fbpx

Google launching game streaming service “Stadia”

Remember that streaming service for gaming everyone wouldn’t shut up about? Although it wasn’t even here yet?

It’s here.

Google’s stadia

Google is launching the Stadia cloud gaming service at the San Francisco GDC (Game Developers Conference). CEO Sundar Pichai spoke about the company’s ambition to make Stadia a platform for everyone. Google hopes to stream games to all devices. But as of now, Stadia will stream games to the PC, laptop, tablet computers, TV and mobile phones.

How it works

Pichai and Phil Harrison, former Microsoft and Sony executive unveiled Stadia onstage. According to Harrison, YouTube will be used to add to the service. This comes in the form of a new feature, which allows one to view a game clip from a YouTube creator and hit a “play now” button to instantly access streaming service to the game. And this feature doesn’t require one to download or install any games. You can play through the google chrome browser. The feature was previously hinted at during Google’s trial period of Stadia deemed “Project Stream”. Many Chrome users accessed Assassin’s Creed Odyssey through the browser and streamed mostly seamless gameplay.

Part of the demonstration was moving gameplay seamlessly from a phone to a tablet and then to a TV.

A Stadia controller will also be launched and will work with the service by connecting through Wi-Fi. It will make moving games between devices smoother, and also being able to use one controller for all your devices is kind of cool. Games can be run at 4K at 60 FPS at launch, and up to 8K resolutions with 120 FPS will be made available in the future. A custom GPU will be released for Google datacenters, partnering with AMD. The GPU is expected to be more powerful and efficient than the ones used in the PS4 pro and even the Xbox One X.

Doom Eternal will be one of the launch titles for Stadia. And a cheeky reference to The Elder Scrolls series was also made courtesy of an image with a sword, a potion flask and a knee with an arrow sticking out. Make of that what you will. Google is planning to use State Share for players to share gameplay instances, down to specific parts of the game.

Competition looms in the horizon

In short, this has the potential to change the landscape of the gaming industry, if done right. And although Google seem like the first of the pack to unveil a firm offering, they are to face stiff competition from Microsoft and Amazon who are to release similar service later this year. Things are starting to get very intriguing indeed.

Red Dead Redemption 2 review: Rage, rage against the dying of the West

Red Dead Redemption 2 is an unabashedly stubborn masterpiece.

I was strolling through the quiet road at the base of Mount Shan on my trusty steed, Epona. Suddenly I came across a rugged-looking man intently crouching over something and talking to himself. It wasn’t long before I listened in and came to know that he was a hunter tracking his prey. We shared a hearty greeting thanks to the contextual button on my PS4 controller. But then he went back to his hunter business. Curious, I followed him from afar just to see the climax of this random event. I wasn’t ready for what happened a couple of seconds later.

Without warning, a huge bear suddenly came out of the woods and rushed straight towards him. The hunter got in a few shots from his rifle but not before the bear jumped squarely on him and viciously clawed his face off. I ran towards the spot but found both of them laying lifeless and still. I couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt about my failure in saving him. Maybe if I drew faster, he’d still be alive and we could have shared a chuckle after his successful hunt. Worn with woe, I accepted his fate and rode back into the world.

This is just one of the many, many random encounters in Rockstar’s astonishingly detailed and exhaustingly beautiful open-world western opus, Red Dead Redemption 2. A world unnervingly polished to a marvelous sheen, the sequel’s responsive open-world design ensures it’s a treat to just exist there. It tells a heart-wrenching and worthy story that weaves many character-driven narrative threads into a glorious tapestry. It starts at a deliberately measured pace but soon reaches full steam and gradually culminates in a thunderous crescendo. When the sun has set on the somber tale of not heroes but flawed men and women with dark pasts and desperate futures, you can’t help but marvel at your own journey.

The premise

Red dead redemption 2, Arthur Morgan
Our man Arthur lookin’ real nice

As Arthur Morgan, you have plenty of opportunities to do right by the Van der Lindes.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a follow-up to Red Dead Redemption. And while new and improved in terms of design and execution, Red Dead Redemption 2 is narratively a prequel. The year is 1899, a decade before the events of the first game. The story follows the adventures of Arthur Morgan, right-hand man to charismatic gang leader Dutch van der Linde. Players of the original Red Dead will recall that this gang is the one previous protagonist John Marston originated from. At this stage of history, Arthur, Dutch, and crew are on the run following a failed job in the town of Blackwater.

Throughout the story, the gang exists in a transient state. Moving from state to state, the crew finds itself mixed up in a wide variety of misadventures as they try to regather themselves and pull together the funds they need to finally disappear. As Arthur, you are essentially the gang’s fixer. In addition to participating in the various robberies and related crimes that take place throughout the game, you’ll also find yourself in charge of the gang’s camp. Its is a bustling communal space where you collect quests, manage resources, and just exist alongside the various personalities that encapsulate the gang. But your true calling comes from the wild.

Wild wild West-world

horse
More horses than you could ever want. Question is: why’d you want so many horses?

One of RDR2’s greatest strengths is the lengths it goes to in order to make its world feel like it is breathing on its own. Other Rockstar open world games have largely focused on centering the player in every way. Everything is typically built like a playground, chock full of activities that exist at the forefront, while the various NPCs just sort of mill around. Here, the various cities, camps, and wild areas all feel like they are moving along at a life-like pace. When you’re in your gang camp, you’ll see people doing chores, reading, playing games, and engaging in conversations that have nothing, in particular, to do with whatever quest you’re about to embark upon. These personalities, these people, are the core of what makes Red Dead Redemption 2 go. There is a humanity to these characters that Rockstar games don’t typically seem all that invested in portraying.

When you head into towns, Rockstar’s meticulous craftsmanship gets even more impressive. Each of the many towns and cities has its own character and personality, with the bustling New Orleans facsimile Saint Denis being the crown jewel. The cities are packed with things to do, from taking in a vaudeville show and getting your photo taken to meeting a memorable cast of strangers and perusing the intricately detailed shops. You can dive into a catalog at gun shops and general stores, or walk right up to the shelves and grab what you need.

Ultra-realism

“… And that’s why I’ll need your horse, pardner”

All the exteriors and interiors in the game look authentic to the time period and make you feel like you are visiting a place lost in time. Even the civilian population is remarkable – you can interact with each person you come across. I rarely heard a repeated line of dialogue outside of some random encounters outside the city. New strangers continually pop up offering interesting side missions as well. This is world both alive and lived in. And Rockstar never misconstrues this basic foundation.

But the strongest case for this amazing open-world is its nothingness. Galloping through the path less-trodden, enjoying the simplicity and the Zen-like peace of the western frontier is such a delight. The stretch of calm is at complete odds with the gun-slinging robust action but just as vital to the game’s experience. Light bursting through a tree canopy, rain clouds forming and clearing, evening mists rolling into an eerie swamp- the gorgeous visuals of the game punctuates throughout these spectacular moments.

It’s an outlaw’s life for me

Because ladies LOVE to be wooed by a mysterious guy in a mask with a bloody knife in his hand

As Arthur Morgan, you have plenty of opportunities to do right by the Van der Lindes. You’ll find a settlement for your gang first, of course. Then you quickly learn how imperative it is to keep everyone alive by supplying them with food, medical supplies, and ammunition. You’ll have to rob trains, steal stagecoaches, hold up shopkeepers and civilians on the road, as well as complete missions, hunt animals, or complete bounty missions to earn your keep. On top of this, there’re plenty of other ways to earn money, such as games of Blackjack or Poker, and selling your wares to those that are interested.

Your camp has a group fund to which you can donate your money, as well as a ledger where you can spend that hard-earned cash to improve the camp by upgrading it. Living quarters, building better supply stores, and opening up the option to fast travel across the vast plains- all can be achieved through these upgrades.

Survive

Sounds simple. Ain’t.

Out in the wild, or engulfed in a mission, the three cores of your character need to be kept replenished if you want to survive. Health, Stamina, and Dead Eye all need to remain high or you’ll start to show signs of fatigue. It isn’t just Arthur that has these cores. Your horse is an extension of you, and looking after it is essential. It’s important to bond with your horse because you’ll have access to better abilities. For example, if you’re bonded with your horse it’ll come to you from a farther distance once you whistle it to return. Your horse also acts as your inventory whilst exploring, storing the extra guns and equipment for you to equip while in the wild.

Hunting is a huge part of Red Dead Redemption 2, as is fishing, and both can be done whenever you like. Planning every hunt is just as important as robbing a train. Learning which options are at your disposal can take time. But planning that next big kill proves incredibly satisfying when done correctly. Unlike so many modern open-world games, Red Dead Redemption 2 does not want you to achieve dominance over it. It wants you to simply be in its world, and to feel like a part of it. It’s a crucial distinction and a big part of what makes it all so immersive and engrossing.

The wild bunch

Ain’t no party like a cowboy party

Arthur may be the story’s protagonist, but Red Dead Redemption 2 is an ensemble drama. The Van der Linde gang is more than just another clutch of scoundrels on horseback. It’s a community, a mobile encampment consisting of about 20 men, women, and children, each with their own story, desires, and role. There are villains and psychopaths, drunks and miscreants, and also dreamers, runaways, and lost souls just looking to survive. Each character has their own chances to shine, particularly for players who take the time to get to know them all. From the cook to the layabout to the loan shark, each has become real to me in a way fictional characters rarely do.

The game’s primary tale of Arthur’s journey through the gang’s final days is an extremely compelling one. The performance of Rob Clark as Arthur is a big part of that. Also at the head of the table sits Dutch van der Linde, as complex and fascinating a villain as I’ve met in a video game. Benjamin Byron Davis plays the boss man perfectly, imagining Dutch as a constantly concerned, watery-eyed killer. Time and again I was also struck by how seriously this game’s writers took these characters, themes, and subject matter. Glances of Rockstar’s satiric commentary famous from the Grand Theft Auto franchise can be seen here. But in its heart, the narrative remains about an invading modern world and a grim destruction of the old guard. And it is absolutely riveting in its execution.

See you, cowboy

See you, not-space cowboy

Red Dead Redemption 2 is an incredible achievement in open world gaming. It is an intricate machine that disguises its machinery better than just about anything else that’s come before. It toys with our suspension of disbelief about all those ones and zeroes beneath. Ultimately, it is gaming’s Pinocchio moment- blurring the puppet strings beyond belief. In addition to its lengthy and engrossing campaign, it delivers moments of emergent storytelling more compelling than anything I can ever remember playing. Graphically and aurally, it is top-to-bottom stunning. Rockstar has single-handedly thrust open-world game design to the next generation. And I refuse to ever go back.

A new Witcher game?

The teaser for a new Witcher game has been dropped out of the blue. A few hours ago, CDProject Red posted the following on their social media:

Similar Vibes

We’re not in Velen anymore… I’m not sure where we are

The top-down RPG, known as Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, has the same feel as the other games of the series but is vastly different. The game plays in the same way as old school top downs, and being an AA title, should be easier to run than a full priced one. Yet it still looks really good. Don’t take my word for it, here are pictures. It seems very well illustrated. It really is as beautiful as you remember the world of Witcher to be.

Huge Map?

Cool.

The game will allow for a much bigger map with places not shown in the other games. It claims to have characters and places not found in the original three games. The trailer of the game shows a few places not seen in the games, and some that we have visited before.

30 Hours of Game

Nothing says RPG like dialogue options.

The new game, Thronebreaker, has 30 hours of gameplay, according to the game’s page on the developer website. However, CDProject Red is known for underpromising and overdelivering. Expect this game to have more gameplay than advertised. There are bound to be side quests.

New Characters

Diverse.

The game promises some classic book characters like Queen Meve, as well as characters who have already appeared in the games, like King Demavend III. It’s hard to tell how the game will actually play out, but these two seem to be protagonists, alongside Brouver Hoog, Gascon, Ardal Aep Dahy and Raynard Odo.

A surprise gift is at times the most pleasant. This game’s teaser trailer dropped out of the blue. Maybe that’s why the Witcher fans in us feel happy. The game will retail for $29.99 and pre-orders are available now.

Top 6 indie game developers

Now, it has come to the point where indie games have provided better storytelling, visuals, and concepts than most of them AAA ones. I mean seriously EA you make me sad, and when I say Me, I speak for a lot of us. But thank the game gods for the indie developers who were there to make us hopeful during the times we lost hope. These Developers put heart and soul into these games just so that after a hectic day of reality we can get lost in a fantasy-land and forget our worries momentarily. They have given us the escape we needed. For example, when the Assassins Creed Unity failed us, Coffee Stain Studio bestowed upon us Goat Simulation as a ray of hope.

Now let us take a look at 6 of these Developers.

1. Telltale Games

Since established in 2004, Telltale over the recent years have provided us with the stories we wanted. With different outcomes each time, we played until we have gotten all of them. Batman Telltale series is one of my personal favorites. It’s one of those games that helps me forget my worries and tough times. Being a comic book geek this is the perfect escape for me. Telltale is one of the most known and mainstream companies in this list. Many of the readers have probably played games made by these guys before.

I do hope they make a Telltale series of The Punisher.

2. Amanita Design

Amanita Design is known mostly for Machinarium. A minimalist dark puzzle game that would keep you occupied for hours. It kept me occupied. The brainteasers and puzzles would actually be a challenge I would need to jump-start my brain after a boring day spent at school. It would instantly get me back to using my brain. It was a good alternative to coffee. Amanita has produced twelve games with Samorost series included. Amanita since 2003 is known for brainteasers and puzzles.

3. Studio MDHR

Studio MDHR is a new Game developer consisting of two brothers who took the world by storm with just one game CUPHEAD. It was announced in 2014 with some betas released but when the completed game came out it broke the internet. Cuphead is also a kind of special to me. Not just a kind of but a lot to be exact. When I finally gathered the courage to ask the girl of dreams out and got rejected Cuphead was there to help me get over it. The frustration of trying not to die for the gazillionth time and spending a whole month nonstop for completing the game helped me forget the event and overcome my depression in such a short notice was a miracle.

So yeah, I’m not gonna do a listicle about Game developers with Studio MDHR excluded. I hope they keep on making games like this in the future.

4. Cloud Imperium Games

Cloud Imperium started in 2012 with Star Citizen as a Kickstarter project. Now according to calculations made in March 2018, Star Citizen has passed a whopping amount of 181 million dollars just from crowdfunding and 2 million registered users, which makes it the biggest crowd-funded video game in history. HOLY MOLY! After knowing this info, this game now got my attention and I just had to find out why all the hype. Therefore, I call up my friend Tonmoy who bought this game and head out. Firstly, you get to chose whomever you want to be in this game and then the infinite universe with an immense number of planets and a stunning concept which won over peoples heart and support. This game is a prime example telling us People will support you if you can give the people something worthy of their time.

5. The Behemoth

If you’ve played Castle Crashers, you definitely love Behemoth. This game was not just fun but you are able to go 4 person team Co-op. Like, this is one of those Beat-em-up games that you call up your friends and four people could go nuts over constantly beating bad guys up. This is one of the games that prove you don’t always have to keep FIFA or NBA whenever friends come around for a stay over to have one hell of a blast.

6. Edmund McMillen

The man who made two of the well-known games, Super Meat Boy and Binding of Isaac. This was a tough choice between Behemoth and Edmund. Why not go for both? Super Meat Boy is one those games that almost everyone you know must have played at a point after release.

Well, this does not by any means concludes the list. What I have said is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of Indie game developers that are out there, whom I have yet to discuss. These are just some of the Developers who I love the most for their unique works. Some hold a sentimental value some I just love for the sheer fun they provide.

Hope you liked my list and remember this is just my opinion. You’re welcome to comment your own indie darlings below.

EA and 2K aren’t keen on complying with Belgium’s law against Lootbox

It felt like yesterday when the huge revelation came upon the video game industry and its publishers: lootbox microtransactions has gone way too far. The controversy stirred by Battlefront II, Need For Speed Payback and NBA 2K18 has riled everyone up. They’ve been riled up for a year now.

Chris Lee, a Hawaii representative, noticed such commotion. He has expressed his opinions about predatory practices from EA. He has also spoken against other games from multiple publishers and platforms including Android and iOS. Belgium followed this example. Thus they’ve made it clear since April this year that video game lootboxes are to be strictly regarded as illegal gambling.

The defiant ones

Much to their hubris, EA and 2K seem defiant against Belgium’s new law, with 2K suggesting people in Belgium contact their representatives for a repeal somehow.

EA, on the other hand, considers themselves clean since they’ve stated they have done nothing wrong to elicit their game’s lootbox system being illegal. They are now currently under investigation for criminal charges by the Belgium government.

Plausible deniability or not, Netherlands have also followed suit and are thus setting a bigger example for other countries to follow. Blizzard and Valve have fully complied with both Belgium and Netherlands.

Need a second opinion?

Today’s gaming industry has reached a far greater market than movies and television combined. However, we’re still not sure if this was the best outcome. Especially since most of the finances of big companies come from treating games as services.

Lootbox gambling has been on the rise since 2017, starting all from Counter-Strike Go, Overwatch to now Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. It wasn’t over a year ago since CS Go Lotto controversy made the FTC in the US file major complains before Valve reached a settlement. Though in irony, Valve actually had the knowledge of the gambling fiasco before it reached public eyes.

Even though games are expensive to make nowadays, The Witcher 3 was one of the bestselling RPGs with the developers being opposed to monetary services. Games like Titanfall 2 were also praised for their DLC system. Players in-game weren’t purchasing any convoluted means to have in-game advantages that could seem invasive.

So the bottom line is…

It’s bad enough that mobile games are far egregious with these practices making it unbearable for enjoying quality content from app stores, let alone games. AAA titles the likes of Shadow of War which is a single-player game also had a microtransaction system of its own. Contrary to where multi-player ones are rife with such an integration.

A Reddit user by the name Kensgold revealed that he has spent 10,000 USD on in-app purchases including CS: GO. Before that, there have been multiple instances where children used their parent’s credit cards to purchase digital goods where they’ve had to later asked the publisher for refunds as it wasn’t to their consent. Including most of the games from EA.

So what should it take to make these two juggernauts of publishers to give in among others, as they’ve bitten more than they should chew? Should we keep living under the umbrella of this silver lining?

Oppo F9: stylish but underpowered

The new Oppo F9 has taken the market by storm. With its one-of-a-kind notch, it certainly looks very unique. It also has very powerful cameras on its front and back. However, a notch and a couple of cameras alone don’t make a good phone great.

Display and appearance

The new Oppo F9 is a very sleek and stylish phone. The F9 is covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 6 on both sides and has a big 6.3-inch IPS LCD screen with minimum screen bezel and a very small water drop notch. The F9 has all the standard sensors you would come to expect, including a fingerprint one on the back.

The Oppo comes in three different colours, and they all look very fashionable. The gradient colour scheme is very unique and really helps the phone stand out amongst its peers. All in all, it’s a phone that wouldn’t be out of place in the hands of a supermodel, as Deepika Padukone has shown already.

Camera

Oppo is the self-proclaimed selfie expert. So it should come as no surprise how powerful its cameras are. The front camera is a whopping 25 megapixels and our testing at launch proved its power. The back cameras are also quite powerful, at 16 and 2 megapixels respectively. Oppo has targeted the selfie-taker with their tagline, so this is only expected.

Pouting is easier with the Oppo F9’s AI assisted mammoth front camera, which has a whopping 25 megapixels.

The Oppo F9 also features AI integration with the cameras. The cameras can automatically pick up what kind of photo you are trying to take and adapts to it. The image quality of the camera can be easily compared with the best in the market right now.

Battery

Another Oppo F9 marketing gimmick has been the fast charging capability of the phone. The Oppo F9 has VOOC technology, which makes charging very quick. In fact, the phone’s tagline claims that the phone can muster 2 hours’ worth of talk time with only 5 minutes of charging.

The Oppo F9 has a 3500 mAh battery, which makes this an impressive claim. It’s safe to say the claim is mostly true – we got 4% of charge in less than a minute.

Chipset and power

So far, the phone has looked quite good. This section is where that changes. With so many premium features packed into a phone that costs a fourth of the average iPhone, some concessions had to be made. The phone packs a very mediocre Mediatek MT6771 Helio P60 chipset.

It does have an octa-core CPU, but it is paired with a Mali-G72 MP3 GPU. This makes the phone considerably less powerful than a flagship should be. The phone comes in 4 and 6 GB RAM variants. Both have 64 GB of internal storage. It has a dedicated slot for memory expansions of up to 256 GB. The Oppo F9 has 4G dual sim capability also.

Verdict

The Oppo F9 has quite a few things going for it. It has really quick charging, and the only phone in the same price range that has similar quick charging is the Lenovo Z5. The display is beautiful with possibly the nicest looking notch we’ve seen yet. The cameras are world class and can go toe to toe with every flagship in the market. The price, at 28,990 and 31,990 BDT for the 4 and 6 GB variants, is pretty low for a flagship quality phone.

Yet, there are some huge shortcomings for the Oppo F9. The power of the phone leaves much to be desired as they seem to be the only ones using Mali GPU’s in this day and age. For casual users and selfie addicts, this is a good phone and comes recommended. However, the mobile gaming community and others who want a lot of power in their phones would find the Oppo F9 to be lacklustre at best.

NVIDIA Turing: faster than Pascal but much more expensive

NVIDIA has recently announced the new generation of graphics cards they are going to produce. The new architecture, called Turing, is supposedly much faster than the current generation of Pascal cards. However, the cards themselves will be much more expensive than the current gen. Let’s find out whether they are worth the money.

The New Cards

Nvidia has so far announced three new graphics cards at different price points. The RTX 2080 Ti, 2080 and 2070 are all sequels to the currently available 1080 Ti, 1080 and 1070. However, even the 2070 is set to be more powerful than the GTX 1080 Ti, according to Nvidia. The 1080 Ti is currently the single most powerful card in the market for gaming. The cards are priced at $600 for the 2070, $800 for the 2080 and $1200 for the 2080 Ti. The burning question we have is, is the new architecture worth it?

gpu, graphics cards, nvidia

Turing = 6X Pascal?

NVIDIA has been banging on the “Turing is 6X Pascal” drum since launch, but we remain sceptical. Even though technically true, the new technology is 6 times faster than Pascal at only NVIDIA’s in-house RTX ray tracing.

However, many games do not have NVIDIA’s RTX ray tracing tech, and will in no way offer the same massive performance upgrade as promised by NVIDIA. Going from a Pascal to a Turing card, you’ll be looking at a 50% performance improvement on most games.

Nvidia, performance, graph, turing

Why So Expensive?

Most of the new cards are double the market price of the 10 series card they are sequels to. This means you guys will have to pay double the price for a 50% increase in performance. The question now is why NVIDIA is putting such a premium price on their GPU.

This is where 11 different games come in. NVIDIA has announced RTX ray tracing tech for 11 games, among which are Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Battlefield V. NVIDIA claims that Turing makes the lighting and shadows of these games significantly better. They are banking on this as a selling point for the new cards.

Verdict

The cards themselves may not be the best bang for your buck. The technology is, however. I would recommend a 1080 Ti owner to not dish out so much money for cards that will not improve performance a whole lot. Anyone who does not have a current gen card can buy the new 20 series cards to get a significant boost in performance. At $499, the 2070 seems like a pretty good deal for anyone using a 900 series Nvidia card looking for an upgrade, or someone building a new PC. The Founders edition cards are a hundred bucks more expensive so you might want to wait for other companies to make their own 20 series cards. Overall, this seems like the right direction for the company and the industry as a whole.

You can buy the new architecture cards here. Unfortunately they are not yet available locally. We will update you guys when they are available here in Bangladesh.

Gaming smartphone vs flagship smartphone: the differences

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’re someone who keeps up with the smartphone industry. When was the last time a smartphone got you interested? Probably when Razer released the first gaming smartphone, Razer Phone. We discuss this phenomenon, and what separates them from a flagship smartphone.

The last few years of smartphone development has mostly been focused on pushing VR and AR, improving user experience and providing innovative features aiming to integrate into daily usage. This desperately begs the question, what do we want from a flagship in 2018?

I mean, look at Xiaomi fulfilling almost all needs of consumer through their affordable Redmi lineup. For anyone looking for an extra oomph with a top of the line SoC, they have the Mi lineup of flagship smartphones featuring stellar build quality and top-tier performance. And as usual, we also have flagships from other android smartphone giants such as LG, HTC, Samsung and Huawei. And all of the other mid-tier smartphones either needed extensive modding after rooting a smartphone [which is quite the tricky process, needing enough attention from both the manufacturer and developers].

All we ever wanted was a phone that just worked with no frills.

The Demand

Hardcore gaming on smartphones was unheard of in any market; at least before Asians started making massively multiplayer online role-playing games… for Android. And like the madmen hardcore gamers are, smartphone sales started spiking in Asian regions. Affordable flagships like Xiaomi Mi series and OnePlus started gaining traction, just because of that sweet Snapdragon flagship chip, and a battery to last several gaming sessions.

This newly sprung market’s demand at this point was only this; a smartphone with top of the line specs and cooling system that helps with the throttling smartphones usually face. That’s something we haven’t seen since the gaming focused Xperia Play, and going way back, the Nokia N-Gage.

The Messiah: Razer Phone

Razer was already a well known gaming brand thanks to its brilliant Deathadder gaming mice and Blackwidow gaming keyboards. Led by an eccentric CEO, Min-Liang Tan, Razer also gained popularity for its skits based on seemingly impossible April Fools jokes featuring hilariously impossible technologies. But last year, Razer broke through from its conventional lineup of gaming gears and released a phone.

Enter, the Razer Phone. Featuring a massive 4,000 mAh battery, dual front firing speakers and Dolby Atmos audio, it seemed an easy entrance into the realm of flagships for this gaming company. Add a 120Hz IPS screen to the mix, and it becomes a compelling buy over any smartphone in the industry, at least for the gamers who know the difference between refresh rates of a display. The smartphone was instantly praised by enthusiasts and reviewers, and grabbed a market that none else dared to touch before; android gamers. From there, it was a slippery slope, and like a wrecking ball we saw gaming focused smartphones coming out in torrents. Huawei Honor Play, Nubia Red Magic and Xiaomi’s Blackshark are to name a few.

Return of the Flagships

Gaming smartphones surely brought a brand new dimension to the smartphone market, but that meant that the manufacturers had to sell their flagships too. Except Razer, who were, and still are enjoying a steady stream of income from their only smartphone, the Razer phone; thanks to its amazing display and front firing speakers.Smartphone giants instead focused their efforts towards improving camera modules, smoother user interface, removing ports and adding weird new features; all depending on who you’re asking about.But still, the question stands. Would you pick a flagship smartphone over a gaming phone?

The bitter truth

Earlier this year, Xiaomi, one of the biggest smartphone manufacturers of the decade, released the gaming-oriented Blackshark. Sporting a bold (and to some, downright weird) design, Blackshark generated quite the hype for the performance and the specs it promised to delivered. Xiaomi seemed to underestimate its market, with the Blackshark facing supply shortages within China. Nubia took the chance and released the Red Magic with a lesser processor (Snapdragon 835 against Blackshark’s 845). But the question still stands; what value does a flagship smartphone offer over a gaming smartphone?

The answer is heat dissipation and in result, lesser thermal throttling. Some reviewers dared to run Xiaomi’s Blackshark in a stress test against Xiaomi’s flagship Mi Mix 2S, both featuring the same SoC. The Mi Mix 2S ran cooler and had more consistent performance across the board in almost all applications including gaming. But for the price one would pay for a flagship, the gaming phones surely proved to be an amazing example of bang-for-buck.

The equalizer: ASUS ROG Phone

From the previous results, flagships would still be the weapon of choice for ultimate android gaming device. But still, the biggest trade-offs would be the peripherals and the battery life that gaming smartphones offer. Maybe that’s a deal-breaker to some. The answer to this came from ASUS’s gaming brand, ROG.

ROG revealed its first effort towards a gaming smartphone, called the ROG Phone, around June 2018. The flagship SoC from Qualcomm, Snapdragon 845, has been overclocked to 2.96GHz, compared to the standard 2.8GHz from flagships of well known company such as the Galaxy S9. It also comes packed with 8 gigs of RAM compared to the standard 4GB that most flagships feature.

Up front, the phone features a 6 inch AMOLED Panel with a 90Hz refresh rate, competing against Razer Phone’s 120Hz LCD Display. The corners of the phone are touch sensitive to provide a functionality called the air trigger, mappable buttons in video games for quick access to keys. Flip it over and the phone looks stylish, with an unconventionally designed fingerprint scanner and a cooling system called the “3D vapor chamber cooling”, providing upto 16 times more heat dissipation area and extending CPU endurance upto five folds. Oh, and also an RGB Republic of Gamers logo, something the Blackshark promised… Kinda.

If the vents aren’t enough, ROG released something called the AeroActive cooler, providing a 3.5mm jack and an active cooling fan. This cooler is just the one of many bizarre accessories made for the ROG phone. The most intriguing one is the TwinView Dock, a hand-held grip that comes with extra battery juice and a second screen. Want to play on a massive screen like a king? ASUS is also bringing a mobile desktop dock which you can hook up to a monitor or a TV. ASUS recommends it’s ROG Big Format Gaming Display; massive monitors featuring Nvidia tech and astonishing refresh rates.

Synopsis of value and some words

We come back to our original demand, a phone that doesn’t screw up every two seconds. And as enthusiasts, we want innovation and cool gadgets in this field of tiny computers in our pockets. We finally seem to have gotten it, but at what cost?

For the ultimate multi-tasker and power user, the smartphone industry finally has a market. These smartphones might look tacky and unprofessional; but they’re sure to get your work done efficiently than most smartphones out there.

All we can say is, gaming phones have certainly made smartphones exciting again.

5 cyberpunk games to get on Steam Summer Sale while waiting for Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk isn’t a happy notion. It isn’t a clean and shiny utopian promise, rather a neon hued painting depicting the breakdown of social order. Despite the peak techno revolution, cyberpunk fiction revels just as much in the dystopic future where technology might have ended up doing more harm than good. And yet, somehow this angsty subgenre of sci-fi has mesmerized many of us through the years with its masterstroke combination of lowlife, high tech, AI, mega corporations and so much more. Therefore, it was not surprising when the whole spectrum of gamers was swooning over the reveal of Cyberpunk 2077 at this year’s E3. But the game is in its early stages and years away from release. Now how do we scratch that cyberpunk itch that the game’s trailer has surely conjured up in us? Well, by grabbing some underrated cyberpunk gems from the Steam Summer Sale, of course. We all are aware of the usual heavy hitters like Deus Ex, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon or the rebooted Shadowrun games that encapsulate this genre. But I’ll be going a bit deeper down the rabbit hole today to suggest some games that might not have gotten the same media attention but are worthy of your time all the same. And did I say they are dirt cheap in the Steam Summer Sale?

Dex

Dex is an open world, side scrolling, action RPG that takes place in a far future Cyberpunk setting and takes some inspiration from classic Metroid and Castlevania games. The city of Harbor Prime, the setting of the game, has been beautifully constructed with an incredibly immersive environment.

Dex also possesses a politically intriguing main quest and a somewhat solid gameplay base. It focuses on both melee and ranged combat. If you can tolerate the occasional gameplay hiccups, there’s a lot of fun to be had. It is currently $1.99 on Steam.

VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

VA-11 HALL-A is the rare cyberpunk adventure that actually manages to remain interesting until the end with a unique mechanic and loveable characters. You play as Jill who works as a bartender at VA-11 Hall-A. The story is nonlinear and instead of being decided by dialogue options, it changes depending on the drinks you make for patrons at the bar. There are regular clients with their own personalities and the people who work at the bar themselves who slowly grow on you.

Mixing drinks and serving a particular drink to people is basically the main gameplay here. I absolutely love the character designs and the subtle animations at play both in characters and in the bar environment. The title screen itself is worth having a big poster of framed in your room. Go buy it for a measly 10 bucks on Steam.

Observer

Right from the off, Observer is textbook cyberpunk. Grim and brooding with atmosphere, its world feels like a digital recreation of a William Gibson novel. Observer uses this unsettling ambiance to tee up a gripping horror narrative, but it also simultaneously weaves in themes of paranoia and espionage classic to the genre. It had me utterly captivated over the course of six hours, soaking up the tension of its eerie environment and locked into unraveling the mystery of its story.

Starring Rutger Hauer of Blade Runner’s Roy Batty fame, in this game you play as an Observer- an augmented KGB police detective- who’ll wander around a retro-cyberpunk vision of future Poland piecing together an ever-thickening plot. For the most part, the gameplay that translates this story is engaging enough and the game does a good job of shepherding you between objectives without ever feeling as though it’s holding your hand. Observer is currently $6.29 on Steam.

Ruiner

Ruiner is a tense, top-down shooter and a series of equations written in blood, bullets, neon. The maiden game from Reikon Games pretty much demands the fluidity of twin-stick control, even at the cost of mouse-and-keyboard precision. And by “demands,” I mean the game kicked my head in six ways ’til Sunday before I realized the optimal way to play. The game’s world is as red as Carrie on prom night and puts about as much value on human life.

Its harsh cyberpunk aesthetic never lightens up and never gets old. The satisfying combat calculations of the game come together, execute smoothly and consequently gives you a rare cathartic feeling. You can also endlessly tinker with the skill builds that lets you build your own play styles. Grab it for just 10 bucks from the Steam store.

Satellite Reign

Back in 1993, Bullfrog made a ground-breaking cyberpunk tactical combat game called Syndicate. Its 1996 sequel, Syndicate Wars, was one of gaming’s lost Ur-genres, an even darker game about religion in a fully-destructible cityscape. Both were perfect recreations of grim cyberpunk worlds that you had to take over with your gang of cyborgs, by stealth, hacking or straightforward ultraviolence. Satellite Reign (named punningly after Satellite Rain, the most indiscriminately-destructive of Syndicate Wars’ weapons) is a spiritual sequel to those games.

You take control of a corporation seeking to muscle in another corp that’s dominating your city, using a group of four specialized cyborgs. As a tactical combat game, it runs a close second to XCOM, which is saying something. The game’s open world is a grimy labyrinth of urban design, and it’s an absolute joy to explore. You’ll feel like a kid playing with the most badass action figures you could ever have owned, set atop the biggest playset your imagination could handle. If you can survive the unforgiving opening hours of this game, I promise you there is something special in there. And all this for less than $2 in Steam. I mean, talk about getting a bang for your buck.

Best of E3 2018

The annual E3 video game convention is a gamer’s paradise. This year’s model brought 70,000 insiders and fans to Los Angeles, California for three days of giveaways, tournaments and announcements, blowing minds (and eardrums) with over-the-top presentations of hundreds of cutting-edge games. Though it lacked headline-grabbing hardware news, the expo was jam-packed with impressive upcoming software for every platform under the sun. But some games show better than others. In no particular order, here are my favorite ten games from E3 2018.

Cyberpunk 2077

CD Projekt Red has already established themselves as the master craftsmen of video games with their Witcher trilogy. The question remained, however, can a studio steeped in the tropes of medieval fantasy successfully make the transition to futuristic dystopia? And if the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer at the Xbox conference and the 50 minutes behind the scenes demo are any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. While the in-engine trailer hearkens back to how Rockstar introduces its games- a showing of the vibrant world and its colorful inhabitants, the gameplay demo available only to the journalists makes a bold statement. CDPR isn’t treading on familiar grounds, rather it wants to break new ones. Tons of character customization, their trademark stringed quests and choices, a breathtaking open world with a brand new first-person perspective- the Polish developers have set a higher bar than even their previous masterpiece. And I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the final product.

Resident Evil 2

Woe to any team that tries to remake a beloved game and doesn’t do it right. Thankfully, that doesn’t appear to be the case with Resident Evil 2, Capcom’s attempt at remaking the revered horror masterpiece. Incorporating a modern third-person camera from another critically hit entry Resident Evil 4, sharp visuals from a more recent Resident Evil 7 and a more fleshed-out story, the game still retains the classic horror elements along with its great multi-layered puzzles. Resident Evil 2 feels like the game in our memories, rather than that actual game. Which is just what a remake should be, of course.

Dying Light 2

Zombie-apocalypse vision Dying Light 2 is overhauling every system in the game from the lauded first game. Revamped choices and consequences will drastically change how the world reacts to players, with the story written by veteran narrative designer Chris Avellone. The free-flowing parkour movement and creative means of zombie-killing that people loved about the first game are all there with full force, but this time with an open world that reacts to your choices and alliances. I, however, am looking forward to the scariest part of the game, the nights- with faster and more vicious zombies that are relentless in their pursuit for you.

The Last of Us Part II

One would be hard-pressed to name a video game with more emotional resonance than the soulful, harrowing post-apocalyptic survival story of The Last of Us. Following it up seems like a Sisyphean task, but the talented team at Naughty Dog is more than up to the task if their E3 presentation during Sony’s press conference is any indication. The demo made my jaw physically drop with the much-improved gameplay, tense enemy encounters and probably the most ambitious character animations the gaming industry has ever seen. The masterful juxtaposition of the jolly opening scene and the brutal gameplay that followed makes me certain that creative director and writer Neil Druckmann has retained his mastery to switch tones organically from the first game. Starring Ellie at the forefront this time around, the game has added jump and crawl buttons and bigger and more vertically designed levels for some incredible gameplay moments. Safe to say, The Last of Us Part II has set its eyes to surpass the original in every way. And I expect nothing less.

Ghost of Tsushima

Sucker Punch Productions leaves the superpowered world of Infamous behind to travel back to 13th century Japan in a gorgeously rendered open-world adventure game that puts you in the well-worn armor and sandals of Jin Sakai, a samurai coming to grips with the fact that life as he knows it has come to an end. Based on the real-life Mongol invasion of Japan and, more specifically, Tsushima Island- this game is poised to win over the fans of the classic Samurai films and the Kurosawa enthusiasts. With stunning imagery of lush vistas and beautifully rendered combat, this game is an elegant, dazzling experience and looks like a promising new series that I can’t wait to explore.

Devil May Cry 5

After 10 years, director Hideaki Itsuno and the core team at Capcom have reunited to give us the “true” sequel to Devil May Cry 4. We return to Red Grave City, where a demonic invasion has begun. This event attracts Nero, the protagonist- the familiar face you might remember from Devil May Cry 4. Nero has lost his demonic arm, the source of his power. But fear not, the robotic replacement looks just as handy and stylishly cool. The combat and music give off that nostalgic vibes while the visuals have taken a hyper realistic approach. Capcom has recently been a on a role with their crowd-pleasing game lineup. But Devil May Cry 5 is surely the crown jewel of that accolade.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

At first glance, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice can be relegated to another FromSoftware production which draws too much from their already well established Soulsborne formula. But underneath, Sekiro tries to be much different from the bunch. Light stealth mechanics drawn from Tenchu, minimal RPG elements and more focus on swordplay than hacking and slashing makes the game a different beast altogether. Sekiro is set in Japan’s Sengoku period- a time of constant military conflict and social upheaval, but also drawing from Japanese myths and fantastical elements. This E3 didn’t have a shortage on Japan-set samurai action games, but Sekiro sets its own mark for sure.

Anthem

Anthem had a tall order to live up to the last year’s ambitious reveal and on top of that, to break out of the EA stigma that has tainted the publisher’s reputation drastically. Bioware’s own Mass Effect Andromeda’s failure to make a splash coupled with EA’s Battlefront 2 microtransaction fiasco didn’t help as well. But after this year’s E3, I am much more confident in Bioware’s ability to give us a great game than I was before. The way the character’s Javelin exo suits feel is something quite special, as is the transition between flying and hovering and back again. There’s something really nice here, with Bioware nailing intuitive movement across, above and around an open world. More vertically designed levels give the players to maneuver and fly around in more creative ways and tackle enemy encounter accordingly. Taking queues from other shared world shooters and actions games like Destiny and Monster Hunter World, Anthem is shaping up to be a great time sink for those who want to play with friends in a fascinating world deeply rooted in rich lore and mysteries. While we’re busy asking “is this a true Bioware game?” the team itself has moved on and is confident about making a “new” type of Bioware game. Maybe it’s time for us fans to move along too.

Forza Horizon 4

At some point in the past couple of years, the playful, arcade-inflected “Forza Horizon” series passed up the hardcore “Forza Motorsport” simulation line as my favorite racing franchise. The next game puts the pedal to the metal by incorporating changing seasons into its open-world take on Great Britain; race in the snow during winter, across rainy puddles in spring, through sunny pastures and fields in summer and over leaf-filled roads in fall. A technical and mechanical showpiece for the Xbox One, it boasts a special gift for Xbox One X owners: an option to race at a blistering 60 fps. With the new McLaren Senna on its cover, Forza Horizon 4 seems to do the impossible again- to improve upon an already perfect formula. While other “shared-world games” have struggled with their identities and differentiating between the single and multiplayer elements, Forza Horizon 4 juggles those issues like a true master. The online to offline transition is seamless and it never kicks you out of your playing session. The online players outside your party can never grief you on the road.  Overall, this iteration of the Forza Horizon franchise seems to keep its eyes on being the most robust and feature-heavy game in the series.

Halo Infinite

“A piano tune from Halo 3!”
“That was totally Master Chief but with the classic armor style!”
“Is that a Halo ring I see?!”
“Where is this buttery graphics coming from!”

Halo Infinite trailer is responsible for me to lose my voice during this E3 for all the screaming. A lifelong Halo fan, I can’t wait to see where 343 Industries is taking the Master Chief saga after their initial stumble during the first couple of years. After they took the franchise reigns from Bungie, it has not been a smooth sail. But responding heartily to fan feedback, Halo Infinite is being built from the ground up with a brand new SlipSpace Engine featuring all the things Halo fans love. After Halo 5: Guardians failed to excite the fan base, this is exactly the path 343i should follow to regain that trust and goodwill.