Archive for May, 2008

XBOX 360 Reviews

Posted in Games with tags , , , on May 18, 2008 by icebreakz

The good: Excellent selection of games, including many 360-only exclusives; all games are in native high-definition; user-friendly Dashboard interface; supports wireless controllers and accessories; Xbox Live service offers online multiplayer (with matchmaking and voice chat) and content downloads for most games; backward compatible with many–but not all–original Xbox titles; doubles as a superior digital media hub and Windows Media extender; online Marketplace allows easy purchases of minigames, add-on gaming content, high-def movies, and TV shows.

The bad: The Elite fails to correct most of the annoyances of the original 360 version: the noisy DVD drive and cooling fan; a gigantic, oversize power supply; no built-in wireless networking; only three USB ports; a substandard DVD player; support for next-gen HD DVD movies requires a bulky external accessory; online gaming requires a paid subscription to Xbox Live; proprietary wireless format limits third-party accessories.

The bottom line: While it’s neither a must-have upgrade for existing 360 owners nor as feature-packed as the PS3, the Xbox 360 Elite’s combination of top-notch gaming and digital media features make it the current game console of choice.

The Xbox 360 was the first of the “next-gen” videogame consoles to hit the market in the fall of 2005. By the time the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii hit stores–a full year later–the 360 had not only established itself as a top-tier game console, it was well on its way to becoming a full-service digital entertainment media hub for the living room, with built-in support for high-def TV and movie downloads as well as Vista-friendly media streaming. While Sony and Nintendo struggled with their respective launch issues–just as Microsoft had toiled 12 months earlier–the Xbox 360 has cruised to the No. 1 spot on the home console charts, with more than 10 million units sold worldwide.

So what does Microsoft do for an encore? Release a slightly upgraded Xbox 360, of course. The $480 Xbox 360 Elite is black instead of white, includes a 120GB hard drive (six times as capacious as the previous 360’s, twice as big as the PS3’s), and sports an HDMI output for easier hookups to HDTVs.

The question for current and prospective gamers: Is the Elite worth the extra $80? For anyone who owns the existing Xbox 360, the answer is probably no–the HDMI connector is more a convenience than a necessity, and the larger snap-on hard drive will be available to existing 360 users as a standalone $180 accessory. Moreover, there’s certainly a tinge of disappointment that the Elite’s higher price tag doesn’t deliver a few more bundled features in the box–the Wi-Fi adapter and the HD DVD drive still need to be purchased separately, for instance. In other words, the Xbox 360 Elite is just a warmed-over version of the previous model that doesn’t deliver any groundbreaking, PS3-killing features.

That said, the Xbox 360 currently has a larger and more impressive library of games, and until the PS3 can offer some compelling alternatives–and I have no doubt that eventually, it will–the Xbox 360 remains the better option. And if you’re going with the 360 for the first time, you might as well spend that extra $80 and get the Elite.

The hardware

Except for its black finish and HDMI port, the Xbox 360 Elite is cosmetically identical to the Xbox 360 Premium. When laid horizontally, the 8.8-pound console is 12.15 inches wide, 3.27 inches high, and 10.15 inches deep. Like the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii, the Xbox 360 can also be propped up in a vertical position and can be customized with interchangeable faceplates that cost as much as $20. The 360 is neither as slick as the glossy PS3 nor as cute as the diminutive Wii, but the Elite’s matte-black finish is certainly a big step up from the “iPod white” color scheme of the earlier Xbox 360s. While the Elite blends in with the other black components in your A/V rack, however, it may not match all your accessories–you may need to mix and match some white 360 accessories, as not all accoutrements will immediately be available in black.

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XBOX 360 vs Playstation 3 Graphics

Posted in Games with tags , , , , on May 18, 2008 by icebreakz

We expected the PlayStation 3 to ship with several games that first appeared on the Xbox 360, similar to how the Xbox 360 had a lot of Xbox ports at launch. And the PS3 did indeed arrive with a good number of games that originally shipped for the Xbox 360. This gave us the perfect opportunity to compare the graphics on both systems with several cross-platform games. You’d think that the PS3 versions would be exactly the same or slightly superior to the Xbox 360 versions, since many of these games appeared on the 360 months ago, but it seems like developers didn’t use the extra time to polish up the graphics for the PS3. We found that the Xbox 360 actually had better graphics in the majority of the games we compared.

Need for Speed Carbon

Both systems have fairly similar graphics in Need for Speed Carbon, but the Xbox 360 has better lighting while the PS3 has sharper textures. The 360 has better high dynamic range lighting in the Camaro image. We’re not sure if the PS3 version blurs the background tree leaves on purpose, but it’s another noticeable difference. The lighting in the street shot appears more realistic on the 360, but the building textures are sharper on the PS3. We also seem to be missing some lighting and a few landmarks in the rearview mirror of the PS3 version.

Call of Duty 3

Call of Duty 3 has made its way onto just about every major console, but it definitely looks best on the Xbox 360. The PlayStation 3 comes in a close second, but the 360 is the clear winner. The textures have less detail on the PS3, and the game looks a little washed out. Between the overly bright visuals and muddy textures, the PlayStation 3 can’t match the 360 version’s gritty look.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance

You’ll have to make your Marvel Ultimate Alliance decision based on Xbox 360 rumble support versus PS3 Sixaxis control since the graphics seem to be identical on both systems. We tested all games at 720p using component cables to keep the comparison as even as possible.

God Of War 3 Coming Soon

Posted in Games with tags , , , on May 17, 2008 by icebreakz

God of War III is a forthcoming installment in the God of War video game franchise, to be exclusively released on the PlayStation 3 in 2009. It is the fifth chapter in the series chronologically, after God of War: Chains of Olympus, God of War, God of War: Betrayal and God of War II.

Although little is known about the game at this point, it was confirmed to be in development by Cory Barlog at a God of War II launch event. He revealed that the game would run at full 1080p HD resolution, and the game would support SIXAXIS tilt and vibration functions. This was stated before the DualShock 3 controller was announced; therefore causing confusion as the SIXAXIS controller did not support rumble. Barlog also expressed an interest in adding a cooperative mode “if we can do something unique with it”.

God of War director David Jaffe has said that, “God of War explains, or ultimately will explain, why there are no more Greek myths.” Though Jaffe and Barlog left Sony for other opportunities, they are still credited for the series and will possibly be involved in this installment. Jaffe, who co-founded his own development studio, Eat Sleep Play has recently expressed interest to be involved in development for God of War III.

An advertisement for God of War III has appeared on the back of instruction manuals of the retail version of God of War: Chains of Olympus, stating below that the game is ‘coming soon’.

Next Xbox 720

Posted in Games with tags , , , , on May 16, 2008 by icebreakz

While Sony already admitted to be thinking about the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo are no doubt developing a Wii 2… In an interview with the head of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business division, Peter Moore, EGM magazine asked him when their next video game console would come out, and also asked if they’d drop support for the Xbox 360 like they did with the original Xbox. He said that they were going to support it “as long as it sold.” Possibly because they saw the Xbox sell well into 2007 despite not producing the console after October 2005.

He said the production team from the Xbox 360 is working on the next Xbox 720 [our pet name], and their looking into what kind of CPUs will be available on the market in 2011-2012. That would put the Xbox 360 at a lifespan of 6 or 7 years, a far cry from the Xbox’s 4 years. After spending $1.26 billion in losses launching the Xbox 360, they’ll want to get the most out of the system by lengthening its lifespan. As the longer you get into the cycle, the more profit you can make due to stopping being a loss leader, analysts always remark.

PS3 vs XBOX 360 Elite

Posted in Games with tags , , , , , on May 13, 2008 by icebreakz

Our initial response to the Playstation 3 is that it has a more elegant look and feel than the Xbox 360 Elite. It is
glossy black with a slicker user interface than that of the Xbox 360. The startup sound reminds you of when the lights go out at the opera house. Very classy. Advantage: PS3

The CPU of the Playstation 3 is a 3.2GHz Cell Broadband Engine with up to 8 “synergistic” processing units. The Xbox 360 sports a custom 3.2GHz G5 with 3 dual-threaded cores. The Playstation 3 has 512K of L2 cache while the Xbox 3
60 has 1MB of L2 cache. The PS3 has 256MB of main memory plus 256MB of video memory while the Xbox 360 shares 512MB between the CPU and GPU. Plus it has 10MB of very fast eDRAM dedicated to the GPU. The memory bandwidth of the PS3 is 25.6GB/s versus 22.4GB/s for the Xbox 360.

The Playstation 3 uses an nVidia RSX “Reality Sythesizer” graphics processor (GPU) with 24 pixel pipelines and 12 vertex pipelines while the Xbox 360 uses a custom ATI processor with 48 unified pixel/vertex pipelines.

Combining the CPU and GPU power, the Playstation 3 is rated at 51 billion dot-product-operations-per-second (dpo/s). The Xbox 360 is rated at 34 billion dpo/s. Advantage: PS3

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Army Of Two

Posted in Games with tags , , on May 12, 2008 by icebreakz

Army of Two, commonly abbreviated as Ao2, is a video game developed by Electronic Arts, released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on March 4, 2008 in North America. Army of Two is a third person shooter game focusing on the fictional story of two private military contractors (characterized as mercenaries) “fight[ing] through war, political turmoil, and a conspiracy so vast it threatens the entire world” in a timeline spanning from 1993 to 2009.

Focusing on cooperative strategies, Army of Two’s highlighting feature is the necessity to use coordinated teamwork to accomplish the game’s goals. While the game is meant to be played with another human as your partner, a “Partner Artificial Intelligence”(PAI) is also included and programmed to follow the player’s strategies in suit. Dependence on your partner (whether human or PAI) is so pronounced that certain objectives may be impossible to complete without it.

The story begins in 1993 in Somalia when Elliot Salem and Tyson Rios (the protagonists of the game) are still in the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment. They are tasked to work with Philip Clyde, a private military contractor with the Security and Strategy Corporation (SSC), to carry out an assassination. After this mission, Philip Clyde, on behalf of SSC CEO Ernest Stockwell, invites Lieutenant Colonel Richard Dalton (commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment) to join the company for a desk job. He agrees, asking to bring Salem and Rios with him as contractors, and in the following year, the three enter the private sector. Salem and Rios begin mercenary work, and start mercenary work. Over the course of a decade and a half, they are caught up in a complex scheme to privatize the military, and see to the plot’s downfall. At the game’s epilogue, we see the two protagonists start their own firm.

Metal Gear Solid 4

Posted in Games with tags , , , on May 12, 2008 by icebreakz

TOKYO–You may have heard of Metal Gear Solid 4 by now. It’s one of the PlayStation 3’s most important exclusive games in the race for next-generation dominance. It is also creator/director Hideo Kojima’s purported last outing with his seminal stealth series. And it’s playable here at the Tokyo Game Show. We were lucky enough to sit down with illustrious Kojima Productions producer Ryan Payton for an all-too-brief 90 minutes with the game, during which we found that many familiar mechanics have changed. But the heart of Metal Gear Solid is definitely still beating here.

First, it’s worth pointing out that the demo of the game we played is essentially the same one Kojima Productions began demonstrating publicly back in July. So if you haven’t seen that video yet, take a look to see everything we’re talking about here. Luckily, Payton contextualized the action we played in the demo and filled us in on the initial story of the game. As it turns out, that gameplay demo is set only about 15 minutes into Metal Gear Solid 4, so you’ll basically watch the intro sequence and play a very brief section. Then you’ll end up right in that dusty village setting that we’ve seen so much of during the past two years. Payton confirmed during our demo that this Middle Eastern area is just one of the locales you’ll visit throughout the course of the game. Just because that’s all we’ve seen of MGS4 so far, don’t think the entire game–or even the majority of it–takes place there. Payton let slip that you’ll also travel to South America later in the game, among other places.

Before we jumped into the demo, we stepped back and got the scoop on the storyline at the outset of MGS4. The game will begin with Col. Campbell contacting Solid Snake to deliver the disturbing intelligence that Liquid Snake is alive and running Outer Heaven. This is a dummy corporation that oversees and controls private military companies all over the world. The PMCs will essentially act as Liquid’s private army throughout the game, so they’ll be the on-the-ground enemy forces you’ll be fighting against. The PMCs will also vary between areas. For instance, the company in the Middle East was called Praying Mantis, but the one in South America will have a different name and appearance.

Further intelligence indicates that Liquid is currently operating in the Middle East, so Campbell essentially hires Snake to travel there to perform a contract hit on Liquid and put an end to his machinations. It’s important to note that the villain we’re talking about here is actually Liquid Ocelot–Revolver Ocelot’s body with Liquid Snake’s attached arm and consciousness. So the bad guy will look like Ocelot, but there’s nothing of Ocelot left in there: The personality is 100 percent Liquid Snake. However, you’ll hear Ocelot’s voice actor delivering the English voice-over in the forthcoming TGS trailer and in the final game, so no more Cam Clarke here (sorry Ninja Turtles fans).

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