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The Week in Gaming: Xbox Series X, PS5 and Miles Morales welcome us to the next generation
Welcome to The Week in Gaming, the place where we pause each week to take a look at the video game news beats both big and small that you might be missing — while also taking a peek around the corner at what's ahead. Check in each Friday for news (and occasionally even views) on everything from sprawling RPGs to Metroidvania platformers to the latest in VR and free-to-play. We'll even throw in a good old-fashioned board game every now and then!
Even if they’ve been lucky enough to snag one at launch, PlayStation 5 fans will have to sit on the sidelines for a couple of days while the Xbox Series X and its smaller sibling, the Series S, bask in the spotlight as the first arrivals to the new generation of game consoles. For both Sony and Microsoft, it’s been a long buildup to what’s coming our way next week, with added layers of hype as people left with fewer fun things to do (thanks to COVID-19) turn increasingly to gaming as their go-to way to stay entertained.
With both the Series X and Series S releasing first — yep, we really are only days away from finally seeing the next gen come to life — gaming and tech outlets have been dropping reviews of both the new PlayStation and Xbox consoles after spending weeks of hands-on time. We’ll be hitting the PS5 in its own space now and in the days to come, but with the Series X coming as the earlier arrival, let’s take a first peek at what the critics are saying about Microsoft’s new entrant in the next-gen space.
Across the board, the consensus seems to be that the Series X is an absolute beast of a console on a technical level, and that it’ll likely be money well spent for anyone who’s aching for a console that can close the performance gap between TV-bound boxes and their always more-powerful PC cousins. Of course the caveat — at least at launch — is that there aren’t a lot of new ways for the Series X to show off the flashy side of all that power.
Unlike Sony with the PS5 and its slate of day-one next-gen exclusives, Microsoft’s launch lineup is mostly buttressed by current-gen games, backwards-compatible titles that look and run better on the X, and a couple of cross-platform new releases (like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion) that’ll likely impress nearly equally — no matter which flavor of console you choose. Microsoft is setting the stage with a live launch event next week that's set to kick off at 2 p.m. ET on Nov. 10, which might be worth checking out for any surprise games news (or just to get caught up in the all the buzzy next-gen madness).
With the pre-launch buzz out of the way, here’s a sampling of what the gaming and tech press have to say as the Xbox Series X reviews start to drop:
“We can only assume that the Xbox Series X will wow us with new and spectacular next-gen games eventually, because there isn’t much to judge it on right now. But…[t]his bold and minimalistically designed box is quiet, compact for both the power it packs and especially how it compares to the PS5, capable, and loaded with convenience features like instantly resuming and cycling between any of your recently played games. Compared directly to the PlayStation 5’s specs, it flat-out gives you more power for the same price. It’s going to be a joy to see what developers actually do with it in the coming years.” — Ryan McCaffrey, IGN
“The Xbox Series X looks like an Xbox One that swallowed a refrigerator, and runs like an Xbox One that swallowed a Lambo. It’s fast, sturdy, and unobtrusive, its goals and capabilities encapsulated in its brutalist industrial design...[It] isn’t the home of Microsoft’s gaming universe; it’s just one of many nodes, connecting outward to your phone, your tablet, your computer, or just a different (and cheaper) Xbox. It’s not the place to play video games. It’s a place to play video games — not only from the future, but also from the present and the past.” — Chris Plante, Polygon
“Microsoft has built what feels like an exciting PC upgrade experience in a console form. The Xbox Series X comes the closest I’ve ever witnessed to re-creating the superior PC experience of playing games, thanks to SSD storage, a far more powerful CPU, 120Hz support, and impressive backward compatibility features that improve existing games. This is all inside a $499 box that’s quieter and far easier to use and maintain than the $3,000 gaming PC I built a few weeks ago...There’s a reason the Xbox Series X even looks like a PC — it’s because it often feels like one.” — Tom Warren, The Verge
“On paper, the specs look killer – and like great value for money. But there’s nothing exclusive here at launch that helps to truly demonstrate that, and so that mission remains a question mark. It is TBC – it must be proved in the future, with software. Software is always what matters – without it, the hardware is useless, no matter how snazzy it is.” — Alex Donaldson, VG 24/7
“As a piece of hardware, the Xbox Series X is undeniably brilliant. Its speed, silence, and Quick Resume features really stand out, and its media versatility helps it make a case to be the main device you have connected to your TV. Whether games or video, whatever you do with the Series X will be a treat for the eyes…The biggest challenge the Series X faces is that there’s nothing that screams 'NEW!' about it yet. From the lackluster launch line-up to the near-identical UI, it feels more about continuity of experience than the ushering in of a new era.” — Matt Kamen, WIRED UK
Both the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S release on Tuesday, Nov. 10, with the Series X going for $499 and the Series S for $299.
Miles Morales sticks the PS5 landing
Thought the Series X was the only thing up for review this week? As Miles Morales might say — that'd just be shocking. The first reviews are trickling in today for Spider-Man: Miles Morales ahead of its debut later next week on Sony’s shiny new console, and in the early going, it looks like Insomniac Games’ evolving collaboration with Marvel is weaving its not-so-icky, sticky web around critics’ hearts.
We’ll have a bigger review roundup as the day unfolds, but there’s no way we can wrap the week up without slinging an early glance at Miles Morales’ high points. According to those who’ve played it, it’s a big list, headlined by a heartfelt story, a still-sizable adventure that’ll give PS5 players something deep to sink their fangs into from day one, and (of course), stunning visuals that put the PS5’s horsepower on full display.Here’s a small sampling of what the reviewers are saying so far:
“Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales may not be quite as packed with content as the original, but it stands out as an essential story in Insomniac’s Spidey Universe. It earns its spot as a fantastic follow-up, telling a wonderful Miles-specific story while improving upon the fundamentals of the first game with distinctive moves and enemies. And it’s an excellent way to break in your new PlayStation 5; it looks spectacular, loads fast, and makes fun use of the DualSense controller, the directional audio, and more. But regardless of which generation you play it on, it’s a worthy followup to one of the best superhero games ever made.” — Jonathon Dornbush, IGN
“No load times. Beautiful raytracing. The PlayStation 5 version of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a technical juggernaut that continually impresses. It is the ideal way to play the game if you can. Feeling the Venom flow through the controller is quite cool. That’s not to say the PlayStation 4 version is far behind, however. Marvel’s Spider-Man from 2018 remains one of the generation’s best-looking and playing games, and this game’s performance is in lockstep with it.” — Andrew Reiner, Game Informer
“[This game is a visual spectacle…I have not been sent a PlayStation 5 at the time of writing, so I cannot speak to the next-generation console’s ability to do ray tracing and so forth, but, even on my base PS4, this is without a doubt the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen. The colors, textures, contrasts, animations, variety, and motion left me feeling constantly breathless, agape at the amount of incredible attention to detail that Insomniac’s artists and engineers managed to crank out of my nearly 7-year-old machine.” — Tauriq Moosa, Polygon
With versions bound for both the PS4 and PS5, this is the game that’s likeliest to bridge the next-gen gap for Sony fans, regardless of whether they’ve lucked out and managed to nab a PS5 in the early going. It’s by far the PS5’s biggest launch game, and it comes with an impeccable pedigree — one that harkens back to 2018’s Spider-Man for the PS4, as well as some cool nods to Sony’s larger Spider-Verse ecosystem, which increasingly finds new ways to straddle both gaming and the big screen.
On top of that, the price is nice — a reflection of the game’s scaled-down size. The standard edition will go for $49.99, while the Ultimate Edition will cost $69.99 — a sum that’ll also net PS5 players a remastered copy of the original Spider-Man. Spider-Man: Miles Morales hits the streets on Nov. 12 — the same day as the PS5 makes its long-awaited debut.
Sony’s PS5 flight plan
Along with all the PS5 review fanfare, Sony has parted with some late information on what to expect if you’re set to get the new console when it launches next week (or soon after). With PS5 pre-orders still pretty much sold out wherever you look online, Sony said this week that the online sales path will continue to be the only way to land a PS5 when it arrives on Nov. 12. That means that, even though retailers will be able to sell the console on that day and beyond, the only way to get one will be to arrange a pre-order first.
In a blog post this week, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Sid Shuman said the online-only move is being done “[i]n the interest of keeping our gamers, retailers, and staff safe amidst COVID-19,” and that no units of either the $499 Standard version or the $399 Digital version of the PS5 will actually be placed on store shelves on launch day — so “please don’t plan on camping out or lining up at your local retailer…Be safe, stay home, and place your order online.”
Anyone who’s already ordered a PS5 for pick-up through on-site retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, or Target should still have no trouble heading to their destination store and driving away with their prize, though. Players “should still be able to do so at their designated appointment time, under the retailer’s safety protocols,” said Shuman.
Nintendo's big Switch numbers
Even Mario may not know what to do with this many coins. In a new update this week, Nintendo revealed that the Switch has just reached some rarified air, eclipsing the iconic NES in overall lifetime sales. That brings the Big N’s hybrid handheld up to second place on the all-time sales list for all Nintendo hardware, with only the Wii moving more units over the course of its 2006-2013 run.
In all, Nintendo has now sold 68.3 million Switch consoles since the versatile little package first debuted in March of 2017. That’s a pretty amazing figure when you consider it’s only been three and a half years since the Switch landed, especially set against the Wii’s 101 million in lifetime sales, which took close to 8 years to pull off. The Switch has sold so well this year, in fact, that the new numbers have compelled Nintendo to raise its earnings forecast by roughly 50 percent for the rest of its fiscal year (which runs through March 2021).
It’s not just Link’s home console that’s scooping up the rupees — the games themselves are soaring, too. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has now sold 14.27 million copies — an incredible number for a Switch-only title — while Super Mario 3D All-Stars, an HD-upgraded compilation of previous Mario platformers, has already sold 5.21 million copies since releasing in September.
With the holidays around the corner and people seeking more ways to have fun at home, Nintendo’s not letting off the gas anytime soon. Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity brings a new Zelda adventure to the Switch on Nov. 20, while Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light revisits an old NES classic with new English localization on Dec. 4. A ready-made Christmas present also is firing up the engines with Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit — an AR-based racing game that uses the Switch as your remote controller while you wheel Mario or Luigi around the house in their own very real (and very responsive) toy karts. All you’ve gotta do to keep the lead is supply a well-placed real-life banana peel or two.
- League of Legends is going solo for the first time ever, with Riot Games' Riot Forge studio revealing this week a new single-player LoL title called Ruined King: A League of Legends Story. Bound for consoles and PC, it’s a turn-based RPG tale from developer Airship Syndicate that features LoL champions Miss Fortune, Illaoi, Braum, Yasuo, Ahri, and Pyke as playable characters. There’s no exact release date yet, but Riot says Ruined King will arrive sometime early next year.
Joining Spidey at the PS5 launch party next week is Godfall, the next-gen, sci-fi melee brawler with powered-up armor sets that’s slated to land on Nov. 12. Publisher Gearbox showed off the above launch trailer this week, just to make sure you’re all set with a PS5 looter-shooter style combat title for a fun change of pace from all the Spider-Man: Miles Morales web-slinging.
- Square Enix and developer People Can Fly unloaded a ton of new info this week about Outriders, the spacey sci-fi shooter that’s heading soon to consoles and PC. The newest "Outriders Broadcast" update dials in on the game’s Technomancer, one of the four character classes that’ll define how you navigate the planet Enoch in your RPG-infused third-person adventure. Outriders was originally slated to be released in December, but Squeenix revealed this week that it’s pushing the game back for a Feb. 2 debut next year, when it’ll drop down for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC.
- News on Bethesda’s Starfield has been hard to come by since the sci-fi game was first announced back in 2018, and the latest update from studio mastermind Todd Howard doesn’t offer much in the way of finer details. But one new bit of info Howard did reveal during a developers’ conference this week might matter to Bethesda fans who’re longing for a new single-player story: Starfield apparently is being designed with them in mind. Whenever it does arrive, Starfield will be a single-player-only experience with no multiplayer components at all, said Howard, and it’ll use procedurally-generated elements to create in-game events (but not to create the world itself, as with roguelikes, or games like No Man’s Sky). There’s still no word on a release date, but Starfield is set to take its place alongside The Elder Scrolls as only the second new IP that Bethesda’s ever developed — which, from a studio that also publishes DOOM and Fallout, is kinda far-out.