Christmas for children has certainly changed from what it once was,
especially so in the last two decades. Children today move more and
more into a realm of electronic entertainment. And it is more than
the children who create such a wish list; there is still a great
population of younger adults who feel themselves drawn into a world
of games and other such entertainment.
But that does not mean
those doing the shopping are destined to confusion at the wish lists
of their relatives. Hopefully, a look at what is hitting the shelves
this season will help clear the air that is filled with beeping and
clicking. Let's start with a look at the new generation of gaming
consoles shipping to the stores this November.
On Nov. 15, Sony released the next product in the PlayStation
lineup: the PlayStation 4, or PS4. The system features an optical
drive capable of reading Blu-ray Discs at triple the speed of its
predecessor. The console is capable of rendering games in a
resolution of 1080p and comes with a 500 gigabyte internal hard
drive, with space for additional storage if necessary.
The PS4 hardware includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and
two USB ports. A mono headset, which can be plugged into the
controller, is bundled with the system. Video output options include
The PlayStation Camera, a motion detection digital camera device,
is also shipping as a separate accessory for the machine. The device
is technically two cameras that operate as one for a greater sense
of depth perception; one camera is used to generate the image and
the other is used for motion tracking.
The PS4 features a "suspend mode" option, which places the
console in a low-power state and allows users to immediately resume
play in the same manner as a computer in standby mode. The console
will also be able to download game and system updates while it is in
The standard controller sold with the console is the DualShock 4
controller. It is a wireless device with an internal rechargeable
battery. It features a touchpad, a headphone jack and a light bar
with three LEDs that illuminate in different colors to identify
other players or to create greater immersion for the player by
changing patterns or colors based on events in a game. The light
bar, in conjunction with the PlayStation Camera, can even judge the
positions and movements of multiple players.
A microphone enables users to control the system through a series
of vocal commands. Although limited at launch, Sony plans to
continue working on the voice command function in the future.
The console also comes with a great deal of choice in social
options. The controller comes with a "share" button that allows the
player to re-watch the last 15 minutes of game play to select a
screenshot or video clip appropriate for sharing on Facebook and
Twitter. Gamers can watch live feeds of friends through the PS4
interface, thanks to cross-game camera and microphone inputs.
A week after the release of the PS4 was Microsoft's Xbox One. The
system includes a 500 gigabyte hard drive and a Blu-ray Disc optical
drive. For networking purposes, the Xbox One supports Ethernet,
wireless and Wi-Fi connectivity.
The Xbox One is capable of 4K resolution video output and 7.1
surround sound. The Xbox One also supports HDMI 1.4 for both input
One of the more impressive features of the new console is the
ability to monitor its internal temperature and adjust accordingly
to prevent overheating. Anyone familiar with the Xbox 360 will no
doubt remember the infamous "red ring of death": a series of red
lights flashing on the console indicating overheating. This problem
could only be solved by shipping the Xbox 360 to Microsoft for
repairs, a task completed several times for the more unfortunate
gamers. Alongside an increase in fan speed, additional measures can
be taken, including forcing the hardware to run in a lower power
state, another new feature not present on the Xbox 360.
The new Kinect camera that comes with the console has greater
accuracy than its predecessor. It can track up to six bodies
simultaneously, with the capability to monitor heart rates and
gestures performed with an Xbox One controller. It can even scan bar
codes to redeem Xbox Live gift cards. The Kinect microphone remains
active at all times to receive voice commands from the user when
needed, even when the console is in sleep mode. With these features
in place, Skype has become a function of the new Xbox.
As seen with Windows 8, Xbox One can move applications such as
music, video, Skype and Internet Explorer to the side of the screen
for multitasking. Xbox One also allows users to watch live TV from
their existing provider through the console and access features such
as show recommendations and an electronic program guide.
Cloud storage is offered by Microsoft to save music, films and
games. Xbox Live Gold subscribers will be able to use the Upload
Studio program to share clips from the last five minutes of gameplay
footage that is automatically recorded by the console. The live
streaming platform Twitch will allow users to use voice commands to
immediately begin streaming footage of their current game directly
to the Internet, using the Kinect microphone for commentary.
The hardware is certainly impressive to behold this holiday
season. These new machines have become more like computers than any
generation of devices that came before them. They can play a greater
quality of video and audio, and the connection to a worldwide
network has only grown stronger with new technology.
But let's not forget what started this race for a greater console
in the first place: the games themselves. "Which game should I get
for the gamer I know this year?" you may be asking. Well, here are a
[to top of second column]
In "Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag," players take on the role of
pirate and secret assassin Edward Kenway. Join Kenway and his quest
to solidify a free Pirate Republic, encountering the notorious Capt.
Blackbeard along the way in the Golden Age of Piracy. Navigate the
open seas with a crew of cutthroats and thieves at your command as
you search along the way for new wealth to acquire. In addition to
the story of "Black Flag," players can face off against one another
online, hunting their targets with the precision and skill of a
predator and a variety of special tricks at their disposal. "Black
Flag" is available for PS3, Nintendo Wii U, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
and personal computer.
In the story of "Knack," war has befallen mankind in the form of
an assault by a species known as Goblins, led by Gundahar. A human
expert in ancient relics from a long-lost civilization finds a way
to bind several relics together. The result is Knack, a mechanical
creature with mysterious powers. Play as Knack, who can incorporate
matter into his body, transforming him from a 3-foot-tall creature
into an unstoppable force and bane to the Goblins. Knack is believed
to be an invaluable asset in the war, save for the danger posed by
humans who may not understand. "Knack" is a PS4-exclusive title.
Lego and Marvel Comics come together in "Lego Marvel
Superheroes." Following the style set by previous Lego titles, play
as your favorite characters from both film and comic pages, with all
of the charm and wit that past titles have been known for. Over 100
characters are available to choose from in the battle against Loki,
the God of Mischief; Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds; and dozens of
other supervillains in a battle to save the world, one brick at a
time. Build, destroy and save the day in this title for the PS3,
Xbox 360, Wii U, PS4, Xbox One and PC.
In "Batman: Arkham Origins," the prequel to the critically
acclaimed "Arkham" series of titles, play as the Caped Crusader, the
man who has claimed to be both Vengeance and the Night itself:
Batman. Batman's role as the self-appointed protector of Gotham has
earned him the wrath of a corrupt Gotham Police Department. Despite
his efforts, Gotham still has a long way to go; even on Christmas
Eve, the criminal underworld erupts in chaos and competition as the
underworld overlord Black Mask places a $50 million bounty on
Batman's head. Join in the action with friends in a special versus
mode, pitting henchmen of both the Joker and Bane against Batman and
Robin (and each other). This title is available for the PS3, Wii U,
Xbox 360 and PC.
Everyone's favorite Italian plumber is back in "Super Mario 3D
World" for the Nintendo Wii U. Up to four people can play as Mario,
Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach as they work together to save their
new friends of the Sprixie Kingdom from the wrath of the evil Bowser
and his army. Each character plays in a different way: Luigi jumps
higher than everyone else, while Princess Peach can float for a
period of time, and Toad is the quickest runner. Experience the
world of Mario in three dimensions, collecting familiar power-ups
along the way and a host of new abilities never seen before. Fans of
Mario, both old and new, will find plenty of fun to be had with
friends and family in "Super Mario 3D World."
Take up the mantle of the Hero of Time once again with the power
of the Master Sword and the Triforce of Courage in "Legend of Zelda:
A Link Between Worlds." Play as Link in a quest set several
generations after the famous Super Nintendo title "A Link to the
Past." Pick up the bow, the bombs, the boomerang and all of Link's
familiar gear in a journey to save not one, but two worlds from
darkness and decay. Using 3-D technology, Link is able to cross from
one world to the next by becoming a painting on the walls, slipping
through literal cracks in the worlds. Can Link prove once more that
he is worthy of the legacy set forth by his predecessors? That is up
the player in the "Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds" for the
Nintendo 3DS hand-held system.
Fight off hordes of the undead in a struggle for survival in
"Dead Rising 3." Players follow the story of a mechanic named Nick
Ramos as he searches for survivors and supplies in the fictional
city of Los Perdidos, Calif. Nick's hope for surviving the zombie
onslaught is his skill in creating combinations of weapons and
vehicles out of everyday objects. Up to two players can work
together online to help Nick and any survivors he can find escape
Los Perdidos before the military wipes it out in their attempt to
quell the zombie outbreak. "Dead Rising 3" is an Xbox One-exclusive
These are just a few of the titles hitting the shelves this
holiday season. The question is: What games will your gamer want to
play? Now is the time to look at those wish lists and find out what
kind of world they want to jump into this holiday season.
[By DEREK HURLEY]