Xbox Series X Review: Packed With Power and Possibility

Nick Pope
·5-min read
Photo credit: Esquire
Photo credit: Esquire

From Esquire

The console wars feel different this time around, don’t they? Microsoft and Sony’s long-awaited next-gen machines have a lot of pressure on their (admittedly bulky) shoulders; not only to prove that they’re worth investing in at launch, but also that their hardware can match the grand ambition of games developers in the future. After all, analysts predict that the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 could be the last physical consoles amidst an inevitable shift to cloud-based gaming. We’re not witnessing a huge leap in graphics like with generations past – at least not yet anyway. Instead, power and possibility are at the forefront of the conversation.

Safe to say, the Xbox Series X doesn’t disappoint in either department. You’d know that just by looking at it. We’ve been playing around with Microsoft’s new console – the larger and more formidable brother of the Xbox Series S – over the past few weeks, and we’re very, very impressed by what we’ve seen. Here’s why.

Xbox Series X Review: Design

The designs of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are starkly different, but they’ve both split opinion amongst gamers. (Those of us actually who care about what consoles look like, anyway). You probably have your own preference already – especially if you’re a big fan of The Jetsons’ home aesthetic – but for me, Microsoft’s machine is the clear, clean-lined winner. Smaller and lighter than it looks in marketing materials, the Series X slots seamlessly into any set-up thanks to its understated and minimalist design. What’s more, the matte black block is subtly livened up by a pop of accented green in the ventilation space (provided you stand it up vertically, which you should) and an illuminated ignition logo. On the front you’ve got a disc drive, a USB port, a controller sync button, and the aforementioned power button. The back is just as uncomplicated: two USB 3.1 ports, ethernet and HDMI ports, S/PDIF out and power sockets. Simple, as it should be.

Xbox Series X Review: Performance and Graphics

The component parts certainly sound impressive – an 8-core Custom Zen 2 CPU, 16GBs of GDDR6 RAM, 12 teraflops of power– but is that power currently noticeable in the gameplay?

The truth is, so far, it's mostly upscaled versions of Xbox One games on offer: Gears of War 5, Yakuza: Like a Dragon and DIRT 5, amongst a few others. They’ve all enjoyed an impressive 4K-ready sprucing up, and the games run seamlessly, but it’s hardly indicative of what the console will ultimately be capable of. That's the exciting part.

It pretty much shares a UI with the Xbox One, bar some ease-of-use additions. Loading screens are pretty much a thing of the past, often flying past in less than a second – making the last generation of consoles feel cumbersome by comparison. Ditto the useful new quick resume feature, that allows you to jump back and forth between games without having to lose any progress or go through any loading hoo-hah.

Oh, and it’s pretty much silent. The last generation of consoles have truly been pushed to their limits, and you can hear it in the slightly worrying whirring sound that games like the Last of Us 2 produce. The Xbox Series X doesn't break a sweat.

Photo credit: Ubisoft
Photo credit: Ubisoft

Xbox Series X Review: Enhanced Games and Launch Day Line-Up

As we said, the majority of the launch line-up have previously made an appearance on the Xbox One – but that isn’t necessarily a criticism. These are great games that have been given a nice graphical upgrade, and we don’t have too long to wait until the next-gen (and much-improved cross-gen) titles come rolling in.

The first, of course, is Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – and while it’s also making an appearance on the last generation of consoles, developer Ubisoft says it still takes full advantage of the Xbox Series X/S’s technical might. We’ve played around with it for a few days and the game is as gorgeous as you’d expect – the vistas of ninth-century Norway are epic and crystalline, though we’re expecting things to get slightly more dreary when our character lands on English soil. Cyberpunk 2077 will (hopefully) be with us in December, and the long-awaited, oft-delayed Halo Infinite will arrive in the new year

A big selling point, though, is the Xbox Game Pass. From just £7.99 a month, you’ll get access to hundreds of top-class games, from triple-A titles to indie classics. Gears 5, Doom Eternal, Halo 5 and Batman: Arkham Knight are particular highlights, and the whole library presents excellent value for money.

Xbox Series X: Entertainment

As you'd expect, really – for the time being, anyway. Straight off the bat you can download the standard array of streaming apps: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify etc. The device itself can play DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UHD discs too, making it a brilliant all-round media hub for the home, especially considering how fast start-up is.

Xbox Series X: Verdict

Judging a console on launch is always difficult, especially when it doesn't come with a big selection of next-gen titles to show off. But the Xbox Series X is a formidable piece of kit that will clearly serve you well for many years to come, and it boasts enough top-class games on it right now to be worthy of a purchase. If you've got a 4k TV, or plan on buying one, then look no further.

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