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Xbox One X Hands-On First Impressions

I finally had a chance to try Xbox One X games out during Warsaw Games Week in Poland. Microsoft brought over 20 new Xbox consoles to the event and 5 games to try out: Forza Motorsport 7, Gears of War 4, Rise of The Tomb Raider, Assassins Creed Origins and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War.

The console is very slick and rather small. I like the new design as it kind of reminds me of the PlayStation 2 but it is still very similar to Xbox One S at the same time. Microsoft had Forza Motorsport 7 running on the Xbox One X connected to steering wheels and 65′ OLED 4K HDR TVs. Other titles could have been enjoyed sitting on a couch with a standard Xbox One controller.

So let’s dive into what really matters here – games. All games on display were offering 4K output in HDR. Even on these big 4K TVs, one could not notice any pixels or shimmering. In terms of True 4K output all games meet this standard. So let me share my initial thoughts on the True 4K Gaming experience that Microsoft is so proud of.

Short disclaimer first: This is not an attempt to review these games in terms of gameplay or content. This article is just to describe the graphics and performance side of these games on Xbox One X.

The game that impressed me the least was Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. The demo started at an entrance to a big castle. The Resolution looked 4K to me as object’s edges were very sharp and there were no edges shimmering in the distance. However, I did not like the textures. Ground textures looked okay but as I started moving towards the castle’s walls I was presented with very blurry textures. The character models looked good and were well textured as well. The level of details in the game must have been close to High PC settings but it still had this blurry feel about it even though it was running in 4K. I did change the quality and resolution modes back and forth but with no distinctive difference. So the game looked just good to me although it’s worth mentioning that some demos had Gamescom build watermark on it so they could have been far from finished.

The second game I played was Assassins Creed Origins. This game looked much better, delivering both a very sharp presentation in 4K and good quality textures and graphics assets. Running around the city I did not notice any pop up nor any frame rate issues. There was one Xbox One X dev kit with the game but it must have been broken or something as it was not playable at all. I did experience a consistent frame rate on the retail version of the console. So the game runs great and looks even better, especially in more rural areas. In the city I did notice some very low quality textures which really stood out in 4K so I hope they iron it out before release.

Another game I played was Gears of War 4. I had a chance to try out 3 different levels and they all looked very good. Super sharp presentation in a form of native 4K resolution topped with very high quality textures. Higher resolution seems to bring out some small details that you don’t really see in 1080p on Xbox One S. The game still runs at 30fps but I noticed some strange stutters once in a while in some sections. I’m not sure if that is a software issue or maybe the console I played on but I sure do hope this gets fixed soon. The game looks stunning on regular Xbox One and on Xbox One X you get a fresh coat of paint to make it even better looking. I wish they made this game’s single player campaign run at 60fps though. But overall it was a very positive experience.

And now it’s time for two games that impressed me the most. Forza Motorsport 7 and Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Forza Motorsport 7 Porsche GT2 RS 4K Front Angle

Forza Motorsport 7 really delivers the True 4K 60 fps experience and it’s no wonder that it is an Xbox One X flagship title. The game looks great on Xbox One – already delivering enhanced graphics over previous Forza series installments, a dynamic weather system and still rock solid 60fps. Xbox One X takes it to a new level. Image quality in this game is pristine in native 4K and it offers a number of graphics improvements over standard Xbox One version of the game. Better objects geometry – cars included, better texture filtering, better surface reflections, higher quality textures combined delivers a much better presentation than on the regular Xbox One. During the event I purposely was going back and forth playing this game on regular Xbox One and then Xbox One X later to measure the differences and the latter version clearly stood out – which shouldn’t be a surprise really. This game just looks so amazingly photo realistic. The game is a must-have for every Xbox One X owner, no matter whether you like racing sim games or not.

The last game on the list is Rise of the Tomb Raider. This game really shows Xbox One X capabilities and it’s not even a first party game. Tomb Raider has got 3 different resolution and frame rate modes. Native 4K with 4K textures mode in 30fps, checker boarded 4K with enhanced graphics fidelity in 30 fps or 1080p in 60 fps mode. I have tried all 3 modes and I must say that it is the best implementation of 4K resolution and 4K textures combined. Even though in full HD, the game runs in 60fps or close to it – the game becomes blurry due to lower resolution. The game allows you to change the resolution and frame rate mode on the fly via game settings in the menu and you can see the effects right away. Changing between native 4K and checkerboarded 4K mode, I did not notice a huge difference. Both modes offers 4K textures. In native resolution they just look better but not that much. However, switching to 1080p mode was like starting game on a last-gen console. The difference is huge. This is not to say that the game looked terrible in 1080p at all. This is the same Tomb Raider game that so many enjoyed 2 years ago on Xbox One, it still looks very good. But in 4K resolution and with 4K textures it really shines. There is no doubt in my mind that both Forza 7 and Tomb Raider are games that are showing what Xbox One X is really capable of.

I think it’s time to summarize everything we know now.

If I can borrow a line from Phil Spencer, the Xbox One X is not for everyone.  Forza 7 and Rise of the Tomb Raider shows a glimpse of a true 4K gaming experience and I’m sure there will be more games taking full advantage of the hardware moving forward. At the same time, please do not expect every game to wow you. That will not happen with every game but Gears of War 4 and Assassins Creed Origins shows clear advantages over the Xbox One versions of the games. So I believe that Xbox One X is worth buying if you can afford it especially if you are an Xbox One owner. Everyone else should at least consider it at a later date next year once more games drops for the system and the price will fall as well.

So Microsoft’s claims of a true 4K console have not been exaggerated all. They seem to have delivered on their promise.

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