Platform reviewed: PC Available on: PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One Release date: July 27, 2023
Nothing good has ever come from exploring a derelict spaceship – except great stories.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series doesn’t reinvent the adventure genre, instead streamlining and refining many of its conventions. That it does so while providing a relentless and engaging story is a testament to the smart decisions taken by developer Deck Nine, which has scraped away much of the extraneous features of graphic adventure games to reveal their underlying appeal.
The game is a prequel to the cult show of the same name. Despite that, it feels very much standalone, with a story that provides insight into one of the show’s main characters while being wholly accessible to newcomers.
As such it is in the execution of the story that The Expanse lives or dies. Happily the game doesn’t overload the player with exposition, relegating much of the backstory of the setting to lightweight audio and text logs found scattered throughout its world. It shows rather than tells the impact of that setting through the interactions of main character Camina Drummer and her supporting cast, all of whom feel fully realised right from the off.
Characters that in less assured hands would feel cliched instead feel like genuine products of their environment. Khan, the irascible and tetchy pilot of the Artemis – the game’s primary location – can be humanised considerably throughout the first two episodes, transforming from a silhouette in a pilot’s seat to a tormented ally to Drummer.
A real scrap
It’s a neat way to integrate the characters’ occupations as scavengers into the narrative while also reiterating that space in the Expanse-verse is inherently hostile to humankind. That fact plays into the story repeatedly, from the threat of execution through being ejected from an airlock to the impact it has upon the psyches of Belters – a faction who have no affiliation to any planet within the solar system.
That hostility is at the core of the story. Over the first few episodes Drummer and the crew of the Artemis discover the existence of a valuable item from a derelict ship, the mere knowledge of which makes them the target of pirate attacks and in-fighting within the crew themselves. It provides impetus for the decisions that you-as-Drummer have to make in order to keep the crew alive, while also emphasising the lack of value placed on human life that is integral to the setting.
The game mixes up the exploration sequences with scenes of relatively calm relationship development and QTE-based sections similar to those of previous Telltale Games. It provides welcome variety within each episode – and it doesn’t hurt that the action sequences have stellar art direction, making each shot and impact feel visceral. Those looking for reaction-based action won’t find it here, however: the timing on QTEs feels very forgiving by default, and the alternate settings are even laxer.
Despite the variety, each episode itself feels relatively short. Even seeking out everything in the environments it took me about 90 minutes to complete episode two, while actively seeking out every obtainable item in the zero-gravity section. These scenes are always fun, reminiscent of a more chilled-out Dead Space 3’s debris field section, but if you rushed through them the total playtime of each episode would be severely curtailed.
Short but sweet
That brevity also negatively affects the character development. You’ll find Drummer going from relative strangers to bosom buddies with other characters in only a few interactions. Likewise, the inevitable betrayals sting less than they should because of the short amount of time you’ve spent getting to know the characters. That’s mitigated by some fantastic performances from the voice actors – including Drummer’s original actor Cara Gee – and career-best facial animation from Deck Nine, but it does limit the impact of some game-changing interactions.
Navigating a vast environment in search of fuel, main character Camina Drummer explores her relationship with the other characters as much as the shattered skeletons of the fragile ships upon which they rely for survival. A perfect encapsulation of the setting and the cast – all in zero gravity.
Performance is never less than rock-solid even in the zero-g sections. That focus upon consistent frame rate and visual fidelity (a far cry from the Telltale games of old) is a huge part of what makes The Expanse feel so engaging: Deck Nine’s experience with the Life Is Strange series is paying dividends here, cementing the developer as a frontrunner in the graphic adventure genre.
There are the occasional muddy or repeating textures, as well as a bizarre glitch relating to audio levels I came across where Drummer’s internal narrative was roughly half the volume of her normal speech, making it seem like she was whispering in her own mind. One early graphical issue is also one of the most easily noticed, as an entire moon seems out of place due to texture resolution. Photos and posters dotted around the environment seem to have a default Photoshop filter applied to them, and though this is easily chalked up to a stylistic choice it still sticks out compared to the environments they feature in.
While the game’s physics never break, it is occasionally disconcerting to see Drummer nonchalantly bat a severed head through a zero-gravity environment as though it were a ping-pong ball, or to snap upright going from wall to ceiling.
The Expanse promises that most of the choices you make in the first three episodes will come home to roost in the fourth and especially the fifth episodes of the season. Given that I only had access to the first three for this review, it is impossible to say to what extent that is true. If, ultimately, the game’s choices dovetail towards a single canonical ending, that would be a disappointment given the numerous possibilities opened up during my playtime.
However, the fact that the game provides only one or two major choices per episode – helpfully signalled by a unique binary choice effect on screen – makes me believe the developers are deliberately avoiding that possibility. They promise that everyone aboard the Artemis can live, or all of them save Drummer can die. The first three episodes are a pared-back, streamlined story that seems to set up multiple branches towards the end, rather than a traditional adventure game diamond-shaped narrative structure.
That makes the choices you do make feel weighty. You dimly sense the shape of negative outcomes behind every decision: the game even lightly lampshades the fact that often there are no good options in as hostile an environment as space. The cold equations of survival are as much an antagonist as the pirates Drummer fights, and The Expanse makes you face them directly. It’s merciless, and the better for it.
At $39.99 for the base five episodes (with a bonus DLC episode to be released later), The Expanse’s success as an adventure game will be judged on how much those choices ultimately matter. While fans of the show already know the fate of some of its characters, as a standalone experience the game is compelling from moment to moment, a pared-back exploration of what makes adventure games so appealing.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series provides a welcome range of accessibility features that impact gameplay and playability. It offers three separate colourblind options, in addition to a number of warnings before scenes that use bright lights or loud noises.
In addition, the developers have included options for QTEs and critical decisions that either expand or remove time restrictions. These options are offered from the very start of the game, ensuring that there are no situations in which accessibility is an issue for any player.
How we reviewed The Expanse: A Telltale Series
The Expanse’s first three episodes were initially played over 4 hours, with a further 90+ minutes played to see how different choices played out within the first two episodes. I didn’t have review access to the final two episodes, nor the DLC episode. I played with first an Xbox controller and then a mouse and keyboard (preferred the controller, but both work well).
I haven’t watched any of the show upon which it is based, nor read the books, but have endured friends endlessly telling me to watch it.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series is out now for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Time Played: 24 hours Reviewed on: PC Available on: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
I arrive in a remote village, my body beset by numbing cold. To my relief, the villagers welcome me, and, after I help them with a pesky demon problem, we share a few drinks. It’s a relieving, feel-good moment, which would be more than enough in a traditional fantasy story. However, Diablo 4 is its own beast.
I pass out. It turns out that the village is full of cultists, and I was drugged at the drinks celebrating my heroism. A priest, whom I’d written off as a panic-stricken civilian, comes to my aid, and the two of us fight our way out of the village – make quick work of the duplicitous locals with whom I’d broken bread not moments ago.
I survive, but there's a grim feeling in the pit of my stomach that I just can’t shake. Threats are everywhere in the world of Diablo 4, and safety is fleeting. This pervasive sense of peril adds a sense of sharpness to the decisions you make – a sense boldly reinforced by the game’s commitment to an eerie and repressive gothic art style.
Diablo 4 opens up like a flower, a fractal of decision points and satisfying choices that stem from humble origins. At the very beginning, Blizzard’s ambitious and latest attack on the internet's best RPG lists asks you to pick a class. This is everything: instrumental in deciding what tools you’ll have for interacting with the game’s meticulously crafted systems. Even at this early stage, you are given access to a decision tree with meaningfully divergent paths.
Each class is lovingly curated. The Rogue is agile, subtle, and cerebral while the Necromancer is wreathed in blood, bone, and darkness. Crucially, however, the classes in Diablo 4 are not ends in and of themselves but are means to an end.
Over the first few hours, you’ll go up a handful levels, each one prompting you to commit skill points to your character's tree and abilities. On top of that, you’ll have begun to build a library of items and equipment, which, like skills, necessitate meaningful decisions from you, the player. They start out as small quibbles over stats but quickly snowball into captivating mind traps concerned with powerful game-altering abilities. Though these choices are reversible, they set you down a path and, before long, you’re playing a character that feels bespoke; organically tailored to your own whims and fancies.
The war in heaven
Diablo 4’s commitment to the gothic is far more than purely superficial. The game’s plot, art style, and mechanics all skillfully converge on a single point: the conflict between dark and light, and the poor humans who get caught up in the cosmic mess. Blizzard’s latest isn’t a power trip. Rather, you step into the role of a character who is, despite their role as protagonist, undeniably limited and mortal.
The game’s imposing art style bores into your skull with the inexorable regularity of a jackhammer. Diablo 4 kicked down the door to my imagination and now lives there rent-free, complete with the obligatory contingent of skulls and gargoyles. The open world of Sanctuary is richly detailed and foreboding – a fact that the game’s consistent stylistic refrains don’t let you forget.
This sense of fearful exploration melds seamlessly with the game’s mechanics, doubling down on this theme of mortal limitations. For every skill you pick, there are, perhaps, a dozen that you have had to pass up. It may feel ruthless, but it also serves to give your choices meaning. Like the other brief mortals of Sanctuary, in Diablo 4 we must play the cards we are dealt as best we can.
Perhaps Diablo 4’s most adventurous quality is the move towards an open world in the 'modern' sense. What could have been a featureless, bland expanse is, instead, a delight. Brimming with intrigue and danger, the open world of Sanctuary fits the Diablo formula like a glove, providing the space in which the game’s macabre aesthetic and bold mechanical design cohere beautifully.
Diablo 4’s environmental design does a lot of heavy lifting, too. Not only is it packed with nuggets of emergent storytelling courtesy of dungeons and events galore, but the locales of Diablo 4 have a palpably organic quality, which goes a long way toward making the world feel tangible and somewhat grounded.
Environments shift as you move from them. Descend a mountain range, and snow will dissolve into slush, and then mud. Things are rarely pleasant to look at in Diablo 4, but they are always striking and inviting, coaxing you into the gameworld with a gentle yet insistent boldness.
Dark fantasy horror and occult mystery shine through these environments, creating set pieces and visuals that are, at once, thrilling and disquieting – hallmarks of the Gothic tradition done right.
This, when coupled with the game’s ruthless yet enrapturing layers of character customization and decision points makes for an experience that wholeheartedly captures the promise of Diablo 4. This may be a game about killing monsters and getting loot, but it is also so much more.
Diablo 4 releases on June 6 for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC. We reviewed this on PC with a code provided by the publisher.
The Nintendo Switch is the first step in bridging the gap between both home and handheld consoles, so it's an incredibly significant addition to Nintendo's esteemed family of consoles and boasts a tonne of shiny features to make it stand out. It packs some impressive capabilities into its hybrid form, especially when considering its flexibility.
Six years on, following a 2019 revision of the console and the release of the Nintendo Switch OLED and Nintendo Switch Lite models, the Nintendo Switch is more popular than it's ever been, and it's apparent Nintendo has struck a winning formula with its handheld hybrid.
The design of the Nintendo Switch has helped Nintendo to continue its high reign in the console space with something entirely unique, especially running off the back of the innovative Nintendo Wii and beloved Nintendo 3DS.
The Switch is a significantly different device from what we've seen prior, and the handheld nature of the console provides the best of both worlds. As the list of best Nintendo Switch games gets bigger with high-quality first-party games and unique third-party offerings, you'll more than likely want to sink hours into the console whenever you can.
Whether you've already made your purchase or not, it's hard to deny that the Nintendo Switch is a fine idea, mixing some of what made the Wii and Wii U appealing for gamers (even if developers had a more challenging time figuring out how to make the most of the latter device).
The Nintendo Switch brings with it a central idea that can benefit literally every game, not just the select few that can use motion control or a second screen. Who hasn't at one time wanted to pack up their console and take it with them? Essentially, the Switch delivers on this hybrid idea. You'll find it a solid, premium handheld that can flip into docked mode and work as you'd expect a home console.
At the same time, the Nintendo Switch certainly isn't perfect: most of the issues it has are a consequence of the way that it dares to try and do everything at once, and it doesn't always get the compromise right.
Those who aren't sold on its hybridity and want that classic Nintendo handheld experience will no doubt be interesting in the compact, lighter alternative: the Nintendo Switch Lite, which offers a solely handheld Switch gaming experience. For those after something more premium, there's also the Nintendo Switch OLED, which mainly improves the portable aspect of play.
Nintendo Switch: price and release date
What is it? Nintendo's hybrid console
When did it come out? March 3, 2017
What does it cost? $259.99 / £259.99 / AUD$435
The original Nintendo Switch launched over five years ago, arriving on March 3, 2017. While it previously cost $299.99 in the US, £259.99 in the UK, and $469.95 in Australia, Nintendo gave this a small price cut after the Switch OLED model arrived October 2021.
Nowadays, you'll find it going a new RRP worldwide of €269.99 / £259.99 / $259.99 / AU$435. Thankfully, Nintendo has confirmed there won't be a price hike just yet for the Nintendo Switch in the wake of rising global inflation, unlike the recent hikes for Oculus Quest 2 and PS5. So, if you've not yet picked up any of the Nintendo Switch family, there's no need to rush.
Nintendo Switch: design
Three form factors: handheld, console (docked) and tabletop
Lots of accessories, which are at risk of being misplaced
In the box with your shiny new Nintendo Switch, you get the main console, two detachable controller sides (Joy-Cons), a grip which enables you to combine these controller portions into a more traditional gamepad, two straps which can make them into two individual controllers, and a dock for plugging the console into your television.
You also get a USB Type-C power cable (with a non-detachable power brick) and an HDMI cable for connecting the device to your TV. If you think that sounds like a lot of accessories, then you'd be right: we suspect many Nintendo Switch owners will have misplaced at least one or two of these within a few months.
We've wrapped our Joy-Con straps around our Joy-Con grip just to keep everything together, but we'd love some way of attaching them to the console, so they don't end up getting misplaced. It's a pretty novel (not to mention somewhat complicated) setup, so it's worth delving into each of the different ways you can use the console.
Nintendo Switch: handheld mode
Bigger than traditional handhelds
Slightly cramped for the right hand due to right analogue stick
Split D-pad on the left side
First in the Nintendo Switch modes is the handheld mode, the form factor most like the hardware devices that came before the Switch. In this configuration, you attach the two controller portions (the Joy-Cons) to the left and right edges of the screen, then game much as you can with the PlayStation Vita.
In fact, the size and shape of the console's analogue sticks make it feel a lot like a modern Vita, though it's not as solid because of the joints that exist between the Joy-Cons and the screen. Along the top of the Nintendo Switch is a slot for game cartridges, a headphone jack (Bluetooth headphones are now supported after a post-launch update), a volume rocker and a power button.
The bottom of the device is less busy. You've got the kickstand for tabletop mode (more on this later), which conceals a small microSD slot for expandable storage. Internal storage on the Nintendo Switch is limited to just 32GB, so if you're planning on downloading games rather than buying them, you'll want to invest in a Nintendo Switch SD card (capacities up to 2TB are theoretically supported).
Check out our unboxing video of the Nintendo Switch below.
The detachable Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons have a lot going on. The right-hand side has the classic A, B, X, and Y button configuration, an analogue stick (slightly awkwardly placed underneath the face buttons) and two shoulder buttons. A small plus-shaped button is the equivalent of the Wii U's 'Start' button and a home button for reaching the console's system-level menus.
Across on the left, Joy-Con, it's a very similar story, as you would expect. You've got a minus button that acts as the console's 'Select' button, a share button for taking screenshots and video (in selected titles), an analogue stick, two shoulder buttons, and the most un-Nintendo D-pad we've ever seen.
Instead of the classic cross D-pad Nintendo utilized since the NES, the left Joy-Con has a set of four circular buttons that are identical in shape to the face buttons on the right Joy-Con. This design decision, which appears very odd at first glance, is so the left Joy-Con can be used as an individual controller, with the D-pad acting as face-buttons in this configuration (again, more on this later).
Nintendo Switch: console mode
Connects to your TV via an included dock
Docking process is seamless, and can be done mid-game
The second Nintendo Switch form-factor is console mode. You place the main portion in the included dock, which connects the device to your television – you're then free to detach the Joy-Cons to control the Switch from a distance.
The way the console transfers the viewing experience from its own screen to the television is as seamless as it could possibly be, and you don't even have to pause your game. Everything happens in real-time. Detaching the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons can be a little fiddly, admittedly: it's done by holding small buttons on their backs and sliding the controllers up.
The TV dock is roughly the same size as the Nintendo Switch's middle portion. Around the back, you've got a USB Type-C port to provide the console with power, an HDMI port to connect it to your television, and a USB Type-A port. On the left-hand side of the console are two additional USB ports, mainly used for charging your Switch controllers as you play wirelessly (more on this in a moment).
If you want to use the Nintendo Switch with multiple televisions throughout your home, you can buy additional Switch docks, which make it easy to transition from one screen to another, plug-and-play style. You can even use an OLED model's dock, which has a built-in Ethernet port.
Nintendo Switch: tabletop mode
Screen can also be detached and propped up on a table
Great for two-player gaming, but four players on the console's small screen is a push
The final form factor for the Nintendo Switch is what Nintendo calls 'tabletop mode'. Using the kickstand attached to the back of the screen, you can prop the console up on a table and then detach the Joy-Cons for some semi-portable gaming. In theory, this is perfect for long journeys on public transport where you have a tray table to place the console on; in reality, we found it a bit of a mixed experience.
We do like being able to use the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons in the grip rather than having them attached to the console – the grip provides just enough extra plastic to make the controllers much more comfortable in the hands, and having the console a little further away means your sitting posture can be a lot more natural.
Tabletop mode is also great for multiplayer on the Switch. Detaching both Joy-Cons to allow two people to play against one another is a pleasure: it makes the Nintendo Switch perfect for whipping out at small gatherings where you'll already have everything you need for a multiplayer session. However, a couple of issues prevent the console from fully capitalizing on this intriguing tabletop mode.
First is the kickstand. Although it's rubberized, which means that the Switch doesn't slide around, it only supports the console at a single height. If your tray table is a little closer to you, then there's no ability to prop the console up so that it's facing you more directly, and instead, you'll be stuck with the screen pointing at your chest rather than your face.
Second is the Nintendo Switch charging port, which is inaccessible when you use it in tabletop mode. During a recent train journey, this meant that although we were in the perfect situation to use tabletop mode, we ended up using the console as a handheld to charge it up.
Finally, the Nintendo Switch screen is just a little too small for multiplayer gaming for more than two players. Four-player Mario Kart is almost impossible due to the size and resolution of the display (we found ourselves putting our faces inches from the console to be able to make out distant details).
Overall, tabletop mode on the Switch feels better suited to short periods of use, which is a shame when it feels like it should be the de facto way to use the Nintendo Switch over long periods.
Nintendo Switch: set-up
Set-up is simple enough
Console needs to be told whether Joy-Cons are being used together or separately
Setting up a brand new Nintendo Switch is refreshingly simple; you'll be pleased to learn. If you're using the device as a handheld, attach the Joy-Cons, press the power button, and... er... that's it.
If you want to play Nintendo Switch games on your TV, you need to plug the dock into the TV via HDMI, then hook it up to some power via the included USB Type-C power lead. The console then easily slips into the dock.
Pairing the controllers is a little more complicated than with other devices because of the fact that they can either be paired or used separately. The way you tell the Switch which controllers you're using is to press both the L and R shoulder buttons in whichever configuration you've opted for. So if you're using the Joy-Cons individually, you press the buttons on the Joy-Con straps to indicate this is the case.
On the software side, the console asks for the standard combination of Wi-Fi details and user account set-up info. These details are a doddle to input on the console's touchscreen – the keyboard isn't quite as good as a phone's, but it's much better than a typical console experience. Afterwards, games can be played off a cartridge or the Nintendo Switch's internal memory.
Nintendo Switch: recent updates
Nintendo’s continued building upon the Switch since the Lite's launch. Alongside the launch of the Nintendo Switch Lite and Nintendo Switch OLED, it's also seen continued system updates.
Let's not forget Nintendo has designed some absolutely classic controllers in its time – the original NES controller wrote the blueprint that console controllers have followed ever since, the N64 was the first console to have a controller with an analogue thumb-stick, and the Wii (for better or for worse) introduced the world to motion-controlled gaming.
With the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo has attempted the seemingly impossible in creating a system that's simultaneously one whole controller and two separate controllers, while also functioning as controllers in the handheld mode.
Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons: general impressions
By trying to do many things at once the Joy-Cons don't do anything perfectly
HD Rumble tech is impressive – but developers need to find a use for it
Ultimately these multiple roles mean the Nintendo Switch controllers end up being jacks of all trades and masters of none. None of the controller configurations are unusable, but we've used more comfortable controllers in the past that have had the advantage of only having to do one job very well.
The left Joy-Con's D-pad sums up the problem in a nutshell: rather than going for the cross D-pad that Nintendo has been using since the NES, the D-pad is instead split into four separate buttons to allow them to be used as face buttons when the Joy-Con is utilized as an individual controller. The result is a D-pad that you're not going to want to use for classic games that rely on it a lot, such as Street Fighter.
The Nintendo Switch analogue sticks also feel like a compromise between form factors: too small for a traditional gamepad, yet big enough that we wouldn't want to throw the device too carelessly into a rucksack for fear of one of them snapping off.
You do have the option of buying separate accessories which don't have these issues (the Nintendo Switch Pro controller being a prime example), but in this review we're going to limit ourselves to talking about what you get in the box, since this is the primary way most people are going to be using the console – at least initially.
One part of the Switch controllers that we absolutely love are the face buttons. They're a little smaller than those on other consoles, but they've got a really satisfying click to them that we really appreciate. The Joy-Cons feature an interesting form of rumble, which Nintendo has dubbed 'HD Rumble'. From what we've seen so far this isn’t just a marketing gimmick – it feels like a step forward for rumble tech.
One mini-game in the launch game 1-2 Switch has you milking cows, sure, but it also counts the number of (virtual) balls inside a Joy-Con. It's impressive just how well the HD Rumble creates the impression of there being real balls inside the controller. Another mini-game impresses by tasking you to crack a safe by feeling the click of a dial as you turn it.
Both mini-games have us excited for the possibilities of HD Rumble in the future, but the success of the technology depends on the ability of Switch developers to make use of it – the potential is there, but we're still waiting for a killer app. Nintendo made practical use of the feature in the Switch 3.0 OS update – if you've lost one Joy-Con but the two are still paired, you can make the other vibrate to find it.
There were initially reports of connectivity issues with the left Joy-Con on the Nintendo Switch, something which we experienced ourselves. The problem is that sometimes during gameplay, the left Joy-Con's connection just drops out completely. Fortunately, Nintendo is now offering a Joy-Con repair service for any broken ones, so we'd advise sending yours in if you experience connectivity issues of any kind.
Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons: handheld
Handheld controls are a little cramped and awkward
Right analogue stick in particular is uncomfortable
It's in the handheld configuration that the Nintendo Switch controller's deficiencies are most apparent. The main problem is the low positioning of the right analogue stick, which we found very difficult to operate comfortably.
Either you hold the Switch precariously on the tips of your fingers in order to operate the analogue stick with the tip of your right thumb, or you hold the device more tightly and operate the thumbstick with the inside of your thumb knuckle, which feels rather cramped and awkward.
Looking back, the Vita layout is very similar, but the increased weight of the Nintendo Switch makes it much more difficult to comfortably hold on the fingertips. It's a mode that we think works in small bursts, but it's not comfortable over longer periods.
If you're gaming on Nintendo Switch on a flight, for example, we'd expect most people to opt to put the console in tabletop mode on the tray table in front of them. We are, however, fans of the shoulder buttons, which manage to feel big enough without impacting on the depth of the console too much.
Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons: grip
Analogue sticks smaller than traditional controllers
Overall the controller is comfortable and nice to use
Clicky face buttons are especially appealing
The main way we expect people will play with the console when it's docked is by combining the two Joy-Cons together into a single controller. This is done by using the included Joy-Con grip, which the two sides slide neatly into.
We were initially concerned when it was revealed that the Joy-Con grip that comes with the Nintendo Switch is unable to charge the two controllers – this means that if you want to charge your controllers you'll need to plug them back into the console's screen.
The Joy-Cons' battery life is rated at 20 hours, so we'd be surprised if they ever run out of battery mid-game; at the same time, having to dismantle our controllers after every play session is somewhat annoying. A grip that charges the Joy-Cons is available, but this is sold separately. Aside from charging concerns, we were surprised with how the Nintendo Switch controller feels when assembled in the grip.
Although the analogue sticks are a little small, we found them perfectly usable for lengthy Breath of the Wild play sessions, and the addition of a little more plastic massively helps the ergonomics of the controller as a whole.
It's just a shame that the controller doesn’t have a proper D-pad on its left side: as it stands you're going to need to buy the Pro controller if you want that traditional Nintendo controller feel on the Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons: individual controllers
Oddly positioned buttons due to having to work as a combined controller
A nice option to have if you want a friend to join you for multiplayer
Split the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons apart and they can work as individual controllers complete with an analogue stick each, four face buttons, and (if you attach a Joy-Con strap) two shoulder buttons. It's this configuration that feels like it's required the biggest compromise in Nintendo's pursuit to make them work in multiple ways.
On the left Joy-Con the D-pad/face buttons are in the centre of the controller, which means your right thumb is uncomfortably far over, and the same is true of the analogue stick on the right Joy-Con. The asymmetrical configuration also makes describing controls to another person very difficult, since the control buttons have different names between the two Joy-Cons.
The lack of hand grips is also prone to causing cramp if you use the controllers over long periods, especially if the game you're playing relies heavily on the Joy-Con's shoulder buttons. As a final point, the shoulder buttons can feel a little stiff to press, which adds to the discomfort of using them over long periods.
So while this configuration might work in a pinch if you want to let a friend join you for a couple of rounds of Mario Kart, we don't see it being something you'll want to spend a lot of time with. Additionally, you'll need to remember to carry the Joy-Con straps with your Nintendo Switch if you want to use the shoulder buttons, which will be an annoying inconvenience for most people.
Alternatively, you can use the two Joy-Cons as a single controller while split apart. Here they function identically to when they’re assembled into the Joy-Con grip, although we found it much less comfortable because of how cramped the right analogue stick ends up feeling.
Again, this feels like a compromise, this time for when you've forgotten your Joy-Con grip. We can't see ourselves using this configuration much at all unless a motion-controlled game specifically calls for it in the future.
Nintendo was a little late to the online party. While Microsoft stormed ahead with its Xbox Live service and Sony got to grips with the PlayStation Network, Nintendo was languishing with inconvenient friend codes and limited voice chat options.
After a lengthy initial wait, Nintendo Switch Online is in full swing. As you're probably aware, it brings with it the ability to save games in the cloud, access to a host of classic NES games, and of course online multiplayer. The downside is you have to fork out £3.49 / $3.99 to Nintendo every month for the basic plan.
Nintendo Switch: online multiplayer
Basic service has been online for a while
Full service launched in October 2018
Online multiplayer was available in some games from the launch of the Nintendo Switch, but now it's here in full – if you're willing to pay for it. We've already had a play around with the console's companion app, which was compatible with Splatoon 2 right away.
You could invite friends to matches, and voice chat with them, even if the whole process was rather cumbersome. Using a separate device isn't ideal, and connectivity usually wasn't perfect. Since the full Nintendo Switch Online service launched, things improved with direct in-game invites, but these aren't often utilised.
What we can tell you is that regular updates to the Nintendo Switch companion app and the firmware on the console itself have continued to introduce some very welcome features – such as the ability to add friends directly from your 3DS and Wii U Friend Lists.
Nintendo Switch: local wireless multiplayer
Easy to set up and join other players
Supports up to eight Switch consoles
Local wireless multiplayer within a game such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe works very well in our experience. We used three Nintendo Switch consoles to have six people playing at once and found the entire process simple to set up, with no lag or connection problems.
To set up an online multiplayer game using local wireless, players simply start up Mario Kart and select local wireless mode for either one or two players within the game itself. After this, one player will set up a room which the other players then join, and the player who set up the room selects the race rules.
Each player will be given the chance to vote for their track preference and the game will randomly choose a track from those that players have voted for, much like online play works. If you have two players to one console, then the screen will split for each of you to see your place in the race, but you won't see what everyone else is seeing on their screens unless their consoles are in front of you.
In the specific case of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the maximum number of players that you can have in a single race over local wireless is eight, with one or two players per Switch. You can also do LAN matches with up to 12 players. However, if you don't have multiple consoles then up to four friends can play on a single Nintendo Switch console in TV mode, or in tabletop mode.
Alternatively, if you have a lot of friends and a lot of consoles to hand, up to 12 consoles in TV mode can be connected via LAN Play, with one or two players per connected Nintendo Switch. However with each player required to have their own USB Ethernet adaptor, it's unlikely that many outside of tournaments will end up using their Nintendo Switch consoles in this way.
Nintendo Switch Online
Limited functionality at launch
Full service arrived in October 2018
Nintendo Switch Online certainly looks better than what it's offered in the past, but it still falls short of what competitors Sony and Microsoft are doing. The service costs $3.99 / £3.49 / AU$5.95 if you're paying month by month, with the monthly cost dropping slightly if you commit to more months at once.
And remember those are the prices for one user. If you've got a family on your Nintendo Switch then you'll be looking to sign up for the more expensive family plan which costs £31.49 / $34.99 per year. It seems like a fair bit more, but it does allow up to eight accounts across multiple consoles, meaning you get a decent discount if you know a few people with Switch consoles who are willing to split.
Large parts of the service function through an app on your phone, so you'll have to have it on you if you want to use some of the online functions. The service also offers its own somewhat limited version of Sony's PlayStation Plus free games and Microsoft's Xbox Games with Gold, giving players access to a small library of 20 NES games at launch (with modern features like online multiplayer).
Nintendo has continued adding NES and SNES games regularly but if you opt for the more expensive Expansion Pack, there’s Mega Drive and N64 games too.
Something a lot of people have been waiting for has also arrived with the online service: cloud saves. Those who subscribe to the online service can finally back up their saves for the games they've plugged hundreds of hours into (though they do have to pay for the privilege).
Though the Switch launched without the popular video streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime we've come to expect from consoles. Nintendo was quick to promise that these services would come to the console 'in time', though five years on, this remains sparse.
Hulu is the first of these services to have launched. It's US-only, but we're hoping this is a good sign that other streaming services will be arriving soon. YouTube and Crunchyroll have since arrived, too.
Nintendo Switch: eShop online store
eShop available at launch with modern games
Retro games available through Nintendo Switch Online
Like the Wii U before it, the Nintendo Switch features an online store that will allow you to download games rather than buy them in-store.
As for the Virtual Console seen on previous Nintendo devices, that's not coming to the Nintendo Switch. Instead, retro games are available through the online subscription service we've already mentioned. We like the eShop's minimalist design. Along the left are sections for Recent Releases, Coming Soon, Charts, Current Offers and Redeem Code, alongside some search functionality too.
You can add upcoming games to your Watch List, and there's also a section for downloading previously purchased titles to your Nintendo Switch. Nintendo is clearly planning to continue to add to the store as time goes on, too.
This original review was based on the Nintendo Switch model released at launch. However Nintendo has since updated its standard model to one which boasts a longer battery life.
With the Nintendo Switch having to work as a handheld as well as a home console, we were initially worried that the console's graphical abilities would be limited. Internally the Switch is using an Nvidia Tegra X1 chip, which is broadly similar to what was found in the Nvidia Shield.
That's not exactly a bad thing considering the Shield is a 4K-capable set-top box, but you have to remember that as a portable device the Switch needs to make compromises to ensure decent battery life. At launch, concerns over graphical horsepower appeared to be partly borne out, but we wouldn't call them deal-breakers.
Nintendo Switch: graphical performance
Roughly equivalent to Wii U
Not on a PS4 or Xbox One level
Strength of Nintendo's art direction makes up for technical shortcomings
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, for example, runs at a resolution of 720p on the Wii U, while this is boosted to 900p on the Switch when docked and outputting to a Full HD screen (4K output isn't supported).
On the surface this suggests the Switch has the graphical edge on the Wii U, but we experienced frequent frame rate drops when playing the game on our television. Meanwhile, when played on the Switch's own 720p screen, the game maintained a consistent frame rate.
These observations would suggest that we're looking at a new console with roughly equivalent power to Nintendo’s last-generation system, but we'll see how the situation improves as developers continue to get to grips with the new hardware.
Nintendo has never been one to push the graphical envelope though, not really. Past games such as the Wii U's Mario Kart 8 have certainly looked good, but this has been more as a result of their distinctive art style than the technical prowess of their graphics. We're thankful then that this has tended to be a strong suit of Nintendo's in the past.
The look of the games (in handheld mode at least) is also helped by the quality of the Switch's screen. Although it's only a 720p resolution, the screen is bright and its colors are vibrant. It's not up there with the best smartphones on the market, but it's definitely a step above Nintendo’s past handhelds.
We'll have to see what the Nintendo Switch achieves in the graphical department going forward, but this certainly isn't a console to rival the likes of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Since the release of Sony and Microsoft's new generation successors, the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, that technological gap has only widened further.
Still, the games we've played look very good for handheld games, but as console games they don't quite have the same fidelity of current-generation games on other consoles.
Nintendo Switch: battery life
As low as 2.5 hours for graphically intensive games
Enough for a commute, but longer journeys might prove problematic
Ability to charge over USB allows use of portable battery packs
Much has been made of the Switch's battery life, which Nintendo has claimed will last between 2.5 and 6 hours. In our experience this claim has rung true. When actively playing Zelda we got around 2.5 hours, which was enough to cover our commute to and from work in a single day before we charged the Switch overnight.
If you're looking to use the console for a longer period, such as on a flight, then there are a couple of things you can do to squeeze some more battery life out of the console – turning on airplane mode for example (although this prevents you from detaching the Joy-Cons), and dimming the screen.
Additionally you're able to use portable battery packs, but this is hardly ideal, and we found that the Nintendo Switch draws so much power that at best they prevented the battery from dropping during play, rather than actively recharging it.
It's difficult to compare this battery life to previous handheld consoles, as even on the Switch itself this battery life will vary massively between different games, but we've seen a rest-mode comparison that put the Switch ahead of the Vita and PSP, while losing out to the DS and GameBoy Advance.
The bottom line is that this is a console that should be able to deal with your daily commute, but might struggle with longer journeys.
Update: This page originally covered the games that launched alongside the console. However after five years on sale, the number of games on the Nintendo Switch has increased significantly – check out our guide to the best Nintendo Switch games for a constantly-updated list of the games you absolutely need to pick up.
Plenty of good games over the first 12 months
Eventual success will rely on third-party developers
Lack of graphical parity may harm long-term support
The Nintendo Switch's launch lineup comprised a combination of ports of existing games such as Shovel Knight, World of Goo and I Am Setsuna, new entries in existing franchises like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Bomberman R, and all-new games like Snipperclips, 1-2 Switch and Fast RMX.
All in all it wasn't a bad launch lineup, but the first 12 months that the Nintendo Switch was on sale also saw big new releases in the form of Super Mario Odyssey, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Splatoon 2 and Arms.
How this will continue playing out isn't fully clear, but Fils-Aime did say that a main Nintendo development philosophy is to have at least one of its classic franchises on every platform. In its first year, the console received ports of big games like Minecraft and FIFA. Though hardly new, these remain important for consumers who don't plan on using the Switch as a second console, but their primary gaming device.
The real test in the long term will be how third-party developers (i.e. those not financed by Nintendo directly) embrace the console. Although its graphics are good for a handheld, we worry that a lack of graphical parity with PS4 and Xbox One will prevent developers from easily supporting the console alongside those devices, which may harm the number of game releases it gets in the future.
So far there have been some positive signs for third-party support on the Nintendo Switch. Rocket League developer Psyonix brought the game to the console, for example, and Snake Pass' launch suggests games can be brought over to the Switch without too many compromises.
Mario and Zelda have always been excellent games. Still, without the likes of franchises with more regular release schedules like Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed and Far Cry, you might find yourself lacking games to play in the long run. Thankfully, Nintendo usually releases at least one first-party game each month, so there's never a major drought.
We've had the chance to try out a select portion of the console's games at launch, so read on for our thoughts.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Impressive modernization of a classic franchise
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of Nintendo Switch's launch lineup. Although the game also arrived on Nintendo's older Wii U console, the thought of being able to take a full-on, modern Zelda on the go was always going to be a compelling proposition.
But quite apart from being the best handheld Zelda game ever made, the game is also up there with being one of the best in the series too. It feels fantastically broad and open, with dozens of weapons to find, items to craft, and environments to explore.
Yes, the game breaks with tradition in so many ways but the experience still ends up feeling quintessentially Zelda, with all the charm that this entails. If you're picking up a Nintendo Switch or have done already, then Breath of the Wild is an absolutely essential purchase. It won't be long before its direct sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, also arrives.
An interesting showcase of the hardware, but doesn't quite have the staying power of Wii Sports
Like the Wii before it, the Nintendo Switch introduces new technologies to gaming that haven't been explored before. Whereas the Wii had Wii Sports to show off these new concepts, the Switch is banking on 1-2 Switch to demonstrate what the new hardware is capable of. The result is a mini-game collection, which cover everything from sword-fighting, Wild West gunslinging, and cow-milking.
It's a fun collection of games, but we don't think it has the same 'replayability' as the classic Wii Sports did. The fact this isn't a pack-in game and requires a separate purchase doesn't help it, either.
The games are more about performing in front of your friends than outright winning. For example, one game has you pulling yoga poses and trying to keep as still as possible for as long as you can, but since the Joy-Con is only tracking the movement of one hand, there's nothing forcing you to actually hold the pose specified by the game (aside from drawing the ire of your friends).
There's also no single-player mode for you to practise with when you're away from a group of pals. Overall the game is a bit of a mixed bag, but it's a fun one to use to show off your new Nintendo Switch to friends.
A great little co-op indie game
One of the nice surprises of the Switch launch event way back when was Snipperclips, a small puzzle game in which two players solve puzzles by cutting sections out of each other and changing their character's shapes.
It’s a delightful, charming, little game, and with its budget price tag we think it's another essential purchase for anyone who owns a Nintendo Switch.
Just Dance 2017
A competent entry in the series
You've almost certainly heard of Just Dance, the dancing series that first premiered on the Wii way back in 2009.
The game tasks you with completing various dance routines, either on your own or with a friend, and judges your progress based on the movement of a Joy-Con in your hand (unfortunately there doesn't appear to be a way to use two Joy-Cons simultaneously).
Much like 1-2 Switch, there's little to stop you cheating and not dancing with your whole body, but (also like 1-2 Switch) this is meant as a party game, so social niceties will hopefully stop you from spoiling the fun.
It's not the most feature-packed or technically advanced game in the world, but if you've enjoyed Just Dance games in the past then this appears to be a very serviceable version for the Nintendo Switch.
By all accounts the Nintendo Switch has had an amazing start to life, with a number of excellent exclusive games and solid sales. However, the complete package (including Nintendo Switch Online) has only recently become available, so we'll have to reserve judgment on that part of the wider Nintendo Switch experience for the time being.
When compared with the handheld consoles that have come before it, the Nintendo Switch blows them out of the water with its graphical quality, which comes close to the last generation of consoles. This is helped by its impressive screen which is bright, crisp, and colorful.
Providing the console with a controller that also doubles as two individual controllers is a very neat inclusion, and should mean that you're always able to join a friend for a quick multiplayer game while you're out and about.
We're pleased to report that the Nintendo Switch docking and undocking process is impressively seamless too, with games that don't even need to be paused before being plugged into a television. We also like the pattern of regular updates that Nintendo has established: Fortnite has just been added, for example, and the online service seems set to shake things up once again.
The phrase "jack of all trades and master of none" may sound negative, but the impression the Nintendo Switch has left us with is that sometimes compromise is necessary and good.
Yes there are better home consoles out there with controllers that can be good at doing just one thing, and yes there are handhelds out there that have better battery life and a more compact form-factor, but no other piece of gaming hardware has attempted the sheer number of things as the Nintendo Switch does – and then delivered so competently on so many of them.
The graphics aren't the best around, but they're good enough that they don't feel dated. The controller isn't the most comfortable, but it never feels outright difficult to use. The battery life isn't the best, but it's enough for daily use.
All of these trade-offs have been born out of compromise and an attempt to make something that works in so many situations, and on that final point the Nintendo Switch is a great success.
What remains to be seen is if, in the years ahead, its games library can shape up to be something you'll want to play both at home and on the go, and whether its online service can compete with the existing efforts from Sony and Microsoft. If both of these play out well, Nintendo will have found a set of compromises worth making.
So is the £259.99 / $259.99 / AU$435 asking price justified? At this point, the answer seems to be a resounding yes. Nintendo has released excellent game after excellent game for the system, and the hardware does a great job of making these games come alive.
Three years after the Xbox One, the Xbox One S has been designed to take its place. As the smaller, quieter, higher-quality gaming console, it had a lot to say for itself, which is why it's worked itself up to be one of the most highly-praised consoles to date.
With the Xbox One family now discontinued and the Xbox Series X and Series S now here, that's become a complicated question. In the six years since the Xbox One S launched, the console is still a firm favorite for those that want a high-quality Xbox experience without the higher price.
With the Xbox One S, you'll find the best Xbox One games that are upscaled to Ultra HD (aka 4K) with HDR. It’s worth pointing out that this isn't the 'native' 4K that's offered by the more powerful Xbox One X, but movies and TV shows still take advantage of the room to improve, whether you're playing an Ultra HD Blu-ray or streaming 4K Netflix.
Since 2016, Microsoft streamlined the console even further by releasing the (now discontinued) Xbox One S All-Digital Edition. This is a system without a disc tray that can only play downloaded games from the Xbox Live Store. The good news is it comes in even cheaper than the standard Xbox One S. Impressive when you consider the original One S 1TB console's price, which was: $349 (£299 / AU$499).
The One S remains a fantastic and affordable option. In fact, thanks to Microsoft's Smart Delivery system it could remain a viable option for some time. However, if you're looking for a more powerful, but still affordable, alternative and don't want to be left out of the next generation, then check out the all-digital Xbox Series S. Luckily for you, we have a Xbox One S vs Xbox Series S guide to answer all your questions.
Our original review of the Xbox One S below details everything you need to know about Microsoft's upscaling console including its performance, design and capabilities.
If you're interested in Xbox's competition, you're probably wondering how the Xbox One S stacks up against the PS4 Slim that was released around the same time. For you guys and girls we put together a special guide that should answer all your questions: Xbox One vs PS4. More interested in how it stacks up against the PS4 Pro? Watch this video to find out!
Xbox One S FAQ: quick questions answered
Can the Xbox One S do 4K?
Kind of, yes. For those not in the know, 4K is a resolution for your TV. It packs in four times as many pixels as a 1080p HDTV, which makes the picture sharper and a lot more detailed. To be able to watch 4K and the video technology HDR, you need a 4K TV and an Xbox One X or Xbox One S.
If you set your console resolution to 4K UHD, some things on the console, like Home and apps will display at 4K. But games are a bit different. Games on the Xbox One S get upscaled to 4K. What that means is that although the picture tends to be smoother and more detailed than native 720p or 1080p, upscaled 4K isn’t as rich or detailed as native 4K.
Do you need a 4K TV for Xbox One S?
No. You can use any modern TV with your Xbox One S console, all it needs to get you up and running is an HDMI cable. But, to take advantage of the 4K elements, and the 4K game upscaling, you’ll need a 4K TV.
What's the difference between an Xbox One and Xbox One S?
The Xbox One S is slimmer than the Xbox One and runs quieter. But the main difference is that the Xbox One S offers HDR and 4K blu-ray support. Although you’ll need a 4KTV to make use of these features.
What's better Xbox One S or PS4?
The short answer is: it totally depends. Both pieces of hardware have their strengths, and which console ends up being the one for you will come down to what matches your specific needs. The PS4 Pro's games look better, but the Xbox One S is the better-equipped media player. Read our detailed head-to-head to find out more: Xbox One S vs PS4 Pro: which is better?
Is Fortnite free on Xbox One S?
Yes. Not only is it free, but Fortnite is one of a few games that gamers in the Insider Program will be able to use special Xbox One peripheries, including a keyboard and mouse, to play with too.
What is the All-Digital Xbox One S?
The All-Digital Xbox One S is the new disc tray-less console from Microsoft. It plays all the same games as the Xbox One, One S and One X, but can only play games downloaded via the Xbox Live Store. Despite having the same specs, it's cheaper than the standard Xbox One S by about $50 or so.
Advanced electrical engineering. Moore's Law. A miracle. Call it whatever you want, but the Xbox One S defies what we thought was possible, integrating a massive power supply and an expansive 2TB hard drive into a chassis two-fifths the size of the original – 17 x 11.4 x 4.4 inches (L x W x D) if you want to know specifics. How Microsoft pulled it off, we'll never know.
Well... actually, we might. Something tells us it has to do with porous siding that allows for better airflow. A denser design would enable Microsoft to use a smaller fan, while repositioning the hard drive directly behind the disc tray – instead of in the back right corner – would leave a lot extra space that Microsoft could just cut out of the box completely.
Then, Microsoft could move the hard drive, allowing the power brick (essentially a power supply unit that you'd find in a desktop PC) to be seated inside the console instead of sitting next to it, creating less unnecessary clutter on your entertainment shelf. While components have shifted on the inside of the box, the shell of the system has undergone a transformation of its own.
There are two physical buttons in place of the capacitive touch buttons for power and eject on the face of the console, and the sync and USB 3.0 ports have been brought from the side of the unit to the lower half of the front face.
Around the back, you'll find an HDMI In port that allows you to pass in a cable box, an HDMI Out that's HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2, two Super Speed USB ports, and S/PDIF and Ethernet ports. There's an IR blaster on the front of the console that allows you to turn on other devices, like your TV, audio/video receiver, and cable/satellite box. The only thing missing is a standard port for Kinect.
Also, if you like your consoles in loud color schemes – or anything other than white – you're out of luck. Microsoft's Xbox Design Lab program only allows you to to customize the color of your controllers, so when it comes to the console itself you're limited to white (unless you opt for one of the special editions that have been released to coincide with various games).
While Microsoft has said that the chipset has remained exactly the same, it has swapped the standard Blu-ray disc drive for a 4K, HDR-capable one that can read Ultra HD Blu-rays, the next generation of physical media.
The Xbox One S is a great match for an Ultra HD TV, although it doesn't quite have a complete edge on Sony's PS4 Pro. The biggest upgrade is a graphical one – 4K resolution. The Xbox One S can either upscale all content to 3,840 x 2,160 for you, or you can leave that to your TV.
We had concerns that the loading and buffering of this content would take eons, and yet content seems to load faster here in an even higher resolution than it did on the original Xbox One in normal high definition. So far, Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube and US-exclusives Vudu and Hulu all have 4K versions of their apps available on the Xbox One Store, which should cover most of your streaming needs.
For apps that aren't yet supported, Microsoft's Universal Windows Apps promise to fill in a lot of the blanks by making it easier for developers to support both the Xbox One S and Windows 10 with a single app. Otherwise, if you're not a subscriber to a 4K streaming service, there's always the option of popping a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray into the Xbox One S.
As a Blu-ray player the Xbox One S performs about as well as most other consoles. There's an optional media remote that's sold separately if you want to use a more traditional remote control, otherwise you'll be using the standard gamepad to control movie playback. We were impressed when we used the Xbox One S as a UHD Blu-ray player. Images looks great, and the interface was easy to navigate.
Opting for a dedicated player might give you more premium functionality like a second HDMI port for outputting audio separate to video, but we found the console more than met our needs.
But what about games?
As you might imagine, games look better in 4K resolution – even if it's achieved by upconversion instead of through native 4K read-through. In the time allotted for this review, we checked out two games: Fallout 4 and Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Starting games took the usual 15-20 seconds of waiting, but once started, they generally seemed to play – and obviously look – better on the Xbox One S. Roaming the streets of Diamond City in Fallout 4, for example, we noticed the stadium lightning for the first time ever.
Its surface reflections added almost as much to the scene as the character models themselves. Or in Rise of the Tomb Raider, the full-motion capture sequences had a crisp sheen to them. It was like watching a 4K movie instead of watching a game rendered in 1080p.
These were two limited experiences, and may not be indicative of the entire experience. But from everything we've seen so far, games are smoother, faster and better-looking here than they've ever been on the original Xbox One.
That said, it's important to note that Microsoft won't be making games specifically for the Xbox One S. Sure, some games will have additional HDR capabilities on Microsoft's latest console, but the developers at 343 won't make the game in the Halo franchise an Xbox One S exclusive by any means.
But in order to play games, you're going to need a controller. And to that end Microsoft has introduced a new gamepad launching alongside the new system. The Xbox One S controller is, by and large, an almost exact copy of the original Xbox One controller with small but effective improvements.
The first is that the Xbox One controller will be Microsoft's first to natively support Bluetooth. That means should you want to use it as a controller for your PC you won't need a proprietary Xbox One USB receiver plugged in.
Though great in theory, real-world testing has been less positive. You can only connect one controller at a time to your PC, you can't get audio through its 3.5mm jack over Bluetooth, and even then you might be lucky if you get the controller working at all.
The other two changes are a textured grip that makes the controller easier to hold for longer periods of time, and an extra powerful wireless antenna that allows players to sit farther from the screen. While the switch from Xbox One to Xbox One S would've been a perfect time to replace the controller's power source from batteries to a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, that unfortunately wasn't on the cards.
If you've already got a number of original Xbox One controllers lying around, thankfully you won't have to replace them with the new controllers: they'll work just fine with the new console.
Xbox One S as a platform
If you're just now joining the green team from PlayStation Nation or from the far reaches of casual gaming, you're in luck. Xbox as a platform is the best it's ever been. The App Store is still barebones compared to proper Windows 10 devices, but overall it's vastly improved from where it was when the platform launched three years ago.
Microsoft's subscription game service Xbox Game Pass is a big part of that. Allowing subscribers to access a wealth of Xbox titles past and present for a monthly fee, that includes first-party releases on day one.
Similarly, navigation is getting better with minor improvements – like moving My Apps and Games to the top right of the home screen – that make the interface exponentially easier to get from one place to the other without getting lost.
Xbox Live (now Xbox Network) still feels like a premium service. There's Games with Gold, which allows you to keep your games even once your Live subscription expires (unlike PS Plus). However, $60 (£39.99 / AU$ 79.95) a year can feel a bit steep if you're not online playing a game with a group of friends every day. Thankfully, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate includes Xbox Live Gold, so you'll still get Games With Gold.
The final feature worth mentioning here is Cortana, a feature that works similarly to Siri on iOS, tvOS and OSX, or Google Assistant on Android devices. Cortana can field commands like "Invite my friend Dave to a party" or "Pull up my achievements." Using Cortana is a more intuitive way of controlling and navigating Xbox One, and is a major step forward from the previous Kinect-only voice commands.
But those are just the major systems in play on Xbox One S. Behind them, there's GameDVR, live streaming, SmartGlass functionality, EA Access, Xbox OneGuide, Snap, Game Streaming on Windows 10, Xbox 360 backwards compatibility and Microsoft's own movie store that are all worth deeper looks.
The Xbox One S is a smart upgrade to Microsoft's Xbox One system, but whether you'll want to make the upgrade is a slightly more complicated question. If you've been considering buying an Xbox One already, then the Xbox One S is a no-brainer. But if you already own an Xbox One then your decision will likely have more to do with whether you own a 4K TV that's HDR-compatible.
Xbox One S: we liked
In short, the engineering team at Microsoft deserves a standing ovation. Condensing everything inside the original Xbox One – as well as the massive power brick – into a framework 40% of the size is a feat of engineering.
And while not every gamer will be able to appreciate the Xbox One S in all its 4K Ultra-HD, High Dynamic Range glory, those that can will be absolutely floored by the speed at which content loads over decently quick connections, and how drop-dead gorgeous games look when they're 3,840 pixels wide by 2,160 pixels high.
Xbox One S: we disliked
While there's never a great time to unveil a smaller, more powerful system to someone who's just purchased one of the now second-tier original consoles, Microsoft's original timing did seem questionable. Ditching the Kinect port entirely was the final indicator that Microsoft's motion controller is truly dead, one last slap in the face to everyone forced to buy the peripheral two-and-a-half years ago.
Microsoft's new console poses a problem in the form of a fragmented audience. While some gamers will see games in more vivid colors that are brighter and have higher contrast than those rocking the first Xbox One, others will be stuck with the capabilities of the original console.
Does that mean you shouldn't buy an Xbox One S? Probably not. But it might mean investigating how the game looks and performs on your specific model of Xbox One before plunking down a wad of cash for the latest release.
Xbox One S: final verdict
But all that taken into account, it's hard to find anything tangible to dislike about the Xbox One S in its current form. By all accounts, it's a slimmer, sleeker and sexier console than the Xbox console we've had in our cabinets for the past two and a half years. But, given all the advancements, it's hard to fathom how Microsoft plans on selling it for the same price as the current hardware.
Of course, the obvious downside is that anyone who recently bought an Xbox One is now faced with a difficult and expensive decision: is the upgraded performance, 4K HDR streaming and 2TB of storage worth re-buying the system?
If you own a 4K HDR TV or you're running out of space on that measly 500GB hard drive, the answer is an emphatic yes. If you can hold out another 12 months, however, there's an even more powerful system on the way that will blow this one out of the water.