Xbox One Controller

maksdHsFX8FOThTxP8c6oMwManufacturer: Microsoft9.5

Release Date: 11/22/2013

MSRP: $59.99

Colors: Black

 

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The Good: Better than the 360 controller, buttons feel amazing, improved D-pad and triggers, uses micro USB, rumble feature in bumpers is a nice addition

The Bad: High price, still uses standard batteries, no wireless option available for PC, bumpers click too loudly

NOTE: Controller was tested for 6 hours with Ryse: Son of Rome, Project Cars, and Resident Evil 6

I had by Xbox 360 controller for Windows for about 4 years and I felt it was time to finally upgrade. I won’t lie, the Xbox 360 controller is fantastic and was the best controller of the last generation, it was sturdy and extremely ergonomic. My 360 controller for PC has been through absolute hell. It has traveled with me for nearly 5 years on my gaming laptop and I played dozens of games with it from Batman: Arkham City to Need for Speed: The Run to Saints Row The Third. It’s scratched up, the four bumps on each analog stick are completely worn down, and the left trigger squeaks like a mouse. The cable is split in one area, I have taken it apart to clean it, goop got stuck down in the buttons, you name it. However, the controller hasn’t failed on me and works just fine for nearly any game that supports a controller. Any game that supports a controller since 2006 supports the controller. I have never had to use a third party button mapper for this thing. It’s fantastic and just awesome. Again, it’s time to move on and upgrade to the next biggest thing.

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The Xbox One controller is actually better than the 360 one out of the box since you don’t need a specific controller for PC. Just grab any Xbox One controller and plug it up via standard micro USB, install the drivers off Microsoft’s website, and you’re golden. Of course these are $20 more than 360 controller, but you’re getting a more advanced and better feeling device. The XBONE controller is black, which is better than the 360’s off white theme. The glowing white Xbox One logo helps the aesthetics compared to the green glowing one on 360. There’s a little glossy black piece that stick out above new menu buttons that holds the Xbox One logo. This is a great new design choice as it makes the controller look sleeker. Of course the button doesn’t do crap on PC, but it’s nice to press when you’re bored I guess.

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Holding the controller itself feels better than 360. The handles are tapered smaller at the bottom and are angular rather than round. This makes gripping the controller easier for people with smaller hands and it just felt better. The triggers are completely redesigned. They are softer yet glide much smoother and feel more responsive. They have a soft stop so you’re not slamming the triggers into the controller. It just feels so much better. The LB and RB buttons are a little disappointing. They are much louder and are a little harder to press. However, the bumpers vibrate for minute sensations and this is brand new for controllers. PS4 has the touchpad and speaker, and Xbox One has this new rumble feature. Honestly, I’ll take the speaker and touchpad over this any day, but it’s nice knowing Microsoft at least tried. Outside of that, the face buttons are much larger and flatter which is awesome. They don’t look so cartoony and aren’t colored like the 360. They are clear black but the letters are colored. So much better looking. Now, here’s the make-or-break part. The analog sticks and D-pad. The analog stick are actually wonderful. They are looser than the 360 sticks but you have more controller. Everything on the Xbox One controller is looser but much smoother with a “glade” feeling that just feels natural and buttery in your hands. The D-pad is something I really like. It clicks with feedback, but not like your think. This is a raised D-pad like the horrible one on the 360. It’s a in-set D-pad which feels responsive and fast.

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Here’s the dumbest part about the controller. It still needs AA batteries. 2015 and Microsoft is still making controllers like it’s 1995. Their theory is you won’t run into half-life issues and have to buy a new controller. I call bullshit on that. My PS3 controller from 2009 has been charged who knows how many times and I still get 15+ hours with it. This is just a money-making scam from MS to buy the $25 play-and-charge kit for the controller. The way around this is rechargeable AA batteries which MS surprisingly doesn’t suggest. Gee, I wonder why. With rechareables you can keep two spare for a quick swap.

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Here’s another downer, the controller can’t be used wirelessly on PC, at least not yet. The wireless dongle is yet to be released and will only work with Windows 10. Another stupid road block. Thankfully you can use any USB cable so the 360’s extremely long and thick cable isn’t an issue here. All in all, the Xbox One controller is fantastic and the best one you can get for PC. Just some stupid design choices get in the way of making it perfect.

Ryse: Son of Rome

91Uocj2zeRL._SL1500_Publisher: Crytek6.5

Developer: Crytek

Release Date: 11/22/2013 (XBONE) 10/13/2014 (PC)

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $59.99 (XBONE) $39.99 (PC)

Also Available On

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The Good: Fantastic audio/visual experience, many different locales are awesome, excellent characters and story

The Bad: Actual gameplay is repetitive and shallow, boss fights are a huge disappointment

I firstly want to say that Ryse isn’t as bad as critics made the game out to be. However, I can see why it was bashed so much. It was the most anticipated Xbox One launch title. When you throw down $500 on a new console plus $60 for a game you expect to get your money’s worth. Ryse would have pissed me off if that was the only game I picked up for the console. It the game awful? No, just very repetitive and feels like a typical rushed console launch game.

The story and characters in Ryse are fantastic. You follow a Roman Centurion named Marius Titus who is fighting the barbarian tribe known as the Britain’s. Marius’ family gets murdered by the barbarians, however there are quite a few plot twists that left me wanting more of the story. I actually love how the story and characters play out. It felt very authentic to the Roman Empire era, I felt like I was playing a piece of history and you can’t say that often about games. The architecture to the way the characters dressed just sucked me in. Even the fighting styles are brutal and authentic to Roman culture. The excellent facial animations and voice acting help drive the story even further, but it’s just so sad that the story was taken down by the repetitive and bland gameplay.

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The game actually seems really awesome during the first chapter. You get to order soldiers to fire volleys in enemies and control a Scorpio, but you don’t get that much control. You literally pick where your soldiers go to make the scenario easier or harder for you. There are several instances where this happens and I felt like it was a wasted potential. Sword play is just so boring by the end of the game. I actually avoided execution moves because they made me nauseous just looking at them (from repetition not the gore). When you execute an enemy the camera sweeps around in a cinematic frenzy. This is just so cool at first, but then you realize the quick time events don’t do shit. The enemies will glow yellow, blue, red, or green corresponding with the face buttons on the controller. This quick time event concept is actually great because it’s non-intrusive, but if you miss the quick time event there are zero penalties. The animations don’t stop, the enemy doesn’t get the upper hand, no loss of health, nothing. It doesn’t even interrupt your combo which is pretty much blasphemy in the action/adventure genre. Imagine playing God of War and failing a quick time event, after that the kill continues and nothing happens. What’s the point of the QTE then right?

There is one interesting mechanic that forces you to do QTE’s which isn’t too bad. There are four different things you can acquire from these QTEs and that’s health, XP, strength, and focus. I used the health drain and XP the most. I never even used my focus except for a couple of fights in the entire game. That’s not a good sign. To top it all off the boss fights are just boring and awful. Each boss uses the same two move sets through the whole fight and it becomes just a yawn inducing repetitive hit-and-dodge game. What makes the combat the worst off all, out of everything, is the same 10 execution animations are used on top of the same 5 enemy types that are just reskinned. It’s a lazy move that cost the game it’s legs and character that it got from the story and characters.

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Don’t get me wrong, the game is worth a weekend rental and it’s quite enjoyable thanks to the frequent locale change and fast-moving story. Thankfully the game doesn’t overstay its welcome by clocking in at about 4-5 completion time. I was able to get nearly all the upgrades before the end of the game, but this game is not worth a second play through, not one bit.

Let’s talk about visuals. Ryse is actually one of the best next-gen console game to be released…looks wise. On PC there are some enhancements like AA and SSAA as well as better shadows, and higher resolution textures. However, this game requires a monster rig (GTX Titan) or SLI 8xx-9xx cards to run at 60 FPS maxed out. My i7 4770 and GTX 670 dropped down to the teens in some areas. Ryse uses the CryEngine 3 which looks freaking amazing and next-gen consoles finally have the power to use it. If you don’t have a rig that was built in the last 18 months you should probably play it one Xbox One. There’s even an option to use Insane textures for 4GB VRAM GPUs. Ryse is one of the few games out that really pushes new rigs to their limits, so this is a good thing for PC gamers.

Screenshot taken directly from my game

Screenshot taken directly from my game

Topping it all off, Ryse isn’t an awful game. It’s a game that has strong legs that are weakened by the repetitive combat and awful boss fights. Many of the locales are just awesome, like the Colosseum, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome which can balance this out a bit. If the game was pushed back another year we could have had the best gladiator type game ever made (Shadow of Rome and Spartan: Total Warrior still remain at the top). It’s a great weekend rental or bargain bin purchase but nothing more.

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Killer N1202 Half-Mini Wifi Card

FcLljkveX__N.878x0.Z-Z96KYq (1)Manufacturer: Rivet Networks9.5

Release Date: 5/2012

MSRP: $39.99

 

 

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Killer series wifi cards have been elite gaming cards for a long time. With the new Killer N series, smaller sized wifi cards are now powerful beasts. The Killer N1202 also packs in Bluetooth 4.0 and 2.4Ghz/5Ghz speeds. Killer series cards are known for low jitter and smart data streaming. N1202 has a feature that will prioritize speeds to applications that need it the most such as game clients, Chrome, torrent clients, and various other speed hungry applications. You can manually set speed priority to other programs such as Windows Update, anti-virus updates, or various other programs that don’t require much speed. This is an amazing tool that you notice within the first few hours of use. I can download a game on Steam, and surf Chrome without slowing my download down. I tested the card on a 100 mbp/s connection and I rarely ever dipped under 10MB download speeds.

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Various other tools in the software allow you to see other wifi connections that are nearby compared to yours. This can help you pick a more vacant channel. There’s also a pie chart available to let you know what apps are using the most data and this can be reflected on the app control manager. The software even lets you put in your internet connection speed according to your ISP to help regulate and get the most speed out of your connection. Outside of the software the drivers were extremely easy to download and install with zero problems or hiccups. Windows recognized the card as soon as it was installed and booted up. However, there is a separate driver for the Bluetooth that I was unaware of and didn’t get until I needed to connect a device.

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This is the best wifi card I have ever had. With the low $40 price point, it’s hard to pass up for people who don’t want to be wired. With the data control and smart streaming software gamers, movie streamers, and heavy downloaders will love this card. If you have a rig that uses a half-mini card I highly suggest ditching whatever is in your system and picking this guy up.Capture

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

downloadPublisher: Konami7.0

Developer: Kojima Productions

Release Date: 3/18/2014

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $29.99

Also Available On

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The Good: Streamlined gameplay yet still familiar, open ended missions, great visuals, interrogating enemies

The Bad: A glorified 90 minute demo, using sounds as clues to find objectives is difficult, fans of the more linear games may hate the open endedness

When I first heard about Ground Zeroes being released, I thought of one other game: Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. A glorified demo that showcased the tech behind the game. This usually happens when games take way too long to release and the developers need some feedback. So, they release a chunk of the game for about $30 and get the world’s reaction. Ground Zeroes is actually a glorified demo of the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. If you aren’t a Metal Gear fan…well what the hell are you reading this for?!

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Ground Zeroes is actually taking place after the PSP game Peace Walker which really surprised me. The game is made up of one giant mission in a large military compound. You must rescue to children, Chico and Paz who were main character in Peace Walker. The first thing I noticed about GZ was how much everything has improved from visuals to controls and animations. The entire familiar gameplay is streamlined like is should have been years ago. No longer do you have the radio menu where you dial in and talk to people with long dialogue sequences. Just press a button to get hints on what to do, genius. The aiming is also a lot better this time around, as well as inventory swapping and interacting with objects. Again, it’s all very familiar but just more streamlined. My favorite combat feature is when you are alerting a guard the game will slow down and turn towards the guard you alerted. You get about 10 seconds to put the guy down before he raises the alarm. Thanks to the more open environments it’s much easier to see where everyone is. Climb up a watch tower and use your binoculars to tag enemies is just what the series has needed for awhile.

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That’s another thing some MGS fans will not like, the open endedness of the levels. The compound is huge with many rooms, areas, and buildings. A new feature in MGSV is to interrogate an enemy but sneaking up behind them and grabbing them. They will tell you where something valuable in the area is like an armory, weapon, or enemy placements.  You can choose to kill enemies or knock them out with your tranq pistol (like the good ‘ol days). Figuring out where to go wasn’t too difficult. My first objective was getting Chico from a prison camp not too far from where I started. The second objective, finding Paz, was a real pain as I had to use sound clues from a cassette recording to find out where she was. I finally figured out what area, but it was getting to the right building that was tough. Silencers in this game eventually break so I was stuck with just a tranq dart and couldn’t disable cameras. I had to run around finding an armory that had another silenced weapon to continue and I died many times doing so.

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Once I got Paz I called in a chopper to pick her up. I jumped on an AA gun since her being missing was discovered and the whole base was on alert. Thankfully no one took the chopper down and I was able to squirrel away to the starting point to end the one hour mission. After the final cut scene the game ended and I thought that if I had paid for this game I would have been really pissed off.

With that said, Ground Zeroes shows us just what Phantom Pain will be like and I also have to mention that Kiefer Sutherland pulls off a better Snake than David Hayter. Yes, I said it, bite me.

Sorcery 2

Icon_ipad7@2xDeveloper: inkle9.0

Release Date: 11/7/2013

Rating: Teen

MSRP: $4.99

Also Available On

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The Good: Organic story telling with choices that lead from great to small consequences, every single choice matters, huge world with great lore, great visuals and sounds

The Bad: Can be very confusing at first and frustrating if you are new the to series

Fighting Fantasy novels are some of the best fiction I have ever read. Being translated to a game is even better thanks to all the perks that come with a game. Not having to keep track of stats, inventory, or where to turn the page. Sorcery is a series created by Steve Jackson and is wonderfully crafted. It’s not so much the characters in the game, but the world itself and how it’s portrayed.

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When the game starts out the player comes across a beggar and has complete freedom to kill him, greet him, or just ignore him. In fact, this is a completely open game; every choice matters until the very end. I was just surprised at how much detail went into each choice and each move. Every step of the way a choice can be made that can kill you, help you, or show consequences later in the game. Just greeting or ignoring someone can be optional or that is the person you needed to talk to to make your path easier. It’s so organic though, and that’s the magic of this game.

The goal of the game is to find four magic lines that you must recite at the north gate of the city that has been locked for thousands of years. Of course you can leave the city and leave it to be burned down by the raiding Orcs and Goblins, however this is the cheap way out. If you missed one of the four nobles you must find you can warp back to a point in the city and try the area again. Another thing I really loved is that your character remembers going through these areas so the game is adjusted accordingly. You can avoid traps, being captured, and fights to make going to areas you missed easier. You can also rewind any encounter at any time without any penalties which is a blessing for these choose your adventure games.

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The visuals are rather charming and feel like something that has come right out of a book. The sound design is a little lacking, but when it does kick in, along with the music, it’s fantastic. The other two elements of the game besides adventuring are magic and combat. Magic is used throughout the entire game from predicting traps, weakening enemies, creating shields, or making yourself bigger. Magic can be used to help or harm people. Combat is strategic in a way that you must read what’s going on with the enemy and then watch their stamina bar to predict how hard your next attack should be or to defend.

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In the end I had one problem, I couldn’t figure out where the last two nobles were, I almost gave up on the game, but some of the clues finally made sense and I was able to find both nobles in one try before going back to the north gate. The story flowing organically allowed me to remember where I heard about the nobles and that I had visited those areas and it finally clicked. Once I opened the game I finished the ending and couldn’t wait to jump into Sorcery 3. This game is highly recommended to RPG fans and choose your adventure fans.

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Toren

toren-pc-downloadPublisher: Versus Evil6.0

Developer: Swordtales

Release Date: 5/11/2015

Rating: Teen

MSRP: $9.99

Also Available On

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The Good: Beautiful story that is well told through pictures and cut scenes, platforming and dragon fights are spread apart just right

The Bad: Game can be beaten in 2 hours, extremely rough graphics, controls, and gameplay mechanics

I absolutely love short games that tell beautiful stories. Game that really don’t have much gameplay, but just enough to get across the story and help you feel for the characters. Toren is one of those game, it has so much potential, but is extremely rough around the edges. There’s actually more negative than positive for this game, but for some reason it’s worth a play through, simply for how the game is told and unfolds.

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The game starts out pretty simple. You start as a baby girl who is waddling towards a sword. Pretty strong image in gaming when playing as a baby. It tends to be a sensitive subject, but Toren pulls it off just fine. After grabbing your sword you get segments of jumping puzzles and are faced with a dragon. This dragon sits in one spot and will shoot out waves of black that will freeze you. See the game is a little bit like Infinity Blade in a way. Failing is the only way to go forward (of course the failing bits are scripted). The girl will try to reach for something or solve something and the dragon will get her. She is reborn and thus can use her frozen body as a stepping stone or something to climb.

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The whole point of the game is to climb this large tower called Toren to bring back the night. A dead man tells a story about a man named Solidor who tried the same thing and failed. It’s a little confusing in words and makes more sense in pictures and cut scenes. Between trying to fight off the dragon during, weak, puzzles, there are platforming segments that are set in strange dream like areas that are just really great to look at. They aren’t tough, but this is where the flaws come in. The jumping mechanic is very floaty, there are a lot of collision detection issues, the sword fighting is barely waving your sword around aimlessly, and even controlling the girl can be a bit difficult as she feels like an ice cube walking around a frozen lake.

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The visuals are even rough, while there are some nice lighting effects, the game has texture quality that is all over the place. The framerate is also everywhere, but anyone who enjoys the sublty of indie games will look past all this. The game can also be finished in one sitting; about 2 hours. While it lasted I enjoyed the game, it broke up the dragon fights with the platforming segments well, but the issues with the game make it more difficult than it needs to be.

With all that said, Toren is an interesting game with a beautiful story, but it is encased in a sloppy game with rough graphics and slippery controls.

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Far Cry 4

June-11-2014-...-Gaming-E3-Far-Cry-4-FEATURE-IMAGEPublisher: Ubisoft8.0

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Release Date: 11/18/2014

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $59.99

Also Available On

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The Good: Great visual experience, tons of missions and quests, customizing weapons is fun, some interesting story missions

The Bad: World feels fake and artificial, side missions are tedious and world feels like mostly filler content, atrocious characters and awful writing, story is terrible

An open jungle, a rebel war, a tyrant, a guy who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, lots of guns…sound familiar? Yes, another Far Cry run of a giant open world that might be too large for its own good. Far Cry 3‘s mediocre missions were made up for an excellent story with fantastic characters, however, Far Cry 4 seems to be doing the opposite. You play as Ajay Ghale, a man trying to bury his mother’s ashes, but is captured by a tyrant known as Pagin Min. Min is a man who is bringing the people of Kyrat down, and you are here to help the rebel army rise against him. Sounds cliche and boring…and it is. The story and characters are Far Cry 4‘s downfall as they are either just really badly written or uninteresting. Pagan Min isn’t so bad, but the rest of the characters just don’t hit home like FC3 did.

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There is honestly more side missions than story quests, but to the point in which it’s overwhelming. Far Cry 4 is huge. Five times the size of Far Cry 3. Despite the story being bland, let’s talk about the gameplay. It’s nearly identical to FC3 in terms of gun play and the choice of stealth or guns blazing. However, the choice of stealth, I feel, is stilted and guns blazing tends to be the forced choice. There are multiple side quests from destroying propaganda towers, intercepting couriers, taking over camps, storming fortresses, hunting, races, and several others. While all these are fun for a bit, they all wear thin as there are just so many of them. There were missions that required me to sneak into an enemy base, but no matter how quiet I was someone always saw me. The enemies have had this problem since the first game.

Outside of the side missions you can buy weapons, maps, hunt for treasures (which is probably the most tedious), and skin animals to increase carrying capacity. Gathering plants for syringes is back as well, but all of these things are second hand from FC3, and there’s just not enough here that’s new to make it feel like FC4. Thankfully, the gun play is rather solid and customizing weapons was one of my favorite things to do. I’m not saying any of this stuff was bad, but it was tedious and felt too similar to past games. Nothing really stands out on its own.

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FC4 is also heavily reliant on co-op play as some camps and fortresses are nearly impossible to take over by yourself. I died multiple times and had to exploit strategies to beat some of them. I would give up and wonder around collecting treasure, take over a tower, complete some side quests, only to continue getting distracted from the main story. This is usually a good thing, but FC4‘s world feels sterile and empty and too artificial for its own good. Most people would love all these things to do, but it’s all just kind of dull and only good in short bursts.

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The graphics are actualy quite fantastic and show off the power of next-gen consoles, however, it’s not much different looking than FC3. In the end, after completing the story I felt overwhelmed by the vast amount of things to complete in the game and just told myself I would come back to it later when I’m really bored. In the future, Ubisoft needs to work on Far Cry feeling more important with less filler content. Honestly, this series needs a reboot or a complete overhaul to justify existing.