The Verge seems to really really really want to like the Xbox One, and yet we get stuff like this:
But the hardest part of setting up the Xbox One is simply getting used to the console’s user interface. Where Sony’s PlayStation 4 gives you a simple scrolling list of everything on your console — a visual paradigm that, while possibly cumbersome, immediately makes sense — the Xbox One is a smorgasbord of colored Windows 8-style tiles in seemingly arbitrary locations.
Even if you buy a physical disc, all Xbox One games require installation. You can indeed play games while they install, and they start installing as soon as you pop the disc in the drive, but it takes a lot longer than on Sony’s new PlayStation: it took 19 minutes for Call of Duty: Ghosts to install 54 percent of the game, at which point it allowed me to start playing. And even with the installations, load times aren’t any better than last generation. We still had to contend with tedious load screens for most of the games we played — it took more than a minute and a half to load Dead Rising 3 from the home screen, much longer than anything on the PS4. This much waiting feels even more ridiculous as the Xbox gets ever more powerful.
But while the ideas are great, the execution just isn’t there. For starters, passing my TiVo through the Xbox One darkened the picture and stripped the signal of its Dolby Digital audio encoding, taking away surround sound. There’s a beta option to transcode Dolby into DTS or PCM audio, but it didn’t seem to work for me, and Microsoft says it might cause additional video distortion with some cable boxes until it’s out of beta. If you have a home theater system, this is an immediate deal breaker; I wouldn’t let the Xbox One near your cable box until it can pass the signal unmolested.
But Kinect doesn’t always work. It’s simply not reliable or flexible enough. Often, I felt like I spent more time screaming at the Kinect to follow my commands than it would have taken to just pick up the controller. I begged, I pleaded with the device to do what I wanted in the most commanding yet humble tone I could muster, and on many occasions it indeed felt like I had the robotic butler of my dreams. Most of the time, though, it felt like my butler was a little hard of hearing.
There are two distinct ways the Kinect fails, and the first feels inexcusable. Many of the voice commands are extremely rigid, to the point where you need to memorize a list of exact phrases to be able to use them reliably. If you want to go to an app, for instance, you need to start by saying “Xbox go to.” But if you want to go to Bing, that structure doesn’t work. The correct command is “Xbox Bing,” because Microsoft expects you to unquestionably understand and accept that “Bing” should be a verb. If “Xbox on” turns on the console, why doesn’t “Xbox off” turn it off? Because “Xbox turn off” is the proper command, and you’ll need to memorize it. If you’re a Redbox Instant subscriber, get used to calling it “Redbox Instant by Verizon,” because the Kinect won’t accept anything less. You can’t say “Xbox play Forza,” you have to say “play Forza Motorsport 5.” There are dozens more examples like these.
More worrying is the fact that even if you utter the proper command at a reasonable volume, the Kinect might not recognize it. I repeatedly recalibrated the Kinect for my room’s audio profile, tried moving it to a new position, and tried changing my volume and tone, but voice commands were hit and miss no matter what I did. Sometimes nothing happens, sometimes a screaming child brings up the Settings menu for no reason in the middle of a game. Yelling doesn’t help; nor does whispering or speaking slowly. It just feels purely random, hit and miss with no rhyme or reason. Kinect for the Xbox 360 wasn’t remotely as powerful as the new Kinect, but at least it worked reliably. Until or unless Microsoft makes the Xbox One as reliable, expect to scream at your console — and to get no response part of the time.
There is another way to use Kinect, too: with your hands. Simply raise a hand up to the screen, hover over any tile, and push forward to select an app. Close your fist to grab the screen, and you can drag it to scroll much the same way you’d swipe across a touchscreen. In Internet Explorer, you can even “punch” the screen with your fist or pull it away to zoom. Unfortunately, it’s even more finicky than the voice commands: sometimes I couldn’t get it to recognize my hands, and often I selected something I didn’t mean to.
And, one of my favorites:
Microsoft spent $100 million developing a new controller for the Xbox One and ended up with something almost exactly like the gamepad that came with the Xbox 360 eight years ago. It’s practically the same exact size in every single direction, only a half-ounce heavier, and all the buttons are in the exact same places. Even the analog sticks are the same distance from the ground.
I’m sorry, but this thing just sounds like an expensive turd. One of the issues above would annoy me beyond believe. Two of them would cause me to return the system. All of them would probably cause me to set the thing on fire.
How do these things pass any QA system — let alone one of a multi-billion dollar company? It’s not like Microsoft is new to the game at this point.
I continue to be very bearish on these next-generation consoles. They sound like mediocre upgrades full of new headaches at best and pieces of shit at worst. In years and decades past you could maybe get away with a lot of these mistakes, but the world has changed.