Shortly after Sony unveiled the future PlayStation 4, Microsoft took the stage and ripped the thin foil off the latest Xbox. Known as Xbox One, the next generation comes with high-end technical specifications, a vintage design and a lot of worthy features, such as an upgraded Kinect sensor and top-notch controller. But what should we truly know about Xbox One? What’s hidden under the nice pep talk and the glamor?
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The redesigned Xbox One UI borrows several elements from Windows 8. The old dashboard still exists, but a touch of Microsoft’s latest PC platform has been added, in order to coordinate a wide range of connected devices and services. For instance, switching from music to video streaming or browsing is done instantly, without any lag whatsoever.
Moreover, the Snap mode introduced by Microsoft in Windows 7 found his way into the console world and now gamers can split the screen in different ways, to enjoy as much content as possible. For instance, by literally saying “Snap Internet Explorer”, the platform will open the browser in a right-hand-side panel. The same goes for TV shows and other type of media.
Microsoft accomplished to integrate the new Xbox One with multiple systems and features. Right from the core, the console runs three operating systems at once: a Windows kernel that handles direct applications, a dedicated Xbox OS that is summoned through virtualization to manage games and a third component that acts as the middle-man between the two and for multitasking.
Xbox One is capable of recognizing hand-made gestures performed in front of the Kinect sensor and also voice commands. For instance, by saying “Xbox ON”, the console and the TV will be lit, a fact which shows us that the newest generation is not a simple box on which gamers can play, more of a central entertainment platform designed to work with various other devices and worthy services: music, video streaming, browsing, etc.
Moreover, Skype can now do group video calls on the TV using the Kinect sensor and without disturbing the currently ran service. Integration also reaches the plains of Windows Phone, from where the entire system can be controlled using the Smart Glass application.
Even though the TV will be a huge part of Xbox One, with the cable wire being directly linked to the console for live streaming and other good stuff, Microsoft has taken the decision to enable these juicy TV-based featured only for US residents.
Another downside of the console is the lack of the upcoming Wi-Fi 5G standard integration, also known as 802.11ac. Although this isn’t quite popular at the moment, in the next couple of years, the wireless medium will most likely be dominated by high-transfer speeds and routers capable of carrier aggregation, leaving Microsoft’s console in the dark.
Smarter Kinect, now built-in
The latest Kinect sensor has been magically integrated right inside the body of the Xbox One. Its complete overhaul doesn’t stop here, as the sensor embeds a 1080p high-definition camera which can record color videos at 30 FPS, while detecting various moves and sounds through a high-density microphone array. The advanced camera technology allows a wide-angle view which can detect slight rotations of small body parts, like the wrist or the shoulder. Furthermore, it can even sense the heartbeat when the user is exercising.
The new Kinect sensor is the center of all exterior inputs. It can detect the human body and the controller itself, being able to recognize when the user raises or moves the controller. A wide range of these gestures will be implemented as direct actions in games and theoretically, there are no limitations to their use.
New and Improved controller
The Xbox One controller is what we like to call ergonomic design, at its finest. After suffering 40 design changes, the console’s most precious part for gamers comes with dynamic impulse triggers, integrated battery compartment and a precision directional pad. Moreover, the D-pad has been redesigned and a Wi-Fi direct radio stack has been implemented.
Although we haven’t got the chance to play with this controller yet, we do know that Microsoft had the upper advantage in previous generations and we do hope that level to remain the same. The nice design, clean curves and the addition of a sensitive source is something that will surely entice future buyers.
Gaming with style
All the content directed by Xbox One will mainly reside in the cloud. When it comes to games, the core application type of the console, One will use Blu-ray disc only to install new titles. All the information will be retained on the One’s hard drive in order to play each game instantly. Moreover, when entering the personal homescreen when the console starts, users will no longer have to wait for each game to be updated before using the console.
Theoretically, the latest Xbox will not require an internet connection to play a game, but every title will be automatically linked to a Xbox Live account, in order to suppress piracy (otherwise, you could be sharing game disks with friends). So, whenever a new title is installed, a connection must be made and the newly-added game will be linked to your account. If you wish to use that same disk on another console, Microsoft will restrain it, unless you pay an unspecified fee. This brings up an important question, because the concept of a used game or that of renting titles from a specialized store has been consciously put in danger.
A dedicated game DVR has also been added, which allows users to save game recordings with the push of a button and afterwards edit saved moments using Xbox Live. Multiplayer has also been enhanced, permitted gamers to actually play another title while queuing up for a match.
Unfortunately, there is no backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 titles, meaning that all games will be created from scratch. And speaking of them, here’s a short round-up of a few upcoming titles:
- FIFA – the well-known football simulator (aka soccer) from EA which will be launched this year, alongside Madden NFL, NBA Live and UFC. All of these titles are designed using EA’s latest Ignite engine.
- Forza Motorsport 5 – an exclusive car racing franchise which will debut with a new title at the launch of the console.
- Quantum Break – coming from the creators of Max Payne and Alan Wake, this will be an action / shooter.
- Call of Duty: Ghosts – built on a brand new engine, the latest sequel of the well-known shooter series is designed to make players more emotionally attached. This will come with a new multiplayer system, low-latency controls, dynamic maps and new animations.
Besides these, Microsoft Studios announced that more than 15 exclusive titles will be released in the first year and eight of them will be from brand new franchises.