Microsoft has seen a number of Xbox One exclusive titles already be ported to the PC. Both Dead Rising 3 and Ryse have already made it to the PC, but we are now again hearing that Sunset Overdrive again is heading to the PC and Forza Horizon 2 maybe following as well.
This is not the first time we have heard rumors of Sunset Overdrive coming to the PC. An ad that suggested as much was down played at the time by Insomiac as a mistake. Now Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2 showed up on Amazon France as coming for the PC.
While Phil Spencer has suggested that Microsoft will have more to say about the PC in 2015 and that it would be a good thing for PC gamers. The reality is that Microsoft has not pushed PC game development in a longtime as it chose to focus on titles for the Xbox and Xbox 360. With the Xbox One being closer in design to the PC, porting a title to the PC is easier and Microsoft of course wants to be a player in this space.
We will have to wait and see what actually happens, but should Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2 make their way to the PC, it will be a good thing for PC gamers. Then again it could just be nothing more than a mistake.
The world’s No.1 Internet social network with 1.35 billion monthly users has been quietly testing a version of its website aimed at workplace collaboration. The service, dubbed Facebook at Work, allows users to exchange messages and share documents using Facebook’s scrolling news feed and other familiar features from the consumer version of Facebook.
The professional version of Facebook, which could compete with services such as LinkedIn Corp, as well as Salesforce.com Inc and Microsoft Corp, would allow users to maintain special profiles that are distinct from their existing Facebook profiles, the person said. Work activities would not be shared on a user’s personal profile, and the baby photos, videos and general banter popular in the consumer version of Facebook would not encroach into the professional version.
A Facebook team in London is leading the effort and a small number of companies are currently running a pilot version of the service, the person said.
It is still unclear how Facebook plans to make money from the professional service. Facebook is not currently charging a subscription fee for the version being tested, according to a report in the Financial Times, which first reported news of the service. Facebook currently generates the bulk of its revenue from ads that appear on its existing service.
According to Jon Peddie Research (JPR), Nvidia has managed to claw back market share from AMD in the second quarter of 2014. JPR found that AMD’s overall unit shipments decreased 7% sequentially, while Intel and Nvidia gained 11.6% and 12.9% respectively. The ‘attach rate’ is almost flat at 155% (up 2%). A total of 32% of PCs tracked last quarter had discrete graphics, while 68% did not.
The PC market grew 6.9% sequentially, but it was down 2.6% year-on-year. Shipments of desktop graphics cards were up 7.8% from last quarter.
“Q3 2014 saw a flattening in tablet sales from the first decline in sales last quarter. The CAGR for total PC graphics from 2014 to 2017 is up to almost 3%. We expect the total shipments of graphics chips in 2017 to be 510 million units. In 2013, 454 million GPUs were shipped and the forecast for 2014 is 468 million,” JPR said.
Shipments of AMD APUs were up 10.5% over the last quarters, but AMD lost 16% in the notebook market. AMD’s discrete GPU shipments were down 19%, but notebook discrete shipments were up 10%. AMD’s overall graphics shipments were down 7%.
Intel’s desktop GPU shipments were stagnant (down 0.3%), but notebook shipments were up by 18.6%.
Nvidia’s desktop discrete shipments were up 24.3% sequentially, while notebook shipments increased 3.5% for an overall increase of 12.9%.
“Year-to-year this quarter AMD’s overall PC shipments decreased 24%, Intel increased 19%, Nvidia decreased 4%, and the others essentially are too small to measure,” the report found.
“Total discrete GPU (desktop and notebook) shipments from the last quarter increased 6.6%, and decreased 7.7% from last year. Sales of discrete GPUs fluctuate due to a variety of factors (timing, memory pricing, etc.), new product introductions, and the influence of integrated graphics. Overall, the trend for discrete GPUs has increased with a CAGR from 2014 to 2017 now of 3%.”
At the moment, an estimated 99% of all Intel chips ship with integrated graphics, compared to 66% of AMD non-server processors.
It looks like we might never see 20nm GPUs from either Nvidia or AMD. From what we know, both companies spent a lot of time looking into the new 20nm manufacturing process and they have decided that it is simply not viable for GPUs.
Yields are not where they are supposed to be and from a business perspective it doesn’t make sense to design and produce chips that would end up with very low yields. At this point we do not expect to see any high-end chips in 20nm, as there are obvious manufacturing obstacles and both companies might even skip the 20nm process altogether and move directly to 16nm FinFET.
16nm FinFET GPUs coming in 2016
We expect 16nm FinFET based GPUs sometime 2016 and this manufacturing process will bring some rather innovative products worthy of an upgrade.
One might ask why Apple doesn’t appear to have problems with its 20nm A8 and A8X chips and we might have a partial answer for you. The Apple A8 chip has to stay under 2.5W TDP, the A8X used in the iPad Air 2 A8X has a maximum TDP of 4.5W.
GPUs such as Maxwell- and Hawaii-based parts used in the Geforce GTX 980 and Radeon R9 290X have TDPs in the 150-250W range and the size of the modern GPU is an order of magnitude bigger than the size of an iPhone SoC.
Die size conundrum
The Apple A8 has a die size of 89mm2 and while we can only assume that the more powerful A8X measures over 100 mm2. Nvidia’s 28nm Maxwell GM204 die measures 398 mm2, which is about four and a half times bigger in terms of sheer die size.
To put things in perspective, in a single 20nm 300mm wafer you can place more than 700 A8 dies, while Nvidia can get about 140 Maxwell 204 chips from a 28nm High K 300 mm wafer and in 20nm manufacturing it would be able to get more, as the individual die would be significantly smaller.
However, these 150-250W chips are completely different than low-power SoCs with TDPs of less than 5W. They are worlds apart and one can assume that with the high performance and clock of discrete GPUs, coupled with their sheer size, result in higher leakage and other issues. Making a chip 4.5 times bigger means that there is much more room for potential issues, leakage and yield problems.
Don’t despair, 28nm still has some life in it
Not all is lost. We all saw that Nvidia pulled off a small miracle with the 28nm Maxwell GM204 chip, as this 5.2 billion transistor chip has a TDP of just 165W.
Its predecessor, the Geforce GTX 780 based on the GK110 chip, ended up with a 250W TDP with 7.08 billion transistors and a massive 561mm2 die size. Maxwell is also faster than Kepler, at least in this iteration, yet they are both 28nm products.
We expect that AMD’s upcoming Fiji GPU to be substantially more efficient than the Hawaii XT chip used in last year’s Radeon R9 290X. However, the new part is coming in 2015.
TSMC’s next generation 16nm process has reached an important milestone – 16nm FinFET Plus (16FF+) is now in risk production.
Needless to say, 16FF+ comes a few quarters after the 16nm rollout, expected in Q1 2015. TSMC hopes to start churning out 50,000 16FF wafers in Q2 2015. As for the Plus process, it is still more than a year away in terms of availability and it will be followed by 10nm, which is expected to materialise in late 2016.
TSMC says the improved 16FF+ process can deliver a 40% performance boost compared to its planar 20nm SoC process (20SoC), with a 50% reduction in power consumption.
“Our successful ramp-up in 20SoC has blazed a trail for 16FF and 16FF+, allowing us to rapidly offer a highly competitive technology to achieve maximum value for customers’ products,” said Mark Liu, president and Co-CEO for TSMC.
“We believe this new process can provide our customers the right balance between performance and cost so they can best meet their design requirements and time-to-market goals.”
The first 16FF+ chips are expected to tape out in late 2015 and TSMC expects the volume ramp will start in mid-2015.
One of the inherent risks of a story-heavy IP is that if you bugger up one of the instalments, your audience skips it, falling out of touch with the series’ story arc and disconnecting from its universe. Such was the fear for Dragon Age, a world which impressed in its opening act, but fell away sharply with what felt like a rushed and uncertain part 2. In acknowledging the shortcomings of the second game, Bioware went some way towards reassuring the faithful, but it was undeniable that nothing less than a resounding crescendo could re-establish the land of Tevinter as an RPG setting of the same calibre as the Tamriel of the Elder Scrolls or The Witcher’s Temeria.
There aren’t many teams you’d rather leave such a task in the hands of than Bioware’s and, judging from review scores, that trust would be well-placed. With a metacritic ranging from 84 for Xbox One, 88 on PC and 89 for PS4, EA and Bioware seem to have established the Dragon Age series as the new gen’s first top-class RPG – stealing a march on 2015′s Witcher 3 and whatever Bethesda may be working on as a follow up to Skyrim.
One of the best-scoring reviews comes from Polygon’s Philip Kollar, who focuses on the game’s scope, characters and sheer wealth of content in his 9.5/10 review. Kollar argues that this is the game where the universe really finds its feet, finally fulfilling the promise it had teased in Origins and its sequel by immersing the player in a sequence of events which incorporates a story far bigger than the perspective you’ll have of it. Nonetheless, says Kollar, it’s still in the details that Bioware’s talents shine brightest – weaving engaging and worthwhile characters as threads in a vast tapestry.
For all its narrative nuance and political intrigue, Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t afraid of a good old slimy monster, either.
“But in true BioWare fashion, that broader story often takes a back seat to smaller character conflicts,” he writes. “The Inquisitor pulls together a huge group of followers, including nine playable party members, and each has reams of dialogue conveying a fully developed personality.”
As well as offering chatter and the opportunity for romance, the player’s extended party brings both questing opportunities and advice on dealing with obstacles, says Kollar, making them more than just talking weapons. In fact, he says, that guidance comes in extremely useful in coping with a game which offers gameplay hours well into triple figures.
“Dragon Age: Inquisition is made up of numerous zones that I could teleport in between at will. However, each of those zones is gigantic in and of itself. In the 80 hours I spent playing Inquisition, I only fully completed two zones, and each of them took me around 20 hours of exploration, questing and monster-bashing.”
“In the 80 hours I spent playing Inquisition, I only fully completed two zones, and each of them took me around 20 hours of exploration, questing and monster-bashing”
Philip Kollar, Polygon
In addition, Bioware has added the simplest of tools as an aide to exploring this vast landscape: the jump button. By doing so, says Kollar, the team has made the world feel more whole and believeable, introducing vertical as well as horizontal scale and a much more convincing sense of exploration. Tie that into the sense of being part of such a huge chain of events that new additions such as the ambassador-lead ‘war table’ missions, says Kollar, and you have a classic perfect for the winter evenings.
In broad agreement is Richard Cobbett at Eurogamer, who awards an 8 to Bioware’s efforts. Whilst full of praise for the lush surroundings of Tevinter and the clear improvements made over the last game, Cobbett finds some concerns over the influence which Inquisition seems to have felt from its contemporaries.
“The role-playing too, pretty as it is, didn’t feel like BioWare. There are straight up MMO style quests, like collecting 10 bits of meat, which at least make sense in context – that you’re helping refugees and refugees need food. Others, however, are thrown in with no finesse whatsoever. You find a letter that says, in about as many words, “Girls really dig people who can kill bears!” and then ping, your Quest Journal suddenly thinks you’re interested in bear-hunting. The first hour of a game is a bad, bad time for it to be resorting to this crap.
“The reason for the sack of activities where normally there’d be more involved quests is that Inquisition takes as many cues from the likes of Assassin’s Creed as other RPGs, with its maps a sack of quests, collectibles, secret bits and general things to do.”
That sense of piecemeal progress and scrappy world building disappears around a fifth of the way into the plot, says Cobbett, allowing the more convincing mechanisms of the plot to take hold. “The stakes become meaningful and dramatic,” he writes. “The mysteries become interesting.” Not as convinced as Kollar by the tasks which can be assigned to your plenipotentiaries, nor the combat which is arguably the game’s key activity, Cobbett finds Inquisition’s approach to less bloodthirsty matters of state a refreshing change from the sword and sorcery.
Bioware’s continued commitment to diversity is apparent, with plenty of deviations from the usual path of straight white male.
“While that side provides most of the raw action,” he says of dragon killing and rift-closing, “it’s the adventure and political parts of the game that make Inquisition work – its understanding that a party in Orlais, where the Great Game is played for the highest stakes, should be just as dangerous as anything that happens in a dungeon. After two games of controlling a ragtag bunch of misfits, it’s also interesting to be in a position of genuine power for once.”
Destructoid’s Chris Carter and Joystiq’s Alexander Sliwinski are similarly impressed, offering scores of 8.8/10 and 5/5, respectively.
Carter praises the RPG tree development of the characters as well as their dialogues, noting that “nothing feels tacked on” in a system which offers some of Origins’ depth, tempered by the streamlining in evidence in the sequel. Overall, he says, the experience is “less nuanced than Origins,” but offers a similar perspective on a living world, the fate of which increasingly lies in your hands.
Political intrigue and the raw sense of exploration garner praise from Carter, too, who also has good things to report about the game’s multiplayer mode – a section of the game which sees you take control of an entirely separate character.
“Multiplayer is the cherry on top, because nothing in the campaign feels like it was compromised for its addition”
Chris Carter, Destructoid.
“Multiplayer is the cherry on top, because nothing in the campaign feels like it was compromised for its addition. In essence, it’s a modified horde mode that operates similar to Uncharted 3′s co-op sections. Four players will be able to select from a host of classes, each with their own skills and abilities, and play through a miniature dungeon together.
“It has that horde feel in terms of fighting wave after wave of enemies, but each stage is an adventure complete with multiple paths, loot to gather, and special doors that can only be opened by certain classes. In that sense, it’s not your typical boring ‘kill kill kill’ mode.”
Sliwinski’s assessment also acknowledges the scope and detail achieved here, as well as the palatable way in which the development team is able to introduce such vast levels of information to the player.
“Inquisition’s immensely helpful in-game codex can introduce or refresh players to some of the characters and socio-political rules of the world,” he writes. “With very few exceptions, long-standing characters are properly reintroduced. There isn’t a ‘previously on Dragon Age…’ within the game, though curious players can cover those gaps with the helpful interactive recap at DragonAgeKeep.com.”
Joystiq’s reviewer also appreciates the switch of pace afforded by the inclusion of Orlais as a destination, a place where court politics partially replace the hew and bellow of the battlefield.
“With the inclusion of The Orlesian Empire, Inquisition delves deep into ‘the game,’ which is how those born into or educated in Orlais refer to the machinations of social politics. Orlais had previously been referenced in the Dragon Age series, but now we get to see this twist on 18th century French court intrigue in all its grandeur. Inquisition explores Thedas’ class and racial politics through a variety of missions and interactions with the game’s companions, who have rich ideological diversity.”
In summarising, Sliwinski makes the key point that so many Bioware fans have been waiting to hear since the Drs Zeschuk and Muzyka departed the company they founded: has Bioware maintained its aims, its ambitions and its quality?
“Dragon Age: Inquisition is BioWare’s reaffirmation of what it’s capable of delivering,” reassures Sliwinski. “It’s a gorgeous game on an epic scale. Rich in character and story, it creates a fantasy world with plausible social rules you can get lost in. It makes you feel that you aren’t just exploring a new world, but helping shape it at various levels of society. Inquisition sets the bar for what a blockbuster RPG should be.”
Sources are telling us that we should expect new skateboarding titles from both Electronic Arts and Activision in 2015. Word is that Activision is preparing a new Tony Hawk title and Electronic Arts will be bring out a new Skate title as well.
While Activision and Electronic Arts have not made the announcements yet, our sources tell us that we should expect both titles to be announced in the near future for a likely late 2015 release. It is unknown who might be handling the development on both titles, but word is that both titles are already deep in development.
With the release of a new Tony Hawk and Skate titles, it will revive the Skateboarding segment that has been dormant for quite some time. EA has not produced a new title in the Skate franchise since Skate 3 and the late couple of Tony Hawk titles didn’t do so well, but the re-issue of original Pro Skater for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with DLC made up of levels from 2 & 3 have shown that interest does still exist for this segment.
Our hope is that it will be less like what we saw with the SSX revival that EA tried and then realized that it was not really want the people wanted and more like a new next-generation skateboarding title that puts the fun back into skating. We will have to wait and see.
While Grand Theft Auto may remain the industry’s true juggernaut, pretty much the only single franchise whose launch is capable of spiking software sales figures for an entire year and pushing all rivals out of the field in the process, Call of Duty has become the industry’s banner carrier in a different way. GTA’s extraordinary launches are such enormous events precisely because Rockstar wisely chose to avoid the annual update treadmill with the game; Call of Duty, meanwhile, has managed to continue a steady streak of enormous launches despite the punishing requirements of such a schedule.
It’s hard to overstate just how important this difference in approach is to a game franchise. GTA’s main instalments are all developed by the same studio, Rockstar North, meaning that each subsequent game begins its lengthy gestation after the launch of the previous title. The result is that the ball is rarely if ever dropped in terms of quality; no untested team gets to mess things up in an “off-year”. Each new GTA game follows a clear evolutionary path from the previous game, as the studio learns and develops its approach; a major advantage over the “three steps forward, two steps back” games that result from an annual update cycle with different teams working on different schedules. Finally, GTA’s spaced out launches give each one the sense of being a genuinely enormous event, and the games continue to sell at a solid price point for many months after launch, a feat which is otherwise only achieved in this industry by Nintendo’s key titles.
“The sheer scale of GTA’s success has made it into an unbalancing factor in the publisher’s figures”
Again, this contrasts with the annual update cycle for games like Call of Duty; on a couple of occasions, new CoD games have arguably truncated the sales of their predecessors when they launched. All of these benefits, however, are outweighed by the big problem with such an irregular launch cycle, namely that it plays merry hell with Take Two’s financial performance. The sheer scale of GTA’s success has made it into an unbalancing factor in the publisher’s figures; it means that from the perspective of the markets, everything else Take Two does is relegated to being a “snack between GTAs”. The “snack” quarters in the company’s financials are by no means bad, but they end up being compared, desperately unfairly, to the GTA quarters, and analysts fret endlessly over whether the company is a one-trick pony and how far down the tubes it will go if GTA ever falters. Of course, annual updates also make more money – in the short term, arguably; GTA may be genuinely evergreen due to its slow update cycle, where annually updated games, apart from sports titles, tend inevitably to lose steam). But even if they didn’t, it’s hard to imagine a company like Activision risking a “spiky” set of financial results. Huge companies don’t just want to make more money; they want to make more money in a predictable way, with a nice growth curve and no nasty dips that make shareholders lose confidence.
Thus we end up with the situation now facing the Call of Duty franchise. We’re a long day from the heady days of Infinity Ward’s groundbreaking CoD 4: Modern Warfare. As of this year, there are now three separate studios working on the franchise, with the instalment that launched this week, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (“CODAW”, which is fun to say but not remotely as fun as “CODBLOPS” was a few years back) being the first full game in the franchise from Sledgehammer. This is one interesting approach to keeping the quality of the games high in spite of the annual treadmill; the other key approach being employed by Activision is to throw money at the franchise like confetti at a particularly exuberant wedding, with CODAW’s most eye-opening use of cash being the suitcases full of it which were presumably delivered to Kevin Spacey’s door in order to persuade him to dress up in a motion capture gimp suit and deliver a villainous performance that’s at times delightfully Frank Underwood but all too often disappointingly Lex Luthor.
Keeping the quality bar high is an extraordinarily important task for Activision – be it through giving studios the time they need to genuinely polish their franchise instalments, or hiring famous faces to do their best with the games’ B-movie scripts (seriously, CODAW’s singleplayer campaign was apparently written by a 15 year old off his tits on Mountain Dew and Doritos who had just watched Michael Bay’s Transformers movies back-to-back and emerged with the sole complaint that “there weren’t enough explosions”). Last year’s CoD: Ghosts was judged both critically and commercially as a slip for the series, which may be partially responsible for the lower pre-orders for this year’s instalment which have been tracked by many analysts.
This year’s game has had great critical response thus far, so it represents an important test – given that the quality bar has arguably been returned to a solid level (it’s all subjective, of course, but the overall tenor of the coverage is positive), will sales also get back to an even keel? Or was CoD Ghosts’ weak commercial showing the start of a slide for the series which can only be reversed by a truly radical reinvention? Consumer fatigue, after all, is absolutely a real thing. It’s even tougher for games that for movies; the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies could probably continue for many years to come, since they only ask consumers for a couple of hours of time every few months. CoD players invest dozens upon dozens of hours in each game (in some cases, hundreds), which makes it much more likely that they’ll burn out; that at some point, they’ll reach an annual update that’s just a step too far for them. The best defence against this is keeping the franchise fresh, consistently reinvigorated with new ideas, and of course, keeping the quality bar high; but even that may not halt the slow decline
This year could go either way for COD. Pre-orders are definitely down on the previous year, which does not bode well, but that doesn’t take into account digital pre-orders – and it’s worth noting that on the new-gen consoles there appears to be a very strong trend towards digital pre-orders and first week digital purchases. Activision claims that purchase intent is tracking high, although that’s Schrödinger’s Statistic to a large extent – you don’t know for sure if it’s remotely accurate or not until you open the box with the sales figures inside.
Still, all in all there are some reasons to be There are also reasons to be cautiously pessimistic. One of the biggest problems facing COD this year is, oddly, one of Activision’s own successes – Destiny, which has attracted and continues to enthral a very large number of the core FPS fans who might otherwise be expected to devote themselves to CODAW. It seems plausible that the long gap between Destiny’s launch and the appearance of the first content pack, The Dark Below, is at least partially in order to give players a lull in which investing in COD will seem appealing; it will be interesting to see if that actually works.
The single biggest challenge, however, lies within COD itself. It’s a remarkably successful game and will continue to sell well for years to come, but if this year’s numbers can’t match last year’s (even in spite of much more positive critical reception and consumer word-of-mouth), it will be taken as clear evidence that a peak has been passed. Consumer fatigue, high competition and perhaps a lingering sense of being burned by Ghosts are all potentially damaging factors for the franchise this year; should they conspire to push sales down even by a few percentage points year-on-year, tough questions will have to be asked about the future of Activision’s annual cash- Indeed, in that instance, one might ask some tough questions about Activision itself.
It’s odd, perhaps, to question a company’s prospects when it has just announced record financials, but it’s entirely possible that this is a peak for the publisher. World of Warcraft is far from its peak figures, in spite of occasional bumps when expansions are launched, and Blizzard’s putative replacement, Titan, has been cancelled. Destiny has yet to prove itself as a franchise despite an amazing launch, and as I indicated last year, I’m not sure that Activision and the game’s fanbase see eye-to-eye on how it’s going to develop over the coming years. If Call of Duty also shows itself to be coming off the boil, then only Hearthstone will remain as a truly unblemished bright spot in Activision’s line-up. The markets will, no doubt, have noticed this already; Call of Duty Advanced Warfare’s performance is going to be subjected to intense scrutiny over the coming weeks and months, as analysts and investors attempt to divine Activision’s future from this crucial data point.
The internet has just received the first surge of what will be a raging tide of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare reviews, but several key outlets will be lagging behind the others.
As is tradition by now, Activision chose to restrict press access to a fleet of new generation consoles set up in hotel rooms around the world. This has happened with pretty much every major Call of Duty release since Modern Warfare 2, but it’s only in the last year or two that disclaimers have become a common feature of the subsequent reviews. Polygon went to a review event, for example, but it paid for its writer’s accommodation. Kotaku makes no mention of any event despite having played through the entire campaign (presumably in an Xbox One bedecked hotel room), but it is nevertheless holding off publishing a scored review until it has the opportunity to play the game’s multiplayer in a live setting – “the way it was intended.”
Eurogamer took a third route, attending the review event on Activision’s dime but relaxing its critical trigger-finger until Advanced Warfare was released to the public and its true online mettle could be tested. Which is the right approach? Should a review prioritise accuracy or punctuality? No one person can provide a sensible answer to that question, but it seems that the task of the video game critic becomes thornier and more thankless with every AAA release.
One thing is roundly agreed upon, though: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is definitely better than Call of Duty: Ghosts, and most outlets believe that it’s an improvement on Black Ops II. Indeed, even though Eurogamer’s full review won’t be published until later this week, it was enthusiastic enough to publish a score-free recommendation of what it did have a chance to play in the meantime.
Advanced Warfare, the first full COD title from Sledgehammer Games, is, “the biggest shift for the series since the original Modern Warfare, and…easily the best entry since Modern Warfare’s ceasefire.” Here, Eurogamer argues, the series shrugs off the weighty, pained influence of films like Black Hawk Down and turns instead to science fiction romps like Star Wars and Halo, all exotic cityscapes, flying vehicles and elaborate weaponry – “Advanced Warfare impresses you with just how much fun war can be.”
Polygon is with Eurogamer in spirit, but it’s appraisal – based on a private playthrough of the campaign and closed multiplayer sessions hosted by Activision – has a 9.0 waiting at the end. This is exactly the sort of score that Activision and Sledgehammer have been working towards, and Polygon leaves little room for doubt that, this time out, Call of Duty has really earned whatever accolades it receives.
Key to it all are various “Exosuits,” which imbue the player with a range of abilities that the (more or less) contemporary and (in a manner of speaking) historical settings of previous Call of Duty games didn’t allow. For the most part, that means double-jump and boost mechanics, though there are different contextual uses for the suits throughout the game’s campaign.
“All of this makes moment-to-moment navigation much more interesting in Advanced Warfare than previous entries in the series or its imitators have managed,” Polygon’s review states. “The exo conceit also allows Sledgehammer to vary up the single-player campaign’s format and ideas in some exciting new ways.
“In fact, speaking strictly from level and encounter design and mission variety, Advanced Warfare is the best campaign the series has seen since Infinity Ward re-imagined the franchise with Modern Warfare in 2007. There’s no muddy objectives to get stuck on, and at least on my playthrough on the “hardened” difficulty setting, there were very few cheap-feeling death loops to get stuck in. It balances fairness with enough challenge and sophistication to make success feel worth it, and I never felt like any one part overstayed its welcome.”
Joystiq – which has yet another distinct mix of review conditions to consider – is similarly impressed with the way Advanced Warfare enlivens the core mechanics of the Call of Duty series with its new bag of tricks, awarding the game a commendable four-stars. However, there is also the lingering sense that Sledgehammer didn’t go far enough, assembling a clutch of innovative and empowering ideas but leaving most of them to bit-parts, cameos and walk-ons.
“On the one hand, you have the multi-function tactical grenade, which can either down drones with an EMP blast, stun enemies in a burst of light or paint targets through walls,” Joystiq states. “Selecting the right option is a rewarding decision, and not always easy to do quickly under fire. It’s a meaningful part of your arsenal.
“Less dependable are abilities like cloaking or a sonic pulse that disorients nearby enemies, which only appear for some missions. More exotic still are things like the grappling hook, a thrilling device that is first used in an awkward stealth mission. There’s a brilliant urban level later where these futuristic devices open the game up: You grapple between terraces and a central train track, yank enemies out of their power suits and launch yourself into massive, emplaced turrets to tear things up. It’s exciting, dynamic and as bombastic as any Call of Duty.
“It’s a shame these mechanisms come across as guest stars, because their use feels so fitting with Advanced Warfare’s unabashed science fiction shooting gallery… It just doesn’t have the power to break through the expectations of the brand, often coming across as an expertly played round of Call of Duty Mad Libs.”
This speaks to the concerns voiced by US Gamer, Advanced Warfare’s harshest critic at present with a score of 7 out of 10. There are inventive touches here, the sort that Call of Duty’s last few iterations have lacked, but this is innovation only in context. Advanced Warfare feels original in comparison to the series’ previous entries, but Sledgehammer is only reinventing the bubble in which these games exist. US Gamer acknowledges the delight that will bring to, “those who view gaming through the prism of Call of Duty and little else,” but the creative compromises made in the name of protecting the brand are all too clear.
“In a setting rife with possibilities, Advanced Warfare proves surprisingly short on imagination… In terms of design, there’s little to separate Advanced Warfare’s campaign from previous games in the series; and indeed, it frequently recycles tropes from previous games.
“After all these years of playing Call of Duty, the tweaks in Advanced Warfare just don’t do enough to mix up the formula, which is quietly becoming stale … There was a time not so long ago when ‘No Russian’ was on everyone’s lips, and Call of Duty was lauded for its daring and ambition in bringing RPG elements to multiplayer-a controversial choice back in 2007, when conventional wisdom ruled that XP would dramatically unbalance the action in favour of experienced players.
“There is a danger, however, in striving only to keep your core fans happy. Too often, it is easy for development teams to get lost in the echo chamber created by their game’s most vocal fans, which has the effect of encouraging them to prioritise balance changes over more ambitious endeavours. That is what I feel has happened with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which tries very hard to capture the essence and the flavour of the series, and is ultimately a little too successful.”
AMD’s upcoming Carrizo APU has appeared in the SiSoftware Sandra and GFXBench database.
The Carrizo-L processor (AMD Eng Sample: 2M1801C1Y4381_26/18/08/04_9874 (2M 4T 2.6GHz, 1.4GHz IMC, 2x 1MB L2) is clocked at up to 2.6GHz. The new Excavator based CPU is backed by 512-core graphics and the GPU ends up almost twice as fast as previous Radeon R5 on-die solutions.
The results were unearthed by Dutch tech site Hardware.info, which pointed out that the Carrizo sample performs on a par with the A10-7300 Kaveri, despite the fact that the 7300 is clocked at 3.2GHz. This points to a significant IPC gain, as the Carrizo sample ran at 2.6GHz.
Graphics tests yielded mixed results, which may be indicative of driver issues. However, this is to be expected when it comes to upcoming parts, as the launch is still months away, giving AMD ample time to tweak the drivers. For example, the GPU core runs at 626MHz, but in different tests it was listed as a 64-bit and 128-bit part.
Blackberry has added a Snapchat-style self-destructing message feature to BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which it boldly claims makes it “unlike any other chat app out there today”.
Despite having pulled the feature straight out of Snapchat, BlackBerry is claiming that BBM’s new Timed Messages feature, allowing people to choose when messages expire, makes the service like no other.
BlackBerry said in a blog post: “With today’s BBM update we’re incredibly excited to introduce a number of new features that will deliver the best BBM experience yet.
“At the centre of this release are new privacy features that allow customers to take control over the messages and content that they share, so they can communicate with more discretion and freedom than ever before.
“We have been testing these features with customers over the last few weeks and the feedback has been incredible.
“They’re telling us that Timed Messages and Message Retraction add a whole new dynamic to BBM unlike any other chat app out there today.”
Message Retraction allows BlackBerry users to yank messages that they feel they might later regret.
The updated app also brings a new Sticker Picker making it quicker to add stickers to messages, along with an HD Image Transfer feature, and Discover Music, which allows users to see what their BBM contacts are listening to.
BlackBerry failed to mention what operating systems the update will arrive on, but we have asked the firm to elaborate.
However, BlackBerry suggested that the update will come to iOS, Android and Windows Phone users, as well as BlackBerry.
“It may take 24 hours or more for the update to appear in your app store depending on your mobile platform and region,” the firm said.
Sony has admitted that its recent 2.0 PS4 firmware update is a nightmare.
Users who updated are experiencing frequent network errors and issues including consoles not turning on once in Sleep mode, broken Music player, borked PSN and loss of themes for those in the UK.
The reports started emerging just after the update went live on Tuesday and Sony has said that it is aware of the issues.
It said its engineers are investigating.
The software update was supposed to add new features, including YouTube integration and themes. It also unlocked Share Play, Sony’s new system for allowing users to share their games to other players, over the internet.
Of course this is meaningless if your console is broken.
After releasing a string of AAA console titles to varying levels of commercial success, the UK-based studio is attempting to establish what it describes as a “third way” of making games – one that falls somewhere between what we have traditionally called AAA and Indie. Smaller scale, lower cost, with no sacrifices made in terms of creative risks and quality of execution.
“We’re taking our work on Hellblade as an opportunity to question the way the games industry has always done things,” said product development manager Dominic Matthews in a recent developer diary. “To see if there’s a better way, a more streamlined way. To create amazing quality on a smaller budget.”
As a result, Hellblade has a core team of 12 people, with a single person working in the majority of discipline areas. Ninja Theory is committed to finding affordable or homebrew alternatives to the high-end processes associated with its previous games – the performance capture used in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, for example – but its sales target will remain eminently achievable: between 200,000 and 300,000 units.
“[Hellblade] is about what we feel passionate about, what we’re good at, and what we think our fans and supporters want from a game,” said Tameem Antoniades, Ninja Theory’s co-founder. “But it comes at a price. We have to self-fund this game, and we have to work within the restrictions that that means for us.”
In a celestial surprise, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has identified a cloud of methane ice high in the stratosphere of Saturn’s huge moon Titan.
“The idea that methane clouds could form this high on Titan is completely new,” study lead author Carrie Anderson, a Cassini participating scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement. “Nobody considered that possible before.”
Anderson and her colleagues spotted the methane cloud hovering over Titan’s north pole in images taken by Cassini in December 2006, when it was winter in the moon’s northern hemisphere. (The north is now shifting from spring into summer.) [Amazing Photos: Titan, Saturn's Largest Moon]
Researchers had seen methane clouds on Titan before, but in the troposphere, the lowest part of the moon’s thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere. While wispy clouds of ethane and several other materials have been observed in the stratosphere, this region had been regarded as not quite cold enough to support the existence of methane clouds. (Cloud formation requires colder temperatures at higher altitudes, because the air higher up contains less moisture, researchers said.)
This view was based on previous measurements taken just south of Titan’s equator, which returned stratospheric temperatures of around minus 333 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 203 degrees Celsius).
But more recent Cassini data show that the stratosphere is patchy, with temperatures as low as minus 344 F (minus 209 C) in places, researchers said. And those frigid patches are cold enough for methane ice particles to form.
The methane cloud likely formed when relatively warm air rose to the stratosphere from the surface of Titan’s southern hemisphere, where it was summer in December 2006, and then circulated up to the north polar region and sank back down, cooling as it went. Such a mechanism could produce methane clouds at altitudes ranging from 19 to 31 miles (30 to 50 kilometers), researchers said.
“Cassini has been steadily gathering evidence of this global circulation pattern, and the identification of this new methane cloud is another strong indicator that the process works the way we think it does,” said Michael Flasar, also of NASA Goddard, principal investigator for Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer instrument, in the statement.
Similar mechanisms are behind the formation of stratospheric clouds here on Earth, which is the only body in the solar system besides Titan known to possess bodies of stable liquid on its surface. Of course, Earth’s weather system is based on water rather than hydrocarbons.
“Titan continues to amaze with natural processes similar to those on the Earth, yet involving materials different from our familiar water,” said Cassini deputy project scientist Scott Edgington, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “As we approach southern winter solstice on Titan, we will further explore how these cloud formation processes might vary with season.”
In an interview that Xbox head Phil Spencer gave to IGN, he says that a new IP is in development at one of Microsoft’s development studios. It apparently isn’t a new racing or military space marine title.
Spencer says that the Xbox brand needs “new stories and new characters” which provide a “canvas to try new things.” He went on to add that “Sunset Overdrive is a great example of a game that isn’t like anything else in our portfolio, and he thinks that is great. I want to continue to invest in things which push the boundaries.”
Spencer believes that it has to be a commitment from the first-party publisher to try things that are new and unique. While he would not offer a clue as to which studio might be working on this new IP or what the new IP might be, he does seem to imply that there is at least more than one internal/external studio that is working on unannounced games for Microsoft studios.
In the interview he again says that he wants RARE to be more than the Kinect Sports developer and he is in fact heading out to see them soon to look at a new pitch from the studio.