Like an old pair of your favorite blood-stained shoes

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by Charlie Hall via Polygon

I had deep reservations about the port of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds for Xbox One, but after a long night on the couch I’m a believer. Battlegrounds feels great on a console. There’s clearly an awful lot of work left to do, but I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

The secret to Battlegrounds’ success on Xbox One is its controller support.

The team at PUBG Corporation were uncompromising in their implementation. The movement and inventory systems have been carried over in their entirety to the Xbox controller. It take a little bit of practice to get the hang of it, but after two or three solid rounds of play it’s no big deal.

But it’s in the subtleties that Xbox One controller support really shines. The turn rates, both in third- and first-person, are smooth. In the menus, players have the ability to fiddle with controller’s sensitivity at each of the different zoom lengths. Tracking where your shots fall is easy, even at 1080p, and it feels as though there’s just the slightest bit of aim assist at ranges over 200 meters.

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Aiming with the Xbox controller was the hardest thing to figure out for me. You tap the left trigger to aim down the sights, and hold the left bumper to hold your breath. Changing from first to third-person also changes the functions of other buttons slightly. It takes some practice, but it’s dynamic and authentic to the PC experience. – PUBG Corp./Microsoft

Not only does it feel natural to move and fight, but all of the nuance of the PC game is there. Players still have the freedom to make tactical decisions, to move from third-person to first-person, to aim down sights, to free-look while parachuting or running around.

Perhaps the biggest improvement is in the game’s driving. No more pecking at the WASD keys to get your nose pointed in the right direction, as the analog sticks on the Xbox controller were literally made for this.

All that being said, there’s clearly some technical issues. Once, while I was in the top 20, I experienced a crash to a black screen that kicked me out of the game entirely. Texture pop is awful, especially in the opening few minutes of each round. I’ve also heard that there are serious issues with frame rate on the Xbox One X and at 4K.

But this is an early access game. These things should be expected.

All I know is that I can get a solid 30 minutes of highly technical, thrilling, PC-style shooter action from my living room couch. Battlegrounds’ port is an achievement. For their next trick, PUBG Corp. just needs to follow through and finish the game.

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by Jon Fingas via Engadget

Many a gamer has had regrets about their choice of username — xXxDeathCrusher420xXx might not be quite so appealing in adult life as it was in your teenage years. And for PlayStation fans, that’s been a big problem when your PSN name has always been set in stone. Sony may have seen the light, though. In an interview at PlayStation Experience, the company’s Shawn Layden said he hoped to have a name change option available by next year’s Experience. So what’s the holdup? Layden didn’t dive into specifics, but he said the technical solutions were “more complex than you think.”

As Gamespot notes, Layden said in 2014 (yes, 2014) that Sony had to take steps to prevent griefing. It didn’t want trolls to cause havoc in one game, change their name and promptly ruin someone else’s play session. There’s also the matter of making sure that all your friends see the change. It’s unclear whether or not Sony might ask you to pay to change your handle, as Microsoft does on Xbox Live (again to discourage griefing), but setting up those exchanges could involve some work as well.

There’s no guarantee that Sony will have name changes in place. As you might have noticed, it’s been talking about the idea for years. The narrow time frame suggests the feature is getting close, however, and it’s easy to see this becoming a higher priority given that a PSN account is increasingly vital to making full use of your PS4.

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by Matt Fernandez via Variety

Video game development company Square Enix announced a new entry in the “Tomb Raider” franchise on Thursday.

The “Tomb Raider” series of films and action-adventure video games follows British archaeologist Lara Croft as she solves puzzles and shoots her way through swarms of bad guys to uncover ancient treasures. The “Tomb Raider” Twitter page posted an announcement by Square Enix that “a new Tomb Raider game is coming” and that the company will share news about the game next year.

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“Honestly, we wish we could share it with you now, but we’re taking a new approach this time. Driven by our goal of putting our fans first, we want you to know that it won’t be very long between the official reveal and when you can play,” said Square Enix. Though traditional video game marketing tends to begin well before a game’s release date and follows a project through its development, this new approach looks to shorten the gap between the game’s official reveal and its release date.

The tweet also indicated that the game’s announcement would coincide with “a major event in 2018,” likely the upcoming reboot of the “Tomb Raider” reboot film starring Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft that will be released on March 18, 2018. Angelina Jolie previously filled the role in “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.” The “Tomb Raider” franchise has been around since the first game was released in 1996, and was rebooted in 2013. Though an official title has not been announced, a leaked image in 2016 suggests that the new game could be called “Shadow of the Tomb Raider.”

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by Mariella Moon via Engadget

EA isn’t only getting a lot of flak over Battlefront II’s loot crates, it’s also under investigation from Belgium’s gambling authority. According to VTM Nieuws, the country’s gaming commission is in the midst of taking a closer look at both Battlefront II and Overwatch, since add-on boxes that have to be purchased before you can see what’s inside might constitute gambling. As Commission chairman Peter Naessens points out, random loot boxes are a game of chance.

Authorities are especially concerned over the fact that the games are marketed towards children. Naessens says kids could feel forced to spend a lot of money under social pressure. EA made earning heroes easier after facing backlash, but players might still end up spending serious money on the game — according to a computation by Star Wars Gaming, it will take at least 4,528 hours of gameplay or $2,100 to unlock all its base content.

We reached out to Blizzard to find out the developer’s stance on the investigation. In a statement provided to GameSpot, EA made its position clear and insisted that Battlefront II’s loot crate mechanics aren’t gambling:

“Creating a fair and fun game experience is of critical importance to EA. The crate mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling. A player’s ability to succeed in the game is not dependent on purchasing crates. Players can also earn crates through playing the game and not spending any money at all. Once obtained, players are always guaranteed to receive content that can be used in game.”

If Belgium’s gaming authorities decide that loot boxes constitute gambling, EA and Overwatch will have to secure a special permit if they want to continue making those games accessible in the country.

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Photo credit: Jose Cordova/GameStop

Put on hold five days before full launch

by Owen S. Good via Polygon

GameStop’s all-you-can-eat subscription to used games has been suspended, apparently over concerns with how the aging computer systems in the company’s 7,000 stores can handle and track checkouts.

Kotaku first reported the suspension of GameStop’s PowerPass program. The retailer confirmed that it had halted the initiative in a statement, citing “a few program limitations we have identified” as the cause.

The retail giant announced the program at the end of October, with sign-ups set to begin Nov. 19. Under its six-month terms, the program would allow customers to take any used game from a local store’s catalogue, play it as long as they wished and exchange it for another until the subscription expired. At the end of the period, they could keep any one of the games they had checked out.

The program went through a soft launch in some locations earlier this month, with its full rollout to follow later. Those stores have been told to pull all promotional materials related to the PowerPass, according to Kotaku. Customers who got in on the soft-launch are being offered full refunds, plus their choice of a used game as a make-good for taking down the service.

Asked for comment, GameStop replied to Polygon with this statement.

We have elected to temporarily pause the roll out of the new PowerPass subscription service, based on a few program limitations we have identified. We feel this is the right thing to do for now to ensure we are able to provide our guests an exceptional service.

Those guests who have already purchased the service, we are allowing them to bring the pass and video game they have checked out, back to receive a full refund. In addition, we are allowing them to pick out any Pre-Owned video game for free.

There is no word when the program will be reinstated.

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by Swapna Krishna via Engadget

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by Mark Kaufman via Mashable

After years of mercifully letting Kinect continue to exist, Microsoft finally killed the once revolutionary console.

Microsoft told the innovation site Fast Co Design that after seven years of production, it will no longer make the Xbox auxiliary console, which allowed gamers to get off the couch and actively immerse themselves in gaming by jumping, ducking, and punching.

Kinect uses infrared mapping to capture the 3D shapes of rooms and the acrobatic movements of people inside them.

There are still some 35 million Kinect devices in the world today, a testament to its earlier popularity: In 2011, Kinect was the fastest-selling consumer device on Earth, selling over 130,000 units a day for two months.

Gaming developers, however, were not enthusiastic about developing games that involved actively moving bodies. Developers, who flourished by designing games that relied on just a traditional handheld controller, had little incentive to change — so in large part, they didn’t. As a result, few and mostly forgettable games were created that specifically took advantage of the Kinect’s motion features.

Big franchises — like, say, the Halo games — never made the leap to Kinect’s active style of play, at least in any kind of ground-breaking way that could validate the device’s use for developers.

In its later stages of life, Microsoft billed Kinect as a good way to broadcast video and sound over Skype and Twitch, but evidently this still couldn’t justify its existence.

Although a somewhat archaic piece of hardware now, Kinect’s depth-sensing legacy is still quite relevant. Microsoft, for instance, employs Kinect’s camera tech in its mixed-reality Hololens headsets.

Kinect’s 3D-sensing tech also exists beyond Microsoft and will soon be frequently utilized everywhere: It lives on in the forthcoming iPhone X, which has stimulated both excitement and unease with its infrared facial recognition technology, Face ID.

The Kinect itself may be dead, but we’ll see its applications extended well beyond its failed foray into gaming.

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