Monthly Archives: August 2015

GamesCom 2015: Continuing momentum

It’s been a couple of weeks since GamesCom wrapt up in Germany and the question that remains is whether Sony’s decision to opt out of the convention could prove costly in the lead up to the Holiday period because Microsoft continued to build momentum. Not only did the Xbox team give us more information about their E3 announcements but they had a few new surprises and a couple of exclusives to get excited about. So lets break it down…

Backwards Compatibility

The big announcement out of E3 got everyone talking and speculating on the impact of this exciting feature on the ongoing console wars. Xbox preview members like myself have already had access for a month but for most it has been a painful wait. It doesn’t put people out of their misery but at least now Microsoft have given us a timeline, 3 months. It might seem far away but come November backwards compatibility will become a reality alongside the Windows 10 update and new dashboard interface. Some analysts are already suggesting that backwards compatibility has had an impact on 360 game sales but we will probably have to wait till after November to find out the impact of this new feature on sales.

TV DVR

GamesCom didn’t just give us news about Microsoft previous announcements as they confirmed the long rumoured TV DVR feature coming to the Xbox One in 2016. This had always been a likely development due to the HDMI through functionality and the release of the digital TV tuner in the US and Canada. Next year users will be able to record TV to a hard drive connected to their console and stream it to other Windows 10 devices.  Unfortunately, at launch the feature will only be available in the US, UK and Canada with no word as yet on expanding support to other regions. Personally I’d like Microsoft to include some ability to record from a streaming TV service e.g. Foxtel play here in Aus, mainly for sport that doesn’t go onto catch up but I’m sure there are a few legal problems in that one, but maybe one day.

Games

The expo gave us a few new glimpses of titles shown off earlier this year at E3 including Halo 5 but Microsoft made sure we had a few more things to think about.

Scalebound

The concept behind this action RPG has a lot of people excited, who doesn’t want team up with a dragon. However, it’s clear from the game play reveal that it still needs work, especially the dialogue which is currently very corny. Like other games in the genre, game play combines melee and ranged combat with a series of special abilities and items. This one definitely has potential and with a 2016 release has plenty of time to develop into everything we hope it can be.

Quantum Break

The makers of Max Payne and Alan Wake take their time slowing game play from its humble beginning as bullet time to a new level where it becomes a weapon. In development for a few years now Quantum Break finally has a release date on the 5th of April 2016 and with a new look at game play it was definitely one of the highlights of Microsoft’s conference. Besides the actual game play,one of the unique and compelling features of Quantum Break is the development of a full TV series imbedded in the game that responds to your decisions which has me intrigued. This one is definitely on my list for next year.

Crackdown 3

A lot of the news out of GamesCom was about Microsoft’s latest instalment in the popular open world third person shooter. Crackdown 3 promises a unque gameplay experience as developers have used the power of Microsoft’s Azure platform to simulate real world physics. This extra computing power far beyound the capabilities of any stand alone console allow the creation of completely destructible environment. I’m glad to see developers looking at the potential of the cloud.

Halo Wars 2

The one more thing behind Microsoft’s conference was the announcement to a follow up statergy game based on the Halo universe. Until 2009 the RTS genre on a console was a dangours propasition but Halo Wars demonstated the possibilities when done right. Its taken a while but we are finally going to see if this potential with it’s symplified controls can develop into a top class RTS. Personally, I can’t wait for any expansion of the halo verse so this one goes straight to my waitlist.

The low cost handset

I recently got to have a play with a new Lumia 640 XL and couldn’t help but think about how far low cost handsets have come over the last few years. Only recently did a cheap phone mean that you were restricted to a low cost Andriod phone that lacked a decent screen or camera and an out of date OS among other limitations. However, as I updated a few apps for my father in law I couldn’t help but be impressed at what you can get these days for a couple of hundred Australian dollars.

The 5.7″ HD display looked reasonable crisp and seemed a good size in my hand. No longer having physical buttons on the front took some getting use to but didn’t cause any real issues. While Windows phone 8 was responsive and fluid more so then it had been on my aging lumia 920. Despite not getting to really put it through it’s paces or check out any benchmarks it is clear that the 640 XL would satisfy the average person’s needs. Possibly the biggest advantage is that Microsoft somehow managed to fit a 13 megapixal rear facing camera without breaking the bank which is easly better then anything else you’ll find at this price point. A common criticism remains the polycarbonate body but while some view this as cheap it often becomes pratical as I’m still not really sold on the “premium” feel argument about metal since most people like myself wrap thier iPhones or Galaxy S6 in a plastic cover. One of the things I liked about the Lumia 920 was for 2 and a half years I didn’t need a case and I feel the 640 XL would be the same.

At anywhere between $240 and $400 outright depending on your shopping skills and prefered currency the 640 XL is good value. In Aus you can even pick it up on plans under $50 with a $5 device charge. It’s clear to me why such products are gaining some traction in emerging markets. The only thing holding these new budget Lumia’s back is still the same story, the app gap. Hopefully, Windows 10 with it’s universal apps and iOS conversion tools can deliver the remedy at last.