Xbox One, I feel like you came with an operating system that is only 2/3 finished, but I love you anyway.
The last time I made a console leap, it was from the Playstation 2 over to Xbox 360. PS2 was an amazing game machine for its time, but the graphical leap from PS2 to 360, plus the added features and reliable online play made it hard to ever go back to the older system. I feel no such leap this time around. The graphics are sure prettier, but my core needs – online MP, party chats, streaming netflix, digital downloads… all of that is also on 360. The 360 is a wonderful gaming machine, and nothing I’ve seen from the One leads me to believe I won’t still be enjoying my 360 for several THOUSAND more hours over the next 5-6 years while also enjoying the One. I’ll be a 360 gamer until they pull the plug on LIVE support for it, I reckon.
Xbox One does some awesome things. Here’s What I Love So Far:
Skype: My brother lives in Spain, and without modern technology, I’d never get to hear from him. Skype integration is awesome, because he can now play games on his PC, while I game on the One, and we can talk to each other. If using Kinect, the system dials down game audio automatically so there is no interference. My brother confirmed he could not hear any Crimson Dragon, but heard me perfectly while I used the Kinect as a mic. When I plugged in my headset, the game audio returned to normal and I heard my bro in my ear.
Kinect: When we experimented with Skype video calls, the results were everything Microsoft promised. 1080p video. It automatically focused on everyone in the room. I had 4 friends with me when I called my bro, and it followed someone when they got up and moved around the room. The voice commands work more often than not, and I’m finding it often the fastest way to get around the system. I have not spend much time with motion sensing in games, but it looked pretty damn impressive in the time I spent with Xbox Fitness.
Challenges: They may not be worth gamerscore, but I’m digging the extra achievements. If you win one, it’s a permanent extra achievement for you on the game. If you miss a challenge, it does not hurt your completion percentage. There’s no penalty for failure, which is awesome. Some even come with bonus rewards. I can see this becoming a new form of hardcore expression for a game you’re particularly passionate about. Sure, you and your friend could both had the 50 achievements for 1000 points in a game, but you could be more awesome for having 58 achievements in the game thanks to several challenge completions.
Game Recording: I can save clips of my hole-in-one shots in Powerstar Golf, edit them into a single video, save it to skydrive, and later upload to YouTube. What’s not to love?
Facial Recognition, Instant Profile access: My friend Stefan and I both had our profiles running on my Xbox One in the amount of time it took us to enter our emails and passwords. No lengthy downloads, it was all RIGHT THERE. I love being able to sit down and be greeting by “Hi Nate!” even as I turn on the controller.
OK, Now let’s talk about my launch-day issues with Xbox One.
To be clear, I love the system and am no hater, but some stuff needs to change. Given the incredible evolution Xbox 360 saw over its life, I’m optimistic much of this could come to pass.
Friend Notifications: I get that friends is its own channel with a feed, but why should I have to load that up to see who is online? I don’t want it snapped to the side just to see who is logging in. At a MINIMUM, I want to receive notifications when people I have tagged as favorites log in. Ideally, everyone could set friend notifications to favorites, all friends, or no notifications.
The Achievements Page: There is SO MUCH POTENTIAL for what this could do. The current iteration gets the minimum job done, but misses things that already exist on 360. On 360, I can see my achievement completion percentage and the number of games I’ve completed. I can select completed games and scroll through the list. This needs to come to One. I’d love to see it broken down by system too. Ideally, each system would have its own section you can scroll through, but at a minimum I’d like to see One, 360, and Other (to cover windows, WP, etc.). It would be awesome if, for at least the One, Microsoft tagged all games with a genre, and made it possible to search by genre to see how you have scored in RPGs, for example. How great would it be to see more of this date in-system and not have to rely on outside sites to dig it up?
I WANT TO TURN GAMES OFF: I get the appeal of leaving a game running while you pop over to a different app. I have used this to my benefit several times. However, if I’m streaming a 45 minute episode of Chuck on Netflix, Powerstar Golf does not need to be running in the background? This bothers me because Xbox One tallies how much time you spend in a game, and you can compare to your friends. I like to know how much time I’ve spent in the games I play, and to have them always running in the background makes it impossible to get a true sense of the time spent in each. This has resulted in my making Killer Instinct the sacrificial lamb game, that I fire up when I really intend to be doing something else. This will ruin the validity of my playtime for that one game, but will allow me to keeps the others more honest. Why not just have the option to stop the game?
Snap: Awesome in theory, more limited in application. I feel this feature benefits only those with really large TVs. I tried to snap Netflix on a 36 in TV, and that video screen was a postage stamp. That was not a fun experience at all. I don’t know if this is possible, but I’d love the option to fiddle with rations to decide how much screen real estate each app has, so I could somehow make Netflix bigger.
Those moments when Kinect is too smart for its own good: Every time I played Killer Instinct with a friend, if I handed him the controller, it switched to his profile. We didn’t want that. I could delete his , account off the xbox, or turn the kinect around (which we did), but an option to disable automatic profile swapping would be nice.
Early thoughts on Next-Gen for me:
I’m liking this as a chance to have a semi-clean slate. I still have a rotten 360 and GFWL completion percentage to try to improve while I can, but I can start from square One (see what I did there?) and keep a better completion percentage on the new system. I love not having to worry about my saves as they are stored on the HDD and backed up in the cloud. This generation looks to build on everything nice about the 360, with some added bells and whistles.
Killer Instinct: If you’re not concerned about completion, Killer Instinct is something of an achievement gold mine, for an easy 400-500 points and 40-50 achievements without much effort. With a boosting partner, it is easy to grab 18 achievements. 6 for a supreme victory online, 6 for winning against a friend, and 6 for winning against every character (one achievement of each type for all of the game’s 6 characters).
Play survival on beginner and win 10 games for another 2 achievements per character, 12 total. You’re already to 30. There are 5 pointers for winning a versus match as each character. If you don’t already have them, they can be done in offline versus on an easy AI. That’s 36.
It won’t take much more time to get to 50 fight titles with each character, this will unlock the Novice achievement for each character. You’re now at 42 achievements. Once at 50 fight titles, purchase the first color change option, which again, is an achievement per character. That’s 48 achievements. I have not timed it, but I’d bet all of that can be done in under 6-7 hours.
The real chore achievements are the ones for ranked matches (20 per character = 120 ranked wins needed), fight title counts of 150 per character, and 2000 matches per character, as those are very time consuming. BTW, I do not believe it is possible to boost ranked wins at this time. The matchmaking is random, and I doubt you’ll be able to line it up to connect with a partner. Maybe down the road if the online for this game dries up, but it’s highly unlikely this close to launch.
Powerstar Golf: I love this list, but it is absolutely a time consuming and challenging completion. Credits and XP are earned for every round, whether you succeed in a career event or not, so it’s worth sticking through even failed efforts to make some progress. Starting out, I would save and buy a few of the 16,000 credit packs to have some better early options, but after that, I recommend saving the 60k to get extreme packs, as those clubs are worth the wait.
Be accepting of failure. Even with good clubs, the gold medal challenges in career mode can be extremely challenging and can often take several attempts. This is a skill-based game!
Reiko’s Tesla ability is your ticket to the Eagle, Double Eagle, and Hole-in-One achievements, as it sucks the ball toward the hole. You have a good shot of holing out if you are good enough to get your shot close. I have two hole-in-ones so far using this ability. I have not yet got the double-eagle, but I did get within 3 inches of it, so I know it’ll work eventually.