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Xbox Series X hardware review – the new console where nothing is new

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Xbox Series X hardware review – the new console where nothing is new


Xbox Series X – power means nothing without a way to demonstrate it (pic: Microsoft)

GameCentral gives its verdict on the Xbox Series X – but is the world’s most powerful console something worth buying into straight away?’

Reviewing a console always seems a slightly strange thing to do, since normally you’re buying it to gain access to specific games you want to play. And as long as there’s not something fundamentally wrong with the hardware design or controller it’s really only the software that matters.

Outlining exactly what the Xbox Series X is and what it does is a fairly simple process but trying to judge whether it’s worth the money and, more importantly, whether it’s something we’d recommend you buy this year is much harder.

Even without the pandemic it’s always been clear that the Xbox Series X’s launch would be very different to the console norm. It doesn’t have any exclusive games (even if Halo Infinite had made it out on time it’s still being released on Xbox One) and switching it on for the first time is a strangely deflating experience, as you realise there’s nothing obvious to start playing on it.

The fact that the dashboard is exactly the same as the Xbox One, and the controller has barely changed either, makes it easy to forget it even is a new console, let alone the most powerful ever made. Although whether it is the most powerful is a matter of pure pedantry, as judging by how the same multiformat games look on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 the difference is so minor it’s barely noticeable.

Perhaps a game like Cyberpunk 2077, which has been difficult to get working on current gen machines, will show a more clear-cut advantage for the Xbox Series X – or maybe The Medium will do things the PlayStation 5 cannot – but at the moment the Xbox Series X is a console that is suspiciously reticent about proving how powerful it apparently it is.

The Internet is about to be flooded by hardware teardowns and complex analysis of the Xbox Series X’s technical abilities but that shouldn’t be necessary. You should be able to point at a game and just say, ‘There, that’s the reason you should buy this new console!’

But no such game exists and the closest you get to it is a slightly shiner version of Gears 5 and other pre-existing Xbox One games. There’s not even any clear-cut use of ray-tracing in any of the games we’ve played so far, and yet the PlayStation 5’s lead exclusive is filled with nothing but shiny-looking skyscrapers.

After the early failure of the Xbox One, Microsoft has had all generation to plan for its replacement and yet everything feels like a kid desperately trying to do their homework on the bus into school, making up excuses and promising everything is just going to be slightly late.

For us, a new console should not only be about playing new games but new games that would’ve been impossible in the previous generations. Launch titles are rarely classics but they usually provide at least a hint of what’s to come. But with the Xbox Series X all you can do is read the tech specs, listen to the promises, and hope.

Judged on those traditional terms the Xbox Series X doesn’t just feel disappointing it feels like a complete non-event, at least until it gets some games that can push its capabilities. Until that happens though its supposed power is little more than a minor selling point. Instead, the main reason to buy an Xbox Series X or S is Game Pass and Microsoft’s goal for it to become the Netflix of gaming.

There’s been some pretence from them lately that Game Pass is not as vital to their plans as previous implied, but it clearly is. If the Xbox Series X was a normal console pitted against the PlayStation 5 it would be instantly ignored, extra power or not. But Game Pass offers something that Sony is unwilling, and probably financially unable, to match.

100+ good quality games available to download the moment you first turn on your console? There’s no way that’s not a tempting prospect. Especially given the low-priced Xbox Series S and the ludicrously expensive first party PlayStation 5 games.

Xbox Series X – we’ve been using ours horizontally (pic: Metro)

Sony’s counter to that is that their first party titles are games people are keen enough to play that they’d not only buy a new console to do so but pay over the odds for the games too. There’s no single game in Xbox Game Pass that can boast that and there probably won’t be for some time to come.

But this is an argument that’s been circulating for months now and the fact that we now own an Xbox Series X doesn’t really provide any additional insight. Which means the Xbox Series X’s launch immediately becomes just a waiting game. A wait to see what other games Microsoft adds to Game Pass and how its first wave of exclusives work out – and how they compare to Sony’s offerings.

Reviewing the Xbox Series X as it stands today we’re left with relatively little to say. It’s the most powerful console ever made (in theory, there’s no way to tell by playing any of its games) and yet it’s been lurking under our TV for two weeks now and we’ve really not been sure what to do with it. Which is a very strange feeling given the release of a new console should be one of the most exciting experiences possible for a gamer.

Is the Xbox Series X a good console from a mechanical view? At this stage it doesn’t feel quite as innovative as the PlayStation 5, but sure. Is there anything interesting to play on it? Yes, but nothing new. Is it good value for money? Yes, especially the Xbox Series S.

But the biggest question, of whether you should buy one or not, is much harder to answer and depends on your personal circumstances, especially in a year when many will be feeling the financial pinch. What we can say is that if you leave that decision till later then you won’t be missing out on anything important at launch.

The Xbox Series X releases on November 10, retailing at £449.99. The Xbox Series S launches on the same day for £249.99.

Email gamecentral@metro.co.uk, leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter.


MORE : Xbox Series X: price, features, release date, and pre-order – all you need to know


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MORE : Xbox Game Pass is ‘sustainable’ with ‘no plan’ for price increase says Microsoft

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