The Xbox Series X promises a brave new world of gaming, unlike anything we’ve seen before. With a cool new design and eye-bulging specs its difficult not to be caught up in the hype. But when so much relies on future-tech and unreleased games, is it actually worth it yet?
The Xbox Series X
The UI is still the same, unfortunately
If you’re not a fan of the Xbox UI, I have some bad news for you. There’s no difference, which has left me is disappointed.
I find the Xbox UX very difficult to navigate and even look at. It’s super busy and my brain doesn’t like that. Rather than being intuitive and convenient, it’s aimed at selling you things. Pushing Game Pass is favoured above easy access to the games and apps you already own.
I was hoping for something a little less cluttered and more streamlined. Not only for my own enjoyment, but so this would actually feel like a new console.
Xbox could have made the Series X appear significantly different to the Xbox One X by refreshing the UI. It would have been genius, really. Because at the moment, beyond graphic capabilities, upgrading is a tough sell. But we’ll get to that.
Of course, I’m aware this is a deeply personal opinion.
If you like the layout of the Xbox home screen, you’ll probably be pleased with the familiarity. Comparatively, I much prefer the layout of PlayStation and Switch’s respective UIs.
Setting up the Xbox Series X is awesome
I may be tough on the UI, but one thing I’m happy to praise is the set up experience. This is exclusively thanks to the Xbox App. For the first time you can use it to set up your shiny new next gen console from your phone. And it makes a world of difference.
To set up the console on your phone all you need is for the the Series X to be on and to punch in a six digit code that comes up on the screen into your phone — similar to what you’ll see with some streaming services.
From there you just need to join your Wi-Fi network, connect the console and apply any necessary updates.
The last little bits of admin you’ll need to do is set your security preferences, name your console, turn on remote play if that’s your thing and then copy over a previous backup if you have one.
The whole process takes a couple of minutes at most and I loved it. Anything that gets me away from the hellscape that is using a controller for logins is god-tier in my book.
The controller is fine
Speaking of the controller, despite a slightly different texture and shape, it feels familiar with a few added extras.
The first big change is the new hybrid D-Pad, which you’ll be familiar with if you’re an Xbox Elite Controller users. The other is the share button, which streamlines the process of capturing and sharing content a whole lot easier.
I toggled my account to allow pics and clips to upload to the Xbox App by default — and it’s incredible. One of my biggest pet peeves with the Nintendo Switch is how difficult it is to share screenshots. The new controller button and app on the Xbox Series X make it a breeze.
So while the new controller may not be revolutionary, the few big changes are good ones.
Next Gen graphics and game play
Beefy specs have been a focal point for the Xbox Series X. With 12 teraflops of GPU power and a 8 core CPU, it promises to take next gen graphics and game play beyond our wildest dreams.
From what I’ve seen so far, this may very well be true. But at launch you’re unlikely to be able to take full advantage of the graphic and raw power capabilities of the Xbox Series X.
Only a handful of games thus far are capable of the much-lauded 120 fps. And even then , you need a HDMI 2.1 capable television to do it.
And while it will be 8K compatible, we’re years away from seeing native 8K content in games or even viewing content.
But if you have a 4K TV you’ll still notice a significant difference, particularly with new games or optimised games like Gears 5 and (I’m making assumptions here because it hasn’t dropped for review for me yet), Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
Thanks to the Xbox Series X ray tracing functionality, characters are more realistic than ever. Hair and skin left me simply mesmerised. Similarly, cut scenes ran beautifully, as did general game play.
If you’re someone who values graphics above all else, you won’t be disappointed.
If you don’t really care that much about the latest and greatest graphics (especially when they’re applied to comparatively few titles) the Xbox Series X benefits from what’s going on under the hood in other ways, too.
It’s oh so quiet
Despite all the heavy lifting happening down in the guts of the console (especially with modern games) you wouldn’t know it. Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 often sounded like a jet engine was taking off in your living room, sometimes for simply turning them on.
Comparatively, the Xbox Series X is whisper quiet.
The only time I have heard it is when I muted the TV and sat right next to it as a challenge for this portion of the review. Suffice to say, when you’re actually playing a game or even streaming a show, you’re highly unlikely to hear this thing.
Another significant generational difference between the Xbox Series X and Xbox One X are the loading times. They’re absolutely noticeable and a god send.
It will vary from game to game but I was personally getting between 5 and 10 seconds on most titles. However, be prepared for new or optimised games, particularly launch titles to take longer.
Gears 5, for example, was more like 10 – 15 seconds seconds. And honestly, fair. It’s a big game. Consider this impatient bish impressed.
The load times are also helped by the new Quick Resume functionality. This allows you to jump right back into a game you’ve left suspended.
Once you jump back into one of these games, you’ll automatically go to the game’s menu. A ‘Quick Resume’ logo pop up in the top right of the screen before you’re you find yourself back in the game, right where you last left off.
It’s a relatively quick process that I found took around 10 seconds, game depending. It’s important to note that Quick Resume only supports six titles at a time and not all games support the functionality.
I wouldn’t say it’s the literal game changing feature it’s been marketed as, but it’s pretty neat.
I’ve never been a big believer in praising something with hardcore capabilities if it can rarely be enjoyed. I’m also someone who values gameplay and storyline over graphics. So long as things look decent I’m quite happy.
This is why I’m far more interested in how previous gen games look and run on the Xbox Series X.
Considering how much importance Xbox places on Game Pass — which will become all the more robust after it unites with Zenimax/Bethesda — it really needs to prove that its next gen consoles are actually worth the upgrade beyond a handful of highly optimised new games.
Fortunately, it delivers. Boy does this thing make things look beautiful. There’s even a noticeable difference in graphics and game play even in older Xbox 360 games.
Taking Fallout: New Vegas as an example, movement is butter smooth and despite rocking graphics that are 10 years old, they look great.
It’s worth noting here that experience will vary from game to game. New Vegas has been optimised for backwards compatibility. Comparatively, Fallout 4, which only came out five years ago, wasn’t quite as smooth as I would have liked. While it is down for being optimised, it hasn’t happened yet – and you can tell.
So basically, if something has been optimised for backwards combability, you’re going to have a pretty damn good time.
For me, the combination of backwards compatibility and the robust Game Pass library is the true hero of this console.
The Xbox Series X needs time
When it comes to laying down your cold hard cash, now may just not be the time.
While the Xbox Series X has quite a bit going for it, at $749 I’m left wanting more to justify the pizazze. Too much of what it can do is currently theoretical or sparsely available.
Thanks to delays, we’re left with only a few games that can really take advantage of everything the GPU has to offer. And when you throw in an all-too-familiar UI, you may be left wondering where your new console excitement went.
I believe the answer lies in the future.
So much of what makes the Xbox Series X great just isn’t here yet. I have no doubt that it will be and we’ll be blown away. It’s a beautiful beast and there’s a lot to love, but it needs time to really flex its next gen features.
If you still have an Xbox One X, you’re fine for now. And if you missed out on the first round of pre-orders, don’t stress. Maybe even wait for that cheaper price tag or a tantalising bundle in 6 – 12 months time.
At the moment you’re not missing out on a whole lot, but a truly spectacular console awaits you in the future.