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 Holiday Gift Guide: Booze

Walk into any liquor store and you’ll see hundreds of options. You can zero in on someone’s favorite drink when picking a gift, or you can get creative and choose something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. Also, remember that you don’t want to come to a party empty-handed, so get in the habit of at least bringing a bottle.

And for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.

BACARDÍ Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron

If you’re looking for a simple way to class up your bar without breaking the bank, Bacardi’s new Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron is a great addition for under $25. This newly released white rum is crafted to be a high-end mixer, adding a touch of sophistication to the classic cocktails made at home. Besides casually mentioning the “Gran Reserva” label to describe your concoction, you can further impress your guests with the knowledge that the rum has been double aged; it’s initially aged for a year and blended, then returned to white oak barrels for an additional three months. While immediately flavorful upon tasting with light and fruity notes, we found its bite to be a little strong to be sipped on its own. However, stay true to its calling as a mixer, whether in cubas libres, mojitos or daiquiris, and you can’t go wrong. The Gran Reserva was created to pay tribute to the Master Blenders at Bacardi, but everyone might think they passed on some of their distilling secrets to you as well.

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon

Master Distiller Basil Hayden Sr. experimented with the addition of rye to bourbon in 1796, believing the spicy flavor profile of the grain would strikingly complement the sweeter, corn-heavy mash bill, and more than 200 years later, we’re still celebrating his decision one drink at a time. While Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the lowest proof (80 proof, 40% ABV) in Jim Beam’s Small Batch collection, it brings a near double dose of rye (27%) compared to the others. The resulting flavor profile is “blessed with rich hints of peppermint, notes of pepper, slight citrus overtones and a spicy, warming finish.” If that doesn’t sound inviting during the holidays, we’re not sure what does. We can’t get enough of this bourbon, preferring to drink it neat from a bourbon snifter to maximize its aroma and flavor. But we were also very pleased using it as a mixer in Manhattans, allowing for the rye to add an extra layer of depth to the drink. Putting this all together in a nicely packaged bottle, Basil Hayden’s is that bourbon you break out on special occasions like the holidays.

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2015 Holiday Gift Guide: For the Home

Gifts like these might not be the most romantic if you’re buying for your wife or girlfriend, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find cool stuff that will put a smile on their face. Products for the home can be just as desirable if you focus on items with great design or that make someone’s life a lot easier, and if you stick to those simple guidelines, you’ll make whoever is on the receiving end very happy.

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.

iDevices Thermostat & Switch

Transforming your house into a smart home has never been easier with these new products from iDevices, which work in conjunction with the free iDevices Connected app to allow users to control, monitor and schedule their thermostat and other electronics from any compatible iOS device. While Nest may own a large share of the market with its smart thermostat, the iDevices version is a great alternative for nearly half the price. It features a sleek, minimalistic design and gives you the ability to change the temperature wherever you are, set schedules for different times and days of the week, and even create “Scenes” (like “Going to Bed”) that can be activated with Siri voice commands. The real game-changer, however, is the iDevices Switch, which controls any product (15 amps or less) that you would plug into a standard wall outlet and includes a customizable LED night light that can be turned on or off separately. Better yet, when paired with a Thermostat or multiple Switches in certain rooms or “Zones” (like upstairs or downstairs), it delivers the smart home experience that all those science fiction movies promised us. Just don’t expect it to make you breakfast as well. You can also find these devices at Lowe’s.

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Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 740HD Projector

The traditional moviegoing experience has gotten so bad that more and more people have decided to stay away from theaters altogether by creating one of their own inside their homes, and with the PowerLite Home Cinema 740HD projector from Epson, it couldn’t be any easier. In addition to featuring widescreen, high-definition 720p resolution, the Home Cinema 740HD offers up to 15,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio for rich details in dark scenes and boasts three times brighter colors than leading competitors thanks to its three-chip LCD technology. This results in a viewing experience that’s much closer to a typical theater chain, even if it can’t replicate it exactly. The projector itself is fairly lightweight and compact, so you can take it to your friend’s house or stage a movie night in your backyard, and along with HDMI connectivity for Blu-ray/DVD players and gaming consoles, there’s a USB port that can be used for the latest plug-and-play streaming sticks from Amazon and Roku, as well as a built-in speaker. For home theater junkies looking to upgrade their current setup, the Home Cinema 740HD is a great alternative to buying one of those massive TVs, and at a fraction of the price.

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2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Guy Stuff

Guys are pretty easy to shop for. Most of the time, you can just get stuff you’d buy for yourself. Yet sometimes, when you’re shopping for your dad, brother or any other guy on your shopping list, you have to cast a wider net, because tastes obviously vary. Still, at least you can pick up some stuff for yourself while you’re browsing.

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.

George Foreman Camp & Tailgate Grill

Just when we thought George Foreman had fully exhausted every possible variation of his lean, mean grilling machine, it turns out he still had a trick up his sleeve. The fully portable Camp and Tailgate Grill is a nice addition to the ever expanding product line. Whether serving up a horde of fellow tailgaters or revitalizing a troop of weary hikers, this grill boasts 200 square inches of space to cook up 12 servings of food at one time. But despite the size, it’s surprisingly light and easy to carry around. It even comes with an attachable shoulder strap for easy transport to someone’s house or camp site. We found that the grill lights up and heats up quickly, and the reversible cooking surface added a welcome touch of adaptability. From burgers and brats, to pancakes and eggs, this grill does it all. We measured success, however, not by the plethora of handy product features, but by the quality of the finished meal. The empty plates and looks of satisfaction convinced us that George Foreman remains king of grills.

FOREO LUNA for Men Ultimate Grooming Collection

Just because guys don’t talk about it as much doesn’t mean that skincare isn’t still important, and this limited edition grooming set from FOREO features everything you’ll need to leave your skin feeling invigorated and refreshed, including their award-winning LUNA for Men facial brush and Daily Revitalizing Gel Cleanser, as well as a trio of PRORASO shaving products. The centerpiece of the collection is the LUNA facial brush, which channels T-Sonic pulsations through its silicone touch-points, gently removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores of dirt and oil. This preps the skin for a more comfortable shave and helps prevent razor burn. If you’re worried about wrinkles, there’s also an Anti-Aging mode that utilizes lower-frequency pulsations that, when applied to certain areas on the face (like around the eyes), leaves the skin looking younger and more energized. The LUNA is completely waterproof and features eight different speed settings, but the one thing that really sets it apart from other devices on the market is the fact that it’s made from silicone, so it doesn’t require replacement brush heads, which can get expensive over time. Though this isn’t something that most men would buy on their own, once they experience the effects first hand, they won’t be able to start their day without it.

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