Its all excitement here at TiX Towers, with nearly all of the writing staff getting delivery of brand spanking new Xbox One X consoles this week! Some had to wait a bit longer than others but all is now good with the world!
And, the game which we have all been playing loads of this past few months is Destiny 2, so we could hardly contain our excitement today when Bungie have announced what their plans are for the new Xbox console, and the PS4 Pro.
In their normal weekly update “This Week at Bungie” – hosted at www.bungie.net – they announced that “On December 5, along with the launch of Curse of Osiris and Season Two, we’ll be deploying an update to Destiny 2 that will deliver stunning gameplay with high dynamic range (HDR) lighting to these new consoles. You’ll also see adaptive 4K resolution on the PlayStation 4 Pro and 4K on the Xbox One X.”
So, great news for all you Guardians out there – not long to wait until our eyeballs will be melted in Destiny 2!
Today I was very lucky to interview Codemasters Creative Director Lee Mather, and asked him about his thoughts on the performance of F1 2017 on the Xbox One X.
Lee stated that “The Xbox One X version has already been publicly shown at E3 earlier this year, and what weve been able to achieve is awesome. The Xbox One version is running at 1080p 60fps which it wasn’t on F1 2016, there is HDR support on Xbox One S and Xbox One X, and we have checkerboard 4K 60fps on the X with improved visuals on things like shadowing, mirrors and reflections on the car. We have really been able to capitalise on the increase in performance of the Xbox One X and get closer to a PC experience”.
Keep watching This Is Xbox for more from our interview with Lee, plus we will have a video of the first 15 minutes of the career mode and the review itself coming before the release date of August 25th.
A new trailer has also been released with new gameplay footage of what you can expect to be doing in F1 2017. I also had a hands-on today play test and its looking mighty fine indeed! There are a bunch of new features in this years iteration, which are below!
MASSIVELY EXPANDED CAREER:
Players can make history as they hone their skills and develop their car over multiple seasons in the Career. First they create their driver by selecting from a range of avatars, including female drivers for the first time, helmet design (including community created versions), race number and then the team they want to begin their career with. The Research & Development system is heavily expanded, with 115 upgrades now available, while the player also has to manage their engine and gearbox. Earn resource points by taking part in new Practice Programmes including ‘Fuel Management’ and ‘Race Pace’. The classic cars also take centre stage in the enhanced career mode as players are invited to race them in the new Invitational events.
NEW ‘CHAMPIONSHIPS’ MODE AND GAMEPLAY TYPES:
Championship mode allows players to experience unique race events following different rules and structures from the official Championship in both modern and classic cars. For example, the Classic Street Series sees you race the iconic cars around the six streets circuits on the calendar.
NEW CLASSIC F1 CARS:
Get behind the wheel of 12* iconic F1 cars from the history of the sport. The classic cars are also integrated into the career mode, and can be raced in both Single Class and Multi Class Races. Players can race the following cars:
1995 Ferrari 412 T2
2002 Ferrari F2002
2004 Ferrari F2004
2007 Ferrari F2007
1988 McLaren MP4/4* – (DLC car in F1 2017 Special Edition)
1991 McLaren MP4/6
1998 McLaren MP4-13
2008 McLaren MP4 -23
1992 Williams FW14B
1996 Williams FW18
2006 Renault R26
2010 Red Bull Racing RB6
ALTERNATIVE TRACK LAYOUTS:
As well as the 20 official 2017 circuits, there are four additional shortened track layouts in the game for the first time: Britain, Bahrain, USA and Japan. Players can also race the stunning Monaco circuit at night.
Race either the modern or classic cars online with a full grid of 20 players in both public and private sessions. The game now offers two dedicated “spectator” spots as well as improved multiplayer matchmaking, new online stats and levelling system, and all multiplayer session types.
The official twitter account for ReCore has spoken for the first time since July 3rd, and has teased an upcoming announcement on August 20th, which co-incides nicely with Gamescom. Nothing official, but it does seem likely that this will be the release of a definitive edition with HDR support and a new corebot also available. It may (fingers crossed) also get Xbox One X 4K support!
I must admit that ReCore passed me by, but Rich reviewed it for Tix and gave it a solid score, and you can read that review right here – ReCore review
Watch this space for the official news once its announced, presumably at the Xbox briefing, which we will try to cover in as much detail as possible as it happens!
ReCore is an action-adventure platform video game originally released on the Xbox One in September 2016. The story tracks Joule Adams, one of the first volunteers for the utopian colony of Far Eden, who wakes after centuries in cryo-sleep to find that nothing has gone according to plan. With her three robotic machines known as corebot companions, Joule ventures throughout Far Eden to uncover the secrets behind the failed mission. The open world environment of Far Eden is subject to exploration and the collection of resources. Joule’s weapons are color-coded to inflict damage on a particular set of enemies and, like her companions, can also be enhanced. The corebots support her in battle and puzzle solving.
One of the most lauded features of the 4K revolution, HDR (or High Dynamic Range), has hit Gears of War 4 this week, joining Forza Horizon 3, NBA 2K17, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
Whilst typically associated with UHD Blu-ray titles, HDR enables your TV to go beyond conventional 8-bit processing into 10-bit. Those conventional 8-bit images we’ve been enjoying up to now can deliver 256 values across each of the channels in the RGB spectrum—that’s around 16 million colours. So what do those two extra bits give you? Well, a whopping 64-times more colours, hitting just over a billion. It’s kind of a big deal, on paper at least.
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In practice, this means more gradations of colours, more details in bright and dark scenes, and more lifelike, realistic image reproduction. Scenes featuring complex, wide-ranging, diverse images can show off HDR in a particularly striking way.
Players of Gears of War 4 will of course be familiar with its beautiful visual effects, crazy weather, and bombastic action. As games go, there’s perhaps nothing better to show off HDR than this.
The following is a series of Gears of War 4 images captured offscreen in both standard and HDR mode on Xbox One S. Bear in mind however, you’re reading this on an 8-bit display. Due to the nature of HDR and its increased ability to deliver localised luminosity, these images should be interpreted as a typical approximation.
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As you can see here, the standard image suffers quite badly from bloom originating from the sun behind the mountains. As a result, the entire image is overly illuminated in an unrealistic way. With HDR, the display is able to reproduce both the peak brightness of the sun, along with the more subtle, realistic darker details of the wall. Light sources fall across the environment more realistically too, with the facing wall remaining dark whilst retaining detail.
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Even more noticeable here, the sun completely blows out the standard image. On HDR, the brightness and luminosity is retained but localised, with the sun bleeding through the clouds without sacrificing detail elsewhere in the image.
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Multiplayer effects are unsurprisingly more subtle, perhaps a nod by the developers to level the playing field a bit. Environmental details and surfaces continue to deal with light sources in a more realistic way, creating a more natural and striking image.
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Here, HDR gives us a furious sky with blinding brights and moody blacks, as surfaces like the bricks on the left and the metal cog on the right react to light sources more realistically. Notice the shadows under the brown-bricked building’s ledge and the architecture of the building to its right—depth is far more noticeable.
All in all, it’s clear HDR can add tremendous value to a game’s immersion and its ability to reproduce what the artists intended more truthfully. There are some caveats, however. Due to the increased range of colour and luminosity produced by the source, the resulting effect is an image that often appears to be slightly dimmer than its 8-bit equivalent, in order for your television to display the wider range it receives. Whilst this isn’t a problem for gamers in dark rooms, those playing in bright conditions may find HDR to be relatively redundant.
HDR is a new technology for consumers and it’s unsurprisingly riddled with complications. As is often the case with newer standards, there are several formats to choose from—and many of the most popular televisions can only reproduce HDR in certain conditions, with some only supporting the technology on one HDMI port. A bigger red flag for gamers though, is that some televisions don’t support HDR in Game Mode, ultimately sacrificing input latency for 10-bit images. The Samsung we tested HDR gaming on had no problems delivering HDR with Game Mode. Whilst we noticed an extremely minimal increase in input latency through a high-speed camera, it’s completely unnoticeable during gameplay.
In the consumer space, HDR is in its infancy. Just like any other case of early adopter syndrome, it feels like developers, platform makers, and players are all maturing with it together—and with 4K gaming just around the corner, it certainly feels like we’re about to embark on the next big generational leap. Colour me excited.
Microsoft had a thrilling E3 press conference earlier this year, bookended with two of its newest hardware offerings—the first of which was positioned as a sleek, 4K-friendly redesign of its 2013 console. Introduced as ‘Xbox One S’ (a throwback to its slimmer, much older cousin), it builds upon the original Xbox One in a number of important areas the original system was lacking. Ultimately, Xbox One S feels like a refinement of the original 2013 vision and paves a new path for the future of Xbox.
The New Design
The reimagining starts right away with the packaging. Clean, uncluttered, and simple, revealing a striking, minimalist console design that channels some of the key motifs of its predecessor. Gone is the bulky VCR-like exterior, replaced with an incredibly light, compact, and unassuming white object with precision-drilled ventilation holes, resting on an inconspicuous black plastic base. Similarly removed are the original console’s capacitive buttons—that’s right, the Xbox One is now officially cat proof.
Overall, this new design feels like a statement of purity and simplicity, exhibited perhaps most prominently by the lack of an external power supply. Despite this, the console runs unbelievably silent and cool to the touch—even more so than the original. This adds a new degree of portability for the console, which is great for people who travel a lot with their games consoles.
Microsoft’s new design approach extends to the new controller, now in ‘robot white’. With subtle texturised plastic grips on the underside, it’s light, balanced, and precise to hold—certainly their best standard controller yet. There are other hardware changes, too, with the USB-port on the side now moving to the front, along with the controller sync button, and the new infrared (IR) blaster to control your TV in lieu of Kinect.
Inside The Box
Back in 2013, on the cusp of the 4K revolution, Microsoft revealed that Xbox One would serve as a 4K-capable console—but unfortunately never actually delivered. Today however, Xbox One S is one of the most comprehensive 4K and HDR set-top-boxes released to date. The system has native support for 4K Blu-ray, along with 4K entertainment apps such as Netflix, and HDR support for games.
Let’s get this out of the way… 4K Blu-rays look absolutely jaw-dropping on Xbox One S. Despite a few initial HDMI handshake issues, the visual performance here is absolutely stunning. We tested Deadpool in UHD, one of a handful of native 4K productions available today. The level of detail and realism is incredible, with an even more superfluous degree of pixel-precision beyond HD, so much so that 1080p now looks positively pedestrian to the eye. Whilst visual performance is fantastic, audio formats are still relatively limited, with support only for Dolby Digital, DTS Digital Surround, and 5.1 and 7.1 PCM—there’s no support for Dolby Atmos or DTS-X here.
As you’ve probably heard, Xbox One S also adds support for HDR, or ‘High Dynamic Range’. This extends the standard 8-bit colour depth you’d usually see on TV, in movies, and games, to 10-bit. That means more colours, more gradations between colours, and ultimately a more vibrant, accurate, and striking image. This effect is perhaps most noticeable in areas of darkness and brightness, e.g. shadows and skies. Areas are more detailed and textured, as opposed to a flood of black or white.
Currently, you can experience HDR content on Xbox One S through 4K Blu-rays and Netflix—and soon, you’ll be able to experience them in games too, including Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3, albeit at an upscaled frame buffer. It’s also worth noting that whilst Amazon Prime Video has 4K HDR content in its library, it is not currently viewable on Xbox One S. Similarly, Xbox One S doesn’t include content support for Dolby Vision, an alternative HDR compression system that incorporates 36 bits per pixel (12-bit), so bear this in mind when picking up a 4K TV.
It’s clear that Xbox One S is an incredibly powerful machine for 4K media, both on disc and streaming. With so much support built-in, it’s incredibly disappointing to discover, however, that there is no support for 4K passthrough on the HDMI-in port. 4K broadcast TV is just starting to kick off here in the UK, with Sky airing their first live football match in full UHD just this weekend. As OneGuide on Xbox One S is still limited to 1080p, Sky Q users won’t be able to watch any 4K content through their Xbox One S. It’s unclear whether this is a hardware or software limitation at this stage but for those who use their Xbox for most of their media consumption—and not just games—this is sure to come as a disappointment. On a similar note, parts of the Xbox One OS don’t run at native 4K, so don’t expect a razor-sharp user interface across the board.
Xbox One S has a few other subtle improvements up its sleeve. Aside from its new design and its added support for 4K media, the system includes a number of internal improvements, resulting in a console that feels fast and fluid, in comparison with its 2013 predecessor.
In terms of storage, Xbox One S currently ships in a 2TB variant which, as ever, is expandable through its USB 3.0 ports on the front and the back. The hard drive is a standard 5400RPM disk—not the hybrid drive found in the Xbox One Elite Console, so external storage is still your best bet for fast performance. Only 1.6TB of the console’s internal storage is available to the user, however. This is due to the way storage is calculated and displayed on Windows, leaving around 200GB to the OS itself.
Xbox One S is without question the best Xbox yet, with refinements and improvements across the board—4K media support, a fantastic new design, and a more responsive OS all bring the Xbox platform up to speed. Alongside Microsoft’s regular software updates, it feels a lot more like a modern console.
There is, of course, a humongous elephant in the room here. At the end of this year’s E3 press conference, Microsoft revealed Project Scorpio: its next generation Xbox One. Still part of the Xbox One family and ecosystem, Scorpio is positioned as a fully 4K-native console for games and media.
As a result, Xbox One S feels incredibly transitional with its offering of 4K media playback and HD-resolution HDR gaming, pulling back the curtain on what Scorpio will be able to do. Unfortunately, it also feels like it’s leaving some of the Xbox One’s greatest features behind. HDMI passthrough into OneGuide, once a core element of Xbox One, hasn’t been upgraded to support 4K, and Kinect is no longer a native component of the platform either, now requiring a bulky, convoluted adapter sold separately from the main console.