Xbox Series X: First Weekend Impressions

My Xbox Series X arrived on Friday, and I spent a bunch of time playing and messing around with it this weekend and wrote what was supposed to be a quick post with my impressions that wound up being 2000+ words. Take it all with a grain of salt.  

ThomW

I wish I'd taken notes along the way to capture all of my thoughts, but I'm going to do a quick write-up of my impressions from taking it out of the box to playing all weekend.  

Unboxing

A bunch of Youtubers have done a decent job describing the experience of unboxing the system. There's really nothing that remarkable about it -- it's a huge box with no surprises. 

I honestly wish the packaging was made out of more recyclable material. I'm not sure if the foam glued to the inside of the box can be thrown in my recycle bin.  

The Controller

The controller is nice -- it's the Xbox One pad with some tweaks to the triggers, a new disc-shaped d-pad similar-looking to the one on the Elite controller, and a really noticeable grippy texture on the underside of the controller that's kind of nice. 

I didn't spend a bunch of time playing with the d-pad but it seems usable. I was a little worried about it changing to a disc, but it's still pretty clicky like the Xbox One pads, which seems to make hitting the cardinals obvious and easy. I'll have to play some Pac-Man Championship Edition to put it to the test.  :D 

Probably the best addition to the controller is the dedicated "share" button that's located under the Xbox button in the center of the controller. Microsoft tried to turn the Xbox 360 back button into a share button on the Xbox One, but it was a dumb idea, and a bunch of games started using it as a select button, which is what it wound up being in most 360 games. I haven't used it much, but apparently a tap captures a screenshot, and a long press starts recording video.

Setup

Setup was a snap. I unplugged my Xbox One X and moved it out of the way and stuck the Series X in its place. I kept the old HDMI cable since it's routed through my stereo rack, but used the new power cord. 

Using the Xbox app on my phone to setup the Xbox was pretty nice - while the console was tied up downloading new stuff, I could grab my phone and start getting logged in and that kind of thing. Super painless. Definitely get the Xbox app to make setting up your new Xbox easier if you're migrating from an older system and already have an Xbox account.  

One thing that I always find annoying with setting up Xboxes is that they don't tie your streaming service logins back to your Xbox Live credentials, so I had to log into Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and the rest of my streaming service apps again. I wish they'd close that gap and make it easier to move from Xbox to Xbox.  

Setup: Adding External Storage

I bought a 1TB SSD and threw it in a cheap enclosure to store old Xbox/360/One titles on so they're not taking up space on the precious new storage built into the console. The process to get that running was a little clunky. I either plugged it in before the console was ready to see plug & play events or something, but while I was getting things setup, I went into storage to try and format the drive, but didn't see any options. I finally just yanked the USB cable and plugged it back in once the system was up and running and that finally got it to recognize the new drive and brought up the format prompt.

I was presented with two options - an option to format the drive so it would be storage for screen shots and videos that could be played on a PC, or formatted to hold games. Obviously went with the latter. There was no on-screen progress bar or anything to indicate status and I walked away. 

When I came back an hour or two later, it still didn't show up under storage, so I rebooted the console and it finally appeared and I was able to move a bunch of older stuff to it, which was as easy/clunky as I expected, but was pretty quick overall.  

Quick Resume

I'm not sure how I feel about this feature yet. When it works, it's rad, but more often than not, it didn't and it makes me confused as to why.  

Keep in mind this was my first weekend with the new system, so I was bopping in and out of a lot of games, so part of my issues may be because of that -- I may have started more things than I thought and when I went back to one of the earlier games my state had been overwritten, but I really do think I had a couple instances where the feature just straight-up didn't work correctly.  

I'm going to talk about the two new X|S games I spent the most time playing this weekend: Call of Duty Cold War and Assassin's Creed Valhalla.  

Call of Duty was a total letdown when it comes to Quick Resume -- it flat out doesn't support it at all even when playing the single player campaign. I'm guessing this is due to Activision's lame ass always-on network connection that has absolutely no application within the SP campaign. It's super disappointing to have to sit through the opening video showing the dozen or so game studios that were involved in the creation of this game.  I really wish they'd peeled off the separate elements of the game into separate apps like Crackdown 3 did so the SP campaign was launched individually, could Quick Resume, and also be uninstalled now that I'm done with it.  

Assassin's Creed Valhalla's Quick Resume did work nicely for the most part. Keeping in mind that I was jumping in and out of games I did find that I had to boot the game from scratch more than I expected, but I think the fault there lies with the lack of visual indicators when a game's ready to quick start more than anything.

I think some indicator in the UI that showed that a game state was still captured would help a lot to communicate to users what was going to happen when they tried to go back to a game they'd just been playing.  

Backwards Compatibility 

I have to admit I spent a ton of time playing Star Wars Battlefront 1+2 from the original Xbox with TommyW.  We both love that game, and we've been playing it consistently for years. I honestly don't notice any changes from the Xbox One version other than the fact that Quick Resume worked when we went back to play it a few hours after an earlier session, and that was pretty slick. Any opportunity to skip the original Xbox boot-up logo makes me happy. haha

I read or heard some people talking about HDR adding something to Geometry Wars, so I played a bit. It does add *something* to the game, but honestly - it's such a low-res game it looked really clunky; I'm not sure it's that beneficial, though I didn't turn it off to see the before, so ... 

EDIT: I tried Geometry Wars 2 last night, and does look amazing. It looks incredible on my OLED with the Xbox Series X's fake HDR going. 

I played a bunch of random old 360 and Xbox games, and just like before, you have to sit through the original systems' boot-up animation, and there's quite a bit of time sometimes for the save game syncing to happen, but everything works fine once it gets going, and my Xbox One games are all right where I left them, which is pretty cool.  

I fired up Forza Horizon 4 which has been enhanced for X|S and it seemed to run smoother than I remember it running on the Xbox One X, so that's cool. I'd go watch a Digital Foundry video if you're interested in how well it holds frame rate and all that business. ;) 

Apps

Nothing really new here to note except for the Apple TV app, which was a nice addition. I spent a bunch of time last night watching Ted Lasso using the free year I got of Apple TV's streaming service with my MacBook Air.  

Btw, watch Ted Lasso -- I'm like four episodes in and loving it.  

Another thing I'm thrilled about is that my Harmony remote still works with it. The clever bastards at Microsoft put an IR receiver in the button on the front of the console used to pair controllers. I love it! 

Games

I think this is the most disappointing thing about the launch of the Xbox Series X - a definite lack of new titles to play. Like I said earlier, I got Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, and Call of Duty: Cold War. 

I haven’t played a ton of AC:Valhalla only because I’m finding it pretty lackluster so far. I’m only a couple hours in, but the combat is just whacking the right bumper and trigger for the most part. I’m sure it’ll get better, but I feel like Ghost of Tsushima stole this game’s thunder in every possible way, and honestly I'd rather be replaying that instead of what I've played of AC:V so far. The only saving grace about AC:V was the price -- it's just $60 -- enjoy it while you can, because $70 (nearly $75 w/ tax) games are here and COD: Cold War is one of them.  

I finished the single player campaign for COD:Cold War in what I’d guess to be under 10 hours, and it was a good time. Typical COD campaign with its usual twists and turns. With all the hullaballoo about this being in the 80s and everything, I was hoping I’d be up to my eyeballs in nostalgia, but really it’s pretty low-key. Sure there’s Reagan and they use a CRT filter on all the video clips in the game with abandon, but it doesn’t smack me over the head with that stuff which I’m a little disappointed about. I guess if you hire a bunch of kids to make a game that takes place in a decade during which they weren’t born or too young to remember, you get this. haha

I tried hopping into COD:Cold War multiplayer a few times, and as always I suck. A couple of the bigger game modes I flat out don’t understand, which led to some embarrassing deaths, but for me that’s typical COD MP.  I Googled and it says that Cold War has some couch co-op multiplayer options, but I couldn’t begin to tell you how to get that going even with two controllers hooked up — it wasn’t obvious.  

As with past COD games, I’m encountering the same old bugs. After sitting through the game’s loading screens because Quick Resume doesn’t work, I get into the game to find there’s no sound — the Xbox UI noises are happening, but the game audio was borked.  Annoying.  I crashed to desktop while playing both SP and MP a couple times. I could never connect to a Zombies game, either.  I’m not sure if that’s because it’s broken, or no one is playing it, in either case - it didn’t work.  

Summary

At this point, it’s another faster Xbox. The speed is nice, but the games are lacking. I have Game Pass Ultimate, and even with that and an Xbox catalog stretching back over 19 years, I’m struggling to find things that I really want to play on it. I’ve already taken my trips down memory lane through the best of the 360 catalog on the Xbox One, and there really wasn’t much on the Xbox One that I want to revisit. I’ve played enough Halo: MCC thank you.

The most frustrating part is that I can’t get my grubby hands on a PS5, and I keep seeing those videos of Days Gone running like butter and I want that. haha

Microsoft knows their catalog’s a problem and they bought a ton of studios to strengthen their lineup of exclusive games, but I hope Game Pass doesn’t create a situation where every game on Xbox doesn’t wind up like Sea of Thieves, which seems like an Early Access game that could be blopped out on Game Pass so subscribers could play what was done of the game while it’s built.  Grounded is another one that follows that pattern, and I’m wondering how many more games will be released half-baked on Game Pass. I can’t really fault Grounded since it’s being built by a small team, but I’m not really enthusiastic about what might start happening to games from all the other studios Microsoft just sponged up. Bethesda’s next game might wind up being their Star Citizen.  :P 

I'm happy my back catalog of stuff is preserved, and there's a ton there that I do go back to, but we need some new software to keep me coming back to Xbox. 

From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 16, 2020 11:24 AM

    I blasted a bunch of thoughts about the Xbox Series X into Cortex. I didn't intend to make this a full-blown thing, but it wound up being 2000 words. haha

    Read more: Xbox Series X: First Weekend Impressions

    • reply
      November 16, 2020 12:00 PM

      Thanks for the write up!

      I agree on a lot of your points, though overall I think my takeaways are a bit more positive.

      I'm. Absolutely loving the whole experience, only downsides for me so far are games that don't support quick resume, and Halo 5 hard locked my console once

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        November 16, 2020 12:31 PM

        What was your last Xbox? Mine was the Xbox One X, and so far this feels more like a lateral move than a big upgrade.

        Really though it comes down to the lack of gotta-have-em titles to get this giant thing out of dry dock. Even for the last year it feels like exclusives on the platform slowed to a drip, and I thought they were saving games for the Xbox Series X|S launch, but here we are and the games are MIA. I think it screams volumes that I spent more time playing an OG Xbox game than everything but COD this weekend.

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          November 16, 2020 12:33 PM

          For me it was 360, and this so far I am just enjoying more than my PC, it's so much less hassle to just sit down and play vs pretty much any other game I play on PC :D

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            November 16, 2020 12:37 PM

            From a 360 it's a HUGE leap and you probably didn't already exhaust the best of the Xbox One library, so you have a bunch of new stuff to check out. Exciting times!

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              November 16, 2020 12:50 PM

              Halo 5!!!

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              November 16, 2020 1:56 PM

              I am in the same boat as Milleh, though I’ve probably played way less recent stuff than even him. I have some big third party titles to try, even on game pass. I cannot wait to get my hands on the thing.

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      November 16, 2020 12:32 PM

      What a pig to blast into Cortex like that

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        November 16, 2020 12:33 PM

        8==✊==D

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          November 16, 2020 12:39 PM

          haha I was going to post that I wrote this thing other places, but then I posted this reply .... I guess I'm not now. lol

          • reply
            November 16, 2020 1:21 PM

            Btw that’s another thing needed in terms of chatty enhancements- a “report post” button to make it easy to flag posts for the mods. :/

    • reply
      November 16, 2020 12:33 PM

      You had me at "I blasted"

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      November 16, 2020 12:44 PM

      How are non-game apps? Like Edge and the MS Rewards app? It takes sometimes minutes to start the Rewards app on my X1S and Edge is verging on unusable.

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        November 16, 2020 12:46 PM

        I didn't notice they were any different from the Xbox One X really. Launched quickly, responsive as ever. I dunno -- I really don't use them much. I use the Rewards app like once every month or two to redeem points I guess.

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          November 16, 2020 12:47 PM

          Get them 50 points for every achievement!

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        November 16, 2020 1:11 PM

        Edge is significantly faster. Haven't tried the rewards app yet

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          November 16, 2020 1:51 PM

          Is it actually usable? Like, say.... could you watch a totally legitimate not sketchy at all nfl stream with it?

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            November 16, 2020 1:52 PM

            I was trying to do that yesterday. I never found a good totally legitimate not sketchy at all nfl stream, but the process of trying was waaay better. Very usable

    • gmd legacy 10 years mercury mega
      reply
      November 16, 2020 12:47 PM

      still waiting for mine to ship, need ASShalla so bad

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        November 16, 2020 12:51 PM

        Temper your expectations. I'm pretty thoroughly bored with it. I haven't gotten to England yet, so I'm super early days, but it's just not grabbing me so far. Now that I'm done with Cold War I'm going to go back to it and hopefully it'll sink its teeth into me.

        One thing I do have to say is that the tearing is pretty awful. There will be what looks like two lines of tearing at some points in the game -- I'm not even sure how they accomplished that feat.

        Honestly, part of me just wants to forget it's even in my house for a few weeks for Ubisoft to patch the darn game to iron out some of the kinks.

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          November 16, 2020 1:01 PM

          Are you using VRR tv? I don't get any tearing at all.

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      November 16, 2020 12:51 PM

      Quick resume is still buggy, just like it was with the XB1. It sucks.

      I'm sure it works great if you only use your xbox for gaming, but if you're constantly launch apps (for streaming and whatnot) your game state eventually gets trashed. Like, I played Ass Creed on Friday and when I tried launching it on Sunday I had to wait for the game to start and go through all the crap with logging in, loading, etc.

      I was really hoping they would fix that :(

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        November 16, 2020 12:52 PM

        I was really wondering about that -- I use the Xbox One as my media hub, and it did seem like the apps were causing my games to totally reload instead of quick resuming. That blooows.

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          November 16, 2020 12:57 PM

          It sucks because if you complain about it, all the people who only use their XB1 for gaming will chime in and tell you you're crazy and that you must be doing something wrong.

          I also use my XB as my primary media device, which is why I did almost all of my gaming on my PS4 last gen. I guess I'll be using my PS5 a lot once I can get my hands on one.

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            November 16, 2020 1:00 PM

            I'm so irritated I can't get my hands on a PS5 - it's the console I really want for those sweet exclusives.

            I like owning both because I can decide which platform I want to play things on -- I prefer the Xbox controller, so if the games are the same on both platforms, I'll go that way; but last gen the Xbox One X was clearly faster than the PS4 Pro, so stuff like RDR2 made the XBX worthwhile since it ran so well on it.

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              November 16, 2020 1:09 PM

              Yea it's annoying. My wife wants to get me one for Christmas, but she's not going to set discord alerts or constantly refresh costco or whatever. I really wish she could just pay for one somewhere and have it ship whenever it's in stock.

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            November 16, 2020 1:09 PM

            I use my xbox for everything fwiw. On xbone I used OneGuide and all the streaming apps. It still worked. On xsx I'm not using OneGuide, but still using all the apps. Really do not thing the issues are related to launching apps.

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              November 16, 2020 1:11 PM

              I really wish I knew what was causing it. It's super annoying.

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                November 16, 2020 1:13 PM

                Yeah, I feel you. If you're still having issues on xsx I'm struggling to think of what it could be except some brokenness in your xbl profile or something.

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                  November 16, 2020 1:33 PM

                  It would be crazy if it had something to do with my profile, but I can't really think of any other reason it would happen so consistently with some people and not others.

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        November 16, 2020 2:01 PM

        So they just silently lose their state, as if they’re a freaking smart phone app, like I guessed.

        It won’t be a problem for me, because I’ll probably use it for only gaming, but still.

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        November 16, 2020 2:07 PM

        I tested the quick resume pretty thoroughly for almost a week now and haven't had a single issue with it. I'm wondering if some of it is software related, as in the games being played?

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          November 16, 2020 2:59 PM

          I’ve only been playing Valhalla, but on xb1 it happened with literally every game I played.

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            November 16, 2020 3:28 PM

            Yeah, XB1 resume was a mixed bag for me as well. I've had ACOdyssey on my quick resume and no problems as of yet with it.

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        November 17, 2020 9:57 AM

        i haven't had any issues at all, its been so awesome

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      November 16, 2020 12:54 PM

      Is there a way to determine, visually, which controller belongs to which player? I seem to recall a previous generation (probably the 360) showed it using the four segments around the XBOX button on the controller (do I have that right?).

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        November 16, 2020 12:55 PM

        Nope. They dropped that on the Xbox One controllers and it's not back on the new ones. :/

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          November 16, 2020 12:57 PM

          Bummer :(. My first thought was that it seems like a missed opportunity to have made the LEDs that backlight the XBOX button programmable RGBs to distinguish the controllers.

    • reply
      November 16, 2020 1:04 PM

      Great write-up, thanks for the impressions!

    • reply
      November 16, 2020 1:07 PM

      I've yet to run into issues with quick resume, but I've only launched like, 5 different games maybe. But going back to everything from skate3 to rdr2 and tetris effect, and back worked great. Even after unplugging the system.

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      November 16, 2020 1:17 PM

      Xbox doesn't have the software YET. I own an XSX and PS5, the PS really sells it with its 2 (3 astro HEH) games and will make you say wow. BUT I been spending more time as I am hooked on Valhalla which I bought on my XSX. I still play about an hour a day of Demon's Souls and it owns. But Valhalla has me hooked, its been a stressful week and a chill out game was on the menu.

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        November 16, 2020 1:25 PM

        I bought Valhalla on PC and like an idiot I bought it again on the Series X because I had to see how it ran/looked. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I prefer playing a multi platform game on a console.

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          November 16, 2020 3:19 PM

          I have a 3700x and a 3070 and bought it on XSX so I had something new/next gen to play on the system. I am loving it though. I am a huge Souls fan and should be playing Demon's Souls nonstop on my PS5 but Valhalla has its hooks in me.

          The 3070 is showing its value in shooters though, 240hz locked in Apex Legends ultra settings is awesome.

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            November 16, 2020 3:36 PM

            I am loving valhalla more than I thought I would. I played the shit out of origins but I bounced off of odyssey because the map was too damn big. This one is just striking a chord with me. It’s great video game junk food. Just kick back on the couch and dive into that lore for a couple of hours at a time. Lopping off heads and limbs. Loving it.

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        November 16, 2020 1:50 PM

        You say YET, but what are really the standout titles on Xbox One? They're in neutral rolling downhill with Halo and Forza Horizon afaic. They bought all these developers, but what's really in the pipeline in terms of games? :/

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          November 16, 2020 3:02 PM

          Gears 5 was an amazing looking and playing game on the XB1X. It looks and runs even better on the XBSX (though I played it on PC).

          I bounced off XCOM Chimera because of a game ending bug but Gears Tactics was fun and more polished than Chimera Squad. It's got better cutscenes too that make it feel like a Gears game in between the XCOM style missions. I'll revisit Chimera Squad later because it has a good gameplay look of just focused on the city. It's kind of what I originally wanted Police Quest: SWAT 2 to have back in the day.

          The most immediate exclusives I'm looking forward to from MSFT is Senua's Saga from Ninja Theory and Psychonauts 2 from DF.

          I think most people are getting the new consoles specifically for Cyberpunk 2077.

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          November 16, 2020 3:08 PM

          You are absolutely correct. I am looking forward to the Medium and Halo of course but yeah. It is a waiting game, all the value is with game pass. Without GP I would not of even bought one. But on the PS side they have 2 games and giving you a giant catalog of ps4 games so you have something to do incase you didn't own a PS4.

          It is a weird launch for both systems in a weird year.

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      November 16, 2020 1:59 PM

      Nice! \m/ :) \m/

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      November 16, 2020 2:05 PM

      I spent the weekend playing games on both systems (XSX/PS5) and right now it's definitely the software that is holding both consoles back. The one thing I like about both is the speed. They are both super fast at basically everything. To be honest, all the stuff I have played so far, I have to say the only game on the PS5 that felt like a generational game was probably Astro to be honest. I can't comment on Demon Souls because I have not bought it, and likely wont as Souls games and me just don't get along well. But Miles Morales and Spiderman Remaster both look great, and are silky smooth but neither of them scream next-gen to me. Only Astro did. On the Xbox side, same thing. I haven't fired up ACV yet as I'm still finishing the second DLC for ACO, but I played Ori 2 @ 120Hz, quite amazing from a console, Forza 4, MK11 and Sea of Thieves.

      Wall of text later, it's going to need to have some more software coming out over the next year to really see the benefits of these systems. The first one IMO that screams Next-Gen will be Ratchet & Clank with its loading tricks.

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        November 16, 2020 2:09 PM

        I have to add an addendum to this. The DualSense controller is for real. If developers can leverage it the way it was intended like Sony did with Astro's, holy crap it will be a difference maker.

    • reply
      November 16, 2020 2:17 PM

      Just got mine setup, using it basically as an extension to my main gaming PC for living room gaming when I want to play some indie or gamepass games in the living room vs my desk. Super quick. Right now i'm hoping it'll replace my older apple tv as a media player.

    • gmd legacy 10 years mercury mega
      reply
      November 16, 2020 2:52 PM

      Did anyone here do the Xbox to Xbox transfer? I might not even bother and just download everything again

      • reply
        November 16, 2020 3:01 PM

        That’s what I did. With gigabit internet it took about half a day to download 8-9 games. Just be sure and download the important stuff, first.

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        November 16, 2020 3:02 PM

        I didn't bother since most of my most played games were on an external SSD already. It seemed like basically the only thing that doesn't transfer fast af from the internet are games. all the settings and stuff come over

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        November 16, 2020 3:03 PM

        I did for Horizon 4 and then when I went to launch it I had to download another 65gb so I should have probably just downloaded it from the start.

        I could see it being useful if what you are moving doesn't have an updated version for series x, otherwise you'll still end up downloading a patch for the game.

      • reply
        November 16, 2020 3:25 PM

        I copied everything off the internal hard drive in my xb1x to my 5TB external, and logged into my Xbox account on the xsx and plugged in the drive. Was pretty flawless.

        PS4 to PS5 was not as easy, had to end up hooking it up in another room to network copy some stuff and upload saves to the cloud to download them to the PS5. I probably did something wrong though and expected it to work like Xbox.

    • reply
      November 16, 2020 5:00 PM

      The Series X was what I wanted the One X to be. A snappy 4k console with 60fps games. Hopefully it lasts.

    • reply
      November 16, 2020 5:33 PM

      Quick resume is disabled for some enhanced series x games for now due to some bug. It’ll be fixed soon.

      It mostly works, but it doesn’t if the game silently updates.
      I also had cases where I lost audio after quick resume in Perfect Dark several times.

      I really wish there was a quick resume management screen to see what it resumed and what will no longer be resumed if you open something new.

      • reply
        November 16, 2020 5:34 PM

        I just want an icon in the corner of games that are frozen. Really, why do they limit it? Use every ounce of unused storage for that crap! :D

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