9 Easy Ways to Boost Web Security in Google Chrome
As we navigate a digital age where cyber-attacks strike every 11 seconds, reinforcing Chrome's security is vital.
Today's cybercriminals have evolved into masters of deception. Their skill in creating websites indistinguishable from the real deal means that our passwords - those keys to our online worlds - face relentless siege.
With Google Chrome's arsenal of in-built protective tools, amplifying its defenses isn't a mere recommendation; it's a necessity. We outline 10 ways to boost your security.
1) Tweak Chrome's Safe Browsing for optimal security
Google Chrome's Safe Browsing is enabled by default, guarding you against shady sites and dangerous downloads. But you can up your defense by switching to Enhanced Protection. Google's data suggests those activating Enhanced Protection are 35% less likely to fall victim to phishing scams.
Let's dive into your options for Safe Browsing:
* Enhanced Protection: Proactive, offering real-time alerts for suspect sites, downloads, extensions, and even password breaches. Note: This grants Google deeper insights into your browsing activities as you're sending your browsing activities.
* Standard Protection: Alerts you to questionable sites, downloads, and extensions. You also have the choice to get password breach notifications and to share extra security data with Google.
* Advanced: For those feeling tech-savvy, tailor the settings to fit your needs.
* No Protection: Ditch the safety net with no safety alerts or precautions.
Steps to modify Safe Browsing settings:
* Click the Three Dots in Chrome's top right.
* Go to Settings > Privacy and Security > Security.
* Under the Safe Browsing section, pick your desired setting.
* If maximum security is your aim, opt for Enhanced Protection. Remember that this mode allows Chrome to check URLs via Safe Browsing, linking the data to your Google Account momentarily.
2) Leverage Google Password Manager for strong passwords
Never compromise on password strength again. Google's Password Manager remembers all your passwords and ensures they're both strong and unique. Bid farewell to "86753099" and welcome in a new era of cyber-security.
How to use Google Password Manager:
* In Chrome, click the three vertical dots next to your profile icon.
* Select Settings.
* Under Autofill, click on Passwords.
* Ensure Offer to save passwords and Auto Sign-in are enabled.
* To check or modify saved passwords, scroll to the Saved Passwords section. To generate a strong password for a new account, click on the key icon when signing up on a website, and Google will suggest a robust password for you.
For more on password protection, read our password security guide for additional tips.
3) Fortify your passwords with enhanced encryption
While storing passwords in Google Password Manager is uber handy, you can beef up their security with enhanced encryption.
Here's your pathway to bolstering password encryption:
* Standard Encryption: The default choice. It uses Google's encryption methods, which store your passwords on their servers. When passwords zoom across the internet, they're cloaked, making it trickier for cybercriminals to snatch them. Yet, there's a slim possibility Google might peek.
* Advanced Encryption with Sync Passphrase (AES): This cranks up security with encrypted passwords on both ends. The perk? Only you possess the unlock key. On the flip side, it slightly complicates the syncing process, as you'll need the passphrase every time you activate sync on a new device. Some features like site suggestions, online password viewing, and history syncing are also disabled.
To arm Chrome with AES, a quick dive into settings gets the job done.
Adjust Chrome's encryption settings:
* Head to Chrome's Settings in the Three Dots menu in Chrome's top right.
* Tap You and Google in the left menu (ensure you're logged into your Google Account).
* Tap Sync.
* Under Sync, click Encryption Options.
* Choose an encryption method. For standard encryption, select Encrypt Synced Passwords with Your Google Account. Otherwise, select Advanced Encryption with Sync Passphrase for fortified encryption, which keeps passwords safer from prying eyes.
4) Deploy Chrome's Safety Check
Bolster your browser's defenses with Chrome's Safety Check. It actively scans for:
* Compromised, weak, or reused passwords
* Pending updates
* Confirmation that Safe Browsing is active
* Potentially harmful extensions
Steps to run a Safety Check:
* Click the three vertical dots next to your profile icon in Chrome.
* Select Settings.
* Navigate to Privacy and security on the left panel.
* Tap the Check Now button under Safety Check.
* If issues emerge, click the prompt and follow on-screen guidance.
5) Clear cache and cookie data
Chrome stashes info from websites you visit, storing them in its cache and cookies. Cookies can be time savers, keeping you logged in or personalizing settings on websites you visit. Yet, they can have a dark side when it comes to security:
* Tracking Cookies: Advertisers monitor your online activities and build a profile about you. In the wrong hands, they reveal much about your habits, preferences, and even location.
* Third-Party Cookies: Cookies from another site that can be exploited to monitor your actions without you knowing.
* Session Hijacking: Stealing your session cookie lets attackers impersonate you on a site and access your account.
* Expired Cookies: Cookies that don't expire properly increase vulnerability.
* Weak Encryption: Unencrypted cookies can be snatched, especially on insecure networks.
Clear your cookies? A smart move for more privacy and tighter security.
Steps to clear cache and cookies in Chrome:
* Click the three vertical dots in the top right corner of Chrome.
* Select Settings.
* Scroll down and click Privacy and security.
* Choose Clear browsing data.
* Ensure Cookies and other site data and Cached images and files are on.
* Click Clear data to finish the job.
Note: Doing this might log you out from some sites, so keep those passwords handy!
6) Opt-out of Topics API in Chrome
After shelving FLoC, Google's Topics API refines interest-based advertising, sidestepping the intrusiveness of third-party cookies. Where FLoC categorized users into "cohorts," Topics API tailors ads to your specific interests from 470 topics.
Your Chrome browser keeps track of topics you seem interested in over time. Chrome can then deduce which subjects are your top interests by checking which topics appear most frequently in your browsing history. This list is updated weekly to offer advertisers a refined targeting method without peeking at your specific site visits.
Curious about your topical profile through Google's lens? Navigate through Chrome's settings to discover. You can block specific topics or opt-out altogether if you value your privacy.
Want to opt out? Here's how:
* Open Chrome Settings.
* Navigate to Privacy and Security on the left panel.
* Select Ad Privacy. Choose to turn on or off the following:
* Add topics: Use the Ad topics toggle to either switch off entirely or manage individual topics under Your topics.
* Site-suggested ads: Websites you browse can gauge your preferences and pitch ads accordingly. Choose to toggle this on or off.
* Ad measurement: This allows sites and advertisers to gauge their ads' performance. Opt to disable.
7) Prioritize secure browsing with HTTPS-First mode
Many websites rely on Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). But HTTP has a glaring flaw: it leaves your privacy out in the open.
With HTTP, browser requests to view a site are in plain text for all to see. Any nosy hacker monitoring the connection can read your requests, posing risks when keying in passwords or credit card numbers.
Enter HTTPS, where the "S" stands for secure. Notice the padlock icon next to a URL in your browser. That's your sign of a secure connection.
Boost your browsing protection by activating Chrome's HTTPS-First mode. This setting nudges Chrome towards HTTPS and waves a red flag when it stumbles upon less secure HTTP.
Activate HTTPS-First mode:
* Launch Chrome Settings.
* Head to Privacy and security > Security.
* Under the Advanced section, turn on Always use secure connections.
8) Be cautious with Chrome Extensions
Extensions might seem like the Swiss Army knife of Chrome - fixing your grammar, blocking annoying ads, and more. Yet, some can lurk with darker intentions, from browser hijacking to covert spying to malware.
Rule of thumb? Stick with trusted sources when adding extensions. Google recently added web store badges to help you rank the extension's credibility.
Want to check or manage your extensions? Type chrome://extensions/ into Chrome's address bar. Here, the Details button will give you a peek into each extension's permissions and a direct link to its Chrome Web Store page. And if an extension seems shady, remove it!
9) Keep Chrome up to date
Staying updated is your first line of defense. Chrome frequently scans for updates and fetches them instantly. These updates apply automatically the next time you restart your browser.
Haven't closed Chrome recently? You might notice a pending update indicator at the top right. Click Update or restart Chrome. The process is quick, ensuring you won't lose your tabs.
Cybersecurity isn't a set-it-and-forget-it deal; it demands ongoing attention. Knowing the ins and outs of potential risks, from weak passwords to invasive tracking cookies, puts you in control. By diving deep into Chrome's security features, you can make your online experience safer and more private.
An Early Access Look at Witchfire
Witchfire is an upcoming dark fantasy first-person shooter set in an alternative world in which witches are real and very dangerous, and where players take on the role of witch hunters in a war between powerful witches and the Church. The title is being developed by The Astronauts and was first announced more than six years ago with a brief reveal at E3 2017. The game was released in early access mode on September 20 on the Epic Games Store.
Who is the team behind Witchfire?
Unless you have played The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, you have probably not heard of The Astronauts—an independent game developer made up of less than ten people and operating out of Warsaw, Poland. The Vanishing is their debut title; a weird fiction mystery game for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One that sold more than a million copies. The fact that the same developers are now working on Witchfire is significant for several reasons. The Vanishing won countless awards at the time of its release, including a prized BAFTA award, for its incredible storytelling and eye popping graphics that had no business being in this generation of gaming. With their first title, The Astronauts firmly established their reputation as skilled developers that can deliver beautiful games. The premise of Witchfire, as a frantic shooter, seems well suited to The Astronauts—some of the members of the team previously worked on first-person shooters Bulletstorm and Painkiller, and the team's prior effort, The Vanishing, serves to demonstrate their ability to incorporate amazing graphics into an engrossing story.
What is Witchfire about?
Witchfire was originally conceived as a sci-fi survival title; however, over the course of its 7-year development, The Astronauts transformed the game into what it is today: a combination of dark fantasy roguelite with first-person shooter mechanics. In their deadly war against witches, the Church has been calling on forbidden pagan magic to turn willing sinners into immortal witch hunters called preyers. As preyers, players are tasked with hunting and killing the infamous witch of the Black Sea using guns and spells. That journey from sci-fi survival to grimdark shooter brought with it changes just as significant as its shift in setting, tone, and genre.
Most recently, the team decided to shift the title from arena-style to open-world combat. Although Witchfire is not a fully open-world game, it does now feature what the studio calls open-world levels. That means it will be up to the player to decide how and in what order to explore a given area. The change to this new approach from one that was more akin to something like Killing Floor led to significant work and the decision to delay Early Access release to this year.
In the game, players will inhabit the shoes of a badass revolver-wielding witch hunter. Armed with old-fashioned weapons and forbidden magic, witch hunters are tasked by Vatican sorcerers to help the war effort against the very real and very dangerous witches and other threats that abound. An evil witch’s influence has stretched across the land, awakening an army of the dead and all sorts of other monstrosities. The player's primary mission is to find the infamous witch of the Black Sea, destroy the phantom army that protects her, and retrieve a mysterious artifact that can finally turn the tide of war.
The Astronauts have been fairly ambiguous with regards to information about the story of Witchfire. In a 2018 blog post, studio cofounder and creative director Adrian Chmielarz confirmed that Witchfire is not a traditional cinematics-filled journey like, for example, Uncharted or Bioshock, where you spend a relatively short time in an area, unlock a cinematic, and move on to the next area. Instead, Chmielarz likens The Astronauts’ approach to the storytelling done by From Software games. Which means Witchfire will offer various branching pathways that each tell snippets of the game’s story through the strength of its world design.
The Preyer short story
In October 2022, The Astronauts released a short story, The Preyer, that gave a brief look into the lore and powers at work in the game. Written by Chmielarz, The Preyer is set in the world of Witchfire and serves as an introduction to the world and some of what players can expect from the theme. The story unfolds in the forest one night, where a preyer, close to death, is tracking a witch when a group of bandits show up and make threats, not knowing who they’ve encountered. The short story also includes illustrations from artist Bernard Kowalczuk using a style similar to that of the game itself.
As a first-person shooter, Witchfire blends traditional shooting elements with the backdrop of a fantasy game in a roguelite style. The goal is to find some big guns and blow mystical enemies to pieces. The gameplay borrows from Bioshock and Dishonored by allowing players to cast magical energy with their free hand. Gunplay looks frantic and intense and has immediate arena-shooter vibes similar to Painkiller, DOOM, and Shadow Warrior 3.
Combat mechanics involve jumping, strafing, and dodging and are heavily focused on smart player movement while taking care of crowd control situations. There are crossbows, shotguns, repeating rifles, and revolvers, as well as some great spell effects that can cause chain reactions or freeze a powerful enemy mid-attack.
In a gameplay trailer released this February, Chmielarz delved into the intricacies of the game's weaponry, specifically focusing on a powerful hand cannon known as Hunger. This formidable firearm rewards players for landing critical hits by granting them extra powerful bullets upon reloading. As players progress through Hunger's Attunements, they can increase the power of their bullets even further by consistently landing critical hits. At the final level of Attunement, Hunger becomes even deadlier as the first body shot counts as a critical hit, allowing players to freeze their enemies if they manage to land all critical shots.
Spellcraft involves light spells and heavy spells, with the former being quicker to deploy and costing less stamina but not being as powerful as the latter. The different types of spellcraft available to witch hunters to use against enemies include spells, hexes, and curses, and the majority of spells comprise the four core elements: air, earth, fire, and water. Each has unique properties, such as setting enemies aflame and increasing the damage players can take. Using different elemental spells in quick succession can achieve combined effects.
Players will have complete freedom over the pace and direction of their exploration in any given region. This shift to an open-level design transformed the game from its original vision into an entirely new and superior experience, providing players with a greater sense of freedom and agency and making new paths to mastery available.
Built using Unreal Engine 4, Witchfire uses advanced photogrammetry to achieve a gorgeous and immersive dark fantasy world for players to explore, and the game's graphics look as though they could compete in the AAA space. The game features an impressive amount of particle effects, fire, explosions, and more that take up screen real estate, making for a vibrant and happening world.
The photogrammetry technique used to design the environments in Witchcraft involves finding structures and areas in real life, taking various shots from various angles, and loading them into a smart piece of software that rebuilds and renders them. The whole process takes a lot of time and effort as the images need to be captured in exactly the right light, and after the initial wireframe is reconstructed, a lot of texturing and polishing needs to be placed on top. The end result is exceptional photorealism. It is partly for this reason that, for the time being, Witchfire is being developed exclusively for the high-end PCs that can run all of this while processing the frantic fights that will be going down. Witchfire will support DLSS 3.0 for users with Nvidia’s top-tier graphics cards, specifically the GeForce RTX 4000 series GPUs. DLSS 3.0 will enable the game to run at much better framerates even at high quality settings.
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* 16 GB, DDR5 SDRAM
* 512 GB SSD
If you're in the market for a new gaming machine that will deliver the best playing experience in Witchcraft, consider taking a look at Acer’s Nitro 5 gaming laptop. This machine is excellent value for money, coming in at a low price point yet still being capable of handling the most demanding modern games. Acer has given this particular model a decent amount of high-speed RAM, and its inclusion of a GeForce RTX™ 4000 series GPU, which supports DLSS 3.0, makes it capable of running Witchcraft and other modern games at ultrahigh quality. The price of this machine is kept low thanks to the screen, hard drive, and battery, all of which are smaller than those in similar but more expensive machines. The laptop also has a responsive full-size keyboard and trackpad.
Witchfire release date and platforms
Witchfire will be made available on PC, with it being restricted to Epic Games during early access. For those with an Xbox, check out the amazing selection of games the Xbox Game Pass has on offer. If you’re thinking of subscribing, please note that with the purchase of a Windows 11 PC from Acer, you can enjoy one month free of Xbox Game Pass.
How to Protect Your Laptop from Theft and Damage
Laptops are probably one of the most expensive gadgets we own. But like any technology, they are vulnerable to theft and damage. Taking an eye off our devices for just a second in a crowded public area could give thieves a golden opportunity to strike, taking our data and cherished photos along with them. Likewise, knocking a cup of coffee over the keyboard or accidentally dropping it on the floor can cause significant damage.
Digital nomads and hybrid workers have no choice but to carry their laptops around in a bag or backpack, but this also carries risk. Leaving a laptop unattended when working remotely from a coffee shop or public workspace is risky. Your device could get stolen and, in a worst-case scenario, hacked to access your private information. For thieves, stealing devices may simply be a way to make money, but for owners, it means losing something crucial to their everyday lives.
How can I protect my laptop from physical dangers?
Traveling with a laptop or leaving it unattended in a hotel room or coffee shop is risky. Here are some ways users can safeguard devices from physical dangers and damage for ultimate laptop protection.
1. Use a laptop lock
Laptop locks are handy gadgets that help prevent devices from being stolen. They are physical locks, much like bicycle locks, that keep devices grounded to a specific area. Laptop locks are a two-ended piece of equipment, with one end that slides into the device’s universal slot and one that wraps around an immovable object. It can be unlocked and released by entering the correct code.
Although not necessarily aesthetic, laptop locks work as an anti-theft device and deterrent for thieves. Securing a device to a table or chair leg in a coffee shop means thieves would have to work twice as hard to steal it.
2. Avoid leaving your laptop unattended
Working outside in a stunning coffee shop or even on a beach is great until we have to take a private call or bathroom break. It is crucial to always be wary of thieves and avoid leaving laptops or other devices unattended. We must bear in mind that thieves are not always obvious and that anyone could take a chance to swipe at an unattended laptop. Therefore, leaving laptops unattended is strongly discouraged.
3. Track your laptop
Some laptop devices come with a Find My Device setting and can be tracked if they are lost or stolen. Enabling this feature is relatively quick and easy, and it can be a godsend if devices are missing. Moreover, putting an AirTag or similar tracking device in a laptop bag can help locate devices before they are transported too far away. Tracking devices are a worthwhile investment and can be used in other scenarios too, such as keeping an eye on wallets, keys, and phones.
4. Protect laptops with shock-resistant bags or sleeves
Laptops are supposed to be portable devices, so it makes sense that we use a protective case or laptop backpack to protect them. After all, our laptops work hard to keep us connected and able to work. Good laptop bags or protective sleeves should be a perfect fit with no wiggle room for laptops to bounce around and have a separate compartment for chargers and cables. Waterproof fabric is a must-have to protect devices from sudden downpours while in transit.
5. Keep laptops on stable surfaces away from food and drinks
Bumpy or uneven surfaces are unsafe as devices could slip or fall. Moreover, setting drinks or food down on an unstable desk or table could cause accidental spillages. Laptop users should avoid sudden jolts or bumps to prevent devices from getting a nasty shock that could cause internal damage.
6. Clean your laptop on a regular basis
Regular cleaning prevents dust build-ups and can enhance the functionality of a laptop and cause overheating or freezing. It also keeps devices free from crumbs or food particles that could end up below keyboard keys or in ports. Cleaning a device includes more than just a quick wipe over. Blowing into ports or using a cylinder of compressed air helps remove hard-to-reach dust. Experts advise preventative cleaning should be conducted at least once a year to keep laptops dust-free and working smoothly. For day-to-day management, users can consider investing in a keyboard cover to prevent crumbs from falling between keys.
7. Consider getting insurance
We never know the value of insurance before we need it. If a device gets lost or stolen, insurance can often provide the safety net we need to purchase a new one. This is particularly important for costly or high-end devices that would be expensive to replace. When choosing insurance, you should consider daily habits, such as where the device is used and stored, so that brokers can provide the best policy for your needs and avoid any surprises when making a claim.
Protecting laptops and other devices from theft and damage contributes to their longevity. Although we never know what will happen in life, we can take action to mitigate potential harm to technology. Damage may be avoided by investing in a quality laptop case, sleeve, or backpack, and regular cleaning can prevent dirt from building up in the keyboard or ports. Users can reduce the risk of a stolen laptop by purchasing a lock and attaching it to an immovable object. Remember that vigilance is key to prevent thieves from taking personal objects, and try to avoid leaving devices unattended.
A Review of El Paso, Elsewhere
Strange Scaffold, Xalavier Nelson Jr.’s multi-development, multi-collaborator video game studio, has always been true to their name: since the beginning, they’ve been known for their eccentric games that feature mysterious plotlines and out-of-this-world atmospheres. Their upcoming release, El Paso, Elsewhere, is a novel third-person shooter that brilliantly showcases all of the magic the studio is famous for.
You might know Xalavier Nelson Jr.’s work from titles like Stranger Things VR, An Airport for Aliens Currently Run By Dogs, Hypnospace Outlaw, SkateBIRD, or Can Androids Pray. Strange Scaffold’s most recent release, however, is Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator, a game true to its name and just as strange as it sounds. The game, described by Strange Scaffold themselves as “our critically-acclaimed sci-fi body-horror market tycoon,” was well received when released in 2021, and as such the hype has been building for the next game in line, El Paso, Elsewhere.
El Paso, Elsewhere, the Max Payne-inspired neo-noir third person shooter with a surreal twist, is a hit that was released on September 26, 2023. In this review, we’ll take a look at the design influences behind the game as well as what you can expect when it comes to storyline and gameplay.
El Paso, Elsewhere: the modern-day neo-noir third-person shooter
If you feel like you hear the term “neo-noir” thrown around a lot but aren’t quite sure what it means, you’re not alone. Though the concept has solid historical roots and represents a valid style, it’s applied to so many things that it’s become unclear what its meaning really is.
The term neo-noir has its origins in the world of cinema. Though it is hard to say whether it is a genre or simply a visual style, for our purposes, we can say that it refers to “a grim tone, a mystery subplot, and/or a limited color palette.”
The “neo” in neo-noir implies, of course, that neo-noir is not the first iteration of its kind. That would be the film noir, or “dark film” in French. Film noir, pioneered by French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard in films like Breathless (1960) and Alphaville (1965), emphasizes plotlines and subjects set in the underworld of society. The grim tone and uncertain attitudes towards the future represented in these films was characteristic of the postwar era.
Neo-noir took film noir to a new level. Films like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) took advantage of the end of the Hays Office Code, a set of standards for film production that in effect was a list of censorship guidelines, to depict more controversial topics like drugs and crime. Themes of these neo-noir movies also dealt with moral ambiguity and general distrust of authority, reflecting the societal ambivalence that followed the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.
Besides neo-noir, however, El Paso, Elsewhere also takes a lot of its inspiration from the Max Payne series. In many ways, El Paso, Elsewhere can be said to be a modern-day version of the Max Payne series, the first game of which was released in 2001. We’ll take a closer look at the differences and similarities between these two games in the next section.
Storyline and gameplay
As the Steam description states, “El Paso, Elsewhere is a supernatural neo-noir third-person shooter. Hunt werewolves, fallen angels, and other damned creatures in a vivid slow motion love letter to action classics. Fight your way through a reality-shifting motel, floor by bloody floor. Save the victims of Draculae, lord of the vampires. Destroy the villain you loved--even if it means dying yourself.”
You’ll play as James Savage, whose ex-girlfriend Draculae is out to destroy the world. You’ll have to navigate the unending floors of a seedy motel with the objective of saving the innocent through the elevator. To complete your goal of saving the world from Draculae’s wrath, you’ll have to battle hordes of undead creatures, including vampires, fallen angels, and the lord of the vampires herself, Draculae.
As you continue your mission, you’ll be shown some flashbacks that shed light on Savage’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend and what caused them to break up. In doing so, the game deals with some pretty heavy subject matter, including addiction, trauma, and emotional abuse. This makes for a potentially upsetting but also very compelling story.
In many aspects of gameplay as well as some aesthetic characteristics, El Paso, Elsewhere takes inspiration from Max Payne. Specifically, El Paso, Elsewhere borrows the third-person shooter aspect of Max Payne as well as its gritty neo-noir style. It also takes many cues from its predecessor in terms of gameplay: in both games, you can use slow motion as a tool to improve your own reaction time and vanquish several enemies at once.
In terms of weapons, you’ll have access to a range of tools both modern and ancient: uzis, pistols, stakes, and more. You can even use molotov cocktails with holy blue flames to attack your enemies, adding a supernatural touch to your attacks. With a combination of the game’s heavy use of slow-motion mechanics and diversified arsenal, you’ll be sure to find that the fights are a huge aspect of the game’s appeal.
This technique was highly innovative when it was incorporated into Max Payne in 2001, as it was the first time that Matrix-style slow cuts were ever seen in a video game. El Paso, Elsewhere pays homage to this aspect of video game history.
Where El Paso, Elsewhere departs from its source of inspiration is in the main antagonist of the game: as one review on Gamerant notes, instead of going after the mob, you’re going after zombies. This makes each battle more interesting: whereas in Max Payne, all of the mobster enemies are somewhat similar, the otherworldly creatures in El Paso, Elsewhere add a layer of novelty and excitement.
For some players, Max Payne can become somewhat monotonous, as you must constantly defend yourself against hordes of the same mob enemies. In El Paso, Elsewhere, you are kept on your toes: your strategy must continually change to deal with different types of creatures, including werewolves, vampires, or ambiguous beings that leap out at you out of nowhere.
Can’t wait to get your hands on a copy of El Paso, Elsewhere? If you’re looking forward to the release, you won’t have to wait at all: the latest game from Strange Scaffold is available for purchase now for both Xbox and PC.
Before you start your mission to save the victims of Draculae, however, you’ll wanna make sure your gaming setup is up to date and able to process the game in all of its glorious detail. With a high-quality gaming laptop like the Nitro 5, you can equip yourself with a state-of-the-art Intel® Core™ i5 processor and a top-notch 1920x1080 screen resolution to succeed in your journey and have fun doing it.
Loaded with the latest technology, the Nitro 5 is available for $999.99, and when you add additional items like the Predator Connect W6 Wi-Fi 6E Router, you can save up to 40%! The savings don’t end there, however - with the purchase of any ACER Windows 11 PC, you’ll get an Xbox Game Pass for free! That means you’ll be able to play El Paso, Elsewhere the moment it comes out for no additional cost.
Don’t hesitate - get your Nitro 5 now so you can get the most out of your gaming experience as soon as El Paso, Elsewhere now!
Top Contenders for GOTY 2023
The 2023 Game of the Year debate is heating up following the success of several major titles this year. Tears of the Kingdom is our pick for this year's winner, with the game trumping Baldur's Gate 3 and Starfield in at least one core area. However, October 20 will see the highly anticipated release of Marvel's Spider-Man 2 on PlayStation 5. Only time will tell how that plays out, but one thing's certain: this year's battle for the Game of the Year crown is going to be something that will be talked about for a long time. So read on to check out our list of this year's top 10 contenders for GOTY 2023.
What is the Game Awards?
The Game Awards ceremony is an hours-long celebration of video games and their surrounding communities held annually in the first half of December, with awards ceremonies, trailer reveals, and upcoming game announcements. Important video game industry figures, developers, esports athletes, actors, executives, and streamers attend the event as guests, presenters, and nominees. The Game Awards is the biggest gaming award show out there. Although there are others, The Game Awards always seems to bring the most hype and excitement. Especially when it comes to their Game of the Year category. The Game Awards 2023 will be held on December 7.
What is Game of the Year?
The Game Awards has 31 categories, from best narrative to best esports team, and includes contests for best game direction, indie, score, and performance. However, the award that generates the most buzz is the Game of the Year award. Game of the Year is an award presented annually by The Game Awards that is given to a video game judged to deliver the best experience across creative and technical fields.
Top 10 contenders for Game of the Year 2023
1. The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
Just when people thought nothing could top Link’s journey in Breath of the Wild, the sequel to that game successfully delivered an experience as compelling as the last one. Tears of the Kingdom, which sees Link return to defend the vast land of Hyrule once more, features the most impressive open world map of any Zelda game to date, with so much interactive content to explore it seems nearly endless. The sequel took everything from its predecessor and expanded upon it. Along with that, it introduced an entirely unique crafting mechanic that allows players to build just about anything they can think of, from weapons to flying machines. More than 10 million copies were sold in the first three days, making it the fastest selling game in the Zelda franchise. Tears of the Kingdom, in our opinion, has the greatest potential for taking the GOTY 2023 award home.
2. Baldur's Gate 3
Baldur’s Gate 3 takes the CRPG genre and thrusts it into the next generation of gaming. Many games like to start slow before ramping up the action, but Baldur’s Gate 3 starts guns blazing, with you as a captive on a Mindflayer ship after being infected with a parasite. From there, you fight to take over the ship and crash land it, and off begins a wild journey to figure out how to get this alien parasite out of your head. The game is adapted from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rulebook, which means your choices in approaching situations are almost endless, with the only limit often being your imagination. The cast you come across throughout the massive, 100-hour adventure is full of engaging personalities, each with fascinating backstories to explore. Larian Studios took the budget they accrued from the success of Divinity: Original Sin 2 and used it in the best way possible. All of this is enjoyable with friends online or in couch co-op, and it culminates without hyperbole into one of the greatest video games ever made.
3. Final Fantasy XVI
This action JRPG is the latest instalment of the franchise since 2016. Opting this time for a more medieval fantasy vibe, Final Fantasy XVI features nearly unparalleled graphics and cinematics throughout the entire storyline, immersing the player from the get-go among all the characters, the gargantuan Eikons, and the captivating and emotional story of main protagonist Clive Rosfield. Square Enix’s most acclaimed developers, including top developer Naoki Yoshida (Yoshi-P) and composer Masayoshi Soken, collaborated to bring it all to life. The game features high-octane battles and a compelling storyline, with satisfying, fast-paced combat. Final Fantasy XVI can cater to both single player and multiplayer audiences, and it features over-the-top gameplay elements with intense large-scale bosses like the series is known for. Despite the fact that it is a PlayStation 5 exclusive (for now), Final Fantasy XVI is a worthy contender for the GOTY award.
4. Resident Evil 4 Remake
It's not every day that a remake comes out and surpasses the original. Resident Evil 4 Remake proved to be one of those rare gems. Capcom did a commendable job on the classic action-horror from 2005. Along with a graphical overhaul that rivals modern day games, the clumsy controls were also revamped for a smooth gameplay experience. The remake also features some new narrative elements and additional characters that improve upon the original game while staying true to its original concept. You can feel the immersion as a player the moment you set foot on the Spanish village of Valdelobos as Leon.
5. Armored Core™ VI: Fires of Rubicon™
Positioned as a bit of a reboot for the series, Fires of Rubicon is as much a reintroduction for returning players as it is a primer for newcomers for whom this is their first Armored Core game. In the game, you are a shell of a deceased, augmented human grafted into the shell of an Armored Core. Your first mission for your handler, Walter, is to land on Rubicon and get yourself into the mercenary system so you can start to make money. Fires of Rubicon is a modern classic and quite literally is “just” a rock-solid action game. Which is no surprise, considering it was developed by the renowned FromSoftware, who also created last year’s GOTY, Elden Ring. Although not an open-world game and not having any side missions to complete, Fires of Rubicon does feature fast-paced action and deep customizability of your Armored Core shell, allowing for diverse gameplay and intense boss fights that test any type of loadout. The game has a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, the exciting gameplay makes this one of the best modern action games.
6. Hogwarts Legacy
Hogwarts Legacy, developed by Avalanche Software, stands as probably the biggest wildcard on our list. The huge, open-world fantasy game is set in the late 1800s, a century prior to the events chronicled in the Harry Potter novels, and puts players in the shoes of a fifth-year student at Hogwarts who holds the key to an ancient secret that threatens to tear the wizarding world apart. Players can explore Hogwarts and the surrounding areas, learn spells, brew potions, and master a variety of skills all while completing fun quests inside and outside the school. Hogwarts Legacy was a massive commercial success and a hugely entertaining game in and of itself. But, unlike some of the other games on this list, it doesn't quite feature the gameplay depth or additional objectives and options to allow it to contend with the real titans of this year. That being said, the way Avalanche offered up magical spells and presented the castle of Hogwarts, the town of Hogsmeade, and the surrounding countryside, is more than enough for Hogwarts Legacy to make the cut in this list.
Arguably the biggest game of the whole year, Starfield is a monumental release, even if only for the fact that it’s the first new IP release from Bethesda in almost 30 years. When a studio the size of Bethesda has spent decades putting out different versions of Fallout and The Elder Scrolls or publishing games made by other studios like Deathloop, DOOM, or Hi-Fi Rush, you have to take notice when they drop something brand new. A space-faring RPG that boasts up to a thousand explorable planets, each with their own points of interest, missions, and discoverables, Starfield sees you playing as a bold explorer, heading out into the wider galaxy and seeing what happens. The universe feels properly realized and lived-in, with the gorgeous aesthetics helping make the game more immersive. There is some messiness around maps, some noticeable loading times, and vast areas of planets and moons seem to be entirely devoid of life or points of interest; however, these points of contention generally fade soon enough, given that the game offers so much to do, as you improve your ship, pick up more crew, improve your own skills and stats, and tailor your hero (or space pirate, or whatever you want them to be, really) to your preferred gameplay style to complete the various missions.
8. Remnant 2
Remnant 2 does everything right regarding action RPGs. The first Remnant was a cult hit, but the sequel raised the stakes in almost every way. The sequel mixes effective melee action with gunplay-focused combat in a way that improves your options for taking on your enemies. The guns feel punchy and dangerous, and the abilities you can discover throughout the experience give the game an unofficial magic system that spices things up. Remnant 2 offers new weapons, armor, and even secret Archetypes that can completely change the way you play. The bosses are challenging, and each one is distinct from the rest, ranging from horrifying fleshy monstrosities to maze puzzles featuring alien technology that you have to solve. This sequel definitely belongs on any list of the games of 2023.
9. Diablo 4
Diablo 4 was the most highly-anticipated game from Blizzard Entertainment for some time, and it made an impressive impact upon its release in June. The fourth installment in the classic dungeon crawler franchise features incredible multiplayer RPG gameplay that allows you to choose from five playable classes as you embark on a new adventure through the human realm of Sanctuary, and of course the realm of Hell. Upon its release, the game was revered by various publications as Blizzard’s magnum opus title—its greatest since World of Warcraft—with millions of players flocking to the game as soon as the early release period went live. Diablo 4 soon became the fastest-selling game in Blizzard’s history, generating more than half a billion dollars in revenue within the first five days.
10. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
This highly anticipated sequel to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order continues the dramatically engaging story of exiled Jedi Knight Cal Kestis, reprised once again by the terrific Cameron Monaghan. Taking place five years after the previous game, Survivor follows Cal and his friends as they struggle to evade the tyranny of the Galactic Empire. The game takes players on yet another epic adventure across the fringes of the galaxy, while fighting for the resistance helmed by Saw Gerrera. All of the explorable level areas are even more expansive and full of fascinating lore and NPCs than in Fallen Order, capitalizing on everything that worked in the last game and making it all bigger and better. The upgrades were all very well-received by players, earning the new installment near-perfect scores across the board. Kestis’ story is definitely worthy of a GOTY nomination, and we could very well see it pop up come December.
A Review of Mortal Kombat 1
Mortal Kombat 1 is the next entry in the best-selling fighting game series Mortal Kombat. This brand new addition to the franchise is the 12th mainline game in the series and will be a reboot of the story, with the developers at NetherRealm Studios deciding that now would be the perfect time to give the series a fresh start. Not only is a continuity reboot a good way to introduce new fans to a long-running franchise, but it also provides the developers with a chance to return things back to a simpler, more focused starting point after years of expanding upon old ideas. Mortal Kombat 1 will take players back to the start of the series’ timeline for a wild revisionist version of the game while introducing new gameplay mechanics that drastically alter how the game is played. The result? An experience that has me excited for the new future of this series. Read on to learn all about the upcoming reboot, Mortal Kombat 1.
History of Mortal Kombat series
The Mortal Kombat series is set to turn 31 years old this October. The legendary arcade fighting game is known for its eccentric characters, competitive 1 on 1 gameplay, and brutal violence. Mortal Kombat set the arcade world on fire when it was released in 1992. Sure, games like Street Fighter had by that time already perfected the fighting game concept and become a household name, but Mortal Kombat broke the mold by featuring extreme graphic violence depicted using digitized actors. Its match-ending Fatalities system was particularly controversial: players were encouraged to “finish” downed opponents using various gory means. Although Mortal Kombat quickly became popular for its satisfying gameplay mechanics, public backlash from various quarters resulted in the rapid establishment in 1994 of the Electronic System Ratings Board, an industry-wide ratings system that determines the age appropriateness of video games based on their content. The Mortal Kombat series has even been censored or banned in several countries.
Mortal Kombat development team
The team behind the Mortal Kombat franchise is NetherRealm Studios, an American video game developer based in Chicago and owned by Warner Bros. Games. Led by video game industry veteran and Mortal Kombat cocreator Ed Boon, the studio is also responsible for Injustice, another popular fighting game series. Warner Bros. Games were also involved in the development of Hogwarts Legacy, the action RPG that launched earlier this year.
Mortal Kombat 1 trailer and storyline
The announcement trailer for Mortal Kombat 1 sets up the scenario for the game following the story events of Mortal Kombat 11’s Aftermath downloadable content (DLC). If you haven’t been following the admittedly complex and somewhat convoluted lore, the gist is that Fire God Liu Kang recently beat both Shang Tsung and Kronika and reset the entire timeline back to its beginning. So, although technically a sequel to Mortal Kombat 11, Mortal Kombat 1 is also a soft reboot of the lore, making it far easier for newcomers to come in without having to worry about all the timeline/time travel elements introduced in Mortal Kombat 9, 10, and 11.
Mortal Kombat 1’s trailer opens with Liu Kang explaining his decision to create a “blank canvas” where people are free to choose whether to live in peace or in combat. As he continues, we see many of the iconic characters from the past in their original forms, including Raiden, who no longer has any godly powers—those were passed to Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat 11.
Liu Kang’s efforts to create lasting peace by resetting the lives of many of the series’ villains and heroes may be noble, but this is Mortal Kombat, after all. You can probably guess that things don’t quite work out. A mysterious enemy that Liu Kang “never could have anticipated” threatens the realms, and the champions must once again be summoned—champions who are already finding reasons to get into a scrap or two.
Characters in Mortal Kombat 1
The following is the current confirmed roster of Mortal Kombat 1 characters:
* Johnny Cage
* Kung Lao
* Li Mei
* Liu Kang
* Shang Tsung (Pre-order)
* Shao Kahn
Mortal Kombat 1 gameplay mechanics
Mortal Kombat 1 will feature an overhauled fighting system with new gameplay mechanics, finishing moves, game modes, and more. Here are some of the gameplay mechanics to expect.
NetherRealm have gone back-to-basics by giving each fighter only a single variation of play. This means every Liu Kang player will be playing with the same toolkit as other Kang players, and likewise for other fighters. This should prevent differences in gear and the variations system itself from breaking the delicate balance between fighters in tournaments. Previous games required such a large number of decisions and match-up knowledge that when DLC characters were introduced into play, the information intake and decision-making required to play at a decent skill level became almost overwhelming. Mortal Kombat 1 brings the game back to the glory days of the first Mortal Kombat reboot, where players could focus less on character decision-making in menus and more on actually playing the game.
Where Mortal Kombat 1 is really differentiating itself from more recent entries is its introduction of Kameo fighters. Similar to assists in Marvel vs. Capcom and strikers in King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat 1 allows players to choose one fighter who will complement their primary choice. The roster of Kameo fighters is separate from the main roster of playable fighters and includes past versions of returning characters from early Mortal Kombat games. During a fight, players can call in their Kameo for various assists, including combo extenders, throws, and breakers. Although this means players lose interactables in the fighting arena, that functionality did not add much value and shouldn't be missed. Kameo assists feel far more intuitive and intentional in their designs. Imagine—you are in the middle of a combo as Sub-Zero, and you get to call in Sonya to blast her energy rings at your opponent. Kameo fighters also play a role in the game’s Fatal Blow system. Fatal Blows work the same way they did in Mortal Kombat 11 but now make use of both fighters, allowing for wild combinations and more of the gory spectacle that players have come to expect from this series.
The list of confirmed Kameo fighters includes the following:
* Jax Briggs
* Kung Lao
* Sonya Blade
Fighting games generally aren't known for having particularly lengthy story modes, and the Mortal Kombat franchise is certainly no exception to that rule. The story mode in Mortal Kombat 1 can be expected to be as long as it was in Mortal Kombat X and Mortal Kombat 11 (approximately 5–6 hours). Recent years have seen NetherRealm Studios put greater detail into its story modes, with impressive cutscenes and plots featuring a wide range of game characters, and that can be expected to be the case here.
This mode involves a board game–like map with an almost top-down 3D gameplay mechanic that features iconic locations from the Mortal Kombat universe. Players will pick a character and explore a region filled with branching paths. Each node you get through offers a new obstacle to overcome. Invasion mode combines mini games, individual battles, treasures, and modifiers that affect difficulty. As you level up your character, you will receive in-game currency, concept art, cosmetics, and other resources that you can equip to strengthen yourself.
Mortal Kombat 1 graphics and design
The overall feel of a fighting game is often down to its performance. NetherRealm decided to move to Unreal Engine 4 for Mortal Kombat 1 rather than stick with their own Unreal Engine 3–derived technology or jump to the more advanced Unreal Engine 5. On Xbox Series X and S, the game runs at a solid 60 fps, although prematch cinematics, Fatal Blows, and Fatalities can only run at this framerate on PC; consoles will show these particular scenes at 30 fps. At these framerates, the resolution on Xbox Series X will be full native 4K, although dynamic resolution is in play, with pixel counts coming in slightly below 2160p depending on the action. On Xbox Series S, 1440p can be expected during cinematic sequences and 1080p during battles.
The characters are depicted in exceptionally high quality with expressive faces, natural-looking skin, and outfits with detailed textures. Cloth and blood movements are highly fluid, with the virtual cloth appearing flexible and even responding realistically to fighter movements and to gravity. The animation style is similar to that seen in Mortal Kombat 11, still featuring the classic per-pixel character motion blur that Mortal Kombat is known for. Backgrounds are also shaping up to be impressive, with well-crafted materials, subtle shadowing, and proper reflections, backed up with realistic physics that let you knock over smaller items. Numerous small details have been included throughout the game that elevate the overall presentation.
Mortal Kombat 1 release date
Mortal Kombat 1 launched on September 19, 2023, for Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC and is available on Steam and Epic Games stores. The title has been available for preorder for a few months already, including the highly sought-after Mortal Kombat 1 Kollector’s Edition, which comes with dozens of extra items. Although the game has not yet been confirmed for Xbox Game Pass, its predecessor, Mortal Kombat 11, is part of the Game Pass roundup, so we expect it to eventually be part of that subscription. Be sure to check out what’s on offer there and see why Acer is an official sponsor. Furthermore, with the purchase of a Windows 11 PC from Acer, you can enjoy one month free of Xbox Game Pass.
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By establishing a new status quo, introducing new combat mechanics, and reimagining fan-favorite characters, Mortal Kombat 1 is looking to be the biggest and most game-changing Mortal Kombat game to date, and we’re excited to see how it will be received after its upcoming release.