Saturday, July 28, 2007

Summer Game Savings at Best Buy

Went to the mall today and took a stroll through Best Buy only to learn that they're having a sale on most of their (console) games.

Best Buy is giving out coupons that will get you $5.00 off the purchase of any game for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PSP, Wii, and DS.

They also have specific games on sale with specific $5.00 off coupons (Can't be combined with the general $5.00 off).

I found that Spider-Man 3 (Xbox 360) had been cut to only $29.99, and with the coupon, it cost me the same as lunch at a bar, so I figured what the hell. I am a black costume whore after all.

Mass Effect Interview and Gameplay Demo

IGN Xbox 360 has a great 20 minute video up that shows off a lot of gameplay footage from Mass Effect.

The game is looking slick and if you're an RPG fan, you will want to check this video out. It shows of combat, vehicles, conversation, character sheets, etc. Great, detailed stuff.

Halo 3 Replica Covenant Weapons

In Bungie's most recent Weekly Update here, they reveal some Halo 3 toy replica weapons that are on the way for October. Kind of cool, I guess.

I suppose I could use the Plasma Pistol to whip the Staff over the head, get his sorry ass posting again.

Gears of War PC Content NOT Coming to Xbox 360

Saw over at ActionTrip that IGN PC has posted up a Q&A with Epic Games about Gears of War (PC), and apparently the exclusive content is not coming to the Xbox 360.

You can read the Q&A here, but basically the gist of it is that the PC version of the game uses an enhanced version of the Unreal Engine 3, and it's not really technically compatible with the Xbox 360 version.

They also go on to detail that the exclusive Single Player content takes place during Act V, and begins with Delta Squad in the APC fleeing from the Brumak and ultimately taking the beast down to get to what we've already experienced as the beginning of Act V. It'll also explain the train and how the lightmass bomb got on there, which was basically the only major plot whole in the Gears of War narrative.

Now, call me crazy, but this basically smacks of BS to me. Why? For Single Player content at least, they could port it to the older version of the engine, it's just that at present they don't want to take the time to do so. Also, the whole Brumak battle and extra content they mention was obviously supposed to be included in the Xbox 360 version to begin with since it properly fleshes out a plot whole in the story, so either Epic created it and waited to release it as cash-grab content for the PC version, or they couldn't get everything done in time for Emergence Day and for whatever reason chose this content to cut.

Whatever the reasons, if Epic wanted to, they could port this to the Xbox 360, and since doing so would be a nice cash grab (and also wouldn't require new Achievements since it's part of Act V), it wouldn't surprise me if we still see it in a year. Remember, for the longest time Epic was also denying the existence of a PC version of the game...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gears of War (PC) Brumak Battle Footage

Found a video over at IGN PC that showcases a Brumak battle exclusive to the upcoming PC version of Gears of War.

You can watch it jealously in all its high-res glory here.

I want to fight a Brumak dammit!

Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (Xbox 360) E3 2006 Demo Impressions

Last weekend I finally got around to trying out the Single Player Demo for Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (Xbox 360), and my finally verdict: Not my thing.

My impressions of the demo started off very well. Heck, I was some kind of sci-fi soldier in a extreme environment fighting alien bugs. I'm an Alien whore, what can I say.

But after a while of tinkering, I found I wasn't big on the Controller layout. Granted, this could probably be changed in the retail game, so I can let that pass, but what really irked me is the cold damage you take after a while.

I always play my shooters carefully, slowly taking out opponent instead of just running and gunning. I found that the ultimate cold damage you're forced to take made me feel rushed, and I didn't like that design aspect.

While certainly a cool concept for the crowded shooter genre, it wasn't my thing, and I couldn't be bothered to finish the last Demo level. I'll pass and wait for the next big thing, thanks.

StarCraft II - Protoss Twilight Archon Revealed

Blizzard Entertainment has revealed yet another Protoss unit for StarCraft II: The Twilight Archon.

You can check out all the details here.

Mass Effect E3 2007 Director's Cut Trailer

BioWare has released via GameSpot a Director's Cut of their recent Mass Effect Trailer from E3 2007.

Generally speaking, the Director's Cut features a lot more gameplay footage, and for that reason feels a lot less cinematic (which is why as a trailer, I prefer the original one), however it is still certainly worth a watch to wet your appetite a little more.

You can find it right here.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Game of the Year Edition Site Launched

Bethesda Softworks has launched a small site for their upcoming The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Game of the Year Edition. Not much new info there, but worth a glance.

The Orange Box Web Site Live

Valve has put up a site for their upcoming compilation title, The Orange Box, which includes Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Team Fortress 2, and Portal.

Looks like this new site replaces the older Half-Life 2 sites.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Transformers Review

Best movie of the summer. If you like retro 80's Saturday morning cheese, then you will love Transformers, it's that simple. Transformers features brilliant wit and charm, and a great mix of what we all loved about the cartoon as children, but modernizing it so we'll enjoy it at our age now. The filmmakers knew their target audience well, and they really catered to us.

Transformers follows the epic conflict of the heroic Autobots versus the evil Decepticons, though the premise behind their conflict is slightly different from the '80's cartoon. In the cartoon, if I remember correctly, the Decepticons were pursing fleeing Autobots and they both crash landed on Earth. The remainder of the show focused on the Decepticons attempting to collect lots of Energon Cubes so they could get back to Cybertron, and of course the Autobots would always stop them. Oh, and there were a few annoying humans who always got in the way.

In the film, the Autobots and Decepticons are racing to recover a powerful artifact called the Allspark, an artifact that would allow the Decepticons to turn Earth's machines into Decepticons themselves and then conquer the galaxy. The key to the Allspark is a teenager named Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), and his love interest Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox). Seems Sam's ancestor has some info on the Allspark that Sam unknowingly inherits, and once the Decepticons, who are already on Earth, learn of this, they begin hunting him down. Luckily for Sam his first car just happens to be Bumblebee (voice of Mark Ryan), who can help protect him and call in the cavalry.

Also throw into the mix some US soldiers who's base in Iraq gets whipped out by Blackout and Scorponok, some computer experts for the Pentagon, and shadowy government agents and you have a great ragtag cast for a robot bashing movie. And for the Transformers themselves, almost everyone's favourites are here: Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen), Megatron (voice of Hugo Weaving), Starscream (voice of Charles Adler), Jazz (voice of Darius McCrary), etc., though I found I remembered all the Autobots, but not as many of the Decepticons, of which there were more.

Aside from the military base that gets whipped out, the film starts of slow, introducing the characters and building the plot. We mainly follow Sam, who's a dork trying to score with the beautiful Mikaela (I know I should be watching the robots, but her cleavage throughout the whole film is just jaw-dropping), when they both end up getting pursued by various Decepticons. The Autobots, of course, come to the rescue, and the latter part of the film is a roller coaster of amazing effects and action as an entire city gets torn apart.

Not only will you be laughing your ass off at Sam's pathetic nature, but you'll also crack up over the cheese of some one liners and pop culture references from the Autobots, as well as an amazing scene involving an indian call centre rep. Best. Scene. Ever.

My only gripe, my only major gripe with Transformers is with Megatron. Everyone knows Megatron, and everyone loves Megatron since he's so evil, but he's a jet. A Cybertronian jet, but a jet non-the-less. He should be a gun. Megatron is supposed to be a gun! I don't care how cheesy you think that is (um, you have retro '80's robots from a planet called Cybertron), but Megatron should transform into a gun, and anything else is blasphemy. If the Allspark can change into the size of a Rubik's Cube, Megatron can change into a smaller gun for Starscream to fire.

Aside from that, I had no issue with any of the other changes to the Transformers since there were copyright issues the filmmakers had to work around, and the essence of their characters were portrayed well.

So to reiterate, Robots go smash plus nostalgia plus cleavage equals yes. Go see Transformers and remember what it's like to be 10 again.

Golden Axe (Xbox 360) Review

The second classic Sega title that Microsoft released this past Wednesday is Golden Axe, and this is one game that I remembered very fondly from the Sega Genesis, and so I spent the 400 Microsoft Points on the full version.

Golden Axe was originally released back in 1989, and casts you in the role of either a Fighter, an Amazon, or a Dwarf as you travel through some misc. kingdom to defeat the evil warlord Death-Adder. Death-Adder has captured the King and Princess and is terrorizing the land, and though it is a very simplistic story to be sure, the game itself features top-notch classic side scrolling gameplay.

Generally speaking, you progress through the level hacking and slashing your enemies, and you can also jump attack, shoulder dash, and of course, cast Magic. Each character has their own Magic spell, and you need to have potions in order to cast it. The more potions you have, the more powerful you're Magic will be. You obtain potions, and also food to restore health, by kicking thieves, thieves who can also steal a few of your blue potions during little mini-game levels. It's a fun little concept that works well.

Another cool feature of Golden Axe is the ability to ride certain animals, such as a fire breathing dragon. You first need to knock one of Death-Adder's minions off the beast, and then it will allow anyone else to ride it, but of course, you can be knocked off just as easily. Proper care of your beast can make a level all the easier.

Golden Axe is a great classic side scroller, with all the fun and cheese of a retro '80's game thrown in. Though short, you can hope onto Xbox Live and play with another person (so long as you both have Gold Memberships), or you can simply play Co-op with a friend off the same console, both of which add a little replay value. This is a great game, and a great purchase at such a low cost. If only a lot of other Xbox Live Arcade titles were this inexpensive and fun.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Xbox Live Arcade) Impressions

This past Wednesday, Microsoft released two classic Sega titles to Xbox Live Arcade, the first of which is the original Sonic the Hedgehog.

In brief, while I was growing up, I often went over to a buddy's place and played on his Sega Genesis, and of course we tinkered with Sonic the Hedgehog since it came with it. As far as I can remember, the Xbox Live Arcade version plays just like the classic of yesteryear.

Now, as I mentioned, I just tinkered with Sonic the Hedgehog back then, and I never really got into it (I always preferred Nintendo's sidescrollers), and that still holds through today.

There's no real nostalgia mixed in with it for me, so I went through as much of the Demo as I could, collecting Rings and spinning onto enemies, and then removed it from my HDD.

While it is only 400 Microsoft Points for the full version, for me, it isn't worth it enough.

Still, it's nice to see such recognizable classics being brought onto Xbox Live Arcade.

Xbox 360 Backward Compatibility Update

According to the American Xbox site, Microsoft has released an update to its Backward Compatible software, adding several additional Xbox titles that will now play on the Xbox 360.

Of note, Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind will now play on Microsoft's current gen console.

With the addition of Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil, every single Xbox game I own now plays on the Xbox 360.

For The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, I am not sure if it includes The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition, so you'll need to test that. Perhaps someone can confirm it for me, since I sold my copy over a year ago.

You can view the full list of updates here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Star Wars - The Force Unleashed Site Redesign, Trailer, and Release Date

The site for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed has received a major update update, including an excellent teaser trailer. The game is also dated for a Spring 2008 release.

Seriously, using the Force to whip troopers and such around like that is going to be so sadistically fun...!

Halo - Contact Harvest Cover

In their latest Weekly Update, Bungie chats a bit about E3, the Campaign, and also reveals the cover for the upcoming novel, Halo - Contact Harvest.

It will be interesting to read about how the war actually started. I hope they release it as a standard paperback first though.

E3 BioShock Screens

TeamXbox is hosting some new screenshots from BioShock straight from E3, which can be viewed here.

Just over a month away!

Fable 2 Screenshots

Lionhead Studios has released the first screenshot from Fable 2 here, which is a picture of the town of Bowerstone.

TeamXbox also has a hands-on preview here, and some additional screenshots here.

Warcraft III - Reign of Chaos 5 Years Anniversary

Warcraft III - Reign of Chaos has turned 5 years old, and Blizzard Entertainment is celebrating with a written retrospective.

Warcraft III - Reign of Chaos was a great RTS with RPG elements back in its day, and was a game I had a lot of fun with playing over and in various tournaments.

You can check out the retrospective here.

StarCraft II Protoss Warp Ray Revealed

Blizzard Entertainment has revealed another Protoss unit for StarCraft II, a new capital ship called the Warp Ray. You can find out all about it here.

They've also updated most of their other Protoss units with additional sounds, so make sure to check that out as well.

An Open Letter to Microsoft

Dear Microsoft,

Please make me a Decepticon Xbox 360 like the one that was recently featured in Transformers.

An Xbox 360 that can transform into a robot and is pure evil will bring a whole new dimension to interactive entertainment, and certainly goes in line with your customer support policy.

If you do this for me, I will also promise to buy a copy of Windows Vista.

Hug and kisses,


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Perfect Dark Zero Achievements

Shortly after I made my last post about Perfect Dark Zero, I learned that you could gain most of the Multiplayer Achievements in Single Player Deathmatches against bots.

I've been giving this a go and while I've already earned a few of those Achievements, I must say I'm enjoying myself. The game's still not something to jump and shout about over more refined titles, but I can certainly see the appeal.

I'll be keeping Joanna Dark around to play with when I get bored, and I'm sure she'll also entertain well at parties.

Yes, the above sentence sounds really bad. Sue me.

New Xbox 360 Accessories Announced

Microsoft has announced some new official accessories at this years E3.

The first is the Xbox 360 Messenger Kit which includes the chatpad we've already seen that attaches to the controller to allow for quick text communication, and it'll also come with a headset. The Messenger Kit will be available Sept. 6th for $34.99.

Lastly, there's three new colours for the Wirelss Controller: Pink, Dark Blue, and Light Blue. They will be available in October and retail for $59.99 each.

You can read the official release here.

Well, the Messenger Kit will only be useful if you text chat a lot, so I won't bother with it, and all I can say on the Controllers is ewwwww, who thought up those colours? I'll stick with my regular white and if I need to, the kick ass Elite black, thank you.

Mass Effect Gameplay Trailer, Screenshots, and Release Date

Also at E3, Microsoft and BioWare are showcasing a new gameplay trailer for their upcoming RPG Mass Effect. You can download the trailer at the Xbox Live Marketplace or on the official site here.

BioWare has also posted up several additional screenshots here.

Finally, Mass Effect has officially been dated for the month of November this year! So close and yet so far.

My comments on the trailer: this is how to do a trailer. Some nice dialogue mixed with action to set up the rivalry between Shepard and Saron, great space battles, a little drama, and even a hint of romance. Win!

Gears of War (PC) Officially Announced

At E3, Microsoft and Epic Games have officially announced the PC version of Gears of War which will be released this holiday season.

You can check out the official announcement here, which details the extra, PC-exclusive content.

I really hope those 5 extra Campaign chapters make it to the Xbox Live Market Place, as I want to fight the bloody Brumak!

Halo 3 E3 2007 Trailer, Screens, and Limited Edition Console

E3 is under way, and there's lots of news to cover, and I'm going to start it off with a bang!

Microsoft and Bungie have released a gameplay trailer for Halo 3 which features nothing but Campaign footage. You can download it at the Xbox Live Marketplace, or on Bungie's official site here.

Bungie has also put up some Campaign screenshots here, and TeamXbox has their impressions of watching part of the first level in action here.

Microsoft has also announced a Halo 3 Xbox 360 Special Edition console which you can read about here, and you can read Bungie's thoughts on it here.

Now that the official links are out of the way, time for my thoughts.

The trailer looks beautiful and has some great action sequences. I don't care what anyone says, Halo 3 looks nice, and I know it'll be a blast to play. I'm also so psyched to see the Arbiter for the first time in this next-gen title, and it looks like he and the Master Chief will be fighting side-by-side a good bit. This screams co-op, of course, but I'm also hoping the Arbiter will have some solo missions of his own, as I really like his character.

That being said, however, the trailer itself is a bit disappointing. It really needed a lot more dialogue. The intro was nice, but then it faded to simply gameplay footage. One of the strong elements of the Halo franchise has been it's story, and since this is a Campaign trailer, it needed more than just footage. I was also disappointed by the music. Don't get me wrong, the track is great, but it's a remix of something we've heard all through the other titles.

While I can tell from this trailer that Halo 3 will be great, I can also say that the trailer itself could have been better.

As for the Special Edition Xbox 360, aside from the fact that it's a Pro system with HDMI, I'm not big on the colour scheme and I'd honestly pass on it. Nice marketing ploy though, but I think a Pro system with the Halo Faceplate, like I already have, looks nicer.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Game of the Year Edition Announced

Bethesda Softworks has announced that this September, it will be releasing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Game of the Year Edition for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows platforms.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Game of the Year Edition will feature The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, it's expansion The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, and Knights of the Nine Downloadable Content/Plug-In.

Existing save games on all platforms will apparently be compatible with this version.

So in short, if you have yet to purchase The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and you'd like to, this is going to be the version for you to get. I suspect that if you already own a copy, however, this will not be cost effective for you unless you own the PlayStation 3 version and want The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, then you'll need to buy your game again.

You can read Bethesda Softwork's official press release here.

Perfect Dark Zero Impressions

So I've been toying around with Perfect Dark Zero, the gift game that Microsoft gave me for all the issues I had going through Xbox Support, and so far the game is alright, but nothing to jump and shout about.

The Single Player story seems just plain bad, but the actual game play is good once you get a bit into it. Unfortunately, the game has next to no Single Player Achievements, and I find that, coupled with the weak narrative, provides low incentive to play through the Single Player game. In general, it's just another shooter and I honestly wouldn't recommend it at it's current retail cost of $34.99.

Tinkered around with Multiplayer yesterday, and I wasn't big on it at all. Granted, I was on a large map that I didn't know, and got tromped, so I'll give it another go this weekend and also see if I can rack up a couple of simple Achievements.

Out of curiosity, I looked into the trade in value of Perfect Dark Zero, and it's between $6.00 to $7.00, which really isn't much at all.

I have a feeling I'll keep Perfect Dark Zero around for when I'm bored, and perhaps for some simple Deathmatches when hanging out with friends.

PlayStation 3 Price Cut Official

A few days ago, rumours were going around that Sony might bring about a price cut to its overpriced PlayStation 3 60 GB console, presently the only model available on the retail market.

According to ActionTrip, however, Sony's very own president was very quick to squash those rumours.

Well looks like Sony has pulled a 180 on us (or would that really be a 360), and they are indeed cutting the price of the PlayStation 3 60 GB by about $100.00 (to $549.99), and in August, they'll be releasing an 80 GB version of the console that will come bundled with MotorStorm, which will retail at the former price of the 60 GB version ($659.99). According to TeamXbox, the price cut is presently a North American exclusive, and it takes effect immediately (though Best Buy still has the original price up as of this posting).

News spotted at ActionTrip here, Canadian pricing spotted at TeamXbox here, and you can read Sony's official blog post on their US site here.

You can still pick up an Xbox 360 Elite, which has a bundled HDMI cable, 1080p support, and a 120 GB HDD, all for the cost of the PlayStation 3 60 GB console now, and in my opinion, the PlayStation 3's exclusive titles still aren't strong enough to warrant the purchase.

If Microsoft's smart, they'll also announce a price cut, dropping the price of the Xbox 360 Core console and the Xbox 360 Pro console by $100.00 each, and the Xbox 360 Elite by $50.00, but hey, what do I know?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Halo 2 Blastacular Pack Now Free Download

This past April, Bungie released two additional Multiplayer maps for Halo 2 (Xbox) at the cost of $4.00, and as of yesterday, they're free! Sucks to be those who paid, I guess, and I'll never understand anyone's reasoning for paying for simple Multiplayer maps.

You can download the two new maps, Desolation and Tombstone, for free via the Download Manager found within Halo 2, so long as you have an Xbox Live Gold Membership.

Since I'm presently on a one month Gold Membership, I've taken advantage of this and downloaded these maps not only for my Xbox 360, but also on my Xbox. Never know when I might want to play a System Link game with some chumps... er, I mean, friends.

Halo 3 Action Figure Prototypes

In their latest Weekly Update, Bungie has revealed some pics of the prototype Halo 3 action figures for the Brute Chieftain, Jackal, and the Warthog from McFarlane Toys.

You can check them out, as well as Bungie's full update, right here.

Gears of War (PC) Footage Leaked

Saw over at ActionTrip that footage for the PC version of Gears of War, which has not yet been officially announced, has been leaked all over YouTube.

You can check out ActionTrip's post here.

The footage features a good bit of additional single player content, which I hope will ultimately make it to Xbox Live Marketplace for those of us with the Xbox 360 version.

Xbox 360 Achievements Leaked

Some of this is old, and some of this is new. The Achievements for Halo 3 and BioShock have both been leaked, and you can find them here and here respectively.

I... want... BioShock!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

SiCKO Review

There are two groups of people in the documentary world, those who like Michael Moore's films, and those who don't. The arguments between these two groups can often get very heated and amusing due to the sensitive and controversial material that Moore films about, but no matter which side of the fence you sit on, you can't help but admit that his films certainly get noticed.

Moore's latest offering is SiCKO, a documentary that mainly examines the American health care system. When all is said and done, despite the fact that Moore, like many trying to make a political point, skews things in his favour, I'm glad I live in Canada instead of the US.

The film encompasses the usual style that we've come to expect from Moore: A look at a serious and controversial issue filled with satirical humour, Bush bashing, and reflections upon 9/11.

The film starts off looking at the need for medical insurance in the US, and the statistic of Americans who simply can not afford it and must attend to self care. It also goes on to show how the use of medical insurance can hurt a family financially, and the greedy methods the insurance companies will use to get their cash back. Time is spent in detail going over attempts to bring about standard, government controlled health care and the subsequent failure of it due to the American paranoia that such a thing is communism.

Moore surgically dissects the privatizing of American health care, and the treatment that medical professionals and institutions will provide to clients who are not covered; who can not pay. He traces back the issue to its beginning, where he believes the problem of privatization started, and further goes to show just how strongly the greed of politicians and insurance companies has become.

To further illustrate his point, Moore compares the American health care system to much of the rest of the western world, also bringing sick leave, maternity leave, and government assistance into the fold. He compares the US to Canada, Britain, France, and even the socialist paradise known as Cuba.

The comparison to Cuba, of course, is the most entertaining of the bunch (and the most controversial). Since America believes that Cuba is the enemy and the source of all things evil, he takes a boat filled with 9/11 volunteer rescue workers who developed medical issues as a direct result of working at ground zero, volunteers who are being shafted by the American health care system, to Cuba for medical aid.

The excellent, affordable, and humane treatment these people received in a land that's supposed to be their bitter enemies brought many of them to tears. They received high quality tests and treatments, as well as medicine, right there in Cuba. The quality and appearance of the doctors and hospitals there will leave a lot of viewers skeptical, since they simply look too good to be true, and that very well may be true, but since I've never been to Cuba, I can't rightly say.

Being a Canadian who has only received medical care within Canada, I can only fairly comment on Canada's own health care system, comparing it to how Moore projects it in SiCKO. Moore discusses and elaborates on all the pros of our health care, and even shows how one American is frauding our poor system to provide her children with good medical care, however he doesn't properly go into the main issues of wait times for important surgery, shortage of medical staff, etc. He touches on them, but very quickly rights them off. Moore is painting a picture perfect system to highlight the points of his film, but despite this, however, if even half of what Moore states is true about the American system, I'm certainly glad I receive my care north of the border.

Plain and simple, if you liked Michael Moore's previous works, you will enjoy SiCKO, and if you hate Moore, then you'll be disgusted by this film. Even though I don't always agree with everything he says, I do enjoy Moore's documentaries, and I certainly enjoyed SiCKO. I love Moore's satire and his style, and in the end, SiCKO really only goes to show us what we already knew: that money is all the US truly cares about. Just remember to travel with insurance yourself.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer Review

Like most kids I was huge on comics as a kid, and my universe was the Marvel universe. Even if I didn't read a particular comic series, I was well versed on those characters since they all intertwined at one point or another, and such is the case with the Fantastic Four.

I had heard that the original Fantastic Four feature film was junk, and I have yet to see it so I can't comment, however a few weeks ago some friends and I decided to go check out the sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

In short, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is an entertaining comic book film that captures its essence very well; it's a comic book film done right with all the flare and cheese that one so entails.

The film begins with strange disturbances and weather patterns happening all across the globe, however the world's premiere team of super heroes, the Fantastic Four, are too busy preparing for the wedding between Mr. Fantastic (Ioan Gruffudd) and the Invisible Woman (Jessica Alba) to get involved. After the defeat of Dr. Doom (Julian McMahon) from the first film (where I presume that he was presumed dead), the Fantastic Four are global heroes, but the media attention and expectations are stressing the team's dynamics, and also their basic desire to live somewhat normal lives. This is especially true for the Invisible Woman, who wants her pleasant wedding and to ultimately raise a child, while the Human Torch (Chris Evans), on the other hand, can't get enough of stardom as he pursues media licenses, money, women, and everything else he feels he has coming to him.

Enter the Silver Surfer (Voiced by Laurence Fishburne), the herald of a much greater threat whom the Fantastic Four eventually must deal with. The reveal of the Surfer is great, and the resulting chase sequence is nothing short of an action packed, visual splendor.

Once the magnitude of what the Surfer represents becomes known, the Four must set aside their own infighting and band together once more, which is easier said than done, especially with the re-emergence of an old enemy who appears to be on the right side this time.

The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer features great effects, from subtle to all out battles, throughout the whole film, and the musical score compliments the action very well, but the heart and soul of the film is simply in the relationship between the Four themselves; the fact that they're a dysfunctional family needing to do what's right.

The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is certainly one of the best films released this summer, and it'd be a shame for you to miss it. It is a comic book through and through, providing plenty of action, humour, and flare. Check it out while you can!

Friday, July 06, 2007

New BioShock Gameplay Video

TeamXbox is hosting a new gameplay video for BioShock, narrated by Ken Levine, the lead designer of the project, as the player tackles the same situation in 3 uniquely different ways.

An interesting watch, and this is also the first time I'm aware of that the game's in-game enemy health bars are displayed.

You can check it out here.

New Halo 3 Campaign Screenshot

Bungie has released a brand new screenshot from the Campaign of Halo 3 featured here.

The Chief's looking pretty sweet!

Microsoft Enhances Xbox 360 Warranty Coverage

Flame_Kettle tipped me off that Microsoft has officially expanded its warranty policy covering their Xbox 360 consoles.

Effective immediately, any Xbox 360 is covered for general hardware failure, indicated by the three flashing red lights in the Ring of Light, for three years from the date of purchase, and this warranty extension is retroactive and affects every console in existence.

If you happened to pay for service related to general hardware failure, you will be re-imbursed, and please note that all other warranty issues remain under a one year term.

You can read the official release with the full details here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

BioShock: Limited Edition (Xbox 360) Pre-Ordered

So in the war between swallowing my pride and keeping my principles, swallowing my pride won.

Today, I went and pre-ordered a copy of the BioShock: Limited Edition (Xbox 360) from EB Games, guaranteeing me a copy on the August 21st release date.

That Big Daddy figurine better be the coolest little figure ever for me to buy something from EB Games again...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

New Halo 3 Multiplayer Screenshots

Bungie has updated their Halo 3 screenshots page with bunch of new Multiplayer shots that you can check out here, and they've updated their renders page here with a whole lot of Spartan goodness.

The big reveal is confirmation on the additional Spartan skins available for Multiplayer, and one of them looks like the SPI armour featured with the Spartan-III's in the recent novel, Halo: Ghosts of Onyx.

They also have a brief article with some descriptions of a few of the shots up here.

Better Business Bureau Case Closed

A few days ago, I received an email from the Better Business Bureau with regards to my complaints filed against Microsoft and Xbox with the issues I had with Xbox Support. The Better Business Bureau has received a reply from Microsoft on my complaints, and wanted to know if I was satisfied with the results of the issue.

The information that I was sent actually contains a few tidbits that I did not know about, and before I go into my thoughts on this whole process, I feel that I should take the time to construct for you an entire time line of events, something I did not properly do before through all my previous documentation:

- Sat. May 5th, my Xbox 360's DVD Drive failed. Contacted Xbox Support to begin the repair process. Console return box to arrive in 3 to 5 business days, and refurbished Xbox 360 console to arrive in additional 8 to 10 business days. Will also receive 1 month free Gold Membership to Xbox Live, and all shipping charges are covered under warranty.

- Tues. May 8th, placed follow-up call with Xbox Support to ensure that return box has been sent out. Original Support order now replaced with new Support order with return box scheduled to arrive in 3 to 4 business days. Asked to follow up with Support the following day to obtain proper reference number.

- Wed. May 9th, re-called Support as requested by Support, and am informed the return box will now arrive between 4 to 6 business days.

- Tues. May 15th, placed follow-up call with Xbox Support to ensure that return box has been sent out. Return box still not sent out due to Microsoft migrating data over to new servers. Am told to expect an additional delay of 5 business days, and that nothing can be done to expediate the process. Am told for my trouble, I _may_ be offered a free gift game.

- Wed. May 16th, files complaint with Better Business Bureau over poor quality customer service from Xbox Support (complaint directed to Microsoft Canada).

- Thurs. May 17th, Better Business Bureau faxes complaint to Microsoft (unknown to me at this time). Received return box for defective Xbox 360 console. Packaged defective console and dropped it off at local Purolator drop off centre, to be delivered on next business day.

- Fri. May 18th, defective Xbox 360 console arrives at Service Centre, and refurbished unit is couriered out to me to arrive within 3 to 5 (non-business) days.

- Mon. May 21st, receive call from American Microsoft representative who apologizes for all Support issues, and offers me a free gift game of my choice from predetermined Microsoft Game Studios list. I select Perfect Dark Zero, and item is to be mailed (regular post) to me within 5 to 10 business days. Asked to follow up with Microsoft representative if I have not received Perfect Dark Zero within 5 business days. Microsoft representative provides me with his email address, which I copy down incorrectly.

- Tues. May 22nd, receive and test refurbished Xbox 360 Pro console. Appears fully functional save for minor issue where DVD tray will occasional stick upon opening in console's vertical position. Card for free 1 month subscription to Xbox Live Gold included. Refurbished console under warranty until Dec. 24th, 2007.

- Sat. Jun. 2nd, unable to contact Microsoft representative due to incorrectly copied down email address. Contact Xbox Support to inquire on status of free gift game. Am told to expect it within 3 to 5 business days, and that it is being sent via regular post.

- Mon. Jun. 4th, Better Business Bureau has not received reply from Microsoft and re-faxes original complaint (unknown to me at this time).

- Sat. Jun. 9th, place follow up call to Xbox Support on status of free gift game, and am told Perfect Dark Zero is not an eligible title. Am told to choose between Kameo: Elements of Power and Project Gotham Racing 3. Chosen neither and plan to send updated complaint to Better Business Bureau.

- Sun. Jun. 10th, sent updated complaint to Better Business Bureau.

- Mon. Jun. 11th, Better Business Bureau faxes updated complaint to Microsoft.

- Mon. Jun. 11th to Tues. Jun. 12th, received follow up calls from same Microsoft representative, however was stuck at work and unable to call him back.

- Thurs. Jun. 14th, left voice mail with Microsoft representative asking him to email me to begin sorting free gift game issues out. Receive email, and he explains that he was unaware that Perfect Dark Zero is not an eligible gift game within Canada. He apologizes, and offers to send me a copy that he has around his office. I provide him with my mailing address to send me the copy. Microsoft representative also provides me with assistance on copyright protection issue I've been experiencing with content purchased on my original Xbox 360 console via the Xbox Live Marketplace.

- Wed. Jun. 20th, received factory sealed, brand new copy of Perfect Dark Zero.

- Mon. Jun. 25th, Better Business Bureau has not received comment from Microsoft regarding any of my complaints. Complaint is again faxed to Microsoft (unknown to me at this time). Better Business Bureau leaves voice mail regarding my complaints with a different Microsoft representative than the gentleman I was dealing with (date listed for this call is Fri. Jun. 29th, however based on the additional time line, it must have happened very early in the week).

- Tues. Jun. 26th, Better Business Bureau receives email from Microsoft asking for my Microsoft incident ID number or any additional information to do a follow up on the status on their end. Better Business Bureau emails information to Microsoft (unknown to me at this time).

- Fri. Jun. 29th, Better Business Bureau receives Business Response from Microsoft stating that I've received my refurbished console and free gift game. Better Business Bureau forwards this response, as well as my correspondence history with the Better Business Bureau, to me requesting if the situation has been resolved to my satisfaction. Correspondence also includes Better Business Bureau's communication attempts with Microsoft, allowing me to learn of the "unknown to me" sections of the above time line.

- Tues. Jul. 3rd, I inform the Better Business Bureau that I am presently satisfied with the situation, and the case is closed.

As you can easily see, this has been a very, very lengthy process for something that was only supposed to take a maximum grand total of 15 business days. The single most interesting fact for me though is the complete realization that the results I ultimately received from Microsoft and Xbox Support were due to the filing of complaints with the Better Business Bureau.

Take a look at the time line: As soon as the Better Business Bureau sent a complaint to Microsoft on my behalf, my console return box was sent out and received the following business day, my refurbished unit was sent out the same day as the reception of my defective unit (much faster than the projected 8 to 10 business days), and I received a call from an American Microsoft representative on the second business day offering me the free gift game Support originally told me I _might_ receive.

When I was given grief over being sent the gift game, again, once the Better Business Bureau sent in the complaint on my behalf, I was receiving calls from the same courteous Microsoft representative on the same day.

So in brief, the Better Business Bureau got results. Am I saying that as soon as you have an issue you should lodge a formal complaint with them? No, not at all. If you have problems with your Xbox 360 consoles, hardware, or software, you should absolutely go through Xbox Support first, just as I'll do should issues arise again. However should you experience problems with Support, or they're not fulfilling their end of any arrangement, then absolutely you should file a formal complaint.

Microsoft's still smart about it all. You'll note through the time line they never once contacted the Better Business Bureau about my complaints until they had resolved them with me privately, thus guaranteeing them a positive acceptance and a nice resolution notice in their company's information section. From my perspective that's all fine, so long as my issues are resolved.

With that company I work for, I deal with supplier issues all the time, and it's certainly probable that delays will happen, so my suggestion for you is if you're dealing with Xbox Support, don't file a complaint right away, give them a little empathy, but if they miss dates or mess around with you two to three times, then bring in the bigger guns, and let the large corporation know that as a paying customer, you simply want and _will get_ the proper customer service to enjoy the product(s) that you've paid for.