There’s nothing quite like getting your hands on a new console. If you’ve been playing video games for a large percentage of your life — 31 of my 35 years — a new console generation and new hardware bring out your inner child.
When I got my hands on the monolith that is the Xbox Series X, it was like Christmas. I couldn’t wait to set it up and start playing. Now, having spent more than a week with the console, I can bring you my impressions of the console overall.
That being said, a lot of what the Xbox Series X has been designed for and has the power to do isn’t ready yet and won’t be on display for quite some time. It’s is a very impressive piece of hardware but I’ve not yet seen it potential fulfilled.
Don’t misunderstand, it’s a great console, it just doesn’t have the software to back it up yet.
Xbox Series X
After unboxing the Xbox Series X I have to admit it had one of the simplest, most streamlined setups of any console I’ve ever used. When it’s powered on, you’re greeted with a setup screen, asking you to download and use the Xbox App. Once the app and the console are synced, it’s a matter of minutes before it’s set up, connected to the internet and ready to go. One of the best features of this simple setup is being able to import settings from another Xbox. This allows users to make their Xbox Series X their own and have it match their Xbox One without having to fiddle with individual settings and without having to drill down on every menu and every option.
Saving time and getting people playing games faster seems to be one of the main goals of this console and it’s a goal that, even at this early stage, it’s excelling at.
Once the setup is complete, the home screen should look very familiar to anyone who’s ever played an Xbox One. Microsoft hasn’t really changed much about the Home screen or the way you access Games and Apps, Achievements, Social etc. Going with the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it approach” Microsoft has ensured current Xbox One users will be met with familiarity.
I’ve spent more time in the last-generation with PS4 than I have with Xbox One, so I’m not overly familiar with the Home screen, so this may be old news, but I noticed a prominent display for Game Pass on the Home screen.
Beyond the Home screen, My Games & Apps is likely the most visited part of the Xbox Series X’s UI. Again, looking very similar to the Xbox One, there is one key difference. Players are able to sort their games by console type. This sorts games into those Optimised for Xbox Series X|S and game for Xbox One. It’s a simple feature, but a much-needed one as it gives users, at a glance, a way of determining which games are which.
When it comes to playing games, the Xbox Series X is sublime. Booting up the console and getting into a game takes seconds, not minutes and when games are compatible with Quick Resume, it’s even faster again. The combination of the SSD, powerful system hardware and clever software again, helps make this platform an option for getting into your games faster. Unfortunately, not every game I had access to in the pre-release period make use of Quick Resume and so not every game makes use of one of the Xbox Series X’s best features. Oddly, both Gears 5 and Gears Tactics, which are optimised for Xbox Series X and Microsoft/Xbox properties, did not use Quick Resume.
Dirt 5 and The Touryst did, while Yakuza Like A Dragon was another game which didn’t utilise the feature. As more games are released for the console and it gets into gamers hands, I can imagine an overwhelming majority will make use of Quick Resume. If they don’t, it will be a real wasted opportunity.
While I didn’t run comparisons of game boot times compared to the same games running on Xbox One, it’s clear games load and run much faster on the new console. There are still some loading screens, they’re not quite totally gone just yet, but they’re fewer, they’re shorter and they’re further apart.
Another feature of the Xbox Series X that is largely unchanged from the Xbox One is the Gamepad. The new Gamepad is very, very similar to the previous iteration. The dimensions are unchanged and the way the Gamepad fits into your hands is unchanged. The new Gamepad does feel more solid and some clever texturing on the triggers makes them feel more prominent under your fingers. In fact, there is texturing on most of the backside of the Gamepad to help players grip the controller.
On the face of the Gamepad, the D-Pad has been improved enormously. Xbox D-Pads have been frankly terrible ever since the first Xbox launched. The Xbox One’s D-Pad was an improvement but with Xbox Series X, Microsoft has finally created a D-Pad that both works and feels good to use. Pressing the D-Pad doesn’t lead to confusion as to which direction was pressed and there’s a satisfying click when you press in any of the four directions.
In the centre of the face of the Gamepad is the all-new Capture Button. Like the PS4 SHARE button, the Capture Button is how players can take screenshots and record video of their games. Pressing the Capture Button takes a screenshot, while holding it records a set amount of time of gameplay. This can be 15, 30 or 45 seconds or 1-minute. To actually start recording a clip you still need to press the Xbox button, navigate to the Capture tab and click on Start Recording. Depending on the resolution you’ve opted for for your captures, you’ll be able to record for different amounts of time. However, these are really limited. at 720p you can record for 3-minutes, 1080p for 1 minute and 4K for 30-seconds.
Compared to the PS4 this is still way behind what players have been able to do. On PS4, the game DVR is always recording and players can save up to one hour of footage by simply pressing the SHARE button and selecting “Save Video.” While it’s nice to see the Capture button included and an easier way for players to save and share their Xbox moments, it still feels like it’s lagging behind what PlayStation has been offering for an entire generation.
As part of the pre-release access I had to the Xbox Series X, Microsoft and ‘its partners’ offered a number of games for me to play. The majority of these games were released in the last generation and have had some optimisation. Yakuza: Like A Dragon is a cross-gen release as is Watch Dogs Legion while two other cross-gen titles are ones I’m not able to discuss just yet, which is a shame as they most demonstrate the power of the Xbox Series X.
As I mentioned previously, games run much more quickly and smoothly regardless if they’ve been optimised or not. Xbox One games seem to benefit from some kind of upscaling which makes them look a little better than when they’re running on Xbox One hardware. As for Optimised games, there is a noticeable difference when compared to the last-gen version. That being said, nothing I’ve played so far has felt next-gen. Yes, Quick Resume is a great feature and certainly makes the Xbox Series X an attractive proposition but the simple truth is that at this stage there aren’t any games which require the new hardware.
When NBA 2K21 launches that’s likely to change. The same goes for The Medium and Halo Infinite, whenever that arrives. For now though, everything you can play on Xbox Series X, you can play on Xbox One, PC or PS4. There will come a time in the future when the hardware is utilised to its fullest and there will be games that simply couldn’t be released on older hardware. It’s the nature of console launches, thankfully, Game Pass is a bit of a silver lining.
Often, consoles launch with very few games available and gamers are left waiting around for months before their new toy is worth the money it cost. With Xbox Series X, despite there being very few games requiring the new hardware, there is no shortage of games to play. Xbox Game Pass is stronger than ever and with the addition of Bethesda games to the service and EA Play there are thousands and thousands of hours of gaming available.
Additionally, if you transfer data from your Xbox One, you can start playing games almost immediately without having to wait while they download. Game Pass is a real strength for Microsoft. Having so much content on offer right away means gamers can and will be playing immediately and will feel as though they’re purchase is justified even if there aren’t all that many new games to play which require the new hardware.
The differences between the Xbox Series X launch and the Xbox One launch are like night and day. The distrastrous messaging of the Xbox One led to widespread dissatisfaction and many, many gamers walking away from Microsoft. It’s been a long road back for Xbox and while it may not be in the position it was at the end of the Xbox 360 years, it’s in a very strong position to become the ultimate destination for gamers.
The combination of the hardware, Quick Resume and Game Pass means Xbox gamers will be able to more quickly try new games, switch between games and do so without having to outlay any additional funds.
The Xbox Series X has the potential to be the defining console of this generation, however, it’s far too early to truly know what the hardware is capable of, especially as we’ve not had access to any true next-gen experiences. When we do, I expect we’ll be suitably blown away. Quick Resume is already pretty mind-blowing and once we start seeing what the console can really do we’re in for a treat.
Look for more coverage of the Xbox Series X as we spend more time with it, review more next-gen games and see what it can do.
An Xbox Series X and multiple games were provided to PowerUp! by Microsoft.