– James Orr
The New Xbox One Experience is here, and after spending some time with it we can say that it’s definitely been for the better.
First is of course backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games. Though currently limited to only about a hundred games, many more are to arrive in the coming months and hopefully years. The integration has been surprisingly smooth, as 360 games run faster on the One. They have all the modern features you had hoped for, like screenshotting and clip recording, as well as being able to bring up the classic 360 menu while playing. All you need to do is press the View and Menu buttons on your controller (yes, the two buttons under the guide button have actual names).
The process to start compatible games is straightforward, and it’s faster than it was for participants of the Xbox Preview Program. You just select it from ‘Ready To Install’ in ‘My Games and Apps’ or insert the disc and it will download straight to your Xbox One. Your 360 profile will automatically download the first time you launch a 360 game. And if you haven’t already, power up your Xbox 360 and transfer your saves to the cloud so you can continue with your progress when on the One. Of course, downloading games isn’t ideal for an Australian internet connection, particularly as some users have reported having to restart the whole download halfway through, but once it’s done you won’t have to worry about it again.
The dashboard has received a welcome overhaul too. It no longer looks like a knock-off of Windows 8, but has gone a step away from the PC style and become console based, user-friendly, and straight-up better looking. Now you can actually see your dashboard background! Your friends, messages, notifications and settings no longer require separate apps to run, but are easily accessible by pressing left at the Home screen or double tapping the guide button while in-game. The social feed is now located in the community tab and has been streamlined so that it’s even easier to see the Battlefront clip of your friend finally winning as the Rebels on Hoth. Plus everything runs faster, so sending messages or joining a party is done almost instantaneously.
Speaking of parties, they’ve received a couple of upgrades too. The maximum party size has been boosted from eight to twelve, and group messaging has been introduced. Now you if your mic is broken, you can still communicate to everyone else.
Game Hubs have been revamped and are now like a community tab but focused for each game. Developers can even post and share their own updates, from news about when the next DLC is going to drop, to clips and even concept art. Or if you’re into achievements and stats, you can see how many kills in Halo that you have compared to your friends or who has the highest gamerscore in Fallout.
Button mapping has been introduced and it isn’t exclusive to the Xbox Elite Controller; any controller connected to your Xbox One can have its controls completely customised and reassigned. Now you can have the exact same layout between Call of Duty, Halo, and Destiny. The only issue is that you’ll have to manually select your custom layout for each game after you launch them, and navigating menus may be a bit weird depending on your button mapping.
But not everything has received an upgrade with the NXOE, particularly the Kinect. Most Kinect features like games, video calls, voice commands and facial-recognition haven’t been touched, but if you were one of the few that used Kinect gestures to navigate through the menus, then bad news for you, they’ve been cut completely.
Xbox Engineering boss Mike Ybarra stated that “With gestures, the reality was the usage was very, very low.” However, he did say that if users wanted it back, gestures would be reintegrated. However this seems unlikely now that it’s even easier to navigate with a controller. While this is one less option users have access to, it does show that Microsoft is continuing to focus less on Kinect, and more on the features that user really want. Hopefully they don’t completely forget the Kinect, as it does have some useful function, but for now there are bigger issues to deal with.
The one thing that the NXOE is missing is background music, the most requested feature since the Xbox One launched two years ago. In an interview with Gamespot, Ybarra confirmed that they were still working on the feature and that they wanted to release it at the “perfect time” and “in a way that surprises fans.” If you ask me, the perfect time was two years ago and I am surprised that it still hasn’t launched.
But for now, I’m happy with the direction the NXOE has gone. The Xbox One feels like a proper console now, and even the small differences like faster party chat are a welcome change. Seriously, it was far too long before. Like three whole seconds. We might as well have been living in the 50s.