AKRacing Arctica Gaming Chair Review

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As someone who spends most of the workday in front of a computer screen, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for chairs that provide superior back support and comfort. I’ve cycled through endless seating arrangements over the years, and personally, I always return to gaming chairs that take inspiration from race car seats. Their particular shape provides excellent spinal support that complements varied body sizes, and the added padding boasts a notable benefit over traditional office chairs.

AKRacing, a popular eSports gaming chair brand from Europe, and their excellent library of top-notch products are finally available to gamers in the United States. A lot of our readers expressed curiosity regarding the Arctica and Nitro models, and today we get an opportunity to analyze the former. The AKRacing Arctica Gaming Chair is a luxuriously crafted piece of furniture that stuns with its elegance and masterful engineering. The Arctica is relatively pricey, and it’ll set you back a whopping $499.99—but as with any premium product, quality doesn’t come cheap.


"The AKRacing Arctica Gaming Chair is a luxuriously crafted piece of furniture that stuns with its elegance and masterful engineering."

I’ve been using DXRacer’s OH/FE11/NW model for the past few years, and structurally, the Arctica foundation follows a similar design language. This is good news, because anyone familiar with gaming chairs will have an easy time assembling the Arctica. The chair is composed with durability in mind, and a lot of emphasis is placed on establishing a powerful core. The durable steel frame that hides within the cushiony, high-density mould and the Class-4 gas lift support up to 330lbs. The Arctica is also notably larger than your average gaming chair, making it a much better fit for individuals on the heavier side.

Assembly is easy, although the provided manual borders on the confusing. The manual contains photos of a darker AKRacing model, and I’m not sure who thought it’d be a good idea to choose a black chair and poor lighting for instructional images. You’re better off relying on common sense and ditching the instructions altogether. Having said that, it took me a mere twenty minutes to prep the Arctica for testing.


"The Arctica raises the aesthetics bar pretty high, and I can’t think of another comparable product that meets similar standards."

The AKRacing Arctica comes in a gargantuan box. Individual items are carefully wrapped to prevent the steel parts from cutting into the leathery material. Unfortunately, our unit came with a tiny defect where the adjustment lever connects with the exterior cover. A small piece of plastic snapped off during shipping, and I was required to use a drop of superglue to keep the plastic cover in place. To be fair, this is likely due to horrid shipping conditions in our area.

After unwrapping the seat and cover, you’re treated to one of the most elegant gaming chair designs on the market. The Arctica raises the aesthetics bar pretty high, and I can’t think of another comparable product that meets similar standards. The Arctica looks gorgeous, and the predominantly white color palette works unusually well, especially if you have light-colored furniture to match. If you are concerned that having a white chair may attract unwanted schmutz, I have good news. The Arctica doesn’t stain easily, and if you do accidentally smudge the white surface, it cleans effortlessly with soap and warm water. The material is sturdy and durable, and it’s going to take a seriously messy person to compromise the Arctica’s immaculate appearance.


"Unfortunately, our unit came with a tiny defect where the adjustment lever connects with the exterior cover. A small piece of plastic snapped off during shipping, and I was required to use a drop of superglue to keep the plastic cover in place."

I’ve been using the Arctica for about two weeks now. Both my writing and gaming are conducted in the same office, so I’ve spent a substantial amount of time analyzing the chair’s comfort and durability. The seating area feels great. Think of the surface as memory foam with high resistance. Much like a real car racing seat, the chair is meant to cup your body to ensure proper posture, and unless your physical body width expands beyond the seat wings, the Arctica serves as a wonderful, therapeutic solution for folks who need improved support. Furthermore, the provided cushions for the neck and lower back are a godsend for someone like me who struggles with chronic back problems.

The back seat is adjustable 90-180 degrees and can be lowered to a bed-like position. The armrests can also be rotated inward and outward, which is a nice touch that adds to Arctica’s excellent flexibility. AKRacing has successfully blended style with comfort, although there are some minor annoyances that keep the Arctica from perfection. While the steel framing and high density mould are made using premium materials, the same can’t be said for the smaller parts made out of plastic. The wheels and cover casing on both sides are made of cheap plastic, and the poor quality is immediately apparent. It’s likely that the cover defect could’ve been avoided if better materials had been used for the smaller pieces. Fortunately, the plastic parts are limited and don’t interfere with daily usage.


"The Arctica serves as a wonderful, therapeutic solution for folks who need improved supportthe provided cushions for the neck and lower back are a godsend for someone like me who struggles with chronic back problems."

Conclusion: The AKRacing Arctica Gaming Chair is a phenomenal product that’s designed for gamers seeking both luxury and comfort. Its niche aesthetic has no equal, and it’s nice to see a manufacturer going above and beyond what’s typically expected from a gaming chair. The asking price may be too high for some, but this is the kind of product that’s designed to last for years. The initial investment is absolutely worth the asking price if you're looking to expand/improve your entertainment and/or work area.

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Are Classic Games More Addictive Than Modern Video Games?

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According to a state of the industry report by Spil Games, more than 1.2 billion people are playing games worldwide and about 700 million of those play online games. When looking into the effects of video games, it’s safe to say that they can be extremely addictive for some people; especially the new, modern games. Symptoms of video game addiction may include compulsive gaming, mood swings, social isolation, diminished imagination and even exclusion of other events in life, which are all of course the negative effects. The idea of escaping the real world and being transported into a whole other imaginary world just by using an electronic devise is something that appeals to a huge majority of people.  However, not everyone who enjoys playing video games becomes addicted to them; it can be more of a hobby or something people enjoy doing in their free time.

Before the development of technology, people either had to meet up with friends in order to play the same game together or go to social events where they would all play the game as a group. For example, the only way of playing the classic game, Bingo, would be by going to halls where the game would be held and run by a caller who would call the numbers out to everyone. As people actually had to leave their house in order to enjoy a game of bingo, it’s unlikely that it’s something that they did every day. However, If you compare this to modern video games such as Call of Duty, it’s clear to see that there are massive differences. Firstly, mostly all new games are available to play on devices now meaning that you can sit and play them from the comfort of your own home without having to move anywhere. Added onto that, modern video games have incredible graphics and effects which make them much more interesting and appealing to play.


Although people still do go out and meet up with other people to play bingo, chess, or take part in fun quizzes, due to the development of websites and apps, we can now play our favorite classic games wherever we are. By being able to play these games on our phones and other devices, it’s easy to become obsessed and addicted to them which makes is very hard to answer the question as to whether they’re more addictive than modern video games.

If you look at the bigger picture, any type of game that is easy accessible and quick to load can become addictive. Whether it be old classic games that have been remade and updated with the help of technology, or the latest modern game that has just been released, anyone can become addicted to a game if they’re interested in it enough. I guess the obvious answer to the questions is that new, modern video games are the most addictive due to the quality of technology and being easily accessible, but it’s important not to rule out the concept of classic games being re-made and updated in order to be available to play on devices.

Sniper Elite 4 Review

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The Sniper Elite franchise has gone through a remarkable transformation since it originally released in 2005. The unique mix of tactical gameplay and over-the-top violence has matured and evolved with each entry, and the Sniper Elite we have today is a rather different beast from its earlier iterations. Sniper Elite 3 marked a significant turning point for the series by further emphasizing stealth and vaster level designs, and the newly released Sniper Elite 4 takes that direction to unforeseen places. Developer Rebellion has crafted something truly extraordinary here, dare I say a masterpiece within the stealth genre.

Sniper Elite 4 boasts diverse, challenging and stupendously enjoyable playgrounds that inspire experimentation. It’s a sandbox in its purest form. Primary and secondary objectives are expertly intertwined across each map and they present endless strategic choices for tackling targets. The game hands you the tools and opportunities, and it’s entirely up to you how they’re used. The sense of freedom and lack of handholding is refreshing.


"Developer Rebellion has crafted something truly extraordinary here, dare I say a masterpiece within the stealth genre."

The narrative has always played a small part in Sniper Elite games, and while the latest entry strives to give characters more depth and personality, it remains the least memorable aspect of the experience. Sniper Elite 4 continues precisely where its predecessor left off. It’s 1943 Italy, and players once again take control of Karl Fairburne who sets out to fight fascists in World War II by teaming up with the Italian resistance. Important plot developments are still told through monochromatic illustration stills, and to be frank, they’re neither impressively drawn nor effective.

However, I appreciate the ability to chat with characters before missions, giving you a chance to gather extra intel and acquire side missions. Once you get past the mundane history lessons, Sniper Elite 4 opens up and let’s loose. No time is wasted with pointless tutorials. You’re immediately presented with an objective-filled map and a plethora of toys, ehm I mean tools, to wreak havoc or go completely ninja on your foes.

Sniper Elite 4 doesn’t have a singular map, and is instead divided into hub levels similarly to Dishonored. These maps may be individually smaller than your typical open-world game, but they’re impressively designed and varied. Every map offers a unique layout that requires strategy and wit. The environments are gorgeous, and the level designs are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Every new area has its own personality and set of challenges.


"The environments are gorgeous, and the level designs are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Every new area has its own personality and set of challenges."

Side missions are genuinely exciting and interweave cleverly with primary goals. When I say side missions, I’m not referring to the derivative junk found in Ubisoft’s OCD-laden landscapes. The side missions in Sniper Elite 4 carry as much weight and importance as the main tasks. Some examples include sabotaging enemy artillery, disabling lights to free the airways for ally airplanes, setting up traps for convoys, destroying/gathering evidence...and so on. Everything feels organic and meaningfully placed, and you never get the sense that you’re simply checking off a laundry list of chores.

Sniper Elite 4 runs at 60fps, and the engine remains stable throughout. There are minor fps dips here and there, but it never interferes with gameplay. Developer Rebellion has gone out of their way to fully utilize the Playstation 4 Pro hardware, and the differences from the base version are noteworthy. Framerate is more stable on the Pro, shadows are crisper and there’s better draw distance and greater detail. Playstation 4 base users aren’t going to be disappointed either as the game runs wonderfully even without the enhancements.


"Everything feels organic and meaningfully placed, and you never get the sense that you’re simply checking off a laundry list of chores."

If you haven’t played any Sniper Elite games before, or you’re only familiar with the last generation releases, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Sniper Elite 4 is a haven for stealth genre fans. Maps have extremely high replay value, and with each new playthrough, I found myself discovering new ways to overcome obstacles. Karl’s arsenal consists of deadly traps that can be employed in numerous creative ways. You can plant explosives underneath assassinated corpses, you can set up trip wires to surprise patrolling enemies, you can set TNT explosives and ignite them with your sniper rifle from miles away...the possibilities just keep piling up.

Upgrades work in a conventional RPG fashion. You’re awarded skill points based on your performance, and you can improve specific traits that complement your playstyle. It’s also worth pointing out that even though the sniper rifle remains Karl’s primary weapon for eliminating baddies, other weapons and accessories are given equal importance. On more than one occasion, I found myself solely relying on the silenced pistol and close quarter combat, which was a refreshing deviation from the more common long-distance approach.


"Karl Fairburne puts Sam Fisher and Solid Snake to shame, and I haven’t felt this sense of freedom since venturing through the phenomenal Hitman: Blood Money."

To further embellish the brilliant campaign, Rebellion has added customizable difficulty options for an even more personalized experience. If you want a truly hardcore challenge, Sniper Elite 4 lets you turn off all assists if you’re confident enough with reading wind direction and judging how gravity impacts bullet traversal.  

Beyond the excellent single player campaign, Sniper Elite 4 has both competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes. The co-op mode allows gamers to team up with up to four players, and if you’re lucky enough to play with competent teammates, the sandbox becomes an even richer playground for destructive possibilities. When it comes to competitive multiplayer, I only had the opportunity to play a few team death-match rounds due to slow matchmaking. The overall experience will vary depending on the type of people you’re playing. This may seem like an obvious statement, but in the case of Sniper Elite 4, issues with trolling are even more prevalent. When you have a bunch of snipers facing off and everyone decides to go prone and wait until someone makes a move, the matches can quickly turn sour. On the other hand, if you’re competing with a serious team, the match dynamics suddenly become more compelling.

Conclusion: Sniper Elite 4 is not only the best entry in the series, it’s one of the finest stealth games in years. Karl Fairburne puts Sam Fisher and Solid Snake to shame, and I haven’t felt this sense of freedom since venturing through the phenomenal Hitman: Blood Money. Sniper Elite 4 is especially thrilling considering how well it stacks up against all the amazing shooters that have come out in recent months. Even as a die hard Sniper Elite fan, I’m completely blown away by how much effort Rebellion has put into this sequel. Sniper Elite 4 is simply exceptional!      

Reviewed on: Playstation 4 Pro

9.5

Wacom Intuos Pro Review

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I’ve worked as an illustrator and designer for twelve years now, and during that time, I’ve only upgraded my drawing tablet twice. As you can imagine, my tablet gets used excessively on a daily basis, and I can’t think of a single workday when this cherished tool isn’t needed. This longevity speaks volumes of Wacom’s product quality and durability. Thanks to the company’s ongoing support, older models have remained compatible across numerous operating system changes, and it wasn’t until recently that I finally felt compelled to seek better performance and updated features. Today, I’m taking a look at the Intuos Pro—courtesy of the kind folks at Wacom.

I’m still a big Intuos line fan and haven’t found much reason to transition to the Cintiq. Spending over $800 for a 13 inch screen (the smallest offer) doesn’t appeal to me when considering the comparable pressure levels across both models. As someone who primarily works in a linear fashion, the Intuos is more practical due to its smaller size and lighter weight. I’m not saying the Cintiq lacks substantial benefits, but for my particular usage, I find the Intuos the most logical option.


"Their commitment to elegance and proficiency extends beyond product engineering, and is reflected in the way Wacom chooses to package their brand."

Wacom, originally founded in Japan in 1983, has a long tradition of crafting premium products for professionals and students alike. Their commitment to elegance and proficiency extends beyond product engineering, and is reflected in the way Wacom chooses to package their brand. As an artist, I appreciate Wacom’s passion for the industry. The Intuos Pro comes in a gorgeously designed box that can easily serve as an art piece on its own. The snowy white container boasts a large illustration on the top cover, which acts a teaser for the tool’s capabilities—an absolutely brilliant marketing decision.

I’m reviewing the M model which currently retails for $349.95 and includes the following: the Intuos tablet itself, a Wacom grip pen, a pen stand with ten replacement nibs and a nib removal tool, a 2 meter (6.6 ft) USB cable and color identification rings for a personalized touch. To further modify your new Intuos Pro, Wacom offers several additional accessories (sold separately), such as the airbrush, the art pen, a “classic” pen version, a grip pen, the pro accessory kit, Intuos soft case, standard black pen nibs (5 pack), stroke nibs (5 pack), hard felt nibs (5 pack), flex nibs (5 pack), nib set for the art pen, a standard pen grip and a thick bodied pen grip for the grip pen.

"Upgrading from an Intuos4 to the new Intuos Pro feels refreshing, and the improvements are immediately noticeable. The pen is significantly lighter, and I find myself clenching the grip less when drawing."

The Intuos Pro price point is extremely affordable whether you’re a student or professional since this kind of tech is designed to last for years. However, the accessories are overpriced, and you’re better off going through Amazon or a second-hand shop if you really want the specialized items. Who would want to pay $79.95 for a simple carrying case when the entire art pen, for example, costs $99.95?

The M Intuos Pro measures at 338 x 219 x 8 mm / 13.2 x 8.5 x 0.3 in and weighs a mere 700 g (1.54 lbs). It packs 8192 pressure levels for both the pen tip and eraser with a tilt recognition of ±60 levels. The Intuos Pro also boasts Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, which is a godsend for people like me who struggle with a fully occupied workspace.


"Button and feature assignments have remained largely the same, so veteran users should feel right at home. If you’re new to drawing tablets, you’ll find that Wacom’s UI is robust and easy to use."

Upgrading from an Intuos4 (I used the small model for the last six years) to the new Intuos Pro feels refreshing, and the improvements are immediately noticeable.The fully matte body means you no longer have to worry about fingerprints and schmutz covering the entire left panel. Every part of the Intuos Pro is enveloped by a smooth, matte material that allows the tablet to remain clean through rigorous working session.

The pen is significantly lighter, and I find myself clenching the grip less when drawing. If you’ve worked with older Wacom tablet models until recently, you’ll be happy to find that installation and overall tablet management is now handled via a consolidated HUB that controls everything from driver updates to button assignments. Installation takes minutes, and there should be only three small driver updates that need your immediate attention before the tablet is ready for action.

Button and feature assignments have remained largely the same, so veteran users should feel right at home. If you’re new to drawing tablets, you’ll find that Wacom’s UI is robust and easy to use. Everything from pressure settings and tip feel adjustments to tilt sensitivity and button modifiers can be accessed via the practical Wacom Tablet Properties tab. The Intuos Pro also comes with touch options that can be enabled with a click of a button, located on the side of the tablet’s body. Personally, I find little use for the touch feature. Unless you’re trying to mimic finger painting or are using the tablet for web browsing instead of a mouse, I recommend keeping it off to avoid interference when working.


"Creating broad, long brush strokes results in cleaner and crisper lines. I no longer have to maniacally spam ctrl+z until I can get the perfect stroke, and I’m able to achieve the desired line quality more efficiently."

The tablet has its own set of button commands. The wheel is used to zoom in and out of pages, cycle between layers, control brush sizes and rotate the canvas. The other buttons serve as shortcut keys and can be independently customized to better suit your workflow.

For my particular setup, I’ve disabled everything but one of the pen buttons that I’ve appointed as the Alt key modifier. I only use this function to zoom in and out of my work canvas. Keep in mind that this is just my personal configuration, and not a recommendation. I’ve mapped the most used shortcuts to my keyboard since I prefer utilizing my free left hand for quick-commands, while drawing with my right. I started using Wacom products when they were much simpler and lacked most of the contemporary features, so I’ve been accustomed to a hybrid setup between the drawing tablet and keyboard. I guess old habits die hard.


"The Intuos Pro is a worthy successor to the Intuos line, and the best price/performance model in the entire Wacom lineup."

Drawing with the Intuos Pro is effortless, and I commend Wacom for addressing nearly every issue I had with the Intuos4. Creating broad, long brush strokes results in cleaner and crisper lines. I no longer have to maniacally spam ctrl+z until I can get the perfect stroke, and I’m able to achieve the desired line quality more efficiently.

The Intuos Pro is far from perfect, however, and continues to suffer from some the same technical bugs as its predecessor. If you are a Windows 10 user, you’ll face power state issues with the tablet after waking your PC from sleep. Eight out of ten times, I’m forced to plug the USB cord in and out of the device in order to get the pen working again. The old trick of restarting the Wacom service from the services.exe menu no longer works, and the only options are re-plugging the tablet or restarting the PC. It’s a minor annoyance, and most users aren’t going to be bothered by it.

Conclusion: The Intuos Pro is a worthy successor to the Intuos line, and the best price/performance model in the entire Wacom lineup. Unless you absolutely need to draw directly on a screen, the Intuos Pro remains the best choice for both professionals and hobbyists.

Review by: Tin Salamunic

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Hisense H8C 55-Inch Review

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Back in 1969, China’s Qingdao governmental authorities set up a small, local factory for producing a new radio brand, the Red Lantern. It was the year Hisense was first introduced to the public. It wasn’t until 1975, however, that Hisense became associated with TV manufacturing after the Shandong National Defense Office invested in training three chosen technicians whose efforts resulted in the development of transistor TVs. Thanks to the company’s brand-building efforts in the West, the Hisense name has stretched far beyond China’s borders over the last 48 years. While Hisense has traditionally been associated with budget-priced TVs, their acquisition of Sharp in 2015 has catapulted the brand to new heights.

As of 2017, Hisense has become a serious contender among industry behemoths like Samsung, LG and Sony. Their CES 2017 showcase earlier this January promised more premium specs at even lower prices, and based on their 2016 lineup, the competition has a lot to worry about going forward. Today, we’re taking a look at the 2016 4K Hisense H8C (55-Inch)—the company’s defining model. If you Google the model name, you may notice countless videophile forums praising the H8C’s picture quality, and some even drawing comparisons with higher-end sets, like the Samsung KS8000. And they’re right. As a KS8000 owner myself, I’m absolutely blown away by the Hisense H8C image quality, especially considering the stupendously low price of $400 for the 55-inch model.


"The Hisense H8C is, hands-down, the best budget 4K TV on the market. Period. It's an excellent choice for both gamers and movie buffs."

Since 4K and HDR are still in their infancy, early adopters like myself are limited to only a handful of models/manufacturers, and each requires a substantial investment. But for those seeking a cheaper, transitional unit until the technology stabilizes, there is currently nothing better in the lower price range than the H8C. The Hisense H8C is, hands-down, the best budget 4K TV on the market. Period. If you’re not too concerned with getting “certified” HDR performance, the H8C is an otherwise excellent choice for both gamers and movie buffs.

Specifications:
Screen resolution: 3840 x 2160
Local Dimming: Yes (Not recommended on this model)
Local Dimming Zones: Multi-zones
4K Upscaling: Yes
Contrast Ratio: 4000:1
Color Depth: 10-Bit
HDR: Yes (~47% of Rec2020)
Ultra Smooth Motion: Yes (Only 3 settings and no custom sliders)
Refresh rate: 60Hz
Audio output power (Watts): 10W x 10W
Audio technologies: Supports Dolby Digital and dbx-tv
Power Consumption: 145W (max)
Standby Consumption: 0.5W
Power Supply AC: 120V, 60Hz
Wireless Built-in: Yes (2x2 Dual-Band | 802.11ac)
Ethernet: Yes (gigabit)
AirBridge (Hisense-developed technology for content
sharing between devices): Yes (CAST)
HiMedia (Hisense-developed technology for playing
digital content stored on a USB device or in theCloud): Yes (DLNA)
Wall Mountable: Yes, VESA 400x400
HDMI: 4
Ethernet: (LAN) 1
USB: 3
RF Antenna: 1
RCA Composite Video Input: 1 (shared with component)
L/R Audio Input for Composite: 1 (shared with component)
RCA Component Video Input: 1
L/R Audio Input for Component: 1
Digital Audio Output: 1 Optical
Earphone/Audio Output: 1

Design & Remote
The Hisense H8C boasts a sleek and minimalistic aesthetic that wonderfully complements any entertainment setup. It’s nothing fancy, but it certainly doesn’t look cheap. Since the H8C features a full-array backlight, it isn’t as thin as most modern TVs, and may project slightly when mounted on the wall. Having said that, I appreciate the sturdy construction and stable legs. You don’t have to worry about the TV tilting over or getting easily damaged. Personally, I wish the frame material mirrored the bottom ledge and legs—but nevertheless, the design is functional and unobtrusive.

The H8C comes with a basic, albeit nicely designed and responsive remote. It offers quick-access buttons to Netflix, Vudu, Amazon and Youtube and it’s equipped with all the basic functions needed to control the TV unit.

Installation & OS
The Hisense H8C uses an Opera based operating system that maintains a snappy and responsive performance. It takes about 5-10 minutes to get everything up and running, unlike Sony’s X850D, which took close to an hour to finalize due to countless app updates and configurations. With all the latest software updates installed, my experienced with the Opera OS has been smooth and hassle-free. I haven't encountered any bugs and freezes in my month of testing, and I personally prefer Opera to Sony’s Android platform due to greater stability.


"With a 4000:1 contrast ratio, the H8C delivers superb black levels in a dark room, and there are no visible signs of clouding or light bleed."

The H8C comes loaded with popular apps like Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and Youtube, but unfortunately, it lacks Hulu due to a lack of licensing. It’s not a big deal-breaker since you can use any external device to stream additional apps, but in 2016/17, you’d expect all major apps to be accessible on a smart platform. The boot time is another minor quirk. It takes several seconds for the TV to display the picture after pressing the power button. I’m not sure if this can be remedied with another firmware update, but it’s a little annoying being unable to tell whether the TV is turned on right away.

Contrast, Black and Grey Uniformity
This is where the H8C truly shines. With a 4000:1 contrast ratio, the H8C delivers superb black levels in a dark room, and there are no visible signs of clouding or light bleed. The H8C has a VA panel with a full-array backlight, so you can expect rich image quality when viewing dimly filmed content like Daredevil or Stranger Things. Since the H8C is a VA panel, however, viewing angles (over 176 degrees) will suffer the further away you move from the center—although this is entirely normal with VA technology.

Thanks to the full-array backlight and solid contrast ratio, the black levels are praiseworthy. Our unit has zero clouding, and the black bars in widescreen movies maintain their inky-deep values. Grey uniformity, while far from perfect, is better than anything in this price range. There’s no notable banding during panning shots, but uneven and cloudy areas can be seen when viewing a 50% grey test screen. The corners are also notably darker than the rest of the screen, but again, the lack of uniformity within mid-values is rarely an issue, and may only be visible when viewing a particularly washed out scene.


"Thanks to the full-array backlight and solid contrast ratio, the black levels are praiseworthy. Our unit has zero clouding, and the black bars in widescreen movies maintain their inky-deep values."

On a final note, the H8C’s local dimming is inadequate. This model may have a full-array backlight, but it doesn’t appear to have enough dimming zones for the local dimming to take notable effect. There is also an odd, reddish tint that can be seen following bright objects when dimming is engaged, so I definitely recommend keeping this feature off.

Overall, the screen evenness and smoothness is admirable at this size. Our unit has zero dead pixels and screen defects, and the DSE (dirty screen effect) is imperceptible. Considering that I just spent close to six month exchanging various TVs due to manufacturing defects, the H8C’s construction quality is a godsend. It’s also worth noting that the semi-gloss screen does a great job of diffusing distracting reflections during daytime viewing.    

Brightness and HDR
Hisense added HDR capabilities after the TV launch via a system update, and it currently only works via HDMI/USB ports and can’t be accessed when using onboard apps. Since the peak brightness isn’t especially high and the color gamut only reaches ~47% of the Rec. 2020 color space, the H8C can’t hit the full dynamic range, and as a result, isn’t officially classified as an HDR unit. Despite its below average brightness, however, the added color and contrast punch from playing an HDR signal provides a commendable boost to an already excellent PQ performance.

Movie/Game/Sports Performance, Motion and Upscaling
You don’t have to give up an entire paycheck to enjoy movies, games and sports in high quality. The H8C, even when placed right next to premium brands, holds its own in terms of raw performance. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the H8C is superior to Sony’s mid-range 2016 lineup, which includes the X850D.

Whether you’re watching dark, bright or colorful content, the H8C provides excellent picture quality throughout. Guillermo Del Toro’s latest Trollhunters is a perfect testing ground for what the H8C offers. The dynamic shifts in color and light are handled beautifully, and there are moments of awe when it’s hard to believe you’re watching a sub-$600 TV. Animations in particular are genuinely gorgeous on this set.


"H8C’s motion handling isn’t as problematic when viewing identical content. It may have to do with H8C’s low response-time of only 13.0 ms, which somewhat negates the double-image effect caused by PWM."

Due to its 60Hz refresh rate, motion quality can’t compete with high-end 120Hz panels, and the lack of proper 24p support may be problematic for picky videophiles— but ironically, the H8C suffers less from motion judder than my 120Hz KS8000. The Samsung KS8000, which displays all 24p content correctly, is nearly unwatchable without low AMP settings due to horrid PWM flicker and motion judder, but the H8C’s motion handling isn’t as problematic when viewing identical content. It may have to do with H8C’s low response-time of only 13.0 ms, which somewhat negates the double-image effect caused by PWM. I should also note that I didn't use H8C’s Motion Interpolation feature, since all three available settings create undesirable SOE (soap-opera effect), and can’t be dialed down.

As we move onto gaming, the H8C continues to impress. With an input lag of 32ms in Game Mode, the H8C delivers excellent responsiveness for both single-player and competitive gaming. Although I’ve been spoiled by Samsung’s absurdly low input-lag of only 19ms, the shift to the H8C isn’t as drastic as I anticipated. I’ve spent an entire month playing Overwatch and Titanfall 2, and my performance has only marginally been impacted. Sure, the KS8000 remains superior when facing those high-reflex faceoffs, but overall, the H8C performs superbly when playing fast-paced online shooters.


"With an input lag of 32ms in Game Mode, the H8C delivers excellent responsiveness for both single-player and competitive gaming."

Sports perform equally well. I personally don’t watch any sports, but I skimmed through a few soccer and ice hockey games to gauge motion clarity performance. Thanks to the low pixel response time (13ms), the PWM flicker appears softer, resulting in a more natural blur instead of the notorious double-image effect. There’s the occasional frameskip and judder inherent with 60Hz, but it never becomes a real problem. Wide panning shots in hockey are clean for the most part, even if hints of DSE emerge every once in a while. For an LCD, motion clarity and DSE are well above average.

And how about upscaling? Anything down to 480p upscales without a hitch to 2160p. At the lowest resolutions, there’s a hint of softness and minor detail loss, but it’s negligible unless you’re seeing the original side-by-side. Everything else upscales beautifully, and I’m still shocked at how good my older, low-res Playstation 3 games display when upscaled to 4K on this set.

Conclusion: If you’re looking for a high-quality 4K display that performs phenomenally across all media and won’t put a dent in your budget, the Hisense H8C is the most impressive offering in the price range. Don’t be fooled by the Hisense name and the low cost. The company has grown tremendously over the years, and the H8C is a testament to their commitment in becoming a serious industry contender.

A-

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Review

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This is it. This is the moment Resident Evil fans have been waiting for. For years, gamers and critics have begged Capcom to stop following irrelevant industry trends and focus on what made the series popular in the first place, and someone at Capcom finally listened. Whoever you are, brave soul (or souls), I commend you for not only keeping the franchise alive, but for catapulting RE back in the right direction.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is unquestionably the most immersive and most enjoyable Resident Evil entry since Resident Evil 4. It completely abandons the action-heavy approach that plagued the last few releases, and instead focuses on spine-tingling pacing and pure horror. RE7 is incomparably atmospheric and terrifying, and it absolutely deserves a place next to other genre greats like Amnesia, Outlast and Silent Hill 2.

When Capcom worked on Resident Evil 6, their goal was to create a horror-themed AAA blockbuster that felt vast in scope and appealed towards a more trigger happy audience. I’m not sure why Capcom thought it was a good idea to force the horror genre into the shooter realm, but as expected, Resident Evil 6 and the numerous subsequent spin-off efforts were tremendous failures. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, on the other hand, is the precise opposite of its predecessor. It’s a smaller, more focused adventure where atmosphere reigns and survival is depended on strategic item management and patience.


"Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is unquestionably the most immersive and most enjoyable Resident Evil entry since Resident Evil 4."

If you’ve played the RE7 demo a few months back, then you already know that this new entry is more of a reboot than a sequel. Capcom has scratched every character and storyline from previous games and only inherited the core elements to construct Resident Evil’s new universe. The Resident Evil of today is a combination of Outlast, Amityville Horror, the Chainsaw Massacre movies and a healthy dose of Sam Raimi goodness scattered throughout.

Players take role of Ethan Winters who begins following a cryptic message from his missing wife Mia. Ethan ends up in a derelict plantation in Dulvey where he finds Mia locked up in the basement. He soon realizes that Mia isn’t herself, and that there are other worldly things possessing the house. In an attempt to escape, Ethan finds himself captured by a demented family. It is in this moment that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard creates a distinct tonal separation from traditional RE lore.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard radiates with a new personality. You won’t find conventional zombies here. I suppose the hillbilly family is reminiscent of the villagers in Resident Evil 4, but there’s a grislier and more sinister ambiance that persists here. The first-person view is an excellent creative decision that intensifies the feeling of being chased by ominous creatures enveloped in darkness.


"Resident Evil 7: Biohazard radiates with a new personality. There’s a grislier and more sinister ambiance that persists here."

If you’re worried that the new entry strays too far from the franchise, I’d like to point out that, despite new characters and a new narrative shift, Resident Evil 7 brings back the essential pieces that have captivated so many players back in 1996: The labyrinthine levels, the sense of isolation, the suspenseful music cues and perilous sound effects, the strategically placed save points, the emphasis on item management and puzzle solving—it’s all back in Resident Evil 7. And frankly, I welcome a refreshing shift in direction after so many years of convoluted storytelling and nonsensical plot holes.

The found-footage quality works superbly thanks to brilliant art direction and impressive technical artistry. The earlier released demo was just teasing what the full game offers aesthetically. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard looks phenomenal. The game runs at a rock-solid 60fps with only minor performance dips during particularly hectic moments. Character models are convincingly rendered and their animations are eerily realistic. Texture work is a bit inconsistent in certain areas as you can find yourself looking at a high-quality wallpaper that’s positioned next to a low-res wood texture. Fortunately, it’s never immersion-breaking thanks to some of the finest lighting work I’ve ever seen in a video game. And if you’re lucky enough to have a TV with HDR capabilities, you’ll really appreciate the dynamic lighting and color depth that HDR adds to the graphical fidelity.


"The labyrinthine levels, the sense of isolation, the suspenseful music cues and perilous sound effects, the strategically placed save points, the emphasis on item management and puzzle solving—it’s all back in Resident Evil 7."

As much as I love Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the game isn’t perfect, and there are more than a handful of minor annoyances. For one, the new zombie-like creatures become repetitive after a while. Their menacing presence loses its impact once you identify their predictable movement patterns, and once you realize how easy they are to escape from. The puzzles, while unquestionably fun, are too easy and too far apart. It’s a similar mistake the first Tomb Raider reboot made, although not quite as extreme.  

Conclusion: Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a dream come true. Just when I was ready to completely write off the Resident Evil franchise after the horrendous Umbrella Corps, RE7 comes along and completely reignites my love for the series. Capcom really deserves kudos for listening to their audience, and I’m already hyped for the announced DLC that’s just around the corner. 2017 is off to a wonderful start!

9

Yakuza 0 Review

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The Yakuza series has a special place in my heart. In an industry saturated with derivative sandboxes, Yakuza has always stood out for its unique approach to worldbuilding and storytelling. Each Yakuza entry can be best described as a season of Breaking Bad or Sherlock, unlike the conventional movie-style approach seen in most AAA releases. The emphasis on character building and superb writing, a praiseworthy mix of comedy and gangster lore, is unrivaled. It’s unfair to compare Yakuza to other franchises, because there’s nothing quite like it. Many have likened Yakuza to Shenmue, and while that may be true on a very basic level, Yakuza delivers so much more in terms of gameplay and narrative depth. It’s the perfect example of how to take inspiration from a popular series, and evolve it into something entirely new and original.

Yakuza 0 released in Japan in 2015 and it has been one of my most anticipated titles since. Even though my expectations remained high with each new trailer release, the final experience is beyond anything I anticipated. Yakuza 0 may very well be the series’ pinnacle. It’s an expertly crafted JRPG/brawler that radiates with charm and personality. The combat has been polished to perfection, and the enhanced visuals are some of the finest on Playstation 4.


"The emphasis on character building and superb writing, a praiseworthy mix of comedy and gangster lore, is unrivaled."

Yakuza 0 is perfect for both newcomers and veterans alike. It’s a prequel that takes place in the late eighties, and chronicles defining moments in Kazuma Kiryu’s and Goro Majima’s early criminal life. Both characters are key figures from previous Yakuza entries, and this backstory gives insight into their complicated past. Even if you’ve never played Yakuza games before, the developers have done a commendable job introducing players to Japan’s criminal underworld and its eccentric personalities. Yakuza 0 is a dark, gangster drama that’s enveloped by quirky Japanese humor and a healthy dose of insanity. It’s easy to draw comparisons between Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction and especially Kill Bill.

I would be doing the game great disservice if I discussed the plot beyond its premise. There are so many unexpected turns, the adventure is best consumed with as little information as possible. The story begins as a land-grab war between rival Yakuza families, and a conspicuous realty company that’s set on toppling the region’s underground empire. What seems like a typical setup to a traditional gangster drama quickly evolves into an epic saga of friendship, betrayal and plenty of karaoke.


"The mechanics have received a substantial lift, and the jump to 60fps has done wonders for input responsiveness."

The narrative takes several dark turns, but the game never abandons its sense of humor. One moment you’re chasing rival Yakuza gangs with a samurai sword in one hand and a baseball bat in the other, then a minute later you find yourself playing emulated SEGA classics in one of the many arcades scattered through the locales. Yakuza 0 brims with exciting content around every corner. The best part is that the side-activities are genuinely entertaining and original. Be prepared to stand in as a TV show producer, run a successful cabaret club, enjoy female wrestling, collect cards of female models that unlock semi-adult videos, spend some time bowling and shooting pool, and of course, show off some snazzy dance moves by partaking in dance competitions. Yeah...Yakuza 0 is as ridiculous as it sounds!

Beyond the quirky side-missions, superb storytelling and colorful characters lies some of the best brawler-style gameplay on modern consoles. The mechanics have received a substantial lift, and the jump to 60fps has done wonders for input responsiveness. Since there are fewer playable characters compared to past Yakuza titles, the devs have added numerous fighting styles for each character to diversify the combat. Using the D-pad, you can choose between three styles of varying speed and efficiency. Yakuza 0 is still a button masher for the most part (and I mean this in the best sense possible), but the added fighting styles add more strategy and thrill to encounters. As you progress deeper into the game, recognizing the right style for each enemy becomes a crucial tactic for survival.


"The devs have done a monumental job remastering the entire package, and I can’t think of a single other game on PS4 that offers an experience as unique as Yakuza 0."

Yakuza 0 originally released on Playstation 3 in 2015, and while it was a gorgeous looking game two years ago, the boost in resolution, textures, lighting, and, most importantly, framerate, has done wonders for the game’s aesthetic. Yakuza games are famous for their authentic representation of Japan, and Yakuza 0 takes the art direction to a whole new level. The main hub areas, Kamurocho and Sotenbori, (they’re fictionalized recreations of Tokyo’s Kabukicho Shinjuku Golden Gai and Osaka's Dotonbori areas) are brimming with life and glamour. The streets are crowded with distinct-looking NPCs that engage in constant chatter, which gives each block a real sense of place and time. The same attention to detail extends to the fantastic character models. Imagine if Uncharted 4 took place in a massive open-world, and instead of a few characters, the world was filled with dozens of highly-rendered models, each meticulously crafted to perfection. That’s the level of quality you can expect from the talents behind Yakuza 0.

Conclusion: Yakuza 0 is, in my personal opinion, one of the best Playstation 4 games, even if it’s just a ported last-gen title. The devs have done a monumental job remastering the entire package, and I can’t think of a single other game on PS4 that offers an experience as unique as Yakuza 0. It kind of reminds me of Netflix’s Stranger Things in that it revitalizes a nostalgic memory from our childhood by enveloping it with a modern coat of paint. Yakuza 0 is, without a doubt, a TGS Instant Classic!

10