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Steam Black Friday 2020: When is the Steam Autumn sale? When is next Steam sale?

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Steam sale fans could have another money-saving bonanza arriving soon, with the Steam Black Friday 2020 sale (aka the Steam Autumn sale) expected to be launching shortly. Valve typically don’t announce the dates and start times for their next Steam sale in advance, but PC gamers have a number of ways figuring this out. Typically it’s either through leaks or looking at previous launch schedules that helps Steam fans determine when is the next Steam sale.

So far there haven’t been any leaks surrounding a potential Steam Black Friday 2020 sale, but judging by past launches the Steam Autumn sale should be starting soon.

The Steam Black Friday 2020 sale is expected to launch on either Tuesday November 24 or Wednesday November 25.

We say either as last year the Steam Autumn sale for 2019 launched on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving – November 26 2019.

However, the Steam Database website says they anticipate this year’s edition of the Steam Autumn sale / Steam Black Friday sale will begin on Wednesday November 25.

A start time of 6pm GMT is expected, with the Steam Black Friday 2020 sale rumoured to be running for four days and ending at the same time on Tuesday December 1.

We’ll have to wait and see to find out, so be sure to check in on both Tuesday and Wednesday in case Steam discounts go live then.

Looking at the type of discounts Steam players may be about to get, last year’s Steam Autumn sale took money off titles such as Gears 5, Code Vein, Cities: Skylines and The Crew 2.

While The Surge 2 and Dead Cells also received a price cut. The start of the last year’s Steam Autumn sale also saw nominations for the Steam Awards open.

The awards were broken down into the following categories: Game of the Year, VR Game of the Year, Labour of Love, Better With Friends, Most Innovative, Outstanding Story-Rich Game, Best Game You Suck At and Outstanding Visual Style.

Announcing the start of the last Steam Autumn sale, Valve said: “The 2019 Steam Autumn Sale is now live, with great deals across the Steam catalog through Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Check in each day to see the new featured titles on the front page, plus personalised recommendations.

“In addition to the thousands of great games that are on discount, join us in our fourth-annual Steam Awards and nominate your favourite games across all eight categories, and earn profile XP and badges for participating! Your nominations will help determine the finalists for each category.

“In December, you can vote on the winners for each category during the Steam Winter Sale.”

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PS Plus December 2020 free PS4, PS5 games: Horizon Zero Dawn, Dark Souls and Worms Rumble?

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PlayStation Plus subscribers are eagerly awaiting the free PS4 and PS5 games reveal for December 2020.

The next batch of free PS Plus games are likely to be revealed at 4.30pm UK time on November 25.

Assuming Sony goes the traditional route, the PS Plus free games will be available to download less than a week later on December 1.

With the December 2020 PS Plus reveal closing in fast, fans have been having fun making predictions about the next batch of free games.

In the latest PlayStation Plus predictions thread over on Reddit, fans believe that Horizon Zero Dawn could make an appearance as one of the free PS4 games.

First-party game Horizon Zero Dawn was left out of the PlayStation Plus Collection on PS5, perhaps because Sony is saving it for PS Plus in December.

The same is true of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, which is the only Uncharted release not to have made an appearance on PS Plus.

It might be wishful thinking, but there are also lots of predictions for Dark Souls Remastered. Fans argue that an appearance on PS Plus would inspire people to check out PS5 launch title Demon’s Souls.

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin and Dark Souls 3 also get multiple mentions in the latest predictions thread.

Elsewhere, there are mentions for everything from No Man’s Sky and Watch Dogs 2, to Nier Automata and Firewatch.

Little Nightmares continues to be a popular choice, as well as Spyro Collection, Assassin’s Creed Unity and a Far Cry game.

Needless to say, you can’t have a monthly predictions thread without The Order: 1886 making an appearance. Maybe one day.

What’s less clear is whether or not any PS5 games will be included in the December 2020 PS Plus line-up.

PlayStation Plus subscribers can currently download the PS5 version of Bugsnax as part of their membership. 

The charming PS5 launch game is free to PS Plus subscribers until January 6, which has led to speculation that there won’t be another free PS5 game until then.

However, some fans are convinced that the PS5 version of Worms Rumble will be available as a free PS Plus download in December.

Sony used to give away two PS4 games, two PS3 games and two PlayStation Vita games every month, so there’s nothing to say the company won’t do the same for the PS5 and PS4.

In the meantime, PlayStation Plus subscribers can download the current line-up of Middle-earth Shadow of War and Hollow Knight on PS4.

“Set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Middle-earth: Shadow of War beckons you once more into JRR Tolkien’s iconic world of wizards, orcs and elves,” reads the official description.

“Go behind enemy lines to forge your army, conquer Fortresses and dominate Mordor from within.

“Experience how the Nemesis System creates unique personal stories with every enemy and follower, and confront the full power of the Dark Lord Sauron and his Ringwraiths in this epic new story of Middle-earth.”

Hollow Knight, meanwhile, is a critically-acclaimed 2D platformer that’s like a cross between Castlevania, Metroid and Dark Souls.

“In Team Cherry’s engrossing 2D explorative platformer, descend into a sprawling underground world of Hollownest to battle tainted creatures and befriend bizarre bugs.

“Unlock new skills and tailor your power sets to fit your playstyle to help you explore twisting caverns, ancient cities and deadly wastes. Uncover a kingdom’s ancient history, taking on epic bosses that’ll challenge your combat and platforming skills as you strive to solve the mysteries buried at its heart.”

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Now You Can Video Chat In Fortnite Through Houseparty

Epic Games acquired the Houseparty app in 2019 and now the company has finally revealed how that will positively impact Fortnite. For those interested, you can now voice chat in Fortnite thanks to this app, adding yet another layer of social connectedness to the battle royale game. 

The update for video chat compatibility is live beginning today, allowing players to enjoy in-game events and Victory Royale hopefuls a chance to be even more social while playing this online experience. With in-game concerts, end-of-season special events, and so many more components beyond simple running and gunning, this additional component brings the community together in yet another way. 

According to Epic Games, Housparty video chat will be available for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC players that have an iOS or Android mobile device with the app installed. Once the app is active and the Epic Games account is linked within it, the video chatting party can commence. 

Here’s how to get started: 

  1. Open Houseparty on iOS or Android and Connect to Fortnite through Settings or the TV icon.
  2. Join your friends like you normally would or invite them to join you
  3. Fire up Fortnite on a PC or PlayStation
  4. Continue talking to your friends while you play

For those that take part in this new social extension, linking that Epic Games account to Houseparty will also unlock a special Rainbow Fog Wrap, which can be seen above. 

Because the Houseparty integration isn’t available on all platforms yet, Epic is giving players interested in the above wrap another way to earn it. According to the company, “We know that Houseparty video chat is not available on all platforms, so we’re giving you another way to get the Rainbow Fog Wrap. Between November 20 (12:00 AM ET) and November 26 (11:59 PM ET) if you play five matches of Fortnite with friends, you’ll receive the wrap by December 4, 2020.”

You can learn more about voice chat in Fortnite with Epic Games’ latest blog post here. You can also learn more about the latest Marvel skin to make it into the battle royale title with our previous coverage for Nexus Wars. 

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Animal Crossing Winter Update: Event schedule and save transfers for Nintendo Switch game

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Animal Crossing New Horizons is getting a free update later this week, and just in time for winter.

The new Animal Crossing Winter Update has been given a November 19 release date by Nintendo.

With the Winter Update installed, you’ll be able to transfer your islands and save data to another Nintendo Switch system.

In order to transfer save and island data, players will need to download the free Island Transfer Tool app from the Nintendo eShop.

You’ll also get an upgrade to your home storage, which will increase your space to 2,400 slots. Needless to say, you’ll only be able to access the expanded storage if you’ve paid off your debt to Tom Nook.

Nintendo explains more: “If you’ve expanded your in-game home to its largest size and paid off your debt, you’ll now be able to apply for a home storage expansion by speaking to Tom Nook at Resident Services.

“Congrats on achieving the next level of home ownership. This will expand your home storage to 2400 slots. Think of all the items you can now store and access from the comfort of your island home!”

Elsewhere, the Winter Update also ushers in a host of special seasonal events, beginning with Turkey Day on November 26.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/AQuucamIYjQ

“On Turkey Day, which will take place this year on Nov. 26, the first-class chef Franklin will arrive and host a gathering in the plaza,” Nintendo continues.

“You can help Franklin collect ingredients to go in the dishes that will be on display in the plaza. You can even receive a gift from Franklin as a thank you for helping him cook.”

This will be followed by “Toy Day” on December 24. On this day, players will be visited by Jingle, who will reward players with a bonus gift if they help him deliver presents.

The countdown to Toy Day begins in the coming weeks, as Nintendo adds holiday decorations to the map.

“Keep an eye out for decorated trees, too. Shaking these may drop ornaments which will allow you to craft holiday furniture recipes.”

Players can purchase toys from Nook’s Cranny from December 1 to December 25, as well as holiday-themed clothing from the Able Sisters’ shop.

And the events don’t end there, as Nintendo adds even more items in the build up to New Year’s Eve. That’s on top of a special countdown event to usher in the big day.

Finally, Animal Crossing New Horizons players can obtain nine new reactions and six new hairstyles with the new update.

Fans can purchase the new content by redeeming Nook Miles in Resident Services.

There’s also a pretty interesting new feature where you can choose to visit random islands while dreaming. This should give players even more inspiration when designing their islands.

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Playing Video Games Make You Smarter

Video games once seemed to be the undoing of kids of the 1970s, just as mobile addiction is a scary concept for parents of young millennials.

Children were thought to neglect their studies, become asocial, and shun outdoor activities. However, these may have been knee-jerk reactions to new technologies. Many people now claim that playing video games actually makes you smarter. Research has also shown that video games can result in positive structural brain changes.

Cognitive Skills and Memory

Video games are thought to cognitive skills even years after people stop playing. A doctoral study, which involved 27 gamers and non-gamers between 18 and 40 years, showed that people who played before adolescence but play no longer, performed better with tasks that require storage and manipulation of information to accomplish results. The study was published in Frontiers of Neuroscience by Marc Palaus and his superiors at the Cognitive NeuroLab of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).

Cognitive skills and working memories were tested thrice: before training on play Nintendo’s Super Mario 64, at the end of the training, and 15 days after. Different genres of video games can enhance cognitive functions in different ways. The games involve progressive challenges that make people want to play more and more.

According to Palaus, These two things are enough to make it an attractive and motivating activity, which requires constant and intense use of our brain’s resources.

He goes on to say that video games are perfect for strengthening cognitive ability without the players even noticing it. However, he qualifies this statement by stressing that these enhancements have limited effect on performance of other tasks not related to gaming, as is the case with most modules used in the formal training of cognitive skills.

Attention and Response Times

A study compared 27 expert video gamers and 30 amateur ones and found that action games involved larger volumes of grey matter. Another study by Green and Bavelier published in Current Biology found that video games enhance perception, focus and attention. It found that video games improve problem-solving and decision-making abilities in competitive scenarios.

Video gamers, particularly those who play action games, are required to focus on specific objects, which are often present amidst other, irrelevant elements. This helps players to acquire mental skills to pay attention to a single entity surrounded by numerous distractions.  Players can also better keep track of fast-moving objects than people who don’t play video games.  They exhibit a higher level of spatial awareness.

A test often used for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) screenings found that people who played video games had faster response times without sacrificing accuracy for speed. The test displayed the responses as being anticipatory; the participants who played video games relied on prediction rather than reaction after the fact. The study concluded that video gamers can respond faster to emerging scenarios without being more impulsive than non-gamers. So, simply put, we can say that mobile gaming has changed the landscape.

Problem-Solving Abilities

Video games require players to solve various problems. A 2013 study published in Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that playing games involving strategy was related to problem-solving capabilities, which impacted school grades. This showed that children who were more disposed to playing video games displayed better problem-solving abilities. This can be contradictory to what parents and teachers may want to believe about students prone to video gaming.

Another study conducted by Michigan State University scholars on 500 12-year olds found that children who played more video games were more creative when it came to drawing and writing. The improvement in creativity and imagination was not related to whether the games were violent or non-violent. Moreover, it was also found that the usage of computers, internet and mobile phones, apart from playing games was unrelated to the rise in creativity.

A study conducted by the University of Glasgow also established that students who played video games displayed better resourcefulness and flexibility and had better communications skills. These were linked to critical thinking and the ability to learn reflectively, traits that employers look for when hiring graduates out of college.

Decision-Making Skills

A study published in Policy Insights in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences explored ways to enhance conventional training methods used to improve decision-making capabilities and reduce bias. The researchers found that playing interactive video games made for better general decision-making abilities, both in the short-term and long-term. Inclination towards bias dropped to 31% in immediate testing and by 23% after three months.

Issues and Conclusion

Intelligence is a broad and multi-dimensional subject, so it is difficult to measure if video games really make one smarter. Though the studies mentioned above generally make a case for it, some elements of these studies may bring the accuracy or universality of the results into question.

Participants know whether they are in the experimental or the control group, which can lead to bias.

Furthermore, though we can measure how video games affect aspects of cognition, it is still unclear to what degree the games enhance cognition. However, all the different studies do point to the fact that people who play video games tend to display higher cognitive, creative, problem-solving, and decision-making capabilities.

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Square Enix fans can relive one of Final Fantasy 7’s most iconic scenes in real life

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Anyone that has played through Final Fantasy 7 – whether that’s back in the 90s when they popped a disc into their PS1, or in the subsequent ports or recent remake – will be familiar with the Mako Reactor 1 run. It’s the backdrop to a memorable opening to Final Fantasy 7, as Cloud and members of the eco-terrorist group Avalanche stick it to Shinra by blowing up one eight reactors that powers the city of Midgar. From Cloud’s flamboyant entrance, to the Guard Scorpion boss battle, to the race against the clock to escape – it’s an iconic opening salvo to the beloved JRPG which is etched into the memories of so many gamers.

And now Final Fantasy fans will soon be able to re-create this memorable scene thanks to a new escape room that is set to open in Japan.

The Final Fantasy 7 escape room will be opening in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district at the Tokyo Mystery Circus venue.

Teams of up to three people will have 30 minutes to infiltrate and destroy Mako Reactor 1, all the while interacting with Cloud and members of Avalance via a tablet computer.

Participants will also be able to use Materia to cast magic, and will have to deal with fire from Shinra soldiers.

If a member of team is shot by a Shinra soldier then a chunk of time on the time limit for the escape room will be eaten away.

The attraction is opening on December 9, and slots will be available on an hourly basis from 12pm on weekdays and 10am on weekends, with an 8pm close time, according to Siliconera.

If you want to see what the Final Fantasy 7 escape room looks like in action then check out this trailer for it.

The news comes as FF7 fans are waiting for the first official reveal on the next part of the Final Fantasy 7 Remake project.

After a wait of almost two decades, the long talked about Final Fantasy 7 Remake at last released earlier this year in March.

But the story doesn’t end with that PS4 release, as Square Enix are taking an ‘episodic’ approach with the FF7 Remake.

It remains to be seen how many instalments there will be but fans are guaranteed to get at least one more FF7R game.

Earlier this year Final Fantasy 7 Remake director Tetsuya Nomura told Famitsu that he wanted to release part 2 “as soon as possible”, with work on it already begun.

Nomura-san said: “We know that everyone wants the next instalment quickly. We would also like to deliver it as soon as possible. Since we were also able to see the line of quality from the first instalment, we hope to make the next instalment even better in quality that can make for an even better experience.

“We would like to get it out as soon as possible, so please wait for it. I think we can clearly convey the direction when we officially announce the next instalment.”

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Dirt 5 Xbox Series X review: The best arcade racer since Sega Rally?

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From the original Ridge Racer on the PlayStation, to Forza Motorsport 5 on the Xbox One, the racing genre feels like the perfect fit to show off a new console.

In lieu of a new Forza game to usher in the Xbox Series X/S era, the task of giving racing fans their next-gen driving kicks falls to Codemasters.

Unsurprisingly, the UK studio handles the job with aplomb, delivering an awesome racing experience with some fantastic courses and impressive weather effects.

The polar opposite of simulation racers like Dirt Rally, Dirt 5 feels like it’s been plucked directly from a late 1990s arcade.

From the refreshingly straightforward career mode, to the ability to create your own vehicular playgrounds, Dirt 5 has that short-burst pick up and play appeal.

It’s fast-paced, bright and colourful, featuring flamboyant vehicles, garish trackside decorations, and nifty visual effects like fireworks, flames, confetti, smoke, mud, snow, rain and dirt.

You’ll race in locations spread across the globe, from the muddy forests of Brazil, to the frosty surroundings of Norway, and everywhere in-between.

Courses in Greece and Italy are a particular highlight, as you get a nice mixture of mud, tarmac and gravel, which you really feel through the Xbox Series X controller – albeit there seems to be a recent bug where controller vibrations only work half of the time.

The campaign utilises a fairly basic branching career path, where players typically get to choose between two events at a time. Compared to some racing games where career mode options can be pretty overwhelming, I kind of like this simple, stripped back approach.

Indeed, with Xbox Series X loading times dropping players into races within about 12 seconds, Dirt 5 is all action.

There are Rally Raid races that take you from point to point, as well as circuit races over multiple laps, and even Overpass-style Path Finder events that are less about going flat-out, and more about controlled speed, braking and angles of approach.

With dynamic weather and harsher conditions, Ultra Cross events are my favourite, and really showcase the power of the Xbox Series X.

The best of the bunch is the Drama in the Harbour event that takes place in Henningsvaer, Norway. Going from day to night with heavy snow and even a bit of lightning, it’s a seriously spectacular sight.

I also like the way you can set your own weather and racing conditions in the arcade mode, something which breathes new life into familiar courses – like when you make it snow in Arizona.

There’s always lots happening on screen, the performance is rock-solid, and the vehicles big and bold. The only thing missing is extensive car damage beyond general scrapes and scratches.

While I’m sure the Xbox Series X and PS5 will produce better looking games as the console generation goes on, Dirt 5 is an impressive start.

Back to the career mode, the biggest problem with Dirt 5’s skeletal campaign is that you really notice when a race type or event isn’t to your liking – I didn’t care for the ice river races in New York, for example.

While this generally doesn’t present much of a problem – you’ve typically always got two events to choose from – there were a few occasions when I either had to suck it up and play an event I didn’t like, or go back to where the path split and play through a different series of races.

There’s also a storyline of sorts, which is presented through podcast recordings that play out on the menu screens.

So inconsequential is the narrative that I completely zoned out after about an hour or so. I think it’s got something to do with a rivalry between Nolan North and Troy Baker, presumably about who has the most video game voiceover credits. I don’t know, I wasn’t really listening.

At least Codemasters hasn’t shoehorned in a load of unnecessary cutscenes, which is one of my biggest bugbears in racing games.

Players can also earn medals by performing randomly assigned objectives during races. Tasking players with things like trading paint, drifting and catching air, the objectives are fairly uninteresting, although they’re straightforward enough that you’ll unlock most without even trying.

Despite these flaws, Dirt 5 excels where it matters most, and that’s when you’re going full throttle around the game’s rich and diverse selection of courses.

Throw in a selection of unique online modes – like a team-based vehicular tag mode called Vampire – plus the ability to create your own tracks and arenas, and Dirt 5 should scratch that racing itch until we get a new Gran Turismo and Forza.

VERDICT: 4/5

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Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War release date, launch time, download size, prices, MAPS

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One of the biggest and best weeks for gaming fans is about to be capped off with the release of Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War.

The new Call of Duty game has a November 13 release date on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC.

As the name suggests, the latest Black Ops game takes place during the 1980s Cold War era.

The single-player campaign transports players to locations such as East Berlin, Turkey, Vietnam and Russia.

Needless to say, Cold War also features an extensive multiplayer suite, offering a collection of new and classic game modes, not to mention the fan-favourite Zombies mode.

Activision’s Warzone Battle Royale spinoff will also contain multiple Cold War tie-ins, as Activision continues to expand its free-to-play hit.

If this has given you a thirst to play Activision’s first-person shooter sensation at launch, then the good news is that you don’t have long to wait.

The PlayStation and Xbox versions of Black Ops Cold War have a midnight launch time in all regions.

PC fans will have to wait slightly longer, with the new game playable at 5am GMT UK time.

Of course, the exact time you can start playing really all depends on whether you’ve pre-loaded the game or not.

The Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War file size is huge, especially on next-gen platforms like PS5 and Xbox Series X, where you’ll need more than 130GB of space on your hard drive.

As for current-gen platforms, the PlayStation 4 version weighs in at 95GB, compared to 93GB for Xbox One.

Over on PC, fans will need 35GB of space for multiplayer, and 82GB of space for the full game. If you’ve got a really powerful PC, then the full Black Ops Cold War experience with Ultra Graphics settings will require 125GB of space.

Fortunately, you can pick and choose which parts to install on different platforms, so you could always start with the campaign, before downloading the multiplayer.

Speaking of multiplayer, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War contains a wealth of different maps and game modes, including all of the classic 6-v-6 matches we’ve come to know and love, as well as 12-v-12 Combined Arms modes, and the huge 40-person Fireteam mode.

Maps such as Checkmate, Garrison, Miami, Cartel, Crossroads, Moscow, Armada and Satellite are all playable in the game’s 6-v-6 multiplayer modes.

The 12-vs-12 Combined Arms modes are currently playable on Cartel, Crossroads and Armada, while Fireteam can be played on the brand new Ruka and Alpine maps.

Fireteam Dirty Bomb is a unique new game mode which sees ten teams of four compete to collect uranium and detonate dirty bombs.

“Fireteam: Dirty Bomb cranks the action up to 11 with multi-squad insanity,” Activision explains.

“A total of 40 players broken out into 10 teams will compete to take out enemies, collect uranium caches, locate Dirty Bombs scattered throughout the map, and successfully deposit their uranium into said bombs to detonate them and get the win.”

If you’re interested in picking up a copy of Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War at launch, then there are multiple different versions available.

On PS4 and PS5, fans can pick up the Ultimate Edition for £89.99 from the PlayStation Store. The Standard Edition costs £59.99 on PS4, while a cross-platform bundle is priced at £64.99 for PS5.

Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One versions are available for the same prices over on the Microsoft website.

If you would rather a physical copy, then ShopTo is selling current-gen versions for £58.85, and next-gen versions for £62.85.

GAME, on the other hand, is selling the Xbox One and PS4 versions for £64.99 and the PS5 and Xbox Series X cross-platform versions for £69.99.

The new Call of Duty is slightly cheaper at Argos, where Black Ops Cold War prices start at £59.99.

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Xbox Series X review: Speed, power and performance, but lacking next-gen flair

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The Xbox Series X is a solid, workmanlike console that feels more evolutionary than revolutionary.

It’s got the speed, power and performance nailed down, but it lacks the same next-gen flair as the PS5.

Think of it like the Ricky Steamboat to the PS5’s Ric Flair; the Niki Lauda to Sony’s James Hunt; and the George Foreman to PlayStation’s Muhammad Ali (George Foreman was actually pretty charismatic, but you get my point).

In many respects the Xbox Series X is superior to the PS5, but the more exciting next-gen PlayStation will get the headlines.

The Xbox Series X is certainly the better looking of the two new consoles, sporting a towering design that looks like a dark monolith dedicated to the gods of gaming.

It may have gotten a lot of stick when it was revealed – and it’s nice to see Microsoft embrace the fridge memes – but I actually quite like the way it looks.

You may have a tough time fitting it under your TV – even on its side it’s pretty bulky – but the grated top with a splash of Xbox green looks rather striking.

On a practical note, the grated top ensures the powerful next-gen device doesn’t overheat, or make much noise. The trade-off is that it lets out more hot air than Donald Trump.

Seriously, if your heating ever goes down and your hands are cold, just turn on your Xbox Series X, pop in a 4K/60fps stunner, and use it as a fan heater to warm yourself up.

That’s not necessarily a knock on the console, but for safety’s sake, it is worth keeping the top clear and unobstructed when you’re playing.

Going back to an earlier point, nothing sums up Microsoft’s evolutionary approach more than the controller, which is basically just an Xbox One pad with a few upgrades.

In fairness to Microsoft, there was very little wrong with the Xbox One controller, which is one of the most shapely and comfortable around. Particularly suited to modern shooting and racing games, Microsoft has clearly gone down the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ route.

My favourite thing about the new Xbox controller is the D-pad, which despite being a bit loud and a tad ‘clicky’, is finally fit for purpose when playing arcade classics and 2D fighting games.

If you’d rather plug in an arcade stick for your brawlers, the Xbox Series X is also compatible with existing Xbox One accessories, which is another major plus and potential money-saver for customers.

Long-time Xbox fans will also notice the textured back and textured trigger buttons, which are presumably there to improve your grip during sweaty gaming sessions.

If you don’t have sweaty hands or your name is Prince Andrew, then it’s a minor change that won’t make much of a difference. For the rest of us, however, it’s another tick in the pros column.

Elsewhere, there’s now a conveniently placed capture button for recording clips and grabbing screenshots, as well as additional and improved rumble functionality.

While the improved rumble greatly benefits games like Dirt 5 – where you get a real sense of the different surfaces through the controller – the PlayStation 5 haptic feedback and adaptive triggers are in a whole different league, making Microsoft’s efforts seem rather ordinary by comparison.

The sense of familiarity continues when you turn on the Xbox Series X and are greeted by what is essentially the same dashboard as the Xbox One.

This is all part of Microsoft’s strategy of unifying its ecosystem, where content is shared and scaled between devices. No complaints there.

After years of improvements, the Xbox dashboard is the best it’s ever been, but it doesn’t feel particularly fresh or exciting.

Much more exciting are new features like Quick Resume, which lets users speedily switch between different games and continue where they left off.

Once you’ve got a few games loaded up, using the Quick Resume feature is as simple as hitting the Xbox button, selecting a different game from the menu, and waiting a few seconds for your games to switch. 

Think of it like having multiple tabs open on a computer and switching between them. It even works when you turn your Xbox off and back on again.

I did have some issues switching between older games – particularly classic Sega games, strangely enough – although it worked quickly and seamlessly with pretty much everything else. 

As well as being a potentially fun and convenient tool, Quick Resume really highlights the speed and power of the Xbox Series X.

Starting games, loading up the console itself and switching between titles is incredibly speedy. Xbox Series X loads most original Xbox and Xbox 360 games within seconds, and can potentially shave minutes off some of the more demanding Xbox One games.

Judging by pre-release tests on like-for-like games, the loading times seem to be quicker on Xbox Series X than PS5, so that’s a nice bonus.

As you would expect from such a powerful machine, games that have been optimised for Xbox Series X look fantastic and perform smoothly.

Gears 5 and Dirt 5 were the early pace-setters in the looks and performance department, although Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has impressed me in the very short time I’ve had with the game since its midnight launch.

As shiny and smooth as these games look and play, this does, however, bring me to my biggest criticism of the Xbox Series X, which is the lack of killer apps to really kickstart the next-generation.

The Xbox Series X launch line-up features plenty of heavy-hitting third-party releases, but no major console or platform exclusives that really show off the machine’s power.

When you buy a new console you want something that wouldn’t be possible on the devices you’ve paid big bucks to leave behind, and the Series X doesn’t really have that.

Yes, games like Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4 and Sea of Thieves have never looked better than they do on Xbox Series X, but it’s not the same as a brand new game that’s custom built for the hardware.

On the plus side, Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service has never been more appealing. For £7.99 (or £10.99 if you opt for an Ultimate subscription with multiplayer access), Xbox Game Pass is incredible value for money.

The addition of EA Play titles and Bethesda releases means you’ll have access to literally hundreds of games with your subscription. This includes first-party releases like Sea of Thieves, Gears 5, Halo Master Chief Collection and Forza Horizon 4, as well as third-party hits like Final Fantasy 15, Kingdom Hearts 3, Battlefield 5 and Monster Hunter World.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/A4xHjZA7eYY

With Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda, you’re also getting games like Doom Eternal, Fallout 76 and Elder Scrolls Online, not to mention future games on the day of release – the next Elder Scrolls, Starfield and inevitable Fallout sequel, for example.

The same is true of upcoming Microsoft games like Halo Infinite, which subscribers will be able to play on day one.

Indeed, get an Xbox Series X with a Game Pass subscription for Christmas, and you may never have to buy a new game again.

With impressive technology powering the device and an excellent subscription service to keep players entertained, the Xbox Series X is a great choice and good value for anybody looking to purchase a powerful new games console this holiday season.

It’s not the most exciting new console ever released, but it’s got the power, speed and potential to make a big impact for years to come.

VERDICT: 4/5

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PS5 pre-order stock: Launch day re-stock times confirmed for this week

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PS5 fans have struggled to pre-order the device ahead of the console’s launch.

The PlayStation 5 has been given a November 12 release date in the US, and a November 19 release date in the UK and Europe.

Unfortunately, however, the console sold out at record-breaking speed, leaving many fans unable to buy one for launch day.

The good news is that despite the stock shortages, retailers on both sides of the pond have announced plans to re-stock the console at launch.

In the US, PlayStation 5 fans can grab the next-gen console from Walmart, where it will go on sale at multiple points throughout the day.

According to a recent tweet by the US retailer, sale times include 12pm ET, 3pm ET, 6pm ET and 9pm ET.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the PS5 will only be available to order online, so don’t visit the stores in person.

“The day you’ve all been waiting for is almost here: the #PS5 is coming 11/12 for online orders only!” reads a Walmart tweet.

“If you missed out on preorders, you’ll have four chances to order throughout the day.”

In the UK, high street store GAME has confirmed plans to re-stock the console at launch.

In an email sent out to fans, GAME announced plans to sell the PS5 online on November 19. With the date still over a week away, GAME advises fans to check back for details closer to the date.

Needless to say, Express Online will keep you updated as this story progresses.

“PS5 console ordering update: The PS5 console will be made available to order online only on launch day, Thursday 19th November,” reads a GAME tweet.

“Units will not be available for in-store purchase, please continue to check back online for further updates.”

It’s no surprise the console is proving so popular, especially with all the positive reviews it has received in recent days.

Express Online has spent some time getting to grips with the new console, and can confirm that the hype is real.

Despite a bulky design and hefty weight, the PS5 console is a true powerhouse capable of delivering some incredible experiences.

Spider-Man Miles Morales doesn’t just run exceptionally well on the new device, but it also supports nifty new graphical features like ray-tracing for better lighting and reflections.

But arguably the real highlight is Astro’s Playroom, which showcases the new DualSense controller.

Thanks to the console’s advanced haptic feedback functionality, it feels like you’re walking on grass, getting battered by heavy winds and skating on ice.

The adaptive triggers, on the other hand, provide extra resistance when your character uses a bow to fire at distant targets.

It’s an incredible new controller with some exciting implications for future games coming to the device.

Check back soon for a full review of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.

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