Sunday, November 27, 2005

Half-Life 2 (Xbox) Review

Just short of 2 weeks ago, the #1 shooter for the PC of 2004 made its debut on the Xbox, and what a game. Half-Life 2 is overall the most beautiful game I've seen on the 4-year-old system sporting an amazing physics system and the most realistic environments ever featured. However despite all that it does well, Half-Life 2 still has some rather odd design decisions that hold it back from being the shooter for the big black box.

Half-Life 2 is set an undetermined amount of time after the ground-braking Half-Life. After defeating Nihilanth, the then apparent mastermind behind the alien invasion of the Black Mesa Research Facility, Gordon Freeman, the game's player character, is hired and placed into stasis awaiting his next assignment by the mysterious Gman. Apparently things didn't turn out well for Earth after the first game, as Gordon awakens on a train bound for City 17, one of the last urban centres of humanity. As Gordon explores his new surroundings, he learns the planet is now under the control of a mysterious, other-dimensional force known as the Combine who have herded humanity into these remaining cities as they rule with an iron fist.

I'm going to get the non-spoiler story comments out of the way first: For those hoping for massive answers or revelations to all the questions left over from Half-Life, you won't find them here. Half-Life 2 essentially answers nothing, with only the briefest of clarifications throughout, while raising many, many more questions about the game's story. Now, Half-Life has always been vague, that was one of the original game's strengths, the fact that you were Gordon Freeman and that you were experiencing everything first hand: confused, lost, and just trying to survive. However a sequel is supposed to clarify the original title, to expand on its concepts and keep the player interested, but Half-Life 2 fails to do this. While the game certainly has its own course of events that are linked well, the Half-Life story lacks an anchor, it lacks substance and ultimately feels like a bunch of stuff that happens. Half-Life 2 crossed the line of being way too vague. In fact, without giving it away, I found the game's ending so anti-climatic that I enjoyed Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil's poor ending more, and anyone who threw a fit over Halo 2's conclusion might want to steer clear.

Where Half-Life 2 does excel, like its predecessor, is in presentation. Simply a beautiful game to behold. While graphically not the equal of its PC counter-part, Half-Life 2 has the most realistic and detailed environments ever seen on an Xbox shooter, or any Xbox game that I've seen period. The streets of City 17 feel gritty and lived in. Every area, every room feels like it truly should exist, that this is a real city, that the environments have purpose. Such beautiful design. Character models too are the best I've seen in a video game. While of lesser quality than their PC counter-parts, the character models of Half-Life 2 sport exceptional facial design and expression, so much so that the emotions and feelings that characters have truly come alive on screen. The physics system is also the most realistic that I've ever seen. Objects fall, bounce, and move as they should. Windows that are shot will crack, but only the points where the bullets hit will fall shattering to the ground. The first time I beheld this I actually stopped and gazed at the realism of it all. Throughout the game, mostly at the larger battles near the end, there are some very minor frame rate issues, but these are so rare and minor that they are not an issue what-so-ever, and don't even take away from the game's beauty. To help keep things at a smooth 30 FPS, however, it seems Valve had to employ a good bit of texture pop-in throughout the levels, which is too bad and can momentarily pull you out of your immersion, however given the Xbox's limitations this is both understandable and forgivable.

Audio wise, Half-Life 2 sports excellent and convincing voice acting, as well as great sound effects. Weapons are loud, radio chatter is raspy and garbled, and metal clangs (and dents) when you smack it with your crowbar. I must express great disappointment in the game's music, however. Like it's predecessor and in stark contrast to the ambient music mix of Doom 3 and the beautiful compositions of Halo 2, Half-Life 2's music is distracting, out of place, and kills one's suspension of disbelief that the environments otherwise create almost flawlessly. I often found myself stopping (if I could) once a music track began while I waited it out so I could continue enjoying the game.

Gameplay wise Half-Life 2 has some very strong moments, thanks in great part to the physics and environments. I've already gone on enough about how real and believable I've found the environments, but the way in which they effect how you fight, interact with the environments, and solve puzzles is simply brilliant. There is generally a nice mix of combat and puzzle solving, paced well with one another. In fact, my only major complaint about the game's sequences would be the vehicle Chapters. The controls, which are otherwise great on the controller (and controller vibration adds an interesting twist to the Gravity Gun), translated oh-so-awful to the Xbox. Vehicles are sluggish and annoying to handle and lack the sleek style of the amazing vehicle battles found in the Halo franchise. They also tend to last much too long and really take away from the gameplay.

There are a large variety of enemies to fight in the game, from Headcrabs and Zombies, to Ant Lions, to Combine Civil Protection and Soldiers, you're often fighting something different and unique to each environment which helps keeps things fresh. I must, however, express grave disappointment over the game's AI, most notably for the Combine. The Combine Soldiers are supposed to be the game's "elite" enemies, yet their AI is so bad that, while fun to fight, they are simply push-overs. I would often just blindly charge against groups of Combine Soldiers with guns blazing and slaughter them all, sometimes taking very little damage in the process! Try doing something like that in Halo 2 and you'll be loading a check point very soon. In fact, the only times this strategy didn't work was when there was an environmental difficulty preventing it, or if there was a turret, HK Chopper, or some other over-powered weapon being used against you that would kill you in a matter of seconds. Heck, I remember once I was fending off waves of Combine Soldiers in a room, and you think the piles of Soldier corpses by the doorway would have convinced the remaining Combine to try and flush me out with a grenade or two, or perhaps to flank me by the open and unguarded door off to my side, but instead they just stupidly came through the main entrance and died. Even when they take cover, if you edge enough and find the right angle, you could pummel them with a rapid fire weapon, and they'll just stand there and take it, not even trying to move! The poor AI of Half-Life 2 is in stark contrast to the revolutionary Marines from Half-Life and are greatly disappointing.

Seeing as how Half-Life 2 is a game that's portrayed and feels very realistic, I must express criticism over some of it's very unrealistic design decisions. Such as how, though the game's physics and restrictions are so real, Gordon can still carry 11 weapons at once. Or how, despite the fact that he is an MIT grad., he can't figure out how to smack a point blank range enemy with the butt of his weapon (though the Combine Soldiers can do this). Gordon also has a zoom function with his Hazard Suit, yet he's not wearing a helmet. Many of you may complain that I'm simply being overly critical here, and while true that the above doesn't detract from the overall gameplay I found it rather disappointing that this high-profile sequel couldn't incorporate some of the very realistic design innovations featured in the Halo and Call of Duty franchises.

Being a sequel, I must also criticize the game's lack of innovative weapon design, with one exception: the Gravity Gun. The Gravity Gun is great fun, being able to pick up and hurl objects at enemies, use desks, etc. as shields, or to manipulate your environment. However almost all of Gordon's other weapons are exact re-hashes of the original Half-Life arsenal, which really feel uninspired. In fact, the sequel only has 3 new weapons, one of which is an uber-Submachine Gun and the other, a Pheromone Gland, is only useful in about 2 Chapters (though it was a great weapon while it lasted).

When it's all said and done, with about 15 to 20 hours of gameplay, Half-Life 2 is a mixed bag. On one hand, we have the most beautiful and realistic shooter available on the platform, on the other hand, we have a title plagued by some poor and dated design decisions. Despite my criticisms, however Half-Life 2 is a very fun game and I really enjoyed it and look forward to playing it again. When all is said and done though, I don't see how it lives up to all the hype and rave reviews. While certainly not a bad title, Half-Life 2 does not deserve all those high 90's scores that most publications give it.

One last thing I must mention is the one big advantage that Half-Life 2 has on the Xbox over it's PC counterpart: no Steam!!! That vile draconian distribution system that Valve forces you to use on the PC is no where to be found on the Xbox, which means no need to connect online for an offline game, no patches to wait on while they download when all you want to do is play, and no stuttering that's apparently "my hardware's fault." The inclusion of hot-ai..., er, Steam, is the main reason I didn't purchase the PC version of Half-Life 2. Oh, it's also nice that the Xbox version comes on one DVD instead of 5 CD's, has a case instead of cheap CD sleeves, and comes with a manual.

Once all said and done, Half-Life 2 is a title that any Xbox shooter fan should look into, and once released I hope Valve does port Half-Life 2: Aftermath, the upcoming PC Expansion, to either the Xbox or the Xbox 360. Half-Life 2 doesn't live up to it's own praise, however, and despite the amazing physics is no where near as revolutionary as its predecessor. If you can set all this aside and simply enjoy the game for the ride that it is, you will have a great time and be glad you gave Half-Life 2 a run-through.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

IGN's 2005 Holiday Buyers Guide

With the corporate whore holiday fast approaching, IGN has put up their 2005 Holidays Buyer Guide, covering all platforms and many accessories.

Under the Xbox section, for example, they mention such great titles as Half-Life 2, Halo 2: Multiplayer Map Pack, and Jade Empire.

Anyway, check the list out and see what IGN recommends you blow your hard earned cash on 'cause corporate society demands you to.

Winning PayDay Numbers for Nov. 24th


Anyone able to retire yet?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

More Xbox 360 Coverage

TeamXbox has reviewed the Xbox 360's Wireless Controller, giving it a 9 out of 10.

IGN Xbox has another article regarding Halo 2 running on the Xbox 360 "out of the box" here.

Finally, IGN Xbox has a Top 10 Reasons to Buy an Xbox 360 list right here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Staff finally gets topical... again.

So, thought you'd gotten rid of We, the Staff(TM), had you? Well, We would be gotten rid of, if you cursed peoples would just start listening to Our pleas and have somebody shoot us! We'd do it ourselves, but it gets a little complicated when there's so many of Us. It's much better if We just have someone else do it.

Anywhat, here's an interesting development in the world of politics: The US have backed down in the ongoing trade dispute with Canada regarding softwood lumber. They have reduced their tariffs from an outlandish 18% to a mere 0.8% of the cost of all softwood lumber products coming from Canada. Some of you may recall our rant about Scrawny and Fatass, but it's probably best if you don't. Ahem. So, back to the point, the US have seemingly backed down, at least for the moment. They do state that they intend to continue to appeal this case with NAFTA, and "determine for certain" whether Canada's lumber subsidies are indeed unfair.

We, the Staff (TM) are just impressed the US have budged on an issue like this.

-The Staff

More Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility Details

Details about how to get proper emulation support on your Xbox 360 for supported Xbox games can now be found here.

Essentially, you can connect to Xbox Live and download the update, download the file mentioned on the same page and burn it to a CD or DVD, or starting in December, you can order a CD from

From the looks of things, once you have this software installed on your Xbox 360, it'll support all the games featured on the backwards compatible list, you won't need to pop in every single game and download bits of emulation software for them.

I wonder if we'll ultimately be able to download higher res. textures and character models for existing games, like Half-Life 2.

Now if only Doom 3 was on that list...

CNN talks Xbox 360 and Playstation 3

Saw a link over at Console.ActionTrip to an article from CNN. In it, they discuss whether you should wait for the Sony Playstation 3, or pick up an Xbox 360.

Interesting read, but really, if you ask me, it's gonna come down to the good exclusive titles. Why would I want either system over another if the one's games tend to suck?

Xbox 360 Launch Day Review Round Up

Today is launch day for the Xbox 360, and there are several reviews up listed below. To the left, please enjoy a screenshot taken from the upcoming Dead or Alive 4, featuring the shown female Spartan from the Halo universe.:

Xbox 360 Console
TeamXbox reviews it here and gives it a 9 out of 10.

Perfect Dark Zero
TeamXbox reviews it here and gives it an 8.8 out of 10.
GameSpot reviews it here, giving it a 9 out of 10.
GameSpy reviews it here, giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

Quake 4 (Xbox 360)
TeamXbox reviews it here, and they give it an 8.5 out of 10.
GameSpot reviews it here, and they give it a 6.6 out of 10.

Call of Duty 2 (Xbox 360)
GameSpot reviews it here, giving it an 8.8 out of 10.

For Quake 4, GameSpot complains a lot about frame rate issues. While certainly possible, they also did the same for Half-Life 2 on the Xbox, and for almost the entire game I've had a solid 30 fps.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Halo 2 on the Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 releases tomorrow, which means, should you pick one up, not only will you be able to play its games, but also over 200 Xbox games.

TeamXbox has posted an article regarding Halo 2 on the Xbox 360, and how it'll improve the visuals of the game. At present, they were only able to use the default emulator that ships with the Xbox 360's hard drive, and the results are very good.

In this article, they have a clip of the game running at 720p, which looks very nice. However the real interesting part is the additional screenshots and clips comparing both the Xbox 360 (top) and Xbox (bottom) versions of the game, running at 480i with an S-Video cable. The difference? The Xbox 360 features full screen anti-aliasing that's standard for all its games, even classic Xbox titles, and look how much crisper the game looks (really check the background). With back-to-back screenshots, it is noticeable, and this is great news for people (like me) with standard def. TVs.

You can check the full article out here.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Quake 4 (Xbox 360) Ships to Stores

The Xbox 360 version of Quake 4 has shipped to stores and will available on Tuesday with the release of the console.

Of all the launch titles for the Xbox 360, this is the one that I'm most interested in. However unless I change my mind, I'll still wait to see how the system does, and in several months if I decide to pick one up, I'll snag a copy of Quake 4 at that time.

Half-Life 2 (Xbox) Impressions

As many of you know, Half-Life 2 is considered by many to be the PC game of the year for 2004. It's been heralded as a beautiful, realistic, story-driven FPS, and as of last Tuesday the Xbox port that Valve Software has been working on for some time finally shipped to retailers.

I picked up my copy of Half-Life 2 Wednesday night, and I'm presently at the beginning of the 6th Chapter (of 14), which is actually a Chapter I played in the PC Demo; "We Don't go to Ravenholm."

First off let me say that Half-Life 2 is overall the best looking Xbox title I've ever played. The screenshots simply do not do the game justice, as they look so rich and vivid in motion, and I'm only playing on a 20 inch, flat CRT at 480i. I've noticed a good bit of texture pop-in during actual gameplay, and unlike Halo 2, there are plenty of load times in the levels, however this doesn't change the fact that the game is simply beautiful to behold.

The character models, though low in detail (save for key characters like Barney), have the most life-like facial expressions ever seen in a video game, and the textures and environments are rich and detailed. Though lacking the detailed lighting found in Doom 3, the Source Engine is capable of creating beautiful outdoor environments as well as good indoor areas, whereas we really only saw great indoor sections for Doom 3.

Half-Life 2 also employs the best use of a physics engine that I've ever seen. Most everything reacts just as it would in the real world. Glass windows crack and small pieces shatter where bullets fly through, wood planks splinter and fall apart when smashed, and objects bob up and down and move with appropriate motion through water. Wonderfully fun stuff.

The sound mix, however, is not as lovely. Voice acting is very strong, but the music really blows. In fact, I believe all the music I've heard thus far is a complete re-hash, not even re-mixed tracks, from Half-Life. The sound effects are also so-so. The weapons and ambient sounds sound great, but there are too many re-used effects from the first game that haven't been touched up.

I also find that, though the game has the same great presentation found in its ground-breaking predecessor, the story is severely lacking. Granted, Half-Life only had an average story (it's The Ultimate Doom's story with aliens instead of demons), it was the presentation that pulled it through and allowed the player to be so immersed. Half-Life 2's story seems to have no sense of itself what-so-ever, and thus the levels have no substance to them. There were many unanswered questions left over from the first game, and thus far nothing has been answered while more questions have been put forward.

Save for the fun and innovative Gravity Gun, all the weapons I've gotten to use are a rehash of the original game's, lending itself to a much too strong sense of repetition The predominant enemy in the first levels of the game, the Combine Soldier, doesn't have AI up to par with the Elites from the Halo series, or even those of the Soldiers from Half-Life, leading to very basic and bland battles, save where you can have fun with the great physics engine.

The controls for Gordon are handling well so far, though I find aiming to be a little sluggish, though it's something you can get used to in a few minutes. Star Wars: Republic Commando had the same issue, but strangely the Halo and Doom 3 series did not, leaving me to believe the problem is with the game design and not the controller. I did encounter some very annoying collision detection, especially early on, where I'd be constantly bumping into and sometimes getting momentarily stuck on door frames as I was walking through them. This was an annoyance, but a minor one.

The game features a few different vehicles, and the first one you encounter is an Air Boat. I can see how the controls for movement and turning would work with a keyboard, but how they've ported over to a controller is awful. The Air Boat does not handle well, and turning is a pain in the ass. Thankfully, this rather lengthy vehicle sequence is no where near the complexity of the Halo 2 vehicle sections, and not much finesse is needed in its handling.

Overall, my initial impressions of the game are positive, though I do have some apprehensions. The game is beautiful and has some nice design, but it seems to be lacking a good bit of substance. While the quality of the fire fights and character interactions have picked up as I've made my way further into the game, it is taking a long while to do so, and this may hurt replay value. I also have yet to see a great deal of versatility in which I'd be able to approach various situations, unlike Halo 2, which is another aspect that may hurt replay value.

I'm still not even half way though, so I'll wait until I complete the game to pass final judgement. Look for my in-depth review as soon as I win the game, hopefully in a week or so.

Winning PayDay Numbers for Nov. 17th


One of these days...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I'm a Hypocrite

Well I'm a hypocrite. I went out after work today and purchased Half-Life 2 for the Xbox. I sincerely hope I don't regret getting it as The Staff did with the PC version last year, but at least the Xbox version is Hot Air... er, I mean Steam-less.

Anyway, I'll be able to do a Doom 3, Halo 2, and Half-Life 2 comparison much better with owning all three titles, but that's a bit away still. I'll post my impressions of the game in a few days or early into the weekend.

Actually, I have a good bit going on gaming wise. I'm presently playing through Doom II, The Master Levels for Doom II (first time), Half-Life 2 (first time), Halo: Combat Evolved (fifth time), and The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (third time) on my Xbox and Half-Life: Opposing Force on my PC.

Ultimately, I also want to go through Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil for the third time, this time on Nightmare Difficulty. I also want to play through Halo 2 a fifth time, Jade Empire a third time, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords a fourth time. With any luck I'll get Star Wars: Republic Commando in a fourth time as well.

Busy, busy.

Xbox 360 Official Launch Line Up

I saw this over at, I think it was TeamXbox a few days ago, but then I forgot. Saw it today at ActionTrip which reminded me, here's the official line up of launch titles for the Xbox 360.

Amped 3 (2K Sports)
Call of Duty 2 (Activision)
Condemned: Criminal
Origins (SEGA)
FIFA Soccer 06 Road to 2006 FIFA World Cup (Electronic Arts)
GUN (Activision)
Kameo: Elements of Power (Microsoft Game Studios)
Madden NFL 06 (Electronic Arts)
NBA 2K6 (2K Sports)
(Electronic Arts)
Need for Speed Most Wanted (Electronic Arts)
(2K Sports)
Perfect Dark Zero (Microsoft Game Studios)
Peter Jackson's
King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (Ubisoft)
Project Gotham Racing 3
(Microsoft Game Studios)
Quake 4 (Activision)
Ridge Racer 6 (Namco)
Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 06 (Electronic Arts)
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland

Quake 4 and Call of Duty 2 are my top games on that list, but really nothing on said list is gonna make me run out and buy an Xbox 360. I'll wait a while and see how the system does. Besides, I got a good bit to play through on my Xbox still.

Review Round Up

A bunch of reviews are out this week:

Call of Duty 2 (Xbox 360)

- TeamXbox has reviewed it here, and they give it a 9 out of 10.

Half-Life 2 (Xbox)

- TeamXbox reviews it here, and they give it a 9.5 out of 10.
- GameSpot Xbox reviews it here, and they give it an 8.3 out of 10.
- GameSpy Xbox reviews it here, and they give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Star Wars: Battlefront II (PC)

- ActionTrip reviews it here, and they give it a 72 out of 100.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

One Year of Halo 2 Editorial

Exactly one year ago yesterday was the first time I played Halo 2. Prior to that my only experience with the Halo franchise was the PC Trial of Halo: Combat Evolved in Fall (or was it winter?) '03, and with only a GeForce 4 MX 440, the Trial version ran well enough but not with enough flash to catch my attention.

I had recently purchased my Xbox about a month before Halo 2's release and I had never played an FPS on a console before (was a pure PC gamer for the last decade), so I decided to head over to BlockBuster and give a rent to Halo: Combat Evolved, wanting to begin at the beginning of the story. When I arrived they had one copy of Halo 2 left on the shelf, so seeing as how popular it was and rare to find for a rental I decided to pick it up instead.

I got home, fired it up, and played it for a good chunk of the weekend. My opinion: It stunk. I didn't like aiming with an analogue stick, I didn't like how large the weapons were, cluttering the screen, and I found the level design and lighting quality to be very inconsistent. I also had no clue as to what was really going on with the story.

After returning the game, for reasons beyond me, I decided to rent Halo: Combat Evolved then and there expecting the same reaction and that I had wasted my money. After firing up the classic, my opinion: It rocked. I loved the level design, story presentation, enemy AI, etc. I also didn't have a problem with the analogue stick and found aiming, moving, swapping weapons, etc. was a breeze. I don't know if I had just needed time with a console FPS to get used to the controls or if Halo: Combat Evolved's Campaign was simply more intuative, but I was having such a blast that after only a few days I returned my rental and purchased the game.

I found the environments so alive with dropships flying in and dropping off re-enforcements on both sides, the battles between Marines and Convenant (and ultimately Flood and Sentinels) were great to watch/participate in, and the quality of all the levels was consistent (the ending race was spectacular and heart pounding); I didn't even mind how much the last levels of the game mimicked the earlier ones in design.

For Christmas '04 I received Halo 2: Limited Collector's Edition as a gift, so I gave the game another shot and tried to approach it with a fresh, clear mind. The first thing I noticed after going through a few levels was how differently I was able to play through them this second time. With such great enemy AI and well balanced weapons, I was truly able to experience battles and complete objectives in such a different way, simply by picking up a Plasma Rifle instead of a Battle Rifle, or using grenades instead of dual-wielding.

Having now played through Halo: Combat Evolved and having read the 3 novels, I was also able to clearly understand the story, why the Covenant were doing what they were doing, who "the Oracle" was and why it was so important, etc. Such a different experience, such variety and replay value, such a great single player Campaign.

I've played through Halo 2 four times now, and every time has allowed me to approach battles differently and keep the gameplay fresh. I've been playing FPSes since Doom, and never before have I experienced such versatility and well balanced weapon use (the two weapon limit is a great innovation of Halo: Combat Evolved's), not to mention the great vehicle combat and the way that they change the flow of the game, whether you use them or what type of vehicle or not.

Sadly, I do not have Xbox Live, so my multiplayer experiences have been through split screen with friends. Though our matches are rare these days, and there's usually just two of us, we always have a great time blowing the snot out of one another and boarding Ghosts, Banshees, etc.

So, on my one year anniversary of Halo 2 (and really the Halo franchise), I just want to tip my hat to Bungie for creating one of the best FPS franchises I've ever played, and a non-PC FPS at that.

Bell Sympatico Users Get a Free Game with Xbox Live Subscription

Canadian gamers who have Bell Sympatico High Speed DSL can get a free Xbox or Xbox 360 game when they sign up for an Xbox Live or Xbox Live Gold 1 year subscription.

The Xbox games available are:

- Forza Motorsport
- Conker: Live and Reloaded
- Halo 2
- NHL 2K6

The Xbox 360 games available are:

- Perfect Dark Zero
- Project Gotham Racing 3
- NHL 2K6

Please note that you will need a Microsoft Passport account, such as a Hotmail account or an Xbox Gamer Card, and the offer only applies to new accounts created between Nov. 7th and Jan. 31st, limit one per person.

You can find the full details here.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

IGN Xbox Reviews Half-Life 2

IGN Xbox has reviewed Half-Life 2, and they give it a 9.4 out of 10.

Official List of Backwards Compatible Xbox Games

Microsoft has finally unveiled the first wave of Xbox titles that will be backwards compatible with the Xbox 360, and you can find that list along with a Q&A (which talks about downloadable content) right here.

There are over 200 titles on the list, with notable mentions of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords, and Jade Empire.

I'm very surprised that Doom 3 is not on this list, and I really hope that it'll be on the next wave, perhaps with some higher res textures and character models, hint, hint, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. I'd also like to see Star Wars: Republic Commando get the nod as well.

For Halo 2, Bungie has mentioned that because of the superior hardware in the Xbox 360, the texture pop-in that happens mostly during the game's cinematics will be slightly improved, which is good news.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Quake 4 (Xbox 360) Street Date

Quake 4 for the Xbox 360 will be on shelves in North America on Fri. Nov. 18th, a few days prior to the Xbox 360 itself.

What's even better is that it will include a full copy of Quake II, which is Quake 4's storyline precurssor.

Should I get an Xbox 360 I will pick up Quake 4, but I'll have to play through Quake II first as I missed out on that game.

The Staff shows respect

As Fearless Leader started on in the previous post, today is Remembrance Day, people. We, the Staff (TM) encourage everyone to show their respect for all who have fallen in the numerous armed conflicts our species manages to get itself into. Also, respect those veterans who still go about their business today. We will not get into the discussion of what these soldiers fought for, who sent them and why, as the causes of some wars seem less defined than others. Rather, We will do what is most appropriate: Respect the fact that these men and women did something selfless. They went into Hell. And some didn't come back.

-The Staff

Winning PayDay Numbers for Nov. 11th

The winning PayDay numbers for today are: 08-42-64-71.

Least I broke even this time.

Oh yeah, it's Rememberence Day today, so make sure to observe your 2 minutes of silence at 11:00 am. Lots of good people died fighting for the life we have now, and though that life really sucks, it's better than the alternative.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Half-Life 2: Aftermath (PC) Delayed

Saw over at ActionTrip here that the expansion to Half-Life 2 (PC) has been delayed, and will be released Feb. to Mar. '06 instead of this fall.

The author of that post also has a comment I find rather interesting regarding the Half-Life 2 story (spoiler free), which falls in line with what my Staff has told me about the PC version, as well as the impressions I got from the PC Demo:

And this is exactly why I have a problem with Half-Life 2. It's not that
the game isn't great. It is. But, ultimately, it's just set on a rather shady
premise that it's OK to offer borderline meaningless pieces of the puzzle as far
as the actual plot is concerned and then release these "episodes" every two
years apparently. No matter how good your story is, or how good the action is, I
simply don't see how waiting two years for another glimpse into what is some
sort of a story is worth it. I mean, if it was J.R.R. Tolkien's story... then
maybe; as it is, I don't see how it's worth it.

Half-Life 2 (Xbox) NOT a Platinum Hits Title

It seems that the official Canadian Xbox web site is incorrect, and Half-Life 2 is not going to be a Platinum Hits Title as of release.

Future Shop is selling it for $59.99 upon release, and EB Games is selling it for $49.99 (US).

I'd say it's a rental first, and I'm also disappointed that there's no Limited Collector's Edition with an included port of Half-Life: Game of the Year Edition, similar to what id Software did for the Xbox version of Doom 3 with classic Doom.

However, looking at the official release calender, Half-Life 2 is the best upcoming Xbox game on the list, so there isn't much coming out soon (excluding the Xbox 360, of course).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Halo 2's One Year Anniversary

Today is Halo 2's one year anniversary, and Bungie has released a special article to celebrate. Within they also show several screens of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 on an Xbox 360 in 720p (featured left). Not too bad looking.

It's a lengthy article, but check it out, there's some good stuff in there.

GameSpot Xbox Comments on the Halo Movie Script

GameSpot Xbox has commented on the Halo movie script that was reviewed at Latino Review here. Essentially, GameSpot is erring on the side that this is a legit review, at least of the current draft of the script.

An interesting article to read.

Please note that the pic featured right is of an Elite from the Xbox version of Halo: Combat Evolved, and not from the Halo movie, seeing as how the film hasn't even begun filming yet.

A Few more StarCraft: Ghost Screens

A few more StarCraft: Ghost screens (mostly character models, I believe from multiplayer) can be found at IGN Xbox here. The game does look good on the system, I just hope it can compete with the next gen console titles.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Halo Movie Script Leak?

Looks like Latino Review got a copy of the upcoming Halo movie script. Not sure if it's legit or not, might be as Ain't It Cool News is talking about it to.

Regardless, it's fun to read about, and you can check out the article here. Note that if this is a legit script review, you're obviously going to be reading spoilers.

News spotted at ActionTrip here.

PS3 Online Service Comic

Ctrl-Alt-Del has a hillarious comic regarding the upcoming Playstation 3's Online Service, which you'll find here.

BioWare and Pandemic Partner Up

BioWare and Pandemic Stuidos have joined forces. You can read the official press release here.

So long as BioWare's still able to pump out amazing titles, it's all the same shit to me.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Ultimate Doom featured in Family Guy

Just watched tonight's episode of Family Guy, and a sequence from The Ultimate Doom was featured (screenshot featured is not from Family Guy).

The show opened with a Bin Laden spoof, where Stewie ultimately took him on in a Yoda/Count Dooku style battle from Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. After winning Stewie feel down a cliff onto his tricycle and a The Naked Gun title spoof started, where you followed in a first person mode as Stewie drove threw all these crazy places.

One of these places happened to be an early part from The Ultimate Doom, where Stewie drove up a staircase and collided with an Imp.

The episode also featured Cobra Commander, and Homer Simpson.

Speaking of The Simpsons, I caught their latest Treehouse of Horrors, and man did that suck. Seriously, it was so stupid, why is that show still on the air? Awful. Just awful.

Update: In the comments to this post, anonymous posted a low res video link to the title sequence of this Family Guy episode. The opening teaser with Bin Laden and the Attack of the Clones battle spoof is missing, but The Naked Gun spoof including The Ultimate Doom and The Simpsons is there. Check it out here.

A History of Violence Review

I saw A History of Violence a week ago. It is a good film with a very interesting concept and some great performances, however I have problems with how it is put together.

The film centres around Tom Stall (Viggo Mortenson), who is living a happy and quiet life with his wife Edie (Maria Bello) and two children in the small town of Millbrook, but one night their idyllic existence is shattered when Tom foils a vicious attempted robbery in his diner. Tom is heralded a hero, and thrown into the spot light, however as he tries to return his life to normal he is confronted by a dangerous mobster (Ed Harris) who believes that Tom is really another man who wronged him in the past. The mob begins stalking Tom and his family, looking for revenge.

The film is very graphic in nature, really showing off the gore and mutilation of gun wounds, something I found to be a strong plus. The concept behind the film, that of if someone can have a past life that they walked away from, is well implemented and portrayed well by the cast, however my biggest gripe with the film, running at about an hour and a half, is that it should really have been an hour long film.

My major issue isn't with the pacing itself mind you, the film starts off very slow and this actually works well for it, it's how the film takes care of its major issue. Without giving away any plot spoilers, A History of Violence feels complete after a major confrontation at the hour-ish mark, and the rest of the film felt a lot like Cronenberg realized he needed more to pad the film, so he created this add-on to the main plot for the next half hour. I found that this also detracted greatly from the tension an internal conflict that the family is experiencing, and the sub plot and involvement of Tom's son, Jack (Ashton Holmes).

Overall, A History of Violence is a good film, with some excellent characters, graphic violence, and nice sex scenes (Maria Bello is fuckin' hot), however the film ultimately just drags on when it should have wrapped itself up or, in my opinion, have been structured differently. If you haven't seen it, I do recommend a DVD rent, however if you miss it you won't be missing the most amazing and engaging film ever made.

Winning PayDay Numbers for Nov. 3rd

A little late, but here they are: 25-29-64-75.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

StarCraft: Ghost, 11 New Screenshots

Gamespot Xbox has 11 new screenshots for StarCraft: Ghost. The game is looking much better from the last batch of screenshots (May 18th), with much improved lighting.

The game is due out "when it's done," which at present is sometime in 2006. We hope.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

PlayStation 3 to Cost Twice as much as an Xbox, No Central Online System

According to ActionTrip, the Sony PlayStation 3 console will be coming out roughly a year after the Xbox 360 and cost about twice as much by late 2006. That means we'd be looking at roughly $799.99 to $999.99 for a Sony Playstation 3. For that cost, I'd get a top of the line PC. It'll perform better in the long run and be a much more versatile gaming machine.

Sony also will not be implementing a central online service akin to Xbox Live, and will instead let developers determine how games will be played on line akin to the Playstation 2. Please note that the PS2 has shitty online capability.

This is all bad, bad news for Sony, and great news for Microsoft. If all this is true, their chances of winning this gen of the console war has increased greatly.

StarCraft: Ghost Updates

Saw over at ActionTrip that StarCraft: Ghost will have playable Zerg in its Multiplayer, and that the game will no longer be available for the Nintendo GameCube because it doesn't have any online capabilities.

At present this means it's an Xbox and PS2 release only, you know, when it actually gets released. I think I saw a release date of something like second quarter of '06. Not a good sign with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on the way.

Star Wars: Battlefront II Review at IGN Xbox, Demo Impressions

IGN Xbox has reviewed Star Wars: Battlefron II here, and they give it a 7 out of 10.

I played the DVD demo that came with Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith last night, and I have mix feelings. There are 2 levels in the demo, one from the space battle at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith, another of the infantry battle on Utopa (or however that's spelt).

I found the space combat really, really sucked, the controls for flying were so messed up it was no fun at all. The infantry level was a lot of fun though, and I also got to play as Obi-Wan for a brief period, and he was nearly invincible. It was also fun running around as a Clone Tropper and making stuff go boom now.

The infantry level is definitely a vast improvement over the Star Wars: Battlefront demo, as it's much more objective based. I didn't like the fact that there was a timer, though.

Based on the demo, I wouldn't go buy the game, however I will rent it and give it a closer look should I ever get around to it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Review Round Up

Star Wars: Battlefront II (Xbox)
Team Xbox has reviewed it here, and they give it a 9 out of 10.

Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (Xbox)
Team Xbox has reviewed it here, and they give it an 8.6 out of 10.
IGN Xbox has reviewed it here, and they give it an 8.5 out of 10.

Call of Duty 2 (PC)
ActionTrip has reviewed it here, and they give it an 89 out of 100.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

New Releases Today

We have some new releases today:

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith is now out on DVD. For today only, you can find it at Futureshop and Best Buy for $19.99.

Star Wars: Battlefront II is also out on PC, Xbox, GameCube, and Playstation 2. I think there's also a PSP version. A demo for the Xbox version of the game is included with the Revenge of the Sith DVD; so I'll be trying that out shortly.

Finally, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, hits shelves today for Xbox, GameCube, and Playstation 2. Since Call of Duty: Finest Hour was rather crappy, I'll wait for reviews on this one. If they're positive, I'll rent it first.