Review: Xbox One

When Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 eight years ago, it was "just" a game console that could also connect to the Internet to play online and download smaller games along with DLC packs. Oh, and it could also play DVDs (or HD DVD discs if you bought the short lived add-on hardware). That was pretty much all we expected from a game console back in 2005.

It's now 2013, and things have changed enormously in terms of what we want out of a game console. Thanks to both software updates and additional hardware add-ons, the Xbox 360 can now stream videos from Netflix, Hulu and a ton of other content providers; cable companies can use it to let consumers watch regular television channels through the console. More so, independent developers can publish their own games on the console directly. There are Xbox Live avatars that people can outfit with special clothes and items for a price. Gamers can even use their hand and arm movements to control games via the first generation Kinect add-on.

Yes, the era of just being able to sit on the couch and play games on a "game console" is truly over. While purists might not care for these changes, Microsoft clearly sees the newly released Xbox One as their next step in that evolution that will offer not just games but a ton of other entertainment options, including plans for original television programming made by Microsoft itself. But the question remains: should you get an Xbox One or wait until even more features are added?

The standard Xbox One, which is the subject of this review, comes in a lime green box. In the package comes the console itself, along with the Kinect add-on, a headset, a controller with two AA batteries, a power cord, a power brick and a HDMI cord, along with a setup manual and a code good for 14 free days on Xbox Live Gold if you don't have an active subscription already. If you are lucky enough to get an Xbox One Day One edition, it will arrive in a black box. Inside there's an Xbox One controller with a Day One label, an Xbox logo sticker and a code for a Day One Xbox Live achievement, in addition to all of the other things in the standard version.

If you are going to get an Xbox One console, there's one other thing we strongly suggest you purchase; an Xbox Live Gold subscription. When the Xbox 360 first launched, you could get away with not paying for the Gold service if you were not into playing online multiplayer games. However, the Xbox One has so many features that require Xbox Live Gold that your experience with the console will be highly curtailed if you don't sign up for it.

Setting up the Xbox One is pretty straightforward. Plugging in the console to a power strip or outlet is combined with connecting the Kinect to the Xbox One. The HDMI cord can be connected to a cable or satellite box that's already connected to the TV and then the HDMI cable is then connected to the Xbox One's HDMI In port to enable viewing of television through the console's UI.

Once you turn the console on you should see an Xbox One logo on a green background that just sits there for a few minutes. It fact, it takes so long you might think something might be wrong with the console. However, it does finally ask you to download the 500 MB Day One update which is required for the Xbox One to do, well, anything. Depending on the speed of your Internet connection it may take around 10 to 15 minutes to download and install the update. Once that's done, you get to see the Xbox One logo again for a few minutes before completing the rest of the set up process, including adding in your Microsoft Account information. You have to type this information with the controller and on-screen keyboard which is always a pain but there's nothing you can do to avoid it.

The Xbox One's case is a big "2001" monolith-like box in a "liquid black" color that, aside from a 45 degree cut on the bottom and a glowing Xbox logo on the right, is about as stylish as a yellow bus. It does come with a slot loading disc player which is a big plus compared to the tray on the original Xbox 360 that was prone to breaking. We also appreciate the fact that the console runs pretty quiet for the most part, even while playing games, which is definitely something we could not say about the Xbox 360.

With the exception of one USB port on the left side of the Xbox One, all of the other ports are on the back of the console. That includes two more USB 3.0 ports, the power socket, the Ethernet connection, the HDMI Out port, the HDMI In port for connecting a cable box to the console, the Kinect connection, and an optical audio port.

While it's great that the Xbox One has three USB ports, they currently don't do a lot, since Microsoft decided to ship the console without the promised external hard drive support via those USB connections. Microsoft says that extra storage support is coming in a software update but has not given a specific date. You can't even connect a Flash drive to play MP3 files on the console; the Xbox One doesn't support it. If you own a Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 PC or tablet, you can stream any video or music file to the Xbox One and it will run them via their included Xbox Video or Xbox Music, respectively.

Inside the Xbox One there's a custom APU from AMD that includes a CPU and Radeon-based GPU. There's 8GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB hard drive inside. Much has been said about how Sony's PlayStation 4 has more powerful hardware in its case but the truth is that both consoles are closer in performance than what may be indicated on a stats sheet. I won't get into the whole "Resolutiongate" debate again; all I will say is that a 1080p bad game is still a bad game and we will take a great 720p game like Dead Rising 3 over the 1080p looks of Killzone: Shadow Fall any day.

The Xbox One dashboard brings the owner the familiar Metro/Modern style that was introduced with the Xbox 360's 2011 dashboard update. One of the biggest new features is one that's familiar to Windows 8 and Windows Phone owners; the ability to "pin" games, apps and more to the Xbox One's home screen so that users can quickly access the content they want to use most.

One of the icons at the top left corner of the screen looks like a globe. When you click it, you can see all of your recent notifications (your newest achievements, which games and apps you have downloaded, etc). The other icons allows you to either sign into your own Xbox Live account or change it to another user's account.

Going "home" is as simple as saying "Xbox, go home" via the Kinect add-on or by pressing the Home button on the Xbox One controller. Your pinned items are on the left side of the Home screen. In the center is your Xbox Live profile, a screen with whatever game, app or TV show you are currently using, and surrounding it are all of your recently accessed games and apps.

Clicking on your profile allows users to view their friends and followers on Xbox Live. Xbox One owners can have up to 1,000 friends but an infinite number of followers. The basic difference between "friend" and "follower" corresponds to the amount of personal information you give out. You can also check your activity feed along with those of your friends, change your gamerpic, check messages, and check out your Xbox Live avatar that has been imported from your Xbox 360.

On the right side of the screen is the Store, which is broken down into four sections: Games, Movies/TV, Music and Apps. Searching for items in the store is the job of Microsoft's own Bing service. Combined with the Kinect voice commands, searching for online content in the store and from streaming apps is pretty easy when the Kinect features actually work; I will get to that in a moment.

Some things that were first shown during the Xbox One's pre-launch period are gone from the final dashboard, including a "Trending" option that was supposed to show which TV shows were popular on social networking services at that moment in time.

One thing we did notice in the Xbox One dashboard is the occasional ad. The Xbox 360 had lots of these interactive advertisements in its dashboard but the Xbox One doesn't appear to have as many of them and they don't take up as much space in the interface. Hopefully this will remain the same and we won't be subject to an increase of this activity in the future.

Microsoft decided to bundle the Kinect 2.0 hardware with every Xbox One, and that's likely the reason why I paid $500 for the console instead of $400. Microsoft clearly sees the Kinect motion capture and voice command hardware to be the future of interaction with electronic devices. While that may be true, we are currently living in 2013 and at the moment, the Kinect 2.0 support in the Xbox One isn't perfect, not by a long shot.

In terms of gesture commands, the Xbox One, at least for now, doesn't feel like much of an improvement over the version of the Xbox 360. While the field of view for the Kinect camera has increased, there were many times that my hands and arm movements were simply not detected in games like Zoo Tycoon when we tried to feed the animals, or in the free demo of Kinect Sports Rivals. It worked better when we used Xbox Fitness, however (more on that cool application later).

Gesture commands for the Xbox One's dashboard are supported but in practice getting the Kinect sensor to work in this area is a massive chore. You are better off using the controller or even the voice command option in order to navigate the UI.

The voice commands for Kinect on the Xbox One are very cool indeed, if you live in a market that supports it. Being able to say "Xbox On" to turn on both your console and your TV is something that we think will never get old. Other voice commands in order to use apps, record gameplay and some of the TV features have been well executed.

However, even the Kinect voice command features on the Xbox One only work some of the time. In my experience with the console, there were many situations where it simply stopped responding to my commands. Also, the fact that we had to say "Xbox" before nearly every command doesn't feel natural when you are asking it to, say, launch the NFL app. You should definitely enunciate clearly if you want the voice commands to work at all.

Unlike the Xbox 360's version of Kinect, which was based on technology from PrimeSense (recently acquired by Apple) Microsoft made the Xbox One's version of Kinect in-house. Hopefully that means there will be frequent updates to improve the functionality of the device. At the moment, Kinect 2.0 is cool when it works, but it's not up to its full potential yet.

The controller made for the Xbox 360 has been labeled by some people as the best gamepad ever made, and for good reason. It was comfortable to hold for hours at a time and all of the buttons and triggers were within easy reach. The controller Microsoft has created for the Xbox One (and reportedly spent $100 million to design) is very similar on the surface to the Xbox 360. The only thing a person might notice right off the bat is that it's a tad smaller than the older version and that annoying battery bulge on the bottom is now gone.

A few more minutes with the controller offers up some more differences, such as the Start and Back buttons, which have been replaced by the Menu and View buttons, but in most cases they offer much of the same functionality. I noticed that many games use the "A" button now to start, while others use the "Menu" button. There doesn't appear to be any reason for games to use different buttons to start but this may be due to the fact that launch game development teams were unable to agree on a consistent method in this case.

The controller's home button has been altered from a raised Xbox logo for the 360 version to a button that lights up on the Xbox One and goes down into the controller when pressed. The D-pad now is a full four-way design on the controller, as opposed to the circular D-pad on the Xbox 360 gamepad. The two analog sticks on the controller seem to be a little smaller compared to the 360 version and the trigger and shoulder buttons feel like they are better integrated with the overall design of the gamepad.

Holding the controller feels very comfortable and that's good because if you are playing a game that you really like for a long time, you need a gamepad that's easy on the hands. Even with the design changes, the Xbox One controller feels about as natural to hold as the Xbox 360's gamepad and it should work well for most games.

Microsoft has promoted its "impulse triggers" which offer a rumble in the triggers themselves but so far I have yet to feel any such reactions from the Xbox One games we have played. There is also a port for the included headset on top of the gamepad. So far, Microsoft's headset is the only one that's compatible with the Xbox One audio connection but an adapter for older Xbox 360 headsets is in the works for release later in 2014.

While the controller will run on two AA batteries, many hardcore gamers will likely want to get the $24.99 Xbox One Play and Charge Kit, which offers a USB cable and a battery pack that lets users recharge their controller via the Xbox One, even when the console is in standby mode.

Overall, the Xbox One controller is a refinement of the great 360 gamepad. It doesn't really have any huge new features like the touchpad on Sony's DualShock 4 but then again, it really didn't need it. Gamers who like the 360 gamepad will likely enjoy the new design of the Xbox One controller. I don't know if it was really worth spending $100 million for the few changes that were put in place, but we won't pretend to know all about what goes on inside Microsoft's design shop.

It's very odd that a hardware devices that bills itself as an entertainment center has to download apps to handle what would appear to be basic functionsThe Xbox 360 didn't have any non-gaming apps when it launched eight years ago but slowly added to its library starting with the Netflix app a few years later. For the launch of the Xbox One in the US, Microsoft has put in a few apps right off the bat, including popular ones such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Crackle and more. For some reason, you also have to download apps to enable the playing of audio CDs and video from DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. The automatic ability to play these kinds of discs on the older generation of consoles is now gone for the Xbox One and I do think it's odd that a hardware devices that bills itself as an entertainment center has to download apps to handle what would appear to be basic functions.

Perhaps the biggest new addition to the app family is Skype. Microsoft's purchase of the VoIP service in 2011 has now led them to include Skype support in the Xbox One, meaning you can have video, audio or text chats in your living room with any other Skype user for free. Using Skype on a big screen TV might not be for everyone (we are certain that some people would not like to have their living room viewed by strangers they just met online while playing FIFA 14) but if you have trust in who you speak with on Skype, it can be a fun experience.

Skype is also supposed to work in Snap mode while playing games, but at the moment you can't take a video call while playing a game. It only works as a audio call in the background. Indeed, snap mode only works well with a few app combinations. For example, snapping the NFL app while watching a game onscreen in the TV feature works well but snapping Internet Explorer while watching the game just looks ugly.

Most of the apps stick with the Modern UI for the Xbox One's dashboard. One exception is the YouTube app which looks pretty similar to the app that Google made for the PS3. That's not a criticism; it still works well but it also shows that apps don't have to use the Modern interface in order to be released for the console.

The Xbox 360 pioneered the idea of achievements in games, and while Xbox One games have achievements as well that increase a person's Gamerscore, you can also gain separate achievements by using the media apps as well. Microsoft chose not to include app achievements in a person's Gamerscore, but for so-called achievement hunters it adds yet another layer of stuff they can unlock.

The fact that you still need a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription to enjoy watching Netflix or other apps on the console is still a major pet peeve with meWhile you can stream video from many third party apps, Microsoft also provides users with its own Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps. When you buy the Xbox One, you can try out Xbox Music for free for 30 days; after that Microsoft charges you $9.99 a month, Yes, that's on top of the Xbox Live Gold fee that's required to access any of the apps on the console. Currently, Xbox Music is the only music streaming app for the Xbox One, although as we mentioned earlier you can stream music files from your Windows 8/8.1 PC to the console.

Users who want to watch a movie via Xbox Video could purchase one that has some extra Xbox One SmartGlass features that can be accessed via a Windows 8, Windows Phone, iOS or Android device. Speaking of which, the Xbox One SmartGlass app also works with some games such as Dead Rising 3, offering a way to unlock some extra missions and content.

The fact that you still need a paid Xbox Live Gold subscription to enjoy watching Netflix or other apps on the console is still a major pet peeve with me. While it makes sense for Microsoft to require people to pay extra to use some services such as calling landlines on Skype or playing online multiplayer games, the fact is that the PS4 and other set-top boxes such as Apple TV and Roku don't stick their consumers with an extra fee on top of the ones needed to use Hulu and other apps. It's not fair to Xbox One owners and I think Microsoft needs to stop this practice ASAP. We don't think they will but it's an issue that keeps me from giving a 100 percent thumbs up to the Xbox One's app lineup.

As we said, you can connect your Xbox One to your cable or satellite TV box via the HDMI in port. As a result, you can watch TV from within the Xbox One's dashboard. If nothing else, this is a huge help just due to the fact that it will assist owners of older TVs that have just one HDMI port to connect two devices to the same port.

While you can connect the cable box to the Xbox One in any country, some set top boxes in Europe are set up at a 50 Hz output, while the Xbox One dashboard has a 60 Hz output. This can cause frame drops when viewing TV content from inside the UI. There are workarounds for this issue but the ideal situation is for Microsoft to release a patch that will offer an option to set the Xbox One dashboard at a 50 Hz output. So far there's no word on when that might happen.

The OneGuide feature is designed to take over the TV guide features from your regular set top box. For this review, I connected the Xbox One to a box from Charter Communications. The good news is that the OneGuide did appear as advertised. The bad news is that the OneGuide offered an inaccurate guide to Charter's channels in the region, most likely due to the fact that Charter updated their channel lineup just a few days before the launch of  the Xbox One. Hopefully, this will be fixed in a software update.

It should also be noted that the OneGuide feature is just for U.S. Xbox One owners for now. Other markets are supposed to get access to it sometime in 2014 but no specific dates have been announced.

The Kinect technology is supposed to allow people to actually navigate though your TV channel lineup with just your voice, by saying, for example, "Watch NBC." I found that each time we switched over to the TV inside the UI and said those commands, it worked once or twice. After that, it never worked again, no matter how many times I tried.

While I wished the Kinect voice commands worked as advertised with our TV, there's still a lot of potential in the Xbox One's TV integration and I think that will improve over time. At the moment, it just feels half-baked.

It should be noted that the HDMI port on the Xbox One allows for people to connect a Windows Media Center PC or even a game console like the PS4 to the console in order to view content from inside the Xbox One dashboard.

The Xbox One launched with 22 full games (23 if you count the port of the original Killer Instinct that's included if you buy the Killer Instinct Ultra Edition). Microsoft sent over all of their first party Xbox One launch games to play with as part of this review.  Other games have been released for the console from third party publishers Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, Warner Bros. Interactive and Majesco and include major releases like Call of Duty Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Assassin's Creed 4 and more.

The Xbox One game lineup that have been directly published by Microsoft doesn't include anything quite as memorable as Halo was for the original Xbox launch, which also means that there are not any games that on their own will help to really push sales of the Xbox One. However, the games are still a lot better overall than what Microsoft came up with for the Xbox 360's initial release and it went on to sell over 80 million copies. Here are some quick impressions of all of the first party Xbox One launch titles.

Dead Rising 3

The graphics found in this latest installment of the zombie open world action series are not exactly next-gen looking, but developer Capcom Vancouver has used the Xbox One's hardware to put a ton of them on screen at once. Yes, the frame rate can dip a bit when there's a lot of undead action on screen, but who cares when you get to shoot, pound, slice, saw or mow down crowds of them at once?

The game supports Kinect voice commands; you can actually say things to the screen and the zombies will react as if you are there in the game. It comes in handy when you want them to fall mindlessly into a handy pit. Overall, Dead Rising 3 is highly addictive and quite frankly I can't wait to play some more.

Ryse: Son of Rome

I knew developer Crytek would make this game great looking thanks to its own CryEngine that has been used in games like the Crysis series. However, the hack and slash gameplay in Ryse, where you are a soldier in the Ancient Roman Empire, can become a bit repetitive at times. The combo fighting style resembles the one that people who have played the God of War series on the Playstation consoles are familiar with. There's also some RPG aspects to the game that let players buff up their character with experience points and better stats.

Overall, Ryse plays like a game that needed a bit of fine tuning in terms of gameplay design before it shipped. However, there's no denying that the CryEngine-based graphics show just what the Xbox One's hardware are capable of even at this early stage.

Forza Motorsport 5

If you are a fan of racing simulations, Forza Motorsport 5 is a must, as it offers what may be the most realistic looking and driving experience you can have in a game up to this point. If you are not a racing sim fan, Forza Motorsport 5 won't likely change that opinion as players looking for a bit more in terms of visceral driving thrills will have to settle for EA's Need for Speed Rivals.

The graphics in the game are pretty incredible as you get behind the wheel of some highly expensive and good looking sports cars as you race around in tracks all over the world. You can even see flakes coming off the car's paint job and rubber. We love the idea of the Drivatar, which takes information from your driving style in single player and uploads it to the cloud where it can compete with other real racers.

Killer Instinct

You have to have a good fighting game for a console launch and developer Double Helix delivers it for the Xbox One, and in an affordable package of $19.99. We wish there were more than six fighters to choose from (two more are coming in 2014) and there's not a proper Arcade single player mode,  but the fighting gameplay itself is tons of fun and it also offers a lot of tutorials that should help players really hone their button mashing and combo skills.

Multiplayer offers both ranked and unranked matches as the game tries to find players that are up to your own skill level and it mostly succeeds. If you play for the $39.99 Ultra version you get some additional character costumes and the original Rare-developed Killer Instinct game from the 1990s, which holds up quite nicely 20 or so years later.

Crimson Dragon

If this game feels like it was made for the Xbox 360, that's because it originally was meant to be a Kinect exclusive for Microsoft's older console. Like other launch games such as Ryse or LocoCycle, Microsoft made the decision to push back its release so it can be an Xbox One launch title.

As it stands, this rail shooter where you are in command of a dragon-like creature in a sci-fi world just doesn't work. It's both dull looking and a bore to play. It's a shame because this game was developed by some of the same folks behind the classic Panzer Dragoon games from Sega. No one will be saying Crimson Dragon is a classic game, ever.

Powerstar Golf

It's not a golf simulation and it's not meant to be one. Developer Zoe Mode has instead crafted a fun way to pass the time by playing a game where both the golfers and their caddies can have "special powers" in order to perform golf shots that would never be able to happen in the real world. As you play the game you unlock new characters, gold courses and more content.

The graphics look OK, but as with Crimson Dragon Powerstar Golf looks like a game that was made for last generation's console hardware. However, it does use the Xbox One's cloud server features in interesting ways, including showing players what the current records are directly in the game itself.

Zoo Tycoon

Could the best first party Xbox One game really be a zoo sim? I haven't played this game long enough to give it that verdict yet but developer Frontier Developments has made a revival of Microsoft's zoo building sim game that's great looking, easy to pick up and play and ultimately addictive as you try to make the best zoo you can for both your animals and your customers.

The animals in the game are highly detailed and you can even feed them in your virtual zoo with the Kinect gesture commands. This is definitely the best game for the Xbox One launch for younger kids to enjoy and we wish that the launch lineup had more games that the whole family could play.

LocoCycle

Developer Twisted Pixel has made good games in the past like 'Splosion Man. That makes the disaster that is LocoCycle even harder to understand, because it's just bad. This game, where you control a sentient motorcycle in what is supposed to be a series of adventures, is not just poorly designed, but the graphics make it look like it was made for the original Xbox over 12 years ago. There's even some live action footage that looks straight out of those FMV games that were all the rage in the 1990s.

I don't know what happened but I do know that both Twisted Pixel and Microsoft should have known better than to release this game as an Xbox One launch title. Maybe they just didn't have enough games ready and felt they needed to pad their launch lineup. They should have just kept this game under wraps.

Other game features

Unfortunately, there's only a few free game demos for the Xbox One launch game lineup available for download at the moment. There's one for Zoo Tycoon and the Killer Instinct demo lets players access one character for all of the game's single and multiplayer modes. There's also a free demo for the upcoming Kinect Sports Rivals, where players can participate in a jetski race. Microsoft promises to add more content to the Kinect Sports Rivals demo before the full game is released this spring. Two third party games from EA, FIFA 14 and NBA Live 14, have demos as well.

One thing I noticed every time we put in a disc-based Xbox One game is that it required a one time Internet update, which again shows how much this console needs a net connection to even function. The days of just putting in a disc in order to start playing a game don't apply to the Xbox One.

All of the games designed for the Xbox One allow for automatic recording of gameplay content to the console's hard drive. Users can save that footage and then go into the Upload Studio app to make some quick editing choices before uploading the final clip to a SkyDrive account in MP4 format and at 720p resolution. The clip is then free to be uploaded to other web based sites like SkyDrive and Vimeo.

Here is a very quick example of a clip I made in Upload Studio from Dead Rising 3, and yes, that is my voice in the background at the beginning of the clip. You can insert your own voice over in any clip via the editing tool

While the Xbox One's Twitch.tv app allows users to view streaming game footage, the Xbox One version cannot currently handle live gameplay broadcasts on its own, like the PS4 can with both Twitch.tv and Ustream. Microsoft plans to add Twitch.tv game streaming sometime in 2014.

Sadly, the Xbox One has no backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games. That means if you want to play titles like Grand Theft Auto V, you should hang onto your older console, at least until there's word that Rockstar might port the game to the Xbox One. Microsoft has hinted that streaming games to the Xbox One may be in the works, but it looks like that's at least a couple of years down the road.

If you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription (and you pretty much have to for the Xbox One) you can look forward to getting some free games from Microsoft sometime in 2014 like you can on the Xbox 360, although details have not yet been announced.

A feature of the Xbox One that hasn't gotten a lot of attention from many reviewers is Xbox Fitness. It's a series of video exercises, including clips from well known routines that you may have seen promoted in late night infomercials like Insanity and P90X. Xbox Fitness is currently free with an Xbox Live Gold subscription, although some of the video segments do cost an extra fee to download.

Basically, Xbox Fitness offers Xbox One owners a way to get their heart racing and their body moving without having to buy a dancing game like Just Dance. It uses the Kinect technology to read your heart rate, tracks how many calories you've burned as you go through each exercise, and provides muscle mapping and an energy meter.

Like all Xbox One games and apps, there are achievements to be collected and special challenges available while using Xbox Fitness. It's also designed to add even more video workouts in the future just in case you go through all of the videos that are available (which will take a while). That makes the console not only a gaming or streaming video box but also a way to work off the pounds after a long night sitting and playing Killer Instinct.

Of all of the apps that are available on the Xbox One, Xbox Fitness may be the one that really shows how Microsoft can stretch a game console into a more mainstream entertainment set-top box. I can see people who could buy the console with this feature in mind who wouldn't know a Call of Duty game if they saw one on screen. Combining video workouts with the Xbox One's Kinect functionally and special achievements makes Microsoft's console a better value for the $500.

The Xbox One is, without a doubt, a power gaming machine, and anyone who is looking to play some cool games on their big screen TV will do just fine with this $500 purchase. However, Microsoft's hardware has been made to do much more with features like apps that can work side by side on screen via snapping, along with the TV and OneGuide functionality and Xbox Fitness, where you can get a workout in before watching a football game or streaming the latest from Netflix.

Because Microsoft has jammed so much inside the Xbox One, the console does feel a little disorganized at times in terms of accessing features from the dashboard, at least until you customize it. There are also a number of missing features that will be put into the Xbox One at some point, such as external storage support, streaming of live gameplay and video Skype chats while playing games. Even with its post-launch issues, it should not deter anyone from buying the Xbox One. For the price of an iPad Air, you get a game system, a TV set-top box, a Skype communication device and a workout system, among other things, in one package.

The nice thing about the Xbox One is that it won't just add the features it is currently lacking via software updates. Microsoft will also be putting in additional support for things like turning your Xbox One retail unit into a game development kit. There's also the promise of Project Spark, which just launched as a beta for Windows 8.1, that will become available for Xbox One in early 2014 and will allow people to quickly make games that they can let others play.

That's the ultimate kicker when it comes to the Xbox One, its future expansion potential is massive. We suspect that Microsoft has a multi-year plan for upgrades and improvements to the Xbox One and that's perhaps the most exciting thing about it. It's already worth the money you will pay for its launch right now but there's no telling what it will be capable of in 2018.

Disclaimer: While Microsoft did send over review discs and download codes for its Xbox One launch titles for this review, the Xbox One console itself, plus the purchase of Xbox Live Gold, was handled by this reviewer.



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