How much power can you handle?
It has been a wild and entertaining generation of consoles. New ideas, both good and bad have manifested from the ashes. Probably the most polarizing though is the idea of mid-cycle console upgrades. When Xbox One and PS4 launched back in 2013 it was apparent that while powerful, they weren’t perhaps as powerful as they should have been. So Sony and Microsoft released more powerful machines, something that has never been done before.
Today I am taking a look at the Xbox One X. Heralded as the “Most Powerful Console” ever created. I have spent over 50 hours putting it through the ringer, playing enhanced games, non-enhanced games, 360 titles and even original Xbox favorites. Watched plenty of UHD movies and experienced enough 4K to make my eyes bleed. So the question on everyone’s mind is, is this thing worth the $500 price tag.
It cannot be understated that the Xbox One X is dense. Right out of the box this machine is heavy. There are a lot of components packed into this thing. What is equally impressive is just how small the box actually is. The design itself is fantastic and looks amazing in my entertainment center. If I had one complaint it is the disc drive, which has a weird lip over it, making it more troublesome to put one of those pesky discs into the machine than it should be.
Like everything else with this console the X is designed for upgrade. My original power cable worked so I didn’t have to climb behind the TV to hook up new cables. I also tested the backup features by loading my profile and all of my games onto an external hard drive, so it was literally plug and play, especially since I was able to download all the 4K enhancements beforehand. Microsoft has really made upgrading as user friendly as possible.
One of the biggest features of the Xbox One S was its inclusion of a UHD Blu-Ray player. I have a nice collection of 4K discs now that really shine in the new format. I tested the X with titles such as John Wick, Ghost in the Shell, and more recently the new Baywatch movie. When the transfer is proper, these movies feel new and fresh again. I also tested all the streaming services via the Xbox One X. Netflix’s use of HDR feels a bit hindered by dark contrast, but standard 4K content looks glorious.
I want to break this section down into a few categories. First let’s talk about games enhanced for the console. At launch there were plenty to check out. Assassin’s Creed Origins is simply stunning. One of the best looking games I have ever seen. I wish there was an option for 60fps, but it holds pretty steady at 30fps. Next up was Gears and Halo. The work the teams have done on these games is remarkable. Especially Gears of War, which now features both a performance and enhanced visuals mode. Playing Gears 4 at 60fps in campaign changes the game, as anyone who played on PC can attest to. Still in 4K mode the levels really shine with their remarkable detail.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is another showpiece. Offering up three options for players to choose from, I preferred the middle ground, which enhanced the visuals, but also topped out the frame rate. Quantum Break also benefits greatly from the X. On the original Xbox One this game suffered from being extremely washed out due to low resolution. On the X it is stunning and really showcases what the team at Remedy achieved with this title. Injustice 2 was already stunning, but seeing it running at true 4K simply blows my mind. Best looking fighting game ever created. There are plenty more to go through, but I want to now talk about games that are just benefitting from the new hardware.
This generation has created new technical standards such as variable frame rate and dynamic resolution. The original Xbox One used this a lot to keep the game running smoothly. A couple games that immediately stand out are Doom and Fallout 4. I tested both before they received X patches and the difference was incredible. Doom now stays locked at 1080p and retains the blistering 60fps, making it the definitive console version even before a patch. Fallout 4 is a similar case. The original game suffered from a washed out look due to low resolution. The image quality, even before the patch was extremely noticeable. The wasteland had never looked this good on console.
As with everything else on this console, Microsoft really put the time and effort in to enhance all of its library. This extended to Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. All of the recently released original Xbox titles are now running in native 4K. For games like Ninja Gaiden it is impressive to see a game this old looking this good. Knights of the Old Republic now mirrors its PC counterpart. It is great to see this support for classic games.
Xbox 360 also benefits from the improved aliasing for all titles. However, not content with just those upgrades, Microsoft also did the work to enhance specific titles for the console. I checked out Assassin’s Creed, Halo 3, and Fallout 3, all of which now support X enhancements. These games now feel like HD remasters of their predecessors. The difference is simply awe inspiring. This console feels worth every penny of its $500 price tag for console enthusiasts like me.
So the questions I posed at the beginning of this review was simple: is this console worth the $500 price tag? The simple answer is yes. It packs the most impressive hardware currently available in a home console. The designers have also made sure it takes full advantage of the software library, even without patches for existing games. For gamers with a 4K setup and the money to invest, that price tag is actually a steal when looking at the hardware inside. The Xbox One X is the most impressive box from Microsoft in a while, and I cannot wait for more games to take advantage of its capabilities.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.