Editors' Choice

GadgetMatch Awards: Best Video Games of 2018

The tough ten plus honorable mentions

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2018 wasn’t a good year for anyone’s wallets, and here are thirteen reasons why! Yes, thirteen because we felt having only ten games wouldn’t be enough to encapsulate what a year 2018 has been. 

Here they are in no particular order, starting with…

Honorable Mentions

Fortnite: Battle Royale

Fortnite: Battle Royale made huge waves in 2018, both as a game and cultural phenomenon. The game’s popularity skyrocketed through its use of familiar dance crazes, character skins, and creative challenges and features. Apart from intense build battles and storm-chasing fun, Epic Games has done an incredible job of bringing the game into mainstream media. Who else remembers that one time you could play as Thanos and score a Victory Royale?

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy

The latest PlayStation classic to receive a remaster took a while to arrive due to added fine tuning. Nonetheless, Spyro: Reignited Trilogy featured the lovable purple dragon and his adventures through the Dragon Worlds in HD perfection. From charging at enemies to completing speedway levels and collecting gems, it is a great introduction to the basics of video game platforming. You even have a chance to play Spyro’s friends in Spyro: Year of the Dragon for more head-bashing action. The game is slated for a Nintendo Switch release some time next year, so be sure to watch out for that.

Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!

The Pokémon gaming franchise finally got a Switch game, and it’s taken the world by storm. Whichever game you pick gives you the same enhanced experience in the Kanto region, from catching your first Pokémon to beating Team Rocket. A lot of the game’s mechanics are totally different from the past games, like simpler catching and leveling up systems, plus two-versus-one Pokémon battles. Add its integration with Pokémon GO into the mix, and completing your Pokédex doesn’t get any easier.

The Tough Ten

Detroit: Become Human

Detroit: Become Human goes for the old-school third-person adventure aesthetic, but allows you to control the narrative. Quantum Dream’s most successful game features three robot characters, each with their own set of challenges and decisions that ultimately control the story. It puts you in the center of all the storytelling, heightening the level of emotional instability with each decision you make. While you can finish the whole game in about 10 hours, it will lengthen or shorten depending on how much you want to explore.

Although, the game doesn’t come without its own shortcomings. Some storylines get pretty boring or have less action than others, plus dialogues tend to break the whole “show, don’t tell” aspect. Despite some plot holes and bland dialogues, the game still achieves the heart-wrenching emotion it wants to evoke.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

To some degree, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey serves as a good historical look into ancient Greece. Set during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, it brings together the elements of warfare and fantastic Greek scenery that immediately descend into chaos. Gameplay is pegged as a decent mix of good and bad, although some things just made the game a little less enjoyable.

Combat is more of the same compared to previous titles, but the addition of naval battles is a welcomed change. Moreso, getting through the main story is an enjoyable task, even if there were times when things just felt painstakingly long. Overall, it’s a great open-world game hinging on rich graphical work.

Monster Hunter: World

Capcom made the interesting move of shifting its latest title, Monster Hunter: World to more powerful consoles, and it paid off well. The game feels so different visually, while retaining the structure of familiar gameplay that fans enjoyed over the years. Through these changes, it made itself more accessible to a wider audience — particularly, newcomers to the franchise.

The storyline in itself feels a bit lacking, but the game more than makes up for it through the series of endless challenges and upgrades along the way. Because mechanics are simplified, getting through it all doesn’t feel like a total drag. And with more side quests to finish, it simply keeps you coming back and playing them all.

Dragon Ball FighterZ

If you have a list of the top fighting games ever, this game would be there, if not the top one. An easy to learn control system matched with some intense graphics highlight key upsides for Dragon Ball FighterZ. Add 24 of the Dragon Ball series’ unique fighters, each with their own easy-to-learn move sets, and you have a recipe for success.

Of course, the game also received some fair criticism towards several game features — particularly online gameplay. Even queuing up for online gameplay seems to be a literal slug-fest at times. Not to mention, there are moments when players are mismatched with higher-level, more skilled players instead of their equal. For what it’s worth, it’s a great fighting experience from start to finish, and a good fighting game for beginners.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Marvel’s Spider-Man wasn’t intended to reflect any of the plots you knew as a kid, and that’s a good thing. A superhero game that provides new insights into the character of Peter Parker is always a delight to have. Yet, what most people rave about is the fact that you get to be Spider-Man; one that allows you to swing from building to building effortlessly. It’s that element of kiddie-nostalgia that makes the game great.

Despite the fluid gameplay the game possesses, it serves up a decent plot for both Parker and his Spider-Man persona. The stories in between shape up at the right pace, giving much more attention to how Parker relates with the different villains. Although, it really doesn’t help much that side quests stemming from them get repetitive. Nonetheless, it brings forth an original experience of Spider-Man, especially for the young-at-heart.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

2018 became the year battle royale games took things over the top. But outside PUBG and Fortnite, your options for consoles are very limited. Enter Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, or at least their version of battle royale in Blackout. It retains the core of the battle royale mechanic, using the franchise’s set of weaponry and Specialists at your disposal.

Don’t let a battle royale mode stop you from exploring every other multiplayer mode in the game, however. Multiplayer and Zombies offer the same hard-hitting, gunslinging action the series has been known for. The removal of key features such as automatic health regeneration made the game a little more challenging than before. Some people rip the game for the lack of a solo campaign, but it still incorporated its essence through tutorials. With limited selections for maps yet a wide range of characters and weapons, Black Ops 4 shows its versatility at the core.

God of War

I’m sorry, but the old Kratos can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because the people over at the Santa Monica Studios resurrected him anew in a reimagined God of War. It’s set in a whole new world even with Kratos as the main guy driving the plot. Of course, shades of red will always appear when he is around, but the focus of the game isn’t so much on Kratos as an almighty being.

This game brings forth a new dimension in Kratos’ character arc: that of a father figure. Not only that, throughout the journey he has to deal with a son that feels estranged to him. We all know just how bloodthirsty he can get, but this game reveals a deeper side to an otherwise violent figure. It’s the kind of tension that breeds emotion, along with incredible music and a camera that sticks to Kratos 24/7. It’s a whole new flavor for a legacy title in video games!

Celeste

Independent game developer Matt Makes Games struck gold with Celeste. The quick-action platformer provides an inspiring plot, while orchestrating great audio and visual presentations. Playing as Madeline, a young woman battling depression and anxiety by climbing the Celeste Mountain, you are taken to worlds filled with challenges, secrets, obstacles, and supernatural events.

Beneath all of these elements lies the real challenge of timely jumps and insane platforming through each level. Every stage adds a fair spike of difficulty, and also comes with more elements to aid the player in accomplishing them. With enough patience and practice, these levels are doable at best.

Through simple controls and a rich yet emotional storyline, Celeste makes 8-bit-themed games feel like a sight to behold. Rightfully so, for the Best Independent Game by The Game Awards 2018.

Far Cry 5

The real secret to a great video game franchise is to keep things in an open world. Far Cry 5 was able to achieve that, while keeping itself entertaining and full of details to explore. There’s even several game features that make you carve out your own adventure, separate from the storyline. Add onto that an intense first-person shooter angle and cooperative play to complement the open world, and chaos ensues.

The strongest aspect of Far Cry 5 goes for the more political and religious route. Players often come across cultist leaders and personalities of a backwash Montana. Although the game doesn’t necessarily push any strong political ideologies, it still manages to show how backwash a society can get under a blind following. But, it doesn’t fully put the game over the top.

It deserves recognition for its use of the open-world setup, and a decent story with a powerful ending. But, it leaves you wondering if there’s a tad bit more that could have been done.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 simply takes us back into a fictional America with a real-life Westernized movement. Picture the time of policemen as outlaws, seeking criminal gangs in the Old West despite devastating losses on their end. A 60-hour narrative of on-the-run bandits turn the open world into a chaotic scene of Cops and Robbers. This time, however, you’re the cop in a world filled with desperate robbers.

Rockstar Games presented a beautiful visual masterpiece, all down to the very last detail. From the high mountains to the lowly swamps, the game allows you to explore the entire open world even while a story is going on — and with good reason, too (mostly for side quests here and there). The game doesn’t even require you to finish it in a quick manner, which is all you need to take in the gorgeous visuals.

For what it’s truly worth, RDR2 gives back the fun in going through a slow adventure within the storyline. Take the time to relax and enjoy the view, before heading back to the stressful realities ahead!

CES 2021

GadgetMatch Awards: Best of CES 2021

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

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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.

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Editors' Choice

Tech controversies of 2020

It’s been a long year for everyone

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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.

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Accessories

Best of 2020: Our favorite iPhone cases

Stylish, protective, and functional!

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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.

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