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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Sony reveals the pricing and launch date of its PS5 consoles, celebrating black creatives in video games, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 brings the best skating games back. But first, Apple announces new Apple Watches, iPads, Fitness+, and a service bundle.

New Apple Watches and iPads revealed

As suspected, Apple did not talk about new iPhones at Tuesday’s product announcement (September 15, 2020) which it called, “Time Flies”.

Instead, the company focused on new Apple Watches and iPads.

Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE announced

In introducing the new wearables, Apple emphasized the tracking functions that are built into Apple Watch, and which the company is improving.

The Series 6 edition of the Apple Watch, for example, includes a new sensor which uses lights to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood.

Blood oxygen saturation is something that can provide evidence respiratory problems including covid-19 infection.

The new sensor is also how the Apple Watch Series 6 can measure VO2 max, which is measure of how well your body can use oxygen when it’s exercising.

A new watch band, the Solo Loop, is a single, stretchable piece of silicon with no buckle or clasp. There’s also a fabric version, the Braided Solo Loop, that weaves silicon and yarn threads.

Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $529 and $659 with cellular.

The Apple Watch SE is a slightly scaled back model that doesn’t have the blood oxygen sensor, but otherwise includes all the features as the Series 6, and is also available with a cellular connection. It’s priced at $369 and $429 will cellular.

Both watches are available to order now and will be released on Friday.

The two wearables will also use the new operating system, watchOS7, which adds sleep tracking and hand wash detection and timing to Apple Watches.

Apple also announced a new feature that lets people in your household use Apple Watch without needing an iPhone. Family Setup uses a parent’s iPhone to connect a child’s cellular-enabled Apple Watch. This service is not currently available in Canada.

Two new iPads come to Apple’s tablet family

The Apple tablet was introduced 10 years ago, and in that time, Apple says they’ve sold more than 500 million units in that time.

In the online event, the company revealed the eighth generation iPad, which uses an A12 Bionic chip. With attachable keyboards and the Apple Pencil, the iPad is becoming more of a laptop replacement all the time.

The iPad Air, meanwhile, has been redesigned entirely. The 10.9-inch, all-screen design has a resolution of 2360×1640 and, like the most recent iPhones, no home button. The TouchID function is now built into the sleep/wake button at the top of the device.

It’s also got the A14 Bionic chip, which is brand new from Apple and is incredibly small, at only 5 nanometres. It’s a 6-core chip with a 4-core graphical processing unit that delivers improvements in processing speed and graphical performance.

The new iPad Air also uses a USB-C connection, has support for Wi-Fi 6, and includes a faster cellular connection for supporting models. It comes in five colours, including green and blue.

The new iPads will ship with iPadOS14, which introduces Scribble, a new feature for Apple Pencil that lets you integrate handwriting into digital documents by converting your scribble into text.

The 8th-generation iPad starts at $429 and $599 with cellular, and the new iPad Air starts at $779 and $949 with cellular.

Both tablets are available to order now, and will be released on Friday (September 18).

Apple introduces fitness service and Apple One service bundle

Apple also revealed a new fitness service designed for users of its Apple Watch.

Fitness+ service provides access to 10 different studio workouts that work endurance, flexibility, and strength. Apple says new workouts will be added each week.

The guided workouts will display on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV connected screen, and the metrics being measured and tracked by the Apple Watch will be displayed on the screen.

There’s also a beginner program that will teach people new to these kinds of workouts how to perform the movements safely.

The cost for Fitness+ is $13 a month or $100 a year, and can be shared with with up to five people in a household using Family Sharing.

People purchasing a new Apple Watch will get three months of Fitness+ for free.

Apple also announced a price plan that bundles its various services. There are three levels of Apple One.

The Individual plan is $16 a month and includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage.

The Family plan is $21 a month and includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 200GB of iCloud storage. It can be shared by up to six family members.

The Premier plan is $34 a month and includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, Apple Fitness+, and 2TB of iCloud storage. It can also be shared by up to six family members.

The bundle pricing saves subscribers $7, $10, and $32 a month, respectively.

The new subscription plans will be available later this fall.

Playstation 5 consoles are launching November 12

Sony announced today, in an online event, that its two PS5 consoles will be released on November 12, just two days after Microsoft’s Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X launch.

The PS5 with an ultra HD Blu-ray drive is priced at $630, and the drive-less Digital Edition is priced at $500.

The event, which was streamed on Twitch and YouTube, ended with a teaser trailer of God of War: Ragnarok, a sequel to the critically-acclaimed PS4 exclusive that will ship in 2021.

We also saw more footage and gameplay from some of Sony’s key exclusives, like Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales (Insomniac Games), which will launch with the new consoles and is set a year after the events of the 2018 game that featured Peter Parker.

There’s also a new standalone game from Square Enix, Final Fantasy XVI, and Bethesda’s Deathloop, being developed at Arkane Studios, plays on the repeating day trope by having players become an assassin trying to take out eight targets while being a target himself. It was recently delayed to 2021.

Sony also announced the Playstation Plus Collection for PS5 owners, which gives subscribers access to a library of popular and defining PS4 games, including God of War, Uncharted 4, and The Last of Us Remastered.

Preorders for the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition have started for some retailers, and will be widely available tomorrow.

Celebrating Black in Gaming on National Video Games Day

Last Saturday was National Video Games Day in the U.S., and while the celebratory day is suspect, the Black in Gaming Awards, which were handed out on Saturday, are indisputable.

An initiative of the Black in Games organization, notable recipients included:

  • Game producer Shana Bryant.
  • Sarah Bond, who is the corporate vice president of Microsoft’s gaming ecosystem.
  • Actor Christopher Judge, who voiced Kratos in the acclaimed God of War (2018), who received the Excellence in Performance award.
  • Reggie Fils-Aimé, who worked at and led Nintendo of America during the release of the DS, 3DS, Wii, and Switch consoles (we won’t mention the Wii U), who was recognized with a Legacy Award.
  • Game designer Mike Pondsmith, whose Cyberpunk tabletop role-playing game inspired this fall’s video game, Cyberpunk 2077, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kick out the jams with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2

If you want to understand why Activision arranged for the remaster of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, released in 1999, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, released in 2000, all you need to do is play them.

Because while the concept of a skateboarding game seems simple – ride a skateboard in myriad environments, perform tricks – the fact that so few good skateboarding games have been created tells you everything.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, recreated with high definition graphics by Vicarious Visions (the originals were developed by Neversoft), maintains the controls that made the games so popular, which make it fun to pick up and play and with enough flexibility to chain together endless combos.

With THPS1+2, everyone is a skater.

The original pro skaters included in the first games are back, but at their real ages, and they are joined by new pros, including Tony’s son, Riley Hawk. But you can also create your own skater if you want, and you can create your own skate parks, too.

Available on PS4, Windows, Xbox One, there are eight different multiplayer modes, as well as the ability to skate with a friend in local split-screen. And the HD graphics make everything sing.

Topping off the experience is the soundtrack, which includes the original tracks and 37 new ones ranging from the rap and punk of the original games (the likes of Dead Kennedys, Primus, Public Enemy, and Rage Against the Machine) to modern-day bands like JunkBunny, Screaming Females, and Spilt Milk.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 proves that the old stuff is the best stuff, and there’s life yet left in the old guard.

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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

This week on The Shift, Shane Hewitt and I talked about the pricing, specs, and release date of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, the 9-day PAX Online gaming festival, Facebook requiring Oculus users to have a Facebook account, Star Wars: Squadrons, and the amazing Marvel’s Avengers, out now.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, the new Xbox consoles arrive on November 10, PAX Online begins on Saturday, you’ll need a Facebook account to use Oculus VR, Star Wars Squadrons plays both sides, Marvel’s Avengers is awesome.

$380 Xbox Series S and $600 Xbox Series X release on November 10

Microsoft’s two next-gen video game consoles will be in the world on November 10. Pre-orders begin on September 22.

The Xbox Series X is the flagship. Priced at $600 CDN, the hardware is designed to deliver 4K visuals at 60 frames per second. It’s loaded with graphical processing power and RAM, and has a 4K UHD Blu-ray player built in.

The Xbox Series S, meanwhile, is only $380 CDN, but has a similar 8-core AMD processor and the same Xbox Velocity Architecture. What the digital-only devices lacks is a disc drive. It also has reduced GPU, RAM, and hard drive capacity.

In a post on Xbox Wire, Phil Spencer confirmed that the Xbox All Access program is also coming to Canada. This is a two-year payment program that includes a console and subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (which costs $17 per month). All Access costs $25 USD for the Series S and $35 USD for the Series X.

The Game Pass Ultimate deal gets better with the announcement that EA Play, the subscription service from Electronic Arts, is being folded in.

PAX Online starts on Saturday, runs for 9 days

This weekend, the biggest gaming festival on the planet kicks into gear online. PAX, which normally takes over downtown Seattle over the Labour Day weekend, will be virtual this year and as a result has expanded from three days to nine.

In the past 10 years, what was once known as the Penny Arcade Expo expanded to include festivals in Boston (PAX East), Austin (PAX South), and Australia (PAX Australia).

The 9-day online extravaganza includes a showcase of indie video game developers, esports competitions, tabletop game demos, panel discussions, and more (just check out the schedule).

Events are running around the clock, so there will always be something to watch.

PAX Online begins on Saturday, September 12, at 9 a.m. PT.

Facebook complicates the case for getting an Oculus virtual reality headset

Last month, Oculus, the virtual reality hardware company owned by Facebook, revealed that users will have to have a Facebook account.

Given the backlash against Facebook and especially how it handles user data, this is possibly the worst thing that could happen, and there are plenty of people who own various Oculus headsets (the Rift and the standalone Quest) who are planning on selling them.

But.

If Facebook and Oculus announce a full-functioning and cheaper headset in the next couple of months, there are plenty of people who will overlook what they are giving away because they are so excited about what they can get.

Wait and see, I say.

Fly space ships on October 2 in Star Wars: Squadrons

I wrote about Star Wars: Squadrons when it was first announced in June, but a new trailer reveals more about the single-player campaign.

Being developed by Motive, EA’s studio in Montreal, the game is set for release on October 2 for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One, and is also fully playable in virtual reality.

In the single-player campaign you’ll play as two different pilots, one on each side of the conflict in a story that takes place soon after the rebellion has destroyed the second death start at the end of Return of the Jedi. So you’ll be flying x-wings and tie fighters.

Motive has also detailed how you can customize the look of your pilots and your ships,
changing the load out of your engines, defences, and weapons; you can even kit out your cockpit to suit your pilot.

Amazing Marvel’s Avengers takes the superhero game to a new level

There weren’t any blockbuster films this summer, so we’re lucky that Marvel’s Avengers, the video game, was released to save us all.

Developed by Crystal Dynamics with support from Eidos Montreal, the action role-playing game gives us a standalone story that’s not directly tied to the recent films, but is part of the larger universe that includes those films and the comics that inspired it all.

And boy is this game fun to play.

It was no mistake to have us start playing the single-player campaign as the effervescent Kamala Khan, a teenager who has become an “Inhuman”. Not only is the plucky teen the force that drives the story but she unites the badly behaving adults. The fact that she’s Muslim with Pakistani heritage has no bearing on the story except when she explains the costume she created for herself is a burqini.

Kamala is all of us. She’s the fan who becomes part of the team but holds onto some of that admiring energy, the innocent exuberance and the inability to realize that there may be some things you can’t do. Kamala believes anything is possible. And her positivity is infectious.

The writing and acting are superlative here. Stalwarts Laura Bailey (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Troy Baker (Bruce Banner), Jennifer Hale (Maria Hill), and Nolan North (Tony Stark/Iron Man) deliver as you’d expect,

But the real delight is Sandra Saad as Kamala. Saad’s portrayal of the high-spirited American teen is what continued to bring a smile to my face while I played. Saad imbues Kamala with curiousity and surprise and soul. She is the most refreshing and delightful character I’ve played in some time.

Through the story, you’ll bring the disbanded Avengers back together. As you gather one of the team, you’re able to play as that character, and then they are available to join your squad for those missions that are team based.

So while you start by playing as Kamala, you’ll be able to choose whatever Avenger you want for your missions. The developers were able to keep the same control scheme for all characters so you don’t have to learn new button combinations for different superheroes, but each superhero feels and plays completely differently, whether you’re using Iron Man’s repulsors or flinging objects at enemies as Hulk.

There are numerous options to upgrade your superheroes, from managing their skill trees to equipping them with various pieces of gear that provide buffs. You can also access different costumes, too, so your version of the Avengers can look entirely unique.

You can play Marvel’s Avengers on PS4, Stadia, Windows, and Xbox One now. It will also be available for PS5 and Xbox Series X when those consoles are released later this year, and you can upgrade to the next gen version of the game for free.

And there’s a lot of game to play here, because in addition to the missions that take you through the campaign, you can also play a side story for each of the Avengers. And then after you’ve completed the campaign, the Avengers Initiative opens up, which lets you play with up to three friends, and it’s where the game will continue to expand.

Clint Barton’s Hawkeye is being added to the game in the next couple of weeks, a new operation will be launched in late October, and Crystal Dynamics promises that the narrative will expand with the addition of other heroes and villains, new mission types, and even new environments.

All of this additional content will be free to everyone who owns the game, making Marvel’s Avengers not only one of the best surprises of the summer, but one of the best deals of the year.

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