I came to the Xbox 360 late in 2008 as a new comer to both gaming and entertainment in the living room. I’d always considered television the prodominat medium in the living room and when I moved into my first apartment the first thing I did was sign up for an internert and cable package. I then proceeded to throw together a decent desktop PC with a TV tuner card and enjoy the fruits of Microsoft’s labor in the living room. To say that it was a disaster doesn’t do it justice. My cable company proceeded to stop supporting my CableCard and the entire setup went to hell. It was then that I turned to Netflix, and began ordering up DVDs and popping them into my Media Center PC. I didn’t know it then but as I hit play on that first DVD I began a process that moved my entire entertainment experience to Netflix. Netflix became how I watched all of my favorite shows, and it -together with some absurd idea that Star Trek: Legacy was a good game, pushed me into buying an Xbox. I’ve tried and used every version of Netflix on Xbox since.

 

In the previous version the Kinect Hub would take you to a very basic layout full of media that Netflix thought you might like to enjoy, but didnt offer you the ability to do anything else outside that Suggested list. To make matters worse the app itself would sometimes fail to populate this screen with any content, forcing you to exit, then reopen that app if you were to lazy to grab a controller.  The most important thing this version of Netflix does is get rid of that rediclous divide. Every inch of the new App is Kinect Voice and gesture enabled and while both are very appreciated each has their own little caveat.

Kinect gestures work just fine. All artwork for each movie or television show is a great size for hovering you hand over it to select it from the lineup. Looking for more titles in a list is as simple as making a sweeping arm motion in either direction. All things considered it’s nearly flawless; until you decide to switch lists.  Switching lists involves hoovering your hand over two rediculously small up and down arrows. It drove me absolutely nuts and even after three weeks with it, I can’t see why they didn’t implement so upward and downward gesture.  On the other hand Kinect Voice control is very nice, and allows you to move inbetween different lists of titles by saying “Xbox, next list” or “Xbox, previous list”.  To see more titles simply say “Xbox, show more” or “Xbox, show previous”. I found these commands to work well, my little brother on the other hand can’t exactly pronounce previous clearly, and if you’ve got a little person in the house the may also have issues with that.  To select a title “Xbox, play video (one, two, or three).” This happens to be the first verbal command that breaks the illusion that you’re living in the future. It seems to get around having to localize titles Netflix, still will not let you say things like “Xbox, play Star Trek”. Once you’ve decided on a video you can use both voice and gestures to control your video. There are many changes here, but I really want to highlight “Xbox, next episode”, as i’ve found it very, very useful.  Another highlight is the app’s integration with Bing. You can forgoe having to browse for anything by giving saying “Xbox, Bing whatever” from the Xbox home. It will immediately link you directly to Netflix content.

 

The Verdict

Although there’s a few misses here, this release takes the Netflix on Xbox in exactly the direction it should be going. Most of the gestures and voice features are straight forward and easy to use. Browsing for content you like takes literally seconds, and the app isn’t as dead slow in loading titles as it’s first iteration.  It’s a solid app, for a very solid video service. The moment Microsoft started offering Netflix on the Xbox, I knew we’d someday get to a place where watching what I wanted to watch, when I wanted to watch, with as little hassle as possible, would be a reality. With this years Netflix on Xbox update, we’re there.