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Xbox One's 11 biggest features: New Kinect, controller, used games

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First image of the Xbox One

© Microsoft

Xbox One.



Xbox One was announced by Microsoft earlier this week, and the console - described as an all-in-one "ultimate home entertainment system" - will be launched later this year.

Outside of the most obvious technical specifications - improved next-generation visuals, a sizeable 500GB hard drive, Blu-ray support - in what ways is it an advance over Xbox 360 and other systems?

Digital Spy has distilled the facts and rumours into an easy-to-digest look at what you need to know.

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Kinect that can detect your heart rate and more people, but is always plugged in

Kinect, which launched several years into the 360's lifespan, will now be at the core of Xbox One, coming with every system and needing to be plugged in at all times for the console to even operate.

Voice commands and gestures will be used to navigate menus, and while specific game applications have yet to be fully revealed, expect an expanded field of view so you can play closer and improved detection for multiple people.

It will even have the ability to monitor heart rate for fitness titles, by monitoring skin colour and transparency.

First image of the Xbox One

© Microsoft

The new and improved Kinect sensor.



Facial recognition for automatic log-ins and personalised content

Kinect will be able to identify whoever uses the console when it loads, automatically signing them into their own personalised dashboard, which features last-used games among other features.

One of the most impressive features is that using IR sensors on the new controller, Kinect can recognise which player is holding which game pad, allowing players to set down and swap around different controllers without the game getting confused about who is who.

Such location tracking should also allow basic Kinect movements to become part of more controller-driven games.

A new controller with over 40 improvements

While the PS4 offers a touchpad and share buttons with its new controller, the Xbox One pad seemingly offers less of an update over its Xbox 360 counterpart.

However, Microsoft is boasting over 40 tweaks and changes for the new design, both ergonomic and functional in nature.

Despite it looking more angular, it's said to be more comfortable for a wider range of hands, it has a vastly improved D-Pad, analogue sticks are said to be slightly smaller, the battery pack on the reverse is gone, and there's now also force-feedback in the triggers.

First image of the Xbox One

© Microsoft

The Xbox One controller.



Xbox One takes on set top TV boxes

The opening 30 minutes of the Xbox reveal event didn't focus on games, and it was clear why. While Xbox One is a games console, it's also designed as an all-in-one entertainment experience.

Through an HDMI in-port, you are able to plug a satellite and cable box into the console. Using the Xbox One controller, Kinect or SmartGlass, you can then search recommended or trending content. Built-in DVR functionality will also allow you to record certain television and gaming content.

As well as supporting existing boxes, it'll invest in original content, such as a Halo TV series produced by Steven Spielberg, and interactive NFL and other sports viewing.

TV is a core feature of the system, but the bad news is that many of these features won't be available in the UK at launch.

First images of the Xbox One - main screen

© Microsoft

The Xbox One dashboard showcases personalised content for games, movies and TV.



Multitasking at the core for browsing and Skype calls

Thanks to 8GB of RAM and three operating systems - described as an industry first by Microsoft - Xbox One is designed with multi-tasking in mind.

While you can pause and resume applications like a smartphone or tablet, Xbox One allows you to do multiple things simultaneously, or run things in the background.

'Snap' functionality allows two windows to appear, enabling the user to browse the internet or take a Skype call while watching a movie or playing a game.

Or, perhaps more usefully, you can set a game to search for multiplayer matches while you catch up on TV.

Forza Motorsport 5 for the Xbox One

Games, such as Forza Motorsport 5, can be run in the background alongside apps and movies.



Exclusive partnerships with big publishers

While the Xbox One reveal was scant on showcasing specific games - that'll wait until the E3 gaming expo next month - it did reveal important partnerships with two of the biggest publishers.

One is EA, with four sports titles - including FIFA - and exclusive Ultimate Team content.

The other is with Activision for Call of Duty: Ghosts, with news that the franchise will once again see timed exclusive downloadable content on a Microsoft platform.

15 exclusive games in its first year

Microsoft is ensuring that there will be plenty of content coming to Xbox One, planning 15 exclusive games for the system in its opening year, 8 of which are brand new franchises.

Two were announced at the conference - Forza Motorsport 5 and Quantum Break - while Crytek's Ryse will make its debut at E3 next month.

Gallery - confirmed games for Xbox One:
Pre-owned games are supported - but will there be a fee?

Perhaps the biggest mixed message for Xbox One is in relation to pre-owned games. An early report suggested that games would be assigned to player profiles - much like when buying a Steam game from retail - with a fee charged for a second user to play if that original profile wasn't present.

Reports have been bandied back and forth about how much this charge will be, but for now Microsoft has settled on a vague statement saying that second-hand sales are supported - under what capacity has yet to be decided.

Additionally, all games must be installed to the hard drive to play. But you can do this in segments so you can play faster, and this will negate the slow read speeds of the Blu-ray drive, making this a wise move.

First image of the Xbox One

© Microsoft

Xbox One will come with Kinect in every box.



Not always-on, but must be internet-connected

Another persistent rumour leading up to Xbox One's reveal was the requirement for an always-on connection. This has been confirmed as false by Microsoft, allowing games, live TV and Blu-ray films to be played offline.

There is, however, a caveat; the console must be connected to the internet at least once per 24 hours in order to play single player games, presumably for authentication purposes.

How strict this will be - whether certain features are turned off or entire games would be rendered unplayable after a day offline - is again unknown.


Xbox One won't be compatible with Xbox 360 games or controllers

Due to the way Kinect tracks the new controllers and differences in wireless technology, existing Xbox 360 controllers and peripherals won't work with Xbox One.

Retail and downloadable games also won't be supported due to the architectural differences of the two systems.

You will, however, be able to continue using your existing Gamertag, carrying over Achievement progress to the new console.

Xbox Live subscription remains - but offers an improved service

Xbox Live Gold - the monthly subscription service that provides access to online multiplayer and streaming services - will return for Xbox One.

It appears that the subscription will provide the same level of access as before. While the addition of extra content, such as PlayStation Plus, wasn't mentioned, it hasn't been ruled out either.

That's not to say there won't be improvements. Saves, profile data and media content are saved online, Smart Match allows you to search for a multiplayer game while watching a movie or other tasks, and servers are improved for faster connections.

Meanwhile, Achievements are set to be more dynamic and reactive and can be introduced without new game content, in response to the more persistent nature of online games like Destiny.

What features are you most interested about in Xbox One? Add a comment to the space below!

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