Saturday, May 31, 2008

Making of Alone in the Dark Video

The first video in what I'm assuming to be a series of the Making of Alone in the Dark is now available on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.

It mainly discusses the difficulty Eden Games had in successfully pitching the remake of this classic game to Atari, and while not overly special in and of itself, it does show some classic footage from the original game.

Ah, sweet memories.

Stolen Xbox 360 Replaced with Original

While searching for pics of the PlayStation 3 version of BioShock, I came across an interesting post on Gaymers (Google searchs sure takes one to the most interesting places, don't they).

There's no source for this story, but if the post is to be believed, a hall government member at the Northwestern University of Illinois had his Xbox 360 stolen, with the thief leaving an original Xbox in its place!

While I still consider the original Xbox to be an excellent gaming platform, this is a thief with a vicious sense of humour indeed. It could have been worse, I suppose. He could have left a Sony console behind.

Be Immortalized in Fable II

Lionhead Studios is looking for art models to appear in Fable II.

If you've always dreamed of appearing in a video game, then you could be modeled and immortalized in Fable II as one of the game world's many characters featured in in-game paintings and art.

You'll need to send a picture of yourself in an old, artistic pose by June 4th, 2008 to be considered.

Full details here.

Mass Effect PC Contest

With the recent release of Mass Effect to the PC, BioWare is holding a contest where they're giving away a great new Alienware gaming rig.

All you need to enter is an account with BioWare, which is free and obtainable here.

Full details and sign up here.

2K Games Officially Announces BioShock for the PlayStation 3

Last week, we posted about the strong likelyhood that BioShock would be ported to the PlayStation 3 later this year, and the only thing lacking was the official announcement from 2K Games.

That announcement has now arrived.

The PlayStation 3 version will ship in October, and will feature new features and content over the original versions of the game. Details of these features have yet to be announced, and no word if they'll be exclusive to the PlayStation 3 or released to the Xbox 360 and PC versions in Title Updates/Patches or as additional content.

Life Sized Gears of War Gear

This is cool in a hardcore nerdy sort of way. TriForce has reached an agreement with Epic Games to create to-scale replicas of the COG armour and helmet found in Gears of War, as well as the Assault Rifle.

If the chainsaw bayonet works, I'll be ordering myself a Lancer. Should make business negotiations more interesting.

Original story spotted at TeamXbox here.

History of Sex in Video Games

I saw over at ActionTrip earlier this week an interesting video that details the history of sex in video games. As a maturing industry, video games are quickly becoming more mainstream but still have that taboo about them that they're meant for kids and nerds who live in their parent's basement and have never touched a boob before.

This video does repeat itself a good bit, but it does sum up the situation nicely and raises several good points.

Original story spotted here.

Polygonal boobs sag less than real boobs. Proven fact. Your mom.

Zero Punctuation: Console Rundown

A poster in the official Xbox forums provided me a link to this hilarious video. It's about a year old now, but it details the console war so bloody brilliantly!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mass Effect Completed for the 3rd Time

A few hours ago, I completed Mass Effect for a third playthrough, and yes, I still hate the Mako with a vengeance.

I played as the default-look male John Shepard as a Sentinal and later as a Medic, made it to level 54, and used Ashley and Garrus as my Squad Members; total time, just over 42 hours. I boinked Ash (and she's not a Republican Space Ranger anymore! Yay!) and racked up some nice Gamer Score Points for completing the game on Hardcore, which also netted me a cool Saren Gamer Pic. Only 8 Achievements away from earning them all!

I've found that I've enjoyed Mass Effect more and more each time I've played through it, and the game's added difficulty certainly helps; Hardcore was balanced, challenging, and fun. Ultimately, I'm looking forward to giving Insane Difficulty a try with Liara and Kaidan as my Squad Members, and I'll probably play through as a female Technician for some extra Achievements.

The story in Mass Effect is truly something special, a gem for the medium, and I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel to see how the story continues. The game really is character driven, which is a great thing and adds to the attachment and emotional impact. <SPOILER ALERT> This time, at the game's end of what is still the greatest video game climax I've ever experienced, I ordered the Alliance Fleet to focus on Sovereign, the neutral response, and though the Council is sacrificed and dies with the destruction of the Destiny Ascendant, I like how different the tone was in the final conversation between Udina, Anderson, and Shepard. Where last time it felt very much like a Star Wars Sith ending, this time it felt like an opportunity for humanity, with generally good intentions held. <END SPOILER>

I just wish they'd fix the damn Mako. Aside from handling like junk, how often did I fire only to have my shell or bullets go high of my targeting reticule. I mean, what's the point of a targeting reticule if it isn't helping you aim. .

Aside from that, I've gotten used to the game's clunky combat system and tend to find combat a lot more balanced now. In Mass Effect 2, however, I'd love to see increased Squad AI as well as the ability to issue individual orders for your Squad Members. I'd also love to see more variety in the design of Uncharted Worlds, mines, research facilities, etc.

There's also an occasional bug where your Squad Members go dumb and will no longer follow you, you have to keep telling them to move to a position, and I find this mainly occurs on Feros in the underground tunnels. Also wouldn't mind seeing the mini-game fixed so Easy, Average, or Hard decryption actually takes 3, 5, or 7 button presses respectively. Sounds like a title update needed to me.

Should BioWare release any additional Gameplay Modules, I'd love to see something involving the Rachni or Krogan, and certainly something longer and more elaborate than a simple Uncharted World. I'd also like to see Tali as a possible romance plot option. I mean common, she's the hottest one what with that mask and weakened immune system and all.

While not a perfect game, Mass Effect equals yes, and if you don't have an Xbox 360, I strongly recommend picking up the PC version that releases this Tuesday.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Review

It's been about 19 years since Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) graced the silver screen, and after watching his latest adventure, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the first thing I needed to do was find a shot of tequila. Sweet, sweet tequila (followed by a beer chaser) kills the pain.

What were they thinking? No, really: What were they thinking, and why do I always seem to have to ask that question about most media today?

It's not that Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull lacked entertainment value, it certainly has some good moments, but it was a clear bastardization of the franchise filled with bad jokes, over-done special effects, and a poorly contrived plot (Wait, that sounds like some other franchise in a galaxy far, far away...).

Truth be told, it wasn't all bad. There was this really cool sequence involving killer ants... oh, and Indy had his hat, gotta love that hat... and John Williams scored that great Indiana Jones theme again...

And that's pretty much it.

The film
even started off on a bad note. I'm not just talking about that silly teen-race sequence, I'm talking about those ground hogs. Does Spielberg and Lucas have some kind of fetish they're not telling us about; I mean what was up with that? And don't even get me started about those monkeys and the "low key" Tarzan sequence. And by "low key," I mean without any hollering.

I suppose I should give you the general synopsis of the film: Set roughly 19 years after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the film properly follows the passage of time and Dr. Jones is now enjoying his teaching career, when his less-adventurous lifestyle is interrupted by the Soviets (no more Nazis for Indy to fight, I'm afraid) who "persuade" Dr. Jones to help them figure out the mystery of the crystal skulls, which they believe will give them ultimate power.

I don't want to ruin the plot for you, what little of it there is, but suffice to say the overall theme of this adventure doesn't ring true with the other films in the series. How so? Well, the previous films dealt with more conventional religious themes or cults, but Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was more or less sci-fi. In fact, the plot very much reminded me of the style I'd find in a bad video game; it was out of character and could not hold my
disbelief, and suspension of disbelief is everything in a movie like this.

Let's just say there's budding psychic powers going on, and a few... out-of-this-world guests. Yeah, it's like that.

Since Indiana Jones is getting on in years, he conveniently encounters a young grease
r named Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) who helps propel him on his quest, and who tags along to be his sidekick. Indy's old flame, Marian Ravenwood (Karen Allen), also makes a return and gets to come along for the ride, and some of the film's best scenes are between her and Indy arguing like old times. The lead Russian, Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), is an alright villain, but I certainly wouldn't call her memorable, and I still don't perfectly understand what happens to her in the end.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a film that relies heavily on t
he nostalgia of its fan base, and while there are some excellent tributes to the original trilogy, to be perfectly honest, they should have left the fans with their fond memories instead. Fortunately, I got in for free with a movie pass I received as a gift, so I'm not out any cash, but I couldn't recommend paying to see this latest adventure. Personally, unless you're dying to see Harrison Ford use that whip again, I'd wait the year for it to hit TMN.

Sorry Indy, it really is time to retire.

BioShock Coming to PlayStation 3

Much to my surpise, I actually found this bit of news on Sony Defence Force, which has to be the greatest satirical gaming site in history, or the premiere poster-child for Sony fanboys unable to admit their platform is in last place thus far.

Regardless, since real publications, such as IGN, are reporting this as well, it's likely to be true: BioShock is coming to the PlayStation 3 later this year.

While we're still waiting for an official announcement from 2K Games, I for one want to say that I'm glad about this. As many of you know, I am not a fan of the PlayStation 3, however BioShock is such an amazing game, such a great experience, I fully believe everyone should play it regardless of platform.

Now, I've also seen PlayStation 3 fanboys slamming Microsoft for loosing an exclusive title to their console, even being bold enough to come and slam Xbox 360 gamers on their own forums. Well, to those fanboys I have this to say, cut and pasted from this forum post on the official Xbox BioShock forum:

"If you like the PlayStation 3, if it's your preferred gaming console, then good for you, and I'm happy you'll finally be able to play the exceptional game that is BioShock; it is a game everyone should get to play.

This doesn't change the fact that even with a few added features or higher resolution, the Xbox 360 tends to get AAA titles a lot sooner, they play great and do well for the console. If you want to wait for refurbished hand-me-downs, well hey, again, good for you. Me, I like playing great games when they're originally released.

I mean, look at this Metacritic list for the PlayStation 3. Only 4 titles rate above 90% for the PlayStation 3's entire line up, and the top 5 games for the console are cross-platform with the Xbox 360. Two of those were released first on the Xbox 360, 2 of those are tied in percentage, and 3 are rated higher on the Xbox 360. You can compare with the Xbox 360 list here, which has 12 games 90% plus.

And what about exclusive titles? Resistence: Fall of Man is supposed to be good, but it's not worth a $400.00 system for. Lair was so bad Sony had to send a kit to try and tell professional reviewers how to review the game, and how about the recently released Haze? I was just at EB Games today, and saw someone returning an unopened copy because he was lucky enough to read the reviews first.

Now, let's look at the Xbox 360. Gears of War. Halo 3. BioShock. Mass Effect. All exceptionally reviewed titles, so of course developers are going to try and make them un-exclusive, of course Sony would want as many as possible coming to their console. The PlayStation 3 _needs_ good games because it's own exclusives simply can't measure up. There's a reason Microsoft's console is the current leader of this generation in software sales.

PlayStation 3 gamers are rejoicing that BioShock is coming to their console, what about if Lair was ported to the Xbox 360? Or Haze? Or Ratchet and Clank? That's right, no one would care because no one _wants_ those exclusives; Sony can keep them.

So again, if you love your PlayStation 3, if it's you're preferred console, than that's great, I'm happy for you. But please, don't come to this Xbox forum slamming our console because you finally get our hand-me-downs; at least our console has something to offer you, even if it is after a few years. "

Alone in the Dark Trailers and Screenshots

The Alone in the Dark Assets page was updated earlier this week with 4 new videos (three of which I've seen before), as well as some new screenshots featuring glimpses of the game's monsters.

You can check out the videos here, and the screenshots here.

However the game turns out to be, I love that music...

Prey and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 Join Platinum Hits Titles

According to an ad I saw on Xbox LIVE last night, both Prey and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 have now joined the Platinum Hits program, and carry a retail cost of approximately $29.99 each.

Both games are a great buy at that price if you happened to miss them when they were first launched.

StarCraft II - Zerg Baneling Revealed

Blizzard Entertainment has profiled another new unit for their upcoming real time strategy game, StarCraft II, this time casting the spotlight on the Zerg Baneling.

You can check out all the details, as well as some new screenshots and concept art, right here and here.

Hazardous Chemicals in Video Game Consoles

Looks like Greenpeace has been doing some testing on the Xbox 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3, and no, they weren't trying to determine which was the better platform in terms of content or sales.

It would appear that all current generation video game consoles contain components manufactured from hazardous chemicals. In truth, this should come as no surprise to anyone, as everything in North America is made with chemicals today, and everything gives you cancer, gas, or herpes.

Anyway, according to Greenpeace, it's completely possible for the current console manufacturers, namely Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony, to clean up their products, or at least their next-gen consoles that they will all undoubtedly make.

If you agree with Greenpeace, and would like to express your concern for more environmentally sound manufactured game consoles, you can write to each respective developer via Greenpeace for Microsoft here, Nintendo here, and Sony here.

Though the cost of each console would likely go up, so long as the hardware performs, I'll personally support this, and I've already written to each designer. Couldn't hurt, that's for sure. Look at it this way: The Master Chief is green, the Xbox brand loves green, so why shouldn't Microsoft make it a green console? Ah, you like that one don't you. Don't you?

Original story spotted at TeamXbox.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Web 2.0

A buddy sent me this video showing the evolution of the web and in essence, digital life. Check it out:

Editorial: Xbox 360 at Half-Life

No, I'm not talking about Valve's franchise, I'm talking about the lifespan of the Xbox 360 console itself. Assuming the Xbox 360 has the same 5 year life cycle as the original Xbox, it will reach it's half-life about mid this week.

Half-way through this generation all ready, and the Wii is leading in hardware sales, the Xbox 360 is leading in software sales and online gaming, and the PlayStation 3 is struggling at playing catch-up, but does have some solid exclusives on the horizon.

So what's to come for the Xbox 360, and where's the Xbox franchise going?

The Xbox 360 certainly started off strong, having a 1 year head start on its competition. The Xbox 360 was the first console to feature a standard first-party Wireless Controller, a detachable HDD (something I didn't realize the usefulness of until I bought it), and it integrated the Xbox LIVE service, adding in the different classes of Membership so everyone could experience Xbox LIVE, but only Gold Members could play Multiplayer games. It launched with average calibre games, but the Xbox 360's games library quickly grew into the largest and best selling software library of this generation thus far.

Microsoft also played a very interesting strategic move with the recently ended format war. Upon launch of the Xbox 360, for obvious reason, they couldn't go with Blu-ray Disc, so instead they openly supported HD DVD, but to keep the costs of the console down _and_ to play it safe, they released an HD DVD drive as a separate add-on for the console; the Xbox 360 still used a simple DVD drive by nature.

Of course, Sony fanboys slammed the Xbox 360 for this, and totted their victory in the format war, but really, at what cost did this come to Microsoft and the Xbox 360? The HD DVD drive was not a huge seller for the Xbox 360. Ever. And while some may argue that HD DVD would have established a much better foothold had it been the default drive in the Xbox 360 console, the fact remains that Microsoft came through that format war without any major loss.

Look at it this way: What would have happened had Blu-ray Disc lost? The PlayStation 3 would be a console with an obsolete format at its core; it would have failed utterly as a media platform _and_ a game console. The Xbox 360, on the other hand, can keep on trucking and the majority of its customer base was completely unaffected. Microsoft's primary media focus has always been the Xbox LIVE Video Marketplace, so for anyone really looking at this situation, they'll see that Microsoft played the format war conservatively and intelligently. Despite the PlayStation 3's boost in hardware sales as a result of winning the format war, as of this typing, the Xbox 360 is still outselling the PlayStation 3 in overall global sales figures by roughly 6 million units. That's because at their core, these machines, while having other media potential, are really about the games, they are video game consoles, and right now, the Xbox 360 is leading with exclusive interactive entertainment.

Exclusive console titles like Halo 3, BioShock, and Mass Effect brought a huge measure of success to the Xbox 360 last year, and in the foreseeable future, Xbox 360 gamers have a lot to look forward to. Exclusive titles like Gears of War 2 and Fable II will drive the console forward, pushing the hardware and expanding the subscriber base of Xbox LIVE. Should the PlayStation 3's exclusives actually pay off this year, it might finally pose some real global competition for Microsoft, which would be great for Xbox 360 gamers as it would force Microsoft to reduce console costs even further, and perhaps to bring out additional features to both their console and Xbox LIVE to remain innovative.

With a grand total of 19 million consoles sold worldwide, 2nd place behind the Wii, there's no question that the Xbox 360 has been a huge success for Microsoft, and rightly so. Throughout its entire run, I'd say the biggest hitch with the Xbox 360 has been its unfortunate hardware quality issues. The three flashing red lights has been the most common and publicised of these, leading to the now popular term, RRoD, however there have been numerous other issues with the console as well, such as faulty DVD drives as well as problem graphic cards. While all hardware, especially factory manufactured, mass-produced hardware, sees a certain percentage of failures, the Xbox 360 has a very high failure rate, and even though Microsoft extended their warranty and took a financial hit to compensate, a piece of hardware should not be released with these kind of issues en mass. Of course, as a company, Microsoft looked at the situation from a business perspective, releasing early to establish a customer base to prevent their own catch-up period they experienced with the original Xbox last generation. And despite the problem hardware, financial loss, etc. that strategy did pay off very well, as evidenced by both hardware, exclusive software, and cross-platform software sales figures.

And that's where the Xbox 360 stands at its midway point; a lot of success and innovation, but also some set-backs and lessons learned. So what's next for the Xbox brand? Well, no one knows for sure and there have been no official announcements, but realistically the Xbox team is working on the third Xbox console as I type this. So, to close off this editorial, what would I like to see in the next Xbox console, what improvements, aside from the standard hardware increases, to the design and functionality? In no particular order:

- Lighter download rights management restrictions
- A slot-loading Blu-ray Disc drive (we've heard rumours of Microsoft talking with Sony about Blu-ray Disc, and I bet this is for the next Xbox console)
- Built in Wi-Fi
- The ability to use traditional flash drives for storage/back-up
- A few extra buttons on the Controller (bring back the White and Black while leaving everything else)
- Internet browsing capability
- Mouse/Keyboard support
- Reduced cost for an Xbox LIVE Gold Membership

While some of those are only wish list items, I do believe that several of them would be key to the next Xbox console's success. Here's hoping for some exciting announcements in the future.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Alone in the Dark (Xbox 360) Exclusive News and Review Copy

For the last while now, various marketing companies have been getting in touch with me, offering to send me free games to review. Up until now, they've either offered to send me titles on platforms I do not own, titles I don't care about, or simply ignored me after I agreed to participate (way to go, marketers!). Looks like that's all changed though.

One company has contacted me regarding the upcoming remake, Alone in the Dark, and I've agreed to review it in exchange for a free copy of the game when its released. Now what I want to make very clear here is that I will be writing an honest review of the game. After playing it, if I think it's a poor game, I will clearly say so and criticise it for its faults just like any other game. They are not paying me, I am only getting a copy of the game itself, and they are expecting me to write an honest review, which is the only way I'd agree to participate.

In addition to getting a free copy of the game, each week I'll be receiving exclusive news about Alone in the Dark to pass on to you, the readers. Apparently, the more I post the more chances I have to win some extra prizes. Again, I want to let you, the reader, know that I will not saturate you with useless information. If the exclusive news they send me is good and worth sharing, I'll post it and if not, I won't. If I happen to win a prize along the way, that's great, but as an independent publication, I intend to keep the quality of my posts to the standards that you've come to expect.

What're you laughing at, I have standards. Really!

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Theatrical Trailer Out Now

I actually thought this was going to be a 3D animated series and not a feature, but what do I know. On August 15th, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the first official feature length animated film in the Star Wars saga, will be released to theatres, and you can check out the movie's official trailer.

Check it out at the main Star Wars site right on their front page, or on the Star Wars: The Clone Wars site here.

Did they really need to involve the Hutts? Oh well, it does look rather cool over all.

Gears of War 2 Screenshots

Also at this year's Xbox 360 Spring Showcase, a bunch of new screenshots for Gears of War 2 have been released, and you can check them out at TeamXbox right here.

Bring it.

Fable 2 Screenshots and Trailer

At this year's Xbox 360 Spring Showcase, Lionhead Studios has released a short gameplay trailer for Fable 2 showing off the world and a bit of combat, and they've also released several great screenshots.

The game's box art has also been revealed, and you can check it all out at TeamXbox right here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bethesda Softworks Likes Me

I decided to do a random Google search of my blog, just to see what comes up, and low and behold my humble little Arbiter's Judgement appears not only on Bethesda Softworks' web site, but also the official The Elder Scrolls site itself.

Both accounts are due to my awarding The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Game of the Year Edition as Arbiter's Judgement's Xbox 360 2007 Game of the Year. You can view our mention on Bethesda Softworks' site here (third entry from the top), and on The Elder Scrolls' site here (fifth entry from the top).

Considering that I started this blog out nearly three years ago on the advice of a friend for no other reason than because she was correct in her assumption that I'm an opinionated mother @*$%&*, I just want to say that I find it completely humbling that Bethesda Softworks and The Elder Scrolls would mention my blog on their respective sites.

Thank you, Bethesda Softworks, and thank you for making what I consider to be _the_ must own Single Player title for the Xbox 360.

Templar Trilogy - Knights of the Black and White Review

Just over two years ago, I was introduced to the A Dream of Eagles novel series, and to date I have yet to be so consumed by such a gripping, and exceptionally written tale. The humanity, stripped of all the fantasy, that author Jack Whyte brought to his rendition of the Arthurian legend is nothing short of astounding.

Now, Jack Whyte has turned his attention to another period in history, those of the Crusades, particular the history and life of the Knights Templar. The first book of the Templar Trilogy was recently released to paperback, and Knights of the Black and White is no less gripping than A Dream of Eagles.

Unlike A Dream of Eagles, which centred around the decline of the Roman Empire around 400 AD, a time period I'm familiar with, I have very little real knowledge surrounding the Crusades, the history and the politics. This is both liberating and a hindrance when reading a piece of historical fiction because it allows me to loose myself further in the moment, but it also prevents me from knowing what aspects are invented or altered.

Knights of the Black and White mainly follows the life of Hugh de Payens, a Frankish night in Christendom who is inducted into a secret order that is opposed to the corruption of Christianity, and it's grip on the poor. When the Pope declares war against the Muslims and sends a host of knights to reclaim the Holy Land, the Order sends Hugh and some of his closest allies to assist so that they may gain access to Jerusalem, and hopefully locate ancient records and documents that would confirm the Order's belief and present proof of Christianity's false roots and corruption.

Appalled by the savagery and violence of his Christian allies, and their mantra of "God wills it!" to justify slaughter, rape, and theft, Hugh takes a different path and founds the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Jesus Christ, a unique group of warrior monks with two purposes: The first and public aim is to protect and safe guard the roads to Jerusalem, keeping the way safe for the legions of pilgrims who come in search of salvation, and the second clandestine purpose is to search for the treasure within Jerusalem that Hugh's secret Order has charged him with locating.

Like A Dream of Eagles, the strength of Knights of the Black and White comes in the humanity of its characters, in their flaws, their dreams, and their criticism of that which may be wrong. Similar to Kingdom of Heaven, Knights of the Black and White clearly shows the corruption of the Church and its champions that was rampant at this time, and shows the stark contrast between the honour and dignity held sacred by their Muslim enemies.

Not only is the novel filled with morality, and wonderful battles, but it is also rife with politics and manipulations, lust, greed, and sex. Though set around 1088, the overall themes are ones that are still quite relevant today, and something that any average reader should easily be able to pick up on and empathize with.

Knights of the Black and White once again establishes Jack Whyte as a master of the art form, a true author of historical fiction with all the flare and fact to write such an epic tale that keeps you wanting to read from chapter to chapter. If you hold any interest in the Crusades, knights, or the Church itself, I would urge you to pick up a copy of Knights of the Black and White, and set aside some time to get lost in the glory of history. God wills it.

Mass Effect Rogue VI Assignment Binary Code Decoded

This post contains minor spoilers for Mass Effect.

Last night I completed the Rogue VI Assignment in Mass Effect (Xbox 360), and actually took the time to write down the binary code your HUD displays when you disable all the VI's terminals.


Curious, I just punched it into a binary translattor I found using Google, and it actually spells out "HELP".

You learn something new everyday.

Iron Man Review

The summer blockbuster season has begun, and it looks like there are actually several great flicks to see at theatres this year. To kick things off, we have the critically acclaimed Iron Man, based on the Marvel Comics property of the same name.

Heralded by many to be the greatest superhero film ever made, Iron Man follows the personal redemption of industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) who goes from arms manufacturer to a superhero wearing the most advanced suit of armour ever made (of his own design and manufacture, of course).

While I wouldn't call Iron Man the greatest superhero flick ever (Spider-Man holds that title for me), it certainly is one of the best, and is filled with tongue-in-cheek humour everywhere. While the fact that Peter Parker is an everyday yutz carries the Spider-Man trilogy, Robert Downey Jr.'s excellent, whitty, and dry performance give such great life and character to Tony Stark that Iron Man is simply a joy to watch.

While starting out as a pompous jerk who's sole goal is to make money and bed hot models, Stark is abducted while performing a weapons demonstration in the Middle East, and fatally wounded in the heart. While ultimately creating an implant that saves his life, Stark witnesses first hand the brutality that his arms race is causing, and after his rescue, vows to turn over a new leaf. This leads him to create his armour to help protect those who can't defend themselves, and to try and remove his previously manufactured weapons from the wrong hands.

Iron Man's "heart" me be that fancy implant, but it's really the simple morality of right and wrong, combined with excellent effects and action, that meld beautifully with Robert's performance. While Stark's change of heart (yeah, I should stop with these jokes already) is considered as post traumatic stress disorder by most, his opposition clearly becomes manifest in his protege and partner, Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). Obadiah wants Stark Industries to continue down the lucrative path it's always travelled, by any means necessary, but thankfully Stark finds support not only in the form of his lovely assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), but also through his military contact Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard).

My only major gripe with Iron Man has to be with the terrorists at the beginning of the film. I'm sorry, but without giving too much away, if Stark really was in captivity for three months, his captors would have noticed that something was going on and dealt with the matter; that lack of action was too unbelievable for me, even for a comic book flick.

Otherwise, however, Iron Man is an excellent film and well worth the watch for not just comic book fans, but fans of summer action flicks the world over. If the rest of the upcoming blockbusters are anywhere near this good, 2008 just might be the best year the silver screen has seen in a long, long time. Don't forget to stay until the end of the credits!

Halo 3 Complete for the 5th Time

Well it took me a while, but I finally finished playing through Halo 3 for the 5th time (2nd on Heroic), which marks the first time I've played through the complete Halo Trilogy from beginning to end. Though my criticism's of Halo 3 found in my review still stand, Halo 3 is a solid shooter with some excellent gameplay, though it is too bad it doesn't innovate in any way (on the Single Player front).

Though I consider it to be the lesser game of the trilogy, that word there is the key term, now isn't it. Trilogy. Think about that for a second, would you: How many first person shooters have seen a full fledged trilogy, on any platform, that follows a consistent story arc? Please, tell me how many you can think of.

The long standing Doom and Quake franchises are out because their series is not a consistent story. You could count the Half-Life franchise, though that depends whether you a) consider the Half-Life 2 Episodes to be the third game, and b) consider the Half-Life franchise to actually have a story instead of just being a bunch of obscure stuff that happens and never gets explained.

You could count the Star Wars: Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series, since they all follow or feature Kyle Katarn, otherwise, that's it, that's all I can think of. Certainly, there are no shooter trilogies as high profile as the Halo Trilogy, and to that, I take my hat off to Bungie and Microsoft Game Studios.

Taken as a whole, the Halo Trilogy is amazing, simply one of the best video game series that I have ever played, and truly a justification of gaming as an entertainment and storytelling medium. It does feature a rich and deep storyline filled with history, conflict, and politics, and it proved to PC fanboys everywhere (even though many of them are still in denial) that a first person shooter can be done, and done exceptionally well, on a console.

While Halo 3 didn't exactly end the trilogy in a bang, it did close it out nicely and presented us with some nice emotional ties at that. It did complete the story arc, it did provide closure while leaving the universe open for more, it did feel like Halo to a T.

While I did find that Halo 3 tried to capture the feel and style of Halo: Combat Evolved a bit too much, sacrificing a lot that was good from Halo 2 (shorter cinematics, re-hashed soundtrack, cutting of the detailed Arbiter storyline, etc.), it was still a rush driving that Warthog, playing cat and mouse with a pack of Brutes, and blasting the Flood to bits. I also enjoyed seeing the franchies' true enemy finally brought to the forefront.

While Microsoft Game Studios retains the rights to the Halo franchise, I certainly hope that they enlist Bungie to continue this excellent saga, to keep the story consistent, and of the overall quality that we've come to expect from the franchise. Thank you Bungie. Thank you for making the Halo Trilogy.

Gears of War 2 Campaign Gameplay Video

Yesterday around 1:00 am, Epic Games and Microsoft Game Studios released the first official footage of the Campaign for Gears of War 2 in a gameplay trailer that can be downloaded in all its glory from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, or viewed right here on the Xbox Gears of War 2 site (it's the 4th video, bottom right of the selection).

The trailer features a 1 minute intro by lead designer Cliffy B., and then goes on to show some excellent footage for about 2 minutes.


In a word: "Sweet." The enhancements to the Unreal Engine 3 in this trailer are clearly evident, and the footage looks gorgeous. _If_ they're able to have the game running at a solid frame rate _and_ with minimal texture pop-in, then Epic Games will once again be showing off the power of the Xbox 360 versus its competition.

Looks like we have some new weapons thrown into the mix, and I love the concept of using a bleeding-out enemy as a human shield. How many times would that have come in handy in Gears of War, and that neck snap! The Chainsaw duels look awesome, as does gutting an enemy from behind.

It's also nice to see that Xbox 360 gamer's will finally get to battle the Brumak, and the scope and scale of this entire Act 1 Chapter is simply awesome; loved it.

Now hopefully Epic Games will fix the awful checkpoint system from the original game...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

BioShock Movie in the Works

Yesterday, 2K Games announced that it has entered into an agreement with Universal Studios to bring their exceptional first person shooter, BioShock, to the silver screen.

BioShock will be directed by Gore Verbinski, the director of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy (well, the first film was good...), and the studio is in talks with John Logan (Gladiator), to pen the screenplay.

No release date has yet been announced.

While I think it's excellent to see such a high profile game get the royal treatment by being paired with a great studio and high profile director, I have strong doubts about what they can achieve, assuming the film will be a direct adaptation of the game itself.

Why? Because the exceptional atmosphere and story of BioShock are not just portrayed through the wonderful art-deco world or the game's audio logs, BioShock is as effective as it is because it is being experienced directly, first hand, by the player. To make it into a film will remove this hands-on element, that core necessity to the experience, and though I hope I'm wrong, I truly doubt it can have the same impact to a viewing audience.

Time will tell, of course, but what I want to see, what I really want to see, is Captain Jack Sparrow as a Big Daddy trying to drill his Little Sister undead Monkey. What?

Original story spotted at TeamXbox.

Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 3 Released

This past Thursday, Microsoft released Service Pack 3 for their Windows XP operating system. For those of us smart enough to _not_ have upgraded to Windows Vista, this new Service Pack contains all previous Windows XP updates, and also includes a host of new bug fixes as well as some minor new functionalities.

Of course, in true Microsoft web site fashion, I can barely find any information on Windows XP Service Pack 3, and was only able to find this page, with what bare details that it contains, via a Google Search. Way to keep on top of things, Microsoft web team!

Anyway, you can download Windows XP Service Pack 3 here, or via Windows Update (which is how I found it). If you go through Windows Update, you'll also be able to get the full details on what this Service Pack adds/addresses.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Announced

Earlier this week, EA announced that newly acquired Pandemic Stuidos is developing The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, a game similar to the Star Wars: Battlefront series set in The Lord of the Rings universe.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest will feature epic battles from the films, novels, and new battles created by the game's developers spanning the breath of Middle-earth, and the title is coming to both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 later in 2008. Details can be found at TeamXbox here.

I figure this game will be mainly Multiplayer based with a token Single Player Campaign thrown in for good measure, so it'll likely be a renter for me.

Doom 4 Officially Announced, id Software Looking to Hire

Earlier this week, id Software officially announced that Doom 4 is in the works. Aside from that, they haven't revealed anything about the game. If it's a sequal to Doom 3. What engine it will use. What platforms it will be released on, etc.

The only thing they have mentioned is that they're expanding their team and looking to hire. You can check out their official, brief announcement below, or on their main news page (at least until is scrolls away as they don't have any perma-links that I'm aware of).

"Production has begun on DOOM 4™, the next journey into the legendary DOOM universe. We are expanding our internal team and are currently hiring to work on this highly anticipated title.

"DOOM is part of the id Software DNA and demands the greatest talent and brightest minds in the industry to bring the next installment of our flagship franchise to Earth," said Todd Hollenshead, CEO, id Software. "It's critical for id Software to have the best creative minds in-house to develop games that meet the standards synonymous with our titles."

The DOOM franchise is one of the most recognizable and important in gaming history, having been named "one of the ten most influential games of the decade" by PC Gamer and "the #1 game of all time" by GameSpy. DOOM 4 will join the award-winning series which has consistently topped sales charts throughout the world.

We are looking for talented, ambitious and passionate individuals eager to join our accomplished team of developers working on the industry’s most innovative and anticipated games. For a complete listing of available positions, visit our id Careers page. Resumes can be submitted via email to All applicants must be authorized to work in the United States."

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Xbox 360 DRM Issues with Original Xbox Content

While playing through Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil (Xbox) on my original Xbox for the 5th time, I began experiencing some strange audio static issues whenever I'd pick up Medkits, use the Artifact, or be around electrical current (such as trams).

Concerned that there might be an issue with my LCD TV, I went through a few different tests, such as trying additional games on my original Xbox, and also by trying Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil on my Xbox 360. Every other game played fine on my original Xbox, and Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil played without the slightest audio hitch on my Xbox 360. This has led me to determine that the issue lies with some kind of cache corruption with this particular game and my original Xbox.

While I'm releived that my LCD TV is fine, I discovered another interesting issue while tinkering around with my Xbox 360: The DRM for the original Xbox content I downloaded via Xbox LIVE on my Xbox 360 is no longer valid; it appears my digital ownership of the content did not transfer over with my Xbox 360 content.

I actually didn't know that the original Xbox has such DRM, however since I've never had any issues with my original Xbox, nor have I known anyone who's had to send their console in for service either, I had nothing to base this on. Sadly, poor hardware results is the providence of Microsoft's current Xbox 360 console.

In order to remedy the situation, I'll simply need to redownload the content, and thankfully, it's all free (this was back before the days of publishers milking gamers for every drop of cash they could on sub-par Multiplayer Map Packs), all free that is, except for the need of an Xbox LIVE Gold Membership.

Thankfully, I have a 48 Hour Xbox LIVE Gold Membership Trial from the copy of Halo 3 I purchased for a friend (which he gave me since he already has a Gold Membership), a 1 month trial from Xbox Support do to my recent service issue, and I should also have another free 1 month trial with my copy of Grand Theft Auto IV (and one of these days, I'll get around to actually removing the factory seal and opening that case to see!).

Now all I gotta do is get my lazy ass around to actually activating one of those memberships...

Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil (Xbox) Completed for the 5th Time

Just short of one year ago, my retail Xbox 360 console's DVD drive died, and I began the process of going through Xbox Support to send it in for service. To satsify my gaming needs while I waited on Xbox Support, I fired up my original Xbox console for the first time in a third of a year and began playing through Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil (Xbox) for the 5th time. I got through a couple of levels, but couldn't get into it because I was angry that my new console had died and all I really wanted to play was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360).

A month ago when I needed to send my refurbished Xbox 360 in for service due to DVD tray ejection issues, I decided to continue playing my left-off game of Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil, but this time I was determined to finish the game off even after I got my next refurbished Xbox 360 console back. This morning, I finally achieved that goal, and overall, like always, I enjoyed my Xbox Doom 3 experience.

This is the first time I played through a full game on my original Xbox console on my LCD TV, and boy, does it sure look a whole lot crappier. It really let's me appreciate the upscaling and anti-aliasing offered by playing an original Xbox game on the Xbox 360 console.

Otherwise, the game was the same enjoyable experience as last time, save for a strange audio issue that I'll talk about in my next post.

Continued above.

Halo 3 Terminals

In this week's Weekly Update, Bungie gives word that a Halo blog by the name of Ascendant Justice has taken it upon themselves to beautifully write up the details found in the terminals scattered about Halo 3, bringing the conflict between the Forerunners and the Flood into concise clarity and shedding some extra light on the excellent Halo backstory.

"Recently, ascendant Justice began a three part series exploring The Terminals – a facet of Halo 3’s campaign experience that falls somewhere between easter egg and deep canon.

In truth, it’s both and gives a deliberately enigmatic look at the backstory of the Forerunners. It was designed, first and foremost as a gameplay and intellectual challenge for fans of the very deep fiction. Find it, read it and understand it. Now that the Terminals have been fully explored, it’s time they were fully understood – and Ascendant Justice’s explanation of the Terminal story is ambitious, readable and frankly, pretty close to perfectly accurate.

You can check it all out right here. I've read the first article and I must say, I'm quite impressed. Obviously, this link contains spoilers for Halo 3.

Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360) Purchased, PlayStation 3 Version Outselling Xbox 360

I caved to peer presure today and picked up a copy of Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360). Aside from peer pressure, this is the biggest video game launch this year thus far, and with it already shattering sales records and tromping opening day records in any medium period, I figured I owed it to myself to simply check out what all the hype is about, even though I've never been a fan of the franchise itself.

One interesting thing to note is that it appears the PlayStation 3 version of the game is outselling its Xbox 360 counterpart, which is interesting, though really not surprising, news indeed. As a fan of the Xbox 360 who doesn't care for Sony's console at all, why would I _not_ find this surprising? For a few logical reasons, of course:

- The Grand Theft Auto franchise has always been naturally associated with the PlayStation brand, which would automatically lend it credit to Sony's platform. If you owned a previous PlayStation console, you'd be likely to continue the series under the same brand name.

- Title competition. Let me ask you this honestly, all fanboy zeal aside: What other game has presently been released on the PlayStation 3 that could come close to matching Grand Theft Auto IV in terms of hype and, according to reviews, quality? That's right. None. On the Xbox 360, however, there are a number of exclusive and cross-platform titles (thanks to Xbox LIVE) that can compete with Grand Theft Auto IV and steal some of its limelight.

Heck, I was actually debating getting Dead Rising over Grand Theft Autio IV, but hype won out. What options would I have if I owned a PlayStation 3? What alternative titles could really have swayed my spending dollars? That's right. None.

So I say congrats to Sony and their platform for finally having a cross-platform title that's selling better than its Xbox 360 counterpart. I say congrats to Sony for finally having a title your customer base actually wants to play, a title that has so much hype you'd simply need to own this game to help justify owning a PlayStation 3. 'Cause otherwise, what else is the PlayStation 3 good for as a gaming platform?

Third Alone in the Dark Tech Demo Available via Xbox LIVE Marketplace

The third tech demo from Eden Games' upcoming remake, Alone in the Dark, is now available via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, and covers the behaviour and function of fire within the game world.

It's an interesting watch, and it really will be fun to see if they can incorporate all these elements into their game so smoothly.

New Fable 2 Screenshots

Earlier this week, Lionhead Studios released two additional screenshots for their upcoming Xbox 360 exclusive action RPG, Fable 2.

You can check them out right here.

Fallout 3 Collector's Edition Revealed

Yeah, I know this is old news but I got lazy. Sue me.

Bethesda Softworks has announced the contents of the Collector's Edition for their upcoming game, Fallout 3.

"This premium Fallout 3 package, presented in a customized, metal Vault-Tec lunch box, includes the highly-anticipated game, a collectible 5" Vault-Tec Vault Boy Bobblehead, 'The Art of Fallout 3' hardcover book, featuring never-before-seen concept art and commentary from Bethesda Game Studios artists, and 'The Making of Fallout 3' DVD that includes an inside look at Bethesda Game Studios and the team behind the game."

Full press release here.

That sounds like a really sweet Collector's Edition to me!