There's this little tradeshow coming up next week, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (aka E3). Maybe you've heard of it? It's where all the hot new videogames come out to play. Yatta yatta yatta. Anyhow, it's a 300-ring circus of a trade show. Since I'm going to be there waving the flag for PC World, I was hoping for a little help from you--the readers--with a little social experiment.
I'm kicking off a digital photo scavenger hunt where you tell me what you want to see me try and get photos of during the show (let's keep it clean, people, I don't want to go to jail for my "art"). Here's what I need you do to:
At the Body Mechanix Gym in San Francisco, Joel Hornsby is the bona fide, certified "Mind and the Machine" master trainer. Can he be replaced by a videogame? To help me find out, Hornsby was good enough to spend an afternoon testing four fitness-focused games for the Wii. We set up a Wii balance board, then fired up some software to see what he thought of Jillian Michaels' Workout Ultimatum 2009, Gold's Gym Cardio Workout, EA Sports Active Personal Trainer, and Wii Fit (the Nintendo title that kicked off the videogaming/personal training craze when it launched a year ago).
What follows are two perspectives--that of an an over-the-hill, out-of-shape Average Joe gamer (me), and Hornsby's professional opinion--to help you select the best-bet at-home game workouts for you.
[Too lazy to bother reading my story? We have a video version for you as well.]
Forget all the yammering about the forced digital upgrade on June 12: After years of gripping a wretched remote and looking at lousy menus, I'm Comcastrating my cable service. Or, at least, I'm seriously considering doing so. After test-driving one $40 app for a couple of weeks, I'm ready to chuck that crummy cable box into the trash and forget about the digital-upgrade scheme. This is the story of PlayOn, the software that could ruin everything for cable providers--if the bugs are ever ironed out.
Imagine a software package that can stream just about any show to your Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or, soon, Wii. Netflix? No problem. Major-network TV shows? Yep. Obscure stuff from Adult Swim? You name it, you can watch it. All you need is a PC and an Internet connection in the same house.
A little explanation: For years I had a pretty sweet setup. I crafted a media center PC, loaded with digital tuners, that serves as the hub in my house. It records all my shows, and it spits out whatever I want to watch over my home network to my Xboxes. Simple, clean, effective.
Dear [Insert name of gaming mouse producer here]: You suck. I can say this with some authority after testing your crummy products for over 20 years. Not only have you managed to create a mountain of useless plastic scrap and punched a hole in the ozone layer the size of New Jersey, but you've also crippled me.
The original idea a few weeks back seemed simple enough: Do straight-up, side-by-side reviews of the Microsoft SideWinder X8 and Razer Mamba wireless gaming mice--both hot-looking products. But plans change. We're taking a slight detour to the doctor's office first.
You know how people always refer to carpal tunnel syndrome and RSI when warning about working at the computer too long? Well, thanks to a lifelong love of games, I'm now a casualty. Man down. Death by WASD--and by slickly designed peripherals that had promised me a millisecond-faster advantage over the competition. The results: two wrist guards and a one-way ticket to physical therapy. Suh-weet! Fortunately for you, I've learned a few things about ergonomics and maintenance as a result. My misery is your chance to learn--and, I hope, your chance to catch any problems you might have early on.
The Wireless Gaming Mouse Deathmatch: Mamba vs. SideWinder
Newly reeducated in the ways of the mouse--and wearing RSI gloves that make me look like a UFC contender--I'm ready for combat. The Razer Mamba and Microsoft SideWinder X8 wireless mice may now step into the octagon.
Presentation Winner: Razer Mamba The Mamba comes in a honking, huge plastic display case. Do they expect me to store this in a museum dedicated to the gaming gods? Once you lift the lid and daintily pull out the separate mini-shelf boxes, you can piece together your peripheral. A little overboard? Maybe. Green? Doubtful.
Pandemic warnings. Entire towns shutting down. Subway riders donning surgical masks. The end wasn't coming with a bang, but with a sneeze and a fever. Last week's news cycle--or the precursor to a zombie apocalypse? Watching TV, it was hard to tell. (Ask the prankster who doctored a BBC News page, or Mike "The Streets" Skinner, who created the mock music video "He's Behind You, He's Got Swine Flu.") I don't know about the flu, but after years of reading horror books, watching twisted flicks, and playing the splatterfest video games they inspired, I'm ready for the walking dead. One thing I haven't prepared for, though, is the sheer number of zombie games rising.
Here's what I'm wondering: Have we officially hit the zombie-meme overload point? I decided to find out--in between bouts of Left 4 Dead and Resident Evil 5 (both great titles)--by playing the latest dead-centric games roaming stores.
A not so long time ago, on a console not so far away, the Lego Star Wars video game came out--and it was great. So were its inevitable sequels. When they followed that up with Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Batman, I groaned a little--but those were still decent. Kid-friendly interpretations of popular franchises make a whole lot of sense. And considering that generations of creative builders have grown up with Lego, I've been okay with the idea of milking a childhood staple.
This week came the news of a Lego Rock Band game. Seriously? Do I really have a need to rock my blocks off? I build my musician cube by cube instead of picking out clothes and facial features? Whoopie. I get to play in fantasy Legotastic locations? Yay. Maybe my niece will be excited. Me? I'd rather see someone take those lovable Lego people in different directions.
Vin, if you're reading this: Quit your day job. Nothing against the movies, really. I actually enjoy the steroidal speed-racery of Fast & Furious. So do a bunch of other people, according to box-office receipts. But if you're going by critical successes alone, the video games you've starred in--and produced, no less--have scored higher.
Going back five years on Metacritic, Diesel's films earn an average of 40 percent. Over that same period, he has worked on three games--Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (it earned a 90), Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (82), and Wheelman (67). Here's the kicker: Those last two Diesel-powered games came out just within the last month.