I just finished brushing my teeth and opened the bathroom door to my living room. I walk to my couch, sit, and grab the Xbox controller laying on the ground from the night before. I sit back a little further on the couch and press the middle Xbox button to turn the system on. The startup takes less than a second; the TV turns on automatically, and I’m presented with the Xbox menu with all its options and games ready to be played.
The controller sits tightly in my hands. It is a very well-crafted piece of tech. For a second, I admired the razor-sharp precision of each aspect of this controller. Ever since the launch of the Xbox 360, the Xbox controller has become the industry standard of the gaming industry, and for good reason. Everything on its interface makes perfect sense in the hands. And now with the Xbox Series X design, the controller takes everything that already made this controller perfect and finetunes it to make the device feel even more premium.
And that’s the sensation of the Xbox Series X console in one word: Premium.
The peace of mind that you get from each aspect of Xbox Series X, comes from the knowledge that this is the best of what console gaming has to offer. It doesn’t go out of its way to invent new ways to play, but it provides a platform where everything that can be done on it, is done extremely comfortably.
If I’m not resuming a game upon getting back to this console, I’m searching for a new game to play on Game Pass. Like this I’ve been able to play many things that I might otherwise not have given a chance to. And I have saved a significant amount of money, not needing to buy a bunch of triple AAAs old and new on the service.
Backwards compatibility is also a beautiful aspect of this console. If I ever have the time to finally play Final Fantasy 13 or something like KOTOR, I can either download it or find these games for 5 dollars second hand and pop in the disc. What’s more, I know that when this happens, those games are going to be running beautifully on the console automatically with common sense updates to the look of those older games.
Everything upscales to 4K very nicely and every input feels instantaneous without delay. It doesn’t matter if the game was made for Xbox 20 years ago and designed for a 640X480 resolution, everything works beautifully. It doesn’t mess with the 4K settings of the output or anything like that. And one more detail that I like, the Xbox quick menu you get when tapping on the Xbox home button is integrated across all content regardless of age. So, all games have their achievements, controller configurations, settings, etc. in a modern menu. This might not seem like much but I’ve noticed that other platforms like PS3 in the past and most Nintendo platforms have a hard time making their legacy content seamless between generations. It’s not major, but again, this is just one more thing I don’t need to think about. Everything is just done well.
The console design itself is weird but gives me peace of mind. It runs very cool and quiet, and looking at it, while odd, its design makes perfect sense. The machine was made to be placed vertically, and any hot air that’s produce from the console is sucked up by the large fan at the top of the Xbox sucking up air through the bottom of the console, to be released out its top vents. So, any heat that’s generated from any craziness produced on screen is handled with peace of mind. I’ve heard that the console runs at a steady voltage across its whole operation versus PS5 which adjusts its performance accordingly. I don’t know which one is better, but the idea of a powerful premium console working on performance profile that’s consistent gives me more peace for some reason.
I’m writing this blog because, upon turning this console on every single day and routinely gaming on it for hours on end during this pandemic, I remember that there’s still some people on the fence about this next gen, or they can’t find a PS5 etc. While all that chaos is happening in the real world between the everyday consumers and the scalpers, I think Xbox players have quietly been content with their better life at home peacefully playing away on Game Pass. So I wanted to take a moment to write about where I’m coming from, because honestly, the Xbox story has been surprising even to me. Also, it might be good to hear from an early adopter of the Series X console from a person who’s never messed around with Xbox seriously in past generations.
I bought my Xbox Series X in November of last year. I was already enjoying the Xbox One S at the tail end of the past generation. While it was not a powerful console, for some of the reasons mentioned previously, it was comfortable. My expectation prior to settling on the Xbox Series X was to just get the next Playstation console because frankly, they’ve taken 4 out of 4 generations between the Playstation and Xbox. (I want to be careful here because I know the Wii actually took one of those generations, but I think people know the spirit of what I’m trying to say here.) Ultimately, my mentality was, “Well, they’ll probably just copy whoever they need to in order to meet the industry standard and partner with the right companies to lock down those exclusives. Business as usual.” But something in my gut started to bother me about the PS5, I don’t know if it was the design, the attitude from Sony, the closure of their Japanese studios, the aggressive focus on blockbusters etc. Something about the next iteration of the Playstation was lazy to me. I figured, perhaps they didn’t need to work so hard? Anyway, the console felt very iterative.
On the other side of this, there was Xbox. And forget iterative, the console literally just looked like a last gen console with polish. So, with that, believe it or not, before settling with Xbox, I went with PS5. Yup.
Upon opening the very large PS5 box, the size of the console revealed itself to me. My girl was in the room at the time, and there was a genuine excitement in the room upon opening this monstrosity. Say what you will about the PS5, the console looks futuristic. It looks like a real-life fan mock up PS5 photo. It’s clear that the design team’s focus was: futuristic. Luckly, I had a slot below the TV where I could put this large system.
I also took the controller out of the box. Beautiful piece of tech. The controller wore the white futuristic look better than the console did in my opinion. While not a dramatic improvement from the DualShock 4, the look and its overall design was on a mission to scream otherwise. Among some of these features were the new adaptive triggers. I was really looking forward to see how this made the gaming experience more immersive.
So, I turn on the console, and again, the interface is on a mission to let you know how high end this platform is. Every sound effect and interface menu looks like what you’ll see in some sci-fi movies. It really adds to the feeling of, “ok, this is next gen.”
I started downloading all my old PS4 games on the PS5. Among these was Borderlands 3, which was perfect because that game just got a next gen update which integrates some of the next gen capabilities, including adaptive triggers.
Eventually, Borderlands installed along with its update and I was able to see the next gen upgrades at work. And yes, the adaptive triggers were part of the package. This was something I’ve never experienced before, each gun had different points in the push where there was resistance depending on what type of gun you were wielding. The game looked and ran beautifully, and now, felt more immersive.
But something happened. It took about 4-5 hours of gameplay, but I came to realize that I’m not relaxed and the game was almost too immersive. Sounds ridiculous I know, but those beautiful next gen triggers were actually requiring too much engagement. Lying on my couch playing this game on autopilot I was now searching for an option in the settings menu to shut off the very feature that defined the PS5 controller in some respect. No biggie, but upon playing further in Borderlands 3, more comfortability without adaptive triggers getting in the way, I started asking myself if other games are going to through the same process of, “oh that’s cool, anyway lemme shut it off.” I dismissed the thought.
Because of my ADHD I wanted to bounce around to something else eventually. I pressed the PS button on the controller and moved back to that large interface with futuristic smaller icons and scrolled through my old PS4 games. Sadly, the games presented seemed a bit tired at this point because I already had them at the ready on PS4 and I wanted to try something new with next gen updates. Now, I was thinking of what that would take, to try something new, 80 dollars? The console was very early in its lifecycle, it probably wasn’t fair to make an assessment at this stage.
With that, I shut off the PS5 and my eyes moved from the turned off blank screen of the TV, south to the PS5. Holy shit, that console was large. Despite the fact that the console was nested in a TV unit, the PS5 still demanded the attention of everyone who would walk into this living room. On the floor right next to the TV unit, was the old disconnected PS4 slim. Again, probably not a fair comparison, but alas it was right in front of my eyes. The difference in scale between these two consoles were dramatic. When the two platforms were next to each other, the question of which one truly ‘looked’ modern puzzled me a bit.
Below the PS5 was the Xbox One S; A clean modern white console. Looking at the Xbox there was a sense of almost relief. I looked for the controller of the Xbox and held the Xbox controller in one hand and the Dualsense PS5 controller in the other. Both beautiful. But there was something about the Xbox that was very generic but extremely sensible. I turned on the Xbox One S.
Upon seeing the clean interface with its large sharp clean square icons, there was this very small sense of relief. Perhaps it was just the familiar, but I have never in my 30 years of gaming have gone to a previous generation console and felt a sense of peace (Well, maybe when I got the N64). But I didn’t see a clear advantage over the experience offered by PS5 versus my Xbox One S.
I navigated to my Game Pass service and started scrolling through all its titles trying to feel out what type of gaming mood I was in. Upon doing this, I thought to myself, “All I really need is this world but next gen graphics.” Well, the answer was pretty clear at this point.
I got off the couch and started unplugging the PS5 console. Wrapping the console up in its foam cover it came with, along with that beautiful controller. I re-boxed the console, and moved to reconnect the PS4. I know one of my friends were desperately looking for a PS5, so I reached out to him and made the easiest sale I’ve ever made in my life (at cost of course).
It just so happens that the next week, Best Buy was selling units of Series X and miraculously I was able to pull the trigger on one of them. The rest is history.
I’m happy to report that I’ve played the Xbox Series X every single day since getting it, while it doesn’t have adaptive triggers... Game Pass, backwards compatibility and Quick Resume make this the ultimate game console in my mind. It’s just doing everything right and I’m very happy with my purchase and choice to roll with Xbox this time around. I have no regrets whatsoever and I highly recommend anyone who can relate give Xbox a shot. At a minimum, try out a bullshit second hand 100-dollar Xbox One and see if the game pass lifestyle, controller, and app interface appeals to you. You might be surprised.
PS: This is not to say that I won’t get a PS5 down the road, I just need them to make it smaller, with more must have exclusives... and available.