Feature

Everything You Need To Know About Xbox One

by Mike Futter on Nov 15, 2013 at 12:00 PM

It’s been an exciting two weeks in the gaming industry. In less than one week, we’ll be welcoming a second next-generation console into our living rooms. Whether you’re biding your time for Xbox One delivery or still sitting on the fence, this rundown of critical information will get you set for November 22.

The Console

Much has been made of the Xbox One’s size and shape. The console is a slick glossy black plastic that Microsoft calls “liquid black.” The console measures at 13 in x 10.75 in x 3.25 in. The Xbox One does have a power brick, but it’s smaller than the one required for the Xbox 360. You’ll still need to figure out where to put it, though.

Tech Specs

Here’s what’s under that liquid black chassis:

  • CPU: AMD 8-core with 64-bit architecture
  • GPU: AMD (with DirectX 11.1 and 32 MB of ESRAM memory)
  • Memory: 8 GB DDR3 RAM
  • Storage: 500 GB Hard Drive
  • Slot-loading Blu-ray Drive
  • Three USB 3 ports (one on side, two in rear)
  • Gigabit Ethernet port, 802.11n built-in WiFi
  • HDMI out, HDMI in, digital output (optical)

What’s in the Box?

Here’s what $499.99 gets you:

  • An Xbox One console
  • An Xbox One wireless controller
  • Kinect 2.0 
  • A mono chat headset
  • Power cord
  • Power brick
  • 4K-compatible HDMI cable
  • Voucher for day one achievement in specially marked units

Controller

The Xbox One controller looks very similar to the Xbox 360 controller, with a few pronounced differences. The thumb sticks are a bit smaller, and the face buttons have a more definitive click to them. 

The much maligned directional pad on the the Xbox 360 controller has been replaced with something that isn’t quite as loose and imprecise. The audio port at the bottom has been replaced with a proprietary connector that can be used for chat and game audio.

Microsoft will be releasing an adapter that will enable legacy headsets to connect to the new controller, but it won’t be available until 2014. Additionally, the battery is now flush to the back of the controller, eliminating the battery pack hump.

Instead of a start button, the right function button has been renamed to “menu.” The guide button still brings you back to the main dashboard.

Microsoft has been touting the improved rumble, especially in the triggers. The new “impulse triggers,” allow developers to more dynamically assign force feedback. Forza Motorsport 5 has been the showcase for this feature. 

Kinect

The new Kinect is leaps and bounds improved over the original model. It sports a 1080p camera and can see in the near darkness. The microphone is designed to eliminate environmental noise, which is crucial given the integration with voice commands.

Field of view, one of the limiting factors of the original Kinect, has been improved by 60 percent. The skeletal tracking plays a major role (along with facial recognition) in identifying players for sign-in. The device can even figure out which player is holding the controller as it is passed from one person to another.

Kinect is integral to rapidly controlling the Xbox One. Simple voice commands allow users to switch between games, apps, and television stations. This input mechanism can also be used to record gameplay clips and upload them.

Xbox Live Gold members can also use Skype video chat. We saw a live call in action, and the audio and visual clarity were impressive.

The Big Reversal - Used Games And Online Connections

When Microsoft announced the Xbox One in late May, many gamers reacted poorly to the company's push toward an all-digital solution. The original plan for the Xbox One was for the device to require regular "check-ins" online. At E3, these were specified to be spaced at 24 hours.

This was part of a solution that would have enabled family game sharing, but would have made trading in used retail games extremely cumbersome (if it were even possible). After a strongly negative reaction at E3, Microsoft went back to the drawing board and made some much-needed changes.

Right now, there is absolutely no requirement to connect your console to the internet except for when you first bring it home. You will need to install a 500 MB update before your console can perform any functions at all. After that, you will not need to be online, and there is no restriction at all on used game sales or retail game trading.

 

Read on to find out about the games available at launch.

Games

Here are the 21 games launching alongside the Xbox One:

First-Party Titles:

Third-Party Titles:

Cross-Generation Game Upgrades

Microsoft, third-party publishers, and select retailers have coordinated to make some games eligible for a $10 upgrade (often with trade of current-gen version). Titles that appear consistently across retailers include Madden NFL 25, FIFA 14, Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and Call of Duty: Ghosts. We’ve also seen Need for Speed: Rivals and NBA 2K14 offered for retail upgrade.

Microsoft has worked with Activision to create a digital bundle pack for Call of Duty: Ghosts. This $69.99 offer includes licenses for both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One versions. For many of the included games (Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Madden NFL 25, and FIFA 14 for certain), multiplayer and ultimate team progress will carry over from Xbox 360 to Xbox One. Single-player progress will not make the leap, though.

Storage Requirements

The Xbox One includes a 500 GB hard drive, and given the installation sizes of a number of games, expect that space to fill quickly. You can’t replace the Xbox One hard drive, but the console will support external storage options in the future. 

Here are the installation sizes we know right now:

  • Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag - 20 GB
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts - 39 GB
  • Just Dance 4 - 22 GB
  • Skylanders Swap Force - 15 GB
  • LocoCycle - 13 GB
  • Dead Rising 3 - 19 GB
  • FIFA 14 - 8 GB
  • NBA 2K14 - 43 GB
  • NBA Live 14 - 9 GB
  • Madden NFL 25 - 12 GB

Backward Compatibility

The Xbox One will not be backward compatible with any previous retail or digital Xbox 360 title at launch. This is identical to the Xbox 360’s launch profile, though Microsoft figured out how to support some retail original Xbox discs.

Microsoft has suggested that a streaming game service (similar to what Sony has proposed) won’t be happening. Your best bet is to hang onto your Xbox 360 in order to play your back library.

 

Read on to find out about how Kinect is woven throughout the user interface.

The Xbox One User Interface And Xbox Live

One of the biggest changes coming with the Xbox One is pervasive use of Windows 8-style tiles and the deep integration of Kinect voice commands into the experience. During our recent user experience demos, we got to see how easy it is to command the system with short sentences.

The interface is streamlined with three main areas. The home area shows the currently active game and recent apps. The left side shows “pins” for favorite games and apps.

The right side is the marketplace. The advertisements have been pared back, with only a few tiles designated for featured media. The store is broken down into different media types, with games all grouped together. The categories of Xbox Live and Xbox Live Indie Games are no more. 

Moving amongst the different sections of the dashboard is extremely fast. However, we’re still waiting to see how long it takes for an app like Netflix (which has a notoriously long start-up time) to get underway.

Xbox Live Gold is still required for multiplayer gaming and access to media applications. The only exception to this so far is Project Spark, Microsoft’s game creation suite, which will be in front of the paywall.

Television Support And HDMI Passthrough

The Xbox One offers two HDMI ports, and it is designed to take a signal from a cable box and pass that through to the television. With a simple configuration process that instructs the device on your cable provider and allows the Kinect IR blaster to control the television and an audio receiver, the Xbox can serve as a universal remote.

You can connect any HDMI device to the Xbox One, but anything but television watching is considered to be unsupported. Whichever device you have connected will be accessed by saying, “Xbox, watch TV.” You can’t customize that… yet.

With multiple Xbox One profiles for members of your family and the Kinect, the console can easily pull up the favorite channels for different family members. If more than one person is logged in, anyone can simply say, “Xbox, show my stuff,” and the dashboard will switch to show a customized interface. 

The “One Guide” can also show media apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus, along with photos and video on the SkyDrive. Those who are interested using the Xbox One as a media server can easily push content from a Windows 8 laptop to the console.

Video Sharing and Streaming

Microsoft has teamed up with Twitch to bring gameplay broadcasting to the Xbox One. This feature is behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall, so you will need to pony up $60 per year to access the feature.

You’ll also be able to access Game DVR with Xbox Live Gold. This allows users to save clips, edit them with Upload Studio, and share them with friends. YouTube will not be supported at launch, but there’s a workaround.

Microsoft is allowing users to connect external capture devices to the console. Those that do extensive post-production and want to upload to YouTube can continue doing so with an Elgato device or Hauppauge PVR.

SmartGlass

Microsoft introduced second screen functionality on the Xbox 360. That feature will deepen on the Xbox One as more developers implement companion functions. At launch, Battlefield 4, Madden NFL 25, and Dead Rising 3 are just some of the games that will make use of tablets and phones to enhance the game experience.

We expect that developers will continue to experiment with these functions until a set of best practices is devised. Until then, the second screen options will likely vary greatly in utility and enjoyability.