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How to dive into that New Year’s Resolution to get started with VR

Virtual reality effectively ‘arrived’ in 2016, with the launch of Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, the first two consumer VR headsets that truly delivered an experience that most would find not only tolerable, but actually enjoyable.

But consumer VR’s splashy debut in 2016 did not result in something that was immediately affordable, available, or indeed appealing to many, so it’s no surprise if you’ve been standing back and waiting for a time to jump in.

Now might just be the time; a confluence of factors, including a lot of great software that eschews mistakes made by early movers, as well as dramatic decreases in the cost of entry for VR-capable computers, have made it a good time to get onboard the virtual train. Here’s a guide to one way to get started that should give you the most mileage for your dollar, while also making sure you’re not missing out on the best VR experiences currently on offer.

The Rig

Your PC is potentially the most frustrating thing to get right, because there are a lot of options out there for Windows machines that can power VR headsets, along with the option to roll your own. I’d suggest that novices go for something that can get you gaming right away, with a minimum of fuss, but with room to grow if you find you want to invest the time and money later on.

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That’s why I recommend one of CyberPower PC’s pre-built rigs. The one that hits the sweet spot in terms of value for money right now is the CyberPower Gamer Ultra Desktop series with AMD Radeon RX 480 GPU. It’s a minimalist approach that strips out all the unnecessary frills and focuses on the components that are most important to a smooth VR experience, centering on that AMD graphics card.

It’s expandable if you still want to beef it up later, and it retails for just $699.99, which makes it about half the price of what a decent VR-capable PC would cost you when Rift and Vive launched. Plus, in my experience it doesn’t choke on any VR games, and I’ve played a wide range.

The Headset

I’ve gone back and forth on this, and it’ll depend on your personal preferences, too, but now that Oculus Touch has arrived, I’d recommend getting the Oculus Rift to start. The Rift provides better visuals in my opinion, setup and game space requirements are simpler, and it has a better library of titles currently available, between Oculus exclusives and the wide variety of SteamVR content that supports both Rift and Vive.

Oculus Rift Consumer Edition

The Rift is also more comfortable to wear, and its built-in headphones, while not the best available, are incredibly easy to use and avoid additional cord complications. Setting up sensors is also easier, and you can choose to start with just the basic Rift if you need to budget the Touch controllers for later. It’s true that you only get room scale-VR experimentally with a third sensor with Rift, but in practice, you won’t notice much of a difference between Oculus with two sensors and Vive’s true room-scale experience.

The Accessories

As mentioned, the Oculus Touch controllers really add a lot to the overall VR experience, and prove more fun and more immersive in practice than the Vive Controllers. They’re more lightweight, and also just seem to better represent the act of actually using your hands in a virtual environment, perhaps because of the focus on simulating grip on objects.

1 Oculus Touch

Oculus Touch took a long time to ship, and that gave Vive an early edge, but if you’re looking to jump into VR at this point, they’re a much better introduction to interacting with objects that aren’t really there, and developers have done amazing things early on with the accessories to make picking them up worthwhile.

The Software

There’s enough software out their for Rift that it can be overwhelming figuring out where to start. Oculus has created starter bundles that prove a good jumping off point, but if you want to pick up just a few things to get your feet wet, I’d recommend SUPERHOT VR, Oculus Medium, Space Pirate Trainer, Virtual Desktop and The Climb to start.

The games here really show off what the Oculus Touch can bring to the table, but if your’e holding off on picking that up, try Ocean Rift and Lucky’s Tale (which ships with the Rift for free) to start. When you do pick up Touch, SUPERHOT VR is a must-play; it’s the first VR game that actually got me feeling physically engaged in a game in a way that felt really natural, and it has a super clever design in terms of getting around the limitations of in-place use of VR.

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Virtual Desktop is a must because it gives you a sense of what it might be like to use VR for everyday computing tasks. There are some things that are not ideal when using it (basically you have to be a touch typist), but it’s astounding how natural a lot of the interaction is. It’s also pretty inexpensive if you’re wallet’s hurting from getting set up to begin with.

2017 is VR’s sophomore year

2016 might’ve been the year consumer VR finally made it to store shelves in a significant way, but 2017 will see a lot of refinement come to VR experiences, and it’s already evident from the progress made since the beginning that this is probably the time for most tech-savvy folks to take the plunge. Building a VR system that respects your wallet is still a tough task, but using the guide above will get your foot in the door with as little budgetary outlay as possible, without any significant compromises.

Top Mobile Games for the Year 2016

“Here are our favorite games for the year 2016”

 

Clash Royale (Android / iOS)

Developed by the makers of popular strategy game Clash of Clans and winner of the best game for 2016, Clash Royale is a multiplayer game which involves two players battling each other in real-time using characters from the CoC series along with some new entrants. Players can collect cards to make a deck of eight characters which they then use to battle with other users online. Each battle involves bringing down opponents towers and lasts for a couple of minutes, with an additional minute for a tiebreaker. If you are a fan of strategy or PvP games, give Clash Royale a shot.

Alphabear (Android / iOS)

If you are bored of the word puzzle genre, Alphabear might be able to bring the fun back in constructing words from a set of letters. The premise of the game is simple – use the given set of letters to form a word which then clear spaces for bears to grow in. The end goal of the game is to score the most points which is calculated by the size of the bear and the number of words formed.

Pokémon GO (Android / iOS)

If you haven’t heard about the game that caused the entire planet to go out on walks, you surely must be living under a rock. For the uninitiated, Pokemon GO is a game which involves catching Pokemon in the real world by making use of AR and the player’s smartphone camera and GPS location. Pokemons pop up when a player is walking and exploring the streets and can then be captured and levelled up. These Pokemons can then be used to battle other players or trainers in Gyms. If you are a fan of Pokemon series, or just need to work out more, download the app from your respective app store.

FIFA Mobile (Android / iOS)

Fans of football can enjoy playing with their favourite clubs in FIFA Mobile. The game comes with over 30 leagues comprising of 650 real teams and over 17,000 players making it a great option for football fanatics. Users can also compete in live events and join leagues as well as manage their ultimate teams in FIFA Mobile.

 

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GameSir G3 gamepad review: for when the gaming gets tough

Smartphones have become incredibly powerful over the years owing to which they’ve also become the go to device for gaming on-the-go. In fact, casual gaming on the smartphone has become so ubiquitous that it is being perceived as a legitimate threat to console gaming. While the touch screen of a smartphone is more than enough for smashing some candies or making a bird flap, it isn’t the most accurate option when it comes to games with a more complex control scheme, for example, Gameloft’s Modern Combat 5. Enter GameSir G3 gamepad, a mobile controller designed to make complex games like first-person shooters more approachable. We tested the controller for a while and here’s what we think of it.

Design

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The G3 comes in a matte black colour and is made entirely out of plastic. The button placement on the gamepad is very similar to that of the Dualshock 4 controller that comes with the Sony PlayStation 4. The G3 comes with two analogue sticks and features a D-pad besides the left analogue stick and A,B,X and Y buttons taking up space besides the right analogue stick.

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The central part of the gamepad is reserved for start, select, turbo, and clear buttons, along with a big GameSir button sandwiched between the two analogue sticks. The controller also comes with two trigger buttons and two shift buttons up top, similar to the ones that feature on Xbox and Playstation controllers.

The in-hand feel of the GameSir G3 controller is up to snuff, although it could be better. The A,B,X,Y buttons along with the Gamesir button light up when the controller is powered on, which enhance the looks of the G3. If you have used a PS4 or an Xbox controller before, transitioning to the G3 will feel like a breeze. That being said, the plastic finish of the controller increases the chances of it slipping from your hands. However, the rubberised grip on the analogue sticks are a good addition but the wobbly D-pad takes some of the fun away from the G3 while gaming.

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Coming to the accessories, users get a detachable clamp which can be used to clip a smartphone to the controller, and an additional Micro-USB-to-Micro-USB connector, which can be used create a wired (analog) connection between the G3 and your smartphone.

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The detachable clamp is made out of plastic and its clipping mechanism is extremely flimsy and delicate. Therefore, we’d recommend users to take extra care when slapping their smartphones to the G3. While a standard microUSB cable was provided, the G3 didn’t ship with a charging brick so buyers will have to use their smartphone chargers to juice up the controller.

Performance

The GameSir G3 uses Bluetooth to pair with Apple and Android powered smartphones. While the pairing process seems fairly simple, it took us quite a few tries and ”pairing rejected” pop-ups to get the controller up and running. Although the G3 connects to Apple devices as well, it didn’t function properly on our iPhone 7 Plus (review) even after we manually switched the control mode within several games to use the gamepad. Also, every time the controller was switched off and turned back on, it refused to connect to our devices automatically and we had to go and select the G3 gamepad from the Bluetooth settings.

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However, the gaming experience on Android phones – the OnePlus 3 (review) and the ASUS Zenfone 2 in our case – was seamless and made up for all the pairing issues initially. We tested the G3 with games like Asphalt Extreme, Dead Trigger 2, and Pac-Man. Asphalt Extreme felt like a match made in heaven paired with the G3 and we were able to execute all our drifts and turns with excellent accuracy using the controller. Shooting zombies in the head in Dead Trigger 2 was a lot of fun too.

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Be it the intense action sequences which required killing multiple zombies or switching between weapons while simultaneously moving, all the controls felt fluid and responsive. However, we would like to point out that unlike Asphalt Extreme, we had to manually assign controls to the G3 before playing Dead Trigger 2. Playing a platformer like Pac-man however, wasn’t as much fun owing to the mushy D-pad and we ended up being constantly eaten up by the ghosts.

Verdict

Retailing for just Rs 2,199 on Flipkart, the GameSir G3 is a great accessory for gamers on a budget. If you can make do with the mushy D-pad and the plasticky build, then the G3 is a steal as it supports most of the games on Android. The 600mAh battery within the controller is excellent as well and should last you at least two weeks on a single charge. However, if you own an Apple device we’d recommend you to steer clear of the G3 and opt for some other MFi-certified controller, which will pair seamlessly with your iOS device.

Get up close and purrsonal with Persona 5’s mascot, Morgana

Choo-choo! All aboard the hype train!

Hey everyone, did you know that at the time of me writing this article, Persona 5 is coming out in 96 days? That’s a February 14th 2017 release date for those of you who are slightly less rabid. Keen fans of the series and followers of game news in general will likely be aware of the game’s feline mascot named Morgana. In addition to being a sassy anthropomorphic cat-like…thing, she serves as a mentor to the youths of the Phantom Thieves, is the heart and soul of the team and, most importantly, can turn into a bus. Official sources state that Morgana actually hates being called a cat, so from here on I’ll be sure to refer to her in vehicular terms.

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Voice actor Cassandra Morris, known for her roles as Edea Lee in Bravely Default and Sophie in Tales of Graces, among many other videogame and anime roles, will provide the voice for the Phantom Thieves’ means of conveyance.  In the video below, she offers insight into what it takes to play the cat-eared automobile in a little backstage special Q&A session. I won’t spoil the content of the video, so go ahead and watch two people wearing Morgana hats talk about the game and the process of making a mascot voice.

In addition to this little interview, Atlus has released a further short trailer specifically focusing on Morgana and showcasing just a little of what the little road hog can do.

Persona 5 comes out on PS3 and PS4 on February 14th 2017 in the Americas and Europe and there may still be some copies of the super swanky Take Your Heart premium edition of the game left near you! If not, the steelbook edition seems to be the only available type in my local EB Games, so that would be your next best bet if you want something shiny without the cost of a gigantic box of Persona 5 goodies.

Final thoughts: Morgana sounds better than Teddie and I am overcome with relief. And now we wait.

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GTA’s new Adversary Mode Deadline is available now

Calling all citizens of Los Santos! Rockstar has released yet another update in the form of a unique adversary mode. In this new update players can achieve hyper speed on the new futuristic Nagasaki Shotaro, and demolish enemies through the power of their light trail.

Yep, you heard right, the Deadline update comes with a brand new vehicle: the Nagasaki Shotaro. Yeah I agree it seems Rockstar has found some new fascination with bikes, but who are we to complain right? Anywho, the Nagasaki Shotaro is blazingly fast with enough energy to power the entire Los Santos grid. Sounds like a perfect addition to your garage? Well in order to unlock this vehicle at Legendary Motorsport, you’ll first have to give it a test drive in the new Deadline Adversary mode. In addition to unlocking the new vehicle, the Deadline Outfit will also be available for purchase at any clothing store. That’s not all! For a limited time, Shotaro owners will get a free Nagasaki logo Tee added to their wardrobe.

So, how does this new mode work, anyway? Well, Deadline pits up to four players against one another, each mounted on a different colored Shotaro, which emits a temporary light trail as you ride through the arena. Any competitor unfortunate enough to come in contact with said trail meets an instant explosion. You’ll have to make calculated movements to force opponents to cross your trail’s path and take advantage of strategic power-ups for a competitive edge. For example, you can use Boost to speed ahead and cut off your opponents, slow down time with Zoned for precision movement, or leap your opponent’s light trail with Hop. Still not convinced, huh? Well, how about this for an added incentive; playing Deadline between now and November 21st will earn players Double GTA$ and RP. For the record, this isn’t chump change; I’ve seen players earn up to $100,000 in GTA$ for winning the round, so you’ll definitely want to take advantage while you can!

Checkout the trailer below:

http://www.rockstargames.com/videos/video/11627

Pretty awesome right? But wait, there’s more! In addition to the double GTA$ and RP in Deadline, all MC Presidents will get a boost in their Biker Business with 24% off Business supplies and resupplies, plus an extra 50% in GTA$ and 2xRP from Biker Business sales.

nintendo-switch

Meet The Nintendo Switch: Nintendo’s NEXT BIG THING – Coming March 2017

We take a look at Nintendo’s next BIG THING — The Nintendo Switch

As promised, Nintendo has gone live on October 20 with its big reveal of the much-anticipated and heavily rumoured Nintendo NX console, and first and foremost it isn’t called the Nintendo NX at all, instead it will retail as the Nintendo Switch. Importantly, the name is significant as it relates to some of the key functionality and features of the new console, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Nintendo also confirmed that the new console will arrive in March 2017. The announcement was accompanied by a preview trailer showcasing much of what we can expect from the Nintendo Switch console, and indeed, many of the earlier rumours have proven correct. We’ll embed the trailer below so you can see exactly what we’re talking about.

So, as you can see, the big deal here is that the Nintendo Switch, as per earlier rumours, does indeed straddle the line between home console and gaming portable, allowing gamers to literally pick up their current game and walk out the house with it via a nifty combination of a cartridge system, a dock, and both modular controllers and a display panel.

Nintendo hasn’t had the best couple of years and analysts see the Nintendo Switch as the company’s last-ditch attempt at making a hugely successful console. I for one am very impressed by the overall concept of the device; I love the fact you can take it apart and play it anywhere as well as on your TV. The applications for this are immense. From a developer prospective, it’s also HUGE. Ditto VR.

“Nintendo Switch allows gamers the freedom to play however they like,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, president and chief operating officer of Nintendo of America. “It gives game developers new abilities to bring their creative visions to life by opening up the concept of gaming without boundaries.”

We couldn’t help but chuckle a bit as Nintendo appears to be encouraging “responsible” dog ownership, by taking your massive dog to the park off the lead and ignoring it while playing your portable! Likewise Nintendo seems to think its cool to rock up at a party and make everyone play your games.

The CEO of UK video game retailer GAME, Martyn Gibbs, speaking to God Is A Gamer, has waded in on the Nintendo Switch announcement, offering up his thoughts on the platform and what it means for the future.

“As today’s teaser video demonstrates, the SWITCH is another example of Nintendo differentiating its gaming experiences to appeal to a broad array of gamers. Nintendo has consistently developed home consoles and handheld gaming to see its beloved and engaging games and characters deliver ultimate fun and enjoyment. SWITCH is clearly taking some of the best features of handheld and home consoles and merging them into a fantastic new way to play. We will be bringing more details to our customers as soon as possible.”

Marketing peculiarities aside, what we’re looking at here does look very cool and revolutionary at the same time. This is the first time the “pick up your game and turn it portable” issue has been tackled with any kind of practical real-world application. What’s more, the graphical quality aboard the portable component looks to be very high, and the myriad ways in which the setup facilitates multiplayer gaming is reassuring.

We also catch a glimpse that Skyrim (probably the remastered version) is apparently coming to the Nintendo Switch, along with new Mario titles (including Mario Kart), a new NBA game, and The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild.

The preview also emphasises Nintendo’s interest in professional gaming towards the end of the video, as we see competition teams practicing with the portable component before taking part in a big stadium contest in front of hordes of fans.

Nintendo NX Price: How Much Will It Cost?

Nintendo remained tight-lipped about the pricing for the Nintendo Switch. But a few sources have chimed in with their projections for how much the Nintendo Switch will cost once it lands in March 2017:

“In the US,” reports TR, “the only indication we’ve had on price has come from credit-rating agency Macquarie, which thinks the console could retail for between $300 and $350. “The agency took this price as an indication that the console might struggle, since it’s a price that’s comparatively higher than what we’ve come to expect from Nintendo in the past.”

We’ll continue developing this article with new information. Below you can see all the pre-reveal rumours of the Nintendo Switch, as the Ninetndo NX, to see how they compare to the device showcased in the new video preview.

In a lengthy interview with SumZero Joshua Kennedy of Sonian Capital Management outlines his assessment of the company at large, what the future holds for Nintendo and whether or not the mysterious NX is enough to change the company’s fortunes in 2016/17. Interestingly, Kennedy believes the market “doesn’t understand Nintendo” and this has resulted in the company’s “mispriced” stock value.

“There is a confluence of factors that has led to Nintendo getting mispriced in the past, and I think it is a pattern we’re seeing again today,” said Kennedy. “The first factor is the cyclicality of their hardware business; sales are very strong when they have a hit console or handheld. Software sales are pro-cyclical, so it is a real peak-and-valley sales pattern. The second factor is the company is extremely circumspect about sharing its plans for new products, so it leaves investors, competitors, and fans to speculate about what’s coming next for Nintendo, particularly when sales are at a trough because the old cycle has ended.”

On the subject of the NX, Kennedy added: “the NX is likely to replace both Wii U and DS at the same time. There has been considerable speculation that the controller will be a standalone handheld device that you can take with you on the go. Think for a moment how problematic and inefficient it has been for Nintendo to have two different hardware platforms for the last several years. They have to develop separate games for both, third-party developers are reluctant to develop because the audience is split in two, plus there are two hardware teams, two support teams, etc. Simply by consolidating into one platform, which management has said in the past is a desirable goal, could be a win for Nintendo.”

Nintendo NX LEAKS Big Time on Reddit

Reddit, the source of all things interesting on the web, has just got one hell of a scoop on the Nintendo NX via one of its members who claims to work in retail. Here’s the full break-down of what was said, including pricing, release dates and specs and hardware:

Marketing

  • “Interact with your game on the go.” phrase seen on a poster.
  • Strong co-branding effort with a Mario launch title on many posters.
  • Console is currently set to launch with least 4 titles on deck.
  • Stores should be receiving demo units around February.
  • Base price point seems to be sitting at $299.99
  • Bundle
  • The NX is currently set to have a bundle option.
  • The contents of this bundle is currently unknown.
  • Bundle price is currently sitting at $399.99

Packaging

  • The packaging for the NX will be slightly larger than the Wii U’s packaging.
  • The packaging is relatively clean and simple and is similar to the Wii U in terms of package design.
  • The color scheme for the packaging is white and blue (compared to the Wii U’s blue and black).
  • The packaging still says “NX” however there is still no indication if this is a placeholder or the final name.
  • The areas of the packaging that would usually depict the hardware were blurred and redacted by Nintendo in attempt to keep it hidden.

Features and Specs

  • Games will be on cartridges
  • 4k streaming has been mentioned. – What this likely means is playback of content such as Netflix, etc. Not gameplay.
  • 1080p and 60fps are being used by the marketing teams in relation to gameplay on to the console portion. I’ve heard unconfirmed rumblings of 900p for the infamous hybrid part of the device.

Nintendo NX: Latest News

The Nintendo NX has been rumoured for a long while now and there’s been so much hype about it being the next BIG thing – something you must watch and are going to definitely want. But even though it’s been the talk of the town very little concrete information has emerged so far to give us any indication of WHAT the device ACTUALLY IS; what’s new, what should we actually be excited about?

As of July 26 it has all been revealed, it seems. Eurogamer, in an extensive report, claims to have heard from “a number of sources” and says it has confirmation about many details of the Nintendo NX device. The broad description is this; the Nintendo NX will be a handheld portable, a display with analogue controls either side of it, however, the controllers will detach to turn the device into a kind of tablet mode.

“On the move, NX will function as a high-powered handheld console with its own display. So far so normal – but here’s the twist: we’ve heard the screen is bookended by two controller sections on either side, which can be attached or detached as required,” states the report, with an accompanying image.

The report goes on to explain that when not being used as a portable, the Nintendo NX can connect up to a TV for use as a home console.

“A base unit, or dock station, is used to connect the brain of the NX – within the controller – to display on your TV.”

EG also confirms that the hardware will be powered by an Nvidia Tegra chipset, a fact revealed by Digital Foundry. It’s believed Nintendo may have brought its plans forward and will announce the console in September 2016. Information from some sources suggests the earlier claim of an Android software platform is not true, and that Nintendo has developed its own proprietary software for the console, which will support a game cartridge system; however, the cartridge support will be for an entirely new Nintendo NX design, so don’t go expecting backwards compatibilty with your NES, SNES, DS, or Gameboy. It’s thought that digital download will also be supported.

Nintendo NX Will NOT Debut At E3 2016 – WILL Launch In March 2017

Information regarding the Nintendo NX has been ethereal at best, one minute we know something, and the next it turns out its hogwash; there’s so much speculation and most of it is still up-in-the-air with little in the way of confirmation from either Nintendo itself or “in the know” sources. However, while earlier details suggested a launch inside 2016, possibly at the E3 expo, information has now come to light that this will not be happening, and we have apparent “confirmation” of a launch in Spring 2017, with March being pointed at in particular. Nintendo’s financial reports have now been published and within this report is mention of a “brand new concept” being launched in March 2017 and that’s a phrase we’ve heard before in association with the NX, so although the Nintendo NX isn’t fingered directly…well, there isn’t much else it could be really is there?

At the same time, Wall Street Journal personality Takashi Mochizuki took to Twitter to confirm that the Nintendo NX will not be heading to E3. He says Nintendo will of course be in attendance, but will be primarily promoting the new title in the Zelda franchise.

Confirmed Nintendo NX Games: Zelda and Just Dance

There are two games that have — sort of — been confirmed for the Nintendo NX: Zelda and Just Dance. Here’s what WIRED had to say about the prospect of both and what they mean for the NX’s gaming experience:

“Eiji Aonuma, producer of the Legend of Zelda series, told us that the saga’s new open-world entry, Breath of the Wild, will be the same experience whether you’re playing it on Wii U or NX. That shuts down any theory that NX is some wacky contraption like that patent Nintendo filed with joysticks poking up out of an oval-shaped screen. That doesn’t mean it’s only sticks and buttons, but it does mean it’s not an iPad.”

“We know this because Ubisoft has now announced the second known NX game, a version of its popular motion-controlled dancing game. But wait! Doesn’t that mean NX will have motion controls? Not necessarily, actually. The current console version of the game actually uses your cell phone as the controller, via a special app. So NX doesn’t necessarily have native motion controls.”

The Wii U is NOT DEAD

Nintendo, after word got out about it canceling production of the Wii U, got down from its high tower in order to address the press and inform them that they were wrong — Wii U production is NOT halting. It will continue producing the Wii U this quarter, the next quarter and for the foreseeable future as well.

The reason this caused such a stir was because many thought, once the news came out about Wii U production ending, that Nintendo was shoring up resources in order to prepare for the launch and/or release of the Nintendo NX console later on this year. But this is not the case, as Nintendo points out — so the NX remains shrouded in mystery.

Nintendo will no doubt unveil more details before or during this year’s E3 event, but in the meantime, here’s everything we know about the console so far – some of it little more than rumour, while other elements have a bit more substance to them.

It will unite Nintendo’s home and handheld markets

The Nintendo 3DS is even older than the Wii U, but Nintendo hasn’t announced a successor for it. Anyone who has been following the company since the ’90s will know this is very odd indeed; throughout the past few decades Nintendo has dominated the portable gaming arena, with its Game Boy and DS lines achieving the kind of sales that even Apple and Samsung would be jealous of. The 3DS hasn’t been as successful as Nintendo’s other portables, but has still shifted more than 50 million units worldwide – a very respectable figure when you consider that the rival PS Vita has apparently only managed around 4 million.

So why has Nintendo decided against producing another dedicated handheld games console when it has traditionally been so successful in this arena? Because the NX will apparently unite the two markets under one system. There are reports that the machine will ship in two SKUs: a home console and a portable machine. How these two will connect is not yet known, but some have speculated that you’ll play the same games on both. The idea is that you can play at home, then take the portable section out of the house with you and continue your progress. This presumably means that the handheld console produces visuals of a lesser quality than that of the home system, which – given reports that it rivals the PS4 in terms of power – should be potent enough to stake its claim on the next-gen market. Another theory is that the portable docks with the main unit, and therefore contains the “brains” of the console – the home unit will be little more than an interface which allows the unit to send video feed to your TV screen.

Whatever form the final hardware takes, it’s clear that Nintendo is willing to shelve its handheld ambitions in order to create a totally unified system. It has even combined its home and portable hardware divisions, which is as good an indication as any that the NX will straddle both arenas.

It’s going to be as powerful as current consoles

Nintendo’s SNES and N64 were seen as cutting-edge machines when they were released, offering immense technical strides over their rivals. However, since the Wii and DS era, Nintendo has taken a rather different approach to hardware. It has produced systems which are less powerful than their immediate competitors and has therefore been able to combine each one with innovative tech – touch control with the DS and motion control with the Wii – and still sell it at a competitive price.

With the Wii U adopting the same strategy but failing, there’s a good chance that Nintendo will aim to give the NX parity with the Xbox One and PS4 to ensure that it receives a steady stream of third-party titles – something the Wii U lacked. Again, much of this is up in the air at the moment – some rumours have suggested that it will be less powerful, while others have stated that developers are already talking about porting over existing PS4 games to the console. It’s hard to know what to believe without any firm evidence, but we do know that dev kits have been issued, so the idea of studios already working on conversions can hardly be dismissed.

Nintendo knows it has to play the power game this generation, as the Wii U has been left behind when it comes to really amazing third party releases. Nintendo fans love Nintendo games and these can only be played on Nintendo consoles, but they also like robust third-party support, and if you’ve only owned a Wii U this generation then you will have missed out on Grand Theft Auto V, Fallout 4, Dark Souls 2, Project CARS and Call of Duty: Black Ops III. That simply cannot happen again if Nintendo wants to claim a big share of the market. Giving developers the same amount of power they’re used to on Microsoft and Sony’s consoles is the only way to ensure that NX gets a steady stream of games. Without them, Nintendo could have another Wii U on its hands – a system with impeccable first-party support but a very small library overall. And Nintendo is in the unique position of not being behind the curve this time around – both Microsoft and Sony are hoping their new consoles will have long lifespans, so Nintendo can enter this particular hardware rare on level terms.

It could ship with a unique controller

Patents are a good way of seeing what companies are planning in their future tech, and one relating to Nintendo showcases a controller which has a screen covering its entire surface. Developed by Sharp, these “free form” displays have a wide range of uses, but in the case of Nintendo’s patent it would allow developers to alter the button layout at will, placing new touch-screen controls anywhere on the controller’s surface. It’s quite an out-there concept but the potential is obvious – you’d never be short of buttons again, that’s for sure.

It might not have an optional drive, and will use cloud power

Again, we’re in shady patent territory so these points are worth taking with a pinch of salt – like all patents, they might not necessarily happen. Documentation discovered online suggests that the NX could abandon an optical drive and go totally digital, which would be a bold move but would allow Nintendo to reduce the manufacturing cost of the unit as well as make the console smaller in size. The company already has a robust digital storefront in the form of the eShop on the Wii U and 3DS, and while the PS Vita has been a bit of a flop, it has proven that a console which purely favours downloads can still find an audience. Then there’s the obvious comparison with smartphones and tablets, neither of which have a physical delivery method for software. Digital-only is the future, but is the market ready for a digital-only home console? Perhaps NX will be the machine that answers that question.

On the subject of cloud computing, another patent claims that the machine could benefit from additional horsepower via remote servers. The idea would be that during especially intensive sections of a game, some of the processing load could be shared by cloud-based servers, which could make for more visually impressive games. The same patent also hints that “supplemental devices” could make the base console more powerful – if you’re old enough to recall the N64’s 4 MEG RAM expansion cart, you’re on the right lines.

Boxshot Wizard file used for creating global boxshots

Ride 2 Review – The Dani Pedrosa Of Racing Games

Platforms: PC, Xbox One and PS4
Reviewed On: Xbox One (Publisher’s screenshots used)
Developer: Milestone
Publisher: Milestone
Single player: Yes
Multiplayer: Yes

Review code provided free of charge by Milestone for review purposes.

Milestone have been plugging away at the racing genre for years now, churning out solid title after solid title that never gets heaps of praise or insane sales, yet they have managed to establish a reasonable fanbase. And that’s because while Milestone’s games often lack polish the underlying handling tends to be quite decent, thus they have become a reliable force for good in an increasingly inconsistent industry. Last year they broke away from doing licensed titles like WRC and MotoGP to deliver a wholly originally IP titled Ride, which as its name suggested focused on the beauty that is motorcycles. Skip forward a chunk of time and Milestone are seeking to follow-up on their work. Having missed out on the first Ride, how do I feel about its successor?

The handling model in a racing game is everything. Without a good system in place all the pretty graphics, piles of tracks, great audio and vehicles matter about as much a leaf on the wind (watch how I soar). Thankfully Ride 2 gets its handling right, delivering a pleasingly solid two-wheel racer that leans toward being fairly forgiving so that newbies can open the throttle up full when coming out of bends without throwing themselves off of the bike, at least until they get to the biggest, most powerful machines which are twitchier. Likewise you’re free to get away with braking quite late into corners, especially if you choose to let the game combine the front and rear brakes into a single button/trigger, although I’d highly recommend doing both yourself.  There’s less feedback via the controller than I’d like which means you don’t feel as connected to the road as you could, but nevertheless throwing a bike around the bends  at high-speed is very pleasing. A game can never come close to replicating the feel of a motorcycle, but Ride 2 arguably does one of the best jobs so far.

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If you’ve come from a lot of racers where cars are the big attraction then get ready for a fun learning curve as you get your noggin’ wrapped around the wacky world of leaning early into corners to hit the apex, but don’t worry too much because there’s the usual adjustable options such as automatic braking and anti-wheelie control. Plus if you somehow do manage to throw the bike and rider toward the scenery like some sort of circus cannon gone wrong there’s a handy rewind feature that lets you turn back time and then act like nothing ever happened. But you and me know the truth, don’t we? Losing in that easy corner. Embarassing.

The one big caveat to the racing is the A.I. riders who populate the tracks and who should, in theory, be providing you with some tight wheel-to-wheel action. Aside from looking incredibly stiff on the racetrack thanks to a lack of animation they seem almost unaware of your presence, sticking to the racing line with a desperation bordering on fanatical obsession and happily cutting you up in the process. They don’t provide good, tough racing so much as they provide a moving obstacle to ride around. These guys aren’t smart enough to cut back or set up overtakes a corner or two before. They don’t exactly play fair, either, getting bursts of speed where none should be coming from. I can’t count how many times I was racing an A.I. opponent who took a bad line yet somehow came out of the corner like a rocket had been strapped to their back. Their top speed also seems to have been buffed, letting them blitz past you on the straights. But the truly odd thing is how these A.I. benefits are inconsistent, with some races being damn near impossible to win because every other bike is magically faster than yours, and others being a breeze. It’s like Milestone realised at some point that the A.I. wasn’t capable of providing a real, thrilling challenge and decided to give them super powers instead, but then changed their mind at the last moment without enough time to sort it all out correctly.

The career is fairly typical stuff, although that hardly feels like a criticism since it’s hard to see where racing games could really change things up in this regard. You’ll start with a basic bike, enter into an event, hopefully win, claim the cash and then repeat until eventually you’ve earned enough reputation to be the number 1 racer in the world. A “season” is composed of eight races from whatever categories you want, be that naked machines, sports bikes or even supermoto. These are all limited by a system that assigns a PP rating to every bike, and should your machine exceed the event’s max PP rating it simply can’t be entered. Once you’ve done eight standard events you’ll get an invite to complete in a special race that nets you big prize money and a free bike should you be first to cross the finish line. There’s some small attempts at injecting some variety into the mix with time-trial races and even some events where you have to navigate cones laid out around the tracks. Plus there are team events where your finishing position depends on where both you and your teammate finish, and you can hire new riders using in-game tokens, which the game kindly never bothers explaining how to get them. There’s also championships to take part in, and team vs team races, too.

While the career may never attempt to deviate from the standard formula Ride 2 certainly can’t be knocked for a lack of content. Since there are very few motorbike games on the market it seems almost all the major manufacturers were more than willing to let Milestone use their machines, and thus the roster of bikes to play with is sizable, ranging from some beautiful classics to modern beasts from the likes of Aprillia, Ducati, Yamaha, MV Agusta and Bimota. The track list is equally expansive with over thirty courses spanning fifteen or so locations, including things like the Northwest 200. Having said that the inclusion of the Northwest 200 really makes me want to Isle of Man TT track to be included. All said and done you’ll spend a lot of time in the career mode if seeing and doing everything appeals to you. On top of that you’ve got the standard options for entering into a quick race or a custom race, too.

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Of course you’ve got the option to take to the track against real people, too, but there’s no dedicated servers meaning you’ll be connecting directly to other players, which is patchy at best. Even finding a race at the moment can be tricky. Sadly there’s no options to embark on a full-blown championship like you can with the latest F1 title, but if you can get a good bunch of people together it’s a lot of fun to see whose the quickest on two-wheels.

But now we get to the bad stuff, because really the handling model is the only thing Ride 2  does really, really well. Outside of the races themselves everything else is either bog-standard stuff or entirely underwhelming. Both the audio and visuals are a prime example of this, with Ride 2 sounding and looking like something from the mid-to-early Xbox 360 and PS3 days rather than a modern 2016 title. Everything aside from the bikes themselves is flat and lifeless, lacking sorely in detail. The crowds are just blobs sitting alongside the track and grass looks like green paint. While a lot of this comes down to a simple lack of detail on trackside objects, some of the blame has to be apportioned to the lighting engine, or more specifically a lack of one. But the real offender is the audio quality which sonically neuters so many bikes, removing any semblance of snarl from their engines. Something like a KTM Super Duke shouldn’t sound so flat and docile, like it’s a timid pet rather than something that would probably quite enjoy tossing you into the scenery at the slightest provocation. There’s no denying that the engine noises are better than they were in the first Ride game, but that doesn’t make them good.  There’s little in the way of sound effects to speak of either, so don’t expect to hear the rush of wind or the roar of the crowd enhancing the experience. What you will hear is a random thumping sound every now and then which seems to be the poorly done sounds of a crash playing at random intervals. Why? No idea.

Thankfully that’s it for the glitches and bugs. Ride 2 is a refreshingly  polished game at launch, although the load times are rather slow.

As you progress through the career you can upgrade your bikes with whatever cash you’ve managed to acquire, perhaps tossing on some slick tires, changing out the suspension, slapping on some better brake discs or tinkering with the engine. It’s a sort of linear progression, though, by which I mean if you head into the engine menu, for example, there’s just two options and one is clearly better than the other.  The  only thing that limits you is that upgrades increase the PP rating of the bike, so slapping a load of upgrades on might mean it can’t be used in certain events. This can create a nice little moment where a bike that’s already close to the max PP rating turns into a puzzle of sorts. Do you spend that last remaining bit of PP room to improve the handling, or maybe bump up the acceleration a touch? The downside is that upgraded bikes almost always seem to be much quicker than bikes which started at a specific PP level, which is a bit surprising.  You can spend some cash to pick up a bike that is right on the PP threshold for a specific event, but if you purchase one that’s much lower and then whack on some upgrades it’ll generally be much better. I’m not sure if this is a deliberate design choice to make you find a bike you love and stick with it, or if it’s a balance issue that needs to be addressed, but personally I fall into the latter camp and believe it needs to be tweaked. Visual customisation is a lot more limited, letting you only do a handful of things like removing the wing mirrors or swapping them out for news ones, or picking between a few different liveries. Likewise options for making your rider are fairly basic.

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Before a race you can also sit and tweak your bike’s settings, albeit again in relatively limited fashion. Depending on the bike and the installed parts you can play around with gear ratios, adjust the suspension and alter the rake angle. That’s about it.

This review sounds pretty heavily negative, so let me set the record straight; Ride 2 is an absolutely solid racer that benefits greatly from the fact that it’s about bikes and therefore is going to appeal to a lot of people who rarely get to see their two-wheeled loves in videogames. And even with its lackluster presentation and brain-dead A.I. there’s plenty of fun to be had. As a big fan of things like the Northwest 200 getting to blast round the track on a Yamaha MT-01 was pretty freaking awesome, as was taking a Dr. Martini modified bike and screaming around some flowing bends. It’s just a shame that Milestone are still struggling on their presentation. Much of that can be put down to a lack of budget, I suppose, but that doesn’t help negate the fact that the visuals and audio don’t make this feel like a package that should be retailing at the full £40. I suppose that’s the curse of medium-sized studios like Milestone; they don’t have the resources to produce something more lavish,  thus it’s hard to justify a full price-tag purchase which in turn means they can’t make their titles look better. Catch 22. That alone might just be worth you running out and paying full price, just to help support a good developer trying to make great racing games.

But as always price doesn’t come into my verdict because what is good value for money to one person isn’t to someone else. So as a complete package how do I feel about Ride 2? It’s good. Not great, not amazing, not bad. Good. If you’re a hardcore racing fan and especially if you happen to be a bike lover then rejoice because Milestone have done what they always do; put together a competent racer that’s just lacking the spark and presentation to make it into the big leagues. Maybe one day, Milestone, maybe one day.

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