DPD have just dropped off my shiny new console!

I’ve yet to get it set up, but it’s all out of the box. First impressions? I actually really like the way it looks. It’s solid yet light, and gives off a rather ‘premium’ feel. I admit, when it was first unveiled in May, I didn’t like the design at all, but now it’s in my hands, I really like it.

I’m just about to get it all set up and updated (fingers crossed) so no doubt I’ll have more to add later in the day.


Oops, I promised to come back, didn’t I?

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to check out half of the games I ordered yet thanks to the day one update taking forever (which was entirely my fault – I sat watching it go nowhere for over an hour before realising I had a dodgy homeplug. When I switched it for a new one, it took about fifteen minutes). I managed to download Killer Instinct and enough of Crimson Dragon to play the first mission, so I’ll give some impressions about those shortly.

Firstly, some words about the UI: I think it’ll take a bit of getting used to. On the surface, it’s very well laid out and easy to use, but some stuff is fairly obscured, making me wonder if Microsoft simply expects everyone to use voice controls. One thing that kind of annoys me is not being able to go back up a step in a menu if you’ve exited and returned to it. Here’s an example: say you go into the store and load up the page for Netflix. Say you then press the Xbox button to go back to the homescreen (or indeed say “Xbox, go home”). If you then click on the store tile, it’ll take you back to that app page. You’d expect that a press of ‘B’ will take you back up a step to the store front. It doesn’t. It’ll return you to the home page.

This was maddening at first. Then I realised that to actually close something, you need to press ‘menu’ (what was once the start button) on that tile to bring up a contextual menu. Selecting ‘quit’ will end that particular session, allowing you to start afresh again. It’s convoluted, and a bit annoying, but perhaps there’s a way to do it within the specific app or store that I haven’t yet figured out. I need to spend a bit more time with the system before I get it all figured out.

Now, about those voice controls I mentioned. I’m very impressed, actually. I’ve turned the system on and off, loaded and switched between apps and games, snapped GameDVR to Killer Instinct and even recorded clips, all with my voice. Best of all? No more inputting codes! Simply say “Xbox, use a code”, hold the QR code up so Kinect can see it, and in a second or two you’ve got your content on-screen. It’s fantastic and incredibly snappy. I have had a few instances where it ignored me, but I was speaking rather quietly. Still, I had to speak a bit louder than I’d like, considering I’m talking to a games console. Putting that aside, colour me impressed. I often had a grin on my face when telling it to do something that it simply then did. It’s responsive, and it’s fast.

Onto the games. My order came with boxed copies of Forza 5 and Dead Rising 3, and a download code for FIFA 14. The disc games have to be fully installed (though I believe they allow you to play once they’re around halfway through installation), and obviously FIFA 14 has to be downloaded. I also downloaded the Ultra Edition of Killer Instinct and Crimson Dragon, and these took quite some time to come down the pipe. I’m guessing the XBL servers are getting hammered as it’s day one, so hopefully things will be a bit speedier over the next few days. KI (at 3.4GB) took well over an hour to download, and Crimson Dragon was, last I checked, still downloading. The latter allowed me to play from 51% installed, but curiously only gave me the first level – trying to launch the second mission gave me a prompt to wait for the rest to install.

So, Killer Instinct. I’ve talked about it a fair bit before, but I’d only had ten minutes on it before today. I’ve managed a few hours across a range of modes today (Survival, Versus against CPU and the excellent Dojo Mode) and I think I’m in love. I’m still getting to grips with how it plays (and even though I immediately bought the full Ultra edition, I’ve yet to use anyone but the free Jago), but I’ve managed some 18-hit combos and cancelled a throw into a shadow endokuken a few times, which is pretty glorious. I’m only playing it on ‘noob’ difficulty while I get to grips with it, and I’ve managed to capture some clips with GameDVR, one of which you can see below.

GameDVR and the PlayStation 4’s equivalent are really going to be game-changing features, I think. Even if it’s just sharing what you’re doing with a friend rather than plastering your videos all over social media, it’s something that I can see getting a hell of a lot of use. Gaming is inherently social as far as I’m concerned; even if I’m playing a single-player RPG, I’m always talking about what I did with friends. Now with GameDVR I can easily record it and show them. For now, the Xbox One feature can only save the video locally and show it in your activity feed, or upload it to SkyDrive. I use SkyDrive quite a lot anyway, but it’s simple to download the video from your online storage and upload it to Facebook or YouTube, as I have done with the above clip.

Crimson Dragon is a game I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I am a big Panzer Dragoon fanboy, and recent videos had suggested that Crimson Dragon owed a fair bit to Panzer Dragoon Zwei, a game that comfortably sits in my list of top ten games of all time. I mentioned above that I only managed to play the first mission, but I did quite enjoy it.

The game looks nice, more from an art/design perspective than a technical one (it’s fairly obvious it was once an Xbox 360 title), but the controls will take some getting used to. The Panzer games used one d-pad/stick for both aiming and moving, with 90-degree sweeps around your dragon handled by the shoulder buttons. It was a very elegant control method, and one that Crimson Dragon really should have copied. Here we have the same limited on-rails movement and radar divided into 90-degree quadrants, but the controls use the left stick for movement and the right for aiming and it’s a bit jarring to have to do each separately. I was struggling quite badly for the first half of the first mission and just barely scraping by after a few minutes. In the older games, using a shoulder button to quickly switch your aim to the side was perfect. Here, you have to slowly pan the camera around and hope you don’t take a hit.

It also appears you can’t shoot enemy bullets out of the sky, you simply have to dodge them (which is made more difficult than it used to be by that twin-stick control method) or barrel rolling out of the way (which is easier). Defense was a key part of gameplay in the older titles; you couldn’t avoid everything and it was necessary to shoot enemy fire before it reached you. It feels somehow wrong to not be able to do this, but again I’ve only played about ten minutes; I’m sure I’ll get used to both the aiming and the game itself the more I play it. It says something that despite these issues I still really enjoyed my short blast of Crimson Dragon – despite handling and playing quite differently, it felt like a Panzer game, which is the most important thing for me; as long as the feel is right, I can adapt to the differences, and I think with a bit more time invested I’ll really enjoy it.

So that’s about it for my day one impressions. There’s been a lot of waiting, a lot of downloading and installing, and quite a bit of Killer Instinct. Hopefully, things will have settled down by tomorrow and FIFA, Forza and Dead Rising will be installed and ready to go. And maybe my copy of Ryse will even turn up. Then I’ll have to install that, too…

I’ll no doubt have more impressions to come throughout my first week with Xbox One, so if you’re interested keep checking back.