GAME: XCOM – ENEMY UNKNOWN

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown represents the revival of a cult classic PC game series, originally spanning for 6 games over 7 years. The older games were known for their isometric turn based gameplay, where you act as the commander of a government organization tasked with defending the planet from a mysterious alien invasion. The setting of this series is sometime in the near future, and takes place at random places over the world. Alien attacks are sudden, and swift, so you are responsible for quickly neutralizing impending threats and saving civilians by guiding your squad of military combatants.

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Your enemies in the game are relatively straightforward and represent what people typically expect aliens in media to look like. But even so, each alien encounter is different and can be approached a number of different ways. Your squad can consist of snipers, heavies, assaults, and supports, which each have their own roles to play out in the field. You can choose what members make up your squad so that you may choose the right skills for any operation. Out on the field, you can use snipers, machine guns, shotguns, and assault rifles to take out hostiles. But there are also special weapons, such as grenades, rocket launchers, and stun guns to use when the time is right. Having so many paths to choose from rewards you for thinking out situations in advance so that you don’t charge blindly into a bad situation.

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By killing and/or capturing hostile aliens, you receive important items and information that will enable you to access more sophisticated (often alien) technology. Using this technology, you add in new rooms and manpower to your home base, which researches everything you need to know about aliens.  Players are rewarded for taking back aliens and equipment alive, which can enable alien interrogation for other special bonuses.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a great example of a Series that has been successfully revived after more than 10 years, to the success of multiple game of the year awards. It’s very heartening to think that the average gamer is moving on from consuming only first person shooters, because this opens up the video game market to more adventurous titles that won’t be forgotten when the sequel comes out a year later.

STATUS: MICROSOFT

via http://www.businessinsider.com/samsung-exec-on-windows-8-2013-3

Just about everyone that’s used a PC knows that Microsoft is one of the biggest players in the computer business. It seems to be a behemoth that’s too big to fail, but is it?

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Jun Dong-soo, the president of Samsung’s memory chip division, doesn’t share such optimism. Due to a number of factors, the global PC purchase market is shrinking, reflecting lower sales of both desktops and laptops. One large factor, Jun Dong-soo says, is consumer perception of Windows 8, Microsoft’s newest computer operating system. More specfically, he quipped: “I think the Windows 8 system is no better than the previous Windows Vista platform.” When Windows Vista was released, businesses and personal users weren’t happy. Poor hardware/software capability, a clunky interface, and overall few reasons to upgrade from XP denounced the operating system as a total flop. And Jun Dong-soo apparently believes Windows 8 shares some of that same sentiment.

One big problem to new PC adoption is the soft-substitute of tablets and smartphones. Overall, those two are much more lucrative platforms for businesses, and are good enough to replace using a PC for simple resource-light tasks such as web surfing and video viewing. But even in those domains, Microsoft still can’t seem to catch any breaks.

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Microsoft recently released their Surface tablet but it has only been seeing mild demand. Some might attribute that to its exorbitant pricetag. Microsoft’s Surface Pro starts at $900, well out of reach for average consumers. However their Surface RT starts at $500, which is still manageable but treads into dangerous waters when it tries to put itself toe-to-toe with the monster Apple iPad.

So what’s your opinion on Microsoft’s business lately? Do you think there’s something they’re doing great? Somewhere specific where Microsoft can improve? Let me know your opinion below in the comments!

GAME: COUNTER-STRIKE: GLOBAL OFFENSIVE

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The original Counter-Strike in 2000 was one of the most defining first person shooter games, but does this new installment live up to the name? Surprisingly, the Counter-Strike series has always been modest. Unlike modern shooter series that see new installments every year or so, Counter-Strike has seen few new iterations yet still retains its popularity. Not only that, but some people continuously play the older games in the series because they think it was perfect and they’re so adapted to the gameplay. Nevertheless, you can’t have a series without actually producing new games, so the show must go on.

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Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) was launched on August 21, 2012, which compares to previous releases in 2000 and 2004. As you can imagine, the announcement of CS:GO was quite the surprise. Even though Counter-Strike:Source from 2004 was aging, it still represented an extraordinarily popular game that people still didn’t mind staying with. CS:GO was in fact initially going to be a port of the PC version of Counter-Strike:Source to the Xbox 360 and PS4 system, but the publisher, Valve, saw this as an opportunity to add features and enhancements to modernize (and monetize) the new game.

However, one would notice that the gameplay of CS:GO is very much the same compared to the previous iterations. There are extra guns but the rest are the same, the maps are the same, and game modes are the same, but as any Counter-Strike player might tell you, that’s exactly how they’d like it. The Counter-Strike series is nostalgic, and also mechanically simple with a high skill ceiling. Anything that deviates from the core gameplay defined in any of its iterations will not be taken kindly.

But to examine it in a world of only itself, CS:GO is still really fun.

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Each round, CS:GO players join a team of a maximum of 12 people, with two objectives per team. Terrorist players need either defend the hostages they have control over, or plant a bomb at one of two designated bomb sites. The counter-terrorist players must do the opposite: rescue the hostages or make sure that the bomb sites stay… unbombed. The main objective is either one of these two objectives, based on the map players have joined at the beginning of the match. Each team could also eliminate the entire team to win, invalidating the other team’s objective. Each round, you can choose one of 20+ weapons to buy with “money” that you earn automatically, and by killing your enemies. This rewards taking out enemies from the other team, and also rewards you from not buying the biggest gun in the game if you don’t necessarily need it. This creates a lasting value to the game, since you can approach different situations differently based on which guns and items you choose to (or not to) purchase.

When you want to invite one of your friends to play with, you can easily do so from your friends list to join you in battle, whether they join your friends or your enemies. Professional players join groups or clans to further their knowledge of the game with like-minded individuals who also focus their free time honing their skills on the battlefield.

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So after that’s all said, it’s hard to compare CS:GO to the other games in its series, but it’s very easy to compare it to other games in its genre. CS:GO sticks to the fundamentals that have made first person shooter games popular over the past two decades. It sticks to your sense of nostalgia, each Counter-Strike game doesn’t change the whole formula over and over again, Valve got it right with the original Counter-Strike in 2000. CS:GO instead updates the franchise, they modernize the graphics, add new weapons, maps, and game modes, and port it to new platforms. Each new update creates an environment where both seasoned and newbie players can enjoy the game equally, whether they’ve been playing the game for 12 years or they’re just a simple fan of shooters. Counter-Strike doesn’t discriminate, and Counter-Strike will endure.

GAME: FTL

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One game that’s been keeping my interest lately is FTL, an indie space strategy game that was one of Kickstarter’s first big successes. FTL is a game that premiered on Kickstarter on February 27th of last year, with a modest project goal of $10,000. The game rocketed in popularity with release of playable demos and trailers and would go on to succeed its goal 20 times over with a grand total of $200,542 in a little over a month.

FTL’s gameplay leads you to manage from 3 to 9 crew members on 1 of 9 ships, with a goal to transport a vital piece of information to your allies at the end of the game. On the way, you’ll encounter pirates, slavers, and mercenaries, and will have to fight or flee out of tough and moral situations. In battle you’ll manage your crew members as they fix damage caused by the enemy, and you’ll also manage the various systems of the ship such as its shields and weapons. With your encounters you earn money (scrap) which can be used to upgrade your ship or purchase items from vendors.

FTL is a very entertaining game, with plenty of reasons to keep coming back to it. All of the maps are randomly generated so no two experiences will be identical. If you’re interested in strategy and micromanagement then check out FTL on Steam or though the developer’s website at http://www.ftlgame.com/.

Hello World!

As a fan of cutting edge technology and entertainment, I spend a lot of my time scanning the web for stuff that I find interesting. This is the place where I’ll share that stuff to the world. I enjoy reviewing games and technology that I spend time with, so this blog will be regarding such reviews and news that I think people should know about.

Looking for signal in the noise, so to speak.