With that introduction out of the way, let's see just how well this stacks up against existing consoles in the family and just how well it runs the latest iteration of the Gears Of War series.
This then allows you to remove the sleeve from the outside of the actual box. To do this, as you rotate the box away from you 90 degrees so it sits vertically, place a hand on each of the short sides and lift as you push against the sides. If done correctly, the sleeve should come away without issue.
It turns out that when you cut the seals on the sleeve, you will also cut the ones on the inner box, this is completely normal. To orient the box correctly to open it at the top, look and see if there's a label on the short side that's facing up. If there is, that is actually the bottom of the box and you should gently flip it over so that the label is on the edge facing the floor or surface you have the box on.
Orient the box with the now cut adhesive circles facing you and, placing a finger at either side of the top flap, pull it up and away to gain access to the inside of the package.
The getting started guide is just a number of pictures explaining how to plug the console in, put the stand on etc and, whilst it would be useful to have a version of this online, the process should be familiar if you've already set up an Xbox One S or X console.
The Gears 5 card contains The following codes
These are unfortunately all in print with no way to redeem these without sighted assistance, which is a longstanding issue with code redemption in general, not just with Microsoft products.
Putting the sleeve to one side, we find wrappings that we'll get to later, as well as a separate flat box towards the back which can be removed by simply pulling upwards to extract it.
Once the flap is out of the way, the console's plastic stand is revealed, tucked under a further cardboard holding piece which cannot be pulled away. To remove the stand, take a hold of it and, with it facing towards the right-hand side, pull gently to your right and it should come free.
Given I won't be using this until later, I'll put it back in its box (which is easy to do by reversing the removal instructions above)
The longer side, when the flap is pulled up and to the left, reveals, firstly, a foam rectangle with a hole in, which is just part of the packaging.
This area is divided into two sections, with the smaller right-hand one containing a coiled HDMI lead. The left-hand section contains a controller, wrapped in material.
This material can be removed by undoing the tape at the back of the controller, towards the bottom. Use one hand to hold the controller steady in its wrappings whilst pulling the tape away from it with the other.
Removing the controller is as simple as finding the opening of the bag and whilst holding the bag with one hand, gently holding the controller with the other and pulling it free.
The controller will be described in greater detail later, but should you need them there are also some new batteries in their own wrappings here.
This now done, place a hand either side and pull upwards. Finding something to hold the box in place would make it easier to get the console free, though when I extracted mine I didn't have anything to hand so had to very gently shake the whole assembly and push the top flap of the outer box upwards to successfully complete the process.
Unwrapping the console is as straightforward as finding the tape seals on each edge and pulling them upwards, using both hands on each one to make sure everything is steady as possible whilst doing so.
Removing the console from the wrappings is achieved by pushing the console through them, either by holding the console in one hand and pulling the wrappings away with the other, or placing the console on its side and taking the wrappings away with both hands. I opted for the former, simply as then the console had little to no chance of falling over and damaging anything.
It turns out, after what felt like hours of searching, that The Coalition has a page about the skins on a small corner of their website which is not linked to anywhere else other than its parent page as far as I could tell. If you want to look at all the DLC information from the official site, you can find the DLC information page here.
With sighted assistance, I redeemed the code and, even though the skins didn't show up in a separate box as the Road To Gears 5 challenges did when I launched the title during my pre-release tests, they do in fact appear in the customisation menus.
Even though these do not change the audio as far as I can tell, they are an interesting additional extra. However, it would've been good to be able to redeem the skins separately for those who already purchased the game, for instance, as opposed to having to use a full code for Gears 5 and Gears Of War 4 which I could've given away to another gamer who wanted to try it out for themselves.
I won't go through unplugging an existing console here, but the procedure for connecting this new unit is as follows:
Leave the power cable till last and plug in the network cable, optical audio cable (if needed), any USB hard drives (used for putting your settings into the new unit if they've been backed up previously) and the HDMI out lead, the one closest to the right-hand side before the power cable connector.
Once this is all done, plug the power cable in and turn the console on.
Turning the console on, you'll be greeted by the sound of cracking ice to fit with the console's theming. From there, turning on your new controller, whether it's powered by batteries or a cable, you won't need to sync it before pressing A and then turning on Narrator by holding the Xbox button until the controller vibrates then releasing it and pressing menu. At this point Narrator should start and you can progress through the entire setup process without sighted assistance. I would advise having a USB keyboard to hand though given that you'll need to type in at least your password during this time.
Having to update a new console is commonplace and this one was no exception. Fortunately, Narrator was present throughout the whole process and, even though it took a while, there were no issues.
For those who are wondering, I did not enrol this console in the insider program, opting to test the stable build of the OS for once.
That done, I jumped right in and had no issues whatsoever running Gears 5, Killer Instinct or anything I threw at it. Whereas the fans on my previous One X console, running in the Insider program, run loudly the vast majority of the time, this console had no such trouble and I do wonder if it is because of the more stable OS build that this is the case.
My only unfortunate issue, which I have been unable to diagnose, is that running Gears Of War Ultimate Edition or the 360 games could sometimes fail to load the profiles for the respective title, without any easy way to figure out whether the issue was the new hardware or the games themselves.
Everything else, however, ran without issue and I am definitely pleased with the results.
As a gamer without sight, the fact that this console isn't just a visual reskin of an existing model with the high-quality etching on the controller and the outer shell of the unit, in addition to just how well everything runs makes it a worthwhile upgrade from either the original or S models of the Xbox One. Even though the cost is high, it's validated by just how much you get with it, including a game that whilst not perfect in terms of accessibility, is definitely a step in the right direction for the future of the industry.
Even though the packaging research carried out for the Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC) doesn't seem to have been implemented into the console side of Microsoft's manufacturing just yet, I have high hopes for what can be achieved with accessibility, both on the software and hardware sides of the next ventures in the Xbox family.