27th Nov 2013
With the Xbox One having gone on sale in most parts of the civilised world, the initial impressions are out. The console has already racked up sales of over a million units within the first 24 hours. It seems gamers have forgotten the uproar that Microsoft's initial Orwellian DRM policies had elicited. This feat may equal Sony's achievement with day one PS4 sales, but let's not forget that the Xbox received a 13-country wide launch, whereas the PS4 was only launched in US and Canadian territories. At any rate, this is the best ever selling Xbox and a new sales record for the company. The demand for the console still seems to be peaking, as it has been sold out at most retailers.
Reviewers who managed to get early release samples were generally positive about the console. The general consensus being that the Xbox One gets a lot of things right, but Microsoft's lofty plans of making it the veritable convergence device handling your gaming, home theatre, cable TV, and entertainment needs haven't proved to be successful just yet. Let's see what the early reviews have to say.
Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton took note of Microsoft's lofty vision, but found many chinks in the console's armour. The many UI bugs and cluttered nature of the apps weren't appreciated. “'Snap' split-screen multitasking might be cool at some point, but it's not there yet,” is what he made of the console's potentially innovative multitasking feature that lets you juggle games, video, and other applications. The final verdict was passed as a question: “The Xbox One is trying some very cool new things, and it's launching alongside some very fun games. But there are so many rough edges, and the software feels incomplete. Do you need to have an Xbox One?”. The answer being, “Not yet,” because these rough edges in UI, multi-tasking, and voice recognition can always be fixed with a software update.
Wired's Chris Kohler generally liked the enhancements to regular cable TV, better voice commands, and multitasking between games and video, but he had the similar complaints as Hamilton regarding the console's UI and other entertainment bells and whistles. Kohler's personal experience with the voice commands was a hit and miss affair. He didn't quite appreciate the restrictions to cable programming experienced once you hook up the set-top box to the console. “Once your TV programming is controlled by the Xbox, it’s controlled by the Xbox. There’s no passive signal — if your Xbox One is powered off, you can’t watch TV anymore,” he pointed out. Moreover, the considerable boot up time was also a concern: “Four minutes from power on to watching TV. I don’t want to watch live TV four minutes from now; I want it now”. In the end, he sums it up with a Harry Potter metaphor: “Xbox One might not do everything (yet), but it is purely additive to the experience, not subtractive. And sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s magical, sometimes it’s inept; Xbox One is the Ron Weasley of consoles”.
Engadget’s Ben Gilbert isn't comfortable calling the Xbox One a finished product yet. The review itself deems it more of a work in progress. Focusing greatly on the redesigned controller, Gilbert seems impressed by its new-fangled force feedback system courtesy of extra rumblers in the analogue triggers. The Kinect 2.0's ability to see in the dark and always listen for voice prompts was found to be both, fascinating and unnerving as well. The efficacy of the face recognition system and how it's leveraged to handle multiple users seamlessly was noted as well. However, he wasn't too enamoured by the UI and multitasking. Having said that, he still found it much better than that found in the rival PS4: “Shortcomings and oddities aside, the multitasking on Xbox One is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition”. The final words sum up the console as “a very competent game box with an expensive camera and only a few exclusive games differentiating it from the competition”, with the real worth of the console only becoming apparent in “the next 12 months”, where “exclusives like Titanfall and Quantum Break will help”.
The Verge makes no bones about which console has better launch titles. With games such as Forza Motorsport 5 and and Ryse, the Xbox One scores a point on the PlayStation 4, as far as games are concerned at the moment. The guys at Verge may not like the looks and design of the console, but the improved controller has been praised. The Kinect, voice controls, the TV integration—all of Microsoft's ambitious plans of turning the Xbox One into an entertainment hub, however, have been noted to be lacking and rife with issues in implementation. Verge doesn't deny the potential of the console, but it sums it up as a blueprint to a greater product that needs better execution and planning from Microsoft, if it is to blossom to its full potential.
All reviews can be distilled down to one unanimous observation—the Xbox One has only scratched the surface of its tremendous potential. Unlike Sony, Microsoft has aimed big for the console. It strives to go beyond just a machine that plays games, but aims to mate with your cable TV box and home theatre system to become the ultimate convergence device for all your entertainment needs. As of now, it doesn't really live up to that promise. However, as many reviewers have pointed out, the Xbox One is solid hardware wise, and all of these shortcomings are restricted to software instead. These can be fixed/incorporated with simple dashboard updates. So the general attitude towards the console is bullish. The slew of good launch titles look encouraging. If Microsoft bolsters it with a steady supply of interesting exclusive games, that could spell trouble for Sony's PS4.
Xbox One Review Roundup
What initial reviews have to say about Microsoft's latest console.
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