It’s difficult to praise the Xbox One, yet it is equally as difficult to be negative. In most respects the console feels like an impractical prototype lacking user testing and rushed to completion. It’s limitations are highlighted when it’s used in a bustling and somewhat chaotic surroundings of a home enviroment. Afterall, the Xbox One is more than a console: it’s an entertainment hub that acts as a gateway between multiple devices and is intended to be a part watching television.
While other Xbox One console reviews will focus on the processing power of the machine, the initial lineup of games at launch or the general opinions of a hardcore gamer, this review will discuss the practicalities of the console. This is in part due to the frustrations that I have encountered as a user.
SETTING UP THE XBOX ONE CONSOLE
The human race’s technological achievements have led to idiot proof setups and wizards that through rigorous testing and extensive compatibility tests ensures that the above absurdity does not happen. It is beyond comprehension that Microsoft, a software giant and operating system overlord, failed to deliver something as basic as being able to turn on a Xbox One and play it straight out of the box.
When the Xbox One is first booted up the user must connect to the internet and download the latest update for the machine. A user is unable to play any games or navigate any of the menus until this process has been completed. Anything that relies on technology over the internet will undoubtably encounter major hiccups and my experience was no different to thousands of other angry gamers.
For four days, I was unable to play my Xbox One as it required me to continually download an update that persistently failed at 80%. At one stage, I was so frustrated with the machine that I packaged it up vowing to never use it again. While a official explanation has not yet been given, it would seem that certain batches of the Xbox One fail to complete this download. To overcome this issue: consumers need to either return their Xbox One (and wait a few weeks until the console is made available to retailers) or buy a new USB stick and download the update via a PC.
Once the file has been downloaded and transferred to the USB stick: the consumer has to plug it into the Xbox One, press and hold multiple buttons until the console registers that the device has been connected. The console then completes the updating process and allows the user to operate the machine as intended.
I couldn’t help but sympathise with frustrated parents and heartbroken children on Christmas Day. While I may be an adult in my 30’s (early 30s!) there is a limit to what I or any other consumer is willing to put themselves through to have a £450.00 paperweight do what it is supposed to do.
I found the process of setting up the Xbox One to be a horrendous, laborious task that striped away any excitement or joy from owning the console.
LET’S PLAY THE XBOX ONE!
Once the system was fully setup, I was ready to play my new games: Fifa 14 and Battlefield 4. Fifa 14 was included with the console. However, instead of the physical disc being included with the machine, I had to download it by using a QR code: a process that prevented me from playing the full game for a further 24 hours.
I once again found myself cursing Microsoft while sympathising with hyperactive children on Christmas morning. Defiant, I inserted the physical disc for Battlefield 4 . I was ready to experience firsthand the latest evolution in graphics, to push my Xbox One to its technical limitations and go to war with 63 other online gamers… Nope….
The Xbox One had to install a number of files, then required further downloads before it would allow me to play Battlefield 4; a process that took close to two hours to complete. It struck me that the absurd situation I had now found myself in, was in many respects, the same as those experienced so many years ago. Nostalgic childhood memories of my Commodore 64 came to mind, a chance to reminisce about those roughhousing days of long loading times, games not working or having to execute a series commands to startup the machine. While the technical limitations of cassette based gaming can be pardoned, in an age of Cloud Computing, Google Glass and the iPhone, it is unforgivable.
£44.99 FOR HALF A GAME
You quickly discover that despite the price of the Xbox One console and it’s videogames being far higher than any other comparative machine, you are only ever given with the bare bones of the game. A user has to purchase and then download additional packs in order to play all of the online matches and features.
This is in no way a method to keep an aging game relevant as many new options and items are for sale days after the general release of the game. Gaming companies need to rethink their financial strategy in the coming months as it wont be long until gamers only need to pay a monthly subscription to enjoy any game on any system they want.
DON’T FUCKING MOVE!
The Xbox One does not have an on / off button, but rather a sensor that can detect a finger (or object) that is a couple of inches away. While most gaming systems or operating systems ask for confirmation before turning off the machine, the Xbox One only offers this option when you attempt to shut down the console with a voice command.
While the power sensor may be aesthetically pleasing and stylistically helps to portray the console as the next evolution in gaming, it is an impractical feature for a home environment. My wife and I have to regularly move our son away from the television, shout at our dog to move or place a chair in front of the Xbox One to prevent them from accidentally switching it off.
My son playing with his toys or my dog (pictured on the right) walking past the screen is enough to turn off the machine; a feature that doesn’t happen while watching television, yet becomes active while playing games.
UNABLE TO WATCH 3D MOVIES
I have a 3D television and sadly, the Xbox One does not have a 3D Blu-ray player. Considering that the majority of new televisions have 3D capabilities and that Sony were able to provide a patch to their Playstation 3 to enable the disc drive to play 3D Blu-ray films, I can’t understand why this feature has not been included.
I suspect that the reason behind this is that the Kinetic Camera interferes with the signal sent between a 3D television and the Active Shutter Glasses. This results in the Active Shutter Glasses repeatedly switching on and off unless you either unplug the Kinetic Camera or turn it away from you. Very frustrating.
The voice commands used by the Xbox One are slightly irritating and takes some time to get used to. There are a series of commands that you need to learn and is an experience that is far removed from the relaxed atmosphere shown in Microsoft’s advertisements.
On a regular basis, my wife and I sit side by side screaming a series of commands at the Xbox One. We often have to repeat ourselves four or five times in different accents and at varying speeds for example:
Instead of casually saying:
Xbox Turn Off
I have to adopt a slight English twang whilst screaming:
Despite repeatedly shouting at the machine, sometimes only a meter or so away, it cannot register my commands if there is any background noise. It is so sensitive that my dog walking on our hardwood floor is enough to interfere with the commands. This ultimately goes against the notion that the console is the beating heart of a family’s entertainment system.
XBOX ONE HAND MOVEMENTS
Completely and utterly useless. I have followed all of the instructions online, waved my arms around, questioned my sanity and I have yet to get this feature to work.
The Xbox Snap command allows you add apps and/or a television feed to the right hand side of the screen. There is only a limited number of apps available, yet I expect that this will be developed further in the coming months.
The most useful Xbox Snap is the ability to add a small box with a television feed. This helps to pass the time while you wait in a que to play a game online or are in between matches. However, I found that whilst playing Fifa 14, having live football results from Sky Sports News dramatically slowed down the gameplay to the point that it became unplayable.
Despite this limitation, it is a feature that has a lot of potential and should Twitter and Facebook be added in the near future, it will become a stable part of my viewing experience.
XBOX ONE CONSOLE GRAPHICS
In the near future, I will be providing a number of reviews of Xbox One games that will undoubtably delve into the processing power of the console. However, I will state that the games look absolutely beautiful and have an amazing level of detail that enriches the gameplay experience. Due to the added horsepower, games are now able to include far more players than before, with Battlefield 4 being able to host 64 players at any given time.
The amount of detail is mind-blowing. pores in skin, dust, smoke, multiple shadows, little bits of debris, giant explosions, multiple aircraft, bloom, 64 individual characters, grass, trees, water and more are perfectly rendered simultaneously with no slowdown or any negative effect on gameplay.
I hate jagged edges and this is a persistent problem with the Playstation 3 and thankfully, I have yet to encounter a single jagged edge on the Xbox One. (regardless of the level of mayhem on-screen)
I HAVE TO USE BATTERIES!?
Since the dawn of creation, wireless controllers have always had the ability to be recharged by plugging them directly into the console. The Xbox One’s controller uses AA batteries and offers no option for recharging it.
It is prehistoric to suggest that a consumer should purchase batteries to power a handheld device and is a ludicrous expectation for such an expensive console. No gamer should have to stockpile an arsenal of AA batteries (at great expense) or invest in a rechargeable charging station.This archaic method of powering the Xbox One’s controller has led to me replacing the batteries twice; an absurd scenario considering that I have only been able to play the console for little over a week and for only a few hours each day.
While the Xbox One has the potential to make the system standout from its competition, it ultimately falls short of excellence. In many respects, it’s slightly ahead of its time, an impractical prototype that with further testing and yet to be released technology, could have led to it being the next evolution in gaming.
Until then, we will have to make do with a powerful gaming console that kinda does a lot of other stuff badly, a mixed bag of impractical nonsense that has hidden charges. With us now in the age of Cloud Computing, it has become clear that gaming will move away from the technical limitations of physical consoles. Video games will be streamed online and players will be able to experience all the latest titles on the highest graphical settings on a below average machine.
The Xbox One indicates that Microsoft acknowledges this trend. They have developed their console to be an entertainment and social hub whilst making the system’s entire catalogue of games available to download online. Furthermore, to operate the system, a user must first connect to the internet and download an update.
In years to come, we will look back on the Xbox One and laugh at its limitations. We will joke about the console’s inability to understand our voice commands, that walking past was enough to switch it off and we will jest about the ridiculous hand gestures that we had to make.
In short, the Xbox One is brilliant, bewildering, frustrating and expensive. Microsoft should have turned their attention to reducing the cost of the console and focused entirely on gameplay, perhaps taking the first, bold step towards Cloud Streaming and set the benchmark within the video game industry.