Last night was one to remember, at least for many of those who have been eagerly waiting for years to see the next generation Xbox console. While Sony hosted its event earlier in February, where they expected fans to be content with just a controller reveal, Microsoft went all out and unveiled the new console in all its shiny black glory. Within the first five minutes of the event, the world knew what the new console looked like, and that it was dubbed the Xbox One. We sat through the entire hour long presentation, by the edge of our seats, listening to the amazing features and games that were going to be a part of the new console, and for your reading pleasure, here they all are:
The Xbox One: Designed to Kill
The Xbox One has been completely redesigned inside-and-out. The console has ditched the elegant smooth curves of the Xbox Slim in favour or straight, clean cut edges. While the earlier Xbox consoles had developed an image of a “console that stands tall,” the Xbox One seems to have a design more suitable for laying it flat, sort of like a Blu-ray player (who uses DVDs anymore right?). The console looks pretty much like a black box, but with elegant cuts and fins for ventilation, and while it is slightly bigger than the previous generation Xbox devices, Microsoft says it runs at least four times quieter. The Kinect sensor and the controller too have received a redesign, with the sensor also going for the clean, industrial look, very similar to the console itself. For some reason, we couldn’t help but feel that the “flat/clean edged” look of Windows 8 was casting its shadow on the console and the Kinect unit.
The controller, on the other hand, still retains its basic layout and shape, but has received many tweaks. The D-pad has improved, the joy-sticks now have a nice textured finish and the XYBA buttons have a new look. The real noticeable changes, however are the fact that the battery compartment is now integrated into the controller, meaning no more awkward humps at the bottom. The other major change is that the new controller includes not two, but four vibration motors. While two motors are for the feedback on the controller as a whole, the other two motors are dedicated to each of the triggers to provide real-time feedback on them based on the action being performed in game.
Hardware: Next Generation on Steroids
Microsoft really has thrown in the kitchen sink when it comes to the hardware running the Xbox One. In an attempt to bring it at par with PC gaming, the first thing to change is the fact that the console is now running on x86 architecture (64-bit), meaning all our Xbox 360 games are effectively incompatible with the new console. In exchange, Microsoft is offering some serious power under the hood.
For starters, the paltry 512MB of RAM that graces our current Xbox 360 models has been swapped out for a face-melting 8GB of RAM. There’s a custom built AMD SoC on board that packs an 8-core CPU along with a DirectX 11.1 capable GPU. In order to keep the insides as slim as possible (we’re assuming for better airflow and lower operating temperatures) and minimize parts, the 40 nanometre SoC features the CPU/GPU chip, the memory, the controller logic, the DRAM, and audio processors all built onto it. In comparison, this much horsepower is spread over two 90 nanometre chips on the Xbox 360. There’s also a 500 GB hard drive and a custom built Blu-ray drive in there.
In terms of ports and connectivity, Microsoft hasn’t revealed much except that it will sport an HDMI in and an HDMI out port (more on this in the coming sections). All USB ports will be USB 3.0 (we make out 2 USB ports on the back, though the front could have a “hidden panel” with more underneath). There’s a redesigned Kinect sensor port as well, making us feel that the existing sensor will not be compatible with the new console. For internet connectivity, the Xbox One has the usual gigabit Ethernet port, along with three Wi-Fi (802.11n) antennae. Microsoft has designed the controllers to work on Wi-Fi Direct, which will require one of the antennae, while the other two could be used to maintain a strong wireless connection.
Big Brother, the New Kinect
The new Kinect sensor makes the old one look like a severely under-developed piece of tech. We start with the camera itself, which has gone from a resolution of 640x480 pixels in RGB colour space to full HD (1920x1080) in the RGB space. What this allows the sensor to now do is sense even the minutest of movements. It can tell when you smile, when you rotate your wrists (in fitness based games), it can measure the depth of your movements to a much finer degree, and for all the fitness enthusiasts, it can even monitor your heart rate. It also recognizes the new Xbox controller and syncs player profiles accordingly, apart from resuming game you were last playing from where you left it off. The Kinect sensor really is at the heart of the amazing user experience the Xbox One promises to deliver, therefore, it has to be “always on.” The bright side is that every new Xbox One console will ship with the new Kinect sensor, instead of being a separate, expensive accessory.
One Device to Rule them All
It was very clear from the very beginning that Microsoft was setting out to create a device that would soon become a permanent and necessary fixture in everyone’s living rooms. While the Xbox 360 fulfilled that role rather beautifully, the Xbox One takes it to a whole new level. Remember that HDMI In port we mentioned earlier? Yes, that is essentially to take in cable input, instantly turning your gaming console into a DVR box. Microsoft mentions that the cable capabilities are limited to certified set top boxes, so whether it will work with our Indian providers such as Tata Sky, Airtel, Dish TV etc., is still not known. Regardless, there is a Blu-ray drive built into the console this time, so you can go through your movie collection on the Xbox One with pleasure.
Interact, Interface, Intermingle
The user experience of the new Xbox One is most definitely quite something. For starters, the Xbox Dashboard that we’re all used to has changed to a start screen that many of us have had a hard time getting used to. That’s right, it bears an ominous resemblance to the Windows 8 start screen. Not surprising, given how the new OS on the Xbox One is built on the Windows 8 kernel.
Microsoft has introduced a new tab to the menu bar called “Trends.” This tab essentially picks up on whatever the Xbox Live community is watching/playing/listening to the most at the moment and creates that list for you. It’s a great way to discover new content. This corresponds to TV Shows, Movies, Music and even games, so if you ever find yourself at a loss of what to do, the Trends tab will definitely be able to throw something of interest at you.
Last but not the least, the entire Xbox One user interface has very deep voice and gesture integration. In the live demo at the reveal event, Yusuf Mehdi, CVP, Marketing & Strategy, Xbox / Interactive Entertainment Microsoft Corp, showed just how fast the new console responds to voice commands. Switching between TV shows, movies, Internet Explorer and even playing games was exceptionally fast, almost like changing channels on the TV. The software also supports gestures, which will now allow you to “Snap” two apps together, just like in Windows 8. So on one side, you could be browsing on Internet Explorer while watching your favourite TV show on the other half of the screen. If you had seen the live demo, you’d know that Microsoft is bringing that Minority Report stuff to your living rooms and you’d be excited about it too!
Skype. ‘nuff Said.
Microsoft has FINALLY brought Skype to the Xbox. This has probably been the longest tease session ever, but we’re glad it’s finally over. Skype will utilize the new Kinect sensor’s improved camera and spatial microphones to deliver great quality video calls right in your living room. Nothing quite like the joy of being able to teleconference from the comfort of your couch. Just make sure you get rid of last night’s empty bags of chips and drained Coke bottles before you get on that call with your bosses.
The Xbox Reveal event was all about the Xbox One and while entertainment was a large chunk of the presentation, how could Microsoft let the event end without a word on the exciting new titles coming out for the console? We first had EA showcase their new Ignite Engine which will be coming to FIFA 14, Madden NFL, NBA Live and UFC games. The Ignite Engine takes into account not just the speed and movement of the players, but also the dexterity and the thought process behind the movement of a player. EA says the engine was developed after taking a lot of input from prominent sports people who said that a game isn’t just about the physical performance, but also the mental performance. EA says that they will be able to deliver four times the finer detail in movement using the hardware prowess of the Xbox One through the Ignite Engine.
Forza Motorsport 5
It isn’t any surprise that Turn 10’s flagship title featured in the Xbox Event, though we had initially assumed that Forza Motorsport 5 would get an E3 reveal. Forza Motorsport 4 brought full Kinect integration when it launched, and the new game coming up promises to be available at launch of the Xbox One. We’re not going to talk much about this game, because we’ll just let you watch the game trailer.
Quantum Break: New Exclusive for the Xbox One
Remedy Games, the creators of Alan Wake and Max Payne have developed an Xbox One exclusive called Quantum Break, a revolutionary entertainment experience that blurs the line between gameplay and television. These are the guys who invented the concept of Bullet Time in video games and if you look at the reveal trailer, you will feel a tingle down your spine. It probably has something to do with the lines “Time is the fire in which we all burn” or the surreal shift between game graphics and live action footage. Check it out for yourself right here:
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Nothing gets a crowd quite worked up like the very mention of Call of Duty, and so as the finale for the reveal event, the guys from Infinity Ward took to the stage and revealed that the next-gen Call of Duty game will dive deep into the story line and focus a lot more on delivering a more real experience. One of the things shared at the event was that in an FPS game, the hands of your character are the most viewed item, so the developers put a lot of emphasis on providing a lot more realism to the arms. There will be hair, dynamic lighting with self-casting shadows and even the wounds your character sustains will persist. The best part, however, is the dog. Watch this video to know what we’re talking about.
What to Take Away
The reveal event at Redmond showed off the new Xbox One console and how it has matured to be an all-round home entertainment system. Its design is something that would be a matter of personal taste, but one can’t deny that it packs a lot of power within that plastic shell. The controller looks incredibly elegant and the Kinect unit seems to have really become one powerful piece of tech central to a well-rounded Xbox experience.
However, the event was severely lacking in its gaming chops. We did hear that there are 15 exclusives lined up for the first year of the Xbox One, but did not have the chance to see any but one. It would seem that Microsoft is saving all the juicy gaming bits for E3, which is no surprise. The story isn’t over yet, and we strongly advise reserving judgement till both Sony and Microsoft have revealed in entirety what their next-gen consoles will be capable of.
Oh, and Microsoft has signed on Steven Spielberg to direct the new Halo Live Action Series.