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PlayStation Plus gave out $894 worth of games in 2019. Were they any good? – Polygon

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You have less than a week left to claim the last two games PlayStation Plus is offering to subscribers in the ninth year of its Instant Game Collection. The subscription gave out 32 games, in all, in 2019; Were any of these any good? What would they otherwise cost? In short, what do the data say about the value of this PlayStation Plus benefit, which has been a part of the service since 2010?

We’ll try to answer that question for this year as we have the past five years, along with a few other questions. Such as: How old is the game? Did Sony publish it? What publisher did PlayStation Plus use the most? And did these appear earlier on Xbox Live Games With Gold?

These questions may shed light on where these free games programs are headed, particularly with a new console generation arriving next year in the form of the PlayStation 5.

What about Xbox Live Games With Gold?

Getting Started

In all, there were 32 games in the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection for 2019, with an average Metacritic score of 77.6 and a combined retail price (at the time of the offer) of $894.68.

The Metacritic average is 8.1 points higher than 2018, but the MSRP of the collection is $614.06 less. However, these figures don’t really compare well in light of the fact PlayStation Plus dropped support for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita after February 2018.

That reduced the number of free games offered from six to two (and therefore, the whole dollar value of the collection). Also, by shedding the dead weight of the PlayStation Vita, whose PS Plus games were often poorly reviewed and largely unknown, the catalog’s average critical score surged upward. And deservedly so; many high-quality first-party PS4 games were made available to players this year. It’s just a smaller sample size.

Some titles from January and February were cross-play enabled to one or more platforms; their primary platform is the one listed. After February, all games are for PlayStation 4 only.

Steep
Image: Ubisoft Annecy/Ubisoft

January

  • Amplitude (PS3)
  • Fallen Legion: Flames of Rebellion (PS Vita)
  • Portal Knights (PS4)
  • Steep (PS4)
  • Super Mutant Alien Assault (PS Vita)
  • Zone of the Enders HD Collection (PS3)

Average Metacritic score: 65.5

Average age: 2 years, 7 months

Total value: $134.94

Skinny: Amplitude and Steep are sort of hey-it’s-that-guy games that many folks may remember but never picked up. Skiing and a rhythm game are somewhat eclectic, but both are better than their Metacritic suggests, in my book.

Old Snake salutes a dead friend in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Image: Kojima Productions/Konami

February

  • Divekick (PS3)
  • For Honor (PS4)
  • Gunhouse (PS Vita)
  • Hitman: The Complete First Season (PS4)
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
  • Rogue Aces (PS Vita)

Average Metacritic score: 77.2

Average age: 3 years, 10 months

Total value: $122.94

Skinny: In its last month on PS Plus, the PS3 gets a very fitting, very touching send-off with one of the best games ever made for it. Ten years ago, the PS3 inaugurated the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection, and with it the consumer expectation that a console’s premium service should toss its loyal customers a bone or two every month. The PS3’s no hero; just an old killer hired to do some wet work.

A special forces operator, soaking wet from the rain, inside a helicopter with its bay doors open

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
Image: Infinity Ward/Activision

March

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
  • The Witness

Average Metacritic score: 85

Average age: 2 years, 10 months

Total value: $79.98

Skinny: Whoa! Where did that come from? Activision makes the best part of of 2016’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare available for good buddy Sony, and The Witness, which launched the same year, picked up a bathtub full of prestige nominations.

Players fight a massive dragon-like monster in Conan Exiles.

Conan Exiles
Image: Funcom

April

  • Conan Exiles
  • The Surge

Average Metacritic score: 70.5

Average age: 1 year, 5 months

Total value: $69.98

Skinny: This is what passes for a middling month now. Both games had a mixed critical reception, but if their genres are your cup of tea (survival action-adventure, or Souls-like action role-playing) it’s like found money.

What Remains of Edith Finch - Calvin Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch
Image: Giant Sparrow/Annapurna Interactive

May

  • Overcooked!
  • What Remains of Edith Finch

Average Metacritic score: 83

Average age: 2 years, 4 months

Total value: $36.98

Skinny: An indie-only May doesn’t just pull out two any-old titles; What Remains of Edith Finch took Best Narrative at the 2018 Game Developers Choice Awards, and Overcooked was a grand prize nominee at the 2016 Independent Game Festival. It was followed by a sequel in 2018.

PagodaWest Games/Sega

Sonic Mania
Image: Sega

June

  • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
  • Sonic Mania

Average Metacritic score: 84

Average age: 3 years

Total value: $79.98

Skinny: Can’t argue with the value of three Borderlands games, even if they are five years old or more. Sonic Mania was also a breath of fresh air, celebrating the franchise’s 25th anniversary back in 2017.

Detroit: Become Human - Connor on rooftop

Detroit: Become Human
Image: Quantic Dream/Sony Interactive Entertainment

July

  • Detroit: Become Human Digital Deluxe Edition
  • Horizon Chase Turbo

Average Metacritic score: 78

Average age: 2 years, 6 months

Total value: $49.98

Skinny: Maybe you wondered if Detroit was worth the hype; maybe you thought it wasn’t. Either way, you could find out for yourself for free this month.

Sniper Elite 4
Image: Rebellion

August

  • Sniper Elite 4
  • Wipeout Omega Collection

Average Metacritic score: 81

Average age: 2 years, 4 months

Total value: $79.98

Skinny: Many will disagree, and for good reasons, but I think Rebellion’s Sniper Elite is a sorely under-rated series. Always happy to see that show up, even in a slow month paired with an older first-party anthology.

Batman Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight
Image: Rocksteady/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

September

  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Darksiders 3

Average Metacritic score: 75.5

Average age: 2 years, 6 months

Total value: $79.98

Skinny: Darksiders 3 was nothing special but we raved about Arkham Knight. Sure, it’s four years ago, but if you haven’t played Rocksteady’s Arkham finale yet, this is a month when you definitely feel like you’re getting something for nothing.

MLB The Show 19 - Giancarlo Stanton hits a home run at Yankee Stadium

MLB The Show 19
Image: SIE San Diego Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment

October

  • MLB The Show 19
  • The Last of Us Remastered

Average Metacritic score: 90.5

Average age: 2 years, 11 months

Total value: $49.98

Skinny: A first-party only October highlighted Sony’s push on the PlayStation Now streaming/download service, which got a price discount and these two titles this month. MLB The Show 19’s career is always a time vortex for baseball fans, and it’s rare to get a AAA sports video game in its current year in one of these programs.

Nioh
Team Ninja/Koei Tecmo

November

  • Nioh
  • Outlast 2

Average Metacritic score: 78

Average age: 2 years, 8 months

Total value: $49.98

Skinny: Nioh was one of our top 50 games of 2017 and is the rare game that combines quality gameplay with mass-market recognition and cultlike devotion. Its sequel is on the way in March.

Titans and pilots fight in a grassy field in a screenshot from Titanfall 2

Titanfall 2
Image: Respawn Entertainment/Electronic Arts

December

  • Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Videogame
  • Titanfall 2

Average Metacritic score: 78

Average age: 2 years, 6 months

Total value: $59.98

Skinny: Titanfall 2 had one of this decade’s best single-player campaigns for a first-person shooter, and is timely here in light of Respawn’s launch of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order the month before. If you liked one, you’ll probably dig the other.

The Last of Us Remastered

The Last of Us Remastered
Image: Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Wrapping it up

Though Sony Interactive Entertainment itself stopped developing for the platform four years ago, 2019 was the year it finally took the PS Vita to the vet and buried it in the flower garden. Dropping PS3 from PlayStation Plus at the same time means a catalog one third the size of last year’s, but the high quality of the PlayStation 4’s deep library really shone through in 2019. And that’s before you get to third-party standouts like Nioh and Titanfall 2 to close out the year, or the well chosen indie cohort of The Witness and What Remains of Edith Finch, or even games with cult followings like Sniper Elite 4 and Conan Exiles. In all, it was a very strong, very well balanced year of offerings for PlayStation Plus. Games With Gold, which has advantages in backward compatibility and third-party support, looks slapdash by comparison.

Though Microsoft seems determined to drive everyone through its Xbox Game Pass program, especially for the new console generation, it’s less clear what Sony has in mind for its older program in PlayStation Plus. But this year’s focus on fewer, better games, rather than highlighting the lower (and often arbitrary) dollar figure of the catalog, instead draws attention to several titles who more than pay for the $60 subscription fee on their own. There is value in every month of 2019.

A knight and samurai clash with their swords in a screenshot from For Honor

For Honor
Image: Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft

By the Numbers

Average score: 77

Average price: $27.96

Average age: 2 years, 10 months

Highest average Metacritic month: October (90.5) with The Last of Us Remastered (95) and MLB The Show 19 (86).

Highest dollar value month: January ($134.94), with Steep ($29.99), Portal Knights ($19.99), Zone of the Enders HD Collection ($34.99), Amplitude ($19.99), and Super Mutant Alien Assault ($9.99). After PS3 and PS Vita games left the service, it’s there were three months at $79.98 (June, August, and September).

Month with newest games on average: April (1 year, 5 months) with Conan Exiles (May 2018) and The Surge (May 2017).

Lowest average Metacritic month: January (65.5) with Steep (71), Portal Knights (71), Zone of the Enders HD Collection (73), Amplitude (74), Super Mutant Alien Assault (67), and Fallen Legion: Flames of Rebellion (37).

Lowest dollar value month: May ($36.98) with What Remains of Edith Finch ($19.99) and Overcooked! ($16.99)

Month with oldest games on average: February (3 years, 10 months) with For Honor (February 2017), Hitman: the Complete First Season (March 2016), Divekick (August 2013), Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (June 2008), Gunhouse (April 2018) and Rogue Aces (April 2018).

Published by Sony: Four titles: Detroit: Become Human, Wipeout Omega Collection, MLB the Show 19 and The Last of Us Remastered.

Publisher with the most titles: Sony. Second most was Ubisoft (Steep and For Honor) and Konami (Zone of the Enders HD Collection and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots).

Appeared on Games With Gold earlier: The Witness (April 2018), For Honor (August 2018), Overcooked! (October 2018), and Hitman: The Complete First Season (September 2019).

Total value: $894.68

Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2, part of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
Image: Gearbox Software/2K Games

Platform Averages

PlayStation 3: 76.5 Metacritic average, 6 years, 5 months old, $19.99 per title.

PlayStation 4 (PS Vita cross-buy excluded): 79.6 Metacritic average, 2 years, 5 months old, $31.53 per title.

PlayStation Vita: 61.5 Metacritic average, 1 year, 4 months old, $14.49 per title.

Apples-to-apples with Xbox Live Games With Gold (PS3 and PS4 only): 79.2 Metacritic average, 3 years old, $29.88 per title.

Highest rated PlayStation 4 game: The Last of Us Remastered (95)

Highest price PlayStation 4 game: Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, Sniper Elite 4 and Darksiders 3 ($59.99 each).

Lowest rated PlayStation 4 game: Darksiders 3 (64)

Lowest price PlayStation 4 game (PS Vita cross-play excluded): Overcooked! $16.99

Metacritic ranges

90 and up: 2

80 to 89: 11

70 to 79: 12

60 to 69: 6

59 and below: 1

Price ranges:

$40 and up: 4

$30 to $39.99: 5

$25 to $29.99: 5

$20 to $24.99: 0

$15 to $19.99: 14

$10 to $14.99: 2

$5 to $9.99: 1

$4.99 and under: 1

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The Honda Civic Type R will start at over $46,000 in Canada – Driving

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Honda revealed pricing for its lightly refreshed 2021 Civic Type R late September, as well for the new special edition, while also sharing details about a new data-logging app for track-driving purposes.

A larger front grille opening is the most noticeable change for this model year, while on the inside there’s an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and a new weighted shift knob.

The coolest change is the addition of a new app called LogR, exclusive to the Type R, that allows drivers to record their track or closed-course driving data.

“A Performance Monitor provides vehicle information to the driver on the Display Audio screen, while Log Mode records lap times on the track,” Honda explained in a release. “The Auto Score function encourages smooth driving by monitoring braking, acceleration and steering, and generating a ‘driving smoothness’ score using proprietary algorithms developed by Honda with the help of professional Honda drivers.”

Both iPhone and Android users will be able to use the app, but only on the 2021 Type R.

The car’s MSRP will begin at $46,200, though 100 Canadians who already put down deposits will instead be forking over $54,600 and up for an exclusive limited-edition model.

The limited-to-100-units special – already entirely sold out – comes in a wild “Phoenix Yellow,” with gloss black paint on the roof, outside mirror caps, and intake vent on the hood, along with a dark chrome Civic badge on the rear hatch. Each Limited Edition also has a special numbered plaque on the center console designating its build number.

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You need to know these 9 hidden iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 features – CNET

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iOS 14 is full of hidden gems; you just have to know where to look. 


Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Apple’s new iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 update for your iPhone ($699 at Amazon) and iPad ($270 at Back Market) add a truckload of features we’re excited about, like widgets on the homescreen, an app drawer of sorts and privacy improvements. (Here’s how to install iOS 14 and iPad 14 right now, after prepping your phone or tablet, of course.)

These welcome enhancements will surely enrich your experience, but my favorite tricks in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 are the ones you have to work to find. For instance, you can now fully ditch Apple Mail and Safari with a new default apps setting.

Below, I’ll walk you through how to use nine of the best hidden features I’ve uncovered in iOS 14. This list will surely continue to grow, so check back for more gems. 

Set your default email or web browser

It’s true, Apple is finally giving up some control over your default apps. Right now the feature is limited to email apps and web browsers. So, for example, you can assign Chrome to be your go-to browser or Outlook as your email app of choice. 

App developers will need to update their apps for iOS 14 in order for the new default assignment option to appear, so you may need to be patient if your favorite app isn’t ready. 

To get started, open your iPhone or iPad’s Settings app and then scroll down to the bottom where it lists all of your installed apps. Find the mail or browser app you’re looking for and tap on it. If it’s been updated for iOS 14, you’ll see either Default Browser App or Default Email App; tap it and then select your preferred app. 

There’s currently a bug in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 that resets your default app selection when you restart your device. Apple is aware and promises a future update will fix it. 

Right now, I know Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Outlook and Hey email have updated to include this new “default” toggle. 

default-app-ios-14default-app-ios-14

It’s true, you can set some default apps on iOS 14. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Quickly get rid of app home screens

iOS 14’s new App Library acts like an app drawer, allowing you to ditch countless home screens full of apps you rarely, if ever, use. Instead of going through each app one by one and sending them to the App Library, you can hide entire home screen panels with just a few taps. 

Long-press on an empty area of your home screen to trigger edit mode. Next, tap on the page indicator, then tap the check mark below each panel you want to remove. This won’t delete those apps, but will instead move them solely to the App Library, where they’re more or less hidden in an app drawer that you can access at any time.

home-screen-edits-ios-14home-screen-edits-ios-14

The home screen on your iPhone is now a lot more customizable. 


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Banish newly downloaded apps from your home screen

You just took all that time to curate your home screens, adding widgets and keeping just your most important apps, only to have all of your hard work ruined by a new app you just downloaded. Instead of letting your iPhone put apps on your home screen when you install them, send them directly to the App Library until they prove they’re worthy. 

Open Settings > Home Screen and select App Library Only in the top section. You can easily find recently downloaded apps in the App Library’s Recently Added category, which should be the top-right folder when you view it. 

emoji-keyboard-search-ios-14emoji-keyboard-search-ios-14

Can’t find that emoji you need? Search for it. 


Jason Cipriani/CNET

Search the emoji keyboard

Finally — yes, this one deserves a very loud “FINALLY! “– you can search the emoji picker for exactly what you want. Launch the emoji keyboard just like you always do and now you’ll find a search bar at the top of the keyboard. 

hidden-photoshidden-photos

Your hidden photo album can actually be hidden now. Cool, right? 


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Hidden photos are now actually hidden

The ability to hide specific photos or videos has been in iOS and iPadOS for awhile now, but there was a big problem — these photos you didn’t want to see anymore were stored in a Hidden Album in the Photos app that was far too easy to find. With iOS 14, Apple has added the option to hide the hidden album, letting you truly cloak those photos and videos you want to keep, but don’t want anyone else to see. 

Turn it on by going to Settings > Photos and making sure the Hidden Album switch is turned off. (Yes, off: Enabling the setting means the Hidden Album will show in the Albums tab.) Anything you hide in your camera roll will still be saved on your device and in your iCloud Photos library, but you won’t have a way to get to it unless you go back to this setting and turn the Hidden Album feature on. 

iOS-14-iPhone-Widgets-BetaiOS-14-iPhone-Widgets-Beta

Picture-in-picture is one of our favorite iOS 14 features. 


Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Watch YouTube videos in Picture in Picture mode

The iPhone now has one of my favorite iPad features: Picture in Picture (PiP) mode for watching videos or using during FaceTime calls. Here’s how it works. Instead of having to stay in an app, for example if you’re watching your favorite game streamer in Twitch, you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to leave the app and the video will automatically shrink down to a floating window. You can move this thumbnail video around, or even hide it off the edge of the screen if you just want to listen to the audio.

The YouTube app doesn’t support PiP right now, but you can get around that by starting to watch a YouTube video in Safari in full-screen mode, then swiping up to go back to your home screen. The key is you have to put the video in full-screen mode before leaving the app. If that’s not working for you, try requesting the desktop version of the site before you start watching the video. 

If you’d rather not trigger PiP when you leave an app, turn off automatic activation by going to Settings > General > Picture in Picture and turn it off. After which, the only time PiP will be used is when you tap on the icon in a playing video. 


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Fake eye contact in FaceTime

We first saw FaceTime’s eye contact feature show up in the iOS 13 beta last year, but ultimately it was never released. Well, it’s back in iOS 14. Essentially your iPhone or iPad will make it look as if your eyes are looking directly into the camera, even if you’re staring at the screen. 

It’s a subtle feature, but one that should make the person on the other end of the call feel as if you’re fully paying attention instead. 

Turn it on by going to Settings > General > FaceTime > Eye Contact

back-tap-ios-14back-tap-ios-14

Tap on the back of your phone to do all kinds of fancy tricks. 


Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Double- or triple-tap on the back of the phone to trigger actions

A new accessibility feature called Back Tap makes it possible to trigger system features, like multitasking or Control Center, or launch a Shortcut just by tapping on the back of your iPhone two or three times. 

Find the feature in Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap. Pick the number of taps you want to use, and then you’ll see a list of actions you can initiate. 

For example, you can triple-tap on the back of your phone to take a screenshot or launch Siri

When I first read about this feature, I thought it would be all too easy to prompt it just by putting my iPhone in my pocket or placing it on my desk. But that hasn’t been the case at all — the phone seems good at identifying the tap pattern before it activates. 

023-apple-ipad-2020023-apple-ipad-2020

You can use the Apple Pencil to write in any text field. 


Scott Stein/CNET

Scribble in any text field on your iPad with Apple Pencil

The iPad has a new feature called Scribble. It basically converts any text field into a box that you can write in using an Apple Pencil, and your iPad will convert your handwriting to typed text automatically. 

If you’re in the middle of jotting notes and you get a new iMessage, you can pull down the alert and use the quick-reply field to write out your response and go back to writing notes, all without ever putting down the Pencil or activating the keyboard. 

For heavy Apple Pencil users, Scribble should speed up a lot of tasks that normally would have been slowed down by having to switch between stylus and keyboard. 

There’s so much more to these updated operating systems. iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 are available as free updates and don’t take long to install. Just make sure to do some housekeeping on your device before installing to make sure the process goes smoothly. And don’t be surprised if there are some issues with your favorite apps for the first few days — Apple surprised everyone, including developers, by releasing the update the day after the Sept. 15 “Time Flies” event.

Update, Sept. 18., 11:50 a.m.: Adds info about default apps resetting.

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Twitter and Zoom’s algorithmic bias issues – TechCrunch

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Both Zoom and Twitter found themselves under fire this weekend for their respective issues with algorithmic bias. On Zoom, it’s an issue with the video conferencing service’s virtual backgrounds and on Twitter, it’s an issue with the site’s photo cropping tool.

It started when Ph.D. student Colin Madland tweeted about a Black faculty member’s issues with Zoom. According to Madland, whenever said faculty member would use a virtual background, Zoom would remove his head.

“We have reached out directly to the user to investigate this issue,” a Zoom spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We’re committed to providing a platform that is inclusive for all.”

When discussing that issue on Twitter, however, the problems with algorithmic bias compounded when Twitter’s mobile app defaulted to only showing the image of Madland, the white guy, in preview.

“Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’ll continue to share what we learn, what actions we take, and will open source our analysis so others can review and replicate.”

Twitter pointed to a tweet from its chief design officer, Dantley Davis, who ran some of his own experiments. Davis posited Madland’s facial hair affected the result, so he removed his facial hair and the Black faculty member appeared in the cropped preview. In a later tweet, Davis said he’s “as irritated about this as everyone else. However, I’m in a position to fix it and I will.”

Twitter also pointed to an independent analysis from Vinay Prabhu, chief scientist at Carnegie Mellon. In his experiment, he sought to see if “the cropping bias is real.”

In response to the experiment, Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal said addressing the question of whether cropping bias is real is “a very important question.” In short, sometimes Twitter does crop out Black people and sometimes it doesn’t. But the fact that Twitter does it at all, even once, is enough for it to be problematic.

It also speaks to the bigger issue of the prevalence of bad algorithms. These same types of algorithms are what leads to biased arrests and imprisonment of Black people. They’re also the same kind of algorithms that Google used to label photos of Black people as gorillas and that Microsoft’s Tay bot used to become a white supremacist.

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