Steam In Home Streaming Beta

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Finally I’ve been accepted into the Steam in home streaming beta. Couldn’t be any more excited! I guess the question you maybe asking right now is why am I so excited?

For a while now I’ve been looking for a good streaming solution to stream my games from my gaming rig to other devices in the house. I’ve used Splashtop,which is absolutely abysmal, and I’ve tried other non main stream options. When I read about Steams streaming option I got pretty excited and signed up for the beta immediately.

I’m going to be honest, I didn’t expect it to work, but to my surprise it does! I sat upstairs with my MacBook Pro Retina perched on my lap and clicked on the option to stream Skyrim, a fully modded version of it, and bam, it loaded and played as smoothly as if I were playing on my gaming rig.

I haven’t spent much time with the streaming service but I intend to have a real good play. Once I’ve had some more hands on time I’ll get an update out. Right now however I’m having a geek overload.

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Elder Scrolls Online Preview

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When I saw the announcement for The Elder Scrolls Online my heart fluttered and sunk. My feelings were mixed, on one hand we were finally being given the opportunity to play with our friends in Tamriel, on the other hand there was a risk of this being a quick and easy cash in for the studio.

I watched trailers and hands on videos, showing off what this game was all about, but still I was unsure. We’ve all been let down by MMO’s before, ones that had extremely fancy game trailers, how could we possibly know whether or not this would be any different?

Finally the beta weekend came up and I got my first hands on experience with this game and straight away a number of my fears melted away. The first thing you notice when you jump into The Elder Scrolls Online is just how detailed it is. The character creation has an awful lot of depth, giving the player a huge amount of customisation options and the character graphics are absolutely superb.

Pretty impressive and very similar style to Skyrim.

Once I created my character I was thrown into my first dungeon, a prison, from which I had to escape. My first quest was fully voiced and felt like something from Skyrim, not World of Warcraft. The same can be said for the majority of quests I have played through, they are all pretty detailed, not your standard fetch or kill style quests.

The gameplay felt very similar to Skyrim, a first person or third person adventure depending on your preference. I played first person, a warrior wielding two handed weapons. A soon as I entered combat I found myself in familiar territory, the game handles just like Skyrim, left mouse click attacks and right blocks but there are also a couple of extras thrown into the mix, such as the ability to double tap your direction keys to dodge and evade attacks.

A lovely reminder of my days spent in Skyrim

Once you fight through your first quest you’ll be taken to a new location. I played as a Nord and was transported to a snowy village with lush forest surrounding it. The environment was absolutely stunning and an absolute pleasure to explore. Unlike other MMO’s, the graphics are rich and detailed, the environments exceptionally well developed. There were large forests to wander through, high mountains, flowing rivers and cascading waterfalls, really something I didn’t expect to see in an MMO.

Time for a drink

Time for a drink

I teamed up with my brother and we went exploring, seeking out new and random quests which were all voice acted and interesting. Some of the quests were bizarre and humorous, sending us on random missions, while others were more serious, pitting us against invading soldiers. My only gripe when exploring with a friend is that even when you are both grouped together and completing the same quest there is no combining or sharing the quest. If one of you completes the quest they are the only one to do so. I loved the way SWTOR handled a group when completing quests and

I created a second character in order to check out some of the other starting locations and found myself in a desert village, a huge port beside a beautiful ocean. Once again exploring felt great, wandering along side cliff edges and looking down at beautiful lagoons. All of the fauna was different, completely styled to match the hot and arid landscape I was exploring. Interesting animals roamed the sands and ruins were scattered about all over. The whole place was a stark contrast to the earlier snowy landscapes I’d explored as a Nord.

A stark contrast to my earlier play through

I teamed up with my brother and we went exploring, seeking out new and random quests which were all voice acted and interesting. Some of the quests were bizarre and humorous, sending us on random missions, while others were more serious, pitting us against invading soldiers. My only gripe when exploring with a friend is that even when you are both grouped together and completing the same quest there is no combining or sharing the quest. If one of you completes the quest they are the only one to do so. I loved the way SWTOR handled a group when completing quests and would love to see something similar in ESO.

I’ll admit, I’m still undecided about this game. I want to love it and I came pretty close. I can see myself sinking hundreds of hours into ESO, exploring alongside friends and drinking in the new environments. On the flip side it’s an MMO and they are normally plagued with issues, ready to ruin the game experience. The subscription worries me as I’m not a fan of having to pay for a game upfront then continue paying monthly. If the developers can continue to deliver updates and new content after the games release then maybe, just maybe, I’ll take the plunge and finally commit to an MMO.

All in all, an absolutely fantastic Elder Scrolls experience, even if it is online.

Counter Strike Go Review

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Introduction

A remake of a classic, or rather an upgrade of one. When I first saw Counter Strike Go in action I wasn’t sure if I was excited or terrified, it is a game that I sunk countless hours of my childhood into after all. With the current trend of so many shooters turning into over the top, fast paced chaos I was a little apprehensive. I’m glad to say there really was no reason to be nervous.

Gameplay

For anyone who has played Counter Strike in the past you will be familiar with the gameplay of Counter Strike Go. Chose a side, terrorist or counter terrorist, then fight along side your team mates to carry out map objectives that range from bomb defusal to hostage rescue.

The great thing about Counter Strike is the pace, it’s not too fast, it’s not over the top with Michael Bay style explosions, it’s just right. You’ll work along side your team and use tactics to your advantage, with every shot and kill making a difference. Fire fights in corridors are intense, evenly matching all players and skill counts for something.

For the hardcore amongst you there is a competitive mode where you will need to purchase body armour during matches and your death cam will be limited to your own team. For the casual amongst you theres a casual mode, giving you an open death cam to watch all the players regardless of the team and no need to buy armour, just decide on your weapons and go complete your objective. This separation of players is fantastic as you rarely encounter people who are playing for different reasons to you.

Graphics

The graphics wont leave your jaw hanging open, it’s nothing to really write home about. However Counter Strike Go isn’t about graphics, it’s about simple and balanced gameplay and the graphics fit nicely with this. Character models have an improved level of detail over previous versions and the level design looks pretty good. One major improvement is the number of different character models which vary depending on the level you participate in. The generic four character models are gone.

What I liked

The pacing and combat has me sold. Valve has got this spot on, offering up a solid shooter with amazing gameplay. This isn’t another generic shooter, it’s a team based game with some brilliant competitive play. You’ll find yourself locked in one on one firefights or battling against a squad from the enemy team. This game offers one of the best FPS experiences.

What I disliked

There are so many attempts to get you to spend your cash on in game add-ons. Now I should point out that all the purchases you can make are purely aesthetic, they aren’t pay to win, but they are pretty consistent. At the end of each match people will randomly receive new weapon skins and occasionally stickers or weapon cases. The skins are great but the stickers and weapon cases need keys to unlock, keys you need to purchase.

Conclusion

If you’re a fan of Counter Strike then this game is a must. Valve haven’t destroyed it or altered it beyond recognition, they’ve updated it. Even if you haven’t played Counter Strike and you’re a fan of good solid shooters then I recommend this game. The Counter Strike games are some of the best shooters I’ve played and CSGO doesn’t fail to deliver.

My Top Five Games 2013

Below is a list of my top five favourite games that I played in 2013. Some of them really aren’t very conventional but I enjoyed all of them. There are links in each of the headings for more information on the games. Enjoy. 

1: Tomb Raider 

Before playing the latest Tomb Raider my commitment to single player gaming was pretty pitiful. I just couldn’t stick with any game for longer than a handful of hours and struggled to get all the way through. That changed with Tomb Raider. 

The game was wonderful to play with an intruiging storyline and fantastic gameplay. At times the game grew repetitive but overall the story flowed well, leading me into some fantastic moments. 

Throughout the game you get to guide Lara, watching her transform from a victim into a survivor. Its pretty intense stuff and definitely my top game. 

Recently I rediscovered my love for Pokémon. I’d grown bored of the franchise, finding that the games had grown stale and repitive but with X and Y we are introduced to new mechanics and graphics. 

The game is great fun and the new graphics make it interesting to explore. With a whole new host of monsters to collect and battle the game held my interest for a lot longer than I expected. 

Pokemon Y far exceeded my expectations, shocking me with how well the updated graphics had been implemented. For anyone who was once a fan or just looking to pick up a new title for their Nintendo DS I would recommend giving this a go! 

First person shooters tend to grow old fast when I’m behind the gun, especially if its a single player game. BioShock Infinite managed to stear clear of this trend, leading me from start to finish within a few days. 

I loved the art style and setting. The world is so beautifully built and crafted by the developers and the story line is both touching and clever. Throughout the game I grew to care about the characters and I was genuinely interested in learning more about them. 

The gameplay was often fast and furious, mixing gunplay and supernatural powers amazingly well which helped create some very unique and exciting battles. Swapping and changing your powers and loadouts really helped to add an extra layer to Bioshock.  

Despite my ability to grow bored of the genre pretty quickly I absolutely loved Bioshock Infinite. Its worth diving in for so many reasons, story line, gameplay, there’s just so much to try. 

I recently backed a game on Kickstarter that caught my eye. 7 Days to Die is a survival game where the world is fully customiseable. Basically its Minecraft and DayZ’s baby. 

I’ve been giving the beta a whirl and have thoroughly enjoyed the game so far. Crafting my base from scavenged materials to fend off the hordes of the undead is just great fun. Mining deep into the earth to avoid detection from bandits, unbeatable. 

This game has so much potential and I cannot wait to see how it turns out. 

I’ll probably be hunted down for this one but I really enjoyed Resident Evil 6. No, its nowhere near as good as the original games but I loaded this up not expecting much and what I got was a whole load of chaotic fun. 

The characters we know and love are back, stumbling through an interwoven and absurd storyline. They can move whiles shooting and survive the most outrageous moments. Through all of this however the game is fun. 

Its not the survival horror that we are used to but its a good laugh. I recomend go into this with an open mind and you will more than likely have a pretty good time.

My Top 10 Gadgets 2013

Below is a list of my top 10 favourite gadgets that I used throughout 2013. I got to play with a whole load of different toys and enjoyed most of those. Check out my thoughts below and click the links for more details in Amazon.

1: Macbook Pro Retina 13 inch 

 

Recently I took the plunge and upgraded from my 11 inch Macbook Air and I’m very glad I did. The Macbook Pro is a stunning machine. Its fast, responsive and above all the screen is beautiful.  

I’m no Apple fan boy, far from it in fact, but I’ve got a place in my heart reserved for MacBooks. So far my pro has served me well and is a fantastic step up from my Macbook Air. I love the larger screen size and the retina display is to die for. 

The device just feels premium and is everything I could ask for. For what I need, the Macbook Pro Retina is perfect and I would recommend it above everything else. True love has been found in 2013. 

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 was my personal phone for the best part of 2013 and I loved it. I recently changed to the Sony Xperia Z1 and find that I miss the screen size and stylus from my Note. Even it’s cheaper plastic finish isn’t enough to put me off, in fact its a bonus, making the device light weight. The Note 2 is easily my favourite phone that I used in 2013. 

Sony hit a niche market with this product. The camera on my phone is one of the biggest features I use and now with the QX10 lens I don’t really need to worry about the camera quality onboard my chosen phone. The device has god battery, is small and compact and relatively easy to use even for an amateur like myself.  

The zoom is absolutely fantastic and snapping pics in low light conditions is amazing. The lens far exceeds any dedicated camera built into a smart phone that I have used so far and that includes the Nokia Lumia 1020. 

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So I felt it was time to upgrade my graphics card in 2013 and I’m glad I did. This was the first year that I played some big name single player games from start to finish and actually enjoyed them. Games like Bioshock Infinite ran like a dead dog on my previous card but after installing my GTX 680 it ran like a dream. 

Nvidias physx also added a little spice compared to my previous AMD card. Its nothing to really shout about but there were a few noticeable differences in certain games that caught my eye, the biggest being in Planet Side 2 with its oddly beautiful teleporter effects. 

2013 was the year that I returned to dedicated portable gaming hardware thanks to Pokemon’s lure. I had always used a tablet or phone for casual gaming, singing the devices praises and condemning portable gaming hardware, saying how redundant it was. It wasn’t until I returned to true hardware controls that I realised how wrong I had been. 

The 3DS is a lovely size and very comfortable to hold. Its got a great sized screen and has a pretty good catalogue of games. I’m glad I made the move back to a portable console and couldn’t be more impressed with this device. 

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I have a love hate relationship with Sony. I want to love their products but I’ve always been unlucky in the past with all my Sony branded products going faulty. So with great reluctance I gave up my note 2 and got myself an Xperia Z1. 

Am I glad I did? Kind of. The camera is hit and miss, half of the time it takes better quality photos than I’ve ever taken before, the other half it captures horrid blurs. It feels so solid and premium unlike most Android devices which is a welcome change and the waterproof feature actually works! Its beyond fast, responding like lightning and very rarely lagging. 

The downside is its huge and my device is already faulty which is a real shame. I’ve had it exchanged and the second unit was faulty so it appears my bad luck with Sony has continued. 

The Nexus 7 is my tablet of choice at the moment. Its a relatively low cost, yet powerful device. Sporting pure Android with no manufacturer interference leaves the Nexus running blazingly fast. 

Its light weight and feels great in the hand, its rubberised back and sides stopping it from sliding all over the place and making it easier to grip. The screen size is both a positive and a negative, small enough for light browsing, gaming and work but too small for anything more. 

Overall I’m impressed with the Nexus and have so far enjoyed using it on the train to work.  

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Ah the iPad mini. This would easily be my device of the year if it wasnt for a certain software update. The iPad mini feels and looks fantastic. The screen size is perfect for on the go work and gaming. Its not too big and not too small, the best tablet size I have used. The battery life was good and it ran smoothly, never skipping a beat. 

So what changed? iOS 7 landed, turning my iPad mini into a horribly slow device. My iPad was so slow it had become unbearable to use. I understand that older Apple hardware begins to run terribly slow as new software updates land but the iPad Mini was still a current device at the time of iOS 7. In my opinion this was a terrible move by Apple. 

I miss my iPad mini as it was easily the best tablet I have ever used. After the way Apple destroyed my device I don’t think I’ll be taking the plunge and updating to the latest model. 

My first Windows 8 tablet. There is huge potential from these hybrid devices but I still don’t feel like any manufacture has gotten dit right so far. I really enjoyed my time with the Ativ Smart PC Pro but it ultimately felt like a jack of all trades. As a tablet it was average and as a laptop it was average. 

The keyboard dock was plagued with disconnection issues and as tablet the device was just too big and bulky. The thing that really killed my experience was Windows 8 which offered a very jarring experience. Modern UI and desktop mode just don’t fit together at all killing any seamless experience you would expect from a device such as this. 

The concept is sound and the potential is massive but I can’t help but feel that these hybrid devices are just lacking. 

So I mentioned already that I have a love hate relationship with Sony and the same applies with the Xperia Tablet Z. I loved the feel of it. Its so slim, with a beautiful screen and gorgeous matte finish. Its probably the nicest looking Android tablet out there. 

However its incredibly slow. Almost everything I did on the device was laggy unless I installed a custom launcher. Web browsing was poor and just navigating menus was slow. I’m not entirely sure what Sony did to this device to make it respond so poorly! Needless to say my time was short lived with this device.