Author - Jerry Paxton

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!

Reaction to Next-Gen Top 30 Games of 2007

Next-Gen has posted their list of the top 30 games of 2007. Their take on the top games list is MUCH more realistic than TIME‘s was. In fact, aside from their top five of the list, it is pretty darn good.

I commend Next-Gen for their top 30 list and think it shows their true
‘gamer’ status as opposed to people who just pull the top sellers off
of the Gamestop website and put them in their articles.

The top five from Next-Gen:

  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • Rock Band
  • BioShock
  • The Orange Box
  • Halo 3

Personally, I like this list quite a bit. Super Mario Galaxy is a great game, although I would have given the #1 spot to BioShock. While fun gameplay, I dont think there has been any game to be as engaging as BioShock this year. Apparently we are big BioShock shills at this site as the GamingShogun thought the same thing in the previously linked article. The Shogun also mentioned that the Orange Box was not a good selection and I have to agree. It is a compendium of games, not just one. In it’s place I would have placed Portal, which was just incredible.

Crysis Review

Crysis is the successor to Far Cry, the award-winning first-person shooter from Crytek.You are ‘Nomad’, part of a US Special Forces team equipped with some very high-tech and classified gear. Your mission is to insert into a North Korean-controlled island and rescue some hostages. The reason why North Korea has suddenly annexed this small plot of land? Unknown. For now….

Graphics: Using the latest DirectX 10 enhancements, this game looks incredible and, like Far Cry before it, sets a new benchmark in computer game graphics. Unfortunately, you need a mighty powerful rig to take advantage of the effects.

Our Test Rig:

  • AMD 6000+ AM2 Dual Core CPU
  • 4Gb of DDR2 RAM
  • BFG 8800 GTX OC Video Card
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi Gamer
  • Windows Vista 32-bit

We were able to run the game very well on our set-up. The graphics looked amazing and none of the effects were lost. The depth-of-field looks very convincing as does the physics modelling.

Sound: The sound design in Crysis is no slouch either. Ambient noises really make you feel as if you are alone on the small island, of course, until all hell breaks loose. Sound effects are excellent as well, with subtle touches like ‘freezing’ sounds, invidual shells dropping, and even the rattling around of fallen paper cups to immerse you in the virtual world.

Music: Music in Crysis is good, although it is outshown by the sound design and graphics. The tones range from eerie to adrenaline fueled marches.

Gameplay: Your super nano suits have four different modes in which to utilize. The first increases your armor – this is the mode that we used most often. The next mode increases your speed. The next mode cloaks your body (ala Predator) for as long as your suit’s energy holds out. Finally, the third increases your strength and man does it increase it. Under normal circumstances when you grab an enemy by the throat and throw him, he will lay there a minute, then get back up. When strength is engaged, he flies much farther and doesn’t get back up. In addition, some obstacles can be broken by punching them, only in strength-mode.

These modes give Crysis it’s replayability. Choosing to go guns-blazing into a village or to go in stealth-mode is up to you. In fact, you have certain mission objectives but it is pretty much up to you how you get to your objective and accomplish them.

Unfortunately, there are still a ton of bugs in the game that can affect performance even more so than the high system requirements. We saw a couple ‘CTDs’, an issue with the game not wanting to start in full-screen mode, what seemed to be a memory leak after about forty minutes of play, and even a strange sound issue with this incesant clicking noise. At this time, patch #1 is currently being readied for release. Hopefully, this will fix some of these issues as it is always a shame for bugs to bring down opinion of an otherwise excellent game.

Conclusion: Crytek has done it again, bringing an excellent cinematic gaming experience to the masses with Crysis. If you can hold fast for the upcoming patches, you will be treated to an excellent game.

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.