Category Archives: Xbox One

The Elite Experience

It took 2 months on pre-order after the offical release date before I finally got my hands on an Xbox One Elite Controller. Microsoft has admitted the obvious that they underestimated demand after the announcement at E3. As a result most stores didn’t get enough stock to cover the initial pre-orders and gamers like myself have been waiting for months. Unfortunately, this isn’t going to get better anytime soon with Microsoft confirming that shortages will continue into March. So considering this headache is the Elite worth the wait?

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Anyone considering spending $200 ($150 USD) on a controller is going to be a bit more than a casual gamer. The Elite Controller fits the bill as it offers an enhanced console experience with superior build quality to other comparable 3rd party options. It is noticeably heavier than a standard controller thanks to the additional metal triggers but it is not enough to make it uncomfortable. The interchangeable sticks, D-pad and paddles are easy to swap mid-game and the hair-triggers help improve reaction time with the ability to set them individually just another way to personalise your experience. Using the paddles takes a little practice before you start to see the benefit as you have to train yourself to stop using the normal buttons but once you do the change noticeably improves speed and eliminates the need to take your fingers off the sticks.

All of these features would be useless without that Xbox Accessories app that allows players to map buttons and change sensitivity. The app works with standard controllers but is a must for anyone with an Elite so they can map different buttons to the paddles. An added bonus here is the additional slot to save multiple configurations. Even without this the app is easy enough to use that I find myself pausing and making a few twicks to get a layout I’m happy with for each game.

Overall I can say that the Elite Controller is definitely worth it and really enhances your gaming experience. I previously have never thought about changing button mapping or stick sensitivity but find myself thinking critically about how I can use my new hardware to improve my game. If your a serious player with a bit of cash it’s a wise investment otherwise it might be a good idea for a present.

Enjoy
Jono

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.

E3: Tale of the tape

E3 2015 has unleashed a wave of surprises and exciting new games for Xbox One and PS4 fans alike but with all the announcements done, it’s time to reflect and see who won this heavy weight fight. To give a detailed comparison I thought I would break this down into three categories; System, Games and Peripheries.

System

Xbox One: Possibly the biggest surprise of E3 was the announcement of backwards compatibility coming to Xbox One this spring (Fall for my friends in the Northern Hemisphere) but currently only available to those lucky enough to be invited to the Xbox Preview. So far the list of Games is very short but it will grow quickly before the app goes live and personally I can’t wait to start playing Mass Effect on my Xbox One. Not only has this caught Sony by surprise but they have since disappointed fans by quickly killing any rumours that they might be doing the same any time soon. In addition Microsoft gave us a look at the new Xbox dashboard complete with Cortana that we will see later this year with the Windows 10 update.

MCV – Sony on backwards compatibility

PlayStation 4: Compared to the Xbox event Sony was much more game focused but they did talk about some exciting changers to PlayStation Vue. The live streaming TV service is being released in new regions and with a chose your own channel service. Notably this sees Sony move further towards the all in one entertainment system that was the original goal of the Xbox One.

Verdict: Got to give this one to the Xbox One as backwards compatibility has the potential to be a game changer as any one needing to replace their 360 can simply upgrade and still play all their old games. Some people like myself may have even put off the decision to upgrade because of this limitation. In contrast the upgrade to PlayStation Vue will benefit existing owners but probably won’t be that nudge to jump on board.

Games:

Before getting stuck into the exclusive titles it is important to recognise that comparing games is always going to be very subjective based on your past experience and your existing emotional attachment. This year that perhaps is more important than usual as most of the big titles from both our contenders have a touch of nostalgia and are the newest games to pre existing game series. Personally that means for me any new Halo is ultimately a kill all since I have been hocked from the very beginning but as always I will try to keep a critical mind.

Xbox One: The line up from Microsoft’s conference didn’t hold to many surprises as they emphasised the favourites; Halo 5 Guardians, Forza 6, Fable Legends, Rise of the Tomb Raider  the official conformation of Gears of War ultimate edition and the 4th instalment in the successful shooter. However, there are a few completely new titles like the action RPG Ashen, run and gun Cuphead, free to play Gigantic, adventurous Sea of Thieves and the action adventure ReCore. In addition to all these new titles the Rare Replay a collection of 30 classic Rare games for $30 including Banjo Kazooie and Prefect Dark is an absolute steal for a quick hit of nostalgia dating back 30 years.

PlayStation 4: Games was defiantly the focus of Sony’s conference and they had done well to keep the biggest announcements secret before the expo. Leading with the long awaited The Last Guardian was always going to be a hit with fans and that was only the beginning then came the remake of Final Fantasy VII and the kickstarter Shenmue 3 which completed fans wish list. New titles like the borderless No Man’s Sky and the stunning looking RPG Horizon Zero Dawn as well as other exclusives including Street Fighter 5 and Uncharted 4 helped demonstrated Sony’s focus on hard core gaming fans. The steal however was Call of Duty as the lucrative franchise departs from its recent partnership with Microsoft to release exclusive content

Verdict: Despite my preference for Xbox i’m going to give this one to the PS4 due to execution, since Sony had been able to keep things quite in the lead up to E3 and pulled off the steal of the year by getting Call of Duty to jump ship.

Finally … Peripherals 

Xbox One: Microsoft got the ball rolling here before the conference with the announcement of a partnership with Oculus Rift to take advantage of VR gaming. Extending this strategy Microsoft committed to a similar partnership with one of the other major developers in this exciting new avenue for gaming in Valve VR. The real star of the show was HoloLens as Microsoft showed off 3D Minecraft to a captivated audience but it doesn’t stop with the obvious applications as reviewers got the opportunity to test out the augmented reality headset with Halo 5’s new Warzone mode. If that wasn’t enough Microsoft have given us the Elite controller which is fully customisable with adjustable parts and settings to let users play their way.

GameSpot – Halo & HoloLens

PlayStation 4: Leading up to E3 every one was hoping for more information about Project Morpheus, Sony’s own VR headset. Unfortunately, I felt this was a bit of a let down since Sony spoke about the headset and showed an interesting trailer for RIGS a VR game that allows multiple players to enter the same virtual world the information and WOW factor was limited with only some vague assertions of a 2016 release. Thankfully reviews got to test drive the headset during the expo and it seems like it is going to offer a rich VR gaming experience.

Android Authority – project morpheus 

Verdict: This one was a clear win to Phil Spencer and his Xbox team, not only did they bring the mind blowing demo but they also made sure they didn’t forget hardcore gamers with the elite.

Overall:

It might not surprise anyone but i have to give 2015 to Microsoft as they seam to have finally learn’t and brought their A game. Overall Microsoft have taken more into account and listened to feedback with backwards compatibility, a real demonstration of HoloLens and a new controller. In addition the only category where Sony have out performed Microsoft this year is highly subjective as personally I’m looking foward to adding at least 6 of those exclusive Xbox titles to my collection ASAP. Meanwhile there are a couple of caveats to some of those surprises, firstly No Man’s Sky will release on PC at the same time as PS4 and most games will not be released until 2016 with Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue 3 without even that level of guidance.

But don’t take my opinion for it, check out the links and make up your own mind and leave your thoughts.

Cheers

Jono

Xbox And Oculus: A Partnership Designed To Blow Your Mind

Xbox And Oculus: A Partnership Designed To Blow Your Mind#xtor=RSS-980.

A pre-E3 bombshell! Oculus have announced a partnership with the Xbox for the release of their long awaited virtual reality headset. I’m still not sure yet if virtual reality will take off as it is limited by tethering and the practical application of VR in the everyday world but this arrangement makes sense for Microsoft. It provides an answer to Sony’s development of a VR system for the PlayStation 4 and gives consumers another reason to jump on board Windows 10. The deal further demonstrates Microsoft’s new mindset to open themselves up to different platforms and allows them to still capitalise on any future success in VR while still focusing on the augmented reality with HoloLens. Perhaps we will find out more at E3 about the potential of this new technology to change gaming.

The way to Ryse

Since Ryse: Son of Rome has been on the Xbox One from day one this is not going to be a full review rather a few observations which could have taken the game to the next level. Don’t get me wrong Ryse has excellent graphics and decent game play with a well thought  model for combat, however despite the best efforts to keep this varied it does get repetitive. Even so it is well worth getting especially for the $29 I picked it up from JB Hi Fi for in January as it is engaging and easy to  jump straight in.

My major criticism of the game is the blatant and unforgivable historical inaccuracies starting with the inclusion of the Colosseum despite the games setting during the reign of Nero. The Flavian Amphitheater as it is called was commissioned under Nero’s success Vespasian and completed by his sons during what is called the Flavian dynasty.  It was an obvious attempt to work to the average persons preconception of Ancient Rome, however the success of HBO’s ROME demonstrates that this isn’t necessary.  Other inaccuracies include the over simplification of military structure where a Centurion who commands 80 men out of 5000 would have direct and regular access to the legion commander, not to mention the idea that a general’s son would every be a traditional legionary.

These are just a couple of examples but perhaps something slightly more relevant would be the story line.  Considering the richness of Roman history it is amazing that the developers tried to create some fanciful notion of a British threat to the heart of the Empire when they could have just tapped into real events. Endless civil wars and large scale conflicts with Carthage would have made a good place to start.

Ryse could have been a great opportunity to immerse gamers into the world of Ancient Rome and perhaps would have worked better as an action RPG. Imagine the possibilities of playing through the civil war as Marcus Agrippa and experiencing the end of the Republic from next to Augustus as the Imperial era began.

6.5/10

Windows 10: A New Beginning (Part 1)

It was a busy day for tech enthusiasts as Microsoft gave us the next look at Windows 10 and even had a few surprises that they had manage to keep secret. After watching this morning’s keynote and checking my preferred news feeds here is the first part of my roundup of what we have to look forward to later this year.

A Universal Operating System

The familiar desktop with the new modern start menu

The familiar desktop with the new modern start menu

 

To start Terry Myerson VP of Operating Systems gave us the news we all wanted to hear that windows 10 will be a free for the first year for anyone upgrading from Windows 7, 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. This serves a practical purpose for Microsoft by trying to compensate for the ill will towards Windows 8 and also by addressing the fragmentation of the 1.5b Windows users which limit developer interest. In the fine print it also suggests that Microsoft may turn to a subscription service like Office 365 since it is only free for the first year, if priced well such a move would still benefit consumers as existing subscribers would have access to the regular updates that Microsoft has promised in this new world of Windows as a service.

It was left to Joe Belfore to do the heavy lifting and showcase the latest features of Windows 10 starting with a recap of what we already know, including continuum the way in which the OS detects and changes between touch and keyboard inputs making it great for a hybrid device. However, it was the introduction of Cortana which everyone was waiting for and it didn’t disappoint as it uses existing features like the notebook to personalise your Windows experience from searching your files and the web to dictating your emails. Cortana like the other apps that Belfore demonstrated including a touch friendly Office with near full functionality are all universal apps across phones, tablets and PC’s with synced settings in addition to a similar UI experience that is scaled to a specific device.

Finally the worst kept secret was on show with Project Spartan, Windows new browser. The streamlined design and new rendering engine won’t really draw much attention but are the key to making a better working experience. The real excitement comes from the note taking mode which allows you to annotate using a pen or keyboard web pages and share them with others. In addition the new reading mode maybe the answer to getting rid of annoying advertising when you’re browsing and combined with the reading list will help keep track of your interests online. Of course Cortana come imbedded and I really liked the idea that if you’re looking at a restaurant she will get you everything from directions to reviews and importantly this can easily be synced with your phone.

Written and typed web annotations.

Written and typed web annotations.

To finish software part of the presentation it was passed to the head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, to showcase gaming on Windows 10. Starting with the Xbox app which brings all the social features we have become familiar with on Xbox One including the activity feed and friends lists. This means that we remain connected to our fellow gamers even when we are away from the console and using the new built-in Game DVR function ( Windows + G) we can share our PC gaming experience. However, for me it was all about the games and the promise of Direct X 12 to improve detail so it was Phil’s demonstration of playing Fable Legends on a Surface Pro with a Lauren from Lionheart using an Xbox One. This is something I have wanted for a long time (since Halo was released on PC 10 years ago) as I have never been great with a keyboard but still wanted to play alongside friends who don’t have an Xbox, finally my dreams have been answered. To complete my gaming paradise with Windows 10 we can stream any game from our Xbox One to our PC screen, perfect for when my fiancée wants to watch Sex in the City.

Xbox app complete with games, friends and activity feed.

Xbox app complete with games, friends and activity feed.

That’s it for part one, tune back in tomorrow for my take on the hardware surprises unveiled today.

Cheers

Jono

Xbox One: First Impression

Being an early adaptor of both the original Xbox and the Xbox 360 I might seem like a loss of confidence that I have only just got my hands on an Xbox One in the last month, but growing up does place other demands on both my time and wallet. So with the arrival of school holidays and some good budgeting I was finally able to pick up my new toy complete with 7 games and Kinect. Keen to jump straight in after the long wait I’m only now getting the chance to go through my first impressions.

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Set up was easy and in no time I had downloaded all my apps, fixed up my profile and organised my home screen.  I was generally surprised at the list of Australian apps available including SBS on demand and 7 Plus however the absence of ABC iview and Foxtel are cause for disappointment.  Yet, for me research has always helped me stay level-headed as I was already aware of this short coming and knew that both developers had made commitments to change this in coming months. Besides connecting my 360 using the HDMI in socket was an easy solution since I don’t even have to switch source.

My only real gripe with the Xbox One is the requirement to install games on the hard drive rather than play them from the disk. Wanting nothing more than to give into nostalgia with the Master Chief Collection this expected delay was still frustrating. Unfortunately, no matter on your choice of new gen console this is a necessary evil as read speeds are too slow for the amount of data required by games. Considering this it would have been nice to have larger internal storage but with the price of 2TB external hard drives it is only an annoying inconvenience.

Finally, lets talk about Kinect which for many remains a take it or leave it extra. This especially true for hard-core gamers since voice commands require the 7th core of the processor and decreases what is available to game developers which has recently been changed. In addition space continues to limit the use of Kinect as someone with a console in their bedroom like me in my younger years will only ever get to use voice commands.

This all being said I love the “Xbox On” feature as it has quickly become second nature to use the command as I walk into the room knowing that I won’t even have to touch the TV remote. This is ideal if I’m only planning to watch Foxtel on the 360 as I can follow-up with “watch TV” and go straight to my old 360 remote without touching anything else. Unsurprisingly, Kinect still has problems with my accent which can quickly become frustrating. Yet, it is in apps like Xbox Fitness where Kinect really comes into its own as it tracks how accurately you are following the exercises and creates a score to motivate your competitive instincts. Until now my fiancé had only ever used the 360 to watch TV but has found this combination of features on the Xbox One an easy way to complete a 10 minute workout before work.

These are just some early thoughts so keep watching as I will be touching base soon on some of the other aspects of the Xbox One.

Cheers

Jono