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Gamereactor UK

Xbox One: One Month On

So it's been over a month (and change) since we've adjusted to having the Xbox 360's successor in our homes. We weigh up what, so far, has been working for us, and more importantly, what we're disagreeing with.

  • Text: Gamereactor Staff

We fully expect an ever-evolving Dashboard, and Microsoft's stated it's actively customising the Xbox One's front-end to better cater to players' needs via future themed Updates. Despite their understandable step in homogenising the UI to tie with the Microsoft 'Metro' tiling system, the company's taken too many paces into the App space, making vitally-linked aspects of the Dashboard's player profile now a set of disparate and remote channels that require far too many hoops to jump through to access.

The Xbox 360's mini-blade guide, called up with a press of the Guide button, allowed instant shortcut to the heart of the system's social experiences: check Friends, check Achievements, set up chat and a multitude of other features interlocked and accessible through a simple button press and quick blade scroll. The system's so convoluted on Xbox One that you feel less connected to the social aspect of the console - which given Xbox's online ecosystem is an industry leader, is pretty bad.

While essential aspects are buried deep into the Dashboard, at least the top channels have been cleaned and simplified. Xbox 360's home screen had become a cluttered ad-heavy mess with very little in the way of player customisation - the Xbox One's trio of suggested content mapped to the right is much less intrusive. the short list of recently used Apps along the bottom works as a decent shortcut for constantly accessed content, as to does the Pin function, giving you your much used features with a hop to the screen's left.

Tucking the notification bar into the top left keeps things tidy, but what tumbles out on opening it is somewhat of a mess. We need notifications flagging when a friend's come online, and - going back to easy access - clicking an unlocked Achievement to see the details shouldn't force us back out of a game and into the respective App.

There's a small, but irritating thing we noticed with Peggle 2, in that the game incessantly records Game Clips without prompting, the continual pop-up notification proving very distracting (and disappointing, as we think we've unlocked a new Achievement). It's one tarnish on the otherwise excellent "Xbox: Record That" function for capturing those quirky or cool moments in games.

Kinect: if a voice-activated system isn't working 100% of the time, it's not good enough. And that's the case with Xbox One's extra limb. We've been using our Xbox One primarily for Netflix since buying it, and its accuracy in picking up our commands is hit and miss. 'Pause' and 'Play' are easy enough, but the hand gesture tech's went downhill between systems. Numerous times we've had the UI come up because it's registered our lifting of a cup or bottle as a sign we want to fiddle with the video timeline. (That, at least, is slightly better than before - making a fist to 'grab' the bar, and moving our arm left and right to skip through the timeline).

But outside in the Dashboard menus, it's more of a concern. We've lost count the number of times we've said "Xbox: Netflix", only for it to open Xbox Music and Snap Twitch at the same time. Any system that requires you to a) alter your accent to be understood and b) repeat your request multiple times, is one that still needs plenty of work done. It's not flawless; but it should be by now.

A multitude of other, smaller issues need addressing: a lack of on-screen battery indicator for our controllers, an auto sign-in function if you're not using Kinect, game install times need to be sped up. On downloading the Dead Rising 3 demo, we noticed it had limited plays before it expired. It may be just the nature of that game (there's a time limit to the demo anyway), but we hope that doesn't become standard.

Outside the console hardware, is the pricing of peripherals. Of course players are going to buy a Charge Kit for their controller, or even an extra pad for multiplayer, but the costs for both are ludicrous. A penny shy of twenty quid for a Charge kit? £69.99 for pad and charger? £44.99 for a controller on its own? This stuff shouldn't cost the same as a game.

At least some of these issues will be fixed with Update rollouts. And there are positives to the system already. While we can't stream our gameplay on Twitch like PS4, we can at least watch any game that's being streamed on the service - PS4 grants access to PS4-only streams currently.

We may not see how much battery we have left in the controllers, but in use over the past month, each pair of batteries have lasted a good while at least. Achievements haven't been dabbled with (though the jury's still out on the timed Achievements, and those attached to the likes of Netflix and Twitch). The console's quiet and there's not much excess heat (though the external power brick admits a low-level buzzing when plugged in to the mains), and we've already become accustomed to making regular Skype video calls to friends and family.

Even with continued usage, our understanding of the pros and cons of the system feel perfunctory at this early stage of the console's life cycle. When we start being swamped in game releases and we put the online and other features through their paces will we get a better feel for what's working and what's not.

The system works fine, but is in need of a lot of tweaks as it now stands. We look forward to re-reading this piece come this November. A year on from release, we imagine the Dashboard will look very different indeed.

Catch up on all our Xbox One launch reviews here.