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The AirFlo PC, a perspiration-free style of gaming (Review)

Since 1996, Los Angeles-based Nyko has been producing a line of joysticks that disperses air through the chassis of the controller eliminating clammy hands during gameplay. The joysticks, known under the AirFlo branding, have appeared on numerous consoles including the Sony Playstation, Microsoft Xbox and the Nintendo GameCube. PC owners were snubbed by the company until recently when Nyko released the AirFlo PC controller for the masses.

At first glance, the AirFlo PC seems big and clunky, but in actually the device is quite comfortable and precise. The controller’s main feature is its air flow system. This device delivers on its promise of a cool and comfortable gaming experience.

The air flow is circulated through the controller using ventilated pores. An intake fan, which is located at the back of the device, propels air throughout the joystick. The air is then dispensed through ventilated pores found on the joystick’s rubber handgrips.

One of the most interesting features of the AirFlo PC is its ability to customize the amount of cooling necessary for your needs. The intake fan speed can be adjusted using a centralized switch on the device. The switch features two air flow settings, high and low. The cooling mechanism can also be turned off using the same switch. When set at the lower speed, the fan generates a more subtle amount of air through the joystick. On the higher setting, a massive amount of air is dispensed thus eliminating any signs of perspiration during usage.

The disadvantage of using the controller’s cooling apparatus is that it generates a considerable amount of noise. At its highest setting, the intake produces a hair blower like sound that can actually be distracting at first. Even when used at the lowest setting, the AirFlo PC’s fan still generates a considerable amount of noise.

The joystick not only features the standard directional pad, but also comes with dual analog control sticks for maximum control. The joystick looks and feels exactly like its PS2 counterpart, the AirFlo EX. One of the neat things about Nyko’s AirFlo PC is its 13 programmable buttons. With a similar setup, you can program the joystick to mimic your favorite console game’s controls.

The AirFlo PC is a USB based controller that comes equipped with a 10-foot cord for added playability. When compared to a standard gaming controller, the AirFlo PC features an extra 3-feet of wiring. The Nyko AirFlo PC is a great joystick for gamers with elaborate desktop setups.

The AirFlo PC is an excellent purchase for gamers wanting a comfortable joystick with hand-drying benefits. The AirFlo PC retails for approximately $30 CDN and can be found at select retailers in Moncton.

Andre Barriault lives in Dieppe and is co-editor at the gaming website www.XGR.com. Originally published in [here] magazine in Sept. 2004

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Jesper Kyd on “Hitman Contracts” and scoring video games

Over the years, the video game soundtrack has emerged has an integral part of the whole gaming experience. With advancements in technology, it is now possible to add full soundtracks to any title. With the popularity of video games on the rise, many musician and composers have added video games scores to their resumes.

New York based musical artist Jesper Kyd is one of those composers who’s found a niche in the video game industry. Kyd, who specializes in creating music and sound design for interactive media, film and television, has been involved in the gaming industry for over nine years. He’s scored popular titles such as “Brute Force”, “Freedom Fighters”, “MDK2” and more recently “Hitman Contracts”. Kyd is renowned for creating compositions that blends modern electronica with classical orchestrations.

In a recent interview for the Moncton Metro Marquee, Kyd explained that he selects only projects where he feels something new can be offered in order to stay diversified and to assure that he does not repeat himself when composing a new score.

“Though I have done three Hitman scores, they are quite different from each other”, he added. “I would not normally be interested in doing two scores in a row that require the same music style. I believe it is very important to have creative opportunity and have fun while composing. If not, it shows in the overall music execution.”

For the Hitman Contracts score, Kyd decided to experiment with ideas that would correspond with the change of direction and atmosphere of the latest game. He added that it’s clear from the get go that this game would require a very different score than the orchestral based compositions used in the first two Hitman titles.

“I wanted to create a score that would enhance the dark elements of the game. I don’t feel an orchestral score would have worked as well. Dark and scary electronic music can sound really cool, but if you go too dark with an orchestra, it can become annoying to listen to, especially if you have to hear it many times during gameplay.”

Due to its interactive quality, Kyd believes that video game soundtracks play more of an important role than that of a movie score. He noted that the music which accompanies video game cut scenes is very similar to what’s found in movies. But Kyd added that in-game music can add a huge level of depth and atmosphere to a title when implemented correctly.

“Since you are playing the character in a game, you connect with the game world in a more intense way than in film. You get feelings of accomplishment from completing a level and you really have to work hard to move ahead to the next level/puzzle. The music has a huge opportunity to connect with the player, which can lure you into staying longer in the game world.”

Kyd says he has a lot of creative freedom when it comes to his compositions, but added that the music has to relate to the game. And since Hitman Contracts would be a very dark and disturbing title, the goal was to create a score that would enhance this mood.

Kyd doesn’t believe that technological limitations in the past were the reason behind the lack of quality scores in video games. He added that a composer who doesn’t understand game scoring is often the reason for the lackluster game scores.

“Interactive music is an interesting subject, but this approach has actually been around since the C64. The sound and music systems are getting more complex though, and it’s great to see developers starting to develop their own audio tools for games.”

Recently, the original score to Hitman Contracts was released on CD. The soundtrack, along with other Jesper Kyd compositions, can be purchased online through www.gamemusic.com. The soundtrack is an amalgamation of modern electronica with atmospheric overtones that give listeners a glimpse into the dark and disturbing world of Hitman Contracts.

Andre Barriault lives in Dieppe and is co-editor at the gaming website www.XGR.com – Originally published in [here] magazine in Aug. 2004

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Ninja Gaiden fans prep-up for the perfect storm (Hurricane Pack Preview)

Since its release earlier this year, Tecmo’s Xbox exclusive “Ninja Gaiden” has amassed rave reviews due to its jaw dropping visuals, fast and furious gameplay and innovative storyline. Now things are going to get a whole better for Gaiden fans on Aug. 02 when Tecmo unleashes its first Hurricane Pack downloadable content that will give gamers a whole new perspective on Ninja Gaiden.

The new booster pack of sorts will be launched in conjunction with the second phase of the Master Ninja Tournament, which pits the world’s best Gaiden players against each other for the highest score. The new content will signal the start of tournament. It’s been made clear by Tecmo that players do not need to participate in the tournament in order to download and play with the improved content.

Available only to subscribers of Microsoft’s Xbox Live online gaming service, the new content will spice-up the already stellar title with new enemies, enhanced weapons, better enemy AI (artificial intelligence) and new camera angles that will make things even more challenging for gamers used to the original gameplay formula.

The camera angles will be tweaked thanks to the addition of a manual third-person view that will enable players to switch views to suite their combat needs. Gamers will now have full control of the camera. This in itself is a major improvement to the game as many fans complained that the camera angles could be unforgiving in various combat-related instances.

Also included in the download is a tweaked gaming engine that will speed-up the action considerably. Dubbed the Action Engine, the new component will turbo charge everything including your character and enemies. If you thought Ninja Gaiden was fast-paced, get ready for another jolt of extreme ninja action.

As for the new enemies, the game will include several new foes. Ninja Gaiden creator Tomonobu Itagaki stated in a previous interview that several lesser villains were eliminated in the original iteration to make way for the new enemies. Your new adversaries will include giant Egyptian like triceratops creatures that will try to annihilate your character using massive spike laden clubs. As you can imagine, the folks at Tecmo were pretty imaginative with character design.

The only disappointing point about the upcoming Hurricane Pack is that it will be only offered to subscribers of Xbox Live. It would have great for Tecmo to send booster pack disks to retailers so that non-Xbox Live users could get the opportunity to experience this new level of Ninja Gaiden excitement. The download will probably show-up on a demo disk at some point, but thus far the download will be exclusive to Xbox Live members.

Will the new downloadable content make Ninja Gaiden a relatively perfect title? I guess will just have to wait and see. But no matter how you enhance the game, Ninja Gaiden remains one of the best titles of the year thus far. If you haven’t experienced Ninja Gaiden yet, now would be the time to treat yourself to this amazing title.

Andre Barriault lives in Dieppe and is co-editor at the gaming – Originally published in the Metro Marquee in July 2004

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The Most Important Week in Gaming (E3 2004)

This week, the Los Angeles Convention Center is host to the biggest and most exciting gaming event of the year, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Each year the trade event serves as launching pad for publishers and developers to reveal and showcase their upcoming products to the media. In short, E3 is as important to the gaming industry as the Academy Awards are to films.

This year’s event will be particularly special as the big three console makers (better known as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) are expected to unveil crucial information about their next generation of gaming consoles, which are expected to launch in early 2006. During the last couple of months, the Internet has been running rampant with rumours of what to expect out of these upcoming couch potato enhancers.

Nintendo and Sony will also use the event to showcase their upcoming handheld devices. The big “N” will be showcasing its dual screen product aptly known as the “Nintendo DS”. While Japanese rival Sony will take the stage with its media centric iPod killer the PSP. Both companies are expected to have working prototypes on display at the show. So far, most major developers have pledged their support to both units.

Two other companies will attempt to enter the crowded console market with new innovative, but pricey units. Digital Interactive Systems will be at the show demonstrating their DISCover console and Infinium Labs will have its Phantom Console on exhibit. It’s believed that both companies will be brandishing their devices with fully functioning units.

On the software side of things, publishers will be on hand with a complete list of their forthcoming titles. Canadian developers Bioware and Digital Extremes will be showcasing two of the most anticipated titles of the year in the form of Jade Empire and Pariah, respectively. Many significant releases such as Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Metroid Prime 2, Final Fantasy XII, Resident Evil 4, and Metal Gear Solid 3 should be among the most sought-after titles on the show floor.

It’s also interesting to note that software developer SEGA has promised that it will make a shocking announcement on May 12. Revealed by the company as “big news you’d never guess,” its still unclear whether or not the announcement is software or hardware based. SEGA’s last hardware venture was the Dreamcast, which was discontinued in 2001. It’s highly doubtful though that SEGA will make a return on the hardware scene. Expect an announcement to be in the form of a merger or an acquisition.

It remains to be seen whether or not their will be any surprises at the event, but rest assured that this year’s event will surely be the talk of the industry for months to come. If all the hype turns out to be true, this year’s E3 trade event will end-up being one of the most interesting trade events in recent years. And don’t forget to pick-up next week’s issue of the Metro Marquee for a complete rundown of the event.

Andre Barriault lives in Dieppe and is co-editor at the gaming website www.XGR.com – Originally published in the Metro Marquee in May 2004

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