Archive for the ‘Xbox One’ Category

Xbox Wireless Headset review: $99 set with engineering wins, first-gen stumbles

March 15th, 2021

Tomorrow, March 16, Microsoft will launch its first official, Xbox-branded pair of headphones—a far leap beyond the cheapo, one-ear headsets packed into original Xbox 360 consoles. Headphone expectations have changed a lot since those days, and potential buyers have to weigh crucial elements like sound isolation, microphone quality, voice-chat volume management, and device compatibility before spending $100 and up.

While the Xbox Wireless Headset isn't my de facto pick for the product category, it's certainly a solid option for its $99 price. Plus, I've been looking for a reason to catch up with other gaming-specific headphones I've recently tested. Hence, this review compares the XWH with a few options for PC and console gamers in search of versatile, high-quality headphones.

Nifty dials, dual source support

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Xbox Series X hands-on: The big back-compat dive begins

September 28th, 2020

What good is a next-gen console without any "new" video games to play on it?

That question loomed as I unpacked an Xbox Series X console at my home office last week, nearly two months before its $499 retail launch on November 10. Such early access to a state-of-the-art gaming machine surely comes with some concession, and in my case, that was a severe asterisk on its compatible content. Unlike other console-preview opportunities I've had in my career, this one didn't come with a single new or freshly updated game in the box.

The funny thing is, this is exactly what I'd asked for.

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Posted in Features, Gaming & Culture, XBox, Xbox One, xbox one x, xbox series, xbox series s, xbox series x | Comments (0)

Sony pushes back on reports that it’s reducing PS5’s launch availability

September 16th, 2020

Sony has issued a rare denial in response to a recent report from Bloomberg suggesting the company has cut back production of the upcoming PlayStation 5 due to component shortages.

“While we do not release details related to manufacturing, the information provided by Bloomberg is false," the company said in a statement provided to "We have not changed the production number for PlayStation 5 since the start of mass production."

Bloomberg's report cited "people familiar with the matter" to suggest that the company was lowering its expected worldwide console production from 15 million down to 11 million for the fiscal year ending in March 2021. That's due to "production yields as low as 50% for its SOC," according to the report.

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, microsoft, Playtation 5, ps4, ps5, Sony, Xbox One | Comments (0)

War Stories: How Forza learned to love neural nets to train AI drivers

September 14th, 2020

Produced by Justin Wolfson, edited by Shandor Garrison. Click here for transcript.

Once an upstart, the Forza franchise is now firmly established within the pantheon of great racing games. The first installment was created as the Xbox's answer to Gran Turismo, but with a healthy helping of online multiplayer racing, too. Since then, it has grown with Microsoft's Xbox consoles, with more realistic graphics and ever-more accurate physics in the track-focused Forza Motorsport series as well as evolving into open-world adventuring (and even a trip to the Lego dimension) for the Forza Horizon games.

If you're one of the millions of people who've played a Forza racing game, you're probably aware of the games' AI opponents, called "Drivatars." When the first Drivatars debuted in Forza Motorsport in 2005, they were a substantial improvement over the NPCs we raced in other driving games, which often just followed the same preprogrammed route around the track. "It was a machine-learning system on a hard drive using a Bayesian Neural Network to record [racing] lines and characteristics of how somebody drove a car," explains Dan Greenawalt, creative director of the Forza franchise at Turn 10 Studios, in our latest War Stories video.

In fact, the technology originated at Microsoft Research's outpost in Cambridge, England, where computer scientists started using neural nets to see if it was possible to get a computer to identify a Formula 1 driver by the way they drove through corners.

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Posted in AI, Ars Technica Videos, artifical intelligence, bayesian neural network, cars, forza horizon, Forza Motorsport, Gaming & Culture, neural network, war stories, XBox, xbox 360, Xbox One | Comments (0)

Xbox Series S design appears to have leaked, alongside next-gen Xbox prices

September 8th, 2020

On Sunday evening, a floodgate opened about Microsoft's next-gen console launch plans. Multiple reports, along with a telling video snippet, put an exclamation point on the company's leaked aspirations to launch the "Xbox Series X" console (announced in late 2019) next to a cheaper, smaller "Xbox Series S" model by year's end.

And while some details could change—particularly the reports' guesses of $299 for Xbox Series S and $499 for Xbox Series X—we suspect that this leaked design for a smaller, next-gen Xbox is accurate.

Longtime Microsoft-tracking reporter Brad Sams kicked off the flurry of Sunday news with a screenshot showing an apparent Xbox Series S design, colored white and roughly half the size of an Xbox Series X, next to a price: $299. Sams did not offer an explanation for where he sourced his image, but he has repeatedly reported on the Series S's existence while it was in development under the code name Lockhart, alongside the Series X (codenamed Scarlett).

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, XBox, Xbox One, xbox one x, xbox series s, xbox series x | Comments (0)

Battletoads game review: Good moments don’t save the toad-al package

August 20th, 2020
Battletoads midmission cut scene: three heroes jump out of a window

Enlarge / The Battletoads are back. We wish that were better news. (credit: Dlala Studios / Rare, Ltd. / Xbox Game Studios)

When Battletoads arrived on the Nintendo Entertainment System in June 1991, it rode on a wave of limited-time momentum in the West. Ninja Turtles fever was still a thing. The NES ruled the charts, even though Sega's own attitude-filled mascot was about to emerge. And Nintendo's official US magazine devoted page after page to a new, weirdly named toad trio: Zitz, Rash, and Pimple.

As an early '90s pre-teen, I was convinced that Battletoads was absolutely massive. I later realized that wasn't the case; a lot of people hated how hard the first game was, while subsequent games flopped. But I'll always be fond of the original game's graphical tricks, over-the-top combat, and wacky mix of genres.

Nothing—not even this week's inspired-yet-messy series rebirth—can take that away from me. For all of its good moments, this year's 10GB version of Battletoads is somehow less diverse and exciting than the 256KB original.

The Looney Tunes-caliber stuff

The new game, simply titled Battletoads, sees the series' corporate handlers at Rare Ltd. hand their web-toed fighters to Dlala Studios, an English developer with an eye for hand-drawn 2D art. You can tell why they got the job after playing the first two levels. The game's best bits are a delight to play, either solo or with friends.

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How your PS4 and Xbox One games will work on PS5 and Series X

August 12th, 2020
Opposing sides of a long corridor are emblazoned with the logos of opposing video game companies.

Enlarge / A tense standoff across the demilitarized zone. (credit: Barone Firenze |

Console gamers looking to upgrade to a new system at the end of the year likely have a few major questions about how their existing game libraries will work across console generations, such as:

  • Will I be able to play my current games on the new system?
  • How will those games be improved when running on more powerful hardware?
  • Will I have to buy another copy of the game to get those enhancements?

The answer to those questions varies greatly depending on the platform and publisher involved, and answers for some specific games are still unknown. That said, here's a handy guide to where various cross-generational game compatibility and upgrade plans stand at this point.

Backward compatibility

At a basic level, both Microsoft and Sony are taking steps to ensure that most (if not all) of your current-generation console game library will be playable on their new consoles.

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Xbox Series S outed by next-gen controller leak—and it’s legit

August 10th, 2020

The new Xbox console controller is now officially in the wild, which is astonishing enough since its accompanying console, the Xbox Series X, still doesn't have a release date or a price.

But the two leaked controllers we've seen thus far are even more intriguing because of something they have in common: an apparently official mention of "Xbox Series S" as an additional Microsoft next-gen console. Ars Technica can confirm that this is indeed the name of an upcoming, unannounced Microsoft product.

S marks the spot—but questions remain

The controller itself was previously announced alongside Xbox Series X's reveal during the December 2019 broadcast of The Game Awards. While it bears a strong resemblance to the existing Xbox One controller, its general mold has been shrunken to better support a wider range of hand sizes. Functionally, it's identical, other than a new "share" button, while its d-pad has been updated to resemble one of the d-pad options found in the first-party Xbox Elite Controller line. One owner of the new controller, who goes by Zak S on Twitter, pointed specifically to the updated d-pad as "one of [his] favorite parts."

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, lockhart, Xbox One, xbox series s, xbox series x | Comments (0)

We should talk about Halo Infinite’s not quite next-gen premiere

July 24th, 2020

On Thursday, I quickly consumed and reported on the first "gameplay" reveal of Halo Infinite, the long-awaited sequel slated to launch this holiday on Xbox Series X. I'll admit, I really liked what I saw at first blush. Its combat, movement, and weapon impact struck a clever balance between the glory of Halo 3 and the uneven-but-ambitious experiments of later sequels. (At least, as much as a five-minute sequence can demonstrate.)

I also liked the new weirdness of the "grapple shot," which lets series hero Master Chief cast a line and zip toward foes or pick up objects. I'm a sucker for a grappling hook, and I have previously felt that another Xbox game series, Gears of War, would benefit from such a gimmick. With that in mind, I went back to my 2019 review of Gears 5, where I'd last suggested such a thing.

I noticed that game's screenshots, which prompted me to look at images I captured from Halo infinite. Then I looked at Gears 5 again. And Halo Infinite again. Hmm, I said out loud.

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Can Xbox One continue on as gaming’s “low end” console option?

July 17th, 2020

For months now, Microsoft has been talking up the raw power increase coming to consoles courtesy of the Xbox Series X. At the same time, though, Microsoft's is encouraging internal and external studios to make Series X games that continue to work on seven-year-old Xbox One hardware as well.

"As our content comes out over the next year, two years, all of our games, sort of like PC, will play up and down that family of devices," head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty said in a January interview with MCV. "We want to make sure that if someone invests in Xbox between now and [Series X] that they feel that they made a good investment and that we’re committed to them with content."

Does that mean developers will have to hold back their truly "next-generation" ideas to accommodate players with outdated consoles? Microsoft's Head of Xbox Phil Spencer doesn't think so. In an interview with last week, Spencer also referenced the PC gaming ecosystem as an analogy to explain how support for the Xbox One would continue to work:

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