Best PC Gaming Gifts for Christmas 2009

  Are you Christmas shopping for someone who loves to play video games on the computer? This can be a daunting task, but with a little information you should have no problem finding a gift that they will love. Many of the popular games available for PS3, XBox  360, and the Wii are also available for the PC. Here is a list of great Christmas gifts for PC gamers. You will find various games, accessories, and more that should give your loved one a Merry Christmas this year.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – Activision is back in action and is bringing gamers the sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Take on realistic enemies in this new shoot-um-up game which will be released mid November. You can pre-order it now from Best Buy for $60.

Assassin’s Creed 2 – This is my #1 game recommendation for Christmas 2009 on all game systems. The sequel to Assassin’s Creed drops you into 15th century Italy as the character Ezio, a new assassin. You can roam the city, do as you choose, and play any mission you choose. This game is a must for any PC gamer. It will be available for sale in November and will cost roughly $49.99.

Yoostar Entertainment System – If you’ve ever wanted to be a movie or television star here is your chance. The Yoostar Entertainment System is a web cam and green screen set up that plugs into your computer and lets you act out scenes from your favorite movies or television shows. You can be in movies such as Saw 2, The Godfather, Rocky, and Coming to America. Additional movies can be downloaded from Yoostar.com. This unique setup will cost you around $170 and will be available November 3, 2009.

PC Speakers – A good set of PC speakers can really do a lot to enhance game play. There are many models available at a wide variety of prices. I guess when shopping for speakers this Christmas your budget will be the biggest determining factor. Best Buy offers a wide variety of products ranging from $35 all the way up to $100+. Personally I wouldn’t skimp out when buying PC speakers, but that’s just me.

  Logitech Racing Wheel Game Controller – If your PC gamer loves racing games, then a great gift to give them this Christmas is a racing wheel game controller. The Logitech controller features a leather wrapped steering wheel, 6 speed shifter, and stainless steel gas,  break, and clutch. This controller is compatible with the PlayStation 2 as well as the PC. For $300 your gamers will be in racing heaven.

Gaming Headset – For some games it is just better to have a headset. You can hear the action as well as communicate with your friends and fellow gamers. Headsets, like PC speakers come in a wide variety of models. If your loved one is a serious gamer then you might choose a higher end model. A mid-range gaming headset will run you about $50-$60 at Best Buy. If you shop around you could find a better deal (like on E-Bay).

Source: www.bestbuy.com

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WorldShift Review

Some games are easier to admire than to actually enjoy. Sometimes you have to give developers points for their vision and their ideas, especially when they try something new and creative. WorldShift is just such a game, one based on an interesting core concept that attempts something unique by melding the gameplay of an RTS with the persistence of an MMO. However, good intentions don’t necessarily make for fun gameplay. As clever as WorldShift’s core concept may be, the gameplay is as flat as its “technology versus magic” story.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by the technology-based humans, nature-worshipping Tribe and sinister Cult, WorldShift is, at its core, a very simple RTS with all base-building elements removed. You control a group of characters that you steer around the map, right-clicking on everything you want to kill along the way. The twist to the gameplay is that you discover artifacts in every game mode that you can use to permanently buff your units, so you’re constantly improving the abilities of your army, which you can then take online to battle with or against other players. That’s the concept, anyway.

WorldShift was clearly designed with multiplayer in mind (you have to create an online account to even launch the game), and the single-player campaign is so bad that few players will muscle through it before heading online. Removing base-building may make the gameplay easier for new players, but removes any sort of strategy at all – there’s no balance between attack and defense; you’ll simply always be massing your forces into one large offensive unit and hunting down the bad guys. The story is cliché and boring, and the mission objectives are laughably bad, often involving avoiding enemies with stealth – no easy feat with your units’ broken pathfinding.

Multiplayer removes some of the campaign’s frustrations like the pitiful enemy AI, only to swap it for a major new problem: balance. Since WorldShift feature an MMO-style skill progression, the more you play, the more powerful you can make your units. But new players won’t be stepping onto a level playing field; WorldShift was released a year ago in many European countries. To make matters worse, WorldShift features no kind of level-based matchmaking system, you won’t know if you’re playing against a newbie player or a veteran with high-level units until you meet them on the battlefield. In one match, your skill may help you overcome a player of your same level. In the next, no amount of strategy will help you overcome the swarm of massively powerful tanks your opponent sends your way.

Even when you lose a match you get to keep the artifacts you discover along the way, but only victories reward you with reasonable amounts of “battle points,” which you’ll need to need to improve your skills. With the uneven playing field, it will take new players a long, long time to buff their armies to the point where they can reasonably compete.

If you can find some even-matched players to compete with amongst WorldShift’s small community (the most players I ever found online was 29), then there is some fun to be had with the online component. WorldShift’s maps are large and dense, with random item drops that award exploration even in the middle of a deathmatch. Better still is the co-op mode, in which you can team up with other players against AI enemies in objective-based missions similar to MMO raids. As with all other modes, co-op games provide you with artifacts and battle points used to improve your units. Unfortunately, most of the online community seems to focus on deathmatching, so finding an available co-op game can be a rarity.

The entire package is wrapped in a presentation that can only be described as “underwhelming.” The graphics are bright and eye-catching, but character designs are bland and your units are small and lack detail even at the tightest zoom level. The menus are dull and unhelpful, and good luck to you if you downloaded the digital version and have a question – there’s no in-game help at all, not even a list of hotkeys. The game script is terrible, featuring characters like “Frank N. Stein” and a plot that swings between bland and incomprehensible. Fortunately the music is nicely orchestrated, although it’s often ruined by horrid unit voice work.

Thank you to IGN for this review

Star Wars The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition

Release Date 11/03/2009

Also available on:  360 PS3

It’s been several years since LucasArts first asked its fan base, “Would you be interested in playing as a Star Wars villain?” Apparently, this idea was met with some enthusiasm, and the result was The Force Unleashed for console gaming systems. TFU makes its PC debut with the Ultimate Sith Edition with its flashy new packaging and additional game content. Unfortunately, this updated release is just a few banthas short of a herd.

To its credit, The Force Unleashed does a lot of things extremely well. You don’t need to be a Star Wars junkie to appreciate the story, which is lavishly presented in high-quality cinematic sequences. The characters are brought to life not only with terrific voice acting, but facial motion capture that impressively conveys the fluidity of human emotion. For those unfamiliar, The Force Unleashed follows the adventures of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, who is exceptionally talented and trained as an instrument of the dark side. This makes the apprentice a true “wrecking ball” of the Force, indiscriminately blasting through rebel soldiers and stormtroopers alike.

Although dazzling as always, the lightsaber is not really the focal point of the combat. Most of the fun lies within the clever integration of Force powers. TFU is an action game at its core, and the available moves for the apprentice certainly reflect this. Hurling objects at your foes, electrocuting them with lightning, or simply blasting them into oblivion offers players the chance to channel quite a bit of aggression into the game. As you become increasingly skilled, you’ll be able to string powers together for devastating results; lifting a stormtrooper into the air, then impaling him with the lightsaber, might be one of the coolest things seen in any Star Wars video-game.

It’s not until reaching the heavier battles that players may notice the flaws in this alluring gem. The physics engine for TFU, while visually impressive, does not always function reliably or realistically. More importantly, the combat is flawed in a few areas that will cause significant frustration. In the thick of combat, the apprentice can literally get stuck in a loop of collapse as unavoidable attacks from enemies strike him repeatedly. The PC controls feel strangely stiff when compared to the console version, which means the apprentice will not always do what you want, as quickly as you’d want him to do it. The boss fights remain something of a mixed bag. Many of them feel like cheap efforts to exploit flaws in the combatant’s fighting style, while a few are genuinely engrossing.

This release also contains a few missions from TFU’s “alternate universe” of Star Wars fiction, which I will not spoil here. Aside from the exclusive new Hoth level, most of the “bonus” content in this Ultimate Sith Edition was actually released as downloadable content on the consoles. The player skins are basically what they seem – meaningless cosmetic costumes that have no effect on the gameplay whatsoever. Even diehard Star Wars fans may struggle to rationalize the purchase of the Ultimate Sith Edition if they’ve played the original. It is disappointing to see that so many of TFU’s flaws have been retained or even amplified, rather than repaired.

The Force Unleashed remains solid on the graphical front, with plentiful effects and detailed textures to aid the immersion of the experience. Sadly, players may find themselves pushing through the unpleasant sections of the campaign just to find out what happens next in the story. Without getting the gameplay right, The Force Unleashed flounders in its efforts to keep up with its own epic narrative. The Ultimate Sith Edition will provide entertainment for Star Wars fans, but action lovers may find their excitement short-lived

thank you to GameZone for the review

Genre: Role-Playing
Theme: Fantasy
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Modes: Single Player
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: Nov 3, 2009
Also Available On: Xbox 360, PS3

Basic Plot/Storyline
Dragon Age: Origins is a fantasy computer role playing game that takes players on a journey across the Kingdom of Ferelden on the continent of Thedas. After many had thought them extinct, Dragons have reappeared in the World. Dragon Age: Origins, as the title suggests, has an over arching story/plot surrounding this new “Dragon Age” which is intertwined differently depending both on the type of character being played and the actions players take throughout the game. This gives the opportunity for Dragon Age Origins to have a different ending and story each time it’s played.

WorldShift

Genre: Real Time Strategy

Theme: Sci-Fi Developer: Crytek Black Sea

Publisher: Playlogic International

Modes: Single player, multiplayer ESRB

 Rating: T for Teen Release Date: Nov 10, 2009

 Basic Plot/Storyline WorldShift is a sci-fi/cyber fantasy real time strategy game that was released in Europe last year and is now being released in the US. WorldShift is set 1000 years in the future that has humans living in one of five mega cities after the outbreak of a devastating plague. Earth is now populated by three different races the humans, plague infected humans and an alien race know as the cult. Game Play There are three playable factions in WorldShift, the humans, plague infected humans known as the tribes, and the alien faction know as the cult. The game has a simplistic design in order to make game-play quick and easy to learn. There are no complex technology trees to advance the factions but units can find all sorts of special items throughout the game that can increase their power or advance the faction. Units also have unique abilities such as spells and special attacks that can aid in combat.