At Launch, The Xbox Series X Is Effectively An Overpowered Xbox One

September 30, 2020

I absolutely love next generation launches. I’m the type of person that buys into the hype of the new technology and experiences that come from a new generation of consoles and wants to dive in as quickly as possible (which always goes against my general desire to avoid buying new consoles at launch). There’s something intrinsically appealing to being a part of that launch zeitgeist and getting to see what the future holds first-hand. This is why next generation games are so important, they give a clear view on what a new console can achieve that isn’t quite possible with a cross generation game. With that said, a lack of next generation exclusives at the launch of a console does the opposite. Cross-generation games may take advantage of parts of a next generation console, but they’ve also been designed with the limitations of the past consoles in mind. What does that mean for a console like the Xbox Series X, which has no next generation exclusive games at launch? It means that, at launch at least, the Xbox Series X is effectively an overpowered Xbox One.

Reviewing the currently confirmed Xbox Series X launch line-up, I was struck by the fact that not a single game on the list is a next generation exclusive. Cross-generation games are hardly a new thing, hell we’ve had them pop up in force for at least the last couple of console generations now, but a launch line-up built purely off them is unprecedented. Even in a generation where the majority of a line-up is filled with cross-generation games, there’s generally a couple of next-generation exclusive titles to act as a showpiece for the new console. Think back to the Xbox One, which had the utterly glorious looking Ryse, or the PlayStation 4 with its own exceptional looking game in Killzone: Shadow Fall. Hell, even Knack showed off the power of the next generation with its particles and voxels. These are the games that truly show how a next generation console can change the game, but the Xbox Series X simply doesn’t have one of these at launch.

Right now, while this can always change prior to launch, every single game confirmed to be coming to the Xbox Series X at launch is also releasing or has already released on Xbox One. These are games that have been in development for Xbox One for years, or were already released for that platform in the case of Gears 5, Sea of Thieves and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Games like Tetris Effect: Connected and Yakuza: Like a Dragon are no doubt going to be absolutely fantastic, but they’ll hardly push amazing visuals, while even Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and the long delayed Watch Dogs Legion don’t look to be the amazing next-generation visual showcases we’ve seen in the past. As it stands, on launch day, you’ll basically be playing Xbox One games with some bumped up visuals on your Xbox Series X.

Honestly, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it’s hardly the optimal experience for a next generation launch. For something like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla you get a boost to 60fps, while games like Maneater are also having raytraced lighting added to the fold. Your load times will be faster, but you won’t get the cool world switching mechanics of something like The Medium (although I hope this will become a launch day game) which takes advantage of the SSD in the Xbox Series X to create a new unique mechanic not possible on an Xbox One. Right now, the launch line up of the Xbox Series X makes it look like a souped up Xbox One that adds some additional visual effects and speeds up load times, but doesn’t bring any new or unique experiences that truly take advantage of its power.

At the end of the day, while the launch of a new console is extremely important, it’s just a single moment on a timeline that will span years. There’s plenty of time for Xbox to get those next generation exclusive experiences that truly push the envelope and showcase their tech in the best way possible, but to not have any of those confirmed for launch as yet is definitely a disappointment. For the moment, at least, the Xbox Series X will effectively just be an overpowered Xbox One.