New Xbox One Update Out Now For Some

Microsoft has announced a set of new Xbox One dashboard features that will start to roll out to Alpha Preview members in the June update. These won’t be available to the wider Xbox One user population until a later date, but as usual the preview features give us an advance look at what’s coming.

A new customization option called Groups will allow you to create custom collections of games and apps. They’re essentially custom sets of Pins, so you’ll be able to display multiple collections on the Home and the My Games and Apps menus. Your Groups will be tied to your Xbox Live account, so they’ll appear consistently across multiple consoles.

Other new features include an improved search, with the function mapped to Y across anywhere in the dashboard and easier access to displaying more results. You’ll also be able to store multiple wi-fi passwords, and the Narrator will add five more languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Swedish, and Dutch. The notes mention an improvement to family sharing with child accounts.

Some users will also get experimental features as pilot tests for the future. The full announcement also includes notes on changes made based on user feedback, and bug fixes.

Destiny 2 Iron Banner Season 3: Check Out New Armor Ornaments, Weapons, And Items

Iron Banner is back

Lord Saladin is back in the Tower–and that means Iron Banner has returned to Destiny 2 for its latest version. Notably, this is the first Iron Banner event in Destiny 2’s Season 3.

As in the past, you will earn rewards such as gear and ornaments for completing challenges and more. We’ve rounded up all of these into this gallery, so click through to see everything you can get in this event.

Iron Banner runs May 22-29. The gametype this time around is Control, which challenges players to capture and control parts of the map to win.

There are multiple challenges you can partake in, including:

  • Avenger — Defeat 5 opponents who recently defeated you or a teammate.
  • Light versus Light — Defeat an opponent while their Super ability is active.
  • Objectively Awesome — Capture 15 zones with your team during a match of Control.

Note that you must be Level 20 to participate in Iron Banner. If Lord Saladin does not show up in the Tower, Bungie advises that you return to Orbit and enter the Tower again.

Rage 2 Doesn’t Use idTech, But The Just Cause Engine Instead

We’ve learned a little more about Bethesda’s upcoming shooter sequel Rage 2, which is a joint development from id Software and Just Cause studio Avalanche Studios. Someone asked Avalanche boss Christofer Sundberg on Twitter what engine the game will use, and Sundberg responded by confirming it’s Avalanche’s internal engine that is under the hood.

This was surprising to some, given that the first Rage ran on id Software’s own idTech engine. Someone else on Twitter asked Sundberg if Rage 2 would use a combination of Avalanche’s engine and the next evolution of idTech, but he did not respond to this.

Avalanche’s internal engine sounds very sophisticated and, in the context of Just Cause 3, it allowed for some pretty incredible open-world activities and wackiness to happen. You can watch this YouTube video to see and hear Just Cause 3 developers talk about the Avalanche engine and how it helped make the game bigger and better.

Rage 2 is being billed as a “carnival of carnage …That’s right, this is a f***ing AAAAAA game.”

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Bethesda has not yet confirmed a release date for Rage 2; it simply says the game is coming in Spring 2019. The sequel is set after an asteroid kills 80% of the world’s population: “Ruthless and bloodthirsty gangs roam the open roads and the tyrannical Authority seek to rule with an iron fist.” You play as Walker, “the last Ranger of the wasteland and a threat to [The Authority’s] power.” Your character is robbed of his home and left for dead, but you must now “rage for justice and freedom.”

Bethesda stated we’ll see new Rage 2 gameplay at the company’s E3 press conference, which is set for 6:30 PM PT / 9:30 PM ET on June 10. The company recently teased that the showcase might be its longest one ever, although beyond Rage 2, we know little else about what will be included.

Don’t Worry, Halo 6 Is Coming

Following the announcement of Halo: Fireteam Raven, a cool-looking Halo arcade, some fans wondered if Microsoft’s efforts on that game took away resources from the next core Halo game. Now, Halo community manager Brian Jarrard has spoken up to confirm that Fireteam Raven has “zero impact” on the team inside 343 Industries working on Halo 6, or whatever it ends up being called. Jarrard clarified that Fireteam Raven is being made by arcade companies Raw Thrills and Play Mechanix. And while 343 is creatively involved in the process, the actual work sounds like it is being done almost completely outside of 343.

“Just like the Halo books or toys aren’t being created instead of the next Halo game,” Jarrad said. “Plenty to go around.” He went on to say that he’s aware that Halo fans are thirsting for more information on the next “real” Halo game. Jarrard said he is perplexed by the “blind outrage” some Halo fans are expressing over Fireteam Raven.

The most recent Halo shooter, Halo 5: Guardians, was released back in October 2015 and has received a great deal of post-launch support ever since. Halo 6 will feature split-screen multiplayer support, while we also know it will be free for Xbox Game Pass subscribers.

Given it’s been almost three years since the release of Halo 5 (there was a three-year gap between Halo 4 and Halo 5), it seems like the time is right for Microsoft to announce Halo 6 soon. If Microsoft is planning to do that, E3 2018 could be the venue for that reveal.

In other Halo news, Microsoft has teased more details about Halo: The Master Chief Collection’s huge updates coming this summer, while we’ve also learned more about the game’s Xbox One X enhancements.

What are you hoping to see from Halo 6? Let us know in the comments below!

Halo: MCC Xbox One X Enhancements And Other Updates Teased By Microsoft

Halo: The Master Chief Collection might not have gotten off to the best start at launch in November 2014. But it has rebounded well since then, thanks in part to Microsoft’s commitment to improving the game with regular updates, and its player population remains good enough to find matches easily. Microsoft’s updates for Halo: MCC continue with one of its biggest yet later this year that makes significant changes and improvements. In addition to that, Microsoft is updating the game to add enhancements for people playing on Xbox One X.

Halo community manager Brian Jarrard spoke about this update recently. He said on the latest Inside Xbox episode that the work-in-progress version that the studio is testing now looks “gorgeous and stunning.” He added, “The first thing Xbox One X owners will notice is the visual enhancements. Now with Xbox One X, we have a full visual enhancement suite, including HDR support.” You can watch the full clip below from Inside Xbox.

And regarding the wider MCC update, Jarrard pointed out that the changes that speed up matchmaking times and improve the UI will be available for everyone, not just those on Xbox One X. The developer also listed off some upcoming features the studio is working on for Halo: MCC, including “legitimate” LAN support, an “intelligent delivery system” that allows you to install only the parts of Halo: MCC that you want (see a work-in-progress image below), and the ability to install other language packages. He added that a custom gamer browser will also be added, while developer 343 Industries has “bigger ideas” that it will implement later. Microsoft is allowing some members of the public to test these upcoming features.

Halo: MCC is a huge package that comes with Halo: C2, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3, and Halo 4. As part of its effort to make up for the game’s launch struggles, Microsoft added Halo 3: ODST’s campaign to the package for free.

Microsoft hasn’t announced a sales figure for Halo: MCC, but total Halo franchise sales jumped from 60 million to 65 million after the game’s release, so it’s likely moved millions of copies. The fact that the game still has an active player base and it’s not hard to find matches also suggests the game sold well.

Halo 6, or whatever Microsoft decides to call it, is in development but has not yet been officially announced. What has been announced is a new Halo game for arcades called Fireteam Raven.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Art Book Coming In November

Dark Horse has announced a hardcover companion book for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The collector’s volume is pretty massive, boasting 424 pages in all. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild–Creating a Champion will cost $40 when it releases on November 20, 2018.

The announcement details just how much space in the book is devoted to its various artifacts. It boasts 296 pages of design artwork and commentary alone, along with another 55 of Hyrule history leading up to the events in Breath of the Wild, and nearly 50 of sketches and illustrations from Takumi Wada. It also includes interviews with the team including Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Satoru Takizawa, Takumi Wada, and Eiji Aonuma. All the material will be from Breath of the Wild and its two DLC packs.

Dark Horse published the Hyrule Historia in the US in 2013, which was notable particularly for outlining the Zelda timeline. That followed by the Art and Artifacts art book last year, and the upcoming Zelda Encyclopedia. Creating a Champion is similarly a localization of the Breath of the Wild Master Works volume, which was published in Japan by Nintendo.

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Resident Evil 7 Confirmed For Switch, But Only In Japan As A Streaming-Only Game

Resident Evil 7 is on the way to Nintendo Switch. Capcom confirmed today that a “Cloud Version” of the horror game is headed to Nintendo’s hybrid system in Japan on May 24.

According to Nintendo Everything, it’s called the Cloud Version because the game plays via the cloud, with an required download of only 45 MB. As such, you will need an internet connection to play this version of the game. Nintendo Everything added that you can play the game for up to 15 minutes for free, but after that, you have to pay ¥2,000 (~$18 USD) for a “ticket” that lets you play for 180 days.

The Cloud Version includes the base game, along with the Banned Footage Volume 1-2, End of Zoe, and Not a Hero expansions. You can check out the first trailer embedded above.

Resident Evil 7 launched in January 2017 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC to critical acclaim, with reviewers praising its atmosphere, appearance, and narrative. Over the past year, it’s also done well commercially: Capcom revealed recently that the game has passed 5.1 million copies sold.

These are very good numbers for the game, but it’s worth noting that Resident Evil 7 has currently sold fewer copies than any other mainline Resident Evil game besides Resident Evil 3, according to data compiled by the Resident Evil fan wiki. The previous instalment in the series, Resident Evil 6, has sold close to 10 million units since its launch in 2012.

As of yet, Capcom has not said if Resident Evil 7 is headed to Switch in other parts of the world, and if so, if it will have the same cloud-based structure. Keep checking back for more.

This announcement comes just a few weeks before E3 2018, where more game announcements for Nintendo Switch and many other platforms are expected.

How Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4’s Fortnite-Like Battle Royale Mode Will Stand Out

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has a battle royale mode called Blackout. We still do not know much in the way of specifics like if it will support 100 players like Fortnite and PUBG or what the actual gameplay looks like. But it’s an intriguing–if not surprising–move for the Call of Duty series. We spoke to Call of Duty boss Robert Kostich recently about Blackout, in particular what it does to stand apart from Fortnite and PUBG, and if it could ever be a standalone offering.

Months ago, we heard that Activision might be interested in getting in on the battle royale trend. We don’t know a specific timeline for what Treyarch came up with the idea for Blackout, but Kostich said is simply “emerged” as something the studio wanted to pursue to give fans yet another way to experience Call of Duty in a new way.

“Blackout just emerged as something that was passionately what the development team wanted to do and bring a new kind of experience to Call of Duty fans,” he said. “And I think it’s one that Black Ops is uniquely positioned to do with the rich history of Black Ops.”

Kostich added that Treyarch didn’t want to make a battle royale mode just for the sake of it. The team only decided to pursue the idea after they came up with a way that made it feel “unique” to Call of Duty and the Black Ops sub-franchise, Kostich said.

So, what sets Blackout apart from games like Fortnite and PUBG? We don’t know just yet, as we haven’t seen any gameplay or gotten to try it ourselves. But Kostich says Blackout will leverage things like Call of Duty’s well-established controls and fast-paced action. Indeed, Call of Duty as a franchise has remained the cream of the crop for shooter fans due in part to how well it nails its controls and feel. But Call of Duty is also known for its smaller maps and lower player counts relative to competitive titles like Battlefield and others. Blackout, however, is set on a massive map–1,500 times bigger than Nuketown–and it will use characters, weapons, and parts of maps that were included in Black Ops 1, 2, and 3 over the past 10 years.

“Certainly the Call of Duty mechanics, the fluidity of our controls, the pace of our action; that for us is like the highest end that we can provide,” Kostich said. “From there we also have a map that is 1500 times bigger than Nuketown.”

Kostich added that he also believes Blackout will stand out based on how you will interact with the environment. Specifically, you’ll be able to use land, sea, and air vehicles to traverse the map, or at least parts of it.

“We’re more focused on ourselves than we are responding to anything else” — Kostich

“The emergent gameplay moments are going to be very different from what you’re seeing in other battle royale games right now,” he said.

The Blackout announcement video (watch it again in the embed above), teases that the mode will offer the “best, most refined mechanics in the world” for a battle royale game. It will even include Zombies in some capacity as part of its effort to offer an experience that is “uniquely Black Ops.”

Kostich also spoke about whether or not games like Fortnite and PUBG are competitors to Blackout. In some ways they are by virtue of competing in the same space, but competition is nothing new for Call of Duty, and in fact, the innovation that battle royale brings to gaming overall is a positive overall, Kostich said.

“There is competition every year,” he said. “There are great games every year. It’s awesome for the industry to have more of this stuff and pushing new boundaries in different ways. We’re more focused on ourselves than we are responding to anything else.”

When asked if Blackout was developed specifically in response to games like Fortnite and PUBG, Kostich did not answer directly, but said “development is always a journey.”

“The story always evolves over the course of development,” he said. “This has been a really cool journey. From the start, Treyarch’s ambition has always been to find ways to bring people together in new and fun ways.”

Finally, we asked if Blackout could become a spinoff that gets a standalone release down the line. Kostich wasn’t ready to confirm anything. “[As a] standalone thing, I don’t know. We tend to focus all of our content within the games themselves,” he said.

In other Black Ops 4 news, the game does not have a traditional campaign–and Activision thinks that is not much a problem. Black Ops 4 launches on October 12 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Grand Theft Auto 4’s Open World Is Still Fantastic 10 Years Later

In 2008, Grand Theft Auto IV came at a time when open-world games were a dime a dozen. With the open-world framework set by GTA III, where player agency inside a large and expansive setting is given all the focus, Rockstar Games’ big return to the criminal underworld of Liberty City had to overcome some high expectations and other competitors that advanced the genre even further. Though GTA IV found remarkable critical and commercial success, many fans found the game’s more grounded and subdued tone to be somewhat jarring, especially compared to GTA San Andreas’ outlandish, over-the-top campaign.

When you look at GTA IV in the broader sense, it was more interested in immersing players into the atmosphere of Liberty City. With a larger cast of characters, along with several new systems to learn while exploring a more dense city, the new setting offered the most dynamic space in a GTA game at the time. And now celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2018, we’re taking a look back at Rockstar’s seminal sequel and how its more realistic take and focus on immersing players into its dense city opened doors for many other open-world games thereafter–setting the stage for Rockstar’s biggest success, GTA V.

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As the first GTA game on PS3 and Xbox 360, the developers at Rockstar North opted to switch things up for its return to Liberty City. Powered by the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE for short), which made its debut with the budget-release Rockstar Games Presents: Table Tennis, Grand Theft Auto IV was the first AAA game to use the publisher’s new tech. In addition to featuring the Euphoria physics-engine, it offered far more detail in movement and animations, along with stronger visual fidelity and design. This gave the game a drastically different look and feel compared to the previous entries, presenting more detail in geography and aesthetic across the city’s various locales across the four boroughs of Liberty City.

While the familiar iconography, social commentary, and open-world action from previous games were still present–albeit in a more subdued light–GTA IV’s plot centers around the immigrant experience of Niko Bellic, establishing a fresh start for the series. Traveling from eastern Europe, the Serbian War veteran sought a new life in Liberty City, while also trying to find the man responsible for betraying him many years before. Though GTA III was set in Liberty City, this game’s incarnation of the setting was entirely revamped. This put players and Niko Bellic on equal footing, both outsiders to a new setting they had to make their mark in.

GTA IV has its share of high-stakes shootouts and elaborate high-speed chases, including the now-infamous Three Leaf Clover bank heist mission–which went on to serve as the basis for GTA V’s heist missions–but it never goes completely beyond the realm of belief. To do so would go counter to the tone of the main story and the style it went for. Respectively, GTA IV forgoes a lot of dumb action in favor of actually getting you to spend time with the many supporting characters in Niko’s story.

“Choosing to spend some time with secondary characters leads to some surprising moments of humanity and friendship, which is somewhat unexpected for a GTA game.”

Early on, Niko’s ne’er-do-well cousin Roman gives him a cellphone, which acts as the game’s main communication and contextual gameplay tool. Along with calling in taxies and emergency service vehicles–allowing you to take on side-jobs as a driver or even track down local criminals by hijacking service vehicles–it also opens up relationships with Niko’s closest allies. During your off time, you can take part in seemingly frivolous activities, such as going to cabarets, drinking at local bars, or visiting a strip club. Most importantly, you could even take part in a few games of bowling, which turns out to be a favorite among Niko’s circle of friends–particularly Roman.

In some cases, characters will contact Niko directly to hang out for happy hour, or for genuine dates with potential love interests. These encounters, while mostly optional, do have some greater payoff, such as extra bodyguards and access to better resources. For instance, Dwayne Forge, a former crime lord and ex-con, will contact players to hang out. Despite having tremendous pull in the criminal underworld, he lives a largely lonesome life in a perpetual state of depression. Hanging out with Dwayne will encourage him to loosen up and open up about his past. Choosing to spend some time with secondary characters leads to some surprising moments of humanity and friendship, which is somewhat unexpected for a GTA game. It turned out that the game wasn’t all about mayhem and crime after all. It was refreshing to see your time being rewarded with something cool in a GTA game, without having to fire a single bullet.

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As Niko becomes more accustomed to living in Liberty City, his disdain for American life grows–sharing his thoughts with others about awful US television and the growing influence of social media. The radio stations of Liberty City blare late-2000s music and political commentary, and news stories keep you aware of the local goings-on around town, even referencing your own antics. That’s not to say that its commentary is totally on the money, however. Much of the humor and style it tries to play off for laughs hasn’t aged all that well–such as scenes with gay stereotypes and off-color racial humor. Granted, GTA has never been totally on the mark with its social critiques, but it does however have a strong sense of time.

Prior to GTA IV, the natural thing for other games to do was to offer more content, more action, and a bigger space to take part in. While other open-world games certainly did that well, such as the GTA clone-turned-full-blown-parody Saints Row, GTA IV focused on offering more active content to dive into. In comparison to San Andreas, the size of Liberty City’s four boroughs are smaller, but it’s far more dense with activity. Compared to previous games, GTA IV did a far better job of rewarding you for messing around and taking on side activities. Whether it was hanging out with friends or exploring the city to find several unmarked quests that led to some of the game’s most humorous and darkest missions, there was an incredible amount of thought placed into the core design of the world and how you could choose to spend your time in it.

GTA IV came at a time when open-world games were increasingly common, and it approached things in a way that made it stand out from the rest. Sometime after GTA IV’s launch, Rockstar released two DLC episodes–The Lost and Damned, and The Ballad of Gay Tony–which introduced new missions and playable events that eventually lightened the tone. Along with offering more extravagant action set-pieces and a larger arsenal of weapons in the style of the previous games, these expansions also offered alternate perspectives to the main story–another aspect further expanded upon in GTA V.

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When looking at Grand Theft Auto IV in the broader picture of the series, the general vibe it tends to give off can make it feel a bit self-serious. Still, there’s something endearing–and even commendable–about how Rockstar stuck with it, and showing that you can still have a fun time exploring the city while learning more about the people in it. 10 years later, Grand Theft Auto IV’s Liberty City still features some of the series’ finest moments of storytelling. And given that it’s coming from a series that focused on tons of dumb moments full of violent nonsense, that’s a remarkable achievement in its own right.