How does Forza Horizon 4 kick things off? How good will it look? Where does it begin? What cars will we drive to the festival in? And where does the festival start? Enough with the questions – feast your eyes on this instead, what appears to be the opening 10 minutes of Forza Horizon 4, which includes a taste of all the seasons…
Microsoft have blown us all away with the announcement of five new studios to the fold of Microsoft Studios. The Initiative is the new studio formed in Santa Monica, California. Playground Games is the UK studio responsible for the Forza Horizon series of racers, including the new UK based Forza Horizon 4. Undead Labs are the brains behind the recent zombie survival game State Of Decay 2.
Probably the biggest coup is the purchase of Ninja Theory, who were the masterminds behind the recent Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, one of the best games of the last few years.
Completing the quintet are Compulsion Studios, who are currently working on We Happy Few.
Coming June 6, Gears of War 4 is getting its largest patch to date, Rise of the Horde, which includes a free 10 hour trial so you will have no excuse not to give it a go. The trial is available from June 9-15 and includes the entire first Act, full access to Horde and multiplayer, so fill you boots with 10 hours of free Gears of War 4 goriness.
The main focus of the patch is to give Horde mode a bit of a shakeup. Each soldier class will have access to three new level 6 skills – I’d imagine TiX’s Editor in Chief will like the magic bullet buff to the Sniper class, which increases headshot damage – meanwhile all existing skills can be buffed to the new level 6 cap. To help you on your path to collecting these new skill cards boss waves will drop a single random Horde Skill if you can defeat them. Harder difficulties increase the chance of a rare drop.
After a prolonged first run of the campaign on insane difficulty with Greg, the next piece of patch news doesn’t fill me with much joy – Inconceivable and Ironman difficulties – available for both Campaign and Horde. Inconceivable ramps up the toughness of the Swarm while making the COG weaker while Ironman pits you against the Swarm with just one life. Feeling brave? Take on Inconceivable with Iron Man active, but the best part of the patch… new maps. Gears of War 2 favourite Avalanche returns alongside Gears of War 3 map Rust Lung.
Rounding off the Rise of the Horde patch is a special ‘The Gear With The Golden Gun’ event. Armed with just one bullet in a Boltok, you must hit your opponent by hip-firing, land the shot and the bullet returns to the barrel, miss and you need to dig in for the longest reload animation of your Gears career. Finally, Season Pass holders will get a little something extra with a Horde Expert Pack and an exclusive Gear Pack that contains 5 of the new Horde skills.
For more information on balancing and the new ‘Wings’ re-up level, check out the official website.
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.
One of my favourite moments in gaming was when I picked up Metroid Prime on the GameCube. With lush visuals, fast gameplay and coloured weapon mechanics; I lost many hours to Prime. ReCore, in many ways, is Prime’s spiritual successor, albeit it’s played from a third person perspective. It’s quite a bold statement, but when you look at the team behind the latest Microsoft exclusive, you might also jump to a similar conclusion.
The studio behind ReCore is Armature, which was founded by key members of the Metroid Prime team. Also on board working with the team is Keiji Inafune, of Mega Man fame – quite the dream team – and the perfect combination to make one heck of a game, something that could factor into how high your expectations are of ReCore.
A plague, the Dust Devil, has ravaged Earth with the populace looking to the stars to find a new home. Far Eden, a desert planet, could be that world once an advance team has terraformed its surface. The bulk of the team is robotic, equipped with a variety of frames that have a central AI core. Humans are also part of the team but largely remain in cryogenic sleep aboard huge ‘crawlers’ until needed or something goes wrong.
When something does go wrong, protocol fails – the workers have stayed asleep – waking nearly 100 years later. Joule, the main character, steps out of her crawler to mayhem, trying to fathom what and why things have gone askew on Far Eden. When she realises that her fears are true and that the Corebots have gone rogue, it is up to Joule to put things right.
Thankfully there are still some friendly bots, loyal Corebots that were once each worker’s personal buddy – Joule’s is a robotic dog. Each bot that joins the team brings a unique and endearing personality, and most importantly, a unique skill that allows Joule to navigate the planet. The companionship between Joule and her Corebots is brilliant and something I really bought into.
Joule herself is adorable – a likeable and strong character that is excellently voiced by Erika Soto. In many ways she reminded me of Ren from Star Wars The Force Awakens. The robots chat away, which is displayed on screen in their language. While you can’t read it, Joule’s reactions give you a rough idea of what they are saying – again – similar to how Ren interacts with BB-8.
Suited with an ego frame, Joule runs and double jumps with speed. Her rifle is armed with various coloured ammunition – each one has a different buff – and when matched against coloured enemy cores, it does extra damage. The gunplay is slick, with the LT locking on to an enemy, allowing you to dash, boost and strafe around them while pouring in gunfire that recharges when not in use.
Not all bots can be destroyed purely with gunfire though. A tug of war mechanic is required to pull cores out from tougher boss enemies, and while I couldn’t grasp how to do this initially, it’s a great way to mix up the combat, leaving you vulnerable to attack while trying to yank a core.
Each weapon and bot can be upgraded by collecting scrap from around the planet and from the debris of destroyed enemies. Blueprints need to be discovered so that you can craft different parts for the bots, giving them new abilities and stronger limbs. Some of these are hidden deep in the game’s dungeons, most of which are optional.
Arena dungeons need no introduction – you simply have to beat waves of enemies. Traversal dungeons are tough platforming challenges and Adventure dungeons are a mixture of all dungeon types. Each dungeon pits you against the clock. Get to the end under par and you will have access to a reward.
There are also other challenges, like finding and shooting all switches and locating a hidden key. Each of the three objectives will release a force shield around one of three treasures should you complete the challenge – complete all three in one run and you will unlock the main treasure. All is not lost should you miss any of these parameters, for completing a dungeon you will gain a Prismatic core – the game’s key mechanic for gaining access to the main dungeon path.
The environment of ReCore is expansive and instead of stereotypical areas like ice, forest, water etc. Far Eden’s landscape rarely changes. There is some reprise while visiting the various dungeons, but they largely remain the same. Early on in the game there is a sandstorm, and it would have been great if this were a dynamic feature of the world, as would a day/night cycle.
I did find that my exploration of Far Eden was hindered slightly by the map. While there are campaign waypoints, you can’t create custom ones and there’s no in-game mini map. Those that have any sense of direction and a desire to explore will be happy wandering around far Eden looking for their next challenge. In true Metroid style, you need to switch between coloured ammunition in order to open corresponding doors and use the navigational abilities of your robot companions to access some areas, but there isn’t much backtracking, instead, these areas are off the main path – there for the intrepid explorer to find.
ReCore isn’t without its problems. Long load times as you navigate in-between large areas are a pain and I discovered the odd glitch where I fell through rocks – there was even a moment where I was trapped beneath an energy shield, which didn’t lift even though I had destroyed all the enemies beneath it. While challenging, the game isn’t tough either – which is just as well – dying isn’t just inconvenient it’s damn annoying when the loading times are as long as ReCore’s.
If you don’t stop to explore you will miss a whole heap of the game. Meteoroid Prime led you by the hand as the map was slowly revealed, while the openness of ReCore’s goes slightly against it, allowing you to stick to the main game and miss whole chunks of challenging gameplay.
The story of ReCore is great; there just isn’t enough of it. As I was just beginning to get excited by the events unfolding, the climax came too quickly. It was over. Sure there are plenty of side dungeons to beat, but the story left me unsatisfied – I wanted more.
The last area of the game is a culmination of previous battles and navigational challenges – like running a gauntlet of your previous exploits – it’s cheap and half-baked, souring my experience further. But… I really have fallen for ReCore (and Joule’s) charm. The gunplay and platforming is fantastic and I felt a part of Joule’s team. She is a wonderful character that deserves a sequel that polishes some of the game’s issues and the shortcomings of the story.
Thanks to Xbox for supporting TiX
Today saw the release of the official Forza Horizon 3 Launch Trailer, just days away from players being able to get hold of the game on Pre-order early access. Already winner of 29 awards at E3 including “Best Racing Game”, Forza Horizon 3 puts you in charge of the festival allowing you to customise every detail to your liking. You even get to hire and fire your friends whilst exploring Australia in over 350 of the world’s greatest sports cars.
Forza Horizon 3 is the ultimate celebration of cars, music and the open road, but if you still need convincing then download the free demo now. Forza Horizon 3 is available to pre-order now and will be on early release for Ultimate Edition holders on the 23rd September before going on general release on the 27th September.
Do you know what’s great about having a Man Cave? I finally have the space to display all the awesome Collector’s Editions I’ve bought over the years – want to know what’s not so good? The temptation to buy more and more editions to fill my room even further and the ReCore Collector’s Edition looks badass.
The figure is made by Triforce – a company renown for making excellent models – the downside is that the game retails at a mere £29.99 yet the Collector’s Edition is a whopping £149.99 – the good news is that this has now dropped to the far more reasonable price of £69.99 – and yes I have absolutely ordered this!
The edition’s centrepiece is the Joule and Mack statue, premium packaging, metal case, exclusive lithograph, and a Corebot alphabet decoder dial.
Here’s the GAME team unboxing that gorgeous figure:
Loot Crate the company that makes every month feel like Christmas, has teamed up with The Coalition to bring us a very special Gears of War 4: Loot Crate Edition. Packed with exclusive collectibles, apparel and more, this special mystery crate is a must for any Gears of War fan. Plus for the first time ever you can also add a Gears of War 4 digital download code to your crate so you can be one of the first to play on October 11th, however these supplies are limited so you must hurry.
So what’s exactly in the box?
- Rev up an epic COG weapon replica
- Find cover (even if you’re an Outsider) with a cool hoodie
- Swap out your canteen for high quality glassware & more
- Add the Gears of War 4 digital download to your bundle so you can play on Xbox One & Windows 10 on Launch Day!
- BONUS: Vintage Del Pack and Xbox 360 Gears of War collection included with digital game pre-orders
But everything comes at a price,
- The Gears of War 4: Loot Crate Edition + Digital Game Code will set you back $180 with shipping and handling.
- The Gears of War 4: Loot Crate Edition minus Digital Content will cost you $120 with shipping and handling.
Also if you get your order in before the 15th July 9pm PT (yep only 1 day left) you’ll receive an Early Bird Bonus of a 2″ Golden Lancer Pin. So if you’re truly a Gears of War 4 fan then this is a must for you. Further information about this awesome Loot Crate and other offers can be found at the official Loot Crate website.