Just a quick post. Microsoft just bought Activision Blizzard for around $67 billion. That means Xbox now owns Call of Duty. Just let that sink in…
Going forward once the deal closes, reportedly sometime in 2023… this will likely mean games like Crash Bandicoot, Tony Hawks Pro Skater, Spyro the Dragon, Diablo, Overwatch and Call of Duty could become day one Gamepass titles. It could also mean that COD on PlayStation could be no more. Hmm. It’ll be interesting how Sony reacts to this.
So the other week I finally got my hands on the elusive Xbox Series X, Microsoft’s ultra-powerful flagship next-gen console. Now having spent a couple of weeks with it, I can firmly say I’m impressed. The most notable improvement over last gen, and I’m coming off the technically capable Xbox One X, is the new ‘quick resume’ feature which basically acts as a save state for games, meaning you can switch from one game to another without quitting the previous game and quickly resume where you left off. This is a great quality-of-life improvement that I never knew I wanted until now. It makes dipping in and out of multiple games a breeze and with the super-fast loading of the console’s NVME SSD drive, it’s only seconds before you’re back in the action. It’s not currently available on all games, but that list of games that use the feature is constantly growing.
Like the PS5 this machine benefits greatly from the super-fast SSD, whilst technically not quite as speedy as the PS5’s, in practice games load up almost as quickly (Red Dead Redemption 2 falls from over 2 minutes to just over 30 seconds!). There’s also the inclusion of Ray-tracing for far more realistic lighting and reflections, and many games benefit from silky smooth 60fps, some even offering 120fps. The other notable advancement is the ‘smart-delivery’ feature which automatically upgrades any game in your collection to the Series X version, depending if an upgrade has been made available. Yes, this leads to some mammoth downloadable patches, but the system does everything for you including moving said games from an external HDD to the internal storage to ensure it takes full advantage of the SSD.
The only obvious negative of the Series X and Series S so far has been the lack of a flagship exclusive, like PS5 had with Demons Souls, and more recently Ratchet & Clank. Timed exclusive The Medium doesn’t exactly fill those shoes, despite being a suitably atmospheric horror adventure but not exactly a showcase for the machine. Yet it’s with Gamepass where the Xbox brand shines, with over 300 games to pick from, including big names like Gears of War, Doom and Halo. Yet outside of Gamepass the machine is no slouch with its third party support either, and all the big games like Call of Duty, Tomb Raider etc. are on the machine, mostly running better than ever with much faster loading times included.
The future is bright for Xbox, with Microsoft having invested highly in development studios, meaning those exclusives will grow in number in time to come. Also with highly anticipated games like Perfect Dark, Bethesda’s Starfield and let’s not forget Halo Infinite among many more … there’s much to be excited about.
Well, its been a while since I posted about this machines and my experiences with it. Of course I’ve discovered much more since first buying the console and have much to report back on. Below I’ve separated my thoughts into a few sections for a deeper overall opinion. In short I’m loving the console.
It has had its quirks. Generally I’ve not had many, but have experienced some issues. Firstly using external storage, such as my Barracuda Fast SSD, had one issue that crashed the system all together during an update. I was playing Spider-Man Miles Morales and the console decided to update Ghost of Tsushima on the external SSD, and suddenly I got a black screen and an unresponsive console. Turns out holding down the power button put the console into standby shut it down and it eventually restarted. Thankfully the condole came back on and I haven’t had that happen since. A bit of online research resulted in me discovering this was a known issue, and after numerous updates, this seems to have been fixed, as have many of the other known issues that have been reported. Currently the machine feels rather robust and less glitchy than it first appeared which is great for late adopters. Overall I’ve not had many problems that have ruined my fun.
The controller, the dual-sense is one of the major next-gen things about the PS5. It feels great to use, much more so than previous PlayStation controllers and is closer to the Xbox controller in weight and feel. However its biggest selling points are the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Although not used in all games and like the touchpad on the PS4 controller, will mostly get used in exclusive titles. In the free bundled game, Astro’s Playroom it gets a real workout, with the player able to feel (and hear) raindrops falling. In addition the way the triggers work, providing resistance based on whatever you are doing or using in-game works great when it’s used. In recent shooter Returnal the guns feel incredible with the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback giving each gun real punch.
The console’s built-in SSD is also next-gen stuff, with games often loading super-fast. Going from the titles screen in Spider-Man Miles Morales to gameplay is about 3-4 seconds which… just never happened before, and fast travel in big open world games, is finally that – fast. It varies from game to game, and PS4 games only slightly benefit from it, but actual PS5 games it’s very noticeable. It makes simply switching on the console for a quick gaming session, far more appealing.
I’ve played a number of games on my PS5 and feel I have a good overall opinion on what the machine is capable of, even if we have still not had games that really push the machine’s capabilities (although anyone who has watched the recent Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart state of play, will have a good idea what can be achieved). I have played Watchdogs: Legion which has a massive recreation of London and showcases the machine’s ‘Ray Tracing’ capabilities to demonstrate some gorgeous reflections. This can also be seen in Spider-Man. It makes games look particularly impressive.
It has also been fun revisiting some PS4 games I either didn’t play or never fully got into, like Horizon Zero Dawn. As technically a PS4 game, I’ve also played a lot of Cyberpunk 2077, which I know has had its problems but I have still had a good time with it. In addition to the games mentioned I’ve also played the Demons Souls remake, which whilst technically impressive, its challenging gameplay, whilst rewarding and well worth it, can be an acquired taste (file Returnal under a similar category too).
A big selling point of many games on the PS5 is 60 frames-per-second, something that is even more appealing than say, 4K resolution. It’s not in all games, but is offered up in most, usually in a ‘performance mode’ such as with games like Immortals: Fenyx Rising (pictured above) and gives a much more fluid, sharp and life-like experience. I’m really sold on it. The more games that come out, and the better developers get used to the console, the more this will become the new ‘normal’ in games. That’s such a great thing.
I should also mention 3D audio. I recently picked up the official Pulse 3D headset and my experience thus far has been very positive. I’m a bit on the fence of the benefits of 3D audio, whether it sounds that much better than regular audio, but it depends on the games. Yet the headset sounds very good regardless delivering plenty of detail and atmosphere when playing.
I’m not too happy about the price hike on certain games (mostly exclusives) to £70 which is just too high. Suppose Sony being the market leader can do what they want as long as the audience is there. However in comparison to Xbox’s Gamepass it does seem a bit of a rip off. Yet it’s hard to argue with the quality of Sony’s games. The technology built into the PS5 is really great too and that just makes for an exciting gaming future. Overall, I have very few gripes and otherwise highly recommend getting this machine if you can find one.
Well the most highly anticipated game of 2020 is now the most controversial with a launch that didn’t exactly go to plan. Developer CD Projekt Red is currently on damage control after misleading gamers and journalists about the state of the game on last-gen consoles, specifically base PS4 & Xbox One. Thankfully I’ve been playing it on PS5 where it has fared somewhat better with (up to) 60fps, although frequent crashes and occasional bugs still plague the experience for me. I’m hopeful CDPR will sort many of these issues over the next couple of months and that the new consoles get their proposed ‘next-gen patch’ – but until then, what’s the game like to play?
I’m having a lot of fun it has to be said and despite some of the negativity surrounding this game right now, it can’t be argued that as far as story, characterisation, setting and gameplay is concerned, this is really good. Performances, especially in missions of other characters is very convincing as is my own character who’s voice actor really conveys emotion (I’m playing as a female V). I’ve only touched the surface of the levelling up, customisation etc and even after 20 hours have yet to really get into the cyberware or ‘smart’ weapons. Exploring night city is great too – the design of the layout, buildings, neon all very convincing and impressive. There seems lots of hidden away areas, alleyways, bars, shady characters, prostitutes, gangs and sex & violence around every corner. Yes it’s very mature but in a comic book kind of way that definitely has tongue planted firmly in cheek. The RPG elements are cool but a bit fiddly and the hacking doesn’t feel that intuitive. However there is a ton of content, what appears to be a very well thought out story and plenty of side content that’ll keep me busy for a long while.
Of course I must mention the bugs. On the PS5 it’s far from the horror story reported by users of other platforms as detailed above, but crashes that send you back to the PS5 hone screen are frequent. Also for a world this detailed, it’s looks can be inconsistent. Some streets and interiors look jaw dropping, whilst others look bland and rather last-gen (this admittedly is basically the PS4 Pro version) and is in need of polish in many places, and well, pedestrian NPCs that have some personality! Lol. But these are all things I have faith CDPR will fix – they have to to regain the image they once had in wake of The Witcher 3.
So if playing this on PS5 (and reportedly Xbox Series S & X) or especially on a high-end PC … this is (almost) the game we have been eagerly awaiting. However if you’re stuck with a last-gen console, wait until it gets the patches it’s been promised – but don’t expect miracles. Despite information to the contrary, this game was always next-gen & PC experience. Just a shame CDPR felt the need to try and please everyone.
Well as promised my brand spanking new next-generation games console arrived today, November 19th the U.K./European launch day. On unpacking it I was aware from the various unboxing vids I’d seen on YouTube, but was still taken back by the console’s immense size and unique shape. It’s an impressive looking device!
Set up was easy; attach the cables, fit the stand (again, unboxing vids came in handy) and switch the machine on. I went though the usual on screen prompts to log in, connect to WiFi etc, and quickly began installing Demon’s Souls. I thought I’d check out the much talked about Astro’s Playroom whilst I wait, However it required an update, which took a while (I don’t have the fastest Internet) so it was a bit of a wait until I got to play my first PS5 game.
The only downside I’ve experienced thus far is how slow the machine copies data from the disk (definitely much slower than PS4) and then the loooooong wait for an update to download. I think much of my time was even taken up purely waiting. Sigh.
Back to Astro’s Playroom and yes, that haptic feedback (combined with the built in speaker) is no joke in the new Dual-Sense controller. I love it and it certainly adds a lot to the experience. This game is largely a showcase for the capabilities of the controller but is also a fun platformer that compares favourably to Mario’s 3D outings. It’s polished, very colourful and full of personality. I must say I’m not that into games that are purely a showcase for tech, I prefer something a bit more grounded … but I’ll certainly be coming back to this.
Demon’s Souls was up next: I’ve always avoided the Dark Souls series, and many of my trepidation’s were confirmed. This is pretty tough and at times frustrating with an unforgiving restart system. However as a graphical showcase this was lush. So far I’ve only played it in its 60fps ‘performance’ mode but it felt extremely responsive and fluid. I will check out the 30fps 4K mode also, when I feel up to tackling the game again.
Finally I gave Spider-Man: Miles Morales a go. I played it for about an hour and was instantly hooked. So far this is easily my favourite. It looks stunning, the ultra-realistic reflections, courtesy of the much hyped ‘ray-tracing’ technology is stunning, and well… it’s just fun!
Miles Morales had an issue installing an update at first, but downloading it a second time there wasn’t a problem. I haven’t really explored much else what the machine can do, and haven’t touched backwards compatibility with PS4 games. I also have Watchdogs Kegion so will check that out another time.
For now though this has been good. I’m certainly impressed by the swiftness of the loading, but not so much with the installing or updating. The graphics are very good, but better than say Red Dead Redemption 2 on Xbox One X? I’m not sure. There a slickness to everything here though and it does feel ‘next-gen’. so for now I’d say that’s good enough. I’m looking forward to diving in deeper with this console so may provide updated impressions soon.
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