2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Games

The holiday season is the video game industry’s busiest time of year, with publishers saving many of their marquee titles to release on the public like an avalanche of digital goodness. It can actually be quite overwhelming with so many different options to choose from, so we’ve done our best to put together a collection of what we feel are some of the year’s best titles, and ones that the gamer on your list will love.

Click the links within the write-ups to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Star Wars: Battlefront

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If you’ve ever wanted to know what it would be like to be a part of the “Star Wars” universe, Electronic Arts’ “Star Wars: Battlefront” lets you live out your ultimate fantasy by dropping you into the middle of the action in some of the most famous locations from the original trilogy. Whether assuming the role of a Rebel soldier or Stormtrooper fighting on the ground, an X-Wing or TIE pilot engaged in a massive dogfight in the skies, or as one of the many legacy characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, this is “Star Wars” fan service at its very best. Boasting gorgeous, photorealistic visuals and addictive gameplay, “Battlefront” is the most enjoyable “Star Wars” game since “Knights of the Old Republic.” Though the single player/co-op modes aren’t very exciting (they’re mostly just a place to hone your skills and waste a few hours with a friend), the online multiplayer is where the game really shines. There are nine modes to choose from – including favorites like Fighter Squadron, Heroes vs. Villains and Supremacy – with each one delivering a unique experience from the others. “Battlefront” is the “Star Wars” game that fans have been waiting for, and with more content planned for the future, it can only get better.

FIFA 16

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How do you make a great game even better? That’s the challenge put forth each year to EA Sports and their “FIFA” franchise, and every time, they respond in brilliant fashion. Though there aren’t any major changes to the gameplay, “FIFA 16” has implemented some small but important refinements to deliver the most authentic soccer simulation yet. On the field, defending has been given a complete facelift, including the ability to defend better as a unit with enhanced AI awareness, goalkeepers who make less mistakes, and improved tackling mechanics. The EA Sports team has also added something called Passing with Purpose that allows you to ping driven ground passes to teammates in tight spaces, as well as No Touch Dribbling, which gives you more creativity on the ball. Off the field, the changes are even bigger, headlined by the announcement that you can now play as one of 12 Women’s National Teams in a variety of game modes. Career Mode has also received two of the most requested features – pre-season tournaments and player training to increase stats – while Ultimate Team has added a new mode called FUT Draft where you build a team by picking each position from a five-player draw and then compete in challenges to win rewards. This is the most definitive edition of “FIFA” yet, and it’s an absolute must-have for any soccer fan.

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2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers

Sometimes you just need something small to stick in a stocking or as a complement to a bigger present. These are usually lower priced items, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be high quality or require the same level of thoughtfulness. Here are a few cool products to consider for the person that has everything.

Click the links within the write-ups to purchase each product online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

Orbitkey

Everything is getting slimmer these days – phones, wallets, you name it – but many of us still carry around a bulky set of keys that rattle around in our pockets and make our pants bulge and crease, which is where a product like Orbitkey comes in handy. Made from genuine cowhide leather or TPU Elastomer polymer for active lifestyles, the Orbitkey uses a custom-designed locking mechanism to secure your keys within a slim profile that eliminates rattling keys, protects belongings from scratches and takes up less space. It holds up to seven keys or tools – including an optional bottle opener or key-shaped USB drive, which we highly recommend – and features a D-ring attachment for larger car keys. Though guys will appreciate how much easier it makes carrying keys around in their pocket (whether in the side or the back), the OrbitKey is also great for women who have a habit of scratching their phones from throwing keys into their purse.

SteakChamp 3-Color Thermometer

Whether you’re firing up the grill for tailgating season or counting down the days until next summer, the endeavor for the perfect steak never ends. Between the different cuts of meat and cooking methods available, there are several variables that can affect how your steak turns out, but why would bother taking that chance when there’s a gadget that ensures your preferred doneness every time? The SteakChamp 3-Color Thermometer is an innovative, stainless steel meat thermometer that uses integral temperature measurement to determine when your steak has reached either medium rare (green), medium (yellow) or medium well (red) with an LED light at the end of the probe that flashes the corresponding color. Plus, once the steak has been removed from the grill, the SteakChamp continues to flash to measure the meat’s resting phase, only turning off when it’s reached optimal doneness. Though it’s most effective with beef (and yes, it works exactly as advertised), it can also be used on duck breast, pork loin, lamb, salmon and other game. This is the future of at-home grilling, and it tastes delicious.

Moleskine Star Wars Notebooks

There’s just something about the Moleskine brand that oozes quality, which is probably why it’s become so popular across the world. With an amazing variety of notebooks, journals and planners (and much, much more) available in different sizes and colors to meet your needs, Moleskine is a great gift for just about anyone in your life, whether it’s a simple stocking stuffer or an entire bundle of faux leather-bound joy. With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” due in theaters this December, Moleskin has expanded its “Star Wars” line with a pair of limited edition, hard cover notebooks that include a montage of scenes from the movie on the inside cover and some cool stickers in every back pocket. Though we wish there were more designs to choose from besides the red-and-black Kylo Ren and white-and-black Stormtrooper themed covers, this is a great way for fans to show off their “Star Wars” passion wherever they go.

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2015 Back to School Gift Guide

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The new school year will be starting soon (and it likely already has for some people), which means that it’s time to get those students in your life the tools they’ll need in order to survive the next nine months. No, we’re not talking about boring stuff like pencils and notebooks, but rather the cool gadgets and gear that help make campus life a little more enjoyable. Here are some great gift ideas that just about any student can use.

SOL REPUBLIC Shadow Wireless Headphones

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One of the hottest trends on the headphones market these days is those futuristic looking Bluetooth headsets that people wear around their necks. But while they definitely take a little getting used to compared to more traditional headphones, it’s easy to see what makes them so appealing to some consumers. SOL REPUBLIC recently released its own version of a wireless, around-the-neck headset with the Shadow, and not only is it incredibly lightweight and flexible, but it rests so comfortably on your neck that you sometimes forget it’s even there. In addition to boasting CD-quality audio that’s good enough for the average user, the Shadow features a built-in microphone and three-button remote, as well as a fairly decent battery with up to 8 hours of playback and a week of standby time. It can also control two devices (like your phone and laptop) at the same time, and is both water and sweat resistant, so you can wear it just about everywhere you go without worrying about damage. Although it would have been nice if the headset included retractable earbuds like some of its competitors, it’s not a deal breaker, especially when there’s so much other stuff to love about the Shadow.

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2015 Father’s Day Gift Guide: Gadgets

Gadgets dominate our lives, so you can start your shopping with dad’s phone. If he has the latest and greatest, don’t bother. But if he’s still tied to his lame flip phone, then you can go with an iPhone or a new Android phone to get him into the 21st century.

If you’re looking for something a little different, however, we’ve put together some ideas for you. And for more great suggestions, be sure to check out the other categories in our Father’s Day gift guide.

Fitbit Charge HR

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There’s an ungodly number of fitness trackers these days, but after testing out some of the other major players in the game, the Fitbit Charge HR (available at Walmart) is hands-down the best of the bunch. The “HR” refers to the included heart rate monitor located on the underside of the band, which provides additional data like your daily resting heart rate the time spent in different heart rate zones (peak, cardio and fat burn) during exercise. The tracker is housed in a rubber watch band that’s a lot more comfortable than the bangle-styled Jawbone and Nike Fuelband, and it contains a small display screen that lets you cycle through the following data: clock, steps, heart rate, distance, calories burned and floors climbed. When used in conjunction with the mobile app or online dashboard, you can track specific workout sessions and monitor your sleeping habits (including time spent awake or in a restless state), and when paired with your phone via Bluetooth, the display shows Caller ID notifications. The Fitbit Charge HR also has pretty great battery life, so you can spend more time using it instead of waiting for it to charge, which is the whole point of the product in the first place.

SOUL Run Free Pro Headphones

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We’ve reviewed some of SOUL’s on-ear headphones in the past, and while they proved to be a solid alternative to the more popular brands on the market, they never really wowed us in any way. However, that’s not the case with their latest in-ear model, the Run Free Pro, which improves upon other likeminded wireless headphones by getting rid of that cumbersome earhook and utilizing an interchangeable ear lock system that provides a custom fit guaranteed to stay put no matter how active your lifestyle. The Run Free Pro is comfortable enough to be worn for long periods, and features wind noise reduction technology that allows runners to listen to music outdoors without interference. They’re also waterproof and sweat-resistant, while the sporty design smartly hides the mini USB charging port inside the buds. The integrated remote control can be a little difficult to operate blindly, but that’s a minor complaint about an otherwise great pair of in-ear headphones perfect for the dad who frequents the gym or marathon circuit.

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2015 Father’s Day Gift Guide: Entertainment

Everyone loves watching a great movie or TV series, so we’ve compiled some of our favorite releases from the past few months that most guys will enjoy. And for more great suggestions, be sure to check out the other categories in our Father’s Day gift guide.

The Wire: The Complete Series

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Now that “Breaking Bad” has completed its remarkable five-year run, there’s a good chance that some people are rethinking their decision to christen “The Wire” as the best show in television history, but for our money, the HBO crime drama still owns the top spot. A gritty, intelligent, complex and well-acted series that fired on all cylinders throughout most of its five seasons, “The Wire” represents TV drama at its finest, anchored by a fantastic ensemble cast that rivals “Game of Thrones” in its sheer size and ability to squeeze great performances out of even the smallest roles. Digitally re-mastered in a new 16:9 widescreen ratio and broadcast in its entirety earlier this year, the complete series makes its Blu-ray debut just in time for Father’s Day. Though some have argued that the change from the original 4:3 ratio disrespects the show’s intended visual composition, it’s something that will likely only bother a select few, because it looks absolutely stunning. Many of the included extras have been carried over from the previous DVD release, but there is a brand new cast and crew Q&A from the Paley Center for Media’s reunion panel that’s a must-watch for all fans of the show.

Frank Sinatra: Five Film Collection

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It’s not the first time that a studio has released a Frank Sinatra movie collection in conjunction with his birthday, but Warner Bros.’ five-disc set – which spans two decades in the singer-turned-actor’s film career – is the first one to ever be released on Blu-ray. Featuring some of Sinatra’s finest work in front of the camera, the collection includes a trio of musicals (“Anchors Aweigh,” “On the Town” and “Guys and Dolls”) and two of the best crime movies of the era (“Ocean’s 11” and “Robin and the 7 Hoods”), three of which have been newly re-mastered for their Blu-ray debut. Though the fact that it only contains Warner Bros.-owned titles means that it’s not a definitive collection by any stretch of the imagination, this is still a great gift for any fan of the Chairman of the Board. Plus, it comes with hours of bonus material, like vintage MGM shorts and cartoons, audio commentary by Frank Sinatra Jr. on “Robin and the 7 Hoods” and “Ocean’s 11” (alongside Angie Dickinson), featurettes for “Guys and Dolls,” and a 32-page photo book with movie stills and behind-the-scenes photos from each film.

Goodfellas: 25th Anniversary Edition

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Though Martin Scorsese finally won his first Oscar for the 2006 crime thriller, “The Departed,” after decades of being snubbed, it should have happened 16 years earlier with “Goodfellas,” which is hands-down one of the greatest gangster movies ever made. The film has it all – sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, and even a little violence – but what’s most impressive is the manner in which Scorsese pieces it all together, breaking a number of traditional filmmaking rules along the way. Everything about the movie is top-notch, from Scorsese’s daring direction, to Nicholas Pileggi’s hard-hitting script (an adaption of his book, “Wiseguy”), to the rock-influenced soundtrack, to some fantastic performances by Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of psychotic gangster Tommy DeVito. The two-disc 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray includes all of the previous extras from the 2010 release – including a pair of audio commentaries and a behind-the-scenes featurette – as well as an all-new retrospective, a 36-page photo book with an accompanying essay, and a letter from Scorsese.

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