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I used to be an iPhone user like you, then I took a Lumia in my...

… Hands. And actually I'm still using my iPhone 3GS. Just that it's temporarily shelved aside while I explore my lovely new phone. First things first, about my 3GS and its not-quite-demise.

What Ails You

It (as with other 3GSes, it seems) started becoming rather laggy many months ago. But it's not like I couldn't live with it, having lived with old PCs and stuff. Then iOS 5 came, and my it breathed a new life into my withering 3GS. Not sure if I could've achieved the same effect by restoring my phone/re-installing the OS, but too late to find out I guess. So yeah, it breathed new life, but it also inflicted the curse of -40% battery life (disclaimer: figure is arbitrary). Often it would also shut itself down at ~18%. It improved somewhat after I tried the steps recommended on various sites, but the curse proved too strong to lift completely.

iOS 5.0.1 rolled along somewhat later, but it didn't seem to solve the problem (beyond the aforementioned improvements). It started dying at ~2-5% as usual, although once in a while it would still die at ~18%. Fast forward to present day, or rather, a few days ago, my 3GS started to die at around 25-30%. 2 days later it died at 50%. All of these happened when I was running an app (with the exception of WhatsApp and regular messaging etc.). It's not like I was running Infinity Blade either, it was just a transport/bus guide. That's when I decided I would definitely need a new phone. Although iOS 5.1 will supposedly fix the premature death issue, I have no idea when it'll be out, and this is a good excuse so I have no choice but to get a new phone after all.

A New Love

As mentioned in my Christmas wishlist, I was pretty interested in Lumia 800 and WP7. Sometime later that I tried it out for the first time as I passed by a Nokia shop, and fell in love with it straightaway (more towards WP7′s interface, but I liked the phone's design too). But then I came across talk of Lumia 900, which is basically the 800 with a bigger screen (3.7″ -> 4.3″), a front-facing camera, I think an improved battery and pretty much it. The clincher is that it'll be $99 in the US with a 2-year AT&T contract, and that it has 4G LTE support. That's good and all, but there's just a few problems for me:

  • I don't live in the US, so who knows when it'll be released locally, if ever?
  • 4G is still a new business here. In fact I only just read about its launch last December. Right now there's only one telco offering it, and it's not the one I'm subscribing too. If it'll be a carrier-exclusive phone here too then it would be rather troublesome having to switch (or rather, I probably wouldn't be switching anyway). In any case I don't think the market here (or rather the WP7 audience) is big enough to warrant carrier exclusivity.
  • There's no guarantee the price would be as cheap over here, but that's not much of a problem because either way it should still be cheaper than a Lumia 800, unless it's just being released as a "normal" phone.

Fate prevented our meeting... Or maybe just my impatience and dying phone. (Image: zdnet.com)

Choices, Choices

As such I came up with a few choices:

  1. iPhone 4S: I actually thought of getting a iPhone 4 instead due to the possible weaker battery life from a 4S, but apparently they only have 8GB (or was it 16GB?) iPhone 4s (4s as in plural), and it'll cost about the same as a 4S anyway. Seeing as how I ran out of space on my 16GB 3GS, I thought of getting a 32GB model.
  2. Get a Lumia and an iPod Touch: this would be only about $100 more expensive than if I got a 4S, or slightly cheaper if I traded in/sold my 3GS. The reason for having an Apple device is for the apps. Once you have 1000 apps (my actual count is around 1500), you can't quit on Apple.
  3. Get a Lumia and an iPad 2: however you cut it this would be much more expensive but I've always wanted an iPad anyway. Great for playing games and stuff, but also for watching videos, reading books and surfing the net in general while lying on the bed (I'm a lazy person and using the laptop isn't as comfortable, especially when mine has heat problems). But there's the problem of deciding between price, capacity and 3G or not. I suppose 32GB would be good too. I considered 64GB for storing videos but a PC streaming app would kind of negate that. And I usually surf on WiFi so 3G isn't that important, but I like to keep my options open. That and Lumia/WP7 has yet to offer tethering.

In the end I decided to just get a Lumia 800 first, iPod Touch or iPad later. I figured I didn't really need a larger screen (although I realize now that one would be nice) or front-facing camera, and by the time it's released here it might already be June or later (which is the case for UK). Technically I could use a spare phone first and get an iPod Touch or iPad at the same time, then I also decided that I didn't want to wait (mostly that).

Life with the New Wife

Well, after using it for a few days I'm still getting used to it. There are some functions and features that I miss on the iPhone:

  • Keyboard feels different, even though it's a QWERTY keyboard (pretty much the norm anyway) I make more mistakes than usual. Partly also because the autocorrect isn't as sensitive (and generally not as good I would say). For example I often end up typing 'yo' instead of 'to', but it's not corrected. If I'm not mistaken it doesn't pick up non-spaced words either, e.g. 'haveyou'.
  • On a related note, there is no custom keyboard shortcut as far as I can tell, which wouldn't be so bad, but the dictionary doesn't seem to pick up words you use like the iPhone does (or maybe because I haven't used it often enough). Words which are obviously wrong can be added to the dictionary, but some words which are not-so-wrong are neglected.
  • Multitasking works differently on WP7. To switch apps you have to use the app switcher by holding the Back button, which brings up a list of previous apps. If you start an app elsewhere (home screen/app list) it will reload the app. Also, to make the app multitask you have to quit out using the Start key. Pressing Back will, well, go back to previous menus, but if you press Back at the main menu, it closes the app completely (i.e. it won't appear in the app switcher). The good thing is that OS apps (Messaging, Email, Zune etc.) open pretty much instantly anyway. The bad thing? You'll need to remember to quit WhatsApp using the Start key (btw, opening it from notifications will also require a reload).
  • Speaking of which, WhatsApp on iPhone > WhatsApp on WP7. There are a ton of features missing from the iPhone version (and possibly Android too) such has notification settings, viewing of media, user blocking etc. Like the Android version, it's free for a year and requires an annual subscription thereafter.
  • Screenshot capture. iPhone has it from the get-go (or at least, since 3GS), something I didn't realize was so rare when I first had it, Android has it with Ice Cream Sandwich, WP7… Might have it soon or not so soon.

That sounded like a lot, but I'm still more than pleased with my Lumia overall. I realize Android offers a lot of customization which can make it look great, but I very much prefer WP7′s UI in general (although Ice Cream Sandwich might raise Android's standing in my books somewhat from the little I've seen). As-is, it looks wonderful without customization, and even better with a little customization (also because that's all you can do, a little), but more on that in another post. The Metro interface is probably a love-it-or-hate-it thing, but besides that the phone's UI elsewhere looks fantastic too.

It could look like this. (Image: Wiztiles)

One of the reasons I wanted a WP7 was because of Xbox Live (achievements on the go!), which serves as a games hub and a XBL companion app. I thought the Marketplace would use Microsoft Points though, but I suppose that wouldn't fit as well with the general public. Unfortunately this also means that depending on your region, you might be paying more. For example, Collapse is on sale now for US$1.99, but over here it's S$2.99. That's a US$1 to S$1.5 conversion rate, but the actual currency rate is US$1 to S$1.26 (even with bank rates and what not it would still be lower than $1.5). The thing with MSP is that you can buy it off retail as well, which would be cheaper than getting it directly from XBL.

And I already knew beforehand, but experiencing it yourself makes it different. WP7 apps are expensive. Mostly due to the conversion issue I guess. If you are in the US apps could cost US$0.99 on the App Store and Marketplace, but if you're living elsewhere you could be paying more, as mentioned. Most of my paid iOS apps are games, so I'll compare that. Angry Birds costs US$0.99 on the App Store, but US$2.99 on the Marketplace. Plants vs. Zombies, US$2.99 vs. US$4.99. Not all apps are like that I guess. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is US$4.99 on both platforms. The thing is, the App Store has sales a lot more often (and for lower prices, i.e. free or US$0.99), whereas the Marketplace pretty much only has Deal of the Weeks for Xbox Live titles (which would only be 33% off, i.e. not US$0.99). It's mostly different for non-XBL titles though, a number of which are at US$0.99 but it's hard to compare since most of the games which can be found on the iPhone as well are XBL titles.

Oh well, as mentioned, I would be depending on an iDevice for my excessive app needs anyway…

Back from the Dead

Strangely enough, when I removed my SIM card from my 3GS, the curse seemed to be removed as well. The night I started using my Lumia, it didn't die at 20%. Surprised, I left the screen on to drain the battery and it died normally. Or at least, I assume it did, I wasn't exactly looking at my phone constantly. The next day I tried to see if the battery would last, and it sure did. I charged it yesterday, and it's at 72% now. Of course, I didn't use it much, just to surf the net a bit here and there, so it was mostly on standby. It only dropped from 77% to 74% during my 7 hours of sleep though, which is a huge improvement from the previous 100% to ~70-80%. Not sure why there's such a huge jump since I almost never turn 3G on, and I wouldn't expect it to improve by that much when it's off the regular network. Oh well.

It is not your turn to die... Yet.

So far the battery seems to drain normally and die normally as well, although it also seemed to drain exceptionally fast with wireless syncing. Besides that, since it's working alright I wouldn't need to get an iPod Touch. The iPad though… Or rather, the iPad 3…?

25 Things I Want for Christmas in 2011 - Part 2

[spoiler]

Accessories

GAEMS G155 Personal Gaming Environment

GAEMS G155 Personal Gaming Environment

This sweet device doubles as a 360/360S/PS3 Slim carrier, and, more importantly, lets you plug in your system and play on the go as it also sports a 15.5″ 720p LED display and speakers (you can also plug in 1 or 2 headphones). It connects using HDMI, so if you have an old 360 model it won't be supported, but it'll support other hardware with HDMI ports. You'll still have to plug in the system and your console (or at least, I think it's both) to a power supply, but there may be an external battery in the future. If you want to play your console games at a friend's house, at school (hmm), overseas, or if you just want an easy to set-up setup, this if for you.

Microsoft Points

Microsoft Points

Not really an accessory, but doesn't really fit elsewhere either, so… With all the holiday deals going on, Microsoft Points are much needed. Admittedly after the first day offer (Bastion) the subsequent 2 offers didn't interest me as much, but there should be a few more great offers along the way, hopefully? Day 3 had a ton of Fallout DLCs but I haven't really touched the game anyway. Besides that, the ongoing offers are pretty good too, with games like Portal: Still Alive, Renegade Ops and the season pass for L.A. Noire. Speaking of which, season passes are all the rage nowadays so having MSP would be useful even when the sale period is over.

You'll definitely want to get this from a retailer though, even at the street price it'll still be cheaper than buying from the Marketplace directly (same goes for Gold subscriptions). Play-Asia also has a digital purchase where they'll send you the code. MSP, like Xbox Live cards, are region-locked though, so you'll have to buy the one for yours.

Nyko Zoom for Kinect

Nyko Zoom for Kinect

I've barely used my Kinect but if I had the Zoom I might be more likely to. As it is, I have just enough space for the Kinect to work, although it does seem like it would need more space to work better. Two players, according to the in-game interface, is probably out of the question. Although, if an accessory alone could make it work you'd think Microsoft would've developed it themselves. Or, well, made the Kinect more small-living-room-friendly. The reviews are pretty mixed though, with it working perfectly for some and not for others (especially on Amazon), so it probably depends on your set-up.

Mad Catz Gears of War 3 Headset

Mad Catz Gears of War 3 7.1 Headset

I was never much of an audiophile, in fact sometimes I would play a game without sound (though that was pretty long ago). My audio setups are usually either my computer speakers or… My iPhone earphones, no fancy 5.1 setups or home theatre systems. I wanted to put the Razer Tiamat here, but unfortunately, it seems that the release date has slipped into January 2012. That and also because this also works with the 360, which is useful even if I don't normally use the microphone. Also works with the PC and PS3. The only downside is that it's wired, although it doesn't bug me all that much.

Western Digital My Book Live 3 TB

Western Digital My Book Live 3 TB

The selling point of this HDD is that you can plug it in to your router and access it from the Internet on another computer. There's also an app for iOS/Android tablets/smartphones which lets you store and view photos and videos on the drive. Which is pretty neat in itself, but it also serves as additional storage space for you device (though only for photos and videos, if I'm not mistaken). You can also use it to stream content to your console or supported TV. I obviously don't have it since it's in my wishlist, so I can't comment on how well it works. In any case, it's still a HDD after all, so you can use it to store all the games you bought in Steam's Holiday Sale

Gaming-related

Halo Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Halo Universe

Halo Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Halo Universe

The Halo universe has a rather rich backstory, with various novels and comics published, and this provides a ton of information in its 368 pages. This is the newer version, released on 19 September earlier this year, with 16 extra pages of content related to Halo: Reach. And presumably various other updates as well, since its said that some of the information are incorrect. Nevertheless, if you're a Halo fanboy (or girl), you'll definitely be interested in this.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Original Soundtrack (4CD + DVD Limited Edition)

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Original Soundtrack (4CD+DVD Limited Edition)

Another Final Fantasy XIII-2 related item, but not without good reason, which is that the Final Fantasy series has some of the best soundtracks. I loved Final Fantasy XIII's soundtrack too, and its composer, Hamauzu Masashi, has returned for the sequel, along with Mizuta Naoshi and Suzuki Mitsuto. And also because it's a limited edition Square Enix product.

StarCraft II: Devils' Due

StarCraft II: Devils' Due

A fairly cheap item for once. I like reading books (although I don't read a lot nowadays), so game-based novels are pretty interesting. The ones I usually read are from Halo or Blizzard games, out of which I like the StarCraft's the most. The author, Christie Golden, also wrote a number of World of WarCraft and the Dark Templar series (which I liked, although not as much as Ghost).

Diablo III: Book of Cain

Diablo III: Book of Cain

I have to say, I couldn't really come up with a lot of stuff that isn't a Final Fantasy-related book/poster/figurine/trading card/thing. There's also LE strategy guides with artwork included and what not but I figured the Halo Encyclopaedia was similar to that. Thought of posters and stuff, but they don't really cut it for me, so I ended up with Book of Cain, which I guess is pretty much a "game book", but. It's from Blizzard so the quality's going to be there (Amazon reviews concur too). And it's more of a collectible than a novel or LE strategy guide. Actually I probably like Diablo less than StarCraft or Warcraft but I'm pretty excited about Diablo III. As for the next item, I should've included it in Part 1 somewhere, somehow, but since the other stuff will be pretty similar…

Non-gaming related

Lytro Camera

Lytro Camera

It only starts shipping early 2012, and it only ships within the U.S. as of now, and it requires a Mac to import and edit pictures (Windows support is still in the works)… But! It's an amazing piece of tech. There's still various kinks to be worked out and the technology still needs improvements, like I mentioned in a previous post, but it'll only be even more amazing then.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Extended Edition)

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Extended Edition) (Blu-ray)

There's quite a whole lot of editions of the movie, but I think this is basically the Blu-ray version of the Extended Edition DVD released in 2004. There's also a Collector's Edition with a figurine set for about 4 times the price (3rd party retailers). I'm not really a movie-goer, but The Lord of the Rings is one of my favourite movies, and the Extended Edition adds quite a lot of footage (30/43/50 minutes) to the already-length movies. In gaming-terms, this would be one of the reasons to make me buy a hardware (Blu-ray player/PS3).

Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Blu-ray)

I didn't want to put another movie, but Star Wars is also one of my favourite series, so… This is probably the most complete collection of the movies, with a bunch of extra scenes and documentary-type videos. For some reason there's a lot of 1-star reviews though, about 2x more than there are 5-star reviews. Guess you can't please everyone anyway.

Japan First Tour Girls' Generation (Limited Edition)

Japan First Tour Girls' Generation (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray)

Yes, I listen to K-Pop, and Girls' Generation at that, although not as much as I used to. This is the Blu-ray release of their first Japan tour, and the Limited Edition comes with a photobook and ten pins (I think badges would sound more suitable though). I never really bother with concert DVDs/BRs but for some reason I thought this would be a pretty good purchase (kinda like "this is it!"), and actually I did order it, but it's out of stock in various places so I'm not sure if I'll be able to get my copy. I prefer the pink box of the regular edition though.

Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer

Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer

Now everyone can be anti-social. Well, head-mounted viewers are nothing new, but this seems to be a step-up from the others with dual HD (720p) OLED displays and virtual 5.1 surround sound headphones. The unit weighs 14.8oz (420g) so it shouldn't be all that heavy. I'm not too sure about playing games on this, but watching movies with this should be pretty awesome. This is wired though, so you'll have to be in range of your TV/Blu-ray player/console etc. which means you can't lie on your bed and play games or watch movies, unless you have your system in your bedroom. Or if you have a bed in the living room. Something like that.

[/spoiler]

*phew* Finally done with the formatting. Part 1 is below, and with that, Merry Christmas! (Although it'll be over in 1+ hours where I'm at .

25 Things I Want for Christmas in 2011 - Part 1

This almost became 25 Things I Wanted for Christmas in 2011. Had about half of it done up more than a week ago but I was thinking of some of the items to put in, and then I got distracted by Steam's holiday sale. And there turned out to be more text than expected, so un-spoiler it for the full list. Since having 25 games is kinda normal-ish, I'll list 5 from various categories: Games, Hardware, Accessories, Gaming-related and Non-gaming related.

Games

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Collector's Edition)

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Collector's Edition)

This probably won't be on the list of many gamers, due to the fact that they've already been playing it since its release. Unfortunately I'm not one of them though, and if I'm putting it in a wishlist, might as well wish for the Collector's Edition. It comes with a huge (12-inch) statue, which makes carrying the box a pain on public transport, an art book and a making-of DVD. Not much to say about the game itself besides awesome. Although personally, I haven't been playing RPGs much recently (my last completed RPG was Final Fantasy XIII, and possibly Eternal Sonata before that) due to lack of time, but Skyrim is definitely on my radar. The PC versions seem to have been sold out (although they are available via 3rd party retailers on Amazon for almost $200), so if you wanted that you could get the console version and sell the game itself.

Saints Row: The Third Platinum Pack Collector's Edition

Saints Row: The Third Platinum Pack Collector's Edition

Actually I wasn't aware that there was a LE version of Saints Row: The Third, but I'm not suprised anyway. Quite a mouthful though, Platinum Pack Collector's Edition. You'd think a Collector's Edition would suffice, especially considering the contents of it: a headset, soundtrack and the pre-order pack. Out of these, the headset is pretty much the main point of the CE, though I can't say whether it's worth it or not (quality-wise). For one thing though, it doesn't work with the 360. But at least the game itself is a whole lot of fun… Crazy fun. Especially with a friend, because doing silly stuff with someone else makes it much more hilarious.

Catherine "Love is Over" Deluxe Edition

I like games and shows with quirky storylines, both of which are plenty in Japan, and Catherine definitely fits the bill here. Although the game is mostly puzzle solving and I'm not that big of a puzzle fan, there are always exceptions. Unfortunately, for some reason or other, the 360 version isn't available where I'm at, much less the Deluxe Edition. Though I guess it's not really surprising since the 360 doesn't have much love when it comes to Japanese releases in the Asian region, or in Japan for that matter. *cough* Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 *cough* And actually it seems like the US version isn't region-free anyway, so I would need a US set or a PS3 to play this, unfortunately.

Portal 2

Portal 2

The only game on the list to not have a Limited Edition, which (as far as I know) has traditionally been the case for Valve games. I think I still haven't gotten Portal 2 yet because I was busy with school when it was released, and during my holidays I was trying to clear my backlog (and also because I probably bought a new game or two then). The first Portal was a game I loved and completed on the PC and the 360 (and I was sorely tempted to get the Xbox Live Arcade version which pretty much the same game). By the time I end up buying this I guess the price should've dropped somewhat…?

Dark Souls Collector's Edition

Dark Souls Collector's Edition

If anything I'd say I prefer the normal edition's box art. Anyway, the game seems like the type to be a hit or miss among players, and for me I think it would be a hit. I like RPGs (although not as much as I used to, I guess) and action-adventure games, and Dark Souls is a nice blend of both.

Other great stuff: I didn't include Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3, Battlefield 3 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution in the list because I already have them, but they're definitely worth checking out. Assassin's Creed: Revelations doesn't quite make it because I haven't played Brotherhood. There's a whole lot of other games that are on my wishlist, but probably too many to list.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Collector's Bundle

Star Wars: The Old Republic Collector's Bundle

I don't play (paid) MMOs because 1) I don't really play every day, which makes it not worth having a monthly subscription; and 2) my pockets aren't deep enough for that... Yet. Well, technically it is, but it also leads back to point 1 and point 2.5 whereby I would have to spend less on other areas. So yeah, about the game. If I were to play a MMO, it would be World of Warcraft or this. The contents of the CE are pretty sweet. Like Skyrim's big box (I haven't physically seen SWTOR's CE, but I assume it should be about the same size as Skyrim's), it comes with a statue, named "Gentle Giant Darth Malgus". Right. The other stuff is pretty standard for CEs, including the game's soundtrack (now who doesn't love Star Wars music?), and a bunch of in-game items, like the HoloDancer (because everyone needs their own holographic dancers).

I did say 5 per category, but I posted it in two parts on my Wordpress blog, and later on I realized I couldn't come up with a 5th item for the gaming-related category that wasn't similar to what was already inside, hence the 6 games.

Hardware

PlayStation 3 Final Fantasy XIII-2 Lightning Edition Ver.2

PlayStation 3 (320GB) Final Fantasy XIII-2 Lightning Edition Ver.2

Actually I thought it would come with a special controller, but then again, the previous Final Fantasy XIII PS3 bundle only came with a matching white controller (although the LE version of the game had a special controller). In any case, it's a limited edition Square Enix product, and I don't have a PlayStation 3, so this would be awesome. As for the game, I can't read Japanese text but I can more or less understand the speech, but this is more for the console than the game anyway. As far as I can tell, there doesn't seem to be a LE version for the game alone in Japan, which is odd since there's one for the U.S. release.

The good thing about the PS3 is that the games are region free, and Blu-ray region codes are pretty broad (Japan shares the same code as North and South America and Southeast Asia). Plus supposedly a lot of Blu-ray movies are region-free to begin with.

PlayStation Vita

PlayStation Vita (3G/Wi-Fi model)

To be honest I haven't been checking up on the Vita much since its announcement, and I'm quite surprised at some of the stuff I'm reading now. 1) No removable battery, even though the battery life is only 3-5 hours of gameplay. 2) No video output. Actually it doesn't affect me in any way but I would've thought that it would be a good way to show off the Vita at a friend's house or something. 3) The pricing. Previously I've only heard of the U.S. pricing, which is pretty reasonable at US$299 for the 3G/Wi-Fi model, but now I realize that in other countries, it's about $100 more expensive. And of course, even more so if you're importing the earlier Japanese/Asian release. If not, you'll have to wait 3 more months for the 22-23 February 2012 Western release. Game lineup looks (Japanese lineup is about the same) decent enough; if I were to get a Vita I would probably get Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

Nintendo 3DS The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Special Edition

Nintendo 3DS The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Special Edition

Not to sound like a broken recorder, but 1) I haven't played a Zelda game and 2) before this I wasn't aware that the 3DS was region-locked. I guess the latter isn't much of a problem if you're in the NA/EU region unless you fully understand Japanese and buy Japanese games occasionally. In my case I would have to do some research if I buy a local Asian set, since I'm not quite sure if it's a separate region on its own. And if it is, whether US games would work. And, again, the good thing about Sony consoles is that they're region-free.

As for games, the 3DS still doesn't have any titles that would really make me want to buy the platform for (wishing for it is a different story). There are a couple that I am somewhat interested in, but they're definitely not enough. Maybe the next Pokemon game will change my mind…

Razer Blade

Razer Blade

(As of now (or a few days back) Razer announced that the release would be delayed until January 2012, instead of being released in time for Christmas) The Blade boasts some impressive specs (it is a gaming laptop after all) and a 17.3″ screen, but it's still pretty compact with a height of 0.88″ (2.24 cm) and a weight of 6.9 pounds (3.16 kg). There's also the Switchblade UI which lets users customize key options, display extra in-game information, and also functions as a touchpad. Surprisingly there's not much official information about it on the website. You can learn more from the PAX 2011 Keynote Speech and Q&A:

  • Power supply is about a third of normal ones, or 5.9″ x 2.3″ x 0.7″.
  • Battery lasts about 6 hours while idle and 2.5 while gaming.
  • The Blade doesn't have an optical drive.
  • HDD is 320 GB, but there may be models with different sizes in the future.
  • Battery is built-in.
  • The top Switchblade keys are fully customizable; you can set your own images and functions (e.g. press/touch a friend's photo and send a Facebook/MSN message). It comes pre-loaded with hotkeys for games, and will be updated as games are released.
  • The bottom part is like a built-in smartphone, which is the case: while in a game, you can surf sites like YouTube (to look for walkthroughs) or Facebook (to chat with friends) etc. Razer is also working with developers to have various apps for it.
  • That's the secondary mode if you have a mouse, the primary mode is a trackpad, which is FPSes
  • Overheating doesn't seem like it'll be an issue.
  • 7:21: "Can you talk about the durability with an aluminium case?" "It's more durable than plastic."
  • While other computers will have a blue USB 3.0 port, the Blade will have its own green port.

It ended up being more interesting than I thought, hence all the text.

Nokia Lumia 800

Nokia Lumia 800

I'm using an iPhone 3GS now but my next phone will probably be a Windows Phone 7. I love the simple and clean look of the Metro interface (which is also why I love WordPress) and it has Xbox Live after all. With the Windows 7.5 Mango update, the platform is more robust than before. App-wise there's still a long way to go though, and apps were the reason I bought an iPhone. Ideally I would use a WP7 phone as a secondary phone while my main phone would be an iPhone (4S or whenever 5 comes out). Although the Lumia 800 isn't particularly outstanding compared to the iPhone 4S or Android's flagship phones, it's probably one of the better (best?) WP7 phone available. Tried it out a Nokia shop a few days ago, and I'm in love with the interface. Everything feels much slicker and smoother than the iOS and Android. I would say the iOS has the best software, Android the hardware (which is pretty obvious since there's so many Android models) and WP7, unfortunately, probably only has the best OS.

As it turns out I'll have to split this in two as well, since there's a character limit.

Weekly Roundup December 12 - December 18

Seems like I might be keeping this up again, after all. And since it's almost Christmas, I'm coming up with a wishlist, although it's been in the making for almost a week. :/

Opening Movie – Final Fantasy XIII-2 Gameplay Video (360, PS3)

The first twenty minutes of Final Fantasy XIII-2, which includes some in-game battles so it's not like there'll be 20 minutes of CG from the start. Unfortunately. It shows what happened to Lightning, which is something you probably already know if you've been keeping up with the game, so I wouldn't call this particularly spoilerific. That and showing the first 10-20 minutes of a game probably doesn't constitute as a spoiler anyway. And, also because there's already an official trailer (English version; CG cutscene only).

[video=6347654]

It's followed by the Chapter 1 Fights, Exploring New Bodhum and Time Demon Boss Fight videos, which is the actual starting part of the game where you play as Serah, eventually joining up with Noel. Again, not much stuff that you might not have heard of already, but if you don't want to find out anything about the story then you probably shouldn't watch any of the videos (with the exception of Exploring New Bodhum, which is mostly gameplay). There's also a Guided Tour Trailer which showcases the new (and old) features of the game.

It's all in Japanese (voice and subtitles), which shows the difference in quality between the original Japanese track and English dubs. Sure, Final Fantasy XIII had pretty decent English dubs compared to other JRPGs (or by itself), but it's not the top-notch stuff you'd expect from a big-name game (and compared to Western-developed games like Mass Effect or Grand Theft Auto). The Final Fantasy wiki has a summary of the plot. It describes the events from the opening movie to what follows shortly after as shown in the Chapter 1 Fights video, and earlier demos featuring the Atlas boss fight, again, nothing really new.

Get to Know the Vita Launch Lineup

Check it out if you haven't been keeping up with Vita news, like me. I would say it's better than the 3DS launch lineup (I was only interested in 2 titles, at most 3), with games like Uncharted, Resistance, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Unit 13. On one hand, I suppose if you've already played them on the PS3 it might not be as fresh, but on the other, that probably won't be the case… Unless you have sequel-phobia.

New Pokemon Game Announced! – Pokemon + Nobunaga's Ambition (DS)

Pokemon-themed strategy RPG? Oh yes. It'll be releasing in Japan in Spring 2012, no word of an international release yet. Suprisingly, it'll be out on the DS and not the 3DS, though of course, if you have a 3DS you can still play it (since they're backwards compatible). Admittedly the last Pokemon game I've played was Diamond/Pearl and I only played through it half-way…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u34bzH5Eo04

Source: Pokémon Dungeon via Pokebeach via Nintendo Everything (phew)

Ninja Gaiden 3 strikes March 20 (360, PS3)

There will also be a Collector's Edition for $100, which comes with a figure, artbook, soundtrack and a demo of Dead or Alive 5 with 4 playable characters (presumably all 4 below). You'll also get the demo (limited to 2 characters) if you pre-order the standard edition from Amazon (Ayane and Hayate) or GameStop (Ryu Hayabusa and Hitomi [you'd think it would be Kasumi instead]).

The PS3 version of the game will also feature PlayStation Move support, which Team Ninja head Yosuke Hayashi has said is intended to "bring players closer to" Hyabusa.

Presumably this isn't the Ryu-version of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2's motion controls.

Sexy Times in Skyrim – The Elder Scrolls V (360, PC, PS3)

A rather humorous video feature about finding love in Skyrim, which is a tad more complicated than in Fable.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic Live Stream (PC)

Kevin VanOrd will be live streaming the game around every other day for about 4-5 hours each time. The game releases 20 December but the early access is on now. I wanted to try the beta but it was region-locked, go figure. Looks decent enough though.

Nexuiz: Force Your Opposition to Play With Inverted Controls (360, PC, PS3)

The key point of the game is the inclusion of mutators, and not just the likes of which you would find in an Unreal Tournament game. While there are still standard ones (better shields, firing rate and damage etc.), there are also some wacky ones which make your screen black and white or invert your controls. The latter probably won't appear that often, so you don't have to worry about the game being too crazy. Although, the system allows for mutators to be queued (only one will be active at a time), so you might end up with matches where one team will be in complete possession of them. There's also an option to turn the mutators off, but with that it wouldn't be different from any other FPS, albeit one with 8 players. If nothing else though, the game looks great, which is not surprising considering it's running on CryEngine 3 (same engine as Crysis 2). The game will be out in early 2012 for $10, so it'll probably be a Xbox Live Arcade/PlayStation Network title.

Valve teases Half-Life 3 at VGAs? (PC)

"Probably bogus" according to the report. Which is probably the case, unless they completely forgot about Half-Life 2: Episode Three.

Microsoft courting TV exec for Xbox Live – Report

Seems like Microsoft is really trying to expand it's mainstream customer base by establishing the 360 as a general home entertainment system on top of being a game console. Let's hope they don't forget about the games…

Modern Warfare 3 tops $1 billion in 16 days

As though refuting EA's previous comments, Modern Warfare 3 is now the fastest entertainment product to reach $1 billion sales, slightly besting James Cameron's Avatar, which took 17 days to reach that amount. It may be just by one day, but considering that a game costs 5-10 times more than a movie ticket (depending on where you live), it's nothing to sneeze at. Of course, reaching $1 billion is a rather big deal to begin with.

'Grand Theft Auto III' Review – Ten Years Later, Still a Great Game (4.5/5)

10 years after its initial release, Grand Theft Auto III is out on the iOS (and Android), although I would probably have to give it a miss for now since I rarely play on my iPhone nowadays (despite all the Kairosoft apps out now). Everyone else should definitely give it a try though.

Weekly Roundup December 5 - December 11

Well, here's a first roundup post in about 5 months. Not sure if I'll be posting this again next week, but for now…

BioWare story invades Command & Conquer (PC)

Although the game is being developed by BioWare and Victory Games, and not just BioWare, still… Adding BioWare's name to a RTS? Really?

Video Game Awards Game Trailers

There's a whole bunch of trailers from VGA, namely Metal Gear Rising, Fortnite, Diablo III Intro Cinematic, BioShock Infinite, Mass Effect 3, The Last of Us, Rainbow Six: Patriots, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, Alan Wake: American Nightmare, Command & Conquer Generals 2, Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD, The Amazing Spider-Man, Hitman: Absolution, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2.

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Now Playing: Battlefield 3: Back to Karkand DLC (360, PC, PS3)

I LOL-ed at the vehicles going into the pool. Anyway, Back to Karkand is currently available for PS3 owners only (since almost a week ago) and will be out on the 360 and PC on 13 December. It's free if you bought the Limited Edition and activated your online pass, if not, 1200 MSP or US$14.99. It contains 4 remake maps, 10 new weapons, 3 new vehicles and an Assignments system where you earn new weapons by completing various objectives. And there's 5 new dog tags.

Now Playing: Ninja Gaiden 3 (360, PS3)

Level-wise it's the same one as shown in previous events, e.g. TGS 2011, with the second half of the level included (around 24:50) and also a second chapter (starts at 35:39 after the cutscene from 33:30). To be honest I haven't really been keeping up on NG3 (or gaming news in general) so I'm not sure if this is new, but it seems like they included an option to turn of quick time events after fans' responses (6:17). Stealth segments are still in the game, although it looks like you can also ignore those parts and run around normally, although Hayashi says he would like for players to try them out (by adding related achievements perhaps?). The frequent slow-motion zoom-in cinematic moments are a tad too frequent for my liking, although slow-down when using the bow (and auto lock-on) makes it easier to use in normal battles. There's more of a story thrown in here this time, and what looks to me like elements from various games.

  • Modern Warfare 2-ish (Cliffhanger level) kunai climbing on walls and hi-techy pre-level mission outlay (although it wasn't a cutscene like in MW so I'm not sure if it's just meant to be a loading screen)
  • Gears of War-esque press-on-ear-to-listen-to-comms thing and Anya-like operator
  • Assassin's Creed-like villain and multiplayer, more on that below

Would you like a mask like the one I have? They're in fashion nowadays.

And yet another action-adventure game throws in a multiplayer component. Can't say whether it's for the good or bad yet, and actually I can't say whether it was a good or bad thing for Brotherhood either because I haven't played it. From the videos, it seems decent enough though. Fun, even. There's even a hadouken-looking ninpo and (not a lot of) customization options.

Dead or Alive 5 Video Preview Impressions (360, PS3)

Seems like the new Team Ninja likes their quick time events. Although in Dead or Alive 5's case, it doesn't seem like it'll appear that much since you have to destroy a particular section of the level first, and send the enemy flying through that space next to activate it. Still… Another new, er, "feature" is the inclusion of sweat?!

No, this isn't Dead or Alive Xtreme. I think.

Metal Gear Solid: Rising resurfaces (360, PS3)

It's now renamed as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (what a mouthful). I must say I'm looking forward to this, moreso than Ninja Gaiden 3 in some aspects, although the gameplay does seem somewhat different.

Ryse pushed to next-gen Xbox? (360)

Although I have a Kinect generously donated by Microsoft during the beta (or rather, after), I haven't really used it much, but Ryse seems to be the game to appeal to a hardcore gaming crowd (or at least, the non-casual). It's quite unlikely that one would buy a $100 add-on just to play a game though, and the casual gamers who picked up a 360 + Kinect might not be all too interested in it either, so this would be a good move if it's true that the next-gen Xbox will be bundled with the next-gen Kinect.

Five Things You Should Know About RAAM's Shadow (360)

A short video showing you what to expect from Gears of War 3's DLC releasing on 13 December, one of the few single player DLCs from shooters nowadays (what with all the map packs). Playing as RAAM (why is his name in caps anyway?), launching Kryll at your enemies and seeing them explode? Priceless. Or, it's also yours for 1200 MSP (US$14.99; if you didn't get the season pass).

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Battlefield 3 taking market share from MW3 – Moore

Uh huh… Instead of comparing sales figures I would think time spent on developing new content (*cough* not that I'm encouraging monthly, paid DLCs) is time better spent. On the topic, though, I don't see how Battlefield 3 is eating into Call of Duty's market share when Modern Warfare 3 out-sold Black Ops. According to Moore, Call of Duty had 90% market share last year. Right. This year it might be 70% or whatever, but obviously it's going to drop if a big game like Battlefield 3 is released (if it doesn't then there's obviously something wrong).

"Together we've grown the genre enormously. Ten million [copies of Battlefield 3] sold in and 5 million sold through doesn't come out of nowhere–if we haven't gained share, that means in the first week we've added 5 million new FPS gamers.

Maybe, you know, they bought both games?

Lytro Camera: 5 things to know before you buy

This isn't game-related but I happened to come across this and I thought it was a rather awesome piece of tech. (Link to YouTube video)

"A concert-goer's best friend"
"I came, I saw, I took a picture first and changed the focus later"

Above are would-be quotable comments on the camera. Would-be since I don't have it myself. Basically the camera captures a complete light field data when you press the shutter button, which allows you to change the focus of the image after it's taken. Which means you'll always have clear shots even if you're not using a DSLR. The drawback is that the technology is still new, and the resolution of the pictures comes in at 1080 x 1080 pixels. In actuality you probably don't need that much resolution unless you're doing additional work on the photos (design, publishing etc.) but 1920 x 1920 would have been nice (to fill a 1920 x 1080 screen, though of course, the more the merrier). The software support is also somewhat lacking (no Windows software yet for one) and there's no add-on storage available so you'll have to make do with the on-board storage and dump your photos into a computer if you reach the limit. Still, it's already something to look out for currently, so here's looking forward to greater improvements in the tech. At the moment it's only available within the U.S. though, so you'll have to get a friend or forwarder to help you if you're residing elsewhere.

Presenting: The Anti-Social Gamer -- Modern Warfare 3 Review

Haven't posted in awhile. Was busy with my holiday job and finding time for games as well. Thought I would have more free time when school started (ironically), which I do have, but I ended up spending it on other stuff. Not sure how often I can keep this up but here goes.

The The Anti-Social Gamer will be a column of sorts (which may or may not be updated much) and will be as its name implies. But before I go any further, insert disclaimer: I'll first say that I'm not stereotyping gamers as being anti-social (studies have also shown otherwise [/random site quote]). This is merely a naming convention — The Lonely Gamer or The Single-Player, Bot-Loving Gamer just do not sound nearly as nice. What this column will do is review (or just talk about, really) games based on their so-called "anti-social" factor:

  1. Single Player: How short is it? Although "how awesome is it?" is somewhat important too, both directly (you might not be playing it otherwise) and indirectly (you might want to play it more than once; see point #3). The longer the better for the anti-social gamer who wants to indulge in a great solo adventure.
  2. Multiplayer: Bots, yes or no? Yes = Good, No = Not so good. Highly co-operative/team-based or lone wolf? Can I play without caring about my teammates and still have fun?
  3. Replayability: How many times you might decide to play a game over and over again. Replayability for single player depends on the campaign's quality, multiple endings etc. whereas for multiplayer it simply depends on the fun level.
  4. Extras: Unlockables etc. Achievements might help extend a game's longevity too but that'll be another column (maybe). This won't usually be included unless the game has really great extras.

Basically I'll rate games on the amount of fun to be had when playing alone. By alone I simply mean playing without friends, so playing with random strangers online doesn't count.

So if you like:

  • Lengthy single player campaigns
  • Playing with bots over humans
  • Playing multiplayer games where you can just do your own stuff and still win (since nobody likes to lose after all)

Then this column is written for people like you (myself included, somewhat).

Image from be-extreme.com


Here's the first "review" for the The Anti-Social Gamer column, and it's for Modern Warfare 3, which is the latest game I've played since my semester started. Unlike a regular review I'll just cut to the chase (somewhat) and list out the game's strong and weak points when it comes to anti-social gaming.

Single Player

Short. In terms of anti-social-ness, that's about the best adjective for the campaign. On Normal difficulty you can finish the game within 5-6 hours, which can literally be done in one sitting. Even if you took your time to get all the mission-specific achievements along the way, you could still complete it in that timeframe. Veteran might take you 1-2 hours more depending on your skill, but it probably won't go beyond 10 hours.

MW3 has you going around the world in under 6 hours.

Quality-wise, it's what you'd expect if you played the previous games. If you loved them, you'll love MW3 as well, but it's still short. You might end up replaying it once or twice though, and perhaps on a higher difficulty, so the single player might last you for 5-20 hours ultimately.

Verdict: 3/10

Multiplayer

There's a free-for-all mode, but the rest are team-based. In Team Deathmatch you can run around and do your own thing, which is probably what everyone else will be doing as well (unless you're playing against players in a Xbox Live party or against clan members). In objective-based matches teamwork is more essential. However, unless you're playing against party/clan members, most people will probably be just as likely to run around on their own so it depends on your teammates. Some just like to kill people without bothering about the objective, but usually they'll help out on the objective (protecting the flag carrier, defending the place while another player defuses the bomb etc.). This (I like to call it "implicit teamwork") somewhat makes up for the lack of actual teamwork so you can still have fun playing without being in a group.

The Mercenary Team Deathmatch playlist, which is TDM without parties, is back. Which means that like-minded anti-social gamers can play together without people chatting away and without having to play against a bunch of people who might have played together since forever. Or at least, that's what I think Mercenary TDM is for.

Even if you're only playing TDM, the core gameplay is still a blast which will have you hooked. And there's also the levelling and weapon customization system which entices you to keep playing and unlock the next weapon or attachment. Unless you're on the receiving end of a noob-tube 75% of the time, in which case you might want to return the favour.

An RPG works just as well.

Spec Ops

Spec Ops is back with new missions, which you can play co-op or solo so plus point there. Although, if you die in a solo game you'll have to restart from the beginning whereas you can revive another player in co-op. As with MW2, some missions will require 2 players, or at least, another controller plugged in. Good luck with the latter on Veteran though.

MW3 also introduces a Survival mode which pits you against waves of enemies. Again, you can play this solo but you won't be able to revive of you get killed (there's a one-use perk which auto-revives you but it's possible to still get killed if you're overwhelmed). Although MW3 doesn't have bots (unlike Black Ops with its Combat Training mode), Survival is a decent alternative. As with multiplayer, you earn levels and unlock weapons and other equipment for purchase.

Verdict: 9/10

If you're planning on keeping the game, it'll be for its multiplayer, unless you are really, really against playing with humans. Or if you only have an Xbox Live silver account (which simplifies matters). In which case, it depends on how much you'll want to keep playing Survival.

Weekly Roundup June 27 - July 3

Bargains Roundup

Steam Summer Camp Sale is on, with various games on sale throughout the promotion period (30 June – 10 July) and different, additional deals available each day. Here's some of today's deals:

Plants vs. Zombies GOTY Edition and Magicka at $3.39 each, down from $9.99; BioShock, BioShock 2, Darksiders and Aliens vs. Predator at $4.99 each, down from $19.99; Half-Life Complete (basically all Half-Life and Half-Life 2 games with discounts for each if you want to buy them separately) at $9.99, down from $39.99; Super Meat Boy at $7.49, down from $14.99; Battlefield: Bad Company 2 at $7.50, down from $29.99, you can also get that together with Vietnam and a DLC for $9.99.

Some of the App Store sales I mentioned in my previous article are still ongoing, namely:

Pocket Academy at $3.99 and Game Dev Story is on sale at $1.99 (for some reason Hot Springs Story isn't on sale though). Various Com2uS games on sale at $0.99, includingInotia 2, Inotia 3, Tower Defense: Lost Earth and Third Blade. Check the full list here. It's been a few days since Street Fighter IV Volt (iPhone/iPod Touch) was out, and the price is now $3.99 (it was $0.99 on Day 1). If you don't have it yet, you still have a few days before it'll be fixed at $6.99


News Roundup

Crysis 2 DirectX 11 Update Released (PC)

The new patch adds DirectX 11 support and "Ultra" spec features. If you have a PC powerful enough to support the new stuff (Tessellation! Realistic Shadows with Variable Penumbra! Parallax Occlusion Mapping! Et cetera!) you will obviously want this. Check here for the official FAQ/feature list. You can also check here for various gameplay videos taken with the patch applied.

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 Click for more gaming news/reviews →

Call of Duty: Black Ops - Annihilation - In the Jungle Trailer (360, PC, PS3)

When Escalation was released, I thought that it would be my first DLC purchase in a long time (my last was probably Bring Down the Sky for Mass Effect which I had barely played, but I got it anyway since it was on sale). The main reason being the Call of the Dead map, which I thought would be more Left 4 Dead-like with a more campaign-ish structure, but apparently not so much. And the main, main reason being Sarah Michelle Gellar. It's not every day you get to play as her in a video game. For some reason I never played the Buffy games on the previous-gen, and they seem decent enough. Anyway, for the better or worse, I have yet to buy it. Meanwhile, the industry moves along with the third Black Ops DLC, which is out on the Xbox 360 for 1200 MSP (the other versions, as with the previous DLCs, are likely to be released about a month later).

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Naughty Dog details Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta (PS3)

Yay to PS3/Uncharted fans. You can also check out the hands-on preview and a 26-minute gameplay video.

Next Xbox reveal due by E3 2012?

Traditionally, console announcements have been accompanied by the actual release the following year or earlier (at least, based on the Wikipedia articles of various current/previous-gen consoles). I was hoping the next release would be in 2014, but a reveal in 2012 could mean a 2013 release date. No point announcing a new console and leave it hanging for 2 years after all.

Forza 4 collector's edition includes 25 cars (360)

Pretty much the standard for Forza 2nd-tier limited edition sets (or limited editions in general): more cars (some of which will be available as DLC instead), steel-book casing, a book (presumably an artwork book because I'm not sure people would want to read 96 pages worth of text about cars instead of looking at them). The game is due on 11 October later this year.

Forza Motorsport 4
Is that a real car?!

PSP Dual Packs debut this week

2 games for US$14.99: 1) Secret Agent Clank and Daxter; 2) Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow and Killzone Liberation; 3) Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror and SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs: Fireteam Bravo. They will be available in retail stores and on the PlayStation Network for download.

XBLA Summer of Arcade games dated, priced (360)

First up will be Bastion on 20 July, followed by From Dust, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Fruit Ninja Kinect and Toy Soldiers: Cold War. Each release will be one week after another, with the games selling for 1200 MSP (except Fruit Ninja Kinect for 800 MSP). If you buy all 5 games you'll also get Crimson Alliance for free, which will be released on 7 September for 1200 MSP. I have more games than I know what to do with, so I'll probably only get Bastion, provided I can find the time to play it...

Supreme Court put corporate interests ahead of kids - Yee

Oh, I'm sure I (and only about millions of other people) turned out to be crazed killers after playing games like Counter-Strike, Halo and Grand Theft Auto in their childhood/teenage years. Well, the main article is actually Violent game law falls in Supreme Court, but I wanted to have that opening statement. Heh. You can check out GameSpot's full coverage here too.

PW
Take that!

World of Warcraft now free until level 20 (PC, MAC)

Looks like free trials and "freemium" games with micro-transactions are all the rage these days. Although in the case of World of Warcraft it's just the "free trial" part. Nothing says "carrot and stick" better than this!

Ninja Gaiden III Preview (360, PS3, Wii U)

For some reason A360P only posted this now, and for some reason I never did watch the stage demo during E3, or after that, until now. Game seems somewhat different in some aspects now. 1) No more decapitation: not really a deal-breaker for me, but it's always been a part of the previous games. That and after slashing at enemies with so much force, it seems weird that their bodies stay intact. And, 2) quick time events: besides the occasional cutscene-type QTEs, sometimes when you attack enemies normally, you'll get the chance to press a button for a supposedly more visceral instant kill... which is lessened somewhat due to point 1. 3) Stealth segments: variety is good and all, but stealth Ryu is an oxymoron. Sure, he's a ninja too, but he's also the Rambo of ninjas. 4) Speaking of variety, there's this kunai climb thing where you climb up the wall with 2 kunais. Kinda (totally) reminds me of Modern Warfare 2's Cliffhanger level. (Maybe there were others before it, but I probably didn't play them.) You'll get to slip off the wall too. But the main problems are the first 3 points. I wonder if this new direction is due to Itagaki's departure...

Skyrim to have fewer, more 'substantial' DLC packs - Report (360, PC, PS3)

Indeed, horse armor DLCs are a thing of the past now.

Kitase: Final Fantasy HD Console Collection Would Be Seriously Considered if Demand Was High Enough

Apparently it's not high enough at the moment. Or they're just waiting... for whatever reason.

Final Fantasy XIII-2
... that Final Fantasy XIII-2 will be awesome!

Bungie Aerospace is an Initiative For Indie Developers

Seems like the next big Bungie game won't be coming out of the shadows just yet.

An 'Angry Birds' Movie Might Be a Reality After All

Oh boy... nothing against Angry Birds in particular but a movie?! The power of franchising knows no bounds I suppose.

Crysis rated for 360, PS3

It/they can run Crysis, apparently.

Sony PSN Breach Infographic

Veracode dropped a link to an interesting infographic about the PSN breach, which features a timeline beginning from the lawsuit that potentially started it all to the more-recent attacks on their sub-sites; their share price during the timeline; and some stats (Sony's revenue > Slovakia's GDP for example).


Release Roundup

I thought "Release Roundup" sounded better than "Reviews Roundup". So...

Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition (360, PC, PS3) - 7.5

Arcade Edition is available as both a standalone package (if you don't have Super Street Fighter IV yet) and a downloadable update. It features 4 new characters - Yun, Yang, Evil Ryu and Oni - as well as new gameplay balances (you can choose to play with the new tweaks on or with the old system).

'Pocket Academy' Review – 'Game Dev Story' Goes to School

I've been away from the iOS gaming scene for quite some time... If not for the lack of releases on PC/consoles, I wouldn't have started checking up on iOS articles to read up and post here. And I would have missed Kairosoft's newest offering. Game Dev Story and Hot Springs Story were 2 of my favourite iOS games (so much so that I wrote a guide [or 2, you could say] for the latter), so picking this up is a no brainer for me. Something to play while on the commute to work, provided I don't get squashed by the 123 other people in the cabin.

Pocket Academy
How someone can get bored while skating round the school, I have no idea...

Weekly Roundup June 20 - June 26

App Store Bargains

Death Rally (universal) free, down from $0.99 (in turn down from $2.99). This will probably be the one of the (very) few times it'll be free, so do yourself a favor and get it. It's a very well-polished and fun racing/car combat game, and it just had it's fifth (!) content update at the start of the month.

Tower Defense: Lost Earth (iPhone/iPod Touch) at $0.99, down from #2.99. Lost Earth is another well-polished and fun game to play, as I mentioned in my preview some time back.

Various Capcom iPhone/iPod Touch games at $0.99: Street Fighter IV, Resident Evil Mercenaries VS., Dead Rising Mobile and Devil May Cry 4 refrain (I've always wondered why they didn't capitalize the 'r'). Street Fighter IV is a great iOS port, get it if you haven't already; it's usually priced between $1.99 to $4.99. Devil May Cry 4 refrain is a decent game, but not great. Haven't tried the rest.


News Roundup

Team Fortress 2 Goes Free-to-Play (PC, MAC)

I suppose this was the free-to-play project they mentioned earlier. Although there might always be another one. Team Fortress 2 is a fun team-based, objective-based shooter (kinda like another game but more awesome), and now it's free! I haven't played it in a(long)while but from what I know/remember, the payable stuff (aka Mann-conomy) are just in-game accessories which give small bonuses, if any (some are for just for appearance). You definitely don't need to buy those to enjoy the game.

Team Fortress 2

Update on Brink: DLC, title updates, and new screenshots (360, PC, PS3) (via Bethesda Blog)

Speaking of team-based, objective-based shooters, Brink will be getting its first DLC, Agents of Change, sometime in "early July". You can check the details of the content here, which consists of 2 maps, 1 ability for each cla5s and 1 universal ability, 2 weapon attachments and 2 outfits. As promised in May, the DLC will be available for free (on Xbox Live, PSN and Steam), although only for the first 2 weeks (you'll be able to continue playing it for free subsequently).

Saints Row: The Third - Open World Developer Walkthrough Video (360, PC, PS3)

This is basically the E3 2011 stage demo with more specific developer commentary added. More insane, over-the-top and generally fun action coming on November 15 later this year.

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Bastion Daily Demo (360/XBLA, PC)

Long-time GameSpotters will see a familiar face here. Greg Kasavin, part of the development team at Supergiant Games, was at GameSpot to demo Bastion -- an action RPG for the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade, with a PC release due later. The game looks amazing, and the gameplay is no slouch either. Problem (for me) is the lack of space on my HDD. With all the narration (can't really hear it in this demo but the game narrates pretty much every other action you perform) this game certainly looks like it'll take up a fair portion of megabytes. The game is due to be released sometime between late July to late August for the Xbox 360.

Bastion
Gorgeous artwork.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim preorders yield cloth map (360, PC, PS3)

"Limited to North American and European gamers only" supposedly. Hopefully Asian gamers will get their share of similar-to-burlap-goodness, and that Bethesda neglected to mention it because they think people from the other side of the globe don't visit their site. Or something.

L.A. Noire: Final Thoughts (360, PC, PS3)

Here, GameSpot takes a look behind one of the big games this year with developer Team Bondi, where they talk about the technology behind the game and how they captured the essence of 1940s Los Angeles for the game. In other news, L.A. Noire is due out for the PC in fall. There is also an interview regarding DLC here.

Marathon coming to iPad for free

No mention of an iPhone/iPod Touch version, if any, but most likely not. For the moment anyway. In any case, it'll be free and coming out soon, supposedly.

ExEn Might Be An Easy Solution To Porting XNA Games To iOS (iOS) (via Touch Arcade)

There are a ton of great games on the Xbox Live Arcade, some of which would be great on a mobile platform as well. Although there won't be gamescore for you (or me) to earn, the reduced price (assumingly) and the ability to play those games on your phone is no doubt something to look forward to.

Can You Fall In Love with This Beautiful Girl? (IRL) (via Gizmodo)

IRL meaning In Real Life. Nothing to do with gaming, but this is an article/video about the secret of Eguchi Aimi, the newest member of Japanese girl group AKB48 -- that she was computer generated with various facial features made up using composites of different members in the group. She was created for the Glico (I always thought it was Qlico or something) ad, and even appeared on the front cover of a magazine (NquiteSFW). You can even make your own idol on the Glico's page here. Fan disappointment (about the reality) aside, this is some pretty great tech, like if games such as L.A. Noire had facial customization features. Or if that of Saints Row was on steroids.

YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIpYpRobez4

Eguchi Aimi
At least (or too bad?) she isn't 100% CG... yet.


Reviews Roundup

Dungeon Siege III6.0 (PC) 6.5 (360, PS3)

(Video review) Seems decent enough, but not quite at the level to warrant a day-one purchase. I've only ever played demos of the first 2 games on the PC, but they were interesting enough. Dungeon Siege III seems to be more console-oriented though, with the PC controls sounding not quite like they should be. Apparently a future patch will fix that though. You can also check out a 20-minute gameplay video here.

Shadows of the Damned (360, PS3) - 8.5

(Video review) Shadows of the Damned is the latest game directed by Suda Goichi aka Suda51 (Killer7, No More Heroes etc.). The game looks fun and satisfying, and the combat looks much like Resident Evil 4/5 with the laser sight aiming. You can also check out the first 45 minutes of the game here.

Shadows of the Damned
This game's art is great too.

F.E.A.R. 3 (360, PC, PS3) - 7.5

(Video review) The co-operative play seems pretty interesting with the addition of Paxton Fettel as a playable character (you can also unlock him for solo play), since he has a levitation ability and can also possess enemies. I need to finish playing the first F.E.A.R. sometime. You can also check out a 20-minute gameplay video here.

Trenched (360/XBLA) - 8.0

(Video review) Looks like MechAssault (a pretty fun third-person mech shooter on the Xbox) with tower defense elements thrown in. Unlike MechAssault, you can customize your mechs here with various parts, chassis and weaponry, which is a neat feature. Available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 1200 MSP.

The Sims 3: Generations (PC) - 6.5

I've played The Sims and The Sims 2 but never the expansions, since keeping track of the numerous add-ons is already a daunting task. Generations is the Xth expansion pack for The Sims 3, yay.

Weekly Roundup June 5 - June 19

I've been doing some weekly roundups on my Wordpress blog here, which covers various gaming news (mostly stuff for the Xbox 360 since that's my main platform) and the occasional iTunes App Store deals. Since I only visit GameSpot nowadays, I didn't really see a point in posting it on this blog since anyone reading this might have read it on GameSpot already. (And also because posting all these without the WYSIWYG editor is a killer, but the editor isn't the best out there either.) Anyway, I thought I would post it here, since I'm also commenting on the articles (plus summaries).

The first week was pretty much E3 2011 stuff, you can check out the related articles here: Pre-E3, Microsoft Press Conference, Microsoft, Sony, EA, Ubisoft Press Conference and Event Roundups, Nintendo Press Conference, Day 1, Day 2, Day 3. Was kind of busy actually playing games (instead of reading about them) after that so this week's roundup will be a "2x" thing to catch up on the stuff I missed.

App Store Bargains

My last app download was about 2-3 weeks ago, but anyway here's the latest deals:

Army of Darkness Defense iPhone/iPod and iPad versions, 100 Rogues (universal), Burn the Rope (iPhone/iPod) for free. Firemint games are on salefor Father's Day, with Real Racing at $0.99 (down from $4.99) for the iPhone/iPod version, and $1.99 (down from $6.99) for the HD/iPad version. Real Racing 2 at $4.99 (down from $6.99) for the iPhone/iPod version, and $6.99 (down from $9.99) for the HD/iPad version. Tons of EA games and Gameloft games also on sale.

News Roundup

Wii U tablet limited to one per console

I posted this (well, the link anyway) in the E3 Day 3 roundup, but I didn't read it until now. Originally I thought it meant that only one controller would come with the console when you buy it, but then that's a standard for consoles now anyway. Instead, the current plan is that only one controller can be connected to a console, i.e. other players would have to use the original Wii controller. Or, as Miyamoto says, players might also be able to use their 3DS instead. Definitely not a good move since people who want to play multiplayer would need to own a Wii (or 3DS), or have friends who do. Or they would have to buy Wii controllers — on one hand it would certainly be cheaper than buying an "iPad", but that's not exactly solving the problem either. When I heard about the Wii U during Nintendo's press conference, I was thinking that multiplayer sessions would now involve a ton of people (well, maybe 8-16), all gathered at a friend's place. Each would just bring his/her controller (easy to fit in a bag with your books/whatever), and they could all be anywhere in the room, playing on his/her controller — without the need for 4-player split-screen (not everyone has large TVs) or a bunch of consoles and messy cables connected via system link (because carrying consoles around is heavy). Of course, this also assumes that you have friends who own a Wii U, which might turn out to be not as common as having friends who own a Wii (or 3DS), but what's the point in restricting multiplayer to one controller only? On a related note, there's also an interview with Miyamoto here.

Playing with 4 Wii Remotes

No wonder they only showed multiple Wii controllers.

Star Wars: The Old Republic E3 2011 Opening Cinematic Trailer (PC)

I'm not a MMORPG person so I didn't really follow Star Wars: The Old Republic during E3, (but I did catch some of the previous coverage) and I missed this during the last few weeks. Nevertheless, it's Star Wars CG action, so you have to check it out. There's also a montage trailer here (also CG and awesome).

[video=6317278]

Valve prepping free-to-play project – Report

Not really a fan of DotA, but if it does turn out to be DotA 2 after all, I suppose I'll still check it out anyway. As long as it's not a social game where you manage a farm, restaurant, city etc. It's certainly a viable market, but not for me.

Dota 2

Nothing says promotional material like CG artwork.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 Q&A: Yoshinori Kitase and Motomu Toriyama (360, PS3)

As mentioned previously, Final Fantasy XIII-2 will offer a more open approach as compared to its predecessor, with more interactions in towns, conversation options, exploration and multiple endings (or at least, I think they mentioned multiple endings previously). It seems like Serah (and Noel) will be the main character(s) this time round though, and Lightning will be the secondary character. Originally I thought it would be either 50/50 or that Lightning would have a bigger role. Toriyama says that "Lightning is still important in the story", I assume that pretty much translates to "she will appear more in cutscenes or will be mentioned by other characters than in the actual gameplay". Masashi Hamauzu will return as the main composer, although there might be others contributing to the game's soundtrack as well. Length-wise it'll be about the same as Final Fantasy XIII and there will be something "even better than" New Game +. The game will be out in Japan later in December and Europe (and presumably North America) "early next year". I suppose that applies to the 360 version as well, which was released one year later in Japan and Asia in the case of Final Fantasy XIII.

Final Fantasy XIII-2

Serah will be (one of) the main protagonist(s) this time.

Reviews Roundup

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS) – 8.5

(Video review) Looks like a great pickup for fans of Zelda and newcomers (me included) alike. The problem is getting a 3DS first…

Duke Nukem Forever (360, PC, PS3) – 3.0

(Video review) And so, the game which took forever ends up being a flop. It's not just GameSpot either — the average score on Metacritic for the PC version as 58, with the other platforms scoring about the same. To be honest, the pre-release trailers did look kind of bad to me, but I was thinking Gearbox might be able to pull it off anyway. Guess not. Although I suppose they only took part in the development for pretty much 1 out of 15 years, so I doubt they (or anyone for that matter) could've turned junk into gold. In any case, here's hoping Aliens: Colonial Marines won't be another disappointment.

Duke Nukem Forever

Sounds like another case of false advertisement.

Child of Eden (360, PS3) – 8.5

(Video review) I've never been much of a rhythm/music games person either since I don't have much rhythmic sense, but I've played the Xbox Live Arcade ports of Rez and Lumines, and enjoyed both (although I haven't really played a lot of the former). Child of Eden certainly looks very much like Rez from the gameplay perspective. Graphics look colorful and superb in general, although I'm not sure how it compares to Rez since I haven't played much of it.

Child of Eden

Psychedelic visuals abound.

Alice: Madness Returns (360, PC, PS3) – 7.0 (Video Review)

No comment since I didn't play the previous games, read the books etc.

This is How I Would Make Video Game History

pol·ish
Definition: to render finished, refined, or elegant

In Game Dev Story (a game developing/publishing simulation game for the iOS), I could create a game full of bugs, release the game without fixing said bugs, and still manage to sell copies. Tons of copies too, if I had a horde of [mindless] loyal [minions] fans. In fact, the same could be said even if I made a horrible game (in Game Dev Story terms: not Fun, non-existent Creativity, bad Graphics, poor Sound). The real life is obviously much different from that... for the most part, anyway. In the real-world context, this means releasing a game that is lacking in polish. It could mean having a less-than-fluid gameplay, poor voice-acting, or as mentioned, bugs. With the availability of patches on consoles now, the number of day-one patches (updates) to fix bugs (issues) have increased (much to the chagrin of diligent reviewers). Bugs (issues) that should have been stamped out during development or QA.

Screenshot

The worst that could happen when you release a bad game in GDS.

Case in point: Brink. Before I go any further, I'll just say that I enjoyed playing it somewhat, and I finished (if by finished it means completing the 8 levels, on both sides) the game too, so that should give me the "right" to comment on the game. With that out of the way...

Admittedly I didn't really follow the game much prior to its release. About 1 or 2 months ago I happened across a site mentioning the game, and I was somewhat intrigued by it. (An objective-based shooter with AI and a ton of customization options? Sign me up!) I checked out an article or two, but not much beyond that. Then there was the launch trailer which I saw as well, and that hyped me up for the game's release. It happened to coincide with my last paper, so I was looking forward to it as a post-exam reward of sorts.

[video=6312528]

The long wait...

Imagine my surprise when the game didn't quite turn out as expected. One of the features I was looking forward to -- the customization options -- wasn't executed too well. First off, there was no facial/body options besides the preset list. I spent ages customizing my characters' faces in games like The Sims 2, Oblivion and Mass Effect, so this was a wee bit disappointing. OK, no problem, most of my characters end up having similar builds anyway. So, I started going through the list of clothing available. I moved down from the default selection and waited. And waited for a few more seconds (fine, it was just 2 seconds), then the new shirt popped up. Wasn't to my liking, so I selected the next. And waited again...

Screenshot

Looks great, but looks can be deceiving.

Having to wait for the clothes to load is not exactly the best way to entice players to customize their characters. On to the next step, choosing your colors. Again, you can only choose from a set of pre-determined colors and/or patterns, so no dressing your character from top to toe in hot pink (if you're so inclined). Again, no big deal, but there's no escaping the loading here either. Weapon customization is better in the waiting department, but probably because there's only so many (not many) options available (you can only have so many attachments after all). Unfortunately, this was also where I noticed the texture pop-ins and the general low quality textures in the game (more on that later). To be fair (and to prevent fanboy attacks), I am playing on the Xbox 360, and this doesn't occur on the PC version (or at least, a souped up PC?). Presumably this is less of an issue if you install it on consoles. Unfortunately, I can't quite test that due to the number of arcade titles and DLC on my hard disk, but that's another story (which I probably won't be telling anytime soon). Anyway, whether it's on the 360 or PS3 or PC, I don't like having to wait for my character to change his (oh yeah, did I mention there's no female characters in Brink?) appearance. Not when I can do the same thing near instantly (less than a second) in games like Saints Row 2 (and hopefully for Saints Row 3).

Screenshot

All that bling don't need no loading.

Scrap the story, fix the AI.

To quote from the official site under the list of Brink's features:

Two Sides to Every Story
Choose to fight through two complete story campaigns as either a member of the Resistance or Security. Experience these campaigns solo, co-operatively, or competively - it's your choice.

Blurring the Lines
Take your unique character online at any time you choose. Brink allows you to seamlessly move between single player, co-op with friends, and intense multiplayer action. Multiplayer takes the story online where you can play with up to seven other people (or AI characters) cooperatively as you take on the opposing faction or with up to 16 players competitively.

... Which suggests that the single player experience is as much a part of the game as the multiplayer, no? In actual truth? Not so much. The storyline is as uninspiring as they come. In the first few levels I listened to the narrator brief me on the events that transpired, as well as the inane banter among nameless, generic characters.

A: Gee, B, what do you want to do today?
B: Same thing we do every day, A -- try to take over the world!

Well, no, but you get the point. Later on I started browsing through some websites on my laptop while waiting for their conversation to end. Yes, the pre-game cutscenes are unskippable. Add another point to the to-fix list: unskippable, boring cutscenes. Well, to be fair (again), it's only when you're playing with bots. I think.

Screenshot

Characters A and B talking.

Speaking of bots, the AI is bad. Being an objective-based game, having AI which doesn't really care about completing objectives is definitely off-putting. I won't go into the details here, but generally, they are decent at killing enemies when they're not human (unless it's 6 bots versus 1 human) and certain actions (escorting hostages, completing optional objectives), but they are terrible at completing mission-critical objectives. Yes, it's AI. Yes, they're not humans. Yes, AI is flawed. But, I'm paying for a full-priced game that is supposed to offer a good single player experience in addition to its multiplayer. The least you could give me is AI that is capable of executing main objectives, not run around shooting enemies randomly like what some people do online. Wait, was that the point?! Oh snap!

Yeah, anyway, Team Fortress 2 was pure multiplayer, and it certainly worked well. Sure, you could say it costs one-fifth Brink does so it can "get away with" less features, but look at it the other way: it costs one-fifth of Brink, and yet it offers five times the enjoyment.

Screenshot

They don't need a story or AI. Just RED vs. BLU.

We don't use 56k anymore.

Well, at least, not if you're playing games on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. So all the reports about Brink lagging shouldn't exist, in theory. This was supposed to be one of the issues addressed with the day-one update, but players are still experiencing lag. Private matches seem to fare better, but having full teams with just friends is kind of hard. That and having consistent, lag-free public matches should be a norm for a game like this. Not to mention a lobby system, which there seems to have a lack of. "Seems to", because I couldn't find any matches online. Apparently it's due to the lack of servers in Asia, which is in turn due to the game not being out here yet, but obviously it is for some countries, at least. Whatever it is, this is yet another bug in itself.

Blurring the lines? Well, the game looks blur enough.

I don't know about the lines, but the textures in this game are certainly very blurry. As mentioned earlier, texture pop-ins occur in this game. In all honesty, Brink isn't the only game which suffers from this issue. Crysis 2 has this problem too, and I noticed it occurring in L.A. Noire (though at a much lower frequency and severity). The difference though, is that at least Crysis 2 looks great when everything is in place. Brink, it just goes from very blur to blur. Apparently this was also improved on in the day-one auto-update, which "significantly reduced texture loading times" but, well, the problem is still there.

Again, to be objective, the PS3 version loads the textures more quickly while the PC version looks better than its console counterparts. But if other multi-platform titles can pull it off, why not Brink? No, using an engine that first appeared on games in 2004 is no excuse. I seem to remember Prey looking pretty good. Heck, Doom 3 on the Xbox looked great then, and its comparable now, and that was last-gen. Mind you, I dug out my copy and played through it for awhile so I'm not just shooting off my mouth here. Ok, maybe somewhat. Obviously you can't compare those 2 but Brink does feel rather backward.

I know, I know, graphics don't make a game; the gameplay is what's important and all that, but at least make it look as nice as the PC version. Or the screenshots. We live in a HD era after all, where everything is HD-this, HD-that, sharp and crisp and all that jazz.

Screenshot

If only the game looked half as good...

Did I hear something?

In terms of music, Brink is decent. Not great, but it's not like you need a 4-disc OST for an objective-based shooter. Voice acting is decent too, although the narrator during the loading screens could use some improvement (though not as much as other games). Sound effects are somewhat lackluster though. Weapons don't sound too different from each other, and -- I'm pretty sure it's not just me, but -- frag grenades explode with merely a poof, or a cough, et cetera. Brink could do with some more work in the audio department, although it's probably an area with the least complaints.

If I had the power to change the world, I would...

I'm no programmer, but of course I know game development is no walk in the park. Making smart AI; tuning network code and what-have-you to make multiplayer matches smooth; and optimizing graphics aren't the easiest jobs. I'm just another person commenting on games because it only takes 0.001% as much effort. But if I had power overwhelming, I would include polish as a factor in games. Games shouldn't be released until they are polished to maximum shine. Although not every company has the resources Blizzard has, but still...

Kiwi

Kiwi - Keeping your shoes polished since 1906.

Maybe I should set up a company to polish games. I would hire staff who actually knows how to make games instead of talking about making games, and pay them like 10% of what I earn (or rather, what I make, since technically I wouldn't have earned any of it) and laugh my way to the bank. I'm sure it'll be much more productive that way. Yep.

Disclaimer: This article was not written to bash Brink. As mentioned, I did enjoy playing it somewhat, even with the lack of multiplayer available to me (read: playing with frustrating AI for ~20 levels) and all the faults it has. This was written thanks to a great idea and a person with too much time on his hands. Time which could be spent playing L.A. Noire (which happens to be under the "Games you may like..." section when you browse Brink) instead, so until then (or until Brink's next update).

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