No one is going to stand up and say the Xbox One was a great console right out of the gate. It wasn’t. The Xbox One started its life-cycle as something completely different and has had to scratch and claw its way back to the top.
So, before we can look at the incredible console the Xbox One has become, it makes sense to look back to where we started: the first press conference where ex-Xbox Chief Don Mattrick introduced his vision for the console.
The Xbox One Mattrick originally envisioned was a polarizing system unhampered by disc drives and tethered to the real world with Kinect. It had some huge issues with DRM management, even going as far as banning the sale of used games, and pushed digital content over anything physical.
Whatever you personally thought of it, it was a system the world wasn’t ready for.
The fallout from Mattrick’s failed pitch was disastrous – and the resulting first-look at the system didn’t go much better. There’s even a video that captures the essence of the plan – which mostly consisted of watching TV and playing Call of Duty – perfectly. The slip-up and the full reversal that followed gave Sony’s PS4 an early lead.
And while the naysayers out there might have tried to put the nail in Microsoft’s console coffin there and then, the fight was far from over. In fact, the way I see it, that was the motivation Microsoft needed to retool the system with a focus on gamers.
Today, the Xbox One is evolving faster than ever before, giving it a real chance to come out ahead of the PS4 in its remaining years. Microsoft might not have sold 55 million units like the PS4 has, but only Xbox One can claim monthly updates that bring, among other gems, features like Xbox 360 backwards compatibility and Game Pass – the new service that will let you download scores of Xbox 360 and Xbox One games for one set price per month.
Then there are the games – the first dibs on Tomb Raider and Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall, the indie darlings like Ori and the Blind Forest and the big guns like Gears of War 3 and Halo 5: Guardians. Each one brings something different to the table, giving grand choice to the gamer and enabling some truly next-level experiences.
Wait, what am I doing? I don’t need to tell you all this. You’ve crowned the Xbox One as one of the , one that stands up there with the GameCube, Sega Mega Drive / Genesis and PS4. You clearly understand the subtle nuances of why this system is great.
Still ... just to be safe, I’ll elaborate as to why we love the Xbox so much.
E Pluribus Unum
“E pluribus unum,” in Latin it means “from many, one.” It’s the motto for the United States and, in many ways, represents the future for Microsoft’s Xbox – a future fueled by one of the most powerful consoles ever made, Project Scorpio.
Scorpio, alongside the Xbox One S, will join the original Xbox One in a new console family that will span the gamut of display technologies. The Xbox One will take point as the entryway for 1080p gaming, Xbox One S will do 4K HDR and Scorpio will do 4K HDR and, so the rumors say, some sort of VR or augmented reality. More importantly, while these three consoles will differ in power and resolutions, they’ll share the same game library.
This is the power of the Xbox One, to match gamers up to the best possible hardware and to always have one more piece of kit on the (Forza) horizon. That’s not even mentioning a stellar online multiplayer network in the form of Xbox Live, Xbox OneGuide and the new Play Anywhere feature that allows you to buy games for Xbox One and receive a Windows 10 version of the game for free.
But, speaking of games, all this wouldn’t mean anything without a collection of great titles to play. While Microsoft has struggled somewhat in the area of creating platform-exclusive games, there are still a number of titles here that have exceeded our expectations...
The greatest Xbox One games (so far)
Ori and the Blind Forest
Anyone who says that the Xbox One doesn’t have any good first-party games is dead wrong. OK sure, maybe Microsoft has leaned a bit too heavily on franchises like Halo, Gears of War and Forza to keep itself fed each and every year, but that’s not everything the console offers.
One of our favorite games of the lot is Ori and the Blind Forest, one of the Xbox One’s first big indie successes and one of its greatest assets to this day. For those that missed it, it’s a Metroidvania exploration game that cobbles together platforming and combat in an exciting way while adding beautiful artwork and a touching story to the mix. It’s east meets west in the best way possible – from the challenge to the artwork – and is highly recommended.
Moving beyond indie darlings for a moment, Sunset Overdrive was a game released by Insomniac Games (the Ratchet and Clank team) that didn’t make a splash when it came out in 2014, but has gone on to be a cult classic over the years.
It’s a scorcher for two reasons: the first is that it didn’t take inspiration from the typical sources. It didn’t look to other third-person shooters for ideas – it looked to games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Jet Set Radio for ideas on how to move. And instead of copying the same machine gun we’ve seen a thousand times and adding a new shade of gunmetal, each weapon had a story of its own, clearly inspired by the team’s work on Ratchet & Clank. While the plotline and writing didn’t blow us away, if you’re looking to liven up your game collection, Sunset Overdrive is the neon-fueled smack in the face you’ve been looking for.
While its sequel blew away the first game in the franchise, ask any first-person shooter fan which game stole their hearts on Xbox One, and the original Titanfall will surely come to mind. Fast, fun and teamwork-oriented, Titanfall asked you to work together to make giant mechs rain from the sky onto the charred metallic remains of your enemies, racking up kills along the way and capturing objectives in good measure.
Forza Horizon 3
Forza Horizon 3, on the other hand, is the pinnacle of the series. Gorgeous to look at and even more fun to play, Horizon 3 changed up the series’ usual race-to-the-top objective by putting you in control of the show. As festival director, it was up to you to say which events happened where while still testing your mettle on the track. While there’ll surely be more Forza on our Horizon come , this has been the best ride we’ve ever taken.