For those of us who prefer gaming in a more “traditional” sense, Microsoft has done what they can to try and improve upon the Xbox 360 controller, which is widely considered to be one of the most comfortable and well put together controllers ever (minus of course the notoriously bad D-pad). As far as aesthetics go, the Xbox One controller features a more modern design, while maintaining the comfortable and familiar shape of its predecessor. It has swapped out its original paint job for a more puristic, plain one, even taking the once colourful ABXY buttons to a more toned down, black look. The Xbox Home button has been moved further up and made smaller (with a nice chrome finish), and the start and select buttons have changed into the View and Menu buttons. Their names are all you need to know what they do.
And if you are the type who enjoys the concept of expanding your experience beyond the traditional controller, Microsoft has made an effort to really implement and expand on the involvement of SmartGlass. For those who do not know, SmartGlass is an application for phones and tablets, that allows interaction with the Xbox (both 360 and One). Up until now, this interaction has been minimal. Now though, Microsoft is looking to make SmartGlass a larger part of the overall Xbox experience. Players will be able to access things such as maps on their second screen. It could be used to set up matchmaking for one game on the phone or tablet, while you continue to play a different game on your television. In Tom Clancy’s The Division, a player was even shown using a tablet to control a remote controlled drone to assist his friends while he was away from home.
When the Xbox One was first revealed at an event on May 21st earlier this year, it was met with some negative feedback. This was due to Microsoft focusing solely on the television and movie features that the console will offer. While these features are somewhat neat, if not impressive, Microsoft may have dropped the ball a little with the non-focus on the actual gaming aspects of their “gaming” console.
What the Xbox One is bringing to the table are some Kinect-based features that integrate your home entertainment into a single system. Without ever touching a remote (you can control practically everything just with your voice. Xbox ON!), users will be able to play and search for movies, while simultaneously searching the web, or even holding a conversation with the built-in Skype software. If they so choose, they can then switch that screen to their television provider seamlessly and watch live television on the spot. This snap-to sort of system (incidentally called “Snap Mode”) will then allow users to jump instantly back to their games if they tire of movies and TV.
One of the shining stars of Microsoft’s business model for the Xbox has been the Xbox Live service. While many pan it for being a paid service, it has proven to be stable, well protected, and worth the investment – all the while providing a boundless amount of content to paying users. With the new console, of course, come some inevitable upgrades to the service itself.
The primary inclusion to the service is undoubtedly Microsoft’s Cloud servers. While these have been present on the current version of Xbox Live for some time now, the plan is to expand on them greatly with the Xbox One. Not only will users be able to save their games, movies and music on the cloud, developers will also have access to the servers for online play. This will means that players will be treated to constant, huge, shared game worlds, with this feature being a major focus at this year’s E3.
Is it all enough?
Microsoft is doing what it can to bring gamers a connected and powerful console to push us into the next generation of gaming. At present, their appear to be some flaws in its plan, and gamers are still up in arms about some choices they’ve made (the now-infamous U-turn on DRM and used games being a major hitting point). Microsoft is assuring them that the concerns they have are exaggerated, and that their security is ensured. Though it may be up to the individual if they want to support the console, the next-generation games coming to the platform sure look fun and intriguing, and in the end, that may be all that really matters. Gamers will get their chance to weigh in this holiday season when the Xbox One launches at $499 in North America, €499 in Europe, £429 in the UK, and $599 in Australia.