A week in reviews: 26 - 30 May
With this year's E3 expo just around the corner, last year's big game announcements are beginning to trickle out as full releases. Watch Dogs is this summer's biggest anticipation, but is it really as good as we all hoped it would be? We bring our verdict.
And let's not forget, despite ailing Wii U sales, that Mario Kart 8 also launches to strengthen Nintendo's gaming line-up. From karting to actual driving, we've also been speeding around the hills of Lisbon in the Nissan Juke (2014) to see whether this facelift model is a step above its predecessor. No anti-gravity or tortoise shells here, though.
During the long bank holiday weekend we were also able to deliver our verdict on the impossible-to-say-sensibly smartphone: the HTC One mini 2. Does it match up to its big brother HTC One M8 where it matters, or has HTC missed the point with this downscale handset?
Elsewhere we've been listening to the Ruark MR1 speakers and also getting our hands on - and both of them were required - the latest medium format camera from Pentax. Is the 645Z a considerable leap compared to the earlier 645D and does medium format really have a place in today's photography market?
HTC One mini 2
Quick review: There's a lot of good going on in the HTC One mini 2. For many it will be perfectly powerful, the battery performance is reasonable if not exemplary, but the software experience is one of our favourites in the current market. However, priced at £379, this is an expensive mid-range handset and it bins HTC's UltraPixel camera for the sake of a standard 13MP offering too. That's the biggest barrier we see to the HTC One mini 2: you have to really want that design and Sense 6.0 software to justify the price.
Pros: Design, Sense 6.0 is mature and refined, BoomSound speakers
Cons: Price is too high, can be a little slippery in dry hands
Full article: HTC One mini 2 review
Watch Dogs review
Quick review: As open-world games tend to be judged on the GTA-o-meter, Watch Dogs does a clever thing by not trying to be that game. By utilising a variety of gameplay genres and relying on its hacking theme (admittedly sometimes going a little bit too far) it delivers a fresh and exciting experience that, most importantly, is fun to play. It's not just hype, Watch Dogs delivers real substance and originality.
Pros: Hacking adds genuine twist to open-world genre, variety of stealth and attack gameplay, engaging storyline, brooding electronic soundtrack adds drama
Cons: Some glitches present, unconvinced certain tacked-on side missions suit the style, single lead more linear than GTA5, some questionable sound effects
Full article: Watch Dogs review
Nissan Juke (2014) review
Quick review: Take one distinctive looking SUV crossover, apply a facelift redesign, plonk in a new engine and you get the Nissan Juke 2014. It's not our vision of perfection, but in its new 1.2L Turbo form and with a silkier 6-speed transmission we found it outsmarts the original model at many turns, including CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. The new design isn't a giant overhaul, but it a massages the original form into something more refined and, thanks to Nissan Design Studio customisation options, more exciting too.
Pros: Improved design, customisation options, 1.2 Turbo is a fun drive, well designed, affordable, touchscreen tech options
Cons: Suspension can be stiff, turning arc feels wide, small interior considering, plasticky interior finish
Price: From £13,420
Full article: Nissan Juke review
Ruark MR1 Bluetooth speakers review
Quick review: The Ruark MR1 are a great little pair of speakers that deliver big sound. They're even portable: you can get an optional battery pack if you want to ditch the power cable. Although the bass isn't subwoofer huge, there is the necessary connection to add an optional one should you want. And even without one, for the most part you can get away with it.
Pros: Sound great, easy to setup, Bluetooth connectivity, great design
Cons: No multi-room functionality, cable needed to connect the two
Full article: Ruark MR1 review
Mario Kart 8 review
Quick review: Mario Kart 8 is a gorgeous looking and incredibly fun racing game that lives up to its 20-plus years of heritage. It is a star game from Nintendo at a time when people are forgetting what it does best. Sadly, it is not enough to save the Wii U from becoming a side-note in the history of gaming, but it is a must purchase for the few of us out there that love our outcast machines.
Pros: Superbly smooth 60fps action, a great HD refresh for the world’s much-loved racing franchise, tonnes to unlock, hugely addictive and still the best local multiplayer game for parties
Cons: Battle mode is a letdown, online multiplayer can’t possibly live up to the fun created through local matches thanks to Nintendo’s community policies
Full article: Mario Kart Wii U review