5 Reasons you should play Gears of War 3

By now we all should be familiar with the Gears of War franchise. Having launched back in 2006 the series has finally ” concluded” this year with the third chapter in this particular story arc that it set out to tell when it dazzled us back in 06.

While I could go on and on about how amazing Gears of War 3 is I thought a better way to express my excitement would be to lay out 5 specific points that I think will drive home the point that this is a game that NO ONE should miss out on.

Without Further delay and in no particular order of  excitement level….

1: Graphics. When Gears of War launched it set a new high bar for graphics on the XBOX360 and at that time the development studios where just getting their head wrapped around how to squeeze every last piece of processing power out of the box. Epic studios did just that. If you had asked me before this game came out I would have said that the game had nowhere to go as far as game graphics went. The series had hit its pinnacle. Well having played Gears of War 3 I can easily say that I was wrong. Gears 3 takes everything up a notch and dazzles us with superior lighting , characters models and environmental destruction that makes taking cover a dicey situation when facing off against some of the incredible monsters that get thrown at you!

2: ” Holy Shit moments” You know these moments. The ones where you literally drop your jaw and almost your controller for seconds on end as you marvel at the onscreen spectacle taking place in from of you. The moments that you and your friends talk about the next day and blur the lines between movies and games.

The difference between Gears of War 3 and all the other games that try to pull this off is that you really care about the characters involved in the moment.Every bullet you fire and every enemy you chainsaw makes you feel like a proverbial bad ass and Gears of War 3 does this better than any other game I know!

3: Characters. In the world of video games developers are always struggling with ways to get us to connect with our on-screen avatar. Sometimes they allow us  to customize appearance and clothing to suit our tastes. Other times they allow us choice in how we interact with other characters through a conversation wheel of some kind. Gears of war 3 takes the characters we have played in the past 2 games and injected them with more soul than a James Brown tribute album. From the first game in the series it was clear that Epic Studios wanted to craft a very ” lived in ” world with the Gears franchise. The big focus with this was top-notch voice acting for all the games characters. Although we didn’t have any say in what the characters looked like or what they said we felt very connected to them. Thier struggle was real and filled with emotion. In Gears of war 3 our heroes are struggling for survival and we feel it.

In every cut scene or in-game banter you feel like these guys exist and they make you laugh and ( spoiler alert) they make you cry when something bad happens to them. The ability to play as each of these characters in the games multi player suite solidify that bond between gamer and virtual character. I can’t tell you how many times I cringe when i get chainsawed in a game of execution and see my favourite character lying on the ground in bloody giblets.
Gears of War 3 characters will forever be cemented in my mind and will enter the halls occupied by the likes of Mario, Solid snake, Link and others.

4: Deep gameplay. In a market dominated by First person shooters Gears of War 3 stands out from the pack. The ability to see your onscreen character in all his/her graphical glory has long been the main reason developers want to use a 3rd person perspective. EPIC studios took it one step further and added a deep and refined cover system mechanic that layered in an element of tactics to the shooter genre.In games without cover you simply hide behind a pillar or piece of scenery and lose your line of sight as a vision is obscured by said barrier. In Gears of war the camera is always planted behind you so taking cover now involves your character actually crouching behind obstacles and allowing you the player full view of the battlefield and a chance to take a breath and plan  your next move.

Not only does this give you a chance to take a breath but it opens up a whole world of gameplay options. The game maps are designed to enable you to swap cover and move around the map maintaining cover if you like. The character animations while taking cover are super cool and heighten the feeling of ” baddassery” that is already flowing through this game.

5: Co oP. No game on the market does this like Gears of War 3. Epic studios must have been watching Star Wars when crafting the story for Gears 3. The game employs a story telling technique similar to George Lucas and even Shakespeare for the matter; Converging story threads.Previous Gears games had you in the shoes of the games two main character throughout the course of the narrative but in Gears 3 you are continually playing different characters as the story dictates and evolves. Much like ‘ The Empire Strikes Back” the heroes story takes the viewer( and in this case you  the gamer) on a joyride of events across various locations in the game’s world. Gears 3 kicks most games ass by allowing drop in and drop out 4 player co-op! This is all handled seamlessly and never do you feel disjointed during the switching of characters at the conclusions of certain levels ( The game even pulls off a death scene with a key character you control and picks up right after without the controlling player losing touch with the games narrative!).Other games in this genre add co-op as an alternative to playing by yourself and often ” tack ‘ it on while Gears of war 3 actually makes you WANT to find 3 other players to join you in the thrill ride that is Gears of War 3!

I could go on for hours about how amazing this game and that would still be an understatement. In a year filled with so many triple A titles Gears of war stands out because it was a labour of love for Epic studios and not just another sequel they cranked out to make some more money. The game extrudes passion and attention to detail in all aspects of the package you hold in your hands. At the risk of sounding cliché I can honestly say that this game would be a compelling reason to purchase an XBOX360. There simply isn’t a comparable game that delivers the right mixture of refined shooting mechanics and deep story telling that Gears of War 3 does.

Dwayne ” EVO Knight” Morash


Turtle Beach x12 Gaming Headset review

“Ah Turtle Beach how I love you; let me count the ways..”

This is the feeling I have everytime I slip on a new Gaming headset from this New York based company. I have been using Turtle Beach gaming headsets for almost 3 years now and specifically have been using the X1,X11 and now the X12 headsets.
These headsets occupy the entry-level point in the company’s line up and I have targeted them specifically for the fact that they are wired and have a fabulous price point.

The X12 headset is based on its predecessor the X11 and pretty much is a carbon copy of that headset save for a few noticeable improvements.

The X11 had a very good range of sound most notable was its High frequency spectrum. The clarity that came with the X11 headsets was a noticeable improvement over the last version in the series . Talking and all the fidelity of the source was downright amazing for a headset of this price ( $59.99 at retail) but it was lacking the “punch” of some of the more expensive headsets. Keeping in mind that video game content ranges from symphonic musical scores to thunderous expolosions its important to have the best of both worlds in a gaming headset.

The X12 delivers on both! The newly designed ” cups” have been modified to provide a slightly deeper enclosure( the space between your ear and the speaker in the headset)  which gives its ability to deliver bass and have kept the high range fidelity and crystal clear sound of the X11’s.
Explosions sound awesome and conversations with your squad mates no longer sound muffled like the early generation headsets that sacrificed bass for clarity.
The headset also features a ” Bass Boost” on the standard dongle that adjusts your game and chat volume. This headset is the complete package at its level!

The cherry on  the top of this beautiful gaming assecorie cake is the new aesthetics. Turtle Beach have finally done away with their white and grey/black color scheme and adopted the Black and Green of the XBOX early days. The headset “cups” are black with green trimming and are super comfy. The whole package comes together nicely and I can’t think of any one aspect of this headset that I am unhappy about.

If you aren’t wanting to spend close to a hundred dollars to find an amazing sounding gaming headset the look no further; the Turtle Beach X12 are your best investment.

UPDATE: Keep an eye on your local box stores as I have already spotted this headset being sold for $39.95 in select locations over the holidays.

Review written by: Dwayne “EVO Knight” Morash

” What will it take to get me to play Modern Warfare 3 ? “

As many of you readers know I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the Call of Duty franchise.  To be clear ; my disdain for COD stems from more than just an opinion on the basic fundamentals of the game ie. Graphics, gameplay, etc..

At the risk of ranting for the length of this entire article I will try to keep it brief. My biggest issue with the Call of Duty franchise is the fact that the publisher ( Activision) feels the need to release a new version of the game every year! That in itself is not inherently a bad concept as other companies have done so with decidedly good results; but when the game displays no visible improvements over its predecessor in the form of graphics, sound or playability then it becomes blatant “milking”.

Here is what we know. Call of Duty is running on a game engine that dates at least 4 years ago. The developers have not upgraded or enhanced the engine to keep pace with the latest and greatest games on the market. Now I know you are all saying  “graphics don’t make a game'” but really!? Shouldnt the biggest selling game of all time also be one of the best looking games and deliver a game experience like no other?

I am troubled by the fact that the gaming public is blinded by pure marketing hype that they cannot see that the publisher is not spending any money beyond the bare basic amount to create sequels that will sustain at least another year of sales. What is even more saddening is that our industry is being destroyed by this game. Activision has create d a franchise that eclipses all other games. Gamers are not taking a breath to try new games or experiment outside of their COD habit. As a result the industry has become a 1 game industry. I know many people who have only played COD on their chosen system.There is hardly any room left for new IP’s and variety in games to exist.

Lets talk about gameplay. COD4 ( Modern Warfare) was heralded for giving us a RPG style unlocking system and progression path in a FPS. It was the first time we where able to take pride in our accomplishments through an in-game ranking system that rewarded us. Four games later we are now staring at the same system just with more and more unlockables.The Developers of each subsequent COD installment since that game have simply layered more and more on top of each game where finally we have a convoluted and unbalanced version of COD4 being handed to us every year.

This brings me to my main gripe about the current state of any Call of Duty game. Balance.

In an effort to give gamers a world of choice and customization Activision has forgotten that more is not always better.  It’s okay to have a dozen or so weapons and options to customize you’re in game warrior but as long as it’s all balanced and still favours player skill over your chosen weapon of destruction. All the great shooters have had a higher emphasis placed on player skill despite offering a good amount of weapon variety. The current state of Call of Duty has shifted the pendulum the other way and made it such that your individual skill is less an issue than what weapon load out you are armed with. Throw on special abilities and the massive destructive ” push a button and get instant kills” Killstreak rewards and you have a game that rewards you for having a better gun than your opponent vs how good your aim is.

COD has lost its way….

so what can it do to redeem itself and ” what will it take to get me to play Modern Warfare 3 ? ”

Lets itemize this shall we.

1: Impress me with better visuals than your previous outings. DO NOT give me a game that makes me have to squint in order to notice improvements to the games graphics. Show me that at least some of the billions of dollars you have made of this franchise has gone into improving the visual experience of this game. Graphics are  the equivalent of first impressions on a  date.You have one chance to make that impression so don’t blow it.

2: Less shooting in campaign. The last 2 COD games literally became a duck hunt style FPS. I felt like I was being moved to one shooting corridor after another. Granted cut scenes broke up the action with some story but when the CGI was over it was on to more and more shooting. It got so bad in Black Ops that I actually got a headache. There was no pacing and my senses where in full throttle. Ease up on the trigger and give me something else to do during each level.

3: Fewer options. Based on what I have seen of MW3 previews it will require me to take a night course in Video game level progression just to understand all of the options in MW3. Less is more Activision.

4: Balance. If they are going to overwhelm us with a crazy amount f weapons and gadgets then please make at least a solid attempt to balance everything out. If they were smart they would talk to the boys over at Bungie since Activision now owns them. Killstreaks and perks need to be slimmed down and weapon quantity needs to be roped in at this point. The one thing I can’t stand is someone ” out gunning ” me as opposed to ” out shooting ” me.If I can’t win a match with a starting gun and a couple of grenades then you know you went overboard with gun selection.

5: Hackers be gone! To be honest I actually loved MW2 when I first got it. About a month or two after it was released was a different matter. Between balance issues ( Dual shotguns shooting across the map) and the hackers that descended upon it I was officially done. I cannot stand playing a game where I do not know if loosing was a result of me sucking or a result of someone cheating the game. Out of map glitches, one hit kills and a wide assortment issues layered onto a flawed prestiging system pretty much killed it for me. If they can lock out the hackers and assure me that me dying is a result of my own noobish skills then I am happy !

Will I still play MW3 if some of the things on the above list are fixed?  I sure will! If the game is balanced and has somehow locked out the hackers and returns to form then I will embrace it as I have other shooters this past year. I am a well-rounded gamer and will always try a game once but mark my words Modern Warfare 3…If you let me down and don’t think for a second that I don’t have a prettier and more polished date waiting in the wings then you have lost me forever!

Dawyne ” EVO Knight” Morash

Razer Onza Tournament controller review

The XBOX 360 has no shortage of 3rd party game controllers and while several companies have released there own version of the Microsoft standard controller very few have maintained the overall quality level that Microsoft has adhered to.

Welcome to the Onza Razer. The latest in a well-rounded peripheral line up from the Razer Company based in ……USA. Razer typically has focused on PC gaming assecories but with this offering has thrown their hat into the console arena.

The Onza is a well built and rugged wired controller. Right off the bat you will notice that the cable is approx 24 feet long with a braided housing versus the typical rubber sealed cable.This ensures that your cable wont get accidentally eaten by small animals that you may have sharing your gaming space with ( I have heard many horror stories about little feline friends taking interest in gaming cables)

As far as the layout and configuration goes it sticks close to the standard MS wired controller with a  few additions and improvements.
The left and right thumbsticks now has tension adjusters that allow a gamer to literaly ” dial” down to a resistance level that suits their needs based on  the game they are playing.The thumbsticks themselves have notched dials attached the underside that make it quick and easy to adjust the resistance for each. This combined with the in-game sensitivity slider can really fine tune the experience.

The Razer Onza comes equipped with an extra set of bumper buttons. These buttons can be programmed to function as a face button ( A,B,X,Y) in addition to the existing ones. If reloading with a  bumper button is your thing and your game doesn’t allow for that configuration in the game menu; well you can make it happen with the Onza. The default setting of the extra bumpers is a double up of the existing primary bumpers so you wont have to worry about accidentally clicking the wrong bumper in the heat of combat.

The final and in  his reviewers opinion the best reason to own this controller are the backlit ” Hyper response action buttons”. Put simply these are the face buttons you know ( A,B,X,Y) rebuilt in a far superior manner.These buttons now have a quicker response time and come close to being full touch buttons with next to no travel distance. You lightly touch each button and it registers with the same response as a standard controller. I have actually improved my ability in FPS games due to this and no longer worry about ” sticky” buttons The fact that they are backlit and glow in a dark room is just icing on the cake.

Some negatives that affect initial usability of the controller are the rubber thumbsticks and the L and R triggers. The Thumbsticks  do not have the traditional  ” nubbies” on them which helped with grip. Instead the Onza has softer more ” tacky” rubber thumbsticks and while this at first an improvement the downside is that eventually you will get a case of ” sweaty thumbs” and your grip will diminish.Occasionally wiping them off will help with  this though.

The Left and Right triggers are also designed differently than  the standard MS controller. In this case they are more curved and have a longer arc to them. It will take some getting used to at first but eventually you will adapt. I did find that my fingers slipped off them every once in a while but again that is most likely part of the “getting used” to phase

Overall  everything about the Onza comes together in a very nice package that is well worth the $49.95 you will pay for it.I wish I could say that it is an easy choice over the standard Microsoft controller but you pretty much need to get your hands on one before you can make that call.

Battlefield 3 Survival Guide

The holiday season is upon us and we have finally had a chance to get our hands on all the AAA shooters that inevitably descend upon us. If you made the right choice you are now fully engrossed in the world of Battlefield 3 and all the large-scale and destruction based carnage it brings to the table.

This guide is here to help you step onto the battlefield with confidence and start on your path to a three star general. Lets get started shall we.

” Pick a class” Battlefield is all about fulfilling a role on the field of battle and helping your team achieve victory. The first thing you need to do is select a role that fits your play style. There is ASSAULT. ENGINEER, SUPPORT and RECON. Each one of these classes play differently and more importantly have different starting weapons and equipment. Just like a new pair of shoes; try them all on and when you find a pair that fits get ready to hit the track running!

“Tactical Awareness” There are a lot of different elements to this tip but the overarching theme is that you need to know your map, know your enemy, and know your objective.
Success in BF3 doesn’t always take the form of an awesome K/D ratio. In fact there will be plenty of times you will finish high on the match leaderboard simply by playing a support role in the game. I can’t count the amount of times that I have heard people go on about their killing streak only to find themselves at the bottom of the list because I spent the game  capturing objectives and bringing team mates back to life. Having a clear vision on where you are going in a match also helps you from becoming a wandering bullet magnet ( you know the guy on every team who is just wandering around the map looking for someone to shoot only to get shot himself by a more tactical player)

Map knowledge is a hard thing to learn in a game of Battlefield mainly because of the huge scale of the maps. You no longer just have to memorize specific corridors and pathways like most FPS on the market these days but now you have to learn the actual geography of the map. Hills , buildings, creeks, rivers, cliffs and tunnels combined with numerous streets and alley ways are just some of the environments you will find yourself in. Try and think like a real soldier ( as if any of us can imagine what that would be like) and move with a purpose. The maps may be huge but don’t think for a second that someone isn’t drawing a bead on you from a nearby rooftop or GRASSY KNOLL. Use cover like they do in the movies ( ” Cover to cover men!!”) and travel as a squad. Keep solid objects between you and enemy fire and don’t EVER think that a building is safe from a A1 Abrams Battle Tank.

Battlefield has numerous ways to kill your opponent. In addition to conventional firearms you now have a bevy of armoured vehicles, watercraft  and air support platforms. Jets, Helicopters, Tanks, APC,s and even good old fashioned Jeeps are now at your disposal. Knowing a vehicle and really knowing a vehicle is a big difference! Take the time to learn the controls of any vehicle you may find yourself sitting in. experiment with how fas t it goes and how you can manuever it around the map. Crashing your vehicle is not something to be embarrassed of and trust me you’ll do it lots. Just make sure you brush it off and get back on that bronco at the next opportunity. Eventually you’ll earn some upgrades to the vehicle if you play it long enough and you’ll be a force to be reckoned with. The opponent may be sitting there saying you are cheap for blasting his entire squad with a tank but that’s why they are there ( One may ask him why he didn’t have an engineer with a RPG handy to smack you down in your steel beast)

Objective points in Battlefield is where you earn the big points on the scoreboard at the end of every match. neutralizing them and capturing them in a game of conquest carries more weight with your team when you’re sitting around bragging about winning last game than the EX COD player who is stroking his EGO over his beautiful KD ratio. The teams that usually win any objective game mode are the guys/gals who know exactly where there objective is in the game world ( and not just blindly following the glowing ,B, Or C on the HUD) and also know how to take it without getting shot to pieces during the attempt. 

You probably know the feeling; hearing an  MCom station squealing 20 seconds after the match starts when you’re defending it only to find out that the opposing team got their before you could even take a step out of your spawn. Play the maps a lot but more importantly LEARN your maps so you’ll be a better soldier the next time you take to the battlefield there.

“Think like a team and play like a team” You will here many games preach team work and tactics but few games reward or penalize this mantra like Battlefield 3. When you start playing make sure you are in a squad. Either make one with friends or join a random one; you wont regret it!
Not only does this allow you to spawn on fellow ALIVE squad members when you die but it also allows you to take advantage of the entire squads ” spotting” ability.  If you see an enemy in the game with an orange marker above his head it’s because someone on your team took the time < approx .5 of a second> to spot the mean nasty bad guy. Spotting is done by hitting the back button on your XBOX 360 controller ( select button on PS3) while you are aimed in on the target ( L trigger ). This will mark/spot the target and make life easier for the rest of your squad in case they missed that enemy sniper perched up on the rock  . In addition to the tactical benefits it gives you , it also rewards you with some bonus XP when the enemy gets killed . Do this and do this often ( I often mark a target before I start shooting at him just in case I cant get the kill he will be marked for my  team mates)
Using the strengths of your fellow team mates will take you one step closer to victory on the battlefield. If you aren’t in voice communication with your team take a second to see what each person in your squad is playing as. If you see everyone is playing as RECON make sure you play a different role because a team of Recon Players may not prevail ( Depending on the game mode I find that an assault class and Engineer is almost a must have) in a game of conquest. Having knowledge of maps and what you’ll be facing on each map will help you in picking what class you’re going to  use that game.

Battlefield 3 is a challenging but rewarding game. When you lose you really feel bad but when you win and its a result of some solid tactics and team work there is no describing the feeling of pure excitement and  bad-assery you will have!

Fight hard and learn from your mistakes; Dont give up and in the end your going to be a better soldier for it!

Now get out there and show everyone what your made of!

Dwayne ” EVO Knight” Morash