With yet another system set loose upon the gaming ecosystem in the form of the Xbox One X, the EGM crew decided to sit down and take an in-depth look to see if this newest hardware from Microsoft is worth your time and money. After taking turns in the EGM game room with our 4K TV, here are our thoughts and impressions not only on the hardware itself, but the games that supposedly support all the power that this little black box purportedly puts out.
|Developer: Microsoft||Xbox One X|
From a physical standpoint, the system is comparable in size to an Xbox One S, and also doesn’t need a power brick. It’s not much to look at, but the simplistic and straightforward design means it should be inoffensive in most people’s living rooms. From a technical standpoint, the fact the hard drive is only 1TB is dumbfounding considering most games with 4K upgrades are somewhere around 100GB now, so right there you’ll likely be looking at some sort of an extra cost for an external hard drive if you don’t plan on deleting any games.
The new UI is the same that has been set across all Xbox systems now, and although we find it somewhat unintuitive, it could just be that it will take some time to get used to, because we felt the same about the last UI update and ended up getting used to that. As for the visuals, it does what it set out to do on that front, and everything sure does look prettier at this point in time. If you don’t have a 4K TV to take advantage of it, though, it seems like a steep investment ($500) for some better graphical fidelity. If you’re like us and still have a perfectly working Day 1 Xbox One, or an Xbox One S and don’t plan on upgrading your TV anytime soon, you might just want to wait three more years for whatever the next hardware step might bring.
|Developer: The Coalition
|Gears of War 4|
Gears of War 4 is one of those older Xbox exclusives alongside Halo 5 and Quantum Break that the devs went back to and tweaked in order to get some more graphical output. As someone who still plays a fair amount of Gears 4, I can attest the game does look better for the most part. The lighting effects are something special, with the sections where JD and the gang having to run from windflares being particularly breathtaking.
Everywhere else you just notice more of a smoothness now to a lot of the models in the world. There were a couple of moments where characters’ hair looked a bit stiff or even blocky looking due to this, however, making me wonder just how much could’ve been done with a game that didn’t necessarily have 4K in mind and is now being somewhat retrofitted. For the most part, it does look like an upgrade, though. Not a system selling upgrade, but an upgrade nonetheless. -Ray Carsillo
|Developer: Turn 10 Studios
|Forza Motorsport 7|
Considering the dearth of games available around the Xbox One X’s launch last week, it’s a surprise something like Forza Motorsport 7 wasn’t held back until a little closer to the system’s actual launch. This is especially true after going from my Day 1 Xbox One to the Xbox One X in Forza 7.
It’s a pretty damn noticeable jump in visual fidelity. I didn’t think it was possible for this game to look better, but it does in an almost jaw-dropping sort of way. The lighting and sand particles on the Dubai track especially were highlights of my time on the track with the Xbox One X. I’m still not a believer in the Xbox One X being worth it, but seeing games like Forza 7 that had 4K more in mind during the primary development phase might start chipping away at that thought process going forward. -Ray Carsillo
Forget games with ultra-HD realistic graphics and top-of-the-line effects. I wanted to really put the Xbox One X through its paces, and that meant turning to a game that’s over six years old: Minecraft.
As any Minecraft veteran knows, this innocuous game is capable of crashing even the best gaming rigs when things get heated. Chicken overpopulation has been known to render entire servers unplayable, and a stray creeper blowing up in the wrong spot can not only set back days of work but (at least on the Xbox 360) cause the entire game to crash. With that in mind, I decided to test the Xbox One X by building EGM‘s logo—and blowing it up.
In the video, you can see that even Xbox One X’s processors aren’t enough to keep the game going at a steady framerate once the explosions are set off. The framerate drops alarmingly fast, proving that even the most powerful console on the market isn’t a match for about 400 blocks of TNT. To the Xbox One X’s credit, though, it didn’t crash, and the framerate bounced back pretty quickly once the dust had settled.
Oh, and the rest of the game looks pretty nice, too. Draw distances stretch out farther than before, letting me admire the blocky terrain in the distance while I was building. I didn’t get a chance to try and crash the game with chickens, though. Maybe next time. -Emma Schaefer
|Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
|Assassin’s Creed Origins|
Assassin’s Creed Origins on the Xbox One X is the kind of marked but subtle improvement you might expect from a launch title for the newish console. Ubisoft checked off all the boxes for Origins’ Xbox One X enhancements—namely, enabling 4K and HDR—and you can definitely see and feel the difference. The enhanced draw distance for the world’s buildings and vegetation is especially notable when flying high above ancient Egypt as Senu the eagle, and it makes the world feel fuller. Likewise, the frame-rate drops much less often during particularly busy cut-scenes than it does on the vanilla Xbox One, keeping you in the story.
The one place where Origins stumbles on the Xbox One X is the actual 4K resolution. You can actually see the checkerboard rendering happen, and it can be jarring. Luckily, the HDR lighting is truly the star of the show here. Not only does it bring ancient Egypt to life, but the characters themselves truly benefit from the better lighting, making them look less like plastic character models and more like tiny little people living their lives. To be fair, there’s no wrong way to play Assassin’s Creed Origins, but if you’re playing on console, Xbox One X is easily the best version of this game. -Michael Goroff
|Developer: 343 Industries
|Halo 5: Guardians|
Getting the chance to play a Halo game on Microsoft’s latest hardware is, indeed, a must. The series that arguably launched the original Xbox into the stratosphere deserves a place on the Xbox One X, and thankfully, Halo 5: Guardians has been enhanced for the latest system. The 4K Ultra HD bump provided to the game by the Xbox One X gave a noticeable high-quality sheen to the missions. The original 60 fps engine running in the game is still present, and even when I pushed the framerates to their limits by annihilating enemies and blazing through areas, I never noticed a stutter or dropped frame. 343 and Skybox Labs told players there would be attention put on cleaning up textures in the transitioning to 4K HD and it seems like they truly followed through.
Perhaps the reason Halo 5 runs so well here is because it’s an older game that will show clear differences when running in 4K, but regardless, Halo fans will love getting to revisit the world in a more beautiful and rich presentation. -Evan Slead
|Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
|Middle-earth: Shadow of War|
Middle-earth: Shadow of War was a massive and entertaining experience, but a looker it was not. While perhaps not the worst looking triple-A game to drop this year, it still lacked noticeable detail in its textures, with character models that had an air of rigid plastic dolls about them. As one of the titles getting enhanced on the Xbox One X, it is now Shadow of War’s opportunity to up the visual ante, which it does in some areas, but less so in others. Lighting is undoubtedly the area in which the game benefits most. The realm of Mordor is a dark and shadowy place, often juxtaposed with bright flashes of light from explosions or some mystical macguffin, and how the shadows and reflections of light behave in this new version of Shadow of War is better than the original.
The remainder of the visual and technical experience seems relatively unchanged. Shadow of War could handle a frankly irresponsible amount of enemies on-screen without too much strain, and this appears to have remained constant on the Xbox One X. An abrupt loss of texture detailing at a distance seems to be just as much of a problem in the updated game, and it’s more fluid particle effects like fire and blood are just as rough around the edges as the first time around. All in all, the changes the Xbox One X brings to Shadow of War are noticeable, but few. –Nick Plessas
|Developer: EA DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
|Star Wars Battlefront II|
Star Wars Battlefront II is one of the few games to launch this season that can be enjoyed with Xbox One X enhancements right out of the gate. Comparing the standard version side-by-side to the updated version can be a bit tricky with how good the game already looks by default, but there are some subtle improvements to be found upon closer inspection. Most impressive are the game’s particle effects, as every multiplayer match is filled to capacity with explosions big and small. There is a slight crispness to these explosions that wasn’t quite there before, amplified by the system’s faint lighting improvements.
This enhanced lighting, along with its slight texture bump, go together to create environments that could be genuinely mistaken for the real-life set of the films. Many praise Battlefront II, and even the previous Battlefront from 2015, for looking photo-realistic, but it has never been quite like this. The Xbox One X is asking a great price, and the advancements found in Star Wars Battlefront II may be too subtle to single-handedly justify the purchase, but if you do get your hands on the system, Battlefront II would do well to be your first experience. –Nick Plessas
|Developer: Sledgehammer Games
|Call of Duty: WWII|
There’s no question that Call of Duty: WWII looks better when it’s running on Xbox One X at 4K resolution. Playing through the first few levels of the campaign, it was impossible to spot a single muddy texture or edge made jagged by aliasing. Those extra pixels really do matter when it comes to deliver a crisp, clear image. When you’re in the middle of a firefight and laser-focused on gameplay, you’d probably have a hard time noticing the difference, sure, but stop for a minute and focus you attention on the minor details, and the improvements become obvious. The camouflage netting on your squadmates’ helmets shouldn’t look this good.
Of equal importance, there’s no obvious tradeoff in performance for that increase in fidelity. All the added power under the hood of the Xbox One X keeps the framerate steady during the action, even with the more demanding visuals.
But Call of Duty: WWII also serves as a solid example of what the Xbox One X can’t do. No matter how many teraflops and gigahertz the console pushes, it can’t necessarily make up for the underlying technical shortcomings in any given title. Even on Xbox One X, WWII still hitches—just for a split-second, but enough to be noticeable—when saving at checkpoints or initiating quick-time events. And facial animations, never Call of Duty’s forte, still look ever-so-slightly dead. If anything, the increase in resolution made it all the more obvious that virtual Josh Duhamel needs a few more points of articulation on his face to successfully escape the uncanny valley. -Josh Harmon