Xbox One X Review: In the moment

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Scorpio stings.

The Xbox One X has made me realise I’m ill-equipped to detail just how good games look on the world’s most powerful console.

No, really. Every single plan I had to show comparisons of how games look and play between the X, S and the ol’ VCR-like original have fallen through. Genius attempts to show off HDR via screenshots posted to Xbox Live look like this:

That’s the HDR-enabled view on the left up there. I think.

Moving right along, here’s my amazing look at Gears of War 4‘s 4K textures:

Okay, not at all — partially because I’m not about to upload a 4K screenshot on a website that’ll display it around 800 pixels wide… and again, because of that aforementioned HDR thing.

I even tried to take screencaps using my Elgato Game Capture before I realised my Xbox One X looked down upon it like the citizens of Montreal did to me when I tried speaking to them in French. The X opted to output in 1080p, much like the cafe owners decided to reply to my mangled questions using English. At least I could keep up in both examples.

What I can say — and decidedly so — is that the Xbox One X is truly for the player in the moment. While 4K streaming via Netflix or even attempting to upload a native 4K video via GameDVR will be a struggle for most of Aussies, simply sitting down and enjoying a native 4K game on a decent UHD TV is where it’s at.

I splurged (alright, scoured OzBargain for months and found a deal) and bought an LG C7, widely regarded as the best UHD gaming television — Microsoft’s Shannon Loftis told me she bought the very same TV. Upon it, games like Gears 4 and Titanfall 2 have never looked better on console; take my word for it over a greyscale-like screenshot.

I list those two games above specifically because they were the ones that truly showed off the native 4K, HDR-enabled power of the X; at the time of writing, admittedly hours before embargo time, highlighted titles like Forza 7 didn’t have their X Enhanced assets available for trial. That said, when playing non-enhanced games like ForzaDestiny 2, Wolfenstein II and Assassin’s Creed: Origins, things just seem to look… better. Vibrant and detailed as all hell.

But herein lies the problem. While titles like Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Forza 7 should have their enhancements available for launch, almost every other amazing-looking game I’ve played this week on X would look just as good on my powerhouse 4K TV and trusty Xbox One S. The colours that are popping? Well, that’s either HDR or just the richness of my TV’s OLED screen. Actually, it’s probably both. The resolution? Plain ol’ 1080p, upscaled to 4K. Thinking along those lines, there’s no immediate advantage with an X.

Well, not until you get geeky with numbers. As I have an Xbox One of each flavour at home, I timed how long it took for games to launch on each (using their original internal hard drives, of course). The timings below, in seconds, detail how long it took the Xbox to launch a game from a non-suspended state and show its first on-screen prompt, be it an epilepsy warning, studio logo or otherwise. To be ‘scientific’, the results below are an average of three attempts per each platform (though they were pretty damn consistent all the while).

Game launch timings (in seconds)

Xbox OneXbox One SXbox One X
Assassin’s Creed: Origins9.276.965.50
Gears of War 426.4325.9819.74
Super Lucky’s Tale28.3724.6518.76
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus15.4011.7210.02

 

If you needed one, here’s your first global, measured improvement. That internal hard drive, while not an SSD, manages to boost performance and provide that extra oomph that you expect with the X. It’s the oomph that’s promised when you turn on the X from an energy-saving state and are treated to a hype-filled Project Scorpio chipset startup sequence before the Xbox One logo itself. By the way, that sequence is almost good enough to make you put the Xbox One X into energy-saving mode all the time… before you realise that’ll limit your ability to download X Enhancements overnight.

If you’re looking for instant 4K gratification, you can also look beyond games. Already tired and haggard after a long day at PAX AUS, a handful of Stevivor crew stayed up until 3.00am watching episode after episode of Planet Earth II, crazily lifelike in native 4K. From lush rainforests to the incredibly detailed fur or feather of all sorts of animals, our trio couldn’t help but audibly exclaim when something spectacular flashed across the screen. It made me long for a proper NBN connection for 4K streaming, or at least a trip to JB Hi-FI to grab more UHD Blu-rays.

But back to games. If nothing else, the Xbox One X is future-proofing for us console faithful. Unlike the PS4 Pro or the Xbox One S, we’re talking native 4K and HDR. Already, games like Gears 4 have taken advantage of the hardware and given the player a choice of how we want to use its power: 4K assets and 30FPS, or 60FPS and 1080p. The choice rests with you — detail or buttery smoothness.

Nevertheless, these neat additions to Gears are simply that — additions. I’m not that keen on replaying games just because they look a bit better; like Chris Charla, I’m focused on the future and not looking backward. Focusing on new content, Super Lucky’s Tale is a weird highlight title — its cutesy, Nintendo-like visuals don’t take advantage of the X at all. It’s a bit fitting; like every other normal hardware launch, the stuff available immediately is merely a shadow of what the console will be capable of in the future.

And that’s that. If you were looking for something like an evaluation with the skill and precision of Digital Foundry, I’m extremely surprised. Seriously. What ever gave you the impression we at Stevivor were ever that technical? If you wanted a review of the Xbox One X UI, its controller or breadth of games, we’ve already done that (with the exception of its ever-changing UI; don’t get attached, boys and girls). It’s that core experience on steroids.

While the X offers 1080p supersampling and all that jazz, my advice to consumers is this: buy a 4K TV first (and don’t skimp) and an Xbox One X later. But get both, obviously.

The Xbox One X was reviewed using a promotional console sent by the manufacturer. A number of games were also included (though we already owned most of ’em).