Microsoft's upcoming iteration of its flagship console, the Xbox One X, promises to deliver premium performance and graphics fidelity in a $499 package. Following a significant hardware upgrade over its predecessor, the device stands out as the most powerful console coming to market. However, not all games will be seeing the same performance increases across the Xbox library. Here's how to identify a "Xbox One X Enhanced" experience and the upgrades to expect.
What is a Xbox One X Enhanced game?
Following the announcement of the Xbox One X, a range of titles are already being announced with the Xbox One X Enhanced tagline. This designation indicates a game's developer has manually updated the title to leverage the power of the new hardware. Although it doesn't designate any specific features, developers are generally targeting higher resolutions and improved visual fidelity. While all games running Xbox One X can still see performance benefits, a manual patch allows the full power of the console to be utilized.
How do I know if a game is Xbox One X Enhanced?
While the Xbox One X is yet to launch, developers have already begun to announce plans to leverage the console's additional resources. Going forward, you can expect to see improvements on a significant portion of upcoming AAA titles after several major publishers recently pledged support.
To identify whether new games take advantage of the Xbox One X, take a look at the front of their packaging. As indicated with numerous confirmed titles, icons detailing enhancements will be located at the top right-hand side of the box art. The following three icons will be used to indicate enhancements:
- 4K Ultra HD — This icon indicates a game outputs 2160p natively, or via other techniques such as checkerboarding and a dynamic resolution.
- HDR — This icon indicates the title supports the HDR 10 standard on Xbox One X.
- Xbox One X Enhanced — This icon indicates the game has some type of upgrade on Xbox One X hardware, manually added by the developer.
Some developers have also announced plans to update existing games to take advantage of the hardware. If released before the Xbox One X announcement, it's unlikely that publishers will rework packaging to reflect support for the console. To see which existing titles are planning to offer patches, take a look at our complete list of Xbox One X Enhanced titles.
Which games will be Xbox One X Enhanced?
Support for the Xbox One X isn't a requirement for developers and won't be one going forward. However, with a growing interesting in 4K and competitors pushing higher-end hardware, developers will be more inclined to tailor to these platforms. While upcoming physical games will indicate support on the box, it's already getting hard to keep track of which digital and existing titles will offer enhancements. Luckily, we've been keeping an eye on recent announcements, to keep an up-to-date list of titles planning to be Xbox One X Enhanced.
What improvements can be expected from Xbox One X Enhanced games?
Although how a developer enhances a game is entirely based on preference, there are some key upgrades you can expect to frequently see on "Xbox One X Enhanced" titles. We've broken down the most common improvements currently in the pipeline for titles utilizing the additional power.
4K resolution (Ultra HD)
Improved resolution is one of the Xbox One X's biggest promises and is currently the focus of the console's marketing. A bump to 4K resolution will be the most common upgrade seen across Xbox One X Enhanced titles, making for a significantly sharper image.
In a traditional sense, a game with 4K support renders an image natively at 3,840 pixels wide and 2,160 pixels high (2160p). However, the games industry has begun to use 4K as a blanket term for various approaches to achieving this resolution.
By Microsoft's guidelines for Xbox One X developers, a game must have a "2160p frame buffer output" to qualify as a 4K title. Because of these standards, games that don't render natively at 4K resolution can still be classified as 4K titles (given the slang term "Faux-K" within the industry). As of right now, developers are adopting one of three approaches to qualify as 4K titles on Xbox One X:
- Native 4K — "Native 4K" is 4K resolution in its true form, which means a game renders natively at 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. This is the clearest "aspirational" version of 4K, but due to the high pixel-count, it can be severely taxing on hardware.
- Checkerboard rendering — This is a technique becoming more frequently adopted when developing for consoles and is used to emulate the clarity of native 4K. Although implementation can differ between titles, the technique essentially renders a smaller percentage of the image and estimates the remaining pixels. This method reduces the tax on the system for little tradeoff, allowing resources to be used on other visual enhancements.
- Dynamic resolution — A dynamic resolution is a technique used to change a game's resolution depending on system load. During more taxing situations, the resolution will drop below the target, to maintain a stable framerate. This can be effective, provided a game stays close to the target resolution. Otherwise, it can reduce the appeal of a 4K game entirely.
If using a full HD (1080p) display, you'll also see benefits from an Xbox One X resolution bump. Using a technology called "supersampling," the high-resolution image will be downsampled to a lower resolution. As a result, a smoother image with improved antialiasing is produced for some titles.
High Dynamic Range
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a technology that's becoming increasingly popular in today's highest-end displays. Using the technique, tones in an image can be displayed with a higher contrast ratio, which allows for a broader range of on-screen colors. Overall, HDR content often delivers a more vivid, life-like appearance of color, lighting, and shadows. When paired with 4K, this can make for unrivaled in-game image quality.
While not all Xbox One X Enhanced games will offer HDR, this is becoming an increasingly common trend with AAA titles. Having a significant effect on the outputted image for little effect on performance, a growing list of games already support HDR following its debut on the Xbox One S last year.
While there are numerous established standards for HDR, the Xbox One X only utilizes the "HDR 10" standard. If you're yet to get a compatible display, which is required to experience HDR, check the supported standards before making a purchase.
Higher frame rates (30 FPS to 60 FPS)
With the additional resources available, higher frame rates can also be expected with certain titles. Support for 60 frames per second (FPS) is more common than ever on consoles, adding a new level of fluidity to gameplay. However, this again can vary between games, based on a developer's priorities.
The majority of games that run in native 4K fail will fail to meet 60 FPS. Obviously, there are a few exceptions like Forza Motorsport 7, but at launch, few titles will offer both these enhancements simultaneously. However, by using techniques like checkerboarding and dynamic resolutions, games can offer a near-4K experience alongside a higher frame rate.
A majority of the Xbox One library will also benefit from the Xbox One X's overhead, even when not patched specifically to support the full power of the console. Using the additional power, games will be able to hit their target frame rates more consistently (if not all the time.)
Improved visual effects
Developers can also leverage the Xbox One X's hardware to add their own preferred tweaks to both upcoming and existing titles. Among these improvements may be upgraded textures, shadows, lighting and other features previously reserved to high-end PCs. In theory, Xbox One X games don't need to offer 4K, high frame rates or HDR support, as developers are free to add enhancements of their choosing. If developers manually offer any kind of improvements to their games over original Xbox One versions, this still qualifies as an Xbox One X Enhanced title.
Shorter load times
Despite the Xbox One X still solely using a hard disk drive (HDD) for storage, the console promises to deliver faster load times. While adding higher resolution textures and effects will introduce more data to load, the console will be more efficient overall at loading up content. You'll also still see similar benefits to loading times with games not enhanced for the console.
Other non-visual upgrades are also possible with the Xbox One X and can be leveraged depending on the priorities of the developer. In an interview with The Guardian, Xbox head Phil Spencer expanded on the enhancements Electronic Arts is planning to offer in Madden NFL 18, through the console. One of these will be improved physics to take full advantage of the console's power, even affecting small details like grass on the football pitch. This will be a less common upgrade and not leveraged by many titles but can provide additional depth not possible on existing hardware.
- Xbox One X FAQ: All you need to know
- Xbox One X price, availability and preorder details
- A complete list of 'Xbox One X Enhanced' games
- Xbox marketing chief Mike Nichols talks Xbox One X price, games, and more