Scott Hanselman

The Fun of Finishing - Exploring old games with Xbox Backwards Compatibility

December 21, '18 Comments [13] Posted in Gaming
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Star Wars: KOTORI'm on vacation for the holidays and I'm finally getting some time to play video games. I've got an Xbox One X that is my primary machine, and I also have a Nintendo Switch that is a constant source of joy. I recently also picked up a very used original PS4 just to play Spider-man but expanded to a few other games as well.

One of the reasons I end up using my Xbox more than any of my other consoles is its support for Backwards Compatibility. Backwards Compat is so extraordinary that I did an entire episode of my podcast on the topic with one of the creators.

The general idea is that an Xbox should be able to play Xbox games. Let's take that even further - Today's Xbox should be able to play today's Xbox games AND yesterday's...all the way back to the beginning. One more step further, shall well? Today's Xbox should be able to play all Xbox games from every console generation and they'll look better than you imagined them!

The Xbox One X can take 720p games and upscale them to 4k, use higher quality textures, and some games like Final Fantasy XIII have even been fully remastered but you still use the original disc! I would challenge you to play the original Red Dead Redemption on an Xbox One X and not think it was a current generation game. I recently popped in a copy of Splinter Cell: Conviction and it automatically loaded a 5-year-old save game from the cloud and I was on my way. I played Star Wars: KOTOR - an original Xbox game - and it looks amazing.

Red Dead Redemption

A little vacation combined with a lot of backwards compatibility has me actually FINISHING games again. I've picked up a ton of games this week and finally had that joy of finishing them. Each game I started up that had a save game found me picking up 60% to 80% into the game. Maybe I got stuck, perhaps I didn't have enough time. Who knows? But I finished. Most of these finishings were just 3 to 5 hours of pushing from my current (old, original) save games.

  • Crysis 2 - An Xbox 360 game that now works on an Xbox One X. I was halfway through and finished it up in a few days.
  • Crysis 3 - Of course I had to go to the local retro game trader and pick up a copy for $5 and bang through it. Crysis is a great trilogy.
  • Dishonored - I found a copy in my garage while cleaning. Turns out I had a save game in the Xbox cloud since 2013. I started right from where I left off. It's so funny to see a December 2018 save game next to a 2013 save game.
  • Alan Wake - Kind of a Twin Peaks type story, or a Stephen King with a flashlight and a gun. Gorgeous game, and very innovative for the time.
  • Mirror's Edge - Deceptively simple graphics that look perfect on 4k. This isn't just upsampling, to be clear. It's magic.
  • Metro 2033 - Deep story and a lot of world building. Oddly I finished Metro: Last Light a few months back but never did the original.
  • Sunset Overdrive - It's so much better than Jet Set Radio Future. This game has a ton of personality and they recorded ALL the lines twice with a male and female voice. I spoke to the voiceover artist for the female character on Twitter and I really think her performance is extraordinary. I had so much fun with this game that now the 11 year old is starting it up. An under-respected classic.
  • Gears of War Ultimate - This is actually the complete Gears series. I was over halfway through all of these but never finished. Gears are those games where you play for a while and end up pausing and googling "how many chapters in gears of war." They are long games. I ended up finishing on the easiest difficulty. I want a story and I want some fun but I'm not interested in punishment.
  • Shadow Complex - Also surprisingly long, I apparently (per my save game) gave up with just an hour to go. I guess I didn't realize how close I was to the end?

I'm having a blast (while the spouse and kids sleep, in some cases) finishing up these games. I realize I'm not actually accomplishing anything but the psychic weight of the unfinished is being lifted in some cases. I don't play a lot of multiplayer games as I enjoy a story. I read a ton of books and watch a lot of movies, so I look for a tale when I'm playing video games. They are interactive books and movies for me with a complete story arc. I love it when the credits role. A great single player game with a built-up universe is as satisfying (or more so) as finishing a good book.

What are you playing this holiday season? What have you rediscovered due to Backwards Compatibility?


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Sunday, December 23, 2018 8:31:56 AM UTC
Sunset Overdrive was released on Xbox one. No backwards compatibility needed.
Brad
Sunday, December 23, 2018 8:48:28 AM UTC
Star Wars KOTOR is one of my all time favourite games.
Sunday, December 23, 2018 1:11:05 PM UTC
I’d say Fallout 3, Bioshock and Resident Evil 4.
3 games that fell by the wayside for me. I’m thankful for back compat.
James Smith
Sunday, December 23, 2018 2:26:13 PM UTC
Tempting, considering my pile of original Xbox games. But I've still got that original Xbox and never fire it up (and not because I've got a switch or a ps4).

Impressive work on the part of the Xbox one team!
Steve
Sunday, December 23, 2018 3:30:24 PM UTC
Fallout New Vegas.

As I have for every version since 1.0, I dutifully bought Fallout 76 and...wow, it sucks. We're not talking Fallout 3 level suckage because it's a little weaker than the others in the series. Instead, Fallout 76 is blatant, abject failure of both concept and execution. Should have been killed in the planning process.

So I'm playing New Vegas in compat mode for a while until something else comes along. I'll have to try out some of the items on your list.
Dave
Sunday, December 23, 2018 4:56:22 PM UTC
Hi Scott,

I have xbox as well but I’m not playing just because I’m mouse/keyboard gamer, But even more of the challenge to me is my wife, she just doesn’t get playing games at all, how do you deal with your wife? :)
Ihor
Sunday, December 23, 2018 9:43:54 PM UTC
I find it disappointing that, at least according to the compatibility website, Minecraft isn't included in this program. How many times do I need to buy this game?
Harry D
Monday, December 24, 2018 12:21:38 PM UTC
Metro exodus incomming
Monday, December 24, 2018 2:09:02 PM UTC
I just realized that when I posted earlier I missed the question, so this holiday I am playing red dead redemption 2 and finishing off dishonored 2. Also I'd challenge your assertion you are not accomplishing anything, you are accomplishing having fun, and whilst work can be fun, it is still work and sitting away blasting away at games in your spare time, well that's the time you earned by doing all the other fun stuff at work, that is after all why you go to work, to earn that time by yourself or with family.
Monday, December 24, 2018 2:09:02 PM UTC
I just realized that when I posted earlier I missed the question, so this holiday I am playing red dead redemption 2 and finishing off dishonored 2. Also I'd challenge your assertion you are not accomplishing anything, you are accomplishing having fun, and whilst work can be fun, it is still work and sitting away blasting away at games in your spare time, well that's the time you earned by doing all the other fun stuff at work, that is after all why you go to work, to earn that time by yourself or with family.
Monday, December 24, 2018 4:59:46 PM UTC
Ironically I just loaded up Metro 2033 Redux over the weekend. I had loaded up the original years ago but for one reason or another never got more than 10 minutes in. I just got an nVidia 2070 RTX for Christmas from my employer, so dang excited to put it to use. My steam backlog is somewhere around 1k games (wish I was joking... adulting sucks sometimes).
Wednesday, December 26, 2018 1:32:24 PM UTC
@Jon Seeley: I'm going through my Steam backlog to avoid upgrading GPUs.

@Dave: I played Fallout 4 and Witcher 3 side-by-side. (I didn't do any other gaming for a few months.) By the time I finished, Fallout was boring, I wanted more Witcher, and decided that I'd never buy another Todd Howard game again until he/his team learned how to write. F76 validates that.
Wednesday, December 26, 2018 3:53:58 PM UTC
Is this statement a fact or a desire?
" Today's Xbox should be able to play today's Xbox games AND yesterday's."
We just got our daughter an Xbox one, but none her dragonball games from the 360 will work. Is backwards compatibility an ongoing process? Should we hold onto those games?
Thanks!
Mike King
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.