Xbox Series X – impressions


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.

Game on…

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.

Perfect Dark

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.

Garbage – No Gods No Masters


Album review

I’ve now had a few listens to the seventh studio album by my favourite band Garbage. I can confidently say it’s both impressed and surprised me. The song selection here, like all their albums varies from up tempo rock & synth jams to moody, atmospheric ballads. This time they tackle prominent subjects like sexism, racism, religion and relationships and it all feels a tad more biting than anything they’ve delivered in the past. Songs like The Men Who Rule The World confront the patriarchy, whilst Waiting For God explores Black Lives Matter. However it never feels preachy or too in yer face, still managing to deliver anthemic choruses or meaningful melodies amongst heavy subject matter.

Shirley and co deliver again…

Personal highlights are the throwback 60s spy movie vibe of Anonymous XXX, the exhilarating industrial rock of Godhead and the dark, sinister western movie styled A Woman Destroyed … and although songs like Flipping The Bird and Uncomfortably Me didn’t gel with me as instantly, there’s really no filler on this album. What impressed me the most was the ideas, creativity and sheer ambition on show, with no two songs sounding the same and each one delivering a sense of passion, with something important to say.

Although the use of provocative lyrics and swearing, such as Godhead’s ‘if I had a dick would you blow it?’ or The Men Who Rule The World’s numerous F-bombs caused this to lose a point for me (even if it’s the closest they’ve ever come to eclipsing 1998’s near-perfect Version 2.0) – the slick production, and the writing are otherwise strong enough to (mostly) overlook personal preference. So there we have it. 25+ years into their career, with No Gods No Masters, Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erickson show no evidence of going through the motions and remain in my opinion prominent voices in music that are just as relevant now as they’ve ever been. Give this a listen!

Verdict: Recommended

Garbage bring it again…


Well, three singles have been released in the lead up to my favourite band Garbage’s seventh album. Wow, I’m feeling spoilt as all three have been bangers, and their latest, ‘Wolves’ is a rocking, creatively produced, catchy tune that has become my personal jam of the songs released thus far. The animated video is stylistically similar to ‘The Men Who Rule The World’ and equally as provocative. Check it out below….

No Gods No Masters is out June 11. You can expect a review of the complete album once it’s released.

PlayStation 5 – six months in


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.

The hardware

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.

The games

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.

Final thoughts

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.

Even newer Garbage


Last night during a live YouTube chat with the band and viewers, Garbage’s title track from forthcoming album No Gods No Masters was revealed, in a cool, neon-fused promo video. This electro-pop, kind-of eighties sounding jam was much more my taste than the previous, highly political ‘The Men Who Rule The World’ and I can see it becoming a favourite amongst the many other stellar songs the band have produced over the years. Anyone unfamiliar with Garbage, I highly recommend checking them out, especially if you enjoy alternative pop/rock with strong vibes of Blondie, No Doubt etc. Watch the video below…

Garbage’s 7th studio album is released on June 11. They have plans to tour with Alanis Morissette in America later this year, followed by a tour in the U.K. with Blondie.