Cyberpunk 2077 – Review

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1kYOo9UxBw Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you all should have by now at least heard, if not seen, what Cyberpunk 2077 is, and how it’s fared since launch. So, this review is a little different since the game has been out since the 10th of December 2020, after MANY delays and reschedules. This game, which was probably one of the most anticipated games of this decade, was met with much disappointment at release.  Especially on “current-gen” consoles (being Xbox One and PS4 for those who, like me, get confused with all the next and current stuff) where the developers themselves admitted to only half committing to that and, instead, spent all their resources and time on the PC and “next-gen” (Xbox Series and PS5) development.  The developers, being CD Projekt Red, apologized profusely for this and promised to do all they could to get the “current-gen” of console up to scratch with a big patch planned to drop in January and another in February. Over at the Early Axes headquarters (which exists only in WhatsApp messages – we are working on it), we decided to give the game a fair fighting chance – naturally.  We may be rather large fans of CD Projekt Red’s other well know game, the studio in general and we were in the VIP section of the Cyberpunk hype train.  So, since we got the game for Xbox One, we wanted to make sure we gave it a chance before jumping to any decisions on it. With all this being said, the planned January drop happened about a week ago and we’ve been throwing some serious time at the game since, and before, then.

The Nitty Gritty

As mentioned earlier, we got the game on Xbox One and it weighs in at just under 60GB.  The game only has one version, but a Collector’s Edition was available in the pre-order phase which came with some really cool goodies and collectibles, but still the same version of the game that everyone else got.  This in itself is quite nice as you don’t feel like you’re missing out if you only have the standard issue of the game or are then enticed to spend more than you had originally bargained for on a higher version just to get a few cool in-game cosmetics items, or fear that you might miss out on future content. Since the launch of the game, there have been a few chunky updates as CD Projekt Red kept its end of the deal to work on the game and make it shiny for us.  Now – usually this would be an annoyance, but we were warned and they are doing it for us (yes – I know all updates and patches are for our enjoyment) but just a little warning for those of you who don’t have uncapped, or unthrottled, internet lines. The price at the time of this review is roughly between R800 and R1000 for digital versions and has already been on sale.

The Story

You pick up the story of an ambitious young person (you can choose what you want them to be) who comes from one of three different backgrounds – Nomad, Streetkid, or Corpo.  Your background choice determines how your story starts and how your player thinks and makes associations during the game.  All have their own uniqueness about them so this game is definitely one to be played at least three times.   I chose Nomad and started on the outer limits of Night City where I was to meet a contact to help him smuggle something through the checkpoint and into the city. Enter Jackie.   Jackie is the guy who becomes your friend no matter which game line you chose, but your meeting with him will vary.  He becomes your hombre and partner in crime as you both set your eyes on the “major leagues” and becoming one of Night City’s most renowned. Soon after you meet Jackie is where the pawpaw hits the fan, and you are thrown into the thick of it as you fight your way into the city (Nomad background) and find a place to lie low to lose the heat. The game then cuts through a few scenes as you see yourself, V, and Jackie doing jobs and earning street cred for yourselves as you get higher and higher profile jobs.  It is because of this success that one fixer, by the name of Dex, phones you up and offers you a spot on the heist of a lifetime.  The one that will set you up in the "major leagues" and send you straight into legend. This first heist acts as the intro to Cyberpunk 2077 as you learn all the bits you need to learn and get introduced to a whole bunch of lore that will come in handy for later on in the game. Without giving away too much of the storyline for those of you who have not yet had the privilege of playing this game, the heist goes balls up in a big way and ends with a bang. Welcome to Cyberpunk 2077... It is here that your story truly starts, and you are introduced to Johnny Silverhand (Keanu – you’re breathtaking). Your and his story are intertwined in a glorious way and, of course, you have vendettas to settle – as any good story should.  

Performance

At launch, the game did have its fair share of bugs and annoying glitches, but even so – nothing I came across was “game-breaking” in my opinion.  Sometimes faces didn’t load in and details were obscured, some items would randomly fly around apparently on their own (Harry Potter – that you?) and the controls and combat did feel a little clunky.  Beyond that though, all missions started without a hitch and the storyline pulled me in before I even knew what was happening.  And besides, I’ve played with worse bugs and still loved the game. At first, I just put this down to my Xbox being the original Xbox One and being a little old – as I know that newer games don’t run as smoothly as they would on the One S or X, but then came the articles and CD Projekt Red swallowing their pride, owning up and then working to fix it.  So, I gave the game a chance. With each update, the game seemed smoother and the controls less clunky, still a far cry from what I am sure people were experiencing on the X or the next-gen consoles, and of course - in RTX glory.  But this game was still fun, and I kept coming back for that reason – which in my books, is more than enough.  With the latest update, my game has been running smoother than ever with almost no hiccups.  My game does still struggle a little in high render areas where there are lots of lights and people and then things will take a second or three longer to load than they should, but I am positive that this is due to my device and am hopeful that this too will be addressed in the next big patch. All in all, I do believe that I am not experiencing the full glory of Night City-based mainly on my older Xbox but even with that, the game still runs very well and is a heck of a lot of fun to play.  

Final Thoughts

With all things considered – Cyberpunk may not have been the game that we were hyped for since that sneaky reveal at E3 2018, but it is still definitely a game that will be the main competitor for the upper echelons of my gaming list. The story is incredibly well made and with in-game choices and side missions being aplenty, there is so much to do to keep you exploring the richness that is Night City for hours! And with the recent announcement of a FREE DLC for Cyberpunk dropping in the next few months, there are even more hours of game time to convince you to spend the money and hit the streets. I definitely give Cyberpunk 2077 a solid 8 out of 10 stars as it’s one of the most captivating and fun games I’ve played in a long time.    

So - wake up samurai, we have a city to burn.

A big thank you again to our friends over at Prima Interactive for giving us a chance to review this game.

 
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Edifier G2 II Gaming Headset – Review

The G2 II is the second-in-charge of the gaming headsets over at Edifier but that does not mean that it backs down against its siblings.  

Specs

  • Driver: 50mm
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz
  • Impedance: 32Ohm
  • Sensitivity: 98dB
  • Cable length: 2.5m
  • Input Plug: USB
 

Design and Features

The G2 II takes inspiration in design from the more classic, robust gaming headsets with its sturdier-looking build. Edifier chose to go more incognito with the G2 II coming in all black or all white (with black cuffs) design.  Staying true to the Edifier look and feel, however, the G2 II also has a steel mesh finish on the cuff with some nice subtle RGB lighting underneath the mesh just adding that little extra pizzaz that we’re all looking for, even if we don’t always admit to it.  The RGB lighting itself has an automatic breath transition effect as it changes colors, which adds nicely to the overall feel of the headset.     The mic on the G2 II is detachable, which I have my own personal reservations about (ie. misplace) with a small little windscreen over the mic sensor to help eliminate the noise from the heavier breathers out there.  The mic itself is easily moved around to get the best placement for comfort and clarity – both very important when barking out orders to teammates as you dominate the playing field. The G2 II boasts 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound which fully immerses and gives the player game critical sounds to boost skill that extra virtual skill tier.  This headset does not have vibration feedback but it really doesn’t like the bass and all other sounds come through crisp and clear. The headset volume and mute function is easily controlled on the on-cable controls with the cable stretching far enough for you to rage back from the keyboard with little risk of ripping something off your desk – but with this sound, rage should happen less. The 50mm drivers mean that the ear cuffs are large and comfortable with their soft leatherette padding which blocks out almost all the annoying background noise that can feed the wrong information to us.  

Personal Thoughts

The G2 II gaming headset from Edifier stands head and shoulders above its siblings for several reasons. From the get-go, the look of the headset seems sturdier and less likely to break or scuff easily.  Beyond that, the bigger ear cuff size means that for dumbo-eared me, I can game for longer periods of time without my ears getting sore from being squashed between pad and head. In fact, during extended periods of use, I barely felt the headset on my head like a headband and ear cuff sat comfortably, with enough padding, to not press and put pressure on any part that it comes in contact with. The quality of sound from the headset seems clearer and crisper than its brothers and the quality of the sound coming from the mic, according to my teammates, is the best of the lot – and no dreaded echo either.     The mute function is easy with just the click of a button with a small LED indicating muted or unmuted. One shortfall of the headset is once again the software.  Now being easier to find as it is not my first time with this rodeo.  I had hoped for the software for the G2 II with it being called “Edifier Gaming Center.”  These hopes were dashed as soon as I double-clicked though as the same outdated-looking control center opened up before me with very limited controls and things to do within the program.  Adding to my frustration was the fact that I need a whole new program installed on my PC, which is exactly the same, for the same brand of headset.  This is not a problem if you only own one – but when reviewing, you tend to have more than just one headset and so multiple programs with the same function is a little tiresome.  

Overall Thoughts

At R1 300, I think that the G2 II Gaming Headset from Edifier is the best and price per pound of the entire range.  In my opinion, both the sound and mic quality were higher than the other headsets and the comfort - due mostly to the bigger ear cuff, was much better. The sturdy look and changing RGB lights are also an added effect as we all know that RBG is +10 to all skills.  The detachable mic is one minor downer for me but nothing that would deter me from buying this headset.     The software again is a big let down as I was once again left with a bitter taste for not being able to do more and personalize my experience even more. So, all things considered, I give the G2 II 7.1 Virtual Surround Sound Gaming Headset from Edifier a solid 8 out of 10 stars.

A big thanks to the guys over at Edifier South Africa for swinging a pair our way to test out.

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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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