Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Xbox 360 Conundrum

We are 3 weeks away from the release of the Xbox 360 system and I am just flabbergasted by the amount of non-information we are getting about it. Microsoft has gone very quiet and all we've been hearing are rumors (and facts), such as:
- EB Receiving Half of Pre-Orders on Hardware (Rumor)

- Elder Scrolls: Oblivion Pushed to February to April 2006 (True)

- Early word on Perfect Dark Zero has been middling at best (many sites, True)

- There is no definitive launch list from Microsoft (True)

- No promised Backwards compatibility list yet (True)

I got a call from EB late last week and although he got cut off I think he was saying that he was putting final numbers for games/accessories in on Saturday of last week and that I needed to pre-order them. Much like other times he called I decided to ignore it simply because I still have no clue exactly what will be out on Day 1 nor what I would want (plus the whole $50 for another wireless controller is insane in my mind, plus the $20 for the charger). The only for sure game for me would be Project Gotham Racing 3 at this point, but I have a sneaking suspicion it may not be out at launch so why blow $50 in order to pre-order it?

All signs are pointing toward this launch being an absolute disaster. Hopefully within the next couple weeks some magazines will get their hands on the games and can review them so we can go out with some sort of compass on launch day. Then again, maybe we'll be lucky and Microsoft will be more forthcoming about what is actually going to be coming on launch day.

Sony is probably sitting back laughing at this whole thing right about now. Then again, they may not have a system out here until 2007...who knows.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Shadow of the Colossus Impressions

This game is phenomenal. Everyone who knows me knows I loved ICO (my review) and I know many people out there loved that game as well. Those who never experienced the game I don't know what to say other than you missed a landmark achievement in gaming in my opinion.

Shadow of the Colossus comes from the same team, but it is a decidedly different game. The overall atmosphere and graphics look like they were pulled and updated right out of ICO with non-jumpy animation like was present when ICO jumped. This game is original in the fact that you are given the base background story at the beginning and then given the task (from a voice in the top of the temple) to take down 16 Colossi in the world in order to possibly revive the dead girl you've brought to the temple. So, you take your horse Agro and go out to take down the linear progression of Colossi.

For those that played the demo you already know how to take down the first Colossus. After that everything is pretty much new to you. Armed with only your horse, the Ancient Sword and a bow and arrow you set out to take them down. You are shown the way to the next Colossus if you hold up the sword in sunlight and a beam will point toward your next goal. Once you reach the area where the Colossus is the action is on.

You have to strategize how to get on the Colossus, hang on as they try to shake you off and hit their weak spot (and some have multiple progressive weak spots) with the sword. The fun part is getting on top of them and trying to hang on to dear life and hope your stamina doesn't drain. If it does you fall off and have to climb back up the Colossus again. Did I mention the Colossi look fantastic, espeically their eyes.

The best part is because of the ambiguous beginning as you go through the Colossi you start to wonder what the heck these (mostly) docile creatures ever did to deserve to die by your hand. Eventually you'll find out what killing them means at the end, and what a fantastic end it is.

I loved God of War and this is another jaw-dropping game from Sony (at least they bookended the year in this case). This game will sell less than God of War, but it is no less great in its own way. I would not be surprised to see this game in the Game of the Year running simply because it is so original and an experience to behold.

There are minuses though, but I'm sure you've heard them. The camera can be unwieldly and there are framerate drops here and there given how much polygons are being pushed when Colossi are on the screen. There is also draw-in since the environment is loaded on the fly until you reach the Colossus staging ground and a load happens as they show themselves.

Shadow of the Colossus is an experience not to be missed even though it will be hidden behind the larger hyped games coming out around the same time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Shadow of the Colossus

The praises are coming from all over for Shadow of the Colossus, the new Sony first party game fromt he makers of the impeccable ICO.

Of special note out of the reviews so far is the 1up Review, it's well written and makes you understand why this game is so great and how different it is from ICO. Same could be said for the (shock of all shocks) IGN Review, although that one takes the cake as the highest rating for the game yet (9.7).

It sounds, much like God of War earlier this year, that this is a "must not miss" game. I know ICO didn't sell very well, but I hope this game sells more copies. It certainly should have more market penetration than ICO did. Have you seen the magazine ads for this game? They're brilliant fold-out ads that talk about how your problems may be bigger than at first look...heh.

This game will undoubtedly be the experience of the year since it is so innovative, and isn't that what people want more out of games? This game ships today and it will be overshadowed by other games out this week with bigger marketing behind it, but chances are it is the overall best, and certainly most engaging and innovative, game coming out this week (even over F.E.A.R.).

Monday, October 17, 2005

Another Busy Game Week

Well, we get slapped from all sides this week for major game releases:

Age of Empires III (PC)
Blitz: The League (Xbox/PS2)
F.E.A.R. (PC)
Jak X Combat Racing (PS2)
Quake IV (PC)
Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (Xbox/PS2/GC)

Let's go down the line for each one, going more into it than I did in my list of games coming in the next few months.

Age of Empires III: Both Gamespot (8.2) and IGN (8.8) have reviewed it. Things seem to be pretty nice, but I still have a negative reaction to the demo, especially when it comes to the amount of space the interface takes up. I still consider this series lower than Civilization or Rise of Nations.

Blitz: The League: I think a lot of people bummed out about Madden having NFL rights are going to pick this game up. I also think most of them will probably tire of the game after a few days since I can only guess the base Blitz gameplay is still present. That can only be fun for a few days unless online play is worth it.

F.E.A.R.: Probably the highest hyped game coming out this week. Both Gamespot (9.1) and IGN (9.2) have reviewed it. The game should be awesome and I guess people take it as commonplace that an FPS only has 10 hours of play in it. I figured we were past that with FarCry, but what do I know?

Jak X Combat Racing: This will be an interesting game since it is all about car combat and no platforming elements. I think this game could do well online, but I'm not sure how much it can grab people for single-player games.

Quake IV: You can spin it however you want, but Doom 3 was a bad game. Great graphics, bad gameplay. Quake IV is bound to follow in its sibling's footsteps. This game got an 8.2 from IGN, but it also got a 70 from PC Gamer, a magazine that gave Doom 3 a high 90s score if I remember.

Shadow of the Colossus: This game is getting great reviews all around. Gamespot gave it an 8.7, Game Informer gave it an 8.25 and it got the Silver Award from EGM. There are problems with the game (framerate dips, camera flopping, robust controls), but the experience outweighs all that is all I've been hearing. If you've ever wanted an innovative game, this one from the makers of ICO is a good bet!

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland: I was at the in-laws place this weekend and I popped THUG2 into the Xbox there (I don't own the game, my brother-in-law does). I had never played this game before, but I had played THUG...even reviewed it. Anyway, I found myself bored of the game even while going through the early motions. I remember when this series was the hottest thing on the map, but I'm not sure where Neversoft can go to make this series still be appealing. Granted, it sells like gangbusters every year and I hope Wasteland can bring the old style back, but we'll see.

Infinite Crisis and House of M

I talked about the Crisis last week and this week I'm going to give you my impressions of DC and Marvel's big events. First up is DC's event...

Infinite Crisis #1: So far I'm liking this event, although I question how much this mini is going to crossover to other books. I can see tie-ins with the Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman books, but looking toward future issues of those titles it doesn't seem like they all tie in. The ending of this issue is obviously for anyone, like myself, that grew up reading The Crisis on Infinite Earths. However for those people that weren't around 20 years ago or have never read CoIE, they may feel quite lost. My biggest problem with the last page is that 20 years ago we knew if these 4 people ever came back into our universe from their "paradise" universe that the whole universe would be destroyed. I am interested to see how Geoff Johns writes himself out of that hole, although I believe he can. You should also check out Villians United #6, since that also has multiple copies of a certain character showing up and explaining a bit of what has been happening in the DC universe over the last couple years.

House of M #7: Most people have considered this mini a joke, but with this issue and Joe Quesada's recent Joe Fridays column on Newsarama we may not be laughing anymore. Wanda utters the words "No more mutants" and we are treated to panels that are almost as confusing as House of M #1's finishing panels. From Quesada's story we get that the mutants are basically going to be "reset" and there won't be as many mutants around as there were before. There is still another issue left in this series. In some ways I think this could hurt Marvel because they are obviously going to be honing down the number of X and X related books out there.

Of course I can only sit here and nod my head about the X-Men simply because I've been a longtime reader of comics and know that huge changes are often reversed at Marvel. Bendis can certainly be well known for being the destroyer of both the Avengers and the mutants now...way to go Brian!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Xbox 360: What to Pick Up?

Well, we're only 39 days away from the release of the Xbox 360 in the United States (thanks to the banner on The Xbox Homepage). Most gaming news sites have either gone to San Francisco or Redmond to see the system and some of the games coming out for it.

Console Gold's own Ron Burke came back from this recently and has so far put up his Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Hands-On story. I would expect to hear more about the other games he saw while at the event. He also talks a bit about things in this forum post.

Over on C-Net (story), Daniel Terdiman pipes in on his thoughts. He mostly talks about how nice the games look, how cuffed he felt by the rules and a general lack of gameplay. This requires reading between the lines, but that's what I'm reading.

Over on Evil Avatar, bapenguin went to the event as well. Here are the articles: Perfect Dark Zero, Kameo: Elements of Power, Project Gotham Racing 3, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and other games.

The other big news (at least to me and hopefully to you) is that Microsoft will have 21 games available for Xbox Live Arcade from a variety of companies AND more will be on the way. The games supposedly will be in demo form on Xbox Live and you can purchase from there. Notable games would be: Bejeweled 2, Hexic HD (I hear this is awesome), Joust and Smash TV. Oh yes, did I mention that supposedly all will be in 1080i? Wow!

If I was a betting man, I'd say this would be an adequate lineup for you to get at launch:

Kameo: Elements of Power - I think this will be the highlight of the first-party offerings. I think it is poised to surprise a lot of people and will be the true Halo of the Xbox 360.

Project Gotham Racing 3 - If you like racing this is a no-brainer honestly. If you aren't a racer, don't pick this up.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted - All I needed to read from bapenguin was that this harkens back to the Hot Pursuit days. That's enough to make me buy it AND the PS2 version of this game won't have online while the Xbox, Xbox 360 and PSP versions will...oops!

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Not really into the game, but I know many that are. This is the only RPG for the launch and chances are it will be great.

Perfect Dark Zero - I don't think this will be the Halo of the launch. FPS games have been put on another level with the fantastic stuff that has come out in the past few years and I just don't see PDZ reaching that level.

The sports games and Call of Duty 2 could also be in here, but I have anxiety about the sports games. I think they will look great, but won't have the same or better gameplay than their current generation counterparts. With CoD2, I'll be picking that up for the Xbox simply because of the control scheme. I love Halo, but I also played a lot of CoD on the computer.

Spielberg and EA

Huh...who woulda thought? Spielberg and EA together? Well, believe it. EA has signed a 3 game deal with Spielberg on original properties. Spielberg even gets his own office in the EALA studio. He will be overseeing development on the games and the offer is open that if he feels like creating a TV or movie out of the original games he can.

I'm sure Bill Harris will chime in on this at some point (and congrats on getting quoted in The Escapist). This certainly shows that EA is looking at original properties and not just releasing sequels. I wonder when we will first hear about the first game which is already in development. One of the lead guys from Deus Ex, Doug Church, will be overseeing the project, but it is said to be something far different than DX.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Games and More Games

To catch up on my game playing...

I've been playing a lot of Tiger Woods 06 on the computer and I'm glad to report that unlike last year the computer version keeps a lot of what is in the console versions. Noticable things missing are the Gamebreaker and the shot stick, but neither are really big things to miss. I have no problem saying this is the best game in the series yet.

I've also been playing some FIFA 06 on the computer as well, but I haven't played enough of it to get a sense of how good it is. It's been a few years since I played a game in this series and I am seeing that the defense is much better than I remember.

It is just mind boggling to think about all the games that are coming from this point (October 12th) to the end of the year and I'm going to make a couple of posts about it. It's crazy!

The next two posts outline games coming in October and November/December that are of note. This isn't a list of all the games coming, but I just counted all the ones I put down and there are 40 titles (minus the already out B&W 2) and one system! At $50 a piece it would cost you $2000 to buy them all (and not all are at $50). Just mind boggling. I didn't even touch all the Xbox 360 games coming out on the sports side of things (although I could have included Top Spin 2 and Amped 3 in there) such as Madden 06, but those loom large as well.

Games and More Games (October)

This happens every year, but September through December are easily the months where the most games (and also the most anticipated games) come out. We're now into October and we haven't even scratched the surface of games coming out.

We’ll start with the rest of October:

Black and White 2 (PC out now): hope a demo is coming so I don't need to spend $$$ on it if it sucks.

Blitz: The League (Xbox/PS2 10/17): I'm thinking this is going to be the old Blitz style of play with more story behind it. Have a feeling this will be a fun game for a few days and then things will die out.

F.E.A.R. (PC 10/18): the demo was a lot of fun, although I am hearing the game only takes 10 hours to beat and when you put that amount of time up against a game like FarCry I think I may hold off from buying it.

Shadow of the Colossus (PS2 10/18): this is an easy pickup even with the camera problems that every review has talked about. This game is from the team that did ICO and they have a firm grasp on how to make innovative games that make you actually feel as if you're living the experience.

Jak X: Combat Racing (PS2 10/18): this one is a tough one considering it is a combat racing game instead of a platformer like the rest of the series.

Quake IV (PC 10/18) (Xbox 360 11/22): the game looks purty, but I wonder if this will be too much like Doom III for its own good (scripted attacks, enclosed dark spaces, etc.). I have a feeling this may not be as big of a hit as id or Activision is hoping.

Age of Empires III (PC 10/18): I was not too high on this game in a previous blog entry and I have to say if I had to make a choice between this and an RTS coming out the week after, I will probably pick the latter. The GUI alone turned me off in the demo, but if Ensemble shrank it a bit things could be looking up.

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (Xbox/PS2/Cube 10/18) (Xbox 360 11/22): not really interested in this game whether it is more open ended than the Underground games or not. This series continues to sell for Neversoft and Activision, so they're going to continue to pump them out; no doubt about that!

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PSP 10/24): quite possibly the game that will sell a lot of PSP systems this holiday. I only question whether the series has stretched itself too thin or not. I was not very high on San Andreas, but this one goes back to Liberty City. I don't have a PSP though and I don't think even this is enough to entice me to buy one.

Ratchet: Deadlocked (PS2 10/25) - this game should be interesting. I think the single-player section will be great as always, but I also think the online play for this game is going to explode more than it did for the last Ratchet game.

Resident Evil 4 (PS2 10/25): I still consider the GC version as one of the best games to come out this year and it will be interesting to see how well the game translates to PS2. We’ll find out late this month.

Battlefield 2: Modern Combat (Xbox/PS2 10/25): I played a bit of this early on in the beta test on PS2 and though it was pretty good. However this is not a replacement for the PC game if you have it.

Call of Duty 2 (PC 10/25) (Xbox 360 11/22): Day 1 purchase, no questions asked. The first game was phenomenal and the demo for this game is same. I will pick this up for PC simply because it is cheaper than the 360 version and I still feel the PC will have better controls.

Civilization IV (PC 10/25): This is the other RTS I was talking about. Much like Age of Empires III I will probably wait for reviews. Both games have a problem for me in the fact that there are way too many games coming out and not enough money to go around.

Soul Calibur III (PS2 10/25): One of my favorite fighting game series, yet I won’t be picking this one up. It just seems too soon since the last one and having this as PS2 only seems a little odd after the last one went out on all systems. Namco will have a tough time selling this with all the other games coming out around the same time.

Spartan: Total Warrior (Xbox/PS2/GC 10/25): Sega bought up the people behind the Total War series and this is the first game to come out after that purchase. I’m not too interested, but Rome: Total War was an excellent RTS game; this game is more action based and more along the lines of the Dynasty Warriors series from Koei.

City of Villians (PC 10/30): Rounding out the month of October is the sequel to one of the best MMORPGs to come out before World of Warcraft descended and became king. It is nice of NCSoft to allow you to play both this and City of Heroes with just one $15.99 a month fee.

Games and More Games (Nov./Dec.)

Continuing on we have the games (and system) of November and December:

Star Wars Battlefront II (Xbox/PS2/PC/PSP 11/1): this game comes out along with the DVD for Episode III. Never played the first one, but I know it is highly popular and I figure this one will be as well.

Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (Xbox/PS2/GC 11/1): the sequel to the game that is seeing Activision and Spark sue each other. Chances are this version of CoD2 will not be as good as either the PC or Xbox 360 versions.

James Bond 007: From Russia With Love (Xbox/PS2/GC 11/1): EA attempts to recover from the crap that was Goldeneye 2 by farming the past of the series. I’m not sure how high I am on this game given that things have been going downhill in the series since the highlight of Everything or Nothing.

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (Xbox/PS2 11/1): Castlevania makes its Xbox debut with this one. Another 3D attempt at the series which did okay in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. We’ll see how this turns out.

The Matrix: Path of Neo (Xbox/PS2/PC 11/7): Shiny has the chance to right the ship with this game. They’ve had enough time with this game (unlike Enter the Matrix). If the game turns out to be as bad as the last one you can consider Shiny cooked and done no matter how many units it sells (and it will sell less just because the last game sucked so bad and so many people took the kool aid).

Mario Party 7 (GC 11/7): Don’t laugh, I think the Mario Party games are pretty cool and this is the next one in the series. Nintendo is so serious about this game that they just announced a GC holiday bundle with the game, system and two controllers for $99. Without Zelda: Twilight of Darkness I guess this is the best Nintendo could come up with for the holiday on the GC side of things.

Gun (Xbox/PS2/GC/PC 11/8) (Xbox 360 ~ 11/22): Neversoft takes their shot at an Old West game. The company behind Tony Hawk is finally trying to stretch beyond with a new IP and I hope it turns out to be good because the Hawk pot eventually has to run dry.

The Movies (PC 11/8): Peter Molyneaux has another game coming out this year and this one looks to be the better of the two. This game has been in development for a long time and I hope it turns out to be another original Molyneaux idea. He’s kept pretty tight lipped on what this game is going to offer, so the hype shouldn’t be as high as Fable was.

Mario Kart DS (DS 11/14): Nintendo is touting this as the first online game for the DS and chances are it will sell like gangbusters when it comes out. I also like that Nintendo has a wireless USB idea for people without wireless routers to get on and play these games.

WWE Raw vs. Smackdown 2006 (PS2 11/14): Will the online mode actually be good this time around? That’s probably the biggest question surrounding this game as the games themselves have consistently gotten better over the years.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (PS2 11/14): Well, if you want to play online you’ll have to shell out $50 for this upgrade of MGS3. This game was fantastic, but I don’t think I’m willing to spend that kind of money for online play and extras.

Battlefield 2: Special Forces (PC 11/15): The first expansion to BF2. Let’s see, new maps (now with night vision!), new guns, new vehicles, new armies. Yes, I’ll have some for $30!

Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Xbox/PS2/GC/DS/PSP/PC 11/15) (Xbox 360 11/22): I’ve said this before, but if this game is anything like Hot Pursuit I will buy it. I think NFS took a wrong turn with the Underground games and I hope they make things right with this series again.

True Crime: New York City (Xbox/PS2/GC 11/15): I liked the first game up until aliens started being part of the story. I hope the story in this game can be more grounded in realism and not go off the deep end. I think True Crime had really good gameplay features and I have semi-high hopes for this game.

Xbox 360 Game System (11/22): It’s finally here, but will it change the landscape of gaming?

Kameo: Elements of Power (Xbox 360 11/22): This game is shaping up as one of the best games coming out at launch. Game has been long in development, but all signs point to the fact that this game is top notch.

Perfect Dark Zero (Xbox 360 11/22): This game is a little more questionable. We already know some things have been taken out to try to get it out by launch, and that is never a good thing to hear. If Rare can tap the magic of Goldeneye 007 this could be the Halo-like game at launch.

Project Gotham Racing 3 (Xbox 360 ~ 11/22): I hope this is out at launch simply because I love the series. I don’t care if the game runs at 30FPS because if it has the gameplay of the last two I’m there.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360/PC ~ 11/22): It’s sounding like a launch game, but there is nothing official yet. This is one of the highest anticipated games on the Console Gold boards, but I personally am not too excited outside of the excellent graphics.

Peter Jackson’s King Kong (Xbox 360/Xbox/PS2/GC/PSP/PC 11/22): This game will be interesting in the fact that the PC and Xbox 360 versions should be different than the rest. From the graphics I’ve seen this game will be a sight to behold and I certainly hope the game is as well.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PS2 11/22): Not to hide this game, but this is easily the RPG to own this year. Square-Enix have been marketing this game in ads with huge foldouts and I expect there to be a media blitz toward release. This game gets my $50 in addition to all the Xbox 360 things I have to pick up on this day.

Mario and Luigi 2 (DS 11/28): Another big DS game coming this winter. Superstar Saga was one of the best GBA games ever and I expect this game to be pretty good as well.

And coming in December:

Animal Crossing DS (DS 12/5): The other online game Nintendo is bringing out this year. This one will also probably sell like gangbusters, but not as well as Mario Kart DS.

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (Xbox/PS2/GC/PC 12/6): Can UbiSoft right the ship after last year’s debacle? Warrior Within had some parts that were better than the original game, but the extra crap they put into the game just destroyed any fun anyone could have. This time around it sounds like they’ve taken the best from the previous 2 games and made this one…we can only hope.

Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows (Xbox/PS2 12/12): I have a feeling this game is going to suck given how long it has been since John Romero and J.E. Sawyer left the project. Midway is of course saying everything was pretty much done before they left, but given the current release date that can’t quite be true, can it?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Crisis Begins Tomorrow

First off, sorry for being gone so long. Had a death in the family and things got a bit busy in life, but I'm going to try to post more than I recently have. With that out of the way...


What Crisis you might be asking? Well, people that have followed this thread at CG would know what I am talking about. For those not in the loop, welcome to another hobby of mine in addition to games, TV shows, movies, etc.: the land of comic books.

20 years ago DC had the Crisis on Infinite Earths, quite possibly the best mini-series of all time in comicdom. Flash (Barry Allen) and Supergirl died, characters on other Earths (long story, but as DC picked up other comic companies like Fawcett they created new worlds where those characters lived and the Golden Age superheroes like Batman and Superman were relegated to Earth-2 and given older looks) were eliminated and we were left with the DC universe of today.

Well, not exactly. You see, DC left some continuity problems (the biggest of which was Hawkman and the Legion of Super Heroes which has had lots of continuity problems throughout its life) after Crisis and they tried to fix them with another event series, Zero Hour where Hal Jordan went evil and took some heroes to the beginning of the universe in order to re-write everything. Hal failed and he ended up redeeming himself years later. Even after Zero Hour there were still continuity problems though, so Mark Waid created Hypertime where any character would go on their way through time, but the stories could deviate from one Earth to another Earth that is running at the same time in least that's how I remember Hypertime being, to be honest I had quit reading comics at that point.

Now 20 years later DC unloads Infinite Crisis #1 on us tomorrow, the first of a seven part mini-series. For those that read Identity Crisis (which centered around the death of Susan Dibny and what the Satellite-era JLA did to Dr. Light and other people including Batman) last year and read the Countdown to Infinite Crisis story, those were just preludes to this. In fact, DC has said that the seeds of Infinite Crisis have been planted over the last two years. I find that hard to believe since I can't fathom a group of writers getting together and thinking that far ahead. It works for those 12-part stories contained in one book where there is just the same creative team, but this is a group of writers trying to keep something on the back burner for a prolonged period of time.

Early words (read: rumors) are that Batman is going to see a big change after the mini-series is done. In fact, word is that he isn't going to be the hardass he has been since Crisis 20 years ago. Superman and Wonder Woman are bound to be affected as well since it has been said this whole thing centers around that Trinity. Currently outside of Batman/Superman the three don't trust each other. Wonder Woman killed Max Lord in order to stop him from controlling Superman; Superman beat Batman pretty bad while under the influence of Max and Batman's whole paranoia has alienated everyone (he holds the key to defeat every hero in the world and is behind the OMAC project that is currently going after every hero and villian, although a lot were destroyed via OMAC Project #6).

After Crisis, the DC universe (minus a few titles like Legion of Super Heroes) will jump ahead a year and those year's events will be told in the comic 52 that comes out weekly. Both ideas are very ballsy for DC and the rumors are flying all over the place about the year jump. Dick Grayson taking over the Batman mantle, Bart Allen becoming Flash (Wally dying in IC), etc. Of course, they are all rumors and we won't know until it happens. What we do know is that characters are going to die in Infinite Crisis much like characters died in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Chances are at least one key character will die (2 did in CoIE).

So, if you've been interested in comics in the past and remember CoIE you may want to pick up the trade paperback Prelude to Infinite Crisis which should catch you up somewhat for the mini-series. DC is either going to fly or crash on this...can lightning strike twice?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Too Much TV and Games This Week

Holy cow this is a busy week. First off I'd like to say I have reviews upcoming for Rainbow Six: Lockdown on Xbox, WWE Day of Reckoning 2 on GameCube and Metal Slug 4/5 on Xbox. I recently finished the reviews, so I would expect them up on the Console Gold Homepage within the next few days.

There are a lot of games this week: Tiger Woods 06 (which sounds like it has a problem on the Xbox version in this forum post), X-Men Legends II: Rise of the Apocalypse, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, Ultimate Spider-Man, Batallion Wars, Myst V: End of Ages (*sniff*) and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Winter Assault. I think I caught them all, I may have forgotten one or two though. Welcome to the busy season of gaming!

UPDATE: Thanks to Jeremy for pointing out that Ninja Gaiden Black also came out this week. Forgot about that one. I also forgot Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects.

For TV I'd like to touch on two series this week that started their seasons:

Lost: I love this show no matter how little or how many answers they get. I still don't think this show can last beyond a 3rd season at most simply because the fans will revolt if they don't start seeing some answers that they want. I just can't see the story going on for that long, but I hope I am proven wrong.

Nip/Tuck: Rescue Me is off the air and this show takes its time slot. This show is fantastic as long as you can handle a show that has more of an HBO-like slant to it than your standard cable shows. WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD: So, Christian was raped by the Carver...damn, that's tough! I was surprised to see him turn 180 at the end there with the policewoman though...and he got a threeway with her and Kimber. Sheesh, what a lucky guy! Kind of weird that Julia screams "Sean!" even when it isn't him doing the sexual favors on her. This show is still running on all cylinders here in its third season and I can't wait to see more.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Games and DVDs This Week

Well, the big release to me this week is obviously Burnout Revenge on the Xbox and PS2. IGN was a bit hard on the game, but Gamespot really liked it (and I know, .2 points is not much of a difference, but the tones of the two reviews are very different). Well, either way I will pick it up, but I will feel dirty because I know EA has an Xbox 360 version up its sleeve, although I'm not sure how much they can boost the graphics because this new one looks better than the last one.

For you PSP players there is also Burnout Legends coming which Gamespot gave a 9.0 to. I'm surprised IGN doesn't have a review up yet considering they had to be the first one out of the gate with the Revenge review. This game takes parts from the 3 already out Burnout games and fuses them together into a new game. No talk of long load times ala Midnight Club 3 on PSP, so that is probably a good thing. I don't own a PSP yet, but I would pick this up if I had one probably.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas sees its Xbox re-release this week with "Hot Coffee" taken out. Sims 2: Nightlife expansion and Tecmo Classic Arcade (Xbox) round out the big titles of the week. I note the last one simply because Tecmo Bowl is in it (minus the player name rights sadly) and so is Rygar.

2 big DVD releases come out this week (well, that depends on your definition of "big" I guess): Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the 4th season of Smallville are coming out tomorrow. Have I mentioned yet how sucky Thursdays are going to be this year? There is literally something on every major channel that I watch at 7pm, but that's a story for another day.

Weekend TV Wrap-Up

Busy TV weekend considering Fox decided to premiere the Sunday shows early this year (I don't know if Fox has the World Series this year or not, tough to find on the internet). Let's get to them:

Stargate SG-1: Pretty boring honestly and not a very powerful setup for the 2-hour "half season" ender next week (well, the second episode is the ender).

Stargate Atlantis: Was actually a pretty good show, except for the quick resolution to Shepard's problem. Now why couldn't they do that to the Lieutenant that has been missing on the show for a while now? I know Shepard got attacked by the antigen, but come on. I am guessing this will come back for its ender in 2 weeks.

Battlestar Galactica: Excellent episode although I hated the twist at the end. Does this mean that Lucy Lawless will be a more regular guest star or was this a one-shot? She looked excellent and it was weird to hear her use her regular New Zealand voice instead of an American accented one. Really good episode and I guess I wasn't thinking far enough ahead to see the twist.

The Simpsons: An okay episode, next week looks good though.

The War at Home: This show started off really bad with the horrendous laugh track, but as the episode went on I started to not hear the laugh track (which was still there) and found the show to be pretty good and funny. I will watch this at least for another episode.

Family Guy: The actual season opener was pushed back because it revolved around a hurricane, so one of the other episodes was used as the season opener. This one revolved around Brian trying to impress a black teacher by renaming the James Woods school to Martin Luther King, Jr. Peter was against this and brought James Woods in who brought immediate comic gold into the show. This show seems to be firing on all cylinders, although I still didn't get that sheep joke (anyone want to let me in on that one) that had to do with Meg's period. I loved the Star Trek flashback because all the voices were the actual cast members and they made no qualms with making Patrick Stewart look just like Bullock from American Dad.

American Dad: I swore off this show after about 5 episodes this summer, but I decided to give it another try. It now seems to be hitting somewhat on all cylinders. Haley getting with Stan's boss (played by Patrick Stewart) was very weird though, but it was hilarious to see Stan get Peter to be a man...heh.

Friday, September 09, 2005

For SciFi Friday Watchers

Remember that all the shows are new tonight after taking the Labor Day weekend off. The only real continuation is for Atlantis where Shepard will start feeling the effects of being bit. Battlestar should be interesting as well as Lucy Lawless guest stars as a reporter given the opportunity to see the innerworkings of Galactica.

Age of Empires III

Well, I got to play a little bit more last night and I am sad to report that my initial feelings are the same now. I was not at E3 and didn't get a chance to play the game, but the overwhelming majority of the press gushed praises upon the game. At this point I'm not sure what game they were playing, maybe they've confused Rise of Legends with Age of Empires III, they are published by the same company after all.

The GUI really hasn't changed all that much since Age of Mythology, a game that came out almost 3 years ago. In fact, the overall character graphics haven't changed much, but the map graphics have. The gameplay doesn't seem that far removed from Age of Mythology and maybe Ensemble feels that they didn't need to fix what wasn't broken. Thing is there have been many RTS games since that have had a better GUI and better control interface than AOM had.

Then again, maybe my hope was too high on this game. My hope may be too high on Civilization IV as well, but we shall see.

Fox Buys IGN for $650 Million

Well, it was first rumored that Fox was going to pay $800 million for IGN, but that got dropped down by $150 million. I remember when IGN put itself up for sale after buying Gamespy and Rotten Tomatoes they were thinking they could go for $1 billion or more. It is true that IGN holds a lot of cards, let's just look at the sites that encompass IGN:

IGN Xbox
IGN Xbox 360
IGN GameCube
IGN GameBoy
IGN Wireless
IGN Gear
IGN Babes
IGN Movies
IGN Comics
IGN Music
IGN Cars
IGN Gear
IGN Sports
IGN Vault
Gamespy Arcade
Gamespy Arena
Gamespy Planets (Battlefield, Half-Life, etc.)
Team Xbox
Voodoo Extreme 3D
3D Gamers
Rotten Tomatoes

I think I've named them all. That's probably why IGN thought it was worth over a billion, the problem is that now that Fox has bought it they will probably pare the company down by quite a bit. Gamespot covers games and probably has less than half the staff IGN has with all their game sites combined, so I would expect a possible fusion of all gaming news into one portal (probably Gamespy) and the staff will be cut quite a bit. That's just me thinking aloud though because Fox may just keep everything the same. I just think IGN has become overbloated with staff on specific channels and the purchases of Gamespy and Team Xbox.

I wonder if this will be the start of another buying spree as online media becomes a more centralized idea. Maybe the dot-com rush is coming again, this time with creating huge media empires in print and online.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Adventures in Gaming

I just got done with my latest round of reviews/previews for Console Gold. You can read my Cossacks II: Napoleonic War Review for PC and my Jak X: Combat Racing Preview and Ratchet: Deadlocked Preview if you wish. A review of Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike on Xbox is upcoming.

Outside of that I've actually gone back and played some Top Spin since becoming entranced by the U.S. Open, something that happens every year around this time for me. On computer I've downloaded the NHL 06, Fifa 06 and Age of Empires III demos. I need to get myself a dual analog stick on the computer so I can play the former two, but I enjoyed them quite a bit.

I just got the AOE3 demo last night and played a bit with it. I like the game quite a bit, but was disappointed by the graphics since every magazine was calling it the best looking ever. A part of the problem may be that so far the missions have centered around the central U.S. and the building of the railways so there isn't much in the way of cityscapes or water as of yet. I was also disappointed by the GUI and how big of a piece it takes out of the screen. I'm hoping the piece will be a little smaller when the game comes out. There is no tutorial at all, so you're on your own. The game is much like other RTS games, but you have to figure out early which buildings extract which weapons/people. I'll probably play this a bit more soon. The game is due out on October 18th.

In other RTS news, 2K Games has announced that Civilization IV will be out before Halloween and probably may be out the same day as Age of Empires III. Talk about a heavyweight battle! The two crown jewels of this section of the RTS genre coming out right around the same time? Be still my heart.

Also of news is that Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Winter Assault comes out later this month and just went gold. Dawn of War was a superb game and I think there are still a lot of people playing it and are probably looking forward to Winter Assault.

Of course we can't forget that Burnout Revenge comes out next week. This is another possible double-dip opportunity since this game has been rumored heavily to be out for the Xbox 360 later this year. However, more Burnout is always a good thing in my opinion.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Entourage/Rescue Me/Lost Season 1 DVD

Tuesday was a one-two punch for me. Not only was there a new episode of Rescue Me, but Lost Season 1 came out on DVD. I've already seen all the episodes, but people around me have not and have started to become interested in the program after watching some of ABC's re-airings. I can't wait for September 21st and the premiere of the new season. I have one caveat though, J.J. Abrams has a habit of creating a far weaker second season than first season in his series (see Alias), let's hope it doesn't happen with Lost.

Entourage: OK, the ending was not what was promised in the preview from last week. It was not a "Hollywood ending like no other" or whatever they said. In fact, I have to say this was one of the weakest episodes in the series so far. Everything just kind of meandered along and sadly I think we all knew whether Vince was actually going to quit Aquaman or not and we all knew whether Eric was going to take the job offered him or not. The best parts of the episode belonged, as always, to Jeremy Piven. I don't know if it was BS or not, but when Ari said that Vince was the only actor he ever felt close to, it really tugged at me. Here's a guy who has been an asshole to the people around Vince, but in this episode he seems to be pouring his heart out to Eric and letting him know he's just as much a part of the Vince entourage as the other three are. Could Ari be turning a corner into a more compassionate man? I guess we'll have to see next year...I can't wait.

One more thing about HBO, be prepared for September 25th as that is the night Curb Your Enthusiasm starts up and Ricky Gervais' new show Extras begins. I have heard that the latter is more hilarious than the British version of The Office that Gervais was in.

Rescue Me: Yeah, I really can't give anything away about the episode since some people haven't seen it yet. Let me just say it is a powerful episode and I'm sad to see what I was fearing with the preview last week came true. I was actually surprised to find out the season ender is not longer than an hour because they certainly put some extra pizzazz into the preview for the next episode. It looks powerful and may leave the characters off worse than they were at the end of season 1. If you aren't watching this show by now, go out and rent or buy the first season and then try to catch the replays that I am sure FX will be airing of the second season.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Rescue Me - 8/30/05

This show and Entourage are simply the best stuff on television until the fall season starts proper in September. I'm also happy to report there are 2 episodes left this year after being confused last week that there were only 2 left.

A lot of tough issues this week with Tommy going to talk to Jimmy's son about becoming a firefighter. Sheila is of course against it since both her husband and father-in-law died while firefighting. Tommy goes in all ready to put the smack down on the idea, but the ghost of Jimmy eggs him on to do the right thing in his eyes. We never see the fallout with Tommy talking to Sheila, but I can only guess she isn't very happy about it. It was really touching to see Tommy hand over Jimmy's badge to the son.

In order to play hockey and lay down the law, Tommy goes without the Selectra. The day starts out with him yelling at Janet (who is still on the pills) and builds into Tommy going crazy at the hockey game as he usually does without the drugs. This time though all the ghosts show up while he is in the penalty box and two of them show up as he is driving. I'm kind of surprised they had such a pile on of the dead people considering Tommy has been non-drugged before in past episodes without a fallout like this.

The other big news items are that the elder Gavin's wife dies, so he's now rich (and probably the reason Tommy was able to buy the bike and mitt for his son and the PSP for his youngest daughter). Lou finds out that his woman's pimp, F-Bomb, wants $30,000 to buy out her contract. Lou offers the money, but she will have nothing of it since she doesn't want Lou to pay her because she loves him. The Chief's wife is still crazy and the preview for next week also hints at something bad in that situation.

The beauty is that Rescue Me ends on the 13th and then Lost begins on September 21st...woo!

Next week looks bad and I certainly hope it doesn't turn out how the preview is leading to.

Monday, August 29, 2005

This Blog May Be Going Away

To be honest, I haven't seen as much of a reaction as I thought I would when I started this. Maybe no one is reading or maybe people just don't want to give any reactions...I don't know. Comment system is open and I rarely see any, so that leads me to believe no one is reading unfortunately. I had hoped to be somewhat successful like Bill's blog is where he gets lots of e-mail and reaction. I think I've gotten maybe 2 e-mails out of this blog and that was early on.

I'll assess the situation a bit more, but maybe I need to put my thoughts elsewhere. Maybe into a column or something on CG, I don't know. Anyway, just thought I would share.

Monk/Sunday TV

Monk, The 4400 and The Dead Zone ended their seasons this weekend. Monk is coming back in January and I can only guess the other two might as well.

Monk: Kind of an odd season ender except for the fact that this is only considered the "half-season" at this point. Monk as a little kid and the parallels to helping the same girl in current time was spot on. It was too bad he and the woman couldn't get together, but that's the kind of life Monk lives. Tony Shaloub is still one of the best actors around and I don't miss Sharona one bit honestly.

The 4400: WARNING!!! Major spoilers. OK, who didn't see that at the end there the person with all the hair would be Jordan Collier? Could this be his 4400 gift? The ability to resurrect himself? We'll have to wait until next year to see for sure. I thought for sure Kyle was going to blow Shawn away, but it was awesome to see Shawn take the possessor of Kyle out of him. Things wrapped up a bit too neatly in my estimation, but the reappearance of Jordan and Isabelle growning up (and naked) in front of Shawn was a jaw-dropper. This show has really come into its own and it reminds me a lot of the high times during X-Files.

The Dead Zone: A really good ending to a weak "half-season" in my estimation. Stillson once again was front and center and it was awesome that the Illuminati guy (I call it Illuminati, they haven't named themselves as of yet) talked to Johnny through the Bible. It is too bad the senator's daughter had to keep with Stillson in order to save Johnny as it was looking like they could be an item. I wonder if she is going to pass info off to Johnny or not from the inside. I guess we'll see when the series comes back next year sometime.

Entourage: The best is saved for last. I see my predictions were right that Ari would end up on his own and his dialogues with Lloyd were fantastic. I'm sure Ari will be fine in the end and next week is the season ender. Vince says he's off of Aquaman, but we'll have to see if that turns out to be true or not. Vince may extend the olive branch for Ari simply so they both don't go under. It was interesting that Ari has run the group for 8 years, but I don't think we've heard of any other clients he has outside of Vince. I could be wrong though. Jeremy Piven is fantastic and he makes us sympathetic to the Ari character, a guy who is usually an asshole on the show. When he called Eric and said, "You're my best bud" I didn't feel he was lying to him.

SciFi Friday Thoughts

I'm splitting this in two, starting with SciFi Friday:

Stargate SG-1: Ba'al is back and creating trouble, this time with what seems like a army of clones to hide his appearance on Earth. Now SG-1 has the Ori, Ba'al and the whereabouts of Vala to worry about.

Stargate Atlantis: Is it just me or is this series starting to feel like a bunch of disjointed away missions that have no cohesion outside of Wraiths being here and there? Obviously the next episode (in two weeks) sees Shepard feel the effects of the retro virus and obviously the correct antidote will be ready to save him. You lose Shepard and you lose any subtle jokes and that would destroy this show. McKay can't hold the whole show on his own.

Battlestar Galactica: Seems to be back on the right track. I am a bit surprised by Adama's 180 on the President and her ideas, but I guess he feels they need to coexist to keep everyone happy. Either that or Adama has bigger plans. Next episode looks interesting as a reporter (Lucy Lawless in the role) is allowed to follow a day in the life of Galactica and it looks like the Colonel gets a little physical with one of the press people. Oh yes, the idea that Gaius doesn't have a chip in his brain is intriguing. We've seen Number 6 in person a few episodes ago, we'll have to see what happens here.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Weekend TV Thoughts

Another weekend, another boatload of shows were watched. Let's get to them.

Stargate SG-1: I'm thinking the Ori and the Priors are a little more dangerous than originally thought. This was a pretty good episode and certainly shows that the Ori have taken over the major bad guys spot.

Stargate Atlantis: Still not liking this show a whole lot honestly. It feels like there is no real path they're following. It's been at least a few episodes since they've tried to find the AWOL Lieutenant and I actually enjoyed last week's episode, but there was no continuation this week.

Battlestar Galactica: It was a nice episode from a setup standpoint. Obviously the previews for next week show Adama and Apollo back together, but those two guys have plans to take them both down. I wonder if Adama felt the egg on his face when he promoted a incompetant person to lead the CAG. He seems to be a bit off, but that's what happens when 1/3 of your "family" leaves you.

Monk: I knew who did it way early, but as always this show is top notch. I'm really liking Natalie and no longer wish Sharona was still around. Heck, even Natalie's kid has more of a part in the series than Sharona's boy ever did. Sadly, next week is the season ender.

The 4400: The most likely show out of the group that finishes up its seasons next week to leave us on a cliffhanger. It seems the 4400 that have been given gifts (and have therefore been to NTAC) are all getting sick and all of them that haven't gotten their gifts (who possibly have never been to NTAC) are just fine. It also seems as if the government has a lot to do with it (BIG SURPRISE...NOT!). This season cannot end very well for anyone involved. Probably the season ender I am most looking forward to.

The Dead Zone: So, next week is the season ender and we've had a total of 3 Stillson episodes this year (including next week). That's pretty poor in my opinion. This was another weak episode that really didn't advance the plot very much outside of the fact that Sarah now knows her mother was thinking of her before she died and that Sarah's dad never blamed Sarah for her mother's death...yay! This has been a weak season, which is sad considering this was up for cancellation until the last minute. I certainly hope they ramp it up next week.

Entourage: Two episodes left of the season...I NEED MORE! With shows like this HBO can hang on; well, that's if people watch it. High points were Eric taking on Mandy Moore's legion of representatives, Vince playing the cruel joke on Ari and then Eric continuing on with the joke and the whole Eric/Vince dynamic. I still stand by my statement last week that by the end of the season Ari will be out of his agency and on his own with Vince in tow. If Aquaman hits it big I'm sure Ari could live off of Vince alone, but who knows.

And finally, a moment of silence for Six Feet Under ending its run last night. I've only watched the first 4 episodes this year and I hope to sit down and watch the rest. I know the major character who dies, but I am interested in how the fallout went in the last 3 episodes. The show was a great one in the first two seasons and then in Season 3 and 4 it lost its way and from what I've heard it regained it somewhat this season. You will be missed, especially by HBO.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Xbox 360 Price Announced (WTF?)

I'm sure most of you have heard by now, but the Xbox 360 will indeed come in two flavors. The Xbox Core System and the Xbox 360 System. Here are the specs:
Xbox 360 Core System - $299 (299 Euros, 209 GBP)
• Xbox 360 console
• Wired controller
• Detachable faceplate
• Xbox Live Silver membership
• Standard AV cables

Xbox 360 - $399 (399 Euros, 279 GBP)
• Xbox 360 console
• 20GB detachable hard drive
• Wireless controller
• Wireless Xbox Live headset
• High-definition AV cables
• Ethernet cable
• Xbox 360 Media Remote Control (limited time)
• Detachable faceplate
• Xbox Live Silver membership
Also announced were the prices for all the accessories (get ready to scream):
• Faceplate ($19.99, 19.99 Euros, 14.99 GBP)
• Hard Drive (20 GB) ($99.99, 99.99 Euros, 69.99 GBP)
• Memory Unit (64 MB) ($39.99, 34.99 Euros, 22.99 GBP)
• Wireless Networking Adapter ($99.99, 79.99 Euros, 59.99 GBP)
• Wireless Controller ($49.99, 44.99 Euros, 32.99 GBP)
• Play and Charge Kit ($19.99, 19.99 Euros, 14.99 GBP)
• Rechargeable Battery Pack ($11.99, 14.99 Euros, 9.99 GBP)
• Controller ($39.99, 34.99 Euros, 24.99 GBP)
• Headset ($19.99, 19.99 Euros, 14.99 GBP)
• Universal Media Remote ($29.99, 29.99 Euros, 19.99 GBP)
• Component HD AV Cable ($39.99, 29.99 Euros, 19.99 GBP)
• S-Video AV Cable (US) ($29.99)
• SCART AV Cable (Europe) (24.99 Euros, 17.99 GBP)
• VGA HD AV Cable ($39.99, 29.99 Euros, 19.99 GBP)
Ah, Microsoft, I used to be a big supporter, now I'm not so sure. You do an MTV special to unveil the Xbox 360 and say that it will have a wireless controller and a removable hard drive, but forget to say that you are also thinking of selling a cheaper, wired and with no hard drive model as well. What the hell are you smoking?

One of the Xbox's biggest pros is that it has the hard drive that can quickly access saved games AND keeps the last 3 games put in the game in cache so they run faster. Now you're going to sell a "Core System" without a hard drive? This means that developers can no longer code with the idea that the hard drive is a necessary part of the game, but code it so that the hard drive can be used for such things as caching. This is all in the name of getting the system out for $299.99, the magic price point.

Anyone that knows anything about games is going to go out and buy the $399.99 version of the system. I'm pissed that I have to pay an extra $100 when I was sitting here thinking all along that it would be at the lower price point with the hard drive and wireless controller. That's two games (well, if the $59.99 game price is correct, it is one game and a good chunk for the second game) down the drain because I have to get the upper model. And who the heck made the 20GB hard drive $100 to buy? Are they smoking crack? Do they think the Windows model of pricing works anymore? Microsoft does not control the videogame market like they do the desktop market; they really can't go crazy and start charging mondo bucks for stuff...people just aren't going to buy it.

My initial analysis is that Microsoft has put itself in a corner. People that were excited about it being $300 will now be out two launch games unless they want to pony up extra money beyond what they were originally going to. There is still no date announced, but the Japanese release will supposedly be announced at the Tokyo Show next month. I was excited about the Xbox 360, with the announcement of 2 SKUs the excitement has waned. Sony probably has a big grin on its face as well simply because the $399.99 price point is there for them to also sell a stripped down version of the PS3. If Microsoft had included everything in the $299.99 package Sony would have trouble trying to beat that bang for the buck, now it isn't so hard anymore.

Xbox 360 Pricing - The Ones Who Benefit

There is of course the other side of my post above. The mainstream gamer out there may not want a hard drive or wireless controller. They may just want a powerful system they can play games on and not worry about the extra stuff. As a boost to this argument all we have to do is look at Microsoft's MTV special and the movie that came out after the clock went to zero that starts with J Allard saying "You are the colony...blah blah blah".

Although the campaign was skewed more toward the hardcore people, they took a lot of time after saying what was in the Xbox 360 to hone in on what Xbox Live will be like. They talked about such things as video mail, video conferencing, seeing when your friends are on, messaging your friends and basically being connected. That type of idea is geared more toward the mainstream gamer or even the non-gamer. For $300 you can play games and have video conferencing with your friends. Instead of having to go to the computer to instant message your friends, why not use the system you use to play the newest video game?

There is a vast difference between what Microsoft is shooting for and what Sony is shooting for so far. Microsoft, although they will have the hardcore up in arms about the $399.99 price point, has a system that can be sold to the vast legion of people out there interested in its other uses outside of just playing games. For them there is the $299.99 option. Whether Microsoft can market this correctly or not is all up in the air, but this may be their attack to get the people used to Sony's world into their world.

Sony on the other hand has so far been selling the PS3 in much the same way, although at a much more pricey angle. Ken Kutagari has put his foot in his mouth on many occasions, the biggest of which was saying the PS3 is not a gaming system. They haven't really talked about getting the people connected, but more about what an individual can do with this powerful system in front of them on an individual level. For Microsoft it has so far been about the community, with Sony it seems to be about the individual up to this point.

So, for the opposite spin lets think about who Microsoft is trying to target the $300 system to. They know we, the hardcore, will pick the more expensive one if we indeed pick it up. For the rest of the gaming world they have the $300 version that isn't as high tech, but will allow the owner to be connected to their friends in a new way. The one oddball of course are the parents that go out to get the Xbox 360 and don't know which one to get because their child didn't tell them. There could be many unhappy campers in that situation, but I personally am not in that situation to worry about it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Xbox 360 Price/Date Tomorrow?

Thanks to CG reader Hetz for pointing this out. Go to the Xbox Homepage. Look on the right and you will see a button that says "Huge Xbox 360 Announcement Hits Aug 17". Rumor had been that they would announce the price and date of the 360 at the Developers Conference going on in Germany. They have a meeting scheduled related to the 360 at around 9:30am ET.

Bill Harris of Dubious Quality has a post today saying Microsoft would have to announce within 3 weeks. I e-mailed him and told him about the rumor, which he already knew, but he had an interesting addition. None of the top 3 Xbox people (Robbie Bach, J Allard or Peter Moore) have arrived in Germany as of yet. J Allard isn't surprising considering he recently had an accident, but he's a pretty resilient guy.

Anyway, hopefully this will truly be huge news and give us the date, price and maybe some of the launch lineup so we can all decide what we're going to buy.

Zelda Pushed Back/Nintendo DS Price Drop

The major gaming news for today comes from Nintendo. They've announced that the Nintendo DS will drop to $129.99 on August 21st, one day before Nintendogs drops to retail. This is a $20 drop and makes the DS pretty enticing, especially with the games that have just recently come out and are coming out in the future.

That's the good news, the bad news is that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has been pushed back from a November release to a March 2006 release. This is sad news, although the developers want more time to refine the game, something they arguably didn't do with Wind Waker even though that game also came out early in the year at least in the United States.

This leaves the DS lineup to hold Nintendo through the holidays because I don't think they have any other major title coming up for the GameCube.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Catch Up

Man, things have been busy and I keep forgetting to post here. Let's start off by catching up on the TV series I watch.

Entourage: This has been consistently great until last night. Maybe it was because there wasn't enough Ari or the whole Vince/Mandy Moore thing is boring, but the show just didn't seem on last night. I think by the end of the year Ari will be out on his own with Vince in tow.

The 4400: I have been surprised by how good this series can be, but there are only 2 weeks left before the season ends. Are all of the 4400 with powers (remember, many have not gotten their "gift" yet) going to get that rash. I miss Jordan Collier and hopefully they will answer why his body was stolen.

Dead Zone: This has been a relatively weak year unfortunately for this show. The last two episodes have been standouts though. A week ago continued the Stillson storyline (when this series is at its best) and last night was interesting simply because it shows that Johnny had powers when he was young as well and answered some questions for him about his dad.

Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis: I started watching these (I had seen SG-1 in the past) and I can already tell that Richard Dean Anderson only being there for guest spots in SG-1 is going to hurt it a bit. It's cool to see the two people from Farscape on here and the new enemy is quite interesting. We'll see where it goes. Atlantis on the other hand is pretty weak. I liked last night's show and I like the ones where the Wraith are central to the storyline. Outside of that there is a lot of weak acting, especially by the guy that portrays Shepard.

Battlestar Galactica: Also picked this up this season after hearing it was so good. I'm liking it a lot, although I have noticed that they can really leave storylines high and dry from one episode to the next instead of at least giving a peak at what is happening at each geographical point. Starbuck is finally going to get back to the Galactica and find the person the arrow is intended for isn't even on the ship anymore.

Six Feet Under: I believe I have only seen 3 episodes this year. I plan to ram the rest in whenever I find the time. I know the major thing that happened a couple episodes ago, but I won't spoil it here. I have no clue what the fallout was since I didn't watch the next week though. Next Sunday is the last episode and I see that Entourage was pushed back 15 minutes, so I am guessing it will be a long episode. I expect Sopranos last episode to be long as well. The big HBO series are starting to ride off into the sunset and I'm not sure what HBO is going to do if Rome doesn't create an explosion. Once Sopranos is gone, all that is left is Rome, Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Deadwood, all of which will probably not garner the ratings that the others have.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Madden 06 is Out

The game is out and there seems to be a lot of railing against it from online magazines and a lot of variety in what people deem as "good" and "bad".

I'm a big Madden backer, most people that check out Console Gold know that. Many also know that I give every game its due this case that would be ESPN NFL 2K5. I love both games, but I think gameplay wise the Madden games are just better. The graphics and audio portions were owned by 2K5, no doubt about it. However the overall gameplay was better in Madden 2005 in my opinion (your opinion may and is allowed to vary).

When the NFL exclusivity was announced it cut the hardcore sports gamers (I'm not talking the mainstream gamers that pick a football game up here) in two. On one side the majority, at least in print, felt that EA basically did unspeakable crimes to them and that EA was actually the one that bought the license outright. The minority side takes the stance that it was the NFL that wanted an exclusive license with a company and EA wasn't going to let its biggest selling game every year go by the wayside, so they ponied up the major money in order to get the license.

Both sides were very worried about EA Tiburon not adding anything substantial to the game given that there was no competition. The additions in Madden 06 are such things as the Visual Cone, a Superstar mode (that is somewhat like The Crib from NFL 2K5, but seems to be more broad), the Truck Stick for RBs, Precision Passing and general refinements to the offensive line and defensive oversights from last year.

Last Friday IGN's Review (8.8) came out. They railed against the Visual Cone passing, but generally they gave good spin on what they felt were weak things. They also said there were no new animations visible. Yesterday Gamespot's Review came out (8.2). They also ripped on the Visual Cone passing and also talked about other bugs, the biggest of which was having hards taken away from passing yards when a QB is sacked or an interception was made. The writer must have found out he was incorrect and he later edited the review. He was pretty pissed off about this, so I wonder since that problem is not there if the score would be higher or not. He also makes it perfectly clear that the Superstar mode is stupid in his mind, while it seems some posters on Operation Sports forum think differently.

Those two reviews, from the two biggest online magazines, paint Madden 06 and its refinements and additions as nothing substantial. Then we have two other reviews: Team Xbox (9.0) and 1Up (9.0) and a magazine review (EGM) that gave it 8.5, 9.0, 9.5. The Team Xbox and 1Up reviews are much more even in how they present their feelings, giving pros and cons. In fact, 1Up goes so far as to say there are indeed new animations.

Granted, the scores may not be significantly different, but the tones of the reviews are. Railing against EA and Madden are all the rage once again now that Madden is the only NFL game on the planet. Yes, we can all be bitter about the exclusivity, but if the NFL hadn't have been greedy we could have multiple titles once again. Same thing goes for the NCAA (EA) and Major League Baseball (Take Two). Welcome to the era of exclusivity. I wouldn't be surprised if the NBA and NHL don't join in on the fun either, but at least this year we'll have multiple choices.

Anyway, I probably have no point in this. Every year this whole thing just rubs me the wrong way. I grow tired of people picking sides and not listening to the other side or arguing about who is at fault for getting an exclusive license. You're either interested in Madden or not; you either want a new football game or not; you either want to keep playing ESPN NFL 2K5 for the next 5 years or not pick up a football game at's your choice, but let's stop arguing about it.

I'm picking up my copy this afternoon. I don't know when I'll be able to play it, but there are plenty of opinions out there from people.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Xbox 360 - 11/4 and $299.99?

Console Gold reader Hetz has some news in this thread that Wal-Mart has gotten signs saying that the Xbox 360 will be out on November 4th for the price of $299.96. I guess the IGN boards are abuzz about the whole thing and we'll wait to hear the actual word. I was hoping it would be in the $300 price range (although $249.99 would have been nice) and now it puts the pressure on Sony of whether they're going to push out a system for $100 more or not or if they're going to bleed red for a long time in order to compete.

I still stand by what I said about Sony. I think they've gotten cocky and think everyone wants a PS3 and will pay the extra money for the name recognition. Microsoft may have as much as a 10 month head start before the PS3 comes out in the U.S. (I, much like Bill Harris, believe it may be September 2006 before we see it), so they better use the time well if they plan on keeping Sony at bay.

I'll probably buy both, but I am still very afraid of what Sony is going to sell the PS3 at.

One Week to Madden 06

Today is one week before the biggest selling game of the year drops: Madden 06 on every console including the kitchen sink. I say it will be the biggest selling game because there is no Grand Theft Auto game coming out except for the one on PSP and I don't expect that to sell as well as Madden 06.

The big test will be whether the people that bought only ESPN NFL 2K5 last year will move back to the Madden camp or not. Madden lost a lot of game players last year thanks to 2K5's lower price point and, in many people's minds, better gameplay. It will be interesting to see if now that EA has the exclusive NFL license whether people that left them in the dust last year will come back or not. I'm betting on the fact that they will.

I make it no secret that I played both football games last year and found Madden 2005 to be the better of the two from a gameplay perspective. I also realize I may sit in a minority, especially at Console Gold. I don't know whether the exclusivity is going to make EA sit on their laurels or not. The new stuff this years sounds pretty interesting. The "cone of vision" for the QBs sound cool, but I have a feeling if people don't feel like it is second nature after a while they will probably turn it off. The Superstar mode also sounds interesting, although many bemoan the fact that they feel this was ripped straight from The Crib in Visual Concepts game.

The big problem I have is the fact that there is a version coming out for the Xbox 360 when it comes out. No one knows for sure if all the same "goodies" are going to be in the 360 version that will be in the versions coming out next week or if they have to cut some features in order to make it out on time. If they have everything I could see myself double-dipping on launch day.

I'm excited about Madden, mostly because it seems my Minnesota Twins have given up on getting to the playoffs so it is time to put my attention toward the Vikings and football itself.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Next-Generation Stuff

The Xbox 360 is really starting to look like a good machine. They've unveiled movies of Frame City Killer and Project Gotham Racing 3 and I have to say it looks hot (links courtesy of Gamespot because they have the movies).

Frame City Killer is a Japanese produced cyberpunk hitman game (or at least that is what it seems) based on the Unreal 3 Engine that everyone and their brother is licensing from Epic. It looks pretty cool, although I am interested in what type of a game it is (FPS, 3rd person, etc.). It could be a Shadowrun like game, but of course that game has been rumored to be in the works at FASA (i.e. Microsoft).

The Project Gotham Racing games hold a special place in my heart. Before Forza Motorsports came around, PGR was the best racing games around. I am really excited about PGR3 even with the possibility that it may have to be locked down to 30fps again like PGR2 did. If they can do all the things they've talked about at E3 and beyond (like having hundreds of people watching races in spectator mode on Live) I won't be bothered by the 30fps. The video they unleashed looks awesome and they say it is in-game. If it is I am floored by the city graphics and the car graphics. There are also inside the car views, although that may just be a camera in the passenger side much like NASCAR races have. It would truly be monumental if they allowed a dashboard view with the same smooth fps as a non-dashboard one. It has been a long time since a game had that in it. This is a day one purchase for me when I get my Xbox 360 on release doubt!

Bill over at Dubious Quality has been talking about this a bit, but I agree with him on Ken Kutaragi's craziness. I also agree with him that we probably won't see the PS3 until late next year here in the United States. I just don't see Sony doing a worldwide release of the PS3. They'll release it early to mid 2006 in Japan and mid to late 2006 here.

I know people have been going off on the "it will be expensive" thing that Ken said. I think it will be expensive and I think Sony is betting on people picking it up. Think of it much like buying a Sony TV versus other models. You pay an extra amount for that Sony name even though it might not be the better TV. Sony is betting on people paying extra to keep the Playstation line alive and well. Sony knows it has the Japanese gamers in its back pocket until Microsoft can show something that Japanese gamers will pick up in mass quantities, so why not push the price higher? Sony knows it will have a tough fight in the U.S. and Europe where the Xbox is quite a bit stronger than at home base in Japan.

I think they are going to sell it at $399 or $499 here in the U.S. I think the price depends a lot on how expensive Blu-Ray is to produce at the time the console comes out. It is Sony proprietary hardware, but Blu-Ray may still be in the "hardcore only" category by the time the PS3 comes out over here, which means it will be expensive. Betting on the future is not always the smartest thing to do when you're Sony...remember BetaMAX and MiniDisc. It is unknown at this time how long it will take Blu-Ray players to integrate into the mainstream outside of the PS3 (if people buy it). Microsoft is smart with putting a DVD drive in the 360 with the possibility of a future add-on in the air. For the record I think Micorosft will sell the 360 at either $249 or $299 simply to get market share.

Ken Kutaragi has always had some crazy things to say, but I think ever since he got demoted and a non-Japanese person stepped in as CEO of Sony that he's really flown off the handle. At one time Ken was considered to be a front runner for the CEO position, then the shakeup happened and he ended up being demoted. I am a bit surprised Sony hasn't put a piece of duct tape on his mouth. Maybe the Japanese press and population like hearing about all the cool gadgets and how expensive it is going to be, I really don't know.

It is also weird to think that whichever side controls Square-Enix may once again win the war. Square-Enix is a big company in Japan whose games have a legion of followers both there and here in the U.S. If Microsoft can coax Square-Enix into developing more games for them outside of Final Fantasy XI and make them exclusive to the 360 you will see Microsoft's share of the cake in Japan go way up. Nothing has been announced from Square-Enix beyond Final Fantasy XII and it will be interesting to see where they go with next-generation systems.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Burnout Revenge - September 20th

I was reading through my GamePro that came today (for some reason they keep sending me issues even though I've never paid them a cent) and came upon a 2-page ad for the upcoming Burnout Revenge on the Xbox and PS2 (and Xbox 360 in the future, even though the ad talks nothing about it). In large type it says "Coming September 20th" and that there will be a demo of the game in the Xbox and PS2 versions of Madden 06.

I am pretty excited about this game even though it will be about a year since the fantastic Burnout 3: Takedown came out (check out my review to see how much I liked it). Hey, if Insomniac Games can put out a new Ratchet and Clank title every year, why can't a team like Criterion bring out a Burnout game every year as well?

Even better news is that the game is currently pre-selling for $39.99 at EBGames and Gamestop. If this game is as long or longer than the previous one that's a savings of $10 on an unmatched level of enjoyment.

Everyone likes to spit in EA's face (except me), but picking up Criterion was one of the best moves they've long as they don't move them to EA headquarters or swallow them whole. I think EA is going to have a big year even with Godfather being pushed back. If they can release the expansion pack for Battlefield 2 by Christmas this year could be very good for them.

Burnout Revenge is less than 2 months away...are you ready?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

30 Days - Season Ender

Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days ended its first season last night with a mom binge drinking for 30 days to show her college-aged daughter the problems with binge drinking. Let's just say the daughter didn't heed anything her mother was going through or decide to change at all. So this was basically another episode where the intended target doesn't see the light of day.

The best parts of the episode were Spurlock talking to the mother of a girl that died with a .437 (I think that is what was said) blood alcohol level and Spurlock doing the driving test after having 5 shots. Had the people at the party taken her to the hospital instead of putting her in a room in the house she probably would be alive today.

Looking over the episodes of this series I have to say the standouts were Spurlock and his fiance doing the minimum wage deal and the guy who lives in San Francisco's Castro district for 30 days. Outside of that the episodes were pretty weak, including the Christian living the Muslim life for 30 days. I hope this series comes back, but I also hope that Spurlock does more than one episode next time around.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

GTA: SA Goes Bye-Bye

I'm sure most of you have heard the news by now that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has been re-rated as an AO (Adults Only) game thanks to the "hot coffee" debacle. There's a further story about two major local companies (Best Buy and Target) and that they immediately took the game off the shelves (story via Minneapolis Star Tribune). As much as we may have blown off the attack by groups aghast by the inclusion of a sexual minigame, the fact is this is a pretty major step.

Rockstar and Take Two could be irreversibly hurt by the former's stupidity. Take Two trading is already down 7% and chances are tomorrow it will drop even more. Take Two was on top of the publishing world with a lot of big deals ahead (they're publishing Sid Meier's Civilization IV and Microsoft's old sports games Top Spin 2 and Amped 3 on the Xbox 360 for instance). Now they could be seriously hurt by this whole thing.

In my opinion, all the blame rests with Rockstar. They've always liked to push the edge of things and their stupidity may have finally caught up to them. Their little "plausible deniability" that it was all the modder's fault went by the wayside when it was found you can unlock the sex minigame in the PS2 version (the one that was out over 6 months ago) and I can only guess you can also do it in the Xbox version.

The ESRB is likely to change their overall ratings as well because the explainations of M and AO ratings are pretty close to each other, nevermind the ratings are just one year off from each other (M is for 17 and higher, AO is for 18 and higher). This is also likely to spark legislation on the state level to hold retailers at fault for selling to people under the ages specified. I like this idea, although I know the retail industry will be against it because they will be the ones to get hit by fines.

Some of you may still blow this off, but this is not another situation where someone is blaming a shooting or child neglect on video games. Instead the developer left in gameplay that could be unlocked that goes beyond the realm of an M rated game. When you use buttons and motions to physically thrust into the woman, making it fully interactive, that goes beyond the M rating in my opinion. I have not seen the "hot coffee" mod at work, but should I get my hands on the PC version I'll be sure to check it out.

I just hope Rockstar and Take Two are ready because their glass tower is shattering apart. Take Two did announce they would have the game available in the fourth quarter with the offending section deleted; we shall see though.

Beam Me Up, Scotty (RIP - James Doohan)

Sad news to report this morning. James Doohan, who played Scotty in the original Star Trek TV series has died. You can read it on CNN if you like. He died from pneumonia and complications from his long bout with Alzheimer's disease. He will be greatly missed by the legion of Star Trek fans out there.

Rescue Me - 7/19

Another good episode, although not as strong as some of them this year. Next week looks a bit more exciting than this week was. I'm still not sure why Jesus and Mary Magdeline are appearing for Tommy. It was quite weird to see Tommy having sex with Mary, who you wouldn't have known was her until Jesus comes in with a gun ready to take names.

Tommy has a step-brother and at least one step-sister. I think Tommy should go after the kids even though his brother seems against it. He thinks the family is already too screwed up for Tommy to bring the kids back into the equation.

Franco is treading a dangerous line. I don't think he should continue a relationship with Laura simply because I think Laura can turn into an insane woman if she gets the chance. Expand relations with the pharmacy girl even though he only uses her for the drugs basically.

The sensitivity training section showed why a show like this could never be shown on broadcast TV. I wonder how much better shows like this and Nip/Tuck would be if HBO had them. They're already gritty enough, but I wonder how much more gritty they could be.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Weep for Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows

I'm sure most of you heard last week that John Romero got booted out of Midway San Diego and off the Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows team. Many people thought he was booted over a power struggle with J.E. Sawyer (of Black Isle fame) on the game. Well, today comes news that J.E. Sawyer has also left Midway San Diego and the game, so the theories were unfounded.

Unlike Romero (who supposedly won't announce where he is going or went for months), J.E. Sawyer is moving directly to Obsidian to work on Neverwinter Nights 2 and join up with a lot of the old crew from Black Isle. Of course these two departures can only mean bad news for Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, a game I was actually excited about for a while there. I have a feeling, even though Midway is saying neither loss will affect the game, that this game will come out at a NARC-like price point of $19.99. Even though Romero lost a lot of luster over Daikatana, J.E. Sawyer at least brought a "name" to the game. Now the game is nameless unless Tom Hall is still working on it and chances are he would go wherever Romero would.

Weep for Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, but be happy that Sawyer has joined Obsidian for Neverwinter Nights 2 and future projects.

NCAA Football 06

I also have not had a chance to sit down with NCAA Football 06 yet, but I notice Bill Harris has voiced his displeasure on Dubious Quality about the game. I won't let that get me down though. He is somewhat right about the reviews and reviewers, but he also has to understand that reviewers of sports games have to look at the whole picture and not look into the hardcore side of sports games (where places like Bill's blog and Operation Sports goes more deeply into).

You see, the majority of people who buy games like Madden or NCAA Football are not your hardcore sports gamers. They're Joe Gamer (my term, but I'm sure many have used it) who just enjoys playing football on a television screen and isn't so worried about the nuances of the game. Yes, they'd like to see a competent defense for example, but I don't think they are worrying about what is or isn't happening. Joe Gamer is the reason games like Madden and NFL 2K5 from last year sell so well and the reason Madden is usually the #1 selling game when a Grand Theft Auto game doesn't come out. That's as much as I'll speak about it for now, time to go to bed.

Catch Up

I had a pretty busy week with a lot of stuff going on in my life, but I'm here to talk about things in television, books and movies from the weekend.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: When I saw the preview before Batman Begins I was not too enthused to go see this movie. Then I started hearing the early word about it and I got stoked again. After watching it I have to say this version by Tim Burton was better than the previous movie. Most of the enjoyment comes from the fact the movie could be made using today's technology versus the technology available for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This movie should solidify the idea that Johnny Depp is one of the best actors alive today. I wouldn't say this movie was better than Batman Begins, but it is right up there and gives Warner Bros. a second fantastic movie this summer.
Score: *** 1/2 out of ****

Monk: Monk was another really good episode. It's always nice to see Ambrose in an episode and this time he even made it out of the house. I wonder how sincere Natalie was with going out with Ambrose and I hope we see John Turturro again this year.

Family Guy: I think since the episode last week that the series is starting to hit its groove again. Peter was not in this episode as much as he usually is, I'd even say it was a Lois and Brian one. The beginning with Chris going into A-Ha's "Take on Me" video was hilarious.

The 4400: An excellent episode, although I am quite interested in whether Tom and Alana will continue to be an item or not given they just spent 8 years together in her mind and got married. I'm also glad to see that Tom is hopefully getting a love interest, now Diana needs to follow suit. I was going through the episode figuring it was Collier under the sheet since he seemed to like Tom and would show that powers can live beyond the grave, but no dice. Collier's body is still missing.

The Dead Zone: Another terrific episode. I find it very rare where USA has a perfect weekend, and this one pretty much wrapped it up. Had nothing to do with Stinson (actually, are they going to touch that story again this year?) and was a stand-alone episode. The autistic child was spot on and although I knew it was the partner all along, I still enjoyed the episode quite a bit.

Entourage: Can't say enough about this show and I hope people are watching it. Every episode seems to get better and better. James Cameron makes an appearance at Sundance, but only sees 10 minutes of the 4 hour (?!?!) Queens Boulevard. At the end he offers Aquaman to Vince and everything is right with the world of the gang again...well, until Mandy Moore shows up next week.

And of course there is that little book that came out...

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: I have no clue who dies or what happens. I picked up the book on Saturday, but probably won't read it for a while and I'm going to be very careful this time around to not know what goes on. I knew about Sirius' death before I read the last book, so it was a bit of a downer. This time I hope to not be spoiled. My money is still on Dumbledore though.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Best Laid Plans...

That is one of my favorite phrases from a book: "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Anyway, I'm stuck at work again tonight, so I doubt I'll get any NCAA Football 06 play in, so you'll have to wait for my thoughts for another day unfortunately.

I'm interested in 30 Days from tonight (it has already been shown) with the two people who go "off the grid" (i.e. use nature as a power and liveable force). I wonder how it was, I missed it since I was busy at work. Hope you guys liked it.