Review – Buffy Season 9 #1

Season 9 #1 Freefall Part 1
Release Date: September 14th 2011

Script by: Joss Whedon
Pencils: Georges Jeanty
Cover: Steve Morris
Alternate Cover: Jo Chen
25th Anniversary Cover: Georges Jeanty

The time has arrived, the season 9 opener (season 2 of the comic series and continuation of the 7 season T.V. Show) of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Written by the worship worthy Joss Whedon (I swear I am impartial) and pencils by the amazing Georges Jeanty. The first issue does not disappoint. At this year’s Comic-Con, Joss said that in season 9 we would see the return of the Buffy from yesteryear and that is exactly what we get.

Buffy is no longer running squads and managing the entire Slayer universe. Instead, she is just a lost girl (superhuman vampire slaying woman) who, again is trying to find out what she is supposed to do with her life. The comic opens with Buffy in her new San Francisco apartment, complete with roommates and a party where we get to see some of the Scoobies together again (what’s left of them anyway) Jump to Buffy who is drinking and struggling to deal with her lack of direction and the aftermath of what happened at the end of Season 8. I will not get into season 8 details here as I do not want spoil anything for those who may not be caught up. The aftermath of season 8 causes Buffy’s life plan to be called into question. Even though she is still patrolling and slaying, she seems to think she needs a different direction. There are a few chuckles as she rambles (in her own Buffy way) on about what her new career should be, with a couple of nods to the old show.

All the characters are in fine form, especially a particularly snarky Spike. Throughout the season opener we see some of the nice character interaction that really makes Buffy, in whatever form it is in, special. Finally, we are introduced to the potential big bad, albeit briefly, but enough to get excited at the prospect of where this will all go. For a season opener this is pretty great and definitely builds excitement about where season 9 is heading!

Review – NZXT Phantom

The computer case market is thriving with creativity again, one of the lead companies to emerge in the market is NZXT, lately the company has been on a roll as they combine contemporary style with gamer aesthetics. The result in this case is the mighty Phantom line, packing high airflow, incredible space and sleek design that can appeal to new builders and veteran builders looking for something not as extreme as a plexiglass case.

Opening the box up, it became clear this wasn’t just a looker but it was there for function as well. The stock unit contains sufficient cooling from the start and a box full of goodies for mounting and stealth cabling. I’ll go ahead and include the spec sheet below to give the full impressions.

MODEL Phantom Series
CASE TYPE Full Tower Steel
FRONT PANEL MATERIAL Plastic/Steel
DIMENSIONS (W x H x D) 222 x 540 X 623 mm
VGA Clearance Maximum
350mm
COOLING SYSTEM FRONT, 1 X 140mm
REAR, 1 X 120mm (included)
SIDE, 2 x 120mm, 1 x 200/230 (2 x 120mm included)
TOP, 2 X 200mm (1 x LED 200mm included)
DRIVE BAYS 5 EXTERNAL 5.25″ DRIVE BAYS
7 INTERNAL 3.5″/2.5″ Slots
Screwless Rail Design
MATERIAL(S) Steel with black finish
EXPANSION SLOTS 7
WEIGHT 11 kg
MOTHERBOARD SUPPORT E-ATX, ATX, MICRO-ATX, BABY AT

Sample build used:

AMD Phenom 9750 AM2+
Jetway 790GX (HA08)
Crucial 4GB DDR2 PC6400
Sapphire HD 4850 512
Creative X-Fi Xtrememusic
Hitachi Deskstar 1TB HDD
Maxtor 320GB HDD

Before jumping into the fray, I had to test a few areas first. The current configuration works fine if you have a high flow fan on the side and coming from the front, the case pressure goes pretty much positive at that point. If you lack that, you may want to consider flipping the top 200mm fan and throw air in. Often systems will tend to choke to some degree when the box is simply dumping air and pulling little if any fresh air in.

Fortunately the top panel removes easily, place your hand under the front panel grip and tug out, the clips will release and reveal another hand hold for the top panel. Unscrew the 200mm fan and reverse mount it to generate some positive pressure in the case.  I lacked a 140mm fan to place in the front so I mounted a 250mm fan to the side panel from an Antec Skeleton. Odd enough, with a bit of boring out the fan mounts without much issue and generates essential airflow for the GPU and CPU zones.

Moving into installation there isn’t much trouble, the Phantom is for the most part tool-less where it counts, the PCI  brackets use thumb screws instead of regular mounts to save on tools. Unfortunately you still need a screwdriver to break the initial torque after being mounted. Installation of components went down in roughly 20 minutes, cabling took a bit longer just for the sake of being stealth about it, the Phantom offers room for most mountings and even my aging Cooler Master Real Power Pro was able to reach high enough for the 8-pin power connector by the CPU. After years of building systems I can say this was most likely the most painless installation yet, also it left me cut free thanks to rolled edges on the case.

For window fans, there is a lot to miss with the mesh on the side of the case, honestly, the white finish is one of the cleanest and most pure colors I’ve seen in quite a while. With a blueish glow it reflects color perfectly inside. Not being able to see it does hurt, if you are insistent, you could always mount your own panel and remove the mesh, or just pop open the front door on the case and watch from there. It really is worth the show, the Tri-Color light show from the Antec really made it an amazing sight to see. For the hardcore modder that wants a little more, cutting the case and custom mounting acrylic would be really rewarding.

Functionally, the Phantom is up there with the best of them, the fans all connect to a single fan bus that gets controlled on top of the case, the inputs and power buttons are also on the top in sleek form. There’s an aspect of this design which takes me back to the era of Tron, super sleek but hard lines everywhere, a blue glow from the stock fans, power sources and fan bus that snares anyone who watches. It’s sleek but deadly and awesome as a centerpiece. Going from the Antec Skeleton to this is a huge jump, even comparing it to the Antec P193 has me still leaning in favor to the excessive attention to detail that NZXT took with this model.

To start closing this up, I have this to say about the NZXT Phantom.

  • Simple installation
  • Room for cable stealthing
  • Tons of air-flow
  • Integrated fan bus controller
  • Extra parts to last a lifetime
  • Sleek design, ultra contemporary feel
  • Low case noise, even with all fans running it remains tolerable
  • Excellent cooling on system
  • Plenty of room for larger video cards (6900 series, etc)
  • Tool-less design for drive mounting works, needs a little extra force to pop pins back in
  Low Speed High Speed
CPU Idle 41c 39c
CPU Load 47c 44.5c
GPU Idle 45.5c 44c
GPU Load 73c 70c

Things I might change are few really, this is a gaming case and if I wanted true silence I would opt for the H2, we don’t have that case to review so… just try to look around and get some other impressions if you’re not sure. The sound insulation and other features seem to be well worth the price.

Closing up, the Phantom is probably the easiest case I’ve been able to work with, because I’m extra paranoid I actually decided to also wax the finish for extra scratch protection because this is a busy desk.

Kudos to NZXT for bringing home a heavy hitter like the Phantom, for those interested, it comes in a few variants and honestly that pure black model looks quite awesome. For gamers it’s a new piece of kit to mod out, for older builders it still has some show with a Tron inspired design but not too much to make it feel like you’re pounding Redline and skipping out on studying for your finals all over again.

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Street Fighter Legacy short film has fans wanting more

May 6th, 2010  Joey Ansah actor and martial artist made a short film street Fighter legacy  that has sparked a hugh push of fans wanting to see a full feature movie. Why are fans excited ? Cause its only done what the last Street fighter movies hasn’t done and that’s stay true to the game its self to the moves, clothes  and ken’s trademark eyebrows, Ansah has said in a interview “As an actor, film maker and a fan, I have been repeatedly disappointed by the many diluted, unfaithful and outright butchered movie adaptations of fighting video games”  and as a big fan of the Street fighter series he  knew that only a die hard fan director or film-making team with the game knowledge could do it the right way so he step up and to many fans opinion’s did a great job. Stars of the short are John Foo ( who plays Jin Kazama in live action tekken movie)  as Ryu ,Christian Howard as Ken Masters and writer and director Joey Ansah as Akuma.

While its only 3 mins long the fight choreography was done great the special effects was done nicely to say its fan made film, in the end true fans can appreciate
the time and effort he put into this project.  Checkout the video and you’ll see why fans want to turn it to a full length movie…..

Street Fighter: Legacy – Short Fan Film

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Prilgrim vs The World

If your not familiar with Scott Pilgrim series, its about a lazy 23 year bass guitarist Scott Pilgrim ( Michael Cera) who meets his dream girl Romona Flowers ( Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But before he can date her he must defeat the seven “Evil exes”. Which includes actors Brandon Routh, Chris Evans and Jason Schwartzman with Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) directing. Fans of the graphic novels rest assured you will not be disappointed scott pilgrim hits theaters august 13

For more about the series and its author Check out http://www.scottpilgrim.com/

The International Trailer for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (HD)

Street Fighter IV PC

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Street Fighter is a longtime favorite for me, the game combines technical mechanics with fast combination chains for devestating moves, for some players it becomes an elevated mind game where each player strives to out-think the other in how each jab, roundhouse, or throw is executed along with a fury of special attacks.

Street Fighter IV already hit the console scene earlier this year, the PC version was delayed to incorporate online play (Games for Windows LIVE) and most likely to try and stave off piracy as well since it seems like everything and it’s mother is ripped these days. I was fortunate enough to get a review copy sent my way though, I haven’t gotten into the online yet as I’m working on unlocking everyone first but I can say this.

The game is another evolution of the series, the game takes the fluid body mechanics from SFIII and brings them to a higher level of refinement, characters have a more refined array of attacks and specials that can completely shift the pace of the game if chained properly, the dynamics are fairly well balanced with the exception of Sagat and Seth still being quite high powered.

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For gameplay things had to be put to the test, yes it was designed to be used on a keyboard and the Titan DKT did respond easily to key commands but the real arcade feel came through using the X-Arcade solo stick, combos were easy to set off and overall I noticed a huge step up in accuracy compared to playing on the 360, I could execute more moves, time specials with more precision and smash the life out of Seth with less effort, the biggest thing to really note is, Microsoft dropped the ball by restricting who could and who could not produce accessories for their console with that locking code in their USB, I mean really I probably would have questioned what more I could do on the PC review given that.

The last part of course is the performance, the game was ported over from the console so naturally it seems like bugs would be encountered. On a fairly legacy based system things stack up quite well for performance. My Athlon X2 4200 with ATI 3850 is able to run the game in Windows XP at 1920×1200 60fps with full settings minus AA as the 3800 series has a bad implementation that causes a huge performance hit (Get the 4800 series if you’re thinking about a 3850 or 3870, for AA you’ll thank yourself) the game reacted smooth, the install was a breeze and loading times are minimal, really they’re limited to the speed of the HDD the game is installed on. Overall the quality to the console port seems to be on par until you break into the additional visual modes, personally I play on ink post processing all the time simply because I like the visual impression it gives.

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If you have an X-Arcade or have the cash for one, if you have a controller or intend to get one, then really consider Street Fighter IV, we can always hope that one day MVC2 comes to the PC, but until then this makes PC gaming a bit more diverse and a bit more enjoyable and really it is what people need these days, a break from the day to day shooting spree that we’re blasted with in gaming now.

MadWorld – Chainsaw days

It’s been a while since the game came out, but it’s a bit of a cornerstone to Wii gaming, for older audiences the game is slapstick madness in the sense that it’s completely violent and it makes no apologies about it, the game is designed as a mature 3rd person fighting title that grabs it’s rating of M and rides the wheels off of it.

When the title came out it was surrounded with TV questions of “would you buy this for your child?” “do you condone your child playing this?” and so fourth, the issue was that the game wasn’t designed for children and better yet it only proved that parents should be doing their job and researching what their kids beg them for. It was like a sense of whiplash to the parents finally that games are designed for audiences. For those actually wondering, it’s probably not the best game for your child to grow up on if you haven’t been involved in showing them that shoving a sign post through someones head isn’t nice.

On from that, the game deserves the praise it has gotten in the media so far for being such a great looking and excellent controlling game, the game was actually a joy to play through, motions were simple and illustrated on screen without interuption and it wasn’t actually all that absurd. Players get exposed to MadWorld as Jack, a mystery combatant with what seems to be a bit of a side agenda, as the game pans out players rank up by meeting score quotas and taking down bosses, the story of the city and of your investors slowly emerge from that point as you infiltrate the game further hoping to reach the crown.

The game features multiple attack methods such as basic melee combinations but it strives on creative kills, stuffing tires on enemies, shoving poles through them, slamming trash barrels on them and then repeatedly impaling them on spikes for maximum point rewards. Really the game is quite magical in the sense that it goes completely over the top to seperate itself from anything remotely serious.

The other reward for me was the soundtrack, it seems that every now and again Sega really cranks out a superb soundtrack, Jet Set Radio was quite a good bit of fun but MadWorld was the modern violent take on how they can go about a great mix. Unfortunately it was a limited release and goodness if it isn’t hard to track down in any form let alone find it for less than about $50

Overall the game is great, the graphics are great in their high contrast form, the combat is superb and easy to execute, the music is a welcome change and the flexibility of the game shows through constantly without feeling heavily repetitious or like a complete gimmick. For anyone up for a good violent bash MadWorld is a must have for your collection. Personally I’ll be giving it another play through to try and really raise the stakes on my existing scores.

Fast and Furious Impressions

Movies are always an odd thing, things are so subjective for taste that it really is impossible to call something a decent flick or a horrible wash. When I come into a film it’s with a certain mindset of what I’m getting into, as such with Fast and Furious I didn’t come into things expecting an epic literary work, I didn’t come in expecting the greatest story ever to touch film. Instead I wanted cheap thrills, fast cars and overly done action sequences.

Fast and Furious delivers directly to that expectation, the movie comes about with a much more refined story and aim, by that I mean the movie actually has a direct target following through instead of multiple situations that eventually lead to a final boss of sorts. For the timeline it seems as if the fourth installment falls just after the original movie allowing for existing problems in 2 and 3 to continue to be valid. The only odd gap they had to fill was the fact that they’re featuring cars from 2008 when they didn’t exist at the time of the other movies. No real big deal though if you’re just in it for the action.

The acting is pretty basic, with much of the focus on how intense one can come off when jumping through windows to tackle suspects, dangling people off buildings and more. The car sequences are of course always life and death moments with struggles continuing to the last possible moment. It’s not a bad thing, in many cases it can drag the audience to the edge of their seat to know what the result will be.

When I headed out Friday night for a movie, I was hoping for a pick-up to the weekend so I could have a fun night and not have to think about underlying plot and symbolic meanings throughout the film to establish all the considerations made during the film. I got that and then some with the movie and honestly I liked it better than the first because it was true to what it was, the movie wasn’t trying to redefine a genre or make us all reconsider our lives in the universe, it was a wham bam action film designed to take you out of life for a good few hours.

If you’re interested in cheap action and fast cars then give the movie a bit of your time I would say, just don’t come in expecting something more than it is, if you do then you’ll be sorely disappointed for having such high hopes of a film that isn’t aspiring to those expected levels.

Personally I might just see it again because it was a good entertainment piece, at least until the psycho compilation known as Crank High Voltage comes out. After a Fall of serious movies and hard topics it really is a relief to be able to let it all go with some movies that don’t demand much out of the audience.

Edmunds Fast and Furious Car Roundup

The Wheelman (PC) Review

Vin Diesel is a man of many interests, the guy steps into any field and invests himself in it quite a bit, with The Wheelman Vin brings this around again as moves straight out of box office hits are included right into his latest joint title with Midway (and Ubisoft).

The Wheelman as a result comes off as a bit of a fun title, there’s blind action that dominates the game, things like air-jacking and the focus attacks are entirely show driven and pay off well for the gamer since they’re often relied upon only when things get heavy, in the midst of a police chase or faction dispute these items are remarkably helpful and great to watch.

The game works to keep the player in some form of transportation the whole time though, without a proper ride the game is dull and a bit slow to say the least, things really were made to be passed at 100mph simply because the game world is so expansive and detailed.

Players wondering about the story need not look very far, the game pits players as an undercover mole playing wheelman to multiple crime cartels in Barcelona trying to uncover details of a greater heist rumored to be able to change the entire landscape of the city once it goes down. The fortunate part is that while this is a rather important event, it’s not all there is to things, players are also catered to with a list of other things to do in the city such as cab rides laying waste to the city to break records, escort missions and so on. In the end there is a main storyline waiting at home impatiently while you stumble in wreaking of burned cars and gun powder but it doesn’t urge you to indulge it, the game simply pokes the user to continue their path of pitting rival cartels against each other to establish a uniform breakdown.

In the PC version of the game players are treated to some impressive visuals, unfortunately they need the hardware to back it up, players that have gotten by on older Intel systems and AMD systems will note that the game might chug just a bit, this is more or less a porting issue, Ubi / Midway made no attempt to include a remotely helpful options menu to tune down the visual aspects of the game, given that it is a UE3 based engine the game should be able to scale quite well actually. The problem is that it seems they rushed it out of the door and hoped that the enthusiast market might carry it through. I would recommend a Core 2 / Phenom based system for CPU power, install the game on at least a SATA drive with 3.0Gbps capability and have a fairly recent video card to power it all since the video stream simply eats up system resources and goes into a slide show if players aren’t packing enough power.

Overall is this a game to get? If you have a fairly strong PC that you built recently it should work fine, if not skip the PC version and get the console edition instead, chances are the streaming issue isn’t really existent on the platform which would make it a lot easier to enjoy.

Wheelman (PC) 8.0 / 10