Metal Gear Skylake

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I just watched the Super Mario Maker Overview trailer and was reminded that the game debuts on September 11. I had no idea. I thought this was an October title. With Super Mario Maker and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s release dates sneaking up on me, I decided to take an inventory of my upcoming 2015 games and what’s coming out and when.

  • Sept. 1 – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4)
  • Sept. 11 – Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
  • Oct. 27 – Halo 5: Guardians (X1)
  • Nov. 6 – Call of Duty: Black Ops III (PS4) *
  • Nov. 17 – Star Wars: Battlefront (PS4) *

* – Digital

So there isn’t as much as I thought. It’s the holiday so there’s plenty of shoot bang titles to stave off the cold. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is a giant question mark for me though. It didn’t have the best showings at the tradeshows. The upcoming beta this week will ultimately decide the game’s fate methinks. Then again, my brother and I enjoy our co-op shooter campaigns which BLOPS3 has.

We’ll see.

The Skylake Is Falling?

So Skylake is here. It’s been a couple of weeks since the reviews for Intel’s latest “tock” release were posted online. The results are a little weird. On one hand, instruction per clock performance improved ever so slightly over the previous generation for general computing but seemingly took a hit in gaming scenarios.

The switch to DDR4 won’t move the needle for performance over DDR3 right now but it will lower power consumption. I thought there’s a premium over DDR3 modules but a quick glance at NewEgg.ca sees both DDR3 and DDR4 16GB kits priced at $150 each.

By far the most attractive prospect of upgrading to Skylake platform is the accompanying Z170 chipset. With the new 26 lane Flex-IO hub, motherboard manufacturers can provide more USB 3.0, SATA or PCI-e ports than ever. More ports are welcomed. Faster ports are also welcomed and some Z170 motherboards will feature USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports that will offer up to 10 Gbps transfer rates.

With all the goodies in hand so far, there’s actually more to come. Intel’s first Skylake CPUs only come in two flavors: the i7-6700K and i5-6600K. The motherboard situation isn’t great either with only Z170 chipsets based ones on the market. I’m not big on CPU overclocking these days so the K-series CPUs and Z-series motherboards a bit overkill. Not to mention that the ITX options are scant. In the end, I’d wait for the rest of Skylake to launch because while promising this all seems very premature on Intel’s part.

 

Did I Ask For This?

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Microsoft’s Gamescom press conference was alright. They showed more footage of Quantum Break, the first gameplay of Platinum Games’ Scalebound and announced Halo Wars 2 was coming Fall 2016. There wasn’t much in the way of mind blowing exclusives but it was worth the check in. I just don’t know if Halo Wars 2 was the best way to end the conference.

Hot Takes!

  • Quantum Break looks neat and if you’re going to feature the actors behind Cedric and Carcetti from The Wire, it’s bound to be pretty good right? I just hope they don’t lose the silly FMV shows like Alan Wake’s Night Springs.
  • The Scalebound demonstration didn’t start as inviting as I thought it would but by the end of it, I bought into Platinum Games’ monster fighting action game. Is it an action RPG? I saw damage numbers.
  • Halo 5: Guardians continues to look neat because of Warzone. I don’t understand why they’re trying to manufacture hype around the competitive “E-Sports” Halo scene though. I never see it mentioned outside of Microsoft’s press events.
  • They keep showing more and more Rise of Tomb Raider and I like what I see but this staggered release between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One makes me extra cautious.
  • Just Cause 3 looks bonkers and that’s probably best term to use to describe it. At this point I’m going to forgo Just Cause 2 and wait for the sequel to arrive and play that.
  • Forza Motorsport 6 sounds like a substantial upgrade in the details department and if I were in the mood for a driving game, I’d consider picking this one up.

And that was Microsoft’s Gamescom 2015 press conference and what I took away from it. Halo Wars 2 doesn’t do anything for me but I’m interested in seeing it in action. Maybe it will be awesome on PC and it’ll convince me to try a Creative Assembly RTS for the first time.

I didn’t ask for it but I’m glad Microsoft put on a good show.

 

Timid Fury

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The AMD Radeon Fury X isn’t exactly the $649 USD NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti killer that AMD hoped for.

The Radeon R9 Fury X is a big advance over the last-gen R9 290X, and it’s a close match overall for the GeForce GTX 980 Ti. However, the GeForce generally outperforms the Fury X across our suite of games—by under 10%, or four FPS, on average. That’s massive progress from the red team, and it’s a shame the Fury X’s measurably superior shader array and prodigious memory bandwidth don’t have a bigger payoff in today’s games.

If I were going to spend $649 USD on a video card, why would I spend it on a Fury X? For the water cooling unit? The LED lights? Why would I spend money on a video card that cannot deliver frames in a smooth manner?

Speaking of which, if you dig deeper using our frame-time-focused performance metrics—or just flip over to the 99th-percentile scatter plot above—you’ll find that the Fury X struggles to live up to its considerable potential. Unfortunate slowdowns in games like The Witcher 3 and Far Cry 4 drag the Fury X’s overall score below that of the less expensive GeForce GTX 980. What’s important to note in this context is that these scores aren’t just numbers. They mean that you’ll generally experience smoother gameplay in 4K with a $499 GeForce GTX 980 than with a $649 Fury X. Our seat-of-the-pants impressions while play-testing confirm it. The good news is that we’ve seen AMD fix problems like these in the past with driver updates, and I don’t doubt that’s a possibility in this case. There’s much work to be done, though.

I thought AMD was on the road to improving their drivers and yet to this day, they’re still struggling to get a handle on it. Again, why would I spend money on this?

I’m not content with this outcome because it just means that NVIDIA is running unopposed which isn’t good for consumers. We need healthy competition in the video card space.

Your E3 Wishes Granted

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“It’s a hearts and minds game.”

It’s a phrase that I heard uttered after Sony’s E3 2013 press conference and suspect after this year’s E3 conferences from all publishers, we’re going to hear more and more of it.

It began with Bethesda’s late Sunday evening presentation where they showed off lengthy demos of Doom and Fallout 4; Pete Hines kept the pace brisk but slowed it down when it mattered. Todd Howard was brought on stage to speak to those who were forgoing Game of Thrones and other Sunday night programming to watch a streaming presentation. They knew who they were talking to. He dropped F-bombs when appropriate and tried his best to pitch Fallout: Shelter as a mobile game for those who scoff at F2P trappings.

It was an impressive showing for a publisher who never put on a show before. But was that a one off? Of course not.

Monday began with Microsoft and the announcement of Xbox One backwards compatibility. They followed up with Xbox One Elite controller targeted at the hardcore audience with its swappable components. They would mention its exorbitant price tag away from the cameras but the message was clear: “We’re catering to you, the gamer.”

Electronic Arts gave us more Mirror’s Edge and intentionally reminded us that we’re not going to see Faith pick up a firearm in this game. They tried their best to make their sports and other properties appealing but they knew why we’re here and why we would stick around after Pele and the Hoop God made their appearances. It was no coincidence that Star Wars: Battlefront was played on a PlayStation 4. A PC would have brought skepticism about the console version’s quality. They made sure that we saw those PlayStation prompts.

Ubisoft made us laugh and continued the trend of “one more thing” with the reveal of Ghost Recon: Wildlands at the end. Alicia Tyler continued to win fans over with her enthusiasm and energy. Her debut on Ubisoft’s stage may have been awkward at first but I felt she won everyone over. The annual Ubisoft message isn’t always palpable but she livens it up considerably.

And then there was Sony who transformed themselves into the genie of E3 by granting three wishes. Final Fantasy VII Remake, Shenmue III and The Last Guardian all made appearances on their stage. Not all three were exclusive to them but it was damn obvious that they wanted the PlayStation 4 attached to all of these. There was no lengthy TV show pitch and while it would have been nice to see VR on the big stage, I felt it could have been another Move situation if they demonstrated it on-stage; fine for those who already bought in but a tough sell to those who’re peering from the outside.

Nintendo’s digital event was marred by the fact that it didn’t have much to say this year. Nintendo reminded us that NX is a 2016 thing and we should be content with the likes of another 3D FPS Metroid game on the Nintendo 3DS. They pushed more Amiibos and celebrated Mario but it was evident that Nintendo’s 2015 was considerably weaker.

Square  Enix showed the people what they clamored for with Kingdom Hearts 3 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided footage, they flexed their quality mobile offerings by leveraging a known quantity like Hitman Go and they promised Rise of Tomb Raider would have tombs. They even brought in PlatinumGames to work on a new Nier title while promising JRPG fans that they are committed to JRPGs with the creation of the Tokyo RPG Factory studio.

Square Enix served as a nice summation of everyone else’s E3 presentation. They focused on what worked and showed their audience that they’re understanding what their fans want — or at the very least — starting to listen. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get that Final Fantasy XII HD Remake that I wanted or Half Life 3.

Nearly Everyone Did Well

I have some marks to give out to the E3 press conferences. I’m rating pace, content and the delivery of said content.

  • Bethesda: A-
  • Microsoft: A
  • Electronic Arts: C+
  • Ubisoft: B-
  • Sony: A
  • Nintendo: D+
  • Square Enix: B+

Some personal notables:

  • ReCore and Horizon: Zero Dawn were the two new intellectual properties that immediately grabbed me.
  • A new Nier? Yes, please. The first one was unique but flawed. I’m glad Square Enix are bringing in action experts to help
  • Star Wars: Battlefront surprised me with how well it performed on consoles and if I’m not mistaken, DICE are targeting 60FPS.
  • I hope Tomb Raider Go lives up to Hitman Go’s lofty heights.

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