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Bungie photo

Bungie to forgoe Kinect on Destiny to improve resolution

Jun 09
// Chris Carter
It's crazy how much Microsoft changed their stance in the infamous "Xbox 180" debacle, and how much they've changed in the past month or so. The latest development is the decision to sell a Kinect-less Xbox, which has had a b...

Fantasia: Music Evolved introduces partner apprentice Scout

Jun 06 // Dale North
A new hands-on (hands-off?) session had us playing a newly revealed area called The Neighborhood. The scene features urban street art, psychedelic colors, and has a bit of a comic book vibe. Harmonix said that it was inspired by artists like The Who, and by songs like Cee Lo Green's "Forget You," among others. The area starts out pretty quiet, but as you move the Muse 3D cursor around to manipulate zones, it starts to come alive, first with radio signals, and later with music that you've unlocked. A play through of "Forget You" had us layering rock guitars and keyboards with Cee Lo's original vocals from the hit song. Later, we chopped up drum loops in a composition spell, and created a keyboard solo by waving hands in another.  After this, a diversion into a subway stop of The Neighborhood had us doing a freestyle sequencing section with singing vegetables. A turnip and beet had their own vocal tracks, while a carrot dropped a beatbox track. By moving between the vegetables, the player can jam out to create their own loops, making their own track. This performance is then added back into The Neighborhood as background music. In this case, the trio was added to a train that came back around to the scene regularly. A few new tracks for Fantasia: Music Evolved were announced during our session. Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" will be a part of this stage, as will The Police's "Message in a Bottle." On the classical side, "The Nutcracker" was pulled from the original Fantasia. I tried my hand at Drake's "Take Care." Things got pretty interesting with alternate music tracks that underscored the entire song with acapella background vocals and beatbox rhythms.
Hands-on with new Neighborhood level
Harmonix has thought a lot about how they'll welcome players to Fantasia: Music Evolved and they've decided to add a partner apprentice that will serve as a sort of game guide. Her name is Scout, a talented but impatient appr...


Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved dated: October 21, 2014 for Xbox One and Xbox 360

New tracks revealed
Jun 06
// Dale North
Harmonix sends word that Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved finally has a solid release date: October 21, 2014, for Xbox One and Xbox 360. We have a brand new preview for you to check out this morning. For now, here are the new ...

Creating an out of body experience with an Oculus and 3 Kinects

Kinect is useful for SOME things
May 18
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Kinect may suck for gaming, but it sure is a great piece of tech for everything else. Take for instance this 3D recreation that involves three Kinects, and an Oculus Rift. One of the cool takeaways from this demonstration is...

Xbox One interface will be updated now that Kinect is being ditched

Well good
May 13
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
The big story of the day is how Microsoft will be selling the Xbox One without the Kinect starting this June. Good! But what about the user interface? The Xbox One's UI was designed to be "best" used with Kinect, and thankful...

Playing catch up: It's about time the Xbox One dropped the Kinect

May 13 // Steven Hansen
The hubris Sony carried into the PlayStation 3 launch -- $600 US dollars, et al -- was understandable. It was coming off of the PS2's ludicrous success. It cost Sony short term, but that stress benefited consumers as Sony played catch up. It bore PlayStation Plus, set up to ease users into eventually paying for multiplayer as it was. Even if you're clinging to Live membership to play with your friends, I think Sony ended up with the better console and library, while its sales caught up over the year. This shaming also shaped the PlayStation 4's presentation. It was pared down. Not a multimedia device. It was for games. Sony lumbered like a defensive lineman running back a fumble to get to the point of outclassing the 360 during the waning years of that console life cycle and continued it into the new launch. That's why Microsoft's hubris with the Xbox One was so surprising and why there has been such a backlash.  Let's not forget the "always online" debacle. And that's without even owning the market at the point. Sony encouraged owners to rush out and buy a camera with the novelty of Twitch and that Playroom. Microsoft shipped with a mandatory camera and got Twitch support months after launch and just today took Twitch (and Netflix, Hulu, etc.) out from behind the Xbox Live pay gate It's obvious the Xbox One is shaping itself in the PlayStation 4's image to make it seem comparable, to make it seem like a choice between the two. Media apps outside of the pay gate. $400 price parity (is the à la carte Kinect going to cost $100, or will it be less, upsetting early adopters more?) These moves are responses. Sony spent a couple years warming people up to the idea of paying to play online. You might even be inclined to consider it a fair shake on both sides. On Xbox One, Games with Gold will now require an active Xbox Live Gold subscription in order to continue playing any free games you've downloaded. It's taking cues from PlayStation Plus without having having built up the same good will. Microsoft's rare willingness to dial it back here, to not stick its fingers in its ears and go, "la la la the Kinect is great," is good for us. It's not great for early adopters, from whom they've extracted that Kinect tax in droves while assuring everyone else would have to pay it, too. Like putting games-man Phil Spencer as the new Head of Xbox, the Kinect-free Xbox One is part of a new, conciliatory business strategy to try and make amends to the markets Sony is winning with. Microsoft is a company that deals in hundreds of billions of dollars and the Xbox division is a small part of that, a part some major shareholders want to do away with completely. It was never going to be a Nintendo, obstinately sticking to its guns. It's going to find and choose whatever identity works. Right now, that means no mandatory Kinect. It's all about choice.
Unboning the Xbone photo
Unboning the Xbone
The official line on the Kinect-free Xbox One model will be about choice. Giving consumers choices. This is a lie, of course. More blatant than, "As excited as we are about the new Xbox One option, clearly if you use Xbox One...

Xbox One without Kinect photo
'Delivering more choices'
In a post on this morning, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer has announced that Microsoft will begin selling Xbox One without the flagship motion-sensing, voice-controlled device Kinect. This new option brings Xbox One's pri...

Lords of the Fallen photo
Lords of the Fallen

Lords of the Fallen dev faces challenges with 1080p on Xbox One

1080p wonít let me be
Apr 23
// Brittany Vincent
The struggle of next-gen developers seems to be that of “Should it be smooth, or pretty?” CI Games executive producer Tomasz Gop has stated that with Lords of the Fallen, he's confident that his team will be able ...

Soda Drinker Pro goes next-gen

Xbox One version coming
Apr 15
// Dale North
You wanna talk next-gen? The next generation of games isn't about graphics or motion control or laser beams or whatever. It's about soda. Sweet, sweet b-b-b-b-bonus soda. And that soda is coming to Xbox One later this year. S...
Dumb Idiot Ideas photo
Slow news day?
This week, we filmed a wonderful short piece in which Bill and I discussed the lack of video games that let us play as actual animals. Unfortunately, Bill's microphone cut out mid-discussion, and the camera's face-tracking started focusing on an animated GIF of some dogs having sex I had up on my monitor behind me. So, here's what we did instead. 

Kinect photo

Molyneux says that a Kinectless Xbox One is an inevitability

'It feels more and more like a joke'
Apr 08
// Brett Makedonski
Despite strong sales numbers, Microsoft's Kinect has always been a contentious piece of hardware. Even though the iteration that comes bundled with the Xbox One is more functional than the original for the Xbox 360, it still ...
Kinect Sports photo
Kinect Sports

Kinect Sports Rivals has a Battletoads reference in it

I'll hold your hand while we cry for Rare
Apr 07
// Chris Carter
As the sands of time continue to drop in this hourglass called life, it's easy to forget things -- even major elements of our childhood. For instance, I completely forgot Rare was responsible for the amazing Battletoads ...

Review: Kinect Sports Rivals

Apr 07 // Chris Carter
Kinect Sports Rivals (Xbox One)Developer: RarePublisher: Microsoft StudiosRelease: April 8, 2014MSRP: $59.99 Rivals begins with an interesting avatar creation process led by David Tennant of Dr. Who fame. It's a fantastic intro for any piece of entertainment, as Tennant has a perfect voice for it, especially when you consider the fact that this is his first foray into videogames. Kinect has come a long way since the original iteration, and now you can play closer to the TV as well as enjoy some of the enhanced scanning capabilities. The scanning module can detect glasses and facial hair, as well as your general physique. It takes a few minutes, but the results are pretty incredible -- at least, they were spot-on for me outside of a slightly bigger head than I would have liked. Against all odds this Kinect-only game allows you to control all of the menus from a controller -- additionally, you can fight with hand pointer motions, or employ the smooth voice controls to navigate the menu. Personally, I'm just glad they added options this time around, and this should be considered standard for all motion-based games. The theme of Rivals is decidedly contemporary, sporting licensed music for its soundtrack like Calvin Harris' "Let's Go" and "Feel So Close." It's trendy for sure, but not in an annoying or particularly dated way. It helps that the tunes are upbeat in general, making it a tad easier to get into the game. There's also a bit of advertising in the game during some of the events (mostly logos) -- just to warn you. [embed]272531:53287:0[/embed] Before you jump into the sport of your choice, you have to do a few wakeraces first, then climbing and so on until you unlock all six activities. In other words, it's a medium-paced trickle that doesn't take more than an hour to complete, and just straddles the line of frustratingly slow and acceptable crescendo. Similar to the middling pacing, Rivals attempts to build a world of strange characters and "teams" that litter the miniature story, which comprises of three factions: the Eagle Legion (spartan-like), the Wolf Clan (tribal), and the Viper Network (futuristic hackers). If you've played Dance Central before you'll have a clue as to what the characterizations are like. While the characters never really stood out for me, the world is convincingly beautiful. I love all of the vibrant colors used (particularly the neon green and bright blue hues for the water) in the game, and some of the events (like wakeracing) are particularly entrancing. Sometimes the universe is difficult to see during all the action, but similar to Nintendo's Wii Sport Resort island, I wouldn't mind visiting it myself. There are six sports included in all: wakeracing, rock climbing, target practice, soccer, bowling, and tennis (unlocked in that order). If you've been waiting for a follow-up to Waverace 64, the wake event in Rivals is similarly designed, and a ton of fun. The Kinect 2.0 actually works like a charm, allowing you to move your arms forward and backward to simulate the direction of handlebars. You can also lean to the sides for sharp turns, or lean forwards and backwards for flips. Speed boost power-ups are sprung by stomping or using voice commands (again, the option is great). That's pretty much it, and everything functioned as advertised without any frustration on my part. The track itself is also gorgeous and detailed, and even though I wish there were more power-ups and hazards outside of mines, it's fun to play based on the control scheme alone. Climbing is easily my favorite event, which I didn't expect in the slightest. All you have to do here is raise your arms above your head, and grab onto the appropriate hold with the correct hand, then pull down to raise yourself up. If there's a gap you need to clear, you can raise your torso or actually jump to have your character leap up the mountain in turn. You can also relive your most wildest American Gladiators fantasies by grabbing people and chucking them off the wall.  You'll look ridiculous doing it, but like wakeracing, the motion aspect actually works. There's a lot of strategic play involved, as only holding onto one hold will drain your stamina bar and cause you to fall, and sometimes you'll need to move fast to grab onto something. It's also extremely difficult to learn, and like playing Guitar Hero for the very first time, I legitimately felt like I was using a new control scheme and not just a gimmick. Target practice is also fun, and in an endearing move to lefties, you can use either hand for this one. All you have to do is point your finger or hand at the screen to move around an accurate reticle, and Rivals will automatically fire at targets. There's a light puzzle element involved, with numbers that you have to shoot in an increasing order for bonus points, or skull targets that cause a loss in score. You'll also have to occasionally dodge to the left or right to avoid turret fire. It's a simple, nuanced addition that makes everything feels more action-packed. Soccer, however, feels like a completely wasted opportunity by comparison. This is a one-on-one sport, involving passes and shots with your feet and head as you square off with a goalie, and on the other end, square off against a striker. While goal keeping is fun enough as you attempt to block shots with precision, shooting is a bit of a farce. You'll have to go through this elongated and boring process of shooting downfield against foosball-like defense, which just feels like a waste of time. The shots also aren't very accurate and not a good demonstration of the tech. For these reasons and more, I'll most likely never play it again.If you loved Wii Sports you'll love bowling, but it feels oddly out of place in an otherwise fast-paced sports title. It works as advertised, but it's very bare-bones, and also ridiculous to see a giant futuristic crowd cheer for a bowling match. In general, bowling feels like a completely underwhelming and throwaway (ha) addition -- like it was added in to pad the game. Lastly we have Tennis, which packs a lot more punch by comparison. Because the Kinect recognizes nearly every appendage, you'll be able to serve by throwing the ball up with your free hand, and whacking it with your dominant racket hand. The process is incredibly nuanced, as you can swing normally, or mix things up with top spins, backspins, and lobs. Even though you can't technically feel the impact of hits, contact has a definite weight to it, and the over-emphasized neon effects of slicing a ball help add more character to the proceedings. There's a limited amount of actual movement, but your arms will feel tired by the end. I got pretty into it in fact, sometimes swinging with two hands, which is by no means required. If any combination of those games sounds enticing to you, Kinect Sports Rivals offers up a ton of content to mess around with, including its own Hub app that collects all your scores, friendships, and leaderboard information. You can also submit photos, participate in ongoing challenges and events, start a rivalry, and customize your character with new clothing options. Local multiplayer will up your enjoyment considerably. Kinect Sports Rivals has an inexcusable amount of wasted space with bowling and soccer, but the other four activities are engaging, and the world is charming and appealing enough to win over most of the gamers who enjoyed Wii Sports. If you have a family who likes getting together and play games like this, go ahead and pull the trigger -- all other curious parties should wait for a sale to compensate for the weak activities.
Kinect Sports Review photo
A semi-middling rivalry
The original Kinect Sports for the Xbox 360 did exactly what it set out to to do. It didn't set the world on fire or reinvent gaming as we know it, but it showed that despite some gimmicky features, the Kinect actually w...


Kinect for Windows looks just like the Xbox One Kinect

Sans logo
Mar 28
// Dale North
The newly revealed Kinect for Windows sensor looks just like the Xbox One Kinect sensor, save for the removal of the Xbox One logo and the addition of a power cord. Well, there's a hub box, too. It connects to USB 3.0 and pow...
Disney Fantasia photo
Disney Fantasia

Harmonix reveals The Hollow region of Disney Fantasia

Also announces multiplayer mode and more music
Mar 24
// Conrad Zimmerman
Harmonix has released this trailer for Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, highlighting a new region of the game, The Hollow, where players will bring a forest environment to life through playing songs and interacting in the wor...

Play Kinect Sports Rivals and you may win $10,000

Plus a trip for two around the world
Mar 24
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
There's a big competition revolving around Kinect Sports Rivals, where the grand prize winner can win up to $10,000 in cash plus a trip to one of four destinations around the world: Bora Bora, China, Machu Picchu, or the Swi...
There Came an Echo photo
There Came an Echo

There Came an Echo set to bounce onto Xbox One

One reason to own a Kinect
Mar 01
// Darren Nakamura
You might remember There Came an Echo from its successful Kickstarter campaign about a year ago. If not, then here's a quick recap. Iridium Studios enjoyed one of the earliest Kickstarter videogame successes with its rhythm r...
Kinect Sports Rivals photo
Kinect Sports Rivals

Kinect Sports Rivals launches in April

From Rare
Feb 13
// Chris Carter
Microsoft has announced that Kinect Sports Rivals is coming this April on the Xbox One. The game will launch on April 8th in North America and April 11th in Europe, and it'll feature the following activities: Soccer, Tennis,...
Xbox One major update photo
Will let you manage storage space and show your controller's battery life
The first major system update for the Xbox One will arrive on February 11. It'll have a variety of feature improvements, a lot of which will be for behind-the-scenes stuff aimed at developers creating apps and games. For the ...

Harmonix photo

Rumor: Harmonix has a canceled Xbox One Kinect game

Corgi fighter?
Jan 20
// Dale North
Kotaku (well, Superannuation) did some digging and found that there is an unannounced Harmonix Xbox One Kinect game that probably is laying in some desk drawer somewhere. Their lead level designer, Rob Stokes, ...

Pizza Hut made $1M in four months through the Xbox 360

What is wrong with you people
Jan 09
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Pizza Hut's director of public relations, Doug Terfehr, has told Polygon that they've sold $1 million in pizzas through the Xbox 360 in four months. Doug goes on to say that they're "not done in" the gaming space, and the company is having ongoing conversations with other potential gaming partners. I think you all know exactly how I feel about this news.
Xbox One trolling photo
You *will* believe what happens next
Okay, this is a fun little trick. YouTuber Master of Luck has taken to playing Call of Duty: Ghosts with the Xbox Live Gamertag "Xbox Sign Out." In a multiplayer setting like this where players are prone to shouting each oth...

Intel's 3D cameras photo
Intel's 3D cameras

Intel pushing Kinect-like 3D cameras with new computers

Let the NSA build 3D models of you!
Jan 06
// Steven Hansen
Intel is pushing a 3D camera as part of its focus on "perceptual computing," technology like voice recognition, facial recognition, and gesture control, CNET reports. Partnerships with manufacturers like Acer, Asus, Dell, Fuj...
Kinect Sports Rivals photo
Kinect Sports Rivals

Impressions: Kinect Sports Rivals Preseason

Surprisingly not terrible
Nov 28
// Chris Carter
It's a crying shame to see Rare reduced to producing Kinect games. With so much talent and so many IPs ripe for the taking, Microsoft has reduced one of the best retro studios of all time to a motion control factory. But ever...
Xbox One photo
Xbox One

A handy list of Xbox One Kinect voice commands

Xbox, go home
Nov 25
// Jordan Devore
I could never keep the Kinect voice commands straight on Xbox 360 despite only ever knowing a few of them, and I'm not confident that I'll do much better with the new device for Xbox One. Something like this list would've hel...
Apple buys Kinect company photo
Apple buys Kinect company

Apple definitely bought the original Kinect company

Nov 25
// Joshua Derocher
Apple confirmed that they bought PrimeSense, the company behind the original Kinect, for $360 million dollars. A spokesmen told the BBC that "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not ...
Kinect has no x-ray specs photo
Kinect has no x-ray specs

Xbox One's Kinect can't see you naked, says Microsoft

But I can
Nov 21
// Steven Hansen
Did you see a penis in this video? It seems the above tech demo left some people concerned that the Xbox One's new, better Kinect would be able to see your genitals. People are (understandably) rather paranoid about their pr...
Jimmy Fallon photo
Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon and Will Forte race on waves with Xbox One

Spoiler: Jimmy loses
Nov 21
// Darren Nakamura
Last week on Late Night we saw Jimmy Fallon and Ice-T kick some robots around with the PlayStation 4 for its launch. Naturally, the Xbox One couldn't go without being demonstrated for its launch week, so Blain Howard visited...

My first attempt at using Xbox One's voice commands

Xbox, listen up
Nov 19
// Dale North
After reading up a bit, I tried to see how I'd fare at controlling the Xbox One with voice commands. Above, you'll find a video of me trying out various system commands for about five minutes. As you'll see, it works fairly ...

Review: Xbox One

Nov 19 // Dale North
Xbox OneManufacturer: MicrosoftRelease Date: November 22, 2013MSRP: $499 Design The Xbox One sports clean lines and has some sharp accents while still managing to keep things simple. The mix of black matte, gloss finish and the cooling slat pattern are sleek, and the trim work on its face is attractive. But it still looks like a set-top box -- a really nice set-top box. This makes sense, as Microsoft is positioning the system to be the centerpiece of the world's living rooms. The Xbox One is a hefty brick of a game system, and it looks oversized when compared to other recent game consoles. At 13-inches wide and just over three inches tall, weighing in at over seven pounds, the Xbox One will hog up more space in your entertainment center than you might like it to. And that's not including its large power brick and its thick cabling. When you add the system's depth to the lengths of the cable jacks for the Kinect and power cord, you'll need shelving 14-inches deep.  The Kinect sensor matches the Xbox One's design with its black gloss and matte mix and its matching glowing Xbox logo.   Specifications An eight-core AMD CPU is the heart of Microsoft's powerful new system, supported by a 853 MHz GPU and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. Games will be installed via a slot-loading Blu-ray drive, with data going onto a 500GB hard disk. For connectivity, there's both Gigabit Ethernet and 8012.11 a/b/g/n WiFi (2.4 and 5 GHz) with WiFi Direct support. And with three USB 3.0 ports, a digital audio port, the Kinect sensor port, and HDMI input and output ports, there's plenty of places to plug things in. The Xbox One is fairly quiet, though it's never completely silent. Most of the time it'll emit a faint whirring, but when some games start, it'll crescendo to a full roar for a few seconds. Even the power brick makes a noise with its own cooling fan.  The Xbox One seems to run hot. When games are running, the unit is pretty warm to the touch, especially around its cooling vents. This system needs plenty of room for ventilation, too. We had to pull our test unit out of a cabinet after finding that it was hot to the touch, even with about two inches of clearance around the top and sides. Even on standby some heat comes out of the top vents.    Controller While the Xbox One controller looks a bit like the Xbox 360 controller, Microsoft made so many improvements that they seem worlds apart in use. They did an incredible job of tweaking and refining just about every aspect of the Xbox 360 controller, so much so that it's hard to use it now after having this Xbox One controller for about a week. The new analog sticks are fantastic. Their dead zone has been diminished, they move so much easier now, and the textured edges are perfect for increased grip for high-action games like shooters or racers. The new d-pad is click-y and responsive, as are the new shoulder buttons. The new triggers are outstanding with their upturned ends and their rolled shape, letting your index fingers rest naturally on them. I'm still enamored with their smooth travel and their dampened end strike even after dozens of hours of use. The trigger haptic feedback impresses in Forza Motorsport 5 -- a buzzing in your fingertips lets you know you're pushing your vehicle hard. Around back, the grips have been redesigned, making this controller much more comfortable to hold than its predecessor. The removal of screw holes and seams on the back and a tweaking of weight distribution also add to the comfort factor. A removable battery compartment panel (it takes two AA batteries) fits beautifully flush with the rear surface. Microsoft also ditched the start and back buttons, changing them for view and menu buttons. The only oversight in the design of the Xbox One controller we could find is how much noise it makes during use. The d-pad makes a sharp clicking noise under heavy use, and the stems of the analog sticks cause a loud knocking against the edges of the ports they sit in. Having multiple players in one room using Xbox One controllers adds a fair bit of noise! I prefer the symmetrical placement of the analog sticks (see our PlayStation 4 review), but I'm still extremely impressed with the Xbox One controller. It needs to win some kind of award for the most improved piece of gaming tech ever created.   Kinect Sensor The included Xbox One Kinect sensor is tethered to the system with a long, hefty cable. This cable continually transmits data from Kinect 2's 1080p camera, motion sensors, IR sensors, and microphones, enabling the system to instantly act on motion and voice commands. The camera's view is extremely wide, allowing for small rooms to get proper coverage. The Kinect sensor is immediately useful out of the box. After being told to recognize a user's face, they can log in by simply walking into the room. From that point on, the system is always scanning for that person's presence, and given the proper command ("Xbox, sign in"), the system will switch to their settings.  The Xbox One supports a few UI gesture commands using Kinect's sensors. Users can clench their hand to grip corners of some apps to zoom in and out, for example. Pulling two fists together from a distance can bring the user back to their home screen. While these commands are smart, they're a bit fiddly, and likely more difficult than picking up the controller to accomplish the same task. Kinect's microphones are always on, waiting for the next voice command. By simply calling out "Xbox," the system readies its voice recognition, letting users start games, switch to applications, video conference, and more. When it works, it's incredibly handy. It's so nice to be able to pause a television show from the other room by simply calling out, for example. The problem is that the voice recognition, while initially impressive, lets you down sometimes. We've had several instances of the system completely ignoring repeated commands. The most used ones, like "Xbox, go Home," or "Xbox, go back," are pretty reliable, while ones that launch specific games and apps have a lower success rate. In completely quiet rooms, with a fully projected voice spoken three feet away, facing the Kinect directly, commands sometimes failed. In another test room, at only two feet away, recognition was more reliable, though never perfect. In one sitting, the Xbox One refused to take my "Xbox, record that" command until I shut the game down completely and restarted it. If the voice commands aren't consistently reliable, users are going to pick controller commands over them, which would defeat the purpose completely. I've found that a hybrid works best in my office and home. For example, while playing games, your hands are busy, so calling out "Xbox, record that" makes a lot of sense. But I'd rather use the controller to navigate the dash. The Kinect sensor is also a high-powered IR blaster and receiver, which makes it able to control just about any A/V device in your living room. During initial setup, Xbox One asks for the make and model of your television and other components. From there, the system pulls remote codes from the cloud to have Kinect control them all. The IR control works like a charm, provided that the system understood the voice command first.   User Interface Microsoft has been all over the map when it comes to user interfaces for the Xbox brand, but it looks like they've finally settled on a UI that looks clean, modern, and uncluttered. The home screen has a main tile for the currently running application or game, and four smaller tiles under it represent the most recently run applications, allowing for quick switching. And aside from a profile bar and a few shortcuts, as well as three boxes to show recommended content, that's it. Nice and simple. Pressing the Xbox button on the controller will bring you back to this screen at any time. Scrolling left from the main screen (using either the analog stick or the bumper buttons) brings you to a field for pins, which are Xbox's version of shortcuts and bookmarks. The screen to the right of the home view is where you can purchase content from Xbox Live, including games, movies, television shows, and music. Logging in, users will find their own unique settings, apps, and pins on their Xbox One dash. They're even welcomed by name. Any other user in the room can identify themselves to Kinect to have the home screen immediately change to theirs.  Microsoft built in enough power under the hood to support multitasking, making it easy to jump from, say, a game to an application. For example, you could be playing Forza Motorsport 5, and then leave it to open Internet Explorer. Through the Xbox One's multitasking power, Forza 5 will stay running in the background as you do your browsing; switching between the two apps would be instantaneous. In my last week with the system, I've grown to really count on this ability to jump between two applications, to the point that I'm not sure how I got along without this ability before. It makes the Xbox One feel more like an environment and less like a simple game box -- in a good way. As an extension of this, Xbox One's snap ability lets you take certain apps and snap them to the right side of the screen. For example, Internet Explorer could be snapped while watching television, allowing you to browse and enjoy your favorite program at the same time. You could play a game and listen to music at the same time, too.  With as much power as the Xbox One has under the hood, we were surprised to see several instances of user-interface lag. We saw the Xbox One's loading spinning wheel so many times that we lost count, with it popping up in everything from friends list navigation to applications opening. Switching between open tasks is always respectably snappy, but several other aspects lacked that speed.    Online, Social, Sharing, and Broadcasting Calling out "Xbox, record that" has the Xbox One grabbing the last 30 seconds of gameplay as a file, which can then be shared with other Xbox Live users. An app called Upload Studio lets you take game recordings and edit them, adding voice overs, inserting pictures, or themes, and then exporting to be shared. At launch, these videos can only be shared with Xbox Live users. Microsoft aims to have sharing to other social sites, like Facebook and YouTube, set up by next year.  [embed]265900:51474:0[/embed] Similarly, broadcasting of live gameplay via Twitch will not be available at launch. Microsoft is aiming for an early 2014 launch of this feature. As a workaround, clips can be uploaded to Microsoft's SkyDrive from launch. Once uploaded, the clips can be shared from any computer. It's another step, but it works fine. Friends management and tracking has been upgraded with Xbox One. A new feed gives a real-time view of what your friends are doing on Xbox Live, showing both Xbox 360 and Xbox One players in one view. You can mark friends as favorites to make them easier to track among your friends list. Microsoft has done away with confirmations and requests -- simply add a friend and they'll appear in your feed, much like following a person on Twitter.    Connectivity A new Xbox One SmartGlass App lets you navigate the home screen with your fingertips on Windows 8, iOS, and Android devices. We used a beta version of the app on a Microsoft Surface to flip through our friends list, respond to messages, and browse our content. These functions work wonderfully, making SmartGlass a fine companion to the whole Xbox Live experience. A rudimentary control mode found in the beta let us try to control the Xbox One via SmartGlass, but it didn't work reliably. Swiping motions are to serve as a stand-in for controller input, while touchscreen virtual buttons did the job of physical controller buttons. Again, neither worked well, but the app is still in development. Microsoft plans to have SmartGlass working as a remote for all devices in your living room through Xbox One in a future update.    Disk Management and Installation The Xbox One's Blu-ray disc drive feeds the 500GB internal hard disk with games, as installations are required. To boot the game, you'll still need to keep the disc in the drive, even after installation. If you try to start a game without the disc, the system will ask you to insert the disc or buy digital rights from the online store. With some games, gameplay can be started before installation is finished.  With new games sometimes filling Blu-ray discs -- and when you add in the space the OS and other apps take -- the 500GB drive will likely only hold a handful of games at one time. Thankfully, Microsoft plans to add external storage support at a later date.    Video and Audio The Xbox One aims to be the hub of the world's living room with its HDMI pass-through capabilities, letting users plug in their cable or satellite boxes to have the system acting as a go-between, handling everything from channel navigation to volume control. Between the Xbox One's voice recognition capabilities and the Kinect sensor's IR blasters, you can control just about all of your television-watching experience without ever having to pick up a remote control. To begin watching television, you only need to say "Xbox, watch TV." As we mentioned earlier, Xbox One's voice recognition is good, but it isn't reliable. Our tests showed that while voice commands would bring up Xbox One's television guide -- called OneGuide -- reliably navigating through it wasn't as easy. We had mixed results in trying to get the channel to change by calling out its station name. It was just easier to pick up the controller to manually scroll through the listings more often than not. Thankfully, some of the most useful commands were the most reliable. Calling out to have the Xbox One take over transport controls worked well. It's really convenient to be able to pause the program you're watching with your voice when the door bell rings, for example. Having the Xbox One turn the volume up or down via voice command was too slow, but being able to ask it to mute was nice and quick.  The Xbox One supports some of the bigger streaming video services, like Netflix and Hulu, at launch with new apps, though my personal favorite, Crunchyroll, is not yet available. Any of these apps can be added to OneGuide as channels through what Microsoft calls App Channels. So, for example, your Hulu Plus queue could be an App Channel, listed right alongside your television listings in OneGuide. Finally, Microsoft's Xbox Video and Xbox Music apps let you rent or purchase television shows and movies or stream music on Xbox One.   Conclusion The Xbox One is a powerful PC connected to a cutting-edge sensor array that handles every living-room duty, from television watching to video streaming to web browsing, and it does it all with a multitasking UI that supports voice and motion control. This has to be the most full-featured game console offering ever brought to market. It does so many things that it's hard to keep track of them all! A few key features, like social sharing and game broadcasting, are not ready for launch, making the Xbox One feel somewhat incomplete, especially when compared to its main competitor. All of these technologies and features for Xbox One are pointless if there aren't great games to play on it. While future offerings look promising, the Xbox One's launch library is somewhat lacking. There are plenty of interesting experiences to be had, but only a few of the offerings are truly notable at this point. It's clear that Microsoft doesn't have this generation's Halo yet.  The way we see it, gamers likely have a good all-in-one gaming/media box now with the Xbox 360. If you're dying to add voice-controlled television channel surfing to the mix, the Xbox One will definitely get you there. The console will also give you access to a couple of decent launch titles, and a fantastic new controller to play them with. But you're going to have to make the call on whether these things are worth $499 to you. If not, wait. The Xbox One will still be around when you're ready.
Xbox One review photo
Microsoft's Xbox 360 grew from being a simple game console to an all-in-one entertainment box over the last eight years or so, somehow squeezing in everything from multiplayer gaming to streaming movies and television. And no...

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