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Electronic Arts-owned developer DICE used GDC 2013 to offer a glimpse into what next generation gaming will mean for gamers this fall. The Swedish developer showed off a live demo of Battlefield 4, which has been announced for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It’s likely this sequel will also be coming to PlayStation 4 and the new Xbox, but EA has yet to confirm other platforms.

Inside a packed AMC Metreon movie theater, hundreds of journalists, some analysts and Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch watched as DICE played through an intense action sequence from the beginning of Battlefield 4’s single player campaign. Watching this nearly 20 minute sequence on a giant movie theater screen was appropriate. In fact, if people happened to wander into the packed theater, they’d likely not have realized they weren’t watching a Hollywood blockbuster film. The line’s being blurred between games and movies in new ways.

Like Quantic Dream’s upcoming Beyond: Two Souls, Naughty Dog’s upcoming The Last of Us and Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II; Battlefield 4 employed full performance capture to put the actors (face, voice and action together) into these virtual roles. Patrick Soderlund, executive vice president of the EA Games Label, told me the studio is taking the technology that James Cameron utilized for Avatar and pushing it even further for this new game. Coupled with the brand new Frostbite 3 game engine, the characters portrayed in the demo came across as real.

“We’re not holding anything back with this game,” said Soderlund. “Next gen is not about polygons and shaders, it’s about the emotional connection players will have with these characters. Battlefield 4 is about gripping experiences that are human and dramatic and believable. In this demo, you feel the stress of the moment, you feel like you’re in imminent danger, you feel for these characters.”

The demo’s frenetic pace actually begins with the player plunging to his death, trapped inside a fast-sinking SUV with his squad mates. Then the game goes back in time and lets the player live through the action sequences that resulted in this harrowing dilemma. Things literally go from bad to worse for the squad as they contend with hundreds of enemy soldiers, armed vehicles and formidable attack choppers. The gameplay varies from huge open battlefield expanses to tighter combat inside a building on the brink of collapse to a driving sequence in an SUV under attack from a chopper.

Sitting in the theater without a controller, I was as entertained as if I’d been watching Olympus Has Fallen. In fact, being forced to watch, rather than play, this game showcased just how close gaming has come to Hollywood. Watching as the player is forced to amputate the leg of a comrade after a building collapse is intense. And you can feel the claustrophobia inside that locked SUV as the windshield slowly cracks from the pressure of the freezing ocean. Soderlund told me that the team has focused on improving the single-player campaign for this sequel. Creating a cinematic experience was one of its goals.

“Our design approach through both single and multiplayer has been about connecting the player to the characters around them,” said Patrick Bach, executive producer on the game at DICE. “It’s not about the geopolitical drama, it’s about the actions of the player and the drama of that personal experience. It’s the dramatic motivations that propel the story. Like in the movies we want a believable story with real characters, real weapons and real vehicles.”

In this demo, the whole mission was to prove something you already knew, which adds another level of emotion to the experience. Lives are lost for nothing, essentially. It looks like Battlefield 4 will be a shooter that’s about far more than just shooting. This first look at the game is very promising. DICE has raised the bar, and it looks like it’s going to be an interesting battle this fall with Activision’s next Call of Duty game.

Millions of people may have been affected by an attack that caused disruption and a slowdown of the Internet, according to a not-for-profit anti-spam organization that blacklisted a Dutch Web-hosting company.

The interruptions came after Spamhaus, a spam-fighting group based in Geneva, temporarily added CyberBunker to a blacklist that is used by e-mail providers to weed out spam. The attacks work by trying to make a network unavailable to its intended users by overloading a server with coordinated requests to access it, according to security firm Kaspersky Lab.

Calling the disruptions “one of the largest computer attacks on the Internet,” the New York Times reported today that millions of Web users have experienced delays in services such as Netflix video-streaming service or couldn’t reach a certain website for a short time.

“The size of the attack hurt some very large networks and Internet exchange points such as the London Internet Exchange,” John Reid, a spokesman for Spamhaus, said in an e-mailed response to questions by Bloomberg News. “It could be thousands, it could be millions. Due to our global infrastructure, the attackers target places all over the world.”

Spamhaus was targeted with a so-called distributed denial of service attack on the evening of March 15, Reid said.

Dutch Bunker

The attackers pretended to be Spamhaus and bombarded the Internet’s Domain Name System with simultaneous requests for information, according to Michael Sutton, vice president of security research for Zscaler. The System thinks the requests are from Spamhaus and sends them back to its website, creating a wall of data so large that the site crashes, he said.

“This attack isn’t new but I’ve never seen it abused to this scale,” he said in an interview. A traditional denial-of- service attack floods a website with tens of thousands of requests a second, causing it to temporarily shut down.

CyberBunker, which was founded 1998 and is based in a military bunker near a Dutch town called Goes, offers Web- hosting services for all sites except child pornography and anything related to terrorism, according to its portal.

“The only thing we would like to say is that we do not, and never have, sent any spam,” Cyberbunker spokesman Jordan Robson said in an e-mail.

Such attacks are growing in quantity as well as scale, according to Vitaly Kamluk, chief malware expert of Kaspersky Lab’s global research and analysis team. The two main motives for the disruptions are money through cybercrime and political and social activism, he said.

“This is indeed the largest known DDoS operation,” Kamluk said by e-mail. “Such DDoS attack may affect regular users as well, with network slowdown or total unavailability of certain web resources as typical symptoms.”

windows blue

windows blue

Microsoft has thus far stayed mum on Windows Blue, the rumored update to Windows 8 that leaked online this weekend . But that changed today, with a Blog post that discussed how Redmond plans to “advance” its products in the coming months.

Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of corporate communications, acknowledged that Microsoft employees are “working together on plans to advance our devices and services, a set of plans referred to internally as ‘Blue,'” though he stressed that the chances of the final product having that moniker are “slim to none.”

Shaw said Microsoft is embracing a “continuous development cycle,” pointing to this weeks Windows 8 apps update, new gadgets, and performance improvements. This, he said, “is the new normal across Microsoft.”

“Our product groups are also taking a unified planning approach so people get what they want – all of their devices, apps and services working together wherever they are and for whatever they are doing,” Shaw said.

That is part of Microsoft’s fundamental shift from a software company to a devices and services firm, as outlined by Stave Billmer in October.

The Windows Blue leak offered some hints about what we can expect from the next incremental update to Windows. That includes expanding the allowable size of tiles that one can place on Windows 8’s Start Screen, and additional customization options, among other things. Microsoft is also reportedly readying a Windows RT version of Windows Blue.

Shaw promised more updates on what’s next for Windows, Windows Server, Windows Azure, Visual Studio, and more at its Build 2013 conference, set for June 26-28 in San Francisco.

“Build is the path to creating and implementing your great ideas, and then differentiating them in the market,” Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and chief evangelist, wrote in a separate Blog post.

Registration for Build opens on April 2 via buildwindows.com.

AMD Radeon HD 7790 1GB Full Review

Posted: March 26, 2013 by Rizwan Riyad in PC, Tech
Tags: , , , ,

With the Radeon HD 7790, AMD has one target in its sights: the Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti. Landing smack-dab in between the AMD Radeon HD 7770 and AMD Radeon HD 7850 in terms of performance, the HD 7790 is the first video card to feature the ‘Bonaire’ GPU, the latest progeny from AMD’s Graphics Core Next architecture.amd

AMD Radeon HD 7790: The Specs

The Radeon HD 7790 uses AMD’s Bonaire GPU, which, like the rest of the 7000 series, is based on Graphics Core Next. It houses 896 stream processors and 56 texture units. That puts Bonaire just about halfway between the HD 7770’s Cape Verde chip (640/40) and the HD 7850’s Pitcairn (1024/64, 860 MHz). Like the HD 7770, the HD 7790 has a 1 GHz clock speed and no Turbo mode.

HD 7790 GPU

The VRAM is 1 GB of GDDR5 clocked at 1.5 GHz on a 128-bit memory bus. That’s quite a leap forward that allows for a 96 GB/s bandwidth, which is 33% more than the HD 7770‘s 72 GB/s.

Basically, the AMD Radeon HD 7790’s GPU gives higher raw performance than the HD 7850‘s—thanks to high clock rate—but less memory bandwidth (96 GB/s compared to the 7850’s 153.6 GB/s).

Size, Noise, Heat

The card AMD sent us is a Sapphire model with an alternative PCB and cooling system, so we can’t make any conclusive statements about the noise on the AMD version.

As for the size, the reference card uses a fairly short PCB that’s almost identical in length to the Radeon HD 7750 (17 cm). The cooling system consists of a heat sink with fins arranged in an arc of a circle with a fan on top. However, AMD told us that none of its partners will be making cards that use this reference design. They’ll have alternative heat sinks instead, and most will be overclocked.

Power Use5/5

The Radeon HD 7790 uses just about the same amount of power as the HD 7770. We detected 121 W to 135 W for the whole computer while gaming, with equally low figures when the computer was at rest (48 W with the monitor turned on and 41 W with the monitor off). The 7000 series uses ZeroCore Power, which shuts the video card down almost entirely and brings the fan to a complete stop when the screen is asleep.

AMD Radeon HD 7790 PowerTune AMD Radeon HD 7790 PowerTune

On the Radeon HD 7790, AMD revised the method used to vary the card’s clock rates. Before, AMD’s systems used four voltage (DPM) states; now there are eight. Each state corresponds to a different clock/voltage pairing, allowing them to adjust more precisely to fit the workload. AMD says this improves the card’s overall power efficiency.

True or not, what is certain is that the HD 7790 is indeed slightly more power efficient than the Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti, which consumes around 45 W at rest and varies from 135 W to 141 W while gaming.

Performance in Games3/5

AMD’s primary goal with the HD 7790 was to spar with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti, which is just about halfway between the Radeon HD 7770 and the HD 7850 in terms of performance. And it’s mission accomplished, because the 7790 averages 6% faster than the GTX 650 Ti. It’s 14% to 30% faster than the Radeon HD 7770 and 17% slower than the Radeon HD 7850.

AMD Radeon HD 7790
Overall average performance
Click to see more measurements and compare with other models

So, what’s the verdict?

First of all, AMD has indeed reached its goal of making a product that competes with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti. Both cards are just about equal in terms of processing performance and power consumption, although AMD does hold a slight advantage.

The pricing strategy, however, is difficult to understand. Costing £115 at launch, the Radeon HD 7790 is at the same price level as its faster, bigger brother, the 1GB Radeon HD 7850. In other words, you get less power for your money. AMD appears to be aware of this and cites, rightly so, that the Radeon HD 7850 1 GB is nearing the end of its life. But in order for the HD 7790 to be a success on the market, the price will have to drop—and quickly—because the 2GB Radeon HD 7850 costs pretty much the same amount. And for more than a simple product line “refresh”, we’ll have to wait until late 2013 at the earliest before we see a new generation of cards head our way.

Pros

  • Compact reference design
  • Power consumption
  • ZeroCore Power

Cons

  • Launch price (not included in our rating)

Conclusion

The AMD Radeon HD 7790 meets its primary goal, which is simply to rival the competition. But the price will have to drop quickly. If it doesn’t, the point of this card’s existence will be debatable.

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BioShock Infinite – SKIDROW › isoHunt › P2P links

Think back about this video game console generation and its greatest moments, and near the very top is 2007’s BioShock. It’s a game that sticks in players’ heads for countless reasons: the underwater setting of Rapture, the Big Daddy, Andrew Ryan, those crazy vending machines dispersing ammo, weapons and superpowers. BioShock was also a shining example of video game storytelling. Players weren’t interrupted by canned cut scenes, but learned about Rapture through hidden tape recordings, signs or messages scrawled on walls or other clues. Studio Irrational Games hopes to capture similar magic with “spiritual successor”BioShock Infinite, a spectacular journey that should remind video game players why this franchise is among the best at telling stories and staging explosive combat filled with diversity. BioShock moves from the depths of the sea to above the clouds, as players explore the steampunk-inspired sky city of Columbia in 1912. The floating metropolis teems with American pride, led by the mysterious prophet Zachary Comstock. Players follow lead character Booker DeWitt, an agent hunting down a young woman named Elizabeth, who is protected by the powerful Songbird. The story unravels as players weave through the lively streets of Columbia, with hot dog vendors selling food or kids playing by a fire hydrant. They spot signs urging Columbia citizens to protect the seed of the prophet and watch for a false shepherd that might lead them astray. Through Voxophones and Kinetoscopes scattered throughout the world, players learn more about Booker, Elizabeth and how Columbia was born. As with the first BioShockInfinite always seems to dangle that narrative carrot in front of you to keep moving, such as a fresh discovery that unearths more questions about Booker’s mission. It also touches on mature themes players might not encounter in a video game, including faith, religion, government and racism, to name a few. Columbia also hosts an ongoing struggle between the city’s Founders and the rebellious Vox Populi. The results are a story that’s both fascinating and — as it nears its conclusion — shocking. The setting is very different from the original BioShock, yet Infinite retains a lot of the franchise’s DNA through its combat system and mechanics. Plasmids are replaced by Vigors, elixirs that bestow players with special powers. Possession allows players to briefly control human or robotic foes, while Bucking Bronco suspends enemies in the air for easy shooting with a broad arsenal of weapons. Instead of EVE from the firstBioShock, players manage Salts to use Vigors. Even the zany vending machines return, this time with 1912 flair. Players scrounge for food, ammo and salts in barrels, crates, desks and other objects. Most of Booker’s movement is by foot and through the air via Skyhook, a contraption he wears to zip across the city’s various skylines. Along with navigation, skylines come in handy when surprising enemies with vicious aerial strikes.

The Booker-Elizabeth relationship is integral to Infinite’s experience. She seems constantly engaged, whether dancing along a beach boardwalk or choosing between brooches at a shop. Elizabeth also creates inter-dimensional tears that open portals to other worlds. During combat, Elizabeth can pull items into Booker’s universe to assist in battle, such as health packs, turrets, or more powerful weapons. She also tosses Booker health packs, salts or ammo whenever he’s in a bind. If she spots money, she’ll pick it up and toss it to Booker. Elizabeth is able to play a key role throughout the game without players ever feeling like they must manage her presence. When combining Elizabeth’s abilities with Booker’s stable of Vigors and firearms, players end up with highly diverse combat that never feels dull. For example, players can use Murder of Crows followed by Devil’s Kiss to unleash a flurry of flaming birds at enemies, or launch foes in the air with Bucking Bronco and use a grenade launcher style Volley Gun to wipe them out. Players are never low on options during battle. Infinite might not have an opposing character as memorable as the Big Daddy, but the roster of beefier foes can be just as challenging. The Handyman is a beast that leaps across environments slamming foes, while the Motorized Patriot is an animatronic recreation of George Washington hunting down Booker with a chain gun. If there’s any knock to BioShock Infinite, it’s that replayability is limited once the 15-hour campaign wraps up. There’s a much tougher 1999 Mode where enemies are stronger, navigation is shut off, and food items do less to replenish health. Players can also revisit the campaign to uncover more Voxophones or Kinetoscopes, as well as other hidden secrets, but not much else beyond that. However, there are so many things BioShock Infinite does right that it’s really difficult to ignore. Between the story, characters and action, Infinite is easily one of this year’s best interactive endeavors.

Publisher: 2K Games

Developer: Irrational Games

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Price: $59.99

Release Date: March 26

Score: 4 stars (out of 4)
Trailer:
http://youtu.be/zvIU1e7k7Oc