Author - Jerry Paxton

Review of the Razer Marauder Starcraft II Gaming Keyboard

With the release of Blizzard Entertainment’s real-time strategy title, StarCraft II, came a number of ‘SCII’ themed peripherals to go along with it. While some are trivial, Razer has a line of themed hardware for gamers to make use of. In this review, we take a look at the company’s Marauder gaming keyboard.

Official Razer Marauder Specs:
* Full Keyboard Layout with integrated number pad keys
* Ergonomically Optimized Wrist Rest
* Reduced Desktop Footprint
* APM-Lighting System
* Laser-etched Keys
* Optimized Key Travel & Spacing
* Ultrapolling (1000Hz Polling / 1ms Response)
* Braided 7 Foot USB Cable
* Dimensions: 400mm(L) * 182mm(W) * 32mm(H)

Razer’s Marauder features a solid construction and, for its build quality, is of a surprisingly small size and weight. Measuring 15.7 inches long and 7.1 inches wide, the keyboard is smaller than most gaming keyboards on the market, which usually feature large arrays of programmable keys. With the Marauder, which was designed with LAN party form in mind (being smaller means taking up less desk space and less taken up space means you can fit more people on a table, etc), it is case of form playing a large role in the design as well as function.

In fact, the company has gone so far to maximize the use of a minimal amount of overall space that the arrow keys have been embedded within the numeric keypad. The good thing about this keyboard’s smaller dimensions is that it will take hardcore RTS gamers less time to traverse the keys. While most casual gamers will not utilize this enhancement, for those gamers that participate in StarCraft II tournaments and other pro and semi-pro gaming events, they will appreciate it.

The Marauder also features Razer’s APM (actions-per-minute) lighting system, a system in which allows the keyboard to light up in various colors and patterns depending on what is happening within your game session or just how fast you are typing on the keyboard in general. This technology has been implemented on all of their StarCraft II peripherals. The included software suite allows players to setup the lighting scheme they want to have illuminate depending on the game event. Not only can it be set to change color as the rate of your key-presses increases but, for example, you can set the keyboard lights to shine yellow if an allied player is under attack and then switch over to red if your base is under attack. In the heat of battle, especially in those really frenetic sessions, players can lose situational awareness of what is going on across the theatre of war. This lighting system is a VERY helpful tool for keeping up on current events.

The keys of the Marauder are wonderful to type on as they are coated with a supple rubberization that has to be felt to be believed. I have never used a keyboard with this kind of coating before (at least, to this effect) and hope it starts a trend – very comfortable on your fingers. The one aspect of the keys which proved difficult for me to adjust was the spacing of the pressable area of the keys. The Marauder features tapered keys and this tapering makes the space between keys a little different than your usual, run-of-the-mill keyboard. Razer touts this as ‘optimized travel key distance’. Maybe for some – not for me, at first. After a couple days of usage I was able to adapt to the separation but still did not see much of an improvement in my scores with it. Also, unlike most of Razer’s keyboards, the Marauder does not feature a USB pass-through port on it.

Over the course of my reviewing the Marauder, I ran it through play sessions of everything from Combat Mission Shock Force to Call of Duty: Black Ops. The keyboard was a joy to use no matter the game genre. During StarCraft II playthroughs the APM lighting was very fun and helped keep me up on in-game events quite well. Also of use is the ability to record macros on-the-fly. This makes repetitive keyboard tasks much easier to palate and is a wonderful add-on to an already-solid keyboard.

Overall, Razer’s Marauder gaming keyboard is a very well-built unit with lots of features. While its price is somewhat debatable at about $120 dollars, especially considering the lack of a USB pass-through, it is not that much more expensive than other premium gaming keyboards on the market and the StarCraft II theme is very cool to behold – especially when coupled with the APM lighting. If you are a fan of the StarCraft series or just in need of a good LAN gaming keyboard, you could definitely do worse.

Mass Effect 3 VGA Debut Trailer

BioWare officially announced Mass Effect 3 at the Spike Video Game Awards 2010 along with releasing the debut trailer. The game is due out in the holiday 2011 season! Unfortunately, it looks like the Reapers have found Earth…

GamingShogun Site Re-Design, Facebook Integration

Greetings, Shogunites! As some of you may notice, we have been doing some updates around here. Not only is the site far more SEO-friendly, but it also now features heavier social network ties by way of a multitude of ‘share’ buttons After the Jump of each article. Please feel free to share articles you like with friends, etc as it will help the site provide better coverage to readers.

Furthermore, we have installed an ACTUAL Facebook page. We would love it if you joined us as fans, so hit the official page here or just the ‘LIKE’ box in the right-hand column or the Facebook icon in the ‘Be Social’ nav bar at the upper-right corner of this website.

Here’s to a great 2011!


Mass Effect 3 Listed on EA Store Early

Looks like someone over at the Electronic Arts online store jumped the gun in preparation for tomorrow’s Spike TV Video Game Awards 2010. It has pretty much been common knowledge that we would see the announcement of BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 – now we know for sure, thanks to the EA Store. For a short while today, Mass Effect 3 was listed in their online store for $59.99 before being taken down.

Additionally, there was this product description listed:
Earth is burning. Striking from beyond known space, a race of terrifying machines have begun their destruction of the human race. As Commander Shepard, an Alliance Marine, your only hope for saving mankind is to rally the civilizations of the galaxy and launch one final mission to take back the Earth.

We will be at the Video Game Awards tomorrow to see everything unfold, so stay-tuned!

New The Force Unleashed 2 Avatar Items Set to Land on December 9th

LucasArts Games has announced a plethora of new The Force Unleashed 2 avatar items, all set to hit the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and PlayStation HOME services on December 9th. Some Xbox gamers will be happy to note that they are getting the option to purchase a flipping Ewok as a pet! I guess they all need someplace to go, since their forest moon was irradiated by the Death Star II explosion…

New Items:
Xbox Live
· Scout Trooper Armor (male/female)
· Scout Trooper Helmet (male/female)
· Rebel Trooper Endor Combat Fatigues (male/female)
· Rebel Trooper Endor Combat Helmet (male/female)
· Starkiller Jedi Hunter Costume (male)
· Ewok Pet

PlayStation Home
· Scout Trooper Armor (male/female)
· Scout Trooper Gloves (male/female)
· Scout Trooper Helmet (male/female)
· Scout Trooper Bundle (male/female)
· Rebel Trooper Endor Combat Fatigues (male/female)
· Rebel Trooper Endor Combat Gloves (male/female)
· Rebel Trooper Endor Combat Helmet (male/female)
· Rebel Trooper Endor Bundle (male/female)
· Starkiller Jedi Hunter Costume (male)

For some additional avatar item images, head Beyond the Jump, if you dare!

Cataclysm Launch Event Begins in Just A Few Hours

We are a three and a half hours until Blizzard Entertainment begins their World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Launch Event at the Fry’s Electronics in Fountain Valley, CA. We will be heading out there shortly to cover the event as best as we can, so you don’t miss out on anything – including a performance by The Artists Formerly Known as Level 80 Elite Tauren Chieftain!

We are also on-track to interview Lead Designer Tom Chilton at a little after 10pm PT. If you have any questions, throw them into the comments after the break or send them out on Twitter, with an @GamingShogun in your Tweet.

Stay Tuned!

Razer Nostromo Expert Gaming Keypad | Review

Gamepads are standard on gaming consoles. The buttons are all in easy-to-reach places, and it allows you to quickly navigate your game controls in a relatively small device. Keyboards, in contrast, are much larger. While this increased size means you can map a ton more controls to the various buttons that adorn most of the devices these days, it also takes more time to get from one button to another. Originally conceived for PC first-person shooter gamers, the Razer Nostromo aims to give gamers that gamepad-like experience with the customization potential of a keyboard.

While the original series of Nostromo devices were marketed by Belkin, this is the first of the series to be primarily under the Razer brand, with a nod to co-developer Belkin on the packaging.

From a design standpoint, the Nostromo is a very pretty gaming peripheral. It features an all-black plastic design with a sleek shape and layout. The black, plastic body has a shine to it and the 16 buttons which adorn the control area are a rubberized plastic for comfort. The device uses a USB 2.0 interface to connect with your Windows PC, with a nice braided cable to avoid tearing or tangling. The unit is weighted enough at half a pound so that it is not effortless to move and has good ‘feet’ on it to prevent sliding around on most desktop surfaces.

The Nostromo also features a nice back lighting system with an icy-blue light. The back lighting brightness level can be adjusted within the configurator software. Those of you looking to customize your lighting color will not find that option here.

Installation of the Nostromo is not going to be any trouble for an average user. Simply install the CD and software then plug the unit into an available USB 2.0 port. From the Nostromo Configurator software, you can program all the buttons you like, or just use the out-of-the box presets, which work very well for most shooters and should be familiar to PC gamers. There is a 3-LED system to denote which of the 8 control profiles you are currently using, which can be a bit problematic if you forget which light pattern means what. I would have rather seen an LCD display with a profile’s name on it. Still, having 8 key maps and up to 20 game profiles available is a great thing and will serve you well, especially if you have a ton of macros to program into the unit.

After configuring the Nostromo, it was time we took it for a spin with Call of Duty: Black Ops. Using the Nostromo took some getting used to, but after feeling it out a while I was sufficiently impressed with its (and my own) performance to try it in a game not really meant for the device: 2K Game’s Civilization V. Civ V is a turn-based, empire-building title where game sessions can last for weeks depending on any number of factors. This means the Nostromo would have to be comfortable enough to use in such a situation – where it was not meant to be used. After many hours of play, I was still impressed with the Nostromo and its functionality on such a slowly-progressing game. Now, some of you may argue that you do not play with the keyboard a lot in Civ V. I would say to you, dear gamers, that you really should to be as efficient as possible (there are a ton of helpful keyboard shortcuts to know). As I have been beta testing DC Universe Online, an upcoming MMO from Sony Online Entertainment, I decided to give it a test in that environment next. Again, the biggest ‘trouble’ I had in using the device was deciding where to assign keyboard shortcuts on the control pad. After that, things went very smoothly and I had my fiery villain character decimating the city before I knew it.

The controls are all very responsive, and I did not have trouble reaching any of them. The one button which I felt needed to be a little more ‘springy’ in its design was the thumb button. It replicates the function of a space bar in games, but did not have a strong enough return spring. I prefer ‘clicky’, quick-to-bounceback buttons as opposed to ‘squishy’ keys, so I digress. I would have also liked to have seen the thumb button be a bit larger in dimension. While reachable, it is not entirely effortless to access, being slightly off from where my thumb usually sits. This point will largely depend on your hand, of course, and its size in comparison to the Nostromo.

Also, the 8-way directional ‘nubbin’ was a mixed-bag. On one hand, you could use it for moving around the screen by assigning it WASD functionality. Essentially, this makes the Nostromo a fully independent controller. However, doing so proved a very odd experience, not really all that precise in comparison to a standard keyboard setup.

Overall – the Razer Nostromo’s performance, both in fast and slow-paced games, is very admirable and I would recommend it to any PC gamer looking to pare down the keyboard to a more focused gaming solution.

Review of Mafia II: Joe’s Adventures (Xbox 360)

Joe’s Adventures is the second DLC pack for 2k Games’ Mafia II, after Jimmy’s Vendetta. This time around, the story focuses entirely on enforcer Joe Barbaro and his antics during the time of Vito Scaletta’s imprisonment. Joe returns to Empire Bay after a long hiatus – he ended up a marked man and had to leave town – to regain his proper standing and clear his ‘good’ name.

A cool breath of fresh air for the game, Joe’s Adventures allows players to drive a new, and fun-to-drive, vehicle as well as listen to some new songs from that period in time. There are also new Playboy magazines to collect for those of you seeking more achievements. Not such a breath of fresh air is that, unlike the base game, Joe’s Adventures does not feature anywhere near the amount of voice over work – instead opting for a plethora of text to read.

All the voice over work in the base game, as well as great performances, helped immerse the player into the gritty, crime-thriller story. Save for some well-done cinematics, this is largely missing here. Now, that’s not to say there is no story of any kind – there is. You just have to read it. Taking into account all the text, there is actually more story to be found here than in Jimmy’s Vendetta. It would have just been nice to have the aural presentation found in the base game.

Throughout the course of the adventure, the player will visit several new locations around Empire Bay – all of which look great and feature several
missions to complete before climaxing with, usually, a big showdown (lots of lead flying about). These big climactic events are a lot of fun and usually feature action-packed moments that would make any geek smirk. Speaking of set pieces, the frozen lake sequence is an especially fun experience, both in terms of gameplay as well as visuals with plenty of thin and cracking ice to be found.

While the aforementioned missions are a lot of fun, the expansion’s biggest problem lies in its strange cadre of poorly-designed missions. Some are moronically-easy to complete, whereas others are straight-up impossible. One gets the feeling that many of the simpler missions are ‘filler’ to round-out the expansion’s play time which, to its credit, is about six hours or so.

Overall, Joe’s Adventures has its share of high and low-points. For $10 dollars, it is a worth-while purchase for fans of the original game, but it is clearly not the end-all, be-all DLC pack for you to spend your cash on this holiday season. This is a big shame too, as the expansion pack has some sincerely cool moments. If only there had been more of them.

First Back to the Future The Game Screenshots Released

Telltale Games has released the first screenshots from its upcoming Back to the Future game series. Back to the Future The Game takes place after the events of Back to the Future III and features the talents of Bob Gale and Christopher Lloyd. The first of the five game episodes is due out this Winter on Windows PCs and, hopefully, the iPad and iPhone platforms.

Checkout the first screenshots, After the Break!

EPIC Games Releases New Unreal Engine 3 Demo Video

EPIC Games has released a new video showing off the capabilities of their new Unreal Engine 3 game engine. The UE3 features a number of enhancements over the previous version, such as the ability to add fracture effects to static meshes and simulations of large crowds.