Friday, December 29, 2006

Ho Ho Ho

What is up?!? I hope everyone had a great Christmas. Mine wasn't too bad. I got a laptop (which I'm typing on now), a six-pack of grape soda (its like catnip for me) and a Hess truck (long story). Of course it wasn't all good. I was forced to sit through "Little Miss Sunshine" on my flight to Boston, I've shoveled more snow the past two weeks than I have in the past two years and the gaming industry is slower than an Xbox Live movie download. But hey, I'm still on vacation so I can't really complain.
Like I said, its been slow the last week or so I don't have much in the way of news. Expect a year end entry within the next few days. In the meantime, here's something interesting I found online. As for New Years, don't drive drunk but have a great time. And, as Abraham Lincoln once said: Party on dudes!

Pro Baseball Gaming League - Early in 2006 my buddy Snoop Dogg decided to start his own celebrity video game league. A bunch of athletes joined in the fun, including Chad Johnson, Carmelo Anthony and Cobi Jones.
While Snoop was the figurehead of the league, media company GGL was flipping the bill. Now GGL last week announced the formation of a second gaming league featuring professional baseball players.
The Pro Baseball Gaming League will pit pro ballplayers against one another and, ultimately, against fans. This league's Snoop Dogg is Yankees centerfielder Johnny Damon (pictured with Drew Barrymore when I was actually able to root for him), who will serve as commissioner.
While the league is made up of baseball players, evidentally even they get bored with the game as the first title designated for competition is Project Gotham Racing 3.
Fourteen athletes have signed up for the league, including Craig Hansen and Julian Tavarez (easily the worst pitcher in the AL) of the Boston Red Sox, Matt Holliday and Willy Taveras of the Colorado Rockies, Josh Barfield of the Cleveland Indians, Corey Patterson and Rodrigo Lopez of the Baltimore Orioles, Mike Pelfrey of the New York Mets, Seth McClung of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Luke Hochevar of the Kansas City Royals, Dallas McPherson of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Derek Lowe of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Gamers can register for the public fan-based league for a shot at playing against one of the pros. To sign up or get more information, head over to the

Friday, December 22, 2006

All I Want for Christmas...

I'm a techno/media/music nut. I don't know if it has to do with being a gamer or not (I think it does) but I love new technology when it comes to anything with any form of media entertainment. I have no idea how most of these things work, I'm not quite smart enough, and don't really care. I just like the convenience and ease of having things I enjoy readily accessible. With all of that in mind, here is a short gift guide that other gamers might enjoy to spend those gift cards your sure to get this holiday on.
Xbox 360/Nintento Wii/PS3 ($250-$600) - What? You think a video game columnist isn't going to start with consoles? Ha! The great thing about these three (if you can find them) is that there is something for everytype of gamer, from casual to hardcore, with every type of budget.
Rocky III and Rocky IV - Most of these new consoles play DVD's right out of the box (don't blow a ton of cash on the yet to be resolved HD or Blu-ray movie system just yet) so why not buy something to play on it? With the newly released Rocky Balboa out, why not pick up the best two movies in this series, Rocky III and Rocky IV. For any child of the 80's, this is required viewing. Best of all, you can get these flicks on the cheap online.
Video iPod ($250-$350) - These things are great! They play music, movies, TV shows and music videos. You can also buy games for it like Tetris, Pac-Man and Texas Hold'em for when you need to get your game on.
iRecord ($200) - Can't find what you want on iTunes? Want to move some of your favorite movies or TV shows to your iPod and not have to pay for it? Want to movie that tape you recorded of when you broke your brothers heart in Madden on a last second Hail Mary to your iPod so you can show it to all of your friends (not that I would ever do that)? Then you need an iRecord, a device that lets you transfer your favorite movies and TV shows directly to your iPod. Check it out at
Slingbox ($180 - $250) - I've been hearing commercials for these on Jim Rome for years and was never really curious until I got a laptop. This works in conjunction with your TV and TiVo so that you can watch what you've recorded on the road. Great for the traveling man to watch recorded episodes of GameHead or XPlay on. Check it out at
In other news - Evidently as a Christmas gift to gamers, Microsoft announced today that its 90 day warranty that comes standard with the purchase of its Xbox 360 console is now a 1 year warranty. In addition, this warranty change is retroactive and includes any and all Xbox 360 consoles that have been purchased (which would have been great to have when I bought mine last November, then I wouldn't have had to buy the one offered at the store I got it at). The warranty last 1 year from the date of purchase. Here's a direct quote from the Microsoft press release:
"Effective today, the one-year warranty is now the standard for the Xbox 360 console. Customers who experience hardware issues with their Xbox 360 within one year of purchase can have their consoles repaired at no cost. Moreover, the new warranty policy is retroactive, so consumers who may have already paid for an out-of-warranty Xbox 360 repair within one year of purchase will be eligible for reimbursement of their console repair charges."
"Customers who have already paid out-of-warranty repair charges within their first year of ownership can expect reimbursement checks for the amount of their console repair in approximately 10 weeks. Reimbursements will be automatically distributed, so customers need not contact Microsoft. Customers who have questions regarding this policy change or experience any hardware issues should visit where they can check their warranty status, find troubleshooting information for common issues and find Xbox support contact information."
And finally - I hope everyone has a great Christmas and an awesome New Year. I'm on vacation starting today so check back in a week for new posts. Peace out!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Locutus of Borg

Where no man has gone before - Being a huge Trekkie fan (and yes I've been to a Star Trek convention but no, I didn't dress up) I'm as happy as Captain Kirk being held captive by a curvy green alien babe. Why? Because Star Trek Legacy came out for the Xbox 360 last week and I can now download Star Trek themes and pics through Xbox Live Arcade.
Is Kirk or even bad boy Locutus available? Unfortunately not but I'll take what I can get. Pics and themes run from 100 points ($1.25) to 150 points ($1.87) each for packs of Romulan, Klingon, Borg and Federation wessles.
What a Slimeball - Yahoo reported that earlier this month, a Wii buyer in Austin, Texas filed a suit against Nintendo, alleging the publisher of violating the Washington Consumer Protection Act (Nintendo is based in the state of Washington, where the suit was filed) by engaging in "unfair or deceptive practices" by telling consumers that the wrist strap was to prevent the controller from flying out of a user's hand during use, and then providing a strap that was "ineffective for its intended use." The suit also claims that the Wii Remote strap's problems constitute a breach of warranty, and seeks to become a class-action suit in which anyone who has purchased a Wii would be able to join.
In his original filing, the plaintiff demands Nintendo cease what he sees as its unfair and deceptive practices, to refund or replace the strap with one that works as intended, reimburse him for legal expenses, and "such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper."
It never ceases to amaze me how greedy people can be. This is the same kind of person who sues McDonalds because they burned their tongue on hot coffee. If this guy spent half as much time trying to make money by having a regular job, he wouldn't need to sue Nintendo and waste tax payers expenses on frivolous lawsuits like this. Jerk.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Mole

Its been awhile since I've handed out some news and conjecture so here you go.

Backwards Compatible - For the first time in a long time Xbox has announced some new titles that are now backwards compatible on the Xbox 360. This of course, leads to the never ending question "Forget backwards compatiblilty, where the heck is Cyberball for Xbox Live Arcade?"

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Burnout 3: Takedown, Conker: Live And Reloaded, Dead or Alive Ultimate, Destroy All Humans!, Dynasty Warriors 4, Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick, Family Guy, Far Cry: Instincts, I-Ninja, Indigo Prophecy, Incredibles, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Moto GP, MX Unleashed, Open Season, Pariah, Psychonauts, Rainbow Six Lockdown, Rapala Pro Fishing, Scarface, Shark Tale, Shenmue II, Soul Calibur 2, Splinter Cell: Double Agent, The SpongeBob Square Pants Movie, Ultimate Spiderman, Wakeboarding Unleashed: Featuring Sean Murray, Whacked!, Winback 2: Project Poseidon, Xiaolin Showdown

Gears gets a double - On Friday, Microsoft announced that Gears of War has gone double platinum, selling 2 million copies worldwide in 6 weeks with 1 million of those in the U.S. This makes Gears the fastest selling Xbox title ever. At least until GTA 4 and Halo 3 come out.

In other Gear news Epic has made a smart decision as any and all downloadable content for the game will be free. What exactly that content is wasn't announced.

Why don't you put the girl in charge! - Last week an exclusive agreement was announced between 20th Century Fox and Sega to make next-gen games based on the Alien movie trilogy. While multiple titles are in pre-preduction, gamers will have to wait until (gulp) 2009 to get their Ripley fix.

Strapless - You may have heard the stories about the Nintendo Wii-mote straps flying off and busting up peoples TV's (personally, I think its a big publicity stunt). Nintendo is offering up a voluntary strap exchange program for gamers who are interested. Go to to fill out a replacement request form.

And finally - I talked about the 2006 Spike TV Video Game Awards and forgot to mention one of the best parts, the debut of the World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade trailer. You can check it out here

Saturday, December 16, 2006

And I hope they burn in...

On Wednesday Spike TV aired its fourth annual video game awards. I usually try and catch it every year, excited that gaming has its own awards show but then halfway through I remember why I never make it to the end - its not very good. Oh it has its moments but it needs a major make over. If Spike wants its award to be taken seriously, it needs to get a little more serious. Get rid of all the F-bombs and jokes about body functions but keep the humor. Having a high profile host is great but the odd mix of presenters (Seth McFarlane and that chick from myspace? She can't really be considered a celeb can she?) was a little off-putting. Gaming is fairly well established now, these awards (again, IF they want to be taken seriously) should reflect that.

I can't really argue too much with the winners and losers. Most of the nominees were certainly deserving and most of the big winners (Oblivion, Gears) earned their proper respect. I'm a little disappointed that Lynda Carter didn't win Best Supporting Female Performance, after all, she's freakin' Wonder Woman for crying out loud! Jen from Prey should have gotten Cyber Vixen of the Year but whats more disturbing is that Princess Peach was even nominated. Are you kidding me? They couldn't have found anybody else but a chick from a kids game? How about the girl from Need for Speed Carbon? I also disagree with best multiplayer game. I think COD3 and Resistance are much better than Gears online but thats just me.

Below are the lists of the nominees with the winners in bold type.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda), Okami (Capcom/Clover Studio), Gears of War (Microsoft/Epic Games), Guitar Hero 2 (Red Octane/Harmonix), Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (Ubisoft)

CRITIC'S CHOICE (game to be released after 11/15/2006 but before 12/31/2006)
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Nintendo/Nintendo EAD), Resistance: Fall of Man (Sony Computer Entertainment America/Insomniac Games), Medieval II: Total War (Sega/Creative Assembly), Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (Ubisoft Montreal), Wii Sports (Nintendo)

Burnout Revenge, Xbox 360 (Electronic Arts/Criterion Games), Need For Speed Carbon (Electronic Arts/EA Black Box), TOCA Race Driver 3 (Codemasters), GTR 2 (10tacle Studios/SimBin Development Team)

Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis (Rockstar Games/Rockstar San Diego), EA Sports Fight Night Round 3 (Electronic Arts/ EA Chicago), Tony Hawk's Project 8 (Activision/Neversoft ), Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 (Electronic Arts/EA Redwood Shores), Top Spin 2 (2K Sports/Power and Magic)

Dead Rising (Capcom), New Super Mario Bros (Nintendo/Nintendo EAD), Okami (Capcom/Clover Studio), Saints Row (THQ/Volition), Bully (Rockstar Games/Rockstar Vancouver)

NBA2K7 (2K Sports/Visual Concepts), Madden NFL 07 (Electronic Arts/Tiburon), NCAA Football 07 (Electronic Arts/Tiburon), FIFA 07 (Electronic Arts/EA Canada), NHL 07 (Electronic Arts/EA Canada)

Lara Croft - Tomb Raider: Legend (Eidos Interactive/Crystal Dynamics), Alyx Vance - Half-Life 2: Episode 1 (Valve), Princess Peach - New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo/Nintendo EAD), Enrica - Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent (Ubisoft Montreal), Jen - Prey (2K Games/ Human Head Studios/3D Realms)

"LocoRoco No Uta" by Nobuyuki Shimizu and Kemmei Adachi, LocoRoco (Sony Computer Entertainment America/SCE Studios Japan), "Heavenly Star" by Genki Rockets, Lumines II (Buena Vista Games/Q Entertainment), "Helicopter" by Bloc Party, Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure (Atari/The Collective), "Summer Shudder" by AFI in Madden NFL 07 (Electronic Arts/Tiburon), "Lights and Sounds" by YellowCard, Burnout Revenge-XBOX 360 (Electronic Arts/Criterion Games)

Guitar Hero 2 (Red Octane/Harmonix)Madden NFL 07 (Electronic Arts/Tiburon), Scarface: The World is Yours (Vivendi/Radical Entertainment), Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (Rockstar Games/Rockstar Leeds / Rockstar North)

Clover Studio (Okami), Relic (Company of Heroes), Cliff Bleszinski /Epic Games (Gears of War), Todd Howard / Bethesda Softworks (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion), Harmonix (Guitar Hero 2)

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda Softworks), Bully (Rockstar Games/Rockstar Vancouver), Electroplankton (Nintendo), Okami (Capcom/Clover Studio), Final Fantasy XII (Square Enix)

Tekken: Dark Resurrection (Namco Bandai), Dead or Alive 4 (Tecmo/Team Ninja), Mortal Kombat Armageddon (Midway Games), Street Fighter Alpha Anthology (Capcom), God Hand (Capcom/Clover Studio)

Black (Electronic Arts/Criterion), Prey (2K Games/ Human Head Studios/3D Realms), Half-Life 2: Episode 1 (Valve), Gears of War (Microsoft/Epic Games), Call of Duty 3 (Activision/Treyarch)

Company of Heroes (THQ/Relic), Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (Ubisoft), Call of Duty 3 (Activision/Treyarch), The Outfit (THQ/Relic), Battlefield 2142 (Electronic Arts/EA UK/DICE UK)

Gears of War (Microsoft/Epic Games), Okami (Capcom/Clover Studio), Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (Ubisoft), The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda Softworks), Company of Heroes (THQ/Relic)

New Super Mario (Nintendo/Nintendo EAD), Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day (Nintendo), Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (Rockstar Games/Rockstar Leeds/Rockstar North), Tetris DS (Nintendo), LocoRoco (Sony Computer Entertainment America/SCE Studios Japan)

Diner Dash (Glu Mobile), SWAT Force (Vivendi/KAOLink), Tower Bloxx (Digital Chocolate), Super K.O. Boxing (Glu Mobile)

Gears of War (Microsoft/Epic Games), Company of Heroes (THQ/Relic), Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (Konami/Kojima Productions), Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (Ubisoft), Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent (Ubisoft Montreal)

Wii (Nintendo), PS3 (Sony Computer Entertainment America), DS Lite (Nintendo)Electroplankton (Nintendo)

Company of Heroes (THQ/Relic), Half-Life 2: Episode 1 (Valve), Battlefield 2142 (Electronic Arts/Digital Illusions CE), Star Wars: Empire at War (LucasArts/Petroglyph), The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda)

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda), Final Fantasy XII (Square Enix), Kingdom Hearts II (Square Enix), Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (Square Enix/tri-Ace)

Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (LucasArts/Traveller's Tales), The Godfather (Electronic Arts/EA Redwood Shores), Scarface: The World is Yours (Vivendi/Radical Entertainment), The Sopranos: Road to Respect (THQ/7 Studios), Family Guy (2K Games/High Voltage Software)

Seth MacFarlane in Family Guy (2K Games/High Voltage Software), Gerry Rosenthal in Bully (Rockstar Games/Rockstar Vancouver), Patrick Stewart in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda Softworks), Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow (Bethesda Softworks/7 Studios/Buena Vista Games), Kiefer Sutherland in 24: The Game (2K Games/SCEE Studios Cambridge)

Seth Green in Family Guy (2K Games/High Voltage Software), James Woods in Scarface: The World is Yours (Vivendi/Radical Entertainment), James Caan in The Godfather (Electronic Arts/EA Redwood Shores), Philip Michael Thomas in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (Rockstar Games/Rockstar Leeds/Rockstar North), James Gandolfini in The Sopranos: Road to Respect (THQ/7 Studios)

Vida Guerra in Scarface: The World is Yours (Vivendi/Radical Entertainment), Tia Carrere in Saints Row (THQ/Volition), Emmanuelle Vaugier in Need For Speed Carbon (Electronic Arts/EA Black Box), Keely Haws in Tomb Raider: Legend (Eidos Interactive/Crystal Dynamics), Rosario Dawson in Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure (Atari/The Collective)

Rachel Leigh Cook in Kingdom Hearts II (Square Enix), Elisha Cuthbert in 24: The Game (2K Games/SCE Studios Cambridge), Brittany Murphy in Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure (Atari/The Collective), Mila Kunis in Family Guy (2K Games/High Voltage Software), Lynda Carter in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda)

The Godfather (Electronic Arts/EA Redwood Shores), Family Guy (2K Games/High Voltage Software), Scarface: The World is Yours (Vivendi/Radical Entertainment), Saints Row (THQ/Volition), The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda)

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Bethesda), Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day (Nintendo), Gears of War (Microsoft/Epic Games). Guitar Hero 2 (Red Octane/Harmonix), Company of Heroes (THQ/Relic)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

ESRB Prez Patricia Vance

While working on a yet to be fully evolved article on ESRB ratings
I had a quick chat with ESRB president Patricia Vance. Video game ratings can be somewhat confusing for parents who aren't too familiar with the ratings system and who aren't involved in their kids games. I wanted to know from Ms. Vance what she felt were the responsibilities were from different parties (including her own organization) but she stayed pretty PC with me, which I expected. Here's an excerpt from the interview.

1. What exactly does the ESRB do? Do you feel its effective? If so, how? If its not as effective as it should be, what would make it more effective? What powers do you feel the ESRB should have that it doesn't?

PV: The ESRB's main function is assigning age and content ratings to virtually every game sold at retail in the U.S. and Canada. Beyond that, the ESRB ratings are supported by a strong enforcement system that we administer, as well as the Advertising Review Council (ARC), which monitors print, online and television media to ensure that game publishers adhere to industry-adopted marketing and advertising guidelines. The true measure of the effectiveness of a rating system is whether or not consumers trust and use it, and consumer research shows that 83% of parents are aware of ESRB ratings, and three in four check the ratings regularly when buying games for their children. In fact, a survey of 1,000 parents conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 53% of parents find the ESRB ratings "very useful" (the highest among the various rating systems). Overall usefulness exceeded 90% in that survey, so I think that the ESRB rating system is remarkably effective in terms of serving the needs of parents.

2. What is the role of parents/game manufactures/the ESRB/retailers and even kids when it comes to picking out games with appropriate content?

PV: The role of ESRB is to provide parents with reliable information with which to make an educated purchase decision, and that is precisely what we do for each of the more than 1,000 titles we rate each year. Parents should then be sure to take advantage of that information and consider it when choosing which games they find to be appropriate for their families. The industry has really done a remarkable job implementing an effective and powerful rating system, and retailers also continue their strong support for ESRB ratings, whether through displaying signs in their stores that educate consumers about the ratings, training their store associates about ratings or improving the enforcement of their store policies not to sell M-rated games to those under 17 (which the FTC has measured now occurs 65% of the time at national retailers). In fact, earlier this year the ESRB created the ESRB Retail Council (ERC), which has furthered the commitment of several major retailers on these issues.

3. Is it fair to compare the ESRB to the MPAA?

PV: In some ways I suppose, but the ESRB system does have some advantages. For example, the ESRB ratings are more prominently displayed on both the front and back of game packaging, and that visibility is important in terms of providing parents with clear and easy to find information. Additionally, our content descriptors are standardized and clearly defined on our website. We have over 30 years of catching up to do with the MPAA in terms of awareness, and at 83% awareness of ESRB ratings among parents, the gap is closing quickly.

4. Why do violent games get so much more press than violent movies?

PV: If I had to speculate, I'd have to say it's likely due in part to the fact that video games are the newer of the two and as a result are perhaps not as understood as a medium as are films. Another reason may be the misperceptions that persist about games, that they’re all intended for kids. Many people don’t realize that the average age of a gamer today is actually 33, so it’s not surprising that just like movies and TV shows, games are created for a diverse audience of all ages. So when you consider some of the games in the Mature category and couple them with the misperception that these games are created for kids, the issue tends to appear compelling. It’s worth noting that M-rated games only represent about 12% of the games we rate each year; the E for Everyone category is still by far the biggest.

5. Why have politicians latched on to games as a focus point?
PV: Sounds like a good question for you to ask some of those politicians.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Guess who's numero uno?

Nothing gets gamers in a shopping mood more than the holidays and November proved to be a wallet opening month for gamers. U.S. retail game sales were up 15 percent more than November 2005 and gamers spent (insert pinky in mouth now please) $804 million. And people say gamers don't have jobs! According to recently released sales figures. Game sales were led by Epic's Gears of War (1 million), Final Fantasy XII (896,000), The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (412,000), and Guitar Hero II (356,000).

The console battle rages on with 197,000 PlayStation 3 consoles sold in November, which is a little more than half of the promised 400,000 consoles Sony had plan to ship. Nintendo more than doubled the PS3 numbers and sold 476,000 Wiis. However, of the big 3, Microsoft came out on top selling through 511,000 Xbox 360 consoles. But who was really #1? Top dog? Mayor McCheese? The Nintendo DS which sold a crazy 918,000 systems last month.

But wait there's more! In a report from Bloomberg, Evan Wilson, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities stated, "There's no way that Sony will make its forecast for 1 million units in the U.S. this calendar year. They will face supply constraints at least through March.'' Does this spell trouble for Sony? Its a little to early to tell but it sure doesn't look like they're panicking.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Grading the PS3

I've had a week to put the PS3 through its paces and still haven't found all the little tricks the machine has up its sleeve. Juggling the 360 and the PS3 is like having two girlfriends that don't know about each other (if my 360 reads this, I am so screwed). But for the sake of fairness, here are my initial impressions of the PS3 after 7 days.

You take the good
- Fabulous Moolah: There are three words that I love: "yes", "Doh!" and "free". You'd think with the its pricepoint that the word "free" and PS3 are antonyms but you'd be wrong. The PS3 is WiFi ready right out of the box (with the 360 you have to buy a $100 accessory) and its online service is free and runs as smooth as butter. This truly surprised me. I figured that since it was free and Sony said bupkis about its online service that it would be laggy and suck but it works great. In fact in some games, it runs even smoother than the Xbox 360.

- The Net: Browsing the web can also be done from your TV using the PS3. Sites with a lot of links are a no-no (like but most places I went to I could navigate easily.

- Wired for Sound: One of the best things about the PS3 is how quiet it is. It makes the 360 sound like a lawnmower in comparision. A few times, I've even forgotten that I have it on. After spending a year with my noisy 360 and the even louder cooling fan I bought to prevent it from overheating, the PS3 is like having the house all to yourself after your kids have gone to sleep.

- Blu-ray group: I have no idea who (if anybody) will win this whole Blu-ray/HD battle and to be honest, right now I could care less. I'm in no hurry to trade in my DVD collection. What I do know is that I like having a $1000 Blu-ray player in my $600 console. Would I have bought it as an add on like the 360's HD player? No, but its nice to brag about having one. Sure, it may turn out to be as useful as a laser disc player but at least it plays DVD's as well.

You take the bad
- No killer app: Notice in the above section I didn't say anything about games. Unfortunately for the PS3, it just doesn't feel like a very unique gaming console. Aside for "Resistance: Fall of Man", the PS3 doesn't have any games that you might consider getting the console for and even that game is probably a B or B+ game at best. The PS3 doesn't have a Halo that gamers will want to move up from their PS2's. Add the fact that 360 games look just as good as PS3 games (At least for now. Will the PS3's greater power eventually be untapped?) and what you have is an Xbox 360 thats $200 more expensive and has a new DVD format that looks the same as the old format.

- Online: While the online service is free and the browser is cool, the menu for it blows. Xbox Live is nice and neat and easy to use. The PS3 service doesn't even have a name for itself. Not that I could find it if it did. While I did use the browser, it took me awhile to learn how to use it and won't allow me to go to certain sites. And is it really that convenient to use my TV as a computer? Not really. While online play is smooth, I can't talk to anybody because there are no headsets. While I appreciate not getting cursed at (hello Halo 3), I would at least like to be able to trash talk a little or talk to friends.

- Ice, ice baby: I can personalize the 360 to my hearts content. I can download themes, I can put my own pic as my avatar, I can change my faceplate and I can brag about how great of a gamer I am through Achievement Points. I can do a bunch of stuff to make my 360 as unique as I am. The PS3 doesn't allow for that level of individualization, which it makes it feel a little cold and impersonal compared to the 360.

- Wimpy: I don't like the new controller. Its way too light, feels cheap and doesn't have a rumble feature. I appreciate the fact that they kept the dual shock configuration and its wireless but unless the motion sensor idea turns out great, I prefer the dual shock.

And then you have...the grade
The PS3 earns a B-. Its a beautiful looking machine. It has way more memory than a 360. It plays most of the same games as the 360, the free online service works great and it has some new technology (Blu-ray) that could possibly make it a steal at $600. It also has a ton of potential.

Where it loses points for me is in its lack of originality. Its main and online menus are very generic looking. The controller doesn't pack any punch, I can't trash talk (or talk at all) online, its launch titles are incredibly weak with games I can play somewhere else, there's no killer app and I may very well have this generations Betamax player.

If you have a PS3 and only a PS3 you're probably pretty happy with it right now but not elated. You're wondering when you're going to have a game that will make your 360-owning buddy envious and a movie that will make him cry. If you're a 360 owner wondering if you're missing out on anything, the answer is No. Xbox 360 owners enjoy your system because it has a slight edge, but who knows what the future may bring.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Breaking down the Halo 3 trailer

Freakin' Sweet! - Those were the first words out of my mouth after watching the Halo 3 trailer with my son this evening. I downloaded it from Xbox Live Marketplace (sorry, but I'm not sitting through an Eagles/Panthers game just to see the trailer) and was amazed. Of course there are all sorts of teasers that bring up a ton of questions. If you haven't seen it yet, go to and get caught up. Now, as rap legend MC Hammer used to say: Break it down!

Who are the kids at the beginning? - Right off the bat my first thought was this was the Master Chief as a kid, sitting in the grass staring at the stars and thinking about life on other planets. Just a little backstory perhaps? Maybe he was thinking about a childhood memory while he was knocked out. Of course this begs the question - who's the girl? Is it his sister? A childhood crush? Is she alive? Is it really the Master Chief as a boy or is it just some dream he was having. Will the game even answer this question?

How cool is that grenade shield? - Right before the Master Chief is about to get blasted by some Covenant artillery, he hammers a grenade into the ground that surrounds him with a protective shield. Sweet! Does this mean gamers will be coming under heavier fire than normal? What other tricks and goodies does Bungie have up its sleeve? I'm dying to know.

Who was he talking to? - Near the end of the 60-second trailer, Master Chief was talking to someone on his helmet com and it certainly wasn't Cortana. Is it Cortana's replacement? A new commander? Is it even anyone important at all?

What about them graphics? - Sure its only a trailer but Master Chief looked amazing! He's always looked good but he looked so much more battle ravaged. How close are the graphics in the trailer to that of the game?

On the link above is also a place where you can sign up to be part of the online Halo 3 beta. Give it a shot if you're interested.

In other news...
- ESPN, Electronic Arts will again present Madden Nation – a reality series taking fans inside the world of Madden NFL 07. Airing weekly on Wednesdays, beginning December 13 the eight-episode series will pit the nation’s top 13 Madden NFL 07 gamers—along with real-life NFL player sponsors—against each other in elimination-style tournaments on a 12-city bus tour. NFL players Reggie Bush, Carson Palmer, Michael Strahan and Vince Young will be among the players featured during the tour, including scenes in the actual homes of some NFL players. The finale, which takes place in New York City’s Times Square, will air Wednesday, January 3, on ESPN2. The Madden Nation winner claims a $100,000 prize.

- Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops for the PSP was released yesterday. Portable Ops features a full stealth-action single player story mode as well as wireless features that let players recruit and play as a unique squadron of mercenaries. Set in 1970, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops follows the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and lets players take on the role of “Big Boss” as he establishes the FOXHOUND unit and attempts to topple a revolt instigated by the FOX unit. The game features the return of many Metal Gear characters and completes a major portion of the ongoing Metal Gear timeline, as players participate in the events that directly lead into later games in the series, including Big Boss’ greatest tragedy. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops sells for $39.99 and is rated “M”.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Random Thoughts on a Monday Night

The softer side of AC Slater - You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll likely vomit in your mouth a little as Dancing with the Stars and Saved By the Bell actor/dancer/talk show host Mario Lopez (AC Slater) hosted a party in Santa Monica to celebrate the recent release of Microsoft's "Viva Pinata". While I have no clue what top jock at Bayside High has to do with a kids video game about beating decorative plaster of paris animals into submission, I do know that its funny. Look how happy these pinatas are in this picture! Don't they know whats about to happen to them?!? Run! Unfortunately adult film star Dustin "Screech" Diamond didn't show up. But a Kelly Kapowski or Jessie Spano sighting would've been okay.

Cry Me A River - If you can't get enough karaoke from American Idol, I have good news! The top 10 finalists for "American Idol Video Game" contest have been announced and you can vote on the best (okay worst) performer.

The top 10 finalists will have videos of their performance posted on the Internet until December 22, for a final public voting at the Web site Visitors to the site can rate and comment on each of the performances and also be automatically entered into a sweepstakes to win cool prizes. The finalist with the highest average rating based on total number of recorded votes will be named Grand Prize winner of a trip for two to see a live taping of the American Idol show in Hollywood, Calif. Once the ratings are tabulated, the winner will be announced on January 2, 2007.

You honestly need to look at this. Its like watching a train wreck. I highly recommend David from Dallas as he sings Paula Abdul's "Straight Up". He's magical!

Save the Robot, Save the World - Is the actual subject line I received in an email from Microsoft about the Xbox Live Arcade game "RoboBlitz" that comes out on Wednesday. They had me at "RoboBlitz", which made me think there was possibly a second game about robots playing football but, alas, I was wrong.

And finally... - I'm pulling my hair out with "FIFA 07", its driving me nuts! Scoring goals is like trying to sneak into the Playboy Mansion. It just ain't happening. I want to like this game, I was looking forward to it, but at this point its just a pain in the rear. And what's up with EA now making created players so sorry? PS3 and 360 "Madden 07" create-a-player is ridiculously hard and "FIFA 07" isn't much better. At least in "Tiger 07" I could buy my way to a high ranking create-a-player. If I spend $60 on a game, I should at least be able to choose whether I want to stack my created player or not. Isn't that the point of having a create-a-player in a sports game? So I can do things I normally couldn't?!?! If you have any tips for "FIFA 07", I'm all ears. Expect a review (and not a very glowing one) soon.