"Xbox One X Enhanced" Doesn't Always Mean What You Think It Does

"Xbox One X Enhanced" Doesn't Always Mean What You Think It Does

Playing enhanced games isn't as simple as popping a disc into the console and enjoying the game in 4K.

The Xbox One X is a powerful little piece of kit. It's got a lot of potential, though it admittedly still needs to find its place in the market.

Confusion over the Xbox One X is one problem that may wind up keeping the system out of living rooms. When the average Joe or Jane sees marketing materials for the Xbox One X (and its competition, the PlayStation 4 Pro), they might be led to believe that enjoying enhanced performance is as easy as hooking up a 4K TV and popping a game disc into the Xbox One X. Boom. Right?

Nope. It's not that easy. Even if you have a 4K TV, only part of the Xbox One's library supports the X's enhancements—and, in many cases, even the enhanced games don't take full advantage of the X's power.

Assassin's Creed Origins is ready for your Xbox One X, but not every game is.

For example, Assassin's Creed Origins is a "Featured" Xbox One X game on Microsoft's list of enhanced games. It makes full use of the Xbox One X's powers, as we can surmise from Its labels: "Xbox One X Enhanced," "4K Ultra HD," and "HDR."

Here's what each of those terms means:

  • 4K Ultra HD - Games that display at an ultra high-definition resolution of 3840 pixels by 2160 pixels (that's about four times the number of pixels on a standard 1080p HD TV). You need a 4K TV to enjoy the Xbox One X's 4K resolution, though the console does "super-scale the 4K image down to HD TVs."
  • HDR (high dynamic range) - Put in the simplest terms, the Xbox One X's HDR support makes games' colors more dynamic—bright colors are brighter, dark colors are darker, and contrast is improved over standard HD TVs. Again, you need the right kind of TV to take full advantage of the X's HDR support. Microsoft's website has more information.
  • Xbox One X Enhanced - A term pertaining to general enhancements over standard Xbox One games. Or, to quote Microsoft, "Developers use the power of Xbox One X however they think best for each individual game." These improvements may include (but aren't limited to) steadier frame rates, enhanced lighting, and higher-resolution textures.

Check out Microsoft's Xbox One X Q & A for more information about 4K, HDR, and Xbox One Enhanced games.

If you look back at Microsoft's list of enhanced Xbox One X games, you can see Call of Duty: WW II, Madden NFL 18, Forza Horizon 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and the aforementioned Assassin's Creed Origins are stamped with "4K / HDR / Xbox One Enhanced." So are other games on the list—but not all of them. Some are only marked "Xbox One Enhanced." Some are marked "Xbox One Enhanced" and "4K." Others boast "Xbox One Enhanced" and "HDR," but there's no 4K support.

In other words, potential Xbox One X buyers who think, "I'll bring the console home and play Injustice 2 in 4K!" need to research their purchase first, because at the time of this writing, Injustice 2 is marked for "Xbox One X enhancements" and "HDR," but not 4K support. Moreover, some games that are being upgraded to take full advantage of the Xbox One X's capabilities (e.g. Bethesda's catalogue) aren't ready just yet.

Final Fantasy XV's boys are still beautiful on the Xbox One X, but not "native 4K" beautiful.

To make things even more confusing, "4K support" on Xbox One X seemingly doesn't always translate to "native 4K resolution." Final Fantasy XV doesn't support native 4K resolution on the Xbox One X or the PlayStation 4 Pro. Instead, the game runs natively at 3K resolution (3072 by 1728 pixels, or 1800 p) and then upscales to 4K using checkerboard rendering. If Final Fantasy XV is using checkerboard rendering in lieu of native 4K, it's probably not the only Xbox One X game that's doing so.

(The Windows Edition of Final Fantasy XV supports native 4K rendering.)

None of this is to accuse Microsoft of false advertising or any kind of deception. It's to help people make an informed purchase on a machine that costs $499 USD. If you have a 4K TV, most games look great on the Xbox One X. Just be aware support for Microsoft's advanced console isn't as clear-cut as you might initially believe.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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