Author - Jerry Paxton

Gamespot Universe at War Review

Gamespot has posted it’s review of Universe at War, the RTS from Petroglyph and SEGA, rating it a not-so-bad 7.5 out of 10. They echo several user complaints such as the inability to zoom out far enough to see the battlefield in a useful manner, horrible DirectX 10 performance, and the lack of waypoint setting.

From the review:

Aside from the unique races, Universe at War doesn’t really introduce anything new to the genre. If anything, this is a very traditional real-time strategy game in the vein of Command & Conquer. Given that Petroglyph was formed by many veterans of the original C&C, that’s not too surprising. What’s perplexing is that the game seems to miss a lot of the innovations that have rolled into the genre since C&C. These include basic features, such as movement waypoints. But it also includes newer concepts, such as the ability to zoom the camera back and see broad swaths of the battlefield. So while there’s stuff to like in Universe at War, there’s also stuff to dislike.

Windows XP Service Pack 3 RC Released

Microsoft has officially released the Windows XP Service Pack 3 Release Candidate for download. Remember, the official SP3 wont be available until later on in 2008. SP3 is said to increase overall XP performance by 10% and include small upgrades like Network Access Protection, Black Hole Router Protection, and Enhanced Security for Administratot and Service Policy Entries.

Download at your own risk, but it looks pretty good.

SanDisk Cruzer Contour – Review

From the get go, I need to tell you that the Cruzer Contour is a God-send to chronic fidgeters like myself.  I’ve had the Cruzer Contour for about a week now, and cannot tell you how often I’ve found myself sitting at my desk with my mouse in one hand and the Cruzer Contour in the other, just flipping it open and closed.  Open and closed.  Open and closed.  I’ve walked up to more people than I can count saying ‘That’s not a USB drive… (flip-flip) THIS is a USB drive!’  

As far as technical specs go, the Cruzer Contour boasts 18mb/s write speeds, and read speeds of up to 25mb/s.  In testing, however, the Cruzer Contour performed better than advertised.  Using the freeware version of HD-TAC, I was able to achieve 26.3mb/s read speeds (See graph below), which is significantly faster than the handful of other USB drives I tested, including my fairly new Cruzer Mini (which only read at 18mb/s).  

The Cruzer Contour comes preloaded with SanDisk’s U3 technology allowing you to run portable applications directly from the drive.  In essence, U3 allows the user to plug his flash drive into any computer and operate it as his/her own personal computer.  Additionally, the Cruzer Contour provides password protection through U3 which is backed by AES hardware encryption, much stronger than the typical software encryption found on other USB drives.  

Conclusion: This is a well functioning, high-speed device.  Though the Cruzer Contour is significantly heavier than SanDisk’s previous Cruzer incarnations, the weight comes mostly from the drive’s stainless steel shell.  My only complaint about the Cruzer Contour is that the grip ridges (see pictures below) are on the side of the drive where the USB port is.  For whatever reason, when attempting to manipulate the opening and closing mechanism by gripping the ridges, the process was often strained and difficult.  I found the mechanism operated much easier and smoother by gripping it on the bottom instead.  Additionally, when connecting the Cruzer Contour into a particularly tight USB port, the mechanism clicked in and attempted to close the drive.  It’s quite frustrating trying to plug a drive in when the port keeps receding into itself.  Other than that though, a fantastic, sleek, and stylish piece of personal tech!

GameSpot Codename Panzers: Cold War Preview

GameSpot has posted a preview of Stormregion’s upcomming Codename Panzers: Cold War RTS. The game is set to hit retail shelves the first quarter of 2008 and features what looks to be great AI, graphics, and environment.

From the article:

We watched a tech demo of the new Gepard 3 graphics engine that Stormregion developed especially for Panzers: Cold War, and it looked like it was developing nicely. Just about everything in the game is useable or destroyable–buildings crumble realistically under fire, steel bends, and rather than relying upon animation for structures, the physics engine treats pieces of buildings as physical objects interacting with each other as they fall. During our first mission, we watched a tank volley sheer the front off a garrisoned building as convincing rag-doll-animated troops fell screaming out of shattered windows; cool confirmation that the engine doesn’t just make things look pretty, but really affects game play. Your troops intelligently use physics-based cover while passive engine effects, such as nighttime or rain, will affect their sight range and speed.

Razer Boomslang Collector’s Edition 2007 Review

Long ago, circa 1998, a lone warrior came out of the ball-driven dark ages and gave us a weapon with which to slay our enemies. This weapon was the Boomslang 1000 gaming mouse. It’s form factor was totally unique as was it’s performance. This form factor and performance persisted in it’s descendants the Boomslang 2000, 2100, and 2500. Then, just as soon as it arrived it had left us for more contoured, optically-controlled input devices. While the technology is far beyond the performance of it’s ball-driven ancestors, there has always been this void in the gaming world…Now again, when it is needed, the warrior has stepped from the shadows and presented us with a new weapon: The Boomslang CE 2007.

Packaging: The Boomslang CE 07 is packaged in a very classy black cardboard box with a large metal clasp that keeps it closed. As if that weren’t enough, upon opening this box and taking note of the certificate of authenticity with unit # (ours is 389 of 10,000), you see a familiar cylinder beneath. There was a time, my young gamers, that real mice came encased in metal cylinders, oh yes – and so it is here. This time, however, instead of the shiny tin of the original Boomslang, this case is a matte black metal with the Razer logo embossed on the top of it. Within we found the mouse and software, begging us to use them.

Design: Razer has brought the Boomslang design back in spades by adding a titanium-finish top to the mouse as well as ‘Phantom Green’ lighting effects. The scroll wheel is also slightly altered and now sports an arch-top design. For the uninitiated, the ‘Razer’ got it’s name from the shape of the original Boomslang, which resembled…an electric razer, go figure. It is strange after using so many newer, contoured mice to come back to the Boomslang. It’s familiar shape welcomes you back like a comfy old coat, that is, if your comfy coat sported ‘Phantom Green’ lighting – now that would be a cool coat!

Installation & Software: Installing the Razer software was a breeze and did not take very long whatsoever. The control panel is of a spartan nature, but does the job.

Performance: Razer packed this new Boomslang with a 3G Infrared sensor, previously found in the Death Adder. With a 1000Hz polling rate and 1800dpi sensitivity, the mouse is built for fraggin’, like we like. The mouse also has 32Kb of ‘Razer-Synapse’ memory for storing profiles. I tested this mouse for multiple rounds of gaming in BioShock and Crysis. The Boomslang CE 07 performs incredibly, providing the ultra-sensitive, yet very controlled power you would expect. Oddly enough, my brain and hand don’t expect it to glide so easily, as I am used to it rolling on a ball sensor. In desktop apps, the other arena I like to test mice in, I used Photoshop and MS Word. Unlike many gaming mice that have trouble transitioning to desktop usage, the Boomslang CE 07 has no trouble in this department and I never had to decrease the sensitivity once.

Conclusion: It is rare when a company can take something from the past and modernize it, simultaneously improving it while not taking away from the things that made it great. Razer has done just that with the Boomslang Collector’s Edition 2007. It is with a happy heart I bestow it the highest rating I can. Welcome back, old friend, you look great…

Get one of these as soon as you can before they sell out for good!

New Command & Conquer FPS Announced

ShackNews is reporting that the January issue of Game Informer will announce the next C&C game from EA. It seems as though they are going to try a FPS again (their first entry into this was the abysmal C&C: Renegade).

Info from article:

  • Will ship on PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360
  • Set 11 years after the third Tiberium war
  • Squad-based action
  • Squads are called R.A.I.D. (Rapid Assault and Intercept Deployment)
  • Known squad types are infantry, missile infantry, Titan and Orca
  • Missions are around the ‘Mediterranean Red Zone’
  • Special powers such as ‘Orbital Slug’ are available

Gameplay from C&C Renegade:

Wheel of Time to be finished by new author!

CNN reports that Mistborn series author, Brandon Sanderson, has been chosen to finish the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

The Shogun reported on James Oliver Rigney Jr’s (aka Robert Jordan) death in mid-September, after succumbing to a genetic disorder affecting his heart. Mr. Rigney was purportedly working on the 12th and final book in the Wheel of Time series.

According to Rigney’s widow (who also was the editor to his books), he left ‘copious’ amounts of written and audio notes, and she is delighted that Sanderson will be completing the series.

I’ve not read any of the Mistborn books, but I have high expectations for this finale, and if it lives up to my standards, I’ll add Sanderson’s other books to my library.

Microsoft Ends Free Software Offer

ComputerWorld is reporting that Microsoft has pulled the offer to get free software if users would sign up for the Windows Feedback Program, citing an exhaustion of free products to give out. Users emailing Microsoft regarding their free product will recieve this response:

‘Thank you for your interest in the feedback program. Due to high
volume, we have reached our ‘while supplies last’ limit and have closed
our free product incentive on 12/11/2007 at 2 p.m.’