by Brian Robbins

 After the release of Nintendo’s lackluster Wii U, nerves were at an all time high when it came to Microsoft’s new console. People were skeptical on what to expect. Was Microsoft going to force Kinect on consumers? Was the new Xbox going to focus more on entertaining the family than the core gamer? In May of 2013 the Xbox One was announced, and unfortunately, the backlash was loud and clear. With plenty of restrictions and policies with the new console, Sony with their Playstation 4 already looked like the clear winner before either of the new two systems were released. Microsoft scaled back their ridiculous policies but is it too little too late for the Xbox One?

The first thing you’ll notice about the Xbox One when you take it out of its sleek packaging is that this thing is huge. We’re talking VCR size. One of the reasons this could be is because of Microsoft’s fear of overheating. This plagued the Xbox 360 until they released their slim model, though the power brick for this console isn’t as intimidating as with its predecessor. The console itself looks sexy enough but the choice for the actual finish on the console is confusing. The jet black color and its shiny surface actually makes dust and dirt more obvious when it’s on the system. It’s a nuisance but a relatively minor one.

Unfortunately (for some), all Xbox Ones are packaged with the Kinect 2.0 sensor. The sensor itself seems to be about the same size as the Xbox 360’s, so no real complaints about the exterior. Again, it uses the same finish that’s on the console so it’s prone to getting dusty. In terms of actual looks it’s unremarkable but attractive; it won’t garner any remarks about not fitting in. Also, once your Kinect is set up you can actually sign into Xbox Live by having the Kinect camera recognize you. It’s an impressive feature but almost scary.

 The third and final piece of hardware you’ll be getting with the Xbox One is the newly improved controller. To me, it seemed the controller was a mash-up of the original Xbox S-controller and the Xbox 360’s. When you pick it up, it will immediately feel natural and non-intrusive. My favorite new feature of the controller has to be the rumble force-back triggers. I didn’t really pay much attention to them during gameplay but now when I play an older shooter on the Xbox 360 it’s apparent this new feature from Xbox One is an improvement.

When you boot up the system and set it up correctly, you’ll notice a eye-pleasing user-interface. It’s gotten some flak for its resemblance to the less than stellar Windows 8 but the tile format works great on a video-game system. Here on the Home screen you can access many different features such as Game DVR, Internet and numerous apps. I found the UI much easier to use than the one found on Xbox 360 and especially on the Playstation 3.

One of the Xbox One’s biggest selling points is that it has numerous TV features. The Xbox One has an HDMI-In port on the back of it, so you can plug in any Cable, or Satellite box, heck even any HDMI device. The set-up was incredibly easy and it’s mind-blowing that we never had anything like this before. It seems so basic now. You can even watch or listen to your favorite show while playing a game. Though, with my testing of the system I noticed serious lag-time when you tried this. It could be because I have Charter but it’s worth noting.

Another touted feature of the Xbox One is the voice commands via Kinect 2.0. I can’t say that they were very impressive. Most of the time I was yelling at the TV for over 10-15 seconds when I could have just as easily picked up the controller and reached my destination in 5. The voice commands are neat but if your volume is up on your TV the Kinect will have problems recognizing your voice. I generally just use the feature to help me with recording game footage or turning the system on or off. Nothing game changing here.

There are plenty of new features that make an appearance with the Xbox One.  My favorite has to be the Game DVR and the Upload Studio. I’ve been using these two features extensively. I can simply tell the Kinect “Xbox record that” and it will record up to 30 seconds of previous gameplay. It’s incredibly handy if you just experienced something awe-inspiring in-game. Also you can set up the Xbox One to record up to 5 minutes and edit those clips in the Upload Center. Plenty of things you can mess around with but it’s disappointing that the promised Twitch app didn’t make launch.

 Obviously the system needs to play games, and it does its primary job well. There was some controversy about the Xbox One not being able to play games at native 1080p but those worries aren’t noticeable. The Xbox One looks to be on par with Sony’s Playstation 4. The first time you experience a horde of 500 zombies on screen on Dead Rising 3, you’ll be impressed.

The real question is if the Xbox One is worth the hefty $500 price-tag. Right now, it’s really not. Neither is the Playstation 4 to be honest. In about a year from now we’ll see some truly amazing titles that will take advantage of both Playstation 4 and Xbox One’s features. The Xbox One is constantly getting patched by Microsoft and with every patch there comes various improvements both visually and more importantly also in performance. If you haven’t picked either of the systems up, you aren’t really missing much. There are still plenty of great titles for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

3.5-star-turtle