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Detroit Become Human Review

When you’re done with PS4-exclusive Detroit: Become Human’s lengthy story, the game asks you if any of its moments resonated with you. For us, almost all of it’s near sci-fi tale did, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Developed by French studio Quantic Dream whose previous work includes adventure titles like Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls, it’s a narrative-driven game where the plot takes precedence over everything else.

And while the other two had some intriguing twists you likely didn’t see coming, Detroit: Become Human’s futuristic trappings do little to hide its big reveals which can be seen coming a mile away. Set in a world where the US is at odds with Russia, self-driving cars don’t crash, and most jobs have been taken by robotic androids, Detroit: Become Human has you switching between Connor, Kara, and Markus. They’re three androids all with very different objectives.

Connor was created with the sole purpose of hunting down rogue androids, or deviants as they’re known for turning on their human masters. Kara’s objective is to escape the city with Alice, a small human girl in her care. Markus is the leader of an Android uprising, fighting for the same rights and freedoms for his kind that humanity enjoys.

Despite starting with a bang — having you in the role of Connor negotiating with a deviant holding a child at gunpoint on a building rooftop — Detroit: Become Human quickly settles into a slow burn. As Kara, you’ll clean a house and do laundry while Markus’ arc begins with the mundane task of buying paint from a store. While these chapters exist to give you an idea of the game’s world and the motivation of its characters, it makes it a bit of a chore early on.

So much so that we preferred Connor’s story arc over the other two due to the interesting scenarios you find yourself in.
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From tracking down deviants with a fetish for pigeons to dealing with Hank Anderson, grizzled human detective partner, events of Connor’s chapters stand out compared to the menial busywork of playing as Kara or Markus.

Even when the other two’s narratives finally fire on all cylinders, they don’t feel as polished, memorable, or entertaining as Connor’s and are the most predictable segments of the bunch. Which is saying a lot since Connor’s arc appears to be heavily inspired by the works of Isaac Asimov — I, Robot and The Caves of Steel in particular — making how it will play out rather obvious. However Detroit: Become Human isn’t without its merits.

There are elements of gameplay not too dissimilar to Telltale’s adventure games like Batman and Guardians of the Galaxy, so there’s no learning curve or fancy new control schemes to learn. You’ll press buttons indicated on the screen to perform actions – depending on whose arc you’re playing, this could be anything from washing dishes to choosing the right words to incite an android rebellion, each with different consequences leading to varied outcomes. Compared to Quantic Dreams’ last two games, the aforementioned Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls, it’s easy to pull off Detroit: Become Human’s many button prompts and half circle analogue stick movements.

It sticks to a control scheme that’s similar to the other two games, but the added polish and refinement makes it far from awkward. The controls feel just right. Coupled with smooth animations, it even makes lightning fast action sequences a joy to pull off towards the end of the game.

Furthermore, at the end of each chapter you see a flowchart of your decisions. It makes you aware of what you’ve done and what you could have done, tempting you into another playthrough with the promise of in-game currency or points that you can use to unlock content such as the game’s soundtrack, early sketches, character backgrounds, and so on. It’s a bold move as it lays the entire story bare, right down to the smallest decision.

Quantic Dream hopes it’ll bring completionists back, though to us, it seems like a studio is being transparent about the limitations and scope of the game. In an industry fuelled by hype, keeping your expectations in check seems like a welcome change.

In addition to this, Detroit: Become Human looks great. Be it highly detailed facial expressions on humans and androids or slick lighting effects and reflections, it’s a treat to look at on the PS4 Pro. Backed up by a fantastic soundtrack and voice acting that feels genuine and you have a title with stellar production values.

That said, these additions do little to enhance a derivative story. Most choices or actions are essentially binary, forcing you to choose between usual video game tropes such as non-violent and pacifist options or prioritising capturing a deviant over saving a loved one. It doesn’t help that most characters you interact with feel one dimensional and easy to read, making it simple to gain an outcome you desire.

Clocking in at around 25 hours, it’s not a short game by any means and it could go up to 40 hours should you decide to complete everything, though not all of it is as good as it could be. Overall, Detroit: Become Human is a gorgeous game that brings some welcome improvements over Quantic Dream’s earlier work, but one that is ultimately flawed due to its predictable plot. Pros:

  • Fantastic production values
  • Story flowchart is an honest representation of what you get
  • Connor’s story arc is entertaining

Cons: ?

  • Other arcs are a slow burn?
  • Overall story is predictable?
  • One dimensional characters

Rating (out of 10): 6

Gadgets 360 played a review copy of Detroit: Become Human on the PS4 Pro.

The game is out on May 25 priced at £60 in the US and Rs.

3,999 in India.


If you’re a fan of video games, check out Transition, Gadgets 360’s gaming podcast.

You can listen to it via Apple Podcasts or RSS, or just listen to this week’s episode by hitting the play button below.

Samsung HW-N650 review: Surround sound without the hassle

Samsung is constantly adding new features and technology to its range of soundbars. Last year its HW-MS650 soundbar[1] harnessed the company’s distortion cancelling technology to great effect, earning itself a five-star review no less, and now the all-new HW-N650[2] is attempting to repeat the feat. READ NEXT: Samsung HW-MS650 review: The innovative soundbar with distortion cancelling technology[3]

Samsung HW-N650 review: What you need to know

The HW-N650 uses Samsung’s Acoustic Beam technology, which aims to replicate a surround sound setup by bouncing sound waves off your walls and ceiling.

This might be new for Samsung, but its rivals have been doing it for some time now – a few spring to mind: the Bose SoundTouch 300[4], the Sky Soundbox by Devialet[5] and the Sonos Playbase[6]. Still, the HW-N650 holds a few tricks up its sleeve. It comes with a powerful wireless subwoofer that provides an excellent low-end thump, has a sleek design that’ll fit in most living room setups and has a good array of connectivity options.

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Samsung HW-N650 review: Price and competition

The HW-N650 can be found for GBP700 at John Lewis[7] and Hughes[8].

At this price, it’s going up against the Sonos PlaybaseGBP650 LG SJ9HW-MS650 which has now had a price cut down to GBP390[14]. Apart from the LG SJ9, none of the above have a dedicated subwoofer.

You can, however, purchase the Samsung SWA-W700 subwoofer for GBP430[15] – which combined with the HW-MS650 take it up to around GBP820. READ NEXT: Best soundbars of 2018 – our favourite TV speakers[16]

Samsung HW-N650 review: Design, features and connectivity

The N650 measures 1.1 metres wide, stands 6cm high and is 10cm deep, which makes it noticeably slimmer than its stablemate, the HW-MS650. This makes it easy to accommodate in most living room spaces – you can pop it in front of your TV without it taking up too much room on your AV stand, and it can be wall mounted, too.

Usability is a highlight. The HW-N650 comes with Samsung’s excellent remote, which can also be used as a remote to control your Samsung TV. And if you just so happen to misplace the remote, there are four physical buttons on the soundbar’s right-hand flank: power, source and volume up and down.

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Much like its siblings, the HW-N650 has an LED display around the front.

Located under the right-hand speaker grille, the display provides information on your selected input source, the volume and the surround sound settings, which can be cycled through with the remote. For connectivity, there are a few inputs to choose from: HDMI, auxiliary 3.5mm, USB, optical and Bluetooth. There’s a HDMI output (TV-ARC), too.

Unfortunately, if you own a HDR TV and you’re looking to minimise the cables by passing the signal via the soundbar, you’ll be bitterly disappointed: the HW-N650 lacks HDR support.

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Samsung HW-N650 review: Surround sound without the hassle

Yet again, there’s no support for aptX codec – so you won’t benefit from higher quality streaming over Bluetooth. Also missing from the list is support for the latest object-based surround formats DTS:X and Dolby Atmos – this probably won’t bother the vast majority of users, though. This time around, Samsung has chosen to leave Wi-Fi out of the equation.

So, you won’t be able to wirelessly stream music through the Samsung Multiroom App. On a more positive note, the included subwoofer does connect wirelessly to the soundbar – reducing clutter and the need for any extra wires, and gives you the option to place the subwoofer conveniently out of sight. READ NEXT: All soundbar reviews[17]

Samsung HW-N650 review: Sound quality

The HW-N650’s eight speakers aim to provide proper 5.1 surround sound, and if you include the the subwoofer it has an impressive-sounding 360W of total power at its disposal – that’s plenty to fill a large living room space.

Surprisingly, the soundbar doesn’t feature the same Distortion Cancelling Technology as its older sibling, and that comes across in the mid-bass reproduction. The bass punch isn’t as refined or as controlled as the HW-MS650 – that’s not to say the HW-N650 is bad, far from it. For example, when compared to the Sonos Playbase, the soundbar reproduces a much more accurate bass response, which is partly down to the HW-N650 having a dedicated subwoofer.

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Samsung HW-N650 review: Surround sound without the hassle

When it comes to sub bass, the HW-N650’s subwoofer gives it the upper hand over most of its rivals.

Unlike other soundbars that cut off at around 40Hz, this one extends far deeper, with the subwoofer adding a powerful low-end rumble. Fire up an action-packed game such as PUBG[18], and the HW-N650’s weighty bass and crisp, exciting treble sends gunfire sparking across the room in a genuinely unsettling manner. Overall, the HW-N650 is capable of reproducing a very accurate sound, but it lacks the finesse for voices and instruments in the mid-range that I’d expect from a GBP700 soundbar.

Much like the HW-MS550,[19] (the smaller and cheaper variant of the HW-MS650) I found dialling up the treble to +2 helps. In Jay Sean’s ‘Make My Love Go’[20], the artist’s voice isn’t as present or at the foreground of the song – his voice is a little pushed back. By comparison, the HW-MS650 is excellent in this department, arguably the best in its class.

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Samsung HW-N650 review: Surround sound without the hassle

The HW-N650’s ace up its sleeve is its soundstage: with ‘Surround Sound’ selected through the DSP toggle, the HW-N650’s sound reaches far and wide, and genuinely fills the room with sound.

For example, in Priya Jaye – Falling[21], the instruments and vocals aren’t just lumped together; each instrument and vocal line floats freely from left to right. In movies, such as 300[22], meanwhile, you’re put slap bang in the midst of the epic Spartan-Persian battle. It’s quite remarkable that Samsung’s implementation of two spiral speaker grilles at the top of the soundbar can produce such a positive effect.

It’s even more evident when you walk to the left or right side of the speaker – that extra spaciousness to the sound is clearly noticeable. READ NEXT: Samsung HW-MS550 review: The cheapest all-in-one soundbar from Samsung[23]

Samsung HW-N650 review: Verdict

Samsung’s HW-N650 soundbar isn’t quite perfect. Why?

Well, it’s missing a few elements that take it away from a full-fledged five-star review. For instance, if you don’t mind forgoing the wireless subwoofer, then the HW-MS650’s dramatically more precise mid-range puts it in a different league. Nonetheless, the HW-N650 still deserves plenty of praise.

It provides room-filling sound from a relatively compact body, and its subwoofer adds an alluring physicality to the sound – something which puts it head and shoulders above the competition.

In fact, I’d go as far as saying that there’s no soundbar, subwoofer combo that matches the HW-N650 for under GBP700.

References

  1. ^ HW-MS650 soundbar (go.redirectingat.com)
  2. ^ all-new HW-N650 (go.redirectingat.com)
  3. ^ Samsung HW-MS650 review: The innovative soundbar with distortion cancelling technology (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  4. ^ Bose SoundTouch 300 (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  5. ^ Sky Soundbox by Devialet (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  6. ^ Sonos Playbase (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  7. ^ John Lewis (go.redirectingat.com)
  8. ^ Hughes (go.redirectingat.com)
  9. ^ GBP800 Sky Soundbox (go.redirectingat.com)
  10. ^ Bose SoundTouch 300 (go.redirectingat.com)
  11. Sonos Playbase (www.amazon.co.uk)
  12. GBP650 LG SJ9 (www.amazon.co.uk)
  13. ^ HW-MS750 at GBP800 (go.redirectingat.com)
  14. HW-MS650 which has now had a price cut down to GBP390 (www.amazon.co.uk)
  15. Samsung SWA-W700 subwoofer for GBP430 (www.amazon.co.uk)
  16. ^ Best soundbars of 2018 – our favourite TV speakers (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  17. ^ All soundbar reviews (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  18. ^ PUBG (playbattlegrounds.com)
  19. ^ HW-MS550, (www.expertreviews.co.uk)
  20. ^ Jay Sean’s ‘Make My Love Go’ (www.youtube.com)
  21. ^ Priya Jaye – Falling (www.youtube.com)
  22. ^ 300 (www.imdb.com)
  23. ^ Samsung HW-MS550 review: The cheapest all-in-one soundbar from Samsung (www.expertreviews.co.uk)

Sony needs a new Walkman

Longtime Sony watchers can debate when exactly one of Japan Inc.’s best turnaround stories began. April 1, 2014 is as good a guess as any. That was the day then-CEO Kazuo Hirai plucked Kenichiro Yoshida from relative obscurity and named him chief financial officer.

At the time, Hirai had held the top job for two years — long enough to see how the likes of Apple, Google and Samsung had run away with industries Sony once dominated. Long enough, too, to realize he needed help stopping the hemorrhaging that had sent shareholders fleeing. That year was epochal for another reason: a North Korean hacking scandal involving a data theft from Sony’s Hollywood movie subsidiary that made a proud Japanese icon the butt of jokes.

One Saturday Night Live skit on Pyongyang’s cyberbreach had actor Mike Myers cracking: “Why pick on Sony? They have not had a hit since the Walkman.” Hirai and Yoshida were not amused — they went to work.

Wisely, they cut off many a gangrenous limb. Sony scrapped its money-losing personal computer business, stomached layoffs and a £1.7 billion write-down on smartphone operations, took an ax to a flailing television unit and invested more in unglamorous microchip businesses. They tried to reform the corporate culture, making some headway in taking down Sony’s notorious silos — competing divisions jealous of each other’s budgets that barely talked and stymied the company’s once-fabled innovative spirit.

It is a work in progress, but it has already generated a revival that has Sony reporting its best operating profit in two decades: £6.61 billion in the fiscal year ended in March. Hirai passed the baton to Yoshida in February. And earlier this week, the 58-year-old Yoshida made his first big move as CEO: paying £2.3 billion to gain control of EMI Music.

It is increasing its stake from 30% to 90% by buying out most of the stock held by the partners with which it originally bought into EMI in 2012. It makes Sony the No.

1 music publisher at a moment when streaming services are adding new life to the entertainment game. Sony now owns more than two million songs from the likes of David Bowie, Kanye West, Frank Sinatra, Queen, Alicia Keys and Pharrell Williams.

Sony is also grabbing a 39% stake in Peanuts Holdings, which holds rights to the “Peanuts” cartoon and comic empire, featuring popular characters Snoopy and Charlie Brown. Equally important, Yoshida said Sony will push on with investments in sensors critical to evolving technologies from self-driving cars to artificial intelligence. Semiconductors, too — a vital profit stabilizer.

Yet one question Yoshida has yet to answer: What, exactly, comes next for Sony in terms of big new hit products? The kind of products with which it made its name. As much as Sony is an exemplar for how other Japanese giants can cut bloat, refocus on core competencies and restore profits, it is a microcosm of where the economy finds itself.

Sony, like Japan, had its heyday in the 80s, back when it revolutionized consumer electronics and its wares dwarfed the global competition. Yet executives, like Tokyo policymakers, grew complacent. As chieftains rested on their laurels, Steve Jobs of Apple fame eclipsed Sony founders Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita.

Nearly 17 years after the iPod outpaced the Walkman, which arguably remains the Japanese group’s signature achievement, Sony still has not come up with a globally-competitive answer. Nor has Sony topped Apple’s iPad or Samsung’s ubiquitous Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets. While Sony scaled back on smartphone ambitious, a rebooted Xperia line of phones and tablets — or an entirely new concept — could increase its global reach.

Herein lies Yoshida’s challenge: getting his army of engineers, programmers and networkers to conjure up a game-changing invention — or two — that unlocks Sony’s true potential. Yoshida aided Hirai immeasurably in returning Sony to profitability. That is no small feat, considering the travails of Howard Stringer and Nobuyuki Idei before them.

During his 2005 to 2012 stint, Stringer, Sony’s first non-Japanese boss, spent most of his time struggling to get a handle on the global colossus; the rest praying for a weaker yen and grappling with shocks ranging from the global financial crisis to floods in Thailand that wiped out key factories. The Hirai-Yoshida team finally got Sony into shape. Yet it now stands at the starting gate, plotting a course for catching up with rivals these next 10 to 20 years.

One worry is that Yoshida is not a product man. Just before his death in 2011, Jobs made a parting shot aimed at one-time game-changer Microsoft. No, Jobs said, Microsoft is not a threat because the board replaced visionary Bill Gates with a salesman — Steve Ballmer — not an innovator.

Only time will tell if replacing Hirai, who spent years honing PlayStation products, with finance executive Yoshida will serve shareholders. On the bright side, the EMI purchase is the mergers-and-acquisitions equivalent of hitting the “play” button — acquiring control of a regular revenue stream. Apple’s cash-flow success rests on an ecosystem built around cutting-edge hardware.

Its iTunes model informed the evolution of Amazon, Google, Samsung and others. Sony, too, to some extent. One of Hirai’s preoccupations was crafting a network of games, music, movies and other content around physical PlayStation consoles.

The resulting income stream from a loyal community of customers is bolstering Sony’s bottom line. Yoshida calls PlayStation’s roughly 80 million subscribers Sony’s key “community of interest.” Grabbing control of EMI this week means Sony has more content with which to grow that orbit.

Financial stability is a vital pillar of future success. But imaginative risk-taking is what make a technology power in today’s globalized world great. Sony now has a solid financial base.

Now it must show it has the capacity to tolerate disruption required for corporate invention. An obvious missing link is splashy new hardware that appeals to a broader array of consumers — those with little interest in sitting before a gaming console. Whether that means new advancements in smartphones, tablets, watches or other wearable technology is up to Team Yoshida.

Even better, devising something we have not seen before — a new gadget that surprises and delights the globe. In other words, regaining the innovative mojo that once changed the world. The days when Sony can cut its way to profitability are ending.

In recent years, Sony limited red ink by selling real estate and relying on banking and insurance units. Yoshida needs to turn his own musings into action. In 2014, just a month after becoming CFO, Yoshida chided predecessors for not changing along with the global electronics industry.

Now that Sony has righted itself, it falls to Yoshida to prove he can build as well as he can cut. For now, Yoshida is sticking with the realism he learned from Hirai and setting conservative targets. He is focused on “raising profit quality.” Hence investing in content as a means of “increasing the proportion of recurring revenue,” not least EMI’s streaming revenues.

Yet that conservatism may fall flat with shareholders hoping for a bit of the old Sony magic. The company that Ibuka and Morita founded in 1946 traced Japan’s resurgence from the ashes of war to global dominance. It did so by hitting dramatic homeruns innovation-wise, not with modest tactical gains.

Now that Sony is ready to swing away to the revenues coming from its music portfolio, it falls to Yoshida to wow the tech world anew, not just protect what he and Hirai achieved.

For Japan Inc.’s sentimental favorite, the hard part is just beginning.

William Pesek is a Tokyo-based journalist and author of “Japanization: What the world can learn from Japan`s lost decades.” He is a former columnist for Bloomberg and Barron’s.

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