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What the FLOP? Demystifying the Xbox One X specs

Don’t know your FLOPS from Compute Units? We’re here to demystify the specs of the most powerful video game console ever – the Xbox One X.

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Xbox One X specs

Don’t know your FLOPS from Compute Units? We’re here to demystify the specs of the most powerful video game console ever – the Xbox One X.

The announcement that everyone was expecting finally came at Microsoft’s E3 2017 conference: Project Scorpio is now Xbox One X, will be released on November 7, 2017, and will cost $499 US / £449 / 499 euro / 599 CAD / 649 AUS. There were also a slew of game announcements – be they new games, or existing titles that will be enhanced by their beefed up console – but the key thing everyone wanted to know Microsoft wanted to show off were the finalised Xbox One X specs.

So, without further ado, here they are:

Xbox One X specs

  • CPU: Custom AMD CPU, 8 cores @ 2.3GHz
  • GPU: Custom AMD GPU, including:
    • 40 Compute Units @ 1.172 GHz
    • AMD Polaris features
    • 6 TFLOPS of performance
  • RAM: 12GB GDDR5
  • Storage: 1TB storage (with 8GB flash)
  • Optical: 4K UHD BluRay player
  • Power supply: Internal 245W
  • Resolution: 2160p (4K) @ 60Hz, including:
    • AMD FreeSync
    • HDMI variable refresh rate
    • HDR10 support
  • Dimensions: 30 x 24 x 6 cm
  • Weight: 3.81kg

And a great looking thing it is, too.

The concern on our end was that to fit in the sorts of components Microsoft were talking about – capable of 4K, 60 frames per second playback – the Xbox One X would have to grow considerably bigger than the svelte and quite beautiful Xbox One S, towards the size of its ugly, living-under-a-bridge older brother, the original Xbox One. It is heavier than both the Xbox One S and the original Xbox One though, so it’s a good thing you don’t have to carry it around like a Switch.

We were almost certain that meant switching back to an external power brick, but no; they’ve even crammed a large internal PSU into the Xbox One X. It’s a bit of a result, all things considered.

We’ve also heard words bandied around like “Super Sampling” and “Vapour Chamber Cooling” as part of the presentation, to go with your Compute Units and TFLOPs, and all the other jargon from the specs. Microsoft – and lets be honest, large sections of the gaming press – seem to be taking it for granted that people will either know what these things mean, or at the very least will rest easy in the knowledge that the numbers are bigger than its predecessors (and the PS4 Pro).

But when Microsoft are asking five hundred dollars, making the Xbox One X the most expensive console ever (discounting adjustments for inflation) we feel it would be best if people knew what they were getting for their money.

Xbox One X

Xbox One X specs – Basic terminology

CPU

The CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is the beating heart at the middle of any computer. Designed for generalised tasks, the CPU is what does the bulk of the work on your PC or laptop – running the operating system and the applications – and the logical stuff behind games. Generally speaking, more cores and bigger clock frequencies (measured in GHz, or GigaHertz) are better.

GPU

The GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit, is a specialist type of processor specifically designed for visual tasks. Unlike the CPU which is very generalised, a GPU focuses its attention on specific mathematical tasks that translate into the visual effects we see when images from your game are rendered on screen. Like the CPU, more cores and bigger clock frequencies are better.

RAM

RAM, or Random Access Memory, is the amount of operating memory available to your computer or console. Different from the memory types used in storage (see below) the amount or RAM determines how well your machine will run larger and more complex tasks. Quantity and speed of memory are considerations, but generally, larger numbers are better here, too.

Video RAM

This is just like regular RAM, but it’s assigned to the GPU to assist it with visual and rendering tasks. Typically dedicated video memory is better (as opposed to sharing the system RAM) but in consoles, RAM is often shared between both CPU and GPU; this has less of an impact because a console’s underlying operating system is less demanding than, say, Windows.

Storage

The amount of storage you have determines how much stuff – like games, movies, or saved content – on your console. Generally bigger numbers are better, but larger disks (still made in the traditional way with spinning magnetic platters) are much slower than SSDs, or Solid State Drives, which are built on similar technology to RAM.

Cache

A flash cache – a small amount of companion storage, similar in specs to RAM or SSDs – can be used to speed up a machine with spinning disks, to offer a compromise between storage capacity and speed.

OK, so that’s all the basic terminology covered; now let’s cover some of the specific jargon-tastic details from the Xbox One X specs reveal.

Xbox One X

Xbox One X specs – Jargon demystified

“6 TFLOPS”

What the hell are TFLOPS, you might be wondering? Well first, you need to know what a single FLOP is. A FLOP is, well, it’s maths. Very complex maths.

Specifically, it’s a measure of the number of Floating Point Operations Per Second, and that’s the unit of measurement by which we compare the relative raw performance of GPUs. So TFLOPS are the measurement of a a billion FLOPS, as in, Tera Floating Point Operations Per Second, or 102 FLOPS. The more you know.

Floating Point Operations Per Second, in real terms, are calculations including either very big numbers, or extremely small ones (with lots of decimal places). It’s a measure of how many calculations a chipset can achieve in a second, using these complex numbers. That’s literally it. It’s how good at maths your graphics card is, because the sort of work that graphics cards do in rendering complex visual environments is very similar to the sorts of sums being done in advanced mathematics and physics.

Why are GPUs measured in FLOPS, though? Surely it must be as straightforward as just looking at the specs – like the GPU clock speed – and seeing which one’s got the bigger numbers, right? Well, sort of, but not entirely.

You might find that an older GPU chip has a particularly high clock speed, but it may be less inefficient – and therefore, perform fewer FLOPS – than a newer chip with a lower, more efficient GPU. And because graphics card manufacturers use all sorts of different terminology for their own technologies, something neutral and set in mathematics – like FLOPS – becomes a good general comparison.

It’s also worth mentioning at this stage that the FLOPS figures – in terms of graphics cards at least – will always refer to the ‘single precision’ value, which is processing numbers up-to 32 bits. If you’re looking at ‘double precision’ then the numbers can be twice as complex, up to a maximum of 64 bits.

“40 Compute Units”

Compute units are, in really simple terms, the AMD way of saying how many cores are available in your GPU. Where a CPU – for its general, light mathematical workload – might have two, four, or eight cores, a GPU will likely have thousands.

The 40 Compute Units referred to in Microsoft’s Xbox One X specs doesn’t mean the GPU has 40 cores; it has far more than that. You have to multiply that figure of 40 by 64, giving a total number of 2560, for the number of ‘cores’ or Streams in that GPU.

Without going into too much detail – because I like you and I don’t want to hurt your head – a Compute Unit is made up of a number of components. The most important of these for our purpose are the Stream Multiprocessors, or SIMD or Streams in AMD parlance.

And each of these Compute Units has 64 bytes of cache available to it, hence the multiplier of 64 above. So again, more is better, but now you know what the numbers actually mean.

“AMD Polaris Features”

Yeah, this isn’t particularly interesting. It basically tells you that the GPU inside the Xbox One X is a custom unit built upon the AMD Polaris platform – the technology behind their Radeon RX 500 series – and you’ll be granted with the same benefits (and burdens) as that generation of graphics cards.

“12GB GDDR5”

This refers to the quantity and type of memory in the Xbox One X.

Unlike the original Xbox One, which used desktop standard DDR3 and a RAM buffer to try and counter the slower speed, the Xbox One X is kitted out with faster GDDR5 memory. DDR, since you weren’t asking, stands for Double Data Rate. The ‘G’ at the beginning means its specifically designed for graphical purposes, and the ‘5’ is the generation of RAM technology.

This means, without a doubt, that the Xbox One X has better – and a greater amount – of memory than its predecessors. But in this configuration, the CPU and GPU are effectively part of one integrated unit, and are expected to share this 12GB of RAM.

So while you might be thinking the Xbox One X has way more RAM than desktop graphics cards, which usually top out around 8GB, it’s going to be a similar amount available for the graphical portion of rendering the game (with the rest required by the CPU and background operating processes).

“2160p (4K) @ 60Hz”

This is the display resolution that the Xbox One X will be able to drive (assuming you have a 4K screen to show it on).

4K – literally 4,000 – is the number of horizontal pixels on a 4K display, precisely 3840 pixels wide by 2160 high (at a widescreen ratio of 16:9). So, you know, it’s 4,000 wide, give or take a few pixels. Confusingly, display resolutions are generally named after their vertical axis, for example 720p (1280 x 720 pixels) and 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels), so we’re not entirely sure why it’s commonly referred to as 4K (and not 2160p like its predecessors).

The 60Hz bit refers to the refresh rate it can support. 60Hz is literally 60 complete frame refreshes within one second, which is a good number when combined with the industry-standard goal of 60 frames per second.

The human eye can perceive faster refresh rates than that, but the ability to perceive detail – rather than just general light and motion – is reduced as the refresh rate goes up. More frames and higher refresh rates are of course better, but there comes a point where you’re just chasing a white whale.

“Aficionados might be able to tell teeny tiny differences, but for the rest of us it’s like red wine is red wine,” explains Professor Thomas Busey, associate department chair at Indiana University’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, in a primer on display and refresh rates on PC Gamer earlier this year.

“AMD FreeSync”

This is AMD’s name for their adaptive synchronisation technology, which is broadly equivalent to Nvidia’s G-Sync. It’s also free and without license, whereas the Nvidia equivalent is proprietary and often linked to specific hardware.

To cut a long story short, it’s designed to reduce or remove artefacts or tearing when frames are being updated or refreshed. It also does some other clever things like reducing battery usage on portable devices (by not updating pixels that haven’t changed) but that’s not really important to prospective Xbox One X owners.

“HDMI Variable Refresh Rate”

This is a newly announced technology, in the HDMI 2.1 standard, which means that visuals are more fluid and less prone to tearing, similar to AMD FreeSync. Here’s the full details from the HDMI specification:

“Game Mode VRR features variable refresh rate, which enables a 3D graphics processor to display the image at the moment it is rendered for more fluid and better detailed gameplay, and for reducing or eliminating lag, stutter, and frame tearing.”
HDMI 2.1 specs, HDMI.org

“HDR10”

HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a method of applying different brightness and contract levels to different parts of the image simultaneously. This is a dynamic effect, calculated on the fly, which typically results in darker blacks and brighter colours for a more exciting and stimulating image. Again, here are the details from the HDMI specs:

“Dynamic HDR ensures every moment of a video is displayed at its ideal values for depth, detail, brightness, contrast, and wider color gamuts—on a scene-by-scene or even a frame-by-frame basis.”
HDMI 2.1 specs, HDMI.org

“Super Sampling”

This is the technology that the Xbox One X will use to effectively upscale the resolution of older games not designed for the console’s increased power, so that all games benefit retroactively from the new hardware. Much like the way the PS4 Pro uses Checkboard Scaling to make games that aren’t actually 4K look like 4K on high-end displays, the Xbox One X will use Super Sampling to make older games – even backwards compatible ones – look shinier and better on modern displays.

Just for reference, by the way, the PS4 Pro kicks out around 4.2 TFLOPS, compared to the Xbox One X’s 6 TFLOPS. You can check out our earlier comparison between the Xbox One, PS4, PS4 Pro and Xbox One X (then known as Project Scorpio) which still largely holds up.

That Microsoft are promising full 4K and not just Super Sampling on all games with the Xbox One X, with a 42% bump in FLOPS over the PS4 Pro, is quite impressive.

“Vapour Chamber Cooling”

There are three ways of cooling the very hot silicon used in CPUs and GPUs for processing data and playing games:

  1. Air cooling
  2. Liquid cooling (sometimes known as water cooling)
  3. Induction cooling

That doesn’t mean you’re restricted to one and not the others, though.

Air cooling pulls fresh air into the chassis and evacuates it (out of the top, side or rear) using fans to cool down components, but it can’t do it alone. Induction cooling, most commonly used in the form of heat sinks – heat spreader blocks made of thermally conductive materials, engineered to effectively wick heat away from the precious components – has the aforementioned cold air blown across its surface to cool down the silicon. It’s a real team effort.

Liquid cooling works in much the same way, but instead of blowing air across the heat sink, a closed loop liquid system is used to pull the excess heat away from the heat sink towards a radiator – a liquid-tube grid with air blown through it, just like the radiator in your car – to cool the liquid before it returns to the hot spots.

And the Vapour Chamber Cooling specified in the Xbox One X? That’s just a really fancy induction cooling system, that actually uses tubes within the heat sink – often filled with a liquid or inert gas – to pull heat away from the CPU and GPU more efficiently than solid metal heat spreaders. Here’s a little primer from cooling technology manufacturer CoolerMaster on how their vapour chamber units work.

Xbox One X

Xbox One X Specs – Any conclusions?

There’s no doubting the Xbox One X is an expensive unit, as consoles go. That’s likely to put lots of people off, particularly when you include the cost of a 4K TV on top of that (if you don’t already own one).

Don’t forget that as gaming matures as a platform, so too does its audience, who were once scraping together paper round money to buy Mastertronic tapes from the bargain bin at the local newsagent. Nowadays those audiences might very well be buying houses and cars, so a console for five hundred bucks doesn’t seem that severe, does it?

But Microsoft are also taking a different tack in their competition with Sony, trying to position their new console between traditional console and PC gamers, as an interesting third road. We’ll see how well the Xbox One X stacks up against building your own PC in another article – check back later in the week for that – but the takeaway here is that, once you look past all the jargon, Microsoft’s new console is very impressive.

But most importantly, you now know what the FLOP Microsoft are talking about – and jargon-spouting games folk in general – when they’re talking about the number of Floating Point Operations Per Second. It’s the ability of a processing unit to do really hard maths, which as it happens, means it’s also really good at rendering beautiful video game graphics.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.

Guides

Where are the secret tapes in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2?

Finding all the Secret Tapes in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 doesn’t have to be as difficult as finding an IRL VHS in 2020.

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 Secret Tapes Guide
Activision / Thumbsticks

Finding all the Secret Tapes in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 doesn’t have to be as difficult as finding an IRL VHS in 2020.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is good. We have a review that says just that. Here’s a different review, if you need a second opinion. See? It’s good.

Additionally, you can find an in-depth feature on the impact the soundtrack had for the featured bands here. If you want to find every tape from the first game, click here. But if you’re looking for the tapes from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 read on.

Hangar

From the starting ramp, skate down into the section with the half-pipe and plane. Use the ramp on the far left to enter the area with the helicopter. Then, use the ramp to boost onto the helicopter and grind along its blades. This will cause the helicopter to take off, crashing through the wall and out of the hangar. Make the same exit, to find the Secret Tape suspended above the furthest ramp, which you can easily boost off to reach it.

School II

This one is a little more difficult. From the start, skate to the right and down the hallway to enter the courtyard. Skate forward to find a section with planters leading into ramps. Build up your special meter to gain speed, then boost off the leftmost ramp to get onto the awning. Wallride into a grind to access the rooftop, then make a hard stop. From here, you should see a ramp which you can ride off to reach a tape. But, be sure to line up your jump before you go or you may have to do this section all over again.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 school

New York

This one is pretty easy if you know what to do. (And a little tricky if your brightness settings are on the darker side.)

From the start, skate straight ahead until you see a pipe leaning against a fence. Grind up the pipe to reach New York’s second major area. Once you’re in, skate up the spiralling concrete ramp where you’ll see metal pipes leading most of the way to a floating Secret Tape. The trick here is to Ollie from the first pipe early and lean hard to the left to land on a second pipe which curves inward. Maintain your balance and you’ll easily get the tape.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 New York

Venice

This tape is deceptively easy to get. Skate forward from the start and look for the ramp above. Build up your special to gain some speed, then boost off the ramp, land, skate back toward the second table on the left. Ramp off it and you can pretty easily grab the tape.

Philadelphia

This one is straightforward. The Secret Tape is floating above the fountain on a wire. Follow the wire to its source, on an elevated planter nearby. Ollie up to the grass, then grind along the wire to grab the tape. If you keep going you can get the Vicarious Visions V, as well.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 Philadelphia

Missed our guide on the secret tape locations from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1? We’ve got a guide for that, too.

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Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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Guides

Where are the secret tapes in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1?

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 brings back those pesky Secret Tapes. Here’s where to find them.

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 Secret Tapes Guide
Activision / Thumbsticks

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 brings back those pesky Secret Tapes. Here’s where to find them.

The Tony Hawk games were always just really good 3D platformers — check out this video of Mario grinding all over Bo- Omb Battlefield if you don’t believe me. And, because they’re 3D platformers, each level has a ton of collectables hidden in hard-to-reach places. And in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, none is quite as elusive as the Secret Tape.

These glowing VHS tapes show up in every level, save the competitive stages like Burnside and Skate Park. If you’re anything like me, you’ll often see a tape and have no idea how to reach it. This guide is for you.

This article details how to find each tape in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. We’ll have a separate guide for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 later this week.

Warehouse

From the starting section, take the right ramp down into the more open area below. Here, you’ll see a half-pipe with a glassed-in room jutting out from the wall above. Build up speed until you can jump to the glassed-in room – this is easier if you’ve upgraded your skater’s speed stats – where you’ll find this level’s secret tape.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 Secret Tapes

School

From your start position on the green awning, drop down and to the right. From here, you’ll see a concrete ramp leading to the roof of the school. Skate up there, then turn around and skate back toward the other side of the roof. You’ll see a pipe leading diagonally from the roof to the other green awning. Grind down it, or transfer from the ramp, to reach the awning. Skate it until it ends, then jump to grab the secret tape.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 Secret Tapes

Mall

After manoeuvring around the twisty ramps at the beginning of the level, emerge into the main mall. Skate straight ahead until you reach the ramp overlooking the two sets of pipes – one on the ground and one suspended from the ceiling. Grind along the top set of pipes until you reach the tape at the end.

Downtown

Skate out of the alley where the level begins, then turn right and head up toward the movie theatre. From here, you should see a semi-truck with a bed that’s suspiciously ramp-like. Roll up the ramp and through the glass then follow the hallway across the sky bridge to the rooftops. Here, you’ll find a wooden pool with gaps in the sides that provide a ramp across the street to other buildings. You want to use the one that’s on your left as you enter the pool.

But, before you make the jump, you’ll need to build up some speed. This will be easier if you’ve levelled up your skater’s speed, ollie and hangtime stats. Once you’ve built enough speed, make the jump to the rooftop across the street where you’ll find the secret tape.

Downhill Jam

This is one of the trickier secret tapes to get. That is, at least for me, who has fallen while attempting the gap dozens, if not hundreds, of times.

That said, here’s how you (theoretically) do it. From the start, skate until you reach the diagonal pipe immediately before the halfpipe. Grind up it, then skate down the incline on the right side of the halfpipe until you reach another pipe. Grind across, then jump the gap. From here, you should be able to see the secret tape in the centre of the toilet bowl. Circle around, then jump onto the platform where the tape rests.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 Secret Tapes

Streets

From the start position, skate down the brick path to the pair of buildings that separate the street from the fountain. Use the ramp to boost up toward the roof, then grind along the roof when you reach the proper height. Immediately stop and turn around, then follow the ramp until you reach the top of the building. Here, you’ll find a large wooden ramp overlooking a squat building with a glass roof. Ramp off, and break through the glass to earn Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’s final secret tape.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 Secret Tapes

Okay. Now that you’ve acquired every tape, check out Tom’s feature on the bands that defined the series’ iconic soundtracks. And for more on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 check back in later this week for our full review.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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Guides

What are the Horizon Zero Dawn system requirements?

Now that Horizon Zero Dawn has made the trip from PS4 exclusive to PC, you’ll need to know if your machine can handle it.

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horizon zero dawn system requirements
Guerrilla Games

Now that Horizon Zero Dawn has made the trip from PS4 exclusive to PC, you’ll need to know if your machine can handle it.

Rumours swirled for a long time before Horizon Zero Dawn’s PC release was officially announced. The fact that Death Stranding – which uses the Decima Engine developed for Horizon Zero Dawn – was announced (and subsequently released) for PC seemed to only add fuel to that fire.

Then, earlier this year, Horizon Zero Dawn’s PC release was confirmed by Sony.

The release window we were given at the time was “summer 2020” which was, after a time, narrowed down to August 7, 2020. That’s just two days away. But if you’re thinking of picking it up for PC, you’re going to need to know if your machine can handle it.

Minimum Horizon Zero Dawn system requirements

  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel Core [email protected] or AMD FX [email protected]
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 (3 GB) or AMD Radeon R9 290 (4GB)
  • DirectX: Version 12
  • Storage: 100 GB available space

Recommended Horizon Zero Dawn system requirements

  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel Core [email protected] or Ryzen 5 [email protected]
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6 GB) or AMD Radeon RX 580 (8GB)
  • DirectX: Version 12
  • Storage: 100 GB available space

All told, those aren’t too onerous, but we don’t know what the target resolutions and frame rates are for the “minimum” and “recommended” specs.

And it is a sign of the times that even the minimum Horizon Zero Dawn system requirements require at least 3 or 4GB of VRAM on your graphics card. That rules out a bunch of lower-end systems and cut-down, mobile graphics cards. The requirement for DirectX 12 will also automatically exclude some older, lower-end systems that might otherwise get close to the specs.

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Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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Features

Every licensed song and cover on The Last of Us Part II soundtrack

Here’s every real-life song – original, licensed recording or cast-recorded cover – featured on The Last of Us Part II soundtrack.

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licensed songs covers the last of us part ii soundtrack
Naughty Dog

Here’s every real-life song – original, licensed recording or cast-recorded cover – featured on The Last of Us Part II soundtrack.

The Last of Us Part II must’ve been a licensing nightmare. There’s that official Taylor 314ce guitar, for one thing, before we even get to the tunes. And we’ve already seen how rights expiry can disappear games from sale, so when Naughty Dog told Sony’s licensing team they wanted Pearl Jam and a-ha (among others) on the soundtrack? That was probably not a popular decision.

But in addition to Gustavo Santaolalla’s original score, there are a whole bunch of licensed songs that made it onto the Last of Us Part II’s soundtrack. (We only wonder what didn’t make the cut, given some of the massive names that did. Let us know if you didn’t get any songs you pushed for, Neil.)

Some of the licensed songs on The Last of Us Part II soundtrack are the original versions, played as background or incidental music. Others are covers, played in part or in full by characters in the game. What’s really neat is that the voice actors behind Ellie and Joel, Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker respectively, played guitar and sang the vocals in the motion capture studio. There’s no sneaky session musicians or dubbing going on here.

So, here’s the full list of every licensed song and cover on The Last of Us Part II soundtrack.

Spoiler warning: This article will contain general location, character and story spoilers for The Last of Us Part II.

Through the Valley – Shawn James (original recording)

It’s super quiet and difficult to make out, but Ellie listens to this on a Walkman in a flashback scene right before Joel gifts her the guitar.

Bonus: This is also the song that Ellie sings while playing the guitar on the trailer for the game from the PlayStation Experience event in 2016.

Future Days – Pearl Jam (covered by Joel, Ellie)

Here’s an interesting one. You first hear Joel playing Future Days for Ellie as he gifts her that beautiful Taylor guitar, then throughout the game, you’ll hear snippets of it, played by Ellie. It includes the lyrics “if I ever were to lose you, I’d surely lose myself” which is thematically appropriate for The Last of Us Part II. So far, so sensible.

But did you know that Future Days appears on Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt album, which was released on October 11, 2013? That’s interesting because “outbreak day” – when the Cordyceps brain infection struck – happens on September 27, 2013. So in the fictional universe of The Last of Us, Pearl Jam never actually got to release Lightning Bolt.

So how does Joel know a song that was never released? Game director Neil Druckmann has the answer:

I mean, sure, it sounds a little like a retcon, but it technically works.

Bonus: There’s a poster for Pearl Jam’s Lighting Bolt in the music store Ellie visits with Dina in Seattle.

Take on Me – a-ha (covered by Ellie)

In a game filled with violence (spoiler warning on that article) and the bleakest parts of the human character, there are a few small moments of light. They’re pretty few and far, and they decrease as the game goes on, but one of the nicest comes just after Ellie and Dina arrive in Seattle.

In the aforementioned guitar shop, Ellie finds an acoustic guitar that’s locked away inside a hard shell flight case. She pops open the case, tunes the guitar, and sings a song for Dina. That song? It’s a beautiful acoustic rendition of 80s pop anthem Take on Me, by Norwegian synth heroes a-ha.

For a game that’s split the discourse so heavily, it probably speaks volumes that this – a hands-off cut scene, of characters having a pleasant singalong – is my favourite bit of the game.

Hydrogen – M|O|O|N (Hotline Miami soundtrack)

When Ellie is looking for Nora at the hospital, she happens upon a member of the WLF who is playing on her PS Vita. Ellie interrogates the girl at knifepoint and, ultimately, kills her when she fights back. But the game she’s playing? It’s hyper-violent shooter Hotline Miami. (A game that asks, “do you like hurting other people?” which can’t be a coincidence, given The Last of Us Part II’s themes.)

But the song that’s playing is the thing, here, and that tune is Hydrogen by M|O|O|N.

It Was a Good Day – Ice Cube (original recording)

This is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Ice Cube, but you can hear this classic tune playing in the WLF hospital as Ellie listens in on Nora being questioned by other WLF soldiers looking for Abby.

The Winding Sheet – Mark Lanegan (original recording)

The brilliant Mark Lanegan – vocalist for Screaming Trees and latterly with Queens of the Stone Age – released his first solo album, The Winding Sheet, in 1990. The title track from that album appears on the soundtrack for The Last of Us Part II. You’ll hear it on the boombox at Owen’s aquarium.

Christmas Wish – Roberts, Fletcher, Sturrock (original recording)

This modern Christmas tune is playing during one of Abby’s flashbacks at the aquarium with Owen.

Rock Around the Christmas Tree – Fiddy, Burdson (original recording)

Another Christmas tune from the aquarium flashback at Christmas.

Ecstasy – Crooked Still (covered by Ellie)

Ellie plays this one as part of one of the guitar minigames when she’s having trouble sleeping, at the farm with Dina and JJ.

Little Sadie – Crooked Still (original recording?)

This is the song that’s playing at the dance, during the flashback where Ellie and Dina kiss for the first time.

(We’ve put this down as “original recording?” with a big question mark because it’s not clear if the performance in the game is supposed to be just the original record, played over a PA system, or if it’s supposed to be a “live” band at the party.)

Ain’t No Grave – Crooked Still (original recording)

This is the song Ellie puts on with JJ when Dina requests some tunes to wash up to. Or, more specifically, this is the track on the B-side of the LP, where Ellie starts the needle. The album is Crooked Still’s Shaken By a Low Sound from 2006, and Ain’t No Grave is the seventh song on the record.

But what’s interesting is that a bunch of other Crooked Still tunes crop up in the game’s credits, but this appears to be the last time we hear them. So where are they, exactly? If you go and dance with Dina straight away, they’ll move to the backyard to hang out laundry and the music will end. But if you don’t interact with Dina immediately, you’ll also hear…

Ecstasy – Crooked Still (original recording)

The eighth track on Crooked Still’s Shaken By a Low Sound.

Mountain Jumper – Crooked Still (original recording)

Track number nine on Shaken By a Low Sound.

Railroad Bill – Crooked Still (original recording)

Track ten on Shaken By a Low Sound by Crooked Still.

Wind and Rain – Crooked Still (original recording)

The final track on Crooked Still’s Shaken By a Low Sound.

Young Men Dead – The Black Angels (original recording)

You’ll hear this one playing on a stereo as you battle the Rattlers in Santa Barbara.

Helplessly Hoping – Crosby, Stills & Nash (covered by Joel)

This is a tricky one because it’s not in the game’s credits. Presumably, the snippet of fingerpicking is so short and with Joel not singing any of the lyrics, licensing wasn’t a concern. But in the game’s final flashback between Joel and Ellie, Helplessly Hoping is the song you hear him playing on his front porch when Ellie disturbs him.

Unknown – Unknown (covered by Ellie)

The final song that Ellie plays – or, at least, attempts to play – in The Last of Us Part II is pretty unrecognisable. She lost two fingers on her left hand in the final fight with Abby and can no longer form those chords.

It’s a safe bet that it’s probably Future Days by Pearl Jam, given the chord progression Ellie’s trying to follow and the song’s significance to the story, but it’s hard to say for sure. (And that’s exactly the point, right?)

Wayfaring Stranger – Johnny Cash (covered by Ellie and Joel)

This is the song that plays for the final few minutes of the credits for The Last of Us Part II. But don’t give up that easy – there’s still a post-credits surprise (of sorts) after the end of the trailer.

Bonus: True Faith – New Order (covered by Ellie)

This is the song that Ellie plays on the TV spot for The Last of Us Part II.

It’s also something that Naughty Dog got into trouble over, because it’s very clearly inspired by (if not directly copied from) Lotte Kestner’s 2011 arrangement of the New Order classic.


Forgotten what happened in the original The Last of Us? You’ll want to read our comprehensive story recap. Found this guide useful? Please consider supporting Thumbsticks or buying us a coffee to say thanks.

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What are the Microsoft Flight Simulator system requirements?

Microsoft Flight Simulator is back, almost 40 years after its debut. What are the system requirements to play the latest version of your dad’s favourite flight simulator?

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Microsoft Flight Simulator system requirements
Microsoft

Microsoft Flight Simulator is back, almost 40 years after its debut. What are the system requirements to play the latest version of your dad’s favourite flight simulator?

Microsoft Flight Simulator launches on August 18, 2020. There are three versions you can buy at launch, which include different combinations of planes and airports depending on how much you spend.

But the question is, what can you run Microsoft Flight Simulator on?

The short answer is, just Windows PC, and just via the Windows Store. At least, for now. Microsoft is reportedly exploring more distribution options for its very serious plane game, with other storefronts like Steam on the cards for later.

It’s also thought that we might see Microsoft Flight Simulator on the Xbox Series X generation of consoles, but the Xbox One generation can’t quite handle the expansive, global flying experience. Which is weird, because when you look at the following system requirements for Microsoft Flight Simulator, it doesn’t look too dissimilar to the power behind the Xbox Series X.

But Microsoft is keen to make sure that games are as cross-platform and cross-generational as possible. The 6 TFLOPs Xbox Series X might be good enough to handle Microsoft Flight Simulator, for instance, but the OG Xbox One – which is rated around 1.3 TFLOPs – would struggle to handle it. And with Microsoft unwilling to split the generation, console players will have to wait for the Xbox Series X, which rocks 12 TFLOPs of GPU power.

Anyway. Back to the present, and the PC system requirements for Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Microsoft Flight Simulator system requirements

  • OS: Windows 10 (version 1909 or higher)
  • CPU: Intel i5-4460, Ryzen 3 1200
  • GPU: NVIDIA GTX 770, Radeon RX 570 | 2 GB VRAM
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Storage: 150 GB
  • DirectX: DirectX 11

And that’s it. There are minimum system requirements, but no recommended ones. But as is always the case with these things, the more horsepower you can throw at it, the better. If you want to get the absolute best out of Microsoft Flight Simulator, you’re going to want to be at the top-end of the GPU tree.

Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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