The big reveal has finally come to pass.
Please welcome the XBox One, the newest gaming console from Microsoft since the XBox 360 about six years ago.
Some of you may have caught the livestream of the reveal earlier this morning, but for those of you who didn't I'll be highlighting a lot of the cool stuff that happened. If you'd like to see a recording of the stream yourself, just click this link. Otherwise, I hope you all find this post of quick highlights interesting and informative.
So what's behind the name "XBox One?" A lot of people were expecting the new console to be named the XBox 720 or the Infinity, so One was a little surprising (for me, at least). Microsoft's desire and goal with this new system is to not only revolutionize gaming, but to revolutionize entertainment as a whole. The two tag lines that the speakers kept using to describe the system were "Simple, instant, and complete," and "The all in one experience." Basically, the developers want to sync every type of entertainment - from the internet to watching movie, from listening to music to gaming, and everything else in between - into one easily accessible, easily controlled system: the XBox One.
So what makes this console a big screaming deal? A lot of things, actually.
First and foremost is the voice recognition software. The new Kinect (which will come with every XBox One console) has been upgraded to recognize your voice and various vocal commands. True, the original Kinect can be accessed with vocal commands, but with the new version it will be so much more conversational as well as so much faster.
During the demo, Yusuf Mehdi showed off every aspect of the XBox One's voice recognition system. It started with powering on the system ("XBox, on") and then went on to watching TV ("XBox, watch CBS"), to bringing up the built-in TV Guide ("XBox, show TV Guide" or "XBox, what's on HBO?"), to accessing the Internet ("XBox, bring up Firefox"), to loading up a game, and then right back to the start page ("XBox, go home"). What made all of that even more amazing was that the switches between all of those applications - even from listening to music, to playing a game, to watching a specific TV show - were completely seamless. It was incredibly fast, exactly like simply switching TV channels with a remote.
Not only can you use voice commands, but you can also use universal hand gestures to move through the system. Bringing your fists together diagonally will make an in-use application smaller, while moving those fists outward diagonally makes the application fullscreen.
The One also offers a Snap Mode similar to the Windows 7 snap feature, group Skype video calls on your TV, and the Guide: a voice controlled search and navigation system for movies, shows, games, and other related things. Probably the biggest feature here, though, is XBox's ESPN system. When watching games on ESPN, you will receive automatic live fantasy league updates, clips of game highlights, league standings, and all sorts of stuff in that regard.
What about the actual system itself? What's in the One that makes it so cool?
In a nutshell... five billion transistors, 8 GB RAM, built-in Blu-ray player, USB 3.0, HDMI in/out, 802.11n Wireless with Wi-Fi Direct, 500 GB HDD, and 8 Core CPU in the console itself.
The new Kinect contains... 1080p HD RGB Camera, 30 FPS color, Time of Flight (TOF) technology, and Microphone arrays that allow it to recognize your voice and respond quickly to your vocal commands. As far as the you-as-the-controller is concerned, this new Kinect contains more joints, greater depth, and is better able to read your minute movements and balance. It can even read your heartbeat, making it even more sensitive to how you move within a game.
Even the iconic controller has been updated... Integrated battery compartment, Impulse Triggers, Wi-Fi Direct Radio Stack, Precision Directional Pad, and dynamic feedback triggers.
And while they're updating everything, Microsoft might as well update XBox Live, right? The new updated service will be more powerful and more personal. It's powered by 300,000 servers, which is more than the whole world's computing power in 1999. It will work on a Cloud system, saving your games and everything you do anytime anywhere. The online interactions will also take place in persistent worlds with bigger matches.
So that's all pretty sweet, but what's a console without games? I mean, that's the main function of even an entertainment synchronizer like the One.
Four EA Sports games will be launched at the same time as the One, all of which will be made with EA's new engine: Ignite. These four games include titles in FIFA, NBA Live, UFC, and Madden, and Ultimate Team in FIFA 14 will only be available for the XBox One.
EA's new Ignite engine is much more powerful than their previous one. It's capable of making four times more calculations per second with ten times more animation depth and detail. Plus these four new sports games will also include 3D dynamic crowds to make your experience even more immersive.
More titles are in development for this new console than ever in XBox's history: 15 exclusive games in the One's first year, 8 of which are brand new franchises. Forza Motorsport 5 - which was briefly demo-ed during the event - will be available at the launch of the One, and some games such as Call of Duty: Ghosts (more information on that later on) will be released first exclusively on the One.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
For all of you CoD fans out there, Ghosts looks to be an incredibly beautiful game. It encompasses a whole new world with a new story, new cast, and was even developed on a new next generation engine. The characters are easier to connect to emotionally - much of which probably comes from the experience of writer Steven Gaghan, who wrote the movie Traffic - are fully customizable, and look very realistic. One of the newest characters is actually a German Shepherd who looks amazingly realistic, even down to the scars on his nose and the tattoo in his ear. The game's plot involves the crumbling of America and a group of former Army SpecForce troopers who are working to deter that. The multi-player even allows for revamped, dynamic maps: ones that change due to earthquakes, floods, and eve ordinance that players set off in-game.
And the animation! It's quite literally the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. You can now leap and go over obstacles, lean out behind walls to fire, the world is full of fluid dynamics, the AI system is very cool (like fish who move out of the way when your character gets too close), and swirling interactive smoke, among may other features. There's also increased texture resolution - dirt beneath fingernails, bruises, blood, and individual hairs on arms - as well as self-casting shadows that really make the experience so much more real. And, as always, this new CoD game will run at a crisp 60 fps.
There's also some really big news for Halo fans. As you probably knew, 343 Industries and Microsoft released a Halo webseries - "Forward Unto Dawn" - not too terribly long ago, and considering the success of that campaign a new live-action Halo TV series will be coming... under the direction of Mr. Steven Spielberg, himself. No other information was given, but we know it's coming and it should be good if Mr. Spielberg is part of it.
The biggest drawback to the One? It's not backwards compatible with the 360. According to Microsoft's corporate vice-president of hardware, Todd Holmdahl, "We started with a completely new architecture for this generation [of XBox], and the architecture that we have with the 360, that would have been limiting to go forward with." The 360 will still be supported for many years to come, but it won't be compatible with the new One system.
So that's all the basic information concerning the XBox One. More information will be coming in the next few weeks at the E3 conference, but until then I think that's quite enough to wet our whistles. I, for one, am pretty excited about this new member of the XBox family.
XBox One will release worldwide later this year. I'll let you know the specific date whenever Microsoft gets around to releasing that information.
Now I'm curious to see how the upcoming PlayStation 4 will stack up. Time will tell, I suppose.
- Edessa, signing off