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Sony Inzone Buds review – fantastic sound that comes with caveats
5:18 pm | October 27, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off

The Sony Inzone Buds for PlayStation 5, mobile, and PC, are a seriously impressive pair of gaming earbuds that surpass the competition in several aspects. It’s quite clear that Sony wanted its new gaming earbuds to be best-in-class, and there are many areas where it achieves as such.

It’s absolutely nailed the design of the earbuds with premium build quality and intuitive on-board touch controls. But things get even better when it comes to the Inzone Buds’ overall audio performance. Presenting richly detailed audio that’s enhanced by a wide dynamic range and spatial audio support, they transcend being just ideal for casual music listening and are incredible for all media and games.

Performance in-game can vary, though, with a rather muddy register for audio on the lower end of the sound stage. Throw in an additional blemish when it comes to awkward Bluetooth connectivity and you’ll find there are some frustrations to be had with the Inzone Buds. However, superb battery life does help to sweeten the deal here, and it’s easy to place them among the best gaming earbuds you can buy today.

Price and availability

You can pick up the Sony Inzone buds right now for $199.99 / £179.99 / AU$249.95. That puts them in the same ballpark as the Apple AirPods 3 in terms of price range, and slightly more expensive than the PS5’s Razer Hammerhead Hyperspeed gaming earbuds.

Design and features

Sony Inzone Buds

(Image credit: Future)

Out of the box, the Sony Inzone Buds come housed in a sturdy, but rather basic charging case. This features a pairing button, a USB-C port on the rear for charging, and a sole LED up front that handles signifiers for things like battery and pairing. Pop the magnetically-sealed case open to reveal the Inzone Buds themselves and the included USB-C 2.4GHz dongle slotted between them in a dedicated space. The package handily includes six additional tips of varying sizes and a USB-C cable for charging purposes.

The flat base of the carry case means it’ll sit on any level surface easily. Though because the earbuds rest flat inside the case, it means it’s got a rather wide build compared to the likes of the Turtle Beach Scout Air and Razer Hammerhead Hyperspeed. As a result, it’s not really the most pocket-friendly carry case out there.

The Inzone Buds themselves are expertly crafted. Whether you opt for the white or black colorway, the simple yet classy design doesn’t draw much attention, making the buds perfect for both indoor and outdoor use. I’m especially a fan of the contrast between the matte chassis and glossier material used for the on-board touch controls.

The ear-facing sides of the Inzone Buds are also handily marked with left and right ear designations. Lifting them out of the case and placing them in your ears, you’ll hear brief but audible jingles letting you know they’re switched on. A voice will also relay to you which mode the buds are currently in - either Bluetooth or USB transceiver.

One of the best things about the Sony Inzone Buds is their high level of comfort and non-slip design. During longer listening sessions, I never once felt I had to readjust the earbuds, nor did they ever run warm or begin to irritate my ears. This allowed for a sublimely unintrusive listening experience.

Lastly, the included USB-C dongle features a switch with two settings separating PS5 and mobile use from PC. A white LED on its base indicates it’s turned on, and there’s a handy reset button should you need to revert its settings back to the default USB transceiver option.

Performance and battery life

Sony Inzone Buds

(Image credit: Future)

The Sony Inzone Buds provide a joyous listening experience. Music and vocals are rendered clearly and with rich detail. I found them to be especially nice for tracks led by electronic instruments or powerful vocal performances. Sonic FrontiersEDM-laced Cyber Space levels sounded extra punchy, and in Final Fantasy 14 Online, Amanda Achen’s impactful voice helped tracks like Flow and Return to Oblivion hit especially hard. That strong vocal register means the buds are similarly excellent for podcasts and audiobooks.

One area where the earbuds don’t perform as well is in that lower profile. Bassier audio, or particularly loud sound effects, came across as fairly muddy and lacking in detail. It’s by no means atrocious, but when playing Gran Turismo 7, I noticed that the low engine roars and tire screeching sounded noticeably lower quality. They’re also not fantastic when several sound effects are occurring all at once. That’s a common situation in Final Fantasy 14 Online, where there are weapon skill effects and character chatter happening constantly. In busier eight and 24-man raid content, it all registered as rather soupy.

On PS5, the Inzone buds are helped by support for 3D audio, be that Sony’s own Tempest 3D or Dolby Atmos which was recently added to the current-gen console. While these modes did help to elevate the sound stage somewhat, it doesn’t quite compare to the transformative effect offered by some of the best PS5 headsets or best wireless gaming headsets out there like the SteelSeries Arctis 9 or the Sony Inzone H9.

The spatial audio experience is improved somewhat on PC, as here’s where you can download the Inzone Hub app for a greater degree of customization. There’s a rather irksome setup process here, though, as you’ll need to physically take pictures of your ear for the software to generate an audio profile that suits you best. The effort involved, sadly, isn’t really worth it, as again the spatial audio provided isn’t as rich or dynamic as you’d get on a traditional gaming headset with larger drivers.

There is also some frustration to be had with the Inzone Buds’ approach to Bluetooth connectivity. While they paired just fine on my Android phone, my Nintendo Switch OLED wasn’t able to recognize them at all. You won’t be able to hook them up to an iOS device via Bluetooth, either. Once in Bluetooth mode, the right bud simply refused to switch back to USB transceiver mode, too, even when unpairing them from my phone and slotting in the USB-C dongle. A hard reset via the bottom switch of the dongle was required here. That fixed the problem but was an annoyance nonetheless.

The buds have a built-in microphone as well, and while it’s fine for general phone calls, voice chat performance in games left something to be desired. My voice came across as fairly quiet, even when adjusting settings to compensate. They get the job done, for sure, but if you’re getting caught up in the heated firefights of Fortnite or PUBG Battlegrounds, you may wish to swap out for a more traditional gaming headset for more reliable communication.

Thankfully, the Inzone Buds greatly impress when it comes to battery life. Offering a huge 12 hours of battery life on a single charge through 2.4GHz connection (and roughly 24 via Bluetooth), there’ll be more than enough battery there for most users in a single day. The charging case also provides an additional 24 hours of battery before needing to be juiced up.

Should I buy the Sony Inzone Buds?

Sony Inzone Buds

(Image credit: Future)

The Sony Inzone buds are easily some of the best gaming earbuds out there right now. With impressive audio in spite of those muddy lows, and superb noise canceling and battery life, they’re absolutely worth the price of admission. While I do wish they had better spatial audio performance and a more consistent Bluetooth performance, they are overall a step up from most gaming earbuds on the market today. 

Buy them if...

Don't buy them if...

How we reviewed the Sony Inzone Buds

I tested the Sony Inzone Buds over the course of about a week, switching frequently between PS5, mobile, and PC use. As a versatile set of buds, it was important to get a feel for musical performance as well as how they handle gaming audio. As a result, much time was spent in games with excellent sound design, such as Gran Turismo 7, Control, Demon’s Souls and Final Fantasy 14 Online.

Prefer a headset over earbuds? Be sure to take a look at our best Xbox Series X headsets guide, as well as our more general look at the best wired gaming headsets. 

HP Omen 16 review: a great mid-ranger held back by some design quirks
11:14 am |

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Laptops | Tags: , | Comments: Off

HP Omen 16: Two-minute review

Shopping for laptops can be difficult. You have to ask yourself so many questions just so you have an idea of what you're looking for. Do you want the best laptop out there or do you want something more run-of-the-mill for work? Or maybe you prefer a gaming rig? If you find yourself agonizing over the right laptop, allow me to introduce the HP Omen 16.

It's a slim, lightweight laptop able to fit snuggly in almost any bag. You can lug it around and hardly know it's there. I used it as my main computer for everyday work for a few weeks. Typing on the keyboard was quite pleasant since the keys have a nice, springy feel to them and the deep travel distance made it easy on my hands. The touchpad itself sports a smooth, responsive, enjoyably clicky feel. And its large size makes it great for productivity.

My review unit had an AMD Ryzen 7-7840HS processor paired up with a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070 graphics card. Although it comes equipped with a low-end model from the GeForce 40 series, the performance of the Omen 16 was still phenomenal. Its matte Shadow Black color is a real head-turner, I have to say. The deep black is a great backdrop for the RGB lights and the stunning Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixel) resolution display.

Speaking of the screen, there's a problem with it that I find baffling. The bottom of the screen has a huge, 1.5-inch bezel taking up a large amount of space. The laptop's display is 16 inches and that bezel cuts in way too much for my liking. Also, the colors look muted on this - not sure why this is the case. I think it could be because the anti-coating on the glass is getting in the way, or maybe the Omen 16 doesn't properly offer all of the DCI-P3 color gamut. You can bump up the brightness and saturation via the on-device Omen app, but it can only do so much.

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HP Omen 16 facing forward

(Image credit: Future)
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HP Omen 16 keyboard glowing at night

(Image credit: Future)

But despite all the complaints I have, I would argue that the Omen 16 has a place among our list of the best gaming laptops. If you look at the ranking, the Omen 16 takes some of the best parts of those entries for itself. It's great at being a work/gaming laptop hybrid. If you need an all-rounder, this might just be the best computer out there.

Despite my recommendation, it does have questionable design choices that may make or break it for some people out there. Don't get me wrong: I liked it a lot, but certain things do frustrate me.

HP Omen 16: Price & availability

  • How much does it cost? Prices start at $1,269.99
  • When is it available? Available now
  • Where can you get it? Dell's website/Best Buy

With prices starting at $1,270, the HP Omen 16 is a well-priced gaming laptop especially if you plan on using it for other workloads. Gaming hardware can be handy in helping professional video editors in their work or developers render projects. It's able to handle intense visual workloads with aplomb. However, if you have to do color-sensitive work, this computer isn't the best choice. As stated earlier, colors can look dull on the screen.

Low-end models come with a GeForce RTX 4050 while the high-end configurations come with the more powerful GeForce RTX 4070. Sure, the high model capping out with a GeForce RTX 4070 GPU may disappoint some. But considering the price point, I think it's a fair tradeoff. 

  • Price score: 4 / 5

HP M16: Specs

The HP Omen 16 is available in four different configurations, with the base model coming with an AMD Ryzen 5-7640HS, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4050, and 512GB of storage.

HP Omen 16: Design

  • Comfortable keyboard  
  • Robust ventilation
  • Little storage space

HP made some interesting design choices with the Omen 16. Most of them are great, some not so much. 

It features a 75 percent keyboard meaning it's your standard tenkeyless layout with directional and navigation keys on the side. As stated earlier, typing on it felt pretty nice thanks to its springy feel. Structure-wise, the laptop as a whole is quite solid so it can survive a bit of rough handling. I should mention the keys are quiet. They lack the clicky or tactile feel of a traditional gaming keyboard. 

One of the areas the Omen 16 impressed was its cooling system. Heat sinks are located on the sides, rear, and underneath the laptop. What's more the Omen 16 stands on slightly raised feet ensuring good airflow. During the majority of my time using the Omen 16, it never once got hot. It did get a little warm a few times, but that was because it was charging. No matter how hard I pushed the machine, it never got uncomfortably hot which is wonderful. I've typed on gaming laptops that got so hot I had to stop. It was awful. I'm very happy to not have had that experience with the Omen 16.

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HP Omen 16 keyboard

(Image credit: Future)
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HP Omen 16 USB-A port

(Image credit: Future)
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HP Omen 16 rear ports

(Image credit: Future)
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HP Omen 16 USB-C ports

(Image credit: Future)

Additionally, I enjoy the array of ports present on the laptop. Each model comes with two USB-C ports, two USB-As, a headphone jack, an HDMI port, and an ethernet input. All these are situated on the sides and back of the Omen 16, which I appreciated; I didn't have to deal with the cables becoming intertwined with each other.

What I am not a fan of is the storage space. 512GB for three of the four primary configurations just doesn't cut it nowadays, especially when you realize how some AAA games take up over 100GB of storage space. With so many big games coming out every year, players need more. I need more. 1TB would've been more appropriate for everything above the entry-level model.

  • Design score: 3.5 / 5

HP Omen 16: Performance

  • Great performance
  • High refresh rate
  • Easy on the eyes
HP Omen 16: Benchmarks

Here's how the HP Omen 16 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Night Raid: 58,705; Fire Strike: 26,797; Time Spy: 11,141; Port Royal: 7,003
GeekBench 5: 1,993 (single-core); 11,377 (multi-core)
Geekbench 6:
12,097 (multi-core)
Total War: Warhammer III (1080p, Ultra):
91 fps; (1080p, Low): 205 fps
Cyberpunk 2077 (1080p, Ultra): 82 fps; (1080p, Low): 128 fps
Dirt 5 (1080p, Ultra): 103 fps; (1080p, Low): 189 fps
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 2 hours

If you look at our benchmark results across several tests, you can see Omen 16 is pulling some big numbers, but are they good? Yes. In fact, they're very good. To put it all into perspective, let's take a look at a similarly sized gaming laptop — the Alienware M16. If you compare the benchmarks, you'll notice HP's device outperforms in several areas. It was able to achieve higher framerates than the Alienware in every listed game at 1080p Ultra resolution. The Omen 16 did better than a computer that already had very high scores.

This power is thanks to the internal Ryzen 9 processor, GeForce RTX 4070 graphics card, and 16 GB of RAM. This hardware combination results in a 165Hz refresh rate which is a perfect number for competitive play. If you're someone who enjoys climbing the leaderboards on your favorite game, you should be smiling from ear to ear looking at that number.

During my testing period, I played several rounds of the Mortal Kombat 1. Fighting games necessitate having a high frame rate. You need to be able to see your opponent's attack coming, so you can adequately respond with your own combo. To have a high FPS (frames per second), you need a high refresh rate to allow smooth, lifelike animations. Because the visuals were so clear and stable, I was able to keep up my corner combos with Reptile. I knew exactly when to throw out a punch or force ball keeping my opponent pinned to the wall. This is all due to that stellar refresh rate.

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HP Omen 16 on table

(Image credit: Future)
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HP Omen 16 closed

(Image credit: Future)

Additionally, the powerful hardware greatly increases the immersion. Mortal Kombat 1 features amazing-looking stages and I was able to truly enjoy every bit of detail NetherRealm Studios (the game's developer) put into the title. The Flesh Pits looked absolutely horrifying on the screen seeing all the body parts strung from the ceiling on chains. Conversely, stages like Sindel's Palace look beautiful with the light leaking through giving the area an ethereal look.

Things could be better, admittedly. The screen peaks at Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels). That is a perfectly good resolution, don't get me wrong. Games will look great, but it won't be winning any awards either.

Outside of gaming, the HP Omen 16 runs well as a day-to-day computer. I should note the screen is Eyesafe Certified which is great for someone like me who spends hours in front of a screen. This tech lowers the amount of blue light your eyes receive to lessen fatigue. Also, the laptop comes with a 1080p webcam — great for streamers or people who want to look good in Zoom calls.

  • Performance score: 4.5 / 5

HP Omen 16: Battery life

  • Doesn't last long while gaming
  • Doesn't last long while working

I strongly recommend keeping the charger close at hand, because the Omen 16's battery doesn't last very long. The short battery life is, without a doubt, the laptop's biggest flaw.

As part of testing, I played Final Fantasy 14 with its in-game settings maxed out and performance further boosted via the Omen Gaming Hub app. It lasted about an hour and a half before it completely died on me. That amount of time shocked me because the game is a decade old. I didn't think a 10-year title would draw so much power that the battery drains completely in less time than it takes to kill a raid boss. I figured since the game is pretty old at this point it wouldn't be a huge burden. I guess I was wrong.

When it comes to less intense workloads, the Omen 16 does last a lot longer but not by much. It lasted about three and a half hours, nearly four before I had to run off and grab the charger. This is with Battery Saver as well as Eco Mode turned on. On average, it lasts about two hours. The machine performs well, but it has low stamina.

  • Battery score: 1 / 5

Should you buy the HP Omen 16?

Buy it if...

You want an affordable gaming laptop
The Omen 16 offers great performance at a mid-range level price.  

You want a well-performing laptop
Although it may not have the greatest hardware, the Omen 16 can still churn out high-quality gaming.

Don't buy it if...

You want a long battery life
The HP Omen 16 struggles to last longer than an hour and a half while gaming - poor even for a gaming laptop.

HP Omen 16: Also consider

If you're curious about other options for the HP Omen 16. there are a couple you should consider...

How I tested the HP Omen 16

  • Tested the laptop over the course of two and a half weeks
  • Used it for both work and gaming
  • Ran it through several stress tests

I tested the HP Omen 16 for about two and a half weeks in various use cases. Half of the time was spent using the Omen 16 for everyday things like responding to emails, writing, and watching videos. I wanted to see how the laptop performs on a light workload.

Besides that, I spent several hours gaming on, trying out recent and older titles. Final Fantasy 14 was one of those titles. I wanted to see how well the Omen 16 boosted the performance of a 10-year-old game. As stated earlier, I tried out Mortal Kombat 1 plus Monster Hunter Rise. I wanted to the high refresh rate in action. Those titles are games where smooth character animations matter immensely.

Of course, the team at TechRadar ran the Omen 16 through several benchmark tests to see how it performs while firing on all cylinders, too.

Read more about how we test

Revolution 5 Pro controller review – an awesome gamepad with a few frustrations
7:28 pm | October 17, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off

Nacon’s Revolution 5 Pro seriously impresses as a higher-end PlayStation 5 gamepad. A multiplayer-first controller, owing to its on-board audio controls and customizable back buttons, it features high-quality modules (some of which have swappable variants included in-box), Hall effect-ready that rely on magnets and voltage control to reduce the risk of drift, and a sturdy build that’s resistant to scuffs and wear.

It’s one of the most feature-rich controllers available for PS5, but it’s not without some rather unfortunate issues that stop it just short of making our best PS5 controllers list. The mappable rear buttons, for example, are a little too easy to accidentally press, and you won’t be able to enjoy features like haptic feedback and adaptive triggers that the PS5’s DualSense offers. That can’t be avoided, as Sony only allows such tech for its own peripherals, but the Revolution 5 Pro also lacks vibration functionality for PS5 games.

However, those issues aside, Nacon has still built a versatile and high-quality gamepad that should be considered if you value build quality, battery life, and swappable modules.

Price and availability

The Nacon Revolution 5 Pro is available to buy right now for $199.99 / £199.99 (around AU$316), from Nacon’s own website. However, be aware that buying outside of Europe will come with a pretty hefty customs charge right now, so you may wish to wait until December 1 when the controller becomes more widely available at retailers in the US and UK.

The Revolution 5 Pro’s closest competitor in terms of price is Sony’s DualSense Edge, which comes in at $199.99 / £209.99 / AU$339.95. While it’s not any cheaper, the PS5’s premium controller does offer proprietary features like haptic feedback and adaptive triggers, which third-party pads like the Revolution 5 Pro sadly lack.

Design and features

Nacon Revolution 5 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

The Revolution 5 Pro immediately reveals itself as a pad that’s incredibly pleasing to hold. It’s an all-plastic build but one that’s of very high quality. It’s sturdy, too, but the choice of material here does mean it’s a bit of a fingerprint magnet, which does mean the aesthetic can be impacted by your hands regardless of whether you opt for the white or black colorway.

The controller comes with three sets of weights that can be inserted into the pad’s grips by removing the back panels, which slide in and out of place with ease. At 10g / 14g / 16g extra each, they don’t add a ton of additional weight, but they’re useful in helping the pad rest in your hands a little more securely should you require it.

As for swappable modules, you’ve got three alternative choices for analog sticks: an extra convex stick, as well as two concaves, one of which has a taller profile. By default, the Revolution 5 Pro is fitted with a circular D-pad which I found well-suited for performing more complex inputs in the best fighting games. There’s a traditional four-way D-pad in the box, too. Both analog sticks are able to be swapped out, as well as the D-pad, by lifting them from the foundation.

One of the best aspects of the Revolution 5 Pro’s design is its textured grips. Slight contours running down the controller’s grips means it rests firmly in the hands, and I never once found myself needing to reposition the pad, even during hectic multiplayer moments in titles like Fall Guys and Fortnite.

There are some lovely extra functional touches here, too, like an on-board battery indicator, signified by a row of five white LEDs situated just under the central touchpad. If you’re playing wirelessly, it’s a convenient way to know when you need to charge at a glance. The central pad itself doesn’t bear any touch-sensitive functionality, but Nacon has cleverly repurposed it for multiplayer usage; by holding down the Function button on top of the controller, you’re able to adjust headset and mic volume by pressing the edges of the touchpad.

Performance and battery life

Nacon Revolution 5 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

The Revolution 5 Pro controller, like other third-party gamepads designed for PS5, is somewhat kneecapped by the absence of haptics, adaptive triggers, and vibration for the best PS5 games. However, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the fault of the manufacturer; Sony simply doesn’t allow the use of such tech beyond its own controllers. Thankfully, vibration is enabled for PS4 and PC titles. If you like having a rumble feature enabled during play, then, the Revolution 5 Pro may serve you better as a desktop gamepad.

One area the controller itself improves on its competitors is in wireless response time. Expect a latency of 6m/s if you’re playing with the included 2.4GHz USB dongle on PS5, and 4m/s on PC. Its closest rival here is likely the Razer Wolverine V2 Pro, which clocks in at an average of 10m/s when used wirelessly. This means the Revolution 5 Pro is ultra-responsive for the best single-player games. But, I would still recommend opting for a wired connection if you’re playing games where frame data is a crucial element, such as Street Fighter 6 or Call of Duty: Warzone where split-second inputs matter.

Generally though, the act of simply playing with the Revolution 5 Pro is excellent. Its analog sticks travel smoothly, and there’s a satisfying level of bounciness to the shoulder and face buttons. There’s very short travel time on the buttons that allows for quick, timely inputs in your favorite multiplayer games, which feels subconsciously fantastic when playing games online with others. That same feeling can be applied to the R2/L2-equivalents via the hair trigger locks on the back. That said, I did find these locks to be a little stiff, as they need to be pressed inwards and upwards in order to activate the effect.

I found the Revolution 5 Pro controller to be an admirable fit for solo play, too. It excels especially with games that require quick reflexes, or have high skill ceilings. The moment-to-moment decision-making of Doom Eternal, for example, felt more surmountable at its higher difficulty levels. Similarly, I’ve never been able to be quite this reactive in Tetris Effect Connected; that low wireless response time eking out some truly clutch block placements at higher speeds.

The rear paddle buttons are a little too sensitive for my liking, though. This often led me to activate inputs I’d assigned there - such as jumping or tossing a grenade - to register when I didn’t want them to. I did find them useful, however, as a means of activating alternate hotbars in Final Fantasy 14 Online; a simple double-tap was used here to highlight hotbars that are normally accessed with the triggers by default.

Battery life, meanwhile, is about what you should expect for a controller of this caliber. You’ll get roughly ten hours on a full charge. Not amazing by any means, but certainly an improvement over the DualSense Edge’s four-to-six hour battery life.


Nacon Revolution 5 Pro

(Image credit: Nacon)

The Nacon Revolution 5 Pro app is available to download for Windows and MacOS devices from the controller's support page. A mobile version of the app can also be downloaded on iOS devices, with an Android version coming soon.

The app itself is thorough, but extremely easy to get to grips with. You're able to set four profiles across PS5, PS4 and PC for a total of 12. Within the app, you're able to fully customize your button layout, assign alternative inputs for those rear buttons, adjust analog stick deadzones and trigger travel length.

A couple of cool extras include the ability to swap the color of the ring light - found around the right analog stick - with options for single, multiple and prism effects. Lastly, there's even an equalizer, allowing you to adjust headset audio balance to suit your liking on a per-profile basis.

The Revolution 5 Pro controller has notable flaws, some of which are admittedly out of Nacon’s control. But, if you can get used to the slightly sensitive rear buttons and don’t mind the loss of the DualSense’s bespoke features, then the Revolution 5 Pro will serve you well as a feature-rich premium controller.

Should I buy the Revolution 5 Pro?

Nacon Revolution 5 Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How we reviewed the Revolution 5 Pro

I tested the Revolution 5 Pro over the course of a week across PS5 and PC with a variety of multiplayer-focused titles including Street Fighter 6, Guilty Gear Strive, Fortnite, Fall Guys, and Final Fantasy 14 Online. I also made sure to try out all additional modules to really get a feel for the controller’s  customization. 

Looking for gamepad alternatives on other consoles? Consider checking out our guide to the best Xbox controllers and best Nintendo Switch controllers to find a device that’s right for you. 

Lords of the Fallen review – relight my fire
4:00 pm | October 12, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review Info

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release date: October 13, 2023

The clashing worlds of Lords of the Fallen are simultaneously intriguing and dangerous to explore, stuffed with enemies and all manner of trickery designed to keep you on your toes. As a soulslike, that’s a given. But here, developer HexWorks has gone further, with its choice of engine allowing separate worlds to be rendered simultaneously, providing what feels very much like a modern-day take on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past’s parallel Dark World.

As a Dark Crusader, you’ll traverse between Lords of the Fallen’s twin worlds of Axiom and Umbral almost at will, fighting challenging bosses, conquering twisting levels, and uncovering secrets on your mission to prevent the Demon God Adyr from being resurrected. Throw in overtones of sin and religious penitence, and you have a world that’s astonishingly bleak, but utterly fascinating to unravel. 

Break on through to the other side

Lords of the Fallen

(Image credit: CI Games)

Lords of the Fallen starts in a pretty typical soulslike fashion, with a decent character creator that - for better or worse - stops short of you being able to craft absolute monstrosities in Dark Souls or Elden Ring fashion. You’ll also pick a class that governs your starting attributes, weapon, armor, and item loadout. These are mostly for flavor though as it’s easy to change up your build and try out new weapons as you progress through the game.

It’s not long before the tutorial introduces you to Lords of the Fallen’s core mechanic: your lantern. It’s a phenomenal addition that sets the game apart from other soulslikes. While you’re in the corporeal world, Axiom, you can hold up your lantern to catch a real-time glimpse of Umbral, which is invisibly layered over the world. By doing so, you can discover alternate pathways, hidden treasures, and switches that’ll allow you to progress further if your path in Axiom is otherwise blocked.

Sometimes, you’ll be able to hold up the lamp to simply phase through walls or cross bridges that don’t exist in Axiom. But often, you’ll need to fully cross over to the realm of Umbral in order to progress. And that comes with a whole host of new risks.

Best Bit

Lords of the Fallen

(Image credit: CI Games)

Your lantern’s abilities are so brilliantly integrated with the shift between Axiom and Umbral worlds. One particular highlight was holding up the lantern to walk across an Umbral bridge, then deactivating it to drop to a hidden path below which led to a lovely bit of treasure. 

The Umbral plane is extremely dangerous. In addition to the enemies present in Axiom, you’ll also have to deal with a host of new entities that only inhabit Umbral, and can continuously respawn. Worse, a timer is ticking. 

Spend too long in Umbral, and a near-unkillable shade will show up to ruin your day. Your objective in this dark world, then, is to get in, progress, and get out via an exit point (no, you can’t just leave Umbral at will!) so as to not risk losing your hard-earned Vigor currency, which you’ll need to both level up and buy items from vendors.

The Umbral plane also ties into Lords of the Fallen’s pretty neat approach to player death. If you die while in Axiom (and you will), you won’t immediately perish. Instead, you’ll be brought back but stuck in the Umbral realm. If you can successfully make it back to Axiom from there, you’ll effectively save yourself from a frustrating loss of Vigor. It’s a fantastic assist that will be of particular benefit to those who are new to the soulslike subgenre, as it effectively offers them a genuine second chance before death. This works in boss fights, too, giving you that second wind when you need it most.

Divine intervention

Lords of the Fallen

(Image credit: CI Games)

Lords of the Fallen’s dual-worlds are pretty terrifying places to be, but your character is, thankfully, more than up to the challenge. And again, there’s some exciting mechanics here that set it apart from the soulslike crowd. As is standard, you can opt for a sword-and-shield build, dual-wield, two-hand larger weapons, and so on. But it gets better.

Unlike even the best FromSoftware games, your character in Lords of the Fallen has a ranged option built in, governed by an ammunition count that can be replenished with consumables, or by resting at a Vestige checkpoint (this game’s version of Dark Souls’ bonfire checkpoints). With a button press, you’ll switch from your lantern to a ranged mode that will allow you to pick off distant or out-of-reach targets easily. You can find even more of these ranged weapons throughout, too, and they include throwing axes, spells, and - excellently - grenades.

Ranged weapons scale with your offensive stats, too, so even strength-focused greatsword builds are able to fight from a distance. Another particularly nice touch is that ranged attacks can combo near-seamlessly with your melee strikes. In one instance, for example, I was able to get a couple of quick hits in on a particularly tanky enemy, then backstep and chuck a throwing axe in quick succession, thus avoiding their swipe and getting a bit of extra damage in.

Lords of the Fallen’s level design is mostly excellent, featuring winding paths, shortcuts, and plenty of hidden secrets to find.

There are some tweaks that could be made to the overall combat design, though. Some weapons have an uncomfortable amount of delay in their windup, and some enemies are highly resistant to staggering, which leads to frequent instances of trading blows. Combine this with the fact that you’re really not able to take more than two or three hits before dying - even for tankier characters - and you’ll probably run afoul of more than a few frustrating deaths.

Enemy placement could probably use some tweaking, too. While Lords of the Fallen’s level design is mostly excellent, featuring winding paths, shortcuts, and plenty of hidden secrets to find, the game does like to frequently place projectile-happy enemies out of your line of sight. One especially irksome level early on, the Pilgrim’s Perch, is a series of walkways suspended over a cliff face. Here, Lords of the Fallen takes pleasure in placing several enemies that’ll push you off the platforms and into the depths below, leading to an untimely death. Much like Bloodborne, checkpoints are few and far between too, so setbacks like this can often lose you a decent chunk of progress.

In part, though, blemishes like this are common in the soulslike subgenre. And while annoying, they don’t take too much away from what is, overall, a sublimely challenging experience that’s packed with fresh and interesting ideas.


(Image credit: Future)

Unfortunately, Lords of the Fallen has next to no accessibility settings at launch. All you’re getting here is the ability to toggle subtitles and their size. That’s obviously welcome, but the addition of colorblind settings and other assists post-launch would make Lords of the Fallen much more accessible to people with different requirements. 

How we reviewed Lords of the Fallen

I played Lords of the Fallen on PC for approximately 15 hours, using an Xbox Wireless Controller. As it’s a soulslike, I endeavored to try out multiple builds and playstyles while scouring the world to uncover much of its hidden secrets and to immerse myself in the Unreal Engine 5-powered twin-worlds system. 

Alongside Lies of P and Final Fantasy 16, Lords of the Fallen is easily one of the best RPGs of the year. For more titles like it, consider checking out our best single-player games list to discover your next gaming fix.

8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller review – an exceptional recreation of an iconic 90s gamepad
1:44 pm | September 22, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming | Tags: | Comments: Off

8BitDo has partnered with SNK to develop the NeoGeo Wireless Controller. Essentially a revision of the original NeoGeo CD gamepad from 1994, this new model recreates its iconic look and feel, while adding some quality modernities like wireless connectivity along with PC, Android, and NeoGeo Mini console support.

The star of the show here, just as it was with the original controller, is the beautiful joystick. Simply one of the best of its kind, the stick has been accurately recreated, maintaining a responsive, clicky feel that’s perfect for play with some of the best fighting games and arcade games of the 90s.

It’s worth noting, above all, that, despite some modern changes, the 8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller is a warts-and-all recreation. This means that those awkwardly-placed Start and Select buttons are right where they were left in the '90s - smack in the middle of the pad. But really, aside from the controller’s relatively limited use (since it lacks a second analog stick), this is the only blemish I can point to on what is otherwise an excellent gamepad that’s well worth the astonishingly low asking price.

Price and availability

The 8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller is available to buy now for $34.99 / £29.99. US buyers can purchase the gamepad directly from 8BitDo’s website, while those of you in the UK can rely on Amazon to obtain theirs. While that’s a relatively low asking price, do note that the controller is only compatible with Windows PCs, Android devices, and the NeoGeo Mini console.

There are also four limited edition variants of the controller available to purchase, each bearing the likeness of The King of Fighters ‘97 characters Iori, Kyo, Mai, and Terry. However, these are slightly more expensive at $39.99 and seem to be exclusive to the US market. 

Design and features

8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller

(Image credit: Future)

The 8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller is an impressively lightweight and easy-to-handle gamepad. It’s highly accurate in recreating that original look and feel, maintaining that stark black finish complemented by face buttons bearing four different colors. In terms of appearance, the only real change here from the 90s original is the addition of 8BitDo’s logo on the front and rear of the pad, as well as an added pair of shoulder buttons not too dissimilar to the ones you’d find on an SNES controller.

The gamepad also maintains the original’s impressive ergonomics. It has a much thinner profile compared to the best PS5 controllers and best Xbox controllers, but it’s neatly rounded to fit exactly between your thumbs and index fingers. It may fit less well if you have larger hands, as it is a fairly compact controller, but for most players it’ll rest very comfortably.

Module quality is also fabulous across the board. The sizable face buttons have a short, snappy travel time that makes them perfect for classic platformers and fighters. The same goes for the newly added shoulder buttons, though it’s worth noting that there are only two here, meaning games that require the use of four aren’t a good fit for this pad.

The standout module on the 8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller is undoubtedly its phenomenal stick. Feeling more like a versatile, 8-way d-pad, it's excellent to rock back and forth thanks to a clicky, tactile response and a relatively short travel time compared to more traditional analog sticks.

The only major drawbacks in terms of design are those centered around the Start and Select buttons mentioned earlier. The fact they are smack center of the pad, one placed above the other, means it can be slightly awkward to reach a thumb over to press them. It’s a small gripe that would have benefitted from a slight revision, but it doesn’t detract too much from the controller’s superb design.

Performance and battery life

8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller

(Image credit: Future)

You can wire up the 8BitDo NeoGeo controller to your PC via USB-C connection, or opt to insert the included USB dongle for a wireless 2.4GHz connection. A toggle on the back of the pad also lets you switch to Bluetooth for use with Android devices if you prefer. Wireless connectivity in both modes was stable in my testing, without any noticeable input latency.

The controller also features a Turbo mode with its own dedicated toggle. This is particularly useful if you’re playing shoot-em-ups or brawlers that require frequent presses of the same button.

The 8BitDo NeoGeo wireless controller performs wonderfully for older games, so long as they don’t require a second analog stick or two additional shoulder buttons. Starting a new game in the original Final Fantasy 7, I found the gamepad’s responsive buttons to be a perfect fit for the turn-based commands. I’ve also never had more fun playing classic fighting games like Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Vampire Savior; that excellent analog stick makes inputs much easier than on a more traditional d-pad.

The controller is also generous in terms of battery life. Expect to get around 30 - 35 hours on a single charge, with anywhere between 60 - 90 minutes required to get it topped up again via USB-C. That high battery capacity paired with the pad’s relative lightness makes it excellent to take out and about, too, especially if you’re planning on pairing it to an Android device.

Should I buy the 8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller?

8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How we reviewed the 8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller

I tested the 8BitDo NeoGeo Wireless Controller over the course of a week, primarily on PC, but also with some testing via Bluetooth on my Android phone. To get a proper feel for the controller, I ensured testing was largely done on older titles with modern ports, including the Capcom Fighting Collection, Breaker’s Collection, Final Fantasy 7, and various entries in the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster collection. 

For more top gaming accessories, consider checking out our best Nintendo Switch controllers and best wired gaming headsets for enhanced experiences on console.

Synced review – number crunching
5:43 pm | September 18, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , | Comments: Off
Review info:

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on: PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S
Release date: September 8, 2023 

SYNCED stands apart as a uniquely lopsided proposition in the free-to-play space. On the one hand, NExT Studios has managed to craft a startlingly high-quality PvE shooter with an engaging upgrade loop and a novel roguelike mod system that will have you coming back time and time again. On the other, all of this co-op goodness has been inexplicably paired with a mundane battle royale that suffers from poorly balanced design and a muddled overall structure. 

The disappointing PvP component is almost entirely distinct, however, so doesn’t detract from the excellent co-op, but does make the overall package harder to wholeheartedly recommend. If you’re looking for a solid free alternative to the likes of Back 4 Blood or World War Z to enjoy with a thrifty group of friends, SYNCED’s co-op mode will certainly do the trick - just don’t expect to give up Fortnite as you rush to make it your go-to battle royale any time soon. 

Sync or swim 


(Image credit: Level Infinite)

The action is set in a distant future where the evil Shinar corporation (a name so close to Shinra that it makes me wonder if someone’s been copying Final Fantasy 7’s homework) has managed to bring about the collapse of civilization with its rogue nanomachine technology. 

You play as a Runner, one of the few survivors who is brave enough to venture into the Meridian - a perilous wasteland filled with swarms of deadly robots called Nanos. Your goal in excursions into Meridian is primarily to kill Nanos and scoop up lots of glowing blue Nerva (a valuable energy source that’s being used to power what’s left of human society) to bring back to your camp.

As you can probably tell, the plot is reliant on a frankly absurd number of proper nouns that are deployed with almost alarming frequency. It’s by no means the most easy to follow narrative on the planet, but the frequent cutscenes do introduce some much-needed variety to what would otherwise be a series of back-to-back online matches.

These matches are split into two distinct game modes: PvE Dead Sector Runs and PvP Nerva Runs. The two modes feel markedly different but do share some underlying core mechanics. Both allow you to absorb (or sync) defeated Prime Nanos - roaming minibosses that can then be unleashed to fight by your side. There are four types of Prime Nano to choose from, each smartly designed and offering their own unique approach to combat. 

The Guardian, for example, carries a huge defensive shield that can help protect your team against incoming fire while the Crusher lives up to its name by effortlessly plowing through hordes of enemies. Each Nano also grants you a unique movement ability, including a fantastic super-powered jump that feels pleasantly reminiscent of the strong traversal in series like Infamous

The roster of Prime Nanos pairs well with the selection of available Runners, who each boast their own special abilities including an invisibility cloak and radar vision. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but experimenting with new Runner and Nano combinations adds some pleasant variety.

 In two minds 


(Image credit: Level Infinite)

Of the modes on offer, I found that Dead Sector Runs were by far the most enjoyable. They are a series of PvE story missions centered around uncovering the sinister secrets concealed by Shinar in the build-up to the collapse. It feels like something straight out of any of the best horde shooters - dropping your team into an environment filled with waves of robots that need to be culled in order to progress. 

In addition to a smattering of Nerva, every slain foe drops Radia - a temporary currency that only lasts for the duration of your current run. Radia is spent on upgrading the power of your current weapons and unlocking one of two randomly selected mods. While the shooting is all mechanically solid, with fluid animations and a robust sense of feedback, mods are really where the combat comes into its own. 

Some are small, offering basic buffs to stats like health or attack strength, while others introduce whole new mechanics like the ability to spawn decoys or ricochet bullets between enemies. There is a seemingly endless number to choose from and, most importantly, they can all be upgraded and combined in interesting ways. This opens the door to a huge amount of strategy as you carefully try to craft the perfect combination. It can feel slightly too reliant on luck at times, but when it does all come together the results are incredible. In one particularly memorable run, I bought a series of weapon knockback upgrades leading to a hilarious situation where I could use a fast-firing SMG to send whole groups of enemies flying around the environment like some kind of deadly robot confetti.

All of these upgrades are vital for success against the mission’s final boss, a challenging gauntlet designed to put your combat skills to the test. They’re mostly just big bullet sponges with powerful attacks, but there are some novel gimmicks thrown in here and there to keep things fresh.

Best bit:


(Image credit: Level Infinite)

There are a smattering of more open-world Dead Sector Runs that allow you to explore huge environments freely while collecting upgrades. It’s a delightful change of pace. 

 Your haul of accumulated Nerva can then be spent on permanent upgrades back at base, including a selection of starting mods and more powerful weapons. Despite being mostly centered around increasing your overall power level, a numeric measure of the power of your starting mods, the whole loop feels extremely rewarding with plenty of significant unlocks to keep you going. 

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that Dead Sector Runs can be enjoyed solo or as a pair. The overall difficulty adjusts depending on the size of your team, a clever inclusion that also means you're not heavily punished if someone disconnects halfway through a match.

Unfortunately, the Nerva Runs are far less enjoyable. A strange take on the battle royale formula that brings in elements of extraction shooters and territory control modes, your main objective is to loot gear and gain Nerva by capturing marked points on the map. Hordes of Nanos are still present, as is the same Radia upgrade system, but it all seems a little out of place in a PvP context. Railing against AI enemies with random overpowered abilities is one thing, but it feels incredibly unfair to find yourself eviscerated by a rival player who just happened to roll better mods. 

Add in a pricey battle pass, multiple premium currencies, a gacha system, not to mention the ability to buy some Runners directly with cash (which could potentially put paid players at an advantage) and there’s little here to make SYNCED’s PvP component more appealing than its strong competition in the battle royale genre. 

Accessibility features

SYNED accessibility menu

(Image credit: Level Infinite)

The accessibility options in SYNCED are fairly basic. Subtitles are enabled by default (for both cutscenes and in-game radio transmissions). Controllers are supported on PC and you also have the option to switch a number of actions that are commonly associated with holding down keys (like crouching or aiming down sights) to a toggle. 

How we reviewed 

I played more than 20 hours of SYNCED on PC and managed to complete most of the co-op Dead Sector Runs either solo or as part of a team. I also spent several hours getting to grips with the PvP mode, Nerva Run, where I experimented with as many weapons and abilities as I could get my hands on. 

Our list of the best co-op games will offer you unmissable multiplayer experiences, as will our list of the best multiplayer games on PC, but if you're looking for something to suit a solo experience, then it's worth checking out the best single-player games

Sea of Stars review – a traditional RPG with modern wit
5:33 pm | August 28, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , | Comments: Off
Review Information

Platform reviewed: PC
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC
Release date: August 29, 2023

As the heroes of Sea of Stars, Valere, and Zale, squared up to do battle against a giant worm, a tense beat began to play, before slowly opening into a dramatic score. The way the game’s first boss fight played out followed suit, in a way, with Sea of Stars’ first giant enemy (an enormous worm) smashing the sides of the arena all while the encounter continually escalated. After a fierce back and forth with more than a few close calls, the worm perished in a dramatic and cathartic animation. The battle was won, and I felt great. 

This is the magic at the heart of Sea of Stars. This indie RPG from Sabotage Studio faithfully recreates the thrill of classic turn-based battles that define the best JRPGs while elevating itself through the use of modern genre-blending design principles.

Sea of Stars is all about adventure, offering stunning pixel art visuals, diverse locales, and a simple yet engaging plot. However, Sabotage’s latest RPG is more than just an homage to the classic, early installations of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. With Sea of Stars, Sabotage has taken a holistic approach to design, making the game world feel broad, grounded, and cohesive.

Sea of Stars’ writing has a cheeky irreverence reminiscent of indie classic Undertale

Background NPCs have dialogue that makes sense and is consistent with the world, while even small towns have areas you can explore if you’re inclined to go searching for hidden treasure. NPCs also have custom animations to help underscore their quirks, reinforced by character ‘voices’, which are captured by contrasting text sounds for different speakers. There’s even a fishing minigame. These little details add up to give Sea of Stars a depth that exceeds the sum of its parts. 

What’s more, Sea of Stars’ writing has a modern twist, with some cheeky irreverence reminiscent of indie classic Undertale sprinkled in. Characters might make little nods to the tropes that bind the world together, or, in the case of one particular pirate, almost break the fourth wall entirely. This sense of self-awareness keeps the game fresh, offering Sea of Stars a momentum that carries it through its weaker moments. 

A matter of timing

Zale, Valere and Garl battle The Elder Mist

(Image credit: Sabotage)

Beneath its pixelated veneer, Sea of Stars is a surprisingly innovative title, daring to conflate genres in its attempt to build something novel. Though combat is turn-based, the game rewards you for some good timing whenever your character attacks or receives damage. Time a button press right, and you’ll get an offensive or defensive bonus. This little quirk adds an element of tension and excitement to even the most routine of battles.

Character skills also follow suit, requiring you to press buttons when prompted, or hold down buttons and release them at the right moment. In isolation, they amount to very simple mini-games, but, in the context of the game’s battles, they enable you to learn and grow alongside the characters. So, as Valere levels up, so too does your ability to get the timing right on her Moonerang attack. 

Best bit

The party move through the overworld past an immense sleeping dragon

(Image credit: Sabotage)

Our heroes descended into a valley, passing a giant dragon called ‘The Sleeper”. Seeing the dozy titan up close brought me into the world of Sea of Stars in a big way, hinting at a whole universe of myth and potential - all while proving that sprites can be just as awe-inspiring as polygons. 

Combat in Sea of Stars offers a satisfying depth that is made apparent by the game’s approach to regular attacks. Hit someone with a normal attack and you’ll not only recover MP, your spellcasting resource, but you’ll also generate Live Mana, which can be used to Boost characters when they use skills and attacks in battle. Reminiscent of the excellent action economy in Octopath Traveller 2, boosting makes your character more effective, while also imbuing their basic attacks with the character’s signature element.

This latter is vital for dealing with 'Locks', a system whereby powerful attacks from enemies can be weakened or even prevented by hitting them with the right combination of damage types in a given time window. Sea of Stars transparently counts down to every foe’s next move, allowing you to spend your turn wisely and plan accordingly. In keeping with the best traditions of the turn-based RPG, Sea of Stars’ battles feel like dramatic, fast-paced puzzles, challenging players to find efficient solutions to increasingly complex threats.  

That said, a lack of character customization is conspicuous. When characters level up, you can select which stats to increase, but the choice of skills and abilities available to each party member is determined by story beats, rather than player decisions. Though this grants each character a more distinctive set of actions that reinforces their role in the story, it does detract from player agency in a way that had me missing Bravely Default 2’s job system.  

Will it blend? 

the party look out over a cliffisde

(Image credit: Sabotage)

Every other facet of Sea of Stars attempts to blur genre divides, borrowing techniques from across the rich tapestry of modern games to create something novel and refreshing. 

Not only does Sea of Stars place a greater emphasis on traversal than most JRPGs, but the game’s dungeons also borrow from the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom by allowing the player to acquire items that let them interact with the world in new and interesting ways. A grappling hook you find in a necromancer’s lair is a particular gem: it not only allows you to solve the dungeon’s own puzzles but also gives you a tool with which to gain the upper hand over enemies in combat.

The story, too, borrows from outside of the established JRPG toolbox. While the narrative’s bare bones follow the traditional “chosen heroes go off to defeat a great evil” mold, Sea of Stars offers twists that alter the flavor just enough to keep it interesting. Early on in the story, serious and superpowered Solstice Warriors Valere and Zale are joined by Garl, a wholesome young man who loves cooking, meeting new people, and looking out for his friends. 

Having a non-magical party member early on helps place the epic struggle of the Solstice Warriors in a wider context

Seemingly transplanted from Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing: New Horizons Garl’s wholesomeness adds a much-needed counterbalance to Valere and Zale’s stoic determination. Having a non-magical party member early on helps place the epic struggle of the Solstice Warriors in a wider context by allowing us to view their quests through the eyes of an average Joe, all while humanizing the whole affair with Garl’s good-natured gentleness.  

A pirate troupe perform for an inn that's fallen on hard times in Sea of Stars

(Image credit: Sabotage)

Much like Undertale, Sea of Stars isn’t afraid to draw on tropes when needed, skillfully discarding them once they lose their luster. For instance, at one point in the tale, you encounter a group of charming, fourth-wall-breaking pirates. Though initially presented as a comedic interlude, they swiftly gain depth as they’re transplanted from a wholesome trading port to a tavern on a haunted island. In this new context, their irreverent comedy takes a whole new tone, as they take to the stage to lift the locals’ spirits. What was once played for laughs is now used to make a comparatively serious point about hope in dark places. The grief-ridden patrons of the tavern are distracted from their woes, if only for a moment, by these zany pirates. Sea of Stars is full of these moments of theatrical contrast and is all the stronger for it. 

This sense of theater is consistent across the entirety of Sea of Stars. Every story beat is tinged with JRPG melodrama but never feels imprisoned by it, allowing the game to occasionally blur genres and move beyond the established JRPG formula. Though the relatively flat main protagonists and lack of customization options do stifle the game’s flair, Sea of Stars remains an enchanting adventure that will please old-school RPG fans as well as those looking for a cozy adventure.  


Sea of Stars accessibility relics menu

(Image credit: Sabotage)

Though Sea of Stars doesn’t offer support for colorblind players or those with other visual impairments, the title does offer numerous ways of tweaking the core game experience to make its combat accessible to a range of players. Much like Final Fantasy 16, Sea of Stars offers players Relics which allows them to customize elements of the game difficulty. Some soften or even remove quick-time elements, while others heal the party between engagements, allowing players to tailor their experience to better suit their preferences. 

How we reviewed Sea of Stars 

I played 10 hours of Sea of Stars making my way through a range of boss encounters, dungeons, puzzles, and a sizable chunk of the story. I played the game on PC with a Dualsense PS5 controller, which handled smoothly.

During my time with the game, I sampled the fishing mini-game as well as Wheels, an in-universe strategy game reminiscent of Gwent or Triple Triad. I also spent time experimenting with different party compositions and battle strategies.  

Looking for more great games? Our list of the best PS5 games and our round-ups of the best Xbox Series X games and best Nintendo Switch games will tell you exactly which titles offer the most bang for your buck.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller review – the most robust voice chat experience on Xbox Series X
7:14 pm | August 21, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off

The Turtle Beach Recon Controller is primarily designed with online players in mind. Whether you’re looking for a wide range of equalizer settings to boost the audio performance of the best gaming headsets, or need loud-and-clear team communication in multiplayer environments like Fortnite or Final Fantasy 14 Online, the Turtle Beach Recon was made for players like you.

The gamepad isn’t our top pick for voice chat in our best Xbox controllers guide for nothing. You will need at least a mid-range headset to get the most out of the Turtle Beach Recon, but you’ll be well-served with a plethora of audio settings, including those aforementioned EQ profiles and Turtle Beach’s own Superhuman enhanced audio, which really hones in on voice chat clarity.

But it’s no gimmick, as the Turtle Beach Recon Controller is a competent gamepad in its own right. The play experience is bolstered by excellent build quality, and some particularly tactile face buttons, sticks and triggers. In its totality, you’re getting a product that’s remarkably affordable for its rich feature set and competent design.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller: price and availability

The Turtle Beach Recon Controller is available to buy now for $59.95 / £49.99 / AU$99.95, either from the manufacturer’s own website, as well as large online retailers including Amazon, Game and Best Buy. Do keep in mind that the controller is designed for Xbox Series X|S and PC, meaning PS5 players will need to look elsewhere as there’s unfortunately no Sony version of the gamepad. 

Turtle Beach Recon Controller: design and features

Turtle Beach Recon Controller

(Image credit: Future)

The Turtle Beach Recon looks the part of the Xbox Wireless Controller with a strikingly similar form factor. But there’s some key differences that separate and in some ways elevate it above Microsoft’s pack-in gamepad. 

While build quality isn’t quite as premium as Microsoft’s, it’s nevertheless a solidly built controller that doesn’t really have any outstanding weaknesses in terms of its design. Its textured grips, triggers, bumpers and back buttons all drive that home even further, creating a feel that’s both comfortable and resistant to slipping. In other words, perfect for a gamepad that prioritizes hassle-free online play.

There’s dedicated space at the top of the controller – just above the Xbox Home button – for all its audio profile features and settings. It’s a bit busy here, and first-time users may find the layout to be a touch overwhelming, but it doesn’t take too long to acclimatize to the setup.

Bookending either side of the Turtle Beach Recon Controller’s on-board audio controls are headset and voice chat volume controls. Between them, there’s a dedicated mic mute button, EQ selection and a toggle for Turtle Beach’s Superhuman audio setting. It’s a fairly basic setup once you’re used to it, and you’ll likely find it to be a highly convenient set of on-board functions, eliminating the need to open your console or PC’s volume control centers separately.

Turtle Beach Recon Controller: performance

Turtle Beach Recon Controller

(Image credit: Future)

The Turtle Beach Recon Controller impresses on the fundamentals. Its face buttons, triggers and sticks all feel nice to press and move about; a necessity for a multiplayer-focused gamepad, and thankfully the manufacturer has understood the assignment here. Overall feel reminds me of the 8BitDo Ultimate in that modules are tactile, and feature a short travel time which helps to reduce input delay. The addition of trigger locks would’ve been nice, but what’s here more than gets the job done for online play.

Where the Recon sets itself apart from other pads is, as mentioned, that on-board audio control. These all feel similarly responsive, with volume controls and the mic mute button doing exactly what they say on the tin. The EQ presets are all functional, too. There’s a default setting if you’re happy with a more generalized audio profile, however, there are also options for heavier bass, or a focus on distant sounds such as footsteps and vehicles. That’s especially handy for shooters like PUBG Battlegrounds and Warzone, wherein spatial awareness is often key to success.

The two big surprises for me, though, include the togglable Pro Aim setting. This will automatically tune your analog stick sensitivity to help improve accuracy in the best FPS games. It’s simple, but an effective way to manage finer aiming without needing to delve into your game’s sensitivity settings. Take PUBG Battlegrounds, where sniping from hundreds of meters away is a common method of scoring kills. I found that the togglable Pro Aim helped me to focus more effectively on distant targets.

Lastly, the Superhuman audio toggle on the Recon deserves special mention. In essence, this helps to add clarity to voice chat, and it works phenomenally well. During a Fortnite play session, toggling the setting on and off created a clear difference in clarity by sharpening the chat audio profile, and it helps to quieten background sounds. It’s a must-enable option if you’re playing a title that requires clear, careful communication between team members. 

Should I buy the Turtle Beach Recon Controller?

Turtle Beach Recon Controller

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How we reviewed the Turtle Beach Recon Controller

Given that the Turtle Beach Recon Controller is designed around online play and communication, we primarily tested the gamepad in a variety of multiplayer scenarios. We found it to be especially useful in games that required clear communication, such as Final Fantasy 14’s various raids and trials, as well as sessions of Fortnite to discuss our plans for each game, where we were headed and callouts for enemy players and loot. 

Interested in more of the best Xbox controllers? Consider checking out our expertly tested reviews for the Victrix Gambit and PowerA Fusion Pro 3 gamepads.

PDP Afterglow Wave review – an RGB novelty that misses several marks
6:38 pm | August 18, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , , | Comments: Off

The PDP Afterglow Wave sets a mighty fine first impression, at least out of the box. Boot up your console with the gamepad plugged in via USB-C and you’ll be treated to a lovely RGB lighting effect that cascades down the grips, and lights up the surroundings of each analog stick. It’s certainly an eye-catching pad, and one that would suit RGB heavy gaming setups.

Unfortunately, all other aspects of the Afterglow Wave can’t match its lovely lighting. Overall, the controller has a cheap, almost tacky feel to it. This is especially apparent in the analog sticks, bumpers, face buttons, and triggers which all feel frustratingly stiff and below the level of quality you should expect. The two programmable back buttons do salvage things somewhat, however, feeling nicely tactile. Additionally, the circular D-pad design is a welcome touch.

Still, there is an argument to be made in favor of the Afterglow Wave in that of its welcomely affordable sticker price. But, the same can be said for some of the best Xbox controllers, including the 8BitDo Pro 2 and HyperX Clutch Gladiate, which sit around the same price point and perform much better overall which leaves this one with precious little to say for itself.

PDP Afterglow Wave - price and availability

The PDP Afterglow Wave is available to buy right now, for $44.99 / £34.99 / AU$69. The gamepad is purchasable from PDP’s official website, as well as big box retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and Gamestop. If you’re not keen on the default black colorway, then white and gray options are also available should you prefer. 

PDP Afterglow Wave - design and features

PDP Afterglow Wave

(Image credit: Future)

The most eye-catching design element of the PDP Afterglow Wave is certainly its RGB lighting, which is some of the best I’ve seen for an Xbox Series X|S controller. I love the cascading light trail that slides down the sides of the controller’s grips, and the ring of RGB around both analog sticks is an equally nice touch. Even better, you can fully customize your lighting profile, including colors, patterns and speed, via the PDP Control Hub app if you’re playing on PC.

It’s a crying shame, then, that the rest of the controller’s features don’t match up in terms of quality. The Afterglow Wave’s build feels fairly cheap, which may be expected for a budget pad. However, the 8BitDo Pro 2 proves that you can have high build quality and affordability both. The Afterglow Wave’s RGB lighting is doing some extra heavy lifting here, but overall I would have preferred even slightly better build quality.

As for ancillary features, the Afterglow Wave does feel complete with a 3.5mm headphone jack, a dedicated mic mute button and two additional back paddle buttons, which can be assigned to an input of your choosing via the PDP Control Hub app, wherein you’re able to set multiple button profiles, too.

PDP Afterglow Wave - performance

PDP Afterglow Wave

(Image credit: Future)

Being a wired only controller, you can expect minimal input lag when using the PDP Afterglow Wave, which is always nice. Wireless functionality would of course have been welcome, but that is a rarity at this price point. The included USB-C cable is at least of a decent length (10ft), so you should have no trouble sitting comfortably during play.

The controller’s modules are underwhelming overall. Almost every module on the controller, including sticks, bumpers and triggers, all feel unnaturally stiff. They offer slightly more resistance than what I’m used to, especially compared to the pack-in Xbox Wireless Controller and the manufacturer’s own Victrix Gambit. This proved to be an issue in racers like Forza Horizon 5, and shooters including Halo Infinite, where trigger management is especially important.

The one saving grace here is those competent back paddle buttons, both of which feel nicely tactile and satisfying to press. I found myself assigning frequent inputs to these buttons, such as accessing secondary hotbars in Final Fantasy 14 Online, and felt like this was something the Afterglow Wave handled very well. It’s just a shame the rest of the controller’s modules don’t share that level of quality. 

Should I buy the PDP Afterglow Wave?

PDP Afterglow Wave

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

How we reviewed the PDP Afterglow Wave

We tested the PDP Afterglow Wave over the course of about a week, making sure to play a variety of titles across Xbox Series X and PC. While we rate the aesthetics of the controller, what was most important was testing its overall performance, which was overall quite underwhelming no matter the title we tested it with. 

Interested in more Xbox hardware? Have a read of our best Xbox Series X accessories and best Xbox Game Pass streaming accessories guides to upgrade your experience on Microsoft's current-gen systems.

Backbone One PlayStation Edition review – a fine mobile controller that’s strangely better for Xbox
6:08 pm | June 2, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off

The Backbone One PlayStation Edition is an officially licensed mobile controller, of which there are both iOS and Android variants. At surface level, it’s a perfectly fine mobile gamepad. Build quality is mostly great, and the USB-C port means your phone will remain locked in firmly during play.

It helps that the Backbone app is fairly robust and easy to navigate, allowing you to quickly select go-to apps like PS Remote Play and Xbox Game Pass. However, while bearing the PlayStation button layout, it’s not a particularly great fit for PS5 owners. It’ll do the job during remote play sessions, with impressively low input lag, but I found it to be a much better fit for Xbox Series X|S players, like many of the best Xbox Game Pass streaming accessories, due to one key oversight.

While the DualSense and DualShock 4 bear a central touchpad that’s easy to access, that’s not so much the case for the Backbone One PlayStation Edition. During remote play, you’ll need to double-tap your phone’s screen in order to activate touchpad input. That might not sound too terrible, but reaching a thumb over to the center of your phone’s screen quickly becomes irksome.

Overall, though, despite the touchpad issue and some generally awkward button placement, the Backbone One PlayStation Edition is a solid choice if you’re looking for a relatively affordable mobile gaming controller.

Backbone One PlayStation Edition: price and availability

The Backbone One PlayStation Edition is available now from Backbone’s official store page, in both iOS and Android variants. Both are priced equally at $99.99 / £99.99 / AU$179. Additionally, purchasing the Backbone One from the company directly will net you a three-month Discord Nitro subscription and a one-month Apple Arcade subscription for new customers. 

Backbone One PlayStation Edition: design 

Backbone One

(Image credit: Future)

The Backbone One PlayStation Edition pleases right out of the box. The sleek, matte white finish matches the default colorway of the PS5 and DualSense wireless controller. The pad rests comfortably in your hands while the triggers, analog sticks, and face buttons are all of satisfyingly high quality. 

The same can’t be said for the Backbone One’s D-pad, however, which feels slightly loose and listless. Still, that’s a small blemish on an overall tight design. A larger issue is the placement of the Backbone One’s ancillary buttons. Menu, screenshot, and sharing buttons (along with the shortcut button to the Backbone app) are all awkwardly placed quite far down either side of the controller. On the left side especially, you’ll need to move your thumb a significant distance away from the analog stick, which never feels quite right.

The Backbone One PlayStation Edition also lacks a dedicated central touchpad button. However, the functionality is there; you’ll just need to double-tap your phone’s screen during gameplay. I found this to be incredibly awkward. Having to strain my thumb every time I want to open a map or inventory makes playing games like Horizon Forbidden West and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart a significant chore compared to on console.

This isn’t an issue for Xbox Game Pass games via Xbox Cloud Gaming, which makes the Backbone One PlayStation Edition, ironically, a better fit for Microsoft’s subscription service. Separate touchpad buttons on, say, the rear of the controller, would’ve been a welcome addition, too.

Rounding out the controller’s design aspects are a 3.5mm headphone jack and a USB-C port. Both are great to have, and the latter means you can charge your phone while playing.

Backbone One PlayStation Edition: performance

Backbone One

(Image credit: Future)

As hinted above, the Backbone One PlayStation Edition performs solidly, with impressively little input lag during both cloud streaming and remote play. To an extent, your mileage here will vary based on the strength of your internet connection (remote play also requires Wi-Fi) but the overall experience was surprisingly smooth. 

Naturally, there will be a degree of input delay when streaming games to your phone, and I won’t say the experience is entirely seamless. I did struggle to swiftly input more complex button inputs in Street Fighter 6, for example, when played via PS Remote Play. But for games that require relatively fewer inputs like Gran Turismo 7, or Stardew Valley, you’ll get a perfectly serviceable play session when you’re handheld with the Backbone One PlayStation Edition. 

Should you buy the Backbone One PlayStation Edition?

Backbone One

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You’re not on a budget
The Backbone One won’t break the bank at the sub $100 / £100 mark.

You’re after versatility
The controller’s Backbone app provides shortcuts to Xbox Game Pass, PS Remote Play, and controller-supporting Apple Store or Google Play titles.

Don't buy it if...

The touchpad functionality puts you off
Using the Backbone One for PS Remote Play is tricky, largely thanks to the double-tap touchpad setup.

You’d prefer a more feature-rich controller
The Backbone One simply does what it says on the tin and little else. The Backbone app is nice for accessing shortcuts, but the device isn’t particularly customizable.

How we tested

I tested the Backbone One PlayStation Edition with my Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra to play a variety of games across PS5 Remote Play, Xbox Game Pass, and Google Play over the course of a couple of weeks.

Games tested were across a variety of genres and size, from smaller indies like Hollow Knight and Stardew Valley, to larger-scale titles like Gran Turismo 7, Halo Infinite and Final Fantasy 14 Online.

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