Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands Free Weekend Going On Now

This weekend, Ubisoft is hosting another free weekend, this time for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC. Through September 23rd, players can access not only the full base game, but also the “Ghost War” player-versus-player (PVP) and special themed player-versus-everyone (PVE) missions.

Once the free weekend has elapsed, those interested in purchasing the game can choose from two newly-released editions:

  • The Ultimate Edition will cost $146.99, and includes the game, the Year 1 season pass (includes the two major expansions, “Narco Road” and “Fallen Ghosts”), the Year 2 season pass (grants one-week early access to all six Year 2 “Ghost War” PVP classes and special edition packs), and exclusive perks (special weapons and attachments, four Battle Crates, one Skill Point Pack, one Resource Pack, and one Long XP Booster).
  • The Year 2 Gold Edition will cost $99.99, and includes the game and the Year 2 season pass.

Until October 2nd, various editions (including the two above) will be discounted for up to 60 percent off, while select Ghost Recon Wildlands merchandise can be as much as 75 percent off in Ubisoft’s online store.

On top of this, the game will soon be receiving Title Update 16, aka “Operations & Maintenance,” which is said to improve the overall quality of life in the game, and will also feature an update to the Year 2 season pass that offers a new item pack to owners of said pass with each future title update. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a new Mood Matchmaking feature included, which allows players to “further customize their co-op experience with “mood” preferences and options in public matchmaking for PvE in both the main game and Ghost Mode, helping players find and join other Ghosts ready to take on the same objectives.”

If you’re interested in more info, then head over to ghostrecon.com, or follow them on Twitter @GhostRecon or Ghost Recon on Facebook. You can also find what others are saying about the game by using the hashtag #ghostrecon.

Warner Bros. Interactive has announced two of their upcoming releases, which may look a little familiar to fans of their work.

First up is Middle-earth: Shadow of War Definitive Edition, which will come to the Xbox One, Windows 10 PC, Steam, and PlayStation 4 on August 28th, 2018. If you missed out on its initial release last year, this version will contain all of the downloadable content, improvements, and other free updates that have come in the time since, including the removal of the controversial loot box system.

“Since Middle-earth: Shadow of War launched, we’ve continually looked at all of the feedback from our fantastic community and our fans, which has inspired us to keep improving the game and ultimately create a version that we are truly proud of,” said Monolith Productions’ Vice President of Creative, Michael de Plater, in a press release. “Middle-earth: Shadow of War Definitive Edition brings together all of our free content updates and gameplay improvements, along with our Story and Nemesis Expansions, providing the very best experience for players. Whether you’re diving in for the first time or making your return to Middle-earth, there’s never been a better time to walk into Mordor.”

Middle-earth: Shadow of War Definitive Edition will feature the main game, along with the full Expansion Pass, including additional story campaigns, missions, playable characters, Orc tribes, weapons, abilities, enemies, a new region and much more.

  • Middle-earth: Shadow of War Main Game
  • Slaughter Tribe Nemesis Expansion
  • Outlaw Tribe Nemesis Expansion
  • Blade of Galadriel Story Expansion
  • Desolation of Mordor Story Expansion

Additionally, Middle-earth: Shadow of War Definitive Edition will bring together a multitude of different enhancements and free content updates, from a richer campaign experience and streamlined post-game Epilogue to new player skins and the complete removal of the market, in addition to hundreds of other improvements since the release of Middle-earth: Shadow of War. A snapshot of the updates available for players includes:

  • Market Closure: Complete removal of the market and microtransactions.
  • Updated Post-Game: Streamlined post-game Epilogue (formerly Shadow Wars) with new narration from Shelob, the Witch-king and Dark Talion, plus new Masks of the Nazgûl player rewards.
  • Nemesis System Enhancements: Numerous improvements bringing further depth to combat encounters and player interactions, along with added traits and behaviors for Orc enemies, more Legendary Orcs to encounter and more ways to get Training Orders.
  • Powering Up: Follower level cap has been increased to 80, enemy Captain level cap has been increased to 85, greater XP rewards, new Prestige skills, upgrades and more.
  • Gear Upgrades: Players can now use Mirian to raise the level of a piece of gear to their current level and use gems to re-roll abilities.
  • Skins: Added player skins for Celebrimbor, Eltariel, Dark Eltariel, Baranor and Serka.
  • Online Pit Fights & Conquests: Added search feature to challenge specific players’ Overlords and fortresses in Friendly Mode.
  • Endless Siege: Added feature to defend fortresses against never-ending waves of Sauron’s forces.
  • Rebellion: Added feature to crush rebel Ologs and Uruks who undermine the Bright Lord.
  • Photo Mode Upgrades: Capture every battle with new filters, frames and textures.
  • Difficulty Levels: Added Brutal and Gravewalker difficulty levels.
  • Player Stats: Added player stats page to track in-game enemy kills, dominations and betrayals.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War Definitive Edition will be available August 28th, 2018 for $79.99 CAD. Note that only the main game will be on the disc if you purchase a physical version, with the remaining content requiring an online connection to download. For more information about the game, be sure to visit the official website.

In addition, fans of the Scribblenauts series can look forward to a new two-in-one release of Scribblenauts Unlimited and Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure as the Scribblenauts Mega Pack for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Not only will this include both classic Scribblenauts titles, but bonus content for both games as well.

Scribblenauts Unlimited fosters unlimited creativity, exploration and social elements that create a fun experience for fans of all ages. The game features a huge side-scrolling open world with high-definition, hand-drawn scenery and objects where players can help the game’s hero, Maxwell, solve robust puzzles and challenges by summoning any object they can imagine. Scribblenauts Unlimited has been updated with two new bonus levels, supports online sharing of user-created objects, updates two-player mode, and features a new easy-to-use “sunflower” style text entry system. The new Zed Zeppelin level lets players battle sky pirates and work with crew members to keep the dirigible safe while the new Land of Sweet Hyperbole level allows players to drive around in a candy car and interact with candy neighbors.

Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure melds the boundless creativity of Scribblenauts with thousands of DC characters and objects – all drawn in the distinctive Scribblenauts art style. In the game, Maxwell comes to the aid of the mightiest DC Super Heroes BATMAN™, SUPERMAN™ and the rest of the JUSTICE LEAGUE™ as they face the fiercest DC Super-Villains, such as THE JOKER™, LEX LUTHOR™ and SINESTRO™. Fueled by the player’s imagination, where anything they write comes to life, Maxwell must use his magic notebook to summon heroes and tools to stop the villains’ evil schemes and save the universe. In his imaginative and comical quest, he must travel to iconic DC locations such as GOTHAM CITY™, METROPOLIS™, ATLANTIS™ and two new bonus locations, TITANS TOWER, under attack by the formidable demon Trigon, and BELLE REVE, the base of operations for the Task Force X. Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure has also been updated with hundreds of new DC characters, objects and costumes.

The Scribblenauts Mega Pack will arrive on September 18th, 2018 at a price of $49.99 CAD. To learn more about this release, as well as Scribblenauts Showdown, be sure to visit the official website.

Warner Bros. Interactive is holding a contest leading up to the release of Hitman 2 in which you could get into the game. Well, your face, at least.

To prove your worth, you’ll first need to pre-order Hitman 2 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or Steam. This will grant you access to the standalone “Sniper Assassin” mode, which is free to play now in early access. Then you’ll need to register for an IOI account in order to enter the contest.

As Agent 47, you’ll be playing in “solo” mode in the Sniper Assassin mode, and aim for not just your targets, but the high scores via the in-game leaderboards. Upon the competition’s conclusion on November 6th, 2018, those who have managed to net the top score for each respective gaming platform will be determined.

You probably figured this out by it even being mentioned here, but this competition is indeed open to Canadians — minus Quebec:

***PURCHASE NECESSARY. YOU MUST PRE-ORDER THE HITMAN 2 VIDEO GAME PRIOR TO 7:00 AM UNIVERSAL TIME COORDINATED (UTC) ON NOVEMBER 6, 2018 TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CONTEST. Open only to legal residents of the United States of America, Canada (excluding Quebec), Mexico, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Netherlands (excluding Dutch Caribbean), Belgium, Australia and New Zealand who are at least 18 years of age and who prior to July 24, 2018 have Internet access, a valid e-mail address, an IOI Account, and either PlayStation® Network, Microsoft PC or Xbox One™ equipment and account. Contest begins on or about 7am UTC on 2018/24/07 and ends 7am UTC on November 6, 2018. Visit https://hitman.com/competition for complete official rules for full details. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Sponsor: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Inc., 4000 Warner Blvd., Bldg. 160, Burbank, CA 91522 USA.

For further rules and details, be sure to check out the official contest webpage.

Hitman 2 will be available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam on November 13th, 2018. For more information on the game, visit the official website, or check them out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitch.

Following up on the unveiling of their Xbox Adaptive Controller, Microsoft has revealed that it’s not just the controller that will be more accessible, but the packaging around it as well, which you can now see here:

Our packaging is a series of moments that create a unique customer experience. These moments can manifest themselves in many ways. Physical touchpoints, visual or material cues and structural elements are designed to lead the customer through a logical and seamless unboxing. With the Xbox Adaptive Controller, we knew we had to make the packaging accessible for gamers with limited mobility. That required us to re-think some things about how we package our products, including what type of moments would be most meaningful. It was critically important that we incorporate accessibility into the packaging design and unboxing experience. The out-of-box experience is the first thing customers encounter when they purchase our products and it’s important that we get that right.

Microsoft has gone into more detail with regards to how they came to design this packaging, each of which you can read about at Microsoft StoryLabs and Xbox Wire.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is available for pre-order now at the Microsoft Store, and will be available for $129.99 CAD when it is released this September.

At the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo, Ubisoft Toronto presented their latest creation: A Toys-to-life title called Starlink: Battle for Atlas, which garnered some positive attention.

At E3 2018, they presented it once again, and this time, it was a showstopper.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas is an open-world game, but one that differs from most in that it’s a space saga in which you traverse different worlds through use of starships. In fact, it seems to be inviting several comparisons to another such game, No Man’s Sky, albeit far more positive ones. Whereas that game’s regions were generated in a procedural fashion, Starlink: Battle for Atlas does things the old-fashioned way, making them by hand in the game’s Snowdrop engine.

Players will be able to travel across the star system and venture down to the surface of seven different planets seamlessly, according to Ubisoft’s press release. There, they’ll find alien worlds “teeming with life” and “unique challenges” to overcome. “Players’ actions and choices will impact their journey and no two player experiences will be alike,” they promise, as enemies are said to react and fight back intelligently

But “No Man’s Sky, but better” isn’t the main hook for Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Rather, its primary draw is the one which immediately snapped me to attention when the game was first shown off last year, and that’s the aforementioned Toys-to-life aspect.

I’m admittedly a big fan of Toys-to-life in general, even if there are some specific executions of the concept I don’t care for as much. I’ve got Skylanders, Disney Infinity, LEGO Dimensions, and amiibo for days, and not nearly enough time to play with them all.

Unfortunately, the Toys-to-life bubble has seemingly burst. Disney Infinity is dead, and LEGO Dimensions is no better off. Skylanders seems to continue as a franchise with its Netflix cartoon series, Skylanders Academy, but the actual game portion of that is MIA as its star, Spyro the Dragon, seems to be returning to his roots. As for amiibo? Nintendo is still producing them with each new game, but their in-game functionality seems to largely be an afterthought at this point, as they never got that one key game they needed for a breakthrough. (But at least they still look cool.)

So with that in mind, what hope does Starlink: Battle for Atlas have in a genre that’s all but completely evaporated? An ambitious one, it turns out, as Creative Director Laurent Malville and his team believe that “innovation can really bring life back into this market.” As he tells GamesIndustry.biz:

We think that toys-to-life brought a lot of younger players into video games, and that was great. But we think as they grew up, the expectation grew with it. So for us, we didn’t want to do just another one like those games. It was important for us to innovate in this category. We didn’t want to innovate on just the toy itself – and we think we did do that – but also to innovate with the huge open world. We’re not talking down to the players. This is a big open world that you can spend time in.

Where Starlink: Battle for Atlas differs from other Toys-to-life games is by putting control of the toys right in your hands — literally. Each version of the game comes with a special Starlink controller mount (or a Joy-Con grip, in the case of the Switch version) upon which the Starship of your choice is placed. During gameplay (in real-time or while paused), you’ll be able to swap out different modular parts, from the wings to various parts that attach to them, and even the pilot, each granting you different weapons and capabilities.

What’s more, there’s no singularly specific way to attach parts. Maybe you think those wings would look better swept forward? Or perhaps you’re tired of bogeys coming up on your six and taking you by surprise, so you want a rear-facing gun instead? It’s all possible, and even a bit more, as Producer Matthew Rose tells CNET, “We never want to tell kids they’re being creative wrong.”

However, some people who would enjoy these Toys-to-life games just don’t care for the “toy” aspect so much. But Ubisoft has good news for you: You don’t actually need the toys to enjoy the game. While purchasing various toys will unlock digital equivalents within the game, as Rose tells Nintendo UK:

It was very important for us to be extremely player friendly in what we’re offering. We want people to buy the collectibles because they think the collectibles are amazing. The modular play gives you all these cool creative things to do and build. But we don’t want to force you into buying them. You can complete the entire game just with the starter pass. Even if you are a minimalist, you don’t want more stuff on your shelves, you can even get digital versions of all the parts. You can play the entire game digitally, which is something we’re really proud of.

So, that all sounds great on its own, right? But what exactly would make it a showstopper at E3 this year that wasn’t there last year?

See for yourself:

“We are excited to give players a deeper look at Starlink: Battle for Atlas, the first all-new property from Ubisoft Toronto,” Malville stated in a press release. “Starlink is a project born from the passion of our collective team, and the opportunity to work directly with Nintendo to bring Star Fox to our universe is a dream come true. We believe the Atlas open star system is a perfect playground for Fox to explore and hope players will too.”

“The team at Ubisoft Toronto collaborated closely with Virtuos on the Nintendo Switch version of Starlink: Battle for Atlas,” the press release explains. “The partnership allowed Ubisoft to push the Nintendo Switch version to new heights, and fully support handheld, tabletop and docked play.”

I’ll admit to a little bias here, as I’ve been waiting 25 years for a toy Arwing I could call my own, and now someone has finally answered the call. (Makes me wonder if I should press my luck for a Great Fox, but one thing at a time here.) This pushes me from “completely sold” on the game to “why can’t I play this now?”

But “now” is sadly not in the cards, as the game doesn’t come out until October 16th, 2018, when the game will be available for the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4, and of course the Nintendo Switch in a Starter Edition priced at $99.99. Included in all versions of the Starter Edition are the game, the Starlink controller mount for your console of choice, and a poster.

In addition, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions will also come with the following:

  • Zenith Starship – includes modular hull and two Armor wings
  • Mason Rana Pilot
  • Shredder Weapon
  • Flamethrower Weapon
  • Frost Barrage Weapon

As for the Nintendo Switch version? Hoo-boy, what an added value. You’ll get:

  • Arwing Starship – includes modular hull and two Arwing wings, with laser cannon weapons and charge shot built in
  • Fox McCloud Pilot
  • Mason Rana Pilot
  • Flamethrower Weapon
  • Frost Barrage Weapon
  • Digital versions of Zenith Starship and Shredder weapon
  • Exclusive Star Fox mission content

That’s right — you’ll not only get everything that the other Starter Editions come with (albeit digitally in some cases, but still), but also the Arwing Starship, Fox McCloud Pilot figure, and exclusive Star Fox mission content.

Beyond the Starter Edition, there are additional sets of ships, weapons, and pilots available to purchase. Here’s how it all breaks down:

  • Starship Pack (including one starship with modular hull and two wings, one pilot and one weapon): $39.99
  • Weapon Pack (including two weapons): $14.99
  • Pilot Pack (including one pilot): $12.99

It should be noted that all pieces are compatible, with a few small but expected exceptions: The Star Fox pieces will only work with the Nintendo Switch version of the game. So everything is compatible with it, and it’s compatible with everything else, but only so long as you’re playing it on Nintendo’s console.

And that’s pretty much it. October never looked so far away, but like any respectable Starship captain, I am ready for launch.

In the meantime, here are some renders, concept art, and screenshots for you to enjoy.

Following up on their free weekends for For Honor and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Ubisoft has announced a different kind of free weekend to close out the month.

From 8am UTC on Thursday, May 31st until 8am UTC on Monday, June 4th, selected players on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC will have the opportunity to partake in a closed beta for The Crew 2. (Those selected will be able to pre-load the game beginning May 29th.)

During the closed beta, players will experience the first level of the progression system as they compete in races across all first four disciplines – Street Race, Rally Raid, Powerboat and Aerobatics – against the backdrop of a fully redesigned USA, via land, water and air. To create more adrenaline-fueled experiences, players can use the Fast-Fav feature and instantly switch their vehicle type depending on the type of terrain they will encounter: an airplane flying underneath San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge can turn into a boat with the touch of a button. Fueled by original series, exclusive events, top personalities and leading experts, Motor Trend is the #1 destination for automotive super fans via the Motor Trend app on iOS/Apple TV, Google Play, Roku, Xbox, Chromecast and Amazon platforms or via MotorTrend.com.

Sound good? If you’re interested, then head on over to thecrewgame.com/beta to sign up for a chance to take part.

This week, Microsoft celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day by revealing the fruits of their years-long work on the Xbox Adaptive Controller, an Xbox Wireless Controller for gamers who have limited mobility or are unable to use both hands that is “affordable, easy-to-set-up, and readily available,” to say nothing of the “first of its kind.”

Forged with user research through new partnerships (including The AbleGamers Charity, The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, SpecialEffect, Warfighter Engaged, Craig Hospital, and many community members) that aim to make gaming more accessible, this new controller benefits gamers with limited mobility who may experience difficulty gaming with traditional controllers.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is just one example of Microsoft’s commitment to accessibility and Inclusive Design and Microsoft’s mission statement to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

This isn’t the first time a platform holder has created a specialized controller to increase accessibility; Nintendo created the Hands Free Controller for the Nintendo Entertainment System back in the 80’s, which allowed players to activate controls through use of their tongue for the Dpad and blowing or sucking air through a tube to activate the A and B buttons.

However, Nintendo did not market the device commercially, as you would have to order one through their Consumer Service line for around $120 USD (about $241.50, adjusted for inflation), or $170 ($342.13 adjusted) if you wanted the console included as well. As such, it’s become a bit of a rare item, and fetches quite a bit on the aftermarket these days, perhaps making it more expensive than accessible.

As controllers have become more complex over the years, however, there hasn’t been as much of a race among platform holders to keep up with making them accessible to those with limited mobility — or at the very least, they haven’t been as outgoing to the public about it as Microsoft has been with this newest effort. The company has worked with a number of organizations to make the Adaptive Controller a reality, including The AbleGamers Charity, The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Craig Hospital, SpecialEffect, and Warfighter Engaged.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller will be available at the Microsoft Store for a price of $99.99 USD when it launches later this year, and more details are slated to be shared at the 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3, if you prefer), with pre-order details soon to come as well. In the meantime, Microsoft Store locations will be celebrating Ability Week from Tuesday, May 29th through Saturday, June 2nd, though there is no mention as to whether the Adaptive Controller will be available to check out there.

For more about Microsoft’s work in accessibility, you can check out the Official Microsoft Blog from Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie, while more details about the Xbox Adaptive Controller announcement can be found here and on the Xbox Wire blog.

A worldwide contest was recently announced by Univeral Games and Unity Technologies, the “Universal GameDev Challenge,” which is sponsored by Microsoft and Intel. The goal is to reach out to Unity developers around the world to build a PC game which utilizes one of five of the following intellectual properties owned by Universal: Jaws, Battlestar Galactica, DreamWorks Voltron Legendary Defender, Turok, and my personal favorite, Back to the Future.

The winner and the runner-up will not only take home a combined cash prize worth $250,000, but also a consulting contract with Microsoft, Unity, and Universal.

According to the announcement, “this marks the first time that Universal is providing developers with an open invitation to create games based on some of its most popular films and television shows. Independent game developers will have a unique opportunity to work on NBCUniversal IP and share their creative vision.”

What’s more, none other than Back to the Future co-creator, co-writer, and co-producer Bob Gale will be one of the four judges on the contest’s panel. Joining him will be Geogrify Chief Executive Officer and Principal Consultant Kate Edwards, Voltron Legendary Defender showrunner and Co-executive Producer for Dreamworks TV Lauren Montgomery, and GamesBeat Lead Writer Dean Takahashi.

“The partnership between Unity and Universal, with sponsorship from Intel and Microsoft, is the perfect blend of advanced hardware and software, combined with classic film and TV properties, which we believe will inspire our developer community to bring those brands to life in a game of their dreams,” said Unity Technologies Vice President of Marketing, Kat Strafford. “We can’t wait to see the incredible content that comes to life from the Universal GameDev Challenge.”

“The Universal Games Dev Challenge is an entirely new approach for entertainment and media companies to work with the indie game community,” adds Universal Brand Development Executive Vice President of Games and Digital Platforms, Chris Heatherly. “The incredible properties we are showcasing in this contest are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the vast portfolio of IP we have at NBCUniversal. This is a fresh and innovative way for us to find developers who are passionate about bringing those properties to life through games.”

It should be interesting (and hopefully exciting) to see what the indie gaming community comes up with for these properties. Some have already been featured across multiple video games before — Turok is especially notable in this regard, as he might even be better known today for his video game appearances than the comic books which spawned them. Meanwhile, Back to the Future has seen highs and lows, from the praised Back to the Future: The Game by Telltale Games on more recent platforms to the maligned Back to the Future for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and various others in-between. Jaws has seen even less fortune in this arena, with the most notorious being the NES title that came from the same publisher as that platform’s Back to the Future titles, the now long-defunct LJN.

Universal announced last year that they were significantly building up their games division with the intent of taking on a more active approach to both developing and publishing titles. The Universal GameDev Challenge marks one of their first “bold” steps moving forward.

For more information about the Universal GameDev Challenge, including rules, terms, how to submit your project, and more, visit the Unity Connect page here and click on “Briefing”. For the full press release, which includes the Challenge Timeline, visit BackToTheFuture.com.

Sea of Thieves for the Xbox One and Windows 10 PC launches on March 20th, but starting today, you can embark on a journey to win some real treasure in the form of a bunch of UK Hallmarked 18-carat golden bananas, valued at £20,000 per banana.

Beginning today at 12:00am PT, a series of 15 riddles will be released, and on Wednesday, March 21st at 13:00 PT (1:00pm PT), participants will have seven hours to visit xbox.com/thebananaquest and input their answers for a chance at solving the final riddle on March 22nd. This Quest is worldwide, however, and the riddles will be scattered about both online and across several real-life locations, including Key West, Florida; London, United Kingdom; Berlin, Germany; Sydney, Australia; Paris, France; and Victoria, Canada.

For more details and to register your crew, visit xbox.com/thebananaquest. They also say that this is the best place for viewing riddles as they’re released, but that you’ll want to keep your good eye on Xbox on Facebook, Rare, and local social channels (whatever that means — stuff like Xbox Canada on Facebook, perhaps?) as well.

As noted, Sea of Thieves comes to Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs tomorrow, and will also be available on Xbox Game Pass at launch, too. And if you like, there’s still time to pre-order to get the exclusive Black Dog Pack (which contains clothing a salty dog such as yourself might find stylish, and items featuring “unique, spectacular designs”).

If you’re not too busy eating like a winner in Toronto, then Xbox Canada has another way for you to up your game.

Partnering with Nike to celebrate the recent and upcoming releases of the Air Jordan III line of sneakers, they will be giving away three one-of-a-kind Xbox One X consoles inspired by the famed shoes. Behold:

From right to left, the consoles above are based on the Air Jordan III Free Throw Line, which was just released on February 14th; the Air Jordan III Black Cement, which will be available tomorrow, February 17th; and the Air Jordan III Tinker, which doesn’t have a page yet for some reason, and will be available on March 24th.

So how do you win?

You’ll find your opportunities between Friday, February 16th at 6am PST and Wednesday, February 21st at 10pm PST if you follow Xbox on Twitter. Further details can be found here, and if you’re interested in the history of these shoes, then check out Jumpman23.com.

Wait, “Jumpman”? That sounds familiar…

After crossing the threshold of three million players on Xbox Live, Xbox Canada is celebrating PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds‘ success by inviting fans of the game across Toronto to dinner — a chicken dinner, of course.

Winner’s Dinners has set up shop in Toronto at 38 Ossington Avenue, and if you head on over between the hours of 6pm to 11pm from Friday, February 16th through Sunday, February 18th, you’ll be treated to a pleasant experience — provided you survive it.

Upon entering, you’ll find a regular, run-of-the-mill chicken restaurant.

Each table features a trio of bottles containing a variety of flavored special sauces with which you can enhance the flavour of that juicy chicken. Plus, there’s a phone number for you to call to find out more about Winner’s Dinners!

A friendly, well-dressed staff is there and ready to take your order.

But there’s something odd about this menu…

Indeed, this is no ordinary restaurant. (Duh, I’d probably be writing about it under Fast Food Culture on PoisonMushroom.Org if it was.) For you see, this establishment caters to a rather… exclusive clientele. Before you can get to the goods, they will ask you — and you must also ask yourself:

Are you a winner?

If you do indeed fancy yourself as one who wins, then you’ll be led to a back room:

Thirteen stations will be available for winners of all shapes and sizes to prove themselves at PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (or PUBG, if you prefer). Two are set up for squads of four players each, and another two for duos, two more for singles, and one final station in the very back at a picnic table, set up to stream through the Xbox Mixr Channel all throughout the weekend (or during operating hours, at the very least).

But that’s not all!

This fully-armed and operational bar is equipped to serve a variety of drinks, be they celebratory or merely recreational (though you’ll be asked to provide the proper ID if you decide to go for anything alcoholic). You’re allowed one free drink, but any more will be on your dime.

And then there’s what you’ve all been waiting for:

Feast your eyes on this feast of chicken dinners!

And better still, everyone is a winner at Winner’s Dinners! That means everyone who attends will get to partake in a dinner of succulent, juicy, expertly-seasoned chicken — plus, a side of coleslaw and a biscuit (which even the Colonel’s Canadian operations have seen fit to deny us for decades, but I don’t want to get off on a rant).

Now, I know what you might be thinking: “Wait, if the chicken’s free, then I don’t need to fight anyone for it. I’ll just take my chicken and be on my way — how’s that for being a winner, suckers?!”

If you are thinking that, then 1) you’re kind of a jerk, and 2) you’re going to take your eye off the even bigger prize.

Provided you manage to prove you’re a winner among winners and earn your rightful place and the chicken dinner winner, then you’ll receive a t-shirt which declares as much for all the world to see:

Take it in: You just know anyone who sports that around town isn’t going to be dining alone tonight. On the other hand, they might have to share.

If that’s not enough to whet your appetite, then there’s an even bigger (yes, really!) prize at stake:

Each day, Winner’s Dinners (courtesy of Xbox Canada, of course) will be giving away one (1) Xbox One S PUBG bundle, which contains (per Xbox Wire):

  • An Xbox One S with a 1TB hard drive, Xbox Wireless Controller, built-in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, support for 4K video streaming, premium audio with Dolby Atmos and access to a games library of over 1,300 games like Forza Motorsport 7 and Cuphead.
  • Full-game download of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Join the battle playing solo, or team up with friends in duos or squads. With the Xbox One S PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Bundle, you’re one step closer to earning your first chicken dinner.
  • 1-month Xbox Live Gold trial so you can experience the most advanced multiplayer network.
  • 1-month Xbox Game Pass trial so you can discover over 100 Xbox One games across three generations of games. Xbox Game Pass members will also receive access to new games from Microsoft Studios like Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2 and Crackdown 3 on the same date as at their global launch.

This whole package is valued at a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of $379.00, and won’t be available in stores until February 20th — meaning not only will you be loaded, but you’ll be loaded early. Who can resist that?

So head on down, it won’t even cost you a tenner, and enjoy the taste of victory at Winner’s Dinner!

Oh, and make sure you’re cool with all this before you go. I don’t want to hear about anyone wasting bus fare because they’re camera-shy:

Have you gotten your hands on the recently-released Xbox One X yet?

If you’re the owner of a 4K television, then my review admittedly didn’t tell you a lot (what can I say? I work with what I’ve got). But if you’d like to go hands-on and feel the power of X for yourself, then there’s good news — at least, if you can be in Toronto sometime over the next three days.

Beginning today, Saturday, November 18th, Xbox Canada is hosting the House of X, a series of events where you can experience Microsoft’s newest console in all its glory. Through Monday, November 20th, the doors will be open at 11am for you to swing by 202 Queen Street West (M5V 1Z2) and strap in. But from 8 to 11pm each night, there will be an exclusive game night event to partake in.

For Saturday, this will be “A Game Night Far Far Away,” which will pit good versus evil in huge online battles in some game or another. With a name like that, it could be anything. Regardless, will you be the star of this war? Sunday, November 19th is “Hockey Night in Toronto,” as players hit the ice in 4K, and Monday, November 20th, “Slam Dunx” will bring a bit of B-ball action to the streets of the 6ix. Boom shakalaka!

While you can drop by at any time during the day, the attendance for the nighttime events is limited, so be sure to RSVP on the event’s Facebook page to ensure you’ve got a spot.

And for those of you not in Toronto? Worry not, as this would appear to be only the first of several House of X “activations” to come soon. I’ll try to keep you up on any more details if I hear them here, but following Xbox Canada on Facebook and Twitter would be a great way to hedge your bets.

Today marks the official release of the Xbox One X console from Microsoft — were you able to get one?

If not (or perhaps even if so), then this opportunity may be of particular interest to you if you’re in Toronto: Visitors to the south end of Trinity Bellwoods Park (located at 790 Queen St. West) at 4pm on Tuesday, November 7th will have the chance to claim one of five free Xbox One X consoles by using the Frenzy app.

But these aren’t just any Xbox One X consoles, oh no. Each is a one-of-a-kind custom design by Legends League founder Bryan Espiritu, who has taken inspiration from each of Toronto’s four main neighbourhoods (Westend, Eastend, Uptown, and Downtown), as well as his own signature pattern featuring most major areas from the Greater Toronto Area. Check ’em out:

Best of luck to those who participate!

News Source: Sidewalk Hustle, Xbox Canada

I’ve been at this “writing about video games” thing for a long time, and even so, I’m still sometimes surprised when someone wants my opinion on something. Not that I don’t think my opinion has value, but for instance, I don’t think anyone really cares what I think about the newest Madden game. Heck, I’m not even sure I do.

So that’s why it came as a surprise to me when Microsoft approached me about reviewing their newest console (or console iteration, if you prefer), the Xbox One X. More than anything, it’s known for pushing 4K gaming as the selling point. It’s even right there on the box: “4K Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, HDR” — all things I’ve only had the pleasure of experiencing at media events and FanExpo.

I told them as much, and while I expected them to snatch it out of my hands so fast it would make the Tasmanian Devil dizzy, that wasn’t the case. Even some of the stuff I filled out (without getting into details) took into consideration that scrubs like me who are just getting by might not have the new hotness in home entertainment visual displays.

And so that’s where this review is coming from: What I call the “everyman” perspective, in that I’m hoping I’m not some lone kook who is the equivalent of someone trying to use rabbit ears in a cable TV world and that there are others like myself who may be gaming in high definition, just not definition that high.

So hey, what all does this thing come with for your money, anyway? Well, if you saw my unboxing video, you would already know, but here’s the overall gist: You get a 1TB Xbox One X console, a standard Xbox One wireless controller (one of my favorite controllers of all time, and the newer kind that can plug into your computer with a USB cable, at that), a pair of AA batteries for said wireless controller, an HDMI cable, a Starter Pack (with instructions and codes for Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold), and a power cord that connects directly to the console itself — no unwieldy power bricks here!

But man, the weight of the console! No power brick on the outside means they had to put that stuff somewhere, and right into the casing it went! The Xbox One X is fairly diminutive compared to the the original console, but at just over eight pounds, it’s surprisingly heavy compared to its larger and lighter seven pound predecessor. And while I love my bulky black behemoth, trying to navigate the wires in the back while it’s in my entertainment centre is something of a nightmare, as I even hurt myself in the process at one point over the summer. The dimensions of the Xbox One X falls more closely in line with the original PlayStation 4, which has proven a fair bit easier to navigate.

To my disappointment (but not my surprise, as we knew about this), there is no Kinect port on the Xbox One X. With the recent discontinuation of the product, it’s no small wonder, but even though I don’t use the motion control aspect, I’ve grown to love other functions of the device. But while Xbox One S adopters had a period in which they would be provided an adapter which allowed them to continue telling their console to turn on when they walk in the room, Xbox One X will apparently not have any such program in place.

This really kind of puts the screws to those who held out for the bigger and badder Project Scorpio. It’s already a more expensive console, and at $49.99, the adapter isn’t quite what I would call “cheap” in a conventional sense (that’s anywhere from half to the entire price of a whole new game, depending).

The new console keeps one of my favorite things about the original Xbox One: The chime that plays when you start it up. It’s such a simple but pleasant little thing, though it sounds slightly different this time, like there’s more of an echo to it. Also worth noting is that the power button is an actual button this time. While I enjoyed being able to turn the Xbox One on at a simple touch, the problem was that my cats did, too.

Once that’s done, you’re greeted with a new boot animation exclusive to the console, as shown off by Microsoft’s Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb on Twitter:



Basic setup follows, and like the original Xbox One, they were even kind enough to include “English (Canada)” as a language option. No choosing between American English and the Queen’s English for us! And of course, if you’ve got an Xbox Live account, practically everything you’ve saved, purchased, or downloaded on the original carries right over with incredible ease.

Okay, so here’s the skinny: I tried out three different games across both the Xbox One and the Xbox One X with my regular old non-4K television. Two separate inputs, each set to “Game” mode, of course, to compare the graphics and sound.

First up was Super Lucky’s Tale, a 3D platformer with a cartoon graphic style. To be honest, even with the downloadable 4K enhancement patch, I was hard pressed to notice much difference between how it ran on the two platforms.

The same could be said when I tried out the not-yet enhanced Middle-earth: Shadow of War. The game features a higher level of detail, but unlike Super Lucky’s Tale, I felt hard-pressed to notice much difference. I think it looked a little crisper on Xbox One X, but as I had to swap the disc between the two consoles versus hitting the input button, it was tough to be certain. In truth, with the slight blacked-out screen delay when switching inputs, the comparison wasn’t as seamless as I had hoped regardless.

The third and final graphical test came from Killer Instinct, one of my favourites and main motivators for me to get an Xbox One in the first place. It has a more detailed art style than Super Lucky’s Tale, but isn’t quite so realistic as Shadow of War; a firm middle-ground, I like to think.

Interestingly, between the regular and enhanced versions across the two consoles, this is where I saw the most difference, albeit still not a huge one. Pitting Kilgore against Fulgore in Ultratech Industries, I set up a CPU vs. CPU battle and swapped between the two as they duked it out.

Things seemed a little sharper there, and the glow of the molten metal in the background seemed just slightly warmer. It was most noticeable (if not especially so) on the victory screen, as the colors on the Xbox One X were brighter and more vibrant than on the original Xbox One.

In terms of sound? I noticed no real difference on all three games. But then, I’m also using my television’s speakers, so that may be something to account for and research more if you have something like a surround sound system.

(Incidentally, I’d provide side-by-side screen comparisons, but the built-in screen capture functionality seemed to yield the exact same quality from both consoles.)

You might be thinking that since there’s minimal difference between the two on a regular high definition television, there’s no reason to go with an Xbox One. Well, that’s not entirely true. While I can’t compare with the similarly-sized Xbox One S, I did notice some improvements over the original Xbox One in some other areas. Specifically, loading times.

When loading up Killer Instinct, the Xbox One X beat the original out by a few seconds when loading up a match. Likewise, when installing Shadow of Mordor from a disc, the 33.13GB file saw the newer console edge out the older one by a few minutes: Approximately 30:49.49 to 33:45.87.

But where it truly blew me away was downloading a game online. This test was by no means scientific and probably not under optimal conditions, and I can’t account for possible variables (one slightly closer to the router, a cat sleeping between them, etc.) affecting the outcome, so think of this as a “real world” workout. Also, it was done wirelessly, as I can’t get the Ethernet cable to plug in securely to the back of my Xbox One. I performed the test using Super Lucky’s Tale and downloaded it to each platform one at a time.

The difference was astounding.

To download the 8.37GB title took the original Xbox One 1:14:34.64 — that’s 1 hour, 14 minutes, and just over 34 seconds. I noticed that it was hiccuping a bit along the way, occasionally (but not constantly) ceasing the process for a second or three at a time before resuming (based on the display of the rate of data transfer).

And the Xbox One X?

14:42.72.

You’re not misreading that. Just seconds shy of an entire hour less time to download the game, and I didn’t notice any hiccuping along the way.

So is the Xbox One X worth getting if you don’t have a 4K television? That’s kind of a tough one to say.

The price of 4K televisions is coming down, and it impresses on that kind of display, so as a means of future-proofing, I think so. Plus, if your primary way of playing games is downloading them from online storefronts and you hate a long wait, then this will definitely have you covered. But from a strictly visual standpoint, if you don’t think you’ll be getting a new television in the near future, an Xbox One or Xbox One S should hold you over handily.

Of course, if you spot this sucker on a good Black Friday sale, maybe you should grab it — especially if you don’t have an Xbox One already.

As the console is on loan to me from Microsoft for a little while yet, I’m going to continue playing games and looking for things, and if I come across anything of particular note, I’ll be sure to update this article and give it a good bump on the front page.

Coming soon to Mario’s Hat: A review of the Xbox One X!

I just went to pick mine* up yesterday, and that’s really all I can say about that until the embargo lifts. In fact, I’m not even sure I can say when the embargo lifts, so looking at the wording in my email, I’m not taking any chances. You’ll see it here when it happens, though.

For now, what I can do is show you what’s inside the Xbox One X box I received:

Apologies for the graininess of the image — this apartment is ill-suited for this type of thing, and I’m reminded of why I don’t do more live-action video content. On the upside, this video also has cats! How many other Xbox One X unboxings can you say have that? (Don’t answer that. Or do. I like cats, so seeing more is good.)

So please check back in (or follow Mario’s Hat on Twitter) for my review, which I expect might lend a more unique perspective to things than other outlets.

* “Mine” is a very loose term in this instance — the unit is a loaner, not mine to keep. And while I haven’t yet plugged it in and tried it as of this writing, I’m sure it’s going to be painful to part with when the borrowing period ends.

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

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