Wed, 25 November 2020
Hello! No SSG again this week but there's news, letters, reviews and general video game related banter galore! Meanwhile, Ste offers to Save Your Soul by offering to hear your confessions! Links for more info are below... Plus, as mentioned in the show, here's Phil the (Under)Caretaker's full review of the Xbox Series X:
Here's my cutting edge review of the Xbox Series X, offering in depth and personal analysis that would make Digital Foundry mad with jealousy!
I'm sure I'm the ideal target demographic for next gen in that I don't have a 4K TV, nor had any previous interest in getting one. I initially only made moves to get the Series X because my original Xbox One was on its last legs with days firmly numbered. I became more determined to bag a pre-order when one of my older brothers passed away in August – this coming just 4 months after we lost our Mum to Covid-19 in May. I had three older brothers but this one in particular introduced me to gaming, amongst many other things (like Star Wars, D&D, Ghostbusters and swearing). We already had a black and white, multi-game, Pong clone in the house but I can still remember the day I went home from primary school to find he’d bought an Atari 2600 that blew us all away – this would’ve been around 1983/84 so I’m pretty sure he got it cheap, post-‘crash’. Playing on this glorious technicolour, albeit blocky, graphical experience quickly became a family spectator event, similar to whenever we rented a video from the shop down the road. He later picked up a Commodore Vic-20, then a C64 and later an Atari ST (my best mate at the time had one and that swayed our loyalty for the Atari/Amiga wars to come). So, basically, video games and my brother went hand in hand. They were one of our things and, despite him not being an active player for the past few years due to ill health, he was very much an active spectator and you could tell he was still awed by even the slightest advancement in the technology, still clearly remembering how far we’d come from the tech we had in the early 80s. So, no, I certainly didn’t need to go next gen just yet but considering the year we've had I felt allowed to treat myself, not that I’m trying to justify the spend! And my brother would’ve approved, I’m fairly certain. It’s gaming as a deeply personal, connecting, activity.
Anyway, after a week and a half with it, I've found the Series X to be an impressive piece of kit. It’s a leap similar to (but bigger/more than) when I went from my original PS4 to the PS4 Pro. Everything that should be enhanced for the Xbox One X and XSX just 'is' (apparently as long as the Devs/publishers have approved it…) with differences being noticeable despite my lack of 4K telly – improved textures, frame and draw rates being the noticeable differences along with load times. It's bloomin' fast, which you'd expect from hardware like this! Resource hungry games like Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, Valhalla, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Elite: Dangerous load up from a standing start much quicker than on the old Xbox One - we're talking seconds rather than minutes - plus "Quick Resume" is very good indeed and makes "getting a quick game in" much less hassle. Yes, I know we've had it on phones, tablets, PCs and, in a way, the Switch for years but, you know, better late than never. There are still bugs in the system though – I’ve noticed that AC: Valhalla certainly used Quick Resume for the first week or so but doesn’t anymore. Microsoft have said some games have had it disabled while they fix things so I assume that’s what has happened here. Luckily I’ve not had any of the other reported issues with my day one tech – hopefully writing this doesn’t jinx that! I’ve not suffered any random shut downs or disc drive failures, or noisiness. In fact, the system is very quiet indeed but, yes, it runs hot. As a PC gamer as well, I’m used to that, though. Nature of the beast. It’s certainly not ‘burning’ hot, though, and has never had smoke billowing out of it like a chimney... Size wise, it’s not a huge distraction sitting on my TV unit – It sits next to my telly like one of the monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey only much less imposing. It’s about as tall as the PS4 Pro when stood on end and just happens to be a bit wider.
The controller is... an Xbox controller. It feels both very familiar and also a little bit different, like someone has been moving the furniture around while I've been out of the house... It feels a tad smaller than the Xbox One controller and the sides seem to be angled inwards a little more (or it feels like they are!) The 'grips' are hard plastic so I'm not sure how effective they'll be in the long run and the D-Pad is the “satellite dish” variant from their Elite controllers which I always avoided but, OK, it's not too bad in practice!
It’s been widely reported and moaned about on social media that, yes, there is a distinct lack of unique launch titles and, sure, that is the case but I went in eyes wide open knowing this. I picked up Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla which I could only imagine takes about an hour to load on a last gen machine and probably runs like a 3-legged donkey. In black and white. Allegedly. On the Series X it loads in no time, runs smoothly and looks lovely (you could view it as Assassin’s Creed does Witcher 3 with Vikings. Vikings!!! 7/10). It shows promise and potential for what is to come and as likely as night follows day follows night we all know it won’t be long before some amazing games come along that will take full advantage of the tech.
With the Series X, it's definitely evolution rather than revolution. A kind of "PC Gaming Lite" and I’m completely fine with that. With not having to work out a whole new system whilst at the same time having something set up to handle the next 7+ years of new gaming, as well as a catalogue of games stretching back to 2001? I'm very happy with that. It also doubles up as an innovative fan heater which could be a welcome boon to some as we enter the cold winter months! 7/10
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