Alright, so about 1.5 months ago I gave in and bought the Xbox One. It has nothing to do with fanboyism or anything silly like that. I bought the one that had the most appealing games to me at the time. I will get the PS4 later on when the time is right. Honestly, I was at a friend's house and played Killer Instinct on his machine. I fell in love immediately and purchased the game so that I could play with all the characters. Shortly afterwards I bought the system.
I've had the opportunity to play Forza 5, Dead Rising 3, Killer Instinct and Halo: Spartan Assault thoroughly. I've also spent a very small amount of time with the Titanfall Beta, Crimson Dragon and will be picking up Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare tomorrow. I've also had the opportunity to play with various functions on the system. Now that I've had the time to let my everything sink in, I think it's about time I tell you guys what I think of the system as a whole. I'll try to make this as comprehensive as possible.
First let's talk about the design of the system. In pictures, I was actually very underwhelmed with the design. Granted, as long as it's fun I don't really care (the Xbox design was horrendous in my opinion...but I LOVE the system)...but it will likely be seen and this is important to some. I will say, having it in front of me, it actually looks kind of neat and snug due to the square design. It has some nicely placed design quirks like the half side ventilation, the unobtrusive in-line disc port and the simple shift in design halfway through (kind of reminds me of a jester or Two-Face). Honestly, it actually looks nice and simple. The black choice is also nice because it matches with all my of devices (Wii U, PS2, PS3, PC and even my mouse/keyboard/monitor/webcam). One problem I do have with it is that half of the surface of the system has a glossy finish, which means the moment I pulled it out of the box, it was scratched. Interestingly, the other half is a matte finish, so it has stayed looking nice. Only parts of the system that stay in visual range have that half and half design...the rest is matte. The Kinect suffers (and benefits) from the same design. It has a nice, simple and rectangular look to it. The whole front of the sensor is covered in the transparent plastic that covers the lens, so the whole thing is magnetic to scratches (the part you see most at least). Luckily, the only part of the sensor I really touch is the top, so the top edge that has that same plastic is the only part I've noticed with scratches. The rest of the device is matte like the console. There is a long bar on the bottom of the sensor, which is the mic. Honestly, it looks like part of a stand, so it blends seamlessly into the Kinect as a whole.
The console was simple enough to hook up. Plug in the power. Plug in the provided HDMI cable into my TV. Plug in my Kinect into the system. Done. I will warn you ahead of time, the system DOES NOT stand up. It actually disables booting the system if it detects it is standing up, so it has to be laid on its side. Apparently standing a system up is very very bad so they just got rid of the idea completely with the new console. You know what's funny? My Wii, Wii U, PS2, PS3 and 360 all stand upright. You know how many problems I've had with these consoles? ZERO. You know how long I've had them? Since launch (except PS3...which I got a month before they announced the first slim model). You know how many ring scratches I've had? ONE. So I refuse to believe this is bad for the system. More likely they don't trust users because of how negligent people can be, so they decided to drop the idea. The good is that you don't even have to worry about the system falling anymore...it's not an option. The bad thing is that it takes up a lot of shelf space. I had to relocate all my upright systems and remove my PS2 from my shelf because of the space this system takes up when sitting on its side. Now remember, the X1 and Kinect are both quite powerful. As a result, both will actually heat up. Not alarmingly hot, but definitely slightly warmer than the 360. Honestly it gets about as warm as my PC, which is acceptable for me...but may be disconcerting to non-PC users.
The first time you boot up the system, it takes you through a quick walkthrough and setup in order to get you started. It's nice, simple and clean. The first thing I noticed was that the Kinect doesn't move. This concerns me. I realize that it has a wider range of vision, but still...what happens when I'm playing Kinect Sports or something that involves movement? Functionally I've actually had a much easier time using it in my small room than the older Kinect, so my fears are clearly unfair...but they are there nonetheless. Back to the console. The dashboard interface very much resembles that of Windows 8. Either you love it or you hate it. I personally hate it. I find it convoluted, confusing and unintuitive. I find it counterproductive and can't figure it out for the life of me...with tutorials and all. Luckily, there are some useful features that make the system easier to navigate. First, the most recent apps you've used are displayed on the bottom row of your Home screen. Second, you can 'pin' apps like Windows 8. Your pinned apps will appear to the left of the home screen. So apps that you want to have easy access to can merely be pinned (I have six on mine, and it's really nice to have it there). Third, and most definitely the most effective method: voice commands. There are only two times I have had some trouble with voice commands: in REALLY LOUD environments and when I'm in a party chat. Loud environments are a much bigger pain than when in a chat. In every other instance, the voice commands have worked flawlessly. All I need to do is say "Xbox, Go to Killer Instinct" and no matter where I am on the console, it will put my current app on standby and open up Killer Instinct. Interestingly, the system is capable of putting multiple apps (haven't tested the limit yet) and one game on standby simultaneously. So I can be watching Netflix, then I can switch to my game, then I can switch to Internet Explorer seamlessly and without losing what I'm doing. It multi-tasks like a computer, and it is VERY convenient. Now that the 3DS and Wii U have spoiled me with the ability to go back and forth between certain apps and my game...it would have been difficult to adapt to an environment that doesn't do this. I'm very happy with this feature. The system also loads as fast or faster than my high-end PC, and manages to keep up with whatever tasks I'm doing. I've not noticed any UI lag, any games or apps slowing down. Like I said, this has impressed me. This comes with a downside though. You will inadvertently switch between apps without closing them. When you DO close an app, it automatically tries to open your last active app. This can be frustrating when you are trying to do actions such as creating parties.
Speaking of parties, the system is clunky, broken, idiotic and backward. Considering how brilliant the system was on the Xbox 360, it is strange how terrible it is on the new system. Most games I've played don't have a proper 'invite friend' action...so instead I have to force players to be in a party with me. What if I want to play a game but I want to be in a party chat with somebody else? Can't do it. Granted, the party chat itself works well, and the Kinect works better than any of the mics I've owned on my 360 and also better than the mic included with the system. It's amazing how well the noise cancellation and voice detection works on that device. I've resorted to using my X1 to Skype when friends when I'm on my PC, to free up resources on my PC (all my stuff is on my desk). I'm so impressed with the Kinect's voice functions that I've found myself saying 'thank you' to it on occasion...which is silly. I almost exclusively navigate with my voice when on my console, and I love it completely. Unfortunately, I don't feel like the Kinect sensor itself is very well done. It could just be that I have a defective Kinect, and I really should call to verify, but I have not once been able to use motion commands like on my 360. It doesn't even show a hand no matter where I'm sitting or standing. When I moved the X1 to the living room briefly it would randomly show my hand but I couldn't do anything because it would stutter and be brief. What really weirds me out is that it NEVER has any trouble detecting me as an individual. That's another neat feature of the console. You can associate your physical parameters with your Gamertag so that when you sit in front of the Kinect, it signs you in. It works perfectly for me (even in the dark, thanks to infrared), which means the whole console can be used without a controller if needed. Why can't I do any motions then? I'll investigate an report back if it is merely a hardware defect. Everything on the console can be accessed and used with voice commands, though. You can even turn the system on and off with your voice! This leads to another problem and benefit.
Always on. The system is in a state of perpetual power. This is good because this means it can do downloads, and it functions in a deep sleep. This means that it will start up almost instantaneously. On the other hand, this means the system never turns off. The system has supposedly gone through multiple stress tests and simulations to assure the system can operate under these conditions, and there has been nothing to indicate otherwise yet. To be fair though, the console has not been out too long in order to gather any relevant data on possible negative repercussions. The bad? The power brick is freaking loud. Interestingly, the console itself is actually relatively quiet when it's on. When it's in deep sleep, you can sometimes hear the fan (VERY quiet), but that's only because I sit almost right next to the console. The power brick, on the other hand, is REALLY loud when the system is in deep sleep. I'm not sure why this is, and this is something else I need to investigate. At first it really messed with my ability to sleep, but I've learned to block it out as white noise at this point. It's kind of strange because I've never had a power brick with such a loud fan in it. At least I don't have overheats or malfunctions though, so whatever is going on, it is assuring optimal functionality out of my console.
Now say you DO decide to navigate with a controller, you still have options. Assuming you aren't in a game, you can actually fully navigate the system and it's apps using the new and improved Smart Glass for smart phones. It is simple to use, and provides a nice alternative when you want to control with a device but don't really want to pick up the controller. Who doesn't always have their phone with them, right? Unfortunately, I've only seen one game that actually uses the advanced features of the Smart Glass (Dead Rising 3)...so I'm not sure of it's full potential. This use is actually VERY cool, but it's still only one out of all the games I've played so far. The controller itself is near perfection. At first it doesn't look very different from the 360 controller. The moment you pick it up and use it, all the subtle changes start to show. The controller has a slight ergonomic improvement, which has proven much less painful to hold over long sessions than the 360 controller. There is no battery bulge, which feels much nicer on the hands. The control sticks feel much more responsive, and have a much smaller dead zone. The bumpy edge coupled with the ring around the perimeter and the slightly concave design make the stick very easy to use, and very difficult to slide your finger off of. The buttons feel essentially the same, which is a good thing. The D-pad picks up after Nintendo in it's design choice...and it works GREAT. I've spent countless hours on Killer Instinct using the D-pad, and I feel no need to get a fight stick or special controller like I did with the 360...because it just feels right. The shoulder buttons feel responsive, and the design of the triggers feel slightly looser than the 360, but effectively feel more responsive. The addition of trigger force feedback adds a very nice sense of immersion and reactive interaction. It's a minor, but VERY welcome addition. The headset port uses a proprietary slot again, but this time without a space for 3.5mm for non-proprietary headsets. This means you have to dish out extra money for an adapter. This is a terribly greedy move and is a bit disappointing, especially since the provided headset is much worse than the default 360 headset. It feels worse, it works worse, it's uncomfortable and it feels more flimsy. Anyway, the controller also has a built in infrared sensor that can interact with the Kinect. This means it has motion capability like the Wii Remote. The only use I've seen of this is in Dead Rising 3, where you need to shake the controller to throw off zombies that are attached to you, so I have yet to see some more intensive and creative use of the feature. This is another welcome feature though, because between the Wii, Wii U, 3DS and PS3...moving my controller to do actions in some games merely comes natural at this point in gaming. Unfortunately, the top section of the controller where the Home button is is covered in this transparent plastic, which was also scratched the moment I first held the controller. It functions without a problem, but it's unfortunate, because I like to keep my controllers looking nice.
As far as games are concerned, I've been happy so far. You can read reviews on the games I've played and finished so far in the review section of my page here on GameSpot. I will mention this though, I've not been particularly impressed with the visuals so far. I've seen some nice processer tricks. Dead Rising 3 can display thousands of zombies on the screen at once with almost never any slow down. That's impressive, but the game look somewhere between a 360 and what the X1 should look like in visual quality. I have PC games that are older that look better. Another example of some very clever computing power (thank you cloud computing!) is with Forza 5. Thanks to cloud computing, the game is able to gather data about players in the world and implement their play styles into AI racers, so that your AI opponents can adapt over time as you continue to play the game. It's quite a special thing, even if most drivers tend to be overly aggressive, which in turn leads to lots of crashes. This isn't an issue with the feature though, this is a problem with the human tendency to be jerks. A last example is in Killer Instinct. The game looks decent, don't get me wrong, but it certainly doesn't look 'next-gen'. Not until you start seeing particles, at least. The particle effects show off some very impressive physics calculations, which are very likely taking advantage of the cloud computing feature as well. I know there is a huge war out there about the 720p issue of the X1 and how it just can't quite handle games the same way the PS4 can. This could very likely be true, I mean even the 360 was inferior to the PS3 technologically, but the 360 certainly was no slouch. The X1 seems to be vastly inferior in comparison at launch...and this can be disconcerting. My theories revolve around the ineffective use of cloud computing and the infrastructure of the components of the console. I mean, look at the PS3, it wasn't until the last half of its life that it started to produce games that blew the 360 out of the water. While the X1 will be unable to attain this goal due to its inferior hardware, it will certainly improve over the next few years, mark my words.
The final feature I'd like to mention is the pass-through feature. I can connect almost any device into my X1 with an HDMI cable, and play it through my X1. This means I can also be in a party chat on my X1 while playing said game, I can open compatible apps in snap mode (side-by-side...essentially PiP) while playing or watching other devices. It has been confirmed that there is a slight lag when using the pass-through, but they assured us that it is negligible to the human perception. I can confirm this. I've tried playing Xbox and 360 games using my Xbox 360 through my X1, and I didn't notice anything. In fact, I made sure to play games that require quick reflexes and precision to test it properly (Halo 4 and Mortal Kombat, to be precise). I didn't notice any issues with visuals or audio with these systems or my PS3. I haven't tried a cable box or anything like that, but the input/output lag and required precision is much lower when viewing movies and shows, so I suspect it wouldn't have an issue. I DID have an issue with my Wii U though. This has nothing to do with a deficiency of the X1, it merely has to do with the impressive way that the Wii U has practically 0 lag even though it is doing output to a TV AND wireless streaming to the gamepad. As a result, there was a noticeable .5 second audio/video AND input lag. Granted, I didn't test the system with just the Pro Controller...which I suspect may alleviate the issue...but that is irrelevant since the Gamepad is one of the main features of the console. So don't expect to play your Wii U through your X1 unfortunately. I haven't tried doing Wii Mode either, which I suspect should work fine. I will try this later and report on it. Finally, I never noticed any audio or visual degradation when using the pass-through. Keep in mind, I have a 24" 60Hz 1080p monitor and a decent 5.1 audio system...so I would definitely notice (especially aurally).
In conclusion, the X1 has a lot in common with the WiiU. It may not have the technologically beastly abilities of the PS4, but for what it lacks in power, it more than makes up for in features. It has a lot of really great features that promise a very fun and creative future. It is also very entertainment friendly, which is something the PS4 doesn't quite accomplish in the same way. Don't get me wrong, the PS4 is amazing in its own way, but it will never do what the X1 does...and that makes the X1 very special. Overall, I'd have to give the system a solid B. There can and will be improvements to features and the OS...but as it stands, these issues can take away from some of the experience, and must be taken into account. As a gamer though, whatever choice you make (whether it be the Wii U, X1 or PS4), you will be in for a very special and memorable experience. It's a good time to be a gamer.