2011 February

February 19, 2011

R.A.T 7 Review: Gods Gift to Gamers?

If you are here you are probably wondering what the hell that weird looking $100 mouse is that you saw at your local microcenter, Best Buy or Newegg and if it is truly worth the rather steep price tag that is attached to it that my made your girlfriend question dating you and you wife consider leaving you. 

I decided to pick this mouse up after all the hype I have heard around it and the fact that every time I went to ask about it somewhere it was almost always sold out.  I have been going to my local Microcenter after work for 3 weeks now trying to pick one up.  I finally managed to get one today and have been playing with it. 

After opening the box and playing with it there several things that really stand out to me.  Have you ever heard the phrase “They don’t build things like they used to?”  Well, this is how they used to build things.  This mouse is sturdy and unlike the Razer Deathadder mouse that I have that feels and looks like it is made of cheap plastic this thing is made of  solid aluminum core and the plastic pieces are extremely sturdy.  I did not feel like I could break this mouse and to top it off the “clicking” of the buttons feels robust and responsive.  I actually feel like I could drop this or even throw it at a wall and the wall would probably take more damage then the mouse.  It also comes with some interchangeable parts that can be swapped out to change the overall feel of the mouse to suit your taste. 

One of the biggest selling points of this mouse was its completely adjustable to almost any hand configuration.  These advertisements are not oversold  and this mouse has more adjustments then a watch and it’s still stylish looking to boot.  I’ve got a oddly shaped hand so if I game for any extended amount of time or even just doing basic office work my hand will start to hurt.  The biggest thing I liked about this mouse is that I can elongate it to keep my wrist off of the desk.  This keeps it from putting pressure on the bottom of my hand and prevents me getting wrist pains after about an hour.  The mouse can be shortened, widened, elongated, and even adjust the weight of the mouse by removing the weights on the bottom of the mouse.  In total there are 15 different adjustments  that can be made on the house and literally hundreds of different layouts you could configure it to.  This mouse will fit nearly anyone’s hand and be comfortable.  This by itself is almost a deal maker for me. 

Well that’s all good that the mouse looks and feels good but does it perform?  The R.A.T 7 is a 5600 DPI mouse and it’s the smoothest gameplay and performance I have ever had.  In addition to that it comes with configurable software that lets you adjust it to your specific needs and sensitivity.  Some other features i feel that need to be mentioned is the DPI on the fly.  You can by pressing a button on top of the mouse change the DPI to 4 different levels.  This is great if your going from using a SMG to using a sniper rifle.  It will tone down the sensitivity greatly and give you far more control over your weapons or army management.  It also has a “Precision Aim” button which allows you to cut the DPI by a set amount by just pressing that button.  This is great if you are customizing it for a specific game or application such as Counter-Strike, Bad Company 2, or Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Is this mouse worth the heavy price tag?  In my opinion, if you are serious gamer, yes.  There are so many adjustments that can be made to that can improve your performance in your game big time.  In addition that it actually make it far more comfortable and safer to play games for extended periods of time.  This mouse may not be for everyone and the $100 price tag may put it out of reach for some people.  The R.A.T 7 is by the best mouse I have ever owned.  Anyone who is looking for a solid gaming mouse should look no further. 

*  There is also a wireless version of this mouse but I am not a big fan of wireless and it also carries a higher price tag.   I choose not to get it. 

Here is a video of the adjustments:

  

February 9, 2011

Guitar Hero – The Bands Breaking Up

Activision Blizzard said   that it will be bringing the axe down on the “Guitar Hero” video game series.  This is quite surprising news considering how popular the titles have been. 

Blizzard also mentioned that it will be laying off 7% of its staff including the “Guitar Hero” team among them. 

Blizzard stated that “Due to continued declines in the music genre, the company will disband Activision Publishing’s ‘Guitar Hero’ business unit and discontinue development of (the game) for 2011,” Activision said.  This announcement coincided with the statement of it’s quarterly fiscal results. 

They have reassured the masses however that it remains dedicated to it’s everly popular Call of Duty franchise.  The Call of Duty franchise has seen more then a billion dollars in sales and World of Warcraft has more than 13 million subscribers.  These games are clearly their most popular.  Apparently the Guitar Hero franchise has lost it’s luster after it debuted back in 2005. 

Activision reported that it lost $233 million on net revenue of $1.43 billion in the final three months of 2010. It finished the year with a net profit of $418 million on annual net revenue of $4.45 billion.

On a side note I don’t find this surprising.  Activision likes to milk franchises that make them a ton of money and they did just that  with the Guitar Hero franchise.  Launching title after title every year.  Similar to what they are currently doing with Call of Duty however that franchise still sells like wildfire.  It will be interesting to see if the Call of Duty franchise can keep up it’s illustrious sales of if it too will eventually loose the appeal it once had.

February 9, 2011

Visceral Games: the art of taking established and making it new……

Finishing Dead Space 2 this week was one of my many gaming accomplishments I had set for myself this week. Looking back on what was an amazing game; Isaac’s inner monologue and his freaky glowing orifice girlfriend Nichole were some of the highlights that had me on the edge of my seat. The controls were tight and more refined since the first game and the action sequences were very well done; but I couldn’t help but have the same feeling that I had with the first Dead Space, I have played this before.

When the first Dead Space was released the comparisons to Resident Evil 4 were indisputable. It was an over the shoulder, 3rd person survival horror game and the only thing that changed was the story, setting, and characters. The games controls were very similar with the exception of being able to shoot and move at the same time, something Capcom needs to desperately address in the Resident Evil franchise. The game was met with positive reviews and the studio behind it, at the time was called EA Redwood Studios, was put in the limelight and became what we now know as Visceral Games. After the glowing reception Visceral revealed what they were working on next, Dante’s Inferno.

Dante’s Inferno was an action game loosely based on the epic poem by Dante Alighieri. Upon release the game was hit with that over used term that I have come to hate, it was a “God of War” clone. As it is said Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. After finishing Dead Space 2 I can see all of this with a wider eye maybe that is what this studio does best. It takes established game play and refits it into something new while adding a sense of refinement. Any of Visceral’s games are by no means poor, all of their games receiving positive critical reviews, but there is nothing here that can be deemed as revolutionary. Still, they have brought us a fantastic view of hell and a new king of the survival horror genre, all while retaining what have made some of the greatest games in the past relevant.

There is no denying that the Dead Space franchise is Resident Evil 4 in a new meat suit, Dante’s Inferno is the same way, except with God of War, but is this really a bad thing? Isn’t Mega Man just a Mario clone with robots and a stage select screen? Isn’t StarCraft the same as WarCraft just in different settings? Isn’t every FPS just like the last one that preceded it (minus the setting, characters, and time period)? So why do we condemn something for being a clone when we can take a look at a lot of great franchises throughout time and see they are no different. What Visceral Games has accomplished is more than some of these studios that think their game is “revolutionary”. They have taken something that they know works, wrap in a new story and persona, and refine what has already been established in game play and controls; in many ways out showing the game they were using as a basis.

The world eats up sports games and Call of Duty like there is a hunger epidemic, yet these games hardly change year in and year out in terms of gameplay. So why does something that has an original story and setting yet cloned game play get the cold shoulder? I love the games that have come from Visceral Games, don’t be surprised if Dead Space 2 is close to the top of my list for games of the year. They have proven they are not a one trick pony and can follow up with sequels that vastly improve on their predecessors. I would like to see more successes come from this talented group of people and hope the industry can learn something from them. Sometimes you don’t have to change the gameplay to be a success; it is all in how you present the material.

February 4, 2011

We Have A New Look!

We finally decided after being alive for a year that it was time to ditch our old style in favor of a new one!  Let us know what you think about the new site layout and if you have any suggestions please feel free to send it our way.  I should also mention that we will be doing a few modifications to the site over the next couple of days so if you log in and see some…. odd things… not to be alarmed it’s just us working on some code 😛  Enjoy!!!

February 4, 2011

Two Worlds II Review

The Two Worlds universe has been some what of a hot topic when it comes to RPG fans.  You either absolutely love the game or you absolutely hate it.  Many people compare it to the likes of Oblivion and some tout it as the Oblivion killer. 

I’ve had Two Worlds II for almost a month now and I purposefully waited to do my review until now because I wanted to see what the major game sites out there such as IGN, Gamespot, and so forth would say about it.  The original Two Worlds got a bad rap because of alot of bugs, poor graphics, etc.  Two Worlds II seems to be getting similar flak from those game sites.  IGN giving it a 6.0 and Gamespot a 7.5. 

On a side note I’ve been under the impression for years that money buys you the best reviews and IGN and Gamespot seem to do this alot.  I cannot prove that they are paid to say good things about games.  However I find it strange that when a no name company releases a game they will constantly tag the title for being unoriginal, poor graphics, bad acting, etc if it is in competition with a game such as Call of Duty and give them a bad score.  However, when a new COD game comes out and it’s an exact clone of it’s predecessor like COD: BO they give it high praise while it’s competitor such Medal of Honor gets a bad score for the exact same reasons.  That being said lets get on with the review. 

Let me start by saying that when I started Two Worlds II I had very low expectations for the exact reasons listed above.  Reviews from popular game sites had given it bad marks and thus set my expectations extremely low.  However, and thankfully, my expectations have been blown away. 

I want to start off with talking about the graphics in this game and I’m going to have to bash Oblivion here.  The graphics in Two Worlds II are amazing.  There are some stunning “set pieces” within the game.  Everything from the wide open fields of anteloor too the bustling cities of Hatmandor and New Ashos have been well done and it appears that a great amount of time has gone into making them feel like real cities and the buildings inside of them all feel unique.  One of the biggest complaints I had about Oblivion was how empty the game felt.  You would walk into a city with huge cathedrals, massive homes, towers etc and you would only see 10 people in the entire city.  Two Worlds II has dozens if not hundreds of people walking the streets, hanging out at shops, living in homes, and it helps add to the atmosphere of the game.  The only complaint I really have about the overall look of the game is at times the glare from the sun can blind you and make it really hard to see where your going or the landscape looks so bright it can hurt your eyes and when fighting you can occasionally get caught in a spot where you can’t see yourself and your weapons stop dealing damage… this can be frustrating  but aside from that I was quite impressed with the game. 

Character models and animations are another standout against Oblivion.  The movement, fighting and facial expressions are far better in Two Worlds II.  I enjoyed the battles in the game and when you landed a hit on your target it actually felt like you were hitting them. 

The sounds and voice acting are a bit of a mix.  There are times when the sound quality of the game is fantastic such as with ambient noises, fighting and the talking of vendors on the street.  However, with voice acting,  there are times when the story’s protagonist is talking that it is extremely monotone but then at other times he’s completely bad ass and then goes entirely emotional.   It would of been nice if they would of just given it one personality and not made his voice acting so… schizophrenic.

Many reviews of the game tag the games story as being dull and unoriginal.  I found that I rather enjoy the story and I like the pace at which the story progresses.  I’m a fan of RPG’s such as KOTOR, KOTOR II and Mass Effect that follow the man quest takes you to location A and at point a you do tons of side quests and when you finish you move to location B and do the same and Two Worlds II does just this.   I think this model of game play you can play though the main quest at a balanced pace AND it allows you to complete alot of the game at the same time and not just blast through it and miss 3/4 of what the game has to offer.  I was quite disappointed with Oblivion when I beat the game in under 10 hours and had done only a couple of side quests.  The side quests within Two Worlds II are enjoyable and refreshing.  Aside from having to go kill “killer beavers” that didn’t even fight back I found that I enjoyed every side quest so far. 

The leveling and potion systems are fantastic and the ability to create potions of almost any use is extremely useful.  We’ve all been there… we are low on health, stranded with now way to restore it.  Normally you would be dead right?  In Two Worlds II  you just hop into your potions tab and sift through the ingredients you have collected throughout the game and construct a health potion.  You can even make variants of the same potion that have different levels of potency and then save them to create them again at a later date.  I found throughout the entire game I was constantly changing the way I made potions and as I leveled up and my overall amount of health increased I found it easier just to  make potions on the fly instead of just creating a standard potion that I used all the time. 

In Two Worlds II you aren’t stuck with the character  attributes you have chosen.  If you progress through the game and decide that you no longer wish to be a Mage and wish to go slaughter the landscape with an axe you can do something called “regression” which will allow you to reassign your attribute points to another class.  This can allow you to mix things up if you are getting bored with your current skill set. 

Overall Two Worlds II is a great game… it isn’t a Dragon Age: Origins or Witcher slayer but it is a great game none the less.  Again I’m going to state that Two Worlds II is one of those games that you will either love or you will hate.  Two Worlds II has it’s flaws and if you can overlook those you are in for a fun and exciting RPG adventure.  If you can’t deal with those then I suggest waiting for The Witcher II.

 

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