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Merc Review
Written by Buk   
Product: Merc Gaming Keyboard Company: Ideazon

Introduction I have been looking for a good gaming keyboard for awhile but none that I tried could match the "feel" of the keys on my six year old generic keyboard. When I heard about the Merc I decided to give it a shot and maybe stop the snide comments at LAN parties.

The Merc Keyboard is a combination keyboard and gaming pad with Ideazon's ZEngine Software providing pre-programed hotkeys for hundreds of games. My Merc arrived with the keyboard and a software disc

After installing it I decided to try out the normal keyboard functions and had no problems until my browser decided to lock up (not because of the Merc) and I had to Ctrl-Alt-Del thats when I realized the Delete key was on my number pad and I had to turn the Num Lock off to use it. It takes awhile to get used to but I can see why the arrow keys and the keys above them are integrated with the number keys. The Merc is already longer then most keyboards due to the gamepad and if there wasn't some space saved somewhere it would be too long for most keyboard trays.

Software

When you install the ZEngine software it also installs Microsoft Net 1.1 if it isn't already present on your system. The Merc software comes with tons of game hotkeys preloaded so when I decided to try it out on a game of Counter-Strike: Source so I chose the Counter-Strike option and fired up the game. The key layout on the game pad is mostly instinctive with a few curveballs thrown in to keep you awake (the big one for me was the turn right arrow dropped your weapon which was a bad thing to discover in the middle of a firefight :p) The one thing I didn't like about the ZEngine software was that it doesn't auto-detect when you switch games. If you forget to reset your key layout between games of Counter-Strike and Battlefield 2 you can have some unpleasant surprises. Hopefully this will be addressed in the future versions of the software.

The "Feel"

I was very pleased with the general feel of the keyboard. The keys "mash" nicely and are very reponsive. You will need awhile to get used to typing on the Merc but everything you are used to is there just relocated.

Conclusion

I would recommend the Merc to anyone looking for a good gaming keyboard. You can find the Merc for under forty dollars and for that price you can't go wrong.

 
UMPH Review
Written by Buk   
UMPH is a new concept in the "energy" drink catagory, instead of buying a small 250 ML can for $2.00 you get 20 tablets for $9.00 or 48 for $21. You place these tablets in the drink of your choice and it dissolves like an Alka Seltzer making it your energy drink. As a Red Bull and Bawls fanatic I was extremely interested in this as it would save me lots of cash that would be better spent on games and computer hardware :)

The nutritional information of UMPH is: * 99 milligrams of caffeine * 30 milligrams of panax ginseng * 0.75 milligrams of vitamin B6 * 118 milligrams of sodium * 116 milligrams of potassium * 1 gram of carbohydrates * Only 5 calories per serving * Sugar free and Aspartame free * 0 Fat Ingredients: Caffine, Ginseng root, Vitamin B6, Citric acid, Sorbitol, Sodium bicarbonate, Potassium Bicarbonate, Polyethlene glycol, Sodium carbonate, Sodium benzoate, Natural flavors, Acesulfame potassium, and Pyridoxine hydrochloride The Testing To test UMPH I used it after several hours playing Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War and before I went to my third shift job. *note: The recommended dosage is no more than four UMPH tablets every 24 hours. Using UMPH in an energy drink cuts that recommended dosage. I first tried UMPH in water as a baseline and found there was almost no taste (lightly citrus) The effect was like a large cappuccino and it kept me alert and active for a little over an hour more then I would have managed without it. I next tried UMPH in my caffinated drink of choice Mountain Dew and and..... wow. I was pretty wired for almost three hours and managed to clean my entire apartment before crashing into bed and sleeping like the dead. My next experiment was with Pepsi and while it didn't energize me like the Mountain Dew it was a definite improvement over regular Pepsi. My final test was with milk ( both regular and chocolate) and while I can't say there was anything strange about the taste it was just... wrong to have your milk bubbling up like that and getting a buzz off it.

Conclusion UMPH is very good at what it does. Everything I tried it with was good (except the milk and some places man was not meant to go) and it kept me awake and alert almost as long as my energy drinks for 1/4 the price. If you wish to try it yourself you can get a free sample from Try-UMPH.com There are also "recipes" for UMPH on the site that I plan on trying. Buk

 
Buzz Bites Review
Written by Buk   
Foosh Energy Mints Nutritional Information: (serving size 1 piece) Calories: 25 Total Fat: 1g 1% Sat. Fat: 0.5g 3% Sodium: 20mg 1% Total Carb 4g 1% Sugars: 3g Protein: 0g Thiamin 10% Niacin 10% Panto. Acid 10% Vitamin B6 20% Vitamin B12 75% Pricing 6 Chew Tin $3.99 12 Tin Tray $36 Shipping $1.99 flat rate After trying the Foosh Mints I was very eager to try the Buzz Bites. While I found then to be just as stimulating as the mints they are definitely a different product. Taste On the Vroomfoods website it states Godiva™ chocolates these are not, but Godiva™ can’t do what this chew can. I and the others that tried them thought they tasted a lot like Tootsie Rolls™. There is a slightly bitter aftertaste due to the caffine (100mg) in the chew but out of the six people that tried it only one found it objectionable (I discovered after I used the chews a few times I couldn't taste the bitterness). Texture The texture is almost exactly like Tootsie Rolls™ Effect Like the mints Buzz Bites work extremely well. I thought they worked a bit slower then the mints but everyone else that tried them said they were faster, I think this might be because I ate them quickly instead of chewing them properly (now might be the time to point out I was raised by a pack of feral poodles in the wild). Buzz Bites are a welcome addition to any caffine addict's arsenal. Conclusion I enjoyed my Buzz Bites. They are a refreshing change in the energy food arena but at $3.99 for 6 they are a bit pricy when you can get 12 Foosh mints for the same price. If I spied them in a store I would definitely grab a tin every now and then for a change of pace or before a LAN party.
 
Foosh Energy Mints Review
Written by Buk   
Foosh Energy Mints Nutritional Information: (serving size 1 mint) Calories 5 Total Fat 0% Sodium 25mg 1% Total Carb 2g 1% Sorbitol 2g Protein 0g Thiamin 10% Niacin 10% Panto Acid 10% Vitamin B6 20% Vitamin B12 75% Pricing: 12 mint tin $3.99 12 tin tray $36 Shipping $1.99 flat rate People who know me understand how much I love caffine so naturally I was very excited to try out a new caffine delivery system and Foosh didn't disappoint! Taste Foosh are peppermint flavored and have a medicinal aftertaste (from their website there is an explanation that since so many of the energy producing ingredients are bitter it's unavoidable, after awhile I didn't notice the taste while using the mints). I would caution would-be Foosh users to avoid drinking grape juice right after taking a Foosh as it's taste is something no one should experience (ever try grape juice after brushing your teeth? yeah, it's like that). Texture Foosh has an odd texture as it dissolves in your mouth. The website explains that it it the different ingredients dissolving at different rates. Effect Foosh works. It's effects are more immediate then Red Bull or any of the energy drinks I usually take but they don't seem to last as long. Since the mints are a lot cheaper then a $2 can of Red Bull you can take more to offset this (I was taking about 4 a day and I stayed very alert even after a long night getting n00bed in Counter Strike: Source). Each Froosh Mint contains 100mg of caffine (as much as 1 cup of coffee) as well as Ginsing and Taurine to help boost energy. Conclusion I was very happy with my Foosh Mints. They do everything advertised by Vroom Foods They are extremely handy in the fact that I can throw a tin in my Jeep and don't have to worry about refrigeration or drinking a warm (yucky) energy drink. The added side effect was they actually freshened my breath. I find them very cost effective for a LAN party addict or someone that needs a boost.
 
GameShadow Review
Written by Superfreak   
Game Shadow
“A PC patching system that enables PC gamers to receive proactive data and online access to the latest PC game patches, updates and gamer reviews without having to search the Internet for them manually and then possibly end up in a queuing system to receive the patch.”

-gameshadowus.com

By: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Introduction If you play a lot of games that you want kept up-to-date then you’re gonna need something to help you keep track of what’s patched and what needs patched, unless you enjoy searching for hours on the Internet to download the latest patch. Well Game Shadow does just that and more. It supports 800+ games and supports your video driver and directX updates. Visualization The layout and feel of Game Shadow is very professional and easy to navigate. With windows that have semi-transparent borders around the windows, and a nice color makes it easy on the eyes. All of that plus a nice background, makes it all look very nice and easy to look at. With the navigation between your game patches, and driver patches, and “What’s new?” section in the upper area and the navigation for each of those down the left it is very easy to find what you are looking for. Support Throughout the use of Game Shadow I came across a few questions that I could not figure out myself. So I e-mailed tech support of Game Shadow to ask a few questions. I was very pleased with the replies. They were quick to reply (some same day others the next day) and answered the questions I asked, unlike other companies who will dodge your questions and not give you a straight answer. Throughout my use of Game Shadow I also contacted other people within Game Shadow to get answers about the future of Game Shadow and was pleased with the responses I got, which were polite and to the point. All in all the support given by Game Shadow tech support is the best I have seen and this is what pleased me the most about Game Shadow. Games & Drivers Game Shadow has very good support for a wide variety of games (800+ at the moment) which is easy to get the patches for considering all you have to do is go to the “My Games” tab, and hit “Search for My Games“. It is the same for the drivers, which at the moment only video drivers are supported, the driver's that are included at the moment are nVIDIA and ATI. There is also a nice benchmarking system that shows you how your card performed with different patches and upgrades so you can decide what you want to use. I do believe they plan on adding more drivers to the list in later versions of Game Shadow. To download and install patches is very easy using game shadow. Conclusion This is a very , very nice program put together and extremely well with a lot of thought as to what needed to be done and what didn’t need to be done. With very nice people working with them . This is a very useful tool to use, I give it a 9 out of 10 possible. 9/10(90%)
 
Call of Duty Review
Written by Matt Garrow   
CALL OF DUTY By Matt Garrow
Overview Call of Duty comes to us courtesy of the same people who made Medal of Honor: Allied Assault possible. I was an avid fan of that game, and when I discovered Call of Duty I immediately downloaded the demo. That said, let me say this: If you've ever enjoyed a first-person shooter in your lifetime, stop reading right now and head to www.callofduty.com to get the "Burnville" and "Dawnville" demos. Just make sure you play it alone the first few times, because you're going to be ducking your head and grinning like an idiot. For those of you who aren't persuaded to spend your precious time downloading and would prefer to read, please continue. Call of Duty puts you in the dusty boots of three soldiers: an American Airborne Infantryman, a British SAS Commando, and a conscripted Russian sniper. I'll touch on these later. I ran this game on an Alienware Area-51 (P4 2.2, 1 Gig RAM, nVidia GeForce4 Ti 4600, SoundBlaster Audigy), and experienced no significant frame rate drops with all settings maxed out. So let's get into the thick of it. Presentation The graphics and sound of a shooter are the first thing most players noticed, barring some major screw up with the menu system (which works just fine here). I'll focus on graphics first, and in this area Call of Duty excels. The game pulls off some mighty impressive visual stunts. Explosions are enough to make you squint, grenades send chips of stone past your head in a blur, and bullet impacts cause the bricks in the wall beside you to shatter in grainy puffs of dust. The levels show equal polish with good variety, and while you're constrained by such borders as barbed wire and minefields, it never really feels restricted. Weapon models also deserve praise for both their accuracy and beauty. But alas, not all is perfect. Animations are generally very good, with nice touches like a fellow soldier pulling a wounded man behind cover, or a frightened peek around a corner. Unfortunately some are less than realistic. More than once I punched a few holes in a German soldier on a balcony, waiting to watch him collapse back, when instead he suddenly slid forward and clumsily launched himself over the side. It doesn't happen often, but it's noticeable enough to warrant a mention. Let's not dwell on the faults, though..... (click "read more" The sound in Call of Duty makes all those little blemishes disappear in its blinding (or perhaps deafening) brilliance; it's truly the factor that creates verisimilitude. And it really can get to be pretty deafening. From the icy chill courtesy of a sniper rifle's distant report, to the frantic whizzing and whirring of bullets pounding your position, the sound in Call of Duty will make your jaw drop. Every weapon can be distinguished from the rest, and with a decent set of surround sound speakers you'll come to rely on it. And it won't just be weapons that get your attention. You'll hear soldiers, both enemy and friendly, shouting to each other as battles unfold. This is done extremely well, and definitely adds to the sense of being in combat. My only complaint here, like that found in some other reviews, is that Russians speak in accented English, not their native tongue. You can download a sound clip from the "Dawnville" demo HERE Gameplay Rating the gameplay in a shooter can be tricky. Different players have different tastes, and the range is wide. Call of Duty straddles the line between the "realistic" shooter and the fast-paced action of say, Quake III or the Unreal Tournament series. You'll be doing your fair share of running and gunning, but you still need to be smart about it. While your squad shoots it out with the Germans across a dark street, it’s usually a bad idea to try to jog over to the enemy side to start blasting until they're suppressed. And what a squad you'll have. Barring a few solo missions, you'll be teamed up with a handful of other soldiers. Where other shooters have tried in the past to make you feel like you're part of a team, none have done it as well as Call of Duty; your fellow soldiers are generally pretty smart and believable. They'll provide covering fire, make good use of cover, and support you in achieving the objective du jour. Now and then you might find a mate that likes to intercept your bullet by leaping in front of you at the wrong moment, but it's rare. The Germans will also act smartly, and while battles won't readily resolve themselves without your involvement, the two sides go at it with all the intensity you'd expect from the Last Great War. Mixed in with the standard shooter fare of "get this document" or "blow this thing up," are some other staples. These include a couple of rail-shooting segments, playing some defense, and a short segment where the only real objective is staying alive. The rail-shooting takes the form of two car chases, and they're the best of their kind that I've experienced. The first is a nerve-wracking drive across enemy lines, and it's one of the game's most memorable sequences. The defensive objectives are also well done, and the Germans truly do their damnedest to regain control. Whether its holding a French town or resisting a counterattack at a bridge, you'll find yourself feeling the pressure. And then there's Stalingrad. You'll play the part of an unarmed Russian conscript charging up the muddy hill toward German gun emplacements, and you'll savor every frantic second of it. Your fellows will charge off the boats all around you, and it really is impressive to watch, as long as you're doing it from behind good cover. And about the weaponry that you'll be wanting to avoid and use: it's also excellent. Unlike most shooters which use a scale of progressively more devastating arms, Call of Duty allows you to carry only two long guns and one sidearm at a time. This means you can pick and choose how you outfit yourself, though you'll usually end up with one battle rifle or sniper rifle, one submachine gun, and a Colt 1911 or P 08 Luger. "No knife?" you might be asking. No, there's no knife in the game, because any of the weapons can be used to crack your enemy over the head (something first done in Halo, I believe), which I must say is a nice touch. The list of available weapons is impressive, but I won't detail it here. All of the weapons have their place in the single player portion of the game, but you probably won't need your sidearm much. This isn't a bad thing, and there were a couple of occasions in which a reload would've been imprudent, so a few desperate rounds from my pistol was in order. Still, the pistol has a much more practical purpose in multiplayer, which I'll cover next. Multiplayer You'll find the usual flavors of multiplayer in Call of Duty, as well as some others. Deathmatches of standard and team varieties have a commendable pace and feel, and the game also offers Counterstrike- and Return to Castle Wolfenstein-style modes called "Retrieval" and "Search and Destroy," in which each player is given only one chance per round. The most unique mode is called "Behind Enemy Lines," and it places a majority of players on the German side and a few as Allies. Whenever a German player takes out an Allied one, that German switches teams. It's a quirky kind of fun, and it allows you to play from both sides in rapid succession, which I found oddly refreshing. All of the weapons found in multiplayer have a place, including the pistol. Lugging around your Browning Automatic Rifle ain't easy, and switching off to your pistol while you lurk through underground corridors will increase your mobility. When close contact is expected it's really not all that bad of an idea, and if you practice a little, you'll find that a Colt can even hold it's own against a submachine gun with a little luck. Outdoors the support weapons, battle rifles, and their scoped variants rule the day. I know, I know. I can hear the complaints about "camping" already. But wait. Call of Duty introduces the "KillCam." This handy little feature allows you to watch the last seconds of your life through the eyes of your killer. If you've ever muttered, "No way," or "How in the world...?" this is your answer. A few servers I've played on don't allow the KillCam, but most do, and it even goes so far as to make virtual death enjoyable now and then. Rating Overall I think Call of Duty is a great game -- certainly it's one of the best shooters I've ever played (check out the demo if you don't believe me). Some nice touches and minor innovations, along with many of the things that made previous shooters great, combine to create a very memorable experience. I give Call of Duty nine of a possible ten Sterne.
 
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