At the Xbox E3 2017 Briefing, we were introduced to the newest in the line of Xbox home consoles: the Xbox One X. This 4K-enhanced system is praised by Microsoft as the most powerful console ever to be created. 12GB of GDDR5 RAM, six whopping teraflops, and more are all contained in what is also the company's smallest console to-date. We got to sit down with the console for three hours and experience what native 4K gaming on console is all about.
Beginning with a keynote presentation, Microsoft began to explain the logistics behind the Xbox One X. Three core principles and goals were what pushed the project forward: compatibility, power, and craftsmanship. It is immediately clear how important backwards compatibility is to Microsoft for Xbox One X. We found out yesterday that original Xbox games (Xbox Onee on Xbox One?) will be coming later this year, as well as the continued support of Xbox 360 titles.
However, the compatibility doesn't end there. Every single current Xbox One game, controller, and accessory will be completely usable on the new system, with many already released games receiving major updates that will enhance your experience on the One X. The console itself looks basically like a black Xbox One S with the power button, eject button, and one USB port on the front with two more USB ports in the back along with your typical HDMI slots and the like.
Now for the games.
The Mojang team began the event by showing what the power of the Xbox One X will do for Minecraft. A new update this Fall hilariously entitled the "Super Duper Graphics Pack" will bring all your blocky creations into 4K. There is a noticeable difference to anyone that's seen what Minecraft looks like. Blocks now have much more distinct edges and outlines than before, making your creations pop more than ever.
Various materials and items are getting an upgrade graphically. Previously flat 2D objects like minecart rails are now rendered in 3D, while metals like iron and gold now reflect light off of them when exposed to the sun. Speaking of the sun, sunsets are the real star (get it?) of this exciting update. They are absolutely gorgeous, with hues of red, orange, yellow, and purple mixing together to create screenshot-worthy skies.
Deeper shadowing, a much greater draw distance, and more realistic water animations are just some of the other ways that Xbox One X will make Minecraft even better. This is all in addition to the larger worlds that will host cross-platform play across PC, mobile, and other consoles.
Gears of War 4K
Next up was a team member from The Coalition to show us what Microsoft's premier third-person shooter Gears of War 4 will look like on Xbox One X. A screenshot from the original game in 1080p was shown before transitioning straight into the updated 4K version. The difference is astounding. The outdoor environment in the middle of the day was suddenly filled with richer colors and much sharper graphics.
All of the textures and characters have been up-rezzed to 4K, complete with better lighting and dynamic shadows. Weapon effects are more detailed, in addition to bigger, crazier explosions. Xbox One X's utilization of Dolby Atmos surround sound makes the game feel more alive than ever. While mowing down waves of enemies, an allied helicopter could be clearly heard coming up from over my right shoulder without having to move an inch to look.
Forza Motorsport 7
Xbox One X wouldn't be complete without a new Forza to showcase the power that Microsoft has hyped up about the new system, and if our hands-on impressions are anything to go on, it will not disappoint in that regard. Our roughly 15 minute-long preview took us through three very different races that gave us some nice varied experiences. The first race was a Porsche-centric ride through Dubai.
Not much has changed gameplay-wise, with the same core, weighty race simulator experience that fans know and love. However, the graphics have gotten a significant upgrade since jumping to 4K. The bright sunbaked desert is complimented by a dynamic sky where clouds move and weather changes constantly, with the respective shadows and lighting changing accurately.
In one section of the race, I went underground and the lighting switched instantly from very bright to almost pitch black just as it would in real life, a brief moment that was both jarring and awing at the same time as my eyes struggled to adjust. Unfortunately, the crowds on the side watching the race and the buildings spread throughout were surprisingly terrible to look at. The flat people and uninteresting architecture sadly contrasted the beauty of the rest of Forza Motorsport 7.
The second and third races were vastly different, featuring different cars on a different track. The semi-truck race in particular was just as hilarious and awkward as you'd think. The overwhelming length of my truck led to several moments where I attempted to pass an opponent only to fail completely because of the wide turn requirements.
It is important to note that my favorite important moment of the Forza Motorsport 7 preview was at the tail end of my final race when it began to pour down raining. The water on the track made driving a more challenging experience, but led to the best visuals I've seen yet on Xbox One X. As I neared the end of the race, the rain started to let up and you could see puddles still lingering on the track. The sun began to break through right as I finished, with the beautiful orange rays reflecting off the water on the ground and contrasting the remaining dreary gray clouds.
Because of the power of Xbox One X, the level of detail on the cars that Forza is known for has now been added to inside of the car as well. The steering wheel, dashboard, and gloves that your driver are wearing have stunning details like the intricate fibers woven throughout. The inside of the car is also affected by what goes on outside it, so that means that the car moving around causes parts like the windshield wipers to rattle, too. A developer revealed to me that your driver is fully customizable with helmet options, color schemes, and male and female choices.
Minecraft, Gears of War 4, and Forza Motorsport 7 weren't the only games we got to see on Xbox One X in 4K. We have more features coming soon that will detail our look at the less graphically-insane, but just as entertaining titles coming for the recently announced system. Let us know in the comments below your questions, concerns, and what you are excited for on Xbox One X.