A reader explains why he he’s happy he bought an Xbox Series X over a PS5 and it doesn’t have anything to do with new games.
All this month we’ve been hearing non-stop stories about how Microsoft is adding more and more big name games to Xbox Game Pass. The value for money is now off the charts, which is technically good news for gamers, and yet I still feel a little uneasy at watching such a big company spend so much money so casually, to where you realise they could buy most of the games industry all in one and barely feel a hit to their wallet.
My sympathy for global corporations getting outspent by even bigger global corporations only goes so far though and so my choice for what next gen console to buy was made pretty easily, especially given the cost of PlayStation 5 games. Taking stock of whether I’m happy with my purchase has been very difficult though, because the Xbox Series X is very much a console of two halves.
Instead of an equivalent to Sony’s Unreal Engine 5 demo we got… Craig the Brute and the Halo Infinite reveal, which is so bad the game instantly got delayed a whole year. The lack of a tech demo is so glaringly obvious it must be on purpose for some reason, but I can’t begin to imagine what that reason is. Other than Microsoft are really bad at marketing which, unlikely as it may seem for such a big company, is beginning to seem increasingly true.
All this seems pretty damning and reason to regret not getting a PlayStation 5 instead but I have to admit I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy with a non-Nintendo console at launch as this. There are two reasons for this, the most obvious being Game Pass. Given it’s essentially free when you’re picking it up for just £1 value for money seems like a gross understatement. But while the quality of the games can be a bit overstated at times (most of the Microsoft stuff is pretty forgettable) the indie line-up is good and, as we’ve seen this week, it’s only getting better.
But Game Pass is not actually my favourite part of the Xbox Series X, even though it’ll clearly be unstoppable once it’s fully married to xCloud. Instead it’s the backwards compatibility, that near irrelevant option that nobody uses and which Microsoft only started making a fuss about during the Xbox One era because it didn’t have any new games to push. Well, that turned out to be the best thing they could’ve ever done because it’s now their most impressive feature.
The recent FPS Boost feature has been a revelation, turning games like Prey – which I found almost unplayable with its long load times and stodgy frame rate – into something that feels like it’s running on a high-end PC. Not all games get that level of improvement but the more Microsoft adds to it the more it feels like they’re brand new games, changing how they look and play and ironing out flaws to make games that are more improved than many remasters I’ve played.
Gaming has a real problem with keeping its history relevant and playable, with even classic games no longer playable on modern consoles and even if they are they quickly look so outdated compared to older titles that they become very undesirable – even though they might be great games underneath, with great ideas and stories.
Xbox Series X is changing that and as long as it maintains consistency, by trying to improve all games, no matter their age, to a certain standard then I think it’s going to deserve all the success it can get. Sure, it’d be better to have its own exclusives as well, but they should come in time.
At the moment though all you’re missing out on is what would be a couple of decent next gen games, versus multiple generations of massively enhanced classics. It doesn’t feel like retro gaming, it feels like a breath of fresh air and a democratisation of gaming history.
By reader Ratso
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