Volition's 'Agents of Mayhem' Arrives August 15

We haven’t seen Agents of Mayhem since Volition showed it off at E3 last year, but a new trailer was just released that shows gameplay footage. In addition, it offered a release date. Last year, we knew only that it was coming out in 2017, but August 15 is the confirmed release date.

Keeping with Volition’s penchant for humor, the trailer showed a parody of The A-Team (replete with appropriate theme music) with the many members of MAYHEM (Multinational Agency of Hunting Evil Masterminds, a.k.a., the protagonists) fighting the hordes of soldiers sent by the evil LEGION (League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations).

Unlike the studio’s work on the Saints Row series, Agents of Mayhem lets you choose up to three characters to use throughout the game. In addition to a basic set of attacks, each character also has a “Mayhem” ability, or special attacks. As you make your way through multiple missions, you can also switch between characters at any time. This allows for some chaotic gameplay because you can reach a group of enemies and easily take them out with a series of explosive and devastating attacks.

In our hands-on time with the game at E3, the combination of the game’s combat and humor sufficiently convinced us that Volition’s new project was worth a shot. The studio’s emphasis on humor have always made its games stand out. However, there are still many aspects of the game that we have yet to see. With the announcement of the release date, you can expect more videos that show off the game’s exciting combat and over-the-top one-liners and animations.

Name Agents of Mayhem
Type Third-Person, Open-World, Action
Developer Voliton
Publisher Deep Silver
Platforms PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date August 15, 2017

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Hands-on: Samsung Gear VR 2017 review

Samsung’s Gear VR is a VR headset that wraps around its Galaxy phones, allowing owners to experience high-quality VR without the expense of specialised rigs like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive (and the PC required to run them) or the PS VR and PS4.

New phones require Samsung to produce a new Gear VR to fit around them, and so it is with the rather beautiful new Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus phones (here’s the difference). The new Gear VR isn’t much different from the previous model – but there’s now a separate controller that does make a radical difference to both to how you use it, and what experiences you can have with it. Samsung’s also created a new portal and app with lots more videos and games.

(The new Gear VR and controller also work with other Samsung Galaxy phones – the S6 and S7 – and if you already own an older Gear VR, you’ll can buy the controller separately).

UK pricing has yet to be announced, though we know it’s $130 in the US (around £105, though remember US prices don’t include tax). It’s ship in both countries on the same day as the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus – April 28.

I had a short amount of time to try out the Gear VR with a Galaxy S8 Plus during a small launch party in Shoreditch following the grand unveiling in Stratford. We’ll update this hands-on to a full review when we’ve got review units for longer than 30 minutes and aren’t trying to evaluate it after the warming effects of a couple of very well made gin-and-tonics.

The idea of – essentially – strapping a phone to your face to experience virtual reality may seem a little odd, but 2017’s Gear VR does feel comfortable – even on my freakishly oversized head and large glasses. As well as tweaking the design to allow the S8 or S8 Plus to fit inside, Samsung’s designers have made it fit to your head more snugly without feeling too tight. Adjusting it your head size is easier than the HTC Vive, and it’s noticeably lighter too – so you can use it for longer without getting neck ache.

I didn’t get a chance to see how easy it was to pop in and out the phone, but it looked relatively easy – and the phone stayed securely in place despite me whipping my head around to finish off one last zombie (which I’ll get onto later).

The first experience I tried was Rilix VR – a short rollercoaster ride set in a rickety old mine with creaking beams and broken tracks (and more lava than you’d probably want in your workplace). I’ve seen this so many times I could probably play in back in my head without wearing a headset, but it’s fun nonetheless (unless you suffer from vertigo).

The high-resolution (1,440 x 2,960) screen of the S8 Plus (or the standard S8) means that the virtual (under)world looked clear and crisp. I didn’t look obviously better than when I saw it before, though. The S8/S8 Plus’s resolution is 400 pixels wider than the S7, but as these are out in your peripheral vision, it might not make any real difference. We’ll investigate more when we get a review unit.

Gear VR 2017 vs Google Cardboard

However, if you’ve only tried VR through Google Cardboard before, the Gear VR is smoother and the head-tracking feels much more accurate – and it’s more comfortable, especially compared to those throwaway ViewMaster-style viewers.

The real difference – between the new Gear VR and Cardboard, and between the new Gear VR and its predecessor – is the controller. Somewhere between a Wii Controller and a laser pointer – or a “modern discreet sex toy”, as another attendee described it – it’s small, light and easy to use.

There’s a big touchpad-cum-button on the top, with a trigger underneath. Along the top of the shaft you grip by are volume controls, home and back buttons.

The layout seemed easy to use and quick to learn, though the single game I got to play with it only used the trigger.

Drop Dead is a stand-there-and-shoot zombie game whose gameplay will feel instantly familiar to anyone who’s played similar shooters on the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive – or the Wii, or any lightgun based shooter back to Operation Wolf in the arcades.

You look around, zombies appear, you point your gun (ie the controller) at them and blast til they drop. If you run out of ammo, you point down to reload. If they get too close, you lose health. Lose too much and it’s game over, man, game over.

Here it is in action.

Drop Dead is an equivalent to Wii Sports – a really good intro to the Gear VR, especially if you’ve never played a VR game before. You can learn Drop Dead quickly and be moderately good at it soon after – and its cartoonish graphics won’t scare you too much.

However, it’s not a great example of what the Gear VR and controller is capable of, or how easy it is to use for more complex games or experiences. It’s early days for the platform though, so hopefully in time we’ll see how it compares to other VR systems with controllers such as the Rift or Vive.

Gear VR 2017 vs Oculus Rift & HTC Vive

Watching videos on the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive isn’t really any different to the Gear VR, though games and other CG-based experiences are much higher quality on the Oculus and HTC’s headsets. This is less to do with the resolution of the screen/s but the processing power of the S8 vs a full-spec gaming PC.

The other key difference is that you get two controllers with the Rift and Vive, and the latter also tracks you as you walk around.

But the power of the Rift and Vive are also their weakness. Tethered to PCs, they are a serious commitment – not only in cost, but in the time it takes to set them up. You can use the Gear VR anywhere.

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Virtuix Partners With HTC, Announces 'Arizona Sunshine' Integration For Omni

Virtuix announced that it has formally partnered with HTC so it can improve its hardware–the futuristic Omni treadmill that lets you walk, run, and strafe with 360-degree freedom of movement tracking–and the VR experiences to accompany it. The company also announced that Vertigo Games will add Omni support to its popular Arizona Sunshine game, which should give the relatively few people who own the system a little more to play.

Arizona Sunshine is all about trying to survive a zombie apocalypse by scavenging for supplies, rounding up other survivors, and shooting the undead until they go back to being dead-dead. It offers a variety of movement options already: Vertigo Games released an update in January to add thumbstick and touchpad locomotion to the game’s existing teleportation-focused locomotion. Now you’ll have yet another movement option to try out.

Arizona Sunshine Launch Trailer

That is, of course, if you’ve managed to get an Omni for yourself. Virtuix raised $1.1 million on Kickstarter to develop the product in 2013. Pre-production units reached some backers in December 2015; other backers were supposed to receive production units around November 2016. The company then canceled pre-orders from international customers and offered U.S. backers full refunds because of the unexpectedly high shipping costs.

Omni sales are currently limited to commercial entities such as VR arcades, game centers, shopping malls, and the like. Those sales require software–who’d want to pay for a movement-tracking VR system without any supported games? Virtuix has filled the gap a bit with its own titles, such as the Omni Arena esports FPS, but it’s up to other developers to incorporate the Omni SDK into their VR experiences going forward.

Arizona Sunshine could be a natural fit for the system. What’s scarier than teleporting away from zombies? Having to run away from them with your own two feet. Being more directly in control of your own movement could make VR more immersive. That could explain why another game to recently include Omni support, The Bellows, is all about scaring you. (Another title, Quell 4D, is a fast-paced shooter that uses Omni for free movement.)

Virtuix also included an update on the Omni’s production. “Our production continues at a steady pace without hiccups,” the company said on Kickstarter. “In addition to driving forward our production and shipping output, our main focus now is lining up awesome games for you to play.” That isn’t a lot for backers to go on, but if you’re still waiting for your Omni, you can perhaps take comfort in knowing at least a few games will support it.

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Join Us For A Tom's Hardware Ask Me Anything With AMD, April 6

Tom’s Hardware is proud to announce the next guest in our featured Community series — ASK ME ANYTHING.
 
On Thursday April 6 and Friday April 7, we’ll be hosting Don Woligroski, Senior Marketing Manager for AMD Desktop Processors, in a live AMA on the Tom’s Hardware CPU Forums. Have a question about Ryzen? Now’s your chance to speak with AMD directly. Log into the forums to join the discussion and hear the latest news on the future of the Ryzen Desktop platform.
 
This thread will be unlocked, open and live for 24 hours starting at 12:00pm (noon) ET on Thursday, April 6. Questions will be moderated and supervised by Tom’s Hardware Assistant Community Manager, Joshua Simenhoff, as well as a full team of Senior Moderators.

Ryzen X370 Motherboard Giveaway

We teamed up with ASRock to bring you two back-to-back giveaways for its all-new X370 Taichi AM4 Motherboard. This is the second and final ASRock X370 Taichi AM4 motherboard giveaway, so be sure to enter for your final chance to win. With even more ways to enter, there are loads of chances to win! We’re even giving entries for asking questions in the AMD AMA on Thursday, April 6. To enter, simply join the raffle on the AMA thread in the Tom’s Hardware CPU Forums. The sweepstakes will run until 12pm on April 13. Please see the contest entry page for a full list of rules and ways to enter.

Ask Me Anything Rules 

• No tech support questions, as these require in-depth personal follow-up and diagnostics.

• All Rules of Conduct apply.

• Keep questions direct and to the point.

• Avoid opinion bias, as in, “Why are all your products awesome/horrible?”

• Be respectful of our guests–no insults, no leading questions.

• Do not post duplicate questions or repost your question multiple times.

• Not all questions may be answered. Questions may not be answered in the order in which they are received or posted.

To reiterate: No opinion bias, insults, leading questions, or breaking the Rules of Conduct. Breaking these rules may result in a one-day ban.

Only registered users will be able to ask questions, so if you haven’t yet, be sure to register now for your chance to participate!

The official representatives will reply periodically over the time the AMA is active, using a recognized and verified account.

Please join us on this date to throw your questions into the mix and ask AMD what you’ve always wanted to ask!

What: Ask Me Anything – AMD

When: Thursday, April 6, 12pm EST

Where: The Tom’s Hardware Forums!

Who: Don Woligroski, Senior Marketing Manager for AMD Desktop Processors

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'Dishonored 2' Free Trial Arrives April 6

If you haven’t tried Dishonored 2 yet, you’ll be able to play a small portion of it for free on April 6. This so-called “free trial”–or, as it would have been called in the past, demo–will let you play as Corvo or Emily as you embark on a sneak peek of the second entry in this budding franchise.

You’ll be able to play through the game’s first three missions in this free trial. Because of the many collectibles, side quests, and methods of moving through each portion of a mission, you can spend numerous hours exploring each area in detail. These three missions should also provide you with many different ways to kill or knock out a target. Depending on your choice of character, you can also try out new powers that you can couple with your movement to unleash a dazzling attack combo or use a rapid mode of travel as you sneak through buildings and past enemies.


If the demo is convincing enough, you can upgrade to the full game during or after the trial. As a bonus, the saves created during the trial version will transfer to the full game, so you can continue where you left off without the need to start from the very beginning again.

Arkane has added some new features to Dishonored 2 since its launch, such as the ability to replay missions after you completed them the first time around. The studio also created a multitude of sliders to let you create your own custom difficulty for the game. And if you think you’ve mastered the game already, you can try your hand at Iron Mode, which prevents you from saving at any point in the level and makes you restart a mission if you die.

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Easyspace

If you’ve ever looked for a UK web host, you’re sure to have come across Easyspace. The company has been around for 20 years and is now a consumer hosting brand of iomart, a group which also includes the more business-oriented Redstation and Rapidswitch.

Easyspace immediately grabbed our attention with its Pic ‘N’ Mix web hosting plan, a clever scheme which enables building your own hosting package by choosing the levels of disk space, email accounts and databases you actually need.

If you’ve created a few simple HTML pages for a personal site, for instance, you could create a plan with a single email account, 3GB disk space and no databases. That would cost you £24.60 ($31) a year excluding VAT, discounted to £98.40 ($123) if you buy five years up-front – that’s the equivalent of £1.64 ($2.05) a month (a free domain name is included).

Pic ‘N’ Mix offers less value as you allocate more resources. 5 email accounts, 5GB disk space and 2 databases costs £63 ($79) per year. In comparison, Namecheap’s Value plan gives you 50 emails, 20GB disk space and 50 databases for around half the price, and offers a massive discount for the first year. Still, if you need an unusual balance of resources – 3GB of disk space but 200 email accounts – Pic ‘N’ Mix may still have some appeal.

Easyspace’s StarterPlus account – which is £48 ($60) a year – could be a better choice for general hosting. There’s ‘only’ 10GB of storage space and one FTP account, but you get unlimited bandwidth and subdomains, 100 mailboxes with 10GB storage space each, up to 5 x 500MB databases, and 1-click install of WordPress and other apps.

The Business plan – priced at £96 ($120) a year – brings unlimited web space and MySQL databases. Email accounts are limited to 200 and there’s still only a single FTP account, but you do get goMobi’s mobile website builder thrown in, and site backup and restore with yearly purchases. This account can also be billed monthly (Pick ‘N’ Mix and StarterPlus require paying at least a year upfront).

More specialist products include online stores from £15 ($19) a month, managed WordPress from £15 ($19) a month, VPS from £10 ($12.50) a month and custom dedicated servers from £25 ($31) a month.

Every plan gets basic shared SSL for free, perhaps enough for personal sites, although business and web stores might need more. Your site will be hosted in a UK data centre, most plans allow you to choose Linux or Windows hosting for free, and payments are mostly very flexible. You can pay monthly on some of the high-end accounts, yearly, and sometimes up to 5 years, gaining extra discounts along the way.

Overall Easyspace seems good value, although there are some catches. The 1-click service is free for the first year only, and is £5 ($6.25) per year after that. All plans, even Business, support a single domain and one FTP account only. And although there’s a money-back guarantee, it covers you for seven days only. 14 days is more common, and some hosts give you 30 days or more.

Account setup

The Easyspace website does a good job of presenting its plans side-by-side. Key details are displayed upfront, and more technical information is only a click away.

Sales agents are accessible via live chat if you need help. We tried this out with a simple question and an agent responded, asked a question to clarify, and gave us a helpful answer, all within a couple of minutes.

During the purchase process we were able to decide on Linux or Windows hosting, and choose a purchase period. The site made some welcome efforts to guide us, explaining that Linux was required for apps like WordPress, and highlighting the discount we’d get if we paid for several years in one go.

Marketing efforts seemed at first to be kept to a minimum. Our cart had options for GoMobi and shopping cart trials, and a WHOIS privacy service, but they weren’t added by default and could safely be ignored.

The site asked us to enter our name, physical address, phone number and email address to create an account.

Our final order summary included a couple of trials, even though we hadn’t asked for them (mail filter, premium backup). But they’re free and can be cancelled from the Easyspace console, or you can delete them from your cart in a couple of clicks.

Payments are by credit card only – there’s no PayPal option, which could be an issue for some. We handed over our details anyway, our cash was transferred and Easyspace left us at a confirmation page displaying the product we’d just bought, and asking us to wait for a message telling us more.

Creating a site

Easyspace sent us an email almost immediately after purchase giving us more details on the account. This was a little more informative than average, although couldn’t get close to Namecheap’s excellent ‘welcome’ message.

We logged into the Control Panel anyway, and were initially baffled. Where did we manage our hosting space? Other hosts display a product, you click Manage and are taken to a cPanel-like console. If we selected ‘Manage hosting’ in Easyspace, it displayed only basic details of the account. Trying ‘Manage domain’ displayed a warning that our account was still being set up, even hours later. There must be some startup tutorials which covered these basics, right? Wrong. Or if they exist, we couldn’t see them.

This seemed a good opportunity to test the support ticket system, so we posted a question, but the hours ticked by with no response. When we accidentally opened a ‘transfer domains away from Easyspace’ section, though, we received an automated message immediately – the idea of losing business seems to be more important than customer support.

Some nine hours later a support agent replied to our ticket. He explained that our account wouldn’t be activated until our chosen domain’s DNS was set to use Easyspace name servers. The response was excellent, very detailed, covered everything we needed to do and advised of possible problems, too. 

Still, the problem highlighted an issue with Easyspace. Other hosts usually give you direct access to the space on your server so you can begin uploading files or working on a site immediately. Easyspace won’t allow you to do anything until your domain DNS has resolved, a big hassle if you’ve not chosen it yet, or you’re waiting for it to become available.

This won’t be the situation for most people, of course, and what they’ll see is more straightforward. The Easyspace control panel enables setting up FTP access and email accounts, you can use GoMobi’s mobile website creator (with some accounts) to build simple websites, or easily install WordPress or other applications to power a site. It’s far from our favourite site management interface, but it’s not bad either, and you’ll find your way around quickly enough.

Performance

Hosting support matters, irrespective of your level of experience, but Easyspace’s web resources don’t always make it easy to find what you need.

The first problem is that the company maintains two separate support databases. If you click the Support link in the customer control panel you’ll get a small list of largely dated and sometimes entirely useless articles. The worst we found had an unhelpful title (‘MySQL Script’), very little text, and linked to a test script which no longer exists.

There is a second database which is much more up-to-date (take a look here), and Easyspace tries to link the two, but it’s a clumsy system. If you search support for Outlook 2016, for instance, the latest article you’ll see is ‘Outlook 2013 Email Setup’. Clicking this tells you to go to the other site, but doesn’t say Outlook 2016 is supported. You have to click the link, find Outlook in the completely different interface in the Support Services site, and only then will you find the setup instructions you need.

The other problem is that even the up-to-date knowledgebase is short on useful information. When we checked the Hosting Help category it had only two sections: one on using WordPress, another on different FTP clients. These were incomplete, so for example the WordPress section had nothing on 1-click installations.

And when we tried searching on a more advanced topic – PHP – the site gave us 18 articles, none of which had any meaningful titles at all. Hits looked something like: ‘4. Support Services; Support Services email, hosting, DNS and SSL guides’. Would you know what question that might answer?

Getting support from a real person delivers better results, but can take a while. Our support ticket (discussed earlier) had an excellent response, but that response took around eight hours to arrive. Telephone support is another option, but it’s only available 9am through to 5:30pm Monday to Friday, and it can take ten minutes or more sitting on hold before you’re talking to anyone. (Easyspace details the support levels it provides in its Service Level Agreement. Click the SLA tab if that doesn’t open by default.)

This won’t necessarily matter if your needs are basic – if you simply want to upload a site and see it working, Easyspace might deliver just fine. We certainly didn’t see any performance issues, with Bitcatcha and other benchmarks indicating marginally above-average results. They also showed a greater variation in results than usual, but server performance can be affected by many factors, and overall we found no speed issues.

Final verdict

Easyspace looks like good value in some situations, but has too many catches to recommend: hidden extra costs, annoying plan limits, poor support, no PayPal, 7-day money-back guarantee only… and the list goes on.

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MSI, Gigabyte Update BIOSes With Intel Optane Support

MSI and Gigabyte released new BIOSes for their 200-series motherboards to support Intel’s Optane memory technology.

Optane is restricted to Intel 7th generation (Kaby Lake) processors and 200-series motherboards. Intel said the tech is supposed to give you a 28% overall system performance boost while also increasing hard drive access and “everyday task responsiveness” speeds by 14x and 2x, respectively. All you need is a compatible processor, motherboard, and Optane Memory product, like the 16GB and 32GB modules that were announced in late March.

The promise is that Optane will marry HDD capacities with SSD performance. The reality is a little bit less clear. Optane is much like Intel’s Smart Response Technology introduced in 2011, and right now Optane Memory products act as I/O caches for their connected HDDs and SATA SSDs. That could help you if you’re working primarily with relatively few applications or small amounts of data, but it could lead to problems for “prosumers” and professionals who use a variety of apps and larger datasets. As we explained when Intel announced the Optane Memory modules:

Cache technology brings a set of inherit risks. Stacking cache on top of cache amplifies the penalty of a cache miss. As an analogy: In baseball, you may go through several batters to get a hit. That takes time, and you could end up on the losing side of performance when an I/O request first strikes out the Optane cache, then the SLC layer cache, and finally has to reach out to the third layer. In this case, it’s the TLC. The third batter gets a hit, but there are already two strikeouts on the scoreboard for the inning. Holding more data in the high-speed tier one cache helps to increase your chances of a hit. The more applications you use, the wider the strike zone becomes. Your core, daily use software is ready to swing for the fences, but the application you haven’t run in six months has to be flown in from the Triple-A league. If your primary media is a hard disk drive, then you see a massive 20ms delay after swinging at fast balls for most of the day.

Still, these BIOS updates from MSI and Gigabyte will at least give you the option of using Optane if you want. The functionality was built into the companies’ 200-series motherboards; it’s merely a matter of unlocking it with these updates. MSI also includes an Optane Genie that “enables the use of Optane memory with just 1-click” instead of requiring “several challenging steps to successfully configure and enable Optane memory boosting.”

You can find a list of MSI 200-series motherboards and their new BIOS versions in MSI’s announcement. If you have a Gigabyte or “Aorus” 200-series motherboard, you can find the latest BIOS information on the board’s product page. And if you want to learn more about Intel’s 3D XPoint, which is at the heart of Optane, you can check out our guide to the technology’s history, performance, competition, and more.

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