Mirror's Edge Demo Review

By Mike on 5:01 pm

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Mirror's Edge is probably one of 2008's most anticipated titles for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. The game is being published by the infamous EA but has been developed by Sweden based DICE. They are one of EA's more reputable development teams who was behind the popular Battlefield series. Over the years, Electronic Arts has grown a bad reputation for releasing generic, water down titles and poor customer service. It is now one of the most universally hated publishers in the gaming community. I discussed the Spore fiasco at length last month which illustrates how the gaming conglomerate functions. All this consider, this is what makes Mirror's Edge an unusual title. It represents a rare bold move for EA.

Mirror's Edge is a first person action game. However, it represents a paradigm shift from other first person games which have traditionally been shooters built on the same generic formula since the original Doom first hit the shelves back in 1993. The game can best be described as a first person platformer. There are shooting elements but gamers are encouraged to get through the game without firing a single shot. The majority of the game is based on parkour style running and jumping. For those who don't know, parkour is a sport that has gained some popularity recently. It uses the city as a playground to challenge runners to get from one point to another as quickly as possible using only the capabilities of the human body. Probably its most famous depiction is the opening sequence of 2006's Casino Royale. Elements of this sport have been present in other recent games, such as Naughty Dog's Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, but they've never formed the core of the gameplay. This is what makes Mirror's Edge unique.

Your PC in the game is Faith. She's a bit of an everywoman character which tends to be typical for games like this. Faith is a young tattooed Asian (I'd guess she's Korean based on her appearance) woman in her early 20s living in a dystopian city sometime in the near future. She is a runner, a small group of people who travel the cities roof tops and sewers delivering information to those who wish to remain discrete in the city's surveillance society. Her back story has been explained in some of the game's trailers. Her parents were part of those who openly opposed the increasingly totalitarian regime that was slowly taking over the unnamed country. It is said that she is trying to free her sister who has been detained by the government, though this part does not happen in the demo.
The demo provides you with a tutorial stage and the first level of the game. There is also a time trial mode. The game attempts to provide the most immersive first person experience as possible. There is no map or hud in the game so to speak. The only aid is a white dot in the centre of your screen. This can help you line up your jumps. However, even this was added as an after thought according to the developers. It apparently reduces issues with motion sickness by providing a point of reference. The goal is to run and build up momentum to be able to trigger your jumps successfully. Like most first person games, you control your movement with the left stick and look around with the right stick. Other controls in game are tagged to the shoulder buttons. L1 jumps while L2 crouches. While running, you can use L2 to slide, tuck your feet in during a jump to make it over certain obstacles, or execute a roll on landing. R1 and R2 control your combat functions. R2 punches and kicks. You can execute combos or tricks for both action and combat functions. For example, you can do wall runs by holding down L1. The shoulder button scheme for action functions takes a little getting used to since most of us are familiar with using the button pad.
As for other controls, Triangle is used to disarm enemies. There is also a shooting element in the game, which I didn't test. Presumable R1 shoots though the tutorial doesn't teach you how to use a gun. While you can use a variety of firearms, the game discourages it. There is also a penalty when carrying the extra weight of a gun, which makes Faith less mobile. You can only use the bullets already in the gun. Once the bullets are gone, they're gone. No storing guns in hammer space and picking up additional ammo along the way. In addition to the controls mentioned, the game makes use of SixAxis control for executing rolls on landing, or balancing on beams. Gameplay is quite fast paced but your not completely without help. Runner Vision paints areas of the environment you can use red. This is vary helpful but can be turned off if desired.
Faith cannot die in the game, at least in the traditional sense of a "game over". If you fall, or are killed, you are returned to the last checkpoint. As your health drops, the screen will fade to grey similar to how health was measured in Uncharted.

Level designs are vary well done in Mirror's Edge. There are plenty of obstacles and challenges to get around keeping the game fast paced and constantly changing. The entire cityscape is a stark white environment, which has been done for artistic effect. It gives the city a sanitized appearance, just as the dystopian government has tried to sanitize society. Architectural style closely resembles Toyko though characters in the game speak with a typical North American accent. The game is not meant to depict any real world environment.

Mirror's Edge is said to have been designed for the PS3 and is being ported onto other systems. The game runs flawlessly on that system. Graphics are fairly crisp and clean but they're not really anything cutting edge. Graphics quality I'd place on par with Force Unleashed; good but not the best. Other characters in the game seem a little stuff and textures have a grainy appearance to them. The game runs at 720p. Audio wise, there's not much in the way of in-game music, presumably for realism. Sound quality is good. I did not notice any issues with frame rates or tearing in the game, which is critical for a title like this.

Mirror's Edge is certainly an interesting title. It crosses a lot of genres and yet provides something fresh and innovative. The goal is not to kill everything it sight but to strategize and survive without firing a single shot. Mirror's Edge presents us with a different view of what happens when we sacrifice liberty for security. Whether it's trying to make a political statement or not is a moot point. Even Faith as your character presents gamers with something fresh. It is rather unusual to see Asian female characters as the main protagonist in a video game. At least beyond the typical big breasted anime chick. I frankly don't care what race a developer chooses to make their characters, but I think Faith represents someone more realistic. Mirror's Edge has received a lot of hype over the last few month to the point of it becoming ad nauseam. Does it deserve it? I think it does. The gameplay is fast paced, entertaining, and challenging and it seems to be backed up by a strong story. Hopefully the final game will not be something you can breeze through in under 5 hours, but I don't expect it will be. This is definitely something worth considering for you or the gamer on your list this Christmas.

Mirror's Edge will be released in North America on Novemeber 11th for the PS3 and Xbox 360. No date has been set for the PC version though EA says it will not be out until early 2009. Given that this is an EA title, I would avoid the PC version at all costs since it will likely include the same SecuROM platform that Spore uses.

What Works:
-Innovative gameplay that crosses genres yet is fresh and new
-Excellent level design
-Good graphics with good art design
-Unique main character and strong story

What Doesn't Work
-Shoulder button controls take some getting used to
-Textures feel a little grainy at times

Score: 9 out of 10

Game Addiction: Real Problem or Scapegoat

By Mike on 9:44 am

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Gamers can usually be placed into three categories. Your casual gamer plays video games every so often, maybe less than an hour or two a week. Hardcore gamers use gaming as their primary hobby and may spend many hours a week gaming. Intermediate gamers like myself fall somewhere in between. However, is there a fourth category? In recent years, some psychiatrists have been proposing that there is a new mental illness in our society: gaming addiction. These are people who play video games obsessively. They spend all their free time gaming alone or online. They may start to ignore their jobs, their school, their family, even eating and their own personal hygiene to play games. There have been many recent high profile cases regarding so called addicts. Perhaps the most famous was of a South Korean gentleman who died at an internet cafe after playing the popular MMO World of Warcraft for several days strait. In Toronto this week, the big story is of a 15 year old boy who ran away after his parents confiscated his Xbox 360 after he had been obsessively playing Call of Duty 4 online. This boy has been missing for several days and has led to frantic searches

Despite these high profile cases, psychologists are far from reaching any sort of consensus on this issue. Like sex addiction, a sizable number feel that game addiction is not a real condition. At current, the WHO does not recognize it as a legitimate psychological problem. This hasn't stopped the media from blaming game addiction for when things go wrong. TV "psychiatrist" (his official job title is "life coach") Dr. Phil famously put his foot in his mouth when he blamed violent video games for the Virginia Tech Massacre. In reality, the shooter, though he had been playing violent games, had been deeply disturbed to begin with and had stopped taking his meds. The TV life coach is now speaking out against game addiction despite a lack of credible academic studies into the condition. For Phil McGraw though, it's not whether a condition is legitimate or not. It's what gets him ratings and what sells his books. The media has long enjoyed lambasting video games for society's ills since it makes a good story. It's not too different from out parents' days when TV was blamed for child deliquency. Games are a convenient scapegoat and distract us from focusing on the root causes of problems.

I don't have a degree is psychology, nor have I even attended a psychology course. However, from my own life experiences and the ones of those around me, I have come to this conclusions. When it comes to non-chemical addictions, the addiction itself is a symptom rather than the ailment. In other words, the addiction is being used by people to medicate some other problem. So yes, game addiction is real in a sense. Society tends to treat these kinds of addictions as if they were isolated in a bubble, which you can't do. A online gaming addict may be doing so because they feel isolated in the real world. It's a form of human contact where they can freely interact with people and be someone they're not. So to cure the addiction, you have to cure the root cause first. There is no such thing as a game that is deliberately addictive. We may call a game such since it draws us in but the vast majority of us wouldn't do so to the point where it was interfering with our life's priorities. We have to stop blaming the games themselves before we can treat the real problems of "gaming addicts".

Update: For international readers, the missing boy I mentioned, a Brandon Crisp, 15, was found dead the other day. Cause of death was a fall from a tree. Police do not suspect foul play. The media is still blaming the game, natch. Must be nice to never have to take responsibility for your own actions and have TV and video games control your life. Most of us are stuck living in the real world.

iBook G4 (Late 2005) vs MacBook Air (Early 2008)

By Mike on 2:36 pm

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I've always been curious as to how my old iBook stands up to Apple's latest and greatest systems to see if it really is worth it to plop down $1000 for a new system. Register Hardware did some Xbench comparisons of the 2006 MacBook Pro 1.83, 2007 MacBook 1.83ghz, the early 2008 1.6ghz MacBook Air, and the 2.4ghz new Macbook for this year. All systems run on Intel's Core 2 Duo processor. My system is a late 2005 1.33ghz PowerPC G4 single core processor iBook G4. I ran my own Xbench results and came up with some interesting results. Xbench gives its results as points.

First off, we'll look at system Spec.
MacBook Air Early 2008: 1.6ghz Core 2 Duo "Merom", 2gb 667mhz DDR2, Intel GMA X3100 integrated graphics with 144mb shared DDR2, 80gb 1.8'' PATA HDD @ 4200rpm

iBook G4 Late 2005: 1.33ghz PowerPC G4 Single Core, 1gb 333mhz DDR1, ATI Radeon 9550 32mb discrete GDDR, 40gb 2.5'' PATA HDD @ 4200rpm

MacBook Air = 77. 83
iBook G4 = 62.68
Difference = 24%

MacBook Air = 127.09
iBook G4 = 31.75
Difference = 400%

Quartz Graphics:
MacBook Air = 96.97
iBook G4 = 60.06
Difference = 61%

OpenGL Graphics:
MacBook Air = 13.92
iBook G4 = 63.12
Difference = -453%

User Interface Test:
MacBook Air = Unknown/Not Tested
iBook G4 = 16.89
Difference = N/A

Disk Test:
MacBook Air = 20.30
iBook G4 = 33.76
Difference = -66%

MacBook Air - 40.65
iBook G4 - 36.90
Difference - 10.2%

I don't know how the Register did their tests and these are synthetic benchmarks, so I can't say these results are definitive. Real world performance with the Air might be better. However, the results are still interesting. The MacBook Air's 2gb of 667mhz DDR2 gives it a huge edge in memory power. It's also significantly faster at Apple's own Quartz rendering. However, in all other options, the Air is not significantly faster than its older cousin. The iBook shows that dedicated graphics can still make a huge difference over Intel's integrated solutions, even though the iBook's GPU is considerably dated has less memory to access. The iBook's hard drive is also significantly faster despite being the same rotation speed. With everything factored in, the Air only works out to be 10% faster than the $999 iBook, which can now be fetched used for well under $500. The Air's base price is $1799. So Apple releases a notebook that's 80% more for only a 10% increase in performance. While the Air might be the thinnest and lightest laptop you can buy, this doesn't exactly scream good value. I am aware the Air does have other additional features such as iSight and 802.11n built in. The current vanilla MacBook at $1299 is 299% faster than the iBook G4 according to Xbench tests.

MacBook Air Benchmark Source: Register Hardware

LittleBigPlanet Delayed Due to "Offensive Content"

By Mike on 12:20 pm

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Xbox fanboys like to refer to Sony's console as the Delaystation. It's true that stuff for the console frequently suffers delays. However, I'd rather have a game delayed and end up with a quality product rather than have it released on time and end up with a piece of trash, which frequently occurs with PC titles. Once again, LittleBigPlanet has been delayed, with Media Molecule and Sony pushing its release date back one week. However, this is a delay that never should have happened.

I have an allergy to BS. Whenever someone presents BS to me, I suffer from severe irritation. Apparently, some music tracks in LBP are rumoured to have lines from the Quaran in them. This has upset Muslims. Sony and MM are keeping mum on what exactly this offensive content might be. One PSU reader noted in the comment section that the offending lines are ""kollo nafsin tha'iqatol mawt", literally: 'Every soul shall have the taste of death'" and ""kollo man alaiha fan", literally: 'All that is on earth will perish'" I try to keep politics out of this blog but it just upsets me since Islam is a religion that is literally offended by everything. Rather, I should say that there are certain people in Islam who deliberately look for things to be offended by. What's happening to LBP concerning "Islamic references" is nothing new. As far back as 1998, Muslims complained about the star and crescent moon symbol appearing in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The symbol appears on movable blocks in the game as well as prominently in the Spirit Temple. Muslims had demanded the symbol be removed, which Nintendo eventually did. The original gold cartridge and the original grey cartridge (which I own) versions still have it. Assassin's Creed, which also has references to Islam, contains a content disclaimer. I am personally outraged that religious interests are dictating our culture when we supposedly live in a secular society. It's blatant censorship. Now, some people might think I'm being silly since LittleBigPlanet is just a video game. It goes beyond that though. This seems to stem from a single complaint since the game is only publicly available a closed beta. The fact that one person can wield so much influence by simply claiming religious offense is disturbing.

I personally don't even know how these lines got are in there, or even if they are actually there at all. It's not like this is unheard of. Back in the 60s and 70s, religious interests claimed they could hear secret satanic messages in rock songs played backwards. Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven is perhaps the most famous. (If you have the CD version, you can try for yourself by using a program like Audacity to reverse the song. I personally didn't hear anything. I don't recommend doing it with a turntable since you can damage the needle, and Led Zeppelin 4 LP is a valuable album) An Atlantic Records executive laid final word by famously proclaiming that their turntables only run on one direction, forward. In all likelihood, this is just some religious zealot hearing things that aren't there. Still, we have to endure another delay for rubbish like this. It's not fair, it's not right, yet the media continues to cowtoe to special interests so there's nothing we can do. My message to Sony and MM is not to let this happen again. By that I don't mean the "lyrics", but delays over nonsense complaints.

Source: PSU

Motorstorm Pacific Rift Demo Review

By Mike on 8:51 pm

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This is going to be a quick review about the much anticipated Motorstorm 2, dubbed Pacific Rift. The first Motorstorm, released in 2007, was one of the Playstation 3's earliest hits and with good reason. Unlike a lot of early PS3 titles, Motorstorm was a good game that could really show off the system's power. As one reviewer put it, it taught us to see mud as beautiful. Motorstorm is a bit of an odd game. It's not exactly original since off-road games have been around for ages. However, the towering cliffs and and grueling tracks of Monument Valley upped the danger factor. It's not a combat racer yet there are no rules. You were pitted against both your fellow racers, who were all too eager to run you off the road, as well as numerous obstacles on the track. The well rendered graphics, damage, and mud filled the game with plenty of eye candy. It also let racers try their hands at all sorts of vehicles from dirt bikes all the way up to big rigs.

Given the popularity of the original, it's not surprising that a sequel would eventually be released. Pacific Rift takes us out of the mud of monument valley and puts the Motorstormers on an island in the Pacific. There's not a heck of a lot of difference between Pacific Rift and the first game. The idea is the same, the goals are the same, the rules are the same. The controls have changed slightly adding a combat element. Tapping L1 or R1 will allow you to side swipe opponents in that direction or if you're on a bike or ATV, you can use it to knock other bikers off their vehicle. The first track takes you along a cliff side and is vary similar to the Rain God Mesa track in the first game. The demo allows for you to play the track as one of three vehicles: a racing truck, dirt bike, and a monster truck. Monster trucks are a new addition to the game. Like big rigs, they can crush anything but they're also vary top heavy adding to the challenge. The physics engine remains the same. Graphics too aren't that different except you're swapping mud and dust for water and palm trees. Somehow, the game doesn't look as good as the original though. Another new element is offline two player split screen. The demo allows you to try out the two player mode.

There's not much else to say about Motorstorm 2: Pacific Rift. The game seems decent enough even if it is just a carbon copy of the original Motorstorm. If you left the original game wanting more, you might want to pick this one up. Still, it would have been nice to see something fresher than just monster trucks and 2p split screen.

Sony Unveils Details for Latest PSP, PS3 Firmware

By Mike on 11:50 am

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It's been quite a while since Sony has updated the firmware for the PSP and PS3. I'm just going to blatantly copy and paste what was written on the official PS Blog. There is no word on when the update will go live but it will likely either be this Wednesday or the next one if they're following tradition.

PS3 Firmware 2.50

  • Support for the PS3 Official Bluetooth Headset - we’ve told you about the upcoming Bluetooth Headset and SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation Bundle on the Blog. This latest firmware installment enables High-Quality (HQ) mode, which delivers clear and wide-band online voice chat. On top of that, an added on-screen indicator shows battery status, volume level and use of HQ mode.
  • PlayStation Trophies interface enhancements - I know that many of you are busy collecting trophies and raising your PlayStation Trophy level. This update makes sharing and comparing your trophies with your friends even easier. On 1st part of the profile page you’ll see a symbol under level that represents level and the actual percentage towards the next level along with the existing level meter. The level symbol carries over to the trophy comparison screen where you will now be able to see your level, your friend’s level and the percentage towards the next level for both users along with all of the game by game comparison information you see today.
  • Friend status – Offline friends on your Friends list will have information below their avatars that will indicate how long it has been since they were last online.
  • Video – This update adds the Scene Search feature similar to the feature on the PSP. Activating this feature while viewing a video on the PS3 will break the video up into scenes that you can quickly access by pressing the X button. You can break the videos into one, two or five minute intervals. In addition, you can now choose to have all of the videos under the video section of the XMB play in sequence. Go to Settings then Video Settings to turn this option on.
  • PlayStation Store – We’ve added a redeem codes option right on the store to make it easier to redeem your PlayStation Network Cards and promotion codes. In addition, PlayStation Network Sign Up and Account Management have been redesigned.
  • Power Save Settings – You can now set your PS3 and wireless controllers to turn off automatically after set periods of inactivity. Go to Settings then Power Save Settings to turn on these features.
  • Background Downloading - You now have the option to set the PS3 to turn off automatically after a background download or installation of content has completed. This option is available when you turn off the system from the button under [Users] while content is being downloaded or installed.
  • In-game Screenshots - this tool will allow everyone to capture, share and in other words, immortalize their favorite gameplay moments. This will be supported on a game by game basis. Please check back to find out which games will support this feature.
Additional enhancements and features not listed are also promised. Info on these will be made available when the update goes live.

PSP Firmware 5.00
-PSP specific Playstation Store goes live. You'll now be able to download games, demos, videos, and other content from the store directly to the PSP using its own built-in Wifi. No longer do you need to connect it to a PC or PS3. If you already have a PSN account, the PSP store uses the same funds and account info that the PS3 store does.
-Sleep timer for music. Turns the PSP off after a set amount of time just like a clock radio.
-Full screen keyboard replaces the phone style dealy. Should make text entry easier.
-Redesigned XMB Background.

On the PS3 side, the update feels a bit underwhelming. Power save settings should be useful for those who tend to leave their PS3 on. There's nothing really new here though. I still don't know why screenshots are based on a game by game basis. In game screenshot support is already available since WipEout HD has it. It would certainly make life easier for amateur reviewers like me to be able to take screenshots in all games.

The PSP update is a little better since it includes some much needed enhancements, including the store and a proper QWERTY keyboard.

Source: Playstation.Blog

Sony Abandons UMDs in Japan

By Mike on 6:45 pm

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I think we've long suspected this. The Universal Media Disc has not been an astoundingly successful component of the PSP. As mobile storage formats go, optical discs are far from being ideal. While UMDs can store a lot, they were plagued by slow load times and are bulkier compared to Nintendo DS flash cards. At the Tokyo Game Show, Sony has announced that all future PSP titles released in Japan will be download only. So far, there is no word when Sony's other major territories, namely Europe and North America, will receive the same treatment. The games are presumed to be priced the same as current UMD based titles and downloadable PSP games that are already available.

Thus is today's major debate in gaming. Downloadable games have numerous advantages compared to traditional disc based media. However, they also present gamers with some issues regarding ownership. First of all, the big draw with downloadable games is instant gratification. The games can be bought at any time of day, any day of the week. There are no lines, no sold out titles. There are no discs to store, load, and care for. The big issue for me is the fact that there's question as to what the gamer actually owns in the end. With traditional media, I own the disc even if I don't technically own what's on it. I like the idea of having something tangible, which is why I've tended to shy away from downloadable games unless they're cheap. With downloadable versions, I own nothing. The problem is there's nothing stopping companies from putting strict DRM restrictions on these titles, limiting them from being backed up. We all know hard drives and solid state drives fail but they also have finite amounts of storage, limiting how many you can have. Traditional media is only limited by how much storage space you have, and discs take up far less room on a shelf then the game does on a hard drive. If DRM prevents backup, you could be forced to redownload titles. That segues into the next issue which asks what if Sony decided to pull the game from its download server. You might not be able to redownload lost or deleted copies. While disc media may be clunkier and less convenient, it still remains the superior form of game storage due to what I have just noted.

Another thing worth noting is the PSP's own storage abilities. Common 1gb MSPD cards may only be able to store one, perhaps two games. So not only are you buying the games, likely at the same cost as the UMD versions, but you have to buy memory cards to store them on. The Memory Stick Pro Duo still remains the most expensive flash cards on the market dollar-gigabyte. Secure Digital cards with the same capacity may sell for as little as half the price of Memory Sticks. If Sony wants this to work, they really need to cut the cost of their proprietary flash cards to bring them in line with their competition. Personally, I think Sony should keep the UMD and follow the same route they've done with the PS3. Release games in both downloadable and disc versions to give the consumer a choice. My last piece of advice to them would be to follow the DS's lead with the PSP2 by releasing games on flash cards, thus eliminating the problems with both disc and downloadable formats.

Source: Playstation Universe

Does Your Mac Really Need Anti-Virus Software?

By Mike on 11:17 am

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Windows users, or at least those who are technically inclined, like to keep their systems locked up like Fort Knox. I know my Windows desktop is. Mac and Linux users don't really have this issue. Why is that exactly? Macworld has an interesting article on the subject as to why Windows has a much higher infection rate than OS X, and why Macs don't really need anti-virus software at all. It's not because Mac and Linux systems are necessarily more secure (or that Windows is less secure) but rather because of their install base. Security expert Bruce Schneier noted that the magic number is 16%. That's how much of a market share an OS must have before writing viruses and other malware for it becomes profitable.

The article notes a changing trend in the way malicious hackers and other cyber crooks are doing business. Phishing is becoming more popular than viruses. That's presumable because phishing scames can be set up faster with less effort, especially concerning the recent issues with the way the web fundamentally handles web addresses. According to Macworld, this is the biggest threat to all computer users. The problem with Mac is that Safari does not currently include built in anti-phishing software, compared to Mac versions of Firefox and Opera which do. Stealing your identity is a lot more lucrative than vandalizing people's computers and phishing is easier than using complex key loggers and other spyware. If you use a Mac, don't bother with anti-virus, switch your web browser.

Source: Macworld

Game Gear 2.0: Sega Announces Portable Console

By Mike on 12:19 pm

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Game Gear, in the early 1990s it was the pinnacle of portable entertainment. Essentially a portable Sega Master System, the bulky system featured full colour graphics and even had a VHF TV tuner accessory. The Game Gear got a smack down from Nintendo's Game Boy due to its major flaws. The Game Gear was bulky and ate batteries like they were going out of style. The thing took six AAs and only offered 4-6hrs gameplay maximum. This was before high capacity rechargeable batteries came out. The last 13 years have been pretty rough for Sega. After the success of the Genesis/Mega Drive, the Saturn was a dismal failure. The Dreamcast, widely regarded as one of the best consoles of all time, also sold poorly. Sega exited the hardware market all together with the exception of their arcade systems.

Well, it seems Sega is going to take another stab at home systems with a new portable. The new portable is being marketed as a PMP. Along with music and movie playback, the system also includes a built in digital TV tuner for watching live broadcasts. Furthermore, the system has a built in camera for taking still pictures or video. Other features include an e-book reader, voice recorder, and of course games. Some units have been spotted on display at a London UK arcade. So far no tech specs have been revealed though it has been said the device is about the size of a credit card. Sega is really downplaying the system's gaming ability and it has been suggested that it only plays Java based mini games. The screen also presents some problems because it's a 4:3 aspect ratio.

I really don't know if this is a good idea on Sega's part. Their days as a hardware maker are long over and their games lately have been less than spectacular. The device still boasts many useful features but the PMP market is already crowded as it is. Can this thing really compete with the iPod Touch and Archos's media power houses. Probably not.

Source: The Register

Bioshock PS3 Demo Review

By Mike on 7:39 pm

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Well, here we are again back at Bioshock. One of the Xbox 360's top games of the year for 2007. People ranted and raved about that version. The PC one, however, was like a dog's breakfast, encumbered by the intrusive SecuROM copy protection scheme and numerous bugs that caused the game to frequently crash. For some reason, Take Two thought it would be a good idea to finally port the game to the Playstation 3 one year after it appeared on these other two systems. Does Bioshock for the PS3 match the 360 version? Does it live up to the hype? Lets take a look at the demo.

Bioshock tells the story of an unnamed man who in 1960 has just survived a plane crash in the ocean. While swimming for his life, he discovers a tower in the middle of the sea. Investigating, he discovers it is owned by an Andrew Ryan. You discover a sub in the tower which takes you to the underwater art-deco inspired city of Rapture. After watching a quick movie telling of Ryan's dream, you soon discover that something has gone horribly wrong. The city is infested with crazed mutants, who are of course the city's former residents. Ryan had developed Plasmids, drugs that alter human DNA to give them super powers. The Plasmids, however, ended up corrupting Rapture's citizens into the state they are now. These mutants will attack you on sight. However, you do have one friend, an Irish fellow named Atlas, guiding you through the city by radio as recruits you to searche for his family.

BioShock is a first person shooter. The demo offers three weapons: a revolver, a Thompson sub-machine gun, and a wrench which is used as a club. You can use your weapons by hitting the R2 trigger. You can cycle your weapons using R1. Movement is pretty standard. You can look around with the right stick and move using the left stick. Triangle is used to jump and L3 is used to crouch. Your other offensive weponry includes Plasmids. You encounter your first one pretty early in the game. It allows you to shoot electricity from your hand. Another one found in the demo allows you to shoot fire from your finger tips. Plasmids are controlled using the L2 trigger and are cycled using L1. The closest game I can approximate this system to was the Jedi Knight series as it too combined super powers with shooting. There's not a heck of a lot to say on gameplay since it's pretty much like every other shooter out there.

While moving around rapture, make sure to search areas for items. You can find health packs and Plasmid recharging injections (containing a serum called "Eve") littered around the city. Search your victims too for items. Items can be picked up with the X button, which is also your action button. Health packs can be collected and you can use them with the Circle button. Eve power can be topped up using the Square button. You can also find food and drinks lying around which provide an small but instant health boost. Also, make sure to find the Vita-chambers. If you die, this is your respawn point.

The level designs are good. Everything is done in a 1930s art-deco style, even though that design style went out by the time the city was supposedly built in the mid-40s. It has a distinct 1930s feel about it, which is interesting, though not entirely unique. However, levels aren't entirely inspiring since they're pretty typical for this kind of horror shooter.

One last note is that Take Two has promised downloadable content and gameplay modes that are unique to the PS3 version.

Bioshock is a year old and really shows its age on the PS3. It's not as well polished and detailed as some other recent PS3 titles. I found the graphics to be a bit blurry. The main problem being that the texture resolutions are quite low compared to many other PS3 games released in the past year. Still, they do look ok and the art-deco theme is interesting. The game appears to run at a maximum resolution of at least 1080i. The technical flaws present in the 360 version have not entirely been fixed though. I noticed some frame rate drops during cinematic scenes. Audio is decent enough though its pretty typical for a horror FPS. The game does run fairly smooth and the console versions are definitely better than the hacked together Windows PC version.

Bioshock on the PS3 is an interesting game but I'd hardly call it the masterpiece that the hype machine had labelled it as. It was not 2007s best game. The content and level designs is pretty similar to other horror shooters. The colourful art-deco styling of the game adds some flare to it but not enough to rescue it from being another bland FPS. Bioshock seems to be directly ported from the 360 version and is really starting to show its age. The graphics are stylish though they are quite blurry compared to other recent games. If you've played Bioshock on the 360, or managed to get it to run on the PC, there's really no reason to buy the PS3 version. It's just another generic horror shooter. There's nothing really original about this game at all. Even the much touted moral system is not original as it's been present in games like those based on Star Wars for years. I personally won't be buying it on principle just due to the disgrace that was the PC version.

What Works
-Art Deco inspired world
-Super powers with Plasmid weapons
-Interesting story concept
-PS3 exclusive content

What Doesn't Work
-Blurry, dated graphics
-Some frame rate issues
-Unoriginal, cliched, generic horror shooter.

Score: 7 out of 10

Nintendo Introduces DSi

By Mike on 9:16 am

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There have been rumours for a couple of days now that Nintendo would be releasing a new DS portable. Nintendo finally acknowledged the redesign today, dubbing the new system the DSi. The new system features two major improvements. It includes a 0.3 megapixel camera (640x480 resolution) built into the unit. It also finally adds expandable storage with a standard SD card slot just like the Wii has. The DSi is supposedly also slimmer by 12%. The rumour mill says this was achieved by removing backwards compatibility with Gameboy Advanced cartrages. The screens are also said to be slightly larger, up to 3.25'' from 3''. Other than that, the system is identical to past DS models.

Furthermore, Nintendo will be launching a new DSi Shop, offering direct download over Wifi. The games, dubbed DSi Ware will be available for 200, 500, or 800 Wii points. The system will debut on November 1st in Japan at 18,900 Yen, or roughly $179 US. It will be available in black or white. Personally, I think the DS is more overpriced than ever considering the PSP is $169.99 and has more features. Nintendo needs to get the price down on the DS.

Source: The Register