Insta Poker app helps you improve your game

I’m addicted to my iPad, particularly when I’m on the treadmill or in airplanes. I mostly use it to watch TV series like “The Wire” or “Sons of Anarchy,” but I also love the apps and games as well.

There’s an app for practically everything now, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see a new app for poker games. There’s a new instructional poker game for the iPhone, iPod and iPad called “Insta Poker.” As you’re playing the game and make a decision, text comments from a pro pop up to give you immediate feedback, letting you know if you made the right or wrong move, and why. The feedback comes from pros like Antonio Esfandiari and Huck Seed. So now you can kill time on a plane with a game that might actually make you money, unlike complete time-wasters like Angry Birds.

Interestingly, the hands in the game are real hands track real events, like hands that took place in televised tournaments or at other high-stakes poker games. The key to this app is teaching you strategy as you’re playing which is critical if you want to develop into an effective poker player.

The game packs for the app cost 99 cents to $6.99, with the most expensive ones having around 15 hands, so the game isn’t cheap. But when you consider how much money you can win in your poker future, or at least how much less money you can lose, then the cost is really a drop in the bucket, or at least comparable to that turkey sandwich you’re ordering at the casino while justifying several more hours at the poker table.

Payneful Memories: The Best of Max Payne

To me, there’s nothing quite like the “Max Payne” series.

As a fan of action movies, there is no game that can fulfill that itch I have for some ultra violence after watching one of my favorites like “Max Payne” does. More than that, though, the series has its own style and charm that very few games across any genre can possibly hope to match. It’s made up of a million little things that all come together to make something greater than it even looked on paper.

So in honor of “Max Payne 3′s” impending release, I’d like to reflect on ten of my favorite moments, levels, aspects, and everything else from the first two “Max Payne” games.

Mod Max – The “Max Payne” series was designed to be heavily moddable, and from day one gamers have taken advantage of that. From mods that make the game even more cinematic, to giving you the option of employing “Equilibrium’s” gunkata style, and way, way, to many “Matrix” mods, there is a strong community out there devoted to maximizing the games experience.

The two that really stand out, though, are the brilliant Kung Fu mod that gives Max martial arts skills, along with some deadlier gunplay abilities, thus helping the game become even more of an homage to the kung-fu classics that inspired it, and a mod that turns the game into a brawler set in the “Street Fighter” universe. The latter is actually kind of dull and buggy, while the former is a necessity. Both though represent the incredible ability the game has to be modded, and the creative impulses this series inspires out of its fanbase.

Innocent Man’s Story – This is maybe my favorite little moment of the series. In “Max Payne 2,” you are in a police station, when you overhear a cop interrogating a suspect over a double murder. Stay and listen and you will hear the absolute worst criminal alibi of all time delivered by a man who looks and sounds suspiciously like Joe Pesci.

I really can’t do this one justice with words. You have to see it for yourself.

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Scouting Report – The Games of May

After sitting through far too many rounds of the NFL Draft over the weekend, I got to thinking: If sports reporters can analyze players that haven’t gone pro yet, why not try to make an assessment of games that haven’t gone live yet?  So here is my scouting report on some big releases of May, including just how I think they will fare when they hit the big time.

Max Payne 3


Scouting Report

The wait for this game has had many fans feel what it’s like to be stuck in Max’s signature slowdown bullet time mode. Original developer Remedy did an amazing job with the first “Max Payne” when it came to capturing that particular brand of Hong Kong cinema gunplay, popularized by the likes of “Hard Boiled” and “The Killer“, while infusing it with some old fashioned American film noir style. It resulted in one of the most revolutionary and unique shooters ever made. For the sequel, “Max Payne 2“, they managed to blow nearly everyone’s expectations away by retaining the essentially the same gameplay of the first, but then smothering the entire experience with unbelievable amount of style, emphasized by some of the best level design ever in a game and some perfect ragdoll physics, to create what is one of my personal favorite games of all time.

But now it’s Rockstar’s turn to take the reins (and why not as that iconic R logo on the first two led many to believe it was one of their developments anyway), as they attempt to bring Max back into the limelight. So far, from the numerous preview trailers, it looks like the emphasis is on refinement of the system and not starting a revolution….as least in the single player. Yes for the first time ever, Max is going multiplayer in what Rockstar is hoping is going to be a unique attempt at that eternal question. How do you make bullet time work in multiplayer?

Prospects

I have zero doubt this game is going to be good. I have some questions though on whether or not it will be great.

It’s obvious from everything we’ve seen so far that Rockstar is not looking to stray from the established gameplay of the first two, and merely tweak it with some very welcome additions (mostly cosmetic). But at this point, many fans want the game to be more than “just fun”, and to pull that off, Rockstar is going to have to match the numerous little X-factors that Remedy populated the first two games with. As this installment is moving away from its previous Noir style roots, they’re going to have to find a way to make the new “Man on Fire”-style world and plot shine as bright and feel as unique. Failing that, it’s going to come down to the multiplayer to be what makes this game stand out in a busy market (even for a returning legend).

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Cataclysm CE features announced, I sigh

Cataclysm Collector's Edition

I’ve never understood the collector’s editions for World of Warcraft. I really enjoy the game, but there are so many easily attainable pets (which is the only thing that really entices me out of the feature list) that I can’t really understand dropping the extra cash on it. People spend money on weirder stuff, and I guess there’s enough involved to keep the crazy lore freaks happy.

Here’s what you get:

CATACLYSM EXCLUSIVE BEHIND-THE-SCENES DVD:
• Over an hour of developer interviews and commentaries, discussing the game’s development from early design through finished gameplay.
• The Cataclysm intro cinematic and major content patch trailers complete with Director’s Commentary.
• A special Warcraft retrospective examining the rich gaming history of the Warcraft universe.

COLLECTOR’S EDITION SOUNDTRACK:
• Seventeen epic tracks from Cataclysm.

THE ART OF CATACLYSM:
• 176 pages of art, featuring never-before-seen images from the archives of the Blizzard Film Department and the World of Warcraft development team.
• Progressive visuals from every stage of development – from early concepts through to finished, detailed art.

WORLD OF WARCRAFT®: CATACLYSM™ PC/MAC GAME:
• The full World of Warcraft expansion set on CD-ROM and DVD-ROM.

WORLD OF WARCRAFT TRADING CARD GAME STARTER PACKS AND EXCLUSIVE CARDS:
• One 60-card deck from the new Wrathgate series featuring two extended art cards and visuals from several of fantasy’s top creators.
• Two exclusive hero cards, marking the first appearance of goblin and worgen heroes in the WOW:TCG.
• One full-sized rule book to teach you how to play.

EXCLUSIVE IN-GAME PET:
• He may not be a breaker of worlds… at least not yet… but Lil’ Deathwing will still aid you in your titanic struggle to save Azeroth from his much, much larger counterpart.

CATACLYSM MOUSEPAD:
• A special-edition mouse pad depicting Deathwing menacing the ravaged continents of Azeroth.

See, there’s some good stuff in there. Gamestop lists the box set at $79.99.

Xin Zhao Spotlight is here

Riot posted the Xin Zhao Spotlight early this go round, giving you time to think about whether or not you’ll be picking him up at the Season One launch this Tuesday. The video gives some much needed clarification on his skillset, though I don’t think it does a good job displaying Xin Zhao’s specific skillset.

Did anyone else feel like this was more of a tutorial on the basics than a display of the potential behind Xin Zhao. That first kill on Guinsoo looked like a damn bot (I’m guessing Guinsoo was typing?) and most of the teamfights played out such that I didn’t see Xin Zhao doing a whole lot – it was mostly his fed teammates dishing out the damage and pulling down triple kills. It’s kinda tough to get a good look at any champion when you have a power combo like Alistar/Annie for teamfights. The one helpful tip was the Malzahar kill top for which Phreak used Audacious Charge. That’s about all I learned. Use it like Kat/Akali to get close to people but with a bonus AOE slow.

Is WiiRelax the Vitality Sensor’s killer app?

Wii Vitality Sensor.Back in April, an Italian company called Siliconera announced “Wii Relax,” a product complete with web pages and press info. That info has since disappeared, and Nintendo has now officially trademarked the name, though it removes the space to form WiiRelax, in Europe.

As Destructoid reports, the trademark is good for PAL territories. I hate to say I think this will be a real game, but I do. The question remains, why? Is Nintendo trying to encourage the already pervasive drug culture that comes along with a lot of games. And how do you determine who wins? Will it always be the guy with the Volcano?

My curiosity pretty much stops with theory, though. I have absolutely zero interest in playing a game associated with the Vitality Sensor. Sure, motion control is fun, but even then it’s more of a mental exercise in timing, control, and trouncing the competition. I don’t need a video game to help me fall asleep.

Halo: Reach trailer airs at the VGAs

Good to its word, Bungie showed off the last game will make under the Halo franchise at the VGAs last night, a game we all know as Halo: Reach. The trailer was a mashup of pre-battle scenes. A warthog driving across some open terrain. A bunch of Spartans back at barracks. A bunch more Spartans at their barracks. A bunch of Spartans leaving their barracks.

Sounds kinda boring, doesn’t it? Well that’s because it is. I embedded the video below so you can see just how boring for yourself. Granted, this all about setting up the conflict that started Halo, so there’s a lot of dialogue. It’s strange, though, that Bungie is investing so much in establishing stock characters in a short trailer. You have the chick trying to prove herself in command. The psycho sharpening a knife with a skull painted on his visor. The dutiful lieutenant reporting for duty. I’m not sure what about this was supposed to excite me, and there was virtually nothing to make me say, “yeah, this will be the biggest game of 2010,” other than the word Halo in the title.

See for yourself:

Greenberg says Reach will be the biggest game of 2010

Aaron Greenberg lookin silly.Microsoft had a great November. The Modern Warfare 2 launch pushed through 4.2 million units, nearly a million more than Halo 3 did at launch. Among other things, the 360 outsold the PS3, even though overall sales were down year on year. Microsoft’s product management director, Aaron Greenberg, had a lot to say on the matter, but the most notable was his prediction for Halo: Reach.

“I feel confident that there’s nothing that will compare in size. Halo: Reach will be the biggest game of 2010.”

So what else releases in 2010? Here’s a short list:
-StarCraft II
-Mass Effect 2
-God of War III
-Final Fantasy XIII
-Gran Turismo 5

Greenberg thinks the Master Chief can beat every one of those. A few on the list, sure, but GT5? Final Fantasy XIII for the West? I have my doubts.

Source: Gamasutra

Gran Turismo aimed at Summer 2010

GT5 evo.I know the Japanese release date set some of the GT5 fans out there to drooling. And why not? March is just around the corner. Unfortunately, the western release date for the game isn’t set, and the only approximation is “Summer 2010.” As you know all too well, that could mean virtually anything.

If you think you’ll get the game in June, think again. Chris Hinojosa-Miranda told Destructoid that Polyphony Digital hasn’t even started thinking about DLC yet. That might not seem like a big deal, but that’s one of the primary ways developers have been monetizing games today. The fact that Sony isn’t even talking about it yet says to me that they have to focus 100% on just getting the game out the door.

The good news is that when the game finally releases there will be plenty to do. The roster includes something on the order of 1000 cars. Then again, it’s tough to look at that number without wondering just how long until we get to see any of them.

Firmware 3.15 will make PSP Minis playable on PS3

PSP Minis on a PSPgo.There’s another firmware update coming to the PS3, build 3.15, that will allow the system to finally play those PSP Minis. Yes, at long last you can make just one purchase of those overpriced little one-hitters and play them on your console.

It looks like the update works with titles you’ve already purchased as well. Just head to your download list and you can pick up the game on your console. The update also makes it a little easier to transfer data from one PS3 to another, a nice little bonus for those of you who picked up the PS3 Slim. The new data transfer is a simple LAN connection that dumps everything over to your new rig.

For full details on the patch, hit up the Playstation Blog.

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