Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Grand Theft Auto 4
Like Rock Band, Grand Theft Auto 4's a tossup. More opponents for online play is great, but we're big fans of better graphics, and the PS3 has an ever so slight edge in that department. Plus, the install cuts down on loading screens, which gives us more time to ram firetrucks into dirtbikes. As if that wasn't enough reason to count this game among the best PS3 games ever, there's always the fact that you can push people in front of trains, saw pedestrians down with helicopter blades, and drive your dinner date off a cliff. Be bad, be wild, and be a menace!
Batman: Arkham Asylum
No one expected Batman: Arkham Asylum to be this good. In fact, no one expected it to be one of the most impressive and thrilling action games to ever hit the PlayStation 3. Thankfully, Rocksteady Studios and Warner Bros./DC Comics made the invaluable choice of enlisting help from the best talent possible, including big-ticket names like Paul Dini, Kevin Conroy, Arleen Sorkin, and of course, Mark Hamill. For once, a video game developer got everything right in a Batman game, and Rocksteady Studios even went as far as including The Joker as a playable character for PS3 gamers. But most rewarding was the fact that The Caped Crusader fought like a demon from Hell, his tools were inventive and intuitive, and the atmosphere of Arkham Island was as demented and dangerous as its inhabitants. Welcome back, Batman.
Sure, the original Killzone may have failed to be the "Halo-killer" it was proclaimed to be, but after a painfully long time in development (the sequel was supposed to be a PS3 launch title), Guerilla Games finally delivered a first-person shooter that pushed its console to its boundaries, mostly in terms of graphics. Even stunningly polished shooters like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare lacked the level of detail displayed in Killzone 2's bleak, post-apocalyptic wastelands and war-scorched cities. As soon as you boot up Guerilla's killer FPS sequel, there's no ignoring the mind-blowing lengths that the team behind the game has gone to, bringing the battlefield to life. Killzone 2 remains to be one of the best next-gen shooters, and is one PS3 game that's recommended for those who can appreciate its gritty science-fiction spin on the genre.
Generally, gamers relish the ability to kill, maim and obliterate their enemies and obstacles, but BioShock changed the entire experience with solid, inventive gameplay and a new moral compass. This sleeper hit from 2K Games, a studio formerly known for high-profile but moderately successful strings of PC role-playing games (Jade Empire, Civilization IV, Sid Meier's Pirates), sold Xbox 360s and unintentionally became a flagship title for the console with little buildup and a huge amount of positive press. When it finally made the transition to the PlayStation 3, BioShock also came with a new "Survivor Mode" that made the already tough gameplay even harder than before, which was all the reason we needed to play the game just one more time.
Assassin's Creed 2
Ubisoft recreated the historic enviroment of 15th century Italy with the same care and attention to detail that Leonardo da Vinci gave to The Last Supper. No matter how well you can build a city, you almost can't do better than Assassin's Creed 2. Taking the stylish and addictive motions of the previous game's protagonist, the near-superhuman Altair, Assassin's Creed 2 went further towards the present with Ezio, the new assassin on the block. Noting both the forwards and backwards steps of the previous title, Ubisoft made sure that Ezio moves in ways that his predecessor never could: wading through waterways, stealing his opponents' weapons, and even flying through the skies with the help of some handy contraptions.
Modern Warfare 2
Gut-wrenching moments and fast-paced FPS action were the bread and butter of the first Modern Warfare. After taking the Normandy Invasion as far as it could go, Infinity Ward took their coveted franchise into the modern era with amazing results. Since then, Modern Warfare 2 has proved to be a more-than-worthy successor to 2007's Game of the Year, upping the ante with an insanely gripping story, even better multiplayer, and enough controversial decisions to jar any player back into reality, even if just for a split second. Even if you never go back to the solo missions after the first time around, playing online is so deep and incredibly well-polished, you'll have little to no excuse to get tired of Modern Warfare 2.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
When you call any title the video game equivalent of Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know that the action has to be impressively over-the-top, the characters must evoke unmistakeable charm, and the experience has to rival everything else of its genre. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves does exactly that, bringing back a more flawed, more human Nathan Drake, who's in a bigger adventure than even he can handle in one of the most highly acclaimed PS3 games yet. Even with the memorable Hollywood-style action-adventure in the bag, the multiplayer proves to be a showcase for the vastly improved gameplay. With a cover system that feels refreshingly more natural and spontaneous than Gears of War, and explosive weapons that can tear down the walls around your character, you'll have your hands full trying to stay ahead of the action.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Gamers, this is the one. If you're planning to buy a PlayStation 3, or you already have one, Metal Gear Solid 4 should be at the top of your list. It's an epic stealth-shooter with jaw-dropping graphics and a massively detailed storyline. Sure, the 20-minute cinema scenes can drag on a bit too long, but the game's quality shines through in every aspect of its production. Unlockable rewards, 70+ weapons, and a well-designed online mode will keep you playing months after you've completed the core single-player experience. If you've ever loved a shooter, a stealth game, or an action game, Metal Gear Solid 4 is a can't-miss title.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
|General||2G Network||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900|
|3G Network||HSDPA 900 / 1900 / 2100|
|HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 - American version|
|Announced||Exp. announcement 2010, Sep|
|Status||Rumored. Exp. release 2010, 4Q|
|Display||Type||AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors|
|Size||480 x 800 pixels, 4.0 inches|
|- Multi-touch input method|
- Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
- Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
- Scratch-resistant surface
|Sound||Alert types||Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones|
|Speakerphone||Yes, with stereo speakers|
|- 3.5 mm audio jack|
- HDMI port
|Memory||Phonebook||Practically unlimited entries and fields, Photocall|
|Call records||Detailed, max 30 days|
|Internal||32 GB storage|
|Card slot||microSD, up to 32GB, buy memory|
|3G||HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, UPnP technology|
|Bluetooth||Yes, v3.0 with A2DP|
|USB||Yes, v2.0 microUSB|
|Camera||Primary||12 MP, 4000x3000 pixels, Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, Xenon flash|
|Features||Geo-tagging, face and smile detection|
|Features||OS||Symbian ^3 OS|
|CPU||1 GHz processor|
|Messaging||SMS, MMS, Email, Push Email, IM|
|Browser||WAP 2.0/xHTML, HTML, RSS feeds|
|Radio||Stereo FM radio with RDS; FM transmitter|
|Games||Yes + downloadable|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS support; Nokia Maps|
|Java||Yes, MIDP 2.1|
|- Digital compass|
- MP3/WMA/WAV/eAAC+ player
- MP4/H.264/H.263/WMV player
- Voice command/dial
- Document viewer (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF)
- Video/photo editor
- Flash Lite 3
|Battery||Standard battery, Li-Po 1500 mAh|
Friday, March 26, 2010
Fed up of the stock ringtones? Feel the need to have incoming calls announced with a few bars of Barbie Girl instead? I was asked how to add custom sounds for ringtones on the HTC Hero, but this should work for any Android device. It’s pretty straightforward in truth. Here’s how:-
- Connect the phone to your computer via the USB cable
- Open the Notifications screen on your phone (pull down a finger from the top of the screen to the bottom) and select the USB Storage notification
- Choose “Mount”
- Browse to the SD Card on your PC
- Look for a folder called media, if it’s not there, create it by right clicking and choosing New Folder, then rename the folder to be media
- Inside the media folder, you need a folder called audio, again, if it’s not there create it as above
- Inside the audio folder, you can create a subfolder for the sound category you want to change-
- ringtones – for sound files you want to use as ringtones
- alarms – for sound files you want to use for any alarms
- notifications – for incoming notifications such as SMS alerts, emails, etc
- Copy the sound or music file which you’d like to use as your ringtone in to the relevant folder
- You should now see your sound or music file listed in the menu for selection in the relevant sound settings menu (to access the ringtone/notification settings, press the hard Menu key from one of your home screens, then press Settings then Sounds and Display)
In my younger days if I heard a book or movie was disturbing or hard to handle I generally took that as a challenge. Most books generally turned out to not be too bad, but occasionally I’d come across something that would leave me with a sick feeling in my stomach for weeks. I’ve largely outgrown this “genre” of late, but here are my picks for the ten most disturbing books of all time. Any one of these books is capable of leaving you feeling a little depressed at the least, and permanently scarred at the worst. I’d say enjoy, but that doesn’t really seem appropriate …
Monday, March 22, 2010
1) The most newsy news was today's launch of the Google Personalized Homepage, a sort of "My Google" that lets you plunk recent Gmail messages, Google News, news feeds from providers such as the New York Times, weather, and other bits of information onto Google's homepage. Personalization of this sort is a very old idea (My Yahoo has offered it for years), but Google's take on it looks typically Google-esque: It's simple, functional, and fast. Google's lab page lets you try it right now.
2) In the long run, the most meaningful thing we heard about today may have been a Google Research translation technology that involves statistical analyses of texts that are available in multiple languages (such as United Nations documents). The examples that we saw included a couple of Arabic-to-English translations that were, apparently, utterly perfect. If this process reaches a point where it works as well for documents of all sorts, and is available to everybody, it would be one of the most profound things technology has done for us since...well, the search engine.
3) Google is readying a software package called Google Earth, which is a Google-ized version of Keyhole, an astounding 3D mapping program from a company that Google acquired. It includes some built-in searching features that let you do things like see driving directions rendered as photographic flyover animations of actual the route you'll take.
4) Google is often compared to Microsoft these days, but one key difference between the companies is that Microsoft loves to talk about unreleased products (sometimes years before they show up), while Google is still rather secretive. Company execs almost apologized for showing us the unreleased Google Earth at all, and wouldn't say when it might ship or what it might cost. (You can download a demo of the current version here.)
5) Lots of folks--including me--are sometimes mystified about why Google gets into some of the businesses it enters. For instance, its Picasa 2 is a fast and fun photo organizer, but it's also free--and Google has never said why it got into the photo game, or how it hopes to turn a profit at it.
During the Factory Tour, we heard over and over of Google's mission--"to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful"--and its 70/20/10 philosophy, which involves spending 70 percent of the company's resources on its core business (search), 20 percent on closely related areas (such as news), and 10 percent on oddball projects. We also heard that the company was originally founded on cool search technology and a strong but vaguely-defined faith that search would eventually be a powerful way to make money.
Those elements--a desire to organize information, a yen to experiment, and a willingness to do neat things first and figure out how to make money with them later--go a long way towards explaning Picasa and other Google side projects.
6) Google leaves a service in beta as long as it has specific features it thinks the service needs, but which it hasn't implemented yet. Which apparently means that the company still has designs on improving its Google Groups Usenet archive, which has been in beta for years.
7) The company says that it knows the Google Web Accelerator caused problems for some sites and users, but says they weren't as bad as some critics claimed. It says that the experience taught it to test products more thoroughly before making them public. It also said that the Web Accelerator had unexpected trouble dealing with poorly-coded Web pages--which startled me a bit, because you'd think that if anyone knew that the Web is full of sloppy Web pages, it would be Google...
8) How many servers does it take to run Google? Nobody knowns--the company will only say that the last reported number was 10,000. (Some folks speculate that the current total could be as high as 100,000.)
9) It does say that it builds all those servers itself, which just may make it the biggest hardware do-it-yourselfer on the planet.
10) If you work at Google, you may end up with an untraditional job title...such as "Spam Cowboy and Porn Cookie Guy" (and that's one employee, not two).
If the above musings aren't enough for you, Search Engine Lowdown has a moment-by-moment blog report, including a review of the lunch that attendees ate (which included a "Googley" bistro salad).