It’s November, and in the world of video game history, that can only mean one thing: it’s time for a bunch of console anniversaries at once. One of the most recent milestones this month is the current couple’s second birthday Xbox Consoles – and stepping back to look at the past few years doesn’t paint the most flattering picture.
After two years, I’m stepping back and looking at the Xbox Series X and S and realizing… Does this thing have really exclusive must-play games? Is there a game you can point to that will make you feel great about your purchase? I’m not even talking strictly about genuine exclusive products here. Cross-generational gaming is both a reality and a necessity right now for a number of reasons – so I think it’s cool that the hot Xbox series games are coming to Xbox One too. But even counting those, there’s just… not much to shout about. At least there isn’t much that isn’t also available on PlayStation.
A pretty good benchmark for measuring those two years is Metacritic’s list of top-rated Xbox Series X and PS5 games to date. Some things are shared – both have Elden Ring on top, with Hades and Persona 5 Royal securing the bag in terms of multiple platforms. In fact, many of the same games dominate both lists; proof that it’s been a tough few years for in-house production with Covid-19 and all.
But Sony’s list is also punctuated by God of War Ragnarok, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Horizon: Forbidden West, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Gran Turismo 7 and even Astro’s Playroom – a pretty strong six-fold of first-party hitters for The first 24 months of the PS5. Then, of course, there’s Sony’s long laundry list of PS4 game remasters that are really needed. To be honest, I have no particular desire to play The Last of Us or Spider-Man again, but when you look at it through this lens, which is filling in the difficult early years of new hardware, those ports suddenly seem more necessary. They upgrade the hardware.
The Xbox list has Forza and Flight Sim – both absolutely excellent – but is that about it? Of course, there’s also Halo Infinite, but while I thoroughly enjoyed this game’s campaign, it’s perfectly fair to say that it was badly damaged by a botched rollout that left the game still lacking co-operative play and a glacial multiplayer update -Has cadence.
I’ll be honest with you. Of the consoles, I prefer the Xbox series by far. I like the Xbox OS more (although it’s certainly a less than two evils situation), I enjoy the mutual ownership and cross-play with the Windows Store on PC. I’m not a big fan of the Dualsense and its quickly depleting battery. And of course, Xbox Game Pass is an irresistible offer, hands down the best offer on gaming right now. As a result, I use my Xbox a lot more… but I mostly use it to play old games, dabble in Game Pass indies, or watch damn Andor on Disney+.
The hot new games I want to play, both released and upcoming, are mostly on PS5 – either due to Sony’s seemingly more efficient first-party development pipeline or by signing aggressive third-party exclusivity deals like the one with Square Enix for Final Fantasy 16 and Forspoken. Regardless of how one thinks about the methods used, Sony is undoubtedly winning this particular battle.
I suppose that means in a way that little has changed in the last two years. In the VG247 hardware review, published five days before the machines were released, I described life with the consoles as great. I’ve been talking about how magical Quick Resume is and how awesome it is to see and experience the performance boost in older games. I said that playing older games with features like auto-HDR, blazing fast loading, and fast resuming “really feels like the future, even if the games are a decade old.” It remains an impressive party trick — but after two years, it’s a bit worn.
“Then there’s the Xbox Series X,” I wrote. “This is touted by Microsoft as the ‘fastest, most powerful gaming console ever made’ – I take that as a mission statement. And you know what? It could be! On paper, the specs look killer; and like value for money. But there’s nothing exclusive here at launch that helps really demonstrate this, and so this mission remains a question mark. It’s TBC – it needs to be proven with software in the future. Software is always what matters; Without it, the hardware is useless, no matter how fancy it is.”
This TBC still feels like a TBC after two years. Which is amazing. How the time flies? More gray hairs have arrived but I’m still waiting for games.
At the same time, the future looks bright. Right? Starfield is coming. Hopefully 2023 is the year when we might finally start learning more about Fable, Avowed, or Perfect Dark. I might not be entirely convinced Everwild exists, but Hellblade 2 feels physical and close enough to touch. There are a few relatively upcoming games that are smaller but also look like absolute hits – Pentiment, Minecraft Legends and High on Life both surprised and excited me at Gamescom.
So it’s not all bad news. In fact, I think Xbox is building a first-party portfolio that will eventually match Sony’s efforts, although there are some enormous blind spots that still need to be addressed, such as Japanese games and Japanese RPGs in particular. After such a disastrous time with the Xbox One, it’s only natural that it will take time to rebuild the infrastructure needed to deliver these games. But damn, that future still feels a while away, doesn’t it?
As a testament to the first two years, it’s a somber read. I love my Xbox Series X. I love having a Series S in another room and the ease with which I can switch between the two. I just wish there were more games that really made me hunger to turn on those particular consoles.
https://www.vg247.com/xbox-series-xs-still-lacks-even-one-killer-exclusive 2 years later, the Xbox Series X/S is still missing a killer exclusive