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    • By Asher Madan
      Serious Sam 4 on Xbox Series X: Another poor port
      by Asher Madan

      Serious Sam is an over-the-top action game franchise that pits you against an obscene number of enemies at any given time. These aren’t the lethargic hordes of Dead Rising though, they’re aggressive creatures that require constant movement to evade. The latest entry is Serious Sam 4, a game that serves as a prequel to the entire series. You go from one area to the next, shooting enemies in arena-style levels, while unlocking various upgrades and weapons.

      You can play Serious Sam 4 as a traditional first-person shooter or a third-person shooter. You can change the camera at any given time by pressing down on the D-pad. I preferred playing it in first-person mode because it’s easier to aim and the character movements are less awkward. However, the choice is yours. This is by no means a supremely refined game. Publisher Developer Digital provided me with review code for the title and I played it on Xbox Series X.

      Serious Sam 4 deals with the aftermath of an alien invasion. You step into the shoes of the titular character, Sam Stone, who bands together with an odd group of characters to save the world. This isn’t a dark, mature story with a lot of complexity. Serious Sam 4 plays out like a hilarious B movie, with plenty of jokes and one-liners.

      Serious Sam 4 didn’t get great reviews when it launched on PC and Google Stadia back in September 2020, but it still provides a lot of entertainment. It’s great for laughs and provides a reason to shoot hordes of extraterrestrials. Now that it’s available on current-generation consoles, how does it hold up? Keep in mind that the last-generation PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions are still in development. The game just released for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

      Serious Sam 4 suffers from frustrating performance issues on Xbox Series X. The game features Quality and Performance options, but neither offers a locked 60 frames per second (FPS) experience. On Quality mode, the game constantly fluctuates between 25 to 55 FPS, and on Performance mode, it varies from 40 to 60 FPS. During my playthrough, I couldn’t find a single level that offered a satisfactory experience. The frame rate drops occur every other second and, after a while, it becomes exhausting to play Serious Sam 4. Given the fact that the game is a fast-paced shooter, this is absolutely unacceptable.

      While Serious Sam 4 features a lot of enemies on-screen at any given time, they aren’t as dense as a game like Dead Rising 4. The textures are also average, with texture pop-in a common occurrence on Xbox Series X. It’s clear that Serious Sam 4 hasn’t properly been optimized for Microsoft’s machine and will need a lot of work to fix. Luckily, the game renders at 4K resolution on Quality mode, and appears to be rendering at either 4K or 1080p on Performance mode. The image quality takes a noticeable hit on Performance mode, particularly the lighting and shadows, but it does offer a slightly smoother experience. There isn’t a setting that you can simply tweak to make the game run properly. At the moment, it’s an unpolished mess on the technical front.

      At this point, I’m just so sick and tired of playing unpolished games on Xbox Series X. Battlefield 2042, Call of Duty: Vanguard, Oddworld: Soulstorm, and Serious Sam 4 were some of my most anticipated titles for 2021. Unfortunately, all of them have severe issues on the console. In a world where Halo Infinite can maintain – for the most part – 4K and 60 FPS in its vast environment, I’m baffled as to why these other games can’t.

      Serious Sam 4 should’ve been delayed on Xbox Series X to fix the performance. Even though the Serious Sam titles haven’t been Game of the Year contenders for a long time, they’re still a lot of fun to play through, like Duke Nukem Forever. Considering the fact that Serious Sam 4 costs $39.99 on the Microsoft Store, I can’t recommend it in its current state. Hopefully, patches will be issued soon to fix the deplorable frame rate. How anyone thought it was acceptable to release this game in its current form is beyond me.

    • By LoneWolfSL
      Halo Infinite Campaign is now available on Xbox and PC
      by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe

      Master Chief's new journey in Zeta Halo is now available to jump into, as the long-awaited Halo Infinite Campaign has finally released. Developed by Xbox Game Studio 343 Industries, the latest entry has gone live across PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S platforms, with Xbox Game Pass subscribers also gaining access.

      Taking place after the events of Halo 5: Guardians but also serving as soft reboot for the series, Halo Infinite drops players into a struggle against the Banished, the formidable foes fans might remember from Halo Wars 2. The title presents a much more open setting for the first time as well, offering players more options than ever to plan their attacks across the Zeta Halo ring structure against enemy emplacements.

      The game has been received quite well by critics. In my own review, I gave the campaign a '9.5/10 Superb' verdict for its open world sandbox, intriguing storyline, the fantastic and fun combat that is now enhanced by a flawless grappling hook, and various other elements. You can read the full review here.

      The minimum and recommended requirements for the campaign are:

      Minimum Recommended OS: Windows 10 RS5 x64 Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 1600 or Intel i5-4440 Memory: 8 GB RAM Graphics: AMD RX 570 or Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti DirectX: Version 12 Storage: 50 GB available space OS: Windows 10 19H2 x64 Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X or Intel i7-9700k Memory: 16 GB RAM Graphics: Radeon RX 5700 XT or Nvidia RTX 2070 DirectX: Version 12 Storage: 50 GB available space Halo Infinite Campaign is available for purchase on the Microsoft Store for Windows and Xbox consoles as well as on Steam with a $59.99 price tag. Like every other Xbox Game Studios title, Xbox Game Pass subscribers now have access to the game for no additional cost as well.

      As the release lacked a pre-load, a download of about 50GB is awaiting new players right now. However, those who have the multiplayer portion already installed are going to have a much smaller download of about 25GB when installing the campaign. At the same time, the Halo Infinite Multiplayer component has gotten ridden of its Beta tag, moving into a full release state with a small patch of its own. The changelog for this update has not been made live just yet.

    • By Asher Madan
      BioShock and Far Cry receive major discounts in this week's Deals with Gold
      by Asher Madan

      Every week, Microsoft and select publishers discount a number of titles for a weekly Deals with Gold Sale. This week, titles from the BioShock and Far Cry franchises are available for substantially less. Below, you'll find the Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 games with their respective discounts. The deals and games marked with an asterisk are only valid for Xbox Live Gold members, so you'll need an active paid subscription for the additional discount.

      Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
      Xbox 360
      Many of the games are also backward compatible so you can play them on your Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S. Luckily, Xbox 360 owners also have a number of titles to choose from this week.

      Which games are you interested in? Did you buy any? Let us know in the comments below.

    • By Asher Madan
      Chorus on Xbox Series X: An amazing space shooter
      by Asher Madan

      Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved space shooters. Some of my favorite games include Everspace and Tyrian. While Everspace is a modern roguelike experience, Tyrian launched in 1995 and featured incredible environments, visuals, and weapons for its time. I enjoyed playing both games, and that sense of discovery and wonder is exactly what I’ve experienced in Chorus.

      Ever since Everspace launched on Xbox One years ago, I’ve been wanting a larger game that offered the same level of exploration. Chorus provides exactly that because you can fly wherever you want. You can even visit past areas to uncover new secrets. Chorus is made by developer Fishlabs – the team behind the Galaxy on Fire series – and feels like an evolution of the games they’ve developed in the past.

      While there’s a heavy focus on combat, Chorus takes place in an expansive open-world setting where you go from one connected region to the next, aiding rebels and exploring to your heart’s content. The title tells a compelling story with excellent voice acting, even though the plot’s a little hard to follow at times, especially towards the beginning.

      I was given a review code for Chorus by publisher Deep Silver a few weeks ago. I’ve been playing the game since and am completely addicted. Not only does it look incredible on Xbox Series X, it also features tight controls and a lot of content like side missions and random encounters to make gameplay more dynamic and unpredictable.

      Chorus runs at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second (FPS) or 30 FPS on the console. Depending on whether you play on Quality of Performance mode, the frame rate is adjusted accordingly. On Quality mode, Chorus features better graphical effects like further draw distances and lighting. However, the frame rate is limited to 30 FPS so the controls are less precise than in Performance mode. Despite this, aiming and dodging fire are easy, but they don’t compare to the 60 FPS mode.

      Performance mode still appears to render at 4K – or a resolution that’s very close like 1800p – but lowers the visual quality. The lighting takes the biggest hit in my opinion. However, because the frame rate goes up 60 FPS, and stays there, the controls are incredibly precise. Many gamers will prefer this because it offers the most responsive experience, even though the visuals aren’t as stunning anymore.

      I’m a stickler for the best graphics so I played Chorus mostly on the Quality setting. The visuals just pop on a modern display. Fishlabs says that the game also features ray tracing, but this may be an option limited to Quality mode. The lighting differences between the two could be explained by this.

      Chorus is one of the biggest surprises of 2021 in my opinion. The game also features an incredible soundtrack and opening theme song. The title costs $39.99 on the Microsoft Store – or the platform of your choice like Luna, PC, PlayStation, and Stadia – but it’s larger than many AAA games out there. It’s also more polished and properly takes advantage of modern consoles because it offers visual choices.

      If Chorus was priced at $59.99, I wouldn’t question the value it offers. This is definitely on the level of a AAA title in terms of quality and polish. Even more so given the poor state games like Battlefield 2042 and Call of Duty: Vanguard have launched in lately. I didn’t encounter any bugs during my playthrough. This is how you launch a new franchise. While the game suffers from some story missteps, its quality and polish are exemplary. I can’t recommend it enough if you’re a fan of space shooters and open-world experiences.

    • By Asher Madan
      Grim Dawn on Xbox Series X: A dated classic on consoles
      by Asher Madan

      Grim Dawn: Definitive Edition is a Diablo-like action role-playing game (ARPG) that originally launched on PC in 2016. The title garnered stellar reviews from critics and has received strong post-launch support over the years. The Ashes of Malmouth and Forgotten Gods expansions not only add more items and weapons, but also bring new environments for you to explore. All of this content is available in the Definitive Edition of the game.

      A few years ago, developer Crate Entertainment announced that it was working on an Xbox One port of the popular ARPG. Development hasn’t been smooth, and since then the Xbox Series X|S have launched around the world. Now that Grim Dawn is finally available on Microsoft’s consoles, how does it hold up?

      I was provided early access to the game and played it on Xbox Series X. The title runs at 1080p and 30 frames per second (FPS) on the powerful machine and features no optimizations for current-generation hardware. This is disappointing, to say the least, but I contacted the developer and a spokesperson told me that the team didn’t receive an Xbox Series X Developer Kit from Microsoft in time. However, what about Xbox One X enhancements? Surely more could’ve been done for that.

      Grim Dawn costs $54.99 on the Microsoft Store so it’s competing with AAA games. The fact that it lacks Xbox One X or Xbox Series X|S optimizations will not only hurt sales, but also hurt the reputation of the game and Crate Entertainment. Maybe delaying it would’ve been a better option, but I think if Grim Dawn had included Xbox One X enhancements, many gamers would’ve been pleased with the results.

      Since the performance and resolution targets are so low, the game runs smoothly no matter what’s happening on-screen. It plays exactly like an ARPG should with the controller. You directly controller your character with the left thumbstick and use a variety of attacks by pressing buttons like X or Y. My only real complaint would be that the text is too small in the inventory, but that can easily be fixed with an update.

      Grim Dawn is a fantastic experience on PC. It’s one of the best ARPGs out there in my opinion, but on Xbox One, it’s a letdown. It looks like an Xbox 360 title to be honest, even though the content is absolutely stellar. The game is complex with a lot of mechanics, features an excellent story, amazing continuous loot drops, and much more. It’s a shame that the title doesn't shine on consoles.

      Hopefully, the developer will at least issue an Xbox One X patch while it waits to receive Xbox Series X|S units from Microsoft. Unfortunately, the market has moved past Grim Dawn because we’re in a new console generation. Despite whatever problems Crate Entertainment experienced, the team has to take into account that the asking price of $54.99 puts their title in a highly competitive league where there are plenty of other options like Diablo II: Resurrected.

      Until Grim Dawn receives an update that overhauls the visuals and frame rate on either Xbox One X or Xbox Series X|S, I simply can’t recommend it. It doesn’t matter how good other aspects of the game are. With that said, the exemplary post-launch support Grim Dawn has received over the years is a testament to the developer’s commitment to its titles. However, it all depends on when those patches are released. Let’s hope it’s soon and not in a few years when there’s even more competition in the ever-growing ARPG genre.