Sound the klaxons, light the fires, and make your joy known; the new Xbox and PlayStation consoles have arrived! It is an exciting time right now, with many new games releasing alongside the new consoles too. For upcoming Let’s Chat articles, the topic of conversation is going to be hands-on experience with the new devices – given how tricky securing even one of the consoles is right now, it is great that Let’s Chat allows various voices and their different console choices to contribute – it means we can get a clear picture of each new system. To start off, Ashley Harrison and I are going to be talking Xbox Series X; Ashley is the one who successfully ordered for launch day and has been playing it since, testing out the new Microsoft machine. How is he finding it? Time to find out, complete with photos from Ashley of various aspects of the console!
William Robinson: Hey Ashley! Here we are, in November, and the new consoles are starting to arrive. Further to our previous discussions, one of us managed to get an order placed – and subsequently you now have an Xbox Series X! The plan is for Let’s Chat to go through the new consoles one at a time, with an article for each where we discuss our initial impressions. So, with Microsoft releasing their consoles just before PlayStation – and as I have not managed to order an Xbox Series S yet – the Series X is an apt place to start. First of all: how did you manage to get one?!
Ashley Harrison: Yes! Somehow, amid all the madness that was the preorders for both Series X and PS5, I managed to get a Series X at launch. Basically, the long story short is that I saw someone Retweet a post onto my Twitter timeline saying AO had stock of the Series X in stock, and I just happened to be online at the right time to grab one. Although, it was a surprise I got one; the product page that was linked in the Tweet did not show an “Add to Basket” button, and as such I thought they had sold out instantly – but it turns out you just had to do a search for the console and there was an option to add to basket there instead which worked.
WR: Well I am glad one of us got a console, or this Let’s Chat might’ve been a bit awkward… Aha! This is essentially going to be asking you a bunch of questions on your first 7 days with the Series X. I guess the first part was actually the unboxing and then setting it up. From a hardware and software perspective, was this all straightforward? You did not have an Xbox account before this, right?
AH: Genuinely, the whole process was the simplest I have ever had with a console. There is no extra padding or anything in the box itself, so you open it and you are instantly greeted by your console, and all the accessories are in a separate compartment just behind it. Admittedly, I had already set up an account beforehand so that I could get my Game Pass Ultimate sorted out (shoutout to the upgrade for £1 that just stacks on top of the Gold you already have, so £90 for 3 years of Game Pass Ultimate) – it was a case of simply logging into that account on the console, but I was still surprised at how quick it was and how easy it was to get to downloading Game Pass games.
WR: It all sounds very streamlined. So, the console itself – opinions on the way it is designed? Microsoft has gone with very sharp and clean lines for these Series consoles – the Series S in particular is beautiful – that are quite a contrast to the PS5! It is different seeing it in person though, I imagine? How does it blend into your set-up?
AH: Honestly, I do not have a great living situation at the moment and therefore not really a “set-up” per se, but it definitely seems as though it would fit into one without sticking out like a sore thumb. I know the memes around its reveal were comparing it to a fridge, and whilst I can see that for sure, it is so much smaller than I was expecting it to be, and far more visually appealing. The context of it just being a cuboid does not really seem all that visually appealing upon hearing about it, but the minimalist look works for me, plus the fan on the top of the console looks incredible with the green highlight in it. Such a small, insignificant detail that adds so much to the overall presentation.
WR: Speaking of, did you see the literal Series X fridge they sent out? I saw the one that iJustine received, incredible aha! I did not know there was a green light, that is awesome. No smoke appearing I am guessing? The videos people have been staging blowing vape smoke up the Series X to make it seem as though it is smoking, blimey… Not particularly subtle.
AH: I still can not believe I saw the official Xbox Twitter account put out a PSA saying not to blow vape smoke into the console. Like, what the hell is wrong with people that they get a new £449/$499 console, and they think “you know what? I’m gonna potentially ruin the whole console for the Twitter clout.”
WR: In terms of that, from the games you have played so far – which we shall get on to – how has the console been running? Any issues with heating or noise?
AH: I have played a decent handful of games to test the console for noise and heat and see how it responds, and I am SUPER impressed. Whilst the console does get warm when playing games, the massive fan is more than powerful enough to cool it down, and I have not heard a single noise out of the console whatsoever. Genuinely the only sounds I have heard the console make are the ping noise as you turn it on, and the whirring of the disc drive when you put one in. Other than that, it has been completely silent for me.
WR: That is great to hear! I am intrigued to see how the Series S compares when I get one. As we are talking hardware, it seems right to segway to the controller, which you have been very positive on in our discussions prior to doing this Let’s Chat. Why is this, considering you have previously played much more on PlayStation than Xbox?
AH: Honestly, the main thing it comes down to is how “clicky” the buttons are; it is so satisfying to hear the sound – especially as you press down on the d-pad. Whilst I still prefer the layout of the PlayStation controller personally (I am not a huge fan of the offset analogue sticks on Xbox controllers), I can definitely say that the Series X controller is one of the most comfortable I have ever used. Ergonomically, it is perfectly designed to fit in my fat hands, but also there is a nice amount of texture on the controller shell itself, as well as on the shoulder buttons to provide a bit of grip whilst playing. It is small design points like that that really make me appreciate the controller.
WR: To wrap up on the hardware, is there any issues or areas you would change? Does Series X still use touch-controlled on switches?
AH: Nope, it is all actual buttons thankfully! There are only 3 (power, eject, and sync) buttons, but I will take a button over a touch-controlled switch any day of the week.
WR: Phew; I do not get why companies persist with touch-controls when it can lead to accidentally switching off the console. Right, onto actually using the Series X. How are your initial impressions of the UI? It seems that it has been much improved and decluttered.
AH: I am not going to pretend that the UI is the best thing that I have ever seen because it is nowhere near it, but it is serviceable enough. When you load up the console, your most recently played apps appear in a line as the first thing your cursor will be on, then directly underneath is a tab to access the rest of your Games & Apps. As you scroll down below that, you have sections of the UI for (in order because I have just loaded up the console) – Xbox Live Gold, Game Pass, Store, Entertainment, Events, Community, Suggested Apps, and then Add More. It is definitely a huge upgrade over previous Xbox interfaces with everything bundled together into logical groups, but I still prefer the UI of Nintendo’s consoles personally.
WR: Is that due to the simplicity of say, the Switch UI and how clear it is (though I would welcome themes). The Microsoft UI seems very modular, but would you say they overcomplicate it? The idea of Suggested Apps, for example, seems a part you could take out.
AH: More than likely, yeah. The Switch UI is just so simple and clean, there is nothing there on the home screen that does not need to be, whereas with the Series X they have got everything on the home screen whether it needs to be or not, even if 99% of the time you do not need to move off the initial “Recent” screen.
WR: How much have you found yourself exploring these areas day-to-day? I guess Game Pass and Store might be the ones you are in the most.
AH: Honestly, I think I have loaded up the store once, and you can get to the Game Pass section using the Games & Apps icon on the “Recents” screen, so I can definitely count on one hand the amount of times I have actually purposefully explored past that, because there is basically no need to do so.
WR: You had some complaints on the aesthetics of the Store, right?
AH: It has taken a while to get used to, but I actually do not mind the store now. Reloading it up now, it seems like it has been cleaned up a bit and everything is nicely laid out – in my opinion, much more clearly than that of the PlayStation Store. It gives you the “big” new release as the main feature (at the time of writing, it’s showing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla) then a couple of icons for Deals, Sales, and other featured games. I have also just found out that the store has a section that even lets you order consoles, controllers, and accessories straight from Microsoft which, whilst not a feature I will use, is still a pretty cool option if you ask me.
WR: Use your Series X to buy a Series X, haha! Onto those games, then. For those reading, which games have you so far purchased physically, and which have you gotten through Game Pass?
AH: Right, so I have Watch Dogs Legion physically in terms of actual Series X games, then I also have The Witcher 3 Game of the Year Edition and LEGO Harry Potter Collection for non-Series X optimised backwards compatibility testing. Through Game Pass I have mostly been playing Forza Horizon 4, which got a Series X upgrade on console release day.
WR: Do you notice the difference in how the games run? Visually and framerate-wise?
AH: See, this is unfortunate in my game choice. With Watch Dogs Legion being my “main game”, there is not much visual improvement over previous generation consoles, as it only runs at 4K/30FPS. However, with Horizon 4 now running at 4K/60FPS, it runs so smooth and looks absolutely insane – this is the standard I would have expected for next-generation launch games. It is such a jarring experience going from Horizon 4 to Legion and experiencing that frame rate drop; it actually makes me feel quite underwhelmed about the latter.
WR: That could then perhaps be more down to Watch Dogs than the system itself. I am glad to hear such positive thoughts on Forza – it is not a surprise that it is the franchise showing off the visuals so well! It makes me more excited to play it myself! Does Watch Dogs very much have that Ubisoft visual level we have been getting accustomed to over the years? Plays fine, but a bit glitchy and rough around the edges?
AH: Yeah, it is another Ubisoft open world. Nothing revolutionary, but at the same time, that is not a bad thing generally. I do not think there is really much else to say – you know what you are getting before you even buy it, and it is obvious whether you are going to like it or not.
WR: As we have mentioned Watch Dogs Legion so much before; aside from the visuals, have you been enjoying it? Even if it is another Ubisoft game, it has that much-marketed London setting. Has it delivered to your expectations? Still enjoying strolling around Camden?
AH: Oh, absolutely I am! Even if it is (obviously) missing stuff like the Electric Ballroom and The World’s End, it is still insane to go around Camden and say to myself ”oh hey, that’s where this building should be, and there is a generic club/pub etc. there instead, but I have been there in real life!” As I said in quick discussions before this Let’s Chat, my highlight so far has been driving around London doing the missions, then completely out of the blue ‘Recovery’ by Frank Turner came on the radio in-game and it just brought me into the world even more.
WR: That is very awesome; I did not live far away from there when I lived in London either! Now you have settled into the rhythm of the Series X, which games are you considering next and into early 2021?
AH: I have Cyberpunk 2077 pre-ordered ready for whenever that releases, although with the rate of delays it has already had, that is looking like it might be a 2077 release rather than December 10th like it is currently. As far as games after that, honestly I am not sure at the moment, I am quite content with the amount of stuff that is on Game Pass and EA Play!
WR: Yeah, you should be more than busy for years aha! Here is a question: Since getting the system, are there any particular elements of the Series X that surprised you? Beyond that green light that is, aha!
AH: It is not that it surprises me as I have long been aware of the benefits, but for sure it is the SSD (Solid State Drive) in the console. Everything just loads so fast compared to previous generations, and when you turn the console on it is basically instant. For all the graphical prowess that the new consoles boast, for me it is definitely the SSDs which are the biggest and most needed improvement. It hurts so much now going back to my PS4 and waiting minutes for it to properly load and be able to access the store, when it takes about 5 seconds to do the same on Series X.
WR: Nice! Yeah, the Store on PS4 is quite clunky, so having a more responsive interface sounds brilliant. As we get to the end of this Let’s Chat, the final topic to go into is your overall impressions now you have spent a decent amount of time with the Series X. Are you glad with you decision so far?
AH: I am definitely glad for sure because as well as Series X games to play, I also have access to games from every previous Xbox generation, so I always have something to play. I just wish there were more launch games that actually took advantage of the power of the Series X properly; it should not be already-released games getting patches that show off the console, in my opinion. I definitely can not wait until a year or so from now when we are properly seeing what the console can do – the first year always feels like a kind of “beta test” to me.
WR: Yeah, the situation with Halo Infinite is disappointing. That was supposed to be the shiny new launch game that did just what you are describing, but with the delay into 2021 we are going to have to wait a bit longer. However, hopefully the delay helps the game in the long run. I think this cross-generation section of time is going to go on for a while, considering how ingrained the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 player bases are. It sounds as though the Series X is really delivering, just the games are not quite there yet. Now, that has been a criticism of Microsoft for a while, but with the Series consoles I feel it is less of an issue; we know the exclusives are on the way, whether they be Fable, Everwild, Avowed, or one of the others that have been announced. For Series X, how are you planning to split your game choices into those you buy physically and those you get on Game Pass?
AH: Honestly, it is just going to be whatever appeals to me like a normal game would – even if it does get a Game Pass release then I will still pick it up physically. For example, Everwild is 100% going to be on Game Pass because it is a first-party title, but I am absolutely going to be picking it up physically anyway. If it is something that catches my interest but I am not completely sold on it, then that is when I will play it through Game Pass instead. Also, if it is something independent like The Gunk, I will pick that up physically too rather than playing through Game Pass, just to help support the developers more – and because Image & Form are great. Of course, that might completely change yet, but at the moment that is what I am thinking.
WR: That makes sense to me, a nice balance of collecting and ease of use. We have covered a lot already, but are there any other standout elements of the system you would like to bring up?
AH: Honestly, no, not really. I think I have covered everything I had planned to talk about. Just want to shout the SSD out again if anything, that is a real game changer for sure.
WR: OK, nice! The SSD seems a significant leap for the consoles. In breaking news, thanks to Ash sending me a link of a Microsoft restock, I just finally got a Series S after days and days of trying to get one. Finally! So it is happening: I should get a Series S soon, and we can follow up with a comparative Let’s Chat to see how they compare. Time to get myself Game Pass too…
AH: Congratulations on the new speaker! Hopefully you will enjoy the Series S as much as I am the X. Definitely get Game Pass sorted as soon as you get the Series S, I genuinely can not sing its praises enough.
WR: I mean, Game Pass is surely the way to go – especially when you have not got a disc drive haha! Through the Series S I can try out many games I have not experienced in recent years. Right, I guess I should let you get back to your Series X now. Any final comments?
AH: I guess my only final comment is make sure you play Forza Horizon 4. Even in 1440p/60FPS I know it is gonna look insane.
WR: With Game Pass it is literally there for me to play so I shall do that! I also reckon we can get some pirate action going in Sea of Thieves. Before we go on that tangent, I am gonna close this out… See you next time!
AH: See ya Will!
Hopefully you enjoyed this overview of the Xbox Series X. If you have got a new Xbox or PlayStation, let us know in the comments! There will soon be another Let’s Chat covering the PlayStation 5 in a similar format, and one for the Xbox Series S when mine arrives. In addition, you can read more Let’s Chat here! Have an amazing day!
Thank you to Ashley Harrison for supplying photos for this post!