Sunday, January 5, 2014

What I think about the Xbox One

I almost always kick myself for buying a console at launch (Xbox 360? Mine RRODed three times, yet I've got two old school NESes and an Atari 2600 that have had no problems whatsoever last I checked). Yet every time a new console launches I get caught up in the frenzy and buy one. And man, the games are always slim pickings in the beginning.

So, like most people, I think the PS4 is probably a better system overall. The reason I ended up going with the Xbox One, however, is simple: the launch games. I prefer Forza to Gran Turismo (which doesn't even come out for about another year) and the latest Killzone didn't look very next-gen to me. Yes, the PS4 can deliver better graphics. On the other hand, if I gave a damn about graphics (and sometimes I do) I'd just play a game on my computer.

As for the bad publicity surrounding the Kinect camera and the voice controls, I can tell you this: I was extremely surprised by how well this stuff works. I didn't imagine I'd be interested in navigating menus with my voice at all, but this stuff works 90% of the time and it works well. It sounds like small potatoes, but there is a certain thrill to being able to walk into a room with a bowl of cereal and navigate to YouTube or Netflix without having to set your food down. The motion controls, however, still leave a lot to be desired.

The size of the machine is a little awkward. The fact you can't turn it on its side is a con. Even so, I find it fairly attractive and it's not nearly as loud as my 360 was. The lack of split-screen games is tragic and kind of inexcusable, but that's hardly anything new. Seems split-screen is going bye-bye. Forza 5 can be played in couch mode, but at the expense of A.I. rivals (or Drivatars as they're called). And while it's neat being able to play Killer Instinct without actually buying the game, the "free"-to-play model infiltrating consoles is worrisome... in KI you get one fighter to start out with and if you want the rest you'll have to buy 'em (I didn't). The good news is Peggle 2 is cheap and it's one of the best puzzle games I've ever played. Players reacted negatively to the fact you can't play local multiplayer and the developers listened: a patch to add the desired mode is on the way.

As with the WiiU, the only thing that really seems next-gen about the console is the hardware itself. I can report that the new Assassin's Creed is much better than the one that launched with WiiU, but that's not saying much until I clarify it really is a fun game. Nonetheless, at this point it probably isn't worth buying it for the hardware alone. If you think this is a replacement for any of your older consoles, it isn't—not yet. But take a look back at Xbox 360 and PS3 in their earlier days: these systems evolve and they do it fairly quickly. I'm curious to see what both of the new consoles will look like in two years. By the end of these machine's lives, we'll probably have seen something truly next-gen.

Probably. Will it be as great a jump between SNES and N64? I doubt it, but let's not get all pessimistic just yet.

In closing I'll say I'm very enthusiastic about getting my hands on MGS: Ground Zeroes and a proper Halo title. For the time being, however, I do like the Xbox One more than I liked the WiiU at launch and I think it's a fairly solid buy. Be warned: the Netflix and YouTube apps are way too basic. They're useable for the most part, but I've had more trouble pairing my tablet with the Xbox One than I did with the PS3. Right now I can't even get YouTube to work.

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