Gaming

Days Gone is the open-world survival game that feels just right

A hands-on look into post-apocalyptic America

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There have been a ton of open-world games for the PlayStation 4. The appeal of exploring an entire game world, all while progressing through a storyline, has not gone away since the days of Grand Theft Auto. For 2019, Bend Studio has its own open-world game to offer, and has been in the works for almost four years.

Days Gone is an open-world game mixed with the elements of a zombie apocalypse due to a great pandemic. When you read that first sentence, you stop and think, “Doesn’t the PlayStation already have a game like this in The Last of Us?” This was my first thought when I got the chance to try Bend Studio’s four-year project. I came in with the expectation that this game, at the very least, should feel and be different.


This is America, after the pandemic

As soon as gameplay starts after the opening scene, my immediate question was, “Is this supposed to be post-apocalyptic America?” The scenery looked beautiful and breathtaking, for a portion of the country ravaged by flesh-eating creatures. Of course, that’s looking past all the decaying bodies, broken vehicles, and abandoned establishments.

There’s actually so much to explore, I’m glad they require you to use the main character’s motorcycle for the whole game. It actually serves as the only usable vehicle for the duration — at least based on my gameplay, and it’s fully customizable. Of course, vehicles are subject to natural wear and tear and loss of fuel, all of which can be fixed by pressing Circle on the engine or fuel tank. On another note, two years into the pandemic and they still have gasoline in gasoline stations?

You either fight or take flight

You play Deacon St. John, a bounty hunter who, at the start of the pandemic, left his wife Sarah in the hands of NERO. NERO is a scientific research lab dedicated to solve the Freaker pandemic. Two years later, Deacon becomes an outlaw with Boozer by his side, confronting a world ravaged by Freakers left and right.

The main premise of Days Gone is survival; you are placed in a world ravaged by creatures known as Freakers that come in many forms. As the main character, you will encounter these creatures (whether as former humans or animals) at any point of the day, along with human enemies from rival gangs/groups. For the most part, I had to scavenge abandoned houses and gas stations for spare parts and guns. That’s how scarce things were.

If there’s one aspect Bend Studio did nail down properly, it’s the horde of Freakers. Usually, when games introduce a horde of infected creatures, they do so in the 10s or 20s. In Days Gone, I experienced a full wave of fifty Freakers coming at me. And, given how scarce resources and ammunition were, it was basically fight or flight. I, unfortunately, chose to fight with just a knife (attack with R2) and fought through ten Freakers before losing all health.

Improving on your survival skills

As Deacon moves around and accomplishes certain tasks, he earns experience points from it. These points turn into skill points to be used on his Skill Tree (swiping down on the Touch Pad). Such skills include the ability to face Freaker hordes better, the ability to craft certain weapons and ammunition, and heightened Survival Vision (R3).

I really felt the need to upgrade some of his skills throughout the two hours of gameplay, such as better aim (L2) when targeting opponents. For the most part, aiming with scoped weapons was pretty hard to control even with the focus assist setting on — especially if you like going for headshots (which I was).

Did it meet expectations?

My challenge for Days Gone was to feel and be different; however, what I got was a game that only felt different. It’s pretty much the same kind of survival, open-world game as more popular titles like The Last of Us. But, you really feel the gravity of the situation you’re in, the realness of a world ravaged by a pandemic, and the need to survive in it.

Bend Studio did promise that Days Gone was going to be different, and I’d like to believe that. Will it be different enough to sell? For now, it’s a game worth trying. Days Gone will be available on the PlayStation 4 on April 26, 2019, at PhP 2,999 in the Philippines, SG$ 79.90 in Singapore, MYR 239 in Malaysia, and IDR 829,000 in Indonesia.

Gaming

ROG Phone II Hands-on

Console replacement?

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Is there a place for gaming phones in 2019? ASUS believes so. In fact they’re so bullish about the mobile gaming industry that they’re giving their gaming phone an update!

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Special thanks to The Unlockr David Cogen for helping create this video.

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Phone II Hands-On: The ultimate in mobile gaming

With new and improved accessories too

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Is there a place for gaming phones in 2019? ASUS believes so. In fact they’re so bullish about the mobile gaming industry that they’re giving their gaming phone an update. This is our ROG Phone II hands-on.

At first glance, it’s not very different from last year’s model and that’s intentional. Their focus hasn’t been to rework the wheel but to make the original even better.


The phone is now taller, giving it that now popular 19.5: 9 aspect ratio. It’s built tough with a Gorilla Glass 6 display and is intentionally flashy with RGB lighting baked into the logo on its back with ROG’s trademark styling.

Best display on a smartphone today

The flat all screen display is edge-to-edge except for its top and bottom. ASUS said this is a design decision so that gripping the phone doesn’t get in the way of gameplay.

It also leaves room for the dual front firing speakers and a selfie camera. It’s strategically placed so game streamers can play and stream at the same time.

The panel itself is impressive possibly the best we’ve seen on a smartphone today. It’s the world’s first 120Hz AMOLED display on a smartphone with a super fast one millisecond response time.

It not only gives you buttery smooth transitions, but combined with ultra low touch latency, it’s supposedly also going to give you an advantage when pulling the trigger in a head-to-head shooting game. This HDR display is glorious. Colors pop and images are rich and vibrant. It’s my new favorite display and is perfect whether you’re watching videos or playing games.

Baked into the display is a fingerprint scanner which, based on our initial tests, is quick and snappy.

Performance fit for the most competitive gamers

When it launches, the ROG Phone II will also be one of the most powerful smartphones in the market today. Topping early benchmark tests versus other flagships including the Galaxy S10+ from Samsung and the OnePlus 7 Pro.

It’s powered by an updated version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 — the 855 Plus which is even faster. Coupled with an updated Adreno 640, it’s promising a 15 percent GPU performance.

A completely souped up model will have 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. The phone promises to handle any power intensive game you throw at it with not only fast frame rates but also a commitment to sustained performance across long gaming sessions.

To keep its internals running at optimal condition the phone offers three steps of cooling: First with a 3D Vapor Chamber, second with a built-in heat sink and vents on its back cover, and third via an attachment called the Aero Active Cooler II. With all of these working together, ASUS promises unbeatable performance.

A battery that can handle all that power

So what about battery life? Surely all of this performance power will take a toll on battery life? Nope. The ROG Phone 2 will come with a massive 6000mAh battery. That’s 2000mAh more than most flagships these days.

ASUS is promising 7.1 hours of battery life when playing something like PUBG. What excites me the most is that non-gamers could potentially get two days of more than average use.

The phone also comes with fast charging support built in. A full charge will take one hour and 21 minutes.

More love for gamers

There is much more gamers will love about the new ROG Phone II. ASUS kept the Dual USB-C ports — one on the bottom of the phone and one on its side. This means you can charge the device and continue playing any which way you like.

I also particularly like the improved air triggers that let you control your game by tapping either top side of your phone in landscape mode. Along with an improved vibration motor, the phone feels more like a game controller than ever before.

It’s clear that this isn’t your average phone. It’s one built specifically for gamers. But having said all that ASUS says it’s not just the best gaming phone. It’s a great flagship too!

To ensure the experience is top notch. They gave the ROG Phone II the same impressive camera that’s on the Zenfone 6. Except for its flipping mechanism of course.

A 48MP main camera and a 13MP ultra wide secondary camera. Take a look at some sample photos.

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On the front of the phone is a 24MP selfie camera. Here are some selfie samples.

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The ROG Phone Ecosystem

Depending on how you like to play, ASUS attempted to cater to every game style with a range of accessories made specifically for the ROG Phone II.

The new Kunai gamepad comes with controllers that snap on to a bumper reminiscent of the Nintendo Switch. You can also attach the controllers to the Kunai Holder and use them as you would a gamepad.

The Twin View Dock from last year has also been updated making it lighter and easier to use. It can also be used in conjunction with the GamePad.

Other accessories include the Aero Active Cooler II, Aero Case, and the Lighting Armor Case. Older accessories like the desktop dock, Pro Dock, and the WiGig Display Dock Plus also support this new model.

Is the ROG Phone II your GadgetMatch?

Let me start by saying this phone isn’t for everyone. From the way it looks, to some of its standout feature, these are things that appeal to a very special kind of user.

If you’re the type who is serious about mobile gaming then it definitely is going to be a good investment. If you’re not a gamer but care about things like a great display and ultra long battery life this might be a phone worth considering also.

Representatives from ASUS tell me that once the phone rolls out globally this September there will also be an option to change its interface to the stock-like ZenUI for a more everyday smartphone feel. That’s good news too.

The ROG Phone II launches in China this week. The Global Version is coming first week of September – our review video will drop around the same time.

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Gaming

Nintendo quietly updates the original Switch with a beefier battery

Will sell for the same price

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Last week, Nintendo announced the Nintendo Switch Lite. Compared to the original Switch, the upcoming Lite version will focus on handheld gaming. It will feature a smaller screen and non-detachable Joy-Con controllers. Sacrificing its home console capabilities, the Switch Lite will hopefully update Nintendo’s on-the-go gaming lineup.

Naturally, the Switch Lite leaves us with a burning question: what will happen to the original Switch? With a docking mode, the original Switch is still Nintendo’s number one choice for a home console. However, the Lite’s hype is leaving the original trailing in the dust. Thankfully, Nintendo is quietly launching an updated version of the beloved original.


In a few weeks, the gaming company will out a revised Switch. The new Switch will come with a beefier battery, reportedly packing around two more hours of battery life. The new battery will last between 4.5 to 9 hours, depending on the game. (For reference, the original battery plays between 2.5 to 6.5 hours.) According to tests, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild can play for up to 5.5 hours on a full battery — up from a paltry three hours.

Much like the Switch Lite, the updated Switch is a huge boost for handheld gaming. Gamers can take their consoles out for longer periods of time. Of course, the update can still feature new hardware on launch. Besides a bigger battery, Nintendo can effectively increase battery life with more efficient chipsets and storage options.

All in all, the new Switch is still a mystery before its launch date. One thing’s for sure: it’s not a completely new Switch. This isn’t a Switch Pro. On launch, the new Switch will cost the same — US$ 300 — as the old Switch.

Besides the revised Switch, Nintendo is also launching the Switch Lite later this year. Also, the company is reportedly working on a gamier Switch Pro for the future. It’s a great time to buy into the Switch ecosystem.

SEE ALSO: Nintendo reveals upcoming games for the Switch

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