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.
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.)
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.
ASUS ROG Phone review: A true gaming phone done right?
Undeniably a phone built for mobile gamers
We received a lot of questions about this phone. Is it the best gaming smartphone today? How is it different from other flagship phones with similar specs? And, how much value are you getting out of it?
To answer all those, here’s my review of the ROG Phone. You know the drill, let’s start with the phone’s physique.
Its AMOLED display measures 6 inches diagonally
It features stereo front-facing speakers
The physical buttons are on the right side
The left has the card tray and side-mounted USB-C port
Another USB-C at the bottom along with a 3.5mm jack
The back looks aggressive with the ROG logo
The phone is pretty angular with lots of unusual shapes
In case you’re wondering what ROG means…
There are two rear cameras and a fingerprint reader
Obviously designed with gaming in mind
One look at the ROG Phone and it already screams that it’s a gaming smartphone. Unlike other game-centric phones from Honor and Razer which have subtle gaming looks, the ROG Phone belongs with the rest of the ROG laptops and peripherals that are made by ASUS.
When there are a number of phones on the table like in our office, it’s not difficult to differentiate the ROG Phone from the rest. The front of the phone has a distinct copper accent on its front stereo speakers, and the back is uniquely ROG. If you own an ROG laptop or desktop and use ROG-branded peripherals, the ROG Phone should be part of your collection.
Like with other 2018 phones, the ROG Phone has a glass back using Corning’s tough Gorilla Glass. Don’t expect things to be symmetrical here because the dual rear cameras and the LED flash are housed in an unusual shape. Even the fingerprint reader is slightly positioned to the right of the phone, but don’t worry, it’s still reachable using either index fingers.
The ROG Phone’s bold design doesn’t end there. The back also has a futuristic styling using lines and an ROG logo that lights up in virtually any color you want. To top things off, the phone even has an exterior for its cooling system.
Encased in a metal frame, the ROG Phone is premium all around. It certainly feels more well-built than its ZenFone cousins. But of course, the loud design is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some gamers might even find it too much, but ASUS is not following Razer’s design choices.
Apart from the phone’s body, there is also a lot to talk about the phone’s display. The 6-inch display is not just your ordinary AMOLED panel. Apart from producing deep blacks and vibrant colors, the display is capable of a 90Hz refresh rate with 1ms pixel response time. Basically, you can play with the phone in uber-smooth motion. On top of that, it supports HDR and has a wide color gamut that’ll please professionals.
The fastest Android gaming phone today
The ROG Phone is powered by a Snapdragon 845, which is practically found on all high-end Android phones that came out this year. To place this gaming smartphone ahead of them, ASUS threw in an overclocked variant of the already-powerful chip and paired it with lots of memory and speedy flash storage. The result is one of the fastest Android phones available today.
Android Oreo runs the show, but it’s customized by ASUS to make it one of their own. Being an ROG device, it comes with a combative theme. Turning on the “X Mode” will even make everything red, which means that the ROG Phone is performing at its peak.
Like with ROG notebooks and desktops, the phone has a command center where you can closely monitor the phone’s condition. The Game Center is as aggressive-looking as the phone’s body. Here you can check the CPU and GPU speeds, the battery’s temperature and remaining power, the setting for the RGB light customization, and the fan speed control for the external cooler.
The configuration I have for review has 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage. If you find 128GB not enough for all your games and personal files, there’s also a 512GB model. Without a doubt, the ROG Phone is insanely fast. Coupled with a 90Hz display, this will be your smoothest Android experience. The 120Hz display of the Razer Phone 2 is more fluid, but the eyes can already appreciate what the ROG Phone has.
Keep in mind that not all games take advantage of the high refresh rate, but popular titles already do. My all-time favorite, Asphalt 9: Legends, is more enjoyable when it’s rendered in 90fps. Other graphics-intensive titles like Free Fire (which comes pre-installed) is fully supported and PUBG: Mobile is playable in the highest settings without lag, as well.
Also, the AirTriggers, which are ROG’s virtual shoulder buttons, aid in mobile gaming. Basically, the sides of the phone are touch-sensitive. They are kind of gimmicky in a way because they are pretty difficult to reach during gameplay. When you get used to it, you’ll have an edge against other players using regular phones.
It even comes with fun cameras
The ROG Phone is not just fun in gaming, but it’s also a good picture taker. It won’t match the likes of the Pixel 3 and Mate 20 Pro, yet I am impressed with the phone’s cameras. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting it to be this good?
It’s got dual rear shooters. The main one is a 12-megapixel sensor with f/1.8 lens, optical image stabilization, and Dual Pixel autofocus. Of course, the phone’s camera is powered by AI that detects the scenes and adjusts the settings accordingly. Thankfully, there’s no over processing going on like with other AI-enabled shooters.
Here are some photos taken using the main sensor in Auto mode:
They aren’t bad, right? Although, ASUS didn’t put much attention on the 8-megapixel secondary shooter with an ultra wide-angle lens. I’m a fan of wide-angle secondary cameras, so I enjoyed shooting GoPro-like shots. Too bad it’s got no autofocus and the quality isn’t at the level of the main sensor.
Here are some samples taken using the main sensor and the wide-angle camera for comparison:
Moving to the front, we have another 8-megapixel shooter but it’s just wide enough to take spacious selfies. It comes with an f/2.0 aperture, so low-light shots shouldn’t be a problem — at least on paper. You can also apply bokeh effects to your selfies for added depth.
No one is buying the ROG Phone for photography purposes, but those who are interested in it will be able to take great photos. The use of an ultra wide-angle secondary lens is also a good choice by ASUS. Why? Because it’s more fun to take wide shots.
Incredible power takes a toll on battery
With all the features the ROG Phone has, a trusty 4000mAh battery keeps the lights on. But, it is enough? Based on my usage, no. If you wish to enable the phone’s highlighted features such as the 90Hz refresh rate, you should make sure to have a power bank around.
The phone didn’t last a full day as my daily driver. I usually get fewer than three hours of screen-on time. My usage includes typical work duties with the phone constantly connected to either Wi-Fi or LTE, and lots of gaming in X Mode.
When I set the refresh rate back to default (60Hz), I was able to get better battery life. The ROG Phone was my secondary device during my four-day business trip to Singapore and I only had to charge it twice. I mainly used the phone for taking photos, checking out web pages, uploading IG stories, and, of course, for playing mobile games once in a while.
Speaking of charging, the ROG Phone comes with a super-fast charger in the box. In just 15 minutes, I was able to charge the phone from zero to 26 percent. The charging rate slows down when you’re nearing 100 percent, so a full charge takes about an hour and 40 minutes. That is still very impressive, though.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
The ROG Phone is a premium device from ASUS with all the bells and whistles of a gaming smartphone. Some might argue that regular flagship phones are already good at gaming. Yes, that’s true but they are not meant for it. That’s where gaming smartphones, such as the ROG Phone, come in.
It has the fastest available processor, super-smooth refresh rate, loud front speakers, optimized software, and extra hardware features such as shoulder triggers and both passive and active cooling systems.
But, everything comes at a price. When the ZenFone 5Z came out earlier this year, we were in awe at how ASUS is offering a flagship-specced phone at an affordable price. It’s even cheaper than OnePlus in some regions, but not as affordable as a Xiaomi flagship. Things are different with the ROG Phone and ASUS is asking quite a lot of money for it, but at least it’s not your usual Android phone.
The ROG Phone has an official starting price of US$ 899 for the 128GB model. In the Philippines, it goes for PhP 49,995, which is not far from the international pricing. If you want more storage, you can get the 512GB model for US$ 1,099. You can also get the top-tier model for PhP 61,995 in the Philippines, SG$ 1,598 in Singapore, and NT$ 31,990 in Taiwan where it’s the cheapest.
If you wish to complete the set, the ROG Phone is being sold along with all of its accessories but the asking price puts it in the league of gaming laptops, so you might want to think carefully before purchasing any of them.
Razer Game Store hits Malaysia and the Philippines this weekend
In time for Singles’ Day
Remember that partnership between Lazada and Razer to bring a new region-centric digital game store to Southeast Asia? Well, it’s finally making its way to Malaysia and the Philippines.
We first reported about this back in April when the Razer Game Store arrived in Singapore. An expansion for the rest of the region was promised then, but we’re only seeing it come to fruition now.
Beginning November 11, which happens to be Singles’ Day and the start of Lazada’s major 11.11 sale, anyone with access to the online store in Malaysia and the Philippines can purchase from a wide selection of PC games.
This adds to the aforementioned Singapore store, as well as the one offered for Thailand, bringing the total in the region to four. Teaming up with Lazada means there are multiple ways to purchase the titles, minus the hassle of exchange rates and uncertainty with authenticity.
Razer Phone 2 review: Gaming and nothing else
Needs to be more than that
It should go without saying that the Razer Phone 2 is designed for mobile gaming and nothing else. Ever since we first laid our hands on it, there’s nothing else worth doing on this device aside from playing games — and a little media consumption on the side.
For one, this thing is big and blocky. Never have I used a phone as daunting as this. While it feels fine during landscape mode with two hands, going single-handed can be a literal pain to one’s hand.
You can get a better feel of it in our initial hands-on video:
It’s essentially the same brick as the original Razer Phone. The gaming company definitely applied the don’t-fix-it-if-it-ain’t-broke mentally here. I’m honestly fine with it since it delivers an unmatched screen-speaker combo, but I imagine small-handed users having a problem with this.
That’s mainly because it owns a 5.7-inch screen with a traditional ratio of 16:9, which means it isn’t as slim as those with the newer 18:9 panels. However, the dreaded notch is still nowhere in sight, and there’s more vertical space when playing in landscape orientation.
And since the stereo speakers are placed in front (where they should be), there’s no way of blocking them while gaming. That’s important, because you wouldn’t want to cover these grilles. They’re the absolute loudest, clearest speakers I’ve ever experienced on a smartphone, and could even beat some of the laptops I’ve reviewed in the past.
But from start to finish, it’s the display you really want. It’s an unmatched 120Hz LCD with a 1440p resolution. There’s really nothing like it in the market; it’s unbelievably smooth when scrolling and incredibly sharp when pixel peeping. Only the ROG Phone’s 6-inch 1080p AMOLED with its 90Hz refresh rate comes close, but I could definitely feel Razer’s extra pixels and hertz.
So, how does all that translate to actual gaming? Mostly hits for sure, but I must point out some misses to make this a complete review.
First, the good. Even though Razer doesn’t advertise it, the faster 120Hz refresh rate applies to practically all games that involve scrolling or movement. That means you get on-screen motion that’s twice as smooth as the usual 60Hz on 99.9 percent of all other phones ever made. It’s tough to describe in pictures or words, but you can take my word that it’s tough to go back to anything less than this.
Combined with the Snapdragon 845 chipset and 8GB of RAM, this is the best mix of hardware you can find until the next flagship Snapdragon gets announced, which may be as soon as next month. It’s a shame really, although this chip is more than enough to power the demanding screen. You can even boost performance further with the Game Booster app, which allows you to customize individual settings per game. I just keep mine on Performance mode to be safe.
My only concern is the heat management. Even though it’s been proven that the internals are cooled by a vapor chamber, I can’t say it’s effective in keeping heat away from my hands during intense gameplay. For comparison, it gets as warm as the vapor cooling-less Pixel 3, and doesn’t maintain temperature as well as the Mate 20 Pro, which isn’t even a gamer-centric phone but does own a more advanced 7nm Kirin processor.
The display’s biggest drawback has to be its poor brightness even at the highest setting. This poses a problem for games like Pokémon Go wherein you gotta go out in daylight to play. It was close to unplayable for me when the sun was high — something that never bothered me whenever I stayed inside my cave.
Speaking of going outside, I also can’t say that the 4000mAh battery capacity is enough. While it may seem ample on paper, I noticed the Razer Phone 2 easily burns through it in a few short hours. I would peg average use on a single charge at five hours of screen-on time tops; about an hour less if you use it purely for gaming. I could probably improve battery life by adjusting the refresh rate to 60Hz, but why would I hinder the phone’s best feature?
And yet, despite these minor complaints, I can’t take anything away from the audio-visual experience the Razer Phone 2 offers. Having powerful stereo speakers and a desktop-grade 120Hz 1440p LCD is unreal, and I don’t understand why more brands aren’t copying this. The era of 60Hz needs to end already, and it should start with smartphones.
With the gaming aspect out of the way, what else can this smartphone do?
For one, the Razer Phone 2 has wireless charging unlike its predecessor. Razer offers an RGB-lighted fast charging pad of its own, and it matches well with the customizable illumination of the phone’s rear logo.
Yeah, that RGB logo really puts the game in gamer! The built-in Chroma app is where the magic happens; there are lots of options to adjust colors and how they radiate. Of course, leaving it on too long drains the battery immensely. My preferred setting is a glowing logo while the phone is on, and totally off when the unit’s asleep.
What else is there to know? Aside from all the upgrades over the predecessor I’ve mentioned, the Razer Phone 2 also comes with IP67 water and dust resistance, meaning it can handle unfortunate situations (like dunks in a toilet) more easily. Unfortunately, the 3.5mm audio port has once again been excluded, which is a head-scratcher on any sort of gaming device.
Oh, and the camera performance isn’t that good. As expected of a gaming phone, image quality isn’t a priority, but it gets the job done when daylight is plenty and you have nothing serious to shoot. I also appreciated the 2x optical zoom of the secondary lens. Take a look at some samples:
Is this your GadgetMatch?
If it isn’t clear by now, the Razer Phone 2 is fantastic for gaming, and not much more. Its blockiness and general lack of focus for anything other than raw performance makes it a rather niche product in a sea of versatile smartphones. You could easily buy a different Snapdragon 845-equipped handset for a fraction of this phone’s US$ 799 price, and you’d likely gain other features like better cameras and a modern look, while still getting gaming-level speeds.
However, those would lack the amazing 120Hz display, extra-loud speakers, and all-around customization. At the same time, last year’s discounted Razer Phone has become a little more lucrative, especially since it looks nearly identical to its successor and offers mostly the same signature features.
When all’s said and done, the Razer Phone 2 is a fun little machine. I wouldn’t use it as a daily driver, but whenever a hot new mobile game comes out, this would be my go-to match.
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