Edifier G4 Gaming Headset – Review

When it comes to gaming, one necessary piece of tech that will take you from floundering beginner to stable and steady is a decent headset. With that though, comes its own problems.  What to choose and how much to spend. Some people may say that spending more means a better headset, but this is not always the case. The range of gaming headset from Edifier shows just that.  With their latest headsets, anybody can get their hands on a decent headset to up the ante on their gaming without crippling their back accounts. We start off by looking at the flagship headset of the Edifier gaming range, the G4.  

Specs

  • Driver: 40mm
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz
  • Impedance: 24Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 103dB
  • Cable length: 2.5m
  • Input Plug: USB
 

Design and Features

The design of the G4 is both sleek and stylish with just enough RGB to catch any PC Master Race member’s eye. Comfort was a main design focus with the G4 with leatherette padding on the ear pads and on the head support, allowing for maximum comfort over long periods of gaming. We were fortunate enough to be sent the black and red G4.  The overall color of the headset is glossy black with the padding, cables, and other trims of the headset being red.  The G4 is also available in Black and Green and White with blue RGB.  It does seem that only the black and the red variety is available for purchase here in South Africa though. The ear cups have a metal mesh finish with an RGB ring on the inside of each cup.  The RGB is simplistic enough to keep the G4 looking classy but also - it is RGB.  So, it’d fit in with most RGB crazy PC builds. Edifier has opted for the retractable mic for the G4, which slides neatly up into the left ear cup when not in use.  They have also included an RGB strip on the mic which is an easy way to see if your mic is muted or not. The controls are easily found on the cable, with the cable itself being long enough to plug into any hard-to-reach USB port without feeling like you are hamstringing yourself. The G4 also includes vibration feedback in the headset which, at first sounded and felt weird, but after playing with it for a bit, the responsiveness of the vibrations is not just hearing, but giving a feel to that 7.1 virtual surround sound, added to the responsiveness of my in-game reactions.  

Personal Thoughts

I put the G4 through extended periods of “on-head” sessions, either while listening to music or while gaming, to really test the comfort aspect of the headset.  I can safely say that the G4 is surprisingly light and easy on the head.  One minor detail for me would be the smaller ear cuff size on this headset did hurt my nearly dumbo sized ears, but this is not unusual for me with headsets that opt for the 40mm driver size. With me being a bit of an entry-level audiophile, I was skeptical of the choice of 40mm drivers over the 50mm drivers that I have become used to in other headsets.  But the G4 has shown that sometimes dynamite really does come in small packages, with their drivers putting out some decent, good quality sound in music and gaming alike.  The bass does feel a bit lacking in the headset and I did sometimes struggle to hear it in important game-clutch situations and in more subtle-bass music. The first time I used the G4, I immediately put it through the bass test of Skrillex and it seemed to blow my mind away – but then, the next time I used it, it suddenly didn’t anymore.  After some fiddling, I realized that the vibrations were turned on in that first, out-of-the-box experience and I had since turned them off (the thought of my ears vibrating was a bit much for me).  So - flicking the vibrations back on, I got that same deep bass feeling again.  The G4 really does bring new meaning to “Good Vibrations.”  Again – I am fully aware that vibrations in headsets is not for everyone, in fact, I am still not entirely convinced of it myself, but do not write the G4 off just for having it. The mic quality was good with people I spoke to not complaining once that they could not hear me, or of the dreaded in-game echo.  I am also a fan of the retractable mic, as removable mics come with their own issues (losing it or temporarily misplacing it being a big one) and the traditional mics that flick up and out of the way can catch and break as well.  With the G4 having a retractable mic, it also means that you really can position the mic well to maximize both comfort for yourself, as well as clarity for your teammates. One big downer for me with the G4 was its software. I felt that the software was not easy to find as it did not initiate with the plugging in of the device and had to be sourced from the Edifier website.  Once you know where it is, it is easy enough but living in the world we do with plug and play, this did add to set up time a bit.  The software itself also left much to be desired in my opinion.  It felt a little more like something you would find on Windows Vista rather than a modern gaming headphone driver software.  The software is very limited in use and the only thing you can do with it is a basic EQ.  

Overall Thoughts

Coming in at R1 800 at the time of writing, there is definitely a cheaper headset than the G4 on the market but there are plenty sitting at a much higher price tag too.  The G4’s price does put it on the top end of the cheaper price range spectrum but doesn’t let that fool you – the G4 is a good bang for your buck. Besides the software that could use an overhaul, the G4 headset really is good value for money.  It is comfortable, sturdy, stylish, and gives good quality sound.  The G4 is a decent step up to any entry-level headset on the market and you won’t be disappointed with what you get. Taking price, features, quality, and feel into account - I give the Edifier G4 Gaming Headset a solid 7/10 stars.
A big thanks to the guys at Edifier South Africa for sending us a pair to play with.
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Just Dance 2021 – Review

Just Dance 2021 is the latest game in a series that spans an impressive 11 year run in the gaming community worldwide.  The dancing started in 2009 and Just Dance 2021 is the 23rd game, including all the console exclusive and special releases, in the dance phenomenon.  The latest release of the game, or should we say institution, has a lot to offer the first time player as well as the dance floor boogie master. So why don’t we put on our dancing shoes and slide right in… (see what I did there?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5G-DFYNOTec

The Dance Floor

Now, as the name suggests, this game is all about flashy dance moves - just like the previous versions of the game have done before (but this is what we love about it now… don’t we?). It’s not an FPS, adventure, or rage-inducing game - we hope… It’s an invite the crew over and have a party game, which will test your skills, timing, and rhythm, and can be made competitive as you earn a score rating according to how well you “brought the heat”.

As always - you go through the menu and find a song that you feel you’re going to own (to impress that special someone in the room) and hit play.  Depending on the skill level you choose - either you end up with an awesome score, or the crew has something to laugh about for the foreseeable future.  Either way, you are sure to have a lot of fun.

Graphics, Controls, and Gameplay

Let’s get to the “nitty-gritty” of the game. Personally, I feel that the graphics are amazing considering what the game does. With the bright colors, flashing visuals, and awesome music, it seems to check all the boxes for a game that is as fun for one person, as it is for a whole group or family. My Xbox One S ran this game smooth as butter, and I can only imagine how much more visually appealing it would be on a stronger, or next-gen, console.

There are a few extras as well as new features in Just Dance 2021 that I think make this version one of the best Ubisoft has ever made. Once you purchase Just Dance 2021 you get;

With Just Dance Unlimited, dance to over +600 songs!  A free 1-month trial of Just Dance Unlimited is included with every copy of Just Dance 2021 on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series, Xbox One, and Stadia. Play with friends and share the fun with co-op mode.  Work together to get the highest score! Dance the way you like by creating your own personalized custom playlists. Enjoy eight new kid-friendly songs and choreographies for a family-fun experience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0g8_Jd49No4

Then there is the smartphone app for Just Dance.  This piece of techno brilliance tracks your moves with no additional accessories required.  This means that you don’t need any video hardware to play the game… and you can connect up to six players at a time!  ALL WITH YOU SMARTPHONE! Madness... With more than 10 million downloads across mobile OS's, people seem to love it.

It seems that as Just Dance grows and expands, their motion capture is getting better and better with every game they bring out.  I can definitely see this eventually expanding into the realm of VR (ahem - I expect compensation for my idea) with virtual parties and clubs that make Ready Player One seem not so science fiction as we originally believed.  But this is a long way off and for now, we can just expect the next-gen consoles to bring us amazing visuals that this game seems to have in spades.

My Experience

After downloading Just Dance 2021, the set up was as simple as learning line dancing - Uhm, not that I line dance. If you’re worried about not having the right equipment, don’t worry.  As I’ve mentioned before - the Just Dance App is the best thing since High School Musical… No? Just me? Ok, I digress.

Now the gameplay is basically the same whether you have a motion camera or a cell phone (minus the accidental phone drop or toss across the room). The music selection this time around is “simply the best” and with the added bonus of a Just Dance Unlimited subscription, your choices are shot to over 600 songs to keep you entertained and dancing all night long. Can you get through them all?

I have to admit that I did try out the kids' levels first (for the purpose of being thorough of course), and felt like an absolute dance master. So I attempted the easy, medium, and hard levels and well, let’s just say, I need more practice.  But whether I was amazing or just plain sucked, I had fun either way which, in my opinion, is the aim of the game.

Final Verdict

During my time playing this game, I found myself wanting to call my friends over for a dance party or wanting my own 8-year-old daughter to experience the fun of playing and going crazy.  So as the music fades on this review, let’s take a step back and look at what gaming is. Gaming is an activity that is meant to be fun and entertaining to help us forget the stresses of living in the real world and, in my opinion, this game does just that! It takes you back to a time when arcades were troves of joy and, for most of us, those memories are what we wish to experience again.  Today’s next-gen games are amazing - no doubt about it, but Just Dance 2021 allows you to be that kid again…waiting patiently in line for your turn to play.

And so, on that nostalgic note (I promise to stop the music and dance puns now), I give my dance moves 1 out of 10 but Just Dance 2021 comes in clutch on that with a staggering 9 out of 10 stars!

 

 

I dedicate this next dance to Prima Interactive for throwing the game our way. Thank you.

 

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Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War – Review

Even though this year has been somewhat of a different one, it’s finally that time of the year when all the game franchises that we love (and some that we have come to hate) drop their new games.  This is no different for Call of Duty. The new Call of Duty game, produced by Treyarch, sees us going back to the Black Ops series which, in my humble opinion, is among the best Call of Duty games.  Now some might immediately be put off due to the direction that the Black Ops arc took with Black Ops III and even with IV (which was released after the “boots on the ground” promise) but Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (referred to as Cold War from here on out as that is a mouth full of a name) takes us back to the days of Mason and Woods with some plausible deniability action in the true Black Ops style.

The Game.

Cold War comes with the usual arsenal of game modes that we’ve come to expect from Treyarch plus one new addition that seems to be becoming a staple in the Call of Duty franchise, as well as in the broader gaming world. The playable modes are Campaign, Multiplayer and Zombies, with the latest Call of Duty version of the popular Battle Royale game mode, Warzone. Let’s take a closer look at each. Campaign – take on some of the missions that never happened during the Cold War in the 80’s as “Bell” who is a new edition to the Black Ops team.  Customize your Bell to fit you as you get to choose their name and surname, gender, country of origin, personality and field experience. With your field experience, you get to choose between CIA, MI-6 or ex-KGB.  The story dialogue adapts around your choice of experience, but all the outcomes are dependent on your choices, actions and investigative skill.  Play as Agent Bell, and occasionally other agents, like Alex Mason, as you chase down one of the most elusive Soviet masterminds, known as Perseus, as you work to prevent him from plunging the world into further chaos. Multiplayer – as has been the staple for Call of Duty games since the start, the multiplayer menu sees all the game modes we know, like Team Deathmatch, Free For All, Hardpoint and many others.  Cold War does, however, have a few unique game modes that sees teams battle it out across a handful of well-designed and intricate maps.  On top of this - customisable loadouts, weapon skins, new operators, clan tags and emblems are all still there, along with the information about your skills that you don’t want to look at but need to see. And for those of you who are wondering, no – there’s no Nuketown… yet. Zombies – once again, some very sinister experiments have gone horribly wrong (or incredibly right depending on which side of the fence you’re standing) and Zombies have been released back into the world.  Take on wave after wave of the undead horde alone, with friends or in a public queue and send the undead back where they belong.  Learning from it’s past, Cold War Zombies has objectives that can be followed to unlock the underlying story in Die Maschine and find out exactly what those evil scientists were getting up to behind the iron curtain. Also, hidden within Zombies, is a game mode called Dead Ops Arcade.  This game mode has been sneakily tucked away in Black Ops games since the original Black Ops in 2010.  As this is a “hidden feature” in the game, I’d rather just let you try this one out for yourselves.  I will say this though, if you’ve played Dead Ops Arcade in any of the previous Black Ops games, then this one is definitely worth it. Warzone – Call of Duty’s very own Battle Royale mode sees it’s second rendition come to life with Black Ops Cold War and, like with Modern Warfare, it will be free to play and stand almost as its own game within Cold War.  If you’re still playing Modern Warfare Warzone and are worried about your future with that game, Call of Duty have assured us that Modern Warfare will still be getting updates for a long time to come. The download size of the game sits neatly under 85GB (come one Modern Warfare) with the total size being broken up into optional “data chunks” which you can choose to keep or remove from your storage to better manage your space. With exception of the compulsory base game size of 21,7GB, the optional data chunks are as follows; - Campaign – 38,7GB - Multiplayer – 15,3GB - Zombies – 3,6GB - Dead Ops Arcade – 6,2GB - Content Packs – each of these are only 10.1mb This is well played by Call of Duty as players who never make use of Zombies or players who have completed the campaign can choose to uninstall those chunks from their storage and save on precious hard drive space.  This is especially cool for Warzone only players who do not have access to the other modes and so they can then just have the base game and Warzone installed. What this looks like for future update sizes, I cannot say.  But it is looking a lot better than the massive updates we’ve had to put up with on Modern Warfare.

Graphics and Feel.

Playing this on my OG Xbox One, the graphics still look incredible. Guns look, and sound, realistic and great use of lighting, textures, shadows and colours work well together to create incredibly realistic areas across all the available game modes.  I, for one, especially enjoyed this in the campaign missions where weather conditions and time of day were so evident as you move through Vietnamese forests, Soviet bases or snowy peaks. One minor issue I did experience with the graphics of Cold War was during the cinematics.  Now this issue is not really game based, but the fault more so lies within outdated and underspec hardware. During cinematics, because of the high quality of the graphics, my xbox would really battle and what I was watching would become jumpy and laggy and the audio would often complete long before the video as I then had to suffer in actual silence as I watched till the end of the cinematic.  This didn’t happen all the time and I did find on longer cinematics that my xbox eventually caught up and everything was smooth and synchronised.  My old boy apparently just needed some time to catch his breath for all the hard work I was making him do. Although irritating, this minor issue is really not game breaking in my opinion and still makes the game well worth it.

Gameplay and Controls.

As with all new games, some learning time to master the controls is required but I found the controls to be easy to grasp and quick to master.  This is most likely because they are the same as all the latest Call of Duty games and it was more a case of me having to dust off my own Call of Duty skills again.  But no, don’t expect to see my quick scope 360’ing you online any time soon. The game plays incredibly well across all game modes and each needs its own strategy and skillset to really excel at it.  Gone are the days of sprinting and going Gung-ho on everything and anything that moved. Focussing in a little more on the multiplayer game mode now - once I knew where to expect people and what angles I could get shot from, my stats significantly improved as I was able to make the key movement decisions needed that only come with map knowledge and game specific experience.

The Verdict.

After putting a considerable amount of time into the campaign, as well as a fair amount of hours in Multiplayer, I must say that this game has learnt from the mistakes and successes of its Black Ops predecessors and have used those lessons well to piece a really well made and fun game together.  Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War takes on an incredibly interesting and entertaining line in its campaign missions, as well as keeping you on your toes in both multiplayer and Zombies game modes.  This game really will go blow for blow with other big shooters, including its cousin – Modern Warfare. As more people get the game, I am excited to see where it leads in Warzone matches and competitive play and if this game will carry the name of Call of Duty with pride and success into the future. I personally think it will, and so I give Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War a massive 8.5 out of 10 stars.

A massive thanks to our friends over at Prima Interactive for giving us a chance to review the game.

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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Review

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is the 12th (not looking at you Chronicles) and latest edition to join the ranks of the highly accredited franchise. Without leaning too heavily into the obvious, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, from here on out just referred to as Valhalla, brings the Viking raids of England during the Middle Ages to life and throws you right into the axe-to-shield action with our protagonist, Eivor.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gncCKXqjtaE  

The Scope.

Much like Origins and Odyssey, Valhalla steps further into the realm of Open World gaming and further away from the two-button fighting that we all knew and loved (don't lie to yourself now) from the first couple of Assassin's Creed titles. Valhalla drops you into the world of the Vikingr in 873 AD which, for you history boffins, is well into the Viking Age of England and all manner of Vikings (and other raiders) have been on the shores and in the four kingdoms of England for some time already.  You pick up the story of Eivor as a tragic event mars the narrative of his (her? more on this later) life and sends him on a lifelong quest for vengeance.  Jump ahead a few years and we pick up the story again with Eivor Wolf-Kissed of the Raven clan and his adoptive brother Sigurd as another surprise decision sends them packing from Norway and towards England to seize their own destinies and make a new life, and kingdom, for themselves in the land of the Christian god.     In this version of Assassin's Creed, the usual Brotherhood vs Templar battle is, of course, raging in the shadows (cue the motto) with the Templar order being the undisputed stronger party in the start of the game as it's wretched hand stretches across continents and its influence can be seen everywhere.  In Valhalla, the names of the factions look a little different with the Brotherhood going by "The Hidden Ones" and the Templars going by "The Order of the Ancients." I like it.

Eivor.

Eivor is the playable character of Valhalla and, like Odyssey, you as the player can choose if you'd like Eivor to be male or female or let the game change between the two for you depending on the story. I originally chose male, as I am male and generally like to feel like it's me parkouring to the top of buildings and leap-of-faith'ing it into a haystack, but I have also dabbled a little with the female version of Eivor to test it out for the sake of this review of course. For the remainder of the review, and as it has already happened, I will refer to Eivor as a male as that is what I mostly played him as.   Eivor is a devoted and skilled Viking warrior who takes on a lot of the responsibility of establishing a new home for the Raven clan in England. He also is not afraid of death as he can be heard many times in the game making statements about destiny and his death being woven into the fabric of time. As a bonus, Eivor is almost fully customisable as you can choose from a variety of hairstyles, beard styles and tattoos to create your own personal look.

Setting and Graphics.

Valhalla is initially set in Norway and then in the four English kingdoms known as Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia and Northumbria, as well as one other location, but that would be telling now wouldn't it? Norway was an absolutely incredible start to the game with the snowy peaks and rocky outcrops making a near-perfect setting for the Norse town of Rygjafylke (no, that's not a typo). At night the aurora lights up the sky in a spectacular way that almost makes you want to find the highest perch and then just be in the moment with it.     England is a stark contrast to the snowy expanse of Norway but has its own beauty in all of the well-designed areas.  The land is as diverse as the people fighting over it, with green hills, swamps and forested areas being broken by small villages, stone walls and Roman ruins. The weather in England helps add to the effect with thick fog and bursts of rain making it all the more realistic.     One thing that needs to be commented on, with my playing this on the original Xbox One (here's to hoping I get a Series S or X soon) the graphics, although not as great as they would be if experienced in all its 4K glory, are still incredible.  The game does favour frame rate over graphic quality though and so I did notice that in times of "high-render" the quality of what I was seeing would drop ever so slightly so as to keep the game running silky smooth.  Now some might not like this too much, but I don't really have an issue with it.

Controls and Gameplay.

Staying true to the Assassin's Creed spirit, running up walls, leaping across rooftops and all other manners of parkour are prevalent in Valhalla. As they should be. Feeling like a ninja is part of the DNA of the Assassin's Creed franchise as much as the hood and hidden blade are and to have a game without them would not work.

The fighting in Valhalla is a far cry from the "counter and parry" type of gameplay that we all know from the start of the game series where you could take down a whole hoard of angry soldiers by just holding down one button and patiently waiting to launch your counter. Valhalla takes it's fighting to a new skills bracket and sits comfortably on the bench alongside Origins and Odyssey with your fight options being blocking, ranged, heavy attack and light attack.  With this, some skills, careful timing and wise movement choices are needed to not be made to look silly and left looking at the loading screen of shame after some foe made quick work of you.  Each type of foe you face also has a different way that you need to best them and so you need to be on your toes in your tactics against them as the "one size fits all" rule definitely does not apply here.  Once you start to put together some formidable combos and dominate the battlefield, you really do start to feel like the Viking you're playing as.

    The gameplay focuses more on turning your foothold of a settlement in England into a stronghold of a homestead and securing allies in different territories than it does on taking down the members in the Order of the Ancients.  You can, of course, focus in on the Hidden One's missions and eliminate every Templar scum that you can, and you will get some cool perks for doing this, but if you choose to just go a vikingr then you will only eliminate those Templar that sit where the interests of the Hidden Ones and the interests of your settling in England align. Along with this, Viking (to raid) is a massive part of the game as you storm monasteries, army camps and strongholds from your longboat, burning and pillaging as villagers and monks flee in terror, flailing arms included.  All so that you can take the hard-earned resources back to Ravensthorpe and further build and establish your Viking Homestead in England.  

The Final Verdict.

As a die-hard Assassin's Creed fan who has played, and owns, every Assassin's Creed title to date (sit down Chronicles), I started my journey with my sceptic hat on to try and see the game as objectively as I could and not fangirl it as hard as I secretly have been since it was announced.  This hat was quickly blown off as Valhalla rapidly became the best Assassin's Creed title I have ever played.  Sure, getting it before launch meant that it came with its share of bugs and glitches (most of which were fixed in the Day One patch - big up to the team at Ubisoft for that one), but all of that pales in comparison to the absolute masterpiece that I found in Valhalla.  During my review process, I honestly found myself so immersed in the game that hours would pass by without my even realising it - a phenomenon that hasn't happened since I was a kid.  I also kept finding myself wanting to come back to play more and thinking about where to go next in the game while not playing it.     So, overall.  I give the 12th, latest and best (in my opinion) Assassin's Creed title a whopping 9 out of 10 stars.

A big thank you to Ubisoft and Prima Interactive for giving us the chance to review the game.

   
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Mafia I Definitive Edition – Review

The remade and revamped Mafia Trilogy ends where it began – with Mafia I. And it’s a peach. Where the remade and repackaged Mafia II and III titles that were released earlier this year may have left a foul taste in the mouths of some fans of the series, Mafia I definitely picks up the balls that its compatriots dropped. This is not just a fresh coat of paint on an old wagon – no, 2K went down deep and recast, retextured and remade a game that was an absolute hit in the golden era of gaming, set in the golden era of mafia during the prohibition of the 1930s.

About the Game.

Mafia I was originally made in 2002 for Microsoft and ported 2 years later to PlayStation 2 and Xbox.  At the time, it was part of a whole horde of games that followed in the success of GTA 3’s open world mob crime game. But Mafia I tackled it from a different angle which set it apart from the rest and put it in a class of it’s own. Instead of running around in a world where you can do what you want to whoever you wanted, Illusion Softworks (now known as 2K) decided to bring a Godfather tier story right into the hands of the player in a bold attempt to bring a 1930’s city to life and make you, the player, a part of that history. Now – with all that being said about the glory of the original game, Mafia I did come with its fair share of issues.  It was not alone though, as most games from that era experienced similar limitations in what was known and possible within the realm of technology that existed then. And so, 2K did something that a lot of other developers have done before them – take a classic and try and bring it into today’s era of gaming. And they did a damn fine job of it too… mostly.  

The Definitive Edition.

2K approached Mafia I as a complete overhaul, as opposed to just “prettying up” and older game like they did with Mafia II and III. Let’s take a closer look at some of these changes; Voice Actors – 2K recast a lot of the voice actors in the overhaul of Mafia I which was met with a mixed bag of opinions.  A large portion felt that the voice of the game’s protagonist, Tommy Angelo, was not quite up to the sound of the character he is made out to be in the game.  Personally – I had no issue with his voice and thought it sounded fine.  My struggles came in more with a certain Detective who keeps buying you coffee.  His Irish accent just wasn’t doing it for me, and I can’t quite place my finger one why that is.  I just know that I didn’t enjoy hearing him speak during the game’s many cinematic moments. Driving – driving mechanics in the original game was very clunky and unresponsive.  In the Definitive Edition however, the driving mechanics are a lot smoother and easily mastered as you send 1930’s vehicles sideways through intersections while missing old ladies, other vehicles and trams all taking up space on the roads and sidewalks of the city. NPCs – the change to the way the NPCs react with the player and the environment is probably one of the biggest (second to visuals) overhauls that the game underwent.  Like most NPCs in games from around 2002 (and some even today) where NPCs were more like mannequins and crash test dummies that didn’t really exhibit realistic human behaviours, the NPCs interact a lot more “human-like” in the Definitive Edition.  Both with the player, as well as with each other and the playable environment. Visuals – as expected in a remake/remaster of a classic, a drastic improvement in graphics and visual aspects of the game to bring it to more modern standards is a given.  Can I just say, 18 years and a few generations jump have done Mafia I good.  The textures of the game have been smoothened out and rendered well, even on my OG Xbox One console.  Light and shadows move well while driving and walking and the visual aspects of the cinematics look good.  Although some emotional face movements seem to have fallen away a bit (too much Botox in the code?). It must be said that not all is fantastic in the visual department though.  While driving or fighting, some surfaces occasionally take a bit longer to render in, causing a “shadow flash” effect as it snaps into existence.  This also sometimes happens with cars that suddenly appear to fall in front of you or get caught up in some mystical obstacle in the middle of the road. Apart from these changes to the overall look and feel of the game, not much else has changed in the Definitive Edition as it is a remaster of an old game, and not a remake.  The story is mostly unaffected and unchanged, apart from a few added or altered lines.  So, players returning to the game should not expect a new experience, but rather a remodelled experience of a classic.  Think putting a fresh spray and wax on that classic car.

Personal Thoughts.

Having not actually played the original myself, I felt the story of Mafia I was interesting and it succeeded well in drawing me in.  It also felt very different to other games I have played in this genre, including the other Mafia games. Mafia I really felt more like I was watching a classic mob film and being invited in to participate.  This is achieved by great cinematic moments that happen often in the film with a lot of extra dialogue given during car rides on the way to objectives, either through the radio or via passengers travelling with you.  The option to skip the drive entirely and fast travel to your destination is available though and I did make use of this feature from time to time when I was more interested in getting further in the story and not polishing off my driving skills. The game is also a lot less repetitive than Mafia III, where I felt that missions were very montonous and were all the same run, gun and kill a boss type of play but he world of Mafia III was more open and exploring between tasks was always a temptation.  Mafia I’s missions came with a little more variety, which was helped a long by the deep story being told throughout the game of the rise of one immigrant cab driver to power and prominence in the "family" in the early 1930s. The game really does focus on storytelling and so I often caught myself falling into getting from task to task to focus on the story.  This is very different to my usual play style which is look everywhere and anywhere and take ages to get to task.  With this aspect semi removed from Mafia I, I felt that the game could feel a little linear at times. I did still enjoy playing the game a lot and really enjoyed the more relaxed feel I got from it.  Whereas I often feel a little more tense after competitive gaming, Mafia I Definitive Edition really brought me back to the kick back, put your feet up and relax type of gaming that is sometimes so needed in a busy world.  

Final Thoughts.

With the vast amounts of cinematics in this open world story game, I found the fluidity of the game to be a bit broken as every chapter starts and ends with a lengthy cinematic that I would highly recommend you don’t skip.  Even with this though, I still enjoyed the game as the cinematics were of a high standard and gave mission, and game critical information. Driving around in classic cars in a 1930s city that is dripping with life and atmosphere while climbing the career ladder in your life in the mafia definitely has a special kind of appeal to it and Mafia I does not let down as it transports you onto its streets and draws you completely into its world. With all that being said – if you have played Mafia I before, I wouldn’t recommend getting this one unless you are a fan or collector as there is no change to the story.  You would essentially be buying a good book with a new cover, which there’s nothing wrong with.  Just not if you’re only interested in the story. If you haven’t played Mafia I before then I would suggest this for the great story telling and modernising of a classic game.  As well as the relax game sessions that are so needed.   Overall, I would give Mafia I: Definitive Edition a solid 7 out of 10.

Thank you to Prima Interactive for giving us a chance to review this gem.

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Command and Conquer Remastered Collection – Review

Throwback to 1999 school holidays in a small town. It’s been a few years since the original Red Alert game has been released but I’d just saved up enough pocket money to buy a new video game from my nearby Game Store. No – not video game store (those didn’t exist in my town then) but the actual Game Store (the purple/pink one). I can still remember venturing into the electronics section, which was blocked off with glass and metal detectors, to go and find my new video game. This was always an exciting time for me as the electronics world was so fascinating to me and still so unknown – which only added to the awe of it. I remember then seeing Red Alert in all its crisp newness - and it was on SPECIAL! I immediately grabbed it and rushed to pay for it as I’d played it a few times at a friend’s house already and was eager to get cracking at it. Rushing home and booting up the Pentium II family PC with a newly acquired Windows 98 SE operating system, I quickly opened the game and was shocked to see TWO discs in the case. Having a quick investigation of the discs, I put Disc 1 (high level logic was needed here) in my CD-ROM and started my install. If you played PC anytime in the 90’s and early 2000’s then you definitely knew about the Command & Conquer games – either by owning them yourself, playing them at a friend’s house or just knowing about them through the sheer popularity the franchise commanded during those years. Now – why throw back all the way to a school holiday in 1999 to talk about C&C Remastered Collection? That’s because of the amount of nostalgia I felt when I installed the remastered version recently and started up Red Alert (it’s the most familiar one to me). I was honestly taking photos of the cinematics and sending them to friends, both new and childhood, who I knew had played this game too and every one of them could vividly remember the scenes from the shots I sent them. Now if that doesn’t show absolute gold when it comes to a game, then I don’t know what does. Before we get into the nitty gritty, the feeling of sitting in my parent’s study playing through this game in 1999 that I still got more than 20 years later was incredibly real and I kept going back to this game now to relive those days when bills were a myth and the only stressful decisions I had to make were swim first or shower first. And based on this fact only – this game is already way worth it for me. If that’s not enough for you – let’s delve deeper into the Command & Conquer Remastered Collection.  

The Nitty Gritty

Currently, C&C Remastered Collection, goes for about R350 through Steam and the 24GB download will get you the remastered editions of Command & Conquer and C&C Red Alert in 4K, plus all expansions for both games. Both games include full single player campaigns with various difficulty levels, a Skirmish mode where you can choose the map and number of AIs, as well as functioning Online PvP so you can test your metal against friends and other fans of the franchise. The much loved Map Editor mode is also available where you can construct your own maps to try in skirmishes and against friends. For the achievement hunter gamers out there, there are 33 new Steam achievements to grab while playing through the various modes of the Remastered Collection. The game needs the following minimum specs to play on your system; OS: Windows 8.1 or newer Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E4600 @ 2.4ghz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 64000 @ 2.4ghz Memory: 4GB RAM Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT 420 or ATI Radeon HD 5570 Direct X: Version 11 Storage: 32GB available space But, of course, better specs will mean better performance and high quality.  

Playing the Game

As already mentioned, based on pure nostalgic value, this is already a winner for me. If you enjoyed either of the games back in the day, I can 100% guarantee that you will enjoy it again, even if you are no longer a fan of the RTS genre. It’s also been long enough in between that you may remember parts of the game, but the game will still present challenges as you’ve (hopefully) forgotten the easy ways you beat levels and will have to learn all that again. Starting up both games for the first time, the Remastered UI ran a type of simulator thing on my PC where it checked my hardware and chose the optimal settings for my system to run at. This I found was quite good as it was quick enough, and could be skipped for the more experienced users who prefer to run their settings at custom preferences but also set the game up well for the inexperienced users who don’t know that their RTX 2080 Ti can run games higher than mid-tier graphics settings (if this is you – please send me your graphics card and I’ll send you one that can run a game at mid-tier perfectly). The game then allows you to toggle between legacy and remastered graphics at any time during the game by hitting the space bar. I almost broke my space bar in the first 10 minutes as I was smashing that thing to see what it looked like back in 1999 and what they’ve changed. I must say – this is probably one of the best remaster upscales I’ve seen as the game is smoother and much better quality and the difference is VERY visible, even to the most graphic blind gamers out there. Being an RTS game – don’t expect super realistic shadows and nature, but rather see an RTS game looking like it should in 2020. I personally feel this was done so well as the remaster team at Petroglyph Games included members of the original dev team from Westwood Studios. Playing through the campaigns of both of the titles included in the Remastered Collection, I was reminded again of the old school grind of games as walkthroughs on YouTube didn’t exist back then and so I again chose to push through and beat levels by figuring it out myself and saving often. So, if there are walkthrough and “game hack” methods on YouTube and other services, I don’t know because I haven’t checked. And that is the best way to play the game in my humble opinion. The overall playing experience of the Remastered Collection has been tweaked and doesn’t feel as “clunky” as a lot of older games do feel when you replay them. Missions are challenging and require some tactics and strategy. Rushing through them will often result in a mission failure (I saw my fair share of these while playing the more challenging missions) or in a sub-par result. Based on nostalgic value alone (which by now you would see is quite high for me), I’d give them Command & Conquer Remastered Collection a 12 out of 10. But based on a fair play of the game and taking all things into fair consideration (including nostalgic value), I would give this game a solid 8/10.

Thank you to the guys at Prima Interactive for giving us a chance to play the game and relive some of my childhood.

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EnerGhack Energy Supplements – Review

What is one thing that seems to get associated with gaming in a way that is neither healthy nor flattering? Pizza and Energy Drinks. Both of which I’ve had my fair share of but not because “that’s what gamers do” and more because they’re just really delicious. I'm not here to debunk the myths around pizza (By the way - pineapple does belong on a pizza) but the stigma of energy drinks especially is one that is quite well deserved as gamers usually push sleep out the way to game because of other real-life commitments forcing most of us to become creatures of the night.  I know that this was true to me as I used to consume copious amounts of various energy drinks – partially because they were so tasty but mostly because I’d probably developed an addiction to them. One thing I’m sure we’ve all experienced from these drinks (unless I’m just soft) is that it spikes us to a point, but the inevitable crash is always lurking not too far away, where we then need another drink to spike us again. This can often lead to jitters and strange sensations as our bodies go through a sugar, caffeine and other energy ingredient induced high. So why then review an energy drink? Most of us have heard of these new energy supplements targeted at gamers coming onto the market and promising us to the moon and back that they are healthier and better for you in the long run and also help you to focus, react and just stay awake generally (I write as I sip on my Pineapple/Lemon mix). But for us South Africans, most of these products are imported and come at a very hefty price tag! But there is hope – and that hope comes in the form of EnerGhack Energy supplements.     The guys over at EnerGhack were super generous in sending some my way for me to test and try. And test it I did, as you’ll soon see,  as I put it through the paces as I used it through a very busy time of my life and pushed EnerGhack to its limits, as well as my own, as I experimented with it in other areas of my life that fall outside of gaming.  

The Specs

Now for those of you in the world who like to know all the nitty-gritty about food and read the labels and other information, this next section is for you. The following information is directly from EnerGhack.   Benefits of EnerGhack;
  • very low caffeine content to ensure no jitters.
  • contains Stevia, a natural sweetener, instead of synthetic sweetener to ensure a healthier, great-tasting drink and no energy slump.
  • safe to use from age of 12 and up.
For more information on the make-up of EnerGhack and how this helps you, follow the link below. https://www.energhack.co.za/pages/nutrition  

My Experience

Straight out the gate – I just want to take a second or three to applaud EnerGhack with their customer service and presentation of their product. When I originally got my first batch of EnerGhack, it product was well packaged and came with some freebies like 2 samples of the other flavours, stickers, a small bag and a few other things all wrapped up in a branded tube to make sure everything is safe and sound in the shipping process. I have since received two more packages from EnerGhack and every time their service was swift and professional and there are always a few extra goodies to sweeten the deal. This wasn’t a test – but if it was, they’d have passed with absolute flying colours!     While most energy supplements claim to help you with reactions, focus, endurance, energy and hydration while gaming, EnerGhack takes it a step further and out of the realm of gaming and makes the claim that it will help you with studying, gym and other high energy activities. So, I took this statement are really put it to the test. Luckily this drink came at a very busy time in my life (as you will see in a bit) even though lockdown started in South Africa and things were meant to quieten down a bit, in my life – it was the opposite. So, I used the product in the following scenarios to see how it would help;  

Gaming (of course)

Being a family man who holds a rather busy job in the education industry, Gaming for me is usually a late-night thing once family time and other priorities are sorted.  Thus, fueling my need for some kind of energy-boosting thing – which lead to a rather unhealthy addiction to energy drinks (thanks for nothing Much Loco). I started using EnerGhack as soon as it arrived and tried it instead of my usual coffee to kick off a session.  I first sipped on it slowly throughout extended gaming sessions as well as downing a full serving in one go.  Both times no jitters and sugar rushes were experienced and I did feel like I could go a little bit longer before feeling the inevitable fatigue of a long day. Disclaimer – don’t down a full serving in one go because the flavours really are good and you’ll want to enjoy it over a long period of time.    

Review writing.

This is not the only review I’ve written in the period of having EnerGhack and the product really did help fuel me through the long writing process. I’m generally a coffee drinker for this as the “sipping process” helps me to pause and gather my thoughts before moving on.  Also, I just really enjoy a good cup of coffee and I don’t think any energy drink or energy alternative would change that as I drink it for the enjoyment more than the caffeine (sorry EnerGhack – I still love your product). Substituting this other little joy in my life for the time being with EnerGhack, I felt that the sipping process was much the same and did allow me to pause and gather my thoughts.  But I do acknowledge that that is more due to my routine than the product itself but EnerGhack did fill that purpose so it’s a winner in my eyes.    

Exams and studying

On top of all of the other things going on in my life, I am currently studying, and June is always an exam season.  EnerGhack was once again used in place of my usual study coping methods during this stressful time and I do believe that the product was effective as I could go for extended periods of time without feeling distracted or drowsy.  With COVID-19 being around, my exams took the form of online assessments this year and so I was able to drink that during the exams themselves – results still pending so I’ll leave my comment on this one till I see the marks.

Mountain biking

Being very fortunate to live in an area with vast open spaces, I am an avid mountain biker and regularly go on rides that range from short and quick 5km rides to longer rides stretching into the 40km plus categories. I used EnerGhack, as well as giving some to my riding partner, to keep in a bottle as an addition to our 2L of water in our hydration packs. We agreed before setting out that we’d only use it when we felt we needed a bit more of a boost and not when we felt thirsty (that’s what the 2L of water is for).  After trying this across a broad spectrum of trails and rides, both my riding partner and I did feel that EnerGhack come in for the save when we needed that extra boost and we both felt less lethargic after our long rides.  Granted – that could be a placebo effect but it’s only while using the product that it was noticed so I’m going to say it’s because of it.    

Obstacle and Trail Building

Another one of my hobbies, which is a spin-out of my love of Mountain Biking, is MTB trail and obstacle building.  These builds can sometimes take hours at a time and obstacles require focus and precision in the build process, while the trail building and installing the obstacles requires some serious endurance as you move vast amounts of dirt or dig deep holes to secure the posts of the obstacle. Once again, I shared some EnerGhack with my riding partner, who is also a big fan of building, and we got stuck into the tasks.  With the aid of EnerGhack, we both felt that it kept us hydrated and gave us that little extra “go” during long and very labour intensive build processes. So again – EnerGhack come through for us here.    

Labour... yes, Labour

Yes – that is what you think it is. During this test and review period, my wife and I welcomed our second child into the world. My wife entered labour in the evening and was admitted to the maternity ward at hospital, but because of this not so little thing known as COVID-19, I was told I wasn’t allowed to be with her until she was in “active labour” (the medical boffs amongst us will know what that is I guess) and had been moved to the labour ward.  Now, if you know anything about labour, this could be 5 minutes, 5 hours or more. I then spent the night in a hospital lobby staying awake with the help of EnerGhack and a good old PSP until I was finally admitted to the labour ward around 7am the following morning.     With all coffee shops and that being closed at this stage of our lockdown in SA (not that any would be open at 2am), the only source of extra energy I had was the EnerGhack that I brought along with me – and it REALLY did help.  The minute I felt the drowsiness of a long day kicking in in the early hours of the morning, a few sips of EnerGhack really snapped me out of it and kept me going for an extra hour or so.     Overall, EnerGhack really did deliver on what they said they would and in all of the scenarios and times that I used the product, no jitters or slumps were experienced and I wasn’t left with that weird artificial sweetener taste in my mouth. While we're on the topic of taste – the flavours of EnerGhack are all incredible in their own way but mixing them literally blew my mind as the flavours merged and worked in ways my brain could not even comprehend.  I even let my wife have a few sips and her exact words were “you can taste that it’s an energy drink but its not gross at all,” which is all the proof you need knowing that my wife absolutely hates the taste of other energy drinks.     Currently, EnerGhack comes in four flavours.  These are Raging Raspberry, Blueberry Bomber, Tropical Pineapple and Cosmic Lemon. Of all the individual flavours, Raspberry and Pineapple definitely came out on tops in my books, and the mix of the two is very high up on my list of favourite mixes. Being fortunate enough to have access to the full flavour range, I experimented with various different flavour combos and my favourite mix is definitely Lemon/Pineapple, followed closely by Raspberry/Pineapple.  I even went as far as to mix all 4 flavours into one and, while not bad at all, it just turned into a “just fruity” flavour and definitely didn’t feature on my list of need to try again combos. I do hope that new flavours will be added to the menu soon like hint hint mango, litchi and guava.  

Final Thoughts.

As you’ve probably guessed it from reading this review, I absolutely LOVED EnerGhack and do feel that they deliver on their promises of assisting with reactions, focus, endurance, energy and hydration.  Their flavours taste great and the product is actually really cost effective. One tub of EnerGhack will set you back R289 and will give you 30 servings, you can do the maths on the exact amount but that’s less than R10 a serving.  And if you buy their combo deals, that price reduces even further, making it more cost effective. They also often run specials – so, if you watch their social media accounts closely, you can get an even sweeter deal. I do love that they are a local product and that does always make me happy to support local industries. Overall, I give this product a VERY solid 9 out of 10 stars.  

Thank you so much to Jan and the guys over at EnerGhack for giving me the opportunity to review this awesome product.

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Mafia III Definitive Edition – Review

2K Games have taken on the task of releasing their MAFIA series as a newly “boxed” MAFIA TRILOGY, although their order seems a bit off.  The Definitive Editions of MAFIA II and Mafia III dropped first, with the remaster of the original game dropping on the 27th of August this year. MAFIA III originally released in October 2016 and was met with mixed feelings with it attaining only 6/10 on Steam.  With the announcement of the rerelease, we had hoped that the game would fare better in ratings and were lucky enough to get our hands on a copy to review (big up to you Prima Interactive).  So, let's dig in and have a look at what we thought about the Definitive Edition of MAFIA III.   What's it all about You play as the hardened Vietnam Veteran, Lincoln Clay, who upon his return home in 1968 notices that not all is well in New Bordeaux, a fictional setting of New Orleans. The game starts its introduction with a well-planned money heist with enough of a take that everyone involved could retire early and very happy. However, as you guessed it - this is not the case! Through massive betrayal and being forced to take a bit of a rest – as being shot in the face might require, Lincoln sets out on the world’s biggest revenge quest.  Our friendly neighbourhood protagonist recruits the help of a CIA agent who he worked closely with in Vietnam and the two start on a path to not just kill those responsible for the betrayal, but to completely dismantle their kingdom from underneath them one brick at a time, plunging their world into instability the likes of which they've never experienced from their lofty thrones. Unfortunately, this is another game that takes on the well-worn path of revenge but it does so in a unique way that almost brings a breath of fresh air into it, with snaps of real life (looking at least) clips of a court hearing to delve deeper into the slaughter that was Mr Clay’s takeover of New Bordeaux. Before I give away the whole game (this isn’t a walkthrough), lets looks a little closer at what MAFIA III is.   From the start up The Definitive Edition is not a remaster of the game, as I originally thought, but rather a repackage of the game into one collection in anticipation of the remaster of MAFIA I releasing later this year. The repackage includes the base game of MAFIA III and all DLCs, as well as the Family Kick-Back pack which gives you a few exclusive cars and weapons to make use of in the game. But is it really exclusive if everyone has it? Asking for a friend… The total download size of the game on Xbox is around 56gb and can be yours for the low low price of R549 (at the time writing), or you can own the entire Mafia Trilogy for R999. Not too shabby hey?   The Setting As said above, the game is set in a fictional version of New Orleans, known as New Bordeaux. 2K has done a great job at providing us with a huge playing space and each area having it’s own unique flare and style, as well as each of the mafia in those areas having a slight twist to them.You really have everything from man eating alligators and red-necks brewing moonshine in the Bayou to classy upmarket suburban areas with pompous denizens with flashy cars and beach front homes. There is no fast travel system available in game and so the map must be manually traversed (we recommend finding a car).   This can sometimes be a tad tedious, but I learnt to love the drive with good music and classy drifts, enjoying the ever-changing city in each of the different areas.  The game is well rounded off with a difference in the areas during the day and at night, and a full weather cycle.   Gameplay and Controls The controls of MAFIA III are fairly easy to master with it having a very similar vibe to other criminal type open world games.  You play in Third Person and control camera angles with the right stick and movement with the left.  This allows you to move in one direction while quickly having a look down an alley or through a window without being too obtuse. Combat is challenging but manageable as standing in the open will result in you getting gunned down.  Moving from cover to cover is a must - obviously.  Firing from cover is quite easy as using the aim control will automatically cause Lincoln to stand up or peer out of cover while aiming down sight.  Aim assist can be adjusted from full snap on to nothing at all. Gameplay is quite broad with various missions and collectables to go find spread out across New Bordeaux and there are a few races and just generally interesting places to go check out. Building up your team and seeing how they start to benefit you, especially if you put a little time into building up their rackets, is a nice addition to this game as it does give the gamer that little bit of motivation to focus on something else other than just plodding along the main story line. One aspect of gameplay that I personally found lacking was the actual variation in the main mission types.  After taking my second area and starting on the third, I already got that dreaded gamer’s Deja vu feeling of the same monotonous gameplay.  This feeling only heightened as I played on through the story and actually started to detract from a fairly captivating and well written story of revenge, albeit a bit of a cliché storyline. The missions really did fall into a creative rut with every mission being attack this hot spot and this one, do a few cash steals or destroy stuff to a certain value, defeat the lieutenant who came in to check what’s up and then defeat the boss once you removed all his lieutenants from the area. You’d think after 4 or 5 of these, the lieutenants and area bosses would wizen up and not walk into a well "defended area" that fell straight into the plan of our highly trained and incredibly motivated hardened killer.   Cars and Driving Although I could’ve included this section under gameplay and controls, I feel it deserved a section of its own as the driving and cars in MAFIA III were really a redeeming factor for the game in my opinion. With there being various types of cars and styles, I often found my car …ahem… shopping took a little longer as I’d find a model that I liked, drive 100 metres and see it in a better colour and slam on brakes to get that one rather.  This did lessen substantially after I unlocked a certain benefit that would bring some really good-looking cars right to me.  This did then result in my spending way too much time and hard-earned money in Big Rick’s Custom Auto getting my cars kitted just how I liked them and purring like a kitty. And then returning later again after winning more stuff in the different races scattered across the map. The driving in this game was really enjoyable as you learnt to time the drift perfectly around an intersection and learnt when the drift needed just a little more gas, a brake or a hand brake to successfully complete depending on the car, road surface, speed and sharpness of the corner you were attacking.  The sense of absolute satisfaction I got from nailing the perfect drift on this game time after time really kept me coming back for more and I really didn’t mind the long trips between places once I had this down.  In fact, I’d sometimes plan the long route on purpose just to enjoy the car a little bit longer. And the classic tunes coming through the radio, especially on WNBX, definitely helped set the mood and contributed to my sheer enjoyment of driving on this game.   Final Thoughts Although the game did fall into a bit of a monotonous grind in the missions, I found there were still many aspects of the game that kept me coming back for more and actually made me think less of the same type of mission I was playing for the thirtieth time. So, although the monotonous factor is one big negative factor for me, there were lots of little positives that helped redeem the game and turn it into an overall enjoyable experience.  The main ones of these definitely being the tunes, cars and driving. I also enjoyed the break away from the traditional Italian Mafia of the previous two games with the twist of Lincoln growing up as an African American on the streets of a very prejudiced era and carving his own type of justice to the Italian Mafia. Just one final word of warning before giving my final rating of the game. To accurately represent the times, MAFIA III does have a lot of racial and sexist slurs and stereotypes as was common in the 60’s.  2K does give a nice explanation as to why they went with this route in the opening of the game.  On top of this, profanities and nudity is about a dime a dozen and coupled with the slurs and violence, this really is a game that is made for the older crowd of gamer. With all that being said and balanced in my brain.  Taking the good and the bad, as Will Thatcher’s dad taught me, I give this repackaged version of MAFIA III a solid 7 out of 10.

A MASSIVE SHOUT OUT TO THE LEGENDS AT

FOR GIVING US A CHANCE TO REVIEW THIS GAME!

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Citadel: Forged with Fire – Review Part 1

Citadel: Forged with Fire (from here on just referred to as Citadel) is definitely not a new game to the market.  It was launched to PC in July 2017 and has been making waves on that platform since then and amassed a horde of loyal fans. In Citadel, you play as a newly forged apprentice of the magical arts and has a strong Medieval feel to it.  It is set in the mystical world of Ignus - with magic, swords, armour, dragons, castles and flying broomsticks.  The game allows you to tame any beast, from a simple hare to a powerful dragon, forge strong alliances with other players, explore a vast and diverse world and build imposing fortresses to dominate and intimidate your rivals. So - why are we reviewing a game that's been on the digital shelves for more than 2 years?  Well, this year Citadel was released to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 so we had to see if the online-multiplayer-sandbox-survival-RPG style game was able to successfully complete the jump across the platform gap.   The FAQs and Technical Stuff Let's get the technical stuff out the way right off the bat. What type of game is this? Well, it's hard to quite put your finger on it.  Officially, according to the publishers of this game, Citadel: Forged with Fire is a "massive online sandbox RPG" but it feels so much more than that.  Think Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings meet Skyrim in an ARK style game. How big? The download size for Citadel is huge, so make sure to clear some room as this game weighs in at a whopping 5,6gb.  Yes, it was a joke, please don't run off and buy a new hard drive (although extra space never hurt anyone).  Don't let that tiny download size full you, this game definitely packs a decent punch. Can I have my own server? Yes - but at a small monthly cost through the GPortal platform. Otherwise you can host your own singleplayer server but can't invite anyone to share the joy with you there. There are loads of offical PvE and PvP servers available to play for free though. What's the cost? The console version of the game is quite a bit higher on the price spectrum than it's PC counterpart with, at the time of writing, the game costing just shy of R700 on both the Xbox and PlayStation stores. Think the price tag is a little steep?  Let's see if we can change your mind.  

Starting Up

The game menu is quite simply laid out and easy to understand.  To better get a feel of the game, I hopped into the singleplayer lobby before making an utter fool of myself being a noob in an official server (traumatic first ARK experience flashbacks). Setting up a singleplayer lobby is fairly easy but there are a lot of settings that you can fiddle around with to change you're in-game experience.  I turned up all the settings for harvesting, carry weight, experience points, etc. to essentially create myself what I've come to call a "boosted" world.  My thoughts behind this were to accelerate in-game progress to get as far as I possibly could into the experience in as short a time as possible - for review purposes of course. Once the lobby has started, you can customize your appearance, very similar to most sandbox survival type games.  Your appearance can go from somewhat normal to absolutely outrageous in any color, especially if you click random. Once created, you get to select your starting area and are given a choice of three safe locations in low level areas.  Perfect for a keen, yet inexperienced novice mage just starting out on his own. I selected Raincourt to the east and started my journey. The opening sequence is quite strange as your newly selected appearance is forged from the fire in a rather odd and disturbing manner.  It's all over rather quickly, leaving your brain reeling with so many questions...   Getting the hang of the game is simple with the tutorial quest giver standing right in the starting area with a giant glowing exclamation mark floating over their head - convenience is key. The tutorial quests give you a quick and rough knowledge of the game and give you enough skills to start you off.  These include foraging, harvesting, cooking, combat, and crafting. You are not bound to these quests and can head off on your own right away or at any point of your choosing.  The quests are not long though and quite easy to complete so I'd recommend getting them out the way and earning some free XP for levels early on.  

Playing the Game

The game opens up to you the more you play it, with the really cool things being unlocked at higher levels. You earn XP from almost any action in-game, whether it is chopping down a tree, building something or killing something, XP is earned.  Less so through more mundane tasks, like gathering wood and stone, as you level up.  Once a level is attained, you can choose to throw some points in health, mana, carrying capacity or damage.  You also earn knowledge points that you can use to unlock new craftables, building pieces, food, weapons, etc. At first, the game movement felt a little clunky but the option of first-person or third-person view really helps and I elected to stay with third-person as it felt less clunky - but each to their own. The menu system is definitely designed for keyboard and mouse and what was quite clear from very early on was that the controls have not yet been fully optimized for a controller.  Navigating around the in-game menus felt tedious and tricky to use d-pad with the absence of a mouse.  The default control configuration had some odd choices which didn't make sense to my brain, including no preset melee button. No melee button in the start of the game didn't pose too much of an issue as both LT and RT both melee by default.  Once you equip spells to your weapons, those buttons then use your spells and there is not a standard melee attack. I changed this quite quickly and elected to then reconfigure most of the controls to something that made more sense to me. After running around, building and crafting a bit in my singleplayer lobby, I hit a wall (I won't say what here, check out Part 2 for that) and couldn't proceed.   After an equal mix of frustration, boredom and curiosity struck, I hopped into a slightly boosted PvE server with THEED3 where we messed around together and tried to figure out the game further. You can see one of the sessions here; THEED3 - Citadel: Forged with Fire Gameplay Playing in a non-boosted server is definitely made for multiplayer as harvesting resources becomes very time consuming and having more than one person doing it would definitely speed things along.  Even in our slightly boosted server, THEED3 and I felt the grind of harvesting to build.  

Building and Decorating

At lower levers, your buildings are limited to wood with very simple decorations.  Stone and other fancier building materials are unlocked at higher levels.  Once you've put in a decent chunk of time and earned the levels, the buildings that you can make are really quite spectacular. The game does not have set buildings and you can build whatever your mind and your resource allows you to.  From starting off with a simple hunting shack with a cooking fire to a beautiful castle with ramparts and towers and quidditch type pitches (yes - you read that right). Thrones are vital when building something you'd like to keep as they assign ownership of the building to you and your house and items and doors cannot be opened by anybody not in your house. THEED3 and myself got quite lucky in a PvP server and were able to steal a well established building from another player who had not yet put a throne in, saying they weren't impressed is an understatement!  Thrones also stop the building and items from decaying over time, which is a rather nice feature when trying to build a more permanent establishment for yourself our your house.   Closing Thoughts Citadel: Forged with Fire really has a lot of potential to do great things on console.  It brings a very unique twist to the sandbox survival type games which, in my opinion, sets it apart from games similar to it on the market. As an avid RPG fan, as well as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, this game really ticks a lot of boxes for me and feels a lot like Skyrim with Hearthfire DLC on hardcore mode.  Less story-driven, of course, but if you like a more open play experience where your own creativity is your only limit, then this is definitely a game you would enjoy.  There is some kind of story plot underlying the whole experience, but I've been too busy figuring the game out and building my castle to delve very far into that.  I do look forward to unlocking some of the secrets of the mysterious structures I've found dotted around the landscape of Ignus. I feel that I need to give this game two ratings. So, as a single-player game I give this game a 6/10 as it really is more focused at online play but is still enjoyable on your own. As a multiplayer game, which will be my more official rating as it is an online game, I give Citadel Forged with Fire a rising 7,5 stars out of 10. I say rising as this game as only recently made the move from PC only to multi-platform and I feel like they've done a fairly decent job of it.  With one or two tweaks to the game, namely to menu navigation and controls, this game could definitely rate higher (provided they don't break anything else in the process). With that being said, I don't feel like the issues I have mentioned are game-breaking and are valid reasons to deter anyone from buying this game. If you are into any of the mentioned movies and game styles then Citadel is definitely a game you would enjoy.

As always, thank you to the legends over at Apex Interactive for giving us the chance to review this game.

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GRID 2019 – Review

Codemasters, as a developer, has long since prided itself on keeping their games, cars, tracks and mechanics as true to real life as possible, putting them more in the sim racer category than in the arcade racer one, and the same is true with the latest game from them. GRID 2019 (as it has come to being called by its fans, officially titled GRID) is the tenth game in the TOCA (touring car) series from Codemasters and is the fourth GRID game, following Race Driver: Grid, GRID 2 and GRID Autosport and was launched as a reboot of the GRID franchise. Old hands to the series will be able to pull a lot of similarities and familiarities with this game and the original from 2008. GRID 2019 is jam packed with some of the most awesome tracks and rides to keep even the most hardcore of petrol head gamers and motorsport fans up to their necks in joy for a long time.

UPFRONT

We received the GRID 2019 Ultimate Edition for review. This edition comes with the base game, VIP Pass, passes for Seasons 1 to 3 and the custom GRID Aston Martin Vantage. Overall, the download size is a little under 40GB, so not too bad by modern game size standards with some games going over the 100gb mark. So – depending on your internet line, you can start your engines within a day or so of starting the download. All included in this 40GB file is more than 60 cars, ranging from Jedi F1000s to Mini Coopers to Porsche 911s – there really is something for everyone here, as well as some of the world’s most iconic tracks and some “GRID special edition” fictional tracks from 13 different locations around the world. And all of this is just the start, the new seasons will see new cars, tracks and locations added to your game experience.

THE GAME

Upon starting the game for the first time, you are welcomed in with a video of a car accident in reverse, this is the same video used in the trailer shown below. https://youtu.be/8sieDLKUEN0 The video really shows off GRID’s insane graphics and physics and is best enjoyed in 4K goodness on top tier consoles and PCs. Unfortunately, I do not have one of those and my OG Xbox One battled through the video with a few jumps and jitters, although it all still looked really great. After chatting to a friend of mine who was fortunate enough to experience this masterpiece on an Xbox One X, he said the game ran completely smoothly with no jitters and jumps – guess I’m in the market for a new Xbox then. Once the intro is done, you are thrown right into the thick of things as you pick up the controls in three different race types that give you a taste of what you can expect in your Grid journey. One thing that does set GRID 2019 from other simulator racing games, and some hardcore fans of the genre might disagree with me here, is the fact that you can adjust the difficulty so that all players across the skills board will be able to get a good measure of fun and challenge out of this game. The settings can be changed from full sim experience with realistic damage affecting performance and no guidelines or other assistance to a more casual arcade-type experience with visual-only damage, corning lines and the works. I kept the game on its “out the box” setting, which is medium, and put the pedal to the metal. Once the tutorial is complete, you are thrown headfirst into your quest to become the GRID’s best driver and you can do so while competing in around 100 different events and races in the career mode. The six different race modes to choose from are Touring, Stock, Tuner, GT, FA and Invitational. Each mode coming with its own set of cars and, with those, its own unique set of challenges and fun in racing them. Each game mode ending with a “Showdown” event that puts the player to the test in the hardest and most challenging races of the mode. One very awesome feature that GRID 2019 has is the FA mode or rather the Fernando Alonso mode. This mode allows you to race in a wide range of cars from grippy almost go-kart type cars all the way through to actual F1 cars as you challenge Alonso himself to a showdown. Rumour has it that if you beat him, you can choose him as your teammate in races. Hopefully, he’ll be a beneficial teammate – but more on that later.

CAREER

Being more of an arcade racer myself, yes – I’m sorry, and enjoying games like Need for Speed and Forza Horizon (some will say Forza is not arcade) where you can just slam into any corner and drift your way out of it with style, GRID’s technical controls was something to get used to. Timing is everything in braking and turning into corners and straightening and accelerating out of corners – doing these slightly too early will result in an unplanned meeting with the wall or a hard brake out of the corner to correct yourself while your opponent’s fly past you, doing it slightly too late and you lose all your speed as you brake to compensate or spin out and start trying to claw your way through the pack from the back. Using your opponents as turning cushions, as I so often do, or hitting into them one time too many results in them becoming your nemesis for that race – meaning their entire strategy changes and becomes more aggressive towards you as they favour running you off the track over winning the race. This seems to be a regular feature for me as I end up having half the pack trying to run me off the road. This being said, the driving AI of GRID is definitely one of the best I’ve seen, and the racers really are good and present a decent challenge at whatever your skill level is. Each event is divided into two races and your overall times and positioning is taken into account to determine a winner for each race. Some races specify finishing in the top 3 to progress and unlock the next track. Before each race, you have the option to compete in a hot lap to determine your starting position, forgoing this will start you in, or near, the back of the pack. Personally, I found this process a little tedious, but the hot lap does give you good knowledge of the track beforehand, helping you to perform a bit better in the actual event. I elected to skip this on most races and enjoyed the climb to the top – and hitting all the cars on my way past, including my teammate. The teammate system seems a little useless to me at present as my current team mate, Nick Whittle, is not the most gifted of racers in-game and usually refuses my requests for him to attack for a higher position. This may be because he hasn’t really forgiven me after I hit him in our first race together, causing him to become my nemesis – but this is not yet proven. You can change your teammate in the menu, but I have not yet done that. Each race earns you credits, as well as losing some in costs depending on your racing style (mine is rather pricey). These credits can be used to buy other cars to race in other modes or to have more cars, and better cars, to choose from in your favourite events. My recommendation here would be to focus on one or two events out the gate and build up a bit of a monopoly before branching out into the other modes and spending too much of your credit but credits are pretty easy to earn so its up to you how you manage your budget.

MULTIPLAYER

Multiplayer is a great way to really test your skills. All tracks and modes are available to you in multiplayer, you can choose your own and invite friends to it, or join an online session. As in career mode, you need to have the right cars for the right mode, and these can be purchased through in-game credits once again. Good thing is that all resources are pooled in the game, so cars you own in either career or multiplayer is owned in the other. Venturing a little into this game mode, I played a few races with an online friend of mine who is a big enthusiast of racing games and a GRID veteran. Playing a few races with him showed me how good this game can be for someone who has really refined the skill into somewhat of a masterpiece. He showed me up in almost every race as he finished first by miles with me following far behind in third or fourth if I was lucky. It was great playing with him as he often remarked on how similar this GRID felt to the original Race Driver: Grid game.  When probed a little more on it, he said the cars were similar to those found in the original and some of his favourite tracks had returned.  The handling he said was “similar but better” and he looks forward to throwing many hours into this game, both in the career mode and in multiplayer.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Although this is a game best played on higher spec machines, it runs really well on lower spec ones too.  With only a few jitters in cutscenes – but nothing groundbreaking. This game really does stir the desire in me to get a newer console to really get a true taste of what GRID has to offer visually. Being a reboot of the GRID franchise, I feel Codemasters has really stayed true to themselves in keeping this as close to the original in what worked and really improving in what didn’t back then. The racing AI is flawless and really presents a good challenge to the player.  Except for the teammate AI – which could probably do with a little polishing. All in all, Codemasters has done a really great job in creating more than just a racing game. All of the stunning visuals, challenging tracks, awesome cars with realistic engine purrs and screeching tyres, up to date and relevant commentary from your pit crew (who sounds irritated with me more often than not).  Commentators really bring it all together as a great racing experience. This is a game that definitely has something for everyone and everyone from the casual car enthusiast to full-blown fanatic will find something worth spending time on. So – to sum it all up, I give GRID 2019 a solid 9 out 10 steering wheels (shhh… just let me have this one) GRID is available to own on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows.   And will be available to stream on Google Stadia when that is released later this year.

A big thank you to Apex Interactive for giving us the chance to review this game.

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