Top five boy’s toys for Christmas

Christmas is coming, and the man in your life is getting fat, and whether you like it or not this man is going to spend too much time eating, drinking and using the Lords birthday as an excuse to meet up and make merry with every person he’s ever had a passing acquaintance with.  A direct result of this is said gentlemen will also spend extended periods of time sitting in a state of inertia, moaning and trying to sweat out the previous days pleasure.  This being the case you want to keep him amused, his hands busy and away from the eggnog for as long as possible.  This being the case, please find latestgadgets top 5 (in no particular order) Big Boys Toys this Christmas, to keep him happy for December and beyond…

Playstation Move/ Microsoft Kinect

Move-vs-Kinect

The Playstation Move is aimed at the hardcore gamer market and a fiddle to start with, but if he’s a died-in-the-wool Call Of Duty type then this might be your best bet.  The Kinect is more of a Wii extension with games intended to be fun and social.  There’s considerable fun to be had in its novelty value too- there isn’t actually a controller and the Kinect sensor just recognises your movements on games like Dance Central, Fighters Uncaged and more.

Move- £41.99 starter pack, £17.99 each additional controller.
Kinect- £129.99

Flip Mino HD and Flie Ultra HD Video Cameras

Flip-Video

Reception has been universally positive since these were released.  And what’s not to like?  Quality HD recording, the ability to plug directly into your HD TV for instant Christmas Lunch playbacks and only, in the case of the Mino, 10cm long.   Technical specs between the two are more or less the same-1280p x 720p , Transflective screen.  The main difference is the size of memory- the Mino has 4GB of memory, the Ultra 8GB.

Mino- from £99
Ultra- From £114.99

Amazon Kindle

Kindle

Despite a certain amount of scepticism, the Kindle is starting to worm it a way into the wider consciousness and, if the makers will have us believe, is going to drastically alter the way we read books. A dedicated book buyer such as yours truly might not be too enamoured with it but for the man who likes to read but doesn’t want the luggage, this is perfect.  Enough space for 3500 books, a month long battery life and a reasonable price clinch the deal.

Price- £109

Nikon P7000 Digital Camera

For the person that wants to take pretty good pictures, but doesn’t want the faff of an SLR.  Small (360g), compact yet with enough bells and whistles to satisfy him with time on his hand it is ideal as a portable.   With its 10.1MP sensor and wide 7.1x optical zoom lens, and a 720p HD filming capabilities its got enough behind it to justify its somewhat steep price.

Price- £489

Boogie Board Paperless Writing Tablet

Bit more of a gimmick this one, but for those of us that remember Etch-a-Sketch it’ll bring back some fond memories…and make us realise that they pail in comparison to this.  Essentially a little black board that you can scribble over and immediately wipe or send the pictures to somewhere else via USB, Bluetooth of WiFi it can double as child entertainment device, shopping list or portable easel.

Price- £39.99

Microsoft Kinect vs Playstation Move: World in motion

This Autumn, the biggest console conflict in recent years is set to begin. Will Sony Move the Xbox out of its way, or will the Xbox Kinect itself to the champion’s trophy? We demoed both at the EuroGamer Expo last weekend and are ready to give you our verdict.

Move-vs-Kinect

Sony: Moving You To Tears of Joy and Frustration
You’ll never forget the first time you play the Move, especially if the game is Hustle Kings. To quote PJ Hruschak, “The few minutes I played Hustle Kings in the Sony Booth at E3 2010 were easily the most frustrating of all my gaming endeavors and time spent at the expo.” Perhaps the game isn’t terrible, but using the Move to control it makes you want to take the motion-controller and smash it through the television – especially if that is also made by Sony.

It’s an example of everything that went wrong with the Wii, and what is going wrong with the Move and Kinect. Move support feels random, bolted-on and awkward. Then, when you understand it, it feels pointless. The same goes for the KungFu Rider, which made CrunchGear “want to turn off the PS3, curl up into the fetal position, and cry [their] pain away”. For us, it simply led us to the next stand and a revelation in Move gaming: SOCOM 4.

Andrew Yoon describes the experience best. For SOCOM 4, “PlayStation Move worked exactly as we thought it would, resembling the experience of playing a Wii FPS. Aiming is very fast and responsive.” With the graphics prowess of the PS3 combined with pointing-to-aim, the Move has created one of the most immersive first-person experiences. The same is true for the Heavy Rain integration, where you shove the control forward to push people out the way, or roll it to the side to avoid a fatal stab to the neck.

The controllers themselves are what you’d expect from a Sony-copy of an older technology – refined and beautified. The black finish, no matter how beaten up, will never look as gross as a well-used, dingy Wii controller does. The ergonomics are also a massive improvement. The controllers are light, and the hands wraps easily around the curved design. The big light-orb at the top is much smaller and less dorky in real life, too.

And unlike the Wii, there is no wire running between the main controller and the one with the analogue stick – independent motion is much easier without a flailing cable.

Xbox: Sort-of What You’d Expect, Given That There is No Controller

Although Apple has hijacked the word, the Microsoft Kinect truly is magical – more so than anything Apple has ever produced.

By using your body as a controller, using the system is as easy as it is intuitive. You poke your hand out in front of you and the Kinect will recognise it as the controller. Move your hand, and the on-screen cursor will dutifully follow. Want a friend to play? All they have to do is stand next to you and the camera will recognise a second player, instantly adding them to the gameplay. For games like Kinect Adventures, it means that people can dip-in during their favourite mini-game, and escape afterwards. It’s a completely novel and casual gaming experience.

The system is full of nice touches, too. For instance, in Kinect Sport, the game not only recognises actions relevant to the game, but your whole body’s movement. If you’re playing online, you can wave at the opposition and your character will do the same. If you want to win, whip out the lewd gestures and watch as your opponent gets put off. It’s a priceless feature. The games also use the camera to take pictures of you in-action, so you can view your actions after the match has finished. It’s like an instant-reply, but of you instead of the gameplay.

The real joy, however, comes from games like Dance Central, which can only be played due to the unique technology of the Kinect. The premise is simple: copy the on-screen dance moves to the music. It’s like Guitar Hero, but for your whole body. As the Kinect is the only device on the market that can track your whole bodies movements, head, body, arm and leg movements all come into play. It’s like you’re actually dancing for points, rather than the flailing-arms experience of the Move or Wii.

The Proof is in the Ping Pong
Luckily for us, the two systems have provided us a control for the comparison: table tennis. Available as a launch game for both systems, the humble sport outlines the difference between the two systems.

Move table tennis is a very precise affair. It takes a while to get to grips with and takes into account even the smallest movements of the arm, the most delicate twists of the wrist. It’s a game that people can master with enough practice – giving advanced users a sense of achievement. The Move does best with precision, small movements – hardcore gameplay.
Kinect table tennis, on the contrary, is much more Wii-Sports. Wave your arm and the ball gets hit. Sure, velocity of the shot is detected, and yes, it does detect both fore- and backhands. But, as explained by the Xbox rep, the game doesn’t even detect your hand. It registers our most opposable extremity as an extension of the forearm. The accuracy and precision is just not there, replaced instead with instant, accessible fun.

And what else would you expect from a system with no buttons? It would be impossible to match the twelve input keys of a regular controller, plus analogue sticks, with just body-control.

Conclusion: We’re Copping Out. Sorry.
Luckily for consumers, it seems like the two companies have aimed for completely different markets. Sony have taken the control system of the Wii, and fine-tuned it for hardcore gamers, including added support for three-dimensions. Microsoft, however, have upgraded the Wii’s soul: the fun, party-play potential is extraordinary.

Which is best? It’s impossible to say. Rather ironically, however, the one we won’t be buying – the Kinect – is probably the one that’ll have the biggest impact on gaming in future. The Microsoft device will be well worth the purchase should you have a big living room and often have friends over. It will, almost undoubtedly, produce the finest party games of the current generation.

If you are like us, however, and don’t host regularly, then it’ll be the Sony that moves you the most.

Movement wars: the future of gaming

With the dust settling on last months E3 we thought we would look into our magic ball, and answer the main underlying question. Who will win the “movement wars.” The big three are looking to the casual market and are staking their future on new-fangled movement controls.

Motion-Gaming

We’re going to wade through the PR rhetoric to give you a real taste of what to expect in the coming months.

All three console giants had a impressive E3 with major announcements on new hardware and games that will be ready in time for Christmas (hopefully) and we’ve dubbed it the “movement wars”.

Microsoft splashed the cash, with their Cirque De Soleil show, which tried to capture the imagination of the gaming fraternity, with a fancy stage show to show off the magic of Kinect. Sadly it left a sour taste in our mouth.

The Pre-E3 event came across more than a little bit stage-managed. After all if Kinect is a natural, visceral and fun experience, why would it be necessary to have actors on stage – trying to interpret how fun it is? If it’s that good, the stage show wasn’t necessary to convey this. Normal people having fun would have captured this so much better.

Many of the sceptics were still left with many unanswered questions, is there lag? How much will all this movement fun cost? Is it just for my Mum & Dad? And sadly we still can’t answer these.

We’ve trawled all four corners of the Internet to try determine the press reaction and we’ve read some interesting thoughts. One this is for sure, Microsoft can’t just aim at the causal market and forget about the people who actually own the Xbox at the moment, who in general are the hardcore variety.

Microsoft has certainly taken the biggest risk with their controller-free ethos. I for one am totally convinced. And really keen to try it out and hope it lives up to the massive hype. And If Microsoft sticks to Kinect Arcade games, that won’t cost the world, they could be onto a winner. And they’re best at micro transactions. After announcing that we spend over a billion dollars over Xbox Live content every year.

Nintendo were the first console to target the casual gamers and have had movement controls for a while now. So they left their big E3 announcement to the new 3DS – quite clearly the most technologically advanced handheld that they have ever created and it stole the show.

After all 3D images without glasses, is a man on the moon moment for Nintendo. Especially in light of their shunning of HD gaming with the Wii. I have no doubt that the new 3DS will be the must have gadget this Christmas, if it is out by them. Nintendo have cornered the casual market and that’s a given.

But the question to ask is the casual market worth more than the hardcore one? Obviously Microsoft think it is and have staked a big bet that they can corner both markets – even if they’re poles apart.

Sony made fun of both Nintendo and Microsoft event with cheap shots at their future plans – Sony feel that realism through Move and 3D is the future. But with their Move controller they have cynically copied the Wii remote and this is obvious to any gamer, casual or hardcore.

At least Microsoft and Nintendo are trying to push the boundaries of technology and hardware. Sony have just re-hashed the wand and 3D – marketing as the future of gaming, but it’s common knowledge that 3D is just the same as what we were getting in the early 90?s. 80?s styled glasses in all.

One thing to take from E3 is are the game companies really giving us what we want? Nintendo certainly are – they have stuck to the fun casual market since day 1 and they must be applauded for this. But Sony and Microsoft have been scrapping over the hardcore market for the last 3 years with neither able to call a victory.

So it would seem that they are both looking to steal Nintendo’s monopoly of the casual gamers. However it just looks a little late and cynical.

We will know more in the next 6 months, but the lines have been draw in the sand and the “movement wars” are going to be the most exciting time to be a gamers and that can’t be a bad thing. Who do you think will come out tops? Leave us your thoughts below…

Highlights from the Game Developer’s Conference 2010

The 2010 Game Developer’s Conference in sunny San Francisco has just finished, with a record-breaking 18,250 attendees from the gaming industry. GDC isn’t the place you tend to see big new games announced, but sometimes you do get a glimpse into the technology of titles yet to be revealed.

Too much goes on at a conference of this size to recap it all, and a lot of it is pretty special interest, so we’ve picked out a few of the most interesting tidbits that emerged from the developer hive mind.

Sony’s Playstation Move

Sony finally announced the name of its motion controller as ‘Playstation Move’ at GDC, and showed off some of the games in develop. We’ve got a full article about Move here, so mosey over for more details.

Cloud gaming

OnLive and Gaikai both want to power gaming on their end and then deliver it you live over the internet. All you need is a computer/set-top box capable of showing some video. Whether these services really will be able to deliver a good gaming experience with barely any hardware use on your end remains to be seen, but the fact they’re both planned for launch this year and turned up to GDC bodes well.

Unreal Engine

Epic Games still hasn’t announced a new Gears of War game, but as the GDC crowd was shown a jungle scene with a Brumak stomping through it to show off new features of the Unreal Engine, it’s probably fair to say GoW3 is coming. Also, Epic was very pleased to show Unreal Engine 3 running on the iPhone 3GS. It wasn’t quite comparable to PC versions, but opens up possibilities for more accomplished graphics on the iPhone and iPad. Oh, and there’s a 3D version of UE3 coming too.

Virtusphere

Yes, this really is a virtual reality sphere. Virtusphere makes them for the military, but there’s obvious gaming uses here, hence the appearance at GDC. Strap on the virtual reality helmet and just walk forward to walk forward. Turn quickly to turn. Interact thanks to special equipment. Okay, this would take up a whole room of your house, and would get pretty expensive for multiplayer, but if this isn’t the ultimate gaming experience then I’ll eat my virtual reality visor. Just as long as I don’t get out of it after four years and discover that my real name is Dwayne Dibley.

Bonus rumor! Nintendo DS2?

Rpad.tv were determined to dig up info on a new Nintendo handheld at GDC so they set about doing just that. They discovered that it would have two screens again, but with barely any separation, so they could act as one if the developer was so inclined. It would have roughly the power of a GameCube thanks, possibly, to Nvidia’s Tegra chip. It will have an accelerometer, bringing it into line with the Wii and the iPhone. It might be due late this year, with an unveiling at E3 in June. Or maybe random devs told the Rpad guys this stuff just to get rid of them. Who knows?

UPDATED:
Nintendo has announced the successor to the DS will be the 3DS. Details are scarce, but it’ll have 3D screens without the need for glasses and will be backwards compatible. We’ll have more information at E3 in June.