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Is Crackdown 3 really that bad?

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Crackdown 3 Xbox One X
Crackdown 3 Xbox One X

If you’ve been reading the reviews of Crackdown 3, you’d think that it’s the worst game ever, lol.  Every major gaming website has been ripping on it for not doing things that are now standard in 2019.  I’ve been playing it quite a bit and can offer some insight on the subject.

First Impressions

When you first fire it up, you’re greeted by a pretty cool intro view featuring Terry Crews.  Unfortunately, you won’t see too many videos of him after this, although he is character you can select to play with.  The graphics are ok, not great but also not horrible.  It kind of looks like a cartoonish hi-rez 360 game honestly, behind today’s standards but not awful.

The gameplay is pretty good when you first get into it.  It uses a lock on aiming system like Red Dead Redemption 2.  Ironically most of the reviews rip this game for that system but gave RDR2 a pass for the same thing, total double standard.  The action in Crackdown 3 is way better than RDR2 though, with a nice variety of cool weapons and enemies.  Some of the explosions you do are pretty awesome, with one car blowing up to chain into another and another.  In fact there’s an achievement for blowing up like 5 cars in 5 seconds.

Later On

As you get into the game, it pretty much turns into an open world game with like 100 different things you do in just about any order (although it may be pretty tough to accomplish the harder ones to start).  From there you can just pick and choose what you want to do.  It’s lot like Far Cry games only you get a lot more powerful in this game and the map is a lot smaller.

The objectives for the most part pretty fun.  Some of them are kind of annoying with all the platforming you have to do.  There are a few bugs too with the missions, I’ve accidentally completed some and been unable to temporarily complete others due to things not working correctly.

Once you complete a bunch of the easier missions of a certain group, you get to do a boss fight.  These fights are pretty fun for the most part, most of them have a lot personality which is sometimes lacking in open world games.

Conclusion

Is the game greatest thing?  No, for sure not.  But it’s also not nearly as bad as the reviews say in my opinion.  I think that the long development cycle led to it having mismatched expectations, which in turn led to awful reviews.  I think if it would have been a normal release without all the hype it would have reviewed a lot better.  It reminds me of Ryse a little in the fact that it’s a good game that got kind of blasted in the reviews for no real reason.

The best reason to play Crackdown 3 is if you have game pass.  I’m not sure if I would spend $60 on it, but on game pass it’s a no brainer.  I’d probably give it a 7 or 8 out of 10 just because of the fun factor.  Definitely not because it does anything technically that great, it’s just a good throwback game.

Top Game Room Gift Ideas for 2019

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Holidays are rapidly approaching, so it’s time to start finding gifts for all those people who love game room stuff.  This list contains all the best items you’re going to find for Christmas and the Holidays 2018.

#1  Red Dead Redemption 2

The #1 anticipated game for 2018 is finally out in stores.  Was it worth the wait?  It’s a little slow in places but the storytelling is great and it has a huge expansive world to explore.  As of this writing it has a 97% on metacritic.  I’m not sure I would rate it quite that high, but it’s definitely worth playing.  Also to note, this game is rated M for mature, not a game you’re going to give a young kid.  It’s available through my Amazon affiliate link below:

Red Dead Redemption 2

#2  Super Chexx Pro Bubble Hockey

The new version came out last year and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  If you have hockey fans in the house, there’s no better game for them.  In my game room of foosball, ping pong, darts, pinball, etc, bubble hockey is my most popular item for two people to play by far.  It’s almost in constant use when kids come over because it’s such a unique item that isn’t seen very often.  It’s available through ICE directly only, my affiliate link is below:

Super Chexx Pro Bubble Hockey

#3  Tornado Foosball Classic Edition

If you’re looking for a foosball table that’s going to last 40 years and stand the test of time, there’s no better choice than buying a Tornado Foosball Table.  They make 4 different models, but I think the classic is the best overall value.  The T3000 looks are undeniably awesome, but it’s hard to pay that much more for marginal functionality gain.  My Amazon affiliate link is below:

Tornado Foosball Classic

#4  Spiderman/Forza Horizon 4

If you own a PS4, then Spiderman is a great choice.  If you own an Xbox, then picking up Forza Horizon 4 is a no brainer.  I own both these games on these each console, and they’re two of the best games on each console.  Unfortunately they’re exclusive so you have to own the right console in order to buy them.

Both of these are family friendly, so they’re good choices for kids.  My 9 year old has played through most of Spiderman, loves the game.  I’ve spent like 20 hours going through Forza Horizon 4, they’ve done a good job of making new challenges this time.  My Amazon affiliate links for both games are below.

Spiderman for PS4

Forza Horizon 4 for Xbox One

#5  Gran Board 3

The new Gran Board version keeps on with the excellence from the previous two versions and adds all new led lighting to the outside.  The effects are pretty awesome overall.  I’ve made some video on my Youtube channel for the Gran Board 2, the dart boards are identical other than the LED light addition.

The dart board allows you to hook up to a cell phone or ipad to display all the current scores for the game.  You can even pipe the video to a TV screen off the phone if you want, I’ve done that as well.  My Amazon affiliate link is below for the Gran Board 3.

Gran Board 3

#6  Roku Express

If you want to stream shows but your built in smart TV functionality is lackluster, the Roku Express is the perfect solution.  After our older LG WebOS TV didn’t support SlingTV, we got a Roku Express to go on it.  Not only is it faster than WebOS, it supports way more apps.  Now that we’ve got it, we run everything through it.

The best part?  It’s only $29.99, which is bargain for all the functionality it gives you.  Highly recommended for those TV’s lacking things like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.  Roku Express is available through my Amazon affiliate link below.

Roku Express

 

Affordable pinball machines

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Affordable pinball machines
Affordable pinball machines

I’ve done a bunch of pinball lists over the past year, ranging from the Best Pinball Machines for Home Use to the Best Pinball Machines Under $1000.  Today I’m going to focus on affordable pinball machines, basically what games can anyone buy right now for not much money.  Some of them might need some work, but that’s what makes them affordable.  🙂

Affordable pinball machine #1, EM Era

Almost everything from the EM (Electro-mechanical, basically the games that had scoring reels) era is pretty affordable, with most ranging from free to $500 (which a few outliers).  Almost all of the ones you see on craigslist are in some state of not working, but luckily there are tons of guides out there on how to repair them.

Are they fun?  Absolutely.  Some a lot more than others.  They’re also very heavy, especially if you get the 4 player versions which can really give you a workout when moving them.  Typical problems are the reels stick and don’t score right or the game won’t even start up at all.

The best place to go to fix EM problems is Clay’s Repairing EM guide.  Clay has wrote a bunch of guides over the years, a true asset to the community.  I used to use his guides a bunch when I was first starting out.  As the supply of project games has dried up though, I haven’t used them as much.

If I was trying to find an affordable pinball machine, EM’s is where I’d start as there are tons of them around and can be had for almost nothing.

Pinball bargain #2

What’s the second best bargain?  Gottlieb solid state games from the 80’s.  Gottlieb made a bunch of digital games in the 80’s but were always considered way back of Bally and Williams, hence there game prices are way lower.  I’ve seen a lot of Gottlieb games of that era go for dirt cheap (under $500) which is lower than every other digital pinball machine available.

Why do Gottlieb’s go for so cheap?  I think the main reason is that their art and electronics were far behind Bally and Williams.  They just didn’t make as good of games as those two and the prices reflect that.  There are a lot of Gottlieb games that people aren’t even aware that they made.  I know that even though I’ve been doing pinball for 13 years there are still some old games from them that pop up that I’ve never seen previously.  I think it’s because collectors don’t usually have them.  Hence, never get to see them unless someone is trying to sell one on craigslist.

Some of them are definitely more fun than their given credit.  Although not cheap, Joker Poker is one my favorites of that era.  Genie though is affordable and a ton of fun, as is Pinball Pool.  IPDB.org is a great resource for checking out these older games.  They have reviews and pictures for every game ever produced, which makes it a lot easier to decide whether you want it or now.

Cheap games #3

Although they’ve been trending upwards for a while, classic Stern titles from 1977 to 1984 are pretty affordable still.  Some of the rarer ones like Stargazer are pushing $4k to $5k but others are still between $500 and $1k.  You’ll see a lot of these available that need a little work, basically because the boards are a little hard to work with and are prone to acid damage and bad connections.

Stars is one of the games that isn’t the best looking game but has developed a reputation as a great player.  Meteor is one you can find a lot and it’s both affordable and a great game.  Most of them were produced in smaller numbers so you don’t see them super often.  Also, due to the fact that weren’t in arcades as much as Williams and Bally, their prices are lower as a result (no nostalgia).  I’ve owned Flight 2000 from this group, it was a fun game but the multiball mech took up an obscene amount of playfield space, lol.  The Stern’s I’ve played also had really good spinners, better than other games of the era in my opinion.

Other deals?

So I’ve gone over three classes of games that you’ll find the most affordable games in.  How else can you get a good deal on a game that’s not in any of those categories?  There are few things you can do:

  1. Learn how to repair games.  It’s the #1 way to save money in this hobby.
  2. Make friends with the local pinball scene.  It will help you get an occasional deal.
  3. Watch Craiglist, Facebook, local newspaper, etc for games every day.  Often you can get a good deal just by watching these closely.  Not sure if it’s a super good use of your time if there’s lots of competition though.
  4. Estate sales.  Lots of old games at these sales, often with owners and auction services that don’t know the values of the games.  You can often get the games very cheap.

I’ve gotten games from all four of those.  I used to get most of my games from #3 but the competition is so high now that I haven’t bought a game that way for years.  Depends on your area though.

Hopefully this article was helpful you.  If you have any questions, feel free to email me at gameroominfo@gmail.com.

Save up to 75% on your Cable Bill with these two tips

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Save up to 75% on your Cable Bill with these two tips
Save up to 75% on your Cable Bill with these two tips

Cable bills are annoying.  There, I said it.  Some months go by and you barely watch any TV, still big bill waiting for you regardless.  Especially now, with Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc providing hours of TV that used to go to cable.  For 12 years my family has been with Dish Network  and we finally got internet recently that would finally allow streaming at a higher level.  With us looking to cut some of our bills, we decided to finally look for some options.

Step One, Finding a Replacement For the Core Cable Channels

My family typically watches ESPN, Cartoon Network, HGTV, and then some movies on like TNT, AMC, etc.  Looking at the packages available, it really came down to these choices:

  • Sling TV ($25 currently)
  • Playstation Vue ($45 currently)
  • Hulu TV ($40)

Hulu TV

I’ve owned Hulu before (not the live version though), and while I like their selection of new and older shows, it’s interface isn’t the greatest depending on the device plus I had weird issue a while back.  Somebody hacked my account and changed my email address, so I couldn’t even access my own account anymore, lol.  I’ve never had anything like that ever happen to me on anything, so I wasn’t too impressed there.

There should be some security protocols in place that like I have to approve the change somehow, because Hulu support is all account based.  That means if you lose account access, you can’t access support unless you call.

But beyond that, at $40 plus a bunch more for add-ons, I didn’t feel like it brought enough value to the table.  I’m trying to cut my bills, not just substitute one for another.

Playstation Vue

Playstation Vue has the best overall selection of channels for sure, at least for my interests.  The one problem?  It doesn’t work with the Xbox obviously, and it’s the streaming device of choice on two of my TV’s.  It also doesn’t have WebOS support, which my other TV’s have.  So more strikes against it.  If it had better overall support for 3rd party devices, it would have been a contender for me.  I do think that if you have devices that support it and you don’t mind the higher price, it’s probably the best option overall.  It didn’t work for my situation, and honestly probably won’t work for a lot of people due to their device support limitations.

Sling TV

Sling TV kind of won by default for me then, because it’s cost was so much less ($25) plus it has support for WebOS, Xbox, Roku, etc, much like Hulu.  Plus it had the core channels we wanted except for the Big 10 Network, one of its shortcoming unfortunately.  Come Nebraska football season, I’m going to have to find another option, although I’m not sure what that is.  But for $25 a month I can live with that.  It does have one shortcoming in the cheaper package that may not work for everyone, basically you can only have one TV streaming at a time.

Sling TV Menu
Sling TV Menu

For my family that isn’t a big deal because we don’t watch that much network TV anymore, but if you have 5 TV’s trying watch Sling at the same time, you’re going to need the upgraded package at $45.  That also comes with some additional channels, but the value isn’t there like it is for the $25 package in my opinion.

Local Channels

The other problem when you go all streaming is, what do I do for local channels?  Well luckily I just did this comparison HDHomeRun Vs Tablo Review and was able to see that for my case, Tablo would allow me to stream all of the local HD channels to all of my TV’s in my house.  Why is this great?  Because I won’t need:

  • to buy an extra antenna for every TV
  • don’t have setup and aim the antenna for every TV
  • can get good reception even in the basement
  • adds DVR features if wanted

Basically, it’s a killer deal if you want to watch local channels at all.  My family noticed how much better the Tablo channels look than the Dish Network ones did, it’s a major upgrade.  I think all the compression from the satellite feed really diminishes the quality but really isn’t noticeable until you use an antenna.

Streaming Quality Vs Dish

This is totally going to depend on your internet speed, but at our streaming speed (4.5 mbps) the Sling TV quality totally crushes the Dish Network quality we had on our 722k receiver.  It was really noticeable right off the bat.  However, Dish Network doesn’t get the occasional pause that Sling gets, and I think overall it’s a little more responsive in the GUI interface.  I’m sure Sling will get there though eventually.

Saving on your Cable Bill, The Result

For my situation, we were paying $92.xx a month for Dish Network.  That was with a 722k receiver, one of the lower channel packages, local channels, DVR, etc.  During sports season it usually climbed into the 100+ range due to Cornhusker games being on channels not in our package.

With the new setup, we spent $140 on the Tablo initially, and then $25 a month for Sling TV.  So basically in 2 months, we will have save $20 already, and every year from now on we’ll save ($92 * 12) – ( $25 * 12 ) = $804.  Depending on your situation, it may even save you more.

The other added benefit is that there’s no cable box to rent, extra fees to pay, etc.  And you can access it from anywhere, so when you go on a trip, you can stream it to any device you may have.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article makes you aware of the cost savings that are now available out there.  Most people don’t know that streaming options that cost 50% to 75% less than their current bill exist out there, they think that the only options are to cut the cord completely or pay the high bill.  I’m here to tell you there’s a different way that isn’t quite as painful as cutting the cord completely or as painful as paying that high bill every month.

 

Tablo vs HDHomeRun Review

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Tablo Vs HDHomeRun
Tablo Vs HDHomeRun

If you’ve been looking for a way to cut the cord, two of the biggest players in the market are Tablo and HDHomeRun.  TIVO is the other major player, but due to the cost I decided not to try them (significantly more expensive).  I first bought the HDHomeRun to try, then bought the Tablo after being initially underwhelmed by the HDHomeRun.  More to the review below.

HDHomeRun Initial Impressions

First impressions of the HDHomeRun were great.  It was essentially just a box with power cord, place to hook up a network cable, and an antenna port.  I hooked up the antenna, the power cord, and network cord.  Then I went to the windows store to download the application.  Initially it had to upgrade the software on the unit before I could use it, but after that was done, I was in business.  I produced a really good image on my laptop, and was easy to change channels.  The model I bought was this via my Amazon affiliate link:

SiliconDust HDHomeRun CONNECT DUO 2 (HDHR5-2US) with Terk Indoor Flat 4K HDTV Multi-Directional Antenna

At this point, I’m really excited.  This was so easy so far.  That’s when the issues started to happen.  I moved to my first TV, an LG with WebOS installed.  When I searched for the HDHomeRun app, I realized that it doesn’t exist for WebOS.  Nor does it exist for the Roku’s I have for my TCL TV or external Roku box.  The only things it worked on that I had were Xbox One’s, PS4’s, and computers, not the solution I was looking for.  It doesn’t really do me much good to cut the cord to save money if I have to go buy an additional compatible media player for every TV.

HDHomeRun Dual Tuner
HDHomeRun Dual Tuner

This frustration lead me to do a lot more research, as I was going with HDHomeRun initially due to all the positive reviews.  I think if you had compatible TV’s with their app, it would be great.  There is an option to use PLEX with the unit but it’s $4.99 a month as of this writing and evidently isn’t great according to the reviews (actually PLEX itself is great, it’s the live TV portion that’s not supposed to that great, at least as of now).

After doing a bunch of research, I determined that Tablo and TIVO were the other two major options.  Tivo was a lot more expensive than Tablo.  Also Tablo had all the TV support I needed that the HDHomeRun didn’t have (WebOS, Roku, etc).  Picked up the Tablo dual tuner and started my next journey of setting it up.

Tablo Dual Tuner Initial Impressions

The Tablo setup was almost identical to the HDHomeRun from a hardware standpoint.  It basically was hook up the antenna, plug in the power, and hook up the Ethernet cable.  From there though, I went directly to one of my LG WebOS TV’s to download the Tablo app.  It was a little difficult to find it at first since you have install it (and it isn’t in the default list).  Once I figured that out though, it was easy to launch.  FYI, Tablo is available through my Amazon affiliate link below:

Tablo Dual Lite Tuner OTA

They make a bunch of different models, honestly I wish I would have bought the one with DVR built in here.  Once it launches, it takes anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute to connect and get everything ready.  I’m not sure why there’s such a big variance in time, maybe it’s because of network usage in my house?  In any case, it’s a little annoying but nothing too bad, just something you have to get used to.  And honestly, it may just be my network, I have the Google Home 3 point Mesh Network.  Most of the time the network work really well.  Perhaps the bandwidth of the broadcasts it taxing it more than usual.

Tablo - DUAL LITE OTA DVR
Tablo – DUAL LITE OTA DVR

Once you’ve selected a broadcast, you can use the remote to go to different channels.  Note that the program you were on doesn’t continue when the channel menu comes up, so there’s no scrolling through the guide while watching unfortunately.  Once you change channels though it works pretty well, changing pretty quickly with only an occasional hiccup in the first 15 to 30 seconds (buffering issue).

Tablo vs HDHomeRun, The Verdict

Well for my personal situation, Tablo is easily the winner in the Table vs HDHomeRun battle.  In fact HDHomeRun never even got out of the gate due to their poor support for various operating systems.  I think that if HDHomeRun ever got their software support upgraded or perhaps if all of your TV’s have an OS that supports HDHomeRun, it might be a great option.  It was certainly the one I’d heard about the most, which is why I went with it initially.

Tablo honestly I’d never heard of until I started researching after my HDHomeRun woes.  TIVO I’d heard of a ton, but not Tablo.  Tablo though is everything we needed it to be.  Could it use a little work in timing and performance?  For sure.  But it accomplishes what you need it to do very well, just as long as you don’t like to switch channels during commercial breaks all the time.

As a side note, I really liked the Terk antenna that came with the HDHomeRun bundle I bought.  It seemed like it did a lot better job than the other antennas I had laying around that I’ve used in the past (rabbit ears, Christmas tree directional, etc).  Ironically, I should note that it appeared like the Tablo got better reception than the HDHomeRun using that same Terk antenna, but I can’t 100% verify that.  I just know that 2 of the channels on the HDHomeRun that were having reception issues didn’t appear to have issues on the Tablo for whatever reason.