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.

Xbox @ E3 2015


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Not long finished watching Microsoft’s E3 briefing and have come away rather impressed.  We got to see a new Gears of War being demonstrated in-game and hell, it looked bad-ass.  Only a glimpse but the next-gen graphics and a new somewhat Chris Pratt inspired protagonist certainly peaked my interest for one of my favourite franchises.  It was also good news to hear a fully remade version of the original Gears Of War would be out this year the wet our appetites for the next instalment.

rise_of_the_tomb_raider1It was also good to finally see some in-game footage of Rise of the Tomb Raider even if the footage shown was a bit heavy on cinematics and less on the actual gameplay – but the snow and weather and ice effects shown were very nice … and considering the game is out in November, I’d say what we saw was pretty much as it will be to play.

I was mildly intrigued with the announced Rare Replay Collection.  The famed studio that made a big splash in the Nintendo days hasn’t exactly wowed audiences since it got acquired by Microsoft back in the early days of Xbox (can we forgive the abomination that was Perfect Dark Zero?) but the chance to rediscover countless Rare gems such as Banjo Kazooie and Conkers Bad Fur Day was mouth-watering.  No word on if said games would be spruced up in next-gen clothing, but considering it’s a compilation, I doubt it.  Rare also revealed a new I.P. in the name of Sea of Thieves, a multi-player open world what looks like pirate sea fairing-thing.  Certainly interesting and the cell-shaded, cartoon visuals definitely appeal.  Excuse me though if I haven’t got massive faith in Rare as a developer these days.

XboxOne

One of the real big announcements was that Xbox One was going to be backwards compatible with Xbox 360.  Now considering the vast library of games for the 360, that’s a big coop for the new console even if backwards compatibility has always seemed silly to me on a new console.  Can’t people movie on?  But considering Microsoft’s struggles with their console this generation compared to the PS4, I think it’s a very wise move to get the former fan base back on board.

Forza 6

There was the expected Forza 6 and Halo 5 Guardians presentations (…wow!), and another glimpse of The Division with what has to be said slightly pared back graphics??  Add to this the recently announced Fallout 4 on Microsoft’s stage along with Rainbow Six Siege.  Then we also came to Holo Lens and the recently announced partnership with Oculus Rift (owned by Valve??) to get excited about, but no word on a price point for either, and surprisingly Oculus Rift had very little being said about it.

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So for day one, this was a good showing for Microsoft and Xbox One.  There was still plenty of talk of Indie games and Windows 10 which I’m cautiously optimistic about … yet overall, I was suitably excited.  No shows for the hyped exclusives Quantum Break and Crackdown, but you could say we still got more than a bumper show this year.

Over to you Sony.

a small update


I think we as bloggers or simply as movie fans can go through a bit of a dry spell.  I suppose with work, life, personal stuff I’ve not really been in a movie-watching mood … but rest assured viewers, that is going to change soon!  I have a few things on the horizon, of which I wont spoil for you here, and have also been playing a lot of Titanfall with the newly released ‘expedition’ map pack which is proving a great deal of fun.  What I hear you ask are my thoughts on the recently announced kinect-less Xbox One?  Concern really.  Yes Microsoft’s machine has been flagging behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 sales-wise as well as technically … but its still been a huge success, and I for one think Microsoft should have stuck to their guns and kept Kinect as part of the package.  These rumors of a performance boost is also puzzling considering there is already an installed user base who will have the Kinect sensor attached … what does a performance boost mean, that the machine will work better without the sensor attached, or just that developers can choose to disable Kinect to use that extra 10% of GPU power?  If so then what of Kinect functionality like ‘xbox record that’ … will that just not work?  It all sounds very problematic.

On a plus announcements like Halo 5: Guardians and a stronger games with gold line up, including price cuts and free games can only be a good thing, and like the 360 it is good to have two different purchase options, as in the console with or without Kinect … opens up the potential sales to those that don’t agree with the higher price over the PS4.

I will be watching these developments and everyhting Xbox related with much interest.

Xbox One – what next?


Xbox One Controller

I have had my XBOX One for a few months now and have been quite happy with it.  Not so happy have I been with all the negative press Microsoft and it’s new machine have been getting.  Firstly I am puzzled by this emphasis on 1080p / 60fps that the PS4 has been touting in many of it’s games.  What really is the big deal?  How many gamers out there play their games on 50 inch televisions?  Because that or close to that size is how you’ll notice much difference from 720p to 1080p … and having sat and played Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and Titanfall, both games that are running below full HD resolution on the Xbox One … I can confirm that these are ‘superb’ looking titles that more than satisfy me even as a self-confessed graphics whore. 

I like the user interface, have enjoyed the Kinect even if I feel it’s a little under-used (although XBOX record that is awesome, as is pausing Netflix).  The controller is also great and feels great and is a joy to use.  Yet I do get the feeling that Microsoft rushed out their machine in wake of the PS4’s announcement – really, it so looked like that.  This can be confirmed with the wealth of updates to the console to add features that a little longer development time would have put in place from day one.  Yes the machine isn’t as powerful as the Sony platform and that’s unlikely to change even with the recent announcement of DirectX 12 for the machine, which will reportedly aid development, something which developers have struggled with, resulting in games running with slightly less bells & whistles (see above…).

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But what can Microsoft do about this, to win back fans to their console brand who may be looking to the PS4 more favourably?  In a word – games.  This year’s forthcoming E3 promises to have a big show from Microsoft and Xbox, and I really hope there are some big announcements – but what we really need, and quickly is in-game footage of announced exclusives such as Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive and Halo 5 … come on Microsoft, sell your system by doing what you did with the 360 – throwing down our throats big names, quality games that the public can’t ignore – regardless of what is coming to PS4.  You have the money, you have the ability … just f*****g do it already!

MurderedSoulSuspect

On a plus there’s games I am looking forward to.  I am open minded about Watch Dogs despite the delays and recent reports of a visual downgrade since the E3 2012 reveal.  It could still be a very involving open world game.  Also I am tempted to pre-order Murdered: Soul Suspect which also looks good, sort of a supernatural spin on L.A. Noir.  The future looks good for XBOX One despite the bad press and there are plenty of things to look forward to … Microsoft just need to start making some wise and clever choices and let the games sell their console rather than the media features.

I’m not saying I won’t get a PS4 some time in the future, but for now in comparison to the Xbox One the games just aren’t grabbing me.  That could all change, so we’ll see what happens.

Halo: Reach – impressions


Although I’ve never been as die hard as some Halo fan boys (and gals), I did think Halo: Combat Evolved was one of the best shooters on the original XBOX.  Its control style and gameplay going on to revolutionise many modern day shooters.  Where would we be now without regenerating health?  For example.  Also the enemy A.I. was cutting edge at the time.

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