Pokerstars

I have been playing Texas Holdem for almost two years now. I much prefer playing on the computer instead of in real life. Real life poker is just too slow. I don’t have the patience to sit through to the end, if I make it that far.

Pokerstars is the only website that I have played poker on the Internet. Back in late 2004, I started out with play money, then months later added some actual real money to gamble on. All throughout, it has been up and down. I keep track of my games and tournaments through an Excel spreadsheet that I made for myself on the computer. That has been a project in itself. In the file, I note money won and lost, position, overall gains, etc. It is a fantastic way to measure my progress.

I certainly have not earned any money by playing this. If anything, I have lost money. But it comes and goes so slowly, I hardly notice. That said, I do enjoy playing on Pokerstars. I have to give it marks for being a lot of fun, their adding of new features, and their customer service.

My only problem is that I feel that there is at least a 50/50 chance that the whole game is rigged. This is primarily true for the regular tables, and less so for the tournaments. Simply too many hands have straights, flushes, and sometimes four-of-a-kind. These big hands happen one after the other, on some nights. How often does this happen is real life, I wonder? Sure, you can say that the computer can deal out five times as many hands per hour as a real life game, but that doesn’t explain why deal after deal is an amazing hand. See, the better everyone hand is, the more money the Pokerstars business gets from the “rake” of the winnings. They have an interest in hurrying the game up, or encouraging people to bet more. I can’t swear to any conspiracy, but if you like poker, check out Pokerstars.com. Below, you’ll see my player icon:

My Pokerstars Icon

GoldenEye: Rogue Agent

I have had the Playstation 2 game GoldenEye for some time now. I think it was released at the end of 2004. I just looked up something about it online, and was surprised that a lot of game reviewers gave it “passable ratings”. In fact, ign.com rated it 6.5 out of 10. Personally, I’d give it more credit.

Here’s why. I love first-person shooters, mainly. And I really enjoyed the old GoldenEye game that was made for the Nintendo 64, long ago. So I had high hopes for how fun this would be. This game for the PS2 is online, which is the main reason that I bought it. My only complaint in this area is that trying to wade through the options of hosting your own game are too complicated and choosing and managing the map rotation is not implemented in an easy way.

Other than some technical things like the above, the game is a lot of fun to play. It is very addictive. The things that happen while everybody is gunning each other down is often hilarious. Some of the weapons will make your enemy fly through the air when they get hit, which makes me laugh every time. It has a great set of weapons and objects to collect in the arenas. In fact, a great thing about the game is that you can use the arenas themselves to kill other players, though traps and stuff. That is something I have grown to love that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

I have played this game a lot since I got it, which was probably a year ago. I don’t get tired of it. I am not sure why some other people disagree. Actually, I play this game more than any other of mine at the moment. My review here is primarily based on how much I play the online mode. I have not played the single player walkthrough mode nearly as much. I reached a certain point, and the game got repetitive and impossible.

I wish more people would be online to play with. I think the reason that finding a host is spotty is due to the silly, complicated way they made it work for someone trying to create a host. Some of the default settings, like ending the match after only 10 kills, are stupid. And it defaults to using the same map over and over. I think this is why there isn’t a good deal of choice when searching for a game to join.

In the end, if you like this kind of game, I’d recommend playing it. I dare say that I like playing it more than Medal of Honor when it comes to comparing just the online modes. And that is saying a lot.

Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight

Simulation games are among my favorite variety, and are practically the only type of game that I play on my computer. My longtime favorite is Microsoft Flight Simulator. Recently, I picked up a copy of the 2004 version, which is the latest edition of this game. It is called A Century of Flight because its release falls 100 years after the birth of aviation.

You should know I have played every version of Flight Simulator since version 95. Long, long ago, I even had an even older version that came on 1/4″ floppies. Ancient! I can’t imagine what it would look like today if it were presented side-by-side with its modern equivalent. Today’s 2004 version comes on 4 CDs and uses 3 GB of hard drive space if you choose the complete installation. Wow! A far cry from the old days of computing. To my dismay, you must keep the fourth disc in the computer in order to launch the game. I am sure this is to deter copying, but it is also a bit of an annoyance.

The new game has a lot to like. The graphics engine in the 2004 version uses the new DirectX 9.0. Scenery and landscapes look crisp and detailed. Improved Air Traffic Control makes the simulation very realistic with other airplanes in the sky around you. Communication with the ATC and airport tower are essential for safe flying. The game boasts having 24,000 airports around the world coded into the game. There are add-ons that one can purchase to add aircraft, graphics detail, and scenery to the game. I do not have any of these. The aircraft that come with the game give you a wide range of planes to enjoy. You can fly something as basic as the original Wright Brother’s airplane, a number of single-engine planes, up to a 747-400, and even a helicopter. I cannot seem to find a Concorde to fly, though I remember seeing one on the box cover for the old 2000 version of FS. Perhaps that plane is available in the Deluxe or Pro versions of the game. I don’t know. It doesn’t appear in my list and for that I am a little disappointed.

The game’s performance has been good, even though my computer is an aging Pentium-III. Lots of RAM and a great video card will help the performance. I have had good success while using modest settings in the game display. Of course, the better your computer, the more you can crank up the settings and detail. I’d imagine this game would look breathtaking if it was maxed out to take full advantage of it. I do not know why, but this game has crashed on me twice while I was flying. That upset me, but I am not ready to suggest that it is the game’s fault.

If you like airplanes and simulation games, then pick this one up. It is much more fun with a joystick. Using the keyboard is not smooth at all. The game has an online mode where you can fly in the skies with other real Internet users that are playing the game as well. I have not tried this feature, so I cannot comment on it. It sounds intriguing, though. My number one gripe about this game, as was true in the 2002 version, the airplanes do not crash properly when you hit the ground. The simulation simply stops and it says “CRASH”, without any fire or explosion of any kind. I think that sucks and takes half of the realism away. Also, make sure you don’t have the crash tolerance set too high the game, or your plane will bounce off of objects in a very cartoon-ish way, and keep on flying, which I don’t have to tell you, is ridiculous.

If you have version 9.0 (2004) of Flight Simulator, be sure to go online and download the 9.1 update.

Karaoke Revolution

This past Christmas, I was introduced to a demo of Karaoke Revolution Party for the PS2. After playing the demo once, me and Laura were hooked on this game.

Now, after having played Karaoke Revolution Party for a few weeks now, I can say we probably unlocked just about all that there is available. It is a truly revolutionary game that actually does grade your vocal pitch when you are singing into the USB microphone. The game has 50 songs, a duet 2-player mode, sing and dance mode, and it even supports the Eye Toy. I do not have an Eye Toy, (nor do I want one), so I can’t comment on that feature. The game does require either a USB microphone or headset. I have both, but I highly recommend that you try the microphone. It is so much fun to use and the cord is generously long. I love leaping around the house, jumping off of the furniture, and all the while trying to keep up the gig and score well.

All in all, the game is fantastic. It is extremely enjoyable and a blast to play. The game has an impressive spread of 50 tunes that span practically every music genre. I have now learned the words to songs that I have never known before. Everyone will find something to love in this game. It grades you based on vocal pitch and timing. Still, you can still be a bad singer and have fun with this game. I simply do not get tired of it.

In addition to its impressive spread of songs, characters, accessories, and performance arenas, Karaoke Revolution Party servers up a two-player duet mode and singing battles. In these modes, two microphones can be used at one time. There is even a sing and dance mode where you sing and literally dance on a PS2 dance mat to the tunes in the game! I find that mode to be particularly challenging.

The bottom line is that if you like music, and enjoy singing in the shower or in the car, you will love this game. It is highly addictive. Traditionally, I love shoot em’ up games, but I have not played any other game other than Karaoke Revolution since I got turned on to it many weeks ago. I give it the highest rating, if I had such a system.