Gaming

Far Cry 5 review: Immersive playground in the heart of cultist America

Featuring a lovely weekend with the Seed Family

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Since Grand Theft Auto III’s explosive arrival more than a decade ago, open-world games established themselves as part and parcel of the video game industry. For years, game developers have tried to replicate and improve on Rockstar Games’ formula.

Following Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft pioneered a more inventive take on the open-world system — an expansive map driven by waypoints. However, after years of sequels, their unique formula has grown tired and weary.

That is, until Far Cry 5 came along.

Reinventing the wheel

Only behind Assassin’s Creed, the Far Cry series enjoys its spot as one of Ubisoft’s most trusted properties. Besides the five main games, the franchise already has a plethora of spin-offs, expansions, and downloadable content.

At its heart, the Far Cry series is a Rambo simulator that drops you into an exotic location to fight off a militant force. From the start, you face a completely red map that you slowly carve to your favor. You do this by completing missions, liberating outposts, and unlocking the map. Throughout the game, you are pestered by the game’s — sometimes psychotic, sometimes manipulative — villains.

Far Cry 5 keeps the essentials but infuses a breath of fresh air into the tired formula. The game isn’t just a minefield of spoon-fed objectives anymore. Now, it’s a fully immersive map that you tackle in your own way.

Absolute freedom

In Far Cry 5, you, a sheriff’s deputy, are dropped into the hostile Hope County in Montana. A doomsday cult has taken roots in the county, coercing innocent people through torture and mind control. Your job is simple: rescue the populace and kill the cult’s leader, Joseph Seed.

Unlike previous Far Cry games, the fifth entry presents a completely explorable map right off the bat. In Far Cry 5, you decide which region you want to liberate first. It doesn’t lock out anything.

Also, the game doesn’t immediately reveal which points on the map have things for you to do. It’s a blank map that you explore by yourself. You unlock waypoints by either encountering them physically, reading about them in notes, or talking to NPCs in the surrounding area. The map isn’t a tedious checklist; it’s an experience you craft.

Additionally, Far Cry 5 doesn’t hide its skills or weapons behind grinding progression trees. Just from the first region, you can unlock all perks and weapons — if you have enough money or points, that is. Regardless, Far Cry 5’s skills costs are fair. A few hours into my playthrough, I already carried a .50 caliber sniper rifle, a shotgun, and a whole load of explosives.

Friends are forever

Another refreshing addition to Far Cry 5’s mechanics is the offline co-op.

A few years ago, Assassin’s Creed Unity had the not-so-brilliant idea of locking some of its content behind a co-op requirement, meaning you couldn’t play some missions unless you had a friend with you. If you didn’t have a friend with the game, the console, and a good internet connection, you were out of luck.

Far Cry 5 finally solves the riddle of co-op by introducing a host of NPCs that you can bring along on missions. Ubisoft has realized that even just a digital dog is enough to lift the monotony of killing tons of cultists. Throughout the game, you unlock and recruit new characters by rescuing them or doing missions for them.

Thankfully, Far Cry 5’s Guns for Hire aren’t cardboard cutouts. They have their own stories, characters, and abilities. Because of their diversity, their effectiveness depends on your own preferred play styles.

Do you prefer the stealthy approach? The huntress Jess Black wields a silent, deadly bow for your covert operations. Are you more of a demolitions guy? Hurk Drubman, Jr. touts a meaty grenade launcher that can cut down a helicopter in a few shots.

Besides this gaggle of oddities, Far Cry 5 also has a trio of strangely adorable furry friends (or Fangs for Hire) you can take with you. Boomer is a cute, scouting dog. Peaches is a ruthless mountain lion assassin. Cheeseburger is a towering bear. (Yes, you can pet them all.)

Joseph who?

Far Cry 5 features one of the most enjoyable first-person experiences this year. Until it drags you back into its story.

To liberate a region, you fill a meter of influence. Every third of the way through, the region’s lieutenant (or boss) issues a search warrant for you. Immediately, every enemy gets one-hit-kill ammo. One hit, you’re out. When you wake up, the lieutenant confronts you in his/her headquarters which you eventually escape from through stealth or gunfire.

These required story missions are still par for the course. However, while they do offer enjoyable gameplay, they are a massive pain. Their inevitability takes away from your pristine immersion into the game. Even if you’re busy liberating an outpost, once you hit that point in the game, you’re yanked mercilessly into one of the story missions.

Regardless, every lieutenant offers a unique flavor to their region. John Seed is a merciless evangelical who prefers torture to bend his adherents into shape. Faith Seed uses an airborne hallucinogenic to control her soldiers. Jacob Seed trains canines into dangerous killing machines.

Despite how charismatic they are, there’s not much to care about in Far Cry 5. The big baddie, Joseph Seed, offers nothing but a backdrop with which his lieutenants operate. Ubisoft tried to market a commentary on today’s political climate in the US. However, all they managed was a version of WWE’s The Wyatt Family.

Much of the story’s lack of empathy derives from the game’s curse of a nameless protagonist. Far Cry 3 had Jason, the fish out of water. Far Cry 4 had the recruited Ajay Ghale. Sadly, Far Cry 5 lacked that character anchor to hook gamers into its story. In fact, characters simply call you “Rook” or “Deputy.” You, as an in-game character, don’t have a story.

You never really care about any of the game’s more important characters including yourself. You engage in rescue missions for people whom you’ve never built any rapport with prior. Far Cry 5 just isn’t a convincing story.

Then again, Far Cry 5 harmonizes to the music of nature or of gunshots, but not to the Seed Family’s evangelization. The game shines brighter when you’re free to traverse the picturesque landscapes of Hope County. It’s still an all-around enjoyable game.

Gaming

Dell G7 review: All the heft and the heat

It’s simply one hot package your wallet hopes to afford

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I’d like to be able to play games wherever I go — provided some stable internet connection. I’d also like to have enough power to afford a device that allows me to do so. But in this world we live in, gaming laptops are things that are just out of our reach. Still, it shouldn’t stop us from trying to save up for them.

One such device is the Dell G7 15, a seemingly compact yet powerful gaming machine. The biggest and most powerful member of the Dell G series certainly brings a lot to the table. Performance and portability are its biggest selling points, especially for the on-the-go gamer. But does it really make the cut?

Let’s find out more about the Dell G7 15.

It comes in a slimmer metal finish compared to previous Dell gaming laptops

It has an NVIDIA RTX 2060 inside for unrivaled gaming performance

Ports for power, connectivity, and storage are placed at the back

It also has a customizable RGB-backlit keyboard

Hefty performance all around

Don’t let the slimmer body fool you; the Dell G7 packs a pretty hefty package. It comes with a 9th generation Intel i7 processor inside, a staple across gaming devices. I got around to doing research, Excel spreadsheets, and some video editing with this device. This, along with 16GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD inside, and you get that kind of speed and power.

Applications load fast, and I almost experienced no lags in trying to do multiple things at once. I even tried loading almost 30 tabs of Google Chrome, while doing some light video editing on Premiere Pro. This device simply does not have the word “lag” in its dictionary as even the most stressful situations keep it going.

Fiery gaming performance

I already knew what I’m getting with an RTX 2060 inside any gaming machine. True enough, my expectations for the highly touted gaming card were met when I tried it on this device. Gaming on this device felt like a visual experience that seemed too real. Color grading for games on the RTX 2060, to me almost comes close to the true colors of objects.

Colors aside, gaming performance with the RTX 2060 was phenomenal. I literally did not experience any lag with all the games I tried on this device, from AAA games to those that require little graphical power. Also, I noticed that visually, nothing was sacrificed for all the power it wields — which is the ideal situation anyway. 

Of course, there’s always a caveat to nice things like ultra-powerful gaming performance. Like most gaming machines, this thing gets pretty damn hot when you play for too long. I personally felt uncomfortable after playing for three hours around the WASD keys. That specific part of the keyboard felt like a frying pan, possibly telling me to take a break from playing Fortnite.

Charging up so quick, it makes you play more

Now, obviously gaming laptops have historically low battery lives. Playing on the Dell G7 for the recommended three hours already drained its entire battery so much. When I wasn’t fully using this device for gaming, I got about four to five and a half hours worth of usage before a full drain. These numbers, honestly don’t provide much in terms of long-lasting performance.

One silver lining to it all is that the device comes with a 60Wh battery that supports quick charging. And that’s not just from the proprietary charging port at the back; even the USB Type-C port to its side allows you to charge the device. The device reached close to 30% within 20 minutes, which is pretty decent compared to the other devices out there.

Of course, the charging brick that comes with the device isn’t so light. Figuratively, this 180W charger packs the necessary juice to supercharge the device. Quite literally, its weight didn’t bother me as much, and I’ve felt heavier chargers in the past. 

The cooling system that’s a little too hot at times

With all that power inside, you need a cooling system that settles everything inside. The Dell G7 has powerful fans inside that basically push all the hot air out. I thought it was a good touch that the Alienware Command Center allows you to control those fans. But, there were a couple of things that bothered me with this cooling system.

First off, in the times I didn’t play games, the fans somehow throttle out of the blue. I don’t know if that’s how these fans work, but I would be deeply concerned if upon startup the fans start to throttle. Second, the fans do take time to throttle when you start playing games, which limits performance overall.

Finally, even while the fans are able to push hot air out, it takes a while for the device to cool down. I get it, you have to be patient — especially when you’re gaming nonstop for three hours. But it wouldn’t hurt for the device to cool down a little faster than that. It’s things like this, along with the fans being loud that leaves you scratching your head a little bit.

Is this your GagdetMatch?

Starting at Php 113,990, the Dell G7 just proves to be one hefty machine. Great performance is already expected from this device, and it surely did not disappoint. This gaming machine comes in a package that just screams power, and I would surely recommend this device to most on-the-go gamers out there.

Of course, it’s simply not perfect. This device does not simply last long enough for you to game full time. Apart from that, it gets pretty damn hot when you play for too long. Even with a quick-charging port and an two-fan cooling system, these simply are not enough.

But you get past that, and the Dell G7 truly serves up one game-ready device. While it is one hefty price tag, the investment looks very promising.

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Gaming

China is imposing a gaming curfew for all children

And spending limits on in-game merch

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It’s a great time to be a gamer! Regardless of which platform you play on, it’s getting easier to find a game of your own. In fact, one of the world’s biggest games today, Fortnite, is completely free of charge. Unfortunately, today’s lax gaming world is a festering hotspot for gaming addiction.

Everyone has their own strategies for combating addiction. For most people, the complexities of real life are enough to keep us away from the controller. However, for a select few, parents (or other authority figures) are keeping gamers away with imposed gaming curfews. Such is the way of life.

However, what happens when a whole country gangs up on every child’s gaming habits? Fortunately, now we know.

Recently, the Chinese government has imposed a curfew and strict spending limits for Chinese children. According to new regulations, children under 18 cannot play between 10pm and 8am. Further, they can play for only 90 minutes per day. (Three hours for holidays!)

For spending, children between 8 to 16 can spend only US$ 28 to US$ 57 on payable content. Finally, underage players must use their real names when playing online.

According to the report, the new regulations stem from growing concerns about poor eyesight and declining school performance.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), the report doesn’t detail how the government will enforce this new regulation. If anything, the report encourages guardians to keep the regulation in mind when taking care of their children.

Thankfully, the regulation is only in China. Six-hour gaming marathons are still perfectly legal elsewhere in the world. Just remember to hydrate and say hi to the sun for a while.

SEE ALSO: Here are the five best announcements from BlizzCon 2019

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Gaming

ROG Phone 2 review: Mobile gaming on steroids

Unapologetically a gaming smartphone

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I have said this countless times in previous reviews — I’m not much of a mobile gamer. But there are plenty of things about the ROG Phone 2 that made me enjoy playing.

When the first generation ROG Phone came out, I have to admit, I may have dismissed it right away. I really wasn’t into mobile games, the design was a little too “gaming” for me at the time, and the cameras were — in the words of other reviewers — craptastic.

A year later, ROG is back for a second playthrough. Armed with the experience and knowledge gained from its first turn, the company knew right away to strengthen its weaknesses.

Unequip: 4000mAh battery, Equip: 6000mAh battery 

In our review of the ROG Phone last year, we pointed out how the 4000mAh just didn’t have enough juice to support all of the bells and whistles of the phone. This is no longer the case.

The 6000mAh battery on the ROG Phone 2 performs as expected. Even with the 120hz refresh rate for the display turned on, the phone would last for nearly two days without charging. That’s moderate to heavy use on a mixed bag of tasks like answering emails, browsing on social media, playing a few rounds of Team Deathmatch on Call of Duty Mobile, and playing TWICE and LOONA songs on repeat.

It even messed up my charging routine because it just didn’t make sense to plug a phone that still has somewhere between 60 to 70 percent left at the end of the day. You’ll quit game first before the phone quits on you.

Charging is also fast AF thanks to ASUS’ HyperCharge technology. While this doesn’t boast of the wireless charging feature that many of its contemporaries at its price range has, it’s not something you’ll miss at all.

Discard: 12MP camera, Pick-up: 48MP camera

The sweeping statement that “cameras on gaming phones are bad” is no longer true. If anyone says this, they’re either misinformed or are just flat-out lying.

The ROG Phone 2 is now equipped with a 48MP lens accompanied by a 13MP wide angle lens. It’s a huge leap from the 12MP+8MP combo found on the first ROG Phone.

Photos taken with plenty of light look pretty darn good.

However, it does this weird JJ Abrams thing where there’s a lot of lens flare on some photos even during the night.

Speaking of the night, while the streets where I grew up in isn’t much to look at, I thought the ROG Phone 2 did well enough in capturing a fair amount of detail in low light situations.

P.S. the last photo in this set is clearly not from my hometown but I thought it was a good representation of the phone’s low light capabilities. Yes, I blurred parts of the image as it’s from an event of another brand. ✌🏼😆

The portrait mode even has this neat trick where you can adjust the level of blur after you’ve taken the photo. This means you can say goodbye to those photos where your subject looks like a sticker plastered onto a blurry background.

The selfie camera went from 8MP to 24MP and there’s plenty of improvement here as well. Although it does apply a noticeable amount of beautification even if you have the option completely turned off.

Unapologetically a gaming smartphone

The thing that might scare off most other buyers is also the very same thing that might attract the gamers who this phone has its crosshairs on. The phone’s design just SCREAMS gaming.

It does seem a little more toned down compared to the first generation, but the ROG Phone 2 is still without a doubt designed with the gamer aesthetic in mind.

This was the very thing that I didn’t like about the ROG Phone. And while I still prefer something that’s a little more subtle, I don’t find the ROG Phone 2’s design as appalling as the first one. Although that’s probably my taste changing more than anything else.

Other than how it looks, the ports, buttons, and camera placement are all geared towards gaming. You still get two USB-C ports. One where it’s usually placed and another for when you’re gaming in landscape mode.

The front-facing camera is also positioned in a way that it won’t be obstructed if you decide to stream your gaming session. A feature you can do thanks to the Game Genie that’s at the heart of this phone.

What kind of gamer are you? 

I was hesitant at first because I primarily do all my gaming on a console. Always have and, I thought, always will — that’s until I got to try the ROG Phone 2.

I really am not one to play mobile games. It’s not a knock on people who enjoy playing them. It’s just that for me, my phone has always been more a tool for work, communication, and media consumption.

But I had to play. I’m not exactly a fan of the more popular mobile games right now so I sought out other games — ones I think I would enjoy.

Before I move forward, I’ll be casually mentioning the accessories that come with the ROG Phone 2. Won’t go into too much detail. You can just watch our unboxing to see what the accessories are. You can check the pricing for each one on this link.

Okay. Let’s play. 

First up was FF15 PE — the mobile version of Final Fantasy XV. Role Playing Games or RPGs are really more up my alley. The game utilizes a lot of swipes and taps on the screen. Which is great if you’re not keen on getting the other accessories that come with the ROG Phone 2.

Next up, I tried Injustice 2. This is also another title that has a counterpart on consoles and PCs. The game is versus fighting and was adapted nicely to mobile phones. Like FF15 PE, it utilizes plenty of swipes and taps. It does have on-screen buttons that you can map on the Kunai Gamepad. I tried the screen and gamepad combo here but that didn’t feel like a natural way to play.

Instead of playing PUBG, I opted to try Call of Duty Mobile. This is perhaps the game I enjoyed the most. The Team Deathmatch mode feels like a throwback to my time playing Counter-Strike waaaaay back in the day. This game plays really well whether you’re just using the phone or if you have the Kunai Gamepad equipped. Quick note though, the right analog stick’s sensitivity is pretty bad for aiming, so I stuck with aiming on the screen instead of using the gamepad.

Next, I played Honkai Impact 3. It’s an Action-RPG and is probably one of the best use-cases for the Kunai Gamepad. The graphics is near-console if not already console-level, and all the buttons you need to press can all be mapped on the Gamepad. It was an absolute joy to play.

I also tried NBA Live Mobile. I’m too cheap to spend on NBA 2K20 and I’d rather play that on my PS4 so for mobile I went with EA’s free-to-play game. It plays alright and you can also get the most out of the Kunai Gamepad here, but I don’t see myself playing this for any other reason than for testing devices.

Lastly, I played Asphalt 9 which had direct integration with the Kunai Gamepad. This was hands down the best experience. The game detected the Gamepad right away and took me straight to a tutorial knowing the gamepads were equipped.

Takeaway? The whole experience is a mixed bag. That’s not to say it’s bad, but wouldn’t be better if the accessories just worked seamlessly with the games?

The one thing holding the ROG Phone 2 back is a wider support from a larger catalogue of games. It’s a tough ask. However, if ROG can get more game developers involved, that could take mobile gaming to another level.

You might have noticed I barely mentioned the other accessories. I think after the Kunai Gamepad, the next most useful one is probably the Mobile Desktop Dock. But that requires you to get a few more other peripherals if you don’t already own them.

The ASUS Wigig Dock can be helpful but if you’re a gamer and you own a TV, I’m willing to bet you also probably own a console. Personally, I don’t see the appeal of playing mobile games on a bigger screen. But that may just be me. If you enjoy it, that’s perfectly fine.

And then there’s the Twin View Dock II. It’s an interesting piece of tech and almost aligns with the foldables that came out in 2019. But like those other foldables, it still feels premature. As of writing, it only really supports two games. You may discover other use-cases for this but I find the price too steep for an experiment.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

To give the ROG Phone 2 a low rating simply because it’s not a smartphone that’s catered for the general public is criminally missing the point.

ROG knows who its market is. I’d like to think this phone was made specifically with them in mind. And if you think that market is small then you must have been living under a rock.

The gaming industry is worth billions of dollars. It’s attracting so many eyeballs that Netflix considers Twitch more of a competitor over other entertainment streaming platforms. That’s how big gaming has become.

So if you played any game, on any platform, for an extended amount of time at any point in your life, I would consider taking a look at the ROG Phone 2. That’s with or without the accessories.

At PhP 49,995, it’s priced right around other flagships that are built for a general audience — fancy cameras, multitasking, a little bit of gaming, and all that jazz. However, none of them are made for a specific set of people that’s steadily increasing in numbers. That’s where the ROG Phone 2 sets itself apart. For the people that this phone is made for, it’s absolutely perfect.

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