It won’t go on sale until midnight tomorrow in the UK but the first reviews of Microsoft’s Xbox One have come in and, as you’d expect, there’s good news and there’s bad news.
As with the PS4 there’s a general feeling that the Xbox One has got everything right, but not everything perfect. There’s still a lot of development that needs to be done – especially when it comes to voice commands and the integration of TV.
Over at Kotaku, Kirk Hamilton says the console is “a testament to Microsoft’s towering ambition” but that there are plenty of problems with the UI (voice commands are occasionally buggy for example, and there’s a tendency to punish ‘unusual’ home entertainment set-ups). However, he also notes that a lot of this can be dealt with in software updates and that the core concepts behind the system are sound.
Engadget’s Ben Gilbert takes a similar tact, calling the Xbox One a “work in progress”. Like Hamilton he praises the Kinect 2.0’s “impressive” capacity for face recognition, signing in users automatically “without fail”, but also draws attentions to flaws such as the “crippled usability” of the Snap function – a feature which pops apps into a restricted slice of the screen on the right hand side.
And Microsoft’s ambitions to take over the TV have clear problems too. Wired’s Chris Kohler points out that although being able to switch between TV and gaming quickly is a boon, once the Xbox One controls your TV, it controls your TV – and this can mean moments when you charge into your sitting room to catch your favourite show and are stuck waiting minutes because of an unexpected update.
Despite these consistent grumbles, much about the Xbox One received has received unanimous praise. The new controller hasn’t messed with perfection (though the replacement of the Start and Select buttons with ‘Menu’ and ‘View’ is apparently odd) and the social features (sharing video, built in HD Skype, etc) are as good as, or better than those found on the 360.
When it comes to games, the general feeling is that the Xbox One has stolen a march on the PS4, with most of the big titles (Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed IV, various sports titles) appearing on both consoles, but with Microsoft’s exclusives giving it the edge.
The Verge has called Forza 5 and Ryse “true cinematic spectacles” that “really look next-gen,” whilst also praising the graphical capacity showed off by the massive zombie hordes of Dead Rising 3. Zoo Tycoon also seems to be an unexpected hit, with reviewers describing it as an unexpected bit of light-hearted fun.
So, to summarize this summary: the Xbox One is good. It’s more than good – but it’s not great yet, that’ll take time. However, this is to be expected really: both the Xbox One and the PS4 will be staying underneath customers’ TVs for eight to ten years. Neither are simple prospects and both will be keeping fans’ waiting for their ‘true’ form. At least till then we’ll have the games.