Xbox Series X Backwards Compatibility Impressions

November 8, 2020

In a generation where backwards compatibility initially took a backseat, it was wonderful to see Xbox’s dedication to bringing it back with a vengeance. Simply getting past generation’s games to run on Xbox One wasn’t enough, with fantastic additions like increased resolution and smoother framerates making these Xbox One versions the definitive ones for many games. That dedication to bringing forwards your owned content has continued on in the form of Xbox Series X backwards compatibility.

For more impressions of the Xbox Series X, check out our review here.

One of the new additions with Xbox Series X backwards compatible games comes in the form of Auto HDR. If you have a 4K TV, chances are your screen supports HDR, a screen technology that vastly improves the vibrancy of colour and luminance. It results in a picture that is much more vibrant and striking. For games in the Xbox and Xbox 360 generations, HDR wasn’t even close to being a reality, so none of those games were created with the technology in mind. Now, Xbox have implemented a new Auto HDR technology that automatically implements HDR on games that never supported it before.

I tested a few different Xbox 360 games on my Xbox Series X to try out backwards compatibility but settled on three of my favourite games to be the showpieces for this impressions article. Crackdown is probably the most striking of these, given the existing focus on bright and vibrant colours in the game’s artstyle. As you can see from the comparison shots above, Crackdown positively glows on Xbox Series X. The colours pop much more than they do on Xbox One, with a level of luminance that wasn’t there before. The same can be said of Mass Effect, with the fire and horizon both being much more vibrant than on Xbox One. Saints Row is somewhat more subtle, but you can see a bit more range in the colours there, while the textures also look a little sharper as well. I was impressed with what I saw.

Moving on to Xbox One games running on Xbox Series X via backwards compatibility, there are a few different benefits here. You can still take advantage of Auto HDR for games that didn’t support it when released, but the biggest difference to these games comes in the form of more stable framerates and dynamic resolutions that drop less often. Trying Monster Hunter World, which regularly dropped in framerate during gameplay, the game’s framerate was close to rock solid. For other games with unlocked framerates, such as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, their performance modes now run at a close to flawless 60fps. If you’re a fan of smoother gameplay, you’ll love this.

The other big improvement comes in the form of load times. Becoming a particular point of frustration towards the end of the generation, long load times was an absolute excitement killer. Waiting for a game to complete its minute and a half load before actually being able to play was a frustration I hope I never have to deal with again. I tried a whole bunch of different games on Xbox Series X, and while not all of them benefitted the same from the Xbox Series X SSD, there was an improvement in absolutely every game I tried. I’ve included a list below of some of the games I tested, which should give you an idea of just how much of a difference the Xbox Series X’ SSD makes for backwards compatible Xbox One games.

Anthem – Xbox One (74 seconds), Xbox Series X (25 seconds)

Dark Souls 3 – Xbox One (26 seconds), Xbox Series X (9 seconds)

Destiny 2 (Tower Load) – Xbox One (79 seconds), Xbox Series X (56 seconds)

Rage 2 – Xbox One (34 seconds), Xbox Series X (19 seconds)

Recore: Definitive Edition – Xbox One (25 seconds), Xbox Series X (10 seconds)

Overall, it’s clear that backwards compatibility is a massive feature of the Xbox Series X, with it creating new definitive editions of older titles. Load times are improved, frame rates are improved and colours are improved. If you’ve got plenty of older Xbox games you want to bring forwards into the new generation, rest assured that the Xbox Series X is a great place to play them.

The Xbox Series X used for this review was provided by Xbox, with the console releasing on November 10th. For more information, check the official website.