Archive for the ‘Game Articles’ Category

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by Nick Hastings via Digital Trends

Microsoft’s Xbox One and Xbox One S systems have struggled to keep up with the more powerful PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro consoles, with higher resolutions and better performance possible on Sony’s machines. Instead of waiting for the next full “generation” of consoles, however, Microsoft plans to launch a more powerful version of the Xbox One, a device that the company calls the Xbox One X. An enhanced console, the Xbox One X will be capable of playing games in native 4K resolution, and Microsoft claims it will be “the most powerful game console to date.”

Between the unveiling at Microsoft’s E3 event and Digital Foundry‘s exclusive access to the Xbox One X, we now have a much better picture of what will definitively be the most powerful game console yet, including detailed information regarding its internals as well as its supported games.

Digital Foundry’s analysis cleared up speculation about the specifications, but we’ll have to wait next week to see how that power translates to performance improvements on specific games. Although we liked the Xbox One S well enough, it did have some notable flaws, so a more powerful version of the console is tantalizing.

An incredibly powerful console

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With Xbox One X, Microsoft aims to set a new standard for console performance. Billed by the Xbox team as “the console [that] developers wanted us to build,” the console promises to deliver four times the graphical power of the current Xbox One.

This power — which allows the console to run games at higher resolutions with better framerates — is measured in teraflops, of which the Xbox One X boasts six, according to Microsoft’s E3 presentation earlier today. A teraflop is essentially a measure of graphical potential, largely dependent upon the console’s GPU, of which the new Xbox has 40 customized Radeon compute units at 1171 MHz — the Xbox One has 12 GCN compute units and the PS4 Pro has 36 “improved” GCN compute units. In essence, “Microsoft has defied current-gen constraints and redefined the way consoles are built in order to push clock-speeds up closer to desktop GPU counterparts,” with its custom AMD GPU, according to the Digital Foundry report. The Xbox One X chip’s four shaders — double that of the Xbox One — benefit from the high clock speed.

For a GPU comparison, the Xbox One X falls just shy of AMD’s Polaris-based RX 480 card, a card that we called “the only mid-range card that matters” in our Editor’s Choice distinguished review.

Like the Xbox One and PS4 Pro, the Xbox One X’s CPU has eight cores split into two clusters, but they aren’t Jaguar cores as expected. The Xbox One X’s custom x86 cores are clocked at 2.3GHz, dwarfing the Xbox One’s 1.75GHz clock speed while also beating out the PS4 Pro’s 2.1 GHz clock speed. Essentially, the Xbox One X’s CPU is closer to what you’d expect in a gaming PC. In addition to having more on-board cores, the x86 cores are 31 percent faster than the Xbox One’s Jaguar cores. The powerful CPUs will be called upon quicker thanks to an upgrade to the GPU command processor, effectively boosting processing speed in its own right.

And for users without a 4K TV? Microsoft will require super-sampling, meaning that higher resolution games must scale down for 1080p users while staying at or above Xbox One framerate levels. Over at Windows Central, you can see comparisons of games running on Xbox One versus games running on Xbox One X on a 1080p display. While the comparison was conducted with tech demos, there’s a stark difference in sharpness from Xbox One to the new model. It’s possible that Microsoft’s promised super-sampling for 1080p on the Xbox One X will further separate itself from the Xbox One with retail releases, but it’s already apparent that Xbox One X will offer considerable improvements for those with a 1080p TV.

To produce better visuals and stable framerate, the Xbox One X will utilize AMD FreeSync technology. AMD FreeSync ensures that refresh rate is undetectable by the user while dynamically adapting to mitigate latency and increase the smoothness of gameplay. This technology will be enhanced further with the support of HDMI 2.1, the next-generation of HDMI that will deliver Dynamic HDR. Xbox One X games will theoretically have variable refresh rates, meaning that they could adjust moment-to-moment. HDMI 2.1 support makes the Xbox One X future-proof in this regard, and should make next-gen games look even better when the technology hits the market.

The new Xbox will also abandon ESRAM, which worked with DDR3 to process data in the Xbox One. Instead, the console will feature 12GB of GDDR5 memory (4GB reserved for the operating system) and 326 GB/s bandwidth, far more than most its Xbox One relatives and the PS4 Pro. The extra bandwidth helps increase pixel counts while maintaining high resolutions and frame rates, and games will receive an additional 60 percent memory boost on the Xbox One X.

As for storage space, the new Xbox will launch with a 1TB hard drive, just like the PS4 Pro and some Xbox One models. The Xbox One X’s hard drive will offer 50 percent greater bandwidth than the Xbox One’s.

On the audio front, Xbox One X will receive an upgraded version of the Xbox One’s audio processor. With spatial surround sound and Dolby Atmos support, Xbox One X sounds will have ‘height.’ Dolby Atmos will also be available when using headphones, in addition to the proprietary HRTF format developed by Microsoft’s Hololens team. The optical drive supports 4K UHD Blu-ray, making it the only home console to do so.

Even though the Xbox One X will coexist with and play the same games as the Xbox One, the internals seem more like a next generation console than an upgraded mid-cycle iteration.

Kinect goes the way of the dinosaur

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The Xbox One S launched in 2016 with one notable omission: A proprietary Kinect camera port. Included on the original Xbox One, it allowed players to use their Kinect without needing to purchase a separate adapter. To make up for this, Microsoft offered a USB Kinect adapter for free to those who had previously purchased the original Xbox One, but this isn’t the case with the Xbox One X.

In October 2017, Xbox marketing executive Aaron Greenberg revealed on Twitter that Xbox One X owners would not be eligible for a free adapter, as the promotion expired in March.

This does not mean the Xbox One X won’t support Kinect, only that users upgrading from a first-gen Xbox One will need to pay to continue using the camera. Microsoft has continued to move away from the sensor, and now allows for voice commands through headsets. Gesture-based controls for the system’s home menu have also been removed in recent updates.

The most powerful console, and also the smallest

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According to Microsoft, the new Xbox One X is the smallest Xbox console to date, and a recent sneak peek at the Xbox One X dev kit shines a light on some of the upcoming console’s other features.

In early June, Director of programming for Xbox Live Larry Hryb (“Major Nelson”), and Kevin Gammill from the Xbox engineering team talked about decisions behind the dev kit and gave us our first look at the back of the unit.

The port arrangement on the back of the dev kit matches the retail unit almost exactly, except for a second network port to assist in the debug process.

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The ports on the back of the retail Xbox One X are arranged almost identically to those of the Xbox One S. There is an HDMI In and HDMI Out, two USB ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, a S/PDIF audio port, and an Ethernet port. The dev kit also has a port to the left of the HDMI Out, which connects to a dongle called the “Xbox Transfer Device,” which is used to transfer game builds at high speeds.

One small difference between the Xbox One S and Xbox One X is the addition of a small cutout above the HDMI-out port, so users can easily distinguish it from the HDMI-in port when they’re connecting their cables for the first time.

The front of the retail design won’t match the dev unit. The dev kit has an OLED screen and a navigation button, and five programmable buttons. The OLED screen can be utilized to the developer’s liking, and it’s even capable of running games right there on its tiny screen.

The dev kit also includes a network interface card, and three USB ports. There appears to be one USB port on the front of the consumer-model Xbox One X, just as there is on the Xbox One S.

Supported games

Like the PlayStation 4 Pro, the Xbox One X won’t have exclusive titles in the typical sense. Instead, it will play the same Xbox One games supported by its less powerful siblings, but will open the door for developers to add support for 4K resolution and other performance improvements. In April, 2017, Windows Central reported a “partial” list of games that will receive 4K support, including a few that haven’t been officially announced. Microsoft also provided information about some of these upcoming titles at its press event on Sunday. These include:

  • Forza Motorsport 7
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Call of Duty: WWII
  • Crackdown 3
  • State of Decay 2
  • Star Wars Battlefront 2
  • FIFA 18
  • Madden 18
  • Gears of War 4
  • Killer Instinct
  • Minecraft
  • Forza Horizon 3
  • Halo Wars 2
  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Resident Evil 7

And there’s far more than that. Microsoft is even bringing backwards compatible with the original Xbox to the Xbox One X (as well as Xbox One and Xbox One S).

For those who were thinking about purchasing an Xbox One X without also getting a 4K television, you’re going to have to stay on top of your games’ ballooning file sizes. All Xbox One X owners will have to download 4K asset updates for supported games, regardless of what kind of display they’re using, according to an interview Microsoft gave to Stevivor.

This may have a major impact on how players download games. With Forza Motorsport 7 coming in at around 100GB, for instance, you won’t be able to hold more than a few games on your hard drive at any one time.

Project Scorpio Edition

In addition to the standard model, Microsoft announced a limited edition Xbox One X, dubbed the “Project Scorpio Edition,” during Gamescom 2017. For the same $500 price, the console comes with a special finish, all-black controller, and vertical stand, as well as the words, “Project Scorpio” on both the console and the controller. It releases the same day as the standard edition and has the same 1TB hard drive.

When can you buy it, and how much will it cost?

Microsoft broke the news regarding the Xbox One X’s pricing and availability at its E3 event, saying that it will be available on November 7, 2017 for $500. Pre-orders are available now.

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by Kevin Murnane via Forbes

You thought the Xbox One X was the most powerful console ever built because it can display native 4K at 60 FPS with HDR? That’s only part of the story. The One X has Halo’s Master Chief hiding inside. And he’s riding a scorpion.

The image of Master Chief and his scorpion mount is etched on the circuit board inside the One X.  Unocero, a Spanish-language YouTube tech channel, revealed the tiny picture during a breakdown of the One X.

Besides being flat-out cool, the image is rich with symbolism. Xbox fans will appreciate that the Xbox rode to prominence on Master Chief’s back when Halo: Combat Evolved was released in 2001. Now Master Chief is given the honor of riding in on an Xbox that has evolved into “the most powerful console ever made”.

Xbox One X fans will understand why Master Chief is riding a scorpion. During development, the One X was code named Scorpio and a special Project Scorpio Edition of the One X was offered when preorders for the console first went live on August 20. It sold out in less than a day.

There’s something for Halo fans as well. The M808 Main Battle Tank in the Halo games is called the Scorpion and when Master Chief rides it, he kicks some serious ass. Looks like Microsoft is telling us the One X kicks ass as well.

You’re going to have to take it on faith that Master Chief is in your console unless you’re willing to break open the One X and see for yourself. However, after the One X gets kicked to the curb in favor of something better, the Master Chief enhanced circuit board might make a nice wall hanging.

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by Jacob Siegal via BGR

Nintendo’s incredible rebound year got even better this week as The NPD Group on Thursday released its sales report for the month of August, revealing that the Switch once again outsold the PS4 and Xbox One in the US to take the top spot in console sales. This marks the fourth time in the past six months that the Switch has earned the title, with the PS4 beating out the Switch in May and June.

While the Switch has become the console to beat ever since it launched in March, NPD says that the PS4 is still the best-selling console of 2017 so far. The group doesn’t release specific numbers, so we don’t know how close the two consoles are, but it appears Sony’s two month head start has given it the cushion it needs to maintain its lead. It will be fascinating to see if Sony can stay on top throughout the holiday season, though if Nintendo can’t produce enough Switch consoles to meet demand, it won’t be much of a competition.

While hardware spending year-to-year dropped 6% to $168 million in August, total hardware sales for 2017 are actually up 17% to $1.7 billion, due in large part to Nintendo’s resurgence. In fact, with the holiday season and the launch of the SNES Classic Edition fast approaching, 2017 could end up being a massive year for hardware sales, despite the fact that Sony and Microsoft are four years into their console cycles.

Some other interesting tidbits from the August report: Nintendo has three games in the top 10 for software sales, accessory sales are up 10% and Grand Theft Auto V is somehow the second best-selling game of the month.

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It organizes data into chunks that can be deleted if not needed.

Annual E3 Gaming Industry Conference Held In Los Angeles

by Mallory Locklear via Engadget

Microsoft has been working on a new feature for Xbox One and Xbox One Xthat stands to save users a ton of storage space, Eurogamer reports. Called Intelligent Delivery, the system allows for game data to be sorted into chunks allowing players to delete bits they don’t need and free up space on their hard drives.

Here are a few ways that could be prove to be super useful. For FIFA games where the download is largely taken up by all of the various languages supported by the game, users would be able to delete all of them except the language they need. Another example — players with Xbox One consoles wouldn’t have to download all of the 4K assets used by X consoles, which they wouldn’t need because their system doesn’t support them anyway. And further, for games like Call of Duty, players that only want to focus on either single-player or multiplayer modes, can delete the one they aren’t using and then reinstall it whenever they want to use it.

Additionally, Intelligent Delivery will support games on multiple discs, with the primary disc holding all of the necessary data and additional ones (up to 15 total) carrying extra data chunks that players could add in as needed. Right now, Microsoft is only supporting two discs, but game developers wanting to use more can work that out with the company on a case-by-case basis.

Of course all of these features depend on game creators sorting their games into data chunks, which they may not want to do solely for Xbox One and for some things — like separating campaign and multiplayer modes — it may not be so simple. But Intelligent Delivery offers some smart tools that stand to have a big impact on storage space and download times.

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by (@NE_Brian) via Nintendo Everything

All indications thus far point to NBA 2K18 being very solid on Switch. Aside from some graphical differences, the Switch version matches up well to its counterparts on other platforms.

In an interview with Gamereactor, senior producer Rob Jones discussed the approach to creating NBA 2K18 for Switch in a bit more detail. From day one, Visual Concept’s president spoke about making it “the same exact game that was on PS4 and Xbox One”. It goes without saying that doing so was no easy task.

Jones’ full words:

“Well the main thing that our president said from day one is that the Switch had to be the same exact game that was on PS4 and Xbox One, so by starting there, you know, the bar was already set extremely high, because we were already working really, really hard just to get it on platforms we already knew, and then suddenly to take that and miniaturise it for the portable, you know, the portable Switch (obviously it also plays when it’s docked), but to get all those features working on there was kind of a gargantuan task.”

“We actually had a second team just dedicated only to doing the Switch version just because it would have been impossible within the confines of VC […] So obviously we delivered a good experience. It’s not the same exact graphics because the Switch can’t push them, you know, but the experience itself – you’re not missing out on anything from the Switch version [compared] to the main consoles version.”

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by Rob Thubron via TechSpot

It seems PC fans — myself included — agree with PC Gamer’s recent top 100 list: The Witcher 3 is the best game you can play right now. The publication asked its readers to vote for their favorite titles and added the results to its own list, which was put together by editors and contributors.

Participants picked two games from the Top 100 and recommended two others that didn’t appear. The list would then be reordered based on reader selections, and games with the fewest votes were replaced with the most popular new suggestions.

While there were some significant differences, the amazing Witcher 3: Wild Hunt retained its number one position, and while PC Gamer put the evergreen Half-Life 2 in the number 11 spot, readers boosted it up to second place. On the subject of CD Projekt Red’s classic, make sure to check out this heartfelt Witcher 3 10th anniversary video.

Another game that fans still love is the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The epic RPG was the magazine’s 26th best game, but the revamped list saw it move up to third.

Some titles appearing on the reader’s list that weren’t in the original included League of Legends at 18 (Dota 2 fell from 54 to 73), Fallout 2 at 11, and Borderlands 2 taking fifth place. Both Life is Strange and Rimworld also made the new version.

A notable name to drop off PC Gamer’s list was Spelunky. Its tenth-best game didn’t even make the readers’ top 100. You can check out a direct comparison of the lists on this spreadsheet. Also as a side note, here’s TechSpot’s shortlist of 10 PC games you should play — last updated in March it’s due for an update next month.

Meanwhile, here’s the readers’ top 20 (entries not on PC Gamer’s list are in bold):

1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

2. Half-Life 2

3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

4. Dark Souls

5. Borderlands 2

6. Fallout: New Vegas

7. Mass Effect 2

8. Doom (2016)

9. BioShock

10. Doom 2

11. Fallout 2

12. Deus Ex

13. Portal 2

14. Life is Strange

15. Starcraft

16. Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn

17. Grand Theft Auto 5

18. League of Legends

19. Diablo 2

20. XCOM 2

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by Paul Tassi via Forbes

One question I get asked a lot is “If you weren’t reviewing video games for a living, would you still buy [X thing]?”

Most of the time, the answer is yes. Granted, while I don’t know what my schedule or income would be working some other job, most of the games I buy, the consoles I purchase, I would still be buying even if I wasn’t doing this for a living because well, I love video games. But after just shelling out $500 plus tax and delivery for an Xbox One X pre-order, this is one of the first times when I genuinely don’t think this is something I would have bought myself.

As Eurogamer noted in a great piece this weekend, Microsoft has not done a good job selling the Xbox One X from the start, and didn’t do so in what will probably be its final high profile sales pitch at Gamescom. With very few recent, exclusive games that can only be played on Xbox generally, the Xbox One X’s main selling point is that it will play multiplatform third party games better than everyone else as “the most powerful console ever made.”

I will say what Microsoft has done with the Xbox One X’s tech is impressive, extracting power from places no one’s even thought of before to really put a ton of horsepower into a home console. But that’s put the system in a weird position where even if $500 might actually be a logical, even great price for the capabilities of the system, it’s…still a $500 console in a market where its closest competition, PS4 Pro, is $100 less than that, and most consoles, including Microsoft’s own Xbox One S, are half the price instead.

This leaves me wondering who exactly this console is for, which is something I have not really understood from the start. There’s my crowd, game journalists, and there are Microsoft fans so devoted that they have already bought it blindly and will likely appear in the next few minutes in the comments of this article disparaging my character. But that is not a very large crowd. If Microsoft was putting out exclusive games on par with Horizon, Uncharted, Nier, etc. that would be one selling point, but just offering to be a “better” version of shared games is less convincing.

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Microsoft is also not being clear about what “better” means, in most circumstances. Some games like Forza 7 are designed to be native “true” 4K and 60 fps. If that was a metric that could be hit across the board for all titles, that would be gamechanging to be sure, but it’s unclear that even with all the tech Microsoft has jammed into the X1X, how often that will be possible. For all its talk of “true” 4K, there appear to be very few games that are actually capable of running at that native resolution, and these “enhanced” games will have improvements spanning from major to minor, but what specifically is improved will vary on a case by case basis.

If anything, PS4 Pro has made me more wary of “enhanced” games, which is making me cautious about the Xbox One X’s claim to do the same thing. While some games are clearly better with the Pro, namely Sony’s own in-house titles like Horizon Zero Dawn and Uncharted: Lost Legacy, with many “enhanced” titles, it’s hard to tell. Recently, I got through an entire playthrough of Prey not realizing it hadn’t been patched for Pro, and once it was, I logged back in to find…literally no noticeable difference whatsoever. Maybe the X1X with all its power will display this convincingly, but I have not seen enough specifics where I can believe that, and I’m still not sold on the concept of “incremental upgrade” consoles generally, especially after owning a Pro.

The other problem with the “best place to play” selling point of Xbox One X is that for these cross-platform games, ultimately my decision to play them on PS4 or Xbox may rest on a factor outside of Microsoft’s control, where my friends are playing. Maybe Destiny 2 will look and play better on Xbox One X, but almost everyone I know is going to be playing that game on PS4, meaning it would be incredibly hard to make that switch for that reason alone. Repeat that for essentially any multiplayer game you want to play with friends. But yeah sure, I guess I’ll pick up Assassin’s Creed Origins for X1X. Maybe. But is this really what I bought a $500 console for?

In short:

  • The Xbox One X does not seem like it will do enough to convince PS4 owners to make the switch, due to a lack of exclusives and a smaller playerbase.
  • It is clearly not the console for people who don’t own any new-gen systems yet, as it has the highest price on the market by a wide margin.
  • For those who desperately care about power and specs above all else, the term for that group is “PC gamers,” who will likely own machines that can outperform the X1X already. Not to mention all Xbox One exclusives going forward will be available on PC and can be played with an Xbox controller there.
  • That leaves die-hard Xbox fans, though many of them may still not be able to justify a $500 purchase even if they do want the console.
  • Pretty much anyone, in any category, who buys an Xbox One X must have a 4K HDR TV or they will not be utilizing the main selling point of the unit. While 4K is clearly where the market is moving, adoption rates are still low at this point.

Microsoft seems to realize all this, and is playing up expectations accordingly, positioning the X1X as something “for the fans,” and a “premium experience” that isn’t for everyone. But with the current state of the Xbox brand and its market position lightyears behind PS4, it seems like an odd decision to release such a niche console that’s a very, very tough purchase for almost the entirety of the gaming public.

Initial pre-orders have sold out, but we have no real context of what that means, and we won’t know more until the system is actually released this fall. But yep, I’m getting one, and I guess I’ll see if it’s worth it then. If you bought this system early, what was your rationale? I’m genuinely curious.

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