Every new generation of hardware makes the claim of being faster, more responsive, but the Xbox Series X actually lives up to it. It boots up faster, launches apps quicker, loads you back into a game immediately thanks to a new feature called Quick Resume, and the controller now wakes up right away so you can finally pause a movie in time to answer the phone or deal with a situation.
It’s a small, slim box, but like a piece of weightlifting equipment is far heavier than it looks. The buttons on the front are small, discreet, almost hidden, but easy to use without, thankfully, being easy to trigger by accident. It’s a modest, thoughtfully designed system.
Missing at launch is a must-have exclusive game, this generation’s Halo. It’s not just that the best new games for the system like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Destiny 2: Beyond Light, and Yakuza: Like A Dragon are available for competing systems, but also for the older Xbox One and that hardly makes them titles to show off the Xbox Series X’s capabilities. The game that can truly show off the system’s graphics isn’t here yet.
The titles Microsoft is promoting with the Xbox Series X, such as Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Gears 5, and Dirt 5 have noticeably smoother, more detailed graphics even at the large scale of an open world that extends for kilometres, but while this might benefit the 4K televisions few people own, what’s missing is any leap you can point to that results from the system’s 12 teraflops of power. That potential remains to be tapped.
In the meantime there’s impressive backwards compatibility support for Xbox One, Xbox 360, and even original Xbox games with many of them triggering an “optimization” update to refresh their look and performance. This is no joke. Even Red Dead Redemption, which isn’t listed as an “optimized” title, looks impressively smooth and detailed after the 7GB+ update.
The library of entertainment apps is robust and well-organized with Spotify, Apple TV, Disney+, and Amazon Prime among the choices on top of the system’s basic ability to play DVD and Blu-Ray discs.
Better than the previous Xbox generations, the Series X delivers on all of its promises save the most important one – must-have exclusives. They are coming, surely, but the wait means there’s no rush to get the Xbox Series X or S.