The time has finally come. Say hello to Microsoft’s next-gen console: the Xbox One.
Set to be released by the end of this year, the Xbox One is being touted as an all-in-one home entertainment system. Based off of what was covered during the announcement, it sounds like it might be a fairly apt description. It also looks simple enough for casual players to get the hang of while also being quick and powerful enough to appease the core crowd. Speaking of the core gamer, let’s get some of the technical specifications out of the way.
The Xbox One will have:
- 8 GB RAM
- 8 Core CPU
- 500 GB hard drive
- Blu-ray disc drive
- 802.11n Wireless w/ Wi-Fi Direct
- HDMI In/Out
- USB 3.0
The console isn’t alone when it comes to next-gen upgrades. Microsoft has made a few enhancements to the Kinect as well. It’ll now have a 1080p widescreen view of the world around you. It was said that can detect subtleties movements down to rotation of joints, shifting of weight, and will even be able to read your heartbeat. Obviously, I don’t know how true that is, but the heartbeat sensing could be interesting for psychological horror games like Fatal Frame or Alan Wake (please make Alan Wake 2!). Another cool feature for casual and exceptionally lazy gamers is the fact that you can turn on the Xbox One by saying “Xbox on”. It’s supposed to be personalized enough as to recognize the speaker and load their specific profile. There is a bit of troubling news though, as IGN reports that Xbox One won’t function if the Kinect sensor isn’t connected. Each system will come with a Kinect so it shouldn’t be a problem, but some might have a problem with it being forced upon them.
The controller hasn’t been left out either. Fighting game fans rejoice, it finally has a proper d-pad! If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice that the Back and Start buttons have been replaced by two new buttons: one for switching between applications (more on that later) and one to return you to the menu. The trigger buttons will have programmable feedback so there will be different types of rumble experienced for different games. Imagine getting feedback from the right trigger as you floor the gas pedal while the controller itself rumbles differently to mimic the engine, and you’ll start to get an idea of how it can be used. It was said that, in all, over 40 new innovations/adjustments were made to the Xbox One controller.
For different views of the system, controller, and Kinect sensor, check out this video:
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As many people were most likely expecting, there was a big focus on the new, improved features that would come with the Xbox One. One of the biggest and least surprising additions will be the ability to watch live TV on the console. What was pretty interesting was that you’ll be able to go between apps relatively quickly and painlessly with “instant switching” done via Kinect commands. That’s not all. Using a gesture with your arms similar to “pinching” on iOS (“grab and contract”), you’ll be able to minimize the app and view other menu items. To take it a step further, you can also enter “Snap mode” which is just like Snap for Windows 7. In other words, you’ll be able to watch TV on part of your screen and Bing information about what you’re watching on the other side, for example. There will be an Xbox One Guide employed for the TV app too so that you can browse your favorite shows and channels using Kinect voice or motion commands. It looked simple, clean, and swift from what was shown.
Let’s not forget about Microsoft’s partnership with ESPN and, now, the NFL, which was announced today. If you’re into fantasy sports, you’ll have something to look forward to on Xbox One since you’ll get alerts on your fantasy league standings, be able to check stats, etc., all in real-time.
One last thing to mention on the TV front. There will be a new live-action Halo TV series coming to the Xbox One in an effort to create a more immersive experience and make it more than just a game. That may not be too much of a shocker given all of the books, shorts, movies, and other merchandise that has spawned from the series. How about this then? Steven Spielberg will be helping create this TV series! I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t do a double-take when I heard that.
It sounds like the omnipresent cloud will be a major factor for the Xbox One, especially when it comes to Xbox Live. Fear not. It will still be tied to your existing membership, but it is expected to be much more powerful and personal. Thanks to the cloud, it is said to be like playing with a dedicated DVR for your games. One of the more interesting things talked about was how the system would actively search for suitable matches while you are browsing other apps. Sounds better than staring blankly at the matchmaking screen.
Let’s not forget: this is a gaming console we’re talking about, not just some TV, Skype, Netflix machine.
EA Sports took the stage and announced that they’ve entered into a partnership with Microsoft, but details were scant. What was said was that NBA Live, Madden, FIFA, and UFC would all launch within the next 12 months on Xbox One. FIFA, in particular, was mentioned since it will have exclusive content called “Ultimate Team” coming to the system. They showed off their new game engine, EA Sports Ignite, which they claim will blur the line between real and virtual worlds, adding a more human intelligence, more realistic player motion, and worlds that feel alive. Here’s a video to show what you can expect:
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Next was the new entry into the Xbox-exclusive racing franchise, Forza Motorsport 5. There was almost no information beyond the name, and that you can expect to see it on the Xbox One at launch. Graphically, it was quite a beauty. Here’s hoping that it looks as gorgeous as the trailer.
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Remedy, makers of the Max Payne series, will be bringing an exclusive new IP to the Xbox One called Quantum Break. Unfortunately, this one is still a mystery except for that the choices that you make during the game will dynamically change the story as it progresses. What was shown seemed intriguing, though, and as a fan of Max Payne and Alan Wake, I’ll be keeping an eye on it.
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These teasers aside, they stated that in the first year of the Xbox One‘s life, gamers should expect to see 15 exclusive games on the system, 8 of which are entirely new franchises. This should bring some solace to gamers that are worried about the staleness in gaming recently.
The show ended with the premiere of the new trailer for Call of Duty: Ghosts. Activision announced that it’s DLC will be timed-exclusive to the Xbox One. It’s got an all new world with different cast of characters, including a dog that has been added to the squad that’ll be able to sniff out explosives, among other things. On the next-gen consoles, it’ll be using their new engine call “Sub-D”, which is supposed to smooth out curvatures, allow for higher defined textures, and so on. Another new feature is that it’ll have a new Mantle System that will allow characters to hop over barriers and slide similar to Faith in Mirror’s Edge. The multiplayer maps are said to be dynamic as well, adding unpredictable elements like an earthquake that alters terrain, flooding, and other generally unfavorable scenarios. For your viewing pleasure, here’s the trailer:
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Some of the other rumors weren’t addressed during the press conference, but rumblings among the internet have helped flesh some of them out. For instance, according to The Verge, the Xbox One will not be backwards compatible. This isn’t inclusive to physical games either, apparently, as they say that there is no plan for a streaming service for 360 games similar to what Sony is doing with the PS4. Wired seems to have debunked the rumor about console requiring always-on internet connectivity and adds a few more tidbits, namely that all Xbox One games will install to the hard drive. This adds convenience since, after the install, you won’t need the disc to play the game because it will be connected to your account, but it adds an interesting fold to the used game market. Further details are expected at a later time in regards to how the console will deal with playing used games. No details on price yet either. I guess we’ll just have to wait a few more weeks until E3.