“Xbox on”

The wait

Knowing my Xbox One (Day One edition) was at home waiting for my return, my working day just felt that much longer. In the end, I was able to hold out until the end of the day before making my way home.

On the train home, I was wondering whether my Xbox was going to be one of those problematic launch consoles that I read about. So when I got home, I actually put of the unboxing of the Xbox One until after I ate. The hardware was unbelievably light; lighter than the Xbox 360 but not that much bigger than the 360 with an HDD. It took me a few minutes to set everything up including the Kinect. It’s a device that caused quite a stir but I want to at least see what Microsoft had envisaged for their users – after all, why knock it before you’ve even tried it?

The Xbox One’s mandatory patch

The day one update was about 500MB and downloaded in about 5-10 minutes. I was quite surprised as I was expecting slow download speeds or network problems like the PS4 had. This either means I’ve missed the early rush to download the update or the server farms Microsoft owns are amazing. Given that I downloaded it at 9:30pm GMT I’m going with the former because I’d imagine many people would’ve plugged in their Xbox Ones already.

Set up

After the update had completed, I ran into my first problem; there was no sound. I found this out when trying to calibrate my Kinect, it told me to turn my speakers up louder than usual. But nothing was coming out of the speakers and I get an ironic message of “the volume is high enough”. The sound waves on the screen was moving beautifully, but I heard nothing. This was a waste of time for me; what’s worse is the welcome video started playing. After sitting through the silent video, I was finally able to go into the settings menu where I modified a few settings and “Ping!”, sound was coming out the speakers again. In my view, Microsoft should’ve allowed me to go into the settings menu for the screen and sound BEFORE setting up the Kinect, I would’ve been able to see the welcome video as intended had it been that way.

Downloading games

Post set up, the first thing I did was to go through some of the featured tutorials pinned near the home dashboard to learn a few Kinect commands. It felt embarrassing to call out commands towards the Kinect at first but I quickly got used to it, some things are a lot faster just saying it than navigating to it via the controller (such as passing through multiple cars at a high speed thinking “SSSHHHH****TTTTT!!!!” then afterwards, instead of pausing the game, I just call out “Xbox record that”. The next thing I did (probably the most important) was to download games. Both Crimson Dragon and Killer Instinct are on my must play list and finding them was pretty much similar to the 360. After about 25% of Crimson Dragon was downloaded/installed, it was available for play. However, this was limited to the first mission, other missions became available around the 70% mark (that’s when I next checked). One thing that bothered me was that there isn’t an “active download queue” like the 360. Although I could just go to the “apps” section and I will see the download progress for each app. Killer Instinct completed it’s installation whilst I was playing the other missions in Crimson Dragon so I don’t know how much of the game needs to be downloaded before you can play.

Xbox One’s Game-DVR

I’m very happy with the Game-DVR, it’s saved me at least £100 on some expensive equipment. I wish the output was top quality 1080p footage, but 5 minute clips of those would result in huge files and make the whole thing unworkable. So the compromise between the quality vs file size is pretty good actually. I’ve even created a YouTube account just so I can upload my videos and share them with the world (and catch those annoying rage quitters/cheaters). The only caveat with this is I’ve actually managed to hit 90% of my storage space within 2-3 days of playing solidly on the Xbox One. I have 3 games installed: Killer Instinct, Crimson Dragon and Fifa14. A couple of apps and 37 Game-DVR videos – most of which are full 5 minute videos. What I don’t know is whether this is 90% of the 500GB HDD OR 90% of the storage space allocated for Game-DVR. After some thought I believe it’s the latter because adding everything up, I can’t see how I could’ve gone past 200GB in total (that is of course, unless the OS is already taking 50% of the HDD). Update: I’ve cleared out most of my unwanted clips and now have 51+ clips of varying lengths – could this be because the clips have been moved from the local drive onto the cloud?

The games

So far I have four games for my Xbox One: Crimson Dragon, Killer Instincts, Fifa14 and Forza Motorsport 5. I’ve tried to avoid the reviews for these games as much as possible but with the likes of IGN and Joystiq on my Twitter feed, it’s difficult to not to be aware of what others have written about them.

Crimson Dragon

The spiritual successor of the legendary Panzer Dragoon series on the Sega Saturn. Back in E3 when I read about Crimson Dragon I was very, very hyped. But on the day of launch, this game had already accumulated so many bad reviews.

Nevertheless I went ahead and downloaded this because there probably won’t be any other on-the-rail shooters anymore. Upon playing the first mission I immediately identified the issues most reviews were complaining about. It was difficult to keep up with the on screen action, manoeuvre the dragon and locking onto the targets. You are forced to multi-task right off the bat without much introduction.

It is however, like teaching someone how to swim by throwing them into the deep end. They will either work out a way to swim/stay a float or drown – I feel as if the reviewers were the latter (but to be fair, there were claims that the game’s difficulty has been reduced in response to the reviews). After a handful of missions, evading and shooting became second nature. I started to enjoy the game until I came across a “free flight mode” section where you can fly in any direction you want. This was confusing and with no assist to what you’re doing, it was frustrating when I failed that mission. It felt like I wasn’t given a fair chance to attempt this mission.

After awhile, everything does feel repetitive. All missions are either kill everything on the screen, collect these devices or don’t get hit. It didn’t get better when conditions to unlock stages require a certain drop from certain monsters in a certain map. I feel that completing the stage once should open up the intended path for the next session instead of requiring luck to be on your side – for the record, I had to play the same stage four times (including the first play through) because these shark monsters wouldn’t drop some sort of item for me.

Crimson Dragon isn’t a great game, it’s average at best but it’s not as bad as the reviews make it to be (maybe the difficulty change has made the difference).

Killer Instinct

Probably my favourite Xbox One game right now is Killer Instinct. After watching Maximilian’s early morning video post after he had the chance to get his hands on the game. He passed his fever and excitement right onto me.

I started the game up around 23:30 and diligently went through each lesson until 2am. Time flew by. No matter, I woke up next morning and continued where I left off. By the time I checked the time again, I’ve missed breakfast and will be having a late lunch. This isn’t going to be healthy for me… This game is so addictive it’s unreal.

The fighting system is very solid. It’s accessible to newbies but also very rewarding for learning the in-game mechanics. Reviews have been quite harsh in marking the game down because of a lack of a story/arcade mode. I disagree. With any fighting game, most of the enjoyment actually comes from playing against a human opponent (be it local .Vs or online ranked matches). There will be more characters incoming in the future, which will only it’ll become better. Right?

I was also very impressed with how punchy the sound is and how smooth everything looks. You can almost feel every hit, every throw, every hard knock down that is happening on the screen.

In any case, this is definitely a must have for all fighting game lovers out there. The new content arriving in the future is only going to add to such an amazing game.

Fifa14

I’m not a football fan and prefer to have my hands on an NBA game instead. But since this came with my pre-order for the Xbox One, I can’t really complain.

Since this is the first Fifa game I have since Fifa95 (or was it 97?), it took me a while to work out what the “run” button was (RT). It was weird how they started the game with a match with no tutorial. For a newbie like me I had to keep pausing the game to find out what was what. I guess veteran players would’ve enjoyed the experience though.

Fifa was fun, I only play the odd single match as Man Utd but I feel like this game is best for when other people are here and want a football session.

Forza Motorsport 5

Having played a demo of Forza 4 I had high expectations for this game. Especially after spotting a few of my favourite cars in the line-up (Toyota Trueno, Mitsubishi Evo, MR2, GTR to name a few).

The controls are definitely more sensitive and tha race tracks are challenging to keep the game going. The inclusion of BBC’s Top Gear presenters (and the Stig) was a great touch! I watch the programme and it was fun racing around the Top Gear track.

Forza looks and plays great, it’s definitely a game that will entertain a wide audience yet is challenging enough for the hardcore gamer.

This post

It took me ages to write this blog post because I just couldn’t put the controller down. Now that I’m back at work I have to moderate my playing hours… that is until I’m off again next week… also during the Xmas period! Looking forward to all that time off work.

Thanks dad for waiting for it to arrive.

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