Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Edition Gaming Keyboard

Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Mechanical Keyboard

So I finally got something else worth reviewing. I previously had a Saitek Cyborg Keyboard, but the left half of it stopped working recently. It was a great keyboard, but after (I think) 6 years of heavy use, it finally died. It was a sad day, but for some reason, I had already been looking at new keyboards, and had really started looking into newer mechanical keyboards. I remembered the super old ones being absurdly loud, but nothing else about them. I decided to pick up this board at Best Buy since I had some gift cards to get rid of. It's also the only place around me that carries gaming gear like this. I've been using it for a few days now, and aside from the noise, it's amazing. It's really comfortable feeling for typing and VERY responsive. It doesn't have the extra large wrist rest the Cyborg did, but it's nicely curved on the bottom and the keys feel perfect. They're textured enough to keep from slipping, but have a very smooth feel to them. The big thing with mechanical keyboards is the responsiveness of the keys. They're actually so responsive, I've started to notice how much I had gotten used to certain keys not functioning as quick on my old board. On membrane boards, you have to press the keys all the way down before anything happens. Mechanical boards have switches under each individual key and only need to be pressed about half way down. There's a certain “click” that each key has once the switch is activated. You can both feel and hear it when the key is pressed and has sent its signal to the PC. As I said though, that click each key has is LOUD. That on top of the fact I usually type somewhere around 110-130 wpm, there's a LOT of clicking going on. In game though, it's SO responsive, I can deal with the noise. Hopefully everyone else around me can too.

Features time. Aside from the responsiveness, this board does other stuff too. Although most of it is stuff you can find on other boards as well. The board has media keys, like most boards now, but it uses an FN key, similar to the way laptops do extra keys. The media keys are located on the F keys and requires you to use the FN key to activate them. It's strange to do on a desktop computer, but the space it saves is worth it, to me, at least. The Cyborg keyboard was enormous, so having a normal size keyboard is still kind of mindblowing to me right now. It also has some macro functions, but it's much different from the macro buttons on the Cyborg. The Cyborg had software that assigned macros to each of its macro keys from a program. The BlackWidow seems to be able to set macros on the fly and without using software. I have yet to install the BlackWidow software on my PC, yet I was able to set up a few basic macros already. I have to ultimate edition of the board. After looking, there seem to be a few different Ultimate Editions. I have just the regular Ultimate. There's a Stealth and a Battlefield 3 edition of the board. The Stealth is the same as the one I have but has quieter keys. The BF3 version is orange instead of blue and also comes with a code to activate some extra bonus in the game. Both versions are $10 more than this one. There is also the standard version that seems to be the same as this one, but doesn't have any backlights. Also, like the Cyborg, the BlackWidow has a “Game Mode” that disables the Windows key. It sounds simple, but when you accidentally hit the Windows key in the middle of a battle, having it do nothing instead of minimizing my game and putting focus on the Start menu is a pretty handy feature.

Overall, it's an amazing board I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a gaming board. As for the other versions, I guess it depends on what you personally want out of the board. I personally like having a backlight and don't particularly mind the noise. I also don't play BF3 that much. For me, the regular Ultimate Edition is perfect. If you live with anyone, though, maybe look into the Stealth Edition. If the noise doesn't bother you and backlights annoy you, there's always the standard version.

Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Edition: 10/10

Check it out at Razer's Website.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review: Lord of the Rings: War in the North

Lord of the Rings: War in the North (PC, X360, PS3)

As insane as it sounds, I think this is the first LOTR game I've ever played. And it was good. It wasn't without some major flaws though. I didn't actually beat the game because of one of those. We'll get to that later.
Story: The story, from what I could tell, takes place parallel to the three books/movies. You play as one of three characters who travel together. Throughout the story, you hear about a fellowship of 9 traveling with the Ring of Power, but don't encounter them. At least not up to chapter 3. This review is going to be somewhat incomplete because I've only played until about half way through the third chapter. The story hasn't been as enganging to me as it has been to Neuntoter, simply because I'm not as big of a LOTR fan as he is. There's a lot of dialog filling in the story, but, in truth, I didn't really go through a lot of it. It's just not that interesting to me. This isn't really an issue with the game itself as it is with me not being a LOTR fan, which is definitely who this game is aimed at.
Gameplay: This is definitely where I had more fun with the game. The gameplay is solid and interesting. There are three characters to play as. They definitely mirror the “big 3” being an obvious Warrior, Rogue, and Mage although they don't specifically go by these names. They are referred to as the Champion, Ranger, and Lore-Master, but easily fit the classic roles. I'm not saying this is a negative thing though. Games like WoW and to an extent, Guild Wars have shown me that breaking these 3 into more specialized classes don't always make a game better. The game is more or less a hack-n-slash kind of game with some RPG elements. You learn skills that get better with levels and earn stat points as you level. There are also plenty of options for equipment. There are also special sets of gear you get for pre-orders and for purchasing the game at select retailers. This equipment seems way too powerful however. I got this game at Best Buy and got the Lore-Master set. I was able to equip it all at the end of chapter 1 and have yet to replace any of it up until chapter 3. That may not seem like a long time, but these chapters are LONG. This added on top of the fact that I haven't even seen any gear that I would even consider wearing over my OP'ed pre-order stuff. I don't see any of it getting replaced soon. There's two major complaints I have about the gameplay. First, the characters, while fitting their archtypes for an RPG, all play kinda same-y. As I said, I've been using the Mage-type character and still find myself using melee a lot and doing decent damage with it. Likewise, the Warrior-type character, who is clearly designed for melee, still does big damage at long range. It's not a big deal, but after switching between the three, I'm just not seeing huge differences in playstyles. Second, cheap enemies. There has been more than one occasion where an enemy has an uninteruptable combo that is capable of killing any party member and seems to be an AOE attack that can hit multiple players. The first instance of this occurred in chapter 2 I think. An enemy had some kind of spinning slash attack that was able to kill me as a dwarf (highest hp char) in a single hit from full hp as well as catching my Ranger at the same time who ran at him from the side. This was followed up by the same combo aimed at our Lore-Master who also died instantly. This has happened many more times than it should and I'm not even half way through this game yet.

Lastly. The reason I have not completed this game. I have the PC version of this game and for some reason, on some multicore CPU's, the game takes up ridiculous amounts of processing power. Starting in chapter 3, all maps force my CPU to stay at a consistent 99%. I have a Phenom I, but the most powerful AM2+ Phenom I that existed. This isn't an isolated issue either. There are several Phenom II machines as well as i5/i7 machines that suffer from this as well. 99% is not an acceptable CPU usage rate to be at constantly and as such, I am done with this game until a fix comes out. I can't say I don't recommend this game, but if possible I'd say go with a console version.

Partial playthrough scores:
Console: 7/10
PC: 5/10 (until a fix is released)

UPDATE: I'm fixing the PC score of this since the CPU issue has been corrected, but there's another issue now with levels not being passable due to a bug. It doesn't always happen, but as far as I can tell, it only affects the PC version. So the score still stays lower than the console version.


I've been having an issue with my Google account no longer being linked to this blog as well as the game dev blog. That seems to be sorted out now, so I can start posting again here. Yay. I have a few reviews to be posted and will try to keep stuff coming out pretty regularly from now on.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review: Left 4 Dead (both games)

Left 4 Dead – A single review for both games

100% True zombie games. That pretty much sums up this entire review, but let me elaborate on that a bit more. I'll admit, I love the Left 4 Dead games. I've met a bunch of cool people and had a lot of fun shooting stuff. It's not without its flaws though. Probably the biggest complaint I hear about it is the lack of maps. I would have to agree with this, but completely understand why there aren't that many. They're huge. It takes time to develop maps of this size. Even in the linear gameplay that L4D uses, a full campaign can take over an hour to finish. On top of that, the versus maps have to be even more expansive to allow for the player zombies to spawn in strategic, but not completely unfair spots. Of course this all needs to be done while not allowing any players to see the edges of the maps and also preventing at least the survivor team from seeing the regular zombie spawning areas. Speaking of spawn areas, this is one of L4D's strongest points. The AI Director. With this system, the game can literally use any part of the map to spawn any character. The regular little zombies can be spawned anywhere on the ground and are dynamically dropped in and out to allow for a challenging, but not impossible (usually) experience for the survivors. Obviously this doesn't always work perfectly, but the mess ups are very rare. Now then, why do I love these games? They're co-op. Not only that, they are exactly what co-op FPS games should be. There are other co-op games out there, but the problem is that the whole co-op aspect isn't really needed. Even when they do the “co-op moves” that require 2 people, it often times just feels forced. Almost like there's no reason they couldn't have just given the player something to allow them to pass these gimmicky obstacles. L4D, however, doesn't really do this. Sure the Hunter and Smoker's attacks need a co-op partner to free you, but the real benefit to having a 4 player team is the regular zombies. When they attack in a horde, you need 4 guns going off to survive that. This is true co-op gameplay. To this day, the only other co-op experience that even comes close to these games would be the co-op section of Portal 2. Those levels were brilliant. Sure they had those “co-op moves” I said were worthless, but in a puzzle game, it's forgivable since the way you use those moves isn't blatantly obvious. The downfall of Portal 2's co-op was the complete lack of replayability. I already beat the levels. I don't want to do it again. I already know the solutions. L4D, by contrast is almost endlessly replayable. Sure there's only a few maps, but with the AI director making the spawns and, in the second game, paths dynamic, no two runs of the same level will be identical. Storywise there's not a lot going on. There has been some backstory given through comics posted by Valve and some of the in-game visuals and voice-overs show a little story, but that's not why you play L4D. L4D is about gameplay. Specifically Co-op Gameplay. With actual people. If you're playing with bots only, you're doing it wrong. Now might actually be the prime of L4D's online play. It's been around for a while, so most the retards and griefers have moved on to other games, leaving mostly decent and friendly people. As I said before, I've met quite a few cool people I never would have known if I hadn't played L4D and L4D2. I know I haven't really differentiated the two games much in this review. Mostly for the same reasons I made a single review for both games. They're too similar to really get their own reviews. L4D2 has superior weapon choice and, of course, different maps. I still play both interchangeably. They're both equally fun. Both Left 4 Dead games combined: 9/10

Each game is available for PC for $20 each on Steam or in a combo pack together for $30.
Check them out:
Combo Pack
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead 2

A side note worth mentioning: DLC for both games is available. If you're on the fence of whether to get the PC or 360 versions, PC gets free DLC. 360's DLC is almost all paid for. Just saying.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm Back

Sorry peoples. Took a break. I ran out of reviews to post and not much has been going on lately worth posting about. There were a few games that came out lately that I'll be writing reviews up for soon. Also doing a few older games I had planned on doing before getting super lazy about everything. ^_^

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Now and Then Review: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Ocarina of Time – A Then and Now review

A quick description: Then and Now reviews are going to be 2 brief reviews of the same game. Older games that I played long ago and have replayed within the past year. The “Then” review will be what I thought of the game the first time I played it, to the best of my memory, of course. The “Now” review will obviously be what I think of it now. I'm going to go easy on graphics and some sounds due to obvious technological differences.

THEN: I picked this game up when it was brand new. Even had the limited gold cartridge. This game, for me, is what defined 3D games. I played Mario 64 first, but this is the one that I felt really stood out. This game played like a list of things I wanted in a game. The graphics were beautiful for its time and the music was perfect. The environments were laid out pretty well, although there were some weird places you could stand that would really mess with the game. That was to be expected from a first gen 3D exploration game though. Level design is exactly what I'd expect from a Zelda game. The dungeons were creative, unique and challenging. A lot of people hate on the Water Dungeon, but I didn't really find it that hard. It was decently challenging, but I didn't feel that it warranted the complaints I would always hear about it, but maybe I was just that awesome at the game. Doubt that though. The story was similar to the previous installments, but altered enough to be interesting. Especially with the whole time travel thing. It was a great story that kept me coming back for more until I had beat the game twice and fully understood everything it had to offer. Gameplay was solid. Combat is accurate and fast paced, but controllable. The only combat I have a problem with isn't exclusive to this game, or even the series. Boss fights. Boss fights that are very predictable and impossible to lose once you memorize an attack pattern have always bothered me. Bosses don't need to always be filled with gimmicks. Having an all out sword dual with Ganondorf would have been better than all the reflecting projectiles and hitting certain weak points that bosses are plagued with in these types of games. It was a truly epic game that defined a genre though. Then: 10/10.

NOW: I dug out some old games a while ago and found my old OoT disc with the Master Quest included for the GameCube. I eventually decided to pop the game into the Wii and play through it. The regular game, not the Master Quest. The first problem I found was the awkwardness of the GameCube controller for the game's design. OoT was designed with that thing we called a controller that came with the N64, so it feels awkward putting everything on the more refined, but still somewhat awkward GC controller. I'm not reviewing hardware though, so I'll let that pass. It was about the time that I absolutely breezed through the Water Dungeon that I realized the game felt way too easy. Maybe I just remember the layouts of all the dungeons somewhere in the back of my mind, but I actually went through the first 2 dungeons without taking a hit. The story is still interesting and entertaining, however, it's clear how much Nintendo re-used parts of it in later games. After playing all the newer games, I can't help but feel like I'm playing the same game, but with fewer features in OoT. Graphics, I can't hold against the game. They look like feces smeared on the TV compared to Black Ops or Final Fantasy XIII, but it's from more than 10 years ago, so meh. The music is still amazing, even after all these years. The GameCube port has a problem with audio tearing, but again, not the game sucking, just the port. The combat system also feels kind of clunky and awkward. This is probably because I've played every Zelda game since as well as several other series, which have only improved on OoT's formula of epicness. Graphics and porting issues aside, it's still a very fun and enjoyable game, but seems way too easy compared to the newer games. Even Majora's Mask gave me more trouble when I played through it again than OoT. But whatever. It's still a classic game that anyone interested in gaming should play at some point. 8/10

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Halo 3

Halo 3 (X360)

I had to get to this series eventually. Since I never played Reach, I guess I'll have to review Halo 3. Let me start this off by stating that I've never been a huge Halo fan. That's not to say I think the Halo games are bad. They're just not the Chuck Norris level of Godly everyone gives them credit for being. They just feel too dumbed down for what they are, to me, at least. Halo 3 was the first Halo game I ever sat down and seriously played and, I have to say, I was very underwhelmed. The story didn't really make sense to me, but I expected that, having never played the campaign modes of the first 2 games. I assume it all comes together nicely to longtime fans of the series, but I just didn't get into it. I actually played through the campaign of this game twice. The first time I played at the regular difficulty by myself. After that, I played through again with a co-op partner on the Legendary difficulty. Neither one was that hard. Legendary would have been much tougher if the strategy of having one player hide while the other constantly dies and respawns wasn't so effective. The environments of the game were very well done. They seemed a bit nonsensical to me, again having never played Halo 1 or 2, I had no idea what any of this random stuff was. The weapons are almost too varied, but they work for what the game is. The human weapons are pretty much what you'd expect to find in any standard fps. The Covenant weapons, however, are very...varied. They're the more bizarre and situational weapons of the game while the human weapons are the standard run-and-gun kinds of weapons. Once you start to remember what each weapons does, they all make a nice balance.

Now for the part most people bought this game for: Multiplayer. This section is the only part of the older Halos that I had any past experience with. Halo 3's multiplayer isn't all that different from the other games in this series. There really isn't any part of the multiplayer that stands out to me as being amazing in any way. It's not all that different from the second game (maybe the first too, never really played it). The matchmaking is much better, although despite the hundreds of thousands of people Live was reporting as being online, it seemed surprisingly hard to find certain game types.

The only real complaints I have about it would be that it's just so bland that I just can't get into it and the way health works. It may sound strange, but I feel like you just have too much health in Halo 3. Someone I talked to was saying how it only takes 3 bursts from the Battle Rifle to the head to kill someone. I thought about this a little and realized that that's 9 bullets. To the face. To kill someone. And that's if you can do it all in one attack. Aside from having an enormous amount of life, it also regens very fast. And why is melee so effective? I shot a guy in the face with a rocket and he lived. He then punched in the arm and I died instantly. I'm not trying to complain that the game is cheap or unfair, it's just nonsensical at times. The game makes me feel like I'm playing some kind of child's first fps.

Overall, it's a decently built game with no truly major flaws or gamebreaking problems, but it doesn't really do anything to stand out to me. It was the experience that I had with this game that convinced me to not even take a second look at Reach. I did actually end up playing Halo Wars, but that will be a story for another day. I did mention that this is the first Halo campaign I played through, but I really don't think having the backstory from the other 2 games would forgive the all around generic-ness problems that, for me, make this title a 6/10.

I'd post a link, but, seriously, who doesn't know what Halo 3 is?

And no, I never picked up ODST. I heard the problem I mentioned earlier about ridiculous amounts of health was fixed in that, but I just didn't enjoy this game enough to warrant buying an overpriced expansion pack.