Dean’s GamesBeat gift guide for surviving the pandemic

I’ve been a no-show when it comes to our holiday gift guides of the past, but we all need some diversions this year, so I’ve collected some recommendations to help you find holiday presents for the gamer who is locked down in your home.

You’ll notice I have both new game consoles on in this list as part of our 2020 holiday gift guide coverage, as I highly recommend that hardcore gamers get both so they don’t miss out. Not everybody can afford this, but it’s worth it if you can do it. It won’t be easy to find these consoles for a while, either.

I figure that with all of the events of 2020, with the pandemic and the wild year in politics, we all deserve some joy in our lives.

PlayStation 5

Spider-Man: Miles Morales feels like a next-gen game on PS5.

Above: Spider-Man: Miles Morales feels like a next-gen game on PS5.

The PlayStation 5 is a necessary tool for survival in the age of the pandemic. It will keep you and your loved ones entertained, but remember that it’s for the die-hard gamers in the household, particularly in this first season of the launch. Titles for mainstream gamers and casual gamers will come later in the cycle. This console will bring you exclusive titles like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Astro’s Playroom, not to mention upcoming titles like the new God of War.

Sony did so well with its 2-to-1 sales lead over Microsoft in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One generations that Microsoft had to go on a buying spree to catchup. But Sony’s got some amazing studios like Naughty Dog that are locked down and making the games of the future.

On top of that, you’ll get 4K graphics, 120Hz gameplay, and near-instant transitions that get rid of long loading times.

The Xbox Series X sits on my carpet.

Above: The Xbox Series X sits on my carpet.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

This is for the gamer who has a lot of catching up to do. If you want a real bargain, you can subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for $15 a month and get access to some of the best new games coming on the console. Hundreds of games are available on the system, and the new console is a must for anyone who is a Halo fan. You get the same fancy tech that you can get on the PS5. And rest assured this console will have its own exclusives as well, now that Microsoft has acquired so many game makers, such as Bethesda and InXile. Like the PS5, you get similar technology that speeds up gameplay, improves loading, and makes the graphics better. Only you’re playing in Microsoft’s game universe, rather than Sony’s.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 series graphics chips.

Above: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 series graphics chips.

Image Credit: Nvidia

And heck, while you’re at it, in addition to the new game consoles, you might as well spend money on a new gaming PC with a beefy graphics card.

If you can treat yourself to a new gaming PC, you should check out the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card. This $700 card has a high-end graphics processing unit (GPU) that can do real-time ray tracing. It delivers 4K games at 60 frames per second and has machine-learning to make those graphics run more efficiently.

And it delivers great special effects like reflections in water and realistic lighting and shadows in games like Watch Dogs: Legion. The PC always has an advantage, even though it costs more. While the consoles are going to stay static in terms of graphics capability, you can always upgrade your PC.

Call of Duty: Black Ops — Cold War

If you only play one game on all of those machines above, it should be this one. You can play in stealth as long as you can and then go weapons-hot in these missions. I gave it 4-out-of-5 stars, but multiplayer and the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone are some of the best values out there in terms of hours of entertainment. And if you haven’t played it yet, I also recommend last year’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, which had a more compelling story and characters. I’ve been repeatedly playing three multiplayer Combined Arms maps — Cartel, Armada, and Crossroads — and I haven’t gotten tired of them yet.

Razer Kishi

Razer Kishi iOS controller gives you console controls for mobile games.

Above: Razer Kishi iOS controller gives you console controls for mobile games.

Image Credit: Razer

If you want to player first-person shooters on mobile devices, I recommend you do it with a real controller. The Razer Kishi Universal Gaming Controller comes on either iOS or Android [on Apple devices, it plugs into the Lightning connector]. This helps it establish a quicker connection to the game you’re playing, and it bypasses the lags you might see with Bluetooth controllers. I used it to play Call of Duty: Mobile, and it gave me an unfair advantage over players who were playing with their touchscreens. It costs $100.

Ready Player Two

Above: Ready Player Two is coming on November 24.

Image Credit: Ballantine

Ready Player Two is an upcoming book by Ernest Cline and a sequel to 2011’s sci-fi novel Ready Player One. It debuts on November 24. The novel picks up just days after the original’s ending. Ballantine Books is publishing the novel, and we’ve seen hints that a second movie is in the works.

In the meantime, I also suggest you read Ready Player One as well as the original cyberpunk novels Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and Neuromancer by William Gibson. The metaverse, or the Oasis, are coming. And a dog-eared copy of these books will serve as the business plan for many tech and game startups to come. These universes of virtual worlds will save us from the Zoomverse.

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077

Above: Cyberpunk 2077

Image Credit: CD Projekt Red

Along those lines, one game stands out as showing us the implications of the metaverse, a blending of physical and digital realities. Sight unseen, I would recommend CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 to anyone who wants to see the cutting edge of games but is tired of waiting for another Rockstar release.

Like the worlds of Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2, Cyberpunk 2077 will deliver a world that is gritty and visionary and vast — or at least that’s what I expect. It comes out on the consoles and the PC on December 10, so long CD Projekt doesn’t delay it again.

I’m going out on a limb based on my confidence in CD Projekt Red’s ambition and it’s ability to deliver on deep games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

HP Omen Spacer Wireless TKL Keyboard

Above: The HP Omen Spacer Wireless TKL Keyboard

Image Credit: HP

I bought a cheap KLIM Chroma keyboard on Amazon, and it was great until I learned that the spacebar didn’t work. Desperate for a a solution, I got my hands on the HP Omen Spacer Wireless TKL Keyboard.

It’s a dual-mode keyboard for wired or wireless charging. Five minutes of charging gets you up to 6 hours of use. A full charge gets you up to 75 hours. It has a USB-C to USB cable, as well as a dongle that lets you extend the length of the cable. It has a pretty nice keyboard wrist pad.

The clickity-clack part works great. It has Cherry MX Brown switches that are a great for both gaming and typing with 100% anti-ghosting—with N-key rollover. The WASD and arrow keys light up red, while the rest of the keys are white. You can customize the lighting in the HP Command Center.

Oculus Quest 2

Dean Takahashi of GamesBeat tries out the Oculus Quest 2.

Above: Dean Takahashi of GamesBeat tries out the Oculus Quest 2.

Image Credit: Marla Takahashi

I can’t say I’m using this wireless VR headset as much as the other game machines in my house right now, but when it comes to entertaining non-gamers or visitors (as if we could do that now), virtual reality is still a winner.

The Oculus Quest 2 is wireless, and that gives you freedom to get away from your PC. You’re not tethered to the desktop anymore, and you won’t screw up the audio settings on your PC either. If you really need to tether it, you can do so with an Oculus Link cable to access games on your PC.

I’m looking forward to playing Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond from EA/Respawn on the Oculus Quest 2. If you can buy the $400 version with more memory at 256GB, it’s a better deal than the $300 version with 64GB.

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