Gaming

ASUS ROG Strix GL702VM Review: Portable gaming powerhouse

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ASUS’ ROG line of gaming laptops has an updated entry to the fast-growing gaming market. Let’s a take a look at the ROG Strix GL702VM with its NVIDIA GTX 1060 graphics unit.

We recently reviewed the ROG Zephyrus, and it set the bar for a true portable gaming laptop. It doesn’t cut corners with its high-end specs, but it has a ridiculously high price tag at the same time. The laptop we have now wants to set the right balance.

At first glance, the laptop already shows its gaming characteristics. Let’s first have a tour of the laptop’s body.

It’s no doubt an ROG laptop with its design and colors

The lid lights up!

Like most gaming laptops, it has striking red accents

It’s gray overall with red accents

We have red backlit chiclet keys with a relatively small trackpad

No mechanical keys here

There is a plethora of I/O ports for your convenience

USB 3.0, USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, Ethernet, SD card reader, and DisplayPort

Even its bottom bestows its gaming characteristics

Modern patterns on the bottom plate

Great gaming performance on the go

The 17.3-inch display of the ROG Strix GL702VM doesn’t make it a portable PC, but by gaming laptop standards, its size packs in a lot of power. For one, the display is a 4K anti-glare panel which has great saturation levels and wide viewing angles. It makes all kinds of content pop, from high-resolution videos to colorful gaming titles. The processor inside is a quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ with 16GB of DDR4 memory. As for storage, it gets a combo drive: 1TB HDD and 128GB SSD.

To pump up its gaming prowess, ASUS put in an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 chip with 6GB memory as its dedicated graphics processing unit — the lightweight member of the NVIDIA 10-series graphics card. Both the latest and future titles will be playable on the laptop, plus it has support for virtual reality. During the course of our time with it, we were able to enjoy Grand Theft Auto V with smooth frame rates of around 80fps on high settings and 1080p resolution. Bumping things to 4K consumed a lot of power and memory, but it’s still manageable when you tone down some of the graphics settings like shadows and anti-aliasing.

It also doubles as an everyday multimedia laptop

Gaming aside, the laptop is a beast for everyday tasks. It would be overkill to turn it into an everyday work laptop, but it can handle processing really well, thanks to its compelling specs. Multimedia consumption is also something you can enjoy with its 4K display and powerful speakers.

Without mechanical keys, hitting the keyboard (whether for typing or gaming) didn’t feel as tactile as I’d want. ASUS promotes 1.6mm travel on the laptop, which I found a bit mushy during actual usage. What I enjoyed about the keyboard is the space between each key. The trackpad is a different story, as it’s kinda small but very responsive.

Not exactly super portable, but it’s not that bulky

The king of portable gaming laptops is still the ROG Zephyrus, but the ROG Strix GL702VM could be a good runner-up. It may not have the slim waistline of an Ultrabook (thin but definitely not for gaming) or the average size of an everyday 14-inch laptop, yet it has the power of a dedicated gaming machine. The term “laptop” is still applicable.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t have an optical disc drive. That shouldn’t pose a problem, since we download our games online nowadays. Too bad, though, since you’ll need to find a spare external DVD drive if you want to play the classic games you already purchased.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

It won’t be an easy choice to go for a 17.3-inch laptop when you’re just looking for a laptop that can do more. The ROG Strix GL702VM is targeted at those who want a gaming laptop that isn’t ridiculously heavy. For wallets, however, it’s quite hefty.

This gaming machine retails in the Philippines for PhP 119,995 (US$ 2,335) with the configuration we reviewed. With this amount of cash, you can already build a good desktop rig with even more power, but it won’t give the portability a laptop like this can offer. The 4K display is also a good selling point; however, it’s not necessary for gaming, since we stick to 1080p most of the time.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ROG Zephyrus Review: So thin, so powerful

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Gaming

Sony unveils the PlayStation 5’s controller

Revamped design, slightly upgraded features

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The PlayStation’s controllers are as iconic as the gaming console itself. For years, the iconic handhelds posed as slick and slim devices. Moreover, their designs always separated them from their competitors such as the curvier Xbox controller. That said, Sony has just introduced major revamps to its iconic controllers.

Revealed today, the upcoming PlayStation 5’s controller, the DualSense, is a more free-flowing device armed with a flurry of minor upgrades.

On first glimpse, the controller’s most major revamp is its design. Instead of the usual compartmentalized design, the DualSense integrates all its buttons into one smoother design. Further, the controller now has a two-tone design. For the first render, it glimmers in white but with distinct black overtones.

Naturally, new designs are always points of contention for fans. Critics have already likened the new design to Microsoft’s own designs.

As for features, the DualSense has lost the DualShock’s Share button. Instead, the new controller has a Create button. Though virtually identical to the Share button, Sony has promised more functionalities (to be announced in the future) for the revamp. Notably, the touchpad returns with a slight changed surface area.

Additionally, the controller now has a built-in microphone. Previously, the PlayStation 4’s controller had speakers only. This time, gamers can perform more auditory functions with the controller.

Finally, based on the renders, the controller will finally switch to USB Type-C, a clear improvement from the previous iteration’s microUSB roots.

According to the DualSense’s launch post, the PlayStation 5 is still gearing up for a launch during the holiday season this year. Hopefully, with the way things are right now, this will ring true. Analysts have already predicted delays coming.

SEE ALSO: Sony reveals more hardware details on the PlayStation 5

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Final Fantasy VII Remake review: A fresh experience of a timeless tale

Nostalgic and new at the same time

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Easily one of the most hyped and anticipated video games over the last five years, Final Fantasy VII Remake has arrived and it is everything I hoped it would be.

It manages to preserve the spirit of the original game while modernizing it in every way imaginable. It feels so close to the Final Fantasy games I grew up playing — those being VII, VIII, IX, and X — while also definitely being a game for 2020. Nostalgic and new at the same time.

Before we proceed, some important declarations: GadgetMatch received an official copy of the game specifically for the purpose of this review. This article will have no spoilers — just a general overview and assessment of the Final Fantasy VII Remake experience.

The devil is in the details

One of the more obvious differences is how the game looks. In 1997, Final Fantasy VII, was a visual breakthrough. It was the first time for a Final Fantasy game of this scale to switch from 2D to 3D.

Being preceded by games like God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End just to name a few, the Remake won’t have the same kind of video game graphics impact. But make no mistake, it serves up a visual experience that is utterly breathtaking.

LADIES’ MAN. Cloud is pretty popular with the ladies. A true visual 😉

It starts with the little things. The way the game treats light when you go indoors or outdoors is reminiscent of how your eyes would behave when doing the same. It takes a second before your eyes fully adjust to your surroundings. And this treatment of light is consistent throughout the game.

The cinematography is also a masterclass in visual storytelling. There’s a sequence during the beginning of the game where Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockhart (two of the main characters) were interacting and the way they were positioned in relation to each other and to the environment tells you a lot about the current standing of their relationship.

SOCIAL DISTANCING? Cloud and Tifa meet again after 5 years

It’s a classic show-don’t-tell technique and it works wonders. It’s also pretty consistent throughout the game. The shots used for each scene were carefully and meticulously thought out. It adds not only to the cinematic flair, but also to the emotion of the game.

Midgar feels alive 

This level of attention to detail is present all over Midgar — the place where most of the game will take place. The way the camera zooms in and out of the city during certain scenes gives you a good grasp of the life and status of Midgar and its people.

The class divide between those living in the upper levels versus those relegated to the slums is very evident in one of the earlier missions. Not just with how the levels are designed, but also with the dialogue of the NPCs (non-playable characters).

There’s a stark contrast between how people from the upper level reacted to the bombing of the first Mako reactor to how the people in the slums reacted. People in the upper levels mostly support the authoritarian Shinra — the city’s ruling organization. They also happen to be direct benefactors of Shinra’s exploits.

Meanwhile, the people in the slums are a mixed bag — some are indifferent, only caring about how they will get through the next day. Some are rightfully afraid of how they will be affected by the ensuing conflict.

By the way, for the uninitiated, the story basically kicks-off with a radical group called Avalanche carrying out the first of a series of bombing missions. The group believes Shinra is syphonying off the planet’s life through the Mako reactors. Mako is the planet’s lifestream. If it runs out, the planet will most likely wither away.

Action-RPG combat with turn-based feel is extremely satisfying

One of the biggest points of discussion is how the Remake will handle combat. The original game — in true JRPG fashion — was turn-based. That was 23 years ago, and outside of Persona 5, the turn-based style hasn’t really attracted plenty of gamers.

What Final Fantasy VII Remake did is fuse that turn-base feel to the more popular Action-RPG type. Something that a lot of gamers today prefer. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but it’s pretty darn close.

Here’s how it works: When you go into battle, you have direct control over moving around as well as the character’s physical attacks. Dealing physical damage raises your ATB meter. Your ATB meter then gives you access to using Abilities, Spells, Items, and whenever they become available — Summons and Limit Breaks.

When you trigger the use of your ATB meter the game goes into this slo-mo mode. It sort of reminds me of “bullet time” from Max Payne or that brief slo-mo in Marvel’s Spider-Man that gives you enough time to plan your next move. Except in Final Fantasy VII Remake, that slo-mo is longer, giving you ample time to issue commands for every character in your party.

The whole combat system might also remind you of Kingdom Hearts III, but unlike that game, there’s no way you can just charge in and button mash to win fights. Each enemy has to be dealt with differently and you’ll have to be very careful and tactical in your approach to win battles.

A great way to jump into Final Fantasy

Another thing that Final Fantasy VII Remake masterfully does is not overwhelm you with all the Final Fantasy things you need to know. It slowly introduces you to the story and the franchise’s concepts throughout the game.

VR MISSIONS. New summon materia can be acquired through this method

The Final Fantasy franchise is full of lore. While each game is a stand alone story, some items, summons, skills, and magic are consistent across all the games.

If you have zero knowledge going in, you’ll feel right at home. The franchise’s lore is carefully integrated into the main story. If you’re a Final Fantasy veteran, the introduction of these concepts flow well enough that they’re not at all boring.

It perfectly walks the tightrope of keeping franchise fans happy without alienating any potential newcomers.

A fantastic remake

It was the Final Fantasy franchise that first had me dreaming what it would be like when in-game graphics would finally match cutscenes. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children — the computer-animated film that served as the follow-up to FF7’s story — sparked that dream further.

Final Fantasy VII Remake made that dream come true. The way it transitions from free-roaming to battle to cutscene is seamless. It literally feels like you’re playing a computer-animated film.

While we’ve seen this play out in other games, just the fact that it’s an iconic game with iconic characters given new life by modern technology makes it extra special. Playing it made me feel like a kid again. It’s exactly the jolt that my jaded adult version needed more than anything.

There’s a lot more to this game that can be discussed. So much more can be dissected. Everything from how each character is treated, how the story almost feels like a reflection of society today, the intricacies of its battle system, and many more. I’m excited to have these conversations with fellow gamers.

If you came here looking to find out if you should pick this game up, the answer is a resounding YES. If you pre-ordered (and have already preloaded) the game, let this be a primer for what you’re about to step into — a game that’s carefully crafted to give you a fresh experience of a timeless tale.

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A Japanese company tried doing work meetings in Animal Crossing

WFH just got better

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Image source: Livedoor

Today, New York City banned the use of Zoom in schools and universities. In the past few weeks, the city trained its teachers and employees in using the platform to maintain some sort of semblance amidst the pandemic. However, after numerous reports about Zoom’s security, the world is quickly changing its perspective on easily accessible teleconferencing software.

Naturally, with Zoom’s quick exit as the world’s most reliable platform, everyone is looking for an alternative. In Japan, a company tried a meeting in the cutest possible place today, Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Over the weeks since its debut, Animal Crossing: New Horizons took the world by storm. In short order, the adorable simulation game invited friends to virtual desert island paradises from all over the world. It replaced a sense of community lost in today’s pandemic.

Reported by Livedoor, a Japanese publication, the Japanese company tried the game as a platform to work from home. According to the report, an employee invited its editorial staff to a single desert island. Besides meeting, the staff even went on a fishing trip together.

Image source: Livedoor

Though fun, the experiment was less than stellar. After concluding the meeting, the writer listed down the few but critical disadvantages at working in Animal Crossing’s island paradises.

For example, the game can’t facilitate file transfers or private person-to-person chats. Also, usernames are almost impossible to recognize. Adding contacts on the island involves alphanumeric codes assigned to each Nintendo Switch user. And, of course, it’s hard to focus on actual work with island chores always lurking in the background.

As an adorable game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons fails as a productivity pusher. That said, the game is one of the most relaxing gaming experiences on this side of the pandemic era.

SEE ALSO: Nintendo announces Switch ports for Borderlands, Bioshock, and more

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