Xbox One X Review: Our Verdict on Microsoft's Premium Console

Microsoft's newest Xbox is the most powerful console ever, but does it get our recommendation?

Review by Kat Bailey, .

It hasn't been an easy generation for the Xbox.

Microsoft has been playing catch-up with the PlayStation 4 ever since their ill-fated decision to center the Xbox One around the Kinect and always-online connectivity. That, combined with their inability to drum up high-quality exclusives, has had them behind the eight ball this cycle.

But give them credit: They've been trying to get better. The Xbox One X is the culmination of the process that began with Microsoft decoupling the Kinect from their console, repositioning it as a more traditional system rather than an all-powerful media center.

The inclusion of a UHD Blu-ray Player aside, there's no question what the Xbox One X wants to be the best and most powerful game console around.

Now let's talk about whether they're able to pull it off.

The Xbox One X's Specs, Performance, and What's in the Box

Upon first glance, the Xbox One X manages to refine the original Xbox One's design without losing any of its key features. It looks like someone removed all the empty space within the original console and shrunk it down considerably, making it a small but dense little machine. It retains the HDMI In port, but the Kinect now requires an adapter (sold separately). One big change: the main USB port can now be found on the front of the system, making it somewhat more accessible depending on your entertainment center.

Here's what's in the box:

  • Xbox One X Console
  • Updated Xbox One X Controller
  • Two Double-A Batteries
  • HDMI Cable
  • Power Cable
  • One Month Xbox Game Pass Trial

You'll notice the difference between the power brick and the new power cable pretty much immediately.

The Xbox One X's controller features the same matte black finish as the console, and it's as solid and comfortable as ever. It also includes Bluetooth radio compatibility and a 3.5mm headphone jack—a blessing in an era where proper headphone jacks are increasingly falling by the wayside.

The Xbox One X's controller.

Another Xbox One X feature that is a welcome addition despite falling out of fashion elsewhere is its 4K UHD Blu-ray Player. This alone may make the Xbox One X a worthwile purchase for some; though, in a weird quirk, it's only accessible once you download the Blu-ray app (hopefully you have access to an Internet connection). If you want to show off your 4K TV to your friends, consider picking up a copy of Planet Earth II and really knocking their socks off with super high-definition footage of cheetahs and penguins. If you're still the type who buys disc media, it's a great way to watch 4K UHD films.

Ultimately, though, that's probably not why you're investing an Xbox One X. Unlike the launch Xbox One, the Xbox One X has no pretensions about dominating your living room: It's a gaming console to its core. Since its announcement, Microsoft has positioned the Xbox One X as a powerhouse console—a true beast of a machine capable of outputting games in native 4K with nary a framerate hitch to be found.

Here are the specs:

  • CPU: Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz
  • GPU: Integrated AMD graphics with six teraflops of performance
  • RAM: 12 gigabyte GDDR5
  • Storage: 1 terabyte
  • Much has been made of the Xbox One X's teraflop count—a technical buzzword that indicates how many calculations it's capable of performing. Basically, the fact that it has more of them than the PS4 Pro means that it has more processing power, which is obviously important when trying to run games in 4K.

    While only a tiny handful of games currently take advantage of its capabilities—with more due at launch—the ones that do are very impressive. Foremost among them is Gears of War 4, which includes 4K, HDR, Dolby ATMOS support, and a 60fps Performance Mode. To the untrained eye, the difference compared to the base system might be a bit subtle, but the difference is definitely there: the textures stand out more, the colors are more nuanced and everything looks just a bit sharper.

    It's certainly an upgrade over the original Xbox One and the Xbox One S, especially if you have a TV to support it. It's a bit harder to parse the differences between Xbox One X and its nearest competition—the PS4 Pro—with the naked eye, though those differences also exist. The biggest difference is in the fact that the Xbox One X supports "native 4K." The PS4 Pro is ostensibly capable of running games in 4K, but its games tend to resort to technological tricks like checkerboarding to produce an upscaled effect. It also frequently suffers slowdown in the areas outside of gameplay—for instance, when a pitcher is walking around the mound in MLB The Show. This has led some PS4 Pro owners to choose performance options over pure visual fidelity.

    Correction: The initial review incorrectly asserted that the PS4 Pro is incapable of outputting in native 4K. In fact, while its relatively rare owing to its less powerful processor, some games like Skyrim Enhanced Edition do indeed run in native 4K on the PS4 Pro. Unfortunately, as Digital Foundry points out, doing so often means sacrificing a smooth framerate. We regret the error.

    Xbox One Hardware Review: A Very Big Box of Tricks

    Xbox One's arrival means that gaming's eighth generation is now fully underway. But just how good is the big black box from Redmond? USgamer has spent some quality time with the machine to find out.

    Is Xbox One S Worth It? Hands-On Thoughts on Microsoft's First Incremental Console

    Interested in the new Xbox model? We break down its benefits and shortcomings after spending a few days with the system.

    PlayStation 4 Pro Review: The PS4's Image (Quality) Gets a Tune-Up

    The PlayStation 4 Pro isn't for everybody, but there's a niche of consumer who will absolutely love it.

    This is not an issue with the Xbox One X. While enhanced games like Gears of War 4 have a desirable Performance Mode that will push the framerate to 60fps, it feels just as nice with all the visual bells and whistles turned on.

    These differences aside, the Xbox One X's specs translate into slightly faster load times and smoother scene transitions in general. Playing Madden 18, for example, you'll notice that the intro is just a bit silkier than the PS4. It's a very small difference, but these differences add up.

    Another advantage that the Xbox One X has over its competition: Its full support for high-end Dolby ATMOS sound output, which should make home theater owners very happy. It can also output into headphones, but you'll sadly have to pay $14.99 for that privilege.

    Let me just say, though, that it's worth it. Playing Gears of War 4 with a nice pair of Sennheiser headphones, I was really struck by the superiority of the audio quality. The little details are evident when you have ATMOS going: distant gunfire, the shouts of your teammates, loudspeaker announcements. In effect, I had a surround sound system in my head.

    Taken together, it's evident to me that the Xbox One X keeps its promises. At its very best, it is clearly an upgrade over the base versions of the Xbox One, and even the roughly comparable PlayStation 4 Pro.

    But, of course, there are other factors involved.

    What Native 4K and HDR Actually Means

    So the Xbox One X can output in native 4K and HDR. What does that actually mean?

    The difference is there, but it can be subtle at times. Mostly, it's evident to me in the way that the colors pop. Different colors contrast more vibrantly; the blacks are deeper, and the reds and oranges almost burst out of the screen. The subtlety of the lighting is much more apparent when playing with HDR turned on.

    That said, it's not always desirable. Getting the most out of HDR can require a lot of tuning to get right; and even then, it can seem a bit dim at times. Room lighting is hugely important: If your living room has a bright light source, you may not want to bother because the subtlety gets lost.

    You'll probably have to use your imagination here, but the contrast between the moon and the night sky is really striking with HDR enabled.

    Some of the onus is also on the developers to optimize for the tech. Getting the most out of HDR requires good lighting and a keen understanding of how the colors contrast. Forza 7 and Forza Horizon 3 both nail this aspect even without the Xbox One X's enhancements: both feature some astonishingly beautiful HDR-enhanced graphics. FIFA 18, by contrast, is much less impressive. I spent ages fiddling with the settings, and I never really got it to the point where I was happy. The contrast between sun and shadow was way too distracting.

    With some games it simply doesn't matter that much. Super Lucky's Tale is touted as an Xbox One X enhanced game with 4K graphics, but it looks like it can run comfortably on the Wii U. Indeed, if the Switch has proven anything, it's that we live in a post-graphics world. Golf Story can absolutely compete on the same level as Middle-earth: Shadow of War.

    But when developers really get 4K and HDR, it can be downright beautiful. So if you really want to show off the Xbox One X's power on your 4K TV, the best games for doing so are likely to be Gears of War 4 and Forza 7—the latter of which will have full enhanced support on November 7th.

    Here are some of the other notable games slated to get full 4K and HDR support for the Xbox One X (Bolded confirmed to be available at launch on November 7).

    • Assassin's Creed Origins (reports vary on whether or not it will be native 4K)
    • Call of Duty: WW2
    • Crackdown 3
    • FIFA 18
    • Madden 18
    • F1 2017
    • Forza Horizon 3
    • Forza 7
    • Gears of War 4
    • Halo Wars 2
    • Hitman
    • L.A. Noire
    • Mafia 3
    • Middle-earth: Shadow War
    • Minecraft
    • NBA 2K18
    • Quantum Break
    • Rise of the Tomb Raider
    • Sea of Thieves
    • Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind
    • World of Tanks
    • Zoo Tycoon
    • There are many other enhanced games in Microsoft's full list, but few support both HDR and native 4K.

      It's a decent if somewhat limited list, and Microsoft is topping it off with additional enhancements for four Xbox 360 games: Halo 3, Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Assassin's Creed. Some of these will be getting enhanced 10-bit color depth as opposed to the 8-bit offered by the Xbox 360, and some will see enhanced resolution.

      But the amount of support can vary wildly from game to game, which is indicative of how new 4K still is. Some will support native 4K; some will only support HDR, and some will focus on a 60fps framerate. That makes the graphics quality pretty variable, especially among third-party releases. While FIFA and Madden are getting both 4K and HDR, for example, NHL 18 will only be supporting 4K. Final Fantasy XV is being touted as a 4K release, but it won't be in native 4K. It can be pretty bewildering, with publishers all operating on their own timetables.

      The best support will go to first-party releases Microsoft, which is to be expected. But, of course, that's a whole other problem for the Xbox One X, and perhaps its greatest weakness overall.

      The Verdict: Is the Xbox One X Worth Buying?

      The Xbox One X is presented as a premium console. It's there to push your expensive home theater system and your fancy 4K television to their respective limits. And that's exactly what it does.

      Still, it has to be said: $500 is a pretty steep asking price for what the Xbox One X has to offer. Moreover, Microsoft's first-party selection isn't that great, leaning heavily on merely decent refreshes of last generation's hits. Both Gears of War and Halo have long since lost their luster, and Quantum Break is middling, which leaves Forza to carry the bulk of the load (and even Forza 7 has its issues).

      In terms of service, Xbox's main advantage is its selection of Xbox 360 and classic Xbox games; its compatibility with Windows 10 games via Xbox Play Anywhere; and Xbox Game Pass—a monthly subscription service that currently offers access to more than 100 games.

      If you already own a PS4, the exclusives don't offer much incentive to double dip. If you're an existing Xbox One owner, the upgrades are very nice, but not such a leap that they demand a massive outlay of cash. That leaves the existing sliver of people who have yet to adopt into the current generation, and the ultra high-end console games who for some reason aren't already playing on a gaming PC.

      Put simply: The Xbox One X is a pretty niche offering. It's nice that it exists, but it's hard to recommend without reservation, and support for its full feature set is currently extremely variable. That said, the ability to run a game natively in 4K at a solid framerate is nothing to sneeze at—it's something that even strong gaming PCs still struggle with. In that light, you might say that $500 is a bargain given that Microsoft is also tossing in a 4K UHD Blu-ray player.

      The best recommendation I can give is that I will be requesting review copies for the Xbox One from now on. After all, now that I actually have an Xbox One X in my house, I'm inclined to put my expensive 4K TV to good use.

      But if you're still undecided on which premium console to choose, just know that I would personally choose the console with the widest selection of exclusives. All those teraflops are impressive; but in the end, it's still all about the games.

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Comments 27

  • Avatar for BulkSlash #1 BulkSlash 10 months ago
    Sounds pretty good, I did have one preordered but replacing my iPhone 6 Plus with the X was a bigger priority for me as the phone runs really slowly and I already have a PS4 Pro. Maybe if MS come through with some Black Friday deals I’ll be tempted enough to grab one, although I suspect the price won’t drop that soon to prevent angering the early adopters. I really do want Gears 4 at 60fps!

    I think MS have got to address the exclusives problem by buying or opening some new studios, although given how long it takes to make a AAA game these days by the time those games are ready this generation could be nearly over. Of course if they also put all those exclusives on PC as well it dilutes any cachet the Xbox might have gained.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #2 Roto13 10 months ago
    I don't even play the Xbone I already have.
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  • Avatar for barren_sky #3 barren_sky 10 months ago
    I'm bewildered that anybody would buy this console. The Xbox exclusives this gen are miles behind it's competitors. I can only assume that most of those that have preordered it are just big fans of Xbox already, in which case they've already bought an Xbox One at least once. And if you have that kind of cash to spare, why not just buy a PC, which gets you all of those same exclusives anyways, but with the added benefits of Steam and no charge for multiplayer?
    My advice: enjoy the consoles you have already and put this money aside for the next generation.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #4 MetManMas 10 months ago
    They can upgrade the graphics all they want, it won't change that the Xbone store is a barren wasteland compared to PS4's. I mean, backwards compatibility is nice, but 1) I still own and play my Xbox 360 and 2) most of the Xbox OG-san exclusives I'd like to replay have superior PC versions that could run well even on a garbo modern computer.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 10 months ago
    Its really disappointing (for me) that both PS4 Pro and the new XBox both fail to target 60Hz for action games. Without that I just don't see the point in upgrading. I'm 36. My colour sensitivity and visual acuity will start declining soon anyway :)
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  • Avatar for Neifirst #6 Neifirst 10 months ago
    Quick question: are you sure the PS4 Pro is not capable of native 4K? I'm pretty sure at least Skyrim, Thumper, and the NBA 2K games are native (or at least that's what their publishers state).

    I bought a PS4 Pro and a 65" KS8000 television to play the absolute best version of Final Fantasy XV a year ago and do not regret my decision in the least, even though the system has gotten little play since the Switch launched. But the difference from PS4 Pro to Xbox One X seem relatively minor and while I'd like to get into the Forza Horizon series someday, that's not enough to plunk down $500.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #7 cldmstrsn 10 months ago
    @Neifirst some games are native 4K for sure.
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #8 SIGGYZtar 10 months ago
    For about $327 more than an Xbox One S, this thing should do more than make it regular games look pretty. It should've had that backwards compatibility out of the box especially for the Xbox Original the company promised.

    But it's a niche item for power hungry folks.
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  • Avatar for Vodka-Tonic #9 Vodka-Tonic 10 months ago
    "Another advantage that the Xbox One X has over its competition: Its full support for high-end Dolby ATMOS sound output, which should make home theater owners very happy. It can also output into headphones, but you'll sadly have to pay $14.99 for that privilege."

    Kat: What do you mean they charge $14.99 for audio output to headphones? I'm unclear as to whether that means all audio, or just UHD Bluray audio.

    It sounds like a cheap move by M$ to take more money from customers "for reasons".
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  • Avatar for AndreasStalin #10 AndreasStalin 10 months ago
    I look at that list of games and it’s not a single (exclusive) one I actually want to play, 4K or not. Is there really room for 2 home consoles where one is almost like a (crippled) windows pc in a box in today’s marked I wonder? I did get me both the original xbox and the 360 to play alongside the ps2, gc, PS3 and Wii but this time I think I’m gonna pass on Microsoft’s offering and stick with only Sony and Nintendo.Edited November 2017 by AndreasStalin
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  • Avatar for AndreasStalin #11 AndreasStalin 10 months ago
    Deleted November 2017 by AndreasStalin
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #12 Kat.Bailey 10 months ago
    @Vodka-Tonic Sorry for the confusion. Dolby ATMOS is a sound enhancement app that will work for free on your home theater system, because you've already paid the license fee. But in order for it to work through headphones, you have to pay an addition $14.99 to cover the cost of the license. This means for everything, including 4K Blu-ray.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #13 Kat.Bailey 10 months ago
    @Neifirst Yes, a handful of games can output in native 4K on PS4 Pro, though its rare owing to the processing limitations. The ones that do frequently have framerate hitches and other problems. I updated my review to reflect your observation. My apologies.
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  • Avatar for Vodka-Tonic #14 Vodka-Tonic 10 months ago
    @Kat.Bailey Ah, I see! Thank you for clearing that up. That's the price that headphone-lovers must pay, I guess. I'll stick with my home theater system.
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  • Avatar for Thetick #15 Thetick 10 months ago
    @barren_sky I had a xbox, traded in for this one and also have pc that I use for VR. Only race on my pc. Even with Steam link, I still prefer a console. I bought the x, cause I like xbox and tech. I have a ps4, but for me the pro didn’t do enough, combined that I just don’t play it enough. Xbox x does enough for me to warrant the upgrade.
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  • Avatar for barren_sky #16 barren_sky 10 months ago
    @Thetick Cool! I hope you enjoy it! Microsoft should commission a new Geometry Wars in 4k HDR. I think that would get me onboard!
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  • Avatar for BigPrimeNumbers #17 BigPrimeNumbers 10 months ago
    Digital Foundry has a pretty rad tech breakdown of this thing if you’re into the real nitty gritty,

    They found some huge improvements over base hardware (e.g. Witcher 3 loading a full minute faster than base hardware, Project Cars, and 360 titles like Bayonetta and MGR keeping a steady 60fps, plus the games that are patched to take advantage). Worth checking out imo if you're interested at all in this stuff. They basically give a big thumbs up for it, especially if you play a lot of 3d party titles.
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  • Avatar for Retro-Plissken #18 Retro-Plissken 10 months ago
    I simply cannot see why anyone would buy this. It improves old and currently available games? Sorry but that just won't cut it today.
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #19 WiIIyTheAntelope 10 months ago
    Man I'm such a sucker for buying shiny new tech, but even I'm having a hard time caring about this thing. MS really need to stop relying on Halo, Gears, and Forza to sell their machines cause it's been a long time since I cared at all about any of those.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #20 LBD_Nytetrayn 10 months ago
    It doesn't do a whole lot for me on a regular HDTV, but it downloads games online like a beast! Super Lucky's Tale is only a bit over 8 gigs, and took about an hour and 15 minutes to download on a regular Xbox One, but the X did it in just shy of an hour less.

    If nothing else, if you're going all-digital with big games and hate waiting, then that is an asset to consider.

    I love my Xbox One, and unless it's for a review for Nintendo Force, I go with that if a game is multiplatform. I'll also add that backwards compatibility is great for me, since my 360 broke.
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  • Avatar for moochan #21 moochan 10 months ago
    Such a weird thing to do but Microsoft tend to have more money to throw around than God. Xbox honestly doesn't really excite me because it doesn't really have anything of note that I can't play on my PC. PS4 at least has Persona 5 and a few games from Sony themselves like The Last Guardian. The best Microsoft has is the Master Chief Collection which from what I've heard still doesn't work! Not that big on western games anyways which has always been Xbox bread and butter (outside of the start of the 360 with games like Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey which I enjoyed) so unless Japanese developers start to look at Xbox for some games I don't ever see myself even giving it a second thought on owning one.
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  • Avatar for hamfighter #22 hamfighter 10 months ago
    People who say they don't care about this system because they don't care about Halo/Forza/Gears are missing the point. This is MS going all in on the strategy that was a winner for PS1, PS2, and Xbox 360 - having the console that plays THIRD PARTY multiplatform games the best. They realize that they will never win with first party output alone, even if they ramp up internal or 2nd party development.

    I still think PS4 has a larger quantity of exclusives I want. But I'll buy games that release on both platforms for my Xbox One X instead of my PS4 Pro. Already did that with Assassins Creed Origins last week, and I see it being the usual approach for me.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #23 Kat.Bailey 10 months ago
    @hamfighter Same. Total reversal from earlier this gen.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #24 MetManMas 10 months ago
    @hamfighter Yeah, but see the thing the PSone and PS2 also had going for them is that they had the biggest and most varied library of THIRD PARTY EXCLUSIVES. Xbox 360 had the advantage in being the most prepared for how big a shift in the gaming landscape the move to HD and online play would be.

    And I love the system but let's be real, the PS2 was the MOST RUBBISH platform for multiplatform games. The load times were longer and the graphics were shoddier compared to the Xbox and Gamecube.* But the PS2 succeeded because Sony was still riding high and it was the console where most of the big games were. Also being a DVD player right out of the box helped in those early years, too.

    Microsoft can't just rely on power alone to sell the Xbox One X. They want to fight back against Sony, first they need to convince more third party devs to not pass them over for console releases of their games.

    * Of course the Gamecube had a disadvantage of its own in that its li'l discs didn't have as much space. Edited November 2017 by MetManMas
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #25 WiIIyTheAntelope 10 months ago
    @hamfighter You do realize that the console battles are essentially never decided by the raw horsepower of a machine right?

    NES beat the SMS. NES was weaker
    SNES beat Mega Drive. SNES was more powerful in most aspects
    PS1 beat N64 and Saturn. N64>PS1>Saturn for 3d gaming horsepower
    PS2 beat GC and Xbox1. PS2 was the weakest of the 3
    Wii beat 360 and PS3. Wii was the weakest of the 3 by FAR.

    The Pro and One X are fine for what they are, but it's a very niche audience of people who are going to be willing to blow 500 bucks on an incremental upgrade that just plays the exact same games they were already playing.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #26 Monkey-Tamer 10 months ago
    I'm happy my console brethren are given the option of an upgrade, but as others have said, it's still missing the most important thing: must have games. One of my LAN party buddies offered to sell me his XBone because he never plays it. It's a good piece of hardware despite not hitting 60 fps in all games, as most consoles are the first year or two of release.
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  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #27 Nuclear-Vomit 10 months ago
    Bring back Fusion Frenzy! MS will be on top, once again.
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  • Avatar for AstroDemon #28 AstroDemon 10 months ago
    I bought one and set it up last night. I was able to simply unplug my external hard drive from my old Xbox and plug it into the new one and it worked flawlessly. I can run both Xboxes at how, but can only be logged into one at a time, which is expected.

    I don't have any of the games listed above besides Gears 4, but the Xbox will filter and tell you which ones are enhanced, including your backwards compatibility games. I had about a dozen right off the bat, including Injustice 2, the original Assassin's Creed (looks surprisingly great), Halo 5, Mirror's Edge, and Final Fantasy XV. My favorite is Final Fantasy XV so far. It just looks so much better on this console, and I played it a bunch last night. Maybe I'll finally finish it. I'm really digging this upgrade so far.
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