Microsoft haven't had the best of times down at this years E3. The audience knows it, we the press know it and they for sure know it. I spent much of my time in the post-reveal, not defending but seeing the choices that Microsoft had made from their side. In many ways I can still do that. I totally understand their arguments for their policies and where they are coming from. I understand the push towards digital and I understand their issues with used games. Although, it is clear that they are putting the cart before the horse. They are building a console for a market that just isn't ready for it, and Sony took full advantage of that down at the Los Angeles Convention Center. I have found it funny that so much of the talk surrounding this years E3 isn't about games. This big topics of debate aren't about the massive reveals or incredible looking demos, but instead have been focused on consumer policy and business dealings. To be fair, this is just as it should be. These issues matter to us all and set a precedent for the future of gaming. However, with all that put to the side for the moment, what is the experience of using the Xbox and what can it do? Microsoft were kind enough to give me a demonstration of some of the Xbox One's capabilities and I got to play Battlefield 4 on the Xbox One controller. So past all the murkiness, how does the console actually play? First off, I spoke pretty highly of the Playstation 4 controller yesterday in my preview of the Playstation 4. However, today, I must say, I think the Xbox One controller is simply better. I had fears that in the pursuit of betterment, they might have tampered with what was already a great controller. That is gladly not the case, and it is simply just a better than its predecessor. While it feels a little smaller, it is just as robust as the Xbox 360 controller. It sits so nicely in the hand, creating the most comfortable grip I have felt with the game pad. It was great, and I can't praise it highly enough. Both Microsoft and Sony are offering fantastic input systems for their next gen systems, but if I had to choose a winner, Microsoft would just having the edge. So what about the Hardware? During a mini-presentation, Microsoft also highlighted the cloud computation that the system can tap into. With a simple display, they showed me a demo of the the Xbox One tracking the movement of 40,000 asteroids in real time, boasting that it would take 10 Xbox 360 to compute all that information. They then tapped into the servers of Microsoft and showed the supposed power of the cloud by then tracking 300,000 asteroids and the system processing 500,000 updates a second. While that is indeed impressive, I am not sold on the power yet. I have my doubts about cloud computation and showing the system computing the information of particles is very different to developers using the cloud to enhance performance. I asked specifically if this could increase graphical capability and they excitedly replied "yes", that it was called "cloud GPU processing" and that developers were already using it. This is great and all in theory, but it does also open up a few cans of worms. While the Xbox needs to phone home ever 24 hours, it doesn't have to always be online. If that is the case, what happens to games that use this extra cloud processing if you can't connect to the internet? Certain games could well become useless without it and that is a whole set of other issues that are worth baring in mind. On the whole though, the Xbox One is an impressive piece of hardware, but one that comes with all the drawbacks that we all know too well now. While the system is incredibly powerful, has some neat entertainment tricks and has locked down some really great exclusives, it is also a slave to online checks, the Kinect and restrictive policies from Microsoft. It is worth noting that the Kinect has been greatly improved now, and Microsoft seem to have noticed that using your body can and often is less immersive and told me that it is now more sensitive noticing subtler movement and thus can be used while sitting down. Now just subtle hand gestures can be picked up and that could go a long way in supporting the controller instead of trying to replace it entirely. There is plenty that is good and sometimes even great about the Xbox One but the restrictions that it has placed on itself may well have stopped you from ever giving it a chance. I would encourage you to approach the console with an open mind, because in amongst all that DRM and publishing policy that you might care deeply about, is a genuinely great piece of hardware.
Patrick Dane is someone who spends too much of his time looking at screens. Usually can be seen pretending he works as a film and game blogger, short film director, PA, 1st AD and scriptwriter. Known to frequent London screening rooms, expensive hotels, couches, Costa coffee and his bedroom. If found, could you please return to the internet.