SCG’s founder weighs in on why the Xbox One is an underwhelming console

Xbox One, Sac City Gamer
Photo courtesy Forbes.

I recently decided I’d purchase an Xbox One, but this isn’t a story about how much I enjoyed it or even one about how epic its game library is, it’s a story about why I ultimately decided to return it to the store.

After E3 and Microsoft’s underwhelming showing (let’s be honest, all the companies had underwhelming showings) I was thinking about wanting to pick up an Xbox One and deciding in my own mind whether they sold me on the machine.

I already own a PlayStation 4 and love it. I also own a Wii U and it’s a great system because it has enjoyable single player games, but also plenty of games I can play with my wife.

I also have a PS3, Xbox 360 and a Vita, so another game console is not an essential purchase for me. In fact, that’s a lot of systems for a student that works part time, so each one needs to keep my attention enough to warrant a place on my entertainment center.

As I thought about how I felt about Xbox One, post-E3, I had one game floating through my mind: Sunset Overdrive. The gameplay that was shown at E3 was amazing and as a huge fan of Insomniac games, I was super hyped.

I also was really enjoying the new footage of Forza Horizon 2. I began considering how much I’ve been dying to try out the new Forza 5 as well. I also thought about how cool the new Crackdown looked and how I wanted to check out Dead Rising 3, despite not being a fan of the first two games.

So, I decided to make the investment in the new Kinect-less Xbox One. I picked up Forza 5 with it and headed home. I opened the box and was impressed with Microsoft’s packaging. The controller is absolutely a dream. It took everything about the previous iteration and made it that much better.

My first complaint about the One, however, is the size of the machine. I had a to clear a significant amount of space on my entertainment center to make it fit and even then it was cramping my other game systems. I live in a 500 square-foot apartment, so space is important to me. The size of this machine is ridiculous. What’s in there? An airport?

I hooked up the system and had to wait for a lengthy update. I’m used to this by now, so that’s no big deal. I’m also one of those gamers that isn’t bothered by updates. I enjoy them, in fact. I love that publishers and console makers care about their games and systems enough to update them and fix issues.

Sac City Gamer, Xbox One, Forza
Photo courtesy Turn 10.

Once the system started up, I popped in Forza 5 and took it for a spin. I enjoyed the new rumble function of the controller, but by-and-large the game felt exactly like Forza 4.

The Drivatars were a cool new feature, but I didn’t notice much of a difference from AI drivers of past games. I played about 20 races and most of the Drivatar action was random and weird. For instance,  in one race, one of the other cars randomly drove off the course into a wall. It gave me a good laugh though since the car was driven by one of my friend’s Drivatars.

I understand these games all feel pretty similar, but when they’re on the same system, like Forza 2 to Forza 3, that’s acceptable. I expected a bigger jump in gameplay, modes, cars, graphics, etc. and it just wasn’t there.

The graphics are decent, but certainly not as good as videos and screens made them out to be. Besides, graphics only go so far, especially in a racing game where gameplay is always the number one priority. The game didn’t feel different enough to warrant playing it on a next-gen system. I feel like it could have been done on the 360.

Next, I played a few demos. I was disappointed with Dead Rising 3, but like I said I’ve never been a huge fan of the series so that’s to be expected, but what really shocked me was the terrible graphics. The game looked bad. I’ve played several PS4 games and expected it to be on par with next-gen Watch Dogs, Metal Gear Solid and games like Infamous: Second Son, but it wasn’t. It looked bad. The gameplay felt nice with the new rumble function, but, overall, I didn’t really like the game.

I played a few other demos and games: Zoo Tycoon, Powerstar Golf (which felt like nothing more than a Hot Shots Golf clone, not a bad thing, but it gave me more of the ‘nothing new’ feeling) and then I played some Killer Instinct.

Now, let me explain that Killer Instinct was another one of the major reasons for me buying the Xbox One, so it was a big let down that the game wasn’t very good. I played one fight and was not only bored with the game, but I was also extremely underwhelmed. I wanted it to be great, but it just wasn’t. Then when you take into account the pay wall for more fighters, it just didn’t seem worth it. I have a whole shelf full of fighting games and this game didn’t do anything different.

Next, I played Halo: Spartan Assault and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, both of which were free on Games with Gold. Halo was a great little game and Max was interesting. However, despite them being free on Xbox One, they are both available on Xbox 360 if I really wanted to play them.

Basically, where I’m going with this is that as I played around with the system and tried out some games, I began to realize I made a mistake buying this system. It’s just so much of the same.

And to be fair, so is the PS4, but at least the PS4 is promising new titles in the series I love most like Little Big Planet, Uncharted and more.

At least PS4 will have new games like Driveclub, a game that isn’t just the same ole racing game reiterated with a new number on the end of the title. At least I know as someone who enjoys Uncharted, LBP and Infamous over games like Halo, Fable and Gears of War (nothing against these series, I’ve just never enjoyed them) that I’ll have plenty to play in due time with the PS4.

Not to mention the UI of the Xbox One wasn’t very good. It felt very much like 360’s and had a lot of errors while I was using it. Also, the hitting the function of hitting the B button to go back to the previously used app is an annoying feature that caused me to accidentally start up Forza 5 about 10 times when I wasn’t intending to do that.

It turns out that the Xbox One just isn’t for me. Not right now. Sunset Overdrive and the new Crackdown look great, but they are pretty far off. Forza 5 is a great game, albeit even if it is so similar to Forza 4. Dead Rising 3 could even be fun to kill some time with when it drops in price. And of course, the Games with Gold program will continue building up my library between now and the time that some of those other games release.

Please understand, I’m not knocking the Xbox One. I didn’t even try the TV functions or try out Snap or any of those features, and I didn’t buy a Kinect so I can’t comment on those things, but overall it just felt like more of the same. The games just aren’t there right now and I ultimately decided I’d rather wait to spend the money until I can get some more enjoyment out of the system.

Still the same, if Microsoft doesn’t realize they need more than just rehashes of the same few series to win fans back and sell Xbox Ones, their new console is going to continue to trail Sony.

At least Sony did a good job of introducing some new titles like The Order, Bloodborne, Driveclub, The Witness and more, but they, too, need to stop riding the coattails of the same series they’ve made money on before. Gamers want new, unique experiences, especially when it comes to sinking money into these expensive new consoles.

The biggest problem I had with the Xbox One was that there weren’t any experiences I couldn’t have elsewhere. None. Sunset Overdrive won’t be enough to hold up the entire system. They’ll need to do better.

Maybe MS and Sony should take notes from Nintendo, they’re starting to get the idea…

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