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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 - Robert Workman

Activision's Destiny beta is nearly upon us. It's set to kick off tomorrow on PlayStation Network and next week on Xbox Live, giving players a lot of new content to play with through July 27th. However, what content can we expect from this beta? A new letter purportedly sent to GameStop and EB Game store managers could indicate just what players will be in for.

The letter, which previously went up on Reddit, indicates that the beta will include four separate story chapters to choose from, along with four competitive multiplayer maps and a "huge world to explore with your own unique Guardian."

Activision, nor Bungie, have yet to confirm the contents of the beta, but it will go live starting tomorrow at 1 PM EDT on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, so some players won't have to wait long to find out. The beta will run through July 27th, although it will be down for maintenance on July 21-22.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Remember the good ol' days when you pre-ordered a game and you actually got something physical out of it, like a keychain or a t-shirt? Those days seemed to have gone bye-bye in favor of digital content, but Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has a nifty initiative going for its forthcoming adventure Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.

The game, due for release later this year, will feature various playable characters from the DC Universe, taking to space to take on the villainous Lex Luthor and other dastardly ne'er-do-wells. Those who pre-order the game won't just get a good blocky time in the virtual world, as they'll also get a physical mini, according to Game Informer. The one exception is Best Buy, which offers a digital comic. Here's the line-up of what you can get if you pre-order the game through retailers. 

  • Amazon: Lego Batgirl keychain

  • Best Buy: Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham digital comic book by Comixology

  • GameStop: Lego Plastic Man minifigure

  • Target: Lego Batwing miniset

  • Toys 'R Us: Lego The Joker keychain

  • Walmart: Lego Tumbler miniset

It appears that the best bets here are Target and Walmart, especially if you're a hardcore Lego fan. Regardless, at least you're getting something good for your money when you pre-order this one.

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham will arrive later this year for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, 3DS, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Shacknews - Robert Workman

Major League Baseball's biggest week is upon us, as the All-Star game is set to kick off at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Many superstar players will step up to represent their American and National Leagues, trying to prove who's the best. Sony took it the extra mile this week, emulating the all-star slamfest with its baseball simulation MLB 14: The Show.

The video highlights, as shown below, give you an idea of what to expect from the game, including strong hits from the likes of Carlos Gomez and Andrew McCutchen, as well as plenty of steals and home runs for good measure.

As for the end result, not to be a spoiler, but the National League does come out on top in a close 5-3 contest. Fans can certainly argue whether this will play out in real life, but, hey, if you own a copy of MLB 14 for either PS3, PS4 or PS Vita, you can come up with your own conclusion, right?

The MLB All Star Game airs tomorrow night on Fox. MLB 14: The Show is available now.

Shacknews - Steven Wong

Among the numerous sports games shown at the EA Summer Showcase in New York City, I found myself drawn to NHL 15, which is unusual considering I have little knowledge, interest or skill in hockey games. Generally, my disinterest in sports isn't limited to hockey, but I still impressed enough by looking at the game to try it out. What can I say? There's something appealing about a game where the players might suddenly throw down their gloves and fist fight. The controls had to be set to a two-button newbie mode, where all I had to worry about was passing and shooting, but that was fine with me.

Realism is the key to any sports game, and NHL really pushes the current generation of hardware to create a highly detailed experience. Through a deal with NBC, hockey matches kick off with real live recorded broadcasters. This then transitioned into real-life stock footage of the TD Garden in Boston, where the game was being played. I played as the Bruins, and this was a home game. NHL 15 seamlessly transitioned from live action to game graphics, giving it the feel of watching a broadcast sport. Even the audience looks realistically diverse, with fans from both sides occupying certain sections. Some even hold up humorous signs for the camera against the penalty box plexiglass. Now I'm just waiting for a pair of guys in green morph suits to appear.

The presenter took a moment to pause the game and zoom in on one of the players. Each player is realistically detailed right down to the stitching on their uniforms and the decals on their boots. After a few minutes of playing, he paused the game again to show how the minute details like scuffs on the player's boots began to show. The developers also used an physicist to help do mathematical calculations behind the puck movements. So, puck physics are phenomenal. Furthermore, a great deal of attention was paid on cloth physics. At one point, he made a shot that bounced off the goalie's shirt, off his arm pad, and back out onto the ice. Freezing the instant replay highlighted the puck's trajectory and revealed how the puck rippled his uniform as it bounced off his shoulder. It looked so real that I almost had sympathy pains for the goalie. The same goes for the nice heavy hitting sounds and animations when players body check each other.

I couldn't help but be impressed with all the technical aspects NHL 15 had to offer, and really started getting into the game, perhaps because of the simplified controls. However, I have to give a lot of credit to the game's AI, which clearly carried the game when I could not. The computer goalie blocked shots like a pro, and my teammates expertly chased down pucks that I kept losing control of. I didn't really get a the hang of stopping to shoot, and instead sailed past the puck with my stick in the air like a total moron. There were also plenty of instances where I passed the puck out into open space with little more than an a hope that someone on my team was around to receive it. It's too bad that I didn't get into the on ice fist-fight I was looking forward to, but NHL 15 still managed to win me over without bloodshed.

NHL 15 is scheduled to release for the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, and PS4 on September 9th.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

This year's Evolution Championship Series tournament is behind us. While there were many news items that broke out during the weekend, the past three days were primarily about fighting games and everything that makes them so much fun to play and watch. There were indeed memorable moments from all across the tournament weekend, so let's take a look at some of the more eye-opening ones from Friday and Saturday.

Super Smash Bros. Melee hype train rolls on

The monstrous hype that Super Smash Bros. Melee garnered during last year's Evo event showed no signs of slowing down, as evidenced by Friday's pool action. As Ultra Street Fighter 4 played its pool on secondary streams and on the monitors along each side of the convention hall in Las Vegas, all eyes were glued to Melee and the expert play that was taking center stage.

Arguably, the match of the day was between Vectorman's Yoshi and Jace's Captain Falcon. Yoshi showed great perseverance, managing to keep himself alive across a number of precarious situations and staying alive long enough to send Falcon crashing down to a crushing loss. The match between Fizzy's Captian Falcon and Lucien's Zelda/Sheik (above) wasn't too shabby, either. The tone had been set. Super Smash Bros. Melee was not about to slow down this year.

The kids are alright

The fighting game community isn't solely comprised of aging arcade-era legends and college kids. A whole new generation of players is preparing to overthrow the old guard and among the youngest participants at this year's tournament was the 14-year-old prodigy from Japan named Gen.

The youngster had clawed his way to the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Grand Finals and looked to reset the bracket with his team of Bob and Leo. Unfortunately, Twitch's JDCR would not be denied and Gen would fall short against the duo of Heihachi and Armor King. There were moments when it looked like Gen would break through and he quickly had the crowd believing in him. By the end, the capacity crowd knew that even in defeat, Gen had made a name for himself as a major player to watch for years to come.

Street Fighter Bloodbath

Remember last week when I wrote about the players to watch in this year's Ultra Street Fighter 4 tournament? How I rambled on about the tournament favorites and how they would match up against one another? Well, none of them made it past Friday night. Infiltration, Tokido, Daigo Umehara (one of Chatty's favorite fighters), Haitani, and Justin Wong were all sent home quietly off-stream. In fact, Eduardo "PR Balrog" Perez didn't even make it as far as the Top 32.

But perhaps the biggest upset of the night came when Southern California's own Darryl "Snake Eyez" Lewis went toe-to-toe with defending world champion Xian. Lewis's Zangief did not back down an inch against Xian's Gen, leading to the most intense match of the night. At the end, time was running down with Zangief on the brink of defeat. Xian attempted to finish him off with one last Ultra Combo, but wasn't able to hit and Lewis nailed him with an EX green hand as time expired. The hit was just enough to give Lewis the narrow life lead and the win, leading to a jubilant eruption from the crown in attendance, all celebrating Lewis's biggest victory ever. Meanwhile, Xian would unceremoniously be eliminated later in the night in Losers Bracket off-stream, capping off a night of unbelievable upsets.

Wednesday Night Fights dominates Next Level Battle Circuit

After the intensity of the Ultra Street Fighter 4 semi-finals, it was time for a bit of levity. The roster from the weekly Wednesday Night Fights tournament in Southern California would face off against the crew from the weekly Next Level Battle Circuit tournament in New York, engaging in a friendly battle of 5-on-5 coastal warfare for USF4 bragging rights.

The first match started with Team PIE's Zeus (Vega) facing Mad Catz's Marq Teddy (Guy). The rules were clearly stipulated that each pair of opponents would play one game. Zeus quickly beat Teddy, but the opponents then began a rematch. They were swiftly told over the house mic that it was supposed to be one game, but nobody listened and the rules were grudgingly changed to best 2 out of 3. That turned out to be a big mistake for NLBC.

Teddy took the next two sets to eliminate Zeus, while Team PIE's Smug and his Dudley would fall in similar fashion to Keno's Balrog. WNF's Veloc1raptor (Gouken) and FilipinoMan (Rose) would then take out Sanford Kelly's Sagat and Arturo "Sabin" Sanchez's Dhalsim, respectively, to take a near-insurmountable 4-0 lead going into NLBC's final man. And while EMP's Dieminion made a valiant effort in narrowly beating out Snake Eyez's Zangief, he soon fell, poetically enough, to Marq Teddy in the next match.

It was a banner victory for the west coast and a reminder that sometimes it's best to just stick to the original rules.

Injustice takes flight

Last year's Injustice: Gods Among Us tournament was a borderline snooze-fest, showing some of the worst aspects of the game's balance issues in front of a worldwide stage. Partly because of that, Injustice's Grand Finals were relegated to Saturday afternoon, but Netherrealm's fighter wasn't going to disappoint for a second year.

Sonic Fox and his Batgirl had clawed their way up from Losers Bracket and had only one obstacle left: Pig of the Hut's General Zod. Unlike last year's spamfest, Fox showed some skillful Batgirl play, taking everything Hut had to offer and coming right back to win the first five sets. Having racked up rage quit after rage quit, Hut was done playing games and took an overwhelming life lead in the sixth game, looking to rack up a 'Perfect' and begin his comeback. However, it wasn't meant to be, as Sonic Fox completed one final comeback to polish off Hut and convincingly win the Injustice tournament with a 6-0 shutout.

It may be too little, too late for Injustice, given that Ed Boon took the stage minutes later to discuss the next Mortal Kombat. But if this is the final showcase for the DC Comics-based fighter, it went out like a champion, like any good superhero should.

When's Mahvel: Now in (AD)HD!

One of the more unusual moments of the weekend came when Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 took the stage. While the Winners Bracket would be shown on the main stage, the decision was made to also have the Losers Bracket matches play out simultaneously on the side screens. The result was one of the worst cases of split focus imaginable, as the crowd (as well as the Twitch streamers at home) were stuck having to keep track of two matchups with major implications unfolding at the same time.

The biggest example included the crowd keeping track of a barnburner between Justin Wong (Wolverine/Storm/Akuma) and Nicolas "KaneBlueRiver" Gonzalez (Hulk/Haggar/Sentinel), while Jonathan "Cloud 805" Morales (Zero/Vergil/Dante) and Eduardo "PR Balrog" Perez (Wolverine/Doctor Doom/Vergil) were fighting for their tournament lives in Losers Bracket just inches away. While marquee matchups were happening in the middle of the stage, a number of good tournament players, including Gonzalez, Morales, and Vineeth "ApologyMan" Meka (Firebrand/Doctor Doom/Super Skrull) were all sent home in edge-of-your-seat thrillers, sending fans scrambling for the stream archive once the smoke had cleared.

Of course, that was far from the end of the weekend. Come back later today to re-live the unforgettable final day of competition.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Nintendo promised another Smash Bros character reveal this morning, and it overdelivered--all of them from the recent 3DS strategy RPG Fire Emblem Awakening. The character trailer showed off Lucina and "Robin." If that last one doesn't sound familiar, that's because it's the player character from Awakening. Just as in the game, you can pick your gender to play as Robin. 

Lucina appears to be a fairly standard sword-wielder, while Robin has a sword along with several magical tomes that he or she can only use a set number of times in a match. Fire Emblem's Chrom appeared too, seemingly as an assist trophy. Captain Falcon was also shown off in the trailer hinting at his inclusion--though given his appearance in all of the Smash Bros games so far, that's not much of a surprise.

Shacknews - Ozzie Mejia

Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada took the stage during tonight's Evolution Championship Series event to announce a new game in the works. And as rumored earlier this morning, it's Tekken 7, the next game in the acclaimed fighting game series.

Harada revealed the new trailer in front of a captive audience, revealing that Tekken 7 would indeed be the final chapter in the Tekken saga. And as previously rumored, the trailer confirmed that it would be built with Unreal Engine. More information is promised for San Diego Comic-Con.

Check out the full trailer below.


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