Review: Xbox One
The opening shot in the console wars
Microsoft’s Xbox One is not just a games console; it’s part of an entire company-wide strategy. It’s all about being one big happy family, working together. For the Xbox, that means it will be your home entertainment centre, controlling everything from gaming - naturally - to your live TV.
It’s a little ambitious, but if Microsoft executive get their way, it won’t be long before we’re all hooked into the company’s way of thinking. But with the PlayStation 4 snapping at its heels, can the Xbox establish itself as the must-have console for Christmas?
Looks wise, the Xbox One is solid. There’s nothing massively distinguishing about it, apart from the logo; it will blend in with your home cinema kit, you DVD player and your set top box. Because if you missed Microsoft’s whole point, that’s just it - the Xbox One is one of them. It’s not just a games console, it’s a home entertainment hub. Hence the name. It reminds me of an old video recorder I used to have, only 100 times better, because it doesn’t chew up my stuff, and it connects directly to a HD set top box.
And it’s so quiet. You barely know it’s turned on, which makes a change from the previous generation of consoles. That’s partly due to a massive vent, which allows the heat to dissipate quickly. So far, so good.
Setting it up is a little painful though, mainly because there’s an instant update to be applied. So settle yourself in, it’ll be a bit of a wait.
Once you get cracking though, it’s an easy(ish) ride from there on in. The Xbox interface has been cleaned up a bit, but it can take some getting used to. If you’re a Windows 8 user you’ll recognise a few elements: you can snap programmes to the edge of the screen, allowing you to multitask while playing a game; things can be ‘pinned’ to the main menu; and the tile-based interface is also a familiar sight.
A big part of navigating this interface is Kinect. Not everyone is keen on the Kinect, and the resentment for paying for it - Microsoft hs made it an integral part of the system - can be quite high as a result. But for aspiring couch potatoes who don’t even want to hunt for the games controllers, the Kinect is a godsend. Sure, you feel a bit daft talking to it. And you might feel a little stupid waving around in front of it to get it to move between menus. But it quickly becomes natural, the self consciousness dissipates, and before long you’re wondering why your TV doesn’t obey your frantic hand gestures when you try to change the channel. And you can command the box to turn on, so you don’t even need to try to figure out where the power switch is.
The Kinect is certainly more responsive this time around, although the voice commands have to be weirdly precise to be recognised, and at time, it feels like your Kinect is just ignoring you. On a happier note, the peripheral’s low-light capability has been ramped up too, so you won’t have to use the local football team’s floodlights to get it to pick up your movements in an otherwise well-lit room.
Best of all, using it for gaming doesn’t require every item of furniture to be moved to the furthest corners of the room, thanks to a wide-angle HD camera. And it actually recognises you, automatically signing you in to your profile when it finds your face.