Xbox One Review- It’s Not Just About TV and Sports

The Xbox brand has always been more than just about gaming. It’s a system that aims to have complete control over your living room as an all-out entertainment hub, delivering more and more ways to download music, stream movies, access menus through motion control like a lesser Tony Stark, and hold video conferences with your friends. This concept was made popular by the Xbox 360, which underwent a myriad of transformations from a well-powered gaming machine to a behemoth of entertainment. Microsoft’s latest console, the Xbox One (not to be confused with the first Xbox) is no different, and proudly carries the brand’s mission to assume absolute control over your living room.

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Sporting a new Windows 8-like interface and a steady lineup of launch titles, the Xbox One is Microsoft’s answer to the 8th generation console race. For those of you who don’t know, the MMO genre is slowly becoming popular in the console scene. All excited for the next generation of MMOs, we at MMOGames have decided to review this console just to get a feel of the next gen technology that many of us will be embracing for the years to come.

What kind of upgrades are we expecting from this new console compared to the previous Xbox? And most of all, how well will this new console fair against Nintendo and Sony’s new consoles? Let’s find out.

Such Xbox , Much Space, Wow

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The console’s size is probably what have surprised me the most upon opening the box. The Xbox One is actually quite heavy, and really takes up a huge chunk of space in your living room. I understand that they were aiming for overall living room domination, but this is a very inconsiderate way of dealing with the situation, especially since its next gen rival, the Playstation 4, is much smaller despite housing stronger hardware. It’s even bigger than the first Xbox 360, which I originally considered as a space hogger. The Xbox One is comparable to a VCR, which struck me as a bit odd, since most of the electronics today are getting smaller with each release.

Another issue I’ve come across is the not-so glorious return of the dreaded power brick, which I once again had problems fitting next to the many wires behind my TV. Though a bit smaller than that of 360’s, it’s still sad that Microsoft refused to drop this towering monstrosity and even considered passing it on to its new console.

Size issues aside, the company learned and adapted well from their former console’s overheating issues, and made sure that the problem was well addressed on their new system. The Xbox One may be huge, but it does provide adequate ventilation, allowing the console to stay cool and dead silent when operating.

One part that triggered a next gen reality check is the exclusion of component/composite cables, showing us that SDTVs are indeed a thing of the past, and that we are truly in the HD era. The new Xbox now runs exclusively on HDMI, with 720p as its lowest supported resolution. The console also features an HDMI-in port at the back, allowing users to plug in their cable boxes and switch from game to TV with a few simple gestures. Gamers looking to utilize this feature by plugging in other consoles should note that the Xbox One’s HDMI input was meant to be used for cable TV purposes, and will present slight input delays that will probably throw you off your game.

The Xbox One also has an optical port which (sadly) only supports DTS. Microsoft, however, promises to bring other options via patch in the near future.

The console also sports a glossy checkered finish, which is quite unusual among consoles. It’s a unique touch, but it’s not really that appealing. The box really lacks that console-ish feel, making it hard to distinguish among the other players/recorders present in the living room. It really does look like an overgrown VCR.

Oh yeah, and it’s also a Blu-ray player *cough* so… bye-bye HD-DVD *cough*

“Menu-ception”

Xbox One’s OS shares a lot of similarities with Windows 8, which I for one still find drab and visually unappealing. It’s just a bunch of green (customizable) blocks hovering over your screen, similar to the ones found in Windows-powered smart phones.  I consider it as a giant leap backwards compared to its predecessor, considering that the Xbox 360’s menu had more flair and really feels like that of a videogame console. Although simplistic, the new interface has also been pretty hard to navigate. Just when you thought you’ve gotten used to it, the OS finds another way to confuse you further. There are times when I would still find myself going into another menu inside a menu of another menu’s menu, with the ‘Guide’ button as my only saving grace. What’s good, however, is that you can browse through the confusing stream of menus pretty quickly. At least they took the liberty of lessening your confusion time.

One of the console’s newest features is the snap bar, which allows players to stream movies, gameplay videos, play songs, talk to friends via party chat, or browse with Internet Explorer while playing or updating a game.

You can also record in-game footage via the console’s Game DVR, which lets you upload them pretty much anywhere, including your own Xbox Live Profile. The console will also allow gamers to stream their games via Twitch later this year.

HURRAY FOR THE DPAD!

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The new controller is a mixed satchel but was mostly welcomed among users. The most notable improvement is the d-pad, which has been changed from the original disc-like monstrosity to a more traditional cross shape, allowing for smoother button presses and less errors. The analog stick has also been revamped to sport a new spiky texture for added grip and better accuracy. Microsoft added a new rumble feature to the controller’s triggers as well, giving the player better feedback when playing games. The new bumpers appear to be bigger than the Xbox 360’s controller, but have presented a few problems for some gamers. The bumpers must be tapped at a certain angle in order to be pressed, and while it does not pose much of a problem in racing and shooter games, we did drop a few combos in Killer Instinct due to the picky tapping required.

Gamers familiar with the 360’s controller should start bidding the Start and Back buttons farewell, as they have now been replaced by the View and Menu buttons. It was a bit confusing at first, especially since seeing “Press Menu to Start” still doesn’t sit right.

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Microsoft also refused to feature rechargeable batteries for their new gamepad, and once again opted for AAs. It was quite a letdown considering that both its competitors feature rechargeable gamepads and charging cables on the get go. The good part, however, is that the batteries are now stored at a more convenient place inside the controller, removing the big awkward block present on the back of the 360 pad.

Another problem would be the console’s lack of battery meters. Much like the Xbox 360, players are still unable to see how much battery life they have left. Sure, the Xbox One’s controller conserves its battery pretty well, but the last thing we need is a controller that runs out of juice during a very important part of a game. We’ve actually been playing for more than two weeks and have yet to change the batteries that came with the console, but there’s really no excuse for not including something that’s somewhat considered a staple for wireless devices.

Kinect 2- Shhh! It Can Hear You!

Aside from being able to navigate the dashboard using the controller, players can also use the Kinect’s 1080p camera to issue voice commands and operate the console via gestures. Much like the console it was bundled with, Kinect 2 is much chunkier than the previous version. I suppose space saving wasn’t really a part of Microsoft’s plans.

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So far, my experience with operating the menus via Kinect have ranged from “Oh my God, I’m Iron Man!” to “Turn that sh*t off!”. The new Kinect seems quite moody and will only listen to you when it wants to. There are also times when Kinect just doesn’t seem to understand what you’re saying, regardless of how clear you are enunciating your words.

There have been a couple of times when we had to limit our living room gestures, just so the console wouldn’t think we’re commanding it. There was a time when the console brought up the menu when one of my friends asked me how the new Xbox was. After that, my friends have been banned from saying Xbox in the living room ever. Overall, I would say that the Kinect 2 is a schizophrenic mixture of deaf and overly sensitive. The voice commands seem to perform inadequately when in the company of friends. The Kinect’s mic appears is so sensitive that a few low volume chats in the background can mess up your voice inputs.

The Kinect 2 can also identify players, and automatically signs them in upon recognition.

On the other hand, Kinect’s motion-sensing abilities operates like a charm when playing videogames, allowing me to peek through corners (Battlefield 4), steer water jet skis (Kinect Sports Rivals), and call the attention of bloodthirsty zombies (Dead Rising 3) when my friends are not around. It was disappointing in a sense, since Kinect was something I normally plug in only when I have friends over.

It’s a rocky start, but I can’t wait to see how developers will utilize Microsoft’s new hands-free motion controller.

Gaming Power!

While not as strong as the Playstation 4, the Xbox One is still more than capable of handling next gen games.

The console packs 8 gigabytes of DDR3 RAM, an 8 Core custom CPU, and an AMD Radeon GPU clocked at 853 MHz. One issue that must be addressed is the hard disk space. As you may know, today’s games are much bigger and demands more disk space than their predecessors. The Xbox One comes with 500 GB of internal memory, which by far is not enough for players who want to run fully on digital copies. While it can still store almost everything on the Xbox Marketplace at the moment, it won’t be long before gamers run out of space, given the console’s ability to record footage and the size of next gen game patches. The console also does not support external storage at the moment, but will probably be patched later on in its lifespan.

Xbox Live

Much like before, Xbox users who are looking to play online are required to pay a subscription fee in order to access Xbox Live’s Gold Membership. Much like before, Xbox Live is a gateway to a lot of features other than online multiplayer. Once subscribed, players can access Skype, premium entertainment apps like Netflix, upload videos and enjoy deals exclusive to Gold subscribers. It’s still a drag that you can only access common apps like Skype through Xbox Live Gold, but it’s not that big of a deal since people who own the console are bound to avail Gold anyway.

The biggest upgrade is the Gold membership sharing, which allows the Xbox Live Gold member to share his online privileges with the other accounts on his/her console, allowing them to enjoy online multiplayer, as well as the other features offered to paying subscribers.

MMOs Have Joined The Battle

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So far, the Xbox One seems to have the upper hand against its competitor when it comes to launch games, sporting great platform exclusives like Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, and Killer Instinct. The console seems to run multiplatform games like Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Battlefield 4 on a lower resolution compared to the Playstation 4, but they still look amazing and performs extremely well.

Also, let’s not forget that the Xbox One will soon be the home of a good lineup of MMORPGs. It’s amazing to know that MMOs are being welcomed into the next generation of consoles. Games like The Elder Scrolls Online, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Warhammer 40,000: The Eternal Crusade, and the much awaited Destiny will be landing on Microsoft’s new console soon, and these are definitely some of the titles to watch out for.

Xbox SmartGlass

Aside from Kinect 2, the Xbox One also has an optional controller add-on in the form of an app. When installed, the Xbox SmartGlass (http://www.xbox.com/en-US/smartglass) turns your smartphone or tablet into a second touch-screen, which can be used to navigate around the Xbox’s dashboard menus, control movies, and acts as a keyboard for easy text inputs. It also offers some extra features that extend the overall interactivity of games. We haven’t really seen the SmartGlass’s true potential yet, as the app has only been used for extended maps and scoreboards so far, but Tom Clancy’s The Division seems to exercise the tablet’s relevance, as shown in their E3 demo back in 2013.

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The console is still not compatible with keyboards as of yet, but I imagine that they will be using the SmartGlass for typing purposes soon, especially when playing chat heavy genres like MMORPGs.

Overall

The Xbox One is indeed a marvelous console to have. Sure, it dominates your shelf-space with its gargantuan structure that puts Godzilla toys to shame, but it does make up for it with good features and a steady lineup of games (…no, we’re actually still butt-sore about the size). It’s well ventilated, and is absolutely silent when turned on, completely erasing the worry of overheating and the once dreaded ‘Red Ring of Death’.

Despite being less powerful than its console rival, the Playstation 4, the Xbox One’s specs still does not fail to impress. The games look gorgeous and run fluidly on Microsoft’s new console. Menu transitions are also fast, showing the console’s multitasking abilities. The Snap bars are also a good touch, and while some gamers are still apprehensive about the whole TV connectivity, at least they have the option to do so. Microsoft also answered our prayers and gave us a better d-pad, now sporting a cross shape which in my opinion is the best it could possibly be. It’s a bit ‘clicky’, but still comfortable. So far, our only gripe with the new pad lies in its new bumpers, which must be pressed at a certain angle in order for it to work. The power brick was also a bad move, in my opinion. The console is already taking up too much space, so a ‘powerbrick-a-saurus’ is the really last thing we need.

The SmartGlass is definitely what intrigued us the most, seeing that it holds a lot of potential for MMO gaming. Having a perpetual map on a separate tablet would probably be very convenient for console MMO gamers, and since it doubles as a keyboard, it greatly makes up for the Xbox One’s lack of keyboard compatibility. Hopefully, developers will take advantage of this new feature and incorporate it in their future games.

The console also needs to be compatible with external storage soon, seeing that the games aren’t exactly getting smaller, taking up more than 30 GB of space with patches ranging up to 3 GB (better start upgrading your connection, son). If single player games are already hogging storage, I can only imagine how big next gen MMOs titles will be.

While it does present a few issues, keep in mind that we are still at the start of this new system’s launch cycle, and that most these problems will probably be addressed soon via system update. Despite the problems I mentioned earlier, all can be considered as minor setbacks given the amount of power this box caters. This new console is just so much stronger than its predecessor, and you can really feel the gap just by looking at the games.

Truth be told, I was a bit iffy when I first heard that some of my most awaited MMO titles will only be available on consoles. I guess all that changed after seeing what this new console had to offer. The next generation of gaming is truly here, and things are indeed looking good.

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