Microsoft brought its A-game to E3 with a massive presentation for the Xbox One that was all about gamers. One of the biggest take-aways from their conference was that the Xbox One will now be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games. This is one of the most requested features and one of the biggest complaints with the current console generation. Sony does offer a game streaming service for their PS4 console called PlayStation Now, but has seen a few bumps with their pricing schemes. Microsoft is answering back with their on Xbox 360 emulator that will allow you to use your current physical discs or digital downloads of the games you already own without having to buy everything again.

Microsoft has been working on this emulator for over a year as we reported on its development at Microsoft’s Build 2014. There are many questions about how well this emulator will work and what features might be cut out. Microsoft has stated that ALL the features of the Xbox 360 console will be available in the emulator which will give you access to Xbox Live, Party, Chat, Friends, Achievements, etc. as well as ALL the features of the Xbox One, like streaming, Game DVR, voice functionality, screenshots, and more!

360emu2

The other big question is, what 360 games can I play on my Xbox One? The answer is that it’s up to developers. Any game can become backwards compatible, but it will be up to the developers to either apply for it or push an update for the game. Microsoft is actively pursuing big names for the launch later this fall and promises over 100 titles at that time. Right now, there are only 21 titles immediately available, but it is expected to grow fast. Here is a quick list of the current titles:

Games

A Kingdom for Keflings A World of Keflings
Alien Hominid HD Banjo-Kazooie
Banjo-Tooie BattleBlock Theater
Defense Grid Geometry Wars Evolved
Hexic HD Jetpac Refuelled
Kameo Mass Effect
N+ Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark Zero Super Meat Boy
Toy Soldiers Toy Soldiers: Cold War
Viva Piñata Viva Piñata: TIP
Zuma

Right now, members of the Xbox One Preview Program are able to access the new Xbox 360 games while the update is expected to hit all consoles this Fall. Luckily I happen to be in the Preview Program and I have BattleBlock Theater so here is my experience with the Xbox 360 emulator so far.

Installation

Installing games was extremely simple. The pool to pick from wasn’t too big, but one of my favorite games was available. BattleBlock Theater was in the Ready to Install section of My Games and all I had to do was click install. Took about 2-3 minutes to download and install the 1.7GB game. Then I could launch it like any other Xbox One game. The only thing I noticed when launching the game was that it took a lot longer to boot the game then it did regular Xbox One games. It could be because it needed to start the emulator first, find my profile and saves, and then load the game.

Gameplay

BattleBlock Theater is just a great game in general and it felt exactly like it did on the 360. My initial concern was that there was going to noticeable button latency and would ruin the gameplay, but I was wrong. The controls felt spot on as if there was no latency or at least no noticeable latency with the title I was playing. This is was really hammered home the feeling that I wasn’t playing on an emulator, that I was playing on a game designed to run on the Xbox One. That is fairly rare to come by when dealing with emulators of current or past gen systems. I’ve had terrible experiences with PS2 emulators no matter how powerful my PC was (although those a more dependent on which game you play), but the 360 emulator for the Xbox One ran perfect.

I played a good hour of BattleBlock Theater before I knew it, partially because I love the game, and I had forgot that I was playing it on the Xbox One.

Xbox Live is available for the 360 games, but I have not tried it out yet. When I have a chance, I will update this article with that experience as well. My hope is that we will see Ultra Street Fighter IV make it’s way over and then I can give it a serious test.

Technical Details

I’ve already mentioned that there felt like there was no button latency while playing the game, but I did not mention that the sound was distorted. It wasn’t a game breaking level of distortion, but it did sound like the game sounds were playing too loudly through some blown speakers (note my speakers and sound levels are just fine, it was localized to the emulator). That was the only annoying bit of the whole thing. They are still in beta for the program and are looking for feedback so I can’t fault them too much for a miner error like this.

While you play Xbox 360 games, you also have access to the 360 menu by pressing the view and menu (start and back) buttons at the same time on the Xbox One controller. This is where I noticed something amazing. That menu ran ridiculously fast!!! I was in awe about how smooth and fast that 360 menu went. You could go through your friends, message, achievements, or anything in an instant. I wasn’t expecting this at all, but this is how fast the menu should be for everything all the damn time. I would take that menu over the current Xbox One menu in a heartbeat if they made it run that fast.

Overall my first experience with the new Xbox 360 emulator on the Xbox One was very positive. Expect a more detailed review of popular 360 games in the future to see how well this new feature holds up.