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September 27, 2005

Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks

I played a little MKSM this morning. It's a good fighting game. There's a storyline to the single play and co-op modes. It's pretty much a brawler action-adventure game. You smash and bash your way through a tutorial first. The fighting system is directional so you can attack in any direction by pressing the L thumbstick towards the enemy. So it's possible to chain attacks and get combo bonuses. There are a lot of animated fatalities. You and your character learn them through the course of the game and they just get more and more involved and gruesome. It's almost reason enough to play through the single player mode.

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You can pick up weapons as you walk over them. Anything is a weapon: a skull, a brick, a sword, the enemy's body. The environment affects the fight. If there's a fire in one corner you should pound your opponent into the fire so he'll take extra damage. Likewise with acid pits and spikes.

The story mode is a new approach to Mortal Kombat. Instead of the usual fighting one opponent at a time, it's more of a StreetFighter kind of fighting. It's not side scrolling but it does seem fairly linear. You can play as Liu Kang of Kung Lao. Each has their own style of attacks and fatalities.

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It's all about the combat and new attention deserving feature is the multidirectional combat system so you can string together multiple attacks against multiple enemies. As you pull off combos you fill your fatality meter. Then press the white button and you'll be given a chance to enter the right keys for a fatality. Each character has 10 fatalities and the ones we saw were pleasantly gory.

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I liked the game. I was a bit disappointed with the graphics, but then again there's so much fighting who has time to consider the graphics. Some of the 3 dimensional positioning seemed off when attacks go right by an enemy, and camera angles did make it close to unplayable at times. Still, I'm going to continue to play it. The bottom line is that MKSM is fun with two people but nothing special.

September 18, 2005

World Poker Tour Party

Last night, my sister Sallie and I drove to Atlantic City to go to the World Poker Tour launch party. It was a pretty classy party at the Borgata. I promise not to let the 15 fried oysters that I ate affect the review. [Photos of me and Sallie are coming. She didn't bring the right cable to connect her camera to my laptop.]

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2K Sports is going to come out with the World Poker Tour video game on October 17, 2005 at the $19.99. I got to play it last night and, aside from the few little things that were wrong simply because it is an early build, the game looks solid. There are tons of different combinations that can be made while creating your character, anything from your shirt to your personality can be set. There's also a Poker Boot Camp that is poker lessons done over full motion video. My luck was pretty streaky: I won the first ten hands and then lost the next ten. Then I handed the controller to Sallie and within minutes we were out.

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And now for the press release kind of stuff:

World Poker Tour will include the following professionals:

Erick Lindgren – Named the First World Poker Tour Player of the Year in 2004, Erick is a Two Time WPT Winner, and currently the seventh All Time WPT Money Leader. Erick uses his expert sense of people to enhance his true game skill and natural risk-taking nature. Erick can soon be seen as the author of the new World Poker Tour book, WPT: Making the Final Table. An avid sports enthusiast, Lindgren is always in the game.

Evelyn Ng - Evelyn is a WPT Ladies Night Runner Up in addition to a NBC Sports Commentator. Coming up through the ranks from a poker dealer to a professional touring pro, Evelyn continues to perfect her tournament strategy and play. She is an active and visible participant in the WPT Main and Ladies Events.

Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi - Over the past few years, the 24-year old Florida man dabbled in dealing cards, but never could get over the idea that he could make more money playing cards than dealing them. So, “The Grinder” took to grinding, putting together a sizable bankroll and playing poker for a living. There is no big-bet poker in his home state of Florida, so Mizrachi spends eight hours a day playing online when he’s not on the tournament circuit. Michael “the Grinder” Mizrachi is the next powerful young poker professional to make his presence felt on the WPT, making consecutive final tables at the WPT’s Season 3 stops in Tunica, and then L.A.’s Commerce Casino.

Lyle Berman - Lyle is the CEO of Lakes Entertainment, Inc., a Minnesota-based publicly traded company whose primary business is managing tribal casinos. He serves as the Chairman of the Board for the World Poker Tour, which is a subsidiary of Lakes Entertainment. Berman is also one of the world's top poker players. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame at Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas. In April 1996, Berman received the Gaming Executive of the Year Award.

Antonio Esfandiari - With Three WPT Final Table appearances including a win at the LA Poker Classic No Limit Hold’em Championship, this professional Magician shows he knows “
card magic”. Antonio is a natural showman and his magic tricks are world class. He is also the author of the upcoming book WPT: In The Money.

Phil Laak - Players and fans alike are drawn to the Unabomber’s persona, but none take it to the next level like Phil Laak. A “genius” player, in his own words, his “philosophical” style and theatrical table manners make him a player everyone wants to see. Phil’s tournament record includes a World Poker Tour First Place win, and top ten places in a variety of professional tournaments. Phil is considered one of the World Poker Tour’s “Bad Boys of Poker.”

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Through intense feedback sessions with each of these professionals, World Poker Tour will be the only video game on the market to incorporate Pro-touch A.I. This new development approach challenges each poker professional with tuning their video game counterpart to include unpredictable and aggressive moves that they would use in real life. Each professional is challenged with situations and asked how they would respond and their feedback allows the development team to create the most realistic A.I. in any poker game.

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World Poker Tour™ invites gamers and poker-junkies alike to try their luck and skills against some of the poker series’ most famous professional players. Commentary provided by World Poker Tour™ pros, Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, real World Poker Tour™ venues including Commerce Casino and the Aviation Club, and broadcast overlays infuse the game, bringing players the only true poker experience.

September 16, 2005

NBA 2K6 Party With Shaq

by Tina Romero

For basketball aficionados like my brother Yan, last night's NBA 2K6 launch at Slate was a dream come true. I am not a gamer nor a basketball fan like Yan but I have to admit that Shaq's gargantuan presence made me feel larger than life.

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It was even made bigger when I rubbed elbows with other NBA stars like Phoenix Sun's Amare Stoudemire, Trevor Ariza (NY Knicks) and NBA conference host Craig Anthony.

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Funny thing is I would not have known who these people were if not for Yan who can hardly contain his excitement seeing some of his basketball heroes like infamous Ron Artest (Indiana Pacers). Ron will forever be known for the most reckless brawl in NBA history which earned him the most severe penalty ever administered in the NBA. He was suspended for the rest of the 2004 season when he went into the stands and punched a man who he thought hit him with some sort of beverage.

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In between cosmopolitans, champagne and crab cakes, we checked out the game kiosks and the Nike shoe display (the game has a Nike iD customization feature). Yan is also a basketball shoe fanatic and the gods were definitely on his side when he was given the much coveted invitation card to the Nike iD Design studio. It is no Manolo Blahnik but apparently, people from all over the world scramble to get an appointment so they can design and buy their own Nike shoe. Rounding off one night of fun is Hot 97's Kayslay. Other than the off limits VVIP area where Shaq hid for almost the entire hour he was in the party, it was one cool launch. I think I mentioned I am not a gamer but after tonight, I have to say video games rock!

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September 9, 2005

NHL 2K6 Launch Party

Last night brought the culmination of all of my years of intense training in the NHL 2K6 video game. What does this have to do with Nina and Sonja? They have been present at each training session. Sonja cheers me on and Nina just tells me to get in more fights.

Last night I met and played Xbox with Marty Turco, the goalie for the Dallas Stars. He told me that he was going to kick my ass because he's really good at the game, and I said, "I can guarantee you that every minute you spend training for real hockey is matched by the number of minutes I spend training for video hockey," and he restated that he would kick my ass.

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So we walked over to the Xboxes and started playing. I chose the Devils and he chose the Stars. During the load process the team stats flash up on the screen and Dallas has a goalie rating of 89 and NJ has a goalie rating of 92. Marty says to me, "Looks like they got that wrong. Everyone in the league knows I'm a better goalie," and I say to him in a totally dead pan voice, "How many Stanley Cups do you have?". I don't think he cared for that.

And then we started to play. He was very good. I was scrambling to keep up with him. And his work in goal was unbelievable. I usually don't control the goalie because I screw it up, but he was like a wall out there. It was 2-2 at the end of regulation. We went to the penalty shots. 9 shots and still no score, and then, on his last chance, he got me moving in the wrong direction and made me look like a fool. I still felt that I had accomplished something because it is very had to play hockey against someone who understands every angle and nuance of the game.

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In the end, we were all friends. He's a great guy, a regular guy that seemed to have fun drinking beer and playing Xbox with me. Tina had a great time talking to his wife, too.

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