The Cross-Generational Bottleneck: Cyberpunk Edition

Cyberpunk 2077 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 Review by Destin Legaire for IGN

While I had just as much fun playing Cyberpunk 2077 on PC as Tom did playing for his review, on the base PlayStation 4 or Xbox One it is a different game entirely. It fails to hit even the lowest bar of technical quality one should expect even when playing on lower-end hardware. It performs so poorly that it makes combat, driving, and what is otherwise a master craft of storytelling legitimately difficult to look at. It is not an exaggeration to say that I’ve felt nauseated after playing because of the terrible frame rate. It really is that bad, and it’s very suspicious that CD Projekt Red refused to provide console review copies ahead of launch.

I’d say it is more than suspicious. It was downright intentional. They knew the state the console version of the game was in, deliberately showed PC-only footage, and took people’s money anyway. CD Projekt Red figured it would be easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.

Seeing is believing though.

This is the type of bottleneck I feared for cross-generational games. Cypberpunk 2077 “runs” on 11 different platforms (PS4, PS4 Pro, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PC, and Stadia). From a business perspective, I understand wanting to launch on last generation consoles. There are 165+ million PS4 and Xbox One consoles out in the world. I think it is safe to say the vast majority of purchases this past week were for those platforms. CD Projekt Red spent a lot of goodwill this past week.

Halo Infinite is supposed to run on nine different consoles. I think Xbox will slowly kill off their cross-generation support by running out the clock for the promised two years of support. Sony may have made the right call by not promising all their games will be cross-generational and instead announcing them as they see fit.

I bought Cyberpunk for a couple of my friends for Christmas and now I’m starting to think coal would’ve been a better present.

– Logan Moore via Twitter

I was one of the friends. If he bought me coal, at least it’d work as intended. Thankfully, I can wait until the proper PS5 version is released in 2077.

Xbox Series X at First Blush

The next generation of console gaming has begun today with the Xbox Series X | S. I picked up my Series X this morning at Best Buy at 6:00 AM. Despite each customer requiring an appointment before 9:00 AM, Best Buy was not prepared for the 20+ folks that were there this morning. After buckling up and making it home, I was able to set up the Tower of Power before needing to start work. Here are some of my first impressions with the latest and most powerful from Microsoft.

The Console

It may not be as tall as the PS5, but the Series X was far more dense than I expected. It fits well next to my TV and I imagine once the new factor wears off, the console will just fade into the background in my mind.

The Controller

The matte black finish is much nicer to my eye than the Xbox One controller’s more glossy accents. I am curious how oils from my hands will look over the years. The textured grip feels great in my hands, although not as grippy as the rubber grips on Elite Series controllers. The nicest surprise is the D-Pad. Delightfully clicky and comfortable. I’ll have to test a 2D platformer for the accuracy, but it feels like a real treat.

Speed

Coming from an OG Xbox One, I cannot believe how fast the Series X boots. Gone are the 30~ second boot times from “Instant On” mode. Hello blink-of-an-eye start times.

Set-Up

Microsoft wants you to use the Xbox app to set up the console, so I did. The process is slick. While the console updates its firmware, you are logging in, establishing preferences, and deciding if you want to transfer games/info from an Xbox One. I did a clean set up and just downloaded the few games I wanted to play.

I do wish that the app allowed me to see the download status of the games. It simply shows what is installed, which left me to pop into the living room every couple hours to check the status of my installs. I also could not figure out some sort of rest mode, so I left the console on most of the day for the downloads to do their thing. Even though I left it on, the console was dead silent. I’m curious what it will sound like when running a game.

One fun tidbit is that the console identifies itself as “SCARLETT” to the network. A nice little easter egg to the product codename.

Games

The absence of Halo Infinite is a major blow. The only “new” game I am going to play is Tetris Effect Connected and that is simply adding 4K60 support and multiplayer. I am stoked to finally play Forza Horizon 4 for the first time. The updates to the Halo: Master Chief collection sound dope, but those will be released next week. As cool as the hardware side of a launch is, I am feeling an emptiness for games to play on the Series X. Thankfully, the PS5 and its launch lineup will fill that hole later this week.

Now it’s time to go play some games!

Next-Gen SSD Storage Options and Pricing

Best Buy went ahead and listed the custom 1TB SSD memory card for the Xbox Series consoles for pre-order at $219.99. The hardcore gamers will have to pay nearly half the console’s price (or nearly the whole console if buying a Xbox Series S) to double their storage. It’s a steep price to pay to manage your solid state drive less often.

Expanding the PS5 SSD storage is a different story. Mark Cerny revealed that users could expand the storage themselves with NVMe SSDs. The catch was, they’d have to wait until consumer NVMe SSDs caught up with the speed of the PS5’s own SSD. Cerny said that Sony would provide a list of recommended drives when they become available.

It sounds like Samsung’s NVMe M.2 drive that uses PCIe 4.0 has the speed, according to The Verge back in September 2020, with read/write speeds of 7,000MB/s and 5,000MB/s. Those particular drives have 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB (the 2TB model is supposed to release later this year). Those are currently priced at $89.99, $149.99, $229.99, and the 2TB doesn’t have a price yet.

Leaving upgrades to the user definitely gives them more options, but can lead to confusion, especially if the installation is tricky. Swapping the PS4 or PS4 Pro hard drive was simple, but we have no idea how easy that will be on PS5. Xbox users can use traditional hard drives, if they are USB 3.1 or USB 3.2, but they will only run and play older games. Xbox Series console games and features require the custom SSD.

It reminds me of SD cards for cameras or the Nintendo Switch. I buy the size I want for the price I am willing to spend. 1TB SD cards run roughly $350~, but a 128GB micro SD card is roughly $20~ and is perfect for my Switch.

I could also see the cost of the NVMe drives going down sooner, since they serve a wider market. More competition to drive the prices down. The Xbox 1TB drive is currently made solely by Seagate and is a proprietary drive, which could lead to it keeping its current price for longer. Either way, upgrading the storage on these next-gen consoles is going to be a tough pill to swallow for the first year or two.

Inside Microsoft’s design of the new Xbox Series S and X – Fast Company

Inside Microsoft’s design of the new Xbox Series S and X by Mark Wilson for Fast Company

“We think about our console as part of the environment you live in as our customer,” says Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft. “While there’s an opening of the box and you want that to be fantastic, once you put that console wherever you put it, we hope you never have to touch it again, hope you never have to hear from it again, and it just plays great games. . . . It’s not the center of attention.”

As if to prove this point, Spencer conducted an interview in July, from his home office, before the Xbox Series S design was made public. Look into the background, and you can see the S peeking out between a stack of books. And no one noticed until Microsoft revealed the ruse last week.

I love interviews exploring hardware design and Mark Wilson delivers for the two new Xbox consoles. It’s easy to look at the new Xbox systems and forget their look, which is precisely what Xbox wants. They clearly went function over form, while still sprinkling in some flourishes. My favorite touch is on the Xbox Series X with its green plastic beneath the upper ventilation holes. Gives just the right amount of that iconic Xbox shade of green. Reminds me of the Xbox goo that was apart of the origianl Xbox console’s OS.

On the flipside with the PS5, Sony definitely put more flare out there. It’s unclear the form vs function ratio going on with the PS5, but it certainly does not fade from memory. It is very Sony in its design, which is a positive point to me.

I do enjoy the PS5’s look more than the Xbox Series consoles. I am also excited that we got such widely different looks to pair with the different approach the consoles all seem to be taking technically. Makes for a far more exciting launch and generation than similar specs inside similar boxes.