Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Mole: New GTA for PSP, Movie Contest

Dig out your Hawaiian shirt - Rockstar announced some details concerning the soon to be released Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. The game will come out on October 17 for the PSP for a wallet burning $49.99.

Just like GTA: Liberty City Stories, gamers should probably expect a PSP to PS2 port (and hopefully for a lot cheaper) but not anytime soon. The LCS version was on the PSP about 8 months before its PS2 debut. Hopefully Vice City Stories will have better voice work, improved graphics and some classic 80's tunes.

Senor Spielbergo - Late last week Xfire and Blizzard announced a movie contest for World of Warcraft. The "Blizzard Xfire World of Warcraft Summer Movie Contest" invites players from the United States, Canada, and Europe to create movies using World of Warcraft and submit them in one of four categories: Short Film, Comedy, Music Video/Dance, and Drama/Action. A total of $23,000 in prizes will be awarded. Visit the contest's official site at:

Banished! - Blizzard is going all Jet-Li against user agreement violators who gold farm in World of Warcraft by banning tens of thousands of accounts and eliminating millions in gold from the economy, according to an official Blizzard forum post.

"As part of our efforts to eliminate cheating from World of Warcraft, we recently banned approximately 59,000 World of Warcraft accounts in the month of June, and with that removed well over 22 million gold from the total economy across all realms," read the statement. " While we regret having to take such extreme action, these accounts were participating in activities that directly violated World of Warcraft's Terms of Use, including the use of third-party programs to farm gold and items."

The announcement went on to thank users who tipped off suspicious accounts, and encouraged more players to do the same when they encounter gold farming tactics. In other words, feel free to rat out these cheaters.

Bada Bing! - THQ announced late last week that the Xbox 360 version of The Sopranos game has been whacked. The company claimed that the next-gen version didn't look all that much better than the PlayStation 2 version, so they want to focus both teams on the PS2 project. The game is still scheduled to release in 2006, but it still hasn't been shown in playable form. If the game is anything like the show, this means gamers probably won't see it until sometime in 2007.

What's behind door #3? - Last Wednesday Atari began the "Test Drive Unlimited - Lifestyle Without Limits Sweepstakes" for gamers who pre-order Test Drive Unlimited. By pre-ordering Test Drive Unlimited at retailer stores, gamers will automatically receive an exclusive in-game Lamborghini Gallardo Coupe download and will be entered into the "Lifestyle Without Limits Sweepstakes." The Sweepstakes Prize list is as follows:

Grand Prize: 2006 Lamborghini Gallardo two door Coupe
First Prize: First Class, round-trip airfare for two to Hawaii
Second Prize: $5,000 Ben Sherman shopping spree
Third Prize: Wireless headphones with Dolby Headphone Technology
Fourth Prize: ATI Memory Card

The sweepstakes ends on September 4, 2006. Winners will be announced December 31, 2006. For full details and official rules visit The game is set for release 9/5 for the Xbox 360, 10/24 for the PC and PS2 and 11/14 for the PSP. It will sell for $39.95 on all systems (even the 360).

P.S. Oops, I almost forgot. Last Thursday I received a Beta version of Test Drive Unlimited. When I get a chance to play it (probably not until next week) I'll post a mini-review of the game on the blog.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Monkey Update

This is a picture of Mikey, the poker playing chimp, sent to me by his PR rep. I've been going back and forth with my contact from the company that represents him and I'm trying hard to set up an interview with him and his trainer but haven't had much luck.

From what I've been told, he is already in Las Vegas so a hand of poker with him is out of the question. I'll keep you posted if any of this actually goes anywhere but right now it doesn't look good. Yeah, I know this doesn't really have anything to do with gaming but would you be able to let go of the chance to play poker with a monkey? I didn't think so. So forgive me if I go off on a tangent for a couple of posts.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Random Thoughts: Monkeys Playing Poker

All in! - As a video game columnist I get bombarded with requests to take a look at a wide variety of things from companies looking for some free publicity. Some of them are what you'd expect - pay to play video game websites, trivia websites, companies that specialize in gaming accessories, retro gaming systems - pretty standard stuff.

But every now and then I'll get something in my in-box that's really odd. Usually I delete stuff like this but because this one involves a monkey (and anything involving monkeys is funny) I thought I'd share it with you. Here's a portion of an email I received today:

"Hi Terry,

I think you and your Gazette audience will go bananas for this one: Mikey the chimp has been training to play in the 2006 World Series of Poker and left from New York last Saturday to begin his media tour from New York to Las Vegas. At the moment, Mikey and his trainers are in New Mexico and will continue their journey, stopping for interviews along the way to his WSOP debut. Check out and you'll go ape over this chimp playing to win money for his retirement - a real issue his trainers are willing to comment on. If you can fit him into your schedule, he is available today or tomorrow for an in-studio or phone interview with his trainers to talk about his $10,000 seat into the World Series of Poker and why he wants to win. I have included a release below and can also provide you with b-roll as well as fantastic jpegs for your website. Is today or tomorrow better for you?"

I think it goes without saying that I will be interviewing this monkey. How? I have no idea. Heck, I don't even know how a monkey can play cards. What's next? Monkey bus drivers? Although a monkey butler would be cool. What I really want to know is, how did these people get my contact information and how many of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon do you need to connect a monkey playing poker to video games? I say 3.

Milli Vanilli is underrated - So I'm finishing up my review of "Prey" today (it won't be in the paper until sometime in August, sorry but I'm a little backed up). The last thing I do when writing a review is the Top 5 list. Since the game is set in space, I figured I'd do a "Top 5 Songs to Listen to While Blasting Aliens" list. I finished my list and I'm checking out videos for all of the songs on (Its a great site, full of absolutely useless stuff. I love it!) Suddenly I come across "Girl You Know Its True" by Milli Vanilli. The video is a 12 out of 10 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. The dance moves, the voice over at the intro and the bad lip syncing are tremendous. I highly recommend it. The song is actually pretty good. Its got a beat and you can dance to it. Check it out.

Mailbag - Don't forget to join the Mailbag for a chance to win a $20 gift certificate at

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Mole: Madden Sticks It To Gamers, Another Video Game Movie

Dig Deep - If giving gamers the option of dropping an extra $10 for a "Hall of Fame" edition whose main feature is a man who hasn't coached in nearly 30 years waxing poetic about his glory days wasn't enough of a sign that Madden will try anything to get every penny you got (exhale), maybe Madden on pay-per-view is.

No, the former Raiders coach won't be battling Hulk Hogan in a steel caged match. Instead, starting August 4th (and for only $19.95), what you get is an inside look at the new game and this years innovations from EA designers and some of the "best" Madden gamers.

As Samuel L. Jackson once said: Allow me to retort! I know how big Madden is, not just among gamers but with most pro athletes as well. Its a huge seller and after 17 years has reached legendary status among video games. All that being said, I really think EA is getting a little carried away with their own impression of how big Madden culture really is. I'm paying $20 to learn something about a game that comes out 3 weeks later?!? I'm paying $20 to listen to some dude who's greatest accomplishment in life is that he rode around a bus on a reality TV show playing video game football?!? I'm paying $20 to hear pro athletes complain about their rankings in the game?!? This is nuts!

The sad thing is, I'm actually interested. I always look forward to Madden and every gamer I know usually picks it up every year. But because EA wants to charge $20, it just makes them look greedy. Granted, I don't have to buy it (although I probably will using The Gazette's money so I can write a scathing running diary of it for the blog) but just the thought that someone believed this was a good idea is evidence of an ego way out of whack.

This should be free, plain and simple. Make it something gamers can access on the EA site, put it on Xbox Live as a free download. Just make it free. Gamers put $30-$60 into a game, a heck of a lot more than the cost of a CD (does anyone even buy these anymore?) or a ticket to a movie but movie and music fans are treated better by their respective artists. I'm getting tired of being gouged (see PS3 and now Madden) for being a gamer. Shouldn't a company, no matter what it makes, earn our money and not just expect us to hand it over because of their reputation? I think so.

Big Screen Tom Nook? - Oh yes, its time for another video game to movie port. What is it this time? Animal Crossing. No, you're eyes aren't playing tricks on you. ANIMAL CROSSING. The movie will be released in Japan this December, no word yet on if or when it will ever come to the States. If Animal Crossing is put on film, can a new Cyberball flick be too far behind?

Etc, Etc - The chinese paper Commercial Times reported that Asustek, the company running PS3 production will have the first run of consoles (about 200K) done by the end of July...Call of Duty 3 videos and screen shots are available at Friday Microsoft announced that as of their fiscal 4th quarter they have sold 5 millon Xbox 360's and it has 3 million Xbox Live users. It looks like Bill Gates' bold forecast of 10 million Xbox 360's sold before the PS3 comes out might come true.

And last but not least - Don't forget to jump into the Mailbag for a chance to win a $20 gift card. Since I'm a nice guy (and because I was asked politely) the gift card is available for any gaming store of your choosing - Best Buy, GameCrazy, GameStop...whatever. The email address is

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Top 5 Games Coming Out Before November

Can Saints Row possibly dethrone the Grand Theft Auto franchise?

Yeah, I know. The title of this post is a little obtuse (look it up) but I started wondering about the quiet time between now and when the Wii and PS3 consoles are released in November. Will any great games be coming? As we get closer to November, we'll all be bombarded with more hype than another Angelina Jolie pregnancy, shouldn't we have some great games to play in the meantime?

Fear not! The gaming world has not forgotten about you! On the contrary, there are plenty of great titles (or at least potentially great titles) coming out in the next few months. Here are the Top 5 to keep an eye on.

1. Saints Row, August, Xbox 360 - Imagine Grand Theft Auto but with online play. Sweet! I have been waiting for this game for months (it was originally scheduled to come out in the Spring) and judging from all of the screen shots I've seen (see above) its worth the wait.

2. Scarface: The World is Yours, September, Xbox/PC/PS2 (Late 2006 for Xbox 360) - Don't tell me you don't want to shout out "Say hello to my little friend!!!" while blasting henchmen. Too bad Al Pacino isn't providing the voice for the video game version of Tony Montana.

3. Splinter Cell: Double Agent, September/October, PC/PS2/GC/360 - The Splinter Cell series is always solid and now gamers will get to use some of the co-op moves in the single-player mode.

4. Justice League Heroes, October, PSP/Xbox/DS/PS2 - An RPG where I can play as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and others? Hand me my cape!

5. Reservoir Dogs, October, PC/PS2/Xbox - Normally video games based on movies are about as pleasant as a visit to the dentist but for this game, I'm willing to make an exception.

6. Cyberball, Tomorrow, Xbox Live Arcade - No, this arcade great isn't coming out on Xbox Live Arcade tomorrow. But it should be!

Honorable Mention: Dead Rising, August, Xbox 360 - looks promising but can a twist on the surival horror genre work; Star Trek Legacy, Sometime in late 2006, PC/Xbox 360 - Would easily make the top 5 if I knew it was going to be released in the next few months. A game that spans all of the Star Trek shows is this Trekkie's dream. And yes I have nerdy dreams.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mailbag...and some other stuff

Its in the bag - In an effort to be more like my favorite writer Bill Simmons, I'm going to steal (or as I like to call it "permanently borrow") his idea of a mailbag.

I'll collect questions emailed every month to my Gazette email address at The best questions will be put on the blog. The person with the best question will win a $20 gift certificate to GameCrazy.

Ask any question you want, preferrably about gaming but if you feel like asking something else (or even a comment about something else) have at it. Funny, of course, is always good. In fact a funny question or statement about a non-gaming topic will score higher than a serious question or statement about a gaming topic. Email as many comments or questions as you like, multiple entries are encouraged. Keep in mind, however, my method for determining the questions for the blog and top question of the month are completely unscientific - so don't get bent out of shape if you don't win or get on the site.

Since we're nearing the end of July, I'll accept emails now through August 25th for the August mailbag. I'll put up the Mailbag questions/comments and answers/responses sometime during the last week of August. Lather, rinse and repeat for every month thereafter. Of course, if this flops, this might be the only month the Mailbag is up. Hopefully, the response will be strong and this can be a cool new feature that allows for more interaction with gamers. So tell all your gaming buddies and friends about it, even if they live out of state. Let's have some fun with this.

Etc. - I'm trying to figure out a way to best get connected to local gamers. I've added a bunch of readers to my friends list but just haven't had an opportunity to play with too many people. I was thinking of putting together a Halo clan, which I think would be pretty cool, but I know some gamers are pretty attached to their clan so I'm not sure that'll work. I also thought about having a set time twice a month to host a game. If you have any ideas, let me know...In order to leave comments on the blog, you now have to go through a couple of extra steps. Its a pain but I was getting way too much spam...I'm also tinkering with the idea of a Random Thoughts feature for the blog. It's something I used to do with my old newsletter/website Colorado Joe (hence my gamertag). I just discussed completely random things, some had to do with gaming but most really didn't. Usually it was about movies, current events and pop culture, etc. This being a gaming blog, I'll have to run this by my editor.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Rant: How Achievement Points should be awarded

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I love earning Achievement Points! It makes doing well in a game feel worthwhile again. Just like having the highest score in an arcade game back in the day earned a player bragging rights, Achievement Points show the world (or at least your friends) that you are a great gamer (at least by yourself).

I have no clue why these stupid points mean so much to me because I'll never be atop any leaderboard (the top gamers are in the 40K's). I play too many games and don't have the time to get all the points in all of them. I guess I'm motivated by 2 things - having more points than my brother and reaching certain point total goals.

Here's the problem, games currently have screwy ways of dishing out points. Since all games are different, there can be no standard format for giving them out. Developers are able to give out points at their own disgression, as long as 1000 points are available. Some games have points that are gimme's (like King Kong) others are bang-your-head-against-the-wall hard (like MotoGP) or are just plain time consuming (like Oblivion).

And things are getting worse. Developers are now wising up and instead of giving out large chunks of points at a time, are spreading them out. 10 points here, 5 points there - just plain nickel and diming a gamer to death. I know what you're thinking "Shouldn't that be how it is? Shouldn't a gamer have to earn points and not just have them given to them?" The answer is no and yes.

I don't want all 1000 points for simply completing the game. That's too easy. But on the other hand, most 360 game are $60. That's a good chunk of change. If I pay that much money, I should have a few hundred points practically handed to me. I don't expect to hear that little ping sound and the "Achievement Unlocked" sign to pop up when I load the disc (actually, that would be great) but I want some points - fast.

So what's the solution? Simple! Give out points in a staggered format so that casual, average and die-hard gamers earn the points they deserve. Here's a breakdown that can be used by every game developer. Keep in mind that I'm taking into consideration that online achievement points are given out respectively in each point level as well.

0 - 400 Points - Points the casual or rental gamer can earn by playing the game to its end. Gamers can earn these points by completing tasks in the game necessary to get to the games natural conclusion on a normal game setting. Distributed in increments from 50-200 points.

400 - 700 Points - Points for the average to above average gamer. Will require a second or third playing of a game to reach specific milestones or goals. A gamer will have to stretch themselves to get these points, likely having to make 2-3 attempts. Distributed in increments of 25-50 points.

700 - 1000 Points - These are for die-hard gamers only. Just the description of how to get these point will make the casual or average gamer shake their head and mutter to themselves, "Its time to trade this game in." These points require a ridiculous amount of time to complete or beating the game on a setting so hard and frustrating, it'd make most gamers want to throw their controllers on the ground and stomp it into dust. Distributed in increments of 10-25 points.

There you have it. While this may raise overall achievement scores a bit, gamers who earn 1000 points in a game will show themselves to be true masters of a game. It also helps show what kind of gamer someone is with a particular game. If you're comparing yourself to someone else in MLB 2K Baseball and notice you have 650 points while your friend has only 200 points, you know you're probably a little better at that game than he is. Conversely if you have a friend who wants to play you in online Madden and you notice he has 950 points while you only have 150, you might to try and get him to play as a weaker team.

Its not a perfect system, but its better than how points are given out now.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Mole: Weekend Edition

Now you can headbutt people in the chest too! - You know how you're coach used to say "Be the ball"? Well now you can "Be the head". Who's head? French soccer star and head-butter supreme Zinedine Zidane of course. At you can play a game where you act as Zidane and hit opponent after opponent in the chest with your melon. It's high comedy.

Aside from the Zidane game, the site has a number of other fun games and other things to play with. My personal favorites are the Ultimate Peter Griffin Soundboard and Family Guy vs. American Dad Kung Fu.

Can't get enough Madden - Madden NFL 07, coming out August 22, will have a special Hall of Fame edition available for the PS2 and the Xbox 360. Just in case the game isn't enough, here's what you can pay an extra $10 for.

PlayStation 3 Unveiled—G4TV provides a sneak peek at the making of Madden NFL 07 for PlayStation 3 with exclusive gameplay footage, content previews, and more.

Hall of Famer: John Madden—A career retrospective highlighting Coach Madden’s days as Oakland Raiders head coach and award-winning calls from the broadcast booth.

Inside Madden Studios—ESPN’s Trey Wingo delivers game production insights and exclusive interviews with the team behind the game.

Exclusive Music Interviews—The hottest acts featured in Madden NFL 07 reveal the inspiration behind their music.

Xbox 360
Everything above, except "PS3 Unveiled" is replaced with this: Madden Nation, Season One—Heroes are born and dreams are shattered in the eight-part mini-series. Revisit the complete first season of the original ESPN program.

Is this worth an extra $10? Maybe, it just depends on how big of a Madden fan you are.

Addicted to Achievements - The game might not be out for a couple of days but the Achievement Points for EA's NCAA Football 07, my soon to be new favorite game until Madden 07 comes out, are already available. Study them now so you can figure out the quickest way to earn all 1000 points.

1. Throw 4 TD Passes in a Game - Throw 4 touchdown passes in a single game. (15pts)
2. 350 Total Passing Yards - Pass for 350 or more total yards in a game. (15pts)
3. 200 Total Rushing Yards - Rush for 200 or more total yards in a game.(15pts)
4. No Fumbles in a Game - Do not fumble the ball in a game. (15pts)
5. No Interceptions in a Game - Do not throw an interception in a game.(15pts)
6. Win by 21 - Win a game by 21 points or more.(10pts)
7. Pass to 5 Different Receivers - Complete a pass to 5 or more receivers in a game.(10pts)
8. 100 Yard Receiver - Gain 100 or more receiving yards with a single player.(10pts)
9. 100 Yard Rusher - Rush for 100 or more yards with a single player.(10pts)
10. Complete a 30 Yard Pass - Complete a pass for 30 or more yards.(10pts)
11. Complete a 60 Yard Pass - Complete a pass for 60 or more yards. (20pts)
12. Break a 30 Yard Run - Break a run for 30 or more yards.(10pts)
13. Break a 60 Yard Run - Break a run for 60 or more yards.(20pts)
14. Allow No Sacks - Do not give up any sacks in a game.(15pts)
15. Intercept 2 Passes - Intercept 2 passes in a game on defense.(15pts)
16. Recover 2 Fumbles - Recover 2 fumbles on defense in a game.(15pts)
17. Return Interception for a TD - Return an interception for a touchdown.(20pts)
18. Return Fumble for TD - Score a touchdown after recovering a fumble on defense.(20pts)
19. Make 4 Sacks - Sack the opposing quarterback 4 or more times in a game.(20pts)
20. Held Under 200 Yards - Hold the opposition to under 200 total yards.(10pts)
21. Held Under 100 Yards - Hold the opposition to under 100 total yards.(25pts)
22. 2 Sack Player - Make 2 sacks in a game with the same player.(10pts)
23. Score a Safety - Score a safety on defense.(30pts)
24. Shutout - Prevent your opponent from scoring any points in a game.(30pts)
25. Punt Return for TD - Return a punt for a touchdown.(15pts)
26. Kickoff Return for TD - Return a kickoff for a touchdown.(20pts)
27. 50 Yard Field Goal - Kick a 50 or more yard field goal.(25pts)
28. 50 Yard Punt - Punt the ball 50 or more net yards.(15pts)
29. Block a Punt - Block a punt.(25pts)
30. Block a Field Goal - Block a field goal.(25pts)
31. Score 35 Points - Score 35 points or more in a game.(15pts)
32. 500 Total Yards - Gain 500 total yards or more in a game.(25pts)
33. #1 Offense - Have the #1 ranked offense in a dynasty season.(25pts)
34. #1 Defense - Have the #1 ranked defense in a dynasty season.(25pts)
35. Undefeated - Go undefeated during a season in dynasty mode.(10pts)
36. Conference Champs! - Win a conference championship game.(10pts)
37. Heisman Memorial Trophy - Win the Heisman Memorial Trophy with a player on your dynasty team.(25pts)
38. 5 Star Recruiting - Sign 8 or more 5 star prospects in your recruit class.(25pts)
39. Bowl Win - Win a bowl game in dynasty mode.(10pts)
40. National Champions! - Lead your team to a BCS championship in dynasty mode.(25pts)
41. Dynasty Trifecta! - Win the National Championship in three back-to-back seasons in dynasty mode.(50pts)
42. Mr. February - Have the #1 ranked recruiting class in a dynasty season.(25pts)
43. 60 Year Dynasty (Ouch!) - Complete 60 years of Dynasty.(100pts)
44. Perfect Game - Bowl a 300 Game.(40pts)
45. High Score - Option Dash - Score 15,000 or more points in Option Dash.(40pts)
46. Win Tug-of-War - Win the Tug-of-War mini-game.(40pts)
47. Junior Varsity Level - 250 gamerscore in NCAA Football 07. (0pts)
48. Varsity Level - 500 gamerscore in NCAA Football 07. (0 pts)
49. Secret Achievement
50. Secret Achievement

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Mole: Xbox Live Arcade new releases, EA commits to the Wii

Xbox Live Arcade Games - Well its about time. After being teased like a kid with no money in a candy store, Microsoft will finally release some new classic arcade titles for Xbox Live Arcade. It started yesterday with Frogger (which I tried last night and it brought back some fond memories) and continues every Wednesday until August 9 with a new title being made available every week. Each game has a free demo and the complete version can be purchased for about $5. Here are the games and their release dates.

July 12 - Frogger
July 19 - Cloning Clyde
July 26 - Galaga
August 2 - Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting
August 9 - Pac Man

A pretty good list to be sure but this of course brings up the question - WHERE THE HECK IS CYBERBALL?!? The greatest robots-playing-football arcade game of the 1980's needs to come out soon. Xbox Live Arcade is incomplete without it.

EA Announces 6 Custom Designed Wii Games - Earlier today Electronic Arts revealed six new games that are in development for the Nintendo Wii. Madden, Need for Speed, Harry Potter, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, SSX and The Godfather will be designed specifically to use the Wii's innovative controller.

How will it work? I have no clue but I certainly am curious. EA will be announcing additional titles for the Wii in the coming months.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Top 5 Games on the PS2 and DS

A few days ago I listed the games that I thought were the best games you could get right now, today, on the PC and Xbox 360.

Here are my picks (with a little help) for the Nintendo DS and the PlayStation 2.


1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence - I've always been a huge fan of the Metal Gear series and with this updated special edition that came out in March, I appreciate the series even more. A new camera angle and online mode make this a super game.

2. MLB '06: The Show - After the MVP series from EA went the way of the dodo, baseball needed someone to step up - which is exactly what this game did. The best baseball game on any console. Of course it doesn't hurt that my boy David Ortiz is on the cover.

3. Fight Night Round 3 - While not nearly as pretty as its Xbox 360 cousin, the game play on the PS2 version is just as good.

4. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories - Yeah, I know. I've complained about this game in a blog before. The graphics aren't pretty and the soundtrack sucks. Still, its a GTA game and I'm addicted to the world of GTA.

5. The Godfather - Any time a game can put me in a movie as great as The Godfather, I'm in. This game has great game play, exciting missions and nice graphics.

Honorable Mention: Kingdom Hearts 2, Winning Soccer Eleven 9
Total Garbage: Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure

I play my share of DS games but I thought I should defer to an expert. In order to get a more accurate view on the Nintendo DS scene I had my 12-year old son Connor ( a devout DS gamer) share his views on the best games out right now for the DS. My comments are in italics.


1. Super Mario 64 DS - Its just like the original N64 version but with way improved graphics, new areas, 30 more stars, 3 new playable players and a fun multi-player mode with up to four people at a time. (Great game but the star collecting can be very time consuming.)

2. New Super Mario Bros - Wow! What a fun game! If you've played Super Mario World on the SNES, you'll notice a similarity. The worlds are now 8-12 levels long instead of 4. Though there are still 8 worlds. Like Super Mario World, the secret finding can be very frustrating. Other than that, it has great graphics and fun gameplay. (Personally, I would have put this game as #1 but I'm old school.)

3. Metroid Prime Hunters - This is another chapter of the seemingly endless series. I've only played the demo (I'm a cheap Dad, what can I say) but it looked fantastic. The demo I played was great fun but the controls were frustrating. Get ready to curse at your double-screened gameboy until you figure out the controls. Not that I would curse. (At least not in front of me.)

4. WarioWare: Touched! - It may be a weird, cooky game but really who can resist moving a baby with a stick so he can whiz on a fire to put it out. Or even popping balloons! So it is weird and a little cheesy but its still a really fun game. (Once again, proof that parents need to be aware of what games their kids are playing.)

5. Tetris DS - Everyone knows the catchy theme song to the original Tetris. This game offers other themes, like Mario, as well. You can still play the same Tetris game everyone loves but you can also get a new challenging mode called mission mode. Here you are commanded to clear 3 rows in a row or clear 2 rows with the green piece. Or if you're really bored, do puzzle mode and solve totally impossible Tetris puzzles. So all in all, a good game. (I really like this game as well but would've ranked it much higher. My wife and son have competitions with this game. You know its pretty good when you can get your wife to play a game.)

Looking forward to: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Top 5 Games on the Xbox 360 and PC

What is up?!? I hope everyone had a great 4th. I took a little time off and I'm now ready to get back to it.

There are some great games coming out within the next few months but before we get bombarded with tons of new console hype, I thought I'd take a little time to discuss the best games you can play right now, this very minute. There are plenty of solid titles out there and if you're looking to get an Xbox 360 or if you're not quite ready for a console upgrade yet, this is information you can use to feel good about extending the life of your system.

Over the next two posts I'll cover the Xbox 360, PC, PS2 and the Nintendo DS. Why these consoles? They're the most popular and have the best games. I left the Xbox off since it has many of the same games as the 360 and if its not on the 360 they are often backwards compatible. I also took the liberty of not including any game older than 1 year (sorry GTA, Halo and Metal Gear franchises). Lets get started.

Xbox 360

1. Elder Scolls IV: Oblivion - This game is just mind blowing. The graphics are top-notch, the options are endless and the game play is so deep, you could take a month off work to play this game and still not do everything available inside.

2. Call of Duty 2 - Do you know when you have a great game? When you keep telling yourself that you need to spend more time with it, like a family pet or something. That's how I feel about this game, like I neglect it. Yes, I need psychiatric help.

3. 2006 FIFA World Cup - I'm sure this game is higher on my list than it is for most people but I don't care. This game is a lot more fun than the last Madden on the 360 was and right now I'm still caught up in World Cup fever.

4. Project Gotham Racing 3 - I'm not really into racers but this game has changed my mind. Beautiful autos, some sweet garages to put them in and challenging but still fun game play make this game a blast.

5. Fight Night Round 3 - This game makes my top 5 because its the most fun game to play with your brother after a night on the town. Or so I read somewhere.

Honorable Mention - Table Tennis, NBA 2K6, Top Spin 2, MLB 2K6
Looks promising but haven't spent enough time with - MotoGP, Hitman: Blood Money
Overrated now that I've had time to think about it - Perfect Dark Zero


1. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Is this a coincidence? No way! One of the reasons why the 360 version is number one is because it plays almost exactly like its PC cousin. Great game no matter what system its on.

2. Civilization IV - A brilliant strategy game with a beautiful presentation and best of all, narration provided by Mr. Spock himself.

3. Half Life 2: Episode One - Incredible game play with great voice acting and dialogue. Too bad its so short.

4. Call of Duty 2 - What's the deal with PC games and numbers? Can no one figure out a creative way to name a game anymore? I guess it doesn't matter as once again a game on both the PC and 360 makes the top 5 list.

5. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 - Once again, a game on my list that might not be on most others. For some reason I really prefer to play this game on the PC.

Honorable Mention - Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II, Age of Empires III
Looks promising but haven't spent enough time with it - Condemned: Criminal Origins
Completely overrated - Anything with the words "The Sims" in it.

Now its your turn. Did I miss one of your favorites? Let me know.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Rant: Get that vacuum cleaner out of my pocket Mr. Kutaragi

"Its probably too cheap." President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment on the $600 pricepoint for the PlayStation 3.

"The first 5 million consumers are going to buy the PS3 even if it didn't have games." Sony Computer Entertainment Europe CEO David Reeves.

Arrogance. That's the first word that popped into my head when I read those comments. I don't know what bothers me more, the fact that Sony thinks their product is a bargain at $600 (lets face it, no one is going to buy the low-grade $500 version) or that SCEA Europe CEO David Reeves is probably right. Yes, Sony has brand loyalty on its side. But is brand loyalty a good thing. As a former PlayStation fanboy who was loyal to a fault my answer is no. Am I saying the PS3 won't be an awesome machine? Am I telling you it won't be worth the money? Am I saying I won't buy one anyway? No. What I'm saying is that gamers need to be smart consumers and not buy something just because of your history with a device or because you feel loyalty to a gaming company. Do you honestly think your loyalty is going to be rewarded? Hell no! Nobody from Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft is going to be sending you a Christmas card thanking you for buying their system. You won't be getting any discounts and reduced prices on games because you've owned a PS1 and a PS2 and are now buying a PS3 and Bill Gates won't be stopping by to play games with you if bought an Xbox and now own a 360.

Gaming manufacturers aren't loyal to you, so you should feel no remorse about switching platforms if you so choose. We all have our personal preferences but when deciding on a next-gen console, here are a few things to consider.

Blu-Ray vs. HD - The biggest reason why Sony is so much more than the Wii and the Xbox 360 is because it can play Blu-Ray DVD's. These players will normally retail for around $1000 so if you're buying a gaming console/Blu-Ray player for $600, its quite a bargain.

The big question: Are DVD's going away anytime soon? If you think DVD's are going the way of VHS tapes within the next year or two, having a Blu-Ray player might be important. But as of right now, there doesn't seem to be a big push in Hollywood for the formats to change. In addition to that, no one in the entertainment industry can seem to make up there minds on whether the new format will be HD or Blu-Ray.

The answer: Right now having a Blu-Ray player just doesn't seem that important when shopping for a gaming console.

Which system is truly next gen? - I'll be honest, I think I initially underestimated the Nintendo Wii. I think its low price point and high curiosity factor will make it a system most gamers will own along with either an Xbox 360 or PS3. Its also, at least visually, not on the next level with Microsoft's or Sony's offerings either. This leaves you, if you're looking for the best gaming console, to choose between the PS3 or 360.

The big question: Which system, if any, is better than the other? I'm leaving the Wii out of this argument because the two heavy hitters are the Xbox 360 and the PS3 pure and simple. But which one is better? I guess that depends on your definition of "better". To me, better means superior graphics, top notch online offerings and a better game library. Since the PS3 isn't out yet this is almost impossible to answer...but lets try. Judging from E3, the graphics on both systems seem almost identical, so that's a push. Sony hasn't given any real details about its online presence, other than to say it will most likely be free. I'm sure they'll take some heavy cues from Microsoft in this department, which would be a very good idea. That leaves us with a better gaming library. Sony has the Gran Turismo and Metal Gear franchises. Microsoft has Halo and it appears Gear of War will be huge. Everything else will be the same. Although the announcement of GTA 4 coming out on both consoles at the same time was huge for Microsoft.

The answer: As of right now these systems don't seem to have any major differences that would make you pick one over the other...except the $200 price difference.

How much do you want to spend? - This is the second most important question you need to ask yourself when choosing a console (I'll get to the most important in a minute). If you spend an extra $200 bucks on the PS3, you're counting on the development of Blu-ray discs and that as time goes on that the more powerful PS3 will eventually make games that are visually superior to the Xbox 360. If you buy an Xbox 360, you believe that the next video disc format is probably another console generation away, like dealing with an online service you know is outstanding and believe that visually both consoles will be more or less equal.

The big question: Which system is a better value?

The answer: That depends on what you want. If you just want to play fun games, its the Wii. If I want something that plays next-gen games and DVD's, I go with the 360. If I believe I'm making an investment in Blu-ray and I have the money, I grab a PS3.

Okay, enough screwing around. How do I choose? - That's easy. The most important factor when buying a gaming console is the games themselves. And this is a question only you can answer. Are you a diehard Metal Gear fanboy and can't live without it? Than the PS3 is for you. Do you like fun, innovative games and love Mario so much you dressed as him for Halloween? You need a Wii. Are you anxiously awaiting Halo 3 more than your wedding day? Grab an Xbox 360.

The big question: Alright Mr. Know-It-All, what do you own?

The answer: I currently own a PS2 and an Xbox 360. My son's getting a Wii for Christmas so this leaves me with the question of the PS3. I'm going to get one for reviews. No, The Gazette doesn't buy consoles for me. I have to buy them on my own. But would I buy one if I didn't have to? Yes, but only after the price drop. Right now there is nothing out there to make me believe that the PS3 is going to be superior to the Xbox 360. The Blu-ray factor just doesn't sway me into spending an extra $200. If they were the same price, that would be a different story. Of course my opinion could change in the coming months and could drastically change after I actually own a PS3. Should any of this matter to you? No. My gaming situation (didn't want to wait for the PS3, had problems with the PS1 and PS2) is probably different than yours. I'm certain that no matter what console you choose will be thouroughly enjoyed. Just don't let brand loyalty sway you. I'd drop my 360 like a bad date if it started to give me problems. I spend too much money on gaming to put up with inferior games or products. I hope you feel the same way.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Mole: Xbox Live Unplugged

In case you were wondering, I have no idea why the last post is on the blog twice. It's some weird glitch and I can't get rid of it. Here's the latest news.

Arcade Me - One of the coolest features of the Xbox 360 is the Xbox Live Arcade, a bunch of fun games that can be downloaded online for a small fee. Those games have now been put together as its own seperate game called "Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged" that will sell for a tentative price of $39.99. The release date is set for September 2. The list of games hasn't been confirmed but judging from the box art for the game on the right, it includes: Geometry Wars, Wik: Fable of Souls, Bejeweled, Hardwood Backgammon, and Texas Hold'Em Poker. What I want to know is - where the hell is Cyberball!

Oh great, just what I always wanted - Nintendo has announced that the DS Lite will be available in "Noble Pink" in Japan starting July 20. There was no announcement on when/if everyones favorite color will be available in the U.S.

This game just keeps getting better - Showing how to keep a great game fresh and relevant, Activision recently released five new multi-player maps for the Xbox 360 version of "Call of Duty 2". The pack is currently available for 800 Microsoft Points (about $10) on Xbox Live Arcade and includes the following locales: Antonville, France (Crossroads), St. Louet, France (Newvillers), Amaye sur Seulles, France (Normandy), Alam Halfa, Egypt (Decoytown) and Rostov, Russia (Harbor).

Since "Duty" (tee hee, I just wrote duty) came out Activision has released 9 multi-player maps. Sheer brilliance! Here is a game that came out in November of last year and through its excellent game play, superior graphics and frequent updates remains one of the best games on the 360. This is the way gaming companies show that they still care about a game, and gamers, after its been launched. I know for a fact I'll be snapping up "Call of Duty 3" when it comes out this fall, if only because I know Activision will keep adding content to an already great game. This is how Xbox Live Marketplace should be used. Now EA should follow this lead by offering updated rosters and player rankings on its sports games.