Sunday, August 23, 2009

Make a perma-Gmail tab in Firefox

First off, let me say that if you are not making daily visits to you are missing out on some seriously awesome geekery! , which is a little hard to describe. It’s something that sort of needs to be experienced. In their own words they provide tips and downloads for getting things done. This little gem is just another reason why I love what they do. It a quick walk-through for adding a permanent Gmail tab to your Firefox browser. It took me all of about 3 minutes to get set up and I love it already! Get it out and give it a shot.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

District 9 = Incredible

Holy shit! Go and see this movie now!

I could only imagine of what kinds of things this guy could have done had he been given the Halo movie. District 9 had a budget of only $30 million, and it was f'ing awesome! I hope it does well so we can see more from Neill Blomkamp.

Go see it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rocket Riot!

I just spent the past two hours glued to my tv playing this fairly new game called Rocket Riot. Holy shit is this game addicting. It's very similar to Worms... but it isn't turn based... and you fly around on jet packs... and fight pirates. It cost me around 800 M$, yeah i bought it. I really wasn't able to get my fix from just the demo, man I needed more!

Best thing about a game this addicting? No need for seedy alleyways to score some RR, all you gotta do is turn on your 360.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shadow Complex = My own personal crack

I’ve decided to place a general embargo on myself. Until next week I’m forgoing any info regarding Shadow Complex. It’s for my own good, really. I’m getting waaay too excited about it. So until next weeks release, I’m going to try to distract myself from any kind of next-gen-super-metroid-vania gaming nirvana.

Did I mention I’m crazy effing pumped for this game?

The State of XBox Live

I can barely remember what Live was like on the Original Xbox. I can remember all the marketing materials that MS released. You see, back then fellow IMS’er Adam and I both worked at a big box retailer and we had a MS rep who came by once a month distributing sales propaganda and free swag. There were claims of a community of gamers, DLC, online tournaments, and free blow jobs for all members (maybe not that last bit…). Unfortunately, back then the Live experience didn’t quite live up to its grand designs. Only a smattering of games actually supported online multiplayer options and most of the games that did were released near the end of its life cycle. I personally don’t remember playing anything other than Halo 2 over Live.

Fast forward a few years and we can see that XBox Live has become all it was originally conceived to be and more. But is it all fun times and cotton candy or has it become a stagnant mess of micro transactions and broken promises. Since MS is fixin’ to roll out an update to XBL, now’s as good a time as any to take a hard look at what XBL is doing right and what sucks.

Works Great

Multiplayer: Given that this is the backbone and raison d’ĂȘtre of XBL its safe to say it’s an overwhelming success. Finding multiplayer matches is usually quite seamless and rarely is connection speed an issue. Yes, I know there are occasionally issues, but I think most of those lie with the devs, not with XBL. In fact, I can’t remember any major connection issues since the infamous Christmas episode of 2007. Oh, and don’t forget about persistent friends lists and the party system.

Netflix: This is one of my favorite additions to XBL, and when the new patch hits it gets even better. The ability to browse content and watch movies/shows directly from the 360 is nice, but probably should have been in place when Netflix first came to XBL. You still can’t choose what resolution you want to watch your stuff at (that is all taken care of behind the scenes and is based on your current bandwidth) but it now adjusts on the fly to any lag and your video is only paused for a second or two while your video quality is adjusted to keep your stream flowing.

Marketplace: I’m torn about the Marketplace, so I’m gonna cheat and split it up where is see fit. The Marketplace does have some pretty sweet things going for it. I could write for lots longer than I want to about how awesome XBLA games are, how sweet it is to play demos of new games, and how (some) games have some damn good DLC, but I’m not going to. They just are.

1v100: I love me some 1v100! It’s a game based on a TV quiz show. Hit up the link to see what this game is all about. Anyone who knows me knows I’m all about trivia so it’s not much of a surprise that I’m gonna gush on this. There are two different versions of 1v100: the Live games (which have real world prizes but are usually only played on Friday and Saturday nights) and the extended play which gets played all through the week and multiple times a day. I’ve never been the One or in the Mob, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t fun and the lure of being the One will keep drawing me back for more.

Time will tell

Avatars: I’m warming to Avatars. When they first came on the scene it was fun, but they didn’t really do anything. There are a few games that just stick your Avatar on the screen as an additional identifier, but I don’t think that counts. However, it’s looking like our Avatars are going to be doing plenty. 1v100 already features Avatars and Guitar Hero 5 is adding support for Avatars and there are more games coming that put your little dude in the games. Does it add anything to the game? Not really. But I still think it could be cool. There’s also the Avatar awards which will be stuff for your Avatar that is unlocked by playing certain games although there isn’t much info on what that stuff will be.

Avatar Marketplace: I’m not really opposed having clothes and props that you have to pay real money to let your virtual self wear, but so far in the preview there hasn’t been anything that has me opening up my wallet for. All that could change if they offer some Jedi robes…

Total Fail

Ass Hats: There isn’t much do about them, but they are certainly a loud and shitty part of any XBL experience. Don’t think they’re that bad? Ask’s Wombat. He was recently the featured gamer on XBL and his account (and some on his friends list as his list was originally set to public) were flooded by total assholes who left all kinds of bigoted messages. Why? Because they suck at life.

Marketplace: I’m giving a thumbs down to rest of the Marketplace which falls pretty squarely on the Video Marketplace. MS sells/rents TV shows, Movies, and other videos on XBL but prices are pretty steep. An HD movie rents for about $6 and standard def for $4 and an SD episode of Family Guy is $2 which means watching a full season is pretty much out of the question. MS has announced they are adding a new element to the Video Marketplace with streaming HD content. Lets hope they do something about the pricing too.

Last thoughts

In the end, one of the best things going for Live is that MS keeps working to improve the experience and add new features. Some of them may be a little wonky (Netflix parties I’m looking in your direction), but soon they’ll be adding support for Facebook, Twitter, and If those additions payoff, 360 and Live will be taking another step toward being an essential set-top device. But really as long as they keep providing a first rate multiplayer platform for games I’ll keep sending in my $50.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum


I’ve recently spent some time with Batman: Arkham Asylum. Months ago there were a slew of preview articles that hit pretty much all of the major gaming magazines, and ever since then I’ve been waiting in anticipation for this game. As soon as I heard that there was a demo available I hopped onto my 360 dashboard and snagged it. (1.5 gigs! I had to delete a bunch of crap to make room. I’ve GOT to upgrade my HDD!)

During the intro video I paid close attention to the character and environmental detailing, I knew right away it would most likely be one of my favorite parts of the game. I wasn’t stunned by the graphics for I had seen plenty of still images from previous articles so I knew what I was getting into. In full motion though, I was really impressed. The introduction is pretty much Batman hauling The Joker into the Asylum, and as soon as The Joker is separated from the Dark Knight’s close watch he frees himself from the guards and runs off deeper into Arkham.

Soon after Joker runs off, Batman of course follows… right into a trap. Oh no! Henchmen! Combat tutorial commences. The tutorial was simple… Aim Bruce in the direction of a bad guy and then mash the X button. Batman will automatically chain attacks and perform combos all on his own, all while managing only one button. After you drop a few thugs, you learn that you can press Y just before an oncoming attack and perform some pretty awesome counter attacks. Combat flowed really well, it looked great and wasn’t overly complicated. To top it all, the game treats you with an occasional “slo mo” zoomed in killing blow effect, and that happens all on it’s own as well. Very cool addition.

After the combat, you learn the next important mechanic: Stealth. You will learn quickly that this isn’t the type of game where you can take barrage after barrage of machine gun fire and be fine. You NEED to be strategic about combat in this game; pick and choose your battles. You have a few options and tools available that make being undetected a lot easier. First off, by holding down one of the buttons it allows you to crouch and slow your movements. The grapple gun seems like it’ll be a huge part going about undetected. This isn’t Spiderman, so you can’t just grapple onto anything; there are certain “grapple-able” objects on the ceiling that allow you to pull yourself up to. Then once you are up there you can watch over your prey and attack from above as you one-by-one dispatch Bruce’s foes.

Detective Vision is a feature in the game you can toggle on and off, very similar to the recent Metroid games. While detective vision is active, all sorts of notes will pop on the HUD like info on allies, enemies, “grapple-able” objects, items, and secret areas. Definitely a tool you’ll that’ll help you out when you seem to get stuck in the game.

One mechanic that they didn’t cover in the demo, from what I experienced, was using fear as a weapon. In detective mode you can see an enemy’s heart rate and I guess that comes into play later as you can try to freak out bad guys and make them, in turn, put themselves into a more “manageable” situation.

The demo ends, of course, just before a big boss fight. They showed you how you can fight several thugs at once and I’m really curious to see how combating one guy would be like, especially the hulking brute that they leave off at. I could even see them having different play mechanics for each boss in the game. I guess I’ll have to wait and see when I pick up the game after release. I highly recommend checking out the demo, it’s short but very satisfying.

Have you played Batman: Arkham Asylum yet? Let me know what you thought about it.