The biggest Xbox stories of 2017

Starting to turn things around?

Microsoft has traded its default loadout for god-tier gear this year by bringing Xbox One X to store shelves. Xbox has also been associated with several of the most exciting names in gaming, among them PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Cuphead, and Sea of Thieves.

For the foreseeable future, Xbox represents The World’s Most Powerful Console, meaning that third-party titles which include Assassin’s Creed Origins and Shadow of War do perform significantly better on Xbox One X than PS4 Pro. Only powerful and expensive PCs have the edge over Xbox One X, making future titles Monster Hunter and Anthem more desirable.

All Xbox One owners are being treated to an ever-increasing range of games, bolstered by the classics contained in the formidable Xbox back catalogue. Xbox feels awesome again.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds console exclusive

Microsoft swooped to claim the PC software success story of the year as a console exclusive for Xbox One. The 100-player Battle Royale caper dubbed PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds had shifted an incredible 20 million copies inside of eight months, before it landed on Xbox One in December, whereupon it sold through one million console editions inside of 48 hours.

Such was the popularity of PUBG at launch that Microsoft moved to include the game, free of charge, to US customers purchasing an Xbox One X between December 17 - 31, 2017.

The announcement by Brendan Greene during Microsoft’s E3 2017 conference underlined a commitment to bringing top-tier games to the upcoming World’s Most Powerful Console, the Xbox One X. While it was great news for all Xbox One owners, with the Xbox One S doing respectable numbers at retail, Greene was quick to point out that the Xbox One X would benefit from performance enhancements. This would be the Xbox narrative for the year.

Xbox One X launch a strategic success

After suffering the position of second class to Sony for so long, Microsoft is now, at long last, able to parade Xbox as The World’s Most Powerful Console. Xbox One X landed November 7 and straightaway prompted ‘…versus PS4 Pro’ analysis across the web. It was an instant win across the board, allowing Microsoft to continue rebuilding its reputation among gamers.

Even with its $499 price tag, the outlay is comparatively small to similar spec PCs if Gears of War 4 in native 4K 30fps or for 1080p 60fps in HDR is what you signed up for. But it is the 4K performance that matters most, with a UHD Blu-ray drive also adding to its appeal (a feature not available on PS4 Pro). X enhanced Forza 7 is a showroom you need to avoid unless prepared to accept that the basic Xbox One doesn’t come close to this performance.

Original Xbox Games on Xbox One

Backwards compatibility has been a commendable asset for Xbox since Xbox 360. News that original Xbox games were coming to Xbox One was warmly greeted at E3 2017 in June, and enthusiastically reported when the initial line-up of 13 titles was officially named in October.

The Xbox One Backward Compatibility program ensures that all legacy games added are enhanced, allowing e.g. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Psychonauts, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time to be up-scaled to 1080p. Loading times are reduced, frame rates are smoother. System Link still works for local multiplayer, but sadly the online servers are not being resurrected for favourites further down the line. The screen ratio is 4:3 for the most part, but if the original game boasted 16:9 (i.e. Ninja Gaiden) this is still supported.

If you own the disc, insert this and you’re good. Otherwise visit the Xbox Store to purchase digitally. New old (old new?) games will be added whenever possible, although a Microsoft spokesperson has said that not everything is guaranteed owing to legalities or technicalities.

Sea of Thieves launch date and details

This unique online pirating adventure sets sail March 20 2018, and the studio responsible, Rare, has been spilling the beans on what more to expect. Specifically, the incentives and rewards for plundering pirate caves, diving spooky shipwrecks, engaging in sea battles and interacting with the world’s resident salty dog NPCs.

Every player follows their own story, forging their own legend, sailing their own ships along with their crews. Each individual pirate can be customised (hooks, clothing, weapons). They may also carry a variety of equipment and weapons. Completed objectives build reputation with factions located around the Sea of Thieves: Gold Hoarders are here to treasure hunt, a Merchant Alliance controls trade, while the Order of Souls seeks to contain all the magic.

Voyages, in the form of scrolls, introduce game mechanics according to your own progress. Somebody with a bright, gleaming Voyage is likely to have lots of experience and therefore worth impressing – if you wish to tag along. We really can’t wait to team up and get started.

Indie gem Cuphead rightly honoured

StudioMDHR’s 1930s cartoon-style run-and-gun proved that Microsoft still has an eye for exquisite software, having claimed this as an Xbox One console exclusive in 2016.

Cuphead, released September 29, has been critically acclaimed and collected a truckload of awards, including Best Visual Design and Best Xbox Game of the Year at the Golden Joysticks 2017; Best Independent Game, and Best Art Direction at The Game Awards 2017.

Cuphead will also collect a Special Achievement Award during the American animation industry’s Annies on February 3, 2018. Also, two members of the StudioMDHR team are nominated for their Outstanding Achievement for Character Animation in a Video Game.

Congratulations to all at StudioMDHR for such a wonderful (and challenging) adventure!

Writer

Paul’s first videogame was Space Invaders in 1978, which gives away his age a bit. We put his encyclopedic knowledge of the beforetimes to good use in our Retro coverage. If you want to reach Paul, you can email or tweet him @FutureKick.

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