Back when the Wii U and PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were all announced, I took a serious look at each and decided that I just didn't need a new console. Oh sure each system may have had a few games that would pique my interest, but the bottom line was that as a PC gamer I had become totally happy with the (nearly never-ending) selection of games that were available to me there. Basically the whole idea of 'consoles' had become antiquated to me. It had been almost a decade since I even played games on a TV rather than a monitor. To me, sitting on a couch across the room from the TV wasn't nearly as comfortable as sitting at a desk in front of my (far better) gaming monitor. But something weird happened a few months ago: I bought an Xbox One. And what's even weirder is that it's turned out to be a pretty great addition to my PC.
Just to backtrack for a second, let me explain why I initially even considered a new console. Basically I wanted a new Blu-ray player for my game room. And at the same time I thought it'd make sense to get one that had decent apps for Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, Amazon Prime and so on. So okay... a Blu-ray player and streaming video machine? Well, it dawned on me that consoles do both of those things. Sure. But which one? Well, in a sense it didn't matter a lot because like I mentioned above I really didn't plan to sit on my couch and play games on my TV. So even an old PS3 could have done the trick. But then a little lightbulb went off.
Since the Xbox One is made by Microsoft, that means that it also plays nicely with Windows 10. I started researching what this meant, and more and more I started to get a bit more interested. For one thing many new Microsoft published games could be purchased digitally and shared between console and PC. For instance buying Halo Wars 2
on the Windows store would instantly mean I also now owned the Xbox One version of the game as well. Intriguing. But the biggest draw for me was how the Xbox app on Windows could stream games from console to PC. Basically, the Xbox One can live under my TV... but it can actually just act as an add-on device for my PC allowing me to now have access to a bunch of Xbox One, 360 and XBLA games that I wouldn't have been able to play otherwise. It's like a PC 32X!
Just a quick side note to say that the machine was a success as far as its initial use goes. I picked up the official media remote, and I use this thing for watching shows and movies constantly. It really works great as a media player.
When I booted the system for the first time and signed into my Microsoft account I found that any compatible XBLA games carried over from my old 360 days. I immediately had copies of Mark Of The Wolves
, Radiant Silvergun
, Gunstar Heroes
, Guardian Heroes
and so on, which was a nice plus. And the first game I had to pick up was Madden 17
considering we PC gamers had been without a Madden entry since 08. It streamed to the PC beautifully. Everything worked flawlessly. The Xbox app detected the console on my network, and I was even able to turn the console on from right within the app. I cranked the streaming up to the highest settings available just to stress test it, and it looked lovely on my 27" monitor with never a glitch or stutter.
And so I've started picking up titles to supplement my PC library. Destiny
was one that I had always been interested in, and although I'm annoyed that I can't play it with keyboard and mouse, I am quite happy with the game itself. While I'm sure Final Fantasy XV
will eventually come to PC, now I don't really have to wait. Tony Hawk 5
got terrible reviews, but it is a new Tony Hawk game. While Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants In Manhattan
was pulled from Steam due to licensing issues, you can still find the console version on shelves right now. Not to mention that one of the biggest allures was Rare Replay
with its inclusion of Battletoads
and Snake, Rattle & Roll
. Really, there's been plenty of stuff to keep me interested, not to mention the constantly growing list of backwards compatible Xbox 360 games with old favorites like Catherine
and Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night
. Maybe it's tough to stress my excitement here, but as someone who does pretty much all gaming on PC (and who isn't into emulators), it's awesome to be able to fire up the Xbox app on my desktop and play Symphony Of The Night
And believe it or not, a subscription to Xbox Gold has been a wise decision. For one thing, it means that every month I'm getting several free games. I mean you can't really argue with free games, right? But it also means that from the comfort of my PC, I can play games with and against friends who do play games on Xbox but who don't mess around with Steam.
Now before anyone goes on to point out that PlayStation 4 has a similar streaming deal, let me just speak on that. Yes, I know that there's more exclusives on PS4 - at least for now. But here's the deal... I far prefer the way that the Xbox app is integrated within Windows 10. It feels like one natural ecosystem. And I far prefer the Xbox One controller. In fact, I actually owned a DualShock 4 and absolutely hated how it felt in my hands. Oh, and another thing... there's also an Xbox app for the Oculus Rift. So that was another selling point for me.
Right now the Xbox Oculus app is really nothing too special. Basically you pick a room to be in, and you pick a size and shape of screen that you'd like to play a game on and that's it. So it's like giving yourself a big movie theater to play Xbox games on. I tried out Layers Of Fear
on a giant floating curved screen while I was surrounded by stars. It's neat, but doesn't add much to the gaming. That said, I have my fingers crossed hard that the existence of an Xbox Oculus app somehow foreshadows the possibility that we'll see native Xbox One games running on the Rift in the future. Certainly Microsoft has been striving to blur the line between PC gaming and console gaming for a while now, and this could be a big way to do that.
So here I am raving about a console that's been out for a while now, and has probably been looked at as less exciting than the PS4 due to it sort of posing as a bit of a lightweight PC. And yet all of this might just be why it has appealed to me so much as a PC gamer. Somehow its seamless integration with Windows and its ability to fit right into my own gaming lifestyle has made it a pretty great purchase.