It’s official: Australia loves the Xbox One. The high-priced, high-powered gaming rig just celebrated the most successful console launch in Australian history, according to several online resources, meaning several of you Aus-based tech fans reading this update probably have one… heck, you might even be reading it through your console right now.
Though I’m only a lowly American, I too have become infatuated with my shiny black box of gaming goodness. After picking one up a few months ago, it’s become my household’s go-to option for entertainment of all sorts, from gaming to Blu-rays to online video content. That’s pretty big praise coming from a dude who exclusively played PC games for about five years before buying it.
Here’s a look at a few of my favorite and not-so-favorite things about the console.
It does a lot… a whole lot
Microsoft’s goal to ‘own the living room’, however creepy that may sound, is definitely in full effect here. Outside of video games and Blu-rays, the console does, well, pretty much everything.
Want to stream video content from a Windows 7 or 8 PC? Go right ahead. Browse the web or watch YouTube videos? Of course. Record game clips, edit them, and post them to your social media sites of choice? No problem.
The list of options and features is so deep I haven’t even come close to using them all. The ‘snap’ command, for instance, which lets you run multiple apps (think an Xbox game and the music app) at the same time looks awesome… but I have yet to touch it.
Then there’s the HDMI input, which I consider one of the coolest features ever on a game console.
By running your TV through the system, you can watch shows right through the Xbox dashboard, reducing the time it takes to switch TV inputs or move from video content to a game. It even works with my Chromecast.
I didn’t think there was any way the two would be compatible when I plugged the dongle into the back of my console, but lo and behold, the two products (from competing companies, mind you) work just fine.
While I haven’t tried it yet, several online resources like this Engadget piece say my Apple TV would work just as well.
The Kinect is awesome
Yes, I know all about the privacy concerns. I also know lots of people aren’t happy about being forced to pay extra for a peripheral, which I think is kind of silly, considering how important it is to the overall console experience.
Even so, the Kinect is easily one of my favorite things about the Xbox One, and with good reason – like I said in the subhead, it’s awesome.
First up are voice commands. You can navigate the Xbox One’s user interface (UI) by talking to the console; for lazy arses like me, that’s a godsend when you’re in the middle of a Netflix binge and you don’t want to walk across the room to grab the controller.
The feature can cause some problems (you can shut the console down with a simple voice command, potentially causing situations like these) but I’m totally fine with the tradeoff, given all the cool stuff you can do with it.
Gesture-based commands work just as well, but only certain apps support them. Netflix, for instance, lets you point around the screen to select videos and navigate the UI.
Gaming-wise, however, I’m a little less pleased: In general, full games that support the app make it feel like little more than a gimmick – think the original Wii’s motion controls – and other games built around the feature are kind of, well, meh.
Still, the system is smart enough to recognize me and sign me into my live account when I sit down in front of the camera, and can even recognize when I hand the controller off to another player.
That makes it A-OK in my book.
Game selection: Okay and getting better
The Xbox One’s game selection, especially at launch, was a bit of a mixed bag for me.
On one hand, there weren’t (and still aren’t) a ton of games out for the console. On the other, the percentage of good games to total garbage is pretty darn high.
I very much didn’t like Dead Rising 3, and a bug that continually deleted my single-player saves turned me off of Battlefield 4.
Then there are games like Forza Motorsport 5, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and – please don’t laugh at me – Peggle 2, all of which pack plenty of addictively fun gameplay.
Graphics-wise, the games represent a similar good-bad ratio. Some games, like Ghosts, don’t look that much better than their last-gen counterparts, while others (Forza 5 and BF4 chief among those) had me calling my poor uninterested wife in to “come look at this game” on multiple occasions.
It’s also worth noting that every game I’ve played has largely been rock-solid when it comes to framerate – outside of a few dips on Ghosts’ multiplayer maps, everything has run beautifully, with no choppiness or slowdown to speak of.
Quality support, not-always-quality hardware
Yes, I was one of the unlucky Xbox One owners who got stuck with a bad disc drive in my console. I obviously wasn’t happy about that – I’d just paid out the nose to buy the damn thing, after all – but I was absolutely thrilled with how Microsoft handled it.
I made the mistake of buying my console at a Kmart, and when the disc drive started grinding like a dying garbage disposal a month later, they refused to exchange it.
I made a rather nasty YouTube video dogging Kmart for my experience. They still weren’t helping, but get this: Microsoft tracked down my contact info to ask how they could help resolve the situation.
I asked if I could exchange the busted console at my local MS store even though I’d purchased it at another retailer. They agreed, and even gave me a free month of Live for my troubles.
Say what you want about Microsoft having unfriendly consumer practices, I’m nothing but happy with my interactions with the company, and they’ve won a loyal customer for their troubles.
I’d also like to note that the Xbox One’s controller is by far my favorite console input device since the original Super Nintendo joypad. It’s responsive, comfortable in my girly hands, and the D-pad is the exact opposite of the Xbox 360’s – in other words, it’s not total garbage.
I love my Xbox
I love my Xbox One. Call me a shill if you want, I could only wish I was on Microsoft’s payroll.
I have yet to play a PS4, so I can’t really compare the two. I can say, however, that it’s going to take some serious exclusive titles to lure me over to the Sony side.
Though I hadn’t owned a console in years prior to buying it, and I did have to deal with a broken disc drive for a few months, I’d certainly mark my overall experience as a huge positive.
What do you think? Have you played both next-gen consoles? If so, how do you think they stack up. Let us know in the comment section.
Image via Luke Hayfield / Flickr