Should You Buy an Xbox One?

At last! Next-gen is here. It’s been a long time coming; the swirling vortex of rumours engulfed us all for months on end. Speculation was rife right up until Sony and Microsoft yanked the curtain off of their shiny new devices earlier this year.

And now, with the PlayStation 4 finally hitting UK shores, you are presented with a big decision; do you side with Microsoft or Sony? A question that, if asked online, would no doubt cause the internet to implode into a vacuum of ravenous fanboy warfare, mum jokes included. Sack that, I’m here to help. Sort of. I may not have both consoles, but I’ve had one for a week now so have gotten use to what it’s like to live with, how it performs and what it holds for the future.

I bought an Xbox One. So sue me.

Calling the birth of this console difficult would be an understatement of colossal proportions. Microsoft have long been held as the corporate Beelzebubs of the gaming world, with Sony sitting round the corner in an angelic stance, a halo glowing above their heads. Of course, they’re both businesses that want your money; it’s just that the Seattle-based giants are far less covert with their efforts to extract pennies from your crying wallet.

If you’re reading this then I’m sure you’re already aware of the massively negative consumer feedback Microsoft received after they announced all of those wild DRM policies. You always have to be online, you can’t trade in games... yadda yadda yadda. It was dirty play, and something Sony took advantage of by delivering a double testicle knock out at this year’s E3 conference. Not only would the PS4 be a lot cheaper, it wouldn’t have any of this DRM nonsense. Cue wild screams of joy from the audience. Well played, Sony.

Fast forward to November and the next-gen landscape is a lot different. Microsoft reversed all of those DRM policies and the Xbox One became a viable option for once, even if you do have to pay an extra £80.00 on what you would fork out for the Japanese alternative.

In truth, I was always going to buy one. I’ve been an Xboxer my whole gaming ‘career’ and wasn’t about to jump ship. And I’m glad I stayed aboard because the Xbox One is a wonderful machine that, whilst still being a little clumsy, reeks of potential. If you buy one, your entertainment is sorted for the next decade. 

Invest. Trust me.

Now, I’m not here to slate the PlayStation 4 by any means, nor am I here to discuss the deep technicalities of the console. Frankly, I know more about embroidery than I do about specs. What I’m here to do is tell you what the Xbox One is actually like in the real world, away from all of those PR-spinning videos and hollow claims of company execs. What is the console like at home?

The biggest aspect, or at least the most talked about, is the inclusion of voice commands to navigate your way through the system. Now, voice recognition technology has never been great and I’m sure most people would prefer to use the controller to dart around the various screens. But it’s with an enormous smile on my face that I can announce that these commands actually work. Like, for real, man. They’re as slick and smooth as Microsoft made them out to be. All 51 result in instantaneous action from the ominous black box that’s staring at you which, by the way, remains as quiet as a mouse in slippers at all times.

At first you may feel like a jerk sat having a conversation with a bloody machine, but after a while it’ll all start coming to you naturally. I was hesitant at first, but now I don’t think I’ll ever use the controller again, unless it’s necessary. I walk into my room and say “Xbox, on” and it bursts into life very quickly, having you signed in and on the home screen in about thirteen seconds. Impressive. You have to enable this feature though; it’s buried in the system settings page. Otherwise you have to turn on the console with the button (boring) and it takes a lot longer to boot up in this mode.

This is all made possible with the new Kinect; an incredibly smart device that is capable of recognising your face (so it can sign you in without prompting) and even knows when you’ve left your controller for a significant period of time, shutting it off to save battery life. It’ll even notice your buddies if they sign in to your console; your mates will be able to access their own personalised dashboard by saying “Xbox, go home”. And once you’re back on the home screen you can say “Xbox, go to...” and say the name of your app or game and it’ll head back there in a flash, exactly where you left off. It’s brilliant, and using these commands is much faster way of getting from place to place.

Occasionally you have to utter the phrase more than once, but that’s not the machine’s fault. It’s yours. You just haven’t said it clearly enough. The pause after “Xbox” is the most important thing. If you babble some incoherent command it’s just gonna stare blankly at you, as if you’d asked it to hack into the national bank of Lichtenstein.

Microsoft’s vision was to make this an all-in-one entertainment system, and that’s exactly what it is. Whilst I haven’t had chance to try out the television, film or music features yet, they’re definitely there and ready to go, as is the whole internet for you to peruse at your leisure. And if you’ve hooked it up to you cable box you can instantly swap playing a game for watching Kim Kardashian eat cereal with the “Xbox, go to TV” command. Hell, if your box is linked up the Xbox will even turn your TV on for you when you ask it to turn on. Nice!

In short, it’s everything Microsoft promised.

Whilst not being as game-focused as its biggest rival, it doesn’t ignore them with Xbox Live still being the great service it always was, even if I still haven’t been able to use party chat over a week after my console arrived. That definitely sucks, but hey... just use the awesome Skype app! “Xbox, call...” say name and you’re chatting within seconds.

The real world may reject the console for being too big. It is definitely more sizeable than the PS4 so finding somewhere convenient to put it, along with the Kinect camera, may prove to be tricky. That’s not a problem I faced, but I thought I’d warn you regardless – it’s a lot bigger than the Xbox 360, and does look a bit like a VHS player. Make room.

Other than that, and the reports that some consoles are broken in the box, you don’t have much to worry about. Mastering the voice commands and navigation of the strangely bleak settings interface are the only things you have to do. It’s still very similar to the Xbox 360. You won’t get into too much trouble.

This is a powerful machine; the games on offer are already glorious-looking, so who knows what quality awaits us in the coming years. I’m excited to find out about them, as well as the new directions Microsoft will take the console in. This is a machine that is built for the future. Come and join the fun.

Words by Matt Gammond