Digital: The smart TV evolves into something clever
Review: Panasonic Viera VT60 series
Remember the good old days when phones were dumb and TVs were, well, TVs? You knew where you stood and didn't need a degree in engineering to operate either.
Ever since phones got smart, the TV makers have been eyeing a slice of the pie, eagerly trying to hang off the coat-tails of the apps revolution.
But what they don't have is the laser-like discipline of a Steve Jobs-type figure and so the first smart TVs were painfully difficult to use, clumsy, slow and unintuitive.
After three years of iteration in app TVs, we may finally be getting somewhere, if the new Panasonic Smart Viera VT60 series is any indication.
Let's get the bad news out of the way first – you will get no change from €2,350 for the smallest size in the range, a 50-inch plasma.
The VT60 keeps the design flourishes to a minimum, so the thin black slab plays its aces where it counts: in terms of sheer picture quality and (relatively) intelligent software design.
The options are overwhelming at first – dozens of apps such as Netflix, YouTube, weather, etc.
But Panasonic cleverly enables you customise the Home screen to your selection, even though the occasional advertisement feels quite intrusive.
Best of all, your choices will be automatically presented as soon as the built-in camera (also useful for Skype) recognises you.
The two bundled remotes struggle to handle the sheer variety of tasks – and the voice recognition regularly stumbles.
But, luckily, the free Viera app for iOS/Android ably picks up the slack. You can send video/photos from the app to the TV – and even back to your tablet/phone too.
If the novelty of the apps tends to wear off, you will definitely remember the brilliance of the VT60's picture, though, with deep blacks and rich detail the order of the day.
At this price, though, you'd expect it.
State of Decay
Oh no, the undead are swarming us again. This isn't even the only zombie game released in this fortnight.
But in contrast to the high-budget horror of The Last of Us (reviewed next week), State of Decay channels a different vibe. Eschewing a tightly scripted storyline, SoD dumps you into the middle of a zombie outbreak and challenges not so much to escape as to survive.
Unusually, then, this is an apocalyptic yarn about building a community – recruit survivors, scavenge supplies, construct safe houses, rescue the vulnerable – rather blasting your way to freedom with a sawn-off.
The zoms aren't even that lethal, so battering them with a 2x4 isn't so difficult.
Consequently, you begin to develop an affinity for characters and losing one is a real wrench.
Cynics may be unable to see past the technical issues and lack of polish. But SoD has become the second fastest-selling X360 download of all time with good reason. It makes you care about your fellow survivors.
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
After a disastrous lurch into present-day Mexico last time out, the CoJ series lands back on more solid ground with tall tales from the Wild West.
Hooked to an imaginative back-story allowing a wizened barfly to recount his glory days of gunfights, it transplants Call of Duty-style action to cowboy country.
That in itself proves interesting and the storyline is interrupted at key points by the old-timer's doubting audience, who force a rewind and retelling of a more truthful version of the action.
In gameplay terms, though, Gunslinger rarely amounts to more than a shooting gallery, with an endless stream of targets popping up predictably.
The creators of Ratchet and Clank and Resistance failed to exercise the same quality control with Fuse, a co-op shooter that veers between bland and ludicrous.
Don't bother playing in single-player, where the co-op is terminally stupid.
But even with real, live companions and the diverse weaponry, Fuse fails to spark.