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Gadgets of the Year

Best gaming tech of 2021

Gaming developers worked hard in 2021 as a growing user base of gamers stayed home and played more games. BRYAN TURNER rounds up the year’s best of gaming.

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It’s been a great year for gaming, with several innovations, not only in hardware, but also with subscription services like Xbox Game Pass, which makes gaming more accessible.

Gaming console of the year

Winner: Nintendo Switch OLED Edition (R8,000)

The best-selling hybrid gaming console got a whole lot better this year with a bigger, more vivid screen. Compared to the original Switch, players will get 0.8-inches more screen at 7”, 64GB internal storage instead of 32GB, and a new console-long kickstand. Existing Joy-con controller accessories from the original Switch work with the new console, so users can take their custom designed Joy-cons along with them. 

Runner-up: Xbox Series S with Game Pass (R7,000)

For those looking for a new entertainment device, the Xbox Series S makes a great living room option. It supports Netflix, Showmax, and DStv Now, alongside the Xbox Game Pass library of games. At R99 per month, it makes it the “Netflix of games”. Those with full HD TVs can breathe new life into their sets with the current generation of games. 

Gaming laptop of the year 

Winner: Asus ROG Strix G17 (R45,000) 

For those looking for a pro gaming laptop that will last them a few years, the ROG Strix G17 is the one to get. Its hefty price tag comes from high-end internal components like the 12-core Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 graphics card. It also points to expandability, with a blank NVMe slot inside the machine for future storage upgrades down the line. We expect this computer to last a high-end user for 5 years, so, at R9,000 a year, it’s a pretty good deal.

Budget gaming laptop of the year

Winner: Acer Nitro 5 (R17,000)

Casual gamers who want to take their games with them will appreciate the Acer Nitro 5. It comes with a 4-core 10th Gen Intel i5 processor and an Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card. These specs point more toward the current generation of games, but users who become more serious about gaming performance may find themselves needing an upgrade within 5 years.

Games of the year

Overall: Resident Evil: Village (PC, Xbox, PlayStation) 

Resident Evil: Village wins for best story and best development. It’s rare to find a game from this year that one can pick up and play without experiencing bugs. The gameplay is very engaging, and truly terrifying, which makes the experience feel both cinematic and horror-filled.  

Multiplayer: Valheim (PC) 

Following in the customisability footsteps of Minecraft, Valheim is a brutal exploration and survival game for 1-10 players set in a procedurally-generated world inspired by Norse mythology. Servers can also be hosted privately, meaning South African users can spin up their own instance and play with each other with low latency. 

Sports: Forza Horizon 5 (PC, Xbox) 

One of the highlights of the Xbox ecosystem of games this year was Forza Horizon 5, the latest instalment in the racing game series. The visuals of Mexico are stunning, and many of the campaigns are heart-warming. We never thought we’d have such an emotional connection to restoring a Vocho (local term for a Volkswagen Beetle). 

Simulation: Farming Simulator 2022 (PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Stadia) 

In Farming Simulator 2022, players can take a realistic look into how to harvest crops, tend to animals, and manage productions. With big names like John Deere and realistic farming mechanics produced by various equipment, we got a new-found respect for all the work farmers must put into their land. 

Indie: Embr (PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Switch) 

Getting in touch with our inner gig-worker firefighters proved to be a lot of fun in Embr. In the game, firefighting jobs have become Uber-like where those in need must hail players and pay them for how much of the house you save, how many people you save, and (occasionally) one may find a tip under the mattress. 

Remaster: Mass Effect Legendary Edition (PC, Xbox, PlayStation) 

Mass Effect’s developers BioWare were set on creating a perfect remaster of the cult classic, and they’ve done a superb job. The game is just as engaging as it was back when we played it on the Xbox 360, but now looks even better in 4K. Perhaps Rockstar Games should ask BioWare how they did it before they get to remastering another GTA game … 

Best recovery: Cyberpunk 2077 (PC, Xbox, PlayStation) 

Last year’s Cyberpunk 2077 release was one of the biggest botched game launches of all time, but the several patches over the year have made the game far more enjoyable, with fewer bugs. Although they missed a lot of deadlines this year (and we should have expected that), they have put a solid amount of effort into making the game playable. 

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