constant requests for specific titles and enhancements encouraged the backwards compatibility team to partner with the original creators to preserve thousands of games from over four generations of Xbox.”
Xbox Backward Compatibility Games
Back in June 11, 2017 at E3, Microsoft announced that around 50% of Xbox One users had played an Xbox 360 game on Xbox One thanks to the backward-compatibility feature, and Microsoft would ensure the longevity of the games by making digital versions available through their store, Game Pass and often at zero cost through Games with Gold.
To the delight of Xbox One X (and later Xbox Series X|S) owners everywhere, it was also announced that titles would get a quick wash and brush up with improvements to the overall release, with Enhanced features such as: -
- Increased resolution – Enhanced games would be rendered at 9x original resolution, with titles that that originally ran at 720p now running at 2160p (4K) on capable TVs, monitors and displays.
- HDR – HDR10 would be made available on titles, adding rich colour and
- Dolby Atmos – Dolby Atmos surround sound where available
Standard improvements to backwards compatible titles include: -
- Improved frame rate stability which allows older titles to achieve and maintain the best possible framerates
- Dynamic resolution capable games now hit maximum resolution more consistently
- 16x anisotropic filtering for enhancements to texture quality
- Forced V-sync means that screen tearing is now eradicated, where the framerate from the console matches the capability of the display
- Variable refresh rate compatibility for compatible displays ensures stuttering and tearing is prevented and motion smoothness is improved
The recent 76 backward compatible releases all benefit from "improved visual quality with Auto HDR on supported displays, which automatically adds HDR enhancements on Xbox Series X|S." according to the Xbox news blog. FPS Boost was also enabled on 26 of the titles in the back catalog of games, including top requested titles such as the complete Gears of War franchise, Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Dragon Age: Origins, Dead Space 2 & 3, Alan Wake and Sonic Generations. FPS Boost and Auto HDR is a feature that gamers can toggle in their settings, enabling retro gamers to control their own experience.
The announcement reads - "Your constant requests for specific titles and enhancements encouraged the Backwards Compatibility team to partner with the original creators to preserve thousands of games from over four generations of Xbox. While we continue to stay focused on preserving and enhancing the art form of games, we have reached the limit of our ability to bring new games to the catalog from the past due to licensing, legal and technical constraints. Thank you for being part of this journey with us."
Whilst most gamers will be sad that their particular favourite game was not added to the list, there's no shortage of titles to enjoy, with over 600 games from the 2100+ catalog now added to backwards compatibility. A full list can be found here.
The 76 games released as part of the Xbox 20th Anniversary Celebration are: -
- 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
- Aces of the Galaxy
- Advent Rising
- Adventure Time: The Secret of the Nameless Kingdom
- Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Make the Grade
- Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Burning Earth
- Bankshot Billiards 2
- Beautiful Katamari
- Binary Domain
- Black College Football Xperience: Doug Williams Ed
- Cloning Clyde
- Dead or Alive Ultimate
- Dead or Alive 3
- Dead or Alive 4
- Death by Cube
- Disney Universe
- Disney’s Chicken Little
- Elements of Destruction
- F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
- F.E.A.R. 3
- F.E.A.R. Files
- The First Templar
- Islands of Wakfu
- Lego The Lord of the Rings
- Max Payne
- Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
- Max Payne 3
- Mini Ninjas
- Mortal Kombat
- Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
- MX vs. ATV Alive
- MX vs. ATV Untamed
- Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee
- Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad
- Otogi: Myth of Demons
- Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors
- The Outfit
- Outpost Kaloki X
- Quake Arena Arcade
- R.A.W. – Realms of Ancient War
- Red Dead Revolver
- Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
- Ridge Racer 6
- Risen 2: Dark Waters
- Rock of Ages
- Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
- Secret Weapons Over Normandy
- Skate 2
- SpongeBob SquarePants Underpants Slam!
- SpongeBob’s Truth or Square
- Star Wars Starfighter: Special Edition
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
- Thrillville: Off the Rails
- Time Pilot
- TimeSplitters 2
- TimeSplitters: Future Perfect
- Toy Story Mania!
- Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment
- Viva Piñata: Party Animals
The 20 year celebration was packed with treats for Xbox gamers, with the release of Halo Infinite Multiplayer Beta, the 70+ backward compatible games, and exciting Xbox Cloud announcements to top things off:
Power On: The Story of Xbox - Out December 13th
For those who are interested in how the rocky road to success was written by the people who lived it, a new docu-series called Power On: The Story of Xbox will release on December 13th 2021, taking you behind the scenes of one of the most influential projects in gaming history.
The documentary series takes us through the creation of the Xbox and the following 20 years of passionate development and innovation. We find out about the humble passion project beginnings, originally founded by a small group of gamers at Microsoft, then chart the rise and fall of the console through RRoD and the games that would firmly place the consoles in gaming history.
The tagline on the official Power On page reads "Xbox almost didn’t happen. Find out why in this behind-the-scenes, six-part series that takes you back to the scrappy beginnings of Microsoft's video game console. It’s the untold story of the people behind the box, glitches and all."
The trailer features some of the lead developers and engineers behind Xbox, who open up about the struggles and challenges that they faced early on. Microsoft, although a behemoth of the era, had to do their level best to insert themselves in a console gaming market, something which was anything but guaranteed for them at the time. Self-described renegades, the team behind DirectX - the SDK that had made games like Microsoft Flight Simulator and Age of Empires possible for PC gamers - were charged with developing a console that Bill Gates hoped would rival or defeat the PlayStation 2 console which would release in 1999. In 1998, the four engineers from Microsoft's DirectX team - Seamus Blackley, Kevin Bachus, Ted Hase and team leader Otto Berkes - would begin floating ideas and discussing a new console capable of running off the now famed DirectX technology.
The documentary covers this exciting journey from start to finish, with a spotlight on the genius and often crazy developers who brought the Xbox to life.
All six episodes will be made available to watch worldwide beginning December 13 on Roku, IMDb TV, YouTube, Redbox and other platforms, but fans can get an exclusive first look on December 12th by signing up for Fanfest.
Xbox Gaming In 2022 And Beyond
Although there will no longer be any backward compatible games released, there are still some incredibly exciting things happening for Xbox gamers. Microsoft are continually making changes to ensure the longevity of their next-gen consoles as well as assuring support for their previous consoles.
If you have Xbox Game Pass you will be looking forward to a new year packed with blockbuster releases, not least because you won't have any out of pocket expense on these huge titles. Here are a few of the awesome games we're looking forward to...
A Plague Tale: Requiem
Fans of the awesome supernatural action/puzzle and stealth game, A Plague Tale: Innocence, will be treated to a new installment in 2022, with A Plague Tale: Requiem. A day one Xbox Game Pass release means Game Pass players will receive access to the game on launch day at no extra cost.
Innocence offered players a dark and dismal view of a world brought to its knees by the Black Death, seen through the eyes of the two young protagonists, Amicia and her little brother Hugo. The grim gameplay involves traversing a rat-infested world using puzzle solving, stealth and the ability to out-think your enemies, with the majority of the seventeen chapters involving Amicia leading Hugo by the hand through the perilous levels.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is, at its core, a sequel to A Plague Tale: Innocence though fans have noticed that the trailer portrays a brighter world than that of its predecessor. Without giving too much away, the game picks up where the last one left off, and sees Amicia return to a plagued 14th century Europe with her little brother Hugo, continuing their struggle for survival.
If you haven't played the original, you might want to ignore this trailer for now, as some of the narration contains spoilers. You can grab A Plague Tale: Innocence on Game Pass right now.
I was a recent convert to the Halo franchise, having never played the games on any formats. If you want find out about my experience with the game as a complete rookie, you can read it here. Fans of the franchise will be happy to learn that 343 industries have plenty of plans for their new game, confirming plans to add co-op to the Halo Infinite campaign and an exciting Forge Mode to allow players to create their own Multiplayer maps and custom modes. These features will drop as part of the seasonal releases, and there's lots more expected for what is easily one of the biggest games in the last decade.
The architecture for competitive play with Halo Infinite is already under way, so ESports fans can rejoice at the prospect of a fully supported ecosystem for both fans and players. Pro Players such as Tripppey, Respectful, Frosty, Tapping Buttons, and BZllRK are already being name-dropped to whet the appetite of fans, along with some solid ethos that talks about being a positive influence to fans & followers, and reminds pro players that they have "...a tremendous impact on the scene overall which ultimately helps you out directly. Don’t take this opportunity for granted."
You can find out more about the ESports side of Halo Infinite, and Halo Championship Series on the Halo Waypoint blog.
The acquisition of Bethesda by Xbox was an admirable move by the company, primarily a way to offer gamers exclusive content on the platforms via Game Pass. The biggest news from the Bethesda camp is that of the open-world RPG, Starfield. This is an interesting timeline and scope of work, considering it is Bethesda's first new universe in over twenty years, with the game release slated for November 2022. Starfield has in fact been in a "playable state" since 2018, according to Todd Howard, Bethesda Game Studios Executive Producer.
"In this next generation role-playing game set amongst the stars, create any character you want and explore with unparalleled freedom as you embark on an epic journey to answer humanity’s greatest mystery." - Bethesda
There are similarities to classic cinema and games in the artwork and early concepts, but has also been hailed as "Skyrim in space" by Howard in an interview with the Washington Post, owing to the many factions and ability to forge your own path and persona, and said of the game aesthetic that it was like "NASA punk".
Starfield will be the second game we'll see from Bethesda in 2022, with the gorgeous looking open-world co-op FPS Redfall also another notable release. Both games will be available on Game Pass from day one.
Upcoming Game Pass Releases In 2022
We'll leave you with a list of games you can look forward to next year on Game Pass, with Day One access and Cloud Gaming to boot.
Don't have Game Pass? You can find out more here. Game Pass is available to Xbox users and also on Windows PC.