Reviews of the Games I’ve Been Playing

Remember the time I got Eddie?

Yeah, so let’s come to the point. I’ve used it to play a lot of games. And here are short reviews of each, in the order I played them.

Burnout Paradise (The Ultimate Box)

The Burnout series of games by Electronic Arts is hailed as one of the most innovative and fun games ever made. With Burnout Revenge!, and Burnout 3: Takedown hitting it big across the world, and Burnout Dominator failing to, emulate that success on a large scale, EA returned with Burnout Paradise. And boy what a return it was. Brilliant visuals, superb car modelling and even bikes as a DLC!

The entire game is set in the fictional Paradise City, named after Guns ‘n’ Roses‘s hit song of the same name from Appetite For Destruction. The game always starts with this great song, but the soundtrack does remain a problem for the rest of the games, as it recycles tracks from earlier Burnout games. In Burnout Paradise, you’re supposed to take up challenges like takedowns, races, burning laps, etc. to climb through the achievements and earn your “driving licence”. Despite awesome crashes and challenging races with fiery opponents, the game starts to feel repetitive and you soon get bored with it. Climbing from a Class E to Class A requires more than a hundred races to be completed, leaving you bored midway. It’s like a toy you’d play for a while, and throw it away.

Rating: 8.6/10

Call of Duty : Modern Warfare

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Image via Wikipedia

Call of Duty has always been about gut-wrenching blowing up of bad guys and have plots which may be good for some B-grade war movie. Modern Warfare is only slightly different. Only engaging in bits, Modern Warfare does surprise you in some portions, especially in the ending. The graphics are pretty good, but nothing extraordinary to blow you away. I wasn’t very impressed by this over-hyped game. Although the game makes it up with an extra-ordinary ending, I was like “What Modern Warfare? What’s so special?” Trouble is, the single-player campaign gets over in a blink. I was able to do it in really short time of about a day.

But you know what really saves the day? Multiplayer. It has a great multiplayer mode which does make up for the single player campaign. It’s exhilarating, and fun.

Rating: 7.8/10

It’s not that short games can’t be fun. Especially if you’ve played…

Portal

When the Orange Box debuted, a small insignificant game based on the Source Engine was released, known as Portal, along with the much more anticipated Half Life 2: Episode Two and Team Fortress 2.

Portal was instantly the surprise favourite of everyone. It is easily one of the best games I’ve ever played in my life. I took about five hours to complete it, and that is quite long by any standards.

The great thing about Portal is the wacky sense of humour it packs in, along with an engaging gameplay. GLaDOS and the Companion Cube are lovable creatures too. Although the single-player campaign is short, it’s so enjoyable, that it has an immensely high replay value. Few minor bugs occasionally spoil the fun, but the mind-boggling puzzles make you want to come back for. Finishing the game may get you a “Portal hangover”, where you’d want to create portals to various places instead of traveling there.

Rating: 9.5/10

Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2

One of the most anticipated games of all time, I finally got my hands on the reason I bought Eddie. After the disappointment that was Modern Warfare, it’s sequel takes the game to new heights where no game has ever been before.

Like it’s predecessor, it has a small single-player campaign, but it is much more sweeter, and has a darker and more powerful plot. The graphics are also significantly improved, and the controls seem much more easier to use. What makes it distinct from Modern Warfare is that it doesn’t feel repetitive at all.

The variation in gameplay is so amazing, it’ll blow your head off. Be it driving snowmobiles in freezing temperatures or “earning Makarov’s trust”, Modern Warfare 2 is a game that is sure to stay etched in your mind eons after you’ve played it.

Rating: 9.3/10


Assassin’s Creed II

There was no game ever like Assassin’s Creed, and boy there won’t be any like it. Upon it’s released, Assassin’s Creed II was called as the game the first one should have been. Based in the 1480s, you play Desmond Miles/Ezio Auditore da Firenze, who’s a total vagabond. He loves spending his dad’s money and enjoys with the girls. But his father and brother’s death changes him forever as he vows to avenge his death.

What makes Assassin’s Creed II distinct from any other game is its emphasis on non-linear gameplay and the importance given to character development. The graphics are superb, especially in the places where Ezio dives in the water. His clothes actually look wet.

The problem with the PC version of Assassin’s Creed II lies in its DRM protection. Skidrow claimed in his .nfo file that he thanked Ubisoft was such a challenge the game posed for him and his team to crack it.

Unfortunately, the game suffers from a really long plot length. Despite some awesome characters such as Leonardo Da Vinci himself (who makes a “flying machine” a.k.a hanglider), the game suffers from being very repetitive. It’s got its heart in the right place, but just gets a few things wrong. When you reach the end, and defeat the main villain, you’re really bored and don’t care any more. What could have been a spectacular achievement just ends up being fairly awesome.

Rating: 8.8/10

Mass Effect 2

Hardly ever has game been made which is so diverse, so imaginative, so… real. Commander Shepherd is back in Mass Effect 2, and Electronic Arts has done a marvelous job of putting together one of the finest games in recent times.

Commander Shepherd is back, and immediately killed due an attack on his ship, the Normandy, but soon resurrected at an astronomical cost by pro-human organization Cerberus, that has some shady origins…

The game is placed well into the future, giving you the liberty to navigate your spaceship to different galaxies, and explore new planets, and even mine them for new minerals. These minerals help you research new technologies for your weapons, or armour or biotic powers.

But what really separated Mass Effect 2 from the rest is the extreme emphasis on non-linear gameplay. As Shepherd you decide how the game should go ahead, and the game travels willingly based on your decisions alone, seriously impacting the story line. This is managed by a well established (though occasionally tedious) planet exploration activity to mine minerals.

While certainly one of the best games ever made, Mass Effect 2 suffers from an awkward and slightly unbelievable plot line. The wide variety of missions did put me off on many occasions, but that’s probably only me. But one thing’s for certain: Mass Effect 2 has an immensely high replay value.

Rating: 9.2/10

Batman: Arkham Asylum

I thought I had seen it all with Mass Effect 2, when Batman: Arkham Asylum came over and swept me off my feet. Batman: Arkham Asylum is that kind of game that you’ll hardly ever see.

Such a superhero game has probably never been made before. Ever. Superhero games don’t actually have a history of doing great with the critics and the masses (remember Superman 64?)

Following its release. Batman: Arkham Asylum has received massive critical acclaim and does so from me too. Set in Arkham Asylum, the institution set up for the mentally insane, the game starts off with Batman transporting the Joker to Arkham (who submits too easily). What Batman realises is that the Joker planned to be caught, and there was a much darker plot afoot.

The boss battles, though numerous, never bore you for once with the sole exception of Poison Ivy. You’ll face the Scarecrow thrice, and the others like Killer Croc, the Joker and Bane as well.

The tone and color of the game is so well set and the graphics are so beautifully merged with the storyline and gameplay, that it is difficult to set your hands off the keyboard. You’ll always be hungry for more and will come back all the time.

Be it Joker’s crazy sense of humour, Batman’s brilliant martial arts assisted with fluid controls, or gliding seamlessly over Arkham’s dark landscape with the skyline of Gotham in the view, Batman: Arkham Asylum is one of the most perfect games ever created. I’m only disappointed with the font in which “Batman” is written on the box art. Looks a bit weird, if you ask me.

Rating: 9.8/10

So what did you feel about my views on these games? Let me know in the comments section.

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Eddie

His name’s Eddie. Eddie is the Heart of Gold’s shipboard computer, and is always in a constant state of amazement and excitement. That’s how this new PC is.

It was a real pain to get this one. My older PC was pretty much dead. It wasn’t broken down, but all support for hardware had ceased. Intel’s graphics drivers for 82845G had a virus which disabled the Task Manager and Registry, and I was forced to use Process Explorer, which, for the record, is fantastic.

Right, so I had to persuade dad to get a new PC. He delayed it till the boards ended, and little further away till the holidays started. Then I really began to pester him, with constant reminders. He gave an offer for a Dell desktop, which didn’t have even half the configurations I actually wanted, and cost nearly as much.

With Digit magazine’s help, I could design a PC which fit my budget, and conveniently forgot to include a PSU. The Zebronics cabinet I mentioned was not designed for the motherboard, and I now have this iBall cabinet. Dad was getting my PC assembled with the help of his office’s technicians. Apparently, none of them understood by AMD-based configuration. After a lot of “please papa”, he finally relented, gave the go, and here the PC is ready.

2×2 GB Corsair 800MHz DDR2 RAM

AMD Phenom II X4 @ 3.00 GHz per core

Leadtek GeForce GT 240 1GB

ASUS M4A785D-M PRO Motherboard

Seagate Barracude 7200.12 SATA 500GB Hard Drive

No floppy drive šŸ˜¦

While it may be a “far cry” (pun intended) from a gaming rig, it is enough for me. I’ll just play the occasional game at medium settings, but I really wanted to watch videos in HD. A friend handed over a Blu-Ray rip of Avatar. Bliss…

I have Windows 7 installed, and a download of Ubuntu’s Lucid Lynx has just been stopped. It’s Isadora all the way.

Now why did I go for AMD? Simple. It’s cheaper. Way cheaper. Core i7 began at Rs 14000/- and I could get my Phenom at 7500/-. Nice, huh?

Well, I’ve already finished Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. As usual, don’t expect any reviews.

*

Do watch this.

Don’t forget to watch in full screen high definition.

“Ronal–d’oh!”

**

Also, the UEFA Champions League final was epic. Hats of, Milito, though I was really was supporting Ribery-less Bayern Munich. Seems like Jose has got a magic wand with him.

Don’t worry, the best football club in the world will win the League next time.

Prepare for trouble treble

And make it double!”

Xbox 360 Is A PlayStation Copy

Moments ago, a shocking discovery has been made, and ShadowLineTV is bringing you exclusive footage.

In a recent investigation, it has been found that Microsoft’s widely popular Xbox 360 (popular games include Gears of War, Red Ring of Death and Halo3) is inspired (or copied?) from Sony’s immensely popular PlayStation. Or, at least the name is.

If you notice carefully, Xbox 360 is actually X — BOX — 360. Or…

Review: Nokia E63

I really, really needed a new phone. I missed my good-old. gun-metal, chick-magnet Nokia 7610 Supernova, which decided to swim in the washing machine.Ā  It was a slider phone, with great features. Most of all, I missed Opera Mini and mobile web. So I got this new phone from HotSpot in Ashok Vihar, about which I will be making a blog post soon (which means “in the next three months”) . Also, if you notice in the pictures which follow, my E63 is red in color. It is how I publicly display my love for Manchester United. And hatred for Chelsea (the E63 is also available in Blue).

Er, this may seem like a long post (it is). So if you want, you can skip to various parts of the review: Design, Camera, Operating System and Software, Security, Connectivity, Music, Battery Life and the final summary.

Nokia E63

Nokia E63

Nokia E63

Network: 2G and 3G (with UMTS)

Dimensions: 113 x 59 x 18 mm

Weight: 126g

Screen: TFT, 16 Million Colors, 320 x 240 Screen Resolution

Storage Memory: 120MB Internal, 1GB MicroSD card included, Supports upto 16GB

RAM: 128MB

Processor: ARM 11 369 Mhz Processor

Camera: 2MP, 1600 x 1200 resolution

Video Recording: QVGA at 15 frames per second

Wi-Fi: 802.11b/g

Battery: Lithium-Ion 1500 mAh (BP-4L)

Price: Rs 10,500

Review


Design

Once you hold it, you get a nice feeling of power with the E63. The buttons are ergonomically placed, and the spacebar is convenient to use. It also doubles up at a flashlight key!Ā  Only problem is the function key and the shift key are at the bottom right corner of the phone, and those with large thumbs will end up pressing both sometimes. The keys are rubbery to feel, which is good. The call buttons are large, and so are the soft keys. The D-pad is also easy to use. Three out of the four one-touch buttons you see can be programmed to do anything (other than cook food), irrespective of what the icons on them suggest. A short press and a long press have different functions. The screen is also quite large with a weird resolution of 320 x 240. This may be a drawback, as you’ll find it hard to search for games and themes (speaking of themes, I did find an excellent brushed-metal theme). On the other hand, the screen is very bright, a treat to watch videos on. The keyboard is really well laid out. A few minutes of practice, and you’re good to go. A problem I faced was the absence of the _underscore_ key, which should be an important part of any business device because of the plain fact that many e-mail addresses contain underscores. It can only be accessed by the Character key, which spawns open a menu.

Moving on the the back of the phone, we see the camera lens, the flash and reflecting mirror. The case is also really easy to remove – the slide that black slider upwards, and tada! The SIM card is a little difficult to push through, though.

On the sides, is a port for a hot-swappable memory card, and a port for connecting the mini-USB cable (which isn’t proprietary).

There’s a navi-light which blinks when you have a new mail, message or missed call.

Camera

The camera is a huge disappointment. I didn’t expect any dSLR-type quality, but the 2 megapixel camera is utterly worthless. It gives mediocre pictures even in very bright sunshine. The flash looks powerful, but the quality of the image itself cannot be improved. Looks like Nokia didn’t think that business guys would need a camera. Video recording is pathetic. Lets just not talk about it.

Operating System and Software

The phone runs Nokia’s very own Symbian OS (3rd Generation) with Feature Pack 1. Symbian OS seamlessly handles all the applications. Multitasking is an added bonus. There are some problems, though. You cannot disable the camera sounds, and even the flash. There is a “Flash Off” option, but doesn’t seem to work.

The E63 comes pre-loaded with some Tetris game called GlobalBloxx. But the games are not important – its the software. You have a licensed version of QuickOffice (with Word, Excel and Powerpoint support). Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with the new Office 07 extentions (*.***x), but reportedly does so with a free update, which is a whopping 6 MB and will set AirTel users back by a whopping thirty-seven bucks. There’s also this superb call manager called Advanced Call Manager, which handles all your calls and rejects the ones you don’t want. It also has an inbuilt answering machine! The E-mail set up wizard is really easy, and you’re hooked up with your mailbox in about five minutes. It supports a large number of e-mail providers and has pre-configured settings for all. You can also key in setting for your e-mail provider if it is not listed. New mail, missed calls, and text message notifications appear on the homescreen itself. So you can see who the message is from without reading it.

You all know how Symbian is. Many feel it is slow and lags dreadfully, but that is because it often doesn’t have any adequate hardware to do well. Symbian ran quite perfectly on my E63 (which has a 369 Mhz processor). But the main problem with all those third-party apps any Symbian user installs (and loves) is that they all need to pass through an application-signing test. Certain functions the app needs to access can be granted easily and any developer can self-sign them. But some of those advanced APIs which software use require mandatory signing. This is done to prevent viruses spreading in your phone and wreaking havoc. But it only turns out to be plain irritating. If you’re a bhakt of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and everything on your phone (except the OS, of course) is pirated, then you’re in for a disappointment. You. Cannot. Install. Those. Cracked. Applications.

Of course, there are ways where you can sign the apps yourself, and they’ll be specific to your IMEI. But zat is hacking, isn’t it? A post on that coming soon. I promise. No! Seriously.

You know Opera Mini? You don’t? And you own a Java-enabled phone? Throw it away.

You know Opera Mini? Good. In my E63, a single press of the spacebar triggered of a series of spaces for no clear reason. So I cannot type properly in Opera Mini. The original Symbian browser is pretty good, but nothing can beat Opera Mini’s eye candy. I have to, unfortunately, switch to the normal text editing mode. However, typing messages and e-mails in Nokia’s inbuilt applications are a treat. Predictive text accurately guesses which word you’re going to type almost every time, saving you much hassle. The spelling correction is superb too, letting you add words to the phone’s dictionary. You can even tell the phone to read you messages in your inbox.

Security

Since a business person (or any of us, for that matter) is concerned about privacy, Nokia has done a decent job of it. You can set the time for an automatic keypad lock or even a phone lock. In case of theft (or pesky people), a predefined SMS sent to your phone will lock it immediately, rendering the user unable to access any data at all. There’s even an encryption feature which will encrypt your memory card and/or phone memory with a key. Surprisingly, however, there isn’t any antivirus bundled! This is surprising, since it is a business phone. And there’s also that Symbian Signed limitation mentioned above.

Connectivity

Call connectivity was good. The call quality was not bad at all, though there was initially some lag while answering calls, but its fixed now. WLAN works pretty well. The OS allows you to use a WLAN access point for any application that demands a web connection. Rejoice, Skype customers! And a special pat-in-the-back to those Fring fans too! I still haven’t tried 3G, though. You know why.

Music

In one word: disappointing. The music quality is seriously not good at all. Symbian’s Music Player tries its best by adding some standard settings such as an equalizer, loudness and stereo widening, but the problem here is the hardware itself. The loudspeaker is not very loud, so you can forget playing your favourite track to your friends and expect them to catch every syllable. I tried Hotel California by Eagles and Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin, both of which have some excellent guitar work. The instruments are not clearly audible over the speaker, though this improves considerably over the bundled earphones. The earphones are decent, but not good enough. They are strictly fro call purposes. However, Nokia has provided a standard 3.5mm jack, so you can use those $400 Bose headsets (yeah, you bought the cheap ones) with the phone.

(A note here. The best music quality in a phone I’ve ever seen is that of the iPhone and Nokia’s N91. Yeah, that old fat phone which is now obsolete.)

Battery Life

This is the big one. The E63 has a standard Li-Ion 1500 mAh BP-4L battery, which supplements the business phone. Businessmen always on the move will need their device always ready, and the E63 does just that with its battery. I had installed iON Batter Timer, and it displayed about two days till the battery discharge, which is quite good. It is definitely made for people on the go. In the real world, the phone managed about eighty hours with full brightness while I was playing Java games, browsing the web on Opera Mini (not on Wi-Fi, though), and listening to music via the bundled earphones.

Summing Up

The E63 is an excellent cheap business phone for those who don’t want to disconnect from the outside world. An ergonomic keyboard, bright screen, excellent battery life and the good ol’ Symbian help as well. Social network fanboys will be addicted too. But if you’re looking for decent music quality or a decent point-and-shoot camera, avoid.

DetailedĀ Ratings (Out of 10)

Design: 8

Features: 9 (a mark cut for poor camera and no GPS)

Security: 8 (two marks go down for the absence of an antivirus solution)

Value for Money: 10 (You cannot get such a device at Rs 10, 500!)

Battery Life: 9 (Very Good, but could have been better)

Overall Rating (Out of 10): 8.8/10 (Superb!)

Also, do tell me how the new look is. iNove had become too old.

Endocrine Glands

There’s this kid in my neighbouring class (C section) known as Vinamra Shende. He’s an Assassin’s Creed fan, and a pretty good artist. Apparently, he was either getting bored to death while giving his science examination, or the pressure of tenth grade had driven him bonkers.

Bonkers in an… imaginative way.

Presenting the biggest WIN of the decade – endocrine glands!

Endocrine Glands

Endocrine Glands

I hope you guys like it. I was tagged with this on Facebook.

Happy Birthday, PlayStation

PlayStation

The King

Fifteen years ago, a company named Sony released a gaming console named PlayStation. They actually felt that a newcomer could take on Sega (which was the world leader in gaming consoles at that time) and Nintendo (which was riding high on the waves of success with the Nintendo Entertainment System).

They were right. Despite being the underdog, PlayStation went on to become the best gaming console of all time, and also an example for all those hard-work-can-help-you-succeed reality shows on TV.

But why do I call the PlayStation the best console ever? No. Not because of the looks or hardware, but because of the legacy it went on to inspire. It was almost single-handedly responsible for boosting the gaming market, even though Nintendo had successfully revived it after the Video Game Crash of 1983.

It paved the foundation for so many consoles such as the trendy PlayStation Portable, the best-selling and most successful console of all time – the PlayStation 2, and the mini-supercomputer, the PlayStation 3. The controls of the original PlayStation were so popular, that the entire layout has been copied onto Sony’s other consoles. With negligible modifications.

PlayStation Controller

The Original PlayStation controller. Analog sticks were included later

The PlayStation 2 Controller - the DualShock 2

See that? NO modification.

The PlayStation Portable

A slight change here, to minimise space But the overall layout remains the same. Start and Select are still there.

The PlayStation 3 Controller - the DualShock 3

No change. Again. Except for the PlayStation button.

Games

Not only controller design, but, most importantly, the games released first for the PlayStation are now major money-spinners in the gaming market.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater

Tony Hawk is better known through the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, than by his own, marvelous achievements. Activision brought us this superb skating simulation game which had everyone hooked on. Activision didn’t stop here. They released Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 which also became critically and commercially acclaimed hits on its successor console, the PS2.

Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid

This time, Konami decided to teach a thing or two about stealth to PlayStation users. Metal Gear Solid came, and introduced us to Snake. A suberp story, well-built characters and breathtaking graphics combined with an excellent sense of stealth, made it a major success with the masses and critics as well. Konami was not new to the gaming scene – it had captured hearts with Contra – but this was something even better. The legendary Hideo Kojima showed that gaming is not only for kids. It has advanced to higher ages as well, as the plot for Metal Gear Solid could rival any Hollywood blockbusters’. Further, Konami released Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater for PS2 Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops for PSP and finally, the best of them all – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for PS3. All were instant hits, and continued Snake’s story which began at the PlayStation.

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII

When you think about Final Fantasy VII, all you can say is… wow. Square brought us the best RPG game of all time, and Final Fantasy VII is regarded as the most influential games ever made. Rightly so. It used spectacular 3D Graphics, and brilliant character models. It also came with a gripping plot, even successfully incorporating drama into it, by showcasing the characters’ internal struggles as well as their road to defeat evil. Final Fantasy has run into as many as twelve titles, each being immensely successful.

Gran Turismo

Gran Turismo

Gran Turismo

No game has ever, or will, transcend the boundaries between professional racing and gaming like Gran Turismo did. Forza can try, so can Need For Speed. But Gran Turismo always gets it right. Even for the PlayStation, it had superb physics and marvelous simulation. The game also had many other games in the series, all of them being immensely successful. In fact, Gran Turismo was the most selling game for the PlayStation, emptying 10.95 million pockets all over the world.

Resident Evil

Resident Evil

Resident Evil

Yikes. Resident Evil. Was. At its time. The most. Scariest game. It inspired other Resident Evil games as well, but none was so successful as the original, which first released on the PlayStation. It scared the living daylights off the most of us. But people still enjoyed it, and it became a best seller in the United States.

So that is all for now folks! If you like this article, please comment and/or rate it as well!

Download The TCS IT Wiz 2009 Quiz Finals

I’ve given you the prelims, Now eat the finals. The prelims were compiled by Shikhar, and hosted by me. The finals are compiled and written by Shreyans, and hosted by me. You can now see how I love to take credit for others’ work and boost my blog views.

Download The TCS IT Wiz 2009 Quiz Finals

A small note here. This quiz archive is EPIC. It’s simply awesome! Download it for sure. At. Any. Cost. Shreyans has compiled a truly magnificent archive. Never before have a seen something like this. If possible, print it on photo paper and frame it.