PriceSpy’s tips for Black Friday

So Black Friday is upon us (well, Black Friday week, it appears), and PriceSpy, the fully impartial price and product comparison site, has some tips for getting the best deals – and what it thinks will be the top game selling on one of the biggest sales days around.

Before gamers rush to the malls to snap up the deals being offered by retailers, the pricing watchdog is encouraging shoppers to carry out pricing research ahead of people buying and to look out for products that increase in price across the big sale days.

First off, here’s the top games PriceSpy things will be most popular in the Black Friday sales:

According to new pricing insights released within PriceSpy’s new Black Friday Report, almost a fifth (18 per cent) of all products listed on PriceSpy reduced in price by at least 10 per cent or more on Black Friday last year. But, 12 per cent of products also received a price hike on the sales day (Black Friday vs to 1 November 2020).

And if you’re tempted to shop early this year, especially with shipping delays affecting product
availability and customer demand skyrocketing for items like graphic cards, consumers should be wary that not everything is necessarily cheaper.

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, New Zealand country manager for PriceSpy, says: “Our pricing data found almost one in 10 (eight per cent) of products listed on our website increased in price before Black Week last year, to then get discounted on Black Friday, making the sale appear better than what it was.”

So, how can shoppers seek out the best deals around? Here’s PriceSpy’s top sale shopping tips:

Check out the competition
First things first – take time to check if an offer really is as good as it sounds by sussing out the
competition. Is the same game, console or controller available at an even better price elsewhere? Using the PriceSpy app will help you do this, as it provides access to thousands of prices and products instantly.

Don’t get confused by the big discounts
Even if the product you are looking to buy is being advertised with a price drop, don’t take the
retailers word for it. Use a price comparison site or app, like PriceSpy to check out the product’s price history. If the deal isn’t as good as what it should be, we encourage people to be prepared to walk away.

Preparation is key
The best chance of finding a good bargain comes from preparation. If shoppers know in advance what they are interested in and have a rough idea of the price, they’re less likely to get carried away and buy the wrong thing during the sales event. Matinvesi-Bassett says: “When it comes to making the most of Black Friday, preparation is key. Whether shopping in-store, or bargain hunting online, shoppers should research items they want to buy well in advance rather than splashing out on a whim.

“The PriceSpy app and website is designed to help consumers conduct research quickly and easily. They can even check out delivery costs, delivery times, whether products are in stock and for online shopping, whether click and collect is available. It couldn’t be easier.”

Guardians of the Galaxy review: A surprise that came out of Knowhere

I didn’t expect to enjoy SquareEnix’s Guardians of the Galaxy game as much as I did.

Hell, I didn’t just enjoy it, I loved it – and that surprised me for a game that, quite frankly, I hadn’t really paid that much attention to until it was released and I saw other people playing it: Then I became interested.

You play as Peter Quill, or Star Lord as he likes to be called, the leader of the self-proclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy. Based on the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book series and not the Marvel Universe movies,l I have to admit it took a few moments for me to get used to the characters not looking like their movie counterparts – and you know what? I actually think I now actually prefer the game’s versions of Star Lord and Gamora!

The video game opens – which is single player only: There’s no multiplayer – with the Guardians visiting the Quarantine Zone and Quill and Rocket inadvertently freeing an evil entity that kicks off a chain of events which leads to it wanting to consume the galaxy, working through a religious cult known as the the Universal Church of Truth and its leader Grand Unifier Raker. It’s up to the Guardians to, well, save the galaxy.

Visually, the game looks excllent [I played it on Xbox Series X], with planets bursting with colour and detailed locations like the Quarantine Zone, Knowhere, Seknarf 9. The soundtrack deserves special mention, too, and is frankly kick-arse with some truly outstanding 80s hits, including Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up, Turn Me Loose by Loverboy, Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and, personal favourite, I Ran by Flock of Seagulls. It’s Peter Quill’s ultimate mixtape!

Guardians of the Galaxy (the game) also has great writing and a narrative that is both engaging and humourous, with some truly laugh-out loud moments, much of that thanks to the outstanding voice work that really brings life to the characters. [It also has some of the cutest video game labrador puppies I have ever seen.]

As you’d expect with a game featuring heroes, there’s plenty of combat, with Star Lord and fellow Guardians Gamora, Rocket, Groot and Drax the Destroyer (and Kimmy the Llama) each possessing special abilities and talents. During combat, Quill can order his team mates to perform specific moves or abilities mid-combat, which can often prove incredibly helpful in turning the tide in frantic battles, especially against larger foes [all the abilities have a cooldown timers, so keep that in mind].

Your team mates can also help during navigation of the game world: Groot, for example, can use his branches to create a path across chasms; Drax can lift heavy objects and smash through walls; Gamora can slice through obstacles and boost Quill to hard-to-reach places; and Rocket can hack control panels and crawl into confined spaces.

An interesting mechanic during battles is the team huddle, where Quill can potentially grant each team member temporary invincibility if he is successful in delivering a rousing speech to spur the team on. At key points during the game, decision that Quill makes, can impact on the narrative further down the line and determine how the team will feel about him at certain points.

I really enjoyed played Guardians of the Galaxy and if I had any gripes it would be that the combat becomes a chore near the end of the game, especially during the lead up to the finale.

The lead-up to the game’s final boss fight was drawn out a little too long for my liking, with a constant stream of enemies to fight and one boss who was a veritable bullet sponge.

I also wasn’t a fan of the space combat sections: I found controlling the Milano incredibly frustrating but thankfully those segments are short and far and few between.

Guardians of the Galaxy came out of – excuse the pun – Knowhere for me and I’m truly glad I played it: It has a narrative that has some truly heart-felt moments, despite getting repetitive near the end. Definitely one of the best games I’ve played all year.

All I need now is for the team behind the game – Eidos Montreal – to get started on the Deus Ex game featuring Adam Jensen that we’re all waiting for.

C’mon, you know you want to.

Thanks to BandaiNamco’s New Zealand/Australia PR team for the game code [Xbox Series X, finished the main campaign, collected lots of stuff, contemplating New Game +].

Riders Republic: Extreme open-world mayhem

Riders Republic scratches the itch left from extreme sports games of yore like Ubisoft’s Steep and EA’s SSX.

In fact, Riders Republic comes from developer Ubisoft Annecy, the same studio behind Steep so they share a lot of commonalities but whereas Steep focused on winter sports with snowboarding and extreme skiing, Riders Republic adds a variety of extreme sports to the mix, such as mountain biking and rocket backpacks, creating a world full of unbridled craziness and it’s the perfect pick-up-and-play for a little bit game.

Set in a sprawling American landscape full of snowy mountains, woodland trails and clear blue skies, Riders Republic drops you in an extreme sports paradise with a central hub area that acts as a base. The tutorial is close to an hour but stick with it as the game opens up once that is out of the way and you get much more freedom.

Like all open world games, you complete events to unlock more events and progress through the ranks and performing tricks and stunts earn more experience points which helps unlock more equipment and gear.

As a cycling fan, I tended to take part in a lot of biking events – both downhill mountain biking and road – and there are a lot of nice well-known brand mountain bikes to unlock (the vast majority from brands I’ll never afford) and the events are a lot of fun, although quite unforgiving at first as you get to grips with the trails and the control scheme, which proves a little unwieldy at times.

Probably the biggest draw card for Riders Republic, though, is once you’ve gained access to several sports and get to the real meat of the game, you can switch disciples on the fly.

It works like this: You’re bombing it down down a mountain trail on your mountain bike. You back flip off a cliff face – then mid-free fall bring up the sports menu, select the rocket pack then bammo, roar off through a nearby canyon.

That’s where the real fun in Riders Republic lies and it’s seamless (the game also has a rewind function that will let you correct mistakes as you an see from the video below after I initially crashed into the ground while trying to transition from jet pack to mountain bike).

Being able to change disciplines instantly brings a new dimension to the game and it means you can mix up the game play, keeping things fresh. You can also race around a track riding an ice cream bike as well, if you like!

There are also things called mass events where the online avatars of other players all take part in one event and I can’t say I am a fan. I’d describe them as chaotic and messy. It’s you and the avatars of 63 other competitors (think ghosts rather than real-life people) battling it out for position as you compete a variety of disciplines.

I got frustrated most times I took part in a mass event as my rider was jostled and bumped from the middle of the pack to the end because there were just so many participants in such a tight space. I really didn’t have a lot of fun with them so generally stuck to the solo play

Look, Riders Republic isn’t perfect but it’s sure to scratch that itch for those extreme sports fans looking for something to fill the void left by Steep and SSX.

How the COVID pandemic reignited my love for Bandai Star Wars models

Last year, before New Zealand went into lock down due to the COVID 19 pandemic sweeping the world, I bought a Bandai kitset model of Boba Fett’s Slave 1. My intention was to build it during lockdown. For those unfamiliar with Bandai’s kitsets, they are meticulously detailed and snap together – no glue required – and really are top-notch replicas of Star Wars vehicles.

Anyway, best laid plans and all, I ended up working all through lock down so didn’t find the time to build the model. It sat in my study, forlornly until July this year when I decided to build it and it has rekindled my love of building kitset models.

I’ve always been fond of Star Wars models: As a teenager who grew up on Star Wars I built a kitset X-Wing, Snowspeeder and All Terrain Armoured Transport (AT-AT), the Imperial army’s tank-like troop transporters used on the snow planet of Hoth. With my father’s help, I constructed a plywood base and we shaped plaster of paris into snowy hills, positioning the walker and the scale sized snowspeeder that came with the kit into a diorama.

I adored that kitset but, sadly, when we moved from Wellington to Christchurch, the less-than-careful removal company managed to damage it, meaning it had to be tossed out.

I’ve also always been a long time fan of Boba Fett, the galaxy’s most feared bounty hunter, despite his scant few minutes across the entire original Star Wars trilogy. It seemed fitting then to buy a Slave 1 kitset and set about building it.

This is my journey of the build using pictures I took as I progressed. As I mentioned earlier, it has rekindled my love of kitset models and my dear wife, seeing the enjoyment I had from building Slave 1, bought me my cherished AT-AT for my recent birthday, along with Lando Carlrissian’s Millennium Falcon from the movie Solo.

I’m watching YouTube videos to learning better weathering techniques and I’ve already started the AT-AT – but I’ll show that (if you’re interested) in a future post.

So, here we go …

The build

A tiny Boba Fett inside the main cockpit. I decided not to paint the figure as frankly my eyesight wasn’t good enough to do it. I also didn’t paint the interior of the cockpit. I have since bought a hobby magnifying set that will make painting fine details much easier.
The underside coming together nicely. Bandai’s kits are incredibly detailed with intricate pieces. I had to glue a couple of pieces on as they wouldn’t snap in place properly.
The underside complete, with the stabilisers in place.
I wasn’t entirely happy with the “weathering” effect here, so I eventually ended up covering it with Tamiya nato brown to hide the grey. My weather is improving but still has a long way to go.
The final model painted and weathered so it appears battered and worn after years of hardship.
My painting needs improvement but I’m generally happy with it as a first crack after so many years of not building kitset models.
I used a mixture of Tamiya cockpit green & olive green for the paint weathering, with Tamiya nato brown for the underside. I used Tamiya yellow green for the stabilisers. I dirtied up the paint work using Mig Ammo’s starship streaking wash.

Gamejunkie chats … Far Cry 6

It’s time for another Gamejunkie chats, a fairly regular series where I chat about a game I’ve been playing with a fellow gamer colleague and see what each of us thinks of it.

My co-reviewer this time is writer and reviewer Dylan Burns, who is no stranger to the site having written reviews for me before.

Our game of discussion this time was Far Cry 6, Ubisoft’s latest in the long-running open-world series. Read on to find out what we thought of it.

Gerard: I have to say I haven’t played a Far Cry game for some time, perhaps since Far Cry 3. I kind of bounced off the series’ “Do all the things” game play where it just seemed to overload you with things to do. I’ve found that with previous Ubisoft games, too, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect this time around.

This one, from what I’ve played at time of writing, seems to have all the hallmarks that a Far Cry game should: complete missions, collect items, clear out security posts/camps to earn rewards and gain resources, upgrade weapons via workbenches, climb towers to … survey locations for an assault. So far, so Far Cry, really. 

Something different is that you do have a pet alligator called Gaupo, though, that you can order to specific points and harass people. That was quite neat. There also seem to be random events where rebels will be taking on republican troops and I really wasn’t sure what to do with those: Was I supposed to help the rebels or do I just carry on? I wasn’t sure whether there was any material reward for getting involved. What were your initial thoughts, Dylan?

Dylan: I couldn’t help but laugh at the over-the-top, crazy shit that happens as I just try to walk across the world. The player is constantly the moving eye of a storm around which rabid animals attack, factions battle metres away and all other manner of busy, distracting events. In a way, this is a signature, but it’s a rough one that is clearly modelled on the Rockstar open world.

However, Rockstar worlds have one fundamental difference in that they exist for the player to engage with, whereas Far Cry 6’s world engages with the player, whether they want it or not. It becomes a question of whether you are okay with engaging with action for action’s sake or if, like me, you realise that there is little meaning to all the mayhem. Without any discernible benefit to engaging with these fights, I simply ignored them. Loot comes in boxes and there’s no XP or skill tree, therefore there is no point beyond action itself.

I was initially confused by the new ammo system. Basically, enemies are vulnerable to certain types of ammo – soft rounds, armour-piercing rounds and so on – and you kill enemies faster if you shoot them with those rounds. This requires you to mod your guns so that you ideally have one of each type equipped. You also need to scan enemies in order to discern their weakness. What I found annoying about this is that I would often forget which gun had which type of ammo, although this does get easier the more you play. I still haven’t quite gelled with the system, though. It becomes almost not worth switching to a more powerful gun unless you have enough resources to create the mods at a workbench. The system should allow you to keep all mods and apply them to any weapon you want equipped.

What I did enjoy are the treasure hunts. They were my favourite part of 5 and they highlight how well Ubisoft can create lengthy environmental puzzles. I’d like just a whole game of these, to be honest. It doesn’t seem like there are too many of them in Far Cry 6, though, which is a shame, because otherwise everything feels almost exactly the same, mechanically, to what we have been playing for quite a few iterations now.

Gerard: I thought the new ammo system confused things a little, to be honest. I started equipping specific weapons with the specific ammo required but eventually just used whatever weapon I had available. It was almost putting a realistic bent on a game that is clearly reveling in its over-the-top, comic book action and not meant to be taken seriously. I mean, you can strap a weapon to your back called the Supremo that fires rockets & is great for clearing out large encampments (and burning drug fields). Far Cry 6 has those moments that make you think “Yeah, this is full of crazy!” 

I agree with you on the feeling of the game: It felt like a Far Cry game, to be honest: Nothing less, nothing more. That will please fans who want more of the same but for those gamers who have perhaps left the series and are hoping for something new or innovative to draw them back in, I don’t think they’ll get it with this.

Dylan: It just feels to me like something without any direction. For instance, the game pushes you to try and scout places that you need to enter – look for alarms etc. Stealth is clearly meant to be an option. Then your pet or companion will just charge in, completely stuffing any plans up. That said, I probably had more fun just shooting the crap out of everything than trying for stealth, but the fact remains that the systems in place definitely feel like they’ve been collated from prior games and whacked into a Cuban-esque setting.

Were you confused when the game plonked you into some kind of base camp, in third person? I couldn’t work out which missions were main ones – I kept working through seemingly endless side missions that rewarded me with points to upgrade a camp I had no desire to invest in.

Gerard: I get it that stealth is supposed to be an option – I think that is why they get you to scope out enemy camps beforehand – but as you said, it was often just easier to go in guns blazing than try and Sam Fisher it. I actually found during one mission – and I’m not sure whether it glitched out or what – but I was picking off enemies from a high vantage point (including some particularly tough medics) and as approached the camp’s entrance I suddenly got a black screen – thinking I’d triggered a failed state – only to be greeted with a “Captured” on the screen, telling me I’d succeed. I wonder whether my pet companion had just gone in and dealt with the remaining two enemies? It was strange.   

The third person seems to be used for wandering around larger camps and then when you use the Supremo but, yeah, it did kind of feel jarring, especially when the Supremo one kicks in and you suddenly see a crouched Dani as the rockets fly from the weapon. I would have preferred the third person view while on horseback, to be honest, as I got motion sickness riding a horse in first person – plus it seemed really hard to accurately steer the beast. 

Dylan: Funnily enough, I preferred horses to vehicles as you can use them to go through tracks and trails, thus avoiding the checkpoint-riddled roads. It got to the point for me where it felt like I was mired moving to way points. I did not want to engage, I wanted to travel and enjoy the scenery and not be drawn into pointless conflict.

Overall, I just felt a bit overwhelmed by the size of the map and the knowledge that progression would repeat for each region. Far Cry 6 did not feel like a game for me, but one for someone with enough time to chew all of this content up without desiring depth. The story was okay and Giancarlo Esposito’s bad guy (Anton Castillo) is appropriately villainous. It was just not . . . my cup of tea. Maybe something for when I’ve got a couple weeks’ leave and just want to mess around without consequence …

Far Cry 6 is absolutely a decent modern Far Cry game that leans into its own pedigree. The map is massive, the action relentless, the loot ubiquitous. If you want more Far Cry, this delivers. But it is also very much the same as previous games, just with a Caribbean overlay. It will appeal to many, I just found it personally uninteresting. Given it’s tens of hours of content, however, I am certain that at some point I will crave some popcorn gaming and this is the kind of thing I will turn to.

Gerard: I think you hit the nail on the head, Dylan, when you said “If you want more Far Cry, this delivers” as it’s following the same foundations set out with the previous modern Far Crys. As someone who hasn’t played a Far Cry game in a long, long time, this edition didn’t do anything to convince me that I’m missing out on anything if I don’t embrace the series again.

Byte sized review: D-Link compact full HD pan & tilt wi-fi camera

D-Link’s DCS-6500LH wi-fi security camera is a home security camera with a difference to your normal static position camera: It offers pan & tilt functionality, meaning it will track movement.

Offering full 1080p HD video, sound and motion detection and auto motion tracking, the DCS-6500LH is incredibly easy to set up using D-Link’s smartphone-based My D-Link app: I had it up and running straight out of the box in a matter of minutes.

The camera itself is well made and the base has four rubber pads that will help keep it secure as well as a camera-mounting screw hole if you want to mount it on a ceiling. It offers a 2MP CMOS sensor and up to 5m night vision recording. It has a built-in microphone and speaker and is mains powered so you’ll need a power socket nearby.

With the app you can set the parameters of the camera, such as having it alert you via the smartphone app when it senses movement or sound, and whether you are alerted via a notification to your smartphone or it just records a video clip which it then saves either to the cloud or onto a microSD card. You can also set the camera into “privacy” mode which means it won’t record while you are at home

You can store captured footage either locally onto the microSD card or to the cloud, through subscription model, which ranges from free (which records footage from up to three cameras, storing the footage for one day before deleting) or through paid services which range from $4 to $16 a month. You can access the footage anytime from the My D-Link app as long as you have an internet/wi-fi connection.

I found the DCS-6500LH an excellent addition to my home security set-up – I have two other D-Link cameras set up around my house – and being able to monitor them via the My D-Link app is great. The footage is clear and the camera came in extremely handy to check on the dog when I’m away from the house. The smartphone app will let you take a snapshot or record footage in case you need to use it at a later date.

The original footage was captured by the camera in 1080p.

The motion tracking work well, following a subject as they moved around the coverage area, which you can determine via the app, but I’d suggest you don’t set the camera facing a busy street frontage, like I did initially: You’ll receive constant notifications as cars and people wander past.

The night vision works well, too, capturing movement in completely dark rooms, but if you plan on using the camera to monitor outside activity I’d suggest not placing the camera too close to a window as you’ll get reflection from the camera’s IR LED off the glass.

At just on $NZ100 ($AU80), D-Link’s DCS-6500LH is an affordable camera in its home security range that offers great performance and, importantly, peace of mind when you’re away from home or just want to keep an eye on what your canine friend gets up to while you’ve popped out to the shops.

A conversation about: Kena Bridge of Spirits

Kena Bridge of Spirits is a new PlayStation IP that has players control the titular character, Kena, a young spirit guide, as as she works to rid an evil corruption from a once-beautiful land & restore balance back to the world.

The game comes from first-time game developer Ember Lab, a creative studio more well-known for its animation and digital content work than video game making.

Thanks to Ember Lab, I got to play Kena Bridge of Spirits and I thought it was a good opportunity to have a chat about it with my gaming colleague Guy (Twitter: @nzBrowncoat), who also had a crack at it.

Here are our thoughts.

Guy: So, Kena Bridge of Spirits. First impressions in a nut shell?

Gerard: I like it. Right of the bat I just want to mention how damn gorgeous it is. It’s got a real Pixar-like visual style about it – and it’s not surprising, really, given that the developer Ember Lab have a background in animation. They’ve managed to really imbide emotion and feeling into her face, which is impressive. Game play wise, look, it’s not reinventing the wheel as it’s uses a lot of the tried-and-true platformer mechanics but a nice twist is the Rot, little spirit creatures that can Kena finds as she explores the world. They help Kena during combat and help solve puzzles around the world. What are your thoughts?

Guy: I am pleased I stuck with it. As after my first 30 minutess I was worried. It seemed very safe. Pretty…but safe but after I ticked over the hour mark I was totally sold. The combat is simple yet fun, the environments a stunning and the “Rots” scream plushy toy cute. Totally agree on Ember Labs, too. If this is their first ever game, man, what will they do next!

Gerard: Oh, yeah, they do. I love that cheeky grin when Kena discovers another Rot. I think safe is a good word there. It’s not trying anything too dramatic but it does things really competently and the game just has a feel good feeling about it. I liked how the backstory of the tormented spirits that Kena has to free is done through cinematic moments. They’re incredibly well done and I could quite happy watch a full length movie of Ember Labs’ animation work.

Guy: I think it takes too long to get to a complexity in both puzzles and combat, so that every encounter/environment is fun. For an eight hour game, I would say the first two hours could have been compacted down but I get that this game is catering for all ages, so younger gamers need a bit more of a slow burn into mechanics. What are your thoughts on the boss fight difficulty spikes?

Gerard: I agree that the combat is definitely a slow burn in that it introduces the enemy types gradually so that it doesn’t overwhelm the player too quickly but it might frustrate seasoned gamers. That said, some of those tougher enemies can really pack a wallop and I was floored a few times by some of the more aggressive ones. The boss fights up the ante, too, so you’ll definitely be challenged the further you progress. What did you think about the puzzle elements? I think it’s just the right mix of not “mind-numbingly easy but not pull-your-hair out hard”. I did like the mechanic where Kena could manipulate glowing rocks using exploding orbs, allowing her to create paths to higher points on the map.

Guy: I liked the puzzles. Chaining the energy to open doors, using the “Rots” to move items to pressure pads felt very Pikman. Sort of anyway LOL.

Gerard: Yeah, it is very Pikman-like. Nicely put.

Guy: I so enjoyed the aesthetic. Friendly, fun, inviting and just nice to be around. Its the same feeling I got playing Sack-Boys Big Adventure. So many games especially in this high-production space, are so dark and brutally violent. It was nice to play something that even for me (a 40yr old gamer) to exclaim aloud, “Ooooooh, man, that it cute right there.” LOL.

Gerard: Yeah, it totally is, right? It’s just got a fantastic feel good vibe about it and Kena is so wholesome and the Rot are amazingly cute. I smiled every time I found another one and it made that cheesy grin. Plus you can buy hats for them. Hats that look like mushrooms. Hats with horns on them. They look super cute. I can’t want to see what Ember Lab come up with next.

Guy: Haha, the hats!! I have two teenage kids who dragged themselves away from Reddit due to the beautiful graphics and ended up very vocal helping me choose and buy the hats for my “Rots”.

Gerard: Any gripes? I sometimes thought the jumping was a little floaty, and perhaps it’s because I’ve got used to having it in other games, but some kind of aim lock when Kena is using the bow and arrow – especially if you’re target shooting – would have been really helpful. I gave up on a few of the target shooting mini-games because it just proved too hard to line up the shots.

Guy: The aiming thing on the bow… the camera sensitivity is wrong. I almost doubled it from ‘default’ and it was waaaaay better. Then when I unlocked slow-mo the mini games were a breeze. Gripes? I would say the combat is not tuned enough for the punishment it dolls out. That window for ‘parry’ felt a tad inconsistent, so risking a missed parry was, too, well risky. So I tended to roll in bash-bash, and roll away. That would be my only gripe. What are your thoughts on the characters and voice work?

Gerard: Oh, yeah, the slow-mo. That works really nice in combat when you have a few foes or you want to got for a sensitive point on one of the larger enemies. In terms of voice work and characters, I thought it was well done but I would have loved to have learned more about her backstory. Overall I thought it was an amazing first effort from Ember Lab.

Guy: Overall very hard to find fault. Awesome price for the production level and level of polish on offer. Very “done-before” in terms of actual Nuts and Bolts game play mechanics and skill trees…like I said “safe”. But I loved it. It was a joy to play, the “Rots” are cute as hell and it was a perfect length for a weekend game. Nicely done Ember Labs.

Gerard: Looks like we both had a blast and highly recommend this to anyone after a nice chill-out PlayStation game (it’s on PS4 and PS5).

Kena Bridge of Spirits is out now for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

Intel i5 10600K CPU: Gaming performance

A couple of months ago, Intel reached out to see whether I interested in review it’s i5 10600K CPU.

Of course, I said yes, and it was the catalyst for a new PC build, which you can read all about here. A big thanks to Intel for the chance to review the i6 10600K.

Intel’s 10th generation, 6 core, 12-thread Comet Lake CPU was replacing an i5 8400 CPU which was still a good CPU but it was just starting to show its age a little. I paired it with an Asus TUF Gaming Plus wi-fi Z490 motherboard, a Sapphire RX580 8Gb GPU and 16Gb of PNY RGB memory. It’s all lovingly encased within a Montech case.

Initial usage indicated to my untrained self that the 10600K was a vast improvement on the 8400 but I wanted to put it to the test in gaming. That is, after all, what I mainly use my desktop PC for.

Right, onto the testing and the highly scientific regime I’d decided to use …

The testing

The testing method I employed to test the performance of Intel’s i510600K was simple: Run the game’s in-built benchmark and record the results. The games I picked were: Gears of War 5, Mafia II: Definitive Edition, Horizon Zero Dawn, Deus Ex Mankind Divided, Hitman 2 (Mumbai) and Red Dead Redemption 2. I also tested with 3D Mark’s Timespy Direct X 12 and Firestrike Direct X 11 benchmarks.Graphical settings were 1080p with a mix of high and medium settings, with the old ultra preset thrown in.

The results

Rather than lots and lots of words that will likely bore you stupid, here are some pretty pictures with numbers and charts on them showing how well things performed. According to the Timespy score, my PC is “Legendary”.

Of the benchmarks, the Gears of War 5 and Horizon Zero Dawn ones impressed me the most as they provided data for CPU as well as GPU performance (Average CPU Framerate).

3DMark Timespy & Firestrike:

Gears of War 5:

Horizon Zero Dawn:

Deus Ex Mankind Divided:

Mafia II Definitive Edition:

Red Dead Redemption 2:

Hitman 2 (Mumbai):

Final thoughts

In the two months I’ve been running Intel’s 10600K CPU in my PC, I’ve been mightily impressed: It’s a solid performer on day to day tasks but it really shines when it comes to gaming. That’s where it really stands out. It’s also said to have rather impressive overclocking potential but I haven’t gone down that route – yet.

If anything, the 10600K will be hampered by the at-least-a-couple-of-generations-old RX580 GPU, still a thoroughly capable card but it starts to creak in some of the more demanding titles coming out these days (I’d love to buy a nice shiny RTX-capable GPU but the outrageously ludicrous GPU prices are just not doing it for me at the moment.)

For gamers who want a fantastic performing 10-generation CPU for a reasonable price (pricing online had it for around the $300 mark), I can heartily recommend the i5 10600K.

Thanks to Intel for providing the i5 10600K for review.

Death Stranding Director’s Cut review: A triumphant return

Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding, like many of the Japanese game maker’s titles before it, is a game that polarised people when it came out on PlayStation 4 in 2019.

Placing players in the work boots of Sam Porter Bridges (played by The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus), a delivery man working to re-establish a broken and fractured post-apocalyptic America, many heralded the game as the second coming. Others saw it as a grind-laden walking simulator.

I’ve always found Kojima’s games a little bizarre. I didn’t play the early Metal Gear Solid games & only bought Metal Gear Solid V because of all the praise it received from everyone. I hated it. I sold the game disc to a friend pretty soon after I bought it.

Last year, however, I played the PC version of Death Stranding for the other website I write for (to see how it fared on PC) and for the most part, I enjoyed it, concluding “I’m not sure whether it’ll completely win me over but I’ve found myself kind of enjoying creeping through BT (Beach Things)-infested plains and silent valleys.”

For the uninitiated, Death Stranding is a game where you walk from point A to point B then generally back to point B but sometimes via point C and E. There’s stealth thrown in every now and then where Sam has to avoid the BTs – floating remnants of dead people – which can cause events called “voidouts”. If caught by a BT Sam will have to face off against animal-like creatures made out of a tar-like goo that would like nothing more than to eat him if they got the opportunity.

They explode in a shower of a chirrilium, a gold coloured compound that sprouts from the ground in the shape of a hand when the boss is defeated.

The story involves people with names like Fragile, Deadman, Heartman and Die-Hardman and Sam carries an infant in a portable incubator called a Bridge Baby attached to his suit. It can sense BTs. There’s also a protagonist called Cliff, a former special forces solider who is searching for his lost BB, which just so happens to be Sam’s BB. It’s confusing and complicated.

Fast forward to September 2021 and I’m playing the PlayStation 5 enhanced version of Death Stranding thanks to a review copy supplied by PlayStation NZ and I think that the changes made to this version have actually made the game more enjoyable and accessible and I’m enjoying it much more the second time around.

Sure, it still has the incessant grind where one minute you could be delivering underwear to a base somewhere high in a mountain range while the next you’re transporting old parts to a junk man, but the refinements in the new version have made it a less frustrating experience and a, dare I say it, more enjoyable experience.

The Director’s Cut brings a few quality of life improvements: For starters, you gain access to equipment like the wearable power skeletons (which makes you walk faster or through rough terrain) and new weapons much earlier on now.

There’s also the cargo catapult that is, as the name suggests, a canon that that sends cargo into safer areas, avoiding zones that might put it at risk from at the best MULES and at worst BTs. Being able to use those things much earlier on makes things so much easier to traverse the environments – and makes the grind less of, well, a grind.

There are also new story missions and a racing track – and the Monster Energy drink found in Sam’s living quarters has now been replaced by another game-specific brand!

The Director’s Cut of Death Stranding brings a performance mode which up scales to 4K (from 1800p) & targets 60 frames per second and a fidelity mode that offers native 4K but slightly reduced performance. It also has faster load times thanks to the PS5’s SSD & uses the haptics and adaptive triggers of the PS5 controller remarkably well.

Another new feature is that you can replay the boss battles through the figurines on display in Sam’s private room & you can even use a Buddy Bot – an automated delivery robot – to give Sam a lift when he’s tired of walking. They’re small quality of life changes but they’re welcome.

What hasn’t changed here is Hideo Kojima’s movie-like treatment of the game: It’s still incredibly cut-scene heavy but thankfully you can skip them, which is a god send. I really don’t need to sit through four cut scenes every time Sam goes to his private quarters or takes a shower. It’s just a little too much.

As weird as the story is, though, to its credit it’s delivered so masterfully by the ensemble cast that I found myself strangely engaging with what was going on. I mean, I was still confused half the time but it was presented so well that I just went with it.

Death Stranding is also intriguing in that it’s a persistent online world too which means that one morning you’ll step out from your safe house to find overnight while you’ve slept, someone has built a bridge over a nearby ravine or a shelter that will protect you from the acidic timefall rain.

So far, I’ve sunk around 21 hours into Death Stranding Director’s Cut & I’ve just finished Episode 7 (there are 14 from what I understand ). It’s a long, long game with a few of the episodes chocked to the brim with the weird shit that you’d expect in a Kojima game.

Here’s the thing, though: On paper, Death Stranding isn’t normally the type of game that would capture my attention but here we are, more than 20 hours in and I’m still happy to strap a antimatter bomb to my backpack and drudge 2000m through rocky terrain (and possibly deep snow) to deliver the item to some doomsday prepper way in the back of beyond.

Or take on a bunch of enemies to recover a camera for a photographer just because it has sentimental value. Or continuously slide down an icy cliff face, determined to get the winter clothing required for a mission-critical delivery.

The Director’s Cut of Death Stranding has something pushing me forward that the game couldn’t do when I played it on PC. I also found that completing one or two deliveries then putting the game down – sometimes until the next day – worked well. It broke up the trudging from point A to point B into more digestible chunks.

Even with the new additions, Death Stranding will still divide gamers but personally, after spending time with both the original Death Stranding and now the Director’s Cut, I believe that if you’re on the fence over whether you should dip your toes into Hideo Kojima’s weird but kind of intriguing world, then the Director’s Cut is definitely the way to go. I also appreciated the soundtrack more this time around, especially when a tune kicks in when you’re mid-delivery. It’s calming.

Who knows: Like me, you might find some solace wandering alone through a post-apocalyptic landscape with nothing but the cargo on your back and a baby strapped to your chest for company.

Intel i5-10600K CPU review: The heart of a new PC build

While it’s true that much of my video gaming these days is on on either my Xbox Series X or my PlayStation 5, I’m still a proud card carrying member of the PC Master Race and I started my gaming on the venerable ZX81 way back in the dark ages of personal computing.

So when PR for Intel Australia/New Zealand got in touch and offered me the chance to test out its 10th Generation i5-10600K CPU, I jumped at the chance. I was keen to re-build my PC with a newer generation CPU & see how Intel’s 10th Gen chip compares to the i5 8400 that I had been using for the last four years or so.

The Origin Story

For this new build, I was going to need to purchase a new motherboard for the i5-10600K as the Asus B365M-K motherboard that houses the 8400 doesn’t support Intel’s new LGA1200 socket form factor (the 8400 is the LGA1151 form factor).

I spent days investigating the cons and pros of a variety of motherboard chipsets that would work with the i5-10600K and eventually settled on an Asus TUF Gaming Z490-plus wi-fi motherboard from New Zealand retailer Computer Lounge.

The Asus board seemed to rank favourably with the review sites I follow and I’ve long been a fan of Asus’ motherboards as I’ve found they’re generally constructed well and offer great features for the price.

The board even came with a certificate of reliability from Asus, ver. Verifying that it had passed a variety of reliability tests that included vibration, mechanical shock, thermal shock and solderability tests on the motherboard’s capacitors and chokes.

The TUF Gaming Z490 looked just the thing that I needed but I’d be lying if it said it was easy finding a Z4890 mother board: Most retailers were either sold out, didn’t stock Z490 boards any more or were leaning towards the newer chipset for Intel’s 11th Generation CPUs.

The Set-Up

OK, let’s talk about the heart of the build: The CPU for a moment. Intel’s i5-10600K is part of the company’s Comet Lake CPU line up which was released around a year ago and is a 6-core, 12-thread CPU running at 4.1Ghz. It has a maximum clock speed of 4.5Ghz but apparently can be overclocked quite easily to 5.0Ghz. I don’t plan to overclock – at least not at this stage anyway.

So, with the i5-10600K kindly provided by Intel and the Asus Z490 motherboard having arrived safely, It was time to re-build my PC.

Apart for the new CPU and motherboard, all the other components were straight transplants from my old PC; The  SSD (which had the Windows 10 Pro OS install), the HDD (I haven’t got around to getting an M.2 drive yet), two sticks of PNY’s 8Gb RGB RAM and my dependable but ageing Sapphire RX580 GPU.

I was ready to begin, optimistic that I’d be done and dusted before I knew it. Oh, how wrong I was.

Remember earlier in this piece I mentioned how I was no stranger to building PCs? Well, I have to say that this was probably the most problematic build I’ve ever done. Installing the i5-10600K onto the motherboard was the easy part as was installing Cooler Master H410R air cooler (it too came from my old PC and luckily for me, supported the newer LGA1200 socket mounting holes).

I hit a few hiccups during the build, all a result of my fumbling fingers, but soon enough it was up and running. I could see that the i5-10600K was proving significantly better performer than the 8400 it replaced. It’s touted as a great CPU choice for gamers which works for me.

The Payoff

I tested the CPU using Geekbench, CPU-Z, Realbench and Maxon’s Cinebench R23 benchmarking tools.

Using Cinebench, I tested both the 10600K and 8400 on core performance. The 8400 returned a single core reading of 4802 (I forgot to do a multi-core test before swapping out CPUs) and the 10600K returned scores of1253 (single-core) and 8918 (multi-core).

Geekbench returned a score of 1256 (single-core) and 6483 (multi-core). CPU-Z returned scores of 513.7 (single thread) and 3813 (multi-thread) for the 10600K.

Realbench tests image editing, H.264 video encoding speeds, OpenCL and heavy multitasking and delivered a score of 145,369.

To be honest, I have no idea what any of these numbers mean in terms of whether a CPU is good or not but in general world PC usage, the Intel i5-10600K performed remarkably well and faster than my previous 8th Generation i5 8400 did so I’m extremely happy.

So, that’s it for this build post. In a future post, I’ll test the 10600K’s gaming performance.

A huge thanks to Intel Australia/New Zealand for the test i5-10600K CPU.