Monday, June 18, 2012

Nikon D5100

For some time now, I've wanted to dip my toe in digital photography but have always felt quite intimidated by it all.  I finally started asking questions from friends, both online and off, that have been enjoying photography as a hobby.  From all the discussions, it came down to the Nikon D5100 being the good entry point camera for me.  I put it on my Amazon wish list hoping to purchase the camera sometime this year.  Well, it turns out I didn't have to wait too long for my latest toy.

I was pleasantly surprised when I received the Nikon D5100 dSLR camera as my Father's Day gift from Maria.  I've spent the better part of my day getting acclimated with some of the features and look forward to taking some cool looking pics in the near future.

A very in-depth review can be found on Digital Photography Review's site.  

Special thanks go to Dan and James from LCVG and also to Hector, a new friend I made via Dennis and Santia on the helpful insight.  Some of the beautiful pics that have inspired me to finally make the jump can be seen in this thread on our forum in addition to the guys discussing hardware and technical jibber jabber.  :)

And finally, thanks to my lovely wife Maria for the wonderfully thoughtful gift.  

Tu si eres!  ;)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Last Of Us (Playstation 3)

One of my most highly anticipated upcoming games, The Last Of Us is a third-person survival action-adventure game by the studio that gave us the excellent Uncharted trilogy, Naughty Dog.  A Sony Playstation 3 exclusive, the games two main characters are Joel, a character you control and 14-year old Ellie, who has a striking resemblance to actress Ellen Page, who is controlled by the game AI.  The game looks amazing and, if we're to go by Naughty Dog's last few games, should end up being a contender for Game of the Year honors.  The following YouTube videos are small excerpts of Joel and Ellie as they attempt to make their way out of post-apocalyptic Pennsylvania.  I can't wait.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (Xbox 360)

The first Xbox game I ever played and got hooked on was Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield back in 2003.  Upon playing and completing that game about half a dozen times, I decided to give Ghost Recon: Island Thunder a look since it also was released by Ubisoft and shared the same Tom Clancy brand with Rainbow Six, which is actually based on a novel by author Tom Clancy. As it turns out, Island Thunder was a sequel to a 2001 release that was also available on the Xbox at that time.  I was blown away by the rag-doll effects and tactical gameplay of these games and immediately anticipated any and all follow-ups by Ubisoft. Unfortunately, the Rainbow Six games quickly took a downward turn in quality with the release of 2004's Rainbow Six: Black Arrow, 2005's Rainbow Six: Lockdown, and 2006's Rainbow Six: Critical Hour before Rainbow Six: Vegas and it's sequel returned the series to respectability on the Xbox 360.

Ghost Recon, however, had sunk it's claws into me and never let go.  2003's Island Thunder was followed up by Ghost Recon 2 in 2004, Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike in 2005 before making the jump to the Xbox 360 with Ghost Recon: Advance Warfighter (GRAW) in 2006 and it's sequel in 2008.

Amazingly, each and every release turned out to be just as good, if not better than the previous title.  It took 4 years and a number of delays but Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is finally here.  But, how does it stack up to the current shooters on the market?  Quite splendidly, actually.

One thing that continues to bother me about the current Call of Duty games is that there isn't any cover system in the games.  The original Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon games didn't have it either but those were last generation games.  I find it quite troubling to continually omit this feature on current generation games and is the reason I don't hold the "CoD" games in a higher regard.  Future Soldier manages to improve on the already excellent single-button cover system that was essential in "GRAW" while incorporating the Gears of War ability to pinpoint another location to run to from your cover position with a push of a button for improved flanking or forward progression, unlike Gears which is just side to side.

Like GRAW,  you can "mark" enemies so your squad can direct their priorities during a firefight.  Like Splinter Cell: Conviction, (another Tom Clancy staple), you can "tag" up to 4 enemies for synchronized elimination by your squad Ghosts.  Back to Ghost Recon is the UAV drone.  Now called just a drone, it can not only be sent up ahead to look on locations from above but can be landed and driven like a mini-RC vehicle into hard to reach areas with the ability of releasing a sonic pulse to disarm and jam electrical equipment.  Another addition is the Warhound, a beast of a machine that can target and fire missiles on enemy locations and vehicles.  This thing is so bad ass that having it for more than the one mission would make the game too easy.

New to the series is optical camouflage or "Active Camo" which allows the Ghosts to become more difficult to see when they're still or moving very slowly.  Flash bangs, smoke, frag and incendiary grenades are joined by EMP grenades and X-Ray sensors.

In addition to the standard competitive multiplayer modes, there is a co-op campaign and a wave-based mode called Guerilla which is similar to horde mode in Gears of War 2 and 3 except with soldiers, tanks and helicopters.

The gun customization feature, called Gunsmith, claims to provide up to 20 million weapon options.  The game also can be played with Kinect using hand gestures and voice commands but I can't speak for this as I'm not a big fan of Kinect.

Having just finished the game, I can say that the game is much more stealth than I expected and successfully juggles a good balance between action and stealth segments.  I'm looking forward to joining some friends for some co-op and guerilla mode gaming.