A week after the PS4 launched last year, the Xbox One also arrived into the hands of the masses. Xbox had spent the past several months burying themselves under a slew of unpopular policies and ideologies. Humbled by their Icarus-like fall from prominence, Microsoft spent this year reassessing the Xbox brand under the new leadership of Phil Spencer to try and right their wrongs. So how has the former top dog taken to living in the shadows of the Japanese electronics giant and has the house that Bill Gates built done enough to warrant getting back into the good graces of gamers this past year?
The system’s main hub started off as barely passable but has evolved greatly since launch with regular monthly updates. I’m not crazy about the Windows 8 Metro style but the updates have definitely spiced things up. The pinning of games and apps is much welcomed too as it easily allows me to jump directly into my most used activities. Snapping apps to the side also seemed silly to me at first but I find myself frequently using it especially when grinding in games like Destiny. The quickness in loading these snapped apps definitely could use a speed boost though. Overall, I love where the menus and the inner workings of the box are headed in the future but as of right now, it’s just okay.
Multi-platform games have taken a bit of a hit when compared to the much more powerful Playstation which seems to install and load these games faster than the Xbox One but Microsoft really made it their goal to make key games playable only on their consoles this year. The system launched with big franchises like Forza 5 and Dead Rising 3 but also brought Killer Instinct back to the forefront. Also Ryse was highly touted at launch but ultimately ended up being rather lackluster. A couple months after release, the highly anticipated Titanfall came out and changed the face of first person shooters; inspiring Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and the upcoming Halo 5 with it’s quick and free movement. Then after the horrific summer drought, Xbox was pushing out a major exclusive each month with the incredible Forza Horizon 2 in September, Sunset Overdrive in october, and the amazing(ly buggy as hell at the time of writing this) Master Chief Collection in November. No ifs, ands, or buts, Gaming was much stronger on Xbox One in 2014.
At this year’s E3, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer promised games and he delivered. He also delivered a price cut which made the system seem incredibly less ludicrous to own which gave the box a fighting chance. One issue I’m currently having though is temporary server problems on the back end. One of the company’s premium brands, Halo, has been plagued with multiplayer server issues and it’s ridiculous that something like this can even happen. 343i has been incredibly apologetic and promises that this will be remedied this week but it shouldn’t even be an issue when having the second largest server bank IN THE WORLD.
The Xbox One is a welcomed addition to my home but this was still a rebuilding year for the console; slowly patching us towards modern necessities like digital pre-loading games and a DLNA media player all while trying to iron out the issues along the way. At the end of the day though, the Xbox One has all of the games and apps I was interested in this year which is what matters most. If they keep up this level of quality exclusives, continues the open dialogue with the community, and iron out all the quirks and occasional bugs, Microsoft could quite soon rule the roost once more.
Year One Grade: C+