Gaming

Marvel’s Spider-Man Review: Spidey in all his glory

‘Face it, Tiger. You just hit the jackpot.’

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As one of the most beloved superheroes of all time, there’s a significant amount of pressure in creating anything about Spider-Man and video games are no exception. In Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4, the folks over at Insomniac Games captured exactly what it means to be the wall-crawling hero in red and blue tights.

This game has everything: quips, great action and gameplay, quips, a masterful recreation of New York, quips, a story that’s original but feels familiar and stays faithful to its source material — oh, and did I mention quips?

Spidey's not shy about taking selfies

Spidey’s not shy about taking selfies

Web Slinger, Defender, and Innovator

A critical part of the game that Insomniac had to nail is web swinging and nail it they did. It’s the perfect balance of simple but not negligible, and it ends up being really enjoyable. While R2 is the main button for web swinging, there are other buttons you’ll end up using if you want to up your style.

In fact, part of the game’s skill tree is all about improving your traversal or web slinging skills. There are upgrades that let you do tricks mid-air, increase your speed while swinging, and while there’s a superhero landing that we’ve seen countless times in movies, another badass skill you can get is the superhero hero takeoff which is essentially a stylish high leap from the ground that adds flare to how you move.

The other two primary skills mainly have to do with combat. The Defender and Innovator skills consist of clever ways in which you can maneuver Spidey and his webs against foes. While the combat buttons feel basic enough — press square to punch or kick, triangle to use your web against baddies, circle to dodge, X to jump, and L1 and R1 to choose and use one of your gadgets — the combinations feel endless. The relatively simple controls together with the absolutely kinetic pace, fantastic action sequences, and the ability to use your surroundings ensure that the combat never feels stale.

You don’t always have to come out swinging, though. One of my favorite parts of the game is taking down thugs stealthily. The Innovator skill set comes into play here. Sneaking around an enemy base and using your web to immobilize henchmen is extremely satisfying.

New York is up for exploring

I haven’t had the chance to explore the game’s open-world as much as I would want to but when you get the game, you definitely should. You don’t have to worry about missing the sights, as part of the game is making sure you do explore the most remarkable landmarks The Big Apple has to offer. Peter Parker the photographer is also tapped into during the game. Part of the tokens you’ll need to unlock skills, suits, and other power-ups include taking photos of certain landmarks. A bonus for Marvel fans, the landmarks aren’t limited to ones we know of in real life. 😉

As seen in trailers, you’ll find various backpacks around the city. Collecting the backpacks leads to unlocking power-ups and suits so there’s a real incentive to hunting them all down. How is Peter, who is behind on his rent, able to afford all those backpacks? That question will be answered cleverly as you collect more of them. Inside the backpacks are memorabilia and is an interesting way of telling the eight-year history of this particular Spider-Man.

A funny bit about exploring: If you ever get tired of swinging across town (and after a while, you will), there’s a fast travel option that will let you use New York’s subway not as Peter but as Spider-Man. If you don’t crack a smile at some of the subway cut scenes, you need to re-evaluate your life.

Peter Parker: Nephew, ex-boyfriend, brilliant lab assistant, superhero

Without sharing too much detail about the story, what this game truly gets right is how Peter Parker balances his life as both Peter and Spider-Man. In various scenes you’ll see him talking to Aunt May on the phone while dealing with villains. In this story, his main love interest is Mary Jane Watson (MJ for short) and they had been broken up for six months. Their paths cross again as MJ, who works as an investigative reporter for the Daily Bugle, follows the same crime that Spidey is trying to solve.

In this game, you’re not just Spider-Man, you’re also Peter Parker

The dynamic between Peter and MJ struck me the most. As a guy who also attempted to get back together with his ex, the game captured that back-and-forth perfectly and while it’s not the most gripping thing about the game, it’s a testament to how Insomniac didn’t put anything in the backseat and chose the right moments to highlight the various things that make Peter the hero that he is.

MJ also happens to be a playable character, and in what I believe is one of the better missions in this game, you primarily control her while working together with Spider-Man all while discussing how their relationship has gone. It’s truly a very Spider-Man mission and I am glad this game has it.

The game also captures the brilliant mind of Peter Parker — something that’s not always evident in the movies. Working as a lab assistant to a brilliant scientist we’re all familiar with, this is one of the relationships in the game that will truly hammer home how tough it is living a double-life if you didn’t inherit a billion-dollar company from your parents.

Easter Eggs

Long-time Spidey fans will have a field day on this game early on. There are plenty of callbacks to scenes present in both the comics and the films. One of the most iconic Spidey panels of all time from The Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #33 — the one where he musters all his strength to get himself out of being buried in a rubble — is paid homage to in the early stage of the game.

This iconic panel has been recreated in various Spider-Man adaptations

There’s also a reference to the very famous upside-down kissing scene in the first Spider-Man movie featuring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. The train scene in the sequel of the aforementioned film was also alluded to in a critical scene.

Other Easter eggs are placed elsewhere in the game, particularly in the landmarks that you’ll need to take photos of.

This game, while a standalone story, is incredibly self-aware and does a lot of well-placed fan service that will please both comic book and movie fans. To a certain extent, it has a Marvel Cinematic Universe feel to it. Which means you have to see it through until the end.

“Face it, Tiger. You just hit the jackpot.”

Marvel’s Spider-Man is amazing, spectacular, and the ultimate video game experience for any fan of the friendly neighborhood wall crawler.

I cannot say this enough: Insomniac Games captured the very essence of Spider-Man and turned it into a video game that’s aware of the character’s history across all forms of media.

This is a masterpiece and will no doubt be referenced as one of the most faithful adaptations of one of the most iconic superheroes ever.

Gaming

Xiaomi Black Shark Helo is first smartphone with 10GB RAM

Out to compete against the Razer Phone 2 and ROG Phone

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Just six months after the release of the original Black Shark, we now have a successor in the Black Shark Helo.

Even though it forgoes a version number, it feels more incremental than substantial in upgrades. It has all the specs of a 2018 flagship — 6-inch 1080p screen, Snapdragon 845 chipset, and 4000mAh battery — but most are also found in its predecessor.

Same goes for the camera sensors, which are 20 and 12 megapixels for the rear cameras, plus 20 megapixels for the front. But that’s where most of the similarities end.

The most notable improvement is in the memory capacity; it now goes up to 10GB of RAM, which is a first for any smartphone currently available. This configuration comes with 256GB of storage.

Other upgrades are the use of an AMOLED panel instead of LCD (still only 60Hz, though), improved stereo speakers in front, and additional LED lights on the edges. An aluminum frame sandwiched by glass panels reinforce the more premium feel.

Of course, the gaming features are what make this phone what it is. There’s a dedicated button on the side to activate Shark Space, which diminishes background activity to boost performance while playing games. In addition, the liquid-cooling system is back.

Another pleasant inclusion is the attachable controller in the box — two if you get the most expensive package. It provides better control during gameplay and is sure to give you a leg up in competitive play.

The pricing starts at CNY 3,199 (US$ 460) for the 6GB+128GB model, CNY 3,499 (US$ 505) for 8GB+128GB, and CNY 4,199 (US$ 605) for the top-end 10GB+256GB variant.

Availability is currently limited to the Chinese market.

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Features

What does the GPU Turbo do to your phone?

Is it more than just a marketing gimmick?

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It’s been two months since Huawei rolled out the GPU Turbo update to its smartphones. Promised with a 60 percent increase in performance and reducing 30 percent on power consumption, a lot of fans and users were excited after the announcement.

Back then, everyone (including me) was hyped about lag-free games and longer battery life while playing. However, upon receiving the update, I began to wonder: Has GPU Turbo delivered what it promised?

What’s inside the update?

GPU Turbo was originally marketed as an improved gameplay experience, available only to PUBG and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.

The Game Suite app, which comes with the update, offers an uninterrupted gaming feature, hiding all notifications when enabled (except for calls, alarms, and low-battery alerts).

Mistouch prevention is another feature to avert users from clicking the back and home button while playing — perfect for when you want to focus on your game.

Screenshots by Miguel Pineda, Huawei Mate 10 user

To some older smartphones like the Huawei Mate 10, the Game Suite App offers three performance modes: Gaming mode, which improves game performance but increases power consumption; Smart mode, which balances performance and power consumption; and Power saving mode, which saves power but reduces game performance.

For the newer Huawei P20 Pro (which I’ve been using) and Honor Play, it only has a gaming acceleration mode to toggle on or off.

Thoughts on the reduced power consumption

Because I used the Mate 10 before and recently transitioned to the P20 Pro, I’ve experienced the GPU Turbo update in both phones and I can guarantee that they’ve delivered on lowered power consumption.

With Game Suite, I can put my phone on power saving mode to further save battery. For instance, I was only able to drain the Mate 10 down to 15 percent during a 12-hour road trip despite switching between the games I play and other apps, such as Messenger, Netflix, Spotify, and taking photos and videos every once in a while. The same goes for the P20 Pro.

As a power user, I already get a lot of things done with these highly efficient smartphones and GPU Turbo; these allowed me to do more on a single charge. However, it’s a different case for gaming.

Improved gaming experience, but there’s a catch…

When I started playing games on gaming mode (or game acceleration mode on the P20 Pro), I could run Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on a high frame rate with the highest graphics setting available. Compared to how the game stuttered and lagged during 5v5 clashes, with GPU Turbo, it now runs smoothly, as if I have a smartphone made for gaming.

System notice when enabling the high frame rate on Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and the effects it may have on your gameplay

As shown above, most mobile games will notify their users about the possible repercussions of higher frame rates and using the best settings available. To prove that a smartphone with GPU Turbo can handle this, I sought out to confirm my suspicions.

After asking fellow Huawei users, I found out that after installing GPU Turbo, energy consumption is a lot faster than before. Their smartphones also heat up more easily, especially when playing games with the game acceleration mode on. This isn’t part of what was promised, and it’s pretty disappointing.

It’s not yet perfect

In my experience, GPU Turbo tries to boost performance above a smartphone’s limit hoping that users can experience better gameplay.

GPU Turbo can’t choose when to perform its best. It’s an update that is constantly running in our smartphones without any way to switch it off. We can only hope that Huawei will address these issues for the next batch of updates.

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Phone receives US pricing

Last piece of the puzzle

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ASUS is certainly taking its time with the release of its one and only gaming phone. First announced at Computex 2018, the ROG Phone finally has an official price to go with its US release.

For the model with 128GB of storage, you’d have to shell out US$ 899. For the larger 512GB storage variant, the cost goes up to US$ 1,099. Both come with a high-end Snapdragon 845 processor and 8GB of memory.

Of course, there are accessories to go with it. First is the ROG Mobile Desktop Dock, which costs US$ 229; the ROG Phone Case retails for US$ 59; the ROG Professional Dock is valued at US$ 119; you can buy the ROG TwinView Dock for US$ 399; the ROG Gamevice Controller is at US$ 89; and lastly, the ROG WiGig Dock goes for US$ 329.

Those are a lot of accessories for one phone, but that’s what makes the ROG Phone a truly gamer-centric device.

As stated last week, the ROG Phone will hit US shores starting October 18, with other regions to follow soon after.

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