Even though the experience can be wondrous, it’s hard to talk definitively about the wonders of the Xbox One. That’s because Xbox One is still a work in progress.
Watch Game and TV: 7.5
Update Time: 6.0
Overall Score: 7.7
Pros: Kinect that’s much improved; play games and watch TV simultaneously; better graphics.
Cons: Kinect’s voice commands can be iffy; long initial system download; needs more exclusive games.
Updates are being downloaded for the system even as I write. On Twitter, some people are complaining that the update takes hours to load.
So, should you buy it now or wait until they iron things out?
Let’s take a look.
When you open the box and lift out the console, you’ll notice it’s a big, heavy system. It’s the largest console of the five I have under my TV right now.
The Xbox One has 8 gigabytes of ram and a 1.75 gigahertz processor. What’s that mean? It all translates to much improved graphics and better software that lets you upload your game play to social media sites.
But it has a brick-like adaptor from which thick cables emanate. The adaptor’s cables are so fat, I don’t think a New York City rat could eat through them. I wish they were more pliable.
When you get Xbox One connected to your WiFi, expect a software update to come down the pike. Maybe watch some TV or do your homework while this happens because it’ll take an hour — at least. You can’t play games until you do this.
PLAY GAMES AND WATCH TV
If you’re a multi-tasker, you’ll like Xbox One. When you connect it to your cable box, you can play a game and watch, say, NFL football at the same time. Or you can Skype. Or you can have Netflix on.
In other words, Xbox One’s made for people who like to do two things at once.
It’d be awesome if it was, but it’s not a replacement for your cable box. At its best, it’s an addition that helps to refine watching TV with voice commands and a better online channel guide.
At its worst, it complicates matters. When Kinect doesn’t work, you’re forced to go to the Xbox controller, or even the remote and the cable box to, say, change a channel.
THE NEW KINECT
The latest version of Kinect, which comes packed into the $500 system, is quite good — when it works. I don’t have to shout to launch the system. I can just say, “Xbox. On.”
If it’s in its suspend state, it’ll power up in mere seconds. This not-really-off state takes about 15 to 20 watts of power. That’s close to the smallest lamp light bulb.
And I can get much closer to Kinect to make gesture commands that power games and start, say, Netflix. That wasn’t possible with the first model.
For me, Kinect works really well when I’m feeding an apple to, say, a very life-like giraffe in Zoo Tycoon. That’s just an awesome experience. But then, the demo of Kinect Sports Rivals I downloaded from Xbox Live didn’t work for days. Finally, it worked with a water racing game.
The system wants to put pretty much all of each game disk onto its 500 gigabyte hard drive. But the cool thing? You can begin playing, say, the Forza 5 racing game, when it’s only about 20 percent loaded. And no, the loading doesn’t slow game play.
THE LATEST CONTROLLER
The Xbox One controller is better, if heavier, especially because the motors inside rumble in many ways.
So when you put the pedal to the metal in a racing game, the trigger you use to accelerate vibrates. It’s a small thing, but it’s helpful. But you can’t charge the batteries from inside the controller unless you buy an upgraded battery pack for $25 more.
As I mentioned, I don’t like the long download time and the early glitches in the system (like when Kinect doesn’t understand me).
What I really don’t like about Xbox One (and I said the same for the PS4) is that you can’t play your Xbox 360 games on it because it’s not backwards compatible.
The Wii U, which is low tech compared to these new systems, is the only new box that does let you play old Wii games. That’s a bonus.
BUY OR NOT?
Don’t buy Xbox One immediately. Wait until Microsoft fixes everything. That’ll happen by Christmas and the holidays. Microsoft is a good company full of hardworking people. But they have to work a lot harder right now to get things right.
THE BETTER XBOX ONE GAMES
Zoo Tycoon (Microsoft): This zoo simulation is the best of all of Microsoft’s launch titles. The animals look so real, if a little smiley. And you can feed a banana to an elephant using Kinect. As he moves his giant head down to your hand, the feeling is real and awe-inspiring.
Forza 5 (Microsoft): I like this racing game a lot, even though it’s a game for cheaters. That’s because when you crash, you’re allowed to turn back time to before the accident and start again. The beautiful cars (so many!) and environments are bonuses, too. So is the music that complements play.
Need For Speed Rivals (Electronic Arts): Unlike the simulation that is Forza 5, Rivals is arcade-like. The bonuses? Two. The wide open world lets you speed anywhere for the finest thrills. And, it looks amazing on the new system.