Why Assassin’s Creed Mirage is worth your attention, plus hands-on with EA Sports FC 24 and the HyperX Vision S Webcam.
After a taking a bit of a break the last few years, Assassin’s Creed has retuned and taking things back to basics a little. As a result, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a much smaller affair than the likes of Odyssey and Valhalla but that’s not a bad thing.
Instead of a sprawling RPG-inspired epic, this tale (told 20-odd years before the events of Valhalla) is much stealth-focused, meaning you’ll need to utilise trusty stealth techniques and your slew of assassin tools.
For long-time fans, it’s an experience that harkens back to the likes of Altair and Ezio, but with series polish that has developed in the decade that has passed, and I enjoyed the more refined and focused approach. I also enjoyed not being able to slash my way through enemies this time around, instead forcing a more careful and considered plan – often stalking the alleys as I waited for my next move.
Baghdad, meanwhile, is a truly gorgeous location for Basim’s origin story, which itself is pretty engaging. Only a couple of uninteresting missions derail that slightly, but outside of those brief hiccups, I look forward to seeing what Ubisoft can do with fresh characters and stories should they continue with this formula in the future. Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a great return to form worthy of your attention.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is out now for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, XBO and PC. You can buy it from Amazon here.
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EA Sports FC 24 (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, XBO, PC)
After decades of FIFA titles, the dawn of EA’s new EA Sports FC franchise is upon us, and the good news is that it’s mostly business as usual. Any fans fearful of drastic or detrimental changes should have their fears alleviated because that’s simply not the case.
In fact, the biggest change to the series is actually a positive – the inclusion of HyperMotionV for PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. The new animation engine is a serious step up from the last upgrade, and utilises volumetric data from more than 180 professional men’s and women’s football matches in order to influence player movements in-game. That in turn create a much more authentic experience that reals as representative of the real thing we’ve gotten so far, and you’re bound to be impressed with some of the unexpected moves you manage to pull off.
Elsewhere, Ultimate Team has been given a slight rejig with Evolutions, giving you the opportunity to improve the base stats of cards by doing challenges. It’s not a total gamechanger, but I appreciated a slightly reduced reliance on pure luck from opening packs.
Sure, Volta and Career could use a bit more love, but as a whole EA Sports FC 24 is off to a cracking start that is bound to have fans thinking “FIFA who”?
Forza Motorsport (Xbox Series X/S, PC)
After Forza Horizon 5 took the gaming world by storm, the next iteration of Microsoft’s premiere sim-heavy racer is back and while it’s not nearly as colourful or approachable as that spin off, it’s still an incredibly strong offering that’ll rev hardcore car lovers right up.
If you’re a serious enthusiast, it’s hard not to get excited considering there’s 500 cars and 20 track locations this time around, all beautifully realised with the power of the Series X. It’s a game that deserves to shine on a 4K television but it also controls remarkably well.
If you’re not fine-tuned into taking the perfect corner there’s still plenty of options to help ease you into everything, which is good news considering the new RPG-inspired mechanics at play here. In Forza Motorsport you must spend Car Points in order to upgrade a vehicle you’ve been spending some quality time with. While I enjoyed the lack of cheeky microtransactions in a system like this, the more time-consuming change likely won’t gel with everyone.
That said, if you are prepared to put the pedal to the metal for hours upon hours, this is just another podium finish for the series.
Wargroove 2 (Switch, PC)
The original Wargroove is a strategy gem that doesn’t get talked about by nearly enough people. It borrowed from the likes of Advance Wars long before the series’ resurgence and sprinkled a little fantasy magic on top for good measure. This sequel does much the same thing but does well to add a whole lot more meat to the bone. As a result, there’s now multiple campaigns to work your way through, each retaining the same easily digestible narrative which, while not immensely engaging, does well to funnel you from one mission to the next.
What is engaging though is the battles themselves, which do well to ramp up the strategy. Grooves, for example, now have a second more powerful layer, leaving you to decide whether you to use the default Groove in a pinch or save a more devastating attack to potentially sway the battle later on. Items, meanwhile hold the potential to buff units and change your approach entirely.
These changes might be relatively small, but they help Wargrove 2 cement itself as an impressive follow-up that is worth your attention.
Under the Waves (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, XBO)
Proving that going under the sea isn’t always worthy of a big song and dance, this incredibly sombre tale is filled to the brim with atmosphere. You control Stan, a professional diver struggling to process heavy amounts of grief, instead throwing him to the deepest depths possible.
It’s a game that might have you assuming there’s a supernatural twist just around the corner, but instead Under the Waves is confident enough in its delivery to purely focus on its narrative-driven foundations and its all the more effective for it.
The exceptionally haunting soundtrack only strengthens the experience and really helps set the tone for how vast yet lonely the ocean can be. We did hit a couple of unfortunate bugs here and there, but that hopefully doesn’t stop you from checking out this short yet engaging tale.
The Crew Motorfest (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, XBO)
Although The Crew has been a consistently entertaining racer for a number of years, the series has unfortunately never really managed to speed its way towards a mainstream success. Now Ubisoft is hoping to change hearts and minds with this latest attempt at reworking the formula, and the final result is a big step forward.
The biggest change to Motorfest is its scope, forgoing a dauntingly large map in favour of a more condensed landscape in the tropical island of Hawaii, O‘ahu. It’s here that a bombastic colourful festival all about cars and car culture is taking place, and if that sounds mighty familiar it’s because, yes, Motorfest is taking more than its fair share of inspiration from Forza’s Horizon series.
It’s a pivot that’s a huge boon for the series though, with plenty to do and see as you blaze past all manners of forests, beaches, and beautiful mountains. Better yet, the pretty sights and sounds are backed up by some of the best handling the series so far. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with The Crew Motorfest, so hopefully this is the nitrous-injected shot the franchise needed.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Teal Mask (Switch)
Almost a year after the juggernaut success of Pokémon Scarlett and Violet we have the first of the two content add-ons, The Teal Mask. It’s here that you’ll journey to Kitakami, a new region with quite obvious Japanese inspirations. As a result, I enjoyed slightly smaller stakes on offer as I explored the area’s various rice fields, dug into the mystery of the legendary Ogerpon and got to know newbie siblings Carmine and Kieran.
The fact that you don’t need to have completed the base game is also a nice change of pace. Only a handful of hours required to start this extended side quest, meaning most returning players will be able to access the new content.
The biggest downside here is that much like the base game, this DLC doesn’t run particularly well. The Switch hardware still feels as though it’s struggling to keep up, meaning frame rates can often drop below 30. If you’re already invested into Scarlett and Violet, there’s a good chance you get used to the hiccups and are still able to enjoy the adventure. If you’ve yet to start catching ‘em’ all though, maybe give this a serious look before you invest.
Hands-on with the HyperX Vision S Webcam
There’s nothing worse than trying to hop on a discord call with mates, or Zoom chat with colleagues and feeling like your camera has been ripped right out of a Nokia 3210 – offering off a blurry, often pixelated mess.
HyperX wants you to do better, so it’s putting aside its vast range of headphones and earbuds to deliver the HyperX Vision S Webcam. After spending a couple of weeks with the device, I can confidently tell you if you’re seriously considering upgrading your streamer setup, then you should also seriously consider the Vision S as well.
That’s largely because the inherent visual quality the Vision S provides is pretty darn good. Delivering 4K resolution with an inbuilt Sony StarvisTM 8MP sensor, alongside a 90° field-of-view I was consistently impressed no matter whether I was using it for catch-ups on Discord, Teams calls or even a few test records. I swapped across multiple machines and the plug-and-play nature meant I was always up and running within seconds, but keep in mind it does require a USB-A, so USB-C only machines just be aware. The in-built mount also makes it relatively easy to prop the camera up onto whatever monitor desk or contraption you need it to without fear of it tumbling down.
When it’s not in use, the Vision S comes with a nifty magnetic lens shield that does well to protect both the lens and give you a bit of privacy. It’s a small touch, but I was still impressed with how easy it was to get the shield off and on and just added to the overall premium finish.
My only gripe with the Vision S: I was slightly disappointed with its performance in low lighting. My study, for example, becomes quite dark in the afternoon shade, so although the image the camera presented was of good quality, it didn’t matter much when I still appeared as a shadowy figure. Granted, this can be easily alleviated by simply turning on a light switch, or investing in a key light, but is worth keeping in mind should your space lack a strong light source.
Outside of that, the Vision S Webcam is an incredibly attractive bit of kit from HyperX. It feels incredibly durable, is sleek and easy to use. It will set you back $350 from Amazon (but may get a bit cheaper once it properly launches in local retailers later in the month), but I don’t doubt it will quickly become an invaluable device to a lot of first-time and long-time streamers. Check It out.
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