Microsoft shows promise but leaves unanswered questions with XBOX One reveal

by Max Saucedo

Courtesy of Microsoft
Courtesy of Microsoft

On May 21, Microsoft threw its cape aside and revealed the much-anticipated next-gen console, otherwise known as the worst kept secret on the Internet, the XBOX One. Don Mattrick, president of the interactive entertainment business at Microsoft, began the conference declaring it the, “ultimate all-in-one home entertainment system.”

The console is sleek, black and very crisp looking. The console was shown alongside the new controller as well as a newly-designed Kinect, now with voice recognition.  As for the controller, it seems Microsoft took the time in between consoles to fine tune an already stellar controller, adding a now integrated battery pack and a precision directional pad. No word on whether players will have to invest in a 30-pack of rechargeable batteries to continue feeding their Gears of War addiction, though.

The conference then moved on to the features showcase starring another stuffy executive we’ll call Yusuf. Yusuf, well-versed in XBOX One’s features showed off One’s ability to switch between different forms of media such as games, TV and Internet with a simple command. Skype will be joining the stable of features coming to the XBOX One and will also be voice activated, allowing for an awkward bit of pre-rehearsed humor between Yusuf and one of his colleagues.

Rumors had been swirling around just how involved ESPN would be in XBOX One’s many facets, and Microsoft quickly confirmed those rumors by announcing more integration between fantasy sports and TV broadcasts of actual sports games. A new partnership between Microsoft and the NFL was announced and we got to see NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Mattrick talk about why they wanted to make more money.

Maybe sports aren’t for you though. The Xbox One Guide provides local TV listings with suggestions for what to watch, including what are your favorite channels and what’s trending in the Xbox Live community. All these features came together in what Yusuf called, “the beginning of intelligent TV.” Essentially, Skynet has been created and we can all look forward to being ruled by our new masters.

Marc Whitten, the Chief Product Officer for Microsoft, took center stage showcasing what powers Xbox One in what can only be described as a computer geek equivalent of a car guy seeing the engine for his brand new Shelby Cobra. It features a robust amount of RAM—8GB to be precise—as well as 500 GB HDD, Blu-ray drive for all the Game of Thrones Blu-ray’s decomposing in my library, Wi-Fi Direct connection, HDMI In/Out and a USB 3.0 port. The biggest takeaway from this part? It’s quiet now. No more trying to play without waking up your roommate. Xbox Live is also receiving a makeover with more than 300,000 dedicated servers available for online interactions.

Moving on to the fist bump in human form, Executive VP for EA Sports Andrew Wilson announced four games for Xbox One: “FIFA 14,” “Madden 25,” “NBA Live 14” and “UFC.” He promised, “All four will fundamentally change the way you play.” Also, unveiling a brand-new gaming engine, Ignite, Wilson showed a video of what the new engine is supposedly capable of. Whether or not this footage is representative of actual gameplay or pre-rendered displays didn’t seem to matter to Wilson, so let’s not all go crazy.

Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s general manager, came on stage next to discuss various video games coming to the Xbox One. Among them is Remedy Entertainment’s newest game, “Quantum Break,” a combination of live-action TV and video gaming. While the CG definitely looked pretty, more needs to be seen before judgment is imparted.

Probably one of the biggest announcements coming out of the conference was the inevitable Halo feature. It didn’t come in the form of a video game, however. Instead, a live-action TV series partnering with Academy Award winning director, Steven Spielberg was announced. His involvement in the project remains to be determined. However, many Halo fans should be excited. I know Master Chief certainly is.

It would not be a Microsoft conference if they didn’t drag out the dead horse colloquially know as Call of Duty. The new trailer for “Call of Duty: Ghosts” was shown off. New graphics, new gaming engine and the promise of a stronger single-player campaign left most feeling that Activision had already done enough. But not Infinity Ward. Introducing, Fido the German Shepherd. Motion-capturing an actual Navy SEAL-trained dog, Fido is now answering the Call of Duty, also known as the Promise of Scooby Snacks.

It should be noted that while many issues were discussed during the course of the conference, many were also left out, probably on purpose. Specifically the definitive answer of whether or not used games will require an access code to play, as well as if the always-on Internet connection will be required for your console to function properly as many users do not have a steady Wi-Fi connection. Time will tell if Microsoft has finally found “the One” as we await the launch of the next generation of consoles.