Shadow of the Tomb Raider

bigger world, higher stakes, and an unexpected spin on Lara Croft’s character make Shadow of the Tomb Raider the most ambitious of the modern trilogy. There’s a lot going on here, but it manages to keep most of its balls in the air throughout its 25-odd-hour running time. As both a rollicking, horror-kissed action-adventure and an introspective story about obsession and family, Shadow of the Tomb Raider works as a powerful finale to this particular chapter of Lara’s history.Shadow of the Tomb Raider tells a great story that continues the series’ tradition of high-concept, Indiana Jones-style mumbo jumbo. This time it’s centered around an impending apocalypse and the search for the ancient item that can prevent it that propels Lara through the dark guts of South America. Moments of big, blockbuster-style scripted action return; skin-of-your-teeth action sequences that hurtle Lara across crumbling earth and bullet-peppered buildings, and feel like wonderfully orchestrated roller-coaster rides. It’s a ton of fun.

Beneath that, though, the nature of obsession is once again the well-crafted underlying theme. It’s Lara who is obsessed this time, of course, and while the first act suggests a descent into narcissism (which could get tedious across 25 hours), her character is handled with a lighter touch. Lara isn’t so much narcissistic as awkward and introverted, only really comfortable when alone in her dangerous element. It’s a surprising and delicately-told development for the character and adds a shade of warm humanity that was not there in 2013’s Tomb Raider or 2015’s Rise of The Tomb Raider (and certainly not in this year’s dud of a film adaptation).

Shadow of the Tomb Raider also skillfully hits all the emotional moments needed to satisfyingly wrap up Lara’s quest that began in 2013. Her obsession is put into question, but we’re also reminded of the reasons behind it. A playable flashback sequence, in particular, does a wonderful job at illustrating Lara’s home life before she became a cold-blooded killer, and adds more poignancy to the finale.

It helps that Lara’s voice actress, Camilla Luddington, treads the tightrope between the vulnerable and the ridiculous with such ease. The tonal jumps the script demands might be jarring in lesser hands, but Luddington manages to convey empathy and introspection in one breath while believably talking about a magical artefact that can ‘remake the world’ in another. She’s well supported by series veteran Earl Baylon’s Jonah, who is her only regular confidant this time around. Jonah has always been a reliable voice of reason to Lara’s flights of fancy, but he, too, evolves in this iteration and the subtle shifts in their dynamic are fun to watch.

For the most part, however, Lara spends her time alone. The actual practice of tomb raiding takes the front seat here, and story missions feature fewer firefights than the past two games and more lonely traversal across cavernous, ancient architecture. In this regard, it feels more in step with the spirit of the original Tomb Raider games of the 90s and early 2000s, and it was a joy to feel so small and insignificant among such beautifully crafted spaces.

Perhaps more significantly, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s impressive world features the best puzzles in the series. Its puzzle-based story missions, optional crypts, and nine challenge tombs are giant, intricate affairs where ideas are rarely reused, forcing you to figure out their rules afresh each time. Whether it be ‘light four mirrors’ or ‘climb this spindly tower of death’ or ‘explore a giant freighter’, each one has its own mechanics and personality and, most importantly, is genuinely tough. A number of times I thought I’d exhausted all options before adjusting my thinking just a little, only to have the solution snap into place.

To make things even more challenging (or easier, should you have trouble) you can adjust the difficulty independently across the three main styles of gameplay: puzzle solving, environment navigation, and combat. Whenever I felt Lara’s voiceover or environment highlights were being too instructive and giving me clues to mysteries I’d rather solve myself I would up the difficulty and really lose myself inside the maniacal creations of developer Eidos Montreal.

The tombs deliver a wonderfully eerie atmosphere too. An omnipresent cult, an unnerving, string-based score, and an aggressive subterranean enemy type, The Yaaxil, mean Shadow of the Tomb Raider frequently feels like a horror game, which makes for wonderfully tense exploration as you wade through mountains of bodies or hear an animalistic growl in the distance. Once again, there’s that clever homage being paid to the 1996 original; in this instance to its weird, psychedelic heart.

Lara’s new overhang and rappel abilities give her a gratifyingly diverse set of movement options. Her rappel, in particular, allows for level design that’s much more vertical than anything this young Lara has seen before. The simple act of moving from one area to another is often a dizzying mix of up and down and side to side; swinging from one wall to another, catching yourself with your pickaxe at the very last second with animations that convincingly convey her struggle to hang on for dear life.

Swimming in large, three-dimensional environments is also, surprisingly, not too bad, thanks to tight controls that a handful of puzzles capitalise on. Though the fear of drowning is real, I never felt like I was being overly punished by turning in the wrong direction – a staple of all underwater levels – and instead felt tension rather than frustration.

https://au.ign.com/articles/2018/09/10/shadow-of-the-tomb-raider-review

SENNHEISER GSP 370 GAMING HEADSET REVIEW: “SHEER EXCELLENCE IN AUDIO QUALITY AND INCREDIBLE BATTERY LIFE MAKE THIS ONE OF THE BEST”

PROS

  • Excellent, Sennheiser-quality audio
  • Incredible battery life
  • Supreme audio range and surround sound
  • Reliable wireless performance

CONS

  • No chat/game audio balancer

Another week, another Sennheiser gaming headset. A bit after the Very Excellent but Very Expensive GSP 670s graced us with their presence, I was able to check out the GSP 370 model that’s a little cheaper and shouts about a supposedly incredible battery life. They retain a classic Sennheiser look and offer a medium-high premium level headset for PS4 and PC users, retailing around the $200 / £170 mark. But are they any good?Today’s best Sennheiser GSP 370 Wireless Gaming Headset deals

Today’s best Sennheiser GSP 370 Wireless Gaming Headset deals: https://www.amazon.com.au/Sennheiser-GSP-370-Wireless-Headset/dp/B07Z8J26P2/ref=sr_1_1?ascsubtag=grd-1366259996233642002-22&keywords=Sennheiser+GSP+370+Wireless+Gaming+Headset&qid=1580449000&sr=8-1

Design

The GSP 370 retain an exceptionally ‘Sennheiser design’ and are very much in keeping with their traditional aesthetic: smooth, matte black finishes covering the solid cups, dual overhead bands, and the flip down mic. As a result, they are immediately identifiable. They’re solid in the hand, and the closed-cup over-the-ear design is not too heavy or too light, though they are at the lighter end of the spectrum coming in at 285g. This aids their comfort, which is exceptional, and is enhanced by the close but not squashing cups that are finished with faux suede. This achieves comfort enough to be able to wear them for hours at a time, ensuring you can make the most out of the battery life the GSP 370s offer (more on that later).

Overall, though, it is a premium headset in terms of design and build quality – the robustness of the headset is clear. It’d probably survive a good bump or two whereas some headsets feel like they’re held together with hopes and dreams. The GSP 370’s design is also one that promotes noise cancelling through its composition: the way the ear cups snugly cuddle your head mean that their very design stops external noise getting in. This is probably something I’d expect on a headset from Sennheiser and one that demands such a price tag, but it’s reassuring to experience it being executed so sublimely.

Features

Attached to that quality build are a few on-board controls that make using the headset nice and straightforward. Under the mic on the left cup there’s a triumvirate of little features: the LED battery and status indicator; the micro-USB charging; then the on/off switch. Simple stuff and easy to get used to and navigate by feel. On the right cup the large volume dial does all the work – large but seamlessly part of the design. Elsewhere, the USB dongle that the 370s talk to on either PC or PS4 is of a good and decent size – imagine a small-ish USB pen drive. It’s nowhere near as small as the one found in the more expensive GSP 670s, but I prefer this as the 670 USB is smart but small to the point of quite fiddly, particularly when interacting with the PS4. But no such issues exist here, as it’s an easy-to-work-with USB for the 370s.

The Bluetooth connection provided by said dongle is always strong and has a decent range too, if you should find yourself needing to step away, hide behind the sofa, or do anything else away from your PC or PS4 for a moment. Elsewhere, and on PC, the GSP 370 uses Sennheiser’s Gaming Suite software (which is only compatible with Windows 10 currently). This is pretty handy and enables you to customise and alter the settings as you see fit, with a few presets to choose from and other changes available. However, out of the box, the audio is so good and exquisite that I doubt many would have to do any altering in reality. 

Performance

Starting with the usual suspects in terms of game audio tests, Doom and Wolfenstein’s weapon-filled gameplay and Mick Gordon-composed soundtracks were a genuine delight to listen to, seemingly giving me the whole breadth of the headset’s 20-20,000Hz frequency range. From tiny machine noises to unadulterated hellspawn screams, and from chainsaw madness to clip-emptying machine gun sprays, the audio was magnificent. Meanwhile, games with detailed and more subtle audio profiles like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey can bring to light some headsets’ inability to present anything lighter or more subtle. No such trouble here – the GSP 370s gave me an immersive audio experience travelling across ancient Greece. Every wave crashing, or indeed lapping, against ship or shore was just as real as, well, real life; the clashing of weapons on bone and sinew was grisly and detailed, and voices were rich and clear. I’m playing Dying Light co-op with my friend at the moment and the GSP 370s proved the perfect companion here, excelling at every aspect of multiplayer gaming. Or, I should say, nearly every aspect, as the lack of a game audio vs chat audio balancer function is one that feels like an oversight when playing with friends. The overall sound of the combat of the game was portrayed beautifully though, so to speak, and it was always clear how close zombies were to sneaking up on you or which way the Nocturnals were coming from in the night. The GSP 370s really enhanced that game, being able to communicate with supreme clarity – the mic is one of the best I’ve used in recent months – and, with a broad brush, the mix of the game audio is nicely balanced and can be enjoyed with chat on the top of it (despite there being no dedicated balance function). Turning to Netflix or a movie was an equal joy and with the 370s effectiveness with voices and general audio quality.

On a higher level, the performance of the GSP 370s is defined by the audio quality and the immense battery. The battery life is – somehow – a genuine phenomenon. I’ve got a note somewhere at home that says I have used the headset for seventy-something hours. And counting. It’s incredible, and not just a gimmick or overly exaggerated selling point. Team that with the excellent audio and experience the headset provides and you have a truly winning combination for a gaming headset.

Overall – should you buy it?

Absolutely yes. If you can save and stretch your budget to a premium model then this is the one to go for. If you oscillate between Sony’s console and PC, this is ideal. In fact, the GSP 370 headset is the closest to a perfect-scoring headset I’ve used and only misses out by one missing feature: the balancer between in-game audio and chat, especially as this is something both official PS4 headsets have and execute extremely well. For the 370’s price, you’d probably expect such a feature to exist in some form or another.

However, that aside, the GSP 370 is a headset that’s ridiculously easy to recommend. And I’d probably go as far as to say that it gives the much more expensive GSP 670s a serious run for their money; I’d struggle to recommend going for the 670s now as the 370s offer equally excellent audio, and all-round performance as well as that astounding battery life. And for less money, too. If you’re happy to pay a bit more for Sennheiser – which is a perfectly sensible thing to do – then you should definitely stretch to these if you can. The immense battery life is worth a few extra currencies for sure, and that Sennheiser quality will make the pricetag generally more palatable too. Basically, this is one of the very best PS4 headsets and very best PC headsets for gaming.

https://www.gamesradar.com/au/sennheiser-gsp-370-gaming-headset-review/

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare is a half prequel, half reboot to the Modern Warfare franchise. The game takes place before the events of Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, but since this is a re-imagining of the entire story, developer Infinity Ward still has plenty of room to not simply revisit the events of those earlier games, but alter and expand upon them however they see fit.

It’s also a return to a more grounded, realistic military shooter after years of futuristic entries (Call Of Duty: WWII notwithstanding). Gone are advanced mobility mechanics–double-jumping and wall-running–and good riddance. You’re still able to slide into a crouch, and Infinity Ward has added door-mechanics that allow you to either open doors slowly or burst through, making your entrances that much more dramatic.

Likewise, the hero-shooter aspects of Black Ops 3 and are no more–and good riddance to that, as well. You have different operators to play as in multiplayer, but there are no special powers cluttering up matches. In Special Ops Operators do have passive and active abilities, but that’s co-op and it’s still toned down from what we saw in last year’s game.

And unlike Black Ops 4, Modern Warfare has a complete single-player campaign that’s well worth playing.

Article found at https://www.forbes.com/sites/games/2019/11/05/call-of-duty-modern-warfare-review-the-best-call-of-duty-in-a-decade/#65ea2376f970

XBOX ELITE WIRELESS CONTROLLER SERIES 2 REVIEW

“MAKES THE BEST CONTROLLER EVEN BETTER”

+ PROS

  • Wireless charging
  • New system-level customization options
  • Adjustable analog stick tension and trigger travel
  • Better balanced

– CONS

  • Very expensive
  • Onboard memory only stores one profile
  • Arriving late in Xbox console cycle

Today’s best Microsoft Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 deals: https://www.amazon.com.au/Xbox-One-Elite-Wireless-Controller/dp/B082FNQHS5/ref=sr_1_3?ascsubtag=grd-1007473573423453452-22&keywords=Microsoft+Xbox+Elite+Wireless+Controller+Series+2&qid=1580282087&sr=8-3

How do you make the best controller even better? Microsoft’s Xbox Elite controller changed the way we think about gamepads when it launched in 2015. Until that point, the default controller for each platform was the gold standard, and everything else was either a niche tool for a specific type of game, like a fight stick, or an inferior imitation. With the Elite, Microsoft opened the door to the idea that there’s room for growth with its extra customization options and ergonomic rear paddle inputs. The Xbox Elite Series 2 improves the expanded feature-set of the Elite in many ways, giving you more ways to remake your controller to run in a way that feels natural to you and you alone. Some of those features are common-sense updates, but you may be surprised by their impact. Truly, whether you are a power user looking to bend every game experience to your will, the way PC players tend to on a mouse and keyboard, or you simply want the most comfortable controller available, the Xbox One Elite Series 2 will give you what you need.

What feels like a single monumental upgrade is actually the sum of many, many improvements, big and small. The major improvements, compared to the standard Xbox One controller, are very similar. It offers the ability to remap controls, customize your how the controller feels and, of course, gives you four horizontally mounted paddle inputs that can be used to replace or augment the face buttons. Each of these broad upgrades, however, has more to offer in the Series 2.

What’s new with Series 2?

The Elite Series 2 features new textured grips, which now completely cover the legs of the controller, and reach up the sides all the way to the triggers. Other than when pressing a button or paddle, you won’t naturally rest your finger on an untextured face. The grip pattern itself is low-profile, and does not seem prone to scratching or wearing down.

The replaceable parts – the paddles; textured, untextured and convex analog sticks; the four- and eight-way D-Pads – return unchanged. They lock in magnetically and are easily replaceable on the fly.

Beneath the replaceable nubs, though, the analog sticks sport a new twist. You can adjust the tension in the analog sticks by removing the analog sub and twisting a column inside the stick using the tool included with the kit or a small screwdriver. The distinctions between the three settings are fairly small, but the tighter sticks work well in competitive shooters like Gears 5 and fighting games like Mortal Kombat 11, where you want more precision control and a quicker snap back to neutral position.

The buttons and triggers have also gotten a little glow up. The buttons are now clicky and easier to tap, without the squish of the standard Xbox One controller – one of my favorite features in my favorite third-party controller, the Razer Wolverine Ultimate. The back of the controller has a pair of switches, which allow you to reduce the amount of travel on the triggers from a full press to half or even a “hair trigger” tap. Personally, I prefer the standard pull, but competitive players will likely want the lower actuation point of the quick-press.

I’m also very thankful that the Xbox Elite Series 2 now has a built-in battery, which gets about 30-40 hours of battery life in a charge. You can charge it using the controller’s USB-C port, which replaces the standard Micro-USB at the top of the controller, or use the wireless charging dock, which comes with device. The dock is just a small black box, so doesn’t take up much space or feel like an eyesore, and it’s convenient to grab your controller when its time to play and charge it up when you’re done. Some of these upgrades, like building in a battery and adding Bluetooth support like the second-generation Xbox One gamepad, feel more like modernization than upgrades – these are things you expect from a $180 controller – but features like the charging dock leap-frog what should be standard and make these improvements feel luxurious.

Software improvements

In my mind, the best improvements to the Elite Series 2 are on the software side, though. As with the original Xbox Elite, you can completely remap the controller as you see fit using the Xbox Accessories app. The range of inputs you can map to each button, however, has expanded quite a bit. In addition to the buttons on the controller, you can also assign inputs to specific system-level actions like taking a screenshot, showing your achievements, or opening a specific app. If it was a Kinect voice command, you can map it to a button. It’s a huge boon for players who want to use the paddles and the face buttons together, rather simply use them as a finger-friendly replacement. You also have the ability to assign a “shift” button, which opens up a second set of alternative inputs.

At any given time, you can set and rotate among three input profiles using a new button on the front of the controller, replacing the first Elite’s profile switch. Don’t worry, there’s an LED indicator showing you which setting you’re on. You can also store extra profiles in the Xbox Accessories app on your Xbox and Windows. The three profiles on your controller get stored in onboard memory, so you can use them when you swap from device to device. You can also store and save profiles out of your rotation in the Accessories app, so there’s no reason not to try new things for every game. Those profiles get synced in the cloud, so you can access all your profiles, onboard or off, on any Xbox or Windows PC so long as you sign in with your Xbox account.

To me, though, the biggest improvement is simply how the Elite Series 2 feels in your hand. Though it is only three grams lighter – 345g versus 348g – the Elite Series 2 is much better balanced, so it’s weightiness is a strength rather than a weakness. The controller feels dense and durable, but you don’t notice you’re holding it the way you did with the original Elite and some of its premium competitors. I didn’t find myself putting it down as much during cutscenes and breaks.

The Xbox Elite Series 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but at times it feels like a revolution. From taking a screenshot with a single paddle press, to wireless charging, to using tighter analog sticks, it stacks the deck with tweaks that make a huge difference depending on what games you play and what controller you’ve been using to play them. It truly is one of the best controllers for PC gaming, and Xbox One. The only real downside is the price: how do you feel about spending $180 on a controller with a new Xbox right around the corner? I really hope Microsoft does right by people who buy this thing and support it with next-gen, which does seem likely. There’s a lot to love here, and you’ll want to use it for years to come.

https://www.gamesradar.com/au/xbox-elite-wireless-controller-series-2-review/