DF Direct Weekly: first Steam Deck reviews shine

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Another week, another DF Direct Weekly! This one’s pretty spicy though as we share our thoughts on the first hardware reviews for Valve’s Steam Deck. Yes, it’s a multi-tier embargo, where selected outlets are allowed to post a whole range of content on the machine and a carefully curated range of games. The outlook is highly positive overall, but two aspects of the existing coverage definitely need further analysis – battery life and screen quality.

We’re currently looking at Steam Deck ourselves but cannot comment on our own findings until a later embargo is up, while further content continues to arrive from Valve’s favoured outlets. However, in choosing Steve Burke from Gamers Nexus to tear down the device and analysis thermal performance, gaming benchmarks and build quality, Valve made a calculated bet that pays off.

Steve’s hardware testing is, of course, legendary by this point and it’s rare to see him genuinely impressed across the board by a device in terms of its core design and thermal characteristics. However, battery life concerns were raised, with a minimum of just 1.5 hours in Devil May Cry 5 – 30 minutes short of the two hour minimum previously mentioned (with eight hours as the max). Gamers Nexus were able to hit two hours on DMC5 by locking frame-rate to 60fps, basically limiting the throughput of the processor from its theoretical max. Devil May Cry 5 is a fairly light game compared to many others, so it is reasonable to assume that games which really push the system will also come in with a sub two-hour battery life – something that demands further testing. We often talk about optimised settings for PC games in our coverage, but for Steam Deck, we could be looking at something quite different – a different balance of performance vs visual fidelity in combination with frame-rate caps in order to deliver a decent battery life.

I can’t wait to put some serious hours into the Deck to see what it can actually do, but ultimately the impression I gleaned from the reviews is that we’re getting a remarkably powerful, well-built device that may come with a penalty to sustainability on the move when fully unleashed. The only other point of concern from the review came from Linus Sebastian’s coverage, where the colour reproduction aspects of the screen look mediocre. This could possibly be a compromise in order to make the aggressive price-points a reality. Steam Deck is more powerful and vastly cheaper than competing devices – the screen may well have had to be compromised to help make that price-point happen. Again, we’ll be looking at this in our own review coverage further on down the line.

Who could have believed we could keep it up for so long? DF Direct Weekly’s 48th edition features Rich Leadbetter, John Linneman and Alex Battaglia on perpetration duty.

  • 00:00:00 Introductions
  • 00:00:41 Steam Deck review reaction
  • 00:01:09 DF Bonus Q1: Did you receive a Steam Deck and what are your initial anecdotal impressions?
  • 00:11:09 DF Bonus Q2: Do you think display cost is the (only) reason for the Steam Deck not having VRR and do you believe there’s a chance we will get a revision with VRR anytime soon?
  • 00:15:02 DF Bonus Q3: What do you think about Steam Deck having a system level FSR, so that the games don’t actually have to support it?
  • 00:23:04 DF Bonus Q4: Do you think the Steam deck as a platform would benefit more from frequent (yearly) iterations?
  • 00:25:44 Nintendo Direct
  • 00:36:46 Call of Duty will stay on PlayStation “beyond the existing agreement”
  • 00:39:51 Google Stadia shifts focus to Google Stream
  • 00:46:18 Crysis Remastered gets last patch
  • 00:53:53 DF Supporter Q1: Alex, are you excited for Total War Warhammer 3?
  • 00:55:46 DF Supporter Q2: Will a fast quad-core like an Alder Lake i3 last for the rest of the generation since it out performs a similar 8 core to what is in the new consoles?
  • 01:00:58 DF Supporter Q3: Are there any types of graphics cards that made a particularly strong impression on you?
  • 01:09:23 DF Supporter Q4: Why don’t the new consoles use 16x anisotropic filtering?
  • 01:11:02 DF Supporter Q5: Do you think next-gen came too soon?
  • 01:18:03 DF Supporter Q6: Do you think we will see Pro consoles again this generation?
  • 01:23:25 DF Supporter Q7: Do any of you typically go in for collectors editions of games?

Beyond the Steam Deck reactions, we spend some time discussing the latest Nintendo Direct. It seems like I wake up the next morning after any Direct to see a torrent of rage about the content, but there seemed to be plenty of interesting titles to enjoy in this one, even if we didn’t get to see some of the most eagerly anticipated games, such as Breath of the Wild 2. Recent sales stories projecting Switch to be the top-selling console of the PS4/Xbox One/Switch generation also seem to indicate that Nintendo is doing plenty right – and as much we’d like to see a next-gen offering, perhaps revealing a new machine in the midst of a semiconductor crisis isn’t the best move.

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We also talk about the latest – and indeed the last – Crysis Remastered patch, the final chapter in a fascinating, if somewhat unsatisfying story. There’s good news here, in that there’s been a genuine push for optimisation on the PC front, resulting in some dramatic performance gains as the developers have tapped into more of the multi-core capabilities of today’s CPUs. However, even in its final form, the game is missing key visual features that were present in the original game. It’ll be down to the modding community to improve Crysis Remastered going forward, but that’ll also require a bit more support from Crytek itself to make it happen – something we’ve not seen much of to date.

And as usual, we round off with a round of questions from our backers on the DF Supporter Program. Should we expect enhanced mid-generation consoles this time around? What’s the deal with consoles and typically low anisotropic filtering levels? And what are the most impressive GPUs we’ve owned over the years? And can a quad-core CPU still cut it, bearing in mind how impressive Intel’s Alder Lake i3s are? Of particular interest was the question concerning whether the latest consoles arrived too soon and lacking in horsepower, bearing in mind the limitations seen in Dying Light 2. These consoles are actually far more capable compared to gaming PCs compared to their last-gen counterparts during their launch windows – so I’ll expect they’ll work out just fine. But if you want to get more involved with DF, join us on the Supporter Program for early access to the show (and lots of other content), bonus material, exclusive updates, access to the team via Discord and (inevitably) much, much more.

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