Unconventional Ways to Save Battery Life

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Thanks to smartphones and tablets, conserving battery life has become a daily part of our lives. Thankfully, there are other ways to conserve energy besides dimming your screen's brightness and turning on airplane mode. While phones simply powered by mobile processors like the Snapdragon 820 are at an advantage, thanks to their Quick Charge feature, not all of us can be so fortunate. For many of us, keeping constant vigil on our power display is a must.

If your phone is quick to die and slow to charge, follow these 10 steps for saving battery life. Do so and your phone (or tablet) is sure to make it through the day:

1. Listen to Downloaded Music
Instead of streaming music, listen to downloaded music instead. Streaming affects your battery life almost as much as it does your data. Store music locally and you'll be saving energy. Spotify and Soundcloud allow you to download your playlists and listen to them in "offline" mode (if you're a premium member, that is).

2. Utilize the Low Power Mode
On iPhones, activating the low power mode is as easy as going to your general settings, selecting "Battery" from the list of options, and turning it on. In low power mode, your iPhone will use drastically less power, which is particularly helpful if your phone's charge is dying. While on low power mode, functionality will be reduced, but most people will agree that it's better than having no phone at all!

3. Turn Off Vibrations
When it comes to conserving battery life, there is a simple concept to live by: the less your phone has to do, the less energy it will use. Ask yourself how many different types of notifications you need to make it through the day. If you can turn off your phone's vibrate feature and still be comfortable knowing you'll hear your text messages and phone calls, do so.

4. Be Wary of 'Location Services'
Your phone's location services are always running, even if you aren't using that particular application. This requires energy, of course, and though it may be only a small amount, every little bit helps when it comes to conservation. If you aren't using location-based apps, turn off these services or temporarily disable them under your general settings.

5. Use a Dark Wallpaper Background
This is one you may not have thought of. Phones with an AMOLED display (OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode) require a little bit of electrical power to light up each individual screen pixel. By choosing a dark background, you can reduce the amount of energy required for your screen display. A star field always looks nice!

6. Clear Your Cache
You may regularly clear the cache on your desktop or laptop but did you know that you can clear your smartphone's cache too? Doing so will help save battery life, as your applications will be using less memory. In simple terms, you're getting rid of a lot of unnecessary data. No two smartphones are the same, so you may want to conduct a Google search on how to clear your device's cache – each technique is different.

7. Delete Unused Apps
If you have applications that you haven't used in months, delete them. It feels good to do so (everyone likes a good house cleaning), and you'll be using less energy too!

8. Don't Push to the Cloud
The cloud certainly has its merits: it enables you to access your files from multiple devices, frees up storage on your local device, and in theory, should be much more reliable too. One can only assume Apple's iCloud is more robust than the hard drive on your phone. However, pushing data to the cloud takes energy, just like streaming. If you are concerned about battery life, limit what you sync with the cloud.

9. Disable Background App Data
Applications that are running in the background take up energy, and yet typically, you get nothing in return. On both Apple and Android devices, you can turn off or restrict background app data. For Apple users, navigate to general settings and select "Background App Refresh." From there, you can disable the apps of your choice. Android users will find a similar functionality under the data usage settings menu.

10. Disable Push Notifications
It bears repeating: to save energy, give your phone less things to do. Disable push notifications on your applications and your phone will use less energy. You may also find it freeing, as your phone won't be buzzing and chiming at you all day long. Give it a try!

Article by: Jessica Oaks

Edifier CineSound B3 Review

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The first soundbars were introduced as early as 1998. Even though the technology has existed for nearly two decades now, soundbars never gained as much traction among audiophiles and home-theater enthusiasts. There’s a stigma revolving the particular tech because soundbars are typically considered a compromise between fully fleshed out home-theatre setups and basic speaker arrangements. But things are about to change. The Edifier CineSound B3 is a proper alternative to traditional speaker setups, and it offers superb spatial audio thanks to its powerful drivers and Edifier’s engineering wizardry.  

The last soundbar I tested was the Polk SurroundBar 5000 Instant Home Theater. At the time, I was thrilled with its crisp audio and deep bass, but the sense of space left a lot to be desired — especially considering its hefty price tag. The CineSound B3 is not only significantly cheaper, it may very well be an evolutionary step in soundbar technology. 

The sense of space and depth is immediately present. The audio isn’t centered and direct, instead its enveloping and transformative. Dialogue and environmental details remain crisp at all times, even when the thunderous bass kicks in during intensified action sequences. CineSound’s speakers fill the room quickly. With its 100 dB of raw power and four 70mm speakers, CineSound B3 boasts unexpectedly wide audio that makes you forget you’re using a soundbar instead of a surround sound entertainment system.  

"The sense of space and depth is immediately present. The audio isn’t centered and direct, instead its enveloping and transformative."

The Edifier CineSound B3 can be connected in several ways: OPT, Coaxial, Line In, Aux In and Sub Out. The B3 also comes with Bluetooth 4.0, allowing users to seamlessly connect the soundbar to their tablets and phones. This makes the B3 is compatible with almost all devices, but in order to get the best sound quality, it’s highly recommended to stick with OPT (optical) to avoid losing clarity and depth. 

B3 isn’t as feature rich as Creative Labs’ audio devices, but it does come with three different modes: Movie, 3D and News. The News mode amplifies dialogue and is very useful for things like documentaries or any narration-driven shows. 3D is meant to emulate a sense of depth and scale normally seen in surround sound setups, but in doing so compromises details during shifts in frequency. Movie mode is the only way to go. It’s the most balanced setting, and it delivers the best quality across all media, whether it’s video games, movies, music or watching the news.

"It’s an incredibly powerful piece of tech that delivers superb audio across all media, and it’s an excellent alternative to traditional entertainment system setups."

The B3 is elegantly designed and looks great when sitting next to a modern HDTV set. Keep in mind, however, that the B3 isn’t as small as it appears in the promo shots. It measures a whopping 1000×79×80 mm, which means you need a TV that’s at least 40 inches in diameter if you plan on placing the soundbar underneath. Fortunately, the B3 is light and comes with a wall-mount for a more flexible installation alternative. Even though I wouldn’t recommend this bar in combination with a small display, the larger size makes sense considering how powerful the drivers are. And let’s be real, very few people are going to invest in a high-end soundbar if they’re using a tiny screen. Sure, you can use the B3 in combination with a monitor, but you’d be losing out on the soundbar’s spacious audio by sitting directly in front of it.     

As with all audio devices, I test video games, music and movies to determine audio fidelity and reliability across various media. The Edifier CineSound B3 works remarkably no matter what it’s used for. In gaming and movies, the B3 has no problem juggling heavy explosions and moments of serenity with equal brilliance. When listening to music, the B3 remains balanced across all frequencies, whether you’re blastic heavy metal riffs or you’re just relaxing to some atmospheric classical orchestra. I do wish there were more tweaking options, or at least a basic EQ setting. Creative Labs’ BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro has spoiled me with its rich features over the years, and I feel Edifier could greatly benefit from developing their own software that connects across all devices. 

Overall, the Edifier CineSound B3 goes above and beyond what’s typically expected from a soundbar. It’s an incredibly powerful piece of tech that delivers superb audio across all media, and it’s an excellent alternative to traditional entertainment system setups.      


Sound BlasterX G5 Review

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"There are currently no mini-amps quite like the Sound BlasterX G5."

Today’s consoles have evolved into multi-purpose entertainment hubs that offer diverse content for a wide audience. Music and movie lovers, for example, are a relatively new wave of customers thanks to more cinematic narratives, uniquely interactive experiences (rhythm games, etc) and, of course, app integration that offers a user-friendly ecosystem for all media. Recent technological advances make such complex and unique experiences possible. 

While discussions revolving graphics regularly steal the spotlight across mass media, improvements in audio technology deserve just as much attention. Thanks to veteran audio experts like Creative Labs and Edifier re-defining audio on gaming platforms, it’s no longer necessary to own overpriced hardware in order to enjoy high-quality sound. Affordable alternatives like the Sound Blaster X7 and the E5 provide the same sound quality seen in devices twice the price range, and they usually boast better features too.

Creative Lab’s latest Sound BlasterX G5 is the first portable amp specifically designed for console gamers. Unlike the recently released Sound Blaster E5, the G5 supports true 7.1 surround sound and can apply 3D positional surround sound to basic stereo. This is great news for console gamers as the sound quality improvements are monumental. With its 2.2 ohm output impedance that supports studio-grade headphones of up to 600 ohms, the G5 delivers a transformative experience.

"With its 2.2 ohm output impedance that supports studio-grade headphones of up to 600 ohms, the G5 delivers a transformative experience."

There are currently no mini-amps quite like the G5. This tiny, palm-sized device is packed with useful features specifically designed for expanding auditory performance across various video game genres. It’s not just an amp, it’s its own miniature ecosystem that’s populated with endless tweaking options for both tech-savvy users and novices. But you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy the G5. This is an excellent amp for music and film aficionados, and thanks to added 7.1 surround sound support, enjoying big blockbusters has never been more immersive. 

Creative Labs are masters of elegant industrial design and seamless UX. The G5 is beautifully crafted. Its blueprint shares obvious similarities with the E5, but I prefer the G5’s subtle nuances, like the illuminated, red X that indicates volume strength, or the added Scout Mode switch for quick mode selection. The G5 is only 4.3” long, 2.9” wide and 0.9” tall. The small size means there’s minimal clutter when connecting the amp between consoles and headphones or speakers. 

It takes mere minutes to learn how to operate the G5. There are just enough controls on the exterior to provide easy access to quick profile switching without crowding the device with too many buttons. It’s a plug-and-play device, so the G5 is ready to go out of the box. For advanced 7.1 surround sound tweaking, however, the G5 requires the freely available BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro. 

The Sound BlasterX G5 houses powerful hardware that pushes gaming audio to new heights. Thanks to 24-bit/192kHz, 120dB USB DAC hardware driven audio playback, even the most minute details are amplified with great clarity and crispness. COD and Battlefield matches are no longer games of tug of war between low and high frequency sounds. Even when surrounded by deafening explosions, environmental details necessary to pinpoint enemy and ally locations remain discernible. The BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro allows for further personalization beyond the default setup. The software is available on PCs and mobile devices only, but up to 3 custom profiles can be saved for quick access via the SBX profile selector when gaming on consoles.

"Creative Labs’ Sound BlasterX G5 is extraordinary. For only hundred fifty bucks, Creative Labs is offering audiophile sound quality that’s accompanied by abounding extras typically reserved for much pricier devices."

The BlasterX Acoustic Engine Pro is a treasure chest of features. The profile hub is packed with specially customized setting for different genres, like FPS and racing games, but also title-specific profiles for games like COD, Dota 2 and Counter Strike. The equalizer hub offers precise frequency adjustments for different music genres, and also allows manual tweaking for users who seek full control over each individual slider. The main Acoustic Engine page is used for enabling extra features for enhancing clarity, balancing volumetric shits, and tweaking the surround sound strength, among other useful tools. 

My favorite feature is the Scout Mode. This isn’t a new mode by any means, and plenty of other manufactures have their own version of it, but this particular implementation is the most impressive yet. Scout Mode is meant to amplify little details so that gamers can better hear the enemies and incoming fire. Usually, this mode works well when it comes to bringing out the details, but it severely impacts overall sound quality. The G5’s Scout Mode doesn’t sacrifice the bass and treble quality while still delivering the same enhancements. In fact, it’s even more effective than the surround sound settings. This may be an unintentional result, but the G5’s Scout Mode is the device’s most standout feature.

Creative Labs’ Sound BlasterX G5 is extraordinary. For only hundred fifty bucks, Creative Labs is offering audiophile sound quality that’s accompanied by abounding extras typically reserved for much pricier devices. As far as mini-amps go, it doesn’t get cheaper and better than this. Even if you’re not particularly picky about the sound in your games, you owe it to yourself to check out the G5 and see what you’ve been missing.

Review by: Tin Salamunic


Slots, Bingo and Poker - the Unexplored and Misunderstood Side of Online Gaming

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen countless adverts for casino, slots and poker online games. If you’re like me, you probably avoid clicking these links like the plague. However, there’s a whole world of unexplored gems that are just waiting to be discovered. The truth is, gambling-style games have existed as a form of entertainment long before video games, and they’ve been transforming in sync with the rest of the industry. 

This week, I decided to take a bold leap into the uncharted waters of online gambling in order to explore what this multi-million dollar industry is all about. I was certain that my final assessment would reflect my initial opinion — that it’s all a giant scam designed to rob people of their hard earned money. Instead, I walked away rather surprised and enthused by my findings. As with MMOs or any competitive online genres, the gambling industry is structured in unexpectedly similar ways. There’s a whole community of players that engages in active discussions on how to better themselves, just like we see in video gaming. In fact, one of the few major differences is that instead of winning trophies and achievements, players can win cash prizes for their efforts. 

Of course, the idea of gambling isn't everyone’s cup of tea, and there’s no denying that a lack of discipline and self-control doesn’t mix well with how these games are designed. Having said that, the advent of digital gaming has opened new possibilities for gambling-style game developers. The online gambling games offer not only better variety than their real-world casino counterparts, there are more low-risk options for those who just want a taste of how these things work. 

Secondly, most of these games can be played on a low budget. Slot games can be played for free at slots.info, for example, and sites like Casino Room offer a similar selection to more traditional venues typically reserved for dedicated Vegas patrons. Compare that to the $60 price tag most AAA releases carry, and you realize that the costs aren’t that drastically different. 

It’s important to recognize that people who enjoy these games aren’t any different from video game enthusiast. Playing a round of poker against other opponents online is really no different than engaging in deathmatches in COD or Battlefield. Like I mentioned earlier, the only technical difference is that the winner walks away with a monetary award. There’s also the assumption that online gambling requires a large sum of money upfront in order to play. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In most cases, you can get hours of entertainment for just a few bucks. Compare that to the high pricing of DLC content combined with fully-priced video game releases, and it’s easy to see that online gambling, despite its money-oriented gameplay model, is no different than any other form of interactive entertainment.

Shifting to the online platform has also allowed developers to be more creative in their presentation. How about a Game of Thrones-themed round of slots? Or maybe you’re a comic book fan and want to see your favorite superhero presented in this gaming realm — No problem! There’s something for everyone. Heck, even Lara Croft has her own virtual machine ready to be taken for a spin. 

Ultimately, the online gambling realm is a rather unexplored and misunderstood area of modern gaming. During my brief experience with the various offerings, I managed to spend only $11, but I earned $18 by just playing around. Whether you’re looking for a quick round of slots or a lengthy game of poker, online gaming offers the same type of diverse experiences seen in mobile and consoles titles — they’re just designed for a different audience. As it stands, the only dividing line is the aging stigma associated with the gaming industry when viewed from a traditional perspective. But, just as video games have become more complex and mature experiences, online gambling has evolved into an intricate web of opportunities for practicing quick thinking, and earning a few bucks along the way.

iBUYPOWER Revolt 2 Review

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It’s an exciting time to be a gamer. There are more choices than we ever thought possible, and new technological advances are being introduced at an alarming rate. Graphically advanced games can be played on tablets and phones, and VR is shaping up to be a technological marvel (if any of the hands-on experiences are to be believed). 

Things are particularly exciting for PC gamers as the platform continues to evolve and expand to the living room. Having a PC as part of an entertainment setup is nothing new, and mini-PCs have certainly existed for some time now, but iBUYPOWER is determined to speed up the transition by taking mini-PCs to a whole new level. 

iBUYPOWER’S latest Revolt 2 is a stepping stone in mini-PC engineering. It’s the first eSports mini-PC that can carry high-end parts typically reserved for standard-sized cases. The Revolt 2 is a surprisingly intuitive little box that’s designed for gaming enthusiasts who seek mobility and more flexibility from their setup. For the most part, the Revolt 2 outshines its competition without breaking a sweat. It’s beautifully crafted and the temperatures remain cool regardless of how much the system is pushed, thanks to the mandatory liquid cooling. However, upgrading parts isn’t as easy as the marketing implies, and our specific unit arrived with the HDD unrecognized by the operating system. But despite a few hiccups, the Revolt 2 is currently, without a doubt, the best mini-PC on the market.

As with all boutique PC builds, my review encompasses the entire shopping experience. This includes packaging, assembly, performance, system design and, of course, overall performance. iBUYPOWER sent us a system with the following specs: i7 6700K Intel CPU, Corsair H55 Liquid Cooler, 16 GB DDR4 2800 ADATA XPG-Z1, 240 GB ADATA SSD, 1 TB WD SATA-3, 64MB Hard Drive, Win 10 Home, 600W Corsair CX600 Power supply, Motherboard: Gigabyte Z170N - Gaming 5 and a GPU: Gigabyte GTX 980 4GB Xtreme Gaming.

"iBUYPOWER’S latest Revolt 2 is a stepping stone in mini-PC engineering. Despite a few hiccups, it is currently, without a doubt, the best mini-PC on the market."

Since ours is a custom build, the final price sits somewhere between the Revolt 2 Pro ($1,399) and the Revolt 2 Extreme ($1,899). The major difference is the 980 GPU that was used instead of the 970 in the Pro Edition and the 980 Ti in the Extreme Edition. This is an incredible deal considering the premium parts and the fact that Revolt 2 is exclusive to iBUYPOWER and can’t be acquired through a different vendor.

Shipping a PC across several states is always a gamble, regardless of how well it’s packaged beforehand. Fortunately, iBUYPOWER doesn’t skimp on protective measures. The Revolt 2 box ships within a massive, heavily padded secondary box that keeps the system safe from tumbling during transport. The main system packaging is enveloped by thick, foam-like pads that provide more than enough protection should the carrier handle it carelessly. Unless someone drives over the box with a vehicle, there’s no way to damage the contents.

Once unboxed, you really get to appreciate the creativity behind the case’s design. The Revolt 2 is one of the most uniquely crafted mini-PCs I’ve seen so far. The unusual shape doesn’t seem pragmatic at first, but every design choice has been made deliberately. iBUYPOWER deserves a big, big bravo for using a high-quality matte material for the main body surface. This allows the Revolt 2 to maintain its sleek and clean look even after it’s been sitting under the desk for a while. I can’t stress just how much a shift in materials can impact the look and feel of a case. The aesthetic can be best described as something straight out of a sci-fi movie. It’s modern, elegantly shaped, and boasts just enough flashiness to turn heads without looking kitch.

"Once unboxed, you really get to appreciate the creativity behind the case’s design. The Revolt 2 is one of the most uniquely crafted mini-PCs I’ve seen so far."

After the side panels are removed, the Revolt 2 reveals its true engineering magic. This miniature PC case successfully houses large components within a very tight space without overheating. The massive Gigabyte GTX 980 GPU sits on top of the case and can be reached via the center panel that also exposes the SSD. Both parts are easily replaceable thanks to the direct access even when the panels are screwed back on. 

However, things are trickier when it comes to replacing other, harder to reach parts. The motherboard, power supply and HDD aren’t easily approachable since there’s little space in between. I have very small hands, and I struggle to grab the HDD, much less anything else. If you are an experienced builder, that’s not going to be an issue since you can just take everything apart and put it back together. If you’re inexperienced, the Revolt 2 might not be the best choice if you expect to upgrade parts yourself regularly. The iBUYPOWER engineers have organized the tight space meticulously, but the same care and precision can’t be expected from the average user. The Revolt 2 is designed for pro-gamers, but not every gamer is a pro-builder. So the Revolt 2 isn’t quite as easy to use or flexible when it comes to installing new parts, but it’s still the best, and possibly the only, option that allows high-grade parts to coexist within such a small container.

"The motherboard, power supply and HDD aren’t easily approachable since there’s little space in between. I have very small hands, and I struggle to grab the HDD, much less anything else."

iBUYPOWER also deserves kudos for installing only the most essential OS files without including useless trials. There are only two extra programs, the Gigabyte OC software and the Light Control software, but they’re very small and quite handy. Unfortunately, our build arrived with the HDD unrecognized by the OS, and I had to access the BIOS to re-initialize the drive. This isn’t difficult by any means, but as a paying customer who’s going through a boutique store and paying a premium fee for assembly, having a unit arrive with an unrecognized HDD is disappointing. HDD issues aside, everything else is assembled relatively well. The cables aren’t as neatly organized as when we reviewed iBUYPOWER’s Z170, but there’s only so much that can be done in such a limited space.

"The Revolt 2 has exceeded my expectations, and while it’s not as easy to replace certain parts as I hoped for, I can’t think of another case this size that accomplishes as much"
Ultimately, it’s all about performance, and it’s here that the Revolt 2 delivers flawlessly. My tests consist of running several AAA titles at max settings for several hours at a time to see how the case handles temperatures and noise. Even after playing something like The Witcher 3 on max settings for 5+ hours straight, the Revolt 2 remains cool and quiet. The only time the system ever came to feeling even remotely warm was after an entire day of non-stop use without sleep or hibernation. The Revolt 2 has a Corsair H55 Liquid Cooler installed, and it does a superb job at regulating temperatures. Noise levels are always low too. The only time the fans are heard is during the initial boot up, and on a few occasions when the system is pushed to the absolute limit. In fact, the Revolt 2 performs better than our main, decked-out gaming PC that we use for reviewing all of our PC games. 

I’ve been testing the Revolt 2 for a full week now, and I haven’t experienced any technical difficulties. On more than one occasion, I had to remind myself that this is a mini-PC and not a large PC tower. There’s something very liberating about having your PC sit next to your PS4, Xbox One and Wii U. The Revolt 2 has exceeded my expectations, and while it’s not as easy to replace certain parts as I hoped for, I can’t think of another case this size that accomplishes as much. iBUYPOWER has crafted something very special here. They’ve set a new standard for mini-PC design, and when combined with their aggressive pricing for parts and assembly, there’s no better choice for gamers seeking a high-end boutique PC that’s slightly larger than the Xbox One. 

Review by: Tin Salamunic


Video Games Teach More Than Just Quick Reflexes

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The skewed stigma revolving video games has gone on for too long. If you're a gamer, you are typically branded as a nerd and your hobby and passion are cynically labeled as time-wasters by people unfamiliar with the industry. However, games can teach life enhancing skills long after you put the controller down. Here are some skills your favorite games have taught you and how they benefit audiences in the long run:

Patience isn't only a virtue, it’s a learned skill. A large component of action RPGs center around the grind to become more powerful. The grind describes the boring and long parts of a game where a player might encounter a series of monster fights with no real variation. These can be mentally exhausting and require patience.

This type of gameplay can be compared to the daily grind of work or school and the patience needed to get through them. Whether it's the long hours required to finished a project on time or cram for a test, all of these activities take patience and perseverance.

Memory Retention and Spacial Awareness
In 2013, a study about the effects of video games on the adult brain was published by Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence. In the study, 23 adults played “Super Mario 64” for 30 minutes per day for a month. Another group was asked not to play any video games over that same month. After the month was over, the subjects' brains were examined through MRI scans. Those who played “Super Mario 64” daily showed an increase of gray matter in different parts of the brain (the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and cerebellum). These brain segments are used for spatial navigation, memory retention and formation, strategic planning and fine motor skills.

The rise in gray matter has given scientists and doctors hope that video games can be used as therapy for people with brain conditions in these areas, such as schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer's.

Quick Thinking
Video games can help you think more strategically, improve your fine motor skills, become more organized and manage resources. All of these necessary skills transfer to the real world.

When at a job interview, for example, you need to communicate quickly and effectively. Online games require a fast thought process and concise communication to achieve your goals, just like in a job interview. Further studies discussed by the BBC outline numerous benefits gaming has on the brain. Games like roulette bonus and poker also teach audiences how to become better at mathematics and how to impress your opponent to win. You may need to do a semi-bluff to make an impression without completely bluffing. The same is true in interviews when you need to impress your interviewer without lying.

Or, if you have your sights set on purchasing a new home, the negotiation skills you learned from betting in poker will come in handy. In many online games, you also learn how to negotiate with other factions by talking and compromising, which can help you connect with your real estate agent and the homeowner.

Whether it's board games, video games or betting games, there are life skills to be learned and applied to other areas of your life. Don't completely write them off as a waste of time, but appreciate them for what they can teach you.

DiRT Rally PS4 Review

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DiRT Rally is a massive leap forward for developer Codemasters. These guys have been in the racing business since 1986 (who remembers BMX Simulator on the Amiga and Commodore 64?), and while most of their recent offerings have struggled to keep up with the competition, DiRT Rally is the pinnacle of their success. There are more than a handful superb racers out there, but very few titles come close to DiRT Rally’s sense of realism. There are no Gymkhana, head to head or circuit races. This is point to point rally racing in its purest form. DiRT Rally doesn't mess around. Forget racing lines and rewind features. If you make a mistake, you have to live with it. 

DiRT Rally was an immediate hit ever since it hit Early Access on Steam, and Codemasters have since then continued to refine every aspect of the experience into what may very well be the greatest rally game ever created. 

I’m a huge racing fan, and I consider myself relatively competent when it comes to sim racers. However, nothing could prepare me for DiRT Rally’s relentless difficulty. My first few races were an embarrassment. Without making any major mistakes, I barely scraped by 6th place. Then I tried again, and again and again. Eventually I drove a flawless race, yet I still only managed to secure the second position. I looked at the winning driver, and he somehow surpassed my time by nearly 15 seconds. That’s the beauty of DiRT Rally. It doesn’t let you get away with an easy win. Like rally in real life, every split second counts.

"If you like the racing genre, DiRT Rally deserves a spot in your collection. It's unquestionably one of the greatest rally games ever made."

Despite its difficulty, DiRT Rally is never unfair. It forces you to learn the game’s mechanics and master each vehicle. You can’t simply slide into a corner at high speeds, nor can you spam the handbrake too often like in so many other racers. I played with a gamepad during most of my testing, but DiRT Rally is clearly designed for a steering wheel. The handling is notably different. Turning doesn't feel as smooth with an analog stick, and it’s somewhat harder to drive with manual transmission. I got the hang of the gamepad controls eventually, but I’d definitely recommend a wheel if you’re looking for a truly authentic rally experience. 

Previous DiRT titles provided a satisfying mix of arcade and simulation, but DiRT Rally is a sim racer through and through. Since you’re always racing against the clock, learning to properly read your co-driver’s directions is invaluable. The tracks are long, and memorizing each turn and bump isn’t as easy as in circuit racing. A small slip up usually means there’s no chance of advancing to the top three. To make matters worse, you’re penalized 1000 credits for restarting a race, which is a lot considering how low the payouts are. If you slip and find yourself falling off the track, you can use the restore action to get back on, but that too costs a hefty time penalty. Ultimately, it all comes down to skill. Even if it seems impossible at first, the satisfaction of finally seeing the zone markers turn green is unparalleled.  

"There’s an impressive amount of detail in both the gravely roads and distant backgrounds, and the snowy environments with all effects set to ultra look absolutely gorgeous."

Before each race, you’re granted a limited number of test drives (called shakedowns) in order to properly tweak your vehicle for the road conditions. Those familiar with advanced car tweaking are going to appreciate the ability to adjust handling to their liking, but if you’re not sure what each setting does, there aren’t any instructions or guides. Further vehicle upgrading is handled by your teammates who can be leveled up with perks between championships to cut down on repair time and increase effectiveness. Other performance increases are installed as you progress, so there’s not too much fussing around customization options outside the races.

"DiRT Rally is one of the most enjoyable racers I’ve played in a long time. The racing is brutally challenging, but never unfair."

DiRT Rally is not only different in its handling when compared to previous entries, but the visuals too. Codemasters is going for a more realistic aesthetic with a very natural color palette. Menus are clean and slickly designed, and gone are the obnoxious announcers from the predecessors. The tracks look absolutely stunning. There’s an impressive amount of detail in both the gravely roads and distant backgrounds, and the snowy environments with all effects set to ultra look absolutely gorgeous. Cars are meticulously rendered too, although some of the interiors still appear like they’re a work in progress. The console port comes very close to its PC counterpart. I've encountered zero glitches and fps drops, which is a big compliment for a game of this complexity.

DiRT Rally is one of the most enjoyable racers I’ve played in a long time. The racing is brutally challenging, but never unfair. The driving mechanics are unlike anything I’ve ever played, and it’s pretty safe to say that DiRT Rally is Codemasters’ greatest achievement. Between Asseto Corsa, Project Cars and now DiRT Rally, the racing genre seems to be making a monumental comeback.

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4