Archives for posts with tag: Backwards Compatibility


As you may know, last Tuesday saw the release of the Xbox One X, Microsoft’s second bite at the current generation cherry which aims to redress the power balance seen between the base PlayStation 4 and Xbox One since they released back in November 2013. As the Xbox One has been my primary platform this gen, I decided to pick one up, and you can check out our unboxing of the ‘Project Scorpio’ edition console over on A Game with Chums.

Having bought a 4K television in the middle of last year, I’ve been waiting for this console to push some ultra high definition content to it; I have previously borrowed an Xbox One S for a few days, and found myself wowed by Warcraft: The Beginning in 4K/HDR, but I was really looking forward to seeing how games fared on the new system, especially favourites like Halo 5: Guardians, which uses dynamic scaling on original hardware, sometimes reaching as low as 1152×810. Even unpatched, the game should run at a full 1920×1080 at all times, plus receive forced 16x anisotropic filtering, cleaning up textures at oblique angles and making the game just look better all around.

Fortunately though, Halo 5 was one of the (many!) games slated to be updated for the One X, with many patches dropping before the new console even went on sale. In the week running up to release, I had a good handful of my games updated and ready to go on my external hard drive; I just needed to plug it into my new console and get going.

Obviously, being a massive Halo fan, Halo 5 was the first game I wanted to try when my system arrived, and the results were immediately obvious. The game just looks so clean now. It still uses dynamic scaling, but now both the upper and lower bounds are far, far higher. Texture filtering has also been improved, and though the core assets are untouched, the fact that resolution and filtering are so much better just means you can see far more detail than you ever could before – even down to tiny incidental text on weapon models. Halo 5: Guardians was always a pretty game, if a bit blurry. On Xbox One X, it looks spectacular, and I can’t wait to see what 343 can do with Halo 6 on the new machine.

The next game I wanted to check out was Gears of War 4. Honestly, I thought this game looked absolutely ridiculous on the base Xbox One, so I was intrigued to see how The Coalition would update it for the new machine. The answer, apart from a much higher rendering resolution of course, is higher resolution textures. The game already offered HDR if you had an Xbox One S (and I did try it out on that console when I borrowed it – it looked great), but the higher fidelity textures are the real standout here. With the game looking so crisp and clean at 4K, the upgraded texture work really shines, and the game looks absolutely phenomenal. Every time I load the game up, it drops my jaw.

Gears 4 already looked fantastic though, and the game that has impressed me the most so far, offering the biggest leap from base hardware to One X, has to be Dishonoured 2. Just look at the image at the top of this piece, a screenshot I took of the Dreadful Wale’s engine room – it could pass for a bullshot! The textures and materials look spectacular, and there’s not even a hint of aliasing.

Dishonoured 2 is another title that has received upgraded textures, and the difference is immediately apparent. Everything seems to have been improved, from geometry to textures to skin shaders; just take a look at our video below, where you can immediately see the upgrade in texture work on the door behind Captain Mayhew. Then pay attention to the Captain herself, who looks far more detailed than she ever did before. Where her face seemed a little flat on the Xbox One, you can now make out creases, scars and freckles in her skin.

It’s a massive upgrade. When Arkane announced Dishonoured 2, I was extremely excited for it, and watched all the footage the Lyon-based studio put out. I thought it looked wonderful. But when my Xbox One copy turned up, I was a little underwhelmed by it, visually. The excellent art design shone through of course, but it didn’t look great on the console. One Xbox One X it looks like the same game on a different generation of hardware, the leap is that big. In fact, it looks so good that, after recording the above video, I decided to shelve my One X-enhanced Gears of War 4 playthrough to play this instead, finally getting around to my high chaos Corvo run (I previously did a zero kill Emily playthrough).

It’s safe to say that I’m incredibly happy with my purchase, especially as I already had the TV for it. Now I can play console games in the highest fidelity and watch some more UHD blu rays. And that’s without even mentioning how small and quiet the machine is, or what it can do for backwards compatible Xbox 360 games. This thing is an absolute monster, and I can’t wait to see what developers can do with it going forward.

With E3 around the corner, we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of Microsoft’s backwards compatibility program for the Xbox One. Announced by Phil Spencer on-stage at Microsoft’s E3 presser last year, the program allows players to revisit a growing number of Xbox 360 games that might otherwise have been left behind, and now seems to be a good time to take a look at the current state of backward compatibility on Xbox One.

There are currently over 150 games available, and while the most sought-after titles (as voted for at the Uservoice page) such as Black Ops II, Skyrim or Red Dead Redemption have yet to surface, there are still some heavy hitters ready to play right now – games like the original Black Ops, which has just been added, the entire Gears of War saga, Halo Reach and Halo Wars, and Alan Wake. Some publishers seem to be happier than others to make their games available on the service, with Sega in particular showing strong support; just recently we’ve had Jet Set Radio HD, Sonic & Knuckles and Phantasy Star II added, among others. Here’s hoping for Sonic Generations and Racing Transformed before too long.

Backward compatibility was Microsoft’s big surprise announcement last year, and one wonders how they might follow that up next month. Spencer has previously indicated that he’d love to see original Xbox compatibility make its way to the Xbox One, and while I’d personally love to see that happen (if only for the Sega exclusives still stuck on that platform), I think we’ll likely be waiting a while for that; while additions to the 360 catalogue have picked up a bit recently, it’s still going to be a while before the bulk of that catalogue is available on Microsoft’s newest machine, so that’s undoubtedly where the team’s focus will be for the foreseeable future. Having said that, Mike Ybarra, one of the main minds behind 360 BC, has indicated that his team have a couple of things in the pipeline that are on the same scale as that E3 2015 announcement, so who knows? It’ll be interesting to see what they bring to the Los Angeles Convention Centre next month.

Oh Dom, why do we have to do this again ;___;

Oh Dom, why do we have to do this again ;___;

There’s an ongoing joke about backwards compatibility that says it’s the feature everyone wants but nobody uses, and that past the first year of a new generation, as the hardware beds in and more games begin to take advantage of the additional power, it gets forgotten. For my part, I’ve always made rather sparing use of backwards compatibility in generations past, but to my mind, two things make the Xbox One feature particularly great.

First of all, I’m still playing 360 games. The previous generation was a long one and I’m sure I’m not the only one who still has some kind of backlog on their last gen systems – I’m yet to play South Park: The Stick of Truth, which is one of the games playable on the Xbox One. Knowing I can get around to it whenever I feel like it without having to hook up another system is pretty handy, and I hope some more of the games in my backlog, like Binary Domain and Asura’s Wrath, get added down the line. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my 360 hanging around, but it’s not always hooked up, unlike my Xbox One, which is always connected in order to feed my Halo 5 addiction.

Secondly, there’s the way the feature integrates with your existing library. You can of course simply put a compatible disc in, download the game and then play, but it’s the ease with which your digital purchases carry over that makes backward compatibility such a pleasure to use. Maybe you bought The Witcher 2 on the Xbox store a few years back, or got Gears of War 3 via Games with Gold? Perhaps you bought Shadow Complex back during 2009’s Summer of Arcade? All of them will simply appear in your download list on the Xbox One, ready to go when you want them. I already have around 50 Xbox 360 games installed on my Xbox One, and it almost makes the console feel a little bit like my PC Steam account; I can just pick from a bunch of games and then launch one without having to get up and switch discs. Add to that the ability to use Xbox One-specific features like taking screenshots or game clips, or even livestreaming, and they may as well be native games.

Just 'cause Alan's still got his 360 hooked up doesn't mean we all do.

Just ’cause Alan’s still got his 360 hooked up doesn’t mean we all do.

While the backward compatibility program hasn’t noticeably moved the needle on console sales (and I imagine that the main aim of it was to encourage 360 owners to make the jump), it’s certainly a crowd-pleaser for those already deep within the Xbox ecosystem, and it makes me wonder what Microsoft’s plans are going forward. We’ve had comments from Spencer about mid-gen hardware refreshes in the last few months, and with the recent PlayStation 4 Neo leaks – including the expectation that it’ll be both backwards and forwards compatible – it’s looking like the console landscape will be moving to a model of iterative hardware, with the focus on an evolving platform, rather than a specific piece of hardware. Imagine buying a console in 2026 that also gives you access to everything you bought back in 2006. Or even 2001. What if there’s no PS5 or XB2, but instead just a ‘PlayStation’ and an ‘Xbox’ that play all of your games, past present and future. Wouldn’t that be pretty amazing?

To me, Xbox 360 backward compatibility feels like Microsoft’s first step in enabling a future like that. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.