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Hier — 18 septembre 2019Wccftech

Daymare 1998 Review – Please Let It End

Par : Rosh Kelly

Daymare 1998

Daymare 1998 attempts to stroll through the old corridors of the 90s horror game without bringing any new idea, examining any tropes or improving any aspect of the game. While the graphics are better than the games Daymare tries to emulate, they don’t match up against the Resident Evil 2 remake, and they can’t disguise the boring gameplay, unimaginative story and wonky controls.

You play as some gruff soldier boy sent into a secret laboratory that – surprisingly absolutely no one – is being overrun reanimated corpses thanks to an experiment gone horribly wrong. The opening cutscene, filled with enough bad military jargon to make you think the script might have been written in the 90s, which I guess must be what they go for. It’s hard to tell if this is a deliberate homage to Resident Evils early days, or another casualty of poor scripting and acting. But either way, it’s more frustrating than humourous. You are a member of H.A.D.E.S and it’s very clear they wanted to use that name and found some words to fit into it. Maybe S.T.A.R.S felt like that in the beginning, but it’s uncomfortably bad. With age Resident Evil’s astonishingly bad dialogue and gaffs became funny, but at the time it was mainly just confusing.

The frustrations come thick and fast in Daymare though, and soon the terrible dialogue and unimaginative story will be the least of your worries, although the amount of pointlessly army buzzwords that get thrown around throughout the game is painfully high. As soon as you are given control of your latex gasmask wearing avatar, you’ll feel a strain in your hands. I was playing using an Xbox One controller but despite the ergonomic design of the gamepad, I was immediately forced to wrestle with the awkwardness of it.

There’s a certain jerk in the movement that is incredibly hard to describe and yet extremely noticeable when you play the game. It makes even walking in a straight line feel like a herculean task. Once you’ve had about enough walking as your fingers and brain can handle, the game introduces combat, which is just as infuriating.

Enemies are slow and shuffling, but so are you, so its almost a fair fight. That is until you run out of ammo because each zombie takes multiple headshots to down and the game tries to make things tense by severely lacking any bullets to help in the fight. Most encounters quickly descend into kiting around the mob of zombies while demanding to the Gaming Gods to provide some ammo, if not for their skulls then for yours. Either way, at least it ends.

Daymare 1998 Hades

When you are needlessly slowly walking down corridors or doing battle with the least interesting enemies video games have to offer your solving puzzles, because of course there’s puzzles in Daymare. The puzzles are boring, too. They don’t ever require any real problem solving and normally just have to crowbar the solution out of what you expect is probably the right answer.

Thankfully Daymare 1998 doesn’t force you to used fixed perspective and tank controls. With an over-the-shoulder camera you’ll at least not spend even more time in this game wandering into walls. And I was wrong early, there is one new thought the game has. Reloading in Daymare will have you dropping your magazine and any bullets left in it. It’s almost a good idea, but it is so buried in tedium that I forgot about it almost immediately after discovering it.

There’s a belief that the 90s were a golden age of horror games and that everything done since then, every year marching away from that glorious past has been a terrible mistake. Games like the remake of the Resident Evil 2 reinforce the nostalgia goggles that people have of this time, when they were young and extremely easily pleased. I fear that the studio behind Daymare has these goggles permanently fixed over their eyes. The game stumbles awkwardly through its homages and blindly crashes into every horror trope that has been improved or removed in the subsequent two decades of learning and experimentation.

There isn’t an original idea in Daymare 1998, nothing that makes adds any improvement to the games it emulates. It doesn’t examine any of the mechanics that it lifted from the past and you’re left wondering how anyone had fun with these even two decades ago. Daymare is so unconsidered that it retroactively makes games like Resident Evil worse.

Review code provided by the publisher. You can get the game on Steam.

The post Daymare 1998 Review – Please Let It End by Rosh Kelly appeared first on Wccftech.

À partir d’avant-hierWccftech

Ni No Kuni Wrath of The White Witch Remastered Review – High Lord of JRPGS

Par : Rosh Kelly

Ni no Kuni Wrath of the White Witch Remastered

Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch was the kind of game that from a single screenshot or trailer, immediately made you fall in love with the love. When it released in 2011, the game captivated audiences with its gorgeous art style, adorable characters, and ridiculous pedigree. Now, eight years later the game is coming out on the Nintendo Switch, but can its magic still hold?

Playing as Oliver, you are swept away to a magical world where you must do battle with the titular white witch and evil Djinn. Ni No Kuni is a JRPG, which can be a little off-putting to a lot of people. JRPGs are defined for their overlapping, often complex systems, and sprawling winding narratives. Ni No Kuni has these, but the scale of it all is toned down enough that less intense players can still understand, utilise, and enjoy them. The story is cute and uncomplicated. There is an easily defined line between the good and bad characters and events, but the people and places you stumble across on the way are enchanting.

But what really made it stand out way back when was the name attached to it. Studio Ghibli is beyond famous for its anime’s such as Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. For a lot of us, these films are what introduced us to Japanese animation, and are filled with a certain kind of childish magic that is next to impossible to replicate. When Ni No Kuni came out, you can feel that same sense of magic and wonder in the game, and thankfully, you can still feel it on the Switch version.

It’s almost impossible to say where exactly this magic comes from. Ni No Kuni had a sequel last year, but without Ghibli’s influence, it just didn’t feel quite the same to me. Maybe it’s because the first weapon you see in the sequel is a literal gun, where the original has players running around with a stick for the first several hours. Maybe the animation just doesn’t quite have that same movement that makes Studio Ghibli’s work so iconic. Whatever it is, it has been successfully distilled into a handheld version that is perfect for anyone.

This is great game to introduce younger audiences to JRPGs in a way that isn’t threatening or overwhelming. And at the same time is also just a stellar JRPG for adults and fans of the genre. People who only like serious plotlines and narratives arcs probably won’t have much fun talking to Mr. Drippy, the Lord High Lord of the fairies, but for everyone else, it’s hard not to be enchanted but its impressive bulwark of innocent adventures.

Ni no Kuni Wrath of the White Witch Remastered

Throughout your adventure, you’ll be collecting familiars to do battle with, each with skills and abilities to learn about. Fighting is all about balancing and timing your actions, and with a shared health pool, its fund and easy to experiment. Outside of combat, when you are watching long cutscenes and forgetting that this is a game, you’ll be healing the brokenhearted. This is a slightly strange system that involves you taking an emotion from someone with more to spare to give to another lacking. The first case of this is taking a little enthusiasm from one guard to give to another. It’s a bit strange, and could easily be opened to some complex moral dilemmas, but the game is so innocent you never have to worry about it.

Its age is noticeable though, despite the wonder. Although the art style is more or less ageless with its bright colours, cartoonish design, and thick black lines, it’s not as crisp as other more recent games. For the Nintendo Switch, it’s probably easiest to compare it to Breath of Wild, where Zelda’s definition is just a little bit stronger. It still looks fantastic in both big screen and handheld mode, although the characters on the overworld can be a little small when using the Switch in handheld mode, but you can see its age.

But one of Ni No Kuni’s biggest attractions is something that can be a little bit difficult to enjoy on the switch, the music. The full weight of Studio Ghibli’s orchestral skill can be heard through the game, highlighting and enhancing the emotional journey of Oliver, and it’s incredible. But the Switch is often seen as a platform for casual games, games that can be played with the television blaring in the background. Ni No Kuni is a game that deserves your complete attention, and sometimes, even when grinding for levels around the Dark Forest it can be all too eager to throw on a podcast.

But there is something special about Ni No Kuni, something lost in the sequel, at least in my opinion. There is a wonder that can’t be found so well refined in other games, and it is a combination of a delightful story, incredible cast, awesome art style and complementing music.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch (code provided by the publisher). You can get a digital copy for PC via Green Man Gaming at a 10% discount.

The post Ni No Kuni Wrath of The White Witch Remastered Review – High Lord of JRPGS by Rosh Kelly appeared first on Wccftech.

SAPPHIRE Nitro+ Radeon RX 5700XT – Top Tier Navi

Par : Keith May

AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 series is finally getting the much-awaited custom variants and SAPPHIRE is finally out with its new Nitro+ lineup designed for RDNA based graphics cards. Having launched in July, the AMD Radeon RX 5700 lineup introduced very competitive prices for mainstream tier graphics cards which would go against the NVIDIA GeForce RTX lineup. Now, AIBs are further expanding the lineup with their non-reference variants that offer better cooling performance and higher out of box clock speeds.

The Radeon RX 5700 series uplifted AMD by bringing a modern architecture design and moving away from its GCN design. 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 tech 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.

Compared to NVIDIA’s RTX 20 SUPER lineup, the AMD Radeon RX 5700 is much cheaper. The AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT is $100 cheaper than the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER while the Radeon RX 5700 is $50 US cheaper than the GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER and costs the same as the GeForce RTX 2060 (non-SUPER). The AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT costs closer to the RTX 2070 but that card has been replaced by the new SUPER option which means that the RX 5700 XT, while positioned against the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER is priced at RTX 2060 SUPER level.

Well, in terms of performance the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT is supposed to be 10% faster than the RTX 2070 on average and the Radeon RX 5700 is supposed to be 10% faster than the RTX 2060 on average. The SUPER cards are almost 15% faster than their predecessors on average and since the Radeon RX 5700 series is much lower-priced, the should offer slightly better value. The biggest take away is that Radeon RX 5700 series doesn’t support extra RTX features such as Ray-Tracing, DLSS that do make the RTX series a more compelling option and future-proof for next-gen titles that are going to support these features.

So we can say that the AMD Radeon RX 5700 series is great for users who are purely eyeing raw performance in gaming at better prices. The Radeon RX 5700 series is a much-needed lineup and an upgrade from the older Polaris cards but we will find out if they hold up in our tests.

So for this review, I will be taking a look at the SAPPHIRE Nitro+ Radeon RX 5700 XT. This card uses a brand new design which is built first for Navi GPUs. It comes with a 5 heat pipe design as well as a finned heatsink plate for VRAM and VRM cooling and uses triple fans.  The card will retail at $439 US which is a 10%  premium over the reference model.

The AMD Radeon RX 5700 Series Family

The Radeon RX 5700 series includes three graphics cards, the Radeon RX 5700 XT, Radeon RX 5700, and the Radeon RX 5700 XT Anniversary Edition. The Navi based Radeon RX 5700 series is also the first graphics lineup to feature PCIe 4.0 support which offers twice the bandwidth when compared to PCIe 3.0.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT Official Specifications ($399 US)

Starting with the specifications, the Radeon RX 5700 XT comes with 40 compute units in total and since AMD has already confirmed that the Compute unit design still features 64 stream processors, we will be getting 2560 stream processors in total. The AMD Navi GPU featured on the Radeon RX 5700 series comes with 160 Texture Mapping Units and 64 Raster Operation units.

The chip itself is clocked at 1605 MHz base clock but includes two additional clock speeds, a boost clock, and a game clock. The boost clock is rated at 1905 MHz while the game clock is rated at 1755 MHz. The difference between the three clock speeds is that the base clock is the target under full load (power virus), the game clock would be the traditional boost target under gaming while the boost clock is the maximum target that the card could achieve (based per chip).

With the said boost clock, AMD expects a maximum of 9.75 TFLOPs of single-precision Compute from the Radeon RX 5700 XT under its boost clock. The card also features 8 GB of GDDR6 memory which runs across a 256-bit wide bus interface. AMD will be using the latest 14 Gbps memory dies which put them on par with the Turing TU104 cards that offer bandwidth of up to 448 GB/s. The card also features two 8 pin connectors and has a total board power or TBP of 225W. The graphics card costs $399 US in reference flavors and a slight premium for the non-reference variants such as the SAPPHIRE PULSE RX 5700XT which I am testing today.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 Official Specifications ($349 US)

The second card is the Radeon RX 5700 based on the Navi Pro GPU. The reason we are not getting a Radeon RX 5700 Pro naming scheme is that it would be harder to differentiate that with AMD’s pro series cards which are aimed at content creators and workstation PCs.

This card has 2304 stream processors, 144 TMUs, 64 ROPs. The clocks are maintained at 1465 MHz base, 1725 MHz boost clock and 1625 MHz game clock. At peak boost clocks, the card will be able to deliver 7.95 TFLOPs of Compute performance. The card features an 8+6 pin connector config & it has a rated TBP of 180W.

Now based on the TBP numbers, this card should be put against the RTX 2070 which is a 175W TBP graphics card. It will be interesting to compare both cards in terms of efficiency since the NVIDIA Turing cards are based on 12nm FinFET while AMD is using the latest 7nm process node. The card costs $349 US for reference flavors. The SAPPHIRE PULSE RX 5700 will retail with a $10 premium at $359 US.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary Edition Official Specifications ($449 US)

In addition to the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT and Radeon RX 5700, AMD also introduced a 50th Anniversary Edition variant of their Radeon RX 5700 XT featuring a black and gold shroud with frequencies of 1680 MHz base clock, 1830 MHz game clock and boost clocks of up to 1980 MHz. This variant would deliver a total Compute power of 10.14 TFLOPs and should be around 5-10% faster than the Radeon RX 5700 XT. The card will be rated at a 235W TBP.

The reference variant of the Radeon RX 5700 XT cards would feature an all-aluminum alloy shroud and backplate. Inside the card is an enhanced vapor chamber which is cooled off by a blower fan. The base of the vapor chamber makes use of graphite thermal interface material which is similar to the pads used on the Radeon VII graphics card. The PCB of the card offers a 7 phase digital VRM which AMD says is designed for overclocking. The Anniversary Edtion costs $449 US and comes in reference only flavors.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 '7nm Navi RDNA' GPU Lineup Specs:

Graphics CardRadeon RX 5700 XT 50th AnniversaryRadeon RX 5700 XTRadeon RX 5700
GPU Architecture7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)
Stream Processors2560 SPs2560 SPs2304 SPs
TMUs / ROPs160 / 64160 / 64144 / 64
Base Clock1680 MHz1605 MHz1465 MHz
Boost Clock1980 MHz1905 MHz1725 MHz
Game Clock1830 MHz1755 MHz1625 MHz
Compute Power10.14 TFLOPs9.75 TFLOPs7.95 TFLOPs
VRAM8 GB GDDR68 GB GDDR68 GB GDDR6
Bus Interface256-bit256-bit256-bit
Bandwidth448 GB/s448 GB/s448 GB/s
TBP235W225W180W
Price$449 US$399 US$349 US
Launch7th July 20197th July 20197th July 2019

Radeon RX 5700 “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 its 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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Radeon Multimedia Engine – Seamless Streaming

  • Improved Encoding (New HDR/WCG Encode HEVC)
  • 8K Encode (HEVC & VP)
  • 40% encoder speedups

Navi Stats

  • 40 RDNA Compute Units
    • 80 Scalar Processors
    • 2560 Stream Processors
    • 160 64b bilinear filter units
  • Multilevel Cache
    • 4MB L2, 512Kb L1
    • 2x V$L0 Load Bandwidth
    • DCC Everywhere
  • Streamlined Graphics Engine
    • Geometry Engine (4 Prisms Shader Out, 8 Prim Shader In)
    • 64 Pixel Units
    • 4 Asynchronous Compute Enginers
    • Balanced Work Distribution & Redistribution
    • Designed for higher frequencies at lower power

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)

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.


SAPPHIRE introduced their Nitro lineup a few generations ago with the Radeon 300 series and they have continued to keep that line clean, yet a more mature in style and features.  Monochrome, sharp lines, yet packing where it counts.

The SAPPHIRE Nitro+ RX 5700XT comes in with an overclocked Base Block of 1770MHz, a Boost Clock of 2010MHz, and a Game Clock of 1905MHz.  In all our testing the card ran between 1925MHz and 1950MHz.  Memory is still 8GB of GDDR6 on a 256bit bus clocking in at an effective 14Gbps transfer rate.  So this card features an actual overclock rather than just a slightly bolstered boost clock

The shroud wraps the enormous heatsink effectively and has the usual Nitro+ colors of black, silver, and gray. The only complaint is that the shroud does have a bit of flex to it.   The backplate extends over the side of the card but has welcome cutouts for the BIOS Switch as well as exhaust and PCIe power connector cutouts. As an added bonus of functionality to the aluminum backplate SAPPHIRE has added thermal pads to help transfer additional heat from the VRM section of the back of the PCB to the backplate for extra cooling.  The cutouts on the area above the exposed heatsinks that allow air to flow from the fan through the heatsink and leave the card unrestricted is a good move, but there is quite a bit of blank space on the back of the PCB that makes me wonder if they couldn’t have made the card itself smaller and allow for more of an opening like they did in the past with high-end Radeon cards. I/O of the card gets a bit of a shakeup and now features a pair of HDMI and a pair of DisplayPort 1.4 connections

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The sides of the card expose the densely packed finned heatsink.  Peeking under the heatsink we can see that the VRAM and VRM heat dissipation plate is nicely adorned with fin stacks to help dissipate heat even better since it’s independent of the GPU core heatsink.  The large section of the heatsink between the SAPPHIRE logo and the I/O of the card is actually connected to the VRAM cooling plate to allow for exceptional memory cooling.  The VRM is connected right into the massive cooling fin stack that also doubles to make the card more rigid.

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We see a return of SAPPHIRE’s Fan Check and removable fan design making for easy cleaning of the heatsink or replacing a dead or dying fan.  They are using an asymmetrical fan design here with two 95mm fans flanking a smaller 87mm that is spinning in the opposite direction in the middle, a very interesting approach and one that is pretty effective and keeping the full bore Navi core cool and quiet.  SAPPHIRE is also planning to offer replacement clear fans that feature addressable RGB in case the side color and backplate aren’t quite enough for you.

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Speaking of Addressable RGB, there’s quite a bit on here for a SAPPHIRE card.  The diffused side light is much nicer than I expected it to be and the lights on the back of the card are almost as muted as the colors of the card itself, but it all comes together in a rather impressive package.  For those who don’t want to use the TRIXX software to control the aRGB can actually use an aRGB header located on the card itself to control the lighting from the motherboard instead so that all your colors could be perfectly in sync.

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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.  I still have the results from the PULSE so they will be included for comparative purposes against the Nitro+ for those wanting to see the delta between the two.


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
Nitro+ RX 5700XTNavi25601770/1905/20108GB GDDR614Gbps
Pulse RX 5700XTNavi25601670/1825/19258GB GDDR614Gbps
NVIDIA RTX 2070 SUPER FETuring25601605/17708GB GDDR614Gbps
AMD RX 5700XTNavi 25601605/1755/19058GB GDDR614Gbps
NVIDIA RTX 2060 SUPERTuring21761470/16508GB GDDR614Gbps
AMD RX 5700Navi 23041465/1625/17258GB GDDR614Gbps
NVIDIA RTX 2060 FETuring19041365/1686GB GDDR614Gbps

Drivers Used

Drivers 
Radeon Settings 19.9.2
GeForce436.30

Firestrike Extreme

Firestrike is running the DX11 API and is still a good measure of GPU scaling performance, in this test we ran the Extreme version of Firestrike which runs at 1440p and we recorded the Graphics Score only as 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. The default fan curve for the SAPPHIRE PULSE RX 5700XT was much more favorable than in the past where the sound level was prioritized, this time the target is thermals and allows the card to ramp up the fan to maintain the stock 73C thermal target.

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 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.

Assassins Creed Odyssey

Assassins Creed Odyssey sees a return of the Anvil Next Engine and does a wonderful job beating the daylights out of modern hardware.  Because of this, we run the game at the High preset to reduce the impact that the Volumetric Clouds have on performance but it is still present to give an idea of overall gameplay performance.  We take our measurements from the built-in benchmarking tool

Total War Three Kingdoms

Total War Three Kingdoms pulled an interesting move by leaving out DX12 this go around so we take a look at their engine being powered by DX11, and it proves to still be quite the task. At the Ultra Preset, it is able to bring even the mightiest to their knees. We took our results from the Campain option under 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.

The Division 2

The Division 2 returns with the Snowdrop Engine refined and tuned for DX12 and the performance of DX12 vs DX11 is proof positive of this.  We run the game at the Ultra Preset and use the built-in benchmarking tool for measuring.

Resident Evil 2

The Resident Evil 2 Remake was one of the most anticipated games of the year and it more than delivered.  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.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Wolfenstein Youngblood gets us back into the alternate history world of the Wolfenstein series and sees a return of the id Tech 6 Engine on the Vulkan API.  We tested this game using the Ultra preset but ensured that all dynamic options were set to static and took our measurements from the entrance of Riverside and making a run through the streets to the first checkpoint at the keypad on the door.


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 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.

Assassins Creed Odyssey

Assassins Creed Odyssey sees a return of the Anvil Next Engine and does a wonderful job beating the daylights out of modern hardware.  Because of this, we run the game at the High preset to reduce the impact that the Volumetric Clouds have on performance but it is still present to give an idea of overall gameplay performance.  We take our measurements from the built-in benchmarking tool

Total War Three Kingdoms

Total War Three Kingdoms pulled an interesting move by leaving out DX12 this go around so we take a look at their engine being powered by DX11, and it proves to still be quite the task. At the Ultra Preset, it is able to bring even the mightiest to their knees. We took our results from the Campain option under 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.

The Division 2

The Division 2 returns with the Snowdrop Engine refined and tuned for DX12 and the performance of DX12 vs DX11 is proof positive of this.  We run the game at the Ultra Preset and use the built-in benchmarking tool for measuring.

Resident Evil 2

The Resident Evil 2 Remake was one of the most anticipated games of the year and it more than delivered.  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.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Wolfenstein Youngblood gets us back into the alternate history world of the Wolfenstein series and sees a return of the id Tech 6 Engine on the Vulkan API.  We tested this game using the Ultra preset but ensured that all dynamic options were set to static and took our measurements from the entrance of Riverside and making a run through the streets to the first checkpoint at the keypad on the door.

Overclocking the SAPPHIRENitro+ RX 5700XT resulted in a bit better core frequency that I expected without resorting to modified drivers or power play tables to really tune things up.  The SAPPHIRE Nitro+ RX 5700XT has an 8+1+2 Phase Power Delivery allowed me to push the GPU core to a stable target of 2150MHz, which was the limit of what Wattman would allow and resulted in a constant 2050MHz sustained clock speed under load.  The Memory was able to push to 900MHz which was welcome since the PULSE model we recently looked at wouldn’t take any overclock..  Unlike the PULSE 5700XT where the fans hitting up to 94% put the card in uncomfortably loud territory the Nitro+ maintained a relatively quiet operating level while overclocked which was really welcome.

The SAPPHIRE Nitro+ RX5700 features dual bios just like the PULSE model did but this time actually providing a third position that allows the user to select which BIOS they want the card to operate from within the new TRIXX software, eliminating the need to go into the system to manually flip the switch, a great addition. The SAPPHIRE Nitro+ RX 5700XT has three clock settings including a Boost clock of up to 2010MHz and a Game clock of 1905MHz. The Secondary, or Silent setting reduces clock targets and raises target temps to allow for potentially quieter operation. In this mode, the card performs at a Boost clock of up to 1925MHz and a Game clock of up to 1925
MHz.

Firestrike Extreme

Firestrike is running the DX11 API and is still a good measure of GPU scaling performance, in this test we ran the Extreme version of Firestrike which runs at 1440p and we recorded the Graphics Score only as 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.

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.

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.

The Division 2

The Division 2 returns with the Snowdrop Engine refined and tuned for DX12 and the performance of DX12 vs DX11 is proof positive of this.  We run the game at the Ultra Preset and use the built-in benchmarking tool for measuring.

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. The default fan curve for the SAPPHIRE PULSE RX 5700XT was much more favorable than in the past where the sound level was prioritized, this time the target is thermals and allows the card to ramp up the fan to maintain the stock 73C thermal target.  The catch there was once overclocked the fans would need to ramp to 94% to maintain a similar thermal margin for very little gains in performance.

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.

When I reviewed the SAPPHIRE PULSE RX 5700XT I mentioned how it was as premium feeling as the previous Nitro+ releases from SAPPHIRE and it left me wondering what they had in store for a Nitro+ lineup if that was coming.  I did not foresee what they released.  SAPPHIRE has created a grown-up version of Navi and delivered on every single front, even the addressable RGB that runs the side of the card and along the backplate feels well-executed and classy, missing that aggressive gamery vibe of others. The ability to control the lighting off of the motherboard is a very welcome addition as well.  If there’s not enough RGB for you then SAPPHIRE will be selling a replacement fan kit that features aRGB lighting for another $29.99, but that puts the total cost absurdly close to the RTX 2070 SUPER.  And that is the real issue that you run into with 5700XT based cards that are flirting with the ~$450 mark, that’s really close to the base models of the RTX 2070 Super, a card that is still faster than the 5700XT and has quite a bit of overclocking headroom that will only extend that lead for around 10% more than the cost of these cards.  Compared to the base models it is about $100 or 25% more but as these custom models creep up in price that gap closes, so anything more than what SAPPHIRE did here blurs the lines, they were smart to keep their price at $439 and not go higher.

Performance of the SAPPHIRE Nitro+ from frame rates to cooling is excellent and continues to reduce the reasons you would not go for an aftermarket design.  The only drawback is its length, the card is long, very long.  If length constraints are an issue the PULSE may be the better option.

Overclocking has never been Navi’s strong point but this card can muster up a bit and extend it even further from the reference RX 5700xt’s performance making it’s 10% price premium feel a bit more worth it.  But more than that is the whisper that it operates at even while combating its higher power draw.  The SAPPHIRE Nitro+ RX 5700XT is indeed top tier Navi and the aftermarket card that needs to be at the top of your list if the RX 5700XT is what you’re wanting.

 

The post SAPPHIRE Nitro+ Radeon RX 5700XT – Top Tier Navi by Keith May appeared first on Wccftech.

SEGA Genesis Mini Console Review – The Console War for Shelf Space is Heating Up

Par : Kai Powell

SEGA Genesis Mini

Not even a decade ago, stores were filled with micro consoles filled with various games and rarely any classics. Every year, I’d see CVS shelves or mall kiosks pop up with micro-consoles aimed at kids made of cheap plastic and an even cheaper lineup of titles. These were almost always a grey market affair and more often than not filled with weird NES games by the dozens. It wasn’t until 2016 that we had our first major player enter the microgames console space with an official release: Nintendo and the NES Classic Edition. Since then, Nintendo and Sony have been at odds with their own mini consoles while Sega was notably absent from this miniature console war. That is, until September 2019, when SEGA is about to release their first official micro-console: The SEGA Genesis Mini, or SEGA Mega Drive Mini, depending on your region.

The SEGA Genesis Mini’s design is what collectors of these modern micro consoles should come to expect. Two USB ports adorn the front of the console for the specially designed controllers with ports on the back for power, via micro-USB, and video over HDMI (with an AC brick included in the package). All of this comes neatly in a package with two of the classic 3-button Genesis controllers and a box adorned with the old grey-on-black graphing paper motif that the SEGA Genesis first launched with three decades ago. 

From a design standpoint, the SEGA Genesis Mini might be my favorite of the major four micro consoles. All of the buttons on the Genesis Mini itself are functional, or moveable at the very least. The power rocker switch does exactly what it’s intended for, the reset button brings up the quick save/reset/main menu and the volume slider actually moves up and down. There’s even a little marking on the front of the Genesis Mini where headphones could be plugged in if this was a full-sized unit. 

Perhaps most interesting of all is the cartridge slot on top where specially-produced cartridges can be slotted into the top if you happen to pick up one of the special editions available in Asian territories or get a cartridge from SEGA at one of their various press events. Since I wasn’t lucky enough to come across either, I just had to pretend that I had a miniature copy of Quackshot sticking out of the cartridge slot since it was one of the titles I wanted most to be included with the SEGA Genesis Mini that was sadly omitted from the final list of 42 titles. SEGA will also be releasing additional non-functioning addons for the SEGA CD and 32X just in case you wanted to create the infamous ‘Tower of Power’ next to your television. 

If you’re going to by playing classic games on classic-styled hardware, you’re going to want to play with controllers that match that era of gaming. Included with the SEGA Genesis Mini are a pair of 3-button controllers of the same size and form factor of the very first run of controllers printed in 1989 (even down to the red button lettering from the first controller revision). Each controller is tipped with a standard USB connection and stamped with the SEGA logo on the end, although I would’ve preferred to see SEGA lean more into the authenticity and change up the cable ends to match that iconic plug tip, much like Sony’s attention to detail with the PlayStation Classic. 

Compared to the PlayStation Classic’s controller, the 3-button Genesis Mini controller is a bit heftier and sturdier throughout. The backside of the controller as a deep recess where my fingers comfortably slipped into to hold just like when I was a kid playing Sonic 2 in single sittings. All three face buttons have a loud clacking sound to them that should wear off as the controllers get broken in, but when you first pick up a Genesis controller after playing around with the PlayStation Classic, the squishy inputs on the PSX become more apparent. 

Truth be told, when I had a Genesis, I never had the original Model 1 controllers, so the feel of the very original ‘Batwing’ style controllers is new to me. I grew up with the revised 3-button controllers with the ball bearing inside, so this stiffer d-pad included with the Genesis Mini controllers does have some growing pains to get accustomed to. SEGA certainly nailed it with trying to be as close to authentic to the first SEGA Genesis release but for those that desire control over authenticity, I would advise looking into other replacements for the iconic MK-1650 controller. Of course, this doesn’t apply to those that pick up the Japanese Mega Drive Mini as this micro-console variant includes the newer 6-button controller in the box. 

Running a six-button controller is more important than you might initially think for the Genesis Mini. Of the 42 games included with the micro-console, a number of them support six-button control (and play far better because of it). Both Street Fighter II’ and Eternal Champions operate in a very strange control scheme on the original controller: A/B/C are set for each level of punch and you have to tap the Start button to switch over to kicks, making it quite awkward to input more complex combos versus having all six buttons readily available on the updated six-button controller. Other titles like Comic Zone and Mortal Kombat are still playable with the three-button controller, requiring some alternate control methods to play instead. If you can get your hands on a six-button USB controller from the likes of Retrobit or 8BitDo, I highly recommend that being your first upgrade to the SEGA Genesis Mini to get the most enjoyment out of the console. 

The SEGA Genesis Mini’s presentation is simple yet functional. All forty-two titles are readily available from the moment you turn on the console and can be sorted by alphabetical title, genre, the number of players, and release date (no option to favorite titles and put them at the top of the list). Tapping the B button lets you switch the menu over to spine view so you can fit all 42 titles on the screen and choose between them quickly. The settings menu is similarly barebones with options for language support and whether you want to choose from one of three wallpaper designs as you play. Screen settings only offer two modes whether you want a 4:3 aspect ratio or fullscreen stretched display. Either mode can support an optional CRT filter by pressing the C button in this menu. This menu is only accessible from the main title screen, so you won’t be able to adjust the display ratio in-game without first saving your progress and closing the game.

Each game has their own separate quick save menu with four slots, so you won’t have to worry about someone accidentally erasing your Shining Force progress when they’re playing Strider (and this save data can be locked to prevent accidentally overwriting the wrong slot as well). This can be reached by one of two ways: holding the Start button down for five seconds, or simply pressing the Reset button on the console itself. For games like Castlevania Bloodlines that require a lot of trial and error in the later stages, I found myself reaching for the Reset button far more often than having to wait out those long five seconds via the controller. 

When it comes to actually playing the titles on the SEGA Genesis Mini, not much needs to be said. Each title plays just as I remember them with the same sprite flashes and slowdown popping up in the usual places. Even running through my HDMI capture box and playing on a TV with Game Mode enabled, I ran into no discernible latency issues. Compared to the AtGames models that fans have been less-than-thrilled about for years, the SEGA Genesis Mini is buttery smooth action.  

For the most part, the lineup of games for the SEGA Genesis Mini feels similar to the numerous collections of titles that SEGA has released over the past decade. The first two Sonic titles, Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Vectorman, and Shining Force are all titles that I’ve played so many times whenever SEGA releases a new vintage collection. Despite this, the majority of the lineup for the SEGA Genesis Mini contains a great number of surprises. If it wasn’t for Konami’s Anniversary Collection of Castlevania titles, this would’ve been the first time I’ve played Castlevania Bloodlines since owning it for the original hardware. The same goes for Mega Man: The Wily Wars, something I’ve never played before in my life. Among the lineup of titles in the SEGA Genesis Mini, I feel like there’s a wide variety of titles that should appeal to both people that want to re-experience those nostalgic days in front of a tube TV as well as those who wanted to see where Sonic the Hedgehog first got his roots. 

The SEGA Genesis Mini is nothing short of a gift to fans who want to rejoin the 16-bit revolution. A diverse lineup and true-to-the-original controllers both help cement this miniature console as one of the top five micro systems on the market. The extra features and GUI wrapper of the SEGA Genesis Mini both lack features of their competitors and stands out as one of the few negatives to discover about SEGA’s classic system. Whether you’re in the market for another micro console on your shelf or not, SEGA certainly does what Nintendon’t: a lineup of games that isn’t afraid to shed some blood (and tears) and some of the dirtiest electronic soundtracks you’ll ever hear.

Review unit provided by the manufacturer.

The post SEGA Genesis Mini Console Review – The Console War for Shelf Space is Heating Up by Kai Powell appeared first on Wccftech.

MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X 8 GB Graphics Card Review – MSI Pushes Navi One Step Ahead!

AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 series is finally getting the much-awaited custom variants and MSI is out with an entirely new lineup designed just for RDNA based graphics cards. Launched last month, the AMD Radeon RX 5700 lineup introduced very competitive prices for mainstream tier graphics cards which would go against the NVIDIA GeForce RTX lineup, now AIBs are further expanding the lineup with their own non-reference variants that offer better cooling performance and higher out of box clock speeds.

The Radeon RX 5700 series uplifted AMD by bringing a modern architecture design and moving away from their GCN design. 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.

Compared to NVIDIA’s RTX 20 SUPER lineup, the AMD Radeon RX 5700 is much cheaper. The AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT is $100 cheaper than the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER while the Radeon RX 5700 is $50 US cheaper than the GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER and costs the same as the GeForce RTX 2060 (non-SUPER). The AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT costs closer to the RTX 2070 but that card has been replaced by the new SUPER option which means that the RX 5700 XT, while positioned against the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER is priced at RTX 2060 SUPER level.

Well, in terms of performance the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT is supposed to be 10% faster than the RTX 2070 on average and the Radeon RX 5700 is supposed to be 10% faster than the RTX 2060 on average. The SUPER cards are almost 15% faster than their predecessors on average and since the Radeon RX 5700 series is much lower-priced, the should offer slightly better value. The biggest take away is that Radeon RX 5700 series doesn’t support extra RTX features such as Ray-Tracing, DLSS that do make the RTX series a more compelling option and future-proof for next-gen titles that are going to support these features.

So we can say that the AMD Radeon RX 5700 series is great for users who are purely eyeing raw performance in gaming at better prices. The Radeon RX 5700 series is definitely a much-needed lineup and an upgrade from the older Polaris cards but we will find out if they hold up in our tests.

So for this review, I will be taking a look at the MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X. 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 will retail at $439.99 US which is a $40 US premium over the reference model.

The AMD Radeon RX 5700 Series Family

The Radeon RX 5700 series includes three graphics cards, the Radeon RX 5700 XT, Radeon RX 5700, and the Radeon RX 5700 XT Anniversary Edition. The Navi based Radeon RX 5700 series is also the first graphics lineup to feature PCIe 4.0 support which offers twice the bandwidth when compared to PCIe 3.0.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT Official Specifications ($399 US)

Starting with the specifications, the Radeon RX 5700 XT comes with 40 compute units in total and since AMD has already confirmed that the Compute unit design still features 64 stream processors, we will be getting 2560 stream processors in total. The AMD Navi GPU featured on the Radeon RX 5700 series comes with 160 Texture Mapping Units and 64 Raster Operation units.

The chip itself is clocked at 1605 MHz base clock but includes two additional clock speeds, a boost clock, and a game clock. The boost clock is rated at 1905 MHz while the game clock is rated at 1755 MHz. The difference between the three clock speeds is that the base clock is the target under full load (power virus), the game clock would be the traditional boost target under gaming while the boost clock is the maximum target that the card could achieve (based per chip).

With the said boost clock, AMD expects a maximum of 9.75 TFLOPs of single-precision Compute from the Radeon RX 5700 XT. The card also features 8 GB of GDDR6 memory which runs across a 256-bit wide bus interface. AMD will be using the latest 14 Gbps memory dies which put them on par with the Turing TU104 cards that offer bandwidth of up to 448 GB/s. The card also features two 8 pin connectors and has a total board power or TBP of 225W. The graphics card costs $399 US in reference flavors and a slight premium for the non-reference variants such as the MSI EVOKE OC which I am testing today.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 Official Specifications ($349 US)

The second card is the Radeon RX 5700 based on the Navi Pro GPU. The reason we are not getting a Radeon RX 5700 Pro naming scheme is that it would be harder to differentiate that with AMD’s own pro series cards which are aimed at content creators and workstation PCs.

This card has 2304 stream processors, 144 TMUs, 64 ROPs. The clocks are maintained at 1465 MHz base, 1725 MHz boost clock and 1625 MHz game clock. At peak boost clocks, the card will be able to deliver 7.95 TFLOPs of Compute performance. The card features an 8+6 pin connector config & has a rated TBP of 180W.

Now based on the TBP numbers, this card should be put against the RTX 2070 which is a 175W TBP graphics card. It will be interesting to compare both cards in terms of efficiency since the NVIDIA Turing cards are based on 12nm FinFET while AMD is using the latest 7nm process node. The card costs $349 US for reference flavors.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary Edition Official Specifications ($449 US)

In addition to the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT and Radeon RX 5700, AMD also introduced a 50th Anniversary Edition variant of their Radeon RX 5700 XT featuring a black and gold shroud with frequencies of 1680 MHz base clock, 1830 MHz game clock and boost clocks of up to 1980 MHz. This variant would deliver a total Compute power of 10.14 TFLOPs and should be around 5-10% faster than the Radeon RX 5700 XT. The card will be rated at a 235W TBP.

The reference variant of the Radeon RX 5700 XT cards would feature an all-aluminum alloy shroud and backplate. Inside the card is an enhanced vapor chamber which is cooled off by a blower fan. The base of the vapor chamber makes use of graphite thermal interface material which is similar to the pads used on the Radeon VII graphics card. The PCB of the card offers a 7 phase digital VRM which AMD says is designed for overclocking. The Anniversary Edtion costs $449 US and comes in reference only flavors.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 '7nm Navi RDNA' GPU Lineup Specs:

Graphics CardRadeon RX 5700 XT 50th AnniversaryRadeon RX 5700 XTRadeon RX 5700
GPU Architecture7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)7nm Navi (RDNA 1st Gen)
Stream Processors2560 SPs2560 SPs2304 SPs
TMUs / ROPs160 / 64160 / 64144 / 64
Base Clock1680 MHz1605 MHz1465 MHz
Boost Clock1980 MHz1905 MHz1725 MHz
Game Clock1830 MHz1755 MHz1625 MHz
Compute Power10.14 TFLOPs9.75 TFLOPs7.95 TFLOPs
VRAM8 GB GDDR68 GB GDDR68 GB GDDR6
Bus Interface256-bit256-bit256-bit
Bandwidth448 GB/s448 GB/s448 GB/s
TBP235W225W180W
Price$449 US$399 US$349 US
Launch7th July 20197th July 20197th July 2019

Radeon RX 5700 “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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Radeon Multimedia Engine – Seamless Streaming

  • Improved Encoding (New HDR/WCG Encode HEVC)
  • 8K Encode (HEVC & VP)
  • 40% encoder speedups

Navi Stats

  • 40 RDNA Compute Units
    • 80 Scalar Processors
    • 2560 Stream Processors
    • 160 64b bilinear filter units
  • Multilevel Cache
    • 4MB L2, 512Kb L1
    • 2x V$L0 Load Bandwidth
    • DCC Everywhere
  • Streamlined Graphics Engine
    • Geometry Engine (4 Prisms Shader Out, 8 Prim Shader In)
    • 64 Pixel Units
    • 4 Asynchronous Compute Enginers
    • Balanced Work Distribution & Redistribution
    • Designed for higher frequencies at lower power

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)

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 which brings AMD’s graphics cards on par with NVIDIA in utilizing modern memory designs for higher bandwidth.

Last month, we got to test the Radeon RX 5700 XT EVOKE OC from MSI, a brand new design built for RDNA GPUs but MSI didn’t stop at EVOKE, they have now released their best custom design for Navi GPUs, the Gaming X. We have seen several variants of the Gaming X, mostly those that come with MSI’s renowned Twin Frozr 7 and Tri-Frozr cooling but the Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X is a beast of its own. Featuring a new design scheme and a new look for the Twin Frozr 7 cooler, the RX 5700 XT Gaming X boasts some really impressive specs for a $40 US premium over the reference variant.

In addition to the custom design, the Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X comes with a non-reference PCB that ships with a higher factory overclock, featuring an 11 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 1690  MHz and a maximum boost clock of 2025 MHz. Following are the main features of the Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X graphics card:

Core/Memory

  • Boost Clock / Game Clock* / Base Clock / Memory Speed
    Up to 2025 MHz / 1870 MHz / 1730 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 5700 XT Gaming X 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 X cards. The MSI Radeon RX 5700 Gaming X 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 X 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 help 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 X series graphics cards, offering peak performance and greater stability in multiple productivity workloads.

The MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X graphics card come 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 their 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 8 GB GDDR6, PCIe 4.0 support, and OC edition.

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 8 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 drivers 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 5700 series cards, MSI is offering a brand new Twin Frozr 7 design. The Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming XT measures at 297 x 85 x 140 mm while it is also slightly taller, taking up 2.5 slots of space.

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The design of the MSI RX Gaming X 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 X series for Radeon RX 5700 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 X 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 their 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 their 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 5700 XT Gaming X Trio Teardown:

The MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT EVOKE OC makes use of a slightly non-reference PCB design, featuring a 9+2 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 cover 60% of the DRAM surface area which may not be an ideal scenario for a card that costs almost $450 US.

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The MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X has dual 8 pin power connectors which feed the card. The Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X has a rated TDP of 250W, same as the reference model.

We used the following test system for comparison between the different graphics cards. 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.

MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT EVOKE OC Test Bench:

CPUIntel Core i9-9900K @ 4.70 GHz
MotherboardAORUS Z390 Master
Video CardsMSI Radeon RX 5700 XT EVOKE OC
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER Gaming OC
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER Gaming X Trio
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming OC
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming X Trio
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming OC
Colorful iGame GeForce RTX 2080 TI Vulcan X OC
ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2080 TI OC
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2080 OC
AORUS GeForce RTX 2080 Xtreme
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 DUKE OC
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X
ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2070 OC
MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Gaming Z
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Ventus XS
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Gaming X
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ventus XS
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Titanium
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Armor X OC
MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Lightning OC
Gigabyte Radeon RX Vega 64 (Reference Air)
XFX Radeon R9 Fury X Liquid Cooled
ASUS ROG STRIX RX 580 OC
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
OSWindows 10 64-bit
  • All games were tested on 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.

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 support of DirectX 12 API and is one of the most visually intensive titles that taxes the GPU really hard.

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.

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.

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.

Assassins Creed: Origins

Assassins Creed Origins is built by the same team that made Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag. They are known for reinventing the design and game philosophy of the Assassins Creed saga and their latest title shows that. Based in Egypt, 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.

Final Fantasy XV

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).

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 5700 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.

I have been waiting for the MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X since the moment it was announced and now that it has launched, I am glad I got to take a first look at it. MSI has topped out their Twin Frozr 7 design with this iteration of the cooler, expanding and turning it into a monster of its own that’s more than enough to keep a GPU such as Navi 10 tamed under full load.

The card rocks some impressive clock speeds, 2025 MHz boost, highest I have seen so far on any RX 5700 XT variant. The clock speeds provide a massive bump over the EVOKE OC which featured its own respectable out of box factory overclock. In terms of performance, the Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X offers superb performance for a $440 US graphics card. This variant is $60 US cheaper than the RTX 2070 SUPER while having close calls with the more expensive graphics card.

While the Radeon RX 5700 series is super competitive in terms of pricing against the RTX 2060 & RTX 2070 SUPER series, one of the major issues that have crippled the reference cards was the standard heatsink design coupled with a blower fan cooler which makes too much noise. Cooling alone gives NVIDIA RTX SUPER lineup an edge over the RX 5700 series but now, with an influx of superb custom variants like the Gaming X, users will be able to get their hands on better cooling and acoustic design for a small premium over the reference models.

The extra costs go 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. A solid PCB with an 11 phase design and dual 8-pin connectors keep this card fed with lots of power which would be useful in getting that extra juice out with manual overclocks. I even saw some nice gains in AAA titles with a small overclock which just shows it is waiting to be pushed even more.

The temperatures are really good on the card and nothing as rampant as what we saw on the reference models. AMD clarified that temperatures of up to 110C are expected and within spec of the RX 5700 series but you don’t have to worry about this specific card hitting anywhere close to those numbers. With that said, the 0db technology and the added quiet mode are great profiles for users who want a silent operation with this card. The card is also beautiful on its own, a stunning brushed aluminum design which covers the front and backplate along with MSI’s Mystic Aura RGB technology which provides a spectacular light show on the side ‘Gaming’ logo.

MSI’s Radeon RX 5700 XT EVOKE OC is a fantastic card in its own regards but the Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X further pushes AMD’s rDNA architecture, providing a fantastic performance uplift by providing one of the highest factory overclock, a monster cooling solution and a price that remains to be beaten by other manufacturers.

The post MSI Radeon RX 5700 XT Gaming X 8 GB Graphics Card Review – MSI Pushes Navi One Step Ahead! by Hassan Mujtaba appeared first on Wccftech.

AI: The Somnium Files (PS4) Review – Don’t Sleep on This Thriller

Par : Kai Powell

AI: The Somnium Files Key Art

When it comes to utterly insane and often non-sensical plots to video games, Kotaro Uchikoshi’s usually on the tip of my tongue. His unique style of storytelling, filled with foreshadowing the most obscure of plot twists, makes him one of my absolute favorite directors of the visual novel medium. From The Nonary Games to Punch Line, each of his games have had a lingering effect on me that I can’t stop thinking about. When Spike Chunsoft approached me about covering his latest adventure, I knew that I simply couldn’t turn down a chance for an early look at Uchikoshi’s latest murder mystery. These are my thoughts on AI: The Somnium Files, a game that I’ve spent the past week dreaming about.

Told through the perspective of Kaname Date, a police officer with the unique task of Psyncing and delving into the minds of those linked up to a similarly-named Psync machine, Uchikoshi’s latest tale is about solving a rash of serial killings that somehow leave the victims with their left eyes gouged out. Date similarly is missing his own left eye, instead replaced with an AI-controlled robot that commonly goes by Aiba (a play on the Japanese word for partner, aibo). Often, the only clues are left behind in the dreamscapes of those related to the investigation. In a similar fashion to the likes of The Nonary Games or other Uchikoshi-helmed mystery adventures, the real gameplay takes part in these dream sequences. 

AI: The Somnium Files’ dream sequences will have you Psyncin’ in the brain to solve smaller pieces of the puzzle that runs through the story. These puzzle sequences are not too far off from the escape room challenges set forth in The Nonary Games and are a bit more straightforward in execution, though certainly not in how abstract the solutions can become. While the player controls Date in the real world investigations, it’s up to the AI partner living inside his prosthetic eye to solve these dream puzzles. The very first puzzle that Aiba comes across in The Somnium Files involves a gun and a locked door; rather than shooting the lock like any other fictional cop might, the gun can instead be used as a key to open the door of the imagination. 

The Somnium Files Nanocables

Just because you can visualize how a puzzle will end in your mind’s eye doesn’t mean it can be as easy to execute. Each dreamscape sequence lasts but six minutes long; any longer and the Psync can have irrevocable effects on the player’s mind (which of course means Game Over). Every action consumes time, whether it’s moving around the Somnium levels, investigating clues, or putting two puzzle pieces together to reveal the next clue. While moving around takes fractions of a second to move each step, every main action that Aiba undertakes consumes a set amount of time from the 360-second limit. Certain tasks can reward Aiba with a consumable item known as a ‘Timie’ that modifies/reduces the time another action will take (and some poor choices can lead to a negative Timie that doubles the time cost of your next action). Because of how limited the time is for Aiba to conduct her investigation, sometimes it can be helpful to take a quick five or ten-second action if it rewards you with a Timie that cuts the time of your next investigation down to ¼ of the normal cost.

These Somnium dreamscapes are hands-down the best aspect of AI: The Somnium Files’ gameplay. With Uchikoshi no longer confined to making single rooms to escape from, the psyche of the unconscious mind becomes an interesting playground to investigate. Each key character that you investigate throughout the story has a radically different Somnium to explore, each with their own symbolism and esoteric ideas. It’s often claimed in the story that objects within the Somnium are based upon the characters’ past, as the mind can’t simply create new memories on a whim…

The Somnium Files Knife

Also throughout the Somnium events are branching paths depending on how players’ solve the given mental lock. This is how AI: The Somnium Files branches out its story paths and takes players on radically different paths throughout the story. Because of how the story branches, events that happen through one storyline might play out differently, or not at all, depending on how the story progresses. Much like The Nonary Games, players can jump around to any point of the story that they’ve previously seen, with each day of investigation marking a new chapter to jump into. The Somnium Files goes even more granular and allows players to jump into any area in a particular chapter, rather than having to start the day fresh.

Kaname Date’s artificial eye can also help with investigations outside of the Somnium dreamscapes. Among its features are an x-ray mode (that can’t see through clothing, no matter how much the player tries), a zooming lens, and a thermograph that detects residual heat left behind as well as the rise in body temperature when their conversational partner is lying. Aiba has a few neat tricks available that the likes of Phoenix Wright wishes he could use in his investigations and gives these detective sequences some unique aspects.

When Date isn’t solving the next murder conducted by the New Cyclops Killer, sometimes he enjoys a bit of casual banter with those around him. Aiba is usually the player’s first choice for conversation and the two of them have a great buddy cop dynamic that shines in the localization of AI: The Somnium Files. Other characters that Date meets during his investigations, especially the likes of A-set, an internet idol, and Ota, one of her biggest fans, provide some truly amusing banter and it’s clear that AI: The Somnium Files is one of the best localization works that Spike Chunsoft has produced since 428: Shibuya Scramble. Whether you plan on playing AI: The Somnium Files with the original Japanese dub or English, both languages provide an equally enjoyable experience.

The Somnium Files Gear Metal

Uchikoshi’s egregious style of storytelling is not without its own pretentiousness, as one may have learned from playing Punch Line or his other more famous localized works. In order to truly immerse yourself in the story his team is weaving, a suspension of disbelief is oftentimes a necessity. After all, two college-age kids having a chat about parallel worlds and The Mandela Effect can be a perfectly normal and natural conversation to listen in on in Kaname Date’s world. 

While the story and characters of AI: The Somnium Files are both great, the presentation itself lacks the same polish when it comes to the 3D models. There are some interesting action sequences that are instead acted out offscreen while the camera pans elsewhere and many of the sight gags lack any real visual cues. Thankfully, the writing more than makes up for this, so often times it’s best to consider The Somnium Files to be more like a visual novel with some extra animations thrown in. 

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

The post AI: The Somnium Files (PS4) Review – Don’t Sleep on This Thriller by Kai Powell appeared first on Wccftech.

Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition [Video]

Par : Keith May

The Razer Huntsman Elite and other Huntsman keyboards have been quite popular for the company, but now they’re releasing my preferred form factor and the Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition brings the Huntsman mentality down to the TKL form factor.  The Huntsman Tournament Edition brings a few key updates for the company as they’re clearly moving more towards a market-friendly model and are listening.  The new Razer Linear Optical Switch, Doubleshot PBT keycaps, On-board storage for profiles, and it does not require Razer Synapse software to be installed.  When it comes to customization Razer has thankfully gone with a standard bottom row and now you can replace the entirety of the keycaps if you wish as the stem on the Linear Optical Switch matches that of the standard Cherry style.  But how did we feel about the $129 board in general? Find out in our video review

Razer Linear Optical Switch

AttributeValue
Actuation Force40g
Actuation Point1.0mm (vs standard 1.2mm)
Travel Distance3.5mm
Actuation To Reset0mm
Debounce Delay0ms
KeycapsDoubleshot PBT

The post Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition [Video] by Keith May appeared first on Wccftech.

Blasphemous Review – Don’t Let Yourself Go

Par : Chris Wray

I like Blasphemous. I like Blasphemous a hell of a lot. Then again, I also find myself getting incredibly frustrated with Blasphemous. If there ever was a game that would be perfect for those who are a bit into a bit of masochism, this is it. This is a game that represents all the sad parts of R.E.M.’s Everybody Hurts, after brutally murdering any remotely positive line. Okay, maybe one or two positive lines survive, but they aren’t left unscathed, having likely been slit into pieces by even the nicest folks in the game.

Personally, I’m all for this. Not only because I’m just generally miserable, but also because The Game Kitchen worked every single aspect of the game around it. There is nothing, nothing, to be found that is remotely happy. Even things that help you have a sense of the macabre.

Let’s get the obvious comparisons out of the way. Blasphemous could probably be best described as a Souls-oid-vania. It’s an exceptional side-scrolling game about being intimidated by the world, never mind the creatures within that are attempting to murder you, the penitent one. Everything within the game is seemingly about punishing you, despite the fact you’ve already been punishing yourself enough. You wear a conical helmet full of blood, every time you advance to a certain point to enhance your core weapon, it carves its way into your skin, drawing blood.

In fact, the way you heal in the game is just as macabre. You quite literally smash a vial of blood against your helmet. How do you recover these vials of blood? There are blood altars spread around the game at locations which you can spend your resources to both recover your health and fill up your vials or unlock extra vials, provided you have received the required item. You’re going to need as many as you can because you’ll die a lot. Also, when you die, you leave behind guilt.

Now, this is one aspect I like about the game. What is essentially the souls of this game are tears, which are used to unlock upgrades or as currency when you meet the few traders within the game. Yes, tears. You get these tears by killing enemies and – if you have the right equipment – destroying other random items within the game world. The fact that you don’t lose these tears when you die underpins the fact that you can’t ever truly feel powerful in this world. Sure, you can use them for upgrades, but you’re never going to be able to simply plough whatever’s in front of you.

This is where the real core of Blasphemous shines through. As you may have guessed from the tone of the game, the combat is very challenging. It’s both about recognising patterns of enemies, but also being incredibly careful. Also, learning how to parry. I’m terrible at parrying so my go-to move is to simply try and jump over any enemy attack. This is probably why I’ve died as many times as I have. But there’s something to be said about the variety and quality of the enemies you face.

You’ll find an almost inordinate amount of detail in each and every enemy you face. Despite the game being pixel art, you can see everything from the gore dropping from a mutated enemy’s mouth or spraying from the back of an enemy that loves to use its weapon to whip itself in the back. Though it’s when you’re fighting them, particularly when dealing a deathblow, when you see just how much The Game Kitchen has focused on the little things. I’m not even sure DOOM had this much gore.

Indeed, the attention to detail just oozes from every character, animation and scene in the game. I’m honestly not sure if I’m right, but I would bet big money on the mist (or fog?) that passes by in some areas actually containing the spirits of more miserable buggers. I’m being serious, I was sure I could see faces in there. I’m not actually sure if that’s just my mind having warped after playing over thirty hours of Blasphemous, or that I’m right.

What I do know is that every single frame and animation are so wonderfully done, it’s both beautiful and horrible to behold. It looks and plays fantastic on the Nintendo Switch with nary a single millisecond of a slowdown. Not only does it look fantastic, but it also sounds great too. From the music, which is just as imposing as the game itself, to the voice acting where everybody just sounds like they’re ready for death. It’s all masterfully done.

If only the same attention to detail was placed into the map of Blasphemous. I’ve been able to somewhat navigate myself around what is a bloody big game. Things are made easier as you progress because while it isn’t as interconnected as other games of its ilk, you do eventually find different shortcuts to help your movement throughout the games many areas and then eventually linking these areas together.

Making it somewhat difficult to navigate can be an issue for one simple reason, most of the things you find to improve your character are found in these little side rooms – as well as a number of collectable items. It’s the lore that comes with these items that I love the most, including a lovely take about a priest who would always allow others to take refuge in his church. It was only later that people found that he was a brutal serial killer. Everything is so horribly sad, angry or just looking for death in this game – I love it!

Despite loving it, I suppose it’s a negative that I don’t actually know what the hell is going on in the game. Maybe I need to be Spanish since a lot of the game is based on Spanish… mythology? Folklore? Religion? Honestly, I don’t care. I can live with not knowing what’s going on because the little bits of story and world-building I have grasped have certainly interested me.

Let’s keep talking negative and go back to the combat. While every monster has its own patterns and are killable, there are moments where the game puts you into an almost impossible position. During platforming sections, which are challenging but not impossible, you can at times find an enemy such as one that throws a cross at you. Jumping over the cross is fine, what’s not fine is jumping over the cross which would throw you into a pit of spikes, to find that the platform you were on has crumbled away, dropping you into a pit of spikes. On rare occasions, the game can be bloody annoying.

Do I understand Blasphemous? Oh god no, I’ve barely understood much past the main character is taking the fate of the world on their head and anything along the way, they’re taking on their shoulders. They have a classical martyr complex, but with a twist – they’re taking on the responsibility as well as the martyrdom. As I’ve said, I suppose it’s a negative that it’s quite impenetrable.

Still, I honestly don’t care. Did I mention that I like Blasphemous? You’re right, I did and I feel the need to say it again. Blasphemous is a fantastic game, it’s challenging and fun and the design of the game is just so engrossing in its macabre nature. Would I recommend this? In a blood-gushing heartbeat.

Nintendo Switch version reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher.

The post Blasphemous Review – Don’t Let Yourself Go by Chris Wray appeared first on Wccftech.

KFA2 GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER BLACK 8 GB Graphics Card Review – The Triple-Fan Juggernaut

Last year, NVIDIA introduced their latest Turing based GeForce RTX 20 series graphics cards, which made a complete departure from traditional GPU design and created a hybrid GPU architecture that would include a range of new technologies to power the next-generation immersive gaming experiences

The GeForce RTX 20 series was the enablement of real-time raytracing which is the holy grail of graphics and something NVIDIA took 10 years to perfect. In addition to raytracing, NVIDIA also aimed to place bets on AI which would go on to play a key role in powering features such as DLSS or Deep Learning Super Sampling.

While the GeForce RTX 20 series was generally well-received in the tech industry, the launch didn’t go without a few issues. The first and foremost problem with the new cards was the heavily taxing RTX features and a few key titles that supported it. Since the technology was new, it needed time to deliver results and it felt kind of rushed on NVIDIA’s part. The second was the pricing with each tier getting a bump in price over its predecessor.

But all of that changes this month! In less than a year, NVIDIA is now bringing forth their new RTX SUPER lineup. Think of it as the original Turing lineup but supercharged with better performance & more sensible prices. The lineup includes three cards, the GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER, GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER, and GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER. Termed in our original review as what Turing should’ve been in the first place, the GeForce RTX SUPER is to bring more gamers over the RTX bandwagon.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX SUPER Pricing Per Segment

When it comes to prices, the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER is going to retail at $699 US, the RTX 2070 SUPER is going to retail at $499 US and the RTX 2060 SUPER is going to retail at $399 US. One would ask the question that if the prices are the same as they were before, what has changed?

Well, everything aside from the prices has been upgraded. When it comes to specifications, the RTX 2080 SUPER is going to offer around 10% better performance than the Titan XP for $699 US. The RTX 2070 SUPER is said to offer 16% better performance than the RTX 2070 for $499US, putting it right under the current RTX 2080 and the RTX 2060 SUPER is said to be 15% faster than the RTX 2060 for $399 US which puts it at 1% slower than the existing RTX 2070 for a much lower price.

What happens to the existing cards? The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 and GeForce RTX 2070 are entirely replaced by their SUPER equivalents so NVIDIA and their AIBs would no longer be making more of those. There might be heavy promotions and discounts on the existing stock to clear up an inventory. As for the RTX 2060, it would exist because of the $349 US price point which makes it the perfect step up to RTX performance and feature set in this category. All cards below that fall in the GTX 16 series portfolio which offer the Turing architecture but exclude RTX features. Following is what the latest pricing chart for NVIDIA GeForce lineup looks like.

NVIDIA GeForce GPU Segment/Tier Prices

Graphics Segment2014-20152015-20162016-20172017-20182018-2019
Titan TierTitan X (Maxwell)Titan X (Pascal)Titan Xp (Pascal)Titan V (Volta)Titan RTX (Turing)
Price$999 US$1199 US$1199 US$2999 US$2499 US
Ultra Enthusiast TierGeForce GTX 980 TiGeForce GTX 980 TiGeForce GTX 1080 TiGeForce RTX 2080 TiGeForce RTX 2080 Ti
Price$649 US$649 US$699 US$999 US$999 US
Enthusiast TierGeForce GTX 980GeForce GTX 1080GeForce GTX 1080GeForce RTX 2080GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER
Price$549 US$549 US$549 US$699 US$699 US
High-End TierGeForce GTX 970GeForce GTX 1070GeForce GTX 1070GeForce RTX 2070GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER
Price$329 US$379 US$379 US$499 US$499 US
Mainstream TierGeForce GTX 960GeForce GTX 1060GeForce GTX 1060GeForce GTX 1060GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER
GeForce RTX 2060
GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
GeForce GTX 1660
Price$199 US$249 US$249 US$249 US$399 US
$349 US
$279 US
$219 US
Entry TierGTX 750 Ti
GTX 750
GTX 950GTX 1050 Ti
GTX 1050
GTX 1050 Ti
GTX 1050
GTX 1650
Price$149 US
$119 US
$149 US$139 US
$109 US
$139 US
$109 US
$149 US

In addition to the specs/price update, NVIDIA’s RTX technologies are being widely adopted major game engines and APIs such as Microsft DirectX (DXR), Vulkan, Unreal Engine, Unity and Frostbite. While there were only three RTX titles around the launch of the RTX 20 series cards, NVIDIA claims that they have at least 13 new titles coming soon which would utilize their RTX feature set to offer real-time ray tracing. These titles include the hugely anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, DOOM Eternal, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, Watch Dogs Legion, Wolfenstein Youngblood, and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2. In addition to that, with the upcoming consoles confirmed to feature ray tracing, developers can also make use of the RTX technology to fine-tune future games for the GeForce RTX hardware.

So for this review, I will be taking a look at the KFA2 GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER BLACK. This card features a triple-fan cooling solution and a custom PCB design which delivers better performance than the reference variant while supporting a factory overclock. The card retails for $559.99 US which is $60 US more than the reference Founders Edition but with the added feature set of the custom design.

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX SUPER Family

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX SUPER series is currently composed of three cards, the GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER, GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER, and GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER. Nothing has changed in terms of architecture and the cards feature the same 12nm FinFET process node. Only the assigned GPU config has changed on all three cards along with a new shroud design. But before we get into the visual changes, let’s talk specs.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER – Full TU104 GPU, 15.5 Gbps Memory

Based on the previous information and what we have seen so far, NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER would be using the TU104-450 GPU with 3072 CUDA cores, 8 GB of GDDR6 memory and would be clocked in at 15.5 Gbps along with a 256-bit bus interface. This would boost the total bandwidth to 496 GB/s which is just shy of that sweet 500 GB/s figures which could now easily be achieved with a slight overclock.

The core clocks would be maintained at 1650 MHz base and 1815 MHz boost. The card would have a TDP of 250W and would feature 8 Giga Rays/second worth of ray tracing horsepower. The card is expected to launch on the 23rd of July.

In terms of performance, the GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER is said to be around 10-15% faster on average than the Titan XP which makes it a lot faster than the GTX 1080 Ti, a card that the RTX 2080 was only able to match. The card is rated to deliver 11 TFLOPs of FP32 and 11 TFLOPs of INT32 Compute power and the tensor operations are rated at 89 TOPs which are clearly faster than RTX 2080s 10.1 TFLOPs FP32 and around 81 TOPs worth of horsepower.

It is still unclear about the wattage of this card but it is expected to hit the market later this month for $699 US. Those who have been saving up to buy a graphics card would find this a great high-end card compared to the original RTX 2080 or the Radeon VII.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER Official Photo Gallery:

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NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER – The Navi Killer For $499 US

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER is the replacement for the RTX 2070 and while the RTX 2070 was not as popular as its predecessors, the GTX 1070 or the GTX 970, the RTX 2070 SUPER might actually change that. For $499 US, the existing RTX 2070 was clearly priced a bit too high. Even if it was faster than the RTX 1080 ($649 US), the price point was higher for the card to get attention from the mainstream audience who had previously seen the **70 tier cards under $400 US. The RTX 2070 SUPER doesn’t change the price point but it changes the specs and now it’s no longer faster than the GTX 1080, it’s faster than the GTX 1080 Ti and just around the same performance of a reference RTX 2080.

In terms of specifications, the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER is everything that the rumors have told us. The GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER would be utilizing the Turing TU104-410 GPU with 2560 CUDA Cores, 184 TMUs, and 64 ROPs. It would also feature 320 Tensor Cores and 40 RT cores. The clock speeds would be maintained at 1605 MHz base and 1770 MHz boost with the TGP (Total Graphics Power) being set at 215W. The chip will be accompanied by 8 GB of GDDR6 memory operating at 14Gbps along with a 256-bit wide bus interface, delivering a total bandwidth of 448 GB/s.

When it comes to competition, the card would compete against AMD’s recently announced, 7nm RDNA based Radeon RX 5700 XT which does cost $100 US less but doesn’t have the RTX feature set that GeForce cards do support. In addition to that, while the Radeon RX 5700 XT was shown to be about 10% faster than the RTX 2070 on average, the RTX 2070 SUPER is about 16% faster average and up to 24% faster. It also has a maximum compute power of 9.1 TFLOPs FP32 / 9.1 TFLOPs INT 32 and 72 Tensor OPs. Another surprising fact about this card is that it has 10W lower power than the Radeon offering and the reference design offers two axial tech-based fans compared to just one on AMD’s reference design. So in an all reference battle, you know who the real winner would turn out to be.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Official Photo Gallery:

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NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER – More VRAM, More Cores, Higher Clocks For $399

Out of all the cards, the GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER has received one of the major upgrades. The GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER would be utilizing the full Turing TU106-410 GPU die with 2176 CUDA Cores, 136 TMUs, and 64 ROPs. It would also feature 272 Tensor Cores and 32 RT cores. The clock speeds would be maintained at 1470 MHz base and 1650 MHz boost with the TGP (Total Graphics Power) being set at 175W. The chip will be accompanied with 8 GB of GDDR6 memory operating at 14Gbps along with a 256-bit wide bus interface, delivering a total bandwidth of 448 GB/s. The Vram would be the biggest upgrade over the 6 GB RTX 2060 which also featured a cut down 192-bit bus interface.

When it comes to performance, you are paying $100 US lower for the same performance as the GeForce RTX 2070. This places the card ideally against AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 (non-XT) which has been priced at $349 US. The GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER is 15% faster on average than the existing RTX 2060 in 1440p.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER Official Photo Gallery:

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NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20 SUPER Lineup Specifications:

Graphics Card NameNVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPERNVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPERNVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPERNVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
GPU ArchitectureTuring GPU (TU106)Turing GPU (TU106)Turing GPU (TU106)Turing GPU (TU104)Turing GPU (TU104)Turing GPU (TU104)Turing GPU (TU102)
Process12nm FNN12nm FNN12nm FNN12nm FNN12nm FNN12nm FNN12nm FNN
Die Size445mm2445mm2445mm2545mm2545mm2545mm2754mm2
Transistors10.6 Billion10.6 Billion10.6 Billion13.6 Billion13.6 Billion13.6 Billion18.6 Billion
CUDA Cores1920 Cores2176 Cores2304 Cores2560 Cores2944 Cores3072 Cores4352 Cores
TMUs/ROPs120/48136/64144/64184/64192/64192/64288/96
GigaRays5 Giga Rays/s6 Giga Rays/s6 Giga Rays/s7 Giga Rays/s8 Giga Rays/s8 Giga Rays/s10 Giga Rays/s
Cache4 MB L2 Cache4 MB L2 Cache4 MB L2 Cache4 MB L2 Cache4 MB L2 Cache4 MB L2 Cache6 MB L2 Cache
Base Clock1365 MHz1470 MHz1410 MHz1605 MHz1515 MHz1650 MHz1350 MHz
Boost Clock1680 MHz1650 MHz1620 MHz
1710 MHz OC
1770 MHz1710 MHz
1800 MHz OC
1815 MHz1545 MHz
1635 MHz OC
Compute6.5 TFLOPs7.5 TFLOPs7.5 TFLOPs9.1 TFLOPs10.1 TFLOPs11.1 TFLOPs13.4 TFLOPs
MemoryUp To 6 GB GDDR6Up To 8 GB GDDR6Up To 8 GB GDDR6Up To 8 GB GDDR6Up To 8 GB GDDR6Up To 8 GB GDDR6Up To 11 GB GDDR6
Memory Speed14.00 Gbps14.00 Gbps14.00 Gbps14.00 Gbps14.00 Gbps15.50 Gbps14.00 Gbps
Memory Interface192-bit256-bit256-bit256-bit256-bit256-bit352-bit
Memory Bandwidth336 GB/s448 GB/s448 GB/s448 GB/s448 GB/s496 GB/s616 GB/s
Power Connectors8 Pin8 Pin8 Pin8+6 Pin8+8 Pin8+8 Pin8+8 Pin
TDP160W175W185W (Founders)
175W (Reference)
215W225W (Founders)
215W (Reference)
250W260W (Founders)
250W (Reference)
Starting Price$349 US$399 US$499 US$499 US$699 US$699 US$999 US
Price (Founders Edition)$349 US$399 US$599 US$499 US$699 US$699 US$1,199 US
LaunchJanuary 2019July 2019October 2018July 2019September 2018July 2019September 2018

In case you want to read our full NVIDIA Turing GPU architecture deep dive and GeForce RTX 2080 & GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition review, head over to this link.

The KFA2 GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER Black is the latest addition in KFA2’s RTX SUPER lineup and also the flagship one. This card houses a massive triple-fan cooler with several heat pipes that are made out of copper and one of the highest factory overclock we have seen yet on the RTX 2070 SUPER series custom graphics cards.

In addition to the custom design, the RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X comes with a non-reference PCB, featuring an 8+2 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 1605 MHz but the boost clock is rated at 1830 MHz over the Founders boost of 1770 MHz.

Following are some of the specifications of the KFA2 GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER Black before we go in detail.

GPU Engine Specs:

  • CUDA Cores 2560
  • Boost Clock (MHz) 1815
  • 1-Click OC Clock (MHz) 1830 (by installing Xtreme Tuner Plus Software and using 1-Click OC)
  • Memory Specs:
  • Memory Speed 14Gbps
  • Standard Memory Config 8GB
  • Memory Interface Width 256-bit GDDR6
  • Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec) 448
  • Feature Support:
  • PCI-E 3.0
  • Windows 7 64-bit, Windows 10 64-bit
  • Display Support:
  • DisplayPort 1.4 x 3, HDMI 2.0b
  • Dimensions(with Bracket): 305*143*51mm
  • Dimensions(without Bracket): 294*129*51mm

KFA2 GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER BLACK Graphics Card Gallery:

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The KFA2 GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER BLACK graphics card come inside a standard cardboard box. The front of both packages has a large “GeForce RTX” brand logo along with the KFA2 and GAMER logos on the left. The Gaming theme is instilled by the person wearing the gamer-centric outfit and holding a ‘GAMING’ keyboard, making it a unique design for a graphics card box.

The packaging has put a large emphasis on the RTX side of things as the first feature enlisted by AIBs will be Ray Tracing, followed by GDDR6, Turing and DLSS support. NVIDIA has bet the future of their gaming GPUs on Ray Tracing support as these are the first cards to offer support for the new feature.

The back of the box doesn’t explicitly state the specifications of the card and the features that are listed are quite generic, not about the card itself but about the brand in general. There is mention of KFA2’s Xtreme Tuner Plus utility which lets you control and monitor certain aspects of the card.

There’s also a focus towards GeForce.com on each AIB card through which users can download the latest drivers and GeForce Experience application which are a must for gamers to access all feature set of the new cards.

The sides of the box once again greet us with the large GeForce RTX branding. There’s also the mention of 8 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 and GDDR5X based graphics cards.

The cardboard container inside the main package has the large ‘GeForce RTX’ branding which has also been done in similar fashion by other manufacturers.

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. The card accessories include a Molex power connector which isn’t of much use in high-end systems since the PSUs already have the required cables.

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.

Like I said before, KFA2’s EX GAMER series has been upgraded to a triple-fan cooling solution and I am keen on finding out how does it hold up with other top of the line cooling solutions designed for the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER series cards.

KFA2 has featured their high-end triple-fan cooling solution on the RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER Black. It also comes in white color for the same price so you’d at least have options to select for your setup. The RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER measures at 305 x 143 x 51 mm and has quite some weight to it. You would require 2.5 slots worth of free space for installation.

You would have to keep in mind the height when going for a dual card solution as your case or motherboard PCIe slot combination may not allow such setup. The cooling shroud extends all the way to the back of the PCB and it requires a casing with good interior space for proper installation.

The back of the card features a solid backplate which looks stunning. The backplate offers a lot more functionality than just looks which I will get back to in a bit.

In terms of design, KFA2 has featured three of their 90mm fans on the graphics card. The fans are based off an acrylic design which means they will be able to reflect and adapt all the RGB lights that are running within your PC.

The shroud is a slightly modified version of the one featured on the RTX 2070 EX GAMER, updated with a nice brushed-aluminum finish on the front and coupled with a futuristic design theme. The shroud is made out of metal and does add some durability to the card’s main structure.

Coming back to the fans, the 90mm design has 9 fan wings that push air towards the large heat sink underneath the shroud.

These fans are known as the EX Tri-series fans which offer 90% more airflow and more air pressure than their previous generation Twin fans. This allows for a higher TDP of 260W on the RTX 2070 EX SUPER, allowing for higher clocks and overclocking.

KFA2 is using their Silent Extreme Technology which offers silent fan operation on the card. The technology is hybrid in nature which allows for different types of fan operation. Under silent load, all three fans will stop operating while in normal load, the front two fans will spin with the one on the end switched off until the card hits its temperature threshold of 60C.

I am back at talking about the full-coverage, full metal-based backplate which the card uses. The whole plate is made of solid metal with rounded edges that add to the durability of this card. The matte black finish looks great along with the white textures.

There are cutouts in screw placements to easily reach the points on the graphics card. There are open vents for the hot air to move out from the back too. KFA2 is also using heat pads beneath the backplate which offer more cooling to the electrical circuitry on the PCB.

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Gone is SLI and now we have the latest NVLINK gold finger connectors. The RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080 SUPER, RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 SUPER come with a single NVLINK connector which allows for 2-Way multi-GPU functionality. The top-end graphics cards ($500 US+) are the only ones to support NVLINK connectivity so multi-GPU is only for the high-end spectrum of cards and for good reason. Only these cards have enough bandwidth that can drive another GPU of their tier as anything below wouldn’t have the power to interlink to the other card.

A single x8 NVLINK channel provides 25 GB/s peak bandwidth. There are two x8 links on the TU102 GPU and a single x8 link on the Turing TU104 GPU. The TU102 GPU features 50 GB/s of bandwidth in parallel and 100 GB/s bandwidth bi-directionally. Using NVLINK on high-end cards would be beneficial in high-resolution gaming but there’s a reason NVIDIA still restricts users from doing 3 and 4 way SLI.

Multi-GPU still isn’t optimized so you won’t see much benefits unless you are running the highest-end graphics cards. That’s another reason why the RTX 2070 and below are deprived of NVLINK connectors. The NVLINK connectors cost $79 US each and are sold separately. Currently, only NVIDIA is selling them as the AIB cards don’t include any such connectors but that may change once the standard is adopted widely.

With the outsides of the card done, I will now start taking a glance at what’s beneath the hood of the 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 large fin stack runs all the way from the front and to the back of the PCB and is so thick that you can barely see through it. It also comes with the 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 such power-hungry graphics cards which utilize the TU102 and TU104 GPUs.

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Talking about the heatsink, the massive block is comprised of 25cm high performance composite heat pipes which run through both aluminum fin stacks and lead to the central GPU copper-based baseplate. The heatsink has adequate thermal pads, making contact with the VRMS, MOSFETs and the memory dies.

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

KFA2 GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER Teardown:

KFA2 makes use of a 7+2 phase PWM design and MOSFETs with shielded inductors which are part of their premium PCB design. The memory chips are from Micron and have the ‘9JA77 D9WCW’ model number which is for the 14 Gbps dies. The card has thermal pads placed on top of all 8 modules which cover the entire die and not just a partial area. There’s a long thermal pad on the MOSFETs too which offers thermal transfer to the main heatsink, keeping them running stable.

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The KFA2 GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER BLACK is a powered by an 8+6 pin connector configuration. The card can sip in up to 300 Watts of power from its power delivery but has an official rated TDP of 225W by KFA2.

KFA2 GeForce RTX SUPER EX GAMER Series RGB Lighting Gallery:

KFA2 has also added RGB to their latest RTX and RTX SUPER series graphics cards. Their top of the line GALAX HOF lineup has the whole spiral ring design going on but the EX GAMER series features a lighter touch with the side ‘What’s Your Game’ quote lit up using their RGB effect technology.

Following is what the graphics card looks like when lit up.

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We used the following test system for comparison between the different graphics cards. 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 2019

CPUIntel Core i9-9900K @ 4.70 GHz
MotherboardAORUS Z390 Master
Video CardsGigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER Gaming OC
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER Gaming X Trio
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming OC
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming X Trio
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming OC
Colorful iGame GeForce RTX 2080 TI Vulcan X OC
ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2080 TI OC
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2080 OC
AORUS GeForce RTX 2080 Xtreme
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 DUKE OC
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X
ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2070 OC
MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Gaming Z
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Ventus XS
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Gaming X
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ventus XS
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Titanium
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Armor X OC
MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Lightning OC
Gigabyte Radeon RX Vega 64 (Reference Air)
XFX Radeon R9 Fury X Liquid Cooled
ASUS ROG STRIX RX 580 OC
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
OSWindows 10 64-bit
  • All games were tested on 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.

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!

Ashes of The Singularity: Escalation

NVIDIA and AMD have been tweaking the performance of their cards for Ashes of the Singularity since the title released. It was the first to make use of the DirectX 12 API and the first to leverage from the new Async compute technology that makes use of the DX12 renderer to improve performance.

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 support of DirectX 12 API and is one of the most visually intensive titles that taxes the GPU really hard.

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: Origins

Assassins Creed Origins is built by the same team that made Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag. They are known for reinventing the design and game philosophy of the Assassins Creed saga and their latest title shows that. Based in Egypt, 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.

Final Fantasy XV

Grand Theft Auto V

GTA V is the most optimized gaming title that has been made for the PC. It’s so optimized, it even runs on my crap GT 840M based laptop with a smooth FPS on a mix of medium/low settings. I mean what???

Aside from being optimized, GTA V is a great game. It was the Game of The Year for 2013. At 1440p Ultra quality, the game gave us smooth frames on all cards tested.

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).

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.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Being a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, I was highly anticipating the arrival of Andromeda to store shelves. Now that it’s here, I put the fastest gaming card to the test. Using Frostbite, the latest Mass Effect title looks incredibly gorgeous and the open world settings on the different planets immerses you a lot.

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.

Watch Dogs 2

Finally, we have Watch Dogs 2. Gone is Aiden Pearce as the new game takes us away from Chicago and puts us in the shoes of Marcus, a seasoned hacker in San Francisco. Running off the Disrupt engine, the game is based on the DirectX 11 API and is a graphics hungry monster. You can see the results for yourself below:

No graphics card review is complete without evaluating its temperatures and thermal load. The KFA2 GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER Black makes use of the EX Triple fan cooler which comprises of three 90mm fans and a large heatsink underneath made out of several aluminum fins and extra-long copper heat pipes. There’s also a backplate included with proper thermal pads on the back to ensure that the components run stable and under optimal load.

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. Default TDP for the RTX 2070 is set at 215W while the KFA2 custom model has a TDP of 225W.

Also, it’s worth noting that the 12nm FFN process from TSMC is a refinement of their 16nm FF node. NVIDIA is cramping even larger amount of transistors and more cores than their previous cards, making it one of the densest chip built to date. It’s likely to consume a lot of power and the results are reflective of that.

The triple-fan EX GAMER Black from KFA2 is another custom variant added to the several designs that we have seen for the NVIDIA GeForce RTX SUPER series. KFA2 went ahead by upgrading their EX design to a triple-fan cooler which now features an updated heatsink, higher factory overclocks and some really useful fan-control features.

The card offers a +60 MHz performance boost which can be enabled through the Xtreme Tuner Plus software which is a well-built utility for controlling and monitoring the card. The card at its default clock is also pretty fast at 1815 MHz but if you want that extra performance boost which you definitely should, then a single click of a button can get those clocks running at 1830 MHz.

One thing that I really thought made this card a bit better than the other custom solutions is the fan control section. The Silent Extreme technology lets you control multiple fans at once. The silent profile as mentioned before would spin the cards at lower RPM while disabling one of the three fans. In normal mode, all three fans wouldn’t spin unless you’re hitting the 60C threshold. You can also set custom profiles as to which you want to switch off during operation. Their operation is really silent which is a plus in my book.

The added performance gives the card enough boost to deliver amazing numbers at 1080p, 1440p and even in 4K with a moderate amount of visuals. The most interesting upgrade to the card is the improved RTX performance that is thanks to the added RT and Tensor cores. The card offers more performance than the RTX 2080 in games when RTX is enabled so if you’re a fan of NVIDIA’s ray-tracing implementation and want your games to look pretty (plus the performance hit), you’d definitely want to get an RTX 2070 SUPER if your budget falls around $500 US.

As for the cooling solution, the large aluminum fin stack with super long copper heat pipes is super good. The direct contact plate does make for efficient thermal transfer but I was hoping that KFA2 would also include an anti-bending backplate which is a common sight on $550 US+ graphics card. With that said, the $559.99 US price is a bit steep considering there are many cheaper options in the market to select from. So as for now, the KFA2 EX GAMER BLACK is a great custom cooled card in their wide selection of RTX SUPER graphics cards that looks great and even comes in a white-colored variant. The 60 MHz factory overclock and the Xtreme Tuner Plus software with awesome fan control really makes this card a well-built option for those looking for a nice RTX 2070 SUPER design.

The post KFA2 GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER EX GAMER BLACK 8 GB Graphics Card Review – The Triple-Fan Juggernaut by Hassan Mujtaba appeared first on Wccftech.

GreedFall Review – Spiders Levelling Up

GreedFall art

Paris-based studio Spiders (acquired a couple of months ago by French publisher Bigben Interactive) is an interesting example of perfecting expertise through hard, steady work. Ever since their foundation in 2008, they have focused solely on the development of roleplaying games.

However, their titles (Mars: War Logs, Bound By Flame, The Technomancer) received mixed reviews in general, often due to the small budget and very short development time (one to two years). Each title improved a little over the previous one, but not enough to be a serious contender in the increasingly crowded RPG genre.

GreedFall is changing all of that. The first game to enjoy three years of development, it marks a clear step up for the studio.

Arguably the most important and most easily noticeable improvement can be found in the size of the playable areas of GreedFall. As I mentioned in the review of The Technomancer, one of the biggest downsides was undoubtedly how the funneled maps severely limited both immersion and exploration itself, nowadays a pivotal element of roleplaying games.

GreedFall

This is largely, though not entirely, fixed in GreedFall. Never before in a Spiders game cities felt as properly sized as they do here and the same can be said about the environments. This helps a great deal in letting the player believe it’s roaming actual places rather than something that can obviously exist only in a videogame.

The best comparison that comes to mind is with Dragon’s Dogma as the areas feel similarly sized. It’s not the most flattering comparison, truth to be said, since CAPCOM’s amazing action RPG was released for the previous generation of consoles (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) which had far lower hardware capabilities than the current PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This suggests that even with all the improvements made, the Silk Engine (derived from Sony’s PhyreEngine, recently seen only in smaller titles like Below and Unravel) isn’t quite up to par with the latest advancements in engine technology. Indeed, those who have played The Technomancer, Bound by Flame and other titles by Spiders will recognize some telltale signs, such as the map verticality that is still bound to contextual actions to climb and descend instead of being freeform and seamless as in virtually every other game these days.

There is a day and night cycle (though no dynamic weather) and NPCs roam the cities in a rather believable fashion. That said, not only do they not enter buildings seamlessly, you will always find them in the exact same places unless some quest requires them to be located elsewhere.

Given that the next-generation of hardware is fast approaching, it would be probably best for the studio to take the chance and jump to something like Unreal Engine technology to be more competitive in the future.

Still, as mentioned before, the improvements made here are just enough to avoid breaking the all-important suspension of disbelief, most of the time anyway. Just as well, as the fantasy world depicted in GreedFall deserves all the attention as it is one of the most original and refreshing settings recently seen in RPGs.

GreedFall Ent-like

Whereas almost every fantasy roleplaying game is loosely based on medieval times, GreedFall is set in a world evidently inspired by the 17th century Europe. Players (who are able to customize their character’s gender, again a first for a Spiders game, and appearance at the very beginning) will control De Sardet, a legate of the Congregation of Merchants, a nation that is neutral in the ongoing fight between the Middle Eastern-inspired, science-focused Bridge Alliance and the theocratic, magic-empowered state of Thélème.

People in all of these factions are suffering from an incurable disease known as the Malichor. With the recent discovery of a mysterious island called Teer Fradee (possibly inspired by Celtic mythology), populated by magic-wielding natives and never-before-seen flora and fauna (including massive creatures), De Sardet sets sail with an expedition to try and find a cure for the Malichor.

GreedFall deals well with sensitive themes that are at high risk of becoming controversial, such as colonialism and the exploitation of nature. The titular greed is often displayed by some of the ‘invaders’, as one would expect, though not everything is black and white as befitting of a complex, believable narrative. Indeed, the writing is among GreedFall’s strong points and that extends to the five companions (although only two can be used at once) that make up De Sardet’s party.

Each one of them has an interesting backstory to be learned via personal quests, and they’ve all got their own opinions as well, which have to be considered if you want to remain in good standing with them while making choices (which ultimately lead to multiple endings) during all kinds of quests. Should the relationship with a companion develop further, you’ll even get the option of romancing said companion. Each companion also provides a bonus Talent Point (Charisma, Science, Crafting, Lockpicking, etc.), but that’s only the case if you are in a ‘Friendly’ status with them.

Indeed, in his brief Gamescom hands-on Dave mentioned similarities with BioWare’s Dragon Age and he was not wrong. As in that franchise, you’ll also get to manage and improve the equipment of the whole party to make sure they are most effective in combat.

Furthermore, there is a tactical pause that can be activated at all times, an excellent way to make sure you are hitting the right target when there are multiple foes lumped together. However, unlike Dragon Age, there is no isometric ‘tactical camera’ providing a bird’s view to the action. In my opinion, though, the worse shortcoming is that you can’t ask your allies to focus on a specific target. This would have surely made some fights much less frustrating.

Overall, enemy AI in combat is quite challenging, at least on the Hard difficulty (there are four difficulty settings, by the way, in an obvious attempt to cater to any fan from the most casual to the most hardcore). Of course, this is no Dark Souls, but then again it wasn’t meant to be. Combat was already quite solid in the previous titles by Spiders and it’s even better here.

Other than the direct confrontation, GreedFall also has a stealth system, though it is a bit rough compared to what we’re used to in 2019. Still, it can be useful when it works to get a stealth attack in to begin the fight. Furthermore, a disguise system is employed while infiltrating certain off-limits areas, such as those belonging to the guild of the Nauts (the sailors of the world). This is another area where the game shows the aging tech underneath, as once you’ve put on a sailor coat no NPC will literally bat an eye while you rummage through chests and go into the private rooms of superior officers. Other titles handle this gameplay concept much better, for example requiring players to maintain a certain distance to avoid closer inspection and, therefore, identification.

Crafting in GreedFall is mostly dedicated to enhancing your existing equipment via a socket-like system. As in virtually any other RPG, players will gather the necessary sources while exploring the world before crafting is possible. The nice touch in this game is that each modification to, say, a chest piece also modifies the appearance of the chest piece in its own way.

Character progression is effectively freeform, which is great in any RPG. While the game initially asks you to select between tree standard ‘classes’ (Warrior, Technical, Magic), after that you have the complete freedom to unlock Skills, Attributes, and Talents as you please, thus forging your own playstyle. There’s also the chance to reset all of them, as long as you have crystals, if at any point during the game you feel like changing your mind.

Offensive magic is linked to equipping the so-called Divine Magic rings to one of the weapons slots, while you don’t need to do that for healing spells or crowd-control spells like Stasis. Melee weapons (only one-handed are available at first, you’ll have to unlock two-handed weapons) are divided between blades and heavy weapons (essentially swords and maces), with the former fit for dancing around the opponents and the latter well-suited to crushing them outright.

Beyond the self-explanatory Warrior and Magic presets, for those interested in less conventional (at least for fantasy RPGs) ways of dispatching enemies there’s the Technical one focused on firearms, which are very powerful but take some time to reload, and traps.

I do have a complaint with regards to the distribution of Attribute Points in GreedFall. While Skills are never a problem (if you roam the various regions, there are plenty of Skill Altars to be found, each of them granting De Sardet an extra Skill Point), you’re only getting one Attribute Point every few levels with no other means to improve Attributes. This is rather aggravating because the developers decided to tie Attributes to the best equipment in each category.

In other words, if you’ve made a jack-of-all-trades character that is for example both a brawler and a magic user, thus having to spread Points in Attributes like Strength and, you’ll never be able to wear the best melee weapons or magic rings due to lacking the necessary Attributes requirements. This could be fixed by simply granting Attribute Points more often and I expect this might be a kind of feedback that Spiders will get a lot once the game is out. Hopefully, a patch will balance this progression issue.

An average playthrough of GreedFall should last between thirty and forty hours, in case you’re wondering, which is more than adequate once you factor in the $50 pricing, a middle way between budget ($40) and triple-A ($60). As always, your mileage might vary depending on how many side quests and companion quests you undertake.

From a technical standpoint, GreedFall looks good. It doesn’t beat the likes of The Witcher 3, of course, but everything from the cities to the environments and the character faces are detailed enough to be pleasing to the eye, partially thanks to the artwork. Facial animations are particularly noteworthy in a relatively low budget title like this and the very same can be said about voice acting.

Performance isn’t worthy of similar praise, though. On a high-end PC (Intel i9 9900k CPU, GeForce RTX 2080Ti GPU), running at 4K resolution with max settings can be a choppy experience in some areas of the game. There is a slider to tune down the dynamic render resolution, which makes it a bit smoother at the expense of image sharpness.

As a last note, there is no support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) displays on PC, which is sad as the console versions of GreedFall have this feature and these days, there really is no reason to cut this on PC when practically every game featuring it on console also supports HDR on computers. Again, we can only hope the developers will at least add it in a post-launch update.

Reviewed on PC (code provided by the publisher). You can purchase a Steam copy at a 13% discount via Green Man Gaming

The post GreedFall Review – Spiders Levelling Up by Alessio Palumbo appeared first on Wccftech.

BenQ HT3550 Projector Review: The Ultimate In 4K HDR Home Cinema Experience

When BenQ decided to send us their brand new HT3550 (known as the W2700 in the EU) 4K HDR projector for review, we weren’t expecting a lot of improvement over its predecessor, the HT2550. Then we learned that the HT3550 not only has a more powerful throw ratio but contains a dynamic iris at the same price point and we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. Fast forward a few months and lots of testing later, we realized that we couldn’t have been more wrong – the HT3550 is nothing like its predecessor. It is the ultimate home theater projector for the mainstream buyer and this is our review of this incredible product from BenQ.

BenQ HT3550: Introduction

In typical Wccftech fashion, let’s start with the technology at the heart of the HT3550. The projector is powered by the second generation Texas Instruments 0.47″ DMD XPR chip which notably solves the light-border problem that was plaguing first-generation chips including the HT2550. For the uninitiated, the XPR chip is able to offer true 4k resolution (this is not 4k enhanced/upscaled) with true resolving power. The chip achieves this by projecting a pixel on a 1920×1080 grid and then shifting it 4 times to the right till a full 4k grid is achieved. Just so I am absolutely clear about this, this is real 4K, unlike 4K enhanced projectors which just project a 1080p native image with 4k support.

The HT3550 also offers a massive upgrade over first-generation projectors by incorporating a Dynamic Iris. This is a feature which is completely unheard of in budget 4k projectors (compared to Sony’s high-end offerings which go over $4000, this is pretty budget indeed) and allows for much deeper blacks than a conventional iris. Apart from this wide color gamut support is added through a color wheel adjustment (you can actually hear the Wide Color Gamut filter sliding into place when you use D. Cinema or User mode with Wide Color Gamut enabled). Full support of 10-bit color and HDR 10 is of course part and parcel of this projector.

3D support was not removed from this projector and that is always lovely to see considering many 4K projectors in this range have dropped this standard. So if you are someone that wants to retain the ability to watch 3D movies, you will not be disappointed in this. The lumen count has dropped from 2200 to 2000 but this is still ample candels to fill a room so we aren’t too worried about this.

Finally, another major improvement over the HT2550 is the fact that the HT3550 has the same throw ratio aas the HT 2050, which means it can fill a 150-inch screen at less than 15 feet and can serve as a drop-in replacement for the same. And the best part? with the new lens configuration, moving the zoom no longer disrupts the focus. If you are an HT2050 owner, you will not need to worry about moving the mount, simply do a swap and it will work like a charm.

BenQ HT3550: Unboxing and first look

The BenQ HT3550 comes well packed as always and should survive a journey pretty much anywhere in the world. The packaging contents are simplistic and contain the remote, the projector, an individual calibration report, and a power cable.

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The HT3550 features a sleek metallic face with a newly designed lens configuration that stays recessed inside the body. The cover is attached to the projector so you don’t lose it. The mounting screws were a bit awkwardly placed but I was eventually able to swap it for an HT2050. The IO port at the back features a generous array of connections including powered HDMI ports and some legacy ports.

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Compared to the bulbous looking HT2550 and TK800, this is definitely a step in the right direction and feels a lot more premium. The metallic face has 4K HDR printed in gold letters and this is a projector that is going to look good in any setting.

BenQ HT3550: Image quality, wide color gamut, and performance

Okay, so I will be straight forward about one thing. When I initially got this sample, I had an odd issue with the XPR processor dropping the native resolution to 1080p randomly. I contacted BenQ and they told me to upgrade the firmware. Once I upgraded the firmware, I did not run into the problem again but just thought I would put this here in case someone else faced the same issue.

The HT3550 experience can be summed up in one word: dazzling. The projector is already well calibrated out of the box but some further adjustment might be needed since BenQ engineers favor a greenish base compared to a neutral or warm base. Once calibrated, however, I could see that this was truly a worthy upgrade over 1080p.

Image samples of the BenQ HT3550 projected on a 150-inch screen.

I was using the non-wide-color-gamut mode with a calibrated image (in Bright mode) and I could see every detail in excruciating clarity. This projector does have visible chromatic aberration if you are close enough to the screen but it is honestly not visible from any viewing distance. I had to walk towards the screen and get as close as two feet before I was able to distinguish any purple in black and white high contrast areas (mostly text on a white background). This is a non-issue and anyone raising this concern as a primary argument against this projector has clearly never tried it.

You might have noticed that I prefer to run this projector without the wide color gamut mode. The reason is that while the WCG mode included in the BenQ HT3550 is superb and makes a drastic difference in color depth, it does so at the cost of brilliance and luminance of the image. Now different people might feel differently about this – some could prefer the wider color depth over brightness and this is strictly a subjective decision so I will showcase the differences here.

In the image on the left, with wide color gamut on, the color depth increases drastically. The orange tint on the mountains was not even visible before and it is a very subtle tone of the rock. Similarly the clouds which were very slightly overblown before now have more color information. That said, there is a difference in lumens and the following picture should be better able to illustrate the difference:

As you can see here, the luminance falls by roughly 20%. It is worth noting that this isn’t BenQs fault. Wide color depth is achieved by adding a stronger color filter over the same lamp and that reduces the luminance while increasing color information (because physics). Whether you prefer wide color gamut or brightness with a reduced color gamut is totally up to the user and considering the projector is 100% Rec. 709 in both modes anyways, it might not be as difficult a decision as you would expect.

The sharpness of the BenQ HT3550 is also very impressive (when focused properly! and for the love of God, do not use the auto keystone function) and YouTube videos in 4k are an absolute treat to watch. Considering you are dealing with native 4k resolution, you would need an internet connection with at least 20 Mbps speed to be able to stream these easily.

One funny (at least to me) caveat that I would like to mention here is that the projector is not capable of running XPR properly if you are using its inbuilt speakers at full volume. XPR works by shifting tiny mirrors inside the projector very fast and at full volume, the vibration from the speaker disrupts the calculations causing your image to become blurry whenever the frequency is low enough (bass). Considering anyone buying this projector isn’t likely to be using the inbuilt speakers and would almost certainly have a dedicated sound solution, this isn’t really a con in my book.

The brightness of the image (projected on a 150-inch screen in a dark room) in non-WCG & Bright mode was 300 lumens while D.Cinema in WCG mode was 210 lumens. In comparison, the older HT2050 could only chug out 225 lumens at 1080p. This essentially means you are not only getting a more crisp, detailed image, but one that is brighter as well. Lumens measured from the source in bright mode were 2050 – which is actually higher than the rated value of 2000!

Conclusion

It feels like I cannot sing enough praises of this powerful little projector. It offers tons of improvements over its predecessor at the same cost – including Dynamic Iris, larger throw ratio, fixed light border, calibrated factory report, and an overall brighter image. To put this into perspective, Dynamic Iris is a feature that usually becomes a mainstay from projectors over $3999. To top it off, BenQ is still happily offering 3D support while many of its competitors have removed it from their $1499 offerings.

If you are in the market for a $1499 projector, then I have no qualms in recommending this to you as the absolute best-in-class 4K HDR projector. It also wins our Editor’s Choice Award.

 

The post BenQ HT3550 Projector Review: The Ultimate In 4K HDR Home Cinema Experience by Usman Pirzada appeared first on Wccftech.

Gears 5 Review – The Best Gears Yet?

Gears 5 Vista

There were moments of quiet and contemplation in Gears 5 that made evaluate how very different this game is to what I expected. Peacefully driving a skiff along an icy plane, surrounded by mountains and glaciers, leaving a thick imprint in the snow behind me. Gears is no longer a hyper-masculine stereotype, rubbing up against hardened concrete and staring at a variety of grey and brown hues while characters scream about how much they love murdering aliens. More than ever before, you’re asking questions about the world, your role in it, the COG, and what the correct path forward is. But you’re unlikely to reach any real conclusions about any of them when the game ends rather unceremoniously.

Gears 5 is brighter and more vibrant than ever before, truly separating itself from the conventions of the series in a number of ways, and reinventing itself to secure the series’ future. The primary cast from Gears of War 4 is here, but this time you’ll be seeing more of Kait and the progression of her story arc, rather than Marcus’ son, JD Fenix. With Kait as a protagonist, Gears 5 sheds the ties that held it to the old style and moves forward boldly in its own direction, and it’s mostly excellent.

Of course, not everything has been thrown out. Gears 5 is still a cover-based shooter, one which will see your characters crouch-running, rolling, sliding, and snapping themselves against brick walls, all while pulling off perfect reloads and blasting the heads off of the latest alien threat, the Swarm. Gears 5 plays out in four acts, the first is essentially an introduction to the game, the second and third are far more open areas, with a variety of side missions that you can ride your skiff to at your leisure, and then the fourth act is a rushed finale.

In that second and third act, the game is in its prime. You’ll be heading off to obscure locations on your map, harvesting components and upgrades for your new robotic drone buddy, and shooting down the alien menace, of course. The side missions are always short and offer decent rewards, so they’re all worth visiting as you come across them, and I even found myself actively seeking out the optional content before moving on to any missions that might lock me out of the potential upgrades.

Gears 5 Kait

Jack is the new drone you’ll be strapping upgrades in to, and Jack will be there to help you with anything you need. For example, picking up weapons and ammo in the field, offering you a health buff, reviving downed players, making you invisible for a stealth boost, and even hijacking enemy units and temporarily turning them on their allies. Jack basically takes the place of alternative abilities other cover shooters have, like Mass Effect’s bionic abilities, and it’s very welcome, especially when you’re under fire and low on ammo.

Act two takes place in a wonderful snowy world tinted with a blue hue, while the third act is in a hostile Mars-like desert, complete with visually stunning storms and vivid red sands. The visuals in this game truly are excellent, especially on PC. When Gears 5 isn’t having you explore open-world areas, you’re in small corridors in labs and facilities, shooting down legions of enemies both insect-like and robotic, and when paired with Jack and a new stealth system, you’ll have a variety of ways to approach each situation. Though honestly, you’ll probably just end up shooting down the enemies anyway.

When it comes to technical execution, Gears 5 might be better than ever. Stunning graphics, a 60FPS target, excellent shooting, and impressive real-time cutscenes that you can actually unlock above 30FPS. But when it comes to the narrative, I have some issues.

We primarily follow Kait, who seems to be suffering following her mother’s abduction in Gears 4, and in her off-the-record mission to find the truth, she discovers a few things and, as of the finale of the game, solves nothing. She finds out a lot about the Swarm, but nothing concludes. Nothing ends. This goes for side-plots too. A close friend is discovered to have ordered shooting on civilian protestors, which colors your view of them, and in outlander villages, children and villagers shout at the COG for being fascists. But much like the main story, none of these are given their time to develop properly. Even an emotionally “poignant” scene at the end of the game has its impact blunted, as the characters have to put it behind them and get on with the fight. Some might say these characters are being stoic with their decision to finish the fight and put emotions second, others might say they’re running from their feelings. Both are probably correct. The bottom line is that none of the big moments from the final act and none of the main plot points are resolved, instead, leaving us on a cliffhanger, and a vague promise of a Gears 6. This game gives me hope that Gears 6 will be excellent but also leaves me bitter from a distinct lack of narrative satisfaction. Though, despite that, I can’t deny the fact that I want to play more.

Gears 5 Marcus

Of course Gears 5 also comes with the usual line up of multiplayer game modes, in addition to Horde mode. While multiplayer is about what you expect (pretty good when the servers are working), Horde mode has been changed, and feels more like a Hero-shooter, with your character selection making a much bigger difference. A special ability can buff yourself and your teammates, and you’ll be setting up a base and carefully defending it from the alien horde. Enemies pop into view a bit too obviously for my liking, and unless you actually have a team prepared to stick through to 50 rounds, things will get disappointing. Having players leave and replaced by AI robots is incredibly annoying, and will see you performing far worse each time someone decides they’ve had enough. With a team of friends, though, it will be exhilarating

As for PC specific details, I found that on a 980 Ti GPU and Intel 6700k CPU at stock clocks, you can easily hold 1440p at Ultra settings and 60FPS for much of the game, though some cinematics may flag a bit when higher-quality character models are swapped in. Despite how incredible the game looks, it also runs incredibly smoothly, and less powerful rigs should find 1080p60 easily attainable, while 4K60 should be well within reach of more powerful GPUs. You’ll find a much more in-depth technical analysis in Keith’s article.

Reviewed on PC (code provided by the publisher). You can get the game for both PC and Xbox One by purchasing it through the Microsoft Store.

The post Gears 5 Review – The Best Gears Yet? by Dave Aubrey appeared first on Wccftech.

NBA 2K20 Review – A Veteran Comeback

NBA 2K20

The NBA 2K series has continued to dominate when it comes to buzzer-to-buzzer action, but recent entries haven’t quite lived up to their full potential off the court. Sure, loyal round ball fans have continued to plunk their cash down in record numbers, but not without a fair amount of grumbling from some corners. NBA 2K18 went too far with its money-grasping monetization schemes, and 2K19 continued that trend while also mishandling MyGM mode and some other key features.  Both were good games, but not necessarily great ones.

With a new set of consoles arriving next year, the NBA 2K franchise will likely be kicking off a rebuilding phase soon. So, does NBA 2K20 send this generation off with a bang? Or does it feel like that veteran that’s held on too long? Lace up your sneakers, it’s time to find out…

NBA 2K20

As fans have come to expect, NBA 2K20 does a nice job of balancing depth and accessibility, with everything you need to get by — passing, ball handling, shooting, defense – being intuitively mapped to the two thumbsticks, face buttons, and L and R triggers. Don’t expect any major new additions, like last year’s Takeover mechanic, but NBA 2K developer Visual Concepts have introduced a variety of welcome tweaks and improvements.

NBA 2K20 is a touch slower than last year’s game, but it actually feels more fluid thanks to an updated animation and motion system. Players are quicker on their feet and the game looks and feels as realistic as it ever has. Last year’s game did a good job of making shooting less fussy and frustrating, and 2K20 continues in that direction – you can’t be reckless, but if you pick your shots well, you should be able hit jumpers and three-pointers consistently, even with defenders up in your face. Overall, the game feels a bit more offense-oriented this year, which is fine. I prefer to end games with proper NBA-like scores, instead of winning with 70 points. Overall, NBA 2K20 just feels right. Authentic yet empowering, and a huge improvement over where the series was a couple years ago.

NBA 2K20

Visually, the game’s about on par with what we’ve seen the past few years. The NBA 2K engine is well past its prime, but Visual Concepts manages to squeeze a few more drops of blood from the stone. As you would expect, big stars like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard look great, but even most of the second-stringers look okay this time around. WNBA players, making their first appearance in an NBA 2K game, are a welcome addition, although their character models are a bit inconsistent and generally less expressive than their male counterparts. That said, if I’m honest, Visual Concepts did a better job with the WNBA stars than I was expecting (the female wrestlers always look downright embarrassing in the WWE 2K games). NBA 2K20 still feels like a top-of-the-line product, even if it’s slipped slightly behind some competitors like EA’s FIFA series in terms of presentation.

As in the past, NBA 2K20 is roughly split into three parts – MyCareer, MyTeam, and MyGM/League. MyCareer is as good as it’s ever been, starting with a thoughtfully revamped MyPlayer creator. The editor has been streamlined in many respects, but ultimately gives you more freedom to create the kind of baller you want, both in terms of look and playstyle. Once you’ve customized your player’s appearance, it’s up to you to decide on the position, balance of skills (shooting, finishing, playmaking, and defense), and physical attributes (speed, strength, acceleration, vertical jump) you want. This is all presented as a very easy-to-understand series of pie-charts you choose between. From there, you pick a Takeover and assign attribute points to determine your character’s maximum potential, giving you full control over how they’ll grow and develop as you play. Once you’re done, the game will tell you exactly what class you created. It’s all rather satisfying, and I actually rolled up several players before settling on a relatively well-balanced “3-Level Scorer” shooting guard.

MyCareer’s cinematic prologue is produced by LeBron James and his company SpringHill Entertainment, and the results are fairly impressive. This year’s young up-and-comer hoping to make it to the big leagues is “Che,” an idealistic agitator clearly meant to invite comparisons to Colin Kaepernick. Che decides to sit out a college championship game when his coach forces a teammate to transfer to a new school, which (somehow) becomes national news. I refuse to believe even diehard college basketball fans would care that much about one guy missing a single game due to a coaching dispute, but hey, faux edginess aside, this is still the best-told story the series has offered to date. The cutscenes are impressive, the celebrity cast including Idris Elba, Rosario Dawson, Thomas Middleditch, and, uh…Urkel, turn in good work, and the journey feels a bit more grounded and truer to life than in the past. The prologue also serves up some unique gameplay scenarios, including an all-star pickup game on a movie backlot and full recreation of the NBA Draft Combine.

Of course, as always, the flashy cinematic prologue only lasts around five hours, at which point, you join an NBA team and get down to the repetitive business of working through the season. A few more decisions and quick cutscenes are mixed into the regular season now, but, for the most part, the drama is left behind. As I’ve said before, I wish more of the personality found in the prologue could carry over into MyCareer proper.

At least it doesn’t feel like MyCareer isn’t trying to separate you from your money as aggressively as before. The amount of grinding needed to get a player to level 99 has been dialed back far enough that people with actual lives will be able to get there without buying additional virtual currency (VC). Mictrotransactionville (er, I mean My Neighborhood) returns, but it’s literally a copy-and-paste from last year, with little to no new features. That’s not a great thing, but looking at the silver lining, My Neighborhood is now hidden away in a menu rather than being constantly pushed on players. Overall, the monetization of MyCareer just feels less up in your face this year. The same can’t be said of MyTeam, which is more shameless than ever. This year the Ultimate-Team-style mode goes full-on casino with slot machines and roulette wheels you can spin for prizes. That may sound pretty scummy, but as usual, MyTeam is pretty much sectioned off from the rest of the game. If collecting virtual basketball cards is your thing, have at it, and if it’s not, you can pretty easily ignore the mode.

The best place to get away from the temptation to buy VC is the mostly microtransaction-free MyGM, which is, thankfully, back up to par this year. The mode now has some light RPG elements, with players only getting a certain number of action points per turn as well as earning XP to unlock new abilities on a skill tree. Some MyGM veterans may chafe at not immediately being able to do whatever they want, but I think some structure to help players made sense of all the info thrown at them is a good thing. I’m also glad to report the interminable written-by-Grandpa-Simpson dialogue from last year has been trimmed way back. Characters still get into random arguments about Taco Bell being better than Wendy’s or whether it’s acceptable to not wash your legs in the shower (no really, that’s a real conversation), but at least these wacky discursions are brief and can be safely skipped if you want.

And that’s NBA 2K20. As I’ve made clear, there aren’t really any big new modes or bullet points this year, but a lack of content has never been an issue for this series. This year’s basketball feast may be a bit familiar, but it’s still just as satisfying.

This review was based on a PS4 copy of NBA 2K20 provided by publisher 2K Games. You can purchase the game on Amazon.

The post NBA 2K20 Review – A Veteran Comeback by Nathan Birch appeared first on Wccftech.

MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X 8 GB Graphics Card Review – Twin Frozr 7 In All Its Glory

Last year, NVIDIA introduced their latest Turing based GeForce RTX 20 series graphics cards, which made a complete departure from traditional GPU design and created a hybrid GPU architecture that would include a range of new technologies to power the next-generation immersive gaming experiences.

The GeForce RTX 20 series was the enablement of real-time raytracing which is the holy grail of graphics and something NVIDIA took 10 years to perfect. In addition to raytracing, NVIDIA also aimed to place bets on AI which would go on to play a key role in powering features such as DLSS or Deep Learning Super Sampling.

While the GeForce RTX 20 series was generally well-received in the tech industry, the launch didn’t go without a few issues. The first and foremost problem with the new cards was the heavily taxing RTX features and a few key titles that supported it. Since the technology was new, it needed time to deliver results and it felt kind of rushed on NVIDIA’s part. The second was the pricing with each tier getting a bump in price over its predecessor.

But all of that changes this month! In less than a year, NVIDIA is now bringing forth their new RTX SUPER lineup. Think of it as the original Turing lineup but supercharged with better performance & more sensible prices. The lineup includes three cards, the GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER, GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER, and GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER. Termed in our original review as what Turing should’ve been in the first place, the GeForce RTX SUPER is to bring more gamers over the RTX bandwagon.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX SUPER Pricing Per Segment

When it comes to prices, the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER is going to retail at $699 US, the RTX 2070 SUPER is going to retail at $499 US and the RTX 2060 SUPER is going to retail at $399 US. One would ask the question that if the prices are the same as they were before, what has changed?

Well, everything aside from the prices has been upgraded. When it comes to specifications, the RTX 2080 SUPER is going to offer around 10% better performance than the Titan XP for $699 US. The RTX 2070 SUPER is said to offer 16% better performance than the RTX 2070 for $499US, putting it right under the current RTX 2080 and the RTX 2060 SUPER is said to be 15% faster than the RTX 2060 for $399 US which puts it at 1% slower than the existing RTX 2070 for a much lower price.

What happens to the existing cards? The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 and GeForce RTX 2070 are entirely replaced by their SUPER equivalents so NVIDIA and their AIBs would no longer be making more of those. There might be heavy promotions and discounts on the existing stock to clear up an inventory. As for the RTX 2060, it would exist because of the $349 US price point which makes it the perfect step up to RTX performance and feature set in this category. All cards below that fall in the GTX 16 series portfolio which offer the Turing architecture but exclude RTX features. Following is what the latest pricing chart for NVIDIA GeForce lineup looks like.

NVIDIA GeForce GPU Segment/Tier Prices

Graphics Segment2014-20152015-20162016-20172017-20182018-2019
Titan TierTitan X (Maxwell)Titan X (Pascal)Titan Xp (Pascal)Titan V (Volta)Titan RTX (Turing)
Price$999 US$1199 US$1199 US$2999 US$2499 US
Ultra Enthusiast TierGeForce GTX 980 TiGeForce GTX 980 TiGeForce GTX 1080 TiGeForce RTX 2080 TiGeForce RTX 2080 Ti
Price$649 US$649 US$699 US$999 US$999 US
Enthusiast TierGeForce GTX 980GeForce GTX 1080GeForce GTX 1080GeForce RTX 2080GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER
Price$549 US$549 US$549 US$699 US$699 US
High-End TierGeForce GTX 970GeForce GTX 1070GeForce GTX 1070GeForce RTX 2070GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER
Price$329 US$379 US$379 US$499 US$499 US
Mainstream TierGeForce GTX 960GeForce GTX 1060GeForce GTX 1060GeForce GTX 1060GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER
GeForce RTX 2060
GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
GeForce GTX 1660
Price$199 US$249 US$249 US$249 US$399 US
$349 US
$279 US
$219 US
Entry TierGTX 750 Ti
GTX 750
GTX 950GTX 1050 Ti
GTX 1050
GTX 1050 Ti
GTX 1050
GTX 1650
Price$149 US
$119 US
$149 US$139 US
$109 US
$139 US
$109 US
$149 US

In addition to the specs/price update, NVIDIA’s RTX technologies are being widely adopted major game engines and APIs such as Microsft DirectX (DXR), Vulkan, Unreal Engine, Unity and Frostbite. While there were only three RTX titles around the launch of the RTX 20 series cards, NVIDIA claims that they have at least 13 new titles coming soon which would utilize their RTX feature set to offer real-time ray tracing. These titles include the hugely anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, DOOM Eternal, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, Watch Dogs Legion, Wolfenstein Youngblood, and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2. In addition to that, with the upcoming consoles confirmed to feature ray tracing, developers can also make use of the RTX technology to fine-tune future games for the GeForce RTX hardware.

So for this review, I will be taking a look at the MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X. This card uses the renowned dual-fan Twin Frozr 7 cooling solution and a custom PCB design which delivers better performance than the reference variant while supporting a factory overclock. The card retails for $509.99 US which is $10 US more than the reference Founders Edition but with the added feature set of the custom design.

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX SUPER Family

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX SUPER series is currently composed of three cards, the GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER, GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER, and GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER. Nothing has changed in terms of architecture and the cards feature the same 12nm FinFET process node. Only the assigned GPU config has changed on all three cards along with a new shroud design. But before we get into the visual changes, let’s talk specs.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER – Full TU104 GPU, 15.5 Gbps Memory

Based on the previous information and what we have seen so far, NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER would be using the TU104-450 GPU with 3072 CUDA cores, 8 GB of GDDR6 memory and would be clocked in at 15.5 Gbps along with a 256-bit bus interface. This would boost the total bandwidth to 496 GB/s which is just shy of that sweet 500 GB/s figures which could now easily be achieved with a slight overclock.

The core clocks would be maintained at 1650 MHz base and 1815 MHz boost. The card would have a TDP of 250W and would feature 8 Giga Rays/second worth of ray tracing horsepower. The card is expected to launch on the 23rd of July.

In terms of performance, the GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER is said to be around 10-15% faster on average than the Titan XP which makes it a lot faster than the GTX 1080 Ti, a card that the RTX 2080 was only able to match. The card is rated to deliver 11 TFLOPs of FP32 and 11 TFLOPs of INT32 Compute power and the tensor operations are rated at 89 TOPs which are clearly faster than RTX 2080s 10.1 TFLOPs FP32 and around 81 TOPs worth of horsepower.

It is still unclear about the wattage of this card but it is expected to hit the market later this month for $699 US. Those who have been saving up to buy a graphics card would find this a great high-end card compared to the original RTX 2080 or the Radeon VII.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER Official Photo Gallery:

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NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER – The Navi Killer For $499 US

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER is the replacement for the RTX 2070 and while the RTX 2070 was not as popular as its predecessors, the GTX 1070 or the GTX 970, the RTX 2070 SUPER might actually change that. For $499 US, the existing RTX 2070 was clearly priced a bit too high. Even if it was faster than the RTX 1080 ($649 US), the price point was higher for the card to get attention from the mainstream audience who had previously seen the **70 tier cards under $400 US. The RTX 2070 SUPER doesn’t change the price point but it changes the specs and now it’s no longer faster than the GTX 1080, it’s faster than the GTX 1080 Ti and just around the same performance of a reference RTX 2080.

In terms of specifications, the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER is everything that the rumors have told us. The GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER would be utilizing the Turing TU104-410 GPU with 2560 CUDA Cores, 184 TMUs, and 64 ROPs. It would also feature 320 Tensor Cores and 40 RT cores. The clock speeds would be maintained at 1605 MHz base and 1770 MHz boost with the TGP (Total Graphics Power) being set at 215W. The chip will be accompanied by 8 GB of GDDR6 memory operating at 14Gbps along with a 256-bit wide bus interface, delivering a total bandwidth of 448 GB/s.

When it comes to competition, the card would compete against AMD’s recently announced, 7nm RDNA based Radeon RX 5700 XT which does cost $100 US less but doesn’t have the RTX feature set that GeForce cards do support. In addition to that, while the Radeon RX 5700 XT was shown to be about 10% faster than the RTX 2070 on average, the RTX 2070 SUPER is about 16% faster average and up to 24% faster. It also has a maximum compute power of 9.1 TFLOPs FP32 / 9.1 TFLOPs INT 32 and 72 Tensor OPs. Another surprising fact about this card is that it has 10W lower power than the Radeon offering and the reference design offers two axial tech-based fans compared to just one on AMD’s reference design. So in an all reference battle, you know who the real winner would turn out to be.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Official Photo Gallery:

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NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER – More VRAM, More Cores, Higher Clocks For $399

Out of all the cards, the GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER has received one of the major upgrades. The GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER would be utilizing the full Turing TU106-410 GPU die with 2176 CUDA Cores, 136 TMUs, and 64 ROPs. It would also feature 272 Tensor Cores and 32 RT cores. The clock speeds would be maintained at 1470 MHz base and 1650 MHz boost with the TGP (Total Graphics Power) being set at 175W. The chip will be accompanied with 8 GB of GDDR6 memory operating at 14Gbps along with a 256-bit wide bus interface, delivering a total bandwidth of 448 GB/s. The Vram would be the biggest upgrade over the 6 GB RTX 2060 which also featured a cut down 192-bit bus interface.

When it comes to performance, you are paying $100 US lower for the same performance as the GeForce RTX 2070. This places the card ideally against AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 (non-XT) which has been priced at $349 US. The GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER is 15% faster on average than the existing RTX 2060 in 1440p.

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER Official Photo Gallery:

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NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20 SUPER Lineup Specifications:

Graphics Card NameNVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPERNVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPERNVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPERNVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
GPU ArchitectureTuring GPU (TU106)Turing GPU (TU106)Turing GPU (TU106)Turing GPU (TU104)Turing GPU (TU104)Turing GPU (TU104)Turing GPU (TU102)
Process12nm FNN12nm FNN12nm FNN12nm FNN12nm FNN12nm FNN12nm FNN
Die Size445mm2445mm2445mm2545mm2545mm2545mm2754mm2
Transistors10.6 Billion10.6 Billion10.6 Billion13.6 Billion13.6 Billion13.6 Billion18.6 Billion
CUDA Cores1920 Cores2176 Cores2304 Cores2560 Cores2944 Cores3072 Cores4352 Cores
TMUs/ROPs120/48136/64144/64184/64192/64192/64288/96
GigaRays5 Giga Rays/s6 Giga Rays/s6 Giga Rays/s7 Giga Rays/s8 Giga Rays/s8 Giga Rays/s10 Giga Rays/s
Cache4 MB L2 Cache4 MB L2 Cache4 MB L2 Cache4 MB L2 Cache4 MB L2 Cache4 MB L2 Cache6 MB L2 Cache
Base Clock1365 MHz1470 MHz1410 MHz1605 MHz1515 MHz1650 MHz1350 MHz
Boost Clock1680 MHz1650 MHz1620 MHz
1710 MHz OC
1770 MHz1710 MHz
1800 MHz OC
1815 MHz1545 MHz
1635 MHz OC
Compute6.5 TFLOPs7.5 TFLOPs7.5 TFLOPs9.1 TFLOPs10.1 TFLOPs11.1 TFLOPs13.4 TFLOPs
MemoryUp To 6 GB GDDR6Up To 8 GB GDDR6Up To 8 GB GDDR6Up To 8 GB GDDR6Up To 8 GB GDDR6Up To 8 GB GDDR6Up To 11 GB GDDR6
Memory Speed14.00 Gbps14.00 Gbps14.00 Gbps14.00 Gbps14.00 Gbps15.50 Gbps14.00 Gbps
Memory Interface192-bit256-bit256-bit256-bit256-bit256-bit352-bit
Memory Bandwidth336 GB/s448 GB/s448 GB/s448 GB/s448 GB/s496 GB/s616 GB/s
Power Connectors8 Pin8 Pin8 Pin8+6 Pin8+8 Pin8+8 Pin8+8 Pin
TDP160W175W185W (Founders)
175W (Reference)
215W225W (Founders)
215W (Reference)
250W260W (Founders)
250W (Reference)
Starting Price$349 US$399 US$499 US$499 US$699 US$699 US$999 US
Price (Founders Edition)$349 US$399 US$599 US$499 US$699 US$699 US$1,199 US
LaunchJanuary 2019July 2019October 2018July 2019September 2018July 2019September 2018

In case you want to read our full NVIDIA Turing GPU architecture deep dive and GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Founders Edition review, head over to this link.

The MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X falls right under the Gaming X Trio, making it a more reasonably priced custom design that still offers superb looks and faster performance than stock Founders Edition cards. The Twin Frozr 7 cooling is meaty and adds in a lot of weight to the card while the Mystic RGB lighting delivers a good show on an already fantastic looking graphics card.

In addition to the custom design, the RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X comes with a non-reference PCB, featuring an 8+2 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 1605 MHz but the boost clock is rated at 1800 MHz over the Founders boost of 1770 MHz.

Following are some of the features of the MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X before we go in detail:

Core/Memory

  • Boost Clock / Memory Speed
  • 1800 MHz / 14 Gbps
  • 8GB GDDR6
  • DisplayPort x 3 / HDMI x 1

Twin Frozr 7 Thermal Design

  • TORX Fan 3.0 with Double Ball Bearings
    – Dispersion fan blade: Steeply curved blade accelerating the airflow.
    – Traditional fan blade: Provides steady airflow to massive heat sink below.
  • Mastery of Aerodynamics: The heatsink is optimized for efficient heat dissipation, keeping your temperatures low and performance high.
  • Zero Frozr technology: Stopping the fan in low-load situations, keeping a noise-free environment.

RGB Mystic Light

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

Dragon Center

  • A consolidated platform that offers all software including MYSTIC LIGHT functionality for your MSI Gaming product.

MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X Graphics Card Gallery:

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The MSI Gaming X Graphics Cards With Advanced Twin Frozr 7 Cooling

With the differences out of the way, now let’s talk about the similarities and the main highlights of the Gaming X design. The Gaming X is a toned-down variant of the much higher-end card, the MSI Gaming X Trio. While the Trio makes use of three Torx 3.0 fans, the Gaming X makes use of a dual-fan design known as Twin Frozr 7.

The 7th generation of the famous MSI TWIN FROZR Thermal Design brings the most advanced technology for ultimate cooling performance. It features the new TORX FAN 3.0 combined with groundbreaking aerodynamic feats. This means stable performance and a silent experience are guaranteed thanks to low temperatures.

MSI has incorporated and refined a couple of things in the new Twin Frozr design for Gaming X 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 a double ball 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.

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.

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Talking about the heatsink, the massive block is comprised of 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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Rocking a classy brushed look, the backplate on the GAMING X series provides a nice visual finish to the card. It also strengthens the card and thanks to some cleverly placed thermal pads even help 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.
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The MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X graphics card come inside a standard cardboard box. The front of both packages has a large “GeForce RTX” brand logo along with the “MSI” logo on the top left corner and 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 Twin Frozr VII design.

The packaging has put a large emphasis on the RTX side of things as the first feature enlisted by AIBs will be Ray Tracing, followed by GDDR6, Turing and DLSS support. NVIDIA has bet the future of their gaming GPUs on Ray Tracing support as these are the first cards to offer support for the new feature.

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 blazing performance which is achieved by fully custom design, the new Twin-Frozr cooling system and a new wave-curved heatsink which will offer better cooling performance compared to the traditional flat-surfaced fin heatsinks.

There’s also a focus towards GeForce.com on each AIB card through which users can download the latest drivers and GeForce Experience application which are a must for gamers to access all feature set of the new cards.

The sides of the box once again greet us with the large GeForce RTX branding. There’s also the mention of 8 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 and GDDR5X 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. The card accessories include a Molex power connector which isn’t of much use in high-end systems since the PSUs already have the required cables.

The most interesting accessory that I found in the package was a graphics card support bracket. This bracket connects the graphics card to the casing, offering better durability and prevents any sort of bending that may occur due to the heavyweight of the Gaming X Trio series graphics cards.

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 drivers disk. It’s best to ignore the driver disk and install the latest software and graphics drivers directly from the NVIDIA 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. I have tested the Twin Frozr VII cards multiple times before but the design scales up and down from card to card. While the GTX 16 and RTX 2060 Gaming X Trio were shorter and more compact in design, the Twin Frozr based RTX 2070 SUPER is massive and very heavy, giving out a more premium feel to it.

MSI’s Twin Frozr heat sink may seem smaller than the Tri-Frozr but don’t let the size fool you. With the RTX 20 series cards, MSI has further refined the Gaming X design. The RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X measures at 297x 143 x 56 mm and weighs1421 grams. The card comes in a 2.5 slot design that requires you to free up some PCIe space for proper installation of the card.

You would have to keep in mind the height when going for a dual card solution as your case or motherboard PCIe slot combination may not allow such setup. The cooling shroud extends all the way to the back of the PCB and it requires a casing with good interior space for proper installation.

The back of the card features a solid backplate which looks stunning. The backplate offers a lot more functionality than just looks which I will get back to in a bit.

In terms of design, we are looking at an updated version of the Twin Frozr heatsink which is now in its 7th  variation. The first graphics card to feature the Twin Frozr cooling was the MSI GeForce GTX 260 Twin Frozr, a card that launched all the way back in 2008. It has been over a decade since the first Twin Frozr and now we are gettings its 7th iteration with gorgeous aesthetics and also superb cooling performance.

The main changes of the Twin Frozr VII compared to Twin Frozr VI is the updated shroud and heatsink design that feature an aggressive shroud design on the front, absorbing the black and silver color platelets while featuring the RGB emitting four accent points on the front and the side.

Coming to the fans, the card features two fans 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.

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.

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

There are cutouts in screw placements to easily reach the points on the graphics card. There are open vents for the hot air to move out from the back too. 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.

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Gone is SLI and now we have the latest NVLINK gold finger connectors. The RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080 SUPER, RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 SUPER come with a single NVLINK connector which allows for 2-Way multi-GPU functionality. The top-end graphics cards ($500 US+) are the only ones to support NVLINK connectivity so multi-GPU is only for the high-end spectrum of cards and for good reason. Only these cards have enough bandwidth that can drive another GPU of their tier as anything below wouldn’t have the power to interlink to the other card.

A single x8 NVLINK channel provides 25 GB/s peak bandwidth. There are two x8 links on the TU102 GPU and a single x8 link on the Turing TU104 GPU. The TU102 GPU features 50 GB/s of bandwidth in parallel and 100 GB/s bandwidth bi-directionally. Using NVLINK on high-end cards would be beneficial in high-resolution gaming but there’s a reason NVIDIA still restricts users from doing 3 and 4 way SLI.

Multi-GPU still isn’t optimized so you won’t see much benefits unless you are running the highest-end graphics cards. That’s another reason why the RTX 2070 and below are deprived of NVLINK connectors. The NVLINK connectors cost $79 US each and are sold separately. Currently, only NVIDIA is selling them as the AIB cards don’t include any such connectors but that may change once the standard is adopted widely.

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 large fin stack runs all the way from the front and to the back of the PCB and is so thick that you can barely see through it. 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 such power-hungry graphics cards which utilize the TU102 and TU104 GPUs.

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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.

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Talking about the heatsink, the massive block is comprised of six 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.

MSI adds extra protection to their impressive PCB by including a rugged anti-bending plate. This also acts as a memory and MOSFET cooling plate while the PWM heatsink with micro fins keeps the VRM cool under stressful conditions.

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

MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X Teardown:

MSI makes use of an 8+2 phase PWM design that includes their Military Class components such as Hi-C Caps, Super Ferrite Chokes, and Japanese Solid Caps. The memory chips are from Micron and have the ‘9JA77 D9WCW’ model number which is for the 14 Gbps dies. The card has thermal pads placed on top of all 8 modules which cover the entire die and not just a partial area. There’s a long thermal pad on the MOSFETs too which offers thermal transfer to the main heatsink, keeping them running stable.

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The MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X is a powered by an 8+6 pin connector configuration. The card can sip in up to 300 Watts of power from its power delivery but has an official rated TDP of 215W by MSI.

MSI GeForce RTX SUPER Gaming X Series RGB Lighting Gallery:

MSI Gaming X series cards with Twin Frozr 7 design utilize their Mystic Light RGB technology to offer you a visually pleasing lighting experience on your graphics cards. There are a total of 8 different RGB effects which you can choose from and the cards have five RGB accent points, four on the front and one lightbar surrounding the side of the card which looks really good. You can fully customize the RGB lights to your preference using the MSI Mystic Light application from MSI’s web page.

Following is what the graphics card looks like when lit up.

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We used the following test system for comparison between the different graphics cards. 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 2019

CPUIntel Core i9-9900K @ 4.70 GHz
MotherboardAORUS Z390 Master
Video CardsGigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER Gaming OC
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER Gaming X Trio
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming OC
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Lightning Z
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming X Trio
Gigabyte GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Gaming OC
Colorful iGame GeForce RTX 2080 TI Vulcan X OC
ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2080 TI OC
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2080 OC
AORUS GeForce RTX 2080 Xtreme
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 Gaming X Trio
MSI GeForce RTX 2080 DUKE OC
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X Trio
MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Lightning X
ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2070 OC
MSI GeForce RTX 2060 Gaming Z
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Gaming X
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Ventus XS
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Gaming X
MSI GeForce GTX 1660 Ventus XS
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Titanium
MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Armor X OC
MSI GeForce GTX 980 Ti Lightning OC
Gigabyte Radeon RX Vega 64 (Reference Air)
XFX Radeon R9 Fury X Liquid Cooled
ASUS ROG STRIX RX 580 OC
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
OSWindows 10 64-bit
  • All games were tested on 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.

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!

Ashes of The Singularity: Escalation

NVIDIA and AMD have been tweaking the performance of their cards for Ashes of the Singularity since the title released. It was the first to make use of the DirectX 12 API and the first to leverage from the new Async compute technology that makes use of the DX12 renderer to improve performance.

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 support of DirectX 12 API and is one of the most visually intensive titles that taxes the GPU really hard.

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: Origins

Assassins Creed Origins is built by the same team that made Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag. They are known for reinventing the design and game philosophy of the Assassins Creed saga and their latest title shows that. Based in Egypt, 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.

Final Fantasy XV

Grand Theft Auto V

GTA V is the most optimized gaming title that has been made for the PC. It’s so optimized, it even runs on my crap GT 840M based laptop with a smooth FPS on a mix of medium/low settings. I mean what???

Aside from being optimized, GTA V is a great game. It was the Game of The Year for 2013. At 1440p Ultra quality, the game gave us smooth frames on all cards tested.

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).

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.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Being a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, I was highly anticipating the arrival of Andromeda to store shelves. Now that it’s here, I put the fastest gaming card to the test. Using Frostbite, the latest Mass Effect title looks incredibly gorgeous and the open world settings on the different planets immerses you a lot.

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.

Watch Dogs 2

Finally, we have Watch Dogs 2. Gone is Aiden Pearce as the new game takes us away from Chicago and puts us in the boots of Marcus, a seasoned hacker in San Francisco. Running off the Disrupt engine, the game is based on the DirectX 11 API and is a graphics hungry monster. You can see the results for yourself below:

No graphics card review is complete without evaluating its temperatures and thermal load. The MSI GeForce RTX 20 Gaming X Trio series is fitted with the most advanced version of the Twin Frozr cooling design. The latest Twin Frozr cooler features a massive heatsink with multiple heat pipes which extend beyond the aluminum fin-based design that lead towards the incredibly dense heatsink block. The card comes with PWM cooling and an anti-bending plate that keeps the card sturdy and durable in the harshest environments inside your PC.

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. Default TDP for the RTX 2070 SUPER is set at 215W while the MSI custom model has a TDP of 250W.

Also, it’s worth noting that the 12nm FFN process from TSMC is a refinement of their 16nm FF node. NVIDIA is cramping even larger amount of transistors and more cores than their previous cards, making it one of the densest chip built to date. It’s likely to consume a lot of power and the results are reflective of that.

MSI has released two variants of the GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER, the Gaming X Trio and the Gaming X. The difference between the two variants is the cooling design and pricing. The Gaming X Trio has the top of the line Tri-Frozr cooler and is priced around $550 US. MSI’s Gaming X comes with their dual-fan Twin-Frozr cooler and is priced at $510 US. The Gaming X Trio also offers a high-end PCB design, delivering better clocks and stability when overclocked. Both cards are configured at 1800 MHz out of the box but the better cooling and PCB of the Gaming X Trio would yield slightly better performance as seen in our benchmarks.

But in terms of pricing alone, I would say that the MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X is a better deal in all possible ways. It offers the same performance and one of the best looking GPU coolers for just $10 US more. For the Gaming X Trio, you have to pay $50-$70 US more over the reference variant. This also makes the RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X one of the best-priced custom models of the RTX 2070 SUPER series that you can get hands-on right now.

The added performance gives the card enough boost to deliver amazing numbers at 1080p, 1440p and even in 4K with a moderate amount of visuals. The most interesting upgrade to the card is the improved RTX performance that is thanks to the added RT and Tensor cores. The card offers more performance than the RTX 2080 in games when RTX is enabled so if you’re a fan of NVIDIA’s ray-tracing implementation and want your games to look pretty (plus the performance hit), you’d definitely want to get an RTX 2070 SUPER if your budget falls around $500 US.

As for the cooling solution, the Twin Frozr VII is a tried and tested design which works really. My past experiences with this cooler have been great and features like Zero-Frozr and Torx Fan 3.0 make it one of the best coolers on the market, only to be excelled by the Tri-Frozr which obviously costs more. It provides superior cooling performance than the Founders Edition and does so while looking phenomenal. The RGB is not overdone and the Mystic Light cuts on the front and sides provide really good aesthetics of the card itself.

MSI has done a great job with their GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X by pricing it at $510 US. If you are in search for a premium RTX 2070 SUPER design without spending a premium sum over it, the MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X offers an exceptionally well-built design and even has a factory overclock for extra performance in gaming.

The post MSI GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER Gaming X 8 GB Graphics Card Review – Twin Frozr 7 In All Its Glory by Hassan Mujtaba appeared first on Wccftech.

Amazon Kindle Oasis 2019 Review – It Could Replace Paper

Par : Chris Wray

Let’s be honest, when it comes to e-readers you have one brand to rule them all. Amazon, with the Kindle, have over half of the market share through offering what is a fantastic range of products, designed to meet a range of needs. From the basic Kindle, cheap and easy, with few thrills, but letting people jump into e-reading at a very affordable cost. The Kindle Paperwhite, which I reviewed earlier this year, is fantastic, offering almost everything but just lacking what could be classed as a quality build. At the top of the range comes the Kindle Oasis, which has recently seen the release of its 3rd generation.

Amazon’s Kindle Oasis – Turning the Page

With the Kindle Oasis being the premium range of Kindle devices, it’s going to be interesting to see what exactly it has to offer to set it aside from the outstanding Kindle Paperwhite. Particularly when you look at the price difference between the two. Before looking at the price, let’s have a look at what sets this apart from the rest of the Kindle family and other e-readers.

What happens to be the most visible features of the Oasis are both the larger, 7-inch e-ink display, as well as the wedged design at the side of the e-reader. It’s this design that, for me, sets the Oasis apart from any other e-reader. It’s designed with the ability to hold in one hand – seemingly the right hand due to the position of the power button – and thanks to the two buttons, page-turning and reading the easiest it’s ever been.

Thanks to this design, with your fingers naturally resting in the groove at the rear of the machine, leaving your thumb free to turn the pages and then add that extra level of stability. The extra support for this comes from the fact that the materials are just superior. With a light and sturdy aluminium back and frame, this feels like a piece of quality hardware.

There is one little caveat when it comes to the design of the Kindle Oasis. I can’t understand, for the life of me, the lack of USB-C support with the device. Still using a MicroUSB isn’t exactly a massive issue, but it has the same downside that I had with the Paperwhite – you essentially need to carry around that extra cable for when your device runs out of power.

The battery does seem to be superior to that of the Paperwhite. It’s said to last ‘six weeks’ but let’s be frank, that’s in the most optimal of conditions, with the most bare-bones of features and use of the device. Depending on your use of the device, you’ll find yourself charging up once or twice per week. Considering it doesn’t take long to charge though – a few hours – this isn’t a huge issue.

Features and Use – Smooth Reading

So, with the screen on the new Kindle Oasis, you’re going to find that it’s easier on the eyes in general. Not only because of the fact that this now has 25 LED’s lighting the front, creating a perfectly even light that makes reading a pleasure. What truly makes reading pleasurable is the new warm light feature, which turns the screen a lovely light brown colour – not too dissimilar to the worn pages of my older books.

It’s the settings here with warm light, which are also ideal. You’re able to adjust the warmth schedule manually, setting a start and end time, while setting a particular warmth setting which goes from 1 to 25. 25 may be a little too brown, but I’ve found there’s a nice sweet spot anywhere between 15 and 20. The ideal option is just to let the device automatically change based on sunset and sunrise. Another thing, while reading at night, is having the night light option turned on, which slowly decreases the screen brightness, allowing your eyes to adjust to the darkness.

Other features with the device are much what has been carried over from previous iterations. You can hook up a Bluetooth headset, or your car, and listen to an audiobook if you like. I know this is certainly something that some people enjoy, but I’ve listened to two audiobooks now and it simply isn’t for me. I prefer to read the text in front of me. I wouldn’t mind trying out immersion reading though.

While not exactly the immersion reading I’m talking about above, you can feel free to immerse the Kindle Oasis in a bit of water. I wouldn’t go deep-sea diving with it, you have strange fish to look at when doing that, but don’t be afraid to take it into the bath with you. You never know, the rubber duck you have may really want to read the new Lee Child novel.

Pricing and Accessories

Much like the Paperwhite, the Oasis has three different ranges. Worth noting is that the Oasis has no ‘special offers’ (paid/sponsored screensavers) which reduce the price, if only by a small amount, here in the UK. Within the US, you still do have the option of these offers, which can reduce the device by $20 – this is with the exception of the 4G/Cellular connectivity model.

So how much does the Kindle Oasis cost? The cheapest version, a Wi-Fi version with 8GB of storage, comes in at £229.99/$269.99, a Wi-Fi version with 32GB of storage comes in at £259.99/$299.99 and a 4G/Cellular connectivity model, with 32GB of storage, costing £319.99/$349.99.

It’s certainly not a cheap piece of hardware, but I can’t exactly complain due to its quality. I do have a few reservations with the lack of a few features in what is essentially the premium, high-tier Kindle device. For the cost, I honestly would have expected the inclusion of immersion reading. While that isn’t a deal-breaker for me, mostly because I don’t even like audiobooks, It should be a feature brought over from the Kindle Fire devices.

As for accessories, much like with other devices Amazon has a range of premium leather cases. Having looked at the store, there don’t seem to be any cheaper, fabric, cases at the moment. The cases come in three colours as of now, with a Black or Merlot case coming in at £49.99, or a natural brown leather cover for £64.99.

Many other accessories, such as the stand, state that they don’t actually fit the new generation of Kindle Oasis. You can, of course, purchase Amazon-branded chargers and cables designed for their devices. If you don’t have a MicroUSB cable, you will need to buy one, as one doesn’t come with the device.

The Kindle Oasis – One E-Reader to Rule Them All?

I was tempted to repeat my acknowledgements from my review of the Kindle Paperwhite, thanking my glass of Scotch and wherever else I’ve been using the Kindle Oasis. I’ve decided against this for the simple reason that I can use it later. People may have forgotten about the last time I said it by then.

Frankly, this is by far the best e-reader on the market. That comes with the large caveat of the price of the device. The aluminium back and frame adds a feel of quality to the device, with the 7-inch e-ink display, particularly thanks to the warm-light options, offering an unparalleled experience in the market. There’s so much to praise about the Kindle Oasis.

If you want what is still a surprisingly portable device (it fits in the inside pocket of my leather jacket), one that is very well built, waterproof and has a fast and high-quality display, the Kindle Oasis is the one for you. If you’re a little more price-conscious, willing to compromise a little on the screen, the materials and feel of the device, you can’t go wrong than the Kindle Paperwhite.

Kindle Oasis provided by Amazon for review purposes.

The post Amazon Kindle Oasis 2019 Review – It Could Replace Paper by Chris Wray appeared first on Wccftech.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne (PS4) Review – Experienced Hunters Only

Par : Kai Powell

Monster Hunter World Iceborne

Capcom’s signature monster hunting series of similar name made its first running leap from Nintendo handhelds onto the more powerful consoles (and PC) last year with a surprisingly well-paced new entry. Monster Hunter World felt familiar enough to veterans while changing up the core formula just enough to entice new players. Now that players have had more than enough time to hunt rare Tempered variants of the main cast of monsters or farm seasonal quests night after night in search of a Mighty Bow jewel, it’s finally time for a new challenge. It may be Pumpkin Spice season for the Western world, but for the expeditionary fleet stationed in Astera, winter is coming in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne opens up shortly after the hunters of the Fifth Fleet had successfully driven off Xeno’jiiva and saved the seaside town of Astera for another day. When a mysterious song drifts through the air and sends some of the local wildlife off westward for a hasty migration, the player is recruited to find the source of this song and solve the mystery of why all of the Legiana are all flying off. This leads the players to a new icy region known as the Hoarfrost Reach, home to permafrost and the locale for Monster Hunter World’s first (and only) expansion pack.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne continues the action RPG loops that previous Monster Hunter titles codified as its core concepts: pick a mission and big bad wyvern (or three) to fight off against, don your preferred weapon and armor and load up on potions, venture out into the sprawling battlefields to engage in a little mano-a-mano boss fight action, and once victorious, carve up your prey (or capture them alive for additional rewards) to use to craft new weapons and armor to become a more efficient hunter. In this specific style of action RPG, there are no character levels, with all of your stats instead coming from the gear of your choosing. That gear you acquired in the base Monster Hunter World will be suitable for the first tier of fights in Iceborne, but like any MMORPG expansion, expect to shelf that gear the moment you can craft a new sword or chestpiece. Perhaps the single most important thing that carries over into the Iceborne expansion are those skill decorations that many fans spent hours farming Lavasioth over the past few months.

Monster Hunter World Iceborne

The Hoarfrost Reach is a biome larger than any of the other individual regions that make up the regions surrounding Astera. Covered in permafrost and high enough to reach across two layers of playing field, this snowy battlefield is home to a number of arenas that take advantage of the new Clutch Claw and offer players enough tools to speed up their hunts, whether it’s traps and natural environmental hazards to knock a hunted monster into or natural hot springs to take a moment to relax in and build up some temporary immunity to the cold. In comparison to the vertical regions of the Rotten Vale or Coral Highlands, Hoarfrost Reach feels a bit flat. All of the areas are easily connected to one another with only a couple of arenas taking place in the underground, with little reason to explore down below if you aren’t hunting for endemic life or more mining nodes. While it may not be the most exciting locale visually, the number of secret wildlife (if you’re in the mood for hunting Iceborne’s version of the Downy Crake, keep an eye out on the Popos towards the southern edge of the map when night falls) and collectibles for the canteen will ensure that players return to the area over and over again.

All across the arctic shelf are giant arenas to take on the new ice-themed monsters that live where the Legiana migrated to. Save for the brutish Tigrex and Barioth, nigh all of the frigid monsters are first time comers to the Monster Hunter roster. Others are subspecies and variants of existing hunts, typically with a completely different strategy and elemental affinity to take on. All in all, the roster of giant-sized wyverns to take on easily exceeds sixty different fights to look forward to. Even the existing wyverns from early Monster Hunter World quests are given new life, with new attacks and tendencies that can be trapped and skinned to unlock new ranks of armor and gear.

You won’t be limited to just the icy locales if you want to see the new content of Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. Through the various optional assignments or investigations, you’ll often see monsters venture outside of the snowy locales for warmer weather and perform quite a bit differently. The queen monster Velkhana (who I’m sure some of you have barely managed to sneak out a win against during this week’s beta test) is known to wander off into the Ancient Forest from time to time, just as I’ve seen Banbaro hang out in the Elder’s Recess, trading the giant tree trunk he can wield in his horns for an explosive boulder. 

In order to do battle with the new denizens of Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, players must first fend off Zorah Magdaros and the other elder dragons of the base game, playing through enough content to raise their hunter rank to 16 and completing the majority of mandatory low- and high-rank assignments. Once the player hunters are experienced enough to see the new world, a missive arrives to venture out west and follow after the massive Legiana migration. 

Save for the balance changes and adjustments (especially with the Clutch Claw to come), much of the content to Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is geared towards the hunter that’s experienced all there is to see in Seliana and wants a greater challenge. You won’t see Namielle or Nargacuga show up in High Rank hunts, nor will you be able to explore Hoarfrost Reach as a fledgling hunter. If you’re looking to get into Monster Hunter World for the first time, Iceborne is absolutely the best way to get in, as you’ll have the base game and all of the new more challenging content to look forward to. You may just need to take a couple of weeks of hunting lessons and get your bearings before you’re ready to hit the slopes and 

Iceborne

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne’s biggest change to gameplay comes by way of the Clutch Claw. This retractable grappling hook gives hunters a way to reach out and touch their hunt and maybe soften them up a bit. Depending on whether you’re using a light or heavy type weapon (Insect Glaive for the former, Charge Blade for the latter), you’ll either smack the monster around and release some usable slinger pods or weaker that particular body part, opening it up for more damage. This also leads to a bit of extra damage from a short combo but it does some with its own risk/reward mechanic. For example, trying to claw our way onto a monster while it’s enraged is a sure way to get flung off for massive damage (and monsters like Rathalos or Ebony Odogaron can affect you with status effects at the same time). However, the amount of damage you can unleash and be able to soften up a body part for even more effective damage (especially given the changes to the Weakness Exploit skill) usually outweigh the risks of taking a big spiky tail to the face. At the moment, weapons like the Switch Axe are overpowered compared to other weapons given its ability to unleash multiple Zero Sum Discharge attacks on a monster every time you attach yourself with the Clutch Claw, but I can all but guarantee that this strategy will be adjusted and patched out by the time Iceborne reaches the general audience. 

The other massively useful feature of the Clutch Claw utilizes your slinger to great effect. By climbing onto a monster’s head, you can slash at its face with your Clutch Claw to steer it in a particular direction then unload whatever slinger ammo you have collected in a quick burst that can occasionally send a wyvern staggering forward and into a wall or trap, guaranteeing a free knockdown and a rather large window of opportunity for free damage. Now those stones and scatternuts that used to litter the arenas can be useful and wind up being one of the most important tools in a hunter’s arsenal in Iceborne. 

Nearly all of the attention to Monster Hunter World: Iceborne has been focused upon the Hoarfrost Reach. After all, bringing in an entirely new biome region is a big deal that raises the total number of regions up to six. What’s important to note is that this is only just the beginning of the new content that’s exclusive to the Iceborne expansion. Once the mystery of the Legiana migration has been solved and hunters get that credits to roll by, the main story ends but the adventure only just begins. It isn’t long after that players are given a chance to venture out into a new area known as The Guiding Lands.

The Guiding Lands is more than just a single new biome. It’s an amalgamation of every other zone in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne (with only a small selection of regions available at the start) connected together into one massive map. Within this map are new investigations, new upgrades, and of course, new monsters to fight. Your very first trip into The Guiding Lands is heralded by a brief glimpse of Zinogre and a three-way turf war against two of the more iconic monsters of Monster Hunter World. This is only a small taste, as there’s a lot of work to actually earn the right to challenge this good dog of thunder. Each region has its own discovery level that must be raised by collecting bones and ore or taking part in expeditionary hunts against the various wyverns that roam about. Every so often, players will earn a new quest or investigation to fight off against a unique new monster, the first of whom being Yian Garuga. If you’re expecting to face off against Zinogre, expect to spend a good five or so hours of hunts exclusively in The Guiding Lands before the opportunity presents itself to challenge him.

Iceborne

As you collect bones and ore in The Guiding Lands, these can be used to augment your endgames weapons in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne. The augment system functions a bit differently from that of the base game. Previously, rarity 6-8 weapons could be given up to three augmentations (the lower the rarity, the more augment slots) that could boost attack, defense, affinity, lifesteal, or decoration slots. This system is mostly the same in Iceborne, with the main change coming to how augments now operate on a point-based system. Adding in augments will consume a certain number of augment slots, such as one slot for extra elemental/status effect or three for a raw attack increase. 

Most maximized weapons can also be granted Custom Upgrades that utilize monster parts from The Guiding Lands to add in extra upgrades that also change a weapon’s appearance. These operate on yet another mod system that works in a secondary slot on the weapon. Crafting your favorite weapon will only be the first step towards being a peerless hunter and the new augment/upgrade systems will incentivize players to stick with a weapon they really like and upgrade it with a bit of personal customization that hasn’t been seen before in a Monster Hunter title.

During my time playing Monster Hunter World: Iceborne on a PlayStation 4 Pro, I hadn’t noticed much change in performance beyond that of the base game. The same loading times didn’t feel any shorter or longer than what I was used to and the animation and character graphics felt quite similar to what I’ve already played over the past year, although the new armor models do have more complex details and unique designs. Despite the more complex weather patterns and trails in the snow left behind by wandering hunters, Iceborne handles the new environmental effects quite nicely. Expect to see the same 30-40 FPS performance on a PlayStation 4 Pro and slightly less on the base model. Those that want the uncapped framerate and performance of Iceborne on PC will most likely have to wait until early 2020, if the timetable for console-to-PC release of the base Monster Hunter World title is anything to go by.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is one of the meatiest expansions that’s come to the series to date. While it doesn’t have a G or other letter signifying its importance in the name, Iceborne is as close to the complete experience that players will see for Monster Hunter World. Nigh all of the new content is geared towards experienced players and keep giving them a reason to return to Astera or venture out to Seliana with friends in search of danger and glory. The refinements and upgrades to the combat offer players more versatility in their builds and finally give charge blade users a reason to focus on more than just raw attack. Iceborne has already captured my attention greater than the base game, and while the fights are far more challenging than what I played last year, they’re some of the most rewarding. If you can only pick one RPG in September to dedicate the next couple hundred hours of your life, perhaps you should pick one that’s well done.

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

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Life is Strange 2 Episode 4 Review – Got To Have Faith

Par : Rosh Kelly

Life is Strange 2 Ep. 4

Episode 4 left fans of Life is Strange 2 on one of the biggest cliffhangers the series, and I will be referencing it throughout. Episode 4 starts two months after that with Sean in the hospital facing a trail and Daniel still gone. I will do my best not to spoil anything from Episode 4 though, but be careful.

One thing that Life is Strange has always done well is the pacing. Its knows when to slow down and when to speed up, even if you might not agree with the decision. Episode 4 starts off slow, with lots of throwaway references to the characters you’ve met along the way and your upcoming transfer to a juvenile detention centre. Its an awkward and tense introduction to the episode, but it fits really well for where Sean is and sets an uncomfortable tone for the whole adventure.

This is Sean at his lowest point according to DONTNOD, which is hopefully good news for Episode 4, but that does mean you will be working through some rough emotional baggage throughout this one. It’s obvious to see, from the very beginning there is a distinct lowness in dialogue options, coming across as you frankly worrying self-hatred if you take the darker path. 

There are a lot of themes in this episode of Life is Strange 2, but one of the most obvious, and most hard-hitting, is Sean’s self-punishment. Perhaps he feels he has to atone for losing his younger ward, but Sean is liable to be severely hurt this episode, getting no respite. It’s a testament to his character progression from Seattle stoner to where he is now, and what he can endure. It’s also a chance for Sean’s voice actor, Gonzalo Martin, to really shine. His performance in this episode is incredible and really adds layers to Sean’s emotional and mental state.

Life is Strange 2 Ep. 4

This episode’s long penance is coupled with this episode’s focus on other characters. With Daniel nowhere to be found, Episode 4 really hammers home how your choices will affect the other NPC you probably haven’t spent much time thinking about. This includes characters that only have a passing connection or interaction with Sean. While there has always been a strong moral challenge to the game, where players have to balance survival with how Daniel will perceive it. Clearly DONTNOD didn’t want to miss out on that heart-wrenching trial so now you’ll know the consequences for everyone else whenever you have to do something.

Like most of this series, Episode 4 is nomadic in nature, with a variety of new locations to explore. Without going into more detail, it also gives the chance to show some another dark side of American life. We’ve seen a lot in the Diaz brothers journey, but this is something hinted at sometime earlier, that we get to witness first hand.  

The episode once again focuses more on the dialogue options and the consequences of them than traditional adventure game puzzles. There’s no QTEs or anything to worry about either. Especially without Daniels powers, there isn’t a lot that Sean could do, and thankfully we don’t have to combine items randomly until we find a solution.

But the game has a lot of surprises. There are some of the most dramatic moments in all of Life is Strange in this episode, with tense standoffs, sudden reveals, and difficult decisions. Its a rollercoaster of a game that like I said knows exactly when to slow it down and when to speed it up.

The heart of the episode is in a single conversation, a conversation that pushes avoids the trappings of the magic and unimaginable challenges that we’re used to in Life is Strange. It’s a conversation you can immediately connect to. And I found myself in connecting the dialogue choices in a way that I haven’t before. It’s really powerful and gives you the chance to say some things that maybe you haven’t had the chance to in real life.

Life is Strange 2 – Episode 4 is filled with surprises that fan have been waiting for since the start, as well as a dogged determination and pain that really draws you into Sean’s journey, but a simple conversation is by far the most intense and memorable part of the adventure so far.

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (code provided by the publisher). You can purchase the full season of Life is Strange 2 for PC via Green Man Gaming and for Xbox One via Microsoft Store

The post Life is Strange 2 Episode 4 Review – Got To Have Faith by Rosh Kelly appeared first on Wccftech.

Lian Li TU-150 – Lian Li Gets A Handle On ITX

Par : Keith May

During CES2019 while visiting the Lian Li suite we got to take an early look at their upcoming TU150 ITX case.  This would be the much-desired update to the TU100 that has been with us for quite some time.  While the TU100 embodied the very nature of small, compact, and portable, it was indeed time to bring a change to the line with something more accommodating and some new creature comforts.

In this video I go through the ins and outs of the TU150, but down below we have more detailed pictures pre and post-build process to give you a better understanding of what the TU150 offers.

Lian Li TU-150

ModelLian Li TU150
Dimensions(D) 375 X (W) 203 X (H) 312 MM
MotherboardITX/DTX
PSUSFX/SFX-L
ColorBlack/Silver
Materials1.5MM ALUMINUM EXTERIOR (TOP/FRONT/RIGHT SIDE PANEL)/1.0MM SPCC INTERIOR

3.0MM TEMPERED GLASS LEFT SIDE PANEL
System Fans1 X 120MM (FRONT) + 1 X 120MM (REAR) + 2 X 120MM (BASE)
Radiator1 X 120MM (REAR)
Max GPU Lenght320mm
CPU Cooler Clearance165mm
Drive Support2x2.5" or 1x2.5"+1x3.5"
Expansion Slots3
I/O Ports2xUSB 3.0, 1xUSB3.1 Type C, 1x HD Audio

Case and Internals

The primary sides of the TU150 are wrapped in all aluminum, while the motherboard tray side is accompanied by a 3mm thick tempered glass panel with a well-placed vanity plate to hide the PSU as well as a top-mounted 3.5″ HDD if you so choose to install one. The side panels, along with the top and front, are secured by a ball and socket retention mechanism that removes the need for screws on any of the panels making installation and removal exceptionally easy.  The front, while appearing to be restrictive and solid, has excellent ventilation along the sides and the bottom allows for airflow to be pulled through to the one (unpopulated) front filtered 120mm  fan mount.  The backside of the motherboard tray has a bit of room for cable management right along the area that you would install a 2.5″ drive.

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The bottom of the case has room for a pair of 120mm fans but lacks an included fan filter.  Seeing as how the main chassis of this case is steel a magnetic dust filter could have been a big win in this department.  The top of the case acts as the main cable management area as well as the mounting points for the hanging 3.5″ drive point.  The biggest complaint I have with this area is the cutout for the drive cables is ideal if you’re using a 2.5″ drive, but not so great if you go with a 3.5″ up there.  There are plenty of cable tie-down points so that your rat’s nest doesn’t get out of hand.  The retractable handle tucks away nicely and pops up with ease thanks to the spring-loaded design, however, the handle and surrounding areas will start to show wear sooner than desired.  The top I/O featuring two USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 3.1 Type C, as well as audio/mic in/out and a power and reset button round the top out nicely.

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Final Build

I wanted to really stuff the TU150 with as much as possible and see how it holds up under a full build rather than going lean.  Since they’re marketing this towards content creators I wanted to give it a solid go with a Ryzen 9 3900X based system and a good-sized tower cooler, using all the Storage mounting points was a must and I have to say, the build process went much smoother than I expected it too.  The only issues I ran into when I was building was the holes for the storage devices were just a bit small to really be comfortable, ended up putting a bit of stress on the connector for the SSD and the HDD. Also, would have loved to see a few tie-down spots on the front edge for the GPU power cables since a lot of SFX power supplies have fairly short cables for the GPU and this would make managing those cables infinitely smoother.

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Another issue I ran into was the spacing on the back of the motherboard tray for the 24pin as well as the SATA power and data cables.  I found that even when zip-tied down the thickness was just a bit much and caused the back of the case to bulge out in the center.  This could likely be remedied if Lian Li had used an additional ball and socket mount in the center of the back panel.

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Room for the Noctua NH-U12A was more than adequet and even had plenty of room left over if you were to want to go with a taller cooler you could, although I’m not sure if I would push it much more myself.

There is adequete room under the GPU to allow for better than expected airflow, You could easily fit in a pair of standard 25mm thickness fans down there, but I would recommend sticking to the shallow 15mm fans so that you aren’t crammed up against the GPU and possibly causing undesired fan turbulance noise.

Thermal Performance

Thermals, in this case, seem to be a concern for people, and rightfully so as it doesn’t come with any fans.  For these tests I ran out of the case for an unhindered look at the coolers, then in the case, as it comes and finally I added a fan (Noctua NF-F12) to the front of the case to see how things changed up when a fan was added.  I tested the CPU thermals while running Cinebench R20 repeatedly to see just how hot it would get under that load, while GPU tests were taken from looping GPU Test 2 from 3DMark Time Spy.

Conclusion

In the world of ITX, it seems like constant compromises and it is.  Ask 100 different people what they want in an ITX setup and you’ll get everything from the Inwin Chopin to the Bitfenix Prodigy, both are ITX but for very different people.  The Lian Li TU150 targets those looking for a modest-sized ITX case that has the ability to handle some pretty powerful hardware and it delivers.  It had no issues handling all of the hardware I tossed in it with room for even more robust parts.  While I would have preferred it to be a bit smaller it would have limited my CPU cooler options as well as moved the classy handle to be out all the time.  For $109.99USD the TU150 may be a hard pill to swallow for those who are looking in the more budget-focused segment, but for those looking to build on the more high end of ITX, it’s a good option whose biggest misstep is the lack of an included fan and missing dust filter options on the bottom.  As I wrap this up I am seriously contemplating ditching my full-sized system and just keep using this instead.

 

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Sennheiser GSP 670 Review – The Premium Gaming Headset Experience Starts Here

I have tried and tested a lot of headphones over the years and there is always some metric that they will fail to meet. When Sennheiser told us they wanted to send us a review unit for the GSP 670, we knew this would be a headphone that meant business and let’s just say we weren’t disappointed. Sennheiser has positioned itself as a leader in the luxury headset space and this is part of their ongoing efforts to make a name for themselves in the gaming market as well. Needless to say, this headset isn’t going to be cheap – its a Sennheiser after all.

Introduction and unboxing – the luxury, German-engineered GSP 670

I don’t think there is anyone in the headphone market that has not heard of Sennheiser at least once. Premium and expense are synonymous when it comes to this company and unlike most others, it operates on a philosophy of its own making, completely ignoring mass-market traditions. To customers of Sennheiser, this is a very good thing, because this is a company that will not compromise an inch on quality even if it means driving the MSRP significantly. The Sennheiser GSP 670 is no different. It comes in a standard box with a straightforward design and quickly unwraps to give you access to the goods inside.

The inside of the box holds the actual headphone along with some documentation, a cable and the receiver. Right off the bat, you can tell that this is a premium headphone. It feels solid and has just the right weight. I wouldn’t be scared of accidentally snapping the band or the mic by moving it the wrong way. Everything feels like it can survive rough handling and was built to last. This is german engineering after all 🙂

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The headphone is marketed at their existing customer base that would want to get a gaming wireless headset and also to pro-gamers (and amateurs with deep enough pockets) that want absolutely reliable hardware. Their aim here was to selectively modulate the soundstage so everything in the gaming world is instantly audible. Footsteps? the direction of the bullets? no problem. That said, while Sennheiser is known for their high clarity, they managed to find the perfect balance between a gaming and a reference-quality soundstage. This also means that this headset is great for music and watching movies, not just games!

Design and performance

The GSP 670 is a closed, dynamic design and uses neodymium drivers capable of a frequency range of 10 Hz to 23,000 Hz. Sennheiser also told us that they have added a special punch to the lower frequencies to emphasize explosions and blasts and is definitely one of the more “colored” of their products. The headphone is compatible with PS4 and Macs as well – for those wondering and also has additional Bluetooth functionality.

One thing I really liked about the Senn GSP 670 was that if you put the mic in the upright position, it will automatically turn off. This makes it super intuitive for the user to block unwanted sounds from being heard by your fellow gamers. The headband features an open breathable design and rests with just the right clamping force (hard enough to stay on and provide a good seal to the drivers but not hard enough to hurt).

I used the headphones during their demo room in Computex 2019 and also during personal testing and I must say the difference between a generic headset and the GSP 670 is night and day. While the soundstage can get quite muddy in normal headsets, the GSP 670 does a superb job of amplifying just the right frequencies without making everything sound like it’s coming from a tin can. The warmth in the midtones was there but at the same time, the highs were crystal clear. Bass has been boosted on this design, but the kick is very controlled and the response is very fast.

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The buttons and functionality were clearly added early on in the development stage and not just tacked on as an afterthought. They are well placed and feel robust. There is nothing here that is going to give way soon. Sennheiser offers a 2-year warranty on their product, which is telling of the build quality. The cups are replaceable and the fabric is comfortable and breathable. It is heat-limited by design which means even over extended gaming use, they will never go over a certain temperature (so while you might get warm, you won’t sweat).

This is clearly not a reference soundstage, but you know what? as an owner of the HD 650, I quite like it. The GUI that ships with the drivers make everything a breeze to customize. The GSP 670 offers two communication modes – Bluetooth or low latency wireless. The low latency wireless has a response of just 40ms. Which is absolutely great considering unlike visual input, your brain is *used* to receiving audio with a slight lag. If a dog barks down the street, you will hear the bark after a slight delay – but will receive the visual input almost instantly (at the speed of light). In other words, there should no noticeable lag and it should feel completely real-time.

Conclusion

Is this a product I would recommend to everybody? Of course not. Is this a product I would recommend to someone that has a budget of $350 for a wireless headset? Heck yes. The price tag, at $350, is pretty high for the average joe, but it seems like as usual, Sennheiser isn’t trying to target those. They hope that their existing clients and gamers/streamers in the high-end market will go for the Sennheiser name over others – and considering their success in this kind of luxury market so far – they might succeed.

For pro-gamers and enthusiasts looking for the perfect wireless headset, this is one of the best choices out there.

 

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Blair Witch Review – She is Always There For You

Blair Witch Art

The Blair Witch Project movie changed the world of horror movies forever, bringing about new ways to make psychological horror movies even more frightening. While its sequels didn’t have the impact of the original movie, the Blair Witch Project has influenced the way horror stories are told, and its influence is today even greater on horror video games.

Developer Bloober Team has proven with the original Layers of Fear that they know how to tell a psychological horror story well. The use of the first-person camera view is reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project in a lot of ways, so it was only natural for Lionsgate to turn to the Polish team to develop a game based on the franchise. The match, needless to say, was made in hell, as Blair Witch takes advantage of the series’ iconic lore in an extremely good way, making the game not only an excellent horror game in its own right but also one of the best games ever developed by Bloober Team.

Blair Witch isn’t directly related to the movies and features an original story which is based upon the same terrifying lore. The game is set in 1996, when a young boy disappears in the Black Hills Forest near Burkittsville, Maryland. Players will control Ellis, a former police officer with a troubled past, as he joins the search for the young Peter. Despite lacking a direct connection, Ellis feels obliged to save Peter, as he has some ties with the boy’s older brother. What begins as a simple search, however, quickly turns into a nightmare, as Ellis will not only have to face the evil that lurks in the forest but also his own inner demons.

Being a story-driven horror game, Blair Witch puts a great emphasis on the narrative, which is developed pretty much at all times during the game. Whether it’s through documents found in the forest, phone calls and walkie talkie conversations, players will continuously learn more about Ellis and the reasons why he felt he had to travel to the Black Hills Forest. All main characters are well-developed, and while they don’t go beyond the usual horror story tropes, they are definitely enjoyable.

The story itself, while definitely well-developed, doesn’t try to surprise players with some big, shocking twists. It never goes off uncharted territory, as far as horror stories go, and the final outcome is somewhat predictable. Judging from how well it is developed, however, it feels like the team wanted to focus more on the actual development, rather than on its shocking factor, and they definitely achieved what they set out to do, as there is just the right amount of mystery to keep things going and motivate players. In a lot of ways, Blair Witch feels like a classic Silent Hill game, not only for the amazing atmosphere but also for the way the game keeps players engaged: it gives enough information to continue while keeping things somewhat nebulous so that players have to be on their toes at all times.

The fact that the story has been made to be easy to follow is a definite plus. Both Layers of Fear games have a somewhat obscure story that has to be pieced together by the player, which can be confusing for those who have no wish to delve so deep into them.

The Blair Witch story is, without a doubt, engaging, and the gameplay experience only contributes to make the whole experience enjoyable from beginning to end. Right after starting the game, While it’s clear that the development team didn’t want to stray too far from the linear, narrative-driven experience of the Layers of Fear games, it’s also evident how they wanted to shake things up a bit and provide an experience that goes beyond simply walking from one story sequence to another.

Blair Witch features a mostly linear experience, but it has been enhanced considerably with new mechanics that give players the illusion that it is not so linear after all. The biggest addition to the formula, which still sees players moving from one location to another to find clues leading to the next step, is Bullet, a companion dog NPC. Bullet is fully independent of the players, and he is a tremendous help at all times since the can lead them on the correct path, discover important items and warn them of impending danger. Bullet can also be given some basic commands, and he can also be petted and be given treats, actions that improve the relationship with Ellis and make him even more dependable.

Having Bullet close at all times is also important for Ellis’ mental health. He is still suffering from some previous trauma, and being too far from Bullet will worsen his mental condition considerably. Bullet is also an extremely important asset in combat, and his presence is usually what separates players from life and death. Thankfully, he cannot be harmed, so players won’t have to deal with any heart-wrenching sequence showing the poor critter getting harmed: the otherworldly presences of Black Hills Forest are only after Ellis.

Combat, while simple, is an extremely welcome addition to the gameplay formula. In specific locations, players will be attacked by these mysterious creatures that cannot be seen, in true Blair Witch fashion. Bullet, on the other hand, has a rough idea on where they are, allowing players to fight back with torchlight, as the creatures do not like light at all. Blair Witch is far from being a combat-heavy game, but the inclusion of these confrontations is extremely welcome, as it ramps up the tension and makes the stakes feel more real.

As already mentioned, players will be exploring the forest and several different locations in search of clues that may point toward the disappeared kid. There will be times, however, when no clue can be found, only some mysterious tapes that show events that have transpired in the past. These tapes can be watched with a video camera, something that serves as a real gameplay mechanic and not just as a reference to the original Blair Witch Project.

The Blair Witch red tapes can be used to manipulate reality. The first one that can be found shows Pete dropping a toy police car in a specific place.  Stopping the tape at the right them when the toy is dropped makes the toy appear in the actual location as well. Another tape shows a tree falling on the path, and stopping it at a time when the tree is still standing will open the path again. This mechanic is not only extremely original, but it’s also implemented in such a great way that it feels totally coherent with the setting and tone of the game. The camera will also play an important role when the torchlight is not working. By using the camera’s night mode, it will be possible to proceed without literally walking in the dark.

Blair Witch

Adding even more to the experience is the number of optional content scattered around. While the experience is mostly linear, there are some branching paths leading to additional items that, once collected, can provide more details on the story and unlock achievements. Additional conversations with characters through the walkie-talkie and cellphone are also available, as well as a couple of mini-games that can be accessed through the phone. These do break immersion a bit, but they are completely optional and players don’t have to access them if they do not want to.

Even with all these additions and tweaks, Blair Witch is still an extremely linear experience. It is also somewhat short, so don’t expect to have much reason to play through the game again, unless you missed some of the optional items or conversation.

The great atmosphere of the game could be a reason to play through the game. The Blair Witch setting isn’t particularly elaborate, but this didn’t stop Bloober Team from injecting their typical almost psychedelic transitions into the game. With Ellis’ unstable mental state, it’s no surprise that hallucinations and distorted memories of the past are included in full force. As they are rooted in the main character on an extremely deep level, they also feel almost natural, and not forced as they sometimes do in the Layers of Fear games. They are less extravagant, sure, but definitely more coherent with the setting and story.

The great atmosphere is enhanced by the presentation, which is quite good. The forest setting becomes a little repetitive down the line, despite the game taking place at different times of day and different weather and visibility conditions, but it is well done, and the different landmarks make it feel realistic and believable, despite very little of what happens in it is. The PC version looks quite good at max setting, 1080p resolution, but optimization doesn’t seem to be the best, as performance isn’t solid, which is baffling, considering there isn’t much happening on screen at most times.

Blair Witch

The audio is also extremely well done. Blair Witch uses binaural audio and is best played with headphones. It also works quite well, especially during combat, as following the audio cues from Bullet is required to locate the enemy and bathe them in light. Voice acting is also spot-on and competent, and so is the soundtrack, despite not being particularly varied.

At the end of the day, I enjoyed my time with Blair Witch a lot, thanks to the great atmosphere and overall feel of the game, which is extremely close to the classic Silent Hill games. With the additions to the gameplay formula that make the experience more involving, Blair Witch can be rightly considered as the best game ever put out by Bloober Team, and one of the best horror games of the year so far.

PC version tested (review code provided by the publisher). You can purchase a digital copy via Green Man Gaming.

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Man of Medan Review – A Rusted, Yet Still Seaworthy Ghost Ship

Man of Medan

Until Dawn is one of the best horror titles of this generation. Sure, the game goes a bit heavy on the slasher movie cheese, but that’s easily pardoned given its intense set pieces, impressive visuals, and deep “butterfly effect” branching story system. Sadly, Until Dawn has yet to receive a proper sequel since its 2015 release — only a couple of gimmicky VR spinoffs. This fact clearly frustrates developer Supermassive Games as much as the fans, as the studio’s broken away from Sony’s cozy embrace to launch The Dark Pictures Anthology with new partner Bandai Namco.

The first entry in this proposed series of quick shot horror games is Man of Medan, which aims to replicate that Until Dawn magic, but can that be done without a big Sony first-party budget? Or should Until Dawn fans put their hopes of a fitting follow-up to bed? Grab your flashlight, it’s time to find out…

Man of Medan

Man of Medan sticks to the classic slasher movie tropes, with a gaggle of sexy co-eds hitting the high seas for some drunken debauchery and a little light treasure hunting. Pretty much all the standard horror movie character classes are represented – we have leading-man Alex, his nerdy brother Brad, uptight WASPy Julia, her horndog bro Conrad, and the ship’s unflappable captain Fliss. Everybody’s model pretty, frequently half-naked, and constantly cracking terrible jokes, but hey, Supermassive’s lack of shame is part of their charm. Overall, Man of Medan offers up a more likable cast than Until Dawn, which sometimes felt like it was tempting you to kill off its characters.

Our heroes are on a search for a legendary lost WWII vessel, the SS Ourang Medan, but their booze-soaked expedition hits choppy waters when they’re boarded by a band of pirates who are very interested in the “Manchurian gold” said to be on the wreck. Surprisingly enough, the lost vessel is actually located, but once our group and the pirates climb aboard, they find they’re not alone. The ship is packed with skeletons and everyone starts seeing ghosts and other horrifying visions, but is everything what it seems? I won’t ruin the game’s secrets, but I can assure you the game serves up a fun yarn with a few good twists.

Man of Medan’s solid story is bolstered by some fairly impressive visuals. Much like Until Dawn, this game boasts some fantastic, expressive facial animations, and environments are well-lit and appropriately moody. The game’s voice actors, including Shawn Ashmore (X-Men, The Following) and a host of seasoned TV veterans, chew through their goofy dialogue as best they can. Unfortunately, the game is beset with some fairly serious stuttering during story scenes, likely caused by some sort of loading issue. In a few cases, it almost feels like bits and pieces of scenes are outright missing. These performance problems rarely effect gameplay, but they can be distracting, so hopefully Supermassive will be able to deal with them post-launch.

As mentioned, Man of Medan doesn’t stray far from the blueprint laid down by Until Dawn. The game serves up a succession of conversations and quick-time-event-laden action scenes, during which you’ll have to make a number of hasty decisions; some life-or-death, some seemingly trivial. Often, “minor” choices will actually have the biggest effect on your story. It’s fun to see the gory results of your panicked decisions play out, but Man of Medan’s focus on player choice doesn’t necessarily mesh well with the game’s button-mashing action scenes. Keeping a character alive almost the entire game through careful decision making only to have them die because you accidentally pushed the square button instead of the circle button is more than a little irritating. That said, there’s no denying the effectiveness of some of Man of Medan’s sequences – your first encounter with the pirates and a late-game chase scene with a particularly ghastly figure are downright gripping. Supermassive clearly have a knack for cinematic tension, I just wish their action scenes were a little more skill-based.

Man of Medan also doesn’t do a great job of tracking your decisions, particularly compared to Until Dawn. Supermassive’s earlier game always made the results of your choices very clear, making it easy to intuit what you needed to do to change your fate. Man of Medan tries to do something similar, with a “Bearings” menu that records all your key decisions, but it often isn’t clear exactly why choice A led to result B. In between the decision-making stuff is some light exploration featuring fixed Resident-Evil-style camera angles. The game does a decent job of guiding the players through these bits, but they don’t offer a lot of tension, as you quickly realize nothing will really threaten you as you wander around. The goal of these sections is to find secrets, which will reveal more of the game’s backstory, but again, the menu that tracks which secrets you’ve found is needlessly complex compared to Until Dawn. It almost feels like Supermassive intentionally made figuring out Man of Medan’s story more confusing than it needed to be in order to encourage multiple playthroughs.

Why would they do something like that? Well, Man of Medan is a short game. My first run through only took around five hours, and that included lots of exploration. Focused players could probably blitz to the end in three or four hours. Granted, the game is meant to be replayed, but I wasn’t as excited to jump back in as I expected. My first time through I managed to keep all five main characters alive, but many of the game’s mysteries remained unsolved, and I wasn’t sure how to change that. I did play through the game again, finding a few more answers along the way, but some questions remain. I’m not sure if I’ll be embarking on a third playthrough any time soon.

Maybe you’ll be more eager to replay the game if you find the right folks to play with. Man of Medan adds two multiplayer modes to the mix – Movie Night is a fairly simple pass-the-controller sort of thing, while the more interesting Shared Story mode lets two people play online simultaneously. Multiplayer is a welcome touch, but it isn’t transformative, and it’s hard to shake the feeling Man of Medan is stretching its campfire story just a little thin.

This review was based on a PS4 copy of Man of Medan provided by publisher Bandai Namco.

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Vankyo V600 Review: The Cheapest Native 1080p Projector At $250

So I recently received something pretty interesting from a relatively unknown company called Vankyo. Their proposition was simple: they were selling a native 1080p projector for $250. Considering most projectors at this price point have a lower native resolution and simply accept 1080p feeds, I had no choice but to accept their offer. This is the resulting review.

Vankyo V600 review: Introduction and unboxing

The Vankyo V600 is a projector that could readily be called the first native 1080p offering for the consumer. If you are in the first-hand market for projectors, this is the lowest you are ever going to get so the question then becomes whether it’s worth your $250. Keep in mind the class of consumers that shops in this range for a projector can only be described as completely casual. This is also probably a consumer that has very little idea of what to expect so the first impression matters a lot here.

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The Vankyo V600 claims to achieve 5000 lux of brightness, a contrast ratio of 3000:1 and other bells and whistles like auto keystone and a ton of IO ports. The chip is TFT LCD based so should easily outlast any and all enthusiasms of buying a projector of this class. A cursory inspection of rival offerings will show you that this is on-paper, the best projector you can buy for the $250 price point (assuming, of course, you don’t head to eBay for a second-hand device).

The Vankyo V600 comes packaged in a sleek black box and the packaging experience is clearly different from the el-cheapo projectors that are flooding the markets right now. It is clear that Vankyo wants to differentiate themselves from their competitors and create a brand name that is instantly recognizable. The projector comes wrapped in a very high-quality carrying case (don’t you just love value-added products?) along with a power cable, an HDMI cable, a component cable, and remote control. All you need to run this bad boy is available inside the box.

First look and features

The projector itself is boxy in design but uses decent quality materials including an aluminum finish that gives it quite a nice look. A lens cap is also added with the projector along with a ton of IO. The orienting mechanism is also located at the bottom and all in all the projector is pretty well designed. The infrared window for the remote control can be seen at the front as well.

The build of the projector is quite sturdy and should handle being thrown around in that carrying case quite well. The IO includes a VGA port, two USB ports, and two HDMI ports. Buttons for manual control, in case the remote is not working for some reason, are also included. The focus and zoom rings are also accessible from the top like most projectors in the class above it and the entire device is decently cooled. The window for the speaker is also situated at the back along with the power port.

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Turning on the projector reveals a decently complex menu with options for contrast, saturation and user modes for storing your settings. All in all, this looks like it would do just nicely for a dark room and a console with a screen size of fewer than 100 inches. At 50-70 inches, I can imagine this guy being very good value for money. The auto keystone ability is also present inside the menus ( I don’t recommend using auto keystone in high-end projectors so I am certainly not going to start now). With the intro out of the way, let’s dig into the meat of the review.

Setup, calibration and image quality of the Vankyo V600

Needless to say, any projector that claims to achieve 5000 lux is indulging in, well, let’s call it marketing mumbo jumbo, but I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised by this guy’s output and I was not disappointed. My calibrated 4k cinema projectors that I use for testing can output around 300 lux of brightness at 150 inches and 2200 lux at the source. This tiny projector managed to squeeze out 80-90 lux of brightness at 150 inches and 700 lux at the source – which isn’t too bad all things considered. At 100 inch, the display was crisp and easy to view and that is what I would call the recommended maximum for this projector (still quite a lot considering te price point!) and at 70 inches, the image was just great.

The default settings that the projector ships with are oversaturated and over-enhanced and will ruin the integrity of pretty much any image you view on them. The first thing I did was calibrate the image by turning down the sharpness completely and reducing the contrast by 90%. The result was a much much better image albeit at the cost of lost brightness (which is how this equation works so is just fine). The resulting image is what I would be able to recommend to viewers at the $250 price point.

One caveat with this projector that everyone must be aware of before buying, and in fact this is true for all projectors in this range, is that the projector must be oriented dead center to the viewing surface to produce little to no distortion, any attempts to keystone or project at an angle will be met with abject failure. This is not a failing of this projector, I should add as cinema-grade lenses are expenses and would easily over-run the cost of this projector but just something to keep in mind. Here is how the centered and calibrated image of the Vankyo V600 looks like at 120 inches.

Conclusion

As you can see with the calibrated settings and with good centering, the image was more than acceptable (compared in-class) and I am sure would satisfy the casual buyer. If you are someone that wants to hook up their console or just Netflix on a large enough screen and don’t have the budget for a serious projector (which usually start at $479) then this is a good choice for you, assuming you understand the caveats involved.

At the $250 price tag, you honestly cannot complain and everything considered this is great value for money once setup correctly and calibrated.  You can get  “pocket” native 1080p projectors below this price point but those have laughable brightness or you can get similar brightness at a lower native resolution but I can say with certainty that this is one of the best, if not the best, brand new projectors at this price point and the cheapest native 1080p projector in the world.

I can recommed this projector for the casual buyer looking to setup a projector for a screen size of up to 70 inch in a preferably dark room and a budget of only $250.

 

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AZIO Elwood Retro Classic Vintage Style Mechanical Keyboard – Absolute Luxury In Keyboard Tech?

If someone asked me what the perfect keyboard looks like, I would probably say something along the lines of wireless but back-lit, with a battery life of at least a year, dual compatibility modes with Mac and Windows and of course mechanical switches. When you actually put that into words you start to realize that something like this might not be too feasible from a design standpoint but nobody seems to have told AZIO that because they have gone ahead and done the impossible. Their keyboards feature amazing vintage looks coupled with feature-packed internals.

Intro and unboxing

The keyboard I will be reviewing today is the AZIO Elwood Retro Classic and this is a keyboard that won our Best of Computex 2019 award for the keyboards category. Right off the bat, when you receive the package, you can feel that something is very different about this purchase. The box is unusually heavy (in my experience, heavy almost always translates to excellent build quality) and comes with a hand-stitched cloth bag to carry the box in.

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A wooden texture covers the box from end to end and a minimalist approach to design is used here as opposed to the one most gaming keyboards take.  The back of the box is no different with some key features listed in four different languages. But it isn’t till this outer layer is discarded that you start to get a sense of the luxurious unboxing experience you are about to have. In foil lettering and in a very classy style, AZIO is embossed on the black box which will house the keyboard.

The entire unpackaging experience looks like it was designed with incredible thought. It’s not just taking the keyboard out of the wrapping, this packaging is clearly a value-added feature of the price tag that they are charging.

Inside the black box, a tastefully kept card and the actual keyboard covered in multiple layers of wrapping can be found. It is heavy and bulky and feels very sturdy. You could probably use this keyboard as a weapon in case of the zombie apocalypse – its that well built. I am not sure I can say the same for many of the plastic feeling keyboards out there. the contents of the box are fairly minimalistic as well, with some spare keycaps (always a nice touch!) and a cable. The Retro Classic features a USB-C port which is reversible and would allow hassle-free wired connectivity should you want it.

Looks and impressions

The AZIO Elwood Retro Classic keyboard uses mechanical switches from Kailh and features a highly tactile and clicky response, which goes well with the typewriter-esque theme they have going on. It features a 6-key rollover design and connectivity over USB-C or Bluetooth (whichever you prefer). The keyboard is quite heavy because it houses a mammoth 5000 mAH battery which can keep it powered for almost a year without the backlight or for a month or two with backlight.

The keys are rimmed by a raised border which improves intuitive detection of the keys and should make typing easier. The keys are well spaced and make it very hard to key in typos. This version of the keyboard includes a Numpad as well, which is an added bonus if you are someone that works with numbers. The wrist-rest is made from a light wood-type material that should easily last as long as you want it to although while it looks absolutely stunning, you probably want to go with a softer rest.

You can toggle between wired and Bluetooth modes using the switch at the back as well as switch the interface between Mac and Windows (wow). The keyboard height is very comfortable to type on but the rounded keys do take a while to get used to since all of us are used to the squared-off design of modern keys. The travel distance is fairly high as well which adds to the entire vintage experience the company is trying to sell.

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As you can probably tell from the pictures, the entire build oozes of quality construction and I have no doubt this is something that will easily last for quite a few years. The typing experience is great as well, once you get used to the dated feel of a typewriter-style keyboard. One thing is for sure, if you want a vintage-looking keyboard, this is the one to get.

Conclusion and value proposition

Finding a value proposition for luxury items is hard since the luxury market usually has a very arbitrary utility function. Even then, the features of this keyboard speak for themselves. It features dual connectivity modes, dual interface modes, backlight and 6-key rollover with mechanical switches and great construction quality. In fact, if I really wanted to nitpick, I would say that this keyboard does not have N-key rollover which isn’t too bad considering this isn’t a keyboard aimed at gamers.

Considering some premium keyboards go for $170 and don’t contain half the features this guy has, I would have to say the price tag of $219 is fairly justified. With a huge 5000 mAH battery (this is the largest in any keyboard unless I am very much mistaken) you can have this last for almost a year for a completely wire-free aesthetic. At the end of the day, the value of any device is in the eye of the beholder but if you are someone who misses the typewriter action of old and are in the industry of writing a lot of words, then this could be a great investment to make. This keyboard would also go well with custom builds using the retro theme.

All in all, I can’t wait for AZIO to jump on board the optical-mechanical switch bandwagon and make a keyboard that could well and truly last a lifetime.

 

 

 

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Control Review – Full-on Paranatural Remedy Metroidvania Action

Control

Remedy always had a flair for the otherworldly, the supernatural, if you think about their portfolio of games. Even in Max Payne, their breakout title, they pioneered the slow-motion ‘bullet time’ effect in games modeled after the one seen in The Matrix movies. This allowed the titular character to effectively react to bullets while they were being fired, a superpower in its own right.

With Alan Wake, Remedy dived headfirst into a fully supernatural setting where the titular (once again) Alan Wake battles the encroaching darkness and those who have succumbed to it with the power of light, in addition to his own wits.

Quantum Break followed in the same footsteps, although it veered closer to science fiction. In the 2016 title, a failed experiment with a time machine empowered main character Jack Joyce with time-bending powers to stop the apocalypse (that is to say, the end of time).

Control Levitation

Arguably, though, it is with Control that Remedy reaches the pinnacle eerie setting. The first fully multiplatform game released by the studio since the days of Max Payne, Control is entirely set in one big location, the Oldest House.

This brutalist-styled building is placed squarely in the center of Manhattan, and yet it is hidden in plain sight there, as its unique properties effortlessly push looks away unless the observer is specifically searching for it. Indeed, it is no ordinary building but a Place of Power that is central to the game’s paranatural setting.

In the world of Control, other dimensions sometimes seep into ours to cause the so-called Altered World Events. This happens far more often in the Oldest House as that’s where the walls between dimensions are thinnest on Earth.

As the FBC was founded with the goal to contain and research these paranatural phenomena, once the Oldest House was discovered it didn’t take long for the Bureau to move in permanently.

Control Oldest House

All kinds of weird events regularly happen in the Oldest House, but the game begins when something far more insidious has taken root into the building, which subsequently enters the state of internal lockdown to avoid the spread of this infestation of sorts into the world.

Protagonist Jesse Faden literally walks into the Oldest House as if it was a regular edifice, her motive being the search for her long-lost brother Dylan, essentially kidnapped by the FBC during an AWE that took place in the siblings’ hometown. However, there are reasons why she was able to do so even with the lockdown in place; Jesse is special in plenty of ways and that’s made clear at the very beginning of the game, when she is able to pick up the dead FBC Director’s Service Weapon and survive, thus becoming the new Director (in a clear nod to Thor’s Mjolnir or King Arthur’s Excalibur legends).

Faden is characterized as an introvert, a woman of few words, mostly because of what happened to her during that Altered World Event and the fact that no one would believe her story. We do, however, get to hear her inner voice even during conversations, which gives us an interesting insight into her personality from the inevitable insecurities to the steely determination.

Truth to be told, there aren’t that many human characters to interact with in Control. Most of them are dead already or they have been possessed by the Hiss. Many others are just regular FBC employees that cannot be interacted with, leaving only a handful of properly defined characters.

These are fairly well written, though as a whole the tale told in Control comes off as slightly hard to relate to. A big reason for that is the faceless nature of the enemy, the Hiss, an extradimensional hostile force that doesn’t really have much in the way of complexity for its motives. It just wants to corrupt and take over, as simple as that.

The worldbuilding could also have been a bit better. There are a ton of reports and audio/video recordings spread across the many offices, but most of them are partly classified. This doesn’t entirely make sense when you consider that Jesse becomes the FBC’s Director from the get-go and should logically have clearance for everything.

Having Control take place solely in the Oldest House had the additional benefit to make it easier to craft a Metroidvania-inspired action/adventure game. It is the first time that the Finnish studio foregoes linear gameplay and it’s something that they had explicitly cited as a lost opportunity with their past titles. Control successfully dips into more open-ended waters as the Oldest House can be explored more or less freely (after the Directorial Override of the internal lockdown) and in my book, allowing this level of exploration in games is always a plus. In this case, it’s even more interesting to explore all nooks and crannies in the Oldest House, given its constantly shifting and unpredictable nature.

Content-wise, though, there aren’t that many secondary quests to be found in the game. This can probably be explained with the short development time (just over three years) of the project as well as the limited size of the team (Remedy is also working on CrossFire story mode for Smilegate as well as researching multiplayer options with the internal ‘Vanguard’ team). Still, the total amount of game hours is around twenty (including the side content) and can be considered respectable for the genre.

As mentioned before in our hands-on preview from E3 2019, the game’s action combat is easily one of the standout features of the title. As Jesse successfully binds more Objects of Power while roaming the Oldest House, all sorts of powers can be unlocked. The first and arguably the most devastating is telekinesis, which allows her to pick up and launch pretty much anything in the environments, from chairs to desks, from fire extinguishers to televisions and the like.

Should none of these be available in the vicinity of the action, Jesse will grab a good chunk of the building’s concrete to hurl at her foes. Needless to say, the environments can look like something out of a Warzone after a fierce fight with several minions of the Hiss. She can also use the concrete as a shield for defensive purposes, provided you’ve found and bound the Safe Object of Power. Other powers include levitation, dodge, a telekinetic-empowered melee attack and the ability to temporarily convert enemies to allies once their health has almost depleted.

With all these paranatural abilities unlocked, Control delivers a great, satisfying power fantasy in the hands of players, even though the boss fights aren’t quite as epic and memorable as they could have been given the premises. Of course, there’s also the aforementioned Service Weapon which handles the more than competent shooting side of Control. There are no other weapons in the game, but the Service Weapon can be transformed into other types of guns resembling a minigun, a shotgun et cetera, providing all the necessary variety.

Shooting becomes necessary once you have used a few powers and the energy is recharging, though it is possible to increase Jesse’s total energy or improve the efficiency of her powers through Personal Mods, while Weapon Mods allow tweaking of the Service Weapon’s capabilities in its various forms.

It’s worth noting that while Control isn’t a traditional cover shooter, Jesse can indeed crouch to get cover behind objects, though the destructibility of the environment means that cover can literally blow up at any second.

Beyond combat, though, Remedy could have done more with these powers when it comes to exploration and puzzles. The few puzzles that are there mostly involve finding the right hedron pattern in lab notes before replicating it on a computer to unlock some door.

Arkane’s Prey game, for example, another game based on a Metroidvania design and set on one big interconnected location (the Talos space station), did outstandingly well in this regard, making players feel clever as they used all the tools at their disposal to find alternate or hidden routes.

From the technical standpoint, Control is the latest evolution of Remedy’s own Northlight engine, building on what was an already solid foundation with Quantum Break. On PC, though, Control comes with a handful of additions that GeForce RTX graphics cards owners will be able to enjoy to the fullest extent.

First of all, there’s real-time ray tracing (based on Microsoft’s DXR API), implemented in four different effects. We’ve seen the reflections in earlier trailers, but in-game they are quite impressive to say the least, providing greater accuracy and detail on both opaque and transparent surfaces than is otherwise possible.

Then there are ray traced contact shadows, which add more depth to the game’s scenes, and ray traced indirect diffuse lighting which replaces screen space ambient occlusion (SSAO) with more accurate lighting and shadowing from nearby surfaces. Lastly, the ray traced debris setting allows geometric destruction debris to be factored into the ray tracing calculations for all of the above: reflections, indirect diffuse and contact shadows.

Overall, anyone would be hard-pressed to argue that ray tracing does not meaningfully improve the graphics of Control. On the contrary, this is one of the finest implementations of the technology to date. That said, activating all these effects with the High quality preset at 4K resolution tanks the frame rate even on a system powered by the RTX 2080Ti graphics card. Thankfully, Control also supports NVIDIA’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) technology, something that had been kept under wraps until recently. According to NVIDIA, DLSS can increase frame rates by 1.5 to 2 times depending on the resolution. Playing at 4K, I was able to choose between 1080p and 1440p rendering resolution with DLSS.

I picked the latter, of course, which makes the game run fairly smoothly with all ray tracing effects enabled. There is some occasional stuttering (although not nearly as much as seen in the gameplay footage below, due to the capture’s inherent performance hit), though that appears to be more related to the CPU than anything. As it turns, the i9 9900k’s eight cores could be less than ideal as Keith’s benchmarks indicate.

Overall, Control looks fantastic in places and that’s also thanks to the striking art design, but I do have to mention the excessively grainy image as a negative. Even with the Film Grain option disabled, the grain effect is just too pronounced and inevitably goes to the detriment of the image quality, which is a pity.

Initially, I thought it could be noise, a byproduct of ray tracing, but it’s there even when ray tracing is disabled. It has to be a stylistic choice on Remedy’s part, then, albeit one that I disagree with.

On the sound front, the music and ambient effects are adequately eerie but do not stand out on their own, and the same can be said for voice acting as well.

As a final thought, Remedy’s latest manages to deliver consistent quality with the studio’s usual solid, fun, technically advanced offerings. What it does not manage, however, is propelling the studio to a whole new status as Marvel’s Spider-Man did for Insomniac recently. Hopefully next time, as Control does beg for a sequel to explore in a much greater way the weird and fascinating paranatural world created by the Finnish developers.

Reviewed on PC (code provided by the publisher), where the game will be an Epic Games Store exclusive for a year.

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Ancestors: Humankind Odyssey Review – Humans Were A Mistake

Par : Rosh Kelly

Ancestors Humankind Odyssey

We are at the very beginning in Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, the first point where something resembling a human comes grunting out of the jungle. If you’ve read Sapiens, you’ll already be fascinated by the idea of early human adventure and survival, and Ancestors promises to let you experience it.

The beginning of the game opens on a dangerous world, where predators are still fighting to see who will be the top of the food chain. It’s mysterious, chaotic and enticing. When I first took the reigns, I choose the immersive experience in the menu. That gave me a full tutorial but minimal UI. But after a very brief introductory sequence and thirty minutes of wandering the jungle aimlessly, I turned the UI back on to see what I had missed. It was more or less everything the game had to offer. I like games that let you customise and reduce the HUD where possible, as I find the barrage of information difficult to look past, but in some games, and I believe Ancestors is included, there is no point in removing that information until you understand accurately what is going on in the game.

Players will often be using their avatars intelligence and senses to navigate the dangerous Earth of ages past, but doing so brings up a variety of HUD shapes that dominate the raw natural world they overlay. In fact, much like early Assassin’s Creed games (which were also created by Patrice Désilets), the UI seems almost completely at odds with the game aesthetic, with cold, clinical graphs and markers representing the rather messy process of evolution. 

Ancestors is a game about discovery, rediscovery, and experimentation. You control a small tribe of early humans, and your job is to make sure they survive to pass on not only their genes but their knowledge as well to the next generation. To do this you control individuals much like you would in a third-person game. You’ll lead them through the jungles and savannas of a younger Earth and through the process of developing their curiosity and intelligence.  

But to begin with, you know absolutely nothing but what your limited senses and can tell you. There are no finite objectives in Ancestors. Your mission is to try and make it to the next generation. How you do that, and what you pass on, is for you to decide and the game itself goes out of its way not to help you. Around your shelter at the very start of the game, you’ll find a variety of different plants, locations, tools but you won’t know what any of them do. From there its up to you to pick up, examine and in a lot of cases eat everything you come across to see what happens. I get that experimentation is at the heart of it. There is a thrill in finding a new plant in this prehistoric jungle and daring to see what happens but it can also be frustrating. Being poisoned or wounded can be lethal but you won’t know how to cure yourself until you happen to come across the right plant and try to utilise it. 

I understand what the game is doing. Life was difficult and short for our ancestors and the only way they discovered how to survive those times was to see what killed their cousin and not do it. But as a mechanic, trial and error is not the most fun in a videogame. Especially when you have so little to base it on.

There is a strange feeling to the game, a feeling that there is something inscrutable behind the formless design. While the game world of Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey seems to stretch out in front of you without any objectives, you get the feeling there should be some. Whenever you wander into a new territory or spy a new predator stalking the undergrowth, you get the feeling that the game wants you to do something, but it doesn’t tell you what. New areas have to be conquered by finding familiar objects within them, but from there you are once again left to your own devices. It can be frustrating at times not being able to peek behind the curtain. I think Ancestors also suffers from decades of gamification of the early human race. As I explored the regions of Ancestors, I kept expecting to come across ancient ruins or alien races that would hide secret knowledge and technology, because it’s hard to think of a game that doesn’t have some sort of remnant civilisation to exploit. 

Some events seem to happen at random intervals that break up the game, but these too don’t unlock particularly engaging objectives. At one point early in the game, for instance, a meteorite crashed into the jungle. I set out to find the crash site, and after a bit of tree hopping managed to collect the stone itself. But there was no real reward at the end, and I lost the stone when a giant snake bit me too.

Progress in the game is determined through evolution. As you develop and use your intelligence, senses, motor functions, and communication, you’ll unlock new abilities. Some of these get to pass down to future generations, while others have to be relearned. You’re not forced to shape the humans we know and love today if you don’t want, but I found it also hard to get out of the habit. Even dozens of hours in I was using my intelligence more than my senses which meant my future descendants weren’t nearly as good at hearing and smelling as the predators they were hunted by, something about on track for us as a species.

Overall, it’s an interesting idea that you can’t pass on everything you want when you move a generation, which you decide to do at long intervals in the game. The cult favourite Orehika: Tainted Bloodlines did a similar thing for the PS Vita back in 2014 but with more clinical JRPG numbers. But while it’s an interesting idea, and a well realised one, it’s not that much fun to play. I love games that let you discover things for yourself, but the raw aspects of Ancestors just makes it hard to enjoy. While it is smart, and often satisfying, it just isn’t fun a lot of the time.

Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey is not a quick game nor an easy one. Its difficulty, however, doesn’t come from the challenge provided by the action as in Dark Souls, or by the puzzles like in The Witness. Instead it comes from a mix of luck and courage. It feels very accurate to that a lot of how humanity survives is based on deciding not to eat the strange grey mushrooms you found under a rock, but again, it was hard to find the fun in it. Meticulously examining each point of interest when most of them are just dead trees quickly became tiresome. Losing beloved characters to bleeding when you can find nothing to stop it is frustrating.

It is an experimental game in every sense of the word. You have to experiment and the game doesn’t neatly fit into any established genre, which of course isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I hope it feels an audience that can enjoy the self-made story it lets you explore, but I don’t see it having mainstream appeal. At its best moments, you enjoy getting swept up in your own adventurers, craving out and understanding a small piece of the world for humanity to thrive, but at its worst, it comes across as directionless, needlessly punishing, and frustratingly hard to understand. These latter moments, unfortunately, outweigh the former ones.

Review code provided by the publisher.

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Astral Chain Review – The Twins Of Destiny Don’t Disappoint

Astral Chain

Platinum Games has produced, over the course of the years, some of the best action titles ever released. Starting from the original Bayonetta, the Japanese studio has always managed to produce some solid, fast-paced action titles where shoot (and slash) first, ask questions later was the norm.

Things, however, didn’t stay so simple for the studio for long, and deeper role-playing game mechanics started getting implemented, such as the loot system and actual stats in Transformers: Devastation. This eventually led to the creation of NieR: Automata, a full-fledged action role-playing game where preparing ahead was just as important as raw skills.

Astral Chain can be considered as the culmination of this game design evolution from Platinum Games. The Nintendo Switch exclusive features a captivating blend of the gameplay mechanics introduced in PG’s games over the years, with some extremely on point tweaks that bring everything to new heights.

Astral Chain is set in a world where humanity is almost extinct. It is the year 2078, and the last survivors of the human race live in a huge city called the Ark, which is located on a massive, artificial island. Humanity has been pushed back to the Ark by mysterious extradimensional beings called Chimeras, which usually reside in the Astral Plane. When traversing over to our dimension, Chimeras spread “red matter”, which corrupts all living beings, including humans. If not outright corrupted, humans can get dragged into the gates leading to the Astral Plane for unknown reasons.

Humans are mostly powerless against the Chimeras, but there are some uniquely gifted individuals who can fight back. These are the members of the Neuron Police Task Force, who are armed with the Legions, subservient Chimeras who allow their masters to actually see the Chimeras and fight them. The Legions also aid Neuron in investigations.

Among the members of the Neuron Police Task Force are the Howard twins, the adopted children of the Neuron Captain Maximillian Howard. The two are fresh recruits, but it seems like they have been brought into the Neuron for a very specific reason, as they display incredible aptitude at controlling the Legions. With the guidance of other senior members of Neuron, like commander Yoseph Calvert and Chief Medical Officer Brenda Moreno, the Howard twins will learn more of their gift and of the battle to save humanity from extinction.

The story in Astral Chain has some strong Japanese anime vibes, and the game does its very best to feel like one, with things like an intro complete with a theme song and the character design handled by Masakazu Katsura, who is known for mangas like Video Girl Ai, Zetman and Wing-Man. As such, characters and themes don’t go much beyond the typical anime tropes, but they are enjoyable nonetheless. There’s also a good amount of mystery surrounding the Neuron and its commander, which is more than enough to keep the story going. Everything considered, the story is very well developed, the characters are charming and they provide a good reason to see everything to the end. One weird choice, however, is the silent protagonist, which doesn’t really work well in the context of the story, considering the same character is fully voiced if not picked as main character at the beginning of the game.

The story, while definitely enjoyable, is not the main reason to play Astral Chain. As already mentioned, the game takes elements from pretty much all Platinum Games developed titles and blends them together in such a clever way that makes the experience both engaging and varied.

Exploration and world traversing, however, is unlike anything that the studio included in past games. As the Howard twins are part of a police force, they will have to handle tasks like solving cases and bringing common criminals to justice. The investigation mechanics are very interesting and add quite a bit to the whole experience, with players having to explore locations thoroughly in search of clues that may lead to the solution. Once enough have been found, it will be up to players to connect the dots and proceed through the mission. While it’s not possible to get stuck, putting the clues together correctly will increase the score for the investigation segment, and a high score is needed to get an S or S+ rank for the whole story Chapter.

The investigation segments often require using the IRIS system, which allows players to get more information not only about the clues but also about the NPCs and even enemies, if active during combat. The IRIS is an extremely handy device, as it also displays the distance separating the players not only from the mission’s current objective but also from Red and Blue Cases, which are all optional. Red cases often involve combat, while Blue Cases are mostly simple fetch quests that can be completed in a short amount of time. Optional Red Cases are somewhat important as they provide additional details on the world and the story, and they are also required if you’re aiming for a high rank at the end of the chapter.

Everything considered, exploration in Astral Chain is extremely rewarding, and highly recommended. Both required and optional cases are varied, and they introduce new mechanics even in the second half of the game, providing an excellent diversion from the combat which will be the main attraction for most Platinum Games fans.

More so than any other mechanic in the game, the Astral Chain combat is the blend of mechanics taken from other titles developed by Platinum Games: there are elements from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Transformers Devastation, The Wonderful 101 and Nier Automata, but this doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t come with something brand new. It indeed does, thanks to the Legions.

Astral Chain

The Legions are Chimeras that fighting alongside the Neuron force and the Howard twins. They are divided into 5 different types – Sword, Arrow, Arm, Beast, and Axe -, all coming with a different moveset and different skills that must be learned by unlocking them on the different skill trees. Legions, which come with a sort of Stamina gauge that determines how long they can stay active, fight on their own once summoned, but players can decide to move them by pressing the ZL button and moving the right stick. Legions can also be brought closer to the player and be sent ahead to fight specific enemies.

The Astral Chain that binds the Legions to the Howard twins isn’t’ just for show, as it can be used in combat in some clever ways. By wrapping it around enemies, it’s possible to bind them temporarily, unleash a Chain Jump attack and more. The chain can also be electrified through specific skills, making it damage enemies that touch it.

While the Legions are the main weapon in the hands of the Howard twins, they are no slouch themselves. They are armed with the X-baton, which comes with three different attack modes – a quick attack mode with short-range and fast strikes, a ranged mode and a heavy mode.  While all modes are viable against most enemy types, they are most effective against specific enemies, like ranged mode for flying enemies and so on. All X-Baton modes also come with different combo strings.

Astral Chain’s battle system reaches its maximum potential when both the Howard twins and the Legions are in sync. This is done with Sync Attacks, which are unleashed at the end of any combo string, special command attacks, which are learned by enhancing the X-Baton with money and special materials when dodging attacks and more. These Sync Attacks, which are extremely powerful, can be unleashed when the controlled character emits light, and they are somewhat reminiscent of Transformers Devastation’s Rush Attacks. It’s thanks to these Sync Attacks that the combo potential of the game reaches new heights, as they usually launch enemies in the air, and the proper use of the movement options can allow players to continue attacking the enemy with new combos.

Legions are also able to unleash a variety of different skills that come with a cooldown timer. These skills range from simply increasing attack power to summon rotating swords, electrifying the chain and so on. Legions can also unleash some personal actions that allow players to cut through the energy generated by Chimera’s attacks, ride the Beast Legion, shoot arrows with the Arrow Legion, be protected by the Arm legion and so on. These all deplete stamina, so they cannot be abused, but they can make the difference.

Astral Chain combat mechanics can feel overwhelming, but thankfully the game does an excellent job in introducing them gradually. There’s also a full-fledged tutorial mode that can be accessed at the Neuron’s HQ which is also extremely handy.

An excellent combat system would mean nothing with bad enemy design, but thankfully Astral Chain fully delivers on this front. Enemies range from the very simple Aberrations to different Chimera types, which all come with unique attack patterns. Several of these Chimeras also require some of the Legions’ unique abilities to be defeated, something that adds even more variety to combat. Every enemy encounter is extremely exciting, and boss battles are even more exciting. In true Platinum Games’ fashion, Bosses are big, strong and require good knowledge of the mechanics to be defeated efficiently.

Sadly, many of the game’s combat mechanics may not get their time to shine due to the generally low difficulty level and the evaluation system. Astral Chain features different play styles – such as Casual, Unchained, Pt Standard and Pt Ultimate – which alter how much damage enemies dish out, how many continues players get and so on. Only Pt Standard and above see the typical Platinum Games ranking system for story missions, and it’s here that things don’t feel balanced enough, as it’s extremely easy to get S+ ranks due to how the scoring system. At the end of each Red Case and main story case, the player performance gets ranked depending on completion time and performed actions. Pretty much every combat maneuver nets points, even using items, so just using all X-Baton modes and all Legions, perform a few Sync Attacks and skills, can be enough to get S+ rank, even if a lot of damage is taken. This takes away a lot from the game, as sloppy play is not exactly punished. Pt Ultimate is a bit more challenging due to how strong enemies are, but getting S+ ranks is not any harder than getting them in Pt Standard. All of this is definitely not going to be a big issue for most players, but it will definitely rub Platinum Games hardcore fans the wrong way, as it feels like an unwanted simplification of what the studio always does best.

Astral Chain also features a co-op mode which allows two players to play through the campaign together. As the game is primarily a single-player experience, co-op doesn’t work too well and feel more like a novelty to let players try out the Legions moveset. The combat mechanics aren’t tweaked for co-op, so the stamina gauge is still present, and when a Legion cannot be summoned, the only thing the player controlling it can do is move the camera around.

Being a Nintendo Switch game, Astral Chain isn’t among the best looking games of the generation. Despite this, it’s still rather pretty, mostly thanks to the art direction and character design. The Astral Plane is especially good looking, with alien structures popping out of the background thanks to the clever use of color. Character design, as already mentioned, is extremely good, and all characters, as well as Chimeras, look very unique and distinguishable. Bringing things slightly further are the customization options for both characters and Legions, which allow players to create their own, distinct look. The interface is also extremely well done, and fully customizable to boot.

The performance was one of the biggest concerns regarding Astral Chain, as Platinum Games decided to go with a locked 30 FPS frame rate. After playing the game extensively, I have to say that it was the right choice to do, as there no slowdowns even during the most hectic battles. Sure, it doesn’t feel as smooth as the other games from the studio, but it’s definitely better than to have a floaty frame rate that could damage the experience.

The soundtrack is also extremely well done. Eerie atmospheric pieces accompany the exploration phases, while some rocking pieces offer the perfect soundtrack to all the Chimera subduing players will be performing. Voice acting, which is available in both English and Japanese, is also quite good.

At the end of the day, Astral Chain is yet another excellent Nintendo Switch exclusive that no fan of action games should pass on. While there are some small issues here and there, the game is definitely among the best titles developed by Platinum Games, showing how the studio is more than capable of developing games that go beyond what they have created so far.

Review code provided by the publisher.

 

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Bionik BT Audio Sync Review – True Plug-and-Play Audio For The Nintendo Switch

Par : Kai Powell

Bionik BT Audio Sync

If there’s one thing that the Nintendo Switch is missing to make it a perfectly portable console, it’s a way to completely remove cables from the equation. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One offer wireless headsets, although those solutions usually aren’t as graceful. There’s adapters or cords sticking out of the console USB ports and you’re often limited to using one specific headset with those attached adapters. Options like the Razer Thresher or the Turtle Beach Stealth 600/700’s for Xbox One offer a truly wireless connection without needing any dongles for the Xbox One. That may work for home consoles, but what about Nintendo’s hybrid gaming platform? Bionik has come up with a reasonably priced solution to connect any manner of Bluetooth headset to the Nintendo Switch with the BT Audio Sync adapter.

As a side effect of the 4.0.0 firmware update for the Nintendo Switch, USB dongles could be used to connect headsets to the console, either to the USB ports adorning the side of the Switch dock when playing on TV or via transmitters plugged into the top 3.5mm headphone jack or plugged into the USB-C connection under the unit. Typically this is a solution that works but without a very appealing form factor. Those flimsy dongles can snap off or be an unsightly tumor, so I’m grateful that someone finally came out with a solution that is a natural fit with the Switch’s handheld form factor. Also included with the BT Audio Sync is a short USB connector cable to connect it to one of the Nintendo Switch’s USB ports while docked.

Adorning the rounded bump of the Bionik BT Audio Sync are only two points that the user will ever need to interact with once it’s plugged into the USB-C port at the bottom of the Nintendo Switch console. One is a female USB-C port, allowing the player to charge their Nintendo Switch as they play via a passthrough design. The other is a single orange button that only needs to be briefly held down to activate the pairing mode, indicated by a series of rapidly flashing lights.

When I first took the Bionik BT Audio Sync out of the packaging and plugged it into my Nintendo Switch, it had a slight issue with pairing to the only bluetooth headset I had one hand at the moment to test, a HyperX Cloud Mix. It wasn’t until I went through the motions of resetting the Audio Sync (done by holding down the sync button for much longer than the standard pairing mode) that I could get the pairing to sync.

From that point on, the Bionik BT Audio Sync worked like an absolute charm. Any time I fired up Cadence of Hyrule, I’d plug in the Bionik BT Audio Sync and switch on my Bluetooth headphones and within seconds, I’d be jamming along to crystal clear audio. I have more than enough issues with getting Bluetooth to work in my car, so getting an adapter to work on my Nintendo Switch with zero issues after the initial setup is always a positive in my book.

If you’re a player that’s looking to do a bit of cooperative play on the go, the Bionik Audio Sync supports two headsets at any given time. Or, if you’re using Apple AirPods, Samsung Galaxy Buds (which I own and tested), or any other truly wireless earphones, these are only permitted to use pair along with the Bionik Audio Sync given the extra wireless signal between the two separate units. 

Without a doubt, the Bionik Audio Sync is the smartest upgrade I’ve picked up for the Nintendo Switch. Any time that I want to put on a pair of headphones to peacefully enjoy playing Fire Emblem during a commute, it’s as simple as inserting the dongle and turning my headphones on and I certainly can’t say the same for Apple AirPlay in the car. The only thing that keeps the Bionik Audio Sync from being a perfect accompaniment to the Nintendo Switch is the lack of console voice chat (you still need your phone handy for that) but perhaps that’s something that can be figured out in a future patch.

Review unit provided by the manufacturer.

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Oninaki Review – Dramatic Story, Erratic Action

Oninaki

Tokyo RPG Factory still has something to prove. The studio was founded back in 2014 with the goal of recapturing Square Enix’ mid-90s magic, and, thus far, they haven’t really achieved that task. I Am Setsuna had its charms, but ultimately didn’t leave much of an impression, and Lost Sphear was a straight-up bore. Enter Tokyo RPG Factory’s most ambitious, and risky, project to date, Oninaki.

Oninaki features a bigger story and higher production values than anything Tokyo RPG Factory has attempted before, but it also casts aside the dependable turn-based combat of the studio’s previous games in favor of a more ambitious action-based system. So, is Oninaki the JRPG PS1-era fans have been waiting for or has the Tokyo RPG Factory assembly line turned out another clunker? Time to find out…

Oninaki

Oninaki is a dark game. Kind of shockingly dark. This is a game where your very first pre-title-screen mission involves you assisting in the suicide of pair of grieving parents who hope to be reunited with their dead son. Oninaki takes place in a world where reincarnation is real, or at least almost universally believed to be real. Unfortunately, if you die with any lingering regrets, your soul won’t cross over, leaving you to endure as a ghost. This happens so often that any expression of grief has been deemed a cultural taboo for fear it will upset the dead and an organization known as the Veil Watch has formed to help lost souls pass on to their next world…even if it means killing people in this one. Oninaki casts players as Kagachi, a particularly cynical member of the Veil Watch, with a standard JRPG mysterious past.

If you’re thinking, “Gee, a fanatical belief in reincarnation combined with a total repression of any natural feelings about death sounds like a recipe for a royally screwed-up society,” well, you’d be right. The world of Oninaki is obsessed with suicide — citizens are able to apply for “tithing,” a euphemism for state-administered suicide, for basically any reason, death cults are on the rise, and the public largely turns a blind eye as multiple serial killers run rampant. Not everyone is so apathetic though – there is also a growing resistance who have doubts about reincarnation. Are these heavy themes dealt with as subtly or tastefully as they could or should be? I’m not so sure, in fact, if you’ve recently dealt with the death of a loved one or are sensitive to the subject of suicide, I might suggest you avoid the game. That said, Oninaki’s frankness can be bracing, particularly after that droning blandness of Lost Sphear, and I’m always for games pushing boundaries and taking chances.

Oninaki

Beyond the interesting setting and edgy themes, Oninaki also serves up a pretty solid story. It centers around Kagachi trying to track down the Night Devil, an evil entity that once terrorized the population, and has now returned to spread new hate and destruction. The plot keeps up a good pace, with twists, deaths, and betrayals coming a regular pace, although it does resort to some padding toward the end. Still, this story is worlds better than anything Tokyo RPG Factory has cooked up before.

Oninaki’s visuals and overall presentation are also a step forward, which is to say, it looks like an HD PS2 game rather than a PS1 game. Okay, that’s a bit snarky. The game won’t blow you away on a technical level, but artistically, it can be downright pretty at times. Unfortunately, the game’s audio is a touch disappointing, with the game’s soundtrack cutting out altogether for long stretches, leaving you with nothing to listen to but the grunting and slashing of combat.

At this point in the review, it may seem like I mostly really enjoyed Oninaki, but that’s just because I haven’t delved into how the game actually plays yet. As mentioned, the game opts for real-time combat, while also shamelessly stealing Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s Blade system. Oninaki calls its Blades “Daemons,” but it’s the same basic concept – a series of characters you bond with, each of which lets you use a different class of weapon and can be individually leveled up to unlock new skills and buffs. The system worked well for Xenoblade Chronicles, and it works well enough in Oninaki too, with the game providing a nicely-varied assortment of Daemons. You have the typical sword, spear, and axe-wielding types, but there’s also ranged attackers, martial artists, and a giant white wolf you can ride around on ala Princess Mononoke.

Unfortunately, while its Daemon system is fairly well thought out, Oninaki’s moment-to-moment action has a lot of problems. Controls aren’t anywhere near as responsive as they should be, with commands often straight-up not registering. The game’s sluggishness is tolerable when fighting rank-and-file grunts, but it becomes a serious problem when taking on the game’s surprisingly-demanding bosses. Chipping away at a big bad’s life bar for 10 minutes only to lose because the game decided to flake out when you tried to use a healing item is profoundly frustrating.

Battling through Oninaki’s levels can start to feel more than a bit monotonous, as enemies take too long to kill and are repeated ad nauseam (get ready to kill a lot of penguins and scorpions). The game does have a Link-to-the-Past-style dual-world system, with players being able to cross over to the land of the dead at any time, but nothing interesting is done with it. You’ll occasionally visit the dark side to chat with a lost soul, use a portal, or find a hidden treasure chest, but don’t expect any real puzzle-solving or exploration. It feels like Oninaki is trying very hard to emulate classic hack ‘n’ slash RPGs like Diablo, or perhaps Secret of Mana, but it just never quite finds the right groove.

Oninaki is further diminished by a series of weird design choices. For starters, Daemons are leveled up individually with special stones found in chests or randomly dropped by enemies. This means you can’t quickly catch up new Daemons by fighting high-level enemies. No, you have to tediously mine for stones for every Daemon you get. Eventually, it stops feeling worth it – around halfway through the game I decided Aisha (who wields a katana), Dia (crossbow), and Treize (chain whips) would be my Daemons of choice, and they more than covered my needs. Also, there’s no money or shops in the game, and yet you’re still dependent on limited Healing Incenses to stay alive. Much like the Daemon-leveling stones, these all-important healing items are acquired basically at random, and all too often you’ll find yourself stuck in the middle of a stage or ambushed by a boss with no ability to top up your HP.

So, at this point in the review, it may seem like I actually kind of hated Oninaki, but that’s not really the case either. The game can be aggravating, but it never stopped pulling me along. I’d curse, I’d grumble, but then three or four hours would disappear without me really noticing. I even started to kind of enjoy the action after a while. Was it Stockholm syndrome or did I just have to learn to the play Oninaki on its terms? I can’t really say, but I do know I finished Oninaki’s 25-hour story in under a week and it never really felt like a chore, although I don’t guarantee everyone will feel that way.

This review was based on a PS4 copy of Oninaki provided by publisher Square Enix. Oninaki is available at a 10 percent discount at Green Man Gaming

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Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Winds of Magic Review – Minotaurs and Major Setbacks

Par : Rosh Kelly

Winds of Magic

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 has had a steady stream of new content since its launch last year. From the sickly greens of the Bogenhafen to the nostalgic streets of Ubersreik, players have had the chance to murder gross ratmen and insane chaos worshippers in plenty of different locations. But now the Beastmen of the forests have wandered into the fray thanks to Winds of Magic expansion, which brings all-new enemies, one new map and a new game mode to hack, slash and shoot your way through.

The map, Dark Omens, introduces the new enemy faction with some dramatic, albeit brief environmental storytelling. If you don’t know anything about Beastmen, and seemingly there isn’t that much to know about them, you won’t learn much in Dark Omens. But the map itself is great fun, with a collection of chokepoints, dense forest, and some of the widest plains seen in the game to fight across. The constantly shifting terrain and range will force you to adapt between your close and ranged attacks, feeling almost designed to split the party and make fights just that bit more intense.

There isn’t much new visually for the game, we’ve seen forests and caves, and ruined towns in previous missions, but there are some nice effects. The quest revolves around a crashed meteorite that is drawing the Beastmen close to civilisation, and towards the end of the mission, you’ll see the shadows of thousands of Beastmen gathering. There’s also a few alternate routes and secrets to go back for, as if killing a thousand satyrs wasn’t enough. But more than anything it does a fantastic job of showing off the Beastmen on their home turf.

The Beastmen themselves are the highlight of Winds of Magic. A brand new threat for the players that have sunk in hundreds of hours and an exciting new addition for anyone just getting started. They have an immediately distinct appearance with their exaggerated horns, cloven hooves and make them stand out against the more humanoid chaos warriors and their smaller, rodent allies. For the common mobs, they are nothing new except for the appearance. They’re mostly harmless unless in a large group and fall in one swing or volleys despite their intimidating visage. But the new specials are exciting and creative additions to a game that is already filled with pretty unique ways to kill you.

Large armoured minotaurs come charging through the fray, scattering the players and exposing the party to some hard-to-overcome ambushes. While they don’t have the same disabling effect as assassins or packrats, these chargers can quickly take a much-needed tank from the pack and cause all kinds of enjoyable chaos. Standard bearers on the other hand, completely change the way you engage with the mobs besieging you. Once a standard is placed, the surrounding enemies are granted a powerful buff that is only removed if someone can destroy the banner with melee attacks. Having a sneaky banner placed during a skirmish can turn any encounter deadly and parties can be picked off trying to counter the assault.

On top of these special enemies, the Beastmen also bring with them a new miniboss, the Minotaur. This creature is exactly what you expect and is easily the most difficult miniboss in the game. With a massive health pool, as well as the ability charge, fling players around and just generally do a ton of damage, Minotaurs offer some of the most exciting and tense fights in Vermintide. And with the DLC all these Beastmen mercenaries can be found throughout any map in the game.

But there is one more thing that Winds of Magic brings to Vermintide 2. And while the rest of the DLC, like all the content that came before it, is available for the whole party as long as the host has paid up, the titular game mode is not. To play Winds of Magic, you have to have the DLC in your library, and as the game mode doesn’t even support bots, it does feel like the developers are pushing for a few more sales.

Unfortunately, Winds of Magic is by far the least fun aspect of, well, Winds of Magic. Like a lot of games that involve a lot of grinding, everything is focused on the end game content, but Winds of Magic is a misstep. Essentially the game mode is like a time attack mode. You’ll replay pieces of old maps with new rules and objectives and time limits. But for some reason, this new mode also has its own unique weapons, and levels, basically putting all the characters back to square one when you start playing it. While I appreciate that it must be incredibly hard to build new things for the players that have already put hundreds of hours into a game, Winds of Magic doesn’t seem like the right answer for Vermintide 2.

For the people who are entirely devoted to the grind, and always need something new to work towards, Winds of Magic might be exactly what they need to come back to the rat riddled forest of Vermintide, but for everyone else its just frustrating to not utilise all the equipment you’ve managed to hoard since you started.

All that being said, Dark Omens is one of the best levels in Vermintide 2, and the Beastmen are a really fun new enemy to mix up the now very familiar rattling gunners and Blightstormers. I had a lot of fun running through the dark forests and getting stomped underfoot by Minotaurs, but whether that alone is worth the price of Winds of Magic, it’s hard to say.

Reviewed on PC (code provided by the publisher). You can purchase a copy via Green Man Gaming at a discount.

The post Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Winds of Magic Review – Minotaurs and Major Setbacks by Rosh Kelly appeared first on Wccftech.

Razer Viper Strikes At The Speed Of Light

Par : Keith May

If you’ve been living under a rock lately or not been in the market for a gaming mouse you could have easily missed one of the latest trends in gaming mice and that’s ultra-lightweight, even to the point that they’re blasting holes in them to shed every ounce they can. This has brought out newcomers like Final Mouse and Glorious PC Gaming Race products like the Model-O. But Razer wasn’t going to get left out of the scene on this one and jumped right in with the Razer Viper, an ultra-light ambidextrous esports focused gaming mouse. I hear you, Esports…really? But yeah, see often mice are marketed to different segments of markets and esports gamers don’t need a ton of buttons all over the place, they usually want a very straightforward mouse that is designed to be light and responsive without getting in the way. But does Razer manage to do that with this mouse they spent quite a bit of time developing, even to the point they worked directly with real esports competitors to get direct feedback to mold their design choices through?

The cord is shaken up with their new Speedflex Cable design, gone is the tightly braided cables like the Mamba and the Basilisk had and is replaced by their new 2.1m Speedflex cable. Similar to a paracord design but a bit looser the speedflex cable is a bit thicker than I had expected but is super flexible and doesn’t get bunched up and stiff like other cables Razer uses. It’s a good move and welcomed although with the lightweight nature of the mouse it actually feels heavy. A very important note on the design that most might overlook is the fact that the cord is angled slightly upwards from the mouse body to extend the point which hits your mouse pad out by a little bit, nice touches like this are really key to making a better product.

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The Razer Viper features an ambidextrous design that I was hesitant about at first, only because I’m right-handed and have become accustomed to right-handed mice like the Logitech G502, Razer Mamba, Roccat Tyon, but it did take me a few days to get used to it so I could really get this one going. Coming in at 126.7mm long, 66.2mm wide and a short 37.8mm tall the Viper lends itself perfectly for a palm style grip with my hand that measures in at 177mm, I know I have small hands. On the top of the mouse you’ll find the scroll wheel, right and left mouse buttons, a pair of forward/back buttons on both sides and these can all be modified in the not-required synapse software (more on that later) and the Razer logo is under the surface so it has a frosted look to it for the only RGB that’s present which is pretty nice.

The real kicker here on the body is the weight, the Razer Viper comes in at a very light 69g and managed to do so without blasting it with buckshot thanks to ver strategic internal shell designs. They claim they had the ability to make it even lighter but all the feedback from the pro players landed them right here at 69g for optimal control and speed, maybe it was to sneak in a joke or two but who am I to judge there. I can appreciate keeping the mouse looking normal so that it’s more welcoming to people but I also do have concerns about debris buildup in an open holed body mouse, although that might be a completely unfounded concern. Either way, the weight is nice and now everything else mainstream feels like a brick, thanks Razer.

Flip the mouse over and you’ll find two glide pads at the top and bottom of the mouse, they’re a bit anemic in size but it does have glide pads surrounding their in house 5G optical sensor that is rated for 99.4% accuracy and 16,000 DPI for those who need to cross 6 4K monitors in the blink of an eye. Tracking felt good and I never came across an issue with it but I kept the DPI at 1800 where I’m most comfortable. Speaking of DPI if you recall earlier when going over the top of the mouse I didn’t mention anything about a DPI selection and that’s because it’s on the bottom instead. This keeps you from accidentally changing the DPI during a heated firefight or any other reason, but it could prove a hindrance if you’re someone who adjusts DPI on the fly in-game for whatever action you’re trying to take. I know there are some games where I like to change it if I’m in submenus or using a vehicle.

What about the scroll wheel? It’s wide and has a good grip, other than it’s a scroll wheel. The switches are much more interesting, however. They’re implementing their new Optical Switches for instant actuation. But while the instant actuation is nice having been someone who suffered from losing a mouse in the past to the left click wearing out and double-clicking no matter what thanks to the debounce delay taking a dump I can appreciate no longer having to worry about it. These switches are able to do that because they actually do not have any physical contact points, they’re actuated entirely by light passing through the switch as it moves down. Thanks to this design they’re able to extend the lifespan to 70 million clicks, count them up if you want on your own I can’t validate this claim. Another claim is that they’re 3 times faster than normal switches but that time frame is so small already you’ll likely be like me and not be able to tell the difference. Sound-wise they have a nice solid thud and aren’t very clicky sound, not very loud either.

Okay, Software? I know how much you guys love Razer Synapse Software Suite, after all, you tell me every time I do a review of their hardware. If you fall into that camp you’ll be very happy to know that it’s not needed unless you want to change the color of the cycling logo. There are 5 presets for the DPI saved to the onboard memory of the mouse, you heard me right ONBOARD MEMORY, and while you can use the Synapse software to change the settings of each and they’ll stick it won’t save the RGB configuration so you’ll be left with a color cycle effect when you take the mouse off to use on another computer or want to uninstall the Synapse Software.

Conclusion

So coming in a $79.99 the Razer Viper isn’t exactly cheap, but it is an acceptable price considering how well the mouse was executed in design and performance. I love the fact that they have managed to make a really lightweight mouse that can easily fit into any setup and be taken about with you without fear of it filling up with lint and debris in a bag. I wish they had put bigger glide pads on the bottom if for nothing more than to maybe extend the life of them. The addition of onboard memory is exceedingly welcome and very appreciated, not being met with a Synapse installer the moment you plug in the device is a great move and shows that Razer is listening and making a move to deliver what their audience is asking for, it would have been great if they had included enough storage to save the RGB profile as well. But at the end of it all the Razer Viper is a solid and competent lightweight gaming mouse that will serve you well into the long hours of the night.

The post Razer Viper Strikes At The Speed Of Light by Keith May appeared first on Wccftech.

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