If the universe gave out most-improved awards to video game consoles like a second-grade soccer league, Microsoft would have a shiny new trophy to put above its fireplace.
We’re more than 365 days since the Xbox One hit the market on Nov. 22, 2013, and the system has gone through some very rough times. Gamers felt it was too expensive. It included a Kinect camera that people didn’t want. But a shift in leadership at Microsoft has led to a different tone that seems to understand gamers better than ever. That has helped the Xbox One find its footing, and it has the hardware positioned to perform well into the future — even if Sony’s PlayStation 4 has outsold it in the U.S. every month this year.
But this isn’t necessarily about how the Xbox One compares to the competition — although we will take that into consideration. Instead, we’re taking a look about how the Xbox One finished its first year (just like we did with the PS4), and whether it’s a console worth owning now. Let’s get to it.
Think back on your favorite consoles. Who cares now that the PlayStation 2 plays DVDs? Does it matter that Nintendo Entertainment System doesn’t have a Netflix app? No. We remember these systems fondly for their games, and the same will hold true for the Xbox One.
Here’s what you can only get on an Xbox One:
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
Dance Central Spotlight
Forza Motorsport 5
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
That list is a bit more impressive if you consider Titanfall, which is also available on Xbox 360 and PC but not PS4 or PS3.
Overall, the Xbox One’s exclusives are simultaneously impressive and easy to overlook depending on who you are. If you’re into the Forza games, the Xbox One is already easily a must-own console. Developer Insomniac Games is winning over critics and fans with its open-world action release Sunset Overdrive.
But Xbox One’s lineup isn’t deep. Crimson Dragon is boring. Powerstar Golf was an OK launch game, but it’s not a ton of fun now. Dance Central is fine, but we’ve played it before. D4 is interesting but isn’t earning much love.
And worst of all, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is busted online.
Above: Halo 4 looks like it was made for next-generation hardware, but the online multiplayer was not.
Image Credit: GamesBeat/Brandin Tyrrel
The battle of exclusives between Sony and Microsoft right now has to go to the Xbox, but the PlayStation 4 is winning a battle of perception when it comes to multiplatform releases. A significant number of games that are available on both platforms run at either a higher resolution, a higher framerate, or both on Sony’s box.
The general understanding among consumers is that games run worse on Xbox One than PlayStation 4.
Here’s just a few of the huge releases that run better on PS4:
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
The Evil Within
Not all games run better on PS4. Both Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Assassin’s Creed: Unity maintain a better framerate than the version available on Sony’s consoe. But it’s important to note that Microsoft has special marketing deals with the publishers of those, and that may have led to the developers giving the Xbox One versions special attention.
But here’s the thing about the performance on Xbox One. It’s something that mostly exists in our heads. Side-by-side, it’s often difficult to tell the difference between an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 game. And while some games run at 900 lines of horizontal resolution on Xbox One, the console has a very good upscaler, which outputs that image at 1080p.
The point is that most people cannot tell the difference. They’re just numbers. Sure, if you’re choosing between the same game on two systems, and the numbers are higher on one, you would choose that one.
Xbox One has some great exclusives, and Microsoft deserves some acknowledgement for getting so many cool games out in the system’s first year. Obviously, it stinks that the system struggles to keep up with the PS4, but it’s something you’re ever going to really notice.