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Shacknews - Steve Watts

While the Xbox One turning on with the sound of your voice made for an impressive stage presentation, it didn't take long for the Internet to notice: doesn't that mean it's listening all the time? Today, in a bevy of new information that also included online checks and game licensing, Microsoft attempted to put fears at ease with more detail about the new Kinect's privacy settings.

In a detailed announcement, Microsoft stated that you'll personalize your Kinect during start-up. That will let you pick which settings are on from the start, and you can turn the sensor on, off, or pause it. When the Kinect is off, Microsoft says, it's only listening for the command "Xbox on," but you can disable that feature as well. When the Xbox One is in use, Microsoft is careful to note that it's not recording or uploading any conversation. Finally, you can use other inputs if you just want to turn off or pause the Kinect.

Concerning personal data, Microsoft claims that nothing will leave your Xbox One without explicit, expressed permission. It uses examples like a fitness game measuring heart data or a card game that views your face to determine the strength of a bluff.

This is all much more specific than the information we heard late last month, which simply promised privacy settings without going into detail.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Almost as soon as the Xbox One announcement ended, we started hearing contradictory tales from Microsoft regarding the system's connectivity requirements. The last two weeks have apparently given the company a chance to get its messaging straight, as it finally clarified today just how often the system needs to check in.

As confirmed on the official site the system will require an online check-in every 24 hours on your primary console. If you're accessing your game library on someone else's system, that window gets narrowed to every hour. The page warns: "Offline gaming is not possible after these prescribed times until you re-establish a connection, but you can still watch live TV and enjoy Blu-ray and DVD movies."

This is similar to what Phil Harrison told Kotaku, which apparently let the cat out of the bag early. Microsoft quickly told Polygon he was merely describing "potential scenarios."

More mundane details include the recommended connection speed (1.5Mbps), and the ability to sign in and install games from your friend's house to play them there. That's certainly convenient, but the one-hour check-in time might make it less welcoming.

Shacknews - Steve Watts
Steam announced a new "Family Sharing" feature today, and is accepting beta applications to test it. When it launches fully, close friends and family will be able to play one another's games, while still earning their own achievements and saving their individual progress through the cloud.
Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Hearthstone is out now on both PC and iPad. With new players joining the battle each day, Shacknews is closely examining each of the game's nine classes and learning how to play with all of them from the perspective of Chatty. And to wrap up our feature, we look at Rexxar, the Hunter.

If you've played Hearthstone for even a short amount of time, you've seen him. You know who he is. And you've likely grown to hate him. He's Rexxar the Hunter, the character that has a strategy and a counter for just about anything. Using his 'Steady Shot' Hero Power, the question isn't so much if Rexxar will beat you, but rather how quickly?

Why the Hunter?

Months have passed since Hearthstone's final version has released and, at this point, the question should be... why not the Hunter? The Hunter is one of (if not the) most versatile and powerful classes in the entire game. It's so powerful that even Blizzard has had to give it a few second looks. He literally has a strategy and counter-strategy for just about everything, making him infuriating to play against. Many players have been enraged by Hunters to the point that they've nearly thrown their nice, expensive iPads against a wall. But for that same reason, Hunter is also among the friendliest classes for newcomers to the game. One of those newcomers is Chatty's wtf242.

"Hunter is really fun to play," he said. "I feel like I can just randomly pick beast cards and end up doing pretty damn well. I think it's probably the most noob-friendly class."

Yes, Hunters can summon a random beast by using the Animal Companion card for a mere 3 mana. The advantage here is that no matter what beast is summoned, it's often pretty powerful in its own way. It's why Degenerate is happy to play the card whenever possible.

"I play Hunter because it was my favorite class in WoW, plus I am SUPER unimaginative so the 'keep throwing beast cards' strategy works well for me."

But there's far more to Hunter than playing random beasts, though that's ultimately what many of his strategies will revolve around.

Notable cards/combos

Unleash the Hounds! Unleash the Hounds! Unleash the Hounds! Need I say more?

Indeed, Unleash the Hounds was one of the first Hearthstone cards to receive a major nerf, seeing its cost increase from 2 to 3 mana. However, it remains one of the most powerful spells in the entire game, summoning a 1/1 hound for each opposing minion on the field and giving it Charge. But it isn't UTH by itself that hurts, as much as its potential combos, which we'll go into shortly.

This isn't all that Rexxar has at his disposal, though. Think you can fill your side of the board with low-level minions? Rexxar will simply wipe them out with an Explosive Trap or Misdirection Secret spell. Think you can build up a lower-level minion and hide it behind a high-health Taunt partner? How about an Explosive Shot to destroy them both? Thinking of laying down two mid-level minions? Multi-Shot will dispose of them quite easily. Want to lay it all on the line with one high-powered minion? Sorry, but Deadly Shot will likely put an end to its day and leave the Hunter with plenty of mana to spare. But surely you can fix Rexxar by laying down Stealth minions and Secrets, right? Wrong! Flare will put a damper on that strategy and, in fact, is the only card in the game that can successfully undo Stealth or Secrets. Rexxar pretty much has an answer for everything.

Animal Companion has already been discussed, but it's particularly deadly when combined with Tundra Rhino, which gives all beasts Charge right off the bat. Beast cards have such synergy with one another that they often make short work of opponents. But again, we'll get into that shortly.

There is one other beast that opponents should be wary of and that's Savannah Highmane. As Pandilex explains, this card is powerful on its surface, but moreso with its Deathrattle effect. In fact, he notes that the best way to counter it is with either Hex or Polymorph cards.

Deck strategies

As one would imagine, the major deck strategy revolves around Unleash the Hounds and its immense versatility. That's deinitely why Chatty's BlackCat9 gets such use out of this class.

"Hunters have gone in and out of popularity in the meta of Hearthstone since it launched, receiving many nerfs to combos that were too powerful," he explained. "But the fundamental truth of Hunter decks is that as long as you fill it with beasts, you can't go too wrong. It's really easy to see the synergies that you can get from each minion of the beast type giving or receiving benefits from each other. And since you have so many combinations, it rarely matters much if your opponent takes out a really great card in the first two or three turns. Unleash the Hounds is undoubtedly the central card of any hunter deck right now and for the foreseeable future, even after having already been nerfed to the point where people quickly wrote it off as useless. For 3 mana, you get a 1/1 beast with charge for every minion your opponent has on the table. With a couple of free Hunters Marks, it becomes an easy and affordable way to break through your opponent's defenses. With a Timber Wolf or Leokk from Animal Companion, each one you summon becomes twice as valuable. With Scavenging Hyena, you can sacrifice each of those hounds into your opponent's big guy to buff the hyena by twice as much damage as you're losing and one hit your opponent's face. With Starving Buzzard, each of those hounds puts another card in your hand."

What's most insane is that many of these combinations will only run for about 5 or 6 mana, so BlackCat9 adds that there's still room to bring out some Multi-Shot or Kill Command spells. In fact, a Hunter player can even deploy Leeroy Jenkins, if necessary.

Indeed, Rexxar's cards are versatile and dangerous and a pain to run up against. Pandilex perhaps sums him up best.

"Hunters just annoy me because playing them feels like you're playing uphill, like when you play a single player game vs. AI that has some kind of 'cheat' built into it to make it harder."

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is another new take on J.R.R. Tolkien's famous fantasy world, with a healthy dose of Peter Jackson's movie adaptations setting the style and tone. A new trailer from publisher Warner Bros explores how the actors set that tone, with some commentary from Troy Baker who playes the protagonist Talion. 

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is set to hit PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One on October 7.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Telltale teased the next episode of The Walking Dead this morning, meaning a release is probably imminent. 

The studio showed off new screenshots in a pair of tweets. The first read, "Season Two Ep 4 'Amid The Ruins' is within arm's reach! News next week!" The second continued the drumbeat. "Season Two Ep 4 'Amid The Ruins' is nearly here. Look for more soon!"

Generally Telltale begins teasing the next episode this way shortly before release. The last episode, In Harm's Way, received a similar tease on May 1 before release on May 13. If that trend continues, we should be playing episode four before the end of this month. 

Telltale has been swapping release duties between The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us this year, and just recently wrapped up the Fables-inspired series. Check out our review for more thoughts on how it came together.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Entwined, the game released for PlayStation 4 during Sony's E3 presentation, will be expanding to more platforms soon.

That's according to Pixelopus creative director Dominic Robilliard, who mentioned on the PlayStation Blog that the PS3 and Vita versions would be coming "in the very near future." He said the team is wrapping up those versions this week, so presumably it would hit both platforms after passing through certification from Sony.

As originally announced, the PS3 and Vita versions will be cross-buy, so if you've already gotten it on PlayStation 4 you should be set for the other two. It's available for $9.99 on the PlayStation Network.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Watch Dogs has sold more than eight million units, according to Ubisoft. 

In a first-quarter financial report today, Ubisoft announced the impressive number and credited it in part for the sales exceeding its stated targets. The announcement states those are sell-in figures. 

The number isn't entirely surprising, given that Watch Dogs broke Ubisoft's own internal records for new IP pre-orders and first-day sales, and first-week sales. 

"The success of Watch Dogs and the quality of our games portfolio presented at this year's E3 highlight our strategic positioning as well as our continuous drive for innovation, and affirm our long-term approach," CEO Yves Guillemot said in the announcement. "Watch Dogs is now well positioned as a major franchise and we will be able to replicate and build on its success in the coming years."

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Lots of games have Easter eggs, but rarely does one stay undiscovered for seven years. That's the case for a particularly well-hidden Halo 3 secret, which was just recently outed by some intrepid fans. 

The Easter egg was discovered by Team Beyond (via IGN). By holding down both thumbsticks during the loading screen on December 25, the screen pans out to give a wider view of the Halo ring. In very light print on the ring, you can read the words "Happy Birthday Lauren!" You can see it for yourself in the video below.

Bungie itself has slyly acknowledged this Easter egg in the past in its Mail Sack features. One employee said it only happened on a specific day, while in another entry employee Adrian Perez said he was proud of having shown his wife the Easter egg he inserted for her. In both cases, the employees noted that no one had found the secret yet, but now we know. Presumably Lauren had a nice birthday surprise, back in 2007.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

The original leak of Assassin's Creed Unity came alongside word of a last-gen (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) game, which so far hasn't materialized. Even after E3, the so-called "Assassin's Creed Comet" is still purely in rumor territory, but that could be changing soon.

IGN reports that during an investor call today, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot responded to a question about an Assassin's Creed game for the older platforms. "More info on that soon," he said. "It will come soon."

Tony key added that Ubisoft hasn't "forgotten about [their] loyal Assassin’s Creed fans on those systems.”

According to the original rumor, Unity was to be the new-generation Assassin's Creed game set in Paris, while Comet was to be last-gen only and set in North America. This would allow Ubisoft to take full advantage of both systems rather than forcing it to develop cross-platform. We had expected Comet to show up at Ubisoft's presentation at E3, but only Unity appeared. That means half of the original rumor panned out, and waiting for the rest has most likely just been a matter of time. 


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