Far Cry Primal Review – Boredom is a Dangerous Beast

far_cry_primal_2016_inscription_107130_1920x1080

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal; Publisher: Ubisoft

Reviewed On: PC

Core i5-6500 3.2GHz; 16GB DDR4 RAM; GeForce GTX 1070 8GB

 

I didn’t have high expectations going into Far Cry Primal, and a lot of the things made me stand corrected. A Far Cry with no guns and explosions? I thought upon the game’s announcement. Doesn’t sound all that exciting. And indeed, the age setting of Far Cry Primal does a lot to detract from the fun of Far Cry we’ve gotten used to. Sure, the change of setting brings some variety into the somewhat stale series, but the typical Far Cry gameplay formula suffers from a lot of repetition. Many elements that fit the series perfectly receive a big photos, but many of them serve to bring more annoyance than anything. I will go into depth on each of my major complaints as I go along with this review, but Far Cry Primal is the game to skip out on if you’re invested deep into the series.

To start with some positives, Far Cry Primal looks absolutely amazing. The Dunia engine is not the most demanding in games, but it renders dense forests with incredible levels of detail. Travelling through the south regions of the game world, I grew to appreciate the dense vegetation brought to life in Primal. In some ways, the setting benefits the quality of the environment, which has been made more varied and incredibly dense. As a result, the game looks stunning, especially if you have powerful hardware to back it up. The screenshots captured do not come close to reflecting the image quality seen on a screen, although demonstrate the graphical effects of this detailed game. Far Cry Primal sets a new standard for first-person shooter environments, and adds a new ceiling for future Ubisoft titles to look up to.

FCPrimal_2017_01_24_20_43_39_985.jpg

The dense forest is absolutely gorgeous

As it is, Far Cry Primal appeals largely to fans of the now long-running franchise, and attempts to diversify the regular shooter formula. It fails multiple times in attempting to do so, and the setting hasn’t been built upon enough to call it a fully-fledged sequel. Far Cry Primal sets the world in 10000 BCE, and as you would expect, the guns are gone. So are the cars, the explosions, sniping, and many other elements I grew to like in the Far Cry franchise. What the setting brings instead is tons of gathering, animal taming, dull melee weapons, along with traditional staples of not only Far Cry, but quite largely every Ubisoft game released within the past 3 years. Traditionally, Far Cry Primal also requires time to grow powerful and progress further, requiring completion of forgettable story missions and checkmarks worth of side activities.

At start, I’ve had to do some extra work within the game’s interface menu, and as soon as it is available, I would first recommend doing exactly that. Far Cry Primal’s user interface and HUD are the most cluttered I’ve seen out of a video game. Some can say it is nice of Ubisoft to offer extensive options in game’s screen, however it is an absolute necessity to turn half of these off. The worst offenders I’d recommend disabling are Gathering Animations (they drive you crazy after about first 50 times), Tooltips (the game is super easy to learn) and the Found Items Readout. These tweaks take away a lot of clutter as you gather materials and proceed with missions, and Primal offers the options to shut down many other elements of the UI.

FCPrimal_2017_02_05_19_44_17_060.jpg

Primal’s map gets quickly bloated with bonfires and camps

Far Cry Primal follows the usual pattern set by its predecessors. You set bonfires ablaze to reveal sections of the map (i.e. radio towers minus the climbing), liberate outposts to make the region safer, complete side missions to unlock skills and so on. There is nothing surprising about Far Cry Primal at all, and it never showed me anything I haven’t seen before. I’d go as far as to say that Far Cry Primal is more of a cut-and-paste of Far Cry 4 than 4 was of 3. Where Far Cry 4 brought some subtle changes to improve the game experience, Far Cry Primal follows exactly in its predecessor’s steps, right down to the random events. Defend members of your tribe, save a captured member of a tribe, kill animals. Sound familiar? It is because Far Cry 4 had all of that, albeit with some name differences.

Far Cry Primal reuses a lot of assets from its predecessors, and in fact, it feels way too much in this entry. Back to when Far Cry 4 was judged for copy-pasting a lot from Far Cry 3, the game at least tried to bring a lot of new elements and mostly succeeded with offering new tools and mission variety. To Far Cry Primal’s case, it doesn’t even try to offer anything distinct. Few hours in as the world opened up, and I might as well have been playing Far Cry 4 over again, or as I like to say, the less fun version of it. All character animations remain exactly the same for any activity and even the grappling hook remains stuck in the series’ DNA. Who would have thought that people at that time knew enough to make a claw with attached rope to climb hills. Wow, progress. Indeed, many attributes seem to be there for the sake of it, but thankfully this makes Far Cry Primal a lot more entertaining than Early Access survival games.

FCPrimal_2017_01_24_20_59_05_453.jpg

Stabbing people is still fun

The skill tree is even more confusing than ever, and Far Cry Primal is filled with even more useless skill points. 2 Points for gathering +1 skin from each animal? what a waste I thought, but as usual, anything earns you skill points fast. Each of the main characters you meet offer different abilities that help your character survive the harsh world. Well, I shouldn’t say help survive. Far Cry Primal is far from a survival game, no matter how much it wants to say with its setting. Aside from the Hardcore mode and Perma-Death options available through the Apex edition, Far Cry Primal is a joyful adventure through a dangerous world. Endless gathering adds nothing meaningful to the experience and feels like a chore after a brief period of playing. What’s worse is that you can’t avoid it either, as tools and weapons require materials to be crafter. Along the note, weapons in Far Cry Primal absolutely suck, with an awful melee system to come along with the issue. Since guns are no longer there, Primal replaces them with a bow, spears and a club. Now, instead of shooting the enemy in the face, I have to bash them in the head with my stone club. Stone age people are really that boring.

Far Cry Primal is therefore focused on a few ranged weapons and the melee combat, however the latter received very little attention during development. Primal’s melee combat is really simplistic: bash, bash, bash; which feels incredibly clunky and awkward. It quickly gets repetitive and there is a lack of development along the progression curve. Faithful to the series, Far Cry Primal starts with a weak character, and the player only feels really powerful at the mid-point. So, to have any actual fun, its down again to crafting and experience. The ranged weapons are very limited, and only the double bow feels any powerful. Far Cry Primal also offers players a variety of different tools, which all somewhat mimic the diversity in Far Cry 4. The binoculars are now replaced with a flying owl, which is just a tedious way of scouting the enemies, and natural bombs have very little impact compared to something as fun as a brick of C4.

FCPrimal_2017_01_26_22_30_04_835.jpg

What else is there? Since the main character feels rather weak, Far Cry Primal introduces a beast-taming system, kind of similar in what we saw with the Shangri La in the predecessor. Except now, the player can tame virtually any type of animal, which can later be used to aid in attacking enemy camps. While I’m on the complain train, Far Cry Primal’s animals absolutely infuriate me. They’re all over the place because of the wild setting, and I can’t even remember the number of times I was going to my destination only to be attacked by a bear in the forest. And since I didn’t have guns, I had to bash it to death with my club, which of course got me killed first. Dense forests are filled with wild life, and only after tedious crafting, I was able to have powerful weapons. Wild life cam be useful, but when I ran into 3 bears that day, it’s more of an inconvenience.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the story, and that is because I really couldn’t care less for it. Far Cry Primal features the same premise – your character becomes totally invested in helping free the region through various means, and at least in this title, the reason to defend one’s own people represents a goal that’s more clear. The developers have created a brand new language to fit Far Cry Primal’s setting and each of its 3 tribes gets a slight difference in dialect. I personally found this to be really cool, but with that said, neither the characters nor any of the main missions happened to engage me. Far Cry Primal’s characters are of course crazy, although the third time hasn’t worked out to be a charm for the series. The characters are just poorly written and lack any real sense of personality, and their crazy traits just annoy more than anything. Villains are not likeable either and their reasons to hate you are poorly explained. From what we gather at the start, everyone hates your tribe for living in the region, and that’s the entire plot.

FCPrimal_2017_01_24_20_28_46_308.jpg

Frankly, I couldn’t care a bit about my tribe and story missions fell in line with simple objectives like kill, destroy or hunt. The most outstanding pieces remain the drug scenes, and these were some of my favourite parts of the whole game. To Primal’s credit, it diversifies these missions significantly, making them more interesting than those in Far Cry 4. Despite these moments, the rest of the story is stagnant with favours and endless crafting requirements. I’ve probably spent more time looking for materials so I could get the next mission from the character than actually completing missions, although Far Cry Primal is quick to reward with materials from the stash. Still, I couldn’t care less for upgrading my village other than crafting new weapons and tools.

Far Cry Primal takes time getting used to, and I will even admit that the game grew on me as I became more powerful. Far Cry Primal takes longer to complete, largely due to many crafting restrictions, but once all my weapons were level 3, I could easily deal with large enemy numbers. And the Heavy Takedown skill is just as helpful to learn as before. The map really opens up, and most of it is accessible at the very start, though you need to get powerful to beat many outlying camps. Far Cry Primal still reflects the comfort zone of the series, and although it switches things up with an ancient setting, it is very familiar. However, I’d like to point out that with this title, Far Cry feels completely stagnant and Primal feels boring for at least first 5 hours. Developing your character and improving tools diversifies your options of approach, but you still can’t snipe everyone in a camp, I miss having a sniper rifle. Now that Far Cry Primal has lowered in price, it is worth picking up for the fans, but it feels a lot like an expansion that’s really stretched rather than a full sequel.

fcprimal_2017_01_25_06_17_38_327

The Verdict:

Far Cry Primal is yet another addition to the series, and hasn’t surprised me at any point during my 30+ hours playing it. Ubisoft attempted to innovate by setting the game in a pre-historic setting, but a lot of it only serves to the detriment of the game. Character progression is a lot slower and revolves around constant crafting, which makes Primal even more dull at the start than its predecessors. Although the game eventually gets better, Ubisoft’s usual open-world design is still there, and with Primal, the developers step even further away from a good plot or any plot at all. If you really enjoy the formula of Far Cry games, then this is just another one but with a different setting, and unfortunately, its even more aggressively boring.

Advertisements

Best Components to Pick for your New Gaming Build

P_20160807_201131.jpg

Building a gaming computer is no easy task. It takes a lot of thought and preparation to pick best parts and design a new gaming build. Thankfully, there are plenty of hardware options to go with currently, and a lot of information can be found online about best parts to pick for your upcoming gaming build or otherwise. Since I’ve built a new gaming machine quite recently I’ve decided to offer a list of components (including some of the ones I use) that are great for constructing a new gaming build and after using my current setup for almost half a year, all of these have proven to be very reliable. Here are some of the parts to pick for a mid-range gaming PC that won’t disappoint with its performance. For most choices in parts, I try to offer at least 2 different options that cover budget products and moderately priced components.

CPU – Intel Core i5-6500/6600K

110591_l

Now, there are plenty of options available when picking up a gaming processor, and they usually range along the higher end of the price spectrum. However, one doesn’t have to spend a lot to get a generally good processor that works for heavy gaming and multi-tasking, and Intel’s i5 is a great offering all-in-all.

Although Intel’s Core i5-6600K is considered to be the best i5 available on the market, with its ability to overclock beyond stock speeds, an i5-6500 also offers a great gaming solution. I mention both processors because I’ve been using an i5-6500 with my gaming build, where it works really great, and because the price difference between two options sits around $50-70. It’s something to keep in mind for really budget-oriented gamers, and in many cases, an i5-6500 offers a better bargain.

Core i5-6500 is a quad-core processor, locked in at 3.2 GHz and with 6M Cache. In most gaming tasks, this clock speed is quite enough and I’ve had no issues with the CPU bottlenecking my graphics card. With software work, this CPU is not bad either, and multi-tasking generally offers a smooth experience in Windows 10, although I haven’t run many of the demanding tasks people would use apart from gaming. Core i5-6500 also supports a variety of gaming and regular motherboards from the H110 to the Z170 chipset, but as usual, the Skylake platform will benefit the most from a Z170 motherboard. The processor comes additionally equipped with an integrated Intel HD Graphics 530, but don’t expect it to run much if you’re going for a gaming build – a dedicated graphics card will be a must.

Now on to the i5-6600K, and for those not concerned about the price, this processor offers a much better gaming option. A big plus is that it’s an unlocked processor and allows for easy overclocking, provided you have a great cooling solution to keep it under control. The base clock also starts at 3.5GHz, at 0.3 higher than the i5-6500’s stock and the 6600K can be overclocked to a plentiful 4.0GHz. It comes with the same integrated graphics chip as the lower option, and besides support for a few additional chipsets (such as Q150 and Q170, which I haven’t seen to be all that common), there is few differences between it and the 6500. However, the capacity for overclocking makes it a worthwhile upgrade, especially where the 6600K climbs up close to a faster i7 processor.

Both of these processors are really great for gaming, and it’s highly likely your budget will determine the choice between the two. The i5-6600K is better overall and allows for overclocking to 4.0GHz, making it a lot faster than the 6500 for gaming tasks. But still, I’ve never seen an i5-6500 bottleneck any other parts of my gaming build, and its support for fast ram still allows it to be a great choice when picking a gaming processor.

CPU Cooler – Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo/Hyper T2

91unx7qsvpl-_sl1500_

Air-cooling solutions still remain a very competent option for gaming builds, and for the sake of keeping the price lower I can’t include a liquid cooler, as most options cost at least $100 for CPU cooling. CoolerMaster offers 2 great processor coolers, one that’s widely known to offer high levels of performance, the 212 Evo, and one that I’ve been using with my i5-6500 instead of the weak stock cooler (please don’t ask why I was stupid and didn’t just grab the i5-6600K).

Hyper 212 Evo is the best overall air cooler, and offers best performance for the price out of all standard CPU cooling solutions. However, there is only one problem with it – the large size can make clearance difficult for some cases, and you might wanna go with the T2 for Mini-ITX build. In my Corsair Carbide Spec-Alpha ATX Case I wasn’t particularly certain it could fit the chunk of mass that the Hyper 212 Evo, and with good airflow positioning, I was able to use the T2, and it doesn’t work so bad at all. But back to the Hyper 212. The cooler comes equipped with 4 direct-contact heat pipes and a tall layer worth of its heatsink tied to a 120mm cooling fan. The Hyper 212’s heatsink does a great job at redistributing heat away from the processor, but is also the cause of its massive size. However, if you take the time to learn dimensions of all components and know the Hyper 212 Evo clears for sure, then that is definitely the option to get for gaming builds.

Now, if the size of Hyper 212 is too much, the next best solution to get is Cooler Master’s T2, which is a much smaller cooler. But why would you go with a custom cooler on a locked i5 processor? you would ask. For the purposes of better air flow, i chose to go with the T2, as unlike the stock i5 cooler, I could position it facing the back fan of the case. It is recommended to face a processor cooler towards the back, whereas a stock Intel cooler pumps out the hot air inside the case. With a locked i5-6500, I’ve seen great performance out of the T2 cooler, and it never took my CPU above 60°C in demanding gaming tasks. Cooler Master Hyper T2 comes with only 2 direct contact heat pipes and a smaller heatsink than its 212 Evo counterpart, therefore it is not best to use if you go with a Core i5-6600K. However, the T2 holds up very well in cooling off locked Intel processors, and if you desire to avoid loud noise from your PC as the fans struggle to pump out all hot air, it is one of the best options to go for in a smaller-form gaming build.

Graphics Card – GeForce GTX 1070

GTX-1070-Front-Bottom_w_600.jpg

Nvidia’s GTX 1070 released last year has proved time and again to be a favourite for many PC builders, and currently holds the title as the best budget graphics card available on the market. Since availability has stabilized, the GTX 1070 is now moderately priced, and offers groundbreaking performance at a $400 price tag. It’s also offered in multiple size options, from a small Mini-ITX form factor (at the moment it seems the only single-fan model currently available is offered by Gigabyte) to the extreme models with triple-fan setup by Gigabyte or Asus.

I personally own a Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 1070 card (for information, my review can be found here), and it delivers really great performance with its Pascal architecture and 8GB GDDR5 video memory. It is not the fastest card currently available, but it holds title as one of them and for the price, its really hard to beat. Gigabyte offers one of the better deals for a GTX1070, however all other 3rd-party manufacturers offer great variants of the card, so in this case, the choice depends a lot on personal preference. Options from EVGA, Asus, MSI all perform really well and people haven’t discussed many issues with offerings from any brand.

I was very impressed with the graphics card’s performance, and the GTX1070 literally rips games apart. There isn’t particularly anything available on the market to seriously challenge it either and most games will run at full resolution and smooth 60 fps or higher. I have been able to maxx out most of my games, and aside from heavy taxing advanced graphics options in Grand Theft Auto V, there isn’t any game that seriously challenged my setup. Even paired with an i5-6500, there is absolutely no bottlenecking on the GPU, and even if the 1070 might not perform at the max 100% power, it still works incredibly. With that said, keep in mind I’m using a 1080p monitor, so those with higher end options for a screen may experience some slowdowns, but nonetheless, it is the best GPU choice for a gaming build regardless of the budget, unless you know you can cash out on a GTX 1080.

Motherboard – MSI H110M Gaming mATX/Gigabyte Z170-X Gaming 6 ATX

13-130-918-09.jpg

With motherboards, Intel’s LGA1151 socket offers a plentitude of options, ranging from budget boards under $100 to high-end offers such as Asus ROG Z170 Maximus VIII Hero Alpha. I will be using my current motherboard as an example, again, on the basis of reliability I’ve seen out of my build, but with that said, there are plentiful of options to look out for and another option I’ll include is the MSI H110M Gaming

On the lower end of the price spectrum, many brands offer motherboards based on the H110/H170 chipset, and those looking for a budget gaming build won’t be disappointed with any cheap options (just make sure to avoid ASRock as their lower-end motherboards aren’t known as particularly good). If you aren’t really concerned with RAM speed (and the lowest DDR4 clocks still run great in gaming tasks), then H110 is very affordable and doesn’t lack the important components. However, as it is the entry level gaming chip, H110 has a lot of limitations when constructing a gaming build.

The MSI H110M Gaming supports any of Intel’s processors, including the Skylake i7 and can take 32GB of DDR4 RAM (albeit it won’t take memory clocks over 2133 MHz). The motherboard still offers plenty of connectors, including USB 3.1 at the back, however it noticeably lacks any M.2 slots, which in all fairness, you wouldn’t expect on a board like this. The MSI H110M offers up to 4 SATA interfaces, which is still more than enough for storage options and will easily fit a single hard-drive and an SSD. It wouldn’t be particularly best at fitting more than 2 storage options since the board is a mini-ITX form factor, and likely, with this build you’d go for a small-factor PC. The H110M by MSI is a great choice for a Skylake motherboard, and although it significantly lacks in features and offers minimum required, it still holds up really well in gaming tasks, especially paired with a powerful graphics card.

20151020172032_big.png

The Gigabyte Z170-X Gaming 6 might not be at the top of the Z170 range, but it offers a lot of great features at its price tag and one of the best user experiences as well. This motherboard has proven to be very reliable, and I would recommend it as the best choice among Gigabyte products. It is not the cheapest option, but its features make it worthwhile. Gigabyte Z170-X Gaming 6 motherboard offers an ATX form factor, which avoids it comparison with the H110 chipset, and frankly, these two motherboards are almost at separate ends of the hardware spectrum for Skylake boards. As a result, it offers a considerable addition in terms of features and supports increasingly more devices to add inside a gaming build.

For a start, the Z170-X Gaming 6 allows for a lot of headroom when picking system RAM, and supports most available options capping out at 3700 MHz. My G.Skill TridentZ 16GB 3200MHz sticks work perfectly in a build with this motherboard and if you have a budget for RAM, I would recommend going with at least 2400MHz on the memory speed with this motherboard (anything above 3000MHz will benefit most but also adds a bit on the price). Additionally, the ATX form factor supports SLI/Crossfire, allowing to fit another graphics card if the need for upgrade arises. Along with 6 SATA slots and 2 M.2 interfaces, the motherboard provides plenty of opportunities for future build expansion.

Gigabyte’s Z170-X Gaming 6 offers a very clean BIOS interface, which is unfortunately not commonly found among many brands. The menus are easy to navigate, and most tasks can be easily accessed from the main BIOS screen. Gigabyte offers one of the more sleek user interfaces in their BIOS options, and the Gaming 6 has also been praised for its stability by some news outlets. If you have the budget room to go for a Z170 motherboard, Gigabyte additionally offers other options to fit different budgets, as do other brands like Asus and MSI. The Z170 platform offers to get the most out of a 6th generation Intel processor, and ATX form factor boards will offer a lot of room for future improvements.

RAM – 16GB G.Skill Ripjaws V-2133MHz DDR4/16GB G.Skill TridentZ 3200MHz DDR4

2485_55b8b8151e8a1.jpg

Choosing system memory is very important, and although you could still currently do with 8GB of RAM, the increasing demands of big name releases make it wise to invest into a 16GB memory kit. DDR3 RAM kits are no longer a viable option, and Intel’s Skylake platform comprising builds of the past few years already demands DDR4 memory. As always, there are plenty of kits to choose from among G.Skill, HyperX and Corsair.

G.Skill usually remains at the more affordable end of the memory market, and its higher performance model line offers faster speeds, which is why I’ve included two options from the brand as great picks for a gaming build. G.Skill Ripjaws V start as the lowest DDR4 memory clock options and offer budget kits for those interested in just gaming. Even still, I would recommend picking up a 2400MHz memory kit as a bare minimum, however if you plan on using one of the lower-end motherboards such as H110, restriction on the clock speeds will play a major deciding factor. DDR4 memory performs really well at any speeds, and if 2133 MHz is not avoidable, it still wouldn’t largely disappoint. A significant portion of games rely mostly on memory capacity and not its overall performance, so picking up a 16GB memory kit is a necessity for some current and upcoming future games. G.Skill Ripjaws V are known to be reliable when it comes to RAM kits, and the product’s low profile design offers plenty of clearance in tight mini-ITX builds.

But say you went with a full-size ATX motherboard, and want at least 3000 MHz clock on your memory kit, then G.Skill TridentZ is the best option to go with, as they are still priced moderately relative to high-end RAM kits. I’ve used a 2x8GB DDR4 G.Skill TridentZ 3200 MHz memory kit, which contributed to overall fast performance on my gaming machine. Considering this RAM will require an ATX motherboard to support its clock speeds, clearance with a CPU cooler will not be an issue, and G.Skill has just recently updated the model line-up with RGB lights. However, even though I include two options from G.Skill in the RAM category, other brands like Hyper X and Corsair are known to perform really well in gaming setups. Thus, your RAM choice will highly depend on your gaming budget, however G.Skill often has better price to performance ratio.

Storage – 3TB Toshiba SATA 7200rpm Mechanical Hard Drive/275 GB Crucial MX 300 SSD

81a5vgxkdwl-_sl1500_

In a gaming PC, storage is just as important as all other components in the build, and going for higher capacities is usually the best option. If you’re like me and have 200 games, a beefy hard drive is a necessity. However, an SSD is also an important part, as it allows for faster loading times and a much faster system boot than a hard-drive would. As a result, I would always recommend grabbing both disks for a gaming system build. An SSD will greatly benefit with system loading times and general multi-tasking performance, however it doesn’t really benefit with loading times in a lot of games.

Aside from a few titles, my hard-drive never proved to be slow in running most of my games, and the few seconds difference with the SSD is not enough to warrant taking up space on the system drive. With the size of modern games, which often take up 40-60GB for an install, hard-drives still remain the best storage option, however I would definitely recommend picking speeds of 7200rpm as a basis. A 5400rpm drive will be considerably slower, resulting in longer loading times, and most of us don’t want to wait around for a game to load (we already have consoles for that).

A hard-drive can be very hard to pick, and although there is a vast range of options available on the market, only WD and Toshiba are generally the most reliable options to go for. Seagate drives are known to be faulty and an unreliable drive is far from ideal in a gaming build. I’ve been using a 3TB Toshiba 7200 rpm drive for over 3 years, and it still performs per my expectations, despite the many times I’ve filled it up and wiped it. It’s proven to be a reliable hard drive, and its the one I often recommend using, however Western Digital’s many options perform really well too. For optimal storage size on your PC, I would recommend going for at least 2 TB, as anything below won’t fit many of your modern triple-A games, but the 3TB model is the best choice if you want a lot of storage.

When it comes to SSDs, there is a bigger division between the budget and high-end models. Despite many M.2 & PCI-e high-performance drives currently available, traditional SATA SSD can still deliver great performance, and even they load Windows 10 within 10 seconds at most. Crucial currently offers best budget SSDs on the market, and although the company hasn’t always made best decisions when it comes with fitting their models, it still remains one of the better offers. I’ve personally went with a Crucial BX200 480GB SSD, and I’m fairly pleased with performance despite many saying it was one of the slower drives on the market. So far, I’ve experienced no issues and the SSD proved to be reliable, however Crucial’s newer offering, the MX300, makes for a better storage solution.

The base model is only available starting at 275GB capacity, but that is also plentiful storage for all your system needs and even some video games. It is always best to have a good amount of free space on an SSD, as taxing it up with storage will often result in slower performance, and 275GB offers plenty of space for some of your games. Personally, I haven’t seen the benefit of an SSD to gaming, and except strategy games (Ashes of the Singularity, XCOM, Civilization), most titles don’t need the speed of an SSD to offer decent loading times. Most apparent benefits from getting an SSD include quick multi-tasking and quick OS loading times, which make the drive already worthwhile

Power Supply – EVGA SuperNova G2 550W Fully Modular Power Supply

220-G2-0550-Y1_XL_4.jpg

EVGA is known to produce excellent power supplies besides other types of products, and the SuperNova G2 is no exception. Its price point is not exactly oriented at cutting down overall costs, but you never want to skip out on a high quality power supply. For a build around an i5 Skylake and a GTX10-series card, the range of 450-550W works perfectly to power all components, and there is hardly any point in going above unless you know you will definitely be expanding your build later.

EVGA SuperNova G2 is a fully modular 550W gold-certified power supply, which makes it ideal for any type of builds. Compact systems always benefit from the use of a modular power supply, as lack of extra wires keeps the build very clean. Even an ATX tower can certainly improve from no mess that’s usually created by external wires (evident by my slightly poor cable work in the very first photo). EVGA’s power supply comes with a 7 year product warranty and additionally features an Eco mode for reducing power consumption. The SuperNova G2 provides excellent performance to last, and although there are many other good options by well-known brands, you’ll be hard pressed to find a gold-rated fully modular supply at $100 from anywhere else.

Case – Cougar QBX Mini-ITX Tower/NZXT Phantom 410 ATX Tower

11-553-020-07.jpg

I’ve included 2 different cases in this list to show distinct parts between ATX form factor and mini-ITX builds, which also places many of these components into differently priced categories. However, pricing is not always the main deciding factor, and some people would simply enjoy the convenience offered by a small factor form build. Others won’t be bothered so much, and an ATX system generally doesn’t take a lot of space under the desk either. With either option, one comes away from with a clean gaming build, as long as all options are configured prior to purchase.

The Cougar QBX Mini-ITX is a really sleek compact case, that offers the space to fit a full ATX power supply provided it has a modular design. QBX offers one of the best small-form case models, which at the same time is designed in a way to get the most out of its small size. This case can easily fit a full-length graphics card to make it a powerful gaming platform, and if you’re using 2.5″ drives only, you can fit up to 4 in it. However, from standard 3.5″ bays only one is present. The Cougar QBX is also moderately priced, although not the cheapest among Mini-ITX towers. But if you’re willing to invest, the Cougar QBX will make one of the cleanest small PC builds, and one that also offers some impressive space capacities.

Although I’d be tempted to include the Corsair Spec-Alpha case on this list, I am going to really avoid it for bias purposes. The SpecAlpha is one of the best ATX towers available, but it’s also given me a lot of troubles when setting up my build (including when I almost broke a part of it). Another strong contender on the market is NZXT’s Phantom 410, which is a feature-packed ATX tower with an affordable price tag. The Phantom 410 is a sleek looking case with aggressive design elements, and comes packing space for plenty of storage drives among other things. Of course, components clearance wouldn’t present a problem in an ATX tower, so you could deck it out as much as physically possible, however for the purposes of this list lets assume its a sub-$1000 gaming build.

large_af745c55ef47ace7

The case comes with 3 120mm air fans pre-installed, like many case options offer nowadays, and those are enough to provide all your cooling needs. 6 3.5″ storage bays allow for plenty of future storage expansion, or the cage can be removed for a liquid cooler radiator. In either case, a typical gaming build will mostly occupy half of what the Phantom 410 offers, but its still a great case for starters. There’s additionally 3 external 5.25″ drive bays if you wish to use a Blu-ray or DVD drive. The Phantom 410 is built around a tool-less design, which allows easy access to most of its sections and side panels can easily be removed with no screws in place. The case’s frontal ports are a standard set of 2 USB 3.0 outs, audio for headphones and mic and additional 2 USB 2.0 ports. USB connectivity from the front has always been a problem in many cases, forcing me to use a USB Hub, so its nice to see NZXT offer a more feature-packed case. The Phantom 410 makes for one of the best ATX gaming cases available on the market, and while there are many alternatives to consider, this provides for a cleaner build than the rest of the competition. And its one of the best-looking cases too.

Anker PowerCore 20100 Review – The Best Power Brick You Can Currently Buy

614EzHmuM1L.jpg

In the past, I’ve got a chance to be a part of Anker’s Power User program, working with the company to test product and provide feedback. I had the opportunity to try out the Anker PowerCore 20100 and was very impressed with this product, through its design, quality and performance. Besides packing a large amount of battery capacity, the PowerCore 20100 is also one of the sleekest designs you can buy, and the quality of packaging and accessories by Anker impress a lot, and at just $40 price for a whole package. So, let’s take a look at what it offers.

When I received this product, I was immediately impressed with its packaging. Anker demonstrates its high levels of product quality not just with their devices, but the all-around package. Anker products are always packaged well, and the PowerCore 20100 was no exception. Opening the box, the contents look impressive – a super sleek power brick, a soft carrying case (super useful after I had to start carrying it around everywhere but not commonly seen included with these products) and a nice charging cable. I was actually surprised to see a carrying case, as I’ve tested multiple power bricks over the past and its proven useful when i carry the PowerCore 20100 around with me.

71MoGPIYwHL.jpg

The Anker PowerCore 20100 looks seriously sleek and I find it to be one of the best-looking power bricks around. All design elements fit very well into it, from the white colour (the model I received, and I do believe it look a lot better than black) to the placement of USB ports. To round off the sleek package, Anker places its neat logo and 4 LED lights on the top of the power brick to further enhance the already great look. The quality of the build also impressed, and Anker didn’t slack off with making this model. The result is an all-around best power brick.

PowerCore 20100 is quite large in size, although it is never inconvenient to carry it. The plentiful capacity is a worthwhile trade-off, and I appreciated the fact I wouldn’t have to charge it often for weeks. The 20100 mAh capacity is enough to charge a high-end phone multiple times over, although this iteration of Anker’s PowerCore does not include Quick Charging. Don’t expect it to be able to charge your phone from zero to full in an hour, and I rely on it more to keep my phone from completely dying. 2 USB ports allow for simultaneous charging, which is always handy for a second device of any type.

71iHUQ7V3ML.jpg

Anker uses its smart Power IQ technology for charging devices, which like many others, detect the best possible output to charge a phone quickly. Again, QuickCharge is lacking so it is still slow by modern standards, but it doesn’t necessarily present a big problem. Most of these devices I won’t use to fully charge my phone anyways, and maintaining a steady battery level is more of a priority. The PowerCore 20100 has never failed on me once, and I’ve had it for over half a year by now. It also didn’t cause any issues with my wide range of electronic devices and accessories.

Overall, the Anker PowerCore 20100 demonstrates the excellent quality of products by Anker, and thus deserves a lot of attention. It is one of the sleekest power banks you could buy, but it also delivers on its excellent quality and performance. Its capacity is plentiful and up to 2 devices can be charged simultaneously. Its one of the best portable chargers around, and Anker also includes some neat accessories such as a carrying case for protection. If you’re in the market for a new portable charger, give this one a good look.

 

Most Outrageous Gaming PCs

Every now and then, a premium PC maker will reveal an outrageously high-end product that packs in lots of gaming power. These PCs feature the latest components, although with that comes a very high price tag. Upon largely following some tech reveals at CES 2017, as well as scouring sellers’ websites, I’ve summed up a list of systems I find most interesting and unique in their makers’ execution of an over-the-top gaming PC. These are the beefiest and heaviest gaming desktops ever released, along with a few extreme all-in-one builds, and represent the most powerful hardware you could attain as a gamer. Most of these systems are highly desirable of course, however often come bearing astronomical price points for a full feature setup. The stunning edgy visuals and breakneck performance you get though, completely pay off for the prestige of owning one of these systems.

Maingear Alpha 34

8.jpg

The Maingear Alpha 34 All-in-One looks incredibly sleek and features some of the best looks for a gaming system. Customly designed by Maingear, the Alpha 34 features multiple setup variations, ranging from a gaming build to a full-on workstation. The system can be further customized with multiple colour variations to fit any style of gaming setup. The Alpha 34 stores the power of a full gaming PC, fitting full-sized graphics cards and coming with its own built-in power supply. The curved 34″ ultra HD display makes it far from a small factor form, but the gorgeous display is well worth it. The screen is a 3440×1440 curved WHD display with high pixel density and incredible detail. The sharp edges of the Alpha 34’s stands perfectly accentuate the wide curve of its display and the screen’s edges sharply contrast against the desk environment. Maingear Alpha 34 is instantly striking and its a system that can make one of the sleekest gaming setups yet.

Under the gorgeous display, the Alpha 34 is widely customizable, and multiple platforms can be chosen to serve various needs. The Alpha 34 can be created into an ultimate gaming machine, or a high-end workstation for demanding tasks – either way, the company will build it for you. Range of hardware parts varies significantly, and the system can be built on Z170, X99 and Intel Xeon platforms. There are 3 configurations available at the start, and although they can be further customized by picking out specific parts, I will just briefly break it down. The lowest tier is a H110/Z170 gaming system that starts at $2000 and comes equipped with any of the Intel quad-core Skylake processors with i7-6700K 4.0GHz at the top of the line. As each part is customizable, a wide range of Z170 motherboards are available for a basis, culminating in deluxe high-end motherboards such as Asus ROG Maximus VIII Impact. Additionally, it comes with up to 32GB of DDR4-2133 RAM and can be fully equipped with a GeForce Titan X 12GB Graphics Card. As these models are currently sold out, it is hard to determine whether the newest Pascal cards from Nvidia are available for configuration.

The second configuration is based on the X99 platform and comes equipped with a choice of Intel Broadwell-E processors up to the 5960X 3.0GHz 8-core model. The price is considerably changed relative to a Z170 platform, and expect to pay at least $700 more. This build can be customized to fit a Radeon R9 380X graphics card or options from Nvidia, but either way, high levels of performance are achieved. Finally, the X99 motherboard (can be equipped with ASRock X99E-ITX model) supports 32 GB DDR4-2666 RAM. The final Professional configuration can be equipped with 6-8 core Intel Xeon processors, which are primarily aimed at achieving stable workstation performance. Intel Xeon processors don’t do too well for gaming and the build is better equipped with a X99 motherboard and an option for a Workstation Graphics card. All of the configurations offer similar choices of power and storage, featuring 2 available storage bays that can have either 2x 2TB 2.5″ drives or 2x 1TB Samsung 850 Pro SSD. The power supply is a 450W gold certified model. Networking options on the Alpha 34 include integrated Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Gigabit Ethernet and Bluetooth 4.0. This all-in-one PC additionally features a web camera mounted on top, which is convenient for game streaming or playing with friends. All in all, the Maingear Alpha 34 is a very beefy system that hides beyond a stunning 34″ Curved display.

Digital Storm Aura

xmFXrRff4URnACRYz24SZG-650-80.jpg

Digital Storm Aura looks very striking and instantly caught my attention upon its announcement. It is very similar to the aforementioned Maingear Alpha 34 and it too sports a 34″ curved ultra HD panel. The Digital Storm Aura certainly looks more attractive with its sleeker frame and thin supporting stands and provides for a really clean gaming setup. The Aura also sports a 3440×1440 WQHD resolution just like the Maingear’s Alpha 34 display, however Digital Storm ends the similarities there.

The Aura comes in four possible configurations: Good ($2000), Better ($2748), Best ($3127) and the Ultimate that comes in at $5000. The display remains the same for all of them and any configuration provides a gorgeous resolution. The starting tier comes equipped with an Intel Core i5-6500 on the Z170N motherboard by Gigabyte. Further components include 16GB of DDR4-2666 RAM, 1TB HDD and a GeForce GTX 960. The operating system is Windows 10 Home, making this a pretty good configuration for most gaming tasks. The GPU in the base configuration is not extremely powerful, and games would most likely have to be scaled down from the display’s native resolution. With that said, the $2000 entry configuration might not be a good future-proofing choice.

The other end of the hardware spectrum is very impressive, and if you’re willing to part with $5000 for an all-in-one gaming system, Digital Storm Aura delivers exceptional performance. The ultimate configuration packs in a 10-core Intel i7-6950X Broadwell-E processor paired with an ASRock X99E-ITX motherboard. A Vortex liquid CPU cooler keeps the processor at stable temperatures and 32GB of DDR4-2666 Corsair Dominator Platinum high-end RAM. For best gaming performance, it comes equipped with a GTX1080 and to round off the package, there’s a 512GB Samsung 950 Pro NVMe SSD and a 1TB HDD. For the $5000 price tag, the storage options are quite disappointing and I would have expected at least a 3TB drive. The Digital Storm Aura is more expensive than a conventional custom build, but the sleek design and excellent construction make it worthwhile. The Aura’s design makes it perfect to create a really sleek gaming system as well.

Asus ROG GT51

ei6FCHlsIWTvs0OM_setting_000_1_90_end_500.png

If you thought that the Alienware Area 51 or the MSI Vortex GT65VR looked aggressive, then meet the ROG GT51 gaming tower by Asus. The GT51 is one of the most impressive gaming PCs I have seen on the market and its stylish case composes a really great system. It’s turbine-like intake and the aerodynamic design with sharply-angled edges make it a seriously aggressive gaming system and also one of the best-looking products on the gaming desktop market. It’s design is entirely subject to personal preference however, so not everyone will necessarily like it. It doesn’t disappoint on the specs either, providing some really sweet hardware.

Similar to many high-end PCs, the GT51 is based around an Intel Core i7-6700K running at 4.0GHz (turbo up to 4.6GHz) on the Z170 platform. Motherboard is not specified, but it is highly likely it is one of Asus’ top of the line ROG Z170 boards. Moving along, customizable options for the ROG GT51 are revealed, and choices of graphics cards are impressive. The lowest starts off at a single Nvidia GTX970 4GB card and 2 Titan X Pascal cards in SLI are available for gamers with no restriction on the budget. Of course, it can be also outfitted with single or dual GTX1070s and 1080s. RAM size ranges from 16 to 64GB to satisfy even the most demanding tasks and those willing to part with more money for a higher range system will likely find outstanding performance.

The GT51 can be further customized with storage options, which include up to 3 SSDs and a mechanical Hard Drive for all games you could possibly need. Optical drives can be included, with either an option for a DVD or Blu-Ray disk reader. Power supplies range from 500W to 700W, which should be more than enough, however really high-end builds would likely benefit from more available power. At last, Asus includes a plentitude of access ports, with USB, HDMI, Mini-DisplayPort and Thunderbolt available at the back of the case. As one of the top-of-the-line products out of the Republic of Gamers range, the GT51 well deserves the money put into it and its all-around one of the best gaming systems among this list. The design makes it really outrageous too.

Asus ROG G31 Edition 10

intro-hero

Asus Republic of Gamers gaming desktops are highly desirable, which is no wonder why another ROG PC makes it to this list. The G31 is advertised as the most powerful compact gaming tower and once released, should offer some very serious performance numbers. It builds on Asus’ successful ROG G20, although this time it offers an even better design, although it seems that the secondary small case seen in the photo above will be housing a power supply separately. The one on the left looks incredibly sleek with aggressive lines and sharp edges, not to mention a plethora of RGB LED strips all over the case.

As of right now, Asus doesn’t list all that much information about the build, since its recently been announced, however one can expect a similar offering to the G20’s performance, just with newer components. The ROG G20 didn’t lack in specs, although it didn’t offer the option to go completely overboard with powerful hardware, but the G31 looks to significantly improve on that, while retaining the compact case of its predecessor. From the information currently known, the ROG G31 will include a 2-way SLI Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics cards, which will be built on either a Z170/270 chipset or possibly the X99 platform in the future. The G20 was originally built on the H170 chipset and came with a Core i5/i7 processor, so we can expect a similar offering from the new contender.

The G31 is also stated to feature 64GB of RAM, which should provide sufficient in even most demanding gaming tasks. Asus additionally says its G31 desktop features 4 M.2 SSDs for storage and the signature 3D Vapor Chamber cooling solution. We can also likely expect the desktop to be customizable so that gamers of different budget can select preferred components for best performance or a budget build. The price hasn’t been announced either, but this monster of the G31 can be expected to run upward of $3000 if not more for its ultimate configuration, but I can definitely see the appeal of getting this product. Asus ROG desktops offer the most impressive features out of all contenders on this list and also the best cases I’ve ever seen available for a desktop tower.

MSI Vortex G65VR

product_7_20160707151054_577e007e4fb62.png

The MSI Vortex G65VR desktop attempts to compete with Alienware Area 51 with its sharp looks and stylish case design. Just like many contenders on this list, the G65VR packs in a GTX10-series graphics card and a 6-th generation Intel processors. It is not very customizable, and certainly doesn’t have over-the-top power, but some would appreciate its looks and the hardware available inside.

The G65VR is built on the Z170 platform and features an i7-6700K, which is considered to be one of the best gaming processors around. Of course, it’s overclockable to 4.2GHz with Intel’s turbo boost technology. The GTX 1070 is capable at running virtually every game on maxxed out settings, which I can attest to as an owner of one of those cards. Although MSI doesn’t specify which GTX 1070 it is, but it would most likely be one of the brand’s models. Still, it would have been nice to see whether the card was a first-party Nvidia reference card or whichever custom variation of the 1070. 16GB of DDR4 RAM is the most optimal amount to have for gaming, and although its only clocked at 2133 MHz, the frequency can provide more stability in gaming tasks (although i’ve never had a single issue with my 3200 MHz RAM sticks)

For storage, the MSI GT65VR uses a 256GB NVMe M.2 SSD and a 1TB SATA 7200 rpm Hard Drive. Personally, these options look really week and for gamers, the optimal setup runs at least at about 3TB Hard Drive storage to add to an SSD. A 450W power supply is included in the built, which is nothing exceptional, but quite enough to perfectly power the system components. Finally, 2 HDMI 1.4, 2 mDP 1.2, 2 Thunderbolt 3 and 4 USB 3.0 ports are included at the back for connectivity. Bluetooth 4.1 is included, but MSI’s website makes it unclear whether Wi-Fi is also built-in. The MSI GT65VR is not quite outrageous like many of the gaming systems on this list and visually and its case doesn’t have the style of many contenders, but GT65VR can still make for a pretty sweet gaming system.

Digital Storm Aventum 3

splash-aventum-3.jpg

Digital Storm takes another entry on this list with one of its desktop towers, namely the Aventum 3 build. It is easily one of the biggest towers around, and Digital Storm packs it to the brim with top-end components and a custom liquid cooling system. However, also expect it to run you quite a lot of money, as the ultimate configuration of Aventum 3 runs at $10000, which is an outrageous price even for a fully-loaded quality PC tower. This PC starts off at $5000, however the options aren’t lacking at all in the started configuration, and the build still delivers staggering performance.

I would not dwell on discussing each of the build options, and instead I’ll jump straight to the ultimate configuration. It comes with an Intel i7-6950X 10-core processor that’s cooled off by Digital Storm’s custom liquid loop and 32GB of DDR4-2666 memory. Aventum 3’s ultimate configuration is based on an Asus X99 Rampage V Edition 10 motherboard, which is one of the ultimate products within the X99 chipset range, so expect to see high levels of performance. And if $10000 is not high enough for you, Digital Storm will fit you 128GB of Corsair Dominator Platinum RAM and the build’s options can be freely customized within Digital Storm’s parts configurator. A 1500W Corsair Power Supply sits inside, and again, the ultimate configuration of Aventum 3 is simply outrageous. Once I was done picking up all my parts to see just how much it cost, the final build came out at over $20000. Yikes.

Digital Storm’s custom cooling solutions tend to run at quite high price tags, so the company allows to pick different cooling configurations, but you would most likely want a professional liquid solution for any of the processor options. Storage options vary significantly, and include any currently existing type of HDD/SSD. Multiple SSDs can be set into Raid mode, and the Aventum 3 can even be selected to come with a $1300 RAID card (although you couldn’t possibly need that for gaming purposes). Digital Storm will even send you an already overlocked system if you so desire, but those services also cost additional money. For absolute enthusiasts, you can add an HPC card in form of Nvidia Tesla K40, but then you’re trading off the GPUs. With everything said, Digital Storm certainly makes this an outrageous contender in the market of gaming PCs and the price tag on the ultimate build is simply staggering.

HP Omen X Desktop 900

Typhon_CoreSet_FrontLeft_new_57adf4a5b1ecf_1.jpg

The HP Omen X offers perhaps one of the more interesting computer cases, although it lacks the “wow” factor of the Asus ROG or Digital Storm’s gaming tower. The HP Omen is shaped like a cube, and rests on two reinforced stands.The design allows for some effective cooling and the case is made to be well-ventilated. The starter configuration starts at $3000, and HP allows to add a lot of extras for a more powerful system. The HP Omen can be easily customizable, similar to offers by other brands, however HP went one step further – you can buy the empty case separately and deck it out with whichever parts you like. The case on its own is certainly not cheap, and coming in at $650, it costs close to a high-end graphics card, but it’s also one of the best cases around and features insane levels of inner space.

HP Omen X starts at $3000 just like many of the builds here, and there are multiple variants to choose from as well based on desired performance. And again, the case is also sold separately for those looking to do a custom build by themselves. Additionally, its case design allows for easy access to many of the system’s components, so it is entirely possible to add on to the $3000 purchase. The Omen X comes based around an Intel Core i7-6700K unlocked processor, which is very common for many gaming builds and its no surprise since the 6700K is considered to be the best gaming processor around. Its paired with 16GB of DDR4-2133 RAM, which is more than sufficient for gaming tasks, however personally, I would have liked to see more RAM or higher frequency out of this build. For graphics, it packs in a GTX 1070 8GB card, which is a preferred choice for many gamers with modern PCs. The 1070 is perfectly suited at running every game, which I discuss in my review of the GTX 1070 I use with my build.

Storage options run at a 256GB NVMe M.2 SSD and a 2TB mechanical hard drive running at 7200rpm. HP Omen X in fact offers better storage options that I have seen out of an outrageous gaming PC, and the case’s modular drive bays allow to easily slot in more storage. Of course, to keep it all running, HP Omen X has the beefiest power supply out of all products, which makes it a serious performance contender. A 1300W built-in power supply offers large headroom for expanding the build and would easily handle a 3 or 4-way SLI. To keep everything cool, the Omen X has optional liquid cooling, but its case also offers good air-flow for standard air cooling. Any build would be incomplete without a plethora of access ports, and as I already mentioned it for many products above, there is no reason to re-iterate. The Omen X by HP is a seriously interesting gaming desktop and a strong contender among the most outrageous gaming systems. Even sweeter, its case can be bought entirely separately, although that would run you $650.

Maingear Rush

1.jpg

Maingear offers one of the more extensive builds on this list, namely its Rush desktop tower, where they could fit you with 2 GeForce Titan X Pascal Cards in SLI or 4 Radeon Fury X in Crossfire. It is also one of the more fully-customizable PC builds on this list, and includes a wide range of possible configurations. Where many brands shy away from the AMD platform entirely, even lacking the options of AMD’s RX graphics cards, Maingear offers the option for 4-way crossfire Fury X, R9 380X or the newer RX470/480 GPUs. It would be redundant on my part to go into detail for all different configurations, but Maingear’s website offers easy customization and navigation options.

Each configuration offers top of the line processors depending on the chipset, including i7-6950X for Broadwell-E and i7-7700K for Kaby Lake. These can be paired with up to 64 GB of quad-channel RAM for the X99 platform, and Z270 would support dual-channel setup. Top of the line Asus motherboards are available to go with either of the chipsets and Maingear tops it off with a 1200W Power Supply. Again, we’re taking about the ultimate configurations, so I discuss the most expensive parts available to get for Rush. There are 4 hard-drive bays available, and just like with any other entrant in this list, options vary widely.

Maingear offers its own custom liquid-cooling solution to deal with any demanding tasks you throw at this desktop, and even the graphics cards can be all set to come with a liquid block. Just like with Digital Storm, I went to check the highest possible price tag, and here it hovers around $20000 as well, but keep in mind many of the parts offered to choose from are not really useful to many. Unlike other companies here, Maingear can ship you the Rush along with a gaming monitor and some peripherals, which will of course cost more, but makes for an even more complete package. The case for the build looks quite awesome as well, and front I/O ports are interestingly placed on the side close to the bottom. Maingear Rush is another professionally-built custom gaming system available for sale, and its also one of the most outrageous products on this list with both its ultimate configuration and an insane price tag.

Origin PC Genesis

genesis-main-red-mid-left.png

The last but not least comes a gaming tower from the well-known company Origin PC – a fully fledged Genesis gaming desktop. No list of Outrageous Gaming systems would be complete without Origin PC’s impressive contenders, and Genesix warrants its place among the competition. The Genesis features a very sleek black & red full tower case that comes loaded with a lot of expensive hardware. The wide array of options to customize this build is mind-blowing, and upon checking out the product’s web page, I was showered by a big components list under specifications.

Origin PC Genesis can be selected to come based on a Z270 platform, an X99 or even an AMD 990FX and each comes with a vast array of processors and graphics cards to select. Chipset platforms can be further configured by selecting motherboard products, ranging from budget boards to really high-end models (think Asus Maximus IX Hero for Z270). The Z270 platform is brand new too and its already nice to see a custom PC to offer newer motherboards paired with Intel’s 7th gen processors. The Genesis system offers lots of custom water cooling loops created by Origin PC to configure for most optimal performance. Liquid cooling solutions from Origin PC are really impressive however, and provide for a lot of system stability.

Choices of Intel’s i3, i5 and i7 Kaby Lake processors are available and on the other end of the spectrum, Origin PC Genesis can provide top of the line AMD processors. However, this is just a start, and when it comes to customizing the display hardware, Origin PC offers a lot of flexibility with graphics cards. Options start with as low as a 2GB AMD RX460 and ends up all the way along the lines of 2 SLI GTX Titan X Pascal 12GB cards or even a triple AMD RX480 setup. The top-of-the-line options make the model very desirable, however no doubt these come bearing insanely high price tags. Similar variety is found in RAM kits, and Origin PC can equip the rig with 16, 32 or 64GB memory kits with up to 2800 MHz clocks. To round it off, storage options can range anywhere between a single 500 GB SSD to a loaded configuration with a 4TB Samsung 850 Evo and a 8TB Seagate desktop hard-drive. Choices come among mechanical hard drives, SATA SSDs, NVMe SSDs, M.2 SSDs and PCI-e offerings from Intel. The Origin PC Genesis can be created into an ultimate gaming system and offers some of the more desirable hardware options on the market compared to other manufacturers and the full-tower case of the build can be completely decked out with high-end parts, just keep in mind the staggering price tag right after.

Origin PC OMNI

omni-main.png

It is a shame that the 3 All-in-Ones on this list look almost identical, with the same 34″ curved screen and components packed tight into the frame, however it would still be unwise to omit OMNI by Origin PC. It is yet another high-end all-in-one for gaming and it too looks really sleek. The build also offers a chance to pick one of the two setup options, which covers those who look to run games at 4K and those who need a powerful workstation. Both are obscured by a beautiful 34″ 3440×1440 curved screen, which provides vivid colours and a large viewing angle.

OMNI can be had in two different configurations, and the gaming build is based around the Z270/H270 Intel chipset and sports a Kaby Lake family of processors from a dual-core i3-7350K processor and up to an i7-7700K for ultimate gaming performance. Of course, i5 variants are available as well. Multiple RAM configurations are available, with 8 and up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM available. Graphics cards are not slacking either, and although you could just settle for a GTX1050Ti (which is not bad at all for a budget GPU), it’s best to go after the power of the 1070/1080 or even the Titan X Pascal. OMNI supports 2 Hard Drives, and customization options are incredibly diverse. You can fit anything from a mechanical hard-drive to NVMe/PCI-e/M.2/SATA SSD types, and if you have the money, it can be outfitted with 2 4TB Samsung 850 Evo Solid State Drives or any other option desired. Prices tend to change around depending on the parts picked, but the ultimate configuration could easily run as high as $7000. However, the payoff could as well be worth it.

The second configuration is built as more of a workstation, but even then, its gaming performance is staggering. It runs on an ASRock X99E-ITX motherboard and supports the entire family of Intel’s Broadwell-E processors, with the 10-core i7-6950X at the very top. Depending on your day-to-day tasks, this processor may not be required, and other options work just as well for gaming. To keep overclocking under control, Origin PC uses its custom liquid cooling system for optimal stability. RAM, Storage and Graphics options remain similar, and again, anything can be picked as desired if the price is not an issue. As another outrageous All-in-One, Origin PC OMNI well deserves its spot on this list, and its striking looks can make one great gaming system or a workstation.

Alienware Area 51

largepng

The Alienware Area 51 immediately strikes with its sleek case design. It doesn’t just look good, but its made specifically to position inner components for convenience and easy removal.  Just like every other company, Alienware allows to customize the build before purchase, although the options are not as wide open as with Origin PC or Digital Storm. Still, if willing to part with cash, Area 51 can end up running at a high price tag. It doesn’t let you choose all of the newest up-to-date components, but its hardware runs far from disappointing.

The ultimate configuration ended up at $6800, which is not quite as high as some of the entries up the list, but its still quite a lot for a gaming PC. Alienware Area 51 includes Intel’s Broadwell-E platform, with i7-6950X at the top if you really can justify a 10-core processor in your system. Unfortunately, Alienware is not as up-to-date as many other manufacturers, and even lacks the Z170 chipset (seen in the brand’s Aurora desktop). The Area 51 is aimed more towards the enthusiast market, therefore it doesn’t settle for anything else than X99. Again, multiple configurations vary the prices widely and depending on what you order in it, its performance can go from average to staggering.

Dual GeForce GTX1080 cards are available for best gaming performance and 64GB DDR4 RAM handles even the most demanding tasks. Area 51’s 4 Drive Bays can be filled up, although I’ve found the options to really disappoint come this section. The best you can get is a 512GB SSD along with 3 4TB 5400rpm mechanical hard-drives. It is far from terrible, but the hard drives simply can’t provide best loading times (even 7200rpm can be disappointing depending on the game). With that said, some can find it sufficient and the drives could always be swapped out later down the line. A 1500w Power Supply keeps everything running, and offer more than enough room for future expansion.

The Alienware Area 51 makes it as a last entrant to my list of most outrageous gaming systems available on the market. As concluded, these offer some of the most desirable builds and hardware, although also run at very high prices. The designs of these desktops and all-in-ones are simply striking, and there should be enough options for everyone to get something they like. In the end, these systems demonstrate the vast potential of PC customizing and just how much work one can put into creating just that perfect build.

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst Review – It’s a Long Way Down

Mirrors_Edge_Catalyst_16.jpg

Developer: DICE; Publisher: Electronic Arts

Reviewed On: PC

Core i5-6500 3.2GHz; 16GB DDR4 RAM; GeForce GTX1070 8GB

 

I emerge into the sunlight of the city’s rooftops, walking a few steps further towards the edge. In the distance, I see the tall frame of a skyscraper tower and the neon glow all around it. As the light recedes, the detail below me becomes very apparent, but it’s also a long way down. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is great at creating these moments, which keeps the pace going in between high tension chases and clever environment puzzles. The game world is filled by spectacular skyscrapers and running along the rooftops creates a great sense of momentum. First-person parkour feels very realistic, and Mirror’s Edge has always been great at capturing the sense of speed. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst plays fantastically, and although its parkour might not be perfect, the game delivers on the freedom of movement and variety of accessible tools.

Mirror’s Edge parkour system remains excellent, and its a lot better in Catalyst. Almost every aspect has been improved and movement feels a lot faster. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst expands the parkour in many different ways, mostly by offering some interesting tools at your character’s disposal. The original Mirror’s Edge felt rather shallow with its preset array of moves that followed a simple pattern, but Catalyst mixes it up with different abilities. Among them, the most outstanding is the Mag-rope – a grappling hook with a lot of functionality. The Mag-rope can be useful for traversing between rooftops set far apart, although places for the grappling hook are not positioned everywhere, neither they are for ascending buildings. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst presents a similar problem I’ve found in Far Cry 4 – possibilities for ascending tall surfaces that are unfortunately in limited numbers, and it feels just as annoying here. However, to the game’s credit, there is already lots of freedom available for moving around the city and where the spots for grappling are available, they provide a lot of satisfaction to use.

mirrorsedgecatalyst_2017_01_01_16_04_26_765

I wasn’t very impressed with the plot in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst and it feels just as shallow as it did in the original. Since it has to revolve around the game’s central concept, the plot is weak and there isn’t much room for improvement. A lot of important events happen off-screen and more often than not, the character is tasked with simply running to a panel and pressing it. Gameplay flow does a great job at directing attention away from the weak story and it allows to enjoy the game even if it isn’t particularly involving with its plot. The cutscenes look outstanding though, and some spectacular explosion events are scripted within the game’s story. The weak plot is easy to overlook, and while it won’t deliver the spectacle or depth of many existing games, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst chooses gameplay over story and I’m okay with that.

The game’s open-world design structure has me in two minds about it. On one hand, this opens up the game’s city significantly and enables a lot of freedom in traversal. Multiple paths litter the city and its relatively easy to find a way to get to a destination. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst allows to get creative as well, and the developers scatter varied tools for movement among the level. However, the issue with the open-world design emerges when running between mission markers becomes long and tedious. To add to the commute, the move to an 0pen map brings out the usual guests in side missions and a vast array of collectibles. The missions are not inherently awful, and the collectibles add a drive for city exploration. However, it’s really disorienting when the map is littered with small objectives, but they can add nice distraction from the flow of main story missions.

mirrorsedgecatalyst_2017_01_05_08_55_12_330

 

The game’s map really opens up as you go along, and a large portion of the city is already accessible halfway through. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst has a fast-travel system to help with tedious commutes, although it is very limited. The player can only travel to safe houses, and those have to be unlocked through a GridNote puzzle beforehand. Parkouring along the rooftops remains the most efficient method of travel, one that also lets players see the city’s visual spectacle. Exploring on the other hand is little rewarding – grid leaks and control chips scattered around the city do little to advance player progression or unlock access to new tools. They simply exist to advance the game’s completion percentage, although its still fun to just explore the big city and find new pathways.

The City of Glass in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst provides for one of the most spectacular settings too, with its flow of neon lights and weather effects. The game’s release on the Frostbite 3 engine has served to greatly benefit the levels of detail seen in the setting, and it lets the City of Glass shine. The view is often breathtaking and incredibly far draw distances provide a spectacular picture. The game’s world has a huge amount of white, but its nicely varied up whether it’s the yellow Construction district or the purple neon of Residential District’s billboards. The red colours indicate a path to follow, very much in the style of the original, however this works through the new Runner’s Vision feature, which highlights items within the world. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst constantly changes its environments, and although the setting can’t help but show off a futuristic vibe, distinctions can clearly be seen when moving along. At night, the city looks even better when all the neon glow is present and it really helps deliver the atmosphere of the world across. The Frostbite 3 engine is quite spectacular and it really shines in an open-world game like Catalyst. Pairing up the game with powerful hardware ought to do the trick, and on my GTX 1070 I’ve been able to achieve solid performance while all the settings were cranked to ultra.

MirrorsEdgeCatalyst_2017_01_02_09_19_17_993.jpg

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is not a perfect game however, and in fact, many of the original’s mistakes have found their way over into the new entry. Most notably among those, the melee combat system is not particularly well improved, and remains as awkward as it was in the first game.Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst varies it up with multiple attack combos against different types of enemies, but the first-person fist combat feels much out of place as it did with the first one. Guns are thankfully gone, so you no longer have to deal with an awkward shooter slotted into a first-person running game, and Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst provides a contrived reason for why guns can no longer be used. However, they weren’t a feature that I particularly miss and it doesn’t deserve much attention. Melee combat carries the game pretty well, only if it wasn’t more annoying than I’d like. Most cases have the option of running away to evade the fight, but the game has a habit of forcing players into locked rooms filled with enemies, where fighting is the only option. Often with disastrous results too, as the enemies get tougher as the game goes on, and the not-so-smooth dodge move would get me killed often.

Despite that, more often than not I would fall off a building by accident, sending me plummeting down fast into concrete. Navigating the city is tricky at times, as plenty of wide gaps are present. Those are occasionally mixed up with bridges or rails to get across, but often require to follow down a specific path. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst made me die quite a lot more from falling than fights, either because I thought the height was low enough to stay alive, or because the path I took happened to have a big chasm in front of me. These moments are not game-breaking, but nonetheless I ran into a few loading screens on the way, and these have a tendency to break the pacing. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst doesn’t look to suffer from many technical issues either, and over the time i played it, significant glitches didn’t happen. On the multiplayer side, the game offers online leaderboards and friend challenges. Any given path can be made into a run that then allows to compete among friends. The online features aren’t much, but for some people it can create additional value through extra content.

MirrorsEdgeCatalyst_2017_01_01_17_16_44_585.jpg

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is not flawless, but it is a very enjoyable game, assuming you like the notion of first-person parkour and no guns.  Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is excellent at parkour and provides a lot of variety through its multiple paths and some useful tools. The game’s move to open-world and EA’s Frostbite 3 Engine has resulted in significantly higher detail across the board and the city usually looks spectacular from any angle. Paired with excellent parkour, the world becomes a joy to explore, although repetition becomes apparent the longer you play the game. The melee system remains flawed like it did in the original, and simply feels too awkward to use within a game like Mirror’s Edge. Guns are thankfully absent, as first-person shooting was even worse in Mirror’s Edge, but the game’s tendency to make enemy encounters inescapable produces frustration. With that said, all elements come together very well in this game, creating one of the best looking and playing titles of 2016. The entire progression curve doesn’t make the game exceptional, and many could find it boring, however Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is still worth checking out.

 

Revisiting Sleeping Dogs – Straight Outta Action Movies

280083.jpg

Game: Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition, Release Date: October 8th, 2014

Developer: United Front Games; Publisher: Square Enix

Reviewed On: PC

Hardware: Core i5-6500 3.2GHz; 16GB DDR4 RAM; GeForce GTX1070 8GB

 

Sleeping Dogs was one of the sleeper hits back in 2012 and is a game that I’ve come to greatly enjoy over the years. It was one of the games to hit my back catalog for a very long period of time, as I simply thought that one completion would be enough. It took me a while to discover the value of the game and enjoying its story for the second time made it as one of my best games of all time. Sleeping Dogs features one of the most spectacular cities in a video game, that not only provides a playground for players, but also flows full of atmosphere. Sleeping Dogs didn’t do anything new at the time, and many sandbox games since then have offered a larger number of features, but the design quality exceeds expectations. The game is expertly put together, and all of its systems come together so well that different actions flow seamlessly together, and the free-running system is one of the best in a third-person game.

sleeping-dogs-definitive-comparison

Sleeping Dogs’ city of Hong Kong is one of the most spectacular locations I have seen in a game. It’s a city full of people and traffic, but the detail and colors make it look much more diverse than a standard urban landscape. The city is a faithful reproduction of real world Hong Kong, so many landmarks can be seen in the game. Sleeping Dogs doesn’t just bring the setting across either, it also fills it up to the brim with atmosphere. Simply cruising down the street and taking in the view is incredibly satisfying, and Sleeping Dogs features some spectacular points. The rising sun over the harbor, the flow of winding roads down Victoria Peak, or the intense lights of downtown at night – all create a sense of immersion in the setting where you feel like you’re actually visiting there. Its certainly the cheapest way to visit Hong Kong, and you get a lot of fun in this action game.

Aside from its spectacular setting, Sleeping Dogs also has a great plot, one of the best I’ve seen out of this type of game. The story is still significantly behind the quality of RPG titles, but then its not meant to be the central point in a sandbox game. Sleeping Dogs easily overshadows the likes of Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row with its excellent voice acting and a varied cast. The game excellently combines two sides of a story: an undercover police officer and a member of a Triad gang. This doesn’t add as much complexity to the plot as I’d like, and the player rarely has choice in the matter, but with that said, two progression paths make up for a varied experience. Investigation cases linked to the main plot appear throughout the game and serve as optional side puzzles, although complexity they lack. These missions are the only time where you earn only the police experience, as Triad missions usually focus on shooting and destruction with the optional choice to limit the damage to get more police experience. Moreover, there is no moral choice of any sort to be made in this story, which ultimately wastes the potential for further variety. The story still remains one of the best in a sandbox game, full of tense moments and great character development.

thumb-1920-285561.jpg

Sleeping Dogs has aged quite well, and paired up with a modern gaming system, it looks really detailed. In the Definitive Edition, paired with my GTX 1070, Sleeping Dogs can often rival many of 2016’s releases and I’ve been able to achieve great results across the board. Its hardly among the most currently demanding games, but drive in Central at day or night, and you’ll be surprised how much detail is in the locales. Sleeping Dogs has been out for a while and in the process earned the ultimate experience brought by the Definitive Edition, which improved the game graphically. The rain effects are very detailed and the game sometimes looks at its best in the middle of the downpour. Regardless of the time of day, Hong Kong looks spectacular, and all the environments naturally blend together.

At its core, Sleeping Dogs is the usual take on the sandbox genre, providing a large city to explore and filling it up with stuff to do. The game doesn’t feel at all different from Grand Theft Auto, but it has some interesting systems to make the game fun. A strong emphasis on hand-to-hand combat over guns lands the game into the Batman Arkham series territory, but with that said, it has a lot of very satisfying melee moves. Sleeping Dogs makes it easy to deal with a lot of opponents through its robust melee system, and although its combat system is the standard mash-up of countering and attacking, a lot of variation has been fitted on top of it. Special moves are learned throughout the game and these offer the most satisfying results. When guns come into play later in the game, fighting groups of thugs yields way to high-speed car chases and intense gunfights. Sleeping Dogs always keeps the experience varied, although its first few hours would have you think otherwise.

original.jpg

Sleeping Dogs is very memorable because of its setting and an engaging plot, but one of the things I liked the most would be quite surprising. And that is its cars. Sleeping Dogs features some of the best cars in an open-world game and you’ll spend a lot of time in its fantastic cars. There is a plethora of high-end exclusive cars, and once the money is rolling in, buying cars is pretty much the only way to spend it. Thankfully, there is plenty of interesting cars available to buy, and they can be accessed anytime at one of the city’s garages. But with that said, it isn’t the cars that make this game good.

Sleeping Dogs is still one of my favorites for having one of the most immersive settings in the game (I actually want to visit Hong Kong after), which is not only detailed, but filled with atmosphere and culture of the real place. Missions are very entertaining, offering a lot of high-adrenaline action and tense cutscenes. Additionally, the game has aged very well and still holds up to be a great-looking game. It might not have the graphics of Battlefield 1 or the detail of Witcher 3, but the game strikes a balance right in the middle. Sleeping Dogs was one of the sleeper hits back in 2012 and it’s already lost a lot of relevance, but I still have a lot of fun revisiting it from time to time and its one of the best settings to spend time in.