Tag Archives: microsoft

Microsoft preparing for ‘Biggest Ever’ E3 show on June 10th

Mark those calenders people, as Microsoft have announced that they are planning for their biggest ever E3 show on June 10th 2018 at 1pm Pacific time, which means a late Sunday night for us Brits. I am not certain of the exact time for us, as the clocks will go forward (or back, never sure), which is one of the most confusing things ever!

Ahem, anyway, back to E3. Microsoft have also announced a new venue for their E3 shenanigans this year, moving to the Microsoft Theatre, which is located just across the street from the Los Angeles Convention centre, home to E3. This allows them to host their press conference, have Fan events and host their gameplay demos all in one central location.

I don’t know about you but I love E3 and all the lovely wonderful news that it brings to us gamers. It’s our Christmas Day! Do you think we will see new Halo and Gears this year? Let us know in the comments.

The full Microsoft press release can be read below.

Since Xbox made its first appearance at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 2000, Xbox has had a major presence at the show, delivering exclusive and powerful ways to let fans in on what we’re up to, and 2018 will be no different. In fact, it will be our biggest showing ever.

With the evolution of E3, now including fans and extended show hours, we saw an opportunity to create an entirely new show experience reaching E3 attendees and those that are following the show from afar. With that, in collaboration with the Entertainment Software Association, the organizers of E3, we’re excited to announce that Xbox will be taking over the Microsoft Theater, a perfectly situated space located in the heart of L.A. Live and across the street from the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC).

The Microsoft Theater will be home to official E3 events like the Xbox E3 2018 Briefing on June 10, 2018 at 1PM PT, various Xbox FanFest activities, hands-on gameplay and demos for all E3 attendees and more. Not only does the Microsoft Theater allow us to centralize our Xbox presence at E3, but it’s size enables us to include even more fans and partners in the Xbox E3 2018 Briefing than ever before.

In addition to the Microsoft Theater, we’ll also continue to have a meaningful presence at the LACC with a new booth completely dedicated to Mixer, where you can play, stream and interact with games and catch the latest E3 news live throughout the entire week.

These changes – expanding our presence, multiple venues, taking over the Microsoft Theater – give us the opportunity to bring together a variety of Xbox experiences into one primary location and, most importantly, let fans in on what we’re up to in 2018 and beyond in a fresh new way.

So mark your calendars for the Xbox E3 2018 Briefing for June 10, 2018 at 1PM PT to kick off the week of E3 with us. We’re excited and will have plenty more to share on our E3 2018 plans soon. Stay tuned to Xbox Wire for an update in April.

Microsoft announce the Combat Tech Special Edition Xbox Controller

Microsoft have announced the third controller in the Tech Series, the Xbox Wireless Controller – Combat Tech Special Edition.

The Xbox Wireless Controller – Combat Tech Special Edition embodies a traditional army colour palette with its classic Military Green base colour (the same Military Green offered through Xbox Design Lab), bright orange accents and military insignia. Like the Recon Tech and Patrol Tech controllers that came before it, the Combat Tech controller features a textured laser-etched grip on the front of the controller and rubberised diamond grips on the back to help you stay on target. The Xbox Wireless Controller – Combat Tech Special Edition will be available for £59.99 GBP and will start shipping to participating retailers on March 27.

The first of the controller in the Tech Series, Xbox Wireless Controller – Recon Tech Special Edition, launched last spring and comes in a sleek, dark grey military design. The second controller in the series is the Xbox Wireless Controller – Patrol Tech Special Edition that launched last autumn. It features a dark blue military design. Both controllers are available for £59.99 GBP at select retailers. No need to go Googling as here is a link to the controller on the Microsoft Store.

Xbox One Duke controller now available to order in UK

 

 

Sea of Thieves closed Beta preview

The long awaited Sea of Thieves finally releases this March, and to tease us further- and presumably iron out some of the bugs – the closed Beta has kicked off. We were lucky enough to set sail and enjoy what’s on offer in the multiplayer focus pirate sim, and so far we’re impressed.

Sea of Thieves

Indeed, the beta is pretty bare bones but gives you a pleasant feel for the missions and multiplayer hijinks, both cooperatively and competitively. Three options are available in the lobby: solo players and two player crews receive a two gun, single mast sloop while four players receive an eight gun, three mast galleon. The experience of sailing each of the ships is significantly different; turning circles, sail positions, multiple decks, everything is scaled up and made that much more complex to meet larger player numbers. It’s great.

The sloop is small enough to manoeuvre quickly and allows the helmsman to see ahead of them without too much obstruction. Meanwhile, the sails of the galleon easily block the view of the helmsman, leaving you at the mercy of your crew to help navigate the high seas. However, even with good visibility, navigating to specific islands really requires two people, the aforementioned helmsman as well as someone reading the map in the captain’s quarters and shouting up compass headings. Additionally, the sails need raising and lowing to manage speed, as well as angling to best catch the wind. Then there’s the dropping and raising of the anchor to stop and start your vessel, the arming and firing of cannon, and the patching up of holes and bailing of water to keep you afloat. There’s plenty of jobs for the crew to get involved with, and after a little practice you can become a well-oiled machine of pirating.

Sea of Thieves

Managing your ship is but one aspect of the experience, combat with other vessels and island fortresses, as well as going ashore on islands to search for treasure are also present. Right now the treasure seeking is facilitated through missions – or voyages as they are known in Sea of Thieves. These can be purchased from a vendor at outposts then activated in the captain’s quarters. You’ll be given a map of an island which you need to find on the ship’s larger map, sail to the island, then dig at the red cross, or sometimes you’re offered a destination and a riddle to solve to determine the whereabouts of the treasure. These span different lengths of time, with half day voyages taking you to one destination and full day ones taking you to multiple.

Completing these voyages means finding treasure chests then bringing them back to an outpost to sell them, granting you gold you can use to purchase new items. Currently, at least two of the stores appear to be closed, a mystical shop and the blacksmiths, however several others offer new equipment to buy as well as cosmetic items. The missions can then be repeated but fortunately the island destinations are random so it’s not a matter of returning to the same old islands again and again. Still, it does get repetitive after a while.

Unfortunately, beyond these treasure seeking voyages the islands don’t currently hold any mysteries or treasures to entice you to explore. The teasers and trailers over the past two years promise much more than the beta offers, it’s just a shame we can’t experience any of it just yet. However, sunken treasure can be found from the ruins of ships, with some of these treasure chests inducing a status effect on you while you carry them, so exploring the oceans has at least some reward. And venturing into the depths and facing off again sharks is truly terrifying, despite the cartoon visuals.

Sea of Thieves

Speaking of visuals, Sea of Thieves looks stunning. The carton visuals are crisp and full of character, meanwhile, remarkably realistic lighting really bring everything to life. Add to that some of the best water visuals I’ve ever tipped my digital toe in, as well as excellent, thundering cannon and firearms sound effects and a varied assortment of pirate themed music you and your crew can play with the instruments you carry, and you have top notch presentation.

But of course, the true meat of the game is when you face off against other players. The complexity of efficiently managing a ship mixed with the intensity of player verse player combat results in some heart pounding and truly enjoyable competitive multiplayer. Meeting another vessel on the ocean and exchanging fire through cannons, pistols and the neat sniper rifles you also hold, proves to be thoroughly entertaining, especially as you patch up holes in your vessel and desperately bail out water to try and keep her afloat. Additionally, firing yourself or a crew mate via the cannons onto an enemy ship is hilarious each and every time.

You can get a small taste of the combat and hilarity that can ensue from a meeting of two player ships in our video below:

When you die it’s off to a wonderfully creepy ship of the damned while you wait for a door to open and bring you back to life, which only take a minutes or so. When back amongst the living you respawn on or near your ship, allowing you to get back into the fight very quickly. This is a blessing and a curse. For those that have died, it’s a relief to so quickly get back into the action, but for the victors it means respites are few and far between and stealing another crew’s vessel isn’t really viable. Stealing treasure chests, on the other hand, is absolutely possible, so some good old fashioned pirating can still be done without resorting to sinking your victim’s ship, although the temptation is mighty strong. And if your ship does go down, all the treasure chest aboard are lost but a merman appears to teleport you to an outpost where a new ship awaits. It all works together to make the action intense and satisfying yet the lull after the battle short enough so the defeated can get back to pirating before any frustration kicks in.

Right now, beyond the odd cannon emplacement firing at you from an island, a few skeletons rising from the earth, and those terrifying sharks, there’s not much to fear during exploration. We’re sure they’ll be more to come when Sea of Thieves launches in March, and we can’t wait to see it. Already we know islands will hold more mysteries to uncover and a Kraken lurks beneath the waves, what we hope to see are AI ships we can engage, more quest givers beyond the creepy chap in the tents at outposts, More ship variety supporting large groups of players or fleet support for multiple groups, but I guess time will tell as to what the full package contains. Certainly, from what we’ve seen so far, we’re impressed and excited for March.

TiX Podcast S1E3 Game on Trial

Welcome to the new This is Xbox Podcast.

Join Damien Ashley and Adrian Garlike for a new episode of the This is Xbox Podcast.

In this episode Damien and Adrian put the high street retailer Game on trial, discussing their business practices, their relevance and what the future may hold for the retailer.

https://soundcloud.com/thisisxboxpodcast/tix-podcast-s1e3-game-on-trial

Podcast music by Bangmaid
Produced by James Gill
www.mixcloud.com/bangmaid

TiX Podcast S1E2 Post-E3 2017

Welcome to the new This is Xbox Podcast.

Join Greg Giddens and Damien Ashley for a new episode of the This is Xbox Podcast.

This episode follows on from the last show and discusses what was shown and announced at E3 2017. Greg and Damien discuss their thoughts on the conferences and their highlights with some of the TiX team contributing their own feelings in short audio segments throughout the show.

https://soundcloud.com/thisisxboxpodcast/tix-podcast-s1e2-post-e3-2017

Podcast music by Bangmaid
Produced by James Gill
www.mixcloud.com/bangmaid

Minecraft and Power Rangers Skin Pack

Today sees the release of the Power Rangers Skin pack for Minecraft Xbox One, Windows 10 and the Pocket Edition, for the price of £2.39.  Included in the pack are the classic Power Rangers and also a selection of cackling, evil villians, like Rita Repulsa, Bulk and Skull!

“As a teen I remember getting out of school, grabbing a snack and settling into the cartoon line-up,” explains Mike Fielder, one of the artists who worked on the skin pack. “Part of that routine was watching Power Rangers. When I found out we would be working on a Minecraft version of some of the character line-up I was pretty excited and even more so when I found out Bulk and Skull would be included since they were my favourite characters. I had a blast creating Minecraft versions of these characters. I hope everyone who uses these skins has as much fun playing them as I did creating them.”

Go go, MINEY Morphing Power Rangers!!!

Also available today is the Mini Game Masters Skin Pack on “Minecraft: Console Edition” for £1.59.

Halo Wars 2 review

It’s been eight years since the launch of Halo Wars on the Xbox 360, the perfect companion for those who wanted to experience the Halo universe from a different perspective. Clearly there was enough of a demand for a sequel and we finally have it, and thankfully it’s better than ever.

Halo Wars 2 features a lengthy story campaign as well as a comprehensive multiplayer, one that introduces a new variant to the RTS world in the form of the card based Blitz mode, more on that later.

Having spent three hours playing the game at a preview event early last month, I was excited to get my hands on the retail build of the game and really get into the campaign and its new story arch within the Halo Universe. Our review will remain spoiler free, so there’s no need to worry about reading on!

Taking place after Halo 5: Guardians, a new enemy threatens the Halo universe, and the only thing standing between extinction and humanity is the brave crew on board the Spirit of Fire, led by Captain Cutter. Halo Wars 2’s story feels much more accessible than than Halo 5 did, and I really enjoyed it. Each mission feels completely different; some require you to break down the opposition’s defences, while others require you to defend against waves of attacks. The final mission type involved capturing various points on the map, and as the story progresses the missions become quite intense, making for a fantastic experience.

The key to winning any battle in an RTS is how you manage your resources. Halo Wars 2 is no different, with the most important being power and supplies. Everything you build requires a set amount of each so it’s crucial you manage both well and efficiently, lest you’ll fall to the superior numbers and upgrades of your opponent.

Early on in the game you’ll learn about building your base, then adding generators and supply pads, before building other buildings such as garages, barracks and armories. As you would expect the garage deals with vehicles, the barracks create the infantry, while the amoury helps with improving weaponry. These can be upgraded over time, improving the health, power and capabilities of your units.

Managing everything via your controller is really simple, the RB manages which units you want to select, a single click will highlight local units while a double click calls all units. LB allows you to move across the map quickly, which is useful if you have units spread out. Certain units, such as spartans have special moves which can be activated using Y. The best move is the ability to hijack a wraith, which can make a big difference when the enemy starts to push you. You can single out different groups of soldiers or equipment if you need to move them away from a larger group, for example, using snipers to scope out cloaked enemies. It could have been really easy to mess up the control system but I felt comfortable almost instantly.

As the leader of the group, you have Leader Powers that can be activated and recharged during battle. These range from restoration drones that repair units within a certain area to Archer missiles, which can be devastating if used correctly. As the game goes on you’ll be able to make use of ODST drops, instant turrets and more. And with the Leader Powers being upgraded on the fly if you have the resources, they can prove to be a valuable card up your sleeve if you need to make a big push or quickly turn the tide.

I played the campaign through on normal difficulty, I did play some missions on Heroic and things really ramped up. Thankfully you can bring in a co-op partner to help manage the workload. I love the subtle touches in the game, the conversations that the AI have with each other while fighting and watching the machinery at your base build the equipment you require.

Playing against the enemy is one thing, but playing online against humans is a different ball game. Halo Wars 2’s multiplayer has a bunch of modes to play through. Skirmish allows you to fight across all the environments and multiplayer game modes with as many AI and co-op friends as each mode will allow. Strongholds is probably my favourite mode, in which you’ll need to capture and control the most bases when the round’s timer stops. There is also Domination and Deathmatch modes to take part in too. Deathmatch is brilliant if you want to see the pain in your opponent’s eyes as their base is turned to rubble.

Matches can take anything from 20 to over 60 minutes, and sometimes you may not have the time to get that involved. That’s where Blitz comes along. Blitz puts a twist on RTS gameplay by combining card-based strategy with RTS combat. Your card deck is your army in Blitz, you can choose a leader, that come with their own unique abilities, then build your deck in preparation for battle. On the battlefield, matches last no longer than 20 minutes and can be over in as little as 5. It’s a brilliant way to get in a couple of matches if you’re short on time, yet you still need to be very tactical to win.

As you would expect from any Halo title, the presentation is superb. The musical score had me mesmerised from the beginning, as did the audio in battle – get zoomed right in when you can so that you can hear all the workings of your units. The graphics are excellent, again in battle there’s plenty of detail to look at, although the maps never really jumped out at me as much as they might have done from a first-person view. The cinematics are sensational, it’s really getting hard to tell the difference between live action and CGI cinematics, Blur who worked with 343 Industries and Creative Assembly will no doubt very pleased with their work.

Apart from struggling with the higher difficulties I never experienced any major problems with the game, I had one crash but that’s likely down to the Preview Program. Halo fans new and old must play this, the battles are intense but hugely satisfying when you come out on top. The story had me gripped from start to end and I’m having a real blast perfecting my rather rusty RTS skills online. Halo Wars 2 is well worth your time.

Thanks to Xbox for supporting TiX

Screen Time and new streaming service ‘Beams’ to Xbox Insiders

Xbox Insiders – the name for those previously on the dashboard preview program – should now be receiving their update, with optimisations to improve speed and an overhauled guide that gives you quicker access to the most used features of the Xbox One.

Later this week the second stage of the dashboard will be switched on with two new features that parents and streamers may be particularly interested in.

Family_v2

Screen Time is a new parental setting that allows a daily time limit on game time, which is a superb addition in helping keep your little ones safe online and from playing games for too long – I can think of several parents that will appreciate this features, and several children who certainly won’t appreciate this. A similar system is already used for Windows 10.

Beam-Broadcasting_Xbox-One

Twitch’s integration into the Xbox One dashboard and the store has been really successful – broadcasting is easy and the platform stable (most of the time), and while Twitch is here to stay, Microsoft is offering a new way to broadcast – Beam.

Using a new streaming protocol called FTL, the service will offer streamers more instant access to start a streaming session with less than one second delay – it sounds good, but will it entice streamers away from Twitch? Check it out later this week.

For other exciting additions coming to the Xbox One dashboard this week, check out the full list on Xbox Wire.

Halo Wars 2 preview

It’s a cold and frosty morning in South-West London and I’m preparing for war, I’m put onto a shuttle bus and driven to the location of the operation, I think I’m ready (I’m not really) but there is no going back now.

IMG_2047I’m excited, I’m nervous but I’m all set to fight, with an Xbox One controller in my hand I begin my Halo Wars 2 experience.

It’s been 8 years since Halo Wars graced the Xbox 360 and at a time when there isn’t much competition about, this is a great time to jump back into this exciting Genre.

As I sat down to play some of the campaign I was immediately impressed with the visuals, obviously they were going to be better 8 years on, but everything was so vibrant and the detail on all the characters was incredible. Having only spent a small amount of time playing the original I was intrigued to find out how well the 343 Industries and Creative Assembly had managed to get an RTS game working well with a controller within a few minutes I was comfortably controlling my teams and leading the charge. I’m looking forward to creating an Elite controller setup to take advantage of the paddles.

A few campaign missions later we got to try our hand at some 3v3 multiplayer, this is where, for Halo Wars 2 is going to be awesome. As with any RTS there is a learning curve when it comes to building your base, managing your power and supply points, the first match was over in 25 minutes, my team were too conservative and didn’t upgrade efficiently so we were overwhelmed and had no way to respond. Teamwork is key, it’s important to know your role and talk to your team.halowars2preview2

We then got to try our hand at Blitz the card based RTS mode, if you are short on time then this is the mode for you. Choose a leader, build your deck and prepare to fight, the aim is to capture the different zones and score 200 points before your opponents, using cards to deploy different allies and equipment uses power which regularly drops during a match, so there is always a race on to grab some extra to deploy more powerful tactics. The matches last between 7-12 minutes so it’s a perfect pick up and play mode.

I got to talk to some of the developers who were on hand, they were really please at the feedback they were getting from the people there, they seemed have got the perfect balance between those who really want to dig deep into the multiplayer and those who don’t have as much time but will find Blitz as their go to mode. With a campaign to get trough too, Halo fans are in for a real treat in February.

Thanks to Microsoft for inviting TiX along to the event.

Xbox One S review

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.

Xbox One S console

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.

Xbox One S controller

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.

Deadpool in 4K HDR
Deadpool in 4K HDR

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.

Deadpool in 8-bit HD
Deadpool in 8-bit HD

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 Review Featured Image

Wrap-up

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.