Phantom Dust Remaster

While the new Phantom Dust has been absent from Microsoft’s last two E3 shows, the IP is most certainly not dead.  The reboot might be, but the property will live on in a “remaster” of the original game that was announced after Microsoft’s press briefing.  The game will use the original assets, which means it will be an upscaled re-release with modernized features (such as support for the recently announced Xbox Live Arena).  The game is expected to release in 2017 and will be a part of Microsoft’s Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, which grants players access to the game on Xbox and Windows 10 when purchased digitally.

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Halo Wars 2 release date announced

Microsoft unveiled a new cinematic teaser for the Creative Assembly developed sequel to 2010’s Halo Wars.  Along with the new teaser, the game’s release date was announced.  Halo Wars 2 will be available on Xbox One and Windows 10 on February 21, 2017.  Players anxious to see what the game will offer can get a taste of Halo Wars 2 with the game’s week-long open beta which is now live on Xbox Live.

Fable Anniversary Re-Review

Fable Anniversary

It’s hard to think that ten years ago, now, I was taking my first trip to Albion – a curious land that would devour hours of my time and earn my devout allegiance.  Fable has never been known for a lengthy main campaign, but the games have always offered a substantial amount of side content and secrets that encourage players to invest more than the 10 or so hours it would take to just beat the game.  The franchise has been the victim of its own over-hyping, but nonetheless it’s a franchise I hold near and dear to my heart and I’m thrilled that I now have the opportunity to replay the first game, my personal favorite, fully remade.

Fable is an interesting beast.  As a friend of mine has described the games, “It’s very British.”  It’s a cheeky game with some great hit-or-miss humour but all wrapped in a charming package with a great story.  The storytelling in Fable has never been high art or anything of that sort, but the games always have a well-crafted, non-linear plot, something I appreciate.  The Fable universe has been keeping me entertained and intrigued for ten years now, and I’m pleased to say that the re-release more than does the premiere installment justice.

Fable Ann Compare 1I’ve really grown to appreciate how Microsoft handles their remakes.  While you see a ton of “HD” re-releases from the last console generation hitting the market from several other publishers, those games suffer from a severe case of “uprezzing.”  Little more is done with those titles than giving players new high-resolution textures and widescreen support to stare at – the visuals are still relatively unchanged from the initial game release.  Now new character models, no new particle effects, no new lighting, no new audio… it’s the same game but just a bit (and I mean a bit) shinier.

Microsoft Studios, on the other hand, completely remakes the game visually.  The original game content and experience is untouched (aside from maybe some new controller options) while the game’s visuals are rebuilt with maybe a healthy helping of new audio to go along with it (with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary being a prime example of new audio really lending to the rebuilt experience).  It’s not just a high resolution copy of an already made game, it’s a complete visual reimagining of a world we’re already familiar with.  Perfect Dark and Halo really demonstrated that Microsoft was dedicated to nurturing its properties and giving fans more than just a recycled product.  Fable does the same.

While the gameplay may not hold up as well next to its more modern counterparts, the experience that I loved ten years ago is still there.  The belching, the farting, the questing… it’s still the classic Fable experience that so consumed much of my mid-to-late teen years and every moment I spend in the game is accompanied by a nostalgic high.  I love Fable and this is the game that always comes to mind when I think of revisiting Albion… I’m almost ashamed that it’s been so long since I’ve worked my way through the first game (which, I’ll admit, I haven’t played through since Fable II was released).  I’m not, though.  Playing through Fable Anniversary, in spite of the many, many times I’ve played through the first game, is, amidst the nostalgia, almost a new experience again since it has been so long.  It feels fresh, yet familiar and not just because of the visual update.

The visuals, though, are great.  It’s really nice to see that such a great amount of care went into rebuilding the world of Albion.  It is, however, hindered by the aged and clunky animations of the 2004 game hiding underneath.  While some things feel revamped and fluid, there are those awkward moments where characters will freeze and whip around robotically.  It’s jarring and takes from the experience ever so slightly – but as a whole, the game looks great and the love that went into recreating Albion is apparent in every screen.

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I know I may be biased and looking at the game through rose-tinted glasses or whatever, but Fable Anniversary feels great.  Playing the game brings me some kind of gaming bliss and the new visuals should set a new standard for HD remakes – something I also said about Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.  I feel like the folks working under the Microsoft Studios banner aren’t given enough credit for the work they do on their HD remakes – though that’s a topic for another time, I suppose.

Fable Anniversary is an old game dressed in new game clothing.  It’s as fun as it was ten years ago, but looks substantially better.  Giving loyal Xbox fans achievements to earn is another plus.  Fable is a piece of gaming history and this Anniversary re-release does it justice, it would be hard, even when not considering my bias, to not recommend this game… it’s just too much fun and the budget price makes it even more enticing.

 

Fable Anniversary: 4 out of 5

Amazon purchases Killer Instinct developer

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No, not Rare – Microsoft is likely to never give them up after the massive investment that purchased the studio back in 2002.  The developer of the new Killer Instinct title released on Microsoft’s Xbox One Double Helix has been acquired by Amazon and is a part of their push to “build innovative games for customers.”

The acquisition, unsurprisingly, does not affect Microsoft’s Killer Instinct property which remains theirs; the software giant has also announced that their internal KI team is unaffected and remains dedicated to supporting the game.  Microsoft will be working with a new partner going forward to support the Xbox One launch title and any additional entries in the franchise.  As a dedicated KI fan, this is the good news.  While I was thoroughly pleased with the latest entry in the franchise and commended Double Helix for resurrecting it, I have faith that Microsoft will do well by the fans in curating this fan favorite franchise.

Amazon’s move to acquire a game developer is not terribly surprising given rumors that the online retailer is working on a game console of their own.  At this point, it’s unclear if Double Helix will work on more major releases or “full” games or will be restructured to focus on casual games for Amazon’s Kindle Fire line of tablets.

Neill Blomkamp may direct the Halo pilot

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Neill Blomkamp has a history with Halo:  he was attached as the director of the Peter Jackson produced Halo film that fell apart some years back and he directed the live action Halo 3 promotional film.  He knows the universe and his style is a perfect fit for the Haloverse.  That said, it’s very exciting that Blomkamp may be directing the première episode of the Halo television series that was announced for Xbox One.  While this has yet to be officially confirmed, the thought of a Blomkamp directed episode of the Halo TV series is exciting.

Microsoft now wholly owns Gears of War

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Gears of War is a big franchise – one that’s managed to stay exclusive to Microsoft’s Xbox platforms for 8 years due to a close partnership with Epic Games.  Each game in the franchise was published by Microsoft, but the intellectual property still remained in the possession of Epic – meaning that Epic, after fulfilling their agreement with Microsoft, could have potentially brought the franchise to Sony’s platforms.  This has now changed as Microsoft is now the IP owner of the Gears of War franchise – a win for Microsoft who, since the release of the Kinect, has been struggling to boost their library of exclusive titles.

As an avid gamer, I would like to see Microsoft pursue more new franchises, but a Gears game on my Xbox one is mighty tempting.  On the other side, while I have yet to play Judgment, I felt that the third game was a solid conclusion to the franchise.  As much as I love playing Gears of War, I do feel like sometimes it’s okay to let a franchise end – especially when the end pretty well concludes the story.

No plans for Project Spark on Windows RT

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After (finally) getting an invite to Microsoft’s game creation application Project Spark, I was excited to dive in and start creating worlds with my Surface 2 (as it’s the only computer I own with a touch screen).  After encountering an error when trying to download the game from the Windows store, I contacted Microsoft support regarding the error and was informed that Project Spark has only been announced for Windows 8.1, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.  While this is something I’ve known, I assumed that the “Windows 8.1” part of that would include their tablet OS Windows RT – this is not the case.

In response to my query, Microsoft responded with:  “Project Spark beta is currently available only in Windows 8.1.  Eventually, Project Spark will also be on Xbox 360 and Xbox One.  We have not announced any plans for Project Spark on Windows 7 or RT.”  So, there you have it, Surface RT and Surface 2 owners, there are currently no plans for Project Spark on your tablet.

That said, if you’ve received a beta invite for Project Spark, you can still access the game on a Windows 8.1 PC and will be automatically granted access to the Xbox One beta when that rolls out in February.  Microsoft has assured beta participants that a new set of codes will also be sent out to beta participants for the Xbox One beta release in the event that they gave their beta access to another user.

Next Halo coming to Xbox One in 2014

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Halo for the Xbox one has been confirmed for a 2014 release. The game was announced at this past E3 as simply “Halo” and Microsoft states that the reason we haven’t heard a confirmation regarding a release window for the next entry in the Halo saga is due to the newest game not having an official title just yet – suggesting Microsoft doesn’t want to commit to Halo 5 for the Chief’s next battle.

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Classic KI being bundled with Killer Instinct Ultra Edition

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The upcoming reboot of Rare’s classic Killer Instinct will be available this Friday with Microsoft offering players two solid reasons to buy the Ultra Edition instead of just taking the free demo ride: Classic KI.  The launch title will be available for free to all Xbox One gamers with only one fighter: Jago.  Players interested in getting the original arcade game will have to drop $40 on the Ultra Edition as Microsoft has stated that there is no plan to release it separately.  As stated above, there will be two renditions of the arcade release with this bundle–the original release as well as the 1.5D ROM revision.  Gamers interested in getting the Ultra Pin Edition for $60 exclusively from the Microsoft Store will also be gifted these two KI ROMS.  For players new to the franchise (or weathered vets who haven’t played in nearly 2 decades – such as myself), there will be a training mode included with these classic re-releases.

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Killer Instinct is developed by Double Helix, published by Microsoft Studios and releases this Friday alongside the Xbox One.

Ascend: Hand of Kul in open beta today

While the game has been in closed beta for some time now, there had never been any specifics as to when Ascend would see a full release. Well, ladies and gentlemen, that time had come. Available now as an “open beta,” Ascend: Hand of Kul is essentially fully available to gamers on Xbox 360 courtesy of Signal Studios and Microsoft Studios. While billed as an open beta, gamers have access to the entire world and story of Ascend as well as the game’s achievements. I just suspect we’ll be seeing more fine tuning and updates than a standard game release for a while. Stay tuned for a full review.