October 21, 2011
Gunnar Optiks: Yellow-Tinted Gaming Glasses
While I typically tend to ignore most of the ads on the side of my Facebook page, I occasionally find one that interests me. That’s how I found out about my now-favorite game store, and it’s also how I first heard about Gunnar Optiks. Gunnar Optiks produces glasses that reduce eye strain and enhance contrast on screens, and are marketed towards both frequent computer users who suffer from various eyestrain related symptoms, and towards the professional gaming community. Two of the gaming models in the Gunnar product lineup are endorsed by MLG, and a few more bear the SteelSeries name.
When I first heard about these, I wondered about them for only a few minutes before I moved on. They bear a pretty hefty price tag for something that may or may not actually help you at all. However, a full year later, curiosity and incredibly sensitive, frequently bloodshot eyes got the best of me. I got the “PPK” model from Best Buy for about $80 on Tuesday. My opinion of them has fluctuated, but after using them for a few days, I’m happy with my purchase. I’ll talk you through my experience.
One thing to note is that these are not “glasses” in the traditional sense; they’re designed for people with normal vision and are more comparable in function to sunshades. If you use glasses, I might suggest wearing contacts underneath these if you truly feel you need the strain reduction. However, in that case, I’d recommend talking to your optometrist to see if there’s a better solution.
When I first put on the Gunnars, I was quite underwhelmed. They turn everything yellow. That’s pretty much all it looks like they do. Look at a screen, and everything’s yellower than normal. I was fairly disappointed in them within the first hour or so, but I decided to keep them on throughout the day to see how well they worked. It should be noted that an advertised feature of these glasses is screen glare reduction. It does this moderately well, but if your screen is kind of dirty and has an enormous window shining on it like mine does, there’s only so much it can be helped.
I really began to notice a difference on the first night of using the Gunnars. The primary light source in my room is a giant fluorescent bulb built into my desk, less than two feet from my face when I’m using the computer. It’s typically a bright, shiny punch to the eyeballs, but the Gunnars really cut down on the strain that it generally causes. It turns out that these glasses are far more effective at combating strain in settings where your primary light source is fluorescent or incandescent. In daylight, they’re less necessary. When I woke up the next morning after first using the Gunnars, I was incredibly impressed by the lack of redness in my eyes. Typically, they’re bloodshot if I use the computer past midnight.
After a few days of playing all sorts of games with these glasses on, I can attest to their performance enhancing capabilities. However, these aren’t “100 meter dash” glasses, they’re more suited to gaming marathons. Wearing them during a competitive match won’t really do much more than cut a bit of screen glare and possibly increase the contrast a bit. However, if you’re planning on playing a fairly ocular intensive game (such as a first person shooter or a game with a lot of small things on screen to pay attention to) for hours on end, these will definitely save you a lot of headache (literally). Play for five hours straight with a naked eye, and try again the next day with Gunnars; you’ll definitely notice a difference.
While the Gunnars do a pretty good job of performing their advertised functions, they also have to be judged on the same qualities as any other sort of eyewear. They’re still, in essence, a clothing article, so comfort and style come into play. The PPKs are some of the most narrow of the bunch, and they look nice, sleek, and professional. They’re comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and the temples are thin and flat so as to not interfere with headset-wearing. They’ve worked with every headset I’ve tried wearing with them, but there could possibly be an issue with especially large over-the-ear headsets. All of the Gunnar gaming models are designed with headset-wearing in mind, and they come in a variety of styles (especially popular are the MLG Legends, which are an “Aviator” style).
All in all, I feel as though the Gunnar Optiks PPK glasses were a good addition to my set of gaming gear. Those of you who don’t pull long stints ingame and don’t have sensitive eyes or headaches might want to give them a pass, but for me, they’re great performance enhancers. You can order Gunnars online, or buy them at Best Buy and a number of other stores. The Gunnar Optiks website has a handy store locator.
- Comfortable and stylish
- Good for sensitive eyes, strain-induced headaches, and long gaming sessions
- Don’t interfere with headset usage
- The yellow tint can sometimes be hard to ignore
- The beneficial effects aren’t immediately noticeable
- Not as effective in natural light as in artificial light, however in natural light they are less necessary
October 20, 2011
Batman: Arkham City Review
In 2009, developer Rocksteady released something that was unimaginable, a Batman game of our dreams. Arkham Asylum was not only the best Batman game ever made, it was also the best licensed game to date; depending on who you talk to. AA would have been a feat for any developer let alone a relatively unknown dev with only one game under their belt. Despite being the Batman game we deserved, it wasn’t the one we needed right now. AA had its share of flaws but the deep story, unmatched melee mechanics, and superb voice acting and artistic design took the game to new heights. Could the Dark Knight rise again and topple the villainy in Gotham? Could Rocksteady follow up what could have been the shining star in the developers catalog? YES, YES and more YES!
I will get this out of the way now, I love Arkham City in every way a gamer can love a game. To me, this is not just a Batman game, but an experience like no other. AC is now the closest thing we have to being the Dark Knight prowling the streets of Gotham and beating justice into the thugs of the criminal underworld. Arkham City takes place 18 months after the conclusion of AA. With Arkham Island in despair; the city, along with Warden Sharp and Hugo Strange create what is known as Arkham City. Arkham City is a small portion of old Gotham that has been transformed into high security center with an underlying turf war between Gotham’s top villains. The story starts as Bruce Wayne is petitioning to shut down Arkham City as it was the place of his parent’s death, and in his mind, not the answer to Gotham’s problems. That is as far as I am going with the story to avoid spoilers, but do note the story is once again penned by Paul Dini, and pushes the caped crusader to his physical and moral limits.
With the setting being moved more towards the city of Gotham, the visuals have been kicked up to 11. Arkham City is visually striking. The unique art style AA was known for is back and looking better than ever. Hitting the middle between Tim Burton’s dark style and Christopher Nolan’s realistic approach is where AC hits. With iconic places such as Ace Chemicals and the Iceberg Lounge spruce up the imaginative cityscape. All of the character designs are handled with the up most respect; you won’t find any bat nipples here or tight white spandex with question marks sewn into the crotch. The newly introduced characters like Two-Face, the Penguin, and Mr. Freeze are brought to life like never before. AC tops the charts as one of the best looking games available on the consoles.
Anyone that has played Arkham Asylum will feel at home with how Arkham City plays. The combat and movement have been retained but hold new surprises that make you feel even more like the Dark Knight himself. Getting around the much larger world is a breeze thanks to improved gliding and the ability to use a stronger grapple to launch Batman into the night sky without ever touching the ground. The dive mechanic brings new moves to flight and combat as well. Diving at an opponent from the rooftops enables you to grab and drag enemies into others with great force. The” free flow” combat has received a tune up allowing you to take down and counter up to two enemies for maximum skull cracking efficiency. Catwoman does have a few playable sections this time around and she does handle a bit differently than the often delusional Dark Knight. She is quicker in combat and her whip and climbing abilities make traversing the terrain a breeze.
Anyone that knows me knows I love soundtracks and feel they are an intricate part of any media experience. Arkham City is a triple caramel sundae for the ears. The music is finely crafted to make your batman experience have epic movie quality. In all seriousness I plan on purchasing the soundtrack. The voice acting is in realm of its own; so few games have voice acting of this caliber. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Batman and the Joker. As Mark Hamill’s swan song to relinquishing the role of the Joker, there is no finer display of his talents than in this game. Some only recognize his as Luke Skywalker, but anyone a fan of the early 90’s Batman the Animated Series will see him as one of the best Jokers of all-time. Video game voice guru Nolan North (aka Nathan Drake, among many other video game characters) makes his impressive DC debut as the Penguin, among several thugs. The inclusion of using radio frequencies to overhear the thugs banter was ingenious and if you ignore the banter you are missing some of the game’s best lines.
Arkham City is not a perfect game, technically. There are a few glitches here and there but the QA is near flawless. Arkham City not only defines what a Batman game can be but also how you take a great license and makes the most out it. Just as Uncharted 2 has shown us sequels can grow out of the shadow of their predecessors, Arkham City has done the same. I have never felt so wrapped up in Gotham, the grit of the underworld, the frailty of the symbol, and the mortality of the man. This is the game fans deserve, the game that will save them from the blight of mass produced sequels, this game is Batman.
+ Amazing visuals and animation
+ Dark, adult story with plenty of surprises
+ The best voice acting in video games
+ Superb soundtrack
+ Refined controls make combat and gliding a great enjoyment
+ Hours of game to undertake with the story & Riddler challenges
+ 4X the size of its predecessor
+ oozing atmosphere out of every orifice.
– Stupid things like work and sleep getting in the way of playing this amazing game
? Other games have a lot to prove to contend with Arkham City for GOTY.
October 17, 2011
This title has had tons of publicity and hype built via the internet and with a lot of hype comes a lot of high expectations. Dead Island failed in no way to deliver. Dead Island brings all the fun of destroying zombie hordes with the ability to create and modify your own arsenal of weapons and skills. In this review I will be going over the pro, the cons, and the downright awesomeness of this release.
Let’s start with the bad.
Graphically speaking, the terrain is somewhat spectacular, I know that seems like a good, but where the terrain looks good other aspects lack. Primarily the zombies themselves and the vehicles are a bit simple. For a game this far into the graphically amazing generation that we game, this point cannot be overlooked. I believe that the developers had been using a platform with lackluster performance so as to make the game viable on a large array of systems and the only way to keep size small they didn’t want to make a multitude of different texture packages for each individual zombie. More on this in the good section as it ties with a great aspect.
The bad also continues with a bit of a bug PC version wide. The gamma adjustment setting for the game is off by a long shot making people play the game with a severely over saturated effect. Leaving the gamma default makes some parts of the game a bit too dark but quells the saturation effect drastically. This may be a bit of a hindrance for PC folk, however, it does not seem to affect people running Dead Island on consoles as bad.
The last bad is a bit from player error but it should not be this superfluous in a persistent environment. When you throw a weapon at an enemy and the weapon lays on the ground after its usefulness has been employed, if you die… the weapon is lost forever as the area “resets”. In a game where you are able to throw any and everything you can pick up why would you employ this feature? Ok, maybe I am not thinking within normal boundaries here but to be fair one of the Characters is a Thrown Weapons Specialist. If you throw a weapon you maxed out in upgrades and was a very rare find and you happen to back too far away or die, you have just completely lost your primary hardware for defeating enemies. This may not be a big deal in the early game but later it becomes a bit of a big deal as weapons can cost a lot of money.
Now on to the good, and for every bad I can name at least 10 good aspects. That is a pretty good ratio if I do say so. First and foremost, the environment, I find that the world itself is beyond beautiful. There are a ton of winding pathways and back alleys. There is always at least two ways of reaching your destination, if not more. With that being said, you need a great graphics processor to really enjoy the vast beauty that is Dead Island. With max settings the game looks almost like a window to the outside and that alone is worth the investment. Even on the lowest settings the game is graphically very impressive as it only drowns out some foliage and other non action oriented items.
With this world being as big as it is you need a variety of enemies and with Dead Island it is delivered it ways other imagined. In other games where the world is rather large you find that many of the enemies are just a recolored or reskinned hatchling of a low level mob. Not here, there are so many different enemies that just walking through the game you would think it almost a reality to have so many “people” running around. With this aspect comes the fact that you cannot reskin each mob to reflect multiple levels of graphical detail. The rendering is softened by option but it leaves them looking a bit less than premium at max due to this. Either way, this makes you as a player feel much more involved in a real world situation than a repetitive hack n’ slash style genre.
Weapons weapons and more weapons. Have you ever since “Shaun of the Dead” thought of the multitude of ways to destroy a zombie? This game gives you that and so much more. You can pick up almost any item and use it as a weapon against the hordes of murderous brain eaters or even take some of them and give them a bit of a more lethal edge, for example taking a bat and adding nails to the end. If you really don’t care for that why not jump up and drop kick your opponents and then kick their face into the dirt. The ability to decapitate and dismember these piles of meat via anything sharp makes for a fun gathering of friends by the beach. As for guns, yes there are some, why bother grabbing those up except in the event that your sickle should break or your 2×4 piece of lumber snap in half and already have been thrown at the enemy? There are an array of guns though for those wanting to snap off a few well placed shots and see heads explode into a gory mess behind their target.
Characters, the different style of play are not restricted to the chosen character though each have their specialty they can wield anything you want them to. That being said lets have a bit of an idea of each one shall we?
- Sam B as the Tank-class of the group has the ability to sustain heavy damage and handle numerous foes at the same time. His special ability is “Fury,” which is achieved by filling up a bar by killing zombies. He is also an expert in blunt weapon usage. During a Fury attack Sam can one hit kill zombies with his bare hands. The three branches of his skill tree are Fury, Combat, and Survival.
- Xian Mei is the assassin of the group with a particular predilection toward bladed weapons. The three branches of her skill tree are Blood Rage, Combat, and Survival. Her special ability is to enter a rage mode to deal extra damage to opponents with her knife.
- Logan Carter is the jack of all trades within the team. He specializes in thrown weapons and some blunt weapons. His rage mode allows him to throw an infinite amount of knives at nearby zombies.
- Purna is the support within the team, and a firearm expert. When her Rage mode is activated Purna has unlimited ammo with her Revolver.
The RPG element is very well done. It is similar to Borderlands in that you level up and select a skill under one of three trees and progress further as you add points to a tree. You can mix and match and make your character completely unique to the style in which you play said character and to me that is a huge plus. Dead Island does not let you get behind whatsoever. When you level the enemies in which you encounter are as well your level and thus makes the game progressively harder whether or not you quest or grind your way to max level.
All in all I give this game a 9. It could not go lower but no higher either as some elements of bugs here or there make the game a bit non user friendly. That being said I would highly recommend getting this title and start your trek across this island full of insane mutilated killer corpses. Pick up a copy for your friend or family member as the game is co-op and makes for an even funner adventure. You can get a PC copy of the game from our friends at IntKeys.com. They are trustworthy and truly top tier for online key purchasing. Use our promo code for an even higher discount: 224c76cae8
October 10, 2011
Deus Ex: Human Revolution Review
It’s finally here, eleven years later, Deus Ex: Human Revolution has come and ye shall not be disappointed. In an age where reboots of reboots of reboots are common I must say that I was skeptical and with the recent failure which was Duke Nukem I was more than a little concerned with this game being a complete flop. I’m very happy to say that this was not the case.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a great game but it does have a couple of things that hold it back from being perfect one. There aren’t many things that Deus Ex: HR does wrong but if I were to pick the biggest one I would say it would have to be the fact that it feels like it forces you to play the game in a certain way. For example, you get almost three times as much experience playing the game via stealth instead of running and gunning. This isn’t a deal breaker by any means but I prefer to play using a run and gun style and I felt I almost had to play it in a stealthy manner (think splinter cell) otherwise I wouldn’t get to experience near as many of the unlocks the game has to offer if I didn’t play the game in a stealthy way. There is also the issue of the cutscenes, I love cutscenes, but when they don’t look as good as the game itself it kind of takes away from the immersion. I’ve always been of the opinion that if you are going to do cutscenes use live action cutscenes or use an amped up version of the game engine to render them.
Graphically the game shines, especially if you have the PC version with DX11 turned on. Many of the computer control rooms look simply stunning, especially rooms like David Sarifs office. They simply look stunning. The game takes you all over the world and each of these locals looks vibrant and different. Each one feels unique and fresh and if I had any complaint I wish it would have taken you to some others. There were a couple of places where it felt like they just wanted to get whatever they were doing over with. Near the end of the game, one of the backdrops looks almost like a piece of paper with paper birds. I felt like they could of spent a few more minutes and taken it from ok to amazing. Backdrops can add a massive wow factor to a game and can really take it to the next level.
The game sounds amazing and it’s oozing with it. Humming of electronics and grinding of gears, people talking in the street, preacher talking to their crowds, city sounds, and the list goes on Deus Ex sounds spectacular.
There is plenty of betrayal, love, hate, bitterness, revenge and happiness to go around in DX:HR. The plot in DX: HR centers on Adam Jensen follows your choices just like the previous titles, decisions you make, people you kill or people you don’t kill all add to the ending of the game. The story from beginning to end, no matter how you play, is enthralling and enjoyable. I’ve found myself lately with a lot of games unable to finish them, and these were easily ¼ the length of DX: HR and I can honestly say that I couldn’t put this game down. I enjoyed it from beginning to end and I was sad to see it end.
Despite its small flaws Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an amazing game, one that deserves to be played and multiple times at that. The stealth style of gameplay may scare some people away, it almost did me, but I am glad that I decided to play it anyway. If you have been on the fence about picking this game up let this be the final push you need to get it.
October 7, 2011
AVAILABLE FOR: PC, PLAYSTATION 3 and XBOX 360
RAGE is an action FPS with some RPG elements, developed by id, that thrusts you into a post apocalyptic world that has been ravaged and destroyed by a giant meteor. You take on the role of an ARK survivor, one of a select group of people chosen to guide humanity and rebuild society after its destruction by a planet killing meteor.The only problem is a military commander sabotaged the project causing ARKs of his choosing with his people to open before any other ARK in an attempt to rebuild as he sees fit and become mankinds supreme dictator, as a result you awake from your stasis pod over 100 years after the impact.
Society is divided between bandit outlaws with a thirst for blood, mercenary groups, small cities/towns that have created a base of civilization and the traitorous military group known as the authority. As an ARK survivor you have been given some biological enhancements, such as your ability to utilize a defibrillator built into your chest when you die, and automatically heal when hurt through the use of nano tech.
RAGE is primarily an action FPS game and fits the genre well. The combat is fast paced and brutally satisfying, RPG elements come into the game in the form of accepting missions from key characters and being able to choose side quests from a job board, much like in borderlands, and also in the ability to communicate with most people in towns and cities. These RPG aspects do a nice job of accentuating the game as an action FPS and throw a unique twist to it. The world is large and semi open, its not entirely open world but also alot has been left open should you wish to explore outside of completing quests. Your main mode of transportation are vehicles, you are set up with a starter vehicle and obtain more throughout the game by winning them in races. The vehicles are customizable and can be outfitted with weapons such as dual mini guns or dual rocket launchers. The vehicle weapon system has been developed quite well, when in vehicle combat you have a certain field of view that enables an auto aim so you arent worried about driving and aiming your weapons at the same time, this method works extremely well and makes vehicle combat simple and enjoyable. There is no quick travel but the world is just large enough to have a massive scale but is set up so that traveling doesnt take forever and drag out. Ground combat is a bit limited as far as weapon selection, but makes up for it with good customization options and a good amount of power that varies on ammo type. Another perk is the ability to obtain “recipies” and engineer ammo, first aid, adrenaline enhancers and so on by collecting components as you complete missions and find things throughout the world. Even useless items such as empty bottles will get you cash at a vendor in town, so it pays to pick up everything, and as far as i can tell there is no limit as to how much you can carry. So a mission can bank you quite a bit of cash for ammo, gear and upgrades.
The graphics are seemingly outdated with DX9 which is welcome news for those with outdated systems who cant afford the outrageous cost of bleeding edge PC components. Regardless id has definitely worked a good deal of magic with DX9. The textures are most noticeable as being DX9, however the textures still reflect alot of detail and the lighting and shadows look amazing. DX11 would have been ideal to bring out the detail in the game but all in all the use of DX9 has been implemented beautifully and has been polished to a high degree. Stability is solid and glitches are at a minimum and have little to no impact on gameplay, which is saying alot for a newly released game. My only gripe really is that the player doesnt have advanced graphical options, you simply have resolution, brightness, gpu transcoding, and anti-aliasing. The id tech implemented adjusts the advanced options automatically based on your system specs and takes full advantage the resources available to optimize the game for 60 frames per second, this isnt a deal breaker as it does an excellent job of auto detecting specs and adjusting accordingly and will also come as a breath of fresh air for those who are less tech savvy and simply want to install and play. However the majority of the PC community likes to tweak it their way and not have it done for them with software. But not to fret, advanced graphics options should be made available in the first patch from Bethesda that is currently under development.
So far I have put just over 15hrs into RAGE, with quite a bit more to go. This is one game wont be held back by short gameplay. As far as replayability goes, I dont see that there will be much value in that, while its a packs alot of fun and intensity, its lack of full RPG elements such as leveling and complete customization will likely hinder its replay value. The only reason to go back and play it again would be to complete side quests not undertaken the first time through.
To break it down, RAGE is intensely fun with great gameplay and good mechanics and a gripping and intriguing story line, the graphics are implemented using older tech but done so expertly creating a beautiful world and characters with rich detail. For a new release is quite solid and and for the most part glitch free, a few patch releases and any noticeable glitches should be taken care of.