The review embargo is up for Microsoft’s next-generation consoles, the Xbox Series S and the Xbox Series X – and it looks like critics and commentators around the world are mighty impressed.
Microsoft has been sending review units of the consoles out over the past few weeks and months, and now – finally – we can see what everyone thinks of the upcoming next-gen hardware.
There are a few themes running through the reviews; there’s almost universal praise of the actual hardware itself. It’s fast, it’s quiet, it’s well-designed and it just works, straight out the box.
But many critics have an issue with the lineup of titles available at launch. Our own Alex Donaldson puts it particularly well, noting that the machines are powerful, currently lacking in next-gen wows, and killer for backwards compatibility. And it’s an opinion seemingly shared by games media at large.
Digital Foundry’s review looks towards the console’s future and suggests that even though the launch may be slightly underwhelming, Microsoft has established a solid foundation. Richard Leadbetter writes:
“Ultimately, I believe that in Series X, Microsoft has indeed delivered an excellent next-generation system – but one that likely won’t show its many strengths at launch. Part of that is down to the lack of first party titles that really put the new technology through its paces and another part is very much down to Microsoft’s vision of a more gradual evolution in gaming as opposed to the generational, revolutionary shift Sony is aiming for with PlayStation 5.”
The Verge‘s Tom Warren shares a similar sentiment in his review, and after a lot of praise directed at the hardware and how Microsoft is harnessing the strengths of PC gaming for its latest console release, ends on the same note: that hardware isn’t the full picture.
“There’s one big question that remains for me with the Xbox Series X: when will Microsoft’s 23 first-party studios deliver the next-gen games to truly show what this console is capable of? Powerful hardware and a sleek user experience are only part of the mix. Microsoft will need the games to really make the Series X feel like something brand-new”.
Unsurprisingly, CNET has a similar conclusion in its review, with Dan Ackerman writing that Microsoft’s multi-tiered approach in the Series S and Series X is a relief for gamers that may think the $500 investment in next-gen is a little hard to swallow right now, with so few games natively available for the Xbox Series X.
“And if you don’t feel like $500 is the right number for you, I’m pleased to say I had an excellent experience with the less expensive Series S model as well. Besides being much smaller and, in my opinion, having a better aesthetic design, the Series S keeps most of the best features for a much more reasonable $300.
“I played the same handful of games on both the Series X and Series S, via a 65-inch LG OLED, and found very little practical difference in the experience. The Series S also lacks the optical drive, but I’m a well-known optical drive skeptic, preferring to skip complex mechanical parts that spin around and are more likely to break down.”
Over at USGamer, Kat Bailey celebrates Microsoft’s impressive rebound. Once again, similar themes crop up: Microsoft’s strategy is sound, its hardware is effective… but there’s something central to the whole new-generation experience that seems to be missing.
“The Xbox Series X still lacks a true killer app—a consistent issue going back to last generation—and touted features like Quick Resume are currently disabled in some instances. We’re definitely optimistic about the future, but it might be best to take a wait and see approach before investing fully in the Xbox Series X.”
Seth Barton at MVC concludes on the same note, acknowledging the evolution of Microsoft’s vision whilst criticising the lack of one true killer app.
“It may be an evolution of what’s come before, but Series X is still a huge move forward, and we can see the console becoming a classic of console design, both inside and out. For the industry this is an incredible platform, one with huge potential but one that also allows for the smooth hardware transition that our modern industry, with its live games, demanded.
“All the hardware really needs now is that one synonymous game – a Mario 64, a Breath of the Wild (a perfect example as it’s also a cross-gen title), a Halo: Combat Evolved – to really mark out its greatness.”
Keza McDonald of The Guardian lands on the same conclusion, noting that whilst the machine isn’t doing anything amazingly well, it’s not doing anything particularly wrong, either.
“Nothing about the Series X or Series S screams “buy me RIGHT NOW!” in my opinion, but equally, there’s not much to criticise: they do everything they promised to do, and they do it well.
Polygon’s Chris Plante goes in a bit harder with a skewering opener to what ends up being a positive review. “If I judged Microsoft’s new video game console, the Xbox Series X, purely as a piece of hardware, I’d only need one word: boring,” he says in the opening sting, circling back to the point in the closing paragraphs with a great summary of where Microsoft is at right now.
“The Xbox Series X isn’t the home of Microsoft’s gaming universe; it’s just one of many nodes, connecting outward to your phone, your tablet, your computer, or just a different (and cheaper) Xbox. It’s not the place to play video games. It’s a place to play video games — not only from the future, but also from the present and the past.
“The Xbox Series X is boring. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Xbox Series X and S consoles both launch on November 10. Everything you need to know about Microsoft’s brand new hardware can be found right here.