Watch Dogs: Legion review (reviewed on Xbox One )

Guest writer Dylan Burns delves into Ubisoft’s latest open world monster and finds while there’s some magic to be found in this dysotopian future London, it takes a bit of effort to track it down.

Would you be willing to die to liberate your city?

It’s a question that Watch Dogs: Legion first asks, then blurs over, as characters that rightly express concern for their personal safety when sought to join DedSec first hesitate, then quickly decide they’d rather go out blazing if they have to.

It’s eyebrow-raising to think that general citizens would be willing to stick their necks out against almost certain harm, yet Legion’s entire premise and gameplay loop rests on the assumption that every Londoner is a boiling kettle of hatred just waiting to be recruited.

Legion is a game about resistance via Ubisoft’s ideas of what resistance entails. You won’t be joining protests in the street or sharing whistle-blown information or joining social media waves against authoritarian brutality or, I don’t know, whatever else is realistically resistant-y these days. No, instead you’ll paste up sick wall posters and replace corporate propaganda with, erm, DedSec propaganda…

Then there’s the big thing that Watch Dogs: Legion does differently – the ability to recruit and play as any NPC. Arguably inspired by GTA V’s multiple protagonists, Legion takes this ball and runs with it, populating its futuristic virtual London with various classes of citizenry, all ready to be convinced to join DedSec for the price of a randomly generated favour.

Without exception, every citizen you recruit is dead keen, full of ocker slang and ostensibly trained in takedown combat and hacking protocols needed to be a full member of DedSec. Heck, if there are this many well-trained operatives just waiting around, it begs the question why none of them have formed their own vigilante groups or – indeed – how Albion succeeded in taking over the city in the first place. Credit does need to be given, though, for the variety and breadth of characters you can play as, men and women of all ages, nationalities and career types. They may not be particularly deep, personality wise, but effort has gone into making them appear diverse and representative of a thriving future metropolis.

If you can get past this dissonance, then the act of scanning potential recruits, adding them to the roster, and searching for even better operatives becomes rather fun, if wrought with inconsistencies.

Several times, I came across conflicting scans, such as a citizen that is “extremely fragile” with a special skill of being able to take more damage. Even if you choose not to recruit those suggested to you, such as a paramedic to reduce hospital times for all operative, then the main missions are structured to pull into the fold several recruits in order to show the player how each class of citizen can shine in the right circumstances.

For instance, a uniformed officer can just stroll into off-limits areas and will remain in disguise – Hitman style – if you walk slowly and don’t let guards get too close a look at you. Similarly, construction workers can enter work sites without drawing suspicion, while a drunk can take more damage or a hacker gains download speed bonus and may dominate drones easily. The specific skills you receive for each random citizen differ, but not to the point where any set of skills becomes too dominant that it will become your favourite.

All classes can get the job done, while some are more suited to specific missions than others.
Which brings us to a large problem with Legion: it’s just not that difficult to cheat the system
entirely. Firstly, the world is generally persistent. This means that whatever you accomplish with a character remains – such as collecting things in restricted areas or successfully hacking a system just nanoseconds before death. Upon respawn – which in this game requires jumping bodies to another recruit – the likelihood that you’ll retain the spoils of what your previous self did is very high.

This encourages you to rush into guarded areas, do what you need to and get out, if you can. This approach works almost every single time because enemy AI is incredibly, laughably, head-shakingly bad. If you are spotted, you can often fight them and no one else in the area will be any the wiser.

Even if you do stir a hornet nest, as long as you keep moving, keep disrupting enemies and taking them out, you’ll almost always run rings around them, leaving them to waddle around their tiny patrol routes calling the same three lines into their network – honestly, you’ll hear six people saying the same thing all at once, over and over again. Yes, you might die, but unless you’ve turned on Permadeath it’s never much of an inconvenience.

Legion’s themes are mature in nature. This is not something to be playing while the kids are around. There’s so much awkward swearing that my wife ended up hating me playing and asked me to put my headphones in. The dialogue is full of awkwardly written slang that I’ve never heard before … Which brings me to the voices themselves.

Given the random nature of your recruits, it seems that the phrases they utter come from a bank of recorded phrases, which use voice modulation to diversify delivery. This makes some characters sound like early prototypes for a mobile phone provider’s helpline.

The writing is just awful, although I am starting to wonder if it’s deliberately so. One mission saw me recruiting an Albion guard who was apparently a prize fighter on the side, who had a hit out on her because she decided not to lose a fight – that’s just one of the whacky (I’m sure someone at Ubisoft giggled as they thought it up) situations that makes you think: Really?

In other random weirdness, I experienced about an hour of open world gameplay where all of the police cars would light up and wail their sirens whenever I got near to them, but would not actually be looking for me – I had no heat level at all. Other times, I would finish everything in a red zone undetected, with no takedowns or other evidence, only to have every enemy suddenly start looking for me as soon as I left the area, shouting through my audio as I stood on the exterior in complete anonymity.

There are, however, some things I like. I like how the driving route guide ramps up on corners like an AR rollercoaster. I like how you feel all-powerful hacking through cameras and spider-bots, sometimes completing missions without ever setting foot inside restricted zones. I like that you can summon a cargo drone, jump on and fly yourself across the city, albeit slowly. I like that there is always some way to breach a target complex by looking for a back entrance or climbing up somewhere or sending a drone through to unlock a door for you. All these things are make Watch Dogs: Legion fun to play.

The world that’s been created is very impressive, a miniaturised version of London with a lens to the future. There are driverless cars and everything has a sleek, futuristic element. Every building is wired up with gadgets and scanners and cameras and network terminals. And it looks great, too, even if clearly designed with next-gen consoles in mind. Every surface is so detailed and textured that I could feel my Xbox One S straining with effort. It’s interesting, then, that some of the missions involve loading screens that have had no effort extended to hide them.

Need to travel down to a basement for a mission? You’ll just rock up to the lift, press a button and be greeted with a load screen. Same for entering DedSec HQ, which happens a lot as you return there for mission briefings – despite the world being perfectly set up for these to take place via the network. Such old-school design speaks of a focus on presentation over form, of dreaming of the future but not being in it, of expounding resistance without understanding what that might look like or what it might entail, of propagating locations and upgrades and liberation missions over truly pushing the series forward.

The themes deal with technology itself and how it can be misused by those in power. One arc
follows the horrific story of a scientist experimenting with downloading her dying mother’s brain
into her house’s AI system. It’s Black Mirror-esque and quite engaging to follow to the chapter’s
conclusion.

It’s telling that the moment your character confronts the villain of each chapter, they require a
written character to step in for them to actually confront the antagonist and hold a meaningful
conversation. I kept expecting them to say, “And you are?”. This is because Legion has traded
character depth for breadth, turning every recruitable character into a shallow pool of motivation, relegated to “Fuck the system” lines.

While my general review may lean negative, Watch Dogs: Legion is still a well put together open-world game. It ticks all the Ubi-points. There’s that familiar feeling of work-like progress that many players find enjoyable. Sometimes you might wonder why you are doing what you’re doing, but then you’ll have a cool hacking puzzle or find a funny Assassin’s Creed Easter Egg or take over a turret and shoot the shit out of a bunch of Albion guards and you’ll be right for another five hours.

The map is packed with skill points to hunt down and the act of recruiting is possibly endless.
Watch Dogs: Legion is comfort gaming. A generous serving of camera-hopping, stealth takedowns, spider bot exploration and circuit puzzles. There’s nothing here that surpasses Watch Dogs 2, and in many ways the series treads water, exploring dark corners of technological misuse without pushing the series itself forward.

Recruiting NPCs is not the future, at least not yet. The lack of motivation and character depth creates dissonance at so many intersections that the whole thing feels like an experiment straining to maintain momentum.

Yet, I can’t deny the thrill of summoning a drone and wreaking havoc, or the satisfaction of downloading the key for a locked door from an unaware guard. There’s some magic to be unlocked, it just requires effort to find and turn the key.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review code to Dylan.

Dylan Burns (@d_p_burns) is a games writer of many years experience. Ex-editor of both Hyper Magazine and Pixel Hunt, he is also a teacher, artist, father and trainee accountant. He does not understand most Simpsons memes.

Nanoleaf shapes: Bright light fantastic

Up until this month, I have to admit I’d never heard of the company Nanoleaf but my interest was piqued when the company’s New Zealand PR firm contacted me, offering some of the company’s funky light panels for review.

Some quick Googling told me that Nanoleaf was founded by Gimmy Chu, Tom Rodinger and Christian Yan in 2012, with the aim of “shaking up the lighting industry” and before too long some of the company’s hexagon, large triangle and small triangle panels landed at my door.

We initially decided to set up the Nanoleaf shapes in the hallway. I’m not sure why we picked there but it had a blank wall so I thought “Why not?”

Caveat: I will admit to being quite nervous about attaching them to our textured wallpaper, though. The quick start guide advises quite clearly against attaching them to textured or porous sufaces, like wallpaper, and given how incredibly sticky the adhesive on the mounting plates was, I can see why.

Anyway, after a couple of hours of committee deliberations, which involved laying out pattern formations on the floor [I really recommend this before fixing them to the wall] then affixing them to the wall [you have to apply pressure for 30 seconds to ensure they stick], the panels were up.

The panels join to each other using small clips that have a contact point at each end and you can connect any panel to another panel: The only limit is your imagination.

Each hexagon panel has several connection points so you can pretty much lay them out in any orientation you want. There’s a controller that snaps to one of the connection points which lets you control the functions if you don’t want to use the smartphone app.

You attach the 42Wpower supply to one of the connection points and then to a power socket. Each power supply will support upto 21 panels, each using 2W of power. There’s a cable hanging down so my suggestion is placing the panels somewhere where you can hide the wire with, say, a piece of furniture.

The panels went up and they looked great. It was time for bed.

The next day, though, I decided to move the panels from the hallway to my games room/study, mainly because I worried overnight that one of them would peel off, ripping the wallpaper with it. I noticed how sticky they were when I slowly peeled the mounting plate off the wall and I could see the wallpaper puling away from the wall slightly. Slow is the order of the day when removing the plates.

They’re now in a less public area of the house – the games room/study – should there be a mishap with the wallpaper, which, for my sake, I hope doesn’t happen.

Up and running, the panels look really neat and you can control them completely using the smartphone app. You can change colours, brightness and sequence patterns using the app or the controller and you can even make your own pattern then save it.

Pre-programmed light patterns include one based on the Aurora Borealis and another one the brilliant blues of the Mediterranean sea and Nanoleaf says they can display 16+ million colours and they also respond to touch and sound.

At one point, I had my games room bathed in a kaleidescope of light, different colours pulsating across the simplistic pattern, as the video below shows.

The Nanoleaf panels retail for between $120 and $350, depending on the kit you buy [available in New Zealand from Harvey Norman, Noel Leeming, JB Hifi, MightyApe and PB Tech] and they’re a pretty neat piece of kit if you want to funk up that game space or any other room that needs a bit of colour.

They’d also be just the ticket if you’re a streamer. Just remember what I said about the wallpaper, right?

A big thank you to Nanoleaf’s New Zealand PR team for providing the panels for review. Good on ‘ya, mates.

Mafia Definitive Edition (reviewed on PC)

Re-posted courtesy of Koru-Cottage.com, which I originally wrote this review for.

With the release of Mafia Definitive Edition last month, 2K’s Mafia trilogy is now complete. When I reviewed Mafia 2 in August this year, I ended my review (based mainly on the lacklustre Mafia 2 remaster) by saying: “I can’t recommend this package right now, especially given it’s incomplete until Mafia is released in August.”

Mafia Definitive Edition

Well, now that I have finished Mafia Definitive Edition, my verdict is easy: It’s definitely worth your time. Especially with the love that has been lavished in updating the original Mafia for today’s modern gamer, a game that tells the rise [then fall] of Lost Heaven (New York) taxi driver Tommy Angelo through the ranks of a feared crime family during the 1930s.

The original Mafia was released on PC in 2002 – I still own the original but since deciding to forgo a disc drive in my PC I can no longer play it. It was a great game, despite having a few frustrating missions: the infamous race car one being the main culprit.

The graphical overhaul is the most obvious change to Mafia here and the game play/mission structure has stayed the same. Mafia comes from an age when games were linear, story-driven experiences and not open world. Mafia Definitive Edition sticks to tight mission structure of the original and is so well crafted that I didn’t find playing it a chore (apart from the occasional frustrating “lose the cop” missions which crop up from time to time where it seems every police officer in the city is chasing after you).

Mafia Definitive Edition

Mafia Definitive Edition has highlighted how tightly paced the narrative was in the original game. It doesn’t distract you with a multitude of side missions: It’s story driven and unapologetic about that. This remaster also has great voice acting and a likeable main character in Tommy Angelo, even if he is a gangster doing questionable moral things.

The city of Lost Heaven feels like it’s built on a living, breathing city, too. While it’s sparse compared to open-worlds of today, it has little touches that make it feel grounded: Pedestrians yelling abuse if you drive too close, cops that will pull you over and write you a ticket for an infringement. Cars and trucks will flash their headlights if you pass just a little too close to them, your car’s radio reception breaking up as you drive through a tunnel, tail lights reflect on wet roads. Top it off with a wonderful 1930s soundtrack and you’ve got a winner written all over it in my book.

Like the previous two games included in this collection – Mafia 2 and 3 – I played Mafia Definitive Edition on PC and it frankly looks gorgeous, with highly detailed car and character models, and a much more detailed Lost Heaven than the original, especially at night when it’s undeniably beautiful as you drive around the city with neon signs reflecting off the rain-soaked streets and car tail lights glowing in the dim light.

Mafia Definitive Edition

I’m no technical genius but it seems developers Hanger 13 are using some form of software based ray tracing here that looks so good that several times I just stopped mid-drive to just soak in the surroundings. 2K recommends a Core i7-3770 or AMD FX-8350, 8Gb RAM,  and an nVidia GeForce GTX 780 or AMD Radeon R9 290X. My i5 8400, 16Gb PNY XLR8 RAM and RX580 GPU handled things just fine, pushing out frame rates between 55 to 60 using the game’s high graphical settings (averaging around 56FPS).

Cut scenes, too, seemed locked at around 60FPS but I did notice drops into the mid-40s when driving through open countryside. It was certainly pushing the RX580 to its limit, that’s for sure, with temperatures sitting around the 70deg mark and it wasn’t uncommon for it to be sitting at 100% utilisation. An update seemed to lift frame rates to the high 60s – even 70s – at some points.

Mafia Definitive Edition

You’ve probably guessed by now that I loved Mafia Definitive Edition, but it’s buggy at times. One character model was missing entirely from a cutscene while the dialogue continued and the “lose the cops” missions are frustrating as hell. In the game’s favour, the infamous car race seemed more forgiving this time than when I played it on the original. Sure, the other drivers are still aggressive but I managed to win it on my second attempt.  

A new patch also lets you minimise HUD elements, which is particularly welcome when using free ride mode. Also, the game has a great free ride mode that’s unlocked after you’ve completed a particular mission meaning you can explore the city of Lost Heaven in any vehicle you’ve unlocked: It’s a good way to visit parts of the city that you don’t during some of the story drive missions.  

Mafia Definitive Edition is a remaster that has been lavished with love by developer Hanger 13. Now, all I need is someone to remaster EA’s The Godfather or Scarface on the PlayStation 2 and I’ll be happy as Larry.

Tripping the light fantastic

Smart lighting industry leader Nanoleaf has announced the launch of Shapes Triangles and Mini Triangles, the latest addition to the company’s Shapes line. 

The newest innovation from Nanoleaf features shape interoperability with Nanoleaf’s exclusive Connect+ technology, allowing users to connect different lighting shapes together, along with Hexagons, for the first time ever. 

“Nanoleaf’s vision for the Shapes Line is to give users the complete design freedom to create their most personal lighting experience yet. Smart lighting is about pushing the boundaries of possibility and that is exactly what we wanted to offer with our Shapes Line,” says Gimmy Chu, CEO and co-founder of Nanoleaf. 

Users will now have the modular freedom to create something simple by connecting multiples of one shape, or mix and match different shapes in new ways to create unique lighting mosaics. 

The Shapes line also has an improved snap-on mounting system for easier installation and redesign options. With Nanoleaf’s exclusive LayoutDetect Technology and over 16 million colours to choose from, users can paint their homes with organic colourways inspired by beautiful scenes of nature like the Aurora Borealis and brilliant blues of the Mediterranean sea.

Shapes Triangles and Mini Triangles have all of Nanoleaf’s classic features, including Screen Mirror, Rhythm Music Sync and touch-enabled experiences that allow you to transform your space with one single touch. The panels are wifi-controlled with the Nanoleaf App, manually with the physical controller and are also compatible with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings.

True to the company’s commitment to make ease of use a top priority, the latest addition to the Shapes line will also include an update to Nanoleaf’s signature app. A new colour picker will help take the RGB experience to the next level and the new redesign will be much more intuitive, enabling users to perform any action without barriers.

Nanoleaf Shapes Line Triangles and Mini Triangles will be available to pre-order from today at Harvey Norman, Noel Leeming, JB Hifi, MightyApe and PB Tech. Kits will range from RRP $119.99 – $349.99.

Look out for a review of Nanoleaf’s Shapes on the site very soon.

Pick Up Quick! Developer interview: Tackling litter one piece at a time on the PlayStation

Pick Up Quick! features Tahunanui Beach in Nelson.

Those of you that have combed through the vast amount of user-generated content in PlayStation’s Dreams may have come across Pick Up Quick!, a game launched by Sustainable Coastlines and designed to tackle the problem of litter on New Zealand beaches and encourage players to combat the issue in real life.

Tokahaki Point on Kapiti Island and Tāhunanui Beach in Nelson were recreated in Dreams by North Canterbury school administrator Stacey Bartlett [25] and is one of first partnerships of its kind with British-based Dreams creator Media Molecule.

The aim of Pick Up Quick! is to hunt and collect as much discarded rubbish as you can within a 45 second time limit then the game compares what you collected with data gathered from real-life rubbish collection from the beaches. By mid-September, it had been played more than 3000 times in more than 50 countries, including the United States, Spain, Scotland, Canada and Singapore.

Studio director at Media Molecule Siobhan Reddy says what Stacey had achieved with Dreams was incredible. “She’s a talented creator. We’ve seen some pretty wonderful creations within Dreams and this is right up there. The community aspect of gameplay that encourages education and understanding is really impressive.”

How much litter you pick up in 45 seconds is compared to real-time collection data.

“We’ve featured it [Pick Up Quick!] on the global Dreams homepage; it shows what’s possible so we’re hoping it encourages people to get creative as well as think about their environmental impact – wherever they are.”

Thanks to PlayStation NZ, I got the chance to talk to Stacey about making the game and to Camden Howitt, co-founder of Sustainable Coastlines and the Litter Intelligence programme.

Stacey, how did you become involved in the project? Had you had any experience with Dreams – or any modeling software or game creation tools – before starting this project? 

Pick Up Quick! creator Stacey Bartlett used Dreams on the PlayStation 4 to create the game.

I was approached by PlayStation New Zealand to create Pick Up Quick!, as they were looking for a New Zealand Dreams creator and Media Molecule recommended me based on my previous Dreams work.  I have always enjoyed creating things, although I didn’t have much game development experience until Dreams was released. I was able to partake in the Dreams beta and early access, and I learned a lot about creating games in that time. 

How did the design process for the game work? Did you brainstorm about what you wanted, or did it develop fairly naturally?

I was given a brief for the game, and from there I created a design document, as well as some rough concept sketches for how I wanted the game to look. I relied on my plan a lot – I find it easier to write things down first and work from there rather than make things up as I go.

I played the Tahunanui Beach level and I recognised the distinctive seawall straight away. How easy was it to craft the real-world beaches into the game – and how long did it take until you were happy with it?

Tahunanui Beach was fun to create, as I was able to use Google Maps extensively as a reference to cover all the different angles. The challenge came in the nit-picky things – for example the waves. I spent a lot of time tweaking the animation to get it just right! I can’t say for sure how long they took me to create as it’s a bit of a blur now, but it was a fair few hours. 

How cool was it to have input from Dreams creator Media Molecule and for them to feature it on their Dreams homepage?

Very cool! I admire Media Molecule a lot, and to see them featuring something I made is quite surreal!

Camden, tell me about how this collaboration first came about? How did Media Molecule become involved?

We worked with PlayStation’s help to get the game off the ground. After approaching Stacey, our incredible creator who was super on board with the concept, PlayStation assisted in the coordination of Media Molecule who helped Stacey along the way with any design questions she had. It’s been such an exciting project for everyone, to have international support for our cause from the likes of Media Molecule was fantastic.

What’s the main aim with Pick Up Quick: What do you hope it will achieve? And are you confident that people will become more litter-aware on our beaches after playing the game or that young players will help their parents become more aware of litter on beaches?
We want to help young people to look at the issue in their area, and solve it. Us New Zealanders love our beaches but we’re a bit disconnected in some ways from the fact that we are polluting them. The aim here is to inform young players around what the issues are on our beaches. Despite our “clean and green” image, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

Pick Up Quick! is available through Dreams on the PlayStation 4.

Pick Up Quick! in action. This is Nelson’s Tahunanui Beach.

D-Link AX5400 (DIR-5460) Wi-fi 6 router review

Getting constantly reliable wireless speeds seems to be a life-long mission for many – me included – so when D-Link offered to send me one of its latest wi-fi 6 routers to test out, I jumped at the chance.

Looking like an alien spider that has been flipped onto its back, D-Link says its Exo AX5400 (DIR-5460) mesh wi-fi 6 router brings next-generation wireless to your home, supporting six simultaneous streams and unleashing “lightening fast wi-fi goodness” over larger areas than before.

If you’re read previous router reviews of mine, you’ll know how my house is set up. The services box – where the fibre connection enters the house from the street – is in the garage of my, roughly, 226sq m single-storey, four bedroom house. Inside, there are a handful of wall-installed ethernet ports [one of them in a kitchen cupboard!] There is also an internal door between the router and the rest of the house.

The only device that has a permanent wired connection is my PC: Everything else – smart TV, laptops, iPads – uses wi-fi. Currently, there are four people living at home, including two young adults in their 20s, so the demand on my wi-fi is considerable with media streaming and university work.

D-Link’s DIR-X5460 supports the latest 802.11ax wireless protocol [as well as other available protocols, of course], which D-Link says improves wireless performance and allows multiples devices to connect at once without compromising on performance.

The last D-Link wi-fi 6 router I tested was the bare bones DIR-X1560 but the DIR-X5460 is fully featured, with three LAN ports (10/100/1000Mbps gigabit), an internet port, a USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port. It also has six antennae [four non-detachable, two-detachable], compared to its smaller sibling’s four.

The DIR-X5460 offers concurrent dual-band wireless (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz)  for connections up to 5.4Gbps, six simultaneous data streams and BSS colouring which increases range and reduces interference in “noisy” wi-fi environments, apparently. It’ll set you back around $NZ540.

Bottom line for me when it comes to wi-fi is I want stable, reliable wireless that doesn’t tank during heavy downloads or buffer during extended streaming sessions of The Wire or Peaky Blinders.

Like previous D-Link routers, set-up was super simple using the mobile phone app but you can use a web browser-based set up, too. All I had to do was enter my ISP’s username and password details, the router rebooted and I was up and running. There was a firmware update during the testing period.

Long story short, the DIR-X5460 impressed me, offering reliable wi-fi out a single drop out over the past month, but what about the speeds?

The simplest way to find out how good a router is, is to test it – so that’s what I did, multiple times, using a variety of testing tools: Ookla Speedtest and and website Speedof.me.

I tested the speeds from a variety of locations around the house: Beside the router, in the main bedroom, in the lounge and in the kitchen/dining/family room [these last three are the furtherest from the router]. I tested multiple times in each of the locations then did additional speed tests on September 13 at random times during the day.

The results

Ookla:

  • Kitchen: 28.6Mbps download, 27.8Mbps upload (as low as 12.9Mbps)
  • Lounge: 33.4Mpbs, 30.8Mbps
  • Bedroom: 36.9Mbps, 37.7Mbps
  • Next to router: 38.3Mbps, 55.7Mbps
  • Additional testing (13/9, single connection, various times during the day): 31.5Mbps, 11.4Mbps (lounge); 26.3Mbps, 19.5Mbps (kitchen); 39.1Mbps, 22.7Mbps (main bedroom); 40Mbps, 34.6Mbps (beside router)

Speedof.me

  • Kitchen: 37.43Mbps download (max 52.18Mbps), 20.17Mbps upload
  • Lounge: 39.55Mbps (47.57Mbps), 34.63Mpbs
  • Bedroom: 41.01Mbps (max 53.5Mbps), 41.95Mbps
  • Next to router: 41.75Mbps (max 60.45Mbps), 51.66Mbps)
  • Additional testing (13/9, single connection, various times during the day): 33.6Mbps, 11.74Mbps (lounge); 23.03Mbps, 7.15Mbps (kitchen); 36.87Mbps, 16.24Mbps (main bedroom); 40.14Mbps, 41.6Mbps (beside router)

For me, the DIR-X5460 delivered consistently fast wi-fi speeds right across my house without any drop outs and provided problem-free Netflix, YouTube and Neon streaming – and that’s a massive plus in my book. Obviously the wi-fi signal got weaker the further it got from the router and no doubt there are faster routers out there, but speeds were faster and more consistent with the DIR-5460 than many of the other routers I’ve used previously.

In fact, it must have been alright as I had no complaints from the two young adults currently in the house at all about wi-fi quality, given my daughter had moaned about the wi-fi strength before setting up the new router.

Being wi-fi 6 means the DIR-X5460 is future-proofed, too, meaning as the protocol becomes more commonplace, firmware updates to the router will mean it will prove useful for years to come. Two thumbs up, from me.

PNY offers Geforce RTX30 series graphics cards

Earlier today, graphics card powerhouse nVidia announced its new Geforce RTX 30 series cards and they look pretty damn good, if I don’t mind saying so myself.

I was contemplating picking up an RTX2060 or RTX2070 later this year but while nVidia for some reason hasn’t made New Zealand pricing available, it sounds like an RTX3070 will cost around $AU800 (which means closer to $NZ850, probably) so while not cheap, they seemed competitively priced when compared to the RTX2000 series cards when they were released.

The RTX3090, however, sounds like it’ll need a small mortgage to cover the cost so I suspect it’s not considered a consumer-level card.

Hot on the heels of nVidia’s announcement, memory, RAM and GPU manufacturer PNY has come out announcing its own line-up of RTX30 series cards with the XLR8 gaming series: The  RTX 3090, RTX 3080 and RTX 3070, all powered by the all-new NVIDIA Ampere architecture.

nVidia says the new RTX 30 Series GPUs, the 2nd generation of RTX, features new RT Cores, Tensor Cores and streaming multiprocessors, bringing stunning visuals, amazingly fast frame rates and AI acceleration to games and creative applications.

In terms of overclocking and RGB customisation, PNY says its XLR8 Gaming GeForce RTX 30 Series is compatible with PNY’s VelocityX overclocking software which allows for the customisation and monitoring of critical stats like core clock, memory clock, core temperature, fan speed, RGB lighting and more, aiming for the perfect balance of performance and efficiency.

Here’s what PNY has to offer in the range:

PNY XLR8 Gaming GeForce RTX 3090

    • 24GB memory
    • 3 fan
    • PCIe 4.0
    • GDDR6X
    • EPIC-X RGBTM
    • Overclocking: via VelocityX Software

PNY XLR8 Gaming GeForce RTX 3080

    • 10GB memory
    • 3 fan
    • PCIe 4.0
    • GDDR6X
    • EPIC-X RGB
    • Overclocking: via VelocityX Software

PNY XLR8 Gaming GeForce RTX 3070

    • 8GB
    • 3 fan and 2 fan variations
    • PCIe 4.0
    • GDDR6
    • EPIC-X RGB on 3 fan version
    • Overclocking: via VelocityX Software

PNY says its RTX3090 will be available from late-September,  the RTX3080 from mid-September and the RTX3070 from mid-October from mWave.com.au in Australia and in New Zealand from  www.pbtech.co.nz/

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020: Come fly with me

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Greetings, dear readers! It’s been a little quiet around here lately so apologies [again, that damn day job seems to get in the way]

Lately, I’ve been playing a fair bit of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2020 and I love it: It’s the perfect antidote in these crazy times when there is no overseas travel in sight for some time, I think.

Seriously, I love Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. So much so that I’m working on finding a flight stick and throttle combination so I can get more control than the fairly old Saitek Cyborg Evo joystick that I’m using.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is the sort of game that I think is best left to pictures and videos and not long paragraphs of text so I thought I’d post a few photos that I’ve captured from the game and some captures I took of a few flights over the past week.

I’ve flown to Melbourne [and seen the crazy monolith that has sprouted up], Brisbane, New York, Wellington, Lake Tekapo and around my home town of Christchurch, NZ, this week. Where do you reckon I should head to next?

Byte-sized review: Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout (reviewed on PC)

Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout  – a game show-style Battle Royale featuring 60 colourful jellybeans that are systematically eliminated as each round unfolds – is taking the world by storm.

It seems Fall Guys is the gaming darling at the moment – I’m told it sold 2 million copies on Steam since August 4 – and from the outset, it’s not hard to see why: It’s got an undeniable charm about it with its bright colours, cute characters and bouncy music as players navigate a variety of mini-games designed to slowly eliminate players until only one remains. It’s also nice to see an Battle Royale game where there isn’t an assault rifle, rocket launcher or frying pan to be seen.

Fall Guys is an assault on the senses, too, and can be chaotic and frantic one moment then frustrating and confusing the next as you avoid rotating paddles, disappearing tiles and other players.

Sadly, my experiences with it swings more towards the frustrating, with my constant inability to progress much further than the first round, which means I can either watch the remaining rounds as a spectator or quit the game and find another one [and inevitably go through the same process].

Luckily, each round is no more than a few minutes long so it means each game is probably over within 10 minutes so you won’t need to wait that long for the next one, but for me, the frustration of constantly missing the cut just outweighed any fun I was having with it. I can see Fall Guys perfectly suited to someone who maybe just wants to play for 30 minutes or so then leave it until the next day. It’s also perfectly suited to young players as there is no violence or bad language [unless its from mum or dad cursing at being eliminated – again.]

I love that a cutesy, colourful game like this is taking the online world by storm and that so many of my online friends love it, but – and I feel kind of bad for saying this – I’ve decided it’s not for me, I’m afraid, and that’s OK.

Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventures still popular

It’s been a busy few days so here’s some news …

Price aggregation site PriceSpy tells me that Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventures claimed the top spot for as most clicked-on game for the second month in a row.

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, New Zealand country manager for PriceSpy, says:  “Over the past few months, we’ve certainly noticed more of a presence from Nintendo Switch games placing amongst the top three spots on our popularity board.

Martinvesi-Bassett says:  “Based on the total number of clicks received, despite launching in October last year, June’s most popular game was found to be Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure.

“Whilst price drops can often attract gamers to click more on older game releases, we believe this not to be the case for the rise in popularity for Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure, as the price point has remained fairly static since it first launched.

“Instead, a big contributing factor that may have led to the rise in popularity for this particular game is Covid-19 and lock down, as people had to stay in and they wanted to stay active and feel motivated.”

Martinvesi-Bassett says it was reported globally that Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure was sold out, which most likely occurred as a result of all of the lockdowns that were taking place. “Such news most probably also contributed to the increased consumer demand here in New Zealand,” she says.