Full disclosure: even though I used to work for the UK Official Xbox Magazine, I’ve barely touched my Xbox Series X in over a year. Hell, of late, I’ve mostly been using it to prop up my streaming box. And yes, I know I really shouldn’t be blocking off my console’s top vents. I'll slap my own wrists later.
My relationship with Microsoft’s flagship console has completely changed over the past few weeks, though. Thanks to a couple of megaton releases, Microsoft’s machine has finally grabbed my attention for the first time since Halo Infinite launched in ye olden days of 2021.
My Series X has Starfield and Forza Motorsport to thank for finally giving me an excuse to dust off Microsoft’s high-end console. Bethesda’s latest epic action-RPG may not have quite garnered the universal critical acclaim of Skyrim, but it’s certainly the most polished, best-looking game the studio has ever put out.
On my LG G3 OLED TV, Starfield looks stunning. The core gameplay loop of ferrying between planets, scanning intergalactic plants, getting distracted by side quests and shooting all the space dudes isn’t super compelling, sure. But the game looks so damned good I can’t put it down.
Though I really do wish Bethesda would fix its borked HDR — currently I have to set my TV’s brightness setting to a ludicrously low 23/100 just to stop Starfield from looking washed out.
As for the recently released Forza Motorsport: Hot. Damn. It’s scarcely believable how close Turn 10 Studios’ driving sim comes to legitimate photorealism.
We’ll have our full review of the game live at Tom's Guide shortly, but in the meantime, I can happily tell you Forza Motorsport is a truly gorgeous racer with a sumptuous handling model. It also takes advantage of the official Xbox Wireless Controller’s palm-shaking Impulse triggers more effectively than any other title I can currently think of.
Game Pass with flying colors
It’s been far too long since Xbox Series X had two blockbuster releases to get me all hot and bothered, so I’m glad Microsoft is finally starting to deliver triple-A games that make Xbox Game Pass feel like it’s finally an essential subscription service.
I’ve recently resubscribed to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which allows me to play titles across both my Series X and one of the best gaming PCs. Not only does the Xbox app work far better on my Windows 11-powered rig than it used to, but the collection of titles it’s quietly amassed makes signing up for a sub feel like a no-brainer to me. now
While I’ve primarily been playing Starfield and Forza on my Xbox Series X because I’m now the proud owner of one of the best OLED TVs in the world, I really appreciate that I can play a wide selection of Game Pass titles on my Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 PC.
The list of games I can enjoy at 4K (often at a 120 frames per second) is truly impressive. Deathloop, Dishonored 2, Dirt 5, Doom Eternal, Forza Horizon 5, Crusader Kings 3, A Plague Tale: Requiem — that’s quite the stellar line-up. I can even play Dead Space 2 (one of the best survival horror games of all time, in my book), in Ultra HD thanks to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Almost three years after release, Xbox Series X — and to a lesser extent Xbox Series S (for gamers playing on 1080p TVs) — finally feels like an essential games console. PS5 still has the superior library of exclusives, but with Microsoft's prolonged yet likely upcoming acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the Xbox ecosystem is only going to get stronger from here on out.
Xbox Series X, I officially apologize for using you as a glorified 4K Blu-ray player for the past two years. I’ll give you the respect you finally deserve and remove that little streaming service box that’s currently blocking your vents.