Gaming

NBA 2K18 review: Not a swish, but still a made basket

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The NBA season is right around the corner but for those of us who can’t wait, the next best thing is already here. We got our hands on NBA 2K18 for PS4 and we’ll share with you which changes we think are hits, and which ones are misses.

Shot Meter

One of the first things you’ll notice when you dive right into the game is the shot meter. Previously, it was a circle at the bottom of the player. In 2K18, the shot meter appears right around the shooting arm area when you’re taking a jump shot. 2K says it’s a more natural area for the shot meter to be at and we tend to agree.

Now, the shooting itself takes some getting used to. Other than the shot meter, 2K also shows you the status of the shot. In NBA 2K17 it used to only say if your release is too early, good, excellent, or too late. This time around, it adds if the player you’re shooting with is wide open, lightly contested, or heavily contested. Your timing, the player’s shooting ability, as well as the aforementioned factors, affect the accuracy of the shot.

It seems like it’s a lot to take in but after a few games, you’ll slowly get a feel for how the release works. It’s worth noting too that 2K really did take time to make sure the release of each player is as accurate as possible. If you follow your favorite player closely, chances are the timing and manner by which he takes shots in real life are accurately replicated in the game.

Gameplay

Basketball is a team sport, so for the rest of this piece, I decided to pull in fellow hoop junkies Nico Baguio and Toby Pavon who have had more time playing some of the game modes we’re about to tackle.

The game starts you off at Pro level difficulty (the second to the lowest), and if you’re an NBA 2K veteran, you’ll soon find yourself dominating the AI. Slide up to Superstar or even Hall of Fame and you’ll immediately feel the difference. The opposing team will learn your tendencies and you won’t be able to keep running the same plays to score. You’ll need to make adjustments, just like in a real basketball game.

Prior to the game’s actual release, early reviewers mentioned a noticeable difference in how you can link dribble moves together. You’ll certainly feel this with players that are known ball handlers. Cover athlete Kyrie Irving is an absolute joy to use in isolation situations.

According to Toby, the pick and roll and driving mechanics are a bit more punishing than before but more rewarding when done right. I’m not going to lie: The pick and roll is my go-to play and I have had a harder time executing it, but it does feel more rewarding when you do it right.

That said, it’s not all smooth at the moment. Toby says players seem to phase in and out of having upper-body hit detection, resulting in scenarios where players don’t collide when they’re supposed to. This might be the result of footwork emphasizing design, but it creates a mechanical disconnect in trying to be a simulation game. There are also some forced animations that sometimes break the flow.

We experienced this early on too, but one thing 2K is really good at are the updates. Of course, we would all like the game to feel more complete at launch, but 2K’s history suggests they will be able to iron out these few hiccups here and there.

MyCareer, The Neighborhood

Here we go. This is the game mode that keeps evolving year after year and in 2K18, 2K Sports made some significant changes that have so far gotten mixed reviews.

This year, 2K introduced The Neighborhood, effectively merging the MyCareer and MyPark experiences and putting them in a Massive Multiplayer Online-esque environment. You can tell that’s the direction they’re headed, especially with the growth of eSports — but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The biggest issue most players have with 2K18‘s version of my career are the micro transactions. The amount of in-game purchases through the game’s money called VC or virtual currency is insane.

For instance, getting a haircut feels a little too much like real life. Each time you feel like changing your look, you have to pay. And you can’t even preview the look so you’re not sure if you’re getting your VC’s worth. Now we know that’s how it works in real life, but this is still a video game. 2K has to let the players live a little.

The grind can get challenging too. You start off at 60 and have to work your way up to 99, thus the “Road to 99 tag.” If you’re not willing to spend, it might take a while before you actually reach that level. For instance, if I focus on upgrading a single skill for my player, I’ll need around 30,000 VC just to get him from 60 to 61. Wild.

Toby pointed something out that was a surprise to Nico. Games now give out a minimum of 500 VCs which help make the initial grind go faster until you reach the point where your player is getting decent minutes. Another thing: The difficulty multiplier is no more. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Pro or Hall of Fame, you will get 500 VC. That’s Toby dropping some pro tip right there.

Go around the neighborhood, and you’ll see some mini-games you can play. There’s a three-point shot half court as well as a slam dunk half court. Watch my player struggle in the slam dunk court (P.S. I didn’t start off with the athletic type. Mine’s a three-and-D guy)

 

MyGM, MyTeam

MyGM and MyTeam pretty much follow the same formula from previous iterations. However, there are a few changes in MyGM that rubbed Nico the wrong way.

2K decided to add some backstory to MyGM. In 2K18, you’re a former NBA star who suffered a career-ending injury which is why you were forced to transition into being a GM. Neat, right? Except really early on it feels too much like role-playing games (RPG) from way back. There are too many cut scenes with no audio and you’re forced to read through tons of dialogue.

That said, the best parts are still there. The same trade restrictions apply if you choose to play that way, but you also have the option to turn them off if you just want to build a super team.

Look and style

2K18 is the best-looking 2K game yet. Of course, it has to be. While the current teams and players were well thought out and designed, we can’t say the same for the classic and all-time teams.

Our very own Marvin Velasco and Alven Villavicencio had issues with how 03-04 Shaq didn’t look as big as they thought he’d be.

The general look of some of the players aren’t that good, either. While this is also true for 2K17, we hope future iterations of the classic teams are designed better.

It’s also worth pointing out that some classic teams don’t have full rosters. At least not of actual players. You get about seven to eight rotation players that were actually part of those teams and then the rest of the bench is filled with what seems like randomly generated players all sporting head bands and arm sleeves.

Shoot or pass?

NBA 2K18 is still hands down one of the best sports simulation games out there. It has some competition this year with NBA Live 18 coming out, but the EA Sports franchise dropped the ball last year and are still in catch-up mode.

If you’re a huge NBA fan, chances are you already have this game or are planning to buy it come holiday season. You’ll find that some of the things you love from 2K17, and previous versions of the game, are still present with a few improvements here and there.

2K is experimenting with the story-telling part for some of the game modes, and while there are growing pains, it’s good to see that they are trying.

SEE ALSO: 8 PS4 multimedia features you must try out

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Gaming

The ASUS ROG Mothership: A mega review

Do you really need an overkill gaming machine?

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A 10-kilogram package arrived at my office one day, and at first I couldn’t believe it. I was expecting something big to come in, but a 10-kilo box that looks like a PUBG supply crate was out of the picture. Little did I know, I received ASUS ROG’s next big thing — and it’s quite literally big.

Announced back in CES 2019 (as of writing, how timely), the ASUS ROG Mothership GZ700 is the company’s next innovation in gaming laptops. I distinctly remember one famous YouTuber by the name of Linus Sebastian dubbing this the “Surface for gamers.” It comes in a form factor that I didn’t think was possible for a gaming laptop, with arguably the most powerful lineup of hardware included.

But should you be spending your hard-earned money on a monster like this? Let’s take one full tour of the ROG Mothership.

Let’s talk about the package first

Unboxing the entire package was relatively easy, except for the fact that it’s insanely heavy. Inside the one big box are two more boxes and the large ROG Backpack that almost looks (and feels) like a shield. Apart from the ROG Mothership box, you also get the ASUS ROG Cerberus V1 headset for free! I think ASUS ROG really wanted to deliver the full gaming experience, and adding a gaming headset was a nice touch.

Removing the backpack and the headset, the big ROG Mothership box has the device and another box inside of it. It’s no joke when I tell you that the ROG Mothership is close to five kilograms in weight, which is half the weight of the entire package. Of course, the other box contains the rest of what you need for the device: the two big charging bricks, documentation and stickers, and the ASUS ROG Gladius II.

If ASUS really wanted to give you one full gamer package, to me this sort of did it. It’s basically the equivalent of getting a full-fledged gaming PC complete with all the peripherals in one box. Although, ten kilograms is just a lot of heavy-lifting that it mirrors carrying weights in the gym. Nonetheless, once you open up the box, you’re definitely in for the gaming experience of your life.

One stacked spec sheet

Before we go any further, here’s a rundown of what the ROG Mothership offers.

The ROG Mothership comes with a 9th-generation Intel Core i9-9980HK processor coupled with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card. To maximize the potential of a powerhouse combo, ASUS slaps in 64GB of RAM and three 512GB NVMe SSDs (in RAID 0) inside. What you get is the most powerful, quickest, and deepest gaming desktop setup, but for a laptop.

The laptop’s display comes in two options: a 4K one and a 1080p one. The unit for review was a 4K UHD 17.3-inch panel with thick bezels and a huge chin underneath. ASUS claims that the display emits rich and crisp color with a 100 percent Adobe sRGB color gamut. Also, the display supports NVIDIA’s G-Sync technology for a smoother gaming experience.

On paper, I can tell you that this machine is straight up overkill. On my first time using it, everything just seemed too quick, it’s unfair. Opening up applications, playing RAM-consuming games, hardcore video rendering — this device can handle all of those, and it hasn’t maximized all of its RAM yet.

Is it really a gaming laptop?

When I first saw images and videos of the ROG Mothership back in 2019, I couldn’t believe that ASUS was marketing it as a laptop. The build quality of the device matches that of any 2-in-1 desktop, while throwing in the hefty graphics card. The entire body is encased in CNC-machined aluminum, which is basically thick layers of metal preventing heat from spreading to other components.

Yet again, ASUS claims that it is a laptop for its portability and design. The RGB-chiclet keyboard detaches from the base of the display, and connects wirelessly upon detachment. If you like wires, the keyboard also connects via a USB Type-C cable and charges it in the process. The device itself has a kickstand at the back, almost similar to that of any Microsoft Surface.

To be quite honest, this kind of setup doesn’t feel like a laptop — and it’s not just because it’s five kilos. The metal kickstand feels a little uncomfortable, that after 30 to 40 minutes you will be looking for any flat surface. I also found it a little difficult to manage because the keyboard is in an awkward position when it’s on your lap.

Gaming that’s just extreme overkill for a “laptop”

The ROG Mothership is one massive gaming machine, and I’m not exaggerating. ASUS made the bold yet proper choice to slap in the NVIDIA RTX 2080 inside if they wanted the full gaming experience. Gaming on the device felt buttery smooth and every intense moment felt too easy to handle. But that wasn’t after I had to tweak things a bit.

For starters, gaming on a 4K panel is great and all. But the flipside is that this display only clocks a 60Hz refresh rate, which to pro-gamer standards is slow. I understand that you grab high quality images and colors while playing some video games. For the most part, you have to deal with a 60FPS cap which isn’t bad, but an RTX 2080 wasn’t built for that.

Dialing the in-game resolution down was the best workaround I could find, and it worked wonders. Shadow of the Tomb Raider sneaked in above 60FPS at its highest possible settings, while battle royale games like Fortnite and Apex Legends poured in 140 FPS. In-game details remained accurate all throughout 30 to 40 minutes of gameplay, which is what you expect from a 4K panel.

If you do plan to get this monster, I highly recommend switching to the 1080p display option. The added benefit is the fact that the 1080p option comes with a 144Hz refresh rate, rendering images significantly faster. While you sacrifice a little bit of image quality, I think it’s a worthy trade off.

An overkill gaming PC needs an equally overkill cooling system

Cooling the ROG Mothership is one hefty task, and the way ASUS did it was ideal. Apart from separating each component through CNC-machined aluminum sheets, eight heat pipes push hot air to the top and sides of the device. Through careful calibration on the ROG Armoury Crate, the fans inside will pump out as much hot air as possible to keep major components cool.

Based on my experience, it did a fairly good job with that. The device didn’t seem to experience any drastically high temperatures during prolonged activity. Although, if you plan to maximize or even overclock your CPU and GPU, you will experience that. It happens to a point of near uncomfortability, in that you wouldn’t be able to store the device for 30 more minutes.

The fans also tend to get unbearably loud during gameplay that I’m glad they included the headset with the package. Even while idle, the fans tend to kick in and force a ton of air out which shouldn’t really happen. But again, if it’s meant to cool all the heavy components inside then it’s alright.

Expected short battery life

The ROG Mothership, as powerful as it is, doesn’t last very long. As with most gaming laptops, battery life isn’t necessarily their strongest feature and this device confirms it. On most productivity uses, I got an average of three hours before completely depleting the battery. To me, that doesn’t seem too appealing by any laptop standards.

When you’re gaming full time, it actually gets much lower than that. On average, I got around two hours before having to plug one of the two charging bricks. These show that this was clearly better off as a full-fledged desktop instead. If there’s any great takeaway, it’s that one full charge is relatively fast. Using just one brick fully charged the device in three hours, while using both bricks saves about 45 minutes. 

Finally, is this your GadgetMatch?

Here’s the thing: the ROG Mothership is a beast. It’s got every piece of gaming hardware anyone could ever ask for, in a form factor you wouldn’t expect it to be in. The package itself is just complete for anyone aspiring to take gaming seriously. For the most part, everything about it checks out.

But for US$ 6499.99/PhP 399,995, I feel like you would need to shell out a kidney to get this device — and it’s not worth it. Honestly, you could get every piece of hardware, or even just go for SATA SSDs and slap them into a gaming rig for way less. Heck, you could even get the same peripherals and I feel you would still be spending less than the Mothership.

All in all, the ASUS ROG Mothership is one heavy, beefy monster of a gaming laptop. The power it possesses truly fits those who want to dream of the best. But if you’re anyone who doesn’t earn one million a year, it’s best to invest in a gaming PC instead.

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Razer’s Deathadder and Basilisk get an upgrade

Faster and more control than ever before

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Razer continuously markets innovation when it comes to its gaming peripherals. With that in mind, the company launched the Razer Deathadder in late 2006 while the Razer Basilisk in 2017. Since then, these two iconic gaming mice has seen various options and innovations for the modern gamer. Now, Razer is bringing these two mice back, better and faster than ever.

The Razer Deathadder V2 features an ergonomic design and upgraded sensors for all gamers. It features Razer’s Focus+ Optical Sensor, elevating any gamer’s speed and precision during intense moments. The mouse perfectly suits those who prefer a palm grip while providing sweat-resistant coating and rubberized side grips.

It also comes with eight programmable and fully customizable buttons for all your macros and secondary functions. The mouse’s on-board memory supports up to five different profiles, expanding your range for any game. Also, it has Razer Chroma RGB support so you can personalize the mouse and even sync it with other Chroma-supported devices.

Meanwhile, the Razer Basilisk V2 receives an upgrade from its predecessor similar to the Deathadder V2. This mouse now houses 11 programmable buttons, allowing full flexibility during gaming. It also offers a customizable scroll wheel resistance so gamers can adjust it to suit their playing style. All of these comes with the upgraded Razer Focus+ Optical sensor.

The Razer Basilisk V2 retails at US$ 79.99 (~ PhP 4,000) while the Razer Deathadder V2 retails at US$ 69.99 (~ PhP 3,500). The company will roll out the two gaming mice starting January 15 (January 14 in the United States).

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Final Fantasy VII Remake release date moved

Minor setback

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Fans who have been waiting so long for Final Fantasy VII Remake will have to wait a little longer. Square Enix just announced that the game’s release date will be moved to April 10, 2020.

In June 2019, It was announced that the game would be released on March 3, 2020. But Square believes it’s in everybody’s best interest to delay release of the game.

In a statement, the game’s producer Yoshinori Kitase said the move was necessary to “deliver a game that is in-line with our vision, and the quality that our fans who have been waiting for deserve.”

“We are making this tough decision in order to give ourselves a few extra weeks to apply
final polish to the game and to deliver you with the best possible experience,” he added.

Kitase closed the statement with an apology: “I, on behalf of the whole team, want to apologize to everyone, as I know this means waiting for the game just a little bit longer. Thank you for your patience and continued support.”

SEE MORE:

Final Fantasy VII Remake: Features and mechanics
FFVII Remake new screenshots: Chocobo, Classic mode, and more
FFVII Remake screenshots: Sephiroth, an improved Midgar, and learning Aerith

 

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