Friday, February 28, 2014

Xbox 360 Wireless Controller - Glossy Black

Xbox 360 Wireless Controller - Glossy Black




I bought this black wireless controller so I could have another wireless controller. Be advised when reading reviews on this product that it appears some people are reviewing the Xbox 360 Silver Controller and Play & Charge Kit, which is a special controller that is different (and more expensive as of this writing) than the black controller I am reviewing. This controller does NOT have any chrome items on it (other than the usual Xbox Guide button), nor does it have any upgrades to the D-pad.

As far as the controller itself, I didn't notice any structural difference between this controller and my old white controller that came with my Pro 20GB Xbox 360 several years ago. I did notice, however, that this controller properly charges my Play & Charge Kit where my old one did not. Prior to buying this controller, my Play & Charge kit would always show the red light while recharging. Since the recharging appeared to work anyway, I didn't think much of it (especially after calling Microsoft and being informed that the warranty on accessories is only 90 days, though that was in 2008). Since I assumed that the battery was at fault the whole time, I was surprised to find out that this controller charged the battery and (correctly) showed a green light when charging was complete.

Though it did not appear to be a structural change to the controller, I had somewhat forgotten (or not realized?) how much wear my controller has taken over the four years (give or take) since I got my console. The new controller gives me a bit more precision in games, especially with the right stick and the pushing of the sticks (for activities like sprinting). The tactility of the sticks (with little raised lines for grip) were a nice reminder of what my controller seemed to have at one time.

This was a satisfying purchase for functionality and the nice sleek look of black. I should also note that while the description of the item is "Glossy Black," this controller isn't really what I would call glossy like you would call the bezel of an LCD monitor or clear coat on a car. It gives off very little gloss in my opinion, which is fine by me.

Mass Effect 3 [Download]

Mass Effect 3 [Download]




Let me start by saying, This game leaves a strange taste in my mouth. Also, this review will be spoiler free up until the row of *****'s

On one hand, the game is great! In less than 3 days, I have completed the entire game it with about 95% completion of all side missions, etc. (excluding dlc), which is saying something because it is not a short game!

The Positive:

1. I love the mass effect universe, and this game delivers on what the previous games did, if a bit less original (see cons)

2. The game is genuinely fun to play, I find myself sucked into it, and when I look up, it's already 4:30 am.

3. The graphics are alright, they are not the best, and you are very limited in how you tweak them, but they are not bad.

4. They do a fairly decent job at tying into the previous games (see cons)

Given that, I would say it is a 5 star game, however there are some things that they did not do well

The Cons:

1. Parts of this game just felt out of place, unlike in the previous games when the dialogue felt natural, in parts of this game it just does not seem like something Sheppard would say, there are many instances of other characters acting out of their typical styles as well, it just bothered me because it felt artificial.

1b. Also included in this is that the game in general does not seem to contain the same amount of effort on the developers part as the first two did, it feels a bit rushed, with a clunky cover system (again) and some interesting difficulty fluctuations. It just feels more linear than the previous mass effect games.

2. Importing my character was a nightmare, I had 3 different profiles and only one got recognized, and that was after about an hour of messing around with it.

3. The choices you made in the previous two games feel like they don't even matter (Some are not even acknowledged), I know this is vague, and arguable, but see cons in the spoiler section if you want a better explanation.

4. The ending (all 3 of them (well, technically 15) are horrible, and leave a huge amount to be desired while simultaneously effectively eliminating all possibility for interpretation. It's Their way or the highway (often this is not bad, but it this case its just horribly disappointing) They are all disappointing, the ending choices all end up with similar endings, all disappointing and left completely open.

5. Don't get me started on day one dlc (nuff said)

This game is a fun to play game, if I was reviewing just based on that, I would give this game a 5. However given how I know what it could have been, and some of the choices the developer made as far as story line goes (more below), I am going to take two stars from it, Like I said above, I have never had so much fun while simultaneously being disappointed by ever plot twist.

Overall, I can't complain too much, it provided a lot of entertainment, it just seems to lack the care put into the previous games, it almost feels rushed and like they got a little lazy with the story, the previous games were great because of the small things (like overhearing conversations, witty dialogue, and other little Easter eggs) There was less witty dialogue in ME2 (compared to ME1), but it was still there. Don't get me wrong, it is still there in ME3 but to a lesser extent, it just feels like the developers don't really care anymore.

*************This contains some spoilers(without mentioning names) (also a mini-rant on the ending(s))*************

This section will contain spoilers, and is here to justify my answers above a bit.

If I started off by saying this game was an emotional roller coaster, I would be lying. I believe "Emotional Free-fall" would be more appropriate. It takes the great story and buildup of the first two games (akin to a roller coaster) and where the mass effect 2 game ends with you at the top of the hill, Mass effect 3 is just a ride down into the station (so to speak). There were not many happy surprises, it was all just depressing. It seems ever main story-line mission somebody dies, which makes me wonder why I worked so hard in ME2 to save them. In this context the story feels very linear. It just feels like people who don't really fit into the story line are just killed off. Also, all the "support" you gather really does not show at all, what was the point if everybody essentially dies anyway, I had over 4000 effective combat readiness (or ~8000 something total) and I feel like the outcome would have been the same even without it, as the "upgrades" and land based reinforcements don't even make an appearance in the final battle (What happened to the mercs I recruited? I did not see one Vorcha or heavy mech during that fight (or any mercenary group)). I recruited the Geth, where were they? Did not see the Elcor I helped, no Volus, no Salarians, perhaps they are shown once in the initial scene, but beyond that, nothing. Just ships, and I had a ton of ground troups 'recruited' yet I was still on my own with no sign of them. So what was the point of recruiting them?

Also, there is a huge disconnect in the end, my team for the final mission was Garrus and Edi, and everybody but Anderson and You (Sheppard) gets absolutely destroyed running to the beam, and then in the final video, they are on the Normandy trying to outrun the "(Insert two of 3 disappointing endings here (Not the case with the destruction ending)) wave". Then the ship goes down and both Edi and Garrus and Jeff(Joker) get off on a happy new unspoiled world. How did they get from being nuked by a collector ship and being under heavy fire on the ground, to being on the Normandy during a massive battle in a time frame of about 2-5 minutes. I'm not disappointed that Sheppard dies in (most) of the endings ((like 15 total outcomes based on choosing one ending of three and you readiness rating), Sheppard can survive 2 of 15 I believe)), its just the fact that thought the game, just about EVERYBODY dies, half the time its not even a good death, its more like, "Okay, we ran out of things for this person to contribute, so lets just kill them off".

The main thing that bothers me about any of the endings is, all the relays are destroyed and half of the galaxy's population is over a badly damaged earth, with no way to get home. What happens then? Earth would descend into anarchy regardless of the ending, and the rest of the galaxy would not fair much better with limited military options and no contact between the tens if not hundreds of thousands (if not more) soldiers stuck around earth. By ending with no possible way to save the relays, the developers are essentially saying "Well we are back to square one, and everything you did does not really matter". I get they are just going for the "whole new beginning" thing, but it just does not fit as the ending for the mass effect series.

I'm so disappointed I am going to make pretend myself a new ending. Here it is

"Sheppard dies, the reapers are destroyed, billions of people are dead, all the home-worlds are decimated,the citadel is destroyed, but those that survive get to go home (via not destroyed mass relays) and (implied) all the synthetics decide not to eliminate all organic life, thus negating the need for the cycle (and creepy ghost/children/machine apparitions) in the first place. The End.".

Is it perfect? No, but now I am happy.

*****End Of Spoilers*****

I believe I have made it clear, but the thing I took off an entire star for was the ending, it is just a very disappointing ending to the end of the mass effect series, it's nothing like the epic conclusion was to mass effect 2. The other star off was for everything else, it just could handle better and it feels like a console port.

I just know that review will upset people, but it's how I feel about the game, if you disagree feel free to write your own review.

Pulse Elite Edition Wireless Stereo Headset

Pulse Elite Edition Wireless Stereo Headset




Customer review from the Amazon Vine Program (What's this?) These are really incredibly nice headphones. They have a feeling of quality that reflects their price.

I take off part of a start however for two things:

1) It's not possible to charge the headphones out of the box as a mini-USB cable is required and none is included. Grated, these are sold primarily as a PS3 peripheral and so you should be able to use the same cables you charge the regular controllers with, but as the headphones are advertised as working with Windows and Vita platforms, it is very disappointing to find that, for the price, they can't actually include the cable you need to charge them up and use them.

2) Documentation is terrible. It's a typical folded up sheet of cheap paper with tiny type that gives only a vague description of how all the controls work. Yes, this is on par for other game console accessories, but these headphones have so many controls and so many usage scenarios, that a little more in-box description would actually be useful here.

Ok, with those minor things out of the way, let's talk about what's great about these things.

Wireless. It's not standard Bluetooth unfortunately but it works well and is bi-directional. The headset DOES include a mic (something not obvious from the photos since it's built into one of the ear cups and there is no "boom" etc.

Can be used wired as well. A 3.5mm standard mini four-conductor cable (straight plug on one end, right angle on the other) is included which will plug into an iPhone or similar device and into a similar jack on the headphones. The headphones will work passively without power in this mode (in case the batteries are flat), but power is required to get the rest of the features to work (volume control, impact etc.)

There's interesting stuff going on with an iPhone in wired-mode. When you power them on, the iPhone changes to a different volume level (which seems to be remembered), and then goes back when you power them off. I'm not sure if this is the headphones or the iPhone being clever. The headphones seem to want the phone to be putting out full volume which can then be attenuated using the volume control on the headphones (and they seem to work best this way).

Note that while there is a mini-USB jack, it is only used for charging as far as I can tell (the documentation of course says nothing).

They feel good on my head. They fit reasonably tightly providing pretty good isolation from the surrounding environment, and while definitely not light, they have good balance and comfort (no goofy suspension system for the headband etc. like some). In warm environments over the course of a few hours they can get a bit sweaty though.

There are controls for everything. You have three large sliders for Volume, Bass Impact, and a fader for Sound to Voice balance (PS3 only). Slide switch for power (with a blue led on indicator) and momentary push-buttons for Mic Mute, Mode, VSS On/Off (PS3 only).

The ear-cups pivot a bit to fit your head, and the headband has a conventional pull-out size adjustment. They do not otherwise fold, rotate, etc.

The audio sounds first-rate, and even when used for music with an iPod, the Bass Impact slider lets you adjust from no effect to full cranium-thumping impacts. Will add a whole new dimension to gaming experiences (at the possible risk of your hearing and/or sanity.

They're fully closed ear cups which, again, provide pretty good isolation between the listener and the surrounding environment (in both directions). Don't expect to hear the phone, your parents/kids, the dog, or that oncoming train while wearing them. But on the other hand they probably won't be able to hear your tunes (or nuclear explosions) either.

The Mode button cycles through the following sequence, each of which is announced by a female voice: Game, Music, Movie, Shooter, Fighting, Racing. While listening to music I can't tell the difference between the different modes, so there's a chance this is also PS3 only, but of course the documentation is silent on what the MODE button does.

For wireless use, either with the PS3 or Windows, a two inch long USB dongle is included. It worked on Windows without any drivers. The dongle has a mini-plug input to allow TV audio to be fed in allowing you to listen to other (non-PS3) audio (so, TV audio out / headphone mini jack -> cable -> jack on wireless adapter which is itself plugged into the PS3 (or maybe Windows, haven't tested it).

My main Windows system has a USB Wireless Lan adapter which prevents me from using any USB audio devices (constant dropouts of audio) and these headphones are no different. On another Windows system they worked great, and the experience is wonderful.

So the overall experience is really five-stars, but the terrible documentation and the lack of a cable to charge them means I can only justify giving them four on this review.

The fact that they can be used in so many ways with so many different devices, ranging from quality music listening to full-impact enhanced skull-shaking gaming is going to make these hugely popular I think.


UPDATES: per one of the commenter's suggestions, I tested and discovered that you can use the wireless dongle as a standalone wireless transmitter to use the headphones without a computer. THIS IS VERY COOL!

As long as the wireless adapter has power, it will link to the headphones and you can plug a cable into the audio jack on the adapter and it will broadcast that to the headphones. I just plugged the adapter into a USB power outlet that's part of a wall-mount power strip, and used the included mini-plug cable to go from my iPhone to the wireless adapter, and the iPod signal from the phone was broadcast to the headphones and sounded great! The range was excellent, working 40' away through walls, etc.

So that's yet another cool way to use these anywhere you have USB power available.


I'm getting approximately 4-5 hours on a charge, which means they frequently bit the dust in the middle of a gaming session. You get five loud beeps as a low battery warning, and then only a couple minutes later five beeps followed by a long beep and they flat power off and will not come back on until you plug in the mini-USB cable with power.

This isn't the end of the world on a PC, where you can easily have a cable long enough to reach from the computer to the headpnones (though now the "wireless" advantage is out the window), but with the PS3 you may have a harder time arranging for power on the couch. If you do have power to plug in you can immediately turn them on and continue using them. I think they're charging while in use, but have not confirmed that yet.

The sudden (announced) power cut out suggests the headphones have a fairly active and conservative battery management controller which is probably good for long term reliability of the batteries, but the around four hours between charges is pretty annoying.