Everyone eyes on waiting to finally get their hands on the new Xbox One, I get inquiry daily from readers about when is official release and price tag. So I decided to do a deep review on the device.
The Xbox One will have a US$499 (BHD 190) starting price when it hits stores this November, and with a price that high, it’s clear Microsoft is targeting the well-to-do consumer with the new device–at least at launch. By comparison, the Sony PlayStation 4 will cost US$399 (BHD 150) although its optional PlayStation Eye camera and motion detector will be a US$60 (BHD 23) addon, while the Kinect accessory will be bundled with every Xbox One sold.
For those not ready to drop half a grand on a new media device, Microsoft has refreshed its current gaming console, the Xbox 360, which is now available in a smaller redesigned chassis. The price has been kept relatively low (US$200 (BHD 76) for 4GB, US$300 (BHD 114 ) for 250GB, and Microsoft has sweetened the deal with a two-free-games-per-month deal for Xbox Live Gold members
Design and hands-on impressions
The Xbox One is large, sleek, and black, and looks like a piece of A/V equipment. The controller and Kinect unit are redesigned, too: The Kinect and Xbox One, in particular, sport sharp-angled, glossy-black boxy looks. As a set, the Xbox One really does feel like some elaborate piece of home theater gear–and considering its mission to knit entertainment together into a modern all-in-one package, that’s clearly intentional.
First of all, the new Xbox One controller feels a bit lighter than the 360’s, and looks like a slightly more angular version of its older brother. It’s just as comfortable, if not more comfortable than the 360’s, as it fits almost perfectly into my rather large hands.
The plastic on the face of the controller feels noticeably smooth and the new A, B, X, and Y buttons have a new, more striking coat of paint on them (they’re now black buttons with colored lettering instead of colored buttons). The analog sticks feel suitably tight and precise; however, there’s a distracting, grooved texture that surrounds the top of each stick that I wasn’t a huge fan of. I can see where it might provide a more tactile feel, however.
The D-pad is pretty tight and clicky, but doesn’t feel quick as tight and clicky as I expected. It’s a definite improvement over the 360’s wobbly disaster of a D-pad. But as everyone knows, the true measure of a D-pad is how well it controls fighting games, but I’ve yet to have a chance to play Killer Instinct.
The trigger buttons are wider, but still retain their trigger functionality–it’s a trigger initially, then slopes down away from the controller. The X (home) button feels a lot snappier compared with the 360’s; not as snappy as the other face buttons, but not nearly as slow to depress as the 360’s.
Shoulder buttons are wider and depressed quickly, but the plastic seems a bit too thin, giving it a somewhat hollow feel.
On the back is a battery compartment door that on my controller has a screw on it, but I think that was specific to the demo version. There’s a very HDMI-looking port on the very bottom that I’m told is simply there for expansion.
As for the console itself, while I’d heard it was smaller than you’d expect, it actually looked as big as it does in pictures, to my eyes at least. If there’s a design theme of the Xbox One, it’s vents and lots of them. Both the console and the Kinect are covered with them.
Speaking of Kinect, it’s a lot larger and thicker than the current version.
I didn’t actually get to lift the console, press any of its buttons, or get a clear view of its back, but it definitely feels like a device that wouldn’t be out of place in your entertainment center.
As mentioned above, a new Kinect comes with the Xbox One, complete with improved accuracy. It has a 1080p camera, Skype connectivity, and understanding of rotational movement in a structure like a skeleton. Microsoft even claims the new Kinect can read your heartbeat. It can also recognize your controller, not just your hands–suggesting uses that sound a little like the ones for PlayStation Move’s wand.
‘Always on,’ used games, and lending (reconsidered!)
Following E3 2013 and after nearly a month of taking beating in the press, Microsoft has changed its stand on the Xbox Digital Rights Management (DRM) policies.
First, the good news. The Xbox One will no longer require an Internet connection to play games. Users will connect the console to the Internet during its initial setup, but afterward can play any disc-based or downloaded game for as long as they want, without ever connecting to the Internet again.
Of course, if you desire a multiplayer match with people over the Internet, then you’ll need to connect to it.
To drive home the point, Microsoft states, “There is no 24-hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360”.
Microsoft has also pulled a 180 (I’ll leave any “Xbox 180” jokes to the Internet at large) on how the Xbox One will handle the trade-in, lending, reselling, gifting, and renting of game discs. Essentially stating that it’ll work “just like” it does today on the 360, and “there will be no limitations to using and sharing games”.
Xbox One games will still receive Day One digital downloadable versions; however, games will no longer require that you install them to the One’s built-in hard drive. Also, there will no longer be any regional restrictions on games.
Happy? I don’t see why you wouldn’t be after reading those details–especially Gamefly users–it’s a decidedly more pro-consumer stance; however, the fine print of Microsoft’s turn is a bummer for those excited about the advantages the company’s new policies would offer users.
According to Microsoft, the changes will affect its plans for sharing games digitally. Its previous policy stated that Xbox One users would be able to share their entire game library with up to 10 “family members”. So while you played Forza 5 on your Xbox One, a “family member” could be enabled to play your version of any other game in your library on their own Xbox One.
This will no longer be the case. “Downloaded titles cannot be shared or resold. Also, similar to today, playing disc-based games will require that the disc be in the tray”. So much for the brave new digital world. We can only hope that Microsoft slowly integrates these sharing features over the lifespan of the Xbox One, because despite the very vocal (an in many ways justified) DRM critics, that sharing feature was really cool.
Microsoft promises that this is a better-connected way of linking TV, games, and entertainment in one unit–something the Xbox 360 already does, but will do more via commands like “Xbox, on”. As was said during the initial presser, you’re “going to have a relationship with your TV”. The elevator pitch: Take on a living room that has become “too complex”, and make a system that knits games, TV, and entertainment.
The Kinect sensor again comes into play here. The accessory enables voice and gesture control, both of which are integrated into the Xbox One’s TV control. Watching live TV will involve maximizing and minimizing the screen in a top corner. Live TV will be part of the Xbox One experience, via HDMI-in. Yes, cable TV compatibility looks like part of the package.
But we haven’t seen, other than some picture-in-picture overlays, how exactly TV is piped in and more deeply interacted with and who the partners are. Comcast was mentioned, but what other companies will contribute to letting the Xbox One hook in and become a true TV accessory? That was the challenge that daunted Google TV and the Wii U. Right now, it doesn’t look like the Xbox One replaces your cable box or your DVR, even though it’s large enough to be both.
The Xbox One does knit together new voice commands to do some PC-like stuff: You can order movie tickets, for instance, engage in Skype, or pull up fantasy sports stats while watching a game. The conversational, Siri-meets-Google Now-like voice commands hopefully will have clear menu representation on the console, as otherwise it could get confusing.
“It’s an all-in-one entertainment console” is a pitch we’ve heard before, dating back to the PlayStation 3 and before that–really, going back all the way to the 3DO. It hasn’t always worked, but the Xbox One is better positioned because the Xbox 360’s already pretty successful at being an excellent streaming-video device.
Under the hood, details so far include an eight-core processor and graphics made by AMD, 8GB of RAM, Blu-ray, USB 3.0, HDMI in/out, and a 500GB hard drive. Besides all of this, Microsoft is promising a new operating system fusing Xbox and Windows.
Xbox One architecture has “three operating systems in one”: Xbox, a kernel of Windows (perhaps like Windows RT), and a multitasking interface. The idea seems to be that this console will be a multitasker at heart.
The tablet-based SmartGlass experience will center on the Xbox One, and will work as before with a variety of phones and tablets. Baked-in Wi-Fi Direct on the Xbox One will allow Bluetooth-like direct communication between external devices, which could come in handy for other future peripherals, too.
Now with SmartGlass you’ll be able start single-player games, set up multiplayer matches, view achievements, and purchase in-game addons. With the new game Ryse, Microsoft demonstrated the ability to get instant real-time stat comparisons with friends you play with. You’ll also have access to any Game DVR videos they’ve uploaded.
Built on the existing service and usernames, the new Xbox Live promises 300,000 servers for Xbox One, a whopping number. Matchmaking services will work while you’re doing other tasks like watching movies or Web browsing, and bigger, more quickly connecting matches are promised, too. Microsoft has discussed some cloud services on the Xbox One that seem promising: User-based cloud game saves, uploaded game recording, and even the potential for cloud-processing-enhanced games. How that will play out isn’t clear.
For all you football team and cheerleading squad captains out there, Xbox Live’s maximum friends list gets a boost from 100 friends to “all of your friends”. It’s unclear, though, if that truly means an unlimited capacity. Also, Microsoft says if you’re a Gold member, anyone in your household will be able to use your Gold member benefits, including multiplayer matches, without you being signed in at all.
Microsoft stated at E3 that Xbox Live will no longer use its sometimes misleading Microsoft Points currency, but is joining the rest of the world and using real-world currency.
Game DVR automatically records the last few seconds of your gameplay and allows you to upload video of your latest triumph for others to see. Using Upload Studio, gamers can “curate, edit, share, and publish” videos of gameplay, directly from the machine, according to Microsoft.
In the demo Microsoft gave, Game DVR recorded the last 31 seconds of Killer Instinct gameplay, but it’s unclear whether that number can be adjusted. Through the interface, you’ll have the option to cut the footage down to whatever bad-ass moment you want to focus on.
You can then add commentary using Kinect and choose a skin to add what looks light predetermined thematic elements like slowdown or comic-book-like panels showing multiple hits in dramatic fashion. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to play around with this option soon and get more details on its interface and option.
The Xbox One fully integrates Twitch’s live-streaming capabilities. Xbox Live Gold subscribers will be able to not only live stream their own gameplay–with the option to add voice or video to the stream with Kinect–but also watch streams of others as well.
This is all accomplished within the Xbox One’s interface and seemed to deliver a simple and quick interface, at least during the stage demo. Microsoft said that viewers watching the game stream will also have the ability to participate and affect the game, but whether it was simply referring to joining the live Twitch chat (seen on screen) or something more specific isn’t yet clear.
Live streaming my games is something I’ve thought about doing for a long time, and the fact that it’ll be this easy to actually do is endlessly intriguing.
The Xbox One will not be backward compatible with the Xbox 360, but anyone doubting the Xbox One’s gaming cred need only to sit through its 1.5-hour Pre-E3 press conference presentation where it showed off about about as many as it could fit into that time.
A new Halo game was previewed as well as other sequels: Dead Rising 3, Forza 5, and Metal Gear Solid 5. That’s great and all and delights the fanboys, but what was more impressive was the amount of new IP featured.
Games like the ambitious game-building Project Spark that features an ever-changing player-dictated game world. Or the open-world shooter Sunset Overdrive, with its wall-running, shotgun-toting hero and an impressively colorful–but still violent–world.