Xbox

All posts tagged Xbox

Xbox Live is brilliant. Yeah, I know I'm a latecomer to this, but I held out on the next-gen tsunami until this wave of awesome launch titles has crushed me in the tidal fortitude of an endlessly playable holiday line-up. Within the first taste of depth, in the Bioshock demo, I explored the post-objectivist underwater apocalypse that was so beautifully rendered, populated, to the point of being a recontruction, that I haven't been this immersed in the wetting of my panties since… well… just since. I await this game as a leviathan in the famished bathysphere of the game-narrative abyss, wherein we loath surface-dwellers and their shallow byline plots.

Bioshock, save me!

So yeah, I played alot in the last few days. Crackdown, Call of Duty 2, Lost Planet, and the demos for Stranglehold, The Darkness, and Geometry Wars (which is like Smash TV deconstructed by Malevich into a supremacist "essence" of addiction symbology, with my skill level better described as abstract death-on-death). The first five were, in order, crack cocaine, cinematic until you played the idiotic multiplayer, overly-japanese eye candy, bangbangbang, and bangbangbang in the dark.

This smorsgabord was especially exciting for me given its accessibility. I mean, I could just download a shit-ton of random demos and stuff, turn off the 360, come back home after work and I have all the titles mentioned in water-cooler talk awaiting my perusal. And Stranglehold was more fun than I'm willing to admit as well; having long despised John Woo of being reductively derivative of his own work, I found his game was a satisfying Max Payne knock-off with lots more bullets, table-sliding, bullet-dodging, and just sheer mandarin murderin' madness.

Our project got extended, and I sorely miss longer gaming nights, but such is life. Swim with it.

We had a great movie summer this year, but after E3, it looks like we're going to have an even more amazing holiday season for games. Some the ones that really caught my eye:

Call of Duty 4
Echochrome
Mass Effect
Super Mario Galaxy
Boogie

Also amazing was the Wii Fit "game" that Nintendo introduced, causing me to seriously consider picking up more shares in their stock. Their ability to make disposable fads never ceases to amaze me. Or maybe I'm just so shaken by the prospect of Metroid Prime 3, Smash Bros. (this year!!!), and Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. But even more amazing was EA's admission that "we are boring people to death." Games like Boogie and EA Playground are spreading the crepuscular rays of hope that the industry's great heartless game factory has a human pulse.

And although I keep swearing not to, I can not help but criticise Sony once again for it's utter disrespect for gamers. Hot on the heels of Microsoft's announcement of an awesome retroactive 3-yr warranty for the 360, Sony decided to drop their own bomb. Playstation 3, the 60gb version, is shedding $100 off its tag. Brilliant right?

And then Hirai tells us that that SKU of the PS3 is no longer in production. How disingenous can they get? If that kinda of bait-and-switch is what they think E3 is for (remember the original Killzone 2 trailer? See the latest in comparison), then they've truly lost their minds. And if they haven't, that would be even worse.

Yeah, ok, I'm finally done with the subject. It just feels so good to have seen this from miles away. The indulgence in criticism, vulturey I call it, really should be man's eighth sin. I've always felt the critical (and commerical) success of a console has always been linked to its controller. From the Atari 2600's emancipating joystick, to the NES' revolutionary gamepad, to Sega Genesis' sleek but uncomfortable three-button pad, to the classic SNES, to the alienating N64, to the re-classic PS pad, to the Buick-sized XBox controller that was slimmed to a successful "Japanese"-style precursor to its latest bit of perfection, and so forth.

So it comes as no surprise, then, as the sell through rate of PS3s declines on the black market and at retailers, Sony brazenly claims their SIXAXIS controller, an engineering marvel they claimed at E3 to have no gimmicks, had won an Emmy. They gloried in the announcement. They squirmed like a teenager rolling in a vat of oiled Maxims, and prematurely immaculated their product. A day later, they recanted, saying they had jumped the gun. The Emmy was given not to their SIXAXIS, rumbleless from the Immersion spat, but to the PS One controller, in conjunction with Nintendo. Ouch! Holy wax-affixed feathers, Batman!

On the bright side, video game publisher stocks took flight today. Pity I got knocked out of my Activision stop, but it was a high stop and I'm happy with the trade. I've been watching Sony stock too (SNE) but it seems like there is too much weakness, despite breaking out of its channel. But news about poor sell-thru, which isn't really news to anyone who's gone to Best Buy recently, cast a big glaring sun, daring them to rise higher on their borrowed wings.

In a downward spiral of serial debacles, Sony announced today that after the estimate of 4 million PS3 units by end of year was slashed down to 2 million, with launch seeing a paltry 100,000 units for Japan and 400,000 for the U.S., guess what? Japan, the heart of PS3 loyalty, is actually going to be getting 80,000 at launch. In completed unrelated news, end of year units for the Wii is expected to "handily" beat 6 million, with 1-2 million estimated ready to go at launch. Preliminary reports rumor 24-120 Wii's per Best Buy.

Let's step back from the numbers here. What the heck is Sony doing? Do they really want their plentiful holiday season preceded by plentiful consumer base exposure to their competitors? And their weapon against the monumental XBox Live is a petulant adaptation of XFire (for which support falls into the duties of individual developers), completely ignoring the necessity of the online community in the console world, a need PC gamers have taken for granted? Even the Wii Channels system is taking the Animal Crossing model to make gamers networked and personal. The story is quickly going from a Miracle on 34th St. to Great Expectations to Macbeth.

Admittedly, their launch list looks like the strongest of the three so far, but it's almost as if they were actively sowing the seeds of confusion and disappointment into their product. From PR snafus to logistics drama, we're seeing a lot of weakness as they strut and fret their hour on the stage. Though people who find the whole console war debate irrelevant would say the market is robust enough for them all, and the industry stands to gain no matter who is the victor, if they're wrong, there is no doubt that Sony has its hands furthest down the cookie jar.

Despite growing apprehension in the currently overbought market, I recently bought a good chunk of Nintendo stock, something I should have done a long time ago. Even with a soft landing, the economy isn't too supporting of the PS3 price point, nor an alinear jump in game sales (yes I know it's cyclic). I think very soon, the industry will realize that huge budgets net huge revenues, but huge profit margin is what ultimately counts. As it stands, only the Big N seems to be on that terra firma. Looking at how game stocks did this past year, shareholders agree that "next-gen" is just bluster, signifying nothing. Show me the money.

Isn’t it strange how little hypocrisy has evolved over the course of human civilization? Invariably, it sticks to a couple simple propositions:

– Believe in an issue.
– Protest an antagonist issue except if it applies to you.

So the Democrats grabbed on to a report pulling selective quotes about how the Iraqi war has only engendered more conflict. The Bush Administration tried to intercept the critics by saying it was going to release specific portions of the document claiming overall threat has decreased. Democrats then scorn the administration for “selective declassification” and dismiss the whole charade as propaganda.

Apparently pulling selective quotes to begin with wasn’t “selective declassification.” Is anyone else getting sick of this game? I can’t believe how many people out there believe more in the game than in reality. It saddens me that 60% of Americans believe recent drops in oil prices is somehow right-wing oil manipulation. Maybe it serves Big Oil right for having such shitty PR, but most Americans do not know that Big Oil is a drop in the barrel compared to other oil barons in Saudi Arabia or Venezuela. Exxon ranks a distant number 15 in size, and only half of that even is oil.

The Fed thinks we’ve peaked on inflation. My portfolio has risen precariously on that news. I’ve made enough in the past few days to buy myself a PS3, but that would be succumbing to Harrisonragi’s “selective declassification” of next-gen details. All I can be bullish on is the Xbox 360’s version of Guitar Hero 2 with DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT! I want that wireless X-Plorer dammit! No doubt the chum in the picture is struggling with his Democratic desire to tell all his friends about it, and his Republican desire to rock out against the man.

Shame it’s the other way around today in real politics, where Democrats do nothing but tell all against the man, and the Republicans do nothing but rock out with their friends.

After reams of "studies" that linked gaming with violence while ignoring the possiblity of that relationship being inverse, it makes my day to see a study that was done properly and which took great pains to extrapolate only appropriate conclusions. I'd recommend reading the Q&A with Anderson Analytics, as it's clear they didn't get their causes and effects' mixed up. The conclusions of the study implied that the XBox brand causes more self-confidence and distrust than the PS2. It doesn't explain the ramifications of these feelings, nor tries to guess too much as to why the difference even exist, leaving an explanation open for issues such as marketing styles, console brand history, etc.

Equally exciting for me is this analysis of IGN review scores, showing an strange imbalance and reluctance among their editors to impart anything but whole number scores. It excites me because this is what game journalist should be doing, as it legitimizes a business whose bias had a heydey of a day back when sites like DailyRadar were around. Has it gotten better? Remember the Dan "Shoe" Hsu interview I talked about before? Yeah, I think it's getting better. Slowly. But the gaming breed is an angry, rebellious, and most importantly, proud one. I don't forsee it giving in to console partisanship, fanboyism notwithstanding. Unlike politics, it only takes half an hour to tell if a game is any good, and unlike movies, the merit of your defense is measured not by movie tickets but by the hundreds of hours you spend PLAYING.

Not everything has to head the direction of New Game Journalism, but the idea is enticing. Frontline reports from virtual battlefronts, memoirs from the minds of the culturally entrenched, these are exciting exciting. But game journalism for the masses needs more transparency. I don't mean less bias, as games are inherently subject to extreme bias and we accept that when we read a review or an article, but I want to know who's paying for that bias. But if we already know what's bias and what isn't why does that matter? Because as an industry, it buys us leverage among politicians and competing industries who don't understand games. Imagine if the ESRB has never even been created what mercy we would be at the government's whims. Self-regulation is the first line of defense in the eternal struggle of us versus them, ninjas versus pirates.

E3 pics are up!

Most of the big news probably slaps you in the face at each and every game site, so I'm going to stick with impressions and hands-ons, and leave headlines out of this. Overall, this E3 was probably the best one I've been to, with less focus on graphics and more focus on gameplay overall, with the exceptions of the two you-know-whos. Booth babe quality wasn't bad even with clothing restrictions, and watching Fatal1ty bring some wannabe to the brink of tears on the The Longest Yard conversion to Quake4 had me and Xstine laughing our asses off.

So without further ado…

Microsoft Impressions:
Xbox 360 games continue to look better, and I continue to think about getting one. Games look as a they should on a $400 system. Gears of War looked phenomenal of course, but Huxley was surprisingly fun too considering the amount of lag this FPS MMO had, and I was dukin' it with a roundtable of over 30 people. And its framerate was still a SIGHT better than the Crysis engine game, which when not in that Siberia known as the 10-minute loading screen, was trying to impress us with spring-collision driven foliage bending nonsense at a blistering 4 fps. 3D benchmarks are a FAR CRY from being games, please.
Still, Lumines on XBox Live and the announcement of Windows Vista allowing PC and console gamers to meet in sweet swiss bliss gave the system the edge. In Peter Moore's own words, why buy a PS3 when yyou can get both a Wii and a 360 for the same money? As much as I hate the guy, he's right as rain.
Oh yes, Viva PiƱata looks rad (see pic), and besides some framerate problems, has got real style. Good job Rare… finally…
7/10

Nintendo Impressions:
As fanatical as the gaming media has been so far about the Wii, I have a huge complaint. I never got to play the damn thing since the line of lines, the sweat-infused meta-line that wrapped itself around the vortex of Nintendo's creative navel, was so entangled that I had not the ken to locate its extradimensional entry point. Dammit Nintendo, you spoke of playing is believing, but put your new console in the furthest reaches of E3's 9th circle of hell. My heart wept for a chance to play Super Smash Bros Brawl, but my melatonin begged for just one more day of sunlight.
Still, just watching the announcers playing Wii Sonic on the big screen by just tilting the controller left and right filled me with an instinctual, pheromonal kind of parasymptomatic gravitation back to West Hall over and over. Instead, I settled for some DS games, like Magnetica (aka Zuma) and Brain Training. Why is Sudoku so damn addicting.
8/10

Sony Impressions:
Let's forget about the price for a second, and the feature trickery. Do the games look good? Well, as you can see in the photos, their setup at E3 was still running on a bunch of dev kits, but at the moment it looks good. Not $200 good, mind you, but good. Warhawk wasn't very fun, but had that impressive kind of fluidity and SFX density that reminded me of great Dreamcast rail shooters. Madden looked godawful, honestly, with horribly overdone fur/grass. Heavenly Sword looked pretty good, like a PC version of Devil May Cry, although pixilated self-shadowing and jerky animation need work.
The booth area was pretty packed, and people were cheering like mad at the Final Fantasy trailers, but the actual wait time to get into the private showings was about 5 minutes. There will definitely be a market for PS3, evidenced my the throngs of people in the Singstar booth and the Country Karaoke Revolution game. The PSP, btw, went the way of the N-Gage.

4/10

PC Impressions:
I was pleasantly surprised. Hellgate: London continues to look great, and although the avatars are ugly, the gameplay is smooth and addicting just to even watch. The Conan MMORPG was graphically beautiful, especially the horse animations, but it seems like there was stuff being killed only when I looked away. Boring.
Xstine and I are both excited about Neverwinter Nights 2, and eye-rolly about World of Warcraft's expansion and its new Dranei Alliance race. NCSoft held a pretty exciting Guild Wars: Factions tournament with Koreans slaughtering Koreans, but nothing was nearly as exciting as THIS…..


8/10

Finally, some of the coolest things we saw there were these two toys:

So the shitstorm struck, and in the aftermath, new lines of loyalty were drawn, and an illusively stable Nintendo fan-base fractured under duress to assess what type of "hard-core" it was. The naming of the new console was a beacon of meaning for the darkest corners of the internet as factions rose and fell. Perhaps after this post, you'll join my militia of moderates.

I held off making any real comment about the Wii because I already knew I didn't like the name. But I wanted to see what it was doing to what has become an exceedingly machismonized industry. I can't help but chuckle to myself when I see PS3 and see "Pee Niss Three" and see XBox as "EXTREEEEEEEMEEEEE BOX! I'M EXTREEEEEME!!!" There has been unmitigated penis envy twixt consoles, you must admit. From the Harley-Dellvidson to the fixation of the gaming crowd on every last megahertz of graphical power, the Booth Babe Bonanza to the rippling breasteses that don no less than 40% of game covers, there is a culture where we look for the most swollen member of Best Buy unzipped.

And then comes Nintendo. Thrusting its Wii into the wet, yearning generation gap between the casual gamers leg and savage circumcised pro-gamers leg, Nintendo is going to do something none of its teen-primed competition could do- hold its load in there without busting a nut under five. Yes it's called Wii, but this wee Wii isn't trying to overcompensate. It's got big balls and it ain't afraid to swing'em.

Remember when video games were in their innocent adolescence? When Final Fantasy was a fantasy ensemble, not the roman-numeralized coming-of-age story it later became, focused on one young misunderstood guy with a huge phallic weapon? Remember when Final Fantasy 9 came out with its intelligent cast and no gun/sword/phallus combo weapons? Remember how it failed miserably and the schlongsword came back? That is the world game characters have to survive in today. They have to be angrier, bigger, and more silentlypowerful than ever. I blame the chauvinist undercurrent of modern Japan. But we all knew Americans were like that already.

If those days had not lovingly masturbated terms like "Emotion Engine" and "real-time" to this very moment, I think the Wii would be flaccidly normal. But instead, there is an elementally uneducated crowd of potential gamers out there who don't know what Playcubes and XStations are, and can't move two analog sticks at the same time. They just know that fiddling with your "controller" is what kids do when their parents aren't home. They know Guitar Hero makes sense, does what you expect, doesn't want you to hold R1 to aim then L1 to lock then A to shoot.

These folks are going to stupidly pour money into something that they can understand, as I did with my DS. They aren't going to feel retarded asking for something called the Hyper Game Machine VIII. They are going to wonder why people over 25 years old still snicker about the word "wee" as if it were the forbidden tee-hee at the playground. They are smart enough to realize this Freudian pratfall of a name serves as a miraculously efficient mechanism to point out the silliness of console hard-ons.

Here are people who will pick up a Wii, and across all ages and experience levels will feel empowered, not engorged. In their hands, this erect controller will offer the maturest control. Wii will offer accessibility. Wii will offer understanding. Wii will offer some fuckin' balls. What it lacks in length, it makes up with a girth encompassing a universe of folks who have yet to be addicted to Zelda. It's going to be the Kama Sutra of Consoles, giving you a mindfuck from forty creative positions. Those still worrying about hairy palms can have their recess in Halo voice chat, I'm past that point in life.

Wii? Yeah's it's a stupidest name of any console yet. But only because the collective boner has learnt us to expect something… well… more… EXTREEEEEEME!!!

What has the world come to? Have the freemasonry realized the jeopardy their New World Order stands on with the legs given them by Dr. Uwe Boll? To borrow a thread from Tycho, has the modern corporate Columbus discovered new testicles at a time when the diminishing returns of recycled licenses has begun to kill the host?

Dan "Shoe" Hsu reamed Peter Moore in the ass in his Xbox 360 interview, with all the questions gamers really want to know (a.k.a. forum flamebait) coming out a less serviceable mouth of reputable video-game journalism, an industry of ill-repute. Bravo, but encore.

Then, out of the fog, the Silent Hill movie trailer reared up to give us a fright. A game movie that actually looks, feels, sounds, and tastes like a game turned into a movie and not just projectile bulimia from clueless Hollywood mamasans? Is this what Twin Earth feels like?

And then, to top it all off, Disney bought Pixar. Without Eisner on the chair. With Roy back in the fold. Lasseter as Chief Creative Officer. Steve Jobs on the Board of Directors where hopefully there aren't enough lestats in the room to drain the impressive showman of his stamina. Does this mean Disney will stop putting out shallow myths with marketable characters and grandly wrapping said animation around music videos to shamelessly deem par with the disney quality of days of Eeyore? Does this mean… dare I say it… a conscience for creative accountability has been established?

Keep an eye on your happy meal, the fate of mankind rests in these greasy, shifting hands.

The highlands, home to the purveyors of the American "pornographic" (GTA's Rockstar), clearly have more sense than us… police of Edinburgh, Scotland have halved youth crime by challenging them cops vs. brats style to an Xbox tournament. It's so effective, some youth dare not go out for fear of accidentally committing a crime and thereby being excluded from the festivities.

I can't see why it isn't crystal clear to this country that an outlet for vice is an efficient necessity, and its fair regulation healthy for the goverment's pockets as well as its citizens' well-beings. Why is marijuana still illegal in face of the obviously superior toxicity of alcohol. Why is prostitution not enforced and unionized when its overrun a.k.a. street-walking is a cesspool of danger for everyone. These aren't questions, they're exasperations.

And who has the answer? Why, the Japanese of course. They've so skillfully crafted the persistent sin that their boys are petered out, with nothing rebellious left to do but masturbate and make absolutely INSANE animations like this: Michael Jackson Vs. Zangief

Now, would a world like this be so bad? Watch it once for yea, twice for nay.