Xbox Game Pass: TA Team Picks (Series X Edition)

By Luke Albigés,
We've not long published our latest Game Pass team picks article, and yet here we are, back with another already. This one serves a rather different purpose, however. Rather than recommending some of our favourite hidden gems on the service, today we're looking at which games the team have found most impressive after playing a bunch of different stuff on Xbox Series X. So without further ado, here are our picks of the Game Pass games — optimised for Series X or otherwise — that we found to make best use of the power of Xbox Series X.

Gears 5

Sean: Gears 5

The one game I’m looking forward to playing on Xbox Series X via Xbox Game Pass is Gears 5. I’ve previously spent time with Gears on both PC and an Xbox One X, but after briefly playing some of the game’s campaign on the Series X, complete with graphical enhancements, I honestly can’t wait to pick it up and experience Gears 5 all over again.

Gears 5 was never a bad looking game, but what The Coalition has managed to achieve with it running on next-gen hardware is quite remarkable. The game uses a dynamic resolution, much the same as the previous-gen version, but thanks to the more powerful Xbox Series X, the resolution has been bumped up a notch. Character models are now filled with even more detail — Marcus Fenix looks more gruff and grizzled than ever — and the various environments have come to life thanks to ray-traced screen space global illumination and superb HDR implementation. With all of these added graphical enhancements, The Coalition has still managed to improve the games overall performance with Gears 5 running at a buttery-smooth 60fps in the campaign, and at 120fps in multiplayer. The Coalition really must be commended on what it’s pulled off here.

When the Gears 5 Xbox Series X|S update rolls out on November 10th, be sure to jump back into the game and check it out, as you’ll be hard-pressed to find another title that is this well optimised for the new hardware. Plus, you’ll be able to play as Batista, and who doesn’t want that?

The Outer Worlds Moon Man Launch Trailer

Heidi: The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds is fantastic. Wacky, weird, and completely hilarious, the game boots you out into the universe with absolutely no preparation and a literal crash landing, and things carry on in the same vein from there. You are free to do whatever you like, to wreak as much havoc as you can, and, maybe, if you remember, help to save the world as well. The Outer Worlds is also beautiful. While the game still has some of the darker tones you might see in a Fallout game, it’s much more colourful and vivid than the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the Fallout universe. Everything from the multicoloured skies to the brightly-coloured, vicious predators is beautiful, including the gorgeously-drawn loading screens — which is lucky, because if you’ve been playing on the Xbox One, you will have been seeing a lot of them.

Jumping into the game from the title menu can take a good 50 seconds on the Xbox One S, while travelling between planets and entering cities can eat up another valuable chunk of playing time. Climbing in and out of the ship takes the longest, however — so much so that it can impact the gameplay experience: a chunk of time to get into the ship, before you’re faced with more loading screens as you travel to your next destination, then a final barrage of loading tips as you try to exit the ship. And, then, if you forget something or want to change your party, you’re punished with another round of loading screens to get back on and off the ship. In the end, you’re more likely to end up zooming through unrelated missions on the same planet to avoid extra travel, rather than following the storyline naturally.

However, playing The Outer Worlds on the Xbox Series X is a different story. Even though it’s not optimised for the Xbox Series X, the boosted power of Microsoft’s next-gen console really does a number on The Outer Worlds’ loading times. Goodbye, Raptidon anatomy loading screen: hello, ten seconds from the title screen to the last checkpoint. And it gets better: just nine seconds hopping from the ship to the Groundbreaker, and back on the ship in eight. That change in loading times is enough to boost the immersion so much more, and means you can spend the most amount of time possible in The Outer Worlds rather than just learning about it. This is definitely the Xbox Game Pass game I’m most excited to play on the Xbox Series X.

Sea of Thieves Steam

Luke: Sea of Thieves

I really disliked Sea of Thieves at launch. It just felt so tedious and empty, a sandbox devoid of sand and little more than a vessel for emergent nonsense that idiots could shout over on Twitch and YouTube. Said nonsense could be pretty entertaining, sure, but if I wanted that kind of 'messing around for no reason' experience to be the bulk of the game, I'd probably play rubbish like Goat Simulator. I'd not dared set sail again since hitting it hard in its first week and bouncing off it even harder, but given how much work Rare has put into making the game better in the meantime, the enhanced Series X version seemed like the perfect time to cast off once again. And I'm glad I did.

Last time I played, I thought there was something off about the visuals. I could see what they were going for with the art style, but it just didn't do it for me. But in crystal-clear 4K, everything falls into place and the game looks downright gorgeous. From the lush tropical island vistas to the glistening squishy tentacles of the terrifying kraken, everything is just so crisp and clean that it makes even the most uneventful voyage a joy. It certainly helps that there's much more to see and do now than there was at launch, with ongoing support through events and updates continually adding more to the booty pile. The boosted frame rate absolutely improves the sense of immersion, too, and on Series X, it feels more than ever like a proper pirate adventure. Or you can just goof around in multiplayer and troll other players if you like, just like before. Rare finally got around to getting a fresh bag of sand for its sandbox, and it seems like they went all out and bought the good stuff. Consider my timbers shivered.
Luke Albigés
Written by Luke Albigés
Hey, I'm Luke! I've been playing games since way back in the 8-bit days, and have spent the last 15+ years writing and talking about them professionally for anyone and everyone who would let me. Monster Hunter fanatic, wearer of many fine hats, and always up for a raid.