XR20Beat Production Station
Dream of becoming a house music or hip-hop mogul? Us neither, but it's sure swell to pretend, courtesy of this portable wizard, which lets you produce tracks on-the-go using over 700 instrument, drum and sound samples, with a microphone input further available for dropping science. A backlit LCD and pads only enhance the portable system's rock star image, helping put even us tone deaf types in the right mindset to throw down anytime. Oakenfold, your days are numbered...
www.akaipro.com / $499
Budget camcorders may be everywhere lately, but the original name in affordable excuses to cop your own casting couch remains among the best. Consider its latest pocket-friendly 3.3oz model: nearly half the size of colorful cousin the Ultra, which offers better battery life, touch-sensitive buttons and 2GB of storage for an hour of extreme wrestling or baby's first toilet training session recording. Even better: A built-in USB arm lets you quickly dump to PC, then upload to YouTube/MySpace for instant infamy.
www.theflip.com / $179.99
It's 2AM, you're broken down on a deserted highway, a pig-masked dude's approaching with a knife in one hand and his boner in the other, and your cell phone's deader'n your recently-eviscerated girlfriend. OK, maybe not, but this 12V cigarette light-powered reception booster - which amplifies signal strength, grants your handset extra bars and prevents spotty connections - can definitely prove a lifesaver. Happily, a USB-ready model is also available, with both fully compatible with high-speed 3G data cards for emergency downloading.
www.getcellranger.com / $149.99
If you haven't copped a Bluetooth hands-free speaker system yet, you're doing yourself (and hit-and-run victims) a disservice. Remedy the situation with a fresh-looking model that offers seven hours of talk time or 460 on standby, auto-detects mobile phones from 30 feet away, and delivers handy noise suppression capabilities. That way, while cruising the hood, you won't feel any surprise bumps while reaching down for your cellie, only to later discover a local toddler mysteriously went missing about the same time...
www.cygnett.com / $79.95
Digital audio is dope and all, but compressing songs down to manageable size often results in notable sound quality loss. Thankfully, this little beauty - capable of storing/playing MP3 tunes, or wirelessly streaming albums and photos from PC - actually restores some lost fidelity, resulting in richer audio. Weighing just 2 1/2 oz. and extra-easy on the eyes, a built-in speaker, prepackaged noise-isolating earbud headphones, and Yahoo/Windows Live Messenger compatibility only further cement its status as a top stocking stuffer. Get you some.
www.creative.com / $199.99 (16GB) / $279.99 (32GB)
Motorstorm: Pacific Rift
Admit it. Half the reason you watch motorsports-Formula D, F1, even gasp, NASCAR-is for the crashes. Evolution Studios, the guys behind MotorStorm: Pacific Rift, knows this, which is exactly why they've programmed seemingly an infinite number of ways to crash, spectacularly might we add, in slow-motion hi-def glory. Offering four player split-screen action, a new Monster Truck class, and 16 tracks, all set in a lush, tropical setting, it's like the last vacation you took to Hawaii. That is, if you got lost, went off-road, exploded your rental car, and went home without a single box of macadamian nuts.
www.playstation.com / PS3
Socom u.s. Navy seals: confrontation
Blink and you're dead - competition's that fierce in this 32-man online-only blaster, which sees couch commandos executing scoped headshots across massive, destructible urban environs or bouncing RPGs into open doorways. With an obvious focus on clan warfare, it's hard to fault the spastic run-n-gun action, which, small selection of maps and no solo mode aside, features stunning landscapes whose flow you can alter. Consider adding a microphone for maximum enjoyment, with slick voice chat features guaranteeing one-liners impact like hollow-point shells.
www.playstation.com / PS3
Cross Blade Runner's dystopian outlook with Prince of Persia's gravity-defying athleticism and Tomb Raider's sex appeal, and you get this parkour-like ode to fluid action and acrobatics. Looking through the eyes of badass courier Faith, take the path less traveled, scampering up skyscrapers and executing lightning-quick takedowns while a shockingly robust camera system tracks breathless descents and woozy perspective shifts. While mastering the approach does prove troublesome at first, it's nonetheless a refreshing look at the tired old 3D questing formula.
www.ea.com / PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Left 4 Dead
Hell on earth: Repel or fall prey to the zombie apocalypse in a co-op-focused, Internet-centric shooter that casts you as desperate survivor or brain-hungry monstrosity. While light on storyline and characterization, damned if you'll care once the intestines start flying, as you level claw, fang, prehensile tongue, SMG, M16 or Molotov cocktail against onrushing targets. Harrowing as encounters become, a suggestion: avoid playing with the lights out, lest those draws become fouler than the crimson-colored offal that spews from point-blank shotgun blasts.
www.valvesoftware.com / PC, Xbox 360
Resuming where the original alien-chainsawing adventure left off, the king of gratuitous sci-fi splat-'em-ups again amps up the ultra-violence to near-pornographic levels. Thank the addition of flamethrowers and poison grenades, mountable monsters (love the steel-tentacled squid), wounded who can be turned into punching bags or living shields, and broadband delights from plasma-soaked free-for-alls to five-man survival co-op. Picture Platoon by way of Aliens and you'll get the gist of the gritty run-n-gun epic, sure to leave friends raving and pacifists mortified.
www.xbox.com / Xbox 360