Original Xbox Backward Compatibility – Impressions

Now that games from the original 2001 edition of the Xbox are appearing on the latest consoles it’s interesting to look back at and see how some genres have progressed in that time compared to others.

A good example for me was when I jumped back into EA & Criterion’s 2006 shooter Black. I was quite excited at the thought of playing the game again as the big appeal of the game for me was the presentation side with its meaty sound and emphasis on the guns and what they do best.

This often used screenshot is how I remembered Black: big guns and bigger explosions. (From PS2 version)

However after playing the game on my Xbox One, the game doesn’t compare all that well thanks to some dingy graphics and movement that feels lethargic compared to modern shooters. The gunplay which was so thrilling back then doesn’t hold up well when there are so many military shooters to choose from now. Overall the game made me look at it in much the same way as I did Perfect Dark on Xbox – fun nostalgia but unfortunately nothing I’d dedicate much time to.

It is worth noting though that the game has already been updated to support higher resolutions on Xbox One so it’s quite likely titles that appear on backward compatibility will continue to be tweaked to ensure you get the best possible experience from them. And it’s all free, apart from the games themselves. That’s a nice little bonus for all fans of the Xbox family.

Crimson Skies looked good, even back then on the old Xbox.

In contrast to Black, it is Microsoft’s own Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge that really shows the value in bringing these games back. Even though the cinematics are a little dated now they rest of the game still looks good and more importantly the gameplay feels like it could be from a modern title. If only the game ran at a 16:9 Widescreen aspect ratio it might even pass as one too. It’s certainly a handy little bonus for Ninja Gaiden Black.

That I was able to jump in and happily get reacquainted with the game is a testament to a great design that has aged much more gracefully than other titles. If anything I hope it catches on with players and might have a renaissance or sorts. A sequel is long overdue.

Its an interesting approach that Microsoft are taking with these games in that they are not tweaking anything apart from the resolution that the games are rendering at. As the above video shows from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, a lot can be added to improving the visual quality just through the resolution boost. Fans of achivements might feel a little cheated but it seems unfair to add the gamerscore metagame to titles that weren’t designed with it in mind.

That first Xbox signalled my return to consoles after almost a decade of being a PC gamer and it had a profound influence on my interests and choices for years to come. As a result I’m extremely keen to see what comes to the platform this way and how the games turn out. A couple of Splinter Cells would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

3 replies »

    • BC really is a great gesture but MS – it probably didn’t make them much money initially but as the library has expanded the potential for it to keep old games available, especially those no longer in circulation, is huge and will hopefully pay for itself too.


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