Over this past weekend I made the decision to finally buy an Xbox One. I had kind of wanted one for a while. But I held back because there were only a handful of games I wanted for it. I didn’t want to buy a $300 console and then pay extra for just a few games.
That is until I read about the current Spring Bundle they have. I checked my local Gamestop and they had it in stock. I could not pass up the deal. For $299 I got a 1TB Xbox One, physical copies of Halo 5, Ultimate Gears of War and Rare Replay as well as a digital code for Ori and the Blind Forest. If it had been digital codes for all I would have passed but having most of those games as physical copies had me sold. Especially as they were bundled inside the box for only $299.
Halo 5 and Ultimate Gears are games I had wanted to play, even though Gears is just a prettier version of the older 360 title. I also wanted Forza 6 and a physical copy of Ryse. I have Ryse on PC but always wanted to pick it up on Xbox as well but didn’t have the system yet. So I got copies of those as well as a physical copy of Killer Instinct for under $50 thanks to Amazon. So all in I had a 1TB Console and seven games for just at $350. Not bad!
So far so good right? Right! The next part is where I start to understand why I bought a PS4 at launch instead of Microsoft’s offering and why Sony seems to “get it” and the company in Redmond, WA doesn’t. Yes that’s a harsh statement, and while Microsoft makes some great games there is a big disconnect it seems somewhere in the company.
I hooked it up and performed a massive OS update. No big deal, that’s expected. Here is what I didn’t expect though. I popped Halo 5 in and got a notification it needs an update. Ok cool. A 35GB update. Uh…ok? So I get the update going, eject the disc and put in Gears to get that update going too. Then I realize that Gears starts to update but Halo stops. At that moment I learned that the Xbox counts the update download as part of the install process so you HAVE to have the disc in the drive to update it and you can only update one at a time. Seriously?! So I wait hours to “install” Halo 5. At 18mbps that means I hooked it up at 11:30am and finally got to play Halo around 5pm. Fun!
Of course my internet speed was partially to blame but on Monday I switched companies and now have 75mbps down. That made updating, I mean “installing”, Gears and Rare Replay more tolerable, but barely. But why is that a thing? When I buy multiple games for the PS4 I just quickly pop them in and back out one at a time to get all the updates going. It takes about 30 seconds or less per game to pop it in and let the PS4 recognize it and start downloading the update. So if I bring home three games, a minute and a half later I have all three updates going at the same time. Also, Sony’s unit will still let you play the game while it installs and downloads the update. Brilliant! Microsoft, fix this! Yes there are some games that will allow you play on the Xbox after it installed a certain amount but the PS4 is nearly instant in that regard, save for a few games.
What also bugged me is the dashboard. Holy shit there is a lot going on. Icons, Ads, notifications…everywhere. It’s not very straight forward. I’m use to the PS4 which is both basic and very classy to look at it. It’s easy to use. I remember putting Halo 5 back in after it installed and I just sat there. “OK, now what?” Nothing popped up, no icon appeared. I finally found where to go to play the game but as a GAME console it should be front and center. It’s not until you quit out of the game that the Xbox has a huge image of the game in front of you to select.
I also can’t figure out how to record gameplay or screenshots efficiently. Everything I read say to just yell at the Kinect but as I don’t have kinect that’s not an option? It should be obvious. PS4 has a clearly marked share button, no explanation needed. So instead of using the built in system it looks like I will have to setup the Surface and El Gato capture device next to it and record that way because the alternative is to side load the DVR app and then open it up whenever I want to record a screenshot or gameplay. And there is a 5 minute limit. Ain’t nobody got time for that! With the PS4 you can set it so a tap of the share button takes a snapshot and holding it records up to 15min of prior gameplay. No fuss, no muss and completely unobtrusive.
So….lack of an intuitive interface, one at a time updates and no efficient way to record. Not looking good at this point.
Then I played Halo 5 and after about 3 hours I found I really enjoyed myself. I did not like the Halo franchise at first way back in the day as I was in the PlayStation 2 camp at a time where I had no interest in being open-minded about consoles. I was a PlayStation gamer and that was that! Later on, I grew up. It wasn’t until I played ODST that I found one I actually liked. I then played 3, 1 and then 2 in that order. Reach and Halo 4 also were fine with me. Even though I got into the Halo games very late there is still a sense of nostalgia for me when I play one. Every game in the series has been played in one sitting by me. Every one. I would wake up early, pop it in and go. At least for the first playthrough. 5 is different. 5 I did in two days but I still felt that nostalgia of playing the old ones even though it began years after most people had played them.
The game looks and plays well. We all know the PS4 is the more powerful system but Halo 5 is well optimized it shows. There were a few areas that stuttered, had pop in and could have benefited from a bit more available power. Playing on a 51in TV I could tell the game was upscaled from a lower native resolution. However it didn’t really bother me.
The controller is good but not great. I appreciate the much improved D-pad but why on earth did Microsoft not make them with a rechargeable battery? So we can buy it from them extra? It has a USB port for the charger, but comes with AA batteries. Poor form. So I ordered a play and charge kit but went 3rd party out of pure protest. Viva La Revolution!
I do like how the console looks. It’s a much better looker than the PS4. Classy and simple. I also really enjoy having a new console with a new library of exclusives. It was fun playing Halo 5 and letting the game take me in. I’ve been plowing through my library of PS4 games and it’s refreshing to play on a new console. It’s nice having selection. I have so many unfinished games on the PS4 it almost feels like work trying to complete them where the Xbox is new and I only have a few games, none of them being 50+ hour RPGs like I have on the PS4.
So far I have fostered a love/hate relationship with the console. Starting a new game is something I have to plan in advance due to the insane load times. So this morning I had about 7 hours before I had anything to do so I took that time to install the rest of the games while I did some stuff around the house (watch YouTube). It nearly took all that time. At least they are ready for me now though.
All said, I’m happy I got the system, I’m surprised the issues are STILL issues this far into the console’s life but the exclusives make up for it. While I prefer the PS4 as a system, Microsoft has a strong lineup of exclusive games which make the price of entry, and headache of living with the system, a small price to play for some genuinely good games.