Thursday, July 10, 2014

ENOUGH with the pre-order bonus black T-shirts already!

One thing that bugs me about Asian/Philippine console game pre-order bonuses --- those damned black t-shirts.

1) They're always too small [hey guys, we aren't all teens!]

2) They always come in BLACK [which makes their usability quite limited, in my humble opinion]

Enough with the pre-order bonus black t-shirt!

Xbox One - System / Games general review

We picked up a [kinect-less] Xbox One a few weeks ago and have been putting it through its paces. Overall, right now I feel pretty good about this console. But I have to admit, the first experience of buying it is not very good. I'll go with the BAD news first. But do note that it isn't all bad news....

- The first time you bring it home, the console can't work without Internet. That's because it needs an absolutely-unoverrideable mandatory update. Basically, if you get this for your birthday and it's 7PM, expect to actually play games on it around a day or so later, depending on your internet speed.

- The first patch I got for it was around 800MB. This number might have changed by the time of this writing.

- All the launch games now have accumulated patches/updates over 16+ GB in size. Not just Dead Rising 3, which has been reported widely in the media. Even Forza 5.

- My internet at home is PLDT 3Mbps; managed to get all the updates pretty quickly....that's actually the silver lining in this story. Despite the size of the updates, it seems Microsoft's server is very fast at delivering the patches.

It kind of helps that I am a big fan of Xbox from long ago, so I guess you could say I was a bit extra patient with these massive updates/patches. If you aren't an Xbox fan or are a new gamer --- this part of the experience will probably be the most frustrating/excruciating. Especially in the Philippines with our inconsistent internet. Luckily mine was wired DSL, but I can't vouch for users on LTE or wireless broadband. Your mileage may vary.

Another thing to take note is the Xbox One knows how to absolutely take over your entire home network from the moment you connect the device to it. Everyone else's bandwidth will collapse when this sucker is on. Me and my wife have no idea how the console does it. It just does. But this problem only seems to manifest if you are downloading an update or a game, or playing online.

It would have been nice if the Xbox One would let you play any game the moment you unbox it. Requiring people to get an update the moment they open it isn't really very consumer-friendly.

That said....that's just about my biggest complaint about the system.

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Forza 5 with rumbling triggers. Killer Instinct with dedicated servers and no lag....once you actually do start playing with the Xbox One, it's a pretty good experience. A lot has been written about the resolution of games on the console. The only game I know of where the resolution is noticeably low is Dead Rising 3. But the low resolution is likely because they threw in so many zombies and did their best to keep the framerate at about 30FPS. And the game itself is just so much fun that you hardly notice the resolution at all when you get completely absorbed in the game (the game does an extremely good job at this).

Xbox One is also pretty good for general entertainment purposes, at least if you like browsing Youtube. It streams very well from Youtube, though this can (as mentioned earlier) take over your home internet and deprive everyone else of good internet access speed. We have a Wii U as well and for some reason, Youtube HD videos on Xbox One look a lot better than they do on the Wii U.

There's a very real focus on entertainment features on the first screen of the dashboard, with Microsoft itself supplying numerous featurettes, trailers, etc, just right there on your dashboard. They even curate video uploads from gamers everywhere and compile them on a separate app on the Xbox One, which is great for just relaxing after a marathon session of games. The 'Upload' app is a very entertaining little addition to the Xbox One dashboard where you can watch other people's gameplay, and the content is normally edited with voice/narration and other effects to make them worth watching. Microsoft itself creates content out of the uploaded videos, creating top 10s of people's latest uploads and these can be pretty good since you don't have to watch everything and still get a few minutes worth of entertainment out of it. Xbox One also has a Twitch.tv feature but I haven't used it much....I recall trying it once but basically Twitch is you just sitting there waiting for something cool to happen, unlike with pre-recorded videos which are all 'cool things happening', all the time.

I've dabbled a bit in the Xbox One's ability to record game videos. It seems to be doing this all the time, in the background, and you just have to call up the Game DVR to fetch your last 30 seconds - 5 minutes of gameplay. It was pretty useful to save some really memorable moments in a game....like the other day I beat this irritating boss on Dead Rising 3 and I got to show it to my wife in the morning (who was out cold the other night because the kids were pretty exhausting to put to sleep!). I also recorded a really good replay in Killer Instinct where I made a good comeback against an opponent online. Once the really good competitive games come in, this DVR feature will be very useful for a lot of people who like to analyze their gameplay or just simply relive a cool moment in single player games, like a big boss battle or a monumental plot-twist.

The console also has a really cool suspend/resume feature that literally lets you get back in the game within seconds. This is really handy for me as a dad....when the kids need to be put to sleep i can just put the Xbox One on standby, put the kids to sleep, then fire up the Xbox One, then I'm exactly back where I left off. No more need to start a game from the very beginning, no more need to always watch my saved games. This feature is extremely useful and I wonder how we lived without this feature in the past!

With the launch games there seems to be a lot of focus on season passes and DLC, which is really unfortunate, but most community reaction online to this (for all the consoles, Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo) is quite negative. So I think this is a trend that will see some improvement over time. With Forza 5 for example, it's really unfortunate that a lot of the other cars are DLC. This is a matter of appreciating what you get with the full game, though. I think most of the generally 'iconic' cars are not DLC in Forza 5....they just made DLC out of the more esoteric cars, but there are some in there I would have loved to try in the game without needing to pay for it, like the LaFerrari. Last E3, Microsoft seemed to be dialing down on DLC, promising no DLC for Forza Horizon 2 at the start. I really hope they stick to it.

That said, I've been using the console every.single.day since we bought it. The last thing I have an issue with is MP4/AVI/video playback support, which it doesn't have....I can't play videos from a USB or hard drive. Really unfortunate. The PS4 has the same issue, though....I really hope they resolve this problem and let people play their own content. Overall, once you get over the download requirements and the patches....the console is really good, the controller is more comfortable than the original 360 controller....it's a great system.