Tag: sawyer mckay

Holiday gifts for the gamer in your life

The holidays are nearly upon us. “But it isn’t even December yet!” you may say. That’s exactly what I think every year right before the Christmas season hits me like a ton of bad fruitcake.

It’s as if some hidden conductor gives an anonymous cue to commence with the annual yuletide symphony all at once.

It’s easy to be caught at unawares and end up doing a lot of last minute gift shopping for friends and family. This is where I will offer what assistance I may.

Nowadays, it seems everyone and their grandmother plays at least some type of video game, whether it be Call of Duty or Candy Crush.

The chances are that even if you don’t play video games yourself, you have a loved one who does. So, whether you want to find the perfect gift for friends and family members, or you just want to do a little shopping for yourself this season, don’t get inundated by the litany of this year’s new titles with no idea which ones are actually any good.

Check out the 2014 holiday video game buyer’s guide that I’ve compiled below. Included are some of the best reviewed games of the past year in few different categories so as to encompass as many gaming tastes as possible, from family-friendly racers to gory hack-and-slash adventures.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

I know, I know. “Call of Duty is just the same thing repackaged every year!” Believe me, I was jaded too. But this one is different. Sledgehammer Games has revolutionized what some consider an old, tired series with the addition of the Exosuit, and it makes all the difference. The fast-paced, fluid gameplay that’s so familiar, when combined with a host of new features like the Exosuit’s movement and improved Pick 13 create-a-class system (not to mention KEVIN SPACEY!) definitely warrants giving the series another go if you thought your COD days were done. IGN REVIEW: 9.1/10

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Tolkien nerds, rejoice! It’s been a good while, if ever, since a game has done The Lord of the Rings universe justice. Shadow of Mordor combines a solid combat system similar to that of the Batman Arkham games with a story that is both original and respectful of the source material. Slaying orcs is heaps of fun, the game is gorgeous, and it’s chock full of tidbits of lore that hardcore fans of the books can geek out over. IGN REVIEW: 9.3

Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart has been around since the days of the SNES, and the series holds a special place in the hearts of many Nintendo fans. This newest iteration is perhaps the most refined entry to date. You’ll race along at a breakneck pace (with a silky smooth 60fps frame rate) in the air, under water, and—brand new in Mario Kart 8—on zero-gravity segments of both new maps and classic favorites. IGN REVIEW: 9.0

For full reviews of all the above games, go to IGN.com. I find it to be a great source for reliable reviews and news in the gaming and media industries.

As always, feel free to send any questions, comments, or suggestions by email to smckaychanticleer@gmail.com or contact me on Twitter @ChantyTech

Sawyer McKay
Staff Writer

Faster feline flashbacks, PS4 updates in time for holidays

YouTube has recently introduced the capability to play videos in higher frame rates. For those who aren’t familiar with tech lingo, think of the cat video you’re watching as being a slide show that is moving so fast that your eye perceives it as natural motion. YouTube was previously capped at 30 frames per second.

This means that there were 30 individual “slides” in every second of video. Now users can upload at up to double the frame rate. This makes for much smoother video playback, and the difference is immediately noticeable.

In order to take advantage of this, you’ll have to be using Google Chrome or Safari 8 and select the 720p60 or 1080p60 option when watching a video. (It may work on some mobile browsers, but the desktop versions of Chrome and Safari are the only confirmed browsers at this point.)

This is especially good news for anyone who watches video game trailers or gameplays with any frequency. Until now a video could never be an exact representation of how a game will actually look when played if the game ran at a higher frame rate than 30fps.

In the near future, developers are sure to take advantage of the upgrade so that potential consumers can get a more accurate look at their product.

In other news, Sony rolled out PS4 firmware update 2.00 on October 28th.Verison 2.00, announced at Sony’s Gamescom press conference back in August, is the PS4’s first major update since its November 15 launch last year. It brought a heap of new and highly anticipated features to the console. Below is a brief overview of all the new functions.

– Share Play-One of the most touted new features, this allows you to take over the controls in a friend’s game over the network.

– Themes-Users can now download custom themes from the PlayStation Store. (There is no support for player-uploaded backgrounds as of yet.)

– YouTube-Game footage can now be uploaded directly to youtube via the “Share” button on the Dualshock 4 controller, and the YouTube app is now available for download in the PlayStation Store.

– USB Music Support-Music playback from USB storage devices is now supported, but music still cannot be stored on the system’s hard drive.

– Add to Library function-There is now an “Add to Library” button for the monthly PlayStation Plus free games. This way players can add the content to their account without having to download the game to the system, saving storage space.

These are the highlights of the update, and there are a few other minor improvements as well. However, the firmware also brought with it an unexpected issue. Many users have reported that putting the system in Standby Mode, which has been redubbed “Rest Mode” causes the system to freeze in the process of entering its low-power state.

The orange LED that indicates that the system is in Rest Mode continues to flash instead of glowing steadily as it should, and the system becomes unresponsive. If this happens, try holding down the power button on the system for ten seconds to perform a hard reset. It is advisable to shut the power completely off on the system instead of putting it in Rest Mode until Sony releases a patch to remedy the issue.

Have any questions, comments, or suggestions? As always, feel free to contact me by email at smckaychanticleer@jsu.edu or on Twitter @ChantyTech.

Sawyer McKay
Staff Writer

Headphone review: earbuds can be nothing but a bust

What university student doesn’t enjoy listening to music in at least one of its endless forms? Music is an entertainment medium that goes hand-in-hand with the college experience like no other form of entertainment. It can somewhat alleviate the boredom of a painfully lengthy study session. That arduous slog to Stone Center might not seem so terribly long with a few of your favorite tunes. It can be an introvert’s best friend; if you’re not feeling up to bantering with your classmates, just put in some earphones. It should deter a large percentage of your well-meaning peers.

Most people probably have at least one pair of headphones lying around—very likely the stock earbuds that come with an iPhone or a ten-dollar pair from Wal-Mart. Many are totally content with these and will never upgrade, and that’s just fine for casual listening. However, it’s worth investing a little more if you want to get the most out of your music library.

There are some outrageously pricey high-end models out there for those with a finely tuned ear and deep pockets, but I’ll introduce a couple of options here that are more accessible to those of us who live on Chick-fil-A and ramen. If you’re ready to take the leap into the world of novice audio, then check out the following two models.

(Tip: Both of these models are in-ear monitors. They may take some getting used to if you don’t regularly insert foreign objects into your ear canals. Don’t give up on them if they’re a bit uncomfortable at first. Also, it is highly advisable to look up the proper way to insert an in-ear monitor before you start shoving things into your brain.)

Here are a few options:

SteelSeries In-ear Flux
Specifications:
Driver: 6mm
Frequency response: 20 – 20000 Hz
Impedance: 19 Ohm
Cable length: 1.2 m
Jack: 3.5 mm
Price: $50 on Amazon
The In-ear Flux model from gaming peripheral manufacturer SteelSeries is one of the best options available in the $50 or under price range. They have a well-balanced overall sound signature, with a nice kick on the low end, a clear, detailed mid range, and good extension into the upper register. The slim form factor and high-quality silicone tips make them comfortable to wear for extended periods. They also have a single-button in-line microphone for taking calls. These are the earphones I use for music, video streaming, and anything else on a nearly daily basis, and I couldn’t be happier with them.

JVC HA-FX101
Specifications:
Driver: 8.5mm
Frequency response: 5-20,000 Hz
Impedance: 16 ohms
Cable length: 1.2m
Jack: 3.5mm
Price: $20 on manufacturer’s website
For those who want bass on a budget, JVC’s “Xtreme Xplosives” should do the trick. They have a powerful bass punch without completely drowning out the high end, and according to the manufacturer they have been “ergonomically contoured” for a more comfortable fit for a wider variety of ear shapes than the previous model, the FX1X.

Sawyer McKay
Staff Writer

In technology this week: music releases and Nintendo announces New 3DS and New 3DS XL

This is the first of a new tech column series that I’ll be writing here in The Chanticleer.

Nintendo has announced two new models of their popular handheld gaming console, the 3DS. The “New 3DS” and “New 3DS XL” will both be the same size as the existing models, but will feature a number of improvements to the hardware. New ZL and ZR shoulder buttons have been added, as well as a C-button that will allow dual analog control. The new systems are also getting a slight bump in processor speed, improved 3D viewing angles, and integrated support for Nintendo’s upcoming line of near field communication (NFC) figures, called Amiibo. (These will be somewhat similar to Disney Infinity figures.) The new systems are slated for a release in Japan later this year, but reportedly will not come to western markets until 2015.

If you found U2’s latest album, “Songs of Innocence,” in your iTunes library in the past week—and you didn’t download it—then fear not. Bono didn’t hack your Mac to promote the band’s latest LP. As it turns out, Apple announced last Tuesday at the end of the live streamed reveal of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch that it had entered a marketing deal with the band. 500 million iTunes users would get the new album for free, and if you have your iCloud configured to automatically push new purchases to all your devices, the files were automatically downloaded.

Sure, free music is great, but many iTunes users were concerned about the fact that their music libraries were accessed without their knowledge. Especially with recent security scares affecting services such as eBay and PlayStation Network, a heads-up would be nice the next time Apple, or any other company, wants to hand out a freebie.

This week’s music recommendation is, in fact, not U2. If you haven’t heard of Switchfoot, they’re an alternative rock group made up of brothers John and Tim Foreman, as well as Drew Shirley, Chad Butler and Jerome Fontamillas. They’ve been around since the 90’s, but hit the big time when their 2003 album, “The Beautiful Letdown,” went double platinum.

There is a documentary on Netflix called “Fading West,” which explains a good bit about the band’s arrival at its new album.

Their latest effort, “Fading West,” is an eclectic compilation of songs written while the group toured such exotic locales as New Zealand, South Africa and Bali. Most of the band members are lifelong surfers and these destinations offer some of the best waves anywhere. However, the trip wasn’t just for kicks.

They were writing the songs for the new album, drawing on all they saw for inspiration. They also devoted some of their time to humanitarian efforts. While the album is a bit of a departure from the band’s usual sound, the change is welcome, and it’s still Switchfoot at its core. At once uplifting and soberly thought provoking, “Fading West” is definitely worth checking out, alt-rock fan or otherwise.

Check back here each week for reviews and news updates in the world of technology and entertainment, more music recommendations and other content. Have any questions or suggestions? Feel free to contact me at smckaychanticleer@gmail.com or on Twitter @ChantyTech.

Sawyer McKay
Staff Writer