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Sea of Thieves is sandbox gaming at its purest

Come on in, the water's lovely!

Sea of Thieves has just gone live on the Microsoft Store for Xbox One and PC, and we're setting to the high seas to bring you our review as soon as we've had plenty of time with final code on fully stressed servers. Before then, though, here's some early impressions from time with the various betas and a small while with final code.

Digital FoundryGod of War is PS4's next big tech showcase

Digital Foundry checks out a new slice of PS4 Pro action.

A studio with a remarkable heritage for technical excellence, Sony Santa Monica is closing in on completion of its latest God of War and this past week, we've finally had the opportunity to see more of the game in action via PlayStation 4 Pro's pristine 4K video output. Right away, it's clear that what's on display here is extremely promising. God of War should comfortably stand alongside the likes of Uncharted 4 and Horizon: Zero Dawn when it comes to the quality of its technology.

Kratos is still angry. If you're concerned about how much has changed in Sony Santa Monica's reboot of the God of War series, it's worth knowing this; in two hours playing the game, what's remarkable is how much has stayed the same. There's the same pent up rage, unleashed in pliable combat as enemies are juggled in the air and then pulled furiously apart, the same cinematic showdowns that dazzle with their panache. The same spectacle, and the same sense that the host hardware is being pushed to its very limit. It's a God of War game alright, in that it's hard to think of any better showcase for what's possible with Sony's console.

Seeing Burnout through fresh eyes

A different kind of Paradise.

The first video game my son ever played - I mean really played, rather than toyed with - was Burnout Paradise. We played together, but he took control; he decided what he wanted to do and he did it. The 2008 open-world driving title from Criterion, which is being released in a remastered edition on PS4, was a formative entry in the emerging universe of free-roaming multiplayer racers, leading us to the likes of Forza Horizon and The Crew. It gave you a city and a car, and it just said 'drive'. That's exactly what my son did.

Digital FoundryPUBG Xbox One performance still isn't good enough

The developer agrees, so what's the plan?

It's been over three months since Playerunknown's Battlegrounds arrived on Xbox One and Xbox One X. Released as an early access 'game preview', what was immediately clear was that PUBG's console implementation had profound issues in nearly all areas: presentation was lacking, textures possessed severe streaming problems and frame-rate was sub-optimal, to put it generously. Three months on and there have been a range of improvements, but performance, key to the PUBG experience, is still lacking - and the developers agree with us.

Digital FoundryWhat should we expect from Dark Souls Remastered on Switch?

Digital Foundry assesses the first trailer footage.

The Switch market's awash with ports and remasters, but one of the most eagerly awaited must surely be the conversion of Dark Souls - the first time the series lands on a handheld. Early signs point to it being handled by Virtuos - the studio behind the daring Switch conversion of LA Noire. Little else is known about the scale of the project, or what form the remaster will take across other platforms, but last week's Nintendo Direct did deliver a short burst of gameplay that offers up a wealth of clues.

Fortnite on mobile: it works!

Now Drake could play it on his cellphone.

I have Fortnite on my iPhone SE. The complete thing? Well, the Battle Royale part, anyway: the part that is currently taking over the world. And it works! It works surprisingly well. It's a little more basic to look at and I'll need a while to get properly comfortable, but I suspect Fortnite might well conquer the touchscreen much as it's conquered everything else.

After the darkness and dormancy of winter life restarts, almost as if the punishing frosts, snows and winds had never happened. The season of spring starts to take hold, colours reappear, foliage regrows and landscapes transform to offer different looks, feels and opportunities for interaction. This can be truly impactful when it manifests in video games. Where winter revealed the bones of landscapes and their design, spring brings a softer touch, its re-birth and revitalisation draping life and colour back over lands. Spring can empower a landscape to represent and symbolise in its own way. By adding these into games' story arcs and narratives, a whole new side of the landscape can be seen and experienced - one where the land tells stories of recovery, shows an ability to cleanse and has an ability to enhance peace and quiet, all while under the drape of a colourful, full of life landscape, giving the land an entirely new look and atmosphere.

Digital FoundryIs WWE 2K18 really the worst game on Nintendo Switch?

Digital Foundry assesses the latest, patched version.

We've had a lot of requests for this over the last few months, and having finally sampled WWE 2K18, we can see why. The Switch port has built up quite a reputation since its release in early December last year - in fact, many believe it's the worst game available for the system. There've been reports of terrible performance and game-breaking slowdown, but the game was patched recently, so we thought we'd dip in to see whether there's been any improvement. First impressions suggest not, and out of all the multi-platform Switch titles we've experienced, this is easily the worst port we've tested.

Digital FoundryIn Theory: Can a Switch hardware revision extend its lifespan?

Nintendo wants Switch to last beyond 2021 - and improved tech is the natural solution.

Last week, news emerged of Nintendo's immediate and longer term plans for the Switch, reported on the Wall Street Journal, no less. The headline made it clear that there'd be no Switch hardware revision this year, with Nintendo's emphasis shifting to USB-C peripherals and its fascinating Labo initiative. However, tucked away at the foot of the report is coverage of a February investor briefing, where Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima talks about his plans of extending Switch's lifespan beyond the five to six year console average, taking the lifespan of the console hybrid up to 2021 at least. To make this work, hardware revisions may be inevitable.

Digital FoundryThe making of Shadow of the Colossus on PS4

Digital Foundry talks tech - and more - with Bluepoint Games.

Now known as the 'masters of the remaster', Bluepoint Games has a well-earned, solid gold reputation for delivering some of the best current-gen - and indeed last-gen - ports of gaming's most beloved properties. From Metal Gear Solid to God of War, from Gravity Rush to the Uncharted trilogy, Bluepoint's work has been uniformly excellent across the years.

Jack Kelley and his father are standing in the middle of the woods in Phillipston, Massachusetts. The pair are taking photos of the nearby fire lookout tower when, suddenly, they are approached by a stranger. As she closes in, they see that she is holding a lead in each hand - attached at the end of each lead is a goat.

Mario is a simple guy. He wears overalls and a spiffy cap. He's got a brother and a couple of close friends. He can run fast and jump high. In his various quests to save princess Peach, he makes use of all of these attributes and relationships, yet none of them tell us anything about who Mario really is.

Everything we know about Far Cry 5's map editor

Getting to the bottom of Far Cry Arcade.

Since the announcement of Far Cry 5, details of its map editor and multiplayer portions have been surprisingly thin on the ground. I'm a big fan of that kind of stuff though, so during a trip to try out the campaign, I badgered the developers for a bit more info about Far Cry Arcade and in particular, the map editor.

Digital FoundryHow does Xbox One X's 4K-enhanced Witcher 2 compare with PC?

CD Projekt Red's vintage 2011 visuals still look great - even on ultra HD screens.

Microsoft's Xbox One X enhanced programme for classic Xbox 360 games recently added support for a very special last-gen release: The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. I was particularly keen to check this one out because CD Projekt Red's 360 conversion effort was absolutely outstanding and with its arrival on the X, you might describe it as one technological miracle layered on top of another. The 360 release wasn't just a port, it was a top-to-bottom revamp of a PC original specifically built for the strengths of a far more capable platform. The port had many cutbacks, of course, but in some respects, I thought it actually improved on its counterpart. So with that remarkable port now upgraded for Microsoft's latest console, how does it look running on 4K displays? And how does the PC original hold up running at an equivalent ultra HD resolution, almost seven years on from its initial release?

Crackdown on Xbox One X makes a classic game even better

Prettier and smoother - and the action is still immense fun.

It's still brilliant. It really is. And on Xbox One X, Crackdown is even better than you remember it. The 2007 classic scales up wonderfully to 4K resolution, but the biggest takeaway here is that, remarkably, the gameplay still holds up - it's still utterly superb. I picked up the game exactly where I left off - with a tooled up, maxed-out Agent ready to take on the final gang left in the game, the villainous Shai-Gen. What happened next is Crackdown at its best: absolute carnage on the streets of Pacific City, urban warfare on a simply spectacular scale. It is - quite possibly - the best 1.50 I've ever spent on a game.

I've been playing a lot of Blades in the Dark recently - it might just be the best pen and paper role playing game I've ever encountered. Blades is an RPG in which the players form a fledgling criminal gang in the grimy industrial city of Duskvol, pulling off daring heists and trying to stay one step ahead of their enemies and the long arm of the law. What makes it truly special, however, are the mechanics aimed at making the experience as sleek and swift as possible, because if there's one thing from which pen and paper RPGs suffer, it's an overabundance of planning. No matter the size of an encounter, players love to try and concoct a plan to cover all bases - an irresistible exercise in frustration, as the best laid plans of mice and men and tabletop role players gang always agley.

The SD card and the vintage video game revolution

How modern technologies resurrected old consoles, and are now making them more powerful than ever

A conservative estimate puts the value of the entire Neo Geo library of games - all European, US and Japanese variants - at around a quarter of a million dollars. Some of the games are so scarce that they come up for sale only once a decade. In October 2009, for example, an anonymous buyer paid $55,045.64 for the European versions of the fighting game Kizuna Encounter and the football game Ultimate 11 (as if guided by a scriptwriter's pen, the buyer carried a custom-made briefcase to meet the seller, to ensure the games remained pristinely cosy on the flight home). There are, it is estimated, fewer than ten copies of each game in existence. Even for the wealthiest game fanatic, then, there is almost no opportunity to play these games anywhere outside of a PC emulator.

Rejoice! Bloodborne, a nailed-on cert for one of the games of the generation, is now available to everyone with a PlayStation Plus subscription, and it is soooooo goddamn good; From Software's finest, if you ask me, a razor-edged, blood-soaked distillation of the Souls formula into something that's headily unique. It's a work of exquisite art, basically, yet there are still some put off by it all. There are still those who haven't sampled its delights.

What's the best title to have come from PlatinumGames? My own answer changes with the wind - sometimes it's the just about perfect third-person shooter Vanquish, other times it might be the outrageously eccentric Wonderful 101 - but when it comes to the purest expression of what the industrious Osaka studio is about, then there's only really one answer. And that's the brilliant Bayonetta, of course.

Digital FoundryDF Retro: What was actually real in PS3's E3 2005 reveal?

Beyond the target renders, a vision for the future of gaming technology.

The stakes were high. 2005 would kick-start a console generation that would offer a stratospheric leap in processing power and gaming capabilities compared to the ruling PlayStation 2 and its Xbox and GameCube competitors. Just prior to E3 2005, Microsoft had already announced Xbox 360 - bizarrely via an MTV special - but gamers weren't exactly amazed by the preproduction wares revealed therein. All eyes were on Sony for its E3 2005 reveal for PlayStation 3 and when it did eventually kick off, gamers were presented with an unbelievable array of cutting-edge tech showcases. Unbelievable, as in literally unbelievable.

Open world games are hard to make, but it's even harder to make them about something. When a game's scope spreads across tens, maybe hundreds of virtual square miles, it's not surprising that developers can struggle to fill that space. Who can forget collecting feathers in the first Assassin's Creed, or Unity's unique approach of pouring every kind of content imaginable into Revolutionary Paris, as if Ubisoft was making virtual foie gras?

Digital FoundryThe original Forza Horizon looks stunning on Xbox One X at 4K

No remaster required: another beautiful back-compat showcase.

Microsoft restarted its programme of Xbox One X enhancements for Xbox 360 games this week with four new titles - Forza Horizon, The Witcher 2, Crackdown and Fable Anniversary Edition. We're seeing the same 9x resolution boost on all releases in concert with improved performance where appropriate, but it's the first game in this new line-up that's our focus today. Image quality in Forza Horizon is off the charts in the transition to ultra HD and there are a couple of further, surprising enhancements that caught our eye.

When HP Lovecraft wrote the definition of the genre he more-or-less invented, he did it with the understanding that weird fiction was always going to be a niche taste. In his 1927 essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature, he declared that: "tales of ordinary feelings and events, or of common sentimental distortions of such feelings and events, will always take first place in the taste of the majority; rightly, perhaps, since of course these matters make up the greater part of human experience." Barely able to generate an income, chewed up and spat out by the pulp magazines, and finally, dying painfully of untreated stomach cancer ten years later, Lovecraft could reasonably have expected to be forgotten.

Nintendo Switch, one year on

The hardcore's been won over, but can they be kept happy over the next 12 months?

How best to chart 12 months in which Nintendo returned to the frontlines, and stirred up a frenzy not seen since the phenomenon that was the Wii? For a console that's uniquely personal - one that will follow by your side wherever you go, allowing video games to slot in all those gaps in our everyday lives - it's 12 months that have been defined by some truly magical moments.

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