Friday, December 29, 2006

Xbox 360 vs PlayStation 3 Graphics Comparison

Well, well, speaking of a comparison between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the Staff actually did something useful for a change and found an article comparing the graphic capabilities of both over at GameSpot.

You can check out the full article and screenshots right here. The results don't surprise me that much, actually.

Update: Another thing I find funny is if you go to the PlayStation 3's official site and check out their Top Games, with the exception of Resistance: Fall of Man, they're all on the Xbox 360. If you check their upcoming titles, with the exception of Virtua Fighter 5, they're also _already_ all on the Xbox 360. The next generation truly is now for Xbox 360 owners.

No Chimps is Good Chimps

We, the Staff (TM) feel a growing amount of concern over what appears to be Fearless Leader's obsession with all things simian. If We had a nickle for every time he's threatened to replace us with a chimpanzee, orangutan, gorilla, howler or prairie dog (okay, so those guys aren't quite primates, but you get the idea), We'd own an island in the middle of the Atlantic from whence we could plot global domination!

Seriously, Fearless Leader, We, the Staff (TM) think you should seek professional councilling regarding this... perversion of yours. It's not natural... not natural at all. And you know what happens when the townsfolk find out about such things - pitchfork and torch-wielding angry mobs happen!

In conclusion, We, the Staff (TM) may be lazy, but would the viewers of Arbiter's Judgement truly want to see Fearless Leader's exploits with trained chimps? It could get just a little disturbing...

-The Lazy yet Decidely non-Simian Staff

Top 3 DVD's of 2006

Well, with today being the last business day of the year, I suppose I should get started on listing my Top 3 lists. I'll start with DVD's and like last year, keep in mind that I'll only be listing items I've personally used. Since we're just a simple blog and not a pro site, I don't get free stuff and I obviously can't go buying everything and anything for the hell of it.

So, without further delay, my top 3 DVD's of 2006:

3) V for Vendetta (Single Disc Edition): What's more to be said, aside from the fact that this was the best film I can think of released to theatres this year, and it was a cool DVD to. There isn't much in the way of bonus features on the Single Disc addition, and the bonus features on the 2-Disc Edition didn't interest me for the cost which is why I got this version, and why it sits and number 3.

2) Corpse Bride: Tim Burton's back with another claymated masterpiece. It's short, sweet, and filled with the general theme of morality that Burton's so great at. Featuring a great cast of voice actors, an excellent score by Danny Elfman, and great animation, Corpse Bride will please both adults and children alike. The DVD comes with some nice little documentary features, and the special edition I got even came with an illustrated booklet of the film itself. A great buy all around.

1) Kingdom of Heaven - 4-Disc Director's Cut: Shear brilliance. The 4-Disc Director's Cut takes Ridley Scott's lackluster theatrical masterpiece and adds about an hour to it, fleshing out the characters and motives and presenting us with the film that should have been released to theatres bar none. If you saw the theatrical version of Kingdom of Heaven, whether you liked it or lumped it, you owe it to yourself to check out the Director's Cut and see what you missed. The film is spread across two discs, and the remaining two discs are filled with a feature length documentary that take you from the film's conceptualization all the way to release. It has detailed storyboards, interviews, casting sessions, etc. and generally more stuff than you can wave a sword at. It also comes in a great fold out case, and truly is an amazing DVD experience.

Well there you have it. Early next week, I'm hoping to post my top 3 books of 2006, and I'll also post up my top 3 games of 2005 that I missed since 2006 sucked for new games. Since I only saw 2 films in theatre this year and only liked one of them, I won't be posting a top 3 films list.

Suzuki SXbox

It's obvious to anyone reading my blog that I'm a gamer. I love my video games and I also love my Xbox and Xbox 360. Keeping all that in mind, there are things that I would never do, and one of those things is drive something like this.

It's the kind of unique concept that screams beat me. Oh, and if left unattended in a parking lot for more than 5 minutes, this car would get stripped so fast.

Thanks TeamXbox.

Xbox 360 Warranty Extension Email

Received this email from Microsoft yesterday:

Xbox 360™ brings you top quality customer service.

Effective December 22, 2006, the Xbox 360 console warranty has been extended to one year from the date of purchase. The extended warranty applies to new customers and existing Xbox 360 owners. If you experience hardware issues with your Xbox 360 console within one year of purchase, your console will be repaired at no cost*.

Now, that’s a holiday gift, indeed. Play with confidence and enjoy the best of next generation gaming. Celebrate the holiday season with a catalog of over 160 high-definition games, the freedom of wireless accessories, and the online entertainment you can experience with your friends on Xbox Live®.

To find out more information on this policy change, please visit Should you have questions regarding this policy change or experience any hardware issues, you can also visit: or call 1-800-4-MY-XBOX and speak with an agent.

I'm quite happy with this move, the more coverage, the better.

Xbox 360 Impressions

So what can I say, other than I'm really liking my Xbox 360. Aside from the false advertising mentioned below, the console is great. Aesthetically it looks very nice and I love the Wireless Controller. The Dashboard is very sleek and intuitive with customizable options in the form of Themes [think Desktop Wallpapers, but one per Blade (think tabs)]. What I also really like is how the Controller can be used like a remote control.

You can press and hold the Xbox Guide button to turn on your console. If you press the Guide button again at any point, even in game, it'll bring up the Guide, which lets you customize your Profile (you can have multiple Profiles on a console to separate save games, etc.), check your wireless controller's battery charge, track your active downloads from the Xbox Live Marketplace, etc. If you press and hold the Guide button for over 3 seconds, it'll bring up the option to shut down your console or just your controller.

Aside from the Guide button, the Xbox 360 Controller is a bit different from the Xbox's Controller S. Microsoft has done away with the White and Black buttons and instead has added a left and right bumper directly above the left and right triggers. They've also repositioned the Back and Start buttons. I thought these few changes would take a bit for me to get used to, however so far I haven't had a problem. I'm sure when I'm playing a backward compatible game, like Halo 2, I'll be pressing the wrong place to cycle through my Grenades, but I imagine I'll compensate quickly enough.

The Xbox 360 also has a 20 GB Hard Drive, and the console is really set up to be turned into a media unit as well as for games. So much so in fact that I spent the first half week just downloading trailers and demos from the Xbox Live Marketplace instead of playing any games!

My only gripe with the hardware is the DVD drive, or more specifically, the noise of it. It's loud. It can be very loud. I did some poking around the net yesterday, and found that there are two different manufacturers for the Xbox 360 DVD drive, Hitachi and Samsung. Basically, the only difference between the two seems to be that the Samsung one is extremely quieter, and guess what, I have the Hitachi model. So long as it functions though and the unit doesn't crap out, that's the main thing. You can find out more details here.

I also bought the Play and Charge Kit a few days ago, figuring since I'll be wracking up a lot of cash in replacement batteries for the Controller over the years, this'd be the more economical way. One thing to note about the Play and Charge Kit: If you have you're Wireless Controller connected with the USB cable, it disables the auto-off feature under System settings. Not a big deal of course, but something to take note of.

The Xbox 360 Holiday Bundle I purchased comes with three games, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged Volume 1, and Kameo: Elements of Power. I've tried to get into Ghost Recon, I really have, and though the game looks and sounds great and has such an excellent concept, I find the Controller simply doesn't have enough buttons for smooth gameplay with the precision that's needed in this tactical shooter. Basically if I want to grab a Smoke Grenade, for example, I need to press and hold one button to bring up a list of weapons, then I need to use the D-Pad to cycle through and select Grenades. Next I need to hold another button down and then cycle through to Smoke Grenades. Finally, I have to charge it up with the Right Trigger and toss. Too tedious for my tastes. Most likely I'll be selling Ghost Recon after the 30 days.

Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged Volume 1 is a lot of fun, especially Texas Hold'em. I've played so much of that, it isn't funny. Hexic HD, which comes pre-installed on the HDD, is also a great addictive puzzle game.

Kameo: Elements of Power, is the best of the lot though. While not perfect, it is a very enjoyable Disney-ish fantasy adventure with stunning visuals, and excellent score, and retro adventure gameplay. Honestly, it feels like I'm playing a classic SNES game. I mean, it has classic style boss battles for crying out loud; how much fun is that!

To sum it all up, Xbox 360 = Yes. The console is much more polished and stream-lined over the Xbox in just about every respect. 2007 is also looking like a great year for Xbox 360 games. With Mass Effect and BioShock coming out during the first half, and Halo 3 more towards the end of the year, there'll be a lot of gaming goodness with the 360.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas you crazy wankers! Now go play Doom 3 or something; kill some Zombies.

Edit: Replaced the original pic 'cause I didn't notice at first that that Santa was smokin' up, when what I wanted was a zombie Santa pic. Since getting stoned isn't something I do and Christmas is all about promoting alcoholism anyway (seriously, go ask the LCBO), we have a new, proper, zombie Santa pic. Now go play Doom 3.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

False Advertising with Xbox 360 Holiday Bundle

As I mentioned, I purchased an Xbox 360 recently (a week ago tomorrow night, to be exact), and while I'm really enjoying the product, I must confess that it came with a bit of false advertising that has me shaking my head.

First and foremost is the free 1 month trial period of Xbox Live Gold. The Xbox 360 Holiday Bundle comes with Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged Volume 1, the latter advertising right on the case a free one month of Xbox Live Gold, stating on the case's back that there's a subscription card inside.

There is no card.

I'm also not the only one with this issue, as indicated by this thread at the official Xbox forums. Basically, it seems that Xbox Support is giving everyone the shaft (big surprise). This bundle package has been put together by Xbox Canada, and support is through Xbox (America), which, according to them, means they're not responsible for international issues. The only hope that people have been able to find is that apparently, the first three Xbox Live accounts created on a console will be offered a free one month trial of Xbox Live Gold.

I created my account online back just before the Xbox 360 was released over a year ago, and apparently, even though this online creation method is fully endorsed by Microsoft, you will _not_ be offered the Xbox Live Gold trial when you use this account on your Xbox 360.

In English, if you want a free one month trial of Xbox Live Gold, do not create your Xbox Live account via the web, do so through the console itself.

Please note that I have not tested this offer with a new account from the console myself, so it could be that customers are completely screwed. Since I'm only interested in a Gold account so I can download the Yavin Station content for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, it's not a great loss to me, however the rest of you have been warned.

The other bit of false advertising with the Xbox 360 Holiday Bundle is with Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. It shows on the packaging both bundled games in their respective cases, however when you open up the box, you'll find that the DVD for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is in a simple paper CD sleeve and the manuals (English and French) are loose. Basically, Microsoft (or perhaps Ubisoft) screwed it's customers out of a game case, yet they included one for Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged Volume 1.

According to the same forum thread above, Xbox Support is giving its customers the shaft on this as well, so basically if you want a case, the best way is to make it yourself. I'm trying to find a place where I can buy a replacement green DVD case, however in a pinch a basic black one will do.

One of the posters in the above thread also pointed out a great site where you can download and then print off high quality colour scans of case art, including Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. The site is called The Cover Project, and the Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter case art can be downloaded here.

Overall, I'm greatly enjoying my Xbox 360 and will post about it soon, however it's sad little things like these that really make you wonder what a company is thinking. Sad. Very sad.

Speaking of that Lazy Staff

Come to think of it, that lazy-assed Staff of mine has been pretty, well, lazy lately what with his only posting BS once every 3 or 4 months or so.

Basically, Telly, we need to see some more activity around here on your part, otherwise it'll be more productive for me to replace you with a trained chimp.

I want you to write and post an essay on this blog by no later than Dec. 31st. Failure to do so will result in your posting privileges being removed, as well as the requirement to get your hair braided by you-know-who (no, not me faithful readers) with pretty pink bows that really are so you anyway.

The essay can be about anything you like, and must be a maximum of 5 words. And if they aren't the most inspirational and profound 5 words I've ever read, so help me it'll be pig tails for you!

Fearless leader is waiting.

Xbox Live Gamer Card Added

As you may have noticed, I've gotten around to adding my Xbox Live Gamer Card to the blog. Thought it'd be cool to have it on here, and that way you kids can sort of keep track of what I'm doing.

I say sort of because my Xbox 360 is mainly going to be off-line, and I only have (and want) an Xbox Live Silver Membership, which means I can't play Multiplayer against other people; all my Achievements and Gamer Score will be from off-line play.

Also, since I'm off-line most of the time, the card won't be updating much. Right now my plan is to log onto Xbox Live at least once a month to browse the Marketplace and check for Updates, Trailers, and Demos that I may want. At that point my Gamer Card should update to reflect all that I've been playing.

Once the Staff gets around to picking up an Xbox 360 and creating an Xbox Live Account/Gamer Card of his own, I'll probably post it up here as well. That way you'll all be able to see how much better than him I am.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Guys and Their Drinks

My browser's home page is Sympatico/MSN's main page, and one of the headline articles for today caught my eye. It's Bartender's Dating Tips: What a Guy's Drink Says About Them. I found the article funny because it's true.

The section that applies to me:

6. Drinks beer: He's a regular guy not out to get hammered (assuming it's not from a funnel).

7. Drinks tequila shots: He's more interested in getting hammered than he is in you.

I also like this section:

A BlackBerry: He's important enough at work that the company needs to be able to reach him at a moment's notice. (That doesn't mean he should be checking it while he's talking to you!)

Save for me it's a company cell instead of a BlackBerry. I hate BlackBerry's.

Halo 2 and Fable: The Lost Chapters Boxing Day Sale

Via an email from Future Shop, I've just learned that during their online Boxing Day sale, starting at 8 pm on Dec. 24th, both Halo 2 and Fable: The Lost Chapters will be on sale.

Halo 2 will sell for $11.99 and Fable: The Lost Chapters will be on sale for $9.99.

If you own an Xbox or Xbox 360 and don't have either of these title yet, buy them, as they're two of the top titles available on Microsoft's consoles. That's an order.

Fable: The Lost Chapters (Xbox) Review

I can not believe I passed up this title for so long. Years ago I rented Fable and sadly I experienced an issue with my Controller S (had a permanent target lock) and I also found the Hero Save system to be most frustrating. For those reasons, the latter in particular, I chalked Fable up as an overrated, over-hyped piece of junk.

A few months ago I felt in need of a great RPG, so I decided to try Fable again and borrowed it from the Staff, and though the Hero Save still annoyed me I decided to use a Future Shop gift card I had lying around to purchase Fable: The Lost Chapters (Xbox), the Platinum Hits version that features additional content over the original release.

Simply put, Fable: The Lost Chapters is one of the best RPGs I have ever played, hands down. I find it difficult to judge whether it's the best RPG I've ever played, as that honour is presently held by Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords (Xbox), which of course is a different style of RPG and has a very different feel from Fable: The Lost Chapters. Fable: The Lost Chapters is an action RPG with a lot of open ended gameplay, and unlike BioWare's story driven and character heavy RPGs, Fable: The Lost Chapters reminds me of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition, or rather, what The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition should have been.

As some of you may recall, while I found the open ended gameplay of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition to be an amazingly addictive experience at first, the game ultimately was too open ended for it's own good with no real focus or semblance of a story to keep my interest. Fable: The Lost Chapters, on the other hand, provides a healthy balance of both.

In Fable: The Lost Chapters, you start out as a young boy living in the town of Oakvale. Your first quest is to find a way to earn enough money to buy a birthday present for your older sister, and this introduces the player to the game's Morality system. You can earn the Gold by performing good deeds around town, which you're father will reward you for, or you can steal the money and thereby perform bad deeds. Like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, your actions will affect your alignment, or your Morality as it's called in this game, which will ultimately alter your appearance and affect the way that people will react to you around the world.

Oakvale is soon attacked by Bandits (the world of Albion is full of them), and almost everyone is killed including your father. Just as you're about to die, however, you're rescued by a great Hero who goes by the name of Maze. He teleports you to the Guild of Heroes where you begin your new life, training to become a Hero.

An important point to note here is that "Hero" is a general term used to describe characters of might and legend in Albion, and therefore a Hero can be either good or evil. This is also where you begin to see your character age as you pass from childhood into young adulthood. Your training at the Guild takes roughly 10 to 20 minutes, and serves as the game's general tutorial. This is also where you're introduced to the Hero Save feature that annoys me so much. In Fable: The Lost Chapters, while a core Quest is active, you can not save your overall progress, called a World Save, and instead can only save your character's stats and items, the aforementioned Hero Save. I didn't understand this concept at first and ended up having to repeat the Guild training about half a dozen times over.

Once I got around and got used to the Hero Save system, I was able to immerse myself in the wonderful world of Albion, as once you're training is complete you can begin accepting Quests and exploring the open world; and what a world of options it is.

While the main story and character development of Fable: The Lost Chapters is rather weak, the game's true strength is in it's many gameplay options. Instead of pursuing the main Quest, you can explore the country side, dig for treasure, go fishing, play the market and sell goods, drink in a Tavern until you get drunk and hurl, play bar games, get a haircut, attract a partner (of either sex) and get married, own a house and live in it or rent it out, etc. The amount of things you can do in Fable: The Lost Chapters is staggering yet not overwhelming.

Unlike The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition, Fable: The Lost Chapters keeps a complete record of all your Quests, area maps, gameplay instructions, stats, etc. You're never stuck not knowing what to do (should you want to do something specific that is), and the game can be driven forward as fast or as slow as you want.

As you Quest and gain Experience and Renown, you can level up your Hero at the Guild increasing basic stats like Strength, Health, and Will (Mana), as well as learn a wide variety of spells. You can find or purchase Swords, Axes, Bows, Crossbows, and all different sorts of Armour and Clothes to really customize how you're Hero looks and fights. You can also get tattoos, haircuts, beards, and mustaches to suit your mood and personality.

From a technical standpoint, the game looks very beautiful. The world of Albion is a comical fantasy setting that doesn't take itself too seriously (read many of the item's descriptions at shops, for example) and as such the characters have a very cartoony look that matches the game's dry sarcastic whit very well. Audio wise all the sounds and voices are great, with people sounding as smart or slow-witted as needed, and the sound track is simply gorgeous with the main theme being created by Danny Elfman himself.

All this praise, however, is not to say that Fable: The Lost Chapters is without its flaws. As enjoyable as the game is, I find the slogan of "For every choice a consequence" to be a bit of a false statement. Why? Because if you fail at a Quest, instead of accepting that failure and moving on the game requires you to repeat it or load a save game until you achieve victory. Essentially, the only consequence for failure is having to repeat a Quest again. Not that this is a major as issue as Fable: The Lost Chapters is not a difficult game. Unless you're very careless, you'll always have enough Health and Will Potions on hand, as well as Resurrection Potions, to bail you out from any encounter. The game is so easy, in fact, that if you just pursued the main Quest you can probably win the game in about 10 to 15 hours. The core Quests were very easy, and the ones I found to be the most challenging were most of the optional Silver Quests, mostly 'cause you have to protect someone and they accidentally die or something.

I also encountered some minor bugs from both a technical and gameplay standpoint. I found that there was a good bit of audio popping and some of the game's shadowing effects, mostly with leaves, cast choppy shadows on character models, which looked rather poor. I also had some minor Quest bugs, such as escorting a wandering Trader to a certain area without it registering as an official Quest, and days later having the same Trader pop up again looking to be escorted, this time registering as an official Quest, however with the Quest being uncompletable.

Still, given how much fun Fable: The Lost Chapters is and how rich the world of Albion is, this is all minor problems with such a great game.

I could simply go on and on about all the great things that Fable: The Lost Chapters is, however I suppose I must end this review at some point. Being a Platinum Hits Xbox title, the game is now very cheap to purchase, so I strongly recommend that you go and pick it up if you have a taste for great RPGs. Fable: The Lost Chapters is also backward compatible with the Xbox 360 and looks even better at 720p with full screen anti-aliasing. Don't pass this title up as I did for so long.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Xbox 360 Warranty Extended in North America

Today, Microsoft announced that they're officially extending the warranty of the Xbox 360 to one year from the original 90 days.

This change includes already purchased units and re-reimbursements will be made to people who paid for hardware service in the next 10 weeks.

You can read the official release here.

This is great news, as my Xbox 360 is now covered until Dec. 18th 2007!

Samsung LN-S2651D Impressions

A week ago I purchased my first LCD TV, the Samsung LN-S2651D, and thus far, I'm very pleased with it.

The Staff came along for the ride and assisted in its set up, and afterwards the very first thing I did was calibrate the snow. What can I say, I'm a perfectionist.

I next hooked up both my VCR/DVD combo and Xbox and did some basic colour calibrations, however what I got to as quickly as I could was the first real test: Playing Halo 2.

Halo 2 in wide screen at 480p looked absolutely gorgeous. The image was nice and clean, the extra view added a little twist to game play and of course on the 26" screen, everything was nice and big.

The following day I decided to try out some other Xbox games, however most of them didn't look near as good as Halo 2 (and most don't support wide screen). One thing the LCD TV does is really show off the age of the Xbox's hardware, particularly with aliasing (jaggies). My God, is the aliasing bloody well awful! While Halo 2 seems to have been developed with this in mind, most other games Fable: The Lost Chapters, were not. Some games, like Jade Empire and Doom 3, looked very good despite this, however for some reason, Fable: The Lost Chapters looks like shit. It's not even just the aliasing, Fable: The Lost Chapters seems to have some kind of layer over the graphics that makes it look like old coloured newsprint; simply horrible.

After frowning over that, I watched Spider-Man 2 to finalize the colour calibration that I was looking for. Haven't watched the film for a while, and after settling on the set up I like, it looked gorgeous.

In a nutshell, aside from the poor looking Fable: The Lost Chapters, I've loved everything about my new LCD TV. I've used it a lot this week, and actually picked up an Xbox 360 to see how the up-conversion to 720p and full screen anti-aliasing would look on original Xbox titles, and so far all's well.

Fable: The Lost Chapters looks great off the Xbox 360, however since I can't transfer save games from my Xbox to Xbox 360, I need to put up with the low image quality to finish my original game. I think I'm close though, so it's no big deal.

I'll post about the Xbox 360 in detail in several days one I experiment with it more.

Halo 3 Vidocs Now Available

Bungie has released two Halo 3 vidocs (video documentaries) this week, the first a behind the scenes look at the making of the announcement trailer, the second a documentary at the revision and design process of the Brutes.

Both vidocs are nice views for Halo fans, especially the Brute doc. You can download them via the Xbox Live Marketplace if you have an Xbox 360. I haven't been able to find the announcement trailer vidoc for download elsewhere, though I really haven't looked and you can probably find it on a gaming site or video site.

The Brute documentary can be downloaded from Bungie's official site here.

On Vacation

Well kids, it's that holiday time of year which brings us to the true meaning of Christmas: Vacation. Seriously, it's not about the shopping or even the religious significance of the holiday season (that died with corporations decades ago), it's about not having to go to work for a bit and actually relaxing since everyone else is off to.

This all means I'll have some more time to work on the blog! Things on my To-Do list:

- Look into the new version of Blogger, which sadly has to do with stupid Google and their accounts.
- Post about my year-end awards.
- Discuss the new LCD TV I bought a week ago.
- Discuss the Xbox 360 I picked up at the beginning of this week.
- General News and Crap coverage.

From a gaming standpoint, I plan to:

- Try and finish The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II (PC).
- Complete Fable: The Lost Chapters (Xbox).
- Possibly complete Doom 3 (PC) for the 2nd time.
- Start playing Kameo: Elements of Power and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter.

Much to do, much to look forward to!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Windows Vista not Coping OS X Tiger

A buddy pointed this video out for me: Apparently, a lot of people are criticizing Windows Vista for coping Mac OS X Tiger, however according to David Pogue at The New York Times, this clearly isn't the case.

Watch his case by case comparison video here.

Well that settles it for me. As if Microsoft would ever copy anything from anyone else. Please.

Note: I've had a bunch of issues getting the above link to work. If you experience issues, go here and follow these steps:

1) Click "Technology" under the Channels column on the left
2) Click "David Pogue"
3) Click the video for Windows Vista David Pogue's Review

You'll most likely see a short ad first before the actual review.

World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Cinematic Trailer

I was writing this somewhat lengthy post about Blizzard Entertainment and their recently released Cinematic Trailer for World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade when Firefox 2 crashed on me and I lost everything I typed.

I'm not going to bother typing it all again, so I'll give you the short version:

- Blizzard Entertainment = Cash whores
- PC gaming = Heavily declined
- Warcraft storyline = De-evolved into soap opera stupidity

That is all.

Year End Awards Revision

It's coming up to the end of the year, which means in the next week or so it's time for my Year End Awards. Typically I do Games, Movies (Theatrical), and DVDs (I don't do music since my tastes are so specific as to be rather limited), however this year I'm encountering a rather large problem.

You see, I called it. 2006 has been a dud year for media. I've looked over everything I did this year, and while I normally do a Top 3 award list for each category, I've only acquired 2 games this year that have been released in 2006 (and both are fun enough but nothing ground breaking) and I've only seen two flicks in theatres, one of which was great the other which disappointed me.

I did purchase 3+ DVD's though, so I can do my DVD awards proper.

Anyway, due to the fact that I can't do my regular awards properly, I'm going to change things up a bit. Instead, I'm going to do a top three anticipated games for 2007 and perhaps I'll do an awards bit for the top three titles I've played that I've missed out on when they were released.

For movies, I'll do a top three films in general, including flicks I rented.

Seriously, 2006 was such a blah year for media, though I did find it good for books; got a lot of reading done. A lot of reading. So much so now that I think of it, perhaps I'll do a top three books as well, perhaps.

Anyway, at least 2007 looks to be very promising indeed.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Tim Horton's Conspiracy

Damn you Tim Horton's, I know you're plotting against me! Almost every time I randomly go to one of your establishments, you're out of chicken noodle soup. Yeah, that's right, you're blooming soup!

Yeah, I'm on to your little game! No one else has this problem, which means you're just out to get me, aren't you!

I mean, what'd I ever do to you, huh? Was it about that time I made a stink over the Boston Cream Donut that had no cream in it! Well? Was it?!? The donut's supposed to have cream in it, just like you're supposed to have chicken noodle soup!

You're open 24 hours, dammit, so if I stumble in at 3:00 am half drunk and looking for a bowl of soup, you should be able to provide for your customer!

Curse you Tim Horton's, curse you to the vile pits of Hell.


So I'll see you next week for a donut, right?

BioShock Official Site Launched, New Trailer, and Release Window

The official site for Irrational Game's upcoming FPS/RPG BioShock has been launched, and it features a new trailer that states the game's release window.

We can expect to get our grubby little hands on this anticipated title in Spring of 2007 for Xbox 360 and PC, about 6 months sooner than I expected!

In addition to the new trailer, the site features some new screenshots, a bit more story info, and a little virtual tour of parts of Rapture (I have yet to check this out).

I'm looking forward to this title even more than Mass Effect, for such is the fondness that I remember System Shock 2. So close and yet so far... 2006 has really been a dud year for gaming, but 2007 is looking to be filled with some very promising titles.

Halo 3 Documentary to be Released by Bungie Week of the 18th

There's been some rumours going around this week, so in their Weekly Update, Bungie has laid everything to rest.

1) There will be a new documentary for Halo 3 released the week of the 18th of Xbox Live Marketplace as well as online. Apparently, those interested in the Campaign (like me) will find it very interesting.

2) Brutes are not going to be a playable race.

I certainly agree with that notion, though I strongly hope the Arbiter is still playable. I really liked his character.

New Aliens Games!

20th Century Fox has teamed up with Sega to produce a couple of next gen titles based on the Alien franchise. Two titles have been announced, and Alien RPG that will be developed by Obsidian Entertainment, and an FPS developed by Gearbox Software.

This is some very interesting news, and I'm more interested for details about the RPG since FPSes have already been done in the Alien universe. Obsidian also did some solid work with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords, so assuming Sega and Fox refrain from rushing them as LucasArts did, I'm expecting a very solid and engrossing title.

A small teaser site has been launched by Sega here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Arbiter's Judgement gets Profound

Have you ever had anyone ask you who you are? I see this as an unfair question. How are you supposed to sum up everything you are into a couple of sentences, especially when we're each different things to different people; everyone sees us differently, we're more important or influential to some than to others.

The question the person should be asking is who you are to them, and in truth, only they can answer that, not you.

Which brings me to one point I don't understand: Why do so many people try to pretend to be someone they're not? Why do so many people try to hide their true self, are not happy with their true selves? The reason I don't understand this is because in the end, in the uttermost end, who we really, truly are to ourselves is all we have left.

So, who am I to you?

More Half-Life 2 Plush Toys

Just noticed that Valve Software has released two new plush toys on their online store, the Headcrab hat and a Vortigaunt.

If I ever saw anyone actually wearing the Headcrab hat, I'd have to hit them across the head with my crow bar. Good 'ol Blue.

Bungie Weekly Update Dec. 8th, 2006 - Halo 3 "Starry Night" Commercial

The topic of yesterday's Bungie Weekly Update is the creation of the Halo 3 "Starry Night Commercial," which you can check out here.

The most interesting detail I found is the first paragraph of the article:

"The funniest thing about the reaction to last week’s TV commercial was probably the oft-repeated claim that the CG on the two kids looked super fake. Which is especially amusing given that the kids, and even the clumps of grass around them, were real. It was all filled with real actors in a real studio. The CG doesn’t begin until you see the Chief’s helmet for the first time."

I told people the kids were real, but everyone thought they were CG, and by everyone I mean the Staff since he's the only one I've discussed the commercial with since its release.

The other interesting point I found is this:

"But the idea to show a young child and then jarringly switch to a battle weary soldier came from Tim Stier. By day he's an Art Director at McCann Worldgroup, SF, by night he's a Halo fanatic. We felt this misdirect would allow for people who had no idea who Master Chief was to be able to connect with a more human side of this war,..."

This supports my own belief that one of the kids is the Master Chief when he was a child prior to the Spartan-II program.

Mass Effect X06 Gameplay Video

Yesterday, Bioware released the gameplay trailer they featured at X06 (Microsoft's yearly Xbox show) for their upcoming Xbox 360 RPG, Mass Effect. You can download it off their site here in regular resolutions or in HD.

Now, where did I put my bib...

Apple Gaming Console

There's been a lot of talk this week about Apple possibly entering the console gaming market. You'll find articles all over the place, however I'll link to TeamXbox's article here.

Looks like Sony's planning ahead based on this as well, but Sony blew it with their ever-arrogant attitude already, so nuts to 'em.

Anyway, Macs give me enough headaches just word processing at the office, I find it hard to even consider the concept of them being a gaming platform. Macs are good at hardware failure, not playing video games.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Halo 3 "Starry Night" Commercial

On Monday night the new commercial for Halo 3 aired over some silly football game. Gay football aside, the ad is nice. You can check it out at Xbox's official site here, however even their supposed "high" resolution version looks like shit, and I recommend instead you head to TeamXbox here where you can both stream or download a standard or high def version. They also have several nice stills from the ad for your viewing pleasure.

One important thing to note is that this commercial is _not_ in game graphics, but is instead mostly CG work created by an outside, non-Bungie or Microsoft production company.

Cool things shown off in the ad (and yes, this is possibly spoiler territory):

- Possible the Master Chief, John, when he was a child
- A new kind of shield grenade
- Weapon storage on the Chief's armour
- A new look to the Brutes
- The simple truth that the war on Earth isn't going well for us humans

Watch, love it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta North American Registration Live

The registration for the Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta set for this spring is now live, and you can do so via the following newly launched site here.

I'm trying to sign up now and things are very, very slow, however I imagine the site's being hit real hard, so be patient. You'll also need to sign up for a Microsoft Global Account if you don't already have one.

The big question everyone seems to be having is regarding successful registration or not. A lot of people seem to be getting to a blank white screen with a copyright and links to the Privacy Statement and Terms of Use.

I signed up using Firefox 2, and got to this page after I submitted my info, so I'm not sure if the registration was successful or not. I tried using Internet Explorer 7 next, but got this white screen after selecting my country/language.

Not sure if it's working or not, so I'll try again in a few days.

UPDATE: Just gave it a try again tonight (Dec. 6th), and after filling out and submitting the form I got a proper confirmation screen. The pages are also loading up a shit load faster, so go sign up if you haven't already.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fable: The Lost Chapters Wife Beating

As you all know I've been playing Fable: The Lost Chapters (Xbox) recently, and I've actually been playing it a lot. The game has a lot of very realistic touches (with a sarcastic twist), and I love all the freedom it gives you.

Right now I own a marital home in Southern Bowerstone which I've done up nicely, and I also married the local bar-maid.

Anyway, a few days ago, while liberating a bordello from their cruel master, I accidentally bought 50 beers from a Tavern keeper (lousy lack of a confirmation dialogue box). I'm playing a good Hero character, so aside from a little petty theft, sleeping with one prostitute, and accidentally killing a few wondering Traders who got in the way of my arrows, I've been a pretty nice guy. That said, I decided to save my game and have some fun.

I teleported back to Southern Bowerstone and visited my wife, giving her beer after beer as a present until she was stumbling around the house drunk. I then started punching the snot out of her until she fell flat on the floor, at which point I began kicking her while she was down. I finished the whole affair off by doing the Sexy Hero Pose. After several seconds, she got up and began stumbling about, complaining about how she didn't feel good and needs to give up drinking.

The fact that you can actually do something like that is just bloody hilarious because it's so bad. Actually, one of the only things I heard you couldn't do in the game is kill children, though I haven't tried.

Upcoming Xbox 360 RPGs for '07

TeamXbox has an interesting article up that outlines the most anticipated RPGs coming in 2007 for the Xbox 360. On that list for me is Mass Effect, Fable 2, and The Lord of the Rings: The White Council.

I'd also have BioShock added to the list, however since its not a pure RPG, I guess that's why they omitted it.

Check out the full article here.

Mass Effect Interview

ActionTrip has posted an interesting interview with Casey Hudson, the project director for BioWare's upcoming Xbox 360 RPG, Mass Effect.

You can check it out right here.

Jade Empire (PC) Special Edition Available for Pre-Order

BioWare has announced that the Special Edition of Jade Empire (PC) is now available for pre-order, and with your order, you'll also receive a bonus Style, Rhino Transformation Style, on a separate disk.

Details at Gamestop here.

Halo 3 CG Trailer to Air this Monday

Tomorrow, the Halo 3 CG trailer that Bungie's been talking about will air over some football game. Afterwards, it'll be available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for anyone with an Xbox 360, and Bungie may host it on their site at sometime in the future.

I'm really looking forward to seeing it, however I expect I'll need to check around You Tube or something if I want to watch it before spring time.

It also never ceases to amaze me how the most homophobic nation in this hemisphere lusts after their homo-erotic sport. It's not real football after all, and is mostly just a bunch of guys humping each other on the ground for a minute followed by chugging Gatorade while scratching one's ass. Silly Americans.

Venom shown from Spider-Man 3

TeamXbox is hosting the first official images I've seen of Venom from the upcoming film, Spider-Man 3.

All I can say is, action figure, he looks like a plastic action figure. While the mouth itself looks cool, it's not the same without Venom's trademark tongue and drool. I also hope he's on all fours 'cause he's getting up, as having him run on all fours through the film will be an insult to the coolest comic character ever.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Doom 3 (PC) and Speed Demos

I've started playing through Doom 3 (PC) for the second time after all. Unfortunately, my father played through the game last on a fresh install, and he went through it on Easy, which means that Nightmare isn't unlocked. This means I'll need to play through the game on Veteran first and have to play through the PC version a third time to give Nightmare a go.

This time, however, I'm playing on the default brightness setting, which is very, very dark. I actually find that everything looks a lot better in the moodier lighting, and I've been given a good jump or so already (I'm getting near the end of Administration).

One thing I must say is that the Shotgun really does suck in the PC version, most unfortunate. I've taken a lot of extra damage and even died once 'cause the Shotgun is so bloody inaccurate, even at point-blank range sometimes. The Xbox version definitely revised the Shotgun's functionality for the better, even if it did loose some close up power there.

On the subject of speed demos, I once again visited the Speed Demos Archive and checked out a couple of different games. There was a new Doom 3 (PC) Nightmare run from this past June which was a lot of fun to watch (and put me in the mood to play through the game again), I check out a 35 minute System Shock 2 run on the Impossible difficulty (that was impressive), and finally I checked out a classic Diablo (PC) run.

Always fun to watch how these guys just blow through everything so fast, and you'll often learn a trick or two you'd never have thought of on your own; sure know I did.

Halo: Ghosts of Onyx Review

A few weeks ago, the most recent Halo novel, Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, hit retail shelves, and it quickly rose to the New York Times Best Seller list (like that list really means anything though) to compete with "real books."

Halo: Ghosts of Onyx is once again penned by Eric Nylund, the genius behind the first and third Halo novels (prequels to Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 respectively).

The novel's time line jumps a bit, but it all makes sense as to why. It starts out during the events of Halo: The Fall of Reach, and ultimately takes place after Halo 2, covering a lot of ground with human politics, the Forerunner's plans against the Flood (which are larger than just the Halo constructs), and details about the ongoing Human-Covenant War.

Without giving too much away, this is the first Halo novel that does not prominently feature the Master Chief or Cortana, however you will learn what happened to the rest of Blue Team and what the Master Chief may have been involved in had he not been on Cairo Station when the Covenant expeditionary fleet arrived at Earth. Great detail is shown about the lengths the higher human military is going through to try and keep a balance in the war against the Covenant, let alone to try and win it, and there were indeed many more Spartans after the Spartan-II project finished, though not the same kind of Spartans that we've come to expect.

The novel also goes into a bit more detail on the Covenant Civil War, most notably from the Elite's perspective, and what this may mean for the Halo universe in the future. And it's also official, Brutes are on Earth with the rest of the Covenant invading forces.

Halo: Ghosts of Onyx once again portrays military science fiction at it's best with a splendid mix of both action and character. Many of the novel-only plot elements from the previous Halo novels, most notably Forerunner, are expanded further or even explained, which is quite nice as we fans don't have to wait exclusively for Halo 3 to snag some more details on this great action universe.

Halo: Ghosts of Onyx is a grand continuation of Nylund's previous work, and if you enjoyed it then you will enjoy Ghosts of Onyx, plain and simple. If you haven't read the previous Halo novels and enjoy military science fiction, than you owe it to yourself to pick the series up. All the books are a gripping read, and they further expanding a richly detailed virtual universe that has sent shock waves the world over.

Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) Completed for the 5th Time

I've now completed Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox) for the 5th time, 6th if you count Co-op, and really, what more can I say about this ever amazing shooter that's been around for just over 5 years?

This is the title that made the Xbox, has garnered a massive fan base, and launched novels, toys, a graphic novel, and a whole lot of other merchandise. There's even a feature film in the works with Peter Jackson, though sadly it's on hold right now since the studios funding the film have pulled out.

The Halo franchise is a gaming phenomenon, and many gamers are eagerly awaiting Halo 3 for the Xbox 360. The gameplay of the series is so crisp, so action packed, and so varied on every play through that the Halo games are simply a joy to play through.

Now that I have Halo: Combat Evolved complete, I can return my attention to Fable: The Lost Chapters (Xbox), which I haven't touched in over two weeks. I also have a very strong desire to try my hand at Doom 3 (PC) on its Nightmare difficulty.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Series Canon

After a bit of drinking last Friday, I got to thinking about Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords and it's romance sub-plots and wondering if I did all there was to be done. I decided to check out Wikipedia, and while it appears I have completed all the romance plots over my 4 playthroughs of the game, I found out something much more interesting: what's considered canon. For those unaware, "canon" refers to what has officially happened in the medium's universe. For Star Wars, it's canon is defined by Wikipedia right here.

With the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic video game series, the great thing about it is that it's an RPG that lets you choose your path, light or dark, as well as gender, and no matter which path you choose in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, it'll flow into the sequel. However, according to Wikipedia and official Star Wars canon, there is a specific gender and path the player characters are meant to follow.

For Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Revan is supposed to be male and follow the Light Side. For Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords, the Exile is supposed to be female and though it's not official yet, it looks like the Light Side path will be the canon one. Wikipedia source for Revan's canon found here, and the Exile's canon details found here.

Now personally, based on how dark the story is for the sequel, it seems more logical for me that Revan would have went Dark Side. Based on some dialogue in the sequel, even if you select that Revan was female they'll refer to him as male, so I long since guessed Revan was meant to be male.

For the Exile, the game's story (and specifically the romance subplots) are much more developed if you play as a male character, thus I always figured the character was likely meant to be male. I did figure Light Side though, as again the story seems to fit better (and is more complete) with a Light Side playthrough.

It is too bad that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords was so rushed at the end; what the game could have been.

Regardless though, it is interesting to note what Lucasfilm considers to be the real storyline, in accordance with the films.