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Dirt 5’s 120Hz mode is why Xbox Series X is so exciting

I love playing games on PC because of the control I have over the experience. Even if a developer doesn’t give me an option, chances are someone in the community will build a mod to unlock any feature you can think of. I will never give that up, but it does have its drawbacks. Even with a powerful GPU, you may need to spend time and effort to get the most from your rig. I find that’s especially true when trying to take advantage of a high-refresh rate display. One of the reasons I’m still excited for next-gen consoles like Xbox Series X is because it may simplify that process. And Dirt 5 on the Xbox Series X is an excellent example of this.

Microsoft and publisher Codemasters sent me a preview build of the Xbox Series X version of Dirt 5 this past week. This is one of the first next-gen games I’ve had the chance to try on the console while testing an early version of the hardware. And my overall takeaway is right in line with my expectations. We’ve hit an acute point of diminishing returns in terms of visuals. The barrier to creating better looking images is no longer hardware — it’s more mundane limits like time and budgets. So at a glance, Dirt 5 looks a lot like the games we were already playing on Xbox One X or PlayStation 4 Pro.

Or so I thought, until I turned on the 120Hz mode.

Like a lot of games over the last three or four years, Dirt 5 enables you to select between Image Quality or Frame Rate modes. But if your display supports a higher refresh rate, and you turn that on in the Xbox’s system settings, you’ll get a third choice: 120Hz mode.

And I would suggest doing that.

Dirt 5 at 120Hz on Xbox Series X is smooth

The magic of consoles is that things are supposed to just work. And that’s not really the case anymore. To get 120Hz as an option, I had to make sure that my TV was set up properly. It has Gaming Mode and UHD Color options under different menu tabs. And that’s frustrating, but for its part, the Xbox tries to make it simple. When I set the system to 120Hz, it made sure everything else was set up correctly on the Series X automatically.

But I still wasn’t expecting to get a framerate anywhere near a consistent 120Hz. After all, when I try to play at a high refresh rate on PC, I might average 120 or even 144 frames per second — but that comes with a lot of peaks and valleys.

Dirt 5 on the Xbox Series X, however, brought back a little bit of that console magic. It ran nearly locked to 120 frames per second with only an occasional — and difficult-to-notice dip.

Built for 120Hz

What’s so exciting about Microsoft emphasizing 2160p120Hz gaming on Xbox Series X is that developers might build their games to hit that resolution, that framerate, or both. To maintain that high framerate, developer Codemasters Cheshire turns down the graphical options. It’s likely also using a dynamic resolution, but you don’t really notice that.

All I can see while playing is the smooth and responsive 120-frames-per-second action that feels especially nice in a racing game where twitch reflexes matter. And getting twice the amount of visual information per second makes a difference.

This is where consoles fit in. My PC is still more powerful than the Xbox Series X, but there’s no guarantee that I could get an equally satisfying experience plugging my PC into my TV. Even in PC games that do offer dynamic settings in order to maintain a framerate, I’d likely still spend more of my time trying to get things working perfectly. And for anyone who just wants to take maximum advantage of their 2160p120Hz HDMI 2.1 television, the Xbox Series X seems like your best option.

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