It’s gone by in a flash, but this week marks six months since the release of the Xbox Series X. In that time I’ve put dozens of hours of play into Microsoft’s powerful flagship gaming system and can barely remember the days before it nestled underneath my television.
In Tom's Guide's original Xbox Series X review, we praised the console for a wide variety of factors, including its impressive performance, speedy loading times, and slick design (even more apparent now that the curiously shaped PS5 is also in our hands). There was no debate, the Xbox Series X earned its Editor’s Choice award.
Reviewer, Roland Moore-Colyer, said in November last year: “The Xbox Series X is the one Xbox to rule them all. It’s a single machine that’ll run generations of Xbox games, and run them well. Furthermore, it’ll do so without looking fussy or making a racket.”
The question is now that the machine has been out in the wild for half a year, and the sheer novelty of having a new console is starting to wear off, does the Xbox Series X still stack up, or have its flaws become more apparent over time?
Nothing gets in the way of playing
One aspect of the Xbox Series X that remains extremely impressive even six months later, is how seamless a gaming experience it provides.
During Tom’s Guides review, loading speeds of under 10 seconds were clocked for graphically intense games like Gears 5. Even massive open-world games like Red Dead Redemption 2 had their loading screen cut down from a minute and a half to less than 40 seconds. That remains impressive to this day.
New releases such as Resident Evil Village (8 seconds of loading from menu to game) and Hitman 3 (9 seconds) are games that have benefited greatly from the Xbox Series X booting up in an astonishingly quick time. The days of turning to my phone to mindless scroll while awaiting the end of a lengthy loading sequence are well and truly gone!
Quick Resume is another feature that removes barriers between the user and actually playing. It was heavily promoted as one of the console’s biggest innovations prior to launch, and while it’s not a feature I find myself using daily, it’s extremely convenient when the situation calls for it.
Considering the PS5 only has the ability to suspend a single game at a time, the Xbox Series X managing up to five is a serious boon for Microsoft’s console. I’m rarely playing three games simultaneously, but being able to jump into a multiplayer match with friends without needing to shut down whatever single-player RPG I’m currently working my way through remains revolutionary.
Backwards compatibility done right
Microsoft has invested heavily in backward compatibility tech, and while it was a fun distraction on the Xbox One, it’s with the Xbox Series X that the effort has truly paid off.
The Xbox Series X really is the ultimate Xbox console, giving owners full access to the previous generation’s library, as well as a significant portion of the Xbox 360’s catalog and a large handful of original Xbox games as well.
Being able to play classic games like the complete Dead Space trilogy, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and the entire Halo saga, thanks to The Master Chief Collection, on a single console makes the Xbox Series X borderline essential. Plus, as someone who missed a fair chunk of Microsoft exclusives over the years, it’s offered me an easy way to catch up.
Microsoft hasn't stopped at just enabling classics games to be playable on its latest hardware, with its Game Boost initiative beloved titles from previous generations are actively being updated to take advantage of the power of the Xbox Series X. Auto-HDR, which was noted as a big pro in Tom’s Guides review, is another way the console gives older games a new lease on life.
There has never been a console that has launched with a library as deep as the Xbox Series X’s and in the last six months, where game delays have unfortunately become very frequent, that has been a real advantage for Microsoft’s bulky black box.
Game Pass is a gamechanger
It’s basically impossible to talk about the pros and cons of the Xbox Series X without heaping praise on Xbox Game Pass.
This subscription service is arguably the best deal in gaming at the minute, and the inclusion of new releases as such MLB The Show 21 and Outriders on the service from day one has only increased its value in the months since the Xbox Series X launched.
The depth of the Game Pass library is truly staggering, which is proven by the fact that (aside from a couple of classic 360 games) I have yet to buy a single game for my Xbox Series X. Why would I? I have dozens of incredible experiences available to me for just the cost of a couple of pints a month.
Refinement, not revolution
While it comes to the core functions of a video game console, the Xbox Series X took a fairly safe approach. The PS5 aims for innovation with a controller stuffed with new tech, and a fancy new UI built around a card system.
The Xbox Series X instead retains the UI of its predecessor, and while this did mean upon first booting up the system I was hardly wowed, as it felt just I’d just turned on my old Xbox One, over time the benefits of this approach have become apparent.
I’ve had quite a few issues with the PS5’s UI since launch, it might look flashy but it’s lacking a significant amount of basic functionality. The Xbox Series X instead has basically every UI feature I have ever needed and had them all since day one.
The controller is another area where Xbox Series X opted for refinement rather than revolution. Roland said this of the decision to use a very similar controller to the Xbox One: “that’s not a bad thing, as it’s a fantastic controller. Small improvements like textured triggers and an improved D-pad take a familiar controller and simply make it better.”
It’s a sentiment I somewhat agree with. While I can’t deny the Xbox Series X has a very solid pad, I do miss the next-gen features of the PS5’s DualSense such as adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. Though I have already had to send one of my PS5 controllers for repair after the triggers broke.
Since launch, Microsoft has also released an official Xbox Series X headset, which again follows the mantra of nailing the fundamentals rather than focusing on flashy tech like 3D Audio.
Still lacking exclusives
It’s been a common criticism of the Xbox platform for years, but it’s definitely the biggest knock against the Xbox Series X for now: The console desperately lacks killer exclusives.
While the PS5 already has the likes of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, Returnal, and the upcoming Ratchet & Clank: Rift-Apart, the Xbox Series X has a very underwhelming lineup of exclusive titles.
Sure we got The Medium in February, but that was a mid-tier game, and remarkably Halo Infinite is still not out yet. Though rumors are swirling that Starfield, Bethesda’s next massive RPG, could launch later this year and it'll likely be an Xbox exclusive now that Microsoft owns ZeniMax.
The lackluster lineup of exclusives does make the Xbox Series X harder to recommend if you’re not planning on using the system as your primary gaming device. If you’ve already got a PS5 or a powerful gaming PC, then you might be better off waiting till major exclusives like Fable 4 and Avowed are a little closer to launch.
Should you buy an Xbox Series X?
Roland concluded his original review by saying, “the Xbox Series X is a triumph in the here and now. But I can’t wait to see what it will be able to do in a year’s time.”
It’s a sentiment that still rings true today. So it’s a little disappointing that Microsoft hasn’t really moved the needle forward in any substantial way since release. Xbox Series X owners are still awaiting that first killer exclusive that will really showcase the console’s true potential.
Nevertheless, six months into its lifecycle the Xbox Series X remains a fantastic gaming machine that does more than enough to justify the $499 entry price. It doesn’t make the most compelling argument as a supplemental device, but if the Xbox Series X will be your primary gaming machine then you’ve no reason not to purchase one now — assuming you can find an Xbox Series X restock of course.