God of War First Impressions: A More Mature Continuation Of The Franchise

Kratos is back after a five year absence, in a game that is not-actually-a-reboot of the franchise. It’s certainly a very different sort of God of War, drawing on the current trend of games trying to tell a good story. There’s a slower pace this time, introducing a God of War who is rejecting the god and war parts of his life.
Despite initial trailers, this is not a hack-and-slash take on The Last of Us. Sure, there’s the dual themes of loss and family; but it approaches the story from a different perspective. Aaron Kaufman, Senior Online Community Strategist & Marketing Producer at Sony Interactive Entertainment America LLC, explained that it’s about Kratos rediscovering his humanity while teaching his son – Atreus – about being a god.

The (roughly) three hour demo of God of War starts at the very beginning; complete with the Skyrim not-actually-a-cutscene intro. In fact, the first couple of hours have a very Skyrim feel to the environments. That’s not to say that this is the fault of the developers, but rather that there really isn’t really much to see in Scandinavia in the winter.
Fortunately, things pick up and more colour is introduced to the palette as the game progresses. Sadly, the demo ended just as the environments changed to show more vibrant colours. It would have been nice to be able to explore areas that are more than just rocks and snow.

Controls are somewhat run of the mill for a third person view game. Kratos is free to explore his limited environment, and the camera has been unlocked to allow for more dynamic movement and a more immersive game.
Combat is the kind of rhythm based approach that we’ve come to expect from modern action games. There’s a bit of Marvel’s Thor feel to the use of the Leviathan Axe, as Kratos is able to throw and recall it at will. Doing damage as the axe impales enemies and as it comes flying back to his hand. It’s very satisfying to seemingly hurl the axe at nothing and then summon it into a row of neatly lined draugr.

Kratos has also taken a page out of Captain America’s book with his new shield. It can’t be thrown, and instead serves as a valuable method for avoiding damage. A well timed block also temporarily stuns enemies; leaving them open for slower and more powerful attacks.
The real innovation to combat in God of War comes from the use of the kid Atreus, who is capable of using his bow to distract and disrupt enemies. He doesn’t do much damage, and is pretty much useless in boss fights; but the mechanic is meant to prevent Kratos from being overwhelmed by enemies. Especially since the giant sweeping attacks from the Blades of Chaos are no longer there.

This is a far more measured and tactical Kratos. One that requires far more planning and situational awareness to win fights. There’s a sense of rhythm to the combat – reminiscent of the Batman Arkham series – punishing those that simply button mash, and rewarding well timed shield blocks with openings for more powerful attacks.
Atreus pulls double duty in this aspect; acting as audible warning against attacks from behind, while being able to contribute with his bow. The boy’s arrows do minute amounts of damage, but are capable of disrupting enemy attacks and preventing them from landing. Unlike other games, the player has some measure of control over Atreus’ bow as it’s triggered by a button press. Timing is, after all, everything in combat.
With all that said, your real reason for wanting to play this new God of War is the story; which is kind of an odd thing to say about this sort of game. No matter how true it might be.

SIE Santa Monica Studio has taken its time in creating a game with more emotional weight to it. There’s a bit of a Logan feel to the story; with a retired Kratos having to make one last journey with a kid that will almost certainly replace him at the end (not that the demo was long enough to be sure of that last part).
There are also plenty of easter eggs for those who want to dig further into the Norse mythology that has been adopted. It’s difficult to tell if these little hidden tablets of knowledge foreshadow anything, but it was nice to have something for those who happen to like myths and legends.
What we have here isn’t exactly a complete reboot of the God of War series. While the tone and setting is certainly very different, it still has the same vengeful god-slayer with anger management issues that we know and love. If anything, this is the developers exploring new aspects of the character that we’ve never seen before. Which is precisely what is needed to keep people interested in a long running franchise.
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South Korea Fast Tracking 10Gbps Internet Speeds; Expects 50% Adoption Rate By 2022

As if its current internet speeds weren’t fast enough, the South Korean government has begun pushing for the availability of 10Gbps internet speeds in the country; with an expected 50% adoption rate of the internet speed by the year 2022.
According to multiple news sources, the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT is currently working closely with local IT firms and telcos to speed up the adoption rate. The government body will pick up to two consortia, to which they will be awarded up to 940 million Won (~RM3.43 million) in financial support.
“The ministry hopes to achieve competitiveness in the ICT industry by successfully commercializing 10Gbps Internet through close cooperation between the private and public sectors,” an ICT ministry official said.

The firms in question are KT, LG Uplus, and SK Broadband, which is the fixed line subsidiary of SK Telecom. On that note, all three telcos already have plans to start rolling out the foundation for 10Gbps internet as early as May this year.

(Sources: Yonhap News Agency, ZDNet, NextBIGFuture)
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Sony Playstation 4 Slim Goes Below RM950 For The First Time

The Sony Playstation 4 Slim is generally the budget option for console gamers, giving access to a huge suite of games without breaking the bank. Today, you can get the console for an all-time low.
The Sony Playstation 4 Slim has generally stuck to a pretty rigid price structure, but today is the first time we’re seeing its price drop to below RM950. This is even lower than 11/11’s RM999 price, and the best part is the fact that you can get the console from a few different sellers across Lazada and Shopee.

First off, Dream Store in Lazada is offering the PS4 Slim for RM954, and its RM5 store voucher pushes the price down to RM949. But, there’s a RM4.50 delivery fee here that increases the overall price to RM953.50 – still well below the RM1349 RRP. There’s only one unit available here, so the next best option on Lazada is sold by Lazada itself, for RM989 with free shipping. You should be able to shave a bit of the price with various coupons.
Over at Shopee, there’s a store that’s offering the PS4 Slim for RM949. And with Shopee’s once-per-day free shipping policy, that’s the final price you pay. The catch? There’s only one unit available. Other sellers are also offering the console at attractive prices, such as this one for RM978.
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The Latest U.S. Submarine’s Camera System Is Controlled By An Xbox Controller

The U.S. Navy recently added a brand new submarine, the U.S.S. Colorado to its armada, and unlike its other submarines in its class, this particular comes with an Xbox controller.
Before you start thinking that the U.S. can be easily controlled by the controller of a game console, that isn’t entirely the case here. Rather than using a controller to directly guide the submarine, the Xbox controller is instead being used to control the war-ready submersible’s photonic masts; a replacement optics system for the traditional periscope.
According to The Verge, these masts “feature high-resolution cameras that can rotate 360 degrees and feeds their imagery to monitors in the ship’s control room.” Prior to the Xbox controller, the cameras were initially controlled by a “helicopter-style” sticks, which were described to be extremely clunky and cumbersome.
The U.S.S. Colorado. Inside, the submarine’s optics are controlled by the Xbox controller. (Image source: Wikipedia)
The decision to swap out those the sticks for an off the shelf device essentially addresses two issues. The first is cost-saving; using an Xbox controller dramatically reduces the cost of equipment in the submarine.
Which bring us to the second point; familiarity. According to the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Colorado, sailors of this current generation are already intuitive enough to use the Xbox controller, given that the majority of them would’ve owned and played with a Xbox console before and after they enlisted into the U.S. Navy.
(Source: The Verge)
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These May Be Sample Shots Taken with the Huawei P20

Huawei is expected to launch its new P20 series of smartphones next week on 27 March. Based on the Chinese company’s various teasers, it’s evident that the P20 phones will have impressive camera systems, and we may have a glimpse of the phones’ camera capability now.
CNET Spain managed to get its hands on three images taken with a P20 phone with the model number EML-AL00, which is believed to be the standard P20 – not the Pro variant. According to CNET Spain, the images came from “sources close to Huawei,” and it verified that the metadata of the images were not modified in any way.

If these images are taken with the P20, it’s really quite impressive. Of course, the studio lighting definitely helps – and it’s not known if the images were edited in any way – but considering the fact that these pictures were (possibly) taken with a smartphone, the results are quite stunning.
Based on past leaks and rumours, as many as three smartphones will be unveiled under the P20 series: the standard P20, the higher-end P20 Pro, and the more affordable P20 Lite. Out of the three phones, the P20 Pro is naturally the most interesting one – it’s said to be sporting a triple-camera setup and a sexy gradient colourway.

The Huawei P20 series of smartphones will be unveiled on 27 March in Paris. Now that the standard P20 has already been registered with SIRIM, we won’t be surprised if the upcoming phones will be available in Malaysia as early as April next month.
(Source: CNET Spain)
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Samsung Looks To Challenge Sony In Mobile Image Sensor

Samsung has set its sights on increasing its image sensor output in the near future. The ambitious undertaking seeks to topple Sony to become the biggest producer of image sensors in the market.
Samsung is reportedly converting its plant in Hwasung – which is currently producing DRAM chips – to churn out image sensors. It is said that the conversion process is scheduled to be done by the end of the year. ETnews states that once everything is set up, Samsung will increase its capacity from 45,000 units per month to 120,000 units.

In contrast, Sony – which controls 50% of the market has a production capacity of 100,000 units per month.
Samsung’s decision seems to be a sign of confidence in its image sensor technologies. After all, Samsung is only the second company after Sony that is producing stacked image sensors. The technology enables for high frame rate capture of up to 960 fps as seen on Sony’s Xperia XZ2 and Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphones.
As the usage of image sensors continues to increase, it will be a lucrative business for companies to join in. Therefore, it looks like competition will continue to heat up as Sony and Samsung will compete to become the more dominant firm in the image sensor production.
(Source: ETNews via Peta Pixel)
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China To Ban People With Poor Social Credit Scores From Trains And Planes

China is set to expand the use of its social credit system by banning those with poor scores from taking trains and planes. The bans will only last for about a year each, but is a clear indication for the kind of social control the government seeks to impose on its citizens.
According to the announcement, those who have spread false information about terrorism, causing trouble on flights, use expired tickets, and smoke on trains will be affected. Those also covered by the ban would be those that failed to pay their fines.
While most of these are acts that would be reasonably banned from transportation systems, the definition of “false information” is wide enough to allow the government to apply it at will.

This announcement is in line with President Xi Jinping’s plan to implement a wider social credit system within the country. Ultimately, each individual will be scored according to his or her actions; providing them with a publicly visible score. Doing things that the government approves increases the score; while disobeying the strict public order provides penalties.
The end goal is to provide social benefits like easier bank loans and shopping discounts to those with good social scores; while punishing those who act poorly. In this case, it would appear that the punishment phase of the system is being tested with travel bans.
Reuters points out that while the official start date for the flight bans is supposedly 1 May 2018, it appears to have been used since early 2017. The Supreme People’s Court said during a press conference that 6.15 million Chinese citizens had already been banned for social misdeeds.
[Source: Reuters]
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Former Qualcomm CEO Dismissed From Board of Directors

Qualcomm has officially dismissed its former CEO, Paul Jacobs, from its board of directors. Jacobs had apparently expressed his desire to take the company private, and had disclosed the acquisition bid to Softbank; the Japanese conglomerate that also owns ARM and Qualcomm.
“Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced that Dr. Paul Jacobs will not be re-nominated to the Qualcomm Board of Directors at Qualcomm’s Annual Meeting of Stockholders on March 23, 2018. The Board reached that decision following his notification to the Board that he has decided to explore the possibility of making a proposal to acquire Qualcomm. The Board will consist of 10 directors effective as of the holding of the annual meeting.”
Jacobs’ desire to have Qualcomm go private isn’t an unreasonable one; private companies don’t have as many shareholders as a public company, managers of the former arrangement are less focused on increasing the value of the company in the short term, and it can have increased flexibility in short- and long-term business decisions. A perfect example of a company that went from public to private is Dell.
It’s been something of a tumultuous start of the year for Qualcomm; the semi-conductor maker came under the radar when the CEO of its competitor, Broadcom, entered into several hostile takeover bids, with the hopes of merging with one of the world’s biggest suppliers of mobile processors in the world.

To make matters more interesting, sources claim that Intel could possibly purchase Broadcom should the takeover become successful. That bid came to a halt, however, when the U.S. government crashed the party and put Broadcom’s endeavour to a stop, citing matters of national security as its reason for preventing the takeover.
(Source: Qualcomm via Hot Hardware)
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OPPO R15 and R15 Dream Mirror Edition Official Specifications Are Here

After having their specifications leak out earlier this month, OPPO has since officially revealed the actual list of components and features for its upcoming smartphone, the OPPO R15. At the same time, the company have also unveiled similar details for the OPPO R15 Dream Mirror Edition.
Equipped with a 6.28-inch OLED 19:9 display that has native resolution of 2280 x 1080 and pixel density of 401ppi, the R15 is powered by MediaTek Helio P60 alongside 6GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage. It also comes with 3450mAh battery that supports OPPO’s proprietary VOOC quick charge technology.

Complete with AI-powered portrait mode, the R15 offer a combination of 16MP and 5MP cameras with f/1.7 and f/2.2 lenses respectively on its rear. There is also another 20MP front camera on its front which is also enhanced by the company’s AI Smart Beauty tech.
As for the R15 Dream Mirror Edition, it is a different device altogether despite carrying the same display and 20MP front camera from the standard R15 model as well as identical amount of RAM and internal storage. For example, not only that the Dream Mirror Edition model can be obtained with ceramic body (limited to black color only though) but also runs on Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 processor.

The phone also comes with a different dual camera setup which features 16MP and 20MP sensors with both of them are equipped with f/1.7 lens. A 3400mAh battery alongside the support for OPPO’s own VOOC flash charge tech completed the R15 Dream Mirror Edition’s general specifications.
Pre-installed with ColorOS 5.0 on top of Android 8.1 Oreo operating system, the new R15 is priced at CNY 2999 (about RM 1845) while the R15 Dream Mirror Edition goes for CNY 3299 (about RM 2,030). As for the Ceramic Black version of the R15 Dream Mirror Edition, it costs even higher at CNY 3499 (about RM 2,153).
Expected to be available in China this April, it is not known at the moment whether if any of these device will be made available in Malaysia anytime soon.
(Source: OPPO China – 1, 2)
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The Next iPhone SE May Be A “Budget” iPhone X

Apple’s 2018 lineup of iPhones are not set to be announced until later this year, but rumours have already started pouring in. If this leak is accurate, the next generation iPhone SE may serve as a “more affordable” iPhone X, and it appears to be sporting a similar design language too.
Yeap, the 2018 iPhone SE may be sporting an edge-to-edge display not unlike the one found on the iPhone X, right down to the notch at the top of the phone. This is based on alleged leaked sketches of the next generation iPhone SE next to the original SE. However, unlike the iPhone X’s glass back, the iPhone SE 2 – or iPhone X SE – is said to feature an aluminium chassis.
The alleged iPhone SE 2 (right) next to the original SE.
However, there are some scrutinies on the legitimacy of the sketches. Although BGR said that the source of the sketches has provided the site with “reliable information many times in the past,” it doesn’t seem to be up to scale. See, the iPhone SE only sports a 4-inch display, and this year’s iteration of the SE is said to come with a much larger 6.2-inch display. Nonetheless, the sketches could still be legitimate.
Apple is said to be releasing at least three new iPhone models this year: a followup to the iPhone X, an iPhone X Plus, and a more “budget-friendly” variant of the iPhone X, which – according to Forbes – could still cost as much as $799 (about RM3,130). Nonetheless, Apple’s 2018 iPhone lineup is shaping up to be pretty interesting.
(Source: BGR via Forbes)
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