The Xbox Series X is an impressive console with power that is yet to be fully realised, and this is a fantastic start to it’s journey.
It’s an exciting time to be a gamer and for those of us fortunate enough, we’ve been busy playing the new Xbox Series X|S consoles in anticipation of worldwide release on November 10, 2020. We were able to unbox the Xbox Series X earlier this week with a comprehensive breakdown of the hardware. For those interested in looking under the hood, the technical specifications have been advertised previously. You’ve been waiting patiently, and we’ve been eager to talk about it, so let’s drive straight into the new Xbox Series X experience thanks to Xbox ANZ!
Setting up the Xbox Series X on my entertainment cabinet was one of the easiest pieces of equipment to get up and running. The main reason for this is the console is sitting on top of the cabinet so I didn’t have to worry about trying to poke cables through the small cable runs at the back. Also, without having a power brick to place somewhere out of sight, the power cable was just a simple plug in and it was all set up and positioned in minutes.
Pressing the Xbox power button produced a slightly modified power-on chime with a higher pitch. Within seconds, the flashy and darker new Xbox splash screen displayed, and then you are prompted to set up the console with the Xbox mobile app. I already had the app on my phone so I simply clicked on “Set up a console”, entered the code that was displayed on the screen and then followed the steps to complete set up. The console itself was running very quiet and I only heard sound if I put my ear right up close to it. I couldn’t hear it at all when sitting back on the couch, even after hours of playing games swapping between the bigger titles available.
After a small system update of about ~800mb, it prompted me to turn on the controller. The controller had already been paired to the console and worked straight away with no fuss. There is a pair button on the front of the console if the controller doesn’t immediately pair. I love the fact that we can use Xbox One controllers too, and most other Xbox One peripherals are backwards compatible too. You are asked if you want to “copy your settings” from a previous Xbox console, but I chose to set this up as a new console for a completely fresh experience. You then have a choice of power mode you’d like – instant-on or energy-saving. Instant-on gives you faster console start-up and gives you the ability to turn on and control the console remotely with your mobile and install and manage games from your mobile. Energy-saving mode uses lower power consumption and is environmentally friendlier, though I chose instant-on with remote features enabled.
The TV and audio settings auto calibrated to my home theatre set up and then the familiar Xbox dashboard was in front of me. Naturally the first thing I did was go straight to ‘Games and Apps’ and navigated to my full game library. With the advertised 1TB of space, I was keen to get downloading and fill this beast up. However when I looked at the drive space available, there was actually only 802GB available to use which means the system files and processes likely associated with quick resume take up 198GB of the 1TB drive.
We had been provided review codes for launch titles such as Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Destiny 2: Beyond Light, Dirt 5, Marvel’s Avengers, Watch Dogs: Legion and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, so they were queued for download amongst others. I do like the ability to sort your games list into console generations, with the optimised for Xbox Series X|S games at the top, followed by Xbox One games and then Xbox/Xbox 360 titles. Here’s a sample of the download sizes for some of the games (as at November 5, 2020):
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla Ultimate – 72.5GB
Yakuza: Like a Dragon – 37.2GB
Watch Dogs: Legion – 35.7GB
Forza Horizon 4 Ultimate – 96GB
Gears 5 – 71.9GB
Marvel’s Avengers – 60.7GB
Doom Eternal – 54.5GB
Forza Horizon 4 and Gears 5 had been optimised for Xbox Series X|S, so I queued those up as well as some Xbox 360 backwards compatible games such as Army of Two (2008) and Mass Effect 3 (2012), to see how auto HDR works. So far it worked out to be about 700GB of games queued up to download and some of the games had DLC so all up there were 54 items in the download queue. I’m already considering purchasing the Seagate expansion drive for an additional 1TB, especially as games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War are said to use around 136GB.
Out of the anticipated new releases however, only Dirt 5, Marvel’s Avengers and Yakuza: Like a Dragon could be played. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and Destiny 2: Beyond Light don’t release until November 10 with Beyond Light being the Xbox One backwards compatible version (it’s strange that Xbox One is now considered backwards compatible). In addition, Beyond Light won’t be available as optimised for Xbox Series X|S until December 8. Also, while reviewers were initially able to play Watch Dogs: Legion on Series X|S in backwards compatibility mode last week, access was removed so more time could be spent to further optimise the game by November 10.
In my now old Xbox One settings, there’s a power option to keep downloading when the console is turned off. I looked in the Xbox Series X settings and couldn’t see any similar options other than ‘keep my console updated’ and ‘keep my games updated’. I shut down the console and waited a few minutes, then powered it on again to test if it was still downloading. To my surprise, the console booted straight back into the dashboard within seconds, almost as if I had turned the tv off and on again. It actually boots up faster than the time it takes for my projector to light up the screen – incredible! I left it downloading overnight and then next day while I was at work.
Given my connection is only 70MB/s, some games were still downloading 24 hours later. I did have a good play of Dirt 5, Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, Marvel’s Avengers and Yakuza: Like a Dragon. I will provide reviews and gameplay experiences of these games in future articles to come over the next week as we head towards launch on November 10. However I will say that games loaded up incredibly fast and quick resume is evident when you’re switching between the games in the dashboard. There is a quick resume icon next to eligible games when you press the Xbox guide button, and it also states “Quick resume” in the top right corner as those games load/resume right where you left off, even mid-battle or mid-race, so be ready to jump back in!
The graphics of the now backwards compatible Gears 5 and Forza Horizon 4 are amazing on my 1080p projector with greater character detail, awesome foliage effects and the waterfall in that opening sequence looks even more breathtaking. I imagine these games would look stunning on a 4K TV which I’m yet to test. The gameplay of Gears 5 and FH4 were so smooth in 1080p; so much so that it took me a while to re-adjust my driving in FH4 because I was used to compensating for the occasional lag jolt on my original Xbox One. Also there are very little loading times between missions in Gears 5 and switching races in Forza. It was also very cool to see Dave Batista as Marcus Fenix when I started new game+ mode, but I’ll go into much more detail about enhancements to each game in future review articles over the next week.
In loading up 2008’s Army of Two from Xbox 360, I haven’t played this game in many years so I couldn’t picture what the graphics quality was like back then. I remember it being good at the time but not as great as other games. Playing it again now on the Xbox Series X, it does look dated but by no means does it look too old that I wouldn’t stand playing it for more than 5 minutes. I played through the tutorial and sure, the cutscenes are still looking old but otherwise gameplay was fine and ran really well. I always love seeing the old Xbox 360 logo flash up with those old games – a good nod to nostalgia.
I did have two crashes in my time playing games on the Xbox Series X so far. The first was when I was playing Marvel’s Avengers as The Hulk. I did his signature Hulk Smash move into a crowd of enemies on the bridge in the tutorial sequence. As he landed and things exploded around him, the game locked up and crashed back to the dashboard. The second crash I experienced was in Yakuza: Like a Dragon. I had just finished fighting four gang members and held down the share button to record a clip of the fight. I held down the Xbox guide button to view the clip and it started playing, however it began stuttering and then locked up causing the whole console to shut down. The controller light was still on but the console was completely powered off. I couldn’t turn on the console with the controller, so I had to manually press the power button to boot it up again.
In terms of entertainment apps on the Xbox Series X, I use these consoles as media players for my wife and two daughters. I downloaded Netflix, Stan, Disney+ and the Twitch streaming app and all of them load up very fast and streamed episodes just fine, except for Stan. I loaded up an episode of 2003’s Battlestar Galactica while I waited for other games to finish downloading. After about 30 seconds into the episode, the sound continued but the video went all matrix garbled for about 10 seconds. It returned to normal for 30 seconds or so and kept repeating. All other streaming services that I tested ran fine. It may just be an isolated incident and will likely be improved at launch. A recent update from Xbox Wire said many other streaming apps will be available on November 10 including Apple TV, ABC iView, Amazon Prime Video and more.
The Windows 10 Xbox App doesn’t yet support connecting to the Xbox Series X for network streaming but the iPhone Xbox app connectivity is great. The phone remote ability is useful for moments when you’re watching a streaming service with the controller off want to switch tv shows or switch the app. Instead of using controller battery power, you can just use the remote control option in the Xbox app to control the dashboard. It’s a small feature but good to have the option. The ability to queue up some games to download while you’re at work or out shopping, so that they’re ready to play once you get home will always be a great feature for me.
One thing in the back of my mind whilst I’ve been playing and reviewing these games and the performance of the Xbox Series X is, this is just the start of the journey. Most games are being developed to support multiple, now ageing, game platforms. Look at Cyberpunk 2077’s repeated delays in trying to release a product that performs perfectly on eight different gaming systems. I don’t think we will see the true potential and power of the Xbox Series X|S for a year or two yet which is encouraging for the future. With EA Play being added to Xbox Game Pass on November 10, there’s a huge catalogue of games available to keep us entertained until we start seeing some bigger title announcements in the years to come.
Overall, the Xbox Series X is an impressive console with power that is yet to be fully realised, and this is a fantastic start to it’s journey. The quick resume and fast loading times of games is fantastic, and the general booting speed of the console itself is equally as impressive. I’m primarily a PC gamer and when SSD’s came along for PC’s all those years ago, we noticed a big difference in speeds booting into Windows. I see the similarities here with these technology updates within Xbox Series X. I’m looking forward to November 10 when many games both new and old will become available and optimised for Xbox Series X|S, and I can’t wait until gamers around the world can get to experience these next-gen consoles for themselves.
This review utilised a Xbox Series X console provided by Microsoft/Xbox ANZ for review purposes. The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles will launch globally on November 10, 2020.