Monday, November 24, 2014

A more objective review of the Xbox One after the first year.

With the Xbox One having been out for a year it is a fair time to give the console a second look. A real look. Not that bullshit Rob Crossley from Gamespot pulled on Saturday*(1)*[1] . Reviewing a console and not getting accused of being a fanboy it basically impossible, but I am going to do my best.
  • Gaming
The Xbox One console had a rocky reveal a year and half ago. For a gaming console they spent an unusual amount of time talking about TV which got the internet lynch mob going completely nuts. Without getting too much into the past we will just say that Microsoft did an abysmal job of revealing their console to the world. So much so that their poor work served as a massive distraction for essentially the entire lead up to their consoles launch which no doubt hurt them.
Since then Microsoft, thanks also in part to Phil Spencer, have made it well known that the console is meant to play games. It is both odd and sad that that needs to be said, but it does. The Xbox One is meant to play games. Between gaming journalism and the, at times, rampant vitriol people would try to have you believe that the Xbox One somehow struggles to play games. It does not.
The console plays games just fine. Do not be afraid to buy the Xbox One for fear of it being a bad gaming experience! All the ridiculous overblown talk of the Xbox One's shortcoming stem from one thing. Multiplatform games. It is a recurring thing this generation where the Xbox One version of the game sacrifices either resolution or frame rate to provide an enjoyable experience. Be sure to note that I said it was to provide an enjoyable experience. The games are still just as enjoyable. They are not unplayable, they are not junk. There is this notion that the game being inferior in resolution on the Xbox One means that the game is trash and that could not be more inaccurate.
Here is the verdict on multiplatform games. If your purchase hinges entirely on wanting the betterperforming game when it comes to multiplatform games and you have the luxury of owning both console then buy it on Playstation 4.
  • Exclusives
This is almost silly to even get into because it entirely dependent on your own gaming tastes, but since this is reviewing the Xbox One I will talk about its exclusive lineup.
So far in the first year the console has gotten more than enough exclusives to justify buying the console. That is--if their lineup of exclusives suites your gaming tastes. If you bought the console right now you would have two very strong racing games, a gorgeous fighting game in Killer Instinct, what is arguable the most beautiful game of the entire generation with Ryse: Son of Rome a nostalgic trip down memory lane with Halo: Master Chief Collection (or a plethora of Halo excitement if you are new to the franchise.) and one of the most unique games of the entire generation if Sunset Overdrive fits your tastes.
Then we get into the always controversial topic of timed-exclusive. Titanfall is going to be an exclusive to the Xbox One. Titanfall meaning the first game. Any sequel is, by all indications, going to end up on Playstation 4. Then there are other games that will be exclusive to the console thanks in part to Microsoft paying for them. Rise Of The Tomb Raider being the most highly publicized of games going that route. If Microsoft doing that sort of thing upsets you and you feel the need to punish them by not buying their console then more power to you. It is your money and you should be giving it to a company that you can feel good about supporting. Without getting too much into the console war fighting I will say that both Sony and Microsoft are doing it though. One might be a worse offender than the other, but that is up to you to decide.
Here is the verdict on Xbox One Exclusives (both full and timed). If the games on the Xbox One fit your gaming tastes then there are no shortage of reasons to buy the console. The exclusive games on the Xbox One make the constant gaming journalism clickbait about lack of power completely irrelevant. The games are absolutely amazing graphically and more importantly they are fun to play. If you are considering and Xbox One the exclusive games are a reason for why you should buy the console!
  • Entertainment
Now we get to the thing that caused all the distractions back when the console was revealed. The entertainment. Last generation the Xbox 360 ended up becoming a great media devices in addition to a great gaming device. The Xbox One follows on that. It has a few hiccups here and there where apps might crash, but it is safe to say those are growing pains and will happen less and less as time goes on.
  • Controller
This is one of the most silly things that gets reviewed. I will never understand how guys like Rob Crossley can go on record to say that the controller is an acquired taste. The Xbox One's controller isn't any more of an acquired taste than the Dualshock or even keyboard and mouse. Breaking down the controller to say that one is better than the other is nothing more than opinionated click-bait journalism to fire up each consoles loyal base.
Here is the verdict on the controller. The controller is comfortable. The force feedback triggers are cool, but it is a shame more games do not use them. If you are coming from the Xbox 360 controller the LB & RB will feel a little strange for a while, but it is something that almost everyone can eventually get used to.
  • Kinect
This can be short and sweet. The Kinect is not going to be the gaming peripheral that it was marketed as when the console was revealed. There are a small amount of games that use it. There are only about 2-3 games (that I am aware of) that are entirely dependent on Kinect.
Where the Kinect makes its mark is in navigation. Being able to walk into a room and tell your Xbox One to turn on is really cool. People will throw out false percentages saying it only works 50%, 70%, 80% of the time. No one, except Microsoft I would imagine, actually knows. It is safe to say that it works well, but you are going to be repeating yourself. Using the Kinect is a learning game. When you figure out how to appropriately talk to your Kinect the accuracy is much better than some of the gaming journalists would have you believe.
The commands that are the most convenient with Kinect are the power controls, telling your console to snap an app and being able to tell the console to record a gaming highlight. It is those things that make the Kinect worth the extra $100 rather than the benefits you get from gaming.
The Kinect also works great in regards to making Skype calls and using it as your camera. Being able to play on your Xbox One and speak with your friends that may be gaming on PC is extremely convenient.
Here is the verdict on Kinect. Buy it for all of the other things that it does. Not for gaming. It is important to note that everything that you can do with a Kinect can also be done with just the controller. Even finding the consoles settings. (Lucy James from Gamespot--you're an idiot.)
  • Console User Interface
The Xbox One's user interface was once an unpleasant mess and they are still working to rectify the choices they initially made. Today it is much better, but even spending a few minutes in it you will recognize that there is room for improvement. That is not to say that it is bad. Certainly not as bad as Rob Crossley would have you believe.
The UI does feel as though it was set up with advertising being strangely high on the priority list. There is a constant mention from gaming journalists saying that there is a lack of room on the home screen which is true. The home-page could use some shrinking of tiles for more stuff, but at the same time there is an entire page for your own customization of pinned applications which tends to get overlooked. Microsoft have had the pins section from day one so it is strange that so many get focused on the home screen.
Here is the verdict on the console's UI. The UI needs work. It is not a bad cluttered mess like some would say. It is workable, but it does need some improvements. Thankfully Microsoft are updating it regularly and it has only gotten better in the first year. If you bought the console today just know that the UI is going to be much different by this time in 2015.
__Fanboy Territory__
There are going to be advantages to buying an Xbox One over the Playstation 4. There are also going to be disadvantages. Without pouring too much fuel onto the already raging inferno that is Xbox One versus Playstation 4 I will try to give an honest breakdown of the pros and cons.
ADVANTAGES
  • Xbox Live - It mostly settled that Xbox Live provides a more smooth online experience. There are exceptions to everything, but on the whole I think people generally regard Xbox Live as the superior service. That service does come at a more expensive price of $59.99/year. (Deals can be found regularly on places like Amazon.)
  • Console Updates - Microsoft have done a much better job in providing updates for the console. As stated above. The UI for the Xbox One is quite different today than it was at this time last year.
  • Xbox, Snap - You may not use it to watch Netflix while you play Call of Duty, but chances are you will use it for something. Whether you're snapping your friends, achievements or even snapping ReddX for a walkthrough the feature does have a lot of scenarios where is proves itself to be useful.
  • Games with Gold - The Xbox Live Gold program is a welcome addition to Xbox Live. Getting free games is always nice. Admittedly the Games With Gold is not on par with the games that people have been getting with Playstation Plus, but free games are free games. It is hard to complain about stuff when it is free and you get to keep it forever.
  • Integration - This one only applies if you are a lover of Windows, but having the console recognized on a Windows 8 PC, Surface, Windows Phone is extremely convenient.
  • --------------------XBOX ONE FINAL VERDICT--------------------
The Xbox One is a solid and constantly improving console. Its first year was marred by silly distraction after silly distraction. Some of it self induced by Microsoft and a lot of it was manufactured by gaming journalists by way of clickbait articles.
The Xbox One has taken its lumps for the mistakes it has made. It is still putting its ship in the right direction, but it is on a promising path which only means good things for the people who bought the console. Whether or not you should buy it is entirely up to you and what you prefer though. No one should just flat out tell you yes or no you should, or should not, buy the console. Not me or even Rob Crossley.

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