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I do not have good luck with printers. In fact, they frustrate me. In the past 10 years, computers have become faster, smaller, and better in every possible way. A computer of 10 years ago running Windows 2000 would look outdated and slow today. However, printers really have not changed all that much. They still take longer than it seems they should to print. They still look the same and take up the same amount of space. I see little improvement. And after going through two Dell printers breaking on me (mind you, I do print a lot and probably used them more than most people do in years) I decided to give Kodak a try. I had seen ads on television for the ESP printers and how you can save a lot of money spending on ink with them and decided to go with that. The box it came in was very sturdy and everything was packaged well. Setup was very easy and for once, fast. All good signs so far. I did a test print and it came out great. Soon after buying the printer I needed to print a 23 page color and black and white document (I mentioned I do a lot of printing, right?). This came out great, and printing was reasonably quick, and I can say I was rather pleased. This went on for a while, and I thought I finally had myself a reliable and long-lasting printer. That is, until I got the warning signs that I was low on ink. I went out to the store and bought the correct replacement ink. Another thing I really like about the Kodak- replacing ink is very easy to do, just pop open the one lid and you can look DOWN at everything, as opposed to opening the back or side of most other printers. This is nice because it's much easier to look down at everything rather than leaning over and peeking in through some side compartment. Replacing the ink itself was very easy, you just press down where indicated and pop the old cartridge out and slam the new one in. It moves around a bit, and bang, you're done... Unfortunately this was not the case for me. After replacing the ink (mind you this is the COLOR ink cartridge) I found that I could no longer print multiple pages, and instead have been forced to print pages one at time. If I try to print two pages, the first page comes out fine, and anything after that gets blurred or comes out half blank. This has been very disappointing, especially after how well the printer worked at first. I've looked around and do not really see this anywhere in the troubleshooting suggestions that came packaged with the printer, nor have I been able to get a straight answer anywhere online. At first I thought maybe I screwed up the installation of the ink cartridge (though believe me that would be difficult to do), and tried putting it in a second time. Same problems. What is especially odd though is that, as stated above, I only replaced the color ink cartridge, yet even if I am set to do black and white prints now I have the same results of more than one page coming out blurred or not printed at all. I checked on the computer, and it says both ink cartridges are at least 75% full. It is very frustrating. Perhaps I just ended up with a lemon product, as I have heard so many good things about these printers, and the reviews really do back it up. What's really sad is that the great thing about this printer- the cheap ink, is definitely true, ink was much cheaper than other cartridges when I picked it up at the store. If I can really recommend this product, I would do so knowing that you get some sort of warranty with it. I was foolish and didn't get one, and now I'm paying the price.
The year is 2013, and by now if you do not have a smartphone you are considered outdated and behind on the times. Furthermore, it's no longer just good enough to have a smartphone, it's got to be running at least Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, or be an Apple iPhone. It really is a cruel, cruel, world that we live in. Now to make matters worse, carriers like AT&T and Verizon have picked up the fact that everyone needs to be able to check their Twitter feed while on the bus, and therefore have jacked up prices on anything remotely "smart". This makes the HTC One V (the V for Virgin Mobile) all the more appealing if you are looking to get a great plan, and a great phone, at a solid price. Prior to purchasing my HTC One V, I had an LG Optimus V through Virgin Mobile. It was a good phone to get me accustomed to using Android, but ultimately it was too outdated (running Android 2.3 I believe) and it was too slow to use many apps on. The first thing I noticed about the HTC is that the display is much crisper. I'm not sure what the graphic output is, but it's definitely very good and eye-pleasing. It's good for looking at pictures, watching video, or reading on. There are three main buttons on the HTC, as opposed to the four you will sometimes see. There is of course the home and back buttons, as well as a third button that sometimes serves as a "Settings" button and other times serves as a "Recent Apps" button. It all depends on how the app that is currently in use is designed. There is also an unlock button on the top of the phone, as well as volume up/down buttons on the right side. All of the buttons are easy to get to. I have heard some complaints about them being hard to reach and press down on with particular cases. I'm pretty careful with my phone though, and do not currently have a case for it, so I can not speak on whether or not this is true, and chances are it varies from case to case. The body of the HTC is aluminum, and it feels and looks sleek in black. On the back of the phone is a 5.0 megapixel camera with a flash. I have used the camera often, and now hardly ever feel the need to have a digital camera with me unless the occasion is really special. The pictures turn out good, and the flash automatically detects and works great in low light as well, and is overall a much better functioning camera than my old LG. One of the new things that I really like with the HTC is the way you unlock it. You press the top button to unlock, and then drag a circle ring into the center of the screen. Then if you have a password or pattern to enter, you put that in. However, if you have an incoming phone call, you do not need to enter the password or pattern so you can answer the phone call faster by just quick dragging the ring. This is a smart feature as it prevents you from missing calls, but also allows you to have the added safety of a password if your phone is ever lost or stolen. In addition, when you have an incoming phone call and do not want to answer because it's a bad time, there are several preset responses you can tap that will inform the person trying to get in touch with you that "I'm busy, call you back later." As a phone, it really does work very well. This is something that seems to have been forgotten in this day of cell phones, as it is often more about how well certain applications will work, or the speed of internet browsing. Fortunately, HTC has not forgotten what the main purpose of the phone should be, and calls are of good quality, even with poor reception. Probably the primary thing that I spend my time doing on my cell phone is texting. It's something that most users are probably guilty of, smartphone or not. Texting is the new email, and is a lot of ways more improved due to people always having their phones and therefore you get a quicker response most of the time. Unlike my old LG, the HTC did not come with Swype pre-installed, and this caused big problems, as it was how I was able to type so fast before. Luckily, I consulted the Google Play store and found "TouchPal Keyboard". This is a great free alternative to Swype, and I actually like it a lot better, as it guesses the words you are typing out as you go, and also remembers common phrases that you use. Overall typing on the HTC is probably the fastest I have ever done on a phone. As for applications, I have yet to come across any that do not work well on the HTC. With my LG I had a lot of problems since the Android OS was outdated, but with 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, everything has been working well so far. Mind you, I'm not a heavy app user. I tend to stick to "mainstream" apps like Pandora, Amazon Kindle, Netflix, etc. and they have all worked well for me. I do have some third party apps, iFunny, Solitaire, etc. and these all work as well as the developers intended them to. One of the biggest problems among any smartphone nowadays is battery life, and the HTC suffers from it as well. I can get through a day just fine, but by the time I get home I'm probably at around 25% and need to plug it in. This of course depends on how much I am using the phone during the day. If I spend a good half hour playing solitaire, it will show big time. Luckily though, the one thing that I do a lot for long periods of time on my phone, listening to music, is something that does not take up a lot of battery, even while using Pandora for a few hours. You've got to make sure that the screen is not on during this time, but other than that you can listen to hours and hours of music while losing little battery life, assuming that music isn't being streamed off of YouTube. Games and internet browsing are still a killer though, and is really something that needs to be worked on during this age of smart phones. How "smart" is a device that can only be used for a day without an outlet? My flip phone from five years ago was able to go a week without being plugged in, between calls and texting... so what's up with phones nowadays not being able to go a few hours? Whoever solves this major problem is going to go far in this massive industry, and they'll have my money to prove it. In the meantime though, the HTC will suffice, but it still isn't great. Overall, the HTC is probably the best smart phone I have owned up until this point, and I really do like it. The battery life definitely leaves something to be desired, but this is still a big step up for me, and I feel as if the phone is able to handle any important functions like serving as a GPS or browsing the web as competently as a more expensive phone like an iPhone or Galaxy S3 could. It may not have quite the processing power as the bigger players, but it also doesn't come with the hefty price tag, so I'm more than happy with where I am right now.
Assassin's Creed III is really the 5th game in what has become Ubisoft's flagship game series. The first Assassin's Creed game took place during the Crusades, where you played as the ancestor of Desmond Miles, Altair. It was a game full of original concepts, but also a very empty world that left the player to repeat the same dull tasks time and time again. The second installment, Assassin's Creed II showed great improvement over this, creating a much more colorful world with a much more dynamic protagonist, Ezio Auditore, who became a huge hit among fans of the series. Overall, Assassin's Creed II was miles ahead of the previous title, but still showed room for improvement. Unfortunately, Ubisoft then decided it would prefer to drag out the time of Ezio, pushing his story into two more games- Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed Revelations. While both were fantastic games in their own right, they showed little to no leaps forward, and served as transitions more so then progressions, almost like two rehashed versions of "Assassin's Creed 2.5". With the next installment in the series then, Ubisoft stated there would be an entirely new protagonist and setting/time period, there would be high expectations for big improvements over previous games in the series. So does Assassin's Creed III earn it's title by leapfrogging the games forward in the same way that ACII did? The short answer is yes. On paper, it's clear that Assassin's Creed III is the best game in the series. The developer has created an entirely new setting, brought in entirely new characters (while still retaining the modern day storyline of Desmond Miles from previous games), given the player so much more to do than ever before, and shoving it all together into a beautifully crafted, eye-pleasing world that pushes the graphic capabilities of the Xbox 360 to their limits. I'm a firm believer that graphics should not be something that makes or breaks a game. However, with some games, such as Assassin's Creed III, when they are done so well, it becomes impossible to ignore them. The ports of Boston and the colonial America frontier may not be as colorful and bright as the streets of Florence and Venice were, but they are stunning nonetheless. This is all because of the new game engine which makes the world around you flourish so much more than it ever has before. As odd as it may seem, animals are a major part of this. When I first heard the news about there being animals in this game, and that hunting in the frontier would be important for multiple aspects of the game, I didn't think much of it. I thought it would be a feature that was always there, but nobody really used, much like the tower defense system thrown into Assassin's Creed Revelations. This is not the case however, mostly because of the sheer amount of time you'll be spending in the frontier, so whether you like it or not, and whether you choose to hunt or not, the elk, wolves, bears, and hares will all still be there. And in the strangest way, it makes the game much more filling. There's just more there. The storyline is another major part of the Assassin's Creed series, and it has not been abandoned in the slightest for ACIII. In fact, at parts it can feel like you spend more time watching cutscenes unfold then actually playing the game. For some, this could be a major turn off. If you've been playing through each of the AC game so far though, you're probably pretty engaged and will want to see what's happening, whether it's through the present Desmond Miles attempting to save the world, or the new protagonist Connor. Connor is the perfect character for the setting of colonial America sparking the revolution. He has interests in both sides, he is open minded and does not stubbornly follow one side blindly, even when the general George Washington wants him to. There have also been some major gameplay redesigns in Assassin's Creed III, the major thing that lacked in Brotherhood and Revelations. The combat system is new, and will take some getting used to. Not as many buttons are used as in previous games, so in a way it is more simple, with controls limited mainly to the "B" and "X" buttons. However, you can't just mash them like you did in previous games. Every combat situation is a bit different, and enemies are harder to defeat than they ever were, with different enemies having very different tactics. With some enemies you will have to disarm them before you can attack, with some you will have to use your hidden blades instead of your tomahawk, and with others you can only kill them by using a countering move after they try and attack you. Until you get used to it, it will be far more challenging and you will die more often. This is a good thing to see, as previous Assassin's Creed games, as good as they were, never really provided a challenge. Don't get me wrong, this is still a relatively easy game, and it is pretty unlikely there is any spot where you will die more than one or two times before finding a strategy to move on. However, it also isn't like Assassin's Creed II where I don't recall ever having to go through a mission more than once, it was just that easy. One of the biggest problems that has plagued the Assassin's Creed series since its inception has been the post-story gameplay. In every single game, after you have beaten the single player storyline, the game consistently has sucked. Although in more recent installments they have tried, it always seems sloppily thrown together. I am here to say in Assassin's Creed III... colonial America is not all that interesting of a place to be after you complete all of the main quests, but it is still more interesting than post-victory Italy and Constantinople (Assassin's Creed II, Brotherhood, and Revelations.) After you beat the game, there are still some quests to complete on the Davenport Homestead, but unfortunately they suffer the same problems as previous post-game missions- they are not boring. What made the main missions of ACIII so great was that you get into the storyline- you WANT to hunt down and kill the Templars after what they have done. Then after you've finally killed them all off, you are left doing quests like breaking up drunk tavern fistfights. They just have not gotten the drop in scale right yet. I would not have a problem breaking up a fistfight if it meant something important, but it isn't. I've just got from influencing the history of the American Revolution, and now I'm trying to convince a farmer to come grow corn and wheat on my homestead village? That's something so meaningless I would be bored under any game circumstances. Coming from a victory at Bunker Hill though, it's so boring it almost hurts. Now fortunately there are one or two interesting side quests, which is the saving grace and what ultimately keeps this game as something that shows improvement. They just need to make these interesting side quests a little more consistent and Ubisoft would truly have a masterpiece of a game on their hands. Ubisoft is so close to making gaming history with the Assassin's Creed series. With slight improvements in a couple of areas, they would have created one of the best games ever made. Unfortunately though, it looks like that history making will have to wait until the next generation of consoles. Perhaps it really is just the old hardware of the 360 and PS3 that's holding everything back, or maybe it's just lazy development towards the end of production. Regardless, it would be ridiculous to ignore the fact that the game we do have, Assassin's Creed III, rather than the one we dream about, is still a great achievement and highlight for the series. Colonial America is an engaging, beautiful, and interesting world with more to do than ever before, and right now the only thing we as gamers can do is appreciate what we've got... and that's not much to complain about.
After the fantastic and successful game that was Forza Motorsport 4, developer Turn 10 Studios had their work cut out for them in producing the next game in the series... and we're going to have to wait and see if they do just that, because what we have here is really not the next game in the Forza series. Instead we have an open-world, arcade-like game which runs similar to Forza 4. Unlike previous Forza games, Horizon is open world and allows you to drive from race to race. The roads aren't empty though, they have civilian traffic to avoid, as well as other Horizon festival racers that you can pull up next to and challenge to an illegal street race. There are a few other things to do as well, like hit the highest speed possible through set up speed traps, drive through signs to get discounts on car parts, or look for abandoned car barn finds, where you can search for classic cars like the BMW M1 and Aston Martin DB5, and add them to your collection for free. When you eventually do drive over to a race, you'll find the game mechanics a lot easier to control than in Forza 4, which has the same game engine as Horizon. By turning up the difficulty and turning off different options like having manual transmission instead of automatic or braking assist, you'll earn extra CR (the currency used for buying cars and parts) per race. I'm not the best racer, but by driving with manual transmission and a few other options off in Forza 4 I would win races and earn approximately 40% extra CR per race. In Horizon however, I found I was still able to win every race in the game without much trouble, but while earning approximately 70% extra CR per race. The game is simply easier to play, and the best way I can describe it is streamlined. Driving off the track onto grass or dirt simply isn't as punishing as it used to be. In fact, sometimes driving off the track and retaining your speed will sometimes help you stay ahead in races, as opposed to sticking to the track. If you ask me, Forza still hasn't found the perfect balance. It was frustrating in Forza 4 when my Lamborghini Murcielago was incapable of doing more than 20 MPH on grass. However, it's also frustrating in Horizon when I get passed by rear wheel drive cars like the Pagani Zonda flying through dirt at 140 MPH with no repercussions. There needs to be something in the middle, definitely a speed reduction, but not something so drastic that it makes the car go unrealistically slow just because the tire has encountered something other than tarmac. Forza Horizon also incorporates driving skill in a new way with driver popularity. You start off as something like the 200 most popular driver at the Horizon festival, and can work your way up as you earn points. Points are earned by showing off skills like drifting around corners, getting your car on to two wheels without rolling, burnouts, and passing opponents. What's cool though is that you can earn these points both in races and in free roam, making your drives from place to place more interesting and exciting than they otherwise would be. The downside of this is that after you've put in about 20 hours of gameplay you're probably already the #1 most popular driver there. It's still fun to hit the perfect drift as you drive around, but it's not as satisfying since you aren't really helping yourself in any way. It would have been nice to see something like earning CR instead of points after you've reached the top slot, especially considering how much shorter this game is than previous Forza games. And that really brings me to the main problem of the game- it's length. Forza 4 was a game that took a solid me 100+ hours until I had just finished career mode. I've put about 30 hours into Horizon and my game completion percentage is at 100%. Literally, I've done everything there is to do in the single player part of the game, and it's taken less than a third of the time it took to do in the previous game (or Forza 3 for that matter.) Now granted there is multiplayer, and it is much more user friendly and enjoyable this time around, but that still doesn't excuse how short the single player is now. I realize that with the open world there is going to be space issues and such, but it's just sad to see how much space is simply gone. What we have of the game is excellent, other than a couple of little things that need tweaking, but put them aside and this is the most perfect Forza game we have ever had. But I want MORE. I just want there to simply be more races, more opportunities, more cars. It's as if Horizon put so much time into getting the content great that they put less emphasis on creating a lasting experience. Of course... it's possible to get more of those races and cars... but it will cost you. The Horizon Rally expansion pack costs 1600 Microsoft Points and adds a ton of new rally stages, 5 new cars, and a TON of excitement. Seriously, all of my most exciting racing moments that I can remember in this game were in the DLC pack. Pulling off power slides on off camber dirt roads at 80 MPH in a Ford Escort Cosworth is just awesome. But I can't shake the feeling that it should have been in the game to begin with. Expensive DLC is something that Forza fans like myself are used to by now. However, in previous games you put so much time into the game in the first place that at least it had been a while since you put out the money for the game. In the case of Horizon though, I just bought the game 2 weeks ago and I'm already putting in 1600 Microsoft Points for a rally pack that should have been in the game to begin with. Just like with the game, it was great, but too short. Add on top of this the fact that I still can't buy cars like the Lamborghini Aventador J without spending more money on DLC and I just feel ripped off. Also keep in mind, you're just paying for the ability to buy these cars with your CR, you don't actually get them. It's absurd. With a game as brief as Horizon, this DLC car crap should not still be happening. The rally pack COULD be justified, but the cars can no longer be. Although this may seem like quite the rant on Forza, I still enjoyed my time with it a lot. In fact, after Forza 4 it's my favorite game in the series that I have played (I never played the first one, but I did play Forza 2 and 3 and like it better than both of them.) The open world exploration is something that was done very well, the graphics are still beautiful, and the Forza experience is still the best there is, regardless of how short it had to be this time around. Truly, Forza 5 should be quite the experience if it manages to top the times I've had in Forza 4, and now Forza Horizon as well.
I'd heard a lot about Plants Vs. Zombies prior to purchasing it, but couldn't quite understand what made the game so special. But with just how much publicity the game has received, I couldn't resist picking it up when the GOTY (Game Of The Year) version went on sale on Steam. After 30 hours of gameplay now put into it, I can say I am very happy with my purchase. I've put more time into this simple little game, which is now available for £4.99, then I've put into many full price retail games. .:Gameplay:. Gameplay in Plants Vs. Zombies is very tower defense-ish, but it's also very involved to keep you interested and in the action. The tower defense genre of gaming has become very overdone as of late, but Plants Vs. Zombies has mixed things up by continually doing things like dropping sun (which is used to purchase plants, your towers) and coins (used to purchase things like more plants and other unlockables from Crazy Dave's shop.) In addition, you're also going to need to keep watch on what kinds of zombies are approaching, for different plants will work better at defeating different zombies. There are also different maps which bring in a whole new variety of strategies you'll need to employ. This includes your front yard, your back yard (which happens to have a pool, which means you'll need special water plants), and your roof (you'll need special plants to compensate for the angle.) In addition, each of these maps has two versions, a day time and a night time, and each one is as different as, well, night and day. At night you'll be using mushroom plants which would normally be sleeping at night. All of these changes ensure that one strategy will not work for any two levels, which means every time that you play it's going to be something different. Furthermore, every so many levels of Adventure mode they like to mix things up with a different game mode such as Zombie bowling or Vasebreaker. Even after you've beaten all of Adventure mode, the game challenges you to go back and beat it again while handicapped- as Crazy Dave will be picking out half of your plant arsenal, and his choices are not always the best to equip you for the level, so you'll have to compensate and work around that as well. .:Mini Games:. In addition to Adventure mode, there are also 20 Mini Games for you to enjoy. These mini games really allow for all kinds of crazy spin offs of the traditional Plants Vs. Zombies gameplay that you will be used to after 50 levels of Adventure mode. These game modes mix things up by bringing back memories of other popular video games. For example, one mini game, called "Portal Combat" will bring back happy memories of Valve's first-person puzzle game, while other mini games like "Beghouled" and "Beghouled Twist" references developer PopCap's success with the Bejeweled series. Beating all 20 Mini Games will get you an achievement, but the fun appeal should be more than enough to get you through each and every one of them. .:Puzzle:. Puzzle mode is essentially a bunch of levels leading up to two big challenges: Vasebreaker Endless and Zombie Endless. Vasebreaker is a nerve-wracking game mode in which you break a variety of bases all across your lawn. The vase could contain a zombie that will immediately start making its way towards your house, or it could be a plant to help you out. What makes the game interesting though is when you do let a zombie out of a vase by accident, because the only way to stop is to make more vases, and there is no guarantee that you'll be letting out fellow plants, it could be more zombies... Zombie mode allows you to turn the tables and play as the zombies. You select what kind of zombie to send in what lane at what towers. You'd think this would be simple but it turns out that playing as the zombies may be even more difficult to play as then the plants! Zombie Endless is the last challenge of this game mode, in which your sun (used to purchase zombies rather than plants) carries over from level to level. Things can get really challenging, and after 30 hours of gameplay I still have not reached the streak of 10 needed to complete the achievement challenge for this game mode, and it isn't for lack of trying. .:Survival:. If you have a certain preference towards a particular map, or you just want to play Plants Vs. Zombies and see how many rounds of the onslaught you can last through, then this is for you. You'll need to pass a certain amount of flags (each time a huge wave of zombies approaches you it counts as a flag) to unlock Survival Endless, which means going back and employing some serious strategy on each of the maps, both day time and night time. .:Lasting Appeal:. There are lots of things that will get you to keep coming back and playing Plants Vs. Zombies. The initial game play sessions that challenge you to beat adventure mode will suck up a good 15-20 hours of playtime. Even after that though, there is the challenge of beating the game again with Crazy Dave handicapping you, something I am still in the process of still doing. The mini games and puzzle challenges will also take you some time. In addition, with the game of the year edition, there are 20 unlockable achievements (21 if you buy it on Steam, though the extra Steam one is not really a challenge so much as a little Easter egg.) The achievements will truly be a challenge, as I still have only unlocked 16/21 (76%) after 30+ hours of gameplay. They will require skills at the game itself, as well as a bit of in-game money, as well as a bit of a luck with some of the puzzles (or at least I think...). My only gripe with these achievements are ones like the Tree of Wisdom one, which require you to basically just buy a bunch of growth food from Crazy Dave's shop. This is just a bunch of grinding money from different game modes and your Zen Garden, and I found it to be rather un-creative in comparison to the rest of the game. Regardless, I think I've made my point in that this game has plenty of lasting appeal. I've certainly put much more time into it than I have full retail games like Duke Nukem Forever. And right now for £4.99 it's hardly taking a financial risk, and with thousands and thousands of players already enjoying it, why can't you just be another one of them?
I am a very new Mac user. I've owned eight computers throughout my life, seven of them having run Windows, and one with Linux Ubuntu. Until a few months ago, I really just ignored the idea of getting a Macintosh. Then I ran into a very good deal on a used one, and decided to try it out to see what all the fuss was about. I must say I am very impressed by it- that is, the computer itself, which is very fast and easy on the eyes. I'm not an Apple fanboy, and ultimately use too many things on Windows to ever switch over completely, but at the same time, I now understand the Mac people's argument. One argument that I won't hear these Apple fanboys making though, pertains to the mouse and keyboard. They are quite simply, generic. The mouse in particular is just poor design, though I fixed this problem easily by just shoving my wireless USB mouse that I use for my laptop in, and had it working in seconds. The keyboard however, took a little more looking into. One thing you'll notice very often upon switching from PC to Mac is that everything is just a little bit more expensive, even though it's usually the same product. I don't know if it truly is more difficult to make things compatible for Macintosh, or if it is simply assumed that Mac owners won't mind shelling out more money for simple things considering what they already paid for the computers itself. Either way, if something has "Mac compatible" slapped onto it, it just seems that it's going to be pricier. Now obviously you could probably just shove that spare wired USB keyboard gathering dust in your closet, but that would ruin the effect the Mac has- its flashy, shiny, and eye catching. You don't want a downgrade, you want something that's sleek and sexy, just like your Mac. Which is where the Logitech K760 came in. I was debating between purchasing either the Logitech K760 or the HP Touchpad Wireless Keyboard (which also searches for a Bluetooth signal and would therefore obviously be Mac compatible.) Keep in mind the Logitech runs for £69.99 and the HP counterpart runs for £23.89 as of me typing this. However, ultimately a few things made me side with the Logitech. First, there was the brand factor. Logitech has ALWAYS made very reliable products. They look good, they're simple, and they run forever. Pick the most reliable car company out there; Logitech is like that for the world of computer accessories. Another reason I sided with the Logitech was simple cosmetics. The HP Touchpad Wireless Keyboard was black. My Mac is white. I wanted the colors to all match. Truth be told- this was actually the deciding factor more than anything, and I'm aware that that sounds bad. Lastly was the solar feature. I had never owned a solar powered keyboard before and was unsure of how reliable they were, but if I was going to get myself to stop buying batteries, then I figured Logitech should be the one to hold my hand during that transition. The first thing that everyone is going to notice upon getting this keyboard is that it is definitely bigger than the stock keyboard... not that that is saying much as I had never seen something smaller than the stock keyboard to begin with. Regardless, if size is a big issue, than this keyboard should be avoided. The big solar bar running across the top of the keyboard above the special function buttons does make the whole thing noticeably larger. To make up for the larger size of the keyboard, Logitech has gone from aluminum to plastic. The best way to describe this change is, it's lighter, it's still not as sturdy as aluminum, but at the same time it still feels better and sturdier than every other keyboard I've ever come across short of the stock Mac one. The buttons feel similarly satisfying in design in comparison to the Mac's default keys as well. Setting the keyboard up is very simple. It's done through Bluetooth, which means no using up a USB port (which is actually kind of important nowadays considering just how many devices require one of those precious slots.) Anyway, the setup is a breeze. I'd never used Bluetooth on a device I purchased before, for anything. Even so, I was still able to figure out with my tech savvy genius self (you should feel the waves of sarcasm rolling off me) in a matter of seconds. My Mac picked up the signal and I was typing with the keyboard a few seconds later. Truly was a breeze, and in today's world with thousands of different bugs, error codes, or incompatibility issues, that's a nice small thing to appreciate. I've read that this keyboard allows you to switch between typing on your Mac to typing on your iPhone or iPad with the press of a button. However, I can not speak for if this works or how well it does. Literally, this Mac was my first purchase of an Apple product ever, I don't even own an iPod. Regardless, I question the usefulness of a feature like this. The keyboard is small, but not small enough that one would want to carry it with them everyone they went. And if I'm at home and need to type out something, such as this review, my first instinct is not "let's type it on my phone using my wireless keyboard", it's simply to go use the computer itself. If you were having second thoughts about the usefulness of the solar factor considering I'm sure most of us put in quite a few hours into typing on our computer during the evening hours, fear no more. First of all, the keyboard will charge whether it's in real sunlight, the light on your ceiling fan, or the lamp you have sitting next to it on your computer desk. You don't need to worry about picking it up and moving it onto your windowsill next to your plant. That will simply not be necessary. If you happen to be a vampire that can only stand synthetic light, this will work just fine. It claims to work for three months in complete darkness, though if your entire house is going to be in darkness for three months, then I think you've probably got some bigger fish to fry then the solar panels on your wireless keyboard... All in all this keyboard is worth your money if you are looking for an upgrade over the stock Mac keyboard that ships out with every one of their products. Obviously if you don't like the style and feel of the Mac keyboard this is not for you, as it attempts to mimic the standard keyboard as much as possible, and it succeeds quite well. Furthermore, if doing some hardcore accountant-like number crunching is a hobby you partake in during your spare time in the evenings, then you'll want to look into another keyboard that has the keypad to the side, or invest in a USB powered keypad altogether. If you're like most people though and just want to browse the web on your Macintosh and save some money on batteries, than this product will more than satisfy your needs.
Developer Bethesda really likes to take their time with games. Contrary to other big companies like Activision or EA, who pump out their annual Maddens and Call of Duties like clockwork in order to cash in on the yearly November video game market, Bethesda will spend years on a project, making in as detailed and immersible as they can, as well as continually innovating new features that push the boundaries of the genre they are working in. In the case of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it had literally been 5 years since the drop of its Game of the Year predecessor, Oblivion, so with that kind of time for improvement there are going to be some very high expectations. Yet again, Bethesda manages to push the boundaries for action RPGs, as well as clearly push the power of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 consoles to their limits with a game that will suck you in for hundreds of hours before you have even scratched the surface of it. If I had to sum up Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in a few words they would be "immerse", "freedom", and "adaptability". The "immerse" part is obvious and expected, as its essentially what has given The Elder Scrolls such a huge and popular gaming following. Skyrim however, at least in my opinion, does this even better than any previous titles. Whether you loved Morrowind, Dagerfall, or Oblivion, you still can't argue the epic graphics and beautiful landscapes that the northern mountainous regions offer. Not that that should matter, graphics should be a non factor, but still, it's hard to ignore them even if it is on the Xbox 360 as opposed to a beast PC. Regardless, it's important to note that Skyrim still has what made prior games of its kind special in terms of gameplay as well. The storyline wraps you up, the quests inter-relate, and your decisions really matter. The only real complain I have to offer here, is that the game doesn't allow you to work up your reputation as it did in Morrowind or Oblivion. With your ability to use Shouts as the Dragonbourne, you are instantly known as the famous savior wherever you go in the land. It does detract a bit from that fulfilling buildup that Oblivion played off with so well, though some may actually prefer it like this. The "freedom" part has grown more and more as each entry into the Elder Scrolls series progresses. Skyrim is no exception. As always, the massive playground of a world provided to you right out of the gate to explore is... well, massive. There are hundreds of locations to discover and mark on your map, and probably only 10% of them actually incorporate the main quest into them. The rest are side quests, miscellaneous quests, or just little things brought into the game to further enhance your character and his or her experience. The really cool thing about this, as well as the general free feeling that the game gives you is the ability to get lost in the middle of EVERYTHING. Sure, there is always the impeding pressure of dragons coming back from the dead and flying around terrorizing the land of Skyrim, but you can get to that main quest later, as soon you'll be sidetracked by all kinds of things like guild quests. And while you're in the middle of a burglary job as you attempt to bring the Thieves Guild back to its former glory, you'll find some ingredient that will make you realize you've really been regarding your Alchemy skills. While training up those Alchemy skills, the odds are pretty good that you'll have some random encounter that involves you roughing someone up in a tavern, which may just be the same tavern you were supposed to meet someone in relating to the main quest 100 hours ago, at which point you recall the original purpose and goal you set out to fulfill such a long time ago. Furthermore, the "freedom" part of the game is in your play style. Skyrim can really be played at whatever pace you would like depending on your character and their skills. If you don't want high action big battles, then you are perfectly free to level up your Sneak skills and take out enemies slowly, one at a time, with nothing more than a small dagger. The game allows you to do this by giving you all kinds of unlockable advantages like x15 damage for sneak attacks involving daggers. Likewise, if you'd prefer to rush headfirst into battle and take on 4 enemies at once with your two-handed weapon like a big blunt axe or warhammer, the brute force and power of that weapon will be a comparable way of defeating the same enemies in a completely different manner. The "adaptability" is what makes Skyrim a role-playing game, as opposed to an action game with role-playing elements (I am looking strongly in your direction, Assassin's Creed: Revelations.) Decisions that you make, even ones early on in the heat of the moment like choosing whether to escape a dragon attack with a guard or a fellow prisoner, that may not seem influential there, can end up deciding things like the success of the epic civil war going on within the kingdom. It's not just quest decisions either. Choosing to wear Stormcloak in a city that is very much so anti-empire will help you out tremendously, and will open up all kinds of opportunities to you that would not have been there previously if you had simply donned that shiny Imperial armor. Another cool unique aspect that Bethesda has really incorporated into Skyrim is its "local" feel. All the different holds of the city have very different feels in ways that vary far more than scenery like they did in Oblivion. Visit the city of Solitude right after spending lots of time in Riften and it's easy to see what I mean. Different cities have different levels of corruption and what they stand for, as well as different people you'll want to influence to help yourself out with new opportunities for personal gain, as opposed to a general negative notoriety which will result in a lot more dangerous fights and bounties on your head. There's one more thing I have yet to specify in this review so far that some seemed to be quite excited about in Skyrim.. that whole "dragons" thing. And I'm here to say that while Skyrim has certainly not re-invented the fantasy dragon video game action RPG deal, they have created a standard that many games will try to copy, but few, if any, will ever be able to implement. Battles with dragons in Skyrim are just so much more epic than anything else I had ever experienced before that was even remotely similar. I truly don't know what helps set it apart the most, it could be the mountain setting, for few things are cooler than standing on top of a snowy mountain and roaring fire with a Shout right back at a dragon. Or maybe it's the flow and animations, for the dragons move fluidly, and although all of them are doing essentially the same thing, that's a hard complain to keep track of when you're busy attempting to shoot these mythical beasts out of the sky with arrows or magic. One thing that has continually plagued Bethesda titles over the years has been bugs. Whether it's Fallout 3, TES: Oblivion, or New Vegas (oh wait, New Vegas froze so much you probably never played it long enough to experience any bugs.) It really should be expected in a way, when you have a game so massive it's kind of difficult to catch everything. Now the good thing about Skyrim is that at least bugs seem to be exempt from the main storyline, so there is never anything stopping you from finishing something up there. However, bugs unfortunately still are found everywhere in these norther winter lands. Some of them are actually rather amusing, such as when I walked out of a cabin in the middle of some deserted plains and saw three huge mammoths crash out of the sky to their rather random yet still unfortunate deaths. Other bugs can be very frustrating, such as when characters in Riverwood randomly decided they didn't like me, forcing me to fight back and kill them, which in turn made the other people of the town paint my character in a very negative light. It would be ridiculous to say that Skyrim is 100% perfect. It does not however seem unreasonable to say that the good in this game resembles something the size of a dragon, while the bad resembles something like a Skeever. And if you aren't a dork to get that reference, Skeevers are small. Really small. The few things that do bring Skyrim down still do nothing in terms of affecting the overall product. It's sort of like if someone forgot to dust the Mona Lisa. It might be a bit unpolished, but underneath it is still a masterpiece. And from now on, Skyrim is going to be considered the Mona Lisa of action RPG games, and will have to be the game that developers strive to live up to. Unfortunately for competitors though, the only one that has ever shown to consistently best Bethesda, is Bethesda.
I really wasn't sure what to expect coming into Battlefield 3. I've got a pretty good history with the Battlefield First-Person-Shooter series, I enjoyed Battlefield 2 on the PC, as well as Bad Company on the consoles. Both were good games, but always seemed a bit too slow for my tastes. I much preferred the fast shoot 'em up action and explosions in games like Call of Duty 4 from around the same time. However, when Battlefield 3 was in its pre-release period, there was much talk that it was going after the Call of Duty crown, in both sales and post-release success. Everyone has their FPS preferences, so I will refrain from comparing the two in this review. Although I am a Call of Duty player primarily, I was still able to enjoy this game very much, and there's no reason that others can't too. .:Single Player:. The first Battlefield games to feature a single player campaign were Battlefield: Bad Company and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. I can't vouch for Bad Company 2 since I have yet to play it, but as for the first Bad Company, I found it enjoyable yet repetitive. Add on top of that the fact that it really was not meant to be about the single player so much as the multiplayer, and you get essentially the same result with the Battlefield 3 result. The campaign is good, but there's nothing really remarkable about it that will make you want to play it more than once. The story is loosely thrown together in an attempt to justify the random changes in scenery and locations around the world, as well as to help explain the huge explosions and nuclear bombs going off everywhere. Unfortunately it really does not do a good job at this, so it becomes extraordinarily difficult to follow the storyline or to get into it and become attached to characters or feel effected by the events that occur. All in all, the single player portion of Battlefield 3 is worth a rent for a weekend. What's cool though is if you don't play online, the single player comes on a separate disc, so if your buddy has a copy you can simply borrow it from him.. and return it a few hours later when you're finished, for while the campaign isn't necessarily bad, it is very brief. Battlefield 3 also features special missions separate from the campaign that you can complete with a buddy. If you have played "Special Ops" mode in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or Modern Warfare 3, then you'll be right at home here (I know I said I wouldn't compare the two series but I really can't think of anything as comparable for this.) Missions are very varied, just as with the campaign. You can choose to play with people off your friends or random players online. Friends will probably make it easier though, regardless of skill level, because you will need a lot of communication and teamwork to get through these, and even then the harder difficulty levels will still make you pull your hair out at times. .:Multiplayer:. And now we've reached it- the bread and butter of Battlefield that we were all waiting for. If you've played previous Battlefield games, then expect things to work a little differently this time around though. Battlefield 3 is much more fast-paced than the action you saw in games past. This is true whether you are playing the new Team Deathmatch mode (with large portions of the massive maps cut out to make for very tight engagements) OR the traditional Conquest / Rush game modes. Developer DICE has just done an awesome job of solving the problem that plagued their work before... no longer will you have to wonder where the action is, or have to sprint around for 10 minutes to find an enemy. Furthermore, the maps are very well done so that they can benefit any type of player. If you like to sit back with a sniper, it's still possible, but watch out for people that like to rush with shotguns, because the maps are set out to help them now as well. It's really kind of admirable- no matter what kind of weapon you like to use, it can be done if you navigate any of the maps correctly. Assault Rifles, Submachine Guns, Shotguns, Snipers, Light Machine Guns, they all have a purpose. Of course, sometimes in Battlefield your weapon is not as important as your equipment and your knowledge of it, and that is no exception here either. The Assault and Medic packages have been morphed into one setup, and it works far better than I ever expected it to. Personally I think it makes the game far more fast paced. As Assault players rush up and leave medkits behind, support players can be healed as they progress through the map as well. Teamwork has always been a key part of doing well in Battlefield, and that value has not been lost in the flurry of changes DICE has worked out in their newest release. You are still far better off helping the team then trying to lone wolf it yourself, even if you are using one of the more powerful (perhaps even a bit overpowered?) guns like the F2000. If the vehicles is what you love about Battlefield multiplayer, don't despair, they are still here and a key part of the gameplay. Some of them may be a bit tricky to use and will require quite a bit of practice (I died as a chopper gunner many a times due to my friend flying our helicopter into buildings or mountains) but a good pilot on your team will still benefit everyone greatly, as the air superiority is still very important to the success of your mission. There are plenty of land vehicles or standing turrets to man as well, and they all vary from map to map. Furthermore, if you purchase the Back to Karkland DLC expansion pack (included free with the pre-ordered Limited Edition of the game) even more maps with new vehicles and things to explode are introduced. .:Close Quarters DLC:. I know that I only briefly went over the Back to Karkland DLC. So why am I dedicating an entire section to the second DLC drop- Close Quarters? It's simple really- it completely changes the game. If the reason you prefer Call of Duty to Battlefield is you like the fast-paced action, then I encourage you to purchase the Close Quarters DLC. This makes it truly possible for players to enjoy Battlefield in the same way that they enjoy Activision's blockbuster gaming hits. Close Quarters is a series of small maps without vehicles, which may seem rather counter-productive... what's Battlefield without vehicles? However, after playing Close Quarters more and more, and continually dumping hours into these new maps, I've found that Battlefield without vehicles just ends up making for a really exciting game. Turns out DICE's new Frostbite 2 engine will work just fine for both tight shotgun battles or cross-map sniping. .:Overall:. I can almost guarantee that if you go into Battlefield 3 with an open mind you will enjoy it. It doesn't matter if you enjoy Call of Duty, this is a fresh break from it, and Battlefield boasts exciting moments in its multiplayer that are both different yet still a blast to play out in their own right. It is perfectly possible (and contrary to popular belief by fanboys of either series, healthy) to enjoy both of these multiplayer series. Battlefield 3 showcases enough new content, and brings more than enough to the table to make it an enjoyable shooter for any type of player.
A note or disclaimer before you read this review in full: I have never heard ANY Rise Against prior to this album. Like at all. Now as you can tell by my rating I enjoyed this album very much, so I have since gone back to listen to the Revolutions Per Minute album which continually kept showing up in my "Rise Against" Pandora station. I enjoyed Revolutions Per Minute as well, but I'm going to keep this review un-associated with it, and will not reference it throughout the review. After all, we aren't reviewing "Rise Against", we're reviewing Rise Against's album "Appeal to Reason". NOW we can get on with the review... I was turned onto the Rise Against album by a friend of mine after I told them I was looking for some newer music to listen to. I'm not really into a lot of new bands as I much prefer my older music; my Rolling Stones, my U2, etc. However, there are a few newer bands that I enjoy, Nickelback (for better or for worse judging by the response their music seems to get) among them. So now that you have a bit of a feel for my general musical tastes, let's go through, song-by-song, on the album. --- .:|Collapse (Post-Amerika)|:. Wow. Just wow. I'm sure that word is getting redundant in this review by now but it truly was my first reaction upon hearing this song for the first time. The guitar riffs will be ingrained into your head even if you've only heard the song once. What really got me though was the catchy chorus. That's how we'll know This is not a test, oh no This is cardiac arrest I implore you to TRY and listen to this song and not sing at least those lines afterwards. Words can not due justice just how catchy the chorus is. Fast-paced songs always tend to have catchy chorus' but this is something beyond that. .:|Lone Forgotten Sons|:. This song is a lot slower than Collapse is, and I can't say that it's one of my favorites on the album, but it's far from a bad song. What I found particularly noteworthy about it though is the collective album part of it. If you listen to the way that Collapse ends and Lone Forgotten Sons begins you'd think it was one long song, and that Lone Forgotten Sons is the "slowing down" part of it. I REALLY enjoy collective albums, and they are hard to come by these days, so it was really cool to see this little duo. It reminded me a lot of the first two songs of Tool's 10,000 Days album, Vicarious (an ungodly good song in it's own right) and Jambi. .:|The Dirt Whispered|:. This song was probably one of my least favorite's on the album. It just doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the music. It's... pop-ish. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.. it's just not something that really am looking to listen to when I am expecting punk rock/metal. .:|Kotov Syndrome|:. This song is far more heavy than anything on the album thus far. Sometimes you would think that heavier translates to a lessening in speed of pace, but that's not the case here. The song is aggressive, heavy, and memorable. Personally I sometimes won't enjoy the heavier stuff on albums like this, but Kotov Syndrome is definitely an exception. Surprisingly, I found it very enjoyable. .:|From Heads Unworthy|:. This song was another one that really wow'd me. Usually when I listen to this type of music, I look for a strong chorus. But there's none to be found in "From Heads Unworthy". Yet, I still enjoyed this song very much, as the lyrics are fantastic, and had me hooked from the very beginning: We are the children you reject and disregard These aching cries come from the bottom of our hearts You can't disown us now, we are your own flesh and blood This song is quite slower than a lot of other songs on this album, so again I suppose it comes as a bit of a shocker how much I enjoyed it.. but y'know, that'd be the wow factor right? .:|The Strength to Go On|:. This song likes to flip flop back and forth a lot, and that's not necessarily a bad trait. It's just... a really cool experience that I enjoyed very much. The Strength to Go On is undoubtedly one of my favorite songs on the album, and I'm of the mindset that if you're at all into this genre you would enjoy this song as well, simply due to the wide amount of sounds you'll experience within it. If you're into the faster stuff, then songs like Collapse can definitely be felt within parts of it, but then again, you can also feel some Lone Forgotten Sons in it, and the fact that all of it is enjoyable seems to make the song, and this album, all the more appealing. .:|Audience of One|:. This song is pretty slow, and I really didn't enjoy it at all. Probably my least favorite song on the album, and I'm not really sure why. It's not because it was slow, because I really enjoyed Hero of War (as you'll read below) but nonetheless, Audience of One just seemed very forgettable, and the only truly, truly, truly disappointing "filler-like" song on the album. I still enjoyed the overwhelming majority of the album, but to give an honest review I really do have to express my dislike for this song. .:|Entertainment|:. WOW! Talk about expressing your life as a rich and famous rock star through your own music. This was nothing like I had ever heard before, and it has some fantastic lyrics. There's a bit of an odd tune thrown into the middle of the song that sort of gives the whole thing this "bouncing around" feel to it. I don't know if that will appeal to everyone, but I certainly enjoyed it, as I did this song in general. Another one of my favorites. .:|Hero of War|:. I don't care if you don't like punk rock. I don't care if you agree with the political motives behind the song. Heck, I don't care who you are. If this song doesn't move you, there IS. SOMETHING. WRONG. It's got this patriotic/un-patriotic back and forth sway as you get further into it that will move you. And the lyrics.. they are truly mesmerizing.. and not necessarily in a good way. They sting in a way that is impossible to articulate. This song will.. not necessarily be enjoyed, but will be felt deep down to anyone that listens to it. The best way to put it- a true musical achievement. .:|Savior|:. If you like punk rock, you will like this song. That should pretty much be fact. It starts out slow with some really memorable lyrics that will be ingrained into your skull after one listen: It kills me not to know this but I've all but just forgotten what the color of her eyes were and her scars or how she got them as the telling signs of age rain down a single tear is dropping through the valleys of an aging face that this world has forgotten The "forgotten" is drug out... and then an epic guitar rift rises up and completely takes you for a wild ride throughout the rest of this fast song. The lyrics are all catchy.. although after the song was over I kept coming back to those first four lines and singing them over and over when I listened to it multiple times... waiting for that guitar rift to come up after the last word of the fourth line... .:|Hairline Fracture|:. Can not. Stand this song. I'm really not sure why, it starts out FANTASTIC. Seriously, I probably enjoy the beginning of this song more than any other on the album. A sinking ship, an awkward kiss... It's fast, it's awesome. But then at some point, I believe it's approximately a minute into the song they sing But as we peer a little closer what do we see? [pause] A crack in the surface And from that point on I just couldn't stand the whole sound of the song.. it just didn't have a good feel to it. And it truly is a damn shame because like two and a half minutes in it slows down almost to a halt and you hear: I walk on wounds that seldom prove to slow me down And it's fantastic again. But I just cannot get over the voice and guitar when they sing "A crack in the surface", it just sounds so generic and obnoxiously stupid to me that I find no enjoyment in the song as a whole. After I finish writing this review I'm actually going to go look up a live version of this song, perhaps I'd enjoy that more, because I am convinced there IS something enjoyable to be had here, but this version doesn't seem to do it the justice I need. .:|Whereabouts Unknown|:. Another one of my favorite songs, it reminds me a lot of "The Strength to Go On" in that it also flip flops back and forth and between a fast and slow song. The slower parts of it will make you yearn for the exciting faster parts, and I found that really enjoyable. The vocals are really well done throughout the whole track. .:|Elective Amnesia|:. This song starts out very slow with some really well done vocals as well, and a really good guitar rift that picks up the song at around 30 seconds in. The song picks up a little speed but remains quite slow. What's cool though is that it remained full of energy despite it's lackluster speed. There's a lot of force beyond the lyrics that's impossible not to appreciate. .:|Prayer of the Refugee (Live)|:. (This song may not be on all versions of the album, it was a bonus for me, but I REALLY enjoyed it so it would be cruel not to include) What I found really cool about Prayer of the Refugee is the build-ups. Essentially the song is just a series of build-ups to the really strong chorus: Don't hold me up now, I can stand my own ground, I don't need your help now, You will let me down, down, down! All in all, if it wasn't for Collapse or Savior (not sure which holds the #1 and #2 spots) this would be my favorite song on the album so a bronze medal for what's supposed to be a bonus track thrown in isn't bad, eh? --- Overall I found Appeal to Reason to be a fantastic musical experience (as if you hadn't already figured that out right). There are some songs that appear to be filler, and Hairline Fracture still bugs me, but that is not nearly enough to make this a bad album, especially with all its got going for it with Collapse, Savior, Prayer of the Refugee, Strength to Go On, Hero of War, Entertainment, Whereabouts Unknown, and Lone Forgotten Sons. The plague of music nowadays is that everybody wants that hit single, nobody wants to make an album with more than three really good songs on it. Rise Against goes against the crowd here with what I feel are eight very well done songs that you'll be replaying again and again. A final note: this song has some very serious and.. opinionated motives behind it that anyone will pick up on. It wouldn't be fair to not mention them and how they effect the enjoy-ability of the music. Here's the deal from what I can gather- Rise Against is very liberal, very progressive, and very activist in general. I like to keep my political affiliations out of reviews because I feel that when people throw them in it makes the reviews of much lower quality. So all I'm going to say is- I am not by any means in agreement with Rise Against's political views, but that did NOT effect me enjoying their music. It's still a great trip, despite my personal disagreements with some of the things the band stands for.
One fatal flaw with the PSP... or rather, with mobile console gaming in general, is the weak confines within which developers are forced to operate. Therefore it becomes increasingly frustrating to make the types of games that will appeal to a wide audience of gamers. You either have a notoriously linear one-time wishy-washy experience, or you have something that seems like it's got a lot to offer, a lot of things to DO within the game, but the gameplay itself is so poor you don't stick with it. However, every now and then you get an all-around solid PSP game, and Lego Harry Potter hits all of the requirements to be one of those solid games. .:Gameplay:. If you happen to be one of those people that gets bored with games after they beat them, and just want one fun playthrough, only to be finished with the game afterwards, then Lego Harry Potter for the PSP should be satisfying enough, gameplay-wise, for you. Various notable story sections from each of the first four Harry Potter books are converted into levels for you to play through as Harry, as well as some other famous and favorite characters. Some of them deviate from the actual story from the book/movies, so as with other Lego games like Star Wars or Indiana Jones, you are definitely expected to know the story BEFORE you play the game, else the short cut scenes with little talking will just confuse you and leave a very bare experience. Most of your gameplay is going to be either simple puzzles, basic combat, or mini-games. As always, the Lego appeal is not nearly as much about what you are doing so much as where you are doing it. Yeah, you're essentially just spamming the "Square" button for your attack spell, but it's in Hogwarts as you head towards Potions class, so it adds a level of interest that would not otherwise be there. However, this also means that if you aren't into Harry Potter, you're not going to like this game. This may seem obvious, but I feel inclined to point it out regardless. Don't come into Lego Harry Potter looking for a good "action game" experience. If you want that, go play another PSP great like God of War, Metal Gear Solid, or Killzone. On a similar note, the puzzles and mini games are nothing spectacular either, it's all just far too linear to appeal to anyone that isn't a Harry Potter fan. .:Graphics:. Lego Harry Potter isn't going to blow you away like some other PSP games, and that's simply the bare truth. The graphics and Lego asthetics are appealing and easy on the eyes, but it's not like it's some graphical masterpiece within the boundaries of the PSP's hardware (see Daxter if you want a truly phenomenal mobile graphics game.) However, it's also important and fair to keep in mind that Lego games aren't meant to have massive epic Michael-Bay-Transformers-2-like explosions. We're on a playing field of toy blocks, and if you think about it that way, there is truly nothing to complain about graphics-wise. If you played Lego Star Wars on the Playstation 2, then Lego Harry Potter will look great, and you'll have nothing to complain about. And really, if you're coming into this game looking for HD graphics, then you should probably have your head checked- it's not the forte of this game, nor does it pretend to be. .:Challenge:. There isn't much to say here except... it's a Lego game. That means there is no challenge. If you lose all of your health, your character bursts into tiny little brick pieces, and then respawns pretty much right where you were with no progress lost. If you want a game that isn't going to frustrate you, then this is probably it, because in every level of every book, I never once found myself annoyed or unable to complete a task assigned to me. Literally, anyone could pick up this game and beat it, which is both a good and bad game. In a way it can make the game a bit dull at times, knowing that you WILL succeed, heck, you'd have to try not to. But on a more lighthearted note, it also means this will be a more attractive gaming option to more people. .:Lasting Appeal:. There's actually a surprisingly large amount of lasting appeal to Lego Harry Potter. With four books worth of levels, and each of those levels containing all kinds of hidden goodies like Red Bricks, Wizard Cards, etc., you'll have your work set out for you for a long time. Each level is loaded with studs, and a number threshold must be crossed every level to obtain one of the five Golden Hats in every level of the game. And for every 15 Golden Hats, there's another character available for purchase in the game's central hub, the Room of Requirement. And what better thing to purchase them with then the Lego studs you collect throughout the game? It's all quite inter-connected, and it really is nice to see an effort at creating a game that will be a longer lasting experience than the 10 hours or so that it will take to race through all of the levels. What's really interesting about all of the game's levels though is that it forces you to replay older story sequences if you want to complete everything. There are parts of Diagon Alley and Privet Drive in the Philosopher's Stone, e.g. the first 25% of the game, that will not be unlockable until Harry has learned high level spells in Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire. This means that it is not just about running around levels in your first playthrough, it's about obtaining all of the characters, abilities, and spells, and then using them as your tools to lift, move, ignite, and transfigure the Lego world to your liking in order to find everything that is has to offer. .:Overall:. The linear gameplay is still the flaw that plagues the Lego series, and that issue has not gone away with Lego Harry Potter for the PSP. However, the charm still survives, at least for now. As I've said already, those who are not already a fan of Harry Potter should not pick this game up, as it simply isn't something that's directed at a general audience. However, if you are a Harry Potter fan, and you want a game that will give you lots of things to unlock, and a bunch of interesting locations from your favorite book series to explore, then Lego Harry Potter will provide hours of gameplay for you to get lost in, which is really all we can ask of games today anyway.
I've had my Audi A4 1.8T Quattro for a few months now, and it really is time for a proper review, especially considering the amount of enjoyment and love I have for it. Now the thing about reviewing a car is there is so much you can talk about, and you really could go on forever, so I'm just going to hit off the points that I feel are important for ANYONE that is purchasing (or rather, considering purchasing) a vehicle like this, as well as things that are notably good about my Audi A4, and things are notably poor about it. Should be fun, let's begin... --- .:Handling & Steering Responsiveness:. The steering in the Audi A4 is very responsive when compared to other cars of its size and class. If you've ever driven a Mazda, like a 3 or a 6, you'll probably recognize them as the king of steering responsiveness, at least until you get into your more expensive BMWs. Not really sure where this comparison is going except to conclude with, the steering is very responsive but not quite as responsive as Mazda, but that's still saying quite a bit. You can really feel the road through the A4, the grip of the tires, your turns, it's all responsive and stimulated. If you take a look at the A4's owner's manual, you will read that it is made for cornering and great for braking whilst cornering. This is nothing short of the truth, in a 100% good way. Audi is known for putting their engines rather far front, but as they usually do, they make it work. The handling of the A4 is fantastic. I haven't done anything really stupid with it, but I've taken some very quick turns, and it's performed at least, if not better, then I expected it to. .:Acceleration & Turbocharged Engine:. Obviously we're talking about a 4 cylinder, 1.8 liter engine here, albeit it is turbo-charged, but regardless you won't have a great amount of power under the engine. However, the acceleration is still quite satisfying, and you definitely notice it when you put your foot down, and when you rev it the red line when shifting (assuming you have a manual transmission of course.) As for the turbo lag, it's hardly noticeable at all, when you put that foot down it's pretty much an instant gratification of speed. As for the turbo itself, it seems pretty trustworthy... at least within the standards of turbocharged engines. It does seem to make a noise of the turbo dying down after you turn the car off, but it doesn't appear to be anything harmful. Furthermore, basic turbo care should be taken, such as letting your car idle for approximately 30 seconds or so after you get wherever it is that you're going, simply as a precaution and some basic care. .:Quattro (All Wheel Drive) and Gas Mileage:. First of all, I'm going to be blunt- the gas mileage is not as good as I would like it to be. Now part of that is going to be because of the turbocharged engine, but the fact of the matter is it's still a small 1.8, and it's more due to the all wheel drive. Personally, I've found that, whilst driving conservatively, I can get around 22 MPG (mind you that isn't highway driving.) However, if I want to really enjoy the car, it'll take me down to about 19 MPG. It's a little disappointing, but it's the cost of having an all wheel drive car, and perhaps if you were doing a lot of conservative highway driving, you could get some more decent mileage. Heck, I'm perfectly willing to admit I am not the best at driving conservatively, so maybe it's just me. Now as for the usefulness of the all-wheel drive, then it's a bit of a disappointment. Really all I can say about it is this- it's nice, but not as nice as all weather tires would be. My A4 came with grand touring tires, and they're nice and all, but even with the all-wheel drive, I have managed to spin out once in some heavy rain once. Luckily I was fine, and I haven't had a problem since, now that I'm more familiar with how to control the car's grip and avoiding the action of hydroplaning. As for the snow, I have yet to drive it in it, so I really am not in a position to say, but I'd imagine it's the same. It's not a hate on the all-wheel drive, I'm sure it's quite competent, but it's just that you would probably be better off in a rear wheel drive car with all weather tires then an all wheel drive car with grand touring tires. Maybe it's just my preference, but personally I think the whole idea of all wheel drive is overrated, and is used more as a selling point to make people buy cars that they will be more comfortable with in the rain, snow, or other less than ideal driving conditions. .:Upkeep:. Here's where we have a serious knock against Audi in general. Audi is stereotyped as having expensive upkeep, and that is nothing less than the truth. It's recommended that you find a place that's capable of performing basic functions on your Audi, or learn to do them yourself, because having a dealership or anything directly associated with the company itself is going to cost you... big time. But also, in a way, it's really nothing that you wouldn't expect coming into purchasing an Audi. Another note, many Audi's, my A4 included, take premium petrol. Gas prices are expensive as heck now, so make sure you're ready to take on this extra cost and burden, or at the very least look into what kind of fuel the A4 you are looking at takes. They don't all take premium, but many do. --- Now that I have gone over all of the basic car "stuff" I'm going to mention some little details about my A4 that either really please me or really bug me. Air-Conditioning: The AC is nothing short of excellent. You can set it to a temperature, select Auto, and then whenever you start your car it'll hit that temperature within seconds throughout your vehicle. It's fantastic for hot and humid summer days, within a minute your car will be the exact temperature you desire. Leather Interior: Honestly the interior in its entirety is a thing of beauty. I've always preferred Audi interiors to BMW interiors (putting speed and other performance aside.) There are tons of creature comforts... and man that leather really is comfortable. What's more, the leather seems to be of good quality, I have no rips yet despite all of the use. Floor Mats: I don't know what they've done, but the floor mats are some of the worst I've ever run into. They have these little white screw things that you turn into the floor itself. Great idea right? Wrong. The little screw things are only in the back of your floor mat, not the front. This means when I shift and quick bring the clutch out and the gas down, the mat scrunches up at your feet. Not only is it unsafe, it's downright frustrating. At one point it got so bad I just ripped the whole mat out so as not to have it distract me in a situation. You really need to have them ironed or something so that they're flat because man they have quite the tendency to scrunch up. Key Fob: They wear out easily, and they're expensive to replace. Not a big deal, I can live with turning my key to unlock the car rather than pressing a button, but it's just a minor annoyance. Plus I could see how this could be a bigger deal for some people, if it's night time and your not in an area you feel comfortable with, it's much faster to hit the button and hop in your car. Audio Systems: Mine has the BOSE stereo system, I'm not sure but I THINK that pretty much all the A4s come with it. It's nice, the sound is crisp and clear. Quick note- my 6 CD changer is in the trunk of the car, which is apparently pretty common. It's nice in that you have more space on the dash, but I could see how this could annoy some people, especially if you're the type that changes CDs often, as you have to walk all the way around to the back of your car. Of course, you can have 6 CDs in at once obviously, so I'd imagine that it makes more sense with the trunk design. --- So would I recommend the Audi A4? If you can afford it, you sure bet I would! It's a lot of fine to drive, it's classy, it performs, it's really the complete package for almost anyone. However, do make sure you can afford to own one. Notice that I didn't say buy. Many people can buy an Audi, few can afford to own one, that means keep up with everything that needs to be kept up with. I've left out reliability until this point because there really isn't a lot I can speak of for across the board. Unlike many cars, the Audi A4 seems to truly be you get what you put into it. If it's treated properly, you'll get a reliable car. If you don't, you'll get what's probably an overpriced bill. If you're prepared to handle that, then the car will handle you and treat you kindly for one of the smoothest, yet most exciting rides in your driving experience.
Forza Motorsport 3 was one of the first games I ever played on my Xbox 360, and it remained one of my favorites leading up to Forza Motorsport 4. What's more, I was thrilled to find that Forza 4 would be working with Top Gear- yes that's right, Top Gear, to produce their game. Turn 10 Studios could not have picked a better choice if they were looking to get that racing game blend of perfection that brings in both the casual car market, as well as the hardcore racing market. So does Forza 4 live up to the hype? I'll be your Star in a Reasonably Priced Car and take it through some test tracks to find out... .:Graphics:. There is nothing stunning about the graphics in comparison to Forza 3. They've done everything they have to extend the life of the Xbox 360 console, and while the game is certainly more crisp, detailed, and when it comes to the cars, sexier, it has become obvious that the hardware within the Xbox is reaching its limits. It's time for a new console- more power can only enhance games like Forza more. Nonetheless, the best way to describe the graphics in Forza 4 is- they are as good as they can be, and as good as they are going to get at the present time. .:Top Gear:. This is a flat out disappointment. Captain Slow (James May) and Richard Hammond are non-existent throughout the game... How can you slap the Top Gear logo on your game and then "forget" 66.66% of the crew? The only real situations where the Top Gear show is referenced is with Jeremy Clarkson's voice occasionally put over a description of a car or track. Oh... and the Top Gear test track is used for the most ridiculous mini-games during the campaign. Seriously, the objective on the Top Gear test track is not to get a fast time in the Kia Cee'd... no no, that would be logical. Instead, your time going through turns like Hammerhead and Gambon will be spent knocking over pins. Yes you heard that right. Knocking over pins. Like bowling pins. Words cannot describe how inexcusable an insult this part of the game is to true Top Gear fans like myself. .:Car Selection:. The car selection in Forza 4 is great... if you've got money, or more accurately, Microsoft Points. You see, they give you a pretty good selection of cars of all types. You'll get to drive all kinds of cars, from the Volkswagen Fox to the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. But.. let's just say you wanted to drive a Mazda RX-8.. y'know, like millions of people do. Then fork over some Microsoft Points. Or... let's say you want to drive a Porsche in general. Fork over some more Microsoft Points for another DLC pack. Yes that's right- you won't to drive ANY Porsche until you purchase DLC. If you were looking to drive a 911.. just.. too bad. Regardless, the fact that Turn 10 is charging more money for this kind of DLC is absurd- these cars should be included right out of the box. If I go out and pay full retail price for Forza 4, I shouldn't have to add whatever they deem fair simply because I like Porsche. Because, let's face it, who doesn't like Porsche? .:Gameplay:. Gameplay is a tricky thing to analyze in Forza 4, simply due to all of the options. I will say this- on default settings the game is far too easy and all cars drive the same. Seriously, with the exception of speed, the difference between my Audi R8 and Mazda MX-5 was shockingly minimal. Handling means nothing until you apply more difficult settings to the game, upon which your Shelby GT500 and Lamborghini Miura will no longer be able to slide through turns as easily as your Audi S4. I also recommend playing on manual rather than automatic, it adds so much more appeal and long-lasting fun to the game. It's cool to smoke the dumb AI cars for a while, but eventually it will get repetitive unless you take off things like the braking assist, because you just don't make mistakes with it on. You can take turns as fast as you want and it'll still guarantee you stay on the track. Far too easy. So overall, do I recommend Forza 4? Of course. This review may seem negative, but it is also a lot easier to remember negatives of a game than positives. Believe me though- I haven't forgotten the feeling and experience of my Corvette ZR1 screaming down the Nurburgring at insane speeds, nor have I failed to recall the thrill of applying the hand brake to slide around the corner in my SSC Ultimate Aero at the famous Le Mans track. If you're a car enthusiast- you'll enjoy Forza 4 despite the over priced DLC and lack of Top Gear implementation throughout the entire game. If you're not a car enthusiast- I really can't say anything for you, but I can say that I'll bet you'd still enjoy your time in Forza Motorport 4, and it just may be what you need to convert you into a car guy too.
Nowadays you'll be hard pressed to find a game that sells itself honestly. All kinds of games will build themselves up to be the next major hit that people talk about for years. Everyone wants to be the next Halo, the next Call of Duty, or even the next Mario, when in reality these games are often nowhere close to hitting that magic formula that makes a game, complex or not, addictive to play for most people. Super Meat Boy breaks the above marketing attitude and approach in just about any way that you could think of. It doesn't claim to cater to those who want a complex, unheard of radical gaming formula. It's very description calls it a "tough as nails platformer where you play as an animated cube of meat who's trying to save his girlfriend (who happens to be made of bandages) from an evil fetus in a jar wearing a tux." And that's precisely what Super Meat Boy is. You, the player, are Super Meat Boy, and you'll chase after your girlfriend in more than 300 story levels which, although they may look simple, are truly anything but. Super Meat Boy is a game that will make you yell, pull your hair out in frustration, and question your passion as a gamer. But at the end of the day, when you've beaten whatever challenge was filling you with rage, you're smiling like a little kid who's just played their first Mario game, because that's the only reasonable comparison you can make. Super Meat Boy doesn't rock out a bunch of sexy HD graphics or require a high-end gaming PC to play. Instead, it's a classic situation of a simple game that's truly anything but. And although achieving 100% on this game is likely to take you longer than it would to finish a few full retail games, Super Meat Boy stays true to its roots with its low price. If you're paying more than £15 for this game, Steam, Amazon, or otherwise, then you're getting ripped off. And honestly, can you really beat a deal on a game that's less then the price of dinner yet will undoubtedly take you a minimum of 30 or so hours to even finish, yet along complete everything there is to do? Even though £15 for a story mode that will take hours upon hours to beat seems like a crazy good deal, Super Meat Boy's appeal doesn't stop there. Instead, it also offers all players a free world (level) editor to make their own custom levels, and share them with other friends or players in general. And unlike some built-in-game level editors which are very poor quality and restrict the player to the point where it seems like it's a challenging task to built something even remotely fun (I'm looking at you- Super Smash Bros. Brawl), this level editor is actually good. And with thousands of custom levels already out there just waiting for you to download and test out and have fun playing, the potential and lasting appeal of this game becomes all the greater. So is Super Meat Boy for you? Well, at its price it's really a question that you can answer for cheap. However, if I had to take a guess, I would say it is. You don't need to be a hardcore gamer to feel the nostalgia of playing a truly GOOD platformer. Furthermore, if you are a hardcore gamer that has played a lot of platformers, then Super Meat Boy also brings a lot to the table when you consider that you've probably never played as a ball of meat before. And playing as a ball of meat has its advantages- sliding down a wall will rub your gooey meat substance on it, allowing you to later jump and stay attached to it to get around... it's really rather complex when you get to later levels. All in all, Super Meat Boy can only be described as a really fun game, and it's something that should really just be enjoyed as something to bring a smile to your face rather than feelings of disappointment that tend to plague newer retail games in the modern video game market.
.:HISTORY & HYPE:. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a fantastic, innovative game. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 would have been the same had the developers supported their game with frequent patches. And now we have Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, or as its commonly referred to, MW3. Coming off of the multiplayer behemoth that was Black Ops, MW3 and the developers at Infinity Ward (also working with Sledgehammer Games) had both a lot to live up to and answer to. Other Activision developer Treyarch, the folks behind Black Ops, were very well known for keeping up with their game. There was a high level of support, as well as creative new maps, Zombie mode originality, and an all-new single player, which ended up making for quite an innovative and well-rounded game in its own right. Which finally brings us to the question that everyone really wants to know the answer to- Does MW3 live up to the hype? .:MULTI-PLAYER:. The answer is.. sort of. MW3 is not the best game on the market. It isn't the most original. And it certainly isn't flawless. However, things are much better for players than the last time they visited the world of Infinity Ward multiplayer. As of now, there don't appear to be any weapons that are clearly over-powered- something that the grenade launchers, FAMAS, and ACR were all accused of in MW2. There are certainly some weapons that are known for being better than others; particularly the Type 95 and FMG9, but it's nowhere near the level that the One Man Army-Danger Close-Grenade Launcher combination was in the previous title of the modern warfare series. The maps are well designed, and the developers have generally stuck to their promise of removing power positions from the maps. It does tend to result into a lot of sub-machine gun gameplay, so if your not an SMG guy then you're going to need to learn to need to learn to deal with them. And now for the second big question- how's quickscoping? In MW2, quickscoping was undoubtedly overpowered. The Intervention bolt-action sniper rifle was almost always a one-shot kill, and the aim assist went crazy with helping quickscopers hit shots from across the map in the blink of an eye. More recently, in Call of Duty Black Ops, the sniper rifles had all been modified to the point where they were much more difficult to use, and more of a show-off thing rather than being the most practical, viable option. And now in MW3, we have them back, quickscoping is possible, but it's much more balanced. Sometimes you'll still feel as if you got screwed by aim assist, but its nowhere near the level that it used to be, and its a lot more balanced than before. All in all, the multiplayer is more stable than its ever been before. .:SINGLE-PLAYER:. If you're thinking about buying this game purely for the single-player experience, you're going to be disappointed. Don't get me wrong- the single player mode is packed with action, explosions, and plenty of dumb enemies to shoot. However, it doesn't last nearly long enough to justify the price tag that MW3 is nabbing right now. There are around 20 missions or so, and on the standard difficulty it shouldn't take you more than 10 hours to get through them all. Even on a higher difficulty you're still only going to kill a few more hours. And after its all said and done, the single player really doesn't offer anything that gives you a desire to go back to it. It's the type of thing that, upon completion, feels satisfying but doesn't give you the thrill to replay. As for the story itself, I don't want to spoil anything, but I will say that it does pick up very soon after MW2, and it is quite good. It provides some closure, but leaves plenty open for a sequel should Infinity Ward decide to go down that path. .:SPECIAL-OPS [MISSIONS]:. The spec-ops mode was first introduced in MW2 as well, and now it's back again. There are 16 missions by default for you to work your way through, with more available as paid DLC maps. Each set of missions (blocks of 4) is obtained by reaching a certain rank in Special Ops, just as you would in the standard multiplayer, though the two ranks have no impact on one another. Experience in Spec Ops is obtained through killing enemies and completing missions. There's really nothing else to say about Spec Ops in MW3. It's back, it's challenging, it's easier with a friend, but it's nothing out of this world. Personally it's never been my thing, and many of the missions seem like way too much of a nuisance to be worth my time. However, if co-op is something you're really into, then getting all of the stars on Veteran will be something to occupy you and a buddies time. .:SPECIAL-OPS [SURVIVAL]:. This is, in my opinion, where the special ops game mode, and co-op in general, shines. Survival mode is Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games answer to Treyarch's popular Zombie mode. And personally I still don't think it lives up to it, nor is it really similar in any manner (more like Gears of War and its Horde mode), but it's still a blast. You'll be playing throughout the multiplayer maps, including any DLC ones that you may choose to purchase. And as your Spec Ops rank goes up, the more that's available for you to defend yourself with, whether that be guns, attachments, friendly NPCs, air strikes, perks, sentry guns, and more. It's a blast, and can actually be played without an Xbox Live subscription, something rarely seen with Call of Duty. .:OVERALL:. As stated earlier, MW3 isn't a perfect game. It has way too many elements that seem like they were copy and pasted right into this game. The guns are similar, or exactly the same. The engine of prior games has been modified, not re-created. However, the game has seen quite a bit of support already, not the blind abandonment that Infinity Ward received less than kind remarks for. They haven't innovated, but they have shown the potential that their title 2 years ago could have been.
The problem with Madden games in years past is the fact that they have been an autopilot cash cow where EA wraps up the same formula as the previous year with updated rosters, making for an utterly unfulfilled product package. Therefore, whenever a new Madden game is released, the thing to look for is what's new and what's hot. In other words- what makes this year's version of the game worth picking up other than the fact that Brett Favre is no longer in the game. Luckily, for what feels like the first time since Madden '08, the series appears to have made a pleasant transition. There's no need to go into the specifics of the game's mechanics. The controls are as tight and slick as ever. It's very, very rare that I find myself performing a juke, spin, jump, or dive that I myself hadn't intended on. The graphics have had their yearly buff and make this game, without a doubt, the prettiest Madden on the market. The commentary of the game is still good and entertaining, but suffers the same drawbacks of previous years- play the game enough and you will be sure to get sick of the same remarks by Collinsworth. What sets Madden NFL 12 apart from its previous installments though is not just one specific trait, quality, or instance. It's the opinion that you form after hours of playing. You won't realize it after one game, or even five. But about the time you're halfway through your franchise mode it starts to dawn on you- the game finally has something that fans have wanted for years- it's sucks you in! Madden 12 is finally something different when it comes to being realistic. It replicates what happens (or could happen) every Sunday to such a higher level of perfection. It doesn't matter that the Green Bay Packers are the reigning Superbowl champions and the Arizona Cardinals have an awful defense- it's still the NFL and it's still a challenge. Big Ben's rocket of an arm is still there and very much a threat, but no longer can he spin around off his back foot and complete an 80 yard bomb to a receiver that's being double covered on the other side of the field. The realism is finally here. In previous games, Madden was all about the stats. Now it's about strategy and knowledge of the game and the tendencies of its players. Just because Matt Forte has great stats doesn't mean that you'll suddenly be breaking runs right through the Ravens defense. To defeat the AI in Madden 12 you need to come in playing like an actual NFL team would. It doesn't matter that you're using high-rated player Tom Brady to throw to high-rated player Wes Welker... Revis Island is still very much a threat. Of course, Madden 12 has received some more visible improvements as well. All of the primary game modes are still the same and seem a bit disappointing and all, but the tweaks are there and appreciated. No longer do you have to spend 8 seasons buffing up the stats on your NFL superstar. It's been simplified. I don't always agree with simplifying and dumbing down features in games, but in this case it is very much an improvement. There is also the new mode of MUT (Madden Ultimate Team). MUT means trading cards with other players around the world, sort of similar to the local card system that Madden used to have back in the days of the original Xbox. MUT is much more difficult and rigorous however, and requires good knowledge of the game to build a successful "team". Teams are also given ratings by EA and there are cool unlocakables and achievements for building high-rated MUTs which is much harder than it may sound. Overall Madden NFL 12 really is a great product. It's still not a perfect product, and it still doesn't top my favorite game in the series (2008). It is however, a beacon of hope and shows that EA has not given up in innovation for the NFL games. In the '09-10 seasons things were looking bad. 2011 showed little signs of stepping up. Finally, Madden 12 is here to fill that role. Hopefully this game is not seen as a peak in the series though, but the transition game to that cutting-edge game that we American football fans continue to lust for.