Saturday, February 28, 2009

New Layout

I'd like to welcome you all to our brand new layout, all pre-done with templates courtesy of Blogger!

Seriously though, this is the first major layout revision I've done in the blog's history, and it was prompted by all the videos I've been posting. You may have noticed that many videos would cover up parts of the right-hand sidebar, which looked very poor, so that clearly had to go. I finally found the time to do some tinkering, since I'm horrible with HTML, but now the site's redesigned and the formatting looks great again (and I pretty much just moved the bloody sidebar to the left).

So enjoy the new layout, and if you have any suggestions, comments, or notice any bugs, please let me know!

Second Annual Xbox LIVE Arcade Awards

I saw over at Major Nelson's site that we're only a few days away from the second annual Xbox LIVE Arcade Awards, and this year, we'll be able to vote via our Xbox 360 consoles thanks to the New Xbox Experience!

Voting starts on Tuesday March 3rd, and you can read all about it right here.

Diablo III Bestiary Update - The Unburied

It's been a while since we've seen an update for Diablo III, and Blizzard Entertainment has finally tossed something our way! They've updated their Diablo III bestiary with a new undead monster: The Unburied.

You can read all about this ghoul right here.

Halo Wars ViDoc - Universe Expanded: Halo Wars

Earlier this week, another ViDoc was released for Halo Wars, this one entitled Universe Expanded: Halo Wars.

This ViDoc deals with the story and the lore of the Halo universe, and how Halo Wars is a prequel set in the early stages of the Human-Covenant War.

You can download the video via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace here, or watch it below.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mass Effect 2 Teaser Trailer

The folks at BioWare have officially announced Mass Effect 2 with a teaser trailer that you can view here or below, as well as two wallpapers that you can download here.

Looks like Cerberus will play a larger roll this time around, and I'm really looking forward to further details on the game.

News spotted at Ready Up Live.

Mass Effect (Xbox 360) Platinum Hits Edition Released

Announced in BioWare's February News Letter, issue 55 (though for some reason this announcement is absent in the online version), on February 10th the Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect has been released as a Platinum Hits title, but unlike most games that go Platinum, they've included a second bonus disc which contains:

- Mass Effect: Bring Down the Sky Gameplay Module (DLC)
- 4 documentaries including the Sci vs Fi TV Special
- Live 2.0 Theme (perhaps the recently released Mass Effect Premium Citadel Theme?)
- Art and Visual Design Gallery

Honestly, this sounds more like a mini-limited collector's edition as opposed to a Platinum Hits title, but who's complaining.

If you missed out on Mass Effect, now would be an excellent time to pick the title up.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fallout 3 DLC - The Pitt Details and Screenshots

The next piece of downloadable content for Fallout 3 will be arriving in the near future, and Bethesda has released the first three screenshots and some official details.

Entitled "The Pitt," players will get to visit the remains of Pittsburgh, which has become and industrial Raider town, in search of a cure for mutation. The DLC will feature new enemies, weapons, perks, and Achievements.

You can view the official Overview here, and check out the three screenshots here.

Fallout 3: The Pitt will be released this March for the Xbox 360 and Games for Windows versions of the game. No PlayStation 3 version is planned at this point.

Editorial: The Xpense of an Xbox 360

Competition is a staple of any industry, and the console market has seen this in spades. For their own part, Microsoft has always advertised the Xbox 360 as the middle-ground console in terms of price, and has now switched that to the most affordable current-generation console with last fall's price cuts.

Beginning at $199.99, the Xbox 360 Arcade console is the cheapest gaming console of this generation. But when all is said and done, how inexpensive is the Xbox 360? I gave this some serious thought last night, and tallied up how much I've spent on my Xbox 360, hardware and accessories only. The results:

Xbox 360 Pro (20 GB HDD) Console - $499.99
120 GB HDD - $159.99
Xbox Support Service Fee - $110.00
512 MB Memory Unit - $59.99
Wired Controller - $49.99
Xbox LIVE 12 + 1 Bonus Month Gold subscription - $44.97
Messenger Kit - $34.99
Universal Media Remote - $29.99
Play and Charge Kit - $22.99
Halo Custom Faceplate - $19.99

Subtotal: $1,032.89
20 GB HDD Sold: -$35.00
Total: $997.89

Now, I purchased my Xbox 360 Pro console in December of 2006, thus the higher cost there. I bought the 120 GB HDD to take advantage of the HDD install feature offered by the New Xbox Experience. The 512 MB Memory Unit is for backing up my save games in case my HDD ever fails. The Wired Controller is for when guests come over. Lastly, the Halo Custom Faceplate was a treat to myself and replace the smudged default Faceplate Xbox Support sent me with my first refurbished console. I've never liked the default white Faceplate to begin with. The other items are self explanatory.

Spent over a 2 year and 2 month period, that's a lot of money, and it's all in the accessories. Just for fun, let's look at the Xbox 360's predecessor, the original Xbox, which I also own.

Xbox console - $199.99
Controller S (Green) - $44.99
High Definition AV Pack - $39.99

Total: $284.97

Huge difference, huh. I purchased my Xbox console in October 2004, which explains the lower cost. The Controller S is for when guests come over, and the High Definition AV Pack was for a better picture quality via component cables (and it made a huge difference, even on a standard definition television). Of course, to make this a more fair comparison, I need to try and match not only the accessories I'd need to purchase to make my original Xbox as close to my Xbox 360 as possible, but also keeping in mind the time frame in which items would have been purchased. So, let's indulge a little.

Xbox Console - $299.99
Xbox LIVE Starter Kit - $79.99
DVD Movie Playback Kit - $54.99
Controller S - $44.99
High Definition AV Pack - $39.99
Memory Unit - $39.95

Total: $559.90

The Xbox purchase price is from December 2002. There are no HDD upgrades, the Xbox LIVE Starter Kit comes with a Communicator Headset and a 12 Month subscription, and of course you required the DVD Movie Playback Kit to watch DVDs on the Xbox console. Still cheaper than an Xbox 360, but with several fewer accessories that simply didn't exist.

Software wise, I own 9 retail Xbox games. 0 are available on the PlayStation 2 console, and all are now available on a PC, though 6 were released on the Xbox first as early as by a few months to as long as a few years.

Let's toy with this cost comparison concept a little further shall we, and modernize it a bit more. After all, my Xbox 360 is the centre of my entertainment centre, where my Xbox was not, and of course there's always increased costs with each new generation. For a more fair comparison, let's look at the Xbox 360's rival and the most expensive console of this generation, the PlayStation 3. Again, I'll add in the accessories needed to make the package as close as possible.

PlayStation 3 60 GB HDD Console - $699.99
DualShock 3 Controller - $54.99
Wireless Keypad - $49.99
Bluetooth Headset - $49.99
Component AV Cable & USB 2.0 Cable Pack - $39.99
Blueray Disc Remote Control - $24.99

Grand Total: $919.94

The PlayStation 3 had just launched in late 2006, and the PlayStation 3 60 GB HDD console was their top SKU at the time, retailing for $699.99. There is no wired headset for the PlayStation 3, so I had to use their Bluetooth Headset in it's place. For some odd reason, even though Sony loves to boast about the graphical prowess of their console, all SKUs only ship with a standard AV Cable, so I've added the equivalent cables that my Xbox 360 Pro came with. A 60 GB HDD would have sufficed for the PlayStation 3's partial HDD installs supported by some games, I could use any USB Flashdrive to back up my save games, Multiplayer via the PlayStation Network is free, the PlayStation 3's Controllers charge via a standard USB cable (included), and there's no such thing as Faceplates, which is why all these accessories are absent.

Pretty crazy huh. The Xbox 360 is actually more expensive than the PlayStation 3 console, and I didn't even include the Xbox 360 Wireless Networking Adapter. Since the PlayStation 3 comes with built-in wireless, it would be fair to include it, so that would run another $99.99 on the Xbox 360's end bringing its total up to $1,097.88.

Granted, all my accessory purchases were optional and I didn't need them, however several of them are related to the hardware issues that have plagued the Xbox 360 since launch.

Almost everyone I know that owns an Xbox 360 has had one hardware issue or another, often the three flashing red lights, and has had to deal with Xbox Support. Personally, I've had DVD drive issues with my retail console and my first replacement console. It was due to these experiences in full or in part that I purchased:

- 120 GB HDD (By installing games, I can prolong the life of my DVD drive)
- 512 MB Memory Unit (Worried about HDD failure)
- Xbox Support Service Fee (My first refurbished console was out of warranty, and an Xbox 360 Arcade at the time was still $299.99)
- Halo Custom Faceplate (This was a Make-me-feel-better gift to myself after my first replacement console arrived, since the replacement console's Faceplate had some smudges on it)

That's $349.97 extra that I've spent due to hardware issues on my Xbox 360 console, so ironically, all these problems for Micrsoft have helped them profit off of me further, and their console _should_ be less expensive than a comparable PlayStation 3 package.

So what am I saying? Am I telling all of you that the Xbox 360 is overpriced and unreliable and that you should all go and purchase PlayStation 3's? No, of course not. In my opinion, the Xbox 360 is still the best gaming platform of this generation. It has the exclusives that best cater to my tastes, a stronger online experience that also sees more exclusive content, and Microsoft's kept its word and still supports Backwards Compatibility while Sony nixed that from their current PlayStation 3 SKUs entirely.

On the software level, Sony is still playing catch-up, adding in basic features like Trophies, their version of Achievements that the Xbox 360 launched with, only in summer 2008. Still though, when you look at games...

I remember reading about people slamming Sony for loosing some key developers/exclusives to Microsoft, and it's true, there's fewer exclusive titles on the PlayStation 3 that interest me, however I find I'm playing a lot more cross-platform titles these days. I presently own 12 Xbox 360 retail games. 8 of those are available on the PlayStation 3 and 9 are available on PC (though many of those launched on the Xbox 360 first, with the PlayStation 3 versions following as early as two months to as late as a year later and the PC versions launching almost all at the same time, with only a few titles having a half year to a year difference). This means I presently only own 2 Xbox 360 games that I can not get elsewhere. That's a rather large contrast when compared to my original Xbox, where there was a much longer wait for titles to come to the PC and none are available on Sony's competing console.

So while I consider the Xbox 360 to be the best gaming platform out there right now, don't underestimate the costs involved in enjoying it. Gaming is and always has been an expensive hobby, this is nothing new to any of you reading this, however don't believe everything advertised, and always really think on those accessories you want; ask yourself if you really need them.

For my own part, I love my Xbox 360, however if it fails out of warranty again and I'm faced with paying another $110.00 to Xbox Support or buying a replacement Xbox 360 Arcade console for $199.99, I'd seriously need to stop and think.

Most of my current games I can purchase elsewhere, on either a PlayStation 3 or a PC, and I can play them for less cost (no yearly Xbox LIVE membership fee). As a consumer who's already spent a sizable amount on the Xbox 360 platform, I would need to take a longer look at the competition, both the PC and Sony's console, and really ask myself if it's worth re-investing in an Xbox 360 again or should I just cut my losses and sell my Xbox 360 accessories, recouping as much cost as possible to buy replacement games/products.

That'd be a tough call, and one I hope I never need to make.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Halo Wars ViDoc #4 Released

The 4th and I believe final ViDoc for Halo Wars has been released, this one entitled "Jaws of Victory."

In it, Ensemble Studios discusses some general strategy that you can employ in-game and their thoughts on simplifying the overall RTS experience for the Xbox 360.

You can download the video via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace here.

UPDATED: You can now find the ViDoc below. It's low quality, but it's the best I've found on YouTube as of this typing.

Dead Space: Extraction Announced

Earlier today, EA announced the next title in the Dead Space franchise, Dead Space: Extraction. A Wii exclusive, Dead Space: Extraction will be a rail-shooter featuring a new heroine trying to escape the chaos on mining colony Aegis VII, setting up the events of Dead Space.

The game will feature new weapons, enemies, and bosses, as well as co-op play, and you can check out the debut trailer below.

You can also read a blog posting by Glen Schofield, GM of EA Redwood Shores Studio, on Dead Space: Extraction's announcement right here.

Dead Space: Extraction will launch in Fall 2009.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (PlayStation 3) Demo Impressions

Short and sweet kids: I was visiting the new uber Wal-Mart that opened up down the street today looking for new winter gloves (sold out) and furniture (I found my balcony set! And maybe a coffee table/end table set.), but the first thing, the very first thing I noticed is that they had a full fledged supermarket in there.

I don't mean one of those food marts they renovated and tagged onto every other existing Wal-Mart, I mean they built a fully fledged supermarket inside, and I just had to go do some grocery shopping! It was amazing! Low prices, ample selection on every item you could ask for, and the freezers even had motion sensors so that when no one was around, the lights would turn off. Genius!

Oh, and I checked out the electronics section and noticed the demo PlayStation 3 had the demo for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, so I gave it a whirl just to compare since I recently replayed the Xbox 360 version.

People constantly go back and forth over these two consoles and which one is superior, so I was really curious to see how this cross-platform title handled because cross-platform games are the best method of seeing what the consoles can do since you're able to compare the exact same game. With the previous generation, as an example, it was glaringly obvious which version of a cross-platform title was the PlayStation 2 version and which was the Xbox version as the hardware gap between the consoles was rather large. This generation, however, this doesn't seem to be the case, and overall, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was pretty much the same to me.

Control wise, it was the same deal save that the Controller felt different of course, and I personally prefer the Left Stick's placement on the Xbox 360 Controller to the PlayStation 3's, but I had no difficulty pulling off my combos and leaving no witnesses behind.

Visually, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed looked identical save that I didn't notice any v-sync issues; there was no texture tearing at all, which is something I'm noticing more and more of on the Xbox 360 these days across multiple games. That is an overall visual improvement, but a minor one at that and nothing groundbreaking.

Audio wise, the sound was off so I couldn't tell you, but I'm assuming it was the same deal, as there's no reason I could think otherwise.

So just based off of this demo experience, honestly, I didn't notice anything special about the PlayStation 3 version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed that wasn't done on the Xbox 360, save for the lack of v-sync issues, which was again no big deal. It was still the same fun, B game quality experience, and I crushed Stormtroopers. With the Force.

So what does it all mean? If you like the Xbox 360, you'll have a good time with it. If you want a PlayStation 3, go get that instead. Really, don't listen to anyone else and choose which console you like best. They're both capable of some really amazing things, and both platforms are an excellent step in the right direction for gaming.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360) Completed on Sith Lord

I finished my third play-through of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360) yesterday, this time on Sith Lord (Hard), and overall it wasn't too bad. I found you needed to be more careful than on Sith Warrior (Normal), less reckless, and that you had to make real good use of all your Force Powers and your key combos. Force Lightning and it's associated combos rock, by the way.

I will say that the game's less than stellar auto-targeting was much harder to forgive on this difficulty. So often I'd shoot out Force Lighting only for it to go in the direction of absolutely nothing when I wanted it to fry that giant Bull Rancor who just happened to be the only enemy around. I mean, what else did the game think I was shooting at?

Also, some of the boss battles were really, really cheap, like Kazdan Paratus. I mean really, what was up with that guy? He was only the second boss in the game, and it took me hours to beat him. I fully agree that he's the single most diffcult enemy in the game. Insane frustration, and I don't think I've sworn that much in a long, long time. Ironically, the game's final (Light Side) boss was a complete piece of cake after employing the tips I found in this FAQ. Good stuff.

Overall though, I did enjoy Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. It's far from perfect and gets pretty repetative, and it's not very long, but it's just so much fun ripping through Imperials, and the story is overall well done; nice and dark and classic Star Wars. Also a beautiful looking game, which is why it's too bad there's a good bit of v-sync issues, but they're forgivable. The overall experience is kind of like that kick-ass B game you keep around when you've had your fill of the triple A's. You know you're going to get an average experience, and sometimes, that's just fine.

Half-Life: Escape from City 17 - Part 1

I can't claim to be a huge fan of the Half-Life franchise, Valve lost it for me with Half-Life 2, but this fan made video entitled "Escape from City 17," well, I'll let the video speak for itself.

Directed by the Purchase Brothers, this video has excellent production values and is worth the watch for anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Half-Life franchise.

God of War III Media Update

The official site for God of War III has been relaunched, and while there's not much there, it's still very much a teaser site, it now contains the official trailer for the game as well as several excellent screenshots (you can also view the trailer below).

Honestly, I want the game, but I can't justify buying a PlayStation 3 right now since there's not much else exclusive to that platform that really interests me.

Someday, perhaps, but not today.

Halo Wars ViDoc #3 Released

Last week, the third ViDoc for Halo Wars, this one entitled "Strategy on Xbox," was released.

It further discusses bringing the RTS genre to the Xbox 360 in a much more intuitive manner than what's come before, and you can download the ViDoc via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace here, or simply watch it below.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Halo Wars Demo Impressions

Now that it's been out for a few days, I've had the chance to spend some quality time with the Halo Wars demo, and while I'm not sure about the rest of you, I consider Halo Wars to be a real risky project. How so? Well look at it this way: Real Time Strategy games have always been the providence of the PC simply due to a Controller's limitations on the genre; a console Controller has never been able to match the depth required of the genre easily offered via a mouse and keyboard.

That's not to say that there haven't been some solid attempts. Various developers, such as EA, have given it a very valiant effort, however most RTSes on consoles have never felt right compared to their PC counterparts, and there-in lies the problem: Every console RTS has always been a port of a PC RTS, where the developers were forced to adapt something far more complex to a platform requiring a greater degree of simplicity.

Thus, we have Halo Wars. The Halo franchise is Microsoft Game Studios' flagship title for the Xbox platform. Halo: Combat Evolved put the Xbox on the map, Halo 2 took Xbox LIVE to fame, and Halo 3 remains the Xbox 360's best selling game to date and is the second largest media launch in history. That's a massively successful lineage and a lot to live up to, and yet here we find Microsoft Game Studios coupling said flagship franchise to a genre that's consistently performed average at best on their home-grown platform. This fact alone means that by default, Halo Wars runs a strong risk of having mediocre sales and longevity by comparison, and I, for one, call that a very strong risk.

Thankfully, not only is Halo Wars developed by veteran RTS developer Ensemble Studios, but it's also been designed for the Xbox 360 from the ground up, specifically it's control scheme. Let me take a moment to state my overall impression in one simple sentence for you: Based on the Halo Wars demo, the RTS genre as we know it will not be revolutionized as a whole, but traditional RTS gameplay will finally be realized on the console platform.

Microsoft Game Studios knew what it was getting into when it commissioned this project, so much so that they felt they needed to release a demo, the first demo of the Halo franchise to ever appear on the Xbox platform, and allowing us gamers to get a proper taste before launch is a very smart move.

Overall, I am impressed. The Halo franchise has always screamed RTS to me with its detailed back story and variety of species, technology, and factions. Based on what's offered in the demo, which is quite significant actually featuring two tutorials, the first two Campaign missions, and Skirmish against an AI opponent on a single map, there's a lot to do and to try. Overall, the demo is not as complex as any PC RTS prior to 1998's Starcraft, but honestly, that's no where near as bad as it sounds. The gameplay was greatly simplified, but it was _fun_, which is the most important thing of all.

It's nice to see the demo start off with the familiar blue-coloured menus that's been the franchise's standard since 2004, and the cinematics featured are beautifully animated. Set in the early days of the Human-Covenant War, 2531 to be exact, Halo Wars will follow the exploits of the crew of the Spirit of Fire as they battle the Covenant to try and hold the recently retaken world of Harvest. The story in the demo was standard fare with no real back story provided, which is a bit of a shame and it really requires you to already have an understanding of the Halo universe, and you'll appreciate what's there that much more if you've been following the expanded universe all these years.

I must admit it's exciting to see so many aspects of the Halo expanded universe now become canon thanks to this game, though like all prequels, some things have been changed that alter accepted facts (Spartan-II's weren't supposed to have energy shields for another 21 years!). There is a lot of storyline potential, and should the retail game's cinematics keep up to the same level of quality as showcased in the demo, we might have a solid RTS story on our hands.

Graphically, the game looks very nice. Units are crisp and detailed and it's very easy to see them on screen, even the tiny groups of Grunts. Audio wise the sound effects are spot on to Halo, the voice acting is up to par, and the music is simply excellent with a very nice and unique theme track.

As I mentioned earlier, controls have been the biggest issue with console RTSes, which is why I'm happy to say that Ensemble Studios has done an excellent job with the game's controls, and they're both intuitive and responsive enough to get players through the demo.

Left Stick: Scrolls Cursor
Right Stick: Controls Camera
Click Left Stick: Send Flare to Allies
Click Right Stick: Return to Default Camera View
Left Trigger: Increase Cursor Scroll Rate
Right Trigger: Tab through Groups of Selected Units
Left Bumper: Select all your Units on the Map
Right Bumper: Select all your Units on Screen
Back: Objectives
Start: Pause Menu
X: Move/Attack
Y: Special Abilities
A: Select (Double click a Unit to select all Units of this type on screen, hold to drag and select)
B: Cancel
D-Pad Up: Spirit of Fire Menu
D-Pad Right: Move to Last Alert Location
D-Pad Down: Move/Cycle to Next Army
D-Pad Left: Move/Cycle to Base Location(s)

The only thing missing from this set up is a Stand Ground command (which, as an RTS veteran, means I'll be able to mercilessly harass my opponents and pick off wondering units and play hell with their formations), and proper Groupings. There are no Groupings which is really a shame, but truth be told I'm not sure where they'd toss them to be simple enough to access unless one were to include a Chatpad for the extra buttons. The lack of Groups can limit multi-front assaults unless you plan it out really carefully, but the game does have a small population cap which limits this issue and has you micro-managing your forces to get the most bang for your buck.

And do _not_ underestimate Special Abilities. A squad of Marine's can take down buildings much quicker when tossing Frag Grenades, and even more so when you upgrade them to RPGs! Leader Powers can be extremely devastating when used correctly, and proper use of Special Abilities and resource management will win you battles and allow you to easily take expansion sections to further increase your collection and unit production.

I've only played with the Normal AI thus far, and in Skirmish mode it honestly didn't present too much of a challenge, only mildly harassing me from time to time. In fact, a quick rush was often enough to really contain my AI opponent, however since many gamers will be new to the genre and starting out on Normal, I understand this. I'm hoping Hard will offer much more of a challenge.

In Skirmish, I've mainly started off by quickly constructing a Supply Pad, Barracks, and Reactor, and sending my Warthog to scout and begin gathering supplies. Once I have a feel for what kind of units to expect from my opponent, I begin working on the counter, mainly Infantry and some Scorpion Tanks (I was having some rather nice Terran flashbacks). Again, I wasn't overly challenged here, so the siege of my enemy's base went very smoothly.

So my overall impressions of the Halo Wars demo are quite positive, so much so that I've pre-ordered the game. While I doubt we'll see the game revolutionize the RTS genre as a whole, I think it'll be an excellent step in the right direction for bringing real time strategy as a serious genre for consoles, much as Halo: Combat Evolved did for shooters before it.

In less than one month, we'll be able to play the full product and see if I'm right.

UPDATE: Just played a Skirmish game on Heroic (Hard) as the Covenant versus UNSC, and it's a much more challenging and enjoyable experience. The AI originally went mass Flamethrowers and Spartans, so I countered with Jackals and Hunters. I teched slowly to Wraiths (should have done this faster), and took an expansion in good time to add more Warehouses to increase Resource deliveries. While attacking their expansion, they hit me with a Mac Blast and took out most of my army, so I fell back as they began mixing in Scorpions.

I switched up my strategy and started mixing Wraiths, Locusts, and Hunters, with a few Elite Honour Guards and the odd Jackal thrown in for good measure, and after several cat and mouse battles, I finally got the upper hand and took out their primary base. I was then able to construct a Scarab to seal the deal.

Lots more fun on Heroic, and I'm honestly quite excited to take this game onto Xbox LIVE!

Halo Wars Pre-Order Discount

An Xbox LIVE friend of mine found an excellent deal for pre-ordering Halo Wars via that he saw on

While I don't have a link and can no longer find the article, you can go here on to pre-order Halo Wars for $53.99! Note the game will retail for regular $69.99, so that's an immediate $16.00 savings, and you qualify for their Free Super Saver Shipping!

Note only that, but if you create a new account and use the following promotional code, MAPNEWNCSAVE , you'll save an additional $10.00. This means you can purchase Halo Wars, brand new with free shipping, for $43.99 plus tax.

Heck, that sold me, and the only downside is you need to wait for the game to be delivered with an expected delivery date of March 10th to 11th, but for $26.00, I can wait a week.

I'm not sure how long this deal will last or how long that promotional code will be valid for, so if you're thinking of purchasing Halo Wars, you may want to take advantage of this deal quickly.

Halo Wars Demo and Media Galore

The big news for me from this past week is all about Halo Wars, Ensemble Studios' and Microsoft Game Studios' upcoming Xbox 360 exclusive RTS.

Unless you've been in a media blackout, you no doubt know that the demo for Halo Wars was released this past Thursday, and you can queue up your download right here.

Not only is the fully playable demo, featuring two tutorials, the first two Campaign missions, and Skirmish mode versus a single AI opponent available, but we have two videos and the game's full manual available for download as well.

The first video is the second Halo Wars ViDoc entitled "Expanding the Arsenal," and you can download it via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace here or watch it below.

The next video is the Halo Wars Official Trailer entitled "The Call to Battle," which you can also download here or watch it below.

Finally, you can download the game's full manual in .pdf form here, and prepare yourself for launch.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Halo 3: Mythic Map Pack Sandbox Revealed

In this past week's Weekly Update, Bungie Studios has officially revealed Sandbox, the last of the three maps included with the upcoming Halo 3 Mythic Map Pack.

The Halo 3 Mythic Map Pack will be released bundled with the Halo Wars: Limited Collector's Edition, and then released as standard DLC a short time later via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. No price has been announced, but I'd estimate the usual overpriced cost of 800 Microsoft Points.

You can read an official press release at here, which details all three maps found in the Halo 3 Mythic Map Pack.

Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage Released

The first Fallout 3 DLC, Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage, has been released for the Xbox 360 and for Games for Windows. A PlayStation 3 version is not planned at this point.

Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage will run you 800 Microsoft Points, and you can download it via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace here, or via Games for Windows - LIVE Marketplace here.

You can also view full details about the product on Bethesda's official site here, the official trailer here or below, and additional screenshots here.

The word on the street is that Fallout 3: Operation - Anchorage is pretty short and ridiculously easy, so you may want to hold onto those Microsoft Points for a price drop or bundle package.

World War Z Battle of Yonkers Concept Art

World War Z: The Oral History of the Zombie War stands as the single greatest pandemic/mocumentary novel I've ever had the privilege to read (you can read my review here), and as some of you may know, it's being made into a feature film.

A co-worker spotted this great little piece on, and I'm completely blown away by how epic it looks. It's a heavily detailed piece of concept art by artist Daniel LuVisi, who is attempting to land the job of conceptual artist for the film. This is his entry/application piece, and with the level of quality he's put in, I'm hopping he does get the job.

For those not in the know, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is a novelized series of interviews chronicaling the war against the Walking Plague that nearly consumed the world a few years from now. The Battle of Yonkers took place during the height of the Great Panic, when the world was wrapped in fear and chaos and the US military needed to make a stand to show the American populace it was still in control.

Needless to say, the Yanks got their asses handed to them.

One of the most defining chapters of the book, this concept art piece gives us a glimpse of what the film could look like if it's done right. Fingers crossed.

For full details as well as an interview with LuVisi, head here.

Resident Evil 5 Demo (Xbox 360) Now Available

Earlier this week, Capcom released the Xbox 360 demo for their hugely anticipated upcoming survival horror title, Resident Evil 5. Exclusive to Xbox LIVE Gold members, you can download the demo via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace right here.

I've never been a fan of the franchise, but I have downloaded the demo and I will try it some day. It's just that there's Fallout 3 to play. Lots and lots of Fallout 3...

So Why Hasn't EA Jumped on this Lord of the Rings Idea Yet?

Recently, EA released it's latest The Lord of the Rings game, The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, developed by Pandemic Studios, and the word I hear is that it's smeh. I tried the Xbox 360's demo, and personally, I was not impressed.

Honestly, while there have been some good The Lord of the Rings games released, I have yet to experience an exceptional one, which is rather sad considering how well put together Tolkien's universe really is. Which begs the question: Why hasn't EA commissioned BioWare to make the greatest The Lord of the Rings game ever made?

Think about it. BioWare makes exceptional action RPGs, and many gamers agree that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is the greatest Star Wars game ever made. It's the game that not only brought me further into the Xbox fold, but also really earned my respect for the Star Wars franchise. BioWare and Pandemic Studios are already one larger company, and EA owns them as well as the rights to make games based on The Lord of the Rings franchise, both films and books, so why hasn't BioWare been set the task of creating an exceptional single player aciton RPG set in Middle-earth?

All they need do is follow a similar formula to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and I'm speaking story-wise as well as gameplay. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic worked so well because it was set long before Lucas' bastardizations, it kept that classic Star Wars feel, and it presented it maturely. So, set the game during the Dark Years of Middle-earth, the hugely unexplored Second Age, but set it before the War of the Last Alliance since we've seen that enough already. Heck, set it during the First War against Sauron, which we've never seen.

There'd be Men, both Numenorian's before their fall and other men, High and Silvan Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Trolls, Wargs, Dragons, etc., etc., etc. The Middle-earth that could be crafted! I mean, perhaps we could actually see Numenor itself, the fabled isle that we've barely seen but heard enough about.

So much potential, so much opportunity, all of it wasted because EA is not using it's own resources to their fullest, and insists on re-hashing the films over and over and over again. Middle-earth is a big place EA, why not let us explore it in all it's glory?