Xbox One at E3: Up close with Microsoft, and hands-on
June 11, 2013
The E3 floodgates are open, and attendees are getting their hands on upcoming games and unreleased consoles. We've already given you our quick impressions of the PlayStation 4, but we also worked in a little time with the Xbox One. You've seen the pictures, and maybe watched the event. But what's it like to use? Read on.
First, we stepped out of E3's crowded halls, and attended a private, no-cameras-allowed briefing with Microsoft about the Xbox One. Several Xbox engineers broke down the console's ability to process both locally and via the cloud. In the demo, the Xbox One tracked some asteroids. Colors were coded to denote local tracking vs. cloud tracking.
The gist of the pitch was that cloud processing has "infinite" capabilities, which enhance the already upgraded local processing capabilities. It does make for some exciting possibilities: like infinitely-populated MMOs, or open-world games that seem to never end.
But then there's that whole matter of the internet. If you have an unreliable connection, then those cloud processing capabilities go down the tube. Of course, if you have unreliable internet service, the Xbox One probably isn't the console for you anyway.
Full-body gamingProbably the coolest part of the demo was when the Microsoft rep played a demo game (not an unreleased game, but a game cooked up specifically for demo purposes). It showed just how advanced the new Kinect 2 is – and what doors it can open up.
It started off simple enough, with our Microsoft friend using the Xbox One controller to shoot some baddies. Then he showed how he could activate his shields by simply lifting his controller. Pretty cool, but nothing we haven't seen before.
But then it started to get really fun. To activate his long-range attack, he pointed his finger at different enemies on the screen, which placed a green target on each of them. He then said "launch missiles," and, well, the missiles launched towards all of the targets. Very cool, and only possible with a motion sensor as advanced as the new Kinect 2.
Live TVIn our meeting, Microsoft also showed us more of the console's live TV integration. This is where I believe the console has a chance to be a game-changer.
The engineer leading this part of the demo had a simulated live football game on the screen, then brought up the system's multitasking menu. Switch to Game of Thrones, get scores while watching GOT, receive a notification from another game, send it to Smart Glass on a tablet ... you get the idea.
We're only going off of simulations here (Microsoft wasn't actually using the console in real-time for any of this), but, if it all works as advertised, it delivers much of the "magic" that we've been expecting from the 21st century living room. Voice, gesture, smooth multitasking and notifications: it has the potential to bring the TV into the same century as smartphones and tablets.
Playing the Xbox One
My time hands-on with the actual console was relatively brief, and only involved a tech demo, and two games: LocoCycle, and Powerstar Golf.
It's hard to form too strong an opinion from such limited time, but I can share some initial impressions. The controller feels good: like the PS4's new controller, it too is a bit more compact. The button layout is basically unchanged from the Xbox 360's controller. It feels pretty light.
The controller does have two extra motors (four, to the 360 controller's two), which can lead to more realistic and atmospheric haptic feedback. Like a lot of the glimpses we got, it does more to spark developers' imaginations than it does to actually deliver something mind-blowing right now.
Graphics looked good enough on my demo and the many others I saw around me. It's too early to claim a victor in the Xbox One vs. PS4 graphics showdown, but I can say that they both look roughly like modern PC games.
Stay tuned for more from E3 from Gizmag, and also be sure to check out our quick hands-on with the PS4.