunch break on launch day and they had just stocked 3 Xbox One’s on the shelf that happened to come in. So staring at the big green boxes I told the clerk “you’d better give me one…”  so for the last week I’ve been playing with Microsoft’s latest addition to the new next gen. console race.


Now, I’m not writing this as a review or a comparison to Sony’s PS4 because simply put it’s your money and you should get as much information as you can before you shell out your hard earned cash on either of these high ticket consoles. So I thought I’d just share with you my experience with the XB1 so maybe it’ll help you decide to or not to buy it.


First thing to know is that there are two versions of the XB1 Offered to buy however, unless you had a pre-sale or are willing to throw about $1000+ dollars (American) into the Day One edition on ebay you more than likely won’t find it for sale and out side of the box being black, Day One being stenciled on the controller and an achievement you unlock there really is no reason to obsess over the day one edition so the Plain Jane XB1 will do you just fine. 


When I say “Plain Jane” I meant it, the box is green and has a handle and that’s about it nothing flashy other than a few pictures of the XB1 and the dashboard. Opening the box up revels the XB1 in all it’s plastic wrapped greatness and Setting it up is pretty standard, queue the monkey. Upon powering it up you of course have to update the system which clocks in just over 500megs (the PS4 had the same thing clocking in at around 300megs so I hear). Then you set all your preferences with the system, dashboard and how you will use the Kinects. When you finish you are welcomed with a video that shows you around the system which is handy because (at least for me) there’s a learning curve to navigate around being that the XB1 is pretty much running windows 8.

The XB1 is, I have to say, a brick and not as coolly stylish as the PS4 looks to be, but we aren’t going for form here we’re going for function and the XB1 has several ports options to allow you it plug in your cable box and allow you to run SPIDF to you receiver and add surround sound to your gaming ( I can’t I live in an apartment  so the neighbors would get cranky if I boomed my games). It also has some USB ports so you can use charge n play and other devices with the XB1.


The XB1 controller is slightly different from the 360s (which I thought was a great controller). The new controller now has rumble packs in the triggers which honestly I haven’t even noticed yet. The repositioned start and back buttons are ok I guess but the one thing I do like is the redesigned Dpad, it works really well and hasn’t mis-commanded for me yet.


The Kinects I haven’t really played with outside of voice commands that work well enough until there is too much ambient noise, then I found myself screaming at my XB1 to get it to work. One thing to remember is if you move the Kinects at all you have to recalibrate it to function properly. One cool feature of the Kinects is the ability to use it to party chat instead of the crappy headset that included with the system


If you have an Xbox Live account during setup it will be imported to your new system so you can retain your friends list weather they have an Xbox 360 or an XB1 however you cannot party up and chat with friends on the 360 and visa versa but the new friends feed will keep you up to date on what everyone on your list is doing and if they are an XB1 owner then you will also get achievement updates, and video clip uploads that you can watch. When your account imports you also retain your achievement progress and reputation ranking and according to Microsoft your rep will certainly affect the type of people you play with in an effort to curb trolls, and belligerents that can ruin gaming for everyone.


As I said before navigating does have a little bit of a learning curve and gone is the handy Xbox “blades” when you hit the home button. There are 3 major options on the dashboard including PINS, HOME, and STORE. The PINS group is a location for all the games and apps that you that you have “pinned” to the dashboard for ease of access and is pretty handy for anything you use a lot. The HOME group and the primary screen displayed when you turn on your XB1 and it contains your friends info, and what you’ve accessed recently, the Snap feature and the “My Games and apps” which the location for all apps and games you have installed and downloaded. The final group is STORE and contains options for downloading paid and free content, add-ons, movies and apps and yes you have to download everything in the way of apps because pretty much there isn’t anything preloaded.


When I bought the XB1 I also bought two games as well: Battlefield 4 and Dead Rising 3. First thing I noticed is that each game had to be (at least partially) installed which kills the happiness of just throwing in my game disc and jumping right into a new gaming experience. But I guess with the amount of data that the new gen of games will contain, installing it will help with it running better off the hard drive much like a PC.


Battlefield 4 had an interesting feature where it loaded the campaign and multiplayer components at the same time (the campaign was literally 20% of the install) so when the single player component was finished I could play it while the rest of the game installed, cool. When the full game was installed I could jump into the multiplayer game which sadly is riddled with bugs and lag issues as well as being kicked back to the dashboard, but that is a games issue and Dice, so I’ve read, is releasing a patch soon to help rectify the problems that plague this game. I do have BF4 for the PC as well and although my rig isn’t the most powerful it can run the game at medium settings fairly well and seeing the XB1 and PC graphics side by side the XB1 does hold it’s own and at least (for now) can graphically hold it’s own against it’s PC cousins.


Dead Rising 3 also had to be installed to the hard drive and judging by the amount of action that happens on the screen at one time while playing it is a needed draw back. The game looks pretty good (Battlefield looked so much better) and can literally have thousands on zombies on screen at one time for your zombie killing pleasure. This game is looks to be a good litmus test for the computing power of the XB1 due to the amount of individual AI onscreen at once and how they interact with you and the environment.


The apps I’ve downloaded all have a new look. Netflix for one is certainly much easier to navigate and uses the screen space a little better. The same can be said for Amazon Instant and I do like the layout of both of the apps much better than the 360s. You Tube more resembles how the smart TV app looks and functions the same. The other apps I’ve installed are interesting like Skydrive, which allows you to access files that you uploaded from your xb1 and PC, Xbox Video which is Live’s streaming service and a Blu Ray app that does a good job of playing my Blu Ray movies.


The one app the I thought was pretty interesting was Upload Studio which is an app that allows you to edit and upload videos to the Skydrive and it also allows you to upload videos for others to watch much like Halo’s theater mode check out the video I made with clips of me playing Battlefield 4:



Some of the other features of the XB1 are pretty slick like the integration of my cable TV into the system that allows me to navigate cable TV much like a smart TV using the controller and Kinects to change channels and start movies. But, I have a smart TV that has voice functions already so this seems redundant to me for now, although the ability to use one HDMI connection for 2 devices is pretty handy because I already had four HDMI devices plugged into my TV and I didn’t want to have to unplug anything to use the XB1.



Some of the things I liked:

The HDMI pass through is handy

The cable TV integration is really cool (but in my case redundant)

Love the fixed Dpad on the controller

Being able to pin apps and games to the dashboard for easy access

Graphics look really vibrant and crisp and, in my opinion, can be compared to the PC

Switching from games to apps to live TV and back is pretty seamless

Redesigned apps for Netflix and Amazon Instant are great

No notifications while watching movies or TV unless you are messaged


Things I don’t like:

If I use the cable pass though the XB1 must be powered on

The XB1 doesn’t shut down due to inactivity even though it’s setup to do so mainly do to live TV being watched

Party system doesn’t work well and if you try to turn on chat while in BF4 it fails 100% not sure who is at fault here but it needs patched for sure

The dashboard lacks some zest, it’s very utility oriented

The loss of the dashboard blades that could be have been handy at times



The Bottem line:

The Xbox One is an innovative system that is trying to take steps into integrating all our entertainment choices into one hub. Some feel that this will leave the true gamers behind, I feel that’s not the case being a gamer and a technophile the marriage of multiple entertainment choices is welcome and I hope Microsoft will continue to hone the interface until it’s perfected.


 Ultimately my final decision to purchase wasn’t that I thought the release day game line up was great (the XB1 and PS4 exclusives are ok to say the least) but that the exclusives games to come are so much more interesting to me and a there’s HALO series coming!!! Yes the XB1 is a cool system, but do you want all the bells and whistles that it has to offer? Only you can answer that!! Hope this article helped you make a decision. Leave a comment if you like and let us know your thoughts and please try to keep the trolling to a minimum. 


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