Monster Hunter World PS4 Beta Ongoing

If you’re looking to take a quick breather from finals, how about taking some time to slay giant monsters?

Monster Hunter World is an upcoming action adventure game being developed by Capcom. It’s the next entry in a long-standing series about hunting down and defeating giant creatures which is now seeing its way to consoles – and is available to play now as a beta!

The Monster Hunter World beta is divided into three missions where you’re tasked with hunting down a monster of Easy, Medium or Hard difficulty alone or with friends. You’ll track and fight these creatures in ever-evolving boss battles across two stages from the full game – the Ancient Forest and Wildspire Wastes, pictured above. These stages also contain an Apex Predator monster, something you’d normally fight in its own mission which is instead just roaming the three missions available to be tackled as an optional boss.

None of these monsters are to be underestimated though – they’re fierce and unique, with styles of attack and characteristics unique to them that change the fight. An example is the above pictured Barroth, a monster with a rock-hard skull who coats itself in mud and muck as a sort of outer shell or armor.

You’ll be fighting these monsters using a plethora of tools and a wide array of weapon types to choose from, ranging from long-range options such as the Bow or Heavy Bowgun to more melee centered options such as the Longsword or Insect Glaive.

The beta is available to download on PS4 right now and the beta will last until 11AM Tuesday (12/12/17). Better get hunting!

Hidden Secrets in New Ready Player One Trailer

The recently released trailer for Ready Player One packs some nice pop culture references! Here’s the trailer:

Ready Player One takes place in a world where the depletion of fossil fuels and global warming have led to a worldwide energy crisis. People now seek refuge from this harsh reality inside a virtual reality world called the OASIS, where anyone can be anybody and do so much more than the real world now allows. It’s founder announced in a postmortem message that he left a treasure within OASIS that when found would award wealth and control of OASIS itself to the person who discovered it.

Much like Wreck-It RalphReady Player One is jam-packed with references to other people in pop-culture, namely games and movies. Here’s a couple I could spot myself:

  • The Iron Giant, from Iron Giant
  • Even more obviously, King Kong is shown
  • For a moment, you can spot Tracer from Overwatch and Chun-Li from Street Fighter

There are surely more I couldn’t spot without rewatching the trailer a dozen times over. Ready Player One releases March 30th, 2018.

LA Noire Review: Devils in the Details

LA Noire is a remastered version of the original 2011 title released by developer Rockstar Games. This action-adventure detective game portrays all the glorious conventions of its namesake, even if it’s still very rough around the edges. You play as Cole Phelps, a veteran of the Okinawa campaign turned police officer turned LAPD detective. You play through many, many cases in Cole’s career through various departments – Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson – including all cases from the original release that originally existed separately as pre-order DLC.

Each case feels distinct from the other – although depending on your sleuthing skills, each case isn’t necessarily as satisfying to solve as the last. LA  Noire’s cases play out through two primary ‘phases’ – gathering evidence and interrogating witnesses. Gathering evidence is contextual as Cole navigates crime scenes or locations of interest – your controller vibrates to show you’ve found something. While it isn’t all of value – you can interact with stray liquor bottles irrelevant to the scene itself – Cole’s dialogue about the items that actually are of import to the case conveys a sense of discovery the player is feeling in equal measure.

This evidence is catalogued in Cole’s notebook and used in the other distinct ‘phase’ of LA Noire – the interrogations. This part of LA Noire is what stands out from the rest – the game uses advanced facial mapping to represent real, emoting faces. This means that people look like and act like people, which the game means for you to interpret to properly progress in dialogue. This all works but only to a point – the technology was a little odd even back in 2011 and there are definitely signs of age in the remaster because of how almost experimental this technology was. It makes the other facet of interrogations – choosing how to interpret witness statements – a bit of a chore, and that’s before you factor in the game’s ever-changing logic. In the original release, you had three ways to react to testimony – you could Believe it, Doubt it (if you thought the person was lying but lacked evidence) or call them out on their Lie with gathered evidence. These options exist in the remaster under new names – Good Cop, Bad Cop and Accuse. It’s less a criticism of the remaster as it is the original but it’s very misleading as to which choice is the correct one. You may think because of analyzing the testimony and reading the dialogue that you can only play Bad Cop to a statement but in reality you were supposed to Accuse them and the game wasn’t giving you a clear picture of the situation.

A remaster is ultimately a rerelease of the original game – LA Noire is served well by a fresh coat of paint in the modern gaming era, even if it’s still bogged down by its original issues.

Delicious Dishes- Christmas

It’s that time of year again. Tis’ the season to go home to family members asking what your major is, how long you have until graduation, and the ultimate favorite… are you dating anyone yet? The good news is, these family recipes I’ve gathered will taste so great that your family will be asking for your cooking secrets instead.

Sparkling Holiday Punch – Rebekah Drennon 

  • 32-ounce bottle cranberry juice cocktail, chilled
  • 1 quart orange juice, chilled
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, chilled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bottle dry white wine, chilled (optional)
  • 2 bottles champagne, chilled (optional)
  • Orange slices

Combine juices and sugar until dissolved.

Add wine and pour over ice.

Stir in champagne before serving.

Add orange slices for garnish.

Festive Cranberry Salad – Linda Gordon

  • 2 packages lemon-flavored gelatin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 4 cups fresh cranberries, ground
  • 1 orange
  • 2 large apples
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Lettuce leaves
  • Mayo or salad dressing

Dissolve gelatin and sugar in boiling water.

Add next 4 ingredients – stir well.

Pour into bundt pan – chill until set.

Un-mold on lettuce leaves.

Fill center with mayo or dressing.

Garnish with orange slices.

Christmas Roast – Bill Gordon

  • 1 shoulder roast
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 sliced onions
  • 5 small red potatoes halved
  • 1/2 cup baby carrots

Brown roast on all sides.

Combine next 6 ingredients.

Add onions and carrots – simmer 2 hours.

Add potatoes – cook 45 min.

Homemade Sugar Cookies – Misty Jones

  • 2 & 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 & 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, stir together flour and baking soda, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in dry ingredients.

Roll rounded spoonfulls into balls.

Place on un-greased cookie sheet. Cook 8-10 minutes.

Chocolate Mousse – Rachel Drennon

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Combine morsels and 1 tbsp. sugar in top of double boiler until chocolate melts. Let cool.

Combine egg yolks and vanilla. Stir into chocolate mixture.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy; gradually add 1/4 cup sugar beating until stiff peaks form.

Fold egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Stir well.

Cover mousse. Chill for one hour.

Christmas Fruit Squares – Linda Gordon

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 & 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self rising flour, divided
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/2 pound chopped red candied cherries
  • 1/2 pound chopped candied pineapple
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut

Cream butter and gradually add sugar while beating with electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time. Add 3/4 cup flour. Stir well.

Combine remaining ingredients. Dredge into 1/4 cup flour.

Stir fruit mixture into batter. Spoon into greased and floured square pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour 10 min.

Cool on wire rack and chill before cutting.

Windows Mixed Reality (VR) Demos in Shreveport!

Looking to try out some new technology this holiday season? Here’s a suggestion – come get a demo from me of the new Windows Mixed Reality headset in Shreveport!

What? The Windows Mixed Reality headset is Microsoft’s own entry into the field of Virtual Reality (VR) technology. It’s been out since mid October and I’ve had the pleasure of demoing it for customers since! To go into detail here would detract from the demo but allow me to leave you with a slightly better idea of the system – Windows Mixed Reality is a VR headset designed to interact with your Windows 10 PC for a more accessible, more valuable VR experience.

Where? At the Best Buy at 7080 Youree Dr, Shreveport, LA 71105. That is unfortunately a full hour and a half from the Texas A&M campus so I’d suggest planning a day out in Shreveport with visiting the store at some point in mind – the demo’s about 7-10 minutes of time with the headset.

When? Here’s my schedule in store:

  • Wednesday: 5PM – 9PM
  • Thursday: 5PM – 9PM
  • Friday: 12PM – 9PM (Out for lunch between 4PM and 5PM, roughly)
  • Saturday: 11AM – 8PM (Out for lunch between 3PM and 4PM, roughly)
  • Sunday: 11AM – 8PM (Out for lunch between 3PM and 4PM, roughly)

This schedule continues until 8PM December 31st, at which point my job (as it is contracted) ends. There’s no word on if I’ll continue afterward or if it would be at the same store so you’ve got the next three weeks to decide if you’d like to stop by!

How? Easy – just come to the store and find me in the Windows department on the right hand side. I will be hanging around that area and I’ll be the only one in a Microsoft uniform – so feel free to flag me down!

Demos are first come first served – especially considering the drive to Shreveport from Texarkana (and I should know – I make that drive twice a day, four days a week!), I’d recommend earlier in the day and not later.

Of note, however, is that you’ll need to sign a waiver before putting this headset on and the powers that be use this to create an age restriction – Anyone under 13 cannot be demoed and anyone under 18 needs a Parent or Guardian signature in addition to their own.

That’s all you really need to know – anything other than that, I’d rather tell you in person. If you do stop by, I’ll be happy to run you through the demo – although as a favor to me, let me know you’re from Texarkana and saw this story when you stop by! I don’t post this expecting a large showing but it’d be pretty neat to know you’re a reader of the newsletter.

Real Heroes Wear Dog Tags

“I fold it up and put it in my shirt, pick up my gun and get back to work. And it keeps me drivin’ on, waitin’ on, letters from home.” These song lyrics from John Michael Montogomery are the reality of those who dedicate their lives to serving our country. Including Texas A&M-Texarkana’s very own, Jon Robert Beck.

Jon Robert is a Junior Business Administration student at A&M-Texarkana. He is in the Honor’s Program, serves as a Student Ambassador for our campus, and wants to one day own his own business.

However, he is not just a regular student. He also serves as an infantryman in the Army National Guard Reserves. In February 2017, he was deployed to Africa for nine months and stationed in 5 countries; Djibouti (1 month 2 weeks), Kenya (2 months), Uganda (2 weeks), South Sudan (3 months), Somalia (2 months).

Throughout his deployment there were many different living situations. He said “Depending on what county I was in altered how good or bad the living conditions were. They ranged from Djibouti being the best, with a spacious two-man room, to Somalia with twelve guys crammed into a tent.” However, this wasn’t his primary concern. Location may have played a big part in how “comfortable” he was, but it also determined how often he was able to contact home. “In Djibouti, I had internet and could call at any time, whereas is South Sudan everyone there shared one phone, so calling home was very limited.” The limited contact was hard on both Jon Robert and his family, but they tried to stay in touch as much as possible. They sent him many care packages, but one of his favorites included some Girl Scout Samoa Cookies. He jokingly admitted that food was one of the things he missed most about America. When hard times struck, and he really missed home, he did his best to make the most of it. “There was group of me and five other guys that grew a brotherhood bond that could overcome any obstacle that was thrown at us, as long as we had each other.”

He may have been deployed to several different countries, but his job in base security remained consistent. “This job had many different tasks, but mainly consisted of searching and escorting locals on the base, as well as making sure nobody breached the outer perimeter fences. In order to do this, we had shifts operating 24 hours a day 7 days a week.” His job required long days and hard hours, but he also gained a positive experience. He was able to see and interact with different cultures all over Africa, and learn the ways of local life. He said, “I was with a great group of guys that always had a positive attitude. We would keep each other’s morals high no matter what circumstance or situation we encountered.”

What he learned from being overseas is something we should all gain from. It “taught me many valuable lessons, but the one that will stick with me forever is to never take anything for granted. Sometimes you don’t realize what all you have until you are separated from it for 11 months.” Jon Robert takes great pride and responsibility in serving our country, and it means more to him than he could ever explain.

He returned to the U.S. in November and the very first thing he did was visit with family and eat a big bacon cheeseburger. The first time his mom saw him face-to-face she was overjoyed. “I was so excited and I was told I said, “Oh my God there he is!” I couldn’t get to him quick enough for a hug and then couldn’t let go of him.” This is an important reminder that mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, and children also serve. They may not be fighting a battle overseas, but they are fighting the distance from home waiting on their loved ones return.

He said the first few days back were overwhelming with seeing friends and family, but after he put those days behind him he fell back into his normal routine and it was like he never left.

When asked if he was ready to start back to school he said he was looking forward to it, and that he is already signed up for classes in the upcoming Spring semester.

It is so important that we are aware of what the military is doing for us. We can become so accustomed to having a warm bed to sleep in at night, the convenience of contacting family and friends at the touch of a button, that we forget what our armed forces are missing out on. They are the reason we have these freedoms. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you Jon Robert, and thank you to all the brave men and women that protect and serve our country.

Here are a few more thank you’s from students around our campus:

“As I sit here studying for finals, surrounded by friends, eager to complete the fall 2017 semester, it occurred to me how fortunate I am. My blessings are innumerable. I have a place to live, a loving family, I get to play baseball in a collegiate atmosphere, but my greatest blessing is my freedom. It is because of the men and women of our armed forces that I am able to do all of these things. While they are out defending the front lines, we are able to be surrounded by our family and friends during the holidays. To our men and women in uniform, past, present, and future, God bless you, and thank you for your service!” ~Bryce Hudson

“Freedom definitely does not come without a price. We take for granted all of the opportunities we have, but these opportunities have been earned for us because of the sacrifice paid by the members of our armed forces. Thank you to all of our branches in the military!”~Brooke Rayburn

“Thank you is not enough for the sacrifices those men and women make at and away from home.”~Matty B

I really appreciate the men and women that serve our country. It is such a brave thing to do.”~Katie McCorkle

PlayStation Plus vs Xbox Live Gold December 2017

Xbox and PlayStation have been competitors since 2002. The evolution of the systems has come to modern-day online services so you can play against your friends. You not only pay a monthly fee to play online but you also receive a couple of monthly games for free. The question is:  which one is better?

This month on PlayStation:

PS4

  • Darksiders 2: Deathinitive Edition
  • Kung Fu Panda Showdown of Legendary Legends

PS3

  • Xblaze Lost: Memories
  • Syberia Collection

This month on Xbox:

Xbox One

  • Warhammer: End Times – Verminitide (December 1 – December 31)
  • Tales From the Borderlands (through December 15)
  • Back to the Future: The Game – 30th Anniversary Edition (December 16 – January 15)

Xbox 360 

  • Child of Eden (December 1 – December 15)
  • Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death (December 16 – December 31)

Both consoles offer great game but PlayStation only offers two. Another downfall is that once your PlayStation Plus subscription expires, you are no longer able to play the games you got free. Xbox allows you to keep and those games for as long as you want, even when your subscription expires. Xbox also has backward compatibility where you can play Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One.

When I first got my Xbox One, I was able to download Xbox 360 games I got for free with Gold years ago. As an owner of both consoles, Xbox Live Gold is overall the better buy.  If you buy a console this holiday season, you might want to keep these things in mind.