A little under two months ago, the next generation of gaming leaped onto the scene as the Xbox One and its PlayStation counterpart were released to the masses. Over that time, gamers the world over have had plenty of opportunity to get familiar with the new centers-of-their-living-rooms. While there certainly is a great deal to praise, there are some issues that have arisen that desperately need addressing. We know that no console launch is perfect, so the purpose here isn't to be unduly critical, but to highlight five areas in which the Xbox One could stand to make some improvements.
5. Friend Notifications
A large part of why many gamers (certainly not all, but a good number) play on Xbox LIVE is to engage in the occasional firefight with friends. On the Xbox 360, as your friends decide to jump online, you'll get notifications that let you know that so-and-so-who-has-been-promising-to-boost-that-game-with-you-but-keeps-appearing-offline-the-jerk has, in fact, logged on to Xbox LIVE. While, yes, this can occasionally be irritating (when you're watching some awesome cutscene or a movie, for example, and you hear the bleep bloop), or distracting (oh, you couldn't pause during that run and automatically hit the guide button when your friend popped on out of habit? What a shame!), it is generally nice to know when people are available for a variety of reasons. If you didn't want to know, the 360 offered ways to shut off or silence notifications, so all was good.
For some reason, on the Xbox One, there are no longer friend notifications of any kind. On one hand, the lack of regular notifications, especially if you're sporting a near-full friends list, is refreshing. On the other, it's nice to know that whoever you're waiting for has popped online so you can start getting your game on without having to go about messaging to confirm his or her presence. While we did expect some modification to notifications with friends lists expanding to 1000 people, its complete removal is both baffling and unnecessary.
4. A Killer App
Let's preface this by saying the following: it's early. Very, very few consoles launch and have that one amazing thing that makes it a "must-have" and, when they do, it's a bit of a disappointment to see the years drag on and know the best already happened. Early adopters are counted on to purchase the hardware, help work out the problems, and give the feedback that leads to the eventual release of the "next big thing".
The Xbox One promised a lot and delivered on much of it, but left some things out at launch. For example, Twitch TV integration, which would allow gamers to stream their gaming experience, is still not live. The launch line-up, while solid with console exclusives like Ryse: Son of Rome
, Forza Motorsport 5
, and Dead Rising 3
, did not contain, in the opinions of most people, that one item or hook that made you go "And this is why I'm happy to be an Xbox One owner." This doesn't mean exciting things aren't on the horizon, however. Titanfall
, at least at the moment, looks poised to be an early candidate for that "killer app" status, but as it will also be available on the 360, one can argue that diminishes the title's impact.
Honestly, there's no cause for panic here. All the potential is in place, the One just doesn't have that "thing" yet. It will someday.
3. Accessing Achievement Lists
It's no secret that the community here loves achievements. Some of us have also developed a Pavlovian response to hearing that magical achievement unlocked sound - we mash the guide button to see what we just earned. On the 360, this brings you straight to the list for the game you're currently working on. Simply pressing the B Button will take you to your full list of games played and the GamerScore you've earned in each.
The One, sadly, isn't that simple. Just touching the guide button brings you to the One dashboard. You can launch the achievement app from there, if you choose, but if it's not one of the last few things you've accessed, you'll have to go digging for it. If you press and hold the guide button when your achievement notifications appear, you will launch the achievement list, which is great and all, but rather laggy to access. This process was so streamlined on the 360, and it's one of several issues, like party chat below, where we're left wondering why Microsoft messed with something that wasn't really broken.
2. Snap Functionality
One of the most interesting things to come to Microsoft's new console was the "Snap" feature. In essence, Snap allows you to run a second app or a second device running through your One on a small portion of your screen. Think of it as picture-in-picture on the Xbox One. On the surface (no, no, not the tablet Surface - superficially), this is a really cool function, as you can "Snap" Netflix onto a portion of your screen while you work on some grind or another. If you have your cable or your 360 (or a PS3 or PS4 even) hooked up to your One, you can "Snap" those as well. In all cases, snapping basically gives a quarter of your screen space to the other item that is running. The thinking was that you could do things like watch a 100% sync video walkthrough for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
while you played the game, or you could watch a Football game while the NFL app runs in the "Snap" space.
It's probably unsurprising that theory of how Snap could be used doesn't necessarily match the practice. First, running the 360 through the One leads to a laggy experience using the 360. The latency can render games unplayable, which effectively destroys the reason you'd bother to run the 360 through the One. Second, Snap is not fully integrated with all apps, so there's no guarantee that the app you want to run will work with the feature. Third, you can't control volume between the app running in the Snap space and whatever else is playing on your screen. You shouldn't have to choose listening to either your game or your music, just as you wouldn't have to pick chat audio or game audio if you're using one of those fancy headsets. Hopefully future updates will at the very least address the lag, so we can fully enjoy doing our own side-by-side comparisons of games running on current and next-gen consoles.
1. Party Chat issues
While there are a plethora of small complaints, some of which aren't even shared by everyone, the one major issue for the One that routinely comes up is issues regarding party chat. This is perhaps the primary case of people going "Microsoft, it really wasn't broke, so why did you try to fix it?" Party chat, on the 360, is one of its great highlights. Not that it was without issue, but you and up to seven of your buddies could easily party up with one another and enjoy conversation no matter what game you were playing (well, excepting Dark Souls
, which oddly doesn't allow for party chat). On the One, things have been revamped, and not necessarily for the better.
First of all, when someone invites you to party chat, you have to not only accept the invite, but also turn party chat on. One would think that accepting the invite would be tacit approval that you, in fact, wanted to talk to the people within that party, but you have to take the extra step of letting the One know that. Second, there isn't full support for cross-game chat. If you try to party up with friends who are playing Ryse
, for example, you can do so just fine... until those friends decide they want to play the game's MP. Then, they can't be in party chat with other people. There are certainly good things about party chat - parties can support up to thirty people, and the sound quality is vastly improved, but the problems with it are very noticeable and difficult to explain away from a "Why did they do that?" standpoint.
As noted at the top, there's a lot to love about the One. A solid launch line up, Kinect 2.0 technology, Achievements feeds, and so on are all wonderful, but there's so much that can be improved. No one's panicking yet, of course, as we're only 8 weeks into the new console generation, but we're hopeful these issues will be addressed sooner rather than later. In fact, a rather large update
for the One is forthcoming, and it's heartening to see that Microsoft is already actively working to address several of these problems.
The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!