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What is the best lightweight gaming laptop you can buy in 2015?

We look at having your cake and eating it: What is the best small and lightweight gaming laptop of 2015?

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Best lightweight gaming laptop of 2015

We look at having your cake and eating it: What is the best small and lightweight gaming laptop of 2015?

7. MSI GS30 Shadow

Best lightweight gaming laptop - MSI GS30The MSI GS30 Shadow seems like an odd place to start on a roundup of lightweight gaming laptops, because it has one glaring omission in its spec: A dedicated graphics card. Sure, it fits our brief on all other counts – quad-core processor, 16GB RAM, SSD storage and an HD display – and it’s incredibly light at a svelte 1.2kg, but it’s only got an integrated Intel HD 5200 chipset.

So why does it make our list of the best small and lightweight gaming laptops? Because it can be connected with a ‘gaming dock’ which can – when loaded up with a fully-fledged desktop graphics card (even something beastly like a GTX 980 or an R9 380) – allow you to achieve true desktop gaming performance in a lightweight gaming laptop chassis.

But only when you’re at home and connected to your dock, which is massive and entirely not portable. And by the time you’ve added in the price of a high-end graphics card to the already pricey laptop and dock (at least £1500) it’s not a very attractive proposition. You can’t game on the move and you could buy three desktops for the price?

Oh well, nice try MSI!

Buy the MSI GS30 Shadow laptop from Amazon.
Buy the MSI GS30 Shadow laptop (with graphics dock) from Amazon.

6. Aorus X3 CF-1

Best lightweight gaming laptop - Aorus X3Now this is a bit more like it. The 13.3″ Aorus X3 CF-1 comes with all the same sort of good stuff as the MSI GS30 – desktop-class quad-core processor, big RAM options, SSD storage – but it also comes with that all-important dedicated graphics card: the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M.

Not the absolute best-spec mobile GPU on the market today, as the 8XX series has been superseded by the superior 9XX series, but still a great laptop with a belting screen: It’s fitted with a super-bright QHD display that boasts a resolution of 2560×1440. Which is really rather nice.

It also comes in a lovely form factor. The Aorus X3 CF-1 lightweight gaming laptop drops in at a very reasonable 1.8kg and frankly looks like a bit of a bad-ass – the matching Aorus bags and accessories are seriously cool too – but if you want more power, and don’t mind sacrificing a little on portability? There’s a bigger brother model too. (See below).

Buy the Aorus X3 CF-1 from Amazon.

5. Gigabyte P34W V3-CF1

Best lightweight gaming laptop - Gigabyte P34The Gigabyte P34W V3-CF1 is quite big, at least in terms of our lightweight gaming laptop list. It carries with it a 14″ screen yet still only tips the scales at 1.8kg and change, which is an impressive feat.

Again there’s a beefy quad-core Core i7 processor and plenty of RAM, but the slightly larger chassis (to accommodate that 14″ screen) allows for the inclusion of two hard disks: A smaller SSD for the operating system to run from and a larger mechanical SATA drive (1TB or more) for storing all your stuff.

There are compromises, of course. It may be nice and light but the chassis is physically bigger which could hamper portability, and that 14″ panel is only 1920×1080 – which might look a little primitive compared to the Aorus X3, cramming half as many pixels again into a smaller panel – but who’s going to be comparing them side-by-side?

Be careful you don’t get the V1 or V2 versions of the P34W when you’re shopping around though – The P34W has been around for a little while, and the previous iterations carry NVIDIA GeForce GTX 7XX and 8XX series GPUs respectively – but not for as significant a saving over the V3 as you’d expect…

Buy the Gigabyte P34W V3-CF1 from Amazon.

4. Razer Blade 14

Best lightweight gaming laptop - Razer Blade

Update: The Razer Blade 14 is now available in the UK and EU from the Razer online store! It’s also soon to be followed by the Razer Blade Stealth ultra-lightweight Ultrabook, and the Razer Core desktop graphics dock.

The Razer Blade 14 is pretty much the perfect small and lightweight gaming laptop, as it happens, so why isn’t it at the top of our list? Because the damn things are like hens’ teeth or rocking horse excrement to get hold of, particularly in Europe.

In the US, where the Razer Blade comes from, there’s another computer company you may have heard of who refuse to localise their hardware – that’s right, we’re talking Apple – who have shipped Macs without ‘£’ and with the ‘@’ and ‘”‘ characters inverted since year dot (and it’s never really hurt their sales). Razer, on the other hand, insist upon only selling their laptops in the United States; even though you can buy all their other gear (peripherals, accessories etc.) all over the world.

Continuing the analogy, the Razer Blade is a very similar form-factor to the previous generation MacBook Pro – aluminium uni-body construction, lightweight and super-thin – but crammed to the gills with gaming hardware, including a dedicated GPU, and that all-important (if you’re a gamer and want to be able to play everything) Windows operating system.

We just wish they were easier to get hold of, not least because the rarity pushes the price right up, but we’re also not sure how a warranty would hold outside of the US.

Buy the Razer Blade 14 from the Razer store.

3. Alienware 13

Best lightweight gaming laptop - Alienware 13A few years ago, Alien had a truly lightweight gaming laptop – the m11x – that had an 11.6″ screen and was ludicrously portable, even if it was as thick as your average textbook. Sales were decent enough, but cramming any better hardware into that small a chassis to future-proof the model would’ve been nearly impossible, so it was dropped from the product lineup.

Alienware focused their efforts on the larger models, the 14-18″ segment of their lineup seen as the core gaming laptop market, and all seemed lost. Then they announced the Alienware 13.

Yes, it’s a little big in the grand scheme of our small and lightweight gaming laptop list – it’s as thick as two Razer Blades, and tips the scales at a fraction over 2kg – but because it’s Alienware there’s a degree of customisation: You can spec it lower with a dual-core i5 processor to cut costs, and you can even find early-generation models with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M graphics card.

You can go really beef up the Alienware 13 too, though. Like the MSI GS30 it too has the option of a dedicated desktop graphics card dock – called a ‘Graphics Amplifier’ in Alienware parlance – that allows you to turn the gaming experience up to 11 when you’re playing from home, but still has a decent mobile GPU to give you solid performance on the road. The Alienware 13 is a real best-of-both-worlds solution.

Buy the Alienware 13 from Amazon.
Buy the Alienware Graphics Amplifier from Amazon.

Update 06/11/2015 – Dell have updated the Alienware range, including the Alienware 13, to include all new 6th-generation Intel Core processors. Which is nice.

2. Aorus X3 PLUS V3-CF1

Best lightweight gaming laptop - Aorus X3The Aorus X3 PLUS V3-CF1 – big brother of the Aorus X3 above – is a monster, plain and simple.

It comes with the same Intel i7 quad-core processors and 16GB of RAM we’ve been seeing throughout this list, but other than that? It goes big. Really, really big, in three areas that count:

Firstly, it’s got dual 256GB SSDs which might not sound amazing – it’s certainly less storage than the Gigabyte P34’s SSD/mechanical option – but you could put those together in a RAID-0 configuration and watch the system absolutely fly. Sure, you’d have zero protection if one disk in the pair failed… but think of the speed!

Secondly, it’s got an enlarged screen over its younger brother, up from 13.3″ to 13.9″ which might not sound a lot, but when you tie that in with the ultra-high QHD resolution and the improved brightness and viewing angles of the bigger panel? It makes for a damn good screen.

And thirdly, it’s got an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M discrete graphics card. Which just makes it a beast.

Buy the Aorus X3 Plus V3-CF1 from Amazon.

1. XMG A305 – discontinued!

Best lightweight gaming laptop - XMG A305XMG might not be a brand you’ve heard of, but that’s fine – they’re a European reseller of OEM laptops made by Sager and Clevo in the far East – but what most people don’t realise is that Sager and Clevo build the base laptops for most of the vendors we’re used to, who then customise the hardware and slap their own badges onto the chassis before sending them off to retail.

So what does that mean in real terms? If you find someone (like XMG) who are prepared to sell Clevo or Sager laptops white-label, or under their own relatively unknown brand, you’re going to get a really great laptop for a far lower price, and usually with some great customisation options thrown in.

The XMG A305 is a 13.3″ lightweight gaming laptop chassis that’s very similar in form to the Alienware 13, just without the big face on the back and the light-up tricks on the keyboard. It’s around 2kg and a chunky machine, but other than that? The world is your oyster. There are a raft of configuration options available to buy off the shelf and for a similar spec to the machines above, you might be saving as much as a third over the big-brand models above.

Buy the XMG A305 from Amazon now.

Update 06/11/2015 – The XMG A305 is no longer listed for sale on their website, but you may still be able to find pre-configured models available from retail outlets like Amazon.

Bonus: Build a custom lightweight gaming laptop?

Best gaming laptop - Utopia Computers crateIf you buy from XMG’s website you can build a custom spec. That means you can build the most powerful laptop in the world, or take it as low down as a dual-core i3 with 2GB of RAM if you really wanted to, but that’s not exactly the point of a lightweight gaming laptop…

What that does mean you can do, however, is spec it up without parts if you don’t need them. Have an OEM Windows license key kicking around? Then save yourself the best part of £100 by removing that from the configuration. Have a decent SSD you can salvage from another laptop? Then save some cash on the hard disk as well.

Obviously there are some things you can’t really ship it without – processor, screen, graphics card, on-board devices like network cards – but the options for creating an amazing custom configuration you can be really proud of (or trimming back on cost to make a decent gaming laptop more affordable) are really rather exciting. Here are a couple of great sites to get you started, with a link to some of their equivalent lightweight gaming laptop models:

Update 06/11/2015 – Some Clevo OEM chassis, including the W230SS (upon which most of the lightweight custom gaming laptops are based) appears to have been discontinued, as with the XMG A305 above. That changes our custom build list dramatically:

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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


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

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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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We hate to ask, but global advertising revenues are the lowest they've ever been. It's killing the online publishing world. If you found this article interesting or entertaining and you want to support quality games writing, then please consider supporting us via Patreon, buying us a coffee, or subscribing to our newsletter.


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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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Features

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


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