Xbox Series X

So it’s been a little over three weeks since the Xbox Series X/S launched. If you were one of the lucky ones to brave the horrible pre-order process, then you’ve got one of the most powerful consoles in existence. But is it completely worth it for those early adopters? With the big launch game in Halo: Infinite delayed until 2021 at some point, we’re left with some last gen games with upgrades. Now that doesn’t mean that the console is dead in the water. Especially when you compare it to the PlayStation 5. That console has similar issues in regards to games and availability. For the sake of this article, I’m not going to take availability issues into account. That’s outside of the consumer’s control here.

I got the Series X a bit late, and by late, I mean two days after the launch. The magic and wonder of shipping something across the country in a pandemic, yadda yadda. I was pretty impressed by the overall packaging of the system, but packaging doesn’t make a system great. At the end of the day, it’s about the games. At the current moment, that’s a no-go zone.

There are no games. I understand that “exclusives” for Xbox mean that it goes to both PC and the console now, but that area is lacking for the Series X. You’re starting to see developers roll out the next-gen upgrades for games like Madden 21 and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Coincidentally, those are the two games I’ve played the most on the new system. Let’s dive into how the Series X is ahead of the competition.

Graphics And Gameplay Are Still Smooth

I ran a test to see how the Series X stacks up against the Xbox One X. Both systems pack a bunch of power into a console sized package. In this test, you can see why an upgrade to the Series X is so important. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War was the first in the series to add Field-of-View. This is a feature that allows you to expand the lines of sight for your character on the peripherals. It’s an invaluable tool in the game, so now you can see more of the battlefield around you. That tool comes at the expense of framerate and performance though. On the Xbox One X, the game stuttered with a higher FOV. The Series X performed admirably with the highest FOV setting on.

Besides Black Ops Cold War giving Series X players that advantage, there are noticeable quality of life and speed changes on the new console. The load times on the Series X are nonexistent. The Xbox One X is famous for being glacially slow to turn on and fire up. With the Series X, you hit the power button and are in a game in less than 10 seconds. Madden 21 is also on the slower side to load up the game and actually get into gameplay on the One X. Like before, the SSD of the Series X is what puts it over the top right now.

The SSD (Solid-State Drive) On The Series X Is Worth The Price Of Admission Alone

Everything loads up faster and better on the Series X. It’s just an undisputed fact at this point. There are plenty of videos out there comparing the load times on multiple consoles and the Series X blows them all out of the water. This would be the perfect console launch if they actually had some games that were exclusive to next-gen to show off just what the console could do, but for now, we’re in the situation we’re in.

Cyberpunk 2077 might be the ultimate benchmark test for the console early in it’s life. That game is absolutely massive. It comes on two discs and it’s definitely going to push the current gen systems to their max. How the PS5 and Series X handle that game is going to be the real sight to see. The “next-gen” version of that game doesn’t release until next year, but the upgraded version on next-gen should be the first true test of the hardware.

For the time being, the games just aren’t there, but that doesn’t mean the consoles are worthless. If you’re looking to upgrade and have the means to do so, do it. But don’t just walk into the next-generation of consoles unless you’re ready.

Make Sure You Have The Right Display For Next-Gen

This is the real barrier to entry. The price of these consoles is relatively high (unless you’re comparing it to mid-90’s consoles that were $800+). But where the cost really comes is getting a display that properly gives the consoles their due. That 1080P TV you’ve had forever won’t give you the best quality anymore. While 8K is possible on the new consoles, those displays are outrageously expensive still. The sweet spot is an OLED 4K HDR display with HDMI 2.1. That’s what you’re looking for to get the maximum out of the console right now.

Too bad not many television brands have HDMI 2.1 as standard right now.

If you have a 4K television that you used with your PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, then you should still be fine, but you’re not getting the most out of the new console. So take that into account when you’re getting a new console.

The New Controller Builds On The Perfection Of The Xbox One

Xbox controller

I firmly believe that the Xbox One controller is the best controller ever made. Unless you’re playing retro games, then the Japanese Sega Saturn pad is the best one. Sorry PS users, but that stick placement on their controllers is worse than the staggered placement on Xbox consoles. It’s hard to add to perfection, but somehow Microsoft did it here. The triggers and bumpers have a little bit of grip to them.

It’s ever-so-slightly smaller than the Xbox One controller and the overall grip of the controller feels more snug. Finally, the D-Pad is just the best that Xbox has ever had. We had major issues with the first run of Xbox 360 controllers with D-Pads, then the Xbox One fixed that issue, but had issues of it’s own. Now I feel like we’re at a perfect place with Xbox Controllers. Whether that’s the new Series X controller or the Xbox Elite Version 1/2.

The Dashboard Feels Similar But Is Just Different Enough

Finally, we’ll talk about the overall feel and look of the menus on the console. They look pretty similar to the last generation. But that’s on purpose from Microsoft. They wanted it to feel similar, like upgrading your graphics card on your computer. It’s the same feel, but more power under the hood. So it’s not completely jarring like the transition from the OG Xbox dashboard to the blades of the Xbox 360 (bring these back as an option PLEASE Microsoft). This isn’t a super important distinction, it’s just worth knowing from a consumer standpoint.

You might be expecting a brand new user interface and be surprised when it’s pretty similar to the last one. If you think of the Xbox Series X as an update to the current gen, that might be disappointing, but that’s really what it is. Gaming has come so far, but the power of the One X and PS4 Pro really bridged the gap between the two generations. Right now, the next-gen machines are glorified expansion packs, because developers haven’t gotten the full power out of the consoles.

It really makes me feel like these consoles were not supposed to come out in 2020. With only one truly exclusive game between the two of them (Demon’s Souls remake on PS5), why did they launch this year? If the two manufacturers waited until next year, we might not have the supply issues that we have right now. Developers could have more time with these games to make them truly next-gen. But they released this year, and that’s what we’re stuck with.

If You Want To Upgrade, Do It

My final point is that if you really want a next-gen console, get one. Don’t go paying over the sticker price to get one, because say it with me, F-U-C-K Scalpers. But if you want to get one for Christmas or to play while quarantining, it’s well worth your investment. Think of it as a future investment into your gaming experience. Grab the console now, and get the TV later when OLED 4K HDR tech with HDMI 2.1 is more standard.

People act like the sky is falling because the consoles didn’t release with games, but the games are coming. I’m sure that development teams had grandiose plans for release earlier in the year, but then the pandemic bitch slapped the world around. So, be patient, and enjoy the current gen for a little bit longer. Just with faster loading times, better performance, and if you’re a Call of Duty fan, with Field of View turned up.

The Xbox Series X is definitely not a disappointment by any means, it’ll likely be an all-star of a console when we have more games to play on it. For now, it gets an incomplete grade, but a likely A for the additions it’s making to gaming.

For more on gaming, Xbox, PlayStation, or any other general pop culture, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.