Catching Up – Xbox One in 2018

We’re approaching the end of 2018 and I’ve just got myself a brand new Xbox One S, five years into the lifespan of Xbox One. It’s a new world for me as I’ve been playing nothing but Nintendo stuff for the last few years, having a great time it must be said. I never had a PS4 either so this is my first time dipping into the 2013 “next-gen” console family, which is now this-gen, or half-gen to the Pro and X which will be last-gen again next year. Phew. Whatever you want to call it, I have a lot of gaming to catch up on and I thought this was a unique perspective worth a little writeup. I was lucky enough to get my XB1S bundled with Red Dead Redemption 2 and Forza Horizon 4, two very expensive new release games. The whole bundle was $100-200 AU cheaper than a Switch or PS4 by themselves, which is ridiculous. Xbox is priced very well and has huge support in Australia, and I was in a good spot to take advantage of it. It just felt like the right time with Nintendo’s Switch holiday lineup mainly focused on two games I’m not that interested in. I got home with my new Xbox and it felt like Christmas again. The old, fun, child-like Christmas, not the new HD remake “Adult Christmas” which is full of disappointing social engagements. This was going to be fun on my own terms.

Oh no, Grub has turned to the dark side?! Ahahahahaha NOBODY CAN STOP ME! Nah, let’s not get too extreme. It’s more like the opposite, I’m using this as an opportunity to catch up on many games I missed, and re-ignite my passion for gaming even further. I still love my Nintendo Switch and it will remain my primary gaming system. Anyway, back to the Xbox experience.

So what happens first? Well, system setup was fairly smooth. Just a few details and creating a Microsoft account, a couple of minutes. The biggest issue when getting a new Xbox One is installing the games. Red Dead Redemption 2 had two discs so I braced myself for a long install. Seeing “85GB to go” still sank my heart for a second. Okay, guess I’ll be playing this later tonight. I’ve never seen a game install that big in my life. I had heard horror stories about people not getting to play games on the system they bought for a while, but it was a bit overstated. Nothing was too out of reach. I knew all this in advance so I wasn’t too put off, but I did learn a few things about the way Xbox One installs games. Installing from the disc is super fast, so RDR2 actually took about two hours. I was playing it the same morning. It’s fairly quick, unless you try to do too many tasks at once. Some games have to download data from the internet as well, but it’s important to fully install off the disc before hitting update. Making it install from both sources at the same time will slow things to a crawl, and it can go from 50mbps down to 2mbps. You need to exercise a bit of patience and install one thing at a time. The console is just a bit shy but it will open up to you after a bit.

It took me a few hours to get my actual physical games up and running, but I was having fun just settling into the system, learning how it works, going through the settings and it didn’t feel like a long time at all. If you’re looking for something to play immediately with your Xbox One, it’s probably best to get a small digital game, as every disc game has to install what’s on the disc. Silly I know, but just how it is. I was able to play Banjo-Kazooie within minutes with the free Game Pass trial I got with the console. More on Game Pass later.

Why Xbox One instead of a PS4?

Well friend, I could debate this all day but my answer is simply personal preference. I like Forza more than Gran Turismo. I like the XB1 controller. I like what Microsoft are doing at the moment compared to Sony. Things change. There is no right or wrong console as long as we’re all having fun. I’m sure there’s someone out there who just bought a PS4 with a write-up just for you.

 Why not Xbox One X instead of S? It’s TEH FUTURE!!!!!1

Ok friend calm down. Quite simply I don’t care about graphics and I don’t plan on getting a 4K TV for a while. I just wanna play games. Yes I am aware that the X runs games better on lower resolutions too, but this isn’t going to be my main console. Nintendo Switch is still going to be my #1 console because I love Nintendo and the handheld hybrid can be taken with me everywhere. XB1X is very expensive, and double what I paid for the XB1S so it’s definitely not worth it for me, as someone who’s just catching up on the library. I do respect the Xbox One X for what it is though. It’s nice to have options.

So what about the games? Sadly Red Dead 2 is my least played game a few weeks later, despite being the primary motivation to buy a new console. I think the game is great but it’s very slow and the gameplay is frustrating to learn, with multiple button input combos required for every basic thing like patting your horse. I don’t remember this being a problem in the first Red Dead Redemption, but the world is more beautiful now and I can see myself enjoying it in the long run. I do love what they’ve done so far, but the pacing has just been so enormously slow that I haven’t been able to get into it yet. If I sat down for half an hour with it right now, I’d get through 2 cutscenes, trip over a rock and move my horse slightly down a path. It’s not even worth it until I can invest in longer play sessions, and other games have gripped me more in the short term.

My most played game is Forza Motorsport 6… a game I bought in the bargain bin on the way out of the store. Ah… this game is absolute heaven. This might be boring to some people who don’t play sports games, but I’m a huge racing fan so bear with me. It’s been many years since I’ve sunk my teeth into a racing sim and I’m blown away by how far they’ve come. The visuals are amazing, the controls are great with the XB1 pad, the framerate is smooth and the track and car detail is an enormous upgrade to what I’m used to. It’s the first 1080p sim racer I’ve played which is eye-opening in itself. Unlike other sports genres in gaming, the racing genre has gotten better and more playable with realism, because it mainly affects the gameplay. The most impressive thing to me so far is wet weather driving, the handling is wild and this is the first time I’ve seen puddles implemented properly in a game. You can feel how deep they are, and I was driving into them on purpose despite losing significant time, just because it’s so fun. Here’s a little gameplay clip I took with the Xbox capture feature.

That’s not the only Forza game I’ve been blown away by, Forza Horizon 4 has been an incredible experience. I’m more of a racing sim fan so I went through traditional Forza ropes first, but this game might be even more fun. It’s a huge open world where you can basically create your own races as the seasons tick over and weather changes. This is what I would say would be the perfect videogame as a 12 year old who liked cars. You can drive absolutely anywhere, and find something fun in any direction. Finish one race, and 3 more will unlock. Drive super fast and you’ll get speed trap rewards. Ignore races entirely and crash into signs, or drift around in the mud. It’s so much fun, controls well and just lets you do your own thing. It’s like a less depressing version of GTA. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of this and I’m also looking forward to going back to Forza Horizon 3 and seeing how they recreated Australia.

Game Pass is another huge part of my experience at the moment. This has made me re-evaluate everything. I was going to buy Quantum Break and Sunset Overdrive but… I can get them free on Game Pass now? Sure. This service almost feels too good to be true, and I can’t see it helping Microsoft in those two cases where they lost sales on the games. However it has helped me come around on other titles. I’ve downloaded F1 2015 just to see what the series is like on modern consoles. Incredible. I love it so much I’m getting one of the newer versions soon after completing all the GPs in this. Fallout 4 is another game I played in Game Pass, and it has now left the service. I went out and bought a physical copy that same day, and now I’m enjoying exploring at my own pace. I loved Fallout 3 and this feels like a faithful successor to me so far. Exploring new areas is very exciting and I’d also like to praise the intro for its perfect pacing and surreal atmosphere. I feel silly for waiting so long to play a lot of these games and genres I used to like.

Game Pass gives me very mixed feelings because some games and people will benefit, some won’t. For example I’ve noticed a lot of Switch games on here that I can play for free now, like Outlast. I can try it on Xbox then if I like it, I’d probably pull a fast one on Microsoft and buy it on Switch. Or maybe just buy Outlast 2 on Switch. On the other hand though it has actually sold me on some Xbox games already. Fallout 4, the F1 series, and I’m so impressed with Rise of the Tomb Raider at the moment I’m going to get all 3 of the new games at some point. While it’s not perfect, I feel like Game Pass is absolutely fantastic thing to have with a console you just bought. I can play so many different things and find out what I like. The first game I installed and played on the system was Banjo-Kazooie, a Game Pass game. It’s far and away the best value online service I’ve ever used, and I’ve only had one minor issue so far. If you buy a physical game after it expires on Game Pass, make sure to delete the initial download file first. It just gets complicated and Fallout 4 wouldn’t boot for me on the disc straight away, but after deleting the Game Pass version and installing this off the disc, it’s fine. Save files perfectly in tact. I’m sure other issues will pop up before renewal time, but so far so good is all I can say. Another reason I can see how Microsoft is okay with this is because it keeps you playing Xbox. I’ve gone days without playing Switch for the first time in a while. This feels like their attempt to gain “mindshare”.

A couple of things have thrown me off just due to my habits owning a Switch. Firstly I miss the screenshot button, Xbox can take screenshots but the process involves suspending the game then quickly hitting Y. I have missed a few serene moments and taken several photos of pause menus. I am also craving sleep mode a lot, especially for games like Red Dead where the save points aren’t clear. You can suspend games on Xbox One but it’s not quite the same, and some games will boot you to the menu regardless because you “signed out”. Switch has a much simpler and friendlier OS than the Xbox, which has some nice things but feels like a big mess. Another weird change is how the A and B button placements are switched. Not a big deal just something noticeable, and they should have never been different in the first place considering Nintendo has had the A and B button in the same place since the NES. They just had to be different. Xbox is however, better at taking video. It can save an entire 5 minutes instead of 30 seconds, and if you plan in advance you can save 10 minutes of video. You also have more sharing options than just Twitter and Facebook, including OneDrive and an Xbox community feed that I haven’t really figured out yet. That’s probably the weirdest thing for me, having 100+ friends on Switch and suddenly having 2 friends on Xbox. It feels a bit lonely and I don’t know what people do on this console yet. Mixer looks like a more convoluted version of Twitch and the “Game Clubs” seem a bit too closed off for me, requiring an invitation to be accepted. I still haven’t explored things fully, but the initial impression is it’s not nearly as “friendly” as a Nintendo system, even on Switch without Miiverse you just have much easier access to the friend list.

I love this controller, and would put it up there with the Switch Pro Controller and GameCube controller as the most comfy controllers ever. Some controllers I find too small, like the Switch Joy-Cons or every DualShock ever, but this grips my hands perfectly. The LT and RT triggers are my favourite thing about it, you get perfect pressure-sensitive acceleration for racing games from the springs inside. This is something that will never really be possible on Switch, even playing Gear Club Unlimited I felt the absence of them. Now I have full control of acceleration instead of going from 0% to 100% throttle, I can apply 40% for a smooth exit and it feels amazing. The battery life is also very impressive as my first batteries lasted an entire week. It uses standard AA batteries instead of its own charging system, which I actually like because you can manage it yourself and swap new ones in instantly. I bought some fairly cheap rechargeable energizers that will last me years. I had them charged up on Day 1 ready to go, and was actually disappointed that the stock batteries lasted so long because I wanted to put these in. Another notable thing is the glowing Xbox light in the middle. I wish there was a way to turn it off, but at least it’s not as bad as the obnoxious PS4 controller glow. It’s something I don’t really notice while playing, and you have the option of turning the controller off and leaving the Xbox running when you take a break. Another thing I don’t like about it is the rumble on the triggers, it’s more annoying than anything, but I just turned it off. I’m not a big rumble fan and even have it turned off on most Switch games. Some people might really like this feature as it feels quite different and you get feedback in the same triggers you might use for driving or shooting.

Achievements exist but they really don’t affect my experience much. The quest for gamer points is such a futile endeavor that has no ending or meaning. I actually prefer to not have so many stats on games because it makes the experience feel shallow in a way. I prefer to view things in stories and experiences. The feature is fine though, because I can easily ignore it. On the Xbox One it just seems to be used as a way to see what friends have been playing on the Community Feed. Just a nice little activity log equivalent. Another thing I find cool is seeing the percentage of people who have beaten an achievement. So while I don’t care about filling out the list entirely, it’s kinda nice knowing you’re in the top 1% at something, or finding an obscure achievement you might be good at. I may never be a top player in Splatoon, but I’m damn sure I can drink all the alcohol in David Young’s apartment.

Overall I think Xbox One is a great console and I’ve had a lot of fun already. The overwhelming feeling is surprise, the console is a LOT better and more accessible than I expected. I did not expect to be playing it so much. It’s just another games console with some incredible stuff to play, and now is a good time to get one if you don’t care about the upcoming consoles or Nintendo’s holiday line-up. I also want to give a huge shout-out to D4, also know as Dark Dreams Don’t Die. I played through this entire game and was blown away. It’s an extremely high-quality Hotel Dusk-esque adventure with amazing music and high production visuals, unfairly dismissed as a Kinect gimmick in its day. I played the whole thing with the controller and wouldn’t have even known. It feels a bit out of place on the Xbox but I’m glad it exists nonetheless, an amazing little gem hidden on the system and I look forward to finding more. I hope this writeup was helpful to anyone planning on taking an Xbox One home, just be nice to it and everything will be okay. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask in the comments or on Twitter. Happy Gaming.

One thought on “Catching Up – Xbox One in 2018

  1. Yes I think when I eventually break and buy an alternative system to teh switch the Game Pass will tip me towards Xbox too. What I like, with the way games come in and out of season on it is that it creates a shared experience playing with friends. Much like when we would play new release games together and discuss, but… with older games. Gives them a second lease on life.

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