1. It works offline
This is the big one; although initially planned to be always-online, Microsoft has now changed it so that you only need a single patch to set up the console. After that, you can stay offline forever. You will, however, miss out on some of the more interesting features of the console and many of its games – although many online-focused titles, like Watch Dogs, will also work offline.
2. It can read your heart rate and your expression
The new version of Kinect that comes with every Xbox One is a vast improvement on the old one. It can track six people at once, with sufficient detail that it can identify facial expressions (including who’s paying attention and who’s not) and heart rate.
3. You can find the perfect opponent while playing something else
Now, finding players involves getting in a lobby and waiting. On Xbox One, the new Party Scout means you can specify what you want: hunt for people with specific DLC, age, skill level or language. You can then leave it hunting and switch to something else, like TV or the web, while it finds someone.
Your Gamertag, Friends List and Achievements will all roll over to Xbox One. If you’re keeping both consoles, you will be able to use the same sign-in details on both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and the price of Xbox Live isn’t going to be changing either.
5. You can access your digital games from any console
While it’s not quite as comprehensive as first planned, you can still sign in to any console and access all your digital games, as you can on Xbox 360. The difference is you can now buy retail games digitally on the day of release, so you can access, say, Skyrim from any console you like. Streaming tech means you can start playing instantly without waiting for a download, too.
6. It captures video of your greatest gaming moments
The new Game DVR feature keeps a rolling video of the last five minutes of gameplay, so you can share it online or with your friends. Some games – probably the Microsoft-published ones – come complete with an Upload Studio feature that lets you edit clips and add effects or voiceover before uploading.
7. Trolls are filtered out
An update to Xbox 360′s rather tired five-star reputation system means that persistently unpleasant people are filtered out so that they can only play with each other. A fitting punishment, we’re sure you’ll agree.
8. It’s dead silent
Honestly. We’ve sat with it in a faintly terrifying super-max soundproof room in Microsoft’s hardware development lab, and even then we could barely hear it running.
9. It can tell who’s holding the controller
Another bonus of the new Kinect: because the device is smart enough to recognise different people, it is able to identify exactly who’s holding the controller at any given time. So when you pass the control pad to a new Trials player, for instance, it’ll know whose score it needs to update.
10. The dash tells you your Achievement progress
Games can now show how close you are to unlocking Achievements before you start playing, and show how close your Friends are to getting them too. It’s tied to GameDVR, so you can even watch videos of the moment they were unlocked.
11. It won’t play Xbox 360 games…
Because it’s all-new hardware inside, you can’t play Xbox 360 games on it, and your XBLA titles won’t work either – or at least, not yet. Although Microsoft is “exploring ways to bring gamers’ favourite content to the new Xbox,” it has nothing to announce yet.
12. …although you can connect your Xbox 360 to it
Xbox One has an HDMI input, which means that you can plumb in anything that has an HDMI output. It’s supposed to be for cable boxes, but you can also use it to run your Xbox 360 through the console rather than going to the effort of switching the TV input. Because obviously, that is a huge hassle.
13. Games’ Achievements can be updated
Developers can monitor how a game is being played and add Achievements after it has been released, without requiring updates or having to add extra downloadable content. There are still budgets to contend with, though – like with current DLC, there’s only a fixed amount of Gamerscore that can be added to a game per quarter.
14. There’s a new kind of Achievement
The new ‘Challenges’ are time-based, not tied to one game, and can be designed for mass use. For instance, a Challenge might require all players to rack up a million headshots in a weekend. Because they’re time-based, they don’t award Gamerscore – just new unlocks like maps, character items or artwork.
15. Kinect works in smaller rooms
Here’s another reason to give the new Kinect a chance: it’s got a wider field of vision than the old one, which means it’s able to fit more easily into the diminished dimensions of the typical UK living room. Although we’ve still yet to try it out in the real world, it seems like it will work with around four feet of space in front of the television, rather than current Kinect’s recommendation of six.
16. One Xbox Gold account works for every user
If you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription on your account, any other account on the same console can use all the benefits of Gold – including online multiplayer and most apps.
17. It comes with a headset, but Kinect can hear you fine
The new directional microphone in Kinect can isolate background sound very effectively. Paired with the ability to see who’s holding the controller, it can focus in on your voice even if other people are speaking – and pick you out over the background noise of the game, so you don’t have to shout. The console also comes with a headset, for those Xbox Live chitchats you’d rather other people didn’t hear.
18. It creates a personalised, ad-free home screen
An Amazon-esque learning system tracks the games you play, movies you watch and people you talk to, and updates the home screen to show what’s relevant (including the game you last played, of course). There aren’t any ads on the home screen, either, although there will still be ads elsewhere in the interface.
19. Updates will install without bothering you
If you’ve got a permanent internet connection, it’ll download and install updates when you aren’t using the console. No more waiting at startup.
20. You can have over 1,000 people on your Friends list
And counting. The new cloud-powered Live means that there’s no hard limit as on Xbox 360.
21. It’s got 20 exclusive games – and counting
The current list of Xbox One exclusives includes: Ryse, Dead Rising 3, Forza 5, Kinect Sports Rivals, Killer Instinct, D4, a new Halo, Below, Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive, Crimson Dragon and Black Tusk’s new game. There’s also LocoCycle, Titanfall, Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare, Project Spark, Zoo Tycoon and Powerstar Golf, which will come to Xbox 360 as well. Expect still more at Gamescom.
22. Achievements give more than Gamerscore
Completing activities can also grant you things like artwork, map unlocks, character unlocks or in-game items. Every app can do this, not just games – although only games grant Gamerscore.
23. You can (still) create your own custom soundtracks
A small but important point: this has been part of Xbox gaming since the very beginning, and we’d hate to miss it. Plus, it’s a whole lot better now: you can run the music player as a background app and switch instantly between it and the game whenever you choose.
24. It’ll automatically recognise you – even in your friend’s house
Kinect will recognise your face and sign you in on your own Gamertag, so you don’t have to pick it from a list. If you sign in on a friend’s Xbox One, it’ll save that information so the next time you’re there, it’ll be able to recognise you straight away.
25. It turns on at the sound of your voice
The system is designed to be always on, in a low-power state, whenever it’s not being used. Which means you can activate it just by walking into the room and saying “Xbox, on”.
26. You can talk to it normally
On Xbox 360, before you are able to issue voice commands to the system, you have to wake Kinect up and then read a menu prompt off a screen. On Xbox One, you can just say “Xbox on” to wake your console and then just make a request – like “Xbox, what’s everybody playing?”.
27. It’s not region-locked
You can play any game from any country – assuming the game’s publisher hasn’t restricted it. Don’t everybody start importing terrible US hunting games at once, now.
28. SmartGlass is fast enough to work as a game controller
Up to sixteen devices running the free Smartglass app can be connected at once, with a fraction of the latency you’ll experience using SmartGlass on Xbox 360. Just imagine the poker potential.
29. You can add hard drive space, but not at launch
The 500GB capacity is generous, but digital purchases will fill it eventually. Microsoft plans to let you plug in any USB hard drive or storage device, either using the slot on the side of the console or the two on the back. This feature won’t be available at launch, however.
30. You can watch TV and play games simultaneously
If you want to, anyway. You can use the Snap function to pin the TV view to the side of the screen while the game gets the rest of it. Perfect for not letting that all-important episode of Emmerdale conflict with your Dead Rising playthrough.
31. It extends to your phone or tablet, for free
SmartGlass is already available for Xbox 360 – you can use it to control the interface or to type text messages. On Xbox One it steps up to offering things like Achievement advice, gameplay tips, or as an additional multiplayer controller.
32. You can chat as you play
Built-in Skype video and voice calls can be answered – or ignored – as you play games. Probably best to leave it on “voice only” for those long family chats mid-CoD.
33. You can stream games as you play
Built-in support for Twitch TV means you can stream any game live to viewers online, and watch others in kind.