[Big Daddy Digest] Optimised for Series X|S

I played through a few beefy-boys whilst reviewing the delightfully dinky digital downloading device, the Xbox Series S. While I fully intend to provide some more coherent and thorough content in the coming days and weeks, in regard to those titles, I thought, for now, I’d just jot down my initial thoughts about how they utilised the Series S in order to better the game.

The Falconeer

Made by one man, Thomas Sala, The Falconer is an experience unlike any other. With the full weight of a publisher behind him, that has allowed him to express his inimitable vision in its entirety, he has conceptualised, and onto that, created a game world that demands your attention. The biggest compliment I can give it right now is that it runs flawlessly and smoother than some of the delicious textures on display, thanks to its stellar framerate. The Falconer is a tip-top sandwich on ecstasy bread! It truly is a next-gen experience and sets precedent for what can be achieved with a few key ingredients; vision, nuance, freedom and support.

Don’t even get me started on The Falconeer’s vivacious photo-mode…

No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky is an interesting beast. The initial premise way-back-when we used to talk about E3 was mind-blowing and after an incredibly derpy launch, and significant updates and patches, it finally closer resembles that title. Its performance on the Xbox Series S isn’t without concern though. Textures constantly pop and the draw distance isn’t what you’d expect from a next-gen title. I’m sure, another five years down the line and subsequent patches later, we’ll see this title hit the dizzying heights that it initially promised

Borderlands 3

Next-gen shooting and looting? Sign me up! The ethereal gameplay and cel-shaded aesthetic lend itself perfectly to the next-gen performance enhancements on offer. Initial load times seemed somewhat prolonged, clocking in at over a minute from dashboard-to-gameplay but once that initial wait is over, things click and load times are exponentially improved. The performance is flawless, allowing for showdowns with nefarious folk the world of Pandora over. I’d argue that it’s more than flawless in fact, it’s cleaner than a COVID-compliant laundrette!! The main gameplay loop is to engage in frantic gunfights. Considering the foes you face usually seem quite inept, the AI on them sure is on point, offering challenge and with it, reward, as you discover more of the weird planet of Pandora. In stunning 4K.

NBA 2K21

I see a lot of hate for the NBA 2K franchise, with this year’s major criticism being that it doesn’t do anything different. Au contraire. I’d argue that the fact that it has been built from the ground up for next-gen is a huge step forward, even if this improvement isn’t found in gameplay. Having played NBA 2K20 a lot on my Xbox One, I was initially blown away by how clean this looks. On top of that, animations of the players, coaches and even crowd have been enhanced and the level of realism, paired with the sheer speed of loading, make this the definitive next-gen sports title right now.

I won’t use this post to go into the sheer levels of consumerism on display, that’s neither here nor there when discussing it’s merits as a next-gen. What I will say is, if you’re a fan of the sport-sim and want something to show your fancy new next-gen box off to your unimpressed Mrs. (anyone else miss having mates over?), NBA 2K21 is an essential purchase.

Crosscode

I downloaded this title off of Gamepass after hearing very good things about it and was surprised to see it had been designated with the Optimised for X|S badge. While I enjoyed the game immensely and found the game play loop utterly engaging, I couldn’t visibly discern how this title would differ from a current-gen version. So I decided to download it and play it on my Xbox One as well. Suffice it to say, I really struggled to see how this game had been optimised, as delightful a romp as it was!

Gears 5

Gears 5 look, plays and sounds AMAZEBALLS on Xbox Series S. Seriously, this title absolutely slaps. Environments are alive and bloom lighting, paired with HDR implementation means that the title is just wonderfully vivid and luminescent to boot. The level of detail really is astounding and this just lends itself wonderfully well to an organic and engaging gameplay experience. Unsurprisingly, considering the delay of Halo: Infinite, it comes as no surprise that Xbox Game Studios have pulled out all the stops in optimising this title for Xbox Series X|S.

Honourable mention

While not an Optimised for.. title, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was a game that really struggled on the Xbox One, even on the X, especially on the S. On the Series S, it’s an absolutely refreshing experience as the Series S’s extra grunt makes the whole game run without a hitch and as much as any next-gen title, I’m having an absolutely wild ride, re-experiencing Cal’s epic journey, almost as if from a fresh perspective. Oh, yeah, it’s also on Gamepass, in case you never played it before (or, owned a disc version…).