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.

Explainers

The industry’s next big thing: Cloud gaming explained

It’s gaming on the go, but for internet that’s not slow

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Everybody’s getting into gaming these days, and you can’t blame them. With the pandemic continuing its ravaging ways in the world, people turn to their consoles or PCs for some action. However, not everyone can afford all the expensive PCs and the next-gen consoles when they come out.

Instead, a new player comes into the fray with a pretty great idea. What would happen if you can just play your favorite games from any device? Also, what if we told you that this won’t take up space on your device at all? This is basically what cloud gaming offers to you: a way to play games from any device at any time!

So, how does that actually work? What do you need to ensure quality gameplay, and should you even consider it?

The basics of playing on a cloud

On paper, it’s pretty easy to understand how cloud gaming works. Basically, you have access to a library of games from a cloud storage service. When you subscribe to the service, you can virtually play your library from any device regardless of the specs. Also, you don’t have to worry about storage problems since these games are stored on a server.

It’s no joke when these companies tell you that you can play your games on any device. With their dedicated data servers, they make sure that the games run smoothly once you access them from the cloud. On your end, you will need a strong and consistent internet connection to play the games smoothly.

Several companies already have cloud gaming software available for people to subscribe to. Some examples include NVIDIA’s GeForce Now, Microsoft’s xCloud, and Google Stadia — all of which store PC games on a server. These companies even take the time to update their server hardware every so often to bring the best possible quality.

System requirements for cloud gaming

Much like your ordinary PC or gaming console, companies that run cloud gaming servers need certain equipment to run smoothly. First, these companies must set up active data centers and server farms that run the games. These data centers ensure that games are up and running, while reducing latency. In other words, these serve as the powerhouse of cloud gaming.

Next on the list is the network infrastructure necessary to send these to the users. To ensure that people don’t experience lags when they play their games, companies also invest in acquiring proper data connections. However, in most cases, this isn’t something these companies have control over; it’s mostly coming from their available internet service providers.

On the front-end, companies also provide dedicated hardware and software to house the cloud. For example, NVIDIA integrated GeForce Now into their own cloud streaming device, the NVIDIA Shield back in 2013. Meanwhile, Google Stadia relies heavily on using pre-existing Google software like Google Chrome and the Stadia App.

Something great to offer, for the most part

Cloud gaming services offer something unique in the industry. Essentially, it eliminates the user from investing so much into buying expensive PCs as it allows people to play from virtually any device. Whether it’s on a smartphone, laptop, or even a smart TV, people get access to games at high frame rates without an RTX 3080.

Furthermore, the game and save files are stored on the cloud, and don’t take up any storage on your devices. This is greatly beneficial for people who are already running on limited storage space, especially if they play Call of Duty: Warzone. With everything stored on the cloud, you don’t need most of the 512GB of SSD storage.

However, one of the biggest issues with cloud gaming revolves around the thing it’s based on: the internet. Specifically, it’s on the user’s internet connection as these services require the fastest internet to run smoothly on any device. Basically, you will need either an Ethernet or a 5G wireless connection to ensure the lowest latency possible.

That infrastructure isn’t readily available in most markets, which is a prominent issue among several third-world countries. Furthermore, even if there are companies that have 5G in their pipeline, these same providers also put data caps on it. Even if the user can play at an optimal frame rate, they’re doing so with a restriction in place.

Does this new player have any place?

With the world continuously opening its arms to the gaming industry, innovation becomes the forefront of success. Companies come up with a variety of gaming technologies that seek to cater to a wide variety of people. From individual hardware to pre-built systems, gaming often revolved around these things.

With cloud gaming, it gives people not just another option within the mix. Rather, it seeks to challenge the notion of availability and accessibility, and give it a viable solution. Essentially, it takes away the physical hardware limitations on the user’s end, and makes it available for everyone.

But like most gaming technologies, everything is still limited somehow. These systems still experience bottlenecks both on the manufacturer and the user’s end. In the end, it will depend on how much you’re willing to shell out for them, and how willing you are to accept the risks.

Illustrations by Raniedel Fajardo

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Gaming

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege next gen versions now available

For both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S

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Rainbow Six Siege

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S are now available.

These versions will allow gameplay in 4K and up to 120 fps, depending on the mode chosen by the players (performance or resolution), among many other improvements. Players will be able to upgrade their version on the same family of devices at no extra cost.

Current players on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One will also be able to keep their progression. Cross-generation play is also available within the same family of devices, allowing PlayStation 5 players to face PlayStation 4 players, and Xbox One players to face Xbox Series X|S players.

Cross-play between different families of consoles or between PC and consoles is not currently supported.

Players on next-gen consoles will be able to experience Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege with the highest graphical enhancements the game has yet to offer. These enhancements will offer multiple options for prioritizing either performance or resolution, granted players are equipped with a compatible device:

  • 4K resolution (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X) / 1080p (Xbox Series S)
  • 120 fps (PlayStation® 5, Xbox Series X)
  • DualSense wireless controller capabilities for even deeper immersion (PlayStation 5)
  • Activities support for the most popular playlists so players can dive into the game faster (PlayStation 5)

The following features are also being implemented for an enhanced next-gen experience on all platforms:

  • Better accessibility (readability options, text to speech and speech to text)
  • Quick start (optimized login flow, streamlined intro sequence)
  • Ubisoft Connect overlay

This next generation of hardware provides the latest tech and features available, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege will keep improving to leverage all the new opportunities afforded by these new platforms.

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Gaming

A somber look at the PlayStation 5 crisis

Can’t buy a PlayStation 5? You’re not alone

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PlayStation 5

In 30 minutes from the moment I’m typing this sentence, Walmart, one of the few American retailers selling the PlayStation 5 online, will restock its console shelves with an undetermined number of units. If the restocking goes exactly as it has in the past few weeks, the retailer’s website will crash within the first few minutes. When it goes back up again, everything will have disappeared from the shelves.

If you’re one of the millions of gamers looking to bag a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X for the holidays, such an experience is familiar to you. Both Sony and Microsoft have fumbled their respective launches, leaving most of the hopeful without a console.

After weeks of the same, attempting to buy the new consoles and leaving empty-handed has turned into a shared global experience. Many are wondering when (or if) they are getting the device. Unfortunately, things aren’t as simple as they once were.

Day zero: zero stock

On November 10, the Xbox Series X and S dropped online for the first time. Though Microsoft’s console didn’t share in the same hype as its Sony counterpart, the new Xbox sold out within minutes. Faced with an even larger demand for the PlayStation 5, everyone portended much of the same for Sony’s console. Unsurprisingly, it was.

Days later, on November 12, the PlayStation finally launched. As expected, in the brief moment that “Buy Now” buttons opened, every retailing site either crashed or stalled. Most stores held a one-time drop. Meanwhile, Walmart did drops throughout the day. And, expectedly, every drop, one-time or gradual, sold out.

Only a handful received consoles on launch day: lucky pre-order purchases, even luckier same-day buyers, or, more likely, bots.

Rise of the machines

Most of the outcry revolves around despised bots refreshing every site and buying every stock before real people can do so. The bot’s owners, all of them scalpers, resell their supply at dramatic premiums. Hours after the initial launch, eBay had auctions going up to US$ 2,000. At the time of this writing, most entries hover around US$ 1,700. (For reference, the PlayStation 5 retails for only US$ 499.)

Neither Sony nor any authorized retailer explicitly commented on the bot takeover. Some (eventually) installed captcha measures to hopefully weed out bots from humans. It did little to stave to onslaught. Scalpers (or worse, scalper networks) thrived under the online-only purchasing system.

Should we, then, blame bots for the year’s most botched launch?

Bots, logistics, or supply?

Currently in our sights, bots and scalpers are easy targets. The systematic supply grab owes a lot of its shortages on the automated schemes of bots. Some scalper networks have even defended their actions. Supposedly, creating a scalping ecosystem creates jobs for scalpers who may have lost their jobs from recent furloughs.

However, a launch is hardly only a matter of consumers. There’s supply and demand, too. Didn’t Sony and Microsoft foresee the demand months ago?

Drumming up intense hype throughout the past few months, both companies naturally predicted a surge. It still wasn’t enough.

Sony, through the PlayStation’s official Twitter account, confirmed “unprecedented” demand for the PlayStation 5 series. It was still a surprise. Echoing the same, Sony Interactive Entertainment President Jim Ryan told a Russian outlet that “absolutely everything is sold.” Unfortunately for gamers, current predictions still estimate shortages lasting until spring next year.

Sony and Microsoft are hard-pressed to make more devices as soon as possible. However, with current COVID-19 restrictions, manufacturing facilities can’t work at full capacity. And it’s not just on the manufacturing side.

Recently, a logistics source confirmed that a lot of resources are still devoted to shipping COVID-19 aid, including PPEs and masks. With a potential vaccine on the horizon, supply transportation will certainly feel the crunch, leaving little room for less essential products like gaming consoles.

So, who’s to blame?

More than bots, scalpers, manufacturers, or logistics companies, the ongoing PlayStation 5 crisis pulls the curtain from an inherently broken system from a pre-COVID-19 era. The current global economy was, and is, ill-prepared for a global emergency.

Companies, manufacturers, and logistics did not anticipate an overwhelming demand for emergency products. Even now, the world is still aching for aid: from simple masks to scarce ventilators. We’re seeing the flaws only now because the new consoles are home appliances. Other launches this year weren’t as in-demand as the PlayStation 5. For example, with everyone staying indoors, not a lot of people are exactly lining up for a new iPhone 12. (Sorry, Apple.)

Fitbit’s Ventilator

On the other hand, a lot of people truly are jobless from a crumbling economy. Albeit a lackluster excuse, scalper networks do have a point that some people are reduced to less-than-stellar ways of making money amid the pandemic. (Not to defend scalping, though. It’s still a shady business.)

Throughout this entire shortage, one thing is clear: The world, as we know it, cannot adequately save itself from a global emergency. The fault inevitably rests on both individuals and systems who persistently refuse to accept the realities of the pandemic: from anti-maskers who put more people at risk to companies who haven’t prepared for the surge to governments who can’t provide aid for its citizenry.

Should you still get a PlayStation 5?

PlayStation 5

If you’re still inclined, Sony promises more stock before the end of the year. Anyone can still try their luck for a fresh device from the factory. More realistically, you can wait a few months without the new console; by then, Sony should have ironed out a lot of kinks and bugs.

No one is judging you if you do. No one is judging you if you don’t. But if you’re worried about the fear of missing out, just remember that not a lot of people have the PlayStation 5 yet, as much as we all would want one.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, remember the new stock I mentioned 30 minutes ago? Sold out in less than ten seconds. Go figure.

SEE ALSO: Sony PlayStation 5 Unboxing

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