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Xbox Series X: One Year Later

Has the world's most powerful console managed to stand the test of time?

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It has now been a year since the Xbox Series first stepped onto the scene and introduced many of us to the world of 4K gaming. This black fridge-like device blew us away when we first hooked it up to our televisions, with it offering lightning-fast loading times, breath-taking visuals, and the ability to Quick Resume up to 12 games at once. Our first few months with the world's most powerful console were indeed remarkable, but how are we feeling now it has spent an entire year on the market?

The software

When it comes to the console's operating system, you're pretty much getting the same core experience overall, but with a few added quality-of-life tweaks. For example, players can now view the titles they have open in Quick Resume within their Guide or a pinned Group on the start-up screen. Additionally, 4K dashboards are present, and the option was implemented last December for players to filter Xbox Series optimised titles quickly. Xbox Game Pass has also seen several tweaks of its own, but we will be getting to these a little later on.

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The library of games that have been optimised for the Xbox Series is also now an extensive one, with many developers going back and retroactively tweaking their titles to take advantage of the improved horsepower. We have seen games such as Ghostrunner, Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Doom Eternal get treated to glossier visuals and sleeker frame rates, and there are plenty of these retroactive upgrades on the way. Xbox Series owners can, for example, look forward to upgraded and enhanced versions of Cyberpunk 2077, Dying Light, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

The hardware

As expected, with the console being around a year, there has been an increase in third and first-party accessories. The most significant advancement on this front, we would say, has to be with internal storage cards. The range of internal storage cards has now expanded, with Seagate offering sizes from 512GB to 2TB. These will still cost you a small fortune, though, with the smallest costing $134.99 and the largest $399.99.

While it's not entirely related to the console, we'd be foolish not to mention the Xbox Series X mini-fridge. When the world pointed and laughed at the shape of the Series X, Xbox took it in great spirit, and the product became a reality. The fridge has become a hot seller (despite being cool), and it has sold out at most retailers. It's a must-have for console fans, but don't get confused and try and insert your discs inside.

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Xbox Series X: One Year Later

The exclusives

When it comes to exclusive offerings, the Xbox Series is sadly leagues behind the competition. Already in the last year, the PS5 has received acclaimed releases such as Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Deathloop, and the Demon's Souls remake. The future for the console looks bright, too, with Horizon Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7, and God Of War Ragnarok set to drop in the future.

On the Xbox Series, things are much more barren, largely due to Microsoft's strategy of releasing exclusive games simultaneously on the Xbox One. Sure, these exclusives will look and run much nicer on the Gen 9 hardware, but the fact remains that buying these consoles isn't an absolute necessity. Over the last 12 months, Xbox Series owners have received The Medium (as a timed exclusive for eight months) and Microsoft Flight Simulator. Along with Xbox One owners, though, they have also got Gears Tactics, Yakuza: Like a Dragon (timed exclusive for five months), and Forza Horizon 5.

This will no doubt pick up in this regard, though, as the list of exclusive titles coming in the future looks extremely bright. The much-anticipated Halo Infinite is landing this December, a new Fable title is in the works from Playground Games, and Rare's Everwild is looking especially tantalising. We are also starting to see the first promising signs following Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax. Redfall looks to be a unique vampire co-op shooter, and it's possible that Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI might be timed exclusives.

Xbox Game Pass and Games with Gold

Obviously, a massive perk to the Xbox Series is that you get all present and upcoming exclusives through Game Pass (if you're a subscriber, of course). It's not just limited to first-party games, as we have seen some excellent third-party releases land on day one over the last year, too, such as Outriders, Back 4 Blood, and The Ascent. The service also has a backlog of 100s of great titles for you to thumb your way through, and some of these are available on PC and mobile devices via the cloud.

Game Pass is only set to improve over time, too, as an update is planned that will enable users to stream Game Pass titles without having to download them. This is perfect for sampling new titles and for quickly jumping into online multiplayer matches with friends. With this new cloud-based technology, Game Pass Ultimate members on Xbox One can stream new-gen titles, but there is one major caveat. You must ensure you have a solid internet connection constantly, and things, of course, don't run as flawlessly as they would locally.

With Game Pass being such a primary focus for Microsoft, its Games with Gold service has sadly been neglected. The games offered over the last 12 months have been pretty abysmal, and Xbox Series titles have not yet been added. This is pretty surprising, as Sony is currently offering one PS5 release per month within its PS Plus service. Sure, receiving a pair of Xbox 360 or classic Xbox titles is a plus if you're a fan of retro games, but we're sure most of us would like more ways to put that newer hardware to the test. After all, it did cost us an absolute fortune.

Closing thoughts

So with all that said, should you purchase the Xbox Series in 2021? Personally, we still don't view it as a truly must-have machine, but the arguments for purchasing one have certainly grown stronger over the last 12 months. What we feel is hurting the Xbox Series the most at the moment is exclusive content; as compared to its main rival, its offerings are pretty lacklustre. With Halo Infinite and Redfall releasing in the future, though, things are looking brighter in this regard, and through inevitable price cuts and software updates, it'll only become more and more enticing.

Xbox Series X: One Year Later

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