We finally got a hands-on with Microsoft's most powerful console to-date, the Xbox One X, and what's there to say really? The few games I played were displayed in eye-bleeding 4K, but I only wish it had more games that delivered the kind of premium experience the console demands, with all its engineering and that $499 price tag.
"It's a monster," Forza 7's executive producer Ryan Cooper told me about the Xbox One X during a demo for the new marquis racing game. Of all the games at the showcase, Forza 7 was probably the most important in that it was one of the few Xbox One X games actually demoed at the Showcase. Forza 7 is easily the best looking, best feeling game on the show floor that's built for the Xbox One X. A great demo of the "monster" I walked in expecting to play- the "Bonestorm" of consoles as I liked calling it.
Yet just like in Microsoft's E3 presentation, and in our opinion of said press conference, the Xbox One X is in desperate need of apps, and a handful of games can't lift the fog of its price tag.
Walking around the Xbox showcase at E3, I saw a lot of important Microsoft titles. Crackdown 3 was there, and so was Sea of Thieves, but both of those games are running on different consoles-PC and Xbox One S respectively. If I wanted to write a preview of the Xbox One X I needed to play some games running on the console, and I could count all those on a single hand (Forza 7, Ashen, Assassin's Creed Origins, Super Lucky's Tale, Hidden Neighbor). And among those, only Forza 7 demonstrated what I felt the Xbox One X is capable of. So let's start there.
"We've been able to completely reimagine everything, the look, sound, and feel... the small things add up to an even greater experience," Forza's Cooper told me when I asked what the Forza team was able to accomplish with the new Xbox One X hardware. And for the most part Cooper was telling me the truth. Forza 7 looked phenomenal as I drove around the overcast, rainy German race track with my Nissan race car. The roar of the car's engine, and other little gameplay and visual subtleties completely absorbed me into the game.
One instance, I drove over a deep puddle I could see coming meters away thanks to how realistic the game's graphics looked. And I felt the car begin to lose control, and I mean this in a complete sense. Like in a real car accident where you can just feel the incoming disaster with all the senses. The physics of a calamity were perfectly recreated in Forza to the point where I knew how my car would slide out under me just from the tactile, visual, senses Forza emulated.
However I was there to write an Xbox One X preview, not a Forza 7 preview.
Unfortunately, the other Xbox One X offerings at the show floor couldn't quite deliver an experience I was looking for from an event meant to debut the One X. Ashen, an actual Dark Souls type game (seriously, the game was literally just Dark Souls but with a more stylized visual direction and a more Nordic/Celtic aesthetic) was running smooth at 4K 60FPS. I was told to pay particular attention to the foliage and weather effects, and both were understandably great to look at. The game's style however wasn't comparable to the hyper detailed graphics of Forza 7 which, regardless of how good Ashen looked on the Xbox One X, was something I needed to see to get a better understanding of the console at hand.
The same could be said of games like Super Lucky's Tale and The Darwin Project, both games looked great and ran like melted butter on a hot skillet, but didn't necessarily demo the "power" I wanted to see more of. Don't get me wrong, spend any time with a game that runs at 4K 60FPS and it slowly envelops you. Super Lucky's Tale in particular started growing on me rather subtly until I realized that I was spending more time using the game's camera option to just look around (the game's bright, warm color palette really offset the Xbox showroom's black and neon green lighting).
It was just interesting to see a console described with terminology befitting a luxury car, relying on only a handful of eclectic titles to introduce the Xbox One X. Everything else was a demo for 4K gaming in general, which I still can't justify adopting at this point in time. I came in expecting a Porsche-like experience and I got it with Forza 7, a game where you can actually drive a Porsche. I just wish I had more experiences like that, if only to properly gauge the Xbox One X's high-end appeal.