The first half of April has seen a number of big announcements in the gaming world. With Microsoft’s relentless schedule of Xbox One updates, some big game and release date reveals, updates on next-gen resolutions and a certain online retailer getting in on the action, there’s a lot to keep track of. Read on for all the important gaming news.
More Xbox One updates
Though it’s already pushed some significant software updates to its next-gen console, Microsoft isn’t content to rest on its laurels, and has provided a wealth of details on what’s to come.
The new features, which have already been pushed to certain users selected to preview the changes, include audio static-reducing firmware updates for the controller and headset, and Blu-ray playback improvements including support for 50Hz content. The controller update should also improve wireless connection stability.
The company is making a change to how the system updates when the Instant On feature is enabled, allowing it to automatically apply the upgrades, returning to standby mode once they’re complete. Users are currently required to manually power up the console after an update, leading to frustrated and futile sessions of yelling “Xbox on” at the system.
The company has also detailed improvements to its Xbox Video and SmartGlass services. The first of these is the ability to continue watching Xbox Video movie rentals on any device, without losing your place in the content. Users will be able to resume watching their rented content on Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Windows 8, with the feature arriving soon on Windows Phone 8.
Microsoft is also updating its smartphone/tablet-based SmartGlass service to allow easier navigation, better social features (such as seeing what friends are playing), the ability to receive Xbox Live alerts and provide the option to snap apps using the second screen.
Lastly, the company is improving its TV services in Europe and Canada, allowing users to view TV listings in OneGuide, and have better control over set-top boxes and TVs using SmartGlass or an expanded set of Kinect commands. The new features will help bring the system’s European and Canadian entertainment features in line with what the company offers in the US.
Microsoft has yet to provide details on when the updates will go live.
Game announcements and release dates
While a system’s software experience is important, it’s games that users really care about, and while we usually don’t comment on new titles or release date announcements, this month has seen some significant reveals.
First up is the much leaked re-release of last year’s excellent The Last of Us. Coming to PS4 this summer, The Last of Us Remastered will up the original title’s 720p resolution to a full 1080p, while providing higher resolution textures and character models, in addition to better lighting and shadows. Given how much more powerful Sony’s new system is over the PlayStation 3, and given how great the original release looked on the aging console, the new version is set to be a visually stunning.
The Last of Us Remastered will also feature director and voice actor commentary for the title’s cinematic sequences, and yes, the recently-released Left Behind expansion and the Abandoned Territories multiplayer map pack will be included on the disk.
Another big announcement came in the form of a release date for the latest title in Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. franchise. The new game is one of the company’s biggest titles of the year and given the Wii U’s dismal outlook, it’s got a lot riding on it.
However, the game will actually hit the company’s popular 3DS handheld before it arrives in full home console form. The 3DS version of the game will arrive in summer 2014 (Northern Hemisphere), and will run at 60fps, while the Wii U version won’t hit until winter.
An update in the resolution war
It’s no secret that the PlayStation 4 has the edge on the Xbox One when it comes to raw power, and this has been reflected in the comparative resolution of multiplatform titles, many of which are sharper on Sony’s system. However, a couple of recent announcements indicate that the gap might be closing.
Julian Gerighty, creative director on upcoming racer The Crew, revealed to VideoGamer that the title will run at a full 1080p resolution on both next-gen consoles, with the developer working to “get parity across all versions.”
Things are a little less certain for Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs titles, set to land in May. While the developer has confirmed that the game will run at 1080p on the PS4 (and 4K on PC), it has yet to confirm the Xbox One version’s resolution, with rumors suggesting it will output at 960p.
While this still indicates a notable performance difference between the two systems, it’s not nearly as significant as the 1080p vs 720p disparity of earlier titles such as Call of Duty: Ghosts. This indicates that developers may be getting to grips with the Xbox One’s trickier internals.
Amazon Fire TV
One big bit of news that you might struggle to have missed is the announcement that online retailer Amazon is getting in on the console game. Well, sort of.
The company announced and launched a US$99 streaming box, known as the Amazon Fire TV, that has the ability to play high-end Android games using an official (and sold separately) gaming controller. Read more about the streaming box in our review.
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