The Xbox One X(XBOX for short) is Microsofts mid-generation revision of the Xbox One. It boasts more powerful hardware than the competition while retaining full backwards compatibility with previous Xbox One models and the established backwards compatible catalogue of Xbox 360 and OG Xbox games. Many ask why they would even need an Xbox One X when it plays all the same games their OG Xbox One or Xbox One S does, but better and prettier. Or why they should get it when they could just build a PC since Microsoft sends all their first party titles to that platform as well. And I admit, despite having the system pre-ordered, I’ve been asking myself these same questions and wondering if I should cancel my order. In the end, with less than 24 hours to go before the console launches, I’ve decided to not cancel. In fact, I’m even more sold on the system than I was before.
Once upon a time I wrote a very weak article trying to explain why I was going to get the Xbox One X(Then still known as Project Scorpio.), but I admit that it was not a good article. Now that I’ve had months to get a good sense of what the system can do, how it compares to my PC, and how it fits in with my other systems, I have a better idea of why the Xbox One X appeals to me.
One of the biggest reasons isn’t the 4K screen resolution. No, I don’t have a 4K TV. I have an ok RCA 47-inch 1080p television. But the Xbox One X doesn’t JUST do 4K or faux-K depending on the game, it offers sharper graphics and better performance for older titles regardless of whether or not they’ve been patched, and for games that are being patched, they now rival their PC counterparts, at least to a much greater extent then when the PS4 was the top graphical dog. If a PC version of a game exists, developers can port down assets from the higher settings, making the console experience graphically identical to what the high end PC version would be(Note that this does not include screen resolution or framerate.), at least in some cases. There will still be noticeable differences, but the gap has gotten smaller, at least for now. New GPU’s launch every year and further push the boundaries of what is possible on PC. Even the highest end cards available now put the Xbox One X to shame. But the games themselves don’t utilize all of that power, and that is why the Xbox One X is able to get as close as it does.
The easiest example for this is texture resolution. Texture resolution is not the same thing as screen resolution and you can have one without the other. Modders have been adding higher resolution textures to games like Skyrim for quite some time now, and depending on how much work is put into them, they can make a huge visual difference. The above image is one I like to use to demonstrate just what kind of difference a higher resolution(and not uprezzed) texture can make. Skyrim’s original textures were either 256x256 or 512x512 on both consoles and PC. You can see what those looked like on the right side of the image. When the high resolution DLC was released, the texture resolution was blown up to 1024x1024(1K) and 2046x2046(2K). However, despite the increase, Bethesda only upscaled the textures, meaning they only looked sharper, bringing out details that were hidden by the blurriness before. The image above is from one of my favorite texture mods for Skyrim, and the image on the left is what the mod turns the trees into. That is what the new, custom texture from the mod author makes the trees look like, using a resolution of either 2046x512 or 4096x1024(Some textures have resolutions like this. The normal 4K resolution would be 4096x4096.). The main difference between the original texture and the new custom texture is that the splintered wood is far more detailed. If the texture were smaller, it would still retain some of that added detail, but it wouldn’t look nearly as good. The Xbox One X is capable of handling large 4K textures like those, and at the moment that’s the highest texture resolution developers are willing to use because they use up a lot of memory. There are 8K(8192x8192) textures for Skyrim floating around, but they’re so memory intensive that only the top of the line cards, like Titans, have even the tiniest hope of maintaining good performance during gameplay. If you want to see what a game would look like with 8K textures, you need look no further than Square Enix’s Agni’s Philosophy: Witch Cry tech demo which gave every object an 8K texture and required two Titan X GPU’s to run:
I’m getting somewhat off topic here, but by now you should understand where I’m going with this. The Xbox One X bridges the power gap with current high end PC’s. Not top of the line, no, it won’t compete with a Titan or a 1080 Ti, or perhaps even the 1080(I’m using NVIDIA for examples as I’m not entirely familiar with AMD’s cards.). But the proof of its power lies in the games that have been extensively enhanced for the system. The Xbox One X versions of games like Middle Earth: Shadows of War use the high end 4K textures found in the PC version alongside improved anti-aliasing, 16x texture filtering, and other improvements such as lighting and ambient occlusion. The gap seems so much smaller and it’s making me consider buying games for my Xbox again.
Of course, that leads me to one thing people tend to point out: Microsoft now releases virtually all of their first party titles on their Windows Store, which begs the question “Why buy it for Xbox when you can get it on PC?” Well, the answer is actually very simple when you think about it. If you buy the game from the Windows Store, you get a free copy for the Xbox One and vice versa. I can download the game on my PC and my Xbox One, have the save game in the cloud, and swap between the two systems at my leisure, and lose very little in the way of visual quality. And that’s to say nothing of the games that aren’t even on PC. The Master Chief Collection, despite being the mess that it is, is still an Xbox One-only title and 343 has promised to completely overhaul and fix it in 2018 alongside Xbox One X enhancements. I can only get that experience on Xbox One. Halo 5's campaign, regardless of how much I think it’s mediocre compared to, well, every Halo game that came before it, is still only available on Xbox One, and the multiplayer Halo 5 Forge on PC doesn’t have everything that the Xbox One version does if I remember correctly. And that’s to say nothing of all the backwards compatible titles. You can probably find a lot of them on Steam or other PC platforms, but a lot of ports weren’t particularly perfect. Besides, you can’t get Fuzion Frenzy on PC, so checkmate.
Jokes aside(Fuzion Frenzy is a great game though. Too bad the sequel sucked.), Microsoft has come out and admitted that the Xbox One X is not for everyone and that they expect the Xbox One S to still be their biggest seller. After looking at my specific wants, I’ve decided that the Xbox One X is for me. Perhaps you don’t see what I do, and that’s fine. If everyone thought alike things wouldn’t be as interesting as they are. All I know is that I’m glad to finally be getting rid of my defective VCR Xbox One and replacing it with something fully functional and nicer looking.