Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Theatrical Release:Apr 17, 2009 Wide
Box Office: $6,510,000
Picking up immediately where the first movie left off, Crank High Voltage finds Chev surviving the climactic plunge to his most certain death on the streets of Los Angeles, only to be kidnapped by a mysterious Chinese mobster. Three months later, Chev wakes up to discover his nearly indestructible heart has been surgically removed and replaced with a battery-operated ticker that requires regular jolts of electricity in order to work.
After a dangerous escape from his captors, Chev is on the run again, this time from the charismatic Mexican gang boss El Huron (Clifton Collins, Jr.), and the Chinese Triads, headed by the dangerous 100 year-old elder Poon Dong (David Carradine). Once again turning to Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam) for medical advice, receiving help from his friend Kaylo’s twin brother Venus (Efren Ramirez), and re-connecting with his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart), who is no longer in the dark about what he does for a living, Chev is determined to get his real heart back and wreak vengeance on whoever stole it, embarking on an electrifying chase through Los Angeles where anything goes to stay alive.
Lakeshore Entertainment and Lionsgate present Crank High Voltage, a Lakeshore Entertainment / Lionsgate Production In Association with @radical.media; produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Skip Williamson and Richard Wright. The film was written and directed by Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor, the duo behind the 2006 original.--© Lionsgate
If you don't have the exceptional Half-Life, the new retail edition of Counter-Strike is a chance to get a stand-alone version of this outstanding multiplayer mode.
Half-Life: Counter-Strike is one of the most unusual PC game releases in months. The hugely popular mod for Valve Software's Half-Life has been available for free download for well over a year, and you can still download it for free off the Internet now that it's been through beta testing and has reached version 1.0. And if you don't have the exceptional Half-Life, the new retail edition of Counter-Strike is a chance to get a stand-alone version of this outstanding multiplayer mod. The retail package also includes stand-alone versions of other multiplayer mods and game modes that normally require Half-Life, the best of which are also available free off the Internet: Team Fortress Classic, Opposing Force Multiplayer, Firearms, Redemption, Ricochet, and Wanted. Counter-Strike itself is a superb game that fully deserves top billing in this release.
Counter-Strike divides players into teams of terrorists and counterterrorists in four game modes: rescue/hold hostages, bomb target/defuse bomb, escape from/guard an area, and assassinate/guard a VIP. None of these ideas are particularly original, but they're well implemented, and they strike an effective balance between realistic stealth and frenzied action. The thematically varied maps maximize tactical possibilities with alternate routes, multiple levels, and abundant cover. Games are played in short rounds, and when you're killed, you sit out the round as an invisible observer; there are no deathmatch-style respawns. This creates a strong social aspect, because with "dead" players chatting, there can be an enormous sense of tension for the remaining players stalking each other. Another big impetus to stay alive is that the more successful you and your team are each round, the more money you earn for buying bigger and better weapons. Unfortunately this can lead to a huge imbalance in firepower when one team wins a few consecutive rounds.
One of Counter-Strike's biggest appeals has always been the selection of weapons. In addition to a knife and assorted grenades, there's a wide variety of accurately modeled pistols, shotguns, submachine guns, assault rifles, and sniper rifles. Three new weapons have been added to version 1.0: the H&K UMP .45, FN Five-Seven, and the SIG SG-550, though the retail version of the game uses invented names for all weapons.
Each weapon has unique characteristics, so mastering them all and learning which is best for different situations is a lot of fun, and it adds replay value. For instance, high-caliber weapons can penetrate thin walls and doors, which makes lugging a heavy belt-fed machine gun worthwhile when the enemy has been doing more hiding than fighting. Guns also have varied kicks, which makes full automatic fire a "spray and pray" affair - as in real life, short, controlled bursts are best for accurate fire. Effective weapon ranges are well simulated, so shotguns are brutal in close quarters and useless in large open spaces. Location-specific damage modeling means that shots to the head are more likely to get an instant kill.
Another part of the weaponry's appeal is the superlative sound effects. The guns sound remarkably realistic and powerful, which makes them viscerally fun to shoot. Equal care is given to other game sounds, like explosions, injuries from weapons or falling, glass shattering, and so on. Another good feature is the various audio messages you can send to teammates. They cover a whole range of warnings, status reports, and requests for backup. The only problem is that they all use the same voice, regardless of your team.
The Half-Life graphics engine may be dated now, but Counter-Strike has always used it to its fullest potential. The maps are visually appealing, and they have imaginative texturing and dramatic (though sometimes too dark) lighting effects. The updated character models in version 1.0 now use Valve's model-blending technology, along with even better skins than in the past, which makes for great-looking player graphics. Best of all are the firearm models and skins, which are some of the best you'll find in any shooter.
Counter-Strike is an online-only game that has experienced the mixed blessing of its immense popularity. You're guaranteed to find plenty of available game sessions online at any hour. However, cheating and even verbal abuse have long marred the gameplay in Counter-Strike. The game is not in any way newbie-friendly, despite the inclusion of a simple offline tutorial. You'll have to leave your ego at the door when you encounter the countless veteran players you'll face online. Fortunately, the abundance of experienced players means you can quickly learn the tricks of the trade through observation. It should also be noted that while Counter-Strike does require tactical thinking and teamwork, it's still a fast-paced shooter at its core. So not only are lightning-fast reflexes necessary to excel, but so are a fast connection and a low ping.
Still, despite its weaknesses, Counter-Strike is undeniably influential, and has already helped inspire countless similar mods and games. It's easy to see why: Counter-Strike has a simple yet effective design that's brought to life with superior maps and vivid graphics and sound. The end result is utterly exciting and addictive. Counter-Strike is a model of its kind and a thrilling action game.
Assassin's Creed will stay with you long after you finish it. Here is one of the most unique gameworlds ever created: beautiful, memorable, and alive. Every crack and crevasse is filled with gorgeous, subtle details, from astounding visual flourishes to overheard cries for help. But it's more than just a world--it's a fun and exciting action game with a ton of stuff to do and places to explore, rounded out with silky-smooth controls and a complex story that will slowly grab you the more you play. Make no mistake: Assassin's Creed is one of the best efforts of the year and a must-own game for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners.
The citizens of Damascus have a lot of secrets to hide.
Not enough can be said about the living, breathing world that you'll inhabit in Assassin's Creed. As assassin extraordinaire Altaïr, you'll explore three major cities of the Holy Land in the 12th century: Jerusalem, Damascus, and Acre. Each city is beautifully rendered from top to bottom and features meticulously crafted towers that reach for the sky, bustling market squares, and quiet corners where citizens converse and drunks lie in wait to accost you. As you wander the streets (and rooftops), you'll push your way through crowds of women carrying jars on their heads, hear orators shout political and religious wisdom, and watch town guards harass innocent victims. Altaïr has a profound effect on this world, but the cities are entities all their own, with their own flows and personalities.
The visual design has a lot to do with how believably organic everything feels. The cities are absolutely huge, and though you don't get full exploration privileges in the first few chapters, they eventually open up to let you travel seamlessly from one side to another. Everything is beautifully lit with just the right amount of bloom effect, and almost everything casts a shadow, from tall pillars to Altaïr's cloak. In fact, sometimes the shadows get to be a bit much and may make you think for a moment that there is artifacting on your screen, when in fact it's a character's head casting a shadow on his or her own neck. Every object, from scaffolds to pottery, is textured so finely you feel as if you could reach out and touch it. Animations are almost as equally well done. Altaïr scales walls, leaps majestically from towers, and engages in swashbuckling swordfights that would make Errol Flynn proud. And he does it all with fluid ease, generally moving from one pose to another without a hitch. Minor characters move gracefully as well, though one of the game's few visual drawbacks is the occasional jerky animation on the part of a citizen. However, it's easy to forgive, considering that the cities are populated with thousands and thousands of individuals. In fact, these tiny blemishes are noticeable only because everything else looks so incredible.
What you hear is even more impressive than what you see. At the top of a temple, you hear little but the rush of wind, the twittering of birds, and the barking of a far-off dog. In the most populated areas, your ears will fill with the din of street vendors, the pleas of beggars, and the occasional humming. It's never too much, though, and the game does a good job of making sure you hear what you need to hear (for example, the cries of citizens who need your help), without filling your ears with pointless noise. All these effects, along with the clangs of swords and groans of assassinated foes, are outstanding. The voice acting of the supporting cast is similarly remarkable. Conversations are completely believable and delivered with the perfect amount of solemn dignity. Oddly, the weakest link is Altaïr himself. Actor Philip Shahbaz does an all right job, but he isn't up to par with the first-rate acting of his fellow troupe. Rounding it all out is a beautiful orchestral score that is most notable for its subtlety. Many of the game's most impressive moments are accompanied by lovely musical themes that add even more threads to the game's rich living tapestry.
Climb to the pinnacle of a tower for a bird's-eye view.
Fortunately, the story that binds it all together rises to the occasion. Actually, there are two related stories in play. The unfolding drama of Crusades-era Palestine is a mere memory, forcibly pulled from a modern-day bartender named Desmond by a resolute researcher using a machine called an animus. The memories aren't Desmond's own--they are Altaïr's, stored safely in the hapless subject's genetic code. We follow Altaïr as he assassinates nine public figures at the command of his master, and as the common thread that ties these men comes into focus, so does the true identity of Desmond's captors. There are no cutscenes in the traditional sense; every bit of story exposition and dialogue flows smoothly from the gameplay and takes place entirely within the game engine. The ending is confusing, and it blatantly leaves open the possibility of a sequel, but it's a small blemish on an otherwise stirring tale. Altaïr's world is not one of absolutes. His assassination targets aren't always evil, and Altaïr isn't always likable. As he is fond of reminding us, "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted."
Of course, such an authentic world would be meaningless without a lot of fun things to do in it. Thankfully, Assassin's Creed is endlessly entertaining in that it features a fine mix of stealthy exploration, tight platforming, and exciting combat. To discover the whereabouts of your assassination targets, you must first follow up on possible leads. There are several different mission types in this regard. In some cases, you sit on a bench and listen in on secret conversations. At other times, you will closely follow someone carrying an important letter that you'll pickpocket. Alternately, you can beat the information out of your target. Most missions are relatively easy to pull off in the early stages of the game. But once the guards and townspeople start recognizing you (or you alert them to your presence too close to the scene of one of your crimes), they get a little tougher.
Ever since its existence was first hinted at on the back of God of War II's game manual, God of War: Chains of Olympus has been one of the most anticipated games for the PlayStation Portable. Now that the wait is finally over, the question is: Does it deliver? The answer is "yes" almost across the board. The combat, level design, gore, sex, and mythology are all here--albeit in slightly stripped-down form.
Chains of Olympus is one of the best-looking games on the PSP.
God of War: Chains of Olympus' story takes place before the first God of War game on the PlayStation 2, which is a little confusing because you find yourself trying to remember just what had and hadn't happened in Kratos' twisted life at the time of the first game. At this particular point in the God of War timeline, Kratos is a general whose sole purpose is to serve the gods of Olympus. During the course of Chains of Olympus, the gods' orders create a certain moral dilemma for Kratos, and he finds himself faced with the decision of whether or not to do the bidding of his gods or do what is best for him. The story doesn't play a prominent role here, but this is God of War, so all you really need to know is why Kratos is pissed off so you can go off and slaughter mythical creatures with reckless abandon.
With few exceptions, the combat in Chains of Olympus is just as you've come to know and love. The controls are tight and in general quite good. Learning to evade attacks requires a bit of an adjustment, given that you need to hold both of the shoulder buttons and then move the analog stick, but you get used to it and it works fine. Kratos can make light and heavy attacks using his blades of chaos, and you can perform combos by pressing specific, simple button patterns. Eventually you'll get your hands on a second weapon, the Gauntlet of Zeus, which is essentially a giant glove that Kratos can use to pummel his foes. It's a great addition to Kratos' armament and a ton of fun to use. It's just too bad that it's the only alternate weapon in the game. Magic is a bit limited as well, but you'll eventually acquire a few other abilities. Most useful to us was the first one you get, the efreet, which damaged all nearby enemies; the other abilities were of little use. For every successful kill, you're rewarded with red orbs that can be used to learn new attacks as well as upgrade weapons and magic. Once again you can find hidden treasure chests that contain red orbs, as well as others that offer gorgon eyes and phoenix feathers. If you collect enough of them, you can increase your overall health and magic meters. Treasure chests and red orbs are actually quite easy to come by, so you should have no problem maxing out all of Kratos' abilities before the end of the game.
As soon as the opening cutscene ends, you're thrown right into the middle of an epic battle in which you must defend Attica from the Persian Army and a basilisk, a huge, reptilian beast that the Persian forces unleashed on the city. During the course of the game you'll fight your way through Attica, some enormous caves, and eventually Hades. Each level is linear, though there are a few branching paths that can be explored to find bonus items. Chains of Olympus is much more combat-oriented than God of War II. You sometimes have to manipulate statues and other items to reflect light or activate a pressure switch to open doors, and you'll find yourself doing a bit of platforming and swimming, but most often you're on good old terra firma while battling foot soldiers, sirens, medusas, cyclopes, and other mythical creatures so that you can open a door or break through a magical barrier to get to the next area. The heavier focus on action certainly keeps things moving, and the combat is as awesome as ever, but the occasional bit of puzzle-solving and high-wire acrobatics is missed here.
Of course, there are several extras available once you finish the game. You'll unlock concept art along with one bonus costume and video by finishing the game on the default difficulty. You can also go back and play through on the ultrahard god mode or try to complete the five tasks in the challenge of Hades, each of which quickly reveals the reason behind its name.
Yep, this little minigame is one of many returning features.
Chains of Olympus delivers almost everything you'd want from a God of War game on the PSP. It's reasonable to expect a few concessions when a series transitions from a console to a handheld, Chains of Olympus does make a few that are worth noting. The biggest issue the game has is that it does almost nothing new. Even the played-out sex minigame is back for another tryst. Granted, it's the same formula fans of the series have come to know and love, but it would have been nice for at least a few new gameplay ideas to be introduced. Instead, the game goes the other way and actually feels a little stripped-down in parts; there are fewer weapons, levels, and boss fights, though there are still plenty of quick button-pressing minigames--perhaps a few too many.
It's also rather short. As far as we can tell, we collected all but one of the hidden chests and still saw the ending credits in less than seven hours. You're left wanting more because the game is a blast, but it's still over far too quickly. One thing the developer didn't compromise is load times. Most areas stream instantaneously, and there are probably less than 60 seconds out of the entire game in which you're waiting for the next area to load.
Few PSP games can match Chains of Olympus from a visual standpoint, either technically or artistically. Simply maintaining a solid frame rate is impressive enough when you've got so many characters fighting onscreen at the same time, but when you toss in lighting and particle effects, moving backgrounds, and lots of blood, it's even more impressive. The cutscenes alternate between prerendered full-motion video, in-game engine, and concept art brought to life by a bit of animation and camera movement. All three types look fantastic. The levels are varied and expansive, but they don't quite have the same epic feel as in the previous games. This is partially because the first level is the only one that has a lot of action going on in the distance, but also because the PSP's screen is small. Likewise, Kratos is sometimes quite tiny and doesn't look particularly powerful when he's only two millimeters tall. Kratos doesn't always appear that small, though, and his movements and attacks are always nicely animated regardless of his stature. If you own a PSP slim and the proper cables, you can make the size issue irrelevant (as well as improve the brightness, which is often really dark) by playing on your television. The textures, which look just fine on the PSP, don't quite hold up on the big screen, but the rest of the game looks fantastic even when blown up several times on your TV.
Headphones are a must when playing Chains of Olympus; it sounds fantastic. T.C. Carson and Linda Hunt reprise their roles as Kratos and the narrator, respectively, and they once again deliver top-notch performances. The well-known God of War theme is also back, and the whole soundtrack fits the action perfectly. After all, it's hard not to feel like a total stud with timpani and horns bombastically urging you on.
Who's afraid of a man this big?
Like Grand Theft Auto and Syphon Filter before it, God of War successfully pulls off a console experience on a handheld. Some new ideas and a better mixture of puzzles, platforming, and bosses would have been divine, but Chains of Olympus is an excellent game that delivers most of what you've been praying for--more God of War.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Nike produces a wide range of sports equipment. Their first products were track running shoes. They currently also make shoes, jerseys, shorts, baselayers etc. for a wide range of sports including track & field, baseball, ice hockey, tennis, Association football, lacrosse, basketball and cricket. The most recent additions to their line are the Nike 6.0, Nike NYX, and Nike SB shoes, designed for skateboarding. Nike has recently introduced cricket shoes, called Air Zoom Yorker, designed to be 30% lighter than their competitors'.In 2008, Nike introduced the Air Jordan XX3, a high performance basketball shoe designed with the environment in mind.
Nike sells an assortment of products, including shoes and apparel for sports activities like association football, basketball, running, combat sports, tennis, American football, athletics, golf and cross training for men, women, and children. Nike also sells shoes for outdoor activities such as tennis, golf, skateboarding, association football, baseball, American football, cycling, volleyball, wrestling, cheerleading, aquatic activities, auto racing and other athletic and recreational uses. Nike is well known and popular in youth culture, chav culture and hip hop culture as they supply urban fashion clothing. Nike recently teamed up with Apple Inc. to produce the Nike+ product which monitors a runner's performance via a radio device in the shoe which links to the iPod nano. While the product generates useful statistics, it has been criticized by researchers who were able to identify users' RFID devices from 60 feet (18 m) away using small, concealable intelligence motes in a wireless sensor network.
In 2004, they launched the SPARQ Training Program/Division. It is currently the premier training program in the U.S.
Some of Nike's newest shoes contain Flywire and Lunarlite Foam. These are materials used to reduce the weight of many types of shoes.
Nike has contracted with more than 700 shops around the world and has offices located in 45 countries outside the United States. Most of the factories are located in Asia, including Indonesia, China, Taiwan, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, Philippines,and Malaysia. Nike is hesitant to disclose information about the contract companies it works with. However, due to harsh criticism from some organizations like CorpWatch, Nike has disclosed information about its contract factories in its Corporate Governance Report.
From 1972 to 1982, Nike relied almost exclusively on print advertising in highly vertical publications including Track and Field News. Most of the early advertising was focused on a new shoe release, essentially outlining the benefits of the running, basketball or tennis shoe. In 1976, the company hired its first outside ad agency, John Brown and Partners, who created what many consider Nike's first 'brand advertising' in 1977. A print ad with the tagline "There is no finish line" featured a lone runner on a rural road and became an instant classic. The success of this simple ad inspired Nike to create a poster version that launched the company's poster business.
In 1982, Nike aired its first national television ads, created by newly formed ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, during the New York Marathon. This would mark the beginning of a remarkably successful partnership between Nike and W+K that remains intact today. The Cannes Advertising Festival has named Nike its 'advertiser of the year' on two separate occasions, the first and only company to receive that honor twice (1994, 2003).
Nike also has earned the Emmy Award for best commercial twice since the award was first created in the 1990s. The first was for "The Morning After," a satirical look at what a runner might face on the morning of January 1, 2000 if every dire prediction about Y2K came to fruition. The second Emmy for advertising earned by Nike was for a 2002 spot called "Move," which featured a series of famous and everyday athletes in a stream of athletic pursuits.
In addition to garnering awards, Nike advertising has generated its fair share of controversy: