Xbox Series X Optimized explained: What to expect from the next-gen leap

(Image credit: Xbox)

We hear the phrases PS4 Pro Enhanced and Xbox One X Enhanced quite a lot, but  exactly what those enhancements bring can vary from game to game. Thankfully, Microsoft is making things a little clearer with its Xbox Series X Optimized promise, meaning the jump from Xbox One to Xbox Series X is more clean-cut than the mid-cycle console upgrades – as it should be.

We've outlined the core upgrades that Microsoft has listed for the Xbox Series X Optimized package, but there is a caveat to them. Microsoft previously clarified that: "Putting the power of the console in the hands of developers to decide what's best for their games is one of our core beliefs and we're excited for this first look at how they are choosing to leverage the Xbox Series X." 

That means that not all games will have all possible improvements. With that in mind, here's the most current list of games which have been confirmed to be optimized for Xbox Series X: 

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
  • Bright Memory Infinite
  • Call of the Sea 
  • Chivalry 2
  • Chorus 
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Destiny 2 
  • DiRT 5 
  • FIFA 21
  • Gears 5
  • Halo Infinite
  • Hitman 3
  • Madden NFL 21
  • Marvel’s Avengers
  • Outriders
  • Scarlet Nexus 
  • Scorn
  • Second Extinction 
  • The Ascent 
  • The Medium
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon

We've also broken down the types of enhancements that you should expect from optimized games below, with examples from Xbox studios.

4K resolution

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

Although there's a lot of chat about 8K resolutions being the thing for the next-generation consoles, the Xbox Series X Optimized promise is for the games with that badge to run at true 4K resolution. It's worth noting that most Xbox One X Enhanced games also run at 4K, so this should basically be the standard from now on. Additionally, Xbox is targeting 60 FPS at 4K resolutions across all games, although real-world performance remains to be seen. 

 Framerates of up to 120fps 

(Image credit: Codemasters)

Higher framerates are key to keeping the action feeling smooth, so it's great to see Xbox aiming for 120 FPS. This is a big area where developers will likely take slightly different routes, as higher framerates aren't as important for all genres. The FPS genre, for example, will no doubt be trying to push for the higher realms, but a constant 60 FPS is a fantastic choice for detail-heavy, story-led games.

In another Xbox Wire post, technical director David Springate of developer Codemasters offered a useful example of FPS priority with Dirt 5. The Xbox Series X version of Dirt 5 will deliver 120 FPS with slightly lowered visual settings, but players will also have the option of maxing out the details and maintaining 60 FPS.  

"Racing fans know framerate is king and Dirt 5 will deliver on this," Springate said. "Players will experience the strongest sense of speed and responsiveness at the highest frame rate. It’s such a great, smooth experience – I hadn’t experienced another racer like it." 

DirectStorage support 

(Image credit: Microsoft)

A new term for a new generation of Xbox consoles. DirectStorage is a brand new system for storage arriving with the Xbox Series X, reducing CPU overhead so the game has more space to spend on things like better physics or putting more NPCs in a scene. The fact that all Xbox Series X Optimized games will be able to take advantage of this technology is a huge boon, and it could be the feature that offers the biggest difference between playing the same game on an Xbox One X and Xbox Series X. 

DirectX raytracing

(Image credit: Xbox)

Having experienced DirectX Raytracing via Nvidia RTX graphics cards on PC, it's safe to say that this technology really does improve the realism and vibrancy of elements like reflections, water, lightning, directional audio and more. Adding Raytracing support to Xbox Series X Optimized games will make a huge difference to the way they look on the next-gen console, so if you haven't experienced Raytracing yet, it's time to get excited.

Super fast load times

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Nobody likes to wait, do they?  Fortunately, it seems like cutting loading times is the big thing for next-gen games, so it's not a huge surprise that there's a push for all of Xbox Series X Optimized titles to take advantage of next-gen loading speeds. 

Technical director Mike Rayner of Gears developer The Coalition said that just by upgrading to Xbox Series X hardware, and without changing anything on the game side, the studio was able to reduce load times in Gears 5 by "more than 4x".  

"With the new DirectStorage APIs and new hardware decompression we can further improve I/O performance and reduce CPU overhead both of which are essential to achieve fast loading," Rayner said. "As we look to the future, the Xbox Series X’s Sampler Feedback for Streaming (SFS) is a game changer for how we think about world streaming and visual level of detail."

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Sam Loveridge
Global Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Sam Loveridge is the Global Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar, and joined the team in August 2017. Sam came to GamesRadar after working at TrustedReviews, Digital Spy, and Fandom, following the completion of an MA in Journalism. In her time, she's also had appearances on The Guardian, BBC, and more. Her experience has seen her cover console and PC games, along with gaming hardware, for a decade, and for GamesRadar, she's in charge of the site's overall direction, managing the team, and making sure it's the best it can be. Her gaming passions lie with weird simulation games, big open-world RPGs, and beautifully crafted indies. She plays across all platforms, and specializes in titles like Pokemon, Assassin's Creed, The Sims, and more. Basically, she loves all games that aren't sports or fighting titles! In her spare time, Sam likes to live like Stardew Valley by cooking and baking, growing vegetables, and enjoying life in the countryside.