Let's start with a very necessary editorial disclaimer: My name is James, and I'm a PlayStation fanboy. I have owned every iteration of Sony's console and, as a result, tended to sneer at its chief rival, the Xbox. All of which makes it something of a surprise that I walked away from an exclusive preview of Microsoft's forthcoming Xbox One hugely impressed.
My time with the Xbox One was focused on the gaming experience, and I worked my way across five big name launch titles: FIFA 14, Ryse: Son of Rome, Killer Instinct, Dead Rising 3, and Forza Motorsport 5. Each game was eye-catching in its own way and showed off the next-gen console's turbo-charged hardware (8GB of DDR3 RAM being the focal point), but the two standouts for me were Dead Rising 3 and Forza 5.
Dead Rising 3 looks like brilliant zombie-slaying fun, and Capcom really went to town with combo weapons in this iteration - I defy you not to grin uncontrollably when you pair up boxing gloves with a motorcycle engine and release the famous Street Fighter 'Dragon Punch' on your undead foes. Developed in-house by Turn 10, Forza 5 was the undeniable graphics star - cars had superbly defined curves and angles, while post-race wear and tear was equally vivid, no doubt thanks to the system's AMD 7000-series Radeon GPU. The Xbox One controller itself felt comfortable to hold, though its four rumble pads didn't provide as much impact as I expected - given that we were essentially playing on beta products, I wondered if they were firing on all cylinders.
I was hoping to get a better idea of how the Xbox One is sizing up on the entertainment front, but this particular preview was all about the games. That said, we do know that the One offers a healthy suite of connectivity features: on the rear of the console are ports for HDMI input and output, digital optical output, Gigabit Ethernet, and a pair of USB 3.0 sockets. The HDMI plugs are the headline spec here and nod to the Xbox One's drive to be an all-in-one home entertainment vehicle. With three virtualised operating systems on-board, the ambition is for voice-controlled instant switching between environments via Kinect 2 - "Xbox, game" and "Xbox, TV" anyone?
Speaking of Kinect: while we didn't get a chance to play with it ourselves, the second-coming of Microsoft's motion sensor looked capable of living up to the manufacturer's pinpoint accuracy boasts in a live demo, and also rendered a sharp virtual likeness of one of my journalistic peers. Early titles will largely make use of the voice command aspects - you can shout out orders to your army in Ryse, for example - but in a couple of years when game devs have got their collective head around the new technology, there are some really exciting prospects.
In short, the Xbox One won me over in the space of a morning, no mean feat given my gaming biases. Based on what I saw - and I would have liked to have seen more, especially on the hardware front - it looks like an impressive system with some great launch titles. While that doesn't necessarily mean I'll be rushing out to buy one later in the year, I can happily recommend the Xbox One and look forward to gaming on it intermittently for many years to come. And were I ever wanting to boost my nerd credentials by splashing out on a second console, the Xbox One would certainly get the nod.