All posts by aceattorney

Review: Xbox One X is the Gamer’s Dream Come True

When the Xbox One (X1) was released in 2013, I did not expect much from the lower to mid-tier level hardware components. Compared to what was available on the market, the X1 was designed with a somewhat lackluster CPU and GPU. Moreover, it was equipped with a measly 8GB of RAM.

I was not disappointed though, since internal hardware in consoles had not quite kept up with higher-powered components available for PCs. Consoles were designed with a lower monetary barrier to attract customers.

Gamers who wanted to experience games with cutting-edge visual effects and higher resolution could invest in the latest and greatest hardware components for a beefy PC.

It came as a surprise then, that Project Scorpio, officially named, Xbox One X (Scorpio), is actually a powerful machine on the higher end of the spectrum. Run by an overclocked CPU, more powerful GPU, and 12GB of much faster RAM, Scorpio is indeed a worthy successor.

Quite honestly, I was skeptical when Microsoft announced that Scorpio would be able to perform at a whopping 6 TFLOPS, far surpassing the X1’s 1.31 TFLOPS. Even after Digital Foundry released their previews of Scorpio’s hardware, I took it with a grain of salt. I just had to see it for myself.

After using my Scorpio for the past three weeks, I am a believer. In fact, I am so incredibly impressed at how games look on Scorpio, I no longer see any reason to play games on my high-end PC, except when using my Oculus Rift.

Even if a multiplatform game costs less on PC (which is most often the case for older titles), I will probably opt to buy it on Xbox. Not only will the game look nearly as good on PC (in some cases, better due to HDR), but I’ll also enjoy the benefits of Xbox Live and Achievements.

Some developers have “enhanced” their titles to take full advantage of Scorpio’s horsepower. This may mean higher resolutions, more visual effects, higher or more stable FPS, and HDR. Even games that have not been given the “enhanced” treatment can look better on Scorpio.

It must be a true joy as a developer to see all of your work being fully appreciated as it was intended. Scorpio brings out the best of every game.

In addition to the visual upgrades that Scorpio offers, games generally load faster, so there’s less downtime in between levels and games. Let’s not forget that like the Xbox One S, Scorpio comes equipped with a 4K Blu-Ray player.

The console’s case itself is tiny, yet dense. It is dwarfed by my original One X. Scorpio even includes the power supply inside of the console unit. It truly is an engineering marvel.

Scorpio retails for $499, and it is worth every penny. Even if you do not have a 4K TV, games will look dramatically better when played on Scorpio.

The Xbox One X represents the fulfillment of the promise that Microsoft made when it launched the first Xbox One four years ago. It also perhaps represents a shift in priorities at Microsoft. Instead of cutting corners with hardware, it pushed the envelope.

Many, including Microsoft, have said that the Xbox One X is not a next generation console. Microsoft has actually stated that the concept of generations is perhaps even over, but for all intents and purposes, the Xbox One X is a de facto next gen Xbox.

This review was not sponsored by Microsoft in any way.

Initial Impressions: Assassin’s Creed: Origins

After playing through the first hour of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, from what I’ve seen so far, Ubisoft has made substantial changes to the familiar Assassin’s Creed gameplay, representing a deeper, more engrossing game than prior titles in the franchise.

The skill tree is reminiscent of the skill progression options in two other Ubisoft titles, Far Cry and Watch Dogs, giving the player the choice on how to develop Bayek’s abilities. Whether it is through stealth, weapons, or resiliency, players can allocate earned experience points into different characteristics and skills. What this means is Bayek isn’t a full-fledged Assassin from the outset. In fact, there is barely a hint in the first hour of gameplay that this is an Assassin’s Creed game.

Also new to the series is an actual inventory system. Bayek can equip various outfits, which are reflected visually, but he can also equip other pieces of equipment that modify his stats. A breastplate will add defense, for example. Bayek’s inventory also includes a mount (i.e., camel or horse), which he can summon, much like Geralt can in the Witcher.

Combat is also vastly different from other Assassin’s Creed titles. You might see some resemblance to The Witcher 3, in fact. Bayek wields a shield that can be used to block and parry attacks. He can also equip various types of weapons, like a sword, blunt weapon, or a spear. Lastly, Bayek can use a bow to attack enemies from a distance.

Aside from the new combat mechanics, Ancient Egypt is a remarkable setting for the game. Compared to other eras that the franchise has been set in, Ancient Egypt is perhaps most enigmatic. Ubisoft elicited the expertise from historians and archaeologists to allow gamers to experience what it might have been like to live during the time of Ptolemy XIII, Cleopatra, and Julius Caesar.

Strolling through the dirt roads, it is as if you can feel the hot wind on your face, smell the charred food cooking over an open fire, and hear all of the sounds of a long-gone civilization. It is a true wonder to imaging living through that ancient time and place.

I am looking forward to seeing the story and characters develop, and to just explore this ancient land brought back to life.

This story is based on a review code provided by the publisher.

 

 

Xbox E3 2017 News Wrap-Up

The reveal of Microsoft’s next console was preceded with a tremendous amount of hype, and not only was it finally unveiled at E3, but its name, price, launch date, and a list of launch titles were also announced at the Xbox briefing.

Formerly known as Project Scorpio, the Xbox One X is touted by Microsoft as the most powerful video game console (and the smallest Xbox One) ever made. The One X, priced at $499, is capable of running games at 4K resolution with high graphical fidelity. Microsoft made sure E3 attendees could see the power of the One X for themselves with a slew of upcoming titles.

Forza Motorsports 7 and Assassin’s Creed Origins in particular were both incredibly impressive. Forza 7 ran at 4K 60 FPS, and Origins ran at 4K 30 FPS. Pushing these games to 4K resolution did not seem to result in a reduction in visual effects or textures – they were both stunningly beautiful.

A bombshell announcement made at the Xbox briefing was the expansion of the backwards compatibility program to Xbox games from the original console, which launched in 2001. Games like Crimson Skies and Fusion Frenzy are among the first to be added to the program.

The word “exclusive” was used quite heavily throughout the briefing, emphasizing that the One X will launch with quite a few games exclusive to the platform, at least during the One X’s launch window.

One particular bit of news that thrilled many was the announcement that Cuphead finally has a launch date of September 29, 2017.

After the briefing, Microsoft revealed the revamped Avatars. The Avatar system has always been a fan-favorite feature and the newly designed art style gives Avatars a classy Disney style of animation. In addition to the new look, Avatars will include wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, and even an option to make an Avatar look pregnant.

In addition, Microsoft announced new color options for Design Lab custom controllers. New options include light-colored components, metallic colors on some components, and grip textures. As a special promotion for show attendees, custom controllers ordered at the Xbox booth included an exclusive “Made at E3 2017” etching on the controller.

Since E3, Xbox leadership have hinted at unannounced upcoming titles and special console pre-order promotions, but no concrete plans have been released yet. With the One X set to be released November 7, 2017, we should start to see a PR and advertising blitz very soon.

Click here for the entire photo set from E3 2017 and keep following the news feed at XboxPulse for the latest.

Destiny 2 Live Event Recap

Gaming press, streamers, and invited guests were flown in from around the world to check out Destiny 2. The event, held at a large warehouse located at a private airport (and adjacent to the SpaceX headquarters) began at 10 AM, and there were tons of people there. After the one hour presentation, attendees filed past a display of life-sized Destiny character statues into the demo areas.

There were quite a few PC and PS4 Pro demo stations (majority of them were PS4 Pros) for attendees to get hands-on time with the campaign, PVP (the new attack/defend mode), and Strike. The introductory level of the campaign was familiar, but fun. Those expecting an entirely new look and feel will be disappointed, but Destiny fans might appreciate that the sequel isn’t a jarringly new experience.

Once I completed the brief campaign demo, I went to the PC demo section to play the new PVP mode, Countdown. The bomb set-and-defend/defuse is a tried and true PVP mode that just about every multiplayer game features, and it isn’t very different in Destiny 2. It allows for that strategic element that goes beyond team deathmatch. What distracted me from the gameplay however were the incredibly impressive visuals in the PC version of the game.

Let me tell you, the high FPS is a godsend. I believe the demo stations were running at 60FPS, but it may have been higher. The game moves so smoothly it took some getting used to, especially having played Destiny at a mere 30FPS. Also, playing with a mouse and keyboard had me fumbling for the first round, but I quickly got used to the keys. I wish I would have slowed down the cursor though – it was way too twitchy.

The event otherwise was splendid. Bungie served sandwiches in box lunches, and they had an endless supply of energy drinks, coffee, water, fruit, candy, and other snacks. All of these were necessary because the event lasted until 5 PM. Lots of folks played every single mode twice – once on PS4 and again on PC. In between sessions, they interviewed developers. Talk about a long day.

View all of the photos here: LINK.

Destiny 2 is slated for release on Xbox One and PS4 on September 8, but the PC version has not yet been set. Pre-order it here.

Xbox’s Project Scorpio Hardware Specs Released

Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry (DF) channel blew the lid off of Xbox’s upcoming console, Project Scorpio. DF was invited to Xbox headquarters to take a peek into the hardware under the hood of the console, and they shared their findings with the world in a series of stories and videos.

DF’s objectivity and technical expertise has earned them the trust of video gamers worldwide over the years, so when they said that they were impressed with Scorpio’s hardware, excitement brewed among the video game community.

The current hardware champion is Sony’s Playstation 4 Pro. The PS4 Pro is incredibly advanced and its hardware capabilities have recently received well-deserved praise for its technological achievements with Horizon Zero Dawn.

But what DF reported was that essentially, Scorpio will be the most powerful console ever created, by a fair margin. The team and DF determined this based on their analysis of the hardware specifications, but also after they were shown a live demo of Forza Motorsport 6 running at 4K resolution on Scorpio.

There are still plenty of secrets that Microsoft is holding back though. We don’t know how the operating system or other features will be improved with Scorpio. We also don’t know what launch titles Microsoft has up its sleeves. And lastly, the final console case design is still under wraps.

With E3 2017 only weeks away, while we can expect Microsoft to slowly disseminate additional Scorpio info, it’s a safe bet that they’re going to save the juiciest details for the big show.

Review: Batman: Arkham VR (Oculus Rift)

WB’s Batman: Arkham Asylum franchise has redefined what it was like to play a Batman video game, beginning with its first Arkham game, published in 2009. Incredible graphics, fluid combat, engaging investigative gameplay, and a dark and captivating story have been the hallmarks of the series.

In 2016, Batman: Arkham VR was released for the Playstation VR platform, and on April 25, 2017, the critically-acclaimed VR title was released on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Despite a couple of shortcomings, Batman VR succeeds in putting the gamer into the boots of the Dark Knight. As Batman, you have access to some key gadgets, including a scanner, the Batclaw, and of course, the Batarang. However, it’s the game’s environments that truly make you feel present in an Arkham game.

Batman VR will take you deep into the heart of the Batcave, through Gotham’s dark alleys, to the rooftops, and into the halls of Arkham Asylum. Each scene is meticulously detailed, with plenty of Easter Eggs for hardcore Batman fans to spot. There are also excellent cameo appearances from characters in the series.

In the Batcave, you get to view beautifully-rendered models of various characters and artifacts, all of which are incredibly detailed. You’ll notice that nearly every aspect of the game is highly polished. There are, unfortunately, a couple of shortcomings however.

There is an odd transition when you go from one level to the next. Instead of a loading screen, or perhaps a cinematic cutscene, the Oculus lenses go completely black, and you get an audio-only cue of the Batmobile or the Batwing’s engine. After a few seconds, you’re suddenly standing in the middle of a room or a street, depending on the level. It’s a jarring experience. The decision to essentially blindfold the player between levels is inexplicable.

Another issue Batman VR has is the lack of any combat. The entire game is devoid of the action that the video game series is known for. As Batman, you do get to use the Batarang, but never in a fight.

All of that being said, Batman VR succeeds tremendously in what it does offer. Aside from the aforementioned issues, you truly feel immersed in the world. And although the game is short (there are Riddler challenges to discover after completing the game’s main campaign), it manages to tell a complete story – one that you will want to experience multiple times.

Priced at just $19.99, Batman: Arkham VR is highly recommended. For more information on this title, click onto the official website: https://www.oculus.com/experiences/rift/1480133245392512/

Wondercon 2017 Photos

Wondercon 2017 was held last weekend in Anaheim, bringing together thousands of fans of pop culture, comics, anime, and everything in between.

There was no shortage of things to see and do for attendees, with the main exhibit floor completely packed with artist booths, comic book publishers, and a wide assortment of retailer booths.

Cosplayers naturally came out in force. Popular costumes featured Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, and Spider-Man, but virtually every superhero you can think of was represented by a cosplayer.

Check out all the photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aceattorney/albums/72157680393157000

Iron Fist is the Game of Thrones of the Netflix-Marvel Universe

Finn Jones as Ser Loras Tyrell (left) and Danny Rand (right)

After binging nearly all of the 13 episodes of Iron Fist, I came to realize not only how the series is the best Marvel show, but it is actually similar to another terrific series: Game of Thrones.

Be forewarned that this article will be filled with spoilers, so only read ahead after you’ve watched both shows!

  1. Finn Jones

If the actor who plays Danny Rand, otherwise known as The Iron Fist looks familiar, it’s probably because you recognize him from Game of Thrones. Jones played the character Ser Loras Tyrell, The Knight of Flowers in Game of Thrones.

  1. Political intrigue

Game of Thrones is known for its intricately detailed look into the political intrigue between the various houses seeking to claim the Iron Throne. Iron Fist has its fair share of political battles, whether it is between the Meachums and Rands, Gao and Bakuto, and even within the Meachum family.

  1. Sibling rivalry

Joy and Ward Meachum are siblings, and Danny Rand is like a brother to them, which means they all get to compete for the love of Joy and Ward’s great dad, Harold Meachum. Harold incidentally tries to turn them all against each other for his own evil devices. The rivalry turns messy, of course, just like how things often got out of hand among the Lannister children in Game of Thrones.

  1. Betrayal and backstabbing

This point stems from the political and sibling rivalry aspects of both shows. It was just wonderful to see the twists and turns that Iron Fist took, from Colleen Wing’s double betrayal, to Bakuto’s betrayal, to the Meachums’ antics. The backstabbing in Game of Thrones have far more deadly results, but you have to appreciate that Iron Fist manages to attach real consequences nonetheless.

  1. Faction wars

All of the different Houses and heirs to the Iron Throne in Game of Thrones make for plenty of opportunities to battle both politically and to the death. Iron Fist doesn’t have nearly as many factions vying for power, but it’s the first time the Hand was exposed as an imperfect, fractured organization. The different power-hungry characters in Iron Fist keep the show’s story turning in unexpected and interesting ways.

  1. Magic

The use of magic in both shows is rather subdued, without giant spectacles displayed, but with enough power to be significant. Danny Rand’s magical power is called upon during important moments throughout the series, but is not really the focal point – it’s more about the man wielding the magical power of the Iron Fist.

  1. Resurrection of the dead

Aside from the White Walker zombies, there is legitimate resurrection of a few characters in Game of Thrones. And like them, Harold Meachum is shown to come back from the dead as a living, breathing man. He just comes back a little bit on the psychotic side.

  1. The main kingdom/”throne”

Game of Thrones has the Iron Throne, and in Iron Fist, we’ve got the Rand Corporation. Control of either means ultimate power and wealth, and a huge part of both shows has to do with gaining the seat of power.

  1. Melee weapon fights

Sure, both shows have projectile weapons, but both Game of Thrones and Iron Fist feature mostly either hand-to-hand combat, or melee weapon fights. The wonderful intimacy of close quarters combat lends to bloody good fun. Plus, we get to see our favorite characters let out pent up rage over their sworn enemies.

  1. Religion

There are a handful of varying religions represented in Game of Thrones, sometimes being the crux of important plotlines through the series. Iron Fist’s title character is quite religious. Danny Rand’s reliance on Buddhist teachings come up several times, mainly to calm down help center his Chi.

  1. Culture shock

One of the greatest aspects of Game of Thrones is how different and varied the cultures are represented on screen. Differences in language, attire, attitude, and values are readily apparent, and result in creating wonderful scenes of culture shock amongst characters who visit different lands. Danny Rand experiences severe culture shock when he returns to modern society after being raised as a monk for the past 10 years. This unfortunately makes him naïve to the ways of the western world, but it also means he’s probably got a good heart too.

  1. Dragon

Daenerys Targaryen (“Dany”) has three dragons for pets in Game of Thrones, and Danny Rand faces off against one in Iron Fist. Sure, we don’t get to see Iron Fist’s dragon (only his red eyes), but both Dany and Danny possess the power of dragons.