The list of new releases this week for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One serves as an illuminating indicator of the state of each console. The PS4 has two new exclusive titles in important series that date from the PlayStation 2 days: God of War, by all accounts a masterpiece, and Yakuza 6, a satisfactory final chapter for a beloved character. The Xbox One, on the other hand? Well, now you can play a lot older Xbox 1, as in the original Xbox games.
However, I do not want this to sound cursed. While Microsoft is being ridiculed for its own anemic software efforts, the Xbox One actually has more to play on than any other console. At least, from a certain point of view.
Back at E3 2015, Microsoft announced that the Xbox One would get backwards compatibility with certain Xbox 360 games. I was in the room, and the reaction was deafening, much stronger than anything else that Microsoft announced that day. At that time, I thought that this was a little out of place, although I appreciated the technical achievement. Compatibility with previous versions is more useful when the console comes out for the first time, because it means that you can stop using the previous one; Who would mind playing 360 games two years after the life of the Xbox One? Even Microsoft's former Xbox boss played down the idea.
I did not expect Microsoft to implement this so brilliantly
What I did not know is how brilliantly Microsoft would implement the system. Whether you insert an old game into the drive of your Xbox One or buy a digital copy online, the title is added to your game list and associated with your account as any new release would. This makes the inherited titles feel like a true native part of the platform instead of a retro trick designed to save space on the TV. It's a really smart move by Microsoft.
Things get better when you really play these games, because in many cases they work much better on the new hardware. The original Xbox games are now also compatible and get an increase of 4x native resolution on Xbox One and One S, or 16x on Xbox One X: this usually means 960p on One S and 1920p on One X. 360 games load faster and generally they work smoother than what they did in their original system, meanwhile, and sometimes even get specific improvements for the Xbox One S and X.
It's amazing, for example, that I can put the Mirror & # 39; s Edge album that I literally bought a decade ago in my One S and play it today with HDR support. The same applies to Halo 3, which now looks better in backward compatibility mode than when it was remastered specifically for Xbox One in The Master Chief Collection. And instead of a new real version or a PC version, what better way to prepare for Red Dead Redemption 2 than playing with its predecessor at a higher resolution?
Panzer Dragoon Orta
The example that prompted me to write this today, however, is Panzer Dragoon Orta, a Sega rail shooter that has never been released since its Xbox debut in 2002, but was added to the compatibility list with earlier versions this week. . It's a legitimate lost classic, it looks better than ever now that you can play it on the Xbox One, and you can buy a digital version for $ 9.99 instead of searching for a disc on eBay. This is already one of my favorite games of 2018, which is not the kind of thing I expected to repeat when Microsoft announced for the first time compatibility with previous versions.
Another reason why the compatibility with previous versions makes a big difference in the proposal of Xbox One is Game Pass, the new Netflix style service from Microsoft where you can access their new games first hand, as they are, along with a great third catalog for $ 9.99 a month. Much of this library is comprised of original Xbox and Xbox 360 titles, which is a great way to encourage people to use the backward compatibility feature: you may have signed up for Game Pass to play Sea of Thieves for free. Why not download Viva Pinata or Mass Effect while doing it? Once again, the way in which Microsoft has developed the compatibility function with previous versions of downloads and disks is incredibly innovative.
This is how all consoles should work
It's also something that Sony simply can not offer, given the complexity of the PlayStation 3 hardware and the consequent difficulty of emulating its software. And to be clear, Sony really does not need to: the PS4 library is strong enough to make the console worth buying. If I only had one Xbox and had the option to play in Nier Automata, Uncharted and Horizon Zero Dawn instead of a lot of games from the last decade, I would take it. It's the scarcity of exclusive Xbox One content that forces Microsoft to look for other ways to get people to use the platform.
That is really good with me. I like that my Xbox One S is now a significantly different console to my PS4 Pro, with different cases of use and functionality. It's the box I turn to for 4K Blu-rays, Forza Horizon 3 in HDR, or Ninja Gaiden Black with a usable driver. It is the box that I turn on to navigate when I am not sure of what I feel like doing, or when I prefer to play Cuphead on the sofa than on my desk.
This is how all the consoles should work. Now that both Microsoft and Sony are using similar and simple hardware based on x86, I hope so. And although Sony has largely beaten Microsoft in this generation in most respects, this is an area where it would be wise to take notes for the future.