Monday, July 6, 2015

IT News Head Lines (TweakTown) 7/7/2015


'Happy Forest' is yet another great example of Unreal Engine 4
We've been reporting on many various technology demos using Unreal Engine 4, but this new one has to be the cutest. Check out the 1-minute video of 'Happy Forest', below.

Marza Animation Planet are the developers behind Happy Forest, which makes great use of Epic Games' beautiful open-world forest assets that are included in Unreal Engine 4. A very detailed dragon is also used, which gave me some Pixar vibes.


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Turtle Beach opens pre-orders for a wireless headset called the 420X
We're not quite sure if the name of this headset is meant to be a joke aimed at the constant memes and Snoop Dogg 420 references, but either way Turtle Beach has released its 420X Xbox One headset for pre-order.

Set up with a 100% wireless design, this headset features a USB connection to the Xbox One (wireless sender), separated game and voice chat volume controls, an adjustable microphone boom, an over-ear headset design and audio presents with voice prompts.

Set for release on July 18 at a recommended price of $179.95, Turtle Beach CEO Juergen Stark claims this product "will feature our renowned audio and mic quality in a comfortable headset designed to give gamers the most immersive and enjoyable gaming experience."


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Mad Catz faces possible closure due to financial struggles
The well-known brand of arcade sticks and accessories, Mad Catz, is facing some severe financial struggles which may result in closure, GameSpot says.

Failing to meet a monthly fail-safe target as set by it's credit lender, Wells Fargo, Mad Catz warned its investors of an unclear future. Wells Fargo waived this violation on June 23, opening a new agreement which will be upheld until July 31, 2016. Reportedly losing money over the last three years, Mad Catz stated that it will need "significant contributions from anticipated sales of products related to the Rock Band 4 video game" in order to continue operating.

With Rock Band 4 set to be the make or break for Mad Catz, the stakes are high but the hopes are not, with it explained that all of this uncertainty raises "substantial doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern." Speaking to Game Informer, Mad Catz announced a $20 million loan initially, set for a possible increase to $35 million from September, all to ensure a smooth Rock Band 4 launch.

Mad Catz chief financial officer, Karen McGinnis, commented that the reason for this credit warning was due to unambiguous wording within financial document settings. She went on to explain that the situation Mad Catz is in is better than it initially seems.

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GG, Google - there's a new Google Glass coming 'soon'
The first iteration of Google Glass was good, but not great, and while we've known for a while that Google is working on a second version of its ambitious wearable, the first real news on the new Glass is here.

Droid Life has found a submission to the FCC that shows that Google looks to be working on a new version of Glass, with the only information on Glass 2.0 shared is that the FCC ID is 'A4R-GG1' and that it supports various Wi-Fi bands and Bluetooth. The documents also show that Google is using the 2014 E-Label act, which means it can hide the FCC labels away instead of plastering them on the device itself.

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AOC shows off its 25-inch WQHD monitor, Q2577PWQ
Set for a position on the shelves this coming August, AOC has showcased its new 25-inch WQHD monitor to the public. The Q2577PWQ utilizes an IPS LCD panel with LED lighting, said to use a non-PWM method for brightness adjustment, ensuring a flicker-free experience.

Other features include 178 degree viewing angles, a 5ms response time, a 350 cd/m2 brightness ceiling and dynamic mega-contrast ratio. With a maximum power consumption rating of 55W, ports available include DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, D-Sub and a four port USB hub which includes two USB 3.0 downstream ports (one high current) plus two USB 2.0 options.

The base enables a height, tilt and 90 degree rotation adjustment. Unfortunately there is no current price listed.


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PS4 sales hit 23 million, Xbox One trails behind with 12 million
It looks like Sony is continuing to dominate consoles sales, where according to the latest sales data from VGChartz, Sony has eclipsed Microsoft by nearly 100%.

Sony has racked up 23.2 million sales of its PlayStation 4 console, while Microsoft trails behind severely with just 12.8 million. Nintendo is actually not doing too badly, with 9.7 million Wii U consoles sold to date. If we shift over to monthly numbers, Sony continues to smack Microsoft around, selling 617,578 consoles while the Xbox One saw just 272,955 sold. Nintendo on the other hand didn't have a bad month, with 141,426 Wii U consoles sold.

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Fnatic CS:GO takes home $100,000 thanks to ESL and ESEA
$100k for a single outing isn't a bad pay day indeed as the Swedes at Fnatic's CS:GO division took home the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals with a 3-1 win over American team, Cloud 9.

Losing the first map (de_cobblestone) on a close 14-16 scoreline, Fnatic took the next three maps 16-6 (de_cache), 16-14 (de_overpass) and 19-15 (de_dust2) to win in a four map stunner. This win secured the title, $100,000 and the prestige of being the first team to take home the crown.

The Fnatic team of Flusha, JW, KRIMZ, Olofmeister and Pronax also had a great showing in the finals kill/death wise, seeing Flusha finish with a brilliant +21 kills to deaths across his 93 frags in total. Cloud9's Shroud certainly put up a fight of his own, posting 100 kills to 80 deaths at a massive +20 kill/death ratio.

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Superman fan? Rumor has it Warner Bros. is working on a Superman game
With all of the problems surrounding the PC port of Batman: Arkham Knight, we need some good news from the gaming side of Warner Bros., and today is that day.

It looks like Warner Bros. is working on an important new game, where WB Games Montreal is hiring 15 people to fill some jobs such as Game Designer, Senior Level Designer, and Technical Director. Their website describes it as "a passionate dev team developing DC Comics-focused AAA games that evolve and celebrate the legendary brands of Warner Bros". The company adds that it's for "a new IP project for next generation game platforms".

The screenshot that we have above could obviously be fake, but the sheer tease that Warner Bros. and Rocksteady Studios could be working on a new Superman game is exciting. The timing couldn't be better with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to be released in March 2016, and Justice League the year after.

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Bluetooth headsets are serious business as LG marks 10 million sold
As reported in a recently issued press release from LG, NPD Group has announced LG's continued reign over the US Bluetooth headset market since May 2012 - owning a massive 40% market share. Said to be mostly thanks to the TONE headset, LG further bragged that many spin-off copies are currently being made of the TONE globally.

With the 10 millionth TONE headset sold since October 2010, this product has been designed by LG in collaboration with Harman/Kardon and JBL in order to provide a claimed "highest level of sound quality."

It seems that LG didn't expect this headset to travel so well at first, with LG Electronics' vice president for Innovate Personal Devices, Seo Young-jae, commenting "Initially we were quite surprised by the enthusiasm of the feedback we received from people who said that TONE was the most comfortable wireless headset they've ever used." He then went on to congratulate LG's R&D department, stating "We stuck to what worked well and improved upon TONE over the years and we're absolutely delighted by the positive reception we've gotten."

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Peripheral brands make a move into clothing, Tt eSPORTS and ASTRO
Now listed as discontinued, Tt eSPORTS pushed heavily into the clothing scene in the recent past with its Chao series of clothing options - brandishing interesting Tt dragon designs and covering a series of options ranging from shirts to jackets and more.

In a recent newsletter sent by Astro, they too are looking to entice gamers into clothing purchases with its 50% off sale on particular items. Excluding promotional items, this sale covers shirts, zip hoodies, crew sweatshirts and more - marking a possible new age in peripheral business.

With so many different peripheral brands now on the market, there is only so much you can do in order to make your headset, keyboard or mouse stand out from the crowd - maybe cool clothing designs is a way to help win over some new customers? You decide.

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F1 2015's latest trailer teases the great visuals for the new racer
F1 2015 is closer to release than ever before, with Codemasters and Bandai Namco releasing a new trailer showing off the features of the game, all while teasing the graphics engine powering the new racer.

Codemasters Game Director, Paul Jeal explains: "F1 2015 marks an exciting new chapter for Codemasters and FORMULA ONE; it's a shift in direction for the game series, on new formats and our brand new game engine, with the game set to be released earlier in the season, launching this June. The handling is a vast improvement from our previous games. In particular our new tyre model is a superb step forward towards realism, letting you explore where the limit is and allowing you to instantly feel much more connected with the car. You can now experience the changes in grip caused by temperature changes, wear, car set-up, debris and weather conditions".

He continued: "Our improved vehicle dynamics much more accurately convey the difference in performance and the feel between mechanical and aerodynamic grip. The new Force Feedback system adds to the feeling of connection with the car and track surface. The more natural and realistic nature of the game physics also serves to ensure that the racing experience is more accessible, enjoyable and rewarding for players of all skill levels".


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Toshiba testing its 'scorpion' robot inside Fukushima nuclear reactor
Toshiba is deploying its "scorpion" robot inside of the TEPCO Fukushima No. 1 plant's second reactor next month. The mission is focused on trying to analyze the pressure vessel's melted-down fuel supply, and a robot is needed because of such high levels of radiation inside the reactor. The Japanese electronics company worked with the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID) to design the unique scorpion-inspired robot.

A "snake" robot entered a reactor in April, and couldn't find any debris from melted fuel - the robot stalled and researchers had to go back to the drawing board. The 21-inch Toshiba device will enter a fuel rod passageway, and has a physical design that provides increased dexterity and range of motion. It has the ability to raise its tail in a similar fashion as a scorpion, which has LED lights and an equipped camera.

Researchers will likely have to spent decades trying to safely decommission the No. 1 plant, after it was devastated by a major earthquake and following tsunami in 2011.

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Americans have streamed 135B songs and music videos in 2015 so far
It looks like Internet users in the United States absolutely love streaming content, with more than 135 billion songs and music videos steamed so far in 2015, according to Nielsen. It's a 50 percent increase year-over-year, with more users enjoying Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, and other services on PCs, mobile devices, and in the living room.

Not surprisingly, digital song sales dropped another 10.4 percent, racking up 531.6 million sales - with CDs and digital albums dropping 4 percent down to only 116 million. Music labels are desperate to find ways to collect revenue from streaming music, especially with more people making the transition from downloads to streaming content.

"Obviously, the streaming piece is really great news, when you're talking about darn near 100 percent growth... with no new players," said Dave Bakula, SVP of Nielsen Entertainment, in a statement to Re/code. Of course, the figures compiled by Nielsen Entertainment don't include the recent launch of Apple Music - which may have a significant impact on streaming music.

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Difficulties trying to sell Xbox One, PlayStation 4 in China
The Chinese government's decision to allow foreign game consoles to be sold to consumers initially gave Microsoft and Sony hope - but both companies face a number of challenges while promoting the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

By the end of the year, both new generation consoles are expected to sell just 550,000 units combined, according to the Niko Partners market research firm. There could be a major sales boost when AAA games such as Call of Duty launch in the country, but game catalogs for both consoles are rather disappointing.

"Despite China being a predominantly PC online gaming culture, Chinese who are now 26-35 years old grew up in the days of Nintendo Super Famicom consoles and are accustomed to playing games with a controller via TV," said Lisa Cosmas Hanson, founder of Niko Partners, in a statement published by Bidness Etc.

Instead of traditional gaming consoles, there are different opportunities "These gamers will drive adoption of 'over-the-top' (OTT) games played on Smart TVs as well as the use of game consoles, and thus will begin the transformation of the living room to entertainment center."

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Apple's new iPhone rumored to feature 4K-capable, 12-megapixel camera
It looks like Apple will finally be making the iPhone 4K-capable, with the upcoming purported iPhone 6S to feature a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera that will finally bring Apple into the 4K era.

The news is coming from a Foxconn employee who posted on Weibo, showing what looks like internal documentation that shows off the camera module that will be used in the upcoming 'S' model of the iPhone. If the rumor is true, it's quite the landmark moment, as Apple has been stuck on the 1080p-capable 8-megapixel camera for quite a while now.

We can be sure that if the new iPhone is 4K-capable, Apple is going to push the marketing quite hard when it gets announced in September.

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Gaming Sponsorship - Part 2: Live events are key to success

Back to part one

Part one of this series covered a basic and ranging explanation of what a sponsorship is, how it works, how you are likely to obtain one and some tips and tricks on how to make yourself valuable to a company or organization.

As promised, we're back at it again with part two and I'm delivering on my word of a "focus on live event avenues [and exposure] throughout these various extremely important methods." Last time we focused mainly on Stuart Tonks from GGF LAN and how he as an organization enticed me (as a sponsor) to partake in a long-term partnership with events he had on offer. This article will be a little more direct in focus, but involve more broad comparisons of companies, personalities, events and teams.

Getting all touchy feely

One of the best ways a sponsor can prove it provides the best products or experience is to immerse the target audience in its company culture. This can be done through simple things as sponsor displays at technology shows or simply by your gaming team rocking up and smashing all of the competition while being nice about it.

Taking the example of the LAN for example, Australian eSports collective Team Immunity are known for turning up to many LAN parties, taking along a simple desk set-up and competing against lan-goers 1v1 in games like CS:GO and CoD4 on specially built sponsor machines. The concept is fairly simple, get the member playing on components that your sponsors provide, get them the experience of playing against a 'professional' and give them them the chance to win some prizes if they do ok.

This method rings true especially for peripheral brands, it's pretty commonly known that in order for you to know if a mouse is good for you or not it has to feel good in the hand - what better way to test out some mice than head along and play with them! There's the added networking opportunities and brand presence of the team being there and then extra flavour is added by enticing people over with flashy lights and prizes.

Here's a list

There are a lot of different live event ideas you as a person, organization or gaming team can carry out in order to show off your sponsors or own brand and help in acquiring a portfolio to attract more in the future. Below I'll put up a list of just a few that I've seen, witnessed or worked on myself.

I will be mainly talking about gaming (competing) related events because it's often the first that comes to mind with gaming teams. First becoming extremely common in the rise of StarCraft II, the globe saw a myriad of teams kick open weekly, monthly, or twice-yearly online competitions featuring self-funded prize pools and open brackets. However, this is only one method, read on for some other simple ideas.

If you're looking for some more tangible ideas, take a look at things like:

These are just a few quick examples of things that may suit your skill set, or may not. Adding to this you can look at live event streaming, booth representation at conventions (as seen in the Voxe image previously), representation at product launches, or even simply just attending LAN parties wearing team jerseys.

Don't forget to work within your means! Under-promise, over deliver and build your legacy from the ground up. These events do take a lot of planning and preparation and if you're not sure about the background happenings ensure you have locked down funding and knowledge before anything is announced. In the end, it takes experience and you're not going to run a perfect event the first time - maybe not even the fifth time, but you will learn from each mistake (I hope!).

That's all folks!

Obviously these are just a few simple ideas that can get the creative juices flowing for you, I honestly can't express how important live events are in the mind of a sponsor. It helps put a 'face to the name', it helps you personally engage with company representatives/fans, and helps provide legitimacy to your project.

If you are looking for any more information on events and ideas, you can always feel free to post on my Facebook page and I will endeavour to reply as I can. As I said previously, you're not going to run a perfect event the first time around - but you need to ensure you are engaging with the community, gathering feedback and taking notes on how you can improve. Look for a 'hole' in the industry and fill it yourself (like a live LAN comp), attach yourself onto something already existing and ask to help out (attending LAN parties) or be a little crazy and do something completely different (seminars).

I'm currently mulling over a more direct (again) and in-depth analysis of specific events and how to maximise your exposure out of them, including the planning process involved. If you're interested I ask that you please comment on the TweakTown Facebook and let us all know, otherwise this series may now come to an end!

If you want to for some further research on events and ideas, I suggest you start browsing Facebook across gaming team and local hardware company pages.
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Bloodborne PlayStation 4 Game Review
When it comes to surprise hits, I don't think you can underestimate how much of a surprise Dark Souls was. This was a game that actively punished players. That brutally challenged them to the point where you could lose hours of progress in a short spell of play. However, it was also a game that challenged players. Many gamers lament the lack of challenge in today's games compared to yesteryear, but Dark Souls brought that back with a bang. Sony saw the popularity and contracted From Software to build a game along the same lines, but with a few key mechanics changed. That game is Bloodborne, and if you liked the Souls games, then this is right up your alley. Even for those who rejected those games in the past, they may find this one a good entry point.

Bloodborne forgets the fantasy style castles and other locations from the Souls series and takes on a much more Victorian England look. Set in a fictional city called Yharnam, the city is rumored to have a medical fix for any ailment hunters have. The hunter (who you play as) arrives in Yharnam only to discover that instead of medical fixes, the city is rife with disease and plagues that has transformed all its inhabitants into powerful enemies. The main aim is to survive the night, to escape the town, but many enemies and bosses await - as you would expect.

Bloodborne as per From Software's other titles is tough as nails. It is a game that will pound you time and time again, only to relent every so often. It is a game that you will play certain sections for hours on end trying to beat it, and despite all this, it is an amazingly crafted game that every PS4 player should try. This is a game where you will generally know the mistake you made, the thing that you should not do, and that is where the beauty lies. Every time you fail, you gain a little more information until you have enough to succeed. And succeeding in Bloodborne is reward enough with a strong sense of accomplishment achieved after each boss is taken down.

For those who have not played the Souls titles, the gameplay basically boils down to this; move from area to area taking out enemies gaining blood echoes whilst trying to find the boss character for that area. That said, the regular enemies are no walk in the park and you will not want to pull three or four at the same time. Whilst taking down the enemies, you collect Blood Echoes, which are used to level up, but you are also gambling with them. Should you succumb to the enemy, you lose all blood echoes currently held, and must return to retrieve them. However, should you succumb again before reaching the echoes, they are gone forever. You are always gambling with the blood echoes when exploring new areas and this fits the risk/reward mentality of the game perfectly.

Although the game remains brutally difficult, it is very clear From Software and Sony wanted this to be a little more accessible than Dark Souls. First of all, there is no weight, so you can carry around as much items as you want without impacting speed. There are also less weapons and in general each of the weapons is enough (when levelled) to finish the game with. The levelling system has been somewhat simplified as well, and one of our favourite changes is that when you succumb to the enemy, you no longer drop in maximum health. This is something that punished new players to the Souls series significantly in Dark Souls 2, so it's nice it is gone. Although we have played the Souls games in the past, we found BloodBorne a lot more accessible and easy to pick up, whilst maintaining the brutal difficulty it is known for.

One of the riskiest and largest changes From Software put into the game was the introduction of guns and the removal of shields. This is very much a game where success is based on offensive measures, rather than defending (though that does remain important). Guns change the game somewhat, but are used more to stun enemies, instead of actually taking them out - and the damage inflicted by them is minimal at best. It is clear they didn't want to turn this into a third person shooter, and they succeeded with that objective.

In terms of the most important aspect of the game in many players' eyes, the bosses, the game offers a ton of variety. You actually are unable to level your character until you find the first boss (levelling up remains locked off), which trains you in how to play the game by having a very weak character against numerous enemies. The boss characters are as epic as ever (we won't spoil any), and before you finish the game, you will have to come up with a unique strategy per boss. Generally, once you figure out a strategy, they are easy to beat, but coming up with it may take hours on end to do.

Despite all this, the game is not without its problems. First of all, the camera can be an utter pain in boss fights. Numerous times we lost to bosses because we jumped or ran into an environmental object we were unable to see due to the camera. To try and alleviate this, the game does include a lock on feature for enemies, however, there are times where its better not to use it. Once you get used to the camera and adjust your fighting style appropriately, it's fine, but it is very frustrating before then.

As well as this, the game has significant load times (around 45 seconds) after each death and to move between the Hunters Dream (where you level up) and back to the game world. It can also be buggy with enemies failing to trigger and also boss characters getting stuck outside the world. From Software has handled this the best way possible by giving you the victory, but when it happens, you feel like a bit of a cheat. To their credit, they have promised to try and patch the load times, and really, once you get used to it, it's not so bad.

Visually the game as you would expect is a significant jump over Dark Souls 2. The PS4 power is on full display with a stunning Victorian world present including some amazing architecture. Just like previously, no map is included, so you need to use landmarks to find your way around. The frame rate generally does not show any niggles and considering how important timing is in this game, that was crucial to its success. The scale of the enemies and environments really is a step above and the world is huge and easy to get lost in.

Multiplayer, like the Souls games, is both about invading other player's games (to become a nuisance and attempt to kill them) and calling for co-operative help. To do this, you need to get access to the various bells for invasion and this introduces a currency known as insight. As you discover new areas and defeat bosses, you will gain insight. If you leave this above particular levels, the game actually becomes harder. From Software clearly wants you to play multiplayer. Items can also be purchased with insight. As you traverse the world, if you are playing online, you can read messages from other players, which may help or hinder you.

Bloodborne may be based on an already existing series, but it does enough with mixing up the gameplay to keep it fresh. The fear about guns ruining the game was clearly unfounded and the stronger focus on attacks may make it easier for players to pick up. This is in our opinion the most accessible game of this year yet, however, if you are expecting a walk in the park, then you should look elsewhere.

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Battlefield Hardline Xbox One Game Review

So, how does Visceral Games do with the new Battlefield?

Let's be honest, Battlefield 4 began life as a mess. The game's biggest feature, the destruction of buildings, was crashing servers left, right and center upon launch, and gamers felt cheated. EA had such a problem that they had to give away some of its DLC and promise to fix the game. Once BF4 was solid, it was a good game, but it always had left a sour taste in the mouth. Therefore, when EA announced that Battlefield was taking a break from the main style it was used to and moving to a urban combat model with Hardline, there were many skeptics. However, the pairing of Visceral Games to the Battlefield franchise may have turned out to be a masterstroke, because although the single player is disappointing, the multiplayer is a blast.

Battlefield has never really had memorable single player campaigns and Hardline is no different. In the initial sequences of the game, you play as a police officer on the beat trying to take down some drug barons only for your partner to frame you and put you in jail. From there it becomes a tale of revenge and reflection, never really reaching the heights it aims for. There are numerous things about the single player campaign that are surprising and it really seems like Visceral has tried to shake the game up.

First of all, you can play the game as a stealth game. Instead of gunning down enemies, you can sneak up on them and arrest them. By doing this, you can actually make the game so easy it becomes a cake walk. However, once you set off one enemy, the game very much becomes the shootout that you expect from a Battlefield game, so if you want to just go in all guns blazing, that is possible as well.

Along with this, there are numerous areas where you don't shoot or attack enemies, and instead the main story plays out. For example, you might just be driving from one location to another with some story exposition playing out with the non-player characters. This is clearly Visceral trying to bring its storytelling talent to the series, but it just does not fit. Call of Duty and Battlefield have generally always been about big explosions and non-stop action, and the breakup of the action in Hardline just seems jarring. We admit that part of that awkwardness comes from the fact it's a Battlefield game, and if it was a different franchise, it may seem different, but as a Battlefield game, it just feels strange and too slow. The presentation of the story line is also different with each mission playing out as a TV episode.

Once you move past the single player (which contains 10 missions and will take you about 6-7 hours to complete), you will find a much more familiar experience in multiplayer. The change to urban combat is a successful one with the combat generally playing out in closer quarters and the maps being constructed in such a way (aside from the large ones) that you are never far from the action. For those who prefer the 64 player matches, Conquest Large makes a return and plays out just as well as it does in the more traditional battlefields.

However, getting away from that, Visceral has really considered how they could best use the cops versus robbers setting and come up with some interesting modes. One of the most interesting and fun to play is the Hot Wire mode. It plays a bit like Conquest, but instead of having points to capture, they are replaced by vehicles. The aim is to take the vehicle and drive them at high speed to deplete the other team's tickets. It's an interesting take on the concept that fits the vehicular world of Battlefield perfectly. Other modes include Blood Money where the aim is to steal gold and return it back to the base (for both the police and robbers side), Rescue which is a round based mode where the aim is to take out or protect the VIP depending on your side, and Heist where particular assets must be retrieved. Each one of these modes fits the urban combat style well.

The game play in Hardline is frenetic. Assisting with this is the ability to start in a squad or in a vehicle, as opposed to specific points on each map. Downtime between lives is small and allows you to buy or re-allocate weaponry. To say that Hardline is clearly inspired by Counter-Strike is a understatement with players gaining money as they perform well and that money can be used to unlock weaponry. We enjoyed Hardline's multiplayer a lot more than Battlefield 4, because as previously stated, the urban environment leads to combat which is much closer in scope, and because the cops vs. robbers idea aesthetic really works.

The maps also carry this feeling as well. Although there are some maps that will remind you more of Battlefield 4 (such as those which are based on the Everglades), most are set in an urban environment. Along with this, the destructive environments from BF4 make a return and it really is fun running around a multi-million dollar mansion in tight quarters blowing out walls trying to find the enemy players. As we said before, it is a frenetic experience and you really need to be concentrating to have even a chance of playing well.

Visually, on the Xbox One, the game is a mixed bag. There are some elements of the game that are impressive and the frame rate remains solid, but often in the single player campaign, we came across some textures that should have looked better. The game has a almost 'total conversion' feel to Battlefield 4 with some objects appearing far too blocky and a clear indication that it could look better on the system. This may be a result of the game being available on both generations of console. Sound effects and soundtrack are not memorable and especially on the robbers side, it's as if they tried too hard.

Battlefield Hardline is a tale of two stories. A single player game that whilst slightly impressive, feels like it should not be in a Battlefield game (we do have to applaud Visceral for trying something new), and a multiplayer game that seems an improvement on Battlefield 4. So, it comes down to this - if you are a seasoned campaign player of Battlefield looking for something new and impressive, you won't find it here and will likely be frustrated by its pacing, but if the multiplayer is more your shtick, this is one to pick up. Never has the difference between the campaign and multiplayer, in terms of quality, been so clear.

PRICING: You can find Battlefield Hardline for Xbox One for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: Battlefield Hardline for Xbox One retails for $56.08 at Amazon.

Canada: Battlefield Hardline for Xbox One retails for CDN$61.88 at Amazon Canada.
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Far Cry 4 PlayStation 4 Game Review
When Vaas first uttered the words 'Do you know the definition of insanity' during the unveiling of Far Cry 3, my interest was piqued instantly. Ubisoft was clearly building a psychotic, smart character to challenge the player over and over again in a huge sandbox world. Far Cry 3 has been and gone, winning plaudits the world over for its stunning gameplay, so a follow up was inevitable. Far Cry 4 in many ways is a repurposing of Far Cry 3, however, to dismiss it as only that is to completely ignore some of the improvements made over its predecessor. Far Cry 4 surpasses FC3 in many ways, and takes the psycho protagonist to an even deeper level, with more decisions and impact for the player to make along the way.

In Far Cry 4, you return to Kyrat as an ex-pat who immigrated to the United States with their mother when they were a child. Kyrat is a fictional city in the Himalayas and where the majority of the game takes place. It is also a dictatorship, ruled by one Pagan Min, a dictator on the level of Vaas from the former game, but one that is prepared to go even further. The story in Far Cry 4 is by no means throwaway, and in fact, many times will keep you forging ahead in the campaign, looking to find out what happens next - especially with the decisions you can make along the way to impact the game world.

Far Cry 4 is again set in a massive open world, free for you to explore from the outset and laden with vehicles to make travelling around the massive expanse of land even easier. It's also a completely open world game that is prone to events just occurring. There are some which are somewhat scripted such as the 'Karma' events and those which just happen. You might be driving along to a mission only to run into a huge enemy presence or just a random event taking place. It is these random events that make the world feel living and breathing. They can also assist you. By completing certain events, you can gain experience and other rewards, so it's worth investigating things that just pop up as you move about.

On the main campaign side, you join a freedom fighter force known as the Golden Path who have been for a period of time attempting to end the reign of Min and restore peace and democracy to the land of the main characters birth. Throughout this campaign, some tough decisions need to be made as to how to advance the story and which main character of the Golden Path you wish to follow. This really mixes up the game, sends the story in different ways, and in many ways every player could have a slightly unique story. It also significantly enhances the replay value of the game, although to be honest, the game is not lacking without it.

Throughout the course of the 12 hour plus campaign, you will find yourself abseiling down huge cliffs, flying through the air in a little helicopter machine, driving a long way, and just generally having a lot of fun. The missions are quite varied as well. Instead of just go here and shoot things, sometimes stealth sequences are thrown into the mix, and whilst most of the time the aim is to clear out the enemy, you can usually achieve your objectives in many ways. Remaining hidden from the enemy is advantageous because they can call significant amounts of reinforcements if you are spotted on most missions.

When it comes down to it, the actual gameplay, the game shines. Picking up where Far Cry 3 left off, the game is of course primarily a first person shooter. However, it is changes such as being able to ride on the back of an elephant that really make this game a stunning success. You also need to craft items to improve your weaponry and abilities. Instead of just purchasing more inventory space, for example, you need to craft a wallet. To do this, you need to hunt specific animals and skin them. It adds another dimension to the game and a challenging one at that. Most of the animals can be ferocious when attacked and getting their skins is not so easy.

Aside from the main campaign missions, one of the other tasks is to unlock areas of the map for quick travel. This is done by climbing towers (fast becoming a common Ubisoft trope) to get rid of the propaganda broadcasting systems. There are benefits to this other than fast travel, such as being able to view other items in the area that were previously greyed out. For those who are not fans of doing tasks such as this, they are entirely optional, but it does make the game a bit more difficult to complete.

In terms of the environment the game is set in, it is stunning. This is a game that clearly is using the power of the current generation system. You can stand on the top of a cliff just admiring the mountains in the distance and the draw distance is also significant. One thing we noticed is that the game really never misses a beat. Despite huge explosions on screen, large draw distances and tons of action, the frame rate remained rock solid for us throughout. At least we did not notice any major frame rate issues, despite the epic nature of the game. Voice acting was also impressive, especially of the evil protagonist, and the propaganda style radio came across as authentic.

Multiplayer comes in the form of complete online co-op and also player versus player battles. In online co-op, you can tackle the campaign and side missions together with one caveat. If the internet connection is dropped, you will be kicked from the game as opposed to switch to a single player mode. This actually stopped us for the most part playing the campaign in co-operative mode more as a precaution, but it does work well. There is also a map editor that ships with the game, allowing you to generate single player/co-op missions, and it's actually quite detailed and easy to use.

Far Cry 4 is a stunning game that builds upon its predecessor well. It may follow the same path of the main character having to slowly build up a force and take out an evil dictator, but despite it being almost the same structure, it works. The additions made including the new animals and location really do mix it up, however, it must be said that if Ubisoft is to return to the Far Cry universe for a fifth time, doing this over again is not going to be enough. That said, Far Cry 4 is one of the must-play games of 2014.

PRICING: You can find Far Cry 4 - PlayStation 4 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: Far Cry 4 - PlayStation 4 retails for $48.92 at Amazon.

Canada: Far Cry 4 - PlayStation 4 retails for CDN$69.95 at Amazon Canada.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition Xbox One Game Review
Bioware has had an interesting time of it lately. Mass Effect 3 ended off (for the moment) one of their best video game series yet, but had major criticism around its ending, so much so Bioware ended up rewriting it. Before that, Dragon Age 2 was taken to the cleaners by many gamers for being too different to the original, and it's been a little while since we've heard from the Bioware crew. The third Dragon Age game, Inquisition, has attempted to take what people liked about the original game, along with some of the mechanics from the second, meld them together, and come up with a game that every Dragon Age fan will love. You know what, Bioware may have just pulled it off. Dragon Age Inquisition is a spectacular game that RPG fans will play for months.

The game begins with the peace between the Magi and Templar factions being shattered by a large explosion which takes out members of the chantry who had brokered the peace deal. The land of Thedas is again on the verge of civil war with those who seek revenge and / or power able to now execute their plans. You play a Herald, a chosen character who builds a team of warriors known as the 'Inquisition'. Who you add to your party is entirely up to you and decisions you make directly affect this world as you play through the game with a number of crucial decision points present throughout.

However, it's not just your decisions in this game that can determine the fate of this world. As part of the game, Bioware launched the Dragon Age Keep. This allows you to go to the Dragon Age site and enter the details from the previous games specific to your playthroughs and will directly affect how the world is when the game begins. The PC version can import the saves, however, the Xbox One version can download the data from the keep once you have set up your game in the Keep.

When it comes to the gameplay as per most Bioware games, there are primarily three sections; combat, narrative, and overall universe management. This is very much a game that mixes the combat up with some interesting narrative sections to play through. For example, without spoiling too much, there is a section where you need to perform a dance to impress a royal family. At times, when you think the combat is dragging on a bit, Bioware mixes it up with something new. Along with this, there is also a War Council that you need to convince to explore new areas, take on new missions, and find new mission objectives. To do this, you gain power by completing side quests or performing particularly well in conversation with key NPCs.

This is in some way where a few players will find some frustration with the game. Side quests are not really optional and are more mandatory to a degree. To gain power, you complete side quests and some of these, especially in the opening areas, are very MMO like. One such example is having to kill ten rams and return their skins. However, the rest of the game (and side quests further into the main structure) makes playing through these worth it. It is a real shame that some of the opening quests leave a bitter taste because the rest of the game is almost perfectly structured.

The combat itself can be played in two modes; either real-time or in a more tactical view. Which mode you take on is of course personal preference, but there are times in the game where the challenge is such that the tactical view becomes a must. In the tactical view, you can give commands to your non-player controlled characters (you can switch to these characters whilst the gameplay is frozen) that can lead to more co-ordinated attacks.

In the real-time mode, you can also do this, but it's a bit more frantic with less time to think. This is one area where Bioware has managed to meld the best of each of the previous games into something that should please everyone. One thing which really frustrated us and in some ways made no sense was the inability to get to the manage character screen during combat to change weapons - a small thing, but frustrating nonetheless.

The world the game is set in is massive. There are numerous areas to explore and more are found when performing tasks with the War Council. The opening area, the Hinterlands, has enough content for around ten hours of gameplay and that represents only a small area of the game. You will visit huge castles, forests, snow covered areas, and others before the epic story of the game wraps up. This is a game that if you do not rush, will take you around fifty to sixty hours to complete. And aside from the opening section if you get bored in one area, there will generally be many others to explore, gaining power and building the prestige of the Inquisition.

Visually, the game is stunning to say the least and really does show the jump between the old generation of consoles and what we have now. The combat is fluid and despite the huge open world's present, the Xbox One console manages to keep the frame rate quite solid throughout. At the start of the game, you can customize your character to a significant level, leading to everyone having a unique character. In an interesting move, when you move into a cut scene wearing a helmet, the helmet is removed showing the characters face. Small tweaks like this really bring home how much effort and care Bioware has put into this game.

The game also features multiplayer, and as you would expect, it's quite a bit different to the single player mode. Played with friends via co-op, the multiplayer mode puts a number of limitations on you as a character to ensure that you need to work together as a team for success. For example, you will have limited access to weapons and potions, and along with this, you can only succumb to the enemy three times before its game over - in single player, other NPC characters can revive you.

There is zero doubt that Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the best games of 2014, and one that if you have any inkling of a liking for RPGs, you should pick it up. Dragon Age 2 may have soured the series, but Bioware went back, licked their wounds, and crafted one of the best games of the year. Your adventure awaits, Herald.

PRICING: You can find Dragon Age Inquisition - Xbox One for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: Dragon Age Inquisition - Xbox One retails for $59.99 at Amazon.

Canada: Dragon Age Inquisition - Xbox One retails for CDN$67.99 at Amazon Canada.

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Halo: The Master Chief Collection Xbox One Game Review
Halo has always held a special part of my gaming history. At the time of its release, I was a PC only gamer that had recently begun writing about video games and Microsoft invited me to try out their new Xbox system with Halo. I was hooked right away and Bungie had clearly proven that a first person shooter game could work on a console control system. Like me, millions of others around the globe picked up an Xbox to play the original Halo, and it has become synonymous with the Microsoft and Xbox brand names.

With the release of the third console from Microsoft, the Xbox One, it was a bit surprising to see that no Halo game was made available, and in fact, we have not seen a Halo game released since 2012. So, to fill in the game, 343 Industries has produced The Master Chief Collection. A collaboration of Halo 1 through to 4. However, if you are not a super fan, is there enough here to warrant buying the games again?

First of all, let's get the value for money argument out of the way. Halo: The Master Chief Collection is quite possibly the best value for money game you will ever purchase. It includes four of the best first person shooter games of all time, and the story so far of one of the most interesting game franchises around. Microsoft is asking you to shell out the full price for this one, but considering the content packed in (the game offers 4500 points of achievements just to give an idea of the size), that's not an unfair request in my opinion.

However, when you look beyond the amazing value the game offers, there are also some impressive facets. First of all, just like they did with the original Halo game, 343 Industries has gone back and rebuilt Halo 2 in an anniversary edition. Improved cut scenes, updated graphics, and just like the original Halo Anniversary, the ability to switch between the old and new graphics. However, this is limited to Halo 2 in this package and this is perhaps where some of the disappointment lies. Halo 2 is such a superior version to every other game in the package that it makes the other ones look poor in comparison.

There are many things that 343 Industries did right with The Master Chief Collection and the first is apparent when you boot the game. Instead of making you slug it out, finishing each campaign one by one to unlock all the games, each game is unlocked from the outset. Not only that, each mission and each checkpoint from each mission is unlocked from the outset. This makes it really feel like a DVD box set of the 'Best of Halo'. Didn't like a mission from Halo 1? Don't play it and skip it. For the super fans, this allows you to show off the best parts you love of the series or skip to exactly what you like. For everyone else, it just means you get to skip bits that were frustrating. It was a masterful move for 343 Industries to do this.

The games can also be modified by skulls that can be found and unlocked in the game world. Instead of just playing regular halo, you can add cheats or other changes to the game world. Again this really adds to the game, especially for those who have already played through the games already and want to mix it up a little.

When it comes to the game themselves, it really comes down to this; if you have not liked Halo in the past, then obviously The Master Chief collection is not for you. However, if you do have a liking for the franchise, what you will find is a game that at times can be a mixed bag. It is awesome that all the games are included in one package at 1080p and sixty frames per second, however, some of those games, especially Halo 1, really are showing their age. At the higher resolution, some of the graphics appear blocky and outdated. This is of no surprise, but when compared to something like Halo 4 in the collection, it really does not stack up well.

Where you will find perhaps the most value and entertainment in The Master Chief Collection is Halo 2 where 343 Industries has put in in a ton of work to bring an Xbox game up to speed for the current-generation consoles. Whilst it looks nowhere near what a Xbox One Halo game built from the ground up game will look like, it still is a significant improvement on its predecessor, and generally matches the Xbox 360 games (Halo 3 and 4) in the collection for visual prowess. Where this particular game shines is the cut scenes. Redone by Blur (a major graphics company responsible for some of the world's most famous CG scenes), the cut scenes bring home the story of Halo 2 in stunning HD.

The other area where you will find huge amounts of value and entertainment is of course the multiplayer. Whilst in comparison to some recent games, Halo does have fairly slow paced gameplay in the multiplayer arena, it still remains tons of fun to play. As well as this, not only can you mix playlists up between games (that is on one map you may play a Halo 1 based map whilst next map might be from Halo 4), but the physics and nuances from each game has carried over.

This is not a situation where 343 has built one engine and ported all the maps. They have ported all the physics and other slight differences between the game, and it shows. This offers a massive challenge when the playlists contain maps from different games because you are always having to adjust to the new style of play. That said, it is a ton of fun and perhaps the best reason to pick this game up.

Halo The Master Chief Collection will probably end up the best value for money gaming package in 2014. It is akin to Super Mario All Stars, where one package contains the best of the franchise so far and for those new to the series, an easy way to catch up before the inevitable Halo 5 release in 2015. 343 Industries probably could have just slapped all the games together, made them work on the Xbox One and shipped the disc. Instead, they put a massive effort into Halo 2 (and all the games for that matter) and managed to get the unique nuances of each game into the multiplayer arena, offering a unique challenge that no Halo fan will be able to resist.

PRICING: You can find the Halo: The Master Chief Collection for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Halo: The Master Chief Collection retails for $50.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The Halo: The Master Chief Collection retails for CDN$68.39 at Amazon Canada.

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Sunset Overdrive Xbox One Game Review
When previous Sony darling Insomniac Games announced that it was building an Xbox One exclusive, the gaming world was surprised to say the least. Insomniac had already begun to move away from Sony exclusivity with its poorly received Fuse, a third person action squad game, so when Sunset Overdrive was announced, there was excitement tinged with a bit of caution, considering the studios previous game.

However, Insomniac Games had proven in the past that it could produce quality titles and with Microsoft managing to lure it as an exclusive, Sunset Overdrive became one of the most anticipated games of the year for Xbox One owners. Thankfully for them, aside from a few slight hiccups, the game has been worth the wait.

Sunset Overdrive begins during the release of a brand new energy drink in the town of Sunset City. Rushed to market, Overdrive is the hip new drink that has failed to go through the correct testing and anyone that drinks it, turns into a mutant. After the launch party, the game picks up with you basically trying to escape the city, and with the help of a few quirky friends, try to get the truth behind the drink and why it causes people to turn into mutants. The story itself is not the strongest around, but it does get the job done and is interesting enough to make you want to play more.

Where the story and surrounds do come into their own is the humor in the game. Whilst it is very much hit and miss, Sunset Overdrive generally is a funny game. The only time that it really loses that charm is when it tries to be too clever for its own good and break the fourth wall. Times such as when the character on screen tells you as the player to press the start button or complains about an upcoming mission because it's so boring. Aside from this, the game itself carries its attempted humor well with many of the game's non-player characters being unique and interesting, to say the least.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises, given the marketing campaign Microsoft has run with the lead male character, you can completely customise your avatar to be male or female with a whole bunch of different clothing. As you play more, additional clothes are unlocked, and whilst it's only a cosmetic change, it does allow you to play the character how you want to. Along with this, you can unlock 'Amps' by gathering items in the world and 'cooking' them.

Amps are power ups for your character that are triggered by the style meter. To build that meter, you need to move around the world in fluid motions and take enemies out stylishly, as the name implies. Movement is key in this game and generally if you are not continuously moving, you will be overrun by enemies in a very short space of time.

This does make the first two or so hours of the game a bit more frustrating than it should be, as it does take time to become accustomed to the way you can move about the world. You can slide on wires, jump on trees and other items in the world to bounce and even part way through the game begin to wall run. Movement in Sunset Overdrive once you have learnt the controls is an absolute delight. You will get to a point where even if the game says the next objective is quite far, you won't mind because the traversal of the world is so fluid and easy that its actually fun to play.

And that is a key word with Sunset Overdrive, fun. Right from the outset, the game clearly wants you to continuously feel like you are having fun playing it. Whether it be the humorous characters present throughout or the non-stop action, this game just generally puts a smile on your face - except for one key facet, tower defence. Sunset Overdrive includes a tower defence offshoot set in the evening where you can unlock more amps to play with. This was our most frustrating element of the game and did not really seem to fit.

Thankfully for the most part, despite sometimes overloading you with enemies, the game does not severely punish you for dying. Instead (except in the previously mentioned tower defence mode), you generally return very close to where you were battling and with your mission progress intact. This is actually a very smart move on the developer's part because it encourages you to try things that may seem stupid, but also keeps you from getting too frustrated with the game. Another master move was that if you happen to fall from a very high platform during a mission, instead of making you traverse all the way back up, the game will place you back near where you were before the fall.

In terms of the missions and quests in the game, there are plenty. Those of you with tendencies to want all achievements will likely get many, many hours out of this game with numerous collectables available and other side quests to keep you going. Sometimes you will need to complete side quests (such as gain 'x' item) to be able to continue the main story, but for the most part, you can mainline the missions.

Missions are generally found in hub style areas and usually culminate in a boss fight. Boss fights generally are not exactly fun to play, but in Sunset Overdrive, the combination of how crazy the bosses are, plus the low punishment for dying, makes it actually enjoyable to take them on. Finishing missions will give you badges to buy overdrives with that basically boost your characters health, weaponry, or defence stats. Sunset Overdrive is not even close to an RPG, but has some very basic elements from that genre included.

On the visuals side of things, Sunset Overdrive impresses in two ways; the graphics themselves and the frame rate. The frame rate during our play never stuttered and never dropped below smooth. Despite a gazillion things happening on the screen, the frame rate was rock solid, and given how graphically impressive this game is, that is a feat in itself. The visuals are vibrant bright colors, which is a nice change, and the world feels almost like a cartoon. Sound wise, the voice acting gets the job done, and the music, whilst nothing to write home about, does not feel out of place or cheap. In fact, all of this game smacks of 'AAA' status and has a high level of polish.

On the multiplayer side of things, the game blurs the lines between single and multiplayer very well. You access multiplayer by visiting a photo booth in the main single player portion of the game. After which you are paired up with people and then vote on a quest to take on. It's an interesting take on the game that allows you to jump in and out of multiplayer almost at will. The end game of multiplayer is night defence (the previously mentioned tower defence game) and how well prepared you are for that is based on how well you do in the previous missions - it's super unique and fits the game world very well indeed. They could have cheaped out and gone player versus player, but instead have come up with a multiplayer mode that is unique and interesting.

Sunset Overdrive was a game closely watched by many gamers due to it being exclusive to the Xbox One. Insomniac Games also needed a win after Fuse failed to shine and people wondered if Insomniac Games would be better off going back to Sony exclusivity. Based on this effort, the answer is an emphatic no. The game does have a few problems, but it's a very polished title that shows off the power of the Xbox One well. If you have an Xbox One console, you owe it to yourself to at least try this game. It's unique, its new IP and it as polished as any other AAA title on the market. Shame about some of the humor though, it really does pull it down.

PRICING: You can find Sunset Overdrive Day One Edition - Xbox One for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: Sunset Overdrive Day One Edition - Xbox One retails for $59.96 at Amazon.

Canada: Sunset Overdrive Day One Edition - Xbox One retails for CDN$64.00 at Amazon Canada.

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FIFA 15 PlayStation 4 Game Review
Last year with the release of the new-generation consoles, EA pushed out an update to its annual FIFA franchise beyond that of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. It was a good start with the Ignite engine showing what might be possible in the new playground that the developers had to play with.

FIFA 14 was impressive, but as I wrote at the time, it had its problems. Things like players seemingly worse in the game than they are in real life, skill wise. However, EA promised to bring its A game back for FIFA 15 and that is exactly what they have done. Not only is FIFA 15 one of the best football games I have ever played, it is one of the best games of 2014, period.

With the release last year, EA unveiled the Ignite engine to the world. This was the engine EA said would power all its sports games going forward on the new platforms. FIFA, along with Madden, was one of the first games to get the engine, and it was impressive, but the extra twelve months development time has really shown the power of this engine. Last year, FIFA felt a bit stiff and without fluid motion, whilst this year, we were pulling off amazing passes and plays within the first hour of play. There is no doubt that the engine this year has had refinement and is working better than ever.

This is also a game that will challenge you, even as a seasoned player. The AI is brutal, to say the least, with most breakaways ending in a goal, and this time around rather than being frustrated at conceding a goal that you felt was unfair, you will clearly be able to see why the goal was conceded. It might have been a defensive line caught out by a perfect pass, a defensive line creeping up too far or a man being left unmarked. This is a marked improvement to FIFA 14 where I often conceded goals that I felt were not necessarily realistic, especially when defenders were unable to obtain the ball with quality tackling.

Other than the engine, there has been some improvements to the management mode, including the brand new Global Transfer Network. You have always been able to trade players in the FIFA games recently, as per the real-world, however, it is even more realistic this year. Instead of searching on numbers (eg a player with a total skill over 80), you research on traits much like a real-world scout would.

This makes the game potentially more difficult, but it allows you to pick up gems for cheap, if you can find them. You need to plan your scouting a lot more - instead of getting to the transfer window and just window shopping, you need to spend time before the window scouting countries and players, readying your moves - just like the real-world scouts. A fundamental change that should be welcomed by most, if not all, players of the game.

The other major change this year is basically EA rubbing everyone's nose in it that they have the Barclays Premier League licence exclusively. As a massive fan of the league, I was super excited that EA was doing this and they did not disappoint. Basically the game contains every team, player and now stadium from the league officially and it looks amazing. The Emirates Stadium in London right through to Loftus Road for QPR has been replicated in minute detail.

As well as this, the in-game UI gets a complete overhaul to appear just like it does in the Premier League broadcasts including upcoming matches, line ups and highlights. We cannot help but feel that this is EA rubbing the competitions nose in it that they have what is seen as the world's biggest league exclusively. It will be interesting to see if they apply the same to La Liga or Serie A etc next year.

This fits in perfectly with EA Sports Matchday, the in-game option to play upcoming games and have the players reflect their current form, injuries or suspensions. Along with this, the Matchday area now also includes a RSS feed of stories from your chosen favourite league, as well as players and teams that are improving, or are declining.

However, all this does not matter if the game does not play well and we can happily report that FIFA 15 plays amazingly well. Players have fluid movement and whilst sometimes collisions can seem a bit silly with players flying all over the place, in general the physics engine plays its part very well. You might wonder why a player goes flying, only to find that the opponent on replay ankle tapped them at high speed. Scoring goals can be difficult, the goalkeepers even on the default difficulty are very good, but when you do score, as you have to work for it - it's very rewarding.

Visually the game is also impressive, especially in the aforementioned Barclays Premier League. The world's best players have again been replicated to the nth degree, right down to their boot choice, and have been given an update again for the next-generation systems. The movement of the players and ball feels incredibly realistic and when a player makes a mistake, you generally know why.

The presentation (even without the BPL skin) is second to none with a strong commentary team present, and in-game visual indicators to see exactly what is happening. EA has also put a lot of effort into the atmosphere of the game and visuals with a lot of 'replays' and other moments like substitutions now rendered completely, including the fourth official.

FIFA 15 takes what EA has done in the past with football games and takes it to the next level. It really is one of the best games we have played in 2014 and is likely to be on a lot of top 10 lists for the year. EA started well last year on the new-generation consoles, but FIFA 15 feels like EA delivering on what these systems can do. If you like the Premier League, you are in for a real treat, but even fans of other leagues or smaller leagues will find a lot to like here. FIFA 15 is, right now, the best football game around, but with PES around the corner, and looking more impressive than it has for a few years, it may not keep the crown for long.

PRICING: You can find FIFA 15 on PlayStation 4 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: FIFA 15 on PlayStation 4 retails for $56.82 at Amazon.

Canada: FIFA 15 on PlayStation 4 retails for CDN$59.99 at Amazon Canada.

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Forza Horizon 2 Xbox One Game Review
When Forza Horizon released on the Xbox 360, Microsoft proved that not only could it produce a game that would compete with Gran Turismo (Forza), but could build an arcade style racing game that took much of what makes Forza such a formidable series and opened it to a wider audience, those that may not necessarily care about tuning and configuring cars.

Forza Horizon was a smash hit and one of our personal favourite games of that generation, but with the Xbox One comes Forza Horizon 2, a game which promises to take the extra grunt available in the new generation system, whilst keeping true to its original style from the 360. Thankfully Playground Games has managed to balance this well, and in many ways, eclipsed the Forza release from last year.

Like the original, Forza Horizon puts you in the middle of the Forza Horizon festival. A party mix of racing and music festival, this time set in the middle of Europe, and seemingly with a larger focus on European supercars from manufacturers such as Koenigsegg. The core gameplay remains the same as its predecessor; enter a Horizon festival location, take part in some races before moving onto the next location. However, it's in the main racing where you will find a lot of changes that make the game even better.

Whilst Forza Horizon kept you on the tarmac, FH2 introduces off-road racing, along with its more traditional counterpart. Quite simply, in particular championships, you will be roughing it in the middle of fields and paddocks, trying to keep hold of the powerful engine sitting in the light chassis. It adds a new element of challenge to the series and offers some of the tensest racing around. There is nothing like driving through a field not being able to see in front of you, trying to determine where the next checkpoint is. The drivatar model from Forza Motorsport 5 is present here as well with friends making up the bulk of your competitors. Along with this change comes the Bucket List, the chance to drive super powerful cars before being able to afford them in the game.

The bucket list spreads many of the game's most powerful cars throughout the world for you to find. Once found, you can begin the challenge, which is twofold; beat the time the game wants you to, as well as beat the current leaders of the challenge. It's not long in the game before you find these cars and it really is a smart move on the part of PlayGround Games because saving up to buy some of the best cars in the game can be a lengthy process. To assist with this, each time you level up, now you are offered the opportunity to spin a poker machine style wheel to either win money or a new car to use in a different championship. Again, this is a clever addition, because it gives a lot of reason to continuously gain levels.

The events on offer remain much the same as the previous game, but this should not be seen as a negative, as FH really did a lot of things right the first time around. Events range from point to point races, circuit races, races that include off-road segments, and finally the road trip. The road trip for each Horizon festival location is unlocked by beating a championship. After doing so, you are offered the chance to take the road trip to the next location. This is basically how you unlock each section of the map for events (though the map is completely unlocked from the outset). To unlock the whole map takes about four hours of play, but the actual game is quite a bit longer than this. There are also some novelty events to take part in such as racing against fighter jets and trains.

The map itself is significantly larger than Forza Horizon and as previously mentioned is set in Europe. More specifically, the game is set in the south of France and the north of Italy. This offers some stunning vistas to race in to say the least and a good variety of events and areas to play in. With the map unlocked right away, there is nothing to stop you just going for a cruise and the game actively encourages this by tracking how many streets you have found on the map - there are 315 overall - as well as experience points, whilst you cruise around.

Where you will find most improvement though by the jump in generation is not surprisingly the graphics. The visuals and draw distance in FH2 are stunning and we really do think this is the first racing game we have played that shows the generation jump and what is possible. The location of Europe offers some stunning visuals and one of the hardest things to get right in a racing game, the cockpit view, is utterly perfect. Usually we find the engine slows down, or the car feels slower from the cockpit view, but the developers have knocked this one out of the park. You simply must play FH2 from the cockpit view. Music wise, there are numerous radio stations that range from dance style music through to classical, although not all are available from the outset with many being unlocked, as you progress through the game.

Multiplayer is handled via the online road trip. Basically, you drive to a specific location in each Horizon festival location and join up with an online crew for that session. You can then choose to either just cruise the map or take part in more structured events. With the Drivatar system from Forza Motorsport 5 used this time around, it also means that basically you are always online, and at any point in the game, whilst cruising, you can challenge these drivatars to a one on one race by pressing X.

Forza Horizon was one of our most loved Xbox 360 games and at the time we felt that the developers were well on the way to eclipsing the Forza Motorsport series. Turn 10 better watch their backs because, in our opinion, Forza Horizon 2 delivers and does eclipse the most recent Forza game. A game that was seen as something to compliment the mainline series has in our opinion now become the better game. There simply is right now no better racing game on Xbox One, and if you have any liking of the racing genre, this is a must play. We can't wait to see what Playground Games does next.

PRICING: You can find Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One retails for $59.99 at Amazon.

Canada: Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One retails for CDN$64.95 at Amazon Canada.
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Counterspy PS VITA Game Review
To say that the PS VITA is kicking goals as an indie gaming machine is to completely underestimate how much this market is driving the success of the console's success. Along with some assistance from Sony with initiatives such as cross buy, many of the most popular mainline console games are also being released on the handheld. The latest of which is Counterspy, the first game from indie studio Dynamighty and the latest to be offered under cross buy. An interesting premise, and solid previews, had us excited for this one, but the final product is unfortunately not without its issues.

In Counterspy, you take the role of a secret agent sent behind both US and Russian lines in the midst of the Cold War. Both superpowers are trying to send a rocket to the moon, which will inevitably destroy it. The humorous thing about this is that both super powers are planning the exact same military move, in the same way, with the same launch sequences. However, you have no idea when, how, or why, and uncovering this becomes your main task in Counterspy.

Counterspy is an action game that is set within a 3D style engine, but gives a very 2D feel during play. Primarily controlled from a side camera, you as the spy can hide behind objects and generally sneak about the environment, taking out enemies unheard. When the game begins, you have a DEFCON rating of 4, and as you are discovered, succumb to the enemy, or allow an enemy to call reinforcements in, that DEFCON level is slowly increased.

The interesting aspect about the DEFCON gameplay element is that it carries over between missions. So how you perform in one mission directly has a correlation with how wanted you are in the next. There are ways to reduce this level such as finding a captain alone and making them surrender, or buying formulas between missions to lower the DEFCON rating. If the DEFCON rating lowers enough, a panic is triggered, which means you as the spy have sixty seconds to end the level. This leads to a frantic race to the end of the mission trying to ensure the secret documents and cash you have picked up during the mission are not lost.

The actual missions are in general short and sharp. Most can be completed in about five minutes, even with the most meticulous of planning. This is clearly a game that Dynamighty feels you should play many times, as if you are connected online when playing, a challenge score is set on each map, and also the game is relatively short. The length of the game is set by how good you are at it. Manage to find many secret plans on each mission, and it will be over before you know it, but if you struggle to find them, expect a longer experience. We finished it after about three hours of gameplay, so don't expect this to be a lengthy experience.

This is where Counterspy somewhat begins to come unstuck. Each mission is randomly generated (aside from the very final map), and this basically leads you to restarting a mission over and over until a map you manage to complete is generated. This is not necessarily a major problem and does keep you coming back to it, but it also means that you can't plan out strategies to try and beat the mission. The random missions do increase the games longevity, but it would have been nice to see a mission 'locked' to a specific level design during the current play through. It leads to a feeling of the player being fortunate, rather than skilful, in completing some of the missions.

There are some elements in the game that do assist you in planning strategy, such as the store, which is present before each mission. Using the cashed gained in missions, you can buy new weaponry, as well as any formulas you have unlocked. These formulas might be lowering the DEFCON level or offering the spy more health for that single mission. Interestingly, these items are not lost when you fail in a mission, and are retained until you complete it.

One major problem, and this is more PS VITA specific, is that the responsiveness of the controls are not as tight as we would have liked. Often we would press circle to try and hide, only to end up barrelling down towards the enemy. We also played the game on the PS4 and did not experience this, so it's clear the VITA in some areas is struggling. As well as this, on the VITA, we occasionally experienced some choppy frame rates that again was not present in the PS4 version.

Visually the game is impressive on the VITA, but there are a few jaggies that really stick out when playing. There is also the aforementioned frame rate issues that need to be dealt with, but overall, Dynamighty has done a pretty good job. Again, this is significantly better on the PS4, as you would expect. There is no voice acting, instead the cut scenes play out in basic text dialogue on screen, whilst the soundtrack is very much that you would expect from a game set in the Cold War.

Counterspy was one of our most anticipated VITA games, and whilst for the most part it lives up to the hype, there is just enough here to have us cautioning you before a purchase. If you are the kind of gamer that cannot handle frame rate issues, or controls that can seem unresponsive at times, then this game is not for you on the VITA. However, aside from that, this is a solid title, despite the lower power of the handheld. If you have a spare few hours to play a VITA game, you could do worse than Counterspy.

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Ultra Street Fighter IV PC Game Review
I'm probably not alone in that one of my first gaming memories is being taken by my friends to the local game outlet to play Street Fighter II at the arcade. It was that which introduced me to the famous series that is Street Fighter, and the second iteration still remains one of the most iconic video games of all time. Street Fighter IV has been and gone, and as is tradition, many different versions have been released after the main version. The latest (and apparently final) version of this is Ultra Street Fighter IV, a version which introduces new fighters, new outfits for the fighters and rounds off the SFIV series. Street Fighter IV has always been a solid game, but the Ultra version is not without its problems, especially on the PC.

Like its predecessors, Ultra Street Fighter IV has an overall story and one for each of the individual characters. In the arcade mode of the game, when you select a character to complete the story with, a few anime cut scenes play out, giving some background as to why this character is fighting. Some of these are incredibly cheesy and over the top, however, overall they fit the game well, and provide some much needed meat to the arcade side of the game for those who just want to play this game by themselves - which, of course, is generally not what SF is all about.

In terms of what has been added for the Ultra version, there are three main categories; characters, stages, and special moves. Ultra includes five new characters; Poison, Decapre, Hugo Andore, Elena, and Rolento F Schugerg. These characters seem loosely based on some previously existing characters with some of their special moves very much mimicking that of some long term stalwarts. Aside from characters, six new stages have been added to the game as well, however, the main change to the gameplay comes in the form of some new special moves.

Ultra adds the ability for a player to select both Ultra combos a character can have (leading to a reduced damage impact), which changes strategy somewhat. In fact, a lot of the changes are very much aimed towards the very high level competition play. For example, one of the additions is the ability to change the way your character recovers from being knocked over. This, in theory, throws top players off their combo moves. If you are a typical Street Fighter IV player, then this is likely to not mean too much to you. You can now also choose the version of your character you wish to play as from the Street Fighter IV range.

From a PC perspective, this game runs very well, even on moderately powerful hardware. Given that this game is a last-generation console game, this is of no surprise, but in an interesting move before you can go online for multiplayer, the game benchmarks your system. That benchmark is then displayed to opposing players for them to decide if they want to play you. For example, if someone has an 'E' class system, they may not want to play an 'A' class system. It's quite a strange thing, but the assumption is that a lower powered machine will have a disadvantage, against a higher spec system.

One area where we did feel a bit disappointed was what we experienced of the netcode. The game in general does run quite well, but there were a few stutters here and there. Even when playing against someone in the local country, there was an indication that the connection was very poor, which was surprising - so, playing intercontinental tournaments or fights is likely not going to offer a good experience.

As well as this, it takes a while for the games to connect, and we found sometimes the games would just drop out before even finalizing the connection.

There are numerous modes to play in the game, ranging from the typical basic arcade mode through to training, where you can practice your move sets. On the multiplayer side of the game, there are even more modes, including the ability for players to form teams and fight in groups or again perform training online. On the single player side, there is the usual arcade mode, but also 'challenges' makes a return, which actually is quite a meaty game mode for a fighting game. It also helps you become proficient at the game, in some ways even more so than the actual training mode.

On the visuals side, Ultra remains a 2.5D game, but it is still a stunningly-beautiful game. Street Fighter IV has always impressed with its visuals, and Ultra is no different. The new characters are animated extremely well and fit into the visual style. The new stages are also visually impressive with lots of action going on behind the actual fight. It really is a 2D fighting game that looks like a 3D one. The cut scenes played through the arcade mode are also animated well, and presented in an anime style. The only thing about the cut scenes is that the voice acting comes across as very run of the mill and cheesy.

The fact is that if you are a big Street Fighter fan, it is likely Ultra is a no brainer for you, and it's also a no brainer for those who want a fighting game, and have yet to pick up a version of Street Fighter IV. However, for those who already have SFIV or Super SFIV, it is a harder sell. Some of the changes are specifically aimed at very high level play, and the new characters, whilst adding something to the game, are not exactly must have additions.

PRICING: You can find the Ultra Street Fighter IV for PC for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Ultra Street Fighter IV [Online Game Code] retails for $29.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The Ultra Street Fighter IV PC Game retails for CDN$28.99 at Amazon Canada.

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AMD and Dell Support Bioinformatics Studies at University of Warsaw in Poland
AMD today unveiled innovation in heterogeneous high performance computing (HPC) by delivering more than 1.5 petaFLOPS of AMD FirePro S9150 server GPU performance for the Next Generation Sequencing Centre (NGSC) at the Centre of New Technologies, University of Warsaw in support of bioinformatics research related to next generation sequencing (NGS) studies. The new ORION cluster features 150 Dell PowerEdge R730 servers with two AMD FirePro S9150 server GPUs, for a total GPU peak of 1.52 petaFLOPS single precision and 0.76 petaFLOPS double precision performance. The energy-efficient cluster enables high speed and efficient calculations for genomic data, applicable to a range of genomics and bioinformatics studies, using a fast and power efficient OpenCL implementation for research applications.

"We're committed to building our HPC leadership position in the industry as a foremost provider of computing applications, tools and technologies," said Sean Burke, corporate vice-president and general manager, AMD Professional Graphics. "This installation reaffirms AMD's leading role in HPC with the implementation of the AMD FirePro S9150 server GPUs in this 1.5 petaFLOPS supercomputer cluster. AMD and Dell are enabling OpenCL applications for critical science research usage for this cluster. AMD is proud to collaborate with Dell and NGSC to support such important life science and computer science research."

"We had excellent cooperation with Dell and AMD to make this project happen in such a short timeframe," said Dr. Krzysztof Ginalski, head of the Next Generation Sequencing Centre and Laboratory of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology at the Centre of New Technologies, University of Warsaw. "The state-of-the-art technology and industry-leading systems management capabilities in the Dell PowerEdge R730 servers along with the AMD FirePro S9150 server graphics deliver an extremely powerful basis for the ORION cluster and provide the compute capabilities we need for our research. The large 16GB of memory of the AMD FirePro S9150 server graphics allows us to run advanced bioinformatics computations on one GPU without inter-GPU communication resulting in very efficient operations. We have chosen a multi-GPU approach with two GPU boards per server to enable cost- and energy-efficient configuration."

"Dell is passionate about the HPC market and committed to powering the revolutionary discoveries being made by top research organizations and enterprise around the world," said Ravi Pendekanti, vice president, product management, Dell Server Solutions. "Together, Dell and AMD have reached a new level with the NGSC project, revealing the true power of the Dell PowerEdge R730 with AMD FirePro S9150 GPUs. There is no doubt that our joint NGSC project delivers top-tier performance for critical HPC applications, while also providing major energy efficiencies."

"We are proud that we had opportunity to build this HPC cluster for NGSC," said Michał Bieńkowski, chief executive officer at Slash sp. z o. o. "Our strong cooperation with Dell and AMD gave us the ability to deliver an effective solution in a very short time. We entered the HPC market several years ago offering high performance solutions in Poland's education field. Our goal is to build fast, reliable and energy-saving data center systems."

NGSC at the Centre of New Technologies, University of Warsaw, located in Warsaw, Poland, is a research facility for top-of-the-line genomics and bioinformatics studies in biology, medicine, diagnostics and therapy. The ORION cluster was designed and built for storing and processing of huge amount of data generated by the sequencers available in the Centre. NGSC conducts a variety of genomics projects in numerous collaborations by providing NGS technology to academia and industry. Researches from around the world are using this facility to perform NGS (e.g. genomic, metagenomic, transcriptomic, epigenetic) experiments that help them make fascinating research discoveries. Many of bioinformatics studies conducted at NGSC require large computational power, which is delivered by the ORION cluster.

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IBM, NVIDIA and Mellanox Launch Design Center for Big Data and HPC
IBM, in collaboration with NVIDIA and Mellanox, today announced the establishment of a POWER Acceleration and Design Center in Montpellier, France to advance the development of data-intensive research, industrial, and commercial applications. Born out of the collaborative spirit fostered by the OpenPOWER Foundation - a community co-founded in part by IBM, NVIDIA and Mellanox supporting open development on top of the POWER architecture - the new Center provides commercial and open-source software developers with technical assistance to enable them to develop high performance computing (HPC) applications.

Technical experts from IBM, NVIDIA and Mellanox will help developers take advantage of OpenPOWER systems leveraging IBM's open and licensable POWER architecture with the NVIDIA Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform and Mellanox InfiniBand networking solutions. These are the class of systems developed collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Energy for the next generation Sierra and Summit supercomputers and to be used by the United Kingdom's Science and Technology Facilities Council's Hartree Centre for big data research.

In addition to expanding the software and solution ecosystem around OpenPOWER, this new collaboration between the three companies will create opportunities for software designers to acquire advanced HPC skills and drive the development of new technologies to bring value to customers globally.

The Center will be led by a team of experts from NVIDIA and Mellanox along with leading scientists from IBM Client Center Montpellier (France) and IBM Research Zurich (Switzerland). The Montpellier-based center is the second of its kind, complementing the previously announced center in Germany established in concert with IBM, NVIDIA and the Jülich Supercomputing Center in November.

"Our launch of this new Center reinforces IBM's commitment to open-source collaboration and is a next step in expanding the software and solution ecosystem around OpenPOWER," said Dave Turek, IBM's Vice President of HPC Market Engagement. "Teaming with NVIDIA and Mellanox, the Center will allow us to leverage the strengths of each of our companies to extend innovation and bring higher value to our customers around the world."

"Increasing computational performance while minimizing energy consumption is a challenge the industry must overcome in the race to exascale computing," said Stefan Kraemer, director of HPC Business Development, EMEA, at NVIDIA. "By providing systems combining IBM Power CPUs with GPU accelerators and the NVIDIA NVLink high-speed GPU interconnect technology, we can help the new Center address both objectives, enabling scientists to achieve new breakthroughs in their research."

"The new POWER Acceleration and Design Center will help scientists and engineers address the grand challenges facing society in the fields of energy and environment, information and health care using the most advanced HPC architectures and technologies," said Gilad Shainer, vice president of marketing, Mellanox Technologies. "Mellanox InfiniBand networking solutions offer more than a decade of experience building the world's highest performing networks, and are uniquely based on an offload-architecture. Only Mellanox offloads data movement, management and even data manipulations (for example Message Passing - MPI collective communications) which are performed at the network level, enabling more valuable CPU cycles to be dedicated to the research applications."

As founding members of the OpenPOWER Foundation, IBM, NVIDIA, and Mellanox share a common vision to bring a new class of systems to market faster to tackle today's big data challenges.

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Synology Announces RS18016xs+ and RX1216sas NAS Servers
Synology America Corp. today announced the release of the RS18016xs+ and its expansion unit RX1216sas with: vast expansion capacities; point-in-time data backup for enterprises; and unparalleled performance throughput. "Belonging to the next generation of NAS servers, the RS18016xs+ can be extended beyond 1PB of storage capacity while simplifying any backup strategy, making it the perfect choice for businesses in need of a cost-efficient, scalable, and modern storage solution," declared Michael Wang, product manager at Synology Inc.

The RS18016xs+ is designed to deliver the following cutting-edge technologies:

  • Extreme performance: providing over 3,900 MB/s and 348,000 IOPS throughput, the RS18016xs+ effortlessly provides storage and application serving to hundreds of users. With a dedicated encryption engine, the RS18016xs+ boasts over 3,000 MB/s reading on encrypted shared folders, ensuring data security without any major performance drop.
  • Point-in-time data recovery: The RS18016xs+ brings snapshot technology which allows businesses to automatically capture point-in-time copies of data as frequently as every 5 minutes without occupying system resources. Customize the retention policy to save up to 256 recovery points on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis.
  • High uptime: With support for Synology High Availability, as well as numerous redundant hardware components including: redundant data paths, power supplies, system fans, and four network ports with failover support; the RS18016xs+ maximizes service uptime.
  • Future-ready: The RS18016xs+ natively supports 6Gb/s SAS/SATA III technologies and can be upgraded with up to 32GB ECC RAM and 10GbE capabilities to ensure maximum compatibility and return on investment.
  • Seamless scalability: when storage capacity on the Synology RS18016xs+ reaches its limit, Synology RX1216sas provides an easy way to immediately scale up. Stacking up to 14 RX1216sas expansion units creates a 180-drive cluster managed from a single point of entry.
The RS18016xs+ and RX1216sas are powered by the DiskStation Manager (DSM) - the most advanced and intuitive web-based operating system for network-attached storage. The OS provides a host of applications to bring better productivity to work. Synology was voted as "PC Mag Business Choice Award winner" and received the highest rating in every element of the survey, including reliability, overall satisfaction, value, and likelihood to recommend.

The RS18016xs+ and RX1216sas are backed by Synology's advanced 5-year warranty and the Synology Replacement Services (SRS) for select regions.

Availability & Price

This release is available worldwide immediately. The RS18016xs+ and RX1216sas are priced starting at $7,599.99 and $2,999.99, respectively.

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Giada Announces the P211 OPS-compliant Mini PC
Giada Technology, an industry leader in mini PCs, embedded computing and servers, is releasing their latest OPS mini-PC that is perfect for digital signage field.

Giada P211 is ideal for OPS digital signage applications like; electronic whiteboards, financial systems, super markets, restaurants, mass media, digital cinemas, hospitals, and educational institutions.

OPS stands for the "Open Pluggable Specification" and was initiated by Intel. It is the first Industry initiative to standardize display and video signage solutions for intelligent, cost-effective, and easily integrated modular digital signage applications. It increases flexibility of digital signage applications and simplifies digital signage development and deployment by enabling easier installation and hassle-free maintenance.

The Giada P211 is an OPS compliant Mini PC for simplified installation, maintenance and usage of digital signage infrastructure. The latest 5th generation Intel CoreTM i5 / i3 CPU and Intel HD Graphics 5500/6000 with 4K video support provide outstanding performance for digital signage and electronic whiteboard applications.

Giada's P211 is an OPS Compliant Mini PC that supports remote control features and enables easier installation, use, and maintenance of digital signage and electronic whiteboards. It was especially designed for long time operation with a metal chassis for optimum heat dissipation while using the Intel Broadwell-U CoreTM i5 / i3 CPU with a low power consumption of 15W TDP. It features Ultra HD that packs around four times as many pixels into screens compared to existing HD sets, producing a sharper, higher-density picture. It supports HDMI 1.4a output for Ultra High-definition video output (1080p, 2160p) and multi-channel digital audio.

Apart from the OPS JAE interface, the P211 provides rich connectivity with 2 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x COM, 2 x Mini PCIE (for mSATA III, Wi-Fi/BT/3G) and 1 x SIM card slot for 3G.

For the purpose of ease of use and efficient manageability, Giada has applied its patented JAHC unattended technology to P211, with built-in capabilities for unattended operations such as auto power on when connected to power, a scheduled power on/off and IR remote control before the OS is on.

It is fully compatible with majority of popular operating systems including Microsoft Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Linux.

To learn more about Giada's P211 please visit this page.

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Intel Announces Leadership Changes
Today Intel Corporation's CEO, Brian Krzanich, announced a series of leadership and organizational changes in a message to employees. Intel President Renée James informed the board that she will be stepping down as President of Intel to pursue an external CEO role. She has agreed to stay at Intel until January in order to transition the Executive Office. In connection with today's news, James today distributed an employee message about her plans.

In addition, other leadership and organizational changes that are being made to streamline operations and better position Intel for growth include: Arvind Sodhani, President of Intel Capital, will retire in January after a distinguished 35-year career with the company. President of Mergers and Acquisitions Wendell Brooks will take an expanded role to also become President of Intel Capital. Merging these teams under one leader will allow clear focus across all investment opportunities for Intel.

On July 1, the Intel Security organization - formerly the independent McAfee division - was formally integrated into Intel operations under the leadership of General Manager Chris Young. This integration will deliver better technologies for our customers and more effective operations that enable Intel Security to advance the state of security across the industry.

Intel Communication and Devices Group General Manager Aicha Evans has been elevated to the company's Management Committee, reflecting the leadership role she plays across Intel's business and the importance of communication and mobility to the company's growth strategy and product portfolio.

Josh Walden, General Manager of Intel's New Technology Group, now leads all product and research teams that create and deploy new technology categories, such as interactive computing devices, perceptual computing and wearable devices. He is responsible for expanding the power of Moore's Law into entirely new categories.

Associated with these changes, Intel executives Hermann Eul and Mike Bell will leave the company after a transition period.

"We are aligning our leadership structure to continue to become more efficient in order to deliver the benefits of our strategy even faster than before," said Krzanich.

"Over the past 28 years, Renée has contributed immeasurably to Intel," he continued. "On behalf of the Board and management team, we sincerely thank Renée for her tireless efforts toward building the business that we have today, and we fully support her in this decision."

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ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti STRIX Graphics Card Starts Selling
ASUS today announced Strix GTX 980 Ti, a super-cool new video card with pumped gaming performance, perfected manufacturing, and strong fortification for extreme reliability and longevity. Powered by the latest GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics-processing units (GPUs), Strix GTX 980 Ti features GPU boost clock speeds of up to 1291 MHz in gaming mode and 1317 MHz in OC mode, delivering up to 24% faster gaming performance than reference cards in The Witcher 3. It is packed with exclusive ASUS technologies, including DirectCU III with a patented triple wing-blade 0dB fan designed to deliver maximum airflow for 30%-cooler and three times (3X) quieter performance.

Strix GTX 980 Ti also has ASUS Auto-Extreme technology with Super Alloy Power II components for premium quality and reliability, plus GPU Tweak II with XSplit Gamecaster for intuitive performance tweaking and instant gameplay streaming.

Cool, silent gameplay: DirectCU III with triple wing-blade 0dB fan design

Strix GTX 980 Ti is equipped with ASUS-exclusive DirectCU III cooling technology, which features two exclusive 10mm direct-GPU-contact heat pipes - outperforming reference designs for gaming performance that's up to 30% cooler. It has three fans engineered with a patented, new wing-blade design that delivers maximum airflow and static pressure over the heat sink - giving a 105% improvement over fans without wing-blades. This exclusive triple wing-blade design operates at noise levels three times (3X) quieter than reference cards, making DirectCU III the coolest and quietest video card-cooling solution available to date. Strix GTX 980 Ti also features 0dB fan technology, which stops fan rotation completely during lighter gaming sessions - eliminating noise for undisturbed gameplay.

Premium quality and reliability: Auto-Extreme technology with Super Alloy Power II components

Strix GTX 980 Ti benefits from ASUS-exclusive Auto-Extreme technology, the industry's first 100%-automated manufacturing process that removes human fallibility from the production line for consistent perfection - making it ultra-reliable in all scenarios, from general everyday use to hardcore gaming and overclocking. Auto-Extreme technology eliminates flux to minimize dust buildup and oxidization, and makes the rear side of the video card's printed-circuit board totally smooth, increasing comfort for system-builders and enhancing overclocking capability by freeing space to add POSCAP capacitors. This new manufacturing process is also environmentally friendly, eliminating harsh chemicals and reducing power consumption by 50%.

Strix GTX 980 Ti features Super Alloy Power II components that enhance efficiency, reduce power loss, decrease buzzing under load, and lower thermal dynamics for unsurpassed quality and reliability. Strix GTX 980 Ti features a superior 12+2-phase power design compared to reference cards built with 8+2-phase power designs.

Complementing its amazing reliability, Strix GTX 980 Ti is built to be incredibly tough. It comes with a GPU-fortifier and strengthened backplate that provides superior GPU protection and also prevents the PCB bending over time.

Tweakable and intuitive: GPU Tweak II with XSplit Gamecaster

Redesigned with an intuitive, all-new user interface, GPU Tweak II makes gaming and overclocking easier and more visual than ever, while still retaining advanced options for seasoned overclockers. With one click, the new Gaming Booster function maximizes system performance by removing redundant processes and allocating all available resources automatically. An included 1-year XSplit Gamecaster premium license - a $99 value - lets gamers easily stream or record gameplay via a convenient, in-game overlay.

The final must-have flourish for Strix GTX 980 Ti is the Strix LED that lends a style statement to any system, with pulsating light effects.


ASUS Strix GTX 980 Ti will be available worldwide from July 2015.


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Turtle Beach Ear Force Stealth 420X Wireless Headset Up For Pre-order
Following the success of the Company's Stealth 500X and Elite 800X gaming headsets, Turtle Beach Corporation (NASDAQ: HEAR), the leading-edge audio technology company and #1 in gaming audio, is pleased to announce that its third 100% fully wireless Xbox One headset, the EAR FORCE Stealth 420X is available for pre-order today! Head over to the Turtle Beach website or your favorite participating retailer and pre-order the Stealth 420X right now to ensure you get it on Day 1 when it becomes available July 18, 2015.

"When you look beyond the high-quality and immersive sound you get from our headsets, Turtle Beach is the clear market share leader in gaming headsets because we continue to offer a broad range of products that cater to gamers' varied desires and budgets," said Juergen Stark, CEO, Turtle Beach Corporation. "This is part of our DNA, and why we've now put together another great feature set for the Stealth 420X as our third 100% fully wireless Xbox One gaming headset. Like its predecessors, the Stealth 420X will feature our renowned audio and mic quality in a comfortable headset designed to give gamers the most immersive and enjoyable gaming experience."

The EAR FORCE Stealth 420X is an officially licensed gaming headset for Xbox One, and comes loaded with a suite of must-have features Xbox One gamers are sure to enjoy, including:

  • 100% Fully Wireless - No wires anywhere. Experience crystal clear game and chat audio using the latest, intelligent channel-hopping technology for interference-free wireless gaming.
  • Simple Setup - One simple-to-set-up USB connection to the Xbox One and all your wireless gaming dreams come true.
  • STOP SHOUTING! - Mic Monitoring lets players hear their own voice in the headset to avoid shouting.
  • Game & Chat Volume Control - Independent controls for game and chat audio lets players tune the mix to their preference.
  • Mic Check - A high-sensitivity, adjustable boom mic picks-up voice audio loud and clear. Remove the mic to enjoy mobile/tablet gaming, as well as listening to music and watching movies.
  • 15 Hour Rechargeable Battery - A built-in rechargeable battery delivers up to 15 hours of wireless gaming.
  • Updated Headset Design - An updated over-ear headset design with supple, perforated synthetic leather-wrapped ear-cups provides superior comfort and improved bass response.
  • Audio Presets & Voice Prompts - Four Turtle Beach audio presets and audible voice prompts from the headset tell gamers what setting they've selected.
The EAR FORCE Stealth 420X is planned to be available Saturday, July 18, 2015 at participating retailers for a MSRP of $179.95.

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LG Electronics (LG) announced that it has sold its 10 millionth LG TONE Series Bluetooth headset globally since launching the series in October of 2010. With this achievement, LG is now the number one wireless Bluetooth headset brand in the United States in terms of units sold. LG developed the headset series in collaboration with world-leading audio equipment experts such as Harman/Kardon and JBL to ensure the highest level of sound quality.

According to the independent market research company NPD Group, LG has consistently topped the highly competitive U.S. Bluetooth headset market since May of 2012, and has maintained more than 40 percent market share since 2013. The popularity of TONE has not been limited to only the United States. The unique behind-the-neck design of TONE has spawned many imitators and counterfeit models, many even bearing the LG logo.

"It's really inspiring to see consumers wearing LG TONE headsets in cities all around the world, from New York to Shanghai to Dubai," said Seo Young-jae, vice president in charge of Innovative Personal Devices at LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company. "Initially we were quite surprised by the enthusiasm of the feedback we received from people who said that TONE was the most comfortable wireless headset they've ever used. We stuck to what worked well and improved upon TONE over the years and we're absolutely delighted by the positive reception we've gotten."

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Sharkoon Gamer Mouse with Bungee Hub - MSRP 47.99 Euros
Sharkoon expands its range of input devices and presents the SHARK ZONE M51+ bundle consisting with the new SHARK ZONE M51 Gaming Laser Mouse and equally new SHARK ZONE MB10 Gaming Bungee Hub.

The SHARK ZONE M51 LASER MOUSE comes in a stylish SHARK ZONE design with an illuminated logo and, with its Avago ADNS-9800 laser sensor, is specifically designed for gamers. The rubber coating ensures maximum grip on the mouse, even with ambitious use. The mouse also has LED DPI indicators, 11 programmable buttons, 4-way scroll wheel and weight tuning system. Individual settings such as key settings, mouse speed, color settings and illumination can easily be made via the included gaming software and comfortably saved on the mouse using the onboard memory. The M51 connects via a textile braided cable with gold-plated USB plug.

The accompanying SHARK ZONE MB10 GAMING BUNGEE HUB has a flexible support arm, which optimally guides the cable to the mouse. This allows the gamer to fully concentrate on their game and not be distracted by the cable sliding about. The internal weight of the stand as well as the self-adhesive, anti-sliding pad guarantees a secure hold on the table. The integrated 4-port USB 2.0 hub also allows easy connection of USB devices. Typical SHARK ZONE: Optically, the yellow illuminated MB10 is a real eye-catcher.

End customers will find the Sharkoon SHARK ZONE M51+ Gaming Laser Mouse with MB10 Bungee Hub available now for the suggested retail price of 47.99 euros from authorized retailers. The SHARK ZONE MB10 Gaming Bungee Hub is also separately available for 17.99 euros.


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SMITE on Xbox One will have Australian Servers with Open Beta launch next Week
Hi-Rez Studios, developer of free-to-play SMITE, the mythology-themed third-person action game played by over 7 million people, today announced that the Xbox One version of SMITE will have Australian servers live alongside the launch of the Open Beta on Thursday, July 8th.

SMITE on Xbox One is currently in Closed Beta. Player accounts will transition seamlessly into the Open Beta, which will be publicly available to all Xbox One owners and is Free To Play.

By offering game servers hosted in Australia, players in Australia and New Zealand will enjoy smoother gameplay experience when choosing the Australia region for matchmaking or custom matches. Existing SMITE players preserve all god unlocks, experience, and cosmetics they have already accumulated.

The SMITE community is already enjoying amazing growth on PC, with a regular community play night, SMITE NITE, on Thors-days, and esports competition in an Oceania Pro League competition providing a pathway for an Australian team to attend the SMITE World Championships in 2016.

Designed from the ground up to play perfectly on a controller, SMITE is the first major MOBA to reach console and its action packed gameplay will test the skills of Xbox One players.

"We're delighted to offer SMITE communities the best possible experience on PC and now console, and we are impressed with the growth of the game on PC in Australia. We are pleased to support the release of SMITE on Xbox One with dedicated Australian servers from next week," said Andy Anderson, Xbox One Senior Producer, Hi-Rez Studios.

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Tesoro Announces The Thyrsus Optical MMO and MOBA Mouse With 6 Thumb Buttons
Tesoro Technology USA Inc., a manufacturer of high-tech gaming peripherals, announces the Thyrsus optical gaming mouse. Named after the staff of Dionysus, the Thyrsus features comfortable, ergonomic design, a high-precision optical sensor, and 6 fully programmable thumb buttons for MMO and MOBA games.

Instead of the ordinary 1 or 2 thumb buttons, the Tesoro Thyrsus has 6 buttons positioned for thumb control, making a total of 10 fully independent and programmable buttons. The 64Kb of onboard memory allows users to configure up to 5 gaming profiles, 35 macro keys and 1600 recordable actions. The Tesoro Thyrsus is easy to control in the new, specifically designed software. Gamers can adjust the DPI, polling rate up to 1000Hz, and the multicolor LED illumination as well as program the 6 thumb buttons.

Comfortable and Confident Control

Omron switch technology gives the Thyrsus added durability, tactile feedback and satisfying clicks. The ergonomic design and rubberized coating on both sides give maximum comfort and grip. Gamers can pick from 6 levels of sensitivity adjustable up to 8200dpi. Accuracy is assured with 150 ips (inches per second) motion detection and 30g acceleration. A braided, 2 meter gold-plated USB cable lends added durability and prevents fraying.

New Tesoro User Interface (UI)

The Thyrsus utilizes Tesoro's new UI which has been redesigned to be more user-friendly. Gamers can easily adjust the DPI, record macros, set profiles, and change the illumination color.

Technical specifications:

  • 10 million click duty cycle Omron switches
  • 6 levels of sensitivity adjustable up to 8200 dpi
  • 64 KB Built-in Memory
  • 6 fully programmable thumb buttons for MMO/MOBA
  • Total of 10 fully programmable keys
  • Full speed processor with 1000 Hz polling rate
  • Customizable multicolor lighting
  • Soft-touch finished surface
  • 2 meter braided cable with gold plated USB plug
  • 150 ips (Inches per Second) motion detection and 30 g acceleration
  • New TESORO Thyrsus Software
  • Model number: TS-H8L
MSRP and Availability

The Tesoro Thyrsus will be available this August in North America for the suggested retail price of $ 69.

For more information, visit the product page.


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PowerColor Announces its Radeon R9 Fury X Graphics Card
TUL Corporation, a leading and innovative manufacturer of AMD video cards since 1997, has released a new video card with the High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) from AMD's latest invention. HBM is a new type of memory chip with low power consumption, ultra-wide communication lanes, and a revolutionary new stacked configuration. HBM's vertical stacking and fast information transfer open the door for truly exciting performance in innovative form factors, not to mention that GPU applications are just the start - look for HBM's superior power efficiency and space savings to spark industry-wide innovation. PowerColor R9 Fury X easily handles the most graphically intense games today due to its advanced and innovative GPU to ever create for the beloved PC gaming community. This power comes from AMD-pioneered High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) integrated on-chip that delivers more than 3 times the bandwidth per watt than GDDR5 along with a 4096-bit memory interface for incredible new advances in power and efficiency.

Spiff-up your gaming rig with sleek, envy-inducing design and make a powerful statement. It is packed with unique features, such as industrial styling including black-nickel aluminum exoskeleton and soft-touch aluminum plates, maintenance-free closed-loop liquid cooling, premium 120mm fan, GPU Tach activity indicator, and LED illumination highlight designs that details for that finished luxurious look. Pack that all in a slim and compact 7.5-inch card and you have yourself a stylish yet powerful graphics processing power that you can hold with your hands.

It's all here - and with incredible new levels of design flexibility and scalability, the slim and compact 7.5-inch card packs a performance punch in a smaller space thanks to the HBM on-chip. The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X GPU is transforming the future with HBM on-chip, leading the way to create small and powerful PCs by packing faster and more power efficient memory into 94% less space than GDDR5. Benefit from the cool, quiet, and reliable operation of closed-loop liquid cooling that includes integrated pump and cooling regulator and maintenance-free flexible nylon-braided tubing connecting a premium matte-black radiator unit with a 3000RPM 120mm fan that cools both ASIC and VRM. Connect displays using 3 Display Port and 1 HDMI connector, monitor real-time GPU activity with the eight-LED GPU Tach activity indicator, and select your operational configuration with the two-position BIOS toggle switch. The PowerColor R9 Fury X supports AMD's newest technologies such as Virtual Super Resolution, FreeSync, Liquid VR, and 4K resolution.

For more information, visit the product page.

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VisionTek Announces Radeon R9 Fury X, Alongside R9 300 and R7 300 Series
VisionTek Products LLC, a leading manufacturer of award-winning, high-performance upgrades and accessories for PCs and Macs, today announced the Radeon Fury X, alongside five other new Radeon R9 300 and R7 300 video cards designed with Advance Micro Devices (AMD) GPUs. The new VisionTek Radeon video cards will feature a new extreme look and are available starting June 24th, 2015.

The VisionTek Radeon Fury X opens a whole new dimension of gaming, for an unbelievable alternate reality. It is the world's first video card with AMD-pioneered High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) integrated on-chip, delivering 60% more memory bandwidth over GDDR5. The VisionTek Radeon R9 Fury X features black-nickel aluminum exoskeleton, maintenance-free AIO closed-loop liquid cooling, GPU Tach activity indicator, and red LED "RADEON" illumination along the spine of this wicked beast. The compact 7.5-inch card packs a performance punch, leading the way to create small and powerful PCs by condensing the HBM memory into 94% less space than GDDR5. The VisionTek Fury X was built to enable the next generation of 4K and VR gaming. With this card, PC users won't just upgrade, they will revolutionize.

A full line of video cards meets the needs of every consumer gaming segment.

VisionTek is also releasing their next generation of R9 300 & R7 300 cards for the most immersive 4K gaming experience, now and tomorrow. The new VisionTek line consists of the R9 390X, R9 390, R9 380, R7 370, and R7 360 models to meet the needs of every consumer gaming segment. These new video cards put 4K gaming and Virtual Reality within reach for smooth, true-to-life, stutter-free gameplay with ultra-high performance. The R9 and R7 cards all support AMD Eyefinity for dynamic, panoramic multi-screen gaming experience. Once again, VisionTek captivates the imagination with an extreme new look & feel to awaken the fire in passionate PC gamers.

"We are focused on alignment with PC Gamers and are excited to announce the new features embedded in AMD's Fury X design," said Michael Innes, President of VisionTek. "We believe Virtual Reality will transform the way we experience and interact with our PC. We are embarking on a new universe of entertainment and the new VisionTek AMD powered cards create the required platform for launch."

The VisionTek line features the following ground breaking AMD technologies:

  • AMD LiquidVR Technology: Offers plug-and-play ease for today's evolving VR head-mounted displays and future-ready support for fantastic new VR technologies that will transform tomorrow's gaming and entertainment.
  • AMD Freesync Technology: Provides liquid-smooth, artifact-free, 4K cinematic experience with the highest performance at virtually any frame rate.
  • VSR (Virtual Super Resolution): Get quality that rivals 1440p, even on a 1080p display while playing your favorite games thanks to AMD's VSR.
VisionTek Radeon R9 Fury X

  • Graphics Engine: Radeon R9 Fury X
  • Core Speed: up to 1050MHz
  • Video Memory: 4GB HBM
  • Memory Interface: 4096-bit
  • Memory Speed: 500MHz
VisionTek Radeon R9 390X

  • Graphics Engine: Radeon R9 390X
  • Core Speed: Up to 1050MHz
  • Video Memory: 8GB GDDR5
  • Memory Interface: 512-bit
  • Memory Speed: 1500MHz (6Gb/s)
VisionTek Radeon R9 390

  • Graphics Engine: Radeon R9 390
  • Core Speed: Up to 1000MHz
  • Video Memory: 8GB GDDR5
  • Memory Interface: 512-bit
  • Memory Speed: 1500MHz (6Gb/s)
VisionTek Radeon R9 380

  • Graphics Engine: Radeon R9 380
  • Core Speed: Up to 970MHz
  • Video Memory: 2GB GDDR5
  • Memory Interface: 256-bit
  • Memory Speed: 1375MHz x4 (5.5Gb/s)
VisionTek Radeon R7 370

  • Graphics Engine: Radeon R7 370
  • Core Speed: 975MHz
  • Video Memory: 2GB GDDR5
  • Memory Interface: 256-bit
  • Memory Speed: 1425MHz x4 (5.7Gb/s)
VisionTek Radeon R7 360

  • Graphics Engine: Radeon R7 360
  • Core Speed: 1050MHz
  • Video Memory: 2GB GDDR5
  • Memory Interface: 128-bit
  • Memory Speed: 1625MHz x4 (7Gb/s)

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EVGA Announces SuperNOVA P2 Series 80 Plus Platinum PSUs
The unbeatable performance of the EVGA SuperNOVA P2 power supply line is now available in 850, 750 and 650 watt versions. Based on the award winning P2 power supplies, these units feature 80 Plus Platinum rated efficiency, and clean, continuous power to every component. The ECO Control Fan system offers fan modes to provide absolutely zero fan noise during low to medium load operations. Backed by an award winning 10 year warranty, and 100% Japanese capacitor design, the EVGA SuperNOVA 850, 750 and 650 P2 power supplies offer unbeatable performance at an unbeatable value.

  • 80 PLUS Platinum certified, with 92% (115VAC) / 94% (220VAC~240VAC) efficiency or higher under typical loads
  • Unbeatable 10 Year Warranty and unparalleled EVGA Customer Support
  • Highest quality Japanese brand capacitors ensure long-term reliability
  • Fully Modular to reduce clutter and improve airflow
  • NVIDIA SLI & AMD Crossfire Ready
  • Double Ball Bearing fan for exceptional reliability and quiet operation
  • Heavy-duty protections, including OVP (Over Voltage Protection), UVP (Under Voltage Protection), OCP (Over Current Protection), OPP (Over Power Protection), and SCP (Short Circuit Protection)
Learn more about the EVGA SuperNOVA 850, 750 and 650 P2 Power Supplies here.


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MSI Unleashes the Radeon R9 Fury X Graphics Card
As the world's No.1 in GAMING video cards, MSI is pleased to announce the availability of the revolutionary AMD Radeon R9 Fury X. With the MSI R9 Fury X 4G, MSI adds a new high-end video card to its recently introduced and already heavily awarded AMD R9 and R7 300 series range. The MSI R9 Fury X 4G is equipped with 4GB of the groundbreaking High Bandwidth Memory, which is engineered directly onto AMD's Fiji XT GPU for unprecedented performance. The AMD Fury X is built for the future of ultra-high resolution gaming and Virtual Reality, which is available for enthusiasts to explore.

The card is housed in a much smaller form factor than we are used to from a top-level video card, which means that it fits into nearly any case. It is cooled by a closed loop liquid cooling solution which is included in the box which keeps the GPU around 50 degree Celsius during typical gaming sessions. The radiator can be mounted on the inside of the case to blow the heat directly outwards, it uses a single high quality 120mm fan for quiet performance.

Next to all the impressive technical feats, the MSI R9 Fury X 4G also brings the bling with multiple LED lights located on the side of the card. Some just for cool light effects, others to indicate the GPU intensity level.

Performance Control by MSI Afterburner

When used with MSI's exclusive Afterburner overclocking utility, gamers can control the MSI R9 Fury X 4G core clock speeds for better performance in the latest games. The Fury X is also equipped with advanced fanspeed control based on GPU temperature, giving optimal acoustic performance. MSI Afterburner supports the video capturing function Predator and can even be used on smartphones to monitor and control the video card in desktop computers.


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