Category Archives: Gaming

Microsoft Discontinues Production of Kinect for Windows Sensor

Microsoft Discontinues Production of Kinect

After discontinuing the original Kinect for Windows sensor in December last year, Microsoft is now discontinuing production of the new Kinect for Windows v2 sensorlaunched in July last year. The firm says the move is to “consolidate the Kinect for Windows experience around a single sensor.”

The Redmond giant is now pointing interested users, mostly developers, to the Kinect Adapter for Windows cable, to be used in conjunction with the Kinect for Xbox One sensor.

Microsoft Discontinues Production of Kinect

Microsoft Discontinues Production of Kinect

The Kinect for Xbox One sensor, which began to be sold separately in October last year, costs $149.99 (Rs. 11,490 in India). The Kinect Adapter for Windows cable on the other hand costs $49.99 (roughly Rs. 3,100). The Kinect for Windows v2 sensor used to cost $199.99 when available, so it all works out.

The Kinect Adapter cable lets users connect the Kinect for Xbox One sensor to a Windows 8.0 and 8.1 PC or tablets just like the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor, and both the sensors are functionally identical – the company says its Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0 works the same way for both sensors as well. Microsoft is also assuring current owners of the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor that support will remain unaffected.

Microsoft says the move is a part of an effort to “simplify and create consistency for developers”. The firm’s Kinect for Windows Team in its blog post announcement said it had seen great demand from the developer community over the “past several months”, and had “difficulty keeping up with requests in some markets.”

The Kinect for Windows Team added it saw the “developer community respond positively to being able to use the Kinect for Xbox One sensor for Kinect for Windows app development,” and ensured the Kinect for Xbox One sensors and Kinect Adapter for Windows units are readily available in most markets. While this is true for the sensor in India, the adapter is not readily purchasable.

Dead Among Us Review: Zombie Archery Made in India

Dead Among Us Review: Zombie Archery Made in India

Like military shooters, games featuring zombies are a cliche. From survival horror staples like Resident Evil to modern masterpieces like Uncharted, you’ll be hard pressed to find a game that doesn’t have the undead in one form or another. And at the other end of the spectrum, there’s Rolocule. The Pune-based studio has made games like Motion Tennis Cast and Bowling Central. While these two titles cemented its position as one of the better niche developers focusing on motion controlled games on Android and iOS, its latest game Dead Among Us is perhaps its most accessible yet, as you don’t need a Chromecast or Apple TV for this one.

(Also see: Turn Your Android Phone Into a Tennis Racquet with Motion Tennis Cast)

Unlike Rolocule’s earlier games, Dead Among Us shows a definite attempt at creating some sort of narrative. There’s been a virus outbreak and everyone you know is dead or worse, turned into the walking dead. Conveniently, your character is a gold medalist at archery and just happened to have a bow and quiver full of arrows lying around to shepherd survivors to safety, and protect the scientists researching a cure.

In terms of mechanics, Dead Among Us is a gallery shooter similar to games like Deer Hunter 2014 and Contract Killer. You’ll find yourself in a location armed with a gun and charged with killing anything you see. In Dead Among Us however, there are no guns. Rather, you have a bow that works with an assortment of arrows. And you’re not killing people or animals, you’re killing shambling monsters.

Cosmetic differences aside, Dead Among Us stands out due to its control scheme. Other gallery shooters make you use both hands to control aiming and shooting; here you can do it all with one hand. Swipe the screen to look around, hold to aim at a target, and let go to fire. It takes a few rounds to get used to the control scheme, but once you do, it becomes second nature. Considering you’re using a bow to rain death upon many a zombie, the combination of swiping, holding and releasing works well. The entire experience of landing a perfect shot is extremely satisfying, and makes us wonder why other games don’t explore different control options.

(Also see: Bowling Central Review: Puzzles and Precision)

While the control scheme is innovative and enjoyable, there are some issues. We had to tweak the sensitivity to get the best out of the controls on Android (playing on a Google Nexus 6) but it was perfectly fine at default settings on an iPhone 5S, allowing us to hit zombies square between the eyes with consummate ease. A little too much ease perhaps, as that’s the overriding feeling we got from most of Dead Among Us’ levels.

The levels have you protecting a survivor from incoming hordes of slow moving enemies, or ensuring a colleague doesn’t get devoured in broad daylight while collecting supplies. Every time we were greeted with a game over screen it was because of our poor aim, and not because the enemies were too tough, or too many to easily manage. You never quite feel challenged by the enemies and you can breeze past a majority of the levels without too many concerns.

Like most games on iOS and Android, Dead Among Us is free-to-play. Most of the in-app purchases (IAPs) revolve around power-ups that let you which direction your targets are coming from or allow you to kill stronger zombies with a single shot. They’re fun to toy around with but not exactly integral to the experience. Other IAPs include new bows or upgrades to your existing one. These include bonuses to power, stability, and the number of arrows you can carry. If these stats aren’t what they should be, the game locks you out of specific levels.

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Thankfully, there’s more than enough to do without resorting to repeatedly playing previous missions in order to progress. Every time you play a mission you use stamina, and tougher ones using more of it compared to others. Even then though, you’re rarely compelled to purchase more of it as the period between refills is surprisingly short. And though the game features ads, they never overstay their welcome. You aren’t bombarded to the point that you feel the need to step away.

Aside from being tremendously easy, another niggle is that Dead Among Us doesn’t look as good as it could. Although some sections are book-ended with decent comic-book styled segments to fill up the narrative, the actual game looks bland. It’s rudimentary compared to the studios other games which were more stylised and art heavy. Dead Among Us’ attempt at realism falls flat from a visual standpoint. This feels particularly tragic considering certain elements like bow trajectory, stability, and impact seem to be carefully considered, making the sheer experience of landing the perfect shot gratifying.

All in all, Dead Among Us is a fine game to fill up your time during a commute or while in queues. It’s a solid gallery shooter sporting great controls and a more than generous difficulty curve that will ensure you keep playing. Just as long as you can get past the so-so visuals.

We played Dead Among Us on Android and iOS. It’s available for free with in-app purchases on both platforms.

Pros

  • Great controls
  • Quick stamina refills
  • Satisfying shooting
  • Well-designed levels
  • Lots to do without being overwhelmed

Cons

  • Dated visuals
  • Doesn’t feel challenging enough

Rating (out of 10): 7

Original NDTV Gadgets

Supreme League of Patriots Review: Sloppy Fun

Supreme League of Patriots Review: Sloppy Fun

Over the last few years, games have started to fall into two main camps. One camp said that gameplay is everything – and then delivered a string of interchangeable monochrome first person shooters featuring protagonists of questionable morality and two mandatory plot twists. The other group camp insisted that games are a transcendental art form – and then delivered a string of morosely monochrome titles featuring a young protagonist who would overcome terrible odds and learn something about his/ her self and/ or relationships, usually while jumping over platforms against the backdrop of a moody soundtrack.

Of course, there are plenty of games that still fall outside these two camps, and the steady revival of puzzle adventure games in particular is something we're very excited about.

Supreme League of Patriots is one such game. Released by Phoenix Online Publishing, which also recently released the 20th Anniversary Edition of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, it's bright and colourful, and packs in a lot of laughs, and the first episode, which won't take more than four hours to finish, is available for just $5.99 (approximately Rs. 370).

Funny as a barrel full of monkeys

Our hero Kyle Keever looks and talks a little bit like Mr Incredible from Pixar's The Incredibles. At the start of the game, you're auditioning for a role in a TV show – America's Got Superpowers. Real superpowers follow, and much of the action in the game is accompanied by tongue in cheek narration by Kyle's British sidekick Mel.

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The blocky visuals look good and gel with the overall style the game's creators are going for. Kyle, Mel and the other characters you meet in the game are all over the top, as are the scenarios you keep finding yourselves in.

It starts off strong and Mel's one-liners in particular had us giggling. There are wry remarks that make fun of the genre conventions, many a double entendre, bad puns and toilet humour. There are digs at the game and at gamers and cosplay, which managed to be funny without getting tiresome. That's possibly because the episode is short, but it could also be that the genre lends itself to this kind of humour, unlike the forced cheer of Sunset Overdrive.

The dialogue delivery is quick-fire, and the humour is universal. There aren't too many in-jokes to follow; instead you'll be laughing at sight gags and visual puns. Comic pratfalls and visual gags filled up the relatively short episode. The different voice actors also help to keep the game feeling fresh as you meet and talk to different people and solve crazy puzzles. But what really sells the game is its fast and dry sense of humour. You can get a small sample of it in the trailer below:

Not quite ready for prime time

The game looks good, with bright colours and cheerful looking designs, but the animations were stiff and looked painfully artificial. The puzzles themselves feel nonsensical – you'll end up clicking every single thing you see in the vague hope that it might be important later. This is a problem that happens all too often with games of this type when the developers are trying to be funny with the clues.

Unfortunately, while these "clever" solutions are funny once you finally solve the puzzles, getting there is often not organic, and can be needlessly frustrating. Thankfully, the controls are fairly straightforward. Just move your mouse to point and click; you can click on objects to pick them up or use them, click on different dialogue choices which come in comic book style bubbles to guide the conversation, or just click to move around.

There's a little too much dialogue though, and you can click to skip some, but not all of it. This means that there are some conversations which leave you feeling like you're watching a cartoon, instead of living inside one. The pace of the game drags it down as much as the bad animation does, and the jokes can't really save the game after a point.

Despite its flaws, we still had fun with Supreme League of Patriots, but your enjoyment of the game will depend heavily on whether its sense of humour clicks for you or not. The trailer above does give a sense of the tone of the game, and if that doesn't instantly make you want more, then this game definitely isn't for you.

Supreme League of Patriots is available now for Windows, Mac and Linux users. You can purchase the game on Steam for $5.99, or buy the season pass for all three episodes for $14.99 (approximately Rs. 925) here.

Download the Gadgets 360 app for Android and iOS to stay up to date with the latest tech news, product reviews, and exclusive deals on the popular mobiles.

Original article from NDTV Gadgets

Just Cause 3 Review

Just Cause 3 Review

The exploding barrel is a well-worn video game trope. Ever since we first saw these in Doom, these have been a handy way to clear rooms full of enemies with a single shot, as the resulting detonation eliminates them en masse. But what happens when an entire game world is filled to the brim with exploding barrels? The game ends up being Just Cause 3.

Taking place in the fictional island country of Medici, Just Cause 3’s irreverent tone, cheesy dialogue, and goofball plot are all reminiscent of older action games and movies. It’s highly derivative but enjoyable all the same. In Just Cause 3, you set the world ablaze as former special agent Rico Rodriguez, hellbent on freeing Medici from the iron grip of dictator Sebastiano Di Ravello.

With this comes the opportunity to run amok. The exploding barrel trope takes the form of transformers, satellites, and obviously, fuel tanks – almost every thing in Just Cause 3 can be destroyed in a chaotic haze of fire and smoke.

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To make it easier to spread chaos, these exploding structures are coloured in white and red, making them stand out in all the different areas of the game. Borrowing from Mediterranean regions, Medici is replete with sunny beaches, fields filled with sunflowers, and some of the nicest looking video game water we’ve seen this year. It’s perhaps one of the most gorgeous game worlds to wage a one man war against an authoritarian regime. Flora and fauna aside, the cities of Medici provide an ample challenge. The game’s many traversal mechanics come in handy for taking down Di Ravello’s statues, laying waste to his commanders, taking back police stations, or disabling monitoring installations to free its many towns.

In terms of getting from one location to another, there are a host of options available. Standard open-world transport such as cars, motor cycles, helicopters, boats, and later, planes are present and for most part, handle well enough. Our only grouse was that the cars don’t handle as well as they should, and colliding into a tree at under 60 kilometres per hour had us ricocheting off it like a bumpercar. The game’s less conventional choices, such as the grappling hook, parachute, and wing suit are a whole lot more entertaining to use. Using all three of them in conjunction had us move swiftly from one area to another with barely any fuss. They also came in handy when trying to destroy some of Just Cause 3’s bigger military bases.

While the many civilian vistas of Just Cause 3 add variety, its military bases are where most of the fun is to be had. From small outposts to gigantic sprawling command centres occupying entire islands and ports, they’re laden with all sorts of objects to destroy. From the aforementioned fuel tanks to radar antennae hidden underground, there’s a ton to uncover and blow up. Along the way, the game throws a slew of disposable soldiers, helicopters, and even battleships to even the odds. These sections of the game provide the right balance of challenge and large, booming explosions as the pay-off for a job well done.

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Through it all, the controls hold up quite well. With the action taking place in third person, they’re not the usual gun and take cover fare we’ve been subject to in games like Gears of War and Uncharted. Rather, it harks back to a simpler time with an emphasis on running and gunning. It results in more arcadey, satisfying gunplay that allows you to focus on increasing bodycount, destruction, and little else. And when there are no bullets, tethering explosive crates to structures or using the grappling hook to kick foes ensures the pandemonium never stops.

It’s obvious that Just Cause 3 is at its best when it allows absolute freedom and it does with such regularity that any single moment that serves to constrain our wanton streak of mayhem sticks out like a sore thumb. Though they’re few and far between, they arise during the game’s single-player missions. These involved getting to a destination within a stipulated time frame (or be greeted with a game over screen and forcing a retry) and escort missions to protect game’s characters from damage. It’s during these moments where the game’s cracks begin to show. That’s because at least on the PS4, Just Cause 3 is replete with loading screens.

There’s an initial loading screen when you fire up the game, one when you start a mission, another after the cutscene of the mission, and one more on dying or restart a mission. While the first loading screen as you boot up the game is long, the loading time post-death is longer. From our experience, it clocks in at around three minutes. This is after the game’s day one patch.

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And though we’re happy to report that the patch rectifies most of the game breaking bugs we touched upon in our impressions piece, it’s not anywhere close to what it should be right now. Rico does tend to get stuck in walls on occasion, and when coupled with bugs, the aggressive enemy battalions and missile launching helicopters forced us to tolerate Just Cause 3’s loading screens longer than what can be considered reasonable.

Furthermore, the game’s frame rate is erratic. It manages to hold up in moments of absolute madness, albeit just. Oddly though, it takes a very visible tumble at times when we’re simply driving across the countryside. Perhaps the biggest offender is the game’s online component. Yes, you can play Just Cause 3 online, but no, not in multiplayer. Instead you’ll compete with others in a gigantic leaderboard for a host of challenges such as using the grappling hook to travel the furthest or staying in the air with the wing suit for the longest time.

At this stage, its implementation is such that the game will try going online the moment you check out its menus even if you have started the game offline. And if you begin the game online and PSN goes down (as it did during Black Friday sales), the game will pause and try reconnecting immediately even if you’re in the middle of a cutscene.

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In our experience, the best way to play Just Cause 3 was with the Wi-Fi mode on the PS4 disabled and the Ethernet cable unplugged. We’re unsure if the PC version is subject to the same concerns but on the PS4 (and the Xbox One, which fares worse according to some reports) it’s not the best experience. One could argue that an update or two could alleviate matters but it’s not anywhere close to what it should be at launch.

In a game wherein so much rests on smooth technical performance, Just Cause 3 feels like it could have used more time in development. It’s an enjoyable romp bogged down by these issues. If you have higher than normal tolerance for long loading times, intrusive online connectivity, and erratic frame rate, you’ll find Just Cause 3 worth its day one price tag. For the rest of us, waiting until there’s clarity on these problems is advised.

Pros

  • Great looking open-world
  • Slick traversal options
  • Explosions galore

Cons

  • Average single-player campaign
  • Irregular frame rate
  • Buggy

Rating (out of 10): 7

We played a retail copy of Just Cause 3 on the PS4. The game is Rs. 1,499 on PC on disc and Rs. 899 on Steam. On PS4 and Xbox One it’s Rs. 3,499.

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Original NDTV Gadgets

Bloodborne Review: Death is Only the Beginning

Bloodborne Review: Death is Only the Beginning

The world of Bloodborne (created by Dark Souls and Demon Souls makers From Software) is a hostile place. Everything in its fictional city of Yharnam – where most of the action in Bloodborne happens – exists with the sole purpose of making your time in it miserable.

From axe wielding madmen to hulking, brutish monstrosities that take great delight in pummelling you to death, there’s very little solace to be had. Even the city’s crows and dogs were dangerous, and waste no time in tearing the bones from our flesh. It is the video game equivalent of having a bad day. The kind of bad day that begins with you losing your wallet, and ends with you getting fired. Along with getting disowned by your family, socially ostracised, and being dumped by your significant other.

Early in the game, we faced hordes of lunatics and beasts that fill up this once decadent city and barely made it by the skin of our teeth. Just when we thought we’d have a moment’s respite, we were pitted against the Cleric Beast, an enormous yet agile shrieking demon complete with horns. It towered over us, swiping and thrashing at every opportunity. This would not end well.

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As you could guess, the game is relentless in its approach. The story is minimal, the hints are sparse, enemies are tough as nails, and it doesn’t tell you what to do unlike most modern games. You’ll find yourself dying. A lot. We did. But we kept coming back for more, because the game is always fair. It’s hard, but it’s beatable, and you just need to puzzle out the right strategy in battle.

And as we mentioned in our preview the combat is addictive. The immense difficulty means that the lowest enemies in the food chain capable of killing you if you aren’t careful, and every encounter is a fight for your life. But you will enjoy the rhythm of combat, and each kill feels like an accomplishment.

This is backed up by a few simple rules the game tries to teach you from the start. Firstly, the dodge button is your friend. You see, unlike the developer’s previous games, Bloodborne has no shields (well, baring a single wooden shield that’s useless). You’ll be relying on sidestepping many an attack. Secondly, well-timed shots from your firearm will stun an enemy, allowing you to pull off a critical blow. And if you do get hit by an enemy (and you will), you have a limited window of opportunity to regain some of your health by counter-attacking.

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The payoff for paying attention to its rules is visceral and rewarding. Time and again, Bloodborne will pit you against seemingly insurmountable odds such as the Cleric Beast. We managed to defeat it by stunning it with a few hits from our pistol, that allowed us to rip out its skull in a fountain of blood and gore. Try to hack away at the Cleric Beast without thinking through the fight, and you’ll quickly become a slowly spreading bloodstain instead.

But Bloodborne makes combat more fluid than the From Software games that preceded it. The ability to transform your melee weapon into an alternate form makes the combat even more interesting, as each form has its own reach and damage, suiting different roles in a fight. Our favourite weapon is the Kirkhammer. In its normal form it’s a simple sword that lets you perform rapid, short range attacks. With the tap of the L1 button it transforms into a gigantic two-handed hammer that hits further and wider but slower. While the weapons are few in number compared to Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls, their secondary forms allow for greater variety in battle.

Similar to its predecessors, Bloodborne has an online feature that lets you help other players traverse Yharnam, hopefully with less deaths than you had. You can leave notes for them to either guide (or misguide) them on their way. Also, you can enter the game of a friend, to help them defeat some of the game’s tougher challenges – or just square off in combat online if you’re feeling bloodthirsty. You’ll find chalices in the game, and these send you to dungeons complete with bosses, these areas are randomly generated with a variety of traps to avoid, secrets to discover, and abominations to slay.

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In addition to this, these chalice dungeons can be shared online and even explored with a friend. For a game that’s already filled to the brim with content, it’s nice to see this mode added for free, at a time when most other enterprising companies would probably cordon this off as paid unlockable content.

Bloodborne gets a lot of things right but it isn’t without faults. Some boss fights are made annoying simply due to the environments they take place in, which can result in a lot of needless deaths. Most notable was our encounter with Father Gascoigne, which takes place in a cemetery. Its cramped layout made it a tougher than usual fight in a game that’s hard enough as it is.

This aside, the loading times are too long. You’ll be dying regularly, and getting back into Yharnam seems to take a lifetime. Sony has announced that it is working on a patch to rectify this, but for now, it serves to irritate. There are some instances where the game slows down. Bloodborne manages to chug along at a solid 30 frames per second in most places, but there are some areas where it drops below that. It’s slight but disconcerting all the same.

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Minor annoyances aside, Bloodborne is an intriguing game that will keep you entranced long after the first time you’ve played it. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but it is more approachable than its predecessors, while still delivering that incredible feeling of accomplishing something meaningful with each fight.

If you’re the sort of person who is up for exploring a grim, dark, and fatal world and has a high tolerance for failure, you’ll be right at home in Yharnam. It might be the video game equivalent of an extremely bad day, but it also gives you the means to fight back, making it more fun than it should be.

We played a retail copy of Bloodborne on the PlayStation 4. It retails for Rs.3,999 in stores and Rs. 3,499 digitally.

Pros

  • Unsettling atmosphere
  • Visceral combat
  • Enjoyable weapons
  • Immense sense of achievement
  • Fun stealth and non-violent options

Cons

  • Annoying design inconsistencies
  • Long loading times
  • Slight slow down
  • Environment lay out could be better in some places

Rating (out of 10): 9

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Original NDTV Gadgets