The XBox One at E3 2013

E3 2013

The 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo, commonly known as E3, was brimming with excitement, for this year's show was to be the coming out party of two brand new console platforms aimed for release this holiday season. First up, Xbox: Microsoft unveiled their upcoming Xbox One gaming and entertainment console with much fanfare. We got some hands-on time on the E3 floor, alongside some behind-closed-doors insights of what we can expect this November...

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It was standing room only at the Xbox One media event on Monday at the USC Galen Center.

Microsoft launched their E3 media blitz with a rock concert of sorts, a video showcase dedicated to everything Xbox. The small surprise was the announcement of a smaller, upgraded Xbox 360 sharing many of the same styling cues as its beefier big brother system, the Xbox One. The redesigned Xbox 360 is still $200 for a 4GB model, $300 for 250GB, and $300 for a 4GB bundle with Kinect, but Xbox Live Gold members now receive two free games per month, the first title available being Halo 3, then Assassin's Creed 2, and later Fable 3.

Now onto titles showcased at the XBox One Media Event (in order of appearance):

Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain


Ryse: Son of Rome


Forza Motorsport 5

Kinect Sports Rivals


Project Spark


D4


Killer Instinct


Minecraft: Xbox One Edition


Sunset Overdrive


Crimson Dragon


Battlefield 4


Dead Rising 3


Below


Halo 5


Titanfall 


Hardware Specs: 
Custom AMD eight-core x86 CPU
Blu-ray drive
500GB hard drive
8GB of DDR3 RAM
USB 3.0
HDMI in/out ports
802.11n Wireless with Wi-Fi direct
Gigabit Ethernet
4K support
Optical out

The console itself is about as large as an old school DVD player, designed with vents all around, gloss and matte black finish, and left unbranded except for a tasteful small glowing Xbox power button.

Specs wise, the Xbox One and Playstation 4 are in the same neighborhood with the Sony's console a notch or two ahead (Microsoft stated the console offers 10x more power than the Xbox 360). Where Microsoft differs from Sony's console is the plans to integrate cloud computation to bolster the power of the system. In one demo the Xbox One was able to use data sets from NASA to track 35,000 light year worth of moving celestial bodies in real time. 500,000 updates were being made per second, with most of the heavy lifting being done by the cloud, leaving the Xbox One to focus on immediate feedback needs of the system. In theory, the combination of console processing reinforced with cloud computing should result in expansive gaming worlds with ongoing in-game time cycles perpetually updating and changing the world, even when players are offline.

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New Kinect: if there's any reason to upgrade from an Xbox 360 over to the Xbox One it will be for the improved Kinect system. In our time demoing the unit, the Xbox One's Kinect proved to be clearly much more accurate in tracking body movements than it's version 1.0 predecessor, even at just 4 ft distance, a major improvement making the new Kinect small space friendly (hurrah!). Kinect players with a penchant for fitness and dance titles will especially benefit from this upgrade.

Impressively, the new unit is so sensitive the peripheral can offer user's heart rate wirelessly, monitoring the blood flow in and out of the face region, alongside register musculature and articulation right down to the fingers.

Behind closed doors, at a press-only demo, Microsoft showcased the Xbox One's "impulse trigger" enabled controller (aka rumble) and Kinect working in tandem to extend player's controls to incorporate both subtle and gesture based movements into gameplay. Jeff Henshaw, Group Program Manager at Xbox, gave the small room of press attendees a look at an in-house space game tech demo, utilizing the Kinect's ability to follow the player's "spine as control stick" with a sensitivity reflex demo, allowing navigation in-game simply by leaning left or right. Motioning upward with one arm brought up a shield, while bringing a hand up to the eyes engaged special weaponry options, missiles fired by voice command; each of these motions were initiated easily and accurately using natural gestures with APIs for integration available to all Xbox One developers.

Home Entertainment: Microsoft obviously envisions the Xbox One well beyond a gaming system. Xbox Smartglass, a free app which connects Android, iOS, and Windows 8 tablets, smartphones, and PC devices to the Xbox, gives the Xbox One an additional screen to work with. For sports, television, or movies, this means an upgraded version of a picture-in-picture experience, with the addition of being able to call up stats, show and character information, Twitter feeds related to the show, and other real-time content on both primary and secondary device screens. Each content set can be pushed one way or the other, from device to TV screen. 

Much of the potential of this collective information display was shown in a demo using fantasy football statistics in tandem with a simulated NFL broadcast, where Smartglass integration pushed realtime game stats specific to the users roster of fantasy league players, with highlight playback from the game available to call up any time. For sports fanatics, this sort of on-demand statistical content should prove an enticing feature of the new Xbox One, and it's all more likely Smartglass, like the system itself, will prove more popular amongst non-gamers than as a peripheral for hardcore gaming.

(Images: Gregory Han; as linked above)