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NZXT announces the Phantom 240 chassis

NZXT announces the Phantom 240 chassis

NZXT has only announced the white Phantom 240, but more colours are expected.


NZXT has taken the wraps off of a new chassis, the Phantom 240, and it’s the least expensive of the Phantom range.

With a mid-tower ATX design, the Phantom 240 maintains the range’s signature asymmetrical shape that has divided opinion since launch and sports curved front and roof panels. The case also features a large side panel window and while NZXT has only officially announced the classic white version, it’s hinted that further colours will be coming, so it’s possible we’ll see black, grey and even red editions too.

It ships with two 120mm fans out of the box – a front intake and a rear exhaust. These are NZXT’s FN V2 models, which were recently redesigned to provide better cooling and produce less noise.

In total, the case can house six 120mm fans – two in the front, one in the rear, one in the bottom and two in the roof (where 140mm fans are also supported). Water-cooling support hasn’t been confirmed, but we’d be surprised if double radiator all-in-one coolers were not supported, given that NZXT itself produces a range of them.

Inside, there’s also room for three 5.25-inch drives and six internal 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives, and both optical drives and hard drives can be mounted tool-free, judging by the released photos. We also see that the case has a number of cable routing holes (without grommets), a large CPU cooler cutout on the motherboard tray and reusable PCI brackets. Other features include external USB 3 ports and dual audio jacks as well as a removable HDD cage.

The suggested retail price of the NZXT Phantom 240 is $69.99. We’ve enquired about UK pricing and will update if and when we receive and official response, but our estimates (based on a conversion with tax added) puts the case at or around £55.

Does the Phantom 240 look like it could take the budget case market by storm (trooper), or is it more likely to wind up in bargain bins? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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The Elder Scrolls Online Review

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Price: £34.99-£54.99 plus £8.99 monthly subscription
Developer: Zenimax Online
Publisher: Bethesda
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Version Reviewed: PC

Playing The Elder Scrolls Online is the most boring experience I’ve endured since I was seventeen years old, when a series of unfortunate events led to my family moving into my uncle’s two-bedroom house. Because there wasn’t an awful lot of room to do our own things, every night we’d end up playing Scrabble. Now, Scrabble isn’t necessarily a bad game, but after six months it certainly starts to feel like one.

The Elder Scrolls Online is like six months of Scrabble, only it manages to perfectly recreate that sensation of repetitive hopelessness within six hours. What Zenimax Online have attempted is to build a halfway house between the traditional The Elder Scrolls games and the familiar MMO mechanics of World of Warcraft. The result is a game that fails to satisfy in either category. Its formulaic quest structure is recycled over and over, unconvincingly disguised with a superficial smear of “story”. Players are corralled down the same pathways in a world that initially appears free and open, but quickly reveals itself to be anything but. Your interaction with the environments are necessarily limited by the fact that ESO is an exhibit built for thousands of players to witness, rather than a malleable world crafted for the individual.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Your character’s life begins in Coldharbour, a prison realm overseen by Molag Bal, the Daedric prince of domination (not that kind of domination). But Zounds! You escape! Thanks to the help of a blind old man thrillingly known as the Prophet. So begins a quest to reunite a band of ancient heroes and defend Tamriel against Bal’s plans to enslave the population.

At this point, the game drops you into Tamriel proper, the specific location depending on which of the three warring factions you’ve pledged allegiance to. Rather than retread my beta steps in Skyrim and Morrowind allied with the Ebonheart Pact, I joined forces with the Daggerfall covenant, an alliance between the Bretons, Orcs, and Redguard. Previously, the game introduced players using a series of starting islands, but this meant it took several hours before you even reached the mainland. Now though, your character begins his adventures on the central continent. Except, you still have to return to the starting islands and go through that before you can get very far. Instead of removing this tedious tumour, Zenimax have moved it from the leg into the brain.

The Elder Scrolls Online Review

Regardless of whether you take a direct or delayed route through the introductory areas, it soon becomes clear that nearly all the PvE content, meaning every area in the game save for Cyrodiil, is directed specifically toward you. You’re special, you see. You’re special because you, er, don’t have a soul, which handily explains both why your character is so wilfully obliging when helping other people, and why in conversation you have all the personality of a Rich Tea biscuit. Every quest-giver you speak to, whether it’s through the main story, the Fighters Guild, the Mages Guild, or just people you encounter while wandering the landscape, specifically want your help. And that’s all well and good right up until you enter your first dungeon, where you and seventeen other unique world-saving heroes all run through the same corridors to kill the same goblin.

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Windows 8.2 rumoured for autumn launch

Windows 8.2 rumoured for autumn launch

Microsoft is rumoured to be planning Windows 8.2 for an autumn launch, to be followed by Windows 9 and a new product dubbed Windows Cloud.


Microsoft may have only just got its mandatory Windows 8.1 Update 1 release out of the door, but the company is claimed to be looking to launch Windows 8.2 as early as the autumn.

Part of the company’s rumoured shift to a rapid release cycle, similar to the six-monthly releases of Ubuntu Linux and Apple’s more recently adopted annual OS X release cycle, Windows 8.2 will take over from Windows 8.1 as the company’s primary operating system. A precursor to Windows 9, Windows 8.2 can be thought of as a Service Pack release for Windows 8.1 and will include features promised at the BUILD conference earlier this year but not found in Windows 8.1 Update 1 – such as the new Start Menu, which combines the icon-based menu of Windows 7 with a Windows Phone-inspired Live Tile bar.

At least, that’s the rumour. Microsoft, as is usual for the company, is refusing to discuss unannounced products; Russian pirate group WZOR has no such qualms, however, and claims to be in possession of critical information regarding Microsoft’s planned release schedule.

According to a message spotted and translated by Myce, Microsoft plans to launch Windows 8.2 as early as the autumn. The release is expected to be the last update to the Windows 8 family, with the next launch being Windows 9 and bringing with it even more serious changes to the divisive user interface first introduced in Windows 8.

Windows 8.2, like Windows 8.1 before it, will be released as a free upgrade for all Windows 8 family customers. The WZOR group has claimed that it has received conflicting reports that Windows 9 will also be a free upgrade for Windows 8.2 users, with Microsoft echoing the upgrade path of Apple’s recent OS X Mavericks; others speaking to the group have claimed that it will be a paid-for release, with heavy discounts available for early adopters upgrading from the Windows 8 family.

Other details claimed by the group include the impending release of Windows Cloud, a virtualised version of the company’s operating system designed to provide competition at the extreme low-end of the market for Google’s Chrome OS. Windows Cloud, it is claimed, would allow users to access core functionality for free and pay a subscription fee for more advanced applications.

Microsoft, as is usual for the company, has not commented on the rumours.

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Apple and Google fighting for mobile exclusivity deals

Apple and Google fighting for mobile exclusivity deals

Plants Vs Zombies 2 was given a prominent position in the Apple App Store in exchange for a two month exclusivity window on the platform.


Apple and Google are offering popular games premium placement in their app stores in order to win exclusivity for their platforms.

According to the Wall Street Journal, sources close to the matter say promotional boosts are being used to ensure that popular games are appearing on one mobile operating system before the other in an effort to win a larger user base.

Plants Vs Zombies 2 received one such deal, launching in August 2013 on iOS and featuring prominently in the Apple App Store. In exchange for this placement, EA withheld the game from Android devices until October. Cut the Rope 2 also had a similar deal in place which saw it available on iOS for three months before an Android version was released.

Whilst exclusivity deals are nothing new for console games, it is something that has been avoided with mobile games up until now. Historically, however, the pattern of a game appearing on iOS first and then Android later is less surprising as developers have previously found iOS to be a more lucrative platform.

Securing exclusivity on popular mobile games is considered to be a sign of the mobile device war stepping up. Amazon has also tried gaining exclusivity deals in the same manner for its Kindle devices which have access to a different Android app ecosystem.

‘When people love a game, and it’s not available on an alternate platform, they’ll change platforms,’ head of Kongregate Emily Greer told the Wall Street Journal. ‘The level of attachment a person has to a game can exceed almost anything.’

For mobile developers, a game gaining a featured spot in the App Store can mean the difference between financial success or failure. Apple has recently been experimenting with new ways of curating gaming content and last month unveiled the Indie Game Showcase section in an attempt to promote more titles.

What do you think of such exclusivity deals? Are they likely to sway you one way or another when it comes to choosing your mobile platform? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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AMD investors positive despite $20M quarterly loss

AMD investors positive despite $20M quarterly loss

AMD’s Q1 2014 financial report shows a drop back into the red with a $20M loss, although investors seem bullish on the company’s future.


AMD’s most recent earnings report has investors impressed, with the company’s stock price rising almost 12 per cent on news of $1.4 billion in sales – despite an overall loss of $20 million for the first quarter of its financial year.

AMD’s quarterly earnings call this week announced $1.4 billion in revenue for Q1 2014, an impressive rise of 28 per cent year-on-year at a time when the global PC market is continuing to shrink – albeit slower than previously. While the quarter-on-quarter shrinkage of 12 per cent might seem like bad news, that’s comparing heavier sales in the run-up to Christmas to the post-Christmas slump; a sequential dip at this time is always to be expected.

A gross profit margin of just 35 per cent, indicative of AMD’s push towards the lower end of the market in CPUs and strong competition from rival Nvidia in GPUs, led to overall operating income of $49 million for the quarter; not enough, sadly, to prevent a loss of $20 million overall. With AMD ending the last quarter on an $89 million profit, that’s a blow – although one significantly less strong than the whopping $146 million loss the company made in the same quarter last year.

AMD continued our momentum by building on the solid foundation we set in the second half of 2013, further transforming the company,‘ claimed AMD president and chief executive Rory Read during the call with press, investors and analysts. ‘Backed by our powerful x86 processor cores and hands-down best graphics experiences, we achieved 28 percent revenue growth from the year-ago quarter. We are well positioned to continue to grow profitably as we diversify our business and enable our customers to drive change and win.

The company’s results show that the PC market slump, while slowing, is continuing to have an impact: AMD’s Computing Solutions business unit’s revenue dropped eight per cent quarter-on-quarter and 12 per cent year-on-year, due to a drop in shipments. Its operating loss, however, was a mere $3 million; down from $7 million last quarter and a painful $39 million in the same quarter last year.

AMD’s Graphics and Visual Solutions business unit is the most interesting story, however: a 15 per cent drop in sequential shipments has been more than offset by an impressive 118 per cent increase year-on-year, attributed to the company’s deals to put semi-custom system-on-chip (SoC) processors in the Microsoft Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 consoles. Overall, the division made a $91 million profit for the year, down from $121 million last quarter when Microsoft and Sony purchased their console chips but up from just $16 million in the same quarter last year.

During the conference call, AMD’s Lisa Su, general manager of global business units, confirmed that the company is still in the design stages of a new semiconductor process node. ‘We are 28 [nanometre] this year, we have 20 nanometre in design, and then FinFET thereafter,‘ she claimed in response to an analyst query – suggesting that 20nm parts won’t be available in quantity until 2015 at the earliest, with the 3D FinFET transistor move – designed to compete with Intel’s Tri-Gate Transistor technology – likely to come the year after.

Su also had positive things to say about AMD’s foray into the low-power server market with Cambridge-based ARM’s IP. ‘There’s been a lot of customer interest around Seattle [chips], so certainly for the server guys, the hyper-scale guys and then even some adjacent markets, there’s good customer interest, claimed Su. ‘I’ll say the interest in the platform is quite high and it’s a major milestone for us to introduce our first 64-bit ARM chip into the market.

What we’re doing here is identifying this opportunity long before it has taken place,‘ added Read, ‘and we’re catching it just as the way it is forming. That’s the kind of innovation leadership that we really want to go after. This is going to be an important market over the next three, five years, and we have an opportunity to truly lead in this ARM server ecosystem, and take advantage of our ambidextrous capability. This is spot-on in the strategy.

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Microsoft reissues Windows 8.1 Update 1 via WSUS

Microsoft reissues Windows 8.1 Update 1 via WSUS

Microsoft has resolved the issue with rolling Windows 8.1 Update 1 out via WSUS and appeased customers with a new 120-day grace period, but home users are still facing the 13th of May deadline.


Microsoft has reissued its Windows 8.1 Update 1 patch for Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) users, having resolved a flaw that would prevent client systems from installing future updates.

A mandatory install for all Windows 8.1 users – those without Update 1 will be blocked from downloading security and bug-fix updates starting with next month’s Patch Tuesday on the 13th of May – the update has been the source of more than a little heartache for Microsoft’s customers. As well as the flaw that saw it pulled from WSUS shortly after release, users have reported numerous issues installing the patch and further flaws once the software is installed.

The cause of the WSUS flaw has been isolated, at least, and Microsoft has officially rereleased the update for corporate customers. ‘This means that you can now easily deploy these updates to the computers or servers you manage,‘ explained Microsoft’s Brendan LeBlanc in the company’s announcement. ‘For computers and servers that have already installed these updates, note that Windows Update will re-offer them but it will only install the portion of the update that addresses the fix. Other portions of the update which users have already downloaded and installed will not be downloaded or installed a second time.

Having perhaps recognised that the rollout of the first major update to Windows 8.1, and a mandatory one at that, hasn’t gone smoothly, LeBlanc also announced a new grace period to win over corporate customers. ‘We’ve decided to extend the timeframe for enterprise customers to deploy these new product updates from 30 to 120 days,‘ LeBlanc explained. ‘In order to receive future updates, all customers managing updates using WSUS, Windows Intune, or System Center Configuration Manager have until August 12th to apply the new updates. For those that decide to defer installation, separate security updates will be published during the 120-day window.

For home users, however, the extended deadline does not apply: anyone outside a WSUS-controlled corporate network who has not installed Windows 8.1 Update 1 by the 13th of May will not be able to download updates until Update 1 is installed.

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Intel Q1 financials show data centre growth

Intel Q1 financials show data centre growth

Intel’s Q1 2014 results slightly exceeded analysts’ expectations, but the company’s mobile arm is suffering a significant drop in revenue.


Intel has released its financials for the first quarter of 2014, and things are looking good with better-than-expected results despite its continued struggles to break into the mobile arena and a still-shrinking desktop market.

The company’s official figures for the quarter show $12.8 billion in revenue, exactly matching analysts’ expectations, with a gross profit margin of 59.7 per cent for a total earnings per share of $0.38 – above the $0.37 average expected by analysts. $3.1 billion of this came from the Data Centre Group, responsible for server and high-performance computing (HPC) products, which enjoyed a bumper 11 per cent boost in revenue over the same period last year; the PC Client Group, which targets the still-shrinking PC market, brought in the lion’s share at $7.9 billion, a one per cent drop compared to Q1 2013.

In the first quarter we saw solid growth in the data centre, signs of improvement in the PC business, and we shipped five million tablet processors, making strong progress on our goal of 40 million tablets for 2014,‘ claimed Intel’s chief executive Brian Krzanich during the company’s earnings call. ‘Additionally, we demonstrated our further commitment to grow in the enterprise with a strategic technology and business collaboration with Cloudera, we introduced our second-generation LTE platform with CAT6 and other advanced features, and we shipped our first Quark products for the Internet of Things.

Other highlights include a 10 per cent quarter-on-quarter drop in revenue for the Internet of Things Group which ended the quarter with $482 million in revenue, still an 11 per cent improvement over the same period last year thanks largely to new low-power Atom and Quark processor products. The company’s Mobile and Communications Group, responsible for smartphone and tablet oriented chips, was by far the biggest loser: with just $156 million in revenue, its income was down 52 per cent quarter-on-quarter and a massive 61 per cent compared to Q1 2013.

Investors seem pleased with Intel’s performance in the quarter, with the company’s share price rising 1.08 per cent in pre-market trading to $27.06, still short of its recent April 2012 high of $28.38.

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Noctua NH-U12S Review

Noctua NH-U12S Review

Manufacturer: Noctua
UK price (as reviewed):
£47.99
US price (as reviewed): $69.99

When all-in-one coolers started hitting the cooling scene a few years ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the end of the road for premium air coolers. Noctua is one of the most established and recognised brands out there in the enthusiast scene, but even we have to admit that value hasn’t always been one of the company’s strong points. In the face of a growing number of super-cheap and capable coolers such as Deepcool’s GAMMAXX S40, you might think paying more than £30 for a CPU cooler isn’t worth it considering how well the latter performs for just £20.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
At £47.99, the NH-U12S isn’t even a humongous air cooler and you get a much smaller bit of kit than it’s larger sibling, the NH-D14, which retails for just £10 more. However, the NH-U12S isn’t about raw cooling. With a maximum rated noise of just over 22db(A) and even less using the included low noise adaptor, this is a cooler for those where noise reduction is just as important as a chilly CPU.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
Part of the reason for the NF-F12′s high price is the NF-F12 PWM Focused Flow 120mm fan included in the box. This retails for £17 on its own – one of the most expensive fans on the market. There’s a whole raft of technical blurb in this fan’s specifications but the long and short of it boils down to Noctua claiming it produces a better quality noise by utilising many of these swanky features such as a focused flow frame, varying angular distance and vortec-control notches, plus better airflow and cooling.

The heatsink itself is up to Noctua’s usual standards, however, if you haven’t seen one of the Austria-designed cooler’s in person before, that’s essentially the same as saying build quality is epic. Crammed into this diminutive cooler, which measures just 158mm tall and 125mm wide, are five heatpipes built into a compact array of aluminium fins, plus a copper contact plate that sports a nickel plating.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
Even the packing is a labour of love, with everything packed into premium-feeling cardboard boxes that are all exactly the right size to take up precisely 100 per cent of the outer box. It’s not often we feel compelled to make this sort of comment but it’s totally justified here. As such, with everything labelled for each socket, despite the above average amount of mounting components, installation is fairly painless.

The fan clips are second only to SilverStone’s latest coolers such as the AR01 , in terms of ease of use – no spindly, awkward things here, which is just as well as you need to fit the single 120mm fan after you’ve mounted the cooler to the motherboard.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review
Also included are all the fittings needed to mount a second fan, including the brown antivibration corner pads plus a low noise adaptor that can drop the maximum rpm from 1,500 to 1,200, slotting in between the 3-pin power feed and the standard PWM fan cable. Everything you need is included in the box, including an extra-long screwdriver to reach the mounting screws.

*Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review *Noctua NH-U12S Review Noctua NH-U12S Review

Specifications

  • Compatibility Intel: LGA775 and LGA1366 (with optional NM-I3 kit) LGA115x, LGA2011; AMD: AM3(+), AM2(+), FM2(+), FM1
  • Size (with fan) (mm) 125 x 71 x 158 (W x D x H)
  • Fan(s) 1 x 120mm, 300-1,500RPM
  • Stated Noisemax 22.4dB(A)

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MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX

MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX

MSI looks set to continue its support for mini-ITX when Intel’s Z97 chipset arrives


Following a leak that showed images of future products, MSI has released a few previously locked-down images of its new range of motherboards.

We’re assuming they sport Intel’s anticipated Z97 chipset, which still uses LGA1150 CPUs, and is set for launch this summer.

As we reported here, there will be several ‘Gaming-series’ motherboards, but the images show Gaming 3, Gaming 5, Gaming 7 and Gaming 9 name titles in addition to a mini-ITX board.

Many of the boards feature 802.11ac WiFi adaptors, with the mini-ITX board sporting what appears to be a custom, integrated adaptor on the I/O panel, rather than a standard slot on the PCB.

The Gaming 9 model looks like quite a beast, with an imposing red and black colour scheme and we also spotted an M.2 expansion slot between the two lower 16x PCI-E slots along with voltage measuring points near the on-board power button.

MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX
MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX
MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX MSI Shows Z97 Motherboards Including Mini-ITX
The Gaming 3, Gaming 5 and Gaming 7 also offer the M.2 expansion slot, which suggests this will be a familiar feature on Z97 boards, although it appears to be absent from the funky-looking mini-ITX model.

What do you make of MSI’s new line-up? Let us know in the forum.

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DayZ Standalone Early Access Review

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review

Price: £19.99
Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Publisher: Bohemia Interactive
Date Tested: 26/03/2014

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

Note: Early Access Reviews are critical appraisals of games still in development which are charging money for player access to their alpha and beta stages. This review is intended to give you an idea of whether the game is currently worth investing in, but without offering a final verdict.

Take a cursory glance at DayZ and it appears little has changed in the four months since release. The major content Bohemia are planning for the mod; namely vehicles, craftable bases, and broader communication channels such as radios, are still a long way from being added. Investigate a little further, however, and you’ll discover that significant changes have been made, but they’re many and small rather than large and few.

For example, rain was added about a month ago, and now players can catch the water droplets in their canteens, making it ever so slightly easier to acquire this vital resource. In addition, players can aim their guns while sat down, enabling them to sit around a campfire with friends without completely compromising their safety, or keep watch over player prisoners in a more casual, more disturbing manner.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

There are lots of different little channels that feed into DayZ’s remarkable success since it debuted on Steam Early Access at the end of last year. But one of them is this detailed way in which players can interact with their environment and the other players they encounter in post-apocalypse Chernarus. It’s this granularity of experience which Bohemia have been chasing since the Standalone release.

To understand the importance of this, it’s necessary to grasp the basis of what DayZ is, and the developer’s intent behind it. For all its layers of complexity, your ultimate goal when playing DayZ is the most basic possible. Stay alive. Do not die. See that bucket? Avoid kicking it. This is done by seeing to your needs, avoiding the zombies scattered around the environment like organic litter, and performing the delicate and potentially deadly social dance with fellow survivors you’ll inevitably encounter during your travels.

Your objective may be simple, but achieving it is anything but. Resources are scarce, and you require lots of food and water just to keep your body functional. The first hour or so of a DayZ life are a half-terrifying, half-gleeful rush as you frantically scour the nearest village for supplies, interspersed with moments of bravely running away from the prowling zombies.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

If you’re very lucky you might find enough food and water to keep you healthy. More typically you’ll either bleed to death after being attacked by your first zombie, or find nothing but rotten food, eat that in desperation, become sick, and spend the next half hour hopelessly searching for the right medication before ultimately collapsing. This is of course an entirely hypothetical scenario and definitely not what happened to me in my first and second lives.

Learning how to cope in this extremely harsh environment is a big factor in what makes DayZ so compelling. So is learning how to navigate it. Modern games are obsessed with keeping the player oriented, ensuring they always know where they are and where they are going, and there’s something about the challenge of being lost in a wilderness that is paradoxically liberating. The moment you first find a map in an abandoned car or inside a petrol station is breathlessly exciting. Then comes the puzzle of figuring out where you are on it, googling the Russian alphabet so you can translate the town signs written in Cyrillic to match them with the map names scribed in English.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

It helps that Chernarus is an incredible foundation for a game like this. Its sweeping vistas, highly realistic terrain, foreboding climate and dilapidated Baltic settlements all contribute to the sense that this is a world where nature has wrested control back from humanity, but also as a place where hope still lingers. Trekking through one of DayZ’s many forests, watching the sunlight shaft through the canopy, listening to your plodding footfall and the twittering birds in the trees is an oddly relaxing experience, providing relief between frantic zombie combat and tense encounters with other survivors.

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