A Look At Backwards Compatibility and Mass Effect

Of all the announcements at Xbox’s E3 press conference, perhaps the most surprising of all was the news that the Xbox One is now backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games.

It’s true that, for the time being, only Xbox Preview members can access this feature, and only on a small selection of games. Yet, it sends a clear signal that Microsoft is keen to reclaim some of the support from it’s fans during the previous console generation, those that felt overlooked when the Xbox One’s reveal was made and the headline features were being able to Skype your friend while watching Star Trek, or the television shows based on video game IP’s.

Excited by the new feature, we decided to give it a try and report back. We’ll give a run-down of how to get it going if you’re in the Preview program, and take you through our experience of playing an Xbox 360 game.


If you’re a member of the Xbox Preview program, you’ll need to make sure you’ve downloaded the Xbox Preview Dashboard app and been through the introduction, before updating your console, which we did using the old fashioned method of switching our Xbox One off and on again.

Once that’s all done, it’s time to pick what you want to play. The list of currently supported games can be found here; if you have them as digital purchases simply go to ‘My games & apps’, the ‘Games’ section, and then scroll over to the right till you find the ‘Ready To Install’ list and pick what you want to download. (Hexic HD can currently be downloaded for free to give this method a try.) If you don’t have the digital version but a disc, simply pop it into your Xbox One’s disc drive and select the ‘Install disc’ tile. In either case, you’ll have to wait a while, so go and pop the kettle on or do whatever it is you like to do when you’ve got free time. Crochet is lovely, apparently.

There’s one final thing to note: game saves do carry over so long as they’re in the Cloud. If you want to make sure you have old saves available, you’ll need access to your Xbox 360 and copy any local saves to the Cloud via Settings.

Came to a console near you in 2007.

Came to a console near you in 2007.

The game we chose as our main test was Mass Effect, developed by Bioware, the RPG-meets-shooter-come-soap-opera-in-space. It’s been a few years since we played the first game in what’s gone on to become a flagship series, and we couldn’t entirely remember where we last left Shepard.

The most bizarre thing when first launching an Xbox 360 game on Xbox One is how you’re effectively then signed in to your Xbox 360. The same icon flashes on screen to tell you how many friends are online, and if you press ‘View’ and ‘Menu’ on the Xbox One controller simultaneously you’ll activate the Xbox Guide.

Back to Mass Effect, all was going well until it stopped going well. The save we had in the Cloud included items of downloadable content, which obviously wasn’t on our Xbox One’s hard drive. You can’t move DLC into the Cloud, so we had to find a save that was DLC free.


Wait, who are you?

When we found that save and once again loaded up the game, everything was fine, except for the fact that the Shepard we were now staring at wasn’t the one we remembered playing as originally. Space can change a person, just as multiple character saves can be confusing if they all have the same name (2007 was not a creative naming year for us).

Not having the same connection with this Shepard as with the one we took into Mass Effects 2 and 3, and the time gap between playing the first game to now, our initial exploration of the Normandy – where the save loaded – almost felt like a new experience. As we meandered about, though, talking to iconic characters such as Joker and Garrus and examining recognisable parts of the ship, it was obviously the Mass Effect we’d come to love.

And that’s the odd thing about the backwards compatibility: it’s the games you know on Xbox 360, you’re just playing them on Xbox One. Before you go pointing out that’s exactly what backwards compatibility is meant to be, the reason we describe it as “odd” is because the function works. We haven’t tried any games with multiplayer, so let us know how that goes for you, but aside from the missing DLC problems affecting the saves we could load – which we really hope Microsoft will find a way to sort out – everything works as it should for the Xbox 360 game, and given how many gimmick features video games and consoles have seen over the years, it’s refreshing.

After reacquainting ourselves with the Normandy, we went and did one of the one the most loved activities you can only do in the first Mass Effect: exploring with the Mako. It handles with the same bounciness it did the first time round and the thrill of exploring a planet isn’t diminished; hopefully Mass Effect: Andromeda will recapture and expand what makes this so fun.

Next, we stepped our booted feet upon the shiny walkways of the Citadel, revisiting parts that are never seen again in the two sequels, and taking time to punch a reporter in the face. (For the record, we never did that the first time round, and were curious to see what it was we’d missed. It. Was. Brutal.)

The vistas the Citadel provide look just as good as on Xbox 360, and although other websites can provide a much more in-depth analysis we can at least say that, superficially, everything is up to par with the original visuals. We did have moments of lagging frame rate while driving the Mako and under heavy fire from Geth, but that may be on the game’s side rather than the Xbox One’s.

One excursion to Virmire later and we’re convinced, if we ever needed to be, that the new backwards compatibility is a good thing. Microsoft are continuing to further current game series and bring forward new IP’s, of which the ID@Xbox program is a valuable contributor, but having the ability to play games from years ago is important. It allows us to remember how the characters first captivated us, how the worlds inspired us, and to allow the years of work by passionate developers’ to not go forgotten. In the video games industry we’re almost always gazing to the future, but it’s good to remember the past.


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(The screenshots in this article were taking using the Xbox One, however due to an issue with the emulator for the Xbox 360 games the shots cannot currently be uploaded via the Xbox One. Instead, we’re indebted to XboxDVR.com and our YouTube Manager.)

Xbox One backwards compatibility is set to become available for non-Xbox Preview members later this year. For more news, reviews, competitions and articles, join Xbox One UK’s Facebook Group, Like our Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter. Plus, if videos are your thing, check out our YouTube and Twitch channels!

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