Razer Ripsaw HD – Review

Streaming has become a true buzz-word in the gaming industry in recent years seeing streamers become household names like actors, musicians and sports stars are.  This shows how far gaming has come and how those remarks that your parents passed about gaming never going to pay the bills have gone out the window.  With this in mind, many gamers are trying to turn their passion into a bill-paying passion by becoming streamers. This, naturally, is no easy feat and requires lots of time and dedication, but it also requires the necessary hardware!  This is where Razer comes to the fore.  One of the key components in creating a really unique and personalized stream is the ability to overlay camera footage of yourself into your stream, allowing for more interactive streams as well as giving it some personal touches with borders and other general things to make your stream yours.  To do this you need a capture card, a device that allows you to do all these things.  Razer has recently made the leap into streaming and with that, they bring the Razer Ripsaw HD. Are you planning on making streaming a full-time job, then let's get into the Ripsaw HD and see if it is the capture card for you. First things first, let's look at the system requirements to use the Ripsaw on your PC: System requirements:
  • Windows 10/8.1/7 (64/32 bit)
  • USB 3.0 powered
  • CPU: Desktop – Intel Core i5-4440 3.10GHz or above, Laptop – Intel Core i7-4810MQ or above
  • Graphics card: Desktop – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 and above, Laptop – NVIDIA GeForce GTX870M and above
  • Memory: 4GB minimum (8GB recommended)
  • Interface: USB 3.0 only
The Razer Ripsaw HD is a small black box that can comfortably fit in your palm, with neatly rounded edges and rubber coating at the bottom ensures the  Ripsaw isn't going anywhere.  As all other Razer products, the Ripsaw can also work in conjunction with the Synapse program which can be checked by simply looking at the LED on the front of the Ripsaw, green meaning connected to Synapse, and Red is not connected.  Located next to the LED are two 3.5mm input ports, these are for audio and microphone inputs allowing the user to be able to mix these two inputs separately.  To the back of the Ripsaw you will be met by 4 connection points, USB 3.0, Component In, HDMI in and HDMI out. Connecting the Ripsaw is fairly easy, connect the HDMI cable from your console to the input of the Ripsaw and from the HDMI out to the TV/ Monitor.  With this connection done now plug your Ripsaw into your PC via the supplied USB 3.0 cable.  The software department is where Razer and the Ripsaw come up rather short.  The Razer software does not do any capturing or streaming of its own, and promptly directs you do either download Xsplit or OBS to use as your capturing software. If you are new to streaming then you will need to make a choice between OBS or Xsplit, both being similar to discreet differences.  For those who already stream you can simply continue to use the program which you are currently using which is a bonus.  On the flip side of this is the fact that the Razer Ripsaw directly competes with the newly launched Elgato HD60S.  All Elgato capture cards, including the older models, all come with their own software.  This software alone is a big reason why Elgato is such a big name in the capture card market and should always be a consideration. The Ripsaw might not come with its own software but if you are simply looking to stream to the likes of Twitch, Mixer or Youtube that isn't such a problem.  The Ripsaw is an extremely capable capture card with minimal lag between the pc.  Playing faster-paced games such as shooters might have you experiencing the minimal lag.  Although the Ripsaw has the least lag of all the USB 3.0 cards that I have tried.  

Verdict

The Ripsaw is a capable capture card that can hold its own against all of the leading capture cards, apart from the lack of software, which does make it a slightly less attractive purchase considering that it retails for a similar price to the Elgato HD60S.    

special thanks to Apex Interactive for supplying the review content

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Razer Seiren X – Review

Streaming has become the latest craze, with popular streamers like DrDisRespect and Ninja becoming household names and earning money that can be measured in weight rather than value, many everyday-gamers want to do the same, stream their gaming.  But it's not as simple as just pressing a button and begin to rake in massive amounts of money.  There are a few hardware additions that need to be made, namely a capture card, (which I will review in next few weeks), a good camera, and most importantly,  so that you can interact with your viewers, a good microphone! For streamers on a budget in recent years the go-to microphone has been the Blue Yeti microphone, being the best bang for buck microphone in the section.  With the microphone section being a rather slow and stagnant section which doesn't see monumental increases in technology through new models.  Razer decided they have had enough and targeted the budget market...  Say hello to the Razer Seiren X! The Seiren X is built off the same core as the Seiren, which is a good starting point already, and with the main aim to dethrone the Blue Yeti, a price cut needed to be made, and as with any price cut, some compromises needed to be made to achieve this.  The Razer Seiren X is the perfect microphone for the on-the-go streamer due to its driverless setup.  Simply plug it into a USB port and it will instantly be recognized as an audio input device, easy as that!  The stylish shape and presentation of the Seiren X is perfect for anyone looking for a minimalist stream setup as well as a small unobtrusive microphone. The Seiren X is really sleek and simple in its look as well as use.  Simply plug it into a USB port and you are ready, with only a volume knob and a mute button ( which will go red when muted) as well as a headphone input jack underneath, the Seiren X oozes simplicity!  The underneath headphone port allows you to plug your headset directly into the mic and broadcasting your audio through there instead of connecting straight to your pc/console.  One of the downfalls that go with cutting prices which means cutting features is that the Seiren X lacks the ability to change your capture modes, like the Seiren and the Blue Yeti has.  Luckily this does not hamper the ability of the Seiren X and many users of the Blue Yeti have made comparisons and opinions seem to be that the Seiren X works just as well without the option to change. Razer has confirmed that the cardioid pickup pattern, for those not in the know: sound is only recorded from in front of the device instead of 360 degrees around like a traditional mic ) has been specifically adapted to ensure the most pin-point capturing to date from a cardioid setup.  The Seiren X also features a handy shock mount to ensure your recording or chat is protected from bumps and other sound anomalies that may occur during streams. What makes the Razer Seiren X a very viable option for startup streamers or general gamers is the ease of use and setup.  During the review time, we used it predominantly during gaming sessions as party-chat microphone and the overwhelming response from fellow party members was that they could not believe how crisp and clear my voice sounded, even with the mic being at least 0.5m away from where a traditional headset mic would sit the voice clarity and volume was amazing.  It is good to state that when using a mechanical keyboard the clicks from the keys can often be picked up by the mic if placed closer to the left side of the keyboard.  Other than that the Seiren X is amazing!  Not being a streamer myself, I have never considered buying a loose standing microphone until this review item came my way. Verdict The Razer Seiren X has bridged the gap and has brought competition to the entry-level section of streaming mics.  Between it and the Blue Yeti, all streamers should be able to find a microphone that caters for their personal needs.  If you need something easy, and quick to use the Seiren X is your go-to microphone.  If you want more options and capturing customization the Blue Yeti will be your weapon of choice.  Both are well priced and both task them or their jobs spectacularly!  

special thanks to Apex Interactive for supplying review Hardware

 
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World War Z – Review

Movie adaptations are usually not a great way to start any game creation.  Games that have been adapted from movies have, for most parts, been rather dismal in execution as well as general interest.  So when the creators of World War Z decided to take a stab at the zombie genre with a 6-year-old movie as their lead, many people had their doubts. The game might be aesthetically based on World War Z but the game takes most of its ideas from the legendary Left 4 Dead franchise.  Left 4 Dead is arguably the best zombie game ever made, it is a cult classic where teamwork is needed from a 4-man team.  World War Z takes that and ups the stakes by adding a slight narrative hook and plenty of zombies!  The difference comes with the way the zombies operate.  The movie was very controversial by the way it depicts the movement of the zombies and how they create tidal waves of death.  As you can imagine battling against a sprinting wall of decaying flesh can only result in absolute gore and with a few friends in tow, absolute satisfaction! To a seasoned gamer battling against individual zombies or even larger groups of zombies using the wide variety of weapons, that can be upgraded many times, will be a piece of cake, but attempting to take on the running wall of death will need lots of teamwork and a calm mind otherwise imminent death will be swiftly met.

Where in the World are we?

World War Z is broken into 11 levels split across 4 anthologized episodes.  As expected these levels will find players stranded in large, zombie infested, areas while having to defend themselves against the undead.  During these instances, you will be given brief moments to loot the area and set up defences such as barbed wires and automated turret systems to help fight the barrage of zombies.  If you decide to tread into these situations with randoms you might find yourself coming to a grizzly demise rather quickly, but teaming up with friends ( or players with microphones) can be rewarding as a well-coordinated team can lay waste to hundreds of zombies without even breaking your defensive line. Each of the episodes will take you to different locations, from New York City to Secret Russian military bases.  Each episode will also put you behind the sights of different characters which helps to keep the dialogue from becoming stale.  Levels are wonderfully constructed moving from vast open spaces to tight corridors seamlessly without feeling forced.  "Missions" within each stage don't feel out of place either with your team needing to find supply crates or launch codes within the stage to be able to progress.  This forces you and your team to not simply bunker yourself in and try and kill every single zombie on the planet, but move around and put yourself at risk and force teamwork to be used.  11 stages might not seem like that many but thanks to wonderful randomization with regards to weapon placements and enemies, World War Z offers a lot of replayability! Progression is found in the form of weapon upgrades and character classes.  They are all quite similar apart from the special item that they have on offer, be it grenades, molotovs, or explosive ammo drops.  The passive abilities do not come into their own until around level 10 so to reach that many levels need to be completed as sometimes the progression can seem a little slow. World War Z is not without its flaws, the character mobility can sometimes become an issue like in the instance of climbing onto cars.  Some cars can be climbed upon and the satisfaction of laying waste to the oncoming horde is great, but there is no clear indication as to why, and which, cars can be climbed and which not which does pose somewhat of a problem when running away from a swarm.  With a very well populated environment, the lack of destruction is quite noticeable with explosions not even leaving dents or craters in the surfaces.  Another mechanic that got thrown by the wayside is dodge, which would be invaluable when fighting a charging bull zombie.  Apart from that the experience on Xbox has been pleasant apart from the odd disconnect from the server that saw me lose quite a fair amount of accumulated XP, other than that it has been smooth sailing. World War Z does not stop at 4 player co-op or PvZ modes, there is also a more traditional 4v4vZ which will put you and your 4 man team, against another 4 man team and the hordes of undead.  These matches do seem to be less popular and we didn't get more than 2 matches.  The PvP matches to accentuate the dodge problem quite a bit more and for now, the PvP modes feel more like a distraction.  Maybe with future updates, they can become more relevant.

Verdict

World War Z had more things against it than in its favour when it was announced, but contrary to what was expected from a film adaptation it has turned out to be a good game.  The environment is detailed and a spectacle to see, the character models are detailed and personalized, even the zombies seem to be individual, even after being filled with lead and rag-dolled across the screen.  At its core World War Z is lots of fun, even more so if you have a group of dedicated people to play with.  It could become a little stale if Saber Interactive does not keep expanding with additional episodes in the future.  

special thanks to Apex Interactive for supplying the review game

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Borderlands GOTY – review

Looter shooters, as they are known, have become a popular type of game in recent years with the likes of Division 1 and 2, the free-to-play Warframe, the utterly loved-hated Destiny franchise and Japanese wonders like Monster Hunter World are all some of the big names within this category.  Most of these games are all redefining what looter shooters should strive to be.  Better drop rates, more variety, less-boring (looking at you Destiny) yet the real question is, where did it all begin... It all began with the daddy of all Looter shooters, BORDERLANDS...  Borderlands is where it all started, and now, soon before the announcement of Borderlands 3...  2K and Gearbox is bringing all the magic back, Remastered! When Borderlands released in 2009, it's distinctive hand-drawn art style was met with great acceptance and love, a decade later nothing has changed.  Borderlands is actually a rather strange title to get the remastered title, because, frankly, there isn't much to be improved upon...  Getting GOTY status does however package all of the DLC along with the base game, so for those who didn't take in all the DLC's originally, they are now all nicely packaged.

Visually there is not that much of an improvement when it comes to the console version apart from the 60fps gameplay and, for the Xbox X and PS4 Pro, HDR support which does give the colour pallet a new and vibrant look.  Another welcome addition is 4-player split screen as well as co-op on console!  Apart from that, not much is needed in terms of upgrade with a solid variety in campaign mission and classic comedic gold from claptrap what more could you possibly need.

Gearbox promised that The Destroyer, the final boss, would be more exciting to fight, but it is still just a bullet sponge and not that big of a challenge.  Players of Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel will also receive 75 golden keys and two of the new weapons for GOTY edition.

Not having the DLC's when I originally played Borderlands, this time around it has been an absolute blast being able to experience the game that defined the genre with all of its splendour with all the DLC's and small little polishes and tweaks of the very few problems it might have had.  

Verdict

Taking an already near-perfect game and giving it a GOTY treatment is rather unexpected.  But when that game is Borderlands it is always worthy.  For those who have not yet experienced the mighty and hilariously amazing Borderlands-franchise, this GOTY edition is the perfect way to experience it.  If you are like many others, someone who has sunk tremendous amounts of hours into this game in the past, why not do it all over again, I promise, it will be just as magical as it was the first time!  

Thanks to Prima Interactive for supplying the review code

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Turtle Beach Elite Pro 2 – Review

The Turtle Beach Elite Pro 2, is as the name suggest, the top of the range headset made by Turtle Beach.  It is the second iteration of an extremely capable, yet very complicated headset + mixamp setup.  The V1 Elite Pro, which was also reviewed by us, was a really great headset doing everything right but lacked the ease-of-use that other headsets in its class had.  Turtle Beach took a step back, analyzed their mistakes and went back to the drawing board and came back with a complete redesign from the styling to the features.  Not only did they improve every aspect of the Elite Pro V2.  Turtle Beach went to the people who would be able to provide the best feedback on gaming headsets, pro-gaming organizations themselves.  OpTic Gaming and Splyce were brought onboard to find out what is needed to make a good headset great, and that's what they did.  The Elite Pro 2 is certainly a force to be reckoned with, be it sound quality, comfort, features, it can compete!  But is the only thing that can possibly stop its class-dominance its hefty price tag? Image result for turtle beach elite pro 2

Design and Features

From the very moment you take the headset from its box, it makes a bold statement, not by the way it looks, but by presence.  If you are impressed by LED's and lavish styling then the Elite Pro 2 is not what you are looking for.  The elite series, as I have mentioned in previous reviews, all share the exact styling queues.  We had the privilege to review the white version but it is also available in black.  The glossy plastic finish gives the headset a great feel when you hold it and the subtle and small Turtle Beach logo gives an even bigger sense of refinement rather than slapping branding all across it.  The elite range from Turtle Beach does not need to be plastered with logos, they are distinctly Turtle Beach.  If you do feel the need to spice up your headset slightly, the ear cups can be pulled off rather easily from their magnetically positioned homes and swapped out with alternative designs that can be bought from Turtle Beach. Image result for turtle beach elite pro 2 The Elite Pro 2 sits comfortably thanks to the steel headband that connects the cups, the headband itself is very sturdy yet flexible.  The leather earcup padding is something to behold.  Many headsets do most things right but seem to falter on their comfort.  The Elite Pro 2, just like the Elite Atlas, has arguably the most comfortable feel to any headset I have ever tried.  The padding is infused with cooling gel, and it is safe to say that it works beautifully.  The earcups are also slightly larger compare to the V1 version which makes for comfortable spacing around your ears. The memory foam cups do a really good job of cancelling out external noise, although some noise does filter through, as passive noise cancelling goes, they are extremely good.  If they start to show signs of wear and tear, simply pull them off and replace them with new ones. The mic, which is the same as the mic fitted to the Atlas, can be detached anytime needed as it is a rather large microphone and not having the boom feature will have you either stowing it away or having it in use all the time.  Luckily it is bendy enough to ensure you will find the adequate working position. Image result for turtle beach elite pro 2 Lastly, to go with the sleek minimal design the headset itself is completely devoid of any button, sliders or rollers apart from the 3.5mm line-in from the amp which has its own mute button attached to the cable.  Other than that it is a sleek and well-refined headset with a great directional microphone ready to pick up any and every word shouted in victory, as well as mumbled in defeat.  

Elite SuperAmp

Image result for turtle beach elite pro 2 The Elite Pro V1 had a rather big and technical looking mix amp, with many buttons and sliders to make it all look rather tough to use, and it was until you found the sound to be the way you like it.  So at a glance, the V1 could be rather daunting but with some getting used to it is fantastic when small adjustments are needed.  Fast forward to the V2 and Turtle Beach has gone for a more user-friendly approach with fewer buttons and dials.  The V2 only offers a singular knob which serves only as a volume control.  It has a dial in the middle that can be adjusted and customized to do nearly anything your heart could desire from an amp mounted light.  Keeping up with the times meant that all the controls of the SuperAmp were moved to an app, either on your phone or on your pc, depending on where you are putting the Elite Pro 2 to use.  I have been using it on my phone and I do have to say it is rather good...  The SuperAmp connects to your phone via Bluetooth which is turned on by a small button on the side of the amp.  Upon pressing it a voice will announce that Bluetooth is now on.  Simply connect your phone to it and download the app and you are ready to go. Upon entering the app you will be hit with a plethora of options which can be overwhelming but working your way through them will allow you to customize your preferences to the tiniest detail.  The first and most basic option is the chat mixer, which is a simple slider which will balance the amount of game sound to chat sound.  The second slider will be mic monitoring, this has become a must since having the feature.  Mic monitoring gives you feedback from your own microphone allowing you to hear how loudly you are speaking.  This is a must for anyone thinking of streaming or even who play lots of party-based games.  No one likes THAT person who is constantly shouting or breathing into the mic. Image result for turtle beach elite pro 2 appImage result for turtle beach elite pro 2 appImage result for turtle beach elite pro 2 app Turtle Beach has created a signature sound effect called SuperHuman Hearing, this is a setting that allows you to hear a different set of sounds more clearly.  This is very useful for hearing footsteps during battle royale games.  The Elite Pro 2 naturally has this option that can be toggled on or off whenever needed.  Along with the SuperHuman Hearing is an array of smaller settings such as chat boost, which will lift your chat above the gaming noise and make chats more clear and easier to distinguish.  In this price range surround sound support is simply a must and the Elite Pro 2 does support DTS Headphones  7.1 albeit simulated,  it still does a pretty good job with the directional sound being on par with what you would expect.  The SuperAmp also comes with a few preloaded equalizers for some of the more general gaming genres such as shooters, racing, battle royale and a host of others. This is only the tip of the feature list for the SuperAmp if none of these settings is to your liking you can simply go to the next page and start creating and making the ideal setup for your needs.  Compared to the previous SuperAmp, Turtle Beach has made vast improvements to it and it has become much more user-friendly and the fact that you can take calls from your connected phone during gaming is a really nifty touch.  Well done Turtle Beach!  

Sound Quality

Image result for turtle beach elite pro 2 Sound quality is a very personal thing, and many brands have a very specific trend when refining their sound.  Personally, I have always found Turtle beach to be rather "tinny" and I went into this review with that predisposition, wow was I wrong! Turtle Beach has created a phenomenal headset with the Elite Pro 2.  Not only is the comfort level sublime it has the audio chops to match.  Delivering hearty and full bass tones while keeping the mids and highs distinct in every situation I tested them in does show that the Elite Pro 2 deserves its title as the flagship Turtle Beach headset!  Movies and music all sound great and the directional audio does great work to deceive you into thinking there are more speakers in your earcup than what there really is.   There isn't that much to say about the sound quality of the Elite Pro 2, other than it did not put a foot wrong during the hours and hours I spent with it.  If you are serious about gaming and you are looking for a Turtle beach headset that feels the same way, the Elite Pro 2 is that headset.  

Verdict

The Turtle beach Elite Pro 2 takes its predecessor, learns from its mistakes and turns itself to a headset that cannot be faulted.  It is wired yes, but, as all serious gamers will know, wired is the way to go.  Minimal input delay and best sound integrity.  What is even better is that the setup can work on all major platforms.  Swopping from pc to console, or back, is a breeze with easy setup, the Elite Pro 2 is literally the only headset you need.  But, yes there is a but, it comes with a really REALLY hefty price tag of around the R8 000 mark.  This is really expensive and could be the only hurdle in the way of the Elite Pro 2...   Image result for 9.5/10 stars  

Thanks to Apex Interactive for supplying the review hardware

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TurtleBeach Elite Atlas – Review

Gaming headsets can be a tricky thing,  so many brands, so many options and features all coming with an ever-increasing price tag it is sometimes tricky to balance price and features into a certain price bracket.  Turtle Beach have created their Elite category for the mid to high-end gaming headsets.  The TB Elite Atlas is one of the fortunate headsets to bare the Elite badge as well as the signature Elite styling and build. The Atlas is a mid-tier gaming headset that has a reasonable price tag considering the great build quality and accurate and concise audio.  The lack of any form of surround, be it true or simulated is a drawback, as well as no preset equalizers, might not cater to what everyone needs.  Although these things can be rectified if you are using the Atlas on PC, it is something to take note of if you are going to be multi-purposing the Atlas.  

Build and Feel

If you are looking for a colourful out of this world design headset, the Atlas is definitely not that headset.  This headset is very black, with only a few hints of silver creeping through here and there.  The Elite range all share a similar design with a very industrial feel, giving the sense of being here to do a job and not muck about.  The build is made from hard plastic as a majority which would tend to cause a feeling of cheapness but not in this case.  The Atlas still feels strong and capable while feeling lightweight enough to not have you feel weighed down after some time. The earcups have been slightly enlarged from the last experience I had with the elite range, being the elite Pro V1, which felt slightly small around the ears.  The new earcups sit snugly around your ears and are super comfortable.  Once you put them on the memory foam goes to work and they adopt the contours of your head perfectly creating a great seal to block out external noise.  The earcups are thick and soft as well as covered in leather which feel great! If you really want to change up from the black colour scheme, the speaker plates are removable and for a price you can buy custom plates to personalize your headset.  These custom plates do nothing to improve nor lessen the sound quality they are simply for aesthetic purposes.  The headband that sits under metallic headrest which looks really fantastic, it gives the headset a nice touch and stands out among the general blackness of the headset.  The foam layer is also adjustable and thick enough to stop any discomfort from encroaching on your game time. Image result for turtle beach elite atlas The Atlas microphone is the same as on the new Elite Pro 2, but for some reason it feels on a lower build quality level than the one on the elite pro 2.  The mic is plugged into the left earcup which allows for only a one-sided setup as well as no boom-feature which, if you don't need to take a drink or bite during play sessions is no problem.  The mic is directional meaning it is pretty good at picking up only your voice and blocking out all the other unnecessary noise. Sound and Audio  The quality of a headset is unfortunately not only based on its looks and features, but mainly judged on what its main intent is, to create amazing sound for whatever the circumstance is.  The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas does deliver on that platform rather well.  The main thing i noticed was how distinct the mids and lows vary, it is really seldom that you find headsets where the levels don't run into each other somewhere along the spectrum creating a washed out mix of lows and mids that can't be distinguished.  This was very evident during my time spent in games such as Insurgency Sandstorm and Rainbow 6 Siege.  Even the faintest of sounds could easily be distinguished even during intense fire-fights the sound stays true.  For gaming purposes the preset equalizer works great. Using the Elite Atlas outside of its familiar gaming environment is where its faults start to creep in.  Using the Elite Atlas to listen to music, even with a Bass -equalizer selected, results in a rather tinny and hollow experience.  This is where the lack of even a basic customization feature does leave the Atlas lacking. Another downfall of the Elite Atlas is its lack of surround sound, be it virtual or not.  I am not a big fan of the virtual surround sound as to me it is not a very true experience and in most of the gaming situations the directional setup, especially on console, ends up being more of an enemy than a ally.  When using it on PC the catch all Windows Sonic system does help but still doesn't do much for the headset in terms of functions and features.  What is even more puzzling is that you can find more features and functions in the lower, albeit lesser build quality, Turtle Beach Stealth 700 for a lower price. Verdict The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas is a very capable mid-range headset.  It has very good build quality and looks the part as well.  It can claim the award for being, arguably, the most comfortable headset in its price range with the most amazing earcups and padding you can find on the gaming headset market.  Mic pickup and quality is superb as well.  Gaming audio quality is crisp and clear with great attention to the fine audio queues in games. It seems like Turtle Beach were tasked with making a truly premium mid range headset but went bonkers on the comfort, feel and general audio quality and had no more funds to spend on features that have become almost a "standard" in recent gaming headsets. The Turtle Beach Elite Atlas still remain more than a capable headset but for those looking for a more feature-rich headset, the Atlas is not the one you are looking for.   Image result for 7 out of 10 star  

special thanks to Apex Interactive for supplying the review hardware

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Turtle Beach Recon 70 – Review

Turtle Beach is a driving force behind gaming headsets especially on console and in recent times they have starting a big drive to provide budget headsets without budget quality.  They have flooded the market with their Recon range, which is the wired range as well as the stealth, which in turn, is the wireless range.  All of these headsets are meant to be budget headsets.  Although the Stealth wireless range can still be pricey, simply due to the fact that wireless tech is still more on the pricey side at the moment.  Turtle Beach also delivers its signature styling in all their headsets.  Although they are not as flashy as some of the other brands like Astro and Razer under their toned-down styling is still a slick headset that is very capable.  These toned-down styling queues do not mean the headsets are less capable, rather it makes them more appealing to those who are looking to multipurpose their headset for not only gaming but general use as well, and Turtle Beach headsets do that brilliantly.  Turtle Beach currently has a host of Recon headsets, last of which we reviewed was the Recon 200. This time around we have the chance to get our hands on the Recon 70, which apart from the wired cable can easily be mistaken for the Stealth 700 when it comes to looks.  Let's jump straight into it!  

Aesthetics and feel

Image result for turtle beach recon 70 hd

From the first time you pick up the Recon 70 you will notice it has a fair weight to it, not nearly as weighty as the Astro A40's or a Razer Thresher but a decent enough weight to feel like you are dealing with a respectable piece of hardware.  The headset itself is predominantly made from moulded plastic which does help to keep the weight down, but in my personal opinion does create a sense of it being less "well-built".  Styling is similar to the Stealth and other Recon headsets as mentioned before.  The headband features a thin band of foam covered in leatherette which does help for the extended gaming sessions but it could be a little thicker in my opinion.  Earcups are nice and big and fit nicely over your ears with ample space inside as well, this has been a past problem with some of the Turtle Beach headsets and they have definitely fixed that with this iteration.  The earcups are also covered in leatherette which is a huge improvement on the 600 range which had cloth covering and would become extremely itchy when ears start getting hot during long sessions.  The leatherette covers also improve sound isolation and wearing the headset does cut out the outside world a fair amount.  The Recon 700 uses a 3.5mm jack to connect to any device that boasts a 3.5mm headphone port and has a fair length on the cable.  It does however not have an inline mute or volume controller, the volume controller is situated on the left earcup which can be a bit of a pain when you need to take your hand off the controller when adjusting volume.  This is a small drawback, nothing to make you doubt your decision but something to take note of none the less. Functionality, Sound and Features

The Recon 70 is aimed at the budget, and entry-level, gamer. With a cut in price to fall into the budget category comes a cut in features.  Unlike the Recon 200 which boasts a chat mixer, active mic monitoring and active noise-cancelling, the Recon 70 is a lot more bare-boned in comparison boasting none of those features apart from the superb flip mic that is exceptional and can outperform mics on headsets that are easily triple the price of the Recon 70. Image result for turtle beach recon 70 The real reason for any headset is not about the brand or the features it's about the sound quality.  Turtle Beach has always prided themselves in delivering top quality sound of any occasion.  The Recon 70 is fitted with a 40mm driver, as many of the other Turtle Beach headsets are.  When listening to music they deliver crisp and clear mids and highs.  At times the mids do seem to wash into the highs slightly but nothing to frown upon.  The lows are punchy but not as deep as I would like them. When listening to music or watching a movie, I also found that even at max volume the headset was not too loud.  This is not a problem, but in some situations in gaming when you possibly need that extra volume the Recon 70's can be found lacking.  For gaming purposes, the equalizer settings are just right.  none of the ranges are overwhelming allowing you to distinguish between sounds easily. Using the Recon 70 in a party can be a little trying at first because on no mixer.  Once you have set the mixer on console to the correct levels it is a great headset to use especially for battle royale games where communication is key.  Teammates will never miss what you are saying because the mic quality is fantastic.   Verdict The Turtle Beach Recon 70 is a budget headset, and in that range, it is a good headset and for the measly price you are paying for them, you will need to look far to find better build quality and feel.  What Turtle Beach has done is positioned themselves really well in all price classes.  Providing users with a upper- and lower price range headset.  They have also improved on the few "mistakes" on previous headsets.  The earcups are bigger and deeper, creating the correct over-ear effect instead of the on-ear effect that is caused by earcups being too small or shallow Image result for turtle beach recon 70 If you are looking for a sub R600* headset the Recon 70 is your best choice.  If you looking for a sub R1000 headset the Recon 200 is a no-brainer with all the added features. The Recon 70 is perfect for someone on a tight budget stepping into the headset arena, it provides everything one needs in a headset, no frills or fuss.  Plug in and play headset. Image result for 7 out of 10 stars  

Special thanks to Apex Interactive SA for providing the review hardware.  If you are interested in buying one please visit their website.

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Dirt 2.0 – Review

The vast majority of us, at some stage during our gaming journey as kids, or adults, would have picked up a PS1 controller and played one of 2 racing titles.  Both spectacular in their own rights and they would have shaped the way you look at racing titles and which you would love and keep playing into the future.  The one would be Gran Turismo and the other was the legendary Colin McCrae Rally!  No one who ever took a spin in Colin McCrae Rally will forget just how wonderful, for the time, the game felt, racing down the muddy tracks, in cockpit view, rain and mud belting down on your windscreen as virtual driver-you, flicks through gears with windscreen wipers swishing from side to side trying to keep your view clean for long enough to not smash into a tree.  This was the epitome of rally simulation and for many people, it sprouted a deep love for rally as well as an eternal love for the 22B Subaru Impreza driven by the late, great Colin McCrae. Jump forward 21 years and Codemasters have returned with a racing title that is here to make a statement.  Saying Dirt 2.0 is a return to form for Codemasters is underselling it a bit.  Dirt Rally was arguably the pinnacle of the racing studios' achievements and with Dirt 2.0 they have done the right thing.  Taken an already great system and simply tweak and improve it in every single way possible.  Dirt 2.0 is not just a second iteration of a loved classic, it takes the bar and raises it plenty-fold on what racing/rally simulators should strive to be. Dirt 2.0 is the king of the rally simulators, and it won't be dethroned anytime soon...  

When in doubt, flat out!

These words were the maxim of the great Colin McCrae, for players new to the rally simulator scene, they would be ill-advised.  Dirt 2.0 does not hold your hand or provide many training wheels.  It is aimed at the hardened enthusiast that thrives when things are difficult and tough.  Dirt Rally (1.0) was renowned to have some of the most ruthless AI you could find in any racing sim games. Dirt 2.0 features a difficulty slider much like the F1-series of games allowing for pre-set levels of difficulty.  Sliding the slider all the way to the easiest setting does allow you to make a fair amount of mistakes and still trump the opponents.  Leaving the slider on the default settings will require some practice and concentration to climb the timesheet.  Sliding even further into the difficulty will require you to be fast, faultless and seamless.  Based on difficulty level, anything other than easy will make it tough to not call Dirt 2.0 the Dark Souls of rally games. Related image  

The devil in the detail

Simulator games strive to be as authentic as possible, as close to real life as you can get without strapping into a ridiculously overpowered car and thrashing it down narrow, winding roads, at speeds that are incomprehensible to normal humans.  Dirt 2.0 provides this in bucket loads!  From the locations and tracks that are no longer procedurally generated but rather, meticulously crafted.  This does make for fewer route options but it also allows for all the little idiosyncrasies that can be found in real rally routes, giving them more character and realness.  Dirt 2.0 has taken it a step further on this outing with its new surface degradation system which sees racing surfaces becoming more rutted or churned up the lower down the starting order you are.  Starting in 1st place compared to 29th changes your day on track severely! Deep ruts will have you fighting to keep control of the steering (using a gaming wheel would enhance this struggle significantly).  A controller does dampen this sensation a bit but there are enough vibrations and audio queues to help relay the feeling. Related image Surface degradation is not the only factor in bringing tracks to life.  weather and time of day in Dirt 2.0 does not only provide aesthetic changes it affects racing surfaces as well as the way your vehicle puts down its minimal amount of grip. Finally, we get to the cars, and if by this stage you are not yet convinced about Dirt 2.0 taking control of the many available cars you will soon find out why.  Most racing games struggle to accurately portray the way different cars feel and perform, be it mid-mounted rear-wheel drive, or front mounted, all-wheel drive to the less desirable front mounted front wheel drive.  Each of these is perfectly imitated.  Time has been taken to give each car its unique look, sound and feel, the brutish Group B cars that thunder along with a constant threat of violence, the Sierra RS500 that, if you dare to flatten your right foot ( or right trigger) will push you into another dimension.  Or jumping behind the Lancia Fulvia and putting it through its paces on a rain-soaked road.  Hearing the 115 bhp singing through to the front wheels as they spin beyond the point of grip.  Even on the controller, it is possible to feel the weight of the car flop backward when going up a hill and the steering start to jitter as that weight heaves forward when coming down a hill.  In short, the handling in Dirt 2.0 is sublime! Image result for dirt rally 2.0 cars Given the amount of detail put into the driving experience, it is understandable that a bond will form between driver and car, and when mechanical damage, caused by a moment of carelessness can be excruciating!  This being said will probably hint you towards taking a more cautious approach to racing.  But there is something to be said for dragging home damaged card fenders and bumpers scraping along the road as you cross the finish line.  

Team Dirt

Image result for dirt rally 2.0 cars Career mode, or My Team, has you building a team and a garage.  What is rather weird about it is the fact that it requires you to be online while playing it.  Possibly because of the daily and weekly challenges against other Dirt players.  Cash is a bit of a problem early on in the progression but for the players who don't like to micromanage, you can jump straight into some standalone championships.  World RX series is also one of the championship options, tracks like Catalunya, Silverstone and Mettet make their debuts in this mode.  

Verdict

Image result for dirt rally 2.0 mini Playing Dirt 2.0 has come leaps and bounds and Codemasters have revitalized themselves with their latest iterations of racing titles, including F1 2018.  There is only a single thing I can fault this game on, and its not even so much the game as it is the hardware it was reviewed on.  Comparing Dirt 2.0 on the original Xbox One compared to the Xbox X sees a drop in graphical integrity, as expected.  Don't get me wrong Dirt 2.0 looks sublime, but it looks even better on the X.  Secondly, again not a problem as much as a preference, driving on a controller does not come close to the thrill of sliding behind a serious racing setup!  Playing this with a wheel and peddle setup will see Dirt 2.0 wipe the metaphorical floor with all of its competitors. Dirt 2.0 indulges those who have a passion for motorsport, every fiber of its being has been crafted with love and attention to detail.  Driving through muddy pits with my wipers struggling to keep my windscreen clean, I can't help but see flashes of a much younger me, falling in love with what is now arguably one of the best driving experiences out there! If Dirt 2.0 does not tug at your nostalgic heartstrings, it will make you love it after the first outing! Image result for 9 out of 10 stars

special thanks to Apex Interactive for supplying us with the review copy

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Anthem Review

Anthem was shown to the world at E3 in 2017.  We were shown a graphically beautiful game showcasing an astonishing open world with amazingly lush environments and a densely populated wilderness which can be explored on foot or flying.  Taking control of, what can be most easily described as your very own Ironman suite, your Javelin.  Gameplay looked amazing, combat seemed to be something to rival the likes of Destiny.  Taking your Javelin into combat in any manner you choose, be it on the ground with the Colossus, which is the 'tank' class, the Ranger, 'all-rounder', Storm, controls magic, or the Interceptor, all about moving fast and getting in and out quickly.  Combining these classes with 3 of your best friends seemed great!  Having Bioware at the helm of this monumental RPG-title could only produce something stellar.  With Bioware heading colossal titles such as Dragon Age, Mass Effect and even the legendary Star Wars: The Old Republic, Anthem has absolutely EVERYTHING in its favor. When the Beta arrived players were met with gross server issues, many players clocked less than 1 hour of play during the Beta weekend due to these issues.  Still, there was good feedback from the ones who did manage to clock time during the Beta.  Roll forward to launch day, which was met by a group of fans on two polar opposite opinions.   Many were still extremely excited for what was toted to be the "destiny-killer", which is a rather big statement, but from what was shown during gameplay it could easily reach or surpass that statement.  The other half was getting ready to be met by a broken, unpolished, mess of a game.  What was found when the finished product loaded up on my console was neither the former nor the latter...

The Story begins...  in the middle?

Anthem is set on an alien planet where mankind has scraped out some sort of existence due to the brave and heroic actions of a small group of exosuit warriors known as the freelancers.  A strange alien race known only as the shapers took control of the "anthem of creation", a strange energy that permeates everything.  These aliens suddenly decide to disappear and leave all their Anthem-infused tools to cause major destruction and disruption all throughout the planet.  Leaving only the freelancers to try and clean up and resolve as much of the Anthem-caused chaos as possible... Reading that Anthem sounds like it's setting up to deliver a narrative experience worthy of an Oscar nomination at least!  Instead what you get is a story that feels unfinished and disjointed. Fort Tarsis is what you would call home in Anthem, a large, visually stunning, bastion of mankind on the planet.  Filled with many charismatic characters to speak to.  Problem is, none of these characters ever accompany you out on missions and they also never leave their set positions...  making them feel more like enthusiastic quest-givers from MMO titles than actual characters in a RPG.  Never spending actual time with them or enduring hardships causes there to be absolutely zero connection with them, and this makes the regular insights into their lives annoying and empty.  Which is the complete opposite of the enemies of Anthem which has such minimal screen time that I still have no clue as to what their mission or motivations for their mission really are? Unlike games such as Red Dead Redemption 2, interacting with secondary characters offer absolutely nothing in terms of character progression or story progression.  The interactions feel nothing more than an awkward exchange of dialogue to fill time and space.  With Bioware at the helm, you would expect Mass Effect-like characters that actually have effects on your story and even make re-occurring appearances throughout the game.  Shame on you Bioware! Completing a mission will have you brought back to Fort Tarsis to painstakingly have to trek across the whole of the fort, walking down the same streets and alleys over and over to collect a mission and come back to the launch pad to start it.  Fort Tarsis, as beautiful as it feels like a waste of time at the moment.  It is supposed to create freedom of choice and exploration but at the moment it is simply a painful way to reach the start of the next mission.

Time to suit-up!

Hopping into your Javelin and zooming off into the jungles of Bastion does make things better.  Firstly the jungles are ridiculously dense and pretty.  Secondly, yet have I to experience the joy of flying through the jungle with your squad mates on either side on the way to your next mission.  The flying makes you feel like a true hero and doing it with friends makes it ten times better!  But once the missions start, things become repetitive.  The first couple of missions feel fresh and fighting is good but after your fourth mission, things have become boring and repetitive. Whether just playing a random mission, or free roaming or taking on a stronghold mission ( these are like a 20 minute Strike like in Destiny 2), Anthem still only has a handful of objectives which the game just reuses time and again.  No matter my mission, be it finding a lost scientist or destroying a shaper relic I will ALWAYS need to defend a specified area for 30 seconds and then use my radar to find "valuable" intel on my objective, which I could not be bothered to even remember.  During these missions, you will quickly discover that a map that was toted to be large and features many hours of exploration is actually rather small and has you fighting in the same areas and caves on multiple occasions during the campaign. What saves Anthem a little is the fact that combat can be rather enjoyable.  Each javelin brings a unique combat perspective and having a squad with each type of javelin in it can become extremely powerful and make you feel like a real hero.  The essence of the combat system in Anthem functions around teamwork.  The squad will need to first inflict status effect from one ability, called a primer, before using a second ability, detonator, that will trigger a combo and cause massive damage.  Problem with the combo system is that it never gets explained apart from a short brush-over in the tutorials. Lack of clarity extends to the entire loot system.  Loot has aimless stats that is never explained and finding a weapon you actually like but happens to be weak, simply has you searching for a higher grade of the same weapon.  Even your javelins have stats which are all pretty mundane and cumbersome.

Working against its own Strengths

Anthem has so many loose threads that I constantly find myself asking why...  Why is the mission screen so detailed?  Why does it tally experience points after level 30 when these points serve no purpose anymore?  Why would I need hundreds of crafting materials if I can only craft weak gear that I will never use?  and so the list goes on... EA and Bioware have already detailed the way forward for Anthem and just like Destiny 2 and The Division, it is sure to change a great deal in future updates and possibly become a very playable and enjoyable game.  Bioware has been extremely quick to respond to comments and criticism and on how they plan on correcting problems.

Verdict

Fundamentally Anthem has a lot going for it.  Spectacular scenery, amazing flying mechanics, decent combat, but the pacing of the campaign is way off, moving at snail's pace at the most boring of parts and racing through pieces that should have been fleshed out to give the story some more meat.  Would I recommend it right now? Probably not, should it be looked at after a few updates and expansions?  Most definitely!!!  Anthem needs to focus on keeping aspects that are supposed to be fun, fun, and not let them become a choir.  But there are many aspects that can be lauded, customizing your Javelin and stepping out into the sunlight with your fresh new paint and weaponry is really satisfying and defeating a stronghold on grandmaster difficulty cannot be explained in words.  Let's hope that Bioware can shape this the way Ubisoft took a very broken Division and created a great game, with time.    

Special thanks to Prima Interactive for supplying the review game

   

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JP Du Preez

Writer/Reviewer

JP Du Preez is a father that enjoys all things tech and gaming related.

He loves new tech and is always keen to unbox the next set of headphones and start reviewing them.

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Metro Exodus – Review

When Metro 2033 arrived on our screens in 2010, it was surrounded by fast-paced shooters such as Call of Duty, Counterstrike, Crysis and similar titles.  The combination of slow-paced, gameplay which has you trapped in post-apocalyptic Soviet metro rail tunnels fighting against mutated creatures seemed quite far off the ever-popular zombie genre which was gathering quite the following at the time.  But DeepSilver proved us wrong by creating one of the most suspense-filled titles that would have you jumping at every knock of a tin can and every noise in the dark as you scrounge for what little ammo there is on offer as you start moving less towards the lit areas but more towards the safety of the darkness.  Metro 2033 not only weaved an intriguing story of Artyom and what he has to do to survive but also paints the picture of the bleak existence of the human species when they are no longer at the top of the food-chain.  The atmospheric and claustrophobic narrative and gameplay instantly grabbed and sucked players in and Metro 2033 was a popular game amongst most players.  Soon after a second title, Metro: Last light took players back into the tunnels with a little more top-ground exploration and more tweaks and improvements. And 2019 sees Metro Exodus grace us with its presence.  It has been teased at previous E3's and stunned us with its grisly beauty.  But many wondered if Metro Exodus would be able to stand in the shoes of its predecessors when it ventures away from the confined and atmospheric tunnels and venture into a more open-world environment and what can be confirmed is that it has become apparent that it most certainly can! Exodus picks up 2 years after Last Light.  Exodus is a largely self-contained story that follows the main protagonist Artyom, his wife Ana, and a few spartan rangers left from the last great war.  They set out from a war-ravaged Moscow in search of habitable areas with the hope of finding other survivors in the seemingly dead, apart from monsters, world, aboard a train.  This ability to travel allows for a dazzling variety of settings that you can experience through different seasons, seeing as Exodus plays out over the time of around a year.  Ranging from snow-blanketed Moscow to sand-swept deserts and lush forests.  All of these settings are well-realized and have adequate amounts of mutants and humans both friendly and hostile. Although Exodus has broken out of the chains of the past letting you explore the more vast open expanses, some story missions will have you exploring the traditional dank underground corridors.  With the newer technology, the lighting effects are extraordinary and the audio makes these areas feel even more ominous and claustrophobic. During the first couple of hours of Metro Exodus you will be met with a Metro game that is unlike the ones that came before.  No longer will you be trapped in the tunnels but you will be met with the open and outside world, which, in its own right, is spectacular.  But you will also meet many characters, unlike the previous games where you were alone for large periods of the game.  At times some of the acting feels slightly forced and rushed but nothing to take too much notice of.  It is also worthy to note that this is the first AAA-metro title so this will be a learning curve for them.  But the narrative still remains splendid and with a clever opening sequence that brings new players up to speed with what has been happening in the metro as well as refreshes the memories of old returning players.

Crafting & Currency

No longer does the world of metro run on an ammunition-based currency, instead of having merchants and stores you now have a crafting backpack and workbenches scattered around the world.  These benches can be used to craft everything from ammunition to upgrades for your guns and armor and bracer, as long as you have the relevant parts required.  If you want to upgrade your weapons, you can dismantle weapons found in the wild and use those components and place them on your current weapon.  Even though you can craft your own bullets the game still revolves around choosing whether to take the shot and conserving ammo rather than go in all guns blazing. The backpack brings an invaluable addition to the game, having you customize and change attachments to your weapon on the fly and not having to return to base before being able to equip them makes it possible to venture in the great unknown for longer periods before being forced back to base.  A steady aim has become even more essential in Metro Exodus compared to previous titles as the enemies seem to have become more intelligent. pushing and flanking you if you give them the opportunity as well as noticing if you were to extinguish a light to create the cover of dark areas. The combat of Metro Exodus is painfully good.  You will find yourself carefully moving your way around gathering ammo to ensure your future survival when out of nowhere mutants will attack causing you to spray your hard-earned lead savings and having to start all over.  Without giving away too much, the enemy types in Exodus are really vast and combat will never feel repetitive.

Design

Metro Exodus has some incredibly detailed environments, but so do many other titles, but what helps Metro is the minimal menus and on-screen indicators.  This does wonders to help you feel engaged and the way the on-screen displays are crafted, looking down at them doesn't feel like you are looking at a menu, it feels like its just a subtle display, that, in real life, would have been there anyway.  These fine nuances are what makes the realism great.  There is no large glowing indicator on the horizon silently shouting for you to head in a certain direction.  Don't get me wrong Metro doesn't leave you with absolutely nothing to navigate with, Artyom has a compass strapped to his arm, so a subtle swing of the needle on his arm can point you back in the general direction.  Likewise, there is no map in the corner of the screen.  Instead of spotting a glitter of candlelight in a window of a cabin in the distance will show you a possible area of interest.  This way of letting the player discover in their own way does make for pure indulgence.

Fine Details

Apart from the constantly varying quality of the voice-acting, the subtle details and ramifications of your actions in Metro Exodus is something truly great.  Doing little things such as finding a teddy for a little girl on the Aurora seems like a silly quest, but coming back later to see her playing with it makes your efforts worthwhile.  Not all actions have such minor effects on the world.  Disobey an order to not shed any blood during, and your actions might come back to brutally haunt you when you least expect it.  Many of the actions and decisions will be unbeknownst to you until much later in the game, that is what makes the story so interwoven, at no point will you be able to make out which action is a good or a bad action, these actions will simply snowball till you reach the end where they will have an effect on which ending you will experience.

Verdict

Metro Exodus has not changed its recipe, it has not succumbed to the run-and-gun meta that has become the norm of late, no, Metro Exodus encourages you to take your time and not only take-in and appreciate the most detail-rich and atmospheric environment of any story-driven shooter on the current generation platform.  One of the only problems I do find with Metro Exodus is that apart from the diary entries Artyom reads aloud at the beginning of each chapter, he is a completely silent protagonist. But all in all Metro Exodus takes you on an exhilarating and sometimes, horrifying, atmospheric journey through a Russian dystopia jammed full of detail and characters both good and bad around every corner.  Should you try it? Most definitely! You will need to search far to beat the effective use of the survival horror mixed with many hair-raising moments. What cannot be argued is that Metro Exodus is one of the most visually breath-taking games around at this moment and playing it will be not only a visual treat but hair-raising bliss at the same time.  

EARLY AXES RATES: METRO EXODUS

 

Special thanks to Apex Interactive for supplying us with the review code

  Our favorite Russian-Rambo has also wandered and experienced the horrors that can be found in Metro Exodus, here is a video review of his views of the latest installment of the Metro-franchise. Watch on Youtube
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