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    Journliast CSBD / Manager Cs 1.6
  • Dată naștere November 7


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  1. Have A Sweet Dreams Good Night ❤️

  2. Good Evening 🙂 Have A Great Cup Of Tea And Biscuits ❤️

    1. RafaeL G.

      RafaeL G.

      ice coffee!!!! the best! 😎

  3. Mark-x

    Science quiz #1

    I just completed this quiz. My Score 33/100 My Time 45 seconds  
  4. 🔥

    1. RafaeL G.

      RafaeL G.

      Someone is on fire! May i call Fire Department for assistance? hahahaha 😄

      Good Evening bruv 😄

  5. Pakistan Head Coach and Chief Selector, Misbah-ul-Haq, has named a 16-member squad for three ODIs against Sri Lanka that would be played from 27 September to 2 October in Karachi. Abid Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Usman Shinwari and Mohammad Hasnain have earned recalls.Hasan Ali misses out his place in the side due to a back spasm. He will undergo rehab at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore. The squad for the three T20Is against Sri Lanka in Lahore will be announced during the one-day series. Until then, the other players in the probables camp will continue to train at the NCA. Misbah-ul-Haq said after thorough discussions with the members of the selection committee and meticulous planning, he feels "we have put together the best possible squad". “These are the only 50-over matches we have this season and we want to make their optimum use. Over the course of my cricketing career, I have realised there are no easy games and there are no easy opponents in cricket," he said. Misbah added a season-opening series is crucial for setting the tone. "It is extremely important that we produce solid performances and have favourable results. It will build the confidence of our players and help in carrying the momentum Down Under," he said. He added, "The five boys, who have been recalled, were straightforward selections. Iftikhar Ahmed is a batsman who can also bowl off-spin, providing the captain with necessary bowling depth as Sri Lanka boasts a few left-handers in their ranks. Mohammad Nawaz has been performing well in domestic matches. Despite their strong performances, Mohammad Rizwan, Usman Shinwari and Abid Ali were unlucky to miss out the World Cup squad." ODI Squad: 1. Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain) 2. Babar Azam (vice-captain) 3. Abid Ali 4. Asif Ali 5. Fakhar Zaman 6. Haris Sohail 7. Iftikhar Ahmed 8. Imad Wasim 9. Imam-ul-Haq 10. Mohammad Amir 11. Mohammad Hasnain 12. Mohammad Nawaz 13. Mohammad Rizwan 14. Shadab Khan 15. Usman Shinwari 16. Wahab Riaz
  6. The release of macOS Catalina – the official name for macOS 10.15 – is almost here, and we should see it on our Macs by October 2019. Apple first unveiled macOS Catalina at its WWDC 2019 conference in San Jose, California earlier this year, during which the company highlighted some of the exciting new features that macOS Catalina has to offer, including the nifty capability to use an iPad as a secondary screen. Apple’s macOS Catalina has been available as early beta software to app developers, allowing them port their iPhone and iPad apps to Mac more easily. Apple has introduced a new feature, christened "Project Catalyst," solely for this purpose, allowing them to seamlessly port their iOS 13 and iPadOS apps to the macOS environment. Apple's head of software, Craig Federighi, also announced at WWDC that when the macOS 10.15 Catalina is finally available to the public, it will say goodbye to iTunes and give way to new apps. These apps include Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. Each of these macOS Catalina apps will have new and improved features that aren't available in their previous versions currently running on other devices. macOS 10.15 Catalina, whose public beta is now on hand to download, will also add into the mix Sidecar, a new built-in tool for using an iPad as a secondary display for your Mac or MacBook device. This feature will work both wired and wirelessly. Here's every major change coming to Apple's OS for Macs and MacBooks in 2019 when we usher in macOS Catalina.macOS Catalina release date The public beta of macOS Catalina is now available for free, and is available for anyone to try out at this link. If you're feeling particularly adventurous and have 100 bucks or quid just sitting around, you can even test out the special developer preview beta. For anyone who isn't an app developer or willing to step into the beta now, macOS Catalina will be available to the public in October, as listed in its landing page on the Apple website. Though Apple hosted its iPhone 11 event on September 10, the show came and went with nary a mention of macOS 10.15. However, Apple's macOS 10.15 Catalina page was updated with an "October 2019" release window. If you’d rather not wait a few more weeks, however, we’ll show you how to download the macOS Catalina beta. Otherwise, keep this page bookmarked as we will be updating it as more details regarding macOS 10.15 Catalina come to light.WWDC 2019 and macOS 10.15 Catalina make it official: iTunes is no more. From its ashes, however, rises the new apps for macOS: Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts – and they’re going to be improved versions of those that already appear on iOS. Apple Music will give macOS users access to their entire music libraries regardless of whether the tracks have been downloaded or are being streamed. This is also where music ripped from CDs will live, assimilated into the same libraries. Apple TV, meanwhile, will have the app's channels and have more than 100,000 iTunes movies and TV shows available to browse, buy or rent. All of this content will be available in 4K HDR video and Dolby Atmos audio wherever offered. Apple TV+ will also be accessible through this app as soon as the service rolls out later in the year. Apple Podcasts will bring the service's more than 700,00 podcasts, as well as new episode updates, to the Mac in a brand new interface. This version of the app will also boast better search functions that can pull up episodes by hosts, guests or even discussion topics. Last but not the least, Apple Books will home all the audiobooks you can purchase, download and listen to. Like with the other new apps, it will feature a familiar interface for anyone who is used to iTunes. Apple has revealed more information about these apps that will replace iTunes following WWDC and how they will work. If you’re worried about all your existing music and playlists, as well as iTunes gift cards and credit, don’t. Apple has confirmed that all your music and playlists will be transferred over to the Apple Music app in macOS 10.15 Catalina. In addition, any iTunes gift cards or unspent iTunes credits are still valid to be used in the new apps. In macOS 10.15 Catalina, the iTunes Store, which will be accessed through the Sidebar in the Apple Music app, can still be used to buy new music. And of course, you can also subscribe to the Apple Music streaming service through the app – if you do, you can hide the iTunes Store for a cleaner interface.Safari browser will have a new startup page that uses Siri Suggestions to surface commonly visited websites, bookmarks, iCloud tabs and more. Mail will lets users to block messages from senders, mute message threads from issuing push notifications and send unsubscribe requests from within the app to mailing list providers. Lastly, Reminders will soon get an overhaul in visual interface so that it will let users more easily create, keep track and organize their reminders.
  7. AMD will soon be introducing more budget options in their Ryzen 3000 CPU lineup with the arrival of Ryzen 5 3500X and Ryzen 5 3500. Both processors have their specifications and expected prices revealed by Thai media outlet, Extreme IT and look to be very competitive against Intel’s sub $150 US 9th Gen processors. AMD Ryzen 5 3500X and Ryzen 5 3500 6 Core Budget CPUs Detailed – Aiming The Sub-$150 US Market To Tackle The Core i5-9400F For some time now, the Intel Core i5-9400F has become a very po[CENSORED]r processor for budget PCs with its stellar pricing of $139.99 US. The processor offers 6 cores and a boost clock of up to 4.1 GHz. However, AMD would soon have their own answer to the Core i5-9400F in the form of the Ryzen 3500 series processors.Starting off with the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X, we are looking at a base clock of 3.6 GHz and a boost clock of 4.1 GHz. The processor features 32 MB of cache, a 65W TDP and a price close to $150 US. It is highly liked that AMD would choose a $149.99 US price for this specific chip. the chip comes with 24 PCIe Gen 4 lanes, support for 3200 MHz memory and we also get to take a look at some performance benchmarks where the chip is highly competitive versus the Core i5-9400F. The 32 MB Game Cache is also said to deliver much better latencies in a wide variety of esports titles so that is something to consider for gamers on a budget when having to select between an AM4 and the LGA 1151 platforms. The Ryzen 5 3500X is expected to hit retail outlets on 23rd September.The Ryzen 5 3500, on the other hand, has pretty much the same specifications and even the same clock speeds of 3.6 GHz base and 4.1 GHz boost. The difference is that it features 16 MB of cache versus 32 MB on the Ryzen 5 3600X. It would result in a small performance penalty but we are also looking at a lower price point. The chip is said to retail at an expected price point of 4190 Thai Bhat or around $140 US. Given the specs, it is likely that the final prices for the Ryzen 5 3500X would be $149.99 US while the Ryzen 5 3500X could retail for $129.99 US.Chinese retailers have also listed the Ryzen 5 3500X for 1099 Yuan ($154 US). The Ryzen CPU obviously rocks a more modern 7nm architecture so it will be able to edge out the Intel-based parts with relative ease in most cases at a lower price point. With the launch of these CPUs, AMD would further increase their desktop market share as they aim the mainstream budget tier of the PC market.
  8. There are times when I look at Los Santos and think 'why would you even think to build that?' This is, appropriately, a thought that I often have about Los Angeles. In GTA 5's case, the tone is different: baffled wonderment as opposed to baffled, y'know, despair. Rockstar have created one of the most extraordinary game environments you will ever visit. I look at it and I wonder at the vast expense of effort required to render every trash bag in every back alley just so. I marvel at the care evident in San Andreas' gorgeous sunsets, in the way that sunglasses subtly alter the colour balance of the world, in the artfully-chosen selection of licensed music designed to accompany your experience. Everything about Los Santos demonstrates the extraordinary amount of thought and love poured into it by hundreds of developers over many years. The abiding irony of Grand Theft Auto 5 is that everybody who actually lives in Los Santos hates it there. This is the most beautiful, expansive and generous GTA game and also, by some distance, the nastiest and most nihilistic. Rockstar went through a phase, in Bully, Grand Theft Auto IV and the sadly console-bound Red Dead Redemption, of framing their protagonists as anti-heroes. GTA 4's Niko Bellic did some terrible things, but he had a downtrodden charm that helped you like him as you piloted him through the underworld. He was surrounded by people who were larger-than-life but ultimately, beneath the surface, people. Among those people were some of Rockstar's better female characters—Kate McReary, Mallorie Bardas, The Lost and Damned's Ash Butler.Grand Theft Auto 5 does away with all of that, deliberately but to its detriment. Its trio of protagonists occupy a city full of vapid, two-dimensional caricatures, and they flirt with that boundary themselves. Michael is a middle-aged former bankrobber, unhappily married and on the edge of a breakdown. Franklin is a young hood, purportedly principled but willing to do almost anything for money. Trevor is a desert-dwelling, meth-dealing psychopath with a homebrew morality that sits uneasily alongside his capacity for violent cruelty and sexual aggression. The campaign explores their relationship through a series of heists and misadventures as they clash with every L.A. stereotype you might imagine—the bored Beverly Hills housewife, the corrupt fed, the bottom-rung fraudster, the smug technology exec, and so on. Against this backdrop, it's only Michael, Franklin and Trevor that appear to have any kind of internal life. I get the impression that this is deliberate, part of the game's relentless skewering of southern California and indicative of Rockstar's waning interest in romantic anti-heroes. Trevor's introduction, in particular, amounts to a particularly explicit '[CENSORED] you' to the characters and themes of Grand Theft Auto IV. GTA 5 is heartless in that way, and as a result I found the narrative difficult to care about. It is ambitious, well-performed, and the production values are extraordinary—but it is also derivative and brutishly adolescent, set in a world where the line between criminality and the rule of law is blurry but where it is always hilarious that somebody might be gay.It's an R-rated episode of The A-Team where the 'A' stands for 'asshole'. The campaign's best moments come when your cigar-chomping master strategist, insane former military pilot and talented driver come together, and when you're given the power to choose how to use each of them. These heists are set-piece missions where you pick an approach and perform set-up tasks in the open world before setting out on the job itself. In the best of them, which occur later in the campaign, it really does evoke the satisfaction of having a plan come together. Perhaps you position Trevor on the high-ground with a rocket launcher, Michael on foot with a stealth approach, and Franklin in an armoured ram-raider. With a button press you can flick between the three, dynamically orchestrating a crime caper on your own terms. It is also in these moments that Rockstar's most ambitious storytelling takes place. Your choice of character, crew, and even certain in-game actions have subtle effects on the dialogue. In an early heist, a crewmember dropped part of the score but, as Franklin, I was able to retrieve it—a side-objective that I'd set for myself but that was subsequently reflected in a later conversation between him and Michael. This is another example of Rockstar's extraordinary attention to detail, and if the rest of the campaign respected your agency in this way it might overcome its weaker moments.As it is this is a very long game with a lot of filler. There's much driving from A to B, a lot of conversations in cars, a lot of gunfights with hordes of goons who show up just to run into your gunsights over and over. It's far richer in set-piece moments than its predecessor—drug trips, aerial heists, dramatic chases—and many of these look incredible even if they're light on actual interaction. In the best examples, you soak in the atmosphere and happily ignore the fact that you're only really being asked to follow the on-screen instructions. In the worst examples—insta-fail stealth sequences, sniper missions and so on—it's harder to ignore the shackles that are placed on the player in order to preserve the game's cinematic look and feel. I spent a lot of my time with the campaign frustrated along these lines, bored of the same mission templates that I've been playing through since GTA III and making the most of the scant opportunities to play my own way, like Franklin's refreshingly open assassination missions. Then, inevitably, I'd be doing one of those rote activities—a heavily scripted freeway chase, perhaps—when the magic of that extraordinary world would creep up on me again. It'd hit me: I'm doing 150 km/h along the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset. The rock station is playing 30 Days In The Hole by Humble Pie. It feels incredible, a collision of pop-culture, atmosphere, music and play that is unique to GTA.Here, then, is the kicker: that forty-plus hour campaign with all of its flaws amounts to an optional fraction of the vast overall package. Step off the main trail and you'll find fully-functional golf, tennis, races—even a stock market. You'll find cinemas showing funny short films and fully-programmed TV stations. You'll find armoured trucks to rob, secrets to find, muggers to help or hinder, cults to encounter, vehicles to customise and collect. This is what it looks like when one of gaming's most profitable enterprises reinvests that profit into the game itself. Rockstar have, quite literally, gone above and beyond the Call of Duty. The amount of work invested into the first-person mode is further evidence of this. It's not just a novelty alternative: GTA 5 is a fully-playable FPS, complete with detailed animations for everything from gunplay to getting out your phone. It achieves a similar sense of physical presence to Alien: Isolation, but in a vast open world. Steal an open-top car and go for a cruise in first person, steal a plane, or just go for a walk at night in the rain: there has never been an open-world game that offers this great a variety of atmospheric experiences at this level of detail. Hell, few games of any type have managed it. The only downside is that it's much more difficult to play, and that falling off a bike is so well-realised that it feels like really falling off a bike—people who get motion-sick in first person may suffer.Did I mention that GTA 5 was also a cinematography tool? Unique to the PC version, Director Mode allows you to explore the open world as any character you want, in whatever circumstances you want, and then record, cut and remix those experiences into short films using a deep and accessible toolkit. As crude and exclusionary as the out-of-the-box campaign can be, the option to take this world and make something else out of it is always there, available whether you're knee-deep in the narrative or cruising south Los Santos with a dozen friends. Right, yeah: GTA 5 is also an ambitious online game, a sandbox for deathmatch, racing and inventive co-op with MMO-lite progression features set in a world that is an order of magnitude more detailed than any of its contemporaries. The traditional multiplayer options alone amount to a feature-complete additional game. You can build your own tracks for races or use one of Rockstar's own, and configure your lobbies to account for different times of day, vehicle sets, weapon options—even radio stations. I've raced sportscars through the financial district, jetplanes through a windfarm, bicycles down through the hills below the Vinewood sign. There's also an attack-and-defend siege mode, regular deathmatch, and a hide-and-seek scenario that pits on-foot fugitives against hunters with sawn-off shotguns on motorcycles.Freeroam is the glue that binds these various experiences together, offering GTA 5's full open world (albeit with a reduced pedestrian count) for up to 32 players. You can rob stores together, murder each other, set bounties on each other, even pay to send mercenaries after one another when you reach the right level. Your progression is expressed through your expanding selection of customisable weapons, the vehicles you claim and make your own, the apartments you buy where your friends can hang out to drink your booze and watch your TV. As elsewhere, it's the details that make it: on the TV, for example, you can watch police chases live. These aren't pre-recorded shows—you're watching footage of actual players, actually on the run, presented from the point of view of a news chopper complete with Fox News-parodying ticker. These strengths culminate in heists, multi-part co-op missions similar in structure to their singleplayer counterparts. I've always loved asymmetric co-op, particularly the way that interdependency within a team creates moments where you get to shine both as individuals and as a unit. Heists are fantastic for this. I've had missions where my only job was to wait in a helicopter to pick up the ground team, but it feels amazing: I'm nervous for them, focused on what I'm doing, waiting for that one moment where I bring her in low and sweep them away with the score—a payout that feels earned in a way that videogame rewards rarely do.Two major caveats hold me back from saying that GTA Online is good enough to justify your purchase on its own: co-op is rubbish with strangers and it's littered with bugs and connection issues. Reviewing the game on a midrange rig, the singleplayer mode was relatively stable. Online, I've had the world load without textures, crash outright, and every variant on lag, matchmaking bugs and disconnections. I understand that it's nowhere near as bad as it was when it launched on console, but it could be much better. GTA 5 as a whole survives these problems because it is such a reliable generator of moments that transcend the script, the bugs, and its sometimes-galling linearity. This is particularly true of multiplayer, where the presence of other people injects energy and meaning into the open world. I've got as many examples of this as I have had play sessions, but here's one: having spent a chunk of my ill-gotten heist cash on a high-speed motorcycle, I break into the airport to see if I can reach top speed on those wide, flat runways. It's rainy and overcast, the rest of Los Santos lost in thick fog. I reach the chainlink fence at the edge of the tarmac and turn, and there, right in front of me, is an eminently-stealable private plane.I hop in and take off with no greater plan than 'get into some trouble'. Ahead, on the map, I can see another player in a helicopter. I give chase, which takes us across the map and into the wilds of Mount Chiliad. Then, from a gully on the mountainside, a tracking rocket explodes upwards and blasts the helicopter and its pilot out of the air. There's another group of players up there, making their own fun, taking pot-shots at anyone unlucky enough to wander past. I buzz them, close, dipping down into the gully and over a ridge to avoid missile lock. On my second pass, they hit me. Smoke and flame pours from my engine and the prop slowly dies. I lower the landing gear, point my nose down the mountain, and attempt to glide her down to the freeway. It works. I feel no small amount of pride as I touch down in heavy traffic. Slipping from the cockpit, I cast about for something to do next. Then I am hit by a truck and die. This isn't something I can repeat and it relies in no way on cinematic motion capture or cynical dialogue. It's an experience that stands alone, happily gamey, a moment immune to the cultural critique you might apply elsewhere. Moments like this are what push Grand Theft Auto 5 over the threshold from 'impressive' and into 'essential'. Like the city it both loves and hates, there are rough parts of town and people who will piss you off—but there's also the beach, the country, the skyline, the way the lights of the city play off the surface of the road in the rain. It's these ever present things that remind you why so many people might choose to spend so much time in this place. Rockstar did not need to build something this absurdly complex, this quixotic in its attention to detail, but I am glad that they did.
  9. Warcraft is a pretty huge franchise these days. There’s the movie, the collectible card game and not to mention the world’s most po[CENSORED]r MMORPG. Despite the series’ success it actually had a pretty humble beginning. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans is a real-time strategy game which came out in the dark ages of 1994, and was one of the first games in the genre that po[CENSORED]rized online multiplayer. In fact, it’s likely that the RTS boom was actually caused by Warcraft working in tandem with the Command & Conquer games.The storyline of Warcraft is classic sword & sorcery, although the story itself isn’t actually all that present. Instead, the narrative appears only via the manual and a single cutscene. In it’s the most basic form it’s about orcs wanting to kill humans and take their stuff. On a more detailed note, the orcs come from another dimension and the humans have a prosperous kingdom. For the most part, it’s just flimsy pretense to get the two sides to fight, but it works. The main story splits into two separate campaigns. On one hand, you have the humans defending against the invading orc hordes. On the other hand, you have the invading orcs aiming to kill all the humans. Of course, there’s slightly more to it than that. There’s something to do with a magical portal and working your way through the ranks of your army. The main point is to just kill anyone who isn’t your friend.The core gameplay of Warcraft centers entirely around the building and commanding of your army. You can do everything with the mouse, although using keyboard shortcuts can speed things up a tad. Most of the actual gameplay is rather slow, which pairs badly with padded out missions. Most missions require you to build a camp before you can blow stuff up. This usually requires building a barracks, farms and innumerable grunts to harvest gold and lumber. All of this construction can take a considerable amount of time.There are some exceptions to that rule. Occasionally you do start out with a sizeable force and it’s all about strategically using your units. Honestly, it’s these missions that really bring the game to life. On its own, the exercise of building an army is just a bit shallow by today’s standards. There’s not all that much variety to the buildings, and they just serve to unlock more unit types 99% of the time. At least there’s some variety with Warcraft‘s units. Both sides have basically the same units with at most some minor differences. Each side gets a builder unit who constructs all the important buildings. They also get a standard warrior, a ranged warrior, a mounted unit and siege weapons. The one unit which does have some pretty significant changes are the wizards, who each have different spells. The human wizard can heal units and make them invisible, while the orc wizard raises the dead and provides temporary invulnerability.Luckily the visuals still manage to look as good as ever, even at a lower resolution. The units are easily identifiable and look great, as do the top-notch spellcasting and ballistics effects. One of the biggiest stand-outs is probably the screens where mission briefings take place, especially during the Orc campaign. Considering the time period, they look amazing, even though they barely animate. To this day they wouldn’t look out of place in a modern pixel graphics game. Warcraft was always a fun game, and over the years the fun has stuck around although it has diminished slightly. The fact that you can only select four units at once tempers how fun it is to command a huge force. Obviously, this means that trying to attack powerful enemies is pretty difficult, especially since you can’t put your units into quick-select slots or anything like that.Warcraft suffers from numerous problems, but none of them are really the fault of the game itself. They’re more a product of the time of its debut. The reason that you can only select limited units at a time is because that was a limitation of hardware and software of the time. While it is still easy to see why Warcraft was a great game for its time, it has not aged all that well. Even the game’s two sequels both added things to the mix that improved how the game worked immeasurably.Overall Warcraft is still a lot of fun to play. If you have nostalgia for it you probably won’t even notice the flaws. However, those flaws are certainly there. Anyone used to modern RTS sensibilities will end up finding it clunky a lot of the time. Having said that the main campaign modes don’t take long to finish, so even if they’re slow they’re still over pretty quickly. Considering that it has been two and a half decades since its release Warcraft has actually held up pretty well. Even if it hasn’t quite lived up to its legendary status.
  10. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag doesn't really want to be an Assassin's Creed game, and I don't blame it. It seems keen to shrug off the oblique, convoluted lore surrounding the eon-long Assassins vs Templar power struggle, which managed to reach new peaks of ludicrousness even after that bit in the second game when you punch the Pope into unconsciousness in order to access an alien hologram. Black Flag stuffs all that into a box labelled 'whoops', throws it down a deep, dark hole and sends you on third-person free-running murder missions on the high seas instead. By Blackbeard's bushy eyebrows, that is a welcome move. You are Edward Kenway, a rogue who loves money enough to leave his girlfriend in port and sail to the West Indies in search of a vast fortune. In the opening scenes he steals an Assassin's hooded garb and wristblades and accidentally falls in with a crowd of Templars, a team of comedy evil caricatures led by a bearded grand master and backed up by a plate armoured man-ogre who throws axes at people. They're searching for the Observatory, an ancient device that enables its user to see the location of anyone in the world at any time. The Templars want it because it'll make coups easier, the Assassins want it to stop the Templars, and Kenway wants it because it's probably the most valuable thing on the planet. If that sounds a bit removed from piracy and plunder, don't worry. After the two-hour hand-holding tutorial section – mercifully shorter than in previous Assassin's Creed games – the Observatory is relegated to distant long-term objective status, and the story refocuses on the building of the pirate paradise of Nassau: a lawless little utopia maintained by a collection of criminals seeking respite from the attention of the law.That means Kenway isn't exactly an Assassin. He has all the free-running, jumping and killing skills of the sect – a genetic bonus, it's implied – but his relationship with the series' morally ambiguous order of murder monks is fractious. That keeps the plot's severest absurdities at arm's length and lets you just be a pirate and do pirate things. Hang out with famous brigands like James Kidd. Watch affable rogue Edward Teach become an unhinged, scenery-chewing Blackbeard. Sail across the ocean, rob ships, fight the British, take sea forts for yourself, harpoon whales, explore large coastal cities such as Havana and raid ancient Aztec ruins for treasure. All this in a beautiful tropical open world that's at its glowing, hyper-detailed best on PC. On land, much is familiar. Hubs such as Havana and Nassau are large, but there are no urban spaces to match the size and spectacle of Rome or Constantinople. A shame, certainly, but there's still a huge amount to explore in scattered settlements across Black Flag's massive archipelago. You'll sail between stilted pier towns tucked away in rocky alcoves, tropical islands sprinkled with treasure chests and larger townships like the manicured, orderly haven of Kingston. As always, you have to climb to high perches to scout sections of town, revealing chests, stores and sidequests in the area, the latter including a welcome increase in open-world assassination missions and warehouse raids. These place targets in open areas patrolled by British or Spanish forces and invite you to solve the problem creatively. Such missions feel closer to the original vision for Assassin's Creed than the scripted story segments which, while much improved over Assassin's Creed III's restrictive and buggy offerings, are still rather over-reliant on lengthy follow tasks. To raid a warehouse, you must first scan the area for the key holder, pickpocket it off him (or rob his corpse) and then make your way to the door without being shot dead by elevated musket snipers and roaming guards. Stealth has been tightened up to make this more interesting. Pervasive jungle foliage offers constant cover and targets can be marked using Kenway's magic 'Eagle Vision' mode, which lets you track guards through walls – a serious advantage, yes, but you no longer have access to the silent, ranged instant-kill throwing knives that made similar challenges trivial in previous games. Instead you have the blowpipe, which can temporarily knock enemies out, or send them into a berserk rage.The snipers are a pain, perched on high guard towers that overlook most restricted areas. They have long-range muskets that can drop you to half-health in a single shot. The blowpipe is an obvious counter, though the short duration of its sleeping effect inspired several comical races to kick its victims back into unconsciousness before they awoke. You can also hug a nearby enemy to use them as meat shield moments before a sniper pulls the trigger – another trick carried over from Assassin's Creed III. With the addition of explosive barrels that can attract multiple enemies, and outhouses as hiding places, there's some room to get creative with your approach to these open challenges. I particularly enjoyed turning guards against one another. I used guns dropped by friendly-fire victims to pick off the snipers that killed them, shoved brutes into their own tossed grenades and then scooped up their abandoned axes to butcher crowds of lesser enemies. Your foes aren't smart, but they're fun to massacre. You'll want to take advantage of the environment in this way a little more than in other Assassin's Creeds, as Kenway's kit has been slimmed down from previous instalments. You can pick dropped weapons from the ground and wield them expertly, but you can't carry knives or broadswords around, sadly, which put an end to my favoured assassination technique of lobbing claymores at enemies across rooftops. Instead, Edward's hidden blades, a pair of sabres and a brace of pistols are his go-to close combat problem solvers. Your one shot mini-muskets can be fired rapidly mid-combo to loudly thin out surrounding enemies, the rest are easily put down with brutal instant-death counter moves. More skilled enemies and brutes – easy to spot thanks to their size and their tendency to casually roll grenades into a fight – must first be distracted with a block-breaking move before being infinitely stabbed. Very large numbers present a challenge, but combat is mostly there to make you feel deadly. I'd like to see more tough fights with more precise strikes, and to get rid of the pointless disarm move, but fighting remains an effective and violent power tripThere's plenty to do on Black Flag's many islands, but you'll spend half your time on the waves, on your ship, the Jackdaw. The archipelago map operates in a similar way to the smaller city ones, in that you're unable to see all of the available activities in an area until you've conquered a region's fort. Once that's done you'll be able to identify whaling spots, British and Spanish convoys and sunken shipwrecks. You can use a diving bell to travel underwater to investigate these watery remains, dodging sharks to reach the treasure within. Sailing is lifted almost wholesale from Assassin's Creed III, with some additional concessions to accessibility. By which I mean your boat handles like a bus. Wind direction has little meaning. You can stop without dropping anchor and can magically taxi sideways into ports when docking. I say this to pop any assumptions you might have about Black Flag as an authentic sailing sim, not to suggest that it isn't good fun. Furthering the boat-bus analogy, you shift up and down through four gear settings to determine your speed. At slower speeds your ship can take tighter turns, at its highest the camera pulls out to offer a majestic view of your vessel carving through the waves. Most of the UI fades so you can see more of the ocean, and your crew start singing echoing sea shanties. You'll see no bloody gums or men overboard here. This is a romantic vision of piracy in the early 18th century, and no less absorbing for it. In Assassin's Creed III, sailing was an experimental section, quite separate from the rest of the game. Black Flag meshes naval exploration with Assassin's Creed's traditional free-running and combat systems to excellent effect, particularly when hijacking ships and taking forts.To take a ship you have to first reduce it to a flaming wreck using your cannon, mortar, fire-barrels and various forms of shot. Your weapons are selected contextually based on the direction you're aiming. Point the camera out of the sides of your ship, and you'll deal damage with your broadside cannon using narrowing trajectory indicators that let you arc shots over the waves. Aim past the bow and you'll fire chain shot that tears up the enemy's sails and slows their movement. Aim rearward and you'll find yourself throwing fire-barrels overboard, which serve as floating mines. If you pulverise a vessel without sinking it, you can draw alongside and board by ordering your men to use grapple lines to pull both ships into a single battleground. Then you're free to charge the enemy deck by leaping between their interlocking masts, or with an audacious Errol Flynn rope swing. It's an impressive technical feat, and one of the most exciting things I've done in a game this year. Considering the feature bloat of their recent games, it's a relief to see Ubisoft successfully bringing formerly disparate systems into coherent events like this. From Far Cry 3's plant collection and animal skinning to the pointless homestead-improving minigames of Assassin's Creed III, successive sequels have shipped with additional irrelevant systems while the existing ones have gone unrefined. In Black Flag such systems, like the economics model that lets you improve the Jackdaw, are far more worthwhile. In the latter, you improve your weapons and armour using the materials and money you earn pirating. That lets you take on larger ships, which present different challenges at the naval and close combat level. Bigger ships come with advanced weaponry, and carry captains, crow's nest snipers and other tough enemies on board. As you commit more acts of piracy, your wanted level increases and you'll be pursued by hunter ships, notable for their ominous red sails. At the highest level, you can take on huge 'legendary ships' hidden around the map. It's a good economics system, designed to gate a series of escalating challenges, not to provide unnecessary padding.Black Flag will try to waste your time a little bit, however. The ship upgrade system is good, but the sidequest that lets you send captured boats on missions around the world for monetary rewards is rubbish, supported by a painfully weak turn-based ship combat minigame. The near-future sections make an unwelcome return, and are more pointless than ever. The gormless Desmond Miles is gone. Now, in first-person, you wander around the smug offices of evil corporation Abstergo, as an employee charged with digging through Desmond's genetic memories for fun pirate moments to go in their latest entertainment product, an entertainment product, it's implied, that you are playing right now. It isn't half as clever as it thinks it is, but these bits only take up about five minutes every few hours of main-mission progression. Far Cry 3's crafting system has also been air-dropped in, which means you're obliged to hunt animals in order to skin them and use their bones to upgrade your gear, or add extra pistols to your body-holster.That busywork is easily sidestepped in favour of the dozens of available alternative tasks. Much the same can be said of multiplayer, which returns in familiar form. As in previous editions, you can take part in up-to-eight player sessions that cast players in predator and prey roles. In predator mode you have to hunt players as they attempt to disguise themselves and hide in small city-block arenas, scoring extra points for exotic kills. As prey, you take up a hidden position and hope for the best. It's still an interesting idea for a multiplayer mode, but there aren't enough ways to bluff and counter-bluff opponents to keep it interesting for more than an hour or so, and more traditional modes such as control-point capture are too chaotic to sustain competition. There's a cooperative 'Wolfpack' mode as well, in which up to four players charge around killing labelled foes to add seconds to a rapidly expiring timer. The rush to murder enemies before your allies removes any coordination or finesse you might want to bring to each objective, which means you're not assassins, you're just a stabby mob. Multiplayer is a novel diversion for a few hours, but there's plenty more entertaining action to be getting on with in the singleplayer portion. Whatever Assassin's Creed was trying to be in 2007, it's now buried under generations of feature creep, but that's no bad thing. Black Flag is best regarded as a collage of the games and technologies Ubisoft have cultivated over the past decade. There are strong notes of Prince of Persia in the platforming challenges of the archipelago's Aztec ruins. You can put on hunters' rags and travel the world in search of rare prey. The sailing is a great element unto itself. Some of these aspects have been bettered in other games, but by brute force, Black Flag's varied components merge beautifully to create rich and constantly interesting world. When the tutorial section is done, the game sets you free on the ocean and places a distant objective marker on the western edge of the map. It took me four hours to reach that marker. I was drawn into a dynamic naval battle between British and Spanish forces. I navigated a storm and looted trade ships wrecked by its water twisters. I harpooned a bull shark. I docked in a curious little cove and got into a fistfight in a bar. Forget the Assassins, the Templars and their nonsense war. Loot, pillage and steal instead. The rewards are so much greater.
  11. Because I feel like it, I chose one of my favorite games for this week's jaunt into PC gaming history. Alice is McGee's best game, I think, unless you count his work on Doom II and Quake. The 2011 sequel, Alice: Madness Returns, was nice, but not nearly as striking to me as the first corrupted Wonderland. That may have a little to do with how visually impressive it was at the time, which reviewer Chuck Osborn explains. A group of talented EA game creators led by American McGeeinvite you to follow them down the rabbit hole. Somewhere, Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll), the whimsical author of “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,” must be spinning in his grave. If he were alive today, seeing his beloved Alice—known for her innocence and gentility—transformed from naïf to sullen, angst-ridden killing machine in a third-person action/adventure would surely send him straight back to the hereafter. This isn't Lewis Carroll's Alice—it's American McGee's Alice…and the tea party is over. Several years have passed since Alice's first trip to Wonderland, and as the entrancing opening cinematic tells us, since then her real life hasn't been quite so wonderful. Though the details are left intentionally fuzzy, a fire has consumed her family, leaving her alone, catatonic, and institutionalized. Lying strapped to the bed of her padded cell, she's once again drawn to Wonderland by the Rabbit (in the guise of a stuffed animal), who warns her of a great crisis.Above: The original trailer. Alice isn't the only one who's changed since her last visit; Wonderland itself is a nightmarish vision of what it used to be. The Red Queen of Hearts rules with an iron first, and has turned most of the inhabitants against you. The Cheshire Cat, who acts as your cynical tour guide and advisor, is mangy and ear-pierced. The Mad Hatter isn't so much “quite mad” as quite homicidal, happier to fling fiery bombs than crumpets. Now a true lunatic, he's made the Dormouse and March Hare more “efficient” by subjecting them to bizarre Borg-like surgical experiments. Even the once-thoughtful Centipede and the oafish Tweedledee and Tweedledum can't wait to send you six feet under. Alice needs all her wits to defeat the Red Queen and free Wonderland's inhabitants from tyranny. If Alice's maturation has been torturous, then this new Wonderland's hideously fractured fairytale visage perfectly reflects her shattered psyche. Visually, this is the most amazing game I've ever played—each level is such a centerpiece of fiendish hysteria that it makes you wonder what the level designers were smoking and where you can find some. The Quake III engine has never seen this kind of workout before. Meshing the creepy, playful, ominous, and childlike, each new area looks absolutely nothing like those that came before it. You'll happen upon a quaint schoolhouse teetering in space in The Vale of Tears; clamber through the mechanical clockworks of The Queen's Domain; ride a leaf down the raging rapids of the Mushroom Forest; and even transform into a living chess piece in Chess Village. And that's just a sampling.What's disappointing is that despite the brilliant locations, the underlying third-person gameplay is rather ordinary. Super Mario 64 and Tomb Raider paved this road years ago, and Alice offers a similar assortment of impossibly huge level bosses, jumping puzzles, lava rivers, slippery slopes, and brain-damaged enemies. Most bosses can be defeated with a combination of circle-strafing and rapid weapons fire, and nearly every enemy's AI is so simple that they run straight toward you kamikaze-style when activated. Maybe the Queen's oppression will do that to a guy. Controlling Alice with mouse and keyboard is easy enough, and the blue cursor used for aiming is unobtrusive. Weapons are like those you've seen a thousand times before, but gussied up enough so that they almost seem fresh. The basic knife (here called a Vorpal Blade in a nod to Dungeons & Dragons) is your starting weapon, and can slice enemies in close quarters or be thrown from afar. The Icewand is handy for freezing enemies or creating a temporary ice blockade, and can be one of the most potent toys in your arsenal—especially against fire-based creatures. Your deck of cards can be thrown at enemies, homing in on them from a distance; jacks create a (rather weak) cutting attack; you have an exploding jack-in-the-box; and a pair of Demon Dice open up a dimensional rift to a creature that can either attack your enemies or, if you're alone, you. My favorite weapon, however, isn't really a weapon at all, but the Deadtime Watch that literally stops time in its tracks. It's as if you've taken a screenshot—with everything, including weapons effects, completely frozen—and then can walk among the characters, beating them senseless. The moody musical score is both eerie and enchanting, conveying a Fantasia gone terribly wrong. The sound effects are likewise spooky, and sometimes downright disturbing, such as when Alice enters an insane asylum occupied by crazed children. The manic giggles and sharp “slap” noise they produce smacking themselves in the face with their own fists may just haunt you come bedtime. Alice's voice is perfectly suited to a petulant English girl capable of mass destruction, and you can almost hear the smirk on the Cheshire Cat's roguish lips. While Alice isn't exactly revolutionary, it's definitely a fun-filled ride. It simultaneously disorients and intrigues; I desperately wanted to know what was ahead even when I'd lost all sense of time and direction. The story's subtext of emotional self-discovery offers few surprises, but once you get into the game you won't really care. Alice is a grand experience from beginning to end, and a fit of inspired madness that I'd wish on anyone.
  12. Mark-x

    [Review] BANISHED

    I killed a lot of people in Banished. I saw them born and I watched my decisions kill them. Stripping the land, building homes, and planting vast swaths of crops seemed like a good idea, but things got ugly when a hard winter set in. Firewood stockpiles were meager and the distance to new trees was too great to keep up with demand. Then tools started to break, and I don't know what happened to all the iron but there wasn't any for the blacksmith, so folks just did the best they could, which wasn't very good at all. From there, the colony didn't take long to spiral down into my own private Roanoke. Banished is a city management simulator with a survival focus. It begins with a selectable world state and starting conditions that include terrain and climate types, how many families will settle the colony, and what they'll bring from their former home. First, though, you'd be well advised to view the tutorials, because things may not work quite as you'd expect. To build a home, for instance, you must first create a stockpile of trees and rocks, from which the builders will take the materials they need. But those stockpiles must also supply the woodcutter, who will use logs to provide fuel for the winter; the blacksmith will do the same with iron to make tools.You can build anything at any time as long as you have the resources, but those resources must be managed carefully. Trees grow back painfully slowly, rocks and iron that are taken from the surface are gone forever, and even when forestry management, quarries, and mines are in place it takes years of game time before they're operating at capacity. Moving too fast will exhaust the land, but excess caution can leave the birth rate unable to keep up with old age and accidents, which will inevitably take a toll on your numbers. After your colony is well-established, decisions will still have to be made to keep growth in harmony with available resources: When to expand into an old hunting ground, where to inflict the blight of an open-pit quarry, and whether to start educating the children or simply set them straight to work. Banished concentrates on the immediate survival needs of the individual, and actually operates at an individual level: Each newborn child has a name, grows up to adulthood, takes up with another settler, and (hopefully) has a child or two of her own, then grows old and dies. Lives aren't rendered in detail and it becomes impossible to keep up as the po[CENSORED]tion grows, but I did feel a kind of poignancy seeing someone who's birth I "witnessed" just a couple of hours ago die of old age. You don't control your citizens, but your people do have "lives" of their own, which can sometimes throw a wrench into your plans. They get cold, hungry, and tired. While you're yelling at them to just frickin' move that rock, they go for lunch. It's not that they're endemically lazy; it's more like they're unionized, and by gosh, it's break time. But that's also a big part of the appeal: You're not building this town. They are, and that can lead to an odd sort of personal connection with "characters" who don't actually exist, like the crazy herb lady all alone out in the forest or those jerk builders who insist on regular meal breaks. Breaking that wall of digital anonymity leads to a deeper desire to see them succeed.Yet that connection fades as the po[CENSORED]tion grows and life becomes more stable, and Banished settles in as a more conventional city management simulator. My interest faded when I no longer recognized the names of my followers—I still had to put in effort to keep my people happy, but "my people" don't feel nearly as important as Adon, who was born in late winter of the sixth year. Larger settlements have to be maintained—things will slowly fall apart if you let them and disasters can make your life difficult—but it's maintenance without the same life-or-death motivation. When that initial survival drama passes and Banished slips into a routine of keeping people happy instead of keeping them alive, it goes from compelling to competent, its sense of purpose lost in the facelessness of a burgeoning po[CENSORED]tion. Banished hits the sweet spot between complexity and accessibility that makes a relative strategy game amateur feel competent. But my real sense of satisfaction came not from being a builder of cities, but as a leader of people—a game that played out as much in my head as on the screen. It kept me playing for hours, fretting over the fates of Silvestevan, Adon, and the rest of the Andytownies, but having exhausted myself on that binge and satisfied the urge to see my people prosper, I didn't feel any urge to do it again.

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