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Archive for March, 2012

WD Releases its first Thunderbolt External Drives

March 23, 2012 Leave a comment

For those running on Macs and is hurting for an even faster external hard disk solution, WD has just released its first set of Thunderbolt external drives. Official statement is right after this break:

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Mass Effect 3 Review

March 17, 2012 Leave a comment

MassEffect3 2012-03-18 00-51-32-84As of this writing, I’ve been able to go from start to finish and got the ‘good’ ending of Mass Effect 3. There’s been of course uproar over the ending and still many speculate that Bioware may have something up their sleeves to keep us on our toes for hopefully may be the ‘real’ ending.

This review would cover more on the choices made, the gameplay, and multiplayer aspects of Mass Effect 3. The game came out last March 6, and I was one of those who’ve pre-ordered the game. Included in the package is the regular edition of Mass Effect 3, the bonus N7 Armor, N7 rifle and Argus battle rifle, included in Datablitz’s package is a Mass Effect 3 t-shirt. There are no limited editions nor collector’s edition available from Datablitz. The only way to get from here is to either order one from Amazon and ship it to the Philippines or purchase it from Origin. Also, there is a Day 1 DLC called the Prothean Pack which includes a remnant of the old Prothean civilization to get as a team member. However, it will cost $10 to get.

The game covers the arrival of the Reapers to Earth and for those who’ve played the demo or have seen the trailers online, Shepard is currently in custody by the Alliance for his actions in Mass Effect 2 (it would involve the events from the Arrival DLC and from some other incident with the Batarians if it wasn’t played). Reapers attack en masse leaving Shepard to escape with the Normandy and gather as much support from the Citadel allies and fight the Reapers.

MassEffect3 2012-03-18 01-15-35-51 MassEffect3 2012-03-18 00-32-57-96MassEffect3 2012-03-18 00-38-37-97MassEffect3 2012-03-18 00-39-27-97MassEffect3 2012-03-18 00-50-09-13MassEffect3 2012-03-18 00-58-35-52The game offers several play styles. Players can choose a more action oriented style akin to a first person shooter wherein they don’t have to worry about dialogue choices and focus more on the action. There’s an option to play in a story based play through where the player dictates the flow of the story and have easier combat. And of course the traditional RPG game where the player does everything and has control over his choices and dictate how hard the enemy fights.

The main change that comes into Mass Effect 3 is the way Shepard has to garner support from the various alien races that will aid them in battling the Reapers. Now we should know that not all of the council races (and non council races) do not see eye to eye and it would be his job to figure out a way to get them to work together one way or another. Also, this time, Bioware changed the mechanics on morality. Now Shepard’s dialogue choices lead to earning Reputation points aside from the old Paragon and Renegade choices. While there are still Paragon and Renegade choices, some of these would lead to a different outcome, which may affect the increase of the allied fleet’s power as well as character relationships with Shepard. Also if one has played Mass Effect since the beginning (or used the Genesis DLC in place of Mass Effect 1), the decisions made previously affects the universe of Mass Effect 3 quite considerably.

Bioware tweaked the combat, adding more moves to Shepard. moving from cover to cover’s a bit easier with context arrows showing the direction of the next move from the cover. Shortcuts to climbing up crates, as well as sliding through obstacles are context sensitive. However, I find it sometimes difficult to execute or it would lead to not going to cover or overshooting a cover spot getting Shepard clear for enemy fire. Also to those who’ve played Mass Effect on normal difficulty may find it hard to play, as they’ve notched it up a bit more, so playing would require better tactics and the use of context commands to outflank the enemy.

Another improvement they made was to make weapon tweaking an integral part. Aside from the basic upgrade parts that could be collected or bought, players can purchase set upgrades to improve the weapon further. The special weapons found in Mass Effect 2 are still there however they cannot be equipped to be brought along for the duration of a mission. They’re now set-up as discard-able weapons in some missions. This evens out the battle as previously large enemy assaults can be wiped clean by several ME2 special weapons. Mass Effect 3 features the biggest assortment of weaponry found. Picking each and upgrading them to your taste is important as credits is effectively limited. Also, in order to save more credits, it’s better to pick up a weapon during a mission rather than buying it, as several thousand credits would be lost to a new weapon that is probably useful (like the Geth Pulse Rifle).

MassEffect3 2012-03-18 01-09-15-53MassEffect3 2012-03-18 01-16-35-52MassEffect3 2012-03-18 01-27-25-52MassEffect3 2012-03-18 01-35-15-51MassEffect3 2012-03-18 01-40-25-52MassEffect3 2012-03-18 01-30-45-51

Exploring solar systems are no longer too tedious, since the Normandy can now initiate scans from the solar system where areas of interest would be marked for easy launches of sensor probes. However there’s a twist. Since there’s an ongoing Reaper attack galaxy wide, they a threat level would rise every time a sensor scan has been made. Once a threat level maxes out, Reapers would appear and we would have to escape the system or escape through the Mass Relay. this gives an increased effort to sparingly use, or smartly use the system scan. Scanning helps tremendously by providing special War Assets to build up the Allied Armada or credits, enabling Shepard to earn more credits to buy stuff.

Mass Effect 3 has its fair share of quests and some of these are limited in their availability due to movements in the story’s plot. Most of these quests now focus on improving the allied armada’s chances of winning. Some examples would involve finding a unit flag to boost the chances of a war asset of having increased points, or acquiring new assets by rescuing scientists, ships and technology.

Another continued Mass Effect tradition is the character conversations with Shepard’s team members. I would spend time listening on each of the character’s lines while on the Normandy to find funny stuff out of them, particularly fan service like: Garrus’ constant quest in calibrating Normandy’s Thanix Cannons, and his and Joker’s bantering on Human-Turian relations. Romance still plays a part of the game and somehow, somewhere they added Man to Man relationships into the mix (which is why some renegade options are highly encouraged to be picked to avoid having that kind of relationship). The interactions of Joker and EDI is surely not to be missed, especially that they’ve now enabled crew members to be out on the Citadel doing stuff.

New to Mass Effect is the inclusion of a cooperative Multiplayer feature. Instead of playing as Commander Shepard or any of his teammates, we’re playing as regular troops tasked of taking out waves upon waves of enemies (Reaper, heretic Geth, or Cerberus troops). We team up with four other players  (up to four players in a squad) and try to survive 11 waves of enemies with increasing difficulty and mission challenge. Experiences can be earned through killing enemies, or assisting allies like helping them shoot down an enemy or reviving them. Credits are earned at the end of the match or by achieving some of the mission requirements (capturing data nodes, securing data, etc.) Successful missions will increase the preparedness of the allied armada in the game, permitting a better ending. (I think I’ll write a tips entry on how to survive long).

I highly recommend the game for those who’ve been following the entire series, ending notwithstanding as rumors are pointing to an upcoming DLC that would sort things further. Hint: In the previous Mass Effect games, we’re allowed to have a new game plus or continue the game, however I noticed that ME3 doesn’t have it and would ‘continue’ the game just a mission before the final part. Bioware’s planning something and hopefully it’s good.

I’ll update with pictures once I’m able to re-run the game again (I left out some important quests in ME2)

The Php 15000 Gaming PC (Machine Only)

March 5, 2012 Leave a comment

While speaking during the Windows 8 Load Fest last Saturday, I was asked if it’s possible to build a PC to play MW3 (looking good still w/o lags) that is within budget. Note that this set-up will only involve the actual machine itself. OS/keyboard/mice/monitor/speakers aren’t factored in.

Since that was the only requirement in mind, it would still be feasible, as we all know by now that the Call of Duty series isn’t graphically heavy if set correctly. My demo had me turn on all of the bells and whistles and play in full 1080p last Saturday on Windows 8 Consumer Review. That alone had a random variable on a still practically new OS which caused some stuttering all the while playing it at full 1080p.

Since MW3 isn’t graphically demanding, it would still require a reliable processor and graphics card to play full speed. On a low budget machine, we’ll have to consider the reality we cannot get a full HD monitor (probably a 720p monitor). Also when playing on a lower resolution screen, I find that texture quality isn’t too important with the current games out as they’re quite detailed even on low.

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Modify GTA IV to Use Better Graphics

March 4, 2012 1 comment

Graphics modifications for GTA IV started out since 2009 and have since been churning out releases improving the graphics to a more lifelike look.

One of the more interesting ones (and recently updated) is the icenhancer modification.

This particular youtube user Fonia5 has some of the best output in my opinion.

He’s absolutely got the best look out there for GTA IV so far.

 

The latest version of iCEnhancer… see the progression?

However, there’s a tradeoff with having extreme realistic modification. It would require a hefty video card in order to pull everything off there. Checking Fonia5’s post reveals that one would need a beefy video card setup to manage the load (aside from a quad core processor, though I think a powerful dual core processor can still handle the details): Fonia5 iCEnhancer video.

Now for those like me who lacked the graphical power, here’s a guide to set-up GTA IV to look similar to his, but on a more friendlier terms with our video cards (as of this month, I’m still running with a NVIDIA 9800GT, not on the same level as it’s 8800GTX cousin).

A. Important Update to Install:

1. Get a Patch (best to choose 1.0.4.0, but I’ll leave the others here as they’re not completely compatible with the graphics modification)

1.0.4.0 link: http://grandtheftauto.filefront.com/file/GTA_IV_1040_Patch_14;102441
1.0.6.0 link: http://grandtheftauto.filefront.com/file/GTA_IV_Title_Update_1060;113171
1.0.7.0 LINK:
http://grandtheftauto.filefront.com/file/GTA_IV_Patch_1070;114377

2. Upgrade the textures

There’s several textures, but I find that the Ultimate Textures v2 as instructed by Fonia5. Also the Road Textures by DKTronics70 is a lot better than what I’m running (it looks cartoonish).

Ultimate Textures v2 Pack – This improves the detail of the entire city’s buildings, it will be resource heavy.

DKT70 Road Textures – An improvement of Liberty City’s Road texture

Real Shop – Introduces real brands onto the game

Viva New York – Replaces some signage in Times Square and other places with real brands

3. Install the Graphics enhancement mod pack:

I used to install the original ENB, though it lacked the graphical oomph it has. So I choose iCEnhancer instead as it presented a better look and feel. It boosts the contrasts and in version 2 it now has varying settings needed for those owning weaker video cards as well as better shader and lighting effects than the stock ENB.

Get iCEnhancer 2.0N – a heavily modified version of the ENB graphics mod. Updated to include the ‘natural’ look. It’s recommended to use Firefox as well as downloading from the mirror site instead of the primary download.

Now, one can play the game with better graphics. Now how does one end up with them fancy cars/bikes/copters, custom clothing, new guns or maybe throw in a bank account, a ‘cheat’ mode, work as a cop and more? (if there’s any problem, just head on down to the iCEnhancer Forums to get some answers)

<<IMPORTANT>> The next sections will require the use of modding tools such as SparkIV or GTA IVAUD

B. The Not so Important But Your Game will Look Cool Mods to Install:

1. First of all, get this script parser called ScriptHook and ScriptHookDotNet.

ScriptHook – The default script parser.

ScriptHookDotNet – Script parser for .Net based scripts (C#)

2. Next are the Scripts that would run in-game

Bank Account – This allows us to save our hard earned money to a bank

Trainer – This is the mother of all cheat engine… I just use it for trolling around the game (get the latest version)

Traffic Load – This is used for fixing the Taxi/car bug when putting custom car skins in the game

LCPD First Response – Be something like NYPD Blue or Miami Vice or something. Works for GTA IV 1.0.7.0 (best used in GTA IV 

3. Guns (Some of my preferred guns)

Battlefield 3 Weapon Sound Mod – Replaces gun sounds with the ones from BF3 (Install this first before anything else)

Magpul Masada – The ACR prototype that ‘revolutionizes’ rifle design. (rename file to ak47 or m4)

Remmington ACR – The production model, rifle w/o scope. (rename file to ak47 or m4)

M4 SOPMOD w/ Suppressor – A classic special operations kit with ‘silenced’ sounds (Warning: Police can still hear shots from this gun)

KRISS Vector – Revolutionary .45 cal Submachine Gun of the future

Mk 23 SOCOM – Solid Snake’s pistol in MGS

MP7 – Modern version of the Uzi

Mk14 EBR – Modified M14 that is used primarily as a designated marksman rifle replaces the PSG-1

M110 SASS – Customized AR15 platform rifle for designated marksmen in the US Army, replaces the PSG-1

SMAW – If the RPG is too gangsta.

4. Clothes – A change in Niko’s wardrobe, some would require using a Trainer to get desired look

Ghost from Modern Warfare 2 – Clothing pack to let Niko wear Ghost’s Clothes

5. Vehicles – Change vehicles in GTA IV to their real world counterparts

Essential Cars Pack – Puts in a modest set of remodeled cars to the game as default

UH 60 Black Hawk – for a cooler military transport helicopter (change name from Annihilator to Maverick as Annihilator loses its guns)

AH6 Little Bird – Replaces the Annihilator, very nimble helicopter with guns

Ken Block’s Ford Fiesta – If you want to Gymkhana the entire city

Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera LP570 – If you don’t like the Enzo Ferrari from the Essentials Cars Pack

Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 – Alternative choice if you don’t like the stock Murciélago in game

Notes:

Install version patch 1.0.4.0 only if you want a more realistic look. If you want to play the police mods, then install patch 1.0.7.0 and do not apply iCEnhancer.

To install game models/textures that are not packaged as an ISO/rpf file , use the application called Spark IV. it can be downloaded here.

To modify the ivaud sound files, get GTA IVAUD editor here

Acknowledgements go out to all of the wonderful modders out there who made everything possible. Their sites are found in the download sites posted.

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