Black Ops – First Strike

Something that was released this week was the first DLC for Call Of Duty: Black Ops. Now, for those familiar with the series, this is a huge deal, because the only thing more anticipated than this is the actual release of a new game. So it’s a big deal.

This map pack was released on Tuesday and it includes 5 new maps: 4 multiplayer and 1 zombie. And they are pretty good, and have some pretty wicked features. I’ll start with Berlin Wall. This is an awesome level set in Germany, surprisingly, by the Berlin Wall. The level features a load of buildings which provides good cover and sniping positions as you’d expect, but also there is this area where if you step inside, you’ll get blown apart by turrets. This area is denoted with red on the map and the floor, but tread carefully as you may not spot this as you’re running from your mates. I personally liked this map. Made me think a lot more about the whole gameplay aspect of the game and how to use my environment to an advantage.

The second map is Discovery which is set in the Antarctic. This level is pretty good as shows some of the snowier areas of the game, even though there are a lot of other snowy maps. This map features a lot of bigger, warehouse type buildings but combines it with more open landscape. You can see the northern lights, and somewhere down the bottom is a snowy bridge that you can blow a hole out of. That’s pretty sick to be honest. Makes those pesky RC things less of an issue. I did like this level, but not as much as the others.

The last map i’m going to talk about is Stadium, which is AWESOME!!! Well, i like it. It is held in a stadium area, as the name suggests, and there is a hockey rink involved, but sadly you can’t jump on it, which would have been awesome. But if you shoot the puck and the scoreboard, wicked stuff happens. There are also some other nice little things you can shoot which do things, but i’ll let you find them. This level features a lot of little places to jump and hide behind, but is pretty open, so bring close combat weapons to this fight and you will stand a far greater chance of success.

The other two maps are Kawloon and Ascension, both of which add completely new game play areas to the multiplayer and zombie modes respectively and are pretty sweet. All in all, for 1200MSP it’s not too bad a deal, but as with most of these map packs, is still a little over priced. I’d give it a hearty 7/10.

Zune: A music streaming experience

So, the lovely people over at microsoft gave me a month trial of their Zune music service and I gotta tell you, it was really great. And this came as a surprise considering a lot of people had told me it was lame and other such things.

I’ll begin with the computer aspect of the service. This of course runs through the Zune application for windows, which has a pretty swell interface, and just generally looks pretty flashy. With the Zune Pass as it’s called, you get access to every song they have on their database, in a very similar manner to Spotify. And like Spotify, you can download the songs to your computer for offline listening should you need to ever go offline. Which, let’s face it, will never happen unless your net just cuts out. Anyway, another thing I noticed was the quality of the audio was slightly better on Zune than Spotify. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but it just seemed better, though that could have been the software. Another awesome feature on Zune is it’s Smart DJ playlists.This is very similar to how last.fm runs things. For those of you who are unfamiliar with last.fm it’s a service where you can search for an artist and then listen to music that is related to that artists. Well, smart DJ is very similar where you have a main artist and then it creates a playlist with songs from that artist and then similar artists. One advantage to this, is that you can see what is coming up next and can skip straight to a song you know, or skip a couple that you know you hate. It is a great way to find new music.

The next aspect to the Zune Pass involves your xbox 360. Yes, that’s right guys, you can stream the music straight to your xbox and have it play through your killer sound system attached to your xbox. This is a great way to listen to music, as not only does it mean you have it playing on, potentially, the best speakers in your house for the best quality, but it adds a really cool background image for the music. It’s hard to explain, but please enjoy the screen shot that will try and explain it better than my words. The Smart DJ feature is also present on this version of Zune too, which is awesome and means that if you’re having a party, you need not worry about making a killer playlist, let Zune do it for you. That’s what I did, and I turned out just fine. With the xbox version, you cannot save the songs to your hard drive as far as I’m aware, but if you can, that’s awesome, and I need to know how!

The final aspect to the Zune Pass involves your Zune device. That’s right you crazy cat Americans, if you have a Zune device that has the capability of accessing the Zune marketplace you can access this awesome service. And have no fear anyone outside America, you get this service right on your Windows Phone 7 device. It’s pretty awesome. Now, the features of this version are very similar to that of the PC version to be honest, you can search for a song and stream it straight from there, or you can choose to download the song for listening later. You can’t however access the Smart DJ playlists but I’m going to assume that’s to save you on data costs as using your mobile network to stream music can be quite an intensive thing to do. One last killer feature is that you can sync your music from your computer straight to your Zune device, and as most feature the whole new wireless sync dealio, it means you can have seamless access to what you have on your computer, on your Zune device. I can’t figure out if it goes the other way, but to be honest, I’ve downloaded everything to my laptop anyway and then synced it for on the go listening.

In my honest opinion, this is a great media service, though the media database at the moment isn’t as big as Spotify, I can only assume it’s going to keep increasing over time, and for £8.99 a month – $14.99 in the America place that’s over the sea – it’s a real bargain. And even though films aren’t included in the Pass, you can still find them in the same place. Almost perfect media integration! And here’s one more picture for you, if this doesn’t way you, i’ll be hurt!

Ilomilo Review

Here is something i haven’t done, XBLA game reviews. Well, i’m going to kick off with an absolute cracker of a game. Like, seriously, if you have an xbox 360 with live, or a Windows Phone 7 phone, you should get this game. It is AWESOME!!!

Right, i’ll kick off with the main idea of the game. It’s a puzzle game where you play as two characters that are trying to find each other in this cuboid sort of world with several different environments. However, you can save these little things at the same time to unlock more stuff in the game. On top of this, there are these collectibles on the floor which help unlock memories which add more depth to the game. As the game progresses, the puzzles get more and more challenging.

Right, so the gameplay itself is very basic, which just adds to how awesome this game is. All there is to do, is:
Move;
Pick up usable items;
Collect memory bits;
Save the little things;
Find your friend.

That there, is the whole game in a nutshell. During the game as well, you can switch which person you are using, adding to the puzzle solving aspect of the game. This means you sometimes have to think a lot about what you are going to so. The usable items are wicked too. So far i have encounter 3 types of them: Fill in a single gap block, extending to fill a bigger gap block and the trap door block. These aren’t the real names, but that’s what they do, so i thought it would be appropriate to put it that way. Another wicked feature of the game are these sections that you can walk onto which changes the side of the block you are on. The whole world seems to move and it looks awesome. The sounds and music in this game are also amazingly cool.

Overall this game is amazing and for 800MSP (XBLA) or £3.99 (WP7), it’s pretty well priced. Especially as it is the most addicting game i have played since Angry Birds. This game gets a staggering 9.9/10.

Palm announce event, poetically.

Ok, so here is a break from our normal broadcast to bring you something different

Today, Palm decided to let the world in on a secret, that isn’t so much a secret anymore. They have an event planned for February to show off some of their new technology. Now, this has created a lot of buzz in the palm community, and for me for that matter. I for one will do my best to find everything out about the event for you, but here it is, the lovely poem from Palm to us lovely people about 2011:

“‘Twas the week after Christmas, when all over Palm
All the creatures were stirring, no mouses were calm;
More smartphones are coming in two-o-one-one,
To bring more mobility to everyone;

Designers are nestled all snug in their cubes,
With visions of webOS (a series of tubes);
We’ve read all your tweetering (no need for ALL CAPS),
We all know that this ain’t a time for no naps.
Yes, out on the blogs there has been so much chatter,
You’d think it was truly a death-or-life matter

The webOS update brings goodies like Flash,
And Just Type and stacking (and won’t cost you cash).
More treats that the new year will bring unto you?
(We have heard that you’re feeling they’re long overdue.)

And what to your wondering eyes will appear?
Not a miniature hint now, but never you fear,
We’ll have news to share with you, soon as we can,
I know what you’re thinking: “Just tell us your plan!”

I’m sure that you’ve heard that a tablet is nigh,
And lots more phones, and ePrint, and cool apps, oh my,
“First, Palm Pre! then, Pixi! and, Pre Plus (and Pre 2)!
Next, Whatzis? or Whosit! or, Thingabob? and Yoohoo!”
(Those aren’t the real names! they’re not even the codes!
You’ll have to wait! have to wait! the future bodes!)

But for now I’ll exclaim that unless something leaks,
“Happy newness to all…in the forthcoming weeks.”

 

 

Palm Pre 2 – First Impressions

I don’t know if anyone will remember, but a smart phone came out just over a year a go called the Palm Pre exclusively to O2. Now, this phone got copious amounts of bad reviews and people were really put off getting one. I feel the main reason was because of the OS on the phone, WebOS. Just over a year later and the sequel is out! However, it hasn’t been going down too well at all, just like it’s predecessor.  And this time, it’s isn’t available with a specific network as none wanted to take it up.

Well, HP Palm, as they are now known, have kindly given me a Palm Pre 2 to try out for a few weeks, and i must say, it is a massive improvement from the original. The Pre 2 is host to a 1Ghz processor, seemingly an industry standard these days, 512MB RAM, 3.1″ touch screen, full QWERTY keyboard, 16GB storage and a 5.0 mega pixel camera with LED flash. These are pretty similar to the original bar the 1Ghz processor and camera as it was a 600Mhz down clocked to 500Mhz previously with a 2 mega pixel camera and 8GB storage, with 16GB on the Pre Plus.

Now, i know on paper it looks pretty much the same device, and even in design the only differences are that it has a flat screen on the front. Other than that, the features are taken from the Pre Plus. But the major difference is on the inside. The OS. That’s right folks, this device is running WebOS 2.0. Now for most of you, you don’t know the original, which i can’t blame you as it was poorly advertised, so i will run down the basic features now.

  • You have a palm account that syncs wirelessly with a cloud based server and stores all kinds of information such as contacts, apps and other linked accounts.
  • The accounts you can link include Facebook, gmail, windows exchange and outlook, hotmail and AIM.
  • The OS is built around a card based system used for multi-tasking which, to date, is the best i’ve seen on a phone.
  • There is a gesture area under the screen used for all sorts of functions such as the back and forward functions of the internet and quickly changing between open cards.
  • App settings are found in a drop down menu at the top when the app is open.
  • One massive feature is called Synergy which allows linking between all of your accounts such as collecting the same contacts into one, collecting photos and info from you facebook contacts and much more.
  • One of the best features is the notification bar that pops up at the bottom. Unlike other devices where the notification gets in the way with what you’re doing, it gives you a basic run down of what it’s about at the bottom whilst pushing the bottom of the screen up. If touched whilst like that, the relevant app opens. If left alone, it dissipates into a little icon in the bottom right corner, which when touched will open up an expanded view of the message which you can either act up and open the app right away or swipe away for later.
  • Another important feature is copy and paste. Probably one of the most useful features of phones at the moment, and WebOS is very good at it.
  • Another huge feature is over the air firmware updates. When connected to a 3G signal or WiFi it will download the update and then alert you when it has finished. When on 3G it will periodically download as it can sometimes use a large amount of data.
  • Just by touching the bar at the top you get quick access to the full date, battery percentage, Aeroplane mode toggle and other toggles such as Wifi and Bluetooth. With VPN added for WebOS 2.0.
  • There are of course loads of other really awesome and important features, but i can’t go into them all or you won’t hear what is new.

One thing that has changed in the new OS is the ability to have more cards open at once, and also, you can collect similar cards together to take up one card space on the card view. This is pretty handy as it means i can get straight to my important e-mails whilst all my social networking stuff loads by pressing the middle “button” and pushing all that social stuff to the side making my e-mails the focus. On top of that, of you are only done with facebook, then you can just push that card off the screen at the top, and it’ll close. Simple and efficient.

Another impressive feature, and one of my favourites, is the just type feature. Now, it may not seem that impressive, but it is so useful. When on the home screen, slide out the keyboard, and just type. From there you get a multitude of options such as a selection of contacts, google suggest, a whole host of searches including wikipedia, twitter, facebook and more, and the best, quick actions. With quick actions, you can start typing something that literally has just popped into your head, and then tell that text to be saved as a memo, or be sent as a message, or even update your twitter and facebook. The cooler thing is, as more and more apps come out, more and more quick actions will be added. Along with that, you can add your own websites to search on provided they add the system, which a lot already have.

There are of course loads of other features on this phone, but i don’t have that much time to talk about them all, so i’ll leave it there for now, but i will be posting a video with a comparison against the original pre.  On an overall basis, i love WebOS the first time i had it with the Pre, but the hardware wasn’t really great. Again, the hardware isn’t fantastic, but the power of WebOS is astonishing this time round, and with a faster processor everything just runs that little bit better. I would love to be able to get the phone myself just for the OS as it is truly fantastic. For that this phone gets a 9.2/10.

Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Review

The other day, a kind company known as Push Start Media sent me Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit as i won a competition. Now, this was one of the games going on my christmas list, but now it doesn’t need to be on there. Anyway, so i’ve been playing it, and i’ve noticed some awesome things about it, and some not so awesome things, but here is my review.

Need For Speed is usually a game that is brilliant for the tuning up of cars and making them look gangsta. Along with this, they are usually very similar to arcade style racing games. This all changed when they released Shift. That game was very realistic and less gangsta than most of the other and also focused on actual racing more than street races. This was different, but fresh.  Hot pursuit however has kinda gone back to what the games were before, but with a fresh perspective on street racing. You get to play as the police that shutdown the races. And that is so much fun, but more about that later.

As it is developed by Criterion Games, you expect a few things. Great graphics, awesome maps and arcade style handling. In this you get all three of those things, and a lot of Burnouts best features appear in this game. It has great graphics and all the cars look nice and shiny, until you crash them, then they just look destroyed. It’s awesome. The map is huge, which is similar to Burnout: Paradise and it covers a lot of different environments. And the cars handle just like the burnout series. Drifting is easy to do, and the cars are just fast and epic really. Along with that, the nitrous system is pretty much the same too. The more dangerously you drive, the more of it you get. Essentially, this is just a new Burnout game, in a new skin, and it’s fantastic.

One thing that has been taken out from this game that is in other Need For Speed titles is the car tuning and upgrading. I’m not too sure why it’s been removed, but it is missed. Instead of buying a car and turning it into a beast, you get to drive pretty beasty cars in their natural form. As you progress through the game, you get a rank for both street racing and policing, and the higher your rank, the more cars you will have access to. On top of this, you get to take part in races that require different car types as you progress.

There are a few race types: Standard race, Hot Pursuit, Time Attack and Free Drive. Standard races sees you racing against cars of the same type along part of the map at stupid speeds. Time attack is a one man race to drive a length of road in a certain time. Free drive is, well, free drive. Hot pursuit is brilliant. It sees you either as a police car or race car going essentially head to head for superiority. You have access to several weapons in these races which include Spike Strips, EMPs, Turbo (Racer Only), Jammer (Racer Only),  Road Block (Police only) and Helicopter (Police Only). All of these harm your opponents progress in different ways and really shakes up the gameplay from other titles.  All of these race types, along with driving dangerously and completing milestones give you bounty. Bounty is used to level you up and unlock more cars. The more bounty you have, the more cars and speed you will have.

One awesome feature of this game is the Autolog. This acts like a social media center for the game and is the hub to everything. It gives you news, updates, general information and your friends scores. It uses live leaderboards to mark your progress in the game against your friends, but this also affects your bounty within the game. You post the fastest time out of your friends in a race, you get an extra 2000 bounty. Your friends are better than you at this game, you get no extra bounty. Competitive types, like me, will love this feature.

Overall, i love this game. It’s the perfect arcade racing game available at the moment. It combines racing and law fighting like no other game has before it. Even though it is lacking in a few places, you don’t feel it needs it when you are driving a Bugatti Veyron at over 200MPH. 8.1/10.

Noble effort from Bungie – Noble Map Pack 1 Review

Ok, so Halo: Reach was a massive game this year, and i had the chance to go to the premiere event in London before release. Since then, it has gone on to be the biggest selling Halo game of all, and has the largest number of players to go along with that. But does that mean the pressure is on Bungie to make awesome maps for multiplayer like with Halo 3?

With the release of the Noble Map Pack for Halo: Reach, we see some of Bungie’s latest work on the title with the creation of 3 new maps: Anchor 9, Tempest and Breakpoint. I will start with the latter, Breakpoint.

Breakpoint is a HUGE map, and i mean proper big. It’s should be used mainly for big team battle, as it can take forever to find anyone. It is very similar to the older map, Avalanche, which was awesome for big team games. On the map you get a variety of vehicles, and 2 bases that are linked together through the mountain in the middle. I found it to be quite a challenging map as people like to use the jet packs, sniper rifles and the top of the mountain to generally wipe everyone and everything out. On top of that, as soon as some one is in the Banshee, if you don’t take it down, you are destined to die over and over again. It’s a pretty irritating thing, but it happens. Overall, i was pretty disappointed with this map, it isn’t as fun as Avalanche and can get a bit tedious when people keep slaughtering you with sniper rifles and Banshees.

Map 2 is Tempest. This is a pretty average sized map, very similar to Valhalla. There are two base structures at either end with a fighting ground in the middle, with varying surface types and different height levels. There are a few cave passages and a river to one side. This map is brilliant for 6 v 6 team battles, and even some rumble pit game types. A lot of the fighting here is medium to long range, but you can get some close range encounters, so it’s worth carrying a shotgun or something. There are no vehicles on this map, which makes the battle a lot more even, and means you can spread out a lot more. I have found the best tactic is to hang wide with the DMR and pick off the weaker ones with head shots, and just back up people on your team with cover fire. This is a pretty fun map, but i don’t see myself picking it over some of the pre-existing maps.

The final map is Anchor 9, and this is a small map. Built in a space station, you can battle inside, or outside in space. That part is pretty epic, and sounds awesome. However, you are very very vulnerable when out in space as travel is slower and jumping can take a while. Inside is a place of death, just pure death. It’s pretty hard to find somewhere that is safe from enemies, especially if you need to recharge your shields. I found that this map is perfect for the smaller team games, and rumble pit games too. Head hunter is brilliant on this map, and can really test a players skill. Again, there are no vehicles on this map, but that’d be silly if there were. This is by far the best map in the pack, and is a favourite of all the maps in Reach.

This map pack overall is pretty average, and at 800MSP is a pretty good deal. It does add an extra 250 achievement points for you crazy achievement hunters and really shows what the developers can do with maps. I have enjoyed this map pack and am looking forward to the next one, whenever that maybe.