The Xbox One just finished its first year on the market as a sort of underdog in the new console wars. For the whole year it sold worse than the PS4, only overtaking it for a brief period before the holiday season. It certainly had some interesting console exclusives to brag about, and featured console features that the PS4 hasn’t even come close to, but it’s also still working off some bad blood from the console’s original release. Let’s take a look at how the Xbox One shaped up in 2014, and look at where it is going in the future.
The biggest ups and downs that the console has had over its one year life, have come from Microsoft’s own policies. The bad blood I mentioned earlier came from Microsoft’s original DRM policy toward having games, a policy that Microsoft changed before the console came out. However, the Xbox One was the more expensive console, as Microsoft swore that it absolutely needed the Kinect in order to operate. This too was reversed, as Microsoft released a cheaper Xbox One without the Kinect last year as well. This has given Microsoft a bit of a wishy washy reputation with some gamers.
Speaking of the Kinect, this is another blessing and curse. The Kinect itself doesn’t work that well with games, usually reducing gameplay to a hand waving flail-fest in anything other than Dance Central. But as a U.I. tool, it’s amazing. It recognizes your voice easily and allows you to instantly get to whatever feature you want just by barking commands at your Xbox. At times, it does feel like something out of Minority Report, as you wave your hands and speak to make your console do what you like. This is especially cool when utilizing the console’s TV watching features.
The Xbox One falls behind in some critical aspects. Graphically, it is the weaker system, although many swear there isn’t a whole lot of difference between 900p and 1080p. The console requires that you install games which can take hours, while the PS4 does the same process in just minutes and the Wii U doesn’t require game installation at all.
The interface has this weird blocky Windows 8 feel that just isn’t fun to navigate. In fact, experienced gamers and developers can’t even navigate it well. Apps require you open an app to use them. Videos and music are not shown on the home screen. There was even a particularly hilarious moment at a Call of Duty event where someone accidentally put an Xbox One into snap mode, and it took an hour of game journalists, game developers, PR specialists, and hotel staff all trying to turn it off.
While the PS4 may be a better streaming box, the Xbox One is a better overall media player. It, unlike the PS4, can play CDs as well as practically any other file you send its way with its built in MKV support. As I said before, the Xbox One’s TV watching function is just awesome, if only because you can control your TV with your voice. There is even a dedicated HBO Go app, for… Game of Thrones. Yes, a huge plus for the Xbox One is you can watch people die and have sex with each other on your console.
The Xbox One certainly has a more impressive lineup of console exclusives as well. While it lags in terms of interesting games from Japan, it certainly has more big name titles from America, including Killer Instinct, Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2, Titanfall, the first content rights for Call of Duty, Halo the Master Chief Collection and the upcoming Halo 5, and much much more. Not to mention there are so many more to come, like the upcoming Rise of the Tomb Raider, Gears of War, Crackdown, Phantom Dust, Fable Legends, Quantum Break, and Scalebound. Microsoft has certainly done its best to gather up as many interesting IPs as it can, which is a major selling point for the console.
Unfortunately, all these AAA exclusives come at a price in nearly no indie support. Almost every indie game comes out for the PS4 exclusively or for the PS4 first. Aside from games like Superhot, the Xbox One simply doesn’t compare to the PS4 in the indie space, and this might turn off people who are tired of the AAA treadmill of releases.
The Xbox One lags behind the PS4 in many tiny and small ways, including graphics and user interface, but it also has the clunkier controller. Its apps aren’t as varied and its social features aren’t as good. Games With Gold isn’t anywhere near as good as PlayStation Plus, yet the lineup is so powerful, and that is a feature that is hard to ignore. After all, this is a game console we are talking about, and the Xbox One offers more exclusive games. In a way, the Xbox One is going to live and die on these exclusives, but they still may not be powerful enough to make it succeed. After all, the Wii U has the most exclusive games out there, and it is currently selling the worst. In the end, it’s time to get an Xbox One, if you like it’s lineup, which probably means you are a fan of American made games and you don’t have a decent gaming PC.