Friday, 11 September 2020

Xbox Series S Won't Support Xbox One X Enhancements for Backward Compatible Games

xbox series s

At $299, the Xbox Series S offers incredible value for a next-gen console, but while it's a very consumer-friendly price, the console's specs – which are significantly lower than the Xbox Series X – have been concerning to many people. While it remains to be seen what effect exactly those deficiencies will have on next-gen games, we do know that backward compatible games running on the Xbox Series S will be affected.

Microsoft have confirmed following speculation regarding the same that the Xbox Series S won't apply Xbox One X enhancements to backward compatible games (which makes sense, given that the console isn't capable of rendering 4K resolutions). Instead, it will run the Xbox One S versions of backward compatible titles, while also adding its own previously confirmed enhancements, such as improved texture filtering, higher frame rates, and adding HDR to games that didn't originally have it at launch.

"Xbox Series S was designed to be the most affordable next generation console and play next generation games at 1440p at 60 FPS," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement to Gamespew. "To deliver the highest quality backwards compatible experience consistent with the developer's original intent, the Xbox Series S runs the Xbox One S version of backward compatible games while applying improved texture filtering, higher and more consistent frame rates, faster load times and Auto HDR."

Microsoft have previously said that they have prioritized faster frame rates over resolution with the Xbox Series S (which is allegedly capable of up to 120 FPS gameplay), so as disappointing as this might be to many, it doesn't come as much of a surprise. 4K wouldn't have been possible on the Series S anyway, and it's worth noting that the console will still be adding enhancements of its own.

For more on Xbox Series S and its specs, make sure to read our recent in-depth tech analysis of the console's hardware through here.


Roller Champions Delayed to Early 2021

roller champions

Ubisoft announced their free to play multiplayer sports title Roller Champions at E3 last year, following which it has been made playable to some people through its alpha periods. The game was due for its full 1.0 launch later this year, but that launch, it seems, has been pushed back.

During their Ubisoft Forward show yesterday, Ubisoft confirmed that Roller Champions' full launch has been delayed, and pushed back by a few months. Though the exact release date hasn't yet been announced, the company says that it will be releasing some time in early 2021.

When it does release, Roller Champions will be available for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS, and Android. Whether or not it will also get a next-gen release isn't something Ubisoft have mentioned anything about, so that remains up in the air for now. In the meantime, you can check out roughly an hour of gameplay footage for Roller Champions through here.


Xbox Series S Specs Analysis – Is It Really A 1440p/120 FPS Next-Gen Machine?

After wave upon wave of leaks over the past months, Microsoft's finally given up the game and made the Xbox Series S official. It's interesting how long it actually took Redmond to formally open up about this new console, since the public's been in the know about both it for several months now.

For better or worse, though, it's out in the open now. The Xbox Series S is a thing. Microsoft claims that it's set to deliver up to 120 Hz gaming experience at up to 1440p. And it's set to cost a good bit less than the premium Xbox Series X. How much of the internals have changed to bring the Series S down to its new price point? And how much has stayed the same? Let's take a look and find out.

CPU: more or less identical levels of power

The Xbox Series S features an 8-core 16-thread Zen 2 CPU that's clocked at 3.4 GHz with SMT (simultaneous multithreading) enabled, and 3.6 GHz with SMT off. Compared to the Xbox Series X, this is very, very close to achieving parity and it's not far off from the PlayStation 5 either. The only difference between the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in terms of CPU capabilities is a 200 MHz differential: the Xbox Series X is clocked 200 MHz higher than its budget counterpart. Does this make any difference in gaming? In practice, not at all.

Both the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X have processors that are a true generational leap over the eighth-generation consoles. We're talking about a doubling to the thread count, a doubling of clockspeed and a near 2x improvement to IPC. We're talking about CPU prowess that's anywhere between 3 to 4 times greater than the previous generation. During the eighth generation, CPU bottlenecking was a major issue, to the point that even the enhanced GPUs on the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X didn't help all the time. Bloodborne is a case in point. Titles like Fallout 4 that were heavily CPU-bound saw near-linear scaling just on account of higher clock frequencies on the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, relative to the base consoles.

Compared to this state of affairs, the performance difference between the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X CPUs is negligible. We've personally tested a Zen 2 CPU (the Ryzen 9 3900X in this case) running at 3.8 GHz and at 4.2 GHz, a much larger differential. Even then, the performance delta in most games is almost unnoticeable. We'd chalk this up to Microsoft wanting to reduce thermal and power demands on the Series S, to allow for its smaller form factor. In terms of frame-pushing, there's little the Xbox Series S' CPU can't do that the Xbox Series X's CPU can. If we're talking about 120 Hz gaming, for instance, this processor has more than adequate power on tap to deliver that experience, assuming GPU bottlenecks don't get in the way.

Storage: more of the same

xbox series s

There's not much to talk about in terms of the Xbox Series S' storage and I/O capabilities. We're looking at a PCIe Gen4 SSD with that delivers the same throughput as its Series X counterpart, with 2.4 GB/s of bandwidth uncompressed and up to 4.8 GB/s when factoring in memory compression. Storage capacity is cut in half to 512 GB. Since this is a digital-only console, this could introduce some challenges, especially with game size expected to balloon in the coming years. However, we don't expect the Xbox Series S' I/O capabilities to affect the gaming experience.

GPU capabilities: the big caveat

Microsoft promises 1440p/ 120 Hz gaming with the Xbox Series S. While the console's CPU is certainly not going to be a bottleneck, we think the substantially toned-down GPU capabilities could impose hard limits on just what the Xbox Series S is capable of. We're looking here at a 20CU RDNA 2 GPU that's clocked at a fairly conservative 1.565 GHz. There are a number of takeaways from these specs.

For starters, Microsoft is pushing hard for power efficiency, lower thermals, and better power consumption. RDNA parts can run as high as 2.1 GHz if you push enough power through them, as we've seen in RX 5700 XT overclocking benchmarks. It's simple to assume that RDNA2 can go that high as well, especially considering the fact that the Xbox Series X's GPU is clocked at 1.8 GHz out of the box. Historically, AMD GPUs have delivered higher levels of performance with lower overclocking headroom because they're pushed a bit past their power consumption/performance sweet spot. 2013's R9 290X is perhaps the most infamous example: the Hawaii GPU was pushed, kicking and screaming, to the 1 GHz point with high voltages, extreme power consumption, and a blistering 95 degrees Celsius operating temperature. Dropping clocks just a bit (to get Hawaii back to the "sweet spot") would allow users to cut power consumption and temps massively. We saw a similar situation with Polaris and Vega parts: cut clocks and drop performance by 5-10 percent in exchange for greatly improved power efficiency.

xbox series s

With the Xbox Series S, Microsoft needs to focus on efficiency since the small form factor leaves little margin for error in terms of power consumption and temps. The lower 1.565 GHz GPU clock is likely well within RDNA2's sweet spot range in terms of voltage and power consumption. This means an efficient chip that doesn't need an elaborate cooling setup.

But what about performance and capabilities? At 20 CUs, we're looking at a less than half the shader count of the Xbox Series X, clocked lower. All in all, this translates to 4 TFLOPs of compute, relative to the Xbox Series X's 12.15 TFLOPs. Because we're looking at RDNA2 parts, compute capabilities don't give us the full picture in terms of performance. Based on what we know about the RX 5700 XT, a 4 TFLOP RDNA2 part will likely deliver better performance in most workloads than the Xbox One X's 6 TFLOP GPU.

In terms of memory bandwidth — key to performance scaling at higher resolutions like 1440p, we're looking at further cutbacks. The Xbox Series X features 10GB of GDDR6 at 560 GB/s and a further 6 GB at 336 GB/s. In contrast, the Xbox Series S features 8GB of GDDR6 at 224 GB/s and 2GB at a paltry 56 GB/s. These are some of the slowest speeds ever seen with GDDR6 memory.

These two factors raise some serious questions about the Xbox Series S' graphics capabilities. Microsoft states that it's targeting 1440p/60 FPS with the Xbox Series S, with scope for 120 Hz experiences. Based on what we know about hardware in this performance tier, we find it hard to see the Series S delivering that kind of performance for next-gen games without cutbacks to visuals. Yes, we have seen Gears 5 running at 120fps, but it's a current gen game after all.

xbox series s

In the PC space, RDNA graphics cards like the RX 5500XT — which are actually faster than the Xbox Series S' GPU — are targeted at 1080p/60 with medium to high settings in today's games. Keep in mind that modern games are designed to scale all the way down to the Xbox One's paltry 1.3 TFLOP GPU, and even run on the Nintendo Switch with cutbacks.

With the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S setting a far higher graphics baseline, it's hard to see how a 4 TFLOP RDNA2 GPU will deliver 1080p/60 FPS in the years to come, let alone 1440p/120 FPS. So, how do we look at Microsoft's claims of 1440p at up to 120 Hz?

Keep in mind that both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were advertised as consoles capable of delivering 1080p/60 FPS experiences. While a handful of titles — indie games and some well-optimized first party games for the most part — actually hit those performance numbers, most games delivered 1080p/30 on the PlayStation 4 and 900p/30 on the Xbox One at the beginning on the console generation, and things just got worse from there. In 2020, many AAA cross-platform games on the Xbox One run with dynamic resolution scaling that goes as low as 720p, with performance that often dips below 30 FPS. Yes, in theory, there are a handful of 1080p/60 FPS games on the Xbox One. Are they the norm? Absolutely not.

Likewise, we see Microsoft's 1440p/120 Hz claim as more of an aspirational target. We expect a handful of titles to deliver 1440p/60 FPS. And we wouldn't be surprised to see indies hit 120 Hz: we'd happily play Dead Cells at 1440p/120 Hz on the Series S, for instance. When it comes to less-intensive AAA games, we expect to see performance/image quality scaling options, with a 1440p/60 FPS (or even 1440p/30 FPS) quality mode and a 1080p/60 or 1080p/120 Hz performance mode. However, in most titles, we expect to see 1080p/60 or 1080p/30 FPS as the standard on the Xbox Series S for next-gen games. This isn't necessarily a bad thing: A native 1080p presentation without upscaling tricks looks fine. And the faster CPU and I/O should ensure that the Xbox Series S manages to deliver perfectly locked 30 or 60 FPS experiences, without dips below.

Conclusion

xbox series s

All in all, we'd take claims of the Xbox Series S being a 1440p/120 Hz price-performance champ with some salt. There's just not enough GPU power in the box to deliver that performance level at that resolution for most games that will be built on next-gen tech. Sure, Microsoft's first party studios and few other developers will reach that target but most third parties won't. Even the Xbox Series X, with three times the GPU grunt, might have a tough time hitting 120 Hz at 1440p in intensive 9th gen titles. While those numbers are aspirational, we think Microsoft's real target with the Xbox Series S is to deliver the first real 1080p/60fps gaming console. Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 promised this and largely failed. With greater GPU and CPU capabilities than either eighth-gen console, we think the Xbox Series S might just fit the bill.


Tell Me Why Chapter 3 is Now Available

Tell Me Why_02

The third and final episode for Dontnod's Tell Me Why is out now on PC and Xbox One along with Xbox Game Pass. The first episode launched on August 27th while the second followed just a week later. Considering the criticism levied at the developer for long gaps between episodes in its games, this is a pretty good change of pace.

The story follows the Ronan twins, Alyson and Tyler, as they return to Alaska to visit their childhood home. Tyler had a rough upbringing but the truth behind the events that affected the twins, and their mother, will need to be unraveled. Throughout the game, players will experience the memories of each twin separately and attempt to reconcile the truth.

Depending on the truth that one believes, the overall outcome of the story can change. Tell Me Why is also noteworthy for featuring the first transgender protagonist in Tyler, which plays a big part in the story. For fans of Life is Strange, it's worth experiencing the tale and seeing how their choices affect the ending.


PS5 to Cost $499, Digital Edition $399 – Rumour

ps5

The exact pricing of next-gen consoles has been a major talking point for a while now, owing to the fact that Sony and Microsoft have both held off on talking about what those prices will be. Microsoft, at least, recently put an end to that drawn-out waiting game when they announced that the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S would launch on November 10 for $499 and $299 respectively.

Now, all eyes are on Sony, and with the pricing for both Xbox consoles been so compelling, so, too, is all the pressure. While it remains to be seen when exactly Sony will deem it appropriate to talk about the PS5's prices, a new report suggests that their plans may have changed in response to Microsoft's recent announcements.

Gamereactor claims in a report that it has been told by multiple sources that while as per Sony's initial plans, the PS5 would have been significantly costlier than its competitors, following the price announcement of the Xbox Series X and Series S, Sony have decided to change their plans and slash prices.

Reportedly, the PS5 is now primed to release at a price of $499, the same as the Xbox Series X, while the PS5 Digital Edition will retail for $399. Whether or not that turns out to be accurate remains to be seen- take this with a grain of salt until we hear something official from Sony.

PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan has previously said that while the PS5's price may not necessarily be the lowest, it will be targeting the best possible value proposition. As for when that price might be revealed, recent reports have suggested that the console's pre-orders will begin soon, so hopefully it shouldn't be long.

The PS5 is scheduled to launch Holiday 2020. Reports have claimed that the console will be out in mid-November, while recent listings for its accessories have suggested a release date of November 19. Interestingly enough, some recent developments have suggested that it'll release in some parts of the world a little later on this year.


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake Devs Address Graphics Criticism – "No Cutbacks in Budget or Timeline"

prince of persia the sands of time remake

Prince of Persia has been dormant for a decade now, but demands for the beloved franchise to make its comeback haven't waned in that time. Ubisoft seem to be giving in to those demands at long last, with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake having recently been announced.

Such an announcement should ordinarily have been met with rapturous responses, but that, unfortunately, hasn't been the case. Responses have been mixed, with many calling out the game's poor visual quality and technical deficiencies. What exactly do the game's lead developers at Ubisoft Mumbai and Ubisoft Pune have to say about that?

Speaking in a recent interview with The Mako Reactor, game director Pierre Sylvain-Gires said that the aesthetic they have gone with for the remake is a stylistic choice, in order to help it make stand out.

"If you take the game that was made 17 years ago, there's definitely room for improvement in terms of graphism and we really wanted to give a unique look to the game because Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is actually is a fantasy story," Sylvain-Gires said. "The narration, the 40 different levels you have to go through to finish the game are an immersion into the Thief of Baghdad and all these magical environments. So we decided to go for a unique visual treatment to make this game standout from other games. It's not another Assassin's Creed, it's not like the same Prince of Persia from 2008. It has to be unique. This magic, this fantasy is shown through the saturation, through the light, so it also a challenge to redefine the visual identity of the game with this remake."

Its stylistic aesthetic is all well and good though- what about the technical side of things, which in particular is an area where The Sands of Time Remake has drawn quite a bit of criticism? Is it a question of budget of development time constraints?

According to director of production Syed Abbas, that isn't an issue. He explained that with a peak of 170 developers at one point, the game has been in production for two and a half years, and there have been no cutbacks to budget or timeline whatsoever.

"No, it was not a problem of timeline or budget," Abbas said. "For us at Ubisoft, quality is of the utmost importance and this is something that we have kept in mind from the start. The project has been in development for the last two and a half years. We have had at peak 170 members working on this project and not to mention other investments in infrastructure and set up to make a modern game. No, there have not been any cutback in budget or timeline for the game."

With roughly four months still left before the game launches and with its first showing having allegedly been from the alpha stage of development, the hope remains that the final product will look more visually impressive than what it's first impression suggests. That is, after all, what a game such as The Sands of Time deserves. Whether it gets what it deserves remains to be seen.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake launches for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC on January 21, 2021. Some recent listings have suggested that it'll be out for the Nintendo Switch as well, but with Ubisoft not having made any statement about the same, things are still unclear on that front.


Immortals Fenyx Rising Director Says Some Influence Came From Early 2000s Action-Adventure Games

immortal fenyx rising

The game once known as Gods and Monsters got its grand reintroduction yesterday as Immortals Fenyx Rising. The game is an open world adventure game with a stylized look all about Greek mythology. The game looks quite interesting, but one thing that many felt they noticed was how similar many things looked to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The art style especially jumped out at people. But the game's Director actually speaks of other, older influences that went into the game.

In an interview with VGC, Julien Galloudec was asked about the influence from Breath of the Wild and while he said it was flattering to be compared to such a legendary game, he actually said the influences run deeper. He said that he wanted the game to full more like the platformer adventure games from the early 2000s, specifically mentioning Banjo-Kazooie and the first Jak and Daxter. Specifically, he wanted to take their open world like formula that was densely packed with various challenges and modernize the design.

"It's always great to be compared to great games, but I've actually been influenced by a lot of different experiences, and one of the very important influences for us was the action-adventure games from the early 2000s.

So games like Jak and Daxter or Banjo-Kazooie, that were action-adventure games within a small open-world, very dense in challenges that could be combat, that could be platforming and that could be puzzles. We wanted to kind of revisit that formula and bring it to the next level with the tech knowledge and the things that we can do at Ubisoft Québec.

So that was part of our intention, to explore that aspect in terms of game experience, while using the Greek mythology as a setting for the game. We wanted to have that mix of combat, travel, exploration and puzzle all mixed together in a flow that that kind of makes sense and that you can have an agenda within.

So you can choose how many puzzles, how much platforming, which exploration and how much combat you want to do, but have a unifying experience within those three pillars. That was really the focus in terms of game experience, to try to have the best balance within that mix of intensity, with combat, exploration and traversal."

Immortals Fenyx Rising will release on December 3rd for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, Switch, PC and Stadia. You can check out a walkthrough of the gameplay through here.


Star Wars: Squadrons Has Gone Gold

star wars squadrons

Motive Studios' Star Wars: Squadrons is out next month and it seems that principle development has wrapped. Over on Twitter, creative director Ian S. Frazier confirmed that it had gone gold. Though development will still continue and we'll likely see a day one patch, this means the game is ready to be manufactured and distributed on discs, certified for digital release and so on.

Star Wars: Squadrons focuses on the space dog-fighting aspects of the franchise. Taking place after Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, it sees the Galactic Empire facing off against the New Republic. The campaign will alternate between pilots on Titan Squadron and Vanguard Squadron respectively, which players can customize as they see fit.

Multiplayer includes Dogfight for some 5v5 action and Fleet Battles with both teams working to destroy the other's Capital Ship. With four different fighter classes on each side, a variety of upgrades and no microtransactions, Star Wars: Squadrons looks to cater to the old-school space combat fan. It's out on October 2nd for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.


Microsoft Flight Simulator Patch #2 In Final Testing, Set To Release Within Next 10 Days

microsoft flight simulator

After a very long absence, Microsoft Flight Simulator returned to the virtual skies for the 2020 edition to a huge reception. The game is incredible from a technical standpoint, from its ridiculous graphics to its incredible ability to recreate maps, but like many things on the cutting edge of technology, it wasn't without issues. Several problems were reported with the game soon after launch, which Microsoft and Asobo Studio working to fix them. The game got one major update already with a second in the works.

As revealed on the official blog, Patch #2 is in its final test phase now. Right now the plan is to release it within the next 10 days. It'll address a range of things from performance issues, UI updates, live weather issues and a host more. You can read the list below or through the official site through here.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is available now for PC, and it has been reaffirmed that the game will also be coming to the Xbox One though as of now no date has been pinned down. We'll keep you updated on when that version will release as well as when Patch #2 will drop on PC.

  • Performance improvements
  • ATC updates
  • UI updates
  • Aerodynamic updates
  • Aircraft updates
  • Cockpit visuals and animation updates
  • General aviation system updates
  • General aviation avionic updated
  • Airliner system updates
  • Airliner avionic updates
  • Live Weather updates – (e.g. 225/3kt wind fixed, persistency fixed, etc.)
  • Upgraded multiplayer servers
  • Marketplace updates
  • Content Manager updates
  • Localization updates
  • Accessibility updates
  • Camera updates
  • Bush Trip updates (e.g. completion trigger fixed/Completionist achievement fixed)
  • World updates

Super Mario 3D All-Stars Returns To Sunshine's Sirena Beach In New Clip

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

The announcement of Super Mario 3D All-Stars finally came after a long time being rumored, and it wasn't without some controversy. The title will include three classic Mario titles: Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. They are remastered, but not to the level many had hoped, and on top of that will only be available for a limited time. But regardless, this will seemingly be the only way to play the games on the Switch, and now we get another good look at Sunshine and how sharp it still looks.

The official Japanese Twitter for the 35th Anniversary has been releasing gameplay clips of the titles, with some footage from Mario 64, Sunshine, as well as Galaxy. Super Mario Sunshine got another highlight today with showing the remaster's Sirena Beach. Sunshine's reception was somewhat muted originally due to how it changed up the Mario formula, but it always had a distinct and colorful look, and this version maintains that.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars will release September 18th for Nintendo Switch where it will be available for a limited time until the end of March 2021.


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