Holiday Gift Guide: Best Video Games

12 November, 2012 Play No comments
Holiday Gift Guide: Best Video Games

It’s the holiday season once again, and perhaps you’re stuck for a good gift idea. Video games are a good option: Almost everyone loves receiving them, which makes them successful gifts in the short term. On the other hand, you don’t have to play a game for long in order to know it’s rotten. That’s why it’s a good idea to grab hold of some suggestions before you shop. 

Getting a game for an adult is a bit different from getting one for a kid. Games for grown-ups tend to contain mature content and/or gameplay mechanics that are difficult to grasp. That said, they also offer some remarkably deep experiences that can last for hours. Here are 2012’s best games for adults. 

Halo 4 (Xbox 360) – Microsoft’s latest entry in its popular first-person shooter series features an extremely detailed story and campaign, not to mention killer multiplayer features (literally). Its presentation is top-notch, and should be a hit with any fan of shooting games. 

Dishonored (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows) – Dishonored is a first-person stealth action adventure title. Seems like a mouthful, but what it basically means is that you play as an assassin who’s out for revenge against his betrayers—and we all know that assassins work best undetected. However, it’s actually possible to play through Dishonored without using lethal force. The story alters depending on how violent you are, or aren’t. 

FIFA Soccer 13 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita) – Soccer may not be America’s favorite sport, but don’t let that drive you away from EA’s FIFA Soccer 13. It’s loaded with features. If you never got a chance to pick up FIFA 12, that’s all the more reason to jump right in with lucky 13. Also note: If you’re a hockey fan, don’t miss out on NHL 13 either – it’s a great choice for winter sports fans.

WWE ’13 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii) – Similarly, THQ’s latest large-budget WWE game might be familiar for anyone who played WWE ’12, but wrestling fans will love the game’s story, which takes place across the industry’s Attitude Era. 

Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows, Wii U) – This role-playing /adventure game from BioWare received massive critical acclaim thanks to its epic story, interesting cast of characters, multi-tiered choice system, and stunning graphics. There was some controversy over the game’s supposedly lame ending, but the quality of the game’s finale ultimately lies in the eye of the beholder. It’s the whole experience that counts. 

Journey (PlayStation 3, via the PlayStation Network) – Journey is a downloadable game that takes the player on a trip through the desert  and towards a distant mountain. You meet other players as you travel, and you can help one another—but your communications are restricted to wordless “singing.” How will you cooperate—if you choose to cooperate at all? Journey has received critical acclaim for its originality and beauty. 

Dragon’s Dogma (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows) – And sometimes, you just gotta bash things. Dragon’s Dogma is an action role-playing game by Capcom that takes place in an open world. There’s tons of hacking and slashing to be had, but the game’s real strength is its gigantic boss battles, which encourage you to search for unorthodox ways to bring down your prey. 

Tokyo Jungle (PlayStation 3) – Tokyo Jungle is a survival/action game that takes place in the deserted streets of Tokyo. It’s initially not clear what’s happened to humanity, but what’s important is that wildlife has reclaimed the region and you need to survive. You play through the game as a deer, a hyena, a couple of lions, and (prepare yourself) a Pomeranian. 

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows) – The must-have game of the holiday season. Dig first-person shooters? Then check out this home theater showpiece, which doubles down on pyrotechnics, Hollywood-style set pieces and online action galore – its Internet multiplayer mode alone will keep you busy for months.

Xenoblade (Wii) – This action/role-playing hybrid is the best role-playing game for the Wii, and one of the best RPGs ever released, period. You travel through large, open worlds and fight through swarms of enemies via a complex but compelling battle system. There’s a main story to follow, but you can do so at your own leisure while you pursue hundreds of side-quests. 

Max Payne 3 (Xbox, PlayStation 3, Windows) – In this third-person action/shooting game, you accompany a slightly older, slightly more cynical Max Payne as he works through Sao Paulo, Brazil. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for you, the player), he’s caught up in a conspiracy and is pulled into trouble. Max Payne 3 features some of the best graphics seen in any console title.

Borderlands 2 (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) – Post-apocalyptic action role-playing in an animated, cel-shaded world: Where do we sign up? Letting you live out your every Mad Max fantasy, this sequel to the multiplatinum-selling megahit delivers more excitement, more gear, and more chances to collect loot while successfully straddling the line between run-n-gun thrills and detailed stat crunching.

Assassin’s Creed 3 (Xbox, PlayStation 3, Windows) – What can we say about the blockbuster franchise – in which you play a historical hitman, tasked with stalking and offing targets in a living, breathing 3D world – that hasn’t already been said in countless positive critical reviews? Rewinding the clock to the Revolutionary War, this latest installment blows the doors off the genre in the graphics, sound and gameplay departments, making it a must-play for mature audiences.

Special Mentions:

007 Legends

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Medal of Honor Warfighter

And of course, don’t miss Nintendo’s Wii U – a revolutionary new video game system which adds a tablet-like touchscreen controller, extensive online connectivity and games in dozens of favorite franchises such as Super Mario Bros. and Pikmin. The first of the next-generation (next next-generation?) consoles, it’s sure to be a hit with family and core gaming audiences of all ages, given its HD action, backwards compatibility with Wii games and extensive media playback and streaming options.

Should You Buy an Extended Warranty?

20 August, 2012 Life No comments
Should You Buy an Extended Warranty?

There is an episode of “The Simpsons” wherein Homer Simpson shoves a crayon up all the way up his nose until he involuntarily gasps, “Extended warranty? How can I lose?” We won’t bore you with the story details except to mention that Homer was undergoing a crude surgery to become as stupid as possible, and his exclamation about extended warranties don’t shine a flattering light on the contracts. As far as the real world is concerned, though, are there any benefits? Should you buy extended warranties to protect your electronics? 

The most generalized answer is “It’s not worth it.” Think about it: electronic retailers are quite aggressive about getting you to buy an extended warranty. Why would they bother if they weren’t on the winning side of the deal?   

There are certainly reasons to get more specific, though, and there are exceptions to every rule. For instance: 

Most items come with a manufacturer’s warranty that lasts a year – Most manufacturers will cover the cost of fixing or replacing your item if it breaks for a reason that isn’t your fault. These warranties typically last around a year, and according to Consumer Reports (which has done extensive research on extended warranties, and how much use we get out of them), it’s not all that common for electronics to fall apart after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. 

Modern electronics are engineered to be replaced in a three-to-five year period, anyway – Ours is a product-driven culture, and today’s top-notch smartphone or tablet will be ready for the trash heap within three years, easy (cue hands linked behind back, guilty scuffing of shoe on pavement).  The money that you’d use on an extended warranty is often better saved for the next generation of technology. 

LCD and plasma TVs rarely need repairs within the first three years following purchase – Of course, televisions usually last a little longer than three to five years, especially HD LCD and plasma sets. Polls done by Consumer Reports indicate that televisions are actually hardy pieces of tech, and very few need to be replaced or repaired within the first three years off the shelf.   

The cost of repair is often the same as the cost of the warranty – Extended warranties aren’t cheap, and oftentimes, the cost of an item’s repair matches the price of the warranty. 

There are exceptions, particularly for PCs – Ultimately, only you can determine if an extended warranty is worth your money. If you’re accident prone, clumsy, or just have a talent for losing things, you may find that an extended warranty is money well-spent. Moreover, Consumer Reports’ polls point out that unlike many electronics, new PCs are actually likely to require repairs within three years—and manufacturer’s warranties for computers are gradually becoming less generous. 

If you need more help researching the benefits and drawbacks of extended warranties, visit: 

Should You Buy an Extended Warranty? at Yahoo   

Should I Buy a TV Extended Warranty? at About.com

Should I Get an Extended Warranty? 10 Things to Consider at Switched

Digital Camera and Video Camera Buying Guide

Digital Camera and Video Camera Buying Guide

Even when you try to do your research before buying a piece of electronics, often you end up learning more about what you should have been looking for well after the purchase has been made. In this digital camera and video camera buying guide, we’ll attempt to walk you through some of the key functionality you should be looking for when deciding which device is right for you. Keep it in mind when shopping to ensure you get the best price, product and features for the money.

Megapixels

A pixel is but one dot in an image file, and a megapixel represents a million of them.  So while even a camera that has offers pictures of 1 megapixel or 2 megapixels may seem like a lot, the truth is they are so tiny that you need to get above 5 megapixels to even have a snapshot that is a decent resolution.  

The amount of megapixels a camera claims to have is the maximum – it doesn’t mean you have to take pictures that use all of them.  The more megapixels in your picture, the higher the resolution, and the higher the resolution, the bigger the file.  While cheap memory and large memory cards are making this less and less of a concern, large files are still difficult to share online as they take longer to upload and download. 

So if you’re looking to make physical prints of photos at all, or simply want to be able to be some detail while zooming in, we recommend a camera that has at least 8 MP, and if you have a need for larger prints, then go for something bigger than that.

Zoom

A camera’s magnification capabilities are represented by a number followed by an X.  This essentially means that from the starting point to the zoomed-in endpoint, that is how many times more magnification you are getting.  For example, a camera with a 20mm to 200mm range has a 10x zoom because 200mm is 10x 20.  Although it’s tempting to get caught up in the “X range” of a camera’s zoom, it’s actually not even one of the two most important things to consider when looking at zoom.

The most important you should note when looking at zoom is to look at the low end of the camera’s zoom range.  If a camera has a zoom range from 24mm to 240mm, it means that at its most zoomed out setting, it will take a picture at 24mm.  Other cameras that can shoot at 18mm or 15mm will be able to provide a wider view of the setting, and thus contain more information.

The other important thing to note about zoom is the Optical Zoom setting vs. Digital Zoom setting.  The Optical Zoom is the key indicator – it’s what is actually being done by the camera’s lenses.  Digital Zoom is all done electronically, and doesn’t offer any enhanced picture quality or focus.

SLR

Perhaps the most common question many camera-buyers wonder about is whether they are ready for a SLR camera.  SLR stands for single lens reflex, and  it means that your camera only has one lens that it has to worry about, so you can quickly and easily alter your shooting angel.  One of the other great advantages that digital SLR cameras (dSLR) offer is nearly instantaneous digital photos to be taken and your camera is quickly ready for another shot.

SLRs will cost additional money over standard point-and-click cameras, but if you take a lot of pictures of sporting events or nature, you may covet the versatility and speed that SLRs offer.

3D and HD Cameras

While even most camera and many phones now shoot in HD, you’ll want to check the specs of your video recorder to see what kind of HD video you’ll be shooting.  You’ll be looking at not only the resolution (higher numbers offer more detail), but also the type of HD, either 720p, 1080i or 1080p.  1080p. The “p” and “I” in these numbers stand for progressive and interlocking, and it indicates whether each line of refresh from a TV image (or recording) is renewed from every scan on top to bottom, or whether every line is refreshed at a time.  Progressive scanning is preferred as it means that for every frame of video you have a new line of data for every part of the image, and since 1080 is higher than 720, it means more lines of info.  So 1080p is the preferred HD format for most video aficionados.

You’ll also need to decide whether or not to invest in a camera that does 3D videos.  It’s a feature that will cost extra money and may not provide much extra bank other than the novelty effect which will wear off.  Plus, you’ll need to make sure you’re playing any 3D recordings back on a 3D enabled device.