Microsoft’s schedule for the 2019 Game Developer’s Conference has been revealed, and it hints at something surprising for the future of XBox Live. When it was first posted, one of the panels was called “Xbox Live: Growing & Engaging Your Gaming Community Across iOS, Android, Switch, Xbox, and PC.” Wait, Switch?
As is usual for this time of the month, Microsoft has revealed the titles that will be available through its Games With Gold program in May. The stand-out title in Metal Gear Solid 5: the Phantom Pain, but this is joined by a variety of other high quality games.
Available from May 1 on Xbox One is the highly anticipated Super Mega Baseball 2 as well as the Sega Vintage Collection: Streets of Rage for Xbox 360. The Xbox One offering will be live throughout the month of May, while the Xbox 360 titles are only available for two weeks. In the second half of May, players can get their hands on the third-person shooter Vanquish as well as Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.
As is usual, all the games can be played on the Xbox One as the Xbox 360 titles offered in Games With Gold are always backwards compatible. Users will need an active Xbox Live Gold membership to download and play all of the games.
The games that will be part of Games With Gold for November have been announced. Each of the titles will be available to download and play for free for anyone with an active Xbox Live Gold subscription. The Xbox One games for the month will be Trackmania Turbo, which will be available for all of November, while Tales from the Borderlands will be on offer from November 16 to December 15. The Xbox 360 titles are made up of Nights into Dreams and Deadfall Adventures, each of which will be fully backwards compatible so that they can be played on the Xbox One.
Following on from their announcement that they would be adding new titles to the Xbox Game Pass every month, Microsoft have revealed the new games coming to the service in November. They include some high profile titles from big franchises.
The full list of games includes both Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Resident Evil HD. The rest of the new entries are Halo Wars Definitive Edition, Oddworld New ‘n’ Tasty, The World of Van Helsing: Death Trap, Mega Man 9, and Sky Force Anniversary.
Unfortunately, November will also mark the first month in which some games will be removed from the Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft previously stated that this would be the case but that they would give players plenty of notice so they would have a chance to finish off anything they had started before they leave the service.
The Games With Gold titles for October have been revealed, with Xbox Live Gold members getting the opportunity to download and play a variety of genres this month. As is usual, there are two Xbox One games and two Xbox 360 titles that are backwards compatible on the newer hardware. The two Xbox One downloads for October are composed of the celebrated adventure game Gone Home for the first half of the month and then the acclaimed puzzler The Turing Test for the second half. The Xbox 360 offerings include platformer Rayman 3 and the first-person shooter Medal of Honor: Airborne. The PopGeeks review of The Turing Test when it first released in 2016 found that it was one of the best puzzle games available on the system, only able to be beaten by the likes of Portal. Created by the same team behind Pneuma: Breath of Life, the puzzler was able to take the criticisms its predecessor had and improve upon almost every aspect.
The fact that September is just around the corner means that a whole new set of games are set to be made available to download for Xbox Live Gold members. As is usual for the program, users will receive two Xbox one titles and two for the Xbox 360, though the older games will be playable via backwards compatibility on the latest console. The first Xbox One game comes in the form of Forza Motorsport 5: Game of the Year Edition. This is likely to help build some interest around the upcoming October release of Forza 7. It comes with the base game as well as the Top Gear DLC pack that includes additional cars and tracks. The second game for the newer hardware is Oxenfree, a dialogue-driven game that focuses on the player having to solve a supernatural mystery as they explore an island. The two Xbox 360 games are Hydro Thunder Hurricane and battlefield 3. The first is a water-based racing game that was first released in 2010 for the Xbox Live Arcade as part of the Summer of Arcade promotion. Battlefield 3 was EA and DICE’s 2011 instalment in their celebrated first-person shooter franchise. That leaves players with just a few more days to grab Trials Fusion for the Xbox One and Red Faction: Armageddon before they are removed from the promotion.
The latest Xbox One update is now available to download and it brings a whole host of new features with it. Top of the list is the ability to upload your own personalized gamerpic rather than having to make do with the customization options built-in to the console. The headline features include:
One of the most important aspects that many users have wanted answered since the launch of the Xbox Game Pass is how they will be informed of game removals. Microsoft has now revealed that players will get advanced warnings of any removals so that they can finish off playthroughs. According to a representative, “When a game rotates out of Xbox Game Pass, fans will be notified a few weeks in advance before it is removed from the catalog.” The good news is that all of the games that are currently available will remain in place until at least November, when the first selection of games is set for removal. Microsoft didn’t reveal which titles would leave the service in that month but it will most likely not be a huge number. The company has also confirmed that they will add at least five games to the Xbox Game Pass every month. Those additions are set to start in July with a smattering of new titles becoming available. The full list of these games, which you can download from July 1,are:
Codemasters have had something of a privileged position over the last decade and a half when it comes to racing games. They have had much recent success with the likes of their F1 titles but it is their rally games that have really marked them out as one of the premium racing developers. After all, there have been very few rally titles that have managed to come close to the quality of Colin McRae or Dirt. With the release of Dirt 4, the first in the franchise since 2015’s Dirt Rally, it looks as if the developer has not just matched their previous efforts but improved upon the formula that makes their rally games so great. Arguably the most vital element of any racing game is ensuring that it is approachable enough to appeal to even the most casual of players but also deep and complex enough to satisfy the hardcore racers. It’s a tricky balance to maintain as it requires developers to take into account to two very different types of players and come up with something that appeals to both of them. However, Codemasters have done just that with Dirt 4 – an even more impressive feat considering the nature of a rally game that contains such variety in terms of environments, road surfaces, and weather. The main way that the team has achieved this is with a new handling system. Here, they have taken the approach that has helped Forza widen its appeal dramatically, introducing two distinctive ways of playing the game. These come in the form of an arcade style system called gamer. This is a forgiving, pick-up-and-play, version of driving a car that makes Dirt 4 easier to play for the casual player. Simulation takes things to the extreme, introducing things like brake-bias and giving players total control over the delicate vehicles you pilot. This idea also means that it’s possible for those who are not as familiar with racing games to progress as they play, slowly moving towards the simulation settings to make the game that much more challenging. This control system is supplemented with the Dirt Academy. This is essentially a training and tutorial area where you can learn everything there is to know about rallying and put it into practice. The most interesting part of this is the lessons. Although they can seem overwhelming due to the amount of detail they try to convey, they do a good job of explaining the fundamentals and giving easy to understand explanations of the finer points. The fact that they also have interactive sections makes the process much more enjoyable. In terms of the career, Codemasters have taken a more traditional approach. They have eschewed the sometimes embarrassing plotlines that games like need For Speed try to inject into the singleplayer and instead gone for a simple progression through different classifications and disciplines. This is something I enjoy much more than a gimmicky story but Dirt 4 also fleshes this experience out significantly. You don’t just drive a car in this title but are the head of your own team. This requires managing your staff, buying new vehicles, and upgrading facilities. Most important of all is the team branding where you design the look of your cars and negotiate sponsorship deals to get extra cash. This doesn’t provide any set path for the player to go through and provides plenty of freedom for how you want to approach spending your hard-earned cash. In terms of game modes, Dirt 4 has four distinct disciplines that incorporate everything from classic rally cars, modern high-performance vehicles, and even Crosskarts and trucks. While it is the standard rally discipline that has always been Dirt’s strength, the developers have done a good job at including rally cross and landrush modes. There is also a return of joyride from Dirt 3, which incorporates challenges and minigames, which offer a nice change of pace to the traditional gameplay modes. As you would expect from a team that prides itself on authenticity, Dirt 4 has some of the best, and most realistic, sounding cars in any game ever. Whether it is an engine revving or tires spraying up gravel as you try and gain traction, every little noise is captured perfectly, translating the raw power and emotion of rallying to the television screen. It is aided by the beautiful visuals that accompany the audio. In particular, the lighting system is an impressive feat that makes the world seem real. In all honesty, there is very little that Dirt 4 does wrong. One obvious problem is the fact that the popular gymkhana mode from the most recent installments in the series has been completely omitted. It could be argued that it was taking too much focus away from the core game modes but it seems odd that the developers have chosen to get rid of it altogether rather than scale it back. The AI racers also have their own issues. It is not a problem that you come across in standard rally racing but the modes that involve multiple cars on the same track simultaneously are far from perfect. Drivers have little regard for racing etiquette and seem to be more worried about ramming you off the road than getting to the finish line. It can become incredibly frustrating at times, making certain courses feel likely lotteries rather than true tests of skill. Despite these few small problems, Dirt 4 is perhaps the best rally game ever created. It has not only managed to accommodate all types of players, whether casual or experienced, but also be a fun experience that constantly challenges you. Yet, it rarely feels too difficult and its stage creation mode provides opportunity for plenty of replay value. Ultimately, this is a racing game that it easy to recommend to everyone. This review was based on a digital copy of the game that was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Dirt 4 is available now on Xbox One.
The titles that are due to become available for free in June through the Games With Gold program. As is usual with the offer, Xbox Live Gold members will get access to four titles in total, two on the Xbox One and another two for the Xbox 360. The first Xbox One title is the racing game Speedrunners. It will be available throughout the entire month. Meanwhile, the second title is Ubisoft’s open world game Watch_Dogs, which will be free to download from June 16. The two Xbox 360 titles are Assassin’s Creed II and Dagon Age: Origins. Both games are backwards compatible. As an additional extra, downloadable content for the recently released freebie Phantom Dust will also become available from June 1.
Microsoft has just released a new update for Xbox One owners that will begin rolling out from today. The latest download brings a host of new changes and upgrades, including a faster dashboard and the implementation of Beam streaming. Firstly, the Home screen that players are used to seeing when they fire up their console has been changed. The new look has been designed to simplify the user interface and make it easier to find your content and interact with Xbox Live. A number of alterations under the hood should mean performance also sees a significant boost. This has been coupled with a new version of the Guide. Taking inspiration from the system previously used on the Xbox 360, one hit of the Guide button on the controller will open up the inlay on the left side of the screen that lets you access a number of features and allows you to manage your background music. Perhaps the biggest addition in this update is the inclusion of Beam streaming. This system is built directly into the Xbox One, meaning you don’t have to download any additional software or apps. It gives you the chance to broadcast your games in “near real-time” with low latency. The options for streaming can also be found in the Guide, giving easy access to the controls. There are some other extra things that have been added to the console, including extra controller customizations options and screen time limits for child accounts. More information can be found over at the Xbox website.
Chime Sharp is the successor to the 2010 puzzle game Chime, which released on the Xbox 360 as well as a number of other platforms. It follows the same basic rules and has a similar appearance but has been expanded and upgraded in several key areas. With the multitude of puzzlers available across the Xbox One, though, is it worth your time and money? The answer is almost definitely yes. The game revolves around you having to make quads using a series of different shaped blocks that have a Tetris-like feel to them. They fit together, change the color of the background and are deleted by a wave that passes through the level in time with the music, with the ultimate goal being to cover the entire grid. As you do this, the music adds more layers and your score increases. This might all sound rather simple but the difficulty and challenge come from the fact that there are a variety of different stages for you to unlock that feature extra rules and obstacles. While it may seem like a game to be played in short bursts, which is certainly the impression I first got, it quickly becomes clear that Chime Sharp has a very addictive quality. Sessions that you were only intending to play for a few minutes can easily stretch to an hour or two thanks to the “just one more go” mentality that comes from almost beating your score or unlocking the next level. As you need to reach a certain percentage of coverage for most of the game modes, it is easy to feel compelled to try again when you can not only see the counter in the top right corner but visibly see how much of the board you have covered with each attempt. While most of the game takes place in the normal mode that has been described above, there are a few others to sink your teeth into. These come in the form of Sharp, Strike, and Challenge. They each unlock when you have reached certain requisites, usually involving getting a score of 60% on the previous mode. They offer an extra spice of variety and increase the difficulty significantly. Both Strike and Challenge mode are just expanded versions of Normal mode. In Strike, you have to cover as much of the map as possible in a strict 90 second time period- something that requires lightning fast decision making and placement. Challenge mode meanwhile is simply a harder version of Normal that changes the board to make it harder to make your quads and mixes up the shapes on offer. The biggest change comes in Sharp mode. Here you don’t have to consider a time limit of any kind. Instead, you are working with a set of lives. These lives disappear when you create quads that leave extra shapes behind, forcing you to ensure that you use every single fragment as often as possible so that extras are not left on the screen. Lives can be replenished by getting a perfect quad (essentially making a quad that is completely symmetrical and uses the complete shapes that make it). These are hard to accomplish, though, making it important to save lives as much as you can. It’s a more thoughtful mode than the others due to the lack of time limit but is perhaps the most difficult to beat. For the most part, Chime Sharp proves to be a fun and addictive game but there are a few minor issues. It is lacking in terms of visuals and some of the color schemes will likely cause you a few problems as they clash together, making it difficult to see exactly where you have already covered. There is also the problem of the difficulty seeming to spike in unforeseen places as the levels don’t necessarily get harder in the order they are unlocked. Arguably the biggest gripe is the lack of a multiplayer mode that it’s PlayStation 3 predecessor had. The gameplay perfectly suits the type of fast-paced multiplayer action that you can quickly challenge your friends to and even a local multiplayer mode would have been a very welcome addition. This might somewhat limit the appeal to some players and definitely reduces the replayability of the title to some degree. As you might expect from a game that has a distinct focus on music, Chime Sharp has a well-built soundtrack with a different song for each of the 12 levels. The songs included aren’t exactly spectacular, yet they do the job very well. Most of the tunes are electronic based and as mentioned earlier, the different tracks will expand as you progress through a level and cover more of the board. A few great tracks make up for the one or two that are not quite as memorable, with each adding some excitement and tension as you approach your objectives. Ultimate, Chime Sharp delivers great value for money. The 12 different levels and the four game modes mean the game has plenty of longevity, especially when you consider how hard some of them are. It will likely take upwards of ten hours just to unlock most of the content, never mind beating it, but the fun gameplay ensures that this is not a chore. If you previously played Chime then this is more of the same, though, even those that haven’t should give this a try. This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher for review purposes. Chime Sharp is currently available on Xbox One, PlayStation4, and PC for $9.99.