Everyone is raving about Red Dead Redemption 2, released today worldwide, and among its many praises, one that almost goes without saying is how beautiful Rockstar’s new open world is.
This is no surprise to anyone who has already seen screenshots and video from the game in the lead-up to its release, but it’s one thing to look at promotional materials, and another to play the game yourself. And it turns out, in this case, it really does matter where you play it.
With no PC release in sight, we have a true console war between PS4 and Xbox One, each vying to be the console of choice for Red Dead Redemption 2, with Sony securing a promotional deal with Rockstar, but ultimately, it seems like Xbox, specifically Xbox One X, is the better pick.
Digital Foundry did its usual console comparison for the game, but this time, there was a very, very clear winner, the Xbox One X, with a wide gap between it and PS4 Pro, more so than usual. I won’t get into all the technical specifics, but the point is that Rockstar has pushed the graphical envelope of this console generation so far, that at long last, the sheer horsepower of the Xbox One X, which has always been over the top of PS4 Pro, is finally, really coming into play.
We have not really had a moment like this to date for the Xbox One X, a console Microsoft reminds us at every turn is the “world’s most powerful.” Many of the best games of this year have been Sony exclusives, namely God of War and Spider-Man, which both look great on the Pro, and by definition, there’s no comparison to make to the Xbox One. On the other side, the Xbox One X has Forza, which obviously looks incredible, but Forza games always do so no one was terribly surprised by that. And again, no counterpart there on PlayStation.
But other, shared games? I really just haven’t heard this debate at all. Destiny 2, Monster Hunter, Black Ops 4, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. I really just haven’t heard anyone say that one is a “must play” on Xbox One X over PS4 Pro. Sure, Xbox One X is probably the better performer in every case, but it seems like none of these games have gone quite as far down the rainbow as Rockstar has with Red Dead Redemption 2, pushing almost out of bounds and doing things that finally, only the Xbox One X can bring full justice to. This isn’t to say that PS4 players are going to have a bad time, but finally, we may have our first truly big difference between the two uber-consoles when I just haven’t seen that to date, despite owning and playing games on both.
While this is a victory for Microsoft and may encourage some extra Xbox One X sales this holiday, this situation does seem to lay bare the fact that Microsoft’s big investment in the X1X has not really panned out as expected. Microsoft and its fans will claim that the X1X was always destined to be beloved by a tech-savvy niche, and yet I do think they were hoping it would change the conversation about the console race, and that the Xbox One X would be the clear alternative for every third party title because of its overwhelming power. And yet this is the first time I’ve seen this actually come up since buying the system a year ago.
Also, it’s hard to know when this will happen again. Looking ahead, Microsoft’s exclusive landscape remains barren (Crackdown 3 sure isn’t going to show off the graphical prowess of X1X, judging by what we’ve seen), and I’m struggling to think of other third party titles that will be pushing technical boundaries as much as Red Dead here. Anthem? Battlefield 5? It seems unlikely, and with a fully new console generation probably just two years away, the Xbox One X will have an odd lifespan. Hopefully if Microsoft can keep this level of power edge when next gen launches, we may have a different start to the next console battle than we saw with the disastrous launch of the Xbox One in 2013. But I do find it strange that this is the first time in a year that a game has made anyone truly rave about the Xbox One X’s power over the PS4 Pro, despite so many other releases.
And so, I’m super excited to play Red Dead on my Xbox One X, and this article is taking away from valuable cowboy time. See you out there.