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Forspoken had promise but disappoints, Hi-Fi Rush is a delightful surprise, and Dead Space is just as atmospheric now as it was then.

Forspoken makes a point of creating a different kind of role-playing game

Forspoken is a basic action role-playing game with some open world elements to it. But the game sets itself apart by making some decisions – and sticking to them – about how it delivers that gaming experience.

The most obvious is in choosing a female protatonist in Frey, a young homeless woman in New York who finds herself transported to Athia, a world of magic and mystery.

As Frey learns her purpose in Athia, her sole weapon is magic. There’s no swords here, no bows and arrows. Frey is a spellcaster.

And she can enhance her abilities by wearing different cloaks and necklaces, and by changing the designs and colours of her nails.

These are grand intentions, to create a game where the objects that can shift power are those that appeal to young women. It’s too bad that the rest of the game lacks.

The controls are mushy, which is a disaster with a game that relies so much on traversing the environment. Moving around is not only key to exploration and finding all the things you might need, but it’s a good combat tactic, too. But Frey doesn’t respond to the controls as prompt as she should, and I found her moving past the destination we were headed to, so I had to turn her around to come back.

And while the game depends on dialogue, you can’t do anything else when you’re having a conversation, so there are long periods where you’re just standing around.

There’s been much hand wringing about the dialogue, but the script here is reminiscent of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series. (It may be significant that after that series ended, creator Joss Whedon continued the Slayer mythology in comic books and one protagonist was named Frey.)

To modern audiences this may seem cringe-worthy, and that’s something the developers at Luminous Productions should have taken into account. For my part, I had no problem with the snarky, cynical, wiseass Frey.

But to create an open world and leave it so empty is a problem, and that’s what makes it tedious to play. Which is a shame.

Forspoken is available now for Windows and PS5. Rated mature.

Hi-Fi Rush is a refreshing, rhythm-based brawler

In a streaming event last week, Xbox and Bethesda surprised gamers with a “shadow drop” of something new from Tango Gameworks, the studio behind the Evil Within games and the charming, Ghostwire Tokyo.

Hi-Fi Rush is a rhythm-based battler than is a little goofy and a lot of fun.

You play as Chai, a “wannabe rockstar” who volunteers for a robotics experiment only to find himself at the centre of a struggle against a corporate conspiracy.

The corporation is none other than Vandelay Technologies.

Chai has to fight all kinds of robots and corporate shills, and his moves are all timed with the rhythm of the beats and music that provide the soundtrack for the game.

It’s light, fun, and a perfect surprise for subscribers to the Xbox Game Pass.

Hi-Fi Rush is available now for Windows and Xbox Series X/S. Rated teen.

Dead Space remake captures the dread of the original with meaningful updates

Dead Space was much more than an Alien clone. It borrowed as much from the hard science fiction of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke (which is where the protagonist, Isaac Clarke, got his name).

The story ties up corporate greed, organized religion, and the madness that comes from staring into the void.

I loved it then and I love it now.

There’s something weird that happens with your favourite games. You remember them looking better than they really did, because your mind fills in the gaps. This remake of Dead Space validates my memories, though. The truth is, the original Dead Space was released 15 years ago and didn’t look anything like what I remember.

This remake, from EA’s Motive studio, does.

And while this game is a remake – the plot and characters are the same – this new version is more than just a copy. Isaac speaks, for one. Some aspects of the weapons have changed, too.

But the mechanics of combat have been refined, but the strategy of limb removal remains key to survival.

But the most obvious enhancement is to the visuals, and that alone makes this game so thrilling to play.

Dead Space is available now for PS5, Windows, and Xbox Series X/S. Rated mature.

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Samsung’s latest Unpacked event showcased new smartphones and laptops.

Samsung’s Galaxy S23 series brings new tech to mobile cameras

Earlier today (February 1), Samsung unpacked its latest smartphones, the Galaxy S23 series.

There are three handsets in the S23 lineup:

  • Galaxy S23, starting at $1,100
  • Galaxy S23+, starting at $1,400
  • Galaxy S24 Ultra, starting at $1,650

All of the new phones get significant updates to their ability to take photos due to hardware and software.

The S23 and S23+ benefit from the software changes. The 50 megapixel (MP) cameras benefit from improved stabilization and a new advanced image sensor. Autofocus is improved and so is the high dynamic range capability.

And Camera Assistant provides a host of settings that give you access to pro control if you want it.

The S23 Ultra get the software benefits, as well as a stunning 200 MP camera.

The new Samsung Galaxy S23 handsets are available to preorder now and will ship on February 17.

Preordering gets you the device with twice the storage for the lower price, a savings of betwen $80 and $240, depending on the model.

You can also trade in an older Samsung device for a credit of up to $350.

Galaxy Book3 series of laptops from Samsung boast better screens

Samsung also showed off three new laptops. The Galaxy Book3 series includes:

The displays on these laptops are something special. The dynamic AMOLED 2X display resembles those first used in Samsung’s premium Galaxy smartphones.

The 360 and Pro 360 are both 2-in-1 devices that can be used with the S Pen stylus

The Ultra, meanwhile, adds an upgraded graphics processor in the Nvidia RTX Geforce 4070. It’s a little thinner and lighter than Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro, which suggests the customer Samsung is aiming for with this.

Preordering a Galaxy Book3 gets you double the hard drive storage and a pair of Galaxy Buds2 earphones.

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Sony’s next virtual reality system is coming soon, as is Minecraft Legends and Redfall, which were given release dates today.

PS VR2 is a month away, here’s what you can play at launch

PS VR2, the second generation virtual reality system from Playstation comes out on February 22, and we’ve got a clear picture of the games you’ll be playing.

The two premiere titles are both from Sony studios. Horizon Call of the Mountain is a story set in the world of Zero Dawn and Forbidden West, and Gran Turismo 7 is a car racing sim.

Two of the other new games releasing within a month of of the hardware – this is defined as the launch window – are Resident Evil Village and
Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge.

Other titles are updates to games that are already available on PS VR. These include:

PS VR2 requires a PS5 console and costs $750 CAD. A bundle which includes Horizon Call of the Mountain is $820.

Minecraft Legends and Redfall coming this spring

In a showcase broadcast online Wednesday, Microsoft put dates on two key games that are coming this spring. Both games are available with an Xbox Game Pass subscription.

Minecraft Legends, which was co-developed by Vancouver’s Blackbird Interactive, puts a strategy spin on the block-based adventure game and includes a player vs. player mode which pits two teams of up to four players against each other. It launches on April 18 on all the platforms, including PS4, PS5, Switch, and Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.

Redfall, from Arkane Austin, is an open world vampire hunting action game. The game is set on an island, named Redfall, and you can take on the vampire horde on your own or with up to three friends. Redfall is exclusive to Windows and Xbox Series X/S.

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The new smart speaker from Apple has arrived, but you have to travel to Japan or Europe to feed your nostalgia for music players from the eighties.

Apple hopes revamped HomePod can better compete with competitor smart speakers

Apple revealed a second generation HomePod last week. The price, $399 CAN, is the same as the original model that was released in 2018, but that was a difficult time to be pushing into the smart speaker market with a premium-priced device.

That was right when smart speakers were becoming popular, and there were multiple version of Amazon and Google’s lower-priced devices available in the following years.

Even if the HomePod sounded better, it was handcuffed by the higher price tag and a digital assistant in Siri that wasn’t as effective as Alexa or Google’s.

But neither Amazon nor Google have been as successful staying in hardware, and this may be a good time for Apple to plant a flag.

The new HomePod from Apple will be on shelves February 3, and is available to preorder now.

If you’re looking for a new music player Sony’s still making Walkmans

You can’t buy a Walkman in North America – yet – but if you’re traveling to Japan or Europe, Sony’s got slick dedicated music players that honour the eighties in the best possible way.

There are two of these Android devices available, the NW-A306 (46,000 yen, 399 euro), and the higher-end NW-ZX707 (104,500 yen, 745 euro) which has an amplifier built in and adds a quarter inch output in addition to the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack.

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