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Xbox Series X Review

The Software

The Games: At launch the Series line of consoles sported a lineup of new and cross-gen games that provided something for everyone across a wide variety of genres. Want a turn-based tactics game? Try Gears Tactics – appearing for the first time on console. Prefer aerial combat? The Falconeer might be right up your alley. Metroidvania? How about Ori and the Will of the Wisps at 4K, downsampled from 6K and looking amazing?

When I checked my available library, it showed 1,159 games available for me to play day one including launch games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

BC that spans three generations of consoles means longtime Xbox fans will have no shortage of games to play, while those new to the Xbox ecosystem can grab a ton of games cheap.

Still, with Halo Infinite slipping until…well, until it’s ready…there wasn’t that ONE BIG GAME, so the Xbox team turned to Gears of War to help fill the gap. Gears 5 sees a substantial upgrade on Series X, with 120 fps multiplayer backing up a campaign retrofit that puts it alongside the PC’s Ultra version in terms of effects and texturing. Forza Horizon 4 was similarly retrofitted, as was Grounded and Sea of Thieves, and now you can add Halo: The Master Chief Collection to that list as well.

The new hardware offers up 12.1 teraflops of power, but it’s probably not all that surprising that the much-vaunted power of the Series X isn’t as apparent as you’d have expected, even given all the pre-release talk about those teraflops. Launch games are never great indicators of what consoles can do, beginning development with just a vague guideline as to what sort of hardware spec they’ll be running on and then being fine-tuned as the spec-speculation fog resolves itself into the reality of what will ship and when it will ship, so they always need to be taken with a grain of salt.

That grain of salt is more like a mountain in 2020, with the ongoing pandemic and outright lockdowns in many countries, making this a launch like no other. These consoles – both the Series line and the PS5 – are coming in hot, and that includes the software as well, that of the consoles, their development tools, and in the games they’ll run.

While backwards compatibility has been running as expected – or better, some of the big new games have struggled a bit. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs Legion both had to be patched early on, as did Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War. I would expect that to continue for a while, as these massive teams work out best practices for the new ‘work from home’ dynamic that many have been forced into. I thought Ubisoft would have the best chance of nailing it down, as they’ve been coordinating massive studios spread across the globe for years, but obviously it’s still a struggle.

It’s impossible to really say when we’re going to see ‘true’ next-gen games arrive, given the way the pandemic seems to still be surging, but I’d hope that by next Fall’s release slate things are sorted out and we can see what these systems can really do.