Xbox One X: The First Six Months

Back in November, I offered up my early impressions of the Xbox One X, soon after the console launched. The Xbox One X is a great piece of kit, with a lot of promise, but it is targeted towards a more niche audience of game players. I promised in that piece that I would follow up once I’d had more time with the console. Now that I’ve had nearly six months of play time, I feel ready to talk more about how the library of enhanced games has expanded, how the hardware has been holding up after almost daily usage and my hopes for the future of the console and Xbox as a whole.

The Hardware

After six months, the Xbox One X hardware is still holding up well. I’ve had absolutely no issues with the console itself and the fears about overheating that I’d mentioned in my early impressions haven’t amounted to anything (at least not yet anyway). The console is still whisper quiet when in use and there’s very little wear and tear to speak of that I can notice. The disc drive is still in good working order as well, though as of late, I’ve been shying away from physical copies of games in favour of digital downloads as I’ve been burned by too many disc drive failures in the past at this point.

The one thing that I’m slightly disappointed with (and this is technically more of a firmware problem) is that the Xbox One dashboard UI has gone back to its sluggish ways similar to what I experienced on my old launch day Xbox One. I’m not the most technically informed, but part of me is convinced that it might be due to the massive amount of games I’ve installed on the internal hard drive as well as the two external drives I’ve got hooked up. Regardless, at this point I’m convinced that Microsoft need to go in – yet again – and strip out everything in order to get it working smoothly and responsively. Their console UI is not user-friendly in the slightest and it seemingly becomes slower and slower as a console ages as well – something I’ve never experienced with my PlayStation 4 or any other console.

Overall though, I’m content that everything is holding up fine.

The Games

The Xbox One X enhanced library has been growing steadily on an almost weekly basis, with a lot more on the horizon. On launch day, I personally had 12 games that could take advantage of the console and that number has grown to nearly 50 titles in my library over the last few months. Some enhanced titles that were available at launch have also been updated a second time to optimise frame-rates and resolutions that were a bit shaky on release – Wolfenstein II being one of them. As the library has grown, I’ve also had adequate opportunity to replay old favourites in a new way and also play new releases that take advantage of the console hardware from day one. Here are a few of my updated highlights from the past few months.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was a game I was looking for an excuse to revisit in order to play the Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine expansions. It was on the official list of games being updated soon after launch and when I saw the expansions on sale for dirt cheap I pounced on them. The game got its enhancements in December 2017 and it ended up being the main game I played for nearly a month. Similarly to Gears of War 4, The Witcher 3 gives you two modes to play with where you can prioritise resolution (using a dynamic scaler that targets 4K) at 30FPS. Or you can prioritise frame-rate (that targets 60FPS) with a dynamic resolution that varies between 1080p and 1440p. Both of these modes also offer up improved textures over the base console version. For my revisit to the game this time around, I chose the improved frame-rate option for a smoother overall experience.

The reasoning behind this was that on base hardware The Witcher 3 struggled in certain areas with framerate hitches which could become increasingly frustrating and boasted long loading times. The Xbox One X patch decreases the loading times to a degree regardless of what mode you’re playing on and irons out a lot of the more technically demanding areas such as the city of Novigrad to make the gameplay experience smoother than it’s ever been. The Witcher 3 was always an absolutely beautiful game to begin with but is made even more so when playing the enhanced version (especially when exploring colourful Toussaint, the area from the Blood and Wine expansion). With some of the best storytelling and gameplay I’ve ever experienced, if you own an Xbox One X you owe it to yourself to play The Witcher 3.

Hitman

Hitman is an enhanced game I initially overlooked at launch as I was yet to start it (despite owning it for months). Fast forward to earlier this year and I was kicking myself for not playing it sooner. Not only is it a hell of a lot of fun it’s also one of the more technically impressive enhanced games released so far. Again, it uses two modes that you can toggle – frame-rate and resolution. I’ve found Hitman is best played at a high resolution with a locked 30FPS. The game has some stunningly detailed texture work and seeing the levels such as Paris and Sapienza come to life at native 4K is a feast for the eyes.

The high framerate mode is no slouch if you’d prefer that however. The game manages to stick relatively close to 60FPS at all times though you’ll definitely notice it taking a hit in the demanding Marrakesh level, where there are hundreds of on screen NPC’s at once.

If you’re looking for an X enhanced game to show off on your 4K TV, look no further than Hitman.

Far Cry 5

Far Cry 5 is the most beautiful first person shooter I’ve ever played on a console, and I feel that is a potentially lofty statement to make. The game plays at native 4K at 30FPS with very little in the way of resolution or frame drops across the board. The texture work in Far Cry 5 is absolutely supreme as well, from the foliage on the trees to the water, grass, ground and rocks. Hope County, as a setting, is content to show itself off in all its majesty with its vibrant colour palette that pops out at you.

I would definitely have liked an option to prioritise frame-rate over resolution like many other games with enhancements have been offering, but Far Cry 5 is still an impressive addition to the Xbox One X enhanced library.

If you’re looking for a newer game to play on your new console, Far Cry 5 is almost certainly your best bet.

Red Dead Redemption

One of the most recent additions to the X enhanced lineup, Red Dead Redemption may be an oldie, but its still a goodie. It definitively proves that games don’t necessarily need remastered editions because we now live in an age where a title from 8 years ago can be updated to run at 4K resolutions on a console. Playing it in this updated form has given the game a fresh coat of paint and a new lease on life that most weren’t expecting. I was planning on playing through Red Dead again before the sequel later this year, but being able to play what is essentially a remastered version of the game that I didn’t even have to pay extra for (and I had no idea was coming) has solidified that decision. It excites me thinking about what other Xbox 360 games could possibly be getting the 4K treatment in the future.

The Future

The library of games that are Xbox One X enhanced has grown exponentially with other titles such as Overwatch, Sea of Thieves, Monster Hunter: World and more. However there are still a few notable omissions that I’d definitely like to see coming soon. One game in particular that I’d really like to see updated (and which has been confirmed is coming some time in the future) is Rainbow Six: Siege.

After a shaky launch in 2015, it came on leaps and bounds with constant updates, new operators, new maps and more. There are more daily players now than there were at launch. No other game in recent memory has turned itself around quite as much as Rainbow Six has. With a player base that is still highly active an Xbox One X update would certainly squash some of the resolution and texture woes the game still suffers from on console.

Whilst on the subject of first person shooters, an X enhanced patch for Battlefield 1 (and Battlefield 4 whilst we’re at it) wouldn’t go amiss either. Battlefield 1 is already a gorgeous looking game that already benefits from being played on an Xbox One X without a dedicated patch boasting marginally cleaner textures. Just imagine what a 4K patch could achieve.

Battlefield 4 on the other hand is a different beast entirely. There are still a fair few people playing it these days despite it being a launch title, but it certainly hasn’t aged very well on console. Running at a measly 720p, I’d love to see a patch to bump the resolution up substantially, clean up the visuals and give me an excuse to play more regularly than I do.

Looking at Xbox 360 titles however, there’s one big trilogy I’d love to see get the 4K treatment. Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 are games that everyone wanted a remaster of, but sadly, that dream never came to fruition. After seeing the new lease of life an enhanced patch gave to Red Dead Redemption I’m all about having the Mass Effect trilogy get the same.

Speaking of remasters Dark Souls Remastered is coming out next month with enhancements as well which is great, but whilst we’re at it can we also get X enhanced updates to Dark Souls II and Dark Souls III as well, From Software?

The Verdict

Honestly, my verdict hasn’t really changed much from my initial impressions. One thing you’ll notice from most of the games I’ve mentioned is that they’re multi-platform. After the lackluster reception to Xbox exclusives like Sea of Thieves and the critical acclaim that PlayStation exclusives such as God of War continue to receive, Microsoft really need to reevaluate their position when it comes to exclusive games.

Having the most powerful console platform on the market is an ace in the hole for them. But they need the games to back it up, now more than ever. For now, the Xbox One X is an enthusiast’s console but I still don’t regret buying one. I needed an upgrade to my old Xbox One and it’s given a new lease of life to many of the games in my current library and will continue to do so into the future and I’m content with that.

Microsoft need to come out swinging at E3 2018, announcing exclusive new IP for the Xbox platform that will get people excited and keep people interested in the long term. We need more things like Cuphead and less things like Super Lucky’s Tale and Phantom Dust. The next inevitable Halo, Gears of War and Forza will come – that much is a given as they have dedicated player bases – but Microsoft can’t keep falling back on these same crutches if they want to capitalise on the Xbox One X.

If you’re already an avid Xbox player and are looking for an upgrade, I can’t recommend Xbox One X enough. If you’re a PC/PlayStation player wondering whether it’s worth your time and money, I’d honestly have to tell you to wait. Sit tight and wait for any big announcements at E3 that might change your mind.

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