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.