Here’s what Microsoft wants you to think about the Xbox One X: “The year’s best games are going to play best on it.”

While the world’s most powerful console has the processing grunt and graphical heft to deliver on that promise, I honestly can’t tell you whether it’s got the games to boot. From Crackdown 3 to Middle-Earth: Shadow of War we saw a litany of stunning new titles for Xbox One X. Alas, many of them aren’t scheduled for 2017 and plenty of big names weren’t promised as being ‘Xbox One X enhanced’ with 4K, HDR and all the rest.

Having seen the One X in action on a developmental model there’s no doubting its prowess. Forza Motorsport 7 is the best game I have ever seen on a console, and it wipes the floor with anything you can play on PlayStation 4 Pro. How best to describe the Xbox One X then? It’s complicated.

Xbox One X design: A mean machine

There’s no doubting the Xbox One X is a marvel of engineering. While the PS4 Pro vaguely resembles a big black pizza box, Microsoft’s new console retains the One S’ stylish aesthetic while squeezing its 4K oomph into a smaller frame. Honestly, that’s just ridiculous.

You only have to see the One X’s ‘Scorpio’ dev kit to appreciate the design work that’s gone into this thing. Whereas the dev kit is big, chunky and reminiscent of the original One, the One X is the smallest console Microsoft has ever made. It’ll tuck right under your TV without any fuss and probably be the prettiest thing sitting there, even if that doesn’t actually count for all that much.

Cosmetically speaking, the One X is very much a downsized One S that comes in black rather than white. You get the same connections and ports as with the One S - so an assortment of HDMI, USB and digital audio ports - and you’ll be using an identically specced controller as well. Since the One S did such a fine job of polishing up its next-gen Xbox fundamentals, none of this is a problem. Right now, Microsoft has the two best-designed consoles of this generation, one of which is the most powerful. And that’s what you really want to know about, isn’t it?


Right. To be very clear here, dev kits are not the same thing as a final retail product. So we’re likely to see the proper Xbox One X make even more use of its monumental power when it sees the light of day in November. For now, just know that Microsoft's new console is a monster both in theory and practice. The kind of performance that was previously available only to PC owners can now be found in a games console, and that is genuinely exciting.

You don’t have to know anything about specs to understand the One X’s appeal, but the details are genuinely impressive to those in the know. Eight 2.3GHz processor cores are paired with a six-teraflop graphics processor, 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and 1TB of storage all amount to a very capable machine. One that has the power to deliver 4K gaming at 60 frames per second with High Dynamic Range enabled. And yes, you can totally tell the difference from standard Full HD fare.

Having seen MinecraftGears of War 4Forza Motorsport 7Sea of Thieves and Assassin’s Creed: Origins all running on One X, we’ve been blown away. While Microsoft’s first-party titles seem to make most use of that extra power so far, every game will undoubtedly look better than on Xbox One S. Especially those that are rendered in native 4K, like the drop dead gorgeous Forza Motorsport 7.

Splashed out on a 4K telly with HDR 10 support already? The One X feels like an essential purchase. Especially since it’s also been lavished with an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive for 4K movies and Dolby Atmos support for immense surround sound. Truly, this thing is a home cinema geek’s dream.

While loading times for non-One X enhanced games should drop significantly, we’re curious to see how speedy this new console is with games that make the most of its power. While the Forza Motorsport 7 demo we played wasn’t slow, it did take a reasonable amount of time to get all those gorgeous 4K assets ready. So what does this all mean? We know the Xbox is the most powerful console ever made but what that actually amounts to in practice isn’t quite so clear. Also, if you haven’t made the televisual upgrade to 4K?

Don’t bother with the One X yet. While Microsoft says it’ll downscale its 4K visuals so games look better than they would on a standard One S, you’re going to miss out on so much after spending such a huge amount of cash. Especially since the One X doesn’t come with a refreshed controller or any similar trimmings. This machine is all about the power it’s packing.

Xbox One X exclusive games: Coming soon

As a games machine, there is just no beating the Xbox One X. I’ll talk about its price in a bit, but the thing is an absolute beast. What is not so impressive is the current lineup of titles Microsoft has assembled for it this year.

Yes, Forza Motorsport 7 looks phenomenal but many people will prefer the series’ more bombastic Forza Horizon offshoot. Crackdown 3 seems fine, Cuphead is going to have limited appeal as an indie game and Master Chief won’t be making a return until at least Christmas 2018. What this all means is that the Xbox One X seems to lack a system-seller akin to Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Especially since no games are going to be exclusive to Xbox One X; you’ll be able to play them all on Xbox One and One S as well. Just without the ludicrous graphical fidelity.

It’s worth having a bit of perspective over this exclusives shortfall though, Microsoft unveiled 22 such titles at this year’s E3 and most of them should be out within six months of the One X’s release. Online pirate-fest Sea of Thieves looks to be a blast, State of Decay 2 promises zombie carnage aplenty and Ori and the Will of the Wisp is a sequel to arguably the Xbox One’s best game yet. Also Microsoft has had to cancel Scalebound and Fable Legends within the last year, both of which should have been turning up this year.

Either way, the One X is going to rely on third-party titles to deliver 'day one' console owners outside of the absolute Xbox hardcore, and this is where things begin to get confusing.

Xbox One X enhanced games: A mixed bag

In an ideal world, every major Christmas console release should be Xbox One X enhanced. Trouble is, that’s a long way off the current state of play. Destiny 2, Call of Duty: WWII and FIFA 18 are all games that haven’t yet been confirmed to look best on One X.

Microsoft says the kits are with developers, but that’s no guarantee they’ll deliver the goods. Most curiously EA has already confirmed Madden 18 and Need For Speed: Payback for the enhanced treatment, but not the PlayStation-affiliated FIFA. Something’s up, basically.

As of right now, the two major third-party titles that are going big on Xbox One X compatibility are Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Assassin’s Creed: Origins. One of those looks awesome and the other is the new Assassin’s Creed game. You see, according to Microsoft the ‘enhanced’ tag won’t mean the same thing for each game. So while Shadow of War’s orcs beam with malevolent-but-pristine intent, the hero of Ubisoft’s new open-worlder didn’t seem to have been sculpted with the same fidelity.

We’ll find out more soon, but it’s likely that there’ll be a difference between some games that go big on graphical flourishes that only the Xbox One X can produce and others that just replicate their PS4 Pro patch. Which - let’s face it - is much less exciting.

It’s not just brand new games that are getting the ‘enhanced’ treatment though. A litany of recent games are too, including the likes of Resident Evil 7, Injustice 2 and Ghost Recon: Wildlands. More significantly, several of these haven’t had the same treatment for PS4 Pro. Doom, Minecraft and The Witcher III all rank under this category with The Witcher’s developers having previously told Eurogamer that undergoing such an exercise would be “too much of a time- and resource-consuming process”. The moral of this story? Enough money will buy you anything.

Oh, and naturally several of Microsoft’s recent first-party games are going to have the enhanced tag including Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3 and Halo Wars 2. Having seen the Gears of War 4 patch in action I’d say it’s a small but significant step up for what was already a jaw-dropping affair.

So, to sum all that up, not every big third-party game seems to be getting Xbox One X enhanced and the games that are being patched won’t all look alike, but properly enhanced games seem to be the business. Not an ideal state of affairs, is it?

Xbox One X old games: More classics return

Even if a game isn’t One X enhanced, that doesn’t mean it still won’t run best on Microsoft’s new console. Since the thing is so ludicrously powerful, it’ll also improve load times and significantly boost frame rates for older titles as well. Although PS4 Pro’s ‘Boost Mode’ promises similar things, that console doesn’t have anywhere near the new Xbox’s processing heft and that means the Xbox One X is likely to be the best console to play old classics on.

Especially since Microsoft has now expanded its popular backwards compatibility program across all Xbox One machines to include original Xbox games as well as those from Xbox 360. It’s not yet clear how many former Xbox will see the light of day on a 4K games console, but the much-loved arcade flight sim Crimson Skies is the first game to be confirmed for the program. As with Xbox 360 games, getting them up and running on your new console is a simple matter of inserting the disc into your console or carrying over your old digital license.

While it's new games that will sell the Xbox One X, hardcore gamers do get genuinely excited about the chance to play Portal 2, Mirror’s Edge and the like again. Also these people just so happen to be the folk Microsoft needs to be buying its latest console.

Xbox One X price: It ain't for everyone

OK. We Indians have not got the Xbox One S and we have no confirmation about the Indian availability of Xbox One X either. The £449 (around 36,000) cost of the Xbox One X is arguably the biggest barrier to entry it’s got right now. I mean, that is not the kind of money you can go ahead and spend on a whim. 

Now given that we have the UK pricing, for now, it translates to around 36,000 plus if you add the taxes and duties, that should round figure the cost to around 45K mark. That's well above the PS4 Pro pricing but since we don't even know if Xbox is planning to launch this beast in India, we have no validation to argue on Indian pricing just yet.

And yet, £449 is not an unreasonable demand in exchange for a machine so powerful. Especially when the PS4 Pro costs £100 less, has nowhere near the same oomph and lacks a UHD Blu-ray drive. Besides, assembling a 4K gaming PC will cost you a whole lot more than the Xbox One X’s asking price.

Basically, it all comes down to perspective. If you reckon the Xbox One X is too expensive then I’m not going to disagree. If you feel compelled to experience Forza Motorsport 7 in 4K, then why not treat yourself? As someone who’s already shelled out for a PS4 Pro, I’m beginning to think I should have just waited and got myself the One X instead.

Xbox One X Initial Verdict

Right now, the Xbox One X is a console that promises the earth and partially delivers on its grand vision. Trust me, if you see the thing in full flow on a 4K TV then you are going to be scrambling towards the nearest pre-order form.

Forza Motorsport 7 is simply spectacular and if Microsoft can serve up more games of the same graphical calibre, then the PS4 Pro is already redundant. From what was shown off at E3, I’m not yet convinced that’s what will transpire before November 7. Especially since the One X’s third-party games situation seems all over the place. For the moment, at least.

What is for sure is that I want the Xbox One X to be a success, because I want to play more games that look like Forza Motorsport 7. So Microsoft, you’ve got five months left to get this one right. No pressure.