A week into the Xbox Series X/S generation, it’s hard to believe how much the fun of this new console stems not from the “next-gen” future, but from the past. Microsoft’s made some genuinely shocking improvements to old classics from its backward-compatibility library.
Of the dozen games I’ve got installed on my hard drive at the time of writing, only five are optimized specifically for the Series X and Series S. One of the games is from 2013; one’s from 2014; and another, Fallout 4, just celebrated its five-year anniversary a week ago.
When I hooked up my brand-new $500 console last week, the first thing I installed — and the first thing I played — was Knights of the Old Republic, a BioWare RPG from 2003. And all of these old titles, GTA Online included, perform better than ever. According to Microsoft, the team at Xbox spent over 500,000 hours playtesting its backward-compatible catalog before the next-gen consoles shipped.
Improved frame rates, unbelievable loading times and in-game performance, and automated high-dynamic-range effects make these games look more detailed and vivid than developers believed possible when the games were being made.
Xbox has long marketed Series X as the best way to play older games from previous generations, but the truth is that these upgrades are noticeable immediately. Where once the 360 struggled to properly run original-Xbox titles, Microsoft has now secured its reputation as the ultimate ecosystem for enjoying classic games without a PC.
Like Skyrim Special Edition in the prior generation, Fallout 4 on Series X/S takes a great game and improves its overall performance by leaps and bounds. Awkward movement, lengthy loading screens, and dropped frames are quickly forgotten as the Series X doubles the frame rate and makes one of Bethesda’s all-time best games look and play its very best.
First-party studios can take all the time they need on Xbox’s next crop of exclusives; this console is its own killer app.