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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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Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Could Cause Problems For Apple, Google – Forbes

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Samsung has a penchant for doing too much with its hardware. Over-ambition usually gives way to sobering, buggy, reality.

The roll-call of failed gimmicks is too long to list to keep your attention, but the company has improved in recent years and the extras it likes to throw-in are slowly becoming more useful. Nowhere is this more evident than with the new Galaxy Buds Pro. 

The Korean company’s earbuds are bustling with new features. Smarter features. High IQ hardware is something most associate with Google and its increasingly terrifying Assistant technology. But as I hold both the Pixel Buds 2020 and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro in my hands its hard not say the latter comfortably beat the former in smarts. 

Several neat touches give the Samsung buds an edge over competition from Apple and Google. One of the standout features of the Buds Pro is the new ambient sound mode that automatically turns on when it hears you speaking. The idea is that the buds will switch between active noise cancelling (ANC) and ambient mode (digitally pumping out outside sound) when it detects your voice. 

Music isn’t paused when a chat is detected, instead the volume is dipped and your surroundings come more into focus. There’s a slight delay between detecting your speech and engaging the ambient mode, which can be awkward with a natural conversion. But it works well once going and eliminates the ‘hurriedly popping your earbud out’ dance we all do.

For the outwardly excessively polite, but inwardly resentful of all social interactions, this is a godsend. You can be polite enough to respond to people, whilst sending a clear message by keeping your buds in and not tapping to pause the music. 

But one new feature issues a direct challenge to the competition and solves a long standing problem. Samsung has ostensibly found a way to fix the issue of Bluetooth interference with its new proprietary scaleable codec. For the uninitiated, Bluetooth interference occurs when physical objects block signals or the frequency of the signal is overcrowded. This is a problem for all wireless earbuds and wirelessly connected devices. It was a particular problem for Google’s Pixel Buds.

Samsung’s solution solves this by changing the bit-rate depending on the strength of the Bluetooth connection. It works by automatically encoding “the audio information with a higher compression ratio”, which keeps the music streaming. It’s difficult to test how effective this is because you have to wait for interference to occur, but in the many hours I’ve logged with the Buds Pro, in different locations, I haven’t suffered any connectivity dips.

All of these new smart features add up to an accomplished pair of headphones that demonstrably do much more than the competition. The Bluetooth interference protection in particular shows Samsung is further moving towards genuine improvements and away from its history of gimmicks. 

Despite the fact that the Buds Pro sound very good, raw audio performance isn’t the sole metric to consider when buying. Products like the Galaxy Buds Pro make that clear.  I personally think the Jabra Elite 85Ts sound better. The bass is richer and more detailed, and the overall sound is more expansive and punchy.

But the Galaxy Buds Pro are more useful (and they sound good). The additional audio features that you won’t find on other products like the AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds (not yet, at least) are hard to lose after they’ve become a core part of the earbud experience. It will be interesting to see what Apple and Google do with their new audio devices this year, but Samsung has set the bar very high.

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How Samsung's SmartTag Bluetooth trackers work (and how to buy them) – CNET

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velveteen-rabbit-2

The SmartTag is small enough it won’t get in the way. 


James Martin/CNET

This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.

Samsung on Thursday held its first Unpacked event of the year, where in addition to a trio of new Galaxy S21 phones, the company also introduced the SmartTag and SmartTag Plus. The products are a direct competitors to Tile, the small Bluetooth trackers that help locate lost items like keys, your phone, pets and anything else you routinely misplace or would like to attach the tag to. Samsung is bundling a free SmartTag with Galaxy S21 preorders

There are several things to know about the new product. For a start, SmartTags connect to SmartThings Find, a service that’s already built directly into Samsung Galaxy phones — SmartThings is Samsung’s hub for smart home devices. There are also two different types of SmartTags, which makes things confusing right off the bat (don’t worry, we’ll explain below). 

Here’s everything we know about Samsung’s SmartTag so far (and what we don’t), from the price and way it works, to how to figure out which SmartTag to buy.


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Samsung SmartTag: What does it do?

Samsung’s SmartTag is a small, battery powered device that you can attach to things like a wallet, backpack or even your pet. It isn’t clear what kind of battery SmartTag uses, what the battery life is, or how to replace it. We’ve asked Samsung for more details.

Once it’s set up and linked to your Samsung account, the tag can be found using the SmartThings Find app on your phone. 


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How do you use a SmartTag to find a lost item?

After you realize you’ve lost an item, open the SmartThings Find app on your smartphone. Next, you’ll tap on the Find card, pick the device you want to locate and wait for it to load. 

If you’re close to the lost item, you use the gauge on the screen to show how far away the item is. The fuller the gauge gets, the closer you are. To help you find the tag, you can make it play a sound.

If the tag isn’t close to you, don’t worry, it can still be found. Other Samsung devices near the tag will anonymously locate it for you, and then let you know where it is, all without the owner of the device doing a thing. It’s done in the background and is encrypted to ensure privacy. 

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SmartThings Find is the app you’ll use to track down list items.


James Martin/CNET

Why are there two different types of SmartTags?

In a classic Samsung move, there are two different types of SmartTags. The first, which is available alongside the Galaxy S21 lineup, uses Bluetooth Low Energy as its connection standard. The other version, called SmartTag Plus, will use ultrawideband connectivity (UWB)

There are two versions of the SmartTags, because not all Samsung Galaxy phones support UWB, but they do all support BLE. Only the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the Galaxy S21 Plus and S21 Ultra support UWB. 

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Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is a good-looking phone, right? 


James Martin/CNET

What’s the difference between the two SmartTags?

Using the SmartThings Find app to locate tags that are equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy, you won’t be able to see a tag’s exact location, but an estimate of how far away or close it is. It’s the same kind of tech that’s used to stream music from your phone to your wireless earbuds or allow your phone to act as a key with a smart lock. 

With ultrawideband, your phone and the tag are able to talk to each other and estimate a more precise location, within a few inches. Using a series of short pulses, a UWB device can communicate measuring how long it takes for one of the pulses to be received and answered by another UWB device. In short, UWB is far more precise than BLE. 

We’re seeking more information about the expected range difference between the two. We have a far more detailed explanation here of what exactly UWB is, how it works and other ways it can be used. 

smarttags.pngsmarttags.png

All the color options for your Bluetooth Samsung SmartTag.


Samsung/Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

Will both Bluetooth and UWB SmartTag models be available at the same time?

No. Samsung is launching the standard SmartTag first, with the UWB version SmartTag Plus launching later. The company didn’t say when, just that it’s coming. Since a SmartTag is being bundled with Galaxy S21 preorders, we assume the BLE version is what’s included. 

How much do SmartTags cost?

The SmartTag that’s available for the Galaxy S21 launch is $30 for one, $50 for two and $85 for a four-pack. The UWB version will launch at $40 for one and $65 for a two-pack.

uwb.pnguwb.png

Samsung revealed two new SmartTags and their pricing.


Samsung/Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

What is this bundle deal with a Galaxy S21?

If you preorder a Galaxy S21, you’ll get one SmartTag for free, along with a credit that ranges from $100 to $200, depending on which S21 model you order. 

Will both tags work with every Galaxy phone?

No. Currently, the Galaxy S21 Plus, S21 Ultra and last year’s Note 20 Ultra support the UWB SmartTag technology. All other Galaxy phones only support the BLE version of the SmartTag. 

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It’s too bad you can’t use a SmartTag to track down the new S Pen for the S21 Ultra. 


James Martin/CNET

What else should I know?

The extra features of UWB mean that you can use a dedicated augmented reality mode in the SmartThings Find app that will help you pinpoint a tag’s location in the real world, instead of using a gauge that fills in as you get closer to it. 

Using AR, you’ll be able to hold up your phone and view exactly where the tag is, using a combination of your phone’s camera and a graphic in the app to see the world around you. 

Battery life is expected to last months, but it’s unclear if the battery is replaceable. We’ve asked Samsung for more details and will update when we learn more. 

Once we get our hands on SmartTags and the S21, we’ll update this post with more information. Until then, make sure to check out our initial impressions of the S21 Ultra. If you want to preorder an S21, here’s everything you need to know. We also take a deep dive and look at the S Pen capabilities of the S21 Ultra

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Here's the top Canadian mobile news from the past week – MobileSyrup

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Every week we bring you the latest in Canadian mobile news. Listed below is a quick overview of the top stories from the past seven days.

Toronto’s dotmobile shares plan pricing following CRTC MVNO approval
Xbox shows off the most Canadian-themed controller ever
British Columbia doubles EV incentives for businesses
Galaxy Buds Pro Review: Sound quality over comfort
Contest: Win a Bell Google Pixel 4a 5G!
Samsung Galaxy S21 series Canadian specs, pricing and availability
Google fixes issue affecting its COVID-19 Exposure Notifications System
NHL Live and Sportsnet Now+ is almost the perfect NHL streaming bundle
Shaw reports 31 percent increase in postpaid net additions in Q1 2021
COVID Alert exposure notification app surpasses six million downloads
François-Philippe Champagne sworn in as new Innovation Minister as Bains steps down

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