(Pocket-lint) – Guerrilla Games might have already had success with the Killzone titles for multiple PlayStation platforms, but it was really Horizon Zero Dawn that elevated the studio to a higher level. The 2017 action-RPG had everything – stunning graphics, a heartfelt and complex storyline, and invention cascading from every pore. Indeed, if it wasn’t for a certain Breath of the Wild also releasing that year, it would have no doubt swept game of the year awards across the board.
Now we have a Horizon sequel and, who knows, the developer may well have another chance at ultimate glory. Zero Dawn 2, or Forbidden West as it’s officially known, has certainly pulled out all the stops with a continuation of Aloy’s adventure. It is bigger, bolder and, on PlayStation 5 at least, even more beautiful.
Horizon: Forbidden West is a PlayStation exclusive of epic proportions and shows why this IP is comfortable sitting at the same table as Uncharted, The Last of Us, Marvel’s Spider-Man and God of War. It’s really that good.
That’s not least because, in Aloy, Guerrilla Games has created one of the most interesting female characters in gaming. Having started out as an exile at the beginning of the first game and rising to become the saviour of Meridian, she is now an accomplished and much-loved hero. The sequel reflects that, both in the story and gameplay mechanics.
It starts soon after Zero Dawn left off. Aloy is looking for a backup of the Gaia software protocol that has the potential of restoring the Earth’s ecosystem and averting another extinction level event for its inhabitants. However, things don’t go quite to plan and after the Hades AI seemingly rears its head again, she has to follow it to a new region – the eponymous Forbidden West.
This allows for new mysteries to unravel and even more of our lead’s past to become clear. We’ll hold off on giving you any major plot spoilers as the discovery is half the fun, but needless to say it’s as expansive and complex as in the first.
The game world is as realised too. For those who are unaware, the Horizon games set an interesting premise – that many years after civilisation was effectively wiped out, mankind started again with tribes dotted around the landscape, hunting and foraging to survive. But, rather than animals inhabiting the wilds, machines with animalistic traits do instead. Some are deadly, some enormous, and some can be trained as steeds.
Aloy is one of few capable of tackling and even befriending them, not least because she has a “focus” – a Bluetooth earpiece-style device that gives her data on the past and enables her to get information on everything around her, especially of the metallic, autonomous kind. Forbidden West expands on this theme and presents further clues as to what it all means and why the past and the present are possibly closer linked than previously thought. Oh, and there are a fair few surprises along the way.
It makes for a great tale that unveils as you play, but that’s not all there is to the game. This is a massive open-world adventure and as such is crammed with additional extras, side missions and collectables to while away your time on too.
More of everything
Like most open-world games, including the previous Horizon and its DLC, The Frozen Wilds, there are plenty of fetch quests, puzzle zones, and resource gathering to be done. Much is optional, but considering it utilises a similar XP system and level progression as before, it’s wise to do as much as you can to ensure your skill set is as rich and diverse as possible.
There is a slightly more advanced skill tree in the sequel, with six new categories to expand your combat, stealth, and general abilities. Warrior, Trapper, Hunter, Survivor, Infiltrator, and Machine Master each come with a healthy array of benefits to unlock. You earn skill points (by completing main and side missions, generally) and can assign them as you go. Like many action-RPGs of this ilk, it enables you to build a character to suit your own play style. And, as there are plenty of points on offer throughout the game, you’ll get a lot of opportunities to tweak.
The same can be said of weapons, which in Forbidden West is similar in practice to Zero Dawn, just bigger and with more options. Weapons can be levelled-up, as too can outfits, while coils can be fitted to enhance elemental effects, damage or the like. Basically, this is classic Horizon just on a larger scale.
There are also some unique new tools and weapons, such as a Shieldwing that can be used to glide through the air, or the Pullcaster that can tear down walls or help Aloy leap to higher climbing points. They are discoverable at certain points in the campaign, but can also be used to go back to previous areas to complete puzzles that weren’t accessible before.
Crafting is largely the same as before, too, with resources both natural and mechanical plentiful throughout.
Games in games
Throughout the Forbidden West, you’ll find Machine Strike players wanting a challenge. This is an invented board game that combines chess, draughts and tabletop wargames. You collect Strike pieces on your travels (based on the different machines you discover) and pit them in battle against these players in order to earn credits and other Strike pieces. It’s not as involving as Gwent, say, but is a nice distraction and change of pace.
Hunting grounds return, to test your mettle against different machines, and there are the occasional Melee Pits dotted around to hone your close-quarters combat skills. The latter is especially useful as you’ll often find yourself in melee with the Rebels – a new threat of disparate tribal foes who just so happen to also be able to control the machines. There are plenty of other minor exploration sites to be found too.
Fast travel is a must, especially once you’ve unlocked most of the huge map, and thankfully that’s once again done through campfires (which also act as save points). If you also want to fast travel from elsewhere, you can purchase fast travel tokens from traders. Tall necks return too, to remove the “fog of war” obscuring vast zones once you’ve managed to climb them.
In short, this is a mammoth game (geddit?). But thankfully it never feels too big to handle. The balance is just right.
We’ve played the PS5 version exclusively so cannot comment on how it runs on PS4 or PS4 Pro. What we can say is that there are so many benefits to playing on current-gen hardware that it’s obviously the best way to do so.
For starters, there is good use of the adaptive triggers on the DualSense controller. The R2 button throbs as you draw an arrow, for example, and gives you the correct amount of tension to make it a more physical experience.
Loading speeds are greatly enhanced too. With such a mighty map and a lot of graphical detail it could have suffered from pop-in or texture issues, but that’s not the case. There’s a very brief loading screen when you fast travel between locations but nothing to write home about. Having the PS5’s SSD makes a game like this so much more accessible and smooth, that’s for sure.
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The other big enhancement comes graphically. The PlayStation 5 version offers in terms of graphical real estate, making the game world seem more dense, but also has two game modes to play in.
If you favour resolution, you get what looks to be a native 4K presentation, but running at 30 frames-per-second. Favour performance and the frame rate jumps up to 60fps, albeit with a softening of the image a touch. We’re not sure exactly what the resolution drop is, but it’s slightly less crisp all-round. That said, we’re more than happy to put up with the latter to get a more buttery smooth experience. It certainly benefits the boss battles you’ll stumble upon at points.
Guerrilla Games also states that the same lighting used in cut scenes is enabled in the main game too, but only on PS5. Certainly, it looks fantastic.
Animation on character models is jaw-dropping – it was already good in the original, but has been improved further for Forbidden West. The acting is exemplary too, from all the cast not just Ashly Burch as Aloy. When combined with the Hollywood-style soundtrack and effects work, it makes for a bundle that is a true blockbuster.
For all Forbidden West’s undoubted enhancements and improvements, especially on PS5, it is still effectively the same game as Zero Dawn. And that is to its benefit.
The action-adventure gameplay continues to be intuitive and a joy, with combat, climbing, stealth, and puzzling each combining wonderfully to keep every minute of the many hours-worth of play captivating.
Of course, it does fall into the same traps as all open-world RPGs at times. There are a few repetitive tasks and side missions, while machine hunting can become over-familiar to a fashion. But there’s so much to see and do you’ll be happy to let the less interesting aspects slide.
Aloy once again proves to be one of gaming’s most likeable characters and the premise still feels fresh and interesting.
In all regards, Guerrilla Games has done it again. It’s created a title that will surely appear in game of the year nominations once more. And it might have a better chance to nab more top-line gongs to boot.
Writing by Rik Henderson.
Apple iOS 15.5 Release: Should You Upgrade? – Forbes
Apple iOS 15.5 has arrived and it is an extremely important update, but not for the reasons you might expect. So should you upgrade? Here’s everything you need to know.
Tip: bookmark this page because I will keep it up to date if/when new problems are found. I will deliver my final verdict in a week.
Who Is It For?
Apple iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5 have been released for all iOS 15-compatible devices, this means the iPhone 6S (2015) and newer and iPad Mini 4 (2015) and newer. I must warn you that there are now concerns around delays to the auto-update process, so the best method is to trigger it manually by navigating to Settings > General > Software Update. If you are running newer beta software (see ‘The Road Ahead’ section at the end), you must unenroll your device before the update will appear.
Note: this guide is not focused on older iOS updates or iPadOS, but I will touch upon pertinent issues in these guides.
The Deal Breakers
For everyone else, the first 24 hours is promising. While I have seen isolated reports from upgraders of poor network reception, screen wake up failing during calls and missing FaceTime notifications there has been no momentum around any of these so far. Reddit and Apple Support Communities are also quiet.
As always, I will continue to monitor this as more users upgrade.
So What Do You Get?
Apple’s official iOS 15.5 release notes read as follows:
– Wallet now enables Apple Cash customers to send and request money from their Apple Cash card
– Apple Podcasts includes a new setting to limit episodes stored on your iPhone and automatically delete older ones
– Fixes an issue where home automations, triggered by people arriving or leaving, may fail
Unsurprisingly, the release notes don’t mention the biggest news in iOS 15.5: the new Macs leaked in its beta code. Expect big news from Apple here at WWDC on June 6.
Aside from this, the potentially transformative introduction in iOS 15.5 is the ability to now receive money through Apple Cash not just send it. This could have a huge impact for small businesses, stall traders, etc. It’s also useful for getting friends/family to quickly pay their debts!
And yet the most significant reason you should upgrade to iOS 15.5 is security. The official iOS 15.5 security page reveals no less than 34 security patches. The good news is there are no known ‘Zero-Day’ vulnerabilities (flaws which hackers are actively exploiting before a fix can be issued) but there is a wide range of affected areas, including: graphics, memory, Apple Notes, Shortcuts, WiFi and WebKit (the engine that powers Safari) and Safari Private Browsing.
Apple iOS 15.5 Verdict: Upgrade
Despite a dumpster fire launch, iOS 15 is now a very polished platform. Few releases in recent months have had serious problems and iOS 15.5 looks like another solid entry to this list as Apple winds it down ahead of iOS 16.
For the most hesitant, bookmark this guide. I will continue to update it with any relevant flaws or features I find and you will receive my final verdict here in one week.
The Road Ahead
At the time of publication, Apple has not released a new iOS 15 beta and while several ‘minor point’ releases (iOS 15.5.1, etc) are likely, I would be surprised to see another major point upgrade (iOS 15.6) before the launch of iOS 16.
And we will see that soon. Apple will debut iOS 16 at WWDC 2022 which kicks off on June 6 and early leaks suggest our hopes should be high. Developer and public betas will follow, though reports claim test builds are buggier than normal which may delay this.
Apple has settled into a one-good-one-bad pattern for generational iOS releases in recent years (iOS 13 – bad, iOS 14 – good, iOS 15 – bad), so let’s hope iOS 16 doesn’t break the trend. We are due a good one.
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Wordle Game Help: 5-letter words starting with 'S' and ending with 'R' – Dot Esports
Wordle is a fun and casual game played by many players every day. Its simplicity and ease of sharing match results on social media were an essential part of its success. It wasn’t long before the game, created by Josh Wardle, conquered the internet and was acquired by the New York Times. It makes sense since Wordle brings that feel of crossword games in the newspapers. Many players even like to play Wordle in the morning over coffee.
There are many different types of Wordle players. Some are more casual and enjoy playing games when they are bored or have some free time, logging into the New York Times website during breaks during work or on the go on their mobile devices.
There are those players who prefer to take the game more seriously and engage in discovering strategies, researching which words are best to start with, and doing everything possible to keep their winning streaks recorded on the Wordle website and shared on their social networks.
It doesn’t matter if you are a more casual gamer or a hardcore one. If you play Wordle often, it is very likely you have come across secret words that are more difficult to discover than others. It is part of the game, as every day new words are chosen. And in these more difficult times, a little online help may come in handy.
If you’ve used several of your attempts but only managed to find that the secret word of the day starts with the letter ‘S’ and ends with the letter ‘R’, here are some five-letter words starting with ‘S’ and ending with ‘R’, sorted alphabetically so you’ll have less work to do with filtering your choices by the letters you’ve already eliminated.
Five-letter words starting with ‘S’ and ending with ‘R’ to try on Wordle
All the words on this list are accepted by Wordle and will give you more clues as to which letters are present or not in the word of the day until you get it right. Another good tip to get it right as early as possible is to find which other vowels are present in the word of the day to narrow down your options. Beware of words that may have repeated letters and don’t forget to try words you already know first, since Wordle tends to choose more common words as the right answer.
These tips should help you complete your latest Wordle task.
Sony readies for metaverse revolution with cross-platform push – Yahoo Canada Finance
By Sam Nussey
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese conglomerate Sony Group Corp said it is well-positioned to play a leading role in the metaverse, or immersive virtual worlds, which commentators speculate will massively disrupt industries and establish new powerhouses.
The metaverse is a vague term encapsulating the idea that consumers will spend more time in online simulated environments. While the concept is evolving, it has become a buzzword in briefings and a driver of industry dealmaking.
“The metaverse is at the same time a social space and live network space where games, music, movies and anime intersect,” Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida said at a strategy briefing on Wednesday, pointing to the use of free-to-play battle royale title Fortnite from Epic Games as an online social space.
Sony’s game, music and movie units contributed two-thirds of operating income in the year ended March, underscoring the group’s transformation from consumer electronics maker into a metaverse-ready entertainment juggernaut under Yoshida and predecessor Kazuo Hirai.
The firm is a gaming gatekeeper with its PlayStation 5 console, however observers point to the risk presented by the growth of cross-platform, cloud-based titles and their potential to reduce the influence of proprietary platforms.
Sony has been adjusting its approach, enabling cross-play in Fortnite in 2018. This week, Epic said in-game “V-Bucks” currency purchased on PlayStation would be usable on other platforms.
“PlayStation has played a huge role in the social gaming revolution that’s nurturing the growth of the metaverse as a new entertainment medium,” Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney said on Twitter.
Sony has also taken steps to expand beyond its focus on single-player titles such as “Spider-Man: Miles Morales”, with a deal announced in January to buy Bungie, the developer of online multi-player shooter “Destiny”.
“We believe it will be a catalyst to enhance our live service game capabilities… (It) represents a major step forward in becoming multi-platform,” Yoshida said.
Sony already licences its content to other platforms, profiting from the value to streamers of content such as popular U.S. sitcom “Seinfeld”. Though the firm owns the Crunchyroll anime streaming service, it has not pushed as aggressively into operating its own video platforms as rivals such as Walt Disney Co with its Disney+ service.
Beyond the metaverse, Yoshida also staked out Sony’s claim in mobility, with the conglomerate developing an electric vehicle with Honda Motor Co Ltd.
Sony created a new lifestyle in 1979 with the launch of the Walkman, Yoshida said.
“We are aiming to turn the mobility space into a new entertainment space… We believe mobility will be the next megatrend,” he said.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
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