Saturday, 25 May 2013

Xbox One - The Big Reveal

Never since starting this site have sat at a screen for so long, agonizing over what to type. Microsoft's big reveal left the community in a state of divide. Some lapped it up and loved it, some were not so crazy about the whole thing. So rather than write a post caught up in the frenzied aftermath of it all, I thought it was best to take a few days to make sense of the whole thing.

Now, before I get into this I would like to point something out to those who may not know. If you are a regular reader to the site you will know that the last few months has seen a huge swing to the Sony side of things. I make no apologies for my current love affair with both my Vita and my new PS3. Before that started though I had a eight year affair with my Xbox 360. Xbox has brought me some much gaming joy and I believe that Microsoft have changed the shape of gaming for this generation, forcing its competitors to play catch up. Only now in the twilight of this generation is Sony taking the lead, thanks in part to its fantastic PlayStation Plus subscriber service.

So why make that statement? Well, I do not want to be accused of being a Sony fanboy, when I say that I found the whole event more than a little disappointing. Actually, in places I was actually bored out of my mind. It seemed at times to be an excuse to roll out as many top execs possible, all of whom had been armed with the media cannon. What about the star of the show though?

Well, as we all now know the next Xbox is actually called the Xbox One. I cant figure out why they would go with that name. Surely this is going to cause confusion with the non gaming buying public (e.g. parents/grandparents). My six year old summed it up best. She asked me "Is there a new Xbox coming out?"
"Yes, it is called the Xbox One", I replied.
"Oh, is that because it is the first Xbox?" she looked puzzled as she asked this. I explained the history of the Xbox after which she just said, "Well it should be called Xbox Three, then!".

A few people have mentioned the look of the box and that it resembles what I used to put my VHS tapes in back in the day. Well, to be honest. The main unit doesn't really matter, does it. It sits under your TV and all you do with it is a change the disc in it. The new controller however, does look interesting. With a new design that doesn't change too much from the already fantastic Xbox 360 controller. Although, part of me feels sad that the start button has gone. Console controllers should always have a start button. Oh well, I suppose it makes more like Windows 8 now. Microsoft state that over 40 design innovations have been made to the controller. The one that will surely be at the top of the list for most people is rumble feedback in each of the triggers.

Kinect gets an huge upgrade in the form of Kinect 2.0. The Kinect 2.0 is now bundled with the console and is capable of high resolution body scanning and capturing video at 1080p at 30 frames per second. That bundled with improved speech recognition. Microsoft is saying that it acts as the “binding power” between console, controller and mobile devices supporting Xbox SmartGlass.

So with all of these new gaming toys unveiled, what did Microsoft want to talk about? That's right TV! Xbox One is being marketed as a all in one home entertainment centre. This means that the Xbox One will be able to control all of your Live TV, Movies, Music, web browsing and gaming. They were very keen to show us how Xbox One can seamlessly switch between all of these functions, just by speaking. Great Idea, but to those of us who are married, Microsoft just gave your wife the power to take the TV back whenever she walks into the room. Along with the demonstration of another new feature called Snap Mode which allows you to run several programs at once like Skype and Internet Explorer. Skype also takes a prominent feature and uses the Kinect 2.0 to provide high resolution video calling into your living room and for the first time, group video calling.

Then they treated us to all of the amazing interactive TV fun you can have... if you live in North America. Yep, as per usual all of the wonderful features that Microsoft had to show can only be accessed if you reside of the north of America.

So with the that in mind, lets get down to the point of all this the games. Unfortunately there wasn't much to see there. EA came out and showed off FIFA 14, Madden 25, NBA 14 and UFC in a series of cool slow motion shots. Forza 5 had a teaser trailer and the of course the big star of the night was Call of Duty: Ghosts. Showing off all of its next gen glory.

and then it was all over.

I came out of the whole experience feeling cold about it. The Xbox One seems to of lost the focus of its previous incarnation. The 360 was all about the games and the enhancing the social aspect of gaming. This time it seems that Microsoft are not in competition with Sony for the best next generation games machine. Instead the Xbox One seems to be firing a shot across the bows of Google and Apple, in the battle of the ultimate home entertainment solutions.

As for the games, looks like we all have to wait until E3 for the promised goodies. Until then we all past the time reading up on Microsoft's policy on second hand games on Xbox One and how they still will not allow Indie developers to self publish their games on Xbox One.

Sony may not of shown a console, but at least they showed the games and the commitment to the humble gamer.

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