Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gears of War 3: Old School

By now, hopefully everyone has heard of the new playlists for Gears 3. After consulting with the community, Epic decided to consolidate the playlists. One of the greatest playlists, is a little something called "Old School".

As the name suggests, this takes us back to a time, long ago. 4 v 4. No stopping power. Lancer/Gnasher starting weapons. No retro, hammerburst, or sawed-off weapon spawns. Playable on both Execution and KoTH, this mode combines Alpha and Zeta gametypes, bringing a larger player base.

While Zeta searches could last for 10+ minutes, and Alpha even longer, Old School takes a few seconds at most. Jumping into a match with these weapons brings back so many good memories of fast action and the adrenaline the game has been missing.

There are many functions and weapons that are new to the series that still exist. Smoke stuns, ink stuns, digger launchers, mantle kicks, etc. All of these are present. While this may seem contradictory to making it truly "Old School", these functions actually serve a better purpose in this playlist. Without stopping power, these issues are relatively easy to counteract, since you are not being held in place.

The changes to the weapons are for the better, with the gnasher losing it's overpowering Active Reload damage. The lancer AR reduction and slightly faster RoF still make it a contender without the stopping power. Strategy definitely comes into play, however there is more of a chance to Rambo it and still dominate. The 4 v 4 is a little disheartening, since we've all gotten used to a 5 v 5 setting over the last several years, but it makes no large impact.

KoTH is a 1 round, 210 point match. The overtime drain can be a little problematic at first, but it helps to make a large comeback if you are down by a few points. Execution is set to 4 rounds to make the game go by faster. While it doesn't seem like the matches last long enough, the 4 v 4 setting and fast paced action make the matches extremely enjoyable.

All in all, the Old School playlist ties only Guardian for my favorite gametype. If you haven't tried it yet, I strongly suggest you get on Gears, grab a few buddies, and don't look at the clock. You'll be amazed at how fast time flies when you're having fun.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Turtle Beach X41 Review

Pros:
7.1 Surround sound
Completely wireless
Removable boom mic
Almost all parts can be replaced
$150.00

Cons:

Frequent Audio pop
Occasional signal drop
2.4 Ghz allows for interference
AAA batteries last a few days at most (roughly 15-20 hours of play)
$150.00

Bottom Line:

The Turtle Beach X41’s are a great gaming headset. The sound quality is good and the surround sound is spot on. You can easily hear enemies in a complete 360 degrees. The volume of each step is done well, and you won’t mistake an enemy 20 feet away with the one 50 feet out.

It works standard with any media form over the Xbox 360. Music takes you to a concert setting. A movie streamed on Netflix feels like a theater, rather than your couch.. They can also work with a Playstation 3 or Wii, but the voice chat is restricted to Xbox 360 only. The headphones are not merely restricted to a console, however.

With Dolby Digital & Dolby Pro logic Iix processors, it easily handles digital and stereo. The base component houses two jacks. The first one allows you to connect to any digital audio connection, while the second can be used with analog signal using a set of stereo cables (Red/White). Any audio source becomes your own home theater system. Hook it up to your DVD player for a night at the movies, or plug it into your television to watch your favorite programs.

The biggest downside is the audio pops. They occur fairly frequently (in the space of 4 hours a night on average they occur 9-10 times). While mostly an annoyance, they can also be painful if you have the volume up too high. They also occur any time you mute/unmute the microphone or move beyond the range of the housing station (about 20-25 feet). Dropouts occur much less, but still maintain an average of 2-3 in a night. These last for only a few seconds, but they can sometimes cause you to miss a crucial piece during a dialogue. Having a microwave running can be a painful experience, as the headset will pop and crackle for the entire duration. If you are making a late night hot pocket or burrito, take the headset off.

Another small annoyance occurs when you have the base too close to the Xbox. Doing so produces a constant buzz in the background noise. It does not interfere with any game sound or dialogue, and after a while you forget it’s even there, but that can take a week or two to completely overlook it.

Overall the headset is great. It works with just about any system you can toss at it, and the price is good for the quality. Some headsets have knocked out the minor problems this headset has, but the price difference can be upwards of an extra $100.00 I would recommend this headset for both casual players and the more hardcore. It does everything I need it to, without costing me my mortgage payment.

Overall Score: 8.0/10

Friday, July 27, 2012

SquidGrip Product Review

Pros:
$15.00
Alleviates sweaty hands
Beautiful looking on the controller
Easy to apply

Cons:
Non-transferable between controllers
$15.00

Do your hands get sweaty when you're playing? Slippery controllers messing with your mad skillz? Controller looking a little drab? Then you need SquidGrips.

SquidGrips are a controller accessory that wraps around the handles for a tighter grip. The moisture-wicking design removes any sweat from your hands, giving you much greater control over the controller. The soft padding helps to cushion your hands as well, making playing for longer periods of time much more comfortable.


The design of the grips keep the controller from looking, or feeling, bulky. While I cannot attest to how they may look on LE design controllers (E.G. Gears 3, MW3, Halo Reach), on the silver/gray D-Pad controller they accentuate the appearance very nicely.

As for putting them on? Simply peel, stick and smooth them onto the controllers handles. To put mine on, it took longer to open the box than to apply them. Once on the controller however, they have to stay there. Removing the grips makes them pretty much useless. Even a slow, deliberate motion can cause them to tear and the foam to stick to the surface. The adhesive is extremely easy to clean off the controller, so that's a major plus.

As for the price, I'd gladly pay $15.00 for better performance and more comfortable hands. I've been using them for several months and I can't stand going back to a regular controller. I need my SquidGrips. Try em out. Warning: You may become as addicted as I am.

Overall Score: 10/10

Xbox D-Pad Controller Review

Pros:
D-Pad
Sticks have rims, not 4 nubs. Better control.
Comes with a play n charge kit and chargeable battery pack

Cons:
$5 more than the regular wireless controller
No wired version

One of the great things about Xbox, is they listen to customer complaints. For years we have complained about the D-Pad. It's too sensitive. It's not sensitive enough. You tap the left side and you pull out the right side weapon. For Gears of War this is especially frustrating. You want the Gnasher, but you pull out a smoke. That one or two second mistake can cost you your life. However, the third party controller solutions are horrible. Sure, they give you a cross-hair D-Pad, but that eliminates the games with Omnidirectional functions. Do you want to swap controllers for every different game?

That's the great thing about the D-Pad controller. With a flick, the 8-Direction D-Pad turns into a cross-hair and with another flick, you're back to the old school setting. Perfect to change an RPG setup into a Shooter.The rims around the joystick ends are fantastic. They eliminate problems with sweaty thumbs slipping off the controller, especially at key moments. The sticks are also more functional. They respond faster than the original wireless controllers, making up the speed gap between wired and wireless.

The chargeable battery pack and the play n charge kit are definitely welcome. For $5 more, you get $20 worth of hardware added to the controller. The cord is a nice length, so players can easily play while using it. The gray color scheme, while seemingly bland, is actually a very nice change, and the matte of the controller body itself makes it much more appealing to both the eye and the hands.

I've been using this controller for over 18 months. It's a fantastic change from the original.

Overall rating: 9.5/10

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Xbox 720? Or Xbox Infinity?

Many gamers are excited to hear about new console releases. We wait on the edge of our seats to hear the "Next Big Thing" in console gaming. And for many, the name can make all the difference. How many would have bought the Xbox 360 if it had simply been named "Xbox 2"?

This is where I think Playstation went wrong, and also where it went right. Because they were the first to put out a new console, Xbox would have looked like a mere copycat going with a name like "2", giving Playstation the monopoly on Consecutive console names.

For Microsoft, this means brainstorming creative names to capture gamers' attention. The rumored "Xbox 720" lacks creativity, and the further rumor of "Xbox 8" (possibly due to the use of Windows 8?) sounds even worse. The name needs pizazz. It needs to stand out. So the idea of taking that 8 and rotating it 90°, turns that lowly 8 into ∞. Infinity.
For Microsoft, This could be a jump in the sales to keep them ahead of the Competition. Name means everything in a product. Hopefully Microsoft understand this and capitilizes.