Game Review: Far Cry 3

The travel brochure that enticed Jason Brody and his friends to book their spring break-style trip to the Rook Islands probably left out the pillaging pirates, aggressive bull sharks and lunging leopards.

The picturesque setting of “Far Cry 3” (Ubisoft, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, $59.99; PC, $49.99) turns out to be far from hospitable to the naive tourist, who can barely stand the sight of blood when he finds himself caged up in a village ruled by a sadistic drug lord.
Jason’s transition into a seasoned survivor anchors “Far Cry 3,” an outstanding open-world first-person shooter that intersperses character arc, plot and suspense throughout a variety of action-packed firefights, stealth sequences and side missions.
The game begins with Jason being led out of captivity by his military-trained brother, a linear sequence that helps introduce Jason and acclimate players to the control scheme. The islands quickly open up after the arrival of Dennis Rogers, an ally to the indigenous Rakyat tribe who guides Jason on his quest to reunite with his girlfriend and fellow tourists. Dennis sees a burgeoning warrior in Jason and entices him to help free the islands from ruthless criminals.

Each section holds a radio tower handicapped by a signal scrambler, and climbing a tower and disconnecting the device opens a small part of a ridiculously expansive map that’s on par with Bethesda Softworks’ recent “Fallout” or “Elder Scrolls” installments. Freeing a tower also helps open an area to trade, which makes weapon dealers so happy that they’ll start showering you with free guns.

Ridding an enemy outpost of bad guys provides a new location to buy and upgrade weapons with scopes and silencers, as well as a fast travel point to speed trips between friendly villages. But with so many ATVs, trucks and jeeps spread throughout the islands- not to mention hang gliders, jet skis and boats – why not take the scenic route?

Once Jason grabs control of an enemy outpost, he can also browse the bulletin boards for side missions that offer rewards for hunting down rare creatures or wanted criminals. Tracking down a white belly tapir is exciting, but hunting is also a key survival mechanism. Slaying and skinning everything from wild boars to alligators allows Jason to craft holsters to haul more weapons, larger wallets to carry more cash and expanded rucksacks to carry more loot.

The various plants on the islands are another key to survival, as they provide ingredients that boost health and endorphins or enhance perception. And leveling up allows Jason to unlock new skills such as takedowns involving grenades and knives, increased health or adrenaline, and the ability to take less damage from falls and fires.

As in most first-person shooters, killing a bad guy leaves a body to loot, and the controls on this move inflict the game’s only significant annoyance. On numerous occasions I found myself mistakenly swapping out a favorite gun for the enemy’s weapon when all I wanted to do is grab a little cash.
“Far Cry 3” also has a formidable multiplayer element, with several familiar game modes and a creative addition called Firestorm, in which a team must set fire to the opponents’ supply nodes and then escape the spreading flames while capturing a radio transmitter.
So far I’ve spent several dozen hours exploring the Rook Islands and haven’t experienced a moment of boredom. Whatever games find their way under the tree this year, I’ll probably still be playing this over the holiday break. Five stars out of five.
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Intel rumored to launch set-top box, ‘virtual cable TV service’ at CES

With CES 2013 just days away, TechCrunch has posted a juicy rumor that chipmaker Intel will announce a major plunge into TV, choosing to go it alone after several failed partnerships in an effort to “do it right” this time. Claiming an unnamed source in the video distribution industry, the rumor suggests a plan to deliver a set-top box with DVR, rolled out on a city-by-city basis as it negotiates channel agreements. Despite a number of demos through the years, the Intel-powered TV boxes that have landed in our living rooms so far have been the first gen Google TV and Boxee Box units. Both struggled to make a significant impact and switched to ARM CPUs for the second generation of their products.

Based on some of the tech demos we’ve seen and earlier rumors, Intel’s plans could include using facial recognition to personalize the experience for (and target advertising towards) different viewers, and offering smaller, cheaper bundles of channels than traditional providers. Another element from the TechCrunch post indicates a plan to provide a Catch Up TV-style service that lets users view anything that has aired in the last month on the channels they’re subscribed to, although there’s no word on what will power this technology.
Intel’s participation in Comcast’s Reference Design Kit program is also referenced, although given Big Cable’s traditional reluctance regarding alternative delivery models, any sort of tie-in here seems like a long shot to us. A combo package of pay-TV channels and internet VOD has been tried before, although Sezmi’santenna-connected solution failed to catch on and fizzled late last year. Like recently rekindled Apple HDTV rumors, the potential of Intel’s service may rely just as much on its success negotiating with content providers as any technology it’s cooked up.

LG details LCD, plasma HDTV lineup for 2013: 4K, Miracast, NFC, WiDi and more

As LG continues its slew of CES pre-announcements, it’s revealed details about the new HDTVs it will be showing off in Las Vegas next week. Predictably, they include three lines of plasma models (fewer than previous years, but still kicking) in 42- to 60-inch sizes, and new LCD HDTVs in various levels of trim and sizes from 22-inches up to 60-inches. Most notably, this year all of its new LCDs are LED, as it’s kicked the old CCFL tech to the curb. LG has already detailed upcoming changes for its voice/gesture Magic Remote control and a couple of Google TV models, however other new features for 2013 include an “On Now” recommendation system that learns what you watch and offers relevant selections from live TV and video on-demand services. Expect new tie-ins to be announced with both streaming and local TV providers to help fill out the selection around the world.

Hardware-wise, new feature boxes checked this year include NFC, thanks to a new “Tag On” sticker smartphones and other devices can easily pair with. Getting content from mobile devices to the display will also be easier thanks to Miracast and WiDi support, and MHL ports will be readily available as well. LG’s FPR 3D tech isn’t going anywhere, and Smart TV features should be speedier than ever thanks to CPUs with a promised 120 percent speed boost, and 300 percent faster GPUs. As seen in the pics, the design has also been altered slightly with a new stand that both swivels and rolls, plus a reduced bezel size.
If you’re looking for the latest and greatest however, LG will be showing off the 84-inch Ultra HD 4K set it just started shipping and the 55-inch OLED display we’re waiting for. No word yet on shipping dates or price for any of the new models, but as we surmised from LG Display’s plans, we should see a couple of 55- and 65-inch Ultra HD TVs appear before the year is out.

Instagram lost nearly 25% daily active users after policy changes

Facebook Inc’s Instagram lost almost a quarter of its daily users a week after it rolled out and then withdrew policy changes that incensed users who feared the photo-sharing service would use their pictures without compensation.

Instagram, which Facebook bought for $715 million this year, saw the number of daily active users who accessed the service via Facebook bottom out at 12.4 million as of Friday, versus a peak of 16.4 million last week, according to data compiled by online tracker AppData.

The popular app, which allows people to add filters and effects to photos and share them over the Internet or smartphones, experienced the drop over the brief, often-volatile holiday period.

Other popular apps also saw slippage in usage, and some were more pronounced. Yelp, for instance, saw daily active users – again via Facebook – slide to a weekly low of half a million on Thursday, from a high of 820,000 one week ago.

Instagram disputed the AppData survey, which was compiled from users that have linked the photo service to their own Facebook accounts, historically between 20 and 30 percent of Instagram members.

“This data is inaccurate. We continue to see strong and steady growth in both registered and active users of Instagram,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement on Friday.

Looking out over a broader timeframe, Instagram’s monthly active users edged up to 43.6 million as of Friday, an increase of 1.7 million over the past seven days, according to AppData.

“We’ll have to monitor the data over the coming weeks to gain perspective on trends in Instagram’s performance,” AppData marketing manager Ashley Taylor Anderson said in an email.

Attention-seeking
The sharp slide in activity highlighted by AppData was bound to draw attention on the heels of the controversial revision to Instagram’s terms of service that, among other things, allowed an advertiser to pay Instagram “to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata)” without compensation.

The subsequent public outrage prompted an apology from Instagram founder Kevin Systrom. Last week, a California Instagram user sued the company for breach of contract and other claims, in what may have been the first civil lawsuit to stem from the controversial change.

Instagram subsequently reverted to some of its original language.

The move renewed debate about how much control over personal data users must give up to live and participate in a world steeped in social media.

Analysts say Facebook, the world’s largest social network, was laying the groundwork to begin generating advertising revenue, by giving marketers the right to display profile pictures and other personal information, such as who users follow in advertisements.

Its shares closed down 13 cents or 0.5 percent at $25.91 on the Nasdaq, in line with the broader market.

Samsung cuts prices of Galaxy smartphones in India

Samsung has cut prices of its popular Galaxy range of smartphones in India. The Galaxy S III received the biggest price drop of Rs 3,000 for both 16GB and 32GB variants, according to our friends at PriceBaba.com. On Flipkart, the Galaxy S III 16GB variant is now available for Rs 31,900 while the 32GB variant is available for Rs 34,900 on Saholic. The Galaxy S III, which was launched in June this year for Rs 43,000, has received a price drop of 25 percent in last six months!

According to PriceBaba.com, Samsung has also cut the price of the first-generation Galaxy Note by Rs 2,490 and it is now available for Rs 26,000. The Galaxy Ace Duos S6802 also received a price cut of Rs 1,000 and is now available for Rs 10,000 while the Galaxy S Duos got a price cut of Rs 2,000 and sports a price tag of Rs 14,000.

Nokia Lumia 920 could be available in India by January 14

The Lumia 920 probably is the most anticipated Nokia smartphone in a long while and there is already a lot of excitement around it. While the product has got off to a good start in the US and Europe, Nokia is yet to start selling the device in India. However, that is not stopping some Nokia Priority dealers to start taking pre-bookings.

The Nokia Priority Retailer in Select CityWalk Mall in South Delhi is claiming that the Lumia 920 would be available to customers who have pre-booked it by January 14. Additionally, the retailer claims that most Priority dealers would receive demo units by January 3.

Nokia has also teased the device with a ‘Coming Soon’ tag on its page but when we contacted Nokia India, the company denied taking any pre-orders at the moment. This could be a case of a retailer jumping the gun and offering pre-bookings on his own. However, we have heard similar cases with some retailers in Mumbai too.

“We are working on the roll-out of our new generation of Nokia Lumia WP8 devices in the Indian market and will announce the exact sales start date and price closer to market launch,” Vipul Mehrotra, director and head for smart devices, Nokia India told TGN Sources.

Aakash 3 may come with SIM slot, more apps: Report

The next generation Aakash tab could have a SIM card slot, a web cam, ability to take audio notes, act as a text book and all this within the existing price band.

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay are working overtime to make this a reality in the third generation Aakash tablet. The yet-to-be-launched device is also expected to have better apps and it will be more open source than ever before, according to a ToI report.

There will be about 50 lakh Aakash 3 tablets manufactured as a part of the first phase that will be released in February. The device will be as indigenous as possible according to the committee members that are responsible for bringing the most affordable tablet.

Aakash 3 tab will support Linux and Android operating systems and also have advanced memory and the SIM card slot will make it a better communication tool.

There would be two versions of the tablet – one for school students that will be available at the price of the current Aakash tab and another one with slightly better features for college students that will be available at a slightly higher price.