NHL GameCenter Live on PS3: featureful but buggy

I’m a hockey fan. It’s probably the only sport I enjoy watching. I also happen to be one of those new age hippies that doesn’t pay for cable or satellite… streaming content is the only thing I care about. I am not interested in paying for channels that do not interest me, so I don’t see the merits in paying for TV I won’t watch just so I can subscribe to NHL Center Ice.

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TurtleBeach EarForce PX21 Review

Console gaming headsets are in a weird place. On one hand, they’re relatively cheap and plentiful. On the other hand, that low price point means the drivers inside aren’t great. Hardware manufacturers like to cover this up with bass response, the PX21 set is no exception.

Though I don’t think you can even find a headset for consoles that doesn’t color the output, it isn’t any excuse for making cheap junk.

The big downsides are often similar across manufactures and models, comfort for extended sessions and quality.

TurtleBeach’s PX21 headset looks fine on paper, it has a great mic that is super-flexible, and is the first headset from TurtleBeach to support the PS3. It also supports the 360 and PC gaming.

The immediate downside is simple.

There is a terrible hissing noise.

You can minimize it by swapping out the included red/white RCA bypass jacks for going straight to your TV or hi-fi tuner setup’s headphone audio out jack, and then adjusting that system’s volume up. Then you turn the volume down on the PX 21’s built-in amp.

But that still doesn’t eliminate the hiss, and it is extremely annoying during any part of a game that has quiet spots.

Games with quiet spots are why I own a PS3, I don’t play just shooters; I play games like Heavy Rain and I don’t want the quiet points in games to be marred by the ear-piercing whine these produce. Even the recent Red Dead Redemption sounds like crap and gives me a headache due to this headset’s hissing noise.

Of course to hook them up they need to be plugged into the PS3 (or other device) via USB for power. On the 360 you’ve got a special bypass cable to chat through the controller. On the PS3 the connection is simpler since the chat audio goes straight through the USB cable.

This means the headset is really mixing two inputs, the game connection over the RCA (or headphone jack)  input and the chat audio over the USB wire or the supplied 360 bypass cable.

This design of two mixed inputs is either brilliant or stupid. Brilliant because it works around every situation you might want to use it in, stupid because the hardware TurtleBeach has chosen is so cheap it can’t really give you a clean sound.

The PX21 headset is otherwise extremely lightweight & comfortable. It also covers the technical bases of supporting the PS3, 360, and PC gaming. I hope TurtleBeach will go back to the drawing board to design a headset that doesn’t hiss, even if it means raising the price slightly. Maybe in some magical laboratory somewhere these things don’t hiss, but other reviews corroborate my testimony. As it is I cannot recommend this headset unless you only play loud games that have little-to-no quiet points, like Modern Warfare 2.

Even then you should keep your receipt, I returned the PX21 headset to Best Buy after just 24 hours.

MadCatz Super Street Fighter 4 Wireless PS3 FightPad Review

There are a lot of choices when it comes to playing fighting games at home. You could go with the full Arcade experience and buy your own Street Fighter cabinet, or maybe you just want the joystick portion.

Maybe though you’re more like me; too cheap even for the MadCatz fighting sticks. Though most of the Street Fighter community seems to consider sticks to be the only option, I only play for fun. So that’s why I went with the FightPad.

You might be surprised to find that the fightpad is wireless since MadCatz goes out of their way to hide the USB wireless dongle in the bottom of the packaging. It doesn’t even use bluetooth, opting instead for the el cheapo 2.4 Ghz RF technology. More importantly, it is still extremely responsive despite all that.

Playing with Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix and Street Fighter 4; I didn’t notice any lag. So, maybe they are right to hide the dongle, I wouldn’t have bought it if I had known. The battery solution for the pad is a standard battery AA housing on the back like the MS 360 gamepads. However, this gamepad doesn’t include contacts for the 360’s rechargeable battery pack. So you are on your own for that.

The directional pad and saturn-esque button layout is a tremendous upgrade from the Dual Shock 3. Just like the original fightpads you can still swap the dpad’s toggle to control either the left or right analog sticks if you’re trying to work with a game that doesn’t support one or the other. The turbo functionality works just like it should, tap the turbo button once and then the button you want to repeat; then tap that button again and it’ll repeat.

It probably wouldn’t be too surprising if I told you that the build quality isn’t great. I’m not even sure it suits the $40 price tag at most retailers. The buttons feel loose, and the noise they make while the pad is in motion isn’t  reassuring. Though that probably doesn’t impact their accuracy,  the quality is going to impact the controller’s lifespan. Moreover it makes it me wish for a “tournament edition” of the fightpad with higher-quality parts. I don’t like wasting space in landfills. You can tell already that this pad is going to end up broken and sent to one within a few months of dedicated playing.

This FightPad isn’t limited to fighting either, it also works really well with emulated games. Though the dpad shows up as a joystick hat, which is kind of strange. I tried out Sunset Riders with it, and can say that this is perhaps the ultimate way to play Sunset Riders.

Overall it is easy to recommend the pad to folks like me, casual players who are too cheap or don’t have the room for the larger arcade-style fighting sticks. Dedicated players will wear it out in time, but even they should enjoy it while it lasts. My understanding is that the 360 version is similar, but wired.

Finally, a Burn Zombie Burn! Review

Everyone is a fan of Zombies, and some people are in the Scott Sharkey fan club. What you get when you combine the two?

A review of Burn Zombie Burn! over at 1up:

Burn Zombie Burn gets straight to the damn point. There are zombies. You burn the holy screaming hell out of them. Then, if you’re so inclined, you run into the burning mess of deadguys holding a lawnmower out in front of you. You can share this experience with your peers, if you’re so inclined.

Nice to know if the game is any good, I just wish things had worked out so the review would have gone up before the game.

3-On-3 NHL Arcade (PS3) Review

nhl_arcade3 On 3 NHL Arcade is the first PSN game I’ve tried where the demo version converts to the full version with just a token download. It is also fantastic with just a few minor nitpicks, and one big one.

  • Minor: Your teams, while easily distinguishable, are just red/blue. So you can’t pick the Flyers and get their jerseys.
  • Minor: Limited player selection, you can’t pick the Flyers and get their players.
  • Giant Humongous Failure: No friend invites/searching for friend games

What were they thinking with the no friend invites! In order to play versus a friend I had to set the custom unranked game to play-to a certain number of goals so my buddy could find it when he searched for a custom game. I know the PSN isn’t the best in the world, but I’m sure that NHL 09 had some kind of system for inviting friends, right?

Despite all that, I heartily recommend NHL Arcade, it is a fun game with almost all of the complications removed. In the place of those complications remain the tight skill stick or button controls, and cartoon stylings to the characters along with power-ups.

Killzone 2 (PS3) Demo Impressions

After setting up an EU PSN account, I downloaded the Killzone 2 demo and here are my quick-take impressions as posted on my twitter feed:

  • the killzone 2 menus are neat
  • “Unass this thing” Really?
  • yay, kz2 lets you remap controls so I can use my RealTriggersâ„¢
  • I can’t make crouch a toggle, wtf?
  • KZ2 graphics are beautiful.
  • Acceleration on the view controls is a little weird, as is the fact that you can melee (rifle butt), or stick a knife into those pigs..

Finally, the gameplay is extremely similar to COD4:MW, this is not a bad thing. Right now I’m sure I buy the idea that the enemy AI is superior to that of the extreme dumbass AI in Gears 2. Though the Hellghast do seem to cycle through their routine faster, which is a nice change. It is also nice to see them attempting to flush me out with grenades instead of just vice-versa. Overall, an enjoyable demo, which ended with perhaps not the best slice of gameplay. I’m excited for the finished game later this month and will post a full review some time after the game is released then. Until then I will be content with the pile of games I haven’t finished yet and confused as to why on earth sony would push Resistence 2 over Killzone 2 last fall when KZ2 is arguably the superior game.

Instructions For Downloading the Killzone 2 Demo without a Pre-Order

Many folks are like me, unwilling or unable to pre-order Killzone 2 from Gamestop in order to get the Killzone 2 demo. For whatever reason, here are step-by-step instructions for setting up an EU PSN account so you can download that demo without pre-ordering the full game:

  1. Create a new e-mail address from any free service like gmail.com
  2. Create a new user on your Playstation 3, you can do this from the left-most column of options on the XMB.
    I suggest using a name like <YourRegularUsernameHere>EU. I have TimeDoctor as my regular PSN name, and TimeDoctorEU for the EU PSN downloads.
  3. Proceed to the second icon from the right of the XMB, “Playstation Network” and make a new Playstation Network account.
  4. Here you will want to select the United Kingdom as your Country or Region.
  5. Select English as your language, of course.
  6. Use the e-mail address you created earlier in the dialogs that follow.
  7. Use the username you created earlier as your new online ID.
  8. The last thing you’ll need to do is to find a valid address in the UK, and enter it.
    I recommend placing yourself at TimeDoctor Games, Onslow House, Onslow Street, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 4TN
    But that is just a suggestion 🙂
  9. Go into the Playstation Store and download your free demo of Killzone 2!

Now you’re all set! If anything went wrong, feel free to ask in the comments. Don’t forget about all the other cool paid content the brits get that we don’t like Command and Conquer PS1 and Dark Mist! Also, these instructions can be used for almost any region, just find another mailing address and email address.

Real Triggers Review (PS3)

realtriggers2Most people would probably expect the Dual Shock 3 to be the best of both worlds; the useless wobbling from the SIXAXISâ„¢ disaster, and the great design and heft of the Dual Shock 2. Unfortunately, someone at Sony forgot to fix the triggers (R2, L2) for first person shooters.

Most likely they don’t understand why that is important for shooters.

Well, that is all in the past now, and what we’re left with is terrible for shooters or anything else that relies on you to retain your grip on those triggers. Fortunately, some kind pacific rim company is popping out these accessories as depicted in the above diagram which repairs the issue. I’ve finally got a pair of the “Real Triggers” via amazon and can say they work as intended. Not sure they’re worth the $5 they go for on amazon, but they’re still good.

Now the only problem is that some games refuse to let you rebind the button layout so you can use your newly repaired triggers. Battlefield: Bad Company I’m looking at you.

F.E.A.R. 2: Scary Slider: Demo Impressions (PS3)

Dear Horror Games,

You’ve got Audio sliders for volume levels, and difficulty sliders for difficulty levels.

Why not Horror sliders for Horror levels? So if I’m about to go asleep, I can turn it from bleeding-walls and scary little girls to flowers and puppy dogs?

Other than that, the FEAR 2: Preposterous Subtitle Demo on PS3 has good shooting mixed with a mediocre PS3 port. At one point the audio in the demo cut out almost entirely (not due to Spooky/Scary sound effects as far as I can tell), so I quit the game out of frustration.