The conventional wisdom said that military first-person shooters avoided World War I because it wasn’t a “fun” war. EA DICE set out to prove the conventional wisdom wrong with Battlefield 1, and the initial wave of reviews suggests they succeeded.
As Polygon’s Arthur Gies noted in his 9 out of 10 review of the game, one of the ways DICE accomplished that was by using its single-player War Stories mode as a way to convey just how horrific the war really was.
“Battlefield 1 navigates the tonal challenges of the awful human cost of WWI well, in part by not ignoring them,” Gies said. “There’s a consistent acknowledgment of the abject terror and hopelessness that sat atop the people involved in the conflict on all sides, in part thanks to a grimly effective prologue. There’s also less explicit demonetization of the ‘enemy’ – something that feels like a real relief in the military shooter space, which seems hell-bent on giving players something they can feel good about shooting at.”
War Stories is a mostly unconnected series of short campaigns that total about six hours of playtime in total. The anthology puts players in the roles of different individuals in different combat zones, each one with their own distinct motivations and skill sets.
“Battlefield 1 feels like a move away from military shooter doctrine in plenty of ways,” Gies said. “But the biggest departure is in how little shooting there can be, at least compared to the game’s contemporaries. From tank pilot to fighter ace, from Italian shock trooper to Bedouin horse-back resistance fighter, I was never bored, because I was never doing the same thing for long.”
The change in setting also impacted the multiplayer portion of the game, which Gies appreciated. While DICE made some changes in player classes that Gies seemed to think unnecessary but “mostly fine,” he was particularly taken with the way the series’ signature physics-driven chaos and destruction felt fresh in a new (old) setting.
“Small issues aside, Battlefield 1 marks an impressive, risk-taking reinvention for the series,” Gies said. “That the multiplayer is as good and distinctive as it is is less surprising than a campaign that takes a difficult setting and navigates it with skill and invention. The end result is a shooter than succeeded far beyond my expectations, and one that exists as the best, most complete Battlefield package since 2010.”
Like Gies, GameSpot’s Miguel Concepcion gave the game a 9 out of 10. Also like Gies, Concepcion labelled the game as the best Battlefield since Bad Company 2, praising the War Stories single-player mode and its novel approach to entertaining while also attempting to inform players as to the horrors of the war.
“Beyond these heartfelt tales of brotherhood and solemn reflection, War Stories gracefully complements the multiplayer scenarios as a glorified yet effective training mode,” Concepcion said. “Along with practice time commanding vehicles and heavy artillery, it provides an opportunity to learn melee combat, as well as how to survive against high concentrations of enemy forces.”
Concepcion was also taken with the audiovisual impact of the game, long a selling point for the Battlefield franchise.
“However accurate or inaccurate Battlefield 1 is–lite J.J. Abrams lens effects notwithstanding–the immersive production values superbly amplify the sights and sounds that have previously existed in other war shooters,” Concepcion said. “Examples include the distinct clatter of empty shells dropping on the metal floor of a tank and the delayed sound of an exploding balloon from far away. The brushed metal on a specific part of a revolver is the kind of eye-catching distraction that can get you killed. Beyond the usual cacophony of a 64-player match, salvos from tanks and artillery guns add bombast and bass to the large map match. And many vistas are accentuated with weather-affected lighting with dramatic results, like the blinding white sunlight that reflects off a lake after a rainstorm.
“With Battlefield 1, EA and DICE have proven the viability of World War 1 as a time period worth revisiting in first-person shooters. It brings into focus countries and nationalities that do not exist today while also shedding light on how the outcome of that war has shaped our lives.”
In giving the game four stars out of five, Games Radar’s David Roberts also lauded the way DICE balanced a fun shooter with the horror of war.
“Even though Battlefield 1 skews toward fun rather than realism whenever it gets the chance, it’s as much about the reflection on the real history of these battles and the people who fought in them as it is about the gleeful embrace of ridiculous virtual combat,” Roberts said.
Like his peers, Roberts was impressed by the game’s War Stories single-player mode, but found the anthology format slightly restricting.
“As much as I enjoyed the narratives these missions tell, I wished each one had a little more time to breathe,” Roberts said. “Each chapter is about an hour long, and just when you get invested, they’re over. Battlefield 1’s War Stories barely skim the surface of the history, but – to be fair – this is in-line with the game’s focus on fun over fastidious accuracy.”
As for the multiplayer, Roberts said its “as good here as it’s ever been” for the Battlefield franchise. Even though the setting meant trading in the modern assault rifles of previous Battlefield games for more antiquated rifles and iron sights, Roberts said the overall impact has been an improvement on the game’s online modes.
He also found the franchise focus on destruction was given new meaning by its fresh context.
“When all’s said and done, when the matches end and the dust settles, you’ll see that large portions of the maps have transformed, their buildings pockmarked by blasts, their fortifications turned into piles of rubble,” Roberts said. “Even though bloody entertainment is at Battlefield 1’s heart, the post-game wasteland is a reminder of the toll that conflict takes on the people it consumes. Whether in single or multiplayer Battlefield 1 absolutely nails the historical sense of adventure and expectation before swiftly giving way to dread as the war takes a physical and mental toll on its participants. And this – as much as the intimate, brutal virtual warfare – is the game’s most impressive feat.”
While EGM’s Nick Plessas gave the game an 8 out of 10, he included slightly more critical comments than some other reviewers doling out equivalent scores. He was generally upbeat about the War Stories approach, but said it “misses the forest for the trees somewhat by not giving any story enough time for effectual investment.” He also identified two other issues that hamper the gameplay segments of the single-player mode.
“First, enemy AI leaves much to be desired, so that even on Hard difficulty your foes’ failure to react, flank, or recognize you as a threat syphons some of the fun out of fights,” Plessas said. “Second, the game adds a focus on stealth with a collection of mechanics like enemy awareness levels and distraction tools. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, the Battlefield games’ fast pace and stiff controls don’t suit stealth very well, and the enemies’ recurring AI deficiencies makes these sections a slog.”
As for online, Plessas said new features like Behemoth vehicles (zeppelins, trains, and warships) were well-handled, as were “elite” classes like flamethrower troops. The addition of cavalry troops and era-appropriate weapons and planes will also require players to adjust the tactics they might have relied on in previous Battlefield games. However, the adjustment may not be as drastic as one might expect.
“These comparisons are integral because they represent the crux of what is truly new in Battlefield 1,” Plessas said. “A World War I setting is novel indeed, but this installment in the franchise is fundamentally the Battlefield game we have played before-and returning players may fall into a familiar groove quicker than expected. This isn’t necessarily bad for those in love with Battlefield, however, and while the setting may be the most significant shift, those invested in the series will find Battlefield 1 as another terrific reason to load up.”
Intel had been working to bake in security into the chip, but it seems that effort has drawn to a close with the selloff of its security division into a revamped McAfee company. Now AMD appears to be taking up the idea.
AMD has a cunning plan to push its Zen chips into the Enterprise market on the back of its new Secure Memory Encryption (SME) and Secure Encrypted Virtualisation (SEV) security features.
These new functions will help enterprises protect their databases that run on Zen servers and this could be just the edge required to get AMD back onto the corporate buy list.
This sort of tech is really useful on virtualised servers which are used through cloud hosts. This makes them affordable and flexible compared to hosting on a physical server. The virtual servers adjust accordingly the load it receives and no bandwidth is wasted.
Normally virtual servers are insecure because the data can be hacked, but the SME and SEV features will help servers protect the data.
So far Intel has not come up with any of this sort of function for its processors, despite the fact that was predicted when it wrote a big cheque for McAfee. What we are still waiting for is the information as to how the Zen chips will help consumer gamers who are leaning on discrete GPUs.
Chief technology officer at Oculus, John Carmack, says mobile VR is currently “coasting on novelty” and developers need to be harder on themselves.
According to CNET, Carmack told the assorted throngs at the Oculus Connect event that developers need to pull their socks up and create experiences on par with non-VR applications and games.
“We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before But we need to start judging ourselves. Not on a curve, but in an absolute sense. Can you do something in VR that has the same value, or more value, than what these other [non-VR] things have done?”
Carmack moaned about the higher loading times in mobile VR games as a key area in need of improvement. Users should not have to sit through 30 seconds given the brevity of most currently available VR experiences. Although he has clearly never tried to play Total War II whose screens take ages to load.
Still Carmack said that 30 second loads are acceptable if you’re going to sit down and play for an hour “…but in VR initial startup time really is poisonous. If your phone took 30 seconds to unlock every time you wanted to use it. You’d use it a lot less.”
That is true, the daft screen saver/adware/alleged resource saving software makes turning on my wife’s phone an exercise in futility.
He added: “There are apps that I wanted to play, that I thought looked great, that I stopped playing because they had too long of a load time. I would say 20 seconds should be an absolute limit on load times, and even then I’m pushing people to get it much, much lower.”
Memory-chip maker Micron Technology reported better-than-expected fourth quarter revenue, which saw its smallest decline in a year, as pricing improves and the personal computer market starts to make its big comeback.
Micron ‘s accountants said that there would be a first-quarter adjusted profit of 13-21 cents per share, while analysts were expecting a profit of only nine cents. This means that the company ahs made its first profit in three quarters.
The maker of DRAM chips used in PCs and NAND flash memory chips has enjoyed a recovery in the last six months as the PC market picks up.Micron CEO Mark Durcan said:
“We are seeing improving market conditions in terms of both slowing supply growth and improving demand across a number of key segments,”
With DRAM prices rebounding to seven month highs, Micron is seeing the supply glut in the market has dried up following aggressive cut backs in production amid signs of a bounce back in demand.
Prices of both DRAM and NAND chips are expected to rise in the fourth quarter. The latest quarter included a $58 million charge related to a restructuring program the company announced in the third quarter. Micron’s net sales fell 10.6 percent to $3.22 billion in the fourth quarter. Analysts on average were expecting revenue of $3.15 billion.
MediaTek already spilled the beans about the Helio P20 at the Mobile World Congress in February and revealed a few key details. Helio P20 is an octa-core FinFET processor manufactured using the 16nm TSMC process. It has eight Cortex A53 cores clocked up to 2.3GHz. It supports a 24-megapixel camera, full HD resolution 1920×1080 screen and a Cat 6 LTE modem with 2×20 carrier aggregation at 300/50Mbps data speed. We are sure that Helip P20 will put a lot of pressure on the Snapdragon 652 or its sucessor whenever Qualcomm announces it.
The new Mali T880 graphics unit is clocked at a speedy 900MHz and the new SoC might be the world’s first to use the LPDDR4X. MediaTek invested a lot of time improving its MediaTek Imagiq Image Signal Processor (ISP) by adding advanced 12bit Dual ISP supports Bayer and Mono sensors. These elevates picture quality by reducing noise and capturing three times more light than conventional Bayer + Bayer sensors. It also has dual phase-detection autofocus which achieves real-time auto focus that is four times faster than traditional autofocus systems. The 3A HW engine upgrades for more natural, responsive and detailed photographs and powerful multi-scale temporal de-noising technologies which renders videos and photography more accurately, with less noise, even in low light.
The Helio P25 is faster because of its Cortex A53 cores clocked to 2.5GHz. It might have a faster GPU too but this was not revealed. Helio P25.
Helio P10 secured lots of design wins and the Helio P20 / P25 should continue that tradition when it is launched later this year. MediaTek promised Helio P20 in the second half of 2016 and so far, the only phone we could find announced and listed is the Elephone P20. This phone didn’t ship despite the fact we have entered the last quarter of this year.
Manufacturing a phone takes quite some time despite the fact that MediaTek is shipping Helio P20 to manufacturers as we speak.
Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang has announced a 2017 processor s codenamed Xavier to succeed Parker.
This is a 16 FinFET SoC with an 8 core custom ARM64 CPU and the next generation 512 Core Volta GPU. Nvidia hinted before that Volta would stick to 16nm manufacturing.
Nvidia plans that Xavier will replace the dual-core Drive PX and can do the same sorts of things with a fraction of the power. It should work with a 20 W TDP envelope.
This new computer vision accelerated SoC will speed up self-driving and can process Dual 8K HDR video streams which will be pretty crucial for the future use planned for the chip.
Design for the ASIL C Fictional safety will sample next year but this is as much as Jen-Hsun wanted to share now It should be able to reach 20 bps DL and 160 SpecINT. With 20W TDP it won’t be heading for any tablet or, god forbid, a phone.
The numbers of VR-enabled smartphones and tablets, as well as shipments of VR devices bundled with gaming consoles or PCs will grow like topsy in the fourth quarter.
Beancounters at Digitimes Research have added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and reached the conclusion that we should see some significant changes in the VR market soon.
Shipments of VR video-enabled smartphones and VR devices bundled with consoles will be higher compared to other devices. Vendors of VR-enabled tablets and VR headset bundled PCs which niche markets initially before they make headways by coming out with products with reduced prices and enriched content, should do rather well, the Digitimes Report claim.
Gaming and video are still the dominant VR applications in 2016. The successful launch of VR video-enabled flagship smartphones by Samsung Electronics in the first half of 2016 will encourage other vendors to follow suit.
Google and ARM updates to their VR video applications with reduced algorithm requirements in the fourth quarter of 2016 will help develop more VR video-enabled mobile devices.
Shipments of VR video-enabled smartphones are expected to reach 70 million units in 2016, accounting for 5 per cent of global smartphone shipments, Digitimes Research thinks.
Sony is expected to ship over three million PlayStation VR devices in the quarter, far higher than rival vendors.
While Intel has admitted it can’t build a 10nm chip, Mediatek is planning to release two of them using TSMC’s process.
According to the Economic Daily News MediaTek is considering rolling out two versions of its 10nm chips, the Helio X30 for high-end smartphones and the X35 for the lower-end segment.
It said that it will start volume production for the Helio X30-series SoCs as scheduled between the end of 2016 and early-2017. It is also thinking of having another 10nm series designed for mid- and high-end but not necessarily flagship smartphones.
The Helio X35 chips from MediaTek will also be built by TSMC using a lower-spec variant of the foundry’s 10nm processes. It is the first of TSMC’s first group of customers to adopt its 10nm process technology. The other is Apple.
TSMC said that its 10nm process has received product tape-outs from three clients, and will start generating revenues in the first quarter of 2017.
A few of you might remember that we exclusively posted the news that AMD is working on a 7nm CPU codenamed Starship. The 7nm APU is codenamed Gray Hawk and it aims to attain lower TDPs.
The AMD Starship X86 CPU is a 7nm unit with up to 48 cores and 96 threads and this definitely targets the high end server market as well as performance desktop computers. These CPUs will have a range of TDP values from 35W all the way to 180W. It is safe to assume that the version with 35W TDP ends up with much less than 48 cores.
Now AMD plans to launch its first 7nm and target some embedded markets. Of course, there will be a notebook version of a Gray Hawk, possibly with a different codename but AMD plans to use the 7nm quad core with eight threads, in 7nm for casino gaming machines, arcade gaming, industrial control and automation, retail signage, HMI and security machines. It will also fit into the highly profitable medical imaging market, premium thin clients and communication infrastructure.
We already said with that the APU that joins Polaris GPU architecture and 14nm FinFET Zen core is coming in the second half of 2017, and the Gray Hawk is the successor to that.
There is a big chance that this APU will mix with the Navi architecture that is also expected to launch in 7nm. This product is scheduled for a 2019 launch, so we have quite some time before it happens, but it is good to know that AMD is planning far ahead.
The lowest TPD parts will get to 10W, which sounds quite amazing considering what kind of specification that APU might end up having.
The middle of next year is when we expect to see the Zen / Polaris APUs in notebooks and a bit later in embedded systems. AMD’s Lisa Su was clear at Computex earlier this year. She said that the company plans to launch the desktop first, following with server then notebook and last of all t will be a unit aimed at the embedded market.
Bear in mind that these products should still be considered as concepts and they are subject to change. AMD first needs to master a 14nm FinFET low TDP notebook and embedded Zen based parts before it can more to the very exciting 7nm.
AMD Chief Technology Officer Mark Papermaster has told the world that AMD will become the top manufacturer when it comes to PCs and servers.
According to IDG, Papermaster said that the outfit will be making Vega 10 GPU available by first half of 2017. He added that AMD plans to release high-end PCs and servers which will be powered by the new Zen chip and the first Vega 10 GPU.
He thinks that this will gain market share in the gaming, virtual reality, other desktop applications, which will require high-performance GPUs. AMD is going to pitch Zen and Vega 10 GPU (possibly AMD Radeon GTX 490) as being the best of the PC generation. Apparently that positive attitude will give Nvidia and Intel a good kicking.
AMD’s next GPU architecture powered by HBM2, which is proven to increase performance significantly while maintaining power efficiency. HBM2 is also reported to provide maximum throughput of up to 256GBps, thus it is capable of carrying out all existing powerful apps such as virtual reality, 3D rendering and many more.
This leaves the budget and mid-level PCs running Polaris.
Basically this means that AMD is carrying on the same business model it always has done – compete on cost against Nvidia and Intel. That does not mean that the quality is noticeably different, but it does mean that it will always be cheaper.
Those players all participated in Battlefield 1’s beta across ten days, between August 30 and September 8. EA DICE has confirmed that the 13.2 million people make it “the biggest beta in EA’s history,” topping the previous record holder, Star Wars: Battlefront, which attracted more than 9 million players.
As big as Battlefront’s beta was, though, it was surpassed in popularity by Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch, which pulled in 9.7 million in May this year. The question surrounding Battlefield I, then, is whether it’s the most popular beta of this generation. While EA hadn’t laid claim to that at the time of writing, based on other publicly available figures it seems likely: Ubisoft’s The Division had 6.4 million players in its beta, while Activision’s Destiny had 4.6 million.
In any case, these will be glad tidings for EA DICE, and EA’s shareholders. As Niko Partners’ Daniel Ahmad pointed out on Twitter, Destiny, The Division, Battlefront and Overwatch all demonstrate a clear trend.
One trend I’ll note is that each of the full games above sold to more people than played the open beta’s within the 3 months from launch.
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) September 15, 2016
Battlefield 1 launches on October 21.
Those who thought that VR would be a cure for cancer will be disappointed to know that sales of the hardware have stalled already.
Earlier stock problems for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are now over but no one is buying according to a Steam survey.
We had already suggested that the Rift and Vive would not have mass market appeal, mostly because the hardware requirements were too great. It looks like betting the farm on the tech was not a good idea.
With the Oculus Rift priced at $550 and the HTC Vive at $800, the price is obviously the main problem, with a Steam survey showing that only 0.18 per cent of users own an HTC Vive and only 0.10 per cent have an Oculus Rift.
HTC Vive sales grew only 0.3 per cent in July and were completely flat in August. Oculus Rift sales grew by the same amount in July and just 0.1 per cent in August.
To be fair the Oculus Rift has not officially launched in the UK until September 20, but it is hard to see how it will be more popular in the EU.
This does not mean that the technology is stuffed. It just means that the small number of early adopters who wanted to play with it already have one. Interest from the great unwashed is not happening. This is mostly because there are no games or anything interesting to play with.
This might change with the arrival of the PlayStation Neo console,that is specifically designed with the PlayStation VR headset in mind. Not only will it be cheaper, at £350 it also has significant software support from the rest of the games industry. Still it is an Atlas-like task for Sony to convince the world that VR is a good idea.
AMD is talking about how it is life might be becoming easier thanks to the rise of virtual reality (VR).
Chatting to the Orlando Sentinel, vice president for AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group Joe Cox said that there was a big resurgence in virtual reality.
“Virtual reality is exciting because it’s new and there is an excitement around it right now. But it’s just now in its infancy and has a long road ahead for it.”
Its hope is that the company will pick up on the back of the developing VR market. It is not the only one which is making this claim. Bean counters for Mercury Research think that AMD has 12.3 percent of the graphics processor market, up from 11.8 percent the prior quarter. That was the first jump since the first quarter of 2012.
The paper quoted Richard Terrell, a virtual reality developer who think’s AMD’s new graphics processors enhance its ability to compete in virtual reality.
“This is one of the key things that puts them in a good position for the next generation of VR technology that is about to hit us. Looking at the history of AMD, the company is well suited for it. Intel hasn’t had this kind of competition in a while,” he said
Growing competition in virtual reality means more opportunity for AMD which has seen its shares increase to $7.68. They hit a more than 40-year low of $1.61 per share on July 27, 2015.
The Orlando office works heavily on the Radeon RX 480 processor, which one recent review called “the best $200 GPU you can buy today”.
Cox said he expects the group to keep having a good effect on the company’s overall performance.
“We need to keep moving the graphics architecture and double its performance and power. Augmented reality processors, they need to be extremely low power and high performance. The goal is more pixels, less wattage.”
Nvidia has updated its Grid software platform with deeper performance profiling and analytics tools for planning, deployment, and support of virtual GPU users.
According to the company the improved management tools address both host (server) managment and virtual client monitoring. Nvidia says that with the new Grid software, admins will be able to get information about the number of virtual graphics instances in use and the number they can potentially create.
They can also see usage information for the stream processors on board each card, the percentage of the card’s frame buffer that’s in use, and the load on each card’s dedicated video encode and decode hardware.
Each guest vGPU instance will tell admins information on encoder and decoder usage, frame buffer occupancy, and the vGPU use. Nvidia adds that it all takes the guess work out of vGPU provisioning and the data it’s exposing about vGPU usage will let system administrators tailor their virtual user profiles better.
All this means that it might stop the admins giving too much processing power to accounts when it is needed for the graphics team. Nvidia thinks those operational improvements will also help lower costs. The August 2016 Grid software update should be available immediately.
AMD has revealed a heap of details about its 32-core Zen based product – codenamed Naples – and we have a few things to add.
According to our well-informed sources the engineering samples were expected in Q4 2016 which starts in October. Remember, we were the first to mention Naples in detail in June 2016. Sometimes AMD calls these products Alpha versions but it looks like AMD was able to demonstrate the CPU a bit earlier as it did a public demonstration at the event in San Francisco last week. This could have been a pre-Alpha version that was stable enough to run.
The beta version will follow Q1 2017 and this CPU should be the pre-final version before the company goes to initial production. There is another step in between called the final/general sample that is expected in Q2 2017 and followed by initial production.
When a tech company says a product will launch in the second quarter, expect it to happen towards the end. Our best guess is a launch time around Computex 2017. It will take place in the last days of May or the first days of June 2017.
The fact that AMD now supports DDR4 memory, USB 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps, NVME makes its server portfolio a bit more competitive with Intel’s offering.
AMD’s Michael Clark is expected to give an audience at the Hot chips conference a bit more details about “
A New, High Performance x86 Core Design from AMD” but we doubt that he will talk about the possible launch date in as many details as we did.
According to a well-informed sources the engineering samples were expected in Q4 2016 which starts in October. Sometimes AMD calls these products an Alpha version but it looks like AMD was able to demonstrate the CPU a bit earlier as it did a public demonstration at the event in San Francisco last week. This might be a pre-alpha version that was stable enough to show.
The beta version is following already in Q1 2017 and this CPU should be the pre-final version before the company goes to initial production. There is another step in between called final / general sample that is expected in Q2 2017 and it is followed by initial production.
When a company says a second quarter for a launch, you should expect it to happen towards the end of it. Our best guess is a launch time around Computex 2017. It will take place in last days of May or first days of June 2017.
The fact that AMD now supports DDR4 memory, USB 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps, NVME makes its server portfolio a bit more competitive with Intel’s offering.
AMD’s Michael Clark is expected to give an audience at the Hot chips conference a bit more details about “A New, High Performance x86 Core Design from AMD” but we doubt that he will talk about the launch date in as many details as we just have.