Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The payoff

I want to talk about Quantum Break but I have not played enough of it to fully have an opinion. The ratio of game play to rather well done live action movie bits is a tad off, but that was just in the first two hours. There is also a specific ability that very much trips the Max Payne 2 parts of my brain and that feels fucking great.

Instead of that I will talk about the Xbox One S, a piece of hardware that very few people should purchase that has managed to become one my favorite things over the course of one night, minus its janky controller.

But first, a story.

I have already chronicled, either here or on the podcast, my purchase of a new, reasonably sized and priced, 4K HDR television. It is a good TV but nothing I owned took advantage of its bells and whistles. Its purchase was, to be honest, part of a larger plan to justify the upgrade from my day one Xbox One to the Xbox One S. Together they would represent a true upgrade over what I had before and pave the way for the real 4K systems that are coming out next year.

Monday night, with some trepidation because I do not fully trust that all of my saves were backed up to Microsoft's servers, I removed all of the accounts from my Xbox One and packed it up for the trip to Gamestop. I did not actually default the console, something that would come back to bite me the next day when I tried to trade it in. I had turned all of the video settings up as high as possible, even ones that I did not understand, because my TV supported it.

Gamestop's PS3 era testing station did not support these settings, the color depth to be specific, so they could not verify that it worked and I could not trade it in. The person I dealt with was quite apologetic but there was nothing he could do. He quietly suggested that I take it home and default it, to which I replied that if I left without trading it in I would not be coming back.

A hollow threat. I walked out with two consoles, returned to my office, connected the old one to a monitor so I could see what I was doing, and was back at the same Gamestop within two hours.

Unboxing a new console is always a good time even when it is only a marginal improvement over its predecessor. I pulled it out of the box, immediately disliked the white color, but set it up anyway. The controller is not quite the same as the one I already had. It feels slightly smaller and much more cheaply made, to the point where the back of the controller pops in and out if it is squeezed too hard. Backup controller it is.

Forty five minutes of updates later the console actually came up, noticed that it was connected to a 4K television, and asked if I wanted to run at that resolution. It begins. Menu, menu, menu - where are those video settings - there they are. Advanced 4K settings? Sure, why not. Hey, what's with all of these evil red marks stating that my television doesn't support 10 bit color at 60hz?

What the hell does that even mean?

It took about an hour of frantic googling, some panicked digging for receipts while I got more and more pissed off that I would have to return the television, and a lot of trial and error until I found the option on my television that enabled all of the cool things that I spent a fair amount of money on. Both the television and XBox required a reboot. After a few minutes of suspense, all green check marks, it was time to actually test something.

Mad Max: Fury Road in 4K HDR game me goosebumps. This is not hyperbole, it is a thing that happened. Hours of frustration melted away. I forgave the shitty controller and milquetoast color. This was a deserving piece of hardware that I was happy to have in my house.

The Xbox One S is a hard pass if you do not have a 4K TV. Even if you do, no games support HDR yet and the upscaling to 4K of existing games is not impressive. But if you happen to want a 4K Bluray player you could do much, much worse. No when can I buy Blade Runner again.

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