EA Announces Subscription Games Service [UPDATED]

Electronic Arts today announced EA Access, an exclusive gaming subscription service. The beta for this service is scheduled to launch “this summer” for the Xbox Live users on the Xbox One only. $4,99 per month or $29.99 per year gives users unlimited access to the Vault, EA’s repository of previously released titles.  The inaugural group of games will be Madden NFL 25FIFA 14Battlefield 4, and Peggle 2. Additionally EA Access membership also grants users early access to new Electronic Arts titles, up to 5 days early.  The amount of early access of each game will be dictated by the individual title. Additionally, all future digital purchases for new titles are 10% off! 

EA Access enrollment will initially be available via the EA Access Hub app on the Xbox One. It will also be available for purchase through GameStop and Game retail outlets sometime after it becomes available on the console. EA Access will be available only for Xbox One users who have Xbox Live Gold living in the following territories: Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States with additional territories to follow.

Check out our very own Daniel Moore’s video walkthrough:

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Xbox One July Update Preview Details

The newest monthly update for the Xbox One has been pushed down to preview beta members.  The update, scheduled for a July release, isn’t as substantial as June’s release but what lacks in bullet points it makes up for in quality features.   The  improvements for which you can look forward are as follows:

Snap-able Achievements

As if the team at Microsoft has been listening in on my XBL chat conversations and have finally added the ability to snap the achievement list for your current game or app.  A growing trend with Xbox One gamers is their apathy towards achievements. It’s my belief that it’s not because achievements are passe but because viewing them on the console is such a hassle. Viewing the achievement that you just unlocked became so unruly that most people would have to wait until their gaming session had ended, or forego it completely. The ability to snap the achievements completely alleviates this issue.   Additionally, the new achievement list will put the toughest achievements at the top of the list. Pressing the A button will give you the option to favorite an achievement, moving it to the top of your list, or search the internet for help on said achievement. Time will tell if this rekindles user’s interest in getting 1000 points per game.

 Double Tap To Snap

Another move to dis-Kinect the console (couldn’t resist the pun), snapping apps is as easy as pushing the controller’s Xbox button twice. This will bring up the Snap Center apps list. This option is perhaps not as quick as saying “Xbox snap —-” but is much easier than some of the other controller based operating alternatives so far.

 Like Video Clips

In an effort to make user created video clips more social, users will be able to like clips using the Smartglass app (currently only available using the Smartglass beta app).  As of right now, the only place  to see the likes is via the Smartglass app. Perhaps a big screen addition will be made in a future update. 

 New Language Settings

Now Kiwis, the Irish and Austrians will be able to control their Xbox Ones using their native dialects.  Austrian German, New Zealand  and Irish English are now selectable language choices. You do not have to live in those areas to choose those languages either. How do you say “Xbox, Record That” in German? Somebody please tell me!

So there you have it.  These are the new additions that Xbox One users can look forward to next month. No official release date has been given but we’ll be sure to update you if and when we do find out. Do these additions make you a happy owner? Do you feel like Microsoft isn’t doing enough?  Let us know in the comments below.



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Shattered Expectations

Arkanoid is one my all-time favorite games. When Taito introduced its version of a brick breaker game in 1986, it put a totally new spin that genre. It added new elements like power-ups and boss battles to what was a simple yet fun game. Shatter, a Playstation Network game and IGF 2010 finalist from the New Zealand dev team Sidhe, comes into the game space trying to both hold on to its genre’s roots while also turning it on its head. The usual suspects are there:  the “paddle” or in this case a ship, and the “blocks”. The spin that Sidhe puts on this is with a new gameplay mechanic. You now have the ability to pull and push the ball towards the blocks and back towards you. Since the playfield has physics the ball will travel not only in straight lines but also in arcs. This can be used to both your advantage and disadvantage but keeps the game moving at a blistering pace.

The gamefield will change perspective depending on what level you are on. Usually brick breaker games have the puck on the horizontal axis. Shatter plays on both, and while it takes a bit of getting used to, playing on the vertical definitely adds a nice twist. The wild card and most important tool at your disposal comes to you by the way of “shards”, small fragments that are released once you break a block. You can collect these by using the pull power to bring them to you; the trick is getting enough of the shards to fill up your “Shard Storm” meter while keeping the ball in play. If you do fill up your meter you can let go a barrage of bullets that will quickly empty a stage and rack up a bunch of points.

The power-ups come in extremely handy: they can make the ball even more controllable, add more shards to the playing field or give you a 1up. The pick-up-and-play feel makes the game challenging but not overwhelming. The pace seems just right and not super frantic. I will say with all those different dynamics going on I was most impressed with Shatter’s visual style and music. You can see that Sidhe took the time to add those small atmospheric touches that really makes this game stand out. This isn’t your run of the mill brick breaker, the geometric shapes that cover the field are all these great hues of yellows, greens and purples. They pop off the screen and make it a delight to look at and the music pulsates in these ambient techno rhythms. Bass hits seem to match the timing of ball strikes off your ship and push the action along.

Shatter has three modes to choose from: “Story Mode” which lets you go through the progress of the game’s 10 worlds with a boss battle at the end of each; “Boss Battle” which is a race to see how quickly you can beat each boss, and “Bonus Mode” which is a score- based challenge mode. Although Story Mode is the default I gravitated towards the Bonus mode because the quick pace and my OCD need to beat the scores of all my friends kept me wanting more.

All in all Shatter is a really good showcase of what can be done in the digital retail space. A full, robust, and fun game for under $10 is exactly what is needed to show that full game downloads are both reasonable and viable.

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