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Hier — 23 février 2020Wccftech

PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W Review – Anker’s Nintendo Switch Portable Charger

Anker Powercore + 26800 45W

Anker is among the best brands for power banks and back in 2018, it released the officially Nintendo-licensed 'PowerCore Speed 20100 PD Nintendo Switch Edition'. Following this portable charger's success, the company released a more compact version, the 'PowerCore 13400 PD Nintendo Switch Edition'.

I reached out to Anker to enquire whether there was an opportunity to review one of their Nintendo-licensed power banks, but due to both of the above-mentioned chargers not being available at the time, I was asked to review Anker's first premium power bank with 45W PD - the 'PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W' with 60W USB-C wall charger. Let's find out how this colossal-capacity charger performs when using the Nintendo Switch.

The following items are included in the box:

- PowerCore+ 26800 PD
- 60W USB-C wall charger
- USB-C to USB-C cable
- Travel pouch
- Welcome guide

Design and features

Let's start off by pointing out that this charger hasn't been officially licensed by Nintendo, but aside from offering much higher capacity and energy transfer rate, the internal specs don't really differ from the officially Nintendo Switch-licensed PowerCore Speed 20100 PD and PowerCore 13400. Like its smaller relatives, the PowerCore+ 26800 offers full Power Delivery (PD) support, allowing the Switch to charge while playing.

While the PowerCore Speed 20100 PD, and especially the PowerCore 13400, can be considered quite compact, this can't be said about the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD. Weighing approximately 1.1lbs, its substantially heavier than the Nintendo Switch and fairly large as well - 180 x 81.5 x 22mm. Then again, the PowerCore+ 26800 packs a massive 26800mAh battery, resulting in a less portable charger that is best carried separately from the Switch.

On the bank itself, we find a 45W USB-C port alongside two 15W USB ports and a led indicator sporting 10 lights to indicate how much power remains. Anker's premium offering has a strong metal body, but please be advised that metal objects can easily leave permanent scratches.

Anker PowerCore + 26800 PD 45W

Performance

According to Nintendo, the battery life of the original Switch model is approximately 2.5 to 6.5 hours, while the battery inside the updated Switch model lasts considerably longer on a single charge -  roughly 4.5 to 9 hours. For the Nintendo Switch Lite, the battery life is approximately 3 to 7 hours.

The use of a portable charger can greatly extend the playtime in handheld mode, and the additional playtime gained depends on the capacity of the charger. In general, higher capacity results in more playtime, but the faster charge of the 26800+ PD slightly lowers the amount of available capacity.

While Anker has listed the capacity of the power bank to be 26,800mAh, the actual capacity available to devices is always less due to differences in voltage and energy loss during transfer.

Using the PowerCore+ 26800 PD on my original Switch model resulted in roughly 11/12 hours of additional playtime. This was when using somewhat more demanding titles such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey and DOOM. During testing, the Switch's Wi-Fi connection was enabled and I didn't cut down on brightness. When using the 26800+ with the new Switch model or Switch Lite, players will experience even more additional playtime.

When playing less demanding games with Wi-Fi disabled, and turning down brightness, more additional playtime will be gained.

The 26,800mAh battery allowed me at least 3 full recharges of my Switch and there was still some juice left in the Anker after that. This leftover, however, didn't allow for another full recharge.

Anker's premium offering charges Nintendo's hybrid platform under all gaming conditions. While playing a game, the charger completely recharges in the Switch in approximately 3.5 hours. In sleep mode, roughly 2.5 to 3 hours is required to top the Switch off.

The Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W comes with a 60W USB-C wall charger which allows you to fully recharge the power bank within 3.5 hours.

Another interesting thing to note is that this 45W PowerCore is also able to power the Switch dock for playing in TV mode. While I don't advise using third-party chargers for the Switch dock, it does show just how powerful Anker's premium portable charger is.

Conclusion

Overall, the Anker PowerCore + 26800 PD 45W is one of the best portable chargers currently available. If offers amazing capacity and allows users to fully recharge their Switch while gaming within 3.5 hours. Anker's premium offering, however, isn't as portable as the officially Nintendo-licensed Anker products and I would only recommend this offering over the considerably less expensive Nintendo-licensed PowerCore Speed 20100 PD and PowerCore 13400 if you're in the market for a charger that is also able to power your Switch dock or other high-powered devices.

Review unit provided by the manufacturer.

 

The post PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W Review – Anker’s Nintendo Switch Portable Charger by Aernout van de Velde appeared first on Wccftech.

Dreams (PS4 Pro) Review – The Unattainable is Unknown

Par : Kai Powell

Dreams

MediaMolecule is such an interesting edge case in the gaming industry. When not making charming titles like Tearaway, they're building the foundation for creation tools and packing them up within the premise of an all-ages video game. We saw this time after time with the LittleBigPlanet series, although most creations in that were limited to a two-dimensional space. Now, after years of teases and early access testing, the full version of Dreams is upon us.

In truth, when I sat down to start plotting out my review for Dreams, I didn't know where to start. Whenever I play titles like LittleBigPlanet or RPG Maker, I'm always taking the role of a consumer rather than a producer. I leave it to the more talented and creative types to craft experiences on these platforms and quietly reap the rewards once a new creation is uploaded to the internet. There's a small moment of pride any time I log into a platform and find out that one of the creators I follow has uploaded a new experience.

Dreams opens with a three-hour playable showcase called Art's Dream. If you've seen the pictures of the jazz ensemble from previous demos of Dreams, that's where it has all culminated. This series of Dreams showcases a wide range of genres that are supported in Dreams: action platformers, on-rail shooters, point-and-click adventures, and even a couple of rhythm sequences. It's all a pretty novel experience and worth giving a play once you pick up a copy of Dreams (plus the collectibles you earn carry forth into new stamps and items to mess around within the creation mode). If all you're looking for is what MediaMolecule has packed on the disc, Dreams isn't the right purchase for you because you'll be finished with the on-disc experiences within a day. It's the lasting power of exploring the Dreams of other creators that really gives this title its true potential.

What makes Dreams such a powerful platform for creativity is that, to quote the late Zombocom, "You can do anything.. Anything at all. The only limit is yourself.". This mantra is no less true today than when I first heard it two decades ago. Genres that I didn't think possible to be created with a PS4 controller were suddenly in my hands. One moment I'm solving puzzles from The Witness, another I'm listening to a musical composition of Gwyn, Lord of Cinder recreated with a single piano in Dreams.

Finding new Dreams to enjoy is part of the curation that MediaMolecule has put together in Dreams. Just loading into the DreamSurfing main page offers players a plethora of choice: winners of the first annual IMPY awards, new and trending dreams, community jams, various collections, and more all the way down to granular individual tags. If you're ever unsure with what to play, there's even an Autosurf function to load up a random assortment of Dreams that curates as you give each one you're experiencing a quick thumbs up or down.

Early on, and this is coming after a somewhat lengthy Early Access period in Dreams, many experiences in the Dreamsverse are still works in progress or early proofs of concept. For every complete experience that I enjoyed, I would find another two or three that are slowly building up. This gives me hope for the future and what Dreams may come, but those that want to jump in and start exploring the creations may want to hold off for a short while. Or, in the meantime, you can pick up a copy of Dreams and begin creating your own experiences with Dream Shaping.

The only thing that can hold you back in Dreams from unleashing your creativity is knowing how to work with the tools you're given. Dreams offers three control schemes for the creative mode Dream Shaping: dual analog sticks, motion control via tilting the DualShock 4, and two Move controllers. Each of these have their own unique strengths and weaknesses but I found myself slightly hindered with trying to navigate between windows and note charts when I tried to create a simple saxophone loop. Having support for keyboard and mouse would alleviate much of the control issues myself, but I'm just an outlier when it comes to controls in general. After seeing people make full demos of Fallout 4 with only the controllers that came with their console, I'm a believer that Dreams can come true once you learn how to use the controllers to their fullest potential.

MediaMolecule doesn't pick up the player and throw them into a pool of untapped potential. Nearly every tool in the Dreams toolbox comes with a series of video tutorials that guide you along as you learn the ropes. There are no grades or right answers to these tutorials and no in-game instructor is going to call you out for deviating from the videos. These exist as a picture-in-picture video merely meant to guide you along and help to spark creativity by explaining how a tool works and how to put it to use. Master Class tutorials that show up later on cover the concepts of Dream Shaping in greater depth and showcase how to use multiple concepts to set up a scene or element.

Dreams is only in its infancy at the moment and I fully expect to see the full potential of the platform take months to achieve. However, even days after its official release, there are already a great number of Dreams that give me hope for the platform. Even multiplayer and PlayStation VR support are both in development and should arrive sooner rather than later. This is one creative platform that I hope persists for a long time and even makes its way onto next-generation consoles. If you've had a great idea for a game, stop dreaming how to do it and do it instead (in Dreams).

Review code provided by the publisher.

The post Dreams (PS4 Pro) Review – The Unattainable is Unknown by Kai Powell appeared first on Wccftech.

À partir d’avant-hierWccftech

Arctic Freezer 7 X Blows Away Stock Cooling For Under $20

Par : Keith May

The Arctic Freezer 7 X CPU cooler is a successor that not only builds upon the success that the Arctic Freezer 7 PRO CPU cooler, but the successor also outshines the Arctic Freezer 7 PRO CPU cooler. The Arctic Freezer 7 X CPU cooler benefits of an improved heatsink design along with a reworked heat pipe layout, with the fan, which is optimized for high static pressure, the Arctic Freezer 7 X hopes to set a new standard in CPU cooling.

Coming in at a suggested price point of $19.99 it makes the Freezer 7 X a very attractive cooler option for those shopping the more budget line of CPUs. For that purpose, we paired it up with the Ryzen 5 3600 for our tests later on. But, before we take a look at how it compares to the AMD Wraith Stealth stock solution let us take a look at the cooler itself.

The Freezer 7 X

The Arctic Freezer 7 X comes packaged nicely in a small box with just what you need and nothing you don't. In the box, you'll find the cooler, the Intel mounting mechanism along with the 4 pins to secure it, a warranty information card and a QR code that will take you to the online installation manual. I want to take a moment to mention how useful Arctic's installation guides are since they're online they're able to keep them updated AND add in animations for some of the more tricky parts. Compatibility is listed for AMD FM1/2(+), AM3(+), and AM4 along with Intel socket 775, 115x, and upcoming LGA 1200.

The cooler itself comes with Artic's new 92mm P-fan (PWM 300-2000RPM) already attached with a nice shroud to ensure airflow is directed straight through the cooler as opposed to their previous Freezer 7 Pro design that wasn't quite so guided. While the fan and shroud can be removed for cleaning purposes it is using a proprietary mount that makes it to where you can't just grab a different fan and toss on in case of an issue, but the 6-year warranty should alleviate those concerns.

The well spaced but dense aluminum fin stack comes in at 44 fins and is attached to two direct touch heatpipes. While this is one less heat pipe than the Freezer 7 Pro it is replacing the compound benefits of the overall new design should make it even better as a total solution. At the bottom, you'll find the Arctic MX2 thermal paste pre-applied. While I would have liked to see the cooler come with a little extra thermal compound in case of a bad mount, for under $20 I can understand the cost saving measure.

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Installation

Installation was beyond simple. It was only slightly more complex than installing something like a Wraith Max since you do need a screwdriver to tighten down the AMD retention clips that come pre-applied. In fact, the time and effort saved by using this cooler of the stock AMD Wraith Stealth that came with my Ryzen 5 3600 make the price of admission more than worth it. Remember, with using either the Wraith Stealth or Wraith Spire you'll have to remove the stock cooler retention clips and hold the backplate in place while you screw down the 4 retention screws on the cooler to the backplate.

If you're going to put this cooler on an Intel CPU you're going to find a few more steps involved, but not many. You'll need to align the push pins with your socket arrangement. Push the retention to mount into those motherboard mounting holes. Toss the securing pins into the mount. Then pick up where you would with an AMD mount and tighten down the premounted clips on the cooler. It really couldn't get any easier than that unless they made two models, one for AMD and one for Intel.

Cooling Performance

Testing the cooling performance of the Arctic Freezer 7 X led us to compare it directly to a stock cooling solution on one of the better selling CPUs lately, and that being the Ryzen 5 3600's stock Wraith Stealth cooler. Yes, the Wraith Stealth cooler is a smaller cooler that is designed to keep the Ryzen 5 3600 in check, but it's also not exactly the most fun to install and quite frankly not the greatest in terms of noise and cooling performance. We did run all these tests in an open testbed environment.


Test System

ComponentsB450
CPUAMD Ryzen 5 3600
Memory 32GB Mushkin Redline DDR4 3600 CL18
MotherboardMSI B450 Tomahawk
StorageWD Blue SN500
PSUEVGA 500W
Windows Version1903 with latest security patches

The first couple tests I ran used Cinebench r20 to crank the heat under a rendering workload and I followed that up with a 30 minute run of Prime 95 with Small FFTs. I did document the clock speeds under both as well as the performance results for Cinebench r20 and found the scores and clock speeds to stay within the margin of error so don't expect any additional boosting to happen without manual tweaking. The office space stayed at an ambient 22 Celcius throughout testing.

Taking control of the all core boost and voltages on Ryzen CPUs can usually bring out some pretty solid results for thermals and increase your overall multicore performance, so we wanted to see how that fared. Using Ryzen Master we set the all core boost 4.1GHz and the voltage to 1.25v. That 4.1GHz all core clock speed was roughly a 300-400MHz boost over the stock curve and when paired with reduced voltage did result in much better thermals on the Wraith Stealth cooler, but it made the Freezer 7 X even more chilly.

Conclusion

So at $19.99 for an aftermarket cooler does the Arctic Freezer 7 X get a recommendation? Yeah, yeah it does. There are often arguments for CPUs like the Ryzen 5 3600X because of its better cooler than what you get out of the Ryzen 5 3600, but in the end, the performance is so close you are kinda stuck with not wanting the X model but also not wanting the cooler of the base model. The Freezer 7 X is a good gap fix on that one as well as for other more cost effective CPUs that roll in under the $200 range. Sure there are bigger coolers out there for not a whole lot more, but even a cooler coming in at $35-$40 is pushing nearly 2x for the price of what you get here.

What you get here is good. A solid cooler, with pleasing aesthetics, quiet operation (not documented due to no proper sound measuring equipment at this time), and an easy to install cooler. At the $20 price mark, this needs to be considered if you're just wanting something better and quieter than stock but aren't the type to want to try to overclock to the moon. Although you'll likely max out what the midrange Ryzen chips are capable of in clock speeds before you run into thermal issues.

The post Arctic Freezer 7 X Blows Away Stock Cooling For Under $20 by Keith May appeared first on Wccftech.

Frostpunk: The Last Autumn Review – Seasonal Effective Disorder to the Extreme

Par : Rosh Kelly

The Last Autumn

The Last Autumn is not like Frostpunk. Whereas Frostpunk has you battling the cold with your mostly trusty generator, The Last Autumn has you battling the workers to build the generator before the world freezes over. But despite that, this expansive and challenging piece of DLC offers the same paralyzingly difficult choices, heartbreaking small stories and excellent management systems you’ve experienced before in Frostpunk.  

It is impossible not to notice the differences between Frostpunk and The Last Autumn, and the game does a beautiful job of depicting the world before the winter swept it all up. The colour palette for The Last Autumn is, obviously, autumnal with lots of browns and oranges and it looks so vibrant compared to the bleak whites and blues you’re used to in the base game. The Last Autumn manages to walk the perfect line for a large piece of DLC, it feels different but also the same.

The colour changes, as well as the mechanical changes that I’ll get to shortly, all add something new to Frostpunk without taking away any of the soul of the original, giving the player the perfect balance between new challenges without alienating them from the new experience. For instance, The Last Autumn punishes the player a lot more for mismanaging their space than Frostpunk does. I had to go back and play the beginning of the base game to check. While you can recover from making some rookie errors in Frostpunk, you might be doomed from the beginning if you do so in The Last Autumn.

With only 45 in-game days to complete your generator, there’s not a lot of room to make mistakes. In fact, there’s barely enough time to complete the generator even on a good run. This is an extremely challenging piece of DLC designed for the brave and competent. New players should probably focus on the base game before deciding whether or not to go back to autumn.

But I need to circle back around. I just said that the generator was difficult to complete, even on a good run, but perhaps that’s not quite right. There’s no such thing as a good run in The Last Autumn. Your mission is as serious as it gets - building the generators that might just save humanity as the permanent winter rolls in - but without the necessary resources, workers, or time to complete it, you’re going to be struggling just to get by.

And like in Frostpunk, if you’re struggling, you can always make it easier on yourself by compromising your morals. You have the power to introduce new laws under your authority that can affect the people and the work that needs to be done. Like in the base game, the laws in The Last Autumn nearly always make life worse for your workers, forcing you to grapple with the question as to whether the ends justify the means.

11 Bit Studios are amazing at baking their moral and ethical questions into the game mechanics, in stark opposition to the vast majority of other games that do so with nothing more than binary choices that don’t influence the rest of the game. In The Last Autumn, choices you made hours earlier can come back to deliver tragic or at least guilt-inducing results.

Which has always been one of the best things about Frostpunk. While it is a management game at heart, Frostpunk always did a fantastic job at fleshing out each worker under your control and telling stories about them based on all your failures. The Last Autumn continues this trend with new stories that accidentally unfold as you try to build the generator. 

A lot of these come tethered to the new motivation system. When you’re living through the climate apocalypse you don’t need to be motivated to work to survive, but when you’re living through the last autumn, you’re worried about more than just your survival, like payment. Motivation is a really interesting mechanics because, unlike the discontent, this level doesn’t end the game if it bottoms out. Instead, it ends the work.

Strikes are now a thing, where the workers seize the means of production at the worst possible time. You’ll then have to negotiate with them to get them back to work, normally reducing the working day, further slowing your progress, and once again forcing you to stare at the web of the laws you could enforce that would prevent such strikes in the future.

The first time I managed to win in The Last Autumn, I did so by bringing prisoners in to join the workforce, then turning my citizens into prisoners to finish the push and create the project. It was heartbreaking, but I thought it was a necessary evil.

But at the very end of the game, 11 Bit Studios have hidden one final gut punch. You get to see the fruits of your (prisoners) labour, showing you how effective your generator will be at saving humanity. And after using forced labour and taking as many shortcuts as possible, it turned out that my compromising all of my morals was not even enough as my generator was incredibly unlikely to work long term. 

The Last Autumn is an incredibly emotional expansion to the Frostpunk world where winning doesn’t even feel like winning and probably doesn’t even mean winning in the end. It’s hard, beautiful and has so many more systems to explore for yourself. If you’re a fan of Frostpunk this should absolutely be added to your library. If you’re new, maybe embrace the cold first before you check out the autumn.

Review code provided by the publisher.

The post Frostpunk: The Last Autumn Review – Seasonal Effective Disorder to the Extreme by Rosh Kelly appeared first on Wccftech.

The Suicide of Rachel Foster Review – Lost in the Storm

The Suicide of Rachel Foster

It’s pretty much impossible to talk about The Suicide of Rachel Foster without comparing it other notable narrative adventures from the past decade, particularly Gone Home and Firewatch. As in Gone Home, Rachel Foster sees you returning to your now-abandoned childhood home to confront your dark family history, and like Firewatch, your only human contact for the entirety of the game is a disembodied voice on the other end of a phone.

Cribbing so directly from two of the most acclaimed indie titles of all time is ballsy, but it doesn’t automatically make Rachel Foster a bad game. Can you write off every one of the hundreds of platformers that ripped off Super Mario? No, of course not. Does The Suicide of Rachel Foster spin a memorable tale or should this walking simulator hit the bricks? Time to find out…

The Suicide of Rachel Foster

The Suicide of Rachel Foster casts players as Nicole Wilson, a cynical young woman who grew up in the Timberline Hotel, a rambling Montana ski lodge with some very strong Stanley Kubrick vibes. Nicole’s bucolic family life was dramatically torn apart when her father Leonard was caught having an affair with the 16-year-old Rachel Foster. Shortly afterwards, Rachel reportedly died from suicide, taking her unborn child with her. For the past decade-plus, Nicole has been running from her past, but it all comes rushing back when Leonard dies and leaves her the Timberline.

The Suicide of Rachel Foster opens with Nicole/the player arriving at the Timberline to do a quick inspection and sign some papers in order to sell the place. Of course, things don’t go according to plan. Nicole is immediately snowed in, but thankfully manages to get in contact with a FEMA agent named Irving via a cellphone (which is the size of a George R. R. Martin hardcover, since this game takes place in 1993). Marooned in the hotel for over a week, Nicole slowly gets to know Irving…and starts to ask some crucial questions about Rachel Foster’s death.

If you’re into games like Gone Home or The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, or just like mysteries in general, you may find the setup I just provided a little odd. Inappropriate affairs, love children, suicide -- typically dark subject matter of that type is reserved for later in a mystery, to shock you or perhaps just explain a character’s motivation. Rachel Foster lays out all this ugliness from the get-go, but where can you possibly go from there? Just how dark does this game get? Rachel Foster never manages to top its setup -- without spoiling anything, the truth of what happened at the Timberline all those years ago isn’t really that surprising given what we know right from the beginning. There’s no real drama or thrill of discovery when you finally uncover the full story. It all just arrives with a depressing thud.

Aside from being unsatisfying from a dramatic standpoint, Rachel Foster’s story suffers from some pretty major plot and characterization issues. This is one of those mysteries that totally falls apart if you think about it for more than five minutes. Also, just because this game begins with a carefully-worded content warning, doesn’t mean it deals with subjects like mental illness and suicide in a particularly sensitive manner. That warning is there for a reason. I’m a pretty thickly-callused guy -- I’ve played and watched a lot of edgy stuff, and generally believe artists should push boundaries, but there are moments in this game that made me feel uncomfortable. And hey, maybe you want to made uncomfortable, but If you are sensitive to any of the subjects I’ve mentioned in the paragraphs above, go ahead and skip the rest of this review. The Suicide of Rachel Foster is not for you.

Clearly Rachel Foster’s story left me flat, but how does the game actually play? Well, I’ll start on a positive note by saying I was impressed by the Timberline Hotel itself, as developer One-O-One Games creates a real sense of place by packing nearly every room with tons of little details. Everything, from the exhibits in the hotel’s museum to the old cassette tapes in your childhood bedroom, can be zoomed in on and examined. Rachel Foster’s visuals won’t blow you away on a technical level, but they set the right mood, which is further bolstered by some solid sound design.

Unfortunately, while Rachel Foster’s setting is intriguing the actual process of exploring and unlocking the story is rather clunky. The main culprit is the phone gimmick, which worked in Firewatch, because that was a very low-key game – the conversations were key to keeping you engaged as you sat around in your tower or wandered the woods. Rachel Foster aims for actual horror, and having someone constantly butting in to talk to you invariably cuts the tension. Sure, the main two voice actors playing Nicole and Irving are good, and many of the conversations are entertaining in isolation, but you quickly realize you can relax once the phone rings, because nothing is going to happen until you hang up.

Don’t expect much in the way of actual puzzle-solving either as Irving tells you exactly what to do most of the time. In fact, there were a couple times where I figured what to do on my own, but was irritatingly blocked from doing it, because Irving hadn’t called to spell it out for me yet. There are hints of good ideas scattered throughout Rachel Foster, but in most cases, they’re undermined by bad execution. A sequence where you have to find your way in the dark using flashes from a vintage Polaroid camera seemed promising, until I got lost and realized the camera had unlimited flashes. Another bit where you track noises with a parabolic microphone was creepy at first, until I heard certain bits of ghostly moaning and shuffling over and over and realized none of meant anything.

The Suicide of Rachel Foster squanders its potential in so many ways, it’s almost a blessing it’s so short. Just as the game was really starting to get on my nerves, it sprinted to an end around three hours in. And I spent a decent amount of time idly poking around – more focused players could probably wrap up the game in closer to two hours. Granted, games like Gone Home and What Remains of Edith Finch were also rather brief, but they stuck with you long after their credits rolled. I can feel The Suicide of Rachel Foster disappearing from my mind as I write this.

This review was based on a PC copy of The Suicide of Rachel Foster provided by publisher Daedalic Entertainment. The game is currently 25 percent off on Steam.

The post The Suicide of Rachel Foster Review – Lost in the Storm by Nathan Birch appeared first on Wccftech.

HyperX Pulsefire Dart Wireless Mouse Review – Ready, Willing and Able

Par : Chris Wray

I've been a long proponent of HyperX products. In the past, I've reviewed three different headsets from the company, these being the Cloud Alpha S, the Cloud revolver and the Cloud Stinger Wireless. On all three accounts, the headsets have been well befitting of the HyperX name, being affordable, highly functional and well built. This is very much the same with memory offerings from the company, in my previous experience. Making a change from my reviews of HyperX headsets, I'm going to look at the HyperX Pulsefire Dart wireless mouse with a slight addition of the ChargePlay Base.

I want to talk about the Chargeplay Base first. It's not really what this review is about, but ties into the Pulsefire Dart itself. The HyperX ChargePlay Base by HyperX is a wireless Qi charger that can be used to charge any Qi-compatible item, which includes my S10 Plus and, naturally, the Pulsefire Dart wireless mouse. The base can charge one item at up to 10W and, using both pads, two items at a total of 15W. Fortunately, there's always the option of using any third-party Qi charging base.

That's one of the rarer features of the HyperX Pulsefire Dart. Most wireless charging devices require propriety tech to charge them up, not so here, thanks to the inclusion of Qi charging. There is a slight downside with Qi charging, you need to place the mouse (or whatever else) in a specific place on the pad. Fortunately, the pad and mouse never failed to link together. I can't say exactly how good the base is at charging up the mouse - there is a reason for that, one that I'll get into later.

Before that, let's talk price. The HyperX Pulsefire Dart comes in at an RRP of £109.99 or - and this is completely bewildering - $99.99 or €99.90. How HyperX can justify what is essentially a 40% price hike in the UK is beyond me. This is a grave shame because, for $100/€100, the Pulsefire Dart comes in at a very attractive price. This is a gaming mouse with premium features (wireless charging) at a budget price.

So, in addition to the premium feature of wireless charging, what can you expect to find with the HyperX Pulsefire Dart? It offers up to a very respectable 16,000 DPI and tracks at 450IPS. As for the reliability of the buttons, it's designed to last up to fifty million clicks. What the PulseFire Dart has a little worse than premium products is in response time, coming in at 1ms, though you are hardly likely to notice any delay between clicking and the game, or whatever you're doing, taking action. That's by far the most important aspect here, it does exactly what you want it to and when you want it to.

With respect to the wireless capabilities, you really shouldn't have any issues with range. How far away does one keep their mouse from their tower and/or laptop? I don't personally use the extension, though the testing I did with it showed no change in performance. Where it could be useful is with connecting your mouse to a console, something that tends to be a bit further away than a PC tower when in use. As for the battery length, the purported fifty hours of life rings true, with it being very easy to leave on charge overnight as required.

So how about the build quality and feel of the Pulsefire Dart? Here is where you'll find more of a link to the relatively cheap price of the mouse. The mouse comes with just two side buttons as well as the usual left, right and middle button/mouse wheel. In addition to these is one small button that changes the DPI of the mouse, with multiple settings being made available by the software made available by HyperX. I'll get to the software in a little while.

Needless to say, everything feels extremely sturdy. The Pulsefire Dart does have a bit of size to it. This could be a detriment to those with smaller hands, but I find it very comfortable. This was aided and cushioned by grips on both sides of the mouse. Through extensive use (300+ hours), neither the grips nor the buttons have shown any signs of wear, nor have the pads on the bottom of the mouse, offering a very smooth glide and ease of use.

If there's anything else worth saying, the only other thing I can think of is that it's far from the flashiest mouse around. It's simply black all over with the exception of LED lighting for the HyperX logo and along the sides of the mouse wheel. Personally, I have no issue with this, really liking the minimalist approach.

Let's talk issues. There aren't many with the HyperX Pulsefire Dart. Indeed, were it not for one monumentally useless and infuriating aspect, I wouldn't have been able to find a single flaw with the mouse. What is this flaw? The software. HyperX has some software called NGenuity that, contrary to its name, doesn't have a considerable amount of ingenuity. Not only did it take the software almost a week to actually recognise the Pulsefire Dart, but it would also break.

It has conflicts with other software, like Sennheiser's audio suite for their wireless headset. Furthermore, it loses detection of the mouse if you switch between wired and wireless mode and, at times, hangs or simply crashes. As for the settings made available, I don't have any major complaints nor praises, with the options being limited - you can have up to five customised DPI settings to scroll through and you can change the colour of both the LED mouse wheel and logo.

This is fine, I don't expect something magical, it does what it says on the tin. At least it would when it worked, that being the major issue. Any mouse supported by said software should be detected immediately and the software, ideally, shouldn't hang, crash or have conflicts with software for wireless headsets that means you have to close that to use this.

So what do I think about the HyperX Pulsefire Dart? I can't help but start by complaining about the abysmal regional pricing, making it far less attractive for those in the UK, but priced at the USD or EUR equivalent, it's an extremely worthwhile mouse. This is a reasonably priced mouse with a premium-priced feature. It's a sturdy and comfortable piece of kit and offers wireless charging and a very long battery life. There's little more you could honestly ask for.

Is it the flashiest mouse around? No. Does it have good software support? Oh hell no. Does this stop the mouse being more than worth its cash equivalent? Not at all. The software has certainly been improved over time but still required some fixing, but when that's my major issue with it, I think we've got something decent on our hands. If there is one other issue to talk about, the HyperX ChargePlay base doesn't come with the mouse and costs an extra £59.99/$59.99.

Provided by HyperX for review purposes.

The post HyperX Pulsefire Dart Wireless Mouse Review – Ready, Willing and Able by Chris Wray appeared first on Wccftech.

SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB – A Solid Card In A Tough Place

Par : Keith May

The Radeon RX 5500 XT uplifts AMD by bringing a modern architecture design and moving away from its GCN design featured on the Polaris GPUs. This allows AMD to bring more streamlined graphics performance in modern workloads and gaming titles. AMD was already ahead of the curve in utilizing new techs such as HBM and smaller process nodes and Navi is no exception. Aside from the new graphics architecture, AMD has also introduced GDDR6 memory and a smaller 7nm process node for their mainstream lineup which is a big update from the 14nm process on Polaris and Vega series cards.

 

While the Radeon RX 5500 series cards bring new technologies and features to the segment, the tech itself doesn't come cheap. The Radeon RX 5500 XT is hence available in two flavors, directly competing against NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 16 SUPER graphics cards. The Radeon RX 5500 XT 4 GB has an MSRP of $169 US which is $10 US more than the reference MSRP of the GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER which costs $159 US. The Radeon RX 5500 XT 8 GB has an MSRP of $199 US which is $30 US less than the reference MSRP of the GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER which costs $229 US.

AMD Radeon GPU Segment/Tier Prices

Graphics Segment2015-20162016-20172017-20182018-20192019-2020
Ultra Enthusiast TierRadeon R9 Fury X
Radeon R9 Fury
Radeon R9 Nano
Radeon R9 Fury X
Radeon R9 Fury
Radeon R9 Nano
Radeon RX Vega 64Radeon RX Vega 64Radeon VII
Price$649 US
$549 US
$649 US
$649 US
$549 US
$649 US
$499 US$499 US$699 US
Enthusiast TierRadeon R9 390XRadeon R9 390XRadeon RX Vega 56Radeon RX Vega 56Radeon RX 5700 XT
Price$429 US$429 US$399 US$399 US$399 US
High-End TierRadeon R9 390Radeon R9 390N/A
Radeon RX 590Radeon RX 5700
Price$329 US$329 USN/A$279 US$349 US
Mainstream TierRadeon R9 380X
Radeon R9 380
Radeon R9 370X
Radeon R9 370
Radeon RX 480
Radeon RX 470
Radeon RX 580
Radeon RX 570
Radeon RX 580
Radeon RX 570
Radeon RX 5600 XT
Price$229 US
$199 US
$199 US
$179 US
$229 US
$179 US
$229 US
$169 US
$229 US
$169 US
$279 US
Entry TierRadeon R7 360Radeon RX 460Radeon RX 560Radeon RX 560Radeon RX 5500 XT
Radeon RX 5500 XT
Price$109 US$129 US$99 US$99 US$199 US
$169 US

Well, in terms of performance the AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT 4 GB is supposed to be much faster than the GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER at about 10-13% average. The Radeon RX 5500 XT 8 GB is said to be about 20% faster than the 4 GB variant. This should put the Radeon RX 5500 XT 8 GB models close to the GeForce GTX 1660 (non-SUPER). The higher memory buffer that the 8 GB model comes with should definitely help in high-resolution and modern AAA titles but again, these are marketing numbers and I will see how the card actually performs in my own set of benchmarks.

 

 

Unlike the GeForce RTX cards which had some feature advantage over the Radeon RX 5700 series cards, the GeForce GTX cards don't feature RTX/DLSS support. This puts them just on par with the Radeon RX 5500 series in feature set with the exception of the Turing NVENC encoder which does an exceptional job for gamers on a budget. The Radeon RX 5500 is supported by the latest AMD Adrenaline 2020 Edition bringing features such as Radeon Boost, Integer Scaling, Radeon Image Sharpening, Radeon Anti-Lag, and Freesync support. These are an impressive list of features on their own and something to really consider when comparing AMD's and NVIDIA's budget tier range of cards.

So for this review, I will be taking a look at the SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB. This is SAPPHIRE's more cost effective custom design for the Navi 14 GPU that features dual replaceable fans. The card has an MSRP of $179.99 US which is spot on compared to the reference MSRP.

The AMD Radeon RX 5500 Series Family

The AMD Radeon RX 5500 series lineup is made up of several variants which include desktop and mobile parts but there are only two desktop variants with one of them making their way to the DIY market and the other one aiming the OEM market. The Radeon RX 5500 XT is the DIY variant while the Radeon RX 5500 is the OEM variant. We will only be focusing on the Radeon RX 5500 XT as that is the one we received for our review and is the only card that you can actually buy in the market.

AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT 4 GB / 8 GB Official Specifications ($169-199 US)

The AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT is a very important graphics card that is placed in a super competitive segment. Taking up the battle with NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER, the RX 5500 XT will not only compete against the upgraded Turing offering, but also the Radeon RX 590 which is currently being sold at discounted prices and has a really good price to performance value. Still, the AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT packs a lot of crunch for a little beast that it is.

The AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT features 1408 stream processors which means that there are 22 CUs or compute units featured on the card. It also packs 88 TMUs and 32 ROPs with clock speeds rated at 1670 MHz base, 1717 MHz game, and 1845 MHz boost clocks. The card manages to deliver up to 5.20 TFLOPs of compute performance at 130W. The card comes in 8 GB and 4 GB GDDR6 memory options. The memory featured on the card runs across a 128-bit bus interface, delivering 224 GB/s bandwidth.

The 8 GB model is launching at an MSRP of $199 US which is close to the $229 US of the GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER while the 4 GB model is launching at an MSRP of $169 US which is $10 US higher than the $159 US GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER (4 GB). In terms of performance, the 4 GB variant has performance that matches the GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER while sipping in more power. The 8 GB model should offer slightly better performance than the GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER with its higher frame buffer uplifting the performance in games with high-res textures.

AMD Radeon RX 5000 '7nm Navi RDNA' GPU Lineup Specs:

Graphics CardRadeon RX 5700 XT 50th AnniversaryRadeon RX 5700 XTRadeon RX 5700Radeon RX 5600 XTRadeon RX 5500 XT
GPU Architecture7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)
Stream Processors2560 SPs2560 SPs2304 SPs2304 SPs1408 SPs
TMUs / ROPs160 / 64160 / 64144 / 64144 / 6488 / 32
Base Clock1680 MHz1605 MHz1465 MHz1130 MHz1670 MHz
Boost Clock1980 MHz1905 MHz1725 MHz1560 MHz1845 MHz
Game Clock1830 MHz1755 MHz1625 MHz1375 MHz1717 MHz
Compute Power10.14 TFLOPs9.75 TFLOPs7.95 TFLOPs7.19 TFLOPs5.19 TFLOPs
VRAM8 GB GDDR68 GB GDDR68 GB GDDR66 GB GDDR68 GB GDDR6
Bus Interface256-bit256-bit256-bit192-bit128-bit
Bandwidth448 GB/s448 GB/s448 GB/s288 GB/s224 GB/s
TBP235W225W180W150W130W
Price$449 US$399 US$349 US$279 US$169 US (4 GB)
$199 US (8 GB)
Launch7th July 20197th July 20197th July 201921st January, 20207th October 2019

Radeon RX 5500 "7nm Navi RDNA GPU" Feature Set and A Word on HW-Enabled Ray Tracing

While we would share a few tidbits of the RDNA architecture itself below, there are also some highlights we should mention for the Navi GPU. According to AMD themselves, the Navi 14 GPU will be 12% faster at the same power and should consume 30% lower power at the same clock speeds as Polaris GPU. The AMD Navi 14 GPU has a die size of 158mm2 and delivers 1.7x perf per area over the Polaris 10 GPU. The chip packs 6.4 Billion transistors while the Polaris 10 GPU packed 5.7 Billion transistors on a die that was almost 70% bigger.

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Also, when it comes to ray tracing, AMD is indeed developing their own suite around it. According to their vision, current GCN and RDNA architecture will be able to perform ray tracing on shaders which will be used through ProRender for creators and Radeon Rays for developers. In next-gen RDNA which is supposed to launch in 2020 on 7nm+ node, AMD will be bringing hardware-enabled ray tracing with select lighting effects for real-time gaming. AMD will also enable full-scene ray tracing which would be leveraged through cloud computing.

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New Compute Unit Design
Great Compute Efficiency For Diverse Workloads

  • 2x Instruction Rate (enabled by 2x Scalar Units and 2x Schedulers)
  • Single Cycle Issue (enabled by Executing Wwave32 on SIMD32)
  • Dual Mode Execution (Wave 32 and Wave 64 Modes Adapt for Workloads)
  • Resource Pooling (2 CUs Coordinate as a Work Group Processor)
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As you can tell, AMD is changing a lot in terms of architecture with RDNA (Radeon DNA) compared to GCN. There's a new Compute unity design, a more streamlined Graphics pipeline & a multi-level cache hierarchy. Aside from the GPU architecture, support for GDDR6 memory is another major change that brings AMD's graphics cards on par with NVIDIA in utilizing modern memory designs for higher bandwidth.


The SAPPHIRE Pulse lineup is their more cost effective lineup when compared to their Nitro+ line and while that brings some cuts to design and delivery it doesn't mean it falls short on delivering a well made product. The SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB comes with features that give it the much more premium look and feel than it's price tag would suggest.

Borrowing design language from its big brother, the SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT, but in a more muted tone. Gone are the metal mesh and red accents on the fan shroud itself and now it's replaced by a mute solid black design. The back is adorned by an aluminum backplate with vent cutouts to allow the oversized heatsink to breathe better and carries the classic pulse design cues. There's also a cutout for the dual BIOS switch that is not a common feature on cards in this class and very welcome for those tinkerers out there.

Card

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The SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT features their Dual X cooler sporting a pair of large 95mm fans that are removable thanks to SAPPHIRE's Fan Quick Connect technology that lets you replace a failing fan or simply clean the heatsink easily. I/O is handled by triple Display Ports 1.4 HDR (DSC 1.2a for 8K 60 Hz) and a single HDMI 2.0. While the PCIe slot is wired and pinned in a x16 fashion the RX 5500 Series of cards only function on a PCIe x8 connection, whether than be PCIe Gen.4 or Gen.3.

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The heasink on the SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB is fairly substantial running the length of the 9" card. The heatsink is arranged in a front to back orientation meaning while some heat will exhaust out of the back of your case through the I/O some of it will still pour back into the case and will need to be aided by case airflow to be removed from the system. This is typically not an issue on lower power draw cards like this.

The 3 heatpipes that carry the heat away from the Navi 14 die are situated on the PCIe slot side of the graphics card so you won't be seeing them once it is mounted in your case but that leaves a rather clean appearance. The rear of the card is fully open to allow for as much airflow as possible for dispelling heat from under the shroud.

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Since this card will remain in our lineup for future testing as games are released and will be replacing the Radeon RX 570 in our standard 1080p preset scaling we got the opportunity to break the card open and look at the PCB layout as well. Separating the card was fairly simple as it only took the 4 screws around the GPU itself and 4 more screws around the rest of the card for a total of 8 screws to dismantle the cooler from the card.

Once separated we can see that the tiny Navi 14 GPU core is mating directly to a copper core that the heatpipes terminate into while the memory is handled by the aluminum plate surrounding the core. The massive 6 phase GPU and single phase Memory VRMs are cooled by the primary heatsink by way of an aluminum contact point near the I/O of the card. This power delivery is very solid and clearly built to take the most advantage of the 8-pin power adapter.

 

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All of the testings were done on our Intel Z370 test bench powered by a 5GHz Core i9-9900K. We ran all tests involving DX11 through 3 paces and averaged the results of all metrics to come to the final numbers. For DX12 and Vulkan we used the latest release of FrameView at the time.  I took the average of average frame rates as well as the 99th percentile results from the run.  I had been using 1% and .1% results but while working on an upcoming review, before starting this one, I had decided to move to a 99th percentile to represent the bottom end of the framerates for a more simple method of charting and reading for our readers.  For those uncertain of what the 99th percentile is representing is easily explained as showing only 1 frame out of 100 is slower than this frame rate. Put another way, 99% of the frames will achieve at least this frame rate. The representation of the 99th percentile is much more consistent in experience than the 1% and .1% lows, and this was ultimately done as a way to deliver better metrics to the audience.


Test System

ComponentsZ370
CPUIntel Core i9-9900k @ 5GHz
Memory 16GB G.Skill Trident Z DDR4 3200
MotherboardEVGA Z370 Classified K
StorageKingston KC2000 1TB NVMe SSD
PSUCooler Master V1200 Platinum
Windows Version1903 with latest security patches

Graphics Cards Tested

GPUArchitectureCore Count
Clock SpeedMemory Capacity
Memory Speed
SAPPHIRE Pulse RX 5500 XT Navi 1414081685/1737/18454GB GDDR614Gbps
Zotac GTX 1650 SUPERTuring12801530/17254GB GDDR612Gbps
NVIDIA GTX 1060 FE 6GBPascal
1280
1506/17086GB GDDR58Gbps
MSI RX 580 Armor 8GB Polaris 20230413668GB GDDR58Gbps
Sapphire Nitro+ RX 570 4GBPolaris 20204813404GB GDDR57Gbps
Zotac GTX 1650 OCTuring8961485/16654GB GDDR58Gbps

Drivers Used

Drivers 
Radeon Settings 20.2.1
GeForce442.19


The SAPPHIRE Pulse RX 5500 XT 4GB is rated for a base clock of 1685MHz, a game clock of 1737MHz, and a boost clock of 1845MHz. Through all of our testing, we found the GPU core to sit at roughly 1800-1825MHz at all times regardless of the game while using MSI Afterburner to monitor it on screen and verifying using GPU-z after a session had ended. This test was done separately from gathering performance data as no other utilities other than Frameview are running while gathering results.

I did work on overclocking this card a bit just to see how much was in the tank, and unfortunately, I seem to have lost the silicon lottery in the worst way. I was able to push the core to near 2000MHz for a brief time but it was unable to finish any one test, the best I could get the core stable at was between 1875-1900Mhz which did very little to move the needle in performance. Memory overclocking faired a bit worse with crashing within moments, if not immediately, from trying to increase frequency.

Firestrike

Firestrike is running the DX11 API and is still a good measure of GPU scaling performance, in this test we ran the regular version of Firestrike which runs at 1080p and we recorded the Graphics Score only since the Physics and combined are not pertinent to this review.

Time Spy

Time Spy is running the DX12 API and we used it in the same manner as Firestrike Extreme where we only recorded the Graphics Score as the Physics score is recording the CPU performance and isn't important to the testing we are doing here.

Thermals

Thermals were measured from our open test bench after running the Time Spy graphics test 2 on loop for 30 minutes recording the highest temperatures reported. The room was climate controlled and kept at a constant 22c throughout the testing.

Power Draw

Power draw numbers were taken from the total system power draw by measuring with a Kill-A-Watt. We ran Unigine Valley for 30 minutes and observed the highest sustained load. Something to keep in mind when observing total system power draw is that there are times where a GPU simply being faster and requiring more from the CPU can cause the total system power draw to increase with the like of the Core i9-9900K. That said, the total system power draw is still important as it is how much power it is taking to run the system.

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 carries on the open-world racing tradition of the Horizon series.  The latest DX12 powered entry is beautifully crafted and amazingly well executed and is a great showcase of DX12 games.  We use the benchmark run while having all of the settings set to non-dynamic with an uncapped framerate to gather these results.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider, unlike its predecessor, does a good job putting DX12 to use and results in higher performance than the DX11 counterpart in this title and because of that, we test this title in DX12.  I do use the second segment of the benchmark run to gather these numbers as it is more indicative of in-game scenarios where the foliage is heavy.

Rainbow 6 Siege

Rainbow 6 Siege has maintained a massive following since its launch and it consistently in Steams Top Ten highest player count game.  In a title where the higher the framerate the better in a tactical yet fast-paced competitive landscape is essential, we include this title despite its ludicrously high framerates.  We use the Ultra preset with the High Defenition Texture Pack as well and gather our results from the built-in benchmarking tool.

Far Cry New Dawn

Far Cry New Dawn brings the DX11 powered Dunia 2 engine back for another beating in Hope County.  We test this game using the Ultra Preset and follow the built-in benchmarking tool for consistency's sake.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the biggest release titles of the year on PC and we simply have to include results here. Running on the Vulkan version of the Rockstar Advanced Graphics Engine we manually set all of the graphics settings and sliders to the Medium setting and left anti-aliasing disabled. We took our results from the final 2 minute section of the built-in benchmark tool.

Metro Exodus

The Metro series is no stranger to being difficult to run and Metro Exodus is no different.  This time it was built with DX12 in mind first and foremost. We take our readings from the Volga mission from one side of where the train is stopped, make a stroll next to the train and down the opposite embankment as we started from.  We did disable all GameWorks features for this test but had Tesselation enabled.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare (2019)

Call of Duty Modern Warfare is back and this time on a new engine running DX12 to allow for some sick DXR Ray Traced Shadows, but we're not testing that here since this card isn't designed for that level of rendering. We tested in the 'Fog of War' mission where we tested our RT performance run. At 1080p we set the settings all to High.

Resident Evil 2

The Resident Evil 2 Remake more than delivered on the promises it made as a game.  While it does have DX12 support the DX11 implementation is far superior and because of that, we will be sticking to DX11 for this title.  We take our performance measurements from when Leo and Claire are first separated and as Leon, we have to make our way through the burning street, down an alleyway, and across to the Police Station gates.

Borderlands 3

Borderlands 3 has made its way into the test lineup thanks to strong demand by gamers and simply delivering MORE Borderlands. This game is rather intensive after the Medium preset and since this is a budget-focused 1080p card Medium it is. We tested using the built-in benchmark utility



The SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB delivers exactly as it was designed to. Performance is solid, thermals and acoustics are more than acceptable. The biggest challenge that the SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB faces is that it comes at a pretty sizeable price premium over its competition with the GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER, but more importantly the aging Radeon RX 580 8GB. After running through the performance numbers there's no denying that the lower core count, smaller die, more narrow memory bus, RDNA powered card can take on and outperform the aging Radeon RX 580 while running cooler, quieter, and sipping much less power. But, with the price difference and abundance of Radeon RX 580 8GBs still on the market, they make for a really attractive alternative still.

Now, something to take into consideration is that the Radeon RX 580 8GB will not be long for the new market once stock dries up. Another thing to note is ongoing game bundles that come with the SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB could offer up a compelling value if you're in the market for a card in the $180 price range and also want the games that are included at the time.

The SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB is a well built, solid card but it exists in a crowded segment that makes it harder than most to nail down just which card is for you. You're going to want to pay attention closely to performance results for the games you care most about here. You'll be getting a well built and well cooled card that delivers one of the most fuss-free experiences from Radeon recently. It's not likely to blow your socks off, but at least this one doesn't come with any marketing confusion and you don't have to worry about getting the right BIOS, the only concern you'll have is what game you'll want to play first.

 

The post SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB – A Solid Card In A Tough Place by Keith May appeared first on Wccftech.

SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless Review – Wireless Excellence

Arctis Pro Wireless PS4 white

Last year, I was happily surprised by the Arctis 1 Wireless and now we were given the opportunity to test SteelSeries’ topline wireless offering – the Arctis Pro Wireless. With a price tag of $329.99, the Pro Wireless is among the most expensive gaming headsets available and triple the price of the Arctis 1 Wireless. Does SteelSeries’ top wireless offering warrant such a price tag? Before we go into details, I can wholeheartedly say: yes, it does.

Just like the Arctis 1 Wireless, the Pro Wireless uses a USB transmitter for wireless 2.4G lossless audio.  Unlike its cheaper sister, however, wireless transmission isn’t accomplished through a dongle, but via a transmitter base station that features an OLED screen for quick settings adjustments, including EQ, toggle surround sound, volume and more. All of these settings can be adjusted without the need for additional PC software. Throw in Bluetooth connectivity for mobile audio and you’ve got yourself a really versatile headpiece that works on multiple platforms.

Alright, so what has SteelSeries included with the Arctis Pro Wireless? In the box you’ll find the following:

  • Arctis Pro Wireless Headset
  • Transmitter Base Station with OLED screen
  • Two battery packs
  • USB Audio Cable
  • Toslink Optical Cable
  • Mobile Audio Cable
  • Mobile Charging Cable
  • Microphone Windscreen
  • Product Information Guide (download)

Design and features

The Arctis Pro Wireless comes in both a black and white design. I was given the white version and with most headsets being black, I was quite pleased with its looks. Of course, this is a matter of personal taste and I will refrain myself from rating this particular color.

The Arctis Pro Wireless comes in both a black and white design. I was given the white version and with most headsets being black, I was quite pleased with its looks. Of course, this is a matter of personal taste and I will refrain myself from rating this particular color of this headpiece.

The Pro has an elegant design and features a retractable microphone, ski-goggle suspension headband, and on-headset controls. The used materials include lightweight aluminum alloy hangers, a gunmetal steel outer headband and a soft coating on the replaceable speaker plates. Underneath the right earplate we find the battery pack. Overall, the headset feels solid and more luxurious compared to other headsets in SteelSeries’ Arctis line. Like the Arctis 7, the Pro features a ski-goggle headband which gives the Pro a more distinct look. Interesting to note is that the headband is replaceable and alternate bands are available online. The headbands used with the Arctis 7 also work on the Pro, and SteelSeries is even offering limited edition leather headbands for those interested.  Also available are at SteelSeries are the so-called 'Booster Packs', which include uniquely designed ski-goggle headbands and speaker plates.

The Arctis Pro "Aurora" Booster Pack

We already mentioned this, but the Arctis Pro Wireless includes a dual-wireless system where the lossless 2.4GHz connection is used for gaming while Bluetooth is used for mobile audio. Both connections can be used simultaneously and this allows users to play games while chatting on a mobile application, or stream music through a music streaming app.

The Pro packs optical audio and USB connections and is compatible with both PS4 and PC allowing for DTS surround support on both systems. This also applies to the equalizer, which can be accessed via the supplied wireless base station.

The transmitter base station features two buttons on the front which allow users to navigate through the settings. These settings can also be accessed by pressing and scrolling the volume button on the headset. On the back of base station we find a line in- and out, a mini-USB input, an optical in- and output and an optional DC power input. On the right side of the station, SteelSeries has created a slot used to charge one of the supplied battery packs.

Although SteelSeries doesn't advertise this, we can confirm that the Arctis Pro Wireless also works (wirelessly and wired) on both Nintendo Switch and Xbox One consoles, though getting it to work requires a different setup.

Performance

Comfort

The Arctis Pro Wireless headband is outstanding. As with the Razer Thresher Ultimate that I tested earlier, it easily adjusts to match the size of your head - just place the earcups over your ears and you're good to go. Even during longer gaming sessions, the headband rests comfortability on your head without becoming heavy.

Just as importantly, the breathable earcups are wonderful as well. Even after more than 2 hours of play, my ears remained sweat-free.

Another thing that I loved about the Pro Wireless is its volume wheel, which also serves as a function wheel. Compared to headsets from other brands, this wheel is quite large and can easily be operated while using the headset.

Sound quality

The Arctis Pro Wireless offers clear, crisp audio and might even sound better than many wired alternatives in this price range. I can safely say it's easily the best-sounding wireless headset currently on the market. Whether you're playing shooters, adventure games, sports titles or listening to music, the Pro Wireless offers an unprecedented wireless audio experience that might be even better than both the Astro A50 and Razer Thresher 7.1 Ultimate bring to the table.

As with the Thresher, I would have liked the bass to be louder, but overall, bass levels are good and not excessive.

Microphone sound quality is good as well, although a bit more isolation wouldn't hurt as, on some occasions, external audio might be noticeable for other players. The supplied microphone windshield, however, did somewhat improve isolation.

Battery

One of the downsides of the Arctis 1 Wireless was the absence of a true battery indicator. A blinking led on the headset did provide an indication of how much juice there was left, but this merely provided an educated guess on the remaining playtime. This isn't the case with the Pro as the remaining battery life is displayed on the OLED screen. In addition, the OLED screen will give notifications when the battery status changes and there's an audible low battery indicator. A nice addition is that the OLED display also shows the battery life of a charging battery inside the base station.

A plus of the Pro Wireless is that it comes with 2 battery packs. SteelSeries boasts that a full battery can last up to 10 hours and I can confirm that this is the case. This is considerably shorter than the battery life of the Arctis 1 Wireless, but making smart use of the additional battery allows you to keep playing indefinitely. Keep the additional battery charged in the base station while playing and you'll never run out of juice. I've found that using the headpiece's 2.4Ghz and Bluetooth connection simultaneously results in considerably shorter battery life, but then again, this shouldn't be an issue due to the additional battery that SteelSeries has supplied.

Software

SteelSeries' SteelEngine software allows you to change settings on the headset and the base station. Truth be told, most of these settings can be simply adjusted through the wireless base station and I haven't found myself using the software that much. The software does offer some settings that aren't found on the base station, including enhanced bass, voice enhancement, and stereo widening, but these are PC-specific enhancements that, in all honesty, don't really improve sound quality in most cases.

The transmitter settings tab might be more interesting and it includes an option to automatically turn on Bluetooth when powering on the headset. The software is a nice addition to the total package but doesn't really add anything noteworthy that can’t be done by using the base station.

Conclusion

Wireless headsets don't come better than the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless. The only alternative that comes to mind that might offer some competition in this price range is the Astro A50. While the microphone on the A50 performs somewhat better, the Arctis Pro Wireless surpasses Astro's offering in comfort and sound quality. Then again, like the A50, the SteelSeries doesn't come cheap, but if you're willing to spend money in this price range, the Arctis Pro Wireless simply is the best wireless headset currently available on the market. If you have the opportunity, try it out for yourself and chances are you won't be disappointed.

Review sample provided by the manufacturer

The post SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless Review – Wireless Excellence by Aernout van de Velde appeared first on Wccftech.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics Review – Sluggishly Substandard

Par : Chris Wray

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics (official site) is a turn-based tactics game in the same vein as series like Disgaea, with a dash of Final Fantasy Tactics and other similar series. This is also the third game based on a Netflix series that I'll have played in a little over half a year, with Stranger Things 3: The Game and Narcos: Rise of the Cartels being the other two. Having been developed by BonusXP, developers of Stranger Things 3: The Game, I came in with certain expectations. The question then is, did they meet them and is this a good game for fans of the show and of turn-based tactics games?

Not really. I can't exactly say The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is a terrible game, it's certainly better than Narcos: Rise of the Cartels, but that isn't exactly saying much. When I previewed it, I was going from the place of somebody who likes Dark Crystal and was looking forward to watching the Netflix series and one who likes strategy games. I also only played a selected battle within the game and, frankly, it was a 'best example'.

When I previewed the game I wrote the lines "I never noticed any glaring flaws or moves that made me think "WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!", which is always a nice surprise in a game". The problem is that the more I've played this, the more I've got to the part where I'm thinking that line. What exactly is that? Speed.

During my review of Narcos: Rise of the Cartels I complained about the monumentally stupid decision of only allowing the control of one character per turn. It's a basic of the turn-based tactics genre that the developers got wrong. BonusXP has also got a basic element of the genre wrong here, but it's nowhere near as egregious as Kuju's mistake with Narcos. Here the problem isn't with the number of moves but the speed in which you can take them.

Regularly in a game of this type, when you select a character you can simply click on the square you want to move to, the range already being shown on the grid. If an enemy is in range, you simply click an enemy in range to do your regular attack. It's so simple and it's something that's been standard in this type of game now for close to two decades, if not longer. Here, each and every little thing requires more clicks than a dolphin with Tourette's.

This poorly designed system of having to click through every single button, menu and screen repeatedly also persists through every other aspect of the game, more than just the battles. From changing the inventory and equipment of your characters to simply moving through different menus in the game. Having to click through a number of buttons wouldn't bother me too much on the rare occasion, but for what is essentially every little action quickly becomes a "WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!" moment.

It's a shame because there are some good ideas to find in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics. The core of battles could be excellent, were it not for their sloth-like speed. You can build your army of resistance fighters out of twelve different jobs, similar to the system found in titles like Final Fantasy Tactics, with your characters also having a second job. Sommelier and brewer sadly weren't jobs made available, but I found that what was available allowed for a great deal of customisation and tactical thinking.

How this works is simple. As you level up, you learn different skills from the two jobs you have chosen for that character. The character can bring in three skills from its first job and three from the second. Since you've learned more than this, you're going to have to decide which skills work best when worked in conjunction with the other members you are taking into battle, made all the more important by the limitations on numbers you can actually take with you into battle.

There is a downside to the number limitation though. That would be rotation, both the necessity on rare occasions and the lack of throughout the rest of the game. Once you've found the set group you prefer, with certain skills that cause strong status effects or just simply do a lot of damage, you're going to be hesitant to change. Only, certain battles will force you to change, leaving you with characters that are very under-levelled. Then it's time for a lot of tedious grinding.

Even when grinding and getting as high as you can, the game will throw elements at you that will require more than brute force. Certain enemies can demolish you in a one-on-one situation, ensuring you need to use a bit of synergy between your units. Also, some maps can feature other elements, such as needing speed due to having a rising water level or ones that require you to have a decent amount of healing due to debuffs in place. This is a good thing as it adds a good amount of variety, also requiring a higher amount of tactical planning.

So the gameplay is, at best, a mixed bag. In reality, the same can be said about the game as a whole. Aesthetically, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is very much the same. Characters are certainly representative of their TV counterparts, though I can't exactly say they look great. The only aspects that look good are those that would be hard to mess up, the world map and the storyboard-like cutscenes. Everything else just feels a little basic, including battle animations. On the story, whatever you do, don't get it from the game - watch the show on Netflix first. This barely touches more than the very key points, feeling rushed as a result. Also, no voice acting, which contributes to a feeling of lifelessness.

All in all, it's hard to say more about The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics than 'it's a game'. It is, indeed, a game. The problem is that it's a sluggish game that hasn't learned anything from decades of progression in the genre it wants to be a part of. There are a few commendable elements and the core gameplay is certainly functional, but that is sadly the best that can be said about the game - it's functionally average.

PC version reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher.

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Arc of Alchemist (PS4) Review – A Wasteland of Potential

Par : Kai Powell

Arc of Alchemist

It's been some time since I last sat down with an RPG by Compile Heart and played it through until the end. I gave Death End re;Quest about a dozen hours before I grew tired of their signature turn-based combat. When I heard that their latest game, Arc of Alchemist, was going to opt for a hack-and-slash combat style, my interest perked up. However, as I learned after the first few hours, sometimes a new combat system isn't enough. I played through Arc of Alchemist not once but twice to bring you this full review, based upon the PlayStation 4 Pro version.

Arc of Alchemist opens in a wasteland as the young Quinn Bravesford, commander of a small retinue of soldiers (who despite their childlike appearances are all of legal age to be warfighters) and helming an expedition to find a rumored 'Great Power' that can save their barren world. This supposed 'Great Power' can only be activated by someone with the Lunagear and in possession of four elemental orbs. Conveniently enough, Quinn already has the necessary device and the first orb. Spoiler alert: the remaining three orbs all wind up in her possession with little to no effort at all.

To say the world of Arc of Alchemist is barren would be an understatement. Separated across five small-sized maps, Quinn's adventure follows a relatively straight line from event marker to event marker (if you've played a Neptunia title before, you should be familiar with these story flags randomly laid out across the area). Aside from Quinn's party of seven, who all join you from the onset, there are barely any other NPC's in the world to come across. Those that you do meet show up in visual novel styled story vignettes and disappear until the next event flag, only to have most of them join your party later on. There are no shopkeepers, unique enemies, foes with proper faces, or nigh anyone else save for Quinn's group of adventurers and an enemy group that seems to be adventuring in parallel to the player yet never engage them in direct combat.

Arc of Alchemist never draws on the strength of its story to weave a tale that's of any interest. What little story there is plays out in those brief story moments of visual novel chatter but save for one Uchikoshi-esque twist midway through, never really does anywhere. Despite a world that's on the brink of extinction, there are never any stakes that mean anything and Quinn's sole driving motivation is finding a reason to die most of the time. Any time you return back to the main base, there's a brief story gag with one or two of Quinn's troupe that feeds a little bit more into their character backstory but I never found any of the characters to be of any interest.

While the combat may have changed from turn-based to an active hack-and-slash style in Arc of Alchemist, the more I played this Idea Factory-published adventure, the more I missed the Neptunia style. At least that style of RPG had some depth to it. In Arc of Alchemist, each weapon is limited to two basic attacks (which are dependent not just upon the weapon type but which specific sword or staff is equipped). Beyond that, the player has a basic jump, dodge roll, and a very ineffective lock-on move that helps to put a band-aid on the otherwise atrocious camera controls in Arc of Alchemist. The Lunagear that Quinn wears has a minimal purpose when it comes to combat: the four elemental orbs she equips don't do much for combat but using a pair of them at once can drop a healing totem or activate a radar that detects loot stashes, among other things.

Even on higher difficulty levels, Arc of Alchemist never proves to be much of a challenge. The enemies that Quinn comes across are either insanely wimpy and go down with only a couple of hits or are so out of her league that an attack can cleave off half of her health. There's rarely any in-between and as such, Arc of Alchemist never really proves to have any real challenge. Any time that I ran into a fight that was remotely challenging (not counting the level 99 extra bosses randomly chilling around the world), a very small amount of grinding or investing in another weapon upgrade back at home base were all I needed to make the game a cakewalk once again.

Often times, the grinding wouldn't even be intentional. Up until Quinn hits level 60, she gains a level roughly every couple of minutes without any real challenge. After that, there's only one specific miniboss that can be defeated that gives enough experience to level up (and because there are trophies to get Quinn's entire party to level 100, that was quite the grind to endure). There isn't any need to do this, as the final boss in Arc of Alchemist is a mere level 70 and barely a challenge on the hardest difficulty if you heal once in a while or dodge its energy attacks.

The main base that serves as Quinn's hub of operations is the only place where shops and upgrades exist. Here, Quinn can exchange monster parts and a small bit of money to upgrade the base's facilities. Each facility governs a small aspect of what the player can purchase at the only shop in the game, from additional levels of passive skills to weapons and armor to the consumable items that Quinn takes out on each expedition. There's a minor strategy to laying out the city base: each level of upgrade for a particular facility lets you place one more building of that type down. Laying four down in a square gives one bonus to the facility's level and laying them adjacent to certain other types also gives a similar bonus. It's a novel system but given how shallow the interpretation is, there's nothing that suggests the player can't just upgrade each facility to its maximum level rather than laying out the city properly.

Aside from the weapons and armor that require cold hard cash to purchase, everything else in the home base of Arc of Alchemist takes a combination of money and loot drops gained either from glowing spots in the world or enemy drops. One of the major changes in the Western release of Arc of Alchemist is the drop rates on these items. If it weren't for gaining three or five times the items as the Japanese release, there would be an insane grind to just upgrade a facility to its next level.

The other big change from the Japanese release of Arc of Alchemist is the ability to play as any of the other party members besides Quinn Bravesford. This would be more notable if not for the fact that there's never any reason to. Quinn is proficient in any weapon type and can select (nearly) every passive skill from the training camp. Changing who you lead isn't a simple affair that you can do on the battlefield; this requires going back to the home base and rearranging your party to whoever you want to play as is in the first position.

Arc of Alchemist

What I found most troublesome about Arc of Alchemist was in how little depth or consequence there is to anything in the game. The various systems at play to upgrade your characters or home base are rarely needed (except for the occasional weapon upgrade) and can otherwise be disregarded. The same goes for the addition of different playable characters in the Western release. With a runtime that barely clocks in over twelve hours (and an NG+ playthrough that barely took somewhere between four and five after skipping cutscenes), Arc of Alchemist thankfully doesn't last long enough to be a huge annoyance, but I still found myself wondering if this world was one worth saving even a few hours in. Arc of Alchemist might not be the worst RPG you could play to ring in the new decade, but I'd save this one for the PSN bargain sales if at all.

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro (code provided by the publisher).

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Zombie Army 4: Dead War Review – Gory, Goofy, and Gripping

Zombie Army 4

Will fans ever get a worthy Left 4 Dead successor? With Valve seemingly disinterested in continuing their beloved series, numerous other developers have attempted to step up with their own Left-4-Dead-style shooters (Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Strange Brigade, and World War Z being notable recent examples). Unfortunately, none of them have quite measured up. Zombie Army 4: Dead War is the latest potential usurper to take aim at the 4-player co-op king.

Zombie Army began as a series of expansions for Rebellion Developments’ Sniper Elite V2, but Zombie Army 4 is a full-fledged standalone game with more content than the previous Trilogy combined. Of course, bigger ambitions mean bigger expectations. Can this series really stand on its own? Or is Zombie Army 4 just begging for a headshot? Time to put this one in the crosshairs…

Zombie Army 4

For those just joining us, the Zombie Army series takes place in a world where Hitler managed to raise the dead in the final days of World War II. It’s not enough to save him though, as the original ZA Trilogy ends with you literally throwing the evil bastard into Hell. So, uh, all’s well that ends well? Unfortunately, Europe is still overrun with the undead in Zombie Army 4 and monster-spawning hellgates have begun appearing over major cities. Gosh, who could possibly be behind this?

Don’t expect much complexity from Zombie Army 4’s story, as it’s just a vehicle to shuttle players from one location to the next, but hey, at least those locations are interesting. From the zombie-polluted canals of Venice to an undead-infested zoo, to the depths of Hell itself, each of Zombie Army 4’s nine locations are unique, with many taking surprising turns from mission to mission. As you may have picked up on, this is not a classy game, but I give Rebellion kudos for just saying “screw it” and holding nothing back. The game serves up one absurd scenario after another, culminating in one of the most gleefully tasteless final missions I’ve ever played, but ultimately, it’s all too silly to be legitimately offensive.

Despite all the gore and grossness, Zombie Army 4 is rather nice-looking in its own way. Stages are big and varied, with dark underground sections being appropriately moody and the big set pieces delivering the wow factor. While the game’s hordes aren’t as impressive something like World War Z, things get pretty frantic, with tons of zombies, explosions, and body parts flying around, and yet, I never noticed the framerate flagging. Rebellion’s in-house Asura engine holds up surprisingly well under the strain.

As I’ve said, Zombie Army 4 cribs heavily from the Left 4 Dead playbook, but with enough tweaks to feel unique. You can choose from one of four different characters, each with their own strengths, including Karl (the sniper), Boris (melee), Jun (speedy healer), and Shola (explosives). Regardless of which character you play as, you go into battle with a rifle, pistol, and shotgun or submachine gun of your choosing and can find different guns and a variety of grenades and traps as you work your way through the mission. Zombie Army 4 borrows its physics from the Sniper Elite games and its gunplay is more grounded and realistic than usual for a game like this, but you don’t need to be a hardcore sniper to enjoy yourself.

You can find a good vantage point and pick zombies off one-by-one if you want, but you’re also free to charge into the middle of the fray thanks to an array of powerful new melee attacks. Chain together 10 zombie kills in quick succession and you’ll unlock a melee takedown that will reward you with health and ammo, similar to the Glory Kills in Doom. Also, score 10 kills with any specific weapon, and you can trigger an assist mode that slows down the action and amps up your gun’s power, allowing you to really shred the undead and rack up big combos. So yeah, while sniping is still an option, it’s pretty clear Rebellion also wants you to get in close and mix it up. Overall, Zombie Army 4 has been well-balanced for a variety of different play styles and skill levels.

Ultimately though, there’s one simple thing that separates Zombie Army 4 from Left 4 Dead and most of its imitators – slow zombies. Granted, there are some faster zombie types, but the rank-and-file undead are classic George A. Romero ghouls, which completely changes the pace and flow of gameplay. Zombie Army 4 isn’t as frantic as Left 4 Dead, instead focusing on strategy and endurance. Sure, slow zombies aren’t as much of an adrenalin rush, but there’s something satisfying, and a little scary, about having to dig in and repel the relentless horde one by one.

What Zombie Army 4 sometimes lacks in intensity, it makes up for with variety. Beyond the basic shamblers, there are nearly 20 alternate zombie types waiting for you, including runners, snipers, blind screamers, spider-like creepers, commanders who can summon other zombies, and yes, a zombie tank. Not a tank driven by zombies, but one actually made of rotting flesh. Rebellion breaks every zombie rule in the book, but it’s all in service of making a more diverse, entertaining game. Missions are also a nice mix, offering a wide array of scenery and objectives. Sniping, stealth, close-quarters combat, or holding your own against giant hordes, you never know what’s around the next corner. Zombie Army 4 remains fresh from beginning to end (as fresh as a zombie game can be), which is impressive, because Rebellion has stuffed a lot into this package.

Zombie Army 4 serves up 32 missions, some of which can take half an hour or more to complete. You’re looking at an almost 15-hour campaign here, which blows the likes of Left 4 Dead and entire original Zombie Army Trilogy out of the water. And there’s still plenty to do once you’ve played through the campaign once – attempt missions on a higher difficulty, continue to upgrade your character, search for secret documents, comic books, and other collectibles, fill sticker pages by completing challenges, and more. Even if you’ve collected everything and maxed out at level 100, you can still pursue prestige ranks for extra bragging rights.

One thing you might not spend too much time with is Horde Mode, which starts the player off with basic supplies then challenges you to survive 13 increasingly-tough waves of enemies. You already face plenty of hordes in the main campaign, and with only four missions, Horde Mode didn’t feel particularly unique or fleshed out. But hey, it’s a fine little bonus for those who can’t get enough zombie slaying.

So yeah, expect to sink some serious time into Zombie Army 4, assuming the online community remains strong. As with most games like this, you really need to play with other people. Yes, you can go solo if you want, and the number of zombies scales depending on how many people are playing, but you will be frustrated if you don’t have a team to divvy up certain challenges. Ultimately, the game just gets bogged down with too much repetitive zombie killing when you’re on your own. Get yourself a good band of zombie-slaying brothers and you’ll find Zombie Army 4 offers a meaty meal.

This review was based on a PS4 copy of Zombie Army 4: Dead War provided by publisher Rebellion Developments. 

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Snakebyte Game:Mouse Ultra Review – Surprisingly Strong and Creatively Customisable

Par : Chris Wray

Getting the right mouse for you can be an ordeal. That has never been truer as advancements have been made across the board, from the simple fact that some are designed for those with sweaty palms, to ones designed for either the small or large handed amongst us. Then you bring in base DPI, software that comes with mice and even more. It's a regular mousetrap. Here, the Snakebyte Game:Mouse Ultra is looking to entice with a good build but with an extra level of personalisation and customisation.

Specifications:

• 16000 DPI Optical Sensor
• Weight System
• 50G Acceleration
• Full RGB Customizable Lighting with 16.8 million Colors
• 5 Programmable Buttons with Full Customizable Software
• Rubberized Grips

I've got large hands, that's always been the case and unlikely to change. Other people have really tiny hands. There will always be issues with any mouse and the comfort of it. The Snakebyte Game:Mouse Ultra has comfortable ledges on the sides to rest your thumb and, should you prefer, little finger on. I've found myself resting my thumb more than anything and that has certainly been useful during long sessions on my computer, gaming or otherwise.

What also works are the customisation options made available. To improve the actual feel of the mouse is a set of customisable weights that come to a total of 12 grams. While this doesn't seem like a large weight when reading about it, the feel is more than noticeable. It creates a genuine feel of weight no matter the surface you use, giving just enough that you don't throw the mouse across the table, also working with the grips. Thanks to the other options and the simple fact that most people don't often throw mice around, you'll not see that happening much.

Particularly so thanks to the general build of the mouse. It's large, as you may have gathered by my earlier talk of having large hands, but with this size and the earlier mentioned weights, it genuinely feels sturdy and well built. The matt black plastic looks and feels strong and sturdy, it doesn't leave fingerprints even with sweaty fingers and thanks to the rubberised grips on the sides, it's comfortable on the hands.

Further to this, the rest of the mouse is well-built. The mouse has a braided cable that is resistant to getting caught, fraying and those irritating bends and loops that can occur. In addition to the cable, the buttons on the mouse are very responsive and feel tactile while giving a slight click. Everything about the mouse feels build and designed for those after a well-designed, sturdy and responsive mouse.

So what are the other features that justify a £75/€80 price tag? The Snakebyte Game:Mouse Ultra has a button that toggles between the available seven-stage DPI settings, each of which can be set from 1 to 16,000 DPI using the downloadable software. Furthermore, the software also enables customisable RGB options of up to 16.8 million colours and with every button on the mouse, five of them in total, being fully customisable.

Adding to this customisation is what Snakebyte are hoping is the unique selling point of the mouse, personalised branding, highlighted by a replaceable cover. One of these has the Snakebyte logo, the other has your very own. Highlighting this is the RGB, showing your logo in whichever colours you choose. It also runs all across the edge of the mouse and along the sides of the mouse wheel.

With the wide range of DPI settings and general quality of it, the mouse never fails to be responsive or accurate, with it always being on-point as you would expect from a £75/€80 mouse. For that matter, the quality of everything within the mouse seems designed to meet that valuation. From the inclusion of RGB, the customisation options within the changeable weights and the general build of the mouse, right through to the braided cable.

This isn't to say that the Snakebyte Game:Mouse Ultra isn't without any issues. First and foremost is the price, which doesn't seem to sit well with their brand. While Snakebyte is a respected brand in Germany and other close EU countries, their reach and brand recognition outside certainly makes paying the premium a hard ask for those who aren't aware of their reach or quality. This is especially true when the majority of Snakebyte items seen in the UK and US are the cheaper, budget, products. The other issues is a simple one, it doesn't seem to be available outside of Europe - unless I'm missing something and my searching is giving me the wrong information.

All things considered, I can't help but be more than a little surprised by the Snakebyte Game:Mouse Ultra. From a brand that isn't all that recognisable as a premium brand outside of central Europe, something that could certainly be remedied if more products like the Game:Mouse Ultra are released. If anything could be the one to tempt people into the Snakebyte premium range of products, this should be it. At the moment, you can find it on the official Snakebyte website.

Provided by Snakebyte for review purposes.

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Kingdom Hearts III Re:Mind Review – A Brief Refresher

Par : Kai Powell

Re:Mind

Released a mere 358 days after the original release of Kingdom Hearts III on PlayStation 4, Re:Mind promised to give more closure on Sora's story and new content to excite longtime fans. The teases of being able to play as Riku and other keyblade wielders were reason enough to invite fans who wanted another reason to replay through Kingdom Hearts III. Now that we've had time to see his adventures wrap up once again, is Re:Mind worth playing through once again, or is this $30 expansion just a reminder of things we're already familiar with?

If you're just beginning Kingdom Hearts III for the first time after purchasing Re:Mind (or having a refresher playthrough), a new option is available at the start of Sora's adventure. After choosing your initial difficulty and growth path for Sora, you're given an additional option before the story truly begins. This three choice option will either grant players the option to play through the game without any enhancements, with the option for EZ, or Fast Pass, codes, and lastly with the option to choose PRO codes. You can't initially mix and match these, so you'll have to make a choice from the beginning whether to play with a series of cheat codes to make the adventure even easier or to opt-in for a more challenging experience with the PRO codes to disable specific parts of the combat, like a lack of Cure magic for your entire party.

A common complaint of Kingdom Hearts III's original combat system was with how floaty and weightless Sora's attacks felt. With the recent patches that came to Kingdom Hearts III (free for all, not just in Re:Mind), a number of changes were added to address this issue. Air combos now feel more intuitive to pull off and it's easier to roll to cancel out of specific animations, so you aren't left helpless and getting struck down by one of the postgame bosses just because you mistimed a parry.

Beyond the actual gameplay additions, Re:Mind also includes an expanded photo mode and orchestral concert video. Both are novel additions to the Re:Mind package if you're a huge fan of these sorts of things. Having gone to the Kingdom Hearts orchestra before, it was a kind reminder of seeing the concert before and not having to spend $50 on a Bluray version of the nineteen-piece concerto. This particular performance was the one held in Osaka back on November 30th, 2019 and features arrangements from each of the various Kingdom Hearts titles.

Re:Mind

Re:Mind is separated into a number of smaller compartments that make up this expansion to last year’s release of Kingdom Hearts 3. This four-hour long scenario isn’t entirely a new package for anyone that’s recently finished the final fights amidst the Keyblade Graveyard of Scala ad Caelum. No, Re:Mind instead serves as a reminder of those events by expanding briefly on not just Sora’s view of the events but also the views of the other Organization members taking place in this climax. The region of Scala ad Caelum is expanded to be more than just a singular hallway in Re:Mind, but it is in all actuality, not much more than that. The level has been reworked to be two smaller zones that Sora can explore around to try and find Kairi's heart but beyond a little bit of exploring and a handful of regular enemy encounters, there's not much to see. Even if you've recently completed the main story to Kingdom Hearts 3, this Re:Mind chapter is a requirement to access any of the other postgame content available. Being able to select other keyblade wielders is a nice touch, but they're only used for single fights. Of the various Organization XIII members and other keyblade wielders, you're limited to just four other characters to play as: Kairi, Riku, Aqua, and Roxas.

The second major part of Kingdom Hearts III Re:Mind is in the Limit Cut Episode, a tour de force against the various members of Organization XIII. If this section seems familiar to longterm fans, it's because it's continuing the tradition of data battles that began in Kingdom Hearts II. This segment is relatively light on story, starting off with Riku trying to recreate a digital version of Sora (with the help of the usual Final Fantasy cast that was otherwise absent from Kingdom Hearts III). To recreate that data, Sora must face off against superpowered versions of the Organization XIII members in what's easily the second hardest challenge that's in III, even surpassing that of the Frozen Slider minigame. Each Limit Cut fight is its own puzzle, each encounter taking full advantage of Sora's entire moveset (if you're going into the fight at anything less than level 70, you're going to have a bad time).

While there are only thirteen fights to the Limit Cut Episode of Re:Mind, don't expect this challenge to take any less time than the main Re:Mind scenario. Each fight is going to take multiple times to learn the encounter and the moveset to each Organization XIII member. Some of the trickier fights like Master Xehanort took me nearly an hour of continued attempts and retries, yet the Xion fight was figured out and surpassed on the second try (and that's even with her gimmick of reducing Sora's maximum HP with each successful hit). All thirteen fights play differently from one another and focus on that particular character's unique strengths. Chances are if you hated a certain gimmick, such as Luxord's card games, you're going to hate them even more in Re:Mind.

If you thought the fight against Master Xehanort was enough to make you throw your controller in rage, the super-secret boss of Kingdom Hearts III Re:Mind makes him seem like a mere mid-boss. While I won't spoil their appearance here, just keep in mind that they're far more aggressive than Sephiroth or Lingering Will ever were and can even steal your keyblade from you, leaving you defenseless to boot.  Defeating this secret boss in Re:Mind will unlock the ability to use both EZ and PRO codes at the same time, so if you want a fully customized playthrough on the Proud or Critical Modes, you'll have to complete that challenge first.

Given that Square-Enix has elected not to call Re:Mind’s complete package as a Final Mix like the other numbered entries makes me wonder if we aren’t yet finished with the stories connecting Sora and Kairi just yet. Re:Mind's secret endings hint at something greater that goes far beyond the world of Kingdom Hearts and instead links it together with a real world take of Shibuya that's teased in the original game's epilogue, given the player has met certain requirements. The secret endings of Re:Mind are straightforward enough to unlock: complete Re:Mind, complete the Limit Cut episode, and lastly square off against the secret boss, being granted one of two endings depending on whether you can stick it through to the end and defeat them. I'm a sucker for unexpected reveals in modern day, as if my praise for Mercury Steam's first Castlevania: Lords of Shadow wasn't obvious enough. If there is a proper Final Mix or sequel to Kingdom Hearts III, I do hope they explore more of this alternate Shibuya.

All in all, Kingdom Hearts III Re:Mind adds in a good ten hours of additional content if you're playing from a completed save and moreso if you want to just play through the entire adventure again for either an easier or more challenging experience. What makes Re:Mind a tough sell is that nearly half of that new content is a retelling of what players might have already seen from the original game's epilogue. The real content to Re:Mind lies in the postgame challenges and comes recommended if you're into the hardest fights that Kingdom Hearts III has to offer.

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (code provided by the publisher).

The post Kingdom Hearts III Re:Mind Review – A Brief Refresher by Kai Powell appeared first on Wccftech.

Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition Review – A Masterful Narrative Adventure

Kentucky Route Zero

I'm writing this mere moments after coming to the conclusion of Act V of Kentucky Route Zero, a game that has been in the making since the debut of its Kickstarter campaign in February 2011, almost nine years ago. I had honestly not heard of Kentucky Route Zero before the announcement of its final act, and the TV Edition release for consoles - or perhaps I had just ignored it. What a mistake that was. Through its five acts and five new intermissions, it has unraveled a fascinating story filled with intrigue, metaphor, and mystery. The vague discussion surrounding games as art comes up often and is a topic that has been worn downtime and time again. But it's hard not to think of Kentucky Route Zero as some kind of mysterious art piece, an enigmatic, at times esoteric, but always absorbing and harrowing piece of art that you can't pull yourself away from. Skip to the summary below if you don't want to read any spoilers from this game which simply must be experienced first-hand.

Kentucky Route Zero is at times a point and click adventure game and at other times a visual novel - and possibly the best visual novel I've ever played. It uses all of its elements, all of the sum of its parts, to create a thick atmosphere, with writing and storytelling which will drag you deep into the psyche of its characters, and make you feel true loss when they are no longer around. It's hard to know where to start when reviewing something that sets itself apart from its contemporaries so well.

You don't play as any one character, and the game isn't about any one character or theme. We begin by following Conway, an antiques delivery man who is making one final stop before everything ends. Conway is a man with a troubled past, and we slowly learn that this being his final delivery might also mean the end of his purpose. He's troubled by his past behavior, and his demons haunt him at every turn. Many of the characters in the game have a returning theme of loss. Shannon seeks her cousin Weaver, Ezra has lost his parents, and all of these lost souls eventually make their way to the Zero.

The Zero is a road that seemingly bends reality, and all of its inhabitants are addled, lost, and haunted. This is where Conway's final delivery leads him, and he inadvertently leads all of the companions he found along the way down with him. The game starts out with you guiding a truck along a simple overhead map, white lines depicting the roads which stretch out across this part of rural America. But everything is run down, and seeing its dying days. The people are despondent, and the areas you visit are closing, closed, or on their last legs. It's a dying civilization, a dying society, and it all culminates in the Zero, a road where the white lines that once depicted roads distort, bend into 3D visualisations of cave systems, a single road which loops on itself and changes when you swap direction and eventually becomes a streaming, lonely river.

The Zero reminds me of the River Styx, the river which leads people from the Earth into the Underworld - which shouldn't be surprising, as the Zero may, in fact, be underground. Whether the characters are inside or outside is rarely clear. Nothing is obvious in the Zero. But the characters and stories you encounter in the Zero are all there for the sake of the narrative. The narrative themes of the game and the metaphors it makes are the beating heart of the game. Themes of capitalism and debt destroying the working classes, enslaving people to what they from merely existing, the devils of privatized healthcare, alcoholism, living with dementia, and much more. But that's partially the magic of Kentucky Route Zero - all of the meaning and symbolism is yours to put together, and very rarely does the game plainly underline the points it is trying to make.

At least, that is true of the acts themselves. There are new intermission segments added to the game as of the final act, and these intermission segments are often as good as the acts themselves, but outline the themes of the coming act a bit overtly - in a way which feels heavy-handed, which is a little odd, when the rest of the game is incredibly subtle and tactful with the way it weaves messages into its storytelling. This is, of course, all thanks to the incredible writing - and the writing really is incredible. This might be the best writing I have ever seen in any game, and its delivery here is top-notch.

I feel I understood the intent behind so much of what the game was trying to say, and I especially resonated strongly with the story being told surrounding the Hard Times Distillery, a place where people are essentially enslaved, afraid of sleeping lest they accrue interest, on a seemingly endless pile of debt - debt which is even in the whiskey they brew themselves. The analogy gets a bit heavy-handed again when the casks used to age the whiskey are literal caskets, but I love the themes of this act, and how the repercussions continue into future acts.

This is a game about its story, but the visuals, often very dark and moody, build a perfect, quiet atmosphere in which to absorb this story. The game has no background music of which to speak, instead preferring quiet ambiance, but when the time is right the game will suddenly let loose an original song to set the scene, perhaps with you even able to select which lyrics are to be sung. The presentation of the game gets more complicated as you progress through the story, but it is far more than the sum of its parts.

I do feel that the writers sometimes leaned too heavily into metaphor and analogy, and I certainly couldn't understand everything they were trying to tell me, but Kentucky Route Zero was one of the most interesting and engaging games I've played - and stories I've read - in a very long while. This is a weird and wonderful example of what can be done with the medium, and I encourage absolutely everyone to play it.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch (code provided by the publisher).

The post Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition Review – A Masterful Narrative Adventure by Dave Aubrey appeared first on Wccftech.

Warcraft III: Reforged Review – Still Good, Could be Amazing

Par : Chris Wray

Warcraft III: Reforged

It's been a very long eighteen years since the original release of Warcraft III. Seventeen years from The Frozen Throne expansion and an amazing sixteen years since World of Warcraft. Frankly, if someone had asked me if World of Warcraft was released just two years after Warcraft III, I would have said no, it's impossible. I would have been wrong. So, almost two decades after its original release, how has Blizzard worked through the re-release and remaster of what is a true classic of the strategy genre? Welcome to Warcraft III: Reforged.

As a result of the campaign not having been unlocked prior to launch for review purposes, I've spent the hours I can with Warcraft III: Reforged prior to launch on the multiplayer beta - which is by all accounts and hands-on experience the same as the multiplayer non-beta - and post-launch hours on a small amount of the campaign. As such this is a review in progress (this text will remain even when the review is completed) where I'll start by talking about the multiplayer. When I've completed the campaign I can talk about what works and doesn't work, particularly with the changes they've made.

Fortunately, what playing the multiplayer does allow is a good grasp of how everything plays and looks. Even with the updated nature of the game, this was never going to be the best looking game around but Blizzard has certainly done more than a few small, quick updates. There's been a decent amount of work done on the environments, character models and animations, with even the destruction of buildings being represented in much finer detail.

It makes for a generally attractive game, one that's so incredibly nostalgic for somebody like me whose first venture into the Warcraft universe was with the strategy games. You can recognise the buildings and units that you used almost two decades ago, with a few added flourishes, shadows and detail, particularly the detail on the attacks and abilities of special units. This extra detail is also supported by a somewhat crisper user interface, though not exactly the one promised.

Not that I'm honestly too bothered about the UI, though Blizzard should certainly deliver on their promise. This being smoother just helps matters along, with it having slightly more detail to improve it aesthetically. Blizzard has also got the game working smoother and simply faster than that of the original, as you would expect from a revamped version of a game from eighteen years ago. Another great aspect is that the community is there, with the game allowing people to play one version against each other, from RISK to Tower Defense, Pokémon, and even more. This is the same modding community that literally started new genres, you've got a lot to work through.

Of course, with the modding community comes the option for you to join in and start creating yourself. Working with this is the revamped map editor, made clearer and a little more user-friendly than the one you may remember from the past. Joining the new map editor is the support of Battle.net, meaning the connection between players is all well supported and includes all of the social and matchmaking features you find with other Battle.net supported titles.

All in all, playing multiplayer with everything available in Warcraft III: Reforged is a great experience. It's a smooth, attractive and altogether great experience for those who are wanting to see the game that started the DOTA craze as well as a game with one of the most thriving and energetic modding communities in the world. Most of all, it gives people the chance to play what still remains one of the best strategy games ever made. That's multiplayer - so how is the single-player?

Edit: This was the end of my Review-in-Progress, with all new content added in. I should also add at this point that the terms forced on players, stating that their creations (mods) are owned by Blizzard, has caused an uproar. There have also been widespread reports of issues in connectivity. I personally did not face any issues, though I appreciate that I could be very lucky in this respect.

It's hard to put into words how I feel about the single-player. I'm at an impasse with myself because I've really enjoyed playing it but I can't deny that it's flawed. This is especially true because of the simple, earlier mentioned fact that the game is eighteen years old. Reforged or not, I'm finding too many issues. Playing through the campaign, something as simple as subtitles aren't showing when characters start speaking to each other. Why this is I don't understand, particularly as the actual pre-rendered cutscenes have their subtitles.

Even stranger is that it's only certain characters that can't seem to show their subtitles, usually the humans. For that matter, half of the names of characters can be missing and other strange, non-subtitle related bugs occur all too frequently. For instance, I've noticed effects like fire on buildings flickering in and out of existence. I've also had the game go full black-screen on me during some in-engine cutscenes - fortunately just pressing escape skips the scene, meaning I don't have to reset the damn thing.

All of this is a shame because I'm thoroughly enjoying going through the campaign with Warcraft III: Reforged. Having been a Warcraft III fan, one that took up the call to venture into World of Warcraft and saw all of the events that took place after these events, it's a great trip down memory lane. Well, some things are great. I can't help but love the "right-o" of the Peasant and other quirks of the older voice acting. This is also the story that led to the world that took thousands of hours of my time.

It's also appealing how certain aspects have been altered to be more fitting to that of World of Warcraft without changing their fundamentals. This can be from the design of characters, making them look more like their RPG avatars, to the missions themselves. The first one you encounter is the culling of Stratholme, where the whole layout of the city and the layout of the mission mimics that of the dungeon in World of Warcraft.

Honestly, there's not a massive amount to say other than Warcraft III was already an outstanding strategy game with an incredibly compelling story. Warcraft III: Reforged, removed from the current furore, has the makings of an outstanding strategy game. It's so close, just with too many bugs hampering the experience. What I did say, though, is the prerequisite of the game being taken away from the furore. Sadly, it's impossible to completely remove the game from the fact that Blizzard has and actively still promotes this game on a lie.

Not only has Blizzard massively downgraded the in-game cinematics shown (the culling) and promised from Blizzcon two years ago, the new UI is non-existent - with just a bit of an HD upgrade and tidying up having been performed, far from the huge overhaul promised. Were these aspects not promised, I can honestly imagine that there wouldn't have been such a big issue, but they were. All of this contributes to the game feeling like more of a disappointment than it would, had it simply launched with the bugs found within. It also doesn't help that reforged has been interlinked with the original Warcraft III, essentially infecting it with Corrupted Blood.

So what do I actually think about Warcraft III: Reforged? It's Warcraft III but better. Well, at least it would if it hadn't launched while riddled with bugs. There's also the argument about the release compared to the promise, that is certainly valid, but that doesn't take away from the fact that even in the release we have, Warcraft III: Reforged is one of the few strategy titles that combines excellent story and gameplay and should Blizzard actually fix the issues, it'll be more than worth it.

Copy provided by the publisher.

The post Warcraft III: Reforged Review – Still Good, Could be Amazing by Chris Wray appeared first on Wccftech.

Journey to the Savage Planet Review – Metroid Prime Lifeline

Journey to the Savage Planet

The Metroid Prime franchise is a rare case – a series of successful, critically-acclaimed games that somehow haven’t spawned many direct imitators. Sure, there are plenty of Metroidvania-style titles out there, but they’re mostly inspired by earlier 2D games. Metroid Prime’s unique combination of non-linear level design and first-person platforming has largely gone unreplicated, which makes the ever-receding release of Metroid Prime 4 all the harder to take. Thankfully, Typhoon Studios, a new team founded by Montreal-area devs who used to work for triple-A publishers like Ubisoft, EA, and WB Games, has stepped up to carry the Metroid Prime torch with Journey to the Savage Planet.

Of course, when something successful hasn’t been copied incessantly, there’s often a good reason. The Metroid Prime games were lightning in a bottle, and recapturing their magic is no easy task (Nintendo itself seems to be struggling at it). So, is Journey to the Savage Planet worth exploring? Or will you want to nuke it from orbit? Let’s find out…

Journey to the Savage Planet casts players as an unnamed employee of Kindred Aerospace, the 4th-best interstellar exploration company in the galaxy. You’ve been sent to check out the “uninhabited” planet AR-Y 26, which turns out to be anything but. In addition to a gaggle of strange critters ranging from disgustingly cute to just plain disgusting, it seems an advanced alien civilization once called the planet home. The main evidence of this is a very big, very important-looking tower, which you eventually discover to be occupied by some sort massive (probably unfriendly) living entity. Don’t expect a ton of complexity from Savage Planet’s plot. In true Metroid Prime fashion, you’re alone on a hostile planet with one simple goal you never deviate from -- find out what the heck is going on in that tower. That said, Typhoon Studios enhance this basic plot with plenty of whimsy and little bits of worldbuilding.

Savage Planet’s humor is being sold as its main defining feature -- the game’s trailers focus almost exclusively on comedy -- and for the most part, the funny stuff is pretty tolerable. The live-action commercials that play in your spaceship extolling gag-inducing genetically engineered foods and alien blob sex lines are cute, but do start to grate after you see them for the 10th time. I’ll admit I did enjoy the company of the smart-alecky AI assistant that natters in your ear throughout the game, which is good, because it would have been a game-killer if she was too annoying. Basically, if you can watch this butthole-themed Savage Planet trailer (yes, really) without cringing too hard, you should be able to roll with the game’s humor. Worst case scenario, there’s actually an option to dial down your AI assistant’s chatter, at which point, you can pretty much ignore most of the game’s sassiness.

Oh, and don’t be put off by Savage Planet’s proliferation of buttholes – it’s actually rather nice-looking. Yes, the game has a cartoon art style, but it also delivers some moments of real beauty, like the first time you stumble upon a tree made up entirely of butterflies or climb to a high point and really take a moment to take in the view. Savage Planet serves up a variety of environments, from frozen glaciers to lush, colorful swampland, to floating ruins, all of which are strikingly unique. On the audio front, Savage Planet eschews typical sci-fi sounds in favor of a memorable bluegrass-flavored soundtrack.

As for how Savage Planet plays, well, not to belabor the point, but it’s Metroid Prime. You jump around and explore in first-person and blast baddies with a beam gun, all while steadily upgrading your abilities. First-person platforming is always a tricky prospect, but thankfully, Savage Planet’s surfaces are very “sticky.” You’ll latch onto most platforms as long as you’re at least close, and if I did miss a jump, it very rarely felt like it was an issue with perspective. Most of the time I was just being careless. This might be the best example of first-person platforming I’ve ever come across – yes, even better than Prime.

AR-Y 26 is a wonderfully layered, interconnected world that slowly unfolds as you unlock new capabilities like a rocket pack that allows for double (and eventually triple and quadruple) jumps, a grappling hook, and the ability to handle bombs and other helpful items. In classic Metroid fashion, most of your key abilities are gained by simply finding and absorbing alien tech, but the game also features crafting, collectible alien fruits that will increase your max life and stamina, and various achievement-like challenges that will allow you to “rank up” if you complete enough of them. The wide array of different ways to improve your abilities makes Savage Planet feel a touch less restrictive that your typical Metroidvania, even if the core of the game’s campaign remains fairly straightforward.

At its best, Journey to the Savage Planet really captures that Metroid magic. That excitement of seeing a temping ledge, cave, or cracked wall just out of reach, and then, bit by bit, figuring out how to get there. Unraveling Savage Planet’s secrets almost always feels rewarding, as there’s very little collecting for collecting’s sake. Everything you find has a purpose. Often, I would try to play the disciplined reviewer and set myself hard goals, only to lose hours just happily exploring AR-Y 26 with no specific mission in mind. That’s the measure of a good Metroidvania. As a nice bonus, Savage Planet also includes two-player online co-op. The game’s world isn’t specifically designed around it, so you lose nothing by playing on your own, but it’s always fun to explore with friends.

That said, Savage Planet isn’t without its issues. The most glaring problem is the complete lack of a map. You don’t even get a minimap – a basic radar that shows you which general direction your currently-marked mission objective is in all you get, which often isn’t terribly helpful given AR-Y 26’s twisted layout. The game’s Dark-Souls-inspired elements aren’t particularly well-developed either. I suppose being able to retrieve your crafting supplies after you die is nice, but often they would show up at the wrong place, or as happened to me a couple of times, completely drop off the map. I don’t think Savage Planet would be any poorer off if it cut the roguelike stuff altogether.

Then there’s the game’s bosses, which will likely divide players. Personally, I quite enjoyed them, as they’re big, bad, and complex, but they also serve as steep difficulty spikes. For the most part, Savage Planet is a fairly low-key experience that’s more about exploration than combat, but I guarantee you will die against the game’s bosses. Probably quite a few times. Again, nothing inherently wrong with that, but those hoping this game will be one long chill session may be a bit put off.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Savage Planet’s general bugginess. During my playthrough I found myself stuck inside enemies, and enemies stuck inside me. As I mentioned, sometimes my loot would disappear and often mission objectives wouldn’t update properly. I never came across anything game-breaking, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if something like that is hiding in the game. So, maybe back up your save file every so often. Ultimately, I’m willing to cut Savage Planet some slack given its small development team (Typhoon Studios has less than 30 employees) and ambitious scope. This game is every bit as big as any entry in the Metroid Prime series, delivering a solid 10-to-15-hour main quest (depending on how focused you are) and many hours more of collectible hunting. Taming this Savage Planet is no quick or easy task.

This review was based on a PS4 copy of Journey to the Savage Planet provided by publisher 505 Games.

The post Journey to the Savage Planet Review – Metroid Prime Lifeline by Nathan Birch appeared first on Wccftech.

MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z 6 GB GDDR6 Graphics Card Review – War For The Mainstream Segment!

The AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT has finally arrived and while the launch didn't go smooth, the end product is a card that should definitely spice up the mainstream graphics segment. The Radeon 5600 XT is positioned not only against NVIDIA's Turing GeForce GTX lineup but also GeForce RTX lineup of graphics cards, with a starting price of $279 US.

The Radeon RX 5600 series uplifts AMD by bringing a modern architecture design and moving away from its GCN design featured on the Polaris GPUs. This allows AMD to bring more streamlined graphics performance in modern workloads and gaming titles. AMD was already ahead of the curve in utilizing new techs such as HBM and smaller process nodes and Navi is no exception. Aside from the new graphics architecture, AMD has also introduced GDDR6 memory and a smaller 7nm process node for their mainstream lineup which is a big update from the 14nm process on Polaris and Vega series cards.

While the Radeon RX 5600 series cards bring new technologies and features to the segment, the tech itself doesn't come cheap. We can see this in the table illustrating previous mainstream cards and their price segments. In that regard, the RX 5600 XT has definitely seen a markup in the prices of mainstream graphics cards. Also, there was the whole performance upgrade scene where AMD had to change the specifications of the card at the very last minute to compete against the NVIDIA price cuts for their GeForce RTX 2060. We will talk more about this in the review ahead.

AMD Radeon GPU Segment/Tier Prices

Graphics Segment2015-20162016-20172017-20182018-20192019-2020
Ultra Enthusiast TierRadeon R9 Fury X
Radeon R9 Fury
Radeon R9 Nano
Radeon R9 Fury X
Radeon R9 Fury
Radeon R9 Nano
Radeon RX Vega 64Radeon RX Vega 64Radeon VII
Price$649 US
$549 US
$649 US
$649 US
$549 US
$649 US
$499 US$499 US$699 US
Enthusiast TierRadeon R9 390XRadeon R9 390XRadeon RX Vega 56Radeon RX Vega 56Radeon RX 5700 XT
Price$429 US$429 US$399 US$399 US$399 US
High-End TierRadeon R9 390Radeon R9 390N/A
Radeon RX 590Radeon RX 5700
Price$329 US$329 USN/A$279 US$349 US
Mainstream TierRadeon R9 380X
Radeon R9 380
Radeon R9 370X
Radeon R9 370
Radeon RX 480
Radeon RX 470
Radeon RX 580
Radeon RX 570
Radeon RX 580
Radeon RX 570
Radeon RX 5600 XT
Price$229 US
$199 US
$199 US
$179 US
$229 US
$179 US
$229 US
$169 US
$229 US
$169 US
$279 US
Entry TierRadeon R7 360Radeon RX 460Radeon RX 560Radeon RX 560Radeon RX 5500 XT
Radeon RX 5500 XT
Price$109 US$129 US$99 US$99 US$199 US
$169 US

Well, in terms of performance the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT 6 GB is supposed to be much faster than the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti at about 20% average. This would allow AMD to reach near RTX 2060 performance at a lower price point which is very impressive on paper. To cut down the costs, AMD had to go with 6 GB GDDR6 memory whereas their RX 5500 XT supports up to 8 GB GDDR6 VRAM. It is quite the sacrifice but in the market where the RX 5600 XT is competing, you won't find much aside from 6 GB cards (RTX 2060, GTX 1660 Ti, GTX 1660 SUPER).

Unlike the GeForce RTX cards which had some feature advantage over the Radeon RX 5700 series cards, the GeForce GTX cards don't feature RTX/DLSS support. This puts them just on par with the Radeon RX 5600 series in feature set with the exception of the Turing NVENC encoder which does an exceptional job for gamers on a budget. The Radeon RX 5600 is supported by the latest AMD Adrenaline 2020 Edition bringing features such as Radeon Boost, Integer Scaling, Radeon Image Sharpening, Radeon Anti-Lag, and Freesync support. These are an impressive list of features on their own and something to really consider when comparing AMD's and NVIDIA's budget tier range of cards.

So for this review, I will be taking a look at the MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z. This is MSI's new and flagship custom design for the Navi 10 GPU that features dual TORX 3.0 fans along with the renowned MSI features such as Zero Frozr and Smooth heat pipe design. The card has an MSRP of $339.99 US which is a hefty $60 US premium over the reference MSRP.

The AMD Radeon RX 5600 Series Family

The AMD Radeon RX 5600 series lineup is made up of a single desktop and mobility variant. The desktop variant is the Radeon RX 5600 XT which I will be testing today in custom flavor from MSI while the mobility variant is the upcoming Radeon RX 5600M which should feature similar specs as the Radeon RX 5600 XT but with notebook optimized clock speeds and TDP.

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AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT 6 GB Official Specifications ($279 USD MSRP)

Rocking 36 Compute Units or 2304 stream processors on its Navi 10 XLE GPU, this card offers the same core count as the Radeon RX 5700. The clock speeds for the Radeon RX 5600 XT are tuned at 1130 MHz base, 1375 MHz game, and 1560 MHz boost. This would also lead to much lower TDP, around the 160W range while the Radeon RX 5700 has a TDP of 180W. The card will be able to put out 7.19 TFLOPs of Compute horsepower.

Coming to the memory design, this is where we start seeing major differences between the Radeon RX 5700 and the Radeon RX 5600 XT. While the Radeon RX 5700 rocks an 8 GB GDDR6 memory with a 256-bit wide bus interface, the Radeon RX 5600 XT would rock a 6 GB GDDR6 memory with a 192-bit bus interface. The Radeon RX 5700 also delivers a higher 448 GB/s bandwidth, utilizing the 14 Gbps DRAM dies while the Radeon RX 5600 XT would offer 288 GB/s bandwidth, utilizing slower 12 Gbps DRAM dies. The card will require a single 8-pin power connector & display outputs include a single HDMI 2.0b and triple DisplayPort 1.4 ports.

Do note that these are the reference specifications which are since the cards release not being followed by AIBs. AIBs are instead using custom BIOS's to deliver higher clocks for both GPU and VRAM along with higher TDP limits of up to 160W.

AMD Radeon RX 5000 '7nm Navi RDNA' GPU Lineup Specs:

Graphics CardRadeon RX 5700 XT 50th AnniversaryRadeon RX 5700 XTRadeon RX 5700Radeon RX 5600 XTRadeon RX 5500 XT
GPU Architecture7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)
Stream Processors2560 SPs2560 SPs2304 SPs2304 SPs1408 SPs
TMUs / ROPs160 / 64160 / 64144 / 64144 / 6488 / 32
Base Clock1680 MHz1605 MHz1465 MHz1130 MHz1670 MHz
Boost Clock1980 MHz1905 MHz1725 MHz1560 MHz1845 MHz
Game Clock1830 MHz1755 MHz1625 MHz1375 MHz1717 MHz
Compute Power10.14 TFLOPs9.75 TFLOPs7.95 TFLOPs7.19 TFLOPs5.19 TFLOPs
VRAM8 GB GDDR68 GB GDDR68 GB GDDR66 GB GDDR68 GB GDDR6
Bus Interface256-bit256-bit256-bit192-bit128-bit
Bandwidth448 GB/s448 GB/s448 GB/s288 GB/s224 GB/s
TBP235W225W180W150W130W
Price$449 US$399 US$349 US$279 US$169 US (4 GB)
$199 US (8 GB)
Launch7th July 20197th July 20197th July 201921st January, 20207th October 2019

Radeon RX 5600 "7nm Navi RDNA GPU" Feature Set and A Word on HW-Enabled Ray Tracing

While we would share a few tidbits of the RDNA architecture itself below, there are also some highlights we should mention for the Navi GPU. According to AMD themselves, the Navi 10 GPU will be 14% faster at the same power and should consume 23% lower power at the same clock speeds as Vega 64 GPU. The AMD Navi GPU has a die size of 251mm2 and delivers 2.3x perf per area over Vega 64. The chip packs 10.3 Billion transistors while the Vega 10 GPU packed 12.5 Billion transistors on almost twice the die space.

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Also, when it comes to ray tracing, AMD is indeed developing their own suite around it. According to their vision, current GCN and RDNA architecture will be able to perform ray tracing on shaders which will be used through ProRender for creators and Radeon Rays for developers. In next-gen RDNA which is supposed to launch in 2020 on 7nm+ node, AMD will be bringing hardware-enabled ray tracing with select lighting effects for real-time gaming. AMD will also enable full-scene ray tracing which would be leveraged through cloud computing.

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New Compute Unit Design
Great Compute Efficiency For Diverse Workloads

  • 2x Instruction Rate (enabled by 2x Scalar Units and 2x Schedulers)
  • Single Cycle Issue (enabled by Executing Wwave32 on SIMD32)
  • Dual Mode Execution (Wave 32 and Wave 64 Modes Adapt for Workloads)
  • Resource Pooling (2 CUs Coordinate as a Work Group Processor)
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As you can tell, AMD is changing a lot in terms of architecture with RDNA (Radeon DNA) compared to GCN. There's a new Compute unity design, a more streamlined Graphics pipeline & a multi-level cache hierarchy. Aside from the GPU architecture, support for GDDR6 memory is another major change that brings AMD's graphics cards on par with NVIDIA in utilizing modern memory designs for higher bandwidth.

During AMD's CES 2020 Press Conference the company revealed the Radeon RX 5600 XT to the world. The RX 5600 XT boasted some fairly competent specs but downplayed enough to keep it far enough away from the existing RX 5700 Series so that it made sense in the market. It appeared to be well-positioned with AMD showing wins over the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti so the asking price of $279 wasn't bad.

They announced the full specifications of the card, from Stream Processor count, core clocks, memory clocks, and TDP. Everything was shaping up nicely. After having it point out to them that the GTX 1660 SUPER offered a better value than the GTX 1660 Ti in the same market they even went back and updated with new slides showing how it compared to the SUPER variant. Later in the week, we got to see a new GeForce RTX 2060 KO model from EVGA that was set to be priced at $299 or less when it hit store shelves immediately following the event.  It wasn't long behind that when we got the announcement that the now one-year-old GeForce RTX 2060 was seeing an official drop to $299.

This put AMD in an interesting spot where we knew based on the preliminary numbers the RX 5600 XT should find itself close to the RTX 2060 but now was only finding itself within $20 of what it would ultimately compete with in regards to performance. Unlike the 5700 Series there is either not much room for price shifting or they simply refused to budge on margins, either are fine at that price point, but what AMD did do was go back to the drawing board with the clock speeds and power target.

Since AMD was not releasing a reference SKU of this card the decision to boost the clocks was a bit of an odd decision. Why? Because we knew these cards would be coming only from AIBs and they would more likely than not be overclocked already. But it seemed that AMD was working with board partners to boost the performance already according to the quote shared by ETEKNIX regarding the changes.

“Based on ongoing testing with our board partners, we have raised the GPU core and memory frequencies for overclocked Radeon RX 5600 XT SKUs to take advantage of increased thermal and electrical headroom built into partner’s custom designs. The updated VBIOS has been made available to our board partners for inclusion in select OC SKUs at launch. AMD is dedicated to disrupting the market with industry-leading compute products, and the new VBIOS makes the Radeon RX 5600 XT an even more powerful contender for high-performance 1080p gaming. Previously announced product specs are unchanged, as they remain AMD’s recommended reference design specs.”

This did not, however, change the basic specifications for the RX 5600 XT according to AMD's product page. But, I found the information under the RX 5600 Series page to be formatted quite a bit differently than how they've done in the past if you compare it to the RX 5700 Series page. This at least confirms that the original spec has gone unchanged. But AIB cards have seen quite the confusing launch.

As far as I'm aware not one reviewer's card they received had an updated BIOS and subsequently resulted in them having to rerun benchmarks again with a new BIOS to get results. The problem with that is most of the cards available now were likely in the channel and headed out to retail spaces at that time. So, at the last minute, they found this 'extra' performance? Those who were first in line to pick up the new Radeon RX 5600 XT were greeting with the original 'slower' BIOS so they'll be required to update, on their own, to the latest that reviewers used or be left with sub-review performance. Gamers Nexus did an excellent guide on how to do this is the safest way possible, I recommend you check out their article.

Our understanding is that cards available next calendar month should have the latest BIOS available as right now vendors are up against the wall with Chinese New Year staring us all in the face.

What Could Go Wrong

So flash and dash right? Hold on there, it's not quite that simple. Sure all the cards that reviewers, including ourselves, got sent out received bios updates, sometimes two, or even a third revision, but it's not quite that simple that everyone should just assume their cards is good to go. The problem comes down to a specification to which the board partners built, and that specification was the same as what was laid out during CES. These cards were built with a TDP and memory specification in mind. Sure there are higher tier cards that are overbuilt that would be okay to handle higher tolerances, but what about those entry-level boards at the $279 price point?

Despite the common perception, MSI has made it very clear that NOT all cards can do 14Gbps memory like many of the BIOS updates are pushing. These cards, even the better ones, were specced for 12Gbps so you're now down almost to the silicon lottery when it comes to the longevity and stability of the card. According to the video by MSI they claim that the memory may be 14Gbps but they were not validated for the speed, only the 12Gbps. But it is worth noting again that the initial specification did not change the memory speed. MSI even found that there were quite a significant amount of issues after testing with the faster memory on a large number of cards.

What makes the memory speed such an issue is that we are now seeing a mixture of cards that can be flash, and will later ship with, the faster memory mixed in with cards of the slower memory. The problem is with the lack of reviews, kudos to those who included preflash results, that showcase anything but the best-case scenario. If all future cards come with the faster memory, great, if not it's most certainly a buyer beware moment, as Brad Chacos of PC World so elegantly put it.

Thanks to a list compiled by Computer base we can get a snapshot of the market for RX 5600 XT models of which have a BIOS update available and which do not. According to the list, it appears that MSI is taking the safe approach with their Gaming and Mech models by not planning to allow for an update on those models. While Asus is still open the others on the list are allowing for an update to their cards. At this point, I would highly recommend going with a vendor whose warranty is best in your region. Another point of advice will be to find a review of the SPECIFIC card you're looking to purchase because there could be a 10% or better performance swing between RX 5600 XT models, and that's a big enough difference to be in a different performance class.

The price change that was made at the launch of the RX 5700 Series was a simple one to follow. The launch of the RX 5500 XT came and delivered just as expected. But, the launch of the RX 5600 XT was set up to be another solid launch for the red team but was marred by last-minute confusion on BIOS selection, changes, questions of who did what. What may have been an effort to confuse the competition has resulted in confusion for the customer and even some reviews to add disclaimers in regards to the BIOS. I don't think there's been this much confusion since the RX Vega post-launch pricing fiasco.

We have seen several variants of the MSI Gaming series, mostly those that come with MSI's renowned Twin Frozr 7 and Tri-Frozr cooling but the Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z is a beast of its own. Featuring a new design scheme and a new look for the Twin Frozr 7 cooler, the RX 5600 XT Gaming Z boasts some really impressive specs.

In addition to the custom design, the Radeon RX 5600 Gaming Z comes with a non-reference PCB that ships with a higher factory overclock, featuring a 7+1 phase design that features higher quality components than the reference variant which is already a really good design by itself. In terms of clock speeds, the graphics card features the same base frequency of 1685 MHz and a maximum boost clock of 1845 MHz. Following are the main features of the Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z graphics card:

Core / Memory

  • Boost Clock / Game Clock / Base Clock / Memory Speed
    Up to 1845 MHz / Up to 1737 MHz / 1685 MHz / 14Gbps
  • 8GB GDDR6
  • DisplayPort x 3 (v1.4) / HDMI 2.0b x 1

TORX FAN 3.0: Supremely silent

  • Dispersion fan blade: Steeper curved blade accelerating the airflow.
  • Traditional fan blade: Provides steady airflow to massive heat sink below.

RGB Mystic Light

  • Customize colors and LED effects with exclusive MSI software and synchronize the look & feel with other components.

Afterburner Overclocking Utility

  • Wireless control through Android / iOS devices.
  • Predator: In-game video recording.

Dragon Center

  • A consolidated platform that offers all software including MYSTIC LIGHT functionality for your MSI Gaming product.
* 'Game Clock’ is the expected GPU clock when running typical gaming applications, set to typical TGP (Total Graphics Power). Actual individual game clock results may vary.

MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z Graphics Card Gallery:

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MSI Twin Frozr 7 With Refreshing New Design For Navi

With the differences out of the way, now let's talk about the similarities and the main highlights of the Gaming Z cards. The MSI Radeon RX 5000 Gaming Z lineup is designed to be the best custom solution for AMD's RDNA GPUs. The card is huge and bulky, featuring two TORX 3.0 fans in a 2.7 slot design, a custom PCB that is designed for overclocking and a huge heatsink featuring the new wave curved II design.

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The much anticipated return of MSI’s iconic dual fan GAMING series. Combining a mix of black and gunmetal grey with a classy brushed metal backplate, this masterpiece provides you premium design with magnificent and smooth RGB light effects on the outside. The new MSI GAMING card is designed to amaze you!

MSI has incorporated and refined a couple of things in the new Gaming series graphics cards. First is the TORX fan 3.0 which uses both traditional and dispersion fan blades to accelerate airflow and push it down in a steady stream. These fans are made up of an extended life bearing design which ensures silent functionality in heavy loads.

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The fans are fully compliant with the Zero Frozr Technology and are actually comprised of three areas. All of these would stay at 0 RPM (idle state) if the temperatures don't exceed 60C. When it does exceed 60C, all fans would start spinning. You can change that through the MSI configuration panel if you want more cooling performance over noise load but it's a nifty feature which I do like.

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In addition to the cooling fans, the heatsink has been designed to be denser by using a wave curved fin design. It allows more air to pass through the fins smoothly, without causing any turbulence that would result in unwanted noise. Airflow Control Technology guides the airflow directly onto the heat pipes, while simultaneously creating more surface area for the air to absorb more heat before leaving the heatsink.

Talking about the heatsink, the massive block is comprised of five 6mm and a single 8mm copper squared shaped heat pipes with a more concentrated design to transfer heat from the copper base to the heatsink more effectively. The base itself is a solid nickel-plated base plate, transferring heat to the heat pipes in a very effective manner. To top it all off, MSI uses their exclusive Thermal Compound X which is said to offer higher thermal interface and heat transfer compared to traditional TIM applications.

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On the back of the Gaming Z graphics card is a solid backplate with a dual-tone design which comes in brushed aluminum and matte silver finish. It also strengthens the card and thanks to some cleverly placed thermal pads even helps to keep temperatures low.

A die-cast metal sheet acts as a Close Quarters Heatsink for the memory modules and doubles as an Anti-Bending safeguard by connecting to the IO Bracket. The power phases towards the right side are covered by a plate that is fused directly to the heatsink for excellent cooling.

MSI has bundled its exclusive software such as Dragon Center that now comes with a creator mode. The creator mode is specifically tuned for Gaming Z series graphics cards, offering peak performance and greater stability in multiple productivity workloads.

The MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z graphics card comes inside a large cardboard box. The front of both packages has a large "MSI" logo on the top left corner & the "Gaming X" series branding on the lower-left corner. A large picture of the graphics card itself is depicted on the front which gives a nice preview of the new EVOKE design.

The packaging also comes with an AMD 50 sticker since the red team celebrated its 50th year anniversary in 2019. Other features of the graphics card are also mentioned such as the RDNA architecture, 7nm, Fidelity FX, Freesync 2 HDR along with some specs such as 6 GB GDDR6, AMD Fiedility FX and PCIe 4.0.

The back of the box is very typical, highlighting the main features and specifications of the cards. The three key aspects of MSI's top tier custom cards are its new TORX Fan 3.0 cooling system, the Twin Frozr 7 thermal design, and the wave curved heatsink. A large list of product specifications and features are also mentioned which you can see in the picture below.

The sides of the box once again greet us with the large Radeon RX branding. There's also the mention of 6 GB GDDR6 memory available on the card. The higher memory bandwidth delivered through the new GDDR6 interface would help improve performance in gaming titles at higher resolution over GDDR5 based graphics cards.

Outside of the box, the graphics card and the accessory package are held firmly by foam packaging. The graphics card comes with a few accessories and manuals which might not be of much use for hardcore enthusiasts but can be useful for the mainstream gaming audience. The card is nicely wrapped within an anti-static cover which is useful to prevent any unwanted static discharges on various surfaces that might harm the graphics card.

Useful manuals and installation guides are packed within an MSI labeled letter case. There is an MSI Quick Users Guide, a Support bracket installation guide, a sticker letter, the MSI DIY comic, and a single driver disk. It's best to ignore the driver disk and install the latest software and graphics drivers directly from the AMD and MSI official web pages as the ones shipped in the disks could be older versions and not deliver optimal performance for your graphics cards.

After the package is taken care of, I can finally start talking about the card itself. The card itself is simply stunning to look at and the shroud is really well-built with great texturing along the sides.

MSI’s Twin Frozr heat sinks are some of the most iconic heatsink cooling solutions that I have ever tested. With the Radeon RX 5600 series cards, MSI is offering a brand new Twin Frozr 7 design. The Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z measures at 297 x 85 x 140 mm while it is also slightly taller, taking up 2.5 slots of space.

The design of the MSI RX Gaming series is brand new, as in we haven't seen a similar shroud and backplate design on any other cards even though there have been several Twin Frozr variants that came before it. The red and black color scheme along with the brushed aluminum finish does look good, offering a cleaner look than the more futuristic-looking GeForce based Twin Frozr cards.

The back of the card features a solid backplate which looks stunning with its dual-tone finish that comes in matte grey and brushed aluminum colors. The backplate is made out of solid metal and has several heat pads to dissipate heat off the back.

The dual fan Torx Fan 3.0 has already been seen on MSI's Gaming (Twin Frozr) variants but the Gaming Z series for Radeon RX 5600 just has that unique feeling which I got when I tested their Evoke OC series card last month.

The new heatsink is a slightly modified version of the one used on MSI's Gaming Z series with the main changes being the shroud and a massive wave-curved heatsink design that takes up most of the space on this behemoth.

Coming to the fans, the card actually features two based on the Torx 3.0 system. Both fans combine traditional and dispersion fan blade technology to offer better cooling performance.

The dispersion fan blade technology has a steeper curved blade that accelerates airflow and as such increases effectiveness in keeping the GPU cool. All fans deploy double ball bearing design and can last a long time while operating silently.

The MSI TORX 3.0 fans deliver 50% more air pressure than standard blade fans and 15% more air pressure than MSI's TORX 2.0 fans. Utilizing the dispersion blade fan technology allows for higher static pressure and air to be pushed through the aluminum fin heatsink.

MSI also features their Zero Frozr technology on the Twin Frozr heatsink. This feature won’t spin the fans on the card unless they reach a certain threshold. In the case of the Twin Frozr heatsink, that limit is set to 60C. If the card is operating under 60C, the fans won’t spin which means no extra noise would be generated.

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I am back at talking about the full-coverage, full metal-based backplate which both card use. The whole plate is made of solid metal with rounded edges that add to the durability of this card. The matte and brushed aluminum finish on the backplate gives a unique aesthetic.

We can also see the MSI Dragon logo on the back which looks stunning. MSI is also using heat pads beneath the backplate which offer more cooling to the electrical circuitry on the PCB.

There's no multi-GPU connector on the card as AMD uses its XDMA architecture for CrossFireX capabilities. This allows GPUs to communicate directly over the PCIe bus rather than an external bridge.

With the outsides of the card done, I will now start taking a glance at what's beneath the hood of these monster graphics cards. The first thing to catch my eye is the humungous fin stack that's part of the beefy heatsink which the cards utilize.

The dual fin stacks run all the way from the front and to the back of the PCB. It also comes with the wave-curved fin stack design which I want to shed some light on as it is a turn away from traditional fin design and one that may actually offer better cooling on this monster graphics card.

You can see that through large copper heat pipes run through the aluminum finned heatsink. The copper heat pipes come out from the GPU block and cover the entire aluminum heatsink block.

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Talking about the heatsink, the massive block is comprised of five 6mm and a single 10mm super copper squared shaped heat pipes with a more concentrated design to transfer heat from the copper base to the heatsink more effectively. The base itself is a solid nickel-plated base plate, transferring heat to the heat pipes in a very effective manner. To top it all off, MSI uses its exclusive Thermal Compound X which is said to offer higher thermal interface and heat transfer compared to traditional TIM applications.

I/O on the graphics card sticks with the reference scheme which includes three Display Port 1.4a, & a single HDMI 2.0b.

MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z Teardown:

The MSI Radeon RX 5600 Gaming Z makes use of a full non-reference PCB design, featuring an 8+1 Phase design and coupled with better components such as solid-state capacitors along with a series of higher-quality chokes. MSI also uses several thermal pads and an anti-bending bracket, however, the two top-most heat pad only covers 60% of the DRAM surface area which may not be an ideal scenario for a card that costs almost $350 US.

The MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z has dual 8 pin power connectors that feed the card. The Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z has a rated TDP of 160W.

We used the following test system for comparison between the different graphics cards. The latest drivers that were available at the time of testing were used from AMD and NVIDIA on an updated version of Windows 10. All games that were tested were patched to the latest version for better performance optimization for NVIDIA and AMD GPUs.

GPU Test Bench 2020 (MSI RX 5600 XT Gaming Z 6 GB)

CPUIntel Core i9-9900K @ 4.70 GHz
MotherboardAORUS Z390 Master
Video CardsMSI Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X
MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z
MSI Radeon RX 5700 Gaming X
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X
ASUS ROG GeForce RTX 2070 STRIX OC
MSI GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER Gaming Z
MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Gaming Z
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 SUPER Gaming X
MemoryG.SKILL Trident Z RGB Series 32GB (4 X 8GB) CL16 3600 MHz
StorageSamsung SSD 960 EVO M.2 (512 GB)
Power SupplyASUS ROG THOR 1200W PSU
DriversAdrenalin 2020 Edition 20.1.3 (RX 5600 XT)
Adrenalin 2020 Edition 19.12.3 (Rest AMD cards)
GeForce Game Ready Driver 441.66 (NVIDIA cards)
OSWindows 10 64-bit
  • All games were tested on 1920x1080 (HD), 2560×1440 (2K) and 3840×2160 (4K) resolutions.
  • Image Quality and graphics configurations have been provided in the screenshots below.
  • The “reference” cards are the stock configs while the “overclock” cards are factory overclocked configs provided to us by various AIB partners.

DOOM

In 2016, Id finally released DOOM. My testing wouldn’t be complete without including this title. All cards were capable of delivering ample frame rates at the 1440p resolution using Nightmare settings, so my focus turned to 4K.

Red Dead Redemption II

RDR2 is using the latest iteration of the Rockstar Advanced Graphics Engine, or RAGE, and has ditched DX11 in favor of being able to choose between Vulkan or DX12 for your preferred API.  Red Dead Redemption 2 has built-in benchmark utility that is fairly representative of typical gameplay and we used this to measure our performance.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Wolfenstein is back in The New Colossus and features the most fast-paced, gory and brutal FPS action ever! The game once again puts us back in the Nazi-controlled world as BJ Blazkowicz. Set during an alternate future where Nazis won the World War, the game shows that it can be fun and can be brutal to the player and to the enemy too. Powering the new title is once again, id Tech 6 which is much acclaimed after the success that DOOM has become. In a way, ID has regained their glorious FPS roots and are slaying with every new title.

Ultra HQ-AF, Vulkan, Async Compute On *if available, Deferred Rendering and GPU culling off

We tested the game at Ultra settings under the Vulkan API which is standard. Async Compute was enabled for graphics cards that support it while deferred rendering and GPU culling were disabled.

You can read our detailed analysis of GPU Culling and Deferred Rendering graphical settings for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus here!

Battlefield V

Battlefield V brings back the action of the World War 2 shooter genre. Using the latest Frostbite tech, the game does a good job of looking gorgeous in all ways possible. From the open-world environments to the intense and gun-blazing action, this multiplayer and single-player FPS title is one of the best looking Battlefields to date.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Humanity is at war with itself and divided into factions. On one end, we have the pure and on the other, we have the augmented. That is the world where Adam Jensen lives in and this is the world of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The game uses the next generation Dawn Engine that was made by IO interactive on the foundation of their Glacier 2 engine. The game features the support of DirectX 12 API and is one of the most visually intensive titles that taxes the GPU really hard.

Gears 5

The Coalition is back with the Gears of War series, but this time they've dropped the 'of War' so I guess war does change sometimes. Gears 5 is a bit of an interesting one from a release standpoint as it released on Xbox as well as the multiple stores on the PC; Steam as well as the Xbox PC App and Windows Store. Running off the Unreal Engine, the game boasts some seriously impressive visuals which can put even one of the best cards on their feet.

Hitman 2 (DX12 Highest Settings)

Hitman 2 is the highly acclaimed sequel to 2016 Hitman which was a redesign and reimaging of the game from the ground up. With a focus on stealth gameplay through various missions, the game once again lets you play as Agent 47 who embarks on a mission to hunt down the mysterious Shadow Client. The game runs on IO’s Interactive’s Glacier 2 engine which has been updated to deliver amazing visuals and environments on each level while making use of DirectX 12 API.

Shadow of The Tomb Raider

Sequel to The Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of The Tomb Raider is visually enhanced with an updated Foundation Engine that delivers realistic facial animations and the most gorgeous environments ever seen in a Tomb Raider Game. The game is a technical marvel and really shows the power of its graphics engine in the latest title.

Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus continues the journey of Artyom through the nuclear wasteland of Russia and its surroundings. This time, you are set over the Metro, going through various regions and different environments. The game is one of the premier titles to feature NVIDIA’s RTX technology and does well in showcasing the ray-tracing effects in all corners.

Assassins Creed: Odyssey

Assassins Creed Odyssey is built by the same team that made Assassins Creed Origins. They are known for reinventing the design and game philosophy of the Assassins Creed saga and their latest title shows that. Based in Greece, the open-world action RPG shows its graphics strength in all corners. It uses the AnvilNext 2.0 engine which boosts the draw distance range and delivers a very impressive graphics display.

We tested the game at maxed settings with TAA enabled and 16x AF. Do note that the game is one of the most demanding titles out in the market and as such tweaks and performance issues are being patched out.

Far Cry 5

Far Cry 5 is a standalone successor to its predecessor and takes place in Hope County, a fictional region of Montana. The main story revolves around doomsday cult the Project at Eden’s Gate and its charismatic leader Joseph Seed. It uses a beefed-up Dunia Engine which itself is a modified version of CryEngine from Crytek.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Using the new Anvil Next engine that was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, Ghost Recon: Wildlands goes wild and grand with an open-world setting entirely in Bolivia. This game is a tactical third-person shooter which does seem an awful lot similar to Tom Clancy's: The Division. The game looks pretty and the wide-scale region of Bolivia looks lovely at all times (Day/Night Cycle).

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

The Witcher 3 Game of The Year Edition

Witcher 3 is the greatest fantasy RPG of our time. It has a great story, great gameplay mechanics and gorgeous graphics. This is the only game I actually wanted to get a stable FPS at 4K. With GameWorks disabled, I gave all high-end cards the ability to demonstrate their power.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War

The successor of 2014’s epic, Shadow of Mordor, Shadow of War continues the previous game’s narrative continuing the story of the ranger Talion and the spirit of the elf lord Celebrimbor, who shares Talion’s body, as they forge a new Ring of Power to amass an army to fight against Sauron. The game uses the latest Firebird Engine developed by Monolith Productions and is very intensive even for modern graphics cards.

No graphics card review is complete without evaluating its temperatures and thermal load. The MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X series is fitted with the most advanced version of the TORX 3.0 fans. The cooler features a massive heatsink with multiple heat pipes which extend beyond the fin-based aluminum block that lead towards the incredibly dense heatsink block.

The patented Torx fan 3.0 design and Zero Frozr technology featured on this card make sure that it delivers the best cooling performance and best acoustics while operating.

Note – We tested load with Kombuster which is known as a ‘power virus’ and can permanently damage the hardware. Use such software at your own risk!

I compiled the power consumption results by testing each card under idle and full stress when the card was running games. Each graphics card manufacturer sets a default TDP for the card which can vary from vendor to vendor depending on the extra clocks or board features they plugin on their custom cards.

AMD Radeon RX 5500 series is based on TSMC's 7nm process node. The 7nm process is a major upgrade over the 14nm FinFET node, delivering better efficiency and a much smaller chip footprint. The MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z has a TDP of 160W and its power consumption is very much close to that in our testing with slight peaks when the card hits peak clocks but those are not fully sustained for longer duration workloads.

With the release of the Radeon RX 5600 XT, AMD finally completes its mainstream lineup with a surprisingly great card. At first, the Radeon RX 5600 XT wasn't looking like a formidable opponent against NVIDIA's Turing lineup but the rather messy situation with the BIOS updates and what I would like to refer to as a 'Free Performance Upgrade' has put it in a very respectable place in the mainstream graphics segment.

Featuring the Navi 10 design, the card has essentially the same chip as the Radeon RX 5700, with optimized clocks and memory configuration. But the unique offsetting point of this chip is the TDP which shows that these Navi 10 dies didn't quite make it to the higher-end clocks of the RX 5700. But it allows AMD to manage a mainstream tier graphics card without producing a separate SKU which isn't either a Navi 14 or a Navi 10 design. The Radeon RX 5600 XT has strong driver support which is made even better with the recent release of the AMD Adrenaline 2020 edition software suite and a whole range of other features that you get with Navi such as Freesync and Anti-Lag technologies. All of these are well-added features in the 1080p HD gaming which this card clearly handles without an effort.

Initially, the card was positioned against the GTX 1660 Ti which retails for $279 US too but the GTX 1660 SUPER replaced it offering 95% of the card's performance at a lower price of $229 US. NVIDIA also dropped the price bomb on the RTX 2060 which with its added feature set of RTX features as DLSS/RTX made for a much worthwhile purchase but AMD's performance upgrade did uplift the RX 5600 XT quite a lot.

In terms of performance, the Radeon RX 5600 XT 6 GB graphics card consistently outperformed the RTX 2060 and much of this is to do with the MSI's Gaming Z variant which has the fastest clocks of their RX 5600 XT Gaming lineup and also features 14 Gbps memory pin speeds versus 12 Gbps of the remaining variants (X and Non-X). You are looking at anywhere from 20 to 25% performance boosts over the GTX 1660 SUPER and GTX 1660 Ti which makes this card a compelling upgrade for 1080p and even 1440p gamers. I was surprised to find some bigger gains in Vulkan optimized titles that go off to show AMD's great and continuing driver support for the latest APIs.

With all the good things about this card to say, there's one issue which would play a major role in deciding the fate of this card and that's the price. At $340 US, we are talking a $60 US premium over the RX 5700 XT MSRP. The regular MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming retails for $310 which is a $30 US premium and the Gaming X variant costs $330 which is a $50 US premium.  This goes off to show the premium cost attached to MSI's Gaming series but MSI justifies the higher-premium by not only slamming the same cooler as their RX 5700 XT on top of the RX 5600 XT Gaming series but also the same PCB. Plus the Gaming Z variant comes with much higher clock speeds, rivaling those of other custom variants by top-tier AMD board partners. The 14 Gbps clock speeds will also be kept exclusive to the Gaming Z variant which means there would be at least a 5-10% delta in terms of performance between the regular and Gaming Z variants which makes up for the extra cost.

The extra cost also goes into the behemoth shroud design that comes with a solid metal backplate, and a dual-fan cooling system fitted with MSI's most advanced TORX 3.0 technology. This cooler is straight up a beast of its own and the undervolted Navi 10 GPU which offers efficiency on par with NVIDIA's Turing GPU architecture, delivers great thermal performance. The card is also beautiful on its own, a stunning brushed aluminum design that covers the front and backplate along with MSI's Mystic Aura RGB technology which provides a spectacular light show on the side 'Gaming' logo.

The MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z is as high-end as RX 5600 XT can get. This specific AIB variant offers a superb cooling solution, superb components, and performance which delivers a 5-10% uplift over the base 'upgraded' versions of the card. This puts the MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z comfortably ahead of the RTX 2060 custom designs which are anywhere from $299 to $329 US. The RTX 2060 has some nifty features of its own such as DLSS and ray-tracing support which has been optimized now to be played around on NVIDIA's entry-level RTX solution but if you aren't a fan of those, the RX 5600 XT is the more compelling option in a simple price to a performance metric.

The card will be shipping in February and unlike existing RX 5600 XT models, won't require any need of flashing the card which one a single-BIOS design like the RX 5600 XT could end up in chaos for new PC builders as vBIOS flashing isn't just a simple task unless done so by a software application such as MSI's own dragon center. The $60 US premium over the MSRP is a hard bite but this card is the fastest in the mainstream segment and definitely a worthwhile choice if you're aiming to build a long-lasting PC.

Note - The MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z would be available on retail shelves in February 2020.

The post MSI Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z 6 GB GDDR6 Graphics Card Review – War For The Mainstream Segment! by Hassan Mujtaba appeared first on Wccftech.

Razer Thresher 7.1 Ultimate Wireless PS4 Review – Keeps The Right Things Simple

Razer-Thresher-Ultimate-Wireless-Gaming-Headset-for-PS4

Whether it’s the oversized box itself or its premium look on the inside – I always feel a slight tingling sensation when a new Razer product arrives.

I was finally given the opportunity to review Razer’s premium wireless surround headset for the PlayStation 4 – the Razer Thresher Ultimate Wireless 7.1. At first, I was hesitant to review this premium headset due to it requiring an optical (digital) audio output port, and since Sony’s PS4 Slim model doesn’t feature one, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t be able to get the Thresher running on my setup.

However, after some research and experimenting, I managed to get the headpiece working on my PlayStation 4 Slim by connecting the supplied wireless transmitter to the digital sound output of my TV. For instructions on how to set this up, please read our 'how to' right here.

The Razer Thresher 7.1 Ultimate has been on the market since 2017 but as it’s still regarded as one of the best wireless PS4 headsets around, we decided to put this premium headset to the test. With various wireless alternatives available for the PS4, is the Thresher Ultimate Wireless still worth the purchase? Yes and no, I'd say.

After having opened the impressive-looking black box I’m presented with the following contents:

  • Razer Thresher Ultimate Wireless PS4 Headset
  • Wireless base station
  • Two USB to Micro-USB cables
  • Optical cable
  • Headset stand
  • Manual

Features and design

With the Thresher Wireless, Razer intends to take its PC headset expertise to deliver a reliable and great-sounding wireless headset for consoles (its also available for Xbox One). Razer’s Ultimate PS4 headset sports large 50mm drivers in leatherette ear cups cushioned with memory foam and a metal frame. Its design is what you expect from a Razer product – a matte black look combined with blue accents to match Sony’s PS4 console. When in use, the Razer logo’s on the ear cups glow blue.

Overall, I find the design of this premium headpiece somewhat graceless compared to offerings from other brands. It might be a matter of personal taste but there are more nimble alternatives available in this price range (the Tresher Ultimate sells for $249.99).

The Thresher features a retractable digital microphone with unidirectional mic boom design. The controls of the headset can be found on both the left and right ear cups, including controls for mic volume, game/voice chat balance, master volume and a micro-USB port for charging.

The “Ultimate” edition that I received includes a wireless 2.4GHz RF base station that allows you to toggle Razer’s 7.1 digital surround sound. In addition to being compatible with the PS4, the headset can also be used on PC by flipping the switch on the back of the base station.

Performance

How does this premium headset from Razer actually perform? Before going into details, let's start by saying the Thresher is still one of the best wireless PS4 headsets around. Although large and heavier than many of its rivals (the Astro A50 and SteelSeries Arctis Pro come to mind), the Thresher's suspension band combined with its leatherette pads makes it comfortable to wear, even for hours straight. The suspension band allows for a great fit as it only requires you to put the pads over your ears and the Thresher will automatically adjust to match the size of your head.

Like the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless that I reviewed last year, Razer's offering uses a gaming-grade lossless 2.4GHz RF signal for wireless transmission instead of BlueTooth. This results in very low latency and I haven't experienced any delay in the games I've tested this headset with. According to Razer, the wireless signal of the Thresher reaches up to 40ft/12m. I haven't tested this maximum range, but I didn't notice and stutter at roughly 10m. from the base station.

Razer boasts that the battery inside the Thresher can last up to 16 hours on a single charge - I managed to get around 15 hours out of it before it needed a 4-hour juice.

First and foremost, a gaming headset is about audio quality and the Razer delivers an amazing sound experience. Sound and voices are clear and positional audio in titles such as Fortnite and Modern Warfare, is handled like a champ. I would have liked the bass to be louder in action-packed titles, but this might just be a personal preference.

Audio quality from the retractable microphone is great as well on this headpiece. Voices are clear, and I was perfectly understandable in chats. Also nice to know is that the microphone can easily be adjusted to basically any position.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I feel somewhat conflicted about recommending this outstanding headset to those looking for a premium headset in the $200 to $300 price range. Truth is, Razer is also offering the standalone Razer Thresher Wireless for $149.99 - a price difference of $100.00. Yes, the 'normal' Thresher doesn't come with a wireless base station and stand, but it offers the same features and sounds exactly the same as the Ultimate.

Conclusion

The Razer Thresher 7.1 Ultimate Wireless for PS4 is still one of the best PlayStation 4 headsets currently available. While its design might not appeal to everyone, it offers excellent sound and voice quality. With the Thresher, Razer delivers a very comfortable wireless headset that is really easy to set up, but due to its steep price, I would rather recommend the 'non-ultimate' Razer Thresher Wireless.

Review sample provided by the manufacturer.

The post Razer Thresher 7.1 Ultimate Wireless PS4 Review – Keeps The Right Things Simple by Aernout van de Velde appeared first on Wccftech.

EXO SCUF Ergonomic Support Pillow Review – Scuf’s Got Your Back

Par : Kai Powell

EXO SCUF

Gamer Lean isn't just a fancy name for blending Promethazine with your favorite flavor of G-Fuel. It's a real posture we've all done at least once in our lives with controllers in hand. That tensing up you get when you're about to close out a clutch match in The Crucible, fingers gripping and clenching onto your Xbox controller, your back arching forward as if getting a few inches closer to the screen will increase your perception time. What you don't realize in the heat of the moment is that even those brief moments of hype-fueled slouching is putting an unnecessary strain on your body. That's where Scuf Gaming, makers of the Vantage 2 controller I reviewed last year, come in. Their new EXO SCUF pillow is a travel-ready solution meant to provide a real difference to your gameplay.

The EXO SCUF pillow, at least the version that Scuf Gaming gave the general press at CES 2020, comes in a polyester carrying bag roughly the size of your typical inflatable airline pillow. If the thought of having to inflate this gaming pillow yourself is already getting you out of breath, I'm sure it could be used as an emergency pillow for taking a quick nap without even having to take it out of the package.

When you do want to use and inflate the EXO SCUF, there's a zippered picket along the inside edge that reveals the hidden PVC inflation valve, complete with outer so it doesn't get triggered accidentally. The one-way air valve is quick to inflate via lung power and only took about thirty seconds on average to the EXO SCUF out of its travel bag and inflate before I was ready to game on it. Deflating the gamer pillow is a similarly simple action: simply press down the button in the center of the air valve to deflate.

Unfortunately, because of where the valve is positioned on the EXO SCUF, deflating the gamer pillow down to its smallest size can be a bit difficult. As the unit deflates, the two wings have a tendency to fold in on one another and block the valve. I found that it takes a two-handed solution to fully deflate the EXO SCUF: one to keep the air release valve triggered and another to compress and push the air out (although you could probably squeeze it between your knees or put something heavy like your Xbox on it to do the trick). Once fully deflated, the EXO SCUF rolls up easily into a football-sized package that makes for easy transport in your carry-on luggage or gear bag if heading out to a tournament.

Although the zippered compartment keeps the air valve tucked away from being accidentally triggered, there isn't enough padding on the inner pocket to make it completely unnoticeable. When I held the EXO SCUF close to my center of gravity, I could feel the telltale edges of the PVC valve sticking out. If you aren't one to play close to your chest, chances are you probably won't even notice the valve.

The EXO SCUF's fabric lining was surprisingly more durable and comfortable than any of the pillows I've stolen off the couch to keep my arms propped up for lengthy review sessions. Both the top and bottom sides of the EXO SCUF are coated with a grey microfiber fabric that's soft to the touch. If you're not one to play in your favorite eSports team's jacket every time you pick up a controller, having something a soft solution to keep your forearms elevated can be a nice treat. There won't be any rug burn or scrapes from getting too excited while you're gaming with the EXO SCUF ergonomic gaming pillow.

All around the sides of the EXO SCUF is a cordura fabric that helps keep the inner PVC pouch from accidentally getting punctured if you happen to have keys sticking out of your pocket. It's obviously more abrasive than the microfiber fabric on top but chances are you're not going to be rubbing up against the EXO SCUF (unless you game shirtless, in which case I won't judge you). All around the outer sides of the EXO SCUF is an integrated MOLLE, or Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, system. The options for what you can attach to the MOLLE loops are limitless: two sticks of Pocky, an entire Slim Jim, Apple Pencil, USB cable, you name it! It's a rather silly addition to the EXO SCUF but it's I can appreciate the Scuf Gaming team doing something more than just a flat black wrap around the sides. The front of the EXO SCUF is emblazoned with the product logo, just in case you wanted to be front and center during your streams and showing off your full gaming setup.

In what I certainly consider to be an intentional design choice, the shape of the EXO SCUF ergonomic gaming pillow matches that of their various gaming controllers such as the Scuf Vantage 2. The two outer wings on the EXO SCUF are meant to represent the controller grips and contour nicely to the user's waist but I have one major concern with the product: they're too wide. I'm unable to use the EXO SCUF as intended in my gaming chair in the home office because the width sticks out too far. There's a small amount of flexibility in squishing the sides inwards but I suspect that will have an adverse effect on how long this gaming pillow will be able to retain its shape in the long run. My solution? Simply flip the EXO SCUF around. The front of the ergonomic gaming pillow still has a slight curve to match the body's curves and there's enough room to prop your elbows up when holding a controller. You won't get the full forearm support but it will still help with keeping that gamer lean under control.

When used the traditional way, the EXO SCUF elevates and supports your forearms into a relaxed position while keeping them close to your center of gravity. The height of the pillow helps to keep your body from slouching forward and causing that gamer lean and strain along your lower back. Even after fifteen minutes of gaming both with and without the EXO SCUF, I can feel the difference. Fifteen minutes of being hunched forward over my controller always leaves me feeling like I need to call a chiropractor; with the gaming pillow, there's none of that (and even my shoulders feel more at ease). You'll still need a good chair of back support to keep your upper body upright but the EXO SCUF performs exactly as it should in order to keep your body from leaning too far forward.

EXO SCUF

All jokes aside, the EXO SCUF was a big surprise from Corsair's media briefing and I am grateful to get my hands (and arms) on one. I'm certainly guilty of the infamous gamer lean and having support there to keep my posture in check has done wonders for my back. If you're serious about searching for a solution to keep gaming in comfort, the EXO SCUF is one of my top recommendations.

The post EXO SCUF Ergonomic Support Pillow Review – Scuf’s Got Your Back by Kai Powell appeared first on Wccftech.

EarthNight (PS4 Pro) Review – Burning Up on Reentry

Par : Kai Powell

EarthNight

Humanity's last hope doesn't lie on Earth but in the skies far beyond the atmosphere. Living aboard a floating spaceship are Syndey and Stanley, the pair of protagonists in EarthNight that hope to one day return to the planet. However, in order to do so, they'll have to pass through swarms of flying dragons on this one-way journey. It's here that the story opens up and players are sent on the right adventure in EarthNight, always moving and never stopping.

Every game of EarthNight starts with Sydney or the bald-yet-bold Stanley hitting the ground (sorry, back of a purple dragon) running off towards the dragon's head in hopes of slaying this mighty beast. While their two feet are always moving forward, the player has quite a bit of control in movement and pathing. Sydney and Stanley each have their own distinctive playstyles, both in their mobility options and also in the upgrades they can earn (Stanley picks up swords to attack with while Syndey collects loaves of bread that empower her spiritual side).

For example, Sydney has an innate ability to double jump, however her primary attack, gained once she eats a loaf of space bread, is a modified dash that can barrel through enemies. Stanley, on the other hand, has to acquire various types of boot power-ups in order to unlock that second jump. Those swords he picks up can be used to attack foes of different elements and unlike Sydney's magical bread, Stanley will automatically attack when he runs into an enemy. Both characters can also attack by bouncing atop enemies just as Mario can but plenty of enemies in the latter half of EarthNight are too well-defended to bounce on without a pair of protective boots on.

EarthNight's progression system stems from the unlocking and upgrading of new power-ups that can be picked up in each stage. Any loot acquired or dragon blood shed can be converted into water, the primary source of currency aboard the spaceship that serves as the hub for Sydney and Stanley. Water isn't enough to acquire new upgrades, though. The various tools that serve as temporary upgrades also require a great number of dragon parts. Dragon teeth are fairly straightforward to acquire: simply run your way to the head of a dragon and deal enough damage to slay it and acquire a single tooth. Dragon eggs, on the other hand, can be a bit more tricky. There are always three of these in a given stage, but because Stanley doesn't have the forte to stop or turn around, you're going to have to hope you can run across one during your playthrough of the procedurally generated level.

Each level of EarthNight features a fairly straightforward formula: land on one end of the giant wyrm and run your way to its head. What you encounter along the way is always going to be a little bit different, given the game's influence in procedural generation and random aspects. Dragons aren't known to have completely straight spines; each level path is filled with natural mounds and dips and even the occasional loop to run around but because this is one continuous beast you're running across, there's never a risk of falling off into space. For some strange reason, these dragons have a tendency to accumulate a great number of floating platforms on their backs and these stages have a great deal of verticality that can only be reached with a well-timed double jump. It's here that you'll often run across at least one dragon egg.

After slaying a dragon, Sydney and Stanley engage in a freefall down towards the inevitable EarthNight. During this time, you can freely move about during your descent and pick your next target to land upon. Each of the five layers of the atmosphere is host to a select range of dragons and you can choose which one to slay. What I liked for a speedrunning aspect is that if you can navigate through the weaving mass of dragons during your re-entry back to Earth, you can effectively skip entire layers of levels (save for a certain gargantuan dragon that always blocks your way midway down).

The randomness of EarthNight is what makes it unique compared to other auto-runners but also serves as what could be its downfall. This is especially noticeable as Stanley, where you're left at the mercy of a power-up to show up and grant him boots for a double jump. Without them, his momentum is painfully slow, even with a forward jump that propels him farther than a standard jump. Regardless of what power-ups you're currently working with, EarthNight throws in more and more obstacles than most players can hope to mitigate. The final layers of each run are accompanied by giant floating monsters that do little more than taunt you and fling themselves at you in order to humiliate and defeat you when you're so close to the ending. Trying to mitigate damage from these oversized foes while also dodging the various waves of regular enemies and projectiles is an exercise in finesse that I simply couldn't manage. Even playing on EarthNight's Assisted difficulty (which grants the player additional hitpoints) wasn't enough to break past the giant wolf head that's proven to be the unfortunate ending of at least a dozen runs of mine.

What I found to be the most enjoyable of run after run of EarthNight is in how it presents itself. Chiptune music will always be my jam and the soundtrack to EarthNight is quite catchy (it's even available on Bandcamp if you'd like to check it out). The animation is another aspect that cannot be understated. All of the hand-drawn animations flow together beautifully as players descend back to Earth and there's a great use of color that helps each level feel different from the others. From what I was told, there are tens of thousands of frames of animation that were all hand-drawn, so I have to give credit to the amount of effort taken to bring EarthNight to life.

Style alone isn't enough to make EarthNight into a great game, although it's far from the worst auto-runners out there. I found myself to be routinely frustrated in the randomness of the second half of my runs, either having the useful upgrades just barely out of reach as Stanley or getting overwhelmed by enemies as Sydney. As an auto-runner, the procedural content works well with the persistent progression gained by slowly accumulating new upgrades run after run, but I still found myself hoping that there was more to this one-way trip.

Review code provided by the publisher.

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The Surge 2: The Kraken Review – An Enjoyable yet Unremarkable Detour

The Surge 2

The Surge and, more recently, The Surge 2 proved how Deck13 is more than capable of developing an engaging Souls-like action role-playing. The game may not be all that different from its main inspiration, but there are enough tweaks to the formula made popular by From Software that make the game stand on its own. The  Surge 2 experience has now been expanded with The Kraken DLC, which adds a new location to the game and some new content like additional enemies, bosses, side-quests, and equipment. While enjoyable, the new content is not truly meaningful.

The Surge 2: The Kraken can only be accessed after a certain point in the main campaign has been reached. Once Ezra Shields has been defeated, it is possible to access the new area by heading to Port Nixon and get on a boat that was previously nowhere to be found. Once off the boat, players can explore a suburban area as well as parts of the V.B.S Krakow. The ship's AI has gone rogue for some reason, and it is now not only keeping tabs on what is happening in the surroundings but also commanding robots to kill any unwanted guest. There's a reason behind all this, and everything is explained through the typical audio message that can be found all over the new area.

In terms of design, the new area doesn't offer anything truly different from the areas seen in the main campaign. Locations are interconnected through several shortcuts, and some of the corridors are reminiscent of the first entry in the series. Don't expect to spend much time exploring the new area, however, as it is rather small and it will take around 2 hours to see everything it has to offer.

This is not to say that the content included in The Kraken DLC is bad. There are a couple of new enemies with new attack patterns and two bosses, although one of them is just a variant of a regular new enemy. The final boss of the expansion is actually well-designed, and it can prove to be a challenge if players are not prepared properly. Aside from this boss, The Kraken DLC doesn't offer any truly difficult battle: enemies scale to the player's level, but if you have played The Surge 2 extensively, and mastered Directional Parry, you won't have any trouble taking down most regular enemies. New weapons and equipment pieces can also be obtained by defeating the new enemies, offering players some additional customization options.

Aside from collecting all audio-logs and the new items, The Surge 2: The Kraken DLC also features two new optional quests as side-content. They are not particularly long nor interesting, so you won't be missing out much if you do not complete them.

Considering its very short length, light amount of new content and lack of any meaningful addition, The Surge 2: The Kraken is not at all an essential purchase for those who are not massive fans of the main game. Those that are, however, will appreciate everything the DLC has to offer, despite it being somewhat unremarkable, final boss aside.

PC version tested. Season Pass provided by the publisher.

The post The Surge 2: The Kraken Review – An Enjoyable yet Unremarkable Detour by Francesco De Meo appeared first on Wccftech.

Sony DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment Review – Touch Both Sides for Added Enjoyment

Par : Kai Powell

Adding additional buttons to a gaming controller isn't anything new. After all, this was one of Scuf Gaming's core features during the peak of Xbox 360 and competitive shooters. However, first-party manufacturers have largely stayed out of the modification conversation, leaving it up to other companies to come up with unique control solutions (except, of course, for the Xbox Elite Controller or Xbox Adaptive Controller). Now, Sony has come to market with their own first-party solution that offers gamers more control over their games without having to upgrade to a brand new controller with the official Back Button Attachment for DualShock 4.

Sony's newest device is so small, you might miss it when browsing around store shelves (I know I certainly couldn't find one on store shelves until I found it tucked away behind an assortment of brand new DualShock 4 controllers). Inside this small package is the Back Button Attachment, the typical instruction manual, and a handy picture guide on how to attach the accessory to your DualShock 4 controller.

The Back Button Attachment for DualShock 4 may only be a single piece that attaches to the headphone jack and EXT port on the bottom of your controller, but there's a slight gimmick to getting it to attach in the first place. The 3.5mm and EXT connections on the Back Button Attachment are normally tilted forward and rock back into a vertical position when attaching to the controller. To connect the Back Button Attachment to the controller, it requires a bit of awkward angling to get the connections to line up just right. I found that by slipping the tip of the headphone jack into the DualShock 4 controller first, it's easier to tilt the connections into place before pushing the two units together. The official documentation recommends holding onto the Back Button Attachment from underneath and using your thumb to push the device into the controller rather than trying to push the two units into each other.

Once in place, the Back Button Attachment doesn't wiggle or feel loose, so it becomes a natural extension of the controller once in place. Every time I removed the attachment and snapped it back into place, I had this fear of pushing too hard at an angle and snapping the EXT plug. However, now that the attachment is set onto the controller, there's no reason to ever have to remove the Back Button Attachment, unless you happen to use a chat headset or controller charger that requires that EXT port.

Setting up the Back Button Attachment is perhaps the simplest controller modification I've ever had to do to date. On the unit is a large 1-bit OLED screen that only turns on when pressed (to conserve battery) to show the current status of the two rear buttons. By holding the button for a second, the unit can be remapped and giving the button a double tap swaps between the three various onboard profiles.

Remapping the Back Button Attachment is a fairly straight forward affair. After you've held the button down to enter the programming mode, the screen illuminates and shows you what buttons are currently assigned to that given profile. Tapping either of the back buttons lets you cycle through the various controller buttons. Nearly every button on the DualShock 4 controller can be programmed, with the exception of the Share and Touchpad buttons (L3/R3 can be selected but not the directions on the sticks). I would've liked to have the Share button be available for easier screenshots, but that's just a personal preference. If you ever want to reset the whole device, holding down back buttons and the touchscreen button for five seconds wipes all three profiles back to default.

All three profiles of button assignments are saved directly to the Back Button Attachment's onboard memory, rather than having profiles saved on a game-by-game basis. If you play a lot of shooters, having one profile that makes crouch and reload to the back buttons makes sense without having to map the same commands for each game you play. Players that jump into a wide variety of genres might want to make the back buttons their gear shifters in a racing game or bring up the build menu in Fortnite, but with only three profiles, you're going to have to choose which games get saved and which ones you'll have to reprogram on a regular basis. Not being able to program multiple inputs to a single Back Button (such as L1 and a direction to drop a sign in Death Stranding) is a feature that I would have liked to see in the Back Button Attachment, but that wasn't a feature that Sony was pushing for with this device. Because there are no drivers or software powering this accessory, if you want to use this device on PC, there are zero issues with compatibility and anything that works with the PS4 controller will work with the Back Button Attachment.

The two Back Buttons contour with the hand grips of the DualShock 4 and, depending on how you hold your controller, will rest your middle or ring fingers naturally against the wings. A gentle squeeze is all that's needed to activate the Back Button with just the right amount of resistance that you won't accidentally press a button when you pick the controller back up or tense up under pressure. Only the contours of the Back Buttons will trigger and activate a press; pressing the flatter parts of the attachment trigger no response. As much as I like the Scuf Vantage 2's rear paddles, the clickiness of the third party paddles just doesn't compare to the softer pull on Sony's solution.

Compared to the other offerings on the market, Sony's official back button solution only offers two additional buttons while others offer at least four. However, those rear paddles on the competition usually try to cram too much into a smaller space. Reaching over one paddle just to press the one beside it has left to finger cramps when I played with the Vantage 2 for extended periods of time. I think Sony hit the perfect balance of only having two buttons and designing an accessory that fits nicely into the contours of the controller.

I recently have been picking up the Steins;Gate spinoff My Darling's Embrace and playing it at my own leisure. With the Back Button Attachment, I mapped the X button to the right paddle and read through the game one-handed, giving the controller a gentle squeeze to advance text while keeping my other hand free to enjoy snacks.

Battery consumption with the Back Button Attachment so far seems negligible compared to using the controller without it. Since the OLED screen times out after a few seconds of inactivity, that doesn't have much impact on the battery drain. However, I can't speak to this definitively as my 20th Anniversary DualShock 4 has seen so much use that it can barely hold more than three hours of charge when at maximum capacity. If you play with your controller wired in via USB all the time, this won't even be an issue.

Sony's Back Button Attachment for DualShock feels like a natural extension of the controller and once added to my controller, feel like they should have been there all along. Third-party controller makers like Scuf have realized there's a need to do something with your ring fingers besides just holding the controller and I'm glad to see companies like Sony offer a solution that doesn't require purchasing a $180 controller to achieve. For only $30, the Sony Back Button Attachment is a comfortable introduction to what premium gaming controllers can offer as a competitive edge.

Unit purchased by the reviewer.

The post Sony DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment Review – Touch Both Sides for Added Enjoyment by Kai Powell appeared first on Wccftech.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot Review – Authentic, Ambitious, Adequate

Dragon Ball Z Kakarot

I understand the desire to explore the Dragon Ball universe better than anyone, believe me. I, like many Dragon Ball fans, first started watching the show in my early adolescence, and its resurgence in recent years with movies and a brand new animated series and manga adaptation has been heartwarming to see. And even in video games, Dragon Ball FighterZ was an amazing game which not only stayed true to the style and substance of Dragon Ball but offered a truly excellent fighting game, so good that competitors unfamiliar with the franchise couldn't help but be drawn in. It is truly a fantastic time to be a Dragon Ball fan, and Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot promises to bring the world of Dragon Ball to life, with huge, open environments reminiscent of Akira Toriyama's genre-defining series, dozens of recognisable characters, and the frantic action you want from anything Dragon Ball. In many ways, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot delivers on its promises, but it falls flat in a bunch of others. This is a game that won't live up to the hype for everyone.

As many Dragon Ball games do, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot retells the story of Dragon Ball Z, which is the Saiyan arc, through to the end of the Buu arc. Everything has been filled out and expanded with side content and some new "filler" content that bulks out the number of hours required to play through the main story. The filler content works a lot like filler episodes in the original anime, things will get a little sidetracked, like Gohan going to find recipes or a celebration once Goku returns to Earth. These scenes are nice to see, but much like filler episodes in the anime, you end up wishing you could skip over them. The side quests are very similar. They often bring back Dragon Ball characters which are a bit more obscure, like Fortune Teller Baba, and involve you either searching for items or defeating some enemies. There isn't too much variety, admittedly, which is certainly disappointing to see, but not all that surprising.

The world that the side quests take place in, however, is a weird thing to tackle. On the one hand, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot's world is huge, and looks just as the anime series portrayed it. On the other hand, the anime series often portrayed vast fields and deserts with very little to see, and that is all too clear here. The city environments are much better than the barren wastelands that seem to fill up most of Namek and Earth, but then your skillset is wrong. While in the city you want to move around at a brisk pace, but Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot's open-world movement is built for these huge, empty environments, not narrow city streets. If you fly at full speed, you'll go way too fast. Flying at the slower speed often feels too slow. Jumping often doesn't jump high enough. Jumping while running, however, will give you absurd vertical height, but then won't give you much horizontal velocity, absurdly. It feels unnatural to control at almost all times, and while I could say that the running jump, which is very high indeed, is mainly for looking around and surveying the area, that would be fine if I could fly out of it. Just, jump really high, fly from that point. But you can't, instead, you can only take off into flight from the ground. Nothing flows into other actions and as a result it all often feels stilted and awkward.

I guess it's not too bad, considering all you do in that open-world when exploring, other than completing side quests, is collect orbs. Orbs are scattering the ground and air everywhere, and these can be used to upgrade your abilities in a series of complex menus. This is an action RPG, after all, and therefore your character's abilities in battle will be dictated by a series of unintuitive menus and skill trees, all fueled by different orbs and experience that you can gain when exploring, progressing the story, and levelling up. I just truly wish all of this had been simplified. The skill trees to upgrade your abilities feel hidden away in the character menu, while the comparatively rubbish Community Board and Soul Board is given a centre space on the menu. On the Community and Soul boards, you'll be filling up skill trees with character icons for bonuses. Link characters that know one another together and you'll get extra bonuses, unlock extra experience, extra attack power, more health, or other abilities. These are nice but aren't as necessary as brute strength and your key ability upgrades when push comes to shove.

And then we get into the combat system itself. It is not bad but is yet another aspect of the Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot which feels unnecessarily stilted and awkward. You lock on to an enemy in battle, and can then strafe around them while shooting energy, or move in to attack. You can have four combat abilities on your L1 menu wheel, and support items, or party character abilities, equipped to an R1 menu wheel. Outside of those abilities though, there is one attack button, meaning a single basic attack combo to mash out each time you engage an enemy. On the last hit of the combo, the enemy will be hit into the distance, either allowing you to chase them, or use a long-range energy attack to deal more damage. You will rinse and repeat this formula into oblivion. It is a blessing when the story has you control other characters, such as Piccolo and Vegeta, and the offers a new moveset to play with. Although, this could happen more often than it does, frankly.

When enemies attack you can block, and with enough ki, counter by teleporting behind them and unleashing your own combo. Enemies will often start tanking hit with super armor, and when this happens, it always means a strong attack is coming to blow you away, and special enemies have other attacks in a similar vein. Boss characters, like the main Saiyans, Frieza, and other strong enemies throughout the series' story, will have special abilities, and of course, much more health. The special abilities will usually include a large enemy attack which you will have to dodge in a pattern, although, spamming the dodge button might be a better way to do things than any traditional strategy.

The bosses, and many of the cutscenes in the game, are undeniably cool. In these moments, the game shines. I have complained about nitpicks almost incessantly in this review, and when it comes to the bosses and the bigger and better cutscenes, I shan't. When this game is firing on all cylinders, it becomes some of the best Dragon Ball fanservice we've had since Dragon Ball Super. The cutscenes are beautifully lit and animated, giving the world depth, crazy, sweeping camera angles, and big energy beam blasts. I enjoyed all of the bigger cutscenes of the game. And I say bigger because in between those, there certainly are a lot of dialogue scenes with static poses and little of interest happening. I will say though, that the side content and new scenes included in the game also ooze that same level of fan service and attention to detail which will make long-time Dragon Ball fans smile. I just don't know if many other aspects of the game will elicit the same response.

The Dragon Ball fan in me loves Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, but the game fan in me was getting tired very fast. Those cool setpieces and cutscenes kept me playing the game to see more, but too much in between those moments to spoil things. It becomes overlong, tedious, and repetitive. But simultaneously, it is wonderful for fans. I wouldn't torment myself by forcing through to 100% completion, but many other fans like me will feel compelled to at least finish the main story.

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (code provided by the publisher).

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HyperX Cloud Alpha S Review – Frustratingly Fallible but Compellingly Comfortable

Par : Chris Wray

In the past year and two months, I have reviewed two headsets by HyperX. The first was the Cloud Revolver, reviewed in November 2018. The Cloud revolver got 8/10 from me, with strong praise for its build quality, comfortability and general value for money amongst other things. The second headset I reviewed in September 2019 which was the Cloud Stinger Wireless, which I gave 8.5/10 based on comfort, design and affordability amongst other matters. Reviewing the HyperX Cloud Alpha S, I came into this expecting more of the same: quality, comfort and price.

The simple question then is how has HyperX fared in meeting the standards they've set before and of course have they met other standards of audio quality, as well as including other features that are expected with a headset, particularly one that will be used for gaming? Let's find out.

One thing I've nearly always had to praise HyperX for is the design and build of their headsets. Despite the lower cost of their headsets compared to 'premium' brands like Sennheiser, they've nearly always been both durable and comfortable. Every now and then there are slight issues, though none that have ever been deal breakers. The HyperX Cloud Alpha S, being the new and improved version of the Cloud Alpha, certainly has some strong upsides though isn't without some slight issues.

In terms of build and looks, this looks and feels almost identical to its predecessor. There's been a change in colour design from red to blue on the metal band that connects the cups. The cups and bands are covered in the usual leatherette that former HyperX headsets have used, though with one interesting addition - a spare set of ear cup cushions with a cloth cover, far more suitable for those of you who may find leatherette cushions uncomfortable over long sessions due to heat & sweat.

As for comfort, both the headband and ear cups both have a reasonably thick memory foam filling. Adjustment of the ear cups is, as always, simple. A nice feature, however, is the fact that there are grooves on the inside of the band, letting me and other somewhat obsessive people make sure that both sides have been adjusted to the same length. On the cups, there's a pretty redundant feature in the bass sliders, something that I can't honestly say has a perceptibly large impact on whatever you're listening to. It adds a little oomph, but not that much.

What the HyperX Cloud Alpha S does have is the USB-powered virtual 7.1 surround sound card. This comes with an inbuilt controller, enabling you to increase and decrease volume with two other buttons being designed to rapidly adjust the balance between game volume and that of chat applications like Discord or Teamspeak. On the side, there is the ability to mute the detachable microphone. Finally, there's the button in the middle to turn or, or off, the virtual 7.1 surround sound. How much mileage you'll get out of this is certainly down to what you're using it for.

All of this is hardware-based, with HyperX having not expanded it's (rather shoddy at the moment) NGenuity software to their headset range. Granted, this is simply because the software is simply designed to control the LED's on other hardware, such as mice and keyboards. The lack of software is a limiting factor, particularly when it comes to the features (bass slider & 7.1 surround sound) that are included in the headset. There's no real middle-ground, no fine-tuning, which is a shame.

Why is it a shame? Well, the audio quality of the HyperX Cloud Alpha S is as good as you could have hoped for. The headset has the quality to really tackle whatever you throw at it, improved by the dual-chamber design where one tackles the bass where the other deals with mids and highs, helping to tackle any issues of clarity or distortion. It all makes for a generally good sounding and good quality headset. So where's the shame again?

So, the bass slider has such a negligible impact. On occasions, you may be able to notice something. However, when trying out my go-to methods (playing Hysteria by Muse) I can't honestly say I noticed a difference in my personal test of "does this sound better if I do this?". With the 7.1 virtual surround sound, it certainly accentuates smaller elements. I can better hear the footsteps of people as I sneak around in Kingdom Come: Deliverance or the cries of further-away soldiers in Total War: Three Kingdoms.

At the same time, some elements closer start to sound a little too loud and lost whatever it was that distinguished them from each other. Almost everything reverberates. Sure, you can hear more, but the distinguishing features are almost always lost and you can give up any semblance of hope in hearing any directional details. The regular none 7.1 virtual surround sound settings are considerably better, it's a night and day scenario. The problem is that if 7.1 Surround Sound is the thing that would sell you on this headset, it's best to look elsewhere.

On other audio quality, the microphone, you'll find that the lack of software does slightly inhibit your options with the headset, but it's not exactly necessary. The microphone, detachable and flexible, sounds great out of the box. It amplifies the voice well and keeps out a decent amount of background noise. Simply put, I've yet to find a scenario where the voice isn't easily heard by those listening on the other side, that or when you're singing Barbie Girl to your PC's voice recorder app in preparation for the next Britain's Got Talent.

So what is the real question when it comes to the HyperX Cloud Alpha S? That's simple: Is it worth the cost? The answer to that is both a yes and a no. If your choice is between buying the HyperX Cloud Alpha S or not having a headset at all, then yes, this is worth it. However, rather than spend £120/$130 on this, you could simply buy the original Cloud Alpha for £90/$100. The design is almost identical, this is somewhat more comfortable, but the extra £30/$30 is too steep of a price for extra comfort, an ineffectual-at-best bass slider and an actively sound-damaging virtual 7.1 surround sound.

Provided by HyperX for review purposes.

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Total War: Three Kingdoms – Mandate of Heaven Review – Enhancing Excellence?

Par : Chris Wray

Total War: Three Kingdoms remains the only game to have ever been given a mythical 10/10 review score by me. To this day, it is still a game that I'll gladly jump on and every single bit of praise I gave it then is still something I love about it now. It's a beautiful game, absolutely lovely to behold, a strategy game that gives you characters to grow with, alongside an engaging army building system as well as a strong city development system, both of which further increase the level of personalisation and customisation on offer. All of this, and more, combining to make arguably one of the best strategy games ever made. Now it's time to look at the second piece of DLC, Mandate of Heaven.

With the launch of the core game came the Yellow Turban Rebellion DLC, that can very much be considered a part of my core review. The second piece of DLC was Eight Princes which was, frankly, adequate at best. The alignment system was certainly interesting, but the DLC just didn't feel like it brought anything extra. How, then, has Mandate of Heaven fared?

Considerably better, that's how. What really helps here in Mandate of Heaven is that a lot of the game will still feel familiar, working with what can be a new style of playing Total War: Three Kingdoms. A few usual suspects return, with Liu Bei, Cao Cao and a considerably less-fat Dong Zhuo all starting quite different to how they do in the Rise of the Warlords campaign, eight years later. Liu Biao, Tao Qian and Liu Chong round up the returning cast of characters.

These are joined by the Zhang brothers (Zhang Jue, Zhang Bao & Zhang Liang) who incited and led the Yellow Turban rebellion, with the new cast of characters being rounded up by none other than the emperor himself and Liu Bei's mentor, Lu Zhi. Other familiar faces will appear as you play through. Yuan Shao and Kong Rong are simply generals under the emperor. All of this makes more for the true back-story of the Three Kingdoms and the names that were made immortal during that time.

Working well with the idea that this is more of a back story is the gameplay, particularly that of Liu Bei, Cao Cao, the emperor and the Zhang brothers of the Yellow Turban rebellion. Each of these factions has a different type of playstyle, giving you something quite different to what you'd be used to from playing the core game or the Eight Princes DLC. Liu Bei and Cao Cao are quite similar, being more nomadic and pushing to prove their worthiness. The Yellow Turbans are more about co-operation and the synergy between the three leaders - starting nomadic - with the emperor being likely the most interesting of factions within the DLC.

Looking at Liu Bei and Cao Cao first, you'll find a very story-oriented path, letting you follow the actual events of the Three Kingdoms or shoot off and make your own way. You don't have any territory at the start, leaving you free to move wherever you like - funds being brought in by your family holdings, ransoming and looting and extra troops simply being recruited from wherever you can find. Personally I really enjoy these campaigns, building on the strength of the emergent storytelling that Total War, particularly Three Kingdoms, is fantastic at.

Naturally, you can continue on past the eight years of Mandate of Heaven, directly into the core campaign - granted, your start could be considerably different - Dong Zhuo, unless you control him, tends to be in a massively strong position. The emperor's faction is just completely ineffectual, somehow losing everything in what could be argued as the strongest starting position and the Yellow Turbans are almost doomed to defeat. In real life, the core uprising was destroyed in just one year (184AD to 185AD), with remnants and minor uprisings later being encountered until 205AD.

Both of these campaigns are what add new and interesting elements to the game. The Yellow Turbans are somewhat hamstrung regardless, being unable to perform diplomacy or espionage, though they have an interesting mechanics in the form of Zeal and Fervour. Zeal, as it increases, gives you buffs, indicating the increased momentum of your faction and ideals. A lowering of Zeal, however, results in uprisings in favour of the Han Empire. Fervour, on the other hand, spreads in enemy provinces and as it increases, causes further Yellow Turban uprisings.

The polar opposite of this campaign is that of the emperor, Liu Hong. Being the emperor, you are essentially in control of the whole empire, with the vast majority of other factions being allies. The new game mechanic for Liu Hong is influence - something you have to use to create a balance between essentially three competitors vying for control within your court. These three are the bureaucrats, dynasty and warlords, each having different benefits and detractors as their influence increases or wanes, creating a very delicate balancing act that could enable you to take action or completely freeze you from reacting to events that are tearing the country apart.

Naturally, Mandate of Heaven also contains a number of new units for your conquering of China. Some of these can feel very similar to those you've already controlled, though others like the Hero Slayers, feel different primarily due to their focus. In addition to this, enhancements for sieges, such as new weapons, have been added. If anything, I still find the game is lacking such as Hu Lao Gate and other external non-settlements outside of historical battles, areas that were very significant during the Three Kingdoms

There are a few issues brought in that have compounded issues. The AI in games has never been able to truly deal with diplomacy and it seems that the AI here cannot deal with Fervour, Zeal and Influence. Indeed, the AI can't seem to deal well with being either the Yellow Turban leaders or as Liu Hong, both factions being fairly toothless. It's a shame because both can be very entertaining to actually play as.

All in all, Mandate of Heaven is a good DLC, though somewhat flawed. It performs and stands out far beyond that of the Eight Princes, adding a good amount of new content to Total War: Three Kingdoms. The inclusion of new mechanics certainly adds to the tactics of the factions in question but, most of all, what stands out for me is the move to an even more detailed story for a sizable cast of characters.

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Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore Review – Excellent Honorary-Persona

Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore

As a guilty pleasure, my phone has had several game soundtracks on it now for years, one of those being the music selection from the CD that came along with Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE's Wii U special edition. When people pass me the aux, they don't know what to expect, and I'm prepared to blow minds each and every time. Despite that though, I never actually finished Tokyo Mirage Sessions on Wii U. The fact is, the Wii U version had several issues that, while never game-breaking, were certainly annoying. But that's exactly why I've been looking forward to Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore, the brand new and enhanced Nintendo Switch version of the game. And in a few ways, it lived up to my expectations and breathed new life into the JRPG.

TMS was devised as the mythical Fire Emblem X Shin Megami Tensei game that was announced near the launch of the Wii U, and while the form the final game took wasn't to everyone's preference, it was hard to deny that it is an incredibly solid game. Developed by the RPG artisans at Atlus, responsible for the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series, among many others, Tokyo Mirage Sessions takes the modern pop themes of the Persona games and then gives them literal characters from the Fire Emblem universe to battle alongside in the mysterious Idolasphere, a dungeon visible to very few, that effects all people nearby.

Inside the Idolasphere you will find hideous monsters, and usually a central character at the center of the disturbance, usually an obsessed person, controlled by an evil demon - or just an evil character from the Fire Emblem series. If you've played the Persona series before, many aspects of this game will feel incredibly familiar - the Fire Emblem characters you summon are even called Performa - and as such, the Fire Emblem aspects of the game sometimes feel a bit superfluous. Change a few names, and you could easily ignore the fact that this was a crossover game at all. A little disappointing perhaps, but the fact is that even without that, what remains is an incredibly solid adventure.

Battles are turn-based, and you take three characters into battle at a time. Characters learn active and passive skills from mastering the weapons you equip, and will slowly be able to follow up attacks from your partners. For example, if a character uses a certain move and hits an opponent's weak point, your other team members may also go in for an attack, potentially wiping out multiple enemies, or earning extra rewards. Again, similar mechanics as you see in the Persona series, but changed in subtle ways so that battles feel distinctly different, despite the fact attacks will even use the familiar naming conventions seen throughout Persona and Shin Megami Tensei. Battles can become incredibly tense and tight, but luckily you'll find it easy to buy more healing items or simply grind out battles for experience.

And that final point is important. Luckily in battle you can speed up the follow-up attack Sessions with a button press, because they can add up to a lot of time when they play out multiple times in a fight, and the loading times in this game are vastly improved across the board. One of the primary reasons I stopped playing the Wii U version of the game was because of load times. Loading into battles, loading out, loading new areas, and the rest. It became tiring when so frequently encountering new enemies. In the Nintendo Switch version of the game, each load only lasts a few scarce seconds, and then it's done. This changed everything for me. It made playing the game so much more tolerable and made the previously overlong and exhausting dungeons feel much more easily surmountable, keeping me playing the game for longer than I ever did before.

But the dungeon design isn't exactly a high point. Each dungeon feels more like a maze than anything else. It forces you to find switches that open new paths or avoid obstacles. They all look decent enough, I have no complaints about the aesthetic choices, but moving through them can feel tiring, for sure. Eventually, you will, inevitably, have to leave the dungeon through one of the shortcuts you find, and getting outside always feels refreshing, as if you're physically ascending back to a more relaxed, happier surface world. In the Idolasphere, just moving through the areas feels oppressive.

And that may be a deliberate choice on behalf of the developers. After all, Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE Encore is a game about idols. Your weapon is your Performa, battles are performances, singing and dancing is essentially how you improve and attack. It all takes place in a traditional turn-based battle system, but the themes permeate throughout the game everywhere. Even your home base is a talent agency, and your mystical guide is a sentient AI vocaloid - again, a Fire Emblem character. And the fact is, this style is going to turn off some players, especially when you watch full music video cutscenes of the CGI characters singing and dancing. But as I've said, I have these songs on my phone, it's not a problem for me, but that doesn't mean it won't grind on your nerves, depending on your personal tastes.

While I think the dungeons aren't amazing, they don't outstay their welcome, I love the aesthetic and musical choices throughout most of the game, and the battle system, and improving my skills for battle, were the meat of the game that kept me moving forward, and the improved load times were the tiny change that made a monumental difference for me. The story itself is fine, but a little bit generic, and therefore I didn't find it personally outstanding - however, if you are a fan of the Persona series in particular, then you're sure to find something to enjoy here. If I'm to make a fairly pedantic complaint, I would've liked to hear an English voice dub, but it's a minor point really. When you put all of those factors together, what you end up with is a damn fine JRPG, incredibly cute and charming, and well worth playing for any JRPG fan.

Review code provided by the publisher.

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AO Tennis 2 Review – Advantage, Big Ant Studios

Par : Chris Wray

AO Tennis 2

Let's be honest about AO Tennis. When it was released, it wasn't exactly a good game. Big Ant Studios, developers of Cricket 19, have certainly improved in their Cricket games output over time. AO Tennis 2 is only their second game covering Tennis so following the first release and the improvements made after launch, have Big Ant Studios learned from and improved on their previous outing?

Yes, they have. At least they have in certain places, some aspects of the game really shining through. Other areas still need some improvement, but AO Tennis 2 is certainly a fair step in the right direction. How exactly? That's exactly what I'm going to talk about now!

Even just looking at the game you're going to notice some improvements. Characters are far better animated, their movements seem more fluid, characters will actually swing and miss rather than simply give up if the game decides you're not going to make the shot. That's already a fair improvement from the previous game. Character animations and movement are generally better, with running, swings, leaning into shops and everything else that comes with it. Even the sway of a skirt during the match.

These improved animations come alongside just a general improvement on visuals. Characters look more like their real-life counterparts. Faces have moved further away from the uncanny valley. This doesn't mean they're ideal - they certainly look decent, though not to the same level that you'll find in a FIFA release. Certainly better than the jelly-faced monstrosities found in titles like WWE 2K20. The same improved visuals also apply to the general court, surroundings, audience and everything else. It all helps to add to the level of immersion found within AO Tennis 2.

In continuing with the level of detail allowed are the character creation and customisation menu. I haven't found many titles that let you change most minuscule details of your created characters face, shoulders, arms, legs and every other aspect of their body. It's all the better as this is the character you'll be using in the games career mode. Creating the person you want to create - I made someone that looks as close to myself that I could be bothered doing - and taking him or her to the top of the tennis world.

Before I move on, I do want to make it clear that not all movement is ideal in AO Tennis 2. While the swing and ball hitting is certainly improved, it could still have that bit more fluidity. Part of the problem is actually the ball. Actually, most of the problem is the ball, which just looks and feels unnatural. The movement still just seems a little off. Better than before, but there's something a little wrong. You can still kill incredibly fast shots with ease, though the AI certainly seems to learn from your actions. It's not that easy to trick them with soft drop shots once you've done it a few times.

What is the main draw here in AO Tennis 2 is, of course, the playing of tennis. It's how you play tennis that makes this game something special, through the aforementioned career mode. In the career you can take on an actual pro or, and this is the better option, use your own created character and move from the bottom up. You'll be dictating your schedule, moving from exhibition matches to tournaments, maybe you want to do some training in between? You'll have a lot of choices to choose between.

You'll also want to manage your players' reputation. This will be done through press conferences as well as your actions on the court. After each point, you can choose to react positively or negatively - or not at all. It makes sense to mix it up too, showing your frustration at a poor run or approval for a fantastic shot, even if it was against you and you missed it. All of this will be counted and be accounted for at the end of your career when you choose to retire.

As well as the career mode, you also have the Australian Open - which should make sense since this is the official game of the open - as well as other types of competitions and the ability to simply jump in and play. All of this can also be done online, with a scenario creator to let you make your own scenarios, with a variety of challenges. The offering is certainly varied and you will have a lot to do here.

It's simply the doing it that has to be fun. So, the simple question is: is it? I'm honestly not good at the tennis - I'm not exactly good at it in real life either, being more Andre the Seal than Andre Agassi. The game can seem a little unfair, with shots going out that - at least in my opinion - should have never gone out. Much like the first AO Tennis game by Big Ant Studios, you direct the shot with the left analogue stick, moving a marker across the court as to where you want the ball to roughly go.

The only problem, something that was an issue in the first game, is that movement of your player is also controlled with the left analogue stick. What this means is that you need to be in a position to hit the ball before you start selecting what shot you want to actually take - if you've misjudged it, you're screwed. Also, there is another style of shot you can take using the right analogue stick but I've not managed to hit anything more than a weak flop that barely got over the net, no matter how much I try.

Despite any issues I've encountered, AO Tennis 2 has been engaging. Primarily this is because I've been enjoying the narrative within my career, leading the direction, the training and progression through the rankings of Chris Wray, a tennis player almost good enough to make it amateur! AO Tennis 2 is most certainly a big step in the right direction by Big Ant Studios from the launch of AO Tennis. Is it perfect? Not at all. Is it fun? Yep.

PS4 Version reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher.

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Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch Review – Food For Thought

Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch

The fact that, in the year 2020, people still recognize the name of Dr. Kawashima is a massive testament to how huge the original game was. Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training on the Nintendo DS managed to capture a huge, worldwide audience, and it broke through age barriers and appealed to one of the largest gaming audiences of all time - it really was that huge. Nintendo is hoping to achieve the same level of success all over again, with Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch. Though honestly, I'm not hopeful that they'll achieve the same results.

This game follows the same basic structure as the Nintendo DS original, you boot the game up once per day, play through a bunch of brain-teasing challenges, and then you'll be given a score from 18-80 resembling how well you performed in the challenges, with the lower the score the better, as it represents how old your brain is. Age is bad in this context, of course. The idea is that these brain teasers and challenges will sharpen your cognitive skills, and you'll be well-equipped to go about your day while firing on all cylinders. Does it work? I honestly have no idea, though the peer-reviewed studies that the game regularly cites certainly want you to believe.

Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch

So the meat of the game is the challenges then, and those challenges vary in difficulty, originality, and fun. First, you get the classics, such as quick mental mathematics, tapping the highest displayed number on the screen, rapid counting, memory tests, and more. There is absolutely a sense of satisfaction from playing through the challenges and seeing gradual improvement day after day, and that seems to be the main reason to keep playing. The graphs and charts which profess that your cognitive functions are improving are compulsive in a strange way - you want to add to them, fill them, see your progress. But whether or not you'll feel any tangible benefit is another thing entirely.

As you play the game day after day, you'll continue to unlock new challenges and there will be graphs and charts to fill in for each with your gameplay. Some are truly enjoyable in my opinion, such as the Dual Task game, which forces you to keep an eye on a number-tapping game on the lower half of the screen, and a simple fence-jumping minigame on the top of the screen. Having your attention split is a really fun way to make these initially simple challenges far more engaging. And then other challenges are just, well, Sudoku. It's a damn good game of Sudoku, and I can play it for hours, but it's still just Sudoku. You can't really justify the purchase of a full-priced retail game with fewer puzzles than you'd find in a cheap puzzle book.

Possibly the nicest thing about the package I personally found was the included stylus in the physical version of the game. It's a weighty, steel stylus with a strong yet soft tip which is perfect for use on the Nintendo Switch screen, or even your mobile phone. I personally really, really like this addition, and it definitely makes playing many of the games dozens of times easier than using your finger. But having said that, I found some challenges with handwriting recognition.

I know I don't have perfect handwriting, I always type everything out in the modern era, but the fact that Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch struggles time and time again to recognize when I'm writing a 5 or a 9 is incredibly frustrating. There are some very, very, simplistic handwriting options in the settings for differentiating single stroke and two-stroke writing styles, but nothing helped me. This repeatedly hampered me when playing the quick mathematics games, and when I was playing Sudoku and hitting the enter button before checking what the game assumes I wrote. This issue arose over and over for me and quickly became my biggest gripe with the game.

Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch

Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch is, of course, designed to be played in handheld mode to use the touch screen in portrait mode, but does have a few landscape games you can play on the big screen with friends. But that brings its own issue: if you own a Switch Lite, as many people do already, you'll need extra JoyCon controllers for the handful of games that require the right JoyCon's IR sensor. The IR sensor games recognize your hands and how many fingers you hold up, and make for a very unique and fun minigame, but like many of the others, the novelty wears off fast. Another rapid counting game can be played with friends with two JoyCon, and again, it's fun, but not good for replaying.

I like Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch, but the game has undeniable issues. If you simply want a brain-teasing puzzler you can regularly return to, this is great, but the novelty of it wears off fast. I played it regularly for over a week but came to a point where I just couldn't bring myself to play it further. It becomes frustrating and began to feel more like a chore than an enjoyable task. I don't care about my Brain Age, honestly, and I never felt more cognitively capable after playing the game, I just felt insulted by its assertions and then outraged when it refused to understand my handwriting. But despite all of that, I like the game, and for an older relative, I think it would make a great gift. It's just not for me.

Review code provided by the publisher.

The post Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch Review – Food For Thought by Dave Aubrey appeared first on Wccftech.

LG HU85LA CineBeam 4K UST Projector Review – The Best In UST 4K Experience?

This is our review of the Cinebeam LG HU85LA 4K ultra-short-throw laser projector, one of LG's recently launched UST projectors and a design that was a CES 2019 Innovation Award honoree. When LG reached out to us wondering if we would be willing to do a review of the LG HU85LA 4K, we readily accepted. Considering it supports a hefty $5999 price tag, this is clearly not a mainstream product and one aimed dead center at the luxury market. We had some pretty steep expectations for this projector, and let's just say we were not disappointed.

LG Cinebeam HU85LA 4K UST Review: Introduction and technical specifications

I will start by saying this much: while this projector is part of LG's Cinebeam series, this is not strictly speaking a cinema or even a home theater projector. This is instead, a living room projector with enough punch in its light output to be able to serve as a drop-in replacement for a TV. With the company claiming a 120-inch maximum projection size and considering 100-inch TVs easily retail for $8000+, the price tag starts to make a little more sense. The design of the product is also reflective of this fact, featuring a non-obtrusive and elegant shape that will only add to living room decor and will even serve as a conversation piece.


Inside the projector, however, are internals that will impress any AV enthusiast. While most DLP projectors (the vast majority of projectors in the mainstream segment) have a light source that lasts at most 5000 hours, LG is using a laser light source that will last for at least 20,000 hours. Not only that but while other vendors use a single laser source passing through a color wheel, LG instead relies on a triple-channel laser system (which counterintuitively only houses two lasers - a blue and a red one) for this particular projector.

The result? virtually all of the lumens here (in theory) are color lumens. The difference between white lumens and color lumens is a very important difference when it comes to judging color quality. You can crank DLP projectors up to fairly high lumens, but when you actually separate the colors, you find out that they are a fraction of the white intensity. This problem is something the 3-channel laser system would solve.

The LG HU85LA 4K UST uses a Texas instruments 4x XPR chip to achieve true 4k resolution (at a maximum of 30 fps). A note here about XPR: unlike 4K enhanced projectors, an XPR projector does actually project a true 4k grid on a screen. It achieves this by projector 1/4 of the image, then the rest and so on in rapid succession and continuity of image in your brain makes it appear as a cohesive image instead of four different parts. It works sort of like how CRTs of old used to work (with progressive lines being scanned on the monitor and your brain making them into a single image). While this is true 4k, it is not, however, native 4k. Native 4k UST projectors like the Sony VPL VZ1000ES retail for almost $25000 so we don't really consider that competition at this price point anyways.

The company has rated the projector at a peak brightness of 2700 ANSI lumens and a contrast ratio of 2,000,000 to 1. HDR10 is supported and the min-max screen sizes are 90 inch to 120 inch. It is worth noting here that this is a "smart" projector and contains Google Assistant, LG's native app drawer and more. It features a DTV tuner, Bluetooth and a USB connection that should be able to play most video files. Furthermore, it comes equipped with a somewhat lacking 5W + 5W dual speaker system. Although if you are putting this much into a projector, chances are you will have a dedicated audio system anyways.

The cherry on top of the cake is the company's magic remote, which enables a dynamic pointed on the screen and allows for truly intuitive functionality. Featuring dedicated buttons for Netflix and even Prime Video, this is clearly a remote designed in 2019. LG specifications claim a maximum power draw of 350W from the wall, so this thing will not consume a ton of electricity either (although once again if you are dropping six-grand on a projector, an electricity bill is going to be the least of your concerns). As you will see in this review, while most manufacturers exaggerate technical specifications to various degrees, we were pleasantly surprised to find the opposite with LG.

LG HU85LA 4K UST: Design and IO plate

Lets start with looks. The design of the projector is highly aesthetic and should fit into most living rooms regardless of your color choice. With a low profile and incredibly classy look, this is one projector that will not ruin a living room and should appeal to all generations. In fact, if anything screams a modern aesthetic - its this thing. Featuring a custom fabric stiched to the front part (covering the dual speaker system) and an outer body made of high quality plastic, high attention to detail in QA is apparent in every inch of the projector.

The projection slot is the only thing that breaks an otherwise perfectly flat white body on the top and even the focus wheel is hidden under a collapsible part. The minimum projection distance (from the projection surface) is 2.2 inches and the maximum is 7.2 inches so you are probably going to keep this on a table top in your living room, coupled with an ALR (ambient light rejecting) screen.

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The IO port doesn't disappoint either. Featuring 2 HDMI slots, 2 USB slots, one USB Type C and even an Optical Audio Out. A Lan port for improved connectivity is present as well and you have your standard analog antenna port for the TV connection. This last port is evidence of the fact that LG really wants you to think of this as just a really cool looking TV set.

Finally, you have your power input port that can accept voltage from pretty much anywhere in the world (gone are the days of 110V and 220V disasters) as well as a lock button.

LG HU85LA 4K UST: Dark room performance

Well without any (further) ado, let's begin with the performance testing. Unfortunately, I did not have access to a UST-ALR screen (yes these are different as the angle of rejection of a traditional ALR is the angle a UST projector, projects at) during this test so I had to rely instead, on my good old 150-inch, gain 1.0, motorized home theater screen. While a tad big for this projector, the light-isolated room would more than makeup for the lack of ALR and all tests you see here will only improve if you decide to buy this along with a UST-ALR.

Okay, so I have gone through a lot more projectors than the average joe in my reviews and I have to admit I was blown away by the brightness and vividness of the image the first time I turned it on. The LG HU85LA 4K UST's image calibration out of the box assumes you are using it in daylight and that works just fine for the target demographic that doesn't want to get involved with dark rooms and calibrated images.

There is only one caveat that I can report on from my testing: I was not able to hit the company's claimed maximum size of 120 inch without significant distortion/blurring occurring in the outer edges. In my testing, the maximum size with almost no distortion/blurring was 110 inches. Any further and the bottom part of the screen (near the projector) would start to get blurred and if you tried to focus that, the topmost portion would start to get blurred. I will admit that it is possible that this is due to the mirror inside getting warped/moved during shipping but I will still recommend that you keep the screen size between 100-110 inches for an optimal experience.

With that out of the way, let me just say, wow. LG's dual-laser system makes it clear just how much of their lumens are color lumens (hint: practically all). While DLP projectors have a massive difference between white lumens and color lumens, this is not the case with LG. In fact, just through eyeballing the image, I could see that color lumens were easily twice that of my home theater daily driver (a BenQ HT3550). Here are images I took (and edited in post to make them look closest to what the human eye will see):

The colors on the LG HU85LA pop out almost explosively in a dark room (that is a compliment btw). For the cinemaphiles out there, LG also includes an expert mode which was impressively close to a perfect calibration that I conducted with my lux meter. So with one touch of a button on the remote, you can go from TV mode to cinema mode which will dial down the vividness and expand the color gamut/color space by an almost exponential factor. The lumens on this thing are easily good enough to beat out HDR standards on most output devices.

This picture shows the difference between vivid mode and expert mode (included as a preset) as seen from a dark room. The expert mode provides an exponentially better image as far as a reference image goes and should be appealing to those that prefer a cinematic image. The expert mode is what I would personally prefer to use if I was using this in a dark room and it's worth adding that it will still be objectively more vivid than any standard DLP projector. Time for some brightness tests. I took out my handy lux meter and started doing some measurements.

Remember I said that LG is one of the first companies we have seen that is conservative with their numbers? Well, while the company claims 2700 lumens, we measured a whooping 2800 lumens of ANSI lumens at vivid mode and a plain white test pattern. This is absolutely insane and higher than the BenQ TK800 which is one of the brightest projectors we have tested in a long while. Shifting to the calibrated image brings down the lumens to a more manageable 2400 lumens but the increase in color space is almost 2x.

Speaking of color space, while other projectors can compete in white lumens, color lumens is one area where the LG HU85LA 4K UST projector absolutely blows away the competition. Featuring almost two times the color lumens of the HT 2550, LG's little white giant consistently showcased incredibly deep color levels across all spectrums.

Finally, let's talk about screen lumens. This is one of our favorite metrics because it shows you how bright the screen will actually be. To simulate a UST-ALR screen, all measurements were taken at a 45-degree angle to the surface. The LG HU85LA clocked in at a massive 1014 lumens brightness in a darkroom in vivid mode and 800 lumens in calibrated mode. The recordings on a non-UST-ALR screen like mine were 800 and 500 respectively. These are absolutely insane numbers when you compare them to DLP long throw projectors which usually clock in anywhere between 250 to 350 lumens of screen brightness at 15 feet. These tests make it clear that the LG HU85LA has more than enough firepower to run a daylight setup.

LG HU85LA 4K UST: Ambient/daylight performance

Since we are talking about daylight performance, I wanted to include some reference pictures of what you can expect while running the LG HU85LA in a moderately lit room. One of the biggest cons of projectors is that you cannot use them in rooms with ambient light since all projectors draw their black levels from the difference between the brightest spot and the darkest. With DLP projectors, this difference is not high enough to fool the eye.

This is not a problem that the LG HU85LA suffers from of course, so here are the results with ambient light of 40 lumens (a lightly lit room). I debated what was the best way to showcase the screen brightness in a picture and decided the best way to show some of the room as well. You can look at the level of brightness in the image above (the one with the lux meter) and then compare it to the images below).

In what is one of the most impressive feats of color brightness, the LG HU85LA is frankly the brightness daylight projector I have ever tested (or even had demoed for me). With a UST ALR screen, this is going to easily go toe to toe with the baddest OLEDs out there that can scale to 100+ inches in size. In fact, considering these measurements were taken at 110 inches and light fall-off is an inverse squared equation, a 100-inch image would be even brighter if you want that extra oomph.

LG HU85LA 4K UST: Breaking down the price tag and conclusion

Before I head on to the conclusion. Let me go over some power consumption numbers as well. Once again, we measured specifications that were well above LG's conservative estimates. While the company claims a maximum power draw of 350W, we couldn't top 208W with everything being pushed to its limits. While an electricity bill isn't going to be an issue for most, this does indicate an important factor: this thing is not going to act as a miniature heater. Owners of expensive DLP projectors will know that lamp cooling system is not only noisy but raises the temperature in a room as well. This projector will have no such issues and will keep cool and quiet - just like a TV.

Okay, so let's talk cost. While you can find other (cheaper) alternatives in the UST 4K space from other manufacturers that are likely at least a couple grand cheaper, you have to keep in mind that when talking about daylight projection, color lumens are king and with LG's dual laser system, the added cost is more than justified in the tech this will ship with.

Hi Sense 4K 120-inch and 100-inch TVs cost $11000 and $8000 respectively. This projector is comparatively, a measly $6000 and can do 120 inch as well. Coupling it with a UST-ALR screen (which usually start at $800 for 100-inch) would cost you a total of $7000. So an LG HU85LA 4K + 100-inch UST-ALR screen setup would offer significantly better image quality than a TV and would save you a grand. The value proposition improves further with a 120-inch screen (usually around $1800) bringing the total damage to $8000 and the cost differential to a whopping 3 grand. If you are in the market for a TV that is bigger than 90 inches, then you should definitely consider the aforementioned setup. So while this product is not for everyone, if you are its target audience, it is well worth your money.

This projector also wins our Editor's Choice award for best UST projector under $7000.

The post LG HU85LA CineBeam 4K UST Projector Review – The Best In UST 4K Experience? by Usman Pirzada appeared first on Wccftech.

Unity of Command II Review – A Wargaming Masterpiece

Par : Chris Wray

Unity of Command was and remains one of the biggest surprises of my gaming life. It was a simple but ultimately engrossing and challenging strategy game that did so much with so little. You had to worry about the supply lines of your units, the composition of your units and ultimately if attacking at that moment in time was the right decision or not. Unity of Command II adds a few things here and there, it seems originally a little over-complicated but soon shows just how fantastic it is.

I have one problem with Unity of Command II. It can be quite obfuscating. Sometimes it's something as simple as core objectives - for example, to get a gold star in a campaign mission, you're expected to capture certain locations within a time limit. It could say, for example, capture a location turn 11. What it doesn't say is that you are expected to have captured it before turn 11, not by the end of turn 11. It's small, but it matters, particularly when you're following the objectives and trying to get as much as you can.

Other areas that are a little hidden, in dire need of a FAQ, are what exactly the special steps do. I figured out through much holding of the cursor on different icons that Engineers are useful for attacking entrenched enemies. What the rest do, well I've recently bought an Ouija board to consult with Patton, Montgomery and Rommel to help me figure out exactly what the hell I'm doing. Maybe there's something hidden away somewhere that tells me exactly what I'm looking for, but I'll be damned if I'm going searching around for it - it should be there, easy to find.

Still, the basics are at least easy. Unit supply is an absolute pain in the arse, particularly for me who goes for blitzkrieg tactics more than anything else in this game. All too often I'll find myself over-extended, a large front with far too few supplies to keep it going. On occasions, my lines will be cut and I've got a pocket of units, often being supplied by supply drops generated by the trusty card I had pocketed away just in case. I learned very quickly to save at least one supply card for a just-in-case scenario.

"What are these cards?" I hear you ask. Well, Uncle Adolf, these cards are both single and multi-use things that are purchased using prestige at the start of a scenario. They can also be earned by completing certain side objectives too. The cards range from giving you an extra transport truck to increasing the number of bombing runs allotted to you each turn. Other cards can give you a paratrooper unit or a naval landing brigade. It's an extra layer of strategy that works perfectly with the core game. The only slight issue I have is that with certain troop units, the card remains in your deck if the unit doesn't die and supposedly features in follow-up scenarios. I've looked for them, honest, but no joy.

This isn't to say that there isn't any continuity. Each campaign consists of multiple scenarios and your unit losses, as well as the objectives you take and speed you do them has a direct impact on the next scenario. Get a gold star (complete all core objectives in the times given) in one and you'll start in a much more favourable position in the next. It rewards fast play, though lose too many units by overextending yourself and you may find yourself in a tough position later.

Granted, units will reorganise if the routed ones aren't killed or captured and make it back to your HQ's. The start of a scenario will inform you which battalions have been reformed and brought back into the fight. You also get reinforcements in other scenarios. There's little doubt you'll need them all as well because if there's one thing that can be said about Unity of Command II, it's far from easy. It's particularly difficult to break down an entrenched defender, particularly as I'm certain the RNG gods (is it RNG?) hate me when I'm dropping five bombs on an enemies head and not even a single step is suppressed, nevermind killed.

It could be RNG anyway. That or there's some complex algorithm working behind the scenes that I'm not privy to. Realistically, an entrenched or further fortified enemy would be more resistant to bombing runs, but for it to have no effect is just painful. To me anyway, because I'm worrying I won't get past the enemy. That's where one of the new features comes in, headquarters. Your fighting is still done by the units as in the first title, but each unit is now attached to a headquarters.

Each headquarters has a limited number of command points, which lets the units under that HQ's command that allows them to, provided the unit is in range, use a special attack for a certain number of points. This is how what was already a challenging war game brings in more realism and enables you to work through a completely different type of war found in the western front. Italy's mountain ranges, the hedgerows of France, naval landings and increased use of paratroopers requires a different level of thinking to the open plains of the Soviet Union.

The enemy can entrench, you're going to need all of your guile, your tactical manoeuvrability and the use of these special attacks (which use and suppress special steps) to break down an enemies defences without costing you too much. You'll also need to be keenly aware of the terrain and natural land barriers like rivers. Bridges can be destroyed by the enemy (using command points) and you can also use your headquarters to build pontoon bridges or repair demolished ones, dramatically speeding up your movements.

Fortunately, in between campaigns you can spend other stored prestige points to level up the armies under your command. You can increase the number of points at your headquarters disposal, increase the number of certain special attacks or even the amount of bridge building/destroying that can be performed in a single turn. Each kill made by your units also adds experience to that unit and its headquarters, levelling them up further. It all makes for yet another strategic level behind that of the core game, especially as you have to balance the prestige spent here with that spent on the cards.

Everything in Unity of Command II feels more involving than the first. There's certainly a learning curve, one that even thirty hours in, I'm still encountering. The AI is, for the most part, incredibly smart. I've had a few occasions where it makes moves I don't understand but overall even on the normal difficulty it poses a big challenge. This is an AI that adapts incredibly well to the massive number of scenarios in the campaign each with varying terrain, natural land barriers and more. It's a feat rarely found in games to have an AI that seems this adaptive and intelligent.

Furthermore, there's also a scenario editor and creator, letting you make your own challenges and again, this is managed without a single hiccup. Nothing in Unity of Command II is impossible, it's all about finding the best use of what you have and outsmarting the enemy. It doesn't stop some time limits in the campaign feeling impossible - though that may simply be because of my poor starting position due to my performance in the previous scenario.

It would be easy to think that Unity of Command II suffers due to the increased scope and features within the game, bogging down what made the original free-flowing and still tactically brilliant. However, the western front was a case of getting bogged down but finding the best way to get around an entrenched foe without losing every man under your command. The new features like the special attacks and headquarters combine with some utterly outstanding campaigns to make Unity of Command II one of the most engaging strategy games ever made.

Copy provided by the publisher.

The post Unity of Command II Review – A Wargaming Masterpiece by Chris Wray appeared first on Wccftech.

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