Xbox One review

The Xbox One is getting better with every firmware update

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For all its ambitions of becoming a true media hub, the Xbox One is a games console first and foremost, seemingly built around aiding the increasing number of living rooms that see interactive entertainment gracing the big screen more often than TV or movies.

Its home screen is packed with ways to play, share and (perhaps more so than anything else) buy games, not to mention indulge in gaming pursuits while you perform unrelated activities: playing as you use Skype to call disgruntled family members, or keeping one eye on a Twitch stream as you watch TV.


Inside the big black box, Microsoft has included an AMD processor with an impressive of speedy 32MB of ESRAM and 8GB of low-latency DDR3 memory. Standard models come with a creditable 500GB mechanical hard drive, although all games, disc-based or not, now require an installation, so that will fill faster than you might think, especially when compared to last generation consoles.

A new version of the console, announced just before this year's E3, packs a hefty 1TB hard drive inside it.

The Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare special edition was the first to introduce the console's terabyte hard drive, but now it's becoming a standard for the higher-end model.

Xbox One Review

Those game installations can provide a small speedbump to playing the game you've just bought, more so than on PS4 in most cases. The disc copy of Madden for Xbox One needed six minutes to reach 25% installation before letting us on the gridiron. The PS4 version needed two minutes, and an additional minute to download a patch before online features were enabled.

While it's not a major problem in and of itself, it's worth taking into account that games are beginning to add major content downloads alongside the installation, simply to ship on a single disc. Halo: The Master Chief Collection requires a 20GB patch simply to access its online features.

I doubt this will become standard, but with day one patches becoming more and more common, I recommend reading up on individual games to avoid any "I want to play now" frustration.

Despite its powerful innards, much has been made of the Xbox One's inferiority to PS4 in terms of graphical capability. Most notably that comes in the native resolution of mutliformat games. Early third-party games tended to output at 1080p on PS4, and 720p on Xbox One.

This has been improved on a tad, although not completely.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Metro Redux both run at 900p on Xbox One compared to the PS4's 1080. Ubisoft even attempted to end the debate by capping Assassin's Creed: Unity at 900p on both consoles, although the resulting furore means I very much doubt this will become standard practice.

It's a minuscule difference to all but the most trained eyes, but more worrying is how certain games include clearly more detailed lighting and textures on PS4. Grand Theft Auto V, for example, loses some environmental detail on Xbox One.

Xbox One Review

Of course, all of this is in aid of performance, and it's not in vain. Games are almost universally smooth, with short loading times. To the console's credit, the notoriously troublesome Assassin's Creed: Unity ran far better on Microsoft's console upon release than on other platforms.

With advancements already being made, and Microsoft's decision to drop Kinect in favour of optimising processing power, it's not outlandish to suggest that the gap will be closed even further as the console ages. The Widows 10-timed update to the Xbox One's OS may bring in some performance improvements via the development of DirectX 12 on the PC, but probably not enough to make a huge difference. There are already parts of DX12 in the console's DNA.

Right now though I simply can't say that it matches the PS4 for sheer graphical heft just yet.

The games

That said, as far as the games themselves are concerned, Xbox One began to outstrip PS4 for exclusives by the end of 2014 and that has only been extended through 2015.

Microsoft's E3 Xbox event was a highlight of this year's show, packing nostalgic fan-service, like the awesome Rare Replay bundle, long-awaited sequels like Halo 5: Guardians, massive exclusives like Rise of the Tomb Raider and impressive-looking new IP like Recore.

Added to the likes of Gears of War 4 the library of console-exclusive games on the One is currently stronger than PS4. Although the Wii U, while less powerful, retains the most critically acclaimed exclusive line-up.

Y'know, Mario and all that.


That's not to say the One's own games haven't included any hiccups. One of Microsoft's tentpole releases, Halo: The Master Chief Collection arrived in a disastrously poor state, and remains fundamentally broken in many areas.

The game, which comprises Halos 1 - 4 remastered with updated single and multiplayer portions of the FPS classics, has been plagued by matchmaking issues since release, leading developers 343 Industries to offer huge chunks of upcoming DLC (including the entirety of Halo: ODST) as free downloads to placate disgruntled owners.

2015 looks to be a critical year for the console, particularly with regard to its competition with PS4. Sony's console is looking sparse on exclusive content this year, so the holiday season really is there for Microsoft to win on the games front.

Halo 5, Fable Legends and Rise of the Tomb Raider (a timed exclusive, but an exclusive nonetheless) will provide strong AAA competition on Xbox One.

ID@Xbox, the console's indie release programme, will start to produce some underground hits too. Cuphead, SuperHot and Smite and more should start to offer some competition with PS4's traditionally stronger indie catalogue, while Microsoft's work to snare many PC ports as console exclusives should help prevent PS4 from getting any more enticing.

Xbox One Review

With more and more of the third party industry solely interested in multiplatform releases, choosing between exclusive line-ups rests on one or two games. At this point, Xbox One offers the superior choice, but buyers deciding between Sony and Microsoft's offerings might be better served by looking at what will be out in six months time.

For the One's part, this year will see most of Xbox's best-loved franchises (perhaps with the exception of the new Gears of War, although that remains a possibility) receiving a new installment. If it's familiarity you're after, this is the choice.

Microsoft has also announced some impressive new gaming-centric features/services too. Xbox Game Preview is set to operate like Steam's Greenlight and Early Access programs, allowing developers to get early versions of their games out to the paying public to aid in both their development via testing and feedback and also in terms of finance for the smaller devs with big ideas.

There will likely be issues, such as Steam's had with utterly broken or never-finished games harvesting people's money, but it will give independent developers much more access to the console crowd.

Then there's the added bonus of backwards compatibility.

It was one of the surprises of this year's E3, with Phil Spencer taking to the stage proclaiming "we wont charge you to play the games you already own!" The software emulation isn't exactly full backwards compatibility but at launch there will be around 100 titles accessible, with more being added on a regular basis.

There's a list of the most requested games here. Obviously Red Dead Redemption is top...

The idea will be that you put your 360 disc in the drive for authentication then you can download the Xbox One compatible version to play on your new console with all the social and multitasking features it offers.

The controller

It's a testament to Microsoft's sterling work on the Xbox 360 controller that the One's standard version is merely an iteration (not to mention that Nintendo's Wii U Pro Controller openly acknowledges its excellence by nabbing the design almost wholesale).

While slightly chunkier, and with a grippier matte texture, the basic design remains almost identical. Asymmetrical sticks lend themselves to most games and the various contours have been shaped specifically to help you play for frankly dangerous lengths of time before getting the controller cramps of old.

Xbox One Review
The new controller feels every better in the hand than the 360 pad

Unfortunately, that unchanged design still means you'll need a steady supply of AA batteries to keep it running, unless you buy the overpriced charge-and-play kit. However battery life is substantially better than the PS4's quickly-drained Dual Shock 4 as a result.

What changes have been made tend towards minor improvements. The menu button has been shifted to the top of controller to stop accidental presses, and the sticks have been surrounded with what feels like kevlar, a perfect addition for twitchier games.

The new Impulse rumble system, which was introduced to early testers by simulating the feeling of a heartbeat in the centre of the controller, has barely been used besides offering the feeling of some arcade lightgun-like force feedback on trigger pulls. It's something of a gimmick, but a pleasant one, although it does seem to have resulted in triggers that feel a little flimsy when used normally, especially when compared to the 360 equivalent.

Xbox One review
The shoulder buttons are possibly the only weak point on the pad

It's an improvement in almost every other way, however and, for my money, the best controller of this generation of consoles. While it lacks the Dual Shock 4's more advanced features (touchpad, motion controls, etc.), it's simply a better fit for the hand. Microsoft has even been issuing intermittent firmware updates specifically for the controller, meaning its responsiveness has been improved since launch.

That's commitment.

Microsoft is also set to release a new Xbox Elite Wireless Controller in October. With a sky-high price tag (£130!), extreme customisation, accuracy and paddle switches, the new controller is designed to offer the perfect adjustable controller for any game type.

Check out our hands-on review here.


Tech Specs

Product TypeGaming Console
Hard Drive Capacity500 GB
Processor ManufacturerAMD
Graphics Controller ManufacturerATI
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeBlu-ray Disc Player
Ethernet TechnologyGigabit Ethernet
Product FamilyXbox One
Gaming Controller ConnectivityWireless
Maximum Resolution1920 x 1080
Brand NameMicrosoft
Input Device TypeGame Pad
Processor CoreOcta-core (8 Core)
Graphics Controller ModelRadeon
Network (RJ-45)Yes
Graphics Processor Speed853 MHz
Online NetworkXbox LIVE
ManufacturerMicrosoft Corporation
Product NameXbox One Gaming Console
Processor Speed1.60 GHz
Processor TypeJaguar
Product LineXbox One
Manufacturer Part NumberXBOXONE
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

Be amazed.

Welcome to a new generation of games and entertainment. Where games push the boundaries of realism. And television obeys your every command. Where listening to music while playing a game is a snap. And you can jump from TV to movies to music to a game in an instant. Where your experience is custom tailored to you. And the entertainment you love is all in one place. Welcome to the all-in-one, Xbox One.