Scotch Corner – XBOX Special

Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 5th November 2017.

 

Xbox One X

The latest beast in the gaming world will be released on Tuesday and it is an absolute cert that Santa will be inundated with requests come December time.  Everyone will be claiming they have been good all year so deserve the shiniest of shiny consoles.  There has been plenty of hype in recent months, but this little beauty lives up to expectations.  Admittedly, I took it out of the box without having played the Xbox One S.  My trusty Xbox One has done the trick up to now.  I also have to say that we carried out our review with a spanking new 4K TV.  Microsoft insist you don’t have to go to such lengths, but your games will never have looked better.  And I am always prepared to go the extra mile for you guys.

The first thing that hits you is just how small it is.  It is very heavy though.  It has an internal power supply, so there’s no need for the large power brick.  The touch power build and chromo eject button have also gone – replaced with slick smooth push buttons.  And it is so much quieter which came as a bit of a shock.  It is mega easy to set up.  There is a simple step-by-step guide to take you through the basics from setting up connections to loading your account and downloading games.  You get a 1TB hard drive.  That may seem like a lot but full 4k patched titles come in at more than 90 gig so that will soon fill up.  So, it is worth noting that you can add external hard drives if you need more space.  You also get a standard Xbox controller with the new fancy underside grippe surface.

The biggest selling point is the raw power under the hood.  It is said to be 40 per cent more powerful than any other console on the market thanks to six teraflops of processing power, 12 GDDR5 of memory, eight custom clocked CPU, HDR and Blu-ray tech.  Yeah, but what does that mean to the standard gamer?  The answer: games run faster, smoother and are better looking.  Simple as that.  We tested Gears of War 4, Forza Motorsport 7, Assassin’s Creed and Wolfenstein 2.  Some have had the 4K patches, like Gears, which make them run at their very best.  Others were running as normal but they will all get the 4K treatment soon.  Gears ran with no lag or frame drop and the visuals popped with a real depth – from shadows on the grass to the shine of the trooper’s armour.  It was a real visionary treat.  The other games still looked great from the vast desert views of Assassin’s Creed to the room-to-room gunplay in Wolfenstein 2.

Microsoft have also launched a website where you can track what is available and what titles are planned – from AAA down to indie games.  But it’s not just games, you can also play 4K Ultra HD Blu rays as well.  So, the only question is: do I need an Xbox One X if I already have an Xbox One or One S?  That depends on your set-up and how you play.  If you have an Xbox One and a 4K TV then the jump is well worth it.  However, if you have a One S or don’t have a 4K TV then I doubt that you’ll get the most out of the system even though it will scale up games on normal HD.  A few months ago I said the Xbox One X was like a Fiat 500 with an F1 engine and I was pretty close.  It’s a strong marker for things to come.  It makes games look jaw-dropping so if ticks your boxes, get on to Santa.

Score: 5/5

SO, you have an Xbox One X, but what games will make your knees weak?  We run the rule over five games that are out now or are on the horizon.  You’re welcome…

  1. ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS: The Ubisoft hit series is back and looking fresh.  It’s set in ancient Egypt and gives you a huge playground as it tells the tale of how the brotherhood of assassins was founded.
  2. GEARS OF WAR 4: This is the poster child for the X.  The first game out the traps has had an upgrade patch.  It now runs at true 4K and 60fps.  The father-and-son tale and the epic Sera war is a must.
  3. SUPER LUCKY’S TALE: Cute and fuzzy – this charming platformer follows Lucky, the fox, as he tries to save his sister from the evil Jinx.  Great family hit.  Kids of all ages will love it.
  4. STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT 2: There has to be a Star Wars offering and it shines on the X.  This EA multiplayer fest is sure to be high on many Christmas lists, especially on the back of a new movie.  Single player campaign is also pretty good.
  5. CALL OF DUTY WWII: Another year, another CoD.  This one goes back to its roots – future wars replaced with the epic battles of the past… although there is a zombie mode.  This one is shaping up to be a classic.  It’s set during key points of the war.  Multiplayer is a winner.

Forza Motorsport 7 (Xbox One, PC, £44.99)

FORZA Motorsport 7 was built for the Xbox One X – there, I have said it.  It may be good on PC or Xbox One, but you will be blown away by what the Turn 10 team have done with the ELEVENTH instalment of the famous title.  It follows the same recipe as previous titles.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  The career mode sees you work your way through a host of championships and challenges.  One minute you’re racing open top classics then you are throwing a four-door family hatchback around.  There is a mind-blowing number of cars for you to try out – well over 700 – and each one handles in its own way so you need to dial them in as you go.  Also, the speed sensation in the game is truly epic – you get a real sense of cars tearing down the straights in certain rides.

There is a good mix of tracks – with classic fan favourites like Silverstone and Monza and new boys on the block like Dubai.  In all, there are 32 to test yourself on.  Long-term fans may feel a bit let down because the cars and tracks feel more like a greatest hits album than a new production.  The controls are solid and feel like they have been tweaked since the last outing.  They pack more weight and let you push the car to the edge more.  That said, the game still sits firmly in the gap between fun and SIM.  I think that is a good thing but it may turn off the purest of SIM racers.  There are a truck-load of assists that make the game easier to play no matter what your skill level is.  You can auto-brake to help your steering.  Even a table spoon could play (see YouTube).  You can also switch them off very easily and dial the game to your taste.  But, if you start winning outright, then the game eggs you to up the challenge.

The look is stunning.  The game runs at 60 frames a second without dropping a beat.  Cars are modelled to within a micro-inch.  They include the smallest of details.  The tracks all look so accurate but the weather system steals the show.  You can get sideways rain in the dead of night or mist as the sun rises.  It all adds another layer to the game experience.  The soundtrack must be good, right?  Actually, it is pretty forgettable.  I actually loaded Spotify on more than one occasion.  Where it does shine, though, is where the car blasts round bends and the turbos gasp for air.

The game has a mod system that is based on buying loot boxes with in-game credits.  That means a lot of the cars are locked away in career mode – although you can jump into any car at any time in free play.  But the loot box system is a fail for me.  You have to get mods to earn cash to buy boxes to get more mods – it is a cycle of doom.  For all its small faults, it is an incredible racer packed with thrill-a-minute moments like hitting that perfect apex and taking the lead into the last corner.  It would be a concrete 5/5 if it weren’t for the loot boxes.  Turn 10 have changed some features since the launch so hopefully they will sort it before it puts people off.  But, if you want to show off your shiny new Xbox One X, this will rev their engines.

Score: 4/5

TS-XW Racer SPARCO P310 Competition Mod (Xbox One, £600+)

I HAVE seen the light.  It didn’t matter whether it was Forza or Call Of Duty, I played my games on a controller.  But, after The Scottish Sun racer Christie Doran reviewed Project CARS 2 and Gran Turismo Sport with her seat and wheel, I had to followed suit.  OMG.  What a difference.  Once you have tried it, you can never go back.  There is no better way to play a racing game than with a wheel.  Thrustmaster have unleashed a beast with the TS-XW Racer Sparco P310 Competition Mod – try saying that three times quickly.  This is the latest premier offering from a firm that knows its stuff.  It comes with a price tag to match the quality, but you won’t begrudge a penny.

It is very easy to set up – you simply hook the wheel onto main base and then just plug the USB into the console and play.  There is no building pedals and the like here.  There is an external power supply which is shaped like a turbo charger.  That is a fun twist although it weighs a tonne.  The wheel has some solid force feedback which you can dial in to your own taste.  You can go from a light rumble to Christie’s powerhouse set-up which leaves you feeling like you have gone 12 rounds with a bear.  I am not sure how she does it in real life.  We tested the wheel with Forza Motorsport 7, Project CARS, F1 2017 and Forza Horizon 3 and it handled them all really well.  Forza is more of a pad arcade racer, but the wheel still added a thrill element.  The biggest revelation was that I had to change how I drove in the game.  Swap straight from a pad and it is a real wake-up call.  You have to relearn how to race in many ways, but overall it will give you a more exciting track experience and make you a better racer in the long term.

The wheel has a great build and finish. It oozes quality – which is a relief considering the cost.  From the brush red steel cover of the base to the chrome finish on the T3PA pedal everything feels great.  And that applies to the Sparco P310 wheel as well.  It is the star of the show.  It has a 31cm diameter with a suede finish and flat top and bottom.  There are a few nice touches like the inside being moulded for your thumbs and a brushed steel finish.  It has all the buttons you’ll need to move around the Xbox.  There is a thumb stick as well as well as paddle shifters at the back which are also adjustable.  The base is exchangeable in case you prefer the F1-style one or others in the Thrustmaster range.  It is a great bundle.  Yes, it is pricey, but racers insist on them to get the most out of games.  And they obviously know what they are talking about.

Score: 5/5

I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

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