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Monday, September 30, 2013

Animal Rights' Group Wants to Sue Rockstar

I saw this online a few weeks ago and it was just too funny for me not to share. Click here to visit TMZ's website to read the full story.

Apparently, an animal rights' group takes issue with the newest Grand Theft Auto game because they have included the ability to kill animals. I find it ironic as they are just taking offense towards the series when the series has been wrapped around killing humans in various ways since its earliest release!

Grand Theft Auto V allows players to hunt various animals found throughout the fictional state of San Andreas. Players may stumble upon deer, coyotes, dogs both stray and tamed, and birds and kill any of them with any method the player desires.

The GTA games have always allowed killing and the campaign encourages it as you progress through the story and meet all sorts of unusual characters who pose a threat. Shooting any of these animals will help increase the player's stats in terms of shooting.

However, there seems to be no sort of actual missions or even secondary objectives that encourage or force the player to kill or injure any of these simulated animals.

The other piece of "animal cruelty" that the groups may take offense with is in one of the protagonists, Franklin Clinton, owning a dog named, Chop, who will fight alongside Franklin whenever Franklin is in danger or in combat.

The series has had its share of controversies ranging from random killings blamed on the game to people like these that blame entertainment for our society's problems.

The reality is that entertainment may play a role albeit very small due to these sort of problems occurring even before video games' existed.

Grand Theft Auto V sold over $1 billion copies in its first 3 days and yet not all of these customers, including myself, ever indulge or feel the need to kill animals just as we don't for humans based on a simulation.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Grand Theft Auto V Property Management Missions are Impossible

Grand Theft Auto V has done an extremely good job in many ways, but some ways, you really want to smack whoever came up with some of these missions.

BlackHood4, another author here at WIFLI, wrote a little bit about his experience in GTA V and some of the things that Rockstar got wrong. One of these things were the impossible Property Management missions.

GTA V borrowed a concept from its recent rival, Volution's Saints Row the Third, in that GTA now allows players to buy local businesses to generate revenue even when the player isn't doing anything. Rockstar included the ability to buy stores but made some of their own changes.

Some of these changes include that the money is not paid out every 15 minutes (real time) or so and that players are required "obligated" to do missions for these businesses.

For most people, this isn't a problem. In fact, they enjoy doing the side missions. For me, it was confusing.

When I bought my first business, the medical marijuana dispensary on Vespucci Beach, I was told that I would receive $9,300 every month for owning the business. What they didn't tell me or I failed to understand was that the missions that they ask you to complete are required to receive this monthly allowance. So I received my first payment on one day and then another day I received a text telling me that they needed me to complete some sort of task. I shrugged it off because I had more important things to do. Then I get a second text that goes somewhat like, "We have a lot of unhappy stoners here" or "I don't know what I'm going to tell all these people with fake prescriptions!" In other words, you screwed up by not doing the mission and you will not be receiving payment this month until you successfully complete another mission.

So I wake up one morning (in the game as Franklin) and I get a text telling me that some guys stole the weed van and they can't call the cops. In other words, they need me to go over there and chase these guys down and get the van back. I see the P on the map and hop on the bike to ride over there. When I get close to the area, the guys are in the van on the hill going up towards the dam. I follow as best as I can because the road is windy. Turns out that they get away without the game warning me about anything. The blue dot on my mini map disappears and then I get one of those texts telling me that I screwed up. I'm determined not to let this go so I restart from my save and try again. I asked BlackHood4 what is the best way to do a mission and he said it's best to get in a taxi and head up there or else you won't get there in time. So I try this method instead. When I get there, the taxi drops me off but the guys still get away because I don't have a car to catch them with. So I restart again and try to get the taxi to drop me off the bottom of the hill. I steal a car and race up the mountain when I get the text. The same thing happens where they disappear and I can no longer catch them. I restarted again and tried to get there before the mission even starts. I waited a day or two and then I realized that the game wouldn't start the mission until I'm out of the area. So when I move a little ways away, the mission starts. I don't have a car so they get away again.

This time when I restart the game, I get more clever and I have the taxi drive me to the spot and then I steal the taxi. Once I had the taxi, I drove up the hill, ahead of where the guys would be driving to. Now I get the text again and I head towards them. Instead of them running away from me, they drive towards me only to be hurled off the side of the cliff into the small stream below. For some reason, the game thought that I clicked the left thumbstick to take a taxi mission. Once this happened, the guys in the van were stopped and my taxi mission began and the game assumed that I didn't want to complete the weed mission. So I had to restart again. At this point, I'm very, extremely frustrated with the game. But I try one last time.

The same thing happens as before. Only this time, I let the taxi mission pass and then I let the chase begin. The guys drive towards me but escape around my stolen taxi. I turn around as quickly as possible and am able to catch up to them. I begin to shoot the driver and passenger and then they finally stop the van. I get out and almost get killed but am able to get the van back.

This is one of the flaws that has yet to be fixed about the game. After shooting the crooks who stole my van, the police are alerted and I'm in trouble with the law for who knows what reason. Now I have to evade the police while keeping the van intact without it being destroyed by police gunfire. I successfully do so and am able to bring the van back to its place which completes the mission.

Who designed this stupid mission in the first place? Did they not think that I would be coming from behind? Did they not put in measures to ensure that I could catch the van in time?

When we say that these property management missions are impossible, we are not lying one bit. This was the single most frustrating piece of the whole game. It didn't even need to be.

And I wonder. Why are these missions in place anyway other than giving the player more to do? If I own a business, I shouldn't be the one who does these missions in the first place. And if I don't do these missions, I bought this business so I am entitled to that monthly income regardless what somebody beneath me says. BlackHood4 came up with a great idea too. Instead of dropping the missions entirely, why not just give the player some sort of option to hire someone else to do the mission. Or, maybe instead of not receiving any payment, we'd receive a smaller payment since someone else had to do the mission.

I think it's great that Rockstar wanted to go above and beyond what its competitor did, but they really needed to do more testing than they did on this because it didn't work out. All of these property management missions have huge flaws in them. Like the one where you are required to get the van back to the shop in a certain amount of time. The game's timer doesn't stop if you happen to accidentally get the police involved by running over someone by mistake.

Next time, Rockstar, or next update, PLEASE fix these issues.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

iOS 7.0.2 Update

Apple rolled out a new update for iOS, the second update for users who updated to iOS 7 on last Wednesday, September 18, 2013.

iOS 7.0.2 update was designed to address a flaw that would allow for someone to bypass the iPhone's lock screen without a passcode.

I was able to successfully use this exploit. The procedure required that you make an emergency call but dial any non-emergency number and click "Send" over and over again. It took a few seconds but the phone froze and rebooted. When it returned from the reboot, my iPhone was calling the non-emergency number and successfully went through (I called a number that was close by and it did receive my iPhone's call). Once that was done, I was able to get into my iPhone without any sort of passcode.

iOS 7.0.2 promises to fix this issue as well as reintroduce a Greek keyboard option for passcode entry.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What EA Got Wrong with Need for Speed Most Wanted (2013)

Earlier this year, I bought Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2013) for my PlayStation Vita and absolutely hated it. So much so that I ended up trading it for Assassin's Creed III: Liberation.

A friend of mine let me borrow a copy of the game so I could try it for my PlayStation 3 and I see small differences so my previous post was spot on for just about every console it came out on. However, there are some things that I began to like about the game as I played it on the big screen.

In this post, I'd like to discuss both the bad and the good things about the recent title in the series. I doubt EA would actually listen to me, let alone any NFS fan, but it feels good to sometimes just discuss what you liked and disliked about something.

EA has been angering fans with each new release and doesn't seem to do much to ease their desires. It's not as if EA can't make the necessary changes because fans are thinking back to previous games. EA has the potential to make changes that will help fans enjoy the series they once loved.

Amongst most fans, the series' best years were between Underground and Carbon. Since Carbon, there have been many titles that were released. But what happened? It's not as simple as a publisher changing but something more.

What made those titles so great? There are many reasons and most of those reasons were excluded from the newer titles which probably is what has caused so many to dislike the newer titles.

First of all, there was a major inclusion into the series within Underground, which is still regarded by some as being one of the best in the series. The inclusion of customization of cars was an important factor for many people and has become the norm amongst racing games nowadays. If your racing game doesn't include customization, it probably won't do so well.

There are two different types of customization and EA failed to include one into its latest title. There are the performance customizations which are important in racing as it helps you stand out from everyone else who bought the same car as you. While you may not be the best driver, you can improve your car to help get you to the same position as everyone else. The second type of customization is in terms of looks. This is not as important but it has become a thing that gamers have been introduced to thanks mostly to EA with NFS Underground.

Most Wanted 2013 failed to include a way for gamers to customize how their vehicle looks from the outside which was a major let down for lots of fans. The other piece that was missing was in terms of performance. While EA did include performance mods, they did not allow users to do it in a fashionable way nor did they give many options.

As crazy as it sounds, many of us were disappointed with the way that Most Wanted 2013 let us customize our car. It was a simple drop down menu and clicking a button. There was no garage, no background, no mechanic in a video putting on the mods...none of that which killed it for some of us.

Removing the ability to customize the car's look was another major let down. Many of us enjoyed being able to put on or take off a spoiler. EA should have taken advice from their first Most Wanted and given many options for spoilers and other visual mods. It makes the car seem more personal rather than just some car.

Some of us feel a bit different about this and some of us may feel like me and not sure how to feel. Typically, racing games force players to earn vehicles whether that be earning money and then being able to purchase cars or earning them from races. Some games like Midnight Club Los Angeles incorporated both.

In Most Wanted 2013, almost all of the vehicles are given to the player from the start. The only thing that stands between the player and getting those vehicles is going into the world to find them. This is a great strategy to force players to explore the open world, but it detracts in a way in that it doesn't motivate players to play through matches as much. When forced to choose from one of three "introductory" cars and then work your way to the top, you are more likely to go out and race races to earn these cars than if they are given to you.

However, I have found myself often wishing that all of the vehicles were unlocked so I could drive any of them whenever I pleased.

EA's decision to incorporate this into the game had mixed opinions from me. I enjoyed playing with the different cars and racing them throughout the city, but there was a lack of motivation from me when it came to racing races as I just didn't feel a need to.

What else seemed to be lacking was a story. That's not to say that the previous games had engaging stories that forced us to play more and more, but that we genuinely did enjoy being apart of a story and seeing where things go. This goes hand in hand with the motivation factor. Part of motivation was also not having a story. What's the point in racing this race versus that race? There seemed to be no point except to race. Which isn't a big deal for most as it is a game, but many of us enjoyed the storyline and didn't see a reason to remove it. One thing that I absolutely do not miss are having to sit through long cinematics and hear annoying voices making pathetic insults while I race.

For me personally, I miss starting lines like every other racing game has. I don't like starting a race in the middle of the car moving. It makes me feel nervous and I have no clue what's going on around me. It looks cool from a cinematic point of view, but this isn't the Fast & Furious; this is a video game where I control the car and I need to be focused on my car from beginning to end.

The cops' AI seems a bit low on this latest title. Sometimes when I'm cruising the world, I like to piss off the cops and start a little chase. As odd as this sounds, on most occasions, I find myself actually reversing or slowing down so the cops can catch up. Don't get me wrong, when the chase is occurring and there is more than one police car chasing, they will keep up very nicely, but when it's just one chasing, it's difficult for him to keep up. Maybe that's what really happens in real life, I wouldn't know but it just doesn't seem right. Something needs to be done to fix this issue. When the cops are engaged and in the pursuit, it gets a whole lot more fun. They ram the car, they put out spike strips, they get the roadblocks...it's a ball but I find it difficult to get them started.

One thing that EA certainly did get right, and usually does, about this NFS title was the engine and mechanics of the game. The AI interacts well with the player and the environment, the graphics are outstanding for its time, the cars are responsive to the touch...it's all very well done and EA does do a fantastic job when it comes to engines and mechanics. Unfortunately, there's more to a game than how well it plays.

The police's spike strip was a nice addition to the series. I'm not sure whether or not this has been included before, but I believe that it had been included in the past and might have even been in the original Most Wanted from 2005. I remember that whatever game it was, the spike strips didn't seem to do anything to your car. In this game, they do and you can see it very clearly. Running over a spike strip is something that you definitely don't want to do in this game and I like that it's been made that way.

One of the most unusual things that I think that I liked in the changes were the inclusion of "gas stations" that allowed you to change a car's color and repair its damage without even stopping. This makes police pursuits more fun, for me personally, and a nice way to get a good looking car without a wait. It's odd as I wouldn't have liked the idea on paper, but it worked well when played out. It seemed too unrealistic to work and be fun, but it is.

Being chased by the police then getting a chance to hide away as a different colored car is a whole lot of fun and brings a new sort of challenge. I've found myself, often times, becoming frustrated (in a good way) because the cops caught up before I had time to change my car's color. I love it and it makes the chase that much more fun for me as it forces me to get out and find a different way to evade them.

The currency system needs work but overall, I'd say that it does a fine job. In comparison to previous games, I liked this version more even over Most Wanted 2005's currency system.

2005 Most Wanted was confusing when it came to winnings. If you won a race, it was obvious that that money was yours to keep. But once you evade police in a police chase, there would be a number displaying how much money in damage you did during the chase. It was confusing as it seemed that no matter how big of a chase you had, it had no impact on how much money you made. Most Wanted 2013 corrected this issue, very nicely if I may add, in that you are paid for every police chase you have. The more time spent during the chase and the higher heat levels you achieve, the more money you acquire. I like this system a whole lot more than what I had seen in previous NFS titles.

I think a lot of what EA got wrong with NFS since Carbon's release, has been that they want to try new things but don't consider the consumers' opinion of what made the game great.

I think if EA really wants to make drastic changes, they ought not to mess with the franchise that's already been established. Rather, they should make a completely new racing series and try those options there. Oddly enough, EA does have other racing titles. However, the only one that comes to mind as of now, is that of professional NASCAR racing which isn't in the same genre as Need for Speed is. While both are racing games, one has been focused on illegal street racing and the other legal, professional racing.

If EA wants to make changes, make a new series of games rather than screwing with one that's already been established. I think a lot of these changes wouldn't be as bad because people wouldn't be as likely to compare it to Need for Speed.

A lot of the titles in the series that came after Carbon weren't necessarily always bad games, just didn't deserve to carry the Need for Speed title. For example, you may enjoy listening to Nickleback and Metallica. But if Metallica's next album was to sound like Nickleback, you would be quite frustrated. The same is true for the Need for Speed series. When I buy a Need for Speed game, I am hoping to play a game that feels like the previous games, not like another game like NASCAR. NASCAR may be a fun game, I don't deny that, but it's not what I'm looking to play at the moment.

The Need for Speed series has been one of the best racing video game series to ever be released and has paved the way for many new games and companies to challenge the series such as Midnight Club. It's a shame to see it go downhill with each new release even though it has so much potential.

What are some of the things that you like about the Need for Speed games? Which one(s) is/are your favorite? What makes them so great?

What We May See in Possible GTA V DLCs

It goes without saying that Grand Theft Auto V has certainly outdone itself. It was difficult to say that GTA IV was better than others like San Andreas but, I'm willing to bet, that 99% of the fanbase of the GTA series is head over heels for GTA V.

As most publishers do, especially Rockstar, with games such as Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption, we know that they will be making some sort of downloadable content (DLC) for the latest installment in the controversial Grand Theft Auto series. In some people's opinions, some of the DLCs turned out to be better than the original game. If Rockstar can pull that off for GTA V, we have one amazing release coming soon.

So what sort of stuff would we probably see in the new DLC? Considering what we saw in GTA IV and RDR's DLCs, probably no new sort of addition to the map. While most publishers add additional areas to a map like Bethesda has done for their The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, Rockstar doesn't seem to be as interested in doing such a thing.

Another reason why it is unlikely to see additional areas is that this game was big enough. This game was based on the San Andreas developed for GTA San Andreas but with some major tweaks. Most tweaks being that no cities that resemble Las Vegas or San Francisco have been added to the map. This is due to the game being as extensive as it has been. Since GTA SA, GTA has undergone some major changes in its gameplay. Most of these changes take up extra room on the disc and cannot allow for larger map sizes. It's why the Xbox 360 version is sold with two discs and one is required for downloading 8 GB of GTA game data to the Xbox HDD.

A third reason why we probably won't see additional areas is that it takes too much time to create these areas and DLCs are expected within the next 12 months after the game's initial release and no later. Rockstar probably does have the time and resources to build such DLCs, but it is unlikely considering their history.

However, it is possible that a new area could be underway. The only reason why I say this is that they could have created the additional areas beforehand but decided to release them at a later date. But DLCs are typically sold online over a download and many people don't have enough room as it is for the initial install of GTA. It is also unlikely because Rockstar likes to release Game of the Year editions that include all of the DLCs with the original game. In doing so, they wouldn't be able to do it as well for the Xbox 360 version with the discs. The PlayStation 3 version is doable due to the Blu-Ray technology. If an addition is created, Rockstar will find a way to release it.

Whatever the case may be, seeing a new addition to the map is highly unlikely for any DLCs so don't get your hopes up.

What is almost guaranteed is that we will see more additional playable characters. Just like GTA IV and RDR's DLCs, players were introduced to new single player characters to play with. Who these people are will generally be someone who was included in the storyline of GTA V at some point just as it was for the other two games.

I would venture to say that we may see a playable female character for the first time in Grand Theft Auto history. Never has there been a female character mostly due to the fact that GTA's largest fanbase has consisted of mostly males. However, more and more females are picking up the controller as time goes on. Rockstar may want to switch things up by trying to play around with something new.

What is 99% guaranteed is that we will see new vehicles and new weapons added to the game as we did for the previous series. These could be any sort of new vehicles or weapons. In GTA IV's DLC, The Ballad of Gay Tony, we saw lots of new weapons and new vehicles including a new helicopter. Might we see something similar to this? Quite possibly depending on how Rockstar feels about the release and the reception they've received.

It is a given that DLCs are underway as Rockstar seems to be into it as much as other publishers are. What the DLCs include is in the air as of now. We may begin to see more announcements soon about the DLCs as well as hints as to what they'll include in the upcoming months. I imagine that rumors will start in the new month and a half.

What do you think the DLCs will include? What kinds of things do you hope they include?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

iOS 7 Jailbreak is Far Off

I updated to iOS 7 today and was excited. The new features are awesome for the iPhone 5 and I plan to make a review/summary on it sometime soon.

But I was really excited for the new update because I can't wait to be able to jailbreak it. Then I thought about it...the jailbreak may be farther than we think.

The guys behind the iOS 6 jailbreaks, known as the Evaders (can't remember the exact spelling) recently hinted that they are close to an iOS 7 jailbreak. But I don't think we'll be seeing the release at least this week or even next. Why is that?

For one, who knows what issues may be lying in the final release of iOS 7 and who knows how the consumers will react to it. iOS 6 received lots of backlash when it arrived on iPhones because it removed Google Maps. For this reason, our jailbreak may not be released until after iOS 7.0.1 or 7.1 is released.

Another reason is that the iOS 7 software was released today for the older iOS devices but the newer devices haven't been released yet. The new iPhone 5S and 5C are slated to be released on September 23 in the United States and later for other parts of the world. And this isn't considering the release of a new iPad that may be released this Fall if the team is working on one for the iPads too.

Also, since the final release is out, who knows if their exploits have been unknowingly patched? Apple may have found the vulnerabilities and been able to patch them.

For these reasons alone, I believe that the iOS 7 jailbreak is a long way off. We may be waiting at least a month before it is released.

But stayed tuned as we will be waiting patiently and posting the results we come across when it becomes available. I know I, personally, can't wait!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Can Grand Theft Auto V Survive?

This is a question that I've been bumping around my head for some time. And seeing as how I haven't posted anything in some time and GTA is being released... tomorrow, why not?

So why is this a question to ask? Is it a valid question? Why am I asking this in the first place? First off I'd like to say Grand Theft Auto (ironically enough) has been a really big part of my childhood, starting off with a favorite of mine: Grand Theft Auto III. Ever since then, I have always loved the series. Its funny, sarcastic, fun, awesome and just all around great games. Rockstar is usually known for being the most sane game company out there, seeming to not make risky decisions and focusing on business decisions that benefit them in the whole. Even with the exception of LA Noire kind of being a flop, seeing as how Team Bondi was dissolved afterwards due to the immense cost of the game. However, even that wasn't a flop considering the game was well received if being an unusual Rockstar game from the stand point of a lack of freedom (ie. random massacres). I was surprised and shocked to hear three things about the new GTA game: 1. it will be on 'this' generation's consoles, 2. it will not be receiving a PC release and 3. there is no talk about the game being released, even digitally for the 'next' gen consoles. Of course things have changed. Rockstar said they'd be doing a PC release but they made it sound like they had no plans to due it like what they did with Red Dead Redemption even to this day.

First off lets talk about game life. Game life simply is the amount of play the local community can derive from a game with or without DLC. This is not always a fixed number. Hell, people are still playing the OG Starcraft game to this day and with things like Steam, a lot of people can get their hands on classic games from yesteryear. Some recent games can have a really low life cycle, whether due to crashes, lack of players or just even a lack of people willing to work on a game which is the case with most fallen MMOs. GTA's game life does not look promising. First its coming on systems most of us have sold by now to get the new consoles so we can scratch those people off the list as most of them are probably not going to buy a new system for this one game. For those of us who haven't sold ours yet, its clear that we'll get some play time out of it. Second we still don't have a PC release date. PC is by far the god of keeping old games alive. GTA still has an amazing shelf life as far as I know. I have every single GTA game to date and I love to just pick one up from time to time. And lastly, Rockstar is betting on us staying with the game. Did you know about GTA Online? Did you know that its coming out 2 full weeks (if my information is correct) after V releases? This is betting on us staying with the game. But lets face it, you and I have never played a horrible GTA game so we're pretty set. The main problem I have with this is there will be a PC release. What's wrong with that? Well we'll be spending about 2 weeks progressing in the game's main story. After which we'll be able to go online. Problem with this is when someone wants more shelf life out of GTA by buying it on PC, all of that progress is gone. Some people may not see this as a problem, but it is in the context of simply being time consuming. Game are very time consuming and, if we go by the PS2's shelf life, we'll not see the 360/PS3 last for much longer. Two years tops before they announce no more games will be put out for them and maybe around the same time they shut down their services like updates or even LIVE all together.

Is this entire thing a good question to ask? Yes and no. First off, like I said, I still play pretty much ever GTA game prior to V. GTA has a sort of timeless characteristic that it will live on forever. The problem is the grossly outdated nature of some of the games, like the very first one compared to IV. GTA is centered around a "I can do what I like" mentality. This new game is all about that. Buying new and awesome things to become more awesome, adding in some real world things like the stock market and making it manipulatable in game at will. Its a very nice concept. As a gamer, I pride myself on playing the best and the most enjoyable. The fact this game won't be on PC anytime soon (I predict next year around July at latest) deals a striking blow to anyone thinking of getting the most out of this game. I don't know. Maybe this is just a personal kind of thought seeing as how I am a guy who doesn't have a lot of money so I sell my games often. GTA is really on a time stamp right now. You're going to get the best amount of play at launch, which, unfortunately enough, is literally at the beginning of the week. Seriously, the earliest you can get this game is probably 24 hours from now via midnight launch or maybe some glitch in your console of choice's store. So you'll be playing this all night foregoing sleep. I'm also presuming you have a job since you bought the thing so you'll be calling in sick either to get more play time or just the fact that you haven't slept for six hours if you took a nap before launch. And of course you must take Thursday off! I mean, you just have to get some more cash to buy that new mansion! My point being that this release is really... inopportune. I don't know about you, but I've found the general conscientious among my friends is that they usually get paid during the end of the week or sometime during the middle. This game almost comes out as soon as the week has started. Personally I find this really insane to chose for a launch date. Personally I think the guys over at Rockstar are trying to see how powerful of a fanbase they have by seeing how much their fans will put up to play their new and awesome game. Maybe its a social experiment to see how much they'll tolerate for quality, not to dog on Rockstar of course. They are easily in my top three most favorite developers list.

Its about this time that I've realized I've been pretty much rambling kind of waiting out going to bed. My final question is am I really saying anything of value? Personally that's for you to decide. While I might have valid points and if I post this now I'll probably smack myself in the face seeing all the grammatical errors I made, the fact still stands. I want this game to do well... I'm just baffled by the choices made by its developer. Don't get me wrong, Rockstar is awesome. I just feel that maybe this game was meant for another time. The release date is weird. Maybe it has some significance to the dev team or not. Maybe they just wanted to shake things up a little. See how much people love their game when a new slew of consoles is coming out in almost exactly two months. Everything about this game screams next gen to me. Screw it. Go buy this game and have a good time. Maybe read this and have a good laugh at how neurotic I can be. Personally I hope/know this launch is going to go well. All in all this is really the first step in the next gen. A whole slew of awesome games are coming out and this is the title I personally think is the one to help us up said steps. Long story short: next year is going to rock for people like me and you.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

[Review] Killzone Mercenary (PS Vita)

Owning a PlayStation system and not owning at least one copy of any Killzone title is like owning an Xbox without owning Halo. When I heard that a Killzone title would be released for the PlayStation Vita in September 2013, I was immediately excited.

The PlayStation Vita has had a rough start. Not enough great games were made available for it even though it is a system with lots of potential especially for 3-D first person shooters. Call of Duty: Declassified and Resistance: Burning Skies were the only two FPS games available for the Vita. Until now.

The great thing about this title in the Killzone series is that you don't necessarily have to have owned the previous games in the series to understand what's going on. The bottom line is this: there's a war between one group, the ISA, and another, the Helghast. Your character's role in the game is a mercenary who is hired by the ISA to join an invasion on the Helghast's home planet, Helghan.

To be brutally honest, I have owned Killzone: Liberation for the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and Killzone 3 for the PlayStation 3 and those are the only two titles that I have owned from the franchise. Liberation was a game that was made differently than the rest. Due to the limited functions of the PSP, it could not offer adequate support for a true 3-D shooter. While other games like Star Wars: Battlefront were highly successful and 3-D FPS, they were difficult to control and did not offer gamers many options in the game that may be necessary. The Vita has changed the game by adding three additional features that can help gamers in using all the same options as they would have on a living room console.

The game is beautifully designed. The graphics are out of this world by any current 2013 standards. When friends ask how good the graphics are on Mercenary, I tell them that they may be just as good as the PS3's, if not better. I am not kidding. The lighting, shadows, and structures are all so colorfully detailed just as if you were really there! This is phenomenal for a portable game. This is one component that will be very difficult for you to bash the game for.

The game's story is engaging and easy to follow. There are briefing spots that I would like to have the option to skip instead of sitting through a few minutes of dialogue; however, I believe this is just a way of having a loading screen without having the loading screen. While the dialogue is playing, the next level's map is being loaded for you without explicitly telling you "Loading". For me, at this current moment, I am still playing through the game so I cannot comment on the game's full story.

The missions and levels are boasted as being massive. The game's packaging boasts 9 massive missions and does not kid. I have played through four of these and they are decently sized maps for a portable gaming system. That's not to say that the levels are huge or that they are small, but they will keep you busy. I haven't been able to play through an entire mission without pausing so that tells you something about how long the missions are. Don't get me wrong, the missions are not boring at all. The fights are very intense and keep you on your feet.

The gameplay of the game is, as I said, highly intense. There are many ways to play through each mission which adds to the replayability. While the game is short with only 9 missions, you are motivated to replay the mission for extras hidden in the mission or to play it in a different way.

This game has you playing as a lone wolf most of the time which gives you two modes of playing. Either you can run through a mission, full auto on anyone and everyone or you can be quiet and plan your attacks. The game rewards stealth and "punishes" loud actions.

There is an in-game currency of credits that is immediately rewarded to the player for many actions within the game. Killing Helghan soldiers grants basic points, usually about 50 points, picking up dropped items for ammo gives you 10 points, and so on. The more stealthy and planning that goes into an attack, the more points you will receive. If you notice a guard before you walking around another guard, you must take time to plan your attack to get the most points. Getting a headshot awards you more points than if you just go in, full auto, and kill both of them together. If you use a silenced sniper and get two headshots, that grants more points. If you knife both of them, quietly, you'll receive more points. If you kill both of them at once, and quietly if possible, with an explosion, you'll receive more points. And so on and so forth.

One issue that I have in the game is with the scavenging. Most games like Call of Duty and Halo allow players to pick up an enemy's weapon once they are killed. If an enemy is killed in Mercenary, you cannot pick up their weapon. Instead, you pick up a bit of ammo for your weapons. This is not to say that you can't use the same weapons as everyone, because you can, but that you just can't pick up items when in the field. However, you can change your weapons and equipment while in the field...for a small fee. If you entered a mission and didn't have enough credits to buy a weapon that you need for the mission, but you racked up those points while in the mission, you can stop by any of the boxes placed on the battlefield and change your inventory. If you already own a weapon, it will cost you about 250 credits to switch to that weapon during the game. Switching weapons before a match does not cost you anything.

The game uses a unique melee system in that you don't just step up to an enemy and click the "melee button" but that you click the triangle button (or touch the on-screen notification) and you will need to swipe in a direction to knife an opponent. Failure to swipe within the allotted time results in the opponent kicking you back, you stumbling and losing your balance (you'll lose control for a few seconds) and they get to shoot you a few times. If you fail to perform near a group of enemies, chances are higher that you will die so make sure you are successful.

The online multiplayer is what completes this game. I have only played one mode, but it was a fun experience. One of the best things about the game that differs from others like Call of Duty is that the game does not use two separate systems for leveling up. Instead, if and when you level up in the single player campaign, you will level up in the multiplayer and vice-versa. This helps players who may have difficulty adjusting to an online game. For many gamers, like myself, it is difficult to level up in online games because I just can't immediately compete with others. And since kills count for points for leveling up, I just don't go anywhere quickly like everyone else can. This levels the playing field for us and gives more players a chance to level up. It also helps as not everyone can play online on the go with an active 3G connection. So even though you stepped out for a moment, you can still have a chance to level up for your online matches. This does make it easier for cheating, but the PS Vita isn't easy to cheat with.

The online multiplayer uses the same knifing system that is used in the single player campaign. Except, if and when you try to knife someone on the field, they are given a swipe to perform as well. For example, someone tried to knife me while in the combat and I successfully completed the swipe and therefore was not knifed. I imagine that if he/she were able to complete the swipe before I did, they would have been successful in their attempt.

What I hated in CoD Declassified was that the online matches were too small. Maps were too small and there didn't seem like a lot of players. In Mercenary, the map feels bigger and there seems to be a whole lot more players on the field. However, I was playing a free for all so that could explain why I had so many enemies compared to a CoD match where you only had two on two matches. Nevertheless, I enjoyed these online matches a lot more. I am not playing through them as much as I'm trying to finish the campaign and buy as many weapons as I can so I can be on the same level as everyone else.

The game exceeded my initial expectations and did a fantastic job of bringing a solid FPS to a portable gaming system. There are more announcements of other FPS games coming to the Vita, a new CoD for one, and I hope they take lessons from this game on how to build a great portable shooter.

I would highly recommend this to any Vita owner who enjoys FPS games. Would I recommend that you buy a Vita just for Killzone? Not so much. The game will become boring after a time and there aren't too many other games released yet that will keep your Vita from collecting dust. If you are a die-hard Killzone fan, then by all means, you probably should buy a Vita just for Killzone. In my opinion, this one is just as good, if not better, than Killzone 3. The two can be compared to one another which is a first for any portable spin-off especially considering Liberation which wasn't bad but just was a completely different way of playing in the Killzone universe.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New iPhone Models of Fall 2013 (& iOS 7 Update)

We've been waiting patiently for this day. Some since last October, others, like me, since June, and the day is finally here.

Apple unveiled not just one but two new models for its iPhone line. People were speculating whether the next phone would follow in the same footsteps as before and be a 5S or if it would be a totally new model being the 6. Apple revealed today that it would be a 5S which is basically the 5's body with some added performance features.

The same as before applies to this S model. Those looking to upgrade or move to the iPhone line should keep in mind two things when determining whether to choose or keep the iPhone 5 or move to the iPhone 5S. Anyone who is into the fastest hardware available ought to choose the iPhone 5S. Those who want a solid iPhone but don't need the extra performance are best sticking to the iPhone 5.

However, one feature that certainly separates the 5S from the 5 is that the 5S carries a new security feature. Perhaps the first in mobile devices for the public, the iPhone 5S reinvents the wheel by introducing a new home button. This new button has the ability to read the user's fingerprint which not only makes it easier on users but also paves the way for more security. It's very easy for someone to look over your shoulder and see your password but it's difficult for someone to replicate your fingerprint.

The technology is explained by Apple during today's event. In fact, the entire button went under a transformation. The button is, essentially, a small camera that captures your fingerprint's image.

For those weary of this feature, it seems that Apple understands the concerns and has promised to not send the fingerprint data anywhere including their own servers or any government agency. Instead, Apple promises to keep the fingerprints stored locally on the phone.

Considering the technology, I imagine there will be ways of getting around the fingerprint scanner altogether such as covering the button or using a fingernail instead of a finger press.

One other unique feature brought by the 5S is the introduction of an iPhone 64-bit processor in the new A7 chip. Up until now, all iPhones have been running 32-bit processors. The 64-bit processor allows more power to the device. According to most sources, 32-bit applications available through the Apple App Store will be compatible with the 64-bit 5S. However, this does bring some concerns for those of us with older iPhones as this may mean an increased chance of our devices becoming obsolete much faster if newer applications can't support our phones.

As well as the 5S, Apple will now be catering to those who haven't been so fortunate to purchase an iPhone at its high prices. This newer model into the iOS line will be known as the iPhone 5C. iPhones up until now have been made of mostly metal while the 5C will use a cheaper material being plastic. The 5C will be produced in a variety of colors as will the 5S.

According to Apple, the iPhone 5S will start at $199 for the 16 GB model on a qualifying 2 year contract and the iPhone 5C will start at $99 for the 16 GB model on a qualifying 2 year contract.

iOS 7 was also officially announced at the event and will be released to iOS models on September 18th in the United States with many new features and a brand new design. Both new iPhone models will be available on September 20th in the United States.

Will you be upgrading or updating? If so, what are you most excited for? If not, what are your concerns or let downs?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

[Review] Splinter Cell RC Paladin Plane

I decided to continue my review where I left off by creating a new post for the review on the plane. I'll leave a link from the other post to this one so people can continue where they left off.

All in all, I tried to fly the plane. There are some winds today which were a factor for the plane, but nevertheless, I tried to fly it as best as I could.

The plane did not meet my initial expectations. While I didn't expect anything that you'd find at a hobby store, I didn't think it would be this cheap.

The plane is not made out of plastic or metal as you would think by looking at the package. The plane is made out of, all things, styrofoam. Even the "engine" compartments are made of styrofoam. The only pieces that aren't are as follows:
-internal electronics
-nose is made of plastic (optional to take off but recommended for "first time flyers" by Ubisoft)
-rotors are made of plastic
-screws holding it together are made of metal
-wiring connecting the engines and the wings are wires
-battery is a typical battery
-wheels are made of rubber and plastic

The controller is a very cheap grade of plastic. The kind that you would find on most toys found at any bargain store like Big Lots or the 99 Cents Stores. However, once all four AA batteries are in, it has a nice weight and it feels decent for holding onto.

The actual flight is a different story. It took me a while but I finally got it in the air for a short while.

After a few flights, the bottom picture is what happened to the plane.


It's nothing too major as it can be fixed probably by just moving it back up or using glue. It might even fly as is without any restrictions. But this just shows that it can't take a beating so be extra extra careful.

Below I'll include a video of me actually flying the plane unedited. You can see at the end what it looks like as well as that's when I stopped recording.

(Thanks to YouTube, Google, and Google's "marvelous" Google+, I have been forced to resort to using Blogger to upload my video rather than YouTube)

The plane makes a little bit of noise but nothing that will drive you insane. The connectivity is kind of funky in that it doesn't always reconnect to the controller.

For example, when I was flying the plane, as I went to pick it up, the plane wouldn't respond to the controller. So I had to switch the controller off for a few seconds then switch it back on and then it was back to working. The same thing happened when I inserted the batteries into the controller. I turned on the controller then tried to test the rotors to see if it worked and it didn't work for a few times until it finally came on.

The directions are not that great. As I mentioned on the previous post, I plugged in the battery into the charger before plugging it into the wall. But the charger's lights came on and then it started to smoke. After taking a closer look at the battery, there are small ribbons on each of the cords that say "charger" and "Power". Still, the directions didn't say to not plug both of those in there at the same time. I believe to charge it, you must only have the charger cord connected. The charger is confusing as it has two slots too so I imagined that both would naturally go in at the same time.

The controls are difficult but easy to get the hang of.

After watching my first flight, I don't think this will be my last flight. While it's not the perfect RC plane and definitely not worth paying $169.99 for (of course, WITH the actual game, a graphic novel, and poster), it's not an absolute piece of garbage as I once presumed. I plan to fly it in a larger air space with less wind. I may or may not video record it and share it here if and when I do.

If you so happen to find it for a reasonable price below $100, I'd say go for it. But if it's any more or RC planes aren't your thing, don't buy this. If you love RC planes, you may or may not want this. I know some may just want it for limited edition sakes.

[Review] The Sandbox (on iPhone's iOS)

One of the most funnest and unusually addicting games on the decade has to be that of Minecraft. From that have spawned a whole new genre of games that attempt to mimic its same characteristics of building an entire world. Most of these games fall away from the norm of using the latest graphics just like Minecraft has done. The Sandbox is no different.

The Sandbox puts you, as the user, as a god of the world before you. What's fundamentally different is that this time it's a 2D world and there's only a portion of the iPhone's screen to work with. Sandbox's point of view is less from a user within the world and more of a user looking into the world. As I said before, you are the god of this universe with the power to do any and all at your will.

What made Minecraft a success was not only the ability to create but also to merge items within the world. Sandbox is built around this idea.


In the above screenshot is The Sandbox's main menu. You can choose from one of two modes to play. This being a game called Sandbox, many will flock to Free Mode and completely miss Campaigns. However, while I was once like this, I began to play the campaigns to learn more about the game as well as unlock new features.

Yes, unfortunately, this is one of those games that requires you to unlock features. The Sandbox is currently available for free from the App Market but it has the ability to allow users to purchase items within the game using a system called "Mana". Mana is a currency within the game that is used for purchasing various elements and objects to build a world with.


As you can see in the above picture, these are just some of the available elements. I bold "some" because there are lots of possibilities in the game. Most elements and objects fall from the sky while some will stay isolated in whatever position you put them in.

Players can use various forces of nature such as soil, water, stone, mud, sand, and many more to build the world they want to create.

Below are screenshots showing how I built a mountain out of stone.






After I created the mountain, I decided to give it a small beach and lake next to it as you can see in the picture below.


After creating my beach, I decided to add some mud and trees. Then I decided that I'd like to destroy it with some lava. You can see its effect in the next picture.


One of the cool things about this game is how it allows players to even create volcanos. As you can see below, I have morphed a mountain into a volcano by placing lava in the heart of the mountain.






Eventually the lava erupted and overcame the entire mountain turning the land into a large lava ocean.

The ability to create things inside of other elements like stone is the game's use of a pickaxe.


In the screenshot above, you can see various tools that can be used in the game. Tools like the pickaxe are great for putting things inside of other things without them falling such as lava in a mountain. Other tools are familiar like the Fill allows players to fill an entire area with an element. Replace allows players to convert all tiles of a certain type into another type. With one tap of my finger, an entire mountain can be turned into lava or water.

A game, such as this, wouldn't be complete without NPCs (non-playable characters). This game allows players to insert humans into the world and allow them to do whatever they want with the map's elements and objects.



Players can then give their inserted humans different traits and objects that they can use. Some of these include allowing them to be hunters and gatherers or to be stone workers or even become zombies and kill one another.

Humans in this game are not invincible when it comes to nature either. They will melt with lava and can even die if the world becomes too cold.

In Campaign, the game helps you by giving you a tutorial. In the process of doing so, the game also helps give you Mana and new elements and teaches you how to use these elements and objects in any way you see fit.

The tutorial gets challenging but you can complete it using "skips" and "hints" which can help you overcome tough areas. I wouldn't recommend using skips as it's expensive (1,000 Mana to skip) and you don't get to learn how to use the game's mechanics.

Like Minecraft and other games in the genre, Sandbox has an infinite amount of ways to create a world. There are many more features that I haven't discussed and more that I haven't even discovered!

My only problems with the game are the limited space for creating a world and the in-game purchases. But the game is still fun and the limited space quickly becomes not so limited when you get used to the game.

I would highly recommend the game to anyone who wants to play a sandbox game on the go. It's free from the App Store, so there's a plus, and it will always give you new challenges to face. The Campaign is challenging but fun and enlightening. There's no story to the game except what you make of it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Amazon vs. eBay vs. Craigslist

In the modern world, it's become the norm to purchase items online. Over time, new services pop up that help customers find the best items for the lowest price.

The three top names that come to mind when talking about online shopping are Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist. Some may be wondering what's the difference between these or which one is the best. The answer is more complicated but I can tell you that none of them are better or worse than the other. It's all a matter of personal preference.

Amazon is a website that has been established for a number of years. Amazon became very popular amongst college students as it provided them an alternative to selling and buying their textbooks than relying on their school's bookstore. Over time, Amazon has grown and become a bigger company focused on more items than just college textbooks. Users can still sell items on the site that are used but a majority of the items that you will find here are new. Amazon also has its own internet streaming service like Netflix and Hulu Plus and also has a popular line of tablets known as the Kindle. In my opinion, Amazon is best for reviews and buying new items for a reasonable price. Lots of major manufacturers sell their products on Amazon such as Lego which can help customers find their favorite products from their favorite companies on an easy to use website.

eBay is a website that has been around for a few years as well. eBay is best known for it being an online auction website. Most of the items that eBay publishes are used and sold from private parties; however, some small businesses use eBay to sell their own brand new items here. eBay also has a classified section for local buyers and sellers, but it's not very popular. eBay acquired PayPal a few years ago and many people who enjoy using PayPal use eBay for the convenience it provides. PayPal can be used for other online shopping websites like Amazon but it is very difficult to do. PayPal and eBay offers customers with a peace of mind in case anything happens in the transaction such as a seller not shipping out an item after successful payment or a customer not making the successful payment after the item has shipped. While eBay is best known for auctions, it also does allow items to be sold at a set price for "Buy It Now". Buy It Now allows sellers to sell items for a price and not a penny more or less. In my opinion, eBay is best for used items, items that aren't so "socially acceptable" and thus aren't sold in other places, and in conjunction with PayPal for the peace of mind it offers to both sellers and buyers in a legitimate transaction. eBay is a good online alternative for those who enjoy the rush of a good auction when betting against others. Unfortunately, I don't like eBay's auction because it allows buyers to keep bidding even if they are not at their computer which can be frustrating but understandable.

Craigslist is a website that has gained much of its fame due to it being small and notorious for rapists and murderers. Craigslist is a website established with the intent of helping a community buy, trade, and sell with others who are nearby. However, some do use Craigslist to order items from afar but Craigslist warns against engaging in such actions like this and does so by warning customers that Craigslist will not be responsible for any lost money or items. Craigslist is a modern day classified's in that people search Craigslist for what they want and contact the seller to arrange a meet time somewhere in the area. Craigslist has no part in transactions except helping Party A meet Party B. Craigslist goes above and beyond the tradition sales website in allowing users to search for jobs, others to connect with to create bands, find pets, and even find local "casual [sexual] encounters" or find long term relationships. Craigslist gained infamy with its "Erotic" section that allowed people to find sexual encounters for a price that the "seller" sought. This feature has been removed for most regions. Craigslist does not currently charge for posts or for people to find others on the website except if you want to post a job listing or an erotic ad. Lots of very small businesses run by one or two people do business through Craigslist because its cheap and local. In my opinion, Craigslist is best for those who want to meet for a transaction, would like their product very quickly, or do not wish to travel far away. Craigslist is also best for those who are thinking of the environment and don't want to consume items that require traveling and instead want to contribute to their local economy.

Each of these have their strong points and weaknesses. I do not consider any to be better or worse than the other as I use all three of them for my own personal shopping and business. There are other websites just like these three but these are the biggest names, at least in the United States, currently. But, as we all know, the internet can change very quickly and as we have seen from these websites' past, things can and do change.

How to Get the Best Reviews

One of the best things about the internet has been the ability for others to connect with one another regardless of international borders. Shopping for an item will never be the same thanks to the ability to connect with others who shop for the same items that we search for. But there is a method to using reviews.

As time has gone on, we get new innovations to shopping via the internet with the successes of eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon but some have taken these and used them for their own gain. All reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. Never take someone's word for it that something is good or bad. The internet provides people with a way to be anonymous so you never know if the person reviewing the item is the seller or a competitor trying to downplay the item so you come to them instead.

I've given a few friends and family some of the advice that I'll be sharing here about how to determine where to get the very best reviews and determine which are the best and most trustworthy.

One important thing to remember when reading reviews is to remember that most people reviewing are reviewing for one of two likely reasons:
1. They are highly upset with the product and/or service they received.
2. They are highly excited with the product and/or service they received.
Both of these things will cause people to write reviews. You will rarely find reviews from the average user who is satisfied with little to no problems. This can be a problem as it creates a sort of bias blind for people.

If McDonald's gave you a million dollars today for simply shopping at their restaurant, you will be more likely to give them a very positive review even if your food was absolutely disgusting. You may write a review on Google Maps stating, "I love this McDonald's! The people are so friendly and caring and it's an absolute wonderful place to go!" While your review is truthful that they are friendly and nice, you forgot to mention that their food didn't taste anything like food.

If you were to go to Burger King and you ordered a Whopper, and when you opened it, you found a big fat booger on it, you would be more likely to get on Google Maps and write a review that explained how much you hated this Burger King. Unfortunately, your review is based on bias rather than a random visit.

Most of the reviews that you find on websites like Google Maps or Yelp will be like this. Very rarely will someone come to actually give honest feedback unless something out of the ordinary occurred at the business. Keep this in mind when reading reviews especially on these websites and when it comes to local, brick-and-mortar businesses. These reviews are notorious for this.

When it comes to ordering something online such as from Amazon or eBay, it's a bit different. Most of Amazon's reviews are truthful and honest. A small percentage of the reviews there are due to negative or positive service. This is because Amazon encourages customers to rate products that they have purchased. If they encourage you to write about what you ordered, you are more likely to give an honest, unbiased opinion unless your experience truly was out of the ordinary. Amazon also is a great place for reviews because it sort of forces customers to separate and detail their order.

For example, if you ordered something from Arizona and you live in California, you may be upset that it took 3 months for them to deliver your item. However, the item that you ordered was perfect and there were no complaints on it. Normally, you may give the review a negative rating just because it came late but Amazon has split up the reviews forcing customers to review both the product and the person sending the product. These sort of websites are best for reviews and will help you determine the best seller and the best product.

When it comes to Craigslist and eBay, unfortunately, there is no sort of rating system for products. For Craigslist, there is no rating system at all, but with eBay, there is a rating system for sellers which is pretty honest from what I've observed. While Craigslist may not have rating systems, there are websites like it that have classifieds and do rating systems; however, most of these will cost you in terms of a monthly subscription.

If you are interested in a product on eBay and want to know what others thought of the product, I would suggest searching for the item on Amazon. But, this is very important, be careful of what you purchase on eBay. Most items on eBay are used or are scams. Check the seller's rating to see if they are legitimate or not. A more positive score can mean the difference between a scam and not a scam. But if you are interested in purchasing an Xbox One on eBay but wonder what others have to say about the Xbox One, simply search Amazon for the Xbox One and read the reviews given there. These reviews can be helpful in helping you determine whether or not the Xbox One is as durable of a gaming system as Microsoft claims it is. But keep in mind that the Xbox may be used and not in pristine condition.

Something to also do is to use a search engine. Personally, I love Bing but you can also use Google or Yahoo! for searching. Use your search engine to find reviews on products that you are interested in. For example, if you're still interested in buying an Xbox One and want to know what others think of it, use a search engine and search for "Xbox One reviews" or "Xbox One customer reviews". I guarantee you that you will find all sorts of neat websites through this method that will help you find what others think of the product that you want. Your search may yield lots of forums too which is great. Online forums are great places for reviews as it involves many people discussing a product amongst themselves. Be careful though, some users on forums are sarcastic and you may not get their humor right off the bat.

When it comes to Craigslist, you're kind of out of luck on reviews. You can do the same thing as before which is searching the internet for others' opinions on the product, but that's about all that you can do in terms of reviews there. The only other option you have is to find a similar website to Craigslist that does have reviews for its products and sellers.

If you want the cheapest prices on items, this can take a little bit more work. The problem is that the internet is filled with scams and trying to search for the cheapest price on an iPhone will yield you all sorts of pyramid schemes to get an iPhone for one penny or some other sort of unrealistic price. The only way to get as legitimate prices as you possibly can is to visit a website like Google Shopping or Bing Shopping where it gathers prices from all over the web and brings them to you and even helps you sort them based on price, model, year, etc.

If you have any questions or want to add anything to this post, feel free to do so in the comments below!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

[Review] Splinter Cell: Blacklist Xbox 360 (& RC Paladin Plane)

If there's any Ubisoft or Tom Clancy game you can count on being great, it has to be the Splinter Cell series. I began the series with Pandora Tomorrow and have been a strong fan ever since that release. Choas Theory was an excellent change in the series as it allowed the player more control and more choices in the game. Conviction became my new favorite and always a game to come back to. I had been anticipating a sequel to Conviction since completing it. However, Blacklist's news made me weary of the newest installment into the series.

Michael Ironside had been voicing the protagonist, Sam Fisher, since the game's debut in the early 2000's. Fans had grown accustomed to hearing his voice throughout the games. The videos showing previews of Blacklist showed a much different experience than what fans had been playing. But don't be fooled...

Blacklist could be another great in the series' run.

I preordered the game in the early part of the year and even got the special edition for once because it came with an RC plane.

The game centers around Sam Fisher, once again, after the events of Conviction which basically dismantled 3rd Echelon. In Blacklist, players enter the role of Fisher as he begins his journey with 4th Echelon. 4th Echelon is a plane called the Paladin. Everything that you need is close by. Your infirmary, your weapons cache, your equipment...everything is within arm's reach in the Paladin.

The game's engine is very much like that of Convictions with a few tweaks here and there. Gamers used to Conviction will have no problem mastering this game within a missions. There are a few differences such as color scheme and a few different controls (I own Xbox 360 versions) but it's nothing too out of the ordinary. If you are moving from Double Agent or any game previous to that, you may find some difficulty at first getting used to the new controls and UI.

The game has been improved to allow more types of gamers to begin playing in the franchise. For Splinter Cell 1 and Pandora Tomorrow, the game did not allow any or lots of kills towards enemies. Chaos Theory through Conviction allowed more control and more choices with the ability to kill enemies. Blacklist begins a new trend by not only allowing kills but also encouraging them at some points.

The Splinter Cell series has been focused around stealth for the majority of its games; however, Blacklist allows and encourages for two new types of players.

At the end of each game session, gamers are given a readout of their performance as it relates to three different styles of game play.

First is the Ghost. The Ghost is your standard Splinter Cell experience. You are to use non-lethal attacks or not engage the enemy at all. You get more points for not engaging the enemies.

Second is the Panther. The Panther experience involves players killing but in the most secretive way possible. You are to not alert any NPCs of your presence when making a kill. You get less points for this style than if you went Ghost.

Third is the Assault. The Assault experience is a new one for Splinter Cell games in that it requires gamers to engage in active fire fights with the enemy. For many fans, we were displeased to see this sort of gameplay shown prior to Blacklist's release as it seemed that the series was changing it from stealth to more combative. This is not the case. The game simply allows for a different experience. Be careful though; trying to go Assault is not as easy as it appears. Fisher can only take so much damage before he finally dies.

The gameplay is just as great as it was before, if not better. Conviction changed up the series by encouraging players to play multiplayer with friends whether it be online or local. This feature alone made the game for my brother and I as we were able to play together and complete missions that were too hard for one of us. However, the game does not allow single player campaign to be done cooperatively just as it was for Conviction.

It's becoming less and less popular for games to include local multiplayer, meaning multiplayer played with someone on the same console as you. I'm glad to see that Blacklist hasn't changed in that light and we do use it quite often.

The graphics of the game have not changed that much in comparison to Conviction which was a huge step up from its predecessors. However, Blacklist became a game that introduced fans more to sunlight areas than it had done before. And believe me, these can be some very tricky places to be as you try to stick to dark places for stealth.

The weapons and armor customization have improved a great deal. There are more weapons and armor choices than before. The armor choices are what fascinated me most in customization. With the new game styles, there needed to be some changes with Fisher and how he could approach a battle. If you want to go in with Assault, you can't realistically be wearing armor designed for stealth as it doesn't weigh as much and bullets could penetrate much more easily. However, you don't want a heavy suit designed for Assault to be used for Ghost because it makes too much noise. While the armor choices aren't very extensive, the new customization is meant more so for game styles rather than how you want Fisher to appear.

One thing that I do not like about the weapon customization is that there are some guns that require a DLC download. I realize that this is the norm for many games nowadays, but you lose respect for companies when they do stuff like this. I bought the $60 game (actually paid over $169.99 since mine is the deluxe) but I have to pay an additional $2.99 to get all of the available features. It just seems like a cheap move to get me to pay more money considering that the game just came out but there are DLC items already out.

I have yet to play the online modes such as Spies versus Mercs.

All in all, the game lives up pretty well to its name. I and many other fans were worried that the changes such as Michael Ironside not doing Fisher's voice and new gameplay styles would ruin the new installment. I can say that my initial impressions were wrong. I miss Mr. Ironside's voice but it doesn't really detract too much from the games and the new style does not destroy what made the game great as its simply a choice.

I've got to say that I'm very happy and can't wait to see what other new games will be coming to complete the series.

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I mentioned before that I bought the special edition with the RC plane. I plan to do a review on this as well but have not had the chance to fly the plane yet.

HOWEVER, I should note that the plane did not meet my expectations when I assembled it and tried to charge the battery.

The plane is made out of styrofoam. This can be good and bad for many reasons. The plane is not so durable but it can take a beating when crashed into the ground in better ways than plastic can. Overall, I think the decision to use styrofoam had nothing to do with durability but to decrease shipping costs. The controller used to control the plane is made of an extremely cheap plastic as well.

I followed the instructions included in the package and it said that to charge the battery, you must first plug in the battery to the charger then plug the charger into the power outlet. I did so but when I plugged the battery into the charger before plugging it into the wall, lights on the charger came on and there was a weird smell. The smell was like a burning smell. After that, smoke came out of the charger and I immediately unplugged the battery which stopped the smoke.

That has caused me to rethink using it and maybe even considering contacting Ubisoft as I may have a defective unit. Either that or the instructions weren't clear enough.

Update 9/7/2013: Click here for a separate review on the RC Paladin plane.
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