The Xbox One X: 1 year later

Sony had a one-year head start with its mid-gen upgrade, but Microsoft has made strides with the Xbox One X. I never considered owning an Xbox One in the past due to its anemic exclusive library and weaker hardware than the PS4 family of systems. The Xbox One X, however, changed everything. As a console only gamer, Microsoft’s upgraded console has done a lot in the past year.

Honoring the Past

Backwards compatibility deserves more credit than it gets. It’s a feature Xbox fanboys have touted since its inception, but the Xbox One X dramatically enhances its use case. Over two dozen Xbox 360 titles run at nine times their original resolution. In cases whereby the games originally ran at 720p, you’re now getting native 4K from your original 360 disc. Games that ran at sub HD resolutions, like the original Final Fantasy 13, still come in at a respectable 1728p with two times MSAA. For the unaware folk, here’s a list of the currently enhanced Xbox 360 titles.

  • Final Fantasy 13, 13-2, and Lightning Returns
  • Civilization Revolution
  • The Orange Box
  • Portal: Still Alive and Portal 2
  • Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2
  • Red Dead Redemption
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
  • Darksiders
  • Gears of War 2 and 3
  • Sonic Generations
  • Crackdown
  • Fable Anniversary
  • Halo 3
  • The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion
  • Skate 3
  • Forza Horizon
  • The Witcher 2
  • Mirror’s Edge
  • Fallout 3
  • Assassin’s Creed

That’s a pretty impressive list of free remasters. The good news continues to pile on with original Xbox games. Unlike Xbox 360 games, which require an update, all 31 original Xbox games run at 16 times their original resolution through whatever emulation software Microsoft is using. To be fair, base console owners do get a four times resolution increase, but that’s pretty meager when dealing with SD resolutions.

Even non-enhanced Xbox 360 games benefit from the X’s forced 16 times Anisotropic Filtering and raw GPU grunt powering past any performance issues the games might have had on original hardware. The Xbox One X is a treasure trove for people that still love older games for older platforms. As a person that never finished the original Final Fantasy 13 and skipped its sequels, revisiting the trilogy with such impeccable image quality has been a blast.

The Xbox One X Delivered

As an unsatisfied PS4 Pro owner, I worried about the Xbox One X’s staying power. I can safely state, however, that the Xbox One X difference has been monumental. Over the past year, I have been more consistently impressed jumping from the PS4 Pro to the Xbox One X than when I jumped from the standard PS4 to the PS4 Pro. Despite a smaller spec boost between the two mid-gen consoles, the X has impressed me considerably more than the Pro when it was top dog.

This ultimately comes down to genius engineering. It costs $100 more than its competitor, but the return on that investment is well worth it. Featuring a massive 4.5 times raw GPU compute increase over its base console, Microsoft followed suit with other improvements. Bringing 12GB of GDDR 5 RAM and 326 GB/s of memory bandwidth to the table, Microsoft went all in with its premium console and its games bring the goods.

Hit After Hit

Comparing multiplatform titles across the Pro and X highlights where Sony went wrong and Microsoft went right. The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy only runs at 1440p on the Pro while handing in native 4K on the X along with faster loading times. Wolfenstein 2 incorporates a dynamic resolution on all consoles with the X typically running at twice the resolution in identical scenes. Even the X’s worst-case scenario runs around 1656p, which is higher than the Pro’s 1440p peak.

Doom is another case of the Xbox One X demolishing the PS4 Pro’s lopsided hardware. Both employ dynamic resolutions. The Pro tops out at 1440p with the X topping out at native 4K with similar resolution differentials as those seen in Wolfenstein 2. Even in the biggest stress tests, the Xbox One X never drops as low as the PS4 Pro’s dynamic resolution limit. Keep in mind Doom also runs better on the Xbox One X even with the massive resolution boost draining resources.

Sony’s machine continues to get pummeled with games like Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered running at 1800p on the X’s 60 frames per second mode compared to the Pro’s 1500p; a measly increase over the system’s bog standard 1440p output.

Other games Like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice offer more choice. While the PS4 Pro iteration only offered framerate and resolution modes, the Xbox One X adds an additional “enriched visuals” mode. Despite prioritizing visual settings over resolution, this enriched visuals mode still runs at a higher resolution than the Pro’s resolution mode at all times, which again, caps out at 1440p compared to the X’s native 4K peak. It pushes this higher resolution along with better draw distances and higher levels of detail.

Are you seeing a trend here?

Don’t Forget the First-Party Games

Third-party support crushes the competition, though first-party games make the hardware truly shine. Sea of Thieves, Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3 and 4, State of Decay 2, Killer Instinct, Forza Motorsport 7, Halo Wars 2, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps run at native 4K with little to no detriment to performance.

How many first-party Sony games offer native 4K? None unless you want to count The Last of Us Remastered‘s 30 frames per second mode. Sure, the best PS4 Pro games provide great image quality, but they offer the exact same assets as the base console. In cases like the Forza series and Gears of War 4, the Xbox One X is rendering four times the pixels while improving various graphical settings ranging from textures to shadow quality to reflections.

Conclusion

The Xbox One X is the premiere console of choice. Say what you will about Microsoft’s lack of exclusives but that doesn’t change its significant hardware advantage. Hell, I’ve gone as far as re-buying games on Xbox One X and completing them again because I was so impressed with the visual difference. More specifically, I have re-bought Nier: Automata, Final Fantasy 15, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. In each case, I was floored by how significant the actual difference was to the naked eye divorced from all the technical mumbo jumbo talk.

The Xbox One X is only a year old and lacks the same first-party support as its competition and can’t quite compete with Sony’s first-party library. But as a mid-gen upgrade, it makes the PS4 Pro seem woefully underpowered and outdated by comparison and justifies its more expensive price tag.