Xbox One: Watching TV
One of the Xbox One’s headline features is its integration of TV. Plug your set-top-box into the HDMI In port, run through the brief setup process, and you can switch to TV just by saying “Xbox, Watch TV.” What’s more, you can run snapped apps while you do so, taking a Skype call or browsing the Web as you watch, or switch between, say, your current game and a match you’re vaguely following.
It’s all quite good when it works, but at the moment there’s not much to it. The TV functionality will only really come alive once Microsoft has UK TV services working with the Xbox OneGuide, and through that with Bing and all the other search and playback features. At the moment, there’s nothing from Sky, Virgin, Freeview, YouView or any of the other big UK players, and until there is this aspect of Xbox One will go mostly unexplored. Note also that not all set-top-boxes and DVRs might be compatible; we couldn’t get anything but a purple mess from a Sony Freeview HD PVR.
Deep down, it’s hard not to feel this particular feature is something of a stopgap. Clearly IPTV (i.e. internet TV) is a more logical, less fussy next step and the Xbox 360 has this in the shape of the Sky and Now TV (from Sky) apps.
From a UK perspective that makes their absence at launch all the more disappointing. Sky has been making its Sky Go Service ever more expansive in recent times, so we hope whatever it (and Microsoft) is cooking up will substitute for the somewhat redundant HDMI pass through solution at present. We’d like to see the same from YouView, too – if Microsoft isn’t courting it for Xbox then it should be.
Xbox One: Kinect
As noted by Sam Loveridge in her piece on Kinect, there aren’t many Xbox One Kinect games at present. Only one pre-season event of Kinect Sports Rivals is available at launch, giving you a taste of the Wake-racing portion, and it’s a very playable take on the jet ski-racing genre, with smooth but sensitive Kinect controls that – sensibly – now work sitting down.
Otherwise, the best showcase for the new Kinect is Zoo Tycoon, where you can use gestures to feed and wash your animal exhibits, or navigate the nested menus using voice commands. The more you play Zoo Tycoon this way, the more it seems like this, and not Wii-style motion controls, is the real future of Kinect.
If Microsoft can genuinely produce games where voice, facial expressions, gestures and other biometric factors have a role to play, then Xbox One will be able to go places other consoles can’t. This, of course, remains to be seen, and there’s no escaping the fact that the lack of a ‘killer app’ for Kinect 2 is a serious misstep from Microsoft. Wii Sports did more than any other game to sell the original Wii, but the Xbox One has no ‘Wii Sports’ of its own.
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