Gaming Steve

Xbox Archives - Page 4

January 18, 2008

Free Undertow for All Xbox Live Members


It was first reported almost two weeks ago that Microsoft was going to compensate XBox Live members with a free game because of their server outage issues.

Today it was announced that the game Undertow will be available to download for free starting next Wednesday at 2:00 a.m. PST up through Sunday, 11:59 p.m. PST for all Xbox Live Members worldwide; this includes both gold and silver memberships.

I actually recently downloaded the trial for Undertow, and it was quite fun. In fact, I even considered purchasing it when I had an extra 1600 points, but decided to download Psychonauts instead. Overall I'm rather happy with the game they selected – at least it's better than Uno.

Posted by Steven Mills at 8:00 PM | Comments (1) | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 16, 2008

Clayton's Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of the Next 3 Months

2007 was a fantastic year of gaming, one filled with games I still have yet to play. But 2008 is already looking like a another great year for gaming, one filled with many potential triple-A titles. I was prepared to write up a list of my 10 most anticipated games of the whole year but I quickly found 10 coming out before April that I'm dying to play.

10. Bully: Scholarship Edition (Xbox 360, Wii)
Bully: Scholarship EditionI have always appreciated Rockstar's ability to make interesting characters, witty dialog, and deep stories more than anything else they do. The Grand Theft Auto games always had an entertaining, well written story beneath all the prostitute killing and car jacking, so I'm really looking forward seeing what Rockstar did with Bully.

I missed Bully back on the PS2, so I'm happy for its re-release on the Xbox 360 and Wii, with added content and updated graphics. Mostly known for its media backlash before even being released, the original game focused on tough kid Jimmy Hopkins, who's been sent to Bullsworth Academy after being expelled from seven other schools.

Consisting of the sandbox style gameplay known from the GTA games, Bully takes you through high school culture using a wide variety of gameplay including schoolyard combat, bicycle riding, childhood crushes, and school pranks to name just a few. Jimmy interacts with five groups at the school, ranging from preps to jocks to nerds, while teachers and adults outside the school also give Jimmy missions to complete. While the gameplay looks varied, what I'm really looking forward too is the excellent voice acting, story, and interesting characters, something I wish more developers would spend time on.

Release Date: March 4, 2008

9. Devil May Cry 4 (PS3, Xbox 360)
Devil May Cry 4I'll have to admit right up front: I have yet to play any games in the Devil May Cry series. From what I have seen an heard about Devil May Cry 4, I know it's going to be my first. The game will let player use both the series star demon slayer Dante and new comer Nero, whom players will use for the majority of the game. Using his “demonically enhanced” right arm, Nero will be able use enemies as shields, tear them in half, or use it as a grappling hook in between combat.

Devil May Cry 4 promises to continue the story of the series (Devil May Cry 3 was a prequel), and at least on the PS3, the game allow players to watch a summary of the series story so far, while the game installs a cache onto the hard drive to eliminate all loading during game. Perhaps my favorite new feature is the addition of both a more balanced difficulty level and an actual tutorial to teach you the combat. With this and Ninja Gaiden 2, 2008 looks like a good year for action games.

Release Date: February 5, 2008

8. Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath (PC, Xbox 360)
Command & Conquer 3: Kane's WrathAnyone remember the previous Command & Conquer game, Generals? While an interesting diversion for the series, it didn't really find its place until the excellent expansion pack, Zero Hour. By dividing up each faction into three sub-factions led by specific generals with specific concentrations, the game really found its footing. This is what Kane's Wrath intends to do, by dividing up the three factions of Command & Conquer 3 into specialized sub-factions which will have unique special units, upgrades and support powers designed to cater to more distinct styles of play. Find yourself using NODs stealth abilities often? Then maybe you'll enjoy "The Marked of Kane" sub-division. Love GDI's incredible fire power? Then "The Steel Talons" are just for you!

In addition to their new regular units, each side will be getting unique hero-type “Epic Units”. The idea of hulking monstrosities that can single handedly “turn the tide of a battle”, from the Scrin's Eradicator to NOD's Redeemer, just fills me with joy. Of course, it also helps that the original Command & Conquer 3 was a fantastic game in it's own right, but with new units, abilities, and a Risk style “Conquer the World” campaign, where can you go wrong? And don't worry, there will be plenty more of the fantastic cut-scenes featuring Joseph Kucan as NODs messiah, Kane.

Release Date: March 13, 2008

7. Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (DS)
Advance Wars: Days of RuinPerhaps my favorite DS game of all time, Advanced Wars: Dual Strike was a fantastic turn based strategy game with cartoony graphics and larger than life characters. Days of Ruin bucks the previous games style (and the annoying DS naming acronym Nintendo apparently forced on developers for the DS's first couple of years) in favor a darker and more serious tone.

An entire new cast of characters and therefore new CO powers means a fresh new set of strategies to try. CO powers have also been toned down and tag team powers eliminated so that the game can't be won in a single turn, something that greatly annoyed me during Dual Strike's campaign. The units have been rebalanced and some new ones have been added, but the biggest improvement is the Wi-Fi multiplayer. Players will be able to play games over Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection service, complete with voice chat and map sharing. Another added multiplayer feature that is conversely low tech is the ability to simply pass the DS each turn for local multiplayer, something every turn based game on a portable should have.

Release Date: January 21, 2008

6. Rez HD (Xbox 360 Live Arcade)
Rez HDI'll have to admit I never got the chance to play the original Rez, but hearing it on so many peoples top ten games of all time lists, I feel I need to at least give it a try. In the simplest terms, the game is an on rails shooter where your “weaponry” adds to the pulsing soundtrack. The game is said to put you in a trance and even give you a mild sense of synesthesia, meaning you “hear colors” and “see sounds”.

Perhaps I am looking at this game too pretentiously, but since I loved Lumines, a game also created by Rez's creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi, I know that there is some real creative talent behind the game. Whether I like it or not, it's one of those games I feel I need to play for myself. Updated HD graphics and an 800 MS Point (10$) price tag only sweetens the deal. You'll also be able to use your extra Xbox 360 controllers as “Trance Vibrators” to... well... “enhance the experience”.

Release Date: January 2008

5. Burnout: Paradise (Xbox 360, PS3)
Burnout: ParadiseI'm not a big fan of racing games. Any time I play Gran Turismo I just end up turning my car around and trying to run head on into the competition. However, the Burnout series tapped into my inner need to smash cars together, making Burnout 3: Takedown one of my favorite PS2 games of all time. Burnout: Paradise looks to take the frenetic car crashing gameplay the series is known for into the current generation, while adding in an improved free roaming city in the style of Need for Speed: Underground 2.

What do I mean by an improved “free roaming city”? How about absolutely no front end. As in no menu screens or server lobbies to navigate through in order to find races or jump online. Just pull up to any stop light in the game and press accelerate and reverse at the same time to start an event. The game also allows players to join their friends in their own version of Paradise City to crash and compete all without stopping their driving, an impressive technical achievement in its own right. Gorgeous graphics and an extensive collection of super destructible cars will make this the racing game to beat in 2008. A demo is available on both consoles, and I highly recommend playing it online to see what makes that game so great.

Release Date: January 22, 2008

4. Condemned 2: Blood Shot (Xbox 360, PS3)
Condemned 2: Blood ShotThe sequel to the Xbox 360's best launch title, Condemned 2: Blood Shot will probably be the scariest game of the year. The original was a creepy, atmospheric First Person Shooter ... although "First Person Shooter" doesn't fully describe its gameplay. Using melee weapons found in the environment such as wrenches, locker doors, and fire axes, you used timing-based combat to attack and counter enemy attacks. Gunplay was extremely limited as you couldn't reload your guns, so it was literally "fire and forget". The close combat gameplay, limited ammo, and a deviously small flashlight beam combined to created an overwhelmingly tense feeling throughout the entire game – where a crazed hobo or junkie could jump out and attack you at any time.

Bloodshot looks to add to the melee combat with defensive and offensive moves, as well as extensive combo chains. More than 40 brutal finishing moves, and “upgrades” including brass knuckles and steel tipped boots (I can only imagine the carnage those will cause) have also been added. An interesting multiplayer option has also new the the sequel, with a “Hobo Fighting Arena” and traditional Death Match where you unlock more weapons after finding them in the single player game. The game will also continue the story of detective Ethan Thomas, one year after the mysterious events of the first game. Cool forensic investigations and paranormal occurrences from the original created one of the more interesting stories in an FPS in a while, one I look forward to continuing soon.

Release Date: March 11, 2008

3. Culdcept: Saga (Xbox 360)
Culdcept: SagaXbox Live demos are perhaps the best feature the service has to offer besides multiplayer gaming. Without them, I would never have found the inexplicable joy of the Monopoly and Collectible Card Game concoction that is Culdcept: Saga. With dice rolls, property upgrades, magic, and monsters, Culdcept: Saga is definitely not what you expect to be released on the Xbox 360.

Consisting of a game board made up of four distinct elements where you summon monsters to protect you territory, and a deck of magic, monster, and weapon cards you get to build, the gameplay is unlike anything else you might have seen on the console. You win the game by obtaining a set amount of gold, which you have to gain by moving around the board, capturing territory, and forcing your opponents to pay a toll when they land on your territory. However, instead of hotels and motels you collect rent using demons and dragons.

When one player lands on another's territory, battle commences where you use monsters and additional armor, weapon, and magic cards to avoid paying the toll (and steal their territory). With the added randomness of dice rolls, the gameplay takes on a very unique feel, where a game can be completely turned around by a lucky roll. And nothing is more satisfying that having you opponent land on your thrice upgraded territory and beaten down by your ax-wielding minotaur. Always wished you could do that in Monopoly, don't you?

Release Date: February 5, 2008

2. Sins of a Solar Empire (PC)
Sins of a Solar EmpireLove Homeworld 2? Also love Galactic Civilizations 2? Then have I found the dream game for your! Featuring epic real time space battles with extensive 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate) style strategy, this game should be high up on any strategy gamers list. Being published by Stardock, makers of the excellent Galactic Civilizations series (think Sid Meier's Civilization series, only in space), and developed by new studio Ironclad Games, the game aims to let players control massive galactic civilizations spanning multiple planets and controlling numerous spaceship fleets.

With research trees, colony improvements, and diplomacy, everything you expect from turn based strategy games is to be found here, but lets not forget the giant spaceships are so awesome: the epic, cinematic, and explosive battles. Combat takes a page out of Homeworld 2's book and presents some interesting ideas, including Capitol ships that gain experience, battles taking place within the gravity wells of planets, and helpful AI that knows which ship to attack and which it has no chance against. This game has the chance to replace Homeworld 2 on my laptop hard drive.

Release date: February 4, 2008

1. Beyond the Red Line (PC, Mac)
Beyond the Red LineBeing the huge Battlestar Galactica fan that I am, I couldn't help but to list this one here, even if the release date is technically “when it's done”. And even if you aren't a fan of Battlestar Galactica, here's another reason to be on the lookout for this game: it's completely free. A stand alone total conversion for the PC space flight sim Freespace 2, Beyond the Red Line puts you right in the cockpit of the Viper Mk II, Viper Mk VII, Raider, and possibly more as the game nears release. Weaving in and in between the events of the excellent show, you'll be hunting down Scar, defending the Galactica from Cylons Basestars, and securing Tillium ore for the fleet.

While it doesn't have the exacting Newtonian physics from the show, it does have a pretty good alternative that allows you conserve your inertia for some tricky maneuvers. Oozing quality, from its excellent graphics, spoken dialog, and a soundtrack both from the show and originally composed, it's amazing that this game is just being given away. A demo is available with three single player missions and multiplayer mode and I've found it works really well with an Xbox 360 controller plugged into your PC.

Release Date: Pray to the Gods it is soon!

Honorable Mentions

Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii) – I never got into the previous games as much as my friends, and their being so much better than me makes it a pretty unfair (and unfun) fight. Maybe with Brawl I can concentrate my time into one character (Solid Snake!) and at least have a fighting chance.

Left 4 Dead (PC, Xbox 360, PS3) – I originally had this game in the list at number 3, since it had a tenuous Q1 2008 release date. I thought it was funny to point out how notorious Valve is for delaying games and I guess I just tempted fate: the game was pushed back to the summer before I finished my article.

Castle Crashers (Xbox Live Arcade) – A beautiful looking arcade games that has been delayed multiple times now, I just hope we can play it before the end of the year. Awesome looking multiplayer action from the people that brought you Alien Hominid, Rez HD faces stiff competition for my Microsoft Points.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 10:30 AM | Comments (21) | Posted to DS | Feature | PC | PlayStation 3 | Preview | Wii | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 14, 2008

What Lies in Store For Mass Effect 2?

Mass Effect 2 future squadmate?

Humongous Mass Effect fanboy that I am – with two full play-throughs under my belt at this point – I've been pondering its upcoming sequels somewhat heavily this month. Developer BioWare is reasonably tight lipped on the subject, detailing precious little info other than the fact that there are two more games stenciled in for release throughout the 360's lifespan, but behind that, nuggets prove scarce.

That doesn't mean we can't hypothesize though, does it? Perhaps do a little sleuthing of our own? Maybe even throw a few random theories into the mix. To do so will require the discussion of major spoilers, of course, so if your copy of Mass remains incomplete at this point in time, for the love of Ashley Williams, TURN BACK NOW.

With that out of the way...

One concrete slab o' info we do know for definite – straight from the horse's mouth, no less – is that Mass Effect 2 will let us port across our characters from the previous game. The ability to play through such a rich and epic adventure with a persona of our own creation – from meticulously designed physical attributes, to the far reaching political decisions he or she subsequently had to make – was certainly one of the core traits that stood out with Mass Effect, so to see said decisions hopefully return to haunt us in the game's follow-up(s) most definitely excites in theory.

That said, I wouldn't get too carried away on this front if I were you. To prowl internet message boards – or partake in the average pub-tinged round table – sees the majority of fans expecting a little too much from this in my experience. Weapons, armor, money? Its doubtful such material possessions will survive the journey I'm afraid. Sad news for the trillionaire loot addicts who quick-timed their way into every crate known to man, but at least they'll have something to do in the sequel. In fact, I'd be surprised to see choice of class, skills, or even character level pop along either.

Physical attributes and plot decisions are most likely all that'll remain constant between games, if I were to hazard a guess, but this alone should prove riveting enough regardless. With the fate of the council held in the player's hands on game's end for example, BioWare'll need to create entire cut-scenes, dialog trees and even plot-points both involving, and ignoring the terrible trio for the game's follow-up. Because let's be honest, 90% of us probably killed 'em off in those dying minutes with a demonic grin plastered across our face.

Combined with the player's choice of a fourth, and very much human elected council member, means such scenes could house a multitude of varying outcomes and tones right across the board. BioWare certainly have their work cut out in terms of covering all bases of these multiple tangent universes.

Even more so in regards to the Normandy's crew. What of the fates of Kaiden, Ashley and Wrex for example? The optimist in me hopes to see the next game tailored to the decisions we made, thus dictating each of their presence and subsequent attitude towards you – adding much to the previous game's more emotional moments in the process – but the realist within me scoffs. Given next-gen development time and cost, it seems fruitless for a developer to include entire characters and plot strands that many'll never even see. Sad but true.

We love Wrex!
I would however place bets on some minor name-dropping of the above deceased, and the possible inclusion of at least Liara and Tali. They were, after all, the two mandatory party members whom everyone was not only forced to recruit, but also survived through game's end. A pity, given Wrex and Garrus were arguably the more interesting of the bunch.

Hotty female aliens, and good old hollow-boned Joker aside, I'd place bets on a brand new Normandy crew for the most part however. A Salarian (aka the Area 51-esque skinny looking fellows) would be a no-brainer, given their lack of presence first time around. Perhaps a soldier from Shepard's battle on Virmire would prove a pleasing throwback? I'd personally relish the chance for a Volus sidekick more than anything however, given their undeniable similarity to cute, cuddly teddy bears with which to snuggle. It gets lonely in space, after all.

I'm almost more curious about locations above all else though. No doubt the recently redecorated Citadel will make a reappearance – along with the previously seen council chambers and such – but looking out at of that view down in the Wards of the last game, brain running amok with all the endless possibilities contained below, certainly makes one eager to explore some of the construct's more far-reaching and dingy locales. Presumably we'll get to do just that.

In terms of additional planets, I'd hope Caleston gets a resurrection first and foremost. For those not in the know, this was a beautiful yet seedy underworld environment originally designed for the first game, choc-full of gritty bars and dodgy bounty hunter types. It was heavily reworked mid-development, with its city section scrapped completely, and eventually renamed Therum (thus housing Liara's dig site). Concept art found on the first game's bonus disc looks amazing though, where BioWare themselves even hint of the planet's resurrection in sequel form or DLC.

One hopes such populated planets have a far greater presence right across the board, in fact. Compared to previous games from Canada's finest, Mass Effect could be accused of lacking much on that front. Asari and Turian home worlds could be particularly interesting to "Renegade" your way across, given the various customs and histories they each poses. Have human/Turian relations improved in light of the events in Mass I wonder? Or now more than ever, are they on the verge of breaking point.

Finally we have to question the extent of the Reapers' involvement in the next game. Sovereign required quite the battering to put down in the game's climactic battle; but just how many more of these things are out there exactly? More importantly, will we uncover some hints as to what their ultimate goal is? A Matrix style "human-battery" setup would be a colossal let-down, given such a beautiful setup, but it could well be one mystery not fully answered 'til the final installment of the trilogy. If we were to stumble across Sovereign's buddies out in the furthest reaches of space though, my one, true hope for the sequel would be real-time space combat sequences; potentially a far more appropriate and action packed mini-game next to the previously monotonous, if still (mildly) enjoyable Mako segments.

The good news of course, is that we'll need not wait year upon year to secure answers to some of the above questions and theories. The second Mass Effectnovel – Ascension – touches down this summer, supposedly bridging the gap between games, while downloadable content is also reportedly very far along too. Given Mass Effect's lack of an Oblivion-style world in which to mess around with long past the game's credits, it'll be interesting to see how BioWare plan to "plug" new missions in exactly, but even in their own words, downloadable content has been a huge part of this series' blueprint since its very earliest conception. Which presumably translates to; expect much improved results compared to KOTOR's depressingly meager efforts.

On a more technical level, BioWare have also talked briefly about improving upon the disastrous lifts seen in the last game, tweaking the heavily maligned UI, and even working in some of the scrapped real-time conversation features they originally trumpeted back amidst the first game's development. Whether these much needed upgrades find their way into the sequel or not remains to be seen, but I for one just hope the ruddy textures show up next time...

Posted by Matt Robinson at 11:30 AM | Comments (52) | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 12, 2008

New Team Fortress 2 Maps, Gameplay Options, and Achievements Coming Soon

Team Fortress 2

Valve has confirmed that within the next two months, the PC version of Team Fortress 2 will be getting two new maps. Also coming before those maps is a Medic-centric achievement pack. Valve intends to add an achievement pack for every class at some point, and using these achievements they intend to make a "large scale" change to the gameplay. Valve's Robin Walker said this in Shacknews' scoop:

"It's a large scale modification to the core of the game. It'll debut in a limited fashion through the Medic first, but it'll be affecting all classes eventually. We're really looking forward to the community reaction. We're really excited about where TF2 will be going over the next year."

One of the new maps is a remake of Badlands from Team Fortress Classic. The map will focus on more vertically-oriented battles because it's control points are located at the top of spires. The other map has yet to be announced and unfortunately for console owners, neither of these maps has been confirmed to be coming to either the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360.

Knowing Valve, I doubt these maps will be anything but free, though I'm basing that on the fact that Valve is so good at giving stuff away. The "friends" service added to Steam is many times more competent than Microsoft's Windows Live, and comparable to Xbox Live all without costing users a dime. Team Fortress 2 is easily my favorite online multiplayer shooter, it's only problem being the limited amount of maps. I can't wait to prance about these maps with my head full of eyeballs, how about you?

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 11:30 AM | Comments (6) | Posted to PC | PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 10, 2008

CES Video Game Announcements in Review


For those not in the know, the Consumer Electronics Show has been taking place over the last few days in Las Vegas. PCs, Consoles, and even portable game machines can easily be brought under the umbrella of consumer electronics, meaning interesting new hardware related announcements have come from the Expo for every major platform, except oddly Nintendo.

The PSP rumors of the addition of Skype have turned out to be true and Sony will be implementing the Voice over IP service to only the new thinner PSP later this month. The US PSP will also be getting the GPS, camera, and keypad accessories. Another interesting addition to the PSP is the ability for PS3 owners to copy a lower resolution version of any Blu-Ray movie to their PSP's memory card, an addition Sony promises to implement in 2008.

Speaking of the PS3, Sony has promised that the most asked for software update will be coming out this year: the ability to use the XMB in game. Taking a page out the Xbox 360's operating system, this Cross Media Bar (XMB) update could potentially allow users to see what their friends are playing and join their online games, all without quitting out of their current game.

Getting the least attention this year, Microsoft announced that the Xbox 360 will finally be getting Internet Protocol Television (which they announced last year), starting out on the European service provider BT Vision. Unfortunately, Xbox 360 users will not be able to use this service to record or pause live TV (which is what I thought IPTV was for). Microsoft did not announce the fabled "Xbox 360 Ultimate" with internal HD DVD drive, which is probably a good thing considering HD DVD's recent loss of Warner Bros. as a content provider. At least there is the potential of a Blu-Ray player for the Xbox 360.

PC games weren't left out, with Microsoft's announcement of many more "Games for Windows" games including: Alone in the Dark, Bionic Commando, Conflict: Denied Ops, Empire: Total War, LEGO Indiana Jones, Microsoft Train Simulator 2, Sins of a Solar Empire, Space Siege, and Tomb Raider: Underworld.

Hardware announced for the PC includes Alienware's awesome looking super wide screen curved display, which is the equivalent of two 24 inch monitors stuck together . iZ3D showed off their innovative 22 inch 3D computer monitor, which unfortunately isn't compatible with SLI or Crossfire, Dual Displays, OpenGL, or 64-bit applications. The idea of truly 3D games is intriguing though.

I'm most excited about the PS3 getting in game XMB, yet another addition that will tempt me into purchasing my own and Alienware's drool worthy curved computer display. Anything catch your interest at CES?

Oh yes, and here is some video of Alienware's swanky new curved display ... I want that:

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 1:30 PM | Comments (4) | Posted to Business | PC | PlayStation 3 | PSP | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 8, 2008

Rumor: GoldenEye, Other Rare Games Headed to Xbox Live Arcade?

Goldeneye 007

Citing “very reliable sources” and “seeing evidence themselves”, Xbox Evolved is claiming that Rare's Goldeneye 007 will appear on Xbox Live Arcade. Originally for the Nintendo 64 and remembered nostalgically as one of the best (and first) multiplayer console first person shooters, Goldeneye is reported to come with updated graphics and Xbox Live multiplayer support.

Xbox Evolved also reported that through a complicated agreement between Microsoft, Rare, MGM Studios (the owners of the Bond movies), and Activision (new owners of the license to make Bond video games), Goldeneye 007 will be released shortly before Activision's first James Bond game. Even more interesting is their evidence that Rare will be releasing more of it's back catalog from the Nintendo 64, including Bango-Kazooie and Perfect Dark.

What I find most intriguing about this rumor is that if it is true, more Nintendo 64 games could find their way to the Xbox 360 Arcade, so long as their developers and/or publishers are not owned by Nintendo. Less interesting to me is the actual game, Goldeneye. Truth be told, I can't stand some of the first 3D games from the Playstation and Nintendo 64 platforms.

Detailed 2D and stylized 3D graphics from older consoles are fine by me, but those first attempts at 3D look so jaggy and rigid, I find it hard to stay interested. With the likes of Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 to “compete” against is a game like Goldeneye still worth playing?

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 10:45 PM | Comments (17) | Posted to Classic | Rumor | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 8, 2008

Xbox Live Class Action Lawsuit Worth Pennies, Not Millions

Sue Microsoft: Collect $5 million dollars

A few days ago three angry Texas gamers filed a class action lawsuit against Microsoft for holiday Xbox Live outages to the tune of $5 million US Dollars. I was going over the case, examining their potential damages, and determined that this lawsuit makes absolutely no sense to me.

Okay, so maybe Microsoft had unexpected downtime, but demanding 365/24/7 service is expecting God-like powers from Microsoft. If it were quantified into actual lost funds, Microsoft’s announced free game offer is very generous.

When you join Xbox Live, you agree to a contractual Terms of Use that you must agree to in order to join. Those terms include downtimes as necessary and paragraph 16, where you accept limited liability and no warranty. Here is that portion of the document:

16. WE MAKE NO WARRANTY We provide the Service "as-is," "with all faults" and "as available." The Microsoft Parties give no express warranties, guarantees or conditions. You may have additional consumer rights under your local laws that this contract cannot change. To the extent permitted by law, we exclude the implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, workmanlike effort and non-infringement.

Xbox Live users are subject to downtimes, regardless of reasons or causes. Basically, if Microsoft provides the service that you pay for, you have no other say in the matter.

And even if Microsoft is liable for the downtime, the actual refund amount may shock you.

If you are a Silver member, or one on a free trial offer, Microsoft owes you nothing as the service provided is cost you nothing. If you are a Gold member, you can divide up your yearly fee to a daily fee. $50 US Dollars for an annual fee is approximately 13.7 cents a day. The downtime was about 6 days, which ends up being 82 cents.

So as compensation for the downtime Microsoft is offering a free XBLA game to Xbox Live users. This offer will most likely be a game worth $5 USD. Not only do they owe Live users nothing, but this offer is generous! If you accept the game, you cannot participate in the class action and lose your claim of your 82 cents. I advise you to take the game offer.

Lawyers have a bad reputation for frivolous lawsuits. This class action suit is just one of the many reasons for that negative stereotype. It is obvious the lawyers taking on this case have not done their homework and are showing their inexperience in an embarrassingly public way. After all, what do you call a lawyer who graduates last in his class? You call him “attorney.”

Posted by Robert Gauss at 1:15 PM | Comments (17) | Posted to Business | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 4, 2008

Xbox Live Subscribers to Get Free XBLA Game

Xbox Live Compensation

Anyone who has a membership to Xbox Live and has tried to play recently will be able to agree on one thing; the servers have been about as unstable as Brittany Spears. No, Bill Gates hasn't shaved his head or danced mediocrely with a bit of extra weight flying around – at least I sure hope not – but the Xbox Live servers sure do have some sort of problem. If anyone has even been lucky to connect to the servers while playing an online game they will notice the lag is certainly unbearable.

Fortunately Microsoft's Xbox Live General Manager Marc Whitten has released a statement regarding this issue, acknowledging that a high volume of users created new accounts to experience Xbox Live over the holiday season causing the servers to lead to connection problems for all users.

Do not fear though, because compensation ensues. Microsoft will be offering all Xbox Live members around the world access to a free download of an Xbox Live Arcade game in the near future in order to soothe our hardships from the lack of gaining that extra XP on Call of Duty 4 or fraggin' through countless games of Slayer in Halo 3. What game they will be offering us as well as when this will be available has not been announced yet, but details will be announced shortly.

I sure hope the game is a fun one. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved would be a good choice; but please, no more free download attempts for Carcassone! (Gaming Steve: Hey, I love that game!)

Posted by Steven Mills at 9:15 AM | Comments (5) | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

January 4, 2008

Xbox 360 Sales Surge Ahead (With A Little Help From Halo 3)

Xbox Loves Halo

Today Microsoft announced the number of Xbox 360 consoles shipped to date and it's a pretty staggering amount. In total they've shipped 17.7 Million total consoles with over 4.4 Million consoles shipped during the holiday season. Keep in mind that by "shipped" they mean "sold to retail", so while Microsoft has its money, that doesn't necessarily mean that nearly 18 Million people currently own an Xbox 360.

Another impressive number touted by Microsoft was that nearly half of all Xbox 360 owners also own Halo 3, which shipped 8.1 Million copies since its release at the end of September. Mass Effect also showed impressive numbers with 1.6 Million shipped during the six weeks since it has been released.

In comparison, Sony has shipped 5.59 Million PS3s and Nintendo has shipped 13.7 Million Wiis (up until September 30th). Both Sony and Nintendo are expected to report their holiday sales in the coming weeks so we won't know who is leading the "console wars" just yet.

It's pretty amazing that two years since the release of the latest "next-gen" console we're still right in the middle of a dogfight between all three companies. This is fast becoming one of the most interesting console wars to date, with the previous underdog shooting to first place, the previous champion falling to the bottom, and the newest contender jumping up to a strong second place. With so many variables to account for it's hard to predict what will happen this year: without another Halo for Microsoft will they be able to keep up the sales? Will Sony's popular exclusives give it the boost it needs? Will the Nintendo Wii become a gimmick or continue to sellout in record time?

Which console do you think will "win" in 2008?

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 12:05 AM | Comments (2) | Posted to Business | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

December 31, 2007

Letdown Central: The Most Disappointing Games of 2007

In just about the best year for gaming ever, there were far more disappointments than one would expect. The following are by no means the worst games of the year – those I know well enough to avoid – but these still left quite the perturbing taste in my mouth.

Heavenly Sword (PS3)
Heavenly Sword - Supple, slender curves aside, not even Nariko can save this turkey. Check out these 2D sprite style background dudes for massive laughs.While the PS3 saw its share of top quality titles throughout the year, unfortunately for Sony fans, it felt the brunt of the disappointments too. Unlike the godforsaken Lair – which I won't even waste another word on – Heavenly Sword wasn't completely awful, merely underwhelming and average when held against promises of being The One. It's an incredibly bland and run-of-the-mill button basher in practice – one not done any favours by coming out so soon after Ninja Gaiden Sigma – and a game that'll only be remembered in the years to come for the quality of its graphics and detail of its cut-scenes. Still, pretty damn amazing weren't they?

Lost Planet (Xbox 360/PC)
Planet – like Heavenly Sword – was hardly awful either, but far from the genre defining Jap-o-rific shooting classic many were expecting. In fact, it kicked the year off on a bit of a downer really, rendering January a black sheep of sorts among the bountiful months to follow. My biggest gripe with the game was merely the controls though. After some extensive tweaking in the stupidly hard to find options on offer, it grows infinitely cooler, with far tighter responsiveness and a much better layout; do so, and you'll find a reasonably solid offering in fact. Played on default though? It's pretty bloody rubbish really.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (PC)
Much like the PS3, the PC saw its own share of humbling disappointments too, with Quake Wars leading that pack with worrying eagerness. The concept of Strogg versus Human in an epic, online multi-vehicular war game sounds ace in theory, and even in practice there's plenty the game does right. Its emphasis on objectives for one, forming a "front-line" for the action, not to mention of course, the Quake-verse itself, ever spectacular as it always is. Unfortunately, it's all held back by the dreadfully dated Doom 3 engine, truly unsuited for large scale outdoor environments like these, not to mention a conspicuous lack of full-blown alien levels, resulting in intergalactic warfare instead being waged across...New Jersey. Hmmm. Worst of all is the gun handling however, no doubt the poorest combat model seen since...well, the next game on our list. Surprisingly awful art direction and lazy player models don't help either, nor does the capped framerate and general lack of satisfaction to the firefights. Next.

Hellgate: London (PC)
Hellgate: London - For some bizarre reason this screen looks infinitely cooler than the actual game does...To be fair, I only played this for a handful of hours back in beta, but honestly? That was more than enough for me. I can overlook the pitiful job of bringing my home city to life in video game form, but awful combat, laggy controls and randomly generated levels of sheer boredom, I can't. With RPGs like The Witcher and Mass Effect currently doing the rounds, comparisons are flat-out hysterical, and if you truly need yours to be of the online variety, look up Tabula Rasa instead. Insert raspberry noise here.

Two Worlds (Xbox 360/PC)
I don't think this needs justifying.

Armed Assault (PC)
As an Operation Flashpoint die-hard, I had high hopes for its follow-up, unofficial or not. It delivers on the one hand, providing more of that same Flashpoint simming, brutality and realism...but it's all a little too similar, wouldn't you say? Convoluted controls, laughable graphics, awful presentation...why is this stuff not fixed? It's been seven bleeding years, yet Armed looks just as bad as its predecessor did. When played the same year as Crysis, that's sorta giggly I'm afraid. Even as a serious fan of this series, I felt a little embarrassed to show Armed to my mates, and its dated handling failed to keep me engrossed while flying solo too. All hope instead shifts to the real Op Flash sequel, hopefully touching down in 2008.

The Darkness (PS3/Xbox 360)
There's lots to like about The Darkness; the amazing atmosphere, superb voice-overs, and immersive world for one. There's also some stunning use of physics in the ever enjoyable super powers at your disposal too. Ultimately though, it fails as an FPS, with horrid gun control, stale combat and repetition aplenty. The storyline, characters and plot are kinda cool – and almost worth persevering for alone – but after Starbreeze's work on Riddick, I guess I expected more. Shame.

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men - I actually dug the night club level. 'Til it made me go back and replay the whole bloody thing twice in a rowThe need to rush Kane out for Christmas – scrapping online co-op along the way – essentially killed this game for good, sending him out to war without a metaphorical gun. For what amounts to a buddy game/crime caper, the resulting split-screen mode simply wasn't enough, and the single player campaign left in its wake was pure and utter dreck. That this game has since taken on such a larger than life infamy in light of Gerstmann-Gate renders it even more abhorrent though, and I find its subsequent presence on my hard drive mildly disgusting. Kane and Lynch themselves are what really killed it for me above all else however; murdering cops, beating on women, then muttering the F word literally every single sentence, the guys come off as complete A-holes whom you grow to loathe almost immediately. Rather than save the mongrel’s family as the game kept enforcing, I regularly pondered merely guiding Kane off a ledge and thus making the world a better place instead. Until the fabled Heat game rolls around – courtesy of worryingly quiet Gearbox Software – this'll remain the go-to game for us Michael Mann fans I guess (Lynch might as well be Waingro, after all), but in all honesty? That's quite the depressing fact. This game's Frame City Killer-bad, and like that punch-line of a title, should have been canned a long time ago.

Calling All Cars (PS3)
Conclusive proof that the PS Network reeeally needs demos of all its games by now. After the immense hype from big mouth Jaffe, and how bite-size mini-games hold the future to world peace while providing an endless source of renewable oil, Cars turned out to be a let-down of epic proportions to rival the very best. As a top down Micro-Machines style driving game, with a multiplayer fast-paced tag twist, it's a random, frantic, agitating experience, that wouldn't have garnered a hint of attention as a no-name Live Arcade game. Do not waste your time. Nor money. Its acronym seems suitably apt.

SSX Blur (Wii)
If I had to pinpoint the exact moment I turned on the Wii – dropping wand waggling launch system mania in favour of frown-driven jaded cynicism – it would be the morning Blur arrived on my doorstep. SSX is one of my favest franchises to be found in all of console-ville, and steering a dude around with that ‘mote of white sounded like a match made in heaven to the long-time obsessive within. The absolute worst implementation of waggle controls ever start Blur off on the wrong foot though, while jaggy visuals, redressed levels and humungous frustration seal the soul crushing deal. I've since started to warm to her slightly, but the damage this game did to the franchise took some serious time for me to get over. Make me love her once more, EA.

Stranglehold (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
Stranglehold - Tequila Time! No thanks.A dumb, skill-less and repetitive game with zero interesting features, only die Hard Boiled fans alone need apply here (like that?). I didn't have the highest expectations for Stranglehold going in, but on the slo-mo third person blow 'em up tip, hoped it'd at least stack up to the Max Payne games of old. In reality, it doesn't hold a candle. It's annoyingly linear, boasts awful dialogue, and for one so explosive and balls to the wall in premise, is almost impressively boring to play or watch. Where's Max 3?

Medal of Honor: Airborne (Xbox 360/PC)
It looked like the one, didn’t it? The true Allied Assault successor. The one to put right all that went in each of the subsequent sequels. Matching its predecessor's brilliance while adding a smattering of originality on top. Airborne was very pretty indeed – no doubts there – but gameplay-wise, was a frustrating, similarly repetitive and even down-right annoying experience at times. Many complained about the game’s pitiful length back on release, but in hindsight I guess we’re all glad in a way; three hours of this was more than enough.

Battlestar Galactica (Xbox 360/PC)
Play Beyond the Red Line instead. Seriously.

And there we are for 2007. Quite the ride, no? What were your picks of the year in video game-ville?

Posted by Matt Robinson at 4:00 PM | Comments (15) | Posted to Feature | PC | PlayStation 3 | Wii | Xbox |  Add this story to  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!