Giovanna With Some Walk-On Actors During A Recording

Winter is coming. And with it also comes the need to show the loved ones in your life just how much you care for them by spending, spending, spending on gifts. Trouble is, there are just so many options to choose from. What you really need is someone, some outside force to hold your credit card-holding hand. And boy, do we have some suggestions for you. Happy Holidays! You're very welcome.

"Music brings the people together," a grande dame once sang in her characteristic sprechstimme. But what of the audiophiles? What brings them together? High-class sonic kit and the bragging rights that come with it, that's what. Check out our choice selects below for the braggadocio you call bae.

Image credit: Mondadori via Getty Images

Of all the ways Fallout 4 outshines earlier entires in the series, the way it uses color is perhaps the most apparent. The game is a vast improvement over its predecessors in one simple way: It's loads more vibrant. In 2008's Fallout 3, nearly everything in the post-nuclear apocalyptic Washington D.C. was a sickly shade of green, a deliberate choice by the developers at Bethesda Softworks to sell an omnipresent feeling of sickness and decay (it still persists in certain places here). B-team developer Obsidian Entertainment's Fallout: New Vegas introduced a bit of chroma to its irradiated Las Vegas landscape in 2010, but it was still primarily a brown game. Bethesda's triumphant return to the Wastes is what shakes the series' palette up the most. As you'll see in the gallery below, the use of vibrant colors and a tightly defined palette serves a couple of purposes here: It differentiates one room or Boston-area landmark from the next and keeps everything in Fallout 4 looking visually fresh.

I am the 80 percent. Let me explain: Sony recently released a remastered collection of the Uncharted series for the PlayStation 4. The games were all critically acclaimed, with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves ranking among the best games of the last decade, but developer Naughty Dog says that 80 percent of PS4 owners have never played them. I'm part of that group, and I figured it was high time to catch up with one of the most lauded trilogies of the last decade. Now that I'm in the thick of Nathan Drake's adventures, I'm going to answer one question: If you've never played Uncharted, are these games worth your time?

ASUS' $299 hybrid tablet is a good idea that's past its prime

When ASUS launched the original Transformer Book T100 back in 2013, it had a relatively novel concept on its hands: a low-cost Windows tablet that could double as a laptop thanks to its included dock. The company clearly thinks it's still a good idea, since it recently released the Transformer Book T100HA with more powerful guts and Windows 10. But does this concept still hold water in 2015, when 2-in-1 Windows laptops are commonplace and mobile tablets are increasingly powerful? I've been living with the T100HA for several weeks to find out, and the truth is that it's no longer as sweet a deal as it once seemed. There are still many things to like about ASUS' hybrid, but you'll have to make some compromises that shouldn't really be necessary in modern hardware.

The first Resident Evil games were my favorites. With comically bad dialogue like the now infamous "Jill sandwich" meme, tension built on scare tactics, gore and the thrill of a shotgun blast, simpler was better, or at least more fun. As soon as the franchise started to take itself too seriously, I stopped paying attention. So when Capcom decided to make the video game horror franchise into a stage play, I feared it'd either steer straight into closed-space melodrama (i.e., actors trapped in a room; one has a dark secret) or that it'd simply have little to no relevance to Resident Evil. So, with trepidation, I went to see Biohazard: The Stage (the series' title here in Japan) when it opened for a limited one-week run right before Halloween. Was I going to be bored to tears? Despite an unnecessarily fashionable Tyrant and a severe lack of blood, I was hooked for all two-and-a-half hours of it. And that even included a pop-dance interlude.

Lara Croft is basically a superhero. She leaps with the power of someone bitten by a radioactive kangaroo, climbs sheer rock faces like her hands are coated in glue and spontaneously zip-lines down hundreds of ancient, convenient ropes like she's strolling down to Starbucks on a Monday morning. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, players will most certainly die a few times, whether in firefights with hordes of gunmen, while running across a rapidly crumbling sheet of ice or jumping across gigantic crevasses. What's incredible (and absurd) is all of the times Lara Croft survives.

The first piece of the International Space Station (ISS) was launched into orbit in 1998 and two years later, its first occupants arrived. It's currently the largest artificial body orbiting the planet and much of it's devoted to testing aspects of living in space. When astronauts aren't busy exercising, eating or working on David Bowie covers, they're knee-deep in an endless array of experiments and observations. We've gathered a sampling of those projects to see just what they've been working on over the years in their orbital laboratory.


Trying to save a few bucks by purchasing offbrand cables? We've all done it -- but there's something you should know about new USB Type-C connectors popping up on cellphones (Nexus, OnePlus), laptops (Macbook, Pixel), tablets (Pixel C) and even Apple TV. The reason why they can charge so many devices, is their ability to transmit currents up to 3A, which could be 50 to 100 percent more electricity than older standards. That's why Google engineer Benson Leung has been putting various USB-C cables sold on Amazon to the test. He worked on both of Google's recent Pixel devices that use the new cable to charge, and found that many of the cables advertised as Type-C aren't actually suited for use with the laptop. They might not be wired properly to charge a laptop, or they don't accurately identify the power source -- something that could damage your laptop, USB hub or charger.

The new, simply titled Need for Speed (out this week on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) is as close as you're going to get to an art-house, video game version of The Fast and the Furious. The series has had players recreating cop chases from movies since 1998's Hot Pursuit, but this is the first time the game actually feels filmic. It isn't going to stand toe-to-toe with Microsoft's Forza series or Sony's ill-fated, but gorgeous Driveclub because it doesn't have to -- visually, they aren't even competing against each other. NfS doesn't run at 60FPS like Forza Motorsport; it doesn't feature those meticulously detailed cockpits either. What's more, car models aren't nearly as detailed as Driveclub's. But whatever NfS lacks in "perfection," it makes up for with killer arcade-like handling and a visual style guided by a clear aesthetic: Make a racing game that looks like a movie shot on film.

I am not a good basketball player. I am average at best, which is ironic for someone who loves Jordan sneakers. Still, that doesn't keep me from playing the sport recreationally, even if I end up making a fool of myself most of the time. But because I love watching NBA and NCAA games on TV, I enjoy hooping every now and then to pretend I'm the closest thing to Tim Duncan since Anthony Davis. The sad truth, though, is shooting just isn't my forte. That's part of the reason I wanted to take the Wilson X connected basketball for a spin. Launched in September, it promises to improve your scoring skills by keeping track of valuable performance data, including how many shots you're making or missing and your most efficient spots across the court. It is supposed to be the basketball of the future.


It could be argued that Atari's 1980 arcade classic Battlezone was the first virtual reality game. In a simple duel of tanks, players looked through a small opening in the cabinet to maneuver their lumbering vehicle, firing at a single enemy and avoiding being struck by projectiles. The game's wireframe design was graphically simplistic, but stenciled in thin green lines on the horizon was a single object that drew the attention of fans: an erupting volcano. Rumors swirled of a secret route that would lead players to the volcano's crater where a castle lay awaiting brave explorers. "Of course, none of this was true," Atari engineer Lyle Rains pointed out in Van Burnham's 2001 book Supercade. But that didn't stop the dreamers. In one case, a fan even wrote to Atari to tell the company he'd reached the mythical castle.

After decades of speculation, developer Rebellion, best known for the Sniper Elite series, is rebooting Battlezone for Sony's PlayStation VR and taking players into the heart of the volcano.

Until Dawn Rush of Blood

"When we announced this, we saw a 50/50 split among the fan base," said Simon Harris of Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, Supermassive Games' recently announced virtual reality shooter. The title, which debuted at Paris Games Week, is an extension of the PlayStation 4 exclusive released last August. The reason for the mixed reaction? Although its predecessor is an intense interactive drama, Rush of Blood is an on-rails arcade shooter (think House of the Dead or Time Crisis). Fans of the original want more drama, more Until Dawn, and this clearly isn't more of the same. But after playing a brief session of Rush of Blood and talking to Harris about the studio's plans, I'm convinced Supermassive knows what it's doing.