The Xbox Series X/S launch line-up is both brilliant and underwhelming

By Tom Orry
15 October 2020 15:52 GMT

Some superb games, for sure, but it’s a list that’s almost entirely devoid of excitement.

We’re now less than a month away from the release of Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and S consoles, and today have the full list of games that will be optimised for them. These are the games that have been tweaked by the dev teams to explicitly take advantage of the power under the hood rather than simply run better through backwards compatibility and brute force. It’s a list with some really big games, but look closer and it’s hard not to feel a tad disappointed.

Assassins Creed Valhalla, Borderlands 3, Dead by Daylight, Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition, Dirt 5, The Falconeer, Fortnite, Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, Gears Tactics, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Sea of Thieves, Tetris Effect: Connected, Watch Dogs: Legion, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon are all hugely popular triple-A games, brilliant-looking indies, or highly rated titles. They will also all be available on the seven-year-old Xbox One. I’m looking forward to testing them out on the Series X at launch, with many being on Game Pass, but am I legitimately pumped to play them all? Not really.

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Of the line-up, only NBA 2K21 and Observer: System Redux look to show “proper” next-gen visuals, which is a situation that is hard to ignore. This is a brand-new generation for Xbox, a generation that looks to be primed for success thanks to a plethora of consumer-friendly initiatives and policies. But, and it’s a big but, part of me wishes Microsoft hadn’t fluffed its lines when it comes to first-party software.

You could point to the late delay of Halo Infinite, a planned launch title that would have generated real buzz, but this too wasn’t to be a true showcase of that next-gen power. The negative reaction to its debut showing no doubt playing a major part in the reason we’re now not getting the game until some point in 2021.

Even the Xbox One, which launched underpowered compared to the PS4 and as a near-laughing stock amongst gamers due to a truckload of awkward messaging and mandatory Kinect, had some genuine graphical showcases. Say what you want about the quality of Ryse, Dead Rising 3, and Forza Motorsport 5, but they could only be played on Xbox One at the time and looked beyond what we had been playing on the Xbox 360. Right now the Xbox Series X/S could really do with its own Ryse.

Doom and gloom, yes, but I don’t think this launch situation matters, at least right now. Like many others I’ve got a Series X pre-ordered because I want to play upcoming games on the most powerful console. While I’ll be getting a PS5 for Miles, Demon’s Souls, and Sackboy (yes, I like the look of it, OK!), I expect I’ll play almost everything else on the Xbox Series X.

Microsoft has some time to play with. The value offering at launch with Game Pass is going to be a big selling point, but at some point in the near future we need to see what’s coming that will really show off what that beast of a console can actually do. I want to be wowed because right now the Series X and S just aren’t doing it.

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