Bliss tempered by skepticism. That about sums up my experience of Xbox One, Microsoft’s latest iteration of the video game console.
For starters, Xbox One and its prior incarnation, Xbox 360, and are very different animals. They use the same terminology, but the former is a gaming platform that moonlights as a multimedia player; the latter is a glorified mobile phone operating system on a desktop PC (that you can’t even use as a tower because it only operates horizontally).
For those who own the 360 and are considering an upgrade (or for the uninitiated who can discriminate between the 360 and, say, a Sony Playstation 4), here are some of the major differences:
•While limited vaguely in service, the 360 is just as comfortable working offline as on. Game updates and streaming services require Internet access, but you could have lived your entire gaming life without signing up for an Xbox account. The One demands high speed and unfailingly dependable Internet access to load vital program data and updates.
•While the 360 comes with prepackaged software and functionality—attainable via tabs you cycle through with your wireless game controller—the One comes with next to no services installed beyond the most basic apps. Yes, apps, just like your cell phone, and everything else must be downloaded.
•Turn on the 360 for the first time and you are treated to a half hour of setup—maybe more if your system or Internet provider is updating. The entire first day of your One ownership will be sacrificed to the Microsoft gods, because that is how long it is going to take to update the system and then download all the apps you are used to having, like Blu-ray, CD audio, streaming TV services like Netflix or Amazon video, and, if you bought the bundle, whatever game came with your system. Yep, that game is probably a download that will take the better part of six hours.
•The 360 demands your focused attention on one thing. If you are watching Netflix, you are not playing a game or checking out a website or trying to talk to Aunt Sally in Idaho on your Skype account.
The One has a digital version of ADHD. You can play a video game, and then add a pinned skinny version of another app on the side panel of your screen, and it can also run two apps simultaneously, and the real trick is figuring out what is going on.
•The 360 Kinect is a bit of an albatross. Some games relied on it exclusively, but the vast majority of services on the system did not need it to function. The One Kinect, while no longer vital to its functionality—a change made prior to its commercial release—still touts the voice and gesture recognition software as a core facet of its design.
The One without voice commands is like being served vanilla ice cream without sprinkles, then having the sprinkles pelted at you, while being told, “Have some sprinkles! If only you had sprinkles you’d be enjoying that ice cream!”
•At a certain point you realize all of these game systems are trying to sell you stuff. They’re all like having the infomercial guys right in your living room. The One is no different, except it will rarely allow you to upgrade things you already own from the 360. No games are transferred—not even those you bought online and downloaded directly onto your old system. (A rare exception is EA Games and Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall, which was recently offered on the 360 with a free future upgrade to the One).
•Both the 360 and the One have enough glitches to ruin your fun faster than your parents on prom night. Sudden mysterious freezes. Internet lag. Games shutting down inexplicably. The system needing a reboot.
So, the One is at least a worthy successor to the Xbox franchise—if “worthy” is the right word. Suffice it to say, this crabapple didn’t fall very far from the Microsoft tree.
Adrian Miller is a Field Service Technician with extensive electro-mechanical training and experience. He is the Zenith’s web and graphic designer.