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8 Minutes of Quantum Break Gameplay…But Will You Want to Play It?

Gamescom 2014 is here and Microsoft opened the world’s largest games expo with their Xbox press conference. A metric ton of games were shown and discussed during the 90 minute conference. While there were some new game announcements, most of the games were shown previously at June’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The game that was previously announced but not shown was Remedy Games‘ Quantum Break. Well the wait for gameplay footage for this Xbox One exclusive is finally over with the 8 minute gameplay demo shown below:

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As you can see, graphically, the game looks absolutely stunning. Particle effects and dynamic lighting are thrown front and center to amaze and titillate. The footage shows the main game mechanic, the protagonist’s ability to manipulate time. As the main character, combat is completely changed by your ability to freeze time on enemies or small portions of the environment. Freezing time around an enemy, shooting at them, and then allowing the time to unfreeze and get bullets hailed at said baddies seems to be the way this mechanic is most utilized. The question I had after watching this video is: “Why do I want to do any of this?”.

The game seems beautiful, yes, but I don’t know if spamming a ‘gimmick’ button is the way to make a compelling game. While I walked away less than impressed with the footage shown, I’m willing to give the makers of the excellent Alan Wake the benefit of the doubt. Be sure to check back with us as we learn more about this game in the months leading up to its 2015 release.

What are your thoughts on the video and the game?  Let us know in the comments below.

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Xbox One’s May beta is chock full of surprises.

The now monthly incremental evolution of the Xbox One continues during May. The update rolled out for preview users last week and it seems focused solely on audio improvements.  Added to the settings menu is the Sound Mixer. This gives the user the ability to determine the volume levels for the main program versus the snapped app.  Think about a radio balance dial where moving the dial to the left provides louder volume for the main app and moving the dial to the right favors the volume of the snapped app. [NOTE: This was added to April beta but was removed before the official update was released] Additionally, there is a Chat Mixer. This option allows the user to determine what happens to the volume when chatting via the Kinect. The options are: mute all non-Kinect audio, reduce non-Kinect audio 80%, reduce non-Kinect audio 50%, or do nothing. Lastly, there is an option to opt into the Kinect voice recognition training program. This optional program gives the user the opportunity to help make the Kinect  more responsive for all users.

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Concurrent to the release of this console OS beta, Microsoft has also released the Smartglass Beta for Android, iOS, and (obviously) Windows. New features include the ability to completely control your cable box via Smartglass, including DVR functionality. The ability to power down each A/V component is also embedded within this remote control portion of the app. The other TV functionality added is the ability to view, and use your OneGuide directly from Smartglass. This includes the regular guide, favorites, as well as apps that are compatible with the OneGuide. Added to the app’s menu is a Featured section that highlights featured games, movies and music. No, there still is no ability to purchase media from the Smartglass app the same way Sony has with their Playstation mobile app. Accessing snapped apps and switching between them is actually faster using the app than it is even with the controller.  The Activity Feed is also on the home screen, meaning that a user doesn’t have to drill down into the Friends list to view it. Great news for all console based Twitch broadcasters: First off, Smartglass notifies users when their friends/favorites are streaming. Twitch streams can be viewed directly from Smartglass or the user can choose to push the chat screen to Smartglass while watching the Twitch stream full screen on their TV.

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One of the hot button question since this generation began 6 months ago has been: “What IS next-gen?”.  I think the best answer is that next-gen is nuanced. Subtle. It’s the subtlety of these updates that truly scream “next-gen” to me. I’m particularly excited to see what Smartglass can become.  The maturation of what it is now versus what it was when it launched October of  2012 is simply amazing!

 

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Xbox One’s: It’s like they’re giving them away!

The price of the Xbox One continues to drop. First was the “price drop” in the form of the Titanfall and Forza Motorsports 5 digital bundles for $499. Then the announcement that those bundles would drop in price to $450. Now comes news that Target is selling the Xbox One bundle boxes with a year of Xbox Live for $500.  This, effectively, has lowered the price of the console $380.

The bundles and subsequent price drops so closely after the launch of the console has led many to call the Xbox One a failure.  However, with well over 4 million units sold, this is Microsoft’s most successful console launch by over 60%. So while the price drops may smell like a desperate move it may be just what the the console needs to prove that it is a great value. There hasn’t been an official price drop from Microsoft website is still selling the Xbox One for $450.

Do the recent price drops and the permanence of said drops trouble you? How long before the Xbox One is officially reduced? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Peter Molyneaux thinks Kinect is “a joke”.

Fable creator and promise-maker of all things great and small, Peter Molyneaux, has said the Xbox One’s Kinect “feels more and more like a joke.” In an interview with Edge, the former Lionhead studio head and current founder of 22Cans said “I actually wish Kinect wasn’t a requirement. It feels like an unnecessary add-on to me. Maybe it’s because we’re in England, and it doesn’t really use the TV stuff, but it feels more and more like a joke. My son and I sit there saying random things at it, and it doesn’t work.”

Molyneaux believes that eventually the Xbox One will be sold without the Kinect because of its lack of practicality outside of the US leading him to say “I’m sure [Microsoft is] going to release an Xbox One without Kinect. It would be unthinkable that they wouldn’t.” The principals at Xbox have been adamant that selling the Xbox One without the Kinect is not an option, going so far as to say that the Kinect IS the Xbox One.

Would you like to see an Xbox sold without the Kinect? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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ICYMI: Life is Magic

“Life is Magic” from Red Robot Games is a free iOS and Android MMO that uses geo-location to populate your world. A game with a gorgeous art style and crisply animated sprites that pop off of your screen make this game something pretty new to handheld devices. When you start the game you have the ability to pick between three archetypes. The Monk, Machinist, and Mage are at your disposal, each with strengths that range from magic specialties to melee combat.

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What I believe sets this game apart is how deep the gameplay is. It incorporates many systems that we have become accustomed to in the MMO space and transitions them to the small screen with ease. You can travel across the actual world via “Travel Tokens” that you accrue in your dungeon crawls and find various weapons, armor and treasure. Whatever you find can be equipped, sold or gifted to other characters in or around your vicinity or in your party.

Players can join your game via an invite system and help you battle it out against a varied range of mythical creatures. These creatures are held within level-based dungeons. These catacombs of doom each contain ten levels to complete and hold one of the game’s coolest gameplay systems.

Each dungeon is based on a risk/reward setup: for every level you complete you are shown the loot you’ve obtained for killing that room’s beast. You are then given a choice to leave with your loot to fight another day or go deeper into the dungeon. The deeper you go, the harder the enemies are and the better the loot gets. This adds so much to the gameplay because it pits you against one of man’s oldest questions: do I manage my health or go for more gold and equipment?

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Whether you cut and run or fight to the death, you can use your new-found goods to purchase or upgrade your gear in one of the geo-located shops around where you are at the time. The map is laid out just the way a GPS would display it but with a fantasy theme on top. If you are looking for health potions, go to your local super market or bodega (say it with me bo-de-ga). Need new weapons or armor? Head to your local hardware store or, in my neighborhood, weave emporium. It was a ingenious idea of how to populate a world and it pays off even more when you travel to different places because it gives you a sense of everything around you in the real world.

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Battles are turn-based and fluid, each move is beautifully drawn and sounds great. Strategies abound to use and figure out. I might have missed it but I would have loved if there was s digital manual somewhere within the app for more advanced gameplay tactics. Most of it you’ll find via trial and error and I guess that is most of the fun.

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Lastly, since the game is based on the free-to-play model, there is only a certain amount of adventuring you can do per day, unless you are lucky enough to level up during a play session. You will notice a numbered meter in the upper right hand side of the screen with a lightning bolt symbol. These points seem to be the game’s action points. Open a dungeon or go deeper and you use some. Have a jaunty discussion with a barmaid, lose some more. It’s an artificial barrier that most games of this ilk seem to employ but I understand it. There are also ways around it…if you want to spend real world money. If you die during a battle but want to keep your loot, you can spend ten lightning points or spend money to buy some more. You can totally get most of what you want for free but there is a business model for the developers if you want to invest in the game.

Life is Magic is a great game, especially because you can tell that the folks over at Red Robot Games had a very focused idea of what they were trying to build and the world they wanted to create. That focus has produced one of the best looking and fun mobile MMO experiences I’ve played in a long time. In case you missed it you should really get your hands on this game.

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