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    May 21st, 2018
Computer (P)reviews
Anthony | Saturday, April 30, 2016 @ 7:37 PM
Linksys AC1200 Wireless-AC USB Adapter
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Platform: Windows
Publisher: Linksys
Developer: Linksys
Genre: Hardware
Number of Players: N/A
Number of Players Online: N/A
Age Rating: N/A
Release Date:
Aug. 7, 2013
MSRP: $69.99 USD
Gameplay: 8
Visual Appeal: 10
Audio Appeal: 10
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

The installation of the driver was a no-brainer. Simply insert the disc into the drive, follow the prompts and then you are done. When it came time to insert the adapter into one of the two USB 3.0 ports on the back of my Dell Inspiron 3847 tower with Windows 10, I had discovered that the device was a little too wide to fit between the devices that were already plugged in above and below the USB 3.0 ports. I had a similar device from another company previously attached to one of the USB ports and its slimmer profile allowed it to fit snugly. The difference in width between the devices is approximately a quarter of an inch. Since I did not wish to disconnect my video, I was forced to utilize an USB extension cable to connect the adapter.

The following speed tests were conducted between 7:05 and 7:15 PM ET on Wednesday, April 27, 2016, using SpeedTest.Net via a server based in Massillon, Ohio. We are located near Cleveland, Ohio, our Internet provider is Time Warner Cable and our modem and router are Linksys products. The best results out of three have been posted for each connection method. Method one via on-board wired Ethernet: Ping 16 ms, Download 13.87 Mbps & Upload 2.41 Mbps. Method two via on-board wireless Ethernet: Ping 16 ms, Download 11.78 Mbps & Upload 2.41 Mbps. Method three via Linksys AC1200 Wireless-AC USB Adapter: Ping 15 ms, Download 15.27 Mbps & Upload 2.48 Mbps. While the adapter had proven itself to retain a reliable connection, its range was slighly less than that of the on-board wireless Ethernet.

Based upon the results, we can clearly see that the adapter outperforms the on-board wired Ethernet as well as the on-board wireless Ethernet connection methods. If not for the use of the USB extension cable, one could conclude that the ping, download and upload speeds of the adapter could have been even better than reported.




Anthony | Sunday, July 26, 2015 @ 10:46 PM
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
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Platform: MAC, PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, X360 & XOne
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: TT Games
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Number of Players Online: N/A
Age Rating: Everyone 10+
Release Date:
Oct. 22, 2013
MSRP: $19.99 USD
Gameplay: 9
Visual Appeal: 9
Audio Appeal: 9
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

All of the bad guys in the Marvel Universe have gathered under Loki, the god of mischief, to gain ultimate cosmic power and take over the world. The problem is that the Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men and a whole lot of other heroes have something to say about that. You know, like they would not be interested in such a change of leadership. However, in a great distance far away, a larger, more powerful enemy is approaching and may force everyone on Earth to unify against a common foe.

The Hulk and Abomination are presented in the first level of the game with Iron Man to provide players with two things. First, to encourage them to buy the animated Marvel’s Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United movie on DVD. Players can watch the movie's trailer on the game's start screen. Second, to premier the first bigfig characters to be in a LEGO video game. Bigfigs later make appearances in Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and Jurassic World. In Batman 3, they are primarily represented by Killer Croc and Solomon Grundy. In Jurassic World, they are the dinosaurs.

The LEGO video games generally keep the same visual presentation from game to game. This game does offer an alternative means of play through part of the story in the form of a space shooter. This story element is also repeated in Batman 3. Otherwise, the game still primarily consists of breaking items to build new items while switching characters to best utilize their talents.

Unlike with the Batman games, except for Clancy Brown who voices Lex Luthor, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is voiced primarily by the voice casts of the Disney XD animated Marvel series. While Drake Bell may not voice Spider-Man, almost everyone else voices their video game counterparts. And of course, it is all done with the sense of humor that LEGO brings to these games. If players seek a means of seeing a 22 minute animated feature with the LEGO Marvel Super Heroes fully voiced by their Disney XD voice actors, take a look at LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload.

Beginning with LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, the games have had an open world to explore in between missions. In addition, the assortment of playable characters, vehicles, unlocks and more make this game worthy of being played. However, there is an alternative version of this game named LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril for those who prefer play on their handheld consoles.




Anthony | Tuesday, June 23, 2015 @ 12:44 AM
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham
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Platform: 3DS, MAC, PC, PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, X360 & XOne
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: TT Games
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Number of Players Online: N/A
Age Rating: Everyone 10+
Release Date:
Nov. 11, 2014
MSRP: $19.99+ USD
Gameplay: 8
Visual Appeal: 9
Audio Appeal: 10
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

The story starts off with the typical cliche of the bad guys, led by Lex Luthor and the Joker, attempting to take control of the Watchtower so that they can take over the world. You may know the bad guys collectively as the Legion of Doom. However, approaching the Watchtower from space is Brainiac, a living computer that collects knowledge by shrinking whole populations and placing them into bottles. This forces the Legion and the Justice League to join together to save Earth. The first half of the story is rather linear. Once Brainiac is on the ropes, the open world becomes available and free play is enabled. Transportation between the Batcave, the Hall of Justice and the Watchtower are all a matter of walking into a portal.

Following the success of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, LEGO Batman 3 introduces to the LEGO Batman series the gadget wheel and the big-figs. Characters like Batman, Robin, Lex Luthor and the Joker have multiple costumes in which they can change that help solve different puzzles. Some other characters have transformations or special abilities that are activated by holding down a specific button. While the previous games in the series provided the costume changes when they were needed, this game requires a lot more thought into what gadgets will be useful in certain scenarios since once they are unlocked, they are always available. This added difficulty also provides a slight detriment since it is not always clear what needs to be done to complete a level.

Clancy Brown is back as the voice of Lex Luthor and with him he brings Adam West and Conan O'Brien as themselves. Most of the voice cast from the previous games in the series also make a return. As with the previous games, the music is a mix of series and movie orchestral sets. When Superman and Wonder Woman fly, their theme songs play in a sort of looping muzak tone.

It is easy to tell that this game has had a little polish applied in comparison to LEGO Batman 2. The colors are a bit more vibrant and there is a slight bit of added detail. Then again, it could be from not being in the gloomy Gotham City for the entirety of the game. When you spend too long in Gotham, anywhere else seems like Oz.

LEGO Batman 3 is a fun game to play for those who love LEGO and DC Comics. To top it off, there are over 100 characters to unlock and play. Think of it like practice for LEGO Dimensions and the LEGO Worlds MMO.




Anthony | Thursday, June 18, 2015 @ 1:46 AM
LEGO Jurassic World
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Platform: 3DS, MAC, PC, PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, X360 & XOne
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: TT Games
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Number of Players Online: N/A
Age Rating: Everyone 10+
Release Date:
Jun. 12, 2015
MSRP: $29.99+ USD
Gameplay: 10
Visual Appeal: 8
Audio Appeal: 8
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

Featuring all four Jurassic Park movies, LEGO Jurassic World is a dream game for those who are both LEGO and dinosaur fans. While it may only take about two hours to complete each movie's story, the open world is ripe with adventure. Players can also free play the movies' story levels as well as complete various tasks on each of the islands where the movies take place. These can include helping sick dinosaurs to races and even saving hapless island visitors.

Players can start off playing either the first movie or the newest. Completing the first movie unlocks the second and completing the second unlocks the third. Along the way players can collect amber so that they may unlock dinosaurs. In free play, they can play as baby versions while splicing the adults together in the DNA lab. LEGO games are known for collecting, so there is ample opportunity to unlock all of the characters, vehicles, dinosaurs and bonus content.

The audio from the movies is heavily used, both in music and voice work. Sometimes the audio clips sound a little out of place simply because of their quality compared to the rest of the game. There is a little bit of additional voice acting conducted by sound-a-like voice actors to fill in gaps that the movies do not have in relation to the gameplay. Once in a while there is audio chirping.

Graphically, the game looks as good as any other LEGO game. However, there are a few graphical glitches here and there. Some of the glitches have to do with the transitions between scenes and switching action. All in all, it does not detract from the fun.




Anthony | Friday, June 05, 2015 @ 11:38 PM
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
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Platform: 3DS, DS, MAC, OUYA, PC, PS3, Vita, Wii, Wii U & X360
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: TT Games
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Number of Players Online: N/A
Age Rating: Everyone 10+
Release Date:
May 21, 2013
MSRP: $19.99+ USD
Gameplay: 9
Visual Appeal: 9
Audio Appeal: 10
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

A number of years ago, LEGO Star Wars was released. It featured the stories from the three original movies. You know the ones with Luke Skywalker, not Anakin. I thought that such video game makeovers in the form of LEGO could not get any better. The fact is, after playing a few similar LEGO games I began to find the formula of completing a story level just to end up at a hub to free play that same level over again to be boring. That was why I did not pick up the original LEGO Batman game.

Beginning with LEGO Batman 2, outside of the original story mode, the world of the game is open. The story levels only contain about a third of the possible activities that players can partake. In addition, until the Free Play mode is unlocked, only certain characters can be used in the story levels. Additional characters and vehicles can be unlocked in the open world. Eventually players are able to create custom characters in the Batcave using parts unlocked during play.

LEGO video games have never suffered from looking or sounding bad, but this time every character has a voice actor behind them. Prior to this game, most LEGO characters had generic grunts. Unlike the Batman Arkham video game series, this game is not voiced by the Justice League animated series voice actors. Well, except for Clancy Brown returning as Lex Luthor. Troy Baker, Mark Hamill's replacement as the Joker, provides the voice for Batman.

This game is perfect for casual gamers because it is rather laid back and the controls are simple. There are almost no time limits, switching is almost a no-brainer and the mysteries of the open world can be completed at one's leisure. The DC and Marvel games after this one are a little bit tougher, so this game is a good jumping off point.




Anthony | Thursday, January 22, 2015 @ 5:19 AM
Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell
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Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, 360 & XB1
Publisher: Volition Inc.
Developer: Deep Silver
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1
Number of Players Online: 2
Age Rating: Mature
Release Date:
Jan. 20, 2015
MSRP: $19.99 USD
Gameplay: 10
Visual Appeal: 9
Audio Appeal: 7
Re-Playability: 8
Overall Rating: 8
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

If some of the abilities in Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell could have been added to Saints Row IV, it may have been the best game of 2013. I do not know what it is about having super powers, but flight should be a prerequisite for such video games. Once upgraded to its maximum, flying becomes second nature. Players can fly from one end of Hell to the other. Flight is not the only super power in the game. Players also gain super speed and strength. Players eventually earn the abilities to transmute, summon, ground stomp and suck the life from others and more.

Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell was obviously built for the new generation of consoles as evidenced by the way the cut scenes appear to be downgraded. That does not stop the game play from looking as good as its predecessor. However, there are a lot of audio glitches. The glitches most commonly occur while flying low to the ground. Sometimes the noises pop up for only a second or two, but they are loud and out of place.

While playing, I found that I missed having music. There are no radio stations in the game. Sometimes players may hear a fragment of a song when a car passes by, but there is no music for the players. While the cast does sing and there is some event music, just keep the following in mind... If there had been a soundtrack similar to the previous game, this game would have cost twice as much.

The controls are similar to Saints Row IV, however a lot of time will be spent holding down the second left trigger as it is the button for flight and super speed. The main story can be completed in just over six hours if a player barrels through to level 15. However, it will be an uphill climb if some powers are having not been completely unlocked. Players can max out at level 20.

This game also features co-op play. Two players can join up to complete co-op missions and activities. It is no different from the previous game. All in all, the game is well worth its price tag.




Anthony | Thursday, January 22, 2015 @ 5:15 AM
Naruto Shippuden: Ulitmate Ninja Storm 3
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Platform: PC, PS3 & 360
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: CyberConnect2
Genre: Fighting
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Number of Players Online: 2
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date:
Mar. 5, 2013
MSRP: $19.99+ USD
Gameplay: 8
Visual Appeal: 10
Audio Appeal: 10
Re-Playability: 9
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 opens with Sasuke and his crew attacking the Kage conference. Eventually Sasuke faces and defeats Danzo. After failing to capture Sasuke, Naruto is taken by Killer Bee to train so that he may learn to harness the Nine-Tailed Beast's powers. By the end of the game, the Ninja World War had begun.

The disc version of the game with the Full Burst content was released on October 22, 2013. It was also released as downloadable content for those with Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3. It included Kabuto in his Sage mode as a playable character as well as some costumes and a story between Kabuto, Sasuke and Itachi.

As it has been since the original Ultimate Ninja Storm, the button controls for this game are not very difficult. Each face button controls chakra, melee attacks, ninja tool throwing and jumping. Charging chakra and combining them with one of the attacks powers them up. Hitting attack buttons in succession creates combos. Timing it correctly and with the correct amount of chakra, ultimate attacks can be achieved. To counter, one just needs to seek an opening in a move's pattern.

Naruto Shippuden: Ulitmate Ninja Storm 3 looks just as good as the previous games in the series. The roster increasing to over 80 characters and the ability to change outfits only serve to increase its beauty. The cut scenes, some of which are taken from the anime, are in glorious high definition. As always, the voice actors of the Viz anime reprise their roles.

There is an online fighting mode that features fun and ranked matches in a few different formats. Players can customize a card that is displayed with the profiles. With the addition of the Awakening mode, allowing players to transform into their Tailed-Beast forms, this is a great game for Naruto fans to own.




Anthony | Thursday, January 22, 2015 @ 5:13 AM
Mortal Kombat
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Platform: PC, PS3, 360 & Vita
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Genre: Fighting
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Number of Players Online: 2 - 8
Age Rating: Mature
Release Date:
Apr. 19, 2011
MSRP: $14.99+ USD
Gameplay: 9
Visual Appeal: 10
Audio Appeal: 9
Re-Playability: 9
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

Since the 1990s, Mortal Kombat has been a staple in the fighting game genre. Even though the company that makes the games has gone through ownership and publisher changes, it still produced one of the best fighters on the market. Going back to its roots on a new generation of consoles, this is the ninth Mortal Kombat game.

Players may have gotten used to the blown up size of the kombatants list over the last two decades. With each game, more players have been added. This reboot of the series brings the list of kombatants down to a core set of fighters based mainly from the first three games of the series. It even includes a fighter from Warner Brothers, never seen before in Mortal Kombat.

The only thing that never really changes in Mortal Kombat is the controls. There are two punches, two kicks, a block and a throw button. In recent iterations, the ability to change fighting styles has been added. The goal of the game still remains to beat the living crap out of the opponent so that one can produce a finishing move. Along the way, it is cool to perform a few combos and introduced in this game, x-ray moves. X-ray moves are brutal moves that can inflict a lot of damage and display it occurring at the muscular and skeletal levels. There is also the ability to have tag team matches.

As the first high definition Mortal Kombat game, it is the most realistic. The detail to the characters is astounding. The light effects are accurate. For example, a fireball actually lights up the character sending it, receiving it and the ground below it. As with other previous Mortal Kombat games the dialog is limited, but done well. The sound effects zoom from side to side of the screen as players and attacks are tossed around.

The online mode offers the typical one-on-one match style as well as tag team and king of the kill. The Komplete Edition released on August 6, 2013 with all of the downloadable content as well as various music and video tracks. Longtime fans of Mortal Kombat should really appreciate the re-envisioning of the story and fighting fans will enjoy the action.




Anthony | Sunday, January 18, 2015 @ 1:12 AM
DragonBall Xenoverse
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Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, 360 & XB1
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Dimps Corporation
Genre: Fighting
Number of Players: 1
Number of Players Online: 2 - 6
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date:
Feb. 24, 2015
MSRP: $49.99 USD
Gameplay: 9
Visual Appeal: 10
Audio Appeal: 9
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

DragonBall Xenoverse takes place throughout the original DragonBall storyline. This time a new set of villains are going through the timeline and disrupting the events that had occurred as we know them from the anime and manga. When Trunks first arrives from the future to the assist against the androids, he realizes that the time line is wrong and meets two new villains. With the realization of what is happening, Trunks has no choice but to seek out help. That is where the player comes in with their own original character.

Unlike Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z, this game returns to a more traditional control scheme. Going back to using triggers to allow buttons to have multiple functions, this game offers a lot more opportunities for customization and strategy. Players may select their transformations and ultimate attacks in addition to how their basic attacks are activated.

As a spiritual successor to DragonBall Online, this game is built to be an online interactive experience with role play elements. Based in a hub world, this gives players an opportunity to compete against other players, shop and customize their characters. Character customization provides both an aesthetic appeal as well as statistical boosts. Not every item sold is compatible with every species of character and the only way to earn currency to spend is to compete.

Up to 8 players may battle against one another in online matches. However, one bad internet connection can ruin the match for everyone. The stages are larger than most of the previous games in the series. Many previous stages make reappearance as well as a few new stages. The attention to detail adds to a greater sense of being a part of the story.

The game looks great as it returns to the Raging Blast era of character and environmental designs. As with pretty much all Dragon Ball Z games, the sound is imported from the anime as well as some of the music. The voice acting is provided by the English anime talent under the supervision of FUNimation.

With a new original story based on the original ones that have been retread over and over again, this game promises to be an entertaining romp through the history of DragonBall. Longtime fans of the series will enjoy feeling like a bigger part of the story as more or less themselves as they transverse time to repair the damage to the timeline. If any player loves both DragonBall and the concept of time traveling, this game is certainly worth checking out.




Anthony | Sunday, January 18, 2015 @ 1:05 AM
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution
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Platform: PC, PS3 & 360
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: CyberConnect2
Genre: Fighting
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Number of Players Online: 2
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date:
Sep. 16, 2014
MSRP: $49.99 USD
Gameplay: 8
Visual Appeal: 10
Audio Appeal: 10
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 10
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

The Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm series began its story at the beginning of the Naruto Shippuden television series. Along the way, each game gets a little further through some of the major story arcs.

This is the fifth game in the series and it stalls inside the same Ninja World War as the previous game. The Kage are fighting Madara, Sasuke is trying to discover the truth about why his clan was destroyed and Naruto is attempting to free the tailed beasts from Obito. Then there is filler... There is a video with the story of the Fourth Hokage, his wife and team. Then there is the playable story of the Creation of the Akatsuki and another titled The Two Uchiha. The Two Uchiha explains how Itachi's friend Shisui died and the mission behind the destruction of the Uchiha Clan.

Like the previous games in the series, the graphics look good, the voice work is that of the Viz anime cast and the sounds are the usual. Also like the previous games, the moves get repetitive as they do not require a lot of strategy to fully utilize. It is essentially a button-masher as repeating hits to the same buttons produce combos. Players need to be able to see the patterns in the combos to find gaps in which to turn the tables.

New to the game are methods that teams can utilize to create at least a little bit of strategy. They can focus on Ultimate Jutsus, Support or Awakenings. In the previous games the characters were typically one type or another. Via this method, more strategies can be employed. Plus, true awakenings are more easily accessed. They allow for certain characters to transform into their tailed-beast forms. If characters are compatible in some way, ultimate combo attacks can be deployed. The animations for those attacks are superb.

The online mode features of this game are the typical one-on-one matchups with a few variations. As always, players can compete casually or ranked. There are a lot of customization options, more so than in previous games. What is not typical is the story mode. The player chooses a character and roams around an island competing in tournaments and meeting certain goals. Doing so unlocks characters and areas, some of which carry over into the online mode. There are also means to spend earned gold in shops to unlock music, online items, wearable objects and videos.

An addition to both the online and story mode is a new game format that allows players to knock the energy from each other and collect it. The player with the most energy at the end of the time limit wins. Ultimate Jutsus and Awakenings cannot be accessed during this format unless a player grabs a special orb that appears on Tonton during random times during the matches. As the fights increase in difficulty, new features and obstacles appear that change up the play in hopes of keeping it interesting.

The updates in this game's roster and some of its new features make it worth the purchase. There are over 110 playable characters! However, if one seeks to get an advanced peak at the story arc in the English anime, they will be disappointed.




Anthony | Sunday, January 18, 2015 @ 1:02 AM
HearthStone: Heroes of Warcraft
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Platform: Android, Apple & PC
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Genre: Cards
Number of Players: 1
Number of Players Online: 2
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date:
Mar. 11, 2014
MSRP: $0.00 USD
Gameplay: 9
Visual Appeal: 9
Audio Appeal: 9
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

Not since the release of the Pokemon Trading Card Game Online have I enjoyed a card game as much as HearthStone. I have even played some fan made online trading card games as well, but none of them compete to those made by professionals. HearthStone is a simple to understand game and that is how it differs from many of the other on the Internet. Players create a deck to compete and with 20 life points. They must release more powerful cards as each round passes if they wish to defeat their opponent.

The game is divided amongst three modes of play. The Play mode allows for casual or ranked competition against other players. The Solo Adventures mode allows players to play alone against computer opponents. They can either practice or play along with an adventure. The Arena has a cost for entry. Once inside, players create a deck out of random cards to compete for an assortment of worthwhile prizes. Each victory earns a player a random assortment of cards as prizes, some of which can be very valuable.

My Collection is a binder full of cards sorted by type. This is where players can build a deck. Each deck holds 30 cards, so it is sometimes difficult to choose what to use when there are so many good cards. Most of the cards are limited to a specific type of deck, so that does make some choices a lot easier.

This game does offer the ability for players to purchase credits that can be used in its store to buy cards and adventures. It is also connected to Battle.Net, so friends who are currently playing HearthStone or another Battle.Net game will appear on the player list.

HearthStone, much like Blizzard's other games, looks great. The battle effects especially stand out. The story book feel gives its own pleasant aesthetic. The sounds are appropriate and the voice acting, especially the smack talk during a match, is very entertaining. If a player seeks a quick card game with a lot of action, this is the game to choose.




Anthony | Sunday, January 18, 2015 @ 12:57 AM
Grand Theft Auto V
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Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, 360 & XB1
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1
Number of Players Online: 2 - 16+
Age Rating: Mature
Release Date:
Sep. 17, 2013
MSRP: $39.99 USD
Gameplay: 9
Visual Appeal: 9
Audio Appeal: 9
Re-Playability: 9
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV) is the largest game in the series. With a huge Californian based region to explore and three different characters with both convergent and divergent story lines, it is hard not the find something to do. The stars of the game are Franklin, Michael and Trevor. Franklin is an up-and-coming entrepreneur looking for his big break. Michael is a semi-retired former criminal that just wishes to spend time with his rather messed up family. Trevor is Michael's former criminal partner and a big jerk that consistently breaks the law while running his cargo business.

Originally left to their own devices, Franklin, Michael and Trevor eventually come together to pull off some major crimes with the unofficial backing of the government. Years ago, Michael turned criminal informant for the government and in return he and his family were placed into witness protection. The government now wants Michael and his pals to repay their kindness by performing some wet work. Needless to say, a lot of people die and things explode.

GTAV is the best looking game in the series. It looks even better on the new generation of hardware, especially when viewed in the first player perspective. The high-definition graphics and improved detail over the previous Grand Theft Auto is easy to see. With that being said, the sound is even better. The selection of music on the radio stations is vast and varied. As station DJs, Lazlow and Kenny Loggins are both humorous. The overall voice acting is superior compared to that of the previous games. Sometimes during the dialog in Grand Theft Auto IV, it felt like that it was the first time that the voice actor had read their script.

A big selling point of GTAV is its improved online multi-player. Players have the entire city map to explore. They can take up missions or commit crimes to earn money. As they progress, they gain experience which unlocks the ability to purchase new items. The most annoying part of the online mode is the inability to keep children off. Most adults are civil. It is the majority of the children who should not be playing that game that are the most violent and vulgar. It can ruin a player’s experience.

GTAV offers the ability for players to buy a line of credit in the game. The credits are added to the players in-game balance, but only in the online mode. It is a great way to acquire the most expensive cars or houses. If players seek a good story and like when things go boom, GTAV is definitely worth their time.




Anthony | Sunday, January 18, 2015 @ 12:55 AM
Saints Row IV
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Platform: PC, PS3 & 360
Publisher: Volition Inc.
Developer: Deep Silver
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1
Number of Players Online: 2
Age Rating: Mature
Release Date:
Aug. 20, 2013
MSRP: $19.99+ USD
Gameplay: 9
Visual Appeal: 9
Audio Appeal: 9
Re-Playability: 8
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

Saints Row and its first sequel were quite obviously Grand Theft Auto (GTA) clones. Saints Row 3 is where the GTA and Saints Row franchises began to diverge. The story changes from being a group of gangsters to corporate sell-outs after being kicked out of their home turf by the government. The Saints are now having their stories told in the movies and are being sponsored by soda companies. While they are now dressing in suits and other high fashions, very little about the game is serious. It all actually gets incredibly goofy and leads the Saints into political office.

The opening of Saints Row IV has the Saints' leader in the role of the President of the United States of America. Soon after inauguration, the planet is invaded and destroyed. All that remains are the inner circle of the Saints and a few allies. Their goal now is to take revenge for the destruction of Earth and find survivors. However, they first need to escape the matrix.

Saints Row IV is a good looking game. Compared to the first two entries in the series, it is easy to tell that the attention to detail has steadily increased with each new game. There is also a large wardrobe selection to dress the player's character. However, the assortment of vehicles has been reduced from that of the third entry. This is primarily because of the introduction of super powers. The vehicles are still required for some activities, but otherwise, the real draw is the super powers.

Early in the game, players are essentially able to scale walls and glide across parts of the city. The super powers range from high jumping to super speed to enhanced attacks. Sure, players can still punch and kick, but now everything goes flying. Players eventually also receive hydro, pyro and telekinetic abilities as the game progresses. The super powers only work inside of the matrix.

As with the previous entries, the voice cast is a solid group of talented people. Nolan North is hysterical when he breaks the fourth wall with some of his lines. The radio soundtrack has a great assortment of music from various genres. Creating a personal soundtrack ensures that only specific songs are being played. If the player is in a vehicle with a passenger long enough and a specific song begins to play, they both will begin singing with the song.

Saints Row IV is the best of both worlds. It is a serious action game and it has a sense of humor. There is a co-op mode that allows players to join another player's game, but the action is limited. Otherwise, it has never been so much fun being super powered, destroying aliens and their futuristic weaponry.




Anthony | Sunday, January 18, 2015 @ 12:54 AM
SimCity
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Platform: MAC & PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Maxis
Genre: Simulation
Number of Players: 1
Number of Players Online: 2+
Age Rating: Everyone 10+
Release Date:
Mar. 3, 2013
MSRP: $29.99 USD
Gameplay: 8
Visual Appeal: 7
Audio Appeal: 9
Re-Playability: 9
Overall Rating: 8
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

In an effort to make the game feel more like being a real city planner and retain balance online, Maxis has refined SimCity in such a manner that those megalopolises from previous games are a thing of the past. Depending upon the map selected the size of the city and its available resources may vary. Continuing an effort started in a previous game in the series, cities can specialize. They can produce resources, entertainment, research and more. A decision does not necessarily need to be made right away, but it helps in planning the city's layout to know in advance.

This new SimCity enables multiple players to interact online via larger regional maps that allow for multiple cities to be built. Neighboring cities can then engage in mutual aid pacts to exchange and share services. They are useful, especially when a city lacks the emergency services needed to stop a major catastrophe.

On the local level, players must begin by laying out roads. They can then build a power plant and other utilities. Once the infrastructure has been laid out, the player must classify areas along the roads as residential, commercial and industrial zones. Placing residential zones next to industrial zones is always a bad idea. Use commercial zones as a buffer. Also remember to place the waste treatment plants as far away as possible.

On the structural level, most of the buildings available to players can be customized. For example, police stations can have additional jails and garages installed to increase capacity. Schools can add classrooms and buses to accommodate an increasing population. Utility plants can even be modified as needed. Building is never free, so players must remember to adjust the taxation levels accordingly to earn more income.

SimCity's offline mode is much like the online mode, but without the support from other players. While the maps may be larger, the game play is not much different. SimCity does offer a lot of downloadable content to mix things up. While this is not the same SimCity that some may remember, it has its own merits that are worth checking out.




Anthony | Sunday, January 18, 2015 @ 12:48 AM
Pokemon Trading Card Game Online
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Platform: Apple & PC
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: The Pokemon Company
Genre: Cards
Number of Players: 1
Number of Players Online: 2
Age Rating: Everyone
Release Date:
Jan. 1, 2011
MSRP: $0.00 USD
Gameplay: 9
Visual Appeal: 8
Audio Appeal: 8
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

When the Pokemon Trading Card Game Online (PTCGO) first appeared publicly in its beta stage of development, players could only play a tutorial. Back then the trading card game was into the Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver sets. As a result, the sets in the online game mirrored those in real life. It took a little while, but The Pokemon Company figured out how to merchandise the online game. Now, with each pack of trading cards, there is a code card to receive the same cards in the online game. That means that when new sets release with the trading card game, they also release online.

About the time the trading card game released the Pokemon Black & White sets, the online game received multi-player capabilities. Players could chat, challenge others at random and trade cards. Shortly after the release of the Pokemon X & Y sets, the online game began to offer tournaments. However, tournaments have an entry fee. It was at this point that players could challenge friends.

Mirroring the trading card game, PTCGO does a good job mimicking the play mechanics. Players can engage in many different rule sets, but that is usually determined by their deck. The unlimited rule set allows any cards to be used, while the limited rule sets focuses on the standard and extended formats.

The deck editor is one of the best of its type on the Internet compared to other online trading card games. Cards can be sorted by the rule set, type, level, energy and more. The display can be adjusted accordingly and right clicking a card pops up a large, highly detailed image of the card. It is simply a matter of dragging and dropping cards to alter a deck.

This game does offer the ability for players to purchase credits that can be used in its store to buy cards and accessories. Otherwise, players start with a stock deck, usually based on a starter Pokemon. As players engage with the Pokemon website, they can earn coins that can be spent in the PTCGO store.

The PTCGO is a good looking game. Everything is easy to find, plus the chat and options tabs are tucked away on the sides of the screen as a means to avoid clutter. Players can customize the settings, including the level of detail, just in case the computer may not be able to keep up with the game set at its maximum settings. With that in mind, having all of the effects enabled slows the game down a bit. The sounds serve their purposes, but the music is not varied enough. It may get on the nerves of avid players, thus it may be best just to mute the music. All in all, if a Pokemon trading card game player likes deck testing or competing, but cannot find someone locally, PTCGO is a pretty good alternative.




Anthony | Sunday, January 18, 2015 @ 12:47 AM
Second Life
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Platform: MAC, PC & UNIX
Publisher: Linden Lab
Developer: Linden Lab
Genre: Simulation
Number of Players: 1
Number of Players Online: 2+
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date:
Jun. 23, 2003
MSRP: $0.00 USD
Gameplay: 7
Visual Appeal: 7
Audio Appeal: 8
Re-Playability: 9
Overall Rating: 8
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

Second Life is an open world simulator. There is little else to describe it at its core. Once a player rents land from Linden Lab or a reseller, it is up to them to create content upon it. The land can cost as much monthly as renting an apartment in a small town. Since its creation over a decade ago, Second Life has evolved from being a location to experience virtual reality to a full-blown game in some aspects. As the years have gone by, players have become increasingly more creative. Linden Lab makes periodic updates to the capabilities of the game to provide its player creators an opportunity to expand further upon their creations in ways previously unimagined.

Second Life has been an online classroom and laboratory to many educational institutions, including Ohio University. Non-profit organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the Entertainment Consumers Association, have held land and ran events on Second Life. It has also housed official virtual stores for companies, such as Levi. However, there are not very many entities that are making any real profit from the commercialization of the game.

One of the largest player communities on Second Life is based around the science fiction genre. Years ago there used to be a multi-land project to replicate a full scale Starship Enterprise from the original Star Trek television series. Due to a lack of funding the project was scrapped, but the work that was completed was rather impressive.

Within the last few years, a number of role playing groups have been created that feature weaponry and the ability to take damage. The problem was that they were creating items based upon copyrighted material. Beginning in 2010, Linden Lab began cracking down on those using copyrighted material that was not their own. Both CBS/Paramount and NBC/Universal filed copyright complaints against Linden Lab over the content on Second Life. The complaints from CBS, the owners of Star Trek, and NBC, the owners of Battlestar Galactica, gave Linden Lab a reason to remove materials on Second Life that violated any of those companies' copyrights. After months of negotiation between the companies and Anthony Haslage of the International Federation of Trekkers, the official Gene Roddenberry fan club, it was agreed that CBS and NBC would no longer pursue copyright complaints unless they find materials based upon their copyrights were being sold. The science fiction community never fully recovered.

Second Life is not the prettiest game on the Internet. That is only because the quality of the creations in the virtual world is typically not made by professionals. While there are some items of notable beauty, such as those created by Linden Lab, most are created by the players. For most of them, Second Life is a hobby. There is no real sound in the game, however the use of one's voice almost always sounds clear.

Second Life suffers from a few limitations, but they are generally limited by its core systems and the speed of the Internet. Much of the publicly accessible space of Second Life is a patchwork of different lands connected together. While some land have been advertised to hold 100 players, that may only be true in cases where there are no connecting lands and nothing has been build. Everything viewed in the game increases bandwidth usage because it must be downloaded. It is recommended to run the minimal graphic settings to avoid the worst of the download lag.

Sometime in 2015, it is expected that Second Life will become accessible via virtual reality devices. Second Life enables users to fly over most of the lands. It will be interesting to see how long it will take for vertigo to set in for some users. Otherwise, anyone interested in Second Life should have the desire to create their own entertainment.




Anthony | Sunday, January 18, 2015 @ 12:39 AM
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
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Platform: Console & PC
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1
Number of Players Online: N/A
Age Rating: Mature
Release Date:
May 1, 2009
MSRP: $39.99+ USD
Gameplay: 9
Visual Appeal: 9
Audio Appeal: 10
Re-Playability: 8
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

Not since X2: Wolverine's Revenge has there been this much fun with the mutant known for doing some not nice things. Loosely based on the movie of the same name, Wolverine slices and dices his way through a storyline that occurs throughout his pre X-Men life.

Activision seems to have a decent grasp on what good controls are for superhero games. From Spider-Man's web slinging to Wolverine retracting his claws, it all just feels right. As players progress through the story, Wolverine can pick up new attacks and with each new one is a renewed sense of accomplishment. As Wolverine gains kills, his rage increases. Once maxed out, Wolverine can go berserk for a limited time, taking everyone in the area down with fewer hits.

The game looks good, but sometimes the view of Wolverine gets blocked by the foreground. It is annoying to have to adjust the camera in the heat of battle. However, the cinematic scenes and timed sequences make for pulse-pounding moments worthy of forgetting about the early camera concerns.

The audio, just like with other Activision superhero games, has assets taken from the films from which they are derived. It is quite obvious that the movie's cast is behind the voices of the main characters of this game. The general music and sound effects are action game standard, but who can complain when the focus most certainly found to be on the visuals.

Short of going back into the game to collect any missing items, there is not a lot of replay value unless one obtains the Uncaged Edition. The Uncaged Edition includes options to increase playtime and has a kind of challenge mode where players can take down bosses over and over again in the X-Men's Danger Room. It is worth mentioning that the Uncaged Edition is also a lot gorier.




Anthony | Friday, January 29, 2010 @ 7:02 AM
Star Trek Online
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Platform: PC
Publisher: Atari & Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Cryptic Studios & Perfect World Ent.
Genre: MMORPG
Number of Players: 1
Number of Players Online: Tons!
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date:
Feb. 2, 2010
MSRP: $49.99 USD
Gameplay: 8
Visual Appeal: 8
Audio Appeal: 10
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

 Science fiction fans have been waiting years for a suitable science fiction MMO.  Many are excited that it is based on the Star Trek franchise.  The story occurs within a 30-year span of time taking place after the Star Trek: Nemesis movie.  Star Trek Online updates the franchise with new ships, species and stories.  The game features six factions, the Federation, Klingons, Cardassians, Romulans, Uridine (Species 8472) and the Borg.  New players may choose a Federation officer.  Once players reach a specific point in the game, they may also create a Klingon officer.
 
 The opening Federation story has Ambassador Spock, voiced by Leonard Nimoy, providing a backdrop of the political atmosphere.  When the story begins, the player is a new bridge officer on a starship.  The senior officers are killed and he or she must take command.  In the captain's seat for the first time, the player goes through the typical tutorial featuring a holographic doctor voiced by Zachary Quinto.  By the end of the tutorial, the player will obtain a promotion and his own ship.
 
 As with most MMOs, there is a level system at play.  Players start as an Ensign and have to earn experience by completing missions.  Each rank has multiple grades, from Lieutenant all the way to Fleet Captain.  The early promotions come easy.
 
 There are two modes of play in this game.  There are the typical land-based objectives where the player is an avatar on some planet that has to kill the enemy, find an object or perform acts of diplomacy.  At space stations, players can upgrade their ships, crew and themselves.  The other mode of play is a starship simulation.  Players fly around space meeting objectives and occasionally warring with other starships.  This mode requires a little bit of intelligence, as players must handle every aspect of the ship's controls.  Players must man the weapons, engines, shields and propulsion.  Everything is made slightly easier as the players join others in groups or fleets.
 
 As an MMO, the graphics cannot have all the bells and whistles as non-MMOs, but they still do the franchise justice.  There are plenty of options to allow players some customization on how they see the game.  What really stands out is the detail to the ships, structures and backgrounds.  The game's developer has done a great job making the game feel like a part of Star Trek lore.
 
 The games music is typical Star Trek and there is an option to allow players to use their own media players instead for source music.  The sound effects are spot on.  During heated starship battles, one could swear they were listening to, if not watching, an episode of Star Trek on television.  Those with surround sound will benefit the most as sometimes not everything will be in sight and sound will be the only way to find something.
 
 The universe is vast.  Players can explore Federation, Cardassian, Romulan, Klingon and Borg space in the least.  There are seemingly countless locations to visit in both the starships and on foot.  The game's developer promises to keep the game fresh by periodically expanding space, travel options and missions.
 
 The controls are easily utilized between the keyboard and the mouse.  The mouse controls most activities on screen via point and click.  The keyboard controls movement and can be used for menu shortcuts.  If players do not like how the screen is arranged, they can always customize the HUD or reassign keys.  The only complaint I have is that the turning controls via the keyboard are not sensitive enough.  If a player turns right, they turn an entire 45 degrees.  Sometimes players would rather just turn a little bit.  Luckily, players can use the mouse, by holding down both buttons, to maneuver.
 
 This game is easily the best iteration of Star Trek thus far.  The only game to have come close, in my opinion, was Star Trek Armada II, but that can only compare to the starship portion of this game.  For land-based romps, I beckon back to Deep Space Nine for the Sega Genesis. 
 
 People who buy the game get an automatic 30-day subscription as part of the purchase.  Those who buy the game from specific retailers also receive a few in-game bonuses.  The exact bonuses are different with each retailer.  The monthly subscription price is middle-of-the-road for MMOs.  It is $14.99 a month, $41.97 for three months or $77.94 for six months.

 

Additional contributions made by Markus Strong.




Anthony | Wednesday, February 25, 2009 @ 3:30 AM
Street Fighter IV
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Platform: PC, PS3 & X360
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Genre: Fighting
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Number of Players Online: 2
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date:
Feb. 17, 2009
MSRP: $39.99 USD
Gameplay: 10
Visual Appeal: 9
Audio Appeal: 9
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 9
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

 It is six months after the previous tournament and there is a new evil organization named S.I.N. looking to take over the world.  Most of the fighters from the previous tournament have reunited to challenge this new threat.  Some fight for peace and others fight for power.

 Any fan of fighting games will quickly realize that the cooperation between Capcom and SNK Playmore had a strong influence on the game's imagery and music.  Right away, the game looks and feels similar to Capcom Versus SNK, but still plays like the previous Street Fighter games.  This time around, it was decided to go with more of an anime-inked look.  It provides a bit of artistic flare to the action on screen.  In addition, the ink effects are the substitute for sweat and blood.

 New to the franchise are the extended opening, rival, closing story lines and the English voice acting.  The voice actor behind Ryu is Kyle Herbert.  Herbert is best known as the voice actor behind both teen and adult Gohan of FUNimation's DragonBall Z fame.  With him are other voice actors from many different English anime studios.

 The one thing that has survived the test of time is the commands for each character.  Very few commands have changed and the powered attack system introduced in Capcom Versus SNK has been updated and implemented.  However, using the current generation of game controllers can make fighting difficult.  In turn, companies are releasing wired and wireless controllers strictly made for this type of fighting game.

 This game also packs in a multitude of new features, such as various challenges, galleries and online fighting modes.  As players fight through the arcade mode, they unlock other characters and videos.  As players fight against others online, they unlock titles and icons.  In all manner of ways, players can unlock items in the gallery.  There is also downloadable content, including alternate costumes.

 Since Street Fighter III, there has been a multitude of crossovers involving the main SF cast.  It has been 15 years since there has been a strictly Street Fighter game.  It is about time and online play to boot!




Anthony | Sunday, November 23, 2008 @ 1:30 AM
Grand Theft Auto IV
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Platform: PS3, X360 & PC
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar North
Genre: Action
Number of Players: 1
Number of Players Online: 1 - 16
Age Rating: Mature
Release Date:
Apr. 29, 2008
MSRP: $49.99 USD
Gameplay: 10
Visual Appeal: 8
Audio Appeal: 10
Re-Playability: 10
Overall Rating: 10
Website: Connect

Applications

Video Games

 There have been a number of Grand Theft Auto games since its inception.  The original GTA was a purely top down view where you stole cars and evaded the police, hence the title.  As the games have progressed with the technology, stealing cars to meet objectives has become a very small part of the overall game.  Players can now engage in murder, dating, going out to play games and committing theft.  All of it is part of being a gun for hire.

 With so many different activities, the game play is near limitless.  As Niko Bellic, players arrive fresh off the boat willing and able to do whatever it takes to make some cash.  If stealing cars, killing some bad men and living a life is not enough for them, then there are always the multiple modes of online multiplayer game play.  Players can engage in death matches, races and other activities alone or as teams.  Perhaps the best feature is that once the game is started, it loads up the entire world map and other load and save times is minimal.

 Due to the world being so large, it takes about three gigabytes of disk space, the graphic quality is not the best there has ever been.  There is plenty of detail, such as vehicle damage, but to fit the millions of people and vehicles in this bustling city requires that something be sacrificed.  The sacrifice comes in the form of less than realistic looking character models.  Nevertheless, most anyone can easily live with the trade-off.

 What make the audio excellent in this game are not just the bustling sounds of a city, it is in the extras.  While driving, there are a number of radio station choices.  The stations play real music on a loop that lasts at least an hour with fake commercials in toe.  There are even television stations with looped programming.  However, none of the television content is real.  There is a word of warning.  The language in the game is very adult.

 The re-playability comes in the form of the numerous favors players can complete for acquaintances and the online multiplayer options for up to 16 players.  The game's depth alone will keep most anyone involved for weeks on end.  The pace of the story is based on the player’s own preference and benefits arise as social interactions bare fruit.

 This game is as close as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game as any can be where no other player characters are found.  It feels almost like living in a city such as New York, except it is riddled with crime…  Okay, it is exactly like living in New York.  This game is worth the money if players intend to stay with it until the end.





 
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