Category Archives: Xbox Series X|S

LEGO® Builder’s Journey Review – Xbox Series X

When people think of LEGO video games they think of TT Games Studio and licensed IP from pre-existing brands. Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Marvel, there’s a torrent of similar LEGO games using the same charming formula. I understand some people can’t wait to play these cute leisurely games, but I find myself turned off whenever I see yet another LEGO game coming out. While technically a licensed IP of LEGO, this game looks to do something different.

An arthouse, puzzle game that doubles as a visual showcase is a wonderful palate cleanser from some of the tentpole shooter releases of the last few months. Developed out of Denmark by Light Brick Studio, this small team sought to capture the flow and imagination that happened when you were younger and lost track of time while playing with LEGOs. Originally launching on the Apple Arcade in 2019 it is now available on everything except for the PlayStation platform. This review will cover the Xbox Series X|S versions.

The game design of Lego Builder’s Journey is simple and clear. Within a few seconds, you’ll confidently be solving LEGO-based puzzles of getting one character from “A” to “B.” With only a couple of buttons, it’s obvious that this started as a mobile game ported to the console. Don’t let that turn you off. It’s the charm, atmosphere, and story that stays with you as much as the clever puzzles.

As you begin to solve puzzles you’ll see a story begin to unfold of a father and son going camping. Laying the ground to follow in your father’s footsteps, you can take your time fiddling with different pieces and permutations. There’s no penalty for getting it wrong and the game encourages you to take your time. Eventually, the parent has to go to work and you feel the disappointment of a promise broken as the child is left to make their miniature castle. Left to their own devices, the child finds their way to the basement and sets out on an adventure of his own. It’s remarkable how much story is told without using any spoken or written mediums. It’s a solid reminder of why good stories can be told, but great stories need to be shown.

The showcase of this storytelling is evident through the impressive fidelity of the visuals. Taylor-made for 3D recreation, the blocks look incredibly lifelike as you construct and reconstruct various paths to navigate through. It seems like every bell and whistle that could be turned on for the Series X stood out as something that enhanced the experience to make it feel real. At times, it could be considered a tech demo especially when you consider the length of the game. This leads me to a few criticisms.

There are really only two shortcomings of this game and one is how short the game is. The current asking price is $20 on Xbox (on sale for $14.99). The game is excellent but I just don’t think it’s an attractive time to price ratio. Without much of an incentive to replay, that price will be up for each individual to decide. As a gamer with very little time to play, I personally don’t mind the length but I do think a $10 per. Hour is a lot to ask. It’s not just the game’s length that pulled me out of the experience.

I have a fairly high tolerance for clunky control schemes, but I was disappointed that so much TLC went into the visuals, but not into the controls. Given the geometric view, You’re looking sideways at a 3D object. Your task is to move around pieces on the LEGO grid. What’s frustrating is that you do not have a clear depth of field or view of where you’re about to place your next piece. Furthermore, the reflections are beautiful as the water mirrors light, but using white as the outline color to designate what piece I have selected is too similar to the reflections. At times the game asks you to select and movie pieces within a set amount of time, but it’s frustrating when you can’t clearly see which piece you have selected and where you’re about to place it. When this wasn’t a problem you are lulled into a relaxing and atmospheric paradise, but when you’re struggling to solve a puzzle, it’s an unforced error. Luckily, this only happened a handful of times and it isn’t so severe that it detracts from the overall experience.

The intersection of a heartfelt story, excellent visuals, outstanding soundtrack, and approachable challenges is a beautiful couple of hours spent relaxing. All too often I find myself feeling a bit tired after the competitive twitch shooters I usually play. Furthermore, one more licensed LEGO game from TT is the definition of unimaginative. (I know people love them, but I’d argue that you’re playing the same game reskinned.) It’s a shame that there weren’t more options to make selecting the appropriate piece easier or controls that were a bit more intuitive. All that to say, amid the onslaught of action RPGs and competitive shooters, this is such a refreshing way to spend a couple of hours. LEGO Builder’s Journey was an endearing reminder that now and again I should slow down and lose track of time with a slower-paced game.

Serious Sam 4 Gives The Gift Of Carnage On PlayStation 5 & Xbox Series X|S Today

No holiday season is complete without open hostilities and a guy wearing a dirty white vest on TV, so Croteam and Devolver Digital have duly unleashed the high-powered prequel Serious Sam 4 on PlayStation 5 & Xbox Series X|S today, gifting players around the world an ammo-stuffed pièce de résistance with a side helping of chaos.

Humanity is under siege as the full force of Mental’s hordes spreads across the world, ravaging what remains of a broken and beaten civilization. The last remaining resistance to the invasion is the Earth Defense Force led by the ever-dependable blue-collar grunt Sam “Serious” Stone and his heavily-armed squad of misfit commandos.

It’s time to make these alien assholes pay.

Check out serioussam.com for even more Sam.

Demo available for action roguelike Loot River

straka.studio with the help from SUPERHOT PRESENTS and Slovak Arts Council have today released a demo for their upcoming island-shifting action-roguelike Loot River. Slated for a release next year on PC and Xbox platforms, Loot River lets players journey down an otherworldly river in search of knowledge and loot! The demo is now available on Xbox.com and Steam.

Set in a series of procedurally-generated labyrinths, Loot River is a dungeon-crawling action-roguelike that combines the tense, real-time combat and dark fantasy stylings of Dark Souls with the spatial block-shifting puzzles of Tetris.

This demo allows players to play through the tutorial and two shorter levels. While the full game will be procedurally-generated, this demo is locked to one seed to merely give players a taste of Loot River’s unique isle-shifting mechanic and combat system.

Armed with the power of the Relic, players can shift the ground beneath them, sliding floating ruins together in a series of tile puzzles. As players venture through these endless catacombs, they’ll encounter beasts, lost travelers, and bosses. These cosmic grottos offer a wealth of new weapons and gear to discover, as well as unholy knowledge to unearth for permanent upgrades.

Drawn to shards of an unholy relic, wandering nomads have found themselves in a perpetual cycle of life and death, losing their sanity as they journey through endless parallel realities, devouring each other to absorb the knowledge of their fellow travelers. No two journeys are ever the same as countless lost souls float through the Loot River.

Loot River won’t be out until 2022, but I wanted to give players a chance to check out what makes it such a unique spin on the roguelike genre ahead of time,” said Miro Straka. “The full game will have loads more biomes, bosses, monsters, upgrades, and procedurally-generated dungeons – a feature disabled in this demo to not give away too much. We’d love to hear people’s feedback on it now, to ensure that Loot River is as polished as possible when it launches next year on Xbox and PC.”

New Walkthrough Trailer Gives An Insight Into Alien World Of The Gunk, Coming To Xbox & PC On December 16th

Thunderful are pleased to unveil a new trailer for anticipated story-driven sci-fi exploration title The Gunk where lead star Fiona Nova gives us a guided introduction to the game’s compelling world. This new game from the team behind the SteamWorld series will be released for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC on December 16th, and will be available on Xbox Game Pass on day one.

In the new trailer, Fiona Nova, voice of protagonist Rani, introduces us to the game’s compelling characters and spectacular alien world. Rani and her partner Becks are a space hauling duo mining the galaxy for whatever resources they can sell to make ends meet. When they come across a seemingly barren planet infested with a strange undiscovered substance they call “the gunk”, they wonder if they might be in for a big payout.

The Gunk has a big emphasis on exploration with a wondrous and diverse alien world to discover featuring biomes ranging from rocky canyons, to dense jungles, to deep subterranean caves (this is the team behind SteamWorld after all) and a few more surprises. The gunk is turning all of these zones barren, but as you remove it using Rani’s upgradable goo-sucking power-glove, you’ll discover a flourishing ecosystem seemingly suppressed by this mysterious and destructive gunk.

The intriguing questions of what the gunk is, how it got here and what kind of world existed prior to its arrival can be uncovered as you explore. Perhaps the gunk has something to do with the ruins of an ancient civilization that appears to be long gone? Scanning the environment to make new discoveries and learn more about the world will fill out your findings in a logbook. Players who dig into these entries might just find some clues as to what happened here!

“As a team, it’s been a real pleasure to branch out and supplement the charm we’re known for with the SteamWorld series with a more ‘grown-up’ story like the one we are telling with The Gunk,” said Game Director Ulf Hartelius. “We’ve been working hard to blend that intriguing sci-fi tale with the cool raymarching tech we’re using to create our mesmerizing gunk and a rich world for players to explore. We can’t wait for them to finally get to experience it all on December 16th”.

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition Review – Xbox Series X

Grand Theft Auto Trilogy Definitive Edition launched in a laughable state. Since then, it has received several updates addressing the deluge of bugs, poor performance, and graphical blunders that plagued these beloved games. At the time of writing, patch 1.03 went live, and I have only reviewed the patch notes. I will endeavor to give you my unbiased impressions as I only recently dug into the background of how and why these games launched in the state they did. While I attempt to not jump on the dogpile of gifs showcasing the bizarre and befuddling bugs, I do want to give my honest impressions.

Having played the originals (Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) when they first launched in 2001, 2002, and 2004 respectively, I expected the rose-colored glasses of my youth to get a reality check. What I didn’t expect was to continually scratch my head and think, “that doesn’t look right.” Public relations crisis aside, how do they play, and more importantly are they worth $60?

For the uninitiated, the gameplay is exactly what you’d expect. Faithful to its name, you steal cars, mow down mobsters (or civilians if that’s your thing), larceny, arson, and general skullduggery. You’ll get updated controls, however, even updated controls for Rockstar games are still PS2 controls. If you’ve ever smashed an X button to death in order to outrun the law, then you’ll be right at home.

Playing through the games, you see the original design concept of an open-world game that reacts to you. This was groundbreaking at the time and with each title, Rockstar steadily increased scale, complexity, and quality. Grand Theft Auto III feels so small in comparison to the other two games. Likewise comparing this old watershed game to modern open-world games is like revisiting your childhood bedroom. It just felt so much bigger when you were younger. This isn’t a bad thing as you can beat GTA III in about 5-7 hours. The other two games are a good bit more time to see credits roll. Although this is on the patch list, when you saw fly over San Andreas, you get a sense of how large games are now in size.

Modern control schemes and native resolutions built for today’s televisions are a great touch, but it’s the bare minimum I’d expect of any game. The games ran well enough on my Xbox Series S|X, but the issues come in when you consider what they’re running. Of course, I’d expect modern consoles to run PS2 games without dropping frames. The issue comes in when you look too closely at the character models and textures. To understand what graphically is happening you have to understand how the game was developed. It’s one thing if character models, set pieces, and rain effects were designed to look artificial, but we know that the original intent was gritty, immersive, and raw. Instead what we see is plastic-looking, artificial, and bizarre.

The project was outsourced to a development house that specializes in mobile ports called Grove Street Games. You can begin to see how this project lost its way. No disrespect to the studio, but they are clearly marked as a support studio that specializes in porting console games to mobile. It is apparent that the studio used AI image upscaling to streamline the workflow of “remastering” the assets. The result is inconsistent at best and characters look like melted action figures at worst.

To make matters worse, not all of the beloved soundtrack is present in this definitive edition. The music industry’s notorious copyright deals are a nightmare to navigate. However, if the aim was to bring these old games to a new generation, they missed the mark. I must assume someone was in charge of playtesting these games before going gold and charging people a premium. Because Rockstar saw fit to issue take-downs to modders who had worked on PC versions graphical upgrades, this is now the “best” legal way a consumer can experience these games. I hope Rockstar continues to release updates and seeks to make right what was an unforced error. Furthermore, given the revenue generated from GTA Online, there really was no reason to release this at this time. Consumers should expect more from publishers and developers. Likewise, console storefronts should have higher expectations for the content they allow to be sold.

I can’t say that I had no fun knocking around my old haunts. The older quest structure and dialogue made me nostalgic for the times when we’d turn the TV volume down lest my parents find out what games we’re playing. However, the launch version of this game was unacceptable. The Definitive Edition should at the very least hold up to the original Likewise, fans who purchased this at launch because it was a Rockstar game, have every right to be upset. There’s a long hill to climb to reclaim the goodwill Rockstar games carry in the meantime, I still have a couple of PS2’s lying around.

Oddworld: Soulstorm Enhanced Edition now available!

Microids and Oddworld Inhabitants are thrilled to announce the improved edition of the award-winning* action-adventure platformer Oddworld: Soulstorm is now available on Xbox Series X I S, Xbox One consoles, PlayStation®5, PlayStation®4, and Epic Games Store.

Oddworld: Soulstorm Enhanced Edition includes dramatically improved gameplay mechanics and motion code, audio balance improvements, seven additional months of polish, improved Slig and follower AI (more intelligent and responsive), as well as all previously released updates and brand-new content.

Game Features:

  • Explosive Action-Adventure Platformer: Evolving the platforming genre by adding RPG-lite elements with player agency to play as you like, whether aggressively or passively. Pickpocket your enemies, loot lockers, sift through trash cans, and find hidden areas to acquire resources. Exchange resources at vending machines to get products that give you more agency in how you chose to conquer the game’s many challenges. Acquire recipes to craft tools and weapons to use against opposing forces or solve problems. Arm your followers and watch the revolution begin.
  • Epicness: This isn’t a traditional 2D side scrolling platformer. Soulstorm is a 2.9D action-adventure platformer with 15 hours of gameplay, and dozens more for achievement hunters and perfectionists. Epic environments with massive scale to explore by going into the world, rather than being limited to the traditional side scrolling platformer sense.
  • Start a Revolution: A dark storyline with a twisted sense of humor that shines a light on the ironies that exist in the human condition. As a slave to big business, a cog in the corporate machine being grinded to death, Abe tries to save them all and along the way he goes from a nobody to potentially starting a global revolution.
  • Completionists: Can you save every single Mudokon in the game (there are more than 1,000)? Can you achieve the best ending and unlock the final two playable levels? Can you scavenge every trash can and locker, kill or safely apprehend every antagonist, find every hidden area, collect every jelly? 3+m players have had the opportunity to do it…will you be the first to do it on Xbox?
  • Multiple Endings: Soulstorm has 15 levels, with two additional unlockable levels at the end of the game. There are 4 types of endings in the game, each depending on your Quarma. At the end of each individual level, you receive a Quarma score, which is based on the number of Mudokons you save. If you succeed in saving enough Mudokons throughout all the levels, you’ll get one of the good endings. But beware: if your Quarma score isn’t high enough, you’ll get a more… dire fate!

What’s Soulstorm’s Brand New Content?

Oddworld: Soulstorm Enhanced Edition’s new content is a separate challenge game mode accessed via the main menu once you complete the game.

Xbox players will go hands-on with Vykkers Labs, a throwback to classic Oddworld 2.5D gameplay featuring short puzzle-filled levels. Earn leaderboard prestige for speed runs or zero-death performances. For those who don’t recall, Vykkers Labs is a large airborne lab used for pharmaceutical testing on animals and run by the sadistic Vykkers.

PlayStation and Epic Games Store players will experience Toby’s Escape. Like Vykkers, it is a throwback to classic Oddworld gaming with short puzzle-filled levels to master. If you have played Soulstorm, you’ll know Toby from the train, but how did Toby escape RuptureFarms and become the train’s conductor…find out in Toby’s Escape.

What If You Already Own Oddworld: Soulstorm?

For the millions of gamers who already own Oddworld: Soulstorm on PS5®, PS4®, and Epic Games Store, you will receive the Enhanced Edition as a free update.

Enhanced Edition for Xbox Series X|S & Xbox One

The retail versions for the Collector and Day One Editions of Oddworld: Soulstorm Enhanced Edition are now available. Fans who have preordered the Day One Edition or Collector’s Edition at participating retailers will also get access to the game’s Original Soundtrack and a Digital Artbook.

LEGO Builder’s Journey for Xbox Coming November 25

The LEGO® Group brings the critically acclaimed LEGO® Builder’s Journey to even more players this Thanksgiving, available November 25 for Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One devices. LEGO® Builder’s Journey will be discounted for 20% off for a limited time beginning on launch day.

The Steam version which is available to play now will be 25% during the same time frame.

The Light Brick team has designed a stunning brick-built world that follows a father and son on an inspirational journey. Players will delight in mediatiative gameplay that is filled with geometric puzzles and graphical upgrades for the current generation of Xbox devices.

LEGO Builder’s Journey will launch on Xbox devices on November 25, and is now available on Steam, the Epic Games Store and the Nintendo eshop. To learn more, please visit https://www.lightbrick.com/builders-journey.

Next Space Rebels Launch Trailer Revealed Ahead of Tomorrow’s Release

3, 2, 1… LIFTOFF!

Tomorrow, Humble Games and Studio Floris Kaayk will release their one-of-a-kind story driven simulation game, Next Space Rebels, for Xbox One and PC via the Humble Store and Steam. Next Space Rebels will also be available on Xbox Game Pass on Day 1, and the game will be launching for Nintendo Switch in 2022.  In celebration, the team has released a new launch trailer today.

In Next Space Rebels, players will develop from a naive rocket hobbyist into an experienced space activist by designing, building, and launching rockets of increasing complexity. Next Space Rebels enables the joy of creation, lessons of failure, and progress of experimentation, generally reserved for complex sim games, through its accessible “notepad-style” creation tools and intertwined narrative.

KEY FEATURES:

  • DESIGN ROCKETS – Powerful yet easy-to-use rocket creation tools that will let any budding rocketeer express their full creative potential
  • EARN YOUR WAY TO THE TOP – Earn and gather new parts by completing challenges to grow from a hobbyist rocket builder to an advanced satellite-launching rocket scientist
  • YOUR VERY OWN STARTUBE CHANNEL – Grow an online StarTube channel! Share recorded creations in-game to grow the channel, then export them to share in real life
  • LIVE ACTION – Fully live-action cutscenes! Meet an extensive cast of extravagant internet characters on your journey towards becoming a Next Space Rebel
  • FREEPLAY MODE – Freeplay mode to create the Frankensteinian rocket of your dreams

Battlefield 2042 First Impressions – PC & Xbox Series X

This is a first-impression review and as such opinions are based solely on the state of the game at the time of review and subject to change as development progresses leading up to final release.

Battlefield 2042 takes players back to a near future war zone where “non-patriots” act as specialists who join different international powers in massive battles around the globe. For 19 years DICE has aimed to let players make their own adventures by dropping them into massive conflict zones and equipping them with weapons, supplies, and vehicles. While the series has struggled to remain relevant in recent years, the gameplay always differentiates itself from other dominant shooters year over year. Halo is an arena shooter built on a longer time-to-kill while Call of Duty is a twitch-based multiplayer where speed and nearly instantaneous time-to-death levels the playing field. Battlefield, however, has always stood out as a slightly slower tactical shooter that prizes squad cooperation and positioning over reaction-time or map memorization. In this latest iteration, it promised to double the scale and player counts of previous generations and add specialists to refresh the class-based formula to modernize the game.

A cutscene will play, setting up the gameplay of these specialists taking various sides and you’ll be greeted by three different game types. All-Out Warfare, Hazard Zone, and Portal. All-Out Warfare pits two teams against each other vying for territory or attack and defense games. This is the traditional large-scale 128 player Battlefield past players are accustomed to. Hazard Zone is the “Escape From Tarkov” quad-based extraction game that has you looting drop pods for hard drives and safely extracting before another team or NPC can gun you down. Lastly, Portal is the “Battlefield Salad” where you can mix up select previous titles into a customized, player-created game for a new twist using old assets. Portal is a genius idea that I loved seeing the creativity and variety of game types.

The asking price for this package is between $60-$110 depending on the platform and edition. Alternatively, you could get 10 hours of access or unlimited hours with either Gamepass/EAPlay or EA Play Pro for $4.99/$29.99 per month or $14.99/$99.99 respectively. The value proposition is further complicated by the release date. While certain editions grant you early access, with unlimited playtime other editions grant you limited playtime with no ownership. If you made it through those two sentences with clarity of what to purchase, I congratulate you. I would love it if anyone in the comments could give me one sentence that tells me where, how, and when I can play this game if I’m a potential customer. I write this to illustrate the hoops that are asked of the consumer to jump through and how frustrating some people must feel when the game doesn’t run as advertised or release when they expected.

During my 15 hours with the game, I have spent a collective 3.5 hours either queuing or restarting the program to try and get into a match. I have experienced bugs such as items not unlocking, graphical errors, full crashes on Xbox series X, and more. The frustrating cherry on top is not having game chat enabled. There is a ping system but it is not as intuitive as other shooters. Not being able to communicate in Hazard Zone severely inhibits the capability of a cross-platform team and the lack of inclusion of a chat system is a glaring oversight.

Since Battlefield 3 and the ubiquitous adoption of online console gaming, it has been understood that EA’s flagship shooter always stumbles out of the gate with bugs and stability issues. Therefore, it should always be a question as a publisher what state is acceptable to ship a game in or call it “launched.” Furthermore, after Sony’s very public removal of Cyberpunk from their online store, it begs the question: what obligation is there from Microsoft or Sony to regulate these unfinished games during the certification process?

Let me put some sugar with all this salt. I will continue to play Battlefield 2042 weekly if not daily. I love the chaos and unpredictability of each battle. When the game runs as intended it is a joy to play and feels great. I want DICE to patch and update this fast so a community of players grows and 128-player lobbies are full. I understand publicly traded companies have to hit deadlines, but I wish this game was baked longer in the oven. I gladly gave them my $70 in addition to the review copy, because I love the formula.

I will play the hell out of Battlefield because I am a glutton for punishment, and I love the scale and skirmishes. Likewise, when this game works it’s a technical marvel that looks beautiful to boot. Therefore, I’d recommend you buy one month of EA play as a means to “rent” before purchasing. Perhaps we got rid of Blockbuster too soon, because this is a try before you buy, but if you love large-scale chaotic battles, this is a damn fun one when it works. I would love to be able to return to this article a year from now and write about how DICE made this right by patches and community support. Time will tell but, in the meantime, I’ll be on the Battlefield.

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