The Bulletin is a roundup of a few game-related news stories from the previous week.
Microsoft reveals a new generation
You probably already know that there’s a new Xbox on the way later this year. Maybe you watched the unveiling on Spike, between re-runs of Cops and The Ultimate Fighter, or maybe you followed along with the Gameological liveblog. Either way, we’ve had almost a week to let the dust settle, so this seems like a good time to dig through all of the information and answer some questions about the newly unveiled Xbox One.
What is it? The official website goes into more detail than we will here, but here’s the lowdown: Xbox One is a machine that plays video games and also does other stuff. Its insides are fancier than the Xbox 360, it has a Blu-Ray drive, and every system comes with an upgraded version of the Kinect camera. It also allows HDMI pass-through, which lets you connect your cable box to it and watch TV on your TV, which might not seem very revelatory, but it means you can yell at your Kinect to put on Adventure Time, and it totally will.
What’s with that name? Surprisingly, the Xbox One is not called that because it’s a prequel. The idea is that it’s the one device you need in your living room, since it gives you access to games, movies, and now TV. Of course, in order to watch TV you need a “supported television tuner or cable/satellite set top box,” according to the fine print on the official site. So that means you need at least one other thing under your television. I guess the name “Xbox One Plus A Cable Box And Maybe Some Other Stuff” was too clunky. Plus, Xbox One can be shortened into Xbone, which is awesome.
Can it play my old Xbox 360 games? Nope, according to this Wired article. That includes both disc-based and downloaded games. But apparently any movies or music you’ve bought will transfer over to the Xbox One. That seems like more of a happy accident than a conscious design decision, though, since most 360 owners would probably prefer to keep access to their Rock Band songs or Xbox Live Arcade collection than that copy of Ryan Reynolds’ Safe House they bought when they were drunk.
Does it require an internet connection? Remember the latest SimCity? In order to play it, you needed to be online. People weren’t crazy about that. Recently, the internet citizens who care about such things have been worried that both new consoles—the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One—would have some similar feature in order to fight piracy. Now we know where the Xbox stands, sort of. As reported by Kotaku, the official word from Microsoft is that “it does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require a connection to the internet.” That’s not clear at all, so Kotaku pushed a little further and got Microsoft vice president Phil Harrison to admit that the system needs to connect to the internet once per day. That seems like a straightforward answer, but then someone else from Microsoft told Polygon that the once-per-day requirement is just another “potential scenario.” In other words, Microsoft is probably in damage control mode and wants to keep information that people might not like under wraps.
Can it play used games? The other big concern was that the Xbox One would somehow stop people from playing used games. That Wired article mentions that the console allows (or possibly requires) you to install any game to its hard drive and play it without the disc, which seems to suggest a potential hurdle for pre-owned titles—that is to say, it’s a potential hurdle that completely wipes them from existence. Wired says that Microsoft would allow you to pay a fee to grant ownership to a second account so that someone else can play the game as well. A Microsoft representative, however, said in that same Polygon article that this is only a “potential scenario.” So, yeah, damage control. The Xbox One is supposed to launch later this year, and hopefully we’ll know more about it by then.
Max Payne and Alan Wake creators break quantum on the Xbox One
Despite Microsoft’s best efforts, the Xbone reveal wasn’t all about watching TV on your game console. It also showed off a few of the new games that will be coming to the system. First up was Quantum Break, which, as reported by The Verge, will “merge a TV show and gaming together.” So, again, it involves TV. Before I get too snarky, I should point out that Quantum Break is being developed by Remedy Entertainment, the studio that created Max Payne and Alan Wake, the latter of which is the secret best game of the last few years. (It’s a secret because that’s really not true, but I still like it a lot.) In related news, Remedy’s creative director, Sam Lake, took to YouTube to explain why the studio isn’t currently working on an Alan Wake sequel, despite the fact that it ended on a crazy cliffhanger and I really want a sequel.
Next Call Of Duty to prominently feature the tragic death of a beloved dog
Aside from the briefly glimpsed racing game sequel Forza Motorsport 5, the only other big game at Microsoft’s event was Call Of Duty: Ghosts. Viewers were treated to some behind-the-scenes video and a trailer that consisted entirely of clips from cutscenes. At first blush, it looks shockingly similar to every other Call Of Duty released in the last six years, with its slow-motion shots of helicopters and soldier dudes aiming guns at stuff. But then comes the megaton reveal: a dog. Welcome to the next generation of video games! The Call Of Duty series has never shied away from cheap attempts at narrative depth, between its infamous “No Russian” mission and the tragic deaths of main characters whose names I couldn’t remember if my life depended on it. This dog, however, seems like a slam dunk. Imagine if he’s hanging around you for the whole campaign, carrying your ammo, growling at terrorists, chasing butterflies around the battlefield, and rolling around asking for belly rubs. Then suddenly, BAM—a sniper nails Mr. Barkington. He’s laying in your arms and licking your face as he drifts off to doggy heaven, and then you pull out your Desert Eagle and single-handedly save the world or whatever. It’s a lock for game of the year.