Monday, April 30, 2007

The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles Patch Released

Bethesda Softworks has released a patch to fix the fatal bug in their expansion, Shivering Isles for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

The patch will automatically download when you connect using Shivering Isles to Xbox Live, and the PC version can be downloaded here.

This is great news. It means I can actually buy the expansion when I complete Oblivion, which I'm getting close to doing (of course in Elder Scrolls terms, close is a subjective term).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (Xbox 360) Demo Impressions

Back in the day when I followed RTS titles on the PC, there were two major companies to watch: Blizzard Entertainment and Westwood Studios. Blizzard Entertainment is know for its hugely successful Warcraft and Starcraft games, and Westwood was huge with Command & Conquer.

Personally, I never liked Westwood's titles. I found they lacked the depth and strategy, as well as the quality, commitment, and polish that Blizzard's games had. It looks like I picked the right side to root for as Blizzard Entertainment is still around developing games and Westwood is no more.

I can't recall if Westwood was bought out by EA or not, but EA has been continuing their franchises for some years now, and based on the recently released demo for Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (Xbox 360), I can say that even with a controller over a mouse and keyboard the franchise is as bland and shallow as it always was.

First and foremost though, I need to mention that Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars goes back to its roots with the original storyline, as well as full video cut scenes. And it has Michael Ironside trying to act seriously.


Okay, now that I've stopped laughing my ass off and wiped the tears from my eyes, the full motion video cut scenes featured in the demo are complete cheese and I couldn't take them seriously at all. They pale in comparison to the excellent CG cut scenes that Blizzard has always used, and the in-game cinematics that most modern titles use.

Moving on to the gameplay itself, the demo features a tutorial, and 2 missions from the GDI Campaign, one that's very tutorial-ish, and none of them difficult. The last of these missions in particular sums up the Command & Conquer playstyle that has been in existence for over a decade: mass tanks and plow through your opponent(s).

Whereas Blizzard generally balances things to encourage a mixed group of units and appropriate counters (be they hard or soft) for the opponent to use, Command & Conquer has always been about tank rushes and this, to me, gets boring. Fast.

I did find that EA has done a good job with the limited Xbox 360 Controller, however. The controls for the most part are fluid and responsive, and have been tweaked since The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II to allow a greater level of control over a quicker time frame. Of course, it still can't compare to a keyboard and mouse, and this is why I believe that the RTS genre will not prosper on a Console.

Graphically, the game looks nice enough, but like The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, I still found it hard to properly see all the units on the battlefield, even though I'm playing at 720p. Perhaps that's because my TV, though 26" compared to my PC's 17" monitor, is a lot farther away.

To cut this post short, the Demo was good for a quick run and certainly provided me with a good laugh, but if you are looking for a non-Blizzard RTS, I would check out the PC version of Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars of its upcoming Xbox 360 counterpart.

In truth though, based on this demo, I wouldn't recommend the PC version, or any version, of the game at all. It has a complete "been there, done that" feel, and there are better things to blow your gaming cash on.

BioShock "Hunting the Big Daddy" Video

This video was released a few weeks back, though I don't believe I ever posted about it.

2K Games has released a game play video for BioShock which features the player character taking on a Big Daddy and using some various techniques to do it, such as Plasmids, security hacking, etc.

It's a very interesting watch and really has my anticipation for this title ramped up.

You can download the video here at The Cult of Rapture's download section, or snag it in HD on the Xbox Live Marketplace.

Halo 3 Controller Layout and Promotional Art

In this week's Bungie Weekly update, Bungie reveals the default controller layout for Halo 3 (pictured), as well as a kick ass piece of promotional art, which is also a wallpaper.

I know the controller will have some customizable options, however I'm not sure if it'll be fully re-mappable or just have several presets.

Changes that I'd make:

- Right Bumper becomes Reload secondary weapon/Switch Grenade.
- "X" becomes Use/Board/Reload
- Left Bumper becomes Use Equipment

That makes it much more traditional to the series, and would be easy enough to work with, though I wonder if they'll have a Flashlight in the Campaign. I would imagine so, and I would either want that to be the Left Bumper or "Up" on the D-Pad.

You can read Bungie's Weekly Update here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

BioShock Limited Edition Details

The Cult of Rapture has the official word on the BioShock Limited Edition. Aside from the game itself of course, it'll contain a Big Daddy figurine, a "Making of" DVD, and a soundtrack CD. The Limited Edition will be available for both the Xbox 360 and the PC, and retail for $69.99 (US) and $59.99 (US) respectively.

The only major downside is that the BioShock Limited Edition will be a GameStop and EB Games exclusive, and I don't like EB Games. So do I swallow my pride and get it, or do I hit Best Buy or Future Shop, save a few bucks, and stick to my principles?

Only time will tell.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cult of Rapture Relaunched

The BioShock community site, The Cult of Rapture, has been relaunched with a nice graphical makeover, and the announcement that 2K Games is accepting fan submissions to design the game's Limited Edition box art.

Full details can be found here, and the original fan art design that got the whole idea rolling is posted on the left.

Quake II (Xbox 360) Impressions

For his last birthday, I got the Staff Quake 4 (Xbox 360), which comes with a bonus disc that contains Quake II. Since I missed out on Quake II back in '97 and only played through the PC demo about 2 years ago, the Staff was kind enough to lend me the bonus disc for my retro-pleasure.

I played it for an hour or so last night, and I can't think of a better example of the differences between an FPS on the PC and a console. I can not play Quake II on the Xbox 360, it simply wasn't balanced for the Xbox 360 controller, and I find that an incredible shame.

Any reasonable gamer will agree that the use of a mouse and keyboard is much faster and more precise for an FPS than a console controller. One can move and track faster with a mouse than an analogue stick since the stick needs to move the entire distance from point A to B, while a mouse does not have this problem.

To overcome this issue, console developers add in a certain amount of auto-aiming to console FPSes, and this works quite well. If you're aiming in the general area of your target, usually very close to them, the console game will register it as a hit where the PC would demand the player to be more exact.

This was not implemented in Quake II. I have found that this makes it very hard to hit the game's fast moving enemies, and while I could live with this since there are plenty of health kits lying around, the real problem is that whenever I tap the right thumbstick to the left to adjust my view/aim, my marine will keep slowly turning his head to the left until I manually force the stick a bit to the right. This makes precision aiming impossible.

I do not know if this is a bug with the game or an issue with my personal controller, and I don't have a second controller to test this out. Because of this aiming difficulty, however, I find Quake II to be too much of a chore to play. This is all the more a shame because the Xbox 360 version is presented in beautiful wide screen with FSAA.

Perhaps someday I'll find it dirt cheap on the PC and indulge myself, but until then, I'll simply have to battle the Strogg in the newer Quake 4 on my PC.

NHL 2K7 (Xbox 360) Demo Impressions

Last Sunday I decided to download the demo for NHL 2K7 (Xbox 360) from the Xbox Live Marketplace. About a decade ago I was really big into the NHL series by EA Sports on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and while games have come a long way since then, this demo still made me feel like a kid again.

The demo for NHL 2K7 let's you choose from four teams, the Buffalo Sabres, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Edmonton Oilers, and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and you can play the first period of a quick, standard NHL game. Line changes seem to be on auto, but the teams have their proper rosters and there's a very flashy intro prior to game time.

I found the controls similar to what I remember from yester-year, and it was easy to get into the demo and start stick-handling and laying down some nice checks. Scoring was a lot more difficult, however, thanks to AI improvements. I've played the demo twice thus far, and I won the first game and lot the second game by the same score, 1-0. Just like when I was a kid, however, when I did score I jumped and shouted, and when I was scored against I booed and swore. The same feelings of fun and fast paced action are there.

The graphics are alright, though don't expect the quality of Gears of War. The game's audio seems good to, though I often found the "sell-out" music tracks were too loud during the regular course of play.

While I don't think I'd run out and buy the full game, even though it is now only $29.99, the demo was a nice trip down memory lane, and was a much more impressive game than the demo for EA's NHL 07.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Final Three Mass Effect Player Classes Revealed

BioWare has revealed the final three classes that the player can choose to be in Mass Effect. They are an Infiltrator, a Vanguard, and a Sentinel.

The full details are posted in this IGN exclusive article here.

I can't wait for this RPG, and I still figure I'll be a simple soldier that makes stuff go boom.

Xbox 360 Backward Compatibility Update

Microsoft has released a new update for its Xbox emulator on the Xbox 360. It adds a tone of new games (only leaving me with one title that will not play on my Xbox 360; Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil), including a game I've been dying for: Star Wars: Republic Commando! The Deltas are now in high-res, full AA glory!

"I sense violence in our near future."

Full update details can be found here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles (Xbox 360) Game Breaking Bug Confirmed

I knew this game-breaking bug existed in the PC version of The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, however I just discovered that its been confirmed for the Xbox 360 version as well.

Bethesda Softworks has released a Beta patch for the PC version, but there are no patches as of yet on the Xbox 360.

In short, if you download Shivering Isles, your copy of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion will be rendered generally unplayable in approximately 75 to 150 hours of gameplay, even if you are playing classic Oblivion.

The details of this bug and suggestions on how to play around it are listed here, however if you have not downloaded Shivering Isles yet and intend to, I'd save your 2400 Microsoft Points until a patch is released via Xbox Live.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sony Discontinuing PlayStation 3 20 GB HDD; Xbox 360 a Significantly Less Expensive Console

I called it kids. TeamXbox has confirmed that Sony is discontinuing the 20 GB HDD version of its PlayStation 3 console. Several retailers, including Sony's own official store, are no longer carrying the console despite the fact that it is still displayed on the official PlayStation web site.

Now, unto itself, this isn't a bad move for Sony. The PlayStation 3 20 GB HDD was selling very poorly as opposed to the 60 GB HDD edition, and I also believe Microsoft should nix the Xbox 360 Core System, especially with the pending release of the Xbox 360 Elite.

Speaking of the Xbox 360 Elite, however, the removal of the PlayStation 3 20 GB HDD does create a wider gap between the two consoles. Think about it:

- PlayStation 3 60 GB HDD: $699.99
- Sony's DLCHD20P HDMI Cable: $69.99
- Resistance: Fall of Man: $69.99

That's the only exclusive title worth owning on the PlayStation 3 right now. If you take a look at the official PlayStation web site, every other game on the PlayStation 3 that's worth something is also on the Xbox 360, and all the listed upcoming games are cross-platform releases. That's $839.97 plus tax simply to play one worth-while game.

Now the Xbox 360 Elite which is being released May 4th:

- Xbox 360 Elite: $549.99 (Includes 120 GB HDD and HDMI cable)
- Xbox Live 12 Month Gold Membership: $59.99
- Gears of War: $64.99

With the release of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to the PlayStation 3, as of right now Gears of War is the only must-have exclusive title for the Xbox 360, however unlike the PlayStation 3, the official Xbox website lists multiple upcoming, exclusive, and game-show award winning titles. Titles such as BioShock, Halo 3, and Mass Effect. That's $674.97 (with a yearly renewal fee of $59.99 for Multiplayer gaming) for a console with a proven list of upcoming AAA titles and access to the most successful online console network in history.

That's $165.00 in savings, and if you're not interested in Multiplayer gaming, you can nix the Xbox Live costs including that renewal fee since an Xbox Live Silver Membership is free. If you don't need the massive 120 GB HDD and you don't care for an HDMI cable, then you can get the Xbox 360 Pro console for another $50.00 cheaper. It comes with a 20 GB HDD, which in my opinion is fine. That would cut the total cost an Xbox 360 to $564.98, a total savings of $274.99 over the PlayStation 3 60 GB HDD with its HDMI cable.

So seriously, I need to ask you Sony fans out there: How can you justify the insane cost of the PlayStation 3?

Monday, April 09, 2007

More Xbox 360 QWERTY Keyboard Attachment Pics

TeamXbox has several more picks of the upcoming QWERTY keyboard attachment for the Xbox 360 Controller, which you can check out here. Pretty slick, though probably costly...

New Gears of War Patch and Multiplayer Game Type

As of this writing, the new patch for Gears of War is about 3 minutes away from being launched. The main addition is a new Multiplayer game type called Annex. There are also some balance fixes and tweaks, such as reducing the Cover sensitivity when you're trying to Rodie Run.

You can read the details at TeamXbox here.

3 New Mass Effect Screenshots

BioWare has released another 3 screenshots for their upcoming Xbox 360 RPG, Mass Effect. You can check them out at TeamXbox here.

Xbox 360 Spring Update Officially Announced, QWERTY Keyboard Attachment coming this Summer

On the US Xbox site, Microsoft has released an official press release unveiling the Xbox 360 Spring Update.

While this update adds many new and revised features, including a new Blade for Xbox Live Marketplace, the biggest addition is the integration with Windows Live Messenger.

You will now be able to add people from your Windows Live Messenger list to your Xbox Live Friends list and chat with them while playing a game, watching a movie, or shopping online. Microsoft will also be releasing a QWERTY keyboard attachment for the Xbox 360 Controller this summer. No announcement yet on the date and cost and if a Black version will be available.

The Xbox 360 Spring Update will also enhance download features over the Xbox Live Marketplace, and provide improved Achievement feedback.

You can read the full press release here.

For my own part, the last time I used the then MSN Messenger with any degree of seriousness was in the late '90's to early 2000's when I was playing a lot of PC games, mainly Starcraft and Diablo II. Personally, it only served to piss me off as people would continue to try and chat with me when I was busy killing things, so I nuked it and haven't touched Windows Messenger which comes with Windows XP.

For my own part, I might add a few key non-Xbox 360 users to my Xbox Live Friends list, but I figure for the same reasons as when I was PC gaming, I'll pass on most of it.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Rome Season 2 Mini-Review

And so two weeks ago, the only television series to actually capture my attention since Firefly has ended; canceled (why is it the good shows always get canned to be replaced with drivel? And people wonder why I prefer to play video games). At the very least, however, HBO's Rome went out with a bang.

At the end of Season 1, Brutus and many other Senators had assassinated Caesar and Vorenus' wife had committed suicide. Season 2 begins on these dark tones and retains that feel through the rest of the show.

Shortly into production the crew was made aware of the show's pending cancellation, and in order to tie up all the story lines, they had to accelerate various events and the overall pacing of the show (the 10 episodes cover years), and while it was sad to see a major character die pretty much every episode, this faster pace really helped Rome's momentum, and it also pulled the focus away from Vorenus and Pullo and brought many of the supporting characters to the forefront.

In short and without giving away any major spoilers, the focus of Season 2 is on the power struggle in the Roman Empire between Mark Antony, Brutus, and Octavian who Julius Caesar announced as his heir. Of course absolute power corrupts absolutely, and these three men want to control Rome and the Republic for their own purposes, both noble and self-serving. Vorenus and Pullo are still tied into the main story when they are called upon to restore order in the Aventine district by taking control and ultimately running it's criminal operations.

Much darker and so much more dramatic. The character relations, even at the accelerated pace of Season 2, are what gives Rome its charm. Vorenus is desperately trying to restore his family life with his children who blame him for their mother's death, Pullo matures, taking on more responsibility than ever before and learns what it means to be a family man, and Octavian grows into a young leader and commander, fully ready and capable to oppose his rival and mother's lover, the brute Mark Antony. Powerful historical drama.

And just like Firefly, one must stop and think what Rome could have been had it not been canceled. I would dearly love to see an epic feature made to continue the story as was done with Firefly, however given the drastic changes and time-span that happened over Season 2, I'm left with little optimism.

The sets and costumes of Rome are beautiful and the actors do a superb job of bringing their characters to life. There are many twists and turns, some predictable if you know history and some not, and its these aspects that leave you wanting more of this gritty, violent, and sex filled drama.

If you missed out on Rome, I would recommend renting Season 1. Season 2 is still running in reruns on TMN, and I would imagine we'll see a DVD release at the latest for this coming holiday season.

Sony Really Nixing the PlayStation 3 20 GB HDD?

When I posted about the announcement of the Xbox 360 Elite, I commented on a rumour I heard regarding Sony cancelling the PlayStation 3 20 GB HDD version of its newest console.

While I still don't have any official confirmation on this, and the console is still listed on Sony's official site, Sony's official American store has removed the 20 GB HDD version, and Sony's Canadian store has it listed as out of stock.

Could it be they're only going to be selling their 60 GB HDD version, or perhaps will they release an even higher end (and more expensive) version of their PlayStation 3 to compete with the Xbox 360 Elite?

Original story spotted at ActionTrip.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 Comparison Videos

With the recent release of The Elder Scroll IV: Oblivion on the PlayStation 3, one hot topic is the debate as to which version is better. With the content of each version being the same (save that the PlayStation 3 version ships with the Knights of the Nine plug-in), the real comparison comes in graphics. has several comparison videos up, and after watching each one, I can say without a doubt that I can't really notice much of a damned difference.

In a nutshell, the Xbox 360 version looks darker but also has a greater colour contrast range; colours look more washed out on the PlayStation 3. The Xbox 360 also shows it's "Loading Area" a lot, while I didn't notice this once on the PlayStation 3.

Anyone notice anything I'm missing? You can check out the videos here.

Xbox 360 Dashboard Update Leaked

TeamXbox has the details and a YouTube video for the upcoming Xbox 360 Dashboard update to be released this May.

The main features are:

- A new Xbox Live Marketplace Blade
- MSN Messenger Functionality
- Enhanced Achievement Details
- Enhanced Download Settings

You can check it out here.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Mass Effect Project Director Q&A and New Screenshots

TeamXbox posted up a short interview with Casey Hudson, the project director for Mass Effect, as well as three new screenshots.

Check out the interview here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan DVD Mini-Review

Two weeks ago, I got around to renting Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan from my somewhat local Blockbuster. I say somewhat 'cause I have many Blockbuster's to choose from. I have a lot of options. I like options. Makes me feel powerful.

I also like flicks involving dramatic heroism, crap that's epic, and I'm generally not into comedies. Which is why I'm pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and yes, I'm going to continue typing out its insanely long name and no, I'm actually not cutting and pasting.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan follows Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his producer Azamat (Ken Davitian) as they travel to New York to film a documentary about American lifestyle. For anyone who's seen Da Ali G Show, you can expect to find the same style of politically incorrect humour here.

Borat is simply lost in great big New York, and it's the "cultural" differences that he plays with upon everyday New Yorkers that are so hilarious. Borat washes his face in the toilet bowl, tries to kiss hello any guy he sees, and gives himself a hand job while admiring lingerie manikins. His foreign "ignorance" is simply the perfect set up for everyone he interacts with as he "innocently" probes them for info and humiliates himself.

Of course once Borat figures out how to watch TV in his hotel room, he ends up catching a marathon of Baywatch and falls in love with Pamela Anderson. After convincing Azamat they need to head to California, Borat takes his documentary on the road and the ultimate quest, to find an marry Pamela.

Of course along the way nothing goes right, and while I'd love to share the hilarious details with you, it'd be way too much of a spoiler if I did. And that is actually the weak point to Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The laughs from the film are based on its shock value, the fact that you simply can't believe anyone could be acting this way, however once you've seen them, with a few exceptions, you've seen them. The gags loose their potency with each viewing and discussion. It is for this reason that I'm glad I rented the film instead of paying full, overpriced theatre costs last fall.

The DVD features the standard fair of extras, the highlights being several of the deleted scenes (some were great, others cut for good reason), and Borat's own appearances at screenings all over the globe.

So is Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan worth your money? As a rental, yes, as it'll definitely have you laughing. As a purchase, no, as it doesn't have enough re-viewing value. That being said, give it a rent over a weekend and have "a sexy time."

Swiss Chalet's Spice It Up Special

Swiss Chalet is now offering their Spice It Up Special, which is their rotisserie chicken brushed with a spicy glaze, served with spicy fries, your choice of a second side, and also a desert if you happen to eat in at the dinning room.

My illustrious verdict: Spicy chicken equals Mmmm while spicy fries equal shmeh. The chicken isn't that hot really, and the tang gives it a nice kick that goes well with the Chalet Sauce.

Try one now to reserver your cholesterol based heart attack tomorrow. Now that's forward thinking!

Prey (Xbox 360) Completed on Cherokee

I recently went through Prey (Xbox 360) on it's Cherokee (Hard) difficulty, and thoroughly enjoyed the simple, short lived experience.

The differences between Normal and Cherokee Difficulties are not many. Aside from the fact that enemies hit harder and you're less durable (meaning you'll spend more time in Death Walk), the only major difference is that there's no healing stations throughout the levels, you're only source of healing will come from Death Walking.

The game still wasn't hard, and I'm not sure what's shorter, it or Gears of War, but Prey is a shit load of fun. The story and presentation of that story is very cinematic, really allowing the player to feel like they're starring in a B sci-fi flick (I still feel bad for Tommy towards the end). The enemies are enjoyable, the weapons generic yet interesting enough, and of course the messed up gravity and portals steal the show.

Prey is a title that I am looking forward to a sequel of, just not at full retail price.

Mass Effect Screenshots, Character Classes, Developer Q&A, and Limited Collector's Edition Box Art

BioWare's put out a bunch of new tid-bits concerning there hugely anticipated Xbox 360 RPG, Mass Effect.

First, they've posted up details about 3 of the 6 character classes you can play as here.

Next, they have a developer Q and A posted here.

TeamXbox also has a few additional screenshots here.

Finally, TeamXbox has two images of the box art for the Limited Collector's Edition (European version). No official words on the contents, but since it looks like another damned over-sized tin that Microsoft seems to get off on these days, I'm guessing another art book along with a Making-Of DVD.

BioShock Limited Collector's Edition Confirmed and In-Game Retro Ads

The Cult of Rapture has confirmed that there will indeed be a Limited Collector's Edition of BioShock, and they have a poll up asking people what they'd like to see in it. Head over to the main page and vote, 'cause right now the leading item by a long shot is a Big Daddy Figurine, which I think is lame.

They've also posted up several of the game's retro-style ads, which can be found here.