Editors' Choice

Best of 2020: The video games that made quarantine bearable

It’s the year that got everybody playing games from home

Published

on

2020 has been one terrible year, as we’ve spent most of the year practically indoors. As such, we’ve been looking for more things to do now that the outdoors are somehow off-limits. Of course, as social beings, we also need some activities that we can do with our family and friends.

As most of the world remained indoors, the gaming industry became one of the first groups to adjust to the times. With initiatives like #PlayApartTogether, the industry encouraged the world to explore another hobby all together. With all that time, playing video games became a preferred pastime when watching Netflix got tiring.

In the spirit of year-ending lists, these video games surely made the indoor life worthwhile. However, a list of ten doesn’t feel enough with the amount of games we all played this year. So, without further ado, here are 2020’s gracious offering of great video games:

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo Switch)

Animal Crossing made its glorious comeback to modern consoles this year, and the timing could not have been any perfect. Released in late March 2020, New Horizons became the game to play as the world initially had gone on lockdown. In this iteration of the popular franchise, Nintendo’s raccoon tycoon takes you to a deserted island.

Image source: Livedoor

Tom Nook gives you the freedom to design the island however you like, and that freedom was used splendidly. Some players absolutely killed it with islands that resemble famous cities or reference other games like Pokémon. Even brands like KFC jumped in on the fun with their own island creation.

It’s a game that pushed player creativity to the max, especially with seasonal updates. It surely kept people occupied while being stuck indoors, and having nothing better to do.

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PlayStation 4)

Final Fantasy VII is a PlayStation gem as it was one of the first games to adapt to the then-innovative 3D art style. As one of Square Enix’s most prominent franchises, critics praised the turn-based RPG for its gameplay and visuals. 23 years later, the company decided to bring that old magic back, and in a big way.

The 2020 remake improves so much from the original, from the visuals to the overall combat system. From the spectacle of lights on Midgar to Cloud Strife’s impeccable moveset, the Final Fantasy VII Remake gives a fresh experience for both new and old players alike. 

It’s an experience that brings you in slowly, and gets you right in the action in a heartbeat. Even with the amount of gorgeous design elements and tactical combat styles, you won’t be too overwhelmed with everything.

Valorant (PC)

You probably know Riot Games best for producing League of Legends. But in June 2020, the game formerly known as “Project A” made its way to the PC in waves. Since then, Valorant became one of the most popular tactical shooters to grace the PC in a long time.

Riot’s own version of a tactical shooter incorporates key elements of other team-based shooters. Basically, it’s a 5v5 team-based shooter and you choose among a roster of agents with their own sets of abilities. It’s an action-packed affair, as you use your abilities to secure the victory for your team on your rise to becoming Radiant.

Valorant has taken the world by storm, as professional players from other games jump ship to partake in the fun. With the recently concluded First Strike tournament, its own Esports scene is starting to grow, and will only continue into the years to come.

The Last Of Us Part II (PlayStation 4)

This year was also the year developers started to roll out sequels for top-selling franchises. The first of many that this list includes is the second part of The Last Of Us saga, which jumps off from the aftermath of Joel’s big decision in the prequel. Set five years since the prequel’s ending, The Last Of Us Part II served up a darker and more gruesome fallout.

Set in Infected-torn Seattle, The Last Of Us Part II explores Ellie’s life since being saved by Joel. Early tragedy strikes and rocks Ellie to the core, that it makes her hungry for vengeance. Meanwhile, the other side features Abby, the daughter of the doctor in charge of Ellie’s operation from the prequel.

As the events come full circle, you progress through a storyline filled with violence everywhere you turn. With smarter and more aggressive enemies, it’s a fight for survival every step of the way. 

Ghost of Tsushima (PlayStation 4)

As one of the last PlayStation exclusives for the modern consoles, Ghost of Tsushima hoped to be a proper sendoff into the sunset. As a samurai cast out into the shadows after battling the Mongols, you are fighting to take back the island of Tsushima by any means necessary. It’s an entire storyline with total bloodshed the moment it begins.

Combat requires your absolute patience and precision, similar to the ways of the samurai. From face-to-face combat to almost Assassin’s Creed-like stealth, players will maximize these move sets to progress through the vast overworld. Also, players will also have various side quests that are wonderfully integrated in the grander scheme of things.

Ghost of Tsushima_20200706015708

It’s an entire saga of the samurai that keeps you hooked in every step of the way. Along with landscapes that are teeming with life, Ghost of Tsushima gives you a legend worth exploring from beginning to end.

Among Us (PC, Mobile)

So, how come a game released in 2018 makes it to a list of 2020’s best games? At first, you wouldn’t believe something like Among Us would be a popular video game halfway through the year. However, this three-year-old game for the PC and mobile devices became the perfect party game to play with all your friends.

The aim of the game is pretty straightforward: you’re all crewmates in the ship, and you have to catch the impostors. However, you will be doing this on top of finishing up your tasks while the impostors lurk and eliminate everybody. It’s a classic game of basic skills, patterns, trust, and betrayal.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of videos popping up online that resembles Esports-level of strategies. Due to its rising popularity, it’s even made its way to pop culture and, at some point, U.S. politics. All of these resulted in Among Us becoming the most downloaded smartphone game this year.

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout (PlayStation 4, PC, Mobile)

While we’re on the subject of round-shaped globs, another game that features such characters is Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. The game was released in August to much deserved fanfare, that its impact even extended outside its own game world.

For starters, Fall Guys is a battle-royale game that takes a game show format. Essentially, a lobby of 60 players must outlast each other through a series of minigames. From racing uphill to breaking down doors, players will vie for the ultimate prize: the crown!

It’s a great stress-reliever and a creative endeavor altogether. With the amount of customization and waves of new levels, Fall Guys keeps itself fresh and vibrant for all players. Just don’t look up the anatomy of a Fall Guy.

Genshin Impact (PlayStation 4, PC, Mobile)

Mihoyo struck gold with Genshin Impact coming out on mobile devices during the latter part of the year. Released in early October 2020, the gacha based game incorporates a familiar art style while adding a developing storyline for players to go through. 

It made a huge splash as it covered both PC and mobile users upon launch. With the amount of in-game rewards upon signing up, it doesn’t give you a difficult time trying to get into the thick of things. Plus, the game also allows you to access your account across both platforms, and pick up right where you left off.

It’s a fantastic open-world affair that continuously grows with every patch the developers bring. With the amount of content already available and cross-play enabled, it surely keeps any player hooked and wanting more.

Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)

After 22 long years, Crash Bandicoot finally received a proper sequel to its original trilogy. Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time explores an entire alternate timeline in the Crash saga, while sticking to the core platforming the franchise is known for. Released in early October, Crash fans both enjoyed and winced at the bandicoot’s wackiest adventure yet.

The game retains a huge chunk of gameplay mechanics taken from all the other released Crash Bandicoot titles. Complemented by stunning visuals and challenging level design, It’s About Time provides the most challenging Crash Bandicoot game to ever exist. Also, you get to play a bunch of characters instead of just Crash and Coco Bandicoot.

People praise the game for how it feels relative to the remastered N.Sane Trilogy a few months back. But, the same people also experienced unbelievable frustration at trying to complete it. They did say it was Crash’s wackiest adventure, right?

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC)

The first of two recently released games on our list is one of Ubisoft’s top selling games in recent memory. Forged in Norse lore, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla takes all the combat and gorgeous visuals to the northern lands of Norway. The game takes place during the Dark Ages of England, as the Vikings look to expand their settlement.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Through a series of exploration and constant battle, Eivor and Sigurd hope to establish a wide Norse settlement across all of England. You will be forging alliances with neighboring kingdoms, as you scratch and slash your way towards Viking expansion. In true Assassin’s Creed fashion, combat and stealth mechanics are also available to you at your disposal.

It’s arguably the franchise’s widest adventure to date, with the amount of places to explore and things to do. While there was a ton of bloodshed, Valhalla sought to give you a purpose to all of it. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5)

Finally, one of the most anticipated releases of the year made its way around the same time the next-gen consoles came around. It’s quite fitting, especially since this Spider-Man game features a next-generation hero! As a proper sequel to the initial Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales retains its core gameplay but paces everything well.

What truly separates Miles Morales from Peter Parker is that, well Miles’ spidey powers come with a little extra spark to them. As Miles’ Spider-Man, you still get to take down enemies and traverse through the cityscape with your webs. Now, you will be dealing with two different factions of enemies, with their own plans for the district of Harlem.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales keeps you in the story while also allowing you to explore the streets around you. Essentially, it keeps you engaged with the amount of stuff to do while getting through the main story line. Just to quote another Marvel villain, everything feels balanced, “as all things should be.”

CES 2021

GadgetMatch Awards: Best of CES 2021

Flying cars, rolling phones, and Ice Cream right at home

Published

on

CES has always been the place for dreaming about the future of tech and this year, despite the annual convention being held virtually instead of in Las Vegas like usual, is no different.

We saw plenty of exciting innovations ranging from stuff that we can purchase soon, something for the new normal, and an effin flying car. Yes. If that doesn’t get your gears running we don’t know what will.

So here are our favorites from the tech show.

Best Gaming Laptop: ROG Flow X13 

ROG Flow X13

Gaming laptops have been getting slimmer and slimmer over the years but this one — it’s a gaming laptop the size of an Ultrabook. ASUS managed to pack gaming power — AMD Ryzen 9/Cezanne-HS mobile processor, RTX 3080 — in a 15mm thin and 1.35kg body.

To heighten the gaming experience further, you can pair it with the ROG XG Mobile GPU that gives the Flow X13 the power of a full-sized gaming rig. That’s bonkers.

Best Auto Concept: GM flying Cadillac Taxi

The idea of flying cars has long intrigued the human race. You need not look far than the prevalence of such a vehicle in sci-fi pop culture to see how much we long for it.

General Motors’ flying Cadillac taxi concept is a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle, eliminating the need for any runway. It’ll run on a 90kWh battery with 56mph top speed. New flying regulations will have to come but we can’t wait for this to take to the skies.

Best New Smartphone Form Factor: LG Rollable

Smartphones are going through a period of change. What once was just a rectangular piece of slab has seen itself fold, flip, and now… roll.

We’ve seen LG showcase a rollable concept before but the LG Rollable could be the closest thing that might actually… roll out to the market. Details are scarce for now but expect plenty of news and rumors to build up as it gets closer to launch.

Best Laptop: ASUS ZenBook Duo 

The ZenBook Duo, first showcased at Computex 2019, sort of took a gap year in 2020. What we saw instead was a gaming version with the Zephyrus Duo. It makes a comeback now more refined and with internals fit for the new year.

The new ASUS ZenBook Duo is a refinement of this new laptop form factor in every way imaginable — one that, theoretically, should be much more useful than its predecessor.

Best Chromebook: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2

The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 has all the bells and whistles of the first generation but it now comes with a QLED panel. Yep, Samsung’s TV display tech has made its way to a notebook. This could just be the beginning.

Best Audio Wearable: Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
Galaxy Buds Pro

Buds, Plus, Live, and now Pro — not exactly the progression that makes the most sense name-wise but Samsung may now finally have the TWS that can go toe-to-toe against the AirPods Pro and Freebuds Pro.

The Galaxy Buds Pro promises intelligent ANC that adjusts according to your environment and a playtime that’s par for the course for the other buds it’s going up against.

Best Wearable: MaskFone

Ever since the pandemic hit, face masks have come in all shapes, sizes and features — the MaskFone is no exception.

The MaskFone has a mic in the facepiece and two earbuds hanging on wires by the earloops. The mask is made of a water-resistant, breathable, and washable material and includes a pocket for PM2.5 filters. As far as tech goes, this one’s pretty in your face.

Best Kitchen Appliance: ColdSnap

What’s better than getting sweet, icy treats on a dreary day? It’s making those sweet, icy treats at your own home with ColdSnap.

It works like coffee pod machines but instead of coffee, it serves ice cream and other frozen treats from recyclable aluminium pods. Now, you can Ice Cream and chill at your leisure.

Best Smart TV: Samsung NEO QLED 

Samsung’s QLED was already pretty good but turning things up to eleven is their Neo QLED. With this new display tech, Samsung promises improved picture quality — dark areas are darker, bright areas brighter, and so on. Of course, we’ll have to see it for ourselves but it already sounds promising.

Best Wellness Device: Lora DiCarlo Drift, Tilt, Sway

If you can get past snickering like a tween, you’ll realize this offers many… benefits. Inspired by human warmth, the new model mimics the heat we experience from our partners’ bodies. Lora DiCarlo used a nylon-based thermally conductive polymer and its WarmSense Technology, simulating body temperature.

I’m sure we can all use some warmth in these cold nights.

Best Cleaning Device: Samsung JetBot 90 AI+

Keeping your place squeaky clean doesn’t get any smarter than this. The JetBot 90 AI+ is a vacuum cleaner that uses object recognition technology to identify and classify objects to decide the best cleaning path. LiDAR and 3D sensors allow JetBot 90 AI+ to avoid cables and small objects, while still cleaning hard-to-reach corners in your home.

Best Camera/Drone: Airpeak

Professional videographers who’s weapon of choice are Sony Alphas are probably dying to have their hands on Airpeak. It’s a drone that can be equipped with Sony’s professional grade, mirrorless cameras. This opens up new possibilities in terms of aerial footage.

Best Monitor: Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved WUHD

It appears we’re facing a future that’ll have us sitting in front of monitors for longer than we realize. That’s why having one that’s easy on the eyes could be extra beneficial. The ComfortView Plus on the Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved WUHD monitor can help with that. Not to mention, it is color accurate and should aid you nicely in your work-from-home setup.

Continue Reading

Editors' Choice

Tech controversies of 2020

It’s been a long year for everyone

Published

on

Though everyone stayed at home this year, 2020 was still a highly controversial year. From the COVID-19 pandemic in March to the U.S. elections in November, a lot happened in 2020. However, if you’ve heard enough about the political or the healthcare scene this year, the technology industry was also popping.

As we do every year, let’s run through the best (or worst, depending on your outlook) tech controversies of 2020.

The shadiness of 5G

With everyone at home and on their Wi-Fi, you might not have noticed the advent of 5G technology. More and more smartphones are touting compatibility with 5G networks. Coinciding with the spread of 5G smartphones, 5G networks are also rising, albeit slowly.

However, despite the promises of superfast internet, 5G adoption is anything but smooth. For one, everyone is fighting over who should usher in the new era. Huawei, the de facto leader in building 5G infrastructure, is currently crumbling all over the world. Especially in the United States, countries don’t trust the Chinese company to protect everyone’s cybersecurity interests. In other countries, Nokia and Ericsson are rising with their own infrastructure, likewise banning Huawei from their soil.

If the political slant wasn’t enough, conspiracy theorists are also falsely claiming that the new technology is responsible for spreading the coronavirus. Though the false claims haven’t reached any significant traction, the conspiracy theories have dented the smooth transition from 4G to 5G.

Tick tock for TikTok

Speaking of Chinese geopolitical issues, ByteDance’s TikTok, another Chinese company, is currently under fire for the same reasons as Huawei. Earlier this year, the American government and security researchers accused the short-form video-sharing platform as a hive for Chinese malware and information spying. Making its case worse, U.S. TikTok users successfully trolled President Donald Trump in his reelection campaign, buying out seats in his rallies.

Soon after, the American government issued an ultimatum, supposedly ending in November, for the platform: get out of the country or find an American buyer. Throughout the latter half of the year, TikTok rushed to find a buyer, volleying between Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook. Ultimately, Oracle won out in a bid to acquire the company. Though the controversy is still technically on, the issue essentially sputtered out of the limelight. TikTok is still in the United States.

The end of big tech

Amid the ongoing crusade against Chinese companies and platforms, the American government is also placing its biggest tech companies under the microscope. During the pandemic, lawmakers grilled them, especially Facebook, over information security and anti-competition practices.

For sure, these companies have often found themselves involved in numerous hacks, leaks, and security problems in the past. However, this is one of the rare times that the government is actually doing something about it,

Besides cybersecurity, the government is also questioning the companies for stifling competitors or straight-up acquiring them. The strategy is supposedly aimed to prevent the smaller companies from posing a threat to the current tech oligopoly.

Oftentimes, the companies’ head honchos found themselves speechless under severe pressure from grilling lawmakers, such as the case with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

Apple’s chargergate

Despite the excitement surrounding the release, the newly released iPhone 12 series was controversial at best. Besides the rumored delays, several rumors preceding the launch predicted the removal of the traditionally free charging adapters and wired earphones.

During the launch, Apple defended the decision as an ecofriendly drive towards carbon neutral status by 2030. However, the new package also has profound effects for the company’s logistics and profit structures. For example, the smaller package can fit in larger numbers for a single shipment of iPhones. Apple can ship more iPhones around the world.

Additionally, Apple can sell more charging adapters, especially to those who haven’t stockpiled old chargers before. Even then, the new iPhone 12 series is starting new charging standards including a faster wired charging solution and a new wireless standard.

Though the spotlight shone on Apple for most of the time, other rivals also popped up in the conversation. For example, Samsung, who mocked Apple for removing their free peripherals, is consistently piling up rumors and evidence that they are also removing their chargers. Xiaomi, for its part, has already confirmed its own charger-less smartphone box starting next year. If 2020 is Apple’s chargergate scandal, 2021 might well be everyone else copying Apple’s decision.

Cyberpunk’d

Cyberpunk 2077 was arguably the most anticipated game of 2020 (emphasis on arguably). But it was delayed. Twice. When it did launch, users of last generation consoles weren’t too thrilled with the Night City they ended up in — the graphics was just downright bad and the game was mostly buggy.

Things were looking up at first with reports coming in that CD Projekt Red had raked in profits just on pre-orders alone. However, the barely working versions on the PS4 and Xbox One prompted the team to issue refunds where they can. It’s gotten so bad that some executives are in hot water over the botched launch.

Regardless, PC players with higher-end rigs are still able to enjoy the game, and the next gen console versions are also coming soon.

COVID-19 dominates 2020

As expected, COVID-19 takes the cake for 2020. Most of the events (or lack thereof) this year stems from the worst pandemic in contemporary history. Since January, long-standing events, including CES, MWC, IFA, and numerous Comic Cons, either postponed, reduced attendance, or outright canceled their dates this year.

Though it doesn’t seem like it at face value, the coronavirus has drastically affected the tech industry. Outside of events, differing priorities has shifted logistics away from device production and distribution. Some devices in the past, and still today, have been rumored to suffer delays. At the moment, the most prominent COVID-19-borne delays are during the ongoing PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S crisis.

As vaccines are finally rolling out the countries all over the world, the logistics world will still go through a lot of problems going into and throughout 2021, especially with specific requirements for specific vaccines.

Further, even with vaccinations, no one knows how events will go next year. For sure, mask-wearing and social distancing won’t go away any time soon. As 2020 finally ends, 2021 will start with a glimmer of hope. But make no mistake: the lessons of 2020 can (and should) still inform the events of 2021.

Continue Reading

Accessories

Best of 2020: Our favorite iPhone cases

Stylish, protective, and functional!

Published

on

As always, iPhones are the easiest to dress up with stylish cases. They’re clean, simple, and doesn’t come with loud, gradient designs that make it hard for you to cover them up.

There are a lot of gorgeous cases to choose from, and here are our favorite iPhone cases in 2020.

Apple’s Silicone Case with MagSafe

Image/APPLE

Apple’s Silicone Case with MagSafe is a delightful way to protect your iPhone. Its silky, soft-touch finish feels great, and it has built-in magnets for quick attachment and faster wireless charging. Shop here.

Mujjo’s Full Leather Wallet Case

Image/MUJJO

Mujjo’s Full Leather Wallet Case speaks convenience and efficiency, without forsaking style. Its cardholder can carry up to three cards, and the case comes in a durable yet gorgeous leather design producing a beautiful patina over time. Shop here.

LifeProof WĀKE

Image/LIFEPROOF

LifeProof’s WĀKE is crafted from salvaged fishing gear, made up of over 85 percent ocean-based recycled plastic. In a sea of sustainable phone cases, this one stands atop the ocean. It has a DropProof rating up to six feet and works with Apple’s MagSafe charger and other Qi wireless charging. More importantly, you get to donate a dollar to a water-conscious nonprofit partner when you purchase their case. Shop here.

OtterBox Otter + Pop Symmetry Clear

Image/OTTERBOX

Keeping it clear and functional, but with a little bit of pizazz with its Stardust design — that’s OtterBox’s theme for this year with its Otter + Pop Symmetry clear case. Shop here.

Pela Eco-Friendly iPhone Case

Image/PELA

Pela’s Eco-friendly iPhone cases are soft, flexible, smooth, and made of environment-friendly material, making these cases 100 percent compostable. They also donate a percentage of their sales to Ocean Cleanup and Preservation Initiatives to help lessen plastic pollution. Shop here.

Spigen MagArmor

Image/SPIGEN

For those who like it protected, Spigen’s MagArmor might be the one to suit up your iPhone. It looks sleek with its slim, grip-friendly design and slick matte finish, and it has a built-in magnetic ring for MagSafe. It covers all your protective needs without looking bland. Shop here.

Native Union Clic Canvas

Image/NATIVE UNION

Instead of going after a plain case to cover up your plain iPhone, add some character with Native Union’s Clic Canvas. Its cases are slim, durable, and has a unique tactile finish using a woven fabric. Shop here.

Nomad Rugged Folio

Image/NOMAD

The best case, for those who want to be taken seriously, would be Nomad’s Rugged Folio case. It’s built with a high-grade polycarbonate body with an internal shock absorption bumper and offers ample storage — three card slots and one cash slot — for your essentials. Its supple Horween leather develops a patina with time and will look gorgeous as it grows old with you. Shop here.

Chanel case with Chain

Image/CHANEL

If you’re feeling fancy and have a lot of spare cash to splurge on a designer phone case, then look no further. Chanel came up with a smartphone case with chains for added protection — without forsaking style. The case uses a black grained lambskin together with gold-tone metal. Shop here.

Awsaccy Emily in Paris Phone Case

Image/AWSACCY

Ever wished you can roam and shine like Emily Cooper? Make sure you sport Awsaccy’s Emily in Paris phone case, Emily’s vintage camera-like phone case in the Netflix’s Emily in Paris. Shop here.

Uniq Transforma

Image/UNIQ

For those looking after functionality and versatility, Singaporean brand Uniq offers an ultimate hands-free experience with its Transforma series. It has an integrated foldable stand — perfect for when you’re texting, having a video call, or watching movies. It’s also drop certified up to six feet. Shop here.

Continue Reading

Trending