Tag - Reviews

State of Decay Review (Xbox 360)

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A feral zombie had been sighted near my base camp. A series of choices open up in front of me; Take a car or head out on foot? Machete or shotgun? Stock up on painkillers or travel light in case I find prize loot? Every option must be carefully weighed, lest I find myself unprepared should my car attract a horde or my weapon break at the least opportune moment. This is the balancing act that State of Decay walks masterfully.

State of Decay, premiere effort of newcomers Undead Labs, offers a different gaming take on the zombie apocalypse. Yes, we’ve had zombie games come before. Left 4 Dead got our adrenaline pumping with its run and gun blood fest. Dead Rising gave us a playground of insanity in which to wear cheerleader outfits and wield electrified chainsaws. The Walking Dead wrought tears as we risked it all to protect Clementine in one of 2012’s best gaming story lines. None of these, however brilliant they are in their own light, has come close to evoking the terror of barely surviving to see the next day of undead hell in the way that State of Decay presents.

Before I go any further, let me make this perfectly clear: BUY. THIS. GAME.

State of Decay packs more ambition than any game I can think of in recent memory and by and large it pulls it off. If there’s one secret to State of Decay, it’s this: State of Decay is an RPG. Microsoft Studios certainly has been burying the lead there, with a trailer that sets it up as more of GTA: Zombies. Make no mistake, there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to play this game. Choosing your favorite gun and setting out on the open road to be a one man slaying machine? Enjoy not having any fun at all. State of Decay is about the choices that come with the risk and reward inherent in every single decision you make, and boldly going forward as a one man army is about the worst decision you can make in this game.

Everything in this game has its pros and cons, the likes of which lead to a very interesting emergent storytelling. The loud stopping power of a gunshot versus getting in close with a silent melee weapon or risking the noise of driving a car versus the vulnerable stealth of moving on foot, everything is a careful choice to be made. Sure, Fallout and your Mass Effect present a series of options leading to a choose-your-own-adventure style of storytelling, but the Mass Effect and Fallout games have never made me consider things like packing for my trip. If I have to travel across the map to an unexplored area I might do things like pack extra health, bring a gun, or choose a quieter car. The last thing I want to do is try to find supplies if I get overwhelmed, have a weapon break on me, or attract a horde of zombies with the loud rumble of a truck, especially being miles away from any safe zones.

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These choices are important due to the overwhelming fear of death in this game. Dead Rising and Left 4 Dead never really left me feeling threatened by the undead and The Walking Dead didn’t kill anybody unless they had to die for the story to progress. State of Decay features permanent death for your characters. That means that if Marcus, my heavy weapon expert with the cardio of a marathon runner, goes down in the middle of a fight, there are no reloads, no extra lives, no do-overs unless I start the game over again. Marcus is dead, along with all of his skills and experience. The game will instantly save and drop you behind the controls of another survivor in your group. Now, hopefully this survivor won’t be woefully under-powered as the game does encourage the development of everyone in your party. While you only control one survivor at a time, that survivor will eventually fatigue, forcing you to choose the danger of continuing in their shoes or letting somebody else take over for a while.

[quote_left]…overwhelming fear of death…[/quote_left]

Danger lies around every corner in this game. Almost every building, save for some smaller shacks and trailers that cannot accommodate the camera, can be entered. There is always something to explore and loot, and that being said, can be a potential death trap. Scouting a building before entering and having an escape route pre-planned takes importance above all and no matter what you do, never ever call a scout out to loot a building far away from home as they travel on foot and can fall victim to a horde without you there to protect them.

While there is much to be excited for, there are some shortcomings. The game suffers from frequent screen tearing and clipping issues. Zombies get stuck in fences, or worse, occasionally teleport through doors. The frame-rate is capable of dropping during heavy action and there is a noticeable amount of draw distance fog and pop in textures; I once crashed my car directly into a firetruck that hadn’t visually rendered in time for me to avoid it. That being said, this is a $20 downloadable title, a measly 1.6 GB in size, and Undead Labs submitted title update 1.1 within days of the game’s release.

[quote_right]Danger lies around every corner…[/quote_right]

State of Decay is one of the most ambitious titles I have ever played. There are some graphical issues and the story and voice work leave a little to be desired. But absolutely none of this gets in the way of the immersion and fun you’ll find once you start playing. I should have had this review done days ago but I couldn’t, in good faith, leave my survivors to their own devices. I want these people to live to see another day and I can’t wait to get home each night to jump back into the fight with them as I sneak around town finding those rare stashes of medicine so I don’t have to euthanize any more friends who have succumbed to the Black Fever.

State of Decay Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
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Razer Sabertooth Elite Gaming Controller for Xbox 360 Review

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Under a non-disclosure agreement and strict embargo date, it was delivered at our doorstep… So secret that no other member of GamingShogun.com’s writing staff knew of its existence, it was reviewed… Thanks to some premature, embargo-breaking websites in the UK (you know who you are), I can finally let loose our review of Razer’s new Sabertooth Elite Gaming Controller for the Xbox 360 – ahead of schedule!

The Sabertooth exudes positive build quality…

Opening the Razer Sabertooth, the box contained two objects – the instruction booklet and a very well-made, zip-up carrying case. As nice as this case is, it is missing a handle, which I hope they add to future releases. It would make the controller all that more portable. Once opened, I discovered that on one side of the case, in a form-fitted foam piece, was the Sabertooth controller. On the other side of the case are two net pouches containing the braided cable and analog stick caps. Upon visual inspection, the controller appeared very solid. Upon the first time I held it in my hands, I knew it was. The Sabertooth exudes positive build quality – from its smooth, slightly-rubberized body to the solid feel of the controller’s analog sticks. Even the directional pad has been upgraded from Razer’s past controllers, with a new design allowing for better usage. The Sabertooth also has just the right amount of weight for my liking. Not so heavy as to be unwieldy and not so light as to feel cheap.

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For further flexibility, the two additional multi-function triggers on the bottom of the controller can be removed with an included Torx head screwdriver. Razer’s previous Xbox 360 controller, the Onza Tournament Edition, featured analog sticks with adjustable physical resistance. The new Sabertooth does not have that feature, opting instead for fixed-resistance analog sticks. When asked why this was not included as a feature in the new controller, a Razer representative responded that “the analog resistance adjuster was removed so that gamers are able to get a consistent feel with the stick, no matter what game and setting they use”. Personally, I liked being able to tweak the physical resistance but, despite this, the Sabertooth’s analog sticks still feel rock solid and I had no issues with the given amount of resistance (which actually feels slightly stronger than the stock Xbox 360 controller’s).

You will be hard pressed to run out of triggers and buttons on this controller…

Interestingly enough, while the physical resistance of the analog stick cannot be altered, the analog stick sensitivity can be via the controller’s programming system. Before getting into customizing the controls of the Razer Sabertooth, be sure to keep and look at the included instruction manual. The programming of the controller is accomplished all ON CONTROLLER. You will use the d-pad and other controls in getting your triggers and buttons set up. The on-board OLED display will guide you through this process, revealing important menu/button assignment information. You will be hard pressed to run out of triggers and buttons on this controller as the Razer Sabertooth features two additional shoulder buttons, and four multi-function triggers on its undercarriage. Taking this even further, the controller allows two profiles to be stored on the device, doubling your potential control assignments.

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An Onza TE Analog Stick on the Left, a Sabertooth Analog Stick on the Right

Another feature of the Razer Sabertooth that stands out over other Xbox 360 game controllers I have used is the braided cable. This cable actually screws into a port on the front of the Sabertooth. The cable feels a lot stiffer than the one on the Razer Onza TE, but lends itself to the controller’s aire of durability. Plus, being screwed into a threaded port means that it won’t easily get pulled out of the controller.

…a dependable PC game controller…

A positive note for PC gamers is that the Razer Sabertooth can be used as a USB game controller. In this mode, I was amazed at just how playable games like Far Cry 3 could be. That may read strangely considering that I am reviewing an Xbox 360 controller, but readers should note that I am primarily a PC gamer and grew up with a mouse and keyboard veritably attached to my hands. So, it takes a lot for me to use a game controller on my PC that is not a HOTAS flight control system. Steam has a whole selection of games which are considered “controller-ready” as part of their “Big Picture” initiative, and I had a blast playing through them. While I don’t think I would throw away my keyboard and mouse for the Sabertooth – it is nice to know that there is a dependable PC game controller around when you need it. Let’s face it, PC games being ported from console titles with poor mouse and keyboard controls is a sad but very real issue these days.

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After using the Razer Sabertooth for several days of gaming on both my Xbox 360 game console and Windows PC gaming rig, I have nothing but good things to say about it. I realize that I am somewhat gushing about the Razer Sabertooth. I rarely gush about game controllers… Again, PC gamer here! 😉 The Razer Sabertooth is simply a terrific controller, no matter what game you throw at it. The only thing that could take the controller to an even higher level in my eyes would be wireless capability. However, the Sabertooth being a wired controller means that it will never run out of batteries or suffer a connection loss – things that would be fatal in gaming tournament and/or online play (where this controller is targeted).

The Razer Sabertooth is available now and is clearly aimed at the tournament/hardcore gamer crowd. For this purpose, it retails for reasonable $79.99. If you are a casual Xbox 360 gamer, though, you might want to stick with the stock controller unless you really need the extra buttons. For you hardcore gamers out there, pick this one up and frag on!

Razer Sabertooth Review Score
Overall Score (out of 5)www.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com
Our Rating Scores Explained

Pros

  • Terrific Build Quality
  • Lots of controller customization with two control profiles
  • Excellent also as a PC gaming controller

Cons

  •  Cost may be too much for casual gamers

TECH SPECS

  • 2 shoulder multi-function buttons (MFB)
  • 4 removable multi-function buttons (MFT)
  • 4 backlit Hyperesponse action buttons
  • OLED screen for feature customization
  • Non-slip rubber surface
  • Quick-release USB connector
  • Detachable 10 ft/3m lightweight braided fiber cable
  • Carrying case
  • 2.5mm microphone jack
  • Approximate size : 110mm / 4.33” (Length) x 154mm / 6.06” (Width) x 57mm / 2.24” (Height)
  • Approximate weight: 288g / 0.63 lbs

Images

Razer Onza TE on the Top Left, the Razer Sabertooth on the Bottom Right

Razer Onza TE on the Top Left, the Razer Sabertooth on the Bottom Right

Razer Sabertooth D-Pad

Razer Sabertooth D-Pad

Razer Onza TE D-Pad

Razer Onza TE D-Pad

Razer Sabertooth on the left, Razer Onza TE on the right

Razer Sabertooth on the left, Razer Onza TE on the right

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Cooler Master Storm Recon Gaming Mouse Review

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Cooler Master has released its new gaming mouse, the CM Storm Recon. Ambidextrous, the mouse is perfect for lefties who often find themselves at the end of the proverbial stick when it comes to such peripherals. The mouse features a black, gunmetal design with very attractive lighting scheme that is selectable in the software control panel. A medium sized mouse, it is just the right size for both palm and claw gripping gamers, and its Avago 3090 optical sensor has a maximum sensitivity of 4,000 DPI. There is a lot of argument between laser and optical sensors. Personally, I always go with what works for me and, I can safely say that the CM Storm Recon worked great in all the game sessions I had with it. Whether it was countless hours of Borderlands 2, fun times with Costume Quest, or even Sid Meier’s Civilization V – the mouse was excellent. In terms of how it feels, I have to describe it as “slick”. The feet of this gaming mouse are some of the slickest-moving I have ever used. In terms of friction, the CM Storm Recon feels like you are using a mouse on an air hockey table.

Official Specifications

  • Avago 3090 optical sensor with 800-4000 dpi
  • On-The-Fly Lift-Off-Distance adjustments
  • On-The-Fly DPI adjustments
  • On-The Fly USB polling rate adjustments
  • Up to 1.5m/s or 60”/s tracking speed and 20G of acceleration
  • Highest grade Japanese Omron micro switches
  • Extra wide 16-bit USB data path
  • 1000 Hz polling rate / 1ms response time
  • Super Grip coated ambidextrous mousebody
  • Ultra swift mouse feet
  • Flexible 1.8 meter or 78.6 inch long cable
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 64.4 x 116.4 x 42 mm/ 2.53 x 4.58 x 1.65 inches
  • Multicolor Mousewheel light to identify Profiles

One feature of the mouse which you won’t find on others currently is the ability to adjust the lift-of-distance. Lift-of-distance is the distance between the mousing surface and the mouse at which point the mouse’s sensor deactivates. This is especially important when picking up your mouse to bring it back after sweeping one direction or another. Customizing this option means you can negate the off-centering effect that most mice experience. Additionally, you can set your DPI and polling rate through the control panel. All of this gives gamers an incredible range of customization.

If I could pick one aspect of the Cooler Master Storm Recon gaming mouse that needs fixing, it would be the cable. Unfortunately, the cable attached to the mouse is rubberized, not braided. This means that you have to be very careful how you manage your mouse cable as it can result in tangling and friction. Of course, you could always use the Cooler Master Skorpion cable suspender/organizer, but that’s for another review…

Overall, you can’t go wrong with the Cooler Master Storm Recon gaming mouse. It has a lot of features for both right and left-handed gamers as well as a a cool style and great retail rice of $39.99. There are plenty of gaming mice retailing for a lot more which do a lot less.

CM Storm Recon Images

Giada i53 Mini PC Review

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Giada’s new i53 mini PC was designed to be a fast and efficient home entertainment PC in a very small form factor. We were fortunate enough to get one on loan for a while and have been pleased with its usage. Here are the i53’s official specifications:

CPU 3rd Gen Intel® CoreTM i7/i5/i3(Optional)
Chipset Intel® HM76 Express
GPU Intel® HD 4000
System Memory
4G DDR3-1333 (1 x SO-DIMM slot,Max 8G)
Storage 500G 2.5″HDD
I/O
1 X USB3.0
4 X USB2.0
1 X Card reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS PRO)
1 X HDMI
1 X  VGA
1 X SPDIF (Line out)
1 X LAN (RJ45)
1 X DC-in Jack
LAN Gigabit LAN + Wi-Fi 802.11n + Bluetooth
Audio AUDIO-out/MIC-in
Power Consumption
30W
Size 192 x 155 x 26 mm
Color Black & White
OS Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium (Optional)

The Giada i53’s design is very sleek, available in a white or black outer shell. The unit stands up on its side by way of an included base and nicely fits into your entertainment device array. Getting the i53 set up was very simple. All I had to do was plug the included HDMI cable from the mini PC to my display, then plug in a mouse and keyboard. After making sure that the power cable was also plugged in, we were off and running.

As you would probably guess, a wireless keyboard with touchpad would be the best way to interact with the i53, even when considering the included remote control. The OS is Windows 7 Home Premium and ran as one would expect. Something I did not expect, however, was the lack of media software included on the PC. So, the first things I did was connect to our WI-FI network and download iTunes.

There is no lack of connectivity in the Giada i53, which features gigabit LAN, Bluetooth, and Wireless-N capabilities – all very important in a media PC, and the download progressed quickly. After installing iTunes and setting up our account, I purchases, downloaded, and screened Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger. The 1080p video was smooth and the audio crisp, providing a very enjoyable movie-watching experience. I then navigated over to Netflix, logged in, and began streaming an episode of the USA Network’s Psych. After caching the video a bit, the playback was very good and, again, provided a very enjoyable viewing experience.

I was also able to run some video games on the Giada i53, which features an Intel HD4000 GPU. I installed Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft II on the machine as well as 2K Games Borderlands. Both played well, despite my having to turn down some of the detail settings. While this machine would not be anywhere near my first choice as a gaming rig, it does have some chops to play some last-gen PC games.

In addition to testing out the media functionality of the i53, I also got to use the PC from a productivity standpoint, checking email, writing this review, and even paying some bills. I found no issues with this, despite having to zoom in sometimes on various parts of the desktop/program due to my display’s large size and distance from the couch.

Overall, I highly recommend the Giada i53 as a home media PC. Its got a sleek look as well as plenty of features which allows for the PC to be great for not only video and audio playback but, also, a bit of gaming as well as home productivity.

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NuGuard iPad GripStand and GripBase Review

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Newertech was kind enough to send us a review unit of their GripStand and GripBase peripherals for Apple’s iPad tablet. The peripherals are meant to allow users to more easily handle their tablets on the go as well as on the desktop.

The GripStand is a half-shell case for your iPad which features a nice, foam cushioned inner-lining for a scratch-free fit. The GripStand’s black plastic shell is rugged and feels like it could stand up to quite an impact. One of the most outstanding features of the GripStand is that it allows the usage of Apple’s propriety SmartCover. Many half shell iPad cases do not feature this and it is a shame. The rear side of the GripStand features a ring-like handle which can rotate around to be used for both a hand grip and also a kickstand. The ring is comfortable and allows the iPad to be used in more active conditions. The GripStand would be terrific for field agents who need to work on the move. The GripBase is a desktop base station which allows the iPad to be mounted while at home or the office. The GripBase allows the iPad to be rotated about for a customized viewing angle, is very stable, and is totally compatible with the GripStand, allows the two devices to be a perfect peripheral pair. From an accessibility angle, these peripherals make the iPad much more useful for those with disabilities as well. I myself have recently had an injury to my right shoulder which makes using the iPad very difficult. These items have helped greatly.

Checkout Newertech’s website for more information on the GripStand and GripBase.

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Death Rally (PC) – A Review

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If I say the words, RC Pro-Am, does your inner child do a back flip?  If he or she does, then I strongly suggest you check out Remedy’s newest IOs port to the PC, Death Rally. Death Rally for the PC is a top down racer that pits the player against computer opponents to see who can cross the finish line first, alive.  Death Rally also supports multiplayer games, up to four players over the internet.  While my childhood memories still has RC Pro-Am as the best game of this genre ever, I must say that Death Rally comes in at a close second.  Sometimes, games just can’t beat nostalgia.

Story:

Some game types just don’t need story lines or well written characters to work.  All that matters is that the player has fun with the game and just won’t put it down.  Death Rally is that type of game.  Sure, there is a story mode here, but it’s fairly inconsequential and is used just to rope all of the races together.  You play as a lone wolf driver, who has been captured by the police and forced into the Death Rally tournament.  The police are hoping that your entry into Death Rally will expose the organizer, who is only known as The Adversary.  The Adversary is your target and you have to eliminate him in order to free yourself from the police.

This story won’t win any awards any time soon for it’s writing or presentation.  The style of the presentation seems completely ripped right out of the first Max Payne game, done in graphic novel style.  I swear it even looks like the same artist doing the art.  I am usually very critical with game writing because I feel that this is the entire basis on whether or not the game draws people in.  If we don’t care about the characters or their plight, it’s hard to invest ourselves into the game.  Death Rally is the type of game that can get away with very little narrative and overused plot points.  Why?  Because, in the end, the game is just damn fun to play.  Since it was originally made to be an IOs game, it is played in smaller chunks, so the story does not have a huge impact in the player’s enjoyment, if at all.

Game Play:

Death Rally has a surprising amount of depth to it before each race.  You start off with the lowest beater of the group, with just a single machine gun to kill your opponents with.  As you survive races, you earn money to repair your vehicle and purchase upgrades.  During each race break, you can visit the black market, for some illegal upgrades, visit the loan shark to get some extra cash and a one hundred percent interest rate, or visit some shady gentlemen that are not above a little sabotage to help put you in front of your opponents.

The actual races are done from a top down view, very similar to games like RC Pro-Am or Off Road Rally.  This gives you a perfect view of all of the action that is taking place and it helps line up your opponents for the kill.  As you race, you will expose power ups or parts that you can use either during the game or afterwards.  Nitro, ammo, exploding barrels, mushrooms, and the like are used during races to help you get out in front, while other pieces that you pick up helps unlock the next vehicle in line or another weapon.

My only complaint with the game play of Death Rally is the controls.  I do not have a control pad on my PC, so it was mouse and keyboard for me.  The mouse and keyboard control scheme never felt solid enough to handle the turns in the way I wanted to.  A control pad would handle this situation quite well, I believe, but I can see where this game was designed primarily as a touch screen game, and not one to use with the keyboard.

Aesthetics:

The visuals of the game work very well for me.  Each track is extremely interesting to look at, vivid and colorful, while the cars will show varying degrees of damage as the race progresses.  The game isn’t cutting edge, and does not have a really well designed aesthetic, like Awesomenauts, but the graphics are clean and interesting to look at.  Not once did I have any type of graphical issues during game play, and only a few times did i really notice something that didn’t look right.  The pictures of your rival racers are static and just hover near the car that they are driving, with the police chief looking a lot like George Lucas.  The graphic novel parts of the game looks exactly like the old Max Payne game, with no motion at all.

Sound is just as serviceable as the graphics are.  The voice acting isn’t all that great, it’s a lot over the top.  However, there is so little of it that you will never notice it unless you are really searching.  The in game sound is just perfect, the explosions sound good while the report of the machine guns sound just as they should.  Overall, a solid technical job that won’t win any awards, but also does not detract from the fun experience of Death Rally’s game play.

Final Thoughts:

Death Rally by Remedy is just fun, and at the end of the day, that is really all that matters.  Death Rally really takes me back to my child hood days of playing RC Pro-Am with my brother.  This is the type of game that doesn’t revolve around a story and does not suffer for it, unlike other games.  The fun of Death Rally is really in just blasting the competition into little hunks of metal while you upgrade your car to get to the next stage.  Game play is solid for the most part, but I found that the stock keyboard and mouse controls to be fairly deficient in giving me absolute control over my car.  The use of a PC control pad, though, should solve that problem right up.  The sound and the visuals of Death Rally do a good job, with the visuals being much more tighter and crisper then the sound.  Overall, I will recommend this game for anyone who is interested in a racing game that has a lot of extra curricular activity going on during the race, but feel that Mario Kart is a little to young for you.  Death Rally is available now from Steam.

Fun Trailer:

Gameplay Trailer:

Razer Taipan Review (PC Hardware)

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One of the most important pieces of hardware for a PC gamer is the mouse.  Without a great mouse, a gamer is left sitting in his or her own sweat as their opponents blast away.  Being hardcore gamers at heart, Razer has once again set out to improve the way that we play PC games with the Razer Taipan mouse.  Let’s take a look at the feature set under the hood.

  • 8200PI 4G Dual Sensor System
  • 9 Programmable Buttons
  • Rubberized Contoured Thumb Grip
  • Anti Slip and Fingerprint Matte Finish
  • Optimized Weight, Shape, And Balance
  • Compatible With Synapse 2.0
  • Developed With Feedback By Pro-Gamers

Installation as always with any Razer product was super easy.  The first thing I noticed is how nice the cord for the mouse was constructed.  A braided black cord that really felt like it could hold up to a little bit of punishment.  A simple plug into my available USB port and my operating system recognized it right away.  After a few short moments I was up and running for some game time.  Oh but wait, you can’t forget about Synapse 2.0.  A quick trip to the Razer website  for the download link and it took me about 5 minutes to install everything.  The Synapse 2.0 program not only allows you to manage any driver downloads for your devices, it also gives you the ability to adjust any setting on the mouse.  From macros to glowing logos, Synapse 2.0 is an easy to use program that makes life easier for the peripheral owner.  With my settings all lined up, let’s take a jump in and see what we thought about the Taipan.

Design and Feel

The Taipan is the equivalent of a fancy sports car.  It looks pretty and feels even better when you get your hands on it.  This ambidextrous mouse has the ability to make ANY gamer feel like they are using a piece of gaming art in their hands.  From the smooth black matte finish to the glowing Razer logo, the Taipan sure is pretty to look at.  The big question is, how does the mouse feel?  There have been many times where I have come across a mouse that looks pretty but is not really functional or comfortable.  I am happy to report that the Taipan feels pretty good from the first time you use it.  The mouse rests comfortably in your hand and the thumb grip is a prety great addition.  I felt as though I did not have a lot of slippage in my thumb and is rested really good during each play session.  The one problem a lot of gamers will find is the dragging of a couple fingers while using the mouse.  In order for your pinky and ringer finger to be comfortable, you will need to flex your hand in an awkward manner.  The dragging of the fingers is going to be a problem with pro-gamers everywhere as it may slow down some APM rates.  I have bear paws for hands and sometimes after long play sessions the Taipan just feels a little too small for me.  Just a slight increase in overall size would make it a better fit for those with bigger hands.

Getting Down To The Action

The Taipan for me is not only a dream gamer mouse but it also works for every day use.  I do a lot of business work and the Taipan was great for doing my normal daily routine.  I admit that these days my PC gaming is mainly limited to MMO’s and Diablo III.  I took the Taipan for a spin in both and the dual-sensor lived up to it’s promises of being quite accurate.  I rarely had any miss clicks and the toggle buttons next to the mouse wheel has a smooth DPI changing function.  If you want to be super fast, you can bump it up to the top or keep it down low for noobs like myself.  I do not use a mousepad and after a four or five hour The Secret World session, The Taipan still held up with the accuracy factor.  The Taipan comes with nine programmable macro buttons that you can set via the Synapse 2.0 menu programs.  I am not a huge macro user but testing it out I had no problems at all with them working.  Button presses, mouse wheel, and general use performed better than expected.

Final Thoughts

While not perfect, The Razer Taipan is an outstanding mouse for someone who is looking for an upgrade or for those left-handed gamers many hardware makers overlook.  Pro-gamers may be thrown off a bit by the finger dragging problem but I found this mouse to be a great mouse for every day PC use.  At $80, the price is a little high but with that you are getting a sleek looking new addition to your desktop.  I highly suggest that Shogunites take a look at the Taipan if they need an upgrade.

The Razer Taipan is available now for $80 and we were provided one for review purposes

 

 

Uplink Review (IOS)

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Back in 2001, Introversion Software released a hacking game for PC titled “Uplink”.  Widely known for it’s simple design and immersion factor, Uplink was a true to life experience of how hackers do their dirty deeds.  Fast forward to 2012 and another classic game has been ported over to IOS devices for a new generation to enjoy.  Let’s jump into the server nodes and see how the game holds up.

What We Thought Was Cool

You Are The Hacker

The one thing that made Uplink different than most other games is how it really makes you feel like you are in the game.  This is a hackers LARPing dream come true as the game puts you front and center to what a real hacker might see. Providing nothing more than a blue map screen, Uplink gives off a set of text menus and bulletin boards offering hacking jobs.  After taking the initial tutorial, the player is off on their own to find jobs that match their skill level via an underworld BBS type system.  Some jobs may not be available right away until you “Chat” with a client proving your ability.  connecting to the underworld also offers an online store filled with IP tracers, root kits, and crackers.  All these tools are essential for a would be criminal hacker and you can upgrade them to build on their strength.  As you select a job, you are presented with a server maps where you can skip trace around to avoid detection.  Connecting straight to the network you wish to hack may not be the best way to go about things.

During my initial play through, I thought it would be fun to try and see what happens when you just go straight for the goods.  I found that without the proper tools you are going to get caught right away.  I ended up getting caught so much that the client fired me from the job.  I received an in-game mail that advised me that I need to pay a cyber jail crime or face further problems.  I decided against paying the “man” and went back to the job board where I quickly learned that every available client thought I was too high risk due to my criminal record.  My hacking career was over in a flash and I was forced to start over from the bottom.

There is an actual story to Uplink and as you progress through the missions things will be revealed to you.  Feeling like an old school adventure game, the conspiracy unravels via the in-game email system.  This really adds to the immersion factor as it combines nicely with the way the game is built.  Staring at a password cracker and a tracer kit hoping that you don’t get caught can add some palm sweating moments.

Presentation

How are graphics one of the cool features of a mostly text adventure?  Well young hacker, it’s the simple graphic style of the game that ties everything together with a pretty little bow.  Anyone who plays Uplink is presented with everything that a seedy hacker might see on their computer screen.  From logins to hacking tools, Uplink makes the player believe that they are actually doing some dirty work here.  The design of the whole thing ups the immersion by a few notches and is a big bucket of win for those looking at being immersed into a game.  Uplink works really well with a touchscreen device as it makes it easier to swipe in and out of menus.  I did find that some of the typing portions responded a bit slow but it was nothing to really complain about.  The presentation of Uplink really makes you believe like you are in some sort of Hollywood movie where you are racing against time to get a job done.

What We Thought Sucked

Learning Curve

Uplink is not really made for the casual gamer who does not want to be frustrated with an IOS game.  While the tutorial is pretty deep, anything after that is up to the player to learn as they go a long.  One false move can totally destroy the gaming experience and make you start over from the beginning.  This was the first time in a game that I found the immersion factor to be a little too much.  If I am paying for an IOS game I want it to be an experience that I can truly enjoy without feeling like I want to throw my Ipad against a wall.  Most people purchase an Ipad game to play in short intervals as they ride the metro home or while hanging out in their home.  Uplink may be a bit too hard for those looking to simply escape for a few hours as it requires some critical thinking with what your objections are in the game.

Final Thoughts

Being a port of a classic game, Uplink does offer a true experience for those looking to revisit the fun times they had on their old systems.  Uplink works well with new technology and the iommersion factor is top notch for those looking to have fun with an adventure game.  I wouldn’t run out and immediately buy the game, Shogunites, but I would give it a shot if you have some free gaming time.

Uplink is available on the Apple App Store for $4.99 and GamingShogun was provided a copy for review

Razer Blackshark Review

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At the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo, I got the chance to check out Razer’s new Blackshark gaming headset. I was initially impressed by the military aviation visual style they conveyed. Not usually Razer’s aesthetic, I then learned that the unit was a Battlefield 3 licensed peripheral and that made a lot more sense. Trying them on, I was very pleased with the comfort factor that the ear cups provided, and persuaded the company to send one over to us for a full review. I am a big combat flight sim fanatic and I was eager to find out how these fit into my favorite genre of gaming.

Official Razer Blackshark Gaming Headset Specs from Razer’s Product Page

Tech Specs

  • Exclusive Battlefield 3 design
  • Stereo sound with enhanced bass
  • Sound-isolating circumaural ear cup design
  • Detachable boom microphone for voice chat or added mobility
  • Audio/mic splitter adapter cable
  • Memory foam leatherette ear cushions for maximum comfort
  • 40mm neodymium magnet stereo drivers
  • Approximate Weight: 290 g / 0.64 lbs

Headphones

  • Drivers: 40mm neodymium magnets with copper-clad aluminum voice coil
  • Frequency response: 20Hz – 20KHz
  • Impedance: 29 Ω
  • Sensitivity @ 1KHz: 105dB ± 3 dB
  • Input power: 50mW
  • Cable: 1.3m rubber sheathed
  • Connector: 3.5 mm audio + mic combined jack

Microphone

  • Frequency response: 50Hz – 16KHz
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 50dB
  • Sensitivity @ 1KHz: -37 dB +/- 4dB
  • Pick-up pattern: Unidirectional

Hardware Requirements

  • Devices with separate 3.5mm audio and mic jacks
  • Devices with combined 3.5mm audio + mic combined jack (works with all portable audio/mobile/computing devices including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Android phones, Razer Blade, Macbook Pro, or today’s newer Ultrabooks.)
  • 1m / 3.2ft audio/mic splitter adapter extension cable included

The Razer Blackshark contains two 40mm neodymium drivers in the 20Hz – 20KHz range. I initially tested the gaming headset with my favorite flight sim right now: DCS A-10C Warthog. The military look and feel definitely helped set the mood, and the drivers put out very respectable bass response while also allowing the highs to come through, loud and clear. Small details like the spinning up of the aircraft’s external APU were noticeable and I loved the metal boom mic. You can remove that feature if you like but, if you are like me, that boom mic is one of the Blackshark’s top selling points.

Comfort is definitely an issue when it comes to gaming headsets. I have used some very weighty ones in my day that induced headaches a plenty. The Razer Blackshark is not one of those headsets – much to my pleasure. The Blackshark is very light at 290 grams and the earcups caress without chaffing. Additionally, the Blackshark did not compress the sides of my head like some other headsets I have used. Overall, this unit gets some serious marks in the comfort department.

In other games, like Battlefield 3 and Left 4 Dead 2, I, again, got very respectable performance from the Blackshark. Between those two FPS titles and the aforementioned flight sim, I can safely say that the sound reproduction on the headset is at least on par if not moderately better than other “pro” gaming headsets on the market.

Installing the Razer Blackshark is very simple, as you just plug the 3.5 mm jacks into your soundcard – there is no special software required to use it. I did try using the unit on my iPhone and, while it does provide music playback without issue – it looks a bit silly to wear them on the street.

Like the rest of Razer’s Battlefield 3 licensed products, you do get a code which will unlock a Razer-themed, in-game dog tag.

Overall, I have lots of great things to say about the Razer Blackshark. The only drawback I found with the unit is its $129.99 retail price. Considering Razer’s high-end Tiamat 7.1 is $179.99, I would have liked to have seen the Blackshark a bit cheaper. Not that the Blackshark isn’t worth paying for – I would just heavily weigh why I was buying the Blackshark when, for $50 more, I could get true 7.1 surround sound. That being said, if you are looking for a rugged, military-styled gaming headset for your home cockpit or just some great gaming sound, you will love the Blackshark.

The Razer Blackshark gaming headset is available now.

Product Images

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown Review – Xbox 360

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In the world of the fighting game genre, Virtua Fighter holds a very unique and special place in my heart.  Fighting games, like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, focus on special attacks or moves that no human could possibly pull off.  While other games, such as Soul Calibur, add weapons to the mix, leaving the matches feeling unrealistic after you hit your opponent in the head with a huge axe.  The Virtua Fighter series has always been based in the real world of martial arts, focusing on quick strikes, timely blocks, throws, and reversals.  This realism has made the Virtua Fighter series the ultimate fighting game experience in my eyes, making matches more of a chess game then being about who pulled off the super moves first.  Sega has released the newest version in this series, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Characters and Features:

Instead of using my normal “story” headline here, since there really isn’t a story in Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown, I will use this section to talk about the character design and the features of the game, including the many game options for both online and offline play.

All but one of the characters are returning fighters from previous versions of Virtua Fighter, with only Jean Kujo being the new addition.  The list of characters include many fan favorites, including Pai Chan, Lei-Fei, Lau Chan, and my personal favorite, Shun Di.  Each fighter is a practitioner of a real world martial art, and are designed around these styles.  Shun Di practices drunken boxing, so he carries a jug of wine to keep him well motivated.  El Blaze is an expert in the Luche Libre style of wrestling, and has been designed to look like your typical luchadore.  The actual visuals of each character are a little stereotypical, but I find that the designs work in the end.

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is full of features and game play modes for both online and offline games.  The single player list includes your standard arcade edition, but also includes a score attack mode and a license challenge mode, where the player must win his or her bout while completing the listed challenge as well.  There is also a special sparring mode, but unfortunately you must have had customization unlocked in order to play this mode, and I did not have any customization available for any of my characters.  For multiple players, there is the offline versus mode, which is exactly as it sounds.  Two players play versus each other offline, no more, no less.  Online fighting is single player versus another player over Xbox Live.  Bouts over Xbox Live were quick and lag free for me.  I was able to find opponents quickly and was able to fight without any delay, making the matches fast and fun.  The last mode available to the player is a training mode called the dojo.  This is where the player can learn the moves of his or her toon and become more familiar with what the toon is capable of.

There is plenty here to keep anyone busy for a while.  Customization is a great idea that helps keep the game alive longer, but it is a premium for this version of Virtua Fighter.  You can buy full costume packs, or just buy the ones that you want.  Overall, I love the list of fighters for Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown and feel that the modes are great, but really love the lag free online fighting.  I hope the community stays involved in this game for a while to go so that I can find opponents just as easily as I was with this last week.

Gameplay:

The game play for Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is the definition of “easy to learn, hard to master”.  You only have 3 buttons that you worry about:  punch, kick and guard.  Your moves are based off of the button press combinations and direction of your movement stick.  Move lists for each character is long and detailed, including a move for almost any situation you’ll find yourself in.  Each character has the ability to throw, dodge, reverse throws, and counter attack through button combinations, making defense just as deadly as offence.

Final Showdown has gone through Virtua Fighter 5’s core game play and have revised and balanced it.  All the balance and timing of each move has been evaluated and balanced, to make Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown one for the tournament playlists for fighting competitions around the world.

The arenas are interesting to look at and now are extremely varied in both size and shape.  I was surprised to find myself on a floating arena that measured 6×16, making it a rectangle with almost nowhere to dodge to.  Walls are breakable and half walls can trip up your fighter if you are not careful.  Fighters can also use the walls and fences to trap their opponents in a corner and fighter can perform special wall maneuvers.

Gameplay for Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown feels natural and right.  The moves are quick and are pulled off with the simplest of buttons combinations, but require the right application during the right time.  One must have great timing to pull of a grab reversal during a match, so it really comes down to reaction time and concentration, rather than complex button presses.

Aesthetics:

Graphically speaking, I really did not see a difference between Final Showdown and the original release of Virtua Fighter 5.  It looks good on the Xbox, but still looks a little dated and rough around the edges.  The movements of the fighters are smooth and come off looking natural, which is extremely important in this type of game that relies on real world martial styles.  Robes flow like they should and the arenas are interesting to look at and varied enough that I did not get bored with them.

Voice acting is probably the weakest of all areas for Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown.  That’s not to say that it is bad in any sense of the word, but it is just not riveting and fantastic.  Each character speaks in his or her native language, which is a great feel.

Like many games before it, Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown doesn’t do anything bad in the aesthetics department, it just doesn’t do anything great.  Everything here works for what is needed.

Final Thoughts:

Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is a fantastic game in a long series of fantastic games from Sega.  while there isn’t a lot of noticeable upgrades from the original Virtua Fighter 5 version, this game does present the most balanced and competitive version out currently of the franchise.  Characters show up from previous games with one brand new character just for this game.  Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is full of options and modes to play to keep you busy for a long time, but be prepared to pay extra for customization options.  Overall, this is the version to own if you are a huge fan of the Virtua Fighter series.  Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown is available now on Xbox Live Arcade.