Category Archives: Microsoft

E3 2014 Press Conference Impressions

Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all held press conferences in LA…well ok Nintendo held a digital event, but whatever.  The point is that tons of new games were revealed, and we now have a much better idea what to expect from the next 12 months for each of the big three console manufacturers.  Here are my reactions to the press events.

Microsoft Press Conference:

Sony Press Conference:

Nintendo Digital Event:

What are your thoughts on the big three?

Killer Instinct Review

Killer InstinctKiller Instinct (Available exclusively on Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Double Helix Games
Release Date: November 22nd, 2013

Parent Talk: Killer Instinct is rated T for teen because of violence, blood, mild suggestive themes, and mild language.  This 2D/3D brawler offers fast frantic fighting, without being too graphic like Mortal Kombat.  The mild suggestive themes are mainly Orchid’s clothing and stances, and the language isn’t too bad, featuring no f-bombs or anything like that.  The original Killer Instinct was actually far more mature than this version, and believe it or not, but that one was directly aimed at children.

Plays Like: If you’ve played Street Fighter IV on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 you know pretty much what to expect here.  Characters are made up- of 3D polygons, but gameplay is strictly 2D.  Special moves all require a combination of movements with the analog stick/d-pad and the face buttons.  This is a combo-centric fighter, meaning players look for openings to attack their opponents and then link together a wide array of attacks to form some truly spectacular looking combos.  While it might seem extremely overwhelming at first, after a short period of time even novices will be able to string together incredible looking displays of martial arts.

Review Basis: I purchased the Ultra Edition for $40 and played through the first 16 Dojo trials, and then headed online and battled through several ranked matches, as well as played many different solo fights against the gaming CPUs. I plan to return to unlock the remaining 16 advanced trials, and continue to make my way through the online ranks.

Killer Instinct was a truly flashy fighter when it hit the arcade scene back in 1994.  It combined elements from Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat and was an overnight hit.  While the series as a whole only had two entries, it lived on through various home ports, and the cult status it achieved.  Fans begged for a sequel to Killer Instinct 2, but that was never to be.  In the time between 1996’s Killer Instinct 2 and this year’s franchise reboot, Rare, the company who created the series, disappeared altogether.  No one expected the series to ever be brought back, and yet here we are in 2013 and Double Helix Games has stepped in for Rare, and has utterly stunned fighting fans by creating a perfectly balanced, and all around excellent fighter for the Xbox One.

Killer Instinct1The Great:

Killer Instinct has always lived and died by its combo system, and the same can be said here.  Combos are extremely simple to start, but become quite complex as you dig deeper into the balanced fighting system.  Here’s how the progression works.  You begin by using an opener, which is one of several special moves, you then use a single attack to perform an auto-double, and from there you input another special move which acts as a linker.  After that you can perform yet another basic attack to form another auto, and then close the entire thing out with an ender, which is yet another special move.  If that all seems overly complex, fear not as it really isn’t too bad once you get the hang of things.  Throw in ultra-finishers which allow you to execute awesome looking finishing moves, shadow moves and linkers, which are more powerful special moves, and the Instinct mode which grants you a buff for a short period of time, and you have yourself a very deep combat system.  Oh and did I mention the combo breakers?  At any point in the combo string you can break the opponent’s attack by pressing two like-powered punch and kick buttons together.  If your opponent is attacking you with a heavy combo string, and you press both heavy kick and punch buttons together at the correct time, you can break the combo and begin a new string yourself.  Watch out though as if you guess incorrectly you’re penalized and are unable to attempt another breaker for a few seconds.  There’s also a counter-breaker, which allows the attacker to fake out a combo breaker from the defender.  This adds an entirely new dimension of strategy to each fight.

The system is the perfect balance of give and take.  At no point are you ever just watching your opponent beat the living snot out of you.  Combos also utilize an interesting tactic called potential damage.  As you begin your combo string a meter is displayed onscreen informing you of how many hits you’ve successfully landed and a gauge appears.  Once it hits 100% the combo is broken and whatever potential damage you could have scored is completely lost.  It’s entirely possible to go from a 45% health bar depletion to only 5% because you failed to properly end your combo.  That’s how the system works, once the combo meter is filled, you need to ensure you use an ender on the next attack or lose all the potential damage you gained.  There are a few additional tweaks to this system though.  If you happen to have Instinct saved up, it’s the yellow meter under your character’s name, you can actually reset the combo meter, therefore granting you further combo opportunities.  The danger with this is that the longer a combo string is, the chances your opponent will successfully break your combo increase.  This juggling act is what makes the game so damn fun to play.

Killer Instinct3The Good:

  • The Dojo is a single player mode which shows players how to successfully use Jago through 32 trials.  It goes way beyond that though and actually teaches players the fundamentals of any fighting game.  Beyond just jumping, moving, and blocking, it explains how basic combo structure works, what frame data is all about, and then jumps into the specifics of this game talking about how to use all the different combo moves and systems.  If you practice enough in this mode you will become a better fighter, there’s no question about it.  Remember though, like with any fighting game, the more you practice, the better you get.  About the downside to the Dojo mode is that it doesn’t allow you to switch to other characters, nor is there a video demonstration for each and every trial, although there is for many of the highly complex ones.
  • Lots of unlockables to keep you busy.  Regardless of which gameplay modes you play you earn points which can then be used to unlock a wide assortment of goodies from the KI Store.  These items include new weapons for the fighters, or new costume customizations like new masks, or pieces of armor.

  • Everything you do whether it be online or off is recorded.  This means you can always go back, turn on frame-data, and see exactly where you went wrong with a combo string.  It’s a brilliantly easy to use setup that veterans will surely love.

  • The audio is surprisingly much better than I thought it would be.  It features a dynamic soundtrack that increases in pitch and tone as players fight.  If one player begins a long combo the music will slowly change, and when a combo breaker is scored it changes yet again.  It’s very impressive.

Killer Instinct 2The So-So:

+/- Pricing is both a blessing and a curse.  On the plus side everyone who purchases an Xbox One can download the game for free.  Included is Jago as the only playable character, as well as all the various gameplay modes.  The $20 Combo Breaker Pack includes all six launch characters (Jago, Orchid, Glacius, Sabrewolf, Thunder, and Sadira), plus two post-launch characters (Fulgore, and Spinal).  Finally there’s the Ultra Edition which costs $40, and includes all the characters from the Combo Breaker Pack, but also includes a digital copy of the original arcade version of Killer Instinct and an accessory and costume pack for the new version.  What this boils down to is that this game is actually a platform in and of itself.  At any point players who download the game can purchase individual characters for $5 a pop, or purchase additional costumes or accessories for additional real-world money.  The downside to this strategy is that there sure are a heck of a lot of Jagos running around all over the place.

+/- Online modes are extremely basic.  There are the leaderboards, ranked and exhibition matches, and that’s it.  While these all run smoothly, there’s no spectator mode, which is extremely useful for trying to improve your game.  It’s a glaring omission considering how excellent the Dojo is.  This would have been a perfect way to continue your lessons outside the Dojo, by downloading other players’ replays or ghost data.  Hopefully Double Helix Games updates the game to allow this functionality in a future patch.

+/- Having six unique and balanced characters is great, but in this day and age having only six to choose from, with another two coming early 2014, still feels a tad chintzy.

+/- Graphically Killer Instinct can be a mixed bag at time.  While I don’t really mind the new character designs too much, I do find them far less inspired than the originals.  On the other end of the spectrum are the glorious particle effects, the fantastic looking backgrounds and that rock-solid 60 frames-per-second frame rate.

The Bad:

  • While I love the fact the game is free, the lack of single-player gameplay modes dampens the experience.  All that’s available is the Dojo, a practice mode, and a very basic player-versus-CPU mode.  There’s no actual story mode of any kind.  This game was designed with tournament and versus play in mind.  The main objective is to use the Dojo to learn the basis, then practice to see which combo strings work together, and finally head online and put everything you’ve learned to the ultimate test.

The Ugly:

Jago everywhere.  The biggest downside to having a free version of the game is that virtually everyone you play against online will be playing as Jago, because they haven’t purchased any other version of the game.  That makes fights far less interesting than they should be.  I played ten ranked matches in a row, and only one of them featured a non-Jago combatant.

Killer Instinct4The Lowdown:    

Killer Instinct really surprised me.  From the fantastic Dojo to the excellent combat system, this is a game that was created with nothing but respect for the source material.  While I’m sure there will be some fans upset about the pricing structure, the fact remains that even for free you have full access to everything the game has to offer.  The biggest downside is that by only having one character available by default, you can expect to see said character all over the place, and that’s a bit of a shame because all of the characters deserve some time to shine.  If you own an Xbox One, give this one a download as it might just surprise you how much fun it is.

Final Score: 8/10

 

Ryse: Son of Rome Review

RyseRyse: Son of Rome (Available exclusively on Xbox One)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Crytek
Release Date: November 22nd, 2013

Parent Talk: I can tell you right now this isn’t a game for anyone under 17 years of age.  It’s rated M for mature because of partial nudity, blood and gore, intense violence, sexual content, and strong language.  As you attack enemies the action slows down and zooms in on brutal executions which feature dismemberments, decapitations, and much more.  This is an adult game through and through.

Plays Like: Most people will say it plays like God of War and leave it at that, but that’s actually not very accurate.  God of War features a wealth of puzzles, and the combat system is always a mixture of melee combat and magical attacks.  There’s no magic to be found here.  While the combat system is based around close quarters combat, there are a variety of other gameplay options like taking control of a small group of Centurions, commanding your army to attack key spots and more.

Review Basis: Played through the single player campaign on what equates to the normal difficulty setting, and played a few Gladiator arena battles online.

When media outlets started releasing their early reviews for Xbox One launch titles, Ryse was one of the games I was most excited to hear about, and after reading all the reviews, it was the title I was the most shocked by.  Everyone said the game was extremely repetitive, environments were too similar, and overall it was simply an ok experience at best.  Well after having completed the game, I don’t know what everyone was talking about, or if I’m just insane, but this is a standout title for the platform and one, in my personal opinion, that shouldn’t be missed.  It’s the type of launch title you crave for, an original IP with balanced gameplay and absolutely stunning visuals.  What’s not to love about that?

Ryse1The Great:

This will come as a shock to absolutely no one who has played the game, but the graphics are incredible.  They clearly show the early technical prowess of Microsoft’s new system.  Characters animate realistically, facial animations are some of the best I’ve ever seen, and the environments are both varied and ridiculously detailed.  From a crumbling Rome cityscape to a fleet of Roman warships, the action zips back and forth to many different locations, each completely different than the last.  Bushes and trees slowly sway to and fro in the wind, water causes ripples in puddles during the rain, and the particle effects from a smoldering boulder are wonderful.  There’s one scene where you’re making your way through a fog-filled forest that’s just spectacular.

Ryse2The Good:

+ The combat system is very easy to learn, and can prove rather challenging to master.  During any enemy encounter you have a basic strike attack, a strong attack, a shield slam used for blocking incoming attacks, and an evading roll for unblockable attacks.  You can also use a focus power, which stuns all enemies around you for a short period of time.  Each of these attacks can be used in combination to deliver some truly outstanding combos.  It’s not uncommon to see the combo counter hitting the high 60s.  Once enemies have taken enough damage, a skull icon appears over their head, at which point you press the right trigger to activate a quick-time execution.  The enemy will then flash blue or yellow and if you press the corresponding button fast enough, you will cut off one of their arms, slice off a leg, or impale them.  It all looks wonderfully brutal.

+ The purpose of executions are to help you replenish health, focus energy, increase your experience gained, or cause more damage to your enemies.  You can cycle between these options by using the d-pad, but can only have one bonus active at a time.  Once a character is in execution mode, it’s essentially an instant kill, and while hitting the correct button might not be super important on the normal difficulty setting, it becomes a must on the higher settings.  Failure to hit the right button doesn’t actually negate the execution, it simply lowers your bonus.

+ As you murder thousands of enemies you earn special points which can be spent on a wide variety of unlockables.  These include extending your health bar, making your focus attacks last longer, etc.  There are quite a few to unlock, but by the end of the game odds are good you’ll have virtually everything you need unlocked, but if you’re really anal you could use real-world money to buy gold, which can also be used to unlock  these skills.

+ Buying gold via micro-transactions doesn’t unbalance the game because skills are all locked to your rank.  For example if you’re only level two you can’t use real-world money to purchase a level five skill.  This is great because it doesn’t allow players to bypass the whole game, become godly, and finish everything in 45 minutes.  When I hit the end of the game I actually questioned why there were micro-transactions here to begin with given how pointless they are so long as you play the game.

+ Outside the sword combat Marius partakes in a wide variety of other duties.  From shootouts with archers, to my personal favorite, taking control of a small group of Centurions, the action stays fresh throughout the game.  When with your Centurion allies, you can march toward a group of enemies, using your shields to block arrows and lob lances back at them.  It’s also possible to tell your troops where to attack next, giving you some freedom to decide exactly how you want to tackle some of the larger combat sections.

+ Excellent use of Kinect.  You have the option of holding down the left bumper to tell your troops to launch their volley of arrows, or you could just say “Fire Volley!”  It works the first time, every time and makes it much easier than holding down a button, which takes a few seconds to register.

+ The narrative might be a little clichéd, but ultimately I enjoyed every minute of it.  At the beginning of the game players are introduced to Marius, the game’s protagonist, as he makes his way to the Emperor of Rome, with the city apparently besieged by barbarians.  When Marius meets up with Emperor Nero, he begins to tell the tale of how he came to be.  The story remains interesting throughout, and as I progressed I always wanted to learn more about the different struggles Marius went through to get to where he was at that point.

+ The game lasts for anywhere between four and six hours, depending on if you look for secrets or just hightail it for the next checkpoint.  This might sound a little short, but it actually works in the game’s favor as any longer and the combat would start to feel repetitive.  As it is now it smoothly flows from one combat sequence to the next perfectly.

+ The online co-op mode pits two players together in the famous Coliseum.  Before each fight the players select their gods for which they’ll represent, which grant them a special power.  This might be renewed health after every execution, or perhaps a focus recharge.  Each round the Coliseum changes its landscape so the action doesn’t become too repetitive, and the objectives also alter after a short period of time.  In all, this mode acts as a nice diversion from the single player campaign.

Ryse3The So-So:

+/- Boss fights can prove to be challenging and fun, but one of the oldest gimmicks in gaming history is featured here, replenishing boss health just to extend the battle.  The bosses don’t gain any additional moves, you simply fight them all over again, which artificially makes the boss fights last far longer than they need too.

The Ugly:

As seems to be the case with all these new next-gen games, there are a couple of bugs present.  Steven and I played a Gladiator online game together, only to have to quit out during the very last round because the enemies glitched and became stuck in time, impervious to our attacks.  I also experienced a bizarre glitch where the colors wouldn’t appear during execution scenes, meaning I had no clue which button to press.  Thankfully the bugs appear to be kept at a minimum, but they’re present nonetheless.

Ryse4The Lowdown:

Ryse: Son of Rome is the perfect showpiece for the Xbox One, and it also happens to be a fantastic game.  If you’re ok with an action game lasting around a half dozen hours, featuring a fun and easy to learn combat system, and some of the best visuals out there, Ryse is for you.  This is easily the best single player game on the Xbox One right now, and a true AAA action game.  Don’t let the other critics fool you, this is one excellent game.

For Sparta….err…For Rome!

Final Score: 9/10    

Microsoft Announces Xbox One Release Date

This is it folks, the Xbox One will be released on November 22nd, exactly one week after the PlayStation 4.  It will be available in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, UK, and the USA.  This also happens to be the exact same day Microsoft released the Xbox 360 back in 2005.  That’s pretty much all I’ve got to say about that.

On Online Professionalism, Transparency, and Critiques – Phil Fish vs. Marcus Beer Debacle

So Fez II got cancelled and Phil Fish quit the industry due to a culmination of a hate parade on him throughout the years, finally pushed over-the-edge by one Marcus Beer of GameTrailers. In this video, I delve into my thoughts in general of what went down and how we should improve ourselves as game journalists and fans alike. Please note that while I’m not taking the favorable way of going completely against Phil, I rationalize why and do fault him for certain things he has done and said. I may not completely know the details of how this beef came to be and neither I do recite the events in full chronological order, but the vital parts are mostly there. Besides, it’s not about the details here; it’s more about how these people acted in public.

Kick-Ass Pokémon 3DS XL’s announced

Pokemon 3DS XL

Two sweet new 3DS XL models have been announced today, and will be available on October 12th to commemorate the release of Pokémon X & Y. The hardware is exactly what you’d expect from a special model, plus each system will be packaged with either Pokémon X or Pokémon Y depending on the model you choose. I gotta say they look absolutely sweet so let’s hope a North American release is planned.

Sony’s PS4 Taking a Commanding Pre-Order Lead

Amazon set up a versus page on Facebook to get an idea of what hardcore gamers think of the next-gen consoles.  You can see the results in real-time here.  As of writing this article there are 35,177 people who voted for the PlayStation 4, and 1,953 who voted for the Xbox One.  That’s over 18 times as many people voted for the PS4 as the Xbox One.  Amazon.ca has currently sold out of its pre-order allotment of PS4s, while their Xbox Ones are still available.  Amazon.com has non-guaranteed launch day PS4s in the top spot of highest selling items on the site, Xbox One in number two, and launch day PS4s in number three, but five other PS4 items make the top twenty, whereas only two items make the list from the Xbox One.  While one retailer hardly makes a difference, Amazon is not alone.

Pre-war winner?
Pre-war winner?

Here in Canada both Best Buy and Futureshop are completely pre-sold out of the PlayStation 4, but you can still place an order for the Xbox One.  There have also been reports that Gamespot is nearing their pre-sell out, but their Xbox One pre-orders are still far from filled.  We’ll have to wait for confirmation on other outlets, but all of this points to the obvious, as of right now the PlayStation 4 is outperforming the Xbox One.

While the generation hasn’t even begun yet, gamers the world over have felt tremendously burned by the restrictions placed on the Xbox One, and consumers are speaking with their wallets.  So I pose a question to all you COE readers out there.  Have any of you pre-ordered a next-gen system, and if so which one, and why.  I’m curious to see what our own fanbase has to say about this.

E3 2013 – Microsoft Press Conference Live Blog & Stream

It’s that time of the year again. As usual, we’re going to be liveblogging the Microsoft Press Conference. Come and join in the fun! You can watch the livestream of the conference here! There’s also a twitch stream which I embedded below the live blog.

Watch live video from TwitchTV's Official Channel on www.twitch.tv

What Happens When You No Longer Own Your Games?

I know I’ve already posted a few articles about the Xbox One detailing the changes the system is bringing to the way consumers look at home consoles, and also also posing the question of what happens next, but there’s another, much more important question that needs to be addressed here. What happens in five to ten years from now to all the games you’ve purchased on the Xbox One? Let me explain.

When I buy a game on Steam or on console, the game is stored on my hard-drive or on a disc, and that’s the end of it. Sure some PC games have a form a DRM which requires I be connected online to verify it’s a legal copy, but much more often these games don’t require this authentication. They simply work, and that’s the end of it. Disc-based games just need to be plopped in the system and that’s it. Now that we’re moving to this neat little future where our games are going to have to be verified at least once a day in order for them to work, the question has to be asked, what happens when the next generation rolls around? Will all of these purchased games move with me, will they still require authentication, or worse of all, will they be gone for good?

What happens to niche titles ten years down the road when the publisher no longer has active servers?
What happens to niche titles like Vanquish ten years down the road when the publisher no longer has active servers?

If you say “yeah, sure they will” well will they? Look at the PS3 to PS4, or the Xbox 360 to Xbox One, absolutely no software is being transferred over. That means that all of your digital purchases will continue to work on your PS3/360, but they’re staying there forever. That’s fine because they’ll continue to work with or without an online connection, but with the Xbox One it’s not that black and white. You see the games you buy are being stored on your hard-drive, but since they require a daily authentication in order to be activated, what happens when the servers are closed down? Do we stop being able to play the games we paid for? What happens to NHL 17 when NHL 18 comes out? Sure authentication servers won’t require the same space as multiplayer servers do, but how long will these servers be around for? These are extremely important questions that need to be answered, because we all know that companies close servers down all the time. Even omega popular online MMOs will eventually be gone for good.

It’s a very scary thought to live in a world where we don’t actually own a single videogame we buy for a home console, but it’s certainly looking like that’s exactly what’s going to happen unless people scream, and shout. These choices being made can be reversed. This is not a hardware problem, these are simply business decisions that are being made and implemented into the software. Publishers, and Microsoft can change this on a dime if consumers speak loudly enough. I’ll tell you one thing, if there comes a day where some third party company can prevent me from playing a videogame I bought, even a single player game, simply because they close the activation server down, that will be the end of that publisher in my eyes. I will not support business moves like this because they’re completely, and absolutely unacceptable. How is it I can go back and play a game from 30 years ago, but now, in 2013, there might be a time when I can’t play a game I buy this November? The worse part of this is that the control is being taken away from the consumer, and that’s a future I really fear.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Given all the hoopla over the Xbox One news I reported on yesterday I wanted to touch base on an important fact, one that many people don’t seem to realize. If all of these restrictions do indeed make their way to the PlayStation 4, then I’ve got to ask, where the heck do we go from here? In essence our shiny new consoles will be nothing more than simplified PCs.

Is this nothing more than....
Is this nothing more than….

That’s something people tend to forget. Virtually all of these restrictions have been on computers for years and years. If I buy a game on Steam, it’s almost exactly the same. I can’t sell it off to anyone else. I can still play said game on another computer though, via logging into my account and re-downloading the game. That’s exactly what the Xbox One will be like, which begs the question. If the new Xbox is just a Steam-like system, what’s the point of having consoles anymore?

Ever since this news broke I’ve been thinking about this. If the home console market becomes too PC-like, then ultimately why will we even need consoles anymore. They’re inferior to PCs in almost every way possible, except they’re connected to our glorious HDTVs. That can easily be fixed with modern day PCs though. Almost all new computers come with HDMI-out ports, so just buy a super long cable from a cheap cable company for $20 and presto, problem solved. I know it’s a little more complicated than that for some people given the way they have their home setup, but seriously, if consoles blur the line between console and PC too much I don’t see how they’ll be able to survive.

...this?
…this?

PCs may seem like scary boxes, but they’re actually the most convenient way to play games. I can log-in to Steam and download a game in no time, I can even pre-install said game so at mid-night I can start playing right away without any need to download it like you have to do on consoles right now. Don’t even get me started on the Steam sales either, where brand new games can go on sale for 40% off in no time. Couple that with the fact that PCs can be easily upgraded so games actually look better over time, and you have yourself a very odd situation. The whole point of consoles was to offer something PCs couldn’t, a unified platform that was easily connected to your TV. In recent years that device has also become our hub for our entertainment, but the power and flexibility offered by PCs far outweigh those perks. Those perks may not even exist in a few more months if consoles become exactly like PCs, except that they easily connect to the TV.

In the end it’s all about exclusive games, and that’s always been consoles’ strongest asset. Where else can you play Zelda, Uncharted, Halo, etc. The thing is that if these machines become too PC-like in design, the first party content will have to be absolutely killer in order to convince the masses this is the right direction to take. It’s funny but the Wii U might just be the most accessible of all the next-gen platforms. Who saw that coming?

Will the Wii U be hardcore gamers' only choice come next gen?
Will the Wii U be hardcore gamers’ only choice come next gen?

So where do we go from here? Do these console manufacturers believe this new strategy will work, and won’t cause many gamers to move to the PC? Will people just sit down and take it in because they have no other choice? How exactly will this play out moving forward? Is this the future of the home console business and if it is, why do we really need consoles if they’re just simplified PCs?

Latest Xbox One Info – Updated

There are still quite a few things about Microsoft’s next-gen console that we don’t know about. Yesterday we learned a few extra pieces of information that I thought I’d share with you today. So let’s jump on in.

To begin with, let’s talk about this always online business. The latest scoop we have is that the Xbox One does indeed require an internet connection. While it might not have to be always online, it will look for an internet connection at least once a day, if not more. So bottom line, if you’re in the Navy and are looking to relax with your Xbox One while off duty, odds are you’re shafted.

The next piece of info is clarification on used games. Games will be directly tied to your Xbox Live account so if you bring a game over to a friend’s place, all you need to do is sign-in with your profile and you can play the game. What this means is you can’t sell the game to someone else and expect them to simply play it. In that situation they would have to pay a fee to activate the game on their console, which just so happens to be the full retail price. This should effectively kill the second-hand market.

Next up is confirmation on backwards compatibility and the lack thereof. The Xbox One does not work with any Xbox 360 hardware, or software. I mentioned this yesterday, but wanted to make sure it was clear.

One piece of brand new information we have is that the Xbox One cannot be upgraded with a new internal hard drive like the PS3. That said, users will be able to use external drives in order to save any/all media stored on the local drive including game installs, movies, and music. The Xbox One has three USB 3.0 ports, so this shouldn’t be an issue. For those curious, the hard drive included in the Xbox One is 500GB, so if you plan to download all your games, which may actually be required (still looking into that), you’ll need an external storage solution before you know it.

The Xbox One TV features that were showcased so heavily during the reveal will only be available in the US at launch. Some features will be made available to Canada, but for those in Europe and the rest of the world, these features will launch “later.” This shouldn’t be too surprising as there’s a lot of red tape to cut through when dealing with multimedia features, just ask Apple.

Crytek has also confirmed that their gladiator game Ryse has been reworked as an Xbox One title, and is in fact gearing up to become one of the big launch titles for the console. Microsoft said they have 15 games they plan to release during the course of system’s first year of availability, with eight of those being brand new properties. Now we know two of them, Ryse and Quantum Break.

The Last bit of info we have for you is potential box art for both the PS4 and the Xbox One. EA posted the following image last night.

xboxonebox-1369216258

There you have it everyone. We’ll likely get even more information today and in the coming weeks leading up to E3. Discuss below!

 

Update:

Tech sites have no chimed in on a hardware analysis of the Xbox One with the tech specs Sony released and the results may surprise you.  Both system have the exact same architecture.   What this means is that games will be easier than ever to port over from one machine to the next.  It also means that any hardware features that are better on one platform or the other will be much easier to make use of.  Before things were far more complex, and led to all kinds of weird textures, clipping and more.  That should be a thing of the past.  Now players can simply expect games to run smoother or look better based on the pure performance of the machines.

Microsoft was faced with a dilemma here.  They could pump out all kinds of incredible specs, such as the latest RAM, a beefier GPU, etc.  Instead they decided to go after the living room with their all-in-one Xbox.  This means the company has to ship the console, Kinect, and a controller all together.  Odds are there will be a microphone in there as well.  That can’t possibly be cheap, so they clearly had to draw the line on power or else the system would cost far too much.

Based purely on the system specs Sony is the clear winner here, however it might come at a cost.  We still don’t know the price of these machines.  Right now in terms of performance, let’s take shaders as an example, here’s the breakdown: 768 SPs @ 800MHz vs. 1152 SPs & 800MHz.  That’s a simple stat and require no additional programming, the developer can easily adjust the PS4 version of their game to a higher level and that’s it.  We know the system memory is as such 8GB 2133MHz DDR3 on the Xbox One and 8GB 5500MHz GDDR5 on the PS4, which means games should be smoother on the PS4.  Finally we know the system memory bandwidth which is 68.3 GB/s on the Xbox One compared to 176.0 GB/s on the PS4.  Again, these numbers might not seem like much, but this is the first time where two console have the exact same insides, meaning these numbers will be visibly apparent in the games.

So what does this mean, simply that Microsoft’s gamble is clearly on bringing in people who are extremely interested in having a one-stop shop for their gaming, TV, music and movies.  Sony’s goal appears to be to deliver the most powerful gaming console.  Which will prove to be the smarter investment remains to be seen.

Next-Gen Xbox Revealed

After months of speculating when Microsoft would announce their next-gen Xbox, we now have all the details. Revealed during today’s Xbox: A New Generation Revealed conference, Microsoft confirmed a wide assortment of details and features for their new console. Let’s kick things off with the name. Say hello to the Xbox One.

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Kinect 2.0

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Tech Specs:

All we know as of now is that the system features 8GB of system memory, USB 3.0 ports, an 8-core CPU, 64-bit architecture, built-in Wi-Fi, HDMI in/out ports, and a 500GB HDD. Further details are expected in the coming hours/days leading up to E3.

One of the very first features the company revealed was full and dynamic voice recognition. This allows the new Kinect to turn the system on, and realizes exactly who you are. “Xbox on” will turn the system on and boots into the new dashboard. The new dashboard looks similar to that of the 360, except that it modifies itself based on what you play, watch, and listen to. Kinect uses new smart technology in order to switch between live TV, Internet Explorer, playing games, etc. It only takes a a second to switch between whatever it is you want to do with the console. You can also use hand gestures in order to go back to the home screen, switch channels, etc.

There’s a new Snap mode, which allows the console to multitask (i.e run more than one app at a time). An example shown was watching Star Trek, while cruising the net about the sequel, on the side of the screen. Skype is also seamlessly built into the console, and will feature group chatting and more. Switching between all these different apps is done through your voice, and hand gestures with the new Kinect.

Xbox Guide connects to your cable-box so that it can scan everything currently on Live TV. It also shows what’s currently trending, and your favorites. The idea is to seamlessly have everything built into your Xbox without ever having to leave your system.

An interview with Wired has shed some light on two very big issues gamers have been fearing about the new console, always-on internet and the used game market.  Pertaining the always-on connection rumor, games should work even if the Xbox if offline, however if a developer decides to use the newly announced Azure cloud service, then the games would require an internet connection in order to work. In terms of used games, things are much simplifier, they won’t work, at least not as they used to. Games will be directly tied to your Xbox Live account and may even be required to be downloaded before they will work.  If you want someone else to play the game, they have to activate it on their account, which will cost an additional fee.  What they means for rental chains remains to be seen.

Much like the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One is incompatible with all Xbox 360 software, meaning all your Xbox 360 disc-based or Xbox Live Arcade games will not work with the new machine.  Sadly, we were expecting this after the news broke about the PS4.

Xbox Live will continue with your current subscription, and features many new elements. The biggest of which is cloud integration using Microsoft’s new Azure cloud service. You can record, edit and upload your latest gaming milestones as they happen. Xbox One and the new Xbox Live act as your own personal PVR for gaming, and it sounds very promising.

EA and Microsoft have entered into a new partnership, which will be revealed in the coming weeks (i.e. most likely at E3). EA has a new game and physics engine called Ignite, which is supposed to make sports games much more realistic than ever before. EA also confirmed there will be exclusive features for FIFA on the Xbox One.

Forza Motorsport 5 is going to be one of the biggest Xbox One launch titles.

Remedy Studios showcased Quantum Break.

Microsoft will publish 15 new Xbox One titles in the first year of release, eight of which will be brand new IPs.

Live action Halo television series will be coming to the Xbox One. It is being co-developed by Steven Spielberg.

NFL football will be coming to the Xbox One through a partnership with Microsoft and the NFL itself. Exclusive and interactive content will be pushed to the Xbox One all year long.

Microsoft confirmed the release date as “later this year.” I assume we’ll get a more concrete release date at E3 or shortly thereafter. E3 will also be where the company reveals their biggest exclusives.

They closed with the latest Call of Duty: Ghosts. Microsoft also confirmed all DLC will arrive first on Xbox One.