In light of the avalanche of gaming news the last few days on Microsoft’s coming out party for the next generation console, the Xbox One, I thought it would be fun to give everyone a quick overview summary of what we know so far. From specs, to online home entertainment, and of course the games themselves. So let’s start off with the Xbox One, and then down the road we will do the “Pepsi Challenge” with the PS4.
The “Always Online” Rumor: Despite many rumors the past year or so,the system will NOT require 24/7 online connection. Which is frankly a huge relief for many considering quite a few gamers either don’t have the internet or enjoy the privacy when playing a game and don’t want to see a huge “DragonSlayer666 is Now Online” during a cinematic ending to their campaign in Halo 4 for example.
Price And Launch Date: No word on either as of yet. I’m purely speculating here, but if we follow the pattern of the last two console generations, we will have some more concrete news at this years E3 on both. My advice? Start saving now. Price will most likely range from $399-$499 and will hit sometime this holiday season.
– CPU 8-Core x86 AMD CPU (Xbox One is a 64-bit system)
– GPU Custom AMD GPU
– Memrory 8GB DDR3 (5 GB available to games)
– Hard Drive 500GB
– Optical Drive Blu-ray (speed unknown)/DVD
– USB Ports 3x USB 3.0 (2 on back, 1 on side)
– Video Out HDMI (4K video playback, but not gameplay), HDMI input
– Audio HDMI, S/PDIF optical
– Communication 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet, 3x 802.11n radios w/Wi-Fi Direct for communication with controller and other devices
– Additional Outputs IR (to control cable/satellite receiver)
Without getting overwhelmed by the spec sheet here, I noticed two things. The first, that’s a lot of hard drive space. The second…it is an illusion. The Xbox One will require MANDATORY installation for every hard disc game you purchase. Translation, even though you will still be buying a hard copy of a game, you will in effect have to use that disc to download the game on your console which you will basically be playing as a digital download…and that my friends will take up a LOT of space.
Microsoft’s new Xbox controller addresses a few complaints from previous iterations, while adding some unexpected functionality.
“How do we take an already great controller and make it better?” Carl Ledbetter asks rhetorically. As senior principal creative director at Microsoft, it’s his job to make sure that the advances in the next generation of hardware apply to the physical cases that consumers see and hold as well.
The end result came after more than 200 prototypes and false starts. The most immediately noticeable update to the controller is the inclusion of a traditional d-pad. In the past, Microsoft’s designers opted for a circular platform that had a raised d-pad shape. Cosmetically it did the trick, but players complained that it was mushy and often inaccurate. The new controller incorporates a more traditional d-pad, which Microsoft says is as precise as players expect.
Microsoft also analyzed how it could improve the thumbsticks of the current controller.
“We spent a lot of time on the thumbsticks,” Ledbetter says. “We analyzed the way people use thumbsticks during gameplay, and we found that there are two postures. The first is that people will rest their thumb on top, and they’ll use this top grip. So we added this slight edge that goes around the very top so that for a top-grip person they can basically use it well all around.” Ledbetter says the other grip is often used when players feather the sticks from the sides, such as during a racing game. To accommodate that orientation, the team textured the sides of the sticks.
The buttons have gotten a facelift as well, with the ABXY etched on the buttons taking on a more prominent role than their colored backdrops. The Xbox guide button is there, but it’s now flush with the controller’s face and it glows white. Ledbetter says the change in the button treatment came because of the overall goal of making the console and its accessories feel more mature and less toy-like. That extends to the back of the controller as well. One of the major cosmetic tweaks is a completely smooth finish on the back – the screw holes have been eliminated. The battery orientation has changed as well, removing much of the clutter that took up space on the top-rear portion of the Xbox 360’s controller.
The most unusual tweak is that the trigger buttons now have their own individual rumble motors, in addition to the pair of motors in the controller’s handles. Zulfi Alam, Microsoft’s general manager of hardware and accessories, says players should think about the controller as high-definition rumble. Alam points out that the fingertips are the most sensitive parts of the human hand, which is why it makes sense to provide more nuanced feedback. “Firing a bazooka is different from firing off a gun,” he points out.
We got to test out the controller’s rumble, and it does offer some intriguing possibilities. In one demo, a car starts. We feel the ignition whir to life on our index fingers while the motor roars and rumbles on our palms. In another, a helicopter ascends and lowers, and we can feel an approximation of its whirling blades as the vibrations move in intensity from index finger to palm. In the third demo, a patient’s heart beats, growing in strength as we move the analog stick closer to their chest.
The controller feels great overall, and it looks like Microsoft has achieved the critical balance of addressing problems and providing some cosmetic tweaks without introducing new issues.
All in all, I really like the improvements. The addition of the D-Pad is HUGE. Especially when playing an old school Mortal Kombat game with a buddy over the weekend. Microsoft has come a long way since their original controller that launched with the original Xbox back in 2002.
Cable Provider Connectivity:
All we know so far is Microsoft has a “plan” to join the console some how with your local cable network to deliver sports, movies, and your favorite TV series. Look for more information at this year’s E3. Also, after losing the bet with Sony over the Blu-ray versus HD, in the last console generation, Microsoft has wisely decided to have Blu-ray playback this go round. Smart choice since Blu-ray isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The Used Games Controversy:
Over the past year, many gamers have been in an uproar over the possibility of no longer being able to buy and resell used games…which is justified. In my opinion, when you decide to buy a brand new game that is your property, then consumer should have every right to resell that product. Not to mention, many gamers can not afford to buy a brand new game for every major release and retailers such as Gamestop and Gamefly have been a savior for the gaming community to play their favorite game franchises and not have to sacrifice their wallet in the process. During the Microsoft press conference, it was made clear that the Xbox One will allow the console to play used games…but with a second owner fee. Still nothing official as of yet on their “plan”. Also worth mentioning is the new console will NOT be backwards compatible.
So far, Microsoft has only revealed three exclusive games.
Forza Motorsport 5:
The Multi Platform Games:
– Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal
– Battlefield 4 – Electronic Arts/DICE
– Call of Duty: Ghosts – Activision/Infinity Ward
– Destiny – Activision/Bungie
– FIFA 14 – EA Sports/EA Canada
– Madden NFL 25 – EA Sports/EA Tiburon
– NBA Live – EA Sports/EA Tiburon
– Thief – Square Enix/Eidos Montreal
– UFC – EA Sports/EA Canada
– Watch Dogs – Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal
So there you have it. I think so far, the PlayStation 4 offers more exciting exclusives, such as the new Infamous and the inevitable Uncharted 4 sequels. In the end, I think I will still be going with the PS4. However, that being said, that shiny Xbox One would sure look pretty sitting next to my Sony console in my entertainment center.