Entertainment, Gift Ideas, Technology

Christmas Gaming Gifts

a blog by Zombie Dredd

With Christmas fast approaching,  you need to take a step back and take stock before diving into the shopping madness. You really don’t want disappointment to be the Christmas Day face worn by the rest of the family because you didn’t know your Titanfall from Tetris or (more terrifyingly) Razer from a razor.

In these technology driven times, every family is likely to have their own gamer and thanks to the scale of the industry it can be a real minefield negotiating the products available to fill a Christmas stocking… or the floor space under the tree.

With that in mind, allow me to make your life just a little bit easier. Or possibly more difficult even, especially if these suggestions are spotted by the possible recipient making their list for Santa…

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Press start
OK. Before we even get to the stocking fillers and budget busters there is the small but necessary requirement that games and gaming peripherals need. A console or even PC to run the fantastic alternative worlds on.
Both Xbox and PlayStation have updated consoles doing the rounds for the festive season but my suggestion would be to not rush out and grab one of the shiny newer models unless there is no hardware already in the house.
The PlayStation 4 Pro (approx. R7,000) has more power hidden in its plastic case than the existing PlayStation 4 but it runs all existing and still-to-be-released PS4 games so it’s not going to leave older titles gathering dust just yet. If you want to invest in the PlayStation brand on a budget however I would suggest keeping an eye on the possible bundles that will most likely arrive for the festive season as there is a pretty decent chance that the older consoles will see their prices slashed to make way for the new stock.
Xbox has a similar upgrade on the cards which should still arrive in local retailers for Christmas. The Xbox One S is a slim version of the Xbox One console, but just smaller, more powerful and still capable of running all the older Xbox One games.
If PC gaming is the family choice then hopefully you have the needed hardware to enjoy your pastime, otherwise you may find that your Christmas lunch will be the hardest hit by the gift overspend. If your PC needs a graphics upgrade, then the new 10-series cards from Nvidia should be top of your list. There is the pretty affordable (from around R3,000) GTX 1050 all the way to the budget busting GTX 1080 with the rest of the family fitting between them.

It’s fun and games
What to play is equally as important as what to play it on, and 2016 has been a bumper year with games for all tastes and ages.

1) Shooters
For the older gamer in the family keen on playing as a battle-hardened hero (or even anti-hero), the year has had plenty to offer. The return of DOOM this year heralded the return of the old-school shooter that tells you to shoot first and ask questions later, while Call of Duty Infinite Warfare brings yet another entry into the long running franchise but heading further into the realms of space than ever before.

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Another shooter that headed to space and brought along mechs was the sequel to Titanfall. With Titanfall 2, the addition of a single player campaign rounded off a game that went criminally overlooked when it was originally released. Gears of War 4 marked another returning franchise with a new enemy threatening humanity in the third-person shooter that offers plenty of modes to keep players entertained.
Battlefield 1 bucked the future war trend and took the franchise in a new direction by setting the game in an under-used era of history with World War 1. The year also saw the arrival of a new Blizzard title in Overwatch which brought bright colours and character variation to the online shooter world.
If a story-driven, high-octane movie appeals to you (rather than a romantic comedy or highbrow period piece) then the shooter of choice this Christmas should be Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Spend some time with Nathan Drake and you will not regret it.

2) Sport and Racing
Sports fans have a limited selection this year with the obvious favourites being football games, while racing fans have a plethora of options to choose from.
The sports – sorry, football – options really come down to your personal preference between the two dominant franchises in FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer. FIFA 17 offers a story driven campaign and the usual high quality presentation and licenced teams. However, this year Pro Evolution Soccer gets plenty right – especially on the pitch. However, Rocket League is probably the real winner with its combination of cars and football and would probably pull in even the most hardened gaming sceptic in the house.

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Keeping behind the wheel – but in a slightly purer way – Forza Horizon 3 is really the game of choice, but there are also other options with Assetto Corsa, rally game WRC 6 and the Formula 1 focus of F1 2016.
If you consider fighting a sport (well, some may not), then the fighting game to consider for the rising virtual martial artist in the family is Street Fighter V.

3) Family Fun
For games that appeal to the family – or members of the family that like to let loose less frequently with games – there is the controller-free Just Dance 2017 to consider. However, be prepared to tap your feet on more than one occasion while in earshot.
This year also saw the return of platformer Ratchet & Clank and the arrival of new platform-puzzle title Unravel.

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4) When you’re still unsure
There are a few titles that just don’t sit overly comfortably in the above pigeonholes but could really appeal to the maverick of the family. Games like Quantum Break, Mafia III, XCOM 2, Hitman, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Dark Souls III all do things just a little differently and should keep those that have the privilege of a holiday very busy indeed.

The year has been full of high-profile releases and plenty of smaller indie titles too, and I would be remiss not to put a disclaimer here saying that the list of games suggested above is comprehensive or even the best – mainly because (wonderfully) opinions do differ.

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Hardware
Finally, we arrive at the hardware. The expensive gift that usually suggests Santa thought the recipient has been really (REALLY) nice this year. It’s the space that virtual reality dominates this year, but even VR needs a PC or laptop to make it a ‘reality’.

As mentioned earlier, grab yourself (we all know people can’t resist buying themselves gifts over the Christmas period) one of the graphics cards mentioned earlier – or just go all in and pick up the monster of the latest releases in the water-cooled 8GB Nivida GeForce GTX 1080. Your PC should then be future proof for a few years.
Alternatively, go mobile with a gaming laptop and you should be set for gaming even when visiting your long lost aunt in the Karoo. If Santa said around R40,000 was yours for being surprisingly not naughty, then the ASUS ROG G752VS with, well, everything is the one for you.

Peripherals
Knowing a mouse from an actual rodent is easier than you think. However, a mouse from a mouse can be a tougher choice. By December you can expect to find the respected ZOWIE range of gaming mice (or mouses) locally available, but if you would rather not risk a late arrival then the SteelSeries Rival and the Razer DeathAdder should be on your shortlist too.

If you’re in the market for a new keyboard, the fan and critic favourites tend to be from SteelSeries and Razer, but you would be foolish not to consider the Corsair range or the ASUS Strix.

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Headset options are probably becoming so varied that they would require a thousand words on their own, so my suggestion is to stick with a well-known brand when considering a headset. Plantronics, Corsair, SteelSeries, Razer and Turtle Beach all have great new additions, but my personal preference is an ASTRO Gaming A40 headset. It is a multiplatform headset that paired with an ASTRO Mixamp it makes audio on a console a true thing of beauty.

If sound is not your thing, but image quality is, then the right screen is the gift you want to find waiting under the tree. While a latest UHD TV is perfectly great for crisp images, purists will prefer a smaller but more responsive monitor. Get yourself a 27” 144Hz monitor with a 1ms response time from ASUS or BenQ and you will have your eyes thanking you throughout 2017 and beyond.

VR
Staying with eyes… if you want double the pleasure, then virtual reality is for you. Sadly, it comes at a price and will require you to dip your toes into importing. If you’ve met the requirements of building (or buying) the right PC or laptop, then treat yourself with the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift. It really is up to the depth of your pockets as to which one you should buy, but the HTC Vive does perhaps offer the more immersive experience. Just expect it to cost you upwards of R14,000.

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Of course, the PlayStation VR is possibly the virtual reality option that will appeal most in the mainstream market. Unfortunately it will be missing the Christmas season locally, so it might be something to save some money for early in the New Year. And that would be a pretty great way to start 2017.

I hope this made your Christmas gifting options a little clearer and that Santa leaves you one of these under your very own Christmas tree this year!

Happy shopping!
*Most of the products mentioned above should be available at all local retailers of games and gaming hardware.

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