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Xbox Scorpio – A New Challenger Appears

OPINION – Ever since last year’s E3 Microsoft has been under heavy lockdown as to what Project Scorpio will entail, and how will it change the console gaming landscape. Phil Spencer believes that this project is a first step in regaining some brand power ever since E3 2013… did not turn out as good as they have hoped. With Scorpio, Microsoft is hoping to be the main leader of power within the console generation, and break the stranglehold of the PS4Pro as premium options. Digital Foundry led the charge in revealing the machine, and the specs are out there in the wild, plus heavily detailed articles on what Scorpio should be able to do once released.

 

However, we are not here to talk about specs that deeply as that has been reported time and time again. We also do not have any inkling of a clue as to how much the Scorpio will cost. What we do know is that it is powerful, and will provide an amazing experience for gamers, and should be the ultimate Xbox … box for the consumer.

The architecture is the same, and despite the CPU and the GPU having higher clock speeds, there isn't any significant difference.

Optimism Rising

After the reveal, and combing through all the articles I was pleasantly surprised by Microsoft approach to reach 4K gaming and their future for the console. It feels more like an iPhone 6S type of an upgrade rather than a full break away from the Xbox One brand. Rather than breaking away, they decided on a much more difficult approach, even compared to the PS4Pro. While the PS4Pro requires patching of new games to take advantage of the extra power, or Boost Mode to be used for older games that are not patched, for Scorpio the full power of this new console is available to old games without patches. While there are many locked FPS games, and a limited number of unlocked frame rate games, this still should provide a more consistent experiences.

It certainly is a step up compared to PS4Pro’s methods and should allow for unpatched games to look much cleaner. I’m happy for this decision by Microsoft as Publishers were not so keen on jumping on the bandwagon with developers to go back and patch old games. This should pay off for Microsoft in the long run and will provide an advantage over PS4Pro in multiplatform games, and with patches who knows how good the game will look.

Speaking of good looking games, Microsoft will also force 16x anisotropic filtering on the old Xbox 360 Backward compatible games, so those old games will now look great even on 4K TVs (Something I bashed in an old article of mine). It feels that while Sony mandated the PS4Pro mode for future releases, old games got left behind (unless later patched), and the Scorpio is a better option for third-party games.

A True Mid-Generational Refresh?

It may have taken Microsoft a year or more to release their new mid-gen upgrade, but it feels much more better designed (even though we have no idea how it will look), compared to the PS4Pro. While Mark Cerny was stating excuses why old games would not benefit from the increased hardware power (well at least until Boost Mode), MS decided on the tougher route as mentioned above, and I commend them for that. Say what you want about Microsoft, but if their backs are against the wall, they’ll design something magnificent. The ideas and concepts behind Scorpio and how it will be powered is interesting, and instead of just providing an advantage to those who have a 4K TV, MS will allow 1080P users to enjoy the benefits of this console.

This is not the same on PS4Pro sadly, and there have been quite an issue with certain games getting Supersampling removed (it took a toll on the system), or after hefty patching reinstated. This has caused quite a ruckus in the Sony fanbase, and I can understand why Microsoft took the longer route. Not everyone has a 4K TV (and their attach rate is not the best), so it would diminish the people buying an Xbox Scorpio if 1080P screens would not be supported properly.

Boost mode is also a great feature for the PS4pro, but other than keeping a solid framerate, it does not offer any of the advantages that Scorpio, in theory, will offer for the players.

Andrew House wants the new model of PS4 to be a stopping gap, and with the addition of HDR, and 4K(ish) to next generation console games it should be a treat for gamers.

First Party Woes

Back when the original Xbox One released it had a slew of exclusives that were, while good, were nothing breathe taking in graphics. Quantum Break, Ryse Son of Rome, Halo 5, and even Sunset Overdrive look sort of okay, and while they have their moments the hardware was never up to the challenge. Luckily with Scorpio, we can expect these games to look better than ever, so for those who have put off some of these games due to their image quality should be good to jump back into these old games.

Certain games like Witcher 3 and Doom that have dynamic resolution scaling should be in theory able to go up to 4K with the Scorpio’s help, even without a patch. While it is great to see so many ways MS is handling the hardware, I’m still iffy about the lack of new IPs from 1st Party developers.  Hopefully E3 will fix this worry, or otherwise this maybe a 3rd Party machine only.

Still, my real hope for this machine is not the 4K trickery, or that we’ll get fewer jaggies, no my hope is that the load times will finally be bearable. One of my main reasons for skipping PS4Pro is because the load times on some of my favorite games did not change that much. Sure it shaved off a few seconds, but for instance with Battlefront, Hitman and Rainbow Six Siege, where load times were between 30 seconds or even a minute or two. I’m hoping that with all the advancements made by Microsoft for Project Scorpio, we will have these load times down to 10-20 seconds (tops).

Waiting for the Bomb

With all this hype, and information I await anticipation as to how Project Scorpio will perform. I held off from purchasing a PS4Pro because while 4K (Even with Checkerboarding) would look sweet on my 4K TV – I was not sure if that is what the only thing I would want out of a mid-gen performance refresh. I do admit more exclusives would be great from MS, but since I have a base PS4, I’m able to experience those also in the long run (even without the 4Kness of them). For me, the performance gains on third-party titles, and old MS exclusives is much more important as I enjoyed those games a lot more than what Sony had to offer up until now (also Bloodborne is never getting a PS4Pro patch, so I’m not in a rush)

While the price is unknown, I’m willing to bet all this premium talk is just marketing hype, and it will be around 399 USD or at the maximum 450 USD.

The hype is set, let us hope MS will deliver by the holiday of 2017, but I do wish this would release in August of 2017 so that we can test this fun console as soon as possible.

I skipped on the PS4Pro, but based on what MS is proposing here I might get this on day one. Hopefully, E3 will provide us with more information, and 1st Party games to care about.

-Dante-

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