Old but New
The Xbox Series X does something that Microsoft has been trying to do for an entire console generation now: focus on games and on us, the gamers. When Microsoft and Xbox launched the Xbox One, they tried to tell us that it was an all-in-“One” media hub where we would go for all things games, movies, sports, and everything else. They also talk about a digital market space that people rejected.
But they have learned from their mistakes. After spending two days with my Series X, I can say for certain that I feel like Xbox has the gamer in mind and is providing me the best value for my money.
When I first cracked into the box, the console was front and center and displayed like an idol from Indiana Jones. The packaging was simple but effective. No more digging through Styrofoam, endless bags and twist ties. It felt special, and the Xbox was enclosed very elegantly in a black wrapping. I easily had the console all set up and connected in no time.
Before booting it up, I took a moment to try the horizontal position. Both standing and laying down felt good and sturdy.
This all felt very intuitive and convenient.
After powering up the console, I was prompted to open the Xbox app on my phone to continue setup. Once I started going through the motions, the Xbox started running its Day One updates while I continued inputting my account and setup options on my phone. This all felt very intuitive and convenient.
I did not think the Xbox controller needed anything, for me it is a perfect controller. Surprisingly, there is little difference with the new Xbox controllers. The biggest addition is a Share button on the front of the controller, which is much appreciated in this age of sharing that epic moment with friends. The other thing I noticed was that the textured grip around the controller has made its way to the triggers, giving you more grip on the triggers for those palm sweating moments in Apex Legends. There are some other minor form factor tweaks that should help gamers with smaller hands. They also added a circle pad for the D-pad, though the directions still have a very satisfying click to them. So now the Xbox controller is even more perfect…?
My Xbox finished updating and rebooting with the signature chime and brought me to the same Home screen that I am used to from my Xbox One, now with a dynamic background and some new customization features. Hopefully we’ll get more dynamic backgrounds to choose from in the future.
After about 2 hours, Gears 5 is up and running, and it is stunning.
The first thing I do is start installing all the Game Pass games that are optimized for or are Series X games (i.e. Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, Sea of Thieves, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and the new Tetris Effect: Connected). Oh, and I have to get Assassin’s Creed Valhalla installed as well.
After about 2 hours, Gears 5 is up and running, and it is stunning. I played the campaign on my Xbox One X, but wow did it look good on the new console! Mind you, I have a 4K TV, but not one that supports the full 120 fps that the Xbox Series X can muster. But it still looked like a next-gen game. I then got into my journey as a Viking warrior in Valhalla, which also is a stunning visual game to see, and it’s hard to explain without seeing it for yourself. Smart Delivery which allows you to play on both the Xbox One and Series X|S is also very cool. I was able to pick up where I left off on both my One X and Series X without missing a beat.
I have used the quick resume feature that allows you to jump in and out of a few games at a time. I also learned that either you can only have so many games suspended or not all games support quick resume. It is not clear which games can do quick resume or how many can be suspended at a time, hopefully Xbox will patch this feature to be more clear. However, It is still amazing that I can go from raiding with my Viking in AC to saving the world in Ori or chilling to some beats in Tetris all with a few button presses and being right where I left off, with no loading. This feature might not be important to all gamers, but as a multi-tasker gamer, I love it.
It is unfortunate that there are no big launch games for the Series X|S, but it does an amazing job of making last-gen games look and feel next-gen.
Game Pass continues to add value with the addition of EA Play and all first-party Xbox games available Day 1. I know I’ll be able to play all of the biggest releases when they’re available, including the Destiny 2 Beyond Light expansion, which was just added to Game Pass. I can already pre-install the upcoming horror thriller from Bloober Team, The Medium, an Xbox exclusive, and then play it on release day, January 28, 2021. I am continuously checking out new games through Game Pass that I may not have played before. It’s almost like the old days of renting from Blockbuster. I peruse the selection available, and, if something seems interesting, I give it a try and I don’t even have to worry about late fees.
It is unfortunate that there are no big launch games for the Series X|S, but it does an amazing job of making last-gen games look and feel next-gen. We may have to wait a little longer for Halo Infinite and the slew of new games in development for the Series X|S. But, all good things come to those that wait, and great games take a lot of time and effort, so I am happy to wait. The preview for Halo made me very nostalgic for Halo 1, so I cannot wait to play it. But I also want 343 to take their time and make the best game they can. I have been a fan of Ninja Theory for many years, and I am beyond pumped for Hellblade 2 and how insane that will look and play on Series X.
We Xbox fans are feeling very much like the PlayStation fans back in 2015: we know there are a lot of great games coming, we just don’t know when. It’s similar to how I felt when I knew The Last of Us had a sequel coming, and anticipating Horizon Zero Dawn, Days Gone, and Ghosts of Tsushima — all of those great PS4 games we knew about years in advance and had to wait for. Well now I am waiting for those brilliant Xbox games that we can all reminisce about years after they’ve come out. I also think Xbox is doing something very different from PlayStation and that is a good thing. Xbox is melding the generation gap between the generations of consoles and I for one, appreciate that.
Have you dived into the new Xbox Series X|S yet? If so, what are your thoughts so far? Share your own reflections in the comments here, and let’s discuss!