• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.

Analysis Eurogamer: Xbox Series X is the least console-feeling console I've had

-Vyse-

Member
May 9, 2019
3,432
6,221
875
I tell you what looks great on the Series X: Geometry Wars. Specifically Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, but they're all bangers, aren't they? Chuck that bad boy up on a giant, fancy screen with some giant, fancy headphones and you're away. Other things that look great, while we're at it: Arkham Knight, and its distinctly sodden, gothic-neon-deco take on Gotham; Sunset Overdrive's eye-blistering orange; Dirt 5's dirt; Halo 5's silly lasers; and Gears 5, which despite best efforts to cram you into the traditionally rubbly, grey-brown interiors does still expand into some mega-vivid scenery - and plays, on a 120Hz screen, like hot butter in the pan.

I have no idea what enhancements, if any, these games have had. That is Digital Foundry's domain, and I daren't go near it. I think most of them are running at a higher frame rate than they would be on current-gen consoles, most of them benefit from HDR, by the Series X's automatic magic or human craft, and all of them are displaying somewhere on the scale between 1080p and 4K, wherein me and my mortal eyes begin to lose track. But honestly, I haven't looked it up - and honestly, I am not going to bother, because for me that is besides the point. The point is I actually played them all for the very first time this week - because early look at Dirt aside, they're all on Game Pass - and that all of them look, play, and simply feel better here than they have anywhere else so far.

This, you soon realise with the Series X, is also more or less the entirety of Microsoft's pitch.

That's not a particularly new idea - we've all heard about how Microsoft's vision of next gen is really about Game Pass, and how its jumbo punt on Bethesda is really about Game Pass, and how Game Pass is really about Game Pass, and all that. What feels new to me is how much the Series X as a piece of hardware aligns itself with that vision, too. Maybe it's because there's quite literally nothing exclusively new to play on it, but my experience with the console over the last few days, above all, has felt like an experience of Game Pass' potential - not just to be a nice bargain or player-friendly add-on, but to genuinely change how we think about games.

For one, this is because the Series X is the least console-feeling console I've had, in that everything about it is actively trying to avoid your attention, instead of draw it. It's whisper quiet - mid game, with TV on mute, I genuinely couldn't hear it. It didn't once get hot, or even beyond slightly warm. And as much as the whole Necron Obelisk vibe can evoke a slight sense of impending doom when looked at for too long, I'm a fan of the sheer brutalism. Brutalism is in, kids, and that means there's a chance this console actually blends into an adult human dwelling. It's not going to get anywhere near most dedicated media units but just play it off against some bougie house plants and you're Insta ready. The point is, soon enough you will completely forget it's there.



In the home, the Series X feels smaller than it is because it actually wants to fit into the environment. Although the less said about that little burp of gamer green in the top vents the better. You may have already heard but Microsoft's included some tactile indicators over the ports, which is a good accessibility step alongside its well-received adaptive controller, which is still compatible.

This is also what it's like to use. Xbox has concocted lots of proprietary names for things, like Quick Resume™ and Xbox Velocity Architecture™ and Xbox Smart Delivery™, to go alongside pre existing jargon like Auto HDR, VRR, FreeSync, HDMI 2.1 and the rest, but the purpose of all of it is to simply get out of your way. In plain English the console is super fast, which means you boot, load in and get playing games in a matter of seconds, and can toggle between them, suspended in place, at a whim. This is the Series X at its absolute best, and also its most impactful: jumping in and out of your library is very different to how it feels right now on any other console or PC, and suddenly the experience of working through a backlog is transformed. I can play half an hour of Arkham Knight for the first time, decide it's decent but I'm craving a challenge so swap into Sekiro, and hop back into a few rounds of Geometry Wars to cool off, or pass the pad to my kid, if I had one, to go straight back into where they were in Minecraft without me losing my spot. It's hard to sell without sounding like you're actively trying to sell it, but it's a small tweak that feels genuinely transformative. It's door-opening, on an intuitive UI (like most people, I don't have an Xbox One, but on the Series X's identical interface I found settings quickly, and features immediately easy to understand), and the result is a shattering of the barriers to playing what you already own.



The dashboard is good, as dashboards go, but Microsoft does have a habit of dramatically changing it on the fly.

But, caveats. Custom, whippet-fast SSDs can't download your games faster than your internet allows - or give you much room for the ones you own. I have about 35 games downloaded (most hand-me-downs from Digital Foundry's tinkering), that are of widely varied age and size, and take up all of the internal storage and about half of the expansion card provided. What you do get is a sort of half-step towards what I suspect is the real end game, of streaming games with true immediacy: you can pack out your storage with a moderate library of real variety, wait for expansion card price drops, and use traditional external storage intelligently by packing that with your back catalogue, but none of this will ever quite be the same as the true freedom you get from hopping in and out of streaming on YouTube, Amazon Prime, or Netflix. But it's close. Close enough to feel like a real and major change.

There's also a tiny whiff of fussiness, in places. VRR, for instance, caused a kind of input-refreshing black frame flicker when the console was set to 120Hz, which made games genuinely unplayable but was fine on the dashboard menus and everywhere else - probably something fixed by an update, or tweaking settings or inputs or whatever else, had I had the time. Auto HDR, self-describing, is another ingenious mechanism for the console getting out of your way, and for making old games new again - Geometry Wars again a fine example of the rejuvenation - but it does cause some white text like dialogue to blow out in some games, and gets so carried away in others, like GTA 4, that it's been turned off entirely.



The controller is the one thing that might actually be marginally worse than the Xbox One's equivalent, as the texture on the back is a tad rough. Good for weightlifters, guitarists and others in need of heavy duty hand exfoliation, less good for those who don't enjoy gripping cheesegraters with force.

But these are, really, quite miniscule issues. In fact 'issues' itself is arguably too strong a word. They're quibbles, encountered in part because I'm actively looking for them. Stepping back, what they indicate to me is that the Series X is a seriously high performance console that just needs the right conditions to really perform. It needs a flashy TV panel, with the requisite brightness for true HDR, with HDMI 2.1 for the really transformative visuals, and with variable refresh rate for the smoothness. It needs a flashy headset or sound system for making the most of the audio. And it needs all the bespoke, and therefore expensive internals to get it all working properly - just as a Formula One car, to use a slightly tired analogy, needs the right tyres, and the right flappy bits, and the funny steering wheels that pop off, if it wants to truly go fast. And it ideally needs the one in the hotseat to know just a bit more about what they're doing than usual, if it's going to really hum.

If you've got all that though, and you don't mind just a smidge more thought than usual for a plug-and-play thing like a console, what a joy it is to use. And how genuinely forward thinking its vision is too: a step away from forcing you forwards - from the idea that you must need a new console to play its exclusive games, to the idea you might want one, to make your old games better, to make your vast and dusty pile of shame new again, to actually be on display in your home. This is a console that, like the PS5, is coming roughly six to eighteen months earlier than its truly tentpole games, but a few days with the Series X tells me it doesn't really need them. It's the console itself I actually want.
 
Last edited:

jaysius

Member
Oct 3, 2019
883
855
340
Yuck, sponsored tiles it seems. Sure hope those are optional.
NOPE! I’ve been trying to draw attention to this shit for a year or more, at least since they put out the new UI, I don’t think the UI creation team would know what to do if they weren’t crippled by the ad spaces requirements.

The funniest thing is, if you’re offline those spaces don’t appear sometimes, only when you use your paid GOLD service do they populate, I‘ve been in the alpha ring for a while, the only good thing is how snappy it is on my base Xbox One vs how awful the GUI is on my PS4 Pro.

The entire issue with ADS In your face in a UI is that the HOME SCREEN is there to give you YOUR OWN CONTEN, not sell you shit on a $500 machine.

This won’t change without great outrage, start now, pepper the insider sub with complaints.
 
Last edited:

ThatOneGrunt

Member
Feb 23, 2015
888
644
440
I can't tell where the author of the article stands with this console. They point out that the fact you can't hear it is some kind of negative and then says the controller is a step down from last generation because the back of it is slightly textured? What the fuck is going on here?
 

Yoboman

Member
Sep 17, 2005
18,127
7,213
1,840
The controller is the one thing that might actually be marginally worse than the Xbox One's equivalent, as the texture on the back is a tad rough. Good for weightlifters, guitarists and others in need of heavy duty hand exfoliation, less good for those who don't enjoy gripping cheesegraters with force.
Oof
 

-Vyse-

Member
May 9, 2019
3,432
6,221
875
I can't tell where the author of the article stands with this console. They point out that the fact you can't hear it is some kind of negative and then says the controller is a step down from last generation because the back of it is slightly textured? What the fuck is going on here?
Are you sure? I didn't read it as a negative.

Why is the whole article pasted in the OP
So you can read the whole article.
 

ThatOneGrunt

Member
Feb 23, 2015
888
644
440
Are you sure? I didn't read it as a negative.
Series X is the least console-feeling console I've had, in that everything about it is actively trying to avoid your attention, instead of draw it. It's whisper quiet
I think its the "instead of draw it" part of that comment that threw me. Including it implied, to me, that the Series X isn't drawing attention like it should. I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong.
 

Warnen

Can he swing from a thread? Take a look overhead / Hey, there, there goes the Spider-Man
Sep 24, 2005
3,893
2,127
1,805
42
Sea lab
Looks nice quite and clean.
 

wolffy71

Member
Feb 19, 2014
528
469
460
Bullshit its fucking shit. And the beginning of the end.

being defensive about this is good.
No its really not. Its harmless. Do you freak out everytime you open gmail and theres an ad in the margins. People just like to bitch
 

Michael Hawk

Member
Jul 27, 2020
215
412
230
Liars said:
This is a console that, like the PS5, is coming roughly six to eighteen months earlier than its truly tentpole games
The 'both-siding' of the upcoming console launches is a great reminder of how easily corruptible 'professionals' are. Here, we have a case of a 'professional' telling a complete lie in order to maintain a generous relationship with Microsoft. Disappointing but expected.
 

ReBurn

Member
Dec 6, 2008
11,095
1,037
1,120
SC USA
The 'both-siding' of the upcoming console launches is a great reminder of how easily corruptible 'professionals' are. Here, we have a case of a 'professional' telling a complete lie in order to maintain a generous relationship with Microsoft. Disappointing but expected.
It's not exactly wrong. The launch lineups aren't exactly loaded with new games that could be considered killer apps.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Concern and CatLady

Trogdor1123

Member
Mar 2, 2012
7,984
1,709
865
For someone that has never owned an Xbox the gamepads function with the huge BC push it is incredibly attractive still. I assumed the author meant that but I didn't get that...
 

DinoD

Member
Mar 7, 2020
188
402
260
Quote:
"This is a console that, like the PS5, is coming roughly six to eighteen months earlier than its truly tentpole games, but a few days with the Series X tells me it doesn't really need them. It's the console itself I actually want. "

For what? To jerk off on?

Jesus.
 

Hunnybun

Member
Jun 3, 2020
590
641
295
The 'both-siding' of the upcoming console launches is a great reminder of how easily corruptible 'professionals' are. Here, we have a case of a 'professional' telling a complete lie in order to maintain a generous relationship with Microsoft. Disappointing but expected.
It's a ridiculous attempt at equivalence.

SX has probably the weakest launch line-up ever, the PS5 has one of the strongest. The SX doesn't have any big exclusives coming for about a year; in that time the PS5 has about 10 due out.

But somehow because the very biggest games for both consoles are a way out, they're effectively the same. What absolute horseshit.
 
Last edited: