Nov 11 2020
X-Box Series X Review

Yesterday Microsoft began it's fourth console generation with the release of the Series X and S, superseding the X-Box One lineup. I love my retro games, but I have also been an X-Box gamer since the first generation, and spoiled myself by making the Series X the first day one console I have ever purchased. With some work and some luck, I was able to procure one (work being refreshing the Amazon page continually for an hour on pre-release order day, and luck from Amazon delaying some of the pre-orders until December 31st.) I've spent the past day playing the system, and here are my thoughts along with a Day 1 video that shows some unboxing and console prep.

Upon receiving the package in the mail, my first thought was this is one of the largest boxes for a console I have seen. This is due to the unique design of the console which resembles a small PC tower. The system is roughly the same dimensions of two Gamecubes stacked together. It was well protected in the packaging, being surrounded by foam, and there is a separate box inside that contains the controller, power cable and HDMI cable. Gone are the days of manuals coming with a console; a quick start paper and a small product information pamphlet in multiple languages are all the documentation the system comes with.

The controller is a small upgrade. The D pad is now built so your thumb sinks into it somewhat, and I like the feel of it over the One controller. There's also a tiny bumped texture that helps with grip. If you get a play and charge kit, the cable is USB C instead of Micro B. There's a new Share button in between the menu and view buttons (although I still call them start and select). Other than those changes, it's more or less the same controller you have with the X-Box One.

Series X has a unique setup once you hook it up. I miss the era of simply hooking up a console, inserting a game, and playing, but in this modern era there is more to do before you load your first game. The system can use a phone app to have you answer some setup questions as it downloads an 800 megabyte day 1 update, mostly pertaining to online setup and account information, along with a few television and audio settings. The phone app can use a QR code or a ten digit code to connect; I actually had the system ask for both during setup.

After the day one update, you are met with another update, this time for controller firmware. I'm not sure how often a controller will require a firmware update, but there is at least one you will have to do upon setting your console up.

Finally, the system setup will be complete and you will find yourself in the system User Interface. The interface is almost identical to the X-Box One interface, outside of a few new options for the console. However, the UI is a lot faster that it is on the One, menus move more smoothly and there is little to no lag between browsing. This speedup continues to your game library. The system is backwards compatible with all X-Box One games and any 360 or original XBox game that could run on the One will also run on Series level systems. Games run smoother, and in higher resolution, than on the previous console. This was a large jump in particular for me because I went from the all digital One S model to the Series X, which means all my games upgraded to One X versions from the One S version I was used to, than got yet another upgrade from the upgrade in power the Series X offers.

I also tried a few Series X games. The selection is a little small for now, but will grow in time. Tetris Effect was a wild experience; imagine Tetris mixed with the environment of the old PSP launch game Lumines. The game almost puts you in a daze as you play due to the wild effects going on with the music that reacts to how you move tetrimos. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a One era game that got an X upgrade, and the difference is mostly in a higher resolution and silky smooth gameplay. It almost feels organic while playing. Finally, Gears of War 5 is another game that got an X upgrade, and shows off the new Ray Tracing feature. It looks quite nice, however it is more evolutionary than revolutionary as an upgrade.

And that, to me, describes this console. Going from the NES to the SNES or Genesis felt revolutionary, like it was a whole new era. Same situation going from the SNES or Genesis to the PS1 or N64. And than again to the PS2, GameCube, and Xbox Original. Since than though, it feels while speeds, fluidity, and fidelity increase with every generation, we haven't found a revolutionary change in a console generation that feels like it truly changes the game. Nintendo has obviously tried with the Wiis motion controls and tablet controllers and has perhaps come closest to making a revolutionary change again, but for the most part that old magic feeling of moving to a new generation has been replaced. Instead of a "Wow!" feeling, its a "Oh that's cool." feeling. I'd still recommend the console, but if you are struggling to find one, there's no need to go on a hunt for one. Wait til it shows up on store shelves.

You can watch my Day 1 video which has unboxing and setup here.

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