It’s only when you play Xbox series X-optimized games that you realize just how capable the new Xbox is. The colors are more vivid, the surroundings are more detailed, and everything is simple sharper.
But it’s not just that Xbox Series X games look better, they’re better too. Minimal loading screens mean you’ll rarely be out of action for more than a few seconds, and this results in a seamless experience that might leave you wondering how you’ve ever lived with long loading times.
After spending some time previewing builds of the upcoming Xbox Series X Optimized games, it looks like my Xbox One S is about to be retired. Here are some impressions of the games I’ve tried so far.
As part of the Xbox Series X Preview Program, I have access to Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Dirt 5. Both games are Xbox Series X optimized titles, meaning they are designed to take advantage of the power of the new Xbox. According to Microsoft, optimized titles have “unprecedented loading times, improved graphics and smoother frame rates at up to 120 fps”. Essentially, they show the real power of the new Xbox. These are your real next generation full fat games.
Yakuza: Like a dragon, Ichiban follows Kasuga, who has been released from prison and is on a mission to become a real “hero”, along with some friends he finds along the way. Unfortunately, a hero’s path isn’t always easy, and Ichiban gets into some unsavory underworld characters in an attempt to redeem himself – and find out why he was Really went to jail.
Even if you’ve never played a yakuza game, you should be able to jump to Yakuza: Like a Dragon with relative ease. Like a kite is a great descentfrom previous games in the Veteran series, introduction of a new protagonist, hiring, cast support, and a new turn-based RPG combat system (previous Yakuza games were real-time thugs).
Like a dragon acting as the new entry point for the series, this is a smart move, especially considering it’s one of the Xbox Series X launching titles. It’s handy for those like me who’ve always liked the look of the long-running action-adventure RPG series and wondered how to approach it as a newbie (without necessarily having to commit to playing seven main entries in a row ). And while the preview I played was a demo that plays a fair bit in-game, I never felt particularly lost or confused about what was expected of me. You can basically enjoy it without knowing the many other games in the Yakuza series.
But that doesn’t mean you aren’t confused at all. Yakuza is absolutely crazy as a show – I know that. And like a dragon, maybe even more so. At one point I took on a side quest to save a lobster named Nancy, who eventually became my pet (and comrade in arms), while a mini-game saw me knocking off terrible looking sheep in a rhythm challenge to keep Ichiban from falling asleep during one Film about a robot cook. Yes, it’s completely absurd – and so much fun.
But Yakuza: like a dragon, much like other entries in the series, he can balance his absurdity with his enticing plot. You may be in a street brawl with a man covered in baby oil, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
To be honest, there isn’t a lot of pressure to continue on the main mission path – and most of the time, you don’t want to just because you want to explore. Instead, enjoy the breathtaking sights and sounds of the beautifully realized Yokohama locale.
In this regard, the Xbox Series X’s performance is most valued. Visually, Like a Dragon is a huge step up from what I saw on Xbox One with its predecessor, Yakuza Kiwami 2. Gone are those blurry textures and instead we get crisp, sharp, and vibrant graphics. I spent some time just marveling at the enhancement on the characters’ faces and the reflections in their eyes, and soaking up the stunning colors of the neon street signs.
But it’s the super-fast Xbox Series X SSD that really enhances the Yakuza experience. Those already minimal loading screens from Kiwami 2 were essentially wiped out, and the few rare loading screens I encountered in Like a Dragon lasted around two seconds.
That meant I could seamlessly switch between cutscenes, fighting and walking around with minimal interruption – which made the city an absolute pleasure to explore.
What these shorter load times really showed was like the fast ride of a kite – which takes the form of a taxi. From the moment I accepted the ride, it took about 4.7 seconds to quickly travel to another neighborhood.
These minimal loading times are definitely welcome as I never wanted to be taken out of the experience for too long. Xbox Series X makes it possible – you’re wondering if Rockstar’s denser, bigger open-world games will load so quickly in the future.
Dirt 5, like Yakuza, is the newest entry in a veteran franchise. But as the name suggests, Dirt 5 is an off-road racing game that focuses on rallycross, ice racing, and just plain dirty racing.
The result is that in Career Mode (with set goals), Free Spins (which is more informal), or the Playgrounds (where you can create your own racing arena) you will accelerate through many muddy and slightly worrying tracks.
Dirt 5 proves that the Xbox Series X seems to lessen the need for graphics compromise to make way for performance. The game has three different video modes, each prioritizing a certain aspect of the graphics such as 120 Hz, image quality or frame rate. But to be honest, the differences are quite subtle to the untrained eye.
Whichever video mode you choose, Dirt 5 looks amazing. From the way the light hits the muddy roads you drive, to the dirt clinging to the back of your car, to the reflection in the puddles, Dirt 5 is a brilliant looking racing game. While the image quality mode improves the a little Overall, I’ve found that whichever mode you choose, the game is extremely responsive and fluid. When the frame rate goes down, I didn’t notice it.
It’s a comparative improvement over Dirt 4, which had pretty lackluster graphics and some framerate issues on Xbox One.
And just like with Yakuza, Dirt 5’s use of the X-Series SSD meant that screens only took seconds to load. While this is more of a function of improving the quality of life of menu screens, in a racing game like Dirt, a lack of loading screens actually means Your Overall performance in the game can improve.
You won’t be put off by frame rate drops or frequency issues, just enjoy a smooth ride.
It’s not that the Xbox One S appears like a completely redundant console alongside the Xbox Series X – not everyone can afford an upgrade this year, and there is now a huge library of games to enjoy. But now that I’ve seen Xbox Series X-optimized titles, the return to Xbox One games has proven to be a notable downgrade.
Eliminating or reducing loading times makes such a big difference that it’s hard to go back.
The problem with the Xbox Series X, however, is that the games starting grid isn’t great no matter how impressive the hardware is. Dirt 5 and Yakuza are just joining a few brand new titles to be released alongside the console on November 10th – and none are entirely Xbox exclusive. The rest of the line-up consists mostly of previously released Xbox One titles optimized for the Xbox Series X.
Microsoft has a lot going for it, like Fable, Obsidians Avowed, and the title library it acquired from Bethesda. But for a startup window, it’s undoubtedly broke.
So while Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Dirt 5 look and play really good, is it worth buying a $ 499 / £ 449 / AU $ 749 Xbox Series X to experience them? I’m not sure.
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