The first time I held Samsung's HMD Odyssey in my hands, there was only one thought in my head: this is not a toy. I didn't think that with other VR headsets. Acer's was clunky and cool, the PSVR was sleek and simple. But Samsung's HMD Odyssey is a class above, a full 645 grams of reality-altering gadget hanging from your face, with and AKG headphones, and a microphone built into its decidedly unattractive, front-loaded headset. It's more akin to heavy-duty, serious sets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The Samsung device has its own merits and flaws that stand out. Almost immediately I realised that it's a clumsy thing built for deep, immersive game experiences. It's not a toy -- it's the headset equivalent of the guy who brings a desktop computer to Starbucks to play League of Legends.
You are probably surrounded by more computers than you know what to do with, whether it's the phone in your pocket, the old clunker at home, or the sleek little ultraportable you got from work. And while they are more than enough for everyday tasks, when it comes to real graphics prowess, I'm talking about serious gaming, 3D design, or photo/video editing, most systems don't have the guts -- or the space to accommodate the kind of silicon you'd need to push pixels around.
Here's a fact rarely discussed outside of super nerdy gaming circles. The guts of your video game console actually matter. Once upon a time games were designed to run the same on every console and, in some cases (like the massive multiplayer first person shooter Destiny 2), games are still designed that way. But most games have what is called a "dynamic resolution" with the resolution shifting on a spectrum from as 720p to 4K depending on the scene.
Thus the more powerful the console the higher and more consistent the resolution of the game you are playing will be. Want something close to consistent 4K without spending a grand on a PC gaming rig? You need a powerful console.
The success of any AR game depends entirely on immersion: whether the player's having so much they forget how massively dorky they look with a cafeteria tray stuck to their their face. Disney's Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, a $399 standalone AR machine made in collaboration with Lenovo, succeeds at this in fits and spurts. Going toe-to-toe with Darth Maul in melee combat or commanding ground troops to retake ships is thrilling, but the package's clunky, cluttered setup presentation wastes too much time in drawing in players.
Lord of the Rings -- not even in its cinematic, action-heavy form -- doesn't really lend itself to the power fantasy of video games. That's not stopped people from trying for years, including the latest game, the hack-n'-slash-meets-orc-dating-sim Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. But Shadow of War fails to understand Lord of the Rings in some pretty fundamental ways.
The recently-released Super Nintendo Classic Edition is a fantastic way to replay 21 of your favourite 16-bit SNES games -- but what about all the other classics that Nintendo excluded? If you've still got a stack of old Super Nintendo carts at home, the Analogue Super Nt should let you enjoy them on the fancy hi-def TV you upgraded to years ago.
I was about an hour into zombie horror board game Dead of Winter when I gave up all hope of ever being happy again. My players were surrounded by the undead, I was nearly out of supplies, and my heart was beating like a jack-hammer. It took all my courage not to flip over my brother-in-law's table and scream: "Screw it, let the zombies eat my face! I don't even care anymore."
The smartphone in your pocket can perfectly emulate any video game from the '80s, but not the experience of crowding around a cabinet at an arcade, waiting to try the latest hit game. Fortunately, if you're a nostalgic gamer striving for the most authentic retro experience, you can now squeeze an actual arcade onto your desk -- without having to keep a pile of quarters on hand.
Forza 7 opens with a demo that takes you through a sand-swept track in Dubai, with the new Porsche 911 GT2 -- a car announced at E3 -- sliding around from corner to corner under your control. It's fun. It's fun without being too hard, it's fun without being too easy. The driving dynamics are a little bit arcade, a little bit sim. And that's the newest Forza game in a nutshell -- not too cold, not too hot. Just right.
Yesterday my coworker laid the DropMix board out on a table and started dropping cards. Immediately catchy music played from her phone's speaker and three passing coworkers stopped dead in their tracks. As she removed a card and added another the music changed to accomodate the new beat and one person said "is that, like, a mixing game?" Then another spied the colourful box the DropMix resides in when you want to shove it in the closet or under a bed. "Harmonix? The Rock Band guys?" The final never took their eyes off the board as she replaced another card and the music changed again. "I want to buy this."
For all of the hullabaloo its generated with its tiny consoles, Nintendo didn't invent retro gaming consoles. Not by a mile. When it released the NES Classic late last year, Nintendo wasn't creating a new field of consoles fuelled by nostalgia and the fat wallets of ageing Gen Xers. Rather, Nintendo was reinventing the retro console, which has long existed as a series of crummy knock-offs. AT Games was one of the purveyors of those crummy consoles -- churning out Sega Genesis and Atari 2600 clones that cost next to nothing and often times felt like they played even less.
The Nintendo Switch exists, and is a fantastic gaming system that you can, in a pinch, play in a bar, a car, or on the train. Phones exist too, and the games on them are better than ever. So why the hell should you own anything else? Because games. The Switch's library is still small, and smartphones still lack those games you can get lost in for days. So if you want a mobile system that can go anywhere and play some of the best games ever designed, you need something from the Nintendo 3DS family, which despite being seven years old, shows no signs of being at the end of its life any time soon.
Nintendo put a great deal of thought into the design of the Switch with the exception of the alternative Pro Controller, which feels like an afterthought. It might be official, and a perfect way to play Nintendo Switch games on a TV, but it comes with a steep price tag, and a bulky design that flies in the face of the Switch's best feature: portability. So I've been on the quest to find an alternative controller more in line with the Switch. And I've found it. If you need a controller that can be easily thrown in a bag but doesn't feel as horribly cramped as a detached Joy-Con, 8Bitdo's NES30 Pro strikes a perfect balance.
I played a lot of make-believe as a child. I'd take my dad's spare gun holster and draw guns made of air from it, or steal my sister's cape, emblazoned with an S for her first name, and fly around like Superman. But you reach a point where making pew pew noises becomes gauche. So as an adult, if you want to play make believe without getting committed, you'll need something like Playstation VR's Aim Controller.
That's You is the first game released for Sony's new PlayLink platform for the PlayStation 4. Out now, it's a party game for two to six players, using your phone and a dedicated app for a "social quiz" that asks you to guess which of your friends or family everyone else thinks would be the answer to any of over 1000 questions.
I can't remember a time when I wasn't obsessed with retro video games. That's one of the reasons I was so excited about the NES Classic Edition; it's also why I spent my Thanksgiving documenting how to put together a Raspberry Pi-based mini SNES instead of brining turkeys.
But building an emulation console from scratch takes time, and I was curious if there was a more streamlined, turnkey solution. That's when I happened across a Kickstarter for the Allcade 64-bit, a Raspberry Pi 3-based system in a housing that looked just like a classic Nintendo 64 cartridge. It promises all the cool hackery Pi-vibe with none of the command line or soldering.
So we've had the Nintendo Switch around the office this week. We've had the chance to run around Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And we've had time to plug it in and out of the dock, play with the Joycons and mess around with the menu.
But has that changed anyone's opinions on the Switch? I took it around the office to give everyone a test drive, and here's what we thought.