On November 12th, the Xbox One received a massive update, moving it further away from its roots as a Kinect-required, always-online media box. Along with a brand new interface, the Xbox One is getting backwards compatibility with a selection of Xbox 360 games - something gamers had written off since the system's initial unveiling in 2013. So now that we're getting support for old games, the question becomes: How well do they play?
Surprisingly well, actually, as you can see by the accompanying video. There's a whole lot of digital magic going on behind the scenes here, but the Xbox One is emulating the 360's framework from the ground up - including that swirling logo and the 'whoosh' sound when you boot each game up. Pressing the Menu and View buttons on your controller will bring up the 360's Guide, giving you full access to your friends lists, Achievements, and more. Plus, you'll be able to play on the same Xbox Live servers as people who are playing on actual Xbox 360s.
As for the games themselves, they do what you want them to do - that is, run without any significant issues. I tested ten different games, running the gamut from indie darlings like Super Meat Boy to graphical showcases like Gears of War 3, and most of what I saw was on par with their 360 counterparts. There were some instances of frame rate stuttering in Mass Effect or Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, but those games were already a little framey to begin with, and their performance has been improved significantly from their initial showing in the Preview Program and Rare Replay, respectively. I also noticed a weird film grain filter that permeated my time playing Just Cause 2 on the Xbox One - nothing game-breaking, but definitely noticeable.
Most of the other games I played ran just as well, and in one particular case, better on the Xbox One. The 360 emulation actually smoothed out the frame rate a bit while I was playing Gears of War 3 which is… unexpected. Other games like Fallout 3, Ikaruga, or Call of Juarez: Gunslinger played just like I remembered, but the emulation provides a far snappier and more responsive Guide menu.
While the initial roll out is relatively small, bringing a little over 100 games to Xbox One, the future looks bright for backwards compatibility, as Microsoft promises a "very regular schedule" of additional Xbox 360 games. If it can continue to provide more games on a consistent basis and get multi-disc games like Mass Effect 2 and Lost Odyssey working, the Xbox One might have a new secret weapon in the console wars. I don't know about you, but now that I have an Xbox One, I never, ever want to touch my 360 again if I can help it. With enough support, the Xbox One's backwards compatibility could finally get me to leave last-gen hardware behind for good.