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An Xbox One X PC build – is it good value for 4K video gaming?

Yes, the Xbox One X is expensive, but is it good value? How much would a powerful (and small form factor) 4K gaming PC cost in its place?

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Xbox One X PC build

Yes, the Xbox One X is expensive, but is it good value? How much would a powerful (and small form factor) 4K gaming PC cost in its place?

First, a recap on the pertinent bits of the Xbox One X specs:

  • CPU: Custom AMD CPU, 8 cores @ 2.3GHz
  • GPU: Custom AMD GPU, including:
    • 40 Compute Units @ 1.172 GHz
    • AMD Polaris features
    • 6 TFLOPS of performance
  • RAM: 12GB GDDR5
  • Storage: 1TB storage (with 8GB flash)
  • Optical: 4K UHD BluRay player
  • Power supply: Internal 245W
  • Dimensions: 30 x 24 x 6 cm
  • Price: £449 ($499 US / 499 euro)

And if you’re looking at that list wondering what all the jargon means, here’s a primer on the technology and what all the silly acronyms mean.

So, before we get started, some caveats:

The first thing you’ll notice about the Xbox One X’s spec sheet is that it’s very red – it’s all AMD where it counts. That does colour our choices somewhat, so we’ll cover two builds in this article: the first will be as authentic as we can possibly make it, using all AMD components; the second will be the best spec we could possibly cram into a console-sized case for high-end, 4K gaming.

The second thing is that processor stock unit. We don’t know exactly what it is – both Microsoft and AMD have been cagey about exactly what powers the current generations of consoles – but that configuration of lots of cores with a relatively low clock speed is hard to match exactly. There are Intel Xeon server processors that come close, but they’re very expensive. Instead we’ll go over on the clock speed, both for the sake of ease, and to allow for extra operating system overhead on a PC.

The third thing is the RAM. Because the Xbox One X is using an APU-type device – a CPU and GPU integrated into a single board, versus two discrete devices, as we’ll be using in our build – the memory is shared. That will mean, as with the CPU, we’ll need to make an approximation or two to present a realistic and usable build.

The fourth thing is the size – it’s tiny. Seriously freaking small. We’re going to struggle to get our spec quite as small as the Xbox One X, without absolutely paying through the nose and possibly having things custom-made. That’s the benefit of Microsoft’s economies of scale in action, folks. We’ll be sticking with retail cases for this design so you can actually build this if you want to, but there are cases that exist that are closer to the size of the Xbox One X – Dr Zaber Sentry, NFC S4 Mini, Dan Cases A4-SFX – but you can’t get one for love nor money at the moment.

And the fifth thing? We’re going to drop the optical drive. From Netflix for 4K movies and Steam for games, you really don’t need one. It takes up less space in the case, and it’ll knock a few quid off the price – we’re probably going to need it.

Xbox One X PC build – the ‘authentic’ specs

CPU – AMD Ryzen 5 1500X

This isn’t the biggest and best of the new AMD Ryzen processors, but it’s got eight threads – which matches our Xbox One X reference – and it’s not stupendously expensive. You should expect to pick one up for around £175. That ‘X’ signifier on the end of the stock unit also means it’s (power) unlocked, so you can push this CPU (further) with overclocking if you fancy (and can keep it cool).

Motherboard – BM350 Socket AM4 Gaming MicroATX

Because we’ve gone for a Ryzen processor, and smaller Mini-ITX AM4 motherboards aren’t yet on sale (though they have been announced) we’re going to have to go for a larger Micro-ATX motherboard. At least they’re pretty cheap: one of these shouldn’t set you back more than around £85.

Case – Erm…

Because we’ve gone for a Ryzen processor, and have therefore had to select a Micro-ATX motherboard – can you see where this is going yet? – we’re going to struggle to fit this into anything like a console build. Bollocks. There are smaller form factor Micro-ATX cases like the Antec VSK2000-U3, but its low-profile expansion slots won’t fit in a beefy enough graphics card.

Er… Shit.

Right. OK. The best we can do is a Silverstone Grandia GD05B, which looks more like an enormous hi-fi separate than a modern console at a whopping 440 x 151 x 325 (WxHxD mm), but it’ll still just about fit under your telly and only costs about £85.

xbox-one-x-silverstone-grandia-gd05b

GPU – AMD Radeon RX 580

This is more like it. The card currently at the top of AMD’s desktop tree, the RX 580, is very close in specification to the GPU inside the Xbox One X. Specifically, it’s got 36 Compute Units/2304 Streams at a base clock of 1.37GHz, versus the 40 Compute Units/2560 Streams at 1.2GHz in the Xbox One X.

It comes in two flavours, with a choice of either 4 or 8GB of RAM, but we’ll go for an 8GB option to ensure it has headroom for that 4K target. One with a modest factory overclock should set you back around £300, but make sure it’s shorter than around 25cm/10″ to fit in the Grandia GD05B.

Power Supply – 500W Modular ATX

One small benefit of the enormous Grandia GD05B case is that you can fit in a standard ATX power supply, and have plenty of room for cabling. Still, cables are the enemy of airflow and cooling in the case, so we’d recommend you spend an extra few quid and get a modular cabled version. You’ll need at least 500W to meet the minimum on that RX 580 GPU, so expend to spent at least £60 on your PSU.

Hard Drive – 1TB SSHD

This one’s easy. You could spend a lot of money on a massive solid state drive, or feasibly fit a small SSD for the operating system and a bigger mechanical drive for storing all those games, but the Xbox One X’s mention of an 8GB cache suggests it’s running an SSHD – a Solid State Hybrid Drive that mixes both forms of hard disk for a good balance of performance and capacity. Expect to spend around £75.

RAM – 8GB

This is also relatively easy, but needs a little explaining. The Xbox One X has 12GB of shared GDDR5 memory, which we expect to be roughly 4GB for the console and 8GB for the graphical stuff, but 4GB in a PC wouldn’t be nearly enough. That’s barely enough to run Windows. To try and compensate for that operating system overhead 8GB would be a more realistic option, and should set you back somewhere around £80 for 2 x 4GB sticks of fast DDR4 RAM.

16GB would be better, though.

Anything else?

You’re also going to need a Windows 10 license – at a cost of around £90 – and some cooling. Expect to spend £20 on a couple of good quality case fans, and another £40 on a really good quality low profile CPU cooler (like a Noctua NH-L9x65 SE-AM4). Oh, and an Xbox One controller for about £60.

Total cost: £1070

Fuck. That came out a lot more expensive than an Xbox One X, didn’t it?

And the sad fact is, that’s a relatively modest configuration. While the RX 580 is as close as we can get to the Xbox One X’s GPU – within the already released models in the Polaris line, at least; they’re probably sitting on something better that’s yet to be announced – it’s going to struggle for 4K gaming, at least on Very High and Ultra settings. That would be a perfect card for 1080p at 60 frames per second gaming with all the settings maxed out, but to push it past those resolutions you’re going to be tweaking the settings down to keep frame rates stable.

Xbox One X Radeon RX 580

It wouldn’t hurt to upgrade that Ryzen 5 processor to a Ryzen 7 – double the price to £350 for the unlocked Ryzen 7 1700X – and stick an extra 8GB of RAM in there, too.

But AMD isn’t the only way. We focused on it because we were trying to get our Xbox One X PC build as authentic as possible to the components within the console; what happens if we let Intel and Nvidia to the party?

Xbox One X PC build – ‘proper’ 4K specs

CPU – Intel Core i7 7700K

Like the ‘X’ signifier on the Ryzen builds, the ‘K’ on the end of an Intel stock unit means it’s unlocked and you can go a bit nuts with it, if you’re into overclocking. But even in its default configuration, the 7700K is a cracking processor: again it comes with eight threads, clocked at 4.2GHz, and costs around £330, similar in price to our recommended Ryzen 7 upgrade on the previous build.

Motherboard – Intel Z270 Mini-ITX Gaming

This is more like it. The addition of an Intel processor means we’ve got immediate access to smaller-form factor Mini-ITX motherboards. Expect a good quality, Z270 gaming board to set you back somewhere around £150, but you could get a ‘standard’ desktop board for closer to £100 and wouldn’t notice much difference.

Case – Fractal Design Node 202

Where the Micro-ATX board limited us to larger chassis, the smaller Mini-ITX motherboard option means we can pick a smaller case. And a smaller case incentivises the manufacturer to do smart things – like mounting the graphics card sideways with a PCI-slot riser – to get closer to that goal of the console form factor. And you can’t do much better than a Fractal Design Node 202, coming in at around £75 for a svelte 377 x 82 x 330 (WxHxD mm).

Xbox One X Fractal Design Node 202

You can also get it with an included 450W power supply for £125, which is rather nice.

GPU – GTX 1080

You could plump for a GTX 1060 with 6GB of RAM for a cheaper (£250), smaller, lower-power consumption alternative to the AMD RX 580. You’ll get similar (if not slightly better) performance, with amazing 1080p gaming on the highest settings, and decent-enough performance at higher resolutions if you bump the quality down.

Fuck it, we’re going big here. If you want reliable, 60 frames per second gaming at 4K, you’re going to want a GTX 1080. AMD really don’t have anything that competes at this level right now, but that could change when the Vega cards start materialising. As it stands, you’ll want to go for a smaller-form factor GTX 1080 like the Zotac GeForce GTX 1080 AMP Edition – with 8GB of even-faster GDDR5X memory and 2560 Cores at 1683MHz – for around £530.

Proper 4K gaming isn’t cheap, folks.

Power Supply – Not required

This is included with the Fractal Design Node 202. If you went for an alternative case like a Silverstone Raven Mini-ITX gaming case, you’d need to include a power supply.

Hard drive – 1TB SSHD

The same as the previous build… though you could argue if you’re spending all that money on a GTX 1080, you could spring for a proper SSD and not a hybrid.

RAM – 16GB

8GB is fine. 8GB is good enough. 8GB will see you right for most games… but if we’re going all out for 4K gaming, let’s make sure we give ourselves a little headroom. Expect to spend upwards of £140.

Anything else?

Again, like in the first build, you’re also going to need a Windows 10 license – at a cost of around £90 – and some cooling. Expect to spend £20 on a couple of good quality case fans, and a really good quality low profile CPU cooler (like a Noctua NH-L12) for about £45. Don’t forget that Xbox One controller for £60, too.

Total – £1565

Holy shit that’s a lot of money, isn’t it?

xbox-one-x-zotac-gtx-1080

You could knock £3-400 off that total bill by swapping in a GTX 1060 graphics card, a non-gaming motherboard, and dropping down to 8GB of RAM. You could even install Ubuntu or SteamOS instead of Windows, to save yourself the cost of the license but you would have to actually learn some Linux (and you’ll get access to a much smaller choice of games via Steam for your trouble).

And if you build all this in a regular tower case, without the requirement of a diddy Mini-ITX motherboard or an ingenious case with a horizontal GPU-mounting riser, you’ll probably save yourself a bit more cash. But if you can’t put it under your TV, it’s not really a console killing PC build, is it?

The Xbox One X PC build – any conclusions?

Yes, people are a bit upset by the price of the Xbox One X. And yes, it is a lot of money, especially compared to what we’re used to paying for consoles.

Though to be fair to Microsoft, if you’re pulling anguished faces at that price tag, then you may have to accept that you just might not be the target market for the Xbox One X. They’re more likely targeting older generations of gamers, with well-paying jobs, cars, houses, and not insignificant disposable incomes. Whether that gamble pays off remains to be seen, but consumers having a choice – even an outlandish, expensive one – is rarely a bad thing.

And if Microsoft can leverage their clout and economies of scale to deliver actual 4K gaming, for £450, in that gloriously small form factor? That’s actually nothing short of a fucking miracle.

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Features

Is Final Fantasy VII Remake worth playing?

After a long wait, Final Fantasy VII Remake is finally here. But can it live up to expectations?

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Final Fantasy VII Remake - Key Art
Square Enix / Thumbsticks

Final Fantasy VII Remake is finally here, but does Square Enix’s reimagining of the iconic RPG classic live up to expectations?

Yes. Yes, it does. Critics are almost universal in their praise of the long-awaited revamp of (some of) Square’s classic 1997 role-playing game.

It’s an affectionate and mostly faithful remake that preserves the story and characters that players love but enhances it with new combat mechanics, story-beats, and lavish production values.

Criticism is slight and mostly focused on two areas, the occasional lack of polish – although it’s a very attractive game throughout – and some side-mission filler that serves to extend its length. The game’s ending also appears to be divisive, albeit brave.

Final Fantasy VII Remake is well worth the wait, then. Let’s hope it doesn’t take Square Enix another five years to release part two. Here is our pick of the game’s early reviews.

Final Fantasy VII Remake review round-up

Eurogamer

“It’s no easy task to rewrite one of the most beloved stories in videogame history, and given the series’ recent shaky past even Final Fantasy 7‘s most optimistic fans were nervous as to how their favourite characters, moments and story arcs would weather the transition. But I’m happy to say that, for the most part at least, the spirit and tone of the original Final Fantasy 7 is perfectly preserved. Dare I say it, the remake even manages to frequently improve upon the original’s telling of the story.”

Recommended – Review by Aoife Wilson

USGamer

“Square Enix’s long-awaited return to the world of Midgar is both beautiful and oddly dated, an exhilarating blockbuster that can also be a dull slog. It has a lot of highs, but there are points where it really labors to stretch what feels like a 15 to 20 hour story into 30. It’ll hit you with a truly excellent setpiece or story sequence, only to allow the excitement to evaporate in the course of another interminable series of blank corridors and switch-pulling. It reminds me a little bit of The Hobbit, which is to say that it feels like a self-contained story, but also kind of has a case of trilogy creep.”

3.5/5 – Review by Kat Bailey

Polygon

Remake is wildly uneven, poorly paced, and not entirely successful as a game in its own right. It takes a game that still feels staggeringly ambitious and often turns it into something more traditional, even if every aspect of the experience is so much more technically advanced. But Remake is also the very best thing a game can be: fascinating. It forces us to confront our subjective tastes, and asks us to consider what we value in the games we play. Your feelings about Remake will be determined by what you, personally, valued in the original release.”

Not scored – Review by Carolyn Petit

IGN

“While almost everything from the Midgar section of the original game is here – with some rooms being recreated exactly as I remember them and others extravagantly evolving in spectacular fashion – there’s also a whole lot of new stuff too, though not all of it is what I’d consider an improvement. Generally speaking, I love that this brief section of a much larger RPG has been zoomed-in on and fleshed out with real character development and a more robust story, but there are places where those additions elevate the source material and others where they drag both it and this new game down.”

8/10 – Review by Tom Marks

Kotaku

“Here’s Square Enix, finally listening to thousands upon thousands of requests to remake Final Fantasy VII, and they’ve changed everything but the blueprint. It would have been far more straightforward to recreate the original game with brand new graphics—to transform the old blocky polygonal figures into beautiful models, retranslate the script, and overhaul the world while changing as little as possible. But Final Fantasy VII Remake isn’t all that interested in retreading old territory. In fact, this remake sometimes even flirts with deviating from the original game’s story, and although it never does anything as ballsy as, say, killing Cloud in the first act, Final Fantasy VII Remake does signal a level of self-awareness that I didn’t expect.”

Not scored – Review by Jason Schreier

GameSpot

“Regardless of your history with the original game, Final Fantasy VII Remake is an astounding achievement. The wait for its release was a long one, but in gameplay, story, characters, and music, it delivers–the wait was worth it. For first-time players, it’s an opportunity to understand why Final Fantasy VII is held in such high regard. It’s the chance to experience a multifaceted story that grapples with complex subject matter, be in the company of memorable characters, and be moved by their plight. For returning fans, this isn’t the Final Fantasy VII your mind remembers, it’s the one your heart always knew it to be.”

10/10 – Review by Tamour Hussain

ShackNews

Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a masterpiece, a love letter to FF7 fans, an homage to one of the greatest games of all time. At its best it does everything the original did in 1997, revolutionizing the way video game stories can be told and reimaged. Square Enix has created a wonderful game full of characters, set pieces and stories for a whole new generation of players to follow the journey of Cloud Strife and his friends on a mission to save the world.”

9/10 – Review by Greg Burke

GamesRadar

Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a spectacle from start to finish. You can tell how much care has been taken to bring this story back to life for modern audiences. As a retelling of a classic with plenty of surprises in store, the Remake offers engaging experiences for longtime fans and newcomers alike. Its action-packed combat, engrossing story, and gorgeously detailed setting successfully reminds you why Final Fantasy 7 is beloved by so many.”

4.5/5 – Review by Heather Wald

Game Informer

Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a spectacle from start to finish. You can tell how much care has been taken to bring this story back to life for modern audiences. As a retelling of a classic with plenty of surprises in store, the Remake offers engaging experiences for longtime fans and newcomers alike.”

8.75/10 – Review by Joe Juba


Title: Final Fantasy VII Remake
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release date: April 10, 2020
Platform: PlayStation 4


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Is the Resident Evil 3 remake worth playing?

Resident Evil 3 is the latest game from Capcom to get an RE Engine remake. How does it compare to the original, and does it top last year’s acclaimed RE2?

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Resident Evil 3 remake
Capcom / Thumbsticks

Resident Evil 3 is the latest survival horror game from Capcom to get a top-to-bottom RE Engine remake. How does it compare to the original, and does it top last year’s acclaimed RE2 remake? Here’s what reviewers are saying.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was reviewed positively on its 1999 release, but a consensus grew over time that it was too short and too action-oriented. Naturally enough, it appears the same critique applies to the remake. Most reviewers agree that it’s a handsome and thrilling game, but the underlying experience isn’t as refined as Resident Evil 2. There’s certainly a wider variance of opinion this time around.

The package is fleshed out with an intriguing asynchronous multiplayer mode called Resident Evil: Resistance. First impressions are promising, but the jury is still out on its merits due to some technical issues and a lack of pre-release players.

Here is our pick of the game’s main campaign reviews.

Resident Evil 3 remake review round-up

Kotaku

Resident Evil 3 is a better modernization than last year’s fantastic Resident Evil 2 remake. Where that game was still puzzling out a change in format and occasionally struggled to forge an identity, Resident Evil 3 proceeds with wonderful confidence. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but Resident Evil 3 knows what it wants to be.”

Not scored – Review by Heather Alexandra

USGamer

Resident Evil 3 finally repositions its place as not just a true sequel to Resident Evil 2, but as a bridge to Resident Evil 4, both in action and plot. While it streamlines the formula of Resident Evil 2 into something more linear, it’s still the best way to dodge through Raccoon City with Jill and Carlos, even with Nemesis always on your tail and the occasional clunkiness here and there.”

3.5/5 – Review by Caty McCarthy

GameSpot

“As a remake, Resident Evil 3 not only falls short of honoring its source, but it also doesn’t quite stick the landing as a standalone horror experience. Even without taking into account the original game, or its predecessor, RE3 struggles to keep up with its pace amid a clashing of elements from survival horror and standard action.”

6/10 – Review by Alessandro Fillari

Polygon

“There’s no doubt that the things that made the Resident Evil 2 remake great are present in Resident Evil 3. Capcom’s latest remake is a beautiful game, bearing the same sharp design and streamlining of last year’s game. But much of it feels like a lesser repeat of what was so impressive in Resident Evil 2.”

Not scored – Review by Michael McWhertor

TechRadar

“Resident Evil 3 has rightfully earned its place as one of the best horror games on the market. While Resident Evil 2 Remake may be seen as the golden child, the Resident Evil 3 remake is faster-paced, more action-packed, graphically superior, and forces you to face your fears head-on – whether you want to or not.”

4.5/5 – Review by Vic Hood

PC Gamer

“Resident Evil is best when you’re lost in a complex, labyrinthine space, forced to make a mental map as you play, unlocking more of the sprawl by solving puzzles and finding keys. But Resident Evil 3 has none of this, and is actually stiflingly linear. You’re frequently funnelled down a prescribed path to the next cutscene, and it doesn’t help that the story is lean to the point of nonexistence, with one-dimensional characters and a narrative through-line so flimsy I kept forgetting what I was doing or why.”

58/100 – Review by Andy Kelly

Eurogamer

“Downtown Raccoon City is, unfortunately, not the expansive, multi-layered stalk-fest I’d hoped it would be. There are no alternate endings to chase, no story-altering choices to make, no new game plus mode. The source material is – and I think this is the perceived wisdom – simply not as good as the original Resident Evil 2. But I can’t shake the feeling the Resident Evil 3 remake was rushed – as its original was. Now that’s an unfortunate parallel.”

Not scoredReview by Wesley Yin-Poole


Title: Resident Evil 3
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release date: April 3, 2020
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One


Visit our new releases section for more on this week’s new Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One games.

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Is Half-Life: Alyx worth playing?

After a 13-year gap, Valve return to City 17 and the battle against the Combine in the new action-adventure VR game, Half-Life: Alyx. Here’s our review round-up.

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Half-Life 2: Alyx - Review roundup
Valve

After a 13-year gap, Valve return to City 17 and the battle against the Combine in the new action-adventure VR game, Half-Life: Alyx. Here’s our review round-up.

When Half-Life: Alyx was announced, there was an expectation that Valve would create a landmark in virtual reality gaming. That expectation ignores the progress achieved by many other developers in recent years, but the prospect of a return to City 17 was long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated.

In the event, Half-Life: Alyx isn’t quite as groundbreaking as its predecessors, but it does present a refined, polished AAA VR experience.

Half-Life: Alyx has received praise across the board. The game’s narrative, puzzle-centric gameplay, and stomach-churning Headcrab encounters are all highlights. After a long wait, it appears that the Valve people love is back. Here’s our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Half-Life: Alyx review round-up

Kotaku

“Half-Life is a different beast in VR. It is more stressful and intense than its non-VR predecessors. It can be downright exhausting—sometimes for extremely laudable reasons and other times for deeply frustrating ones. Alyx reveals what VR games can be, but perhaps also what they should try to avoid for fear of overwhelming or frustrating players.”

No score – Review by Nathan Grayson

USGamer

“If Half-Life: Alyx is a success, I think there’ll also be a strong argument for more Half-Life needing to stick with VR moving forward. This game will reach a limited audience at launch, surely. There are some limitations in scope that may rankle, such as a small set of (upgradable!) weapons. Some people may dislike it purely because they don’t like VR. But having played through Half-Life and Half-Life 2 numerous times, along with some of the best FPS campaigns released in their wake (Titanfall 2, 2016’s Doom, Halo: Reach), I think that Half-Life: Alyx stands as proof that Half-Life’s continued evolution can’t look like those of other shooter series.”

4.5/5 – Review by Matthew Olson

Eurogamer

“The controls are as clear-headed as the narrative. Playing room-scale or simply standing with a more confined space, you can choose one of four movement options, two of which work brilliantly as teleport jobs while the other two offer continuous movement guided by either the hand or the head and seemed to me pretty clumsy and nausea-inducing. Whatever movement you choose, one hand generally holds a weapon or gadget – switching them is as easy as pressing a button and waving your arm up and down – while the other is always free for interacting with the environment, opening doors, grabbing ammo clips from your backpack and ramming them home, priming grenades before lobbing them.”

RecommendedReview by Christian Donlan

Polygon

“(But) Half-Life is back, and Valve has finally released another AAA single-player game, something many of us doubted the company ever would, or even could, do again. The impossible has already been achieved, and the fact that it’s happening in VR only makes it more novel. Valve has succeeded at just about every goal it must have had for this project. The only thing left is whether hardcore fans will be willing to buy, and use, a virtual reality headset in order to learn what happens next in the world of Half-Life.”

RecommendedReview by Ben Kuchera

IGN

“Back when VR first became a real thing and we all started spitballing which game worlds we’d most like to be fully immersed in, Half-Life topped my list (tied with BioShock). It took a few years, but Half-Life: Alyx has more than realized that potential. With it, Valve has set a new bar for VR in interactivity, detail, and level design, showing what can happen when a world-class developer goes all-in on the new frontier of technology.”

10/10 – Review by Dan Stapleton

RockPaperShotgun

“For better and worse, HL: Alyx feels at times like a beat-by-beat recreation of Half-Life 2, with that Vault taking the place of the Citadel. More excitingly, and perhaps more surprisingly, many of the game’s best elements feel like they’re drawn from the original Half-Life. Half-Life 1 was much more of a horror game than its sequel, trapping you inside the B-movie nightmare of a research facility overrun by monsters from another dimension, and eventually sending you to that dimension, Xen.”

Not scored – Review by Graham Smith

The Verge

“While it’s about as long as the landmark Half-Life 2, with my game clocking in at 15 hours, it doesn’t feel as big or as narratively and mechanically fresh. It advances the series’s main plot, but it doesn’t come close to resolving it.

But if you keep these admittedly big reservations in mind, Alyx is a worthy addition to the Half-Life universe. It’s not just a good VR game; it’s a good video game, period.”

Not scored – Review by Adi Robertson

UploadVR

“If you’re prepared to pantomime, Alyx holds some of the most active and immersive combat you can experience in VR. In its tougher battles I’d find myself huddled on the floor, opening car doors to fire through the gaps in driver seats, instinctively flinching at the hammer of gunfire above and then poking out remaining shards in a shattered window to access a stray ammo clip with the flick of my Gravity Gloves before fumbling a hasty reload.”

5/5Review by James Feltham

Other publications

  • Gamespot – 9/10
  • GamesRadar – 4.5/5
  • Shacknews – 9/10
  • VGC – 5/5

Title: Half-Life: Alyx
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve
Release date: March 23, 2020
Platform: Windows


Visit the Thumbsticks new releases page for more on this week’s new video games.

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Is Animal Crossing: New Horizons worth playing?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the season’s big Nintendo Switch exclusive. Is it worth playing? Here’s our review roundup.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Nintendo

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the season’s big Nintendo Switch exclusive. Does it offer the respite from the real world many of us are seeking right now? Is it worth playing? Here’s our review roundup.

The timeliness of this week’s two big video game releases has provoked much conversation. Each game offers some small solace from the world outside but in uniquely different ways. At one end of the scale, Doom Eternal lets players vent their frustrations in a (mostly) satisfying parade of things to shoot. At the other, Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers an escape. A chance to isolate on a deserted island that can be grown into a community of (mostly) happy villagers.

Nintendo’s latest Switch exclusive evolves on its predecessors in small but significant ways. New crafting and terraforming mechanics allow the experience to be even more personal than usual. The extra power of the Switch makes this the most beautiful game in the series yet. And Nintendo’s commitment to supporting the game through future events means it should be a reassuringly lengthy escape from reality.

The critical response to Animal Crossing: New Horizons is nearly unanimous in praise. Here is our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons review round-up

Eurogamer

“Is this a gritty reboot for Animal Crossing? As unpalatable as that might sound, it kind of is – and it definitely works. There’s a more grounded logic at play here, to those first few weeks at least. Your first pieces of furniture will likely be made from naked wood chopped from the very trees around you (though rest assured you’ll soon enough get the option to lend them a lick of paint or apply a fresh design with a customisation kit – another new feature for New Horizons). Elsewhere there’s a stronger throughline thoughtfully imposed on a game whose aimlessness has always been one of its biggest strengths, and once you’ve flipped your first few houses and invited a couple of animals to stay the sense of ownership over your surroundings is unparalleled in the series.”

Essential – Review by Martin Robinson

Ars Technica

AC:NH‘s first great success is in threading the needle between that classic mantra of patience and giving addicted players more to do when they want (without charging them more money). Like in prior installments, the game starts with players moving into a sparsely populated village—in this case, a remote island—and being informally tasked with helping the village develop. That impetus is doubly emphasized by AC:NH‘s island gimmick because your new home is billed as a getaway to an uninhabited island.”

Not scored – Review by Sam Machkovech

Nintendo Life

“In all seriousness, the presentation in every sense here is all but flawless. It’s one of the prettiest games on the Switch, so when you couple that with atmospheric lighting, a crisp 1080p docked resolution running at 30fps, sound design that hangs like honey in our ears, and undoubtedly the finest museum in video game history, this is nothing short of an audio-visual dream. Handheld play unsurprisingly feels extremely natural given the series’ history, but docked is where you’ll get to see the shiniest of the pretty things in the quality most deserving.”

10/10 – Review by Alex Olney

IGN

“The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, and Super Mario each found new life on the Nintendo Switch, and following those games in kind is Animal Crossing: New Horizons: An expanded, polished, next-generation reboot of a classic Nintendo game. Perhaps most importantly, like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is full of surprises. I cannot wait to see what’s to come: Seeing cool custom islands from the community, special events, season changes.”

9/10 – Review by Samuel Claiborn

GamesRadar

“This is an Animal Crossing game through and through, and although that comes with some time-based frustrations, that urge to just spend ‘five more minutes’ on your island deepens with every passing day. As your island evolves and starts to drip-feed fresh things to discover and see, you’ll have the urge to check up on your toe bean-boasting critters on a daily basis more than ever before. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has perfected the gameplay loop the series is famed for, and somehow manages to keep its steady pace relevant in a world where there are plenty of genre rivals.”

4.5/5 – Review by Sam Loveridge

Vice

New Horizons is asking you to create a society from scratch, to build a community out of a deserted island, but making a community isn’t dependent on how many trees you cut or weeds you pull. Community in New Horizons is built in the same ways it is built in the real world: by talking to your neighbors, and listening to them in return.”

Not scored – Review by Gita Jackson

Polygon

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a respite from the current state of the world. I find my general anxiety slowly subside as I run through my town, water my plants, and build furniture for the sassy chicken gentleman living down by the beach. It’s exactly what I need right now.

There are moments when I look up from a long session and realize that I’ve been ignoring everything around me. Then I take a look around at what actually is going on around me, and realize that maybe I’d better stay in my island paradise for a little while longer”

Recommended – Review by Russ Frushtick

Other publications

  • Destructoid – 8.5/10
  • Game Informer – 9/10
  • GameSpot – 8/10
  • Videogamer – 9/10
  • USGamer – 4.5/5

Title: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: March 20, 2020
Platform: Nintendo Switch


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Is Nioh 2 worth playing?

Team Ninja’s Nioh 2 is another deadly slice of action RPG adventure for the PlayStation 4, but does the game improve on the acclaimed original?

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Nioh 2
Team Ninja

Team Ninja’s Nioh 2 is another deadly slice of action RPG adventure for the PlayStation 4, but does the game improve on the acclaimed original?

Nioh 2 continues Team Ninja’s strong run with another rough diamond of a game. Its combat is universally acclaimed, requiring finesse, expertise, and resilience. The Dark Souls comparisons loom large, of course, but, like its predecessor, Nioh 2 manages to carve out a distinct identity.

Many critics also agree on the game’s flaws, believing that Team Ninja has perhaps added too much content into the mix. A plethora of gruelling side missions, and some less than memorable locations, take the shine off an otherwise top-notch action experience.

Here is our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Nioh 2 review round-up

GameRadar

Nioh 2 very much doubles down on the vision of the first game. It tells another story of feudal Japanese warlords, samurai and demons. It again sticks close to From’s Dark Souls structure, with added loot and frenetic combat that recalls Team Ninja’s own classic Ninja Gaiden series. And it’s still huge, with long, meandering main missions bolstered by optional sub-missions that often reuse parts of the same maps.”

4.5 – Review by Jon Bailes

Polygon

Nioh 2 is Ninja Gaiden mixed with Dark Souls and Sekiro and drowned in an ocean of complexity. Every enemy is a threat, if I’m anything less than deliberate. I don’t feel skilled when I succeed. I feel smart. And I guess I like feeling smart.”

Not scored – Review by Dave Tach

GameSpot

Nioh 2‘s definitive feature is its challenge. With core mechanics refined from the bones of Dark Souls, Nioh 2 boils down to a series of battles and duels in all kinds of situations. These battles demand intense precision: Not only are your attacks and skills limited by a stamina meter–called Ki–but any extra attack or mistimed movement will leave you exposed, often to an attack that will cost you a substantial amount of health. Like other Souls-like games, there is a painful pleasure in mastering whatever opponents the game throws your way.”

8/10 – Review by Mike Epstein

Kotaku

Nioh 2 has some glaring flaws in spite of the fantastic combat and challenging encounters. Chief among them is level design that turns most of the game into a blurry slog. The Sengoku period is packed with battles and sieges, but Nioh 2 delays on embracing a more magical presentation until the latter half of the game. As a result, there are strings of levels that are either muddy battlefields, crumbling towns, or dilapidated castles.”

Not scored – Review by Heather Alexandra

IGN

“It took me about 55 hours to beat Nioh 2, and while every single hour of gameplay was challenging, none of the main missions ever felt insurmountable or made me think that I needed to grind in order to overcome them. However, some of the sub-missions definitely skirted a little too close to the line between difficult and unfair.”

9/10 – Review by Mitchell Saltzman

Eurogamer

“In Dark Souls, the world is an interlocking, eldritch conundrum. In Nioh 2, it’s a series of fiendish puzzle boxes. Engrossing and oppressive, for sure, but not that startling or intriguing. Nioh 2 is a work of immense skill and scale, but Team Ninja’s next project needs to be more about changing things than adding them. After all, no amount of equipment buffs can protect you against the element of surprise.”

Recommended – Review by Edwin Evans-Thirlwell

Destructoid

“If there’s one point I want to get across above all others, it’s this: Nioh 2 isn’t as revelatory as the first game, but that shouldn’t be held as a mark against it – at least not this time. Team Ninja was right to iterate and expand carefully. Nioh got so much right on the first go.”

9/10 – Review by Jordan Devore

Other publications

  • Game Informer – 8.5/10
  • Metro – 9/10
  • USGamer – 3.5/5
  • Atomic – 82/100
  • ShackNews – 8/10

Title: Nioh 2
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo / Sony Interactive Entertainment
Released: March 13, 2020
Platform: PlayStation 4


Visit our new releases page for more on this week’s new video games.

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