Opinion: Xbox Game Pass PC rejuvenated my relationship with Microsoft

PC gaming and I have a long and storied past. It hasn’t always been a smooth road and while I initially started as a PC gamer, I quickly went over to consoles. Since both my careers (yes, I have two) are both online and my existence is based on the online world and technology, I decided to invest an obscene amount of money into one of the most powerful PCs you could get. The hope was that even if technology progressed in the next 10 years, my PC will still be able to put up a fight even if I didn’t upgrade it at all. 

Even with this extremely powerful rig of mine, I still couldn’t really get into PC gaming itself. The reasons are much more boring than you would hope. I was still very much a console gamer and the PS4 was my main platform to play. I had an Xbox One, but since the exclusives on the thing were not worth it in the slightest, I ended up just giving the thing to my brother. That meant that I played most games on my PS4 and sometimes when I’m feeling frisky I would play some PC games at obscene levels of performance. But nothing hooked me to let me gravitate more towards my precious rig. Until, surprisingly, Xbox Game Pass was announced for the PC. 

The announcement itself didn’t surprise me. It was only a matter of time before Microsoft was going to offer the service on PCs since, as you know, Windows 10 is a big focus for Microsoft. All exclusives on Xbox One are also on PC and the two platforms sort of merge together in a weird Dragon Ball Z fusion situation. But Xbox Game Pass PC (which I’ll just call PC Pass from now on) is a whole different beast and has managed to make me return to the world of PC gaming in a huge way. 

So I want to give a little personal review of the service based on the experience I’ve had with it since it launched. PC Pass was announced on Microsoft’s E3 stage this year and very soon after the event, the service was live. You pay R15 for the first month and R69 a month after that. That’s extremely affordable since it puts it at about the same price per month as a music streaming service such as Spotify. However, it’s very important to know that this is a beta and that the monthly fee will go up once it officially launches. 

The fact that the service is in beta became immediately apparent when I tried to load the program. I opened up the app and while I could see the images, my text just refused to appear. For a while, I believed the service was just overloaded, but I randomly found out on Twitter that I had to change my language settings to UK English and not South African English and lo and behold once I did that it was fixed and I could see my text. 

The app itself looks like this: 

As you can see, the design is rather frictionless. The games you have decided to add are at the left of the screen, a few social options are available to you and there’s a store that functions a lot like the store on the Xbox One. However, the Game Pass tab is where all the magic happens and once you have subscribed, it’s time to do some shopping. The games available for the PC Pass are numerous and pasting them all here would make an editor die a painful death, so you can head over to Windows Central where they have a full updated list for you. 

The game selection is something I really have to talk about. The games on offer are frankly mind-blowing. AAA titles such as Metro ExodusWolfenstein 2: The New ColossusARK: Survival EvolvedMiddle-earth: Shadow of War followed by some amazing indie titles such as Hollow KnightSUPERHOTThe Messenger and just so, so much more. Let’s not also forget that most Xbox One exclusives are on there as well. Gears of War, Forza Horizon 4Crackdown 3Sea of Thieves and the list goes on.

Microsoft certainly didn’t make any compromises when it came to the games they selected to be a part of this service. I played some of these games and it felt like I was almost doing something wrong. I was enjoying Metro Exodus, a game that is in very recent memory, for the same price as a large burger meal at McDonald’s. I would have probably bought this game on my PS4 a year later on sale and that price would probably be the same as three months of this service. That’s one game. Out of almost a hundred. 

“Netflix for games” has been something that’s been a dream of us, but this truly did feel like it for me with this service. To be clear, I never experienced the regular Game Pass for Xbox One, but I imagine it’s much the same. I see a game I’ve been interested in, I click download, wait a bit and off I go to whichever world that titillated me at the time. It’s a great experience because there’s no risk involved. You’re not about to spend hard earned income on a full-priced game you only have a passing interest in. But here the games are just there. If the game sucks or its not your cup of tea, delete it off your machine and you’ve lost exactly nothing except some bandwidth and time. 

As for performance, you’ll have to excuse my flexing as I post my PC’s specs as they are important to keep in mind: 

  • Intel i7-8700K 
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 
  • 16 GB RAM
  • 256 GB SSD (I should upgrade that soon)
  • 4 TB HDD 

As you can tell, this baby can pulverise anything that I can throw at it. I also have a 4K screen so my games can output at native 4K. I cranked The Witcher 3 to 4K with every graphics setting maxed and I was genuinely dissapointed for a second that I only hit 45 fps and had to turn off something to get to 60. I spent a lot of money on this rig for a reason and the PC Pass gives me a lot of reasons to be on it all the time. 

The games that launch from the service usually launch just fine. Most optimise their settings for your configuration immediately and it’s exactly like a console experience. However, some games do need a little tweaking to get just right when it comes to their graphics settings, but this is usual PC gaming fare. If you’ve never opened task manager in your life, you aren’t a true PC gamer or one of the luckiest people on the planet. 

From what I’ve seen, most games don’t rely on the PC Pass app at all and run independently. Rather unsurprising but still very impressive is the Microsoft exclusives. Forza Horizon 4 opened with the perfect settings tailored to my machine and I didn’t even have to open the options menu, I was just immediately in the game. These games are the ones I’ve had the least problems in. 

The Present

Xbox Game Pass PC is still in beta and you can clearly see that sometimes. The app seems to miss permission when you lose connection which makes the launching of games impossible without doing an end process on the app and restarting it. I’ve also had some weird hang-ups and outright freezes when browsing the catalogue or just scrolling around. Nothing earth-shattering, but Microsoft does need to fix these niggling issues with the full release since Joe Blow won’t know his butt from CTRL+ALT+DEL. 

Another thing I don’t like is how a lot of the Xbox Live functions are tied to the console companion app and not integrated into the PC Pass. Achievements were a big thing for me and my nearly 200,000 GamerScore proves that and I was extremely excited that the PC Pass games will have achievements (even though some do not have achievements, but this is actively being fixed). However, when you unlock an achievement in a game, it pops up like a Windows 10 notification and you can’t do anything with it except look at it. You have to then sign into the console companion app and look at your achievements there. For the future, I hope they make the achievements pop up like they do on the Xbox One and I’m also hoping for a screen that’s integrated into the app with all your achievements. 

Multiplayer gaming can also be a little touchy since you can only play with friends who are on your Xbox friends list. This is great for exclusives as they have cross-play with the Xbox One versions and people who have Game Pass. However, if you want to play, say, Astroneer with someone who has a Steam version, you’re out of luck. I’m unsure if this will change in the future, but I’m hoping we can get some integration with other PC services since the platform is basically Launcher Simulator 2019 at this point. 

The Future

I’m already quite a huge fan of this service, but most of my excitement comes from where this service will go in the future. When The Outer Worlds, the huge space RPG from Obsidian, comes out in October, it’ll be on PC Pass. It’s already there on the screen of games. Gears 5 is coming and even Halo: Infinite when it finally launches. They also still need to release Halo: The Master Chief Collection (do it, you cowards) which will probably consume my life forever. 

The app itself is not in its final version which means big optimisation and attention coming in the future and I imagine even more games to try. We’ve also seen that the service is embracing traditional PC experiences such as Torment: Tides of Numenera and Paradox Interactive is also in here with Imperator Rome and I’m hoping for a lot more Paradox games in the future. Games get added each month and as we saw last month, some are PC exclusive which means great things for the PC gaming crowd. 

One of the most important things about all of this is that it rejuvenated my relationship with Microsoft. My GamerScore has laid abandoned and the last time I played an Xbox game was with Gears of War 4 when I had to do a review almost three years ago. I now look forward to all the Xbox exclusives and Microsoft’s studio acquisitions because I will be able to play these games the day they come out and I don’t have to pay a cent more than what I’m charged per month, which is incredibly cheap anyway. 

If you’re a PC gamer and you’re sceptical, just go try it for a month. It’s only R15 and believe me, a lot of your fears will be dispelled very quickly. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go race in London, shoot Nazis and build a colony on Mars. 

Get Xbox Game Pass for PC, it’s amazing. There’s your review. 

I am way too tall, played way too many games and I love to write about what we love about games. In the end, I'm just being #Thabolicious

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