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XBOX ONE, A Stride Towards The Future — First Impressions

Greetings, my fellow nerds! We live in the age of installs, patches and updates, with hardware being altered and expanded upon before the blink of an eye. While I will be touching on some of the Xbox One’s current core capabilities, consider this a friendly reminder that these features are subject to change. Game on!

Microsoft was an enormous underdog when it entered the gaming scene back in 2001, looking to contend with the “Kujos” of that time period, Sony and Nintendo. It was a steep hill to climb, and the original Xbox was as ambitious as the Sega Dreamcast, only with a more controlled emphasis on social gaming with Xbox Live. Over a decade and two consoles later, the Xbox brand has risen to supreme viability and lead the charge on the advancement of not gaming itself, but the overall entertainment experience. The Xbox One is yet another step forward in this philosophy, pushing the total experience in a fresh direction that involves every facet of entertainment.

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When Microsoft originally unveiled its plans for the Xbox One, I was one of the many skeptics who questioned their heightened focus on media unrelated to gaming, for it was this very thing that Sony was scrutinized for in the last generation of gaming (“It Only Does Everything,” anyone?) and the addition of DRM restrictions and requiring internet functionality didn’t help Microsoft’s case for a $499 purchase. After a tough summer of listening to harsh criticism and adjusting their policies to better accommodate its loyal fan base, the Xbox One is finally here. The verdict: It’s the most badass Xbox yet, and I’m here to tell you why.

xbox one home dashboard“Oh, no, they didn’t adjust the dashboard to look like the notorious Windows 8,” says the stern “z-snapping” detractor of Microsoft’s latest iteration of the PC operating system. If this sounds like you, there’s a high chance that the Xbox One’s “Live Tile” setup will fail to grip you at first glance. Trust me, I’m one of those people, but given a little time with the new dashboard, it became clear to me that the Windows 8-inspired theme works substantially better for the Xbox One than it does any PC. I guess this makes sense considering that Windows 8 is initially an enhanced take on the 360’s old dashboard. Navigating around the Xbox has never been more seamless, and you can even customize your dashboard with different colors or by pinning certain applications to make them more accessible.

Xbox-ControllerWhile for the most part identical to its predecessor, the Xbox One controller does improve on certain aspects while regressing in others. The clickable directional pad is far more bearable than the sloppy and inconvenient one found on the 360. The addition of haptics to the triggers is also a welcomed change, though it takes some getting use to having them vibrate with every press. But the bumpers feel very stiff and damn near unpressable at times. I blame this on their slight enlargement and lifted placement closer to the triggers, which proved to be quite the discomfort after a few hours of playing with them. I’m not as sold on the One’s controller as I was on the 360′s, but nevertheless it’s still a very solid gamepad.

Xbox One kinect 2.0The gamepad’s functionality is expanded upon when used in conjunction with the Xbox One’s most important component, the Kinect 2.0 camera. All Skynet jokes aside, the Kinect 2.0 is actually what makes the Xbox One feel so futuristic. Yes, it is weird and takes a little getting accustomed to having full on conversations with your television. Yes, the voice recognition is still a bit spotty at the moment. But once you get the hang of the rhythm and tonality required for voice commands, navigating the Xbox One interface becomes far more fun and easy . I found using the motion sensing to scroll through the menus as seen in Minority Report to be a pain in the ass, but it’s definitely a lot more accurate and works wondrously better for the supported games this time around.

xbox_guide1One of the most impressive features the Xbox One has is the ability to feed an external source through it’s HDMI input. This is best utilized when using your cable TV box, allowing you to then program your Xbox One to scroll through channels and even access the channel guide for your cable service without having to switch inputs on your television. The One Guide is a nifty asset, which allows you to consolidate all of your favorite TV channels, entertainment apps and etc. all in one place for seamless access. Also, if you’re a person who doesn’t have cable TV service, you can use the input to feed your other HDMI devices or game consoles through it, too. So if you ever want to go back to the 360, you can feed it into your Xbox One experience through HDMI and never have to change inputs.

Xbox OneKiBut we need not forget that even with all of these super cool entertainment features, the Xbox One is still a game console that’s supposed to play games. As far as the launch lineup goes, the story’s not much different from that of the PlayStation 4’s. The games still need to come, but where the PS4 stomps the Xbox One in indie game selection at launch, the Xbox One wins with its wider variety of AAA exclusives to choose from. Forza fans get instant gratification this generation, with Forza Motorsport 5 being one of the more gorgeous titles out of the bunch. Also, despite the questionable switch to a free-to-play model, Killer Instinct turned out to be quite swell and a fresh reboot to the famed series. Dead Rising 3 gets an honorable mention in stand out exclusives for the Xbox One and there’s still Ryse and Lococycle if you’re feeling really dangerous.

Xbox-One-retail-600x481Upon wrapping up my first thorough observation of the Xbox One, I’m not hard-pressed to say that I’m excited for where this is going. Microsoft is delivering a solid entertainment experience that honestly, even without the gaming, is a sophisticated take on the living room space that has never before been achieved. All that’s needed is little fine tuning to the Kinect and dashboard, with some additions to the gaming library over time and the Xbox One is destined to take many more large strides in the right direction, the future.

So which console should you buy between the PS4 vs Xbox One?

When it comes down to it, the Xbox One has expanded on everything the PlayStation 3 set out to do in the last generation in terms of combining everything that is entertainment all into one device. In turn, the PlayStation 4 has basically expanded on everything the Xbox 360 aspired to be in terms of social gaming. Yes, Microsoft and Sony have gone totally Sean Archer/Castor Troy on us, ladies and gentlemen, but for the better. If you desire supreme gaming content and an unparalleled gaming experience, the PlayStation 4 is for you. If you desire an unrivaled all around entertainment experience where your movies, music and television play an integral role alongside your gaming to keep you engaged, the Xbox One is for you. Either way, you cannot go wrong, and it simply comes down to preference, as both systems have a lot more good to offer this time around than ever before. Let’s raise our glasses to the official start of the new generation of video games!

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But don’t just take my word for it, Jessica Chobot and Dan Casey weighed in on the new consoles too in a brand new segment called The DLC from Nerdist News. Check it out for yourself for more perspective on which of the new consoles might best suit you.

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6 comments

  • In response to Chris: “You’re probably not going to want to feed another console through your HDMI in, the latency introduced would hurt.”

    Absolutely not true. I have my 360 fed in through my XB1, and there is ZERO latency. I can play FPS’s just as well through direct TV connection as I can XB1 with ZERO noticeable degradation in quality. I was skeptical before I tried it, but now I’m a believer

  • backwards compatibility? gaikai?
    i just do not believe that ps3/xbox 360 games can not play on the new gen consoles. ps1 games play on my slim ps3 but not on a ps4 is probably due to an intentional block. like the block of cd play and usb restrictions and mp3 play.
    as for gaikai it’s just a promised future feature. i will see it when i believe it. then there is the issue of current slow internet speed when discussing gaikai.
    it will be interesting to see how the new consoles are rated 6 months post release.

  • Backwards compatibility is coming for Sony PS4 in 2014 (maybe)…but it will be over thru Cloud by using your existing PS3 games … GaiKai, a company Sony bought earlier this year, is a pioneer in this tech. We just have to be patient. If anyone can make it work, Sony will. The PS4 is AMAZING…when I get done playing a game, reality is dull in comparison and colorless…and it takes a while for the real world to “sink back in.”