Month: August 2012

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CGMPodcast August 31, 2012

This week on the CGPodcast Wayne is out of the office so the remaning crew make up for it and talk about all the latest hapanings in the world of VideoGames and Comics. Melanie talks about the latest episode of the Walking Dead. Brendan goes into detail about how you can build a mame cabinate of your very own and Tim talks all about the latest in news. All this and more on this weeks Podcast!

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Sensei [Raw] (Hardware) Review 1

Sensei [Raw] (Hardware) Review

To most people a mouse is often just a mouse. The average computer user isn’t concerned with a mouse’s CPI or how many programmable buttons it has. However, in the world of PC gaming these factors and more are very important indeed. Steel Series makes no claims about how their mice will make you a better gamer, but they do feel that a mouse is a tool, and like any other, if you want to be the best, you need to have the best tools.

The Sensei [RAW] is essentially a less flashy version of Steel Series’ Sensei mouse and while it may be less flashy, it’s certainly not inferior. Yes, the Sensei has more features that then Sensei [RAW] but most of those features are for those pro-level players who need to fine tune their mouse until it’s exactly perfect. Those are the people that bring home big cash prizes from gaming tournaments, but for the average gamer who just wants to play some games with a decent mouse the Sensei [RAW] is a really good fit. Personally, I have no use for things like on-board profiles, or illumination in 16.8 million colours, or an LCD menu system. I just want a mouse that is responsive, comfortable, and easy to use and the Sensei [Raw] is all of those.

The Sensei [Raw] features an ambidextrous design, an anti-tangle cord, seven programmable buttons and a very comfortable rubberized finish. I have used many mice over my gaming career featuring all sorts of strange ergonomic designs, but nothing has been as comfortable as the Sensei [RAW]. It might be the rubberized finish, or the simple design, but so far I’ve yet to experience any hand cramping and have been able to move my cursor, reticle and crosshairs with precision and purpose. Comfort is key when playing for long periods of time and the Sensei [Raw] is one of the most comfortable mice I’ve ever used.

One design choice I could have done without was the location of the two buttons on the side of the mouse. On each side of the mouse right above where you thumb would go there are two buttons, being right-handed the two located on the left side of the mouse didn’t bother me, in fact, they’re very useful for switching between weapons. However, those same two buttons are also found on the right side of the mouse and I did have a problem with my ring and pinky fingers accidentally hitting those buttons. So far that seems to be the only flaw because otherwise the mouse glides as smooth as silk and is a joy to play with.

A lot of research has gone into this mouse as well as the whole Sensei line. Steel Series consulted with pro gamers across many different leagues to ensure that this was a mouse capable of dealing with any situation. Pro players of games like League of Legends, StarCraft II, and Counter-Strike had input on the Sensei’s design and it shows. This is a quality mouse, and will suit the needs of any one who plays games on their PC. While the Sensei [RAW] may not have as many of the bells and whistles you’ll find on the other mice in the Sensei line, it gives you just as much mouse while coming in at a more modest price point. If you’re in the market for a new mouse and are looking for something beyond a device that just goes click, the Sensei [RAW] from Steel Series is definitely worth picking up.

X-Factor Volume 14: Super Unnatural Review 1

X-Factor Volume 14: Super Unnatural Review

During a time in comics when it’s common for creative teams to get shuffled fairly frequently, it’s no small feat that Peter David has been writing X-Factor for over eighty issues now.  This new collection features X-Factor #224.1 and #225-228, and features more strange adventures with Madrox and crew, as they deal with Guido’s recent resurrection at the hands of Layla, an eerie sighting in Madrox’s hometown, and the mystery of Hangman and Bloodbath, which starts off a whole new adventure for Madrox, which will be shown in the next trade paperback, coming in a few months.

Peter David is an extremely skilled writer, particularly when it comes to writing team books, as he has a gift with dialogue and characterization, not to mention juggling large casts of characters and making it seem absolutely effortless.  His writing in X-Factor is extremely strong, as all of the characters within the book have distinct and unique voices.  For a lesser writer, this would be extremely challenging, to balance so many disparate personalities and story elements, and yet David excels at it.  That being said, although it’s always a treat to read the adventures of the members of X-Factor, the actual villains they face in this collection are a little on the lame side, as Hangman and Bloodbath aren’t the most engaging or thrilling antagonists.  Thankfully there are ongoing mysteries for David to dangle for readers, as well as a new mystery leading into the next arc, as well as the ever-complicated interpersonal relationships between the various members of X-Factor.  They’re certainly a dysfunctional crew, what with Layla and Madrox’s romantic bond, his past with both M and Banshee, Pip the Troll not looking like he’s having a good time working for X-Factor, Guido dealing with no longer having a soul, and Shatterstar thinking that now that Rictor has his powers back, he may not need him around anymore.  The complex nature of these relationships helps make this title consistently enjoyable and engaging even when the villains or antagonists might be a little lacking.

The artwork in this volume is handled by two artists, Leonard Kirk primarily, as he illustrates issues #225-228, and Valentine De Landro, who illustrates issue #224.1.  The visual tone of this book has changed a lot throughout the years, but I’m pretty happy with the visual consistency that the book has reached recently.  It feels like they’re done having the creative team switched up regularly, and finally settling into a groove artistically speaking.  That only can bode well for this book, as Peter David has been delivering consistently enjoyable scripts for so long now, the only downside to this book has been the at-times frequent shifts in artists, with some particular artists in this title’s history not being that good a fit for the book.  Thankfully both De Landro and Kirk are well-suited to this book, and make for a great sense of visual consistency in tone.

Fans of Peter David’s run on X-Factor will continue to enjoy this series with this new collection.  Peter David hasn’t disappointed yet, and I can’t wait to read more about Jamie’s adventures in the next volume of X-Factor,  entitled They Keep Killing Madrox, coming out in October.  Recommended!

Punisher by Greg Rucka Volume 1 Review 1

Punisher by Greg Rucka Volume 1 Review

It feels like every few years Marvel relaunches the Punisher in a new series, and this series by Greg Rucka is the most recent effort that Marvel has put out.  This is a decidedly different take on the character, especially compared to Rick Remender’s recent take on the character.  It’s still a reality-based book, but the Punisher makes far less appearances here than in Remender’s take, as he’s more of a force of nature felt in the world.  The world that Rucka constructs is very reality-based, less full of superheroes and more of criminals and police officers.  The defining moment of this mini-series is in the first issue, as a wedding is interrupted by armed gunmen, killing and wounding many of  the attendees.  Among the wounded is Rachel Cole, the bride, who loses much of her family and her fiance’s family.  This is a major feature in Rucka’s run on Punisher, because this book becomes just as much about Rachel as it does about Frank Castle himself.  This trade paperback collects issues #1-5 of the Punisher series, comprising the first story arc.

As already mentioned, this volume features the interruption of Rachel Cole’s wedding, which quickly becomes a bloody mess.  The Punisher soon becomes involved, even as two New York City detectives investigate both the wedding and Punisher’s involvement.  Norah Winters, investigative reporter extraordinaire also makes an important appearance, as she helps save the Punisher’s life.  What separates Rucka’s take on the character from prior takes is how it is so grounded in reality, and told like classic crime fiction.  There’s only one “super-villain” in this book, the newest incarnation of the Vulture, and even then the character is depicted as a force of nature himself, as he’s set upon Frank Castle, leading to a memorable and mesmerizing aerial battle, which ends in Frank Castle taking some major ocular damage.  The police detectives are the real leads in this particular volume, as one of them is compromised, secretly working with the Punisher as an informant.  This version of the Punisher is very much human and falliable, and not immune to injury or punishment, as seen when he starts wearing a patch over his eye, after the battle with the Vulture.  Rucka has a very precise way of writing the book, and by the end of this trade, you’ll be eager and anticipating the next volume of this series to be released.  Incidentally, the next volume is actually coming out next month.

The artwork in this collection is done by Marco Checchetto, with colours by Matt Hollingsworth.  Hollingsworth’s artwork is quite notable because it gives the book a very realistic visual tone, without being too dark and gritty, like Rick Remender’s take on Punisher.  It also gives this book a stark contrast to the last series, to help establish itself visually.  Furthermore, in future issues when other guest artists pitch in on the book, the overall sense of visual consistency is maintained because of the gorgeous colour artwork done by Hollingsworth.

Fans of crime fiction will really enjoy the complexity of this volume, although readers should be warned that this volume does feel like a first act.  It’s well-written and well-illustrated, but the story is just getting started here, and leads into future volumes superbly. This is a unique and singular take on the Punisher and his world, and I can’t recommend Rucka’s take on the character enough.  Highly Recommended!

Lights, Camera, Party! Review 1

Lights, Camera, Party! Review

Yes, It’s Another Party Game

The Wii set the stage for casual gaming by creating the party/mini-game standard that has become a long, dark shadow stretching across the rest of gaming. Whether it’s with a  Wii-mote, a Playstation Move controller, or the Kinect, they all amount to the same thing; a bunch of small games, lasting no more than a few seconds or minutes that people take turns playing. It’s cheap, it’s easy and it gives people something to do together if they’re not particularly keen on actually talking to each other. Lights, Camera, Party! is one more title to add to that pile, and it does nothing to stand out from the crowd.

Wheel Of Mini-Games

The premise of Lights, Camera, Party! goes something like this; the Funzini family is minding their own business when a rocket launch being covered by a game show host goes horribly wrong. The rocket crashes into their home, demolishing it completely, and now, in an effort to make lemonade from lemons, the game show host hits upon an idea. He makes the now homeless family competitors in a series of mini-games, with the winner of each round getting a section of a new home as they desire. Whoever has the most parts of the house in their preferred format once the building is complete wins.

It’s a silly, barebones story for another round of mini-game madness and the presentation of the game is in keeping with the tone. As you’d expect from a game that makes no great demands on the hardware, it runs very smoothly. No trouble with frame rates, no glitches or graphical bugs to speak of. On a technical level, it’s quite good. The art direction is simple, cartoony and not particularly inspired, but when you’re making a family game, bright and colorful is all you need. Lights, Camera, Party! definitely is all that. Sound is not particularly robust—it’s not a shooter, so it doesn’t need to be—and doesn’t do much in the way of taking advantage of surround set-ups. But then was anyone really expecting a party game compilation to push the PS3 to its performance envelope?

When we finally get to the mini-games this is where the more serious problems start. One thing that the game occasionally fails at is giving proper instruction. Each mini-game is incredibly brief, but the visual diagrams that accompany a game before it starts aren’t always clear on what kind of movements the game is looking for. For example, one mini-game requires that players hold the Move controller horizontally in their hand to prepare for a motorcycle jump. The visual diagram doesn’t do a good job of conveying that what the game is looking for is to have the Move controller be “revved” forwards and backwards as a motorcyclist would do. Another serious issue is that occasionally the detection of motion will be off on certain mini-games. While the certain motions, like an under-handed bowling motion work fine, the overhand equivalent—particularly when you have to hold and then depress a trigger to indicate “I’m throwing now”—are clumsy and often fail to register properly. This is not a game that is fundamentally broken, but in a market flooded with party/mini-games, it’s not doing a great job of holding its own.

Ultimately, Move Champions is still probably the best example of what the Move controller can do in a mini-game situation. The bright colors and whacky sensory overload of Lights, Camera, Party! are still likely to do the job when it comes to pleasing kids, but for “serious” Move users, this isn’t going to make your list. A passable—if slightly broken—mini-game compilation is all that’s on show here. Definitely not at the top of the list.

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Big Talk in Little Montreal

Montreal may not have quite the same tech cred as the almighty Silicon Valley in the Bay area of San Francisco, but in recent years it’s pulled off a talent drain for the gaming industry that is outright threatening. Montreal played a massive role in Canada’s own climb to edge out the United Kingdom as one of the major players in the industry, coming up only behind Japan and the United States. Is it any wonder with that many studios concentrated in such a small area, it would start to become attractive not just as a place to work in the industry, but as a place to discuss the industry itself?

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