I’ve finally been getting into Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and I’m always learning new things (I just learned you can take video clips on the Switch!). While trying to make my way to Zora to tackle my second Divine Beast (I did the one by Gerudo first) I was met with a blood moon. So far in the game I’ve always just gone to sleep to wait out blood moons, usually when I’m near stables. I happened to clear out a pack of enemies just before the moon rose at this camp, and figured I’d just wait it out there. I should have known better. I awoke surrounded by enemies and was thrust immediately into battle. Luckily they weren’t difficult to dispatch, especially with the help of Wolf Link.
If you’re getting or giving an Xbox for the first time this holiday season, it’s worth considering signing up for / gifting a Game Pass subscription alongside it. If you’re unfamiliar with Game Pass, it’s a subscription service where for $9.99 a month you get instant access to a library of 100+ Xbox games. You’ll be able to download as many games from the service as you like, and play them as often as you like (while subscribed to the service). One huge plus, is that all first party Microsoft games will release on Game Pass going forward (meaning that on launch day you can download and play the game without paying more as long as you’re subscribed to the service). Recently, AAA games such as Forza Horizon 4 and Sea of Thieves have launched on Game Pass.
With that said, here are some of my personal favorite games currently available on Game Pass:
Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon 4 is an incredibly beautiful game, especially on the Xbox One X. It’s an open world racing game that is a little more arcade feeling than the traditional Forza series, but the driving feels more “real” or grounded than games like Burnout Paradise or The Crew 2. The changing of seasons is a pretty neat idea, and the roads feel different depending on which season you’re currently in. The racing feels great as is always does in the Forza series, and the relatively seamless multiplayer experience is a plus as well.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Whether you grew up playing the Halo games, or you’ve never touched one before, The Master Chief Collection is an incredible package. It had a rocky launch, but my experiences with it lately have been overwhelmingly positive, and it looks great since becoming X Enhanced as well. You’ll be able to play through the campaigns of Halo 1-4 solo or with friends, and of course you’ll have access to all of the multiplayer action as well. Halo 5 is also available in Game Pass, but I greatly prefer the MCC multiplayer.
HITMAN is an absolute masterpiece of a game. If you’re unfamiliar, you’ll be thrown into a variety of environments with the goal of assassinating several targets in each. There’s such a wide variety of ways to accomplish the missions, however you’ll be able to find some ‘guided’ story elements to pull off particularly entertaining assassinations. There’s so much opportunity for hilarity, chaos and pulse pounding action in the game. For some idea of what the game can bring, check out some of the Giant Bomb features on it.
These are just a few of my favorites featured in Game Pass, but there are so many more. Other hits include:
Gears of War 4
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
Rise of the Tomb Raider
State of Decay 2
Going into the holiday shopping season a lot of people may be asking whether they should purchase an Xbox One X. As someone who has had an Xbox One since launch, and upgraded to an S once we got our first 4K TV, I thought I’d share my thoughts on upgrading to the Xbox One X.
If you’re expecting the Xbox One X to make the atrocious Xbox UI to run faster or smoother, you’ll be disappointed. The UI on the One X is just as painfully slow as it is on the other versions of the console. When I first launch it and go to ‘my games and apps’ it can take 10 seconds or longer for my games to load in. What’s worse is when I scroll down to updates it can take up to 30 seconds for those to load in (I used to have it set to automatically update, however I had to stop once I was routinely blowing through my 1.2TB data cap downloading updates for games I would probably never play). I currently have 20 games awaiting updates, but even when I’ve had lower numbers the load time seemed just as long.
On the plus side recording gameplay clips on the One X doesn’t seem to cause my games to lag (which I experienced a lot on the S, most notably with Madden where it would record a clip after every touchdown, which on more than one occasion caused a lag spike that made me miss the PAT).
One of the things I like most about the One X is that it has noticeably decreased load times in games. When my brother was out visiting we set my One S up alongside the X and were playing Destiny 2 (both using s 200mbps internet connection with an open NAT). Every time we would go to a planet or load into a mission or strike I would load in somewhere around 15 seconds before he would. That may not seem like a long time, but stop reading for a second and count to 15. It adds up in the long run for sure. I’ve also noticed I load into games of Madden much, much quicker than I did on the S, which has significantly cut down on the time I’ve spent browsing Reddit on my phone between games.
One of the biggest selling points of the Xbox One X is that it’s the ‘most powerful console’ on the market, and it shows. Games like Forza Horizon 4, Tomb Raider and Red Dead Redemption 2 look stunning in 4K with HDR (well Red Dead’s HDR is less impressive, but that’s not the Xbox’s fault). Everything looks so crisp, and I’ve been blown away many times by games. I know I’m not doing it justice by describing with text, but it’s truly something you’ll have to see for yourself. What I can say is that I also own a PS4 Pro, and while it looks really good as well (Uncharted: Lost Legacy amazed me), I’ve played games on both, and the One X is certainly the superior experience.
UHD Blu Ray capability
Another added benefit of the Xbox One X (and the One S as well) is that it will play UHD Blu Rays. These look great, and are a wonderful way to show of a 4K TV. I’ve rented and bought UHD videos through the Microsoft Store, and UHD Blu Rays still look superior. If you’re into movies, having a UHD Blu Ray player is a plus, and something that the PS4 Pro lacks.
What if I have an Xbox One, but not a PS4?
If you already have an Xbox One and are happy with it, it may be worth looking at picking up a PS4, depending on what type of games the purchaser (or gift receiver) likes. If you’re the type of person who mostly plays third party games by EA, Ubisoft, etc. that are available on both systems, then the One X will likely improve your experience of those games. However, if gaining access to an entirely new library of games sounds appealing, your money may better be invested in a PS4, especially if you can get a hold of a good holiday bundle. You’ll then be able to get into a great selection of games, including Horizon Zero Dawn, Yakuza.0, Spider-Man and God of War. I can’t speak to the difference between the PS4 Pro and the standard model, as my only PS4 has been the Pro. That said, games look and run well on the Pro, though it chugs at times, even with first party games when set to the higher graphics settings.
Is the Xbox One X a good investment?
In my opinion it is, but I’ve had mine since its launch. Something I would consider over the next year is that the next generation of consoles have been strongly hinted at releasing as early as 2020. Also, if you don’t have a 4K TV, you’ll still get the benefit of faster load times, smoother gameplay, and slightly enhanced graphics, but the cost is still a little high for what you’ll get.
Just wanted to pop in and let you know I’m still alive. I’ve been going to school full time and working, so the blog has kind of been in the back of my mind. I’d like to get back into it.
In the meantime I’ve been playing a lot of Black Ops 4 and have been having a blast, especially in Blackout mode. I’ve also been enjoying Forza Horizon 4 and Madden 19 quite a bit as well. I hope to write about some of these games in the near future, but right now school is taking up most of my time.
A few nights ago my brother and I set sail to hunt down a couple treasure chests. It was the first time I had set sail in Sea of Thieves with another player, and it was my brother’s first time playing at all. We tracked down a few treasure chests, sailed them back to an outpost and for the first time in our time with the game we spotted another ship. It was sitting idle outside the outpost as we tried to slowly cruise toward the shore to unload our bounty. As we unloaded the treasure, I felt my pulse pick up as I wasn’t sure if the players on the ship would be friendly or try to spoil our efforts. At first it didn’t seem like anyone was around, however as I emerged out of the water and onto the beach I saw a figure jump off the mystery ship and start swimming toward our own. I quickly ordered my brother to head back to the ship to protect our other chest as I sprinted to the vendor to turn in the one I was hauling. Just as I returned to the water I saw the figure atop our ship burst into a puff of smoke as my brother dispatched him before he could steal the other chest.
We were able to turn both chests in without further trouble, and set sail again. Shortly after we happened to see another small ship in the distance and decided to sail toward it to see what it was doing. As we approached we began to hear the burst of cannon fire as a menacing galleon came into view. Luckily, it wasn’t firing toward us, but rather at the other small two person ship. We watched from a safe distance for awhile, and eventually decided to sail directly between the two while I stood on the deck of our ship playing my accordion. One of the players on the galleon waved and then got back to firing cannonballs over our ship, occasionally landing a hit on the other sloop. At that point my brother dropped the anchor and joined in on the music as cannonballs flew back and forth over our heads. After some time had passed there was a short pause in the cannon fire. Maybe the ships had decided to leave each other alone?
A moment later the cannon fire continued, but sounded much closer. I turned around and saw one of the players from the galleon loading cannon balls into one of our cannons and firing at the sloop! Unsure what to make of the situation I walked up to the player and continued playing the music, at this point bursting out laughing at the absurdity of the situation. He fired a few more shots from our cannon and then nonchalantly strolled over to our barrel of cannonballs, emptied it out and jumped overboard toward his ship! The laughter continued as he reappeared on the deck of the galleon and continued firing from his own cannon with our cannonballs. My brother and I were left defenseless, but at least no one seemed bothered to fire on us. Eventually the sloop decided to give up and sped out of reach of the galleon. The galleon returned to port, and my brother and I departed on our next adventure.
I’ve seen a lot of people complain that Sea of Thieves offers too little for players to do, and therefore is boring. While it is true there’s little variety in the structured quests or missions of Sea of Thieves (you’ll either hunt down treasure, collect and deliver merchandise or hunt down skeletons and return their skulls) there’s still plenty of fun to be had. You can almost compare Sea of Thieves to Minecraft in a sense that the real fun comes from the experiences you have interacting with other players. You may have some fun building structures in Minecraft, but for me some of the most memorable moments were born out of interactions with my brother while playing (for example, the time we burst out laughing after filling our entire inventories with railing, lying down an incredibly long mine cart track, only to realize we left the mine carts all the way on the other end and had to slowly trek back).
I’ve had fun hunting for treasure in Sea of Thieves, but there’s not a lot of reward for completing the tasks assigned by the factions. Sure eventually I’ll have enough gold to customize my ship, but most of the tasks feel like busy work. This would make the game boring if it weren’t for all the high jinks to be had along the way. There was the time I was up in the crow’s nest and spotted a rock poking out from the rough waves dead ahead. I called the obstacle out to my brother, but we still continued right toward it. I turned around to see the ship’s wheel unoccupied and heard laughter in my headset as my brother apparently decided to get drunk below deck and couldn’t navigate back up the stairs to take the wheel. We hit the rock.
Sea of Thieves isn’t always lighthearted fun. There have been plenty of tense moments as we approached a port only to spot the lantern light of a galleon in the distance. Did they spot us? We ask ourselves as we frantically run around the ship extinguishing all of our own lanterns before dropping the anchor and hoping the rough waves make us difficult to spot. We patiently wait, afraid to risk our bounty beneath deck by approaching the port while unknown players lurk about the island. Eventually they sail away and we creep in as dawn breaks and we unload our chests and skulls in exchange for gold and faction reputation.
Another time we were approaching port when a ship starting tailing us. Maybe they’ll be friendly? As the close the gap between us I break out my accordion, my go symbol to show other players we mean peace. I barely play a note and a cannon ball whizzes past my head. Uh oh! The next one hits the ship and we begin taking on water. We have four skulls below deck that were an absolute pain to retrieve (we probably died 10 times int he process of recovering them) so we decided that fighting back is probably too risky. Instead, in the cover of a storm I jump overboard and carry one skull at a time through the choppy water to the port to turn them in. The enemy ship doesn’t seem to notice as they continue trailing my brother as he circles the island. Slowly but surely I managed to unload all the skulls without losing any of them or the ship. It felt awesome to get away with it all unscathed, even if the ship eventually sank.
Visually, Sea of Thieves is a beautiful game. The first time I looked up at the night sky I was in awe! The water looks amazing in its many forms (from calm, peaceful light blue to menacing dark waves that thrash the ship about) and sunrises and sunsets are impressive. I’ve on occasion just gotten lost admiring the world of the game as I’ve sailed about aimlessly. The game runs smoothly on both my Xbox One X and my PC (GTX 1060, AMD FX 8320 running at 4.0 GHz). I haven’t had any server issues whatsoever, though it may be because I’ve only played at night (after 11 MT). Because of the server issues no achievements have popped for me since launch day (they’ve been temporarily disabled), but other than that I haven’t run into any technical issues with the game.
I’ve played about an hour or two of the game solo, which as many have said already is not the ideal way to play the game. It was fun at first to just sail around the seas listening to a podcast while hunting down skeletons, but without companions the game can be a tad boring. Ultimately Sea of Thieves is an incredible playground that is what you make of it. If you’re driven by quests and accomplishments maybe Sea of Thieves won’t do much for you. However, if you focus less on a more traditional video game experience and open your mind you can have a ton of fun with the game.
Sea of Thieves is available on Xbox and Windows 10 for $59.99 or as part of a Game Pass subscription ($9.99/mo).
Hello there, it’s been months since I’ve managed to post anything here and it feels like it’s been days. I’ve started a new job, my wife and I bought a house and life has been busy. I feel like I’ve been playing less video games than ever (may or may not be true) while there are more quality video games than ever vying for my attention. I still need to finish Tacoma, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, What Remains of Edith Finch, Persona 5, Horizon Zero Dawn and so much more. I’ve recently gotten into Civilization Beyond Earth (I really dig the look of it) and have spent a lot of time playing PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS on both PC and Xbox. Also a few weeks ago I decided to purchase an Xbox One X and have been pretty much blown away by it.
Since getting into PUBG on Xbox I think I’ve had more fun than ever, despite its shortcomings. When I first launched it on the Xbox One I felt that I made a mistake. The textures looked so horrible and I hated that I couldn’t see the buildings while I was in the plane. Despite all of this I’ve had so much fun finally being able to play with my brother who is primarily a console gamer. We’ve had so much fun hiding in boats or escaping a firefight on a motorcycle only to ram it into a tree and die moments later.
The Xbox One X has so far been a worthy purchase. I have a moderately capable gaming PC (GTX 1060, AMD FX8320), however it’s tucked away in my ‘man cave’ and doesn’t have access to a 4K TV. Sure Forza 7 still looks really nice and runs well on it, but Forza 7 in 4K HDR is beautiful. Add to that having 5.1 surround sound in the living room and I’m in love. Last weekend I finished Wolfenstein II on the X and it was an incredible experience. The game looks beautiful on the One X, but the sound design really blew me away. The thumps from the subwoofer as I fired various guns mixed with the exciting soundtrack really sold me on the game. I loved every moment of it! Beyond the visuals, I’ve also been impressed by the improved performance the One X offers. In Madden 18 I would often notice slow downs right after scoring plays (usually while the Xbox was processing the auto recording game clips). With the One X I’ve noticed everything runs so much smoother, I haven’t noticed a single slowdown yet in Madden. PUBG also seems to run smoother and of course looks better, but I haven’t played enough yet to know if I just got lucky with a good connection to the server or if things really have dramatically improved on the X.
Hopefully things start to slowdown soon so I can get back into the habit of blogging. I feel like as I get older each time I accidentally take a break from blogging the gap between posts gets longer, and I occasionally wonder if I should just let this domain disappear into the cobwebs of the internet. I enjoy blogging, but I often don’t feel that I have the attention span any longer to write something worth reading. I almost wonder if I should try to hold myself to some sort of schedule, but ultimately every time I feel obligated to sit down and write I’m less motivated than ever. I wish I could say ‘look forward to hearing from me again in “x” days, but that’s unlikely. So until next time, thanks for stopping by.
So after posting about trying to install an update for Uncharted 4 recently (that took all night despite my 200mbps connection), I came across a tip that seems to work for me. A lot of people have said to try to pause and restart downloads, but that didn’t seem to have any effect. What did work, however, was to close all open apps and games. Before doing so the time remaining for the update file for Everybody’s Golf crept upward of 4 hours! After closing Twitch and a game I had running the download finished in less than ten minutes! I had similar success while downloading Destiny 2, so it seems like this is a solid fix for the problem.
Hope this helps!