I’ll come straight out with this, Microsoft and Xbox ANZ very kindly supplied us with an XBOX SERIES X in their review window. That means we’ve had it for about a week and a half. What follows are my thoughts after unboxing and those first steps with the next generation of gaming.
Don’t judge an Xbox Series X by its cover.
At least until you’ve read a bit.
Having the console early gave us a great opportunity to run an unboxing. Just like everybody else, which was nice. During the video that ran mostly on Instagram (link) and soon on our youtube channel I noted the units weight.
Dimension wise the SERIES X stands 15 cm by 15 cm and 30 cm ish tall. On your gaming space it does make for an impressive monolith. However when you stack it up against an Original Xbox, volume wise they are not too dissimilar. The Xbox Series X is a heavy box. Straight out of the very sexy packaging its 6.7kg deadweight will need steady hands. The packaging itself is exciting to open. Designed to be accessible, it feels luxurious. There is no doubt that under that well wrapped oblong is new console smell.
The layers and moulded foam do give the sense of opening something special. The dark colours and cleanliness of it all exude finesse. Once you’ve unwrapped cables and added batteries to the controller its time to embrace the magic moment and power up.
Stepping out for the first time.
Once the XBOX SERIES X has electricity coursing through its veins, shit gets real. Microsoft have worked wonders with the initialising of the console. Using the Xbox App on your phone the console can easily connect and sync to your Xbox history (if you have one).
Its clever, quick and really quite painless.
Once the App had done its thing. Populating the SERIES X with everything it needed to know about me and my account. Then it was time to hit the dashboard, and this was the moment. The actual moment I lost track of the new console smell.
I was confused. Lost in the reverie of what was a generation leap, I had to check myself at the dashboard deja vu.
Dashboard – everything at your fingertips.
The Xbox Dash has struggled over the most recent generation. Having gone from the OG Xbox with its nod to green-screen crt computing and the xbox360 “Blades” system, favoured by many. The Xbox One always had a dashboard that got the best of us lost. Burying essentials like games, apps and the store under menu layers and branches.
It never really gelled with me. Although a recent update made it better, it was never going to match the cleanliness and ease applied to the Playstation UI. There is still the doubt over which button hits the navigation sweet spot, once you get in the right space a deft B button press often sets you back to the main screen.
Picture the scene.Here I am ready for my Next Generation experience, then, once the console is initialised, I feel like I’m looking at my Xbox One S Dashboard. All my stuff is there, it might not be downloaded, but the console is telling me I can have it. I actually made a double take to the Xbox One S, expecting it to be on.
Apart from the swirly whirly dynamic background, it may as well be the last generation Xbox I switched on. While this is a strategy adopted by Microsoft and as a big picture its their game to play. I just got that nagging feeling that this was more a half step than a leap.
Where was the buzz? Where was the sense of being at the dawn of a new era?
Let’s resume the Impressions.
The XBOX SERIES X does bring more to the table than its monolithic profile and sheer power. Lets be honest if your consoles were a D&D crew, the SERIES X is the Warrior/Barbarian.
I’ll be first to admit I’m no tech whore, the holy grail of frames per second passes me by. I like that games are sharper and more pretty these days, but I did start out on a Vic20 forty odd years ago. Yes, the XBOX SERIES X is a beast, there is enough grunt under the hood that if it was a car, Dominic Taretto would be driving it. To be frank, my naked eye couldn’t care less about frame rates.
Some may lament the limited storage options, especially the potential to only expand instead of upgrade. Others will challenge the minimalist face or port options. Being a casual XBOX user, these things are not important personally and Gamepass keeps me on enough of a rotation to be happy keeping the HDD clean.
The speed of the drive is a selling point and it really makes a difference. When my joy took a step back on the dashboard it was the super fast load times and transitions that first swung me back. Couple with that the console has added a Quick Resume status that keeps (some so far) games ready to fire back up. When it works well its a game changer, going from cold to back in your session in a couple of seconds. Surprisingly quicker than booting up a SNES cartridge in fact.
Playstation have had similar on the Vita and the PS4 for years, but not at this speed and with more lag while the console reconnects. If convenience is your thing, its something to behold as you snap from game to game.
The offering from Gamepass has been the value for money winner the last few years. Improving on the old XBOX Live subscription and delivering bucket loads of games. Add to the mix the Gamepass Ultimate offerings of PC games and very soon the inclusion of EA Access, its a titanic selection for very little investment.
This is absolutely the model we use to devour entertainment these days. Not forgetting the recent Microsoft acquisition of Bethesda adding potentially thousands of hours of gameplay to revisit.
That said, sometimes too much choice leads to less engagement, I can surf the options and often never select something, but that’s how I used to roll in a video shop. Google ‘video shop’ kids, its like Netflix fatigue. It is however a smart option, the console itself throughly enjoying itself with these older games.
There’s lumps of it round the back.
Backwards compatibility is a big thing in the Microsoft ecosystem. Not having much in the way of new titles to play has proved it.
Minecraft runs beautifully with a draw distance on the horizon, considering it was still clunky on the XBOX ONE. The classic Too Human from 2008 is dripping with updated visuals. If it looked like this 12 years ago we might have had a trilogy after all. I also fired up No Mans Sky and suffice to say. “I’m going out for a while, I may be some time”.
Older gamers and retro fans will enjoy revisiting classics, to have their rose-tinted memories spruced up.
We love the new games, eh?
A limited amount of new and optimised titles were available for review pre launch. Gears 5 in particular looks amazing. My memory tells me it looked pretty good anyway, so while I enjoy the experience more now I don’t feel overly excited. The XCOM lite Gears Tactics is a game I’ve been keen to try. Being able to play on the XBOX SERIES X hit the target. Again its crisp and sharp, presenting really nicely and moving along very quickly. Whereas prior to a recent patch Dirt 5 was subject to screen tearing, how very 2000’s.
If there’s one thing this generation is going to do, its reduce our waiting time and increase our game time. There were other titles which have been held back for their optimised versions before they are available. Understandable for WatchDogs and Valhalla, but when the console launches without an exclusive Hero Brand. For example Halo, it certainly detracts from the experience.
That said backwards compatible games that are getting the SERIES X polish will be keeping people impressed. The console has a long game to play and once the first 12 months are done, expect some magic coming down the tubes. Until then I can keep myself busy re-enjoying Crackdown3 in all its shiny new sharpness.
The Last Post.
The XBOX SERIES X is a powerhouse console, which is a blessing and a curse. It has potential not immediately realised, especially if you don’t have the right TV or HDMI cables to hand. The controller is a nuanced redesign, with tactile grips and an instant Share button. Born from imitation, but the instant integration with your captures and the phone app wins hands down. Its so easy to pop a screenshot and carry on playing as it loads into your app library. From there you can easily share to a wide range of social platforms with your phone in hand.
I went from excitement to being initially underwhelmed. As we’ve spent more time together I feel the speed and power that is ready to be unleashed. I’m keen to see where we are this time next year.
We may not have been ready for his kind of generation half-step, it reminds me of the whole ‘Pro’ versions of consoles halfway through the last cycle. After the new console smell has faded and you’ve vented at the frustrating Dashboard, its fair to think you probably could have waited.
There is no doubt the console comes with a value for money build, and for Gamepass members more than enough to play. Challenges come in the innovation that Playstation offer up, they may be gimmicks in some eyes, but they are pushing the consumer experience forward.
What remains to be seen is how the XBOX SERIES X evolves as the months and years go by.