Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine (Xbox 360) Review

When I purchased my retail copy of The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles (Xbox 360) last fall, it came packaged with a copy of The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine, the largest of Bethesda's official downloadable content for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Due to other gaming priorities, it actually took me a while to get a chance to play The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine, but now that I've gone through it, I can't help but be impressed as I have been with all things related to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

The Imperials themselves may have been heavily based on Roman history, but The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine is firmly based upon the Crusades, and specifically the Knights Templar. I've actually been engrossing myself over The Templar Trilogy as of late, and it's fascinating to see just how much detail Bethesda has packed in to their downloadable content.

Upon installation of The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine, you'll begin to have conversation options regarding a "Prophet," who's apparently a crazy preacher residing in Anvil. Upon traveling there you learn that the Chapel has been attacked and all the priests killed, and the Prophet sends you on a pilgrimage with the primary goal of recovering the ancient relics of the Crusader, and the re-formation of the ancient order, the Knights of the Nine.

Just who is this Crusader and what are the Knights of the Nine? Well, that would be spoiling, and I certainly don't want to do that!

Unlike the other basic forms of downloadable content available, The Elder Scrolls IV: The Knights of the Nine contains a full, multi-faceted Quest with a wonderfully detailed story, a whole new faction, new armour, new weapons, new spells, new allies, and new enemies. While not quite a true expansion set like The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, it cetainly does pack in a lot of content and is a complete joy to play through.

I started a new character, a male Orc Crusader, and my overall playtime lasted about 14 hours. That's quite an excellent length for a simple piece of downloadable content. In fact, that's the length of many full retail games today, but again, we are talking about a Bethesda title, and one thing Bethesda loves to do is make them big!

Graphically, the downloadable content brings some new designs to the new armour and weapons, again influenced by the style worn by the Templar Knights, as well as some lovely new Ayleid enemies. Audio wise, the voice acting and sounds are just what you'd expect of an The Elder Scrolls IV title, and the gameplay itself is also very standard fair. Remember this is a simple piece of downloadable content, not a complete re-invention of the game.

One of my gripes with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was the lack of an Imperial Legion guild. You're in the heart of the Empire, yet you can't join the Imperial Legion itself, and that left me feeling a little unfulfilled. I'm happy to say that, though they aren't the Legion, the Knights of the Nine make up for this, represented as an elite brotherhood of warrior monks within the Empire. In fact, that is the best way to look at The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine, like a completley new Guild for you to join.

When all is said and done, my only major gripe with The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine is the lack of any new Achievements, however in the end, Achievements themselves don't matter for anything other than bragging rights, and the most important thing is the joy of the game itself.

As an addition to the retail copy of The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine is an exceptional bonus. So long as you properly explore and experience the Quest line, you get a full game's worth of time out of it, and an excellent expansion to the lore of the universe. If you decide to pick it up via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, is it worth your 800 Microsoft Points? Without question, yes.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine is another exceptional experience from Bethesda Softworks and it should not be missed. If only most actual retail games could be of this simple downloadable content's quality.

Fallout 3 Release Date

Bethesda Softworks has officially announced the release date for their hugely anticipated RPG, Fallout 3.

The game will be released in North America for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on October 28th, 2008.

After watching those 5 gameplay videos, I'm actually quite excited about the game. Very excited indeed. It looks like it could be the new digital crack!

New Fallout 3 Gameplay Videos

Two new Fallout 3 gameplay videos have been added to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, entitled "Escape" and "Megaton." There's also three additional gameplay videos available on the official site right here.

I've only watched the two from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace thus far, but each is narrated and shows off some nice sections of the early game world, stat management, as well as character interaction.

Both videos are most impressive, and have helped to renew my interest in the game.

UPDATE: Just watched all 5 videos, and wow, the game looks really awesome. It really looks like they took what they learned form The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and built upon it. It's also cool to note that these videos are all from the Xbox 360 version of the game, as noted by the Achievements that get unlocked.

500 Achievements Reached

Today, I reached a grand total of 500 Achievements by earning the "Burning Root" Achievement in Alone in the Dark (Xbox 360).

The next milestone to aim for is a total Gamer Score of 10, 000 Gamer Points. Presently I'm at 9857, so I'm not too far off at all.

BioShock (Xbox 360) on Sale for $29.99 at Best Buy

BioShock (Xbox 360) is currently on sale at Best Buy for $29.99, $10.00 off, until September 4th.

That's a great price for a must-have Single Player game on the platform.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Halo 2 (Xbox) Platinum Hits

I was browsing through an EB Games today out of boredom, and I came across a copy of Halo 2 (Xbox). While this is unremarkable unto itself, seeing as how Halo 2 is the best selling Xbox game of all time and there's a million-billion-trillion copies of the game out there, what made _this_ copy stand out is that its case was a Platinum Hits version.

Yup, it looks like Halo 2 has finally been made a Platinum Hits title. Odd bit was the actual case was neon green instead of the usual silver, but there was no mistaking the Platinum Hits box art.

The game was selling for about $19.99, I believe, so if you haven't played through this excellent shooter yet, go pick up a copy! But not from EB Games. Please support an honest and competent retailer.

Thank you, come again.

Castle Crasher Trial Version Impressions

Castle Crashers is the most recent addition to Xbox LIVE Arcade, and there's a lot of hype surrounding it so I decided to give the Trial version a whirl.

And damn is it fun!

Castle Crashers is a completely flash animated game with a great sense of humour and style. It reminds me of a modern day re-invention of Teenage Mustant Ninja Turtles 1989 Classic Arcade with some RPG elements nicely balanced in. You battle several enemies at a time with a variety of button-mashing techniques, you can smash objects to find items in your environments, and there's a great big "Go" arrow that pops up telling you to move forward when you've cleared a screen. The entire game smacks of modern day retro, if that makes any kind of sense.

You play the role of a Knight who must rush and battle barbaric enemies threatening your king and country, in classic animated and side-scrolling arcade style. You gain experience by defeating enemies to level up, can gain different weapons, animal companions, buy items at stores, etc.

The only thing that's held me back from buying the full version is the price. 1200 Microsoft Points is rather steep for any simple Xbox LIVE Arcade game, and because of that I'm going to have to pass on Castle Crashers for now. Should it ever drop to 800 Microsoft Points though, I'll be all over it like that one Knight performing CPR on that other Knight with their helms still on. Too funny!

Weta Collectibles Cortana Statue Available for Pre-Order

Weta Collectibles has now placed their Halo 3 Collectibles Cortana statue up for pre-order, selling for $225.00 (US), to be released the second quarter of 2009.

That's a fine looking sculpt, and certainly worth the coin if you can afford it.

Tropic Thunder Review

I'll keep this one very short and sweet: Tropic Thunder is a great flick to kill an afternoon. Not a huge blockbuster, but fun and certainly one of the funniest films released this summer.

Tropic Thunder is a film following the filming of a Vietnam War flick of the same name, starring Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), but of course, all of these actors have problems and attitude. Speedman is a washed up action star who's lost his personal identity, Portnoy is a coke addict traditionally cast in fart-movies, and Lazarus is the obsesive actor who not only gets into character for a role, but he truly becomes that character for the duration of his shoots.

Now, can I just take a moment to give away a minor spoiler here. If you don't want to read this, skip ahead to the next paragraph. The movie actually starts with several false "previews" detailing these "stars" past works, and in my opinion they're the funniest moments of the film. Seriously, I would pay to see Satan's Alley; an absolute laugh riot simply because it's so wrong.

During filming of Tropic Thunder, it becomes apparent that there's chemistry problems with the actors, with their relations to one another and the crew, so much so that Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) threatens to pull the plug. To save the film, Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) and Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte), the writer of the novel the film is based on, put in motion a plan to dump the actors in the middle of a real hostile jungle to capture the reality of war.

Of course everything goes to hell, and Speedman finds himself leading his "unit" of actors in real fire fights against real hostiles, but of course he thinks it's all just part of the script. And naturally, what makes the film so enjoyable is these spoiled actors adapting and trying to survive this situation that may or may not be real. The characters all play well off one another, fitting the stereotypical roles of stuck-up Hollywood talent.

And in a nutshell, that's it. Tropic Thunder has it's pure laugh moments, be they sutle or outright in your face. I must say I actually enjoyed Tom Cruise's performance for once, even though he still scares me, and all those people flipping out over the use of the term "retard" really need to lighten up.

So in a summer where very few films have stood out, Tropic Thunder provides some solid entertainment to be worth your buck.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Halo 3 - Assembly Map Screenshots Released

Bungie Studios has revealed several great looking screenshots for an upcoming Halo 3 multiplayer map entitled "Assembly."

No word yet on when or how this map will be made available, however while I still can't and won't condone paying for simple multiplayer maps, this map does look very nice indeed.

Check out the screens in Bungie's latest Weekly Update here.

Duke Nukem 3D (Xbox 360) Screenshots and Gameplay Videos

TeamXbox is hosting some screenshots and gameplay videos for the upcoming Xbox LIVE Arcade port of Duke Nukem 3D.

I'm really looking forward to this for pure naustalgia's sake, but I'm sad there's no widescreen or updated graphics.

Oh well, at least it'll still contain that great Duke Nukem 3D gameplay!

New Fable II Screenshots

ActionTrip is hosting a bunch of new Fable II screenshots right here.

The game is less than two months away now and looking very nice indeed, though I'll probably miss out on it at first.

Work's gonna be _very_ busy around launch, and since I'm not looking to pick up the Limited Collector's Edition, there's no rush for me to pick it up.

Halo Wars Box Art Revealed, New Screenshots

Ensemble Studios and Microsoft Game Studios unveiled the box art for Halo Wars, which in my opinion is a damn fine pic.

I really like that MJOLNIR armour, and I'm guessing their supposed to be either Mark III's or Mark IV's.

I suppose we'll have to wait to find out.

UPDATE: ActionTrip is also hosting a few new screenshots, which you can view right here. Love that Elite holding two Energy Swords.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360) Demo Impressions

The Force is strong with this one. Literally. The apprentice, Starkiller, makes any other Force user we've ever seen look like a sissy. I'm not just talking about is cool reverse-Lightsabre stance, the boy's use of the Force is unlike anything we've ever experienced before.

The demo starts out with a choppy LucasArts logo video, which was a little surprising, but the good news is that it's smooth sailing from there. I first went to the Force Grip Tutorial, and while Gripping stuff and moving it around is simple enough, I've oft found the Left Thumbstick to be very sensitive which can make precision throwing tricky, but not impossible.

The good news is that after starting the actual demo itself, aside from the above, Starkiller is very easy to control.

Played in third person, you can very easily maneuver Starkiller with grace as he dispatches his enemies, Milita and Stormtroopers alike, with expert precision. You can slash, Push, Lighting, Impale, and toss your enemies around like ragdolls, but of course it's the combos that make things fun.

Press "X," "Y," "Y," and Starkiller slashes, slashes again while charing Force Lighting and then finishes with a final slash that discharges his Lightning _through_ his Lightsabre, which looks spectacular. You can use the Force to litterally bat groups of enemies out of the way, grap a TIE Fighter and toss it at your foes, and generally crush, kill, and destroy in all manner of viciously fun ways!

I played through on the Sith Warrior difficulty (Normal), and the demo itself is not very long, maybe about 20 minutes in length, but it finishes off with a great battle against an AT-ST that forced me to re-adjust my style of combat to take it out, and it concludes with a great push-button sequence that's beautifully executed and very cinematic.

Graphically, I expected slightly higher texture quality, and the default camera could be a little tighter, but overall the game does look nice, and there's lots of bells and whistles (Sabre scaring and other damage). Audio wise, the voice acting, effects, and music are all top-notch, and the brief demos of the new technology behind the game's AI and destructible objects was most impressive.

Overall, the demo for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed blew my mind, and I can't wait for September 16th!

Soulcalibur IV (Xbox 360) Demo Impressions

Man, I really can't get into Japanese games; they just smack of cheese to me. The Demo for Soulcalibur IV let's you play as 2 characters (sadly no Yoda), so I chose Cassandra, and it starts of with an old-style text scroll story intro that was wonderfully poor.

The set up was pretty lame, as was the dialogue once the fighting actually began (it was real bad, actually) but the character models and fighting itself was actually alright, though nothing to jump and shout about.

What always irks me about Japanese themed games is that character's always have ridiculously overdone armour and massive weapons that just scream BS, and I've always found they really kill suspension of disbelief.

Well anyway, the demo featured two matches of basic fair with nothing too special to stand out or hold my attention, so at best I might give Soulcalibur IV a rent some day. Otherwise, based on my own gaming tastes, I'll pass.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Orange Box (Xbox 360) Purchased

Well, I said I'd purchase it if I found it for $29.99 or less, and thanks to a helpful tip from the Xbox Canada General Discussion Forum, I found The Orange Box at Best Buy for $29.99.

Picked it up this afternoon, so now I can finish Half-Life 2: Episode Two and Half-Life 2 respectively. And I can bitch and whine about how much I hate Valve like always. But I'm not bitter. Not at all.

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Opening Cinematic

Blizzard Entertainment has revealed the opening cinematic for their hugely anticipated expansion set, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. I'm not a fan of World of Warcraft as MMOs aren't my style, but damn does this cinematic look amazing, as Blizzard's cinematics always do.

You can view it in all it's glory below, or via the official page in higher resolution here.

So, do you think Arthas got hemorrhoids from sitting there too long?

Halo Wars Wolverine Revealed

No, not that Wolverine, but the vehicle of the same name in the upcoming Xbox 360 real time strategy game, Halo Wars.

Ensemble Studios has updated their UNSC Field Manual with details on this anti-air vehicle, and you can check it out right here.

Jade Empire: Special Edition (Mac) Now Available

This is cool if you're a Mac-head: Jade Empire: Special Edition is now available on the Mac. Hell, I didn't even know they were developing a Macintosh version of the game, but why not?

The Mac version contains all the extra content featured in the PC version, and you can view the system requirements and purchase the game right here.

The original Jade Empire (Xbox) is an excellent action/RPG, and if you've never played it it's well worth the time. You can check out my old review of the Xbox version here.

Bra Basics

Do your shoulder straps dig in? Is the bottom band on your bra causing the dreaded "back fat?" Is the back of your bra riding higher than in the front? Do you have wrinkles in your cup?

Than you could be one of the 85% of women (or specially inclined men) who aren't wearing the proper bra size! But wait, with our easy to follow tips, you'll be cushy in no time.

Evolve today!

BioShock (PlayStation 3) Release Date and Web Site

The upcoming PlayStation 3 version of BioShock has now had it's official release date revealed: October 21st, 2008!

To celebrate, 2K Games has launched a new interactive site specifically for the PlayStation 3 version of the game that actually looks really cool, allowing new players a chance to move through small sections of Rapture and glimpse the game they'll soon be able to play. You can check out the BioShock PlayStation 3 Experience Site right here.

Finally, The Cult of Rapture has also seen a slight artistic makeover. Nothing too huge, but worth a small note at least.

Duke Nukem 3D Coming to Xbox LIVE Arcade

It's official: Duke Nukem 3D is coming to Xbox LIVE Arcade.

The exact release date is unknown (September is the current speculation I've seen tossed around the net), however 3D Relams has finished the port, and it's now with Microsoft for testing. The good news is that it's the full version of the game, Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition, as confirmed via the game's leaked Achievements here.

"Shake it baby."

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) Demo Now Available, New Web Doc, Themes and Gamer Pics Released

This past Thursday, LucasArts released a playable demo for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed via Xbox LIVE Marketplace and the PlayStation Store.

The demo comprises a modified level early from the game in which Starkiller, Vader's secret apprentice, infiltrates a TIE Fighter Construction Facility under siege by Jedi General Rahm Kota. Instructed to leave no witnesses, Starkiller must battle his way through rebels and Imperials alike on his mission to kill Kota.

The demo also features a brief tutorial on how to use the Force Grip ability.

Update: Forgot to mention that there's also a great new Web Doc available on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace which discusses the characters, actors, and motion capture used for the game, and two Themes and Picture Packs have also been released.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mass Effect: Ascension Review

Mass Effect, though having its flaws, has proven to be one of the best games available on the Xbox 360 console. A thoroughly engaging sci-fi action RPG, BioWare's space epic wove one of the greatest video game stories I've ever experienced, complete with deep characters, expansive plot, and story arcs rarely seen in even the largest Hollywood blockbuster.

One point that made Mass Effect so unique, was that it's one of the few games prequeled by a novel. Mass Effect: Revelation (reviewed here) was published about 6 months prior to Mass Effect's release, and was written by BioWare's own writer/designer, Drew Karpyshyn, the brains behind Mass Effect's universe.

Mass Effect: Revelation was fascinating because we got to experience the universe and read all about the different species and politics before having even touched the game. It detailed critical information about the rivalry between Captain Anderson and Saren, and gave us a solid taste of the events that would unfold within Mass Effect, and I very much approve of this kind of cross media for a franchise.

Mass Effect: Revelation also introduced us to Kahlee Sanders, a scientist on the run for her part in illegal AI research, and a character who became very important to Captain Anderson himself.

A few weeks back, the second Mass Effect novel was published, this one entitled Mass Effect: Ascension, and like it's predecessor, it's an excellent read by Mr. Karpyshyn and also forshadows many things I hope we'll see in the next Mass Effect game.

Kahlee Sanders makes her return, now about 20 years later (give or take), and we find that she's left the Human Systems Alliance and is persuing an independant career on the Ascension Project, a joint civilian/military effort to create a proper and humane program for human children gifted with biotics (psionics) to learn and master their unique skills.

The Ascension Project's most unique and potentially gifted student is a young girl named Gillian Grayson, who suffers from autism and spends most of her life shutting the world out. Unfortunately, Gillian also has roots with Cerberus, an pro-Human group determined to see Humanity rise to the top of the galactic chain via their clandestine operations.

I found that Mass Effect: Ascension starts off slowly, and admitadly it's a little boring at first, but it does build and takes off at a great pass roughly 100 pages in, taking us away from the Ascension Project and exploring many other aspects of the Mass Effect universe, most only glimpsed in the game and prequel novel.

Not only is Cerberus, the elusive black-ops organization encountered on many Assignments in Mass Effect ever present (and greatly expanded upon), but the Quarians are prominantly featured, and so much about their culture and lifestyle is revealed. I thought Tali'Zorah nar Rayya was one of the deeper characters from the game, and I was quite interested to find out all these details about her nomadic species. Want to know why all Quarian names are so bloody long? Well you're going to find out!

We also get to explore the lawless Terminus System, non-Citadel, unregulated space filled with slavers and mercenaries that is mentioned but only quickly passed through during the game, and are introduced, though not in person, to a completely new and potentially dangerous species (and I do wonder if they're connected to the Reapers...).

One question many of you may be asking is that since this novel takes place after Mass Effect, how does it deal with the multiple endings you could have experienced in the game? What happened to the Council, what gender is Shepard, what's the fallout between the Alliance and the Citadel? Well, I'm not going to spoil it for you here, but suffice it to say that Karpyshyn deals with all these events in such a simple way that everything is still left open, which fits with the open ended nature that BioWare wants to allow for its upcoming Mass Effect sequel.

Will you need to read this novel to understand the next Mass Effect game? Likely not, but like Mass Effect: Revelation, I expect those who do will have a much greater understanding of the overall storyline, which can only add to the enjoyment.

So is Mass Effect: Ascension a good read? On it's own marets, it's a strong action sci-fi novel that will appeal to any sci-fi fan, but as part of the whole, as a part of the Mass Effect universe itself, it is an excellent expansion to the wealth of knoweldge already present.

Halo 3 and BioShock (Xbox 360) on Sale at Best Buy

In contrast to the Halo 3: Legendary Edition sale at Future Shop, you can pick up the standard edition of Halo 3 at Best Buy for $39.99 until August 21st, $20.00 off.

You can also pick up BioShock (Xbox 360) at Best Buy for only $29.99 until August 21st, $10.00 off.

Two games that are must-buys for the Xbox 360 console.

Halo 3: Legendary Edition on Sale at Future Shop

Wow. Future Shop has the Halo 3: Legendary Edition on sale for $49.99 until August 21st, $20.00 off their current price.

That means that you can buy the Halo 3: Legendary Edition for less than the cost of the standard edition of Halo 3, which sells for $59.99.

Granted, stores are just trying to clear stock on an 11 month old limited edition item, but really this goes to show just how quickly these "collectibles" depreciate in value, and why the initial price tag (scroll to the bottom) of $149.99 was not worth it at all.

Personally, I'm glad I picked up the Halo 3: Limited Edition, however if I found a new copy of the Halo 3: Legendary Edition for $24.99 to $29.99, I'd bite.

Xbox 360 Pro (60 GB HDD) Package Deals

The 60 GB HDD edition of the Xbox 360 Pro console is now available in Canada, and Best Buy and Future Shop have some package deals going on, with the Future Shop one being my preference.

At Best Buy, the console is selling for $349.99 and comes packaged with free copies of Blue Dragon and Viva Pinata.

At Future Shop, the console is also selling for $349.99, and comes packaged with free copies of Gears of War and Tony Hawk's Project 8.

Best Buy's package seems more geared to fans of Japanese influenced games, and Future Shop's package seems geared towards more traditional North American gamers.

Regardless, it's nice to see the larger HDD on the console, and I'd love to see those 60 GB HDD drives sold as a separate accessory (and come with a transfer cable).

Nintendo Wii with Free Accessory Kit

Future Shop has a deal on right now where you can order a Nintendo Wii for $269.99 here, and you'll also get a free accessory kit (link's not working right now, so I don't know what the Accessory Kit contains).

There are limited quantities (111 at the time of this typing), and a limit of one per customer. Sounds like a good deal if the Wii's your thing and the Accessory Kit's actually useful..

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Halo Wars - Reactor Structure Revealed

The official Halo Wars web site has been updated to include details on the UNSC Reactor, a support structure addition to the Firebase.

You can read all about the Reactor here (you may need to scroll down).

Diablo III Media Update #2

Blizzard Entertainment has updated their Diablo III site with three new pieces of artwork here, two new screenshots here, and one new wallpaper here.

Yay! Stuff's gonna die!

Cineplex Odeon Renting Theatres to Xbox 360 Gamers

I found this to be extremely cool, if rather costly. Cineplex Odeon is now renting their theatres to Xbox 360 gamers during off hours.

At 29 theatres across Canada, gamers will be able to rent Cineplex big screens for two hour periods for $179.00 plus tax, for a maximum of 12 gamers.

Players will be able to bring their own games or choose from a pre-selected library, and I'm assuming the theatres will also provide the Xbox 360 console.

Thanks Sympatico MSN.

Alone in the Dark (Xbox 360) Review Copy has Arrived

My review copy of Alone in the Dark (Xbox 360), which was shipped out to me around July 29th finally arrived this past Thursday.

I'll begin playing through the game this weekend, so you can expect my detailed review soon. Here's hoping the professional reviewers were too hard on the game.

Final Two Weta Halo 3 Only One in the Universe Statues for Auction

Weta Collectibles has now begun their auctions on eBay for their final two Halo 3 Only One in the Universe statues.

These statues are plated in sterling silver and a certain part of each is made out of solid sterling silver. The big attraction is they produced only one of each statue, it's literally a limited edition 1 of 1.

The first of these, "Master Chief and Flood," can be viewed here, and is presently being bid at $1, 275.00 (US).

The final statue is entitled "Cortana," and can be viewed here. Presently, Cortana is bidding at $1, 500.00 (US).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Second Weta Collectibles Halo 3 Only One in the Universe Statue Now Up for Auction

Weta Collectibles has now put up their second Halo 3 Only One in the Universe statue up for auction on eBay here.

This statue is platted in sterling silver, and the Master Chief's arm and Assault Rifle are made of solid sterling silver. Fully details here.

This particular statue is entitled Master Chief and Arbiter, and it would be my first choice of the lot, though I couldn't justify the $908.00 minimum bid needed to place a bid as of this typing.

When the regular version of this statue is released, however, I will take a very serious look at it and it's cost.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

BioShock (Xbox 360) Completed for the 4th Time

I've completed BioShock (Xbox 360) for the 4th time today, and as usual, it was an awesome experience. If you own an Xbox 360 or a PC, you're really missing out if you haven't played through this great Single Player experience, and if you only own a PlayStation 3, you'd be well advised to check it out when it's released this October.

I once again played on Hard with Vita Chambers Disabled, but this time around I enabled Auto Aiming. For this particular playthrough, I decided to play much more stealthily, mainly by using Natural Camouflage and the Crossbow (1 hit headshot kill!), as well as creative use of Security Bullseye and Enrage. I also had a lot of fun with Proximity Grenades for the first time, and found them quite useful. I suppose I could have mixed all this up with Target Dummy and Trap Bolts, but I didn't get around to it (though I did use Trap Bolts to set up perimetres in Proving Grounds).

I had also heard that if you Harvest just one Little Sister, you'll get the "bad" ending, even if you Rescue all the rest. I put this to the test and found it to be untrue, however according to Wikipedia (link contains SPOILERS) here, you actually need to Harvest more than two Little Sisters for this to happen; which makes a little more sense from a story point of view.

BioShock does have great replay value, though at this point I figure I'm done with the game for a while. I do hope the exclusive content for the upcoming PlayStation 3 port eventually comes to the Xbox 360, as I'd love to give the new Survivor Mode a run-through.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars "Heroes" Video Released

The official site for Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been updated with a new ViDoc, this one entitled "Heroes." It explores how the team took the approach on expanding the various heroes and Jedi featured in the film, particularly that of Anakin Skywalker.

You can check out the ViDoc below, or by going to the official site and clicking on the "Videos" link at the top of the page.

Less than one week to go.

Halo: Combat Evolved (PC) 1.08 Patch Released

This past Friday, Bungie released patch 1.08 for Halo: Combat Evolved (PC). Aside from standard security fixes and general anti-cheater measures, the feature of note is that 1.08 removes any need for a CD check.

In English, once installed, you'll never need to have your Halo: Combat Evolved CD in your PC's drive again.

Full details here.

Gears of War 2 Lancer Bundle Revealed

Saw over at TeamXbox that has unveiled their promotional Gears of War 2 Lancer Bundle package.

In a nutshell, when you pre-order this Exclusive Lancer replica made by Neca, which retails for $139.99 (US), you'll get a free copy of Gears of War 2, or you can upgrade to a copy of Gears of War 2: Limited Collector's Edition for an additional $10.00 (US).

This deal is not officially endorsed by Microsoft Game Studios, and as of this typing, it looks like this bundle is only available to US residents only, as I can not find it anywhere on

Full details can be found here.

Xbox LIVE Summer of Arcade Contest

Xbox has begun a contest promoting many of their new Xbox LIVE Arcade titles entitled Xbox LIVE Summer of Arcade.

Each week players who play a new Xbox LIVE Arcade game (trial or full version) will be entered into the contest: a chance to win an Xbox 360 Elite console, 100,000 Microsoft Points, and an Xbox LIVE Gold membership 12-month subscription card.

Additional prizes and full contest details can be found here.

BioShock (PlayStation 3) Trailer and Survival Mode

The Cult of Rapture has the details on a new difficulty setting that is being included exclusively with the PlayStation 3 release of BioShock this October, entitled Survivor Mode.

This difficulty will be much more challenging than Hard Difficulty, and will force the players to really conserve their resources and plan their battles. In truth, it sounds a lot more like the Insane Difficulty from System Shock 2, which is a great thing, and I hope this gets added to the Xbox 360 and PC releases of the game at some point in the future.

2K Games has also released an official trailer for the PlayStation 3 version of BioShock, which can be viewed below or on this page here. Love the trailer's music.

Too Human Demo Impressions

Well, the menus didn't piss me off. Quite the opposite in fact. Too bad I can't say the same about the demo's gameplay itself.

A few coworkers were going on about the Too Human demo, so I decided to download and give it a spin, and there' s a solid hour of my life I'll never get back. Which is too bad as the game's concept has a lot of promise.

Based on the screen shots I'd seen earlier, the concept reminded me a bit of Diablo II, so I had my hopes up, but when it got right down to it, I thought the gameplay, and more specifically the controls, were crap.

Perhaps I'm just being picky, as is often the case, but as I've mentioned somewhere else before: there are so many great games being released these days, that if a demo or rental doesn't impress me and hold my attention right from the get-go, why bother wasting my time on it when I can simply play something that does?

The Too Human demo starts well enough. The menus were awesome, and I was really intrigued by the historical/sci-fi concept of futuristic Nordic soldiers fighting machines, but I really, really hated the controls. Specifically, the damned Right Stick, which is not used to look around like in most games (you need to hold Left Bumper and use the Right Stick to achieve this, but only while out of combat), but instead is used to deploy and swing your melee weapon. Now that's all fine and awesome, but I often found myself attacking enemies I wasn't intending to attack, and hitting other targets than I wanted; the lack of a target lock-on feature really hurt things for me, and the camera control and game's default camera positioning was very poor.

I also found the gameplay got annoyingly repetative, since you'd always be falling back on melee attacks as your firearms weren't of too much use, since most of the enemies were melee enemies. It wouldn't have been as bad could you dispatch the hordes of enemies quickly, but I found most battles took a little while, adding to the tedium.

Graphically, the game looked good, but not ground breaking. The environments were solid, but the character models aren't up to the level seen in Mass Effect, though I didn't notice any texture pop-in. Audio-wise, the music kicked, as did the sound effects, but the voice acting was average.

Other things that irked me was no apparent way to undo Skill Point placements prior to exiting the menu, and no option to confirm your selection. I also really hated it when you died and had to wait for that Valkyre to come down, grab you, fly you away, and then respawn you. Granted, it looked amazing at first, but why the heck can't I skip it? So much pacing is lost!

Had the developers allowed for some controller customization, I might have been able to arrange a set up that I enjoyed, however like most console developers, such basic concepts that have existed in PC games since the early '90's seems beyond them.

Anyway, Too Human is far too imperfect for my refined tastes.

Weta Collectables Halo 3 Only One in the Universe Statues now for Auction

Weta Collectables has announced that their special Halo 3 Collectables, entitled Only One in the Universe, have now being auctioned off on eBay.

These specific sculptures are plated in sterling silver with selected elements made of solid sterling silver, and each is a limited edition one of one. That's right, only one of each statue has ever been made.

The first being auctioned off is Master Chief and Grunts, and it's Ebay page can be found here. As of this typing, there are 33 bids in and the statue is presently at a nice $1, 625.00 (US).

Fable II Release Date Announced and Limited Edition Content Details Elaborated

Lionhead Stuidos and Microsoft Game Studios have officially unveiled the release date for their highly anticipated action RPG, Fable II. The game will hit store shelves on October 24th.

They've also expanded on the skimpy details of the additional content featured in the Fable II: Limited Collector's Edition. In addition to the aforementioned contents, the Fable II: Limited Collector's Edition will also feature:

- Bonus in-game content (which will require an Xbox LIVE membership to access, likely as a content download), such as the "Hall of the Dead" dungeon, the "Wreckager" Legendary Cutlass weapon, and Otherworldly bonus (whatever that means).

- Five printed face cards.

The Limited Collector's Edition will retail for an additional $20.00 (US) over the standard edition.

Personally, I still don't think the Fable II: Limited Collector's Edition is worth it at this point. I'd pay an extra $10.00, but I can't justify $20.00.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Proper Ventilation Set Up for the Xbox 360 Console

I've been spending a good bit of time contributing to the Xbox Forums, and unfortunately a lot of people are still having issues with the three flashing red lights (general hardware failure). This is a major problem with the Xbox 360 console, and in my opinion the console's hardware issues are its only major flaw, but I've read of some people going onto their 20th console now. Their 20th!

The Xbox 360 is about 2 years and 8.5 months old, so that's like going through a console just over every month and a half! While I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt that these unforunate people have just had really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad luck , odds are they're actually doing something horribly wrong and not even realizing it. My most common suspicion: ventilation.

I suspect many of these unfortunate gamers are placing their Xbox 360's in their h
ome wall units, or perhaps even leaving it on their carpets, or some other poorly chosen area.

To that end, I've decided to post up picks of my own Xbox 360's set up, showing o
ff a properly ventilated console. The Xbox 360 is a beast that generates a lot of heat, however to date I have not received a single flashing red light, and I'm hoping to keep it this way.

Of course
, any Xbox 360 console can get the three flashing red lights right out of the box, and though overheating is the popular reason for the cause of this symptom, it has never been officially proven what causes the three flashing red lights, so what I'm showing here may not prevent this problem for you, even if you are able to duplicate my set up. Still, every good suggestion counts, and I do hope I can help prevent a few of my readers a headache or two.

To start, I hav
e my console out in the open, not in my TV's wall unit, with absolutely no obstruction blocking it what-so-ever. None of the vents are covered, and there's plenty of room for my Xbox 360 to vent all it's heat in any direction. Just by feel alone, you'll find that most of the console's heat is pushed out of the rear vents, so I've left plenty of room in the back for proper air flow; roughly 15 cm.

I've also placed my console and TV right under my window. The pros to this is with the window open, there's a lot better air circulation right around my Xbox 360. The bad news is if it ever rains and my window's open, we'll, thankfully I've been careful up to this point.

I've also placed my Xbox 360 horizontally to help prevent it from being accidentally knocked over, and to prolong disc life, as it's rumoured the console is more likely to scratch a disc in
the vertical position.

Now, placing your console under a window might not be the best option, and I've
only done it because it's the best spot available in my room, however I firmly suggest you place your Xbox 360 in the open similar to mine if you can. If not, you might want to think about a) relocating it or b) purchasing a cheap side table from some place like IKEA. That might be inconvenient, but it'll potentially save you money in the long run.

Best of luck!

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Review

Well, where to begin? The Mummy was a solid action adventure flick with great special effects for its day. The Mummy Returns, while cheesy, was very entertaining and also featured good effects. Overall, I enjoyed both these films, which is why I'm trying to figure out the best way to describe how they dropped the ball in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

Simply put, while it does have a few entertaining moments, this is a film that should never have been made.

If I had to put my finger on the biggest problem facing the film, it'd have the be the cast, and their complete lack of chemistry with one another, coupled with a weak script that gives them nothing to play off of. I honestly found Brendan Fraser's dry sarcasim funny in the previous films, but really, the man didn't have much to work with here, which is too bad.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor begins with the O'Connell's in retirement, trying to enjoy a quiet, normal life while their son, Alex (Luke Ford), is off in China digging around for the tomb of the fabled Emperor Han (Jet Li), who was cursed and imprisoned with his army long ago.

Right off the film tries to be funny with silly gags and one liners that are just executed poorly, and the lack of any charisma between Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn O'Connell (Maria Bello) really doesn't help much. Ultimately the O'Connell's come out of retirement to bring a priceless artifact back to China on behalf of the British government, and to visit their son, and even after Han comes back to (un) life, the film is just a bunch of wild chase and effect sequences with no substance or plot behind them.

One of the great things about the previous films was Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) himself. He was a villain that had presence and a sense of purpose as he went about his nefarious schemes. Emperor Han, on the other hand, is the basic "must crush, kill, destroy" kind of villain, who also happens to know kung fu. He can also conveniently shape shift, 'cause he's special that way.

Which leads me to the special effects. The Mummy and its sequel are films known for great special effects, but the CGI featured in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor feels much lower budget. The creatures aren't believable, and they have a slight cartoonish feel to them, which really kills any chance for immersion. There are also Yeti allies. That's right, abominable snowmen who help the good guys smash the bad guys, and they're just done poorly. It's one of those classic film moments where you groan and wonder what the hell the director's thinking, you know, like watching the works of Lucas and Speilberg (sorry, I couldn't resist).

Let's put it this way, once the Yeti come into action (and what is it with action adventure flicks and poorly executed CGI animal minions this year?), you're not gonna care about the film except to laugh at everything it's doing wrong. Yeah, it's that bad.

The O'Connell's, and a few of their side kicks of course, set out to stop and kill Han, so they travel to this place and that with silly gags thrown in, including a really poorly done puppet yak that likes to yak (as in hurl). Just writing about all this hurts my head.

There is a hilarious massive battle sequence at the end where two undead armies fight,
and what makes it hilarious is just how silly the whole set up is, and the poorness in which the effects are exectued. Both armies look like a joke and nothing more.

I'm going to keep this short and brief since there's really not much good I can say about the film:

The Good

- Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) and Lin (Isabella Leong) are gorgeous.

The Bad

- Everything else.

If you're a fan of the series, I still recommend you just watch the trailer now and wait for a DVD rental at least, as The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a film better left buried beneath the sands. You won't find anything special in the film that isn't shown in the free online trailer.