Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360) Impressions

Recently I've been feeling the desire to play through a solid RPG, and my thoughts kept going back to The Elder Scrolls. I picked up The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition for my Xbox late in the winter of '06, and while I found it engrossing at first, it was ultimately unfocused and a title I simply could not get through. After progressing about two thirds of the way through the main Quest with my Imperial Knight, I decided to sell it. While I was disappointed with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition's shortcomings, I did have a good time while it lasted.

With the RPG yearning upon me, I did a little research and last Friday I picked up The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for my Xbox 360. So far, the game is amazing.

The majority of my criticisms with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition have been addressed: Quest sorting, Full spoken dialogue, Fast travel, etc. The game's interface is more polished and streamlined, combat is more complex and engaging, and the world is simply beautiful to explore.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is set in the capital province of Cyrodil, and sees you released from the Imperial Prison by the Emperor (Patrick Stewart) himself to help find his last surviving son, Martin (Sean Bean). Of course, in traditional The Elder Scrolls fashion, you can spend as much or as little time as you want on the main Quest and do pretty much whatever you bloody well please.

I chose to play as a Male Dark Elf Scout, and at first I was focusing a good bit on the main Quest. Along the way I acquired a horse, and it was really cool to go galloping off in the country side. While I've done several side Quests as well, the most interesting two Quests I've done so far, one for the main Quest and one a side, have involved the town of Kvatch.

Daedra (demons) are opening up portals from Oblivion (Hell) and are invading Cyrodil. Unfortunately, they opened several small portals in Kvatch and over ran it, then closed those and opened one massive one right at the town's main gate, preventing anyone from going in.

I had to assist many of the surviving town guards in sealing the Oblivion gate and then securing the city. The entire affair took me a few hours, and was a great mix of combat, dialogue, and exploration. The game world itself is beautiful, and the destroyed ruins of Kvatch, along with the refugee camp near the ruins, are all wonderfully created.

The environments are the best outdoor environments I've seen in a game bar none, even Gears of War. While Gears of War has excellent dark and gritty city environments, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion features vast sprawling landscapes with such detail as I've never seen before. Simply look at and walk through a field of grass near a lake and mountains, and you'll understand what I mean.

Character models look good for the most part, except when you need to look at their faces up close, which happens often being a conversation driven RPG. At this close range, most character faces look like they were made of clay, however they are capable of animating a wide range of facial expressions.

All in all, I think I've spent around 15 hours exploring and Questing in Cyrodil, and there's just so much more to see and do.

Once I finally get through the game, which will probably be in a long while, I'll post as in-depth of a review as I'll be able to write. It will probably be very extensive, and yet greatly limited given the scope of the game, its world, and its history.

Xbox 360 Elite Canadian Prices and Date

The Canadian Xbox website has been updated with the Xbox 360 Elite console, including a release date and prices.

The Xbox 360 Elite will arrive on May 4th and retail for $549.99. The 120 GB HDD will retail for $209.99, and the Wireless Controller for $69.99.

Full details and further pricing info can be found in the official press release here.

The Xbox 360 Elite is going to be selling for about $50.00 less than I expected it would, so with that in mind I'd like to revise a previous statement from my announcement post below: I still think the Xbox 360 Elite is not worth a repurchase if you already own an Xbox 360 Core or Pro console, and I also do not believe the HDD is worth it's cost unless you're really packing a lot of media, however if you do not already own an Xbox 360, I would now recommend the Xbox 360 Elite over the Xbox 360 Pro.

An additional $50.00 is well worth the cost for an additional 100 GB of storage space and the HDMI cable. The only thing that would change my mind on this would be if the Xbox 360 Elite doesn't come pre-bundled with a good game or so.

One thing I'm disappointed with is the cost of the Wireless Controller. I was just at Best Buy today, and the Xbox 360 Wireless Controller is on sale for $49.99 (regular $59.99). This means that you'll be paying at least $10.00 more for the Xbox 360 Elite's Wireless Controller simply because it's black. That's totally an Apple-like rip-off scheme and is not worth it at all.

Xbox 360 Elite Officially Announced

Last night Microsoft unveiled their premium version of the Xbox 360, the Xbox 360 Elite.

The Xbox 360 Elite will be featured in a black finish, sport a 120 GB HDD, and have an HDMI port and cable. The console will begin arriving on store shelves around April 29th, and will retail for approx. $479.99 (US).

Many of the accessories will also be sold separately for current Xbox 360 owners. While there will be no way to provide Xbox 360 Core and Pro consoles with HDMI, owners of these consoles will be able to purchase the 120 GB HDD for approx. $179.99 (US). It will come with a special cable that will allow the transfer of content from your existing 20 GB HDD to the new premium HDD.

You will also be able to purchase the Wireless Controller, Battery Pack, and Play & Charge Kit, all at the standard prices. Full details can be read on the US Xbox site here.

Overall, this is a good move for Microsoft and one that will allow them to push harder on Sony. I'm going to expect the Xbox 360 Elite to retail for a max of $599.99 (Can). I've heard a rumour that Sony is canceling the PlayStation 3 20 GB HDD console, and while I don't know if this is true or not, I could not find it on Best Buy's web site, only their high-end model. It has a 60 GB HDD, an HDMI port but no HDMI cable and sells for $699.99 (Can). With Resistance: Fall of Man still the only exclusive title on the PlayStation 3 worth getting, I can't see any justification for its insane cost, and at present Microsoft and the Xbox 360 still win.

As to the superior console, like before, the previous gen has shown us that hardware means spit, its going to come down to the exclusive games and services. Right now, Sony has one top rated exclusive title, however if you really look at the Xbox 360 library, taking into account the release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on the PlayStation 3 last week, Microsoft also really has just one top rated title: Gears of War; however they also have Xbox Live which includes a bunch of low-cost classic titles in the form of Xbox Live Arcade, as well as the excellent Multiplayer support native to the service.

If you look at upcoming games, the Xbox 360 has Mass Effect, BioShock, Halo 3, and Fable 2, while the PlayStation 3's official site doesn't list a single PlayStation 3 title under it's upcoming games section.

For the Xbox 360 Elite itself, unless you're heavy into storing media and music on your HDD or you have a TV that can take proper advantage of the HDMI cable, the cool black finish alone doesn't warrant a re-purchase, and in my opinion not a purchase at all. For the Xbox 360, the Pro system (20 GB HDD, Component Cables) is still the way to go for your gaming needs, at least for now.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

TMNT Review

On Saturday I decided to indulge my inner child even further and go see TMNT (short for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for those not in the know). TMNT is the fourth film in the series, the first to be released since 1993, and also the first to be entirely computer animated.

Aside from sitting in a theatre filled with screaming 5-year-olds (which I was) and reliving my own childhood, I didn't expect too much. What did I get? One damned entertaining film.

TMNT is a darker, more grown up version of the Turtles than I remember from the before time, the long-long ago. While there were certainly cheesy jokes every now and again, the film's focus was not on retro '80's humour and it clearly shows.

Like the previous films, TMNT is based off of the comics and not the '80's cartoon that I knew and loved. With their defeat of Shredder at the end of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (TMNT thankfully makes no reference to the junk that was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III), the Turtles have begun to grow apart. Splinter (Mako) has sent Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor) to the South American rain forest to hone his leadership abilities, however his absence leaves a lack of focus in the rest of the team.

Meanwhile, April O'Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has been contracted by powerful tech-industrialist Max Winters (Patrick Stewart), to locate various Aztec-like statues for him which tie into his greater diabolical plan. Winters has formed an alliance with the Foot Clan, now lead by the mysterious Karai (Ziyi Zhang), and together they are amassing a small army of ancient monsters that have conveniently congregated in New York City. Casey Jones (Chris Evans) is also back and along for the ride as April's boyfriend and delivery man, and its certainly fun to watch him make stuff go smash.

While TMNT certainly won't win any awards over it's plot, it does have something that really surprised me for a Turtle film: dramatic tension.

The real focus of the story is the reconciliation and reformation of the Turtles as a team, and the character interactions, particularly the rivalry between Leonardo and Raphael (Nolan North) are well done. It is suitably comic book styled, dark, and in its own way touching. This form of storytelling also lends itself well to the great CG animation.

Though it was cool as a kid seeing live action Turtles in the previous films, CG has allowed the film makers to perform choreography while providing the film with an interesting visual style that would not have been possible with the puppet suits of 15 years ago. The Turtles, Foot Soldiers, monsters, etc. all move and fight with a gritty but slightly exaggerated form that I simply found entertaining. Being a darker rendition of the Turtles, the film is also more violent than the previous movies, but still within a PG, kid-friendly rating.

In the end, TMNT does justice to the heroes in the half shell. The film is only about an hour and fifteen minutes long, and it feels like a long television episode, however that's not a bad thing. If you weren't a fan of the Turtles as a kid and/or aren't big on CG, than you'll want to give it a pass, but otherwise, this is fresh, nostalgia gold. It's a new take on an old franchise, one that's grown with the times and provides a simple yet entertaining look at an odd familial bond. Oh, and Splinter likes watching Gilmore Girls. Yup, its like that.

Cowabunga dude.

3 New BioShock Videos

3 new videos for BioShock have surfaced. You can find two at TeamXbox here, and they feature a visual walkthrough of various areas in the game, basically a scenic hike.

The third can be found at the Cult of Rapture, and is a video depicting the winning entry for the first Screenshot Scenario Contest. It's a brief clip demonstrating the use of Telekineses to huck Grenades back at a Grenadier in the Medical Pavilion. Check it out here.

New The Lord of the Rings Novel Coming on April 17th

WTF? Would you believe I came across this article while looking up Gears of War pics?

Anyway, apparently The Independent, a British publication, is reporting that J.R.R. Tolkien's son Christopher, who was responsible for his father's posthumously publications, has completed one of his father's earliest works begun about 89 years ago, and it will be published on April 17th.

The title: The Children of Hurin.

The Tale of the Children of Hurin was a short and tragic tale that took place in the First Age of Middle-earth during the War of the Jewels, when the Elves and Dunedain (good men) waged hopeless war against Morgoth, the first Dark Lord and Sauron's master for the recovery of the Silmarils, the most beautiful gems ever created.

Hurin was a lord of one of the three houses of the Dunedain, the greatest mortal warrior the world had ever seen, and served directly under the High King of the Elves. In The Battle of Unnumbered Tears when Morgoth's forces crushed much of the armies of the Free Peoples, Hurin was taken captive and his land occupied by Orcs and Easterlings.

The tale of the Children of Hurin deals with the fortunes of his wife Morwen, son Turin, and daughter Nienor and the curse that Morgoth laid upon them. The story mainly follows Turin and his deeds, good and ill, as he attempts to find peace with the darkness of his own heart.

The tale appeared in brief in The Silmarillion, the final book to be published in the series in 1977, and a further expanded version was included in the companion book Unfinished Tales.

It is also my favourite tale from The Lord of the Rings universe. To have a full novel based upon it is something I never thought to see.

You can read the full article here.

Gears of War Insane Difficulty Comments

The second time I went through Gears of War, I started on Insane difficulty since I had already won on Hardcore. I thought I'd be ready to handle it. I was wrong. I was barely able to get past the prison facility and dropped the difficulty back down to Hardcore.

However I was determined to ultimately play through the game on Insane, mainly to earn the Gamer Picture you unlock with it (the same as the Commando Achievement icon). To that end, I decided to give Insane another go this past Sunday, and I won the game in about 24 hours, all Single Player.

The major difference in my play style from then to now is that Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter taught me to be patient, and I also made excellent use of blind fire. These key changes in the way I approached Insane Difficulty allowed me to trounce the Locust opposition with little more difficulty than my last play-through on Hardcore, and Insane is now my preferred difficulty for Gears of War.

Not only have I achieved ever Single Player achievement that Gears of War has to offer save Clusterluck (killing 3 enemies at the same time ten times), but I also earned my Gamer Picture, which you'll be able to see on the right tonight once Xbox Live and the official Xbox website are finished undergoing maintenance.

My major frustration with Gears of War on Insane difficulty is the same as my major gripe with the game in general: the Checkpoint save system. However since I've ranted and raved about that in many other posts I'll save you from reading a repeat.

The only other huge issue was General Raam. My tactic from Hardcore was no longer working, and after about 20 tries I consulted the official Xbox forum to see what other players have done. There I learned of a path finding issue that could happen with Raam (it's not a guarantee) which I was finally able to a) achieve and b) take proper advantage of, after about 20 more tries. Words can not describe my satisfaction once that cheap fucker finally died.

Overall, Gears of War is a great game, though playing through it here for the third time really has driven home how bloody short it is. I won it in about 6 to 7 hours of play time; say roughly 1.5 hours per Act (Act V would have been a lot shorter had it not been for the Checkpoint system and Raam).

Even taking that into account, however, it still is a must have title for the Xbox 360.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Final Spider-Man 3 Trailer

When I watched the 300 last weekend, they showed this great trailer for Spider-Man 3; a Venom trailer. It started off with Eddie Brock walking into a church and asking God for one thing: to kill Spider-Man. At that point Spider-Man tore off the symbiote costume and it ended up merging with Brock to create Venom.

The trailer showed a lot of great footage that I hadn't seen before, and since then I and my crack team of gerbils have been scouring the net looking for it, but to no avail.

Well this morning I saw on the main Spider-Man 3 site a link for the final trailer exclusively at a special site on Comcast.

This is not the trailer I saw with 300, however it does have a lot of the footage from that trailer, as well as a whole lot more. It's 3 minutes long and if you are in anyway looking forward to Spider-Man 3, I suggest you check it out. Immediately.

Well, why are you still reading this? Go here, and click on the "Exclusive Final Trailer" link on the curb now!

Halo 2 (Xbox) Xbox 360 Experience

A few days ago I finished Halo 2 (Xbox) for what I believe is the 6th time, however this time I went through it on my Xbox 360 in all its 720p, full screen anti-aliasing, wide screen glory. First and foremost for a game based on such old tech, it looked really gorgeous all things considered. While I noticed less of an overall quality increase than I did with Fable: The Lost Chapters, the game was certainly crisper, and wide screen is just such a natural extension for this great game. Objects (like enemies) in the distance were still very blurry, sadly, but upscaling can only do so much.

The only annoying problem with Halo 2 on the Xbox 360 was the known graphical ghosting issue that often occurred, especially towards the last third of the game. It seems that when you look at certain 2-D backgrounds, particularly those flat background images on Delta Halo, the image may leave a residual "ghost" image on the screen. Sometimes this image was minor and you could easily ignore it, other times, it was so damn noticeable that it actually obscured your regular vision. The only solution right now, unless they can fix that in a future emulator update, is to return to the Dashboard and restart Halo 2 again. A simple fix, but annoying since it kills momentum.

I'm also not sure if I was just very rusty or what, but Halo 2 on Heroic seemed a whole lot harder than I remembered it. I don't think that Microsoft did any balancing or AI changes within the emulator, so I'm guessing it was just me, but when a simple Drone needs 4 bursts from my Battle Rifle to die... and that damned Check Point system...

Despite the ghosting issue, my own rusty-ness, and the traditional console designer's hard-on over an inferior archaic save system, Halo 2 is still a blast to play. It's a sold shooter gameplay-wise with great enemy AI, combat variety, and sheer excitement.

With all the visual enhancements that the Xbox 360 is capable of bringing to Halo 2, I just want Halo 3 that much more...

Additional Mass Effect Screenshots

BioWare has posted a few more screenshots for Mass Effect, which you can find on the official screenshot page here. Please note shots may require a bib.

Bungie Relaunches Web Site, Halo 3 Weekly Update

Bungie has relaunched their web site with a shiney, simpler to navigate version. You can check it out here, and then also check out the Halo 3 Weekly Update where they chat about sky, water, and AI. Oh my!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Fable: The Lost Chapters (Xbox) "Evil" Path

I finished Fable: The Lost Chapters (Xbox) for the second time last weekend, playing through it on my Xbox 360.

A quick note on backwards compatibility: The game looked very nice playing at 720p, even without stretching it to a 16x9 aspect ratio, and you could really notice the resolution increase and full screen anti-aliasing. With the exception of texture quality, something the Xbox 360's emulator can't change, the face lift on Fable: The Lost Chapters was fabulous. It also resolved the crappy image output that Fable: The Lost Chapters was displaying on my LCD TV with my original Xbox.

The only known issue with Fable: The Lost Chapters on the Xbox 360 is a random audio hiss and pop, however it's really a minor problem and something I quickly got used to. Sometimes it would happen once ever few minutes, other times I didn't hear it for hours.

Anyway, on this play through I decided to be grrr... evil, however when all is said and done, the game really didn't feel right going down that path, and the story, Quests and characters seemed to be mainly set up for a "good" Hero.

In truth, Fable: The Lost Chapters played very much the same with either path. Aside from my Hero's visual appearance, the main difference was that most villagers and traders immediately ran screaming from me, and no one fell in love with me. Granted I could do some other very evil things, but the end result of the game is the same with no real consequences to the world itself.

And in truth this criticism goes for all RPGs with light and dark paths: Developers, please stop making the dark path one where I'm basically a schoolyard bully instead of a calculating and sinister villain. Also please stop catering all the main Quests to those of a good Hero. If I'm playing the part of the bad guy, I want to feel like a really great anti-hero, someone with an intelligent purpose to go about my Quest for global domination or whatever. I want to feel like Vader or the Witch King, not Nelson Muntz.

Regardless, the gameplay itself was still first rate. The world of Albion has enough options and things to do that it was never dull, and will certainly be worth an additional play through, probably before I pick up the upcoming sequel.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Trade in 4 Games, Get Halo 3 for Free

Damn, had I known that this promotion would have come up a few months ago, I would have held off on selling some old games.

Blockbuster is allowing anyone to pre-order Halo 3 for free if they trade in 4 previously played games at the time of pre-order, and for just $10.00 more you can pre-order the Halo 3: Limited Edition.

Let's see, trading in most titles these days would net you between $5.00 to $10.00 a title, so basically you'd be clearing some shelf space and getting anywhere from $10.00 to $20.00 of your copy of Halo 3 from a conventional retail purchase.

If you have the old games to get rid of, I'd call that a win. Find the full details at Blockbuster here.

300 Review

The 300 is the single most successful film at the box office this year thus far, hyped as a historical action epic depicting the stand of 300 Spartans against the entire Persian army. The actual historical event is one of legendary proportions, but once you get past the testosterone fueled hype of muscular men shouting and killing shit, how does the film really stand?

Well, as I watched it, I couldn't help but draw the analogy that 300 is the Gears of War for this year's cinema, boasting many of the same highlights and downfalls. Does this mean that 300 is a "destroyed beauty?" In my opinion yes. To sum it up, 300 is a visual spectacle with great effects and battle sequences set against a dramatic and detailed back story, but it fails to delivery the drama or tension of that story, leaving its characters generally hollow and unfulfilling.

300 deals with the Battle of Thermopylae, in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) of Sparta, forbidden against resisting the pending invasion of Xerxes' (Rodrigo Santoro) Persian army, leads a mere 300 of his men to defend the pass the invaders must cross. Over the next few days they fight valiantly against impossible odds while Leonidas' wife, Queen Gorgo (Leena Heady) attempts to convince the Senate to allow the full assembly of the Spartan army.

Like Gears of War, the film is visually spectacular, featuring an interesting subdued colour scheme and exaggerated characters (no doubt inspired by the graphic novel the film is based on) for the "evil" Persian army. So much so in fact that various characters look like Orcs straight out of The Lord of the Rings, or a twisted monster that would fit well in Doom 3. All in all 300 provides a rather interesting look to the typical historical epic, while retaining the exaggerated flare that makes any teenage boy drool over in action sequences.

Make no mistake, the battles themselves are some of the most unique I've seen in a historical film, featuring a great blend of effects, choreography, and over the top finesse combined with the unique visual style which really drives the prowess of the Spartans home.

The sound track is filled with a heavy musical score that punctuates the battles, a lot of heavy guitar riffs, which is again an interesting contrast from the traditionally composed scores of historical epics. The entire film is narrated by Dilios (David Wenham) one of the 300 Spartans who fought beside Leonidas which provides a nice hands-on approach to the traditional narrator.

Unfortunately despite all this flare, the characters themselves are very one dimensional, predictable, and as a result, disposable. There is no drama or tension, or even inner conflict that propelled the empathy of such epics like Braveheart or Gladiator, there is simply the spectacle of the action. And unlike Gears of War, which has you actually playing and thus participating to help overlook its story line's shortcomings, 300 has no such interactive grace.

The question of course is if 300 is worth both your time and money, and despite its shortcomings and overall lack of depth, I would say yes. 300 has enough going for it to keep you entertained as you're mesmerized by a hail of arrows that block out the sun, the grim march of a perfectly disciplined phalanx against charging cavalry, or the wanna-be Troll of Mumakil battles ripped from The Lord of the Rings.

While 300 will be overshadowed as the year goes on (Spider-Man 3), it's the best film to grace the silver screen in nearly a year, and for that reason is should not be missed.

Teenage Mustant Ninja Turtles 1989 Classic Arcade (Xbox 360) Review

Being a child born in the '80's, I was swept up in the whole Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze, and I was, of course, a huge fan of the Arcade Game that was released in '89. I don't even want to guess as to how many quarters I spent playing with those Heroes in a Half-Shell, but suffice to say when I saw this title as a brand new Xbox Live Arcade title last week, I nearly pissed myself silly.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989 Classic Arcade was not the best side-scrolling beat 'em up of all time, or even of its time, but it had the Turtles and the Turtles were cool. With this Xbox Live Arcade release, it's nothing but pure nostalgia.

The game begins with the Turtles and Splinter on a rooftop noticing a fire at April's apartment, and of course our heroes spring into action to save her. It becomes immediately obvious that Shredder is behind this chaos, and the Turtles embark on a mission to save April (and also Splinter who gets captured somehow) and to foil his evil non-descript plans. Needless to say the game isn't big on plot, but it is big on simple, classic fun.

You can choose to play as either of the four Turtles who all basically fight the same. They each have an attack (which seems to randomly throw an enemy if you're in close), jump, jump kick, jump slashing attack, and a special move by hitting attack + jump. That's it, those are the simple controls. Again, all the Turtles pretty much fight the same, with Donatello having longer reach, Raphael being able to attack a little faster, etc.

The levels themselves are very short, and I'm glad that the game was only 400 Microsoft Points, as I was able to win it in about 30 minutes. Back in the day, you were limited by how many quarters you had, however now, you can simply keep continuing which sadly removes some of the challenge and tension. This does serve to highlight how cheap some of enemies and bosses are though, as they were designed to kill you so you'd need to keep spending cash to play.

The Single Player game features drop-in, drop-out Co-op for up to four players at any time, and you can of course play over Xbox Live. The game, just like back in the arcade, is more fun with more players simply because there's a lot more enemies on screen to mindlessly smash and bash. Even as a Single Player game though, it's a great trip down pixelated, low sound byte memory lane.

My only major criticism with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989 Classic Arcade is that the game's Achievements are buggy, not always granting them to you if you succeed, and sometimes giving them to you even when you shouldn't have earned them. It makes no sense to me, but at this point in time, I only have 2 more Single Player Achievements to earn.

So is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989 Classic Arcade worth your (approx.) $6.00? In my opinion, as a huge childhood fan of the game: Yes. It provides some great, simple, short term entertainment that'll leave you shouting cowabunga!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Three Editions of Halo 3 Officially Announced

Microsoft has officially announced the three different editions of Halo 3 that will be released to stores this fall: Halo 3, Halo 3: Limited Edition, and Halo 3: Legendary Edition.

Halo 3 will simply be the game, DVD case, and manual itself, retailing for approximately $69.99.

Halo 3: Limited Edition will contain a bonus disc featuring documentary material, an art/story book, and come in a metal collector's case with plastic sleeve like many other standard Xbox collector's titles (save that it's a large metal case like the Gears of War Collector's Edition. This will retail for about $79.99.

Halo 3: Legendary Edition comes with a second bonus disc mainly featuring re-mastered cinematics from the first two games, and it comes in a Spartan-II Helmet case based on the Mark VI Mjolinir armour. Also included will be a collection of original storyboard art. This package will retail for $149.99.

Now, these different editions remind me a lot of when The Lord of the Rings was released to DVD. You could get the basic theatrical version, and this was fine and inexpensive for the casual fan, or you could wait for the 4-Disc Special Extended Editions that certainly cost more, but where expanded cuts of the films adding anywhere from an extra 30 minutes to full hour of story and character development, plus including several hours of doc material.

You could also have purchased the Collector's DVD Gift Set which featured some nicely crafted bonus piece akin to the Spartan-II helmet here. And while it would have been cool to have owned some Argonath bookends, the insane cost was just to much for all but the craziest and most hardcore of Tolkien fans.

So in a nutshell, I'm a huge Halo fan, I'd love to have the Legendary Edition, but not at that cost! You're paying an extra $70.00 for storyboards, cinematics you probably already own, and of course the Spartan-II Helmet case. I'm sorry, but I fail to see the worth and would gladly use that $70.00 to buy, oh I don't know, a second video game!

More pics available at TeamXbox here.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

NHL 2007 (Xbox 360) Demo Impressions

Also gave a try to the demo of NHL 07 (Xbox 360). While I was disappointed that it didn't contain an actual game, just the shoot out mode, it was fun while it lasted.

You basically get to play as either the Edmonton Oilers or Carolina Hurricanes in a shoot out, which featured some interesting yet tricky to master controls.

You controlled your player with the left thumb stick, but shooting was handled with the right thumb stick. Up is a wrist shot, holding down, then up is a slap shot, and move left and right will stick handle.

I've actually found it very hard to score, but with only such a small portion of one of the game's features to sample, I'm not going to rush out and buy it.

Sorry, EA, but next time release a real demo.

Crackdown Demo Impressions

Tried the Crackdown demo a while back, wasn't my thing. Talk to Telly, he seems to be all mesmerized by it.

That, and he snagged it for the Halo 3 Multiplayer Beta invite, which still cracks me up since he used to whine about not liking Multiplayer games.


Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (Xbox 360) Single Player Demo Impressions

After completing Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360), I downloaded the Single Player demo for the sequel and gave it a go.

In a nut shell, it seems to be more of the same with some control and interface improvements.

Once again you're cast in the role of Scott Mitchell, and the demo sees you dropped off near the Mexican border where you need to slowly advance and clear out enemy outpost positions (usually garrisoned by a few to half dozen Mexicans) until you reach one of their bases of operations.

This basically means you're creeping forward and picking off targets as you go, using you Drone to recon ahead. The Drone's controls have been streamlined, however the biggest control improvement for me is with weapon selection.

Instead of needing to navigate multiple sub menus, you can now simply use the D-Pad to quickly select the weapons you're carrying, which really helps you maintain efficiency on the fly. There's no more bumbling around when you want a grenade, you can quickly select and go which is a big improvement for the series' pacing.

You also get to tinker with the new Mule, a robotic little land rover that carries weapons and ammo for you and can act as a scout, which like the drone you can control via your Cross-Com.

You ultimately get to assault the enemy base with some squad mates, but once the battle really heats up the demo ends.

In short, it was fun but felt much like the original title, and that basically means not worth the price of admission.

I'll probably give Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 a rent when I'm on vacation soon. I also hear its just as short as the original.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360) Review

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter was released about a year ago and was met with rave reviews. The game has had such great success that Microsoft and Ubisoft partnered up to include a copy of the game with the Xbox 360 Holiday Bundle, which I ended up purchasing.

Anyone who's read my blog in the last few months will know that I did not like Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter at first, and its taken me a lot to get into. I found the controls a bit clunky and it has some cheesy design decisions, however once I re-paced myself and really gave it a chance, I did mainly enjoy the game, especially because it was free.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is set in Mexico City in 2013. The Canadian Prime Minister, US, and Mexican Presidents are gathering together to sign a new joint security agreement, however a rebel Mexican General has seized this opportunity to stage a coupe. Luckily the Ghosts, elite American soldiers, are in the city on a separate machine and are able to spring into action once all hell breaks loose.

To be honest, while certainly having an interesting back story the game's story itself is rather weak and simplistic. There is no real drama or tension, however the game's focus is really on its tactical shooter gameplay.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is meant to be played from a third person perspective. You take control of Scott Mitchell, Captain of the Ghosts, and you're sent on several missions ranging from escorts, to base assaults, to securing locations. There's a good variety of missions in the game, completed either solo or with squad mates, however some are implemented better than others.

As Mitchell you can change your stance from standing, to crouching, to lying prone, change your weapon's rate of fire, zoom, hold your breath, use a frag or smoke grenades, and most importantly, take cover! Like Gears of War, the game is all about cover except that even on Normal, Mitchell is much more fragile than Fenix is. And yes, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter also uses the same styled inadequate checkpoint system that Gears of War uses, and yes, you can heal your squad mates but if you die it's game over. I ranted and raved enough about those brain dead design decisions in my Gears of War review, so I won't repeat them here.

Squad control is done a little differently than the norm in Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. You have what's called the Cross-Com, a tactical device built into your HUD with info fed to it from satellites. Basically, it helps you quickly identify targets, track your squad, locate objectives, etc. It has video displays to see what your squad is seeing, to receive video briefings, and to control a surveillance drone. The concept of the Cross-Com is really cool, and one of the game's big appeals.

For your squad, you often get to select three other team members (you can have a rifleman, grenadier, sniper, etc.), and you can give them very simple commands like move, regroup, etc. You can also set them to being defensive or offensive. This also goes for the choppers, tanks, and other vehicles you'll be able to briefly control in the game.

While your squad mates are certainly helpful and can also provide a nice distraction for the enemy, I often found their AI really dumb. They sometimes had problems keeping up with me, acquiring targets, etc. which made them more of a liability. Still with a full squad and in certain situations, fire fights were intense, challenging, and fun.

Graphically the game looks great. Character models are solid, and the environments, though lower textured, are massive. Flying in on a chopper and actually seeing a fully rendered version of Mexico City is just breathtaking. Audio wise the game has great sound effects, but average voice acting and mixed music. Some of the game's music really suits the tone, but some "sell out" tracks are thrown in at weird moments and just feel out of place.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is also not a very long Single Player game, and if you sit down for a while, you could probably win it in about 8 hours; a few play sessions. Granted the play time was extended for me simply because I had to keep reloading checkpoints that kept forcing me to repeat long jaunts or battles I had already cleared several times before, and one time the game even glitched and prevented me from completing an objective, and therefore advancing, after 30 minutes of hard work. The check point system decided to simply not work then to, and I had to start the whole level over again.

So what's the verdict? Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter is a good tactical shooter with some nice features, great graphics, and good battles, but it's honestly over-hyped and in my opinion not worth the purchase. I wouldn't have bought it if it didn't come with my system, and my advice to you is simply to rent it. You'll be able to win it in your rental time.

I'm Free, I'm Free!

For the two of you that've actually been coming here, you've probably noticed the lack of updates. Well I spent the last two weeks living at my office, eating stale pizza and drinking poorly pre-made hot chocolate.

Damn chairs weren't that comfortable to sleep in either.

Well, that insanity is over and done, so expect some updates and reviews this weekend.

Oh, and this pic isn't actually my office. Since I set up my building(s) from the ground up, they look much crappier.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Halo 3 Spiker Profiled

Continuing with their profiling of the new weapons for Halo 3, Bungie has posted the details on the Brute "Spiker" that we saw in the Brute Vidoc released a few months back.

Looks like it'll be the Covenant version of the SMG, but with some interesting twists.

You can check it out here.

Fan Creates Life-Like MA5C Assault Rifle

Nerdy but cool, a fan has created a real-life replica of the MA5C Assault Rifle featured in Halo 3. You can check it out as well as a bunch of pics over at TeamXbox here.

BioShock Officially Dated, First Screen Shot Scenario

BioShock will officially hit store shelves on Tues. Aug. 21, 2007 according to the Cult of Rapture. While it's unfortunate that we'll need to wait a few months longer than the original "June" release date, I'd rather Irrational take the time they need to polish the game properly.

Come to think of it, it was around that time in 1999 that System Shock 2 was released. Coincidence?

The Cult of Rapture has also released its first Screen Shot Contest, which you can read about including the rules here. Comes with some nice new screenshots as well.

Finally, they released 2 new BioShock wallpapers which you can find here.

Argh! I want this game!