Tag Archives: Xbox Series X

Review – Monster Jam: Steel Titans 2

Monster Jam: Steel Titans 2 builds on the bones of the 2019 original, putting gamers behind the wheel of even more of the utterly ridiculous big-tired behemoths of the track and letting them loose in all-new open world environments.

In-arena racing, destruction, and trick events won’t wow you, but they’re fun enough in short bursts even with controls that never feel quite right. The twin-stick controls, where the left analog stick turns the front wheels and the right stick turns the rear wheels, allows for true all-wheel steering so you can do those ‘on a dime’ spins the big trucks are known for, but it makes them incredibly prone to rolling over and leaves you at the mercy of a computer-controlled camera.

The game does include an RPG-like leveling up system, where trucks will earn experience used to level up the chassis, engine, suspension, tires, etc… to help improve all aspects of their handling. Even with that, I found it hard to get to a point where I’d say I was comfortable throwing one of these 1,400+ hp monsters into a drift around a corner or that I could hit the ground after a big jump without anticipating the near-inevitable rollover.

The career mode is lengthy, but events get repetitive quickly enough that all but true monster truck fanatics are going to want to space it out a bit by playing a few and then doing something else. There are a lot of races and a whole lot of trucks to take them on with – the full roster is just shy of 40 of the big metal monsters – so expect this to take some time to wrap up no matter how you choose to tackle it.

Where the game really comes into its own is in the five open world environments, which you can explore either alone or with friends in same-screen or online play. Jumping into these Monster Jam Worlds and bombing around with a friend is a lot of fun, and home to some of the more unusual physics bugs when vehicle collision physics don’t quite work out the way you’d expect.

What I Loved:

  • Open world environments are a great add
  • Multiplayer is a blast

What I Liked:

  • Lengthy career mode offers replay value
  • RPG system offers progression even in small play doses

What I Disliked:

  • So-so visuals
  • Events get repetitive quickly
  • Fighting the camera

What I Hated:

  • Nothing

The Final Word: Monster Jam: Steel Titans 2 is fun in short bursts and monster truck fans will love it, but it’s not the big step forward I’d hoped for.

Monster Jam: Steel Titans 2 is available now on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PS4. Reviewed on Xbox Series X using code provided by the publisher.

Review: On the Road – Truck Simulator

Truck simulators are common – and almost disturbingly popular – on PC, with Euro Truck Simulator probably the best known of the bunch, but it’s not a genre that’s really caught on with console gamers. A distressing lack of polish means On The Road – Truck Simulator is unlikely to be that breakout title, but it’s not all bad…

For starters, this truck sim really nails most of the audio. Jamming through the gears is great and the engine noise is certainly serviceable, but there are a lot of smaller sounds that add to the experience. The way the brakes squeal that little bit as you ease off them is perfect, for example, as is the pfft of the air brake and the little rumble of the cab shake as you roll the power on.

I also really liked how you could customize your seat position, pushing forward or backwards to get the field of view you wanted, and raising/lowering the seat to see more of the road or the instrument panel. Getting the seat ‘right’ is a tough thing in a real vehicle, and it’s just as difficult here.

You’ll want to get the seat right, because you can spend hours on these roads just cruising from location to location. This is a reasonable replica of Germany, though it only includes just over a dozen locations that you’ll visit to pick up and deliver cargo, with thousands of kilometers worth of virtual highway to drive.

Unfortunately, that’s the end of the things I really liked here. There’s a lot of ‘well, this is ok’ stuff here – from the thousands of kilometers of German roadways that you can drive to the feel of the big rigs you’ll be powering down them, expanding your company with new trucks, drivers, and routes  – but also a lot of ‘this could be a whole lot better’ disappointment.

Mirrors, for example, are an essential part of your driving experience…but they don’t work in On The Road. I thought it was a bug at first and restarted the game, but they never changed off a flat gray texture. It’s possible this is still just a bug, as the game has quite a few right now, the funniest of which is the way vehicles spawning in the distance drop down to the road like they just jumped off a ramp you can’t quite see.

The lack of mirrors makes cornering far harder than it needs to be, and though you can ameliorate this a bit using the third-person camera perspective that does entail fighting with camera controls that should be a whole lot smoother than they are. Getting the camera angle right can take longer than parking the trailer should have.

Adding to the frustration are obstacles like shrubbery or light poles that a big rig with a fully loaded trailer should – and have, in real life – be able to just knock over. In On The Road, however, those lightweight obstacles will stop you dead in your tracks leaving you prey to every other driver on the road, who apparently think nothing of smashing headlong into the rear end of a trailer loaded with hogs heading to market.

All this, and the game freezes up or crashes far too often for my liking…

What I Loved

  • Some great – and subtle – truck audio

What I Liked

  • A version of Germany that’s reasonable condensed
  • Truck feels ‘ok’ to drive
  • Expanding your trucking empire, hiring drivers, and managing routes

What I Disliked

  • Low-end graphics for environments – especially buildings and trees
  • Tons of pop-in couples with low draw distance to hurt visuals even more
  • Simplistic menus, with no explanations
  • Collision physics
  • Routine game freezes or crashes

What I Hated

  • Non-working mirrors

The Final Word

I think transport sims can be as popular on consoles as they are on PC, but On The Road The Truck Simulator isn’t the breakout game the genre needs to make that happen.

On The Road The Truck Simulator is available now for Xbox One, PS4, and PC, and is playable on PS5 and Xbox Series consoles via backwards compatibility. Reviewed on Xbox Series X using code provided by the publisher.

Trailer Reveals HITMAN 3 VR Gameplay

I have to admit I didn’t foresee HITMAN supporting VR, but the new gameplay trailer from IO Interactive reveals exactly that. 

The trailer – check it out here – makes it look great, which has me curious as to how it’ll play on PS VR. Situational awareness has always been key for Hitman, so restricting your view would up the challenge significantly.

HITMAN 3 arrives January 20th on PS4 and PS5, Xbox One and the Xbox Series consoles, Google Stadia, and PC. The game will also arrive on Nintendo Switch, playable using cloud streaming tech.

If you’re interested, HITMAN and HITMAN 2 are both on sale on assorted platforms and the games will import into HITMAN 3 so it’s a great time to jump into the whole franchise.

Here’s the press release:


HITMAN 3 VR Gameplay Trailer Revealed

New Trailer Reveals Key Details about IO Interactive introducing VR to the World of Assassination trilogy

HITMAN 3 takes immersion to the next level with PS VR. HITMAN has always been about immersing yourself in a living, breathing world. A world filled to the brim with interesting characters, secrets, and opportunities. But you’ve never experienced it like this.

HITMAN 3 will be available on 20 January 2021 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Google Stadia and PC. HITMAN 3 will also be coming to Nintendo Switch, playable via cloud streaming technology. Pre-order today for access to the Trinity Pack, a celebration of the World of Assassination.

Pre-Order HITMAN 3 now: hitman.com/buy

About IO Interactive
IO Interactive is an independent videogame development and publishing studio with offices in Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden. As the creative force behind some of the most talked-about multiplatform videogames in the last decade, IOI is dedicated to creating unforgettable characters and experiences using their award-winning proprietary Glacier technology. IO Interactive are developing and publishing the very first James Bond origin story with the working title Project 007. For more information, visit: https://ioi.dk.

‘The Kraken’ Update Hits The Falconeer Today

A free content update for The Falconeer drops this morning. The update, called ‘The Kraken’ adds new diving and exploration missions, as well as new locations. New tutorials will help onboard new players, and quality of life changes will help keep them playing.

I really liked The Falconeer when it launched – read my review here – and I’m looking forward to jumping back in to see the new content later today.

Xbox Drops ‘Coming Soon to Game Pass’ Trailer At ‘The Game Awards’

I have long considered Xbox Game Pass to be the best value in gaming and in my mind it’s not particularly close – and that was BEFORE Xbox dropped this Game Pass trailer at The Game Awards showcasing what’s coming soon to the service.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj5JBytPij4

Morkredd, Cyber Shadow, Neoverse, Killer Queen Black, Medium, Among Us (PC only), Yakuza 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Oh, and a little game called Skyrim.

Game Pass is currently available on promo with three months for $1 for new subscribers. No better time to jump in than now.

Xbox Series X Review

I’m sold on the Xbox Series X every time I boot it up. From hitting the button on the controller to being on the dash in about two seconds is still – weeks after getting my hands on the hardware – miraculous every single time.

There are all kinds of other benefits, of course. The games look better, even my old games, and load times are incredibly quick. I mean ‘no more checking Twitter’ kinds of fast, but I think it’s that near-instantaneous start-up that really sells me on the console.

Maybe that’s down to my specific circumstances as a dad of several kids, the youngest being three. My gaming time is sporadic – I might just get settled down to dive into the latest Destiny 2 expansion or my Yakuza: Like a Dragon adventure when *boom* someone wants my attention and I have to abandon it for a bit.

Gaming on a time budget was painful on the old consoles, with their long start-ups (outside the Switch, which isn’t that bad at all) and extended loading times in the games themselves. When you have 15 minutes to play something, you don’t want to waste a minute starting up the console and another minute or two loading into whatever game you’ve picked out. With the Series X, however, short gaming sessions are a lot more productive. I can get into a game and be playing in the time it used to take to start up the console – it’s, if you’ll pardon the awful pun, game-changing.

Also game-changing – literally – is Microsoft’s commitment to backwards compatibility. Not only did I log into my Series X day one with 1,159 games in my library ready to be played, but the majority of them look and run better than they did on past consoles – even the Xbox One X. The resolution and framerate upgrades were expected given the work the backwards compatibility team has put in on past hardware, and it was nice to see the improvements in games that had special attention paid to them, like Gears 5, but it was Auto-HDR, a newcomer to the feature set, that really impressed me.

HDR has been around since the 90’s, but it wasn’t until 2015 or so that it broke into what I’d call widespread adoption. Every Xbox console generation except the Series line predates that break in the adoption curve, so games from those gens didn’t support that expanded range – but now they do thanks to Auto-HDR. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved on a good HDR television is amazing, for example, and that game came out in 2003. How does it work? I have no idea, but it really freshens up those older games – especially ones with a lot of vivid colours in their palette.

OK before I just ramble on the whole time, here’s my Xbox Series X review.

PS and Xbox Cyberpunk 2077 Gameplay Footage Now Available

Following up on the recent release of Xbox One X and Xbox Series X (via backwards compatibility) gameplay footage of Cyberpunk 2077, the hotly-anticipated open-world action-adventure/roleplaying title from CD Projekt Red, now we have footage from the PS4 Pro and PS5 (again in compatibility mode) to take a look at.

Here’s the two videos.

Cyberpunk 2077 is slated to release on December 10th, 2020 on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Stadia. While it will be playable on Xbox Series S|X and PS5 via backwards compatibility, CD Projekt Red has promised a free upgrade to a full next-gen version will be available at a later date.

For more on the game check out the official website: https://www.cyberpunk.net/

Review – The Falconeer

The Falconeer continually reminds me of Sea Of Thieves, and it’s not just the stylized graphics or environments dominated by water – it’s something about the pace of the game.

This is a game I can fire up when I’m stressed after a bad day and just soar around the skies taking it all in. The game’s art style, like Sea of Thieves, just has something in it that works for me. The bright colours, the rolling waves, the gorgeous skies – it’s soothing to turn the HUD off and just take a low flight over the ocean, seeing whales jump out of the water and other random events, and not worry about anything for a bit.

When you’re decompressed and ready for more, the game offers up a combat system that’s reminiscent of Crimson Skies – only on the back of a giant falcon. Whatever bird you’re riding – the game offers up a few with different stats – has an energy bar that can be used to gain altitude, fly faster, do tight turns, or pull off evasive barrel rolls. When depleted that bar can be refilled by diving, which creates a balancing act between using it for gaining height and having enough left to use for your defensive moves.

There are also some environmental objects to keep an eye out for, including waterspouts that will give your bird a free ride to the upper atmosphere, lightning storms to recharge your guns, and jet streams that help you transit the long distances between settlements faster.

The story – a sprawling tale that will have you questioning what’s really going on in this world – is told over several chapters, and there are some difficulty spikes that will necessitate grinding out some side missions for money to upgrade both your bird, using potions that add abilities like more health or faster regeneration, or your weaponry. Early on there’s some skill check battles that will make sure you know how to dodge incoming fire or keep a lock on your enemy as you battle in a WWII style furball of tightly-circling combatants, but for the most part it’s simply a matter of ‘my guns are doing enough damage, I need new guns’ damage checks.

Falconeer’s story throws you through several factions as you switch falconeers at key points to give you some perspective on the other cultures at play in the world. It’s an interesting approach that allows for some of the twists and betrayals to really hit home for those who are paying attention and not simply waiting until they can go fly again.

For as fun as combat is, and I didn’t namecheck the legendary Crimson Skies without good reason, I had just as much fun in The Falconeer simply roaming the skies taking it all in. This is a world with personality, and I still want to see what else it has to offer.

I played on both the Xbox One X and Xbox Series X, and while the new console has a decided edge in load times it was a great experience on both. The game offers up 4K resolution at 60 fps on the Series X, and upscaled 4K at 60 fps on the One X. The Series X also offers up an upscaled 4K at 120 fps mode that is incredibly smooth if you have the monitor or TV to take advantage of it.

What I Loved:

  • Great dogfights
  • Gorgeous environments
  • Super relaxing feel to the non-combat moments
  • Rock-solid performance
  • Great photo mode

What I liked:

  • ‘play at your own pace’ style allows players to explore when they want, for as long as they want
  • Bird/weapon upgrades are kept simple – no need to read pages of stats to figure things out
  • A game you can jump back into just to explore
  • Story beats that really work thanks to seeing every side of the conflict

What I Disliked:

  • Difficulty spikes that force you to grind out cash
  • Could have used more mission variety

What I Hated:

  • Nothing

The Falconeer is available now on Xbox consoles and PC for $38.99 Canadian. Reviewed on Xbox One X and Xbox Series X using code provided for review.

Watch Dogs: Legion Now Available

Ubisoft Toronto’s stealth action title has now hit retail on PS4, PC, and Xbox One. Rated M for Mature, the title lets gamers explore near-future London as…literally anyone.

I know, I didn’t believe it either but – as I said in my review – it’s true.

Here’s the press release:


WATCH DOGS®: LEGION NOW AVAILABLE

Mask Up and Join the Resistance

Montreal – OCTOBER 29, 2020 – Ubisoft® announced today that the highly-anticipated video game, Watch Dogs®: Legion, is now available worldwide on Xbox One, PlayStation®4, the Epic Games Store and Ubisoft Store on Windows PC, Stadia and Ubisoft+*, Ubisoft’s subscription service. The game is rated M for Mature. Watch Dogs: Legion will also release on Xbox Series X | S and Amazon Luna on November 10 and digitally on PlayStation®5 alongside the console on November 12. The physical version of the game on PlayStation®5 will be available on November 24.

Built with a next-gen concept, Watch Dogs: Legion introduces “Play as Anyone,” a never-before-seen gameplay innovation created by Ubisoft Toronto**, the studio behind Watch Dogs: Legion. Play as Anyone gives players the entire city of London to choose for their roster of resistance members. Every single person in the open world can be recruited and played, is unique and has a backstory, personality and skillset. Watch Dogs: Legion will also support hardware-accelerated DirectX Raytracing on Xbox Series X and full ray-tracing support on Nvidia RTX-equipped PC devices, bringing real-time ray-tracing reflections to the streets of London. Players who purchase Watch Dogs: Legion on Xbox One or PlayStation®4 will be able to upgrade their game to the next-gen version (Xbox Series X or PlayStation®5) at no additional cost,*** while keeping their progression and in-game content between current and next-generation of consoles within the same family thanks to the new Ubisoft Connect ecosystem. 

In Watch Dogs: Legion, London is facing its downfall. Amidst the growing unrest of a restless London, an unknown entity named Zero-Day has framed secret underground resistance DedSec for coordinated bombings across London. In the aftermath, criminal opportunists from every corner of London took hold and filled the void left by a defeated government. As a member of DedSec, players will be going up against those criminal opportunists in Watch Dogs: Legion: sadists, mercenaries, cybercriminals, and more, so they’ll have to be prepared for a variety of situations. Players must recruit members into their DedSec Resistance to take on these criminal opportunists, liberate London and uncover the identity of Zero-Day.

Players who acquire the Season Pass of Watch Dogs: Legion will get access to Watch Dogs: Legion – Bloodline, a new storyline which includes Aiden Pearce from the original Watch Dogs game and Wrench from Watch Dogs 2, fully playable in the single player campaign and online. Additionally, players will be introduced to Darcy, a member of the Assassin Order, thanks to a crossover with Assassin’s Creed®; and Mina, a subject of transhuman experiments, who possesses the ability to mind control individuals. In addition to the unique playable characters and Watch Dogs: Legion – Bloodline story expansion, the Season Pass will offer extra DedSec missions, the original Watch Dogs Complete Edition from 2014****, and more. The Season Pass of Watch Dogs: Legion is available for purchase as part of the Gold, Ultimate and Collector editions.

The Online multiplayer mode of Watch Dogs: Legion will be available on December 3 as part of a free game update for all Watch Dogs: Legion players. Watch Dogs: Legion has a robust post-launch plan that will bring fresh content to the single-player mode and introduce online multiplayer modes.  

Watch Dogs: Legion has a variety of accessibility options, ranging from fully customizable controls to directional audio captions. A full list of accessibility options can be found on news.ubisoft.com.

With Ubisoft Connect, the ideal destination to connect with friends or participate in game events and activities, Watch Dogs: Legion also brings new exciting time-limited and community challenges, as well as a cross-game loyalty system that lets players earn an uncapped amount of Units to spend on unique rewards, like weapons, outfits and consumables. For more information on Ubisoft Connect, please visit ubisoftconnect.com.

For the latest news on Watch Dogs: Legion and all of Ubisoft’s games, please visit news.ubisoft.com.

For more information about Watch Dogs: Legion, please visit watchdogs.com, and join the conversation by using #watchdogslegion.

*$19.99 per month. Cancel anytime. The Ultimate Edition (Excluding VIP status) will be available as part of a Ubisoft+ subscription. More information at ubisoft-plus.com.

**Associate studios are Ubisoft Montreal, Paris, Bucharest, Kiev, Newcastle and Massive Entertainment, a Ubisoft Studio.

***Watch Dogs: Legion leverages Smart Delivery allowing access to both the Xbox One title and Xbox Series X title when available. Watch Dogs: Legion PlayStation 4 Digital and Blu-Ray games gives access to the corresponding Watch Dogs: Legion PlayStation 5 Digital version at no additional cost, when available. Requires a PlayStation 5 or a PlayStation 5 Digital Edition, the game disc (if owned on Blu-Ray) must be kept inserted in the PlayStation 5 disc tray to play, a PlayStationNetwork registration, additional storage & Broadband internet connection. May incur bandwidth usage fees.

****Stadia players will be able to access Watch Dogs Complete Edition later this year, while all other platforms will have access in available territories when Watch Dogs: Legion launches.


ABOUT WATCH DOGS
Watch Dogs launched in 2014 as the video game industry’s best-selling new IP at launch. To-date, the award-winning franchise has sold more than 40 million games worldwide. The hacker series extends to other entertainment media, including books and comics. The next opus in the franchise, Watch Dogs: Legion, released on October 29, 2020.

ABOUT UBISOFT
Ubisoft is a leading creator, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment and services, with a rich portfolio of world-renowned brands, including Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, For Honor, Just Dance, Watch Dogs, Tom Clancy’s video game series including Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six and The Division. The teams throughout Ubisoft’s worldwide network of studios and business offices are committed to delivering original and memorable gaming experiences across all popular platforms, including consoles, mobile phones, tablets and PCs. For the 2019–20 fiscal year, Ubisoft generated net bookings of €1,534 million. To learn more, please visit: www.ubisoftgroup.com.

Review – Watch Dogs: Legion

I didn’t really understand the full impact of Ubisoft Toronto’s ‘Play As Anyone’ tagline for Watch Dogs: Legion until I was an hour or so into the London-based open-world stealth-heavy action title, playing on hard difficulty with permadeath turned on.

Permadeath is an option in Legion, but unlike other games it’s not the end of the world if you make some poor choices and lose your character in a hail of gunfire. Instead losing an operative means picking up where you left off with another of DedSec’s recruits – if you have any left. Lose all your recruits and it’s game over, so pick them smartly but don’t be too selective…

This ‘Play As Anyone’ approach serves a couple of purposes in Legion. First off, you’re going to be playing a bunch of characters that you’d likely never have created yourself. I spent much of the first few hours as Klaudia Kowalczyk, for example, a middle-aged woman with a red spiked mohawk who made up for her lack of mobility with a silenced pistol, the ability to hack access keys from unlimited distance, and a bit of cloaking tech I invested in that made her functionally invisible for short stretches.

Each operative you recruit has a selection of random traits from an extensive list of possibilities, but not all of them are positives. Maybe you find an MMA fighter who does double damage with melee attacks, but he’s a celebrity so he’s randomly recognized. Or maybe he’s not great at stealth thanks to the ‘flatulence’ trait, or got unlucky and wound up tagged with the ‘randomly dies’ trait… Some of these combinations don’t make a lot of sense, like why does an office worker have an AK-47 and the ability to automatically steal money from people he takes down, but if you want to make up your own backstory to fill that in I’m sure there’s room to explain it.

Secondly, you’re going to see emergent gameplay from this – like when Klaudia wound up in arrested and I had to send in Elia Healy to rescue her. I had recruited Elia solely for the comedy value of her ability to summon flying cargo drones, which can be ridden to avoid ground traffic and shortcut your way to some objectives. After all, why sneak, hack, and shoot my way through multiple floors of a building to rescue Klaudia when I can – and did – just land the drone on the roof and go down one floor to free her.

This also works against you, however. Infiltrating a building I was using an agent who was gifted with speed hacking skills – only they didn’t do him much good against a riot drone that spotted him. The replacement I sent to do the job didn’t have the skills to take the same path, so I had to plan out a new attack – not every mission can be ‘solved’ with the cargo drone approach.

Check out the first 15 minutes of the game on Xbox One X.

Aside from the drones, the gameplay is familiar to those who’ve played past Watch Dogs games and if you enjoyed those, you’ll have a good time with Legion. The stealth elements are great, having been refined over the past titles, and the combat is equally satisfying.

The story is better than those past games, with characters that are more fleshed-out and a plot that seems pulled out of current headlines. A political crisis, a pandemic, anti-government and anti-police protests – there are a lot of references that, though this is set in London, could be straight out of the US.

This is a version of London that, though I’ve never been there, seems close to reality, but condensed. Some areas I recognized from movies or TV shows, and the game offers you the chance to check it all out at your leisure thanks to an ‘autodrive’ mechanic in all the cars that lets you set a destination and have the vehicle drive you there. While this impressively obeys all the rules of the road along the way I did find myself wishing someone had the ability to hack the autodrive into a ‘drive it like you stole it’ mode, however…

What I Loved:

  • Stealth-based action is a ton of fun
  • Prepping for a building infiltration using hacked cameras to find enemies
  • ‘Play As Anyone’ far more than just a marketing tagline
  • Great recreation of London

What I Liked:

  • Solid shooting controls
  • Impressive recreation of London
  • Good story that doesn’t drag on
  • A ton of tech gadgets to unlock and play with

What I Disliked:

  • Driving controls need work
  • Hard to find drone assailants during firefights

What I Hated:

  • Autodrive is such a granny driver

The Final Word: Congrats to Ubisoft Toronto for proving ‘Play As Anyone’ is more than just a tagline. Watch Dogs: Legion sticks you in the shoes of characters you’d never have chosen otherwise, and it works more often than it doesn’t.


Watch Dogs: Legion is available now for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Available at launch for PS5 and Xbox Series consoles. Reviewed on Xbox One X using code provided by the publisher.