Gaming Steve

Xbox Archives - Page 1

April 30, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV Quick Observations

GTA IV

So I'm about five hours into GTAIV and I have the following quick observations:

  • I am actually watching TV ... inside a video game ... on my TV. Trippy.
  • The most impressive animation I've seen so far? Characters walking down the stairs. Finally someone has mastered this animation (I'm actually serious.).
  • A single hot dog on the street costs $5 and a new leather coat only costs $34? Living in the "real" New York City I have to tell you that that is surprising close to accurate.
  • "Date" a woman and earn some warm coffee? It's great that Rockstar can poke fun of everyone including themselves.
  • Damn there is a lot of cursing in this game, even for a GTA game it's a bit shocking. Everyone is dropping f-bombs ... pedestrians, DJs on the radio, TV hosts, everyone is cursing all the time. M for Mature indeed.
  • Gas in the GTAIV world costs less than in the real world ($3.59 a gallon in GTAIV). It would have been cool if Rockstar dynamically changed the price of gas in the game in accordance to real world prices ... and just freaking sad.
  • Multiplayer is scary fun ... worth the price of the game alone.
  • Once again I can never find anything good to listen to on the radio....
  • And finally GTAIV is much better than any of the past GTA games. Rockstar has taken the best parts of GTAIII, Bully, and The Warriors and made a deeper more cohesive game.

What do you guys think of the game so far?

Posted by Gaming Steve at 10:30 AM | Comments (21) | Posted to PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

April 30, 2008

How to Sell a Grand Theft Auto Clone: Gary Busey

So what if Grand Theft Auto 4 come from a long history of games that provide hours of entertainment and a deep story full of foul, slimy, but so fun to watch characters? All Saints Row 2 needs is Gary Busey.

In one of the strangest advertisements I've ever seen for a video game, Uncle Gary hands out some educational Street Lessons for those anticipating Saints Row 2. Topics range from heavy weapons to the law enforcement of Stilwater. And yes, Busey is as totally freaking nuts as ever.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 10:00 AM | Comments (2) | Posted to PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

April 28, 2008

Ubisoft Announces a New Prince of Persia Game

surprise

In an unprecedented move, Ubisoft has announced another sequel in the Prince of Persia series, currently titled ... Prince of Persia. The rebellious move is expected to net Ubisoft lots of money and huge profits.

In another move by maverick Ubisoft, the game will be launch for not one, not two, but four platforms: the Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and DS. Ubisoft believes the game will do what no game has done before and "rejuvenate the action-adventure genre." In perhaps their most unexpected move, the game will be on sale during the Holidays of 2008.

In all seriousness, a new Prince of Persia game isn't a bad thing. All three in the recent trilogy were fantastic games, despite some missteps in character and attitude. Ubisoft also announced that the game will have an "illustrative art style" that intrigues me. The upcoming movie also piques my interest: Bruckheimer may not be an artistic savant, be he made a theme park ride into a competent, enjoyable movie series, so Prince of Persia shouldn't be much trouble.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 11:45 PM | Comments (4) | Posted to DS | PC | PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

April 28, 2008

So Who Isn't Buying GTA IV? And Why?

Perfect GTA IV
With all the insane hype, the near perfect scores, and the simple fact that it's a new Grand Theft Auto I have to wonder, is anyone out there not buying this game? I even know several people who are buying a new system just to play GTA IV. Everyone and anyone who plays games seems to be buying this game.

But yet something surprising happened to me today while I was trying to arrange some multiplayer mayhem with my Xbox 360 friends ... only few of them were planning on picking up the game. Even with all the hype and amazing reviews they weren't planning on picking it up any time soon. When I asked them they give me a very simple reason ... they don't like the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

And to tell you the truth ... neither do I. (Whew, that felt good to finally get off my chest.)

Yeah, I understand the appeal of GTA III and Vice City, but I just found them ... boring. The cities seemed dead to me with robotic pedestrians, the side-quests seemed more like work than fun, and the endless "collection quests" drove me insane. Those games seemed like a rough collection of mini-games, none of which I found particularly fun or exciting. (However I will say that San Andreas was much better and I actually enjoyed that entry in the series, but still I found it above average at best).

But yet I'm still super excited to play GTA IV, even though I don't really enjoy the GTA franchise. Why you ask?

Ironically it's because of Rockstar's non-GTA games. The Warriors, Bully and even Manhunt were some of the most enjoyable gaming experiences of my life. I found all of those games rich experiences with fascinating characters, complex stories, and engrossing worlds. I enjoyed these games as much as people seem to enjoy the GTA games, and for the same reasons it seems.

Hence, that is why I can't wait to play GTA IV. GTA IV seems to combine the best aspects of Rockstar's non-GTA games along with the "tried and true" GTA gameplay aspects. And if Rockstar managed to combine their two worlds of GTA and non-GTA gameplay, then I fully expect GTA IV to be right up there with the legends.

I guess I'll find out, along with several million other people, in just a few hours.

Anyone else out there own an Xbox 360 or PS3 and is not planning on getting GTA IV? What's up with that?

Posted by Gaming Steve at 8:00 PM | Comments (22) | Posted to PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

April 4, 2008

First Videos of Burnout: Paradise's New (Free) Islands

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Looking for a reason to head back to Paradise? Criterion may have the great answer in the first content pack for Burnout: Paradise: an entire Island. And best of all, it's all free.

The new videos show a very modern, sky scraper laden, downtown, with large curving roads that look great for high speed racing all connected to the main land by a huge, under construction bridge. The first piece of this downloadable content is also going to include the car seen in the video (and perhaps others) as well as "unique game" that Criterion will be revealing soon.

While I really enjoyed Burnout: Paradise, I haven't been as drawn back to it as I was to Burnout 3: Takedown (which is one of my favorite racing games of all time). A new island, cars, and gameplay sound like an excellent reason to return to Paradise City.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 4:15 PM | Comments (6) | Posted to PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

April 2, 2008

Gaming Steve Review: Rainbow Six Vegas 2

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Rainbow Six Vegas 2
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Price: $59.99
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Category: Third-Person Shooter
Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: March 18 2008 (US), March 20 2008 (Europe); PC Version: April 15, 2008

These days, everyone loves a good tactical shooting, taking down tangos in an overly planned manner. Games in the Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon series' have advanced from being completely hardcore titles to become somewhat more accessible, letting players ease in with slicker controls and cover points, as well as giving them a bit more health and power. The introduction of cinematic cutscenes that take full advantage of the new generation of hardware has also helped the helped the genre, as well as the fact that the Tom Clancy brand has been thrusted upon gamers everywhere.

If you haven't played a recent Rainbow Six game, they are basically tactical FPS with a story. Rainbow Six "mixes it up" by giving you indirect control of two equally skilled NPCs fighting at your side. You can order them to move to a certain position, blow up doors and clear rooms, as well as making them cover you when you're trying a particular maneuver and they do their jobs pretty darn well.

Overall it's a nice change to command a small squad rather playing yet another "uber killing machine". However, unlike your standard FPS your character is quite vulnerable – even a few shots are more than enough to take you out – so you have to play carefully and artistically. Vegas 2 follows this same basic pattern, with a story that involves Las Vegas, funnily enough...

82166-rainbowscreenfull10.jpgThe single player game as a whole is fairly short, but it is a solid and enjoyable experience, and given the XP system (more on that later), it's quite replayable. The AI offers a decent challenge, and you always have to be aware of their positions, plotting a set course through a particular level to dispatch of the terrorists quickly and efficiently. The game is very satisfying if you digest it all at once, like a movie, as you race through the levels for no particular reason apart from testing your skills as a trained operative and master tactician.

The original Rainbow Six Vegas was good; it brought the age-old tactical shooter to a new generation, showing people the power of their new hardware, and became an Xbox Live favorite. It was fun, had a large story mode, and also featured some nice set-pieces. However, it was flawed by the randomly spawning AI, the lack of a coherent friend invite system in the online multiplayer, spotty team and enemy AI, and some rough graphical finishes. Well, I'm not happy to report that its sequel doesn't improve on much of these at all, and instead chooses to add different things.

Yes, the rough graphics are back, as is the invisible tripwire spawning AI, and the team and enemy NPCs are still fascinatingly glitchy. The ranked multiplayer now has friend slots, but after a game you are not returned to the lobby with all of your friends, but are literally thrown back to the main menu. Why Ubisoft Montreal can't get it right is beyond me, but perhaps looking at the release date can give us a clue. This game has arrived approximately 1 year and 4 months after the original appeared on the 360. Therefore, it's fair to say that Vegas 2 had a rushed development, with the developers just delivering the smallest amount they could get away with to make a quick profit, somewhat akin to GRAW2's rapid arrival last year.

82177-rainbowscreenfull7.jpgHowever, this is Rainbow Six we are talking about, which revels in its punishing gameplay, multiplayer modes, and a maddeningly large collection of guns. Vegas 2 continues in the same stead as the other titles in the series and delivers a very solid experience despite its inability to evolve into something better. The novelty of ordering your team to different objectives and making them do all the hard work for you still hasn't worn off after all this time, and darting through levels, using fast ropes and rappel points still works delightfully well too.

The multiplayer side of the game has seen little change from the original Vegas, but there are one or two new modes and a few new maps which are pretty much copied from the single player mode. The game will keep you hooked just like its predecessor though, because the gameplay is fast, frantic, and tense, and winding up your friends with mad camo combos and customized characters is still fun. Terrorist Hunt still rules the roost though, which now can be played on your own with your own squad, and the online component finally has options such as respawning for weaker players.

Moving on to one of the better additions to the franchise, the character creation aspect has certainly changed. You can now carry a persistent character across all of the game modes and you can earn experience points for just about ... well anything really. You can earn XP from kills, when your team-mates kill someone, killing someone up close, through think cover, with an explosion, with harsh language... I'm actually surprised they didn't award XP for starting the game there are so many different ways to earn XP.

82135-pecfull1.jpgBut the developers use good use of this system as you can use your XP in many ways. You can level up a few sub-classes (marksman, close quarters and assault skills) plus you can use XP to improve your character and unlock new items. The XP bar is always a part of the HUD, taking a prominent area at the bottom of the screen, and genuinely makes you think differently to how you interact with the game, forcing you to make more kills yourself if you want to level up and obtain new weapons and items. Plus it adds replay value (sort of).

In conclusion then, Vegas 2 is a very mixed bag. It is hard to review as a standalone release as in essence Vegas 2 is an expansion pack for the original game. It adds little from the original title and even takes away some elements. Most notably the story mode being smaller in general and co-op mode reduced to 2 players. But the few new features are excellent and suit the franchise amicably – even though Ubisoft Montreal should've hammered out some of the bugs in the code they (metaphorically) simply copied and pasted from the last game.

The end result is very conservative effort, feeding the fanbase of the past game and trying to appeal to many people at once. It does certainly improve on the predecessor and makes small shuffling steps in the right direction for the series as a whole, and it will definitely be a highly played title for a considerably long while.

82180-rainbowscreenfull6.jpgThis just doesn't look and feel like how a sequel should be, and if this trend continues with Ubisoft's Tom Clancy branded titles (and all signs say it will – GRAW2 being one of them), then we are in for an extremely boring and monotonous future, where mediocrity dominates.

PLUSES: Same old lovely Rainbow Six gameplay, the controls are refined further still, and the running addition is useful. Also, the increased importance of the XP system is refreshing, offering real player progression.

MINUSES: This is basically an expansion pack to the original game, and doesn't offer that many new useful additions. Furthermore, all of the old bugs and nuances from the last game are all still present and unfixed here.

FINAL VERDICT: 7.0 TRY IT!

Posted by Chris Holmes at 4:00 PM | Comments (2) | Posted to PC | PlayStation 3 | Review | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 24, 2008

50 Cent II ... Why Have You Forsaken Us Vivendi?

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In a move sure to excite those with poor taste in shooters (and Vivendi's stockholders), a sequel to the dreadful 2005 "hit" 50 Cent: Bulletproof.

The cover of next month's EGM confirms that the writers did indeed suffer through what can be assumed to be another blight on games. With the original selling well over 1 million copies, it is not to surprising to see a sequel coming.

Also to be anticipated is the media backlash, with 50 Cent: Bulletproof still able to make the 10 ten most violent video games of 2007 even though it was originally released in 2005. With a game so likely to be so bad, it just doesn't seem worth defending. Maybe one of those laws against violent video games could be of some use after all.

Posted by Clayton Ashley at 11:00 PM | Comments (6) | Posted to PlayStation 3 | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 18, 2008

Gaming Steve Review: Lost: Via Domus

Lost

Lost: Via Domus
Developer: Ubisoft
Publisher: Ubisoft Montreal
Price: $29.99
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
Category: Adventure
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Release Date: February 26, 2008 (US), March 7, 2008 (Europe), February 8, 2008 (Australia)

The highest compliment I can pay Via Domus, is that despite the lack of canonization deemed worthy by the show's creators – meaning none of the game's content should be considered official events that actually take place within the confines of the show – the storyline genuinely feels as if it were concocted by the writers themselves. Playing as one of the un-named 46 survivors of Oceanic flight 815 – complete with his own back-story, secrets and flashback sequences – the pitch alone is positively gripping to the typical LOST nut like myself.

Clearly made by avid watchers of the TV program then, the look, sound and mood is faithfully represented too, through some glorious presentation and superb use of music. Exploring The Hatch for instance – keying in the numbers frantically while that dreaded alarm goes off – provides that irresistibly tense LOST buzz us long-time viewers'll positively mop up.

LostSimilarly, even though its levels are perhaps some of the worst in the game, the look and feel of the terrifying black smoke are suitably scary and incredibly evocative too.

Before all that though, you'll start the game right where the pilot episode does. Ground zero. Exploding engines and screaming passengers abound, our nameless hero has not only the recent crashing on a (not so) deserted island to contend with, but also his newfound amnesia. This setup proves ripe for a fab LOST yarn, with you slowly uncovering bits and pieces of your memory as the story progresses, forever knowing only as much (or as little) as our new found friend does. The plot's kinda great right up 'til the very end in fact, where it promptly turns ludicrous and takes a humongous dose-dive into incomprehensible LOST nonsense-ville. Oh well.

Unfortunately, this segways into my other complaints with the game; pretty much everything else. I'm afraid as an actual gameplay experience, Domus falls drastically short you see. Five seconds within firing her up, and the lack of official endorsement from the show's creators makes complete sense. While it may be kinda fun to watch – and as mentioned, the atmosphere is incredibly potent – it's a stilted, jerky and simply horrible game to actually play.

It tries to fool you into thinking you have a reasonable chunk of freedom at your disposal in the beginning. Exploring the island, conversing with familiar faces from the show and perusing quests as you so wish hints at mild promise. On further examination however, it turns startlingly linear, and you realize you're forever surrounded by cardboard sets and invisible walls.

LostThese hub-style sections aside, it's almost a poor-man's Indigo Prophecy you could say, in that it's broken up into a similar series of small mini-games and self-contained "moments", rather than a full, cohesive game. Each such moment has its own set of rules and controls, and failing to complete said scenes in the specific manner the game wants you to results in a rewinding of time 'til you get it right. Then it's on to the next.

These can range from Pipe Dream-esque puzzles, to labyrinthine mazes, to the odd shoot-out too ... not much else. Other than the admittedly exciting chase sequences, none really impress I'm sad to say, with some proving flat-out excruciating. One can't help but feel like more of an action slant – perhaps mixed with some Tomb Raider or Uncharted style platforming influences – could have turned this far more enjoyable. Alas, t'was not to be I'm afraid. A pity, to be sure.

While no Crysis, it does at least impress graphically. The amazing visuals Ubisoft have become synonymous with shine through as you'd expect, with a similar hazy, desaturated look found in the likes of GRAW and Assassin's Creed. The lighting effects and real-time shadows come across particularly lovely, really selling that desert island vibe at all times. Meanwhile, spooky interiors and recreated sets from the show appear 100% faithful and packed full o' love. Sadly, it lacks the sheer scope of the aforementioned Ubi titles, with distant mountains and gorgeous views merely that. As mentioned, constant barriers keep you forever confined to what is essentially a very tiny corridor game 100% of the time. Yikes.

Pretty much every major character from the show makes an appearance at some point – looking pleasingly similar to their real-life counter-parts at that – yet they're animated truly dreadfully, and are rockin' that "uncanny valley" look in full-force. After bathing in beautiful digital acting in the likes of Heavenly Sword and Mass Effect, LOST's love doll-esque mannequins simply don't convince as a result. If you ever wanted to watch the show reenacted by waxwork dummies, now's your chance.

LostWhile one or two of the actors proper show up to collect voice acting paychecks– Desmond and Ben for example – the majority unsurprisingly don't. The result is a severely mixed bag of good and bad on the dialogue tip, with some – like Locke – doing a reasonable impersonation, and others – like Charlie – making you cry.

Thankfully, you won't be doing a whole lot o' that though, as Domus is over before it's even started. As in, I finished the darn thing in three measly hours. For a full-priced game, that's somewhat reprehensible, and worthy of chopped off hands if you ask me, particularly amidst these here days of cheap downloadable titles and top quality budget-ware. With just a handful of concept art paintings to unlock, there's precious little to call back even the most die-hard LOST fan beyond that initial play-through too.

All in all then? Rubbish.

PLUSES: Lovely visuals and cool presentation brings the LOST universe to life pretty darn well at times. Interesting storyline keeps you wading on through hardships.

MINUSES: General roughness invades every facet of the gameplay. Monotonous fetch quests and repetitive puzzles bore quickly. Hilariously short with zero replayability.

FINAL VERDICT: 4.0 AVOID IT!

Posted by Matt Robinson at 5:00 PM | Comments (4) | Posted to PC | PlayStation 3 | Review | Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 10, 2008

New Mass Effect DLC Released

ilimmassEffectbatarian

The new Mass Effect downloadable content was released onto Xbox Live today for 400 Microsoft Points, which translates to $5/£3.40/€4.65 in real money. This DLC pack comes with 50 Gamerscore Points to achieve, along with a decent sidequest, as opposed to the mostly disappointing ones that were in the full game.

Major Nelson has all the download details:

Content: Bring Down the Sky
Price: 400 Microsoft Points
Availability: All Xbox LIVE regions
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Story Description: Batarian extremists have hijacked a mobile asteroid station in the Asgard system, setting it on a collision course with the nearby colony world of Terra Nova. Only you can save the human hostages on the asteroid and reroute it before it crashes into the world, killing millions of innocent civilians.
Size: 253.40 MB

This is all well and good, but if you're in the unfortunate position of having a save at the end of the game like myself, you will not be able to play this sidequest, and you would have to play through a new game (continuing with your old character if you so choose) to get to the part where you gain full control of the Normandy, where the new side-quest will appear on the star map. Initial reports of the content have been fairly promising, and for 400MP, it's not going to break the bank, so it should be worthwhile.

Posted by Chris Holmes at 10:30 PM | Comments (4) | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!

March 10, 2008

Xbox 360 Price Drop In Europe

Xbox360

Microsoft today confirmed that they are dropping the price of the Xbox 360 in Europe. Starting Friday 14th March, price drops for all the current SKUs will take place, taking the Arcade SKU to £159.99/€199.99, the Premium SKU to £199.99/€269.99, and the Elite SKU to £259.99/€369.99.

These price drops are quite aggressive for Europe, as now the Arcade version of the console is cheaper than a Nintendo Wii, and retailers here in this swing territory will entice customers with special deals, often going below these new RRPs. No price drops for other territories have been announced yet, but it is probably on the cards, with rumours stating that Microsoft wants to knock money off their systems in North America before the release of the hotly anticipated GTAIV.

Furthermore, the consoles are now cheap enough for people to basically trade in their older models that are more prone to the red ring of death and other issues, without losing too much money. The new models have improved motherboards and power consumption, as well as 65nm CPUs that help to make the system run cooler. This was probably not in Microsoft's plan, but us gamers are a clever bunch, and being able to run on improved hardware for little loss of money works for everyone.

Posted by Chris Holmes at 4:00 PM | Comments (1) | Posted to Xbox |  Add this story to del.icio.us  Stumble It!  Submit this story to Digg!