Category Archives: Opinions

PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds Guide

I’ve played a lot of PUBG now, 129 hours to be exact. That’s two hours more than the amount of time it took someone to saw their arm off because they were stuck between two rocks, so you know I’ve had a lot of time to think about the game.

One of the things that can be frustrating is introducing someone new to the game. It’s a squad game, so of course it’s more fun when more of your friends play, but it’s also an Early Access game with no tutorial, no skill-based matchmaking, and a pretty horrendous learning curve for people that haven’t played this kind of game before (or people that are really used to the other games in the genre). With that in mind, this is my effort to help new players find their feet, and hopefully teach more experienced players a thing or two I’ve learnt along the way.

Part 1: The Lobby
Part 2: The Jump
Part 3: The Drop
Part 4: The Looting
Part 5: Early Combat
Part 6: Getting into the Zone
Part 7: The Final Twenty

Part 1: The Lobby

The lobby is absolute chaos, but it’s also the closest thing to a practice that you’re going to get. If you’re quick you can grab any of the guns off the table (or there are snipers in the towers and more guns in the bunker/buildings) and mess around with them for a minute or so. This time is invaluable as the guns all have their own strange quirks. Ever notice the SCAR is fine with single shots but jumps around all over the place if you move at all while shooting? Or that the M16 has burst fire but no auto, while the M4 has full auto? Or that the M24 doesn’t have any iron sights at all? All of these things are a bad thing to discover in a firefight so you can take your time to get a feel for the guns. Practise shooting people at different ranges, take pot shots at the people inevitably standing on the wing at the top of the crashed plane – you can’t hurt them but you’ll see if you hit them from the blood splatter. Until you get to grips with the game, practising in this area is going to be a huge help.

Part 2: The Jump

Once the plane loads in, you’ll have a rough idea of the options open to you. Broadly speaking you can get to anywhere within a quarter of the maps length/width away from the plane’s route. Of course there’s a lot of randomness to deal with, you never know where the other players will jump, but you can make some educated choices. If the plane flies directly over the military base, the tunnels, or a town, it will be busy. If the plane misses all of those, the next closest one out of them will be busy.

A busy landing spot isn’t necessarily a bad idea, sometimes if you’re in the mood for a quick game you can get a few kills if you’re lucky with loot, and occasionally you’ll luck out and end up with a huge looting area all to yourself. It’s important to communicate with your team in duo or squad (if you put markers down by opening the map with ‘m’ then right clicking, everyone can see them) and try to keep an eye out for other people when you’re on the way down. Knowing where another team is looting might be the difference between an early death and being able to set the perfect ambush.

Generally if you’re looking to win, you want to find somewhere with at least one large building for each member of your team, and a guaranteed car spawn. The west side of Yasnaya Polyana has four apartment buildings and a garage between them with a guaranteed car spawn. That’s usually a pretty good location to get looted up and then drive to wherever you want to go, and if you see too many players heading there, you can always head to another part of the city.

Part 3: The Drop

As I said, you can travel about a quarter of the map from the plane’s route on your drop. To do that, aim as high as you can (hold alt to still look down) until your parachute opens, once it does you can keep rocking backwards and forwards pressing ‘W’ to keep your forward momentum going. As soon as the parachute is open, check all around you by holding alt to see what company you’ve got. Information is important!

If you’re landing in a town, generally you should aim for rooftops with loot spawns. If you find a decent gun you can often shoot people who are landing around you, if you don’t you still have options of heading into the building or jumping off and going somewhere else. Fall damage in this game is surprisingly lenient, so you can jump off even the apartment buildings without taking enough damage to kill you.

Part 4: The Looting

As soon as you land, you need to find a gun to defend yourself. Generally this will mean grabbing a shotgun or SMG. All the shotguns and SMGs can be devastating at close range (where most of the fights will be in the first five minutes) and they’re fairly common all over the map.  Assault rifles are also useful (the AKM in particular does a lot of damage in auto) but sniper rifles and pistols are only worth it as a last resort.

The 1911 pistol isn’t too bad but suffers from a small clip and a lack of accuracy over any kind of distance. The p92 and revolver are a nightmare to use. The p92 is weak, inaccurate, and has a fairly small clips while the revolves just takes forever to reload. If someone is jumping around you’re going to have a hard time doing any kind of damage.

Once you have a gun (seriously don’t worry about anything until you have something to defend yourself with) you need to get the essentials. Your priority list should be something like Gun>Backpack>Armour>Health>Spare Ammo>Attachments>Frying Pan>throwables.

The backpack is self-explanatory, but the armour is extremely important as it gives you an extra chance in a firefight. The reason health and spare ammo are so far down is because it’s rare that you’ll actually get to use them if you don’t have the other things. Don’t worry about getting too many bandages, they heal only a tiny amount and take quite a while to apply. Instead you should be searching for Medkits (full health) First Aid Kits,  painkillers, and energy drinks.

Spare ammo is useful but all too often I’ve got a backpack with 200 bullets in that I’m never going to use because firefights are often so quick. Once you’ve got three or so magazine’s worth, you’ll be fine for the rest of the game. Remember if you kill people you’re often able to take their ammo anyway. In terms of attachments the big ones are the Ext. Quickdraw mags, scopes, and suppressors. Suppressors enable you to shoot long range without giving your position away, which is invaluable in the late game.

The Frying Pan is the only melee item worth picking up because you carry it on your back and its model is bulletproof. This means if someone tries to shoot you in the butt, you’ll be fine and it happens far more than you’d expect.

The throwables are less important because they’re currently extremely reliable. Of course in certain situations a well-placed grenade or effective smokescreen might save you, but it’s rare that you’ll ever find these hard to get. They’re all over the place and will just be picked up as you loot everything else.

Part 5: Early Combat

Whilst your looting, you’ll often hear someone else running around near you. In PUBG, combat is all about getting the drop on people. If you hear footsteps, try to make sure you’re in cover (avoid windows and open spaces) and then stay as still as possible while looking around. Sound is incredibly important in this game, and running around is going to give you away, even outside in fields. Work out where they are, then wait until you have a decent shot. Say someone walks past a window and have time for a single shot, if you take it you’re only going to (at best) damage them slightly, but you’ve now given away your position and let them know you’ve seen them, this gives them the advantage. If you see someone at a window, set up so you can look at the door and shoot them once they leave. If you see someone hiding behind a tree, make sure you line up a decent headshot before you take that shot.

Of course if you’re playing with a group, everything changes. Communication is key, and in a hectic firefight effective communication is rare, but essential. Call out directions using the compass (numbers are fine) and try to give information about distance straight away. Saying ‘there’s a guy over there’ doesn’t help anyone. Saying ’15, 100m away, two guys’ gives your team nearly everything they need.

If you’re separated from your group, remember the compass directions might not be the same for them, so try to use landmarks like ‘green roof’ ‘left rock’, etc. As you play with a group you’ll find your own names for things and get better and better at letting people know what’s happening. Remember to let people know if you’re going to shoot, or if you don’t want them to. Remember if someone calls for help, you should be dropping everything to get to them. A dead team member means you’re now outgunned in any fights against full teams, it’s always worth risking everything to save people. It also makes the game a lot more fun.

As you’re shooting, remember this game isn’t Call of Duty. You need to account for flight time, bullet drop, and their movement. If someone is running right to left 100m away you can line the crosshairs up with their head and aim a cm or so to their left to hit them. If they’re 400m away you might need to aim a few cm above and to their left, long shots are difficult.

If your opponents is in cover, consider your options. Can you get a throwable to them? Do you have a teammate who can flank them if you give them the information? Are they hiding behind a car? If they are just shoot the car with full auto, it’ll explode in no time and kill them outright.

As you drop enemies in group modes, remember if they get knocked down they still have a teammate up. Only when the last one dies immediately do you know that team is done for. Using a downed enemy as bait is particularly effective, so don’t always be too quick to try and claim your kills. Definitely don’t loot anyone until you’re complete sure everyone nearby is dead.

If you’re looking for a fight, remember all the doors in this game spawn closed. So you should be looking for building complexes where some doors are open but others aren’t (implying that people are still looting) or cars that have their brake lights on (cars always spawn with their lights off but you can only turn them off again by pushing forwards a little after you stop, which most people don’t bother doing). Always make sure you have the advantage before going into fight, especially if you’re with a team and a few extra seconds would give them time to set up and cover you.

Part 6: Getting into the Zone

As you play you’ll notice a white circle on the map and a countdown. Once that countdown reaches zero a blue circle will start encroaching from the edge of the map until it reaches the white circle. The first zone will take ages to come in and you can comfortably escape it driving in any vehicle. It will do very little damage if you are in the blue zone and you can last for a very long time, so don’t panic too much and run out into the open while you’re trying to get to safety.

Towards the end of the game, the zone gets more and more dangerous. By the fourth circle being in the zone at all will drop your health quickly, and once it reaches the white circle, the damage is doubled which can down someone from full health in a few seconds.

Always be aware of where the zone is and make sure you have a plan to get to it, staying on the edge of the zone is a good idea as it means no-one will be behind you, but be aware the zone is random and could spawn on the other side of the circle from you, forcing you to move just when you don’t want to.

While you’re moving, you always need to be thinking about how visible you are. Standing on top of a hill is a great way for people to see your silhouette against the sky, so never stand on top of things. If you think people might be looking at your area, try to move as little as possible, movement is a dead giveaway.

If you’re in a team, consider where they are too. Can you see their blind spots? Can you get to them if they need help? Don’t crowd into the same cover spot behind a tree or room in a building, it makes it much easier for enemies to spot you, and if they shoot at your friend and miss, they’re possibly going to hit you!

Part 7: The Final Twenty

So you’ve got this far, you’re looted, you’re in the final zones, and you’ve hopefully got a few kills under your belt. How do you actually win?

Concealment.

As the numbers tick down and everyone gets closer together, you’ve got to stay hidden. Hide behind trees if you want, but remember you’ll always be exposed to people behind you. Long grass is excellent to go prone in, but it means you’ll be unable to move quickly or shoot anyone easily. Buildings can help you to feel safe but once there’s only a few buildings in a zone, everyone will be watching the windows and doors.

Each zone is different but you need to make a decision about where you can be to still move as the zone constricts, without letting people know where you are.

The most important thing is not to give yourself away by shooting unnecessarily. If you have a suppressor, feel free to pick off the players you can see, but remember players within 20ft will be able to find you easily. If you have someone discover you, put them down quickly, but other than that you really need to avoid firing your gun because it lets every other player know exactly where you are. In an ideal world you want to wait until the other players kill each other and it’s down to you and one other. If they’ve been shooting, you now have the advantage in that you know where they are, but they can’t find you.

Now you need to get yourself into a good position, make sure your energy bar is full (down those painkillers and energy drinks), and strike as hard and fast as possible.

Hopefully you’ll be home in time for some chicken dinner.

If you have any more tips and tricks please let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to this guide!

 

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What We Want from the Nintendo Switch

On 13th January we’re going to find out much more about the Switch. We’ll know which games are coming for launch, the release date, and possibly even the price. I always love to speculate here on TPReview so without any further ado, here are my predictions and hopes for the Switch.

Price: £249.99

The Switch is in an interesting position. It’s a brand new console that’s significantly less powerful than the other home consoles. On the other hand it’s a brand new handheld that’s significantly more powerful than other handhelds. That makes us think they’ll price it as a premium handheld but bundle in a game and a pro controller. For £250 that’s pretty good value in our eyes and we’d be more than happy with that.

Launch Titles

What we expect:

  • Nintendoland 2 – I’m hoping that won’t be the title, but I fully expect there to be something that shows off the new features of the device, just like Wii Sports did for the Wii and Nintendoland did for the Wii U. A collection of smaller games that show off what it can do with the various controllers and modes.
  • Splatoon – We know this is coming, possibly as an alternative launch box (With purple and orange controllers) and I fully expect it to be almost identical to the Wii U version, just with a new season of maps and weapons. It’d be nice if there were some online improvements like clans or voice chat but I’m not too hopeful.
  • Mario Kart 8 Plus – Mario Kart 8 was fantastic and they just need to add a new set of tracks and a few new characters to make this a worthy purchase. I think Nintendo will be generous and there’ll be a whole new set of tracks, so 16, as well as the base set and all of the DLC to date.
  • Smash Bros Switch – This will be a similar deal to Mario Kart, although perhaps a little less generous. I’m assuming the Splatoon characters will make an appearance and possibly a character from Team Skull from Pokemon Sun/Moon?
  • Wave Race Switch – Nintendo need to try and prove what this console can do, justl ike they did with Luigi’s Mansion on the Gamecube or Wave Race 64 on the N64. I think it might be time for a new Wave Race game with some fancy water physics and strong online multiplayer modes
  • Ubisoft Games – How close we are to launch means we can probably rule out a proper Rabbids game, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Steep, Watch Dogs 2, and a new Rabbids game coming to the Switch.  Ubisoft also brought us the surprisingly awesome Zombi-U last time, so maybe we’ll see a wildcard from them too.

What we don’t expect:

  • Zelda: Breath of the Wild – This will be near launch, but I’m guessing April. It’s always good to space your games out a bit and this is a big one. I think it will come out at the same time as the Wii U release on a shiny gold cartridge.
  • Pokemon Star – We know there is a third Pokemon game coming out this generation for the Switch, but I don’t expect it to be a launch title. Again, they’ll save this for a few months after launch, perhaps in the Summer hoping everyone goes crazy for Pokemon Go again.
  • Mario Switch – We know very little about this and that doesn’t seem right for a Mario Game. I think this might be held off until nearer Christmas alongside some  kind of Mario Party Game.

What we’re hoping for:

  • Warioware Switch – I love the Warioware games and this being a combined portable/home console makes it seem like a perfect fit. It’s also not graphically intensive so could remind people why the specs aren’t everything when it’s a Nintendo Console.
  • Animal Crossing Switch – It’s been a while since there was a proper Animal Cross game but Nintendo have continued to keep with franchise in focus with loads of amiibos and a couple of spinoff games. A fully-fledged online Animal Crossing game could be awesome, as long as it’s more than just a rehash of previous entries.
  • A Nintendo MMO – I’ve been wanting this for years but maybe one day it will come true. Imagine an MMO where you can do what you want in the Nintendo Universe. Want to race? Go find a karting track. Want to explore? Head to Hyrule. Want to fight? Go catch some Pokemon. It could lead to some amazing crossovers and be the ‘wow’ game that would be a system seller.
  • Nintendo Maker – Mario Maker was easily the most innovative and exciting thing I’ve played outside of VR this gen, and I want more. I want to be able to make Zelda dungeons or Metroid environments. Give us the same set of tools but with a wider variety of games. Please.

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Starting again in Ark: Survival Evolved

I’m back here again. Gathering stone for hours praying that the walls we build will keep the raiders at bay. Babysitting sleeping dinosaurs and quietly drugging them until they wake up and think we’re their masters. Being mortally terrified of the swamp.

Naimgear and me did all of this before on the Xbox One. We had a large base with a huge warehouse for flying dinosaurs and a giant pen for our Sarcosaurs (giant crocodiles). We had enough gear to comfortably travel anywhere south of the snow biomes without worry. We were friends with the huge tribe on our server that casually marched around the island on t-rexes and controlled the central valleys. Then we lost it all.

In Ark, when you log off your character simply falls asleep wherever they stand. We were playing on a PvP server so anything is fair game. In the middle of the night a group broke into our base using explosives. They killed all of our dinosaurs, destroyed most of our buildings and stole everything we owned. When we logged on there was nothing. All of those hours we’d spent amassing that dinosaur collection were gone. We stopped playing.

But now for some reason we’re back. Arrow, Naimgear, and me have all started a new tribe on a new PvP server on the PC. We’ve gone for an unofficial server this time with five times the gathering speed and ten times the taming speed. This means a dinosaur (like a Pteradon) that used to take an hour to tame now only takes six minutes, when you hit a rock you get 5 pieces of stone instead of one, everything is sped up.

We’ve got a nice new base on the edge of a cliff, we’ve tamed a few useful dinosaurs, we’ve started building a big new pen to keep it in. Of course the first night we logged off Arrow woke up to find us all in cages with all our stuff stolen, but he broke the cages and dragged us back inside so it’s probably fine.

There’s something undeniably addictive about Ark. There’s always something to do, some way to progress. Right now I’m looking for a giant armadillo so I can harvest stone quicker to build up our buildings. Naimgear wants to surround our base with spikes to keep would-be-thieves at bay (as long as they don’t fly), Arrow wants a frog. Whenever I log on, I’ll be able to do something. There’s always the chance we’ll lose everything again, but then there’s also the chance we won’t, that we’ll be able to defend, that we’ll survive long enough to explore the frozen north or the murky depths of the ocean. If we manage to do that, there’s a whole expansion available to take us into the desert.

Ark might be Early Access, and it might seem incredibly unfair, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun and definitely worth your money.

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Games of 2016

While 2016 might have been a terrible year for politics, celebrity deaths, the environment, migrant populations and Suicide Squad adaptations, it was good in one respect: Games.

From the start of the year we’ve had a succession of incredibly good games this year, many of which might have been overlooked because they were sequels or reboots. We couldn’t possibly list every game we’ve loved this year but we’ve highlighted the two games that have really stood out to us for being excellent, alongside one that stood out for various other reasons.

As always leave your comments below and let us know what your games of 2016 were!

Runner Up

We play a lot of First Person Shooters and this year has been amazing for them. Call of Duty is surprisingly great with an enjoyable (if cheesy) campaign and an admittedly familiar but very addictive multiplayer, Overwatch proved that Blizzard could stretch out into entirely unfamiliar genres and beat the current champs (I’m looking at your Team Fortress) at their own game, Battlefield somehow made World War One fun, which we’re hoping is a good thing, Titanfall 2 added a fantastic campaign while improving everything about the original’s fantastic multiplayer.

But despite all of those phenomenal games, there was one that stood out for us, and surprised us. Doom

Doom is a reboot of the original game and it manages to get the feel of the originals right while completely updating them for the modern gamer. It looks gorgeous, it flows incredibly well (and ran well on all platforms), it’s a decent length, it’s incredibly punishing on higher difficulties, and the soundtrack was amazing. OK so the multiplayer wasn’t so great (although is far more fun than some would have you believe) but they need something to work on improving for Doom II right?

Winner: Doom

Best Game of 2016

Despite how much we loved Doom, something much closer to my heart finally came out this year, and complete blew me away. It was Roller Coaster Tycoon World, and it was a disaster. Never has a game so completely underwhelmed me at every turn, and I’m the sort of person that downloaded the RCT mobile version while standing at the gate in an airport about to board a plane the second it went live. Rollercoaster Tycoon World was ugly, ran terribly, had barely any realistic rides and made it impossible to make an interesting park.

Thank god for Planet Coaster. If it wasn’t for PC I genuinely think the theme park sim genre would have been killed off, but with the also-excellent-but-not-quite-finished Parkitect around at the same time, we can just forget about RCTW and move on.

Planet Coaster is nearly everything I have ever wanted in a Theme Park Sim and more. You can build terrain up around a coaster easily, there’s nearly every major manufacturer represented (albeit with fake names), there’s fastpass queues and employee management, the guests actually behave a little bit like real people, they’re updating it constantly, and there’s an incredibly active Steam Workshop section where people are making everything so I don’t have to mess it up. It’s a simply incredible game, it looks gorgeous and the devs have already shown how committed they are to free updates with the fantastic Winter Update a few weeks ago.

If you ever had fun with Rollercoaster Tycoon, get the true sequel that was actually made by the same people, get Planet Coaster.

Winner: Planet Coaster

Most Controversial Game

It would be wrong for us to sum up anything about this year without mentioning the game that clearly brought us the biggest audience. We managed to get an early copy of No Man’s Sky from Simply Games and from streaming this we attracted an audience like we’d never seen before. Those first few days (where I was streaming around twenty hours a day) were incredible and I genuinely loved the game all the way through to our final push to the centre of the galaxy, fighting through getting banned from Youtube and Twitch temporarily until we managed to get the stream working on Dingit and made what I believe was the very first video of the end of the game.

Then the game came out, and the first patch it. This had two weird effects. First of all, it changed everything about the game quite dramatically, so our first experience was very different from everyone else’s. Secondly, it started building a snowball of hate once people started pushing the boundaries of the game and realising you didn’t have to push too far to see the old guy behind the curtain.

So (as we said from the very start) mutliplayer wasn’t in the game. Every NPC interaction was completely static and cookie-cutter, the worlds all ended up looking fairly similar, space combat was extremely limited, there was no real ending, crafting was extremely limited. It was a surprisingly shallow game built on some incredible tech. For all the hatred aimed at No Man’s Sky, it’s hard to deny that some of the blame needs to be aimed at Sean Murray for over-promising and refusing to admit what the game really was, but the majority lies at Sony’s feet. They marketed (and priced) No Man’s Sky as an AAA game, rather than an amazing indie title made by 14 people in Guildford. As an indie game, it is an amazing accomplishment, as an AAA game, it’s fairly disappointing.

Hello Games have returned from their long silence and started updating the game and it’s already much better than it was in the Summer. There’s now an incredibly punishing but exciting survival mode. You can buy huge freighters. Space combat is improving. There’s more variety in the types of planets you can see. You can build bases like in Subnautica. The game is genuinely worth the money now and a lot of fun can be had it in.

Whatever you thought of No Man’s Sky over the Summer, it’s definitely caused a great deal of controversy and will likely always be remembered for that. For us it was the start of something new with our Youtube channel and streams and one of the mose exciting weekends we’ve ever had with the site. We met so many awesome people and had a huge amount of fun exploring the galaxy with all of you.

Winner: No Man’s Sky

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New site – Let us know what you think!

Hi all,

So this is the relaunch of TPReview with a new style and approach.

For many years I’ve been running this site with the mind to make it look as much like Eurogamer/IGN as possible, as those are the sites I enjoy.  Now the majority of our content is on Youtube, and after a couple of promotions at my day job (I’m a teacher), I haven’t had the time to keep it updated in a way that makes sense for that kind of layout. So I’ve decided to change the site into more of the blog it always secretly was underneath the shiny veneer.

Now none of the posts have gone, and if anything this means I’ll be posting more often as I’m less constrained by post ‘types’ and can just post whatever I feel like writing about.

Please let me know what you think of the new design or if there’s anything you can’t find so I can make the necessary changes. A new blog for 2017, welcome!

TPSou

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HTC Vive Initial Impressions

Thanks to the generosity of all the people who donated on the stream, we managed to pick up a HTC Vive last weekend and we’ve put some serious time into trying out everything we’ve been able to get our hands on.

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Setup

Much has been made of the Vive setup being difficult or a hassle but we found it much better than we expected. As long as you take your time to find a good place in your house everything will run smoothly. If you haven’t done your research though you might be in for a surprise as the Vive requires a pretty specific space.

First of all you need physical space. You can get by with 1.5mx2m for room space but we’d recommend more than that. Our space is around 2mx2m but was really pushing up against the boundaries of how small it could be and at first it didn’t believe us that we could do what the VR setup calls ‘room space’. If you don’t have the space you can still play most games by selecting ‘standing space’ in the setup, but you’ll be missing out on some of the most exciting features in games. Don’t forget you need overhead room too. Try to make sure you’re not easily going to hit anything if you try to throw overarm, it’s unbelievably easy to get absorbed into a game and completely forget where you are. We’ve taken out the lightbulb from the overhead light fitting for just this reason. I would recommend that you find a space that you can leave set up like this for as long as you want. If you have to move furniture every time you want to play I doubt you’ll be playing very much and that’d be a shame for something so expensive!

The next thing you need to look for are plug sockets. In the area you want to play you’ll need two sockets, one for each lighthouse. Of course you can use extension cords etc but you want a minimum of clutter that you could potentially trip over in the space you’re using. You also need to make sure your PC is close enough. The cable from the breakout box is about 5m long and the USB cable and HDMI cables that you need to plug into the PC are about 1m long (remember you’ll need ports for these too or a powered USB extender if you want to use your own longer HDMI cable). While all of these restrictions might sound imposing, in practice it all seems pretty reasonable. Basically the more space you have, the better, but it’s quite accommodating if you’re in small accommodation.

Setup is quite simple really once you’ve got everything. You simply plug the base stations into the power and make sure they sync up (they just sync with each other and not with the PC, all they do is bathe your room in infrared dots that your headset can pick up, much like the Wii U sensor bar). Then you switch the wireless controllers on and make sure the headset and breakaway box are plugged in then you go through some room setup including calibrating the controllers with the space and tracing the boundary (this later becomes the wall you see if you get close to it in games) then you have an in-VR vaguely portal-themed setup that introduces you to the main controls and is a lot of fun. We’re not big fans of the tiny headphones you get but other than that using it now is easy as anything. We simply turn the controllers on and put the headset on in the tracked area. Even if you’re not in the area as long as one station can see you the VR will work for seated experiences.

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The Hardware

The hardware feels premium as although it’s plastic the matte finish and foam sections all fit beautifully together and are grey and black so it’s easy to ignore when you haven’t got it on. Of course the screens inside and lenses aren’t perfect yet, it can be hard to get them entirely focused and the resolution and light bleed leave a lot to be desired, but they are industry leaders at this point. HTC have got the form factor basically perfect, it’s just a matter of time before the screen technology improves in later generations. The breakaway box is tiny and unobtrusive too, like a little lozenge roughly the size of a Steam Link.

The controllers are worth special mention. Their weird hoop-on-a-stick shape is unusual but it feels great to hold and within VR every button is easy to reach and it feels perfectly natural whether the game has skinned it as a variation of the controller, a gun, a torch, or even a lightsaber. The haptic touch pad on top can take on many functions but works very well as both a button and a joystick and the triggers feel every bit as good as those on the Xbox One pads

The Experience

Right now, nothing comes close to the Vive. Yes the Rift has a decent screen but the lack of room-scale VR is really harming its position in this competition. The VR might be a tiny bit blurry but it’s incredibly responsive (even just running on a 970) and once you get into a game you forget about the low resolution quite quickly.

Being able to move around in a game like FPS military shooter Onward is revelatory in terms of gaming. If you need to lean around a corner, do it for real. If you need to go prone, go prone. Suddenly kids have an advantage of me on the battlefield not just because of their quicker reflexes, but because they can get up with having to be careful about their clicking knees and aching back, but I love it. Throwing things like discs in Rec Room feels as natural as anything and projectiles coming towards you in game like Audioshield and the Star Wars experience feel incredibly real and elicit a surprisingly genuine response. Even cardboard cutout zombies in Zombie Training Simulator can make you feel genuine fear as you get swarmed by hordes of the paper-maché undead.

Right now there is a much-reported limit on the number of AAA games, but there’s more and more each week and there’s already plenty of adventure games and decent shooters alongside the plethora of tech-demos to keep you busy. We’ve found our gametime is limited more by the hot weather than running out of things to do and with nearly every new experience we can’t wait to show it to someone. In a genius stroke every game produces a 2D image of what you can see on your monitor so other people can still watch what you’re playing. This alleviates some of our worries about how antisocial VR would be, but we’re still hoping for some more asymmetrical multiplayer games to take advantage of this like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

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Conclusion

We’re a long way away from making any final decisions on this hardware yet, but we’d say if you have the money this is definitely an incredibly exciting and compelling taste of the future. It’s expensive for what it is, and the technology is very immature, but you can have a lot of fun with VR already and if you’re looking to be blown away by the next big thing, you owe it to yourself to try the Vive.

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Five Tips for starting out in No Man’s Sky

So we’ve been around the galaxy and back, all the way to the centre! So we know a few things about what’s going on in No Man’s Sky. That being said, a lot changed in patch v1.03 so in this collection of tips and tricks we’re going to stick with what we know that might help you out in No Man’s Sky.

1. Only take what you need

No Man’s Sky is going to be a nightmare for the kleptomaniac RPG players that love to pick up everything they see just in case they need it later (only to never use it in case they need it even later). Although the inventory upgrades are great, so you can now hold much more in each slot of your inventory, there’s so many different things you’ll pick up, it’s not practical to keep grabbing everything. It’s always handy to have a stack of plutonium, heredium, carbon, and iron, but anything else should only be considered if you’re saving up to make something right now, or if you think it can fetch a pretty penny. Things like gold are always valuable, and seemingly not that rare, so it might be worth grabbing a stack of that. To help you find things, plutonium is found as big bright red crystals poking out of the ground, and is very common, but important because it helps lets you recharge your thrusters to take off and your life support, so it’s handy to have a stash just in case you land on some desolate wasteland, and keep it topped up. Heredium is harder to find, and appears as big blackish blue square pillars on the landscape, but is used to make loads of different things. Early on you need a tonne of it, and even later you need it to build warp cells. Carbon and iron are everywhere, with carbon making up all the lifeforms and iron making up most of the rocks, but it’s important to take some with you when you head back into space in case someone on a space station needs it. It’s surprisingly hard to find rocks and plant matter on a space station! Thamium9 is super important too, powering your pulse engines, but it’s in nearly every asteroid, and loads of red plants on the surface, so it’s always easy to find more if you ever run out.

2. Line up your upgrades

All of your upgrades in your exo-suit, ship and multi-tool belong to a certain type. If you have upgrades of a similar type (so beam next to beam, warp drive, next to warp drive upgrade) they get a not-insignificant boost to their power. This is useful when you’re looking at new multitools and ships, as you not only want to the most slots possible, but you also want to make sure the existing immovable features like hyperdrives are in good places where you can connect other things to them. Plan ahead for your exo-suit, it’s a good idea to have a column dedicated to life support, one for shields, one for jetpack, and so on.

3. Focus on multi-tool upgrades first

There’s no point getting ship upgrades early because you’ll change your ship fairly quickly and you can’t swap over upgrades to a new ship. Your exo-suit is very limited in capacity at the very start so you really want to save that space for minerals until you’ve got a few more slots. You’re multi-tool on the other hand is a great thing to upgrade. Get the scanners as quickly as you can so you can find things, then also be sure to get some weapon upgrades and grenades. Grenades can often end a fight with wildlife in a single shot and they also let you dig out anything that might be buried by the terrain. The upgrades are also super cheap!

4. Get to an Atlas station quickly

While it’s tempting to dawdle on all the amazing planets you see, and that’s a big part of the game, making a beeline to the first Atlas station should be a priority. Once you’ve visited one then you will be find a space anomaly in the next solar system and there you will get an Atlas pass recipe. When you get your Atlas pass you can enter a lot of locked doors and open locked containers, making much more of all of your exploring. You should be able to get there in about five jumps from the start, so it takes a bit of scavenging first, but after that jumping will become a breeze and the galaxy really opens up to you. Plus it’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a videogame.

5. Don’t be afraid to fight the sentinels

When the sentinels are breathing down your neck, it’s tempting to panic, but they’re surprisingly respectful if you hold your ground. Your laser is better than theirs so if there’s only one or two, take them out and it might just deactivate the alert and let you off scot-free. If you try to get in your ship and fly off to space sentinel ships will spawn around you and chase you down, and they’re a slightly bigger headache than their planetary brethren. If you really need to go on the run while you’re on a planet, get into a building. They won’t follow you and often it’ll get rid of the alert too. Don’t try to jump in a cave as you’ll often find yourself trapped in a dark room with sentinels and possibly angry wildlife all ripping you to shreds. Then when you die you’ll have to jump back into that same cave to get your stuff. Good luck with that.

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Being banned from Youtube by Sony (Update: We’re back)

12th August: I’m leaving this post up so you can see what happened, but thanks to a contact within Sony UK I’ve been able to get the Youtube channel back! We still can’t stream but the videos are back online!

So this post is really for the four thousand people that tuned in to watch us play No Man’s Sky over the weekend. I wanted to let you know what happened, what I think went wrong, and what I’m hoping will happen now. As a disclaimer, I don’t think this really had anything to do with Hello Games or Youtube. Youtube’s system is clearly flawed, but everything that happened on their part was automated. Sony Interactive Entertainment of America are the real bad guys here as far as I’m concerned. Or possibly their lawyers.

So on Saturday morning my copy of No Man’s Sky arrived. I didn’t get a review copy, I didn’t sign any embargoes to get it early, I just bought it from Simply Games and happened to get lucky when they sent it out on Friday and my post arrived quickly. I immediately put it in the PS4 and started using the PS4’s streaming features to stream to my Youtube channel. Up until then, my Youtube channel had plenty of content, hours of videos of me playing games as I reviewed them, and just messing around with theme park games, but it only had sixty six subscribers and on streams I rarely got more than twelve people watching. This all changed with No Man’s Sky.

Almost immediately my views starting shooting up, through the hundreds, then into the thousands. Spurred on by the awesome community that was evolving in my chat, we starting egging people on to Subscribe. In the first day we went from 66 to 1000 subscribers. There were 1500 people in the chat, there were volunteer moderators, I was streaming for something like 12 hours in a day, with very few breaks. It was awesome. PSN kept crashing and making me sign in again, so the video was split up into chunks (this is important later) but it was fine because people kept coming back and we explored the game together, hyping it up and trying things out. So many people commented saying they were persuaded to buy the game after watching me play.

On Sunday the same happened again, I woke up at 8am and started streaming. I carried on through the whole day, starting a journey to get to the centre. By the evening we had four thousand subscribers and over two thousand people watching at once. The community was real and familiar faces started showing up, there were in-jokes, it was chilled and relaxed and amazing. Then one time the stream went down (as it had something like twenty six times over the weekend) and I couldn’t start it again. I started getting a new error. People in the chat got restless and eventually started to leave. I saw that Sony had issued a copyright strike against one video, and by this time we were all so tired we decided to call it a night.

On Monday morning I woke up at 7am and my wife told me my Youtube channel had gone. I woke up to find I couldn’t sign in to Youtube at all, my channel no longer existed. Checking my e-mails I saw that Sony had submitted a series of copyright strikes in close succession, meaning my channel was automatically banned and the videos were removed. I now can’t sign in to the channel, cannot communicate with those subscribers what happened, can’t access my own videos, it’s all gone. At no point did anyone from Sony, Hello Games or Youtube contact me to say that they thought I was doing something wrong, I still haven’t had any contact from the people responsible for the strikes. All of them had an e-mail address called PiracyRIA@… which is strange as I haven’t pirated anything.

This morning I started the stream up again at https://www.stream.me/tpreview and that was a moderate success with 150 viewers as we finally reached the centre of the galaxy. As exciting as it was, I can’t help but feel that it would have been better with the thousands of people who’d seen the journey to get there. Eventually StreamMe broke down and we moved to https://www.twitch.tv/tpreview where we are still streaming now.

Sean Murray has tweeted to a couple of Youtubers that he is sorry their channels got banned and he’s working to try and get it sorted, he hasn’t said anything like that to me yet, probably because we’re little fish in the Youtube Ocean. We hope someone sees this because it seems remarkably unfair to take down a whole channel over a stream of a legitimately obtained game. We spent two days and around twenty five hours building hype for the game, discussing the patch, exploring, and trying things out. We rained down positivity on the game and built up more excitement for what is already a much-anticipated game. And Sony’s way of thanking us was to completely shut down the Youtube part of our site with no communication at all.

As it stands, we can’t access Youtube. We have e-mailed everyone we can, we’ve tweeted and called everyone we can, but we’re not sure if we’ll ever get that channel back. We have videos of the center of the universe that we’ll upload somewhere when we can, and we’re happy to get suggestions as to where, but for now we’re locked out. We really hope Sony will rectify the mistake, allow us to put the videos back up, and we can go back to an awesome stream on Youtube exploring the game all over again with the new patch. Until that happens we’ll try to do the same on Twitch, but I miss those subscribers, that community. Please let us have it back.

Update: 19:20PM GMT 8th August

So this is the Twitter conversation me and Sony have just had, verbatim.

TPReview:  Any help with restoring my Youtube channel that was taken down last night for playing a legit copy of No Man’s Sky?

Sony: Unfortunately there is nothing that we can do about this, as the game is released on 10th of August. Please try again on 10th ^SN

TPReview: Try again to do what? get access to the rest of my Youtube videos and subscribers? I can hide the videos now if you remove strikes

Sony: As stated before, we can’t help you with this. Please contact Youtube for more information ^SN

TPReview: Youtube said to get the channel back Sony needs to remove the strikes. Otherwise I can’t speak to my 4000 subscribers

TPReview: The 4000 subscribers who loved joining me watching No Man’s Sky, ones who got hyped and many of whom said it inspired them to buy

TPReview: Here’s a help page on how to retract a copyright strike

Sony: As the game is released in PSN 10th of august, you might get banned from platforms for playing this content earlier ^SN

TPReview: You should ship that out in the game boxes and maybe go after the retailer who sent it to me rather than a fan’s YT channel :(

TPReview: I had zero warning or communication before my entire channel was banned by Sony for playing a game I’ve been waiting two years for

TPReview: I lost hundreds of hours of video and 4000 subscribers, retract the strikes and I will remove the videos

Personally, I feel like Sony are in the wrong here. They could have told me to take the videos down, and I would. They could have given me one strike and done that, they could have even done it then admitted it was heavy handed, but here they are saying I shouldn’t play the game early and I could be punished more if I play it. Because who would want to play a game they’ve been waiting for?

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Derren Brown’s Ghost Train Spoiler-Free Review at Thorpe Park

Last night we were treated to the press event for Derren Brown’s Ghost Train at Thorpe Park. The ride is a new take on ghost trains with heavy use of virtual reality. We’ve come away unimpressed by the use of VR on Air – now Galactica – at Alton Towers, but they were using the cheap and underpowered GearVR headsets. Can Thorpe Park do any better?

Right out of the gates Thorpe Park got something right by choosing to use the HTC Vive as their headset of choice. With each of these going for nearly £700 for consumers and each train ( I think there’s probably three in the building) having 50 seats, along with spares that must be needed, that’s quite the investment, but it’s clearly the way to go if you want convincing and immersive VR. With a better framerate and most importantly full positional tracking, we’ve been amazed by what the Vive can do elsewhere with video games when attached to a high-spec PC.

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We’re not going to spoil anything on the ride beyond the fact that it does use VR (something that’s in most of the advertising and repeated throughout the queue).  In the first section of VR some quite clever effects are used to make it seem more realistic with lighting and some live actors that have clearly been recorded then inserted into the VR. It’s very convincing and while the environments are still a little low res and clearly more like something out of a video game, when scares come you find yourself immersed enough to be more than a little freaked out. This isn’t the sort of attraction where you can walk around with the headsets on so they have somewhat of a captive audience, forcing you to just sit there while some strange things happen. This section of the ride definitely qualifies as a new take on the Ghost Train and we’d love to see more uses of VR like this. It’s well integrated into the theme of the ride (there’s a reason for you to be putting the headset one) and it can be genuinely frightening, even if the quality isn’t quite good enough to trick you into thinking it’s completely real.

In the second section things are a little worse. Here there’s no live-action, just plenty of CGI and sadly it doesn’t work well enough to be immersive. The environments and things you see all look like something out of a PS3-era game at best and after the quite unsettling first part, this is quite a letdown. The creators of the VR section were perhaps a little too ambitious with what they wanted to achieve here and the tech simply isn’t up to it. Also while things go close to your face, the Vive’s positional tracking might actually be a negative as I was able to lean forward and put my head inside something else, where I just clipped through it and rendered it invisible. Throughout the journey on my first go it all ran well, but on our second there were a few glitches with the headsets where suddenly the geometry would freak out and have to reset itself, sometimes defaulting to a bright blue grid, others to just a static video with no head tracking.

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Overall we’re impressed with the Ghost Train. It’s definitely a new take on an old genre of ride, and it’s worth the experience just because there’s nothing else like it at the moment. We’re not convinced even the mighty Vive is up to the task of a high-throughput mainstream ride like this, where resolution and immersiveness isn’t quite good enough to do something completely in CGI, but as something a bit different that we’ve not seen anywhere else in the world, it’s got a thumbs up. Thorpe Park definitely needed a decent dark ride and now they’ve got one of the best in the world.

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Shadows of Kurgansk Preview

There’s been a wealth of survival horrors since the early days of DayZ (and I’m tempted to say Minecraft). Each tend to have their own little quirk of unique selling point, but they eventually come down to trying to manage stats to keep yourself alive while crafting, exploring, and fighting.

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Shadow of Kurgansk has two fairly unique features. Firstly there’s a campaign-esque tutorial with characters that lets you know what your options are. This obviously eliminates some of the wonder of exploration and experimentation that you find in things like DayZ, but it also gets you on your feet much quicker so you can take part in the real mode, the survival mode, without making too many stupid mistakes. The other unique thing is the art style. While it’s going for a slightly cel-shaded look, it ends up looking a lot more like the incredible and underrated XIII from two generations ago, rather than like Borderlands. The fact that this is an old game ins’t an insult to Kurgansk, XIII still holds up today with a comic-book style that hasn’t really been imitated successfully in FPS games.

Kurgansk is a little by the books in other respects, you are exploring a post apocalyptic temperate wasteland where there’s plenty to scavenge, rats to cook and eat, and monsters to kill. One of the biggest problems we have with the early access version so far is that the monsters simply aren’t scary at all. They look like the local hoodies you’re likely to recognise from outside your local McDonalds and they drop pretty quickly after a couple of blows to the head. Similarly the Stalker-esque anomalies that are meant to have horrific and terrifying effects just warp your screen a bit or make things a little dark. They’re not the lethal death traps we were used to seeing in Pripyat.

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Overall Kurgansk shows some promise with an interesting art style and a slightly different take on the genre, but at the moment everything it’s trying to do just isn’t working so well. The dialogue is awful, the combat is floaty and weightless, the crafting is dull, and the world just isn’t scary enough. Go play The Forest, Stalker, DayZ, or even H1z1 and soak up the atmosphere. In those games you’re always fighting to survive, always on the run, you rarely feel like the apex predator. In Kurgansk you generally feel like you’re the most powerful being around, and it doesn’t matter because there’s nothing interesting to do with that power.

We’ll keep you updated as new builds come out, but for now we’d probably hold off on this one.

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