REVIEW: Xbox One X Edges Microsoft Closer

I recently spent a week with the Xbox One X thanks to Microsoft. After all that time with the console, it still remains hard for me to justify the purchase when, really, you need so much more to truly take advantage of what’s in the box. Having said that, Sony’s PS4 Pro pails in comparison to the Xbox One X, and that in itself signals Microsoft’s first big win over it’s direct competitor for a long time. 

Some of the cheaper 4K monitors still retail for well over $500 in New Zealand. Add in another $750 for the Xbox One X, you’re looking at a $1300 investment at the very least to get everything you’ll need to get the best experience. But the counter to that is the quality you get as a result. Running with all the bells and whistles, the Xbox One X provides a premium gaming experience with some of the best graphics seen on a console ever.

It wasn’t until I went back to the standard PS4 that I realised just how much smoother games ran on the Xbox One X. In comparison, the likes of COD: WWII, FIFA 18, and Destiny 2 all seemed far more jerky and inconsistent in terms of frame rate running on the older systems.

By far and away, the game that showed off the extra perks that the Xbox One X has was Forza Motorsport 7 and Gears of War. Ironically enough, both Xbox exclusives. One of those games was also built for 4K from the ground up.

Graphically, Forza Motorsport 7 running on an Xbox One X doesn’t completely outshine Project Cars 2 running on a PS4, but the smoothness of frame rate is so precise that it makes for a more immersive experience. The tiny little details of sponsor names on the cars are much more vivid, and the range depth to landscapes are that much more detailed. Racing around Bathurst on Forza Motorsport 7 you can see the headlights of cars racing around the top of the mountain when you look back in the rear view mirror. On FIFA 17, the added smoothness to play makes you feel (just a little more) like you’re watching an actual broadcast of Premier League Football.

The strength of the Xbox One X is really in these smaller details, and if you’ve got the tech to take advantage of it, then go right ahead.

Some of the specs included in the box are:

  • 12GB GDDR5 graphics memory
  • 2160p frame buffers and 6 teraflops of graphical processing power
  • Wide Colour Gamut, HDR technology
  • Custom CPU @ 2.30 GHz, 8 cores

Games On Xbox One Are MASSIVE

However, there are some major drawbacks to purchasing the Xbox One X.

Firstly, the size of games with 4K built or patched in. 1TB of hard drive space was almost completely full with the handful of games Microsoft had pre-installed in the box. Add in a couple of apps including Netflix and Dolby Atmos, there was little room for anything else. There is the option for additional storage, but for such a pricey investment it would’ve been nice for Microsoft to include a larger hard drive. However, considering some of the specs inside what is the smallest Xbox ever made, with a power unit inside too, you can acknowledge a severe lack of room for much else.

REVIEW: Xbox One X Edges Microsoft Closer

Since the disaster launch of the original Xbox One back in 2013, Microsoft has slowly edged its way back into the fight. The new Xbox One X is another sign of that, but the problem remains in the mindset of most gamers, in that the Xbox One X is not the next generation console for Microsoft. It’s a mid-cycle upgrade, but it’s a damn good one at that. Microsoft needs more exclusives, and with Crackdown delayed until next year, there still isn’t that one blockbuster exclusive game this holiday season that will stand out to the gamer.

Sales for the Xbox One X have been good thus far, and much of that is down to the marketing from Microsoft. They’ve pitched it perfectly as an optional upgrade to the existing, standard version of their gaming console. The Xbox One X is the closest thing to a gaming PC for the console space, but it’s also the best looking console ever made as well. Both of those factors go a long way toward justifying the console, but the fact that 4K televisions are still not a part of most households is a big drawback. Yes, the experiences can be had on a 1080p display, but the real benefits can be found in 4K displays with HDR.

In conclusion, if you have the money and the available technology, the Xbox One X is the console that provides the most bang for your buck this Christmas.

 

REVIEW: Sonic Forces Wrestles With Differing Ideologies

Sonic Forces is a game that finds itself stuck between to generations and no real commitment to pick its desired pathway. 

The classic side scrolling style of Sonic makes its return during large parts of Sonic Forces. For the most part, it’s fun, but the games’ insistence on taking the more modern 3D approach hinders for half of the experience kept me feeling a sense of constant change. For some games that’s good, but Sonic Forces feels like it’s trying to cater to two seperate styles, the newer of which continues to just not feel like the Sonic we all know and love.

You could argue that Sonic Forces didn’t even need to be released, because what the franchise is known and loved for already released in the form of Sonic Mania earlier this year. So why Sonic Forces? Well, I wish I could tell you, but after sinking many hours into the game, that answer still isn’t clear.

Simple Yet Annoying Changes In Style Hinder Sonic Forces

Simplicity is the name of the game here, despite the constant change happening around you. Enemies are easy to beat, and you take turns between using Sonic and a custom made character, of which you design when first beginning the game. Boss battles can be tricky at times, but after a few goes, you quickly grasp just what it is you need to do in order to beat them. Story wise, Sonic Forces just didn’t do it for me, and I didn’t find myself asking myself what I was actually working toward whilst playing through the missions.

Stop the bad guy, that’s really all I knew throughout. Having said that, Sonic Forces isn’t built to feature a gripping story mode, the story is just an essential part to aid progression, and it’s a rather desperate attempt at that.

Some levels are fun, whilst others are downright annoying. The levels I particularly enjoyed were the side scrollers, but when the game forced me into playing behind the character, I found myself wanting to immediately put the controller down. That’s a shame, because if Sonic Forces just stuck with what it did well, the side scrolling, I’d be happy to keep on going and maybe redo some of the levels.

Sonic Forces Wrestles With Differing Ideologies

Whilst fun in patches, Sonic Forces could’ve been so much better if it stuck to what the franchise has always done well. It had all the tools to be better than it was, but it’s trickery with the formula keeps it from being a must have for fans of the famous hedgehog.

FINAL SCORE: 6/10

REVIEW: Call Of Duty WWII Successfully Returns To History

Call of Duty WWII successfully grounds the franchise back in its roots and provides a more meaningful single-player campaign that’s worth the investment. 

Released annually, the COD (Call of Duty) series has often been criticised for it’s future-based, technological, over the top style, especially in recent years. Always fun, but totally out of the realms of what the series was originally – a shooter set in the middle of a historical world war.

With COD WWII, the series finally returns to Europe and follows several famous moments of the second world war, including the fight on Normandy beach and the Battle of the Bulge. That, in itself, is worth paying attention to.

A Campaign Mode With Meaning, Relevance, And Challenge

Emotional, gripping, and with the knowledge that these events actually happened. Those three aspects make up COD WWII’s campaign mode, one that is both fun to play and pushes the graphical standard of the franchise into uncharted territory.

From the very first mission storming up Normandy beach, playing the game makes you appreciate just how dire the circumstances were for soldiers that day back in 1944.

At it’s essence, this is very much the COD experience you’d expect, but it’s grounded in its realism. No longer does health automatically regenerate, you’ll have to rely on health bags scattered around the field or given to you by your fellow soldier. Maybe it’s just me, but I actually found myself (trying at least) to protect my character as much as possible. Added into that, now you can’t hover in mid air or run up walls either. Apart from small jumps, you are firmly locked on the ground during combat.

During the campaign mode you also get to experience an assortment of different vehicles… from tanks to warplanes.

Due to stellar graphics (the best seen in a COD game yet) and the knowledge that you’re taking yourself through some of the most historic moments in history; COD WWII’s campaign is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. It’s worth playing through more than once, especially when it comes to the Armoured Train mission!

Campaign Mode Rating: 8/10

Multiplayer Largely Unchanged But Still Rewarding

Short of some interesting new modes and the advent of divisions, COD WWII brings a largely unchanged multiplayer offering.

You have the choice of Infantry, Airbourne, Armoured, Mountain, or Expeditionary divisions in multiplayer. All are fairly self-explanatory and provide their own unique challenges, but some of the more experienced COD veterans will still have an advantage if they can earn enough XP to modify certain weapons. There is a new social space where players can upgrade weapons, join certain challenges, and modify their characters.

In terms of the maps, COD WWII seems rather lacking so far. With the exception of one large open map set in Gustav Cannon, others seem similar in terms of design and don’t offer much variety. New maps will be released soon, coming to PlayStation first, so hopefully more rewarding and challenging locations will be playable.

Like always, COD WWII multiplayer rewards you the more playtime you spend. Levels and XP rise per match, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to get used to the new upgrade systems. A new Gridiron mode will peak your interest, but as usual, the most enjoyment can be found in the traditional multiplayer modes like Team Deathmatch and Free For All. The only difference is this time it takes place in real world, historically accurate locations from WWII.

Multiplayer Rating: 7/10

Call Of Duty WWII Gets The Tick Of Approval

COD WWII provides the realistic experience that the franchise has needed for a long time.

It’s campaign mode is stellar, and all the favourites of multiplayer and zombies mode are present. Zombies also managed to put a WWII take on itself, which is both terrifying and intriguing. Graphically, this is the best COD game so far, in fact it’s not even close. If you’re a fan of shooters, or even just a gamer wanting to pick up something interesting this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with this.

FINAL SCORE: 7.5/10

Michael Pulman is a freelance journalist based in New Zealand.