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Control hits the Xbox Game Pass for PC subscription on January 21
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
The Xbox Game Pass subscription on PC is gaining a new experience later this week, as Microsoft announced over the weekend that Control is finally debuting on the PC variant. The action game had arrived to the console version of the subscription last month.
This delay of gaining high-profile content on the PC Game Pass side compared to the console version is not an uncommon sight anymore, as Doom Eternal - and in a larger way EA Play - also suffered a similar delay.
Control will be available to Xbox Game Pass for PC subscribers this Thursday, January 21. The hit title developed by Remedy Entertainment is a third-person action experience surrounding a government agency, the Federal Bureau of Control, that investigates supernatural events. It is set in the developer's connected universe of games where the classic Alan Wake series also resides.
Keep in mind that this should only be the base game that is arriving to the subscription, and gaining access to the two expansions of Control, The Foundation and AWE, will require additional purchases. Meanwhile, another Xbox Game Pass content injection announcement is very likely to be happening soon, as the previous one only covered the first half of January.
Microsoft Weekly: Writers of the lost art, a range of patches, and builds galore
by Florin Bodnarescu
This week brought the usual set of Patch Tuesday updates, a number of Insider previews, and a rather interesting announcement from MachineGames, the previously ZeniMax and now Microsoft / Xbox Game Studios subsidiary. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of January 10 - 16.
Writers of the lost art
Back in September of last year, Microsoft announced that it was acquiring Bethesda’s parent company, ZeniMax Media in a deal worth $7.5B. As a result, there was an interview with two of the most well-known folks on the Bethesda side, Pete Hines and Todd Howard. What everybody seems to have missed was the range of Indiana Jones-related paraphernalia present behind Todd Howard. As it turns out, this was yet another, pretty clever hint at a game announcement which showed up this week.
Born as a partnership between the newly-(re)announced Lucasfilm Games and Bethesda subsidiary MachineGames is an upcoming “wholly original, standalone title” in the Indiana Jones series. Helmed by Todd Howard as the executive producer, the project is currently in its early stages. Needless to say, this may very well end up being an Xbox and PC platform exclusive, as Microsoft is preparing to close its ZeniMax acquisition this year.
In other gaming news, Dead Rising and Breakdown are now free to get if you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription, and for fans of the red and white combo, there’s now a Pulse Red variant of the latest Xbox Wireless Controller. It’s set to debut February 9 for $64.99. Folks in China however are already able to pick up the controller as of January 12.
A range of patches
Besides being the second full week of January, this week was also host to the second Tuesday of the month, which is usually when Microsoft releases a range of patches for all of its supported operating systems. If you’re on Windows 10, these are:
May 2020 Update / October 2020 Update (2004 / 20H2): KB4598242, builds 19041.746 / 19042.746 – includes a number of security updates for scenarios when you need to use external devices, as well as for basic Windows operations. Known issues: The same user certificate known issue appears in this build, as does a bug with the Japanese IME and Furigana characters. November 2019 Update (1909): KB4598229, build 18363.1316 – very similar changelog to the updates above, with the mention that this also includes security updates for Office products. Another thing worth mentioning is that this update isn’t coming to the May 2019 Update (1903), as support for it ended last month. Known issue: This update only contains the user certificate known issue from the known issues list above. October 2018 Update (1809): KB4598230, build 17763.1697 – supported for Enterprise and Education SKUs. April 2018 Update (1803): KB4598245, build 17134.1967 – supported for Enterprise and Education SKUs. Creators Update (1703): KB4599208, build 15063.2614 – supported for Surface Hub only. Anniversary Update (1607): KB4598243, build 14393.4169 – supported in the Long-Term Servicing Branch. Windows 10 RTM (1507): KB4598231, build 10240.18818 – supported in the Long-Term Servicing Branch. Naturally, as Windows 7 and 8.1 are still supported, those operating systems got updates too. Curious folks, here’s what you need to look out for:
Windows 8.1: KB4598285, KB4598275 (security-only) – the monthly rollup which includes some security enhancements for the Printer RPC authentication, and has the same CSV error that’s been plaguing this OS for a while. Windows 7: KB4598279, KB4598289 (security-only) – very similar changelog to the monthly rollup for Windows 8.1, even down to the known issue. Keep in mind that the Windows 7 updates are only received by business who pay for these extended security updates (ESUs), the price of which is set to double soon.
We obviously couldn’t have ignored the fact that Microsoft also likes to put out Insider builds for just about everything under the sun.
As such, the company released Edge Dev 89.0.760.0, which brings the Password Monitor feature to those on macOS, as well as a Fluent Design icon refresh for Teams Public Preview testers.
Speaking of refreshes, the company is gearing up to release a major UI overhaul of Windows 10, due for release in the second half of 2021. Referred to via the umbrella term Sun Valley, it’ll include changes to the Start Menu, taskbar, Action Center, built-in apps and other features, seeking to add more of those ever-pervasive rounded corners.
We’ve seen some of that with Windows 10X which was revealed in October of 2019. Since then, the company has been radio silent on it, going as far as to just not release the flagship product that would showcase this OS, the Surface Neo. For those curious to see how the operating system functions, a near-final build has leaked online, and we have a hands-on video with it.
Moving on to other bits of software that the company actually wanted to release, build 21292 of Windows 10 made its way to the Dev channel, including fixes for the news and interests feature that debuted in build 21286. There are of course other fixes included, but the known issues list is about as long as the fixes list, so have a gander at it if you’re curious before installing this build.
This same week, Microsoft also released 21292.1010, a cumulative update to the build above that’s meant to test the servicing pipeline. If you use x64 emulation on ARM PCs, the update does break this feature.
Finally, there’s also the Server Insider build 20282, which once again is missing its companion blog post. It’s possible there’s just nothing new in this build, which is why the company didn’t bother releasing a post about it.
Microsoft has released the Surface Pro 7+, with Tiger Lake, 4G LTE, and a removable SSD. More features are now rolling out to Yammer, including the ability to created posts, questions and polls on Yammer directly from SharePoint pages. Planner on the web now allows you to add image backgrounds to each plan. The OneDrive file size limit has now been increased to 250GB. Cloud for Retail, and Dynamics 365 Commerce updates are now available. Microsoft Forms now has features meant to streamline the access to and distribution of forms. An approval request app is now rolling out for Teams. Apple is allegedly testing the Music and Podcasts apps for the Microsoft Store. Logging off
We end the column with a couple of Microsoft departures.
First in line is Brad Anderson, Corporate VP of Commercial Management Experiences. Following a tenure of more than 17 years at the company, the exec will be joining Zig Serafin’s Qualtrics firm as President of Products and Services. Serafin is another 17-year veteran of the Redmond giant, who was joined by former Chief Experience Officer Julie Larson-Green in 2017. As for Anderson, he joined Microsoft back in 2003 from Novell, first as GM of SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager), then as Corporate VP in some capacity since 2007.
The second departure this week is Julia White, who’s been with the company for the last two decades. In her now former role at Microsoft, White was a Corporate VP of Product marketing for Azure, Dev Tools, and Server. She will be joining SAP as Chief Marketing Officer and Solutions Officer. Julia White started as a PM for the Server division in 2001, and has been in the current role for the last five years.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
Hands-on with the ZTE Axon 20 5G and its disappearing camera
by João Carrasqueira
In December, ZTE launched the world's first commercially available smartphone with an under-display camera in markets around the world. The ZTE Axon 20 5G, as it's called, is a mid-range phone, but has the peculiarity of having a 32MP selfie camera hidden behind a small portion of the screen, and now we have our own review unit to take a look at. ZTE talks a lot about how it achieved this, using a combination of high-transparency materials, a special pixel matrix, AI algorithms, and more.
The display itself is a 6.92-inch panel with fairly minimal bezels all around, since there's no camera, earpiece, or ambient light sensor on the bezel - it's all under the display. That panel has a resolution of 2460x1080 and a 90Hz refresh rate.
In terms of internal specs, the Axon 20 5G comes with a Snapdragon 765G chipset that allows the phone to have 5G support, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of internal storage. It also has a 4,220mAh battery to power the device, and that charges at 30W, which should get you up to 60% in 30 minutes or back to a full battery in 55 minutes.
The ZTE Axon 20 5G is available in markets around the world for $449/€449/£419. While ZTE lists the price in U.S. dollars on its global website, it apparently can't deliver the phone to North America. You can check out our hands-on video below.
Weekend PC Game Deals: Grab a slice of Star Wars and carve through some zombies
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Weekend PC Game Deals is where the hottest gaming deals from all over the internet are gathered into one place, every week, for your consumption. So kick back, relax, and hold on to your wallets.
Epic Games Store's latest freebie from its weekly promotion is straight from EA's coffers, with Star Wars Battlefront II: Celebration Edition now available to claim for free. Expect some server issues at the moment thanks to the massive player injection though.
The DICE-developed shooter is from the rebooted Battlefront series. Released in 2017, the title comes with a story campaign set around the time of Episode VI - Return of the Jedi as well as a massive amount of multiplayer content. These include co-op missions, 40vs40 head to head rounds, and starfighter-exclusive matches, among many other modes. Moreover, the Celebration Edition arrives with every cosmetic option released for the title.
The Star Wars Battlefront II: Celebration Edition giveaway will last until January 21, which is when Galactic Civilizations III will arrive as the next freebie.
Freebies don't end there, however, as Humble also kicked off a brand new giveaway to mark its winter sale. The store is giving away copies of Bomber Crew, an FTL-like strategy experience that has players operating a bomber and its crew in WWII. You must manage factors like fuel, ammo, and hydraulics of the bomber while also being wary of flak guns, enemy fighters, weather, oxygen levels, and other dangers.
Keep in mind that Humble's stock of Bomber Crew keys may run out before the giveaway's official end, January 17 at 10AM PST, so it's better to grab one quickly.
There doesn't seem to be any free events happening on Steam, but Battle.net is picking up the slack this weekend. You can try out Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War's Zombies mode until January 21.
The four-player cooperative mode's Die Maschine and Cranked variants are now available to try out, with the former being the standard experience with a multitude of guns to unlock and secrets to uncover, while the latter is a faster-paced mode that adds a twist where you explode if your zombie slaying speeds slows down.
Winter sales were all but over until Humble came through with one of its own. We have highlights from that and much more in our big deals list below for this weekend. Moreover, if you head to the official Bandai Namco store before January 17 you can grab a Steam copy of Little Nightmares for free.
Red Dead Redemption 2 – $40.19 on Steam Mafia: Definitive Edition – $29.99 on Steam The Outer Worlds – $29.99 on Steam Need for Speed Heat Deluxe Edition – $20.99 on Steam Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night – $19.99 on Steam XCOM 2 Collection – $19.99 on Humble Store Yooka-Laylee: Buddy Duo Bundle – $16.98 on Steam Darksiders Genesis – $14.99 on Humble Store Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition – $14.99 on Humble Store SUPERHOT VR – $14.99 on Steam Red Matter VR – $14.99 on Steam Moving Out – $12.89 on GreenManGaming Megaquarium – $12.49 on Steam Outward – $11.19 on Fanatical Need for Speed Payback - Deluxe Edition – $10.49 on Steam Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines – $9.99 on Humble Store Kerbal Space Program – $9.99 on Steam The Crew 2 – $9.99 on Steam Nova Drift - Early Access – $8.24 on Steam Vaporum – $7.99 on Steam Supraland – $7.99 on Steam Yakuza Kiwami 2 – $7.49 on Humble Store Far Cry Primal – $7.49 on Steam Tower of Time – $7.49 on Steam Burnout Paradise Remastered – $6.99 on Steam Need for Speed Most Wanted – $6.99 on Steam Hydroneer – $6.99 on Steam 60 Seconds! Reatomized – $6.69 on Steam Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – $5.99 on Steam Call of Juarez Gunslinger – $5.99 on Steam We Happy Few – $5.39 on Fanatical Bully: Scholarship Edition – $5.24 on Humble Store Far Cry 3 - Blood Dragon – $4.49 on Steam Undertale – $4 on Steam Yoku's Island Express – $3.99 on Steam Red Faction Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered – $3.99 on Humble Store Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition Duke Nukem Bundle – $3.64 on Fanatical Dragon Cliff – $3.39 on Steam The Banner Saga 2 – $2.35 on Fanatical FlatOut 2 – $1.99 on Steam Blackwake – $0.99 on Steam Crazy Machines 3 – $0.99 on Steam Bomber Crew – $0 on Humble Store STAR WARS Battlefront II: Celebration Edition – $0 on Epic Store DRM-free Goodness
As is usually the case, there are some DRM-free games having sales this weekend also, including a specials promotion just for hack and slash games. Check out our highlights:
XCOM 2 - $14.99 on GOG Warcraft I & II Bundle - $12.74 on GOG Sunless Skies - $12.49 on GOG XCOM: Enemy Unknown Complete Pack - $9.99 on GOG Deus Ex: Mankind Divided - Digital Deluxe Edition - $6.74 on GOG Sunless Sea - $6.45 on GOG Grim Dawn - $6.24 on GOG The Darkside Detective - $5.84 on GOG Costume Quest - $4.99 on GOG Her Story - $4.99 on GOG Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments - $4.49 on GOG The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut - $4.49 on GOG The Bureau: XCOM Declassified - $3.99 on GOG Little Inferno - $3.74 on GOG The Settlers 4: Gold Edition - $3.39 on GOG Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Director’s Cut - $2.99 on GOG Star Control I & II - $2.99 on GOG Lords of the Fallen Game of the Year Edition - $2.99 on GOG Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Complete - $2.49 on GOG Enclave - $2.49 on GOG Sacred Gold - $1.99 on GOG Populous - $1.49 on GOG Deus Ex GOTY Edition - $0.97 on GOG Keep in mind that availability and pricing for some deals may vary depending on the region you're in.
And that is it for our pick of this weekend's PC game deals folks, and hopefully, some of you have enough self-restraint to not add even more games to your growing backlogs. Of course, there is an enormous amount of other deals waiting all over the internet if you comb through it hard enough, so keep your eyes open for those, and have a wonderful weekend.
Update: Fixed the Little Nightmares giveaway line. It is the first game that is on offer.
By Namerah S
Hitman 3 headed to Nintendo Switch on January 20
by Namerah Saud Fatmi
IO Interactive announced Hitman 3, the third and final installment in the World of Assassination series, at the PS5 event back in June 2020. At the time, the stealth shooter was set to land on the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC in January 2021. A few months later in October, a Nintendo Switch announcement followed suit.
So far, the Danish video game developer had only confirmed the exact release date for the Sony and Microsoft consoles and PC. Today IO announced the specific launch date for the Nintendo Switch as well.
Hitman 3 is scheduled to launch on the exact same date, January 20, 2021, across all the aforementioned gaming platforms. The NS release is going to happen through the cloud.
A lot of details about the upcoming Hitman 3 release have been announced so far. In August it was revealed that the game will be an Epic Games Store exclusive and that owners of the title will be able to import their old data and game locations from Steam. In the same month, IO also detailed the game modes for the January 2021 release.