Friday, November 12, 2021
Earlier this week marked one whole year since we finally got our grubby little fingers on the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S for the first time. Three hundred and sixty five days, fifty-two weeks, four seasons, and, well, an entire ongoing pandemic having transpired since then (that last one is still going, of course). And while we know it’s still damn hard to find the Xbox Series X, specifically, out in the wild world of retail, we’ll say this upfront - we’ve loved our time with Microsoft’s new-gen consoles, and it’s certainly been an interesting first year.
Right off the bat, Microsoft did something a little bit different with its next-gen launch, this time last year. Rather than releasing a single powerful console, created specifically to go head-to-head with Sony’s box, we also got the budget Xbox Series S, purpose-made to be as quick and nippy as its bigger brother, the Xbox Series X, but without aiming for full 4K resolution. While 4K TVs are becoming more and more commonplace in people’s homes, there’s still a huge amount of people running HD setups, or using 1440p monitors, and with its much lower price point, the Xbox Series S is a perfect machine for those wanting an Xbox on a budget.
But, as Proper Gaming Enthusiasts, we’ve unsurprisingly been spending most of our time with the Xbox Series X since launch. And straight out of the gate, Microsoft’s black obelisk has been a revelation when it comes to speed and ease of use, bolstered by a selection of new features that, while not entirely necessary, make a notable improvement to the user experience. Quick Resume is a really nice feature in particular, letting you have multiple games suspended all at once, and for someone like me who has a concentration span that can sometimes be measured in seconds, rather than minutes, jumping between games without worrying about things like save points has been great. Equally, Smart Delivery has been an understated addition that, along with Microsoft’s simple cloud saves, has made moving over from Xbox One to Xbox Series X|S an easy transition - something that’s all the more impressive when you compare it to what Sony is doing on PlayStation 5.
And, unlike the launch of the Xbox One, the Xbox Series X has been technically impressive from the off, able to occasionally push 120FPS in some games, and 4K/60 in plenty of others. The SSD is something that you didn’t know you wanted until you got it, and after months of almost non-existent load times, it’s hard to go back to older consoles. All of this would be for naught, of course, if there weren’t any games to play, but the Xbox Series X|S hasn’t had a bad first year at all, in that regard. Third-party support has been excellent across the board, with some cracking titles from the big publishers (EA, Ubisoft, Square Enix, Capcom, at al.) like DIRT 5, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Immortals Fenyx Rising, Resident Evil Village, Hitman 3, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more. Xbox Series X|S has even had some good support from Japanese franchises that typically shunned Microsoft, with Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Lost Judgment, and Tales of Arise calling the monolithic console home.
As for exclusives, this is where things look a little less bright for the console’s first year on the market. Xbox Series X|S got a few next-gen versions of existing Xbox Game Studios titles, like Sea of Thieves, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Gears 5, and Forza Horizon 4, while timed exclusives like The Medium, The Artful Escape, and Death’s Door helped boost the console’s library. And just this past week, we got Forza Horizon 5, coming in as a possible game of the year contender. But almost every single one of these games has also made its way to Xbox One, as well, with only Microsoft Flight Simulator really serving as a true next-generation exclusive. And even that is available on PC.
The weirdest thing about this, though, is that for consumers, this is a good thing. With Xbox Series X consistently out of stock around the world, and at a high price point regardless, this multi-platform approach for Microsoft’s games has been a huge boon for players. It means that, if you’ve got an Xbox One X, and you want to play Forza Horizon 5, you can. If you’re eyeing up Halo Infinite with only a launch Xbox One sat under your TV, and can’t afford to upgrade, no problem! New consoles are a funny thing, and there’s a bit of us that wants to have more games that only our shiny new box can play, in order to justify the purchase. But Microsoft’s priorities have shifted in recent years, and having games available across as many platforms as possible consistently helps more people to play.
And that’s one of the most interesting things about Xbox Series X|S’s first year - you can’t talk about the console without talking about everything else Microsoft is doing. Xbox Game Pass continues to be incredible value for money, offering up some of the past year’s best games - Psychonauts 2, Call of the Sea, Back 4 Blood, and Forza Horizon 5 - at launch, along with an ever-growing library of interesting indies, cool multiplayer games, and plenty more besides. In this sense, the Xbox Series X|S may have had fewer true exclusive games than the PlayStation 5 over the past twelve months, but for me, every game on Xbox Game Pass might as well be an exclusive. After all, why would I play them anywhere else instead?
Then there’s Xbox Cloud Gaming, Microsoft’s answer to “what if Netflix, but video games?” If Xbox Series X is for enthusiasts willing to spend a decent amount of money on a new console (likely alongside plenty of games and maybe even a new TV) Cloud Gaming is on the opposite end of the spectrum, allowing anyone with a half-decent phone and a monthly subscription to stream tons of games, with a growing library of built in touch controls even taking away the need for a controller. For anyone passionate about games, this is hardly an ideal way to play, but it significantly reduces the barrier to entry for the more casual audience out there.
Unlike its main competitors in the hardware space, Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft isn’t hedging all of its bets on a new box. Hell, it released two new Xbox consoles just to be sure, and is continuing to fully support Xbox One, Xbox One X, PC, and mobile. And while the output from Xbox Game Studios hasn’t been incredible this year, we’ve got plenty of new games on the horizon to look forward to, such as Halo Infinite, Fable, Perfect Dark, Avowed, Everwild, and State of Decay 3. As consoles by themselves, both Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are impressive machines, capable of not only playing games, but playing them at their best. When combined with Microsoft’s other platforms, and Xbox Game Pass? It paints a very bright future for Xbox.
Friday, November 12, 2021 @ 01:47 PM
Friday, November 12, 2021 @ 02:42 PM
Friday, November 12, 2021 @ 03:09 PM
Friday, November 12, 2021 @ 03:28 PM
Friday, November 12, 2021 @ 04:10 PM
Friday, November 12, 2021 @ 07:13 PM
Friday, November 12, 2021 @ 10:10 PM
Saturday, November 13, 2021 @ 08:12 AM
Saturday, November 13, 2021 @ 08:22 AM
Monday, November 15, 2021 @ 04:45 AM
Monday, November 15, 2021 @ 10:37 AM