August 28, 2014 Update: a lot has changed for the Xbox One since day one. We've recently updated this review with information regarding the August system update. Original review by Alex Roth.
Meet the Xbox One, Microsoft's one console to rule it all - video games, TV, music and movies, everything you do in the living room short of sitting down. You name it, the Xbox One does it.
It's a plan of great ambition, and possibly fractured focus. Is Microsoft taking on too much with one system?
That was the general reaction at E3 2013 when the Xbox One's cable TV integration and always on Kinect were revealed, all for a price tag that turned out to be $100 heavier than the PlayStation 4's. Sony went on to arguably win the show with some excellent counter-programming.
On November 22 the Xbox One pushed through the bad buzz with a launch lineup padded with installments from familiar franchises. Games like Call of Duty: Black Ops, Dead Rising 3, Assassins Creed: Black Flag IV and NBA 2K14 made sure the early adopters lined up at midnight would have something to play.
The real question is this: can the Xbox One overcome the mixed messaging, the now-canned 24-hour online dependence and the other potholes that had it stumbling out of the gate, and allowed Sony to win E3 2013 with some sharp counter-programming?
And can it live up to the legacy of the Xbox 360? For long stretches of the last console generation, the Xbox was king. While the Wii was everywhere, and millions of gamers and AV enthusiasts eventually picked up a PlayStation 3, for a while there the phrase "let's play some Xbox" was almost interchangeable with "let's play some video games."
It was the console that brought Xbox Live into maturity, setting the standard for the online experience on a gaming console. It taught couch gamers to tolerate the tech support look of a headset in exchange for voice communication, and that you get what you pay for: a year of Xbox Live Gold might have cost as much as a game, but the service was more robust than Sony's PSN.
We've recently seen Microsoft's master plan at E3 2014. More exclusives are trickling in like Sunset Overdrive, Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Forza Horizon 2, but we've yet to see a definitive reason to buy Microsoft over Sony in this console generation.
But updates are coming fast and furious. By this time next month users should have the ability to remotely start downloads on their Xbox Ones and real name sharing should be completely functional. Not to mention EA's recently announced service called EA Access that gives Xbox gamers download access to FIFA 14, Madden NFL 25, Peggle 2 and Battlefield 4 for $4.99 a month.