Here's Tom's review of the XBOX One and it ain't pretty.
The Xbox One is an overpriced, underpowered entertainment console that places media integration as its first priority, with video gaming a distant second. I write game reviews for themoviesleuth.com, so I'm reviewing the Xbox One as a gaming console. Because of that, I have a lot of questions and complaints about Microsoft's latest release that must be addressed.
I'll start with the mandatory inclusion of the Kinect 2.0 with every console. Microsoft claims that this piece of hardware is what pushed the launch price to $500, although penny pinching design decisions in other areas makes me question that statement. After exhaustively researching the improvements of the Kinect from the original model, I was optimistic that motion controlled gaming could be entering its first golden age. It has a wider capture range and the ability to track six people at once and many more moving parts with greater accuracy.
As it stands now, the Kinect is nothing more than a $100 voice activated remote control. I am utterly baffled as to why there is no pack-in game showing off the features of the new Kinect. The Nintendo Wii would not have been the sales juggernaut that it became if it didn't ship with Wii Sports. No one would argue that it was a AAA game, but it was a great way to show off the potential of the Wii's motion controls. Microsoft is dead set on making the Xbox One an entertainment center first, but would it have killed them to make a cheap tech display game?
Unlike the PS4, the Xbox One includes DLNA. You can play your CDs and MP3s on it, and the inclusion of Smartglass allows you to control the system while you're on the toilet. It doesn't make much of a difference to me, but it is a welcome feature that's missing on the PS4.
I'll move on to the controller. The Xbox 360 controller set the standard for design, with the wonky d-pad being its only flaw. The Xbox One controller is just like the 360 controller, with a fixed d-pad and tightened up analog sticks that control like a dream. I didn't have an orgasmic religious experience when I touched them like Jesse did when he first used the Dualshock 4, but I certainly consider the controller design one of the best features of the system. FPS lovers will swoon over their ability to pull off sniper shots like a boss with this level of control.
Unfortunately, the controller that comes with the system requires two AA batteries to operate. Seriously. WHAT YEAR IS THIS!? The Playstation 3 launched seven years ago with a rechargeable lithium ion battery in its controller, so why the hell do I have to go out and buy batteries in 2013!? Of course, you can buy a rechargeable battery pack separately for $15, or you can buy a controller with a built in rechargeable battery for $75.
By comparison, the Dualshock 4, with its touchpads, sells for $60 with a rechargeable battery. Microsoft has given me a kind of consumer gouging I haven't seen since I bought the Turbografx-16 at launch back in 1989. It came with a controller that had a SIX FOOT cord. If you wanted to play the system at a distance that wouldn't burn out your retinas, you had to buy a controller extension for $15. The Xbox One is giving us the same kind of middle finger 24 years later.
As far as the hardware under the hood goes, the CPUs are virtually identical. When it comes to the GPUs, Sony has the upper hand, with 18 compute units and 1152 shader processors compared to the One's 12 compute units and 768 shaders. What this means for gamers is that things like lighting and particle effects look better on the PS4. The GPU runs slightly faster on the One (853 MHz compared to the PS4's 800MHz,) but that does not nearly make up for the differences in compute units.
Both systems have eight gigabytes of RAM, a whopping 16 times more than last generation's machines. Again, Microsoft made a baffling choice to go with slower, cheaper RAM in their system than the PS4. The GDDR5 RAM in the PS4 runs at 5500MHz, more than twice as fast as the RAM in the Xbox one, allowing game developers to easily deliver faster framerates and higher resolution without pushing the processors to their limits. The older DDR3 RAM used in the One makes it more difficult for developers to deliver the next generation goods we expect.
The fact that the Xbox One uses more of its RAM to run multiple background programs makes things even harder on game developers. Having access to less RAM that runs slower than the competition gives game makers a Herculean task to try and make games look just as good on the One as they do on the PS4.
But enough about statistics, let's talk about the meat of every launch: the games. Crytek delivers the best launch title by a landslide with Ryse: Fall of Rome. Crytek is known for pushing the boundaries of hardware to deliver mind-blowing graphics, and I was impressed with their ability to provide a 900p resolution at launch, considering what they had to work with in a short development frame. If I had to put Ryse into a specific genre, it would be hack-n-slash, but it's actually a bit more than that. The combo system is intuitive and very fun, featuring an execution mechanic that features over 100 different animations. My favorite executions involve using the environment around me (campfires, concrete ledges, etc.) to finish off the enemy. When playing co-op, the two person executions are downright hilarious in the best way. I'm a Dark Souls nut, so I appreciate that shields are an integral part of combat. Ryse is by no means a great game, but considering the fact that it's a launch title, I'm giving it a few bonus points. 8/10
Capcom deserves credit for having Dead Rising 3 available to consumers at launch, but this clearly could have been an even better game with some more development. The graphics are very good - for a last generation game. Running at 720p and 30 fps, it hardly looks next-gen. It's much darker and less cheeky than it's predecessors, which is a disappointment for me but an admittedly natural evolution for the series. It features a much more robust upgrade system than its predecessors, and combining items to make more powerful (and deliciously ridiculous) weapons is more fun than ever. Again, it gets credit for being available on day one and delivering some zombie killing fun. 7/10.
I played a few minutes of the free downloadable reboot of Killer Instinct, and all I can say about this abomination is that you get what you pay for. Last generation's reboots of the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are superior in graphics and gameplay. FINISH IT!
Before the Xbox fanboys decide to burn my house down, I will say this about the Xbox One: There is a LOT of potential here. Perhaps the inclusion of the Kinect with every system will turn out to be a blessing in the future. If developers jump on board and start delivering AAA titles that utilize the Kinect, it could really change the gaming landscape. I'm looking forward to playing D4 next year to see how well the kinect responds to my movements. But I'm not rating this system on potential. I'm reviewing it as it is.
The only crowd I can recommend the Xbox One to right now are people with lots of money to burn who want to show off the new tech to their friends in the man cave. I wouldn't even recommend it to Xbox fans, at least not yet. There are probably loads of great titles you haven't played yet on your 360, and you're not missing ANYTHING right now on the Xbox one.
When the AAA exclusives like Titanfall and Halo 5 arrive, it might be a different story. But for now, save your money or pick up a Playstation 4. You'll thank me for it.
-Review by Tom McDaniel