Video games

A non-game Gamer review: Astro A50 deadphones


Guardian video game reviewer Peter Galvin tests out technology designed to enhance the gaming experience. Product was provided for review purposes.

Someone once labeled current gaming headset star Astro Gaming the "Beats of gaming," referring to the enormously successful Beats by Dre product line of consumer headsets. It's a comparison Astro itself seems eager to encourage and, while aligning your company with such a ubiquitous brand name makes sense financially, more discerning audiophiles are quick to point out that most of the cash you shell out for a pair of Beats is for name-brand style rather than for sound.

However, Astro Gaming seems to be looking to the Beats phenomenon more as a guide to positioning itself at the top of the industry for premium gaming headphones. The market isn't exactly teeming with game-specific headsets, so when I say the new Astro A50 (Astro Gaming, $299) headphones are some of the best money can buy in this category it doesn't automatically mean they're mind-blowing. It does suggest that Astro's first big release in three years is conclusively about looking towards the future rather than playing catch-up.

A local San Francisco company, Astro has made a name for itself by selling headsets solely on its own website, and, with the release of the A50, it hopes to expand the web store into a downtown retail space. Gaming is in the process of legitimizing itself for mature players and Astro wants a place in that richer realm, not just for posterity's sake but because we're talking about a market that's growing every day. As the average age of game players rises (currently somewhere between 30 and 35 years old), the industry has seen a rise in gamers and tech enthusiasts with considerably deeper pockets.

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Gamer: Sony PlayStation Vita top picks (and games to skip)


Read Peter Galvin's review of the Sony PlayStation Vita in this week's Gamer column.

Most of the Vita's launch games exist to show off what the system can do. Mini games, short races, puzzlers; a lot of this initially sounds like phone gaming. But, even with all of Sony's efforts to ape the success of Apple's app store, don't discount the Vita's sticks and buttons, a fundamental that phone gaming has yet to overcome. Real games have buttons, people.

Little Deviants
This mini-game collection came as a pack-in with early orders of the Vita and seems specifically designed to show off the system's novelties. Think WiiSports, but instead of a remote, you have touch screen games and "augmented reality" that uses the rear camera to allow you to shoot aliens in your house. Each game is fairly one-note and, for all but children, the novelty will grow old fast.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss
For everyone who thinks their phones can play games, play Golden Abyss. While this third-person shooter may stack less favorably against its console brethren, as a handheld title it's simply stunning. An Uncharted adventure with very few concessions, Golden Abyss is closest to a home experience you're likely to get on a handheld. Read more »

The bottom of the top

YEAR IN GAMER 2011: It's only when you approach the bottom half of a video game critic's top 10 that the real debate begins


YEAR IN GAMER One of the most exciting release windows in recent memory, this year's fall gaming onslaught is officially behind us. And while most gamers are quick to rank the marquee experiences — battling dragons (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim), thwarting diabolical clowns (Batman: Arkham City), and riding giant birds in a green tunic (The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword), it's only when you approach the bottom half of a critic's top 10 that the real debate begins.Read more »

The new (open) world order

YEAR IN GAMER 2011: Red Dead Redemption dominated, but Elder Scrolls vs. Skyrim dazzled and Mineshaft's open world was wondrous


YEAR IN GAMER In 2010, year-end awards were dominated by one game: Red Dead Redemption. Published by Rockstar Games, the title was a sweeping, epic Western in the best American tradition. Using a proprietary game engine, Rockstar stitched together a giant swath of imaginary frontier, a teeming open world that seems to leap straight from the imagination of John Ford or Sergio Leone.Read more »

Combat fatigue

Battlefield 3 offers an immersive multiplayer war experience. Shame about the story mission, though.


Battlefield 3

(DICE, Electronic Arts)

Xbox 360, PS3, PCRead more »

The Duke abides: Gamer takes on "Duke Nukem Forever"


Duke Nukem Forever
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
(3D Realms / Triptych Games / Gearbox Software / 2K Games)

Duke Nukem Forever is an exploration of myth and ego, a commentary on celebrity-obsessed culture...

Oh, who are we kidding? Duke Nukem is a steroid-popping meathead who loves beer, blow jobs and blasting aliens. DNF is a direct sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, a PC game that debuted in 1996 – in those dying days of action movie excess, nu-metal and witty one-liners – and the sequel does not stray far from its roots.

That it took 15 years to release a sequel makes DNF the oldest video game joke in the industry. Following numerous delays, funding issues and company closures, its imminent release is a moment being watched by many gamers with cautious anticipation: Will the game enjoy the same success it might have had in the 90s? Or has the world changed too much, lending this joke a pitiful punchline? Read more »

Gamer: does the dismal "Homefront" have a silver lining?


Can Homefront’s failures inspire change in the game industry?

I’m almost reluctant to add to the media blitz that first-person shooter Homefront (now available) was and is getting. Even with low scores and plummeting stocks, the game managed to sell 300,000 copies on its first day, so to a degree it would seem the publicity has paid off. But, after being personally subjected to an overwhelming number of posters and billboards, hundreds of balloons, an anti-Korean rally, and a long schoolbus ride to a barbed-wire-laden warehouse, I was disappointed to find that behind this velvet curtain was a pretty flimsy product. Maybe Homefront will be the game that gets the ball rolling on an important issue that has been brewing for a while: game pricing.

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