The 22nd November 2013 saw the launch of the Xbox ONE, adding the tech powerhouse of Microsoft to the struggle for supremacy in the eighth generation of computer games consoles alongside the Nintendo Wii U and PlayStation 4. With a massive slab of hardware under its hood, cool tech like voice recognition and motion tracking, a wide range of add-on features and a strong roster of launch games there’s a lot to review, so here’s our take on the new console to help you decide whether it’s the one for you.
In terms of core tech, the Xbox ONE is well equipped to deliver gaming excellence for years to come with a whopping 500GB hard drive, 8GB RAM and a 1.75GHz processor. It’s a little shy of the Sony PlayStation 4, which has a bit more GHz and RAM and the same hard drive space, and it eclipses the firepower of the Wii U. There’s a lot of talk about using the cloud to compensate for the power differential between the ONE and the PS4, but that’s yet to be seen, so hard to buy into at this stage.
What we know for sure is that it does a very good job at firing some of its more impressive initial games, like the sheer brutal quality of Ryse: Son of Rome and Forza Motorsport 5. If the power of the tech is best reviewed from the blinding brilliance of the graphics and speed of its games then the Xbox ONE has definitely pulled off a win.
The launch games roster is, in our opinion, the best of the three 8th generation games consoles thanks to a full list of multi-platform games and a very impressive selection of exclusive titles. While it’s a close battle – Zombi U was a brutal opener for the Wii U and Killzone: Shadow Fall is a killer first person shooter exclusive for the PS4 – the addition of Ryse, Dead Rising 3 and Forza are enough to clinch the win for Microsoft. Combine that with the likes of multi-platform games like Fifa 14, Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 and you’ve got a lot to get started on.
The big negative when it comes to games though is that there’s a hefty load time for you to fire them up for the first time, which is a bit annoying, although this is a similar situation for the PlayStation 4. After the initial download things are pretty rapid, but you’ve only got to be stuck on the 1% mark for a couple of minutes or so for it to be soul destroying. While we can understand that because of the advanced nature of the games there needs to be an element of cranking things up, the process has been a bit glitchy in the opening couple of weeks of the console’s launch.
The other downside at this stage is the relative lack of games that use the Kinect in any real way. There’s just Fighter Within and Just Dance 2014 from day one and not a lot more than Kinect Sports Rivals on the cards for a later release. We think there’s scope to use the Kinect for a lot of what has already been released, so it will be cool to see a game get announced that does something really cool with the tech (and extra cost) of the Kinect.
In terms of future releases the Xbox ONE has a lot of potential in general with the likes of Mad Max, Titanfall and Destiny as it’s big upcoming exclusives for 2014 and pretty much every mutli-platform release on the cards ranging from Final Fantasy XV to Kindom Hearts 3 and Metal Gear Solid 5.
The controller has been finessed and fine tuned to within a micro-nano-fleck of its life and is about as close to perfection as a standard controller can get. It’s easily as impressive as the PS4 controller and while it isn’t quite as innovative as the second screen touch capabilities of the Nintendo Wii U gamepad, it’s a perfect fit as a straight-up games controller. There’s a bit of talk about it being better suited to gamers with average to small size hands, so if you’re a bit big mitted it might not be quite as ergonomically sublime as it is for the more slender fingered gamers of the world.
Motion control seems to be pretty effective, however, without a good range of Kinect based games to really put it through it’s paces it’s a tough one to review. The voice activation, on the other hand, is one of the best features of the Xbox ONE. It’s pretty accurate at getting what you ask, and while it’s not 100% yet it will probably get better over time as new software updates are released.
The other aspect to bear in mind when looking at Microsoft’s big black box is the fact that it’s not just a games console, it’s also a multimedia device. This got the tech giants a bit of bad press when the console was first announced, along with a whole host of other issues that disappeared almost as soon as they were bandied about, but the reality is that the multimedia capabilities are very cool.
Not only can you play CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, there’s also plenty of scope for downloading everything from the latest movies to music and TV shows. There’s a wide range of films to download with similar prices to iTunes in terms of rental and buying, but with a set-up hook directly into your main TV. We don’t recommend stumping up the extra for HD movie downloads though, as they’re not that far advanced when compared to the standard display versions.
As well as its home entertainment credentials, the ONE also has a very effective social element that makes it very easy to connect with friends and other gamers. It’s great for finding new buddies for multiplayer action. If you want to find new people to connect with, check out the Xbox ONE Google Plus community to get in on the action.
In terms of graphics it’s definitely a mixed bag for all of the 8th generation consoles and the Xbox ONE isn’t any different. The most important point though is that as it’s best, where it’s starting to flirt with its true potential, it’s really does produce the next gen goods. Ryse Son of Rome looks every bit the next big leap forward and you can probably say the same for Forza. A lot of the multi-platform releases haven’t really pushed themselves too far when it comes to graphics. Every one is noticeably better than the Xbox 360 equivalent, which is a good sign of more impressive things to come, but they’re not exactly light-years away.
The price of the console will be one of the big sticking points for many, alongside the slight tech advantage the PS4 has. At nearly £100 more pricey than the Sony equivalent, it’s a lot extra to pay, especially considering the fact that the extra relates to the added cost the Kinect brought to the console, which might feel a little frustrating at the moment due to the lack of motion control gaming.
However, if we had to pay it all again for the opportunity to play the launch games for the console, we would do in a heartbeat. They’re some of the best computer games we’ve ever played and things will definitely only get better. Let us know what your review of the Xbox ONE console is using the comments below.
Xbox ONE review: 4.5/5