Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Veiled Lies

Let's step outside the box for a second and look at something objectively: Men's magazines. Let's use swim suit magazines as an example. What do you think of when you see them; flip through them?

If you're a teenage man, your hands probably get all sticky real soon. If you're an adult male, you probably read an article or two, and then get your hands all sticky. If you're a woman, you might take note of what the models are wearing so you can try to buy the same (thereby encouraging your man to get his hands all sticky. Yes, yes, I'm picking up on a theme here), or, well, you may think the magazine is trash.

Those women are so beautiful. Men want me to look like this, but I never will, it's not fair.

Yeah, I suppose you could look at them that way, but what would you do if I told you that woman's magazines are actually much more derogatory and disrespectful of women than swim suit magazines or even porn mags like Playboy could ever be?

How so? Well, look at it this way: What kind of headlines to you see on the covers of the average woman's magazine, and what do those headlines tell you? Really?

Headline Example #1: Follow these 10 simple steps to look your best _all_ the time!
Translation: You're ugly and no matter what you do, you'll never be beautiful. But if you follow these steps, men might like you!

Headline Example #2: 5 sex moves you absolutely _must_ learn!
Translation: You have no idea how to please your man, which is why he looks at other women all the time. If you surprise him with these, he'll objectify you and pay attention to you, but only for physical pleasure.

Headline Example #3: Short and easy workout you can fit into any part of your day!
Translation: You're fat, and no matter how you watch what you eat or how often you follow your regular workout, you'll always be fat. With our secrets, you might burn a pound or two and save some dignity.

And those are just three examples. Sound harsh? The truth often is, isn't it.

The truth, is that most woman's magazines are tailored to strike right at a woman's own lack of self confidence in herself, and that makes me angry. And most women gobble it all up, and that makes me sad.

At least with a men's magazine, like a swim suit issue or Playboy, sure, those models are in provocative poses, but at least they show the beauty of the female form at it's peak, and they teach men to desire feminine beauty. Woman's magazine's, on the other hand, constantly tell their readers, in complete undertones, that they're not good enough and that they never will be.

But we are who we are, and the second you try to become something else to please someone else, you're no longer yourself, and then what are you left with? Not everyone's going to be attracted to you no matter what you do, that's a simple truth of life, and if you can't love yourself for who you really are, how can you ever expect anyone else to?

Alone in the Dark (Xbox 360) on It's Way

One of my contacts at Rocket XL has informed me that they just got their Xbox 360 copies of Alone in the Dark in, and one has now been shipped out to me.

Pretty soon, I should be able to tell you if all the reviewers were right or too harsh.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

McFarlane Toys Halo Points Purpose Revealed

When McFarlane Toys released their first series of Halo 3 action figures, we all noticed the Halo Points available to collect on each box. What we didn't know though, is exactly what those points could be collected for.

And now we know (and knowing is half the battle!)

Beginning in Winter 2008, you can trade in Halo Points for various prizes, such as:

- Halo 3 Lithograph for 100 Points
- Hayabusa Katana and Scabard for 150 Points
- Spartan Recon Armour (various colours) for 225, 250, and 300 Points respectively
- Master Chief (Metalic Gold) for 500 Points

To clarify, the Katana and Recon armour are additions to the action figure line up, and not from the actual game itself. You will _not_ get the much sought after Recon armour for your in-game Halo 3 Spartan with these Halo Points.

That being said, if you buy enough Halo 3 figures to warrant a Point redemption, you deserve a little something special.

Halo: Contact Harvest Review

Halo: Contact Harvest is the latest novel in the Halo series, released about a month after Halo 3 last year. In a word, Halo: Contact Harvest is excellent.

Written by Joseph Staten, writer of the Halo trilogy, Halo: Contact Harvest is set at the very beginning of the Human-Covenant War, 27 years prior to Halo: Combat Evolved, and roughly 5 years prior to the upcoming RTS, Halo Wars. What makes the tale even more unique is that there are no Spartan-II's, as they're still in training back on Reach. In fact, this is the only Halo novel thus far that doesn't feature a single Spartan.

Who it does feature is everyone's favourite Sergeant Major, Avery J. Johnson; at this point a simple Staff Sergeant. At the beginning of the novel, the UNSC is still dealing with the Insurectionists, groups of humans who want to break away from the UN and strike it out on their own. Johnson, as well as several other Marines, are sent on an anti-terrorist mission, and everything begins to go downhill for A.J. Johnson right from the get-go.

Disgraced and broken, Johnson is re-assigned to the outer-colony world of Harvest along with Staff Sergeant Byrne, a man Johnson has an unpleasent history with, to train several local recruits into a functional militia to further resist any Inserectionist activity. What Johnson, Byrne, and the recruits could never hope to realize is that they'll take part in and bare witness to the birth of the most destructive conflict humanity will ever face.

As any fan of the franchise knows, Harvest is the first human world the Covenant encounters, and they completely destroy the world, claiming we are an afront to their gods. We've all heard this story, summarized in a few simple sentences as it's ancient history by the time of the Halo trilogy, but the events leading up to Harvest's destruction are much more detailed than a simple assault.

For those of you who loved the Arbiter's storyline from Halo 2 and were, like me, disappointed to see it and most of the Covenant politics dropped from Halo 3, you will love Halo: Contact Harvest. Why? Because there's a _lot_ of Covenant politics, and it's written very, very well.

You'll get to read about the Prophets we know from the trilogy before their rise to power, you'll learn more about the tedious relations between the Prophets and the Elites, and how the Brutes fit into the overall plan. Oh yes, the Brutes are part of the Covenant prior to the war, as are Drones, it's just that they didn't exactly have the best standing in the Covenant at the time. In fact, the Brutes feature much more prominently in Halo: Contact Harvest than the Elites, and the way Staten fleshes them out has granted me a whole lot more respect for those space apes.

I'm also happy to say that many of the Covenant background details, cut from the Halo 2 cinematics but glimpsed at in the Halo 2: Limited Edition's bonus disc, are brought to light in Halo: Contact Harvest and add much further detail to the Covenant's political background. And of course, what would Halo be without Grunts? While we don't get Yayap, the lead Grunt everyone loved from Halo: The Flood, we do get Dadab, a very interesting Grunt who's not a soldier. Think of it as a new and unique twist on a classic Halo character.

Simply put, Halo: Contact Harvest is a must read for any fans of the franchise. Not only do we get to see several key characters from the trilogy early on, and I've neglected to mention a few on purpose to leave some surprise, but you get to read how everything started, and how the seeds were planted for many of the major events that bare fruit during the Halo trilogy itself.

This is Joseph Staten's first novel, and I most certainly hope it's not his last.

Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe Trailers

Some new trailers have been released for Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, Midway's upcoming crossover fighter.

Honestly, the gameplay is looking pretty sweet.

I also see boobies.

This second trailer is narrated by Ed Boon, and really shows off a lot of the new features, and fighting techniques.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Demo in August

ActionTrip has learned that LucasArts will be releasing a demo for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed in August.

Available on both the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and the PlayStation Store, the demo will consist of a modified version of the Tie Fighter construction facility level, include extra Force Powers, and a unique ending that will not be featured in the retail game.

This, is great news indeed.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows Comic Con 2008 Trailer

This trailer is simply amazing. Symbiotes, S.H.I.E.L.D., Wolverine, and oh yeah, the black suit.

Update: The video doesn't want to embed properly, and there isn't one with an embedded link at YouTube yet. Sucks.

For now, you can view the trailer on ActionTrip here, and I'll toss up a copy once I can find one.

Update 2: As promised, find the trailer below.

Halo 3 Weta Collectables

Now these look badass! Weta Collectibles has announced a series of Halo 3 Collectibles that are so wonderfully sculpted and detailed, I just jizzed my pants over them.

They'll be releasing:

- Master Chief's Mark VI Spartan Helmet
- Master Chief and Arbiter
- Master Chief and Grunts (He can't dualwield with an Energy Sword!)
- Master Chief and Flood
- Cortana (Pictured)

I want to know how much the Master Chief and Arbiter, and Cortana sculptures cost, cause I want 'em!

To top it all off, Weta Collectibles has also announced limited edition versions of Cortana, Master Chief and Grunts, Master Chief and Arbiter, and Master Chief and Flood statues; and by limited edition I mean there will only be one of each in the world! Why will there only be one of each? Each statue will be plated in sterling silver, and specific sections will be made of solid sterling silver. They'll be auctioned off on eBay, and to be honest, I don't even want to think of how much they'll sell for.

Once details emerge of the costs on the regular sculpturs, as well as availability, I'll be sure to pass the info along.

New Fallout 3 Screenshots

Bethesda Softworks has released some great new screenshots of Fallout 3, many taken from the recent trailer, right here.

Penny Arcade has also done a nice Fallout 3 themed comic, which you can view right here.

Fable II Screenshots and Concept Art

Lionhead Studios released a few new screenshots and some new concept art for Fable II this week.

The screenshots, here, are nothing too special (it's just a bridge), but the concept art, here, is pretty cool.

Only a few more months until release!

Games for Windows - LIVE is Now Free

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that Games for Windows - LIVE, the PC counterpart to Xbox LIVE, has now been made completely free, and anyone with a Gold Membership would be receiving a refund.

This is great news for PC gamers that own any Games for Windows - LIVE games such as Halo 2 and Gears of War, as now they can take complete advantage of TrueSkill Matchmaking, Multiplayer Achievements, and cross platform multiplayer with Xbox 360 games and friends (where supported) for free, as it always should have been.

Unfortunately, Xbox LIVE still requires a Gold Membership for Multiplayer, and as such, Xbox and Xbox 360 gamers are still getting ripped off. The sad part is many of them seem quite content to let this happen.

In truth though, with added competition from the PlayStation Network, which includes free Multiplayer, I believe that Microsoft will need to re-examine it's Xbox LIVE Gold Membership soon and either make it much more attractive by adding a host of new and exciting features, or make Multiplayer free. 'Cause right now, it simply does not make sense to pay $59.99 plus tax a year to play Multiplayer, and what we've seen so far from the New Xbox Experience isn't much of a boost.

Gears of War 2: Limited Collector's Edition Contents Revealed

I just realized I never covered this when it was announced! The official contents of the Gears of War 2: Limited Collector's Edition was revealed earlier this week, and in my opinion it's looking pretty good.

For an extra $10.00 (US), you'll get:

- Collectable SteelBook DVD case
- Beneath the Surface: An Inside Look at Gears of War 2 hardbound art book
- Bonus DVD, including a making-of documentary, trailers, promotional videos, etc.
- Gold-plated Lancer Assault Rifle available in online play

Full details at IGN Xbox 360 here.

New Diablo III Media

Blizzard Entertainment has released some new artwork, screenshots, and a new wallpaper for their hugely anticipated action RPG, Diablo III.

I'm really excited about this one, and very tempted to re-install Diablo II...

StarCraft II Planet Bio - Mar Sara

Blizzard Entertainment has released a new planet bio for StarCraft II, this one covering the world of Mar Sara. Full details, including the history of the world, can be found here.

Blizzard Entertainment has also released some new StarCraft II screenshots here, and some new artwork here.

Official News on BioShock (PlayStation 3) Exclusive Content

During E3, 2K Games revealed news of the exclusive content that will appear in the PlayStation 3 version of BioShock, and now The Cult of Rapture has the official round up of those details here.

The only real new bit to note is that the challenge rooms are being designed by 2K Boston, the original development team, and not 2K Marin, who are handling the port to the PlayStation 3.

No word on if the content will be coming to the Xbox 360 and PC, but there are some nice PlayStation 3 screenshots to stare at.

Jade Empire Added to Xbox Originals

Earlier this week, Microsoft Game Studios added BioWare's excellent action RPG, Jade Empire, to their Xbox Originals catalogue on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.

Weighing in at 1200 Microsoft Points, Jade Empire has you take up the role of a martial arts student in a mystical world where you must master many styles and overcome many challenges to rescue your master and save the Jade Empire from corruption.

Jade Empire is an excellent Xbox game, and you can read my full review of the title right here.

Gears of War Novel Trilogy Officially Announced

Browser just crashed on me, so I lost everything I was writing for this post, and I'm not writing it all again. Stupid Firefox.

Gears of War novel, penned by Karen Travis. October 28th release date. Details here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Juxtapose's Head Hurt from Think

I was planning on reviewing Halo: Contact Harvest and The Dark Knight today, however I've been battling a reoccurring headache since last night and it's really put the damper on writing anything lengthy. So, I'm going to have to push those reviews until next weekend, but I'll give you a quick summary of each to tide you over:

Halo: Contact Harvest

Amazing novel. Really opens up a lot of the early moments of the Halo universe, and most importantly, greatly expands on the Covenant perspective and politics, something that was done in Halo 2 but sorely lacking from Halo 3. A must read for any Halo fan, and a book that directly precedes the upcoming Halo Wars.

The Dark Knight

The best super hero flick I've seen in years. The Joker makes the film, hands down, and he really is so wonderfully sadistic. Amazing villain and awesome performance. The film has some minor pacing issues here and there and has some odd squeamish moments that don't match the dark and violent tone carried throughout, but this is a must see film.

Full reviews next weekend.

Cardboard Halo

Saw this on This kid has made many of the weapons and even a partial suit of Mark VI Mjolinir armour out of cardboard.

Very nerdy, yet very imaginative. Really though, look at the engineering he's done with nothing but cardboard and tape. Clips that load, and even a Rocket Launcher that pops open to change the rockets.

Granted he'll probably get his but whooped at school everyday, but you have to really respect this kids ingenuity.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition (Xbox) and Dead Rising Sold

So, I've gone and sold it again, as well as Dead Rising this time. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition is good, but it'll remain the greatest game I never finished, and is completely overshadowed by its successor. I also figure with such a great line up of games coming out this fall, I'm simply never going to have the time to properly go through it.

For Dead Rising, I just couldn't get past the horrid save system and awful firearm controls. It's really too bad, as the game had such potential. It'll serve as a constant reminder to me as to why I should always rent first when unsure of a game.

Anyway, I got enough cash to cover my lunches for the next few days, so it isn't all that bad.

Halo Wars Official Site Updates

The official site for Halo Wars has been further updated to include new info on the UNSC Vehicle Depot and the Scorpion, and the front page has multiple links for gameplay hands-on-videos, which, among other things, show off the in-game interface.

Very nice.

Xbox 360 Pro Console Sale at Future Shop

As promised with their E3 announcement, Microsoft has lowered the cost of Xbox 360 Pro consoles to $299.99 (okay, so it's $0.99 more than they promised).

In addition, Future Shop has a deal on right now where you get a free copy of Gears of War and Unreal Tournament 3 with each Xbox 360 Pro console purchased.

Keep in mind that this is the 20 GB HDD Xbox 360 Pro console, as the 60 GB HDD model has yet to hit the market, and that Future Shop is sold out online, so you'll need to check your local store's stock if you want to take advantage of this offer.

The Tearful Prophet

The Onion wrote this article just before George W. Bush took his first term in office. For those not-in-the-know, The Onion is a satire site. At least, it's supposed to be.

It's both sad and frightening how bang on they were. Frightening indeed.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

BioShock (PlayStation 3) Exclusive Content

2K Games has revealed the exclusive content we'll find in the PlayStation 3 version of BioShock, as found on IGN PS3 here.

Accessed from the main menu, we'll have a series of Challenge Rooms to tackle in which puzzles need to be solved in creative fashion. An example is the player needing to rescue a Little Sister from the top of a Ferris Wheel by finding a way to power it without your Electro Bolt Plasmid.

The area these challenges take place will be open to exploration, but each challenge will be timed.

It also sounds like the core game will not be altered, and will be a faithful port, and I've heard that this content will come to the Xbox 360 after release via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, though I'm waiting for an official announcement on that.

Bungie's Big E3 Announcement

By now, you probably know what Bungie's big E3 announcement was: Nothing! Unfortunately, the developer was instructed _not_ to reveal their next project by their publisher, Microsoft Game Studios.

Bungie has commented on the announcement suspension here, and for a brief time, had the pictured image on their site.

Oh well, I'm sure we'll all find out about the next Halo soon enough.

The Dark Knight Exclusive Videos

The Dark Knight is now out in theatres, and the good people at Rocket XL have sent me a link to some exclusive behind-the-scenes videos hosted by Comcast, which you can check out right here.

I just saw the film today, so expect my review soon.

The Collectable Problem

I've been collecting various McFarlane Toys for years now, and I consider them to be the finest collectible action figures on the market. They are extremely detailed and while often very posable, they are sculpted to be displayed in very specific stances.

Which is why I always wonder why they have such a hard time standing up in those very same stances.

Take the Master Chief from the recently released Halo 3 Series 1 figures. You pose him in any stance displayed in the press pics, and he'll stand, but if a little breeze comes by, well, he falls. A lot of other McFarlane Toys have this problem, which leaves me to wonder why they don't come with bases. The ones that do are awesome because they always stand, but many don't.

I'm considering replacing my Master Chief with the Chief from the upcoming Halo 3 Legendary Collection. These figures are non-articulated, but they're in a great action pose and they, well, look like they can stand.

I'll see when they're released in November.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fallout 3 Trailer and Screenshots

I haven't posted about Fallout 3 in a bit, but at E3, Bethesda Softworks released one amazingly unique trailer that features a "retro" cinematic and some excellent gameplay footage. It certainly takes my vote as the most original trailer thus far, and you can view it on the official site here, on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, or below.

You can also check out some hot new screenshots here.

The combat's certainly looking quite graphic.

Splash Screen and Countdown at

The boys at Bungie are certainly up to something, and I'm guessing we'll find out at E3 in about 1 Day, 12 Hours, and 3 minutes as of this typing.

How do I know? Check out the new splash screen and countdown at their site here. Could this be Halo 4 or a new Halo title in general? We'll find out soon enough!

New Fable II Screenshots and Trailer

Lionhead Studios has released a great new trailer for Fable II, as well as some new screenshots and a proper launch month: Fable II will be released in October 2008!

The official site has yet to be updated, but you can check out the trailer on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace or below, and the screenshots come courtesy of TeamXbox here.

Gears of War 2 Launch Date, Trailers, Screens, and your Mother!

Yeah, that's right, I said your mother. Why? Because the scope and size of all the Gears of War 2 updates from E3 is about the size of her. Ha! You see? You see what I did there? Totally dised you, and... a hell, on to the updates!

Gears of War 2 will launch on November 7th, 2008. The official web site has been completely redesigned with a load of new videos, screenshots, bios, box art, etc. I haven't had a chance to check it all out yet and probably won't until the weekend, but you can feast your eyes on all the glory right here. There's also a great pic of the Limited Collector's Edition on the site, but no details describing its contents as of this typing. From the pick, it looks like a metal tin with a sleeve for the case, two discs, an art book, and a pic of Dom and Maria.

You can check out even more screenshots at TeamXbox right here, and the Xbox LIVE Marketplace is hosting a free new Theme, Gamer Pics, as well as the new Rendevouz trailer, which you can also view below.

Thus far, the Gears of War 2 updates are _the_ biggest news out of E3 for me.

New Halo Wars Trailer and Screenshots

Halo Wars continues to look great at E3, with a great new cinematic trailer, as well as some excellent new screenshots showing off the Covenant. Curious though, I never new the UNSC actually took Harvest back from the Covenant, but I suppose we'll see how the game's story turns out.

You can check out the trailer on the official site here, via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, or below, and the hot batch of new screens here.

New Xbox 360 Pro Console (60 GB HDD), Limited Edition Red Controller, and Fall 2008 Dashboard Update Glimpse

E3 kicked off today, and what a showing; I've already jizzed my pants twice. Well, I guess you didn't need to know that, but on to the news!

Microsoft has officially announced the discontinuation of the current Xbox 360 Pro console, which comes with a 20 GB HDD. The price will be lowered to $299.00 while supplies last. Replacing it will be a new Xbox 360 Pro console in early August, which is the same thing as its predecessor save that it will ship with a new 60 GB HDD. The new Xbox 360 Pro console (60 GB HDD) will retail for the traditional price tag of $349.00.

Microsoft has also unvield a new Limited Edition Red Wireless Controller that will be launching around Sept. 30, 2008. It will be red with black accents and come bundled with a red Play & Charge Kit.

Lastly, the new Xbox Experience was highlighted both online and in videos on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, showcasing the upcoming Avatars (ripped from Nintendo's Wii) and what appears to be a new Xbox 360 Dashboard. It certainly looks nice, but I have little info at this point and can't help but be curious as to what'll happen to our current Dashbaord Themes, as they didn't seem to present in the slick new design and weren't mentioned.

In truth, I'm perfectly happy with the existing Xbox 360 Dashboard, but I suppose I won't have a choice in the matter. I'll post more details as soon as I have them, and in the interim, you can watch the New Experience Video below.

Update: I decided to poke around to find some details regarding the new Xbox Experience, and after coming up blank it hit me: Why not check out Xbox LIVE's Major Nelson? And what's one of the first things I see? A complete list of the most update-to-date details on the new Xbox Experience, of course!

The info comes to us courtesy of Xbox LIVE GM, Marc Whitten, who briefly discusses the begins of the Xbox 360 and the evolutionary process the Xbox team expected to take with their product, and now that process is close to bringing us the new Xbox Experience, which will include key features like:

- Copying and playing retail games straight from your Xbox 360's HDD
- Access to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace via the web
- Expanded Xbox Guide to include the full Xbox 360 Dashboard
- Sissy Wii like Avatars (yeah, I'm still not big on this one at all)

There's more of course and we still don't have the full details, but overall, these are some very exciting features. I really like the concept of being able to play games straight from you HDD legitimately, however I doubt my 20 GB HDD will have the room for that, save for perhaps one game or so if I really clear some space.

I'm also still concerned about what's going to happen to all our existing Gamer Pics and Themes, as they don't seem to fit into the sleek new scheme. I do hope we're not all going to get screwed, especially those gamers who've spent a lot of Microsoft Points on new Gamer Pics and Themes.

More details as they develop.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Microsoft Point Cost Reduction

Microsoft Points have seen a slight cost reduction when purchased via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, by a total of $0.50 (hey, it's better than nothing, I suppose).

As an example, you can now purchase 500 Microsoft Points for $7.25 instead of the previous cost of $7.75. This means that 1 Microsoft Point equals $0.0145 when purchased online.

In retail stores, Microsoft Points are still slightly cheaper, but the gap is now very insignificant and you can only purchase them in 1400 or 2800 denominations. As an example, 1400 Microsoft Points cost $19.99 in most stores, and this translates into 1 Microsoft Point equaling $0.0143.

This means 500 Microsoft Points would cost about $7.14 at retail (if they were sold in that denomination), so you're only saving $0.11 in stores, minus your transportation costs which could actually factor in to make them more costly in both time and money.

So in a nutshell, you likely better off purchasing them via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace again. Yay for the strong Canadian dollar!

BioShock (PlayStation 3) Trophies

The Cult of Rapture's Inside the Studio feature, a series of articles written by the 2K Marin team, has been updated to discuss the upcoming Trophies in the PlayStation 3 version of BioShock.

The article discusses the challenges the team faced in implementing Trophies with this new system (Trophies were officially added to the PlayStation 3 with the 2.40 firmware update), as well as a few Trophies you can expect to earn while playing the game.

While the official names of these Trophies have not been released, they sound like the "One Successful Hack" and "Toaster in the Tub" Achievements from the Xbox 360 release of the game.

You can read the second installment of Inside the Studio, entitled BioShock Trophies, right here.

On a side note, I watched the Trophies video from the official PlayStation.Blog, and it ends with Sony asking for our feedback. All I can say is welcome to November 22nd, 2005.

New Halo Wars Screenshots

Ensemble Studios has updated the official Halo Wars' site with three new screenshots, all of which can be viewed here.

The game is certainly looking very, very nice, I just hope it plays that way as well.

Gears of War 2 Splash Screen

There's an interesting new splash screen on the official Gears of War site, which shows an extreme close up of Fenix holding some COG tags.

There are lots of rumours going around that the numbers on one of the tags can be translated into Gears of War 2's launch date, but I suppose we'll need to wait and see.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Launch Trailer and Screenshots

I want this game now! LucasArts has released the official launch trailer for their upcoming cross-platform game, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. You can view it by going to the site and clicking it's link on the left of the page after the site's intro, or you can watch a lower resolution version below.

ActionTrip is also hosting some great new screenshots of the Apprentice in action.

This game looks so much more better than the upcoming Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie that it really makes me wonder why LucasFilm can never get things right. I suppose it is a bit sad that we can all predict how Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is going to end, but it looks like it'll be one dark, wild ride!

Fable II Limited Collector's Edition Content Revealed

Earlier this week, Lionhead Studios and Microsoft Game Studios unveiled the content that we'll be able to find in the Limited Collector's Edition of Fable II:

- a bonus disc with a new behind-the-scenes making of video
- a collectible Hobbe figure
- an Xbox LIVE trial card
- additional in-game content

The Fable II: Limited Collector's Edition will retail for $79.99 (US), $20.00 more than the standard edition.

So let me see if I understand this correctly. For roughly an extra $20.00, we'll be getting a bonus disk with _a_ new behind-the-scenes video, a toy, a free trial Xbox LIVE Gold Membership, and unspecified in-game content, which could be as lame as a rare hat or something.

Craptastic. Unless that "additional in-game content" is something really special, the Fable II: Limited Collector's Edition certainly won't be worth it's extra cost. Very disappointing.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Returning The Orange Box

I need to return The Orange Box to Blockbuster today. It's already 5 days overdue, but thankfully there are no late fees for an additional 7 days past the original due date! Regardless, I certainly got my play time out of this rental.

I completed Half-Life 2: Episode One and Portal, of which you can read my reviews here and here. I'm also just under halfway through Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and about a third of the way through Half-Life 2 (which I started last night mainly for some easy Achievement milking since I've already played through the game three times).

I still have the same strong mixed feelings about Half-Life 2, except on the Xbox 360 the game looks leaps and bounds more beautiful than its original Xbox counterpart. Not only are the textures high quality, but you also have wonderful water reflections and HDR lighting everywhere, something even the PC version does not have to my knowledge. The game plays well enough and I think the Metrocops' AI was boosted a bit, as they're slightly more challenging than I remember and I'm only playing on Normal, but of course the game is the same glorified tech-demo that let me down after the revolution that was Half-Life.

I also need to send a big $*#@ you out to Valve Software for designing that horribly frustrating airboat. Please never design vehicles again, and take a beginner course from Bungie. Half-life 2: Episode Two, however, is proving quite entertaining and is maintaining the good feel I got from Half-Life 2: Episode One. In fact, there was even a bit of exposition which was quite shocking. It seems that Valve might actually be making a vague attempt to tell a story, instead of feeding fans useless scraps to try and dupe us into thinking they actually know what's going on in their own game universe!

But I digress. At this point, I can't justify picking up The Orange Box at $39.99 on the strengths of Half-Life 2: Episode One and Half-Life 2: Episode Two alone. Portal didn't do it for me, I have no interest in Team Fortress 2 at all, and don't even get me started on Half-Life 2. After I get through some other games, if I can find The Orange Box for $29.99, I'll pick it up and finish my current playthroughs. If not, I'll simply rent it again.

I do love how you can customize all the controls, however. Ever other console shooter developer should take note of that, and I was able to customize everything to how the controls were on the Xbox Controller S. Yay!

Wall-E Review

Simple. Sweet. Touching. Wall-E is all of these and more, and is easily Pixar's best work to date. How else can you describe such powerful character identification with a film that has no dialogue for roughly the first 30 minutes!

Set over 700 years in the future, Earth has long since been abandoned due to the pollution left behind in the wake of mass consumerism sponsored by the global-running mega corporation: Buy 'n Large. Buy 'n Large first attempted to clean up the planet with thousands of Wall-Es (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class), but the task proved too great and the Wall-Es were left behind when humanity jumped ship. Now, after 7 centuries, Wall-E is the only unit left functioning, and he routinely carries out his directive to try and clean up our mess.

After 700 years of continual operation, however, Wall-E has developed a personality, and is very curious about much of the trash he finds, keeping some of it as treasured possessions, and even adopting a cockroach as his only friend and pet. Otherwise, he maintains himself by scavenging parts from other disabled Wall-Es, and continues to crush large amounts of garbage into cubes, stacking them to create building-like structures as tall as skyscrapers!

Of course, with a personality also comes the inevitable emotions, and poor Wall-E is lonely, that is until a probe named EVE arrives on Earth to carry out her classified directive. What follows is a wonderfully written tale of acceptance and self discovery that leads Wall-E on a journey not only to fulfill his own dreams, but to save the Earth as well.

And that is Wall-E's strength, the film's simplicity from its characters to its themes, and the film does boast several relevant themes. One of my favourites is the hardcore criticism of consumerism and American values, which is torn open and laid bare in this film, and I find it all the more hilarious because I doubt the average American will understand that they're being ripped on this hard.

The animation is, of course, top-notch, and what's unique is that this is the first Pixar film to feature any live action, used sparingly though, in old videos. The sound mix is also excellent, the most unique draw being the voices of the different robots themselves, and how they all speak and make words with a series of drones and other noises. Very creative.

Thus far this year has been a strong one for theatres, but few have been in the calibre that Wall-E easily tops, and in a summer when everyone looks forward to great action and explosions, it's wonderful to be this captivated by this simple, empathetical tale about a robot trash compactor who simply wants to be loved, and to do what's right. The ideals and themes in Wall-E are so universal that anyone can identify with them, however not everyone, perhaps, will fully understand them.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Lionhead Studios Site Make Over and Tales of Albion

Lionhead Studios and all it's sub sites (including the site for their upcoming Xbox 360 exclusive RPG, Fable II) has received a lovely new makeover.

The Fable II site has also been updated with a section entitled Tales of Albion, which provides back stories on the Fable game world.

In order to view Tales of Albion, you'll need to install Microsoft Silverlight, however it appears you need to install Silverlight 2 Beta 2 and not just the original Silverlight 1, which I didn't want to do (I don't like Beta testing random software for people). If you happen to take a look at Tales of Albion, let me know what I'm missing, but I suspect it's mainly going to be a copy of some of the books found in Fable: The Lost Chapters.

StarCraft II Zeratul Bio and New Screenshots

Blizzard Entertainment has updated their StarCraft II page with a bio of everyone's favourite Dark Templar hero, Zeratul. They've also added several new screenshots (including a look at the new Infested Terrans!).

The bio can be checked out here, and the screens here.

PlayStation 3 2.40 Update "Bricking" Consoles

Sony has temporarily pulled the recently released 2.40 firmware update for their PlayStation 3 console because it is reportedly "bricking" a small number of PlayStation 3's.

This all stemmed from reports in an original thread on the official PlayStation 3 forums here. As a result, Sony has pulled the 2.40 update and issued the below statement:

"As has been reported on many gaming blogs and websites, we have temporarily taken Firmware v2.40 offline. We’ve received a limited number of calls from consumers experiencing an issue with installing the system software update on their PS3. While our consumer services department has seen a low volume of calls on this topic, we are committed to providing the PS3 community with XMB access features delivered in the v2.40 update. We are working diligently to isolate the problem for those few consumers and to identify a solution before we put the firmware back up."

Statement taken from the official PlayStation.Blog, and news originally spotted at TeamXbox.

Halo Wars Screenshots

Ensemble Studios has relased four new screenshots for their upcoming Xbox 360 exclusive RTS, Halo Wars. The shots are looking really sweet, but in the end, it's going to come down to the controls and interface as with any other RTS.

You can check out the new shots right here.

Original news spotted at ActionTrip.

Spider-Man: Web of Shadows Packaging Artwork Vote

Activision is allowing fans to vote on the packaging art they'd like to see for the upcoming release, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. Even though it's a cross-platform title, the samples shown are from, you guessed it, the Xbox 360 version of the game. Why? Because almost all cross-platform titles are developed on the Xbox 360 first, and then ported to the other platforms.

To cast your vote, head to the official site here, and you can actually vote once per day, so come back daily to vote as often as you'd like!

Bungie Day Details and the Halo 3 Lucky Loonie

Bungie has always had a thing for the number "7," and July 7th is Bungie Day! This Monday, July 7th, we'll not only get the usual complimentary Gamer Pics and Theme, but Bungie and Microsoft Game Studios will also be releasing a brand new Halo 3 Multiplayer Map for free entitled Cold Storage.

Microsoft Game Studios is also reducing the price of the Halo 3 Legendary Map Pack to 600 Microsoft Points, and for 2 days only, there will be a seven player free-for-all playlist added to Halo 3's matchmaking.

Bungie is also hoping to reach their goal of having seven billion Campaign kills before July 7th, so if you'd like to pitch in, log onto Xbox LIVE and play some Campaign!

Full details and a really crappy ViDoc showing off Cold Storage can be viewed in Bungie's Weekly Update here, and the ViDoc is also available on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.

In addition, one thing that's old news but I just found out about from Jade's update on Canada Day is that the Halo 3 Multiplayer Map Snowbound has an Easter egg of a lucky loonie! Details here (it's in the Active Camouflage cave).

Xbox LIVE Canada Day Goodies

This Canada Day, Xbox LIVE released a whole bunch of goodies for us Canadian gamers. There's a great new Theme and Gamer Pics available courtesy of Sinnix, as well as a host of Canadian Xbox 360 related details.

You can check it all out here.