I’ve taken a look at the PS5 and now it’s time to consider its “competition” for this generation, the Xbox Series X. Microsoft have learned from their early Xbox One mistakes and have subverted my expectations as someone who wasn’t enamoured upon first of the Series X to produce a powerful, fast yet slightly bland attempt at the next generation. Here’s my thoughts on the Xbox Series X.
The Xbox Series X is definitely the more subdued of the 2 options currently available for this generation. It treads the line between slick minimalism and uninspired grey box fairly well with its vertical design that shakes things up from the One’s traditionally horizontal form factor. It’s certainly understated with sheer black sides smattered with a couple buttons, a disk drive and some ports. Compared to the PS5 it looks a lot more traditional; no LEDs, no two tone colour scheme, and it’s also not ridiculously huge. It’s slightly more compact and features a vent on top that has a lime green pop of colour that peaks through the holes – these are as equally practical as eye catching as the fans stay silent thanks to super efficient cooling. Even after having it in hand, I can’t figure out if I appreciate how lowkey it looks in comparison to the bombastic PS5 or if it’s a little too safe and boring. Either way, much like the PS5, it does look better in person and out of the two it is the more entertainment centre friendly option if living room chic influences your gaming.
Casting our minds back to months ago in our “Next Gen Revealed” article, I expressed how Microsoft went about refining the controller instead of reinventing it and how although that is an improvement, it didn’t feel particularly revolutionary for the next gen. Using this controller I can happily conclude that it is a great refinement and overall a solid controller but it does feel lacking as an exciting new next gen piece of kit. I will sing its praises in regards to its refinements as they are excellent: the clicky d-pad lifted from the Elite Controller feels great and I’m looking forward to using it to pull of some combos in Mortal Kombat and Injustice, it features a tactile rubberised grip on the back which makes it comfortable to hold and harder for it to slip out of your hands, and the create button is a nice addition but as someone who doesn’t really share screenshots and clips it isn’t hugely useful to me but I can see the appeal. USB-C charging is great in a pinch, however you still have to purchase a plug and play battery kit as it uses AA batteries as standard – come on Microsoft this just feels archaic at this point. Overall its a solid refinement but in comparison to the DualSense it doesn’t push boundaries with a speaker, touchpad or integrated microphone but maybe its a case of keeping it simple and practical as the downfall of the DualSense is it’s pitiful battery life thanks to all of those extra gadgets; something the Series X controller should dodge this problem.
Now here’s where we hit the first major, objective issue. Design and controller preferences are down to the individual but game availability affects all gamers; and there aren’t really any new games to speak of. Gears 5 and Forza Horizon 4 are updated to run super smooth and high resolution and the upgrade is very welcome; however Gears 5 is a 2019 game and Forza Horizon 4 released in 2018 so Xbox players have most likely already poured hours into these games therefore trivialising if spending out for a Series X quite yet is even worth it. Backwards compatibility is the Series X’s strongest suit but it shouldn’t be the only option for games right now. The likes of Watch Dogs Legion, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Destiny 2 and Doom Eternal run great and really push the limits of back-compat upgrades with ray-tracing and blisteringly fast load times: Destiny 2 gets a major shoutout for its stunning graphics and audio design which seems perfectly suited to the features of the Series X. But none of these are exclusives; and that’s the issue, the big exclusive launch title Halo Infinite is officially missing in action, being pushed back to Autumn 2021. Forza, Fable and Avowed are on the way with some vague launch windows but as of now there’s nothing exclusive to the Series X. It runs Cyberpunk 2077 well if you haven’t refunded it already and in general all of these great games play at their best on the Series X – but what’s the point of having “the most powerful console” if there’s no new games catered for it. Sony have once again got the 1-up in the exclusives battle with their untouchable barrage of first party bangers, leaving Xbox to limp behind. However, if you’re feeling a run through of the whole Halo series with The Master Chief Collection or taking a trip down memory lane with its swarm of OG and 360 games then this console does back-compat better than any before. And a quick shoutout to Quick Resume which makes swapping between games on the fly absolutely seamless, it’s one of my favourite next-gen features.
So Should You Get One?
Yes? No? Maybe? It’s a tricky one, it’s a super powerful gaming beast and in a vacuum it is the best console to get right now in terms of pure power and features. But it just lacks where it counts – the games. It has a promising set of upcoming games with vague release dates so as of right now if you want to get one, expect to play the games that you’re playing right now just running a lot better. So if that interests you and you can get one in the very scarce stock refreshes then sure, but if you want to play new games that push the boundaries and capabilities of the console then maybe wait until the games (and price) drop. I can see this being a great console over the next year but I’m not sure if it should be an instant cop on launch.