Review: Transformers – War for Cybertron

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If you grew up in the ’80s, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Optimus Prime. And if you did, you probably thought he was awesome.

Prime is the first name who usually comes to mind when there’s talk of the Transformers, the famed “robots in disguise” who transformed into vehicles and captured the imaginations of kids everywhere decades ago, well before movie audiences saw Megan Fox straddling motorcycles and Shia LeBeouf running for his life.

They remain one of the lasting symbols of 1980s pop culture, and were responsible for kitchen floors, dinner tables and living rooms becoming battlefields.

Transformers: War for Cybertron resonates with those kids, who are much older now and have replaced those household surfaces with a 360 or PS3.

For them, High Moon Studios has crafted a fun trek through an intriguing piece of franchise lore, echoing good action shooters of the past while capturing enough of that ’80s-child joy to mask some of its flaws. It’s not so much a groundbreaking title as it is a dream update of beloved cultural icons.

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Staring down the new Xbox 360

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When I heard about the slimmed-down, redesigned Xbox 360′s unveiling at last week’s E3 in Los Angeles, one question came to mind — does a new design mean I won’t have to worry about it suddenly dying on me, like its predecessor?

Both critics and devout fanboys of the original 360 would acknowledge that the engineering of Microsoft’s vaunted console has always been an source of dynamic discussion, the kind that brings out sentiment ranging from typical nuts-and-bolts talk to the passionate (though sometimes wayward) deconstruction of Western and Eastern design philosophies. By now, even casual gamers or people asking about the Big Three systems (Wii, 360 and PS3) have heard about the 360′s famed “Red Ring of Death,” it’s penchant for overheating, the “towel trick” and other tales.

The new 360, armed with a few extras, is hoping to change some of that. So, as a shopper or a new gamer, you have a choice to make. If you’re looking to break in the family’s first game system, is this the time the 360 separates itself a bit more from the pack?

I’m going to share some of what I’ve seen in the new 360, and hopefully it’ll make that choice a little easier for you.
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iPhone 4 antenna issues?

The iPhone 4 is out. Are you one of the lucky ones to snag Apple’s latest must-have gadget? Even if you’re not, you have to admit that when they release something, the world waits in line to get it. That’s not by chance.

Still, they’re as mortal as the next company and, according to PC Magazine, it sounds like there are a few problems with its antenna reception. The solution? Apparently, it’s to hold it differently. It’s not the first time something like this has happened, either, but there might be a good reason why.

Another article – this one by an actual antenna designer at a company called Antennasys, Inc. – points to the requirements placed on them by the FCC and even by AT&T for the awkward antenna.

It’s good blog entry that shows us another side of what goes into the actual engineering of a device like the iPhone. And the best part is that it doesn’t sound like radio instructions.

E3: A look back on Day Three

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Day Three was a relaxed day for us. Only a handful of appointments and the crowds were a little thinner as quite a few people decided to head home once they’ve gotten their fill of news. I don’t blame them. My feet at this point were turning to mush from all of the standing and walking, but the end was in sight. Almost. Today was a catch up day for anything interesting that I wanted to see for myself so we weren’t under any pressure to run from one booth to the other.

Then again, the Lakers were defending their title at the Staples Center that evening making getting out early something of a priority. When Angelinos tell you to go home instead of hanging around to see burning taxis win or lose, it’s probably good advice.
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Money and Games

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Where once it was exclusively the realm of spotty teenagers and pale, vitamin D deprived, basement dwelling individuals, gaming is now a major pillar of the entertainment industry with budgets and sales comparable to those of even the biggest Hollywood movies. This decade has seen gaming become truly mainstream and grow into a medium of mass consumption. However like the movie industry before it, this spectacular growth and desire to become a viable mainstream product that vies for mass market approval has begun to affect the gaming experience for a large section of the gaming community. Current games are certainly very beautiful. The graphics are slick, realistic and beautifully rendered and allow players a level of freedom that would have been unimaginable a mere two decades ago. The ubiquitous nature of HD TVs and surround sound have also played a huge part in immersing the gamer in his virtual world and with each new release, games make another tentative step towards that holy grail of a totally real and believable gaming world. However this progress has perhaps inevitably begun to negatively affect the way new games are developed and influence the choices developers make when tackling new projects.
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E3: A look back on Day Two

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Day Two started off earlier, mainly due to the first day starting at noon. A few appointments were penciled in including another one with Activision who had given us a chance to check out the new True Crime. My brother was ready to hit most of those leaving me to wander the floor to take a look at what else was being shown. The first day was a brief tour in the West Hall. Now it was time to hit the South Hall where the third parties, and Microsoft, was lurking.
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E3: A look back on Day One

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Another E3 has come and gone leaving behind clouds, motion controls, and a bevy of sequels. So what does it all mean? I’ve had a few days to gather my thoughts on what we’ve seen on the show floor and behind closed doors, so here are a few ideas on the message left by waggling hands and brutal teddy bears.
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E3 mini-spotlight: Naughty Bear

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Reggie and I hit E3 over the past week. Instead of long, winding previews of every game we got to see, we took pictures and are providing nuggets of impressions. Reggie’s got the pics from the show. I’ve got some words on what I saw. This one’s the first nugget. Hope you enjoy them!

Teddy bears are the universal embodiment of cuteness. They are the quintessential stuffed animal, perpetually open for hugs and snuggles.

But in Naughty Bear from 505 Games, they are prey. They are enemy targets who can be manipulated and destroyed in a quest for survival and vengeance. And, the main vessel of this vengeance is one of their furry, round brethren.

You play Naughty Bear, a stitched, beat-up and disgruntled occupant on an island full of bears who don’t seem to like you. So, you respond in kind, using as many twisted and brutal methods as you can to get the bears to leave you alone.

What made the game so intriguing to me was its dark nature, veiled by a very cute, fluffy exterior. It’s a trip seeing colorful, huggable creatures whipping out machetes and guns in an effort to defend themselves — but it’s also stirring to uh, bear witness to the sheer mental and physical brutality Naughty Bear can dish out.

The point isn’t to simply kill every bear you see. You have to do it in the worst ways possible to earn “naughty points.” The bears you find in various missions have an unscripted AI, and they all react to Naughty Bear’s presence in different ways. For instance, killing a fellow bear in the woods isn’t enough. But killing a bear in front of other bears and causing them to freak out, grab some weapons and call the police? That’s more like it.

Naughty Bear snaps necks, curb stomps, caves in heads with baseball bats and also won’t hesitate to put a slug in another bear’s fuzzy dome. This is relatively disturbing in its own right, but then there’s the psychological warfare Naughty Bear can wage against others. Instead of bringing death, Naughty Bear can yell “boo!” and scare the stuffing out of anyone who isn’t ready for it. At some point, you can drive a bear completely insane, cause him to snap, and eventually watch him off himself. In the demo, I saw a bear turn his gun on himself and pull the trigger. A puff of stuffing came out.

Naughty Bear was easily one of E3′s guiltiest pleasures for me. We’ll see if it can maintain that vibe when it comes out June 29 for the 360 and PS3.

Review: Red Dead Redemption

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Six-shooters, riding into the sunset and a steely-eyed lone hero walking slowly to the twang of Ennio Morricone-style music in the background — these are the things that come to mind when you think of Westerns.

Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption knows this, but it also sports an acute awareness of time and culture. It finds a way to romanticize the days of the “Wild West” while ominously reminding us of the era’s mortality. It’s not content to simply be a Western for the gaming set, but a comprehensive, compelling ode to a bygone time.

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Review: Alpha Protocol

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Fiction tells us the world of espionage is supposed to embody everything cool. All the guys are buff, all the women are hot, all the guns and gadgets are awesome and all the tasks have something to do with saving the world. Naturally, we want to be a part of it.

Sega’s Alpha Protocol manages to capture some of this energy. But sadly, whatever slickness it has doesn’t extend to a lot of the actual gameplay, so we’re left with yet another title that falls short of its potential.

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