Decade-Old Xbox 360 Gets Enhanced Cloud Storage

The Xbox 360 has been around since 2005. 10 years later, most other companies would drop support for it altogether, but not Microsoft. It just announced a bunch of new updates to the console.

These include expanded cloud storage and the ability to log on to the Internet from public locations that require you to agree to a terms of use acceptance.

“Starting today you will now be able to use up to 2GB of Cloud Storage on your Xbox 360. Use your Cloud Storage to save the game saves you want to bring with you to Xbox One for Xbox One Compatible games,” said Larry ‘Major Nelson’ Hryb, Director of Programming for Xbox Live on his blog.

(Also see: Check Out Windows 10 and Backwards Compatibility on the Xbox One Soon)

Other additions include an improved activity feed and the ability to see what your friends are doing on Windows 10 and Xbox One via your Xbox 360. Also, you can now access your movie and TV collection from Microsoft Movies & TV and your Music in Groove Music. And if you’re looking to purchase game digitally, your Microsoft account will show how much money you have when you’re checking out a game or browsing the marketplace.

From all of these additions, the biggest is most definitely enhanced cloud storage. With Microsoft pushing backwards compatibility on the Xbox One as a major selling point, being able to move save files between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One is important. Previously you were limited to a mere 512MB, quadrupling it is a good way to ensure everyone on an Xbox 360 looking to upgrade has a seamless way to do so.

EA Removes 13 Women Players From FIFA 16

One of the big draws of FIFA 16 is that fans can play with 12 women’s national teams for the first time ever. However you won’t be able to play as all of the footballers. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a non-profit regulatory body for college student-athletes has ruled out 13 female footballers.

“Of the hundreds of players on these rosters, 13 are currently attending or likely to attend NCAA-sanctioned schools in the U.S. The NCAA recently informed EA Sports that these 13 student-athletes would be risking their eligibility for collegiate athletics by being included in FIFA 16,” a post on EA’s website reads.

(Also see: It Only Took 22 Years but FIFA Will Finally Have Women Players in FIFA 16)

“We do not agree with this position. All rights were secured following standard protocol with national governing bodies and federations, and none of these NCAA student-athletes or potential student athletes were to be individually compensated by EA SPORTS for their inclusion in the game.”

According to EA this decision prevents these athletes from representing their countries in the game but has removed them from FIFA 16 to make sure they don’t lose out on collegiate athletics.

We played FIFA 16 and our early impressions indicate that barring the addition of women players, it’s on the sluggish side. With the game out on September 24, you won’t have to wait too long to check it out for yourself

Xbox One Elite Controller Gets A Release Date

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Microsoft’s Xbox One Elite controller is what gamers have been waiting for. It is a customizable controller that features bumpers, a textured rolling pad and hair-trigger locks. Many of the components can be swapped, so that allows users to customize the controller however they like. Up until now we didn’t know when this controller would arrive, but now we have a release date from the Microsoft Store.

Even though Microsoft has not made an official announcement yet, the controller was unveiled back in June. The official listing for the product on the Microsoft Store now shows a release date of October 27th. So we don’t have long to wait for this one. That’s next month.

There is also a listing on GameStop that has the same release date so we have every reason to believe that Microsoft is going to start shipping the Xbox One Elite controller on October 27th. The controller comes with four new paddle buttons on the back which can also be customized. You can also adjust the sensitivity of triggers and sticks and remap all of the controls how you want them.

Microsoft will release an app so you can customize the controller and the settings will be stored on the controller itself. It will cost you $149.99.

Uncharted 4 Beta Dates Announced

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Arne Meyer Community Strategist at Naughty Dog has taken to the PlayStation blog this week to announce the Uncharted 4 Beta availability dates that will commence on December 4th through December 13th.

The announced dates for the exclusive Uncharted 4 Multiplayer Beta will be available to everyone with a copy of the Uncharted The Nathan Drake Collection and a PlayStation Plus membership. Check out the latest trailer below as well to whet your appetite further.

We know you are all looking forward to hearing more about what’s new in multiplayer, what’s new with gameplay, and what new modes and maps you can expect. We’re planning a grand reveal that will answer many of your questions about Uncharted 4 multiplayer before the Beta goes live this December.

We have just a few weeks to go until our October 9th launch date. Don’t forget, we’ve got two more Uncharted Moments Twitch streams left to go on September 29th and October 6th. Be sure to vote for your favorite Uncharted moment if you want to see it on the stream! Then you can get your hands on Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection early when the much anticipated single-player demo drops on PlayStation Store September 29th.

We’re looking forward to seeing everyone post their own #UnchartedMoments directly via the Share button from Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection when it launches on October 9th, 2015.

Star Wars Battlefront Beta Open To PS4, Xbox One And PC Gamers

Star Wars Battlefront

EA has released more details about the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront beta development stage that will consist of both offline and online modes including co-operative and split-screen co-operative gameplay.

The Star Wars Battlefront beta will take place on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and via Origin for PC although as yet no specific date has been confirmed by EA at the present time. But as soon as anything is announced we will always keep you updated.

Mathew Everett Star Wars Battlefront  Community Manager explains more:

Get ready hit the battlefront on Hoth via Walker Assault and check out our newly revealed mode, Drop Zone on Sullust. Now, I have to state my excitement here as this is by far my favorite mode and I can’t wait for you to check it out for yourself. Is online Multiplayer with more than two players just not your thing? We have you covered.

Now that we have officially announced the beta, most of you are just itching to know how you can get in. Well, we’re excited to say that the beta is open to everyone! Get ready for the beta release date and also make sure your system is ready to download the beta the moment it goes live. Keep your eyes peeled for myself and many other developers during the live beta as we have some cool stuff planned

Star Wars Battlefront

For more details about the Star Wars Battlefront beta gameplay, jump over to the official Battlefront website for more details and a quick FAQ to answer a few of your questions via the link below.

Limited Edition Gold PlayStation 4 Bundle Unveiled

Limited Edition Gold PlayStation 4 Bundle

Guy Longworth Senior Vice President, PlayStation Brand Marketing has taken to the PlayStation blog today to introduce a new Limited Edition Gold PlayStation 4 Bundle that is available to win from Taco Bell in the United States.

The promotion will start later this month on September 24th and will finish on November 4th after which approximately 6,000 Limited Edition Gold PS4 Bundles will have been won.

Sony explains a little more about how you can get your hands on one of these Limited Edition Gold PlayStation 4 consoles :

Hello, PlayStation Nation! I’ve got some big news — together with our friends at Taco Bell we’ve put together something special for gamers in the United States. Only at Taco Bell and only during the promotional period, fans will have the chance to win a Limited Edition Gold PlayStation 4 Bundle every 10 minutes!

Starting September 24th, stop by your local Taco Bell and purchase any Big Box, and receive a unique code for your chance to win. PS4 branded Big Boxes will be available during the promotion at participating Taco Bell locations while supplies last.

The limited edition prize bundle includes a Gold PS4 system, one gold DualShock 4, a copy of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, and a voucher for one year of PlayStation Plus.

For more information on the rules and how to enter jump over to the official website located here.

SOMA review: Ghostly machines beneath the sea, exploring humanity’s depths

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It’s appropriate that the first words you’ll see in SOMA are a quote by the late science fiction visionary Philip K. Dick. Sure, the quote—“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away”—pertains to the story you’re about to experience, but that’s not what I mean.

The quote is an appropriate opening because SOMA feels like a piece of classic science fiction—something that would’ve come out of Harlan Ellison or Ray Bradbury or, yes, Philip K. Dick.

It’s a story you might’ve seen in grainy black and white on Twilight Zone or maybe The Outer Limits. It is bits of Blade Runner, of Demon with a Glass Hand, of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and The Martian Chronicles and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritchand so many other legendary works of science fiction. It’s a story that deals with that most human of all topics: What does it mean to be human?

NOTE: I’m going to try not to spoil anything in this review that wasn’t already covered in the game’s trailers, but be warned there are minor plot points ahead.

20,000 leagues

Most importantly, it’s the first time Frictional has developed a game where its output matches its ambitions.

SOMA

That’s not meant as a slight on Frictional’s previous work. In fact, it’s testament to the studio’s creative talent that both Penumbra and Amnesia became staples of the horror genre despite the obvious constraints of limited budget and personnel.

SOMA is something more though. It’s barely even a horror game, for starters. If you’re looking for another experience as overtly terrifying as Amnesia, look elsewhere. There are certainly horror elements to SOMA. There are dark corridors and blood splatters and things that go clank in the night. There are even monsters, of a sort.

But SOMA is mostly psychological—more first-person adventure game than first-person horror. After briefly playing the game at E3 I said SOMA seemed full of existential dread, and that remains true after ten hours with the game.

[FINAL SPOILER WARNING – AGAIN, ONLY THINGS COVERED IN TRAILERS]

SOMA

SOMA takes place in (and sometimes outside of) PATHOS-II, an underwater laboratory far below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. At one point PATHOS-II was a thriving facility, but now it’s mostly inhabited by robot…things. I mean, they look like robots, but they talk like people. They think they are people. They can hold conversations. They remember their lives. They feel pain. They can hate.

You play as Simon Jarrett, who—no surprise—wants to get the hell out of PATHOS-II before the robots turn on him or the station falls apart. Good luck.

Like I said before, the game is mostly a first-person adventure. Frictional still tosses in the occasional enemy—and their designs are as unnerving as ever—but encounters are far less pervasive than they were in, say, Amnesia, where you spent 90 percent of the game crouched and creeping through shadows.

SOMA

Instead, SOMA goes for quality over quantity. While Amnesia featured tons of rank-and-file monsters, most anyone will tell you the “Water Monster” was the most memorable part of the game. The Water Monster (or “Kaernk”) in Amnesia was a special encounter in a flooded basement—an invisible monster you could only track by watching where the water splashed. And it was memorable because it was unique.

While I don’t think any adversary in SOMA quite reaches that level of genius, it’s clear Frictional took a different approach to the game, utilizing bespoke, one-off enemies instead of a single creature repeated ad infinitum. The result is threefold: Unforgettable moments, better pacing, and less mindless repetition.

But most of your time with SOMA involves exploring PATHOS-II. It’s a character in itself, separate from the crew. Its groans and metallic creaks keep you company during long stretches of isolation. Its cold green lights start to feel like a warm, familiar hug after five minutes traversing the barren ocean floor. The hiss of an airlock sounds like someone welcoming you home.

And when the lights go out, you know it’s time to hide. Or run.

Immersed

Post-E3, I made the obvious comparison—SOMA is like BioShock. After all, they both take place underwater and they both take a stab at telling a “real story” instead of the usual video game tripe. I’m amending that though, because the truth is SOMA does BioShockbetter than BioShock ever did BioShock.

SOMA

It’s like a trail diverged in the woods, and two separate-but-yet-extremely-similar games sprung from System Shock 2. One designed a story around the need for, as Ken Levine put it, “a skill component” (a.k.a. guns), and became BioShock. The other eschewed combat, focusing instead on System Shock 2’s world-building and the potential of telling a story in the first-person perspective. Thus, SOMA.

There are sequences in SOMA that only work because this is a video game, and more specifically, a first-person game—real gut-punches that only hit because you are inhabiting a character. A few bits make such expert use of first-person perspective I’m reminded of the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare which, before the series became a parody of itself, wowed an entire industry with its audacious manipulation of point-of-view.

But where Modern Warfare used it for spectacle, SOMA uses it to mull on various crises of conscience. To isolate you. To sit and reflect amidst the groaning of pressurized steel and billions of gallons of water churning above your head. Again, all in service of one pervasive question: What does it mean to be human?

Bottom line

SOMA is not the horror game I expected out of Frictional, but I don’t care and it doesn’t matter. This is an excellent work of science fiction, not necessarily unique but uniquely told through its skillful use of video game conceits. It’s System Shock 2 for a modern sensibility, BioShock freed of its AAA chains. It’s damn good and, for my money, the most cohesive and ambitious game Frictional’s made so far.

I leave you with another Philip K. Dick quote—the mirror to SOMA’s opening: “It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”

Steam for Linux tops 1,500 games as launch of Valve’s Steam Machines nears

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Valve will be able to boast of at least 1,500 compatible games when the first Steam Machine consoles arrive in November.

The milestone was first spotted by Linux site Phoronix, and a search of Steam’s Linux game catalog confirms the figure. All of these titles should be compatible with the first Steam Machines, a set of game consoles running Valve’s Linux-based SteamOS software. The initial wave of consoles is set to arrive on November 10.

The rate of new releases appears to have increased slightly since Steam’s official Linux launch in February 2013. At our last count in March, Steam had 1,000 Linux games, which was up from 700 games in October 2014.

Why this matters: By comparison, Steam offers nearly 6,500 Windows games, and 2,323 games for Mac. While Linux is still squarely in third place—and could really use support from more major publishers—the level of growth over the last 18 months is impressive. And if you compare Steam Machines to a traditional console launch, Valve will have a huge number of titles supporting its platform out of the gate.

alienware steam machine
Alienware’s Steam Machine

Little progress among megapublishers

Now for the bad news: Most large publishers continue to keep SteamOS and Linux at a distance, either avoiding the platforms or offering just limited support. Valve’s catalog still doesn’t sell a single game from Activision, Bethesda, Capcom, Electronic Arts, or Square Enix, while Ubisoft only offers a couple of free-to-play online titles.

Without their support, the biggest third-party publishers on Linux are Warner Bros. (Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Dying Light) and 2K Games (Sid Meier’s Civilization V,XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Borderlands 2), though even they haven’t brought all of their recent releases over.

Further reading: 32 big-name games that call Linux home

Meanwhile, some developers who have launched games on Linux have expressed frustrations, either because it’s difficult to write for or the sales just aren’t there. Perhaps Valve can at least address the latter issue by pushing Steam Machines into the wild, offering a highly-visible platform for developers to target.

As a stopgap, Steam Machine users can always stream Windows games from a networked PC.

This iOS game cartridge could satisfy Game Boy nostalgia (if it’s not vaporware)

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Handheld game cartridges are no longer essential in the age of app stores and bountiful flash storage, but Japanese startup Beatrobo wants to make some for your iPhone anyway.

The so-called Pico Cassette plugs into an iPhone through the headphone jack and sends an inaudible signal that acts as an authentication key, The Verge reports. This key directs the iPhone to the App Store, where it downloads the corresponding game. (Presumably, you’ll have to have some companion app installed and running first.)

So yes, in practice this isn’t really better than searching for a game in the App Store and hitting the install button. It’s just a more tactile and nostalgia-ridden way to do things.

If there’s one unique ability that Pico Cassettes could have, it’s the unique identifier that’s tied to each cartridge, letting users download data from Beatrobo’s servers. Potentially, this could allow two devices to access the same games and save files, even if they’re tied to separate iCloud accounts.

But right now, much of this exists only in theory. Beatrobo was only showing off one proof of concept game at Tokyo Game Show, where The Verge spotted it. The next steps are to finish lining up content partners and launch a Kickstarter campaign, so it could be a while before Pico Cartridges hit the market, if they make it that far.

Why this matters: The idea to bring game cartridges to mobile phones is clever, though the walled garden of iOS severely limits how far the concept can go. Would it be too much to ask for an Android version that stores actual game data and plugs in via USB?

Xbox One Preview users can opt into Windows 10-based ‘New Xbox One Experience’

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Xbox One users who are itching to try the upcoming Windows 10-inspired software overhaul can now reserve their spot.

But as Microsoft notes, getting the update will require a bit of patience. The opt-in process is also somewhat complicated. Here’s how it works:

  • First off, you must be part of the Xbox Preview program, which allows users to test upcoming software builds. The easiest way to get into this program is to get an invite from an existing Preview user.
  • After joining the Preview program, you should at some point get a message (in the Messages app) saying that Microsoft is “getting ready for the New Xbox One Experience Preview.” Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra says these messages are “rolling out now.”
  • Once you have this message, open the Xbox Preview Dashboard and look for a post titled “Opt-in to the New Xbox One Experience.” If you see this post, open “Registration” from the main menu.
  • In the Registration menu, hit “Change,” then select “The Preview—New Xbox One Experience,” then hit “Submit” and “Confirm.”

Microsoft says the new software will first roll out to Preview users who have provided lots of feedback in the past. Invites are rolling out in waves over several weeks, and opting in now doesn’t mean you’re part of the initial wave.

If all this sounds like too much hassle, you can just wait until November, when the New Xbox One Experience will launch for everyone.

Why this matters: More than just a feature update, the new software will completely change the Xbox One’s look and feel. It borrows heavily from the Xbox app in Windows 10, while putting an emphasis on launching games quickly and looping you into friends’ activity. The update also adds backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games for all users, with more than 100 games available at first. In other words, Preview users should have plenty of reasons for wanting to get in early.