The new Xbox has been officially revealed as the Xbox One. So, what does it do, and should you buy one? That depends: How much do you want a Halo TV series, and how much will you miss buying used games?
Yep. They may have really done it. Games are installed to the hard drive, and are linked to your Xbox Live account. If you want to install a game on another console or to another account, you’ll have to pay a fee. This doesn’t mean, however, that used games are entirely ruled out: Microsoft was mum on the topic, but honestly it’s not looking good.
Oh, just to rub it in, there’s no backward compatibility, either, and you won’t be able to bring over any games you bought via Live. So, there’s that.
In terms of what the Xbox One is packing, it’s fairly impressive: 8GB of RAM, 64-bit architecture, USB 3.0, in other words it’s a high end PC. It also has three operating systems: The standard Xbox system, a Windows kernel, and a third to make the other two play nice. Honestly, we see that particular structure raising a few problems in the field, but it’s technically impressive.
The new Kinect is, as rumored, a pack-in, with improved, well, everything: Better speech recognition, a wider field of view, 1080p resolution, the ability to read your heartbeat, more points of recognition on the body, the works. The controller is pretty much the same; essentially the triggers can vibrate independently, and there are some cosmetic changes, but that’s about it. The key thing is that the Kinect interacts with your controller and your tablet: Move your controller in a specific gesture and it’ll make something happen.
Xbox Live is getting overhauled as well, with all your content stored in the cloud. Essentially you can access your games and saves from any Xbox One provided you log in with your account. Matchmaking is asynchronous, meaning you can do other things while waiting to find a match and achievements can change over time. So it’s a pretty awesome overhaul for multiplayer fans.
EA Sports rolled out four titles at the presentation: NHL, FIFA, Madden and UFC, so they’re not being shy about the big guns. They have a new engine called Ignite, and perhaps most importantly, as things change in the real world, it’ll affect your game: Injury lists will be updated constantly, for example.
Beyond that, there were few hints about new games: A new Forza was announced, of course, and will be available at launch. Remedy debuted their new title Quantum Break, although they were shy on the details except to reveal it’s an SF game that revolves around time control. There are also exclusive deals with publishers, such as DLC arriving first for Call of Duty: Ghosts, but Microsoft was coy about the details: That’s apparently going to wait until E3. They also announced fifteen new games developed internally, eight of which are entirely new franchises, but again, that apparently will wait for E3.
TV Content, You Know What? There’s A Freaking Halo TV Show Now. Nobody Cares About Anything Else.
Sadly, information about this was very, very sparse. It’s a “premium” series, and we’re guessing it’ll be an Xbox One exclusive. Also unclear is the extent of Spielberg’s involvement; he may just be lending his name to the series. Still, that’s quite a coup and possibly a bigger deal than the actual console itself, not to mention paying off a lot of rumors.
Your Overall Experience
Essentially, Microsoft wants you to use your Xbox One, and only that, to do everything with your TV, whether it’s gaming, watching the tube, or browsing online. And it’s got a fairly slick interface for doing precisely that: You can say “Xbox watch ESPN” and it’ll flip over to that channel, or whichever one you request, or “Xbox Game” and it’ll go straight to the last game you were playing. It’s instantaneous, too, likely a function of the console being able to multitask.
There are also new gestures, of course, and it’ll play nice with your smartphone or tablet, but the key thing is that it wants to be your command center for the living room. Hence the Kinect, hence the “always-on” rumors; they’re necessary for the flashier parts of this to work.
Honestly, the presentation here opened with being fairly heavy on the non-game uses. The demo involved buying movie tickets, using Skype, navigating the Internet, and so on. You can watch sports on one side and have your fantasy league up and running on the other, or you can have Twitter up while watching TV.
It’s all very slick but it does raise a few questions, not the least of which is why they view this as necessary, and who these features are for. Who felt the compelling need for this stuff? Are people willing to pay for it?
What We Didn’t Get
Want a price or a firm release date? Well, it’s coming out later this year, and will cost anywhere between $1 and $1 billion. Want to know about Gold pricing? No dice. Whether you can permanently download or transfer certain types of media, like movies? This is just as frustrating, possibly moreso, as the PS4 reveal in terms of concrete information.
What We Think
It’s impressive, to some degree, but the distinct possibility of used games being blocked, and the heavy focus on making it a home theater PC with a fancy controller, is worrisome. There are also the potential for some severe technical problems, here: People play Call of Duty so much they wear out their system’s optical drive. Can an HDD or SSD stand up to that much abuse?
And we suspect the Kinect will not be universally loved. Some have already objected to having what amounts to a surveillance camera planted in their living room. It’s not difficult to see that generating some severe backlash, especially since the Kinect is now a requirement. We’ll see later this year, but we suspect Sony might just be better off.