I bought an Xbox One X rather hastily, as the allure of limited edition SKUs is hard for me to resist sometimes, and for the most part I love it. I don’t even have a 4K TV yet, but I can tell the difference on games that make use of the power boost for 1080p sets. I even suffered through Gears of War 2 to lead into the third game, which looks incredible at full 1080p. I’ve been testing as many enhanced games as I can, from Assassin’s Creed: Origins to Final Fantasy XV, and the results have always been some degree of noticeable improvement from my old Xbox One. But I read something recently that had me a bit concerned about the initial wave of Xbox One X enhancements. While my experience has mostly been positive, there still seems to be a lot of inconsistency on a per-game basis (which makes sense), but I worry about how this might impact the box’s reputation while people are still trying to figure out if it’s worth it.
What I’m referring to is a report from Digital Foundry about the final Xbox One X Enhancements for the Microsoft-exclusive Quantum Break. Quantum Break is a hugely ambitious game from Remedy Entertainment, whom you may remember as the developers behind the original Max Payne or Alan Wake. It’s a third-person shooter mixed with live-action, filmed TV show-style footage, and while I haven’t played it yet, I recently snagged a copy in anticipation of Xbox One X Enhancements. After all, it, like many other Xbox One games, didn’t run so well on the original hardware.
Digital Foundry generally praises the Xbox One Enhancements as they are, although noting that they are noticeably different from a preview build of the game as it was running on the new console earlier in the year. It runs at a consistent frame rate and while it doesn’t hit native 4K, it does hit 1080p easily, which is a huge boost from 720p on the original box. However, a bizarre set of new visual tics and glitches seem to have accompanied the update, something that seems odd for a Microsoft-published effort to make use of Xbox One X Enhancements.
What strikes me as particularly odd is that the update changed what was originally sent out to sites like Digital Foundry pre-launch. To me this says there were issues then, and this was a late course-correct. Otherwise why send out the preview build? I’m not one of those jokers who would suggest laziness, and this doesn’t exactly sound like a disaster, either. Perhaps, this is an issue that will vanish in time after a patch. But there are only so many exclusives on the Xbox One right now, and Quantum Break was a key opportunity to come out swinging with this thing. Now it’s fuel for crummy YouTube comments.
Devs have to take care with these Xbox One X Enhancements. Publishers too. If one or both sides is trying to rush to make a date, that runs the risk of shipping something that’s sub-optimal, and this console needs all the good press it can get. Early word of mouth has been great so far, but this is definitely a blemish, even if it’s a small one. It makes me worry now that instead of jumping on games, myself and others will now be more hesitant to jump on games with that “Xbox One X Enhanced” labeling.
It can't be easy to sell something as unstable as visual upgrades can be. Ultimately this is just a bump on the road, especially compared to other great examples of the hardware, including the games I mentioned towards the beginning of this article. But it’s an indication of how these things can go poorly too, and we’ve seen enough of that on the PS4 Pro already – and that thing is struggling a bit in PR terms as a result. The Xbox One X has done well out of the gate, and will continue to be a great use case for 4K equipment, as well as upgrading for more visually-inclined 1080p users as well. But time and care needs to be taken with these updates; a simple upscale or unaddressed batch of new glitches accompanying enhancements is not a good look, even if it’s fixed later. Hopefully this instance is a fluke, and things will continue to look good. Everybody wins when good stuff happens in games.