Saturday, December 07, 2013
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Special feature from LDN's Home for the Holidays magazine

What's hot in electronic gaming?

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[December 07, 2013]  The holiday season will soon be upon us in full. The advent of Christmas brings with it the age-old question: What gifts will I find for my loved ones? What do I think they will want this year?

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 HDMI capability.

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 this mode.

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 and output.

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 few ideas.

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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 title.

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.


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