PC · PlayStation 4 · Uncategorized · Xbox One

Prey impressions: Did that coffee mug just move? DID IT JUST MOVE??

Here are my thoughts so far on Prey, the first-person shooter set in space from Bethesda. I haven’t finished the game yet but thought I’d let you know what I thought from what I’ve played. I’m playing on Xbox One using a code supplied by Bethesda

If Prey has taught me one thing, it’s this: Be wary of coffee mugs.

You heard me right: Be wary of coffee mugs. And office chairs. And globes. And bath towels. You see, in Prey, sometimes items aren’t what they seem. They could be the game’s alien life form, called a mimic, that’s out to eat your face.

Set in the year 2035 on the Talos 1 space station (in an era when John F Kennedy wasn’t assassinated and Russia and the US are working together to build the first space station), Prey is, I guess, a re-imagining (of sorts) of the original Prey, with the player controlling Morgan Yu, a scientist/test subject who has to find out what has caused a breakout of the alien mimic life form. As we’ve seen in many games before Prey, Yu can’t remember what has gone before so as he explores the Talos 1 things and events become a lot clearer.

Prey has a real Bioshock/Half Life/Dishonored feel about – and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Half Life because, well, the first weapon Yu finds is a wrench, Bioshock because Yu can upgrade his abilities (through a skill tree)  using augmentations called neuromods and Dishonored because the studio behind the Dishonored games – Arkane Studios – is also the developer behind Prey.

What follows is exploration and fetch quests as Yu wanders about Talos 1, trying to get to the bottom of what caused the mimic containment break. It’s an amalgam of several games, wrapped up into one. The mimics are the game’s enemies and smaller ones are black, spider-like creatures that can suck the life force from humans, causing them to multiply. They’re also incredibly fast and can often jump at you from nowhere. The wrench comes in handy with the smaller mimics but weapons like shotguns, a gun that fires blogs of glue and a pistol is handy against larger humanoid enemies like phantoms, which often have powers of their own and move incredibly swiftly. A nice touch are the service robots – called operators – that can be fabricated to repair your suit and heal you up. Another nice touch is that you can recycle all the junk you’ll inevitably pick up (lemon peels, scraps of paper, alcohol bottles) using recycling machines and turn them into materials, both organic and synthetic, that can be used to create equipment and weapons.

I have to admit that I jumped a few times while playing Prey. It’s not because it’s overly scary, because it’s not, but it’s because I just seem to wuss out when it comes to horror/survival games. I can watch horror movies no problem but horror video games? Man, I need to keep a spare pair of underwear handy. I guess it’s because with horror movies it’s easy to see what’s going to happen. With horror games, I genuinely find I have no idea what’s going to happen.

With no word of a lie, I stood outside the doorway of a room that was bathed in darkness for 10 minutes, not wanting to go into it, because I was worried some mimic was going to transform from a coffee mug into a spidery alien and try to eat my face. My fears are real, people. My fears are real.

I spent countless times – wrench at the ready – inching forward towards desks with coffee cups resting on them, worried one of them was a mimic. Someone I follow on social media said they found a desk with two coffee cups on it – and one of them rolled to the side, disappearing somewhere in the room. I would have lost it right there.

Eventually, Yu is able to scan the environment for mimics from a distance but, yeah, not knowing whether a coffee cup – or some other object – is actually what it appears to be is quite unnerving.

Missions are what you’d expect – go here and get a keycard that will open a door to another area, go to this room to recover something for someone who will give you a code for something – but there are  some interesting side quests that add to the back story to what happened on the Talos 1 before the mimic containment break. Talos 1 is also an interesting setting, too: It’s a living  space station with crew quarters, kitchens, reactors, medical rooms, cargo bays and nooks and crannies to explore. Prey’s story is an interesting one as well, set in a place where nothing is as it seems.

While nothing like the sequel to the original game (which came out last generation in 2006) that Human Head was working on before Bethesda canned it, so far Prey is a lot of fun that really has a Bioshock/Half Life vibe to it.

One thing is for certain: It’s made me look at coffee mugs in a whole different light.

 

Hardware · Uncategorized

Samsung Galaxy A5 review: Tweaks for a new year

The revamped Samsung Galaxy A5 smartphone.

While it’s probably been lost in the recent announcement of Samsung’s soon-to-be released Galaxy S8, Samsung has quietly launched a revamped Galaxy A series.

Aimed at the mid-priced point is the Galaxy A5 , which has an RRP in New Zealand of $749, and it’s clear it’s taken a lot of design cues from Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S7 smart phone. The two phones look remarkably similar in design, albeit with a few subtle differences.

Sure, the S7 feels a lot more premium and high-end than the A5 but, you know what? Samsung’s new 2017 phone is now slouch in the design department and put them side by side and at a glance, you’d have a hard time working out which was the cheaper model. The A5 actually has a slightly larger display than the S7, too.

Running Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow), the A5 has been tweaked over the old model: It has a 5.2-inch Super AMOLED screen (1280×720 resolution), powered by a 1.9GHz Octa core processor and 3Gb of RAM (up from 2Gb in the previous generation A5). Internal storage is locked at 32Gb but it’s upgradable via microUSB (upto 256Gb). The Galaxy A5 is part of a three-phone line up, sitting between the 5.7-inch Galaxy A7 and the 5.3-inch Galaxy A3.

Samsung has moved the speaker grille to the top right hand side of the chassis (it’s now next to the headphone jack on the S7), just above the power button, and uses a USB-type C connection for charging.

As is common these days, the A5 has a non-removable battery, rated at 3000mAh. The new season A5 now has 16MP cameras, front and rear (an upgrade from the 13MP and 5MP of the previous A5). Like previous late-model Samsung phones, the A5 seems to have less bloatware pre-installed, which is always a good thing in my book.

I have to say that despite being a “budget” handset, the Galaxy A5 felt really solid in my hands. It had a high-end finish, which is nice in a smart phone that sits mid-range in Samsung’s new line-up, and it just felt comfortable holding it, although the back is quite slippery.

The Galaxy A5 handled snapshots with ease.
The Galaxy A5 took good photos thanks to its 16 MP camera. For no reasons, here’s a photo of my dog resting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the Octa core CPU, the user interface (UI) was snappy enough swiping through screens and the camera produced some pleasing results and I got probably a day out of it before needing a recharge. It’s clear, though, that the screen just isn’t as sharp as the Galaxy S7’s sharper display, which offers higher resolutions.

The question, though, is: At $749 is the 2017 Galaxy A5 worth the budget-friendly moniker?

A quick glance over Pricespy shows that a Galaxy S7 can be had for as little as $693 or as much as $1203 (chain electronic retailers were priced around $999 for the S7 handset) and another online aggregation site had the A5 ranging from $$498 right up to $749 so it can be found cheaper than Samsung’s RRP. If you can find it cheaper, then I’d go for it if you’re keen: Why pay full retain, right?

The bottom line is if you don’t need all the bells and whistles that you’ll find in Samsung’s top  models, such as the Galaxy S7 and upcoming Galaxy S8, then the Samsung A5 will fit the bill nicely(as will the entire A line-up). It’s a great looking phone that’ll do everything you need it to, and that’s sometimes all you need in a smart phone.

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How a pear-shaped organ in my body ruined my entire week

My gall bladder – a pear-shaped organ underneath your liver, apparently – isn’t an organ in my body that I’ve thought much about over my 45+ years on planet Earth.

At least not until two weeks ago when I got a searing pain just underneath the right side of my ribs. I thought I was dying (looking back it seems melodramatic but at the time I really did think I was dying).

The pain started as a dull ache at first but soon radiated across my entire rib cage. If you can imagine someone wrapping a belt around your chest – then putting a foot on your rib cage and cinching it tight. That’s what it felt like. A constant pain that makes you think, initially, you’re having a heart attack. I actually thought I was having a heart attack at first but an ECG showed otherwise: My heart rate was sitting at 54bpm at rest, so it wasn’t my ticker.

After pacing the house from 3am to 7am, I convinced my wife to take me to an after hours doctor and he diagnosed gall stones fairly early on. An ultrasound that day confirmed what he had suspected: Gall stones.

The gall bladder. An organ in my body that I had taken for granted – until last week.

The gall bladder filters fat using bile produced from your liver and many people have gall stones and they don’t cause them any issues, but for me, it appears those ducts in my gall bladder were blocked, causing searing pain. Apparently, the butter chicken curry I’d had the night before had aggravated things. No more butter chicken from now on.

I went home, prescribed pain killers, and rested up for the weekend. I saw my GP on Monday who said he’d start discussions with surgeons to get the gall bladder removed. I also had to have a CT scan as ultrasound had indicated an “indeterminate mass”on a juncture with my right kidney, which, thankfully, turned out to be nothing but had me panicking for a few days (the woman doing the ultrasound had also told me that she’d had no end of trouble getting good pictures of my kidney, though).

The pain seemed to have settled down so I didn’t think about things much. Until Thursday, that was, when I went home early from work – something that is highly unusual for me – with the same pain again.

Later that evening, I got my wife to take me to Christchurch hospital’s emergency department – part of me kept telling myself to harden up and just live with it – but after blood tests, I was admitted. It was definitely gall stones and the gall bladder which was going to come out at some point was likely to come out in the next few days.

Admitted to a surgery assessment ward, I was in so much pain I had to “try”and sleep on my back, not something that is easy to do. I say try to sleep: Anyone who has been to hospital will know that getting  a good night’s sleep in a hospital is near impossible as nurses have to take two-hourly observations. It was a rough night.

Friday rolled around, my eyes bleary though lack of sleep, a collection of doctors visited to assess my condition and said, yes, I would be having surgery to remove my gall bladder but, as was to be expected, as it wasn’t life threatening there was potential to be bumped from the list if a more serious case presented itself. At 5pm, when the surgeon came to see me again,  I knew it wasn’t happening today. I remember turning to my wife and saying, “I feel like I’m going to die.” Perhaps in the scheme of things a tad melodramatic but that was how I felt.

On Saturday morning things looked more promising and while the surgeon told me there were no guarantees that surgery would happen on the weekend, he was hopeful. He was right.

At midday, I was wheeled off to surgery. The last thing I remember is the anaethetist telling me he was going to give me something that would make me feel like I’d have “a couple of beers”. My next recollection is waking up in recovery, groggy and bleary eyed with an oxygen hose in my nose, being asked if I’d like a lemonade iceblock. Yes, please, I said.

The surgery was done via keyhole surgery, which means four small cuts are made in your abdomen – one of them in your bellybutton – then a camera is inserted and the gall bladder removed. It’s all very clever. My daughter wanted me to request the gall bladder for us to keep. I don’t know why but she did. I was pretty rotten, according to the surgeon, but I guess we’ll see when we get it back. She suggested I could put it on my desk as a reminder. I won’t be.

I’ve spent the last week at home, recovering with a sore belly that throbs one minute and is OK the next. I’m still on painkillers but have discovered great shows on Netflix like The Expanse and watched Batman vs Superman again. It was better second time around, although still an hour too long.

I’m back at work tomorrow – a desk job so I should be OK – and easing back into things. If I have one piece of advice, it’s this: If you get pains under your ribs, get them checked out. It might be your gall bladder. A pear-shaped organ that can cause you no end of bother.

Believe me, I know.

*The blog will now return to its normal programming. Thanks for reading.

 

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Halo Wars 2: RTS returns to Xbox

Note, this is a review of Halo Wars 2’s campaign. I haven’t had a chance to look at the multiplayer or the new Blitz mode, which melds RTS elements with a collectible card game, yet. I’ll give my thoughts on those when I get the chance. Enjoy.

halo-wars-2-campaign-crossings   Halo Wars 2 is proving that real-time strategy games aren’t just the domain of the PC.

And it does a pretty damn good job, actually, showing that an RTS game can be played with a controller pretty well, despite the controls not being as tight as if you were using a mouse and keyboard.

This isn’t the first time a Halo RTS games has appeared on a console, though: The original Halo Wars launched on the Xbox360. The game feels unmistakably Halo, with all the sounds, effects and characters you’d expect. It feels like a part of the Halo universe.

The story opens  with Captain Cutter and the crew of the UNSC Spirit of Fire being woken from cryosleep after the ship starts orbiting the Ark, the place where the rings from Halo are made. Unfortunately, it seems the Ark has been invaded by a disgruntled band of the Covenant called The Banished, led by a brute called Atriox.

Coming from the new wardens of the Halo franchise, 343 Industries the company handed the game making duties over to acclaimed RTS specialists, Creative Assembly, and fans of the genre will find much to like with Halo Wars. Missions are a good length and generally involve things like hold this position until help arrives or take out these objectives but it does little to move the genre forward. The story feels a little well trod, too, seeing as it’s essentially a disgruntled alien that wants to destroy humanity.

halo-wars-2-multiplayer-battle-fogThe game is beautifully presented graphically, with the level of detail on units and structures just wonderful. I never got tired of seeing a base being constructed, UNSC Pelican’s dropping in with resources before swooping off for the next section of the base. Like all RTS game, resource collection and management is key here:  Collect enough resources and you’ll continue building units. It’s that simple.

halo-wars-2-multiplayer-defend-the-baseControlling and selecting units is made simple using the Xbox One’s controller: Use the left stick on the controller to sweep the units you want to select then press the A button, while a double tap on the right bumper highlights every unit on the battlefield. Your troops are competent as well, attacking enemies without prompting.

If I’m being completely honest, I spent most of my time playing Halo Wars on my PC just because, for me, the mouse and keyboard will always be king when it comes to role-playing games and the control is just more precise than an Xbox One controller, especially if things turn pear-shaped and you have to quickly get your view back to a base that is under attack.

Sure, Halo Wars 2 suffers a little from the limitations of being on a console and it doesn’t reinvent the RTS rules, but overall, it’s a solid addition to the Halo franchise.

Thanks to Xbox NZ for providing a downloadable copy of Halo Wars 2 for review.

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Omen X desktop review: Supercharged computing but at a price

HP’s Omen X desktop computer makes me not want to play games on a console  or even my current desktop PC  ever again – it’s that powerful and that beastly.

Actually, the Omen X is a beast, both in respect to the hardware inside and the sheer size and weight of the thing. Seriously, this thing is a monster so make sure you have the room for it.

The review unit came running an Intel Core i7-6700 CPU [@4Ghz], 32Gb of memory,  and – get this – two (yes, two) nVidia GTX1080 GPUs. That’s a helluva lot of computing power, especially when placed alongside my home PC, which is running an Intel i7, 8Gb of memory and a many generations old GTX660Ti.

Design & features

omen-by-hp-cube

The Omen X’s cube shape isn’t going to endear itself to everyone with the way it looks but it’s nice to see a PC manufacturer looking outside the square (excuse the pun) when it comes to case design.

As the image shows, the Omen doesn’t sit on a side but is tilted on an angle  thanks to a build-in stand at the bottom.

Once I’d found the right spot for the Omen [on the floor, next to my day-to-day PC],  it didn’t look too out-of-place in the lounge were my normal PC lives  and blended in with its surroundings, at least until I turned on the in-built LED zone lighting that illuminates it with a variety of colours, that is  – then it became a visual focal point.

The lighting is controlled by a desktop app and you can have all four front panels shining the same colour or have a different colour for each one. It’s a nice touch, even if the app is a little finicky when you try to fine tune the colours using a wheel interface.

HP has thought about all the  heat such a monster PC will generate as well and thermal management includes a tri-chamber design to separate components and optimise thermals with dedicated cooling in each chamber. The Omen X  also includes support for up to three 120mm liquid cooling radiators with top mounted exhaust vents.

The way the Omen X sits on its stand also helps with airflow, meaning your gaming beast will stay [relatively] cool when the frame rates are ramping up.

Testing

A monster PC needs monster testing, so I found the most graphically demanding game I had to thrown at it. So, I tested the Omen XP on games  Titanfall 2 (EA), Battlefield 1 (EA), the new Tomb Raider and Gears of War 4, and benchmarked it using 3D Mark’s Timespy and Firestrike tests and UniEngine’s Heaven and Valley bench marking tools. All games were tested at a resolution of 1080p as that’s the maximum my LG IPA monitor can handle.

With Timespy, the Omen XP returned a score of 87.65 frames per second on the first graphics test and 77.63 on the second graphics test. The lowest frame rates it reached was 16.42. Firestrike returned a graphics score of 36, 949 and a physics score of 12, 033.

In UniEngine’s Valley benchmark, the Omen XP returned a score of 5222, with maximum FPS of 183.3, average FPS of 124.8 and a minimum FPS of 38.7. All tests were done in Direct X 12 unless that wasn’t available, where DirectX 11 was used..

In terms of games, the Omen XP was able to comfortable handle perhaps one of last year’s most graphically demanding PC games, EA’s Battlefield 1 with aplomb, running the game at its Ultra presets in DirectX12 without skipping a beat. I guess with two GTX1080s it should be able to do that without running up a sweat.

Top be honest, the Omen handled Gears of War 4, Tomb Raider and Titanfall 2 all with the graphics settings at the highest possible, making for some stunning visuals, something my GTX660Ti can’t come close to.

 

Verdict

omen-by-hp-cube-chassisI loved the Omen X: It’s a beast of a gaming PC that in the review configuration will have no trouble playing any current or future game at its highest graphical settings. I like that HP has taken a risk with its design, too.

That power comes at a price, though.

The Omen X retails in NZ for $5999 [Noel Leeming currently has the single GTX1080 Omen X 900-070a for under $5000],  but the review unit – which isn’t available in NZ with the configuration it came in – would set you back $6999 [if you could get it here, of course].

Yes, the Omen X was blazingly fast and I loved playing games on it  – and it was sad going back to my usual desktop with its ages old GPU – but maybe I’m out of touch with how much a top-end PC costs [because I’m old?] but personally, $7000 is a crazy money to me to pay for a computer. If you shopped around  for components, chances are you could build a comparable PC for a much, much less.

That said, I doubt HP are targeting the PC building crowd: It’s targeting gamers who want a blazingly fast gaming PC with top-end components, that looks a little different and is prepared to pay for it.  I’d happily replacing my current PC with the Omen X but in the harsh reality of the real-world, my budget doesn’t stretch to it, sadly [I’d have to do a lot around the house and buy a few bunches of flowers to score enough brownie points with my wife to even pluck up the courage to ask if I could buy one!]

It’s clear that HP’s Omen X isn’t aimed at everyone but for those with the money, the Omen X is a fantastic option in terms of computing power and interesting design.

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Merry Christmas to you all – and thanks for sticking around

It’s that time of the year, dear readers,  when gaming sites and outlets tell readers what their top games of the year were.

I can’t really do that here: Looking back, I realise I’ve not played a lot of games this year – and I’ve bought even less – but of those I did played, I enjoyed: Dishonored 2, Titanfall 2, Uncharted 4, Deus Ex Mankind Divided, Firewatch and Inside. I enjoyed much of The Last Guardian, too, but the experience was just marred too often by the at times too realistic animal AI of Trico, the game’s eagle/cat/dog creature, which made for a frustrating time –  and that’s a real shame.

I want to say thanks so much for sticking around and reading this blog. I really do appreciate it. I know the blog isn’t as flash as many around, or updated as regularly, or have a staff of hundreds that pump out stories by the dozens. I’m one man who loves video games and writing, and believe me when I say this blog is a real labour of love for me: I don’t get paid to do it, I don’t get sponsorship from anyone. I rely on the support of a handful of publishers who have stuck by me since leaving Fairfax NZ – and I appreciate that support and the support that you, the readers, give me.

I sincerely appreciate your support. It means the world to me and I appreciate every single one of you that visits the site. I might not be the biggest or the best or the most popular, but I hope you enjoy what you find.

This will be the last blog for the year as I’m going “offline” for a couple of weeks to spend time with my family, relax and recharge the batteries. Fear not, though, I’ve already got some content planned for the week I return and hopefully the support from publishers will continue and I’ll be able to keep bringing you game and hardware reviews and opinion pieces.

So, thanks again. Enjoy your Christmas and New Year and wherever you are, stay safe. See you next year.

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Win a copy of The Last Guardian & a The Last Guardian T-shirt

thelastguardian tlg_orange_phoAfter a wait of what seems almost like forever, PlayStation 4-exclusive The Last Guardian is finally out on the PlayStation 4, and thanks to the great team at PlayStation NZ, Gamejunkie NZ has one copy of The Last Guardian and a T-shirt to give away to one lucky reader.

The Last Guardian tells the journey between a young boy and a bird/cat/eagle beast called Trico as they have to escape the prison they both find themselves in. The two become inseparable friends as their journey through the game progresses.

You can read my thoughts here but  Trico can be, at times, stubborn and temperamental, just like a real animal. I’ve got a dog called Drew and he reminds me a lot of Trico with his mannerisms and behaviour.

I forgot completely about how much time I have for this so I’ve decided to make it really simple to enter the draw: In the comments section below or on the GamejunkieNZ Facebook page, I want you to tell me in 50 words or less, who would be your inseparable partner on a journey like that undertaken by Trico and the young boy in The Last Guardian. Tell me why you made your choice, as well.

As with all competitions, there are terms and conditions, so here they are for your reading please:
1) The prize is one (1) copy of The Last Guardian on PlayStation 4 and a The Last Guardian T-shirt. You must supply the PS4 yourself to play it on.
2) The competition is only open to those living in New Zealand and must have a valid New Zealand address that the prize will be sent to.
3) The competition is open from December 13 until 7pm on December 19. I will contact the winner by DM or email.
4) Entry is by writing in the comments section on the GamejunkieNZ Facebook page or on the comments section in this blog who would be your inseparable partner on an epic journey. Feel free to like the page as well (I’d be forever grateful).
5) The decision of the judge (that’s me) is final and the prize will be mailed out to the winner by PlayStation NZ. Hopefully it’ll get to you by Christmas, but no guarantees.

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Entering the world of Virtual Reality, PlayStation styles

For a few minutes this week, I was The Batman. The Dark Knight. The Caped Crusader.

I threw batarangs through the shadowy streets of Arkham City, I used a forensic analyser to search a crime scene for clues, I tinkled the ivories before descending into the bat cave. I was inside The Batman’s head – and it was awesome.

Me being Batman.

OK, confession time:  I wasn’t really Batman, and I’m not likely to replace Ben Affleck/Christian Bale/Michael Keaton anytime soon,  but thanks to PlayStation NZ and its soon-to-be released PSVR headset (which releases this week), I got to pretend that I was Batman playing Batman Arkham VR from developer Rocksteady, and that’s good enough for me.

I’m no  stranger to VR headsets – I own a Samsung GearVR – so I knew what to expect in terms of comfort and experience, but despite its somewhat bulky appearance, the PSVR headset is comfortable and super adjustable, so it shouldn’t be a problem getting a good fit. It’ll also accommodate eye glasses, which most other VR headsets don’t cater for.

I did notice that I did sweat a bit while wearing the headset. Maybe that’s a result of all the padding, so keeping a cloth handy would be useful.

A close up of the PlayStation VR headset.In my hour or so hands-on with the PSVR, I played Driveclub VR (it was probably my least favourite VR experience),  watched my son’s friend Charlie play Rush of Blood (the on-rails shooter from the makers of the PS4 sleeper hit Until Dawn), watched my son Mitchell shoot pursuers in The London Heist, and I, of course, got to be The Batman, the game that sold me on PSVR being a viable VR platform.

It wasn’t a completely immersive experience: It was slightly disconcerting seeing my hands floating in space in front of me, cut off at the wrists, and when I looked down instead of a body I saw an empty space with a utility belt wrapped around it, but Rocksteady have pulled it off. Pulling the Move controllers triggers clenched my virtual fists, too, meaning that fighting games look a definite possibility with PSVR in the future.

Perhaps the most heart pumping demonstration, though, was Ocean Descent, part of the VR Worlds demos that come with the PSVR.  Putting you in a shark cage as it descends the depths of a tropical ocean, it’s a serene scene at first: A turtle swims past, then sting rays glide past, impressively.

The cage descends further,  the wreckage of a submarine suddenly appearing into view, resting on sea bed. I turn my head and realise that moving my head moves the headlamp attached (I’m assuming) to my dive helmet. Suddenly, a shadow looms into view: It’s a great white shark.

The shark circles the shark cage, it’s metal frame swaying as the creature buffets it in its wake. The creature disappears then suddenly it reappears, slamming into the shark cage, ripping a section of the door off. I take a step backwards towards the rear of the cage.

Now, let’s examine that statement for a minute: I’m in a room with five other people in an Auckland suburb near the city’s CBD, wearing a VR headset projecting me into a virtual world, yet my brain told me to take a step backwards because a VR shark attacked the VR cage I was standing in. Crazy.

img_20161005_111346I came away impressed with PSVR after the short time I spent with it. Ultimately, though, I’d like to spent more hours with it to get a real impression of how it is in a real-world environment (ie not in a controlled space).

Would I buy a PSVR based on my short time with it? Perhaps, but part of me still isn’t convinced quite yet that VR is the next big thing in gaming.

Besides, I’m never really a first-adopter of technology so I’d like to see how PSVR does once it’s out in the wild and user feedback comes through before I lay down several hundred dollars on hardware.

I did come away impressed with PlayStation’s answer to VR and I think will be the  most accessible mainstream VR platform available but time will tell whether it becomes a must-have VR platform for console gamers. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s half way there.

This week, plenty of PlayStation owners will get the chance to see what it’s all about.

*Thanks to PlayStation NZ for letting me, my son and his friend enter the world of VR using the PSVR.  It was much appreciated.

 

 

 

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Video Friday: Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered launch trailer

Happy Friday, dear readers.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare is, in my humble opinion, the best COD game of the series, and the mission titled All Ghillied Up is, again in my humble opinion, the best mission of the series to date. It is, seriously.

Today, Activision have released the launch trailer of COD MW Remastered, which you’ll get if you buy the Legacy and Deluxe editions of the next COD iteration coming out soon, Infinite Warfare. Sadly, there is no standalone version of the remastered Modern Warfare, which is a real shame as I’m pretty confident it would sell thousands of copies (perhaps more than  Infinite Warfare itself will?) How about it, Activision?

Here’s hoping that Activision see sense and bring out a standalone version of MW Remastered at some point in the not too distant future. It wouldn’t be that hard to sort out and I’m pretty sure it’s something that they have an inkling that fans would like to see.

Anyway, the Remastered version is looking pretty good, if the trailer is anything to go by, which you can watch at the top of this post.

So, who’s buying Infinite Warfare?

 

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New GPU or stick with the consoles for a bit longer? My gaming dilemma

I’m facing something of a gamer’s dilemma.

Let me explain.

I started my gaming life on a PC. A ZX Spectrum to be precise, that wonderous squishy keyed computer born from the mind of British inventor Sir Clive Sinclair.

zxspectrum48krevI loved the Spectrum, cutting my teeth on classics like Maniac Mansion, Knight Lore, Ant Attack, Sabre Wulf, Robocop and Dayley Thompson’s Decathlon, then graduated to an Atari 2600, playing games like Space Harrier and Outrun.

At some point during my teenage years, my dad bought a 486 PC, and I was in gaming heaven. I was introduced to Doom and Duke Nukem, and some flight sim that had to be installed six or seven 3.5-inch floppy discs. I was hooked on PC gaming (If you too young to know what a floppy disc, ask someone older than you).

When I left home and got married, the first PC I bought had (for the time) a blisteringly fast Intel Pentium 90 CPU and a graphics card (I think it was an S3 Virge?) with 2Mb of memory (that’s not a typo: It actually had 2Mb of graphics memory). I played classic  games like Dark Forces, the Jedi Knight series, Magic Carpet, Blade Runner, System Shock 2 and Shiny’s MDK and Messiah (I still have the discs of all those games, too).

Microsoft's Xbox One console.
Microsoft’s Xbox One console.
Sony's PlayStation 4 console.
Sony’s PlayStation 4 console.

Fast forward to 2016 and these days, the bulk of my video games are played on consoles hooked up to my Yamaha AV receiver and a 55-inch Samsung TV.

I like the convenience of consoles games and the fact that I know every game will work right out of the box – but I’m having somewhat of a dilemma at the moment: I’m torn whether to keep playing most of my games on console (and upgrade next year to something like Xbox’s Project Scorpio) or upgrade my current PC’s GPU and start playing more on PC. I know it’s not a first world problem but I really am in a conundrum.

I’m not one of these people who sees console gaming as inferior to PC gaming: We’re all gamers so I don’t have a problem with playing on either PC or console and something I really like about console gaming is that I can lie back on the couch, relax, and play games on a big screen. I like that about console game.

I only have a 23-inch monitor attached to my PC I’m obviously I’ve got smaller screen real estate to play games on but I really like that PC games can be tweaked so they look graphically better than a lot of PC titles. My PC also comes in handy when the main TV is being used, too. That is a big plus.

gigabye-3gb-geforce-gtx-660-ti_boxThe reason I’m toying with a graphics card upgrade is my PC currently has a few-years-old now nVidia Geforce GTX660Ti, which is still a great card (kind of) and plays games like The Witcher 3 well (obviously not at ultra graphics presets) but I just know that its lifespan is coming to an end and if I want to play cutting edge PC games then the  660Ti just isn’t going to cut it.

I do also have an nVidia GTX950 which I won in a competition (I’ve actually sent it back to MSi in Australia as it never worked so I’m getting a new one under warranty), and I’m tempted just to stick with that and it seems a good card, but it’s a budget priced card that is really aimed at MOBA games, which I don’t play. See my problem?

I’m the sort of person who tends to “ummm” and “ahhh” about things too much, fearing that if I do buy a new GPU I won’t actually notice the difference between my console games, then curse that I spent the money. It’s a catch-22 situation really: I’ll be damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

Put is this way: Buying a new GPU won’t change my life at all. It won’t make my quality of life any better or worse. It’s an upgrade that I absolutely don’t need but would be nice, especially with games like Dishonored 2 coming along soon, but is that enough of a reason to upgrade? Maybe I should just be satisfied with the card(s) I have and just be done with it, saving my money for something else further down the track?

I don’t see any point upgrading to the PlayStation 4 Pro or the Xbox One S  – the PS4 I have does a great job as does the Xbox One – but perhaps I should wait until next year and see what the pricing will be for Xbox’s E3-announced Project Scorpio console?

On paper, it sounds like it will be powerful but, of course, the specs could change dramatically between now and when it’s likely to be released late next year. Perhaps I should save my money for a new cutting-edge console next year rather than upgrade my GPU?

Decisions facing the first world gamer, eh?