Oxenfree is all about horror and mystery. It starts out with five students in their early 20’s arriving at a small town in the Pacific Northwest to discover some sort of weird thing that goes on in the caves there when you tune a radio to a certain frequency. After a good amount of dialog and plot and character development, you tune your radio and discover a rift in time and discover the island is actually haunted and you are trying to free the ghosts within. Why, how, and what they are in the mystery that I won’t spoil.
The horror elements are mostly audio-related and are something I have not really heard in a game before. The game uses the eerieness of radio static, and voices. Have you ever gone down a scary YouTube rabbit hole and watched “Top 10 scariest sounds” or something like that? Well, if you ever heard one that is about strange radio call signs that were used in the Cold War then you know what you will hear in this game. It made the hair on my neck stand up and was very chilling to hear. There are various stones you can find throughout the game that give you tidbits of stories about the island and these creepy radio calls are part of this.
You wander around the island listening to the dialog as there are no puzzles in this game. It’s very much a “walking simulator”, but you walk and talk with the characters and choose from three different dialog options as they pop up in conversation. Some of these are story altering and some are not. These choices determine the ending you get which I found was a little too short and disappointing. I really got to like the characters here and the game is so short you can’t invest a lot of time into them. Every so often the game will bring you into a time loop and these are when a lot of important choices are made. Even for only a 4 hours game the story is done quite well and has a beginning, middle, and clear ending and you wind up exploring most of the island albeit at a snail’s pace. You can wander around further to collect letters and find these frequency stones, but I honestly didn’t find the story of the island as interesting as the characters.
The voice acting is actually really well done and I like that when you answer before someone finishes a sentence Alex, your character, will interrupt with a correct tone and inflection in her voice. The constant bantering between the characters is the most entertaining part of the game and I was always looking forward to hearing what they had to say. The game also looks really good with 2D backgrounds and 3D models. It’s a 2D side-scrolling adventure so it’s hard to get lost here. I found the game’s pacing was all over the place however, there would be sections where I felt I was progressing quickly only to get slowed down by too much backtracking or lots of cut scenes and dialog. You don’t have to really think to finish the game, and I felt collecting everything was too tedious due to the slow pace of the game.
Overall, Oxenfree is a great horror mystery game that while not being very memorable will entertain you for an afternoon and might be something you discuss with friends as the story does have a twist ending. It looks good, has great voice acting, and the characters are interesting, but the constant backtracking, slow pace, and almost zero gameplay may put some off.
Smart phones have hit a plateau in the last five or six years if you haven’t noticed. We went from huge leaps and bounds in software and hardware to arguing over megapixels, keyholes, and camera bumps. Phones have gotten to a point where even lower end phones are no longer slow and can pretty much do whatever you need. The gap between a premium phone and a low -end phone is shrinking and it’s getting harder to justify the huge price hike in premium flagship phones because of this. Samsung is one of the largest perpetrators of this issue. The Note series was their bread and butter and was easily miles ahead of the iPhone and many other popular phones and continued to innovate with every iteration. Once the Note 8 released I was pretty much over it all. I switched to OnePlus and never really looked back as it offered most of what Samsung could for over half the price.
What made me go back? Especially since Note phones run over $1,200 these days. The Note series has evolved enough since the Note 8 to catch my eye. The phone may not be super special to anyone who upgrades yearly, but for a jump from three generations back it’s a beautiful piece of hardware. The evolution of the Note is still subtle, but in many ways. From the pretty much edgeless display to the return of an aluminum back and expandable storage. The series feels like it went back to its roots compared to older generations. Outside of lightning fast response times and fantastic game performance, those are a given. I came back for the little things.
The unboxing is rather humble and minimal. Just a plain box with the S-Pen on front and a big N20. It’s screams, “Yeah, we don’t need to say much.” Just a charger and a phone without all those crazy adapters that the Note phones started getting since the Note7. When you pick up the phone the first thing you notice is humongous camera bump. Like holy hell this thing has a growth! These things are getting so big and silly, but it doesn’t detract from the phone’s looks. The series finally feels premium again. Glass doesn’t make a phone feel premium – it makes it feel delicate and fragile. I never liked glass backed phones and I’m glad aluminum is back in. The brushed bronze color is gorgeous and it continues on the top and bottom with only the front being glass like it used to be since the Note4. There’s also a lack of a headphone jack, but loo, it’s over. Headphone jacks are bulky and you’re fighting for room inside the phones. You also can’t make a phone thinner than 3.5mm if you keep this.
The software is a rather familiar experience, but I jumped off the Samsung train before the Galaxy One UI ecosystem was created. It feels familiar, but very much evolved and there are subtle things I like. The Note20 has some of the most in depth options for a phone I’ve ever seen and it’s incredibly customizable down to theming. The S-Pen is pretty much the same, but has minor changes, but the biggest one being an internal battery and being able to use it for air gestures away from the phone. The phone also has lost it’s weird quirkiness of slowing down over time and being sluggish which was the main problem I always had with Samsung phones, but it seems the 12GB for much faster processing has helped that.
Gaming on the phone is amazing and it will run any game out there with no issues. Using various controllers and clips of your favorite configuration as well as emulating systems like the GameCube worked really well with not many issues outside of just typical emulator compatibility issues. The phone does get hot, but Samsung’s Game Launcher has evolved to allowed performance plugins to monitor framerate, temps, and CPU and GPU utilization. It’s great that Samsung has embraced the hardware demographic as these are the phones power users reach for.
I do have to talk about the S-Pen and it’s functionality. This is a gimmick still to anyone who doesn’t need to write notes or do art. My previous job found this phone useful as I was always needing to take notes on the fly, but the various software added feels more and more like there’s less of a reason to use the pen. AR Gestures, Live Messages, and various other apps like these are pure fun and gimmicky and there’s no reason why Samsung hasn’t really advanced the Pen’s software suite much in almost a decade. The air gestures are great for presentations or something, but unless you actually need a pen on your phone you probably will never use it outside of satisfyingly clicking the pen in and out. I love the S-Pen and there’s no other phone like it on the market that has something like this.
Overall, Samsung has created the most premium Android ecosystem on the market and the Note20 reigns supreme. With a 108MP camera, themes, always-on display, tons of battery saving measures and options, the best OLED phone display on the market, Dolby Atmos speakers, 120hz refresh rate, true edge-to-edge display, and the return of the aluminum back, the Note20 feels like the Note has returned from a long run of being a copycat instead of staying true to form.
Adventure games are always hit or miss. The fundamental thing that needs to be focused on is characters and story as that’s the main reason why people play these games. It takes away the action and gameplay so you can enjoy an interactive story. This has been done really well and, sadly, really badly more times than anyone can count. Beyond a Steel Sky is the long-awaited sequel to Beneath a Steel Sky which released in 1994. It wasn’t very well known and most people know it today as “that free game that GOG.com gave away when you opened an account” for the longest time. Beyond a Steel Sky has the potential for greatness, but it falls flat in many ways and I’ll explain.
You play as Robert Foster who was the main protagonist in the first game. You are living your life in the Gap, which is a Nomad town basically, and someone’s kid named Milo gets kidnapped by a walking mechanical dog thing. Yeah, there’s no context here and you are literally told to care about someone and risk your life who has zero backstory. A chapter or two inside the Gap where Foster was living would have built that up, but instead, we jump right into heading into Union City which is the dystopian town from the first game. Here you are introduced to controls and game mechanics which aren’t any different from other adventure games. You find objects that go into other objects and click on stuff. The only difference is a cool gadget which is a hack tool, but even that isn’t lived up to its potential like I thought it would. It shows various devices with a puzzle-like grid and you can swap stuff around to make these devices do different things. Of course, one puzzle piece from action for that device must fit, but the issue here is that each device has a different type of puzzle piece and if you are in proximity to multiple devices the game purposefully makes those pieces different so you can’t swap whatever you want around. Instead, this is mostly reserved for main mission puzzles.
As you progress through the story there’s always a sense of why? Why am I doing this? The characters are one-dimensional and just don’t have good writing. The dialog is very dry and unimportant and there’s no reason to explore the world. I even wound up finishing the game with items in my inventory I never even used so what’s the purpose? The writing is just awful or passable at best and the voice acting is so spotty. Even Foster sometimes sounds like he’s reading from a high-school play and sometimes he nails the line. It’s so inconsistent it drove me insane. Once you eventually team up with the cities’ AI, Joey from the first game, the story then turns from saving kidnapped children to taking down the entire city council? I don’t understand why the narrative has this tug-of-war and that’s not even mentioning the fact that this beautifully created world is never explored. This game could have been something like Beyond Good & Evil with a great city to explore, but instead, we only see a few mundane and boring areas with this huge beautiful backdrop that I wanted to explore more of. Beyond a Steel Sky does a great job of creating an atmospheric and lived-in world, but this isn’t how you explore that world.
The most entertaining part of the game was exploring the MINOS cyber world which had a Vaporwave/Cyberpunk aesthetic and collecting the various programs to progress was fun, but again, the puzzles had zero challenge. The entire game just has you matching items to others and it’s very obvious and there’s zero challenge throughout the entire game. There’s even a hint system that basically tells you where to go, and while that’s a good thing, it doesn’t make you work for the hints either. I also think this game would have done better as a multi-part series or just something that isn’t an adventure game as there’s so much missed potential around every corner.
Overall, Beyond a Steel Sky builds a great atmosphere and a wonderful city to explore, but you can’t explore it. The story doesn’t know what it wants to do and the characters are one-dimensional with dry dialog and humor that lands wrong. The puzzles aren’t challenging and even just simply exploring the game is boring. I wanted to care about everything in the game, but it’s hard to when the developers only pushed their world a little bit instead of shaking it and letting the fruit fall.
Action games during the PS2/Xbox era are an entire evolution of their own. This is a pocket of the game that has evolved and also evolved itself at one point. Linear levels with simple combat was a run-of-the-mill action game back in the day, and a game releasing like that in 2020 is a bit of a gamble. While I’ve never seen Samurai Jack, the gameplay style from 15 years ago is what drew me in.
I have to emphasize right now that this game is mostly for Samurai Jack fans. The art, story, characters, and everything else are meaningless to anyone but. While I appreciate all of this I couldn’t follow the story and had no idea what was going on. An evil entity named Aku has sent Jack back in time through multiple dimensions and Jack must stop him. It seems rather simple and bare-bones, but fans of the series will get it more. I won’t ding the game on that merit, but even for a show tie-in, the story is rather simple and basic.
Controlling Jack is a lot of fun. He double jumps, swings a weapon, throws projectiles, and has a special move. He can wield heavy and light weapons from staffs, swords, sickles, clubs, hammers, and axes. It seems like a large arsenal, but there’s not much difference between this outside of damage and speed. I honestly stuck with the sword through most of the game as I also dumped most of my coins into training for that. Jack can also throw various things like knives, shurikens, axes, use pistols and machine guns, as well as bows. It’s a large arsenal and different projectiles do different damage and ammo is scarce so I mostly saved these all for boss fights.
Jack also has a light and heavy attack and can dodge and block. Acquiring spirit fire allows him to unleash a powerful attack and each weapon has its own attack. It’s a decent enough system, and I felt like I was playing a game from 2005 which is both good and bad. If this game were to have come out back then it would have been considered amazing, but today it’s just a nostalgic trip that feels rather average. While everything works and the controls are responsive I just felt the game’s repetition and linearity hurt it quite a bit. I don’t need every game open world, but these games are freakishly claustrophobic with the only way forward is straight. There are side paths to take to find chests that have various items in them, but the extra effort usually isn’t worth it.
You can find shops that allow you to buy weapons and training as well as repair weapons as they are breakable outside of your magic sword. This is why I just spent and saved for training the sword. It’s kind of a broken system just like the upgrade tree. There are three categories for physical, combat moves, and spiritual for things like spirit fire recharge, but you’re going to eventually get most of them. Each one is locked off so you have to buy the one before it anyway. This almost feels useless as you don’t get a direct choice.
The game is also sickeningly repetitive. After level 5 I couldn’t take it anymore. You just fight wave after wave of enemies with various health bars and then a boss at the end. It’s nothing special and gets rather dull quick. Sure, the game looks good and has lots of detail in the characters and environment, but only fans of the show would truly appreciate this. Once you finish the first level you have pretty much-seen everything. You just play it like that 8 more times. The game also isn’t very challenging as most enemies are dumb and rely on their annoying attacks (like zombies burrowing underground and popping up under you) or swarming you until you die.
Overall, Battle Through Time is a love letter to early PS2 era action games, but there are games from that era that still do it better. Overly linear, repetitive mindless combat, useless upgrade tree, and a story that only fans would appreciate aren’t enough to save this game. It looks good, sounds good, and plays well, but the overall package is just meh.
I know pixelated 2D games have been done to death these days, but sometimes they really stand out. Inmost has detailed visuals, great animations, and an interesting and engaging horror theme and atmosphere that kept me sitting through until the end. While the story isn’t all that great, the message at the end of the game makes it all worthwhile.
You play as a few characters in this game. One is a middle-aged man, another is a knight, and the third is a little girl. You jump between the three as the story unfolds and each has a unique control scheme. The man can jump around and find objects to progress, the knight can engage in combat, and the little girl can’t jump, but must crawl her way around a house lifting objects to create steps and unlock the secret of this house. It keeps the game fresh and moving, but most of the game is played as the man.
The entire area is quite large that you explore and backtrack through. Climbing around the levels also requires dodging black matter that can attack you and there are even some intense chase scenes. You are solving puzzles, pulling levers, and switching, and like Metroid, you are also finding new objects to progress through the level. A crowbar, pulley, knife, pickaxe, and more are needed to progress along with the occasional key. The game was never too touch and I enjoyed how the game made me think a little bit. There is some clever level design here as I actually remembered where doors and entrances were as I progressed. By the end of this entire area, I actually memorized the entire thing and could backtrack anywhere with no issue or a map. That takes skill and I commend the developers for creating such a great map with memorable landmarks.
Playing as the knight, you can swing your sword and use a hook shot to get around, but you can’t jump. The enemies vary with numerous hits needed to defeat them, but overall these are easy areas. If you die you literally just respawn in the same spot so the game is very forgiving. As the little girl, you must walk around the house moving chairs, opening cupboards, and finding secret entrances in the house and I found it quite entertaining. Without giving too much of the story away there’s really not much here and it mostly makes zero sense. I know there’s something about a Soul Flower and the knight is trying to take them for himself and stealing other Soul Flowers is required to give to the Keeper which is a giant guardian type thing. It makes no sense honestly. Even at the final 15-minute cut scene I couldn’t really figure out what was going on, but without spoiling the very end the message is what counts the most and it was rather touching.
The visuals are great with lots of dark colors, great pixel art, smooth animations, and tons of atmosphere. The game is a treat to look at, and the music is amazing. There’s quite a bit of emotion in this game, and I just wish the story was a bit more comprehensive to make the whole package feel a little more complete. As it stands, Inmost is a great 2D platformer that takes around 4 hours to complete. It’s a small investment for a great ending and some fun and challenging puzzles and platforming. If you don’t like modern 2D pixel art games, this won’t change your mind, but for fans of Metroid and Castlevania, there’s not much to lose here.
I love artsy games. Some times it’s nice just to sit back and play a casual game that is a visual treat. Gris is one of these games. Like many other games before it, it offers tight gameplay, but short and sweet experience. There’s really no story here, and you have to make what you can of the story based on context only. You play as a woman who loses her voice to a dark force that seems to swallow up all the color in the world. It’s your job to get that color back and your voice. That’s the only thing I got out of this entire game story-wise. I wanted something more, there are games that have told breathtaking stories on just context alone such as Journey, but what’s here is fine.
The game is broken up into three levels based on colors. In the color Red, you gain the ability to weigh things down. You jump around platforms and have to figure out various platforming puzzles. Using your abilities you must navigate the area to acquire stars to unlock the next section and finish the level. These are rather clever and I never got stuck, but I was challenged. I had to think and it quickly clicked after a few tries throughout the game on most puzzles. The controls are great and not floaty or slippery. The girl has a nice momentum with the ability to glide, double jump, and swim which is all acquired throughout the game.
The second level, Green, is probably the easiest and most laid back level. There aren’t many platforming puzzles, but there are challenges instead that require good timing. You find a woodland creature companion part way through and you use him for a few challenges, but this level was not difficult. I acquired the double jump ability here and this opened up more challenges.
The final level, Blue, is a mixed underwater and upside down platforming and the levels are labyrinthine and challenging. I didn’t get too lost in this level, but I did wander around a little more than I wanted to. You have to use everything you learned to beat this level and that includes platforming challenges that combine all of your abilities and precise timing. This game isn’t quite a breeze as it did work my brain a bit which is nice. Throughout the game, there are a couple of scripted chase scenes with the dark void that took your voice which changes the pace up a bit, but overall it’s very nicely paced and I was able to play all 3 hours in one sitting and was sucked in.
While the game lacks in story it makes up for in gameplay with challenging platforming, some puzzles, and a gorgeous watercolor art style that is just a joy to look at every second you are in the game. This is Gris‘ main draw is the eye-catching art style. I wanted to know more about this mysterious girl, but we just got platforming instead. Oh well, as it stands it’s a must-play for fans of games like Journey or The Unfinished Swan. I had a blast, and while the game itself wasn’t memorable, the art style is striking enough to remember.
Bullet time. While The Matrix made it popular amid pop culture, Max Payne started it all in the video game realm. You play as a cop, Max Payne, who is framed for murder of another NYPD cop. Your wife and newborn child are also murdered and you are trying to get revenge on the people who did it. The story isn’t anything amazing, but Max Payne’s voice actor, and the well done writing, keep you hooked long enough to find out what happened behind the scenes. The game is told in a comic noir graphic-novel style and it suits the game well. The cut scenes are imaginative and different, and don’t look cheap or like the developers were trying to take short cuts.
Outside of the story, the gameplay is all about shooting because that’s literally it. Max runs around with various weapons such as Barrettas, Ingrams, shotguns, grenade launchers, Molotov cocktails, grenades, and assault rifles to mow down the Mafia and corrupt cops. Bullet time is the main gameplay element here and when activated Max does a jump dodge in the direction you move and you can see him dodging bullets in real-time. This is actually a mechanic you must master as most situations require you to use it to stay alive. You can’t stand in one spot or you will be dead in a few hits and there’s no cover system. I had to quicksave every 2-3 minutes as well because the game is so difficult. It’s cool to jump dodge around a corner, but once Max lands there’s a delay in him getting up and you are completely vulnerable to gunfire. I had to make sure I jump dodged behind cover or across a hallway so I wouldn’t die the second the bullet time finished. You can also activate bullet time and just run your meter down so you can run and gun with it too.
There are very few scenarios in which you do more than press buttons. One scene has Max driving a crate crane around an area, but it’s nothing special, and there are some interactive objects that trigger comic cut scenes, but 95% of the game is just shooting. The weapons themselves feel good and I felt I had to switch up weapons depending on the situation to make my life easier. The locales are varied, but they are a bit too stale and boring for my taste. They don’t quite capture the noir feeling of the comic cut scenes, but there is one level early on called Ragna Rock that was a gothic cult house that reminded me a lot of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, so that’s a good thing. The game really does feel like a first-generation PS2/Xbox game, but it’s very polished. The game flows nicely, but the difficulty is all over the place, you will die dozens and dozens of times in this game.
The visuals are clean and look nice even 20 years later. I installed a texture upgrade patch and some other things to make the game upscale to 4K nicely and play on modern hardware, and it looks pretty good. Even in the original, the facial textures are nice and very realistic, and the over aesthetic of the game stands out over most shooters of its time. The voice acting is great, and I finished the game in about 7 hours. After you finish it there’s literally nothing else to do as the multiplayer mode was scrapped. It’s a fantastic single-player game that holds up well even today despite its insane difficulty and unbalanced gameplay. The story isn’t anything special, but Max is a great character to dive into and it makes for a fun evening.
Batman has seen a great run over the last decade or so with Christopher Nolan’s film trilogy, the Arkham game trilogy, and now a story-driven adventure game. Batman tells a story I have personally never heard with the game digging into Bruce Wayne’s darker past and finally revealing the truth about his parents and discovering their past. The game isn’t’ afraid to kill off characters and actually become quite violent, and I was hooked every last minute, but it’s not the story or characters that have issues, but Telltale’s tired way of telling these stories.
I’ll have to give them credit, they cleaned up the graphics engine a bit and the button prompts and commands look sleeker, especially during action sequences, but the game is still an interactive movie, probably more so than any other Telltale adventure game. Rarely do you get to actually control Batman or Bruce and only during investigative scenes to link clues together. This is one gameplay element that’s used multiple times and I like it, but it’s not really a puzzle either. You walk around examining clues and can link two of them together to figure out what happened at a crime scene. It’s easy and obvious which clues go together, so some better puzzle solving would have been nice.
The second gameplay segment is dialog choices and most are timed just like previous Telltale games, but I feel the smaller dialog choices have less of an impact. The game will tell you when someone will notice or remember what you said, but unlike The Walking Dead, I don’t know when that comes into play. The Walking Dead is done so well I can recall what I said in a previous decision that made that character act the way they do, now either the writing is so good it’s that seamless or it was an afterthought. I want to know when my choices change things, even the little ones. There are times when you have to make two large choices that obviously will affect the story, but these are immediate changes that you see in front of you.
The third gameplay segment is quick-time events, but they’re sleek and feel part of the action. Of course, these are incredibly easy and I never once messed up as the game gives you plenty of time to hit the button prompts to see the well-choreographed fight scenes play out that are actually quite cool. Outside of those three gameplay segments, there’s no other gameplay present. Puzzles are seriously lacking as they gave the Arkham games some brainpower behind all that fighting and I feel the game could have been better enjoyed more as a game with these put in.
Thankfully, you’ll just mow through the 5 episodes that take less than an hour each to complete because the story is so good. Seeing the origins of Harvey Dent become Two-Face, The Joker, Catwoman, Gordan, and seeing Bruce face his own dark past is just cool especially for a Batman fan such as myself. It tells a story that no other medium has told and that’s what got me hooked. I don’t want another origin story as to how Bruce became Batman, I don’t want to see him fight more villains and fight his inner demons. The dredging up the past and seeing Bruce and Batman actually fail and become nothing is fantastic and makes Batman seem vulnerable and adds depth to the story arc.
Overall, Batman: The Telltale Series is a must-play for any Batman fan. I don’t think non Batman fans will care for this game, especially when knowing more about the lore and arc of the series makes the game that much more interesting. The visuals are decent, but I’m tired of seeing Telltales comic looking graphics and they are dated and full of bugs and problems still. I ran into graphical glitches, crashes, and at one point my Xbox shut down mid-game for no reason. The voice acting is top-notch and the overall production values are good, but I’m tired of Telltale’s way of telling stories in the same manner for every game. Smaller dialog options are lost in the seamless transition between scenes and only the larger choices stand out which is a shame. Towards the end of the game, I stopped caring about which choices I made outside of the large ones because I wasn’t seeing any differences. Even at the last dialog scene with Alfred in episode 5, the game said “Alfred will remember that” but why? It’s the last scene with him and it won’t make a difference if he remembers it or not. With that said, this is a great story and not much else.
Coming from being a dedicated fan of one manufacturer and switching to a new one can be jarring, but sometimes it can bring in a breath of fresh air. Recently I looked at my Note8 thinking about the Note 9 and realized how little of a difference there is between the two, and about $400. Samsung’s phones have gotten more expensive over the years and have become so pricey that I now have to start putting down payments on my upgrades which I never did before. Then after I decide to wait it out for a while along comes OnePlus. I’ve heard of them before, and most of us have, but they were a flash in the pan that didn’t last very long.
Here we are at the end of 2018 and OnePlus comes out swinging with features that both Samsung and Apple have not done yet or haven’t done right, and that’s what gets you sales. The biggest attraction by far is the on-screen fingerprint sensor and the best screen notch to date, and not to mention it’s 1/3 the price of other phones. The same hardware packed into the Note 9 with a fraction of the price? Yes, please!
The 6T is a very sexy device and probably one of the nicest I have ever seen. The extreme bezeless display is just amazing to look at and has a look even Samsung can’t get right with their Edge displays. We finally have a phone with about 95% screen and that’s a big deal. Gone are the days of physical buttons and large bezels for cameras and sensors. OnePlus managed to pack ambient light, camera, notification LEDs, and everything else into a tiny spot on the front of the phone that is just about the same width as the notification bar. It’s really a sight to behold and looks so damn good with the AMOLED display. OnePlus did not cut any corners here and this is clearly a luxury phone that tops some of the big dogs already.
The entire phone is also made of glass so it feels high-end and features a volume rocker, power button, and a volume slider that allows you to physically silence or set your phone on vibrate, and I can’t say how nice this feature is enough. I got so tired of taking my phone out to silence it and this feels like a great addition. The phone has a USB-C connection and a vertical rear camera and flash. It looks sleek, minimal, and attractive at every corner, and it’s still slim with a large 3,700 mAh battery.
Underneath It All
If you go inside the hardware we have heavy-duty state of the art hardware that makes this a high-end phone. For starters, the Snapdragon 845 is present with the Adreno 630 GPU for insanely smooth high-end gaming, and thanks to OnePlus’s OxygenOS the Android experience is buttery smooth and games never see any slowdown or suffer from poor OS optimization which is something that Samsung and a lot of other manufacturers suffer from at least in a small amount. The $580 model also comes with 8GB of RAM which makes switching apps and loading them lightning fast and they instantly load. This is also in part with being the first Android phone to launch with Android Pie 9.0 which has insane optimizations and feels on par with Apple’s iOS which is well known for being fine-tuned to their hardware.
Gone are the days of 32 and 64GB of storage so we get 128GB and 256GB options on the 6T which is more than enough, and the exclusion of an SD card slot is a little disappointing, but OxygenOS has the option of using OTG (On-The-Go) storage built into the OS so your USB-C flash drives will come in handy there. The phone also has no headphone jack, but at this point, most phones are leaning that way and it does save space inside the phone. This isn’t a deal breaker for me at all as I don’t use headphones with my phone hardly ever. I do have to mention that this phone does not have wireless charging which was a bummer and probably the biggest disappointment with this phone, but it makes up for it with the fastest charge time I have ever seen. In my first test, my phone was at 30% and charged to 90% in just 30 minutes. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, so a full charge would be about an hour or less which is insane. Even on my Note8 a full charge from 0-100 was almost 2 hours on fast-charge and it was a smaller battery. With that said, you have to use OnePlus’s proprietary charger cables and plugs.
The phone features a 16MP+20MP rear camera dual-lens camera and a 16MP front facing camera which is kind of unheard of. It can actually shoot 4K at 60FPS which the Note 9 can do but only for 5 minutes. The photos are incredibly sharp and vibrant and I am not disappointed at all with this setup. Camera enthusiasts won’t be disappointed.
A Smooth Ride
There are quite a few options in OxygenOS that just kept impressing me and this is clearly the most innovative and optimized Android OS variant I have ever used. I actually didn’t need my third party home launchers for once which was nice. There are plenty of options to change themes, accent colors, icon packs, and the Shelf is a great alternative to Samsung’s Edge Bar as you can swipe left and have a whole area full of neatly organized widgets that allow you to add weather, app shortcuts, contacts, and various other things. I use it a lot and it’s much easier than searching for apps in the drawer.
OnePlus’s Game Mode works well and while not quite as robust as Samsung’s it feels more optimized and has some options Samsung doesn’t like various ways notifications display and what part of the hardware you actually want to be optimized rather than a universal setting. It has more options rather than features which is fine by me. OnePlus also added a night mode and reading mode which will make apps appear in black and white and change the darkness based on the ambient light.
OnePlus is also the next phone to use something similar to Samsung’s Always On Display as the 6T has a gorgeous AMOLED screen. However, it utilizes this feature better as the actual notifications will now pop up with text while the phone is off rather than just an icon which is really awesome. The Ambient Display is also not always on to conserve battery life but allows you to tap the screen to show it or when you pick up your phone. These are quality of life features that other manufacturers aren’t thinking of.
There are some nice gesture features such as drawing letters on the screen while it’s off to launch apps, and the navigation bar is fully customizable. You can hide it, and even use gestures to navigate the phone which I am currently using and it’s incredible. Swipe up on the bottom left corner for back, bottom right for forward, and up the center for recent apps. It works so well and I haven’t run into any issues with it.
Overall, the OnePlus 6T is the phone we’ve needed in 2018 when the big guys aren’t innovating anymore. Each year phones are less and less dissimilar and the prices are skyrocketing. OnePlus brings us premium luxury features at a budget price, and it knocks every single feature out of the park that it does have. Sure, it’s missing a 3.5mm headphone jack, wireless charging, and a higher resolution screen, but in the end, it doesn’t matter as it does everything else the others are doing better and bringing new things to the table. In-screen fingerprint scanning, ultra-fast charging, a nearly invisible notch, and a gorgeous camera as nothing to scoff at.
I’m not really big on gaming headset as I don’t need to use them often as I have my own place, but when I do I want something amazing, something that can deliver the quality and power of large speakers inside some cans. After having the Razer Man O’ War for about 18 months I switched over to some wired headphones and moved brands. Why Kingston? Well, the reviews are great and it’s plug and play, which may say iffy to some, but it works out well in the end.
Some people want fancy software, RGB lighting, and crazy controls, but Kingston went a different route here. Most PC headsets are not compatible with a console, but these are thanks to a proprietary USB 7.1 audio card built in the cable with Dolby. Now the downside is that these are only stereo headphones with the 3.5mm jack adapter, but they still sound amazing. The USB part has a three-part equalizer for flat, bass boost, and vocal. For gaming and movies, you can activate the Dolby 7.1 surround sound with just a button allowing the headphones to control everything and no need for any software.
The mic is completely removable which is a nice feature and works just how you would expect. There’s a button to mute the mic on the control box, but for consoles, you will need to remove it completely to mute it through the hardware. Outside of these features the headset itself is extremely comfortable and feels like a cloud sitting on your head. Instead of adjustable bands, we get a tension-sensitive soft band under a hard outer band. This means the band adjusts to your head shape easily without any fiddling. The earcups are super soft and no sound escapes. Since these are wired headphones I had to figure out where to clip the control box which wound up going on my keyboard cable to keep it nearby and so I can access the controls easily. The cord behind that is rather long which is needed for console use.
Here’s the big question: How does 7.1 audio sound in games and movies? Well, it works surprisingly well. The built-in sound card does a good job decoding the audio and making it sound incredible. I could hear gunshots behind me, people talking next to me, and explosions sounded epic and amazing. Games with 7.1 options sound even better and more realistic, but sadly there aren’t many games with this built-in.
With that said the HyperX Revolver S is a solid wired headset without the flash and fancy software accompanying most headsets these days. They are extremely comfortable, give an amazing sound output that is crisp and clear, and also have great 7.1 audio capabilities. There are a few minor gripes like the control box being in a weird spot on the cable, only three equalizer settings, and missing software for those who like to fine tune, but what’s here works surprisingly well straight out of the box and being plug-and-play. This is a versatile headset for any gamer, but sadly the 7.1 only works through USB and the 3.5mm jack is strictly stereo. For the price point, you get bang for your buck that you won’t get with most other headsets.