Games Inbox: Are you impressed by the Xbox Series X?

The Tuesday Inbox hears a defence of the Prince Of Persia sequels, as a reader offers more submarine game recommendations.

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More info
So once again we see that Microsoft is willing to discuss the Xbox Series X quite openly and with essentially no fanfare. It’s a surprising policy to be honest, as to me it really underlines that they are the underdog and have to push themselves much harder than Sony. But they’re putting the work in and as much as I understand it the specs are impressive (and no doubt as irrelevant as ever when it comes to the reality of the situation).

They still haven’t announced any games, just that one glimpse at Hellblade 2 and the promise of Halo Infinite, so that would presumably have been the focus at E3. Which I guess they’re now trying to convert into some kind of Microsoft Direct livestream.

The big question though is whether the Xbox Series X will be delayed. Nothing that’s happened so far suggests it will but can even Microsoft know that. And if it is put back to next spring what happens to Halo Infinite? Surely they wouldn’t release that this Christmas only on Xbox One? Or would they? They have nothing else scheduled so I can’t see them wanting to go almost a year without releasing any kind of new Xbox game.

That’s why I think Microsoft will try and push for a launch this year even if stock is very low. We’ll see, but it is interesting how much they’ve shown so far and how little we still know about the PlayStation 5.

Surprise launch
The Xbox Series X full specs are pretty incredible to be honest.

It seems incredibly early though to be revealing it all if the release is late this year at the earliest, possibly next year because of the current pandemic. I do wonder if Microsoft is planning a mic drop moment and release well in advance of Sony.

As part of the full spec details Microsoft said the console is designed on the principles of power, speed, and compatibility. If they do see the Series X as part of a family of devices then maybe they will be happy to put it out early with a premium price with a limited number of units to sell.

While Sony is following the traditional console path it feels like Microsoft is trying a different road. Who knows, probably not and next year seems most likely for a release. Regardless of their plans the confirmed specs are very impressive.

GC: Microsoft has never suggested it’ll be any earlier than this Christmas. Given the current situation coming out earlier than expected seems incredibly unlikely.

Non-game quandary
Great Animal Crossing review, but there’s one thing that I’m struggling with and that’s whether it’s a game for me.

I like to think I like all types of games but have always worried the slightly meandering nature of these games would leave me bored and without much to keep me going.

I love open world games but also appreciate the objectives and tasks within those games as a sense of direction.

Is Animal Crossing for me then?!

GC: That’s hard to say. New Horizons is the most structured of the games but there’s still no overall goal or story. Perhaps a reader who’s been in a similar position can comment.

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

Expensive lesson
Oh well, there goes a lot of the goodwill that Microsoft have manage to generate.

Sony proved with the PlayStation Vita that all you have to do to sound the death knell on a great piece of hardware is to announce proprietary memory expansions for it. Those little 1TB SSD cartridges are going to be expensive. Ideally you’d want something like that to be available in massive abundance and be somewhere in the region of about £25, but we all know they’re going to be rarer than hen’s teeth and closer to £80 – £100.

I get why Microsoft are doing it, because larger size SSDs are megabucks, so I do glean a modicum of hope that these things will be affordable for that reason, but I won’t hold my breath.
Phil Spearpoint

GC: It’s just an optional extra.

Never-ending console
Another late entry regarding the PlayStation 2 20th anniversary. Many great games played, although I am going to mention my most memorable experiences.

I remember buying it back then in 2001 when my most played console at the time, the Dreamcast, was releasing less games due to Sega pulling out of console manufacturing in the same year. The reason I bought it was for Gran Turismo 3, after seeing an advert on TV and showing off its incredible graphics, which was a no brainer for a petrolhead like me.

Later I got Pro Evolution Soccer, which I would still say is the most realistic football game made.

Of course, I also played the GTA games, with Vice City being my favourite. This included buying the soundtrack to the game on CD so I could play the likes of Hall & Oates’ Out Of Touch and more when out in my car (rest assured I did not drive GTA style).

Even going into the 2010s I was still playing on the PlayStation 2 despite already owning an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The reason was because of Persona 3 and 4 being released in the late 2000s, showing that older hardware can still have great games. In fact, I am still finding out about games for the PlayStation 2 I never heard of back in its heyday. One I recommend is Dual Hearts, a platformer released by Atlus which never came to Europe.

And being a Japanese role-playing game fan, the amount of games released from that genre for the console is still impressive to this day and this is when you don’t factor in the Final Fantasy series.
orionz25 (PSN ID/Steam ID)

Dive in
Bodhi was asking about submarine games. He didn’t specify what kind of gameplay he wanted but if he’s like me he will probably be happy with anything as long as he’s controlling a sub. With that in mind, I would like to give him some examples of submarine games he might enjoy.

The Battlestations games on Xbox 360 and PC (Midway and Pacific) feature submarines, both in the story missions and as part of the challenge scenarios. The gameplay is an enjoyable mix of stealth, strategy, and action.

Naval Assault: The Killing Tide on Xbox 360 is a specialist sub game. It’s mainly an action game but there are some stealth elements.

Bodhi didn’t say what formats were available to him but if he has a 3DS he could do a lot worse than picking up a copy of Steel Diver. This is similar to The Hunt For Red October game that was released for the original Game Boy. It’s a fun, side-scrolling underwater adventure shooter with some light tactical components involving choosing the right moment to surface and make repairs without being sunk by the various enemies. There is also a separate mode which involves hunting an enemy fleet with your sub. This mode is not in 2D and is a much more tactical affair with some absolutely gripping moments.

Finally, if you’re the one person on the planet who hasn’t played it, GTA 5 has a small sub which features in some of the missions and can also be used to explore the sea around the island which is good fun when you find a shipwreck or find yourself being followed by a shark. At one point I triggered a cut scene in a naval yard and saw a full-size sub in dry dock in the background. When the cut scene was over, I went to have a look to see if I could get it into the water and maybe take it out to sea. Alas, when I approached it I realised it was still under construction with the entire front end missing! Why does Rockstar enjoy teasing us? Maybe GTA 6 will have a bigger map, a wider ocean and full-size submarines.

Anyway, I hope that helped. Maybe some other readers will know of some other submarine games. In the meantime… Dive! Dive! Dive!

All or nothing
And just like that the video games drought is over and everything seems to be happening all at once. Why is it the games industry only seems to have two gears? Fifth and park. Excited to see some high-scoring games out at last though and also the Resident Evil 3 demo this week. Hopefully that’s going to be one of the best games of next month.

Very interested to see what happens to Final Fantasy 7 Remake as well. I have no vested interest in it, and probably won’t get it at launch, but I have a feeling the Internet fights over it will be epic. My prediction: good reviews but the fans will nitpick it and eventually turn against it before the next one is out.

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

Late to the party
I’ve long put off playing Prince of Persia: Sands Of Time sequels Warrior Within and The Two Thrones because of the criticism expressed by fans of the original game, particularly directed at Warrior Within. I see from the Inbox that opinion persists.

Sands Of Time I enjoyed and particular locations/puzzles especially. But I did not revere the game as some people apparently do. Nevertheless, I took their word for it that Warrior Within was a poor follow-up and The Two Thrones, better but still not as good.

In the absence of having any alternative new games of that type I decided to play those two back to back recently. It was almost a case of getting them over and done with, although I was sure I’d squeeze some worthwhile entertainment value out of them. I did and quite honestly I ended up failing to understand what those Sands Of Time fans found so objectionable.

With Warrrior Within was I bothered by the now ‘grimdark’ Prince? No, but I was never invested in the original’s character either. That brickbat has been used to beat the game up ever since and overshadowed any objectivity in relation the gameplay which as far as I’m concerned is as good as, if not better, than the original.

The Two Thrones I have more trouble defending as the type of QTE-based gameplay schtick, used over and over again, I have always disliked and often positively hated. But whilst I’ve not had my mind changed on that, The Two Thrones uses it more imaginatively than any other game I can think of I’ve played. Again, sidelining my bias on that matter, I found much to enjoy, although it is my least favourite of the trilogy.

The lesson: be sceptical of any criticism of a game which has become common currency.
Malcolm Lawn

GC: Turning the Prince into a charmless, grimdark anti-hero was a large part of the original criticism, so if that, and the similarly try-hard visuals, don’t put you off then the games are still decent; although we still remember the level design as being better in the original.

Inbox also-rans
There are some Witcher goodies available for free for the next 48 hours on GOG.
Andrew J.

So even though there is an indie Direct this week we still don’t know if that means a proper one next week? The suspense is killing me!

This week’s Hot Topic
The question for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Gifford, who asks you to imagine your ideal next gen sequel.

Take any game or franchise that already exists and imagine it for the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. How would it differ from current versions and how would it take advantage of the superior graphics and faster load times? What other features do you hope it will have and what would’ve been impossible in the current gen?

How likely do you think what you’ve suggested is? What are you most excited about in the next gen: sequels or brand new titles that haven’t been announced yet?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

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