Watch Dogs: Legion Lets Anyone ‘Wear the Mask’ to Its Own Detriment

Promotional art for Watch Dogs: Legion.

Promotional art for Watch Dogs: Legion.
Image: Ubisoft

The recently released Spider-Man: Miles Morales video game follows the core message from the feature film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: “Anyone can wear the mask.” But there’s one video game out right now where that’s also true: anyone can wear the mask in Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs: Legion but that doesn’t mean everyone should.

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Legion is the third techno-dystopia video game in the ongoing Watch Dogs series. It’s about a group of hackers named DedSec who “fight the power” to protect people’s privacy, data, and free will from government overreach and greedy software developers. The latest game heads to London for a worst-case scenario where, after a string of domestic terrorism attacks, a private army has been given carte blanche to control the city with drones, predictive algorithms, and microchips. In response, DedSec has grown from a small group of hackers into an amorphous blob of mask-wearing vigilantes that anyone can be brought into. They are Legion, for they are many.

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Ubisoft has experimented with something pretty revolutionary for Watch Dogs: Legion, in that every single NPC you come across can be recruited into DedSec. From that point on they are a playable character that you can turn to anytime you like. Each of them has one or more skills that can assist with different types of missions—whether it’s carrying a certain kind of weapon, having a faster “hack rate,” or being able to control drones without needing special upgrades. There are a few folks who come with penalties, like limited mobility due to age or a shopping addiction (a few of them fart a lot). Then there are those who come with unique abilities that no one else has, like the Robotic Beekeeper.

Small but noticeable complaint: Characters always default to their original outfits in cut scenes, even if you’ve given them awesome new ones.

Small but noticeable complaint: Characters always default to their original outfits in cut scenes, even if you’ve given them awesome new ones.
Screenshot: Beth Elderkin via Ubisoft

This isn’t the first video game to offer a wide variety of NPCs to become part of the gaming experience—for example, Dragon’s Dogma allowed players to build their own teams of “Pawns” using either the pre-set options or customizable NPCs created and shared by other players online. But this is the first game of this caliber, where literally anyone in the city can become the protagonist…for as long or as little as the player wants. In theory, it’s a fantastic concept, playing on the inspirational message from Into the Spider-Verse that anyone can wear the mask. Unfortunately, the game fails in the execution.

The problem with Legion is that all the characters are homogenized piles of nothing, with no distinct personalities or traits to set themselves apart from another. This wouldn’t be a problem if this was a generic fighting game where we care more about the combat than the characters, but this is a story-based linear video game—with a concrete plot, narrative, villain, and goal—without one or more linear protagonists to go on the journey with. Instead, every character acts the same way and says the same things, with very little deviation to make players feel like they’ve embodied a character with their own backstory, viewpoints, and behaviors. For example, every time you hand-off control from one character to another, their interaction usually boils down to: “It’s time to fight the power,” followed by “Hell yeah, I’m down.”

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This is largely because of the behind-the-scenes mechanics, which are impressive on paper but yield disappointing results onscreen (anyone who played Assassin’s Creed Unity, with its overpopulated masses of NPC mobs, is very familiar with Ubisoft’s track record of cool ideas that fail in execution). In an interview with Edge Magazine (as shared by Gamesradar), creative director Clint Hocking said they created “20 different versions of the script” that they had actors voice, using AI technology to then turn each of those individual actors into dozens of potential characters. What results is meeting hundreds of characters who technically sound different but don’t sound unique. They all say slightly different versions of the same general script, so they come across as clones instead of identifiable protagonists. It also doesn’t help that the technology makes many of them sound jilted and unnatural, something on display in the following video.

This isn’t just limited to how the characters look and sound, it’s also in how they exist in the world. You can tell that Ubisoft ran out of time to create variety in the character stories and gameplay because eventually everything starts repeating itself. Different NPCs will share “unique” skillsets (carrying a wrench is the most popular) or have similar recruitment missions, which usually boil down to “Can you rescue this person or hack this terminal for me?” Then after they’re recruited, they are folded into your collective and become lifelong DedSec members who bring a few cool tricks but nothing resembling a unique voice or perspective. And for some reason, they’re all instantly pro-hackers! Every recruit can perform complex hacks and melee attacks, skills that were presented as pretty hard to master in the previous two games. But now, no training required. Better look out for grandma!

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I can’t help but compare Legion to its predecessor Watch Dogs 2, in particular to the lead character of Marcus. In that video game, he went on a journey similar to the one we’re taking in Legion, but we were more invested then because we were going on that journey through his eyes. We were seeing his thoughts, choices, and mistakes. We grew as he grew, and felt triumph when he succeeded. There’s no single person like that in Legion. Even the characters with totally unique skillsets, like the Robotic Beekeeper, feel generic. She only has one catchphrase when she lets loose her bees, and trust me it gets annoying after awhile.

Marcus shares a moment with Wrench (whose outfit I hope to cosplay someday).

Marcus shares a moment with Wrench (whose outfit I hope to cosplay someday).
Image: Ubisoft

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Just like in movies, story-based linear video games need one or more characters to identify with. We need a foundation for the story’s moral and ethical issues, someone to bounce off of so we can better understand what’s happening and judge whether it’s right or wrong. This is especially true in a series like Watch Dogs, which deals in a Black Mirror-esque vision of the near-future that—at least in the case of Watch Dogs 2—is terrifyingly accurate. Watch Dogs: Legion would’ve been better served with a smaller collection of truly unique recruitable protagonists, 5-10 people with their own personalities and voice actors, that could exist alongside the more generic NPC you pick up along the way. That way you’re still able to play as anyone, but you can still choose to play as someone.

While it’s true that “anyone can wear the mask,” the mask is only as worthy as the person wearing it. If you don’t care about who’s underneath, they haven’t truly earned it.

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Watch Dogs: Legion and Spider-Man: Miles Morales are both available on Xbox and Playstation systems.

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The Last of Us Television Adaptation Is a Go at HBO

Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us: Part II. Or at least a trailer.

Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us: Part II. Or at least a trailer.
Image: Naughty Dog

From the mind behind Chernobyl and some of the folks at game developer Naughty Dog, The Last of Us, the hit PlayStation series about a fungus-based zombie apocalypse, is officially making its way to television.

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As shared by HBO yesterday in a press release, the The Last of Us series, which has been in development since at least earlier this year, is moving forward with a series order. The show will be written by Craig Mazin alongside Neil Druckmann, the director at Naughty Dog who played a significant role in writing and creating the game series. Mazin and Druckmann will also executive produce the series alongside Carolyn Strauss (Chernobyl, Game of Thrones).

“Craig and Neil are visionaries in a league of their own,” said Francesca Orsi, Executive Vice President at HBO Programming. “With them at the helm alongside the incomparable Carolyn Strauss, this series is sure to resonate with both die-hard fans of ‘The Last of Us’ games and newcomers to this genre-defining saga. We’re delighted to partner with Naughty Dog, Word Games, Sony and PlayStation to adapt this epic, powerfully immersive story.”

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The show is being created by HBO in conjunction with Sony, with it aimed for streaming on HBO Max and airing on HBO. It’ll be interesting to see how the series varies up the content of the games, which are already deliberately cinematic in presentation and storytelling. In a way, the games are perfectly set up for adaptation, but that in and of itself could be a problem. How do you differentiate the series from the original without straying too much?

Guess we’ll find out when The Last of Us hits HBO, sometime in the future. 


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Save Big on Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us Part II, More in Sony’s Black Friday PlayStation Deals

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Graphic: Gabe Carey

Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

Featured Deal: The Last of Us Part II | $30 | Amazon

The best Sony PlayStation deals of November 2020 are here.

The PlayStation 5 is finally here, and good luck finding one: they’ve been popping in and out of stock at retailers so far, and they’re likely to remain scarce for months to come. It’s the usual console launch routine, but we wish you well if you’re still on the hunt.

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On the other hand, if you’re looking for PS4 game deals, Sony has just rolled out big savings on smashes like Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us Part II, along with some older gems. And you can save on PlayStation Plus, PlayStation Now, and handy accessories, as well!

PlayStation Plus 12-Month Membership | $30

Use code 50PERCENT at checkout

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Image: Quentyn Kennemer

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A PlayStation Plus membership is essential if you want to play PS4 games online, but at $60 a year, it might seem a bit steep.

Luckily, you can grab a year-long membership now for just $30 through Eneba using the promo code 50PERCENT. The subscription also grants you free games to download each and every month, which you can keep for as long as your Plus plan stays active. If you prefer to go through Amazon, you can get the same 12-month plan for $45, or a 25% savings from the list price.

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Ghost of Tsushima | $40

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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One of the PS4’s biggest 2020 exclusives, Ghost of Tsushima is a gorgeous open-world game set in feudal Japan, and the end result feels a lot like what an Assassin’s Creed game might be were it to choose the era/setting. Right now, it’s $20 off the list price at Amazon, and it has been enhanced for PlayStation 5 with a much smoother frame rate.

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The Last of Us Part II | $30

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The year’s biggest PS4 release to date, The Last of Us Part II is another blockbuster smash from Naughty Dog, featuring the kind of incredible emotional heft and attention to detail that made the first game and the Uncharted series so legendary. It’s half-off at Amazon during Sony’s Black Friday sale.

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God of War | $10

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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If you still haven’t played Sony’s brilliant God of War revival, now’s the time to act: Amazon has the Greatest Hits edition of the PS4 modern classic for 50% off the list price.

God of War reimagines Kratos amidst Norse mythology as he embarks on a trek with his young son. It’s a different take on the vicious hero: more emotional, more brutal, and even more stunning than ever before.

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Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition | $10

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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Looking for a huge, amazing game that you can snag on the cheap? Now’s a great time to loop back on Horizon Zero Dawn if you missed it the first time around. This complete edition has all of the post-release content, dropping you into a post-apocalyptic world ruled by robotic dinosaurs, which you’ll roam as the hunter Aloy. It’s one of the most acclaimed PS4 exclusives and it’s a serious bargain at just $10.

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Nioh 2 | $10

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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You might’ve missed Nioh 2 this spring during the whole world-gripping pandemic thing (still happening, btw), but now’s the perfect time to loop back on this stellar sequel.

Nioh 2 amps up the intensity of the Dark Souls-esque samurai experience and scored great reviews in the process. It’s just $10 right now for the standard edition, a steep discount from the original list prices.

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PlayStation Now 12-Month Subscription | $45

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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PlayStation Now is Sony’s all-you-can-play subscription service, letting you pick and choose from hundreds of PlayStation 4 games to download and enjoy, as well as loads of older-generation PlayStation games as well.

It’s usually $60 for a year’s service, but right now you can save 25% off to ensure a full year ahead of gaming goodness.

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Persona 5 Royal | $29

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Persona 5 is one of the most acclaimed role-playing games of this generation, and this year’s Persona 5 Royal expands the experience for existing fans—and provides the most complete package for new players.

Like the base game, Persona 5 Royal follows a Japanese high school student throughout an academic year, as he and others manifest special powers and transform into the Phantom Thieves of Hearts—but this edition has new characters, locations, story elements, and more. Save $31 off the launch steelbook edition at GameStop!

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Cyberpunk 2077 (Pre-Order) | $50

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077 is easily the biggest PS4 game coming out for the rest of the year—and you can save $10 by pre-ordering now.

Cyberpunk 2077 is the latest open-world epic from the makers of the brilliant The Witcher 3, and there’s an immense amount of hype around this stunning, futuristic sci-fi affair. Pre-order now and mark your calendar for December 10… and maybe pre-order this silly Funko Pop of Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Silverhand character, and save $2 in the process.

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Borderlands 3: Super Deluxe Edition | $30

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Save huge on the expanded Super Deluxe Edition of raucous looter-shooter Borderlands 3 right now, which originally sold for $100 at launch. This version comes with bonus content and access to all of the post-release add-ons included. And if you’re eyeing a PlayStation 5 pickup in your future, Borderlands 3 has been updated with 4K campaign support at 60 frames per second along with split-screen for three or four players.

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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided | $10

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Here’s a bargain-basement pickup if you missed the original release a few years back. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided presents a stunning cyberpunk future in which your cybernetically augmented agent must track down terrorists. For $10, this could be a cheap warm-up for December’s long-awaited Cyberpunk 2077… or a much more affordable alternative, really.

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WD Black 5TB P10 Game Drive | $125

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It’s pretty easy to fill up your PlayStation 4’s hard drive with games, especially bigger AAA fare, but you can boost your storage tally at a discount right now.

Amazon has the WD Black 5TB P10 Game Drive for $25 off right now. This external hard drive plugs right into your console with a USB cable and lets you download and store potentially dozens more games for easy access.

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Turtle Beach Ear Force Recon 50P Headset | $25

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You could spend a lot more for a PlayStation 4 headset if you see fit, but if you just want something basic for chatting with your Fortnite or Call of Duty Warzone squad, this could do the trick.

Turtle Beach’s Ear Force Recon 50P is a simple plug-and-play headset that pops right into your controller, with an adjustable mic, 40mm drivers, and cushy earcups that’ll hopefully keep you playing in comfort for hours. It’s 17% off at Amazon right now.

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BEBONCOOL PS4 Controller Charging Dock | $14

Clip the coupon on the page

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Image: Ignacia Fulcher

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Stop hunting for a charging cable every time your PS4 gamepads run out of juice. Use BEBONCOOL’s simple charging dock instead to ensure that your DualShock 4 controllers are always topped up.

This dock holds two controllers at once and takes about two hours to restore them to 100%. It’s a mere $14 right now when you clip the coupon on the page.

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The Best Gadgets for Creating the Perfect Home Theater

Illustration for article titled The Best Gadgets for Creating the Perfect Home Theater

Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

Right now, we’re spending more time at home than ever before, and many of us may be investing more in our home entertainment systems than we have in the past. If you’ve been considering upgrading to a better TV setup or snapping up a new smart speaker to help you control your connected home, now is definitely the time to do it.

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Below, we’ll walk you through the best home theater gadgets for your money, whether that’s a new 4K TV or the best soundbar for upgrading your surround sound. We’ve also got recommendations for the best streaming device you should buy right now as well as ambiance lighting solutions that’ll make you feel like you’re inside the game or movie your watching. Read on for our Best of Gizmodo recommendations.

Best TV for Most People

The Sony X900H 4K.

Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

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Our Pick: 65” Sony X900H 4K TV ($1,400)

Now, let me start by acknowledging that this TV is far pricier than some of the other televisions we discuss down below by about $400-$500 for the same 65” display size. That is a lot of extra cash to drop on a TV when you’re shopping in the sub-$2,000 category, particularly if you also plan to invest in equipment like a Dolby Atmos-capable soundbar or other surround sound gadgets. But having spent some time with all of them, Sony’s X900H gave me the best overall experience by a long shot—so much so, in fact, that I bought this TV for myself.

Sony’s X900H is one of just a couple of 2020 TVs that Sony said would be “ready” for the PS5 (but also the Xbox Series X) thanks to support for HDMI 2.1. In fact, there aren’t too many affordable TVs period this year that will have all of these features. Waiting for me was never a deal-breaker, as I had no plans of snapping up the PS5 straight out of the gate. What was more impressive to me was this TV’s easily tailored picture quality and cinema settings that transformed my living room into my own personal movie theater. Blacks were deep and haloing was minimal, contrast and brightness were superb, 4K video looked gorgeous, and its Android TV operating system really helped me pull the trigger on buying this display over a Vizio P-Series model or one of the TVs we discuss below. Even the TV speakers are pretty good, which is not always the case with thinner (and cheaper) TVs.

I know that a lot of folks argue that the native OS on a TV is sort of moot given the number of streaming devices available on the cheap, not to mention the fact that OSes can quickly lose software updates and app support. But I really wanted a TV that just worked. If gaming features or a native OS are less important to you than saving a couple hundred bucks, definitely shoot for one of the models we discuss below (or hold out for a good sale). But I’d buy this TV again in a heartbeat—discounted or not. I really do love it that much.

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The TCL 6-Series 4K QLED.

Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

Also Consider: 65” TCL 6-Series 4K QLED ($900)

Looking at the two contenders for second place here, it was a very tight call between the 2020 TCL 6-Series and the Hisense H9G ($1,000 for the 65” display). (Vizio didn’t get us their TVs in time to be included in this guide, but we’ll be reviewing those down the line as well.) There are things I immediately liked better about the H9G; its remote is better, for one, and it runs on Android TV, which I much preferred to the Roku TV on the 6-Series. There’s a good chance that the Hisense will eventually get Google TV down the line, too, which has a fantastic user experience. Additionally, the H9G is far brighter, which might make it a better option for someone whose TV is situated in a sunny room.

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But what I liked about the TCL 6-Series is that its picture was much easier to calibrate during setup with the TV’s presets. Getting the picture right on the 55” H9G I’ve been testing took far more tinkering in the TV’s settings, and I’m not sure that’s practical for folks who want their picture to look great straight out of the box with minimal effort. The TCL is also equipped with THX Certified Game Mode, which supports premium gaming features like ultra-low latency and variable refresh rate. But cinephiles will also appreciate the TV’s picture quality, which was stellar for the price.

Keep in mind that with either of these TVs, you absolutely will need a soundbar or sound solution of some kind—both sounded awful without one. But even the wee Roku Streambar helped to clean up the audio quite a bit. Just something to keep in mind if you’re shopping within a budget.

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Best Soundbar

The Sony HT-G700 soundbar.

Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

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Our Pick: Sony HT-G700 ($600)

I was not a soundbar evangelist until a recent move, when I relocated from an entertainment setup in a quiet basement with great acoustics to a living room facing a street with heavy traffic. Add to that any amount of random ambient noise—box fans in the summer, a heavy rainstorm, dinner sizzling on the burner in the kitchen—and I find I constantly have to readjust the volume on TVs I test in my home. Since moving into this new space, getting a TV set up with a soundbar solution is the very first thing I do when I’m testing a new unit, and the soundbar I’ve got on my own TV has worked miracles for my home entertainment experience with just a bar and a subwoofer—no additional speakers needed.

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When I asked Gizmodo’s resident soundbar wiz Victoria Song which soundbar she most enjoyed reviewing this year, her recommendation was actually the same soundbar I currently have connected to my own TV, the Sony HT-G700. Particularly for the TVs recommended in this guide, it might not make a ton of sense to drop upwards of a grand on a pricier soundbar like the Sonos Arc, which starts at $800. For the $600 you’ll drop on the Sony HT-G700, though, you’ll get both a soundbar as well as a subwoofer.

However, you won’t have the option to expand on that system down the line, which might be a dealbreaker for somebody looking to build up to truly immersive surround sound. If you’re okay with an entry-level Dolby Atmos soundbar and subwoofer duo and don’t plan to dump a ton of cash into upgrading your home entertainment in the future, though, this is the product to buy. I regularly joke this soundbar is one of my favorite pieces of technology in my home, and frankly, that’s god’s honest truth.

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The Roku Smart Soundbar.

Photo: Adam Clark Estes/Gizmodo

Also Consider: Roku Smart Soundbar (starting at $180)

If it’s a soundbar that you can add to over time that appeals to you, the Roku Smart Soundbar is probably one of your best options for the money. The smart soundbar comes with a built-in Roku player that supports 4K, HDR, as well as Dolby Audio, so you’re effectively getting a premium streaming device as well as a four-driver soundbar for less than $200. But where you’re really going to benefit is from the ability to affordably level up your surround sound over time.

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The Roku Wireless Subwoofer will run you $180 when you’re ready for it and sounds pretty good for the money, though the trade-off here for a cheaper soundbar is that you don’t get support for Dolby Atmos. Roku TV Wireless Speakers, meanwhile, are compatible with any TV when paired with the Roku Smart Soundbar and will run you $200 for the pair. Roku said that these surround sound-improving devices aren’t typically bundled, but they are discounted throughout the year—meaning if you don’t mind waiting a bit, you’ll likely be able to score either at a discount.

Best Multimedia Remote

The Logitech Harmony Companion remote control.

Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

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Our Pick: Logitech Harmony Companion ($150)

Many of us live in a remote hell of our own making. Depending on how expansive your entertainment setup is, you may have separate remotes for your TV, soundbar, streaming device, consoles, and god knows whatever else you use to boost the experience of your home theater. If this sounds like you, you might consider using a multimedia remote in place of the three (or six) you have taking up space on your coffee table.

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The Harmony Companion works with most major devices—no IR blaster on the device itself required. That means it works with Alexa gadgets, the Apple TV, Sonos, Roku, Hue, and even Microsoft and Sony consoles. Basically, this is the one remote you’ll need for all of your smart home devices, whether that be your front door’s smart lock, your home’s lighting and temperature, or your entertainment hub in the living room. I know $150 sounds like a lot for a universal remote, but the Gizmodo staffers who’ve used it swear by it over pricey competitors like Caavo and Savant.

Best Smart Speaker

The Nest Audio smart speaker.

Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

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Our Pick: Nest Audio ($100)

There are so, so many Bluetooth speakers on the market these days, and you can usually find a decent speaker for less than $150. But finding a speaker that not only provides incredible sound but comes equipped with a decent virtual assistant—especially on a budget—is a little harder to pull off.

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Nest Audio manages to do this with aplomb, and Gizmodo recently dubbed this smart home speaker the very best you can currently get for $100. It also isn’t heinous or gaudy, which may be appreciated by anyone who wants their smart speaker to camouflage itself easily among the rest of their home decor. The Nest Audio can also be configured as a stereo pair if you have two of them, and in a future update, you’ll even be able to use the Nest Audio as home theater speakers when connected to a Chromecast with Google TV (which is our current favorite affordable streaming device). That means in the right setup, the Nest Audio could pull double duty as both your music and TV speakers. And given that Siri is still a damn mess, the Google Assistant integration will probably give you a far less-frustrating experience in terms of the speaker’s actual “smarts.”

Best Lighting Accessory

The Philips Hue Sync Box shining behind a TV.

Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

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Our Pick: Philips Hue Sync Box ($230)

We admit this is more of a luxury pick, but if you want to juice up your home theater with adaptive bias lighting, you may want to consider syncing your TV with Philips Hue’s Play HDMI Sync Box that will turn your living room into an immersive sea of colors. (Though be aware that it’ll cost ya, as you’ll need to purchase the Hue Sync Box for $230 before pairing it with some Hue lights, which are sold separately.)

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If getting a light strip or some ambiance bulbs is level 1 in the world of smart lights, the Philips Hue Sync Box is probably more like level 8. Based on my colleague Sam Rutherford’s experience—he uses the Sync Box to turn his living room into an ethereal light bath synced to whatever is playing on his screen—getting the settings just right will take some tinkering. Its four HDMI ports also limit the number of devices you can feed directly into the box itself without the help of an AV receiver. But if you’re an RGB lighting junkie, this tiny light maestro might be just the home entertainment gadget you’ve been looking for, and it’s much more flexible than competitors like the $150 Dreamscreen.

Illustration for article titled The Best Gadgets for Creating the Perfect Home Theater

Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

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Also Consider: Hue White and Color Ambiance ($90)

A couple of months back, I finally took the leap into the dreamy world of dimmable and color-changing light bulbs. Prior to this, I didn’t really have a lot of need for them. I was still commuting into an office most days, and I started my workday day a little later than I do now. But given that I now fully work from home and often wake up before the sun rises, the blinding light of a pair of exposed bulbs in my office was too much to bear. I originally opted for a set of Hue Filament Edison bulbs that cost about $28 a pop, but I’ve since upgraded to Philips Hue with Bluetooth bulbs for both white and color, and buddy, this has been a legitimate ambiance-changer. My space is peaceful, my mood is lifted, my eyes do not ache from the previous unadjustable bulbs I used to have in here, and I can safely say I’m now a color-bulb convert.

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Best Streaming Device

Illustration for article titled The Best Gadgets for Creating the Perfect Home Theater

Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

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Our Pick: Chromecast with Google TV ($50)

This year brought us a new Chromecast with Google TV, which is basically a new skin for the Android TV operating system. But this new Chromecast also gave us a remote and a buffet of premium streaming features, making this little dongle one of the best streaming devices you can buy right now—on the cheap, no less!

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What you’ll get with this device is this: Chromecast capabilities, 4K, Dolby Vision, HDR 10, and HDR10+ as well as Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Atmos with HDMI passthrough. Google Assistant is a capable navigation helper, and finding content from your various apps is a breeze from the “For You” tab. I’ll say that even as a longtime Apple TV user, I much preferred this experience to Apple’s. And at $50, you’ll get with this device what you’ll pay as much as $200 for with other devices. Chromecast does lack support for Apple TV, but this may not be as much of an issue for folks whose TVs support AirPlay 2.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales’ Biggest Conflict Is Achingly Intimate

Miles faces a deeply personal challenge in his new game.

Miles faces a deeply personal challenge in his new game.
Image: Insomniac Games/Sony

Insomniac’s first thwip at the Spider-Verse gave us a compelling tale of Peter Parker’s dual life, with a wonderfully personable twist that smashed those halves together. Its successor—Spider-Man: Miles Morales, released last week—does the same but as its larger self does, the new story drills this idea down into something far more potent and intimate to Miles.

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Screenshot: Insomniac Games/Sony

Very early on in Miles’ story, we’re introduced to the people closest to him in life. Although he’s absent for much of the game thanks to an impromptu reporting trip with Mary-Jane, there’s his mentor Peter, of course. There’s his best friend, Ganke, his confidante in all things Spider-Man, and his mother Rio, a source of strength after the loss of his father Jefferson during the events of the first game. A little after that, we’re also introduced to his uncle Aaron, a more distant relative and not just because of the bad history between Rio and Jeff. As Miles quickly learns, his uncle is the teched-out criminal vigilante Prowler.

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All these interactions specifically feel like they capture the same sort of duality Peter’s relationship with Otto Octavius in the first game had (in this universe, Octavius is Peter’s scientific mentor before his fall from grace as the villainous Doc Ock). Rio is there to represent the will-they-won’t-they idea of someone close to Miles discovering his dual identity. Aaron, for the most part, offers that, as well as the wrench of someone in Miles’ personal circle interacting with his superheroic one. Ganke, if anything, feels like the freshest addition here—someone Miles can actually talk to about being who he really is, a potent reminder of just how lonely Peter’s life under the mask can be in comparison.

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Screenshot: Insomniac Games/Sony

But they are not the most interesting dynamics Miles shares in his titular game. Early on as well we are introduced to another character in Miles’ personal orbit that the game leverages to create its most powerful story. A girl, the same age as Miles, and one of his closest lifelong friends: Phin Mason. Perhaps better known to diehard Spider-fans as Phineas Mason, the Tinkerer.

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Unlike the dread, tragic inevitability of seeing Octavius in the earliest moments of Spider-Man, Phin’s first entrance into Miles Morales—a surprise guest for dinner on Christmas Eve at Miles and Rio’s new apartment in Harlem—is not shocking unless you know the ins-and-outs of Spider-Man lore. After all, in the comics, Phineas is male, and although the purple accents in her clothing might give away the connections to the purple hues of Miles Morales’ reinvention of the character as the technologically-enhanced leader of a new criminal faction known as the Underground, it’s not quite as immediately shocking as a set of Chekov’s Robo-Octopus Arms.

That means Miles Morales can’t lean on its audience being familiar with who Phin is in the comics as it could with Octavius. But it also means that the story told between Miles and Phin grows into something much more emotionally complex for the duo beyond “mentor gone bad.” Even before Miles finds out that Phin is the face of the Underground and the creator of its high-tech weaponry during an explosive battle on the Braithwaite Bridge, his relationship with her is fraught with a sense of frayed nerves and tension. They’re very close, but it’s also made clear that they’ve grown apart in recent years.

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Screenshot: Insomniac Games/Sony

Phin had a brother, Rick (here a Roxxon employee vital to the technocratic corporations’ renewable energy push into Harlem), who was equally close with Miles. But Rick’s passing distanced the two—Miles going to one school, Phin to another, communication and time together fleeting, far from the shared lives they’d lived as younger teens. There’s a teenage awkwardness to their attempts to reconnect over the early parts of the game, dancing around each other on issues of trust, not just because both are hiding dual identities, but because the idea of re-opening those painful memories of why they drifted apart is still too much. It’s perhaps that issue which defines Miles Morales’ central conflict more than anything: not that Miles and Phin find themselves are on opposites sides of how to defeat Roxxon, but how the young teenagers process grief, and how trying to process that grief becomes a severe issue of communication.

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As the story progresses, the barriers continue to grow between Phin and Miles, with Phin’s grief and anger proving especially difficult for her to tackle. Miles attempts to reach out to her—first acting as if he wants to join the Underground, then revealing himself as Spider-Man to her—aren’t seen as a friend reaching out, but abuses of trust, only pushing Phin further down her solitary path and away from his attempts to reconnect. Every time it feels like there’s a chance for the two to become as close as they were before Rick’s passing, they’re forced apart again: not by circumstance but because Phin actively chooses to push Miles away.

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Screenshot: Insomniac Games/Sony

The frustration they each feel—at Roxxon, at each other, at themselves—makes Miles Morales’ story so much more intimate than the inevitability of Peter’s clash with Octavious, because we are granted so many chances to see just how close Miles and Phin are to reconciliation. There are moments they work together, as Tinkerer and Spider-Man, to push back against Roxxon’s reckless plan for control in Harlem. There are moments as friends, where they look back on the goofy science projects they worked on together, and wonder what was lost between them even before the superhero stuff got in the way.

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It’s a quiet mourning that is layered into the game even beyond the narrative. In Spider-Man, Peter would find old backpacks containing memorabilia of his career as a hero, Easter Egg tributes to his long comic book history—an Aunt May recipe for wheat cakes here, a reference to an old clash with his rogue’s gallery there. In Miles Morales, those collectibles become time capsule lockboxes Miles and Phin left all over as kids, containing memories of their friendship. Each one found, another recollection, each one found, another regret at these lost moments, archived in time.

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Screenshot: Insomniac Games/Sony

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As Phin and Miles battle to save Harlem from Roxxon’s rapidly-destabilizing energy reactor—destabilizing in part because of Phin’s own sabotage of it, seeking vengeance for her brother’s death—there’s something mournful in the climax’s high-stakes spectacle. Theirs is a tragedy that feels altogether different from the one between Peter and Octavius. There, it was the spectre of inevitability, of destiny itself: that no matter how hard Peter fought it, Otto Octavius would have to become Doctor Octopus. Miles and Phin’s conflict is so much more fraught with the promise of what could’ve been because we are reminded constantly of what it once was.

We’re reminded that those moments are lost forever in the game’s closing moments, as Phin, finally opening herself back up to Miles long enough to realize what’s become of their conflict, makes a sacrifice. Propelling herself into the air with Miles’ broken body—rippling with the uncontainable energy he’s just absorbed to stop the reactor going critical and destroying Harlem—she comforts him, knowing the blast Miles is about to unwittingly unleash will kill her, but is far enough away to keep the borough and her friend from harm. In her final moments, she asks Miles to do what he’s been struggling against the whole game, what she has been as well: to let go.

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Screenshot: Insomniac Games/Sony

In the last mission of Miles Morales, just before the big final fight between Phin and Miles, you play a flashback sequence—back to when Rick was alive, when things were right between these two friends, visiting their award-winning school science project as it’s shown off in a local Oscorp museum. As Phin and Miles wander the exhibits, trading friendly barbs and dancing around the fact that their young lives are about to change—not in the superheroic sense, but their incoming destinies at schools apart from each other—Miles accidentally bumps into some of the museum’s patrons, quickly apologizing as he goes to catch up with Phin.

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Although this younger Miles is yet to learn who it is, we are intimately aware: Peter Parker and Otto Octavius, friends, colleagues—their hurt so far ahead of them in this moment that we are given the chance to look back, one last time, at what was between them. Spider-Man: Miles Morales also asks of us to do the same for Phin and Miles but it’s bittersweet, the realization that it did not have to be this way between them if only they’d had the chance to listen to each other, to get through and re-knit what was broken.

Instead, as Miles does, we have to let go, and leave what was behind.

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Here’s Where You Can Buy a PlayStation 5

PS5 | $500 | Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Walmart, StockX (Price Varies)
Digital | $400 | Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Walmart, StockX (Price Varies)

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It’s redundant to say the PlayStation 5 will be Sony’s most powerful console yet, but that’s exactly what it is. And it’s not just because it’s got more teraflops that owning one is an exciting fantasy. The console maker invested ample research and development into the storage system, and though it doesn’t sound all that exciting on the surface, with an NVMe SSD tightly integrated into its advanced system architecture, bound to extract every theoretical drop of speed, it has developers watering at the mouth.

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And the games look just as marvelous as you were hoping.

PS5 is looking like a sure must-buy in 2020, but actually carrying one out of a store today is quite the challenge. If you’re at your wit’s end and need one ASAP, you might want to give StockX a try.

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This eBay alternative ditches the frantic bidding wars for a worry-free system that allows you to set your preferred price, then a transaction will happen automatically whenever a seller posts one within range. StockX acts like a middle man after the exchange, too. They’ll take your money and wait for shipment from the seller, confirm the item’s condition and authenticity, and then ship the item to you once everything is clear. You’ll get your money back if the seller doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

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But a bargain route this is not, at least not right now. With the PlayStation 5 being so hard to find, upcharges bring it to an average of $900+ at StockX. The discless version isn’t much cheaper at $885. Use this as your last resort.

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Image: Sony

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If you look now, chances are you won’t find any PlayStation 5 units in stock, but we’ll see small restocks here and there, with more sure to be on the way for a big Black Friday push.

If you want to order a PS5, you’ll have to be diligent. Sign up at the following retailers to be notified when new stock is available. Follow them and PlayStation on Twitter or other social media channels for updates. You can even use in-stock notification sites (here’s our favorite) to make sure you’re covering all possible ground. Whatever you do, you’ll need to check back regularly to secure your order, because gaming consoles are exceptionally hot right now thanks to quarantine life, and pre-order opportunities seem to come and go like a thief in the night.

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Buy the PS5:

Buy the PS5 Digital Edition:

Illustration for article titled Here’s Where You Can Buy a PlayStation 5

Graphic: Quentyn Kennemer

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PS5 accessories seem to be much more plentiful than the console right now. Whether it’s an extra DualSense controller, a charging dock, or the Pulse 3D headset, almost all are still available to order and shipping today. Here’s where you can buy PS5 accessories.

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DualSense Wireless Controller | $70 | Amazon

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Graphic: Quentyn Kennemer

Discover a deeper, highly immersive gaming experience* that brings the action to life in the palms of your hands. The DualSense wireless controller offers immersive haptic feedback, dynamic adaptive triggers, and a built-in microphone, all integrated into an iconic comfortable design.

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Other Retailers: Best Buy | GameStop | Walmart | Target

DualSense Charging Station | $30 | Amazon

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Graphic: Quentyn Kennemer

Charge up to two DualSense wireless controllers at the same time and dock them quickly and easily with the charging station’s click-in design. Your controllers charge as quickly as when connected to your PS5 console—so you can free up USB ports without sacrificing performance. DualSense wireless controllers sold separately.

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Other Retailers: Best Buy | GameStop | Target

HD Camera | $60 | Amazon

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Graphic: Quentyn Kennemer

Featuring dual lenses for 1080p capture and a built-in stand, the HD camera works seamlessly with the PS5 background removal tools to put you in the spotlight. Quickly create a recording or a broadcast of yourself and your gameplay, with your DualSense wireless controller’s create button.

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Other Retailers: Best Buy | GameStop | Target

Media Remote | $30 | Amazon

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Graphic: Quentyn Kennemer

Conveniently navigate entertainment on your PlayStation 5 console with an intuitive layout featuring media controls. Simplify your set-up with the ability to power on your PS5 console directly and adjust the volume and power settings of compatible TVs

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Other Retailers: Best Buy | GameStop

PULSE 3D Headset | $100 | Amazon

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Graphic: Quentyn Kennemer

Enjoy a seamless, wireless experience with a headset fine-tuned for 3D Audio on PS5 consoles*. The PULSE 3D wireless headset features a refined design with dual noise-cancelling microphones, built-in rechargeable battery, and an array of easy-access controls.

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Other Retailers: Best Buy | GameStop | Target

PS5 Launch Titles

Tons of exciting games are slated for the PS5, including Resident Evil VIII: Village and a new God of War game, both arriving in 2021. But if you’re wondering what you’ll be able to play immediately or soon after you’ve carried out your ritualistic unboxing, here’s the list so far (click to pre-order games in bold):

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This article was originally published in July 2020 and updated with new information on 11/13/2020. 


Miles Morales Reforms Spider-Man’s Relationship With the Police When It Needs to Be Abolished

Miles perched on the facade of a police precinct.

Miles perched on the facade of a police precinct.
Screenshot: Insomniac

Insomniac’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales follows the fledgling webhead as he steps out from under Peter Parker’s shadow. He’s defending New York City on his own for the first time just as a bitter ground war breaks out between the nefarious Roxxon Corporation and the tech-powered Underground movement. New as Miles is to this life, fighting crime is his calling, and he’s ready to step up to the plate.

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As the conflict spills out of Harlem into other neighborhoods, Miles realizes that he has to intervene because NYC’s conveniently out of superheroes all of a sudden. Not to mention the NYPD’s deeply unprepared to go to toe with either the Underground or Roxxon’s trigger-happy commandos. By placing its hero at the center of an ongoing battle between two warring factions, Miles Morales follows in its predecessor’s narrative footsteps and plays into the idea of Spider-Man—regardless of whether it’s Peter or Miles under the mask—always being pulled in different directions.

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Where Peter’s game framed the ground-level police as his (at times unwitting) allies, Miles Morales goes out of its way to draw as much attention away from them as possible. It often feels as if the game’s creative team understood that a story about an Afro-Puerto Rican teenager teaming up with New York cops would strike the wrong tone—especially in a year that’s been defined by protests calling for police reform and abolition in response to the kind of institutional police brutality that’s left countless innocent, unarmed Black and brown people murdered by law enforcement. But the more you play the new game, the more you see that its attempt to acknowledge our real-world realities only goes but so far. Ultimately the game either doesn’t have the courage or desire to be honest about the way things are.

Illustration for article titled iMiles Morales/i Reforms iSpider-Man/is Relationship With the Police When It Needs to Be Abolished

In Insomniac’s first Spider-Man game, Peter spends a considerable amount of the core campaign assisting the NYPD in their fight to take down both Wilson Fisk and Martin Li while also dealing with trigger-happy Sable International commandos and escapees from the Raft. Were it not for Peter’s efforts, New York’s cops would be utterly overwhelmed by the superpowered threats facing their city, but Peter, the self-proclaimed “Spider-Cop,” is all too eager to help out the boys in blue. He ultimately sees his vigilantism as an extension of the law and order the police purport to represent.

Even after you beat the first Spider-Man’s core campaign, as you play through the postgame searching for all the holdouts from Li’s Inner Demon gang who continue the organization’s operations even though their leader’s been imprisoned, Peter uses messages intercepted from a police scanner to keep abreast of crimes. The NYPD might not exactly know that Spider-Man’s working with them to rid the city of evil, but the game makes it impossible to misunderstand that Peter sees the police as an invaluable tool in his web-slinging arsenal.

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Very early into Miles Morales, after Peter’s left New York to tag along with Mary Jane on a reporting trip, Miles comes face to face with both Roxxon and the Underground. The two gangs square off on the High Bridge, and panicked civilians desperately try to escape the collapsing structure. As Miles webs his way around the crumbling structure, taking out armed goons and scooping up imperiled people before they plunge to their deaths, it becomes clear that Roxxon and the Underground are willing to bring the city to ruin in order to accomplish their goals.

Miles trying to stop a fight between Roxxon soldiers and members of the Underground.

Miles trying to stop a fight between Roxxon soldiers and members of the Underground.
Image: Insomniac

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The game’s opening act features a moment in which Miles, with his hands up, stands between a Roxxon soldier and an armed member of the Underground. The entire scene evokes the image of civilians imploring deadly authority figures to lower their weapons rather than immediately leading with violence. The game attempts to equate Roxxon and the Underground’s methods with the type of brazen brutality that’s cultivated within American police forces, but on top of that, the story asserts that both groups are the ultimate enemy of the good.

Like Peter, Miles comes to use technology to guide him in his crime-fighting exploits, but unlike Peter, rather than piggybacking on the police’s infrastructure, he instead relies on Ganke Lee’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider App. It’s something people across the city already use to report suspicious activity they witness and is essentially a riff on Nextdoor, a platform that’s been plagued by issues concerning racial profiling. Use of the tech represents Miles’ growing connection to Harlem and the game’s attempt at imagining a world where policing’s fundamentally driven by the community itself rather than the police. Behind that attempt, though, you can plainly see Insomniac’s desire to distance itself from the overt optics of Spider-Man using police tech to help them, but the game never makes any attempt at acknowledging why those optics are bad.

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Cops are very much a part of Miles Morales’ world, even beyond his late father Jefferson, an officer who died in the line of duty during the events of the first game. You don’t have to look particularly hard to spot them patrolling the streets or popping up in action-packed cutscenes where it’s obvious they’re out of their depth. The police are there on the sidelines as this all-new, all-different Spider-Man single-handedly rallies to save the city from destruction. This time though, they’re presented as an inert, mostly unengaged presence that interacts with reality far less than the game’s NPCs.

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Miles Morales’ world isn’t meant to be a direct reflection of our world and the societal ills that plague it, but at the same time, you can hear and see the writing team trying to acknowledge ideas and conversations about social justice. That comes out in elements like Danika Hart’s podcast which periodically cuts in while you swing through Manhattan. The problem is that while characters like Danika pay lip service to the ideas of resisting authoritarian rule and rallying against megacorporations—ideas that, again, resonate in this particular moment—Miles Morales aims little to none of that energy at the police themselves. This makes the story feel decidedly out of touch, especially in moments when the game alludes to Harlem being targeted specifically by Roxxon’s dangerous new energy source because of its Black, brown, and working-class population.

At the same time that the story eschews making petty drug busts in favor of stopping arms dealers from selling guns in Central Park, it largely sidesteps making mention of how the police historically existed as organizations harboring the very same kind of domestic terrorists Miles Morales wants you to take down with well-timed venom blasts. To Miles Morales’ credit, it does feature a prominent Black Lives Matter Mural down in the Financial District, as well as an unlockable black and yellow Uptown Pride costume. But the Uptown Pride suit’s locked behind side quests that aren’t integral to the game’s main plot, and there’s something about Miles donning the suit without the game directly engaging with the ideas BLM stands for that makes the gesture feel somewhat hollow.

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Miles perched atop a street light in front of a Black Lives Matter mural.

Miles perched atop a street light in front of a Black Lives Matter mural.
Screenshot: Insomniac

Miles is the Black, Latinx son of a slain cop and an aspiring local politician whose entire campaign revolved around making Harlem a stronger, safer community for its residents, despite the lack of support and resources it’s historically been afforded. Miles is also a justice-minded vigilante who knows that he can do what the cops can’t and won’t. Everything about who Miles is as a hero makes it difficult to sit with the idea that he wouldn’t have a more complicated and at times negative relationship with the police than Peter does, owing to their vastly different cultural experiences.

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With Miles Morales, Insomniac’s crafted a more-than-solid first outing for New York’s newest Spider-Man that makes the prospect of future games an interesting one. But if the game studio really wants its next-generation take on New York City’s finest web-slingers to feel like dynamic, engaged people at the center of stories worth diving into, it’s going have to do a better job of addressing the way things actually are rather than how we want them to be.

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Save Big on Games and Accessories in Today’s Best PlayStation Deals

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Graphic: Gabe Carey

Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

Featured Deal: PlayStation Plus 12-Month Subscription | $28 | Eneba | Promo Code PSFIVEALERT

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The best Sony PlayStation deals of November 2020 are here.

The PlayStation 5 is finally here, and good luck finding one: they’ve been popping in and out of stock at retailers all day so far, and they’re likely to remain scarce for months to come. It’s the usual console launch routine, but we wish you well if you’re still on the hunt.

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In any case, if you want to put your PlayStation 4 to great use in the meantime, we’ve put together a list of the best game and accessory deals we’ve seen, ranging from new games like DIRT 5 and FIFA 20 to some very affordable older picks and a bargain on a year’s worth of PlayStation Plus service.

PlayStation Plus 12-Month Membership | $28

Use code PSFIVEALERT at checkout

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Games and Accessories in Today’s Best PlayStation Deals

Image: Quentyn Kennemer

A PlayStation Plus membership is essential if you want to play PS4 games online, but at $60 a year, it might seem a bit steep.

Luckily, you can grab a year-long membership now for just $28 through Eneba using the promo code PSFIVEALERT. The subscription also grants you free games to download each and every month, which you can keep for as long as your Plus plan stays active.

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Cyberpunk 2077 (Pre-Order) | $50

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077 is easily the biggest PS4 game coming out for the rest of the year—and you can save $10 by pre-ordering now.

Cyberpunk 2077 is the latest open-world epic from the makers of the brilliant The Witcher 3, and there’s an immense amount of hype around this stunning, futuristic sci-fi affair. Pre-order now and mark your calendar for December 10… and maybe pre-order this silly Funko Pop of Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Silverhand character, and save $2 in the process.

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Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time | $40

Clip the coupon on the page

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Games and Accessories in Today’s Best PlayStation Deals

Image: Andrew Hayward

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It’s about time… for you to jump on this deal for Crash Bandicoot 4 if you’re a fan of the old-school platforming hero. He’s back with a brand new core series entry more than two decades after the last one on PS4, and right now it’s $20 off at Amazon when you clip the coupon on the page.

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DIRT 5 | $50

Illustration for article titled Save Big on Games and Accessories in Today’s Best PlayStation Deals

Image: Andrew Hayward

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You can already save $10 on the newly-released DIRT 5 for PlayStation 4, and it comes with a free upgrade to the enhanced PS5 edition out later this month. Codemasters’ latest rally racer features tracks spread across 10 global locales, a narrative campaign mode, and local split-screen modes for couch play.

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FIFA 21/Madden NFL 21 | $35-40 Each

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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Both of EA Sports’ big annual simulations are already deeply discounted at Amazon right now. Whether you prefer the footie fun of FIFA 21 or the (American) football action of Madden NFL 21, you’ll save a bundle on each. FIFA is marked down to $40 right now, while Madden is $35, and both games also upgrade for free to the enhanced PlayStation 5 edition come December.

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Borderlands 3: Super Deluxe Edition | $30

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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Save huge on the expanded Super Deluxe Edition of raucous looter-shooter Borderlands 3 right now, which originally sold for $100 at launch. This version comes with bonus content and access to all of the post-release add-ons included. And if you’re eyeing a PlayStation 5 pickup in your future, Borderlands 3 has been updated with 4K campaign support at 60 frames per second along with split-screen for three or four players.

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LEGO Marvel Collection | $20

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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This is a great deal for Marvel fans, serving up a 3-in-1 bundle of games that could easily keep you playing and unlocking characters and content all winter long.

The LEGO Marvel Collection puts three games on a single disc: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes and its sequel, as well as LEGO The Avengers and all of the add-on content for all three. They’re all pretty similar in their button-mashing, puzzle-solving, co-op action, but collectively provide an immense wealth of levels to play through. Save $40 off right now at Amazon.

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Kingdom Hearts All-in-One Package | $30

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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There’s a whole lot of Kingdom Hearts, Square Enix’s charming role-playing hybrid of Disney, Final Fantasy, and plenty of original characters… and now you can get nearly all of it on PS4 for a steal.

The Kingdom Hearts All-in-One Package includes last year’s Kingdom Hearts III along with remastered editions of the first two PlayStation 2 entries and seven other side games. That’s so much! This bundle is $20 off the list price, and could provide you with enough gaming to last well into 2021. Alternatively, you can just get Kingdom Hearts III for $10 on its own.

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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided | $10

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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Here’s a bargain-basement pickup if you missed the original release a few years back. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided presents a stunning cyberpunk future in which your cybernetically augmented agent must track down terrorists. For $10, this could be a cheap warm-up for December’s long-awaited Cyberpunk 2077… or a much more affordable alternative, really.

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WD Black 5TB P10 Game Drive | $125

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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It’s pretty easy to fill up your PlayStation 4’s hard drive with games, especially bigger AAA fare, but you can boost your storage tally at a discount right now.

Amazon has the WD Black 5TB P10 Game Drive for $25 off right now. This external hard drive plugs right into your console with a USB cable and lets you download and store potentially dozens more games for easy access.

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Turtle Beach Ear Force Recon 50P Headset | $25

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Image: Andrew Hayward

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You could spend a lot more for a PlayStation 4 headset if you see fit, but if you just want something basic for chatting with your Fortnite or Call of Duty Warzone squad, this could do the trick.

Turtle Beach’s Ear Force Recon 50P is a simple plug-and-play headset that pops right into your controller, with an adjustable mic, 40mm drivers, and cushy earcups that’ll hopefully keep you playing in comfort for hours. It’s 17% off at Amazon right now.

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BEBONCOOL PS4 Controller Charging Dock | $14

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Stop hunting for a charging cable every time your PS4 gamepads run out of juice. Use BEBONCOOL’s simple charging dock instead to ensure that your DualShock 4 controllers are always topped up.

This dock holds two controllers at once and takes about two hours to restore them to 100%. It’s a mere $14 right now when you clip the coupon on the page.

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The Sony HT-G700 Makes a Great Case for Budget Dolby Atmos Soundbars

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Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Getting a true Dolby Atmos home theater experience is an investment—and some of us just don’t have the space or willingness to spend upwards of $1,000 to make a super authentic Atmos experience happen. However, recently we’ve started seeing more entry-level soundbar systems supporting the format and of the ones I’ve tested so far, the Sony HT-G700 is absolutely the one you should get.

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A few caveats here: An entry-level Dolby Atmos soundbars will involve some sort of trade-off. Of course, you’re going to have the best Atmos experience if you go ham with and buy satellite speakers, a soundbar, a subwoofer, and ceiling speakers. With the $600 HT-G700, the tradeoff is a 3.1 channel system that can decode Atmos but uses Sony’s secret algorithmic sauce to simulate height. It comes with a wireless subwoofer, but that’s it—you don’t have the option to add rear speakers or height speakers later on. Sony’s claim is that its software can upscale the sound from the HT-G700 all the way up to a 7.1 channel system. This may raise a red flag for some home theater nerds and to be fair, lots of companies who make this sort of claim fail to deliver.

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When you pull the HT-G700 out of its box, it’s surprisingly stylish given that, like other soundbars, it’s basically a long black rectangle. It’s got a dark gray grille in the front, and touch controls up top. On the left side, behind the grille, there’s also an LED display that’s actually quite helpful in that it tells you when something is playing in Dolby Atmos (or when you’ve changed settings, etc.). The ports are located in the rear on the left side, while the power cord plugs in on the rear right. The subwoofer is a black box. It’s not hideous, but it’s also not going to win Prettiest Subwoofer of 2020 either. The HT-G700 is also wall-mountable if that’s your thing. I did not wall mount it as my TV is a) not wall-mounted and b) despite doing my best to get swole and lift heavy objects, I don’t want to die trying to wall mount my TV. So I can’t really speak to how easy it is to do that, but it is an option should you want it.

Size-wise, the HT-G700 isn’t the most compact soundbar. The Sonos Beam or the Panasonic SoundSlayer are much, much smaller. It measures 38.6 by 2.5 by 4.25 inches (WHD), so it’s long but not egregiously so. It’s also got a decently low profile. Unlike the Sonos Arc, it doesn’t obstruct my view on my LG TV, which has an extremely stubby base. It’s also perfectly fine for TVs over 55-inches. I also tested it with my 65-inch Vizio, and had zero issues. The subwoofer measures 7.6 by 15.25 by 16 inches (WHD)—it’s not too beefy but at 16.9 pounds, it’s hefty unless, like me, you regularly lug around a lazy 20lb cat.

Inside the soundbar, you’ve got three elliptical full-range drivers with a maximum output of 400W. Meanwhile, the subwoofer has a single bass cone and 100W output. TL;DR—It gets sufficiently loud. I’ve been trapped in my 550-square foot studio apartment all pandemic, and drowning out my cabin fever with movie explosions and sad indie music was easy. You shouldn’t have any problem in medium or large rooms, though it might be overkill in a smaller room like a bedroom or office.

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Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

For ports, you’ve got an HDMI input, HDMI eARC (or ARC if that’s all your TV supports), optical input, and Bluetooth, so you can use this to play music from your phone if you please. (I had some issues connecting with my iPhone XS Max over Bluetooth but had no problems with my husband’s iPhone 11 Pro Max. My iPhone has gotten a bit wonky with Bluetooth recently, so I chalked it up to that.) The HT-G700 also supports 4K HDR passthrough, so that’s good if you want to route the Apple TV through the soundbar for Dolby Atmos streaming. It also has HDCP 2.2 and supports HDMI CEC.

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Setup is easy peasy. All you have to do is plug in the soundbar, make sure the right HDMI cords go to the right ports, plug in the subwoofer, and voilá. You don’t have to do anything to connect the subwoofer, other than make sure it’s plugged in. There’s a small indicator light on the upper left of the subwoofer—as long as it’s green, that means it’s connected to the soundbar and you’re ready to go. In all my time testing, I never had any issues with the subwoofer’s wireless connectivity—even as I plugged, and unplugged, and switched up which of my two TVs the HT-G700 was connected to. If you’ve got a Sony TV, you can also connect to the soundbar wirelessly. I don’t have a Sony TV so I wasn’t able to test that part out.

While I don’t love adding yet another remote to my arsenal, the HT-G700’s remote is pretty good and easy to navigate. You can also control the subwoofer’s volume via the remote if you don’t like the auto-preset.

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Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

But now let’s get to the good stuff. This soundbar sounds great. Even that dumb ba-bum noise Netflix makes when you launch the app sounds good. Mwah. Chef’s kiss. End of review. Just kidding.

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Audiophiles will always have something to gripe about because to be fair, no speaker is really perfect. With the HT-G700, my main complaint is that dialogue can sometimes sound a tad flat. It’s improved with the Voice setting turned on, and is way more noticeable if you’re watching Atmos content than in 5.1 surround sound.

Without Dolby Atmos, the HT-G700 still does a good job of giving you a sense of where characters are in a scene, particularly with regard to depth. Events occurring in the distance sound like they’re far away, people speaking “near” you sound louder. Most soundbars will improve on your TV’s shitty speakers, but I tested this at the same time as the Panasonic SoundSlayer and the Sonos Arc and there’s no question that this just sounds better than either. I was actually pretty impressed that even without rear speakers, I did get a fairly immersive soundscape compared to other standalone soundbars I’ve tested. Is it the same as having rear or height speakers? No—but it’s still pretty good.

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Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

The above is all true with Dolby Atmos-enabled, too, even if you’re not really getting “true” Atmos. It’s just dialed up even further. I’d say the HT-G700 is on par with the Sonos Arc with regard to spatial sound. While I think the HT-G700 is much better at creating depth, the Arc wins on height. The HT-G700 just doesn’t really simulate height as well as Sony claims and no, I never felt like something was happening behind me. Just to be sure, I watched nearly every spaceship battle in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Spaceships zooming left to right? Great. Spaceships launching into hyperspace? Also great. There was one instance of a ship swooshing forward on a right-to-left diagonal during the skirmish between the Resistance and the First Order on Takodana in The Force Awakens that was just stupendous. Explosions in the distance? Truly impressive. Explosions up close? Also impressive. (The subwoofer really helps bring out the rumble of expensive destroyers meeting a fiery death.) What I did not really get was a good sense these spaceships were zooming above me.

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That’s doesn’t mean these scenes weren’t enjoyable. They fully were. The Seoul car chase scene in Black Panther doesn’t really have a lot of overhead sounds, but the HT-G700 handled cars nyooming in every direction with aplomb. Honestly, if I wasn’t specifically listening for that overhead sound, I wouldn’t really have anything to complain about. Lastly, it’s sort of obvious, but the subwoofer really did add oomph when it came to kabooms. I’d even say it made Kylo Ren’s helmet voice 10% less stupid. (No technology is powerful enough to make it sound genuinely threatening.)

Illustration for article titled The Sony HT-G700 Makes a Great Case for Budget Dolby Atmos Soundbars

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

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The HT-G700 is a good option if you want a soundbar to double as a Bluetooth speaker for music, especially if you like bass-heavy songs. I played Joji’s entire Nectar album and heard the subtle bass lines I hadn’t noticed in my over-ear headphones or on my other speakers. Mac Miller’s What’s the Use was also thumping. Trebles sounded great too—the Jurassic Park theme song was appropriately majestic without sounding too thin or reedy. The soundstage during Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was excellent, and it handled the rapid shifts from quiet to loud without crackling or distortion. Meanwhile, it also handled sad lo-fi indie queen Mitski’s Your Best American Girl without sounding garbled, which her music sometimes does on cheaper speakers.

At $600, this is a reasonably priced Dolby Atmos-capable soundbar and subwoofer combo. To me, it sounds better than the $800 Sonos Arc alone and is way more cost-effective than the roughly $1,500 you’d be spending if you want the Sonos Arc and Sonos Sub. Sonos has a slight edge when it comes to creating that Atmos sound bubble, but honestly I’ve got to hand overall sound quality to Sony. That said, I do think you need to care about having Dolby Atmos just a little bit. If you don’t care about Atmos at all, then there are cheaper 3.1 and even 5.1 surround sound options that also sound pretty decent, like the $500 Roku’s 5.1 Surround Sound System. So long as you’re okay without height or rear channels, and don’t really care about having that in the future, this is a good deal for what you’re getting.

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If you’re still on the fence, what you really need to figure out is whether you’re willing to invest in getting the best, most immersive sound possible—or whether you’re good with a 3.1 system that sounds more expensive than it is. The HT-G700 won’t get you the most authentic Atmos experience possible, but for most people, it’s pretty damn good. In a nutshell, this is a great choice if you’re willing to spend a little more for above-average sound, but don’t want to clutter up your space with a bulky theater system. For me, personally, I am currently fighting with my husband as to which TV—mine or his—gets to use the Sony HT-G700 while I wait for my next review soundbar to arrive.

README

  • A 3.1 system with a soundbar and wireless subwoofer that’s also Dolby Atmos compatible.
  • Sony claims it can upscale sound up to 7.1 channels, so while it can decode Dolby Atmos it’s really simulating height and rear sounds. It’s better than you’d expect, but that 7.1 channel claim is a ‘lil overblown.
  • Great for movies and TV, but also excellent for playing music too.
  • Can’t be built out, however, so if you want legit height and rear speakers someday, this one isn’t the one for you.

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Spider-Man: Miles Morales Is a Smaller, Stronger Game Than Its Predecessor

Miles Morales swings into action in his very own video game.

Miles Morales swings into action in his very own video game.
Image: Sony/Insomniac Games

io9 ReviewsReviews and critical analyses of fan-favorite movies, TV shows, comics, books, and more.

Marvel’s Spider-Man took open-world gaming tropes and crafted a sweeping comic book tale. The game wore its love and understanding of the duality that makes its titular hero the greatest comic book hero of all time proudly on its chest. Its follow-up, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, focusing on a fellow Spider-hero, is more of the same: but it keenly understands what makes Miles his own hero.

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Out next week for Sony’s new Playstation 5 (and Playstation 4), Miles Morales will instantly feel familiar to players of the first game from Insomniac Studios. You’re playing in the same map of New York as the first game, albeit the new Christmas setting means there’s a lot more snow and pretty decorations around. You are, by and large, web-swinging and punching bad guys in the same way as you did the first time around as well, completing open-world activities interspersed with cinematic story missions that all come together to craft a tale that takes a little less time to web-swing through—perhaps 10-15 hours, compared to the first’s 15-20.

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Much of this familiarity is not a knock on Miles Morales—it means that there is a solid video game framework for it to hang from, even if, like its predecessor, there’s nothing particularly new for the genre. The web-swinging is still fun. The combat, with a few tweaks—mostly to embrace Miles’ unique bioelectric venom powers, which turn him into much more of a crowd-busting bruiser than the gadget-oriented Peter—is still fun. The hunt for unlockable costumes and little Easter eggs from Miles’ comic book life is still fun—albeit there’s less of them simply because Miles’ time in comics is much shorter than Peter’s. The photo mode is also still fun, and a debilitating distraction if you like taking pictures, pictures of Spider-Man.

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Image: Sony/Insomniac Games

That’s not to say there aren’t some tweaks to this general formula. The game takes familiar activities from the first one—chasing pigeons, combat and traversal (and now, thanks to Miles’ unique powerset, stealth) challenges, gang hideouts, and hidden bases—and makes them feel like they make sense for Miles. This might just be as simple as a change in who’s requesting the side-mission this time, or it might be a knockdown in scale: Miles is, unlike Peter, a hero who really feels like he’s operating on a narrower, street-level scale.

The entirety of New York is his domain, but Miles feels at home the most doing small tasks for people in his neighborhood instead of, say, stopping city-wide mafia undergrounds or avoiding environmental catastrophes. Even the first game’s controversial relationship with New York’s police force has mostly been ejected, replacing similar crime missions with a community-sourced app developed by Miles’ best friend Ganke. It’s an imperfect solution, given that the missions are still similarly randomized thefts, car chases, drug busts, and whatnot, and one that fails to explicitly address just why Miles would be uncomfortable interacting with the police on the scale his mentor does.

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But even if it falters in that regard, all these twists and tweaks point to a wider thesis that Miles Morales has at every level, from mechanical to textural: Miles is a Spider-Man, just like Peter. But he’s his own person, one that lives in a very different circle of people, and has a much more intimate sense of the world around him.

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Image: Sony/Insomniac Games

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As a checklist, Miles Morales intimacy might just read as you getting less bang for your buck; the story is shorter, there are fewer side quests and collectibles. Sure, it doesn’t cost as much—the standard edition of the game is retailing for $50, $10 less than the standard AAA game, and $20 less than the new $70 Sony wants to put on its first-party next-generation games—but there are still fewer things to do overall. It works in its favor though, mostly because you don’t feel like you’re ever drowning in repetitive missions to do. So by the time you’re entering the game’s climax, you don’t let out an exasperated sigh as suddenly your map re-fills with tasks to complete. It’s a trimming of the fat from a structural perspective that makes Miles Morales a tighter, leaner experience.

The smaller scale also becomes the game’s greatest strength in the one real standout point that makes Miles Morales worthy of being a standalone title in this gaming Spider-verse: its story.

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Just as Marvel’s Spider-Man did before it, the creative team behind Miles Morales understands what makes Spider-hero tales so universally relatable and charming—they’re stories of relationships and intrapersonal drama, of the banality of the normal world clashing with the outlandish action of superheroics, of the duality of man and Spider-Man. This critical awareness of what has made Spider-Man work as a mantle across decades of comics (and now across whole multiverses of men, women, and occasionally Hams) is also what explicitly makes Miles Morales his own hero in this pantheon, instead of just Peter Parker 2.0.

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Image: Sony/Insomniac Games

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Set a year after the conclusion of Marvel’s Spider-Man—which ended with Miles’ discovery that he too had acquired superpowers akin to Peter’s, and had promptly been taken under the latter’s wing as a new student in the ways of web-swinging—Spider-Man: Miles Morales opens with the grand scale of the first game being removed from the picture. Peter (now with a new face that yes, continues to look off) saved New York, confronting his former mentor Otto Octavius in his tragic descent to villainy, but now he must leave it in his young student’s hands as he travels abroad on a reporting assignment with Mary Jane Watson. Suddenly, after a year of Spider-Men, New York has one Spider-Man, and it’s not the one they’re mostly used to.

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At first, Miles mostly sticks to what he knows: Harlem, where he and his mother Rio have recently relocated in the wake of the loss of Miles’ dad Jefferson Davis in the first game. Miles operates in secret as Harlem’s own friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, doing small tasks for people in and around the area over his Christmas break. Returned to her home neighborhood, Rio is running a campaign for city council on a platform against Harlem’s other recent arrival, the Roxxon energy corporation, which is looking to test an experimental new renewable energy source in the neighborhood through a lavish and potentially dangerous new power plant built smack bang in the heart of it all.

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Image: Sony/Insomniac Games

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That conflict sets up an already intriguing premise that Miles Morales uses to deftly highlight the community our hero finds himself in. Sidequests are made more personable because Miles isn’t just familiar with the people making requests, but because they can innately recognize that this new Spider-Man is one that calls their borough home too. It’s used to smartly tackle issues of gentrification and capitalism, of community activism and corporate interests—themes that give the game a larger board to put some stakes on without having to put the entirety of New York City in peril. But it’s beyond that where the story finds its greatest drama: Roxxon and Miles find themselves facing a shared threat in the form of a high-tech criminal organization called the Underground, spearheaded by a dynamic new take on minor classic comics villain the Tinkerer.

In largely re-inventing the character for this new story, Miles Morales’ Tinkerer is the perfect inflection point for the game to build Miles’ personal struggles around: the threat they pose to his loved ones is big enough that Miles, in turn, feels tested as a still-fresh superhero, but not so grand that he feels like he’s in Peter’s shadow or that the stakes have to get apocalyptic to feel satisfying. That intimacy then plays into the relationships he has with the rest of the cast of the game, which don’t feel like parasocial ones because of his interactions as Spider-Man, but rather fleshed out, messy, and interestingly intimate dramas, because they intertwine across Miles’ alter ego and his personal life.

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Image: Sony/Insomniac Games

Miles Morales also leverages this drama to great effect on another crucial difference between its titular hero and Peter Parker: Miles has a family and friend circle that is not as cleanly removed from his superheroic side. Peter’s life as Spider-Man is an often painstakingly lonely one, where the drama strikes hardest over which people may be about to discover his alter ego. Miles doesn’t really have that dilemma; he has people close to him who know he’s Spider-Man (like Ganke), and family to lean on who are there for him in a way Aunt May can’t be for Peter, or in Peter’s romance with Mary Jane, because he’s always concerned about them discovering his secret life.

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What this means in context is not only does Miles has a wider supporting cast to share his struggles and victories with, but it also means that as the story progresses and Miles’ world and Harlem are drawn ever closer to the crossfire between Roxxon and the Tinkerer, the drama between Miles, his friends, and his family spiral out and provide as much dramatic pathos as the splashy superheroic fistfights.

Peter’s conflict with Octavius was made more personable in Spider-Man thanks to this universe’s twist putting them in a closer relationship. Miles doesn’t need a “twist” to have that sort of intrapersonal drama be crucial to his stories because it’s there in his comics in the first place. Miles Morales as a game and as a love letter to this version of Spider-Man understands that this sort of intimacy is fundamental to his best stories. It makes for some truly powerful emotional highs, built out of compelling character work and dramatic tension rather than some electrified, superpowered spectacle (which it also happens to have).

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Image: Sony/Insomniac Games

It’s this element—in spite of the game’s familiarity to its predecessor—that makes Spider-Man: Miles Morales feel not just like a fresh entry in this Marvel gaming world, but a stronger and tighter one than its predecessor. It realizes that being smaller-scaled does not have to simply mean there’s less to do, or a smaller scope to play with these characters. It uses its tighter remit to really drill down on what matters most, making this story feel like more than just a Spider-Man story, but a quintessential Miles Morales one. They might have similar tricks up their Spandex sleeves, but Miles Morales tells a tale that truly understands why Miles is every bit as worthy of the spotlight as Peter is.

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Spider-Man: Miles Morales is out for the Playstation 4 and Playstation 5 on November 12. A Playstation 4 copy of the game was provided for this review.

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