The Xbox One is the best console if you don’t care about exclusive new games

This week’s slate of new releases for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One serves as an illuminating indicator of the state each console is in. The PS4 has two new exclusive titles in major series that date back to the PlayStation 2 days: God of War, by all accounts a masterpiece, and Yakuza 6, a satisfying final chapter for a much-loved character. The Xbox One, on the other hand? Well, now you can play a bunch more old Xbox 1 — as in the original Xbox — games.

I don’t mean for this to sound damning, though. While Microsoft is rightly being pilloried for its anemic first-party software efforts, the Xbox One actually now has more to play on it 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 select Xbox 360 games. I was in the room, and the reaction was deafening — far louder than for anything else Microsoft announced that day. At the time, I thought this was a little misplaced, though I appreciated the technical achievement. Backwards compatibility is most useful when a console first comes out, because it means you can stop using the old one; who would care about playing 360 games two years into the Xbox One’s life? Even Microsoft’s former Xbox head rubbished the idea.

What I didn’t know is how brilliantly Microsoft would implement the system. Whether you insert an old game into your Xbox One’s disc drive or buy a digital copy online, the title gets added to your list of games and becomes associated with your account just like any new release would be. This makes legacy titles feel like a true, native part of the platform rather than a retro hack designed to save space under the TV. It’s a really smart move on Microsoft’s part.

Things get better when you actually play these games, because in many cases they run vastly better on the new hardware. Original Xbox games are also now supported and get a 4x native resolution boost on the Xbox One and One S, or 16x on the Xbox One X — this usually means 960p on One S and 1920p on One X. 360 games load faster and often run smoother than they did on their original system, meanwhile, and sometimes even get specific enhancements for the Xbox One S and X.

It’s kind of amazing, for instance, that I can put the Mirror’s Edge disc I bought literally a decade ago into my One S and play it today with HDR support. The same goes for Halo 3, which now somehow looks better in backwards compatibility mode than it did when specifically remastered for the Xbox One in The Master Chief Collection. And in lieu of an actual re-release or PC version, what better way to prepare for Red Dead Redemption 2than by playing through its predecessor at a higher resolution?

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