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Imagine my surprise when I checked the inbox of my humble e-mail to find a message from Microsoft. Well, I get messages about hotmail all the time (damn unblockable spam), but this was different, this was about the Xbox 360. So, what could Microsoft be telling me that I didn't already know? Then I saw the subject line. "Xbox 360 NXE- You have been selected." Me? Selected for the NXE preview? I know Major Nelson said that several thousand would be able to get in early, but since that logic didn't work for me with the LBP beta, I didn't expect it to work this time either. Well, on to the preview.

Downloading the update and installing it only takes 5 or 6 minutes. This is one advantage that Microsoft has over Sony, faster downloads and updates. It took 3 or 4 times as long to update LBP (which I also got yesterday, but that is for another post) to version 1.03 than it took to completely change my Xbox dashboard. Sony, you really need to fix that. Anyway, after the download and install is complete I was then required to select a virtual me. Yes, avatars are mandatory now. Is that a bad thing? No, I actually had a bit of fun selecting my avatar from the 8 standard choices, then customizing it to my liking. The change features tab has 9 choices in customizing your virtual dude (or dudette). You have the option to adjust your hair, eyes, eyebrows, ears, nose, face (facial features such as moles and freckles and facial hair are selected here), chin, mouth, and skin color and body (height and weight are adjusted here). Plenty of options for everyone.

Is that all you can do to your avatar? Nope, you can also select what clothes you want him or her to wear. There are 8 options for adjusting your avatars appearance here. You can choose what top, headwear, makeup (eye shadow and lip color), bottoms, head accessories (glasses and earrings), dress up (a white morning suit and a tan formal suit are here), shoes, and body accessories (wristwear, rings, gloves). The last option is the ability to save and name that special outfit that you just made. From here you get to take your gamer picture. You can zoom in or out, turn your avatar to the left or right, move his or her head around, and take whatever picture that you like. You want to take a picture of the top of your head? Feel free. How about the back? That's OK, too. You can preview the picture and then save if you like it. If you are done messing around with the digital you, you can either start over (if you are break mirrors ugly, you may want to take this option) or save and exit. After saving your avatar he does a little fist pump and a little jig. Now, onto the meat of the update, the dashboard itself.

My first impression of the NXE? I like it. The old dashboard just didn't do it for me. It felt like a step backward on a machine trying to be a step ahead. I never had an original Xbox, but the blades felt like they would have been more appropriate on that machine, not a next gen console. This update changes that for me, it looks cleaner, is easier to navigate, and seems to be organized a lot better then it was. I know some people will disagree with me for saying this, but the NXE has a similar setup to the XMB. Turn the XMB 90 degrees clockwise, use phrases instead of icons on the up/down portion of the bar and use tiles with descriptions and picures on them instead of the option choices for the left/right bar and you have the NXE. Look, I will be honest here, I think the XMB succeeded where the blades failed because of simplicity. The XMB was uncluttered with too much unneeded information and advertisements that the blades were littered with. Having an NXE that takes a few cues from the XMB is not a bad thing, and I applaud Microsoft for realizing it.

Starting out on the new dashboard you have several choices that are called channels. It starts with the Spotlight channel and goes to the My Xbox channel, Game Marketplace channel, Video Marketplace channel, Friends channel, Inside Xbox channel, the Events channel, and finally, the Welcome channel (this channel can be set to hide if you don't want it). I can't stress enough how clean and uncluttered the new system is. Finding the channel I want is as easy as pushing the left stick up or down. When you hit the channel that you want, say the My Xbox channel, you will see additional tiles appear to the right of the main one. Again, using the left stick, you can move left or right to select which subchannel that you want. If you want to see your achievements for example (and who wouldn't?) select the My Xbox channel. From there you will see (if your profile is signed in) your avatar standing there in front of the second tile. Select that subchannel, then move to the right. From there you will see that each game you have played will have it's very own tile, and on these tiles, you will see all the acheivements for that game.

When I say every game I mean every game is shown. If you've played Spongebob just to pad your gamerscore, a tile will show up. Played a last gen Barbie game recently, yep, it'll be there too. On each tile you will see the title of the game, a couple of bars on the right side (signifying the gamerscore and the number of achievements unlocked from that title), date last played and all the achievements available for that game shown below. I love gaming, but I'm obviously not a gamerscore whore as my tiles show. I don't have any of the titles know for score padding and even have a pretty good amount of locked achievements from the games that I have played. Maybe I'll get to those in the future. The bottom line is that with this new system all your information for a specific title is available with just one glance. Instead of having to drill down into a couple of menu options, it's all in plain sight for everyone to see.

Now, the big question. How is the marketplace handled on the NXE? Is it still a pain to try and find that title that you want? Starting off, there are two ways to get to the Marketplace channel. The first is using the main channel options by scrolling up or down to get to the Game or Video Marketplace channels. The second way is to push the Y button while on the Spotlight channel to go directly to the Game Marketplace channel. From here you have the option of selecting All Games, Arcade, Game Add-ons, Community Games, Xbox Originals, Themes and Gamer Pictures, Game Demos, and Game Videos. All of the previous options have 3 main selection tiles asocciated with them. You can select from a New Arrivals, Most Popular, or Browse tiles. These options are pretty self explanatory and basic, no need to go into detail. Now, let me walk you through something that I found interesting. Say, you see that Xbox Originals has just added GTA: San Adreas. Hit the A button on that tile and it takes you to another section with 5 tiles in it. The first shows the price and purchase options, pretty much the same as the old dashboard did. The next title over is the featured downloads tile, not much interesting here. The next tile over is where the new stuff starts. Images and screenshots, about damn time. Now, you can finally see what you are getting before you buy it, granted, not such a big deal with the original titles, but very welcome with gamer pics and themes. The next tile shows some basic information and features that the game has. Finally, the last tile has a full description of the game. What I like about this tile that was fixed from the old dash is that you can scroll the description up and down instead of waiting for it to do it automatically. New features, I love it.

Here's something else new, Community Games. As the description on the NXE says "user-created indie games that are not reviewed by ratings boards." So, some fruit off of the XNA tree has arrived. These are independently developed games that are being sold for 200-400 Microsoft points. These games follow the same basic description format as all the other titles do on the Marketplace, to include a full description and screenshots. There is one difference though. Since these titles are not reviewed by the ESRB they do not have a rating attached to them, enter you and me. These titles are reviewed instead by the community. They are rated from a 0 to 3 scale (0 being none) on violence, sex and mature content. This way little Timmy's mom knows what he should and should not play, just as she would with traditional games. There are only 16 Community Games right now, but expect that number to grow in the next few months.

I think that covers all the basics, oh wait. I forgot about the new harddrive install option. How could I let that slip my mind. This is one feature that I have been really interested in. My main question is not about load times (I really couldn't care less about that) but whether or not the 360's loud disc drive will be silenced by this addition. Let's try it out, shall we? My choice of game to install first is Fallout 3. A decently sized game to start things out. After you insert the disc, go to the My Xbox channel and hit the Y button. This will bring you to a tile with a couple of options on it. One of these options is install to hard drive. After selecting that option the installation begins. Installing the game itself took about 10 minutes to do, not so bad, after all, it'll be worth it if I could actually hear the game while playing it. Now the verdict. The 360 is indeed quiet while playing the game after the install. I started up Fallout 3 to hear...nothing at all.

OK, now I'm completely sold on this NXE thing. There are some great additions to the old formula that make the 360 easier to use and better looking too. I haven't spent any real time with this yet, so I can't say that everything is perfect. I just haven't ran into any problems yet.
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So there I was, driving down the autobahn at 130 KPH, and then it hit me. No, nothing actually hit me, I probably wouldn't be here typing this if anything had. What I meant was that I had a thought. I just so happened to be thinking about the Nintendo Wii and I had a revelation. Well, maybe not a revelation per se, more like a breakthrough.

In the beginning there were a whole bunch of consoles that not many people alive today have ever actually played, so let's jump forward a little bit. In 1985 Nintendo was ready to launch its brand new console to a game deprived public (make that good game deprived public, there were plenty of bad ones around), but there was a problem. After the videogame crash of '83 retailers didn't want to trust a new console, so Nintendo got sneaky. Enter R.O.B., that little gray guy that came boxed with the brand new Nintendo Entertainment System. Notice that videogames console is nowhere in its name, and that was the point. It wasn't a videogame console, it was a toy, hence the addition of the plastic paperweight. And therein lies the problem.

Since the console was marketed as a toy and sold mostly to children, Nintendo got a reputation of being just for kids. This is a reputation that Nintendo has tried to change, but with little success. And now my thoughts on this. Who cares? One thing that you can always count on with Nintendo is great first party games. Sure, they are generally really cartoony, colorful kid games, but guess what? There's nothing wrong with that. Besides, adults still play them too. Mario since the NES days has always been about exploring bright, blocky worlds with lots of not too terribly dangerous bad guys to step on. Super Mario Bros. is most definitely a kids game, but we still love it no matter our age.

See, the problem isn't that Nintendo makes games for kids (once you admit that Nintendo has ALWAYS made games for kids), it's that we grew up and changed but Nintendo didn't. They've always been about the pure fun of the experience, not about the blood or blown apart bodies (one reason why the SNES Mortal Kombat game had gray blood instead of red). I was 12 when I first played the NES and it was very influential to me at that age. When I got older, I looked less and less to Nintendo for my games. My tastes were changing, but Nintendo was still doing the same types of games they did during the NES and SNES generations. Was there anything wrong with that? No, but I didn't think that way at the time. I kept wondering why Nintendo didn't mature with me. Why didn't they make games for the 18 year olds, for the 21 year olds, for the 25 year olds? Why were they still making games for the 12 year olds, like I was in 1986? The answer? Because that is what they are good at and what gamers, true gamers, still want from them.

Nintendo consoles have never been about the same things that the PlayStation has. Or the Saturn has. Or the Xbox has. They are just about the enjoyment of the game, enjoyment for all ages, not just the gamer of average age. Whether we like it or not, Nintendo will always have children close to it's heart, kinda like a not so creepy Michael Jackson. And you know what? That's something I can live with.
It was the worst of times..."

I both love and hate this time of year. The love part is easy to figure out. The holidays are nearly upon us, good cheer and merriment abounds. My favorite time of the year is winter, I tend to sleep better in the cold. My daughter's birthday is next month. One more year closer to college (and out of the house) for her. And of course, a couple more months until my annual pay increase, yeah for more money. But, this time of year is not all good. There is a foul and evil side of this time of the year. What is it? The end of year gaming push by every single damn publisher in existence.

It's the same every year, the fall time frame is crammed full of great games, just in time for the Christmas buying season. Sounds good doesn't it? Well it's not, for the simple fact that games cost money. Lots of money. Money that I don't have is what I'm getting at. Sure, I could get a couple of games each month, but which ones. I have a vague idea of what I want, but damn, they all look so good.

The pressure starts on October 14th for me. I know I'm getting Dead Space. This game has had me interested since I first heard about it. Come on, something inspired by Alien, The Thing, and Event Horizon has to be good. I know some of you are looking to get Rock Revolution that day as well. I don't think it's for me though, I'm not really into the whole rhythm game genre, so that's a pass for me. This week also marks the return of a classic series to console gaming, Golden Axe. This is another one I'm not so sure about, and being such, is a pass at the moment. There's just too many good games coming out that I am sure about. Which brings me to October 21.

This is a day that I am dreading. This day marks the release of one of the biggest hits of last year for the Xbox 360 to the PS3, BioShock. I know some of you are thinking twice about this one due to all the press about the graphics, but don't. In my opinion, nothing that I've read is a deal breaker to me. A few textures that are not quite perfect will not deter me from buying a game with great gameplay and a fantastic story. It's still a buy in my book. But, my book also has many, many other games in it that I want to pick up. Here's my short list of must buy games: Eternal Sonata (another 360 port), Fable II, Far Cry 2, Legendary, LittleBigPlanet and Star Ocean: First Departure. Yeah, I'm not getting all those games, I just don't have an extra $320 lying around. I'd love to get them, but it's not going to happen.

Now, the 28th I can handle. Fallout 3 is the only game I have any interest in on that week. That one is pretty much a no brainer. I wish I could say the same for November, but that is not the case. Starting on the 4th I would love to get Resistance 2 and EndWar. Follow that on the 7th with Gears of War 2 and it would be a great month right there. But the cruelty continues. The 10th sees the release of Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe, followed by Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, Call Of Duty: World At War, Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3, Eternal Poison and Mirrors Edge. ARGH.

Well, that covers the first month, and we're not even to December yet. With so many good games coming out the choices of what to get seem almost endless, and this happens every year. Oh, well. I'll just have to wait until spring to catch up, that being the start of the gaming drought of the year. What about you? What are your must have games for this holiday season?

Now this it truly amazing. Beta keys have been around a quite a while now and are used to help drum up support for an upcoming title, I don't think I've ever seen a beta as in demand as this one is. Why is this particular beta so sought after? I have seen no fewer then 6 different sites giving betas out in the last week, and all have been swamped. It isn't that LittleBigPlanet is a completely original idea. Forge in Halo 3, Dungeon Creator and RPG Maker all had a similar idea, but those attempts pale in comparison to this one. LittleBigPlanet is a title where, in fact, you get to create the game itself. How? By providing you with robust tools and numberous customization options, you are able to design and build your own game levels. Of course, if you so choose, you could just play the levels designed by the developers. But, where is the fun in that?

Now I'm not a really creative person, and designing is not my forte, but damned if I don't want this game too. Why? I don't know really, it's just a little hard to explain. Gimme a second to collect my thoughts on this one. OK, here goes. This game is all about using the imagination that you have. You are not required to have advanced degrees in game design or computer graphics to succeed here. All you need is a vision and the perseverance to make it happen, and frankly, it all boils down to having fun. From what I understand, having fun is pretty easy to do. Just take a look this. Even Adam seemed surprised at what he saw.

Now, it's not all about using the textures and objects that are included in the game itself. You can add whatever you want to the game, and it's only limited by your imagination. Now here's a video that any Xbox owner can relate to. I just love the warthog.

Having the tools and an imagination is not enough in itself to guarantee a game is going to be successful. It has to control well, have a learning curve that isn't too difficult, be fun, and having a bit of personality helps too. That's why I like this next video. This is a short section at the beginning of the game, the tutorial level as it is.

Media Molecule could have made a boring start like many games have done previously, instead, what they do is make you instantly part of the experience. Even though you play through the opening credits, you are getting an opportunity to become familiar with the controls. Not that there is much in the way of controls to grasp. You have run and jump, at least in the beginning. This is very much a pick up and play game.

As we've seen, this game is a little different from the norm. There are no violent deaths with spurts of blood. There are no bullets. And no one is going to cut off an appendage. There may be very little violence in LittleBigPlanet, but, with a game like this, you won't miss it.

I know I've touched on backwards compatibility just a couple of posts ago, but I think it's a subject worth going back to one more time.

It seems that every week I read a story on backwards compatibility and what it means for this and future generations of consoles. One of the latest articles I've read is from The article touches on the benefits and problems with making last gen games playable with this generation of hardware. Of the many reasons, price and technology are the biggest.

Price is the obvious one. First off, if a publisher isn't going to make any money off of an older game being emulated on new hardware what incentive do they have? Writing new software for an old program costs money, and there's no way anyone will spend money on a title that may not sell. Here's an example from the publisher's viewpoint. Of all last gen games on the market, say an Xbox title, are customers more or less likely to be able to buy a new game or a used one? The stores I frequent don't even sell new Xbox games anymore, so what recourse do I have? If I want an older title I have to buy a used copy from either a brick and mortar retailer or order it from somewhere online (Amazon marketplace is a favorite of mine). How much of that sale does the publisher get? Zero. So, why would they spend money making emulation software for a game sale that they probably won't get any money from, when instead, they could be selling you a current generation game for $60? I don't think I need to answer that one.

Hardware manufacturers see it a little differently. Sure, it still costs them money to make old games play on new hardware. And it's also true that they don't get any money from a used game sale, but there is still two ways profits can come in. Number one is having the option for games to be downloaded digitally. Emulation without a disc is a more profitable option for old games since all the software necessary to play the game is downloaded with the program itself, no need for a physical disc and separate software. The benefits for this method of delivery is that the cost of programming emulation software for an older game is offset by the fact that money will be collected and given to the companies that made the game instead of Joe Blow down the street. Also, there's no need to manufacture a physical disc and packaging, thereby saving substantially on distribution costs, but there's a catch. Only games that are projected to provide a profit will get this treatment. Here's the way I see digital downloads: This situation is a win for both sides. On the developer/console maker side, they get the profits that they need to stay in business without spending millions on developing, packaging and marketing a new game. On the gamer side, they get the last gen game that they might not have played otherwise that is guaranteed to work and at a reasonable price.

Now, number two. Having a console that is backwards compatible may possibly increase overall hardware sales. Don't underestimate the benefit of having the ability for core gamers to stick in their older favorites and play them. I know I wanted backwards compatibility when I bought a next gen console. That's why I decided to get the 80 gig PS3 instead of the 40 gig model. The 40 was cheaper, but I could play most of my library of PS1 and PS2 games on the 80. I would have been less likely to buy the 80 gig, the more expensive model, if that option didn't exist. As far as the PS4 goes, though, I don't expect support for PS1 games. It's even likely that PS2 games may not be supported (if any older generations are at all). I think that would be a mistake, as I thought dropping BC for the 40 gig was. But, that's just my opinion.

In this generation, I can see (if not agree with) why Sony didn't include support for older games in some of it's consoles. The PS2 is still selling strong and is still getting new games. With that kind of staying power and wide availability, if customers without BC really want to play a last gen game, they can pick up a new PS2 pretty cheaply. Microsoft is a different story, though. Support for the original Xbox has been abandoned and that makes the need for BC an important feature for the 360's survival. So, why is BC important for the 360? I'll use myself as an example. The 360 is my first Microsoft console. Having that be the case, since the 360 is backwards compatibility, I wanted to go back and get a few of the older games just to see what I missed. To date I have more older games then new. Now, how is this good for Microsoft? I'll tell you. Look at the install base on the old system versus the new. Knowing that current numbers for the 360 just short of it's third year are almost equal to the 5 year total of the original you have to agree that there is the potential for a huge audience out there that has not played any of the older games. Now combine that with the ability to put those old Xbox games on Live and what do you get? Instant, reliable, and possibly substantial, income.

For me, physical discs and backwards compatibility is where it's at. For the console makers, publishers, and developers, though, it's going to be digital downloads in the future. It's a cheaper, faster, and more reliable method of getting the games in the hands of gamers. Maybe I am a dinosaur. Maybe I'll come around in the future. Either way, the guys and gals that put out the games are going to tell me, whether I like it or not.
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There's nothing quite like getting a brand new game. The excitement of trying a new game for me is kinda like when I was a kid on Christmas Eve, and it all starts at the store. First is choosing the perfect game. Then I get to take the game home, that 20 minute drive can be excruciating. After arriving home I get to open the package, with (for whatever reason manufacturers find it necessary) about four layers of plastic. Next comes the power and slapping the disc down on the try or sliding it into the slot. Then comes the waiting, waiting, waiting, through endless loading screens. Finally, I get to push start and play the damn thing. What happens next? One of two things. One, it's a good game that I play for hours. Or two, it's garbage that I play for a few minutes.

Thankfully, the big 3 allow us to try the games before we buy them. I'm talking about downloadable demos people, the best thing to come around since...oh, yeah, disc demos. I love trying out games that haven't even been released yet. It kinda makes me feel like the publishers and developers actually care. Here they are, letting us test out their game before it even gets released. Unfortunately for the people in line to make the money, this can go either way for them.

How many times have you played a demo just to delete it a few minutes later? Sure, it could just be a really early build of the game, but, how likely is it that you would give it a second chance? For me, not really likely. My opinion is that if they can't get it right by the time they've released a demo, it probably won't ever be right. I won't waste my money giving a developer a second chance that they possibly don't deserve. Granted, sometimes the developer will pull through, but getting me to buy a game after that will take a lot of convincing.

And that convincing takes the form of gaming magazines and websites. Both are plentiful out there and all have a different opinion. My advise? Find a publication that you are happy with and stick with them. I have my favorites that I've read over the years. Nowadays, I tend to pick up all the magazines I see in the store and read quite a number of websites, but I still have my favorites.

The bottom line is to find the method you prefer to get gaming info from. Whether from the publisher/developer directly, a trusted magazine, or maybe even an upstart website or blog (hint hint), find something that matches your attitude and style. We all have our favorites, go out and find yours.
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OK, so anyone that's read this blog here knows that I picked up my very own Xbox 360 a few months ago. Having said that I decided to select a newer game for the system when I made my purchase. I was lucky that day and I happily added Mass Effect to my Elite purchase. Why not Halo? The store I purchase my gaming goods from has a very limited selection of games, so I got the best of what they did have at the time. Several months have past now, so what's on the plate today? Like I have for every system I've purchased, I decided to bone up a little on the Xbox gaming history with a few original Xbox titles. Two problems. One, due to my location, I can't download any Xbox Originals from Live. Two, I can only connect to Live once or twice a week due to my internet situation. My solution?

I love buying used games. Why? Because I can pick up great titles (if a little dated) for a usually low price. Does that make me a cheap bastard? I don't think so, because for the $60 cost of a new game I can get 3 or 4 older titles shipped to me instead. With my non-existent budget here at Gaming by GlossGreen (I'll have to talk to my CFO about that) I have to picky about what I get. Simply put, by purchasing older titles I get to buy more of them. Granted, everyone else has played the game before me, but it's still a great opportunity to play good games. I still get the occasional new game, but there are plenty of excellent older ones to try also.

A couple of days ago I received my first shipment of older titles, the first two being Panzer Dragoon Orta and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Both, I understand to be, excellent games. I don't plan to stop there with the original games either. I plan to pick up Fable (in preparation of the release of Fable II) and Conker (a game that was release for the N64 after I had already given up on the platform) in the near future. Unfortunately for me, with my hectic work schedule as of late, I haven't actually had much time to play games, not to say that I've had no time to play. I currently have one of last years 360 games in my tray, Crackdown. Again, as an older title I picked it up pretty inexpensively and still had money left over for another game. Now, when I finish playing through that one KOTOR is next on my list.

What I'm trying to say with this is not to forget about the older systems. Every console has had at least a few must own games with it. Don't be afraid to buy a last gen game. Both the 360 and PS3 (most of them at least) support backwards compatability for a reason. Play an Xbox original. Play a PS2, or even, a PS1 game. But, don't get stuck on a game's graphics quality. Just because a game looks last gen doesn't mean it's not worthy of playing. Get them for the gameplay.
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I know I haven't written anything here for a while, and for that I'm sorry. Unfortunately, I've been more than a little busy. Military obligations have kept me away from my computer and the internet for quite some time. I have been away from my 360 and PS3 for far too long. I was actually in the middle of playing Halo 3 when I had to leave. I finally managed to finish the game, now I'm trying it on Legendary.

I'm going to have to leave it here for now. I know, this post is incredibly short and not so coherent, but I'll get back to my regular writing in about a week and a half. Vacation time again, I am so ready for it.

'Til later,
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Quite a few years ago, Halo was released for the original Xbox. At the time I had a buddy that owned an Xbox and, of course, picked up THE game for it. I admit, I was a Sony fanboy at the time and thought that Microsoft getting into the console gaming business just had to be a terrible idea. Because of that attitude, I initially dismissed the notion of picking up an Xbox or even playing Halo. At the time, I don’t even think anyone else I knew had an Xbox. Bias? Of course, but I’ve matured and learned a lot since then. Like I’ve said before, it’s all about the games. And being all about the games, I recently decided the time was right, so I finally picked up all 3 Halo games.

Let me get this out right off the bat. The first Halo didn’t impress me, and honestly, I don’t get what all the hype was about. The game had decent graphics, a solid frame rate and decent (if limited number of) weapons. What the game didn’t have was a compelling story or very interesting characters. The story itself was standard sci-fi fare, and not very exciting at that. In the future, humans are at war with an alien species with superior technology. Hadn’t heard that one before, have you? The overwhelmed humans are then forced to fight in a previously unknown part of space. Now there’s some groundbreaking writing. And the clincher, both species are confronted by an even worse enemy. Wow, never would have seen that coming. Oh, yes I did. But sometimes even bad plot lines can be forgiven. Star Wars: A New Hope had an equally bad story, but what endeared that movie to fans were the unforgettable characters.

I know people are going to disagree with me about this, but after playing the first game did you have any idea who Master Chief really was? Of course not, how could you? He had no back story, very little dialog, not even a face to look at. The supporting cast of characters also gave me the same sense of…meh. Captain Keyes was just another character; other than the forced story element, I had no compelling reason to want to rescue him. Did seeing his final fate evoke any emotion from me? No, I didn’t care, and why should I? He was just a face with a name, a few forgettable lines of dialog, and nothing else attached. In this game, he’s not the only forgettable one, the enemies are no better. With the exception of the limited dialog of the Grunts, the Covenant forces have zero personality. All you hear from them are a series of shrieks, growls and howls; positively boring. These are supposed to be the baddest of the bad guys in the universe, but hell, they’re not even interesting enough to really want to kill. Oh, and don’t get me started on the Flood (For the record, my biggest gaming pet peeve ever is when constant waves of enemies jump out of some vent or other area that I can’t access. How can 30 of these guys hide in a place like that?).

The bullet sponges themselves may be pretty dull, but at least the act of killing them is interesting. There are several areas where combat is engaging with varied environments, but mostly you’ll fight in a nondescript outdoor area or the same endlessly twisting corridors (ala the library). The few weapons that you get are well designed and actually pretty fun to shoot. Plus, unlike most FPS games, the standard pistol is surprisingly useful in itself. I found myself relying on the M6D many times throughout the game.

Overall, the first entry in this popular series had a solid, if uninspired, start. More importantly, it helped to establish the Xbox as a legitimate gaming console in the eyes of hardcore players. All Bungie had to do next was make Halo better.

Nintendo, hey Nintendo! It's me. GlossGreen. Remember me? We used to play together as kids. Remember the time we used to play Zelda? No? How about Metroid? You don't remember that either? I know, it was a long time ago, but you seem different these days. It seems like you're trying to be someone else these days. What happened to you? I remember first meeting you way back in grade school. You were there to pick up the pieces after the whole Atari thing. Damn E.T., why did it have to be that bad? Luckily, you were there to swoop in and pick up the pieces. Seeing you in the store for the first time, I think it was a Sears, I remember being excited (as only a grade schooler could). I used to spend hours looking at the box art of games, heck, I even thought R.O.B. looked cool. I know, I was young and didn't know better. Playing the games were great, I could actually tell the difference between my character and a rock. That was a huge improvement over the other guys stuff. We spent hours and hours having fun, and then things got better.

A few years later, you got a slight bit more mature and grew a tad bit bigger. You got smarter and became able to do some pretty cool things. Zelda looked better, Mario could do more things, and Samus had more toys. Those were the good old days, some say the best. I have many good memories playing through those years, but changes were on the wind. A new media for games was on the horizon and you tried to join in. CDs were going to be the next big thing for games. They were cheaper, had more storage, and hell, people just thought they were cool. Too bad you made the wrong choice.

I still stuck by you...for a while. I didn't care that you still used cartridges while the other systems started using CDs. You still had some great games. All the usual suspects were there, and some new ones too. I spent many, many hours playing Rogue Squadron, my favorite Star Wars game to date. Unfortunately, all was not well. At the time, I was starting a family and had a job that didn't pay so well, and there in lies the rub. New games for you ended up costing nearly $70. I couldn't believe it. Why the heck were you so expensive? I know things weren't going well for you against your former partner, but did you really have to cost so damn much? Were you trying to alienate all your friends? Let me tell you, price gauging is not cool. After that things got worse.

I didn't even recognize you the next time you hit the spotlight. You went from a cherished family friend to...a toy. That's what I thought. Sure, Resident Evil looked pretty good, but a cube shape? With a handle? Let's get one thing straight, you were not a portable system. The handle was just stupid. What really got me was the fact that you didn't learn your lesson from the last time. Hello, remember the CD fiasco? Anyone? Why the miniature discs? That's just like a racehorse on the track with a broken leg. You can get some mileage out of it, but it won't go far. I an not ashamed to admit that I turned my back on you then. I thought you'd be done for sure.

Revolution. Now that was a cool name and it showed that you were going to try something new. I was interested, even though I'd sworn you off the last time. You had some big plans and ideas that really impressed me. But you let me down again. What did you choose instead? Wii. What the hell were you thinking? Underwhelming hardware with a stupid name. Looking back at it now, I'd say you were in it for the money. Go cheap with the hardware and take advantage of everyone with garbage software. Even with the occassional Mario, Zelda, or Metroid game you have still lost me. I know you are making money hand over fist these days, but let's be honest. How long do you think this can possibly last? I can see it now, death by shovelware. With games like Gingerbread Man, who needs enemies?

Things aren't over yet, I know you are only half way into your second year and there is still plenty of time to fix things. First, get quality back. Remember the Nintendo Seal of Quality? I took heart knowing that you actually looked at the games that developers were trying to get on your system. Sure, the occassional bad game made it through, but nothing like the old 2600 days. Nothing like an E.T. to be seen. Second, get some games that people like me would actually play. Wii Sports? No. Cooking Mama? Hell no. Ging...Stop right there. You see my point? Remember the old days. Strive for excellent, fun games. Don't just do it because you can. I know Nintendo could slap the Wii name on a rock and sell millions of them, but it doesn't mean they should.

It may surprise you to learn that like 99.9995% of gamers, I was unable to attend E3 this year-or any year for that matter. I know what you are thinking; "How does an incredibly talented and superb blogger like GlossGreen not get an invite to the biggest gaming event of the year"? This is going to sound amazing, but, I'm not actually that important in the gaming industry. Not yet at least. But, no use crying over spilled milk (or no milk in this case).

E3 is definitely one of the most covered electronics oriented events in the world. Granted, it's not as grandiose as it used to be, but it still pulls in the crowds. Gone are the days of binge drinking and booth babes (well, maybe not the drinking part), the party atmosphere, and definitely a lot of the showmanship. I remember reading about my favorite writer's escapades in the latest issue of PSM or GamePro, days, if not weeks, after the actual events happened. Then something happened to change how I got my information. I discovered the internet. I have to be honest here, up until 2 years ago, I didn't even own a computer. My news access was limited to what I could find in print, but no more. Now with sites from all the major magazine publishers, plus independents like N4G, Kotaku, Hooked Gamers, and Ripten, I have all the news I need. Almost.

It's kinda funny sometimes. I happen to visit a site almost everyday, but I can still miss something. I did that today. My wife says I'm the most unobservant person she knows (next ot our daughter), and here, she is absolutely right. I regularly visit IGN for gaming new, plus I also post these blog posts there. What I didn't notice is one of the links right on the front page. On the left side, not too far down from the top, was a link to their Live Wire Show. I had no idea what that was, thankfully, now I know.

Live Wire is where IGN is broadcasting LIVE all the press conferences from E3. I know a few other sites are doing that, too, but Live Wire looks absolutely amazing. I just watched the first few minutes of Microsoft's press conference and I have to say that seeing all that live impressed the hell out of me, and of course, my inner fanboy. Instead of waiting for the written press coverage, or days for a video, I can see the whole thing live. I get to see what was-previously-only available for those people that could attend the show. We get to see the first looks, the hands-on demos, the secrets from out of left field that no one even thought about. All from the comfort of my couch.

Does this take the sting away from not being able to attend in person? I does a little-but only a little. One of these days, I will make it to the promised land. Either that or maybe I'll hit PAX one of these days instead. Until that time, back to Live Wire.
By GlossGreen

Ah, vacation. That magic word that makes all the stress disappear - if only for a short time. This time for me was 26 days. 26 days of relaxation, fun, the house. Alright, 2 out of 3 isn't bad, and it very well could have been. I think overall this was a pretty good vacation. I admit, it would have been better if we weren't still unpacking the house, or if we did get away for a while, but we can't have everything. So what did I do during my time off? Lots of stuff.

One of the biggest priorities the family and I had for this month was unpacking the house and setting up my wife's studio in the basement. See, she has a tiny bit of artistic talent and really needs her own space to practice her skills. But only a tiny amount of talent? Actually, she has more creativity in her little finger than I have in my entire body. Luckily for my daughter, she inherited her mother's artistic vision. All she got from me was her interest in gaming. I guess it could have been worse, she didn't get my sense of humor. Back to the story, we have the studio almost done. We just have to buy a couple of bookshelves and move a few boxes around, and generally get the space in order. Almost there.

As far as me, I got really lucky this vacation. Right around the beginning of my time off I received a little gift from good ol' Uncle Sam in the form of my tax return and stimulus money. I, of course, had to be a good American and purchase a good ol' American product. I had my eye on a couple of different things, but I finally decided on what to get. I ended up buying an Xbox 360 Elite with Mass Effect, a good purchase in my mind and one I don't regret making. Since then I've downloaded a few demos and games from Live, got about half the achievements in Mass Effect, and generally enjoyed the 360 experience. I didn't neglect my PS3 during this time though. I also got to experience the whole firmware update 2.40 thing. I do currently have the update on my PS3, and luckily, have had no problems with it. Already, I've managed to get almost as many trophies as I do achievements. Not too bad for just starting out.

I've also spend a little bit of time catching up with some of my favorite shows. I love That 70's Show. I've even managed to watch a bit of The Family Guy (although I like American Dad better). But the one show I most enjoy? That would have to be Red Vs Blue, I'm up to the beginning of season 5 now. The humor and dialog in that series is great. When I was watching it I couldn't help but laugh, my daughter would just look at me confused when that happened. I'm so hooked on the show I sometimes catch myself talking as Vic/Vic Jr. or Caboose. My wife just looks at me and tells me I'm strange when that happens.

It's been too long since I'd taken time off. I didn't do a whole lot, but I still managed to have a good time. I got a new game system. I let my daughter have the storage shed and make it into a club house. I helped to set-up the actual house. I even got out of the house once. I went to the lake with my daughter and took a few pictures. Vacations are great, I can't wait for the next one.
If you don't know what the above numbers signify, then you are not a gamer. Those three little numbers have been all over the internet for the last couple of weeks, and with good reason. See, those numbers are the reference for the next PS3 firmware update, live today. Now why is this update so important? Because Sony is finally trying to level the playing field against Live.

The true importance of this update is two-fold. For the first time, we are able to access the XMB while in a game. This is a very significant event. Now, instead of having to leave the game to adjust Bluetooth headset options or check out that message that your buddy just sent you. Part of having access to the XMB is also the addition of custom soundtracks. To me this is very interesting. No, not because I want to use the feature (I don't have any music on my PS3), but because a couple of months ago Ripten reported that Microsoft holds a patent for in-game custom soundtracks. I guess they don't own this method.

Second, (and just as important for some people) is the addition of achievements, or as 2.40 refers to them, trophies. After downloading and installing the firmware update and the update for Super Stardust HD (which took about 45 minutes total) I was able to try and get a trophy. It didn't take me long, I managed to snag the Tokenizer trophy. The trophy message pops up in the upper right hand side of the screen, a little more unobtrusively then the bottom center placement of achievements. Supposedly there is a noise to accompany it, but with the SSHD soundtrack as frantic as it is, I couldn't hear it. Looking at the trophy list itself in the XMB, listed are the names of the trophies and a description of how to get them. After you unlock a trophy a picture and the date and time information from when it was unlocked are added. An interesting feature to add, to be sure. Now taking a look at this update, I have a question. Will this be enough to compete with Live?

Then answer? It's a step in the right direction. There are still several additions that need to be made in order to be on the same playing field as Live. Cross game chat and invites are probably the biggest faults right now. But, I have no doubt that those features will be added very soon. Sony says it's taking it's update cues from the consumer. If there is a feature you want to see, tell them. Tell your friends to tell them. Tell your forums to tell them. Tell everybody to tell them.

Now tell me, what is the feature - that didn't make it in this update - would you most like to see and why?
I've had a little bit of time to test out my 360, about 2 weeks now, and I thought: "Why not do a review of it"? I know I've never done a review for anything here. I have plenty of opinion pieces. I have a couple of speculation articles. I even have a couple of dreaded lists. But I've never, ever reviewed anything before. Here's my first one, don't be too rough on me about it. Now the only question is...What do I think? I like it. Mostly.

First the hardware itself. I like the look of the console. It has some pretty smooth lines and looks nice next to my PS3. I, of course, bought the elite model to match the rest of my hardware. I don't care too much for the chromed out disc tray, the only feature on the case that I think they could do away with. Why couldn't they make it match the color of the console? The controllers are also a good fit with the console. The black and gray color is great and I do like color coded buttons, they really stand out that way. I also like the size of the controllers (in fact, I like the size better then my undeniably great Dual Shock 3). The button placement seems pretty good. I don't understand the offset sticks, but it doesn't effect the gameplay. I like the feel of the triggers and the shoulder buttons. The only problem I have with my controller is the right trigger makes a damn squeaking sound on occasion. On the plus side, I haven't had any problems with the much reviled D-pad, yet.

Upon power-up the machine works very well. The blades come up very quickly and connects to Live just as well. Navigating the blades is easy. I didn't have any problems finding what I wanted. Upon entering the marketplace things got a lot less friendly. The descriptions of the games leave a lot wanting. Another thing I would love to see is previews of the gamer pics and themes before they are purchased. At this point it's a crap shoot. You may like it, you may not. The problem is you won't know until you pay for it. This is an area that I've read a lot about over the last few months that has been identified as a problem. So why hasn't it been fixed? We don't know, but here's one possible solution.

Playing a game in the drive is one area I have a problem with. As soon as I start a game the 360's incredibly loud fan kicks in. It actually drowns out the sound from my TV. But that is a minor annoyance, the sound fades into the background after a while. Games run smooth, with no problems. The controllers are responsive and are comfortable even after using for hours at a time. The hard drive is efficient and relatively quiet. I hear it every once in a while, but it's not as distracting as the fan is. As far as graphics performance goes, Mass Effect looks really good, but that's more to the credit of the developer and not the hardware. I can't compare the graphics to my PS3 because I don't have the same title for both consoles, and honestly, I really don't care. I'll get a game based on the story and gameplay, not necessarily graphics.

I think that covers just about everything. As you just read, I think the 360 is a good console with a lot of potential. It does have one or two...quirks, but nothing that will keep me from playing it. I've played through Mass Effect and I plan on picking up the first Halo game this month. If I'm going to start with the Xbox, I might as well start from the best and the beginning. One of these days I'll have to pick-up the wireless adapter so I can get a dedicated connection for Live. Eventually, I'll see you all online.


I know the old saying about ignorance and bliss. I get the meaning behind it, too. The logic is that if you don't know about something then it can't effect you. For normal everyday events that may be OK. As far as gaming goes, happiness doesn't come from not knowing about games. Happiness comes from playing the games**.

Here's the reason why I say gaming bliss comes from knowledge. As you all know I recently purchased an Xbox 360. That alone opens a whole world of gaming that I just can't get with a PS3. Now I get the opportunity to play games like Mass Effect, the Halo series, the Gears series, the upcoming Too Human, and many other interesting games. There's one other side to Xbox gaming that I never actually considered before. As I looked back through some of the original Xbox titles a few of them caught my eye. Sure, Halo and Fable were up there on my radar, but then I noticed Doom 3 and Serious Sam II. For typical console gamers those games may not mean much, but for PC gamers, they are well known. And that's what caught my attention.

Now here's where ignorance, my ignorance, really kicks in. I had no idea that there were so many PC titles available for the Xbox. Now, I've never been much of a PC gamer, I got my first computer in 2006, but that never stopped me from having an interest in all types of games. As a kid I used to go into the neighborhood bookstore (that's where they sold PC games when I was a kid) and see the games they had there. I don't remember a lot of the titles of the games they sold back then, but I do remember that they looked a hell of a lot better then my Atari 2600 and NES games did. My family never had enough money to get me a computer back in those days, even though they wanted to, I still kept abreast of advances in computers.

As time went by, I became less and less interested in PC gaming. Console systems were becoming more and more advanced, and were cheaper than buying a PC. I eventually bought an N64, PS1, PS2, a Game Gear, Game Boy, and even an Atari Jaguar, all before I bought my first PC. In picking up a computer I bought a laptop that was decent enough to play games on. I did get a couple of games for it, but trying to keep up with PC hardware was something I didn't want to follow through with. So, I stuck with console games. In doing so I thought I was missing out on some great titles that would never see console form. Well, I was wrong. In my ignorance I was unaware of how many PC games were actually available for the Xbox. I initially dismissed the console, due to reasons I don't even remember now, and missed the whole thing.

After picking my 360 I decided to check out all the titles I've missed, and I was surprised. See, for me, a title's age won't effect my enjoyment of it. A great story and compelling gameplay are all that I require. Heck, even the story is optional in some cases. Needless to say, I've got some catching up to do.

**Disclaimer: Happiness also comes from having a family, such as a wonderful wife that allows me to buy all sorts of gaming stuff and continue with this time consuming and costly hobby. Thanks dear, I love you.


Yes, it's that time of year again. E3 may not be the blockbuster gaming event that it was just a few years back, but it still holds a lot of sway with game developers and publishers. How do we know this? All these damn stories about how a "secret" will be revealed at E3 statements that are being released by everyone, their mother, and the kid down the street. I don't know about you, but I'm sick of seeing them.

I'm of the mindset that if you want gamers to get excited about your product, tell them about it, don't tease them. I know, sounds like a hard concept to grasp right? Well, I hate to break it to the game makers and the gaming press, but if they can't figure that out they are stupid. Take this event from Blizzard that's been getting a ton of press lately. I don't know what your take on this might be, so I'll just give you mine. It's ice. From a company named Blizzard. No challenge there to figure out. If it is about a game then they need to spit it out instead of dragging it out. This what-ever-it-is image seems to be advancing day by day. To what? Honestly, at this point I really don't care.

Here's a good one from the fantastic folks at Microsoft courtesy of

European VP of strategic marketing for interactive entertainment at Microsoft EMEA David Gosen has told MCV that the platform holder will unveil some ‘fantastic surprises’ at E3 this year as it steps up its efforts in the mass market space.

"We’re always working on new things, and you'll continue to hear lots from us that we believe will be game-changing," he told MCV.

That's a pretty bold statement...About absolutely nothing. What is going to be "game-changing"? How about those "fantastic surprises" and "new things". Could it be an announcement featuring Halo Chronicles? I know, how about the theorized code-named Newton controller we've all heard about? My bet is on an announcement about a new hardware SKU or possibly a price cut. Then again it could be none of those things, and probably, nothing that any of us would give a damn about.

Sony most definitely is not immune to hyping themselves up either. The big talk with the Big S is all about Home and firmware update 2.40. As Sony's answer to Live and Achievements the question has to be asked: Will they be worth the wait, and the hype. The problem is that hype can (and frequently does) backfire, just reference the PS3's launch and first year. And there is always the risk that the next big thing that is getting plugged could actually end up being the next Ninjabread Man or some other load of crap.

This time of year has always been full of marketing garbage and shit talking, and I don't see it changing anytime in the near (or far) future. Game makers will always try to peddle their wares, but without telling us the details, how do they expect to sell it to us? I know everyone wants to make a big deal out of their hard work by manufacturing their announcement into a media event. My opinion: Give us the damn info and let us make up our own mind without the force feeding of crap to go with it.


Two days ago I finally bought an Xbox 360. I had been thinking about picking one up for quite a while, but like many, I had my reservations. Obviously, I don't have any reservations now and I bought an Elite on Monday. I went to the store by myself, chose the game I wanted, paid for it and went home. After I got home I let my daughter see what I bought thinking that she'd be excited to have a new system in the house. Boy was I wrong. Before I even had a chance to open the box my sweet, innocent, and carefree daughter was criticizing my decision to pick one up. OK, I've dealt with fanboys on the internet before. I usually respond by spouting logic and then ignoring them, kinda hard to do in this case.

See, here's the thing. I think this is all my fault. No, I'm not a Sony fanboy myself, although for the past several years the only systems I've owned have been of the Sony variety. In 2002 I bought a PS2 for myself. At the same time I bought a Game Boy Advance for my daughter. She was 5 or 6 at the time and not really into videogames as much as she is now. She would watch me play and pick up a controller every once in a while herself, but she didn't really have the skills to have fun gaming. A few years back all that changed.

Starting in 2006 things became different. My daughter was getting more and more active in playing games and more demanding to have more time to play. It got to be so bad that she would try to take the controller out of my hands, not that that actually worked. I finally gave in and sent my PS2 to the dark and dangerous region of the house known as "her room". After that, my daughter's interest in gaming went through the roof. She, like me, would spend hours playing games. She would play games like, Spyro, The Sims, and Kingdom Hearts all day and love it. Last year she kept bugging me to get games like Okami and Psychonauts for her, she knows creativity and quality in games when she sees it. And that trend continued up to a few months ago when I got my PS3.

Now, my daughter hasn't had the interest for the PS3 as much as she has for the old system (which miraculously still works after 6 years). Sure, she enjoys games like Uncharted, but of course, the PS3 resides in the living room and under my control, unlike her PS2. How is this teaching her bias against other systems? Remember, I said I bought her a Game Boy Advance right? Well, she never had any interest in that. We never had an Xbox (until now) or any Nintendo systems in the house during her lifetime. Sega systems are just as unknown to her. So she is biased on the basis of not having experienced anything else.

I don't have anything against Microsoft. Really, I don't. I just never thought too much of the original Xbox. And with the RRoD crisis I really didn't think too highly of the 360 either. This never stopped me from believing that both systems had great games though, the hardware just never impressed me. I think it was this attitude that my daughter has latched on to and adopted as her own. This attitude was laid bare when my wife asked me why I had to own all the systems in the current generation and how the 360 was different from the PS3. Before I had a chance to answer my daughter blurts out that the PS3 is better then the 360 in every way. She went on to criticize the game box saying that she couldn't even stand to look at the color. At that point I managed to get a word in edgewise and try to air my opinion of the 360. I explained to my wife that the games are different. Each system has exclusive games that I can't get for the other and that is why I had to buy both. This seemed to satisfy my wife, but I don't know if my daughter understood.

See, I have to teach her the way of the true gamer. It's not about the hardware and it never should have been. It's all about the games. The hardware is just a means to play great software, and the software is what it's all about. Next month or so (after my funds are replenished) I may pick up a game or two for the 360 that'll interest her. Maybe Halo would be a good choice. After all, blowing something up on the PS3 is just like blowing something up on the 360, it's all fun.