Technological World for September 9: Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X launch November 10, PAX Online begins Saturday, Facebook to require accounts for Oculus VR users, Star Wars: Squadrons single player details, Marvel's Avengers is amazing

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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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