Microsoft kicked off its E3 2018 media briefing in epic style, revealing a work-in-progress technology demonstration of its next Master Chief series entry, Halo Infinite, accompanied by an honest, revealing blog giving us a little more background on the ideas behind the game, the aim to recapture the style of the Bungie era for modern hardware, and an admission that almost three years on from the release of Halo 5, Infinite is still very early on in production. Naturally, as the current generation draws to a close, the question must be asked whether this is our first tentative look at a game destined for the next Xbox.
Does X deliver the best console experience?
And if so, what form could the new console family take?
Zen CPU cores paired with next-gen Navi GPU?
It's getting a full release in a few weeks' time but for owners of the Far Cry 5 season pass, Far Cry 3 Classic Edition is available for download right now - and to say it's garnering mixed reports is something of an understatement. On the one hand, it delivers a night and day improvement in every regard compared to the original Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 console releases, but on the other, the reality is that it's essentially a straight port of the existing PC game. And perhaps there's a reason why this is dubbed the Classic Edition as opposed to, say, Far Cry 3 Remastered - because as far as I can see, the only actual changes made to the core content seems to be restricted to adding the work 'classic' to the logo.
There's surely not long to wait now. After two years with Nvidia's 10-series GPUs based on the Pascal architecture, we're finally due an upgrade. With several sources strongly suggesting a July launch date, Nvidia's next 'GPU King' may well be just around the corner, but what specs will it have? How powerful it be? In a market notorious for its often-accurate leaks, it's actually surprising how little we know, but there's enough information out there to at least give a broad overview of what we can expect.
Fortnite's domination of the console space shows no sign of flagging, but we will be receiving a glut of new Battle Royale games in the console space over the next few months - and the deluge begins on PlayStation 4 with the release of H1Z1, a port of one of the very first examples of the genre. It's fascinating to stack it up against the competition: the similarities with PUBG are legion (owing to Playerunknown working on both titles) but the execution is very, very different. For starters, developer Daybreak Games is targeting 60 frames per second on console, similar to Epic's Fortnite and up to double the performance of PUBG on Xbox One.
Samsung has issued firmware updates that add FreeSync over HDMI support to a number of its 4K TVs. FreeSync is a variable refresh rate technology that allows for smoother, tear-free gaming from AMD Radeon graphics cards, with a slightly different implementation available on Xbox One, One S and One X. Engadget reports that US models Q6FN, Q7FN, Q8FN and Q9FN QLED models get the upgrade along with the NU8000 (we're contacting Samsung to find out which EU/UK equivalents are supported - the firm's model names change according to region). It's a great move for living room gaming, bringing a highly desirable feature previously exclusive to PC monitors to a larger canvas for the first time.
A principal programmer at Sony associated with the firm's Advanced Technology Group is working with AMD's Ryzen technology, improving the Zen core's micro-architecture support within the LLVM compiler stack - a key component of a tool used in the PlayStation 4 development environment. Of course, there is no PS4 product using the Ryzen processor, leading to speculation that this is related to a prospective next-gen PlayStation 5 console currently in development.
Let's take a trip back to E3 2004 and re-examine what looked like one of the most one-sided console 'wars' in history. Sony debuted its state-of-the-art PlayStation Portable as part of an E3 that also saw the reveal of the Nintendo DS. The Mario makers' low-tech device was all but written off in the wake of an admittedly feeble reveal, but of course, in terms of sales success it was the handheld device of its era, with PSP eventually finishing up as a worthy runner-up. Both were important machines though and their legacy persists into the core make-up of today's mobile devices, with the pioneering concepts of both platform holders crucial to the make-up of the modern day smartphone - not to mention the Nintendo Switch.
At the forefront of gaming technology pretty much since the year dot, the PC format has fallen behind in one key area: support for high dynamic range - the future of display technology. HDR screens for PC users are thin on the ground and often poorly specced, while the list of supported games stands at less than 50 per cent of the number found on consoles. Something has to change, and it starts by getting excellent PC desktop monitors out there. This week, Nvidia showed press its highly impressive 120Hz 4K HDR G-Sync technology. The specs of two upcoming HDR screens from Acer and Asus exceed what living room displays are capable of by quite a margin in some respects, and may help in beginning to address the lacklustre HDR take-up we've seen for PC users so far.
Valve has released beta Steam Link functionality for Android devices today and in essence, this free downloadable app allows you to remotely connect mobile hardware to any Steam computer on your local network. Games are then streamed through your router to a smartphone or tablet, or alternatively, to a receiver attached to a big screen TV. It's an extension of Steam's existing in-home streaming for Windows and Mac computers - a system that's extraordinarily good - so just how well does the new app shape up by comparison?
After decades of fierce rivalry and bitter lawsuits, you'd be forgiven for thinking it would be a cold day in hell before Intel and AMD would team-up to produce a brand new kind of product, but here we are with Hades Canyon - a unique melding of Intel processor and AMD graphics technology. The NUC8i7HVK here is the top-end configuration, and the latest in a long line of ultra small form-factor PCs from Intel, the difference here being that alongside the quad-core, octo-thread Core i7 processor we have Radeon Vega graphics - a semi-custom design AMD has provided for Chipzilla. It's a cutting-edge piece of kit, but just how powerful is it?
Nintendo's Switch has carved out a sizeable share of the gaming market by offering something genuinely unique - a state-of-the-art handheld that also doubles up as a decent home console. Despite a spec disadvantage in terms of pure performance, it's been a genuine pleasure to chart the progress of the console. When we first saw it way back in January 2017, it was easy to dismiss it as a portable Wii U. Now we know it's much, much more - and its success begs the question: could Sony or Microsoft follow suit with console hybrids of their own?
Would you believe that the PlayStation 4 remaster of Parappa the Rapper is actually the PSP version running under emulation? That's the remarkable claim put forward by hackers using compromised PlayStation 4s to examine game code, first revealed by 'KiiWii' on the GBATemp forum (with a tip of the hat to Ars Technica for its write-up of the story so far). The actual remastering - such as it is - appears to come in the form of a high resolution texture pack that swaps out the original PSP assets for renditions more becoming of a current-gen system.
Nintendo Switch has been hacked, with two similar exploits released in the last 24 hours following a complete dump of the console's boot ROM. The hacks are hardware-based in nature and cannot be patched by Nintendo. The only way forward for the platform holder in fully securing the console will be to revise the Nvidia Tegra X1 processor itself, patching out the boot ROM bug. In the short term, homebrew code execution is possible and a full, touch-enabled version of Linux with 3D acceleration support is now available.
It's potentially a revolution in the console space - just as it has been for PC gamers. Variable refresh technology is a big win for improving the game experience, lessening judder and removing screen-tearing. It's a pretty simple concept really, levelling out performance by putting the GPU in charge of when the display should present a new frame. It's a game-changer. No longer are unlocked frame-rates a problem - in fact, 40-50fps gameplay can look almost as smooth as 60fps. It's a remarkable trick, but crucially, it works. Nvidia's G-Sync led the way, but it's AMD's alternative - FreeSync - that has been built into Xbox One, and we've finally had the chance to test the technology. Clearly it's still early days, but at its best, the results are quite remarkable.
Rumours and whispers are evolving into stories on major sites, website Semiaccurate is offering top-tier subscriber-level access to what it says are early specs, while unverified leaks and elaborate fakes are starting to hit game forum ResetEra. While PlayStation 5 is indeed in development, firm details on the hardware are obviously limited - we are some way off release, after all. But Sony, and indeed Microsoft, operate within a world of existing technologies available to multiple vendors, and we can offer a good idea of the challenges and possibilities available to the platform holders - not to mention when a new machine may become viable. And there's also a big question we can perhaps address - the extent to which an actual generational leap is possible.
Change is good! As part of the Eurogamer redesign, I'm delighted to reveal something pretty special we've been working on for quite some time - a complete revamp of the way we showcase our benchmarks of PC games and hardware, giving you unprecedented access to the entirety of the data we put together for our reviews.
WipEout and virtual reality should be a match made in heaven - and Sony's new PlayStation VR upgrade more than delivers. While there have been some changes to the visual make-up of the game, the sheer quality of the original release remains in place, making VR a genuine upgrade here with few drawbacks. The stark cutbacks we've seen elsewhere in other titles in terms of content, visual quality and shading don't seem to apply to WipEout VR - it's still a beautiful experience. More than that though, this isn't just a straight port: genuine effort has gone into enhancing the experience specifically for the VR medium.
We already consider it a highly recommended purchase for PlayStation 4 and Pro users, but Sony's WipEout Omega Collection moves to the next level today with a free upgrade that introduces full PlayStation VR support. We've had access to the PS4 Pro version, we've played it extensively - and it's rather special.
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.
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.
Bluepoint Games has confirmed that its next project in the wake of the stunning Shadow of the Colossus for PlayStation 4 is a new remake. Digital Foundry had the opportunity to talk with the team about the technology powering its latest release, and asked whether the expanded art team brought on for the project would be deployed next on an original game.
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?
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 Ł1.50 I've ever spent on a game.
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.
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.