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Hori Officially Licensed Fighting Stick EX2 (Xbox 360)
Hori Officially Licensed Fighting Stick EX2 (Xbox 360)

3.0 out of 5 stars Decent starter but nothing more, 17 Aug. 2014
This stick is really only any use as a starter. The joystick itself is reasonable - short throw and responsive. The buttons are fairly horrific and occasionally drop inputs though so, whilst tolerable, you will want to replace them. Placing of RB and LB at the top of the stick as small buttons is a little strange so this may put you off if you play fighting games which use said buttons - I haven't come across a shmup that needs them though.

Beware modders - it's not worth trying to replace the joystick itself, as the case is far too shallow to accomodate the usual popular Seimitsu/Sanwa joysticks. So unless you want to be cutting holes through sheets of metal, don't bother. The buttons are soldered on to the PCB, but easy to get off. Attach wires to the solder points rather than resolder back onto the PCB, as the PCB is rather flimsy and it is definitely worth reducing the shock that it'll be put through. You will need to widen the holes to get Seimitsu/Sanwa buttons in - unfortunately your average multitool might struggle because there's a sheet of metal in the top.

I'd recommend the generic Mayflash stick for a shell to mod over this - that one does require a lot of grinding down but this one requires some drilling through and grinding down metal, and is a complete nightmare.

If you're starting out, it's a reasonable stick that can be found for a pittance in the second hand market. It's not ideal as a first modding project though and as such it has limited appeal these days.


Aliens Colonial Marines - Limited Edition (Xbox 360)
Aliens Colonial Marines - Limited Edition (Xbox 360)
Offered by rockaway-records
Price: £4.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but great fun, 2 Feb. 2014
First off, this game doesn't deserve the bad press it received. Sure it had a troubled development history and is basically unfinished, but it's still an enjoyable game. Ultimately it is disappointing because with a bit more polish it could've been incredible, but it certainly isn't bad. I bought this for £5 having been swayed by the original reviews and to be honest I wouldn't have felt ripped off to spend £20 on it.

The graphics are somewhere between Goldeneye and The Conduit on the Wii - certainly not up to the standard you usually expect from the 360. Throw in some mild screen tearing and horrendous clipping issues. This doesn't bother me because I'm used to playing games on the Wii and still go back to my previous consoles, but it may infuriate those who demand flashiness.

Biggest of the game's problems are the various immersion-breaking aspects. Your squadmates are invincible and have unlimited ammo, the former because half the time you can walk straight through them. It is a little distracting to be walking down a corridor and have a fellow marine run straight through you. However bad this may seem though, it is better than babysitting vulnerable AI teammates - nothing is worse than failing a mission because the CPU player got itself killed, or you died trying to bail the dumb CPU out of a tight spot. Enemy AI is a bit dodgy - but this is really no worse than most other first person shooters, so it is unfair to criticise this game for it. Aliens do have a tendency to run at you rather than use the walls/ceiling, but they do drop in behind you enough to create some panic-inducing moments. Finally, you make Doomguy look like a wimp with all the weapons you can carry - but you have to put flamethrowers and rocket launchers down to switch weapons. Really, the game just needed a pulse rifle, shotgun and pistol - with flame unit, smart gun and rocket launchers staying as pickups. Show a little restraint and you can do this yourself.

However, top of the draw is the sound design. Lifting most of the effects and musical score straight from the film helps to create a real Aliens atmosphere. The motion tracker is great and it's only a shame that it doesn't pick up more false positives. The voice acting isn't horrendous plus Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen are used as Hicks and Bishop - no horrific soundalikes (see Darth Vader in The Force Unleashed). The story is just an excuse to keep a sense of urgency about the game and is perfectly fine with a satisfactory ending.

It would have been better to have vulnerable but controllable squadmates (such as in Binary Domain), or just spending the majority of the game fighting solo like in Dead Space - either would've eliminated the problem of being the only one who can die or run out of ammo.

As it is, I enjoyed this game the the same way I enjoyed Alpha Protocol. It's clearly lacking polish and is occasionally ridiculous if you let it be, but with a bit of self restraint you can create the right atmosphere and have a lot of fun. I enjoyed this so much that I'll probably purchase the DLC add on mission.

Yes, this could have been a stunning game. But it's still fun, so don't let the detractors influence you unless you're the type who only cares about fancy graphics.


Halo 2
Halo 2
Offered by multimedia-online
Price: £24.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Works fine with xbox 360 (hard drive only), 24 Jan. 2014
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Halo 2 (Video Game)
First of all, this works great on an xbox 360. You'll need a hard drive model to play it though. It runs in an emulation mode, so there are some glitches - all I ever experienced were ghost images left behind after cutscenes (to give context, this happened 3 times in the entire playthrough). This was towards the end of the game and could be resolved by either reloading the game or getting to the next checkpoint. It was never enough to obstruct my view of the action but could get distracting in firefights. Overall very minor stuff and certainly nothing game-breaking. As naff as the humans look, the Covenant look a tonne better!

The graphics hold up well, human character models aside. Textures can look a bit plain but it's not massively noticeable. The music is nothing short of outstanding and the voice acting is well done (watch out for some fairly big names). Story is a fairly major strong point for the majority of the game, as you alternate between opposing sides before finally joining forces against a common enemy.

Gameplay wise, next to the original Halo this is a massive improvement. Remember the long slogs through identical looking rooms and passages from the first game? None of that here. There are also a wider variety of weapons to use and, crucially, the controls for the Warthog jeep are much more responsive - considerably less fishtailing compared to the first game. The AI seems to be less cheap too - one thing that annoyed me about the Halo Anniversary remake was how frequently (particularly later in the game) an enemy would sticky you with a grenade or one hit kill you with a dead on rocket launcher hit before you even had the chance to make them out as a target. You also get dual-wield options (at the expense of grenades, for as long as you dual wield) for many weapons, which really makes you feel like you're an unstoppable super-soldier.

Downsides? Obviously this is emulation on hard drive 360s only - no HD overhaul here, but it still looks fine for the most part. Human faces are extremely angular and character models are a bit basic - it's all a bit 1998 in that respect. Better models made it to the Dreamcast. Also the boss battles (if you can call them that) are somewhat on the easy side and the ending is... abrupt. There is no online, so this is strictly for single player story completists who never had an original xbox.

Ultimately this strikes a nice balance between old and new schools for first person shooter design. It gives you much more freedom with less handholding than the average "new" FPS, but still keeps up the frantic pace and tension you get with today's more linear scripted scenarios.


Universal Fighting Stick for PC/PS2/PS3 (USB)
Universal Fighting Stick for PC/PS2/PS3 (USB)
Offered by RoughCurve
Price: £37.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid as is, slippery to mod, 2 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this stick primarily as a shell to mod for use with a Sega Saturn, but gave it a spin on the PC first to see how it held up. I don't have a PS3, so cannot comment on that aspect.

This worked plug and play with Windows 7 64 bit, although a driver disk is supplied. The buttons are quiet and feel nice, with the shell being perfect. However a point gets knocked off for the stick. As a previous reviewer mentioned, the microswitches are loud. It's a little distracting. There's also quite a large dead zone - the stick wobbles around a bit before it contacts a switch. Not exactly perfect if you're after precision dodging in a 2D shooter but workable nonetheless. By default the stick will operate as a hat switch, but hold down a button combination and it switches over to analogue (some games will only pick up the analogue control, so it's handy to have and saves you resorting to a key mapper).

This gets a solid 4 stars if you're using it as supplied. If you're out for something to mod - be warned, this is not the most co-operative of beasts. The ball top of the stick appears to have been glued in place, so you'll need to hacksaw the shaft to remove it. The buttons are also a non-standard size - the larger ones are frustratingly a millimetre or two smaller than a 30 mm Sanwa with the smaller ones about 14 mm. They also operate by contact with a PCB (like a gamepad), so are not as friendly if you want to keep them (a shame, as the smaller ones are otherwise ideal for Start/Select). It all mounts up to some grinding away - you may as well get a Dremel if you don't have one, because in addition to the button holes needing opening up, there's raised plastic around where the stick is held which will need to be cut away and sanded down if you want to put a different stick in there (you guessed it, the existing screw areas don't line up with anything else). The whole thing is at least easy to open up and the two PCBs (one for the 8 large buttons, one for the other buttons, stick and controlling components) are easy to remove - all done with phillips head screws and no glue.

Edit: I have since purchased a second one to use with PS2 - via its native connector to PS2, and to xbox 360 (xtokki) and Wii Gamecube (Mayflash) both via adapter. The comments above regarding the modding process still stand (although a breeze compared to the xbox 360 Hori EX2 which I eventually gave up on!), but I will add that the onboard PCB is fully compatible for PS2 and introduces no noticable input latency. I replaced the buttons with 30 mm Sanwa, the stick with a Seimitsu LS-32, and wired straight onto the main board. I kept the four buttons across the top - these are Start, Select and the other two when held (+plus a joystick direction press) allow you to switch the joystick from analogue to digital and back.

The analogue to digital switch works across adapters as well! This makes it an excellent choice above many stock sticks which just offer digital for the joystick - as some games will only offer one or the other (or, confusingly, one for menus and the other for gameplay!). With most consoles having an adapter that takes PS2 connectors, you can use this one stick for pretty much everything!


Creative Zen MX 16GB MP3 and Video Player with SD Card Slot
Creative Zen MX 16GB MP3 and Video Player with SD Card Slot

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Setting the record straight - great player!, 1 Nov. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this as a replacement for my old 20 GB Zen Touch (which met its end leaving my belt while I was running to catch a bus - 5 years loyal service) and it is almost exactly everything I wanted. The drawbacks can be worked around - certainly less hassle than setting up a Virtual PC with XP on it to transfer stuff to my old Zen. That's right, this player is 100% with Windows 7, both 32 and (crucially, for many new PCs) 64 bit.

I use this in the gym, at the office, walking around and on public transport. So it's robust enough to take anything you reasonably throw at it. Be sensible though - consumer electronics are not designed to take a massive beating, so look after it and it'll serve you well.

The main reason to write this review is to set a few things straight in previous reviews. I bought this off the strength of my previous Zen experience and found a lot of the video playback comments in reviews to be inconsistent. This is mostly aimed at the video capability of the player, so I'll start there and kick it off with an all-encompassing statement: video playback on this is just fine.

* Video:

First and foremost is that when playing video from an SD card (I use the Kingston 16 GB listed as supported on Creative's product page) there is no loss of audio sync. I have watched videos ranging from a 22 minute show to a 2.5 hour film with no sync hassle. Yes there is the annoyance that with a SD card in, it re-indexes everything when you turn it on - which takes 30 seconds tops (based on my internal memory full of 192 kbps mp3s and the SD card 75% full with videos), so it's not exactly a big deal. The size of a DivX encoded .avi converted to the Creative format is... pretty much the same. So a 30 minute video is about 100 MB bigger? Woah. Hardly the end of the world, is it? Also, the conversion process does not take forever - 30 mins is done in about 5-10 mins. Yeah, so you end up with duplicated files in two different formats... remind me how much a 1 TB external HDD costs these days? Again, hardly a big deal.

You're watching on a tiny screen so it doesn't matter for it to be pixel perfect high resolution stuff. The quality is fine, I've seen no frame drops or corruption with videos converted from well encoded source .avi videos and there are no audio sync issues playing from the SD card (assuming the source file has no synch issues).

There are drawbacks with the video side of this player. Primarily the need to use the Creative Centrale software (comes with the player, run it from the executable) to transfer videos is a little annoying. Native DivX .avi support at least would've been nice. The software makes a library from what's on your PC, which can take a while but is a one-off and after that you can set it to only detect certain folders (I have a single one set up for video transfers) so adding new files does not take forever. It also forces you to drag and drop within it to start the video conversion process, which is a mild irritation vs copy and paste to a flash drive within Windows Explorer. Finally, do not use the DVD ripper in Centrale - it will create a large and very poor quality rip. Start with an up to date DivX .avi and you cannot lose.

* Audio:

I use minimum 192 kbps mp3s and I have to admit it took some fiddling with the equalizer to get things sounding the way I wanted - though individual needs will vary, this was based on alternative rock/punk/metal. You get a little under 15 GB, because some of the 16 GB some is used for the operating system and indexing. Not a massive issue, because as long as your mp3s are tagged correctly they slot in perfectly (band/artist > album > tracks sorted by track number) - so you can just copy and paste mp3s in Windows Explorer like you were transferring to an external disk. No Centrale needed for this (though you can use it if you're a sadist), it's easy.

Album artwork is a bit random and I have no idea how it fathoms it (I certainly haven't uploaded any of it myself) - it has artwork for relatively obscure bands (occasionally only picking it up halfway through the record!) but not for more popular ones. Go figure. They're tiny image files so will never amount to a single mp3 in size, so it's not really wasted space and any absences are pretty unimportant (does anyone really need a thumbnail of the album art?).

* Technical/features:

The SD card is a big draw, because it effectively doubles your capacity for an extra £20. It isn't ideally implemented, but then this is an early use of it in a low-cost media player. Disappointingly you can't really integrate both internal memory and SD card libraries - so I just keep them separate. Internal memory for music, SD card for video. Job done. The previously mentioned index rebuilding whenever you turn it on with an SD card (it won't do it if you were last in the internal memory) is a bit annoying but only takes 30 seconds tops so is hardly a massive inconvenience.

Battery life is great - in line with the old Zen Touch's 20-25 hours pure music (based on 192 kbps mp3s at 50-75% volume, 40-60 mins+ at a time because dipping in and out to add and skip tracks fires up the display and backlight - which will gradually sap battery if you're constantly at it). It dips when you use video, so can be hard to track if you switch between music and video, but will still push 6 hours pure video playback. Charging is through USB only out of the box, though mains chargers are available - although these days a PC is almost as freely accessible as a mains socket, so again not a massive drawback.

Summary:

Pros -
Great video playback if you start with up to date encoding
Excellent audio playback
Hassle free mp3 transfer (drag and drop like a flash drive)
Top battery life on a single full charge (20+ hours music, ~6 hours video)
Effectively 16 GB music, 16 GB video (with a 16 GB SD card on board)
Stable operating system - I've only ever had one lock-up which was instantly resolved with the reset button, no harm done

Cons -
Videos need to be converted using bundled software
Bundled software is naff (but entirely optional for audio transfers)
SD card integration is not complete

Overall - you cannot beat this in the price range. Get over the need to convert videos to Creative's format and you have a solid video player. Audio playback is excellent and the battery life formidable. True it could do with more internal memory (16 GB is a bit tight and there isn't a 32 GB Zen MX) and better SD card integration, but this is still an exceptional little media player. Far superior to all this i-nonsense!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 20, 2010 9:42 PM GMT


Creative Zen Touch 20GB MP3 Player
Creative Zen Touch 20GB MP3 Player

5.0 out of 5 stars Unstoppable!, 26 April 2010
I've had this MP3 player for 5 years now and it's still going strong (based on an average of 2 hours a day play time). If you don't mind its weight (it's a brick by today's standards) and just want music capability then you cannot go wrong with picking one of these up instead of going for a fancy new model. That may sound barking mad, but this thing is awesome and it lasts if you treat it right. BE WARNED: IF YOU HAVE WINDOWS 7 THEN YOU WILL NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VIRTUAL PCS

Drawbacks:

* YOU WILL NEED WINDOWS XP IN SOME FORM. Firmware exists for Vista, but firmware updates are risky business now the player is unsupported by Creative (though by all accounts their customer support was pathetic when it was valid for this model) - one wrong move or disconnection and you can render the player unusable. The firmware it ships with is sufficient for running on XP. YOU CAN RUN THIS ON WINDOWS 7 IF YOU HAVE AN XP VIRTUAL PC - Windows 7 Professional edition upwards come shipped with one as "Windows XP mode", while the software works the same for the Home edition but you need to provide your own virtual hard disk (vhd) with a licensed copy of XP on it. The new USB support in Windows 7's VPC works fine and Creative still provide downloads for the necessary software (in the order you need to install them: Creative Media Source, Jukebox Driver, Nomad Explorer) if the install CD has gone walkabout

* Heavy. Even by 2004's standards this player was bulky - in 2010 it's a beast and a half. It's still much lighter than ye olde Walkman though

* Touch. Yes, this is what the player is named for so why is this in "drawbacks"? It's a little user unfriendly to start with, that's why. I run on lowest sensitivity and tap to select off - because it's all rather too twitchy otherwise

Advantages:

* 20 GB hard drive. This still holds its own with the storage space available with the ~£100 bracket MP3 players on the market today. You can also store other file types in a "hard drive" mode that exists in parallel with the player (shows up as an extra folder in Nomad Explorer)

* Battery life is incredible. Based on volume around 15, 192 kbps mp3s and "general" menu/backlight usage, this will easily net you the advertised 24 hours. 5 years on and I still get this out of the battery - you've just got to look after it and ensure you give it regular total discharge/recharge cycles. Only top it up if it's down to 1 bar

* Playback. The equaliser presets are okay, but you can customise in the 100, 800, 3000 and 12000 Hz ranges to get it just how you like it. Providing you're using 192 kbps or upwards then the sound quality is no different through decent headphones vs a decent stereo/speaker setup

* Robust. Always be careful, but occasionally accidents do happen. I've dropped my player onto concrete from waist height a couple of times with no consequence, save for some scratching and minor denting to the case

* With exercise. I use this player in my pocket at the gym - no skipping, jolting or refusing to play. It works exactly the same as when it's sat still

* Friendly software. Nomad Explorer lets you copy and paste songs from your PC as though you were copying to an external hard drive. As long as you've tagged the MP3s correctly when you ripped them, it'll organise artist/album/song title properly. I'm sure the Creative Media Source software will sort your entire collection for you a la iTunes if you really want it to though

* Unstoppable! The test of time is always the ultimate test. If you look after it (don't throw it around, ensure that when charging you charge it fully from fully drained) then it will just keep on going. Try to find someone with an iPod that's still going with full battery life after 5 years and used for 2 hours a day on average!

Sure this MP3 player is a brick by today's standards and doesn't play videos or games - but it does offer equal or better storage to most affordable players, is easy to use and will just keep on going. If you want music on the move then you cannot go wrong with picking up one of these - either new if you spot one or used by someone who treated it well.

It might be over 5 years old and limited to mp3 playback, but unless you want lightweight and video capability (or have no idea what a virtual PC is), this is as good as it gets.


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