PlayStation 4 vs Xbox One: Making the choice

Content Editor Dom prepares for the arrival of the PlayStation 4, he takes a look into the benefits and potential pitfalls of buying both new platforms.

When it comes to gaming, few periods of time are as exciting and buzz-filled as the months before the release of brand new hardware. The gloom of current generation graphics, interfaces and hardware units begins to lift as the air fills with lip-smacking anticipation.

And so, as those months whittle away to weeks and days, which one do you plump for? Do you shoot for Sony’s revitalised PlayStation 4 or do you place your fealty in the recently DRM-less Xbox One? Or, in some odd gesture of financial stability/stupidity, do you buy both?

I know of quite a few people who are choosing to pick up both Microsoft and Sony’s new consoles in November, and (if the ‘placeholder’ dates on retailers are anything to go by) and these consoles arrive in mid-November, that will be £780 in the space of a fortnight. And that’s not even counting the £40/£50 a game will cost at launch for each system.

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Choosing which new system to go for can be a huge decision

There are, of course, some of us who are simply more financially well-endowed (whether it be by birth or damn hard work), but my concern is less about what having two brand new consoles will cost, and more with the ramifications of having two competing platforms.

Over the last seven years I’ve been lucky enough to own all three of the major platforms, and while my Wii continues to depreciate in a dusty corner, I’ve flitted between my PS3 and Xbox 360 at random intervals. Having both consoles has given my access to some of amazing console-exclusives (the Halo games and the Uncharted series to name but a few) but owning both platforms has also brought a few devils to the table.

My personal gaming tastes can be rather fickle, so I could sometimes completely ignore one system for months at a time. During the PSN hacking debacle in 2011, I lost faith in Sony’s ability to support a reliable online service and fired up my Xbox 360 again. I didn’t turn it back on for six months. Likewise, when I decided to take advantage of the mind-blowing bounties of PS Plus, I barely touched my Xbox 360 for weeks.

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Ah, the trust Xbox 360.

My point, in rather a roundabout way, is that having access to both platforms does give you the freedom to enjoy the console-exclusives of each system, but you risk leaving a £350/£430 bit of kit to fuse into the wall while you enjoy the other. Yes, it’s frustrating to not have access to certain IPs when you decide on one platform (when the next Halo arrives next year, I will be seven shades of gutted when I can’t play it at home), but that system will get all the focus and attention that warrants such an expenditure.

And despite being someone who has genuine affection for my time with the Xbox 360, I know that feeling excited for a new bit of kit (and I mean really excited, the kind of excited you get when you’re a kid and a new console is a literal portal into the future) is a rare and precious thing. So, as I trade much of my current hardware and games in for a PS4 in November (or whichever month it arrives) I will happy in the knowledge that my investment will be pumped for its worth in the years to come. The PS4 will be my portal into the unknown, the DualShock 4 my means by which to craft it. I’ve pledged my allegiance to the PlayStation 4. Sony, be a darling and nab Halo for me, too. There’s a good boy.

@furianreseigh

Dom is a freelance games journalist and Content Editor for infiniterobots.co.uk. He is legion.

How will Microsoft’s DRM strategy affect the future of on-demand digital content?

While the means by which console gamers access digital content has come leaps and bounds in the last seven years, it’s still leagues behind the ease of access PC users have to digital downloads. And so it begs the question: how will the coming generation of consoles approach the tentative issue of on-demand digital content.

Steam has, since its inception, become one of the go-to places for buying ‘on-demand’ PC software. The handful of Steam Sales a year have become the virtual equivalent of survivors scrabbling for tins of beans at a petrol station, baskets filling with full-games at the price of a smartphone app. It’s not pretty – and some maybe argue such stark price cuts devalue a games long term worth – but it’s commercial and financial success is hard to fault.

And while services like Steam and Good Old Games exist as third-party platforms, they’re still giving PC users a day one access to a stream of content that grows on a daily basis. But with the next generation of consoles both sporting off-the-shelf PC components, will these ‘closed box PCs’ start to offer a similar digital service?

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Steam has become a staple for the modern PC gamer.

A shift in tactics

In recent months we’ve seen the first, and most significant, drive from Microsoft to sell the immediacy and convenience of their digital content. Xbox Live’ Arcade division has become as synonymous with the platform as the multiplayer features that drive it, but the presence of its ‘on-demand’ content has gone largely unnoticed.

And it’s not like we never knew it was there – but there’s something about paying full-price for a game that’s over two or three years old that somehow gets stuck in the craw. Do you want to pay £40 for a copy of Disney’s Bolt? When you can just go out and buy it in person for a fiver? Thankfully, this lopsided take on pricing has started to creep down of late, and Microsoft’s Xbox Live Sale has shown that ‘flash sales’ – and a more competitive approach to game sales – is clearly the way ahead.

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Can digital platforms really flourish, while a physical one still exists?

If Microsoft can learn a thing or two from Steam, then they’d be just as wise to pick up a few tips from the direction Sony has taken with its PlayStation Plus service. Beginning life as nothing more than a few discounts and some forgettable PS Mini’s, Sony has turned their premium service into a treasure trove of content. Admittedly, the free games you can download only remain for the life of your subscription, but if you’re a Vita owner (come on, one of you has got to be?) then you’ll practically never have to buy a game for it again. If PS Plus makes a successful transition onto the PS4, it could be the perfect platform for Sony to present its digital content in the right manner.

It’s also prudent to see these price changes on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live in context. Both platforms may well be approaching the end of their reigns at the top of the console hardware food-chain, but both sport hundreds of titles across a myriad of genres. With such a significant library of media, Microsoft and Sony can afford to significantly discount such titles without fear of undercutting their own regular price structure.

Digital vs physical

The bigger question, however, is how will Microsoft and Sony approach the digital release of new titles. Microsoft’s new approach to DRM, and its registration system for players using used titles, seems to be at odds with a possible ease-of-access mantra for digital downloads for new titles. A digital download is a one-time sale, while a physical copy can, potentially, be resold ad infinitum, which in turn would generate supplementary income for Microsoft via said registration fees. Microsoft has essentially turned the pre-owned sale of its Xbox One titles into another potential cash cow.

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The issue of DRM could drastically affect the way Microsoft presents its digital content.

Say, for example, BioShock Infinite was available for a direct-to-console download on the day of release (such as was the case for PC users). What percentage of users would’ve chosen to download a digital copy, rather than purchase a physical one? Having a physical copy appeals to some, but being able to cut out midnight waits in the cold or issues with delivery services could be a real game changer for how console users consume their content in the future.

A Steam-powered future?

Valve’s much rumoured, and much hyped, Steam Box remains the perpetually chaos factor in this regard. For a platform the world knows next to nothing about, Valve has created a potential generation-breaker. Yes, a ‘closed box’ console would remove the ever-evolving power of an upgradeable rig, but Valve could create a system that could match the PS4 and Microsoft’s console in terms of raw processing power.

Mix this with a download-only delivery platform that’s easy and affordable, and Sony and Microsoft has real reason to sweat. Removing the overheads of producing and shipping physical media – and the cast-iron reputation Steam has built as a delivery service – and you have a beast that could turn the console market on its head. Of course, all these elements are only speculation, but the potential access to content offered by the Steam Box is an exciting one.

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Beware the Steam Box.

The success of software like Steam, or EA’s Origin service, has had an undeniable effect on the on-demand services of the big three console manufacturers, with much of their respective on-demand titles becoming less expensive and much easier to find. And while Steam remains the realm of the overclockers, its success and its reputation speak for itself.

While Sony has been rather quiet on the issue of DRM and the PS4, the future of ‘on-demand’ content on next-gen consoles remains a starkly unclear one. While offering a digital version would allow Microsoft and Sony to directly control the pricing of their content, the dual presence of physical discs means there will always be a competitive element that undermines the whole process. The rise of digital mediums and the lingering presence of a physical one has led some manufactures to devise alternative means to generate income in medium that is ultimately there to make money.

For the now, the possibility of an all-digital future isn’t quite the assured reality we were all expecting.

Late to the Party | Pokémon Diamond

This week, Infinite Robots pops a cherry that’s almost thirty years in the making: Pokémon. And the game into which we take our first tentative Poké-steps? Pokémon Diamond on the Nintendo DS. Just give us a minute though, we suddenly feel very old…

pokemonI look at my relationship with Pokémon through the same prism of logic I use for all things Warhammer 40,000. I love the books based on the dark, bullet-ridden universe of the Space Marines (and I mean love) and I’ve spent many a night playing Fire Warrior, Space Marine and the Dawn of War games; but I do not get the table-top, dice-obsessed game the whole thing is based off. And try as I might, my love for the offshoots refuses to translate to the source medium that inspired it.

 

Gotta catch ‘em all (and spend all your mum’s money in the process)

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Starleys are the new Pidgeys.

Back in the day when I was a wee whippersnapper, I was obsessed with Pokémon cards (and I mean obsessed). I wasn’t that bothered about the TV series (to be honest, I found it a bit irritating) and my parents refused to by me any of the games. And while I could’ve bugged my old dear Ma for Pokémon Red or Green (or Blue, or Yellow), the whole thing looked a little slow for my ‘blowing things up/kill everything with a gun’ tastes. But the cards, eff me, the cards! My OCD-driven love to collect things led me into the arms of those God-forsaken Pokémon trading cards without a moments consideration. The foil packets! The thrill of the booster packet! Apologies, I’m wandered a little off topic…

And then, just like that, the phase was over. I know some people who still love their Pokémon cards without a trace of irony, but my tastes soon turned to other things as the years flitted by.

Enter the Diamond…

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“Stay out of the long grass!”

Recently, I’ve been on a personal crusade to clear out my pile of shame (it’s close to empty now), in an attempt to tick off a few games and genres I’ve either missed or failed to get into. And all the while, Pokémon Diamond has sat in a lonely, dusty corner – until this weekend. It was a Bank Holiday. I was feeling frivolous with my taste, so I booted up my 3DS. I haven’t put it down since…

Pokémon does have that unbreakable ‘it’s for kids, you weirdo’ connotation, but there’s something stupidly charming about it. And for someone who hasn’t properly played a Pokémon game before, I’m not that bothered by the 2D graphics and pretty basic sound design (Pikachu doesn’t even say Pikachu though?). But there’s something painfully addictive about wandering off into the long grass to blood your Pokémon or catch some new ones.

Getting your first Experience Share so you can boost your teams stats up or winning your first Gym Badge. 20 hours into my first ever Pokémon experience and I’m hungry for more. I’m not bats**t mental for it, but I want to see my Poké-pals (can you just add the word Poké to anything?) evolve into badasses as I approach the final battle with Team Galactic.

Where do we go from here?

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Ah, those first few, tentative hours.

The real question is, how much do the different versions differ from one another? Does the Poké-formula rarely change through the generations, or will the upcoming Pokémon X & Y be significantly different to warrant a purchase. I hear that Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver are held up as being the best Poké-experience out there, but will I get a significantly new enough experience.

But as I spend hour after hour wandering the lands of Sinnoh, I’m coming to the conclusion that Pokémon doesn’t really do new. Satoshi Tajiri and his team at Game Freak perfected the optimum experience long ago, and there are still clearly a million people out there still willing to lap up the chance to catch another 100 or so new Pokémon when a new iteration arrives in Eastern and Western stores. Well, a million and one now…

If you’re in the mood for more Late to the Party, check out our experiences with GTA IV, BioShock and 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. You can also check out the trailer for Pokémon X/Pokémon Y below, too.

Top Five | Movie tie-ins that didn’t suck

The movies that inspired these entries might have had a better hit ratio, but some movie to games tie-ins have been so bad they’re considered a crime against God (or a deity of your choosing). But fear not gentle reader, Infinite Robots has gathered together our top five best tie-in titles to restore your faith in the cross-platform licence. And yes, Goldeneye 007 is in there. Obviously.

#5 Batman Returns (Sega Mega CD)

top fiveRemember when consoles just played games? Back in the day, when the cartridge was king and the potential of 16-bits blew our minds, the Caped Crusader entered the gaming pantheon with the 1992 tie-in to Tim Burton’s sequel Batman Returns. With multiple versions released across the then current gen of consoles, handhelds and the PC, the Sega Mega CD version was considered to be the best iteration.

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Batman Arkham City? Pfft. We gots a Batmobile.

Built on the gameplay principles perfected by Streets of Rage a year earlier, Batman Returns really nailed the visual atheistic that made the superhero sequel one of the best Batman movies pre-Nolan. The game also included a couple of great driving sections, and the capacity of the fledgling Mega CD format allowed for some high-quality tunes that stepped beyond the chip-tunes of other platforms.

#4 Die Hard Trilogy (PlayStation)

top fiveReleased a year after the third Die Hard movie (Die Hard with a Vengeance – like you didn’t know), Die Hard Trilogy was essentially three different games in one. Developed in the UK by Probe Entertainment (who were like a good version of Eurocom), Die Hard Trilogy consisted of an over-the-shoulder shooter, a Time Crisis-style arcade shoot-em-up and a slightly clunky taxi-based racer. The PlayStation version was by far the best (the Sega Saturn version was beyond dire) and it still stands as one of that platforms best ever releases.

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It’s a little ugly by todays standards, but in 1996, it was AMAZING!

The level of quality did spike between the three parts, but the first section based on the original Die Hard movie is still ridiculous fun. Memorable bits include the super cheesy voice-overs (“Die, Cowboy!”, “NYPD! Hey! This isn’t even my jurisdiction!”) and a set of cheats that could make plants scream if shot or send enemies floating to heaven if you killed them. Racing to find a bomb-filled lift has never been so fun.

#3 X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)

top fiveThe movie may have incurred the collected wrath of the comic book and cinematic world, but the game that released alongside it pretty much inspired the exact opposite reaction. With a healing factor and near-indestructible adamantium claws, X-Men Origins: Wolverine finally captured the bezerker-filled rage of ol’ Logan.With a loose storyline that explored events in and beyond the movies narrative, the game let players leap into battle with an XP system that allowed for upgrades and extra moves that made chaining kills an endless torrent of fun.

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The Leap move. Oh, the Leap move.

Mr Howlett would take real-time damage, so you could slash your way around each area with your ribcage poking out (if you were that way inclined). With a number of voice-overs from the movie’s cast (including Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber), the whole experience is, by far, the best Wolverine game yet.

#2 Spider-Man 2 (PlayStation 2, Xbox, Game-Cube)

top fiveSpider-Man games, much like Batman ones, have had a history of entries ranging from the timeless to the turd-like, but the Treyarch-developed versions of Spider-Man 2 were a definite high-note for the web-slinger. While it did tie-in into the Sam Raimi-helmed sequel, the game took more cues from the comics, with a plethora of side missions and collectable content. The game also featured an open-world Manhatten to explore, which finally realised Spider-Man’s potential to web-swing around the city in 3D glory. Spider-Man 2 also proved Treyarch were a truly talented studio outside of the FPS genre.

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Have at you, Doc Oc!

With Hero Points (that was essentially a stripped-down XP system) and the ability to climb the highest of skyscrapers, Spider-Man 2 would offer the best web-swinging physics out there until Beenox released The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012. Spider-Man may have had the most game outings of any superhero, but Spider-Man 2 is up there with the best.

#1 Goldeneye 007 (Nintendo 64)

top fiveGoldeneye 007 in a movie tie-in list? The shock! The horror! Well, it might be the obvious choice, but Goldeneye 007 would serve as a lone highlight to the many bad James Bond games that preceded and followed it. And, being released two years late (and two years after the movie’s cinematic release), Goldeneye 007 is barely a proper tie-in, but it’s still a milestone in the FPS genre and a real saving grace for Nintendo’s 64 platform.

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Stealth gameplay. With an explosion,

The increased horsepower of the Nintendo 64 allowed developer Rare to step outside their comfort zone and craft a 3D experience that perfectly encapsulated the deadly skills of 007. The introduction of silenced weapons added a new depth of stealth to the mix, but when the action got hairy, Goldeneye 007 was a high-octane and brutal as any other FPS title on the market. It also came with a gold controller (in a special edition of the console). A GOLD CONTROLLER, for Pete’s sake!

Those are just some of the best tie-in games out there, but which ones would be in your top five? Get commenting and keep it infinite! 

Furian Fridays | A spoonful of reality helps the Xbox One go down

This week’s Furian Fridays sees ever-cynical Content Editor Dom Reseigh-Lincoln take a surprisingly optimistic approach to Microsoft’s recent Xbox One reveal.

Ah, there’s nothing like the vitriolic response to something new. We humans are creatures of perpetual habit, plodding about our lives in fear of the devil named ‘change’. But change, be he red and be-horned or not, is upon us. Behold, the eighth generation of consoles cometh. Lock up your daughters.

[quote] The days of this insular cabin console fever are about to be swept away [/quote]

Perhaps we’ve simply had our PlayStation 3’s and Xbox 360’s for far too long. We’ve become over-acclimatised to the green swish of the Xbox 360 logo and the overture of the PlayStation intro. But the days of this insular cabin fever are about to be swept away, as consoles with eight-times the power of what we’re using now fast approach.

A tale of two reveals

The reactions to the separate reveals of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One could not have been any different. Sony’s official ‘reveal’ of the PlayStation 4 seemed to show a manufacturer determined to show they’d learned from the complacent cluster fuck that was the PlayStation 3, providing a powerful yet malleable platform that would appeal to both developers and consumers alike.

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“Look at the box. Don’t look for any games. LOOK AT THE BOX!”

But there was an air of seething cynicism in the run up to Microsoft’s announcement on Tuesday. And with an hour’s presentation that focused almost entirely on the Kinect 2-driven user experience of the Xbox One, many left the reveal with something of a bitter taste on their tongues. “Where were the games?” they cried. “Where was the actual in-game footage?” they mewed. “Kinect 2? NFL? Live TV switching? Nice one Microsoft!”

My dear gaming public, have you learned nothing from the last 25 years of gaming history? As much as we hate to admit it, the gaming landscape isn’t the insular medium it once was. As soon as Sony popped a DVD drive in the PlayStation 2, it brought the games consoles out of the dark depths of its own dimension and into the blinding light of multimedia possibilities.

[quote] Yes, Steven Speilberg is going to shoot a Halo TV series in black and white, while a single red Spartan runs about symbolising something. [/quote]

The rise of online services like Xbox Live and the PlayStation network feed us constant access to new games and experiences, while streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and LoveFilm have become the new boxset; revolutionising how we consume our media. Games consoles are no longer defined by a single function, and to survive in a world of touchscreen tablets, multi-functionality and Smart TVs; manufacturers have had to ensure their consoles can offer you more than just a games platform.

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“There’s no place like games. There’s no place like games. There’s no place…”

It still plays games, you know

Yes, Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal was EXACTLY what we expected: lots of pretty words, lots of Kinect 2 demonstrations and a couple of middle-aged men from EA and Activision gushing about their respective cash cows. But it was simply the confirmation of the inevitable. Yes, your Xbox One console will allow you to snap between your TV signal and your game with a single command (if it works); yes, you may be able to enjoy sports broadcasts with enhanced settings; yes, Steven Speilberg is going to shoot a Halo TV series in black and white, while a single red Spartan runs about symbolising something.

But it will play your games. Just like your Xbox 360 did; just like your Xbox did. The past eight years have given rise to TV-based channels and other live-streaming services, but it’s also seen Grand Theft Auto IV, Halo 3, Batman: Arkham City, BioShock Infinite and Skyrim. Microsoft may have attempted to penetrate your cerebellum with advertising, but you’ve also experienced some of gamings most beautiful moments.

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Remember when GTA IV took your breath away, while you played it on your MULTIMEDIA HUB!

The Xbox One will be a direct descendant of the Xbox One, with a great deal more power under the hood and the potential to amazing things. Creating a pure gaming machine is a noble idea, but it’s a foolish one. We just need to look at the once great house of Nintendo to see how clinging to once powerful principles can soon poison your legacy, relegating you to a corner that’s rarely paid much attention. Having a multimedia machine will save you a great deal of hassle in the future. You’ll be able to watch TV, Blu-ray movies and whichever other media you want to consume, while having truly magnificent games a mere command away.

For those who can only see a console by its games, simply return to the basement cave you still live in at your mother’s house (that poor woman) and set your alarm clock for June 11. Then you’ll have your games. Will you be happy then? Somehow, I doubt it.

Dom Reseigh-Lincoln is the Content Editor for @infiniterobots. He is that red Spartan. You can find him on Twitter @furianreseigh.

Xbox One | Infinite Robots reacts…

Microsoft’s new console, the Xbox One, has been revealed to the gaming world, but was it a revelation or more of misfire for them? We’ve collected together the thoughts of our writers to bring you what the IR hive-mind thinks of Xbox part three.

– – –

Chris (Staff writer) says

chrisI’m the sort of person who needs to have the most up-to-date technology, and having had an Xbox 360 since launch, I am so, so ready for the next generation of video-game consoles. To sum up my feelings pre-announcement, one needs to look at the ‘take all my money memes’ that litter the Internet.

How do I feel post-announcement? I will still buy the console on launch day, though that excitement seems to have faded. Pre-announcement, limitless possibilities existed for the console; now we have the facts. I was initially wowed by the Kinect demonstrations and liked the idea of the Xbox as the entertainment hub of your living room. As a big NFL fan, Microsoft’s partnership with NFL made me weak at the knees.

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The Windows 8-style interface returns, but will it suit the needs of the Xbox gamer in the coming generation?

Given a day of reflection though, and my excitement was solely based around the ‘entertainment’ announcements. Then, when I really thought about the NFL partnership in particular, my cynicism began to take control of my thoughts: “Will this deal be available outside the US?” for example; or, “Will my console need to be connected to my Sky box to take advantage of the recording of live TV?”

While the games looked impressive, they didn’t really demonstrate anything new. Having EA unveil their latest iteration of FIFA scares me because it implies that the new generation will be iterative of the current generation. The massive 8GB of RAM opens up so many possibilities for developers, and EA seem to have harnessed the extra power into generating even greater realism.

Twitter: @mrfoofield

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Alex (Staff writer) says

alexThe newly revealed Xbox One looks to be a very capable multimedia hub. The seamless interchange between TV, games and HD Skype video calls looks very slick. The revamped Kinect is intriguing, offering a new range of possibilities for developers to play with. The console itself looks pretty swish, a brooding black slab of a machine. It’s just that none of these features are particularly thrilling.

I must admit, I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of Kinect’s microphone always being on. Yes, it’s useful for turning the console on with minimal effort, but the paranoiac in me is a little creeped out. Frankly, all these capabilities are great for the console to have, but I don’t really care about them. The overriding factor in console purchase for me will always be the quality of games available, and we’ve barely heard anything about them as yet.

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The Kinect 2 looks to be the linchpin of the Xbox One experience, but can it still function fully without it?

Sony have put rather more focus on showing off software thus far for their PlayStation 4, and it’s far easier to get excited over new iterations of Killzone and InFamous than it is the potential implications of cloud connectivity. The games we did see at Microsoft’s event weren’t exactly full of imagination and novelty. Of course, we’ll be interested in EA’s next-gen sports titles, but new IPs like Quantum Break capture the imagination so much more.

I don’t doubt that Microsoft will show us all manner of spectacular titles in the coming months, most probably at E3. They need to. With many people having concerns about the clampdown on pre-owned games, it really wouldn’t hurt to see more of Xbox One: the game console.

Twitter: @captainbeverage

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Shaun (Tech editor) says

shaunNow the dust has settled and the internet has had its vocal minority scream murder for not showing any game footage, I’m taking a very optimistic approach with the Xbox one. Looking at it from a business perspective; the Microsoft reveal was a solid presentation that far surpassed Sony’s inverted commas ‘reveal’. Microsoft gave us the console and we saw its vision for the future.

The console itself looks very non-descript and further enforces the notion that you’re not just buying a gaming console, you’re buying a multimedia entertainment hub and, if I’m honest, I’m okay with that. Of course, we’ll get a slim version a year or two down the line but this goes hand-in-hand with modern technology.

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The architecture inside the Xbox One – image courtesy of Wired.

If there was one negative to take away from the reveal, it was the excessive use of the word ‘TV’. We understand you want to dominate the living room Microsoft, but please, the majority of people watching your reveal aren’t the middle aged, North Americans you’re obviously targeting.

Now my internet rant is over, it’s time for some quiet reflection. Am I going to buy one? Of course. Will I love and adore the Xbox One as much as my 360? Of course. Do I care about the second hand game market? No, I’m old enough to afford the things I like which is probably why I’m part of a small minority actually excited for the launch. I use my Xbox 360 for all my entertainment needs, I am Microsoft’s ideal bitch customer: I spend lots of money on FIFA’s Ultimate Team, I subscribe to the various movie and TV streaming options available, I don’t shout at female’s on Xbox Live and I don’t send them abusive tweets.

Perhaps I’m just getting soft in my old age.

Twitter: @shaunielang

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Dave (Staff writer) says

daveHard not to feel disappointed by the Xbox reveal, if I’m honest. It’s been clear for a while that Microsoft is trying to move away from the gaming only console and is desperate to get a full multimedia system that does everything into the living room.

There were some cool announcements, predominantly the Halo TV show, but where are the games? It was jarring how little time was spent on showing software, when this is supposed to be a gaming console. Microsoft know how to make money, so maybe it’s right, and we core gamers are wrong. Maybe the console is what the masses want and will sell millions – but I’m a gamer and want lots of games, something Sony seem to understand better.

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The popular Xbox 360 controller design has been tweaked, rather than overhauled.

Blocking used games is also a hilariously misguided decision. A fee to play used games is going to affect the game industry in so many ways – most of which will be negative. Never mind the financial issues for many companies, what about the personal ones for the gamer. I can no longer borrow a game and take it round my friends to play, without having to pay more money? We have the Kinect 2; maybe for some that’s something to get excited about, but I personally thought they would have scrapped it – and it’s hardly been the ambassador for top quality games, either.

With a while until the Xbox One’s release, so a number of things can change and be added, but first impressions are far from good. I may seem extremely negative, but it’s hard not to feel let down after we’ve had a Microsoft console focus solely on games and the gamer, for the best part of a decade.

Twitter: @gamevana

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Dom (Content editor) says

domI can’t quite decide where I stand on the Xbox One, because we really haven’t seen much about it so far. The console box, a few staged tech demos and some pre-rendered trailers didn’t really show us anything, and it’s caught the ire of gamers and the gaming press alike.

The reveal, and the lack of certain details in the hours that followed, have raised some serious criticisms of upcoming hardware: how will the pricing structure of the new disc registration process work? How will it affect the pre-owned market retail has been so dependant on? And how integral is the Kinect 2 to the overall Xbox One experience? Members of the Microsoft fold have attempted to give greater clarity to these matters, but they’re likely to cast a shadow over the Xbox One until it’s well into circulation.

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E3 2013 could be one of the biggest in years if Microsoft and Sony bring out the big guns.

While it’s clear the Microsoft want to create an entertainment hub out of the Xbox One, they seem to be making a fuss out of nothing. We all own HD or Smart TVs – a single press of a button to select the HDMI signal is no real faff for anyone. But the last two Xbox consoles have been home to some of the best games of the last decade, so there’s no doubt that E3 will see some big guns blazing next month as Sony and Microsoft go head to head for your cash.

Twitter: @furianreseigh

So that’s our take on Microsoft’s new hardware reveal. Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter @infiniterobots to get the debate going. For more Xbox One content, check out our Facts & Figures article and our opinion piece on Microsoft’s pre-owned plans.

Xbox One | Will Microsoft’s pre-owned strategy be the undoing of the Xbox One?

The dust is still settling on the unveiling of Microsoft’s new home console, the Xbox One, but an ever vigilant gaming public and media has turned their eyes to the issue that’s continued to dog speculations on the new generation – the future of pre-owned gaming.

While Sony made it clear (to an extent) in February that the PlayStation 4 will support the use of pre-owned PS4 titles much in the same way the PS3 does now, Microsoft have taken a far different tact, and it’s one that could drastically affect both how we play games and the retail markets we all use.

Microsoft’s unveiling of the Xbox One was the usual affair of green lights, pretty trailers and questionable tech demos, but many details were still left unanswered as journalists departed Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Would the new console support the use of pre-owned content? If so, would this support reflect the relatively liberal approach used for the Xbox 360?

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The Xbox One controller – one of the many interactive elements Microsoft are building around it’s Kinect-focused console.

The new pre-owned model for the Xbox One will be based around a registration process between your Xbox One console and the disc you’ve bought. When a brand-new copy of an Xbox One game is purchased, you’ll download the game direct to your hard drive and essentially ‘twin’ your copy of the disc to your profile. If you purchase said game second-hand, you’ll need to pay an activation fee to be able to register the disc and it’s content to this separate console and profile.

Microsoft were keen to stress that the registration process was there to link the disc to your profile, so that, by definition, you could still use the disc on another Xbox One console, so as long it’s accessed via YOUR profile. In a recent interview with CVG, Microsoft’s corporate VP Phil Harrison went into further detail on how the process will work for second-hand users: “The moment I go home and notionally take that disc with me, you no longer have the ability to play that game. But the ‘bits’ are on your hard drive, so if you want to play that game you can buy it – you can go to the online store, buy it and it’s instantly unlocked and playable on your machine. All of the privileges I just described in my house would now apply in yours as well.”

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Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, showcasing some of the Xbox One navigation features.

Baffled? Well, one of Microsoft’s key mantras for it’s new hardware is an experience that’s tailored to you. Your Kinect sensor will automatically recognise you by your voice and/or image, launching a dashboard that’s built around your tastes and use of its services. But Microsoft does not want to lose the huge potential income that pre-owned games generate, so it’s shooting for a ‘pay for the privilege’ system.

And, while it was inevitable that one or more of the console manufacturers was going to react to the significant financial pool generated by pre-owned sales (a pool that these manufacturers have had no access to previously), Microsoft’s new approach looks to penalise owners of it’s console in attempt to create a true sense of ownership.

[quote] Will the retail price of a second-hand game reflect this additional fee – a fee that’s charged outside of its own business model? [/quote]

Based on the increased size and breadth of content eighth-generation titles will offer – and their migration to the Blu-ray disc format for physical media – the first two or three years of the consoles life cycle may not see a huge depreciation in the pre-owned value of a game. So will an Xbox One owner have to pay an over the counter price not far removed from the price of a brand new copy? And how much will this new ‘registration’ fee cost? Will it remain the same for ALL titles, or shift depending on the type of content or game it relates to? Will the retail price of a second-hand game reflect this additional fee – a fee that’s charged outside of its own business model?

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A pre-owned section in US-retailer Gamestop – is this soon to be a thing of the past?

The seventh generation of consoles has seen a boom in pre-owned games, and retailers such as US-based retailer Gamestop has shown that sales of pre-owned media has served as a significant proportion of their business. Some companies, such as EA, have even attempted to stem the tide of pre-owned copies by enforcing an online pass to their more multiplayer focused titles, but even this strategy has been abandoned for any future titles.

[quote] Will this prove a deciding factor in the coming console battlefield with Sony? [/quote]

Mircosoft have reaffirmed that this approach is “consistent with the way the world works”, but while it will prove another viable source of revenue for Microsoft, it feels like a strategy that uses a greater sense of personalisation to mask a further blow to your bank balance.

Will this prove a deciding factor in the coming console battlefield with Sony? At this stage, it’s impossible to tell, but with plenty of time left for Sony to reveal it’s own clandestine anti-pre-owned strategy, the age of economic gaming may well be put to the sword in due course.

For more information, including the facts and figures from Microsoft’s reveal yesterday, check our our factual guide to Xbox One.

What we want to see | The new Xbox console

As the hours countdown to Microsoft’s eagerly-anticipated reveal, we set down just some of the things we want to see from the new Xbox hardware.

A pure gaming experience

We all know that Microsoft are keen to tie their tablets and smartphones with the slightly lacklustre Windows 8 OS, but the new Xbox console needs to stand apart. While the option to stream content from services like Netflix and Hulu Plus has changed the way we watch TV and movies, the new hardware needs to be a pure gaming machine first, and an entertainment hub second.

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Netflix has come into it’s own on consoles, but will the new Xbox be a return to a pure gaming platform?

Don’t change that controller!

With the first Xbox controller being something of a misfire, Microsoft managed to design a control pad that perfectly suits ergonomic needs of a console gamer. The layout, shape and size has become so popular, the design is even used as a template for PC game pads, too. We’d only ask that the battery pack we of a higher-quality (or even be fully integrated into the pad) so there’s no more loose battery packs failing on us.

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Will Microsoft fundamentally change the controller or do a ‘Sony’ and stick with the same design for multiple gens?

More prominence for indie titles

Yes, Xbox Live Arcade does feature a fairly extensive library of indie-developed titles, but many small or individual developers have commented on the rigmarole of meeting the release standards enforced by Microsoft. Tearing away the red tape that’s dogged XBLA will be key in attracting more indie titles to Microsoft’s new console.

A refined Xbox Live

You can’t fault Microsoft and the Xbox 360 team for trying something new. From the old ‘blade’ system (how mid-2000s) to the introduction of the modern dashboard and the money black holes that are avatars, the big M have tried to create a fresh and dynamic dashboard experience.

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The Xbox dashboard has come a long way since launch, but it’s still too impersonal.

We’d like to see a greater sense customisation to the new Xbox dashboard. The ability to pin certain apps or links to your most played games was a great feature, but they’re far too deep to really provide instant access. We know adds for sponsors and new content we have to feature (this is Microsoft, after all), but a greater amount of real estate for customisable content would be a real step forward. Oh, and backgrounds and themes you can actually SEE.

My-Face-Box-Twitter

Ah, social media. Every loves to tweet/poke/DM and share their way to social nirvana, so bringing these elements into the new Xbox UI has to happen. The new profile UI showcased by Sony at it’s PlayStation 4 reveal earlier in the year teased the potential to combine a social feed with personalised gaming content (i.e. screenshots and captured footage). Linking these to quick-fire social media sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Vine will be key in creating a living and beneficial online community.

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The new PS4 UI. Can Microsoft respond in kind?

So what do YOU want to see Microsoft reveal for the Xbox 720/Infinity/Durango/whatever its going to be called? Do you want it to be constantly online, or do you just care bout them there shiny new games? Comment, comment, COMMENT!!! Oh, and for your PlayStation peeps, here’s the new PS4 hardware tease for E3 on June 10. And who say’s we don’t cater for our readers?

Late to the Party | 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand

Wearing grenades to a music concert? Profanity-laden dialogue? G-Unit co-op? This is Late to the Party, and it can only be the paradoxical enigma that is 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand.

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is one of those games that defies the logic of the universe. It started out as something completely different, had a rapper’s involvement thrust upon it and even survived being canned when Activision jettisoned it into production hell. And yet here it is: a game about a rapper blowing up half of the Middle East to get back the diamond-encrusted skull payment for his concert performance. And you know what? It’s great! I think I can feel reality unravelling as I write this.

Guilty mother-f**king pleasure

50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is one of those games that sneaks into the guilty pleasure lists of gamers and journalists alike, sitting there puffing a cigar while it sneers at your other favourite games. And, launching in 2009, it completely passed me by while I swooped about in Batman: Arkham Asylum or scaled Renaissance architecture in Assassin’s Creed II. 2009 was a big year for releases, so 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand was soon lost in a whirlwind of games with higher profiles.

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CQC combat? Rocket launcher, bitch!

Which is a shame, as Blood on the Sand does what it does really well. It doesn’t try to fool you with a faux-interesting storyline or deep character arcs either; you are, quite literally, a rapper who performs a concert with bullet belts and grenades strapped to him. You don’t get paid your quite reasonable ten million dollar fee, so it’s time to carve a path of explosive destruction through some sand-bleached streets.

It’s actually a pretty good shooter

Mechanically, the game is sounder than a lot of other third-person shooters out there. The usual roster of pistols, shotguns and assault rifles all feel meaty and suitably weighted. Enemies cartwheel with dramatic aplomb and the melee takedowns are violently satisfying (but with a single button required, can they really be classed as QTE?). It never tries to be anything more than a fun, pantomime-esque fantasy. Even the terrible voice-overs from Fiddy and co only serve to make the game more enjoyable.

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I want my diamond-encrusted skull, bitch!

Killing enemies scores you points, which total-up towards a final score for each level of the game. And these competitive scores, added to the amount of collectables you find in the game, add to the central mantra of Blood on the Sand: having a laugh.

Running around blowing up helicopters with a rocket launcher is pretty old hat for gaming, but with ol’ Fiddy screaming “Yeah, bitches!” while ‘In Da Club’ plays in the background, it feels charming and a little bit camp at the same time. It terms of creative kills, it’s no Bulletstorm, but the sheer amount of weapons and ammo available makes it a constant soundtrack of bullets and explosions.

Bang for your buck

Developer Swordfish Studios (now known as Codemasters Birmingham) managed to turn their hands to a new genre with Blood on the Sand (they previously made rugby and cricket games mainly) and created something that’s over-the-top and stupidly fun. It’s kind of like the anti-Spec Ops: The Line, a game with a similar setting that tried (and partly failed) to make a statement about the gun-heavy culture of games.

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Driving sections, bitch!

The mini-challenges throughout each level (kill two snipers before the clock runs out, collect a ton of cash in the allotted time, etc) just serve to add another splash of madness to the mix. Yes, this is technically a cover-based shooter, but unless you’re playing on hard, the game wants you to rush out and blow some suckers away with a bit of slo-mo Gangster (definitely not lifted straight from Max Payne) Time.

And, whichever part of the world you’re in, you’ll be able to pick up Blood on the Sand for next to nothing. Despite some pretty decent review scores and some respectable sales, Blood on the Sand is one of the those titles that’s been relegated to the bargain bin purely due to the over-saturation of titles available on home consoles. So for a few bucks/pounds/cursed-Mayan gold coins, you’re getting a satisfying third-person shooter that packs a competitive score system, a co-op facility and enough in-game challenges and collectables to shake a diamond-encrusted skull at.

Looking for more Late to the Party fun-times? Check out our recent one-night stands with BioShock and GTA IV.

Doctor Who | How to make an impossible game

With the finale to series seven of Doctor Who now out into the world (don’t worry, no spoilers), content editor Dom Reseigh-Lincoln takes a look at one of the greatest characters in fiction, and how creating the one true Who game experience isn’t as impossible as we think.

On paper, having such a storied history of content and canon should give a potential developer the scope to create a great gaming experience, but like Star Trek and Star Wars, having such a long tenure brings with it some dangerous ground for a Doctor Who game. Do you choose to bring an existing story to life, giving the player an opportunity to experience a monumental moment for themselves? Or do you choose to craft something new, written into the strands of fiercely-defended continuity? And with these, and a thousand other pitfalls, comes a legion of blood-thirsty fans. A proverbial Genesis Arc of loyal Whovians who will judge anything bearing the hallowed image of a TARDIS with the same precision judgement that every episode receives upon its broadcast. So what is a developer to do when faced with a problem like Doctor Who?

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The recent Star Trek game showed that a big universe equals big expectations.

A Time Lord apart

It all starts with a little gumption; to really exist in a universe of potentials like Doctor Who, the game would need to fit within the canon yet stand apart as its own memorable story. It would need to doff its cap to the rules of Who, while simultaneously sticking a finger up to them. It needs to take risks. A game based on Doctor Who needs to pick the gaming tropes that best suit it and craft an experience suited to the franchise, rather than shoe-horning the franchise into a particular genre (I am looking at you The Eternity Clock). Talking of risks, we should take a look at the first ingredient for our Whovian pie: Mass Effect.

Now stop rolling your eyes like that, Mass Effect may be one of the big success stories of this generation, but once upon a time it was just another sci-fi universe in a cosmos of them. When Bioware chose to craft a new sci-fi story and populate it with characters, story and peril, they had a tough job on their hands. We already had universes full of peace-keeping, braid-wearing Jedi; aliens with religious fanaticism and love for the colour purple; Space Marines fighting for a corpse-Emperor and a world where you could travel back to past lives and stab people in a crowd/ jump over stuff with style.

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The potential to explore space and time CAN be done, it’s just a case of how far and how much.

 

And yet, despite entering the crowdiest of crowdy genres, Mass Effect was a universe that built its narrative and rules to suit a gamer’s unique palette. From biotic powers that gave a player the power to do anything, to an imposing threat in the Reapers that would unite a fractured universe in survival, Mass Effect thrived because it changed the rules to suit itself. So, rule one, stand apart.

Just imagine it. Take away the Normany and the threat of the Reapers and replace them with a madman in a blue box. You can look into the heart of the TARDIS and a see a star map full of secrets. Do you travel to Skaro before the rise of the Daleks or do you travel back in time to see an Earth populated by Silurians? Such freedom is a daunting one, but it’s that sense of well-guided narrative that would keep things focused and fun.

[quote] He’s not James Bond, killing a hundred faceless henchman. He follows the same ideals as Batman or Spider-Man; nobody dies. [/quote]

Travel the galaxy… without shooting it

Ah death. The eternal constant in gaming. We kill everything in games. Whether we’re jumping on the heads of grim-faced fauna with Mario, to smashing in the face of survivors in The Last of Us, the act of dominant violence and digital murder are practically burned into the DNA of games as we know it. But The Doctor does not kill (at least not intentionally). He’s not James Bond, killing a hundred faceless henchman. He follows the same ideals as Batman or Spider-Man; nobody dies. The question is: how to create a game that doesn’t want you to kill, and still remain fun in a galaxy filled with threat.

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Like the Adventure Games, The Eternity Clock forced Doctor Who into the wrong kind of placeholders.

Stealth is, of course, one avenue of choice, but it’s one that the Doctor Who Adventure Games took a little too far. Available for free from BBC Doctor Who website, these fully-licensed and voiced adventures threw The Doctor and past companion Amy Pond into a variety of dangerous locales. People want to see the Daleks and the Cybermen in person, but the natural instinct for a player is to defend themselves when faced with a dangerous foe like that, not constantly sneak around them. But the Doctor isn’t going to create a biotic singularity or pull out a Needler. His greatest weapon is his intellect. And so comes the next ingredient: the modern buzz word of gaming, consequence.

[quote]It would be a sea of consequence, but one that could offer a huge avenue of different playthroughs. [/quote]

The recent success of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series showed that tension and threat could exist on different terms. Presenting The Doctor’s thousand year-old intellect is a tough challenge, but a do-able one if approached in the right way. The Doctor needs to have a way of viewing a situation, much like Batman: Arkham Asylum’s Detective Mode; this Time Lord Mode would break the environment into details rich with clues. A variety of different options to choose from; do you replace that piece of technology that’s missing over by that console? Or do you choose convince a blood-thirsty enemy to rethink their cause with some well-placed dialogue? Linking this to a record book, much like River Song’s blue book would be a great companion. Like Nathan Drake’s journal in Uncharted, a constant reference of clues and details collected over your travels would empower the player to think for themselves, piecing together a puzzle across the universe. It would be a sea of consequence, but one that could offer a huge avenue of different playthroughs.

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The interactive and hidden clues of Broken Sword are a great source of potential inspiration for a Who game.

Less is more (more or less)

Restraint is not something gamers are accustomed to these days, but certain set of limitations allow real greatness to shine through. Grand Theft Auto IV gave you a lot of freedom, but it gave you a set of rules to exist within. Sure, you can drive across a bridge at top speed, but if you hit anything on the way you’ll fly out the windscreen and probably turn to Belic-flavoured jam.

Limiting The Doctor to sonic screwdriver and his intellect may seem like a lazy way to fill an inventory, but the last of the Time Lords is part detective, part inventor, part warrior. The fun is in filling an environment with potential things to use.  Like a cross between the clues of Broken Sword, mixed with the sense of invention could get with the best RPGs. Maybe you can save the day with all those old parts you found a world back, it’s just a case of how. Gamers are the most savvy and informed they’ve ever been, and we all thrive when we’re given the tools to solve the universe’s most fiendish puzzles. Just as long as it’s not an endless series of QTEs and mini-games, the potential is like having the principles of franchises like Professor Layton and Way of the Samurai and combining their unique and addictive elements in the right way.

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The Walking Dead. Choice and consequence done right.

With Doctor Who being so well received across the world, and The Doctor’s 50th anniversary this year, there’s never been a better time to give him and his universe the adventure it deserves. The creative minds at Naughty Dog, Irrational Games, Starbreeze and Bethesda could be the prism we need to bring it to life. Hell, imagine Doctor Who with Kojima behind the wheel? Imagine that! Imagine what Rockstar Games could do? It’s just a case of the planets aligning and someone taking a punt on a certain traveller in a blue box.

Impossible? Perhaps, but the fun kind of impossible.

What would be your perfect Doctor Who game? Who would you want to sit behind the creative wheel? Is it even possible? Let us know and get the debate going…