Xbox One – Initial Impressions

The Xbox Logo

The New Xbox One is announced, and it seems to do the same old, same old.

So the Xbox Reveal just finished, and the Xbox 720 is actually named Xbox One (which won’t at all get confusing with the original Xbox … nope, zero chance of confusion there).  I wanted to get down some of my initial impressions while they were still fresh.

The systems looks like a great leap forward in tech over the Xbox360 and Microsoft renews it’s commitment to being an “entertainment system,” not just a game system.  While not explicitly stated, it sounded like they wanted to become yet another source of content distribution, because Zune worked out so well for them.  They talked about renting movies, Tv shows, music, etc in the Xbox eco-system.  We’ll have to see how that one shakes out.

Kinect 2.0

The new Kinect looks pretty slick, and comes bundled with every new Xbox One.  The new system has a greater fidelity with motion tracking over the original Kinect.  So much so, they said that the new Kinect can actually monitor your heart beat — which is more than a little creepy.  Voice commands are said to be more conversational, more responsive, just all around — better.  However, I still don’t think it could compare with the Siri/Google Now levels.

The New Kinect is always ‘on’ even when it’s not on.  You can turn on your TV and your Xbox by saying “Xbox On” the Kinect (which knew you were there already anyway) determines who you are, signs you in automatically takes you to what amounts to a “recent items” page on your home screen.  Slightly creepy, yet again.

They’ve also added some new gestures for swiping, and toggling between applications (be it TV, game, browser, etc).  They were big on a new ‘grasp’ motion, where you ‘grabbed’ each side of the screen and scrunched it down, and it took back to your Xbox One home screen, while the content continued forward.  You reverse the gesture — grasp and stretch out, to bring the content back to the fore front.

If you incorporate your cable provider, you can say things like “Watch Family Guy,” “Watch Sci-Fi,” etc and the system instantly (about a second delay) jumps to that program or channel.  I’ts pretty slick.

Oh.  And they incorporated Skype calling with an HD camera.  So….yeah.

Windows 8 just won’t die

The whole OS has the stink of Windows 8 on it.  The multi-tasking or “snapping” of Windows to have 2 open simultaneously exactly mirrors the Windows 8 functionality.  They even mentioned later in the conference about the Windows Kernel being included to provide ‘instant switching and seamless integration with some windows functionality.  Uhm, yay?

I’ll mention this real quick – they made a big show of SmartGlass, their smart device application, but didn’t really say much about it other than “Yay SmartGlass!” and that was it.  So … there ya have it.

The Games

So, I think it really bears mentioning that they never said anything was actual “gameplay footage.”  They said things like “in the game-engine,” which is a subtle, but important distinction here.  The big push that they had with games is increased graphic fidelity and lots of “look how shiny these places will be,” but the games themselves felt like the same old, same old.  It looks prettier, but the New Call of Duty Ghosts still just boiled down to “Point at this and shoot – now with better story!  It’s what plant’s crave!”   The announced EA Sports games which I didn’t even know were still a thing that people played.  but again, it just generally looked like a fresh coat a paint, a firm slap on the ass and back out the door went the games.

Remedy announced a new exclusive (let me tell you how much I HATE the word exclusive), Quantum Break, which from the trailer has something to do with a little girl, a bridge, and a boat.  That’s about all I got.

I was really disappointed with this aspect they kept talking about how innovative the platform was, and it was going to change everything then they tout the safest, most generic line-up of games possible and act like it’s big news.  They didn’t show any cool innovative ways to use the technology, or even talk about how it was going to be used other than to point out the increased graphic fidelity of the system.  From a gameplay perspective, I didn’t see anything to get excited about.  Pretty pictures are just that — pretty pictures.


I didn’t cover everything they talked about.  But I got the points that I thought were important.  In the grand scheme, I’m really interested in the media consolidation aspects like the integration with your TV and existing cable providers to provide a more seamless experience.  I think that’s pretty amazing and way above what anyone else is doing right now.  The games I wasn’t that impressed with.  The tech looks very pretty and definitely increases graphic fidelity of the games but as for actual gameplay — the first glance just seems like more of the same.  Nintendo, say what you like, goes out of it’s way to provide unique experiences for just about every game.  Xbox seems content with rehashing the contrived and redone.

Like I said, they didn’t actually show any gameplay footage, so I could be off.  But I doubt I am.  Only time will tell.

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