With Christmas and Black Friday fast approaching, it's time for our annual console buyer's guides packed with useful advice, cheap console bundle deals and the best games bargains for the hottest software. To kick off: The Xbox One, which has experienced a very interesting twelve months.
What a difference a year makes. A change in leadership and focus saw a £429.99 entertainment centre become a £329.99 console, making the much-vaunted Kinect sensor 2.0 obsolete in the process. More importantly, though, the Xbox One is now a thoroughbred games machine and currently boasts a superior lineup than Sony's contender. This will likely change come Spring 2015, but for now, the best games really are on Xbox One.
Xbox One Bundle Deals!
Let's start strong with the best Xbox One bundle deals, before moving on to buying advice and the game collection. The recent price cut has sparked a massive retailer price war, and even if you want to hold off for some hot Black Friday deals, this is the sort of level you need to match or beat.
For those of you who want to be spoiled for choice on the games front. ShopTo are currently running a great big £400 bundle deal with five big games, including GTA V, Advanced Warfare, Forza 5, Titanfall and Wolfenstein: The New Order. Thanks to oUkTuRkEyIII @ HUKD!
- Click here to buy an Xbox One console with Grand Theft Auto V, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Forza 5 GOTY Edition, Titanfall and Wolfenstein: The New Order at ShopTo >>
However, Halo fans may be better served with GAME's cheap Xbox One Bundle containing Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Advanced Warfare, Forza 5 and a game of your choice for £359.99, leaving you with a little extra spending money. Thanks to sonic6080 @ HUKD!
- Click here to buy an Xbox One Console With Halo: MCC, COD: Advanced Warfare, Forza 5 GOTY + another game for £359.99 at GAME >>
Assassin's Creed fans might also want to consider this sneaky stabby alternative from Tesco -- remember to use their TDX-7KPG voucher code and set up a new account if necessary! Thanks to Gooner @ HUKD!
- Click here to buy Xbox One Console With Assassins Creed: Unity and Assassin's Creed: Black Flag for £319.00 from Tesco >>
Xbox One: The Basics
I described the Xbox One as the 'Lounge Commander' in our launch week review, and the legacy of its 'all in one' mission statement still lives on in its ridiculously chunky chassis and formidable industrial design. Over-engineered to avoid the overheating issues of its predecessor, it's an impressive and hefty beast, despite the shiny black plastic half attracting fingerprints and small scratches due to surprisingly cheap material quality.
You're encouraged to plug your HD television source into the Xbox One console via an HDMI-in port, which allows your console to act as a middle man with multi-tasking and TV guide functionality, allowing you to hop between games, live telly or even run the two side-by-side. Numerous OS and firmware improvements have removed annoying juddering caused by a disparity between the input and output frame rates, added the OneGuide application and generally made the whole process a lot more painless and enjoyable. If you have a Kinect sensor, you can also unlock a host of extra functionality, as outlined below.
Effectively, you can use the Xbox One as an HTPC, especially now that full DLNA streaming support has been added.
Should you not want to, though, you'll still find yourself with a decent games system that finally has a suitable price point. Though relatively underpowered compared to the PlayStation 4, and therefore sometimes outputting at lower native resolutions, the performance disparity is currently fairly minor on a practical level. You could definitely argue that the Xbox One isn't particularly future-proofed, but Microsoft Studios and Phil Spencer will likely keep fighting to ensure affordable bundles, exclusive games and major deals - such as Rise Of The Tomb Raider becoming a timed exclusive - to keep the system relevant.
And yes, Halo. You can play Halo on it.
Should I Buy A Kinect Sensor?
This is the big question, and to be perfectly blunt, the answer is probably not.
Kinect 2.0 is an impressive piece of kit, boasting incredibly convenient voice commands and impressive gesture recognition. Sadly both of these features have been incorporated somewhat half-heartedly into the user experience, due to the cumbersome workflow of using voice commands and the bizarre inaccuracy of gesture commands. Worse, now that the peripheral is optional as opposed to mandatory, developers simply aren't using it to any great degree. You can probably get by using the excellent SmartGlass app on Android, iOS or Windows 8, which turns your devices into a handy universal remote.
However, if you do plan to use your Xbox One as an entertainment centre, I would recommend buying Kinect since it ties the entire experneice together. IR Blaster functionality allows you to control your TV and AV equipment with your voice, from volume to channel hopping, plus leaping between games, Skype and even seasonal interactive apps designed for major TV events such as the World Cup earlier this year.
If you do buy a Kinect Sensor or fancy taking the plunge, click here to see the full list of Kinect voice commands!
Xbox Live Gold
The idea of paying a subscription for online multiplayer may be bizarre, but Xbox Live made it second-nature, building a reputation on stability and security. With good reason: it's excellent. The service still suffers from practically no outages or even maintenance downtimes, bar the occasional blip, and delivers rock-solid performance so long as the game is up to snuff. You can read about all the benefits here (which include weekly deals, two free games per month and other perks), and our comparison with PlayStation Plus here.
The long and short of it is that you'll need to pay for Xbox Live gold in order to play games online and access a fair bit of extra functionality. The most competitive way to do so is via an annual subscription, which can usually be found for between £23-£25.
- Click here to buy 12 months of Xbox Live Gold for £23.70 on CDkeys (be sure to use their Facebook code!) >>
Xbox Live Marketplace & Credit
The Xbox One marketplace used to support a unique currency called Microsoft Points, but these days it's a real-money shop like any other. You're able to browse a growing library of download games, apps, music, videos and downloadable content, then pay via credit card, debit card or PayPal.
However, canny gamers tend to buy Xbox Live Credit at discount prices, which effectively lets you stretch less money further. Note that many serial key resellers run flash sales, so keep your eyes peeled and we'll do the same!
- Click here to buy £25 of Xbox Live Credit for £23.56 from VideoGameBox (voucher code: FBFAN5) >>
Peripherals, Controllers & Extras
The Xbox One Controller is an nifty bit of kit; well-designed and comfortable. It's not quite as ergonomic as the Xbox 360 controller, mainly due to odd orthogonal bumpers that take some getting used to, but a precise cruciform D-Pad and high quality materials make for a serious piece of kit. Click here to read our Xbox One Controller Review.
You'll also need a steady supply of AA batteries or a Play And Charge Kit in order to keep your controllers powered up. Though I'd suggest that a rotating set of NiMH rechargeable batteries is the most cost-effective option in the long run, you can pick up GAME's third-party charge kit for a paltry £5.99.
Finally, it might be worth picking up an external hard drive, since every game has to be installed to the console's memory even if you buy it on-disc. 500GB can and will fill up quickly if you're a dedicated gamer, so grabbing a cheap and cheerful extra Terabyte will future-proof you nicely.
Without further ado, let's leap onto the Xbox One's growing games library and the cheapest Xbox One deals for must-have software. Please note that these deals fluctuate all the time, especially with Black Friday approaching, so we'll keep updated as best we can. Make sure to share if you've found a cheaper option!
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
"Halo: The Master Chief Collection sets a new benchmark for remakes, HD collections and re-releases by delivering thirteen years of excellence in a single purchase. Four restored campaigns, comprehensive multiplayer, one cohesive experience that reminds us just how important Halo was to videogames and the FPS genre... and how much fun it still is." - 10/10 review
- Click here to buy Halo: The Master Chief Collection for £37.75 from Gameseek (use voucher code 2354682) >>
Credit to Sunderland06 @ HUKD!
"Sunset Overdrive brings the fun. Though Insomniac's inexperience with open-world games leads to inconsistent mission design and a few oversights, its infectious energy, breathtaking traversal, silly weapons and violently colourful playground make for a brilliant way to blow off steam." - 8/10 review
Thanks to mangoblank @ HUKD!
Forza Horizon 2
"Any track racer can make overtaking feel exciting, but Forza Horizon 2 also makes driving an absolute joy in and of itself. Superb cars, gorgeous scenery and a generous economy make up for a few missteps, meaning that the first big automotive release of the season will also be one of the best of the year." - 8/10 review
"Respawn's rollicking shooter delivers a welcome shot of adrenaline directly into the heart of the genre, packaging familiar components in a truly satisfying and accessible way. More importantly, though, it's fantastic fun, regardless of whether you're a hardcore FPS gamer or just want to blow off some steam. Every match feels like an epic battle, from first charge to desperate extraction, set throughout some of the best maps that we've rampaged through in years." - 9/10 review