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Xbox Series X game impressions: here’s what we made of the launch lineup

Yakuza: Like a Dragon
(Image credit: Sega)

After years of anticipation, the Xbox Series X finally releases globally on November 10. So, if you’ve already got your Xbox Series X pre-order in, the first thing you’re probably going to do before your shiny new system arrives is to check out some of the Xbox Series X launch titles on offer.

At first glance, the Xbox Series X launch games lineup isn’t hugely compelling. Mostly made up of optimized Xbox One games and third-party titles available on other platforms, we’re a bit disappointed by the launch lineup – and no doubt will be utilizing our Xbox Game Pass subscriptions to cushion the blow.

However, we’ve had plenty of time to test out a handful of Xbox Series X launch titles that you’ll be able to play on November 10, all of which are optimized for the new Xbox. Unfortunately, some of the confirmed Xbox launch titles were not available to us at the time of testing or hadn’t undergone their final optimizations. So read on for our Xbox Series X launch lineup impressions.

We'll be updating this piece ahead of launch with more impressions as we get our hands on more games.

The Falconeer (optimized)

The Falconeer

(Image credit: Wired Productions)

Smart Delivery

The Falconeer is a game you’ll either love or hate. The air combat game sees you taking on the role of a Falconeer, who soars the skies on a powerful Warbird, as they explore the secrets, and take part in brutal dogfights, throughout the pirate-fantasy open-world of The Great Ursee.

The Falconeer looks absolutely stunning on Xbox Series X and is capable of hitting a wonderfully smooth 120fps at 1080p or 4K at 60fps. 120fps is flawless and sees you cutting through the skies like a hot knife through butter - which is key in a fast-paced title such as that. In addition, the drop in resolution for 120fps capability isn’t particularly that noticeable - and simply downgrades the really sharp detail in the visuals. However, if you haven’t got a display with 120fps capabilities, you’ll be more than happy with 4K at 60fps.

While The Falconeer looks and performs brilliantly, we did find ourselves bored with the gameplay - it’s like a never-ending Spyro flying level. We also found that there was little in the way of clarity of how the likes of Factions and classes work. This may be down to personal preference, but we felt it certainly didn’t feel like it should be a launch title for a next-gen console.

Gears 5 (optimized)

Gears 5

(Image credit: The Coaliton)

Smart Delivery and Xbox Game Pass

Gears 5 is yet another Xbox One title that’s been optimized for the Xbox Series X - in fact, all the games on this list have. You can check out our Gears 5 review for our thoughts on the game’s campaign and multiplayer but here we’re just going to focus on its performance on Xbox Series X.

Gears 5 arguably benefits the most from the power of the Xbox Series X. Thanks to Xbox Series X optimization, Gears 5’s campaign has significantly reduced loading times, both gameplay and cutscenes run at 4K at 60fps, while ray-traced screen space global illumination massively improves the campaign’s visual fidelity. Perhaps the biggest benefit for Gears 5 fans is that multiplayer now runs at up to 120fps at 4K - making the game more responsive than ever. We found that 120fps paired with the Xbox Series X’s Dolby Atmos audio support made for an extremely immersive and smooth gameplay experience.

Gears Tactics (optimized)

Gears Tactics

(Image credit: The Coalition)

Smart Delivery and Xbox Game Pass

Gears Tactics finally makes its console debut on Xbox Series X after arriving on PC back in April, 2020. If you’re a fan of tactical turn-based games like XCOM, Gears Tactics takes all the established elements you’d expect from the long-running franchise and adapts them to fit a new genre. 

The good news is that nothing is lost in the game’s transition to a different format – in fact, many might find it refreshing – and on Xbox Series X, Gears Tactics benefits from a crisp 4K output and 60fps gameplay. With redesigned controls that work intuitively with the Xbox Series X controller, Gears Tactics is well worth your time if you’re craving some gritty, tactical action. 

The Touryst (optimized)

The Touryst

(Image credit: Shin'en Multimedia)

Smart Delivery and Xbox Game Pass

You may be tempted to sleep on blocky, action-adventure The Touryst - but absolutely don’t. The game itself sees you playing as a tourist (go figure), who hops about various exotic islands completing tasks for island residents and fellow tourists alike, with the overall goal being to uncover the secret of the ancient monuments located on these islands - but that can wait.

The Touryst may have released on various platforms before, but it looks and performs best on the Xbox Series X. The color and visual fidelity is captivating, which is not a huge surprise given that the game renders at 6K/4K on Series X and then downsamples to the target resolution. What results is that you get a vivid tropical experience, super-fast loading times and an overall smooth experience. 

The Touryst is a fantastic indie gem and the true dark horse of the Xbox Series X launch lineup. 

Yakuza: Like a Dragon (optimized)

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

(Image credit: Sega)

Smart Delivery 

The Yakuza games have always mixed mature themes with utterly bonkers shenanigans, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon really lets loose in the latter regard. While you can still expect plenty of hard-hitting plot points during the game’s lengthy and turbulent story, the entire fighting system has been re-imagined as a turn-based JRPG – and it works surprisingly well. Each character can take on various classes, such as becoming a crooning musician or cutesy J-Pop idol, and each has their own abilities in battle. It’s certainly a different approach, then, but one that really lets the series’ freak flag fly.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon takes advantage of the Xbox Series X hardware by providing two distinct display modes to choose from: ‘Normal’ targets 60fps at 1440p, while ‘High Resolution’ bumps the resolution to 4K but halves the frame rate to 30fps. While we’d personally opt for a smoother experience over a slightly higher pixel count, it’s great that users have the choice. 

Forza Horizon 4 (optimized)

Forza Horizon 4

(Image credit: Playground Games)

Smart Delivery and Xbox Game Pass

Arguably the best racing game of the last generation, Forza Horizon 4 lets players drive the cars of their dreams across rural Britain. On Xbox One X, there were originally two graphical modes to choose from: a 4K/30fps option and a frankly erratic 1080p/60fps option. While the game benefitted from some expert optimization and effects work by developer Playground Games that ensured the experience felt smoother than it probably should have, the Xbox Series X’s extra graphical grunt allows the game to finally hit 4K/60fps – and it’s a sublime upgrade.

The super-fast SSD inside the next-gen Xbox also cuts the initial load of the game dramatically. Forza Horizon 4 takes a noticeably long time to load on Xbox One, to the point where you might be tempted to pick up your phone for a quick browse. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case, as the console’s SSD makes the title feel much more like a “pick up play” experience than ever before. 

Sea of Thieves (optimized)

Sea of Thieves

(Image credit: Rare)

Smart Delivery and Xbox Game Pass

Hooked up to a 4K HDR capable display, Sea of Thieves still remains one of the most beautiful games around thanks to its vibrant colors and stunning vistas. So how is the experience improved on Xbox Series X? Well, if you’ve yet to have your maiden voyage with Rare’s popular pirate game, now is the time.

Sea of Thieves benefits from a sizable boost to its frame rate. Previously capped at 30fps, with the occasional drop when things get particularly hectic, the game now runs at silky-smooth 4K/60fps, and the improvement is tangible. Whether you’re sailing across rough waters as a storm begins to break, or battling skeletons on the shoreline in the hunt for treasure, the game feels far more responsive and enjoyable as a result. The game also now loads incredibly fast thanks to the Xbox Series X’s SSD, taking around 35 seconds compared to the minute plus load times we were previously used to. 

It’s a fantastic upgrade over the Xbox One version, then, and one that will ultimately keep people playing as the next-generation unfolds.