GET YOUR GAME ON: Initial thoughts on the Xbox One

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First Posted: 1/13/2014

The new generation of consoles is here! I recently got to spend quality hands-on time with the Microsoft Xbox One. When the console was first announced and shown off, it seemed scary because Microsoft said it wouldn’t play used games, it always needed an Internet connection, and it wouldn’t work without the video camera plugged in. Because of consumer backlash, they have reversed all of the negative policies, allowing it to compete with the PS4.

The first noticeable thing is the look of the system itself; it is about the same size as the Xbox 360, but it is shaped very differently. It looks like a sleek black box with a shiny gloss finish on the front. From a distance, there looks like there are no buttons on the front; there is a touchscreen for power and a tiny eject disk button. It now has exhaust fans on the top, back, and sides, making the system run much cooler and quieter than the 360. Tucked away on the side are some USB ports that are handy for plugging in things like controllers and headsets.

The Xbox 360 has been praised for years for its controller; it hasn’t changed too much on the One, but it is better. The controller is about the same size as the 360, but the trigger buttons are at a more comfortable angle, and it feels a bit lighter. The D-pad is more like the NES, making it more responsive and better for fighting games. The analog sticks are a bit taller, and they have a recessed top so your finger doesn’t slip off.

The triggers have force feedback, meaning they rumble and push back when playing certain games. An example is “Forza 5” – the trigger buttons will push back when the brakes lock on your car. I can see game developers coming up with interesting applications with this cool new feature. There is a new home button which will take you back to the dashboard at any time, and the start button and menu buttons have been moved up so it is harder to accidentally bump them. The only issue I can see with the controller is it still runs on batteries; I had to buy a separate charging kit so I can charge the controller with a USB cable.

The handheld controller is great, but it isn’t the only way to play; the “Xbox One” comes bundled with the new generation of the Kinect Motion Control. The Kinect is what really makes the system revolutionary. Kinect 2.0 is much more advanced than the 360 version, which wasn’t that bad. Now it can be used in a smaller space, making it usable for people with small living rooms. The tracking on the motion is uncanny; it can see your skeletal structure, similar to an X-ray, making motion control very precise. It can measure heart rate and act as a blood pressure monitor for workout games. It also has an infrared sensor that measures heat and cold, and it can be used in lower light conditions.

It can even recognize people’s faces and sign in users based on their facial features for single and multiplayer use. If someone sits in front of the TV that the console recognizes, they are automatically signed, in which is very convenient. Not only is the motion control better, but there are also upgraded voice commands. You can talk to your system and it responds – command it to turn off, name a game and it starts, say “Netflix” and your account boots up. Kinect can also turn your TV into a webcam for video and voice chat with your friends using Skype very easily.

Another revolutionary feature has to do with watching your TV; you can hook your cable box right into the Xbox One and use the console to control your what you are watching. With the voice commands and using the Kinect, you can say the channel you want to watch or the show and it will appear on the screen. It works well most of the time unless a channel has a similar name to another like, ESPN and ESPN 2. A workaround is setting up channels in your favorites; it starts to recognize the names easier. It doesn’t work with your DVR, however, so you will have to keep your cable remote. It also has a whole list of apps, like Netflix, Hulu, a Blu-ray player, and many more.

But the most important thing about any system is the games! The processing power of the machine is great, making load times faster and generating some of the most incredible graphics I have seen ever onscreen. While limited, there are a couple of choice launch titles right now, including “Dead Rising 3,” “Forza 5,” and “Killer Instinct.” The rest are upscale versions of 360 games, but they still look great. The Xbox store is pretty empty right now as well; there are a few games, but there are no demos or indie games yet. They are scheduled for release soon.

Overall, the Xbox One is a pretty great system despite there not being a ton of games out for it right now. It has a hefty price tag of $600, so until there is a bigger roster of games, there isn’t a dire need to buy the system now unless you have to have the newest gadgets right this minute. It is super powerful, has ridiculously good graphics, it’s quiet, and it controls great. However, the games are limited and the motion controls aren’t for everyone. I think the system is well worth the money, but you might want to hold off until there are more games out before you make the commitment.

-Robbie Vanderveken is the digital operations specialist at The Times Leader. E-mail him at