Sunday, September 28, 2014

Xbox One: The good, the bad, and the ugly

When the Xbox One was announced in June of 2013,
I was skeptical.  To me, there was too much emphasis on TV, movies, and sports, and not enough on games.  Since then, against my better judgment, I bought an Xbox One in June of this year.  Having played around with it, and seen what it's capable of, here's my breakdown of what the console does right, and what it needs to improve.

The Good: The Controller
Microsoft reportedly invested over $100 million dollars into refining the controller, and it shows.  The D-Pad works far better than the 360's the force feedback on the triggers is slick, the buttons feel right, and the analog sticks saw a marked improvement over the last generation.  I was surprised by the micro USB port on the controller, and the fact that there are software updates available for controllers in addition to console firmware.
The New hotness

The Good:  The Headset
Say what you will, I actually like the headset that comes bundled with the console.  It fits reasonably well, sounds good, and the volume controls work nicely.  I use mine quite a bit when playing online, and people can understand what I'm saying.

Sure, it looks and feels a little cheap, but that's kind of expected out of Microsoft at this point. 

The Good: Game DVR/Upload Studio
This was a slick feature to add.  Being able to say, "Xbox, Record That" right after something awesome happened is really cool.  Being able to save those clips to your OneDrive and make a montage?  That's even cooler.  The Upload studio even lets you add commentary, splice multiple clips together, even include video from your kinect.  While it's really basic compared to iMovie or Adobe Premier, it's nice to have something to trim and prep before uploading to OneDrive.  Especially if you don't have a ton of storage space to work with.  In case you were wondering what videos made with Upload studio look like, here's one that I made from a match in Killer Instinct:

Simple, sure.  But overall, not too shabby.  Thumbs up on this one, guys!

The Good:  Kinect Voice Commands
Say what you will about the number of games that use the Kinect and how shoddy they are, Microsoft made some significant improvements with the Kinect this generation.  The Kinect Tuner is much more adept at figuring out background noise and compensating for speakers than the 360's Kinect.  Not only that, I've noticed a lot fewer false positives, save for this guy:


Then again, this guy is doing it deliberately.  I can't really say anything bad about this, because this is just plain funny.

The Good: Twitch integration
Adding Twitch streaming from the get-go was a brilliant idea.  This is just plain cool. It makes it easier for streamers (I don't have to grab my laptop and fiddle with my setup if I want to stream), especially people who have wanted to stream their games but haven't had the money to invest in otherwise necessary equipment to do so.  Setting up to broadcast is relatively easy, and the integration of live streams in the app store is really cool.  Go to any game on the app store and see who's streaming.  It's a really good way to see what a game is like before you buy it.

The Bad: The Online Store
At the time of writing, the game/app store is really confusing.  While you can search for a specific game, there's no real easy way to browse all the games in the store at this point.  They have categories for new releases, indie games, and the ones from AAA developers who pay tons of money to get their game prominently featured.  It's so front and center that you're tempted to give them $10 just to make them go away.  Sure, the console is new, there's time to get these things worked out.  First order of business should be the addition of an A-Z browsing option.  Especially as new games come out, it will be much more difficult to browse through older options.

The Bad: Console size
You thought the Sega Saturn or the original Xbox were bad?  This thing is monstrous!  Big, heavy, and clunky are not the sorts of things you want to be associated with.  I thought Microsoft learned that lesson when they went from the first Xbox to the 360.  Big clunky monolith replaced by sleek, sexy hotness.  Why would going back to big, clunky monolith be a good idea?

The Ugly: Voice Chat
This was a feature that people were complaining about from the very start.  Voice chat only goes through the headset, unless the headset isn't plugged in.  Even then, voice volume is barely audible out of the TV speakers.  This simply doesn't work for people who like to stream their games, especially when they're playing in a party with a bunch of friends.  Hearing only one side of the conversation is boring, and viewers miss out on a lot of jokes and good laughs.  Considering that the 360 has had this available pretty much since day 1, it's kind of silly to remove it in their successor console.  The fact that Microsoft's official response has been, "we're working on adding that functionality" since November of 2013, few people are holding their breath over this.

The Ugly: Game DVR
Now wait a minute.  I thought you said you liked the Game DVR... I do.  I don't deny that.  But there's something about it that irks me.  That thing is the automatic clip recording.  I've been playing a lot of Warframe, and I get at least three notifications an hour of a game clip called "The Void Unleashed."  They're no more than 15 seconds long, and I just recently removed 127 of them while trying to find the clips I had recorded with "Xbox, Record That."  It's troublesome, the notifications get in the way of gameplay, and I really don't need them.  They're usually worthless clips to begin with.  I contacted Microsoft support, and they told me to contact the developer, saying that the developer had the power to disable automatic recordings.  I have a support ticket submitted to Digital Extremes, and I will update this article when I get a response.  They're rather backlogged at the moment, according to their support site.

Overall, Microsoft recovered from their missteps, though they need to put in a lot more effort to really get themselves to where the console should be.  I hope that Microsoft takes the time to buff up their offerings, because that's what's going to keep this game alive.

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