There are not so many games for the new generation of consoles. The pandemic and supply problems are to blame. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One user base is about ten times larger than the next-gen PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. Publishers prefer cross-gen titles that come out on both generations at once. Some developers even postpone the release of projects for several years. But I want to play right now! If we talk about Microsoft, then they perfectly “pumped” the exclusive backwards compatibility feature. Xbox allows you to run not only games of the previous generation, but also very old projects. For example, games for the Xbox 360 and even the original Xbox. Some of them are even getting graphical improvements. Let’s explore the possibilities of backward compatibility by looking at several well-known projects.
The ability to play older games first appeared on Xbox One back in 2015. After the failed launch of the console a year earlier, Microsoft needed to urgently redeem itself. To do this, they came up with a new function. But with the emulator, everything was not so simple: development was accompanied by serious difficulties.
Phil Spencer introduces backwards compatibility feature at E3 2015
With the launch of games for the original Xbox, everything was not bad. The old set-top box is based on a custom 32-bit Intel Pentium III with a frequency of 733 MHz on the x86 architecture. The Xbox One used a 64-bit AMD processor, which is backwards compatible with the old 32-bit one. There were minimum problems.
But with the Xbox 360, things are different. Engineers equipped it with an IBC processor based on the Power PC architecture. It has three cores and six threads, which is quite unusual: an even number is most often used. In addition to the fact that it was necessary to emulate a different architecture, a second difficulty arose. The IBM Xenon had a fairly high clock speed of 3.2 GHz. At AMD Jaguar, it is only 1.75 GHz with eight cores.
IBM Xenon processor
Microsoft programmers had to work a lot on the emulator and thread scheduler. Testers spent hundreds of hours in many games, catching bugs. It was forbidden to edit the code of the projects themselves in any way. The key task at this stage sounded simple: everything had to work “as is”.
Backward compatibility isn’t just about running old games on a new platform. Sometimes it improves their appearance. The picture is upgraded by quite specific manipulations without interfering with the code. First, it’s a render boost. A multiplication factor is applied to the framebuffer. So the original 720p on the Xbox 360 turns into 4K on the Xbox Series X. Secondly, if available, 16x anisotropic filtering, improved shadow maps and textures are applied. And thirdly, thanks to the FPS Boost function on the next generation consoles, the smoothness of the gameplay is improved. Instead of 30 frames per second, you can get 60 or even 120.
The iconic RPG by Peter Molyneux was released for the first Xbox in 2004. A decade later, it was re-released on the Xbox 360 with the addition of Anniversary. This version can be run in backwards compatibility mode. Improvements include support for 4K and 60 fps. All three parts of the series are available on Game Pass .
With updated graphics, Fable looks almost like a full-fledged remaster
Fable Anniversary game (Xbox ONE, Xbox 360)
[16+, RPG, release date: 01/29/2014, voice language: English, digital edition]
Stores: 250 stores
Many gamers are unhappy with where the popular series is heading in recent years. Origins, Odyssey and Valhalla are more like regular action games with RPG elements. If you too are nostalgic for the old parts, it’s time to see where it all began.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla game (Xbox ONE, Xbox Series X)
[18+, action, release date: 11/10/2020, voice language: Russian, English, standard edition]
1 999 *
one hundred 2
Stores: 6 stores
The original game was one of the most beautiful titles on the Xbox 360. With improvements, it looks good in 2022. On Xbox Series X, the project is rendered in native 4K, and on Series S it is rendered at 1440p. FPS Boost doubles the frame rate to 60 in both cases.
First Assassin’s Creed on Xbox Series X
Of the minuses – the lack of Russian localization.
A parkour game from the makers of Battlefield that looks good even now. As in the previous case, the game was improved to 4K / 2K, respectively, and 60 fps is very appropriate in a dynamic action game.
Mirror’s Edge in 4K on Series X and 720p on Xbox 360
Gears Of War Series
All gears of war parts are available in Game Pass. Nextgen consoles are the best way to replay them right now. The series received visual improvements. For the very first game, a re-release of Ultimate came out with updated graphics. Parts 2, 3 and 4 run at 4K/30 fps or 1440p/60 fps.
Gears Of War: Ultimate Edition
Gears 5 has already been fully updated for Series X/S, with incredible graphics and fast loading times.
Gears of War 5 Ultimate Edition (Xbox ONE) 4,599 *
The Witcher 3
Despite the fact that the Polish RPG was released back in 2015, many people continue to play it to this day. On new consoles, the version for the previous generation of consoles is launched. Not everything is so clear here. On Series X, optimization is available that was released for One X – the game runs in dynamic 1440p and “boosts” up to 60 fps. The Series S doesn’t have enough power, so the game runs at its base Xbox One version of 1080p and only 30fps.
The Witcher 3 on Xbox Series will look even better
CD Projekt Red promises that a patch with full Series X / S support will be released in the second quarter of this year. For owners of the game, the update will be free.
Game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Game of the year edition (Xbox ONE)
[18+, role-playing game, release date: 08/30/2016, voice-over language: Russian, English, digital edition]
Stores: 250 stores
An underrated immersive sim game from Arkane Studios, best known for the Dishonored series. As with The Witcher, Prey received a One X support patch that added better textures and reflections. On the new Series X, the game runs at 1440p at 60fps (thanks to FPS Boost). The younger console was less fortunate – just 900p and degraded graphics settings. Loading times for levels have been reduced by an order of magnitude: in the original, they took about a minute, and on Series – just a couple of seconds.
Prey (2017) on Xbox Series X
Prey game (Xbox ONE)
[18+, adventure, action, release date: 05/05/2017, voice-over language: Russian, English, standard edition]
A shooter that was released on the original Xbox and PlayStation 2. In 2006, it was one of the most technologically advanced games: destructible environments, huge locations and visual effects were amazing.
Now, of course, the action looks outdated. It is worth a try to evaluate the capabilities of the emulator from Microsoft. The resolution was raised to Full HD, but Black did not receive an increase in frame rate. The game is on Game Pass.
The final part of the skater trilogy, released 12 years ago on the Xbox 360. An excellent job was done for the Series X / S: the render resolution was increased to 2160p / 1080p, improved textures and added 60 fps. Even if you’re not a fan, it’s worth a try – the project is also available by subscription.
Skate 3 in 4K
A role-playing game in a post-apocalyptic world is now available at stable 60 fps. On the Series X, the project ups the resolution to 4K, and on the Series S it goes up to 1440p. It’s time to replay the legend!
Fallout 3 in backward compatibility mode looks quite modern
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
The Lara Croft adventure game didn’t receive a patch for the new generation of consoles, but it looks great on the older version. The project is rendered in 2016p at 60 fps with slight frequency drops. But Series S was out of luck again – only 900p, but with smooth fps.
Drawdowns up to 50 fps are observed only on the older version of the Xbox
Shadow of the Tomb Raider game (Xbox ONE)
[18+, adventure, action, release date: 09/14/2018, voice language: Russian, English, standard edition]
1 999 *
thirteenStores: 3 stores
Dying Light 2 came out just the other day. If you want to know how the zombie apocalypse started, then the first part is available for backwards compatibility. The downside is that the project only works in 1080p (even on the older console). FPS Boost up to 60 frames is also available only on Series X – this is important for such a dynamic game.
Dying Light is slightly lacking in clarity on Xbox Series X
On the other hand, Dying Light 2 has not gone far. The project is optimized for new consoles, but in performance mode it also works on XSX at 1080p (without using dynamic resolution), and 4K is only available at 30 frames.