Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Xbox 360's, PS3's, and fanboyisms

I'm severely disappointed in PSM. Of course they are biased, but that is their own fault. "Xbox 360 vs PS3: The Truth" was a cover story that just sounds bad. In a previous issue, I read a letter-to-the-editor response that actually was truthful. It said that it comes down to the games, and don't buy a system because of tech specs; buy it because it has the games you want. Then they turn around and bash the Xbox 360 and everything it stands for in this issue. Disgusting.

Okay okay. So the PS3 (as "reported") will have more "raw power" as they call it. Seriously, power is a non-issue at this point. It was a non-issue for the PS2 just like it will be a non-issue for the Xbox 360. The difference is that the PS3 will NOT be double the power of the 360 like the Xbox was to the PS2. However, Sony will market their damnedest to make sure you think otherwise. As a computer expert, I can tell you that you should be wary of Cell processor claims. Don't forget that Athlon processor performance in the past has been able to meet or exceed Pentium processor performance, and Athlons actually run at a slower clock speeds! Don't bother being too impressed with tech specs, as they have no bearing on how great a game will be on the system. Everyone seems to be so in-love with graphics that they are forgetting the actual game is much more important. Remember why the original Doom was so popular? It sure as hell wasn't the graphics. Anyway, I'm not saying that the 360 is crippled by any means. It's likely more powerful than your PC. A tri-core processor is plenty to get us through the next several years.

Did I mention that Apple turned their nose at the Cell processor? You may think that "Macintosh sucks" because you've never seen the power of a G5. They really put PCs to shame in processing and graphics, but PCs are commonplace. If you like Halo, keep in mind it was originally slated for a Mac.

Back to Sony vs Microsoft: Aesthetics will play a small role as well. I've noticed there are many gamers that have decided to dismiss Nintendo just because they came out with a "different" controller. No one seems to be complaining about Sony's boomerang controller. Their dual-shock design is out-dated, and no longer the most comfortable. The controller is the same except for it's ridiculous shape. And the console itself is really a monstrosity in comparison to the looks tacky...jagged and desperate for attention.

Next they are trash-talking game development, and options. Developers haven't been so PS3-happy according to non-biased articles I've read so far. Sony will make better tools out of necessity, but their architecture will still be difficult to deal with. Then comes the question: Will DVD9 be enough? It will be faster than Bluray for sure. Developers would love more space, but that doesn't mean they need it. Compression works wonders, and you can bet that Microsoft will deploy a compression so more can be squeezed into a DVD9. Otherwise, they can always release a HD-DVD drive replacement.

Online gaming? If Sony's website is any reflection of how their online service will be, then be prepared to be disappointed. They still don't plan on having a unified service, which means it could be haphazard and a waste of time like it is when taking the PS2 or the Gamecube online.

With everything I've said put aside, it truly doesn't matter which system is "more powerful". It now comes down to which provides a better overall experience, and the games consumers want to play. Sony doesn't seem to want to bring anything new other than hardware, and this is where Microsoft and Nintendo have the right idea. Sony is giving the impression now that they are essentially just trying to catch up with the idea of a "complete experience". Fall for the hype if you must, but don't discredit Microsoft or Nintendo just because Sony says so.

I know I will have to buy a PS3 for certain games, but I don't feel any rush. I've been enjoying the Xbox for some time and now the 360. Want to know what I'm doing with my PS2's? Cutting them up for fun. Adding a hard drive to a PS2 although it's not that useful.

Sony also needs to be concerned about the older audience. They are not as easily swayed as the kids. Apparently, the average gamer age is much higher than it used to be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

360 secured and setup; first impressions and Quake 4...

Well, Jessica had to call and search around for about 3-4 hours before she could find a less-trafficked store to get my 360 at. She ended up driving over an hour away to a small town to wait in front of ShopKo until 8:00 A.M. That means she was out in the cold for 9 hours just to get me this machine. I told her that is crazy and it really isn't necessary, but she did it anyway. She had my DS so she was apparently fine =). And she was even the first in line.

Surprisingly, she said several people there had Nintendo DS's. That surprises me, because my area seems to be purely PSP supporters. She said NO ONE there had a PSP. Chalk one up for Nintendo I guess! They even played Mario Kart together.

Anyway, she got home at about 8:30 A.M. (I guess they let her get it early). After telling me the above info, she passed out. Well deserved, Jessica. And thank you, it's a great birthday present. ;)

I had to go to work shortly after, but I left early in order to check out my new toy. It was a premium package that came with a bonus "75%" remote. The bonus remote didn't have television controls like the one you buy separately. I don't really plan on using it anyway. The power supply is HUGE. It outputs 16+ amps, so I'm not really surprised. The A/V cableset came with component and analog video. Luckily, my televsion apparently supports HD via component. One problem right of the bat: no demos or games. Grrrr....

I played Halo 2 for a couple of games. It actually runs a lot faster on the 360; I'll blame the clearer grahics on the HD. However, I had to re-set up everything and re-download all the updates. Not to mention getting my Live account on the 360 took a bit. On a side note: I played H2 again later on and I was having a slight graphical problem in Terminal and another level. I'd get this "broken glass shadow" in the upper left of the screen. Kind of annoying.

The controller is a definite improvement, and shoulder buttons instead of the black and white buttons was a good idea. I'm actually pro B&W buttons (they work well for some games, just like the 6-button Genesis controller), but H2 needs them shoulder. I love not having to remove my thumb from the right analog in order to talk to my team.

Great, but I want to see a 360 game!

So I rounded up a bunch of games I was willing to let go of since I haven't been paid yet. Splinter Cell CT (DS), Warioware Touched, Pollarium, GT3, Crash Bandicoots, and a couple other I don't remember. And several Xbox controllers.

All that was about $8 short of my purchase, but I had plastic. That includes $5 for a reserve on Gears of War. I went with Quake 4 just in case I won an ebay bid for Perfect Dark Zero (which didn't happen, twice...people like to overpay for stuff I guess; this game is one of the cheaper ones!).

At first, the graphics seemed comparable to the current gen, and resembled Doom 3 (it is made by ID afterall). After playing for a bit, I started noticing detail on everything, and I became impressed. Make sure you give it a chance. However, it is easy to tell this was a semi-rushed release as the frames somewhat stutter around corners or when there are too many enemies on the screen. The player is also unable to destroy the random dead bodies everywhere. To a layman, this means the XBox 360 can't handle it. To me, this means that the developers didn't have a chance to tweak the game or have enough time for lengthy beta testing. To laymans: if you are not familiar with programming and hardware do not assume anything about the 360's power. Most likely it is more powerful than your home computer. Not only that, you also have to have a basic understanding of how time and development can be killed by marketing deadlines.

To move in a more positive direction, Quake 4 has much better combat than Doom 3. I actually like this one more than Halo (not Halo 2 though). There is a useful and large gun selection, the controls make sense, and the AI isn't stupid (for bots and enemies alike!). There are also some vehicles that you use in first-person mode, such as a hover-tank and a Mech. The Mech reminds me of the Power Loader from Aliens (HINT HINT HINT PLEASE RELEASE AVP3 FOR 360! :). There is plenty of destruction to be done.

Without spoiling the storyline of the game, I will just say there is definitely a "cringe" part after the first few levels. Ouch! The prelude storyline is much more interesting than DOOM as well. Instead of "hellions", you are fighting an alien race called Strogg. The strogg take fallen humans and meld their body parts with machinery to make their military. Very interesting, and expect to see body parts used in disturbing fashions within the levels.

I give the game an 8.7, but it could have easily been a 9.5 if they had a chance to clean up some of the hiccups. Quake 4 could actually be great to tide us over until Halo 3 comes out. I didn't get a chance to try multiplayer, but it seems to have all the standard game types.

Perfect Dark Zero review to come...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Xbox 360 day has arrived, although...

I really hope I don't have to be disappointed on Thursday (my birthday and Thanksgiving). My girlfriend plans to go to Walmart a couple of hours before midnight so she can *hopefully* secure an Xbox 360 for yours truly.

I've seen mention on this so-called "shortage" on dozens of websites. Hopefully that isn't the case, but I'm not getting my hopes up too high. Jessica says she spoke with someone at the Customer Service counter and they are apparently only getting 14 Xbox 360s. That's not very many. 10 of those are the Core systems, which in my opinion is not worth the $100 less dollars. The Platinum system comes with the $100 hard drive plus more, so I don't see why anyone would go Core unless they were saving their pennies for the system.

Even when I get it, I still have to wait for Halo 3. Maybe Perfect Dark Zero will be good enough until then.

Confidence should really be put in Microsoft. They've done such a good job of promoting the Xbox 360 with commercials, events, and giveaways. Although monopolizers, I still believe they run a solid business. I find them more reliable than Sony could ever dream to be.

Speaking of Sony, I fixed-up one of the slim PS2s I bought within the last couple of weeks. I think the other is gone; possibly water damage. Changing the fuses isn't fun, so I'm not likely to try unless I get REALLY bored.

Anyway, I removed the built-in modem and installed a power cut-off switch, making it more like the original PS2. I'm also fixing up parts to prepare for a custom hard drive installation. I've gutted a PS2 Network Adapter to fit a 2.5" drive inside. A dremel is required to get more use of the cramped space, but I think in the end it will look great. Even after I accomplish all of that...I still need to install a DMS4 Pro chip. *Sigh*. At least it will be the most loaded slim PS2 ever. ;) It will be for fun really, since I don't play PS2 anyway! LOL.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Mario Kart DS - The DS goes online successfully

Before I go into this game, I do want to say that the only reason I have nothing to say about PSP games is that my room mates simply aren't buying anything new. I don't blame them really; there isn't anything exciting to grab lately. Supposedly that is supposed to change, but I haven't seen or heard of anything spectacular yet.

I picked up MKDS today; last one in stock. The DS game prices are simply awesome; I haven't had to pay more than $35 for a game yet. Anyway, I mainly wanted to test out Wifi online gaming. Beforehand, I will mention that I have little faith in wireless anything.

  1. Wireless is slow

  2. Batteries suck

  3. Connection reliability is erratic

  4. Wired is simply better and more stable

Back to the point. When I got home, I had to setup our extra wireless router. I didn't want to go directly into our router so the slow encrypted traffic wouldn't impede all of the connections. I don't care what anyone says, this happens. So I set up our old router on its own subnet. It took me a while to realize I needed to hook it up via cross-over cable, and then find out that port 8 on our switch doesn't work when the switch is linked. This also resulted in me having to make a cross-over three times because I thought it was bad, but it was the wrong port AND the first two weren't long enough. Maybe I'll post a picture of my "Network Cabinet" one of these days.

After setting up basic encryption etc., I setup MKDS. Nice and simply, and I was playing with foreigners within a couple of minutes. No lag! It makes me realize how much more I would have played the other MKs if they had online. Similar to my previous comments about Halo 2...reliable and mostly fair online matchmaking is what sets it apart. MKDS is somewhat the same way, although I don't know if players are matched up by skill level so much. For my first run through playing against people who had played 20 times as many games as me, getting 2nd wasn't bad.

The game itself is in my opinion the best MK yet. It has tracks from all the console versions including the GBA. That's hours of fun right there, not to mention there are always opponents available. Even without Wifi, the game would offer the MK goodness Nintendo fans have come to love.

Graphics? The best I've seen on the DS yet. Everything is smooth and looks good. This doesn't mean it is PSP style or anything, but for this specific game it feels perfect. And the controls have stuck to their roots.

I'm a happy camper, and give it a 9.5 for everything.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Halo sucks? and Next-gen Consoles vs PCs

For some random reason, I decided to google "Halo sucks" today. Wow. Seems that fans have a negative mirror image of haters. This doesn't surprise me, because I used to think "Halo is SOOO dumb." It drove me nuts when a bunch of people would end up at my house on Thursday nights to shoot each other up.

However, I finally got sucked in. I had nothing better to do late at night, so I joined in. Naturally, I was massacred. I was not one for FPS games, but for some reason the competition level was way more intense than the Counterstrike sessions we used to have. Personally, I think the advantage Halo has over most FPS games is that you can throw grenades without switching your weapon out. That changes EVERYTHING, and is a bit closer to reality.

Actually, I didn't buy an Xbox until I played Halo 2. There's no comparison to Halo 1. Dual-wielding, locking rockets, more vehicles, elites, swords, and better graphics...why the hell would anyone still bother with Halo 1? Not to mention that online multiplayer is fast and efficient. I hated surfing game rooms with the computer to try to find a good one (i.e. Counterstrike, AVP2). Not to mention someone is ALWAYS available as an opponent. Play whenever you want.

These are features that Halo-haters and PC-Elitists miss. There are Halo1-Elitsts, but I don't understand them at all. Sure, Halo 1 was fun, but it doesn't compare. As far as Halo 2 taking "less" skill, I'll never understand that either. Sure, I loved the fact you can Melee from 10 ft away in Halo 1, the grenades had no arc, and you don't have to worry about the assault rifle moving when you pull the trigger. But does that make Halo 1 take less skill?

This brings up another interesting topic: Next-gen consoles. From what we know about the 3 Next-gen systems, they will all be comparable to the current hi-end PCs available. Does this mean PC-Elists will have to STFU since they whine about specs all day? And they totally negate the fact that they waste CPU cycles and memory on the Windows or Linux running in the background whereas the consoles use almost all available resources just for the game? I think these guys should subtract the minimum requirements for their OS from their PCs specs, and they will be semi closer to the reality of the power of their PCs.

This doesn't mean I hate PCs. PCs are great; I work on them all day. What I don't like is PC gaming. The requirements always differ, which is annoying. Memory and hard drives are cheap, but a quality video card costs just as much as a new console. With a console, you almost NEVER have to worry about hardware requirements. That's convenient. Not to mention that you don't have to wait for your OS to load. Although consoles get hacked-a-plenty, I guarantee that it is a much worse situation on PCs. Should I mention that you don't have to worry about turning off your antivirus program to run a game?

What is good about PC Gaming? Your hardware is upgradeable. Currently, most games support Keyboard and Mouse (this will most likely be available for the Next Gen consoles however). With $200+ video card, the graphics are stellar. You can use multiple screens (although most games don't support it...but the PS3 is going to). There is a lot more online games. Patches are available for bugs.

All that is great, but not necessary to play a good game. In my mind, consoles will always be a better experience. Turn your system on, put in the game, and play. No extra steps, no hardware concerns, no conflicting software problems.

For fun: For the person out there accusing all console-supporters of not knowing what "Hello, World" is because they are computer-stupid, here you go:

10 PRINT"Hello, world!"
15 REM STFU, not all console gamers are computer noobs.
20 END

There you go, Commodore 64 BASIC style. I could do it in C, C++, Java, Pascal, Delphi, and Visual Basic or even an Oracle stored procedure if you really want me to.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sony's proprietary products continue to get more ridiculous...

PS3 may not play used games...

Obviously, this is speculation at this point, but I would NOT be surprised if Sony tried to pull something like this. This is what drives Sony; the ability to get you to purchase their product even though you'll get screwed in the end. If this speculation IS true, you can bet that I will NEVER buy a PS3. I hardly ever buy new games, so I as a unfortunate Sony customer would get screwed!

The "read" link at the bottom of the article goes to where the writer claims that places like Gamestop have bad practice in selling used games. I disagree; once a licensed piece of hardware is purchased, it should be able to be sold to another indefinitely, given the previous owner no longer has a copy of it (including backups). If the previous owner can no longer play the title, then the passing of the game to another causes no harm. Any product can be sold as used, so this opinion is flawed as it would have to apply to garage sales and the Salvation Army as well. Anyway, a consumer will buy used because the price new was too high. The company making the game can fix that by lowering their prices, so the retailer can lower theirs.

I don't care that Gamestop makes profit twice when selling used games. They still have a business to run, and they provide a warranty on a used product. They even let me return used games that suck, or games I want to try on a different platform. You can't get that buying new and paying more.

Jade Empire (XBox)

Game Informer gave this title "Game of the Month" a few issues ago. GI was right on the money on with "Splinter Cell" (Xbox), "God of War" (PS2), and "Resident Evil 4" (NGC). On a side note, give the latter 2 titles a LOW replay value. I really think Chaos Theory (Xbox) deserved a 10. I played it more than the other two.

Anyway, I was under the impression that Jade Empire would be somewhat of a brawler/fighter, such as Ninja Gaiden but mixed with some strategy.

Well, I was completely wrong. This is a strategy game with limited brawler/fighting capabilities. This had a huge impact on my opinion of the game, which isn't positive.

The animation seems a bit jittery at times, but it isn't bad (this was expected). The controls leave much to be desired, but they are functional. Conversation in the game is mostly voiced, but can be lengthy and useless.

The developer did change up the game by adding weak puzzle and shooter elements early in the game. This helps, but not enough to keep me interested.

I have never been into strategy games because I feel they lack the intensity available in the other genres. However, I do enjoy RPGs which contain elements of strategy but not so much as to make the game annoying. The stories are usually compelling as well. I must say that Jade Empire has some very interesting stories, but the game doesn't drive me to learn more.

Honestly, I couldn't stand to play it more than a few hours. I haven't touched it for a week, and I doubt I will go back to it.

However, I think if the developer cleaned up the game and added more fighting abilities early on that were a little faster, I think the game would be a hit. Hopefully we'll see this in Jade Empire 2, if that's ever to be.

Put the Ninja Gaiden I was looking for in Jade Empire's style of game and I'll be a happy camper.

Not everything is good...

See anything wrong with this picture, besides losing? I figure it's not in good flavor to post nothing but good games. Bad games happen, too. If you didn't notice anything odd about this picture, I only only have 2 deaths yet the most kills. No snipes. There, now I feel better because I don't look so bad now. LOL

Demolition says he kept spawning in the middle of the other team. I believe it; this is one night were that only happened to me once as opposed to 3-6 times a row in almost every large-level game. What can you do? Go to sleep earlier for one.

As for the other two players, they didn't have much to say. We really need WallyNinja and GigantorNinja to start playing again, so there's no excuse. *Sigh*

Monday, November 07, 2005

Another day, another death

I love plasma wars on this level. =)

I felt bad for Jessica (playing on GigantorNinja's account) and Keys (DemolitionNinja). We didn't end up on the same team, but I warned them that yellow would be victorious! Demolition's team may have been some good competition if one of his players didn't quit. I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if we were on the same team...

How did I get 30 kills, a running riot, and 39 medals? Beat downs!

I was disappointed I didn't get at least a killtacular. Lately, it seems that the 4th person is always 2 seconds too late to die or I don't have any shield left. *Shrug*

Jessica is getting pretty good. She's too good for training, but not quite good enough to compete with level 25+'ers. I can't wait to get an Xbox 360 so I can give her my Xbox and get her a Live account of her own.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Nintendo Sales VP on the Video Game market

This is a great article, and provides me more confidence in Nintendo's future.

"Being disruptive in the marketplace" is actually an excellent idea. For me, it seems that there will be an occasional great game as of late, and the rest are too boring. Someone has to come in with something fresh or video games will fade.

Most kids and fanboys think that graphics is everything. It really isn't. I've played plenty of games with good graphics that fail on the gameplay or fun-factor. As previously said in interviews, graphics can only improve so much. Then other things have to improve. I think Nintendo is making the smart move in offering a new way to play games that isn't too drastically different from the old way.

For example, the DS has a touchscreen, but all of the standard controls are still there. Another would be the new revolution controller. The buttons you need are there, but it has the added feature of motion detection.

Speaking of that controller, it shows that "disruptive marketing" is already in place. Many may "freak out" when they see the revolution controller. Thinking sensibly, it is very interesting and can be a great idea if executed correctly. A two piece controller may actually be more comfortable, and cause less strain on hands. I read an article suggesting that gamers are too lazy to move around and won't be receptive to controlling with more effort. I disagree. Remember the hit "Dance, Dance, Revolution?"

Don't get me wrong; I still plan on thoroughly enjoying the Xbox 360 and unfortunately experiencing the PS3 if I have to. Just remember that Nintendo is always there, and whether you denounce them as a kiddie company or not, I guarantee they can offer some experience that you could get involved in. There will be a spot reserved for the Revolution in my house.