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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.

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.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a fine flagship, but not a giant leap for Note-kind

On paper, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a dream flagship phone. Let’s just take a glance at the spec sheet- Snapdragon 845, 6 GB or 8GB memory, dual aperture cameras and a 1TB maximum combined storage capacity. At a starting price tag of $1000- and a price cap of $1250, the Note 9 is also the priciest premium flagship on the market.

Is it worth an upgrade from a Note 8 or an Apple iPhone X? Short Answer: No. Long Answer: it depends on how long you are ready to wait for a more meaningful upgrade. But if you are looking for a first buy instead of an upgrade? It’s a no-brainer. There are few machines out there that can compete with this, unless you want to wait for the Pixel 2 and iPhone X successors.

Bigger and Better

The physical differences between the Note 8 and Note 9 are very subtle. The new Note’s slightly larger- 6.4 inches compared to the 2017 version’s 6.3 inches. The bottom bezel is also a smudge lower, and the fingerprint sensor now sits comfortably below the cameras. Instead of the traditional blue and black colors, the new Note 9 comes in blue and lavender colors for the US market and black and copper colors for the international market.

The Note 9 inherits the S9+’s dual aperture feature, letting in more light than its predecessor. Low light photography is also likely to be noticeably better. The Dual Pixel autofocus makes capturing sharp shots more convenient.

Another new feature, called the Scene Optimizer, is Samsung’s counter to Huawei’s and LG’s AI photography features. Once you point your Note 9 camera at a scene, it will detect the objects and adjust brightness, contrast, saturation and other settings to get you a filter-ready image. There is another new trick called Flaw Detection, where the camera detects frequent mistakes such as blinking subjects or smudged lens and asks you to retake the photo.

While the camera system is a definite upgrade over the Note 8, it will be hard pressed to beat Pixel 2’s cameras, which are still considered the market best. On the hardware front, Huawei also changed the game by launching a triple camera system with the P20 Pro. At any rate, it won’t be unreasonable to expect this year’s Pixel upgrade to trump the new Note as well.

More Bang for Your Buck

The major touted upgrade, this time around, is the revamped S-pen. The stylus can now act as a remote control for the handset. Some example use cases for this are changing slides during presentation and remotely controlling the camera. The S-pens are also colored- the lavender models are paired with a purple stylus, while the blue models come with a neon yellow stylus.

Battery life is one major area where Samsung has consistently lagged behind Apple. I am using a Note 8 as my daily driver since last December, and the battery drain increased considerably after the Oreo software upgrade. Although it’s Snapdragon 835 chip is great at multitasking, the phone frequently overheats, though not to the degree of older gen phones like the Note 5.

With the Note 9, Samsung has fit in a larger 4,000mAh battery into a frame that has increased only slightly in comparison to the Note 8. What makes this possible, in part, is the new “water carbon” cooling system, whose thermal spreader is three times larger. While this sound promising, I will hold my praises for the Note 9 until it’s been more properly tested under CPU-intensive conditions over time.

The performance bumps- a faster Snapdragon processor and a higher maximum memory- do make the pot sweeter for Note enthusiasts. Smartphone gamers will also receive an additional incentive- Fortnite for Android will be Note 9 exclusive for its first month of release.

Buy or Pass?

If you have yet to experience the joy of using a Samsung Galaxy Note device, then Note 9 is a fine device to lure you onto the stylus bandwagon.

However, if you are still satisfied with your Note 8, or would rather experiment with alternatives, then I suggest waiting until later this year, when the new iPhones and Pixels come out.

And of course, if nothing picks your fancy, there’s always the S10 and the Note 10 for next year.

Huawei Nova 3i launched in Bangladesh

The successor to the famed Huawei Nova 2i has just been released in Bangladesh, called the Nova 3i. The nova 3i improves upon almost every aspect of it’s predecessor. Its design has been revised to match the 2018 smartphone aesthetic.

The device was launched in Bangladesh at an event today, held at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon, Dhaka. Country Director Aaron Shi introduced the phone in the press event.

The main selling point of the smartphone is the amazing AI-assisted photography. Featuring two camera sensors at the back and two up front, the smartphone is indeed a stunner when it comes to photography.

Another highlight feature of the smartphone is the brand-new Kirin 710 chipset with AI capabilities. The Kirin 710 is a massive leap ahead of the dated Kirin 659 previously used in Huawei’s entry level smartphones. A benchmark by GSMArena shows the Kirin 710 losing the battle by almost a 5% difference, which is huge. Huawei advertises this chipset as the next generation of their mid-level chipset, touting it as the successor to the 6xx series chipset.

The phone’s UI features Huawei’s very own EMUI 8.2, a UI that builds an entire ecosystem built with Huawei services and partners. Services include AI shopping and AI communications, which streamlines the user experience and adds value to other services. The UI also offers AI gallery, claiming to intelligently select pictures when you search for it on your phone’s gallery app.

The smartphone features 128GB ROM and 4GB RAM, enough to satisfy multitasking needs. In addition to the upgraded chipset and chunky RAM, Huawei also promises extra under-the-hood optimization called GPU Turbo to optimize its graphics capabilities for selected games such as PUBG and Mobile Legends.

The smartphone is available for pre-order from August 1st to August 10th and will be available in physical stores from August 11th. It will cost 28,990BDT. Customers who pre-book the smartphone will receive an attractive gift box with 5GB of free Grameenphone internet. 6-month EMI facility can also be availed to purchase this handset. With competitive pricing and a brand-new chipset, the Huawei Nova 3i is a surely compelling purchase in the saturated smartphone market 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.

E3 2018: 5 great games you might have missed

It’s hard to not be distracted by E3 2018‘s huge announcements and dazzling trailers for the next installments of popular series or brand new video-game franchises. Nestled among those bright lights and earth-shattering presentations were brief looks at smaller indie titles that looked just as amazing. Here are 5 games you might have missed out on this E3.

Tunic

During the Xbox presentation at E3 2018, a little fox made a big splash. Tunic is an isometric action adventure that takes the adorable character through lush, sunlit forests and dark, mysterious ruins on a quest to unlock an enigmatic glyph language and defeat the rampaging monsters. The glyphs are even part of the game’s text, making their translation a vital part of your adventure. The calming colors and soothing soundtrack immediately make the game stand out, but don’t let them lull you into thinking Tunic will be a laidback lark around the island.

Sable

Shedworks’ Sable might be the prettiest game of E3 2018 and for a good reason. The narrative adventure from Gregorios Kythreotis and Daniel Fineberg looks like it was torn straight from an ‘80s-inspired graphic novel. The game leans on the kind of detail and simplicity you’d expect to see in The Louvre. It’s an open-world, coming-of-age tale of discovery, bound to be a true Breath of The Wild descendant that fills every corner of your body with butterflies.

My Friend Pedro

My Friend Pedro is a gun-fu ballet 2D action-platformer in which a talking banana assists a man with glowing eyes in the mass execution of geriatric gangsters. No matter how I describe it, I can’t do this game justice. Please go watch the gameplay trailer for this game and enjoy the masterful juxtaposition of thoughtful platforming and a brutal murder party. Video games, ya’ll. And kudos to Devolver for taking chances in these single-dev productions and giving platforms for these great games to shine.

The Messenger

In The Messenger you play as a young ninja tasked by the “Western Hero” to transport a scroll that is key to your clan’s survival. Meanwhile, a demon army has launched a full-fledged assault on your village. The visuals look similar to old-school Ninja Gaiden games, but The Messenger promises to expand itself from traditional platformers. There are several portals located throughout each level that seamlessly transition the game from 8 bit to 16 bit. Transporting to two different eras in gaming history serves a crucial role puzzles within the platform too.  The Messenger clearly looked to the past, but its eyes are dead-set on the future.

Daemon X Machina

Nintendo opened its big E3 presentation with a wild new mech game from Japanese developer Marvelous Entertainment. Called Daemon x Machina, the game features incredibly fast-paced robot action, along with a cel-shaded art style similar to anime. Aside from how cool it looks, it’s the pedigree behind it that promises this game’s production value. Driving forces behind the Fire Emblem, Armored Core and Macross franchises are working on this game and it shows on the gameplay. The game’s entire color palette- a mix of vivid reds, oranges, turquoise and mustard yellow- makes it stand out.

Red Dead Redemption: 8 years on, still awe inspiring

I remember playing Red Dead Redemption a couple of years after it was released. Everyone kept telling me how awesome it was and that I should have started playing it already. I was not as enthusiastic, however. It’s just cowboys, I thought. It’s just more Western stuff, stuff I had gotten bored of a long time back. However, I was a huge fan of Rockstar, the company that made this game, along with some of my all-time favorite franchises such as GTA and Max Payne. So I listened to my friends. Easily one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.

Red Dead Redemption was an open world masterpiece. This game would become the benchmark upon which all other future open world games would be compared against. Before we discuss the game itself, there is a fascinating story behind the development of the series that must be spoken of. Technically speaking, the first game of the series was Red Dead Revolver. The game was produced by Capcom and Angel Studios, who announced the campy, light hearted arcade game in 2002. However, Capcom decided to pull the plug on the project a year later.

This would not spell doom for the franchise, however. In fact, looking back, it looks like a classic rebirth. Rockstar’s parent company, Take Two, acquired Angel Studios for a cool 28 million dollars, and by extension, acquired the intellectual license to Red Dead Revolver.

Angel Studios, known as Rockstar San Diego from the point of the acquisition, was tasked with finishing the Red Dead Revolver game. The game was no longer as campy and arcade oriented as it was under Capcom. Instead, Rockstar’s mature storytelling, humor and gore was quite prominently featured in the game. It was still an arcade game, but now it had a mature story. The game has not aged well, however. The story feels unevenly paced and the voice acting is inconsistent. Most characters, the protagonist Red Harlow included, were fairly two dimensional.

One of the innovations Red Dead Revolver made was the “deadeye” mechanic. This would be seen in the next game as well, where a player presses a button to slow down time, and mark multiple characters to shoot and kill them instantly after getting out of the mode. This mode would be one of the things that makes the Western experience of Red Dead Redemption so salivating. I mean, who doesn’t want to be Clint Eastwood?

Highway robbery and horsin around – the Red Dead way.

Rockstar would put the franchise on the backburner until 2010, when they released the next and the most famous game of the series so far, Red Dead Redemption. The game was released for Xbox 360 and PS3 and was an ambitious open world project, in contrast to the earlier game. This would be a huge challenge for Rockstar as even though they had lots of open world experience from GTA, it would be a much bigger map than any of the GTA games that had been released at the time. Suffice to say, Rockstar pulled it off.

The game was a massive success, both critically and commercially. The story of the game was Rockstar at its finest: nuanced, gritty, mature and yet, humorous. The shooting mechanics had been greatly improved from Rockstar’s previous release, GTA IV. The world itself was bigger, better, and filled with more content than any Rockstar game at that point. There were multiple horses to choose from, each with its own stats, and who doesn’t like the option of many horses?

Red Harlow, the protagonist of the previous game, was ditched in favor of John Marston. Marston is a much more complex character than Harlow could ever be. An avid family man, Marston was trying to go back to being a civilian and just living out his life, but blackmailed by the Feds, he had to go back to a life of killing. That would be his penance for running with Dutch’s gang. I will not spoil the story for anyone who hasn’t played it, but in my opinion, Red Dead Redemption has one of the most satisfying, gut wrenching, heart breaking yet bittersweet endings I’ve ever seen in any game.

Screenshot from the remastered Xbox One version.

8 years on, I still get chills thinking about the brilliance of the story, the ending and the multi-dimensional characters. Almost every character in the game is an accurate representation of what could be expected of the Wild West: unpredictable, treacherous and morally ambiguous. Help could come from unexpected sources, and it’s just as likely that a trusted friend would stab you in the back.

Finally, the open world of the game is what makes it the genre-defining masterpiece it became. Before Red Dead Redemption, Just Cause had made an absolutely massive open world, but it was nowhere near as filled with stories, characters and intrigue. The game world of Red Dead Redemption was so full of content that you could be doing side quests for hours before you even start the main questline.

This massive open world, along with its dozens of hours of content, gave the game its uniqueness. Even back in 2010, the market was over-saturated with open world games. Red Dead Redemption gave the player the chance to fulfill their Western fantasies. Want to collect bounties? Just go talk with the sheriff. Card games more to your liking? Play poker at salons. Want to hogtie some injun and pull him around on top of or drag behind your horse? Nothing in the game world stopping is you (aside from pretty effective law enforcement, of course). Hell, bored of the good ol’ US of A? Just cross the border, go to Mexico and overthrow the government, or side with them against the rebels. Humans too boring? Hunt wildlife with your trusty steed. The best thing about this game, for me, is the freedom a player has in the game world. It’s not just a shooter with a good story, it’s an open world game that feels truly endless, at least for quite some time. A true Western role player game that also had a heck of a story. Considering the platforms it was released on and their technical limitations, that’s certainly something a company would be proud of.

Undead Nightmare should have had undead horses. Undead Night-mares. Geddit?

Red Dead Redemption was so well set in its ability to deliver a fantastic open world experience that a semi-sequel, Red Dead Undead, felt like a seamless transition into zombies and monsters. Even that had a story that, in its depth, can rival the best that Hollywood has to offer. – enough to put The Walking Dead to shame.

Red Dead Redemption is what reignited the love of cowboys and Westerns in my generation. It is such a good game that it almost feels unreal that we could get a game like this, something that was unimaginable even a few years before the game’s release. Possibly the greatest Western game of all time, and certainly one of the greatest open world games. I look forward to Red Dead Redemption’s sequel, coming out later this year, to topple its predecessor in terms of quality. Much easier said than done – it will be extremely difficult for RDR 2 to live up to the hype.

Product review – Tecno Camon I smartphone

Often we run into predicaments while buying a phone; especially under 15,000 BDT. We have to consider battery life, performance and entertainment value. While most phones, even flagships, may not check all the boxes, Tecno Camon i almost succeeds in that regard – which is why it’s one of the best options within 15,000 BDT.

Hardware

From a hardware standpoint, the Tecno is pretty fantastic considering all smartphones. 3 gigs of RAM isn’t something someone can expect from a brand new phone within this price range, with many Xiaomi phones offering (only) 2 gigabytes. The phone looks beautiful with its chamfered edges and slim and sleek body (7.5mm). As a result, it feels great in the hand thanks to its manageable weight. The body is a metal unibody with polycarbonate antenna lines for design. The fingerprint scanner is located  at the back of the phone, conveniently placed in the middle. The scanner isn’t blisteringly fast, but it’s accurate and reliable.

Tecno offers an excellent service called the 111 promise. Basically users get a 100-day replacement policy in case of major manufacturing defect, 1-time free screen replacement in case of accidental breakage and a month of extra warranty, bringing the total warranty period to 13 months.

Screen

The best part of the phone is the screen, and it’s gorgeous. Thanks to the Full View screen, the side-bezels are small and has on-screen buttons. The screen is bright and offers great contrast in sunlight. The 720p screen is good enough for everyday YouTube consumption.

Camera

One of the main marketing points of the phone is the camera, and it’s great. It has a 13MP f/2.0 rear camera with Phase Detection Auto Focus – high-speed autofocus tech. It also has quad LED flash, which is quite bright. The camera app is quick to start, capture and has fast focus. The camera app is anemic, offering basic exposure, photo, video, panorama and beauty mode. Through the settings, one can change the photo resolution and add a few filters as well. The results bring back photos that hit way above its price range. Get close enough and it’ll create some nice bokeh, something quite surprising for this price range.

Software Experience

The phone runs Android 7.0 Nougat with Tecno’s own HiOS UI. Thanks to its own UI, the phone runs buttery smooth. The synergy with the quad-core processor and 3GB ram is marvelous as no lag is seen anywhere. FM, file manager, voice recorders; all are there, and there are also several themes that give the look of the system a complete overhaul. The 3 GB RAM helps with multitasking and switching between apps, but don’t expect flagship level memory management. Smaller indie games can be easily played with no lag at all, but 3D games such as Asphalt and Need for Speed can be run somewhere near 30fps. Not bad for a phone this cheap.

Battery life is stellar, thanks to the 3,000 mAh battery. The phone ran through a day of heavy internet usage and media consumption and had somewhere around 20-30% of battery after the day ended, so it’s quite reliable. The reason behind this is the amazing power efficiency of the Mediatek 6737.

Let’s confront the elephant in the room – the Xiaomi phones, namely the Redmi Note 4X. Note 4X has been the people’s choice for a few years just because of its specs, but little do most people know that to build a great phone, optimization is key something that Tecno has achieved with their Camon I.

Pros: Amazing battery, buttery smooth performance, great camera, awesome screen, great optimization.

Cons: Doesn’t have stock UI, weak processor, so-so gaming performance.

At a glance

Network : 2G/3G/4G

Release : January 2018

Colors : Champagne Gold, Midnight Black, City Blue

Dimensions : 152.20×71.70×7.75 mm

Weight : 160gm

Sim : Dual sim, Micro/Nano Sim (Dual Standby)

Display :  1440×720 Full View Infinity Display 5.65 inches IPS HD Capacitive Touchscreen, 16M colors

Body-Ratio : 70.5% Screen to Body Ratio

PPI : 296PPI pixel density

Protection : Corning Gorilla Glass 3

RAM : 3GB

Internal Memory : 32GB

Card Slot : Yes, MicroSD upto 128GB

Primary : 13MP, f/2.0, Autofocus, Dual LED-flash

Video : Yes, 1080p @30fps

Secondary : 13MP, F/2.0, Autofocus, Dual LED-flash

Video : Yes, 1080p @30fps

System : Android OS v7.0 Nougat

Chipset : MediaTek MT6737

Processor : 1.3GHz Quad-core Processor

GPU : Mali-400MP2

Wi-Fi : 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Dual-band, Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot

Bluetooth : v4.0, A2DP

GPS : Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS

USB : MicroUSB v3.0

Radio : FM Radio with RDS

Battery : Non-removable Li-ion 3050 mAh, fast battery charging

Talktime : Up to 10H

Standby : Up to 300H