Xbox One: First Week Impressions

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I’ve had my first full week with Microsoft’s entry into this “Next-Gen” fracas, and I thought it worthwhile to follow Scott’s example and give you fine folks and idea of what to expect if you’re picking an Xbox One up this holiday season.



The Xbox One is a BIG system. It’s larger and heavier than the 360; you could closely compare it to the original Xbox and not be far off. The surfaces are sleek, but I don’t know if I would call the system “visually appealing.” There is a VERY large vent on the top of the console, and Microsoft has already been very clear that the system is not designed to stand upright. There isn’t a disc tray, but a slot that you feed games and movies into, much like the PlayStation 3.

The console still requires a large “power brick,” which facilitates additional cooling and acts as an extra surge-protector. Anyone who has a 360 is familiar with this setup, and will need to find a place for the brick where there’s plenty of air-flow. In my case, I found that the cord that runs from the socket into the power brick doesn’t stay seated very well, and it repeatedly came disconnected as I tried to arrange everything.

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The Kinect 2.0 is also larger than its predecessor, but is also more stable, and I don’t think I’ll need a mount like I did last time. The front of the Kinect contains multiple sensors in addition to the camera, and the packaging makes it clear that you should NOT place your hands on that service. The USB connection has been changed to a proprietary plug, and this has removed the need for a separate Kinect power cord.

The controller feels very familiar for anyone who has been an Xbox / 360 gamer, though there are a few minor tweaks to the buttons and triggers. The battery section no longer bulges out, and wired play can be achieved via a standard micro-USB cable, but I was disappointed to find that on is not included. The headset now has a more secure connection, and the Mute / Volume buttons are now on the connection port instead of the wire. My friends and I have found that the mic sounds oddly hollow, but it picks up speech well.

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The biggest addition in terms of input / output is an HDMI in which is designed with the TV app in mind. Assuming you have a compatible cable box with HDMI output, you can run it directly into the Xbox One, and then run the One into your television. The One includes a moderate-quality HDMI cable, so if you’re already using HDMI for your cable box, you won’t have to purchase an additional cord.

I’d estimate my physical set-up time at around twenty minutes, all told.


Xbox One Home Fake

When you first boot the system up, it has to be connected to the internet and download a rather hefty update; Microsoft has already admitted that the system is non-functional without these files. You’re then prompted to sign in to Live, or create a Live profile, at either the Silver or Gold level.

On a quick side note, I have yet to discover a way to create a profile that is not Live enabled; the very first thing it asks for when you go to create a new profile is an e-mail address. I found this frustrating, as it eliminates the ease of having profiles for friends or family who only occasionally use the system.

Once you are signed in, the Kinect camera will ask you to identify yourself. The Kinect 2.0’s camera is wide-angle, and picks up people more readily than the original, with fewer requirements for area and lighting. From that point forward, the idea is that the Kinect will recognize and sign-in anyone it has information for; so far, it has recognized me every time, and can pick me out with other people around.

The system then has you do a sound-levels check for use of the voice commands; considering how heavily Microsoft has pushed this feature, I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised, though, when my initial levels – already set higher than I usually use – were deemed “too quiet” for an accurate test. I cranked it up to 11, so to speak, and the system played a brief series of notes. So far, the levels seem to be set correctly, as the device easily recognizes my voice even while watching and playing.

The biggest drawback to the voice commands is that the system likes to replace menu choices / file names / app titles with “Item 1,” etc. I understand that this simplifies what commands the Kinect has to recognize, but the end result is that I often cannot tell what “Item 4” corresponds to, forcing me to abandon the voice commands. There is also a forced delay between certain commands; for instance, I can’t just say “Xbox, fast-forward,” but have to say “Xbox, pause” and then wait for the fast-forward and rewind prompts to appear.

Interestingly enough, my biggest complaint about the new Kinect is the motion controls – at least in the menus – which are the entire reason the sensor was created. I have to consciously reach forward to get it to recognize my hands, except for random times it decides me taking a drink is reason enough to rewind a movie, or skip tracks on an album. I haven’t found a way to disable motion controls while leaving voice commands, but I would happily implement such options.

The One’s dashboard isn’t too different from that of the 360, though it is currently rather sparse, all things considered. The only “pages” you can select are Home in the center, Pins to the left, and Store to the right. Home shows your profile, current app, and recent activity; Pins is all apps you have asked the system to put there under your profile; Store takes you to the entire Marketplace, with games, apps, video, music, et al kind of jammed in there. That image at the top of this section – which shows the interface as it’s been advertised – is essentially a big lie. This image below is an accurate portrayal.

Xbox One Home

I have found it somewhat complicated to navigate the various menu, options, settings, etc. A lot of things are now accessed by using the buttons that replaced “Start” and “Back,” but the console doesn’t give you any real indication of that. Once you do get deep enough into the nested menus, you may find some of the options a bit lacking. For instance, there is now no breakdown of how your memory is being used, or how much life your controller’s battery has left, or what the exact A/V settings being used are.

Xbox Live

As previously stated, all profiles are now expected to be Live profiles, which is probably because you can’t do jack shit without being signed in. Apps, pins, and even some of the more basic settings are tied to whatever profile is currently active. The system tries to make up for this with the Kinect recognition software, which I’ve admittedly not had issue with, though I have to use a controller still. This is because I’ve once again opted to have the console require a series of button presses – six this time, as opposed to four on the 360 – before my profile can be signed in on any console.

I was anticipating a portion of setup time dedicated to signing back into Netflix, Hulu Plus, Skype, and the like, but my One automatically pulled up my user info for the first two. I assume it had that info from the 360 version of the accounts, since my e-mail on those is different from my Live ID; with Skype, it asked me if I wanted to use my Live ID’s address, then prompted for the password, which I had forgotten. I then clicked the “Forgot Password” link, and was taken into the Internet Explorer app to reset it. All-in-all, it was a relatively painless process.

Xbox One Skype

Of course, no matter what Microsoft says, the main focus of Xbox Live is connecting with friends to chat and play games. To that end, the Xbox One kind of sucks, and sucks a good deal more than its predecessor. The Profile/ Friends app on the Home screen takes you to your “News Feed” and “Favorites,” the second of which allows you to see if select friends are online. Because otherwise, you still have to click another tab labeled “Friends” to see who is actually online. See the issue here?

Even better, though, was when I saw that a friend in my favorites was online playing Dead Rising 3, so I shot him a party invite. By that, I mean I opened up the Friends tab, then his profile, the selected the invite option. Because having “Invite to Party” assigned to a single button for the past five years was apparently too difficult to emulate.

It turned out to be useless, since the One does a terrible job of letting you know that you have a party invite, and an even worse job of tracking it down to accept it. Then once you’re in a party, you actually have to stop what you’re doing, and go through nested menus to tell the system to put you in party chat. That’s right, party chat is not the default, and must be manually enabled, even if you’re the player who started the party.

Xbox One Friends

The best part? After waiting a few minutes and figuring he just hadn’t gotten the notification, I called him to see if he wanted to play. He didn’t, mainly because he had been asleep for two hours, with his console powered down. You see, it turns out that your favorites section isn’t exactly up-to-the-minute about who is and isn’t online. In fact, the only way to currently be 100% sure of who is and isn’t online is to select the second “Friends” tab and let it think for a second before it gives you an answer. I’m not kidding; the other day, the Home page said I had seven friends online, and so did the Profile / Friends app when I opened it; when I opened the second tab, though, I watched as over the course of about thirty seconds it realized there were only two friends present.

As far as playing games online, we have found both Dead Rising 3 and Need for Speed: Rivals to have exceptional online play, hidden beneath several layers of absolutely awful interface. The biggest issue on hand is a doozy if you’re a long-time Live user: Currently, there is no way to send or receive invites outside of a game. This means you have to rely upon the games’ internal systems, and neither title mentioned is exceptional in this regard.

In Rivals, we found a way for one person to host and another to join, but no way for the host to invite the other players directly. Dead Rising, meanwhile, will only let you send invites if you are in a party; this invite is the automatically accepted, regardless of what the second player might be doing in their game, although it now seems that they have to be waiting in the main menu for it to work.

I will say that these issues only arise when trying to play with a specific friend (DR3) or group of friends (NFS), while general matchmaking seems to work better. Need for Speed simply drops you into an open server with up to five other active players if you want, and the game experience is identical, just with more people. Dead Rising asks you what kind of play-style you’re looking for, and then either lets you host or join accordingly.



First things first: Dead Rising 3 and Need for Speed: Rivals are fun, if you like Dead Rising and Need for Speed games. I was always frustrated by the first DR, and never even played the second one, but positive reviews – some of which mentioned vast improvements over the previous titles – and the promise of co-op paired lured me in. It still has some flaws, and retains a few nuances that might put some people off, but it lets me duct-tape a car battery to a sledgehammer and hit zombies with it. Need for Speed involves driving cars very, very fast; the cars aren’t as pretty as in Forza 5, but one of the “pursuit tech” upgrades lets your car send out a 360◦ shockwave.

If you don’t like these things, you may want to try some of the other titles on hand. I hear Assassin’s Creed IV is “hot shit” on “next-gen,” but I won’t know for a few months yet. Ryse: Son of Rome has been described as visually-perfect “Roman Murder Porn,” so there’s that. I was exceptionally excited for both LocoCycle and Crimson Dragon, but in the face of poor reviews, $20 price tags, and the noticeable lack of trial versions, I opted for NFS instead. Killer Instinct is there, too, and if I still lived with the people required to enjoy fighting games, I might have been swayed by it. All current titles are available for download, albeit at full retail price, and provided you don’t mind installing them.


Of course, even disc-based titles have to install before you play them, though you can start playing to varying degrees of success once they’ve reached a certain point; any available updates are also automatically downloaded when you put the disc in, without signing you out of Live anymore. As mentioned before, the system doesn’t really tell you how memory is being allocated, and so I can’t report on exactly how much space is needed for each install. Suffice to say that the installs were not exactly quick affairs, even by the standards I expect after manually installing games onto the 360.

The final thing I’ll note about games on the One is that the system seems almost designed for digital content, and I think anyone who has spent some time with it will agree. For instance, recently played games appear on the Home menu, inviting you to launch them at will. If you’ve got the disc versions, however, you’ll then of course be prompted to insert the disc; this system was clearly designed with the intention of letting you dive right in without this pause.

Between this snag and the games having to install before they can be played, I can’t help but wonder why I even bothered getting physical copies. If I had gone a different route, I could effortlessly move between the titles I own, on any system I signed in on, without ever needing a disc. The only thing physical copies currently have going for them is that I can lend / borrow a disc at will, which is important for things like Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, and Thief.


On the non-gaming side of things, I’ve already mentioned Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Skype; they do exactly what you would expect them to, though the ability to “snap” a Skype session into the frame – something they are freely showing in their ads – is still conspicuously absent from the product. With those apps taken into account, all that’s really left is TV and SkyDrive.

I decided to run my cable box through my One, and so far that has been a decision I will probably never regret. The console runs a series of tests to make sure that the signal is being received clearly, then helps you configure “One Guide,” which is supposed to link your provider info with your system so that everything can play nice. In my case, the One Guide couldn’t figure out my correct location for listings, so I still use my cable box remote to navigate, but the experience is still fluid and worthwhile. I have no doubt that the future holds many a television broadcast during which a Live party is enabled for our enjoyment.

Xbox One SkyDrive

I’ve saved SkyDrive for last for two reasons: I have used my One for it more than anything else so far, and it best embodies Microsoft’s talk of “cloud integration” and “multimedia function.” At its core, SkyDrive is just another cloud-storage system, and maybe not even the best on out there. For me, however, it has meant that a number of files – 7.0 gigs, to be precise – from my PC are instantly accessible from my One. I’ve tested it successfully with AVI, MPEG, and MP4 for video, though MKV is unfortunately not supported. As of this writing, I have watched several hours of American television, several more hours of anime, and the RiffTrax for Star Wars: Episode I using the app, and have yet to experience anything but the slightest lag while streaming.


I picked up an Xbox One launch day thanks to Amazon’s ability to get more in stock and my family’s generosity at the holidays; before that, I had one pre-ordered, and certainly expected to get it within the New Year window, but it wasn’t a pressing issue. I knew there would be games within the next year that I wanted to play, knew my core gaming group would be getting the One, and knew Christmas was my best shot at getting help buying one until my birthday.

I bought Dead Rising 3 and Need for Speed: Rivals because, out of the launch titles available, they were the ones that interested me the most. If there were no new console this year, and they had been 360 titles, I wouldn’t have paid more than $30 for either of them during a holiday sale. That’s not an indictment of the games, but rather the reality of the situation when it comes to being an early adopter; I knew going in that I was buying potential enjoyment at a premium.

During the weeks leading up to launch, I put upwards of 50 hours into Fallout 3 on my PC, and I’ve also recently put over 20 into Saints Row IV on the 360. I even said at one point that I “wasn’t sure” why I was getting it so early. As soon as Amazon confirmed me for Day One, I was bouncing off the walls with excitement; while that has abated a fraction, I’m still very happy with the product Microsoft delivered. Over the next year, my One will become my primary mainstream gaming and multimedia device, because that’s what I expect it to be; the PlayStation 4 I eventually purchase will see a significant spike in play whenever an exclusive comes out for it, in that I’ll actually be playing it; and my PC will continue to operate at a level far beyond what either console can dream of, while simultaneously lacking the player base to win me away permanently.

A Wii U that I willingly purchase at full price will continue to be the only thing quantum physicists can agree does not exist, has never existed, and will never exist, in all realities across all time and space.

One response to “Xbox One: First Week Impressions”

  1. Derrick Lewis Avatar
    Derrick Lewis

    “… visually perfect Roman murder porn”. Now THAT is a notion I can get behind.

    And hey, watch it, the Wii U is a perfectly fantastic Netflix machine… You can even flip through the menu on the gamepad while you watch your content… That’s totally next-gen.

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