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.

Games of a generation


I thought I’d look back on the last gen of gaming. The generation I am talking about of course, is PlayStation 4, Xbox One, as well as Nintendo Switch. Between these consoles there have been many quality games released, but the games/franchises detailed below are the titles that overall impressed me the most.

game on…

Dishonoured 2 – Arkane Studios deliver one of the finest sequels ever. A highly detailed and absorbing steam-punk inspired world, gorgeous visuals and the best stealth gameplay in the business. A ton of ways to play it and rewards replaying sections over and over. A game that got rather ignore upon release and really shouldn’t have been.

Rise of the Tomb Raider – I’ve always been a fan of Lara Croft and have played many of the games she has starred in. However this sequel to the rebooted Tomb Raider is the most cinematic, exciting, puzzle filled and action packed than anything that came before. It’s also endlessly playable, with perfectly implemented stealth and with many areas you can revisit and explore.

Titanfall 1 & 2 – for me the best multiplayer shooters ever made. The combination of on foot shooting mixed with giant mech carnage is done so well, it was always thrilling. Add to this the brilliantly cinematic gameplay of the sequel’s single player campaign, and despite games like Call of Duty remaining the popular vote – this series for me is far superior.

Life is Strange – one of the only story-driven adventure games that held my interest. This absorbing episodic game about a teenage girl’s return to her home town and the strange things that happen was really involving and cleverly done, so much so that its sequel couldn’t quite deliver whatever it was that made this game work. For something a bit different but still compelling, I’m really glad I played this.

Assassin’s Creed Unity – despite technical issues at launch, I didn’t pick this up until those issues were fixed. The only ‘Creed game to hold my interest all the way to the end. It didn’t feel bloated, had interesting characters, finely tuned gameplay and a fantastic world, with a stunning Paris boasting some of the most detailed visuals of the generation (the crowd physics are still yet to be beaten).

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – one of the deepest most absorbing RPGs I’ve ever played. A huge, intricate world to explore, rich story telling, a brilliant protagonist in ‘Geralt of Rivia’ – and brilliantly crafted action, gorgeous visuals and just plenty to see and do … for months.

Red Dead Redemption 2 – live out all your wildest cowboy fantasies in Rockstar’s stunning Wild West action adventure. A deep and involving story, memorable characters and one of the most detailed, life-like worlds ever put into a video game. This will take some beating.

The Last of Us Part II – raw, cinematic, pulls no punches, devastating – takes video game storytelling into bold, uncharted waters. One of the most absorbing and powerful games I’ve ever experienced. All aided by industry defining combat, stunningly detailed visuals and characters that truly felt alive to me. One of the all time greats.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – the game I put more hours into than any other in the generation. The huge world, atmosphere and finely-tuned gameplay is endlessly absorbing. It’s also jam-packed full of secrets and things to do, but never feels overwhelming. One of the most perfectly designed and enjoyable games I’ve ever played.

Destiny 1 & 2 – for an ongoing game I always keep returning to, the world here and concept is amazing. A sci-if epic where customising my ‘guardian’, doing missions and exploring just kept me glued. Add to this constant additional content, industry defining combat and the fact it’s now free to play and on Gamepass means this is still a great go-to experience that keeps on giving.

Honourable mentions:

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard,

Metro: Exodus,

Control

So, there you have it. I’m sure there are many games I failed to mention. If some of your favourites aren’t here that’ll be because I either didn’t play them or they didn’t quite grab me as much. The games in this list show that last generation was both ground breaking and a hint at the promise of the new generation and what games we can look forward to. I’ve always found it hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes me fall in love with a game… but for one reason or another the games above all had ‘it’.

Craig.

Cyberpunk 2077 – impressions


A utopia worth saving?

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.

Next gen begins here.


I’ve pre-ordered a PlayStation 5. Yeah, as someone who primarily plays on Xbox, that kind of surprises me too, but stay with me here. I have every intention of getting an Xbox Series X at some stage, but my existing Xbox One X isn’t that old and with nothing that essential coming to the Series X at launch (that isn’t also coming to Xbox One) I did feel there was little reason to upgrade just yet. Over on the PlayStation, Sony seem to have delivered a bit more next-gen excitement this time and games like Spider-Man Miles Moralis , Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart and Demon’s Souls look great and show off what is possible with these machines (ray tracing, super-fast loading) … and when put simply, my PS4 is getting rather old and sounds like a jet engine when in use. I am looking forward to playing PS4 titles like The Last of Us Part II on it with faster loading and more stable frame rates.

I’m under no illusion that next-gen isn’t going to entirely knock my socks off this side off Christmas or well into next year but I wanted an upgrade to my PS4 and also enjoy keeping up with technology developments. Entering a new generation is always exciting and boarding that ship is something I love doing. Also technology gimmicks like the haptic feedback on the new PS5 ‘dual-sense’ controller will be fun to explore, even if in the long/run it’s a feature that will get used less and less (I’m guessing).

There’s still some element of the unknown here, how games will perform and what features they’ll have (and not have), and how third party games will compare between PlayStation and Xbox. Xbox has a lot of promise still, what with all the new studios they’ve acquired and the consumer-friendly services they’re offering. I just don’t feel we’ve really seen much games-wise to truly excite (Halo Infinite’s delay went along with aiding my decision to hold off on Microsoft’s console right now). Either way us gamers have much to look forward to in the coming years and the rivalry between the big console names will deliver some great games as a result I’m sure. For now though PlayStation 5 will be my starting point.

Roll on November 19th.

The Xbox situation


I’ve been an Xbox fan since the OG Xbox back in the day, and supported them to this day. I love my Xbox One X but it’s certainly been a shame to watch its nearest rival PlayStation and also the Nintendo Switch soar away from it in sales figures and all-round positive buzz. The Xbox One got off to a poor start, touted as an all-round media device rather than a games console that was both weaker than PS4 and more expensive with its at the time mandatory Kinect add-on. Despite best efforts from the team ever since, with the inception of Gamepass etc,, they still failed to turn things around … not helped by a shortage of major exclusive games that could compete with what PS4 has been offering. Although franchises like Forza, Gears of War have still been well received.

Going into the new gen, it’s become clear that Microsoft and Xbox head Phil Spencer’s philosophy is very different to PlayStation. Sony are riding high on massive sales and extremely positive feedback, so are happy to go full-on into PS5 and kiss PS4 goodbye – safe in the knowledge that millions of fans will likely follow. Xbox however seem reluctant to abandon Xbox One in favour of Series X and are delivering a confusing, worrying message to their fans and anyone interested in next-gen. Phil Spencer says ‘exclusive games are anti-consumer’. They don’t want any game coming Xbox Series X that’s not also coming to Xbox One for at least a year (if not two), and are relying on a subscription service as the way forward rather than asking consumers to have to pay £50-£60 for new games. They also insist on everything coming to PC, ruining any ‘exclusivity’ their games could potentially boast. On one hand it’s very consumer-friendly, but on the other hand it suggests a lack of confidence.

Recently both Sony and Microsoft have shown their hand with regards to the future of their respective brands. Sony chose to hold off the reveal of their console, whilst Microsoft showed theirs early on. Sony showcased plenty of in-game footage and showed off the potential of their super-fast SSD storage solution in games like the dimension-jumping Ratchet & Clank. Microsoft revealed Halo Infinite in a rather current-gen state. Instead they boasted that all their games were coming to Gamepass. That’s cool, I’ll admit. Both consoles will be of course be very powerful, boast (amongst other features) ray-tracing that brings game visuals to life in a way never before seen on a console. Yet something about Sony’s marketing is exciting, whilst Microsoft’s is simply ‘safe’.

I feel that Xbox have good things in store, the Series X will still be a very capable machine, and long-term they may well turn things around. They have some good ideas to pave the way and place them in a good position for the future. Gamepass, X-Cloud etc is the way the industry is going. They have the development studios now more than ever. It’s just currently, PlayStation has the buzz, Microsoft should be focused on selling their new console, not just their brand. I’ll be interested to hear the prices of the new consoles, which could prove a major factor, and launch games line-up of which at this stage, Xbox has the numbers. We’ll see what happens.