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This Week in Xbox - Gears 4's visuals, The Division skill calculator, Bethesda's future

We're also giving away a digital copy of Unravel to one lucky commenter! Simply leave a reply and join the discussion for a chance to win.

Every week, I collect some of the biggest Xbox news, rumors and talking points into one handy post every weekend. You can also rely on this weekly column to catch up with all the latest game releases.

Welcome to the latest edition of This Week in Xbox One News.

Gears of War 4 set to be a 'graphical showcase' for the Xbox One

Gears of War studio head Rod Fergusson joined The Official Xbox Magazine to discuss Gears of War 4, set to feature in OXM's March 2016 issue. Rod Fergusson hailed the lessons Microsoft's internal Gears studio — The Coalition — learned while working on Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, and how 60 frames per second boosts the multiplayer experience.

"Delivering [with Ultimate Edition] the first 60fps multiplayer experience in franchise history really taught us a lot about what it means to have a 60fps culture on the team and we're leveraging that experience for Gears of War 4."

As reported by Nerdleaks.com, Rod Fergusson noted how Halo 5: Guardians set standards for visuals on the Xbox One, hoping that Gears of War 4 can achieve similar results:

"Like how the original Gears of War was a visual showcase for the Xbox 360, Gears of War 4 will be a graphical showcase for the Xbox One."

Microsoft purchased the rights to Gears of War back in 2014, and various key personnel from Epic Games jumped ship to work on the series' next installment. Gears of War 4 will utilize Unreal Engine 4 to produce its visuals, which have already been shown off in the trailer above, taken from last year's E3.

Gears of War 4 is expected to land in Fall, 2016, and those who purchased Gears of War: Ultimate Edition copies have guaranteed access to the upcoming multiplayer beta.

Killer Instinct will receive improved graphics with Season 3

Speaking of graphics, Killer Instinct's upcoming Season 3 update will improve the game's visuals in various ways. Microsoft's in-house fighter has already seen graphical improvements over the years, from resolution bumps to texture tweaks, but Season 3 will introduce even more features as detailed via the official Killer Instinct website:

"In terms of visuals, we are adding new graphics technology; reflection tech for the stages; re-introducing screen space color adjustments that work with gameplay; adding an all-new dynamic lighting system that provides greater realism and interaction for the characters and stages. Not only will Season 3 feature this new lighting, but we've gone back and re-lit everything for Season 1 and 2 as well. We can't wait for our fans to see the enhancements of KI's visuals!""Our lighting system was very specialized, and it was time for an overhaul. We met as a team to ideate and decided to use a system that allowed us to obtain dynamic lighting for the game, but work with our existing game engine. Once in place, our stages were completely re-lit utilizing the new tools while characters received updates to their lighting probes, which allows them to interact with the stage lighting. Characters now composite into the scenes in a way that is really believable – allowing for good integration/compositing while maintaining readability – especially important in a fighting game. We are now able to get realistic bounce and fill lighting on the characters and we are using strong rim lighting (from behind) to further pull the characters out from the background."

Killer Instinct Season 3 will bring a ton of new characters, features and other improvements, but most importantly a PC version, available via the Windows 10 Store complete with cross-platform play and DLC purchases. Adding a PC version should give the fighting game a large boost, as it goes head to head with the PS4/PC exclusive Street Fighter V, Mortal Kombat X and various other fighting games set to launch in the coming months.

The Division's 24 talents detailed in new video, skills calculator now available

YouTube gaming aficionado Arekkz has released a detailed video explaining just how The Division's talent system works, ahead of the game's March 8th launch.

The Division is very much an RPG, allowing you to customize your playstyle using talents and skills out of combat. As you progress the game's story, you'll unlock both skills and passive talents that trigger effects when certain conditions are met. You can equip four talents at any one time, and there's no limit on which types you can choose from — you could pick talents from across all three trees, or stick entirely to a single one. Medical talents and skills improve your ability to play a healing/support role; tech generally improves your offensive capabilities, and security increases your defensive abilities and mobility on the battlefield.

If you want to get a better look at The Division's skills, talents, and perks, as noted by Arekkz, reddit user Miodec has created a detailed interactive skill calculator, using information taken directly from the game. If you're planning on picking up The Division, it might be worth a bookmark.

The Division launches on March 8th, 2016 for Xbox One, PC, and PS4, and Xbox One owners will get 30 days early access to the game's DLC.

Elite Dangerous fleet gives us a glimpse at the center of the galaxy

Elite Dangerous is a futuristic space simulator, available on consoles exclusively for Xbox One. Elite Dangerous' players share the same servers, and the game uses instancing to prevent groups from negatively impact the game's stability. The self-styled Distant Worlds expedition was able to gather over 50 commanders at the location of Sagittarius A*, widely expected to be the real-world location of a supermassive black hole. The result is this stunning video, showing how faithful Frontier Developments have been when it comes to creating their scientific 1:1 scale simulation of our galaxy.

The Distant Worlds expedition is ambitiously attempting to travel a cross section of the Milky Way, surveying planets as they go. You can check out a detailed plan of their journey on the official Elite Dangerous forums here.

Elite Dangerous for Xbox One is expected to receive the Horizons expansion season sometime before Q4, 2016, bringing with it planetary landings and much more.

Ori and the Blind Forest cleans up at the D.I.C.E. Awards; Todd Howard teases future Bethesda projects

This past week saw the 19th annual D.I.C.E. award ceremony, which took place in Las Vegas. The D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit honors the achievements of the video game industry and its key figures, and Microsoft Studios' published titles took home several prizes.

Ori and the Blind Forest took home prizes for Outstanding Achievements in Art Direction, Music, and Animation while Rise of the Tomb Raider's Lara Croft took home a prize for Outstanding Achievement in Character. Additionally, Forza Motorsport 6 beat out Need for Speed and Project Cars for Racing Game of the Year.

Fallout 4 took the prize for Game of the Year, beating Ori and the Blind Forest, Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and the PS4 exclusive Bloodborne. D.I.C.E. also honored Hideo Kojima with an induction into the Hall of Fame, and Super Mario Bros. creator Shigeru Miyamoto with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Head over to GameSpot for the full list of awards and nominees.

During the D.I.C.E. Summit, Bethesda's Todd Howard teased what's next for the studio behind The Elder Scrolls and Fallout:

"We have three longer-term projects we're doing that are all... we'll talk about them at a much future date. But they're different than anything we've done before while also being a Bethesda-style game — big and crazy. But in many ways different than things we've done before."

Not much to go on, but it is (hopefully) inevitable that at least one of those projects includes Elder Scrolls VI.

Giveaway – Digital copy of Unravel for Xbox One

Unravel

Unravel stole the show at last year's EA E3 briefing, and here's your chance to let it steal your heart on Xbox One! Unravel is a high-quality physics platformer, complete with detailed 3D backdrops and increasingly complex puzzles. You'll guide Yarny, a magical creature made of string on an adventure to recover memories of the past.

One lucky commenter (chosen at random) will receive a digital key for the Xbox One version of Unravel!

The winner was MatsPers!

ICYMI - Some of Windows Central's biggest Xbox articles of the week

New Xbox One game releases for the week ending February 21st, 2016

Wondershot (opens in new tab) - Action & Adventure, Family, Other - Leikir Studio

"Wondershot is a local multiplayer battle arena! You have only one ammo and one life to defeat your opponent. If you miss your shot, your ammo will be lost on the map and you need to pick it up without dying. You can play 1 to 4 players. Each round, your weapon changes and the map does too."

Lords of the Fallen Digital Complete Edition (opens in new tab) - Role Playing - CI Games, Deck 13

"Plunge into the new Digital Complete Edition of Lords of the Fallen! Master the Challenge in the Ancient Labyrinth expansion containing a new location, loot and enemies led by a powerful new Lord."

Rocket League (opens in new tab) - Sports & Recreation - Psyonix

"Soccer meets driving once again in the award-winning, physics-based multiplayer-focused sequel to Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars! Choose a variety of high-flying vehicles equipped with huge rocket boosters to score amazing aerial goals and pull off incredible, game-changing saves!"

Layers of Fear (opens in new tab) - Action & Adventure, Horror - Aspyr Media

"You take another drink as the canvas looms in front of you. A light flickers dimly in the corner. You've created countless pieces of art, but never anything like…this. Why haven't you done this before? It seems so obvious in retrospect. Your friends, critics, business partners—soon, they'll all see. But something's still missing…"

Mitsurugi Kamui Hikae (opens in new tab) - Action & Adventure - ZENITH BLUE

"High school girls + Japanese swords! Enter the arena, take on a swarm of enemies and leave none standing in this action-fuelled indie game. Collect skill points to upgrade your techniques and confront even greater foes."

Pixel Piracy (opens in new tab) - Strategy & Simulation - 505 Games

"Presented by the creators of TERRARIA. Lead the life of a pirate captain in this open world sim! Recruit a crew, outfit them, customize your ship and set sail on the open seas! There you'll use any combination of aggression, diversion and trade to become the most infamous pirate crew of the seven seas!"

And that's a wrap!

This week we've been addicted to Rocket League, The Flame In The Flood and Far Cry Primal in equal measure. January through to April is typically regarded as a slow period for games, but between the titles mentioned earlier, Oxenfree, Unravel, Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2, The Division, Dying Light: The Following, Hitman and Quantum Break, Q1-2 2016 already looks set to buck the trend.

As always, join the discussion in the comments for a chance to win this week's giveaway, and check out our Xbox, Windows, and Microsoft OneCast show over here, with a new episode every week!

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

162 Comments
  • Giveaway?
  • Which is more beautiful, Ori or Unravel? Hear good stuff about about both games.
  • Nice
  • Yarney!
  • I hope Quantum Break won't deceive me! I hope it's really something new and fresh!
  • A shooter with FMV sequences.  Yeah, because that worked so damn well in the past. I've pre-ordered but am not expecting it to be any better than the last Need for Speed with its god awful cut scenes and underwhelming gameplay in a world of perpetual night.
  • It is the first game ever I pre-ordered. So it have to have at least goty potential, right? Jokes apart, I hope it will be really good considering it reached gold status month before release.
  • I can't wait for The Division.
  • Same here. So glad it's only two weeks out, but my wife may disown me lol
  • I like puzzle platform games and Unravel is the right thing in that category, a must have for anyone who love this category!
  • Im down to win.
  • Woo. I would love that copy. Good stuff.
  • Was anyone not as munch in love with, The Division as you thought you'd be? I don't know if it was the lack of stuff to do in the beta or what, but it didn't impress me as much as I thought it would.
  • Yeah. So, after drinking the Kool aid and believing the hype for so long I found the game a little lackluster. I can't quite put my finger on it though, when I first started it I was like wow, this is gonna be awesome but the more I did the more I started seeing things that bugged me. For one, there is clearly copy/paste interior design going on, don't let anyone tell you differently. In one apartment building I found they had identical, and I mean identical down to the broken flat screen TV condos right next to each other. The NPCs also bug the hell out of me. When approached they all, pretty much, reference my weapon and how I shouldn't be so threatening out pointing it at them. Well, you know what, I wasn't pointing it at you, stupid, I was simply carrying with me as there's apparently no way not too. Then, the bad guys. What the heel armor are they using and can I have some please? Geez, some of these guys will take several mags of SMG fire right to the head before going down. I understand the need for boss-style fights, but this is god damned ridiculous. And don't get me started on the Dark Zone. I spent well over an hour trying to get some gear extracted the first time. Every. Single. Time. some bastards would come gun me down while waiting for extraction. Again, I understand the game mechanics here, but there's gotta be a better way. People are prone to acting like asshats when gaming online and this is gonna get old real fast unless you're playing with friends (in which case you'll never run the risk of losing extractions, because no-one will bother shooting anyone) or you happen to come across a group of likeminded people who are as edgy themselves due to whatever loot they're trying to extract. I dunno. I'll still probably get this one, but its gone from a definite preorder to a I might wait for a sale kind of title.
  • The beta's there so Ubisoft can monitor the gameplay and make adjustments to issues such as these. It may be too late to do anything now, but these could be addressed in a patch post launch
  • ^ Yup, that.
  • Giveaway? Nice to see Ori being recognised.
  • Graphics look impressive and gameplay looks familiar, should be a great game!
  • Show me the money!
  • Is it a good game?
  • Unravel looks really good, yes please!
  • Unravel looks amazing!!
  • I've wanted to try this game out!
  • Want Yarn:)
  • Can't wait for gears 4 and battlefield 5 later on this year. It's gonna be a great year of online gaming
  • I completely agree brother
  • Good stuff
  • Gears 4 or Gears of War 4 looks to be going back to its roots. Dark with a hint of horror and suspense, visually it looks fantastic and I can't wait.
  • Yep, that was the case with Gears 1 ad why I loved it, I can't wait for this title and the online too.
  • Unravel actually looks pretty fun
  • Cant wait to play gears 4 Unravel looks amazing
  • Unravel me, please! Looking forward to Gears 4 and KI improvements. This also makes me more excited to play Ori, which I purchased, but haven't started yet.
  • Looking forward to the KI visual improvements, but I am more impressed with the developers use of the word ideate. I may have to do some ideating myself, to see how I can incorporate that word more into my daily vocabulary.
  • So looking forward to KI Season 3, it looks so good now. Cool to see Xbox games win some awards at DICE.
  • I would like to win the Unravel copy =D
  • Can't wait for the division to release. Looks like a destiny replacement
  • I can't wait to see where the story goes in GoW4.
  • Unravel me please. :-)
  • Ori just squeaked in based on its almost but not quite 1st birthday (March 11).  Not sure how it won the awards it did though.  It was a ncie looking platformer but other than the intro that was as emotional as any Disney movie, with their sick obsession with killing the main character's parents, it was pretty average.
  • Here's hoping for that prize...
  • Division feel like a "meh" game.
  • JELLY FLOOD!
  • Thanks for chance! ;)
  • Can't wait for all the new KI flash. I'm already die hard, this only sweetens the pot for me.
  • I still like Witcher 3 over Fall Out 4. *Grabs Popcorn*
  • Hows that popcorn tasting?
  • Salty
  • I agree. Witcher 3 hooked me like no other game this past year.
  • Giveaway :)
  • Unravel looks rather interesting.
  • Gonna come undone if I don't win Unravel!!
  • Can't wait for Gear 4! Boom!
  • Still super excited about the division. The more I play the more I like. I really like the dark zone but is there going to be anything big like raids or something along those lines? I just want to do more than dark done when the time comes.
  • I'm racing through Tomb Raider 2013 at the moment so I can start on Rise of the Tomb Raider - looking forward to playing through it!
  • Unravel looks great
  • The Division was a sick beta. I don't have the funds to buy it in a few weeks but I plan on buying it when the price eventually decreases.
  • Based on Todd Howard's comments I don't expect any of those 3 titles to be Elder Scrolls VI. Of course they'll do it; they like money. Given that Fallout 4 is the best selling game they've ever made, that only cements their need to make ESVI. It's the only series they have with a larger, more ravenous fan base. Besides, a proper, numbered Elder Scrolls game (not ESO) is one of two series (numbered Fallout games being the other) Todd Howard is directly involved in and he's already stated he's taking a break after finishing Fallout 4. I expect one of the 3 titles to be a clean, sci-fi world like Mirrors Edge, Mass Effect, etc. It will be an RPG very much like Elder Scrolls & Fallout, but distinctly different in appearance & theme. But I don't think it will be Cyberpunk in style because they'd be accused of ripping off or just following the Witcher devs.
  • Will be cool when I can post with the new app for win-central
  • Every single time Bethesda puts out a new game I find myself losing it for a new title by them. I want a new elder scrolls so badly (I like TES more than FO anyway).
    Also oh man, i'd love to win a copy of unravel. I'll be picking it up in the near future anyway, but free is always better! =D
  • Played the closed beta and the opened beta of the division. And i cant wait for it. Will buy it day one Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Graphical showcase on that GPU? That's cute.
  • The gears news excites me, as having a house full of Gears of War fans. The beta can't come soon enough.
    Still undecided on The Division, but Quantum Break is looking more like a day 1 for me.
    Yarney, well yet to play so can't comment on that.
  • Looking forward to gears of war soooooooo much! Really love the whole series. I think GoW3 was the worst one of all of them so I hope the new one will be better :)
    And Quantum Break! I am super hyped of that game, really looks amazing! And the fact that they release it for xbox and W10 AND that they are going to support mouse/keyboard on xbox hopefully means more cross-platform games and also cross-platform purchase of the games :D
  • Congrats, you won Unravel for Xbox One! We'll be in touch.
  • First comment... With the new app. Like it. Anyway, it's interesting KI is turning into a yearly game, like some shooters or sports games, but it doesn't seem to get much press.
  • Do you find the new app sluggish when swiping? I also get frequent crashes. I also can't access the forums.Do you experience them issues? (I'm using a 950XL) 
  • The Division beta has got me Interested! Yarny is a legend. Good luck all.
  • Gears 4 looks great, it seems like it will be a lot like the original so far! Excited to see what Bethesda brings next as well!
  • Honestly, I think Ori should've won Game of the Year too. I think it may be the greatest 2D puzzle platformer of the past decade. I can't wait for the Definitive Edition.
  • I've been debating on buying Unravel. It would be awesome to get it for free
  • I've played The Division alpha but didn't play much of the beta. I think I was on it for half an hour. I'm not really sure about it, regardless, I've already pre-ordered the Gold Editition. I feel as though it kind of repeats itself over and over again. Like it's got no real storyline. I know the beta only had 2 main missions but it didn't feel as though it was as good as the 'hype' lead it to be. I also get tired of running everywhere, I wish ther