Ah to be a kid again. I still remember being a kid, and hearing about the SNES. I still remember how excited I was back then. Tuesday’s Xbox One reveal made me wonder how things were back then, and what the path was from reveal to release. Still, a lot of things have been put into motion . I will briefly touch on the main points, and what I think of the console race for next-gen.
Let’s talk about the specs. Eight core AMD processor built on x86 architecture, GPU, 8GB of RAM, 500GB HDD, Blu-Ray drive, USB 3.0, 802.11N Wifi and Wifi direct. What does any of this really mean? The next Xbox is powerful, and will be able to compete with the PS4. The big one is the move to an x86 architecture, which will make it very similar to your average PC. This is huge for multi-platform development, as it will make it easy to make games for both PC and Xbox One, as well as the PS4, since it also runs on a x86 architecture. The Wii U though…damn. It’s gonna be hard, but don’t count them out yet. The Xbox One’s specs are impressive, just like the PS4, but the end result is that we know it is powerful enough to run the next generation of games. It even supports 4K. Good future-proofing there.
What about the looks? The Xbox One looks like a slick, home theater PC. It has a matte/glossy finish, a slot loading drive, and a non-removable HDD. It looks like they further refined the image of the slim Xbox 360. I’m good with the looks of the machine, I’m not too keen on the non-removable HDD though. This adds to the slickness of the machine, which means we will probably need external storage. That’s what the USB 3.0 ports are for, and that is enough bandwidth to support playing games from external drives. The Xbox One looks sexy, it’s something I would be proud to have showing in my living room.
The controller. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Xbox 360 is one of my favorite controllers in recent memory, so keeping it close to the same works for me. The D-pad is a more traditional cross shape, and the analog sticks have better coating and are made to provide an easier grip. The triggers are supposed to have a built-in rumble, and many people who have tried them say they feel weird. It will all be moot until I get my hands on one. It might not be a very different beast like the PS4 controller, but I’m glad that the thing that is in my hand the most while I play, the controller, is still familiar. I’m not knocking Sony for adding to their controller, I just want to keep that one piece as simple as possible.
Next we have the new and improved Kinect. HD camera, more sophisticated in every way. This is the one piece that I don’t agree with. I’m sure that Microsoft has many ways that Kinect will “enrich” the user experience, but I’m just not buying it. Plus, some of us play in very small work spaces. The desktop PC I am using to type this is hooked up to the same monitor that my Xbox 360 is inside my room. I don’t want to have to bother with finding a spot for the Kinect. I’m certain I can do it, and even if it doesn’t take too much effort, it still isn’t my thing. I dare you to play Mass Effect 3 using Kinect in a house with several roommates. They will tell you to be quiet real quick. Still, I am intrigued with it being good at noticing your movement to control characters in-game that you also use the controller. I’m not faulting them for having Kinect, I’m faulting them for putting in so much work into a piece that is paying back so little.
Now onto the software. The Xbox One is actually running three OSes at once. Yeah, start drooling you hardcore multi-operating system running geeks. A light version of Windows 8 for apps, the core “Xbox OS” for games, and a tinier OS that serves as a layer between the two. Having a version of Windows on there means features like Snap being on the Xbox One. This will lead to more apps on the Xbox One since they would be easy to port from Windows. I can honestly say I don’t care much for Windows apps on my Xbox. I use my Xbox to play games, I have several PCs for productivity, as well as a smartphone and a tablet. The only thing that has me interested is the possibilities of apps communicating with games in the core OS, for things like stat tracking, streaming, DVR, etc. Use it to enhance my gaming experience and I will cheer, use it to tell me how awesome Skype is on it and I will throw a shoe your way.
As far as games go…we got Call of Duty Ghosts. And a new EA sports engine. That’s it. I predicted something like this would happen in the last Shot O’ Games Podcast. Why? Because E3 is around the corner! It would not be wise for anyone to declare a winner or loser based on these initial console reveals, because they are usually not very well done. I’m not sure what it is about console makers, but they can’t get this piece right, and it never means that the console will fail. Remember the Wii reveal? Everyone thought Nintendo was nuts, so dumb for betting on this gimmick with nothing to really show for it. The Wii ended up being one of Nintendo’s greatest successes.
There’s still lots of questions left unanswered. How will it handle used games? Do you need to be logged on to Xbox Live all the time to play? How will one Xbox One react with multiple accounts? None of these have been fleshed out completely. Right now I’m asking you to do the hardest thing there is to do: Wait and keep an open mind. Even as a long time Xbox fan myself, I can’t tell you the Playstation 4 will be crap, or that the Wii U will fall in the presence of the mighty Xbox One. This “season” hasn’t even started, and it would be wrong for any of us to decide the champion based on friendly pre-season banter. Come on E3, get here already! We will have a deeper look at the Xbox One on the next episode of the Shot O’ Games Podcast!