fredag den 21. december 2012

DarthSatoris’ Top 10 Video games of 2012

I’m not usually a guy to make lists of things, usually because these things are a pain to make. Why? Because I’m terrible at prioritizing and judging games on their own merits and comparing them to other games for that. So why am I making one now? Simple answer: Because I feel like it. It’s my blog, I can write what I want.

2012 Has certainly been an interesting year for video games. We’ve had small successes, large successes, sequels that were great and sequels that were not so great, and we got a few new IPs as well as some interesting restarts of old franchises. The list of games to choose from is immense, but even if that’s the case, I’ve had some serious trouble actually finding ten games for this list. It shouldn’t be the case, given the above statement. But I found that even though I bought a lot of games this year, I bought fewer than last year, and enjoyed even less. I’ve always fallen back on games I played last year or a few regulars from this year, but I did manage to find 10 that I would recommend to my fellow gamers that came out this year. I have made some compromises to make it to top 10, but I still think my list is worthy of notice. So without further ado, here’s the list!


10. Scribblenauts Unlimited

Sometimes the small joys in life are the best ones. Scribblenauts Unlimited is a small puzzle game that gives you the opportunity to let your imagination go wild. One of the defining features of Scribblenauts is its magical notepad that can spawn whatever you want. Not only that, but you can also add attributes or change their size. Ever seen a rainbow colored dancing Cthulu? How about a gigantic, nervous fire hydrant? Maybe a tiny, green, flying whale? No? You can in Scribblenauts, and it is hysterically funny, every time.

Scribblenauts started out as a Nintendo DS game a couple of years ago and has since branched out to more platforms. And now it has arrived on PC, which has given me the opportunity to delve into the happy and frolicking world of Scribblenauts, even though it has some disturbingly dark undertones. You have necromancers, grave diggers, a zombie invasion, a prison break and a public execution among other things. You even have to resurrect someone from death so they can be with their loved one again. Talk about necrophilia…

There are of course restrictions on what you can spawn from the notepad, particularly vulgar or sexually themed items. I tried to write things like “penis”, “strip club”, “tampon” and “condom”, none which were included in the game. And rightfully so. That would’ve been a lawsuit waiting to happen. But things like dead guy, human brain and even using a human eye as a pizza topping are viable puzzle solutions. Which to me just testifies for the amount of liberty and creative space this game gives you.


9. Tribes: Ascend

Tribes Ascend is a Free To Play title that takes the gameplay bugs from the first Tribes games and made them a core part of the game. Speed, aerial combat, more speed, jetpacks and skiing. That’s right. Everything in this game is about reflex aim, prediction skills and speeding across the battlefield at swindling speeds. It’s actually one of the few first person shooters in the world to sport a speedometer. That alone is testimony to the ridiculously fast paced nature of the game.

Since it’s a Free To Play game, it’s free to download and try out. And the pricing is reasonable too. You can get everything in the game with the in-game earned XP, but you can also spend a little real coin to get your hands on some of the expensive stuff early on. But the game has had its fair share of ups and downs over the year, with people proclaiming it dead before it even took off. Hi-Rez however, keep updating the game with new weapons, new maps and keep fixing performance issues and actually listen to the community. So I have no qualms in putting this game in my top 10.


8. Alan Wake (PC)

Okay, I’m cheating a little bit with this one since the game originally came out in 2009. But it would take until 2012 for this game to see its release on the PC, my primary gaming platform. And why it wasn’t released here earlier, I cannot understand. Alan Wake is the latest game from Remedy entertainment, the same people who brought you the first two Max Payne games, so you know the quality isn’t compromised. Taking the role of the writer, Alan Wake, you’re thrust into a world of mystery and the stuff of nightmares. Many compare this game to many of Stephen King’s works, but having only read one of his shorter stories, I can’t really justify making the comparison myself, so I’ll just have to trust my fellow gamers when they say so. Nevertheless, the game itself is a thrilling experience from start to finish and you get your fair share of spooks along the way. In fact, the first hour or so of the game almost scared the living daylights out of me when walking through an abandoned sawmill seeing silhouettes in the distance slowly approaching and things moving around on their own. After that, the game wasn’t as scary, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.


7. Mass Effect 3

One of the biggest releases of the year and certainly also one of the most anticipated games in recent times. Mass Effect 3 is the third and final piece in the Mass Effect trilogy where we follow the adventures of Commander Shepard and his/her crew on board the Normandy in the fight against the Reaper invasion. Now, the reason this game isn’t higher on the list is, as you might have guessed already, because of the ending. If you’ve somehow managed to miss out on the uproar and outrage of the absolutely terrible ending, please tell me how you managed to leave the solar system. It was breaking news everywhere and it was the main discussion point for weeks after the game’s release at most places on the Internet where video games are discussed. Bioware and EA knew they were in deep shit and had to do something, so a few months after the ending had engraved itself in everyone’s subconscious, they released the Extended Cut DLC free of charge. It did sweeten the ending a bit, but did in no way fix everything.

But again, that’s just the ending. There’s more to the game than the ending, and that’s something people (me included) tend to forget. The ending is only about 3 % of the game. What about the remaining 97 %? Many people agree that most of the game was great, almost damn near perfect. It fixed some of the gameplay issues from Mass Effect 2 and refined the overall experience with great music, great set pieces, brilliantly written characters and a very nice and well paced story. Still, the ending soured many people’s overall experience with the game, mine included, and that’s why it gets place no. 7 on my top 10.


6. FTL: Faster Than Light

One of the games that came out this year that turned out to be surprisingly fun to play. FTL was my first ever experience with the genre Rogue-like. What’s a rogue-like, you ask? One defining element is permanent death. Once you’re dead, you’re dead, and you have to start from scratch. But it’s not completely unforgiving, as the game can be finished in an hour or so, so you won’t lose days of progress. But dying is also part of the game, and every playthrough is guaranteed to be different. FTL lets you take control of your very own space ship where you have to get to the end of the path while fighting mercenaries, rebels and pirates along the way, while also helping others, shopping for new stuff, upgrading your space ship, and kicking ass while trying desperately to survive all encounters.

The game is brutally hard. Even on easy I still have yet to defeat the end boss. Some have criticized it for being unfair, but I consider it more like a game if Solitaire. Some games are winnable, some games are not. It all depends on the structure of your current game, as well as your micro management skills.

I was surprised to find this game enjoyable, as it is a very simple looking game. But underneath the surface lies a very potent and complex game that will rip you to pieces if you’re not careful.


5. Castle Crashers (PC)

Again, kind of a cheat, but Castle Crashers didn’t arrive on PC until September 2012. I had heard good things about this game from the console people, but I couldn’t experience the game for myself until now, so it’s going on my list. Basically, Castle Crashers is the kind of game you could expect to get if you took the best and weirdest parts of Newgrounds.com and turned it into a game. It is 50 percent odd, 50 percent strange and 100 percent brilliant in its execution. A Pseudo-3D beat-em-up game in classic cartoon style with some really dark humor that takes you across forests, caves, deserts and more areas I haven’t even discovered yet. And it’s more fun if you get some friends to play with you too. It is, after all, a 4-player coop game, and you can even play four players locally, provided you have enough controllers to go around. Should I give it some criticism in its current state, it would be the unfriendly PC controls, as most flashing-button decals in the game shows Xbox controller buttons and not keyboard buttons.

It is without a doubt a game I have had some heartily good moments with, and I don’t think I’ve laughed as much as when I played this game with a good friend. That’s why it gets the 5th spot on my top 10.


4. Borderlands 2

To be honest with you, I didn’t like the first Borderlands game very much. It felt strange and foreign to me. Not really like a shooter, but something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on. And the PC version wasn’t all that great either, so I left the game and never looked back. But then Borderlands 2 came around and I got intrigued, something I shouldn’t since I didn’t like the first one, right?

Well, since my first encounter with the Borderlands universe, I had learned about the Action-RPG genre and I knew then and there what had irked me in the first game: It wasn’t a straight up shooter, like I thought it was, and judged it as such. Big mistake. So when I got Borderlands 2 and fired it up, I gave it a chance. I played for a few hours to get a feel for the game, and what do you know? I ended up liking it. In fact, I ended up liking it so much it’s currently my second most played game in my Steam library, only topped by Team Fortress 2. And with the added DLC those hours will only grow.


3. Spec Ops: The Line

I don’t think anyone saw this game coming. I certainly didn’t. A run-of-the-mill modern military shooter that wasn’t a run-of-the-mill modern military shooter after all? Spec Ops: The Line is without a doubt one of those games that will stay in the back of your mind hours, maybe days after you finish it. With an unusually dark story and some of the most disturbing imagery I’ve ever seen in a AAA title, Spec Ops not only takes storytelling to a whole new level, it also constructs itself as a potent commentary on today’s modern military shooters and discussing their complete and utter detachment from the real world’s military actions and the stress and complications that comes with it. It also goes in and deals with some seriously controversial issues like the use of White Phosphorus (a napalm alternative that is even worse than napalm!) or shooting scared and angry civilians in self defense. Something that your average Call of Duty or Battlefield wouldn’t have the guts to do.

It’s a third person cover-based shooter much like Gears of War, but the controls aren’t as tight and the general gameplay isn’t as smooth or fine tuned as many other third person shooter titles out there. But what makes this game stand out from the crowd and what makes it unique and worthy of your attention is its ballsy move to tell the story it does. The fact that this game starts off slow, only to hit you in the face with a frying pan about two hours in makes for some very unique and engaging gameplay that makes you want to continue the story.

I knew from the very beginning I was headed into some dark stuff when I fired up the game for the first time, after hearing the praise about it, but I didn’t expect it to be this gruesome. And this game should not be spoiled in any way. It should be experienced by playing it yourself.


2. Awesomenauts

What is this game, and what is it doing in my no. 2 spot? Have you ever played League of Legends and thought that the concept of the game was nice, but the gameplay was kind of shit? Well fear no more for Awesomenauts has come to the rescue. Awesomenauts is a 2D platformer that takes the concept of games like DOTA and League of Legends and creates a new and fresh experience that is not only fun to play, but feels better than DOTA or LoL to boot.

I got this game recommended by a friend during the free weekend a few weeks ago, and after having played a good portion of it, I can safely say that this game is one of my all time favorites. I’ve never liked League of Legends, DOTA or any of the top-down one-man games, mostly because I think the control scheme is absolutely horrid. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to use the mouse for movement? This is also why I want to like games like Magicka and Torchlight, but I just can’t. The mouse controls quite simply robs me of any joy I could have in these games. I want full control of my character’s movement and I want to walk in one direction and shoot in another. Thankfully, Awesomenauts gives you the ability to do just that.

Other than the just mentioned, I can’t quite put a finger on what makes Awesomenauts so good. The graphical art style is very colorful and vibrant and is very inviting. It has a great feel of “Saturday morning cartoon” to it. You know the cartoons you used to watch in the morning as a kid in the 80s or 90s? Yeah, like those. The characters are all varied and different and give a nice variety in play styles, so if you’re bored of one kind of Naut, you can just pick another one the next round. The music is also brilliant, especially the intro song. It is easily the best theme song of 2012, no contest. Ronimo, the studio behind the game, also updates the game regularly with new characters and new maps all the time, completely free of charge. So that is also a plus. It’s also got a healthy player base so you should have no problem finding matches online.


1. Far Cry 3

When I first heard about this game, I was not really that interested in it, so it was very low on my radar for most of the year. I hadn’t even played the first two Far Crys, so why even bother? Well, fate would have it that I stumbled upon some gameplay footage of Far Cry 3 that not only sparked my interest in the game, it almost lit me on fire, just to drag out that analogy a bit more. So I bought it, full price, day one. A dangerous thing to do, considering the fact that I didn’t really know what I was headed into. But I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.

Being a first person shooter, open world game set on a tropical island, you take the role of Jason Brody, a snobby rich kid from Santa Monica who was out skydiving with his friends before they got captured by local pirates and got sold on the black market as slaves. After breaking out from the prison, you take on the mission to rescue your friends and hunt the pirates with an arsenal of varied and deadly weapons. And being the open world game that it is, there’s plenty of room to fool around in. I’ve caught myself in often just observing or hunting down animals on my way to an objective, often because I’m a horrible person that needs his cave man instincts pleased and because hunting animals in this game feels fresh and rewarding. With plenty of pirate outposts you can liberate and radio towers to climb, relics to uncover and locals to help, you’re definitely settled for many, many hours of entertainment. And almost none of those hours feel rushed or frustrating, it’s all extremely fun.

Almost everything in this game is great. The feel of the weapons, the variety of said weapons (seriously, how many games can you name that has a bow and arrow with exploding arrows?), the vehicle physics, the music, the scenery, the interesting characters, I could go on like this for a while.

Of course the game isn’t without its fair share of flaws. It has some strange texture popups, the sound quality isn’t always as great, the enemy AI is a bit thick skulled from time to time and once you finish the main campaign there isn’t much to do afterwards. But all of these tiny inconveniences aren’t enough to taint the broader image. Far Cry 3 is truly one of the greatest shooter experiences we’ve been offered this year, and anyone who likes a good shooting game owes it to themselves to play this one.

onsdag den 21. marts 2012

Mass Effect 3 has a terrible ending…

It’s not even up for debate. Bioware has created one of the best games in a long time. It reeks of good quality, the gameplay is crisp, the visuals look really nice, and the storytelling of the game is also top-notch. It all blends so well together and it just feels so nice, you almost can’t wait to see what Bioware has in store for the epic grand finale…

And then when you’re done, and the credits roll, you can’t help but sit there with a really sour taste in your mouth. And in this blog entry, I’m going to give you my two cents on why the ending of Mass Effect 3 should be changed or ignored into oblivion.

Mind you, spoilers will be in this blog entry, so if you don’t want the ending spoiled, and want to see the ending for yourself, I would suggest you play the game first, and then return here.

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Commander Shepard is the stuff of legends. We’ve pretty much established that already. We’ve spend the last 2 and a half games on building up his legacy. We should know… So why is it that when the final battle comes, when the final conversation is made, the final decision is chosen, everything goes to hell? It doesn’t make sense.

The very fact that what you decide in Mass Effect has consequences later on in the series is the cornerstone that has gotten it so popular and fresh. So when all the decisions you have made in the past three games are thrown out of the window and you’re left with three different choices that are near identical to each other, you feel cheated out of a great deal of content.

The way they did the ending is puzzling to me. You have so many variables to manipulate with up until the very end. All the decisions in the first game can be imported in the sequel and you’ll get a completely different game out of it. And you can do the same from Mass Effect 2 to Mass Effect 3. So you get well over 1000 different variables you can change over the course of the three games. The ending could take form in so many different ways, but it ultimately disappoints because no matter what you up until this points, it’s all discarded and you’re left with three endings…

Three endings. That’s it. Three silly endings. And these three endings aren’t even all that different either. Fans have joked about the ending ultimately being about choosing the color of the explosion, and no, they’re not exaggerating. Look them up on YouTube yourself if you’re in doubt. There’s a compilation of the endings side by side, and it’s almost depressing to watch. This is not an ending that is Mass Effect worthy. This is either a rushed ending because “we couldn’t think of something better and ran with this idea”, or a terrible way to be artsy.

The fact that you get to choose in the end is something I’m baffled about. Why would I want that? I’ve molded and sculpted my Shepard character with every choice I’ve done up to this point, my actions should decide what end I should get. I don’t want a last chance “detour” choice. If I’ve rescued X, Y and Z and allied myself with F, G and R, I should get one ending corresponding to that. If I lost X but saved Y and Z, but didn’t ally myself with F but with T instead, and chose G over R, I should get an ending that corresponded to that. The ending of Mass Effect 3 doesn’t do that. It gives you the choice of three different colored endings no matter what you’ve done, end of discussion. No difference whether you saved X, Y and killed Z or saved Z and killed X and Y. No difference if you allied yourself with everyone in the galaxy or left them all to die. The ending is the same. And it’s the same every time. The Reapers don’t care; they’ll fuck up your shit anyways.

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But that’s not the only thing the ending does wrong. It’s just ONE of the many reasons I don’t like the ending. Another reason is because it opens up for many more questions than it actually answers.

The ending goes like this (spoilers galore, you know the drill):

In the beginning of the game, you discover blueprints for a big weapon that wipe out the reapers from a Prothean archive. Admiral Hackett then spends the entire game building this oversized pea shooter while you’re traversing the galaxy playing politician. The reason the Protheans didn’t get to use it was because they missed the last piece of it: The Catalyst. No one knows what it is until they find another prothean beacon that tells them that the Catalyst is the citadel. So the citadel is taken under siege by the reapers and you spend the last two hours of the game battling your way into it. Once inside, you meet the Illusive man. He dies and you faint. And then comes the part where everything goes to shit. You wake out by a hologram of a dead kid you couldn’t save in the beginning of the game, and he tells you that he is “the leader” of the reapers. He then starts babbling about synthetics and organics being unable to live side by side and synthetics will destroy organics at some point. More questionable information later, he gives you the three infamous choices: You can control the reapers and have them bend to your will, but Shepard will die. This will result in a pretty, blue explosion. You can choose to destroy the reapers, but destroy all other synthetics in the process. This includes EDI and the Geth. Shepard can survive this, but in most cases he won’t. This will result in a nice, red explosion. The last option is the synthesis option, which will fuse all organic life with synthetic life and create a form of symbiosis, Shepard dies, and will result in a pretty, green explosion.

Regardless of choice, the reapers are taken care of and the mass relays are destroyed, leaving everyone in a technological dark age. After that, we get a cutscene of the Normandy flying away through the mass relay network being chased by the explosion, and it strands on an Earth-like planet with your crew on board. What boggles me is how the hell did the squad mates I chose to take with me in the final push suddenly end up on the ship??? The Normandy was in the fight against the reapers above Earth, and Joker shouldn’t chicken out and flee through the mass relay in the middle of the fight. Especially not with my squad mates on board. And lastly, we’re treated with a clip of some old geezer with his (I assume) grandchild looking up on some planet/moon while talking about “The Shepherd”. It just adds to the confusion and leaves me with so many questions…

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Why use the kid as image for the catalyst?
Why only those three options?
Why can’t Shepard say "NO!" and kick that kid in his face?
Where is Harbinger, and why is he so important in ME2, but not in ME3?
What happens with the remaining troops in the sol system?
Why is Joker fleeing through the relay network?
How can Garrus and Liara be on board the Normandy when they were at my side fighting reaper troops mere moments ago?
How did the Illusive man gain access to the Citadel?
Why can’t the reapers be defeated without destroying the mass relays?
Where are my allies in the final push toward the bright tower thingy?
Where are Aria’s mercs, the Krogan, the Turians, the Salarian STG, Geth troops, etc. etc.?
How do my actions throughout the game define the outcome of the final battle?
What happens to Admiral Anderson?
Was Shepard indoctrinated or not?
What happens after the Control ending?
What happens after the Destroy ending?
What happens after the Synthesis ending?
Can the mass relays be rebuilt?
Who survived the final battle?
What happens to all the characters that survived the final battle?
What is up with the stargazer and his grandkid in the last video clip? Who are they?
Does Liara have any of my blue babies? I was promised blue babies!
What happened to the people on the Citadel? Dr. Michel? Kolyat? Commander Bailey? The council? Aria?

All these questions are legitimate and deserve an answer. But the question I want an an answer for the most is probably: Why are the reapers’ theme/purpose a massive ripoff of the anime "Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann"?

If you look back in my blog archive, I have made a review of the 26-episode anime without too many spoilers. But I can tell you this much: While playing through the end, the first thing that came to my mind was that anime. It’s without a doubt still one of my favorite animes to date, but that doesn’t give Bioware the right to steal large portions of it. The "leader", who fans have nicknamed the "starchild", is pretty much this meta-physical entity that singlehandedly oppresses all organic life to not develop beyond a certain point that they’ve decided. This sound eerily much like the Anti-Spiral from TTGL. He also oppresses organic life; “spirals” as he calls them (because of the DNA double helix resembling a spiral to some degree) with huge machines that pop out of nowhere when organic life has developed beyond a certain point. Sound familiar?

In the end, I can only hope that Bioware will listen to the fan outcry sooner rather than later. The fact that a poll on the Bioware forum shows that over 58,000 people are unhappy with the ending should be quite a hint, or more like a wave with a flag pole to be honest. A Facebook page titled "Demand a Better ending for Mass Effect 3" has also gained over 49,000 likes. And a charity initiative for the cause has already hit the $75,000 milestone. All the money goes to Child’s Play charity.

Fans are already brewing conspiracy theories, making their own endings, making fun of Bioware’s previous statements of a “diverse ending dependent on your choices”, and when your fans start doing this, you just know the ending you’ve made is FUBAR.

Please Bioware, don’t let Mass Effect 3 die a horrible death, don’t disappoint your fans. It will only end badly for you.

onsdag den 15. februar 2012

Cooler Master Cosmos II: A customer’s insight

Here’s the thing: The PC case I used to have, was getting worse, and worse and worse every day. And when the power button suddenly broke off so it doesn’t say *click* when I press it anymore, I had enough. So I decided to go look for a new PC case and my search started at the Steam Forums. After getting some recommendations from the users there, I stumbled upon the Cooler Master Cosmos II Ultra Tower. Needless to say, it was like love at first sight.

Although it was expensive and really, really big, I decided to buy it. And this is my first impressions/overview of the case. Or at least, that’s what I’ll try to do. I’m not an expert, but there’s so little information about the case out there as of now, a little insight from my side couldn’t hurt, could it?

But to get back to the case, let’s start with the size. This case is not big, it’s not huge, it’s not enormous; it’s a gigantic behemoth of a case. No, really. It’s so big it doesn’t even fit under my desk. My desk is a standard 72 cm tall table, with maybe 2-2.5 cm desk thickness, so the free area below my desk is around 69-70 cm. This case has a total height of 70.4 cm so it’s off by a centimeter or two. But I’m not complaining. My room needed a good cleanup anyway, so I used most of my Sunday afternoon cleaning out the corners of my room where I keep all the random stuff. The case then got a nice spot next to my table and it’s looking good.

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I knew it was big when I ordered it, but I was still blown away by the size of the box it came in. It was big enough to cause us trouble transporting it around, but we managed to get it home to me. So after unpacking it and putting it up on the kitchen table, I could only admire its majestic beauty. And if you’ve seen pictures of it, promotion videos or even seen it for real, I’m pretty sure you can agree, that’s it’s one fine looking piece of hardware. But of course looks isn’t everything. It’s the functionality of the case that matters and I’ll get right to that in a minute.

My experiences with the case so far have been great. There’s plenty of room to work on, on the inside, there are lots of holes in the mother board tray for cable management, and most of them are covered with rubber grommets.

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The back side of the mother board tray is also very open so you can hide almost all cables behind your mother board tray so there are no cables visible in the main chamber.

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Mounting stuff in the case is also child’s play. Hard drive bays can slide in and out and have an easy-to-use locking mechanism. The same goes for optical drives. You remove the 5½” drive front cover, slide the drive into place and press a big fat button on the inside and the optical drive stays put. There are also two hot-swap drive bays on the front with key locks. This is quite handy if you’re one that switches a lot of hard drives around, for whatever reason that might be. Mounting the mother board itself was quite easy. With the case comes a little plastic bag full of screws and extenders so everything you might need is already in the case. The expansion slots on the back are held in place with thumb screws so there’s no need for tools when you have to install or switch out graphics cards, sound cards, etc. I would recommend a screwdriver for the first time though, as they’re screwed in really hard from the manufacturer.

The case comes with five ventilation fans, one 200 mm fan on the front, one 140 mm fan in the back, two 120 mm fans on the side and one 120 mm fan on the top. There is room for another two 120 mm fans on the top, two 120 mm fans on the side and one 120 mm fan right behind the front fan. So there is potential for ten fans in this case. The “control panel” on the front allows for LED and fan speed control. This is done by wiring all the power through the panel out to the fans through a series of 3-pin connectors. If the fans you have installed supports LED lighting (the front fan does), there are also ten connectors that look like small dragon heads that control the LEDs as well.

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There are four buttons that control fan speed: “TOP” “FRONT” “HDD” and “GPU”. Depending on how you’ve wired the power, you should be able to control the individual fans with each of these buttons. It should be said though, that the fan on the back of the case is not controllable by default (unless you rewire it to be). There are three preset fan speeds; low, med and high. These are indicated though special lighting on the front panel. Blue is low, purple is med and red is high. When you press any of the front panel buttons, it makes a loud “beep!” sound, and when activating the “high” speed option it makes three beeps.

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Staying with the front panel, the power and reset button are also located at the fan speed buttons. All of these buttons can be hidden by a sliding cover. Beneath these buttons are a bunch of ports and access points. There are 4 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, one microphone jack, one head phone jack and one e-SATA port. The USB 2.0 ports can be connected to the motherboard with the standard 10-pin connector, the USB 3.0 ports are connected with a 20-pin connector and the mic jack, headphone jack and e-SATA ports are connected the standard way.

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(USB 3.0 20-pin connector)

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This case does support HD audio but also comes with a AC’97 connection, if one prefers that.

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The case supports up to thirteen hard drives (including the two hot-swap drives), but it begs to question how many mother boards can support this amount of hard drive capacity, let alone finding a power supply that can muster enough connectors to feed them all with power. This brings me to the power supply mounting. This was a bit tricky for me, as I had trouble fitting my power supply into the hole on the back of the case. It did fit, but it wasn’t easy getting it in. After that came the mounting, and this was difficult as my power supply had somehow managed to bend the mounting piece out of shape so it didn’t fit. But with some trouble I managed to put it in its place and it was all good. There are dust filters on all the openings so dust shouldn’t be much of a problem. They’re also easy to dismount so cleaning them is a snap.
I live in a relatively small room so when I switched my components over in their new home I worked under some poor conditions. I used my bed as a table and had to twist and turn both the cases around a lot, so I can say it’s not ideal to work with this case in a small room. It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s expensive, but in the end it’s all worth the trouble.

So, is the Cooler Master Cosmos II the ultimate case any enthusiast gamer/PC hardware geek should have? Depends on how much you want to spend on it and how much space you have in your house. If you have your setup in a relatively open room without much clutter, and you have some good income, I’d say go for it. If you don’t have your setup in an open room, like me, but still have a few extra bucks to spare? If you can make room for the case, go for it. If you don’t have your setup in an open room and don’t want to spend too much, go for a cheaper case like the Storm Trooper or the HAF X. They’re also nice cases and can fit under tables. That’s a plus.

Lastly, if you want to see more images of my setup, all the images shown above and more can be found in this album:

Cooler Master Cosmos II Album.

søndag den 27. november 2011

Battlefield 3 vs. Modern Warfare 3 – my two cents.

If you play video games, you’ve probably heard about this battle before. Ever since Modern Warfare 2 was released, I’ve been a part of this fight as well and in this blog entry I will give my reason to why Battlefield 3 is better than Modern Warfare 3.

Now, I’m very well aware that both games have different styles of play and feel different overall, but since the publishers (Activision and EA) decided to make this personal, I’d figure I jump the bandwagon as well. So I’ll set up my comparison in a few, but thorough steps, discussing various topics involving both games. So here we go!
First I’d like to talk about the similarities both games have. If you ask a MW3 fan or a BF3 fan, you’d no doubt get something like this: "Those games are nothing alike. [My game] is much better than [the other game]!", but even though they are quite different, they also have many things in common. First and foremost, both games are first person military shooters set in a near future. They have guns from the real world; they are both very popular AAA titles and both have a theme of a worldwide war between the US and Russia. They are built up on the same recipe to some extent, but this is also where the similarities end. Let’s start out by examining the graphics and the audio from both games. If you’re a MW3 fan, you’ll no doubt start to think; "Oh no, not this again. We know BF3 is better looking, but there’s so much more to a game than graphics!", and you’re right. There is much more to a game than graphics, but bear with me here. As you all probably know, Battlefield 3 is the first game to utilize the brand new Frostbite 2 engine from DICE. If you still haven’t gotten a full grasp on how amazing it is, you can go check out the Tech Demo video here. Compare this immense new graphics engine to the visuals of Modern Warfare 3. Let me give you a heads up what is behind the graphics of MW3. The graphics engine of the Modern Warfare games is called the IW Engine, which is a heavily modified Quake III engine. Quake III was released back in 1999, making this game engine almost 12 years old, if it hadn’t been for the tweaking over the years. The first usage of the IW Engine was in Call of Duty 2 back in 2005, but since then, it hasn’t grown much bigger or better. A developer on Sledgehammer Games has issued a statement claiming that “The IW engine is like a Porsche. It’s ‘clean’ and ‘easy to upgrade’”. However, if you look at the improvements made from MW2 to MW3 and compare that to Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3, you will see an enormous difference. One cannot argue that most of the graphics in MW3 is simply copy/pasted from previous entries in the franchise. The sounds, the lighting, the animations, the gameplay and loads more is simply "borrowed" from previous games because the developers seemingly are too lazy to actually make something new and interesting. I’m sure some of you reading this have heard of the infamous “house” in one of the maps, and if you haven’t, you can get the story here. If you still claim this isn’t copy-pasta, your head is so far up your ass that you can’t be talked into sense anymore. Moving from the graphics, let’s talk about the audio. If you didn’t already know, DICE are famous for their sound systems. They have been praised with every game they’ve ever released for their sounds, and that tradition is not neglected in Battlefield 3 either. If you heard some of the explosions, the gun fire, the echoes and realistic sound delays you can hear in the far distance, you know you have experienced something special. If I should describe Battlefield 3’s sound system in one word, it would probably be “ear-gasm”. If you compare this sound system to the sound system of MW3, you’ll almost immediately know which one is the superior version. From all the game play I’ve seen of MW3 so far, I can only say that it sounds dull, flat, and not at all interesting. Again they’ve recycled sounds from previous entries; one of the most obvious is the default assault rifle. On one of the YouTube videos, a user went as far to say it was “the trademark sound” of MW games. If it’s that obvious, maybe you should start to rethink your planning Infinity Ward…

The next thing I want to talk about is the Single Player campaign. So if you still want to play Battlefield 3, and don’t want the story spoiled, skip this part.
The single player campaign in Battlefield 3 is without question the game’s weakest link. It’s heavily scripted, linear, full of Quick-Time events and it feels like the corridor shooting you’d otherwise find in smaller budget games like Singularity and the new Wolfenstein. The story itself is also somewhat shallow and doesn’t really feel like it knows where it wants to go. But with that said, it’s still an engaging campaign. The game is built up as an interrogation scene where Sergeant Blackburn is being questioned for his accusation that New York will get nuked within a couple of hours, and you need to link the individual events together to clear up the mystery. All the gameplay is presented as the reports Blackburn gives to his interrogators.
Sound familiar? It’s the same basic structure as it is in Call of Duty: Black Ops, and that is not something I’m keen of admitting. Why DICE thought this was a good idea, I don’t know, and I probably never will, but fortunately they didn’t also copy the gameplay. I’ll now tell you one thing that Battlefield 3 does better than Modern Warfare 3 in its campaign: VEHICLES!!! More specifically, the tank mission. Oh boy, oh boy was that an awesome level. You play as another soldier than Blackburn and you get to drive around in a tank across the desert fighting enemy tanks in close quarter combat, and after that, you drive through the city, smashing through shopping malls and run over enemies. It was a great level. But what comes after that level is probably something I’m going to remember for a long time. When you reach your end destination, your tank is disabled by enemy fire, and you’re captured. After that, you wake up bound to a chair with a camera in front of you, and a couple of terrorists to your sides. One of them is Solomon, the main villain of the game. He stands there, playing with your son’s toy you brought with you to Iran. He rants about heroism, and finally throws the toy to the ground. The camera starts running and you can only sit there and helplessly watch as Solomon draws a knife, holds it close to your face and then lowers it to your throat. You hear the sound of the knife cutting through your flesh and the screen goes dark. Just sitting there, experiencing the hopelessness and helplessness of these terrorist hostages being executed on camera, it was probably one of the most eerie experiences I’ve ever had in a video game. Not even the Dead Space games had that kind of effect on me. I’ve seen some of the actual real-world footage of these kinds of executions, on the news and places, and the screen went black when the execution started so we were spared the gruesome images. But just imagining sitting there not being able to do anything and your fate is in the hands of those psychopaths, it wasn’t possible for me. That part gave me a somewhat similar experience I imagine, but it’ll of course never be the same.

I’ll honestly admit that I’ve never played any of the Modern Warfare campaigns, but based on what I’ve seen and heard, it is this Hollywood Block Buster type of campaign with huge scenery being blown to bits, and major scale battles and whatnot. I can understand that people like this kind of campaign. It’s fast, it’s filled with action, it has the hero who must save everyone and it has the villain who is a prick and must be stopped at all costs. This is all fine and well, and I appreciate that. Also, lots of people prefer the campaign of the Modern Warfare series over the campaign of the Battlefield series (be it Bad Company or Battlefield 3). It certainly has to say something when even the opposition says something good about it. I however, cannot say anything because I haven’t played it. But I still want to point one thing out; The Eifel Tower scene in MW3. People have been talking about this particular scene so much I have not been able to avoid it. And yes, I’ve seen it and it looks good. The spectacle is brilliant and it looks like a Michael Bay film. But people claiming that BF3’s campaign can’t hold up to it, are dead wrong. There are quite a few parts in it that I feel are way more thrilling than simply the Eifel Tower toppling. Also, I think BF3 took the Eifel Tower thing as a challenge, because they nuke the entire city as a response.

Last but not least, we are going to talk about the multi player aspect of both games. Battlefield has always been about large maps, lots of players and vehicles. That is a recipe that has always been a success among hundreds of thousands of people who have played Battlefield over the years. With the Bad Company series, a new feature has been introduced that has come to stay; destructible environments. Something I’ve yet to see in any other major shooter. And this new feature brings for some interesting new gameplay. Not only can you counter snipers by blowing up their cover or just blow a hole in the wall to make a new route to the objective, you can also topple buildings on top of the enemy troops, use jeeps as battering rams and my favorite; cover a wall with C4 right behind an important objective, just to see the enemy’s face when he is blown to bits when trying to capture it. If anyone here has played the map Damavand Peak in Rush, the first area, MCOM A, you will know what I’m talking about.
The gameplay in Battlefield is slower than in Modern Warfare 3, but that isn’t to say that it is actually slow. It’s quite fast paced actually, and if you play the more infantry oriented maps like Operation Metro, Seine Crossing and Grand Bazaar, you’ll see that the game can be just as hectic and fast paced as Modern Warfare 3. The gameplay in Battlefield 3 is also more focus on team play. Something that MW3 definitely has not. It rewards individuals more than it does teamwork; it rewards more for kills than it does objectives. That is where I need to put my foot in the ground and say stop. When you play multi player, you more often than not, play in teams. And teams demand teamwork. MW3 is more lone-wolf oriented in both its design and its reward system.
That’s another thing I want to talk about: The reward system. Modern Warfare 3 has a reward system that could be described with the Danish phrase “Gaveregn” directly translated as “present rain” or “gift rain”. You get rewarded constantly in Modern Warfare games, and that can eventually lead to becoming quite stale over time. In Battlefield games however, the reward system is much slower and rewards team play more than it does individual skill. Doing the objective your squad leader has pointed out gives you more points. Giving med kits and ammo kits to your team and squad mates earn you more points. Suppression fire gives you bonuses, kill assists give you points for how much you’ve helped, and not a predetermined +20 as it is the case with MW3. You earn just as many points by reviving your team mates as you do by killing people, so be the bigger man and don’t think about your K/D ratio and help your mates. Repairing friendly vehicles earn you points as well, and you team mates will be thankful for you doing so.
So as you can see, Battlefield’s gameplay is much more oriented on teamwork rather than lone-wolfing. It therefore also requires some good communication skills, tactical skill and what have you. Modern Warfare 3 on the other hand is much more infantry oriented as they have no such thing as destructible environments, vehicles, or larger than 400 m2 maps. It’s more of an arena type game if anything. It doesn’t have the same kind of thrill you get when you dive down towards the battlefield in a jet and spraying the enemy tanks full of lead, then pulling up, turning around and then mowing down the survivors. Battlefield 3’s supporters has a catchphrase; “MW3 lets you call an airstrike, Battlefield 3 lets you BE the airstrike!”, and I couldn’t agree more.

All in all, the multi player aspect of both games are quite different from one another. Battlefield 3 is a massive-scale vehicle and teamwork oriented style of play, and Modern Warfare 3 is more of an arena–sized, instantly rewarding, lone-wolf oriented style of play. And my preference is without a question the former.

IGN held a voting competition between Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3 not too long ago on YouTube, and it was about the three categories I’ve also covered in this blog; Graphics, Single Player and Multi Player. The vote ended up with Battlefield 3 winning all three categories, something that has apparently sent all MW3 fans into denialism. If you visited the comments on the Results video and on this Facebook status, you will no doubt be unable to count the times this phrase: "BF3 just got more because MW3 players were still playing the game" is uttered. In fact, it’s been uttered so often that I start to doubt the intelligence of said players. If what you claim is true, then why are you there commenting in the first place? Using the tiny bit of psychology I know, I’d say they’re in denial because they didn’t win, even though they outnumber BF3 players by a large margin.

One last thing before I end this rather long blog entry. There is another reason I can’t stand the Modern Warfare games. And that is their neglect of the PC market. I’m a PC gamer, always have been, always will be, so I demand that the things that make the PC the superior platform are kept in a game. It all started with Modern Warfare 2 and their sudden decision of dropping modding support, dedicated servers and advanced graphical changes. I was furious to see that they simply shat on the very platform they got big on, just to grab the quick cash on the console market. It was a decision that would forever change my opinion on the Call of Duty franchise. The greedy black-suits at Activision trampled on the good word of CoD and has since then become a thorn in my eye. I cannot stand their business models, their abuse of people’s loyalty to a franchise and their ignorance for grabbing the cheap buck. You do not pay $60 for a copy-paste job and you do not pay another $15 for a few recycled maps from previous games. That is just absolutely beyond stupid.

This is DarthSatoris, back from the grave.

søndag den 6. marts 2011

Humans: The stupidest creature on Earth.

I know, the title alone is very provocative, but I want you to read it all, and think about what I have to say.

Humanity is arguably the most influential animal species on Earth. We've come very far since our initial spawn in the African wilderness. We've wandered thousands of miles, crossed oceans and habited areas that seemed completely ridiculous to settle down in. We've built up large societies and have made vast technological progress. We are the result of hundreds of thousands of years of persistence and dedication to our survival.

It is good. No, it is great. We as a species have come far and will get much farther than any other species from Earth ever will. Then why am I accusing us for being the stupidest creature on our small blue globe?

Think of it in a broader perspective. We are the only species that slowly kills itself. We wage wars against each other over trivial matters like territory, power, moral values and what invisible man in the sky we worship. We also deliberately try to screw each other over all the time, with pricing products too high, selling unnecessary products, or broken products to each other for profit. The other animals don't do that. Sure, I've heard of chimpanzees waging wars against each other, but you have to remember that they are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. We just do it on a much larger scale.

You also have to look at the culture we have as a species today. Over the past few decades, technology has developed at an exploding rate, and our culture has changed with it. Not in the right direction though! The more we get exposed to the internet, online communities and the like, the more dependent we get. Today we are extremely dependent on electronic devices and vehicles, in order for our day to function. 30 years ago a cell phone was a rarity. Everyone is wired up to the global network in some way or another, and we could not dream of living in a world where these technologies are nonexistent. This dependency could become the downfall of our existence, if this development continues to progress.

In order for these technologies to work, they need power. And where do they get these powers? By burning fossil fuels and harnessing sun and wind powers. But let's focus on the fossil fuels: We drain the Earth from this natural resource so quickly, that it is impossible for the Earth to keep up with the demand. For millions of years, no animal even thought of using fossil fuels for anything… and then humans came along. We are idiotic and stupid not to grasp the consequences for the complete drainage of fossil fuels, and we are not focusing enough on sustainable energy that could save us from the inevitable depletion of oil.

It is also apparent that we, as a global society, have failed. I say this because of the massive poverty and misery in Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Serbia. We also haven't been successful in bringing forth scientific theories like the theory of evolution, because religion still has its large grip in humanity. Religion is a huge problem regarding science and technology, because science contradicts religion on so many levels. Yet human culture is built up from religion, so it's a conflict between knowledge and tradition. What do we choose then? As sorry as I am to realize this, humans are creatures of habit. We let religion rule our world and keep the science away because it is difficult to understand and doesn't fit in with what we already "know".

We're in constant conflict. We're always arguing, hating and discriminating. We can't care for our brethren in the third world. We can't neglect religion and focus on more important things like science. We stay in our personal bubbles, we ignore the things we don't like and do not think about the broader consequences of our actions.

We are… the stupidest creature on Earth.

(This blog entry might not be entirely accurate as it is based on my current knowledge and view on the mentioned topics.)



søndag den 13. februar 2011

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion.

First of all, forgive me for writing about an anime series two times in a row, but this is something I just have to write about.

What do expect when you sit down and prepare to watch an anime you've only heard good things about? Do you want to sit through it, try to nitpick it to death to prove everyone wrong? Do you want to watch it so you can say "I've seen that one, good anime"? Or do you do something completely different? What do you do?

Personally, when I started to watch Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (a.k.a. Code Geass) I didn't expect much. I heard good things about it and that it was a more mature anime than what I usually watch, so I figured I could need some more serious anime going on. What I did expect was a mature anime about mechas (yeah, it's anoter mecha anime, but mechas are not the main plot drive in the end) and corruption, what I definitely didn't expect was an anime that was this complex and fantastic. Just like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Code Geass has a very lot of topics flying around all the time, but Code Geass isso much more serious about than the aforementioned anime. Greed, corruption, romance, technology, insanity, mind control, the fight for freedom, internal conflicts and the necessary evil are all topics that are experienced in Code Geass.

Code Geass is set in an alternative universe where three super powers; The Holy Britannian Empire, The Chinese Federation and E.U. (Euro Universe) have shared the world among them. The latest addition to the Britannian Empire is Japan, renamed as Area 11. Discrimination, poverty, corruption and sorrow has broken out among the Japanese people, now known as "elevens", and no one can really do anything about it. Until one day when a Britannian student, Lelouch Lamberogue stumbles upon a mysterious woman who grants him the power to give commands to anyone he meets and they are carried out without hesitation. Even suicide. This has, according to himself, vastly fast forwarded his plans of destroying the Britannian Empire once and for all. What follows is a series of events where he gains power among the people, gets equipment and soldiers, tricks one enemy after another and almost destroys the Britannian part of Tokyo. I will not spoil anything from this point, as it would ruin the entire anime if I did. I would like you to go and watch it yourself at some point in your life, even if you're not a fan of anime.

It is parted in two separate animes, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion and Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2. The first part is about the uprising of the Japanese people and the second one is about Lelouch's personal quest of gaining the means to destroy the Britannian Empire. Both have to be seen consecutively, as they don't make much sense seen separately.

Code Geass is without a doubt one of the best animes I've seen, from the start till the very end. If you're into a mature, complex, philosophical, action packed, suspenseful mecha anime, I would advise you to check out Code Geass.


 

I promise that my next topic won't be about another anime, but I will not say that it'll be my last either. Peace Out!!!



søndag den 6. februar 2011

Tengen Toppa GURREN LAGANNNNNNNNN!!!!!!

I have no idea how to start this blog. I really don't. I really want to write about this anime, but the impact it made on me makes it hard to do anything. It is so to speak an indescribable anime… or something, I DON'T KNOW!!!

This anime… is unlike any other anime I've ever seen, and when I say something like that, it means a lot. As I read above, I don't know how to begin this blog, so I guess I'll start by explaining what it actually is about.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (otherwise known as Gurren Lagann outside Japan) is an anime about a young boy who lives underground in a colony, blissfully unaware that a world on the surface exists. However, another colonist, another boy he regards as his brother, although they are not related, persistently tells everyone that there is a world much greater and far less dangerous than the one they are in now, but no one believes him. That is, until a monstrous mecha breaks through the colony's roof, revealing the surface world. The young boy, named Simon (pronounced "Seemon") and his 'Bro' Kamina both team up with a smoking hot girl (whose name is Yoko), who crashed through the roof as well on the hunt for this mecha. Together they defeat it and head out for the surface world. Here they meet similar mecha, called Ganmen or Gunmen, depending on who you ask, and they face greater dangers on their journey to bring all humans back to the surface.

Persistent and determined, they conquer these Ganmen from the Beastmen who control them, and make their way to destroy their main base. Anything further explained would be considered a spoiler so I won't go into more detail than that, but I can say that this journey brings them beyond the stars and they ultimately fight a battle on a galactic scale. And that has to be taken literally. The final battle is between two Ganmen standing ontop of a freaking galaxy, throwing other galaxies at each other!!!

The Endeavour from a hole in the ground to dropkicking the greatest threat to biological life directly in its ugly face is one that is indeed unexplainable and it has to be seen in order to be understood fully. There's no denying it, if you see this anime, you'll be left speech- and breathless at the finale. It is something completely out of this world and definitely has to be experienced.

There's so much going on at the same time and there are so many genres in one that it can't really be called by any specific genre other than the general Science Fiction. There are mecha, evolution, parallel universes, space battles, the end of the world, technology progression, brotherhood and death, all in one big pot of awesome.

Holy cow, I found it, the word to describe this anime. The one word that has the power to manifest this anime's entirety in a single written line of symbols:

AWESOME! Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is awesome and there's nothing that will be able to tell me otherwise.

So many things are "awesome" today, but if we look into the very word itself and see its actual meaning and potential, it is the true word to describe this anime. You may think; "awesome is a nice word but it's kinda lost its 'oompf' effect because of overuse", and I have to agree with you. However, the literal meaning of awe; "Awe is an emotion comparable to wonder but less joyous, and more fearful or respectful. In general awe is directed at objects considered to be more powerful than the subject, such as the breaking of huge waves on the base of a rocky cliff, or the thundering roar of a massive waterfall" – Wikipedia, we can see that its meaning is something that is beyond our own grasp of power. We can't control the waves and we can't suppress the waterfall, we can only stand beside it and wonder, respect it and perhaps fear it. Take this into account when I describe this anime as awesome because it's that exact interpretation that I wish you to hear.


 

If you're on the search for something out of this world to entertain you and fill you with a feeling of having witnessed something unique, I suggest you fuck the hell off to find the nearest copy of the Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann anime series and I will guarantee you, there is no way in hell you will ever regret it, EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!