Archive for the Games Category

Sony patents new motion-control, touch-screen tech

Posted in Games with tags , , , on July 2, 2008 by icebreakz

Sony and Nintendo stand in polar opposition in regard to their outlook on technology in this generation of gaming hardware. Rather than rearming to match Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo opted for lower-cost components and alternative input schemes for the Wii and DS. Sony, on the other hand, chose to invest in hardware that has been as expensive to create as it has been to buy. With Nintendo announcing record profits and Sony fighting to get its games division back in the black, the near-term winner of that decision has proven to be self-evident.

However, as this generation continues to play out in Nintendo’s favor, Sony may be taking a few cues from its competitor’s playbook for future iterations of its PlayStation and PlayStation Portable hardware. According to a pair of recently published patent applications filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Sony is eyeing input devices that look to expand on current touch-screen and motion-sensing utilities currently employed in the gaming sector.

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PS3 trophies, in-game XMB due July 2

Posted in Games with tags , , , , , on July 2, 2008 by icebreakz

Following a spate of leaks last week, Sony has officially announced that the PlayStation 3’s trophy system will arrive on July 2 as part of the 2.40 firmware update. As had been rumored, the system will eschew its Xbox Live-style cumulative numerical score, instead adopting a four-tiered approach that bestows four kinds of awards: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.

The trophies will be assigned by each game’s developer, not Sony, and will be associated with a task of relative difficulty; bronze medals will be doled out for easy feats, and gold for harder objectives. “The platinum medals will only be given when all other tasks are completed,” Eric Lempel, director of PlayStation Network Operations, told GameSpot.

Each trophy will have a numeric value associated with it, and this value will contribute to an overall leveling system, much like those in role-playing games. However, the user will be unable to see how much each trophy is worth, and instead will see only a completion percentage for each game and each overall level. When asked why Sony was avoiding tying a visible score to the PS3’s trophy system, Lempel said, “We don’t know why our users would be interested in a numeric value… We think the medals best represent one’s progress.”

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Xbox 360 getting another price cut?

Posted in Games with tags , , , , on June 30, 2008 by icebreakz

What we heard: Last August, Microsoft’s plans to drop the price of the Xbox 360 in all of its configurations were leaked four separate times. The Hollywood Reporter ran the news first citing retail sources, then Toys “R” Us, Wal-Mart, and Circuit City all had weekly newspaper ads that prematurely found their way into the public domain. Needless to say, by the time Microsoft finally confirmed the cuts, few considered the news to be especially shocking.

History may be repeating itself, given that the supposed K-Mart flyer clearly shows a 20GB Xbox 360 system with a “new low price” of $299.99. Currently the 20GB model sells for a suggested retail price of $349.99. The scanned image shows only part of the Xbox 360 listing, and nothing from the rest of the ad save for box art of Civilization Revolution and 2K Sports’ Prizefighter. Such pictures can be faked, but if this one was, the creator at least paid enough attention to duplicate the K-Mart circular’s font as well as details like the twin-color blowout box announcing the price drop.

The person who posted the images says that the price cut should go into effect around July 6, a Sunday, likely meaning that the ad is intended to run in that edition of the newspaper. It’s fairly common for newspaper ads such as this to be printed a week or more in advance of the publication date, and with Civilization Revolution set for release on July 8, the timing of this leak fits well. That’s also the week before the big E3 Media and Business Summit in Los Angeles, a time when console makers traditionally try to generate momentum for their systems with big announcements.

Although it hasn’t quite been a year since the last round of Xbox 360 price cuts, those were a bit mild ($20 on the Core and $30 on the Elite), and the intervening time frame has seen the Xbox 360 hardware lose considerable momentum to the PlayStation 3. According to figures from the industry-tracking NPD Group, the Xbox 360 beat the PS3 in US hardware sales every single month through the end of 2007. However, for the first five months of 2008, the PS3 has outsold the Xbox 360 three times, and was only a thin margin behind the Microsoft console for the other two.

Microsoft needs to spark system sales to fend off Sony’s advancing PS3. A price cut is one of the simplest, most direct ways to encourage gamers on the fence to take the plunge. Right now customers are likely looking at a Blu-ray drive and built-in wireless support as features well worth the $50 difference between a 20GB Xbox 360 and a 40GB PS3. Widening that gap to a nice round $100 would no doubt make Microsoft’s system a much more enticing value proposition for many gamers.

The official story: Microsoft hadn’t returned requests for comment as of press time.

Bogus or not bogus?: Probably not bogus.

Wii Fit: Yoga

Posted in Games with tags , , on June 11, 2008 by icebreakz

The Wii Fit Yoga exercises will ask you to perform and hold common yoga poses such as the Tree, Cobra, and the always popular Downward-Facing Dog. The exercises don’t focus on any of the meditative aspects associated with yoga, but they do ask you to pay close attention to breathing. The exercises have a light blue circle that expands when you’re supposed to exhale and contracts when you’re supposed to inhale.

Most of the yoga activities will monitor your balance to determine your final score. Your center of balance will be represented onscreen by a red dot on a yellow background. If you’re unsteady or exhibit a lot of movement, the game will often give you a few words of encouragement or advise you to steady yourself against an object.

You have access to only four yoga poses when you first start the game: Deep Breathing, Half-Moon, Warrior, and Tree. Other poses are unlocked as you accumulate more minutes in your Fit Bank. Many of the final yoga poses are the last activities that you unlock in the entire game.

  • Unlockable Yoga Poses
  • Sun Salutation: 15 minutes
  • Standing Knee: 45 minutes
  • Palm Tree: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Chair: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Triangle: 2 hours, 50 minutes
  • Downward-Facing Dog: 3 hours, 10 minutes
  • Dance: 3 hours, 20 minutes
  • Cobra: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Bridge: 3 hours, 40 minutes
  • Spinal Twist: 4 hours
  • Shoulder Stand: 4 hours, 10 minutes

Sony Dual Shock 3 Hands-On

Posted in Games with tags , , , on June 7, 2008 by icebreakz

It was easy to overlook the loss of vibration feedback when Sony first introduced the PlayStation 3. The console offered a ton of great new features–HD graphics, Blu-ray, multimedia support, wireless controllers, the PlayStation Network–that, at least conceptually, more than made up for the missing rumble support. The console’s new Sixaxis controller also had tilt controls that let you control games by tilting or moving the gamepad in the desired direction. Unfortunately, it took most of us only a few minutes with Lair to figure out that we had been hoodwinked out of rumble like a general manager on the wrong side of a Billy Beane trade.

Sony tried to downplay the importance of rumble, referring to it as a “last generation” feature on several occasions before and after the release of the PS3, but Sony’s legal skirmishes with haptics company Immersion may have also contributed to the feature’s disappearance. Sony finally relented last year at the 2007 Tokyo Game Show when Sony Computer Entertainment president Kaz Hirai announced the Dual Shock 3 controller, just months after working out a deal with Immersion.

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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.