Author - Jerry Paxton

Ideazon Merc Stealth Gaming Keyboard Review

Ideazon is most known for it’s gaming peripherals. Specifically, it’s much lauded ‘ZBoard’ gaming keyboard. Most recently, however, they have gone in a new direction with their ‘Merc Stealth’ gaming keyboard. No longer a fold-up design, the Stealth is a full size keyboard featuring a rugged, black plastic covering and three different colors of back-lighting (with three brightness levels too). As stated previously, it is a rugged and sturdy design which adds a sense of stability to the unit.

The Stealth’s keyboard functions as well as you would expect a keyboard to. Ideazon has had to make some keys dual-purpose, however, to keep the size of the unit down. An example of this is that the numpad 8 key also doubles as the ‘Home’ key. Laptop owners should have no problem switching to this as many of those keyboards do the same thing. The keyboard also features 4 USB 2.0 ports on the back as well as gold-plated microphone and headphone ports. These add-on ports increase the Stealth’s portability and LAN party usage as it is much easier to connect your peripherals to the keyboard than have a bunch of cables streaming around to the back of the pc. The action of the keys are the only thing I was not fully pleased with. This is definitely a personal preference, however I prefer my keys ‘crisp’ and a bit rougher on my fingers. The Stealth’s keys have a softer strike which is probably going to end up saving me from arthritis of the hands but I digress.

The lighting of the unit is great as not only are each of the thee colors (purple, blue, and red) very intense but the cut-outs which allow light to pass through the keys are much larger than many backlit keyboards. Gaming in dark places with this keyboard will never be an issue for you.

Now to the meat and potatoes of the unit: the 34 button gaming area. Set at an ergonomic 15 degree angle from the normal keyboard layout, this gaming area features the important controls you need for playing…well anything really. At the center of the gaming area are larger ‘WASD’-styled control buttons. These are rubberized which help increase your traction on them. This area has definitely been designed with how the human hand is laid out in-mind as the ‘Jump’ key is placed almost perfectly where my thumb sits naturally. My pinky finger can also easily get to and use the ‘Walk’ and ‘Crouch’ keys and there are a multitude of multi-purpose controls around the ‘WASD’ center keys, making it easy to change weapons, select preset battalions, or whatever you like.

This is all enhanced by the ‘Z-Engine’ control software, which allows users to assign their keys different functions. You can create a profile for a game, then create whateverever control you like for the game. After this all you do is drag those controls to the key you want to use it! This is probably the most useful (and user-friendly) gaming keyboard software on the market.

Gaming:
I put this keyboard through its paces in Call of Duty IV, Universe at War, and a few levels of Crysis. The gaming area really decreases your response time by putting everything you need right there in front of you. It did take a bit of getting use to at first, my thumb and pinky have apaprently been trained to strain themselves finding their ‘crouch’ and ‘jump’ keys. It is funny how our bodies adapt to situations. Anyway, they keyboard was a blast to use and it eventually felt more like an extension of my hand than just another input device.

Conclusion: Ideazon’s Merc Stealth gaming keyboard is a gamer’s dream. After using it for a while you will find it hard to go back to a standard keyboard. If you like a keyboard that is gentler on your hands this will do nicely as well, as the gaming area’s offset and the key’s softer strike are better for your joints and nerves. Do yourself a favor and get one of these babies soon!

GamingShogun’s Most-Anticipated PC Games of 2008: A List!

Here is my list of most-anticipated PC games for 2008. Happy New Year, all, I hope it is full of good times and good gaming!

Age of Conan (PC/360)
by FunCom
Release: March
I totally dug the hell out of the Conan flicks growing up, and enjoyed the Howard stories as an adult. Given the chance to play in that world. A chance to quest, adventure, and hack up anyone who gets in my path!?! I am so in it isn’t funny. And after playing the beta of the MMO for a bit, I am definitely in – at least when they work out their performance issues (oops – did I say that out loud?).

Frontlines: Fuel of War (PC/360)
by THQ
Release: February
Imagine a world starving for the base substance that propels their whole economy: oil. Sound familiar? Well in the shooter Frontlines: Fuel of War it is taken to the next level and the whole world is fighting over the last of the stuff in the not so far off future. The shooter looks to focus mainly around Battlefield-style gameplay with a cool ‘frontline’ system where your side will gain and lose enhancements based on where the frontline of battle is located.

Sins of A Solar Empire (PC)
by Stardock
Release: February
We are big space game fans here at GamingShogun. We reminisce of the days of Wing Commander, Tie Fighter, Freespace….Those days are gone but the space game comes in many flavors. Sins of a Solar Empire takes elements from space RTS games like Homeworld and mixes it up with elements from 4X space games like MOO (Master of Orion).

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (PC/360/PS3)
by Ubisoft
Release: Fiscal 2008
Rainbow Six Vegas was a whole lot of fun. The single player game was entertaining and the multiplayer game had some great moments. The sequel, however, looks to improve on all that by enhancing the single player story and bringing the multiplayer where it needs to be: with a dynamic co-op campaign and new multiplayer match modes to boot. They have also tweaked up the graphics engine a bit and promise to deliver a lot more Vegas this time around.

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (PC/360/PS3)
by Codemasters
Release: Q1
So here you are, Mr New York Construction Worker, going about your everyday life. The next thing you know, Nazi’s are everywhere! It is a full-on invasion of the US! This game explores an alternate history where in 1953, after stomping victoriously across Europe, the Nazi’s decide to take on Uncle Sam ‘mano y mano’. You play as that construction worker turned freedom fighter across what promises to be a fun single player campaign to retake the city from the Fascists.

Fallout 3 (PC/360/PS3)
by Bethesda
Release: Autumn
You would either have to be born under a rock or after 1985 to not know what Fallout is. If you are one of the above and DO know what the game is, congratulations! The Fallout series is one of the best in all of video gaming history. It’s sardonic vision of a retro-future turned nuclear is unforgettable. Apparently, others think this same way as it has been resurrected from the ashes of Interplay and is under development by Bethsoft(Oblivion). This time around it is a FPS RPG, which has stirred critical reaction on both sides of the fence. Personally, I am of the opinion that as long as the story is Fallout, it wont matter.

Ghostbusters (PC/360/PS3)
by Sierra
Release: Autumn
After the Ghostbusters game scare from Zoot earlier in 2007, the gaming world felt seriously ripped off that they would NOT be getting their game. Thankfully, Sierra has listened and the official Ghostbusters game was announced as in development. It is still to be determined whether or not the Sierra gameplay vids look as good as the Zoot ones, but the coolest thing about GB is that the original cast has returned to do all the voice over work and are treating the game as the official third ‘movie’ in the series.

Tiberium (PC/360/PS3)
by EA
Release: Autumn
The first Command & Conquer FPS, Renegade, was not well-received nor well done. It looks like EA is redeeming itself with Tiberium, however, as the FPS promises to delve deeper into the C&C story while also giving players a great bunch of multiplayer opportunities. The graphics looks great from screen shots we have seen thus far but hopefully the tentative release date wont slide back so far you will see it on the ‘GamingShogun’s Most-Anticipated Games of 2009’ list!

Concept Render:

Operation Flashpoint 2 (PC/Wii/PS3/360)
by Codemasters
Release: 2008
The original OF is one of those unique games that spawned a thousand gaming stories. Playing co-op in such an open world gave rise to almost limitless ways of completing an objective short of diplomacy. Besides, who needs that option, anyway?

Space Force: Captains (PC)
by Dreamatrix
Release: Early 2008 (For US)
This little gem looks like alot of fun. A turn-based strategy game of starship combat set in the Space Force universe. Already out in Europe, the US version wont be ready until early this year (actually, VERY early). Build a space station, create your captain then customize a fleet to conquer the universe. What could possibly go wrong? The game features 3 campaigns with roughly 25 missions each, tons of equipment/customization options, and crisp 3d graphics. Fun fun fun.

So there you have it! Hopefully, I can get a list of my most-anticipated Xbox 360 games for 2008 up soon as well. If you think I missed anything on my list, feel free to post your choices below!

More Indiana Jones Pics!

Vanity Fair has a few more shots from the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull flick. The story, set this time in 1957, has Indy fighting the Reds instead of Nazis. The case includes up and comer Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen, and (a surprise to me) Cate Blanchett as the ‘big bad’ in the film. Personally, I have a big ol crush on Blanchett. I knew those were her eyes in Hot Fuzz five seconds into the scene at the theatre and seeing her in a Soviet uniform with that haircut. Very nice! I also think she happens to be a brilliant actress, which of course is even more attractive.

In any case, before one of you calls the police on this obsessed fan, you should also know that flick will be locked up after shooting and dubbed into 25 languages for possibly the largest international release in film history to date.

Oh well, call the cops and here are the pics! Enjoy!

Call of Duty IV Review

Call of Duty 4 is Infinity Ward’s third development in the franchise, and they have truly raised the bar. The story is set in the modern-day as opposed to World War II and takes the player to not only the Middle-East, but also to Russia along it’s plot.

Gameplay: In typical Call of Duty style, you will play as several characters in the game. The character you play as most and probably considered the main character of the plot, is Sgt John ‘SOAP’ MacTavish, a British SAS trooper. The interesting thing about how they work the ‘jumping’ between characters is that sometimes the character you are playing is meant to die as part of the plot. While in some games this would not be an issue, when a character dies in Call of Duty 4, you have an emotional response to it. Whether it be a feeling of sadness for a fallen comrade, or revenge and righteousness (and even some guilt thrown in for good measure at having those feelings) for a dead enemy. The game sucks you in and just wont let go!

The AI of the NPCs around you, your squad’s and the enemy’s, is very well written. They work in teams and will go for cover and choose the appropriate weapons for a situation on their own. It is so well done, in fact, you can forget they are computer-controlled.

The battles can be a bit monotonous in one respect as no matter how many bad guys you shoot in an area, they just keep spawning until you reach your objective marker. While keeping the game intense, this can loosen the game’s realistic-style, as a two bedroom shanty can only hold so many troops before you start thinking ‘clown-car’ or, worse yet, ‘What were those thirty guys doing in there?’

A great feature of the ‘realistic’ shooter, is the ability for weapons (depending on caliber) to be able to penetrate surfaces (depending on the type). If you are in CQB, waiting for an enemy to pop from behind a wall: don’t! Just shoot through the cheap wall and drop the bastard where he hides.

Graphics: Call of Duty 4 features beautiful graphics. While not as cutting edge as, say: Crysis, they are well done with excellent texturing and lighting, not to mention the environmental effects. Most importantly, even with 4xAA turned on at 1920×1200 resolution, the game runs smooth as silk!

Sound: Sound is very important in Call of Duty 4, as it is a huge giveaway of an enemy’s position. Also, the weapon sounds are, for the most part, recorded from the actual weapon. The vocal work is excellent, adding to the ‘cinematic’ quality of the game. Even the small details such as the rustling grass and bouncing shells add to the immersion factor.

Music: Scored by Harry Gregson-Williams, who has contributed musically on such films as ‘The Rock’ and ‘Armageddon’, the score is beautifully rich with military cadence and ‘action movie’ theming.

Conclusion: Infinity Ward has delivered a rock-solid game that goes a long way to creating an ‘interactive movie’ that pulls you into it’s story and takes you on an adrenaline-filled roller coaster ride until it’s finished. It would be foolish to miss out on this game.

Atari Receives Delistment Warning, Again.

Forbes reports that Atari, currently a shadow of it’s former self, has been issued another warning that it might slide off into the land of stock delistment. Currently, it’s stock’s market value is currently worth less than $15 million dollars. If it stays under $15 million dollars for thirty days (by March 20th), it will be officially delisted from NASDAQ. The company is currently trading for $1.44 per share. Back in 2004, Atari’s stocks were worth over $60 dollars per share.

Atari has been in decline for a while now, selling off not only it’s Test Drive game franchise in November of this year, but also Shiny Entertainment back in late 2006.

SanDisk Sansa Connect – Review

We were fortunate enough to review the SanDisk Sansa Connect wireless MP3 player a few days ago and are ready to share our findings with you.

Packaging: First, the AC adapter is odd as it comes in two pieces. The first piece is the main unit and the second has the US 110 volt outlet prongs which connect to it. I am assuming they sell the unit in Europe as well, meaning the modular adapter makes good sense to swap out prong styles. The Connect is much smaller than it looks in photos making it EXTREMELY portable. It is much smaller than the standard iPod or a Zune but larger than the ‘small’ versions of those devices (the Nano and Zune 4/8). The only bit of problem in the packing/box contents was that the carrying strap is VERY difficult to feed through the Connect’s strap hook.

Software: Installation screens are nice to look at, a good visual style and the software installed without issue. You can use your existing Yahoo! ID or create a new one, either of which is extremely easy and user friendly. The player relies on the Yahoo! Music Jukebox program to transfer music back and forth from your pc. The device will support other software (Napster, etc), but seems to have been designed with the Yahoo suite in mind (Jukebox and LAUNCH Cast).

Design: The 2.2 inch LCD screen is vibrant and the UI graphics are crisp and animations, smooth. Control is done via a wheelpad which not only rotates 360 degrees but also has a center-press button as well as 4-way directional button functionality. Typing is done by rotating the wheen through the alphabet then depressing the center button. Takes a bit of getting use to and over-steering can be a problem at first. The wheel has some built-in tactile feedback which helps.

The internal speaker has a number of equalizer presets and puts out enough sound to enjoy while working in a quiet office writing product reviews. The sound is clear, albeit lacking in a great deal of bass which is to be expected for as small as the speaker is. For the full experience, I would recommend ear buds.

The device gets a bit warm but all the innards are solid state making it very resilient. Speaking of innards, the Connect has 4gb of memory internally but also allows for a MicroSD card to be inserted into the device, increasing it’s capacity.

The internal, rechargeable battery lasts for up to 12 hours without wi-fi enabled and for about 6 hours with the wi-fi on. This is not too bad as charging can be done via usb cable and pc or through the usb cable and wall adapter. I recommend the usb cable and pc method as you can keep the device closer to you and listen to your tunes while writing product reviews.

Internet Radio: Internet radio is done via ‘Yahoo LAUNCHcast Internet Radio’. You only need to pay for the service if you want the ‘subscriber features’, such as more channels, downloading radio songs on the fly, etc. MP3 players are fairly common these days and while the Connect plays MP3s fine, the stand-out feature is the streaming internet radio and seems to be it’s main selling point. You can buy and download songs you hear over the streaming radio on the fly and Yahoo LAUNCHcast Internet Radio offers a great selection of stations to listen featuring a great assortment of music. They even offer an adult comedy station featuring racey content which alot of companies would not have the guts to allow.

WiFi: The wi-fi is good, using the 802.11g standard. I run a WPA-secured network at the office and the unit had no issue accessing it. The Connect can also connect wirelessly to other Sansa Connect devices and the two can trade songs so long as both users are paid subscribers to the Yahoo service, which runs $14.99 a month (standard for subscription service these days). Another benefit to this wireless sharing is that, unlike the Zune, there is no time-limit on listening to shared music.

The Sansa Connect requires some ports to be opened on your router/firewall. Here they are for your convenience:

  • Trigger: Port 1755, Type: Both
  • Firewall: Ports 1024-5000, 504, Type: Both
  • Schedule: Always

Conclusion: Overall, this device has definitely exceeded my expectations and I will be keeping my Yahoo! Music subscription to enjoy the device for a long time to come. The Sansa Connect by SanDisk is a wonderful device that I could not recommend enough to anyone looking for a portable mp3 with wi-fi capabilities.

Indian-Based Company to Buy SOE?

The Economic Times is reporting that an Indian-base company, Zapak Digital, is poised to buy Sony Online Entertainment to the tune of $300 million dollars. SOE has been on the ‘block’ for a few weeks now, and Zapak Digital, which is planning to enter the Chinese gaming market next year, believes this is good for their goals. The deal is set to be finalized within the next few days.

Is this really a good thing for Zapak Digital? Don’t get me wrong, SOE has alot of resources at their disposal and Zapak would own it all, but their current IPs are not all that great.

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.

Duke Nukem Teaser Released!

3dRealms has released the teaser for it’s long (ten years) in development ‘Duke Nukem Forever’ this afternoon.

For those that dont know:

Duke Nukem Forever was officially announced on April 28, 1997 along with the purchase of a license to use the Quake II engin and the intention of releasing the game no later than mid-1998. The game engine is important as it provides the underlying technologies and simplifies development.

Original prototype work on the game had begun as early as January. In August and September, the first screenshots of Forever were released in PC Gamer. In its November issue, Scott Miller restated that the intended release date was 1998. However, 3D Realms did not get the Quake II engine code until November 1997, and the earlier screenshots were simply mock-ups with the Quake engine that the team had made in their spare time. 3D Realms unveiled the first video footage of Forever using the Quake II engine at the 1998 E3 conference.

The teaser can be found at the following links:

ShackNews

*Or you could stream it here:
https://gamingshogun.com/Default.aspx?a=593

MORE LINKS SOON!