Monthly Archives: July 2014

Destiny beta hands-on

Note: So, the Destiny beta ended earlier this week. And the end date snuck up on me sooner than I expected so this preview isn’t as in-dept as I’d have liked. I didn’t really get much online play done but did do a fair few of the story missions. Read on …

Destiny-screenshotBefore the Destiny beta I had little interest in playing the new game from Bungie, the game development studio known best for its Halo series. It just seemed like it was Borderlands but prettied up for the new console generation.

After playing the beta for the past few days on PS4 (it ended today, it seems),  though, I’m now more interested in the game. Perhaps not interested enough to buy the full version when it’s released in September, but my interest is piqued. I was pleasantly surprised at what I played.

Those that know me, know that I like single player campaigns first, online component second. And Destiny’s story mode doesn’t come across as anything special: An alien race called The Fallen have invaded Earth, bringing with them some other alien forced called The Darkness, and humanity has only one stronghold left. It’s up to you – Yes, you – to defeat the Fallen and save humanity. Frankly, the story is ho-hum and little more than an excuse to drop the player on a decimated Earth, face off against a powerful alien race and save the galaxy.

I played as a Titan, which is sort of a run-and-gun soldier by the end of the Beta I was a level 5 Titan, but had I had more time I’m sure I would have made it to the Beta’s level cap (which I think was level 8)

Destiny has a central hub called The Tower, where players can wander around, dance, emote, sit down and generally just hang out. I saw players dancing in front of each other and saluting each other. I also saw players trying to jump over a barrier fence onto what seemed like outstretched aerials. They failed, plummeting to the depths below. I tried it – and failed. I plummeted to the depths below, re-spawning back in The Tower.

You can make your avatar sit down. So I did. Several times. Generally, I sat down every time I arrived at a new location – during the weekend Bungie opened up a story mission set on the Moon – and took a photo of it using the PS4’s share function (then posted it on my Twitter feed).

The beta had four story which were relatively straightforward: follow markers to your objective, defeat the enemy, move on but an interesting thing about Destiny is that when you tackled a mission there could be any number of players there with you. Those players might help you take out the Fallen as you complete your objective or just bounce around doing their own thing (as some of them did when I played). Apparently, Destiny isn’t an MMO but it’s an interesting world where you’re single player game can be populated by other players from around the world.

The game’s tutorial opens with the player lying dead on Old Russia cosmodrome on Earth, and being revived by your Ghost, a flying AI voiced by Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage. Apparently, Dinklage’s voice work is better than it was in the Alpha. I didn’t play the Alpha so I can vouch for that but at times I still thought the voice work was a bit lacklustre.

The story missions weren’t long – I think one mission took me around 9 minutes to complete  – and you can ride a vehicle called a Sparrow about the world and explore, but the story missions didn’t blow me away and tended to follow tried-and-true shooter conventions, which was a little disappointing.  One mission even had a  “hold off the advancing enemies until your Ghost hacks an alien computer” scenario. I really hope that Bungie are able to create a deep and engaging narrative that rivals that they achieved with the Halo series.

The Destiny beta has a lot of great things going for, one of them being how great it looks visually (remember it’s in beta so it’s still going to get some polish), but I still have some questions before I’ll commit to buying it when it comes out, especially in relation to the story missions. Also, while it’s great fun, I don’t think it’s the great revelation and best gaming experience ever that some gaming sites are saying it is.

So, did you play the Beta? What did you think?

 

 

 

Gadget review: Magellan Cyclo 505 cycle computer

 

Bar mounted: Using the out-front bar mount, riders can push the Magellan cycle computer out a bit further (I've used the current out-front from my existing cycle computer).

Bar mounted: Using the out-front bar mount, riders can push the Magellan cycle computer out a bit further (I’ve used the current out-front from my existing cycle computer).

 

 

 

Magellan Cyclo 505 Cycle Computer ($479)

[This review is a work in progress. Magellan’s PR company has been kind enough to let me test the company’s Cyclo 505 cycle computer for a few weeks so now that I’ve two days off from work, I’m going to test it out some more]

Chances are you haven’t heard of Magellan cycle computers (the brand is known as Mio in Europe) but I’ve long  been a fan of the company’s range of cycle computers.

In fact, I’ve used a Magellan Cyclo 100 on my road bike for the past few years and have been thoroughly impressed with its accuracy and reliability, despite its monochrome screen.

Magellan isn’t as well-known as the Garmin brand (Garmin also sponsors a professional cycling team), but they should be: Magellan offers a range of cycle computers that offer incredible value for money and from my experience are amazingly reliable and resilient.

So I was more than a little excited when I got the chance to test out one of Magellan’s newest cycle computers, the Cyclo 505, which is aimed squarely at those cyclists looking for a top-of-the-range device.

This is not a complete review, yet, though: I want to use it a few more times just so I really get to know it but I thought I’d give my impressions so far.

Sporting a colour 3-inch, 240×400 resolution screen, the 505 is a sizable unit (as the photos show) and it offers, among other things,  turn-by-turn GPS navigation, New Zealand and Australia maps, ANT+ and bluetooth connectivity and the ability to upload workout stats and ride data to Mac and PC, as well as cloud-based applications such as Strava. It also lets you connect to your smart phone using Bluetooth 4.0 so it will display incoming text messages, let you answer phone calls and let you control your music playlist.

Installation was a breeze, thanks to the easy-to-fit  out-front bar mount (I actually used the bar mount I had already fitted to my bike) and within minutes I was ready to test out the Cyclo 505. 

Colour screen: The Magellan 505 sports a 3-inch colour screen that is easy to read and responsive.

Colour screen: The Magellan 505 sports a 3-inch colour screen that is easy to read and responsive.

I tested the 505 around a variety of local routes that I like to ride around (ranging in distance from 30km to 60km) and it did what it says on the box, providing all the information I needed as a cyclist: Speed, average speed, maximum speed, distance, calories burned, active time and gradient. It’s also compatible with Shimano’s electronic shifting system the Di2, but as I don’t have that groupset on my Colnago road bike, I couldn’t test it out.

I also had a field that displayed my active heart rate as I was also using a heart rate sensor.

The 505’s touch screen was responsive, even when I was wearing thin gloves, and easy to read, and I found that the few data fields on-screen meant that things were even easier to read. Less fields also made the screen less cluttered.

There’s a Surprise Me feature which will calculate a route based on a specific distance or a specific time limit. Surprise Me is a nice enough feature to have – although a couple of times it threw a little hissy fit when I turned when I wasn’t supposed to (probably due to the rabbit warren of streets around us)- but it’s not a necessity.

Update number 1: Surprise Me – and it did!

I was pressed for time for a ride today so I used the Cyclo 505’s Surprise Me feature, which let me enter a specific distance or time into the unit then it calculates three routes that fit the criteria. With a route selected for a easy 30km, I cycled off, following the navigation prompts on the 505.

The Cyclo 505 had determined that the start point for the ride would be about 3km away – it was denoted with a green and black checked flag icon – and throughout the ride the unit gave me advanced warning of upcoming turns, just like a GPS unit does for a car.

All was going well until the unit told me to continue down a straight road that connected with a main road. The trouble was that 1.7km of the connecting road was coarse chip – and I had thin road tyres, susceptible to punctures on the rough stone surface. I contemplated turning around and following another road but then decided to risk it and go where the Cyclo 505 was telling me. It was a slow trip – I  didn’t want to go full speed across the stones – and I stayed in the smooth areas created  by cars that had traveled down the road.

To be fair, this wasn’t the Cyclo 505’s fault: It wasn’t to know that the section of road was under repair – as many of the roads in Christchurch are at the moment!

Apart from a short period when the unit seemed to have trouble determining which road to take me down as I neared home, the Surprise Me feature is a nice one to have when perhaps you’re in an unfamiliar area and want to do a short ride around the local roads.

 

Magellan’s Cyclo 505 is a feature-packed unit but it’s annoying  that I have to use Internet Explorer if I want to upload data to Magellan’s Cyclo Portal. Support for Chrome and Firefox is coming late this year.

I love the Magellan Cyclo 505 and if I have any gripe it’s the annoying beeping that sounds by default every time you touch the unit’s screen. Turning off the beeping was one of the first things I did.

I’m impressed with the Cyclo 505 so far but hope to test it out for another few rides this week. Look out for an update in a few days.

It’s been a few weeks of change – and change is good, right?

Apologies for the lack of updates in the last month: I’ve been busy with my new job – and a lack of game playing, to be honest. Now that I’m not writing regularly for any one publication, I’m not in the mind of gaming PR people much anymore.

So, yeah, I’ve stared a new job – and it’s a complete departure from the generally desk-bound career I had as a newspaper journalist. In fact, it’s as far removed as desk-dependent as you can get – and frankly, it’s a refreshing change.

I’m working as a loader for Air New Zealand at its Christchurch operations, which means that the bulk of my duties are loading aircraft (737s, ATRs, that sort of thing) and handling baggage. And you know what? I’m enjoying it. It’s different and it’s challenging me in a new way, the people I get to work with are friendly and awesome  – and I get to wear hi-vis during the day!

At the moment, I’m doing 7am to 3.30pm shifts but come the middle of this month, I start the shift work – and that’ll be a shock to the system of a worker who’s been used to the cushy 9am to 5pm work day.

So if you happen to see me from the airport departure lounge, give me a wave – chances are I’ll wave back! (of course, that assumes you know what I look like and can identify me amongst all the other hi-vis Air NZ ramp staff!)

Anyway, in terms of gaming, I have to admit I haven’t done a helluva lot in the past few weeks. I’ve played some Sniper Elite V2 after I downloaded it for free during some Steam promotion a few weeks ago. It’s fun but to be honest, for a game that has the work Sniper in it, there’s more stealth and wandering around than there is sniping!

I’m also trying to find time to play Grid Autosport, thanks to Codemaster’s Aussie PR man Kerrin kindly sending me a PC code. I’ll get around to it soon, Kerrin, I promise!

I’m also testing out a Magellan Cyclo 505 cycle computer at the moment (I usually use a Cyclo 100 on my road bike) so I’ll have a review of that in the next couple of weeks, too. I used it yesterday on a short ride and it’s impressed me so far.

Oh, and a couple of weeks ago, I dropped some money on the collector’s edition of The Witcher 3. Granted, I had a lot of store credit at EB Games to cover the cost of the CE but I’m still amazed that I was prepared to drop a not inconsiderable amount on something gaming related.