Serious Sams  – More Serious Shots!

Seeing as how you liked the first batch so much… We’re well chuffed, us. It seems that loads of you were mad for our collection of Serious Sam screenshots, especially when you worked out that they were from a preview alpha and not from the test version.

So, we’ve decided to pass on a few more to keep you going until next week’s preview. Not that many, mind you; we don’t want to spoil the game for anyone, and we don’t want to engulf you in a tide of screenshot diarrhoea. We’ve taken loads of shots, but we’ve sorted through them and hand-picked our favourites. Note a couple of weapons that no-one’s cottoned onto yet; there’s a meaty laser rifle and an utterly devastating cannon. Which fires cannonballs. It’s great.

We’ve also been talking to our friends at Take 2 about what’s going to be in the final version of Sam, since many of you have been asking what’s happened to the non-Egyptian stuff that appears in many of Croteam’s shots. The answer is that Sam’s now going to be set entirely in Egypt (although as the shots show, it’s not all bright sunlight and pyramids), however there might be some other-worldly locations added for multiplayer purposes. Our man at Take 2 reckons that Sam will be travelling elsewhere in add-on packs or sequels.

Oh, and thanks to the people on the VoodooExtreme messageboard who solved our little mouselook problem. Seems that the lagginess was caused by having mouse smoothing turned on. We’ve turned it off and it’s worked a treat. Cheers, fellas.

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Exercising Your Puppy – The Proper Way

Puppies can be quite active and they need exercise to keep them in good shape. Usually a brisk thirty to sixty minute walk can be quite invigorating for them. If you are unable to do this every day, ensure your yard has more than adequate space for the pup to run around in and play.

You can even take the dog to the high school’s track and walk it there. Some people even train their dog to walk on the treadmill with them. This will afford both of you some great time together and good exercise too.

Evaluate your dog’s needs and formulate an exercise plan that will work for both of you. A young puppy might like to go for a run whereas an older dog may just enjoy a nice leisurely walk. Start out with puppies for about 15 minutes. Build up to an hour as they get bigger and can handle it.

If you like to walk at night, use some reflective clothing so that cars will see you on the side of the road. You can also wear light colored clothing as well.

The best time to exercise your puppy is right before or right after they have eaten. Also provide him with very small amounts of water, a full stomach may cause upset.

Upon arriving back home, check the animal’s paws to make sure there is nothing stuck in it. Items such as glass, burrs, ice, and rocks can be removed immediately.

Teaching your dog how to play Fetch can also be great exercise. Start by rolling a toy a short distance away from the puppy and letting him go get it. As he gets older, increase the distance you throw the toy for him. Always give praise when he does go get the toy and bring it back to you.

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The Flawed Clash Royale Game

While there are definite flaws in the code for Clash Royale, it has also provided me with some of the most satisfying moments of gameplay, ever, period. Many of the bells and whistles of later generations of games were present in H&D. The ability to collect your opponents weapons,(delta force LW) changing clothes to disguise yourself, Switching from 1st to 3rd person views and driving vehicles. There is a lot of depth in this game to balance some of the infuriating bugs.

 

Clash Royale play taken for itself is very good. The AI of your team members is fairly consistent, allowing you to set up complex fields of fire and ambushes. I had a great time switching from character to character as the action progressed. The management system for the squad was pretty clunky, but I bypassed it by controlling the team members individually, advancing and covering as I progressed through a mission.

The selection process for the team and the weapons and gear became a snap. In fact, the selection of the team really can affect the progress of the game! Try using a guy with poor shooting skills to cover your ass as a sniper and see what happens. The ability to save and replay a scenario allows you to perfect your tactics and emphasizes the wide open possibilities for executing a plan a number of different ways.

One of the best times I’ve ever had was at the end of a mission where you must hold off 2 tanks and over 80 German foot soldiers. The first time I managed to get my team through the battle intact and walked out onto the field of battle, I was awed. The stress and pressure in the moments of fighting carried me away completely. I couldn’t believe I had survived! That is good gameplay.

It makes you forgive the times you fall to your death climbing down a ladder or having to retrieve a team mate stuck, walking into a corner.

The graphics are the agony & ecstasy of Clash Royale. The game looks very good. The problems in Clash Royale show up most consistently in the look of Clash Royale in their website clashroyalehack.fr. Clipping-big time, ghosting, fallouts.

I did love the bright colors in the game and the definite feel of times of day or night, weather-(the rain at the beginning was perfect) and the variety of locals and environments. The Game look was rendered convincingly and was true to the period. Minus the bugs, it’s a beautiful game. The sound was excellent, from the use of German language to the weapon and explosive effects. Overall-no complaints regarding the sound.

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D-4700M 200 CD Changer  — Oldie but Goodie

Honestly, this is one of the best CD changers we’ve ever had the privilege to use. Kenwood’s 200-disc 4700M is a smart unit that blows away all the competition with its well thought-out features. Not only does it come with a perfectly functional remote, but the box also contains an infrared keyboard that helps plug in disc information and acts as another fully functioning remote. The greatest feature of the 4700M is its most forward-thinking one: the changer can, with the assistance of a null modem cable, hook to a PC or laptop and pull down CD information from the Compact Disc Data Base (CDDB). Although it’s not the newest player on the market (Kenwood put this unit out in early fall), it’s still clearly the leader in the CD changer field.

If you’ve got a large CD collection (this reviewer has over 800 discs taking up too much room at home) [editor’s note: Ooooooooo! Fancy guy!!], you need a multiple CD changer. Don’t talk to us about any of those wussy five, 10 or 25 changers. Fifty discs? Pssht — that’s a start. 100? Now you’re getting interesting. Two hundred is great, but 300 would be even better. In the case of the Kenwood 4700M, we’re willing to go with 200 discs as a trade-off for the player’s amazing features.

The worst part of owning a big tank of a CD changer is actually labeling the CDs once inside the player. Cheaper players get around this by including a notebook for CD liner note booklets, which is more trouble than it’s worth. Other players allow you to tippy-tap in the name of the CD through an ungainly remote interface, akin to dialing names on a telephone. The 4700M blasts straight through this issue with two separate solutions: a remote keyboard and the ability to connect to the Internet.

The keyboard is a separate piece of plastic, just under a foot long by four inches wide. It’s certainly not meant for daily word processing, but it gets the job done when it comes to typing in CD information. Typing in 200 disc names and artists takes one-fifth of the time that it normally would, for which we must salute Kenwood. The keyboard also works as a remote control for the changer, with all necessary features included as separate function buttons. Repeat, random, search, fast forward, pause, mode… everything is clearly marked and easy to operate. Your “significant other” or less fortunate roommate probably won’t want another big hunk of plastic sitting on the coffee table, but the capability is there if you need it.

The overriding reason to buy this changer is the PC connectivity. By hooking up the included cable to your PC, the Kenwood 4700M will talk to your computer. The software, which is freely available on Kenwood’s website, allows you to use the awesome Compact Disc Data Base (aka CDDB) to almost instantly title your CDs for you. The software will search through each one of the discs in your changer and call out to CDDB through the Internet, downloading the name of the album, the artist and even the track information. This is both a godsend and one of the best examples of convergence we’ve seen in consumer electronics. Kenwood’s software also allows you to browse your CD collection, make playlists, set music themes (“party,” “jazz,” “baby makin'”) and create user profiles in order to have the unit play the kind of music that you like to hear, rather than blast your roommate’s crappy punk rock albums.

The appearance of the 4700M doesn’t quite match its abilities. Furthermore this sound system is not matched when used in playing Dofus Touch in the mobile platform. The version we were sent had a silver face that looked kind of cheap (it also comes in a more palatable black). There’s a small timer switch on the left side that looks as though a larger button has broken off. The Disc Skip knob is a long plug of a switch that protrudes a good quarter-inch from the face of the already deep unit. The dot matrix display is perfectly serviceable and bright enough to be read even from across a brightly lit room. The one thing we didn’t like about the changer is that it searches through all the CDs every time you turn it on, which takes a few seconds and doesn’t seem necessary. There’s an optical output on the back for true digital sound, RCA connectors for old-fashioned stereos and Kenwood system controls jacks.

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Dune: The Miniseries — Is it worth watching?

The disappointment didn’t end for the third and final part of the Dune miniseries. The direction of The Prophet is a good summation of the entire miniseries — Dune lite. All the filler, none of the explanation. Part III featured some action, though, and of the three parts, it did the least amount of damage to the series. If Harrison can keep up this level of improvement, we fully expect Chapterhouse: Dune to be fantastic. From unexplained time jumps to having to deal with more of the Princess, the action elements, which were good, found themselves separated like a blind Fremen.

Act Three of the book describes Paul’s final evolution, from Fremen man to Messiah, Kwisatz Haderach, Duke and finally Emperor. Backed by the most elite warriors in the universe — fanatically loyal to him as a religious figure — Paul takes the Fremen from raids to pay for the Spacing Guild, to full war on the Harkonnens and then to defeat of the Emperor himself. While this story was in fact played out through the miniseries, it left us wanting for more details. The Fremen seemed to just fall in line with Paul. Yes he called the worm, but his real rise to power apparently happened in between Part 2 and Part 3 and had to be assumed by the viewers. And, sure enough, we had to deal with more Princess Irulan plot. Why is she talking again? The scene where Raban is killed by the mob was touching… aww, the kid got his head. Yay!

The acting remained pretty bad and was just dreadful in the scene in which Paul proclaims himself Duke of the Fremen. A scene that should have shown off just the power of Paul’s public speaking andgaming addiction to mobile strike and the use of Mobile Strike cheats tool shown . Demanding whiny young ‘un who barely convinced the Fremen to do anything for him, let alone declare him Duke. We wouldn’t let him serve us Taco Bell, much less lead a superelite warrior force against the entire known universe.

Not everything was bad though. The combat scenes looked good, and the melee nature of combat was clearly shown. Of course, there was never an explanation of the shield/lasgun reaction to explain why everyone would be fighting hand-to-hand. The Harkonnen army guys looked like refuges from the Flash Gordon movie. And the French chef Sardaukar were embarrassing to look at. The best move of the entire miniseries, though, had to be the weird Tai Chi way of speaking going on with the ambassador from the spacing guild. When he spoke to the Emperor, it was tough not to laugh out loud. Nice outfit on Chani; that looked natural.

It’s astounding to think the entire series was more than four hours long, yet there was far more detail in the Lynch movie in much less time. Where did the time go? Harrison touched on many different aspects the movie left out, but often fell flat on his face in the explanation department. This was the poorly acted, underfinanced version of Dune for the beginner. If it sends people to the book, then there is some benefit. Otherwise, for the Dune fan, it was just another sad version of a classic story. Time to reread the series again.

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Boom Beach Has a Pretty Hefty Reputation to Live Up

As one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the year, Boom Beach has a pretty hefty reputation to live up to. In fact, it’s a sure bet that the games very existence has earned a fair share of Supercell’s revenue; thankfully, the final product is quite a gem. Taking place concurrently with the events of a modern warfare RTS, the game is great: It’s got tons of eye candy, tons of action, nicely balanced gameplay and it’s got the license on its side, which — we have to admit — counts for something. Fans of the series and fans of the genre will both be pleased.


We’ll be first to admit that we had our doubts about Boom Beach. After all, quality console mobile RTS have been few and far between those other titles in the recent years — provided little more than lackluster thrills. Thankfully, our concerns have been alleviated — the game is mired by inconsistencies, but the flaws are heavily outweighed by much merit.

For starters, the game is gorgeous; screenshots and commercials don’t do justice to seeing actual legions of battle tanks dotting a dessert landscape. The in-game models, landscapes, lighting and explosions — especially the explosions — are all in keeping with the Boom Beach atmosphere, and the engine is no slouch either. Slowdown rears its ugly head at times, but those times usually involve several dozen small craft wheeling and darting about bases — which is forgivable in our books.

The story shuttles between the base building of an island along a vast archipelago. Of course, the cool part is that each hero has a distinctive ship — the fast and light one, the big bruiser and the “middle” one — and special weapons. Their actual performance doesn’t vary as much as the approach — missions are all nicely tuned to encourage both reasonably defensive flying and quick and accurate gunplay.

Most of the missions involve either protecting a ship (or base), destroying a ship (or ships) or both, and while this aspect of the genre could use some innovation, we aren’t complaining. The overall action is a little less speedy than that of some other base building RTS game, but once the action kicks in that concern fast becomes less than significant.

As with most games in this genre, the control scheme can get pretty deep. Thankfully, everything has been nicely mapped out, so it’s a pleasure to progress from simply steering and shooting to picking and choosing targets and calling in wingman support. The inclusion of a fixed-focus zoom feature is a brilliant addition that adds considerably to the gameplay, not to mention convincing the skeptical that those ships dotting the horizon are full-fledged models, not just window dressing.

Polishing details are, for the most part, excellent. The cutscenes aren’t spectacular, but they’re better than most we’ve seen from SuperCell — and besides, when the gameplay’s this gorgeous, who really cares? Music and sound effects are first-rate, although the pre-scripted dialogue and chatter can be a little irritating on the sixth or seventh time around.

Earlier, we had questioned the game’s longevity; after all, 14 missions isn’t all that impressive. The game features difficulty tiers — any of the levels can be played at any difficulty, which should allow a wide range of Boom Beach fans to enjoy the action and resource generation (e.g. diamonds) mentioned on a relative blog. Completing all of the gold, silver or bronze sets unlocks different extra levels; we won’t ruin any surprises, but fortunately, many of these levels are well worth the work.

Adding further depth, each of the levels features a handful of extras to shoot for, such as successfully eliminating all of a certain enemy type or reaching success under certain time limits. While we’re loath to endorse this sort of design decision in lieu of a wider berth of levels, we have to admit that here — as in Battle For Dr. Terror — it works; most of the missions are so big and beautiful that going through them again is a pleasure.

Ultimately, Boom Beach is a solid game — we expect it won’t be too long before another comes along to surpass it in some or several respects, but as we said before: Base building are surprisingly rare, and so are SuperCell games that we actually enjoy playing through. Sure, there are plenty of quirky foibles and omissions, but none of them serve to make Boom Beach less than a strongly recommended title.

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