Gaming

Arms Review: The Sweet Switch Science

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I love fighting games. But I’m terrible at them. For all my desire to play a real-time game of chess, in which I predict and counter my opponent’s every move, I still launch into a Shoryuken when I meant to let loose a Hadoken. I am mechanically bad at the genre, so I have enjoyed fighting games only at the margins. Arms changes all of that.

Springing into action

Arms is exhilarating from the get go. The sick vocal samba track (which we recommend listening to as you read our review) amps you up for the bouts to come, punctuated (punch-tuated?) by the title screen that strikes with its graphic design. This is from a Nintendo infused with bold new blood.

The game pits people who woke up one day with extendable arms and decided to fight with them, to the adoration of fans worldwide. Just go with it. You control your colorful fighter — in my case, a Chinese woman named Min Min who has literal noodles for arms and a ramen bowl beanie — in over-the-shoulder one-on-one battles where you use your extendable arms as projectile fists. It’s boxing with Voltes V’s ultraelectromagnetic tops.

Mask on, mascots

The art direction in Arms speaks for itself. The characters are instantly recognizable. Hero games are all the rage (think Overwatch), and Nintendo enters the ring with this fighter that fuses the dev team behind Mario Kart with the freshness of Splatoon, proving again that they are the masters of creating video game icons.

Each of the game’s ten characters are instantly readable — you’ll never confuse Ribbon Girl with Mechanica. All thirty of the game’s titular arms (the weapons at the end of Min Min’s noodles) are also easily identifiable, and tell you if this particular fist is electric or fiery, heavy or light. The springiness of the characters’ arms communicates immediately whether your opponent’s attack will reach you, or whether you have enough time to slip in a counter. This readability is aided by the flawless 60 frames per second and 1080p/720p in docked/handheld mode, with antialiasing to boot. These visual elements combine to help you keep abreast of everything at any point during a match.

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Fighting in Arms feels great. I started off using traditional controls in handheld mode, and fell in love immediately. Nearly all inputs are one button, from dashing, jumping, blocking, and activating your super (here called the Rush). Left or right punches are thrown with the respective triggers. You grab by punching with both arms at once. The left analog controls your movement as well as allows you to curve the punch. That’s it. Its simplicity makes Arms not about complicated button combinations, but about spacing, movement, and timing: the fundamental fighter essentials distilled.

There is one egregious issue in the traditional controls — no button remapping. Block is mapped to clicking in the left stick (my least favorite input), which has led to the double-edged sword of me never blocking. This leads to Muhammad Ali-like weaves through punches, but also renders me vulnerable to Rush attacks that I’m unable to dodge fully.

His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see

Nintendo polishes a central mechanic to the point that it’s blinding. Grand Prix, the game’s single-player component, does a great job of putting it all together and serving as a tutorial for the brutality of online.

The mode has seven difficulty levels, which represents the most gentle learning curve I’ve ever seen. Ranked is locked behind beating Grand Prix at difficulty level 4, so upon beating the cakewalk level 1, I jumped right into 4… and immediately got annihilated by the CPU. But by taking it one increment at a time, I was trained in the game’s basics. By the time I made it back to level 4, I could stand toe to toe with the AI, and even managed to score a Perfect against the secret final boss.

The mechanics are such that every time you lose, it’s your fault, and the game shows you why. You can review a CPU match immediately afterward with the replay functionality. It lets you see things in slow motion from the opponent’s point of view, from an overhead perspective, and from a variety of cinematic angles. Even if you lose, it still feels good, because hopefully you’ll learn from it.

Rumble, young man, rumble

This positive reinforcement is good training for the saltiness of online. The Party Mode is good clean fun, with a volleyball variant (the ball is a bomb that explodes when it hits the ground) and a basketball minigame (your opponent is the ball, and if your grab succeeds, you dunk your opponent or get three points if you’re behind the line).

There’s a more serious 1v1 fight mode, but it’s peppered in between the sports modes and the absolutely insane 1v1v1, 2v2, and 3vCPU modes. It’s a great way to practice against real people, and the lobby is refreshingly presented — there will be times when you aren’t matched up, but you can peek into the progress of ongoing fights via the bubbles in the lobby. As of the most recent patch, a proper Spectator Mode has been added, but that’s currently limited to four in a lobby — two fighting, two spectating (normal lobbies have a max of 10 players).

The real meat of Arms is in Ranked. It’s gated behind beating the Grand Prix at level 4, so everyone there should theoretically know how to play. I say “theoretically” because I rocketed from ranks 1 to 7 without losing a single best-of-three game (Ranked peaks at 15 for now). I’ve never been competitive at a fighter before, and there’s nothing like the mind game of prediction, counter-prediction, and reading your opponent.

It’s early days yet for Arms, and figuring out the intricacies and depth brought by the different characters and arms (each of the ten characters can use all of the thirty available arms) is exciting. By getting in on the ground floor, we’re building the metagame in real time. It’s a good start for Nintendo’s branching out into games as a service.

Fast casual

“Let’s play,” I tell Belle, my cousin. We’re waiting for our food at Pancake House, and I figure this is the perfect time to live out a Nintendo Switch commercial. For medical reasons, I’d never tried the motion controls before. Belle boxes in real life, so I know she’ll like this. I pop off the neon blue and red joy-cons and hand them to her, and take out another pair. They’re Arms yellow, vibrant as a highlighter.

She looks through the character screen with great interest. “Is she black?” says the palest, most privileged woman in our family who’s learning about social justice at the Ateneo de Manila University. She’s talking about Twintelle. “She uses her hair to punch? I want her.”

By this point, I’ve had Arms for a week and am deep into Ranked with Min Min. I use a different character for the first time — Kid Cobra, who’s tearing through the tier lists because of his innate advantages in the current metagame that is focused on charged attacks and dashes.

We play three best-of-three matches, and Belle wins every time. Maybe Arms makes savants out of us all.

SEE ALSO: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe review: The quintessential Switch game

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Cameras

Razer’s new webcam: the Kiyo Pro

For work and play

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With Razer showing off their dedication to workers and gamers staying safe and indoors, they’ve announced the new Razer Kiyo Pro.

The Kiyo Pro is a USB camera with a high-performance Adaptive Light Sensor to deliver sharp video quality even in low-light conditions. Combined with an ultra-sensitive Type 1/2.8 CMOS sensor with STARVIS technology, the Kiyo Pro boasts professional-level image quality to video conferencing and streaming.

In this day and age, it’s no surprise that Razer is bringing new webcams especially with work-from-home and new digital communications. Working from home has really become an integral part of professional life today.

However, sometimes built-in laptop cameras lack the resolution and framerates for professional-looking conference calls or streams. They often struggle to cope with low-light and deliver blurry images and that’s where the Kiyo Pro comes in.

The Kiyo Pro is capable of uncompressed full HD 1080p 60FPS. Razer says this will not only ramp up dynamic range but also, correct under- or overexposed areas on the fly, eliminating silhouetting if the subject is lit from behind.

Making sure it’s ideal for video conferencing or streaming, the wide-angle lens on the Kiyo Pro gives you a choice of three fields of view: 103°, 90° or 80°. The 103° view lets everyone fit in a group video call or allow streamers viewers to show off their set up. But, if you’re just looking for a perfect headshot view for meetings or streams, the 80° view will suffice.

Other features

The Kiyo Pro has a range of extra features with flexible mounting options to perfectly set it up. And, its omnidirectional stereo microphone array ensures your voice is properly picked up wherever you’ve mounted it. A separate cover is included to protect the lens and assure your privacy when not in use. 

Razer Kiyo Pro Specs:

Camera Specifications

  • Connection type: USB3.0
  • Image resolution: 2.1 Megapixels
  • Video Resolution: 1080p @ 60/30/24FPS / 720p @ 60FPS / 480p @ 30FPS / 360p @ 30FPS
  • Video encoding: H.264 codec
  • Still Image Resolution: 1920×1080
  • Image Quality Settings Customization: Yes
  • Diagonal Field of View (FOV): 103°, 90°, 80°
  • Focus Type: Auto
  • Mounting Options: L-shape joint and Tripod (Not included)
  • Cable Length: 1.5 meters braided cable

Microphone Specifications

  • Channels: Stereo
  • Audio Codec: 16bit 48KHz
  • Polar patterns: Omni-directional
  • Sensitivity: -38dB

System Requirements

  • PC with a free USB port
  • Windows® 8 (or higher)
  • Internet connection
  • 500 MB of free hard disk space
  • Compatible with Open Broadcaster Software and Xsplit

The Razer Kiyo Pro is already available on Razer’s website with the price tag of USD$199.99 or EUR€ 209.99

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Gaming

Watch Dogs: Legion’s latest update brings online play

Along with exclusive single-player content for Season Pass owners

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Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs: Legion was the latest open-world offering from the company released in October 2020. The entire game peers into the realm of technological London, some time since Brexit happened. As such, you take command as any normal citizen of London but as a member of DedSec, a group of hackers fighting against authoritative regimes. Overall, the game received mixed reviews due to its uncanny yet vivid storytelling and gameplay.

As such, Ubisoft continues to improve on its product through the addition of new player-friendly features. Starting March 10, players will now have a chance to play with their friends through a dedicated Online Mode. The addition of this new mode comes with the free update patch set to be released on that day, along with several freebies for Season Pass owners.

With the new Online Mode, you now have access to a slew of co-op missions and environments to explore. As such, players can assemble teams of two to four to complete more challenges and explore the rest of London. More co-op features that comes with Online Mode include the “Leader of the Pack” missions and a PvP deathmatch mode.

Along with Online Mode, the new patch also comes with unique single-player missions for Season Pass owners. Watch Dogs: Legion is available now for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC through the Epic Games or Ubisoft Store.

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Gaming

Lenovo Legion Slim 7i review: How light can you go?

Apparently, lighter yet just as powerful

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Legion Slim 7i

A few months ago, I took a look at the Lenovo Legion 7i, which was one of Legion’s top gaming laptops when it was released. In my opinion, it had the hardware to rival its contemporaries — even in the RGB department, but some things got in the way. A few months later, a slimmer option arrived into the market.

The Lenovo Legion Slim 7i, on paper, doesn’t particularly change a lot of things from its bulkier counterpart. It still comes in a similar build design, roughly the same set of hardware (with a GPU change), and less RGB. Even on this device, there are less ports to plug in your peripherals and it has the same cooling setup.

So, is this laptop really any different? For starters, here’s what you’re getting with the Legion Slim 7i:

It has a 15.6-inch FHD, anti-glare display with a 144Hz refresh rate

Legion Slim 7i

It comes with an NVIDIA RTX 2060 Max-Q inside

The device features a full-size RGB-backlit keyboard

It only comes in a Metal Gray colorway

Legion Slim 7i

Handy-dandy performance for the chill times

This device comes with a 10th generation, Intel Core i7-H processor inside, with 16GB of RAM to boot. For every other thing you can possibly do with this device, it obviously stacks up pretty well. From social media browsing and doing some presentations to watching True Beauty and playing games casually, it just worked smoothly.

Legion Slim 7i

As far as photo and video editing goes, the NVIDIA RTX 2060 Max-Q helps out quite a lot. Along with a 144Hz refresh rate, anti-glare display, I was able to take the work outdoors without having to reach for shade. Render times were just around how I expected them to, clocking in at around 40-50 minutes for 5 minutes of gameplay.

Now that I’m looking back at how the Legion 7i was, I couldn’t see or feel any difference in this regard — and that’s a good thing. Even in a much slimmer chassis and less RGB, the hardware held up pretty well for anything you throw at it. Honestly, it’s something I love to see when brands scale it down without sacrificing performance.

Gaming performance meant for competition

Much like the Legion 7i, this is a gaming machine after all, and the hardware certainly had its work cut out for it. While I threw some casual games in there, I also wanted to see how well it handles competitive titles especially for 2021. Surely, the Legion Slim 7i didn’t disappoint even with an RTX 2060 Max-Q:

Title and Settings Avg. Frame Rate
VALORANT (Max. Settings) 223 FPS
Fortnite: Battle Royale (Epic w/ DLSS) 103 FPS
Apex Legends (High) 99 FPS
Star Wars Battlefront II (Max. Settings) 95 FPS
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (Max. Settings) 255 FPS
Cyberpunk 2077 (High, DLSS at Quality, RTX on) 42 FPS

Now to be fair, I wasn’t expecting full 60 FPS when trying to run Cyberpunk 2077 on this GPU. However, with RTX on, it was a great lighting experience to have through and through. For the rest of the games, I honestly felt no drops in frame rates even with longer play times. If there were any drops, it’s probably my internet’s fault.

Legion Slim 7i

For more competitive titles, it brings a ton of power to the table. I’m seeing above 200 FPS for games like VALORANT, CS:GO, and even Rocket League (given the frame rate cap at 259 FPS). I felt that this device surely provides the performance necessary for Esports players to compete at a high level.

Improved cooling in some areas

Another improvement I noticed between the Legion 7i and Legion Slim 7i was in how the device remained cooled down. Unlike the Legion 7i, this device doesn’t come with a Vapor Chamber cooling system. Instead, it makes use of Lenovo’s Coldfront cooling system with the four exhaust points at the rear end of the laptop.

Power button with an LED indicator for different fan modes; usually, the first part that feels a ton of heat during gameplay

Throughout my entire usage of the device, I still felt some uncomfortable levels of heat when playing for longer hours. However, it takes a little longer to warm up unlike the Legion 7i, which is a big improvement all things considered. Plus, it cools down a little faster after you exit the game so you can proceed with work as you please.

However, it doesn’t necessarily reduce the amount of noise the fans produce under Performance Mode. In fact, during gameplay, I felt the fans blasting out more air on this device than the Legion 7i. So, I honestly believe it would have helped to ship this device with a dedicated set of headphones to cancel out the noise. Trust me, the fan noise is a little distracting.

Alas, performance that doesn’t last long

Of course, one of the expected disappointments with gaming laptops involves the battery life. With the Legion Slim 7i, I got about six hours using it normally — you know, social media, Netflix, and just gaming on it casually. When you game full time (and you want frame rates above 60 FPS), I was looking at about an hour and 45 minutes before it lost all power.

Charging the laptop didn’t take too long, as it took me about an hour and 35 minutes with Rapid Charge on. Obviously, the upside here is that you can get back to your work or your game quickly. Still, with such an abysmal battery life, I’d rather bring the charging brick around. 

Is this your GadgetMatch?

For PhP 99,995, the Lenovo Legion Slim 7i poses nothing spectacularly different from its bulkier predecessor. It manages to provide highly effective and flexible performance for work and play. Plus, it manages to remain a little cooler than the bulkier Legion 7i. If you think it’s a bad thing that it’s not that different, it isn’t.

Legion Slim 7i

Of course, there are things that would drive you away from this gaming device like the short battery life. I could even argue that the loud fans blasting out air is a nuisance when trying to play well. Looking past these, however, you still get a gaming device that’s certainly worth your hard-earned money

It isn’t as flashy, nor as colorful, but the Legion Slim 7i gives you power in a lighter form factor. How light can this device go? Apparently, just light enough but just as powerful!

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