Scotch Corner – Phoning It In

Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 16th September 2018.

 

Razer Phone (£699.99 or contract with 3)

THERE are phones, good phones then there is a Razer.  It may not be the first name when you think of the best way to call your mum, but Razer’s gaming pedigree mean they bring a lot to the party.  That playing excellence adds a whole new dimension to the main reason why most of us have mobiles — to check the internet, watch programmes and play games.  The Razer Phone is a mobile that is built for gamers — it is brilliant with video, audio and just on looks.  It is the first smartphone to support BOTH HDR and 5.1 surround sound content.  Oh yeah, it also makes calls.  We gave it the ultimate road test — in the darkened halls of Gamescom in Germany for a week.  We shouldn’t say it but we also dropped it a couple of times . . . and it is tough.

The first thrill is the BOX your phone arrives in.  Yes, it is just a box, but it shows the level of detail that defines Razer.  The handset is a big block metal case with a neat matt black finish just like the firm’s laptops.  The size is obvious but it’s not too weighty.  The operating system is Android with a 5.72 in Sharp IGZO screen displaying 2560 x 1440 with 120 Hz refresh rate with UltraMotion sync along with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and 8 GB of RAM.  In short, it’s a beast.  It has dual front-facing speakers with individual Dolby Atmos amplifiers, 64 GB internal storage with the option to bump it up to 2 TB, fingerprint scanner and 12 MP + 12 MP rear camera along with an 8 MP camera.  It talks the talk and walks the walk, even if the cameras are a little bit of a let-down.

We used it for everything from gaming to emailing to texting and calling.  It handled everything with ease and at speed.  The 120 Hz display makes everything look buttery smooth, although the auto brightness is not the sharpest when you are just moving around the home screen.  That also caused our only stressful moment — the light sensor went solo a couple of times and went so dark that it thought the phone was off and locked itself.  You might want to try to hard reset to sort that little problem.  We played everything from Tekken, Gear.Club, Max Payne, Fallout Shelter, PUBG and Guns Of Boom and they all ran really well with virtually no issues.  Given the size of the handset when using virtual buttons, the screen was still clear, even with your fingers and thumbs tapping and swiping like mad.  The impressive battery life came into its own at Gamescom.  The emergency power bank stayed in the case even though the phone was pretty much in constant use.  It easily lasted a whole day on one full charge.   But here is some really cool info that will blow your mind.  Razer has a concept called Project Linda.  It is an ultra-portable laptop powered by your phone.  You think we are joking?  No, simply fit your phone into a socket in the keyboard and you are up and running with typical Razer lights and colours.  The phone’s speakers, performance and display combine with the bigger screen, keyboard and battery on the laptop to provide a pretty stunning piece of kit.

Razer may be proud of this little baby, but they are not resting on their laurels.  A new 2 version is in the pipeline, promising even more power and excitement.  They may be known for high-end gaming PC gear and laptops but this first outing into the mobile world is a highly impressive one.  This is not just one of the most powerful phones on the market but it is great to use and perfect for gamers on the move.

Score: 5/5

Razer Hammerhead USB-C (£79.99)

HEADPHONES called Hammerhead are always going to have plenty of bite.  They are the perfect partner for the Razer Phone.  It has the same polished style, fit and finish as the handset.  The Hammerhead has 10 mm dynamic drivers which have a great range of clean, crisp sound.  The sound stage and bass really do boom.  The earphones are made from aluminium which makes them feel really solid while the connecting wire is a flat cable in signature Razer green.  They have an in-line volume control as well as a mic so you can answer calls while wearing them.  There are a number of switchable rubber cups so you can use the ones that are the best fit for your ears.  That’s a nice touch.

The buds light up in typical Razer fashion — showing off the logo in green — and they are magnetic.  That is simple, but clever because they can join together when you aren’t using them.  That is a winner when you are travelling on a plane and they are round your neck.  The headphones work well with the Razer Phone Dolby Atmos feature as you can build custom set-ups for gaming or music.  Another nice touch is the hard carry case which protects them when not in use, and is ideal for storing spare bud cups.  If you have Razer phone then you will want these.  But if you have any device that uses USB-C, then Hammerheads rock.

Score: 5/5

Reflections on WWI

WE love it when firms bring something different to the gaming table so props to Aardman and DigixArt for 11-11: Memories Retold.  The World War One setting has been the base for many good games, and this one is inspired by real events.  But, in a neat twist, it lets you play as both sides – as a Canadian and German soldier.  Aardman producer George Rowe and Yoan Fanise, the creative director at DigixArt reckon they have a bit of a star on their hands and took time out at Gamescom recently to tell me why…  Yoan says:

“We say it’s not a war game.  It is set during it but it’s a game about peace and about the interaction between humans during times of war.  The game shows how the characters are not prepared for what is going to happen at war.”

George added:

“The game follows two characters from both sides as they are thrust into something they don’t understand for different reasons.  They end up forming an unlikely friendship.  Through the rest of the war, on the run up to the Armistice, their friendship is tested as is the loyalty to their families, friends and countries.  At its heart the game is all about loyalty and, when it comes down to it, whether you are loyal to your friends and family or your country.”

While they were conscious of the facts during WWI, they have given themselves some breathing room with the story.  George admitted:

“The story is fiction but it is set in the real events so you go through the real timeline of the last two years of the war.  You’ll be at major battles and events of the war.  Even though the story itself is fictional it is very much based on real accounts and letters and things that the team have read and taken inspiration from.”

But he insisted:

“It’s very important to us that people understand that this was a real event.”

Yoan believes the fictional element gave them more licence to entertain.  He added:

“By creating fictional characters we can take all the very interesting things we researched and put them all together to give an overview of the whole war though the two characters.  I think World War One is interesting because you don’t have the black and white-like Nazi thing.  You could not make the game in WWII because the idea of two humans who are just there and they don’t know why they are fighting isn’t as clear as it was in World War One.  It is not as clean cut as good versus evil.  It was more political and, ultimately, about jealousy between the countries.  That is a silly reason to go to war but it’s interesting.  Do humans really want to die for that?”

George also reckons they got the timing of the release just right.  He said:

“This year is the century of the Armistice so hopefully the game will encourage some people to engage with it because it finishes at the Armistice that led to the end of the war.  The game is going to be released 100 years after the events in the game so it’s important for people to understand what happened.”

Woking for a Living

FORZA Horizon 4 is gearing up for its October launch by PROVING it has some of the hottest arcade-style racing on the planet.  The guys at Playground are so confident they have raised the bar that they showed off some gameplay that will have fans drooling.  We were invited to a preview event at the top-secret McLaren HQ in Woking where we got to see some of the hot metal that will actually grace the game.  We were also given the chance to play an almost completed build of the game — the whole map and a number of races and showcase events.  It all kicks off with a sneak peek at the journey ahead, then you can pick from a hot hatch, sports car or a muscle motor as your starter car.  It is all a neat glimpse at the variety of cars coming your way.

You then start to climb the ranks in a bid to become a Horizon superstar through racing, drifting and off-roading.  And, on the way, you’ll tackle a few events which throw up some unlikely but entertaining challengers.  At Gamescom in Germany, we went face to face with a motocross stunt team.  That was a blast.  This time it was a hovercraft as it ripped through the Highlands and offered some stunning scenery.  We also got a taste of Horizon’s Edinburgh.  We threw a Subaru Impreza around Princes Street and the tight roads were simply awesome.  It soon became obvious why Playground picked the city — prepare yourself for epic races, with wide straights and tight twisting backstreets.  Add in the standard Horizon fare, like smashing billboards for bonuses, using the speed cameras to set fast times and jumping the danger signs and you have a fun festival to feast on.  There are also plenty of customisable options, from the painting booth to the avatars.

This may have been an early build but the developers have given it a nice polish from the light reflecting off the back window as you go sideways to mud flying as you race through a farm.  Fans and newcomers will be blown away by the new offering.  Even veterans of the series won’t be ready for the thrills.  This is racing at its finest.  And just when you couldn’t get more excited, we got a tour of real-life McLaren motoring magic.  It is a tough job but someone has to do it.  Sorry.

AUSSIE comedian John Robertson is bringing his interactive videogame stage show The Dark Room to gaming.  It will blend the classic text adventure with Robertson’s signature brand of comedy.  This is a retro-style puzzler that pits your brain against brutal death-traps in the pursuit of freedom — and be prepared to get plenty of abuse along the way.  Yes, it is hard.  And yes, you will see YA DIE! YA DIE! YA DIE! a lot.  Get early access on Steam on September 20th.

I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

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