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  • Microsoft: Xbox 360 Blu-ray Possible

    Xbox UK boss Neil Thompson told BBC News, “Whatever format wins it is highly likely we will offer a solution.”

    Microsoft enjoys downplaying the PlayStation 3’s Blu-ray movie playback ability, often saying that Sony is forcing consumers to adopt a pricey feature that they don’t necessarily want.

    "The only debate is if you want to watch Blu-ray movies and pay the extra money for that feature. We prefer to offer the consumer choice,” he added.

    Microsoft currently offers a $200 Xbox 360 peripheral that plays Blu-ray rival HD DVD discs.

    This isn't the first time that Microsoft has hinted that it would be willing to adapt to a Blu-ray world. Xbox head Peter Moore himself said a Blu-ray add-on would be possible, but also made clear that Microsoft is still firmly behind HD DVD.  

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:06 PM
  • Microsoft quiet on black 360

    Microsoft is remaining tight-lipped on rumours that a black Xbox 360 is in development, featuring a 120 GB hard drive and HDMI port.

    "We're aware of the rumours circulating on the Internet regarding a new version of Xbox 360, but we have made no official announcements and do not comment on rumours or speculation," Microsoft told Eurogamer this afternoon.

    The company was speaking in the aftermath of new information from US magazine Game Informer, whose April edition claims the hardware is real and will launch in late April for US$ 479.

    US website Engadget backs up these claims, boasting that a Microsoft insider confirmed to the website that an "Xbox 360 Elite" would pave the way for a new Premium (white) version of the console later in the year.

    It reckons around 200,000 of the limited edition units will be made, all featuring the bigger hard drive and HDMI port, as well as a matt black case, controller, headset, and a new quieter 65nm chip.

    However, absent from all of these lists is a unit featuring an HD-DVD drive or Wi-Fi capabilities, something not outside the realms of possibility in the future.

    Microsoft is sticking to its guns on this one though, as bigwigs continue to deny probing journalists a whiff of new hardware. But, with the speculated released date of the black 360 just around the corner, we expect things to come to a head rather soon.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:08 PM
  • Jetpac Refuelled” classic shooter game makes a comeback on Xbox Live Arcade

    Microsoft just keeps games flowing. The Xbox 360 maker has just announced that the next game for the Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) will be ‘Jetpac Refuelled’. Jetpac Refueled for the Xbox 360 has been developed by Rare.

    This game happens to be a revamped and much more modernized version of the 1983 classic space blaster ‘Jetpac’. In fact, in the ’80, ‘Jetpac’ was a huge hit. The ’80s classic shooter Jetpac was developed by Ultimate Play the Game, a development house that was founded by Tim and Chris Stamper.

    In Jetpac Refuelled, players must clear a path through hordes of aliens in order to refuel their ship and accumulate a fortune over the course of the game.

    Jetpac Refuelled has 128 high-definition levels, complete with achievements, leaderboards and simultaneous multiplayer action. When compared with the original ‘80s game, the new version provides gamers with everything they loved in the classic, plus 128 new levels of enhanced gameplay.

    Jetpac Refueled will be available on the Xbox Live Arcade for 400 Microsoft Points or 5$ (Rs.220).

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:09 PM
  • Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation announced for Xbox 360 by Namco Bandai

    Namco Bandai Games America, a leading video game developer and publisher, has announced a new game which will be a part of its famous Ace Combat Series. The new game, Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, will be released on the Xbox 360 platform, and will soon be available online in a multi-player format via the Xbox Live.

    Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation will deliver high-definition, photo-realistic landscapes to players in this flight simulation game.

    Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation for the Xbox 360 takes air combat warfare to a new level as it boasts the new “Dynamic Operation System” where massive battles take place on a “living battlefield,” as up to six independent land-sea or air conflicts can break out any time at multiple locations a allies and enemies clash in real time.

    In Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, players can prove their supremacy on a global scale as they pilot highly detailed aircrafts such as the F-15 E Strike Eagle and the F-22 Raptor, online via the Xbox Live.

    There are a variety of different online modes such as death match and team death match style game modes. Players will also be able to team up with other players to play in co-op mode, where players combine strategy and skill to work together to take on computer-controlled adversaries.

    Since yesterday, a variety of different icons, art and decals straight from Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation have been made available to fans of the Ace Combat Series. This media, which include Ace Combat 6 Picture Packs, can be downloaded via the Xbox Live Marketplace.

    The Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation will be released in North America in the latter part of 2007, while the European release date of the game has yet to be decided.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:12 PM
  • Supposedly, a revision to the XBOX 360 is coming. It is to be known as the Elite XBOX 360, will come in and black (black is just cooler) and is to be released in limited quantities. So if this is true, you’d better pick them up while they last. It is also going to pack in more features (but not so much to justify the higher price) than that old regular XBOX 360.

    All the acceossories that come in the box will be black, it will feature HDMI outputs and a 120GB hard drive. The Elite XBOX 360 runs cooler than current Core and Premium XBOX 360s, that could either be due to a better cooling system or the new 65nm processors but it is not confirmed to have the new processors (though that would make a good deal of sense). Those are about the only differences between other XBOX 360s on the market.

    The Elite XBOX 360 is to be sold as a third option next to the Core and Premium systems. Here is what Microsoft could have done to make the Elite version more enticing, include WiFi and the HD-DVD drive with the unit. I mean, wouldn’t that make sense. That is probably the only thing Sony did right with the PS3. I don’t want to string a 50 foot LAN cable across to my XBOX 360, okay, I could buy the WiFi module for $100 but I won’t do either any time soon. I don’t want to trip over a cable and $100 is ridiculous for a WiFi module.

    Once all the XBOX 360 Premiums are sold they will be replaced by white versions of the Elite XBOX 360. Utimately Microsoft will go back to having two XBOX 360 options, the Core system and the Elite system.

    The Core XBOX 360 costs $299, the Premium XBOX 360 costs $399 and how much is the Elite XBOX 360 going to cost, $499? Close, it will run a grand total of $480 not including taxes or other applicable charges in your area. Here’s how it works out, the WiFi module costs $100 so you can get WiFi and the Premium system for $500 or the Elite XBOX 360 for $480. What a choice, the Premium system with a smaller hard drive and WiFi or the Elite with a larger hard drive, HDMI and no WiFi. Am I the only one that thinks you shouldn’t be required to choose one or the other? I didn’t even get to the HD-DVD drive which will run you close to $200.

    Microsoft currently does not have plans to integrate the HD-DVD drive or WiFi module in any version of the XBOX 360, either now or in the future. If you ask me, it’s like they are loading a gun, pointing it at their head and hoovering their finger over the trigger. It’s assured suicide if they don’t do this at some point. It will probably come down to the last minute when they do and then they will say it was the plan all along. If they don’t start including the extras at a lower price soon then they may well find themselves losing out to Sony (and no one wants that).

     

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:13 PM
  • The black Xbox 360 may be real!

    The rumour mill has been turning for a while now regarding the existence of the Black Xbox 360, and according to recent reports it looks to be true. Sources inside Microsoft have apparently leaked information to Game Informer and engadget regarding the new Xbox 360 model. If reports are to be believed the new console is to have a larger 120 GB hard drive and an HDMI port (rather than DVI). As well as these big improvements the console should run quieter than the current model and will be called the “Elite”.

    Apparently the console will initially appear as a limited edition in black and then later in classic Xbox white for general sale. Ousting the Core model (without hard drive) it'll leave only the Premium, and Elite models. Unfortunately the Elite won't feature the HD-DVD drive, and it's said there won't be WI-FI built in which is a shame.

    If rumours are to believed the Black Xbox 360 Elite will see the light of day sometime in April, and could cost over £300. Could be an April fool though, so be warned!

    Via engadget

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:15 PM
  • XBox Live Down For Scheduled Maintenance

    Next Tuesday on March 27th, XBox Live will be down for scheduled maintenance according to Major Nelson.  This maintenance was scheduled months ago according to Major and is NOT the spring dashboard update.  That will be coming later on.  Due to the maintenance on XBox Live that means that XBox Live, the XBox forums and XBox.com will be unavailable.  The scheduled maintenance is set to take place starting at midnight and ending at 2pm.  All of the times are Pacific.  Hopefully the XBox Live service will only be down the 14 hours and come back online without a hitch, unlike last time. 

    Since a lot of people will be wondering what they are going to do during this downtime Microsoft has prepared a "Top Ten Things To Do" list to keep you busy during that time.  Simply visit XBox.com to view that list.  The last time XBox Live went down for maintenance people complained that Microsoft did not give them enough notice even though Microsoft told everyone at least a week in advance about what was going to happen.  Be sure to plan your online gaming schedule accordingly so you are not caught by surprise when you can not sign on during the day on Tuesday, March 27.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:17 PM
  • [Xbox 360 Feature] 7 for '07

    At this point, there’s little doubt that the PlayStation 2 was the clear winner of the last generation, beating out long-time champion Nintendo’s GameCube and newcomer Microsoft’s Xbox for the title. However, as we all know Microsoft is not a company to be easily deterred, and with their latest console, they look to claim the throne for themselves this time. Key to that plan, the Xbox 360 got a head start, plunging into the market a year before the other two consoles when all was said and done (the PS3, as you might remember, suffered delays, missing its mid-year launch in 2006). That fact alone, being the first next-gen console available to consumers, certainly seems to have helped the system, as even with only a handful of truly must-have games, it still managed to sell nearly ten million units last year.

    However, now that the PS3 and Wii are both out on the market, this competition is really going to start heating up...

    Sunday, March 25, 2007 5:53 AM
  • Microsoft To Announce The Xbox 360 Elite

    Rumors have floated in the past month that Microsoft will launch a new high-end version of the Xbox 360. It’s true that Microsoft is preparing to announce the Xbox 360 Elite, a version of the game console with black plastic and advanced features. Several sources confirmed Microsoft plans to add this box to its product line.

    The new box will go on sale in limited quantities soon for $479. The details may not be precise here, but I believe it will have an HDMI connector so that you can connect at the highest speed to a high-definition TV. It will come with a 120-gigabyte hard disk drive and will have IPTV capability.

    Bill Gates announced in January that the Xbox 360 was capable of serving as a set-top box for IPTV, or Internet Protocol TV, which phone companies such as AT&T are using to offer high-definition movies and scores of channels in competition with TV.

    The Xbox 360 Elite will apparently not come with a built-in HD-DVD drive, which will remain an option for playing high-definition movie disks. In the spring, the new machine will be available in limited quantities and it will reflect a redesigned motherboard. Tina Conley, an outside spokeswoman for Microsoft, declined to comment on Saturday. How solid is this information? Some details may be wrong. I’m not looking at any press release right now that describes it all. The details will be announced soon enough.

    I’ve been waiting for Microsoft to make a move like this. The company has scheduled a motherboard redesign and cost reduction for every year, but this is the first major change to take the costs out of the inside of the Xbox 360. By the fall, the company will also implement a chip redesign, shifting from 90-nanometer production to 65 nanometer production. That will bring costs down fairly dramatically and will enable Microsoft to make the box in larger quantities by the fourth quarter. 

    Every other year, the company plans to shrink the size of its chips. It is overdue for a shift from the 90-nanometer chips that it started with in 2005 to the 65-nanometer chips commonly in production elsewhere. That transition isn’t yet complete but it should be by the fall.

    Why is it important to miniaturize a chip? When you make the width between circuits in a chip (the difference between 90 and 65), the technology gets better. The electrons travel shorter distances, the circuits are more reliable, defects can go down, yields go up, and you can fit the same chip design in a much smaller area. Since chip costs directly relate to how much material you use, a smaller chip is cheaper to make.

    Every console maker will have the opportunity to reduce the costs of its chips. But how the console makers capitalize on that decision depends on strategy.  Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan, said in an email that he believes Microsoft will launch its elite box, but he isn’t sure how it will position the other boxes, especially the Core unit. I expect the Xbox 360 with the 20-gigabyte hard disk drive will continue to sell for $399 and the Core unit, which has no hard drive, will sell for $299.

    At $479, the Xbox 360 Elite will still be cheaper than Sony’s $499 20-gigabyte PlayStation 3 and the $599 60-gigabyte PS 3. But it will match the Sony box with the HDMI connector feature. The Sony box is not yet capable of IPTV.

    It is interesting that Microsoft hasn’t added the HD-DVD drive as a permanent feature. The format war with Blu-ray is still going on, and that drive would add considerable cost. Microsoft sells it separately for $199.

    The larger hard drive on the Xbox 360 Elite will make it much more useful for downloading movies and serving as a digital video recorder, which is one of the primary uses of an IPTV set-top box. High-definition movies can take up five gigabytes or more, while standard movies take about a gigabyte of storage space. Hence, 120 gigabytes is enough for, accounting for 10 gigabytes used by the system for other things, about 22 HD movies.

    In any case, this is going to put some pressure on Sony and it will enable Microsoft to patch some holes in the technological capability of the Xbox 360. It will enable Microsoft to please the relatively small group of hardcore gamers who care about having the highest-end technology in the living room. It’s those gamers who are most tempted by the PS 3. HDMI, for instance, will enable someone to view games and movies the way they were meant to be seen in either 720p or 1080p resolutions.

    Sunday, March 25, 2007 6:03 AM
  • No Security Breach, Says Microsoft

    According to reports, Microsoft has refuted charges of a security breach on Bungie.net or the Xbox Live online video game network.

    Earlier this week, there were reports of fraudulent activity and account theft taking place on the Xbox Live network, and Microsoft promised to investigate all such reports.

    Microsoft now says that upon completing investigations, it has found there has been no security breach on the Xbox Live network. A company spokesperson said that Microsoft would like to reassure all of its 6-million Xbox Live members that despite recent reports, the company has looked into the situation, and found no evidence of any compromise of security on Bungie.net.

    The company has however admitted that there were a few instances of malicious users attempting to extract personal information from unsuspecting users, and fewer cases still of use of that information to access victims' Live accounts.

    The company insists that these stray cases of individual accounts being compromised are typically the result of personal information being given out in some way by users themselves.

    Sunday, March 25, 2007 6:47 AM
  • Microsoft probes Xbox Live hacks

    Microsoft Wednesday acknowledged reports of hackers stealing player accounts on the company’s Xbox Live gaming service and said it is launching an investigation.

    Reports of account theft on Xbox Live have been making the rounds of the network’s user forums since at least December, but complaints amped up this week when security researcher Kevin Finisterre — of “Month of Apple Bugs” fame — announced that he had been hacked.

    In an e-mail interview, Finisterre said he was victimized last Thursday. “We were playing with some folks that were cheating by a known method called ‘standbying’ or ‘bridging,’ and during the game, we were told ‘I am going to steal your account,’” said Finisterre. “Sure enough, the next day, my Xbox said, ‘We are sorry, but someone else has signed on as your gamertag, and we have to log you off.’”

    Gamertag is Xbox Live’s term for a player’s username.

    “Immediately after that, I was banned from Xbox live until 3/18/2007,” said Finisterre. He called support, but got what he called “the runaround.” Several days later, when Finisterre was supposed to be able to again access his account, he logged in to Xbox Live again. “Boom, now we are banned until the 24th,” he wrote. “When I call in, they still cannot tell me anything. My account is still under investigation and that’s all I know.”

    Other Xbox gamers have related similar stories. One, identified as “St00mPPP33yYyYY,” wrote on Dec. 31 that “sumone [sic] just hacked my account over xbox live…he called bungie and gave thenm [sic] the ip and my account name.” Bungie Studios is the Microsoft-owned game developer responsible for the popular Halo series.

    Another player, pegged as “Y The Red Bar,” relayed a more recent tale. “My Xbox Live account was hacked and all credit card info was stolen and used to run up points, etc. Microsoft says, ‘Oh, well, better call your credit card companies; nothing we can do,’” Y wrote a month ago.

    On Xbox Live, gamers can use a credit card to buy Microsoft Points, in-network currency that can be used to download movies and TV shows, games and interface modifications.

    Finisterre went public after being frustrated by Xbox Live’s outsourced support and being stymied in his attempts to reach someone at Bungie who would give him a straight answer. As part of his campaign, Finisterre even posted an audio excerpt of a 36-minute-long conversation with Xbox Live support (download iTunes audio). “It is obvious that they are outsourcing Xbox Live support to … somewhere with a high population of folks that speak broken English,” Finisterre said.

    He blamed a group of hackers who go by “Infam0uS” as responsible for at least some of the account hijacking. The group’s Web site makes no bones about stealing Xbox Live identities; it currently lists seven, stolen for reasons that include “Talked s*** to JustCallMeFRESH” and “Stole from clan.”

    Microsoft did not respond directly to questions about whether Xbox Live and/or Bungie.net had been hacked — accounts stolen by virtue of a data breach, in other words — or whether other tactics were used, such as phishing e-mails or even a form of “pretexting.”

    Finisterre seemed to lean toward the latter, a low-tech form of identity theft where a criminal calls technical support, poses as a legitimate customer, and somehow convinces the representative to issue a new password or hand over the existing one.

    “Some of the forums where the Clan Infamous is talking, they state that they are basically taking advantage of dumb Xbox Live customer support. So there may not actually be some [zero-day] exploit [but] rather stupidity of the staff on hand,” Finisterre said.

    Microsoft’s only official response was to say that it is looking into the matter. “There have been reports of fraudulent activity and account theft taking place on the Xbox Live network,” a company spokesman said Wednesday. “Security is a top priority for Xbox Live, and we are actively investigating all reports of fraudulent behavior and theft.

    “Any customer with a question about the security of their Xbox Live account should contact 1-800-4-MY-Xbox, and an Xbox customer service representative will help them understand our security policies and procedures,” the spokesman added.

    If Finisterre’s experience is any guide, that recommendation may just waste customers’ time. “I’ve stooped to calling random Bungie employees until I get someone to hold accountable,” he said. “It’s kinda pathetic that I had to go to the media to get this investigated. It’s also sad that so many other people on Xbox forums are getting blown off, too.

    “Neither Bungie or Xbox Live support has owned up to anything really, so … here I sit waiting for my callback still,” Finisterre said.

    Sunday, March 25, 2007 7:19 AM
  • Microsoft probing fraud on Xbox Live

    Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday said it is actively investigating reports of "fraudulent behavior and theft" on its Xbox Live online video gaming service, which has more than 6 million subscribers.

    "Recently, there have been reports of fraudulent activity and account theft taking place on the Xbox Live network," Microsoft said in an e-mailed statement.

    On Feb. 11, an Xbox Live user posted a message on a Microsoft Xbox forum complaining about a hacked account and stolen credit card information.

    Security is a major concern for Microsoft, whose operating system is a favorite target for hackers, and for online commerce sites such as eBay Inc., which has an entire team devoted to online security and safety.

    Sunday, March 25, 2007 7:20 AM
  • Social Engineering Blamed for Xbox Live Hacks

    Unscrupulous players on the Microsoft Xbox Live system were able to gain access to other players' accounts. The gamers reportedly used pretexting and other forms of social engineering to trick customer service staffers into revealing private information. Microsoft downplayed the attacks saying they were isolated incidents.

     

    Sunday, March 25, 2007 7:22 AM
  • Xbox Live 'hack' latest

    - Microsoft said it has found no evidence that Xbox Live accounts have been hacked, despite at least 50 reports from gamers on the Xbox Live forum claiming hackers were stealing their accounts.

    One such report came from security researcher, Kevin Finisterre, who said in an email interview that his account had been stolen last week.

    "We were playing with some folks that were cheating by a known method called ’standbying’ or ’bridging’, and during the game, we were told ’I am going to steal your account’," said Finisterre. "Sure enough, the next day, my Xbox said, ’We are sorry, but someone else has signed on as your gamertag, and we have to log you off’."

    "Immediately after that, I was banned from Xbox live until 18/3/2007," said Finisterre. He called support, but got what he called "the runaround”. Several days later, when Finisterre was supposed to be able to again access his account, he logged in to Xbox Live again. "Boom, now we are banned until the 24th," he wrote. "When I call in, they still cannot tell me anything. My account is still under investigation and that’s all I know."

     

    Sunday, March 25, 2007 7:25 AM
  • thank u for posting such useful informations...
    Sunday, March 25, 2007 11:22 AM
  • Thnx
    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 6:15 AM
  • Thnx.............................
    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 6:18 AM
  • PS3 no better than Xbox, says Microsoft boss

     

     

    He may not be the most impartial of judges, but Microsoft’s regional head of entertainment doesn’t mince his words when it comes to the PlayStation 3.

    “In the technology and gaming there’s really little in the PS3 where I can say, ‘Gosh, I wish we had that’,” Neil Thompson, the company’s senior regional director for UK and Ireland, said. “The biggest threat that Sony has for us is the brand that’s been established around it.”

    He conceded that the PlayStation’s graphics would give the Xbox a run for its money, but said that the Xbox outstripped its rival in the increasingly popular online gaming world, as well as in the number of games available.

    “You have to have a range and quality of gaming content,” Mr Thompson said. “More and more we’re seeing that the online experience is a really important factor. Sony have come up with an online world that seems to let you do just about everything except gaming.”

    Mr Thompson said that Microsoft had no plans to cut the price of the Xbox, arguing that the £279 (about 412 euro) price tag is already good value.


    Sony has argued that the PS3’s £425 price tag is good value considering its cutting-edge technology, but Mr Thompson questioned whether the Blu-ray drive, the PS3’s high-definition DVD player whose complexity contributed to delays of several months, would prove much of an attraction.

    “It’s two, three years ahead of the market,” he said. “People won’t want to replace their entire DVD collections, and they’ll get a better resolution with a standard DVD on an Xbox than a PS3.”

    Mr Thompson suggested that the high-definition format war, in which Microsoft has backed the HD-DVD format that rivals Blu-ray, may be rendered obsolete by advancing technology.

    “It’s nowhere near the importance of the format war between VHS and DVD,” he said. “The internet is becoming an increasingly important medium. Surely online is going to be the distribution method for much of the high-definition content.”

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 6:20 AM
  • Microsoft confession: Xbox Live pretexting theft

     

    Months after Xbox Live users began complaining of hacked accounts, Microsoft has acknowledged that the service's support staff is at fault, victims of pretexting calls by identity thieves.

    Reports of account theft on Xbox Live have been making the rounds of its member forums since at least December. But Microsoft responded only after noted security researcher -- Kevin Finisterre of Month of Apple Bugs fame -- last week went public about how his account was hijacked.

    As recently as last week, the company was saying only that it had "found no evidence" of a data breach and that any thefts had occurred could be blamed on users giving out personal information.

    That assertion changed yesterday. "A security researcher, Kevin Finisterre, discovered not a hack, but the fact that some accounts may have been compromised as a result of 'social engineering,' also known as 'pretexting,' through our support centre," says Larry Hryb, director of programming at Xbox Live, in a blog entry. "Once I realised what he was talking about -- he sent me some painful-to-listen-to audio files -- I confirmed that the team is fully aware of this issue. They are examining the policies and have already begun retraining the support staff and partners to help make sure we reduce this type of social engineering attack.

    "There's no other way to say it; this situation shouldn't have happened. Our customers deserve better," Hryb added.

    Although most users who posted comments to Hryb's blog entry were appreciative of the mea culpa, some were pessimistic about the chances that support would actually improve. "No surprise here. We've been telling you from Day One that Xbox/Xbox Live support is a joke," wrote someone identified as TH3Hammer. "You're right ... we DO deserve better, but I guarantee that it won't get better."

    Many more users, worried about not only account theft but also the ease with which fraudsters were able to get support representatives to spill personal information, urged Microsoft to untangle credit card accounts from Xbox Live. "It would help if we could remove our credit card information after we've used it instead of it being stored on the system (or even the console) forever just waiting to be pretexted," wrote Joergen8.
    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 6:21 AM
  • Xbox 360 Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

     

    Making every attempt to one up last year’s unforgettable Ghost Recon Xbox 360 debut is the downfall of this otherwise spectacular third person shooter. The tactical portion of the game is lost in widespread firefights that fully detract from the previously barren battlefields. Yes, Ghost Recon 2 is loaded with epic moments, yet sadly, they’re completely out of place.

    Picking up immediately where the first title left off, Scott Mitchell is sent directly back into enemy territory to take part in an outstanding story of a war that crosses over into American territory to fully encompass the severity of a Mexican rebel uprising. While Mitchell returns in an overly long training segment that barely fits into the story, everything after this is stunning in its execution.

    Graphical updates are beautiful, leading into shopping districts loaded with fine details and wonderfully constructed lighting model. It’s immersive and realistic; especially when the situation escalates and the only thing in the distance is a plume smoke occasionally lit by gunfire.

    A medic that can heal anyone on the squad is the most substantial update. It eliminates the problem of becoming stuck at a checkpoint without health and being forced to fight through a difficult scenario without being hit. The downside is that the difficulty has been significantly decreased, even with an immeasurable amount of enemy fire in comparison to the first title. On the hardest difficulty, this is barely even half of the struggle it was previously.

    This also shortens the campaign length dramatically. The final chapter is the shortest though the most intense. You truly get the feeling that a nuclear device is moments away from being detonated on U.S. soil as your superiors bark out orders. Additions to the cross com interface, by far the best HUD ever devised for a third person shooter, includes the ability to view a squad members movements from their point of view. This also makes it easier to place assist devices like a drone instead of waiting for it to find its needed location on its own.

    Sadly, almost all is lost as the game forces players to go solo numerous times. The developers have nearly eliminated any drama from a showdown with an armored vehicle. Mitchell seems as capable as Rambo in some points. An intelligent concept has Mitchell losing control of his cross com, rendering him almost helpless in an open environment. Instead of having the player tactically approach the situation, a rocket launcher is provided to simply blow everything up.

    This is an awkward shift, cheapening the experience down to the level of a low-end action summer movie. At times, it feels as if you’re invincible as you bring down more tanks than soldiers. When in command of multiple troops, this is easily on par if not better than the original. Ally A.I. has been given a dramatic makeover, and aside from some minor glitches, they work beautifully in tandem with the player.

    Without A.I. online, the addictive lag free co-op campaign returns. Completely separate levels for up to 16 players are available online, and this is still the best Xbox Live experience you can have with friends. Missions are once again high on difficulty and rely heavily on a team’s communication skill.

    Infinitely customizable game modes take over the versus portion. It’s the style of game that thrives on a hosts ability to conjure up new scenarios. As with the single player run, medics can make a huge difference to a team, though typically fail at combat. Regardless of the game style, keeping a skilled medic alive is key.

    It’s hard to complain about Ghost Recon 2 given how many “wow” moments have been crammed into the campaign. You’ll be talking about them for months, but sadly, they’re not right for this franchise and grow tiring as time passes. All of the explosions in the world can’t change the level of involvement when you’re required to use your head to advance. Still, this is a gripping experience, even if it’s for a different reason than the original.

    Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, and Violence.

     

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 6:26 AM
  • Xbox 360 Shivering Isles Released; Mehrunes' Razor Glitch Found

     

     

    Having put well over 150 hours into The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I was naturally excited to learn that the Shivering Isles expansion pack was made available a day early today, retailing for 2400 Microsoft Points ($30) and clocking in at just under 1GB.  Excited to get it before the scheduled Xbox Live downtime tomorrow, I downloaded it and started playing it about an hour ago as of press time.  Unfortunately, I've already run into a nasty glitch in the game, that affected my copy of the game at least.

    One of the last things I did in Oblivion prior to today was complete the Mehrunes' Razor downloadable quest, which grants the player an extremely powerful dagger.  Upon loading the game for the first time tonight after installing Shivering Isles, I almost immediately received the same quest notification I initially received after installing Mehrunes' Razor.  Sure enough, I checked my inventory and quest log, and all evidence that I ever completed the Mehrunes' Razor quest (the dagger itself, quest history, and even the map is now covered again as if I never explored the area) has been completely erased from the game.  Now, half of my saves created after finishing Mehrunes' Razor fail to load up at all, locking up and forcing me to reboot my Xbox 360.  The other half load properly, but they all also have no evidence that I ever completed the quest in the first place.  All saves I have prior to obtaining Mehrunes' Razor still appear to load up properly though, even if they were created in the middle of the quest itself (one of which was made as I stared directly at the dagger).  So basically, for saves that were created after the quest was completed, the game now sees Mehrunes' Razor as freshly installed and starts it all over again.

    I don't want to presume that this will happen in all (or any other) cases, because my 150+ hours with the game and/or other combination of factors may've trigged a scenario Bethesda just couldn't test beforehand. And really, the worst-case scenario is that you have to redo the dungeon again, or simply go without the dagger, so we aren't talking about a game-killing bug here. Still, based on this experience I urge any of you with downloaded content to take the proper precautions (such as backing up your saves) prior to installing Shivering Isles.

    Has anyone else installed Shivering Isles yet, and if so have you seen any similar issues?

     

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:12 AM
  • Xbox Live is Offline - MGC News Provides Some Alternative Entertainment

     

    Xbox Live is now offline for maintainence and will be so for approximately the next fourteen hours.

    What could be done with the time then? Go outside? Re-join civilisation?

    Nah, we’ve got something better for you to do. In lieu of the downtime, we’ve prepared a bumper Xbox 360 quiz, with questions ranging from the easy to the incredibly obscure. I don’t think we’ve been able to muster any prizes in time, so this one’s just for pride.

    You can start answering as soon as you read this, until 24 hours from the time of posting (so that’s 3:00am EST, Wednesday). You could of course cheat, but in the spirit of good sportsmanship, we ask that you don’t.

    You can answer the questions by e-mailing ‘editor [at] mygamercard [dot] net‘. We’ll publish the victors and answers once the contest’s over and we’ve had time to check through your answers. Start the quiz - after the break!

    Let’s get going!

    Xbox Classic General

    This first set of questions is about the original Xbox console - that’s right, the one which is quietly gathering dust in the corner of your closet.

    1. On what date was the Xbox launched in the USA?

    2. Name any three Xbox Games from the original launch line-up.

    3. What was the name of the Xbox sequel to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Black Arrow?

    4. Which sportsman featured in the title of the Xbox’s only wakeboarding game?

    5. Which game was subtitled ‘The Yakuza Missions’?

    Xbox 360 General

    Questions based around the console we all know and love.

    6. By what chemical element name was the Xbox 360 commonly known as prior to its release?

    7. What’s the only game series to have featured in both the original Xbox and Xbox 360 launch line-ups?

    8. What was the first game made available as part of the Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays program?

    9. Name all of the playable characters in the multi-player mode of The Outfit.

    10. Give the exact name of the most powerful weapon in the Xbox Live Arcade version of Doom.

    11. How many USB ports does the standard Xbox 360 console have?

    12. By what other name is footbal-sim Winning Eleven known in many European territories?

    13. Name five of the utilities available in the Xbox Live Arcade version of Worms.

    14. What animal is the player in costume as at the start of Amped 3?

    15. Which disgruntled Swede provided Joanna with intel in Perfect Dark Zero?

    Screenshots

    We’ll show you a screenshot, you say which game it’s from - simple as that.

    16.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:16 AM
  • Xbox Live, Xbox.com offline on 27 March

     

     

    Microsoft confirmed that Xbox Live and Xbox.com will be offline and unavailable starting at midnight Pacific Daylight Time today, the 27th of March. The two services will be offline for approximately fourteen hours for scheduled maintenance.

    Microsoft have confirmed that this is not a dashboard update but to conduct some regular maintenance on the servers. Xbox 360 owners can expect to see a ‘We’re down for maintenance’ page on Xbox.com and a similar message on the Xbox console.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:18 AM
  • Loads more Blue Dragon to come

     

     

    Blue Dragon creator Hironobu Sakaguchi has revealed that the Xbox 360 RPG has a rosy future ahead of it. Speaking to CVG, Sakaguchi modestly chatted about the success of the game in Japan ("It's attaching over 45 per cent and that's really amazing"), before more or less confirming what we all knew, and what Sakaguchi himself has already hinted strongly at: that the Blue Dragon udder is to be milked further.

    "Blue Dragon has sold through more than 200,000 units in Japan and again it will continue to build momentum as we get into things like Blue Dragon 2 and Blue Dragon 3", Sakaguchi said. "And that's what we're hoping; to really build on the franchise. Maybe it'll take ten years." When asked whether that was confirmation of a second Blue Dragon game, the RPG guru joked, "Tonight I will talk with Shane [Kim] (laughs)." You probably had to be there.

    Anyway, an English language demo of Blue Dragon is intended for release in PAL regions this June or July.
    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:18 AM
  • 360 Elite shots leaked

     

     

    If you're looking forward to getting your hands on the enhanced Xbox 360 Elite that have been strongly rumoured for weeks, check out these slightly grainy but nevertheless interesting shots of what is apparently the production line of the sexy new consoles.

    These shots, which turned up on a Chinese gaming forum, tgfcer.com, appear to be sneakily snapped on a mobile phone, but clearly show the '120GB' engraving on the silver plate of one of the console's hard drives.

    Reports are that the new console will go on sale in April, coming packed with a new 120GB hard disk drive (up from 20GB) and a will support HDMI video output, which is already supported by the PS3.

     

    This package will reportedly cost around $479, which is in the region of £243. But do you want one or is you barely-worn white 360 good enough for you? That's the question. 

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:19 AM
  • Xbox 360 Controls Minions

     

    Codemasters has released new information on their latest next-generation title for the Xbox 360, Overlord. Overlord puts you in the armor of the bad guy and your weapons are your minions. Amass an army of up to 50 minions to control with hundreds more in your reserve to do you bidding with no questions asked, complete loyalty and unmatched bravery to the point of stupidity at times.

     

    Minions are controlled in two ways: as a group or individually. Command them to do a variety of tasked such as killing sheep and brining them back, carry objects, operate machinery and get to locations you cannot. As you get more powerful as an Overlord, so will your minions. As the rob opponents, they’ll arm themselves with their axes, knives, pitchforks chef’s hats, armor or whatever else they can find.

    Your minions aren’t invulnerable though. They’ll bring you back gold and riches, but music and alcohol will distract them (who can blame them). The succubus can also lure them to their deaths.

    There are four main groups of minions distinguished by their color:

    Brown Minions – The Fighters. These are the strongest minions for combat. They will pick up dropped equipment from defeated foes and use it for themselves – pitchforks, severed unicorn horns and the like are some favorites.

    Red Minions – The Fire Throwers. These minions are like archers who hurl blazing fireballs to defeat opponents from a distance. Also, immune to fire, they can clear dangerous paths for the Overlord and the rest of the horde.

    Green Minions – The Assassins. These minions love their stealth attacks. They’ll try to get behind an enemy, jump on their back and then stab them viciously to death – great for ambushes. They’re also immune to poisoning and can turn rubbish left on the battlefield into upgrades.

    Blue Minions – The Healers. These are the smartest of the minions, and the only ones who have the ability to swim. Blue minions can also resurrect fallen minions, and get them ready to join the fight once again.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg for Overlord. Keep check back here at The Game Feed as more about this possible sleeper hit is announced.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:21 AM
  • Updated Xbox 360 on the horizon

     

     

    Codenamed ‘Elite’, an updated version of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is definitely on the way.

    The major revision to Microsoft’s premier games console comes in a stunning black livery (console, controller and live headset), and sports a huge 120GB hard drive.

    Unfortunately no built in HD DVD drive or W--Fi for the updated Xbox 360, but it does come with HDMI video-output port and will run more quietly and cooler than existing consoles as a result of (rumoured) 65-nanometer chips, whose smaller transistors consume less power.

    The ‘elite’ is a precursor to a full replacement for the existing Xbox 360 and as such will probably be limited to around a couple of hundred thousand units.

    Eventually, the Xbox Elite will take the role of the Xbox Premium. Effectively, the Elite is a limited edition run in black and once it has sold out, future Xbox Premiums will have 120GB / HDMI and will have a white livery.

    Expect the Xbox Elite to cost around £330 when it makes it over to the UK, probably in late summer.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:13 PM
  • Microsoft admits to security problems with Xbox Live

     

    Microsoft has admitted to security problems with the Xbox Live online service. The system is still technically sound and has not been hacked. However programming director Larry Hryb from Xbox Live has admitted in his blog that there are social engineering problems. Security expert Kevin Finisterre found that numerous player accounts have been compromised, using classic "social engineering" tactics such as talking Microsoft's support people into redirecting an account to another console for "Account Recovery". The Xbox clan "Infamous" have published hints and tactics on their web site how to get an account redirected without knowing the password or the right answer to the security question.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:15 PM
  • Digital Revolution

     

    Sales of DVD players, MP3s, digital camcorders, games consoles and digital TVs are thriving, illustrating consumers’ gravitation towards a ‘digital lifestyle’. Nowhere is this trend more prevalent than in the Middle East, where the market is being dramatically transformed. Channel Middle East investigates the role that the regional channel is playing in the digital lifestyle revolution.

    With the consumer segment proving to be such a significant portion of the overall ICT and consumer electronics landscape, it was always inevitable that the two channels would overlap. Huge growth in the uptake of digital lifestyle products has seen many distributors, and classic IT resellers, searching for ways to get a piece of action. Dubai-based distributor Empa recently set up a dedicated joint venture distribution firm — called e-retail — which is focused entirely on the retail sector. The company has already bagged exclusive regional rights for Taiwan-based electronics vendor Hannspree in the same way that Jumbo Electronics looks after Sony’s products in the Middle East and Al-Futtaim works with Toshiba in the UAE.

    There is little doubt that gaining access to the large consumer electronics stores represents the major priority for many vendors that want their products to be displayed to a large audience. Distributors, too, know that they need to form strong relationships with these retailers in order to increase their revenues in the consumer space.

    Regional distributor Emitac claims it has a long history of serving the Middle East consumer electronics market and has seen the market dramatically evolve. Director of sales and marketing, Vijay Saraf, reckons it has only been more recently that the true potential of the market has been unleashed: “The power retailers, initially, for the first two or three years didn’t have a clue — or any experience of the retail business, and in fairness neither did the suppliers, so we have all grown together. But the Middle East digital lifestyle market is still maturing and developing so there are plenty of opportunities around.”
    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:18 PM
  • Let the games begin - PS3 and Xbox to clash online

     

    The debut of Sony's Playstation 3 tomorrow kicks off a battle with Microsoft's rival Xbox 360 that's likely to be fought largely on the quality of video game titles and the relative strengths of the high definition disc drives the consoles support.

    But another front in the battle will also be fiercely contested - one for dominance in the world of online gaming, which Microsoft has largely had to itself with its Xbox Live platform.

    Sony's internet-enabled PS3 allows owners to connect via their broadband connections to the Playstation Network where games can be purchased, movie trailers downloaded and gamers can join online multiplayer communities. Access to the network is free, but much of the content is charged for via credit card.

    Online-only arcade games such as Flow start at US$3 ($4.25).

    The Playstation Network will have a local interface, but most of the content will be based overseas. Sony Computer Entertainment managing director Warwick Light said gamers joining multiplayer games would connect to overseas servers, but were unlikely to experience delays in game play.

    "If gaming latency is an issue for some games, we'll try and host the games in Australia," he said.

    Equipped with an Ethernet connection, PS3 owners can plug their new console into a broadband router and connect automatically to the Playstation Network. Light said the ultimate success of the Playstation Network would depend to some degree on how rapidly broadband penetration improved.

    "The point is, that for the sake of the whole country, we need to get there. We're hoping the PS3 will act as an accelerant for broadband uptake."

    The PS3 comes with a web browser, allowing users to surf the web from their TV sets. A virtual keyboard can be used to punch in internet addresses.

    Accessory makers such as Logitech are also supplying wireless keyboards that can be used with the PS3 for typing commands into the browser. Light said any web-based messaging and email service would work with the browser.

    A large part of Sony's online strategy seems to focus on adapting its successful console franchises, such as the karaoke game Singstar and the quiz game Buzz.

    "My Singstar will come to the PS3. Download songs or upload your own karaoke effort," said Light.

    "More people [in New Zealand] own Singstar that own an Xbox. Buzz is probably half as many. People have got into this stuff in a massive way."

    The Sony EyeToy video camera could be used to video conference with other EyeToy users, said Light.

    And the PSP handheld gaming device, which has built-in wireless networking, will eventually be able to connect remotely via the Playstation Network to access content stored on a user's PS3 console.

    Sony this week unveiled Home, a major component of the network featuring streaming videos and virtual characters, that will be free to access from later this year.

    A new online game, LittleBigPlanet, will follow the trend started by the online virtual reality game Second Life, allowing users to interact in a large online community.

    But Microsoft hasn't been idle as Sony has been readying its Playstation Network. It has made movie and TV downloads available through Xbox Live and in January said it would offer internet TV channels as well.

    It will also grant PC gamers running Windows Vista access to the Xbox Live realm, meaning PC and console gamers will participate in online games together for the first time.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:21 PM
  • Our 10th annual list of the most innovative companies in the world.

     

    1 Google | 1

    The masters of the universe are busily converting ad dollars into a global network of fiber lines and data centers. A plan etary computer crunching ever- larger mountains of bits is an invention of historic import. Google's power to inspire both awe and fear continues to grow.

     

    2 Apple | 2

    Tired: MP3 players. Wired: mobile handsets! And why not? Especially if the Apple crew can stuff most of a Mac into a futuristic gadget straight out of Minority Report. Cell phone + iPod + social networking = marketer's dream.

    3 Genentech | 4

    When you target specific biological mechanisms, your drugs can sidestep the one-disease rut: Avastin has been OK'd for a growing list of cancers. And since 20 new drugs are set to enter the pipeline by 2010, the chances for more multiple hits are good.

    4 Samsung | 3

    Mobile handsets have joined PCs as the focus of some of high tech's most brutal slugfests. Samsung's upmarket strategy protects margins - a tactic it has been using to batter Sony in home theater and camcorders. Too bad about that iPhone.

    5 News Corp. | 9

    Why fly capital-sucking TV satellites when you've got 90 million MySpacers glued to their screens? King Rupert is feeding the greatest frenzy of media populism since the birth of the tabloid press. Now he needs to convert it into broadcast-style revenue.

    6 Nintendo new!

    Hot graphics? Nah. What's delighting gamers - and blowing the smirk off Sony's face - is the Wii's acrobatic controller. Selling a million consoles a month gives the Pok master a happy challenge: turning a runaway hit into an enduring franchise.

    7 Salesforce.com | 15

    The pioneering purveyor of Web-based business apps keeps swiping small and midsize clients from giant rivals Oracle and SAP. Latest cool tool: a one-stop online marketing platform that ports your campaign directly to Google AdWords.

    8 Cisco | 12

    As the petabits surge, Cisco keeps outflanking cut-rate competitors and surfing the flood of online video. VoIP gear and set-top boxes contribute to '90s-style earnings growth. Now CEO John Chambers hopes to sell the world on wall-size, hi-def telepresence.

    9 General Electric | 8

    Good-bye to the slow-lane plastics division. Hello to avionics, security systems, and medical labs in a box. Edison's heirs keep doubling down on products too big, gnarly, or capital-intensive for companies that haven't been ruling Big Tech for a century.

    10 Nvidia | 21

    Three trillion operations per second make for a killer demo: hyper-real renderings of glamazon Adrianne Curry. But the new GeForce 8800 chip is alsospeedy enough to launch gaming's graphics powerhouse into totally new markets, like gene sequencing.

    11 Baidu new!

    In China, Google is just another imported also-ran. Baidu, which handles more than 60 percent of the country's searches, is teaming up with recording giant EMI to deliver ad-supported music. On demand: the biggest hits from Hong Kong and Taiwan!

    12 Toyota | 7

    How about a buff Tundra CrewMax truck - with a dashboard nav screen that also displays the view from a tailgate-mounted camera - to tow your groovy Prius? Toyota doesn't confine all that cool tech to little green geekmobiles.

    13 SunPower | 17

    Acquiring installation specialist PowerLight gives SunPower total command of the solar food chain, from R&D to rooftop. The plan is to shear overall system costs in half, enough to let sunshine compete head-on with cheap coal-fired grid power.

    14 Infosys | 11

    So much for cut-rate coding. The rajas of outsourcing are taking on R&D and computer-aided engineering. But the work is still massively human-intensive, which means battling upstart rivals to hire more than 500 new Infoscions a week.

    15 Medtronic | 16

    A chest implant that transmits vital signs to the Web for your cardiologist to view - the boomer iPhone! Medtronic's $25,000 pacemaker-like device is just the start. Look for similar innovations that treat epilepsy, obesity, and depression.

    16 Level 3 new!

    Wiring the planet with fiber optics really was a great idea - it just took a while for YouTube and friends to come up with the petabits to make it pay. Level 3 boasts 50,000 miles of prime Net backbone. Now it can start working off that $6 billion in debt.

    17 Exelon | 33

    Emission caps? Carbon taxes? No worries when two-thirds of the 25,000 megawatts you produce are atom-powered. Exelon is aiming to build the first new US reactor in a generation. Now, if Uncle Sam would kindly figure out where to stash spent nuclear fuel.

    18 Netflix | 14

    CEO Reed Hastings is either a stone-cold visionary or the Hamlet of online media. After three years of indecision, Netflix is finally serving (B-list) movies online to select subscribers. Upgrade price tag: $40 million, most of last year's DVD-by-mail profit.

    19 Verizon | 22

    Leading the telco charge against cable, Verizon's 50-Mbps fiber-to-the-home service is almost twice as fast as its last rollout. Woo-hoo! Now competition has to bring stratospheric prices - upwards of $90 a month - down to earth.

    20 Electronic Arts | 13

    The King Kong of interactive games needs big hits to justify its Hollywood-size overhead and keep itself in bananas. Speed, sports, and shooter franchises all continue to pull their weight - but just barely. Spore needs to soar.

    21 Monsanto | 25

    Frankencorn engineered for ethanol production is so 2006. Bring on the trans-fat-free soybeans! After years of fighting cultural headwinds, Monsanto is finally figuring out how to go with the flow. Climate-change special: drought-tolerant corn.

    22 Garmin new!

    GPS technology has infiltrated cockpits, dashboards, and handhelds. Now industry leader Garmin is making the crucial leap into networked smartphones, laptops, and PTAs - that's personal travel assistants. Let 10,000 localized services bloom.

    23 Amazon.com | 6

    Trying to be all stores to all shoppers, Amazon has to compete on a thousand fronts. Now CEO Jeff Bezos is bravely trying to mine value from the back end by offering to handle everything from computing to ecommerce for other businesses.

    24 NTT DoCoMo new!

    Fat and happy, Japan's wireless Godzilla keeps ramping up its technology while the rest of the mobile world battles with debt. A hundred megabits a second? Coming right up. Linux for mobile? Domo arigato. Not everything big telcos do is evil.

    25 EMC | 26

    Disney Studios' post-Pixar remodel includes two EMC CX3-80 storage networks - just the thing for stashing 1 billion 3-D textures. For the king of data warehousing, though, today's big opportunity is selling digital closet space for online video.

    26 Intercontinental Exchange new!

    Once a back-room specialty, energy trading is now center stage. As the leading futures exchange for fossil fuels, electric power, and even emissions, the ICE is hot. Check its 2006 stock chart - up 300 percent - and weep.

    27 Comcast | 39

    Someday, bitstreams will be metered like water and electricity. Until then, Comcast's fiesta of digital cable, VOD, DVR, and "triple play" connectivity rules. The challenge: fending off party-crashing telcos, satellite broadcasters, and online insurgents.

    28 BP | 31

    Oil spills and exploding refineries provide more incentive than ever for the number three oil company to move "beyond petroleum." The recent $500 million investment in an alt-energy institute is a high profile step in that direction - and less than a week's profit.

    29 Disney new!

    It's the wedding of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, Rev. Steve Jobs presiding. Disney boldly took the iTunes plunge. Now John Lasseter is sprinkling Pixar dust over its studios and theme parks. Can CEO Bob Iger devise a digital makeover for the rest of Mouse house?

    30 Yahoo | 5

    Five hundred million users can't be that wrong. Sure, Yahoo got stomped by the most spectacular upstart in business history. But big-brand advertisers, fearing Google uber alles, are pulling for Yahoo's new Panama ad platform.

    31 Boeing new!

    Burt Rutan isn't the only engineering visionary building edgy new planes. Fast, fuel-efficient, and rivet-free, Boeing's carbon-fiber 787 Dreamliner will be the first truly 21st-century sky ride when it hits the runway next year. Sorry, Airbus.

    32 eBay | 19

    The perfect Internet business model generates outsize expectations - which means mistakes cost double. Wall Street slammed eBay for bungling in China and pissing off power sellers. Good thing PayPal and Skype are finally starting to earn their keep.

    33 Flextronics | 23

    The Santa's workshop of globalization designs, builds, and ships everything from cell phones to printers - and now Lego blocks. Its hyperefficient supply chain fuels a Cambrian explosion of converging devices. And you gotta love what it does for prices.

    34 Corningnew!

    In high tech, glass used to mean fiber optics. Today, screens are the hot commodity, and Corning supplies LCD substrate to manufacturers like Samsung and Sharp. As prices for flat screens fall and volume soars, the glassmaster profits.

    35 Gen-Probe | 35

    Gen-Probe's nucleic-acid tests screen more than 80 percent of the US blood supply, flagging HIV-1, hepatitis C, and West Nile. Assays for prostate cancer are already approved in Europe. Top priority: rapid detection of E. coli and other food-borne pathogens.

    36 TSMC | 30

    Astrophysicists are over the moon about the new Sing 512-core CPU, destined to simulate the cosmos in a next-gen supercomputer. Who etched its delicate traces? TSMC. The fab-for-hire does the clean-room dirty work so chip wizards can focus on design.

    37 Lenovo | 29

    Talk about global - the world's number-three PC maker rotates its headquarters between Beijing, Singapore, Paris, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Lenovo is leveraging low-cost Chinese R&D into cool features like laptops secured by facial recognition.

    38 IBM | 18

    Its engineering ranks have been decimated by the shift to lucrative IT services, but Big Blue can still punch like a heavyweight. Proof: Linux server code, chips powering all three top game consoles, and social networking software for the suit set.

    39 Intel | 24

    The empire strikes back. AMD's ambush of the PC processor market precipitated a hail of new Intel marvels, like a supercomputer on a chip that uses less power than a lightbulb. Now Apple and Sun have Intel inside. Don't mess with smart, wealthy paranoids.

    40 Microsoft | 36

    Wanted: second career for rich, fat, nervous ex-monopolist. Desktop software is vanishing into the cloud, and as balance-sheet replacements, Xbox and Zune don't pass the laugh test. Luckily, $31 billion in rainy-day money buys time and options. (But not Google.)

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:25 PM
  • Gaming wars begin

    Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony finally released the long-delayed PlayStation3 (PS3) gaming console in SA this week. It’s an impressive machine, and plays next-generation Blu-ray discs, but consumers may baulk at the price.
     

    Sony and Microsoft are at war. The companies are locked in a battle for control of the living room of the future. Microsoft got a six month headstart with its launch last year of the Xbox 360 in SA. The PS3 has been delayed because of the dogged insistence by Sony that the machine ships with a built-in, next-generation Blu-ray disc player. A shortage of the diodes used in the manufacture of the Blu-ray players has meant a global shortage of Sony’s next-generation console.

    Finally, though, the PS3 is here, and ready to do battle with the Xbox 360. Is the machine good enough to make up for the delays and ensure that Sony keeps Microsoft and smaller rival

    The machine, which weighs 5kg, has a powerful graphics engine and custom-designed “Cell” microprocessor but its strongest selling point is undoubtedly its integrated Blu-ray player. Sony is locked in a pitched battle with HD-DVD — backed by Microsoft and Toshiba — to determine which movie and optical data storage format will replace the DVD. Sony’s determination to include a Blu-ray player has cost it valuable time but it may ultimately prove to be the ammunition the company needs to fend off Microsoft: the Xbox 360 does not ship with an HD-DVD player — consumers who want to play HD video have to purchase one separately.

    The PS3 has several other advantages over the Xbox 360. The premium version, the only version available in SA, comes standard with Wi-Fi, which means connecting the machine to the Internet requires no wires (provided consumers already have a wireless broadband router at home). There’s also a gigabit Ethernet port for wired connections. The PS3 has a 60GB hard drive (versus 20GB on the premium version of the Xbox 360) and it can easily be swapped out for an even bigger drive. It’s also possible to install Linux on the PS3, turning it into a powerful personal computer.

    On the downside, the PS3 is the most expensive console on the market — by a country mile. It costs nearly twice as much as Microsoft’s 20GB Xbox 360. But if one considers that it comes with a Blu-ray player and a high-speed 60GB drive the price is very reasonable. Separate Blu-ray players cost more than the PS3. The price of standalone Blu-ray players will fall dramatically in the next few years but for now the cheapest way to get one is simply to buy a PS3.

    Another negative for the PS3 is that games designed specifically for the machine are still in short supply, though it will play most old PlayStation games in compatibility mode. It will be a year, at least, before games developers start producing titles that take full advantage of the PS3’s advanced hardware. Blu-ray movies are also still as rare as hen’s teeth, though a few titles have recently gone on sale at specialist music and movie retailers.

    The PS3 will work with any TV that supports standard, analogue audiovisual inputs, though consumers won’t get the full benefit of HD images on older TVs. Those with HD TVs, especially expensive 1080p LCD panels with digital HDMI connectors, should be blown away by the quality of the images served up by the PS3.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:30 PM
  • Microsoft Announces X06

     

    Microsoft today announced that X06, the Xbox brand experience for the games and entertainment industry, will be held on 27th and 28th September this year. It was also revealed that the glamorous, cosmopolitan and cultural city of Barcelona will be playing host to this year’s exclusive event.

    Europe’s top media, partners, publishers and developers will be invited to the Catalan capital to experience the incredible evolution of the Xbox 360 console and the exciting offerings it is bringing to Europe.

    At X06 Microsoft will unveil more plans for the Xbox 360, showcase the breadth of the next-generation line-up of games, the next wave of accessories and new world-class Xbox Live entertainment experiences along with the latest Games For Windows announcements.
    For the first time Microsoft will also welcome South Africa, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland to the event having recently announced the launch of the Xbox 360 in these countries by the end of 2006.

    Previous X0 events have been the setting for high-profile announcements such as the European pricing details for Xbox (2001); Xbox Live and the acquisition of Rare (2002); the unveil of the new Xbox branding (2003) and the fantastic launch games line-up for Xbox 360 (2005). This year’s event will be no exception, and visitors to the Barcelona event should expect to be blown away with exclusive news announcements and amazing next generation gaming experiences.

    As always, third party publishers and developers will have a strong presence, and will be using X06 as a platform to unveil major announcements and showcase forthcoming Xbox 360 titles.

    A highlight of the gaming calendar, Xbox enjoys this opportunity to bring gamers together from across Europe and create a unique and immersive experience for their guests. Commenting on the announcement, Chris Lewis, regional vice president, Xbox, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said: “We are really looking forward to X06 in Barcelona and believe this will prove to be an amazing experience for gaming enthusiasts across Europe. We have some exciting announcements to make and even more to show people. X06 will firmly place Xbox 360 as the console of the next generation.”

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:38 PM
  • We Got Next - Part One (Xbox)

     

    For several GameSpy editors, Game Developers Conference (GDC) is one of the best and most enjoyable events held each year. One of the primary reasons for GameSpy's GDC love is that the editors get to interact with some of the best talents in the business. Recently, some of GameSpy's friends in the development community shared a ton of details on Microsoft's next console system. Keep in mind that all of this information is based off of alpha development kits and current projections for the final hardware. Everything is subject to change. In the first part of our Xbox expose, I'll cover the console's hardware components and software goals. Since the final name of the next Xbox hasn't been revealed yet, I'll refer to the system by its codename, Xenon.
    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:43 PM
  • CPU - Xenon's CPU has three 3.0 GHz PowerPC cores. Each core is capable of two instructions per cycle and has an L1 cache with 32 KB for data and 32 KB for instructions. The three cores share 1 MB of L2 cache. Alpha 2 developer kits currently have two cores instead of three.

  • GPU - Xenon's GPU is a generation beyond the ATI X800. Its clock speed is 500 MHz and it supports Shader 3.0. Developers are currently working with an alpha 2 GPU. Beta GPU units are expected by May and the final GPU is slated for a summer release. The final GPU will be more powerful than anything on the market today; in game terms, it would handle a game like Half-Life 2 with ease.

  • System Memory - Xenon will have 256 MB of system RAM. Keep in mind that this number should not be equated to typical PC RAM. The Xbox has 64 MB of system RAM and is a very capable machine.

  • Optical Drive - As many have speculated, Xenon will not use Blu-Ray or HD-DVD. Games will come on dual-layer DVD-9 discs. While the media is the same as that of the current Xbox, the usable space on each disc is up to 7 GB. The drive is slated to run at 12X.

  • Memory Units - Xenon will use 64 MB to 1,024 MB memory cards. 8 MB is reserved for system use, leaving a 56 MB to 1,016 MB for user data.

  • Hard Drive - As many have speculated, Xenon's hard drive is optional. 2 GB of the drive will be used as game cache. The final drive size is still being determined.

  • Camera - Xenon will have a USB 2.0 camera. It's capable of 1.2 megapixel still shots and VGA video. Photos can be used in-game and for gamer profiles. The camera can also be used for video chat. It's unknown if the Xenon camera will allow for EyeToy-like gameplay. Developers are currently using a simulated camera driver.

  • Sound Chip - Xenon does not have an audio chip in the traditional sense. Decompression is handled by hardware, while the rest of the chores are handled by software. DirectSound3D has been dropped in favor of X3DAudio. The former was deemed too inflexible.


    Raymond's Reaction - The Xenon is an extremely impressive piece of hardware. It will allow gamers to see things like complex lighting in gameplay, amazing details through high-level shading (impeccable clouds, fur, grass, cloth, water, marble, ground, etc.), incredible textures, and new post effects (increased motion blur, heat distortion, depth of field, light blooms, etc.).

    While people have already been correctly speculating about the removable hard drive and the standard DVD media, I was surprised at the inclusion of the camera. I haven't heard a single rumbling about a Xenon camera prior to GDC. The optional hard drive is a bit understandable; the only gamers that care about it will buy it anyway, while casual gamers won't care about the performance and convenience gains a drive offers. The standard DVD isn't too surprising considering that HD-DVD drives will be too expensive for inclusion in a console system in 2005.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:46 PM
  • News On The Gaming Consoles Battlefield: Xbox 360 Elite

     

     

    As the war of the gaming consoles continues to rage on, Microsoft opened today a new chapter with the latest edition of its Xbox 360 console: Xbox 360 Elite. Microsoft made its move after last weekend Sony launched its PlayStation 3 console in the PAL territories.

    Xbox 360 Elite will include a 120GB hard drive, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port, a high-definition cable, and a premium black finish for the console, wireless controller and Xbox LIVE headset. Xbox 360 Elite has enough space for a library of Xbox LIVE Arcade games and thousands of songs, as well as downloadable high-definition TV shows and movies available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace. Xbox Live has just recently registered its six millionth member, greatly exceeding even Microsoft’s own expectations of the online service’s rapid growth. It has also been stated by the company that total download figures from Xbox Live Arcade have already exceeded the 25 million mark, and that nearly 70% of all connected Xbox 360s have downloaded at least one Live Arcade title. As for the most downloaded XBLA game, that title goes to Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting, followed by Bankshot Billiards 2 at number two and Marble Blast Ultra at number three. Popular card game UNO made it in at fourth place, with the classic FPS Doom also making it into the last spot of the top five list.

    Microsoft also sees Live as not only a matchmaking service, but also as a legitimate social community, with an average of approximately two million text and voice messages passed between users on a daily basis. Furthermore, it's also reported that the typical Xbox Live Gold subscriber has an average of 22 gamers on their friends list.

    But let’s back to Xbox 360 Elite. The new 120GB hard drive also will be sold as a stand-alone accessory to give current Xbox 360 owners greater choice and flexibility in their games and entertainment experience. Additional Xbox 360 Elite accessories, such as the black Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit and the Xbox 360 rechargeable battery, will be available separately. The Xbox 360 Elite and its accessories are expected to begin arriving in U.S. stores on April 29. Xbox 360 Elite will have an estimated retail price of $479.99 (U.S.) and will come packed Xbox LIVE Silver Membership and one-month subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold.

    Xbox 360 Elite seems geared more towards Xbox Live users and Microsoft doesn’t plan yet any special content for the Xbox360 Elite. Microsoft’s official Albert Penello, who is head of marketing for the Xbox platform, confirmed that the company will not focus on creating “elite” content for the Elite Xbox 360: “This is for people who are heavy [Xbox Live] Marketplace users, [who] download a lot of stuff online; we want to make sure that those people [20GB Xbox 360 owners] are going to be fine, we are not going to start to build content that’s going to alienate them”.

    Still, media reactions about the new Xbox 360 are mixed. CVG.com asked rhetorically who will be the buyers of new console. “Could it be for the built-in HDMI port, which other than a very slight improvement in visual quality offers the convenience of having both audio and visual signals through a single cable. We've tested both HDMI and Component connections side by side (on a PS3, mind you) and only when you've literally got both pictures together on a picture-in-picture set-up can you notice the slightly sharper picture of the HDMI connection. Definitely then, a purchase decision on the merit of this new connection is going to be made by hardcore TV enthusiasts only.” – CVG.com

    Even with the new upgrades, Xbox 360 Elite is not enough for the guys over at Digital Trends in terms of surpassing the Nintendo Wii. “Overall, this market would be a lot more interesting if the high-end players, Sony and Microsoft, would do a little more “out of the box” thinking right now. It is really being defined by Nintendo who has done a better job in that regard with their physical controller and a vastly more attractive purchase price. I think it would be wise for Sony and Microsoft to pick up their game a bit if they want to make money here.”

    BetaNews noted that Xbox 360 Elite is not so technically different from previous versions. “Although the Xbox 360 Elite was hardly a secret in recent weeks, a number of details swirling around the rumor mill proved incorrect. The new console has not been changed internally to take advantage of a 65-nanometer CPU, which was expected to bring down manufacturing costs. Also missing is a built-in HD DVD drive, or rumored quieter DVD drive. While Microsoft has said it plans to eventually build HD DVD into its consoles, the company is apparently waiting for production costs to come down before it does so.”

    The new HDMI port was intepreted as another Microsoft move towards IPTV. "Microsoft's move is an endorsement of high-definition output, and its inclusion of HDMI validates that Sony's initial strategy was correct," said Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter, speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz. "The 120 GB hard-drive is focused on helping the roll-out of IPTV, and I expect a progression of HDTV broadcast from the current 720p to the 1080p standard over the next few years, so the HDMI output will be relevant."

    The people over at Trusted Reviews are dissapointed that the new Xbox 360 doesn’t get a price discount over previous versions. “The big news for us however is the Elite will be a permanent top tier product, not a limited edition as previously thought. In the US it will retail for $479 (£244) which, fingers crossed, will mean a sub £300 UK price tag, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it sneak a little over. The downside to this strategy is the price tags on Core and Premium versions will stay the same (for now, at least). Still, Microsoft does offer some compensation to existing Core and Premium owners since the Elite's 120GB HDD will be available separately for $179 (£91)”

    Either way, the Xbox360 Elite seems at a first glance a respose to the Sony PS3 launch in Europe, but some analysts also point out the gadget is also thought out as a redutable adversary for the AppleTV. "Apple TV is a great way to move content," said Mr . Paul O'Donovan, principal analyst at research firm Gartner, quoted by BBC. "So this maybe a response to the Apple TV rather than the PS3."  

    For the moment the competition on the gaming console front is dominated by Nintendo. Nintendo's hit Wii gaming console, sold in February as many units as both of its main rivals put together. Nintendo sold 355,000 units during the month, with Microsoft selling 228,000 of its Xbox 360 units, and Sony coming in third place with just 127,000 of its PlayStation 3 consoles, according to research firm NPD Group.

    Is the new Xbox360 Elite console going to be able to make Microsoft a console market leader?

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:21 PM
  • Xbox or gun shots?

    MEXICO CITY - Police in vice-ridden Mexico City neighbourhoods hope to take guns off the streets by offering to swap them for computers and video-game consoles.

    Police said anyone who turns in a high-calibre weapon like a machine gun will get a computer. Owners can swap smaller guns for cash or Microsoft Corp's Xbox video-game consoles under the plan.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:25 PM
  • New HD content announced for Xbox Live

    Microsoft has partnered with various media providers and is preparing to add more than 1,500 hours of downloadable content for the Xbox 360. The announcement comes right after Microsoft officially unveiled the new Xbox 360 “Elite” limited edition console.

    New content includes TV shows and movies from A&E Network, ADV Films, National Geographic, New Line Cinema, TotalVid, Paramount Pictures (also providing content for iTunes Store), and exclusive content from Warner Bros.

    "With more than 300 games expected by year’s end, an Xbox Live community of more than 6 million people and a growing catalogue of premium content from some of the biggest names in entertainment today, Xbox 360 is an incredible value," said Peter Moore, corporate vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business in the Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft. "Adding partners and content like this helps reinforce the console’s position as the center of connected entertainment in the living room."
    Microsoft’s Xbox Live service continues to grow with the addition of new media partners and exclusive HD content. Downloads made through Xbox Live have reportedly grown by over 400 per cent since the TV and movie service was launched last year.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:27 PM
  • New Xbox tries to steal PS3's thunder

    Due for release in the US on 29 April, the new console will include a 120GB hard drive, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port and a high-definition cable. It will also come in a black finish, not unlike the PlayStation 3.

    Current Xbox 360 owners will be able to buy the larger capacity hard drive as a stand-alone accessory for USD179.99, which puts the PS3's 60GB hard drive in the shade.

    There is no word yet on when the console will be released in Ireland, or how much it will cost. The Xbox 360 Elite will cost US users about USD479.99.

    The console maker seems determined to steal the PS3's thunder, which launched in Ireland on 23 March. Microsoft even crashed PS3's launch events in London and France. While Sony was busy readying itself to dole out the consoles in the English capital, Microsoft was handing out chairs to waiting fans, emblazoned with a website address.

    On visiting the site, users found themselves confronted with a welcome message for Sony, congratulating them on reaching the next generation.

    In France, the rivals went head to head on the Seine, with Sony opening a floating electronics store to sell the console from midnight moored near the Eiffel Tower, while Microsoft piloted its own logo-emblazoned boat up and down the river.

    Initial enthusiasm for the PS3 may have been muted in Ireland -- on launch day, stores still had consoles for sale, despite only 20,000 being available in the country -- but in the UK, it seems the PS3 has broken UK sales records by selling more than 165,000 machines in its first two days.

    Meanwhile, Mexican gang members are swapping their guns for Xbox 360 consoles and computers as part of a police crackdown. According to Reuters, police in inner-city neighbourhoods are offering a computer in exchange for a high-calibre weapon, while smaller guns will earn people an Xbox 360 or even cash if they hand them over to police.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:29 PM
  • GRAW 2” For Xbox 360 Now Out

     

    Xbox 360 fans of last year’s tactical military shooter “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter” are celebrating the news that UbiSoft has shipped the sequel and it’s in stores now.

    While the 360ers enjoy the game, the PC and PlayStation 3 crowds will have to wait until June when their versions ship to retail, but they’ll also get the added satisfaction of having some exclusive maps made solely for their consoles. Ubisoft will be calling for beta testers for one of the PC exclusive player maps shortly, and you can find out more by hitting the official game site.

    The sequel picks up 24 hours after the ending of the first “GRAW” game. It’s 2013 and the Ghost Recon team has just successfully eliminated a threat to the lives of the Mexican and American Presidents. Now, in the aftermath of this first crisis, the Ghosts are called to stop a cell of terrorists that are about to gain access to nuclear weapons.

    Missions take place in a variety of environments, from the jungle to urban enclaves. The game also supports multiplayer mode, allowing up to four players to form a squad and eliminate hostiles. As well, a new Medic class has been introduced allowing players to fix injured squad mates faster.

    If you’ve got an Xbox 360 a copy of the game will set you back $60

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:47 PM
  • Shivering Isles Ships For PC and Xbox 360

     

    Bethesda Softworks, a ZeniMax Media company, and 2K today announced that The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, the official expansion for the award-winning The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, is now shipping to retail stores throughout North America for Windows. Shivering Isles is also available today on Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft via Xbox Live online entertainment network.

    Shivering Isles features more than 30 hours of new gameplay and allows you to explore an entirely new plane of Oblivion -- the realm of Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness. Shivering Isles adds to the existing world of Oblivion so you can continue playing with your existing save game/character, or create an all new character just to explore the new content.

    Within the Realm of Sheogorath, players can explore the two extreme sides of the god's madness -- the sublimely creative and the completely psychotic. Something is happening to the Shivering Isles and Sheogorath himself looks to you to be his champion and defend his realm and its inhabitants from destruction. Do you have the strength to survive his trials, tame a realm fraught with paranoia and despair, and wear the mantle of a God?

    The Shivering Isles features a bizarre landscape split between the two sides -- Mania and Dementia -- filled with vast, twisting dungeons mirroring the roots of the trees they are buried within. You'll encounter more than a dozen new creatures including hideous insects, Flesh Atronachs, skeletal Shambles, and amphibious Grummites. Throughout your adventure, you will discover all new items, ingredients, spells, and much more. Or, you can have the talented craftsmen of Crucible and Bliss forge new armor and weapons just for you.

    Released in March 2006 for Xbox 360 videogame and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows, Oblivion sold more than three million units in 2006. Among the countless awards and accolades it has garnered to date are Game of the Year and RPG of the Year honors from numerous outlets, including Spike TV's 2006 Video Game Awards, G4's G-phoria, the Golden Joystick Awards, GameSpot.com, ShackNews.com, Voodoo Extreme, FiringSquad.com, and many more. Oblivion received the #1 ranking on PC Gamer's (UK) list of the top 100 games of all time and is the highest rated Xbox 360 game of all time according to Gamerankings.com and Metacritic.com.

    The Windows version of Shivering Isles is available at retail and is co-published by Bethesda Softworks and 2K, while the Xbox 360 version is available through Xbox Live online entertainment network by Bethesda Softworks. For more information on Oblivion, Shivering Isles, or The Elder Scrolls, visit the official web site: http://www.elderscrolls.com.

    Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles Ships For PC and Xbox 360

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:49 PM
  • The Xbox keeps chasing Sony

     

    Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) has decided to come out with a version of its Xbox [subscription required] on steroids. It will have a bigger hard drive and will be able to connect to high-definition devices. Sony Corp.'s (NYSE: SNE) Playstation 3 already wants to occupy this higher end of the video game market, and Microsoft is planning to be right there with it. The larger hard drive will also make its easier for Xbox users to store movies.

    Sony already had real problems with its gaming platform. It came to market later than the new Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii and still is behind them in sales in the US.

    The Wii has also been unexpectedly popular. It outsold the Playstation 3 by more than 2-to-1 in the U.S. market during February. It is also much less expensive than the Playstation

    So, Sony finds itself pinched between a popular, cheaper product from Nintendo and a new, more powerful Xbox. Sony has had to rely more heavily on consumer electronics and its movie studio for revenue over the last year. It looks like that trend will continue.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:53 PM
  • A black eye for Xbox customer service

     

    The company does acknowledge that some of its staffers who answer 1-800-4MY-XBOX, the Xbox Live customer service line, reset passwords on accounts for people who did not actually own the so-called gamer tags.

    The matter received wide attention last week after a frustrated user who had been locked out of the Xbox Live service, posted recordings of his calls with the help line. Microsoft initially said there was no security breach and blamed its users. But the company subsequently said it would review its customer service processes, including the retraining of its staff.

    Larry Hryb, director of the Xbox Live team, and Stephen Toulouse, senior product manager in Microsoft's Security Technology Unit, talked to CNET News.com about what happened and what the company is doing to help prevent future account hijacks.

    (Xbox Live is offline for maintenance on Tuesday. The outage was planned many months ago for an upgrade and has nothing to do with the security issues, the company said.)

    Q: What happened?
    Hryb: Early last week, we first heard about the Xbox Live network being hacked, which obviously raised a lot of concern in our team. Our network engineers looked right into it and it turned out that wasn't the case.

    It turns out that some accounts may have been compromised as a result of pretexting through our support center.
    --Larry Hryb, programming director, Xbox Live

    If the security of your system wasn't compromised, how did accounts get hijacked?
    Hryb: It turns out that some accounts may have been compromised as a result of pretexting through our support center.

    What does "pretexting" mean?
    Hryb: That means social engineering. Basically, the bad guys were calling up and claiming to be people that they were not. They had obtained personal information or some type information and then were able to social engineer our support department into revealing some information that should not have been revealed.

    What happened to Xbox Live users as a result of that?
    Hryb: A small number of accounts were compromised. This allowed the bad guys to recover that gamer tag and go online and play as that person. Consequently, that person obviously doesn't have access to the account anymore. And they need to contact us and we need to get them back into control of that account.

    There were some people who claimed charges were run up on their credit card to buy "points," the virtual currency on Xbox Live. How does that happen?
    Hryb: Xbox Live Marketplace is a vibrant online space. In North America, we're selling high-definition movies and television and gaming content. If there is a credit card attached to the account, you can purchase points, but only up to a certain amount. Also, you can only redeem those points on the Xbox Live Marketplace; you can't go over to Amazon.com and start ringing up charges. It is a very tight system; all you can really do is download content. Points are also tied to an account. You can't move points to another account.

    What's the maximum amount of charges people could incur?
    Toulouse: There's a cap to the number of points you can have at any given time: 10,000. The attacker would have to buy two 5,000-point packs, which is about $59 apiece. They'd be maxed out at that point. They'd have to spend those points in order to buy more. We don't know each individual case--that's what we're investigating--but the attackers are limited to what they can do and what they can download.

    Are there games on Xbox Live where a player could be robbed of items collected in a game after their account gets stolen?
    Hryb: On one or two of the titles, you can send a character, but there is no in-game monetary value to that. It is not like World of Warcraft where you can get cleaned out of your loot and you're going to miss all your 50,000 gold pieces. That doesn't happen; we don't have that ability on our service.

    What is being done to avoid the abuse of the Xbox help desk by account hijackers?
    Hryb: (Security researcher) Kevin Finisterre contacted me directly and forwarded some audio files which, frankly, were a little painful. We have mobilized the right teams and we're doing a top-to-bottom look at what the process is. We're straightening things out, we're retraining staff, we're making sure that we're doing everything we can to reduce this kind of social-engineering attack. The changes are in place and they are continuing to go into place.

    Do you have any idea how many people did have their accounts compromised?
    Toulouse: We're still looking at it. I can't give you a hard number, but I don't think it is that large. When someone's password gets reset, we know that. The problem is that there are people that had their password resets because they really needed that done and there are people that had their password reset because of pretexting.

    How long do you think this has been going on?
    Toulouse: There are a couple of things that go on. There is someone who communicates with somebody else and grabs enough personally identifiable information to then try and pretext the account through the support center. We are looking as far back as we can to understand in what types of situations this has occurred. It doesn't matter how long it has been going on, it has to stop.

    Are you planning any action against the folks who did this, if you can find out who they are?
    Toulouse: If the results of the investigation give us details that could be relevant to law enforcement, then absolutely we're going to pursue that angle.

    Has there ever been an actually break-in on Xbox Live or has the security of the service held up so far?
    Hryb: The absolute security has held up so far. The information that users log on with, we take that very carefully and we're very proud of the fact that it has got military-grade security for the Xbox Live network. The console itself is very secure. We're happy with the fact that the console and the network have not been compromised.

    What do you hope to do when it comes to your help desk and users?
    Hryb: We want to continue to make sure that our users feel comfortable with the Xbox Live service. It is the largest online console service in the world. We want to make sure that they are comfortable with their transactions. We also want people to understand that if they feel like they have a problem with their account, we're going to be putting steps up on Xbox.com/support on how to make sure that their account is secured and OK.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:54 PM
  • Xbox 360 Elite To Hit Market Soon

     

    Thursday, March 29, 2007:  Microsoft Corp. has announced the upcoming availability of Xbox 360 Elite, a new model of the video game and entertainment system that will include a 120GB hard drive, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port, a high-definition cable and a premium black finish for the console, wireless controller and Xbox LIVE headset.

    Today’s games and entertainment enthusiast has an insatiable appetite for digital high-definition content,” said Peter Moore, corporate vice president, interactive entertainment business, Microsoft. “Xbox 360 Elite’s larger hard drive and premium accessories will allow our community to enjoy all that the next generation of entertainment has to offer.”

    Xbox 360 Elite has enough space for a library of Xbox LIVE Arcade games and thousands of songs, as well as downloadable high-definition TV shows and movies available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace. The new 120GB hard drive also will be sold as a standalone accessory to give current Xbox 360 owners greater choice and flexibility in their games and entertainment experience.

    Additional Xbox 360 Elite accessories, such as the black Xbox 360 wireless controller, Xbox 360 play and charge kit and the Xbox 360 rechargeable battery, will be available separately.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 6:28 AM
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite to retail in Canada for $549.99

     

    Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite to retail in Canada for $549.99

    Microsoft has announced their plans for launching their updated Xbox 360 Elite gaming console in the Canadian market.

    The company would launch the console in Canada on April 4 and it would be sold in the market for $549.99. This would place it just ahead of the lower end Sony Playstation 3 console which sells for $549. Sony sells the premium edition PS3 in Canada for $659.

    The Xbox 360 Elite gaming console from Microsoft features a 120 GB hard drive in addition to the high-definition video interface.

    This is the third variant of the Xbox 360 console considering they launched it in the market with 2 models. The base model does not have any kind of storage capacity.

    Microsoft believes that the elite edition Xbox 360 would entice those gamers who want to purchase a lot of material from the Xbox Live service.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 6:36 AM
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles Review (Xbox 360)

     

     

    Given that the game’s been out for over a year, it’s a bit surprising that The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion feels just as new and fresh as it did the day it was released. This might be due to the fact that you can literally spend hundreds of hours playing the game, as you’ll constantly be stumbling on new characters and quests as you explore the expansive game world. However, it’s more likely that the game’s staying power can be chalked up to the staggering amount of downloadable content that developer Bethesda Softworks has created and released to the fans via Xbox Live. From Mehrune’s Razor to The Knights of the Nine, there have been a number of major downloads offered to players. However, the granddaddy of them all has just landed on Live, and we’ve played our way through The Shivering Isles. Our verdict? It’s yet another must-have piece of DLC for hardcore Oblivion fans.

    In The Shivering Isles, you’ll be tasked with entering an alternate dimension that may or may not exist in the mind of a mentally disturbed Daedric Prince named Sheogorath. It seems that this “Mad God” (as the denizens of the Isles are wont to call him) is worried about the Greymarch, a complete and utter cleansing of the Isles that occurs like clockwork every few thousand years. So, in an effort to stop it once and for all, he asks your help in taking out another Daedric Prince, wiping out the “Knights of Order”, and restoring order...er, chaos to the land.
    Friday, March 30, 2007 6:38 AM
  • Mexico uses Xbox to combat crime

     

    Reuters are today reporting that Mexican officials are using the lure of a free games console in order to tempt criminals away from a life of crime. In an attempt to get guns off the streets of the somewhat notorious Mexico City, police officials are offering free computers or Xboxes to those handing in firearms.

    Machine guns and other high calibre weapons will see the donor walking away with a PC complete with software (courtesy of Microsoft, according to police chief Joel Ortega), while small handguns and the like with be swapped for cash or an Xbox console.

    question is one of the new 360s or an olde-style original. Perhaps those handing in the machine guns might politely request an Elite model 360 instead of the PC?

    Weapon submissions will be anonymous and police are vowing to hand all firearms over to the army for destruction. The initiative is part of a move by Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who is hell-bent on cleaning up the streets of the Mexican capital. More soon.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 6:42 AM
  • Xbox 360: Gears Of War Tournament 2007

     

    You read it right. This is not Unreal Tournament, this is Gears of War Global Tournament 2007. It takes place over Xbox Live (duh) and will be presented by the World Cyber Games. Nifty eh? Well the registration has already started and chainsaw loving freaks can get in on the action. But you better hurry before registration ends.

    The game that has more than 3 million copies sold is now a part of the World Cyber Games...insofar that between March 29th and April 9th gamers can register to be part of the Gears of War Global Tournament 2007. Gamers will compete in ranked matches on Xbox LIVE for four weeks of leaderboard play. The top 11 finalists in the world with the highest individual scores will receive the grand prize, a trip for two to Prague – and the opportunity to compete in the Grand Final in July.

    According to the press release, “The grand prize includes a four-day, three-night trip to Prague with round-trip coach air transportation for the winner and a guest, standard hotel accommodations, basic ground transportation in Prague, and a $200 Visa gift card.”

    It continues on to say...“The top four eligible ranked players from each participating country will win a three-day, two-night trip to their country’s 2007 World Cyber Games National Championship event. The trip includes round-trip transportation for the winner, standard hotel accommodations and a $300 Visa gift card. Secondary prizes include an Xbox 360 package boasting an Xbox 360 Pro System console (No Elite? Bummer,) Viva Pinata, Project Gotham Racing 3, Xbox LIVE Arcade Unplugged Volume 1, Kameo: Elements of Power and a 12-month Xbox LIVE subscription, as well as Gears of War bonuses such as faceplates.

    My goodness that’s a lot of great freaking stuff. This tournament almost makes me want to quit my day job. You can visit the Official Xbox Website for more details.
    Friday, March 30, 2007 6:47 AM
  • Microsoft Unveils Xbox 360 Elite

     

    Microsoft Corp. today announced the upcoming availability of Xbox 360™ Elite, a new model of the video game and entertainment system that will include a 120GB hard drive, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port, a high-definition cable, and a premium black finish for the console, wireless controller and Xbox LIVE® headset. Xbox 360 Elite has enough space for a library of Xbox LIVE Arcade games and thousands of songs, as well as downloadable high-definition TV shows and movies available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace.


    packed with components and accessories for the ultimate high-definition entertainment experience

    The new 120GB hard drive also will be sold as a stand-alone accessory to give current Xbox 360 owners greater choice and flexibility in their games and entertainment experience. Additional Xbox 360 Elite accessories, such as the black Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit and the Xbox 360 rechargeable battery, will be available separately. The Xbox 360 Elite and its accessories are expected to begin arriving in U.S. stores on April 29.


    “Today’s games and entertainment enthusiast has an insatiable appetite for digital high-definition content,” said Peter Moore, corporate vice president for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “Xbox 360 Elite’s larger hard drive and premium accessories will allow our community to enjoy all that the next generation of entertainment has to offer.”


    Distinguished by its black finish and signature metallic detailing, Xbox 360 Elite will have an estimated retail price1 of $479.99 (U.S.) and will come packed with components and accessories for the ultimate high-definition entertainment experience.

    Xbox 360 Elite console. The console is equipped with a premium black finish and three powerful core processors capable of producing the best in HD entertainment (up to 1080p), 16:9 cinematic aspect ratio, anti-aliasing for smooth textures, full surround sound, HDMI output and DVD playback with upscaling capabilities right out of the box.


    Xbox 360 120GB hard drive. The 120GB detachable hard drive allows gamers to save their games and store television shows, movies, music, pictures, trailers, levels, demos and other content available from Xbox LIVE Marketplace.3 The hard drive is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $179.99 (U.S.).


    Xbox 360 Wireless Controller (black). This award-winning, high-performance wireless controller, now in black, features the Xbox® Guide Button for quick, in-game access to friends and music. It has a range of up to 30 feet and a battery life of 30 hours on two AA batteries. It is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $49.99 (U.S.).


    Xbox 360 headset (black). Now available in black, the headset lets gamers strategize or trade taunts while playing games and send voice messages to friends on Xbox LIVE.


    Xbox 360 HDMI cable. New to Xbox 360, HDMI allows consumers to get HD video (up to 1080p) and multichannel surround sound, all from one cable.


    Xbox LIVE Silver Membership. With this, gamers can chat with friends online, collect achievements and gamerscores, send and receive voice and text messages, and access Xbox LIVE Marketplace content such as game demos, HD movies and TV, as well as the best in downloadable games from Xbox LIVE Arcade.


    One-month subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold. An Xbox LIVE Gold Membership provides a complete online entertainment experience. Those who subscribe to this premium service can engage in competitive online multiplayer matches, tailor their matchmaking via feedback and accomplishments, chat with more than one person at a time, and take advantage of unique privileges in the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and Xbox LIVE Arcade.


    The following accessories for the Xbox 360 Elite console will only be sold separately:
    Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit. Complete with a charging cable and a black rechargeable battery pack, the Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit allows gamers to recharge their Xbox 360 Wireless Controller without interrupting their gameplay. it is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $19.99 (U.S.).


    Xbox 360 rechargeable battery (black). The rechargeable battery pack provides more than 25 hours of gameplay per charge. It is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $11.99 (U.S.).

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:36 AM
  • Microsoft to release souped-up Xbox 360

     

    Let the games begin.

    Microsoft Corp. announced this week it plans to sell an upgraded Xbox 360 video game system late next month.

    Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii -- both heavy competition for Xbox 360 -- were released in November.

    Microsoft focused on non-video game changes with the latest upgrade, including an amped-up hard drive so owners can watch more movies and store music.

    The Xbox 360 Elite will sell for $480.

    Jay Krochmal, a store service manager at Best Buy in Danbury, said only a couple of people have asked about the new models this week.

    "It's been quiet," he said.

    But Krochmal said Xbox's popularity means anticipation will grow. In November, shoppers camped outside the store waiting to buy the new $600 PlayStation 3. But its popularity steadily dropped as Nintendo's Wii became more popular, Krochmal said.

    Xbox 360 outsold Sony's PlayStation 3 in January and February, according to market researcher NPD Group, while falling behind Nintendo's Wii.

    Krochmal doesn't expect the same camping scene for an upgraded XBox -- but he wouldn't dismiss the possibility.

    "Xbox has some hardcore fans," he said, adding it's the most popular video game device at the store.

    The Xbox 360 Elite is expected to hit stores April 29.

    The latest upgrades feature a 120-gigabyte hard drive, compared to the current 20-gigabyte system. Consumers with the current $400 device can buy the new hard drive for about $180.

    The current hard drive filled up too quickly with music, movies, TV shows and games from the Xbox Live Marketplace online store, said Peter Moore, a corporate vice president in Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Group.

    Xbox 360 users can connect the console to their home network and then stream movies, music and other material from the computer to the Xbox and television.

    Unlike Sony, Microsoft hasn't added a high-definition DVD player to its video game console. It sells external HD DVD players for the Xbox for $200.

    Krochmal said an added high-definition video connection should also draw customers. That sends content from the console to a television without losing picture or sound quality.

    Danbury resident Moises Olmos said he plans to buy the new Xbox 360.

    "It's a gaming system everyone can play with," he said while playing an Xbox 360 game at Game Stop in the Danbury Fair mall.

    Karen Koza, an associate professor at Western Connecticut State University's Ancell School of Business, said Microsoft was smart to build anticipation by unveiling the details a month early.

    "They want that hype. They want that time for other channels (like the media) to grab onto it," she said.

  • The Associated Press contributed to this story.

  • Friday, March 30, 2007 11:37 AM
  • An Xbox For The Elite

     

    Microsoft is going up-market with its Xbox 360 gaming console, unveiling the Xbox 360 Elite. At $479 the Elite is clad in black, which undoubtedly looks trick, adds an HDMI interface, and sticks a thumb in Sony's eye with a 120GB removable hard drive. The $299 Xbox 360 basic (like the $499 Sony PS3) features a 20GB hard drive. There is no integrated HD DVD drive, which means that having an Xbox 360 Elite and HD DVD playback is now $679, just about 80 bucks more than the $599 Sony PS3, which is a full-on Blu-ray Disc player. And even more curiously, Microsoft isn't including integrated Wi-Fi, which is a huge plus for the $599 (60GB hard drive) version of the PS3.

    The decision for Microsoft to go upscale and seemingly take Sony on again is curious given that the Wii has been outselling both the PS3 and the Xbox 360 by significant margins. Are these two companies so focused on beating each other that Nintendo's little $250 dark horse will outsell both? And the pricing makes me chuckle a little. Back when the PS3 was announced some mainstream pundits thought it a death knell that the console would sell for $499-$599, which was deemed too expensive in spite of the millions of $400 iPods that have been flying off Apple's shelves. Now Microsoft is showing that its consoles obviously weren't expensive enough!

    At this point I'm waiting on Micrsoft to get back to me on some specifics. While HDMI obviously ups the ante I don't yet know if it's HDMI 1.2 or HDMI 1.3, what flavor of 1080p video will be carried over HDMI (1080p/24 or 1080p/60 only?), or if full resolution Dolby TrueHD decoding will be included. Stay tuned.

    For those keeping score, the $599 PS3 comes in with a smaller (60GB) hard drive, integrated Wi-fi and Blu-ray playback, HDMI 1.3, 1080p/60 output and Dolby TrueHD decoding.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:38 AM
  • Gears of War 2007 Global Xbox Live Tournament announced by Microsoft and Epic Games

     

    Here is some news that will make all you Gears of War fans run around in childlike delight. Microsoft Game Studios together with Epic Games has announced the “Gears of Wars” 2007 Global Xbox Live Tournament. The tournament which will be presented by the World Cyber Games, offers gamers the chance to chain saw their way to the Grand Finals in Prague, Czech Republic.

    As part of the Gears of War 2007 Global Xbox Live Tournament, there will be ranked matches on Xbox Live for four weeks of leaderboard play. The top 11 finalists with the highest individual scores will receive a trip for two to Prague to compete in the Grand Final in July 2007.

    The Grand Prize for a lucky winner includes a four-day, three-night trip to Prague with round-trip coach air transportation for two. Besides, the winner will also get standard hotel accommodations, basic ground transportation in Prague and a $200 Visa gift card.

    The top four eligible ranked players from each participating country wil win a three-day, two-night trip to their country’s 2007 World Cyber Games National Championship event. The trip includes round-trip transportation, standard hotel accomadation and a $300 Visa gift card for the winner.

    Secondary prizes include an Xbox 360 package, comprising an Xbox 360 Pro System console, “”Viva Piñata,” “Project Gotham Racing 3,” “Xbox LIVE Arcade Unplugged Volume 1,” “Kameo: Elements of Power” and a 12-month Xbox LIVE subscription, as well as “Gears of War” bonuses such as faceplates.

    According to Cliff Bleszinski, lead designer for Gears of War, May the Best Man or Locust Win, “We are thrilled to offer the chance for gamers across the world to come together and share the glories of blowing apart someone into little chunks.”

    All those who wish to register for the Gears of War 2007 Global Xbox Live Tournament can do so as registrations will continue through April 29, 2007. Official gameplay will begin on April 9 and will continue through May 6. The winner will be announced in May as well.

    And, in case you were wondering why all the winners will be sent to Prague. Well, it’s only because Prague influenced the setting for the game’s “Destroyed Scenery” scenic imagery. That’s probably the reason they have selected Prague to host the Grand Final in July 2007.

    You can get more information on this Gears of war Tournament from here. Sadly, as Xbox Live has not yet launched in India, Indian fans of the game will not be able to participate. However, for the rest of the world, this announcement is another release to celebrate, and of course to gear up for the tournament!

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:39 AM
  • The Xbox 360’s new 120Gb hard drive isn’t empty

     

     

    Thinking of buying a new 120Gb hard drive for your Xbox 360? The good news from the team at TeamXbox is that it comes pre-loaded with one full game that you might already own – Hexic HD – and a stack of game trailers, game demos, gamer pics and some dashboard themes.

    If you buy an Xbox 360 Elite, you’ll find that the 120Gb hard drive comes with even more content, which is detailed below.

    Interestingly, if you buy a 120Gb hard drive for your existing Xbox 360, and use the included cable to transfer the data from your old 20Gb hard drive to the new 120Gb model, you’ll find that all the new content gets wiped off, or so it is reported. That’s a shame, although given that most of the free content is basically demos which can be re-downloaded at will, it’s hardly the end of the world.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:41 AM
  • New Bullet Witch Content Available On Xbox Live

     

    New Bullet Witch content is now available for download from the Xbox Live Marketplace, including a costume, theme, and missions. The White Witch costume is free, but the missions will cost you a measly 20 points each.

    There's one completely brand new mission, "Dynamite Beauty," and two revamped versions of the "Clad in Streaming Black" mission, one with the Great Spells unlocked and one that's just plain wicked hard. More missions will be coming in the near future, and so will new costumes including Pixie, Schoolgirl, and Secretary. What, no Naughty Nurse?

    First Bullet Witch Downloadable Content On Xbox Live® Marketplace

    New Costume, Themes and Gameplay Content Available Now, More to Follow

    Atari today announced the first downloadable content for Bullet Witch available now on Xbox Live® Marketplace. Launched in February for the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, Bullet Witch is published by Atari in partnership with Japanese publisher AQ Interactive Inc.

    The first set of new downloadable content includes a free brand new White Witch costume for the game’s stunning heroine Alicia and a Bullet Witch Xbox 360 Theme pack. In addition, for 20 points each, players can download one brand new mission “Dynamite Beauty” and two enhanced versions of the "Clad in Streaming Black" mission featuring ‘Great Spells’ unlocked and a heightened level of difficulty respectively.

    Over the coming weeks, more free costumes for Alicia will be available free of charge – Mummy, Schoolgirl, Secretary and Pixie. Additional new missions ‘Caterpillar City’, ‘Endless’, ‘One Shot Kill’ and ‘Geist Search and Destroy’, plus enhanced editions of the missions ‘City of Screams’, ‘Up in Flames at 10,000ft’, ‘Down in the Valley’, ‘The Bound Soul’ and ‘The End of Chaos’, will be available for 20 points each.

    Developed by Japan-based Cavia, Bullet Witch is set on a bleak planet earth in the year 2013 with human kind on the brink of extinction and hideous demons creating a tidal wave of destruction and havoc. All hope of mankind’s survival rests with Alicia, a beautiful witch blessed with magical skills and a swift trigger finger. Players take control of Alicia on her heroic quest to prevent the decimation of mankind by using her fearsome weaponry and spectacular powers with which she can manipulate natural phenomena in her environment.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:42 AM
  • Crackdown” pushes the action-driving hybrid genre into the next generation with the first ever truly 3-D playground. Gamers will enforce justice by any means necessary in Pacific City, a crime-ridden urban center built to encourage the exploration of the full width, depth and height of the city. Coupled with highly innovative co-op gameplay — a genre first — and an interactive world where nearly anything can be used as a weapon, gamers will be able to create a volatile cocktail of judicial oppression as they clean up the streets.

    “Crackdown” is developed by Scotland’s Real Time Worlds exclusively for Microsoft Game Studios and the Xbox 360 platform. Real Time Worlds is led by Dave Jones, the creative mastermind behind some of the most innovative and best-selling video games, including the global blockbuster “Grand Theft Auto” and the legendary hit

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:44 AM
  • Xbox 360 will have Blu-Ray add-on if necessary

     

     

    In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz,Microsoft Europe's Senior Regional Director, Neil Thompson has suggested that Microsoft would be prepared to release a Blu-Ray player add-on if the HD format market were to shift in that direction. The market for high-definition content is still in its early days, but Microsoft are on stand by with a solution should Blu-Ray win the battle.

    "I'm not sure the market has moved to high definition [movies] yet. And if and when it does, then the way that we've constructed the offering we've made means we'll be able to go whichever way we want," said Thompson. "Whatever format wins it is highly likely we will offer a solution. The only debate is if you want to watch Blu-ray movies and pay the extra money for that feature. We prefer to offer the consumer choice,2 he told the BBC yesterday.

    Thompson didn't miss the opportunity to take a dig at Sony's next-gen console, re-affirming the point that the Xbox 360's DVD9 format can hold more than enough data, whereas the PS3 discs have far more space than really necessary, therefore increasing the sales price to the consumer.

    "Do I want to make people pay �200 extra for a machine with discs that have storage space I don't need? My answer's no, I don't need to do that today. And I don't think I'm going to need to do that for quite a while."�

    Thompson concluded his interview by pointing out that Microsoft are offering the consumer a choice with their HD DVD drives. "This is about the architecture of the hardware. With the PS3 you've got a big, heavy truck that requires a big, heavy engine. With Xbox you've got a much more nimble box that uses software in the architecture of the box in a much more nimble way. That's the difference between us and PlayStation, we didn't have a need to develop a really complicated engine to get Blu-ray players into the market. We wanted to deliver HD gaming. Judge us on what we've done."

    I wonder if Sony are on stand-by with a HD DVD drive?
    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:45 AM
  • GTA IV Video on Xbox Live

     

    If you haven’t checked Xbox Live Marketplace today, you might want to sign in and download the first released trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV. The 1:03 minute trailer only shows a few scenery shots, but it gives some clues as to what the new game from Rockstar will be about.

    If you didn’t know what you were watching, the first 30 seconds seems to come straight from a ‘Spiderman’ trailer with intense music and flashes of city landscapes. It seems GTA IV returns to Liberty City, or is it actually New York City with glimpses of popular city landmarks including the Statue of Liberty. That’s when our main character appears. Rockstar has chosen a Russian character for their next installment of the series.



    Then he hints at the game’s plot stating in a Russian accent,

    “Life is complicated. I killed people, smuggled people, shoot people. Perhaps, here things will be different.”

    It doesn’t say much, but we at The Game Feed are all excited anyway. GTA IV is expected to be released for both the Xbox 360 and PS3 simultaneously this October.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:45 AM
  • From Xbox to ultrasound

     

    CHICAGO - For the latest ideas in form and function, the medical technology designers at GE Healthcare don't necessarily need to tap into their research-and-development department.

    Instead, they check out the latest PlayStation, Xbox and Wii gizmos.

    "We're riding right on the backs of consumer electronics," said William Clarke, GE Healthcare's executive vice president and chief technology and medical officer.

    Clarke credited the Sony PlayStation's "small and functional video chips" with enabling GE to produce a laptop-size ultrasound machine.

    This allows it to be taken to the delivery room, rather than having to take a pregnant woman to an imaging room that's equipped with a 300-pound ultrasound machine. The goal for GE Healthcare, which operates out of offices in Barrington, Ill., is an even smaller, handheld ultrasound device.

    To push such product concepts, GE created the position of "disruptive technologies marketing manager."

    The job was created after "an 'a-ha' moment by GE Healthcare executives who decided we needed somebody who's not an engineer to take a somewhat less scientific approach, to think outside the box," said Brandon Savage, general manager of global marketing for the firm's integrated information technology solutions.

    "One thing we realized is that, if you want to change the market in a revolutionary way, you must combine technologies that historically never touched each other," Savage said. "Two different industries come together, and you get this bright idea."

    Companies have looked within their own industries to find new technologies, said David Smith, vice president with Austin, Texas-based Technology Futures Inc., a research and consulting firm.

    "The trend now is to look horizontally," Smith said. "Competition is forcing this because product development times are shortening, research time is shortening. Even the government and defense rides on the back of the gaming industry today."

    Smith said GE and Boeing Co. are among the firms leading this trend of collaboration among unrelated industries.

    "Everything is digitized now," he said. "You get this horizontal digital convergence. Take elements from different industries, combine them in new ways to get a hybrid, a new industry different from either its parents."

    Mark Morita, GE Healthcare's manager of disruptive technologies marketing, said he routinely scouts the shows where video gamers show off their hottest stuff. He attended this month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He also reads gamer blogs and meets with his counterparts at Microsoft, Sony, Mitsubishi and other electronics concerns to exchange ideas and gadgets.

    "My whole job exists because of the rise of the video gaming industry," Morita said.

    And just as the latest video games, the latest medical equipment, GE thinks, needs to be as simple and intuitive as possible.

    "The Xbox or MP3 players are designed so that anyone using any language can run them," said Terri Bresenhan, general manager of GE's diagnostic ultrasound and information technology business. "We're keen on going from having a highly skilled person operating a machine to something more intuitive that can be run by people with a variety of skill levels."

    In their quest to make video games easier and more exciting to use, designers have moved away from traditional mouse or toggle controls. Today's gamers may wave their arms in the air, run their fingers across a board or use a closed palm to control various devices.

    Such innovations should help users avoid repetitive stress injuries and hold promise for use by physicians, Morita said.

    Morita has rigged a unit in his office where a surgeon can control screen images either by speaking into a microphone or by waving his hands at cameras above the display.

    "In the operating room, the surgeon is scrubbed and sterile," Morita said. "If he needs to consult an image while operating, he needs to control the display without touching anything that might contaminate his hands."

    Another prototype borrows from a large light-table game from Mitsubishi in which the object is to pop the most colored bubbles of light before they disappear. Morita modified the light table so that a health care team could use it to view a patient's medical records -- including high-definition images of their CT scans, colonoscopies and electrocardiograms -- and exchange views while planning a course of treatment.

    In this scenario, patients would carry their own medical histories in electronic memory sticks that could be plugged into display devices. Health care providers could make annotations and add information to the records.

    GE Healthcare representatives use the prototypes to show new technologies to academic medical researchers and other physicians, seeking feedback. Morita said that the company intends to have some of the devices ready for market in three to five years.

    Another GE Healthcare prototype is based on the futuristic display in the movie "Minority Report." Users of the new display would seemingly pluck information out of the air, placing it on a transparent screen.

    Such a display, Morita said, might have great advantages for medical classes.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:46 AM
  • DIRT - FIRST GAMEPLAY TRAILER NOW AVAILABLE FROM XBOX LIVE MARKETPLACE!

     

    Get some DiRT down your Live pipe today as Codemasters launches the first DiRT gameplay video, now available exclusively from Xbox Live® Marketplace.  

    Featuring classic Rally, Rally Cross, Crossover, Rally Raid and C.O.R.R buggy and truck action across stunning environments, this footage reveals the game in all its dirty glory.

    Coming this June for the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and the PC, with a PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system edition following shortly after, get the first DiRT gameplay video now from Xbox Live Marketplace

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:47 AM
  • Microsoft Says Blu-ray is Unnecessary, But May Offer Support

     

     

    Microsoft hedging its bets on HD DVD, ponders switch to Blu-ray

    When comparing the latest consoles, Sony constantly makes reference to its decision to include a Blu-ray Disc player with every PlayStation 3, while pointing out that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 utilizes the comparatively less spacious DVD9 format.

    Sony is so confident in its Blu-ray-enabled console that the company has stated that putting Blu-ray in PS3 will be the smartest decision made for the games machine. Microsoft Europe’s Senior Regional Director, Neil Thompson doesn’t think so, saying that Blu-ray does not give Sony’s console any advantage over the Xbox 360.

    “Do I want to make people pay £200 extra for a machine with discs that have storage space I don’t need? My answer’s no, I don’t need to do that today,” Thompson said to GamesIndustry.biz. “And I don’t think I’m going to need to do that for quite a while.”

    Microsoft is on the other side of the high-def fence as an exclusive supporter of HD DVD, and some consumers were expecting the recently announced Xbox 360 Elite to include the high-definition format drive as built-in hardware. The Xbox 360 Elite will ship with the original DVD9 specification, and Microsoft will continue to offer HD DVD movie functionality through the $199 add-on accessory.

    “I’m not sure the market has moved to high definition [movies] yet,” Thompson said. “And if and when it does, then the way that we’ve constructed the offering we’ve made means we’ll be able to go whichever way we want.”

    Thompson’s comment alludes to the possibility that the Xbox 360 may support Blu-ray Disc media should the format become unquestionably victorious. Speaking to the BBC, Thompson said, “Whatever format wins it is highly likely we will offer a solution. The only debate is if you want to watch Blu-ray movies and pay the extra money for that feature. We prefer to offer the consumer choice.”

    An analysts quoted by the Financial Times believes that the decision not to include HD DVD with the Xbox 360 Elite is a blow to Toshiba, who is oddly given sole credit for the HD DVD format. “I think, if nothing else, this is an acknowledgement that Blu-ray is going to win [the standards war],” said Michael Pachter, video games analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities. “It would have been a costly mistake to build it into the hardware if HD-DVD loses and I think Microsoft sees this as an unacceptable gamble.”

    Thompson concludes in speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, “This is about the architecture of the hardware. With the PS3 you’ve got a big, heavy truck that requires a big, heavy engine. With Xbox you’ve got a much more nimble box that uses software in the architecture of the box in a much more nimble way … That’s the difference between us and PlayStation – we didn’t have a need to develop a really complicated engine to get Blu-ray players into the market. We wanted to deliver HD gaming. Judge us on what we’ve done.”


     

     

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:48 AM
  • 'Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2'

     

    Ghost Recon has a long and storied pedigree that seen its ups and downs. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter was arguably the first game on the Xbox 360 to hint at, if not show, what 360 owners could look forward to in terms of next-gen games. Fast forward to a year later — but feels more like six months — and Ubisoft blesses us with Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2. The question I ask myself when looking at this game is: Did Ubisoft bring out this game too soon, or should this have been the title that Ubisoft released last year? Many people have already dismissed Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 as GRAW1.5, and they would not be wrong to do so, but simply writing off GRAW2 as a mere expansion of last year's offering would be an unfortunate simplification.

    It must be said that GRAW2 is gorgeous. There is a ton of post-processing effects and a variety of filters being rendered on-screen, and the game never falters in its frame rates, but the looks of a game really aren't what determines if it's great. Gears of War looked fantastic, it was the best-looking title anyone had seen on a 360 at that time, and it wowed everyone who saw it, but the game was also fun to play and compelling in both single-player and multiplayer. Perhaps GRAW2 looks as good or better than Gears of War, and perhaps it doesn't, but to my mind, that hardly matters. What matters is whether or not GRAW2 offers something gamers couldn't get from the original.

     

    GRAW2 picks up right where GRAW left off, which essentially limits it right off the bat. The game takes place on the Texas border, and the Ghosts have to clandestinely infiltrate Mexico to put an end to a potential nuclear threat. The premise in itself isn't so new or original, but the developers are trying to bring gamers to new territories rather than the hackneyed regions that tactical shooters tread so often. That alone should be applauded, but there is something somewhat lacking in going off to fight the Mexicans, especially since that was what you were doing in the previous game.

    The narrative is relatively strong, which is a good thing. Everything that comprises the storyline within GRAW2 is based on a very believable "what if" scenario. The story is propelled real time through various communiqués and a very nice use of real video feeds designed to look like any major cable news outlet. The main characters are largely few and far between and serve merely as plot devices to propel the story, which is a shame. Soldiers can pose very interesting characters, and while developers like to keep the main character neutral so the player can inject his or her own persona, the supporting cast can certainly serve more than simple sign posts telling you to "go here and do Y before Z happens."

    A nice touch that does lend some personality to the characters, as well as serving as a good gameplay tool, is the in-game dialogue during fights. Your teammates will call out how many enemies they see, relatively where they are, and what kind of a threat they pose. Your team will relay pressing information about your enemy's disposition by shouting out, "Two by the green truck!" Then when a third enemy soldier appears, they'll correct themselves by shouting, "Make that three of them!" The design is relatively contrived, as the dialogue is merely a more polished version of things you've heard teammates call out in previous games of this type, but the corrections and jargon is a simple means of making your teammates feel and sound more human.

    GRAW2 functions very much as GRAW did. The control, feel, and weight of the gameplay are largely unchanged. The context-sensitive cover system is still there and feels about as polished as it can be without migrating to a more player-actuated cover system like Gears of War. Blind firing is not very effective here, as you can only reach a majority of angles by peeking out using the "aiming" trigger. Disengaging from cover could be better, and mantling over cover could be smoother. It would also be nice if you could slide after running and assume cover if it were reachable, but the controls are tight and responsive, and for the most part, the game plays intuitively and as advertised.

    Squad commands are tied in to the directional pad. The muddy d-pad makes for some annoying moments when trying to cycles through assets or squads. This is more because of the 360's controller having a bad d-pad as opposed to bad game design, but depending on the d-pad so much for command and control makes the imprecision occur often enough to annoy. New this time around is that you can take on the view of any of your teammates and order them directly through their eyes, which is a great means of getting your team into the right spot. You want to create true tactical advantage according to the terrain, but should you miss the mark and send your boys and girl to the wrong area, your team will react aptly enough and spread out to take cover in relation to any new or lethal threats.

    New to your arsenal are a few vehicles and a revised version of last year's crop. You still have a UAV to use as a scout, which is vital to providing a firm understanding of the terrain and enemy emplacements. The U.S. Army has an unofficial motto: "We're not looking for a fair fight." The same appears to hold true here. As you choose your team's deployment, you can use an assortment of riflemen, automatic riflemen, designated marksman (in this case markswoman) medic, and complementing them is the MULE, and sometimes, an M2 Bradley IFV.

    As for your team, you can use your sniper to engage targets in the open at long range to thin out the objective area, and your UAV scout drone helps designate where to look. Meanwhile, your MULE is much like a crutch and acts as both a moving munitions locker and impromptu hard cover. If you deploy the wrong loadout of weapons, you can always switch them your weapons for the right ones, and if you choose to go in one direction, only to find out it was not the best path, the MULE can act like a mobile bunker to cover you from incoming fire. Then there is the Bradley, which basically brings a 25-millimeter cannon to more than even the odds, unless one of Mexico's commandeered M1A1 Abrams MBTs show up. In that case, pop smoke, pop smoke and pop smoke and hope you've got some satchel charges on you, or barring that, grab an anti-tank missile from the MULE

    Is GRAW2 all that? The gameplay is there. The use of high dynamic range lighting and particle effects is breathtaking, and even the railed shooting gallery segments are enjoyable breaks from all of the tactical warfare. GRAW2 is by no means a simple feat in rendering an amazing-looking game. Even so, GRAW2 still fails to distinguish itself enough from the original title, and both games seem, more or less, like parts one and two of the same entity. There is very little to differentiate GRAW from GRAW2 in terms of its looks and feel. GRAW2 is merely a continuation of the first title, which is a disservice to the core gameplay, graphics and multiplayer modes. Oftentimes, the multiplayer maps are mere revisions of last year's maps, and the single-player experience feels like a revision of last year's campaign.

    If you did not play the original, GRAW2 will astonish and amaze you, but if you have, GRAW2's impact will be very much diminished. Perhaps this is a result of having the sequel follow up so closely on the heels of the original. The capabilities of GRAW2 would be much better served if the game took place elsewhere, and that doesn't have to be the Middle East or North Korea, since nasty things are also occuring in low-intensity conflicts in Africa and Southeast Asia. With the rendering capacity exhibited in GRAW2, Ubisoft would be remiss to keep churning out revisions of the same game every year just for the sake of having a new sequel on store shelves year in and year out. Ghost Recon 2 and Rainbow 6: Lockdown bear testimony to such a developing cycle, and for the Advanced Warfighter games to fall into the same trap would be tragic; however, GRAW2 is a step in the wrong direction.

    Despite this spiritual criticism, nothing can take away from the fact the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 looks great, plays well, and is a lot of fun played alone or with friends. It is a worthy purchase for those who missed GRAW and fans of the series, and it is certainly at least worth a well-played rental for those who purchased the original GRAW and liked what they saw.

    Score: 8.9/10

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:49 AM
  • Xbox 360 Elite expected to feature IPTV capability

     

     

    According to Dean Takahashi from the The San Jose Mercury News, the Xbox 360 Elite edition will include IPTV capabilities, allowing users to view internet videos, trailers and TV channels on the console.

    It has been confirmed that the console will feature a 120GB HDD, which would be ideal for IPTV and will also feature a built-in HDMI connector.

    There are also rumours that the model will include a new chip redesign. Production is believed to have moved from 90-nanometers to 65 nanometers, which should significantly reduce manufacturing costs.

    It is believed that the Xbox 360 Elite could be released as soon as April in the US, closely followed by a European launch.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:50 AM
  • [Xbox 360, PS3] GTA IV Trailer Now Online

     

     

    The Countdown Has Ended...

    After months of wondering what exactly the latest GTA game would look and feel like, we finally have the answer. On Rockstar's website, they have finally uploaded and released the long awaited trailer to GTA IV. For those of you unable to get into the Rockstar site to check it out, Xbox.com is also hosting the video. Keep in mind, you must enter a birth date to view the video. Enjoy!
    You can see the video at the following websites:
    www.rockstargames.com
    www.xbox.com

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:51 AM
  • Novadrome Cheats, Secrets, and Achievements - Xbox 360

     

     

    The following achievements can be unlocked in Novadrome on the Xbox 360 video game console. Novadrome is a downloadable Xbox Live Arcade game, and can be downloaded via the Xbox Live Marketplace. To earn these achievements, simply complete the listed tasks.

      Ascend - 20 gamerscore points.
      Reach 200m above ground.

      Augment - 20 gamerscore points.
      Find all hidden pickups to win all the secret cars.

      Cohesion - 15 gamerscore points.
      Win a Bot Hunt without a Bot ever getting a shot at you. Unlock in Arcade Challenge.

      Devastate - 15 gamerscore points.
      Win a Wrecking Ball challenge without being wasted. Unlock in Arcade Challenge.

      Dominion - 25 gamerscore points.
      Finish SuperNova mode.

      Endurance - 15 gamerscore points.
      Win a Survivor event with maximum health. Unlock in Arcade Chllenge.

      Evasion - 15 gamerscore points.
      Win a Hounded event without anbody else being The Hounded. Unlock in Arcade Challenge.

      Momentum - 5 gamerscore points.
      Successfully negotiate a loop-the-loop.

      Navigate - 15 gamerscore points.
      Win a Beacon Blast and get 7 Beacons in a row. Unlock in Arcade Challenge.

      Supremacy - 20 gamerscore points.
      Finish career mode.

      Transcend - 15 gamerscore points.
      Win a Human Race a lap ahead. Unlock in Arcade Challenge.

      Velocity - 20 gamerscore points.
      Travel at over 350mph.

    Novadrome Cheats

    There are currently no cheats, hints, or tips on file for Novadrome on the Xbox 360 video game console. If you have one, please let me know.

    Have More Cheats?

    If you have another cheat for this video game? Please send it in and we will add it to our video game cheats index shortly.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:52 AM
  • [Xbox 360] DiRT Gameplay Trailer Now On Marketplace

     

     

    Come on! Get DiRTY!

    Those of you with Xbox Live may have found something new on the Xbox Live Marketplace this morning. The first official gameplay trailer for DiRT is now online and the exclusive trailer is not available anywhere else but on the Xbox Marketplace and online. The trailer showcases the extremely detailed graphics in this off road racing sim. So go ahead and start downloading. Get some DiRT on yourself with the high-def trailer!
    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:53 AM
  • 'Children of Men' HD DVD Hits Xbox 360 Playback Snag?..

     

     

    We've received numerous reader reports that Universal's new 'Children of Men' HD DVD is a bit of lemon for some Xbox 360 owners, due to incompatibility problems with the console's HD DVD add-on drive.

    'Children of Men' hit stores earlier this week on March 27, as one of the most highly-anticipated HD DVD releases on the format thus far, and as our Kenneth Brown wrote in his recent review of the disc, it apparently boasts stellar video and audio. Unfortunately, more than a few Xbox 360 owners have had issues playing it on the device's popular HD DVD add-on drive, with many of our readers writing in to say that the disc simply won't play, and that even multiple returns of the disc have produced the same issue.

    When testing the disc out on our own Xbox 360 add-on HD DVD drive, we had the same results -- the disc spins in the tray, but is seemingly unrecognized by the system. A black screen and a reboot threw us back to the Microsoft Dashboard menu regardless of how many times we continued to try and load the film. We tried this dic on another Xbox 360 and found the same problem. Strangely, that tryout was even more unsuccessful -- we didn't even make it to a black screen, it simply spun the disc longer than usual and remained at the Dashboard menu.

    We should note that since word of these issues first emerged, readers have also written in to say that the disc plays back fine on their Xbox 360 devices, while others have reported playback problems with the disc on Toshiba's XA2 player (we had no such issues on our XA2).

    We've contacted both Microsoft and Universal, but have not yet received any official word on whether it is a hardware problem, a software problem, or both.

    We'll certainly keep you posted as soon as official word comes in. In the meantime, we've set up a dedicated thread in our Forums area to discuss playback problems with 'Children of Men' on the Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on drive.

    Stay tuned...

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:54 AM
  • Xbox LIVE Expands Content Offerings

     

     

    REDMOND, March 29: Content from A&E Network, ADV Films, National Geographic and TotalVid.com have all joined the Xbox LIVE content lineup, while Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment have added HD movie titles to the service.

     

    The new partners add to the more than 1,500 hours of downloadable entertainment content already available on Xbox LIVE in the U.S. The new additions include A&E’s Dog the Bounty Hunter, anime releases from ADV Films, National Geographic’s Is It Real? and a slate of extreme sports content from TotalVid.com.

     

    Paramount Pictures will offer its feature films for download in high definition, including Braveheart, Team America: World Police, World Trade Center and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Also, for the first time, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will be releasing its direct-to-video movies exclusively in high definition on Xbox LIVE simultaneous with their availability on DVD, starting with Sublime and later Babylon 5: The Lost Tales.

     

    Downloads on Xbox LIVE have grown in double-digits, month-over-month, with a 400 percent increase since the service began offering TV shows and movies late last year.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:55 AM
  • Custom Painted Halo 3 Xbox 360

     

     

     

    Wired News' Game | Life blog points out to a custom-painted Halo 3 Xbox 360 currently on sale on eBay. This is definitely a must-have item for Halo fans and a perfect companion for the Legendary Edition of Halo 3. The following is the item's description

    This one of a kind "MASTER CHIEF" Xbox 360 shell set with controllers. is completely hand airbrushed! (No photo Prints or Stickers Here Folks!) Not only does this 360 Depict Detailed Master Chief and engraved water filled "3" murals, It has a realistic stone effect and water drops that look like you could wipe them off!! As with all of our systems... Both of the wireless controllers have also been wrapped in 360 degrees of matching art!
    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:55 AM
  • Under control: a return to the Xbox 360 mouse and keyboard debate

     

     

    It's no great secret that I currently run the humblest of setups. My small dorm and frequent trips to and from school don't give me the luxury of having a beautiful and big HD setup, so I've been forced to optimize the way that I game in order to facilitate easy travel. My solution to this problem has been to use a KVM switch with my Xbox 360 and PC, so that I can play with both on my main monitor. So far, this has worked pretty well: the KVM switch I got even has USB ports which let me share my mouse and keyboard with the two connected units. This makes typing in games a breeze, as my keyboard is always right there.

    I happened to be playing a little C&C3 yesterday and I got a call from a friend of mine asking if I'd play a game with him. I obliged, hit the KVM switch and started playing 360. As I was playing, I noticed that my laser mouse was lit up. Obviously, it was receiving power through the USB ports from the 360. With C&C3 on the brain, this got me thinking: if the 360 could use a mouse and a keyboard for game input, would I even bother with the PC version? While the OT rig is getting a nice boost thanks to Ben and IceStorm, my personal rig is modest, and I don't really have the resources to put into building a great one. Thus, I'd probably opt for the 360 version just to be assured a stable and predetermined performance.

    The question of PC vs. 360 is one that has been considered for a while now, but with the upcoming 360 incarnation of C&C3 and with Xbox Live Anywhere soon coming to fruition, I figured it was a good time to revisit the issue. You've heard this before: as consoles have gotten more powerful, they've become more closely equated with their computer gaming counterpart. Of course, certain genres—RTS games, in particular—just don't handle the same way across platforms, regardless of what the developers do to try and make it work with a controller. The fact of the matter is that a mouse is instrumental in delivering the accuracy necessary for certain games. But we already know that the USB-equipped 360 is more than capable of enabling mouse support with but the smallest of patches and developer awareness—if nothing else, this additional control element would create more options for the users and developers alike, and may even ease the porting process from PC to 360 and vice-versa. So what's the problem?

    The most popular theory is that Microsoft doesn't want to turn the 360 into a PC alternative for fear of cannibalizing Vista sales. This is a justified excuse in some regards, but given the cross-platform nature of the upcoming Windows Live (part of the previously titled Xbox Live Anywhere campaign), it seems like offering the option wouldn't cannibalize sales of anything Microsoft has stake in. With the Games for Windows branding mandating the use of the Xbox 360 controller, and the cross-platform XNA development studio enabling such support, it follows that the same should hold for mouse and keyboard support. Beyond diversifying the options available to the end-user, the new controls would level the debated playing field in many of the projected cross-platform games, like Huxley, Shadowrun and so on.

    There are solutions out there, but nothing has proven to be anywhere near as useful as a simple driver update would be. You'd think Microsoft, of all companies, would jump on board with the option outright: after all, Microsoft Game Studios was, and still is, a PC development firm as well. Alas, where Microsoft managed to learn from Sony quite a bit during the transition from Xbox to Xbox 360, Sony's flexibility towards user hard drives and peripheral support has opened the shades on Microsoft's proprietary peripheral sting: the $180 120 GB hard drive that is shipping alongside the new Elite 360 is proof enough of that.

    Alas, Microsoft has shown no signs of budging on this issue. Whatever the reason, mouse and keyboard support for games doesn't look to be in the cards. So, I will go back and play C&C3 on my own PC, not able to enjoy its graphical magnificence to its fullest. I'll pass up other potential PC gems simply because I can't afford to play them. And when C&C3 comes out on 360, I'll probably pick it up to enjoy it over Xbox Live, though the joy will be bittersweet, as I will be robbed of the proper enjoyment of a genre that doesn't belong on a console with the existing perversion of control that the genre was built around.

    Ultimately, I'm left asking myself whether or not the 360, with the advent of cross-platform gaming on the 360 and PC, should finally get mouse and keyboard support. What do you guys think?

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:56 AM
  • Team Fortress 2 to have PC-Xbox 360 interplay

     

    Valve's Robin Walker, the co-creator of the original Team Fortress, revealed they hope to enable Team Fortress 2 for Vista-Xbox 360 cross platform multiplayer in an interview with Game Informer.

    The cross-platform multiplayer action is possible and apparently Valve is simply waiting for Microsoft to provide the API used in Shadowrun.

    "We’d love to have the Xbox and PC play together, and technically, from our side, there’s no technical reason why you can’t—the engine is the same, the network is the same." Walker explained. "It really comes down to knowing Microsoft has announced that Shadowrun is going to do that, but they haven’t let anyone outside of Microsoft, I mean we don’t have an API or anything."

    Team Fortress 2, which is included in the whopping Half-Life 2 Orange Box package is an all-new version of Team Fortress that looks more like The Incredibles then the original more Call of Duty-looking Team Fortress 2 visuals.

    Other developers like Epic are looking to utilize the same tech to make Vista-Xbox 360 cross platform multiplayer for Unreal Tournament 3. Epic is apparently also waiting for Shadowrun to launch and see how the technology works.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:57 AM
  • Team Fortress 2 Could Have Vista Vs. Xbox 360, Says Valve

     

     

    In an interview with GameInformer, Valve Designer Robin Walker said, “We’d love to, technically from our side, there’s no reason why we can’t. It really comes down to knowing Microsoft has announced that Shadowrun is going to do that, but they have not let anyone outside of Microsoft, I mean we do not have an API or anything. From our perspective, we’d like to do it all. We would love to have the Xbox and PC play together, and technically, from our side, there is no technical reason why you cannot, the engine is the same, the network they use is the same. It really comes down to negotiations with Microsoft.”

    Team Fortress 2 is expected to release in winter 2007 as part of bundles on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The cross-platform matches would be amazing and one can wonder if Valve could do something to bring Counter-Strike to the Xbox 360, that would be the ultimate cross-platform match!

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:58 AM
  • Team Fortress 2: Valve Wants PC-Xbox 360 Interplay

     

     

    In an interview with Game Informer, Valve's Robin Walker, the co-creator of the original Team Fortress, has revealed they would like to enable Vista-Xbox 360 cross platform multiplayer for Team Fortress 2 and they are simply waiting for Microsoft to provide the API used in Shadowrun.

    "We’d love to have the Xbox and PC play together, and technically, from our side, there’s no technical reason why you can’t—the engine is the same, the network is the same." Walker explained. "It really comes down to knowing Microsoft has announced that Shadowrun is going to do that, but they haven’t let anyone outside of Microsoft, I mean we don’t have an API or anything."

    Team Fortress 2, which is included in the mega Half-Life 2 combo titled "The Orange Box," is an all-new version of Team Fortress, the legendary title that spawned team based multiplayer action games.

    Other developers have expressed interest in enabling Vista-Xbox 360 cross platform multiplayer; such is the case of Epic Games and Unreal Tournament 3. Epic also said they are waiting for Shadowrun to launch and see how the technology works.
    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:59 AM
  • First Xbox Live Arcade game to be downloaded 1 millions times is?

     

     

     

    Albert Penello, director of global platform marketing for Xbox, has revealed in a little snippet of a quote to Reuters that Uno is the first game to be downloaded one million times from Xbox Live Arcade.

    "What!?" screamed a flabbergasted CVG Xbox channel ed Andy Robinson, who then went on a d-pad crushing rampage through the Live Arcade menus shouting out all the games that he thinks are "miles better".

    If it was humanly possible for him to download Lumines 1.2 million times in the next hour of work, you'd be reading a "We stand corrected" story tomorrow from Reuters.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 12:00 PM
  • [Xbox 360] New details on Project Gotham Racing 4

     

     

    The May issue of Official Xbox Magazine has an exclusive sneak peak at the latest installment of the Project Gotham Racing franchise. Below are some of the new features we can expect out of PGR4:

    Enhanced Weather Simulation- "One of the slickest new features in PGR is its weather. Bizarre's using what it likes to call ‘extreme weather' for more than just making the sky gray. Water beads up on beautifully on all the gorgeous paintjobs, spray jets out from the tires, and in the in-car view, wipers move and windshields ice up."

    Enhanced Raceway Environments- "A TV-style intro sets up each event, with a commentator offering wisdom...Choppers buzz overhead, camera crews and video vans are everywhere, and hordes of fans line the track. They'll wear gear with your logo, wave your national flag, and react far more obviously to your performance."

    Extended Car Selection- "PGR4 will deliver a much broader set of vehicles, ranging from a vintage'63 Corvette Sting Ray and the '54 Maserati 250F to the sleek, ultra-modern Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano."

    Click Here!
    Friday, March 30, 2007 12:01 PM
  • Trade in guns for XBOX 360s, PCs or cash in Mexico

     

     

    In an attempt to curb violent crimes, Mexican authorities have decided on a trial program. Citizens of Mexico City can trade in their high caliber automatic or semi-automatic weapons (such as rifles or machine guns) for a PC.

    Those with smaller caliber weapons or pistols will be able to trade those in for a XBOX 360. There is also a cash option. The program was officially kicked off yesterday in the Tepito area of Mexico City where organizers have over 100 XBOX 360s and computers to give away. If the program is received well it will be introduced in other high crime areas of the city.

    Guns handed over will be destroyed by the army.

    I don’t know what goes through the mind of a criminal because I’m not one. I’m a gamer and in that, a nice gaming PC or XBOX 360 has far more use to me than a gun does. My bet is that at least some of the people that live in those areas are keeping guns for self defense; I’d hate to think that they would go in to trade their gun when it’s something that they might actually need.

    I doubt the criminals are going to hand in their guns (except for the small time ones) but the serious organized crime type people are not going to bite, unless they have that little brother, sister or nephew that really really wants a XBOX 360.

    It is unknown how well the program has been received so far.

     

     

     

    Friday, March 30, 2007 12:01 PM
  • Coming Soon on Xbox Live Video

     

    Since its launch in November last year, the Xbox Live Marketplace has been a huge success with their new movies and television content initiative. Over 1,500 hours of content is currently available for download with major networks including CBS, TBS, Warner Bros and Paramount Pictures providing content.

    Today, Microsoft has announced that the available content is about to get even bigger. A&E Network, ADV Films, National Geographic and TotalVid.com will be adding an additional 1,500 hours of content for Xbox 360 owners to download.

    “With more than 300 games expected by year’s end, an Xbox Live community of more than 6 million people and a growing catalogue of premium content from some of the biggest names in entertainment today, Xbox 360 is an incredible value,” said Peter Moore, corporate vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business in the Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft. “Adding partners and content like this helps reinforce the console’s position as the center of connected entertainment in the living room.”

    The new content partners already have a impressive lineup that will be showing up soon.

    A&E Network - “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” “King of Cars,” “Gene Simmons Family Jewels,” “Driving Force” and “Criss Angel Mindfreak”
    ADV Films - Top offerings from the No. 1 producer-distributor of Japanese animation (“anime”) outside Japan
    National Geographic - The television series “Is It Real?” and “Taboo” as well as programs such as “21 Days to Baghdad” and “Air Force One”
    TotalVid.com - A broad action-sports offering including extreme skiing and snowboarding, skateboarding, motocross, surfing and mountain biking

    Paramount and Warner Bros. will also be making a few changes to the Xbox 360 lineup. For the first time on Xbox Live, Paramount will offer some of their feature films including ‘Braveheart,’ ‘Team America: World Police,’ ‘World Trade Center,’ and ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’ for download in high-definition. Topping that is Warner Bros. who will be releasing exclusive direct-to-video movies to the Xbox 360 simultaneously with their DVD counterparts in high-definition starting with ‘Sublime’ and ‘Babylon 5: The Lost Tales.’

    Friday, March 30, 2007 12:02 PM
  •  

     

    EIDOS DELIVERS NEW MIDWAY CONTENT

     

     

    Battlestations Midway fans can quench their thirst for fresh naval action as two new historical battle maps and brand new vehicles are now newly available on Xbox Live Marketplace for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft.

    The new battle maps reenact two epic battles from the Pacific war: The Battle of Sibuyan Sea and The Raid on Truk. Both maps and five new vehicles are now available to download for 400 Microsoft points.

    The Battle of the Sibuyan Sea provides a new multi player experience based on one of the major battles of the Leyte Gulf Campaign, the greatest naval warfare battle in history that effectively destroyed the Japanese fleet in October of 1944.

    Players command either the US Fleet featuring the USS Iowa and USS Enterprise or Japan’s finest fleet, Kurita, featuring the super battleships Yamato and the ill-fated Musashi. The single player battle, The Raid on Truk, is based on Operation Hailstone, a massive naval air and surface attack launched by the United States Navy against the Japanese naval and air base at Truk. The devastating attack took place in mid-February 1944.

    Players command the US Fleet in a four phase battle starting with a P-38 air strike and leading to the command of the USS Enterprise and her screening force.

    The new battles also feature a new and unique set of air, sea, and undersea vehicles that challenge the player’s skills and naval strategies. The following five new vehicles will be available: the P-38 Lightning, the Nakijima J1N1 Gekko, the USS Iowa (BB-61), the IJN Shimakaza, and the Type A mini-sub.

     

     

    Friday, March 30, 2007 12:03 PM
  • NO BROWNIE POINTS FOR XBOX CUSTOMER SERVICE

     

     

    Xbox Live customer care unintentionally let out the confidential information of users to account abusers. The director of Xbox Live programming Larry Hryb said this "shouldn't have happened".

    Also known as 'social engineering'—it is a collection of techniques used to manipulate people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. While similar to a confidence trick or simple fraud, the term typically applies to trickery for information gathering or computer system access and in most (but not all) cases the attacker never comes face-to-face with the victim.

    Microsoft has admitted that their support staff was ill prepared for such attacks.

    “[The customer support team] is examining the policies, and have already begun re-training the support staff and partners to help make sure we reduce this type of social engineering attack,” wrote Xbox Live programming director Hryb.

    He continued, “There's no other way to say it; this situation shouldn't have happened. Our customers deserve better.”

    Pretexting is the act of creating and using an invented scenario (the pretext) to persuade a target to release information or perform an action and is usually done over the telephone. It's more than a simple lie as it most often involves some prior research or set up and the use of pieces of known information (e.g., for impersonation: date of birth, Social Security Number, last bill amount) to establish legitimacy in the mind of the target.

    This technique is often used to trick a business into disclosing customer information, and is used by private investigators to obtain telephone records, utility records, banking records and other information directly from junior company service representatives. The information can then be used to establish even greater legitimacy under tougher questioning with a manager (e.g., to make account changes, get specific balances, etc).
    Friday, March 30, 2007 12:04 PM
  • 'Bullet Witch' (X360) Downloadable Content on Xbox Live

     

     

    Atari has released the first downloadable content for its action game Bullet Witch, including a free, brand-new White Witch costume for the game’s heroine Alicia, and a Bullet Witch Xbox 360 Theme pack. In addition, for 20 points each, players can download one brand new mission “Dynamite Beauty” and two enhanced versions of the "Clad in Streaming Black" mission featuring ‘Great Spells’ unlocked and a heightened level of difficulty, respectively.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 12:05 PM
  • Battlestations: Midway Content Dives Onto Xbox Live

     

     

    New Battlestations: Midway content, announced last month, is available today. The download, which costs 400 Microsoft Points, give players one new multiplayer map, a new single-player battle and five new vehicles. The two new maps are set in the Pacific.

    The Battle of Sibuyan Sea multiplayer map is based on a major battle of the Leyte Gulf Campaign, which did considerable damage to the Japanese fleet in October 1944. Players can participate as the U.S. fleet, including the USS Iowa and USS Enterprise, or play as Japan, with super battleships Yamato and Musashi. The Raid on Truk is a single-player battle that’s based on Operation Hailstone, in February 1944. Players take charge of the U.S. fleet in a four-stage battle. The pack also includes new vehicles, including the P-38 Lightning, Nakijima J1N1 Gekko, USS Iowa (BB-61), IJN Shimakaze and Type A mini-sub.
    Friday, March 30, 2007 12:06 PM
  • Sony Takes Jab at New Xbox Version

    Sony has taken the first jab at Microsoft's not so secret Xbox 360 Elite, claiming the system will do more damage than good to the Xbox brand. "They've got the hardcore gamer -- that's the 10 million figure," said Dave Karraker, senior director of corporate communications for Sony. "The challenge is how do you grow the consumer outside of the hardcore demographic. We don't feel like splintering your market further is the way to do that."

    Karraker says Microsoft is slowly going to eliminate the $299 360 core system, which does not sell as well as its premium brother. The Elite will add HDMI support and a 120GB hard drive. "We view every single PlayStation consumer as an elite consumer. Meaning no one is going to get shortchanged at the end of the day, whether they bought one on day one or just yesterday," Karraker says. "[The Elite 360] just validates the same business model they were decrying back in November. They said that consumers don't need HDMI, now they have HDMI. They said that 20 gig was enough to host downloadable content and now they are upgrading that, too. To borrow from my friends at Nintendo, it's kind of a 'me too' side."

    Karraker went on to say developers will need to create 360 games for the "lowest common denominator," meaning the core system. Of course, Sony's PlayStation 3 also comes in multiple versions, each with a different size hard drive. The new 360 Elite will retail for $480, $120 less than the premium PS3 and $230 more than Wii.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 12:07 PM
  • Microsoft confirms new Xbox 360

     

    It's been one of the worst-kept video game secrets of the past month, and this week Microsoft finally confirmed the rumours swirling around the Internet to be true: a new Xbox 360 model is on the way.

    Dubbed the Xbox 360 Elite, the third version of the game console will be jet black in colour, boast a 120 GB hard drive (versus the standard Xbox 360's 20 GB drive) and have an HDMI output jack and cable, allowing it to take advantage of the highest resolution available on current high-definition TVs.

    Due in Canadian stores on May 4 for $549 -- $50 more than the so-called premium Xbox 360 and $150 more than the Xbox 360 Core -- the Xbox 360 Elite "is aimed at the consumer who was waiting to see all the console offerings presented by all the competitors," said Xbox Canada's Craig Tullett.

    "They want something that is in their minds the best of the best."

    But the impending arrival of the Xbox 360 Elite hasn't been met with universal praise, even from among some of the Xbox faithful on Internet forums. Some Canadian fans are pointing out that the Elite is the same price as the entry level PlayStation 3 model, but lacks the PS3's built-in high-definition, high-capacity Blu-ray disc drive.

    Others are bitter that they recently bought an Xbox 360 without having any inkling that a better model of the game console was on the way for just $50 more.

    The Xbox 360 Elite's controller and headset will also be black in colour, and black versions of most Xbox 360 accessories will be available in stores when the new console goes on sale.

    For those who want to upgrade their current Xbox 360, the 120 GB hard drive will be sold separately for $209, but existing Xbox 360s will not have an option of being upgraded to support HDMI output.

    Canadians will also be unable to fill that roomy hard drive with the same selection of movies and TV shows that their counterparts in the U.S. enjoy via downloads from the popular Xbox Live Video Marketplace.

    Microsoft says they're committed to bringing the currently U.S.-only Video Marketplace to other countries, but that no timetable has yet been established for its availability in Canada.

    Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:39 AM
  • WWE '08 Appearing On Wii, PS3, Xbox 360

     

    Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 are all going to be laying down the Smackdown after all. The only next-gen console the title had been announced for previously was the Xbox 360, so it's lovely news for Wii and PS3 gamers.

    From THQ and JAKKS:

    THQ Inc. and JAKKS Pacific, Inc. today announced that WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 is in development for multiple gaming platforms, including the franchise debut on the Wii video game console, Nintendo DS and the PLAYSTATION 3 computer entertainment system. In addition, development is underway for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system, PSP (PlayStationPortable) system and wireless devices. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 will mark the largest cross-platform launch for the market-leading franchise and is expected to begin shipping to retail outlets worldwide this fall.

    “We are extremely pleased with the success of the SmackDown vs. Raw franchise and its continued growth to a widespread audience, particularly in our European markets,” said Bob Aniello, senior vice president, worldwide marketing, THQ. “With the addition of fresh, innovative game play on the Wii, the tremendous capabilities of the PLAYSTATION 3 system and unique handheld experiences for Nintendo DS and wireless devices, gamers can now truly live the life of a WWE Superstar and choose from numerous ways to play.”

    “We are excited about the incredible potential for WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 as the franchise expands to six platforms,” said Nelo Lucich, vice president of interactive, JAKKS Pacific. “The game’s new Superstar Fighting Styles and Struggle Submission System, combined with year-over-year improvements, are certain to bring the sports entertainment video game experience to new heights with long-standing franchise fans and casual gamers alike.”

    WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 will let players take the fight into their own hands with the debut of Superstar Fighting Styles. The game features eight unique styles, each having its own strategy and exclusive attributes. A brand new Struggle Submission System will give players intuitive and natural control over their WWE Superstars by using the game’s popular analog controls. Realism and strategy are at the forefront, as players will now control the amount of pressure they apply to their opponents. In addition, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 will feature a significant Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) presence, including a variety of Superstars, arenas and weapons. The game is also packed with significant updates requested by fans, including new rosters, more environmental hotspots, a combined Season and General Manager Mode experience, improved out-of-ring action, enhanced online community support and much more. The Nintendo DS version of the video game will offer a unique game play experience, including touch screen control over Superstars, situation-based fighting with unique holds and a full year of nonstop action in WWE Season Mode.

    Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:40 AM
  • Microsoft Planning Xbox 360 Brute Edition

     

     

    A source close to Microsoft has revealed to TeamXbox.com that the company is working on another edition of the Xbox 360.

    "The Core Edition will drop to $250 to compete with the Nintendo Wii, while the Xbox 360 Elite will replace the Xbox 360 Premium," our source told us. "The Xbox 360 Brute will compete with the 60GB edition of the PlayStation 3."

    According to our source, the Xbox 360 Brute Edition will feature a flash-based hard drive provided by Samsung with a 1 Terabyte (1000 gigabytes) capacity.

    The Brute will also replace the Xbox 360 DVD drive for LG’s Super Multi Blu drive, allowing the Xbox 360 to read both Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD media.


    Other features of the Xbox 360 Brute Edition are built-in Wi-Fi, an Xbox 360 wireless headset and a Microsoft Sidewinder Freestyle Pro, giving the Xbox 360 a motion sensitive to compete with the Wii remote and the PlayStation 3 SIXAXIS controller.
    Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:42 AM
  • Guitar Hero 2 Cheats and Secrets - Xbox 360

     

     

    Guitar Hero 2 features addition songs that are only available on the Xbox 360. There are 10 tracks in total, two of these songs need to be unlocked by purchasing them in the game (with the game's money system). Additionaly, there is, or will be, download content for Guitar Hero 2 on the Xbox Live Marketplace.

      Billion Dollar Babies - Alice Cooper
      Dead! - My Chemical Romance
      Hush - Deep Purple
      Life Wasted - Pearl Jam
      Possum Kingdom - Toadies
      Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo - Rick Derringer
      Salvation - Rancid
      The Trooper - Iron Maiden
      Drink Up - Ounce of Self
      (unlockable song)
      Kicked to the Curb - Noble Rot (unlockable song)

    Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:44 AM
  •  

    Project Gotham Racing 4 (Xbox 360) Details

    Xboxic managed to get some new info for Project Gotham Racing 4, taken from the May edition of OXM magazine:

    Enhanced Weather Simulation: “One of the slickest new features in PGR is its weather. Bizarre’s using what it likes to call ‘extreme weather’ for more than just making the sky gray. Water beads up on beautifully on all the gorgeous paintjobs, spray jets out from the tires, and in the in-car view, wipers move and windshields ice up.”
    Enhanced Raceway Environments: “A TV-style intro sets up each event, with a commentator offering wisdom…Choppers buzz overhead, camera crews and video vans are everywhere, and hordes of fans line the track. They’ll wear gear with your logo, wave your national flag, and react far more obviously to your performance.”
    Extended Car Selection: “PGR4 will deliver a much broader set of vehicles, ranging from a vintage’63 Corvette Sting Ray and the ’54 Maserati 250F to the sleek, ultra-modern Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano.”
    On the tracks: “You won’t want to miss out on your viewing time with PGR4’s tracks, which tally up to 200-plus in 10 locations.”
    On Xbox Live initiatives: “PGR4’s cooking up a mysterious new matchmaking system (like Halo 2’s).”
    On in-car view: ” Bizarre has two key improvements in the works.You’ll now see drivers moving more- feeding the wheel as they zip through turns or pumping their fist after a win. Special effects will also crank up the tension in key moments: you’ll get a shake effect at high speeds, and your vision will blur after spending some quality time with a a wall.”
    In conclusion: “PGR4 feels hugely promising- like a proper sequel with loads of cool new toys.”

     

     

    Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:45 AM
  • Xbox Live Arcade Review: Castlevania - Symphony of the Night

     

     

    A true classic when it launched on the generally anti-2-D PlayStation in 1997, this revolutionary game in the Castlevania franchise is the definition of a benchmark. It’s influence is still felt in recurring adventures on the Game Boy Advance and DS editions, and after 10 years, Symphony of the Night hasn’t lost an ounce of its appeal.

    Beginning with the epic battle from the finale of another true classic Castlevania, Dracula X, Symphony transitions into the first game in the series to break a linear platform model. Players explore a massive castle loaded with regenerating enemies as Alucard, hacking away at various ghosts and undead monsters in their quest to level up.

    The addictive nature is rarely matched by anything other than puzzle games. Finding new items, figuring out the best way to manage them, and heading out to battle with your latest finds brings that simple urge to continue on right behind it.

    While the Sega Saturn port of the game, never released in the U.S., would offer the ability to play as a new character (Maria) and add various extras, it was plagued with slowdown and graphical issues. As such, this Xbox Live edition is the PlayStation version. It’s fully intact, including the soundtrack which bumps this up well past the old 50MB limit Microsoft originally restricted these games to.

    This is a direct translation for better or worse. The only update is a rather sloppy “smooth” graphics feature that simply turns pixels into blobs. It’s a personal choice which is worse. There’s no widescreen support, requiring an ugly stretch or static art on the sides of the frame.

    Spoiled by the DS versions, it’s hard not to have a map readily available. If there’s one update the Xbox Live conversion needed, it was an on-screen map in any form. For the sake of accuracy however, purists may have scoffed at such an inclusion.

    Achievements are nicely spaced for both casual and hardcore players. Playing through the game should earn all of them, with the exception of playing through as Richter. It’s a game that will easily earn its highly acceptable 800 MS Point price tag if you’re going for the full array of 200 Gamerscore points.

    As far as direct ports go, they rarely come any cleaner than this. Symphony was already one of the greatest games of the modern era, and mixed in with the Live Arcade, it still rules its post. This will be amongst the elite of titles available for download for quite some time to come.

    Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Animated Blood and Gore, Animated Violence. This title is also available on: PS1, Sega Saturn.

    Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:47 AM
  • Duke Nukem Forever Dated, Xbox 360 Version Announced

     

    Garland, Texas — April 1, 2007 — 3D Realms announced today that that the highly-anticipated first person shooter, Duke Nukem Forever has gone to gold master and will be available in stores in North America and Europe on April 31, 2007.

    "Our most ambitious project ever is finally done," said Scott Miller, CEO of 3D Realms. "We’re excited to get the game into everyone’s hands and let them experience it for themselves. We hope they enjoy it. I think it’s our best game yet."

    The company also announced the game will be released simultaneously for the PC and Xbox 360. Unfortunately, there won’t be Wii and PS3 versions since those systems couldn’t handle the complex visuals and physics found in the game.

    3D Realms revealed that the game will feature an episodic structure and on April 31, the company will release the first episode of the game.

    The second episode is expected to be released in the week of February 29, 2011.

    Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:50 AM
  • Xbox 360 Review: TMNT

     

    Closely sticking to its source material, the latest in a string of mediocre Ninja Turtles games barely breaks the average marker. While sharply designed in terms of jumping mechanics, the dull level design feels forced, combat is too loose to be successful, and the lack of multi-player utterly baffling.

    Family is the focus of the story, the reasoning behind the decision to eliminate multi-player. For the majority of the game, the fleet footed heroes go solo through their missions of which there are 16 total. When together, a press of a button swaps the current turtle out for a new one.

    To call TMNT easy would be an understatement. Checkpoints are beyond generous, and losing all your health only requires you to rapidly press the A button to regain your health. The biggest penalty is being forced to listen to the repetitive voice samples over again at the spot of your death.

    Game play resembles a lost PlayStation gem Jackie Chan's Stuntmaster, a title that presented a series of difficult jumping puzzles interspersed with rapid fire combat. TMNT is similar in that its linear level design requires the same timing and skill when jumping onto and off of various objects. Unfortunately, this is not a lost gem, and TMNT is riddled with mistakes.

    The non-user controlled camera can make it difficult to judge what's the next section of the level or an instant death. Likely to make it easier for younger players, the turtles literally cling to walls far too easily. Pressing A could wall run, jump off a wall, perform a standard jump, or grab a ledge. It's infuriating when you plan a simple leap only to bounce off the wall into a death fall.

    Boss fights are uninteresting and put up only a small fight. Standard combat is unspectacular, failing to recapture the magic of the classic games in this franchise. Team up moves allows another turtle to perform a co-op attack to take out more enemies, though it's just as easy to jam away at the attack button. The 360 version does manage to make this a slightly intense affair, with a staggering number of enemies on screen at once compared to other versions. For the most part, they simply stand around until they're hit however, dragging out the fights artificially.

    Adding to the length is important though. Each level can be run through in around 15 minutes, and since it's built for speed run freaks, likely less than for a skilled player. Four hours is enough to see it all, while grainy clips and drawings are the only extras to strive for.

    If you're a die-hard fan of the speed run, TMNT has something to offer. It offers finely tuned jumping mechanics that are sadly trapped in a generic licensed romp. This is a missed opportunity for fans of the franchise, movie, and games.

    TMNT is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Violence. This game can also be found on: GBA, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PS2, PSP, Wii, and Xbox 360.

    Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:52 AM
  • Xbox 360 Review - 'Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2'

     

    Ghost Recon has a long and storied pedigree that seen its ups and downs. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter was arguably the first game on the Xbox 360 to hint at, if not show, what 360 owners could look forward to in terms of next-gen games. Fast forward to a year later — but feels more like six months — and Ubisoft blesses us with Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2. The question I ask myself when looking at this game is: Did Ubisoft bring out this game too soon, or should this have been the title that Ubisoft released last year? Many people have already dismissed Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 as GRAW1.5, and they would not be wrong to do so, but simply writing off GRAW2 as a mere expansion of last year's offering would be an unfortunate simplification.

    It must be said that GRAW2 is gorgeous. There is a ton of post-processing effects and a variety of filters being rendered on-screen, and the game never falters in its frame rates, but the looks of a game really aren't what determines if it's great. Gears of War looked fantastic, it was the best-looking title anyone had seen on a 360 at that time, and it wowed everyone who saw it, but the game was also fun to play and compelling in both single-player and multiplayer. Perhaps GRAW2 looks as good or better than Gears of War, and perhaps it doesn't, but to my mind, that hardly matters. What matters is whether or not GRAW2 offers something gamers couldn't get from the original.

    Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:54 AM
  • Xbox 360: New Halo 2 Maps And Screenshots

     

    The two maps are actually remakes from the original Halo: Combat Evolved. The first is a tried and true retake of the ‘Hang e’m High’ pillar and catwalk deathmatch map. This time the name is firmly suited to Tombstone, and has – according to the press release – “a few new surprises”.

    The second map is a remake of one of the worst maps on the first Halo, Derelict. I’m sorry, but Derelict was dark and boring. It had the atmosphere of a sullen spaceship and it proved to make every match dull. Thankfully the new version of the Derelict, aptly named Desolation, provides a whole new pace on this classic (yet ugly) map. New graphics, new effects and better gameplay has been promised for the new experience.

    Both maps can be obtained for $4 buckaroonies. Weird that the press release didn’t distinctly specify the price in terms of Microsoft points. Still, they’ll probably be mega-popular nonetheless. And as promised, you can view the screenshots of the new maps below. Oh yeah, and both maps will be available for the Xbox and Xbox 360 version of Halo 2. Microsoft didn’t completely forget about the original fans of the Big Black Box.
    Sunday, April 1, 2007 9:58 AM
  • Coverage: Guitar Hero 2 For Xbox 360

     

    In late March, I was privileged enough to attend a media event for what is sure to be one of Xbox 360’s flagship titles for Spring of 2007, Guitar Hero 2.

    Having already played my Playstation 2 copy to death, I was already prepared for the 5 button guitar shredding I was going to encounter when I walked up the stairs of the Hard Rock Café hearing the faint sounds of War Pigs, whether it was on Medium or Hard mode, I’d soon discover.

    When I entered the main area there was a beautiful HD screen showing off GH2 with various mini guitar hero stations set up all around the room. The first thing I noticed was the large improvement to the graphics. Little nuances like blood on the Grim Ripper’s scythe and Axl Steel’s handle bar-goatee combination finally noticeable thanks to an upgrade of lighting and shaders that the Xbox 360 has shown us in the past. The sound has also significantly improved - finally Guitar Hero in true 5.1 surround sound -both players in co-op and face-off can finally be heard independently and clearly a common problem with the Playstation 2 version.

    The guitar is a white explorer model - it took a bit of getting used to I will admit, but once I played a few times it started to feel like that black and red SG I have waiting at home. One thing I did notice is that there seemed to be lag on the whammy bar - I actually discussed this with a few people and they had noticed this as well.

    The new songs are the best addition to the 360 game. I was able to play Iron Maiden’s The Trooper which was one of the most requested bands to be in GH2 when the PS2 game was forthcoming - the song does not disappoint and it’s sure to become one of those songs you’ll curse Iron Maiden for when trying to beat the game on Expert. Another song I had the opportunity to try was Rick Derringer’s Rock N’ Roll hoochie coo which will bring you back to that time you turned on your classic rock radio station and didn’t hear Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride.

    All in all, what more can be said. Iit’s Guitar Hero, the best rhythm game ever made. Buy it on April 3rd and bring it to parties if it isn’t waiting there for you already.

    Sunday, April 1, 2007 10:01 AM
  • Vampire Rain and Project Sylpheed for Xbox 360 Confirmed by Microsoft

     

     

    Microsoft has confirmed not one, but two huge games for the Xbox 360. First one is the Japanese action-stealth game Vampire’s Rain while the second game is the Project Sylpheed. Vampire Rain has been developed by Artoon while Square Enix has developed Project Sylpheed.

     

     

    Vampire Rain:

      Gamers can embark on a pulse-pounding mission in “Vampire Rain,” leading a highly trained black-ops unit on a secret mission to eradicate the deadliest supernatural enemies ever faced: the deeply fast and super agile Nightwalkers. Gamers must navigate all areas of an eerie and rain soaked city by moving across rooftops and through back alleys, avoiding detection to ensure the best strategic use of high-tech weaponry. Developed by Artoon, “Vampire Rain” unites stealth, survival horror and shooter aspects of several classic games to bring an powerful and spine-tingling experience that can be enjoyed alone or with friends over Xbox LIVE. Who can keep their cool under the heat of the dog days with Nightwalkers in hot pursuit?

    Project Sylpheed:

      Reminiscent of summer days spent hunched-over a coin-op machine in a dark arcade, “Project Sylpheed” is a 3-D makeover of the classic, mid-‘80s scrolling shooter franchise “Silpheed.” The game launches gamers through an exciting space combat experience driven by a deep, multilayered storyline. Feast on more than 50 minutes of visually stunning Japanese CG animation footage that propels the engaging story forward between space combat missions. As Katana Faraway, players must pilot a Delta Saber space fighter equipped with a highly customizable arsenal of weapons. In order to succeed, players must perform squadron commands and monitor their speed, shield, radar and weapons as they maneuver out of demanding situations and defend Earth against the evil ADAN forces.

    Vampire Rain and Project Sylpheed are expected to release for the Xbox 360 this summer. The games are priced at $39.99 (approx. Rs. 1800). Two Xbox 360 titles and that too from big developers, it seems like that Microsoft is not taking the next-gen console wars lightly.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 7:59 AM
  • Xbox 360 Lead US Market Through 2009

     

    According to an analyst who's comments were published on BusinessWeek.com, the Xbox 360 will lead the United States market through the year 2009.

    Bill Kreher, an analyst from A.G. Edwards, said that first mover advantages (i.e. the Xbox 360 being available well before the Wii and PS3) will be a huge factor in Microsoft winning the next generation console war.

    Basically the 360 had the first-mover advantage, so they already had 5 million units in US households before the PS3 and Wii launched. That’s a lot of the reason why I think they’ll end up winning.”

    The already established Xbox Live user base was also said to be a massive card in Microsoft's hand - you can't argue with six million users. Kerher also commented further on Sony's strategy and what they might do to get level or even overtake Microsoft's current lead. There is also some comments from a Sony exec who unsurprisingly disputes the analysts claims.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:01 AM
  • Let the Xbox 360 Pre-Orders Begin!

     

     

    Well THAT didn’t take long. Just days ago , we reported on M$’s new SKU, the Xbox 360, which will feature a slick black exterior, 120GB HDD, and HDMI ports. And now, 6 days later, Circuit City is ready to take your money. We won’t be seeing the 360 elite in consumers’ hands for at least the next 4 weeks, but already you can head over to Circuit City’s store and hand over $479.99 to guarantee yourself one of the updated boxes.

    So what do you say, gamers? For the 360 owners out there, is it worth the upgrade? Or will you just be picking up a 120 GB drive seperately? And for all of you out there that haven’t already decided to get a 360, does this change your mind at all? Personally, I’m not looking forward to this bundle so much as I am the emminent price drop that we’ll probably see in the “Premium” bundle.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:03 AM
  • Xbox Elite, HP Learning From Apple, Dads and Grads Gifts 2

     

    Of the products HP showcased, two that stood out were the semi-industrial all-in-one printer and the small business NAS appliance. The first provides corporate capability with small business ease of use and price. The second transforms a consumer offering -- while retaining ease-of-use and price advantages -- into something a small business can use.

    Last week, there were three events worth talking about, but I'll mention one of them only in passing. The first was the entry of the Xbox Elite into the market, positioned against Sony (NYSE: SNE) . It is almost a great product -- and for new buyers, it may be good enough -- but Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) could have hit a home run and didn't.

    HP launched its small business initiative and discontinued its dedicated Media Center line, but what I took away was this: They are becoming more and more like Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) in terms of marketing and product design.

    Finally, I'll mention three additional products I think might make good gifts for dads and grads as the countdown to Father's Day and the end of the school year continues.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:04 AM
  • Smackdown on Wii, Xbox 360 & PS3

     

    WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008 is coming later this year, and the series is going everywhere it seems. In the past, the series has marked itself primarily on the Xbox and PS2, and now it will be showing up on the Xbox 360 and PS3, along with the PSP handheld. A first for the series though comes with the announcement of installments for the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and other unnamed wireless devices. This literally makes it the most widespread system launch to date.

    "We are excited about the incredible potential for WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 as the franchise expands to six platforms," said Nelo Lucich, vice president of interactive, JAKKS Pacific. "The game's new Superstar Fighting Styles and Struggle Submission System, combined with year-over-year improvements, are certain to bring the sports entertainment video game experience to new heights with long-standing franchise fans and casual gamers alike."

    This new entry is in the series is looking to expand by not only having updated rosters for both shows, but also bringing in superstars from ECW into the mix for players to take control of. The Season mode is being accompanied now by a General Manager mode which should be fun to let players run the show. Beyond that, we can expect some new and interesting gameplay tweaks to make the game better to control and more fun to play.

    "We are extremely pleased with the success of the SmackDown vs. Raw franchise and its continued growth to a widespread audience, particularly in our European markets," said Bob Aniello, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing for THQ. "With the addition of fresh, innovative game play on the Wii, the tremendous capabilities of the PlayStation 3 system and unique handheld experiences for Nintendo DS and wireless devices, gamers can now truly live the life of a WWE Superstar and choose from numerous ways to play."

    It’s good to see THQ is planning on taking full advantage of what each console offers in terms of gameplay. Ultimately it’s going to come down to what gamers prefer: touch-screen, Wii-Remote, SixAxis, Xbox Live, or other features. Look forward to trying out the new features for yourself later this year.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:05 AM
  • Now that New Zealand’s very own Freeview digital TV platform is all set for a launch on May 2 it got me thinking about the humble TV tuner card again. I’ve had one of these toys in my PC for years on and off, but to be honest it’s always been bit of a gimmick. A toy. Something I’d get a kick out of for a few days then never use again. However, now that free to air digital TV is about to begin broadcasting and my Windows Vista equipped home PC (dual booting with XP I might add… I’m still not ready to switch fully to Vista) has the wonderful (mostly) Media Centre functionality built-in, I thought it’d be cool if I could finally combine all the technology in my house in the way that Microsoft intended (well, without all that DRM rubbish anyway) and in a manner I want.

    Here’s the set up, I have an box 360 in the lounge that is connected wirelessly to my Vista Media Centre PC in the spare room. If I add a digital TV tuner card to the mix I should in theory be able to stream that TV feed to the lounge via the Xbox 360 since it of course doubles as a Media Centre Extender device.

    That’s the theory anyway because there are a few digital potholes to avoid on the road to broadcast bliss.

     

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:06 AM
  • Medal of Honor: Airborne Xbox 360 Screenshots

     

     

    While building on the key tenets of the franchise including historical accuracy and authenticity, Medal of Honor Airborne is set to redefine the series by introducing players to an entirely new way of experiencing a WWII FPS – namely the fully interactive Airborne experience. As the first game in the Medal of Honor series to be released on next generation platforms, Medal of Honor Airborne will ship to stores in Winter 2006 under the EA brand for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2 computer entertainment systems, Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system, Xbox videogame system from Microsoft, and Windows PC.

    Step into the boots of Boyd Travers, Private First Class of the 82nd Airborne Division and engage in battles throughout Europe. From rocky beginnings in Sicily to war-winning triumphs in Germany, each mission begins behind enemy lines, with an intense and fully interactive airdrop. Your ability to determine your own starting point dramatically changes the way each mission plays out. View the entire operation from the air, and then control your parachute to choose your landing spot. On the ground, gather your senses and assess the terrain. A wide variety of authentic, customizable weapons are at your disposal, each with distinct characteristics. Choose your path in this free roaming FPS environment. Medal of Honor Airborne will also feature exceptionally photo-realistic characters, adding to the intensity of the cinematic, story-driven game.

    The Medal of Honor Airborne development team continues to ensure that the ideals and integrity of the prestigious congressional Medal of Honor are accurately reflected in the game. The producers sought counsel from numerous expert sources to make certain the game is historically accurate and as true to the WWII Airborne experience as possible. Serving as a military spokesperson for Medal of Honor Airborne, Capt. Dale Dye, who has worked as the Military Technical Advisor for the last 7 Medal of Honor games, will help to create a truly authentic experience.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:07 AM
  • Armored Core 4 Xbox 360 Demo Released

     

    Demo for the latest title in the historic mech-battling action and simulation saga now available on Xbox Live Marketplace
    SEGA of America today announced the release of an Armored Core 4 playable demo for the Xbox360, via Xbox LIVE Marketplace. The demo features 3 full levels and a handful of mechs to customize and test drive. Developed by FromSoftware, Armored Core 4 features multiplayer functionality allows up to eight players to battle online simultaneously, 35 missions played out in detailed futuristic environments, six factions specialized in different aspects of battle, and more.
    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:10 AM
  • Shoot Like an Egyptian With LUXOR 2 on Xbox Live Arcade

     

     

    Why just walk like an Egyptian when you have a mystical winged scarab at your disposal? The smash-hit action puzzler, LUXOR 2 will be available for download on Xbox LIVE Arcade for Xbox 360 beginning Wednesday, Apr. 4, at 9:00 a.m. GMT (2:00 a.m. PST).

    In the second installment of the No. 1 casual game of 2005, LUXOR 2 from MumboJumbo, players travel through 88 exquisitely detailed and explosive levels shooting and destroying the magical balls that threaten the pyramids at the end of their paths. Players can earn up to 15 exciting power-ups, play through four distinct levels of difficulty, challenge themselves to a total of 13 bonus rounds and work their way up through the new 100-level player ranking system. Also, unique to the Xbox LIVE Arcade version is a new arcade-style mode of play called the Pharaoh’s Challenge.

    LUXOR 2 is the recent recipient of the Zeeby’s Craft Awards for Best Audio 2006 and Best Visual Arts 2006. It will be available worldwide for 800 Microsoft Points and is rated E for Everyone.

    Game Features:

    • 88 explosive levels with 13 new bonus rounds
    • 4 levels of difficulty, including the mind-bending Challenge of Horus
    • 4 modes of play: Adventure, Practice, Survival and Pharaoh’s Challenge
    • 15 power-ups including the new Lightning Storm and Pharaoh’s Dagger
    • Player ranking system with 100 levels from Farm Hand to Pharaoh of the Two Lands
    • Pharaoh’s Challenge: A fast-paced arcade-style version of the game, where the user mploys the Pharaoh’s Dagger exclusively to eliminate the approaching spheres
    • Earn up to 12 Achievements and 200 Gamerscore points
    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:14 AM
  •  Xbox 360: Crackdown! 

     

     You can’t help but compare Crackdown to the big hit Grand Theft Auto 3, and it was only a matter of time before GTA-alikes begin flooding the market. Crackdown, from one of the original GTA creators takes a different tack as rather than being the villain, you are now the copper.

    Crackdown takes place in the near future in a world that sucks and is overrun with criminals. You play the part of an ‘enhanced agent’ with the task of cleaning up Pacific City of its three major gangs which control the metropolis, and you’ll need to take down 21 bosses to restore peace and order.  You do start off as a bit of a weakling with abilities allowing you to leap really long, throw objects reasonably far and able to regenerate your health between getting shot up.  The story is pretty basic and the game play is relatively non linear as you can go to any place within Pacific City without having to unlock territory which you had to do in GTA games.  Along the way you are helped by a special program that boosts your abilities the more you use them.  Crackdown rewards you for the things you love to do so if you like blowing things up, your next explosions will be bigger, if you like driving and running over crims, your vehicle handling will improve. Enough use of a single ability will cause it to gain a star level up to a maximum of four, transcending you to superhero status. Another skill to master is driving and you are given a choice of vehicles to choose from including a sports car, SUV and a big wheeled truck.  You can take part in the mini driving games or simply run down enemies to improve your skills. I liked the latter.

    You can finish the game relatively quickly if you wish by going after the three kingpins straightaway as nothing is off limits though your odds of success are pretty minimal early on.  You're better off to start with the minor bosses and improve your abilities. The gangs themselves have some stereotypical racial identities. The Los Muertos are the Latino group and their section of the city looks a bit run down. The Volk are the Russian-themed gang; their third of Pacific City is industrial. Finally the Asian themed Shai-Gen Corporation controls the final third of the city; they have high buildings and sleek designs.

    The graphics are certainly different with a very artistic feel but it’s not till you see the game in motion that you really appreciate the impressive lighting and visuals.

    The thing I liked about this game over GTA is that you are never detracted from doing tasks that aren’t fun, so you don’t have to babysit supply points or work out at the gym. There’s also a multiplayer feature for co-op only, and it’s a shame there isn’t anything like deathmatch or team based multiplayer modes. Overall the game was highly enjoyable and my only gripe is that it is rather short. Once you’ve finished it there’s not much else left to do, but you should definitely buy it as it’s extremely fun and addictive.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:16 AM
  •  Lost Planet Map Pack #2 to blast Xbox 360

     

    Capcom Co. on Mon. announced that multiplayer map pack #2 for Lost Planet: Extreme Condition will be available on Apr. 6 for the Xbox 360.

    The map pack will retail for 400 Microsoft Points and include two new map levels: Hive Complex and Trail Point.

    Hive Complex is an abdandoned mine with twisting tunnels and bridges, and Trail Point is a modern day office complex that feaatures a city center backdrop.

    Lost Planet is an action title released in Jan. for the Xbox 360. The title has receive solid sales at retail and is an exclusive title for the platform.

    Capcom previously released the action game Dead Rising exclusively to the Xbox 360.

    It will release the sequel Devil May Cry 4 to the Xbox 360 in addition to Sony Corp.'s Playstation 3.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:17 AM
  • Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays: Luxor 2

     

     Microsoft announced today that for this week's Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays it plans to release the smash-hit action puzzler Luxor 2, which will be available worldwide for 800 Microsoft Points.

    Luxor 2

    Set, the Egyptian god of chaos, again threatens the Two Lands, and you must save Ancient Egypt from his terrible wrath in Luxor 2. Wielding the powers of Isis, battle your way across Egypt. Use your mystical winged scarab to shoot magical spheres and destroy encroaching colored spheres by making matches of three or more. Stop them all before they can reach the pyramids.

    Unleash the powers of Isis by catching falling power-ups. Collect gems and jewelry for bonus points, or Golden Ankh coins to earn extra lives. Defeat Set in his temple stronghold or Egypt is doomed!

     

    Features

    • Levels: Play through 88 explosive levels with 13 new bonus rounds.
    • Difficulty: Choose from four levels of difficulty, including the mind-bending Challenge of Horus.
    • Modes: Experience four awesome modes of play— Adventure, Practice, Survival, and Pharaoh's Challenge.
    • Power-ups: Collect 13 exciting power-ups including the new Lightning Storm and Pharaoh's Dagger.
    • Rankings: The player ranking system has 100 levels from Farm Hand to Pharaoh of the Two Lands.
    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:18 AM
  • XBOX 360 tour hits SVSU

     

    Students took on the roles of dancers, warriors, race car drivers, and turtles, and fought in battles to the death at the XBOX 360 College Game Tour Saturday night in the Multi-Purpose Room.

    SVSU is one of 30 schools the tour visits and is the only Michigan stop this semester. The crew traveled everywhere from SVSU, to Arizona State, to the University of Florida. The event was brought by Game Live Events and is sponsored by many different companies, including Suzuki, Best Buy, and DirecTV.

    The crew members set up a variety of brand new XBOX games for students to test out and to see the future of gaming. Some games included were DDR Universe, Overmatch, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Ghost Recon 2. Each station provided full versions of the games, not just demos.

    Many students, however, focused their attention primarily on Halo 2. Four students could compete against each other at a time and winners walked away with new Xbox 360 games, which usually cost from 40 to 60 dollars.

    Another main attraction was the Championship Gaming Series (CGS) tournaments. Students played FIFA '07, Dead Or Alive 4, and PGR 3 to win $100 and a chance to compete with other professional gamers on television.

    According to tour manager Jay Kennedy, DirecTV is treating CGS like any other professional sport and is taken seriously. By late June, gamers will compete against others from all over the world in New York City on national television.

    "It's a multi-million dollar production," Kennedy said. "It's about getting the format right and making it presentable."

    CGS will be conducted like a real tournament and players will get salary pay as well as professional uniforms. The gaming tour is working as a way to draft players for the event.

    Director of Student Life Janelle Hemingway and the Valley Nights committee helped bring the event to SVSU. Many committee members, including Shelly Decker, were happy with the large crowd and said the tour crew members were exceptionally pleasing and enjoyed helping them.

    "They're a really great crowd to work with," she said.

    Students also responded well to the event. Second year student Drew Askew enjoyed himself and was often found near Halo 2. "My favorite part is the Halo 2 competition - even though I lost," he said.

    Askew also said he would love to see more events like this on campus and that he would definitely come to something like this again.

    Freshman Will Buckner agreed with Askew and also mentioned this should be a repeat event. Buckner, like many other students, went to the event to play sports games. He didn't seem too concerned about prizes and said he was just there to play.

    "We should definitely have stuff like this more often," he said.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:19 AM
  •  Microsoft Announces 512MB Memory Unit for Xbox 360

     

     Eight times larger than the 64MB Memory Unit, the 512MB Memory Unit will provide Xbox 360 owners with vastly expanded storage capabilities for gaming on the go, allowing gamers to easily store and transport their gamer profile and save game data, Xbox LIVE Arcade games and Xbox LIVE Marketplace content. The 512MB Memory Unit also gives Xbox 360 owners the ability to download exclusive content from any of the 45,000 Xbox 360 kiosks accessible at retail outlets worldwide.

    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 8:21 AM
  • Nice work by Rajkumar Mundel .............My Brother
    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 7:22 PM
  • Thnx SIS
    Tuesday, April 3, 2007 7:57 PM
  • Xbox Live to get MSN messenger?

     

     leaked video showing some of the upcoming updates to Xbox Live appears to have confirmed that Microsoft plans on integrating MSN messenger into Xbox Live.

    There's an Xbox 360 spring dashboard update coming Monday, May 7 that will feature MSN messenger according to leaked info doing the rounds. There will also be improved downloading features and a dedicated Marketplace tab.

    Microsoft has yet to officially revealed details of the spring XBL update, but if you've seen the movie on YouTube, you'll be in no doubt it's all true.

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 11:38 AM
  • MumboJumbo Announces LUXOR 2 for Xbox LIVE Arcade

     

     

    MumboJumbo, a leading developer and publisher of premium casual games, announced that LUXOR 2 makde its debut earlier this week on the Xbox 360 via Xbox LIVE Arcade, the premier destination for digitally distributed, high-definition original and classic games. As the second installment of the award-winning PC game and sequel to the #1 casual game of 2005, LUXOR 2 sets a new benchmark for casual games with 3D-like visuals and stunning details throughout the game.

    "Launching on Xbox LIVE Arcade is a major milestone for MumboJumbo and the LUXOR franchise," said Paul Jensen, President of MumboJumbo. "Xbox LIVE fans have come to expect only the best in quality from the platform, and LUXOR 2 is without question one of the most fun and compelling casual puzzle games available today."

    The superb gameplay mechanics of LUXOR 2, which arms players with a scarab shooter to explode chains of magical balls through 88 stylishly detailed levels, is now matched with Xbox LIVE features including leaderboards, achievements, and gamerscore - increasing the irresistible fun of this premium action puzzle title. Playing LUXOR 2 on Xbox LIVE Arcade allows players to compare their standings to that of both their friends and the world's top-ranked gamers. The Xbox LIVE Arcade version of LUXOR 2 also offers four awesome modes of play, including the fast-paced, arcade-style Pharoah's Challenge, exclusive to Xbox LIVE Arcade.

    LUXOR 2 has already gained recognition as one of the hottest selling games of 2006/2007 and has likewise celebrated critical success, having been recognized by the Casual Game Association as achieving "Best Visual Arts" and "Best Audio" of 2006. The LUXOR franchise has amassed more than 50 million downloads over its lifetime, and - in addition to Xbox LIVE Arcade - may be played on the PC, Mac, PSP (PlayStation Portable) system, MSN Messenger, PDAs, cell phones, and soon, the Nintendo DS.

    MumboJumbo Announces LUXOR 2 for Xbox LIVE Arcade

     

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 11:39 AM
  • Xbox 360 Could Save PS3 From Decimating Game Developers

    You’re probably already misconstrued regarding the aim of this article. But let me key you in on a very obvious fact: The video game industry would've died real fast, if the PlayStation 3 pocketed the majority of third-party developers, exclusively. That’s why the Xbox 360 is the perfect savior for what could have been a disastrous “next-generation”.

    Marks of the video game industry know flat-out that third-party exclusivity is a surefire way to differentiate one platform from the next. Said exclusivity really reached a peak during the Xbox/Gamecube/PS2 era with games and series like The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, Square’s RPG library for the PS2, or THQ’s Smackdown Vs. Raw series. But that’s back when games – on a financial average – weren’t reaching the $10 million mark, with the exception of Halo 2’s movie-like budget of $20 million buckaroonies.

    But now the game has changed for the gaming industry. “Next generation” means bigger graphics, more processing power, greater multi-threaded programming support, and a heck of a lot of artists. On average, developers need a $10 million idea that makes $100 million in sales. This has become exceedingly difficult for any developer that doesn’t have first-party publishing support, or isn’t exclusive to a large third-party publishing company, such as Electronic Arts, Capcom or Ubisoft.

    Speaking of Capcom, even they show reservations in the market’s integrity for third-party exclusivity. Just look at Devil May Cry 4...once a PlayStation brand powerhouse, and now it’s on a back-up reserve for the Xbox 360. It’s not even funny, actually, how a publisher will announce that a third-party thought-to-be-an-exclusive title will soon appear on a rival console a couple of months down the road. Bethesda’s Oblivion, and THQ’s Saint’s Row are also part of the third-party ship-jumpers. However, as you may know, those titles have gone (and are) going from the 360 to the PS3.

    Nevertheless, it’s the Xbox 360 version of a multi-platform title that saves the publisher’s costs. Throughout 2007 any title appearing on the PS3 will only have (as counting from sales estimates) less than a 1.5 million unit sales maximum in the U.S (because that’s the amount of PS3's currently sold in the US). While that might seem like a lot, you’ll have to break that number down according to the game’s market appeal, and whether gamers who don’t own the Xbox 360 version are willing to shell out another $60 greenies for the game.

    But let’s look at this from a more pragmatic standpoint: Developers can’t afford to tank on an expensive system that WILL NOT pick up sales until mid-late 2008, after it takes a price drop. As everyone already knows, the Xbox 360 and XNA technology – in conjunction with the Vista platform – offers developers an easier route than usual for porting over PC titles to the 360, or vice versa. As some of our guest posters have pointed out, it only makes sense for any [small or medium] developer to port titles across the PC and 360, whenever applicable. And if a game is made for the PS3 first, it makes even more sense to port it to the 360, because you instantaneously add the PC into the equation, and that spells more profit either which way around.

    Bladestorm, WarHound, Assassin's Creed, Army of Two, Cipher Complex and Strike Force Red Cell are just a few projects in the works using this very, multi-platform release tactic. This is even after some of them were originally announced as platform exclusive titles. Heck, even Sony’s own (un)official blog isn’t safe-betting third-party exclusivity for the PS3. As they stated, directly from the site, “One rare third-party game that should be exclusive to the PS3 is Square Enix’s latest epic RPG, Final Fantasy XIII.” ...'Should be'? Hmph.

    But let’s not forget: Third-party exclusivity was already an issue back during the days of the PS2 and Xbox. So you can basically double the risks of third-party exclusives for this “next generation”, because if the hardware isn’t selling then the software sure as heck isn’t going to sell. And right now, Sony has a problem with getting the PS3 off store shelves right now. While Kojima might be persistent in keeping MGS 4 a PS3 exclusive, I wouldn’t doubt that frame of mind would start changing if the PS3 doesn’t hit the 5 million installed base mark before this fall.

    As it stands, the PS3's port of most games will piggyback off the success of its rival counter-part. And with rising costs of multi-threaded programming, only a powerhouse publisher can afford to make anything exclusive for the PS3, right now. Even Gearbox is getting hung up on the MT processes with Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway for the PS3. I’m not joking when I say that it’s not just a pain, it’s a mind-throbbing mess to try and make a decent game with amazing graphics while trying to utilize all those darn SPUs.

    The good news, however, is that the PlayStation 3 does have longevity in its design. It’ll never be as easy to program for, or as port-worthy, as the Xbox 360 (i.e., think Unreal Engine 3 in comparison to the Reality Engine, with the PS3 being the uber-cool Reality Engine). But designers will have to hope that the fewer exclusive titles they produce for the PS3 come holiday season 2008 and 2009, will be more immersive, buy-worthy and kick-butt than the nearly 1000 or so games that will be available for the Xbox 360 by that time.

    Actually, I’m starting to sense some deja vu here...hands down the PS3 will have better games after the next three years, but I fear they may be over-shadowed by the variety of titles on the 360. Sort of like the Xbox’s powerhouse capabilities in comparison to the lesser capable, but more popular, PS2. Only this time, it looks like the PlayStation 3 will be the Xbox of the group.

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 11:40 AM
  • Apple TV's shortcomings make the Xbox 360 a better choice

    NEW YORK - Apple Inc. has graced the public with another smooth, white, exquisitely designed gadget, this time aiming at making it easier to play iTunes movies and songs on the living-room TV set.

    Too bad, then, that where looks really matter - in the quality of the video on the TV screen - the $299 Apple TV comes up very short. It's as if Apple had launched an iPod that sounded like a cassette player.

    When I tell people about the Apple TV, they usually judge it by its name and assume that it's an actual TV set. So to clear up any confusion, let me say right now that it's not. It's a square device the size of a hardback book that goes in your entertainment center. You connect it to your TV set via cables (not included). It also connects to your Mac or Windows computer, wirelessly or via cable.

    Once set up, the Apple TV can play the contents of the computer's iTunes library on the TV set, whether it's music, podcasts, videos, TV shows or movies. It can also show your photos. XP is the only Windows flavor officially supported by Apple, but I connected the unit to a PC running Vista, and had no problems.

    There's a 40-gigabyte hard drive in the Apple TV. It will automatically copy over as much as it can from the iTunes library, so you can get access to your media when the computer is off. The hard drive doesn't make the Apple TV a TiVo: It doesn't record live TV.

    The unit is controlled by a teensy infrared remote that looks a lot like a baby iPod. If hunting for the remote is a frequent activity in your couch, this one will be a nightmare. At least it's so small that you could tape it to one of your other remotes.

    On the TV screen, the Apple TV projects a very iPodlike interface, commendably clear and easy to use. It also looks great, especially on a high-definition TV. It uses your own pictures as an animated screensaver.

    Speaking of HDTV, you more or less need one of those sets for the Apple TV. It's not designed to connect via the older single-lead RCA video cable. You need a TV that takes either the three-lead component cable (the jacks are usually colored red, green and blue) or the all-digital HDMI cable. Newer standard-definition sets may have component inputs, but most TVs out there don't.

    It's surprising, then, that videos from Apple's online iTunes store look horrible on an HDTV set. The movies and TV shows have the same nominal resolution as DVDs, but look much blurrier, approaching the look of standard-definition broadcast TV.

    To make it worse, these barely watchable movies aren't cheap. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" costs $15 on iTunes, almost as much as the DVD. TV episodes are more reasonably priced, at $2 each.

    It's possible to convert home footage shot with high-definition video cameras to play on the Apple TV, but not in their native resolution, known as 1080i, so some quality is lost even there.

    I compared the Apple TV to Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 game console, which can more or less do the same things, acting like a bridge between a Windows computer and an HDTV set.

    After having my eyes gently caressed by the Apple TV's menus, the Xbox interface is like a slap in the face. It's garish and confusing, and you have to press more buttons to get where you want to go.

    But the Xbox does your HDTV justice. Microsoft's Xbox Live marketplace has some movies in HD, and these look absolutely stunning - better than most broadcast HD, and almost indistinguishable from HD DVD or Blu-ray discs, which provide the best video quality available to consumers right now.

    Even the standard-definition fare on Xbox Live looks much better than iTunes movies, despite nominally being the same resolution. They look almost as good as DVDs.

    Xbox Live has two other advantages: The movies are downloaded straight to your Xbox hard drive, with no need to go through the computer, and you rent the movies for around $3, which is a lot cheaper than buying.

    This is not to say that you should rush out and buy a $400 Xbox for use as a movie player. It doesn't connect wirelessly to your computer, nor does it include a video-style remote. Both these omissions can be remedied with some extra purchases, but they'll push the cost closer to $500.

    The Xbox hard drive is half as large as the Apple TV's, though that's less of an issue when you rent movies than buying them. (There's a $480 Xbox on the way with a 120-gig drive.) The movies can be watched only on the Xbox, while Apple's movies can be viewed on a computer or iPod screen as well. You only get 24 hours to watch an Xbox movie, which seems unnecessarily harsh.

    The Xbox is also a bit of a brute compared to the Apple TV. It's noisy, and its power adapter really deserves being called a "brick" - it's as large as the whole Apple TV, which doesn't have a brick of its own.

    So neither solution is perfect, but I far preferred the Xbox. I didn't spend thousands of dollars on an HDTV to play substandard video on it, and I'm sure any new HDTV owner will sympathize.

    Of course, Apple will at some point start selling HD video through iTunes. It has to. Will that play on the current Apple TV? Probably, but I'm wary of the result.

    According to the company's specifications, the Apple TV can play HD video with a resolution of 1,280 by 720 pixels, but it doesn't actually seem that well suited to it. The hard drive is small, and the low power consumption speaks of weak processors inside. And since Apple's standard-definition video looks so bad, I'm not confident the HD video will look good either.

    My advice: if you don't want the Xbox 360, wait for upgrades to both iTunes and Apple TV that take HD seriously

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 11:42 AM
  • Guitar Hero II Released for Xbox 360

    April 8th, 2007 (2:23am) - Activision, Inc. has announced that Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360 is now available on retail shelves nationwide.

    Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360 features an expanded track list of over 70 songs – including 10 tracks exclusive to the Xbox 360 – and achievement points to unlock. Also exclusive to the Xbox 360 is the ability for competitive online leaderboards. Guitar Heroes looking for even more can download exclusive gamer themes, picture packs and fresh new songs on Xbox Live Marketplace.

    Guitar Hero II, published by RedOctane, is rated T for Teen by the ESRB and is now available through RedOctane’s online store: www.redoctane.com/store.html .

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 11:43 AM
  • Microsoft Announces New Version Of The Xbox

     

    Microsoft is preparing a new version of its Xbox gaming console for release. The so-called Xbox Elite comes with a black case, 120 gigabytes of hard drive space, and an HDMI output port, Microsoft is reporting.

    Sales of the device will launch on April 29 in the U.S., with a price tag of around 340 dollars. The Xbox Elite will also make the jump to Europe at some point as well, a company spokesman said, although no date been announced as yet.

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 11:44 AM
  • Microsoft Announces New Version Of The Xbox

     

    An advertisement for Microsoft's gaming console, Xbox 360, has been banned by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) in UK, according to whom, the advertisement glorifies street car racing and encourages rash driving.

    The commercial features a driver weaving through traffic in a high speed chase through a town center in a make-believe cops-and-robber game, much like some of the street car racing games that can be played on the console. The ASA's contention is that in the commercial, the car overturns and the driver gets out and is handed a police badge by his pursuers, as if to say, 'OK, now you're the cop, we're the robbers, tag, you're it.' The ASA ruled the advertisement breached health and safety and driving standards rules, and should not be broadcast again.

    Advertising agency McCann Erickson, which replied to the complaint on behalf of Microsoft, said they were careful during the making of the film to avoid any possible misconception that Xbox was encouraging dangerous driving. Microsoft also stated they specifically decided to run the commercial only after 9 p.m. after working closely with the Broadcast Advertising Clearance.

    An additional note before the commercial states "Dramatization. Professional stunt. Do not attempt", and "Professional drivers, closed course" to clarify that viewers should not attempt the stunts themselves as all the stunts were performed in controlled environments by pros.

    The ASA, however, believes the text further reinforces the sense that the events were real, rather than fantasy, and were therefore capable of being copied.

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 11:45 AM
  • Xbox 360 Ads Banned in UK

     

    An advertisement for Microsoft's gaming console, Xbox 360, has been banned by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) in UK, according to whom, the advertisement glorifies street car racing and encourages rash driving.

    The commercial features a driver weaving through traffic in a high speed chase through a town center in a make-believe cops-and-robber game, much like some of the street car racing games that can be played on the console. The ASA's contention is that in the commercial, the car overturns and the driver gets out and is handed a police badge by his pursuers, as if to say, 'OK, now you're the cop, we're the robbers, tag, you're it.' The ASA ruled the advertisement breached health and safety and driving standards rules, and should not be broadcast again.

    Advertising agency McCann Erickson, which replied to the complaint on behalf of Microsoft, said they were careful during the making of the film to avoid any possible misconception that Xbox was encouraging dangerous driving. Microsoft also stated they specifically decided to run the commercial only after 9 p.m. after working closely with the Broadcast Advertising Clearance.

    An additional note before the commercial states "Dramatization. Professional stunt. Do not attempt", and "Professional drivers, closed course" to clarify that viewers should not attempt the stunts themselves as all the stunts were performed in controlled environments by pros.

    The ASA, however, believes the text further reinforces the sense that the events were real, rather than fantasy, and were therefore capable of being copied. ..
    Sunday, April 8, 2007 11:46 AM
  • Two Xbox 360 consoles dead in two weeks

     

    There must be some sort of epidemic spreading through DailyTech, crippling our Xbox 360 consoles one by one. Two weeks ago, Brandon’s Xbox 360 was struck by the notorious Red Ring of Death. Like Brandon, I too was naive about the fragility of my Xbox 360, as I was sure that I wouldn’t have any problems since I kept my console very well ventilated and in an abnormally cold environment (I’m Canadian, and yes, I live in an igloo).

    As much as I love games and reporting on them, I really don’t have much time to play. For the hardcore gamer, my Xbox 360 is largely underused, which is why I was in disbelief that my console could be afflicted by a Red Ring of Death. But it happened, and it did so slowly and with telling symptoms – I was just in denial.

    It all started weeks ago, while starting up a co-op game of Marvel Ultimate Alliance over Xbox Live, when I noticed some screen corruption. It wasn’t the rainbow checkerboard pattern that Brandon saw, but it was something else. I restarted my console and everything was fine again, and so continued my adventures as a comic hero.

    Days after, the console hummed (or screamed, if you have the noisier Hitachi drive) along, providing problem-free sessions of Gears of War and TMNT co-op. The graphical corruption was nearly forgotten, when at a later session of co-op Marvel Ultimate Alliance, the game hard locked. I reset the Xbox 360 and, to my complete horror, the dreaded Red Ring of Death flashed at me. So I turned the machine off and on again, and it loaded the main menu with the Ring of Light green again. By that time, my co-op partner decided to call it a night and so the console went to rest.

    The next day, I was curious to see if my Xbox 360 would wake up, and it did. I decided to give it a bit of warm up by playing some game trailers that I downloaded, but it hard locked again at the very end of a video, which I figured was just a software glitch. Yes, I was still in denial, but my confidence in my Xbox 360 was dropping quickly. I then popped in my NIN HD DVD into the add-on since I was writing a story on it, but it didn’t even make it past the main menu before locking up again.

    Maybe it’s a video problem, I thought, so I started up the Def Jam Icon demo and made it through half of a fight before the screen blanked out into a series of grey squares. I attempted to power cycle the console once more, but it had enough. Red Ring of Death, it showed me again, this time more convincingly than ever.

    Well played Red Ring, well played. So I dialled 1-800-MY-XBOX and jumped through the automated system and smirked when I heard that “three flashing red lights” was actually a troubleshooting option. I actually muttered “Red Ring of Death” to see if the system would understand it, but sadly it wouldn’t. After jumping through a few hoops to disconnect and reconnect various things to and from my Xbox 360, an agent took down my information, gave me a reference number, and apologized for the inconvenience.

    I asked the agent if he knew what the odds were of me getting my original console back, as I didn’t want a refurbished one, and actually pointed him to the news of the recent changes to the warranty. He wasn’t aware of any recent changes to the policy, but as soon as he confirmed that Microsoft would be covering shipping costs, then I knew that the new warranty terms were in effect, whether or not he was aware of them.

    So here I sit, waiting for my Xbox 360 coffin to arrive so that I can send my console to Texas for repairs. This all had to happen just before the start of a holiday weekend, adding additional wait time and insult to injury.

    If it weren’t for Microsoft extended the Xbox 360 warranty from an embarrassing 90 days to one year, I’d be SOL. I’d also be paying shipping costs had Microsoft not made further revisions. I’m satisfied with the ease of getting my RMA process started, though the jury will still be out on that one until my Xbox 360 returns to me.

    No matter what Microsoft does to improve its warranty, I will not applaud the company for that. The improvements in customer service are something they are being pressured to do in midst of Xbox 360 consoles dropping like flies.

    The real issue here is that the Xbox 360 hardware is terribly, horribly and utterly unreliable. Microsoft beefing up its customer care to better help customers is a clear testament to the fragility of its the hardware.

     

     

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 11:47 AM
  • Xbox 360: Earth Defense Force 2017 Review

    Ever wonder what it would be like to play in a Godzilla or B-list monster movie? Ever wonder what giant ants and spiders are capable of when unleashed in the middle of a city? Ever wonder what these things would be like, if you had unlimited ammo to fight them with? Look no further, because Earth Defense Force 2017 does all that, and more.

    From D3Publisher and Sandlot games, comes Earth Defense Force 2017. At first glance, it’s like Crackdown or Grand Theft Auto mixed with The Hulk and Godzilla.

     

     

     

    Sunday, April 8, 2007 11:52 AM
  • Halo 3 public beta arrives in May
    Halo 3 is an Xbox 360 exclusive
    Halo 3, one of the most anticipated videogames for the Xbox 360, will be released to the public in test, or beta, from 16 May.

    The online multiplayer element of the game will be made available to the public with feedback going to developers Bungie.

    More than 14.7m copies of Halo titles have been sold and more than 800m hours of online Halo games have been played.

    The beta will last for three weeks and ends on 7 June.

    Three multiplayer maps will be available - Snowbound, High Ground and Valhalla.

    Halo 3 is expected to be released in the last quarter of 2007 and is a key weapon for Microsoft in its rivalry with Sony and Nintendo.

    The game has become an important franchise for Microsoft and has evolved into an industry which encompasses action figures, graphics novels, books and clothes.

    On the website of Halo creators Bungie, content manager Frank O'Connor said the beta would contain "quirks, a couple of roughedges".

    He added: "A lot of secret features are hidden in this beta. We're keeping a lot of our powder dry for Fall."

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007 8:30 AM
  • Nintendo Wii Interest Beat PS3, Xbox 360 Post-Launches

    by Gary Adamo

    According to PriceGrabber.co.uk, Wii trumped both PS3 and Xbox 360 when it comes to online searches after each system launched.

    The word straight from PG:

    Three weeks post the launch of the Sony Playstation 3, PriceGrabber.co.uk has drawn comparison between pre and post launch hype for the three lead consoles - Playstation3, Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360.

    Pricegrabber.co.uk, a leading UK shopping comparison site which features merchants including Comet.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk and Play.com, found that in the six weeks since launch, searches for Playstation 3 are not as popular in comparison with the post-launch periods for its two main rivals.

    However, despite this, interest in PlayStation 3 has been steadily growing. Searches in the two weeks prior to launch for PS3 were up by 100%. Searches for the same term at the current time are up by a further 127%, showing a growing interest in the console.

    In comparison, though, the big winner in the console wars appears to be Nintendo, with searches for the Wii console increasing by 579% in the six weeks post its launch date. Searches post launch for ‘Xbox console’ increased by 250%..

    Additional popular searches this month have included Plasma TV’s and LCD TV’s - perhaps a sign that people are hoping to get the best experience possible with the console they choose to buy.

    Thursday, April 26, 2007 11:52 AM
  • A remixed version of last year's Guitar Hero II music game for the PlayStation 2 has finally been released for the Xbox 360.

    Exclusive extra features - most importantly the addition of bonus downloadable music tracks - make it the most rocking version yet.

    It's hard to explain this game's addictive lure until you try it for yourself. There's just nothing else like it.

    For $89.99 you get the T-rated game and a slick, white plastic guitar that has all the buttons on the regular Xbox 360 controller. You could play with the controller, but that would be totally missing the point.

    If you somehow haven't heard of the phenomenon that is Guitar Hero, the premise is simple but very hard to master.

    You play as any number of rockers who grow fan followings working their way up from lowly high school auditoriums to big-time, sprawling sports arenas.

    The various game styles, which include career mode, are overshadowed by the insane gameplay, which is about as close to being in a rock band as most of us will ever get.

    There's just something exhilarating about nailing the killer riffs in songs like Nirvana's Heart-shaped Box - you feel like you're really a live performer.

    In reality, all you're doing is pressing a combination of buttons at just the right moment. But the fact that you're standing up, wailing away on a toy guitar adds to the immersive quality.

    With two guitars, Guitar Hero II quickly becomes the ultimate party game as one plays lead and the other takes up rhythm or bass.

    For the most part, the Xbox 360 version is a pitch-perfect rendition of last year's PS2 edition.

    But the next-gen console adds many features that make an already excellent game even better.

    You now can post and compare high scores with the Xbox Live online service.

    Most significantly, you can purchase new songs and download them to the console. I was a bit perturbed at the cost: for the equivalent of $6.25, you only get three songs.

    These online features certainly give it even more staying power. Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360 is like one of the many rock songs contained in the game. It's a combination of musical escapism and pure unadulterated fun, and destined to become a classic.

    Four stars out of four....
    Thursday, April 26, 2007 11:54 AM
  • Analyst: Wii in short supply until 2009, PS3 and Xbox 360 need help

     

     

    Nintendo’s Wii next-generation console will stay in short supply until 2009, according to a leading video games analyst. The analyst also said that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 need some “system selling” games as soon as possible.

    Recent US sales figures from NDP that showed that in March 259,000 Wiis were sold, compared to 199,000 Xbox 360s and 130,000 Playstation 3s.

    Billy Pidgeon, video game analyst at IDC, told Home Media Magazine that Nintendo could have sold more Wiis if stock had been available. He was also concerned about relatively sluggish sales of Xbox 360 and PS3.

    “There’s good software movement, but hardware is stalled a bit by short Wii supply and stagnant demand for Xbox 360 and PS3,” said Pidgeon. 

    “I believe the Wii will continue strong growth although supply continues to be a problem. I’d like to see Wii hardware shipping in larger quantities or mass market consumers may cool on it.”

    Unfortunately Pidgeon doesn’t believe that Nintendo will be able to supply enough Wiis to meet demand anytime soon. He also said that Xbox 360 and PS3 need “system selling” games as soon as possible.

    “I don’t believe supply will meet demand for the Wii until 2009. Xbox 360 and PS3 need system-selling games ASAP. Halo 3 will help, as will Lair and Heavenly Sword, but that leaves a hole in Q2 which will be filled by Wii, DS and PSP hardware and software.”

    Personally, I’d rather have Nintendo’s problem of not being able to meet demand, rather than Microsoft’s and Sony’s problem of not having enough demand. 

    Thursday, April 26, 2007 11:58 AM
  • Forza 2 Xbox 360 exclusive officially dated

     

     

    Microsoft Game Studios today announces the eagerly-awaited release of Forza Motorsport 2 – sequel to the driving phenomenon that is Forza! Forza Motorsport 2 will be available exclusively to own on Xbox 360 and will hit UK shelves on the 8th June 2007.

    The second game within this driving franchise provides you with even more choices, right through from the selection of 300+ cars to the new and improved customisation levels that allows you to express your creative flair to make your car really stand out on the track. By using the upgrades garage and new-and-improved Livery editor, gamers will have more freedom than ever to create and personalise their favourite rides and make them truly unique.

    Game Director Dan Greenawalt says, "The added horsepower of Xbox 360 has allowed us to redefine what it means to be a racing simulator with Forza Motorsport 2. We’ve turned mountains of real world raw data into a living, breathing simulator where the only difference between the game and reality is that you’re racing from the comfort and safety of your living room."
    Thursday, April 26, 2007 11:59 AM
  • Pinball FX arriving on Xbox Live Arcade

     

     

    The link between video games and pinball has a long and glorious history, and it is still very much alive. Tomorrow its latest iteration, Pinball FX, hits Xbox Live Arcade. Pinball FX aims to be more than just a pinball game though – evidently succumbing to Microsoft’s insistent badgering for online play, Pinball FX enables simultaneous multiplayer action for up to 4 players at a time.

    You get three tables to play on, which seems a bit measly but that will probably depend on the amount of features each offers. Uniquely, owners of the Xbox 360 Live Vision Camera will be able to use gesture controls for the flippers. My advice would be don’t – the gesture system is a pretty dodgy control system and leaves you looking like a real tool. Don’t believe me? Go watch someone playing Totemball.

    Pinball FX seems like a lot better idea than continually rehashing ancient arcade games that really haven’t aged too well. It’s a classic genre as pinball games go way back into the history of computing; from the first machines in the 70s that used a microprocessor, to early Apple machines and Commodore 64s. I can remember a time when my computer was filled with pinball games (luckily, I soon discovered Wolfenstein), but interestingly none have ever came close to matching the real thing.

    The lure for game developers, when it comes to pinball, is probably the physics – getting a ball to actually behave like a ball in a pinball machine looks like it should be so doable, what with all those fancy physics engines, algorithms and such like. The fact is they can never really produce the same feeling of poring over the smudged glass panel of a real life machine in the sweaty darkness of your local arcade – that’s living proof that video games have an extremely long way to go before they will ever truly be confused with real life (despite what some might say).

    Thursday, April 26, 2007 12:00 PM
  • Video-game review: ’Guitar Hero II’ delivers best performance yet on Xbox 360

     

     

    A remixed version of last year’s "Guitar Hero II" music game for the PlayStation 2 has finally been released for the Xbox 360.
        Exclusive extra features - most importantly the addition of bonus downloadable music tracks - make it the most rocking version yet.
        It’s hard to explain this game’s addictive lure until you try it for yourself. There’s just nothing else like it.

        For $89.99 you get the T-rated game and a slick, white plastic guitar that has all the buttons on the regular Xbox 360 controller. You could play with the controller, but that would be totally missing the point.

     

     If you somehow haven’t heard of the phenomenon that is "Guitar Hero," the premise is simple but very hard to master.

        You play as any number of rockers who grow fan followings working their way up from lowly high school auditoriums to big-time, sprawling sports arenas.
        The various game styles, which include career mode, are overshadowed by the insane gameplay, which is about as close to being in a rock band as most of us will ever get.
        There’s just something exhilarating about nailing the killer riffs in songs like Nirvana’s "Heart-shaped Box" - you feel like you’re really a live performer.
        In reality, all you’re doing is pressing a combination of buttons at just the right moment. But the fact that you’re standing up, wailing away on a toy guitar adds to the immersive quality.
        With two guitars, "Guitar Hero II" quickly becomes the ultimate party game as one plays lead and the other takes up rhythm or bass.
        For the most part, the Xbox 360 version is a pitch-perfect rendition of last year’s PS2 edition.
        But the next-gen console adds many features that make an already excellent game even better.
        You now can post and compare high scores with the Xbox Live online service.
        Most significantly, you can purchase new songs and download them to the console. I was a bit perturbed at the cost: for the equivalent of $6.25, you only get three songs.
        These online features certainly give it even more staying power. "Guitar Hero II" for the Xbox 360 is like one of the many rock songs contained in the game. It’s a combination of musical escapism and pure unadulterated fun, and destined to become a classic.

    Thursday, April 26, 2007 12:03 PM
  • Microsoft reveals Xbox 360 ME gamer of the year

     

    The much-anticipated Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft had its official UAE launch today at the Galleria of the Mall of the Emirates, kicking off with a three-day event that ends on Saturday April 28.

    Thursday, April 26, 2007 12:05 PM
  • XBOX 360 Here At Last

     

    This weekend the Xbox 360 finally arrives in the UAE. While it has been available in Europe, America and Japan for a few months, gamers in the UAE have been forced to wait patiently (or pay inflated prices for a foreign import console).

    Has it been worth the wait? Budget-conscious consumers will be pleased that it costs around Dh700 less than the PS3. But tech-heads will be disappointed that it can’t quite measure up to Sony’s powerhorse in the specification department.

    Here comes the science: games consoles are powered by a processor in the same way a computer is. The processor in the Xbox 360 is slightly slower than the PS3 and speed-lovers will look towards the Sony machine to get their fix.

    Having said that, graphics are reaching such a level that the gaming experience is more important than the consoles’ power. And that means games.

    Unlike the days when Sonic The Hedgehog was the mark of a Sega machine and Mario was the face of Nintendo there is currently no clear standout characters for the Xbox 360. But this selection of games are the early stars...

    Ninety-Nine Nights
    Fantasy action in the mode of Lord of the Rings or Dungeons and Dragons. Take on huge armies or orcs, trolls and various other beasts in a melee that can soon see your kill count going into the thousands. Realism is swept aside in a single slash of your giant sword and you will find yourself immersed in the battle and letting out your own war cries before you’ve reached the second level.

    Dead or Alive: Extreme 2
    If you are the sort of person who may be offended by bikini-clad teenagers frolicking around on the beach by day before going to the casino at night, steer well clear of this truly bizarre title. The packaging advises that the game is better suited to the over-12s but strong themes and visuals of scantily-clad beach babes make it unsuitable for a more conservative audience. But if you are determined to try it, you’ll find yourself checked into a hotel full of fighting females who want nothing more than to give you gifts and play volleyball with you.

    Fusion Frenzy 2
    Achingly simple, mind-numbingly addictive and blindingly bright, this is a game you will love or hate. You will love it if you are the sort of person who spends hours clicking away at Snake on your mobile phone and hate it if you have more than half a brain and an attention span longer than a McDonald’s commercial. There is a loose plot that sees you take on all-challengers in a futuristic game show but the fun comes from mastering the 40 or so mini-games. Like Pac-man for hyperactive seven-year-olds.

    Gears of War
    Possibly the most macho video game ever made. The certificate 18 rating means this is not for kids at all, but even the most bloodthirsty adults will wince at the sight of guns and the bulging manliness of everything in this game. Control a squadron of soldiers who are tough enough to make the Terminator seem like a ballet dancer and do battle with mutated giant locusts from space.

    Viva PiÑata
    Who says games are all about violence and killing? Viva Piñata offers a simple challenge: grow the best garden you can. Achieve this goal and you will start to attract piñatas to your garden and add colour and fun to the neighbourhood. The simple childishness is sure to appeal to younger gamers but the gameplay is just as compelling for adults. Like The Sims you will soon see that you will lose entire weekends as you dedicate yourself to pleasing your digital avatars.

    Thursday, April 26, 2007 12:09 PM
  • All replies

    • Microsoft: Xbox 360 Blu-ray Possible

      Xbox UK boss Neil Thompson told BBC News, “Whatever format wins it is highly likely we will offer a solution.”

      Microsoft enjoys downplaying the PlayStation 3’s Blu-ray movie playback ability, often saying that Sony is forcing consumers to adopt a pricey feature that they don’t necessarily want.

      "The only debate is if you want to watch Blu-ray movies and pay the extra money for that feature. We prefer to offer the consumer choice,” he added.

      Microsoft currently offers a $200 Xbox 360 peripheral that plays Blu-ray rival HD DVD discs.

      This isn't the first time that Microsoft has hinted that it would be willing to adapt to a Blu-ray world. Xbox head Peter Moore himself said a Blu-ray add-on would be possible, but also made clear that Microsoft is still firmly behind HD DVD.  

      Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:06 PM
    • Microsoft quiet on black 360

      Microsoft is remaining tight-lipped on rumours that a black Xbox 360 is in development, featuring a 120 GB hard drive and HDMI port.

      "We're aware of the rumours circulating on the Internet regarding a new version of Xbox 360, but we have made no official announcements and do not comment on rumours or speculation," Microsoft told Eurogamer this afternoon.

      The company was speaking in the aftermath of new information from US magazine Game Informer, whose April edition claims the hardware is real and will launch in late April for US$ 479.

      US website Engadget backs up these claims, boasting that a Microsoft insider confirmed to the website that an "Xbox 360 Elite" would pave the way for a new Premium (white) version of the console later in the year.

      It reckons around 200,000 of the limited edition units will be made, all featuring the bigger hard drive and HDMI port, as well as a matt black case, controller, headset, and a new quieter 65nm chip.

      However, absent from all of these lists is a unit featuring an HD-DVD drive or Wi-Fi capabilities, something not outside the realms of possibility in the future.

      Microsoft is sticking to its guns on this one though, as bigwigs continue to deny probing journalists a whiff of new hardware. But, with the speculated released date of the black 360 just around the corner, we expect things to come to a head rather soon.

      Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:08 PM
    • Jetpac Refuelled” classic shooter game makes a comeback on Xbox Live Arcade

      Microsoft just keeps games flowing. The Xbox 360 maker has just announced that the next game for the Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) will be ‘Jetpac Refuelled’. Jetpac Refueled for the Xbox 360 has been developed by Rare.

      This game happens to be a revamped and much more modernized version of the 1983 classic space blaster ‘Jetpac’. In fact, in the ’80, ‘Jetpac’ was a huge hit. The ’80s classic shooter Jetpac was developed by Ultimate Play the Game, a development house that was founded by Tim and Chris Stamper.

      In Jetpac Refuelled, players must clear a path through hordes of aliens in order to refuel their ship and accumulate a fortune over the course of the game.

      Jetpac Refuelled has 128 high-definition levels, complete with achievements, leaderboards and simultaneous multiplayer action. When compared with the original ‘80s game, the new version provides gamers with everything they loved in the classic, plus 128 new levels of enhanced gameplay.

      Jetpac Refueled will be available on the Xbox Live Arcade for 400 Microsoft Points or 5$ (Rs.220).

      Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:09 PM
    • Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation announced for Xbox 360 by Namco Bandai

      Namco Bandai Games America, a leading video game developer and publisher, has announced a new game which will be a part of its famous Ace Combat Series. The new game, Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, will be released on the Xbox 360 platform, and will soon be available online in a multi-player format via the Xbox Live.

      Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation will deliver high-definition, photo-realistic landscapes to players in this flight simulation game.

      Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation for the Xbox 360 takes air combat warfare to a new level as it boasts the new “Dynamic Operation System” where massive battles take place on a “living battlefield,” as up to six independent land-sea or air conflicts can break out any time at multiple locations a allies and enemies clash in real time.

      In Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, players can prove their supremacy on a global scale as they pilot highly detailed aircrafts such as the F-15 E Strike Eagle and the F-22 Raptor, online via the Xbox Live.

      There are a variety of different online modes such as death match and team death match style game modes. Players will also be able to team up with other players to play in co-op mode, where players combine strategy and skill to work together to take on computer-controlled adversaries.

      Since yesterday, a variety of different icons, art and decals straight from Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation have been made available to fans of the Ace Combat Series. This media, which include Ace Combat 6 Picture Packs, can be downloaded via the Xbox Live Marketplace.

      The Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation will be released in North America in the latter part of 2007, while the European release date of the game has yet to be decided.

      Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:12 PM
    • Supposedly, a revision to the XBOX 360 is coming. It is to be known as the Elite XBOX 360, will come in and black (black is just cooler) and is to be released in limited quantities. So if this is true, you’d better pick them up while they last. It is also going to pack in more features (but not so much to justify the higher price) than that old regular XBOX 360.

      All the acceossories that come in the box will be black, it will feature HDMI outputs and a 120GB hard drive. The Elite XBOX 360 runs cooler than current Core and Premium XBOX 360s, that could either be due to a better cooling system or the new 65nm processors but it is not confirmed to have the new processors (though that would make a good deal of sense). Those are about the only differences between other XBOX 360s on the market.

      The Elite XBOX 360 is to be sold as a third option next to the Core and Premium systems. Here is what Microsoft could have done to make the Elite version more enticing, include WiFi and the HD-DVD drive with the unit. I mean, wouldn’t that make sense. That is probably the only thing Sony did right with the PS3. I don’t want to string a 50 foot LAN cable across to my XBOX 360, okay, I could buy the WiFi module for $100 but I won’t do either any time soon. I don’t want to trip over a cable and $100 is ridiculous for a WiFi module.

      Once all the XBOX 360 Premiums are sold they will be replaced by white versions of the Elite XBOX 360. Utimately Microsoft will go back to having two XBOX 360 options, the Core system and the Elite system.

      The Core XBOX 360 costs $299, the Premium XBOX 360 costs $399 and how much is the Elite XBOX 360 going to cost, $499? Close, it will run a grand total of $480 not including taxes or other applicable charges in your area. Here’s how it works out, the WiFi module costs $100 so you can get WiFi and the Premium system for $500 or the Elite XBOX 360 for $480. What a choice, the Premium system with a smaller hard drive and WiFi or the Elite with a larger hard drive, HDMI and no WiFi. Am I the only one that thinks you shouldn’t be required to choose one or the other? I didn’t even get to the HD-DVD drive which will run you close to $200.

      Microsoft currently does not have plans to integrate the HD-DVD drive or WiFi module in any version of the XBOX 360, either now or in the future. If you ask me, it’s like they are loading a gun, pointing it at their head and hoovering their finger over the trigger. It’s assured suicide if they don’t do this at some point. It will probably come down to the last minute when they do and then they will say it was the plan all along. If they don’t start including the extras at a lower price soon then they may well find themselves losing out to Sony (and no one wants that).

       

      Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:13 PM
    • The black Xbox 360 may be real!

      The rumour mill has been turning for a while now regarding the existence of the Black Xbox 360, and according to recent reports it looks to be true. Sources inside Microsoft have apparently leaked information to Game Informer and engadget regarding the new Xbox 360 model. If reports are to be believed the new console is to have a larger 120 GB hard drive and an HDMI port (rather than DVI). As well as these big improvements the console should run quieter than the current model and will be called the “Elite”.

      Apparently the console will initially appear as a limited edition in black and then later in classic Xbox white for general sale. Ousting the Core model (without hard drive) it'll leave only the Premium, and Elite models. Unfortunately the Elite won't feature the HD-DVD drive, and it's said there won't be WI-FI built in which is a shame.

      If rumours are to believed the Black Xbox 360 Elite will see the light of day sometime in April, and could cost over £300. Could be an April fool though, so be warned!

      Via engadget

      Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:15 PM
    • XBox Live Down For Scheduled Maintenance

      Next Tuesday on March 27th, XBox Live will be down for scheduled maintenance according to Major Nelson.  This maintenance was scheduled months ago according to Major and is NOT the spring dashboard update.  That will be coming later on.  Due to the maintenance on XBox Live that means that XBox Live, the XBox forums and XBox.com will be unavailable.  The scheduled maintenance is set to take place starting at midnight and ending at 2pm.  All of the times are Pacific.  Hopefully the XBox Live service will only be down the 14 hours and come back online without a hitch, unlike last time. 

      Since a lot of people will be wondering what they are going to do during this downtime Microsoft has prepared a "Top Ten Things To Do" list to keep you busy during that time.  Simply visit XBox.com to view that list.  The last time XBox Live went down for maintenance people complained that Microsoft did not give them enough notice even though Microsoft told everyone at least a week in advance about what was going to happen.  Be sure to plan your online gaming schedule accordingly so you are not caught by surprise when you can not sign on during the day on Tuesday, March 27.

      Saturday, March 24, 2007 12:17 PM
    • [Xbox 360 Feature] 7 for '07

      At this point, there’s little doubt that the PlayStation 2 was the clear winner of the last generation, beating out long-time champion Nintendo’s GameCube and newcomer Microsoft’s Xbox for the title. However, as we all know Microsoft is not a company to be easily deterred, and with their latest console, they look to claim the throne for themselves this time. Key to that plan, the Xbox 360 got a head start, plunging into the market a year before the other two consoles when all was said and done (the PS3, as you might remember, suffered delays, missing its mid-year launch in 2006). That fact alone, being the first next-gen console available to consumers, certainly seems to have helped the system, as even with only a handful of truly must-have games, it still managed to sell nearly ten million units last year.

      However, now that the PS3 and Wii are both out on the market, this competition is really going to start heating up...

      Sunday, March 25, 2007 5:53 AM
    • Microsoft To Announce The Xbox 360 Elite

      Rumors have floated in the past month that Microsoft will launch a new high-end version of the Xbox 360. It’s true that Microsoft is preparing to announce the Xbox 360 Elite, a version of the game console with black plastic and advanced features. Several sources confirmed Microsoft plans to add this box to its product line.

      The new box will go on sale in limited quantities soon for $479. The details may not be precise here, but I believe it will have an HDMI connector so that you can connect at the highest speed to a high-definition TV. It will come with a 120-gigabyte hard disk drive and will have IPTV capability.

      Bill Gates announced in January that the Xbox 360 was capable of serving as a set-top box for IPTV, or Internet Protocol TV, which phone companies such as AT&T are using to offer high-definition movies and scores of channels in competition with TV.

      The Xbox 360 Elite will apparently not come with a built-in HD-DVD drive, which will remain an option for playing high-definition movie disks. In the spring, the new machine will be available in limited quantities and it will reflect a redesigned motherboard. Tina Conley, an outside spokeswoman for Microsoft, declined to comment on Saturday. How solid is this information? Some details may be wrong. I’m not looking at any press release right now that describes it all. The details will be announced soon enough.

      I’ve been waiting for Microsoft to make a move like this. The company has scheduled a motherboard redesign and cost reduction for every year, but this is the first major change to take the costs out of the inside of the Xbox 360. By the fall, the company will also implement a chip redesign, shifting from 90-nanometer production to 65 nanometer production. That will bring costs down fairly dramatically and will enable Microsoft to make the box in larger quantities by the fourth quarter. 

      Every other year, the company plans to shrink the size of its chips. It is overdue for a shift from the 90-nanometer chips that it started with in 2005 to the 65-nanometer chips commonly in production elsewhere. That transition isn’t yet complete but it should be by the fall.

      Why is it important to miniaturize a chip? When you make the width between circuits in a chip (the difference between 90 and 65), the technology gets better. The electrons travel shorter distances, the circuits are more reliable, defects can go down, yields go up, and you can fit the same chip design in a much smaller area. Since chip costs directly relate to how much material you use, a smaller chip is cheaper to make.

      Every console maker will have the opportunity to reduce the costs of its chips. But how the console makers capitalize on that decision depends on strategy.  Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan, said in an email that he believes Microsoft will launch its elite box, but he isn’t sure how it will position the other boxes, especially the Core unit. I expect the Xbox 360 with the 20-gigabyte hard disk drive will continue to sell for $399 and the Core unit, which has no hard drive, will sell for $299.

      At $479, the Xbox 360 Elite will still be cheaper than Sony’s $499 20-gigabyte PlayStation 3 and the $599 60-gigabyte PS 3. But it will match the Sony box with the HDMI connector feature. The Sony box is not yet capable of IPTV.

      It is interesting that Microsoft hasn’t added the HD-DVD drive as a permanent feature. The format war with Blu-ray is still going on, and that drive would add considerable cost. Microsoft sells it separately for $199.

      The larger hard drive on the Xbox 360 Elite will make it much more useful for downloading movies and serving as a digital video recorder, which is one of the primary uses of an IPTV set-top box. High-definition movies can take up five gigabytes or more, while standard movies take about a gigabyte of storage space. Hence, 120 gigabytes is enough for, accounting for 10 gigabytes used by the system for other things, about 22 HD movies.

      In any case, this is going to put some pressure on Sony and it will enable Microsoft to patch some holes in the technological capability of the Xbox 360. It will enable Microsoft to please the relatively small group of hardcore gamers who care about having the highest-end technology in the living room. It’s those gamers who are most tempted by the PS 3. HDMI, for instance, will enable someone to view games and movies the way they were meant to be seen in either 720p or 1080p resolutions.

      Sunday, March 25, 2007 6:03 AM
    • No Security Breach, Says Microsoft

      According to reports, Microsoft has refuted charges of a security breach on Bungie.net or the Xbox Live online video game network.

      Earlier this week, there were reports of fraudulent activity and account theft taking place on the Xbox Live network, and Microsoft promised to investigate all such reports.

      Microsoft now says that upon completing investigations, it has found there has been no security breach on the Xbox Live network. A company spokesperson said that Microsoft would like to reassure all of its 6-million Xbox Live members that despite recent reports, the company has looked into the situation, and found no evidence of any compromise of security on Bungie.net.

      The company has however admitted that there were a few instances of malicious users attempting to extract personal information from unsuspecting users, and fewer cases still of use of that information to access victims' Live accounts.

      The company insists that these stray cases of individual accounts being compromised are typically the result of personal information being given out in some way by users themselves.

      Sunday, March 25, 2007 6:47 AM
    • Microsoft probes Xbox Live hacks

      Microsoft Wednesday acknowledged reports of hackers stealing player accounts on the company’s Xbox Live gaming service and said it is launching an investigation.

      Reports of account theft on Xbox Live have been making the rounds of the network’s user forums since at least December, but complaints amped up this week when security researcher Kevin Finisterre — of “Month of Apple Bugs” fame — announced that he had been hacked.

      In an e-mail interview, Finisterre said he was victimized last Thursday. “We were playing with some folks that were cheating by a known method called ‘standbying’ or ‘bridging,’ and during the game, we were told ‘I am going to steal your account,’” said Finisterre. “Sure enough, the next day, my Xbox said, ‘We are sorry, but someone else has signed on as your gamertag, and we have to log you off.’”

      Gamertag is Xbox Live’s term for a player’s username.

      “Immediately after that, I was banned from Xbox live until 3/18/2007,” said Finisterre. He called support, but got what he called “the runaround.” Several days later, when Finisterre was supposed to be able to again access his account, he logged in to Xbox Live again. “Boom, now we are banned until the 24th,” he wrote. “When I call in, they still cannot tell me anything. My account is still under investigation and that’s all I know.”

      Other Xbox gamers have related similar stories. One, identified as “St00mPPP33yYyYY,” wrote on Dec. 31 that “sumone [sic] just hacked my account over xbox live…he called bungie and gave thenm [sic] the ip and my account name.” Bungie Studios is the Microsoft-owned game developer responsible for the popular Halo series.

      Another player, pegged as “Y The Red Bar,” relayed a more recent tale. “My Xbox Live account was hacked and all credit card info was stolen and used to run up points, etc. Microsoft says, ‘Oh, well, better call your credit card companies; nothing we can do,’” Y wrote a month ago.

      On Xbox Live, gamers can use a credit card to buy Microsoft Points, in-network currency that can be used to download movies and TV shows, games and interface modifications.

      Finisterre went public after being frustrated by Xbox Live’s outsourced support and being stymied in his attempts to reach someone at Bungie who would give him a straight answer. As part of his campaign, Finisterre even posted an audio excerpt of a 36-minute-long conversation with Xbox Live support (download iTunes audio). “It is obvious that they are outsourcing Xbox Live support to … somewhere with a high population of folks that speak broken English,” Finisterre said.

      He blamed a group of hackers who go by “Infam0uS” as responsible for at least some of the account hijacking. The group’s Web site makes no bones about stealing Xbox Live identities; it currently lists seven, stolen for reasons that include “Talked s*** to JustCallMeFRESH” and “Stole from clan.”

      Microsoft did not respond directly to questions about whether Xbox Live and/or Bungie.net had been hacked — accounts stolen by virtue of a data breach, in other words — or whether other tactics were used, such as phishing e-mails or even a form of “pretexting.”

      Finisterre seemed to lean toward the latter, a low-tech form of identity theft where a criminal calls technical support, poses as a legitimate customer, and somehow convinces the representative to issue a new password or hand over the existing one.

      “Some of the forums where the Clan Infamous is talking, they state that they are basically taking advantage of dumb Xbox Live customer support. So there may not actually be some [zero-day] exploit [but] rather stupidity of the staff on hand,” Finisterre said.

      Microsoft’s only official response was to say that it is looking into the matter. “There have been reports of fraudulent activity and account theft taking place on the Xbox Live network,” a company spokesman said Wednesday. “Security is a top priority for Xbox Live, and we are actively investigating all reports of fraudulent behavior and theft.

      “Any customer with a question about the security of their Xbox Live account should contact 1-800-4-MY-Xbox, and an Xbox customer service representative will help them understand our security policies and procedures,” the spokesman added.

      If Finisterre’s experience is any guide, that recommendation may just waste customers’ time. “I’ve stooped to calling random Bungie employees until I get someone to hold accountable,” he said. “It’s kinda pathetic that I had to go to the media to get this investigated. It’s also sad that so many other people on Xbox forums are getting blown off, too.

      “Neither Bungie or Xbox Live support has owned up to anything really, so … here I sit waiting for my callback still,” Finisterre said.

      Sunday, March 25, 2007 7:19 AM
    • Microsoft probing fraud on Xbox Live

      Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday said it is actively investigating reports of "fraudulent behavior and theft" on its Xbox Live online video gaming service, which has more than 6 million subscribers.

      "Recently, there have been reports of fraudulent activity and account theft taking place on the Xbox Live network," Microsoft said in an e-mailed statement.

      On Feb. 11, an Xbox Live user posted a message on a Microsoft Xbox forum complaining about a hacked account and stolen credit card information.

      Security is a major concern for Microsoft, whose operating system is a favorite target for hackers, and for online commerce sites such as eBay Inc., which has an entire team devoted to online security and safety.

      Sunday, March 25, 2007 7:20 AM
    • Social Engineering Blamed for Xbox Live Hacks

      Unscrupulous players on the Microsoft Xbox Live system were able to gain access to other players' accounts. The gamers reportedly used pretexting and other forms of social engineering to trick customer service staffers into revealing private information. Microsoft downplayed the attacks saying they were isolated incidents.

       

      Sunday, March 25, 2007 7:22 AM
    • Xbox Live 'hack' latest

      - Microsoft said it has found no evidence that Xbox Live accounts have been hacked, despite at least 50 reports from gamers on the Xbox Live forum claiming hackers were stealing their accounts.

      One such report came from security researcher, Kevin Finisterre, who said in an email interview that his account had been stolen last week.

      "We were playing with some folks that were cheating by a known method called ’standbying’ or ’bridging’, and during the game, we were told ’I am going to steal your account’," said Finisterre. "Sure enough, the next day, my Xbox said, ’We are sorry, but someone else has signed on as your gamertag, and we have to log you off’."

      "Immediately after that, I was banned from Xbox live until 18/3/2007," said Finisterre. He called support, but got what he called "the runaround”. Several days later, when Finisterre was supposed to be able to again access his account, he logged in to Xbox Live again. "Boom, now we are banned until the 24th," he wrote. "When I call in, they still cannot tell me anything. My account is still under investigation and that’s all I know."

       

      Sunday, March 25, 2007 7:25 AM
    • thank u for posting such useful informations...
      Sunday, March 25, 2007 11:22 AM
    • Thnx
      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 6:15 AM
    • Thnx.............................
      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 6:18 AM
    • PS3 no better than Xbox, says Microsoft boss

       

       

      He may not be the most impartial of judges, but Microsoft’s regional head of entertainment doesn’t mince his words when it comes to the PlayStation 3.

      “In the technology and gaming there’s really little in the PS3 where I can say, ‘Gosh, I wish we had that’,” Neil Thompson, the company’s senior regional director for UK and Ireland, said. “The biggest threat that Sony has for us is the brand that’s been established around it.”

      He conceded that the PlayStation’s graphics would give the Xbox a run for its money, but said that the Xbox outstripped its rival in the increasingly popular online gaming world, as well as in the number of games available.

      “You have to have a range and quality of gaming content,” Mr Thompson said. “More and more we’re seeing that the online experience is a really important factor. Sony have come up with an online world that seems to let you do just about everything except gaming.”

      Mr Thompson said that Microsoft had no plans to cut the price of the Xbox, arguing that the £279 (about 412 euro) price tag is already good value.


      Sony has argued that the PS3’s £425 price tag is good value considering its cutting-edge technology, but Mr Thompson questioned whether the Blu-ray drive, the PS3’s high-definition DVD player whose complexity contributed to delays of several months, would prove much of an attraction.

      “It’s two, three years ahead of the market,” he said. “People won’t want to replace their entire DVD collections, and they’ll get a better resolution with a standard DVD on an Xbox than a PS3.”

      Mr Thompson suggested that the high-definition format war, in which Microsoft has backed the HD-DVD format that rivals Blu-ray, may be rendered obsolete by advancing technology.

      “It’s nowhere near the importance of the format war between VHS and DVD,” he said. “The internet is becoming an increasingly important medium. Surely online is going to be the distribution method for much of the high-definition content.”

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 6:20 AM
    • Microsoft confession: Xbox Live pretexting theft

       

      Months after Xbox Live users began complaining of hacked accounts, Microsoft has acknowledged that the service's support staff is at fault, victims of pretexting calls by identity thieves.

      Reports of account theft on Xbox Live have been making the rounds of its member forums since at least December. But Microsoft responded only after noted security researcher -- Kevin Finisterre of Month of Apple Bugs fame -- last week went public about how his account was hijacked.

      As recently as last week, the company was saying only that it had "found no evidence" of a data breach and that any thefts had occurred could be blamed on users giving out personal information.

      That assertion changed yesterday. "A security researcher, Kevin Finisterre, discovered not a hack, but the fact that some accounts may have been compromised as a result of 'social engineering,' also known as 'pretexting,' through our support centre," says Larry Hryb, director of programming at Xbox Live, in a blog entry. "Once I realised what he was talking about -- he sent me some painful-to-listen-to audio files -- I confirmed that the team is fully aware of this issue. They are examining the policies and have already begun retraining the support staff and partners to help make sure we reduce this type of social engineering attack.

      "There's no other way to say it; this situation shouldn't have happened. Our customers deserve better," Hryb added.

      Although most users who posted comments to Hryb's blog entry were appreciative of the mea culpa, some were pessimistic about the chances that support would actually improve. "No surprise here. We've been telling you from Day One that Xbox/Xbox Live support is a joke," wrote someone identified as TH3Hammer. "You're right ... we DO deserve better, but I guarantee that it won't get better."

      Many more users, worried about not only account theft but also the ease with which fraudsters were able to get support representatives to spill personal information, urged Microsoft to untangle credit card accounts from Xbox Live. "It would help if we could remove our credit card information after we've used it instead of it being stored on the system (or even the console) forever just waiting to be pretexted," wrote Joergen8.
      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 6:21 AM
    • Xbox 360 Review: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

       

      Making every attempt to one up last year’s unforgettable Ghost Recon Xbox 360 debut is the downfall of this otherwise spectacular third person shooter. The tactical portion of the game is lost in widespread firefights that fully detract from the previously barren battlefields. Yes, Ghost Recon 2 is loaded with epic moments, yet sadly, they’re completely out of place.

      Picking up immediately where the first title left off, Scott Mitchell is sent directly back into enemy territory to take part in an outstanding story of a war that crosses over into American territory to fully encompass the severity of a Mexican rebel uprising. While Mitchell returns in an overly long training segment that barely fits into the story, everything after this is stunning in its execution.

      Graphical updates are beautiful, leading into shopping districts loaded with fine details and wonderfully constructed lighting model. It’s immersive and realistic; especially when the situation escalates and the only thing in the distance is a plume smoke occasionally lit by gunfire.

      A medic that can heal anyone on the squad is the most substantial update. It eliminates the problem of becoming stuck at a checkpoint without health and being forced to fight through a difficult scenario without being hit. The downside is that the difficulty has been significantly decreased, even with an immeasurable amount of enemy fire in comparison to the first title. On the hardest difficulty, this is barely even half of the struggle it was previously.

      This also shortens the campaign length dramatically. The final chapter is the shortest though the most intense. You truly get the feeling that a nuclear device is moments away from being detonated on U.S. soil as your superiors bark out orders. Additions to the cross com interface, by far the best HUD ever devised for a third person shooter, includes the ability to view a squad members movements from their point of view. This also makes it easier to place assist devices like a drone instead of waiting for it to find its needed location on its own.

      Sadly, almost all is lost as the game forces players to go solo numerous times. The developers have nearly eliminated any drama from a showdown with an armored vehicle. Mitchell seems as capable as Rambo in some points. An intelligent concept has Mitchell losing control of his cross com, rendering him almost helpless in an open environment. Instead of having the player tactically approach the situation, a rocket launcher is provided to simply blow everything up.

      This is an awkward shift, cheapening the experience down to the level of a low-end action summer movie. At times, it feels as if you’re invincible as you bring down more tanks than soldiers. When in command of multiple troops, this is easily on par if not better than the original. Ally A.I. has been given a dramatic makeover, and aside from some minor glitches, they work beautifully in tandem with the player.

      Without A.I. online, the addictive lag free co-op campaign returns. Completely separate levels for up to 16 players are available online, and this is still the best Xbox Live experience you can have with friends. Missions are once again high on difficulty and rely heavily on a team’s communication skill.

      Infinitely customizable game modes take over the versus portion. It’s the style of game that thrives on a hosts ability to conjure up new scenarios. As with the single player run, medics can make a huge difference to a team, though typically fail at combat. Regardless of the game style, keeping a skilled medic alive is key.

      It’s hard to complain about Ghost Recon 2 given how many “wow” moments have been crammed into the campaign. You’ll be talking about them for months, but sadly, they’re not right for this franchise and grow tiring as time passes. All of the explosions in the world can’t change the level of involvement when you’re required to use your head to advance. Still, this is a gripping experience, even if it’s for a different reason than the original.

      Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Blood, Language, and Violence.

       

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 6:26 AM
    • Xbox 360 Shivering Isles Released; Mehrunes' Razor Glitch Found

       

       

      Having put well over 150 hours into The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I was naturally excited to learn that the Shivering Isles expansion pack was made available a day early today, retailing for 2400 Microsoft Points ($30) and clocking in at just under 1GB.  Excited to get it before the scheduled Xbox Live downtime tomorrow, I downloaded it and started playing it about an hour ago as of press time.  Unfortunately, I've already run into a nasty glitch in the game, that affected my copy of the game at least.

      One of the last things I did in Oblivion prior to today was complete the Mehrunes' Razor downloadable quest, which grants the player an extremely powerful dagger.  Upon loading the game for the first time tonight after installing Shivering Isles, I almost immediately received the same quest notification I initially received after installing Mehrunes' Razor.  Sure enough, I checked my inventory and quest log, and all evidence that I ever completed the Mehrunes' Razor quest (the dagger itself, quest history, and even the map is now covered again as if I never explored the area) has been completely erased from the game.  Now, half of my saves created after finishing Mehrunes' Razor fail to load up at all, locking up and forcing me to reboot my Xbox 360.  The other half load properly, but they all also have no evidence that I ever completed the quest in the first place.  All saves I have prior to obtaining Mehrunes' Razor still appear to load up properly though, even if they were created in the middle of the quest itself (one of which was made as I stared directly at the dagger).  So basically, for saves that were created after the quest was completed, the game now sees Mehrunes' Razor as freshly installed and starts it all over again.

      I don't want to presume that this will happen in all (or any other) cases, because my 150+ hours with the game and/or other combination of factors may've trigged a scenario Bethesda just couldn't test beforehand. And really, the worst-case scenario is that you have to redo the dungeon again, or simply go without the dagger, so we aren't talking about a game-killing bug here. Still, based on this experience I urge any of you with downloaded content to take the proper precautions (such as backing up your saves) prior to installing Shivering Isles.

      Has anyone else installed Shivering Isles yet, and if so have you seen any similar issues?

       

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:12 AM
    • Xbox Live is Offline - MGC News Provides Some Alternative Entertainment

       

      Xbox Live is now offline for maintainence and will be so for approximately the next fourteen hours.

      What could be done with the time then? Go outside? Re-join civilisation?

      Nah, we’ve got something better for you to do. In lieu of the downtime, we’ve prepared a bumper Xbox 360 quiz, with questions ranging from the easy to the incredibly obscure. I don’t think we’ve been able to muster any prizes in time, so this one’s just for pride.

      You can start answering as soon as you read this, until 24 hours from the time of posting (so that’s 3:00am EST, Wednesday). You could of course cheat, but in the spirit of good sportsmanship, we ask that you don’t.

      You can answer the questions by e-mailing ‘editor [at] mygamercard [dot] net‘. We’ll publish the victors and answers once the contest’s over and we’ve had time to check through your answers. Start the quiz - after the break!

      Let’s get going!

      Xbox Classic General

      This first set of questions is about the original Xbox console - that’s right, the one which is quietly gathering dust in the corner of your closet.

      1. On what date was the Xbox launched in the USA?

      2. Name any three Xbox Games from the original launch line-up.

      3. What was the name of the Xbox sequel to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Black Arrow?

      4. Which sportsman featured in the title of the Xbox’s only wakeboarding game?

      5. Which game was subtitled ‘The Yakuza Missions’?

      Xbox 360 General

      Questions based around the console we all know and love.

      6. By what chemical element name was the Xbox 360 commonly known as prior to its release?

      7. What’s the only game series to have featured in both the original Xbox and Xbox 360 launch line-ups?

      8. What was the first game made available as part of the Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays program?

      9. Name all of the playable characters in the multi-player mode of The Outfit.

      10. Give the exact name of the most powerful weapon in the Xbox Live Arcade version of Doom.

      11. How many USB ports does the standard Xbox 360 console have?

      12. By what other name is footbal-sim Winning Eleven known in many European territories?

      13. Name five of the utilities available in the Xbox Live Arcade version of Worms.

      14. What animal is the player in costume as at the start of Amped 3?

      15. Which disgruntled Swede provided Joanna with intel in Perfect Dark Zero?

      Screenshots

      We’ll show you a screenshot, you say which game it’s from - simple as that.

      16.

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:16 AM
    • Xbox Live, Xbox.com offline on 27 March

       

       

      Microsoft confirmed that Xbox Live and Xbox.com will be offline and unavailable starting at midnight Pacific Daylight Time today, the 27th of March. The two services will be offline for approximately fourteen hours for scheduled maintenance.

      Microsoft have confirmed that this is not a dashboard update but to conduct some regular maintenance on the servers. Xbox 360 owners can expect to see a ‘We’re down for maintenance’ page on Xbox.com and a similar message on the Xbox console.

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:18 AM
    • Loads more Blue Dragon to come

       

       

      Blue Dragon creator Hironobu Sakaguchi has revealed that the Xbox 360 RPG has a rosy future ahead of it. Speaking to CVG, Sakaguchi modestly chatted about the success of the game in Japan ("It's attaching over 45 per cent and that's really amazing"), before more or less confirming what we all knew, and what Sakaguchi himself has already hinted strongly at: that the Blue Dragon udder is to be milked further.

      "Blue Dragon has sold through more than 200,000 units in Japan and again it will continue to build momentum as we get into things like Blue Dragon 2 and Blue Dragon 3", Sakaguchi said. "And that's what we're hoping; to really build on the franchise. Maybe it'll take ten years." When asked whether that was confirmation of a second Blue Dragon game, the RPG guru joked, "Tonight I will talk with Shane [Kim] (laughs)." You probably had to be there.

      Anyway, an English language demo of Blue Dragon is intended for release in PAL regions this June or July.
      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:18 AM
    • 360 Elite shots leaked

       

       

      If you're looking forward to getting your hands on the enhanced Xbox 360 Elite that have been strongly rumoured for weeks, check out these slightly grainy but nevertheless interesting shots of what is apparently the production line of the sexy new consoles.

      These shots, which turned up on a Chinese gaming forum, tgfcer.com, appear to be sneakily snapped on a mobile phone, but clearly show the '120GB' engraving on the silver plate of one of the console's hard drives.

      Reports are that the new console will go on sale in April, coming packed with a new 120GB hard disk drive (up from 20GB) and a will support HDMI video output, which is already supported by the PS3.

       

      This package will reportedly cost around $479, which is in the region of £243. But do you want one or is you barely-worn white 360 good enough for you? That's the question. 

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:19 AM
    • Xbox 360 Controls Minions

       

      Codemasters has released new information on their latest next-generation title for the Xbox 360, Overlord. Overlord puts you in the armor of the bad guy and your weapons are your minions. Amass an army of up to 50 minions to control with hundreds more in your reserve to do you bidding with no questions asked, complete loyalty and unmatched bravery to the point of stupidity at times.

       

      Minions are controlled in two ways: as a group or individually. Command them to do a variety of tasked such as killing sheep and brining them back, carry objects, operate machinery and get to locations you cannot. As you get more powerful as an Overlord, so will your minions. As the rob opponents, they’ll arm themselves with their axes, knives, pitchforks chef’s hats, armor or whatever else they can find.

      Your minions aren’t invulnerable though. They’ll bring you back gold and riches, but music and alcohol will distract them (who can blame them). The succubus can also lure them to their deaths.

      There are four main groups of minions distinguished by their color:

      Brown Minions – The Fighters. These are the strongest minions for combat. They will pick up dropped equipment from defeated foes and use it for themselves – pitchforks, severed unicorn horns and the like are some favorites.

      Red Minions – The Fire Throwers. These minions are like archers who hurl blazing fireballs to defeat opponents from a distance. Also, immune to fire, they can clear dangerous paths for the Overlord and the rest of the horde.

      Green Minions – The Assassins. These minions love their stealth attacks. They’ll try to get behind an enemy, jump on their back and then stab them viciously to death – great for ambushes. They’re also immune to poisoning and can turn rubbish left on the battlefield into upgrades.

      Blue Minions – The Healers. These are the smartest of the minions, and the only ones who have the ability to swim. Blue minions can also resurrect fallen minions, and get them ready to join the fight once again.

      This is just the tip of the iceberg for Overlord. Keep check back here at The Game Feed as more about this possible sleeper hit is announced.

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:21 AM
    • Updated Xbox 360 on the horizon

       

       

      Codenamed ‘Elite’, an updated version of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is definitely on the way.

      The major revision to Microsoft’s premier games console comes in a stunning black livery (console, controller and live headset), and sports a huge 120GB hard drive.

      Unfortunately no built in HD DVD drive or W--Fi for the updated Xbox 360, but it does come with HDMI video-output port and will run more quietly and cooler than existing consoles as a result of (rumoured) 65-nanometer chips, whose smaller transistors consume less power.

      The ‘elite’ is a precursor to a full replacement for the existing Xbox 360 and as such will probably be limited to around a couple of hundred thousand units.

      Eventually, the Xbox Elite will take the role of the Xbox Premium. Effectively, the Elite is a limited edition run in black and once it has sold out, future Xbox Premiums will have 120GB / HDMI and will have a white livery.

      Expect the Xbox Elite to cost around £330 when it makes it over to the UK, probably in late summer.

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:13 PM
    • Microsoft admits to security problems with Xbox Live

       

      Microsoft has admitted to security problems with the Xbox Live online service. The system is still technically sound and has not been hacked. However programming director Larry Hryb from Xbox Live has admitted in his blog that there are social engineering problems. Security expert Kevin Finisterre found that numerous player accounts have been compromised, using classic "social engineering" tactics such as talking Microsoft's support people into redirecting an account to another console for "Account Recovery". The Xbox clan "Infamous" have published hints and tactics on their web site how to get an account redirected without knowing the password or the right answer to the security question.

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:15 PM
    • Digital Revolution

       

      Sales of DVD players, MP3s, digital camcorders, games consoles and digital TVs are thriving, illustrating consumers’ gravitation towards a ‘digital lifestyle’. Nowhere is this trend more prevalent than in the Middle East, where the market is being dramatically transformed. Channel Middle East investigates the role that the regional channel is playing in the digital lifestyle revolution.

      With the consumer segment proving to be such a significant portion of the overall ICT and consumer electronics landscape, it was always inevitable that the two channels would overlap. Huge growth in the uptake of digital lifestyle products has seen many distributors, and classic IT resellers, searching for ways to get a piece of action. Dubai-based distributor Empa recently set up a dedicated joint venture distribution firm — called e-retail — which is focused entirely on the retail sector. The company has already bagged exclusive regional rights for Taiwan-based electronics vendor Hannspree in the same way that Jumbo Electronics looks after Sony’s products in the Middle East and Al-Futtaim works with Toshiba in the UAE.

      There is little doubt that gaining access to the large consumer electronics stores represents the major priority for many vendors that want their products to be displayed to a large audience. Distributors, too, know that they need to form strong relationships with these retailers in order to increase their revenues in the consumer space.

      Regional distributor Emitac claims it has a long history of serving the Middle East consumer electronics market and has seen the market dramatically evolve. Director of sales and marketing, Vijay Saraf, reckons it has only been more recently that the true potential of the market has been unleashed: “The power retailers, initially, for the first two or three years didn’t have a clue — or any experience of the retail business, and in fairness neither did the suppliers, so we have all grown together. But the Middle East digital lifestyle market is still maturing and developing so there are plenty of opportunities around.”
      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:18 PM
    • Let the games begin - PS3 and Xbox to clash online

       

      The debut of Sony's Playstation 3 tomorrow kicks off a battle with Microsoft's rival Xbox 360 that's likely to be fought largely on the quality of video game titles and the relative strengths of the high definition disc drives the consoles support.

      But another front in the battle will also be fiercely contested - one for dominance in the world of online gaming, which Microsoft has largely had to itself with its Xbox Live platform.

      Sony's internet-enabled PS3 allows owners to connect via their broadband connections to the Playstation Network where games can be purchased, movie trailers downloaded and gamers can join online multiplayer communities. Access to the network is free, but much of the content is charged for via credit card.

      Online-only arcade games such as Flow start at US$3 ($4.25).

      The Playstation Network will have a local interface, but most of the content will be based overseas. Sony Computer Entertainment managing director Warwick Light said gamers joining multiplayer games would connect to overseas servers, but were unlikely to experience delays in game play.

      "If gaming latency is an issue for some games, we'll try and host the games in Australia," he said.

      Equipped with an Ethernet connection, PS3 owners can plug their new console into a broadband router and connect automatically to the Playstation Network. Light said the ultimate success of the Playstation Network would depend to some degree on how rapidly broadband penetration improved.

      "The point is, that for the sake of the whole country, we need to get there. We're hoping the PS3 will act as an accelerant for broadband uptake."

      The PS3 comes with a web browser, allowing users to surf the web from their TV sets. A virtual keyboard can be used to punch in internet addresses.

      Accessory makers such as Logitech are also supplying wireless keyboards that can be used with the PS3 for typing commands into the browser. Light said any web-based messaging and email service would work with the browser.

      A large part of Sony's online strategy seems to focus on adapting its successful console franchises, such as the karaoke game Singstar and the quiz game Buzz.

      "My Singstar will come to the PS3. Download songs or upload your own karaoke effort," said Light.

      "More people [in New Zealand] own Singstar that own an Xbox. Buzz is probably half as many. People have got into this stuff in a massive way."

      The Sony EyeToy video camera could be used to video conference with other EyeToy users, said Light.

      And the PSP handheld gaming device, which has built-in wireless networking, will eventually be able to connect remotely via the Playstation Network to access content stored on a user's PS3 console.

      Sony this week unveiled Home, a major component of the network featuring streaming videos and virtual characters, that will be free to access from later this year.

      A new online game, LittleBigPlanet, will follow the trend started by the online virtual reality game Second Life, allowing users to interact in a large online community.

      But Microsoft hasn't been idle as Sony has been readying its Playstation Network. It has made movie and TV downloads available through Xbox Live and in January said it would offer internet TV channels as well.

      It will also grant PC gamers running Windows Vista access to the Xbox Live realm, meaning PC and console gamers will participate in online games together for the first time.

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:21 PM
    • Our 10th annual list of the most innovative companies in the world.

       

      1 Google | 1

      The masters of the universe are busily converting ad dollars into a global network of fiber lines and data centers. A plan etary computer crunching ever- larger mountains of bits is an invention of historic import. Google's power to inspire both awe and fear continues to grow.

       

      2 Apple | 2

      Tired: MP3 players. Wired: mobile handsets! And why not? Especially if the Apple crew can stuff most of a Mac into a futuristic gadget straight out of Minority Report. Cell phone + iPod + social networking = marketer's dream.

      3 Genentech | 4

      When you target specific biological mechanisms, your drugs can sidestep the one-disease rut: Avastin has been OK'd for a growing list of cancers. And since 20 new drugs are set to enter the pipeline by 2010, the chances for more multiple hits are good.

      4 Samsung | 3

      Mobile handsets have joined PCs as the focus of some of high tech's most brutal slugfests. Samsung's upmarket strategy protects margins - a tactic it has been using to batter Sony in home theater and camcorders. Too bad about that iPhone.

      5 News Corp. | 9

      Why fly capital-sucking TV satellites when you've got 90 million MySpacers glued to their screens? King Rupert is feeding the greatest frenzy of media populism since the birth of the tabloid press. Now he needs to convert it into broadcast-style revenue.

      6 Nintendo new!

      Hot graphics? Nah. What's delighting gamers - and blowing the smirk off Sony's face - is the Wii's acrobatic controller. Selling a million consoles a month gives the Pok master a happy challenge: turning a runaway hit into an enduring franchise.

      7 Salesforce.com | 15

      The pioneering purveyor of Web-based business apps keeps swiping small and midsize clients from giant rivals Oracle and SAP. Latest cool tool: a one-stop online marketing platform that ports your campaign directly to Google AdWords.

      8 Cisco | 12

      As the petabits surge, Cisco keeps outflanking cut-rate competitors and surfing the flood of online video. VoIP gear and set-top boxes contribute to '90s-style earnings growth. Now CEO John Chambers hopes to sell the world on wall-size, hi-def telepresence.

      9 General Electric | 8

      Good-bye to the slow-lane plastics division. Hello to avionics, security systems, and medical labs in a box. Edison's heirs keep doubling down on products too big, gnarly, or capital-intensive for companies that haven't been ruling Big Tech for a century.

      10 Nvidia | 21

      Three trillion operations per second make for a killer demo: hyper-real renderings of glamazon Adrianne Curry. But the new GeForce 8800 chip is alsospeedy enough to launch gaming's graphics powerhouse into totally new markets, like gene sequencing.

      11 Baidu new!

      In China, Google is just another imported also-ran. Baidu, which handles more than 60 percent of the country's searches, is teaming up with recording giant EMI to deliver ad-supported music. On demand: the biggest hits from Hong Kong and Taiwan!

      12 Toyota | 7

      How about a buff Tundra CrewMax truck - with a dashboard nav screen that also displays the view from a tailgate-mounted camera - to tow your groovy Prius? Toyota doesn't confine all that cool tech to little green geekmobiles.

      13 SunPower | 17

      Acquiring installation specialist PowerLight gives SunPower total command of the solar food chain, from R&D to rooftop. The plan is to shear overall system costs in half, enough to let sunshine compete head-on with cheap coal-fired grid power.

      14 Infosys | 11

      So much for cut-rate coding. The rajas of outsourcing are taking on R&D and computer-aided engineering. But the work is still massively human-intensive, which means battling upstart rivals to hire more than 500 new Infoscions a week.

      15 Medtronic | 16

      A chest implant that transmits vital signs to the Web for your cardiologist to view - the boomer iPhone! Medtronic's $25,000 pacemaker-like device is just the start. Look for similar innovations that treat epilepsy, obesity, and depression.

      16 Level 3 new!

      Wiring the planet with fiber optics really was a great idea - it just took a while for YouTube and friends to come up with the petabits to make it pay. Level 3 boasts 50,000 miles of prime Net backbone. Now it can start working off that $6 billion in debt.

      17 Exelon | 33

      Emission caps? Carbon taxes? No worries when two-thirds of the 25,000 megawatts you produce are atom-powered. Exelon is aiming to build the first new US reactor in a generation. Now, if Uncle Sam would kindly figure out where to stash spent nuclear fuel.

      18 Netflix | 14

      CEO Reed Hastings is either a stone-cold visionary or the Hamlet of online media. After three years of indecision, Netflix is finally serving (B-list) movies online to select subscribers. Upgrade price tag: $40 million, most of last year's DVD-by-mail profit.

      19 Verizon | 22

      Leading the telco charge against cable, Verizon's 50-Mbps fiber-to-the-home service is almost twice as fast as its last rollout. Woo-hoo! Now competition has to bring stratospheric prices - upwards of $90 a month - down to earth.

      20 Electronic Arts | 13

      The King Kong of interactive games needs big hits to justify its Hollywood-size overhead and keep itself in bananas. Speed, sports, and shooter franchises all continue to pull their weight - but just barely. Spore needs to soar.

      21 Monsanto | 25

      Frankencorn engineered for ethanol production is so 2006. Bring on the trans-fat-free soybeans! After years of fighting cultural headwinds, Monsanto is finally figuring out how to go with the flow. Climate-change special: drought-tolerant corn.

      22 Garmin new!

      GPS technology has infiltrated cockpits, dashboards, and handhelds. Now industry leader Garmin is making the crucial leap into networked smartphones, laptops, and PTAs - that's personal travel assistants. Let 10,000 localized services bloom.

      23 Amazon.com | 6

      Trying to be all stores to all shoppers, Amazon has to compete on a thousand fronts. Now CEO Jeff Bezos is bravely trying to mine value from the back end by offering to handle everything from computing to ecommerce for other businesses.

      24 NTT DoCoMo new!

      Fat and happy, Japan's wireless Godzilla keeps ramping up its technology while the rest of the mobile world battles with debt. A hundred megabits a second? Coming right up. Linux for mobile? Domo arigato. Not everything big telcos do is evil.

      25 EMC | 26

      Disney Studios' post-Pixar remodel includes two EMC CX3-80 storage networks - just the thing for stashing 1 billion 3-D textures. For the king of data warehousing, though, today's big opportunity is selling digital closet space for online video.

      26 Intercontinental Exchange new!

      Once a back-room specialty, energy trading is now center stage. As the leading futures exchange for fossil fuels, electric power, and even emissions, the ICE is hot. Check its 2006 stock chart - up 300 percent - and weep.

      27 Comcast | 39

      Someday, bitstreams will be metered like water and electricity. Until then, Comcast's fiesta of digital cable, VOD, DVR, and "triple play" connectivity rules. The challenge: fending off party-crashing telcos, satellite broadcasters, and online insurgents.

      28 BP | 31

      Oil spills and exploding refineries provide more incentive than ever for the number three oil company to move "beyond petroleum." The recent $500 million investment in an alt-energy institute is a high profile step in that direction - and less than a week's profit.

      29 Disney new!

      It's the wedding of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, Rev. Steve Jobs presiding. Disney boldly took the iTunes plunge. Now John Lasseter is sprinkling Pixar dust over its studios and theme parks. Can CEO Bob Iger devise a digital makeover for the rest of Mouse house?

      30 Yahoo | 5

      Five hundred million users can't be that wrong. Sure, Yahoo got stomped by the most spectacular upstart in business history. But big-brand advertisers, fearing Google uber alles, are pulling for Yahoo's new Panama ad platform.

      31 Boeing new!

      Burt Rutan isn't the only engineering visionary building edgy new planes. Fast, fuel-efficient, and rivet-free, Boeing's carbon-fiber 787 Dreamliner will be the first truly 21st-century sky ride when it hits the runway next year. Sorry, Airbus.

      32 eBay | 19

      The perfect Internet business model generates outsize expectations - which means mistakes cost double. Wall Street slammed eBay for bungling in China and pissing off power sellers. Good thing PayPal and Skype are finally starting to earn their keep.

      33 Flextronics | 23

      The Santa's workshop of globalization designs, builds, and ships everything from cell phones to printers - and now Lego blocks. Its hyperefficient supply chain fuels a Cambrian explosion of converging devices. And you gotta love what it does for prices.

      34 Corningnew!

      In high tech, glass used to mean fiber optics. Today, screens are the hot commodity, and Corning supplies LCD substrate to manufacturers like Samsung and Sharp. As prices for flat screens fall and volume soars, the glassmaster profits.

      35 Gen-Probe | 35

      Gen-Probe's nucleic-acid tests screen more than 80 percent of the US blood supply, flagging HIV-1, hepatitis C, and West Nile. Assays for prostate cancer are already approved in Europe. Top priority: rapid detection of E. coli and other food-borne pathogens.

      36 TSMC | 30

      Astrophysicists are over the moon about the new Sing 512-core CPU, destined to simulate the cosmos in a next-gen supercomputer. Who etched its delicate traces? TSMC. The fab-for-hire does the clean-room dirty work so chip wizards can focus on design.

      37 Lenovo | 29

      Talk about global - the world's number-three PC maker rotates its headquarters between Beijing, Singapore, Paris, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Lenovo is leveraging low-cost Chinese R&D into cool features like laptops secured by facial recognition.

      38 IBM | 18

      Its engineering ranks have been decimated by the shift to lucrative IT services, but Big Blue can still punch like a heavyweight. Proof: Linux server code, chips powering all three top game consoles, and social networking software for the suit set.

      39 Intel | 24

      The empire strikes back. AMD's ambush of the PC processor market precipitated a hail of new Intel marvels, like a supercomputer on a chip that uses less power than a lightbulb. Now Apple and Sun have Intel inside. Don't mess with smart, wealthy paranoids.

      40 Microsoft | 36

      Wanted: second career for rich, fat, nervous ex-monopolist. Desktop software is vanishing into the cloud, and as balance-sheet replacements, Xbox and Zune don't pass the laugh test. Luckily, $31 billion in rainy-day money buys time and options. (But not Google.)

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:25 PM
    • Gaming wars begin

      Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony finally released the long-delayed PlayStation3 (PS3) gaming console in SA this week. It’s an impressive machine, and plays next-generation Blu-ray discs, but consumers may baulk at the price.
       

      Sony and Microsoft are at war. The companies are locked in a battle for control of the living room of the future. Microsoft got a six month headstart with its launch last year of the Xbox 360 in SA. The PS3 has been delayed because of the dogged insistence by Sony that the machine ships with a built-in, next-generation Blu-ray disc player. A shortage of the diodes used in the manufacture of the Blu-ray players has meant a global shortage of Sony’s next-generation console.

      Finally, though, the PS3 is here, and ready to do battle with the Xbox 360. Is the machine good enough to make up for the delays and ensure that Sony keeps Microsoft and smaller rival

      The machine, which weighs 5kg, has a powerful graphics engine and custom-designed “Cell” microprocessor but its strongest selling point is undoubtedly its integrated Blu-ray player. Sony is locked in a pitched battle with HD-DVD — backed by Microsoft and Toshiba — to determine which movie and optical data storage format will replace the DVD. Sony’s determination to include a Blu-ray player has cost it valuable time but it may ultimately prove to be the ammunition the company needs to fend off Microsoft: the Xbox 360 does not ship with an HD-DVD player — consumers who want to play HD video have to purchase one separately.

      The PS3 has several other advantages over the Xbox 360. The premium version, the only version available in SA, comes standard with Wi-Fi, which means connecting the machine to the Internet requires no wires (provided consumers already have a wireless broadband router at home). There’s also a gigabit Ethernet port for wired connections. The PS3 has a 60GB hard drive (versus 20GB on the premium version of the Xbox 360) and it can easily be swapped out for an even bigger drive. It’s also possible to install Linux on the PS3, turning it into a powerful personal computer.

      On the downside, the PS3 is the most expensive console on the market — by a country mile. It costs nearly twice as much as Microsoft’s 20GB Xbox 360. But if one considers that it comes with a Blu-ray player and a high-speed 60GB drive the price is very reasonable. Separate Blu-ray players cost more than the PS3. The price of standalone Blu-ray players will fall dramatically in the next few years but for now the cheapest way to get one is simply to buy a PS3.

      Another negative for the PS3 is that games designed specifically for the machine are still in short supply, though it will play most old PlayStation games in compatibility mode. It will be a year, at least, before games developers start producing titles that take full advantage of the PS3’s advanced hardware. Blu-ray movies are also still as rare as hen’s teeth, though a few titles have recently gone on sale at specialist music and movie retailers.

      The PS3 will work with any TV that supports standard, analogue audiovisual inputs, though consumers won’t get the full benefit of HD images on older TVs. Those with HD TVs, especially expensive 1080p LCD panels with digital HDMI connectors, should be blown away by the quality of the images served up by the PS3.

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:30 PM
    • Microsoft Announces X06

       

      Microsoft today announced that X06, the Xbox brand experience for the games and entertainment industry, will be held on 27th and 28th September this year. It was also revealed that the glamorous, cosmopolitan and cultural city of Barcelona will be playing host to this year’s exclusive event.

      Europe’s top media, partners, publishers and developers will be invited to the Catalan capital to experience the incredible evolution of the Xbox 360 console and the exciting offerings it is bringing to Europe.

      At X06 Microsoft will unveil more plans for the Xbox 360, showcase the breadth of the next-generation line-up of games, the next wave of accessories and new world-class Xbox Live entertainment experiences along with the latest Games For Windows announcements.
      For the first time Microsoft will also welcome South Africa, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland to the event having recently announced the launch of the Xbox 360 in these countries by the end of 2006.

      Previous X0 events have been the setting for high-profile announcements such as the European pricing details for Xbox (2001); Xbox Live and the acquisition of Rare (2002); the unveil of the new Xbox branding (2003) and the fantastic launch games line-up for Xbox 360 (2005). This year’s event will be no exception, and visitors to the Barcelona event should expect to be blown away with exclusive news announcements and amazing next generation gaming experiences.

      As always, third party publishers and developers will have a strong presence, and will be using X06 as a platform to unveil major announcements and showcase forthcoming Xbox 360 titles.

      A highlight of the gaming calendar, Xbox enjoys this opportunity to bring gamers together from across Europe and create a unique and immersive experience for their guests. Commenting on the announcement, Chris Lewis, regional vice president, Xbox, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said: “We are really looking forward to X06 in Barcelona and believe this will prove to be an amazing experience for gaming enthusiasts across Europe. We have some exciting announcements to make and even more to show people. X06 will firmly place Xbox 360 as the console of the next generation.”

      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:38 PM
    • We Got Next - Part One (Xbox)

       

      For several GameSpy editors, Game Developers Conference (GDC) is one of the best and most enjoyable events held each year. One of the primary reasons for GameSpy's GDC love is that the editors get to interact with some of the best talents in the business. Recently, some of GameSpy's friends in the development community shared a ton of details on Microsoft's next console system. Keep in mind that all of this information is based off of alpha development kits and current projections for the final hardware. Everything is subject to change. In the first part of our Xbox expose, I'll cover the console's hardware components and software goals. Since the final name of the next Xbox hasn't been revealed yet, I'll refer to the system by its codename, Xenon.
      Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:43 PM
    • CPU - Xenon's CPU has three 3.0 GHz PowerPC cores. Each core is capable of two instructions per cycle and has an L1 cache with 32 KB for data and 32 KB for instructions. The three cores share 1 MB of L2 cache. Alpha 2 developer kits currently have two cores instead of three.

    • GPU - Xenon's GPU is a generation beyond the ATI X800. Its clock speed is 500 MHz and it supports Shader 3.0. Developers are currently working with an alpha 2 GPU. Beta GPU units are expected by May and the final GPU is slated for a summer release. The final GPU will be more powerful than anything on the market today; in game terms, it would handle a game like Half-Life 2 with ease.

    • System Memory - Xenon will have 256 MB of system RAM. Keep in mind that this number should not be equated to typical PC RAM. The Xbox has 64 MB of system RAM and is a very capable machine.

    • Optical Drive - As many have speculated, Xenon will not use Blu-Ray or HD-DVD. Games will come on dual-layer DVD-9 discs. While the media is the same as that of the current Xbox, the usable space on each disc is up to 7 GB. The drive is slated to run at 12X.

    • Memory Units - Xenon will use 64 MB to 1,024 MB memory cards. 8 MB is reserved for system use, leaving a 56 MB to 1,016 MB for user data.

    • Hard Drive - As many have speculated, Xenon's hard drive is optional. 2 GB of the drive will be used as game cache. The final drive size is still being determined.

    • Camera - Xenon will have a USB 2.0 camera. It's capable of 1.2 megapixel still shots and VGA video. Photos can be used in-game and for gamer profiles. The camera can also be used for video chat. It's unknown if the Xenon camera will allow for EyeToy-like gameplay. Developers are currently using a simulated camera driver.

    • Sound Chip - Xenon does not have an audio chip in the traditional sense. Decompression is handled by hardware, while the rest of the chores are handled by software. DirectSound3D has been dropped in favor of X3DAudio. The former was deemed too inflexible.


      Raymond's Reaction - The Xenon is an extremely impressive piece of hardware. It will allow gamers to see things like complex lighting in gameplay, amazing details through high-level shading (impeccable clouds, fur, grass, cloth, water, marble, ground, etc.), incredible textures, and new post effects (increased motion blur, heat distortion, depth of field, light blooms, etc.).

      While people have already been correctly speculating about the removable hard drive and the standard DVD media, I was surprised at the inclusion of the camera. I haven't heard a single rumbling about a Xenon camera prior to GDC. The optional hard drive is a bit understandable; the only gamers that care about it will buy it anyway, while casual gamers won't care about the performance and convenience gains a drive offers. The standard DVD isn't too surprising considering that HD-DVD drives will be too expensive for inclusion in a console system in 2005.
    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 1:46 PM
  • News On The Gaming Consoles Battlefield: Xbox 360 Elite

     

     

    As the war of the gaming consoles continues to rage on, Microsoft opened today a new chapter with the latest edition of its Xbox 360 console: Xbox 360 Elite. Microsoft made its move after last weekend Sony launched its PlayStation 3 console in the PAL territories.

    Xbox 360 Elite will include a 120GB hard drive, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port, a high-definition cable, and a premium black finish for the console, wireless controller and Xbox LIVE headset. Xbox 360 Elite has enough space for a library of Xbox LIVE Arcade games and thousands of songs, as well as downloadable high-definition TV shows and movies available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace. Xbox Live has just recently registered its six millionth member, greatly exceeding even Microsoft’s own expectations of the online service’s rapid growth. It has also been stated by the company that total download figures from Xbox Live Arcade have already exceeded the 25 million mark, and that nearly 70% of all connected Xbox 360s have downloaded at least one Live Arcade title. As for the most downloaded XBLA game, that title goes to Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting, followed by Bankshot Billiards 2 at number two and Marble Blast Ultra at number three. Popular card game UNO made it in at fourth place, with the classic FPS Doom also making it into the last spot of the top five list.

    Microsoft also sees Live as not only a matchmaking service, but also as a legitimate social community, with an average of approximately two million text and voice messages passed between users on a daily basis. Furthermore, it's also reported that the typical Xbox Live Gold subscriber has an average of 22 gamers on their friends list.

    But let’s back to Xbox 360 Elite. The new 120GB hard drive also will be sold as a stand-alone accessory to give current Xbox 360 owners greater choice and flexibility in their games and entertainment experience. Additional Xbox 360 Elite accessories, such as the black Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit and the Xbox 360 rechargeable battery, will be available separately. The Xbox 360 Elite and its accessories are expected to begin arriving in U.S. stores on April 29. Xbox 360 Elite will have an estimated retail price of $479.99 (U.S.) and will come packed Xbox LIVE Silver Membership and one-month subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold.

    Xbox 360 Elite seems geared more towards Xbox Live users and Microsoft doesn’t plan yet any special content for the Xbox360 Elite. Microsoft’s official Albert Penello, who is head of marketing for the Xbox platform, confirmed that the company will not focus on creating “elite” content for the Elite Xbox 360: “This is for people who are heavy [Xbox Live] Marketplace users, [who] download a lot of stuff online; we want to make sure that those people [20GB Xbox 360 owners] are going to be fine, we are not going to start to build content that’s going to alienate them”.

    Still, media reactions about the new Xbox 360 are mixed. CVG.com asked rhetorically who will be the buyers of new console. “Could it be for the built-in HDMI port, which other than a very slight improvement in visual quality offers the convenience of having both audio and visual signals through a single cable. We've tested both HDMI and Component connections side by side (on a PS3, mind you) and only when you've literally got both pictures together on a picture-in-picture set-up can you notice the slightly sharper picture of the HDMI connection. Definitely then, a purchase decision on the merit of this new connection is going to be made by hardcore TV enthusiasts only.” – CVG.com

    Even with the new upgrades, Xbox 360 Elite is not enough for the guys over at Digital Trends in terms of surpassing the Nintendo Wii. “Overall, this market would be a lot more interesting if the high-end players, Sony and Microsoft, would do a little more “out of the box” thinking right now. It is really being defined by Nintendo who has done a better job in that regard with their physical controller and a vastly more attractive purchase price. I think it would be wise for Sony and Microsoft to pick up their game a bit if they want to make money here.”

    BetaNews noted that Xbox 360 Elite is not so technically different from previous versions. “Although the Xbox 360 Elite was hardly a secret in recent weeks, a number of details swirling around the rumor mill proved incorrect. The new console has not been changed internally to take advantage of a 65-nanometer CPU, which was expected to bring down manufacturing costs. Also missing is a built-in HD DVD drive, or rumored quieter DVD drive. While Microsoft has said it plans to eventually build HD DVD into its consoles, the company is apparently waiting for production costs to come down before it does so.”

    The new HDMI port was intepreted as another Microsoft move towards IPTV. "Microsoft's move is an endorsement of high-definition output, and its inclusion of HDMI validates that Sony's initial strategy was correct," said Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter, speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz. "The 120 GB hard-drive is focused on helping the roll-out of IPTV, and I expect a progression of HDTV broadcast from the current 720p to the 1080p standard over the next few years, so the HDMI output will be relevant."

    The people over at Trusted Reviews are dissapointed that the new Xbox 360 doesn’t get a price discount over previous versions. “The big news for us however is the Elite will be a permanent top tier product, not a limited edition as previously thought. In the US it will retail for $479 (£244) which, fingers crossed, will mean a sub £300 UK price tag, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it sneak a little over. The downside to this strategy is the price tags on Core and Premium versions will stay the same (for now, at least). Still, Microsoft does offer some compensation to existing Core and Premium owners since the Elite's 120GB HDD will be available separately for $179 (£91)”

    Either way, the Xbox360 Elite seems at a first glance a respose to the Sony PS3 launch in Europe, but some analysts also point out the gadget is also thought out as a redutable adversary for the AppleTV. "Apple TV is a great way to move content," said Mr . Paul O'Donovan, principal analyst at research firm Gartner, quoted by BBC. "So this maybe a response to the Apple TV rather than the PS3."  

    For the moment the competition on the gaming console front is dominated by Nintendo. Nintendo's hit Wii gaming console, sold in February as many units as both of its main rivals put together. Nintendo sold 355,000 units during the month, with Microsoft selling 228,000 of its Xbox 360 units, and Sony coming in third place with just 127,000 of its PlayStation 3 consoles, according to research firm NPD Group.

    Is the new Xbox360 Elite console going to be able to make Microsoft a console market leader?

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:21 PM
  • Xbox or gun shots?

    MEXICO CITY - Police in vice-ridden Mexico City neighbourhoods hope to take guns off the streets by offering to swap them for computers and video-game consoles.

    Police said anyone who turns in a high-calibre weapon like a machine gun will get a computer. Owners can swap smaller guns for cash or Microsoft Corp's Xbox video-game consoles under the plan.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:25 PM
  • New HD content announced for Xbox Live

    Microsoft has partnered with various media providers and is preparing to add more than 1,500 hours of downloadable content for the Xbox 360. The announcement comes right after Microsoft officially unveiled the new Xbox 360 “Elite” limited edition console.

    New content includes TV shows and movies from A&E Network, ADV Films, National Geographic, New Line Cinema, TotalVid, Paramount Pictures (also providing content for iTunes Store), and exclusive content from Warner Bros.

    "With more than 300 games expected by year’s end, an Xbox Live community of more than 6 million people and a growing catalogue of premium content from some of the biggest names in entertainment today, Xbox 360 is an incredible value," said Peter Moore, corporate vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business in the Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft. "Adding partners and content like this helps reinforce the console’s position as the center of connected entertainment in the living room."
    Microsoft’s Xbox Live service continues to grow with the addition of new media partners and exclusive HD content. Downloads made through Xbox Live have reportedly grown by over 400 per cent since the TV and movie service was launched last year.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:27 PM
  • New Xbox tries to steal PS3's thunder

    Due for release in the US on 29 April, the new console will include a 120GB hard drive, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port and a high-definition cable. It will also come in a black finish, not unlike the PlayStation 3.

    Current Xbox 360 owners will be able to buy the larger capacity hard drive as a stand-alone accessory for USD179.99, which puts the PS3's 60GB hard drive in the shade.

    There is no word yet on when the console will be released in Ireland, or how much it will cost. The Xbox 360 Elite will cost US users about USD479.99.

    The console maker seems determined to steal the PS3's thunder, which launched in Ireland on 23 March. Microsoft even crashed PS3's launch events in London and France. While Sony was busy readying itself to dole out the consoles in the English capital, Microsoft was handing out chairs to waiting fans, emblazoned with a website address.

    On visiting the site, users found themselves confronted with a welcome message for Sony, congratulating them on reaching the next generation.

    In France, the rivals went head to head on the Seine, with Sony opening a floating electronics store to sell the console from midnight moored near the Eiffel Tower, while Microsoft piloted its own logo-emblazoned boat up and down the river.

    Initial enthusiasm for the PS3 may have been muted in Ireland -- on launch day, stores still had consoles for sale, despite only 20,000 being available in the country -- but in the UK, it seems the PS3 has broken UK sales records by selling more than 165,000 machines in its first two days.

    Meanwhile, Mexican gang members are swapping their guns for Xbox 360 consoles and computers as part of a police crackdown. According to Reuters, police in inner-city neighbourhoods are offering a computer in exchange for a high-calibre weapon, while smaller guns will earn people an Xbox 360 or even cash if they hand them over to police.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:29 PM
  • GRAW 2” For Xbox 360 Now Out

     

    Xbox 360 fans of last year’s tactical military shooter “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter” are celebrating the news that UbiSoft has shipped the sequel and it’s in stores now.

    While the 360ers enjoy the game, the PC and PlayStation 3 crowds will have to wait until June when their versions ship to retail, but they’ll also get the added satisfaction of having some exclusive maps made solely for their consoles. Ubisoft will be calling for beta testers for one of the PC exclusive player maps shortly, and you can find out more by hitting the official game site.

    The sequel picks up 24 hours after the ending of the first “GRAW” game. It’s 2013 and the Ghost Recon team has just successfully eliminated a threat to the lives of the Mexican and American Presidents. Now, in the aftermath of this first crisis, the Ghosts are called to stop a cell of terrorists that are about to gain access to nuclear weapons.

    Missions take place in a variety of environments, from the jungle to urban enclaves. The game also supports multiplayer mode, allowing up to four players to form a squad and eliminate hostiles. As well, a new Medic class has been introduced allowing players to fix injured squad mates faster.

    If you’ve got an Xbox 360 a copy of the game will set you back $60

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:47 PM
  • Shivering Isles Ships For PC and Xbox 360

     

    Bethesda Softworks, a ZeniMax Media company, and 2K today announced that The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles, the official expansion for the award-winning The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, is now shipping to retail stores throughout North America for Windows. Shivering Isles is also available today on Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft via Xbox Live online entertainment network.

    Shivering Isles features more than 30 hours of new gameplay and allows you to explore an entirely new plane of Oblivion -- the realm of Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness. Shivering Isles adds to the existing world of Oblivion so you can continue playing with your existing save game/character, or create an all new character just to explore the new content.

    Within the Realm of Sheogorath, players can explore the two extreme sides of the god's madness -- the sublimely creative and the completely psychotic. Something is happening to the Shivering Isles and Sheogorath himself looks to you to be his champion and defend his realm and its inhabitants from destruction. Do you have the strength to survive his trials, tame a realm fraught with paranoia and despair, and wear the mantle of a God?

    The Shivering Isles features a bizarre landscape split between the two sides -- Mania and Dementia -- filled with vast, twisting dungeons mirroring the roots of the trees they are buried within. You'll encounter more than a dozen new creatures including hideous insects, Flesh Atronachs, skeletal Shambles, and amphibious Grummites. Throughout your adventure, you will discover all new items, ingredients, spells, and much more. Or, you can have the talented craftsmen of Crucible and Bliss forge new armor and weapons just for you.

    Released in March 2006 for Xbox 360 videogame and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows, Oblivion sold more than three million units in 2006. Among the countless awards and accolades it has garnered to date are Game of the Year and RPG of the Year honors from numerous outlets, including Spike TV's 2006 Video Game Awards, G4's G-phoria, the Golden Joystick Awards, GameSpot.com, ShackNews.com, Voodoo Extreme, FiringSquad.com, and many more. Oblivion received the #1 ranking on PC Gamer's (UK) list of the top 100 games of all time and is the highest rated Xbox 360 game of all time according to Gamerankings.com and Metacritic.com.

    The Windows version of Shivering Isles is available at retail and is co-published by Bethesda Softworks and 2K, while the Xbox 360 version is available through Xbox Live online entertainment network by Bethesda Softworks. For more information on Oblivion, Shivering Isles, or The Elder Scrolls, visit the official web site: http://www.elderscrolls.com.

    Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles Ships For PC and Xbox 360

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:49 PM
  • The Xbox keeps chasing Sony

     

    Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) has decided to come out with a version of its Xbox [subscription required] on steroids. It will have a bigger hard drive and will be able to connect to high-definition devices. Sony Corp.'s (NYSE: SNE) Playstation 3 already wants to occupy this higher end of the video game market, and Microsoft is planning to be right there with it. The larger hard drive will also make its easier for Xbox users to store movies.

    Sony already had real problems with its gaming platform. It came to market later than the new Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii and still is behind them in sales in the US.

    The Wii has also been unexpectedly popular. It outsold the Playstation 3 by more than 2-to-1 in the U.S. market during February. It is also much less expensive than the Playstation

    So, Sony finds itself pinched between a popular, cheaper product from Nintendo and a new, more powerful Xbox. Sony has had to rely more heavily on consumer electronics and its movie studio for revenue over the last year. It looks like that trend will continue.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:53 PM
  • A black eye for Xbox customer service

     

    The company does acknowledge that some of its staffers who answer 1-800-4MY-XBOX, the Xbox Live customer service line, reset passwords on accounts for people who did not actually own the so-called gamer tags.

    The matter received wide attention last week after a frustrated user who had been locked out of the Xbox Live service, posted recordings of his calls with the help line. Microsoft initially said there was no security breach and blamed its users. But the company subsequently said it would review its customer service processes, including the retraining of its staff.

    Larry Hryb, director of the Xbox Live team, and Stephen Toulouse, senior product manager in Microsoft's Security Technology Unit, talked to CNET News.com about what happened and what the company is doing to help prevent future account hijacks.

    (Xbox Live is offline for maintenance on Tuesday. The outage was planned many months ago for an upgrade and has nothing to do with the security issues, the company said.)

    Q: What happened?
    Hryb: Early last week, we first heard about the Xbox Live network being hacked, which obviously raised a lot of concern in our team. Our network engineers looked right into it and it turned out that wasn't the case.

    It turns out that some accounts may have been compromised as a result of pretexting through our support center.
    --Larry Hryb, programming director, Xbox Live

    If the security of your system wasn't compromised, how did accounts get hijacked?
    Hryb: It turns out that some accounts may have been compromised as a result of pretexting through our support center.

    What does "pretexting" mean?
    Hryb: That means social engineering. Basically, the bad guys were calling up and claiming to be people that they were not. They had obtained personal information or some type information and then were able to social engineer our support department into revealing some information that should not have been revealed.

    What happened to Xbox Live users as a result of that?
    Hryb: A small number of accounts were compromised. This allowed the bad guys to recover that gamer tag and go online and play as that person. Consequently, that person obviously doesn't have access to the account anymore. And they need to contact us and we need to get them back into control of that account.

    There were some people who claimed charges were run up on their credit card to buy "points," the virtual currency on Xbox Live. How does that happen?
    Hryb: Xbox Live Marketplace is a vibrant online space. In North America, we're selling high-definition movies and television and gaming content. If there is a credit card attached to the account, you can purchase points, but only up to a certain amount. Also, you can only redeem those points on the Xbox Live Marketplace; you can't go over to Amazon.com and start ringing up charges. It is a very tight system; all you can really do is download content. Points are also tied to an account. You can't move points to another account.

    What's the maximum amount of charges people could incur?
    Toulouse: There's a cap to the number of points you can have at any given time: 10,000. The attacker would have to buy two 5,000-point packs, which is about $59 apiece. They'd be maxed out at that point. They'd have to spend those points in order to buy more. We don't know each individual case--that's what we're investigating--but the attackers are limited to what they can do and what they can download.

    Are there games on Xbox Live where a player could be robbed of items collected in a game after their account gets stolen?
    Hryb: On one or two of the titles, you can send a character, but there is no in-game monetary value to that. It is not like World of Warcraft where you can get cleaned out of your loot and you're going to miss all your 50,000 gold pieces. That doesn't happen; we don't have that ability on our service.

    What is being done to avoid the abuse of the Xbox help desk by account hijackers?
    Hryb: (Security researcher) Kevin Finisterre contacted me directly and forwarded some audio files which, frankly, were a little painful. We have mobilized the right teams and we're doing a top-to-bottom look at what the process is. We're straightening things out, we're retraining staff, we're making sure that we're doing everything we can to reduce this kind of social-engineering attack. The changes are in place and they are continuing to go into place.

    Do you have any idea how many people did have their accounts compromised?
    Toulouse: We're still looking at it. I can't give you a hard number, but I don't think it is that large. When someone's password gets reset, we know that. The problem is that there are people that had their password resets because they really needed that done and there are people that had their password reset because of pretexting.

    How long do you think this has been going on?
    Toulouse: There are a couple of things that go on. There is someone who communicates with somebody else and grabs enough personally identifiable information to then try and pretext the account through the support center. We are looking as far back as we can to understand in what types of situations this has occurred. It doesn't matter how long it has been going on, it has to stop.

    Are you planning any action against the folks who did this, if you can find out who they are?
    Toulouse: If the results of the investigation give us details that could be relevant to law enforcement, then absolutely we're going to pursue that angle.

    Has there ever been an actually break-in on Xbox Live or has the security of the service held up so far?
    Hryb: The absolute security has held up so far. The information that users log on with, we take that very carefully and we're very proud of the fact that it has got military-grade security for the Xbox Live network. The console itself is very secure. We're happy with the fact that the console and the network have not been compromised.

    What do you hope to do when it comes to your help desk and users?
    Hryb: We want to continue to make sure that our users feel comfortable with the Xbox Live service. It is the largest online console service in the world. We want to make sure that they are comfortable with their transactions. We also want people to understand that if they feel like they have a problem with their account, we're going to be putting steps up on Xbox.com/support on how to make sure that their account is secured and OK.

    Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:54 PM
  • Xbox 360 Elite To Hit Market Soon

     

    Thursday, March 29, 2007:  Microsoft Corp. has announced the upcoming availability of Xbox 360 Elite, a new model of the video game and entertainment system that will include a 120GB hard drive, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port, a high-definition cable and a premium black finish for the console, wireless controller and Xbox LIVE headset.

    Today’s games and entertainment enthusiast has an insatiable appetite for digital high-definition content,” said Peter Moore, corporate vice president, interactive entertainment business, Microsoft. “Xbox 360 Elite’s larger hard drive and premium accessories will allow our community to enjoy all that the next generation of entertainment has to offer.”

    Xbox 360 Elite has enough space for a library of Xbox LIVE Arcade games and thousands of songs, as well as downloadable high-definition TV shows and movies available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace. The new 120GB hard drive also will be sold as a standalone accessory to give current Xbox 360 owners greater choice and flexibility in their games and entertainment experience.

    Additional Xbox 360 Elite accessories, such as the black Xbox 360 wireless controller, Xbox 360 play and charge kit and the Xbox 360 rechargeable battery, will be available separately.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 6:28 AM
  • Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite to retail in Canada for $549.99

     

    Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite to retail in Canada for $549.99

    Microsoft has announced their plans for launching their updated Xbox 360 Elite gaming console in the Canadian market.

    The company would launch the console in Canada on April 4 and it would be sold in the market for $549.99. This would place it just ahead of the lower end Sony Playstation 3 console which sells for $549. Sony sells the premium edition PS3 in Canada for $659.

    The Xbox 360 Elite gaming console from Microsoft features a 120 GB hard drive in addition to the high-definition video interface.

    This is the third variant of the Xbox 360 console considering they launched it in the market with 2 models. The base model does not have any kind of storage capacity.

    Microsoft believes that the elite edition Xbox 360 would entice those gamers who want to purchase a lot of material from the Xbox Live service.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 6:36 AM
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles Review (Xbox 360)

     

     

    Given that the game’s been out for over a year, it’s a bit surprising that The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion feels just as new and fresh as it did the day it was released. This might be due to the fact that you can literally spend hundreds of hours playing the game, as you’ll constantly be stumbling on new characters and quests as you explore the expansive game world. However, it’s more likely that the game’s staying power can be chalked up to the staggering amount of downloadable content that developer Bethesda Softworks has created and released to the fans via Xbox Live. From Mehrune’s Razor to The Knights of the Nine, there have been a number of major downloads offered to players. However, the granddaddy of them all has just landed on Live, and we’ve played our way through The Shivering Isles. Our verdict? It’s yet another must-have piece of DLC for hardcore Oblivion fans.

    In The Shivering Isles, you’ll be tasked with entering an alternate dimension that may or may not exist in the mind of a mentally disturbed Daedric Prince named Sheogorath. It seems that this “Mad God” (as the denizens of the Isles are wont to call him) is worried about the Greymarch, a complete and utter cleansing of the Isles that occurs like clockwork every few thousand years. So, in an effort to stop it once and for all, he asks your help in taking out another Daedric Prince, wiping out the “Knights of Order”, and restoring order...er, chaos to the land.
    Friday, March 30, 2007 6:38 AM
  • Mexico uses Xbox to combat crime

     

    Reuters are today reporting that Mexican officials are using the lure of a free games console in order to tempt criminals away from a life of crime. In an attempt to get guns off the streets of the somewhat notorious Mexico City, police officials are offering free computers or Xboxes to those handing in firearms.

    Machine guns and other high calibre weapons will see the donor walking away with a PC complete with software (courtesy of Microsoft, according to police chief Joel Ortega), while small handguns and the like with be swapped for cash or an Xbox console.

    question is one of the new 360s or an olde-style original. Perhaps those handing in the machine guns might politely request an Elite model 360 instead of the PC?

    Weapon submissions will be anonymous and police are vowing to hand all firearms over to the army for destruction. The initiative is part of a move by Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, who is hell-bent on cleaning up the streets of the Mexican capital. More soon.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 6:42 AM
  • Xbox 360: Gears Of War Tournament 2007

     

    You read it right. This is not Unreal Tournament, this is Gears of War Global Tournament 2007. It takes place over Xbox Live (duh) and will be presented by the World Cyber Games. Nifty eh? Well the registration has already started and chainsaw loving freaks can get in on the action. But you better hurry before registration ends.

    The game that has more than 3 million copies sold is now a part of the World Cyber Games...insofar that between March 29th and April 9th gamers can register to be part of the Gears of War Global Tournament 2007. Gamers will compete in ranked matches on Xbox LIVE for four weeks of leaderboard play. The top 11 finalists in the world with the highest individual scores will receive the grand prize, a trip for two to Prague – and the opportunity to compete in the Grand Final in July.

    According to the press release, “The grand prize includes a four-day, three-night trip to Prague with round-trip coach air transportation for the winner and a guest, standard hotel accommodations, basic ground transportation in Prague, and a $200 Visa gift card.”

    It continues on to say...“The top four eligible ranked players from each participating country will win a three-day, two-night trip to their country’s 2007 World Cyber Games National Championship event. The trip includes round-trip transportation for the winner, standard hotel accommodations and a $300 Visa gift card. Secondary prizes include an Xbox 360 package boasting an Xbox 360 Pro System console (No Elite? Bummer,) Viva Pinata, Project Gotham Racing 3, Xbox LIVE Arcade Unplugged Volume 1, Kameo: Elements of Power and a 12-month Xbox LIVE subscription, as well as Gears of War bonuses such as faceplates.

    My goodness that’s a lot of great freaking stuff. This tournament almost makes me want to quit my day job. You can visit the Official Xbox Website for more details.
    Friday, March 30, 2007 6:47 AM
  • Microsoft Unveils Xbox 360 Elite

     

    Microsoft Corp. today announced the upcoming availability of Xbox 360™ Elite, a new model of the video game and entertainment system that will include a 120GB hard drive, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port, a high-definition cable, and a premium black finish for the console, wireless controller and Xbox LIVE® headset. Xbox 360 Elite has enough space for a library of Xbox LIVE Arcade games and thousands of songs, as well as downloadable high-definition TV shows and movies available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace.


    packed with components and accessories for the ultimate high-definition entertainment experience

    The new 120GB hard drive also will be sold as a stand-alone accessory to give current Xbox 360 owners greater choice and flexibility in their games and entertainment experience. Additional Xbox 360 Elite accessories, such as the black Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit and the Xbox 360 rechargeable battery, will be available separately. The Xbox 360 Elite and its accessories are expected to begin arriving in U.S. stores on April 29.


    “Today’s games and entertainment enthusiast has an insatiable appetite for digital high-definition content,” said Peter Moore, corporate vice president for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “Xbox 360 Elite’s larger hard drive and premium accessories will allow our community to enjoy all that the next generation of entertainment has to offer.”


    Distinguished by its black finish and signature metallic detailing, Xbox 360 Elite will have an estimated retail price1 of $479.99 (U.S.) and will come packed with components and accessories for the ultimate high-definition entertainment experience.

    Xbox 360 Elite console. The console is equipped with a premium black finish and three powerful core processors capable of producing the best in HD entertainment (up to 1080p), 16:9 cinematic aspect ratio, anti-aliasing for smooth textures, full surround sound, HDMI output and DVD playback with upscaling capabilities right out of the box.


    Xbox 360 120GB hard drive. The 120GB detachable hard drive allows gamers to save their games and store television shows, movies, music, pictures, trailers, levels, demos and other content available from Xbox LIVE Marketplace.3 The hard drive is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $179.99 (U.S.).


    Xbox 360 Wireless Controller (black). This award-winning, high-performance wireless controller, now in black, features the Xbox® Guide Button for quick, in-game access to friends and music. It has a range of up to 30 feet and a battery life of 30 hours on two AA batteries. It is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $49.99 (U.S.).


    Xbox 360 headset (black). Now available in black, the headset lets gamers strategize or trade taunts while playing games and send voice messages to friends on Xbox LIVE.


    Xbox 360 HDMI cable. New to Xbox 360, HDMI allows consumers to get HD video (up to 1080p) and multichannel surround sound, all from one cable.


    Xbox LIVE Silver Membership. With this, gamers can chat with friends online, collect achievements and gamerscores, send and receive voice and text messages, and access Xbox LIVE Marketplace content such as game demos, HD movies and TV, as well as the best in downloadable games from Xbox LIVE Arcade.


    One-month subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold. An Xbox LIVE Gold Membership provides a complete online entertainment experience. Those who subscribe to this premium service can engage in competitive online multiplayer matches, tailor their matchmaking via feedback and accomplishments, chat with more than one person at a time, and take advantage of unique privileges in the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and Xbox LIVE Arcade.


    The following accessories for the Xbox 360 Elite console will only be sold separately:
    Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit. Complete with a charging cable and a black rechargeable battery pack, the Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit allows gamers to recharge their Xbox 360 Wireless Controller without interrupting their gameplay. it is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $19.99 (U.S.).


    Xbox 360 rechargeable battery (black). The rechargeable battery pack provides more than 25 hours of gameplay per charge. It is sold separately for an estimated retail price of $11.99 (U.S.).

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:36 AM
  • Microsoft to release souped-up Xbox 360

     

    Let the games begin.

    Microsoft Corp. announced this week it plans to sell an upgraded Xbox 360 video game system late next month.

    Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii -- both heavy competition for Xbox 360 -- were released in November.

    Microsoft focused on non-video game changes with the latest upgrade, including an amped-up hard drive so owners can watch more movies and store music.

    The Xbox 360 Elite will sell for $480.

    Jay Krochmal, a store service manager at Best Buy in Danbury, said only a couple of people have asked about the new models this week.

    "It's been quiet," he said.

    But Krochmal said Xbox's popularity means anticipation will grow. In November, shoppers camped outside the store waiting to buy the new $600 PlayStation 3. But its popularity steadily dropped as Nintendo's Wii became more popular, Krochmal said.

    Xbox 360 outsold Sony's PlayStation 3 in January and February, according to market researcher NPD Group, while falling behind Nintendo's Wii.

    Krochmal doesn't expect the same camping scene for an upgraded XBox -- but he wouldn't dismiss the possibility.

    "Xbox has some hardcore fans," he said, adding it's the most popular video game device at the store.

    The Xbox 360 Elite is expected to hit stores April 29.

    The latest upgrades feature a 120-gigabyte hard drive, compared to the current 20-gigabyte system. Consumers with the current $400 device can buy the new hard drive for about $180.

    The current hard drive filled up too quickly with music, movies, TV shows and games from the Xbox Live Marketplace online store, said Peter Moore, a corporate vice president in Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Group.

    Xbox 360 users can connect the console to their home network and then stream movies, music and other material from the computer to the Xbox and television.

    Unlike Sony, Microsoft hasn't added a high-definition DVD player to its video game console. It sells external HD DVD players for the Xbox for $200.

    Krochmal said an added high-definition video connection should also draw customers. That sends content from the console to a television without losing picture or sound quality.

    Danbury resident Moises Olmos said he plans to buy the new Xbox 360.

    "It's a gaming system everyone can play with," he said while playing an Xbox 360 game at Game Stop in the Danbury Fair mall.

    Karen Koza, an associate professor at Western Connecticut State University's Ancell School of Business, said Microsoft was smart to build anticipation by unveiling the details a month early.

    "They want that hype. They want that time for other channels (like the media) to grab onto it," she said.

  • The Associated Press contributed to this story.

  • Friday, March 30, 2007 11:37 AM
  • An Xbox For The Elite

     

    Microsoft is going up-market with its Xbox 360 gaming console, unveiling the Xbox 360 Elite. At $479 the Elite is clad in black, which undoubtedly looks trick, adds an HDMI interface, and sticks a thumb in Sony's eye with a 120GB removable hard drive. The $299 Xbox 360 basic (like the $499 Sony PS3) features a 20GB hard drive. There is no integrated HD DVD drive, which means that having an Xbox 360 Elite and HD DVD playback is now $679, just about 80 bucks more than the $599 Sony PS3, which is a full-on Blu-ray Disc player. And even more curiously, Microsoft isn't including integrated Wi-Fi, which is a huge plus for the $599 (60GB hard drive) version of the PS3.

    The decision for Microsoft to go upscale and seemingly take Sony on again is curious given that the Wii has been outselling both the PS3 and the Xbox 360 by significant margins. Are these two companies so focused on beating each other that Nintendo's little $250 dark horse will outsell both? And the pricing makes me chuckle a little. Back when the PS3 was announced some mainstream pundits thought it a death knell that the console would sell for $499-$599, which was deemed too expensive in spite of the millions of $400 iPods that have been flying off Apple's shelves. Now Microsoft is showing that its consoles obviously weren't expensive enough!

    At this point I'm waiting on Micrsoft to get back to me on some specifics. While HDMI obviously ups the ante I don't yet know if it's HDMI 1.2 or HDMI 1.3, what flavor of 1080p video will be carried over HDMI (1080p/24 or 1080p/60 only?), or if full resolution Dolby TrueHD decoding will be included. Stay tuned.

    For those keeping score, the $599 PS3 comes in with a smaller (60GB) hard drive, integrated Wi-fi and Blu-ray playback, HDMI 1.3, 1080p/60 output and Dolby TrueHD decoding.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:38 AM
  • Gears of War 2007 Global Xbox Live Tournament announced by Microsoft and Epic Games

     

    Here is some news that will make all you Gears of War fans run around in childlike delight. Microsoft Game Studios together with Epic Games has announced the “Gears of Wars” 2007 Global Xbox Live Tournament. The tournament which will be presented by the World Cyber Games, offers gamers the chance to chain saw their way to the Grand Finals in Prague, Czech Republic.

    As part of the Gears of War 2007 Global Xbox Live Tournament, there will be ranked matches on Xbox Live for four weeks of leaderboard play. The top 11 finalists with the highest individual scores will receive a trip for two to Prague to compete in the Grand Final in July 2007.

    The Grand Prize for a lucky winner includes a four-day, three-night trip to Prague with round-trip coach air transportation for two. Besides, the winner will also get standard hotel accommodations, basic ground transportation in Prague and a $200 Visa gift card.

    The top four eligible ranked players from each participating country wil win a three-day, two-night trip to their country’s 2007 World Cyber Games National Championship event. The trip includes round-trip transportation, standard hotel accomadation and a $300 Visa gift card for the winner.

    Secondary prizes include an Xbox 360 package, comprising an Xbox 360 Pro System console, “”Viva Piñata,” “Project Gotham Racing 3,” “Xbox LIVE Arcade Unplugged Volume 1,” “Kameo: Elements of Power” and a 12-month Xbox LIVE subscription, as well as “Gears of War” bonuses such as faceplates.

    According to Cliff Bleszinski, lead designer for Gears of War, May the Best Man or Locust Win, “We are thrilled to offer the chance for gamers across the world to come together and share the glories of blowing apart someone into little chunks.”

    All those who wish to register for the Gears of War 2007 Global Xbox Live Tournament can do so as registrations will continue through April 29, 2007. Official gameplay will begin on April 9 and will continue through May 6. The winner will be announced in May as well.

    And, in case you were wondering why all the winners will be sent to Prague. Well, it’s only because Prague influenced the setting for the game’s “Destroyed Scenery” scenic imagery. That’s probably the reason they have selected Prague to host the Grand Final in July 2007.

    You can get more information on this Gears of war Tournament from here. Sadly, as Xbox Live has not yet launched in India, Indian fans of the game will not be able to participate. However, for the rest of the world, this announcement is another release to celebrate, and of course to gear up for the tournament!

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:39 AM
  • The Xbox 360’s new 120Gb hard drive isn’t empty

     

     

    Thinking of buying a new 120Gb hard drive for your Xbox 360? The good news from the team at TeamXbox is that it comes pre-loaded with one full game that you might already own – Hexic HD – and a stack of game trailers, game demos, gamer pics and some dashboard themes.

    If you buy an Xbox 360 Elite, you’ll find that the 120Gb hard drive comes with even more content, which is detailed below.

    Interestingly, if you buy a 120Gb hard drive for your existing Xbox 360, and use the included cable to transfer the data from your old 20Gb hard drive to the new 120Gb model, you’ll find that all the new content gets wiped off, or so it is reported. That’s a shame, although given that most of the free content is basically demos which can be re-downloaded at will, it’s hardly the end of the world.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:41 AM
  • New Bullet Witch Content Available On Xbox Live

     

    New Bullet Witch content is now available for download from the Xbox Live Marketplace, including a costume, theme, and missions. The White Witch costume is free, but the missions will cost you a measly 20 points each.

    There's one completely brand new mission, "Dynamite Beauty," and two revamped versions of the "Clad in Streaming Black" mission, one with the Great Spells unlocked and one that's just plain wicked hard. More missions will be coming in the near future, and so will new costumes including Pixie, Schoolgirl, and Secretary. What, no Naughty Nurse?

    First Bullet Witch Downloadable Content On Xbox Live® Marketplace

    New Costume, Themes and Gameplay Content Available Now, More to Follow

    Atari today announced the first downloadable content for Bullet Witch available now on Xbox Live® Marketplace. Launched in February for the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, Bullet Witch is published by Atari in partnership with Japanese publisher AQ Interactive Inc.

    The first set of new downloadable content includes a free brand new White Witch costume for the game’s stunning heroine Alicia and a Bullet Witch Xbox 360 Theme pack. In addition, for 20 points each, players can download one brand new mission “Dynamite Beauty” and two enhanced versions of the "Clad in Streaming Black" mission featuring ‘Great Spells’ unlocked and a heightened level of difficulty respectively.

    Over the coming weeks, more free costumes for Alicia will be available free of charge – Mummy, Schoolgirl, Secretary and Pixie. Additional new missions ‘Caterpillar City’, ‘Endless’, ‘One Shot Kill’ and ‘Geist Search and Destroy’, plus enhanced editions of the missions ‘City of Screams’, ‘Up in Flames at 10,000ft’, ‘Down in the Valley’, ‘The Bound Soul’ and ‘The End of Chaos’, will be available for 20 points each.

    Developed by Japan-based Cavia, Bullet Witch is set on a bleak planet earth in the year 2013 with human kind on the brink of extinction and hideous demons creating a tidal wave of destruction and havoc. All hope of mankind’s survival rests with Alicia, a beautiful witch blessed with magical skills and a swift trigger finger. Players take control of Alicia on her heroic quest to prevent the decimation of mankind by using her fearsome weaponry and spectacular powers with which she can manipulate natural phenomena in her environment.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:42 AM
  • Crackdown” pushes the action-driving hybrid genre into the next generation with the first ever truly 3-D playground. Gamers will enforce justice by any means necessary in Pacific City, a crime-ridden urban center built to encourage the exploration of the full width, depth and height of the city. Coupled with highly innovative co-op gameplay — a genre first — and an interactive world where nearly anything can be used as a weapon, gamers will be able to create a volatile cocktail of judicial oppression as they clean up the streets.

    “Crackdown” is developed by Scotland’s Real Time Worlds exclusively for Microsoft Game Studios and the Xbox 360 platform. Real Time Worlds is led by Dave Jones, the creative mastermind behind some of the most innovative and best-selling video games, including the global blockbuster “Grand Theft Auto” and the legendary hit

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:44 AM
  • Xbox 360 will have Blu-Ray add-on if necessary

     

     

    In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz,Microsoft Europe's Senior Regional Director, Neil Thompson has suggested that Microsoft would be prepared to release a Blu-Ray player add-on if the HD format market were to shift in that direction. The market for high-definition content is still in its early days, but Microsoft are on stand by with a solution should Blu-Ray win the battle.

    "I'm not sure the market has moved to high definition [movies] yet. And if and when it does, then the way that we've constructed the offering we've made means we'll be able to go whichever way we want," said Thompson. "Whatever format wins it is highly likely we will offer a solution. The only debate is if you want to watch Blu-ray movies and pay the extra money for that feature. We prefer to offer the consumer choice,2 he told the BBC yesterday.

    Thompson didn't miss the opportunity to take a dig at Sony's next-gen console, re-affirming the point that the Xbox 360's DVD9 format can hold more than enough data, whereas the PS3 discs have far more space than really necessary, therefore increasing the sales price to the consumer.

    "Do I want to make people pay �200 extra for a machine with discs that have storage space I don't need? My answer's no, I don't need to do that today. And I don't think I'm going to need to do that for quite a while."�

    Thompson concluded his interview by pointing out that Microsoft are offering the consumer a choice with their HD DVD drives. "This is about the architecture of the hardware. With the PS3 you've got a big, heavy truck that requires a big, heavy engine. With Xbox you've got a much more nimble box that uses software in the architecture of the box in a much more nimble way. That's the difference between us and PlayStation, we didn't have a need to develop a really complicated engine to get Blu-ray players into the market. We wanted to deliver HD gaming. Judge us on what we've done."

    I wonder if Sony are on stand-by with a HD DVD drive?
    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:45 AM
  • GTA IV Video on Xbox Live

     

    If you haven’t checked Xbox Live Marketplace today, you might want to sign in and download the first released trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV. The 1:03 minute trailer only shows a few scenery shots, but it gives some clues as to what the new game from Rockstar will be about.

    If you didn’t know what you were watching, the first 30 seconds seems to come straight from a ‘Spiderman’ trailer with intense music and flashes of city landscapes. It seems GTA IV returns to Liberty City, or is it actually New York City with glimpses of popular city landmarks including the Statue of Liberty. That’s when our main character appears. Rockstar has chosen a Russian character for their next installment of the series.



    Then he hints at the game’s plot stating in a Russian accent,

    “Life is complicated. I killed people, smuggled people, shoot people. Perhaps, here things will be different.”

    It doesn’t say much, but we at The Game Feed are all excited anyway. GTA IV is expected to be released for both the Xbox 360 and PS3 simultaneously this October.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:45 AM
  • From Xbox to ultrasound

     

    CHICAGO - For the latest ideas in form and function, the medical technology designers at GE Healthcare don't necessarily need to tap into their research-and-development department.

    Instead, they check out the latest PlayStation, Xbox and Wii gizmos.

    "We're riding right on the backs of consumer electronics," said William Clarke, GE Healthcare's executive vice president and chief technology and medical officer.

    Clarke credited the Sony PlayStation's "small and functional video chips" with enabling GE to produce a laptop-size ultrasound machine.

    This allows it to be taken to the delivery room, rather than having to take a pregnant woman to an imaging room that's equipped with a 300-pound ultrasound machine. The goal for GE Healthcare, which operates out of offices in Barrington, Ill., is an even smaller, handheld ultrasound device.

    To push such product concepts, GE created the position of "disruptive technologies marketing manager."

    The job was created after "an 'a-ha' moment by GE Healthcare executives who decided we needed somebody who's not an engineer to take a somewhat less scientific approach, to think outside the box," said Brandon Savage, general manager of global marketing for the firm's integrated information technology solutions.

    "One thing we realized is that, if you want to change the market in a revolutionary way, you must combine technologies that historically never touched each other," Savage said. "Two different industries come together, and you get this bright idea."

    Companies have looked within their own industries to find new technologies, said David Smith, vice president with Austin, Texas-based Technology Futures Inc., a research and consulting firm.

    "The trend now is to look horizontally," Smith said. "Competition is forcing this because product development times are shortening, research time is shortening. Even the government and defense rides on the back of the gaming industry today."

    Smith said GE and Boeing Co. are among the firms leading this trend of collaboration among unrelated industries.

    "Everything is digitized now," he said. "You get this horizontal digital convergence. Take elements from different industries, combine them in new ways to get a hybrid, a new industry different from either its parents."

    Mark Morita, GE Healthcare's manager of disruptive technologies marketing, said he routinely scouts the shows where video gamers show off their hottest stuff. He attended this month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He also reads gamer blogs and meets with his counterparts at Microsoft, Sony, Mitsubishi and other electronics concerns to exchange ideas and gadgets.

    "My whole job exists because of the rise of the video gaming industry," Morita said.

    And just as the latest video games, the latest medical equipment, GE thinks, needs to be as simple and intuitive as possible.

    "The Xbox or MP3 players are designed so that anyone using any language can run them," said Terri Bresenhan, general manager of GE's diagnostic ultrasound and information technology business. "We're keen on going from having a highly skilled person operating a machine to something more intuitive that can be run by people with a variety of skill levels."

    In their quest to make video games easier and more exciting to use, designers have moved away from traditional mouse or toggle controls. Today's gamers may wave their arms in the air, run their fingers across a board or use a closed palm to control various devices.

    Such innovations should help users avoid repetitive stress injuries and hold promise for use by physicians, Morita said.

    Morita has rigged a unit in his office where a surgeon can control screen images either by speaking into a microphone or by waving his hands at cameras above the display.

    "In the operating room, the surgeon is scrubbed and sterile," Morita said. "If he needs to consult an image while operating, he needs to control the display without touching anything that might contaminate his hands."

    Another prototype borrows from a large light-table game from Mitsubishi in which the object is to pop the most colored bubbles of light before they disappear. Morita modified the light table so that a health care team could use it to view a patient's medical records -- including high-definition images of their CT scans, colonoscopies and electrocardiograms -- and exchange views while planning a course of treatment.

    In this scenario, patients would carry their own medical histories in electronic memory sticks that could be plugged into display devices. Health care providers could make annotations and add information to the records.

    GE Healthcare representatives use the prototypes to show new technologies to academic medical researchers and other physicians, seeking feedback. Morita said that the company intends to have some of the devices ready for market in three to five years.

    Another GE Healthcare prototype is based on the futuristic display in the movie "Minority Report." Users of the new display would seemingly pluck information out of the air, placing it on a transparent screen.

    Such a display, Morita said, might have great advantages for medical classes.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:46 AM
  • DIRT - FIRST GAMEPLAY TRAILER NOW AVAILABLE FROM XBOX LIVE MARKETPLACE!

     

    Get some DiRT down your Live pipe today as Codemasters launches the first DiRT gameplay video, now available exclusively from Xbox Live® Marketplace.  

    Featuring classic Rally, Rally Cross, Crossover, Rally Raid and C.O.R.R buggy and truck action across stunning environments, this footage reveals the game in all its dirty glory.

    Coming this June for the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and the PC, with a PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system edition following shortly after, get the first DiRT gameplay video now from Xbox Live Marketplace

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:47 AM
  • Microsoft Says Blu-ray is Unnecessary, But May Offer Support

     

     

    Microsoft hedging its bets on HD DVD, ponders switch to Blu-ray

    When comparing the latest consoles, Sony constantly makes reference to its decision to include a Blu-ray Disc player with every PlayStation 3, while pointing out that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 utilizes the comparatively less spacious DVD9 format.

    Sony is so confident in its Blu-ray-enabled console that the company has stated that putting Blu-ray in PS3 will be the smartest decision made for the games machine. Microsoft Europe’s Senior Regional Director, Neil Thompson doesn’t think so, saying that Blu-ray does not give Sony’s console any advantage over the Xbox 360.

    “Do I want to make people pay £200 extra for a machine with discs that have storage space I don’t need? My answer’s no, I don’t need to do that today,” Thompson said to GamesIndustry.biz. “And I don’t think I’m going to need to do that for quite a while.”

    Microsoft is on the other side of the high-def fence as an exclusive supporter of HD DVD, and some consumers were expecting the recently announced Xbox 360 Elite to include the high-definition format drive as built-in hardware. The Xbox 360 Elite will ship with the original DVD9 specification, and Microsoft will continue to offer HD DVD movie functionality through the $199 add-on accessory.

    “I’m not sure the market has moved to high definition [movies] yet,” Thompson said. “And if and when it does, then the way that we’ve constructed the offering we’ve made means we’ll be able to go whichever way we want.”

    Thompson’s comment alludes to the possibility that the Xbox 360 may support Blu-ray Disc media should the format become unquestionably victorious. Speaking to the BBC, Thompson said, “Whatever format wins it is highly likely we will offer a solution. The only debate is if you want to watch Blu-ray movies and pay the extra money for that feature. We prefer to offer the consumer choice.”

    An analysts quoted by the Financial Times believes that the decision not to include HD DVD with the Xbox 360 Elite is a blow to Toshiba, who is oddly given sole credit for the HD DVD format. “I think, if nothing else, this is an acknowledgement that Blu-ray is going to win [the standards war],” said Michael Pachter, video games analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities. “It would have been a costly mistake to build it into the hardware if HD-DVD loses and I think Microsoft sees this as an unacceptable gamble.”

    Thompson concludes in speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, “This is about the architecture of the hardware. With the PS3 you’ve got a big, heavy truck that requires a big, heavy engine. With Xbox you’ve got a much more nimble box that uses software in the architecture of the box in a much more nimble way … That’s the difference between us and PlayStation – we didn’t have a need to develop a really complicated engine to get Blu-ray players into the market. We wanted to deliver HD gaming. Judge us on what we’ve done.”


     

     

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:48 AM
  • 'Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2'

     

    Ghost Recon has a long and storied pedigree that seen its ups and downs. Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter was arguably the first game on the Xbox 360 to hint at, if not show, what 360 owners could look forward to in terms of next-gen games. Fast forward to a year later — but feels more like six months — and Ubisoft blesses us with Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2. The question I ask myself when looking at this game is: Did Ubisoft bring out this game too soon, or should this have been the title that Ubisoft released last year? Many people have already dismissed Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 as GRAW1.5, and they would not be wrong to do so, but simply writing off GRAW2 as a mere expansion of last year's offering would be an unfortunate simplification.

    It must be said that GRAW2 is gorgeous. There is a ton of post-processing effects and a variety of filters being rendered on-screen, and the game never falters in its frame rates, but the looks of a game really aren't what determines if it's great. Gears of War looked fantastic, it was the best-looking title anyone had seen on a 360 at that time, and it wowed everyone who saw it, but the game was also fun to play and compelling in both single-player and multiplayer. Perhaps GRAW2 looks as good or better than Gears of War, and perhaps it doesn't, but to my mind, that hardly matters. What matters is whether or not GRAW2 offers something gamers couldn't get from the original.

     

    GRAW2 picks up right where GRAW left off, which essentially limits it right off the bat. The game takes place on the Texas border, and the Ghosts have to clandestinely infiltrate Mexico to put an end to a potential nuclear threat. The premise in itself isn't so new or original, but the developers are trying to bring gamers to new territories rather than the hackneyed regions that tactical shooters tread so often. That alone should be applauded, but there is something somewhat lacking in going off to fight the Mexicans, especially since that was what you were doing in the previous game.

    The narrative is relatively strong, which is a good thing. Everything that comprises the storyline within GRAW2 is based on a very believable "what if" scenario. The story is propelled real time through various communiqués and a very nice use of real video feeds designed to look like any major cable news outlet. The main characters are largely few and far between and serve merely as plot devices to propel the story, which is a shame. Soldiers can pose very interesting characters, and while developers like to keep the main character neutral so the player can inject his or her own persona, the supporting cast can certainly serve more than simple sign posts telling you to "go here and do Y before Z happens."

    A nice touch that does lend some personality to the characters, as well as serving as a good gameplay tool, is the in-game dialogue during fights. Your teammates will call out how many enemies they see, relatively where they are, and what kind of a threat they pose. Your team will relay pressing information about your enemy's disposition by shouting out, "Two by the green truck!" Then when a third enemy soldier appears, they'll correct themselves by shouting, "Make that three of them!" The design is relatively contrived, as the dialogue is merely a more polished version of things you've heard teammates call out in previous games of this type, but the corrections and jargon is a simple means of making your teammates feel and sound more human.

    GRAW2 functions very much as GRAW did. The control, feel, and weight of the gameplay are largely unchanged. The context-sensitive cover system is still there and feels about as polished as it can be without migrating to a more player-actuated cover system like Gears of War. Blind firing is not very effective here, as you can only reach a majority of angles by peeking out using the "aiming" trigger. Disengaging from cover could be better, and mantling over cover could be smoother. It would also be nice if you could slide after running and assume cover if it were reachable, but the controls are tight and responsive, and for the most part, the game plays intuitively and as advertised.

    Squad commands are tied in to the directional pad. The muddy d-pad makes for some annoying moments when trying to cycles through assets or squads. This is more because of the 360's controller having a bad d-pad as opposed to bad game design, but depending on the d-pad so much for command and control makes the imprecision occur often enough to annoy. New this time around is that you can take on the view of any of your teammates and order them directly through their eyes, which is a great means of getting your team into the right spot. You want to create true tactical advantage according to the terrain, but should you miss the mark and send your boys and girl to the wrong area, your team will react aptly enough and spread out to take cover in relation to any new or lethal threats.

    New to your arsenal are a few vehicles and a revised version of last year's crop. You still have a UAV to use as a scout, which is vital to providing a firm understanding of the terrain and enemy emplacements. The U.S. Army has an unofficial motto: "We're not looking for a fair fight." The same appears to hold true here. As you choose your team's deployment, you can use an assortment of riflemen, automatic riflemen, designated marksman (in this case markswoman) medic, and complementing them is the MULE, and sometimes, an M2 Bradley IFV.

    As for your team, you can use your sniper to engage targets in the open at long range to thin out the objective area, and your UAV scout drone helps designate where to look. Meanwhile, your MULE is much like a crutch and acts as both a moving munitions locker and impromptu hard cover. If you deploy the wrong loadout of weapons, you can always switch them your weapons for the right ones, and if you choose to go in one direction, only to find out it was not the best path, the MULE can act like a mobile bunker to cover you from incoming fire. Then there is the Bradley, which basically brings a 25-millimeter cannon to more than even the odds, unless one of Mexico's commandeered M1A1 Abrams MBTs show up. In that case, pop smoke, pop smoke and pop smoke and hope you've got some satchel charges on you, or barring that, grab an anti-tank missile from the MULE

    Is GRAW2 all that? The gameplay is there. The use of high dynamic range lighting and particle effects is breathtaking, and even the railed shooting gallery segments are enjoyable breaks from all of the tactical warfare. GRAW2 is by no means a simple feat in rendering an amazing-looking game. Even so, GRAW2 still fails to distinguish itself enough from the original title, and both games seem, more or less, like parts one and two of the same entity. There is very little to differentiate GRAW from GRAW2 in terms of its looks and feel. GRAW2 is merely a continuation of the first title, which is a disservice to the core gameplay, graphics and multiplayer modes. Oftentimes, the multiplayer maps are mere revisions of last year's maps, and the single-player experience feels like a revision of last year's campaign.

    If you did not play the original, GRAW2 will astonish and amaze you, but if you have, GRAW2's impact will be very much diminished. Perhaps this is a result of having the sequel follow up so closely on the heels of the original. The capabilities of GRAW2 would be much better served if the game took place elsewhere, and that doesn't have to be the Middle East or North Korea, since nasty things are also occuring in low-intensity conflicts in Africa and Southeast Asia. With the rendering capacity exhibited in GRAW2, Ubisoft would be remiss to keep churning out revisions of the same game every year just for the sake of having a new sequel on store shelves year in and year out. Ghost Recon 2 and Rainbow 6: Lockdown bear testimony to such a developing cycle, and for the Advanced Warfighter games to fall into the same trap would be tragic; however, GRAW2 is a step in the wrong direction.

    Despite this spiritual criticism, nothing can take away from the fact the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 looks great, plays well, and is a lot of fun played alone or with friends. It is a worthy purchase for those who missed GRAW and fans of the series, and it is certainly at least worth a well-played rental for those who purchased the original GRAW and liked what they saw.

    Score: 8.9/10

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:49 AM
  • Xbox 360 Elite expected to feature IPTV capability

     

     

    According to Dean Takahashi from the The San Jose Mercury News, the Xbox 360 Elite edition will include IPTV capabilities, allowing users to view internet videos, trailers and TV channels on the console.

    It has been confirmed that the console will feature a 120GB HDD, which would be ideal for IPTV and will also feature a built-in HDMI connector.

    There are also rumours that the model will include a new chip redesign. Production is believed to have moved from 90-nanometers to 65 nanometers, which should significantly reduce manufacturing costs.

    It is believed that the Xbox 360 Elite could be released as soon as April in the US, closely followed by a European launch.

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:50 AM
  • [Xbox 360, PS3] GTA IV Trailer Now Online

     

     

    The Countdown Has Ended...

    After months of wondering what exactly the latest GTA game would look and feel like, we finally have the answer. On Rockstar's website, they have finally uploaded and released the long awaited trailer to GTA IV. For those of you unable to get into the Rockstar site to check it out, Xbox.com is also hosting the video. Keep in mind, you must enter a birth date to view the video. Enjoy!
    You can see the video at the following websites:
    www.rockstargames.com
    www.xbox.com

    Friday, March 30, 2007 11:51 AM
  • Novadrome Cheats, Secrets, and Achievements - Xbox 360

     

     

    The following achievements can be unlocked in Novadrome on the Xbox 360 video game console. Novadrome is a downloadable Xbox Live Arcade game, and can be downloaded via the Xbox Live Marketplace. To earn these achievements, simply complete the listed tasks.

      Ascend - 20 gamerscore points.
      Reach 200m above ground.

      Augment - 20 gamerscore points.
      Find all hidden pickups to win all the secret cars.

      Cohesion - 15 gamerscore points.
      Win a Bot Hunt without a Bot ever getting a shot at you. Unlock in Arcade Challenge.

      Devastate - 15 gamerscore points.
      Win a Wrecking Ball challenge without being wasted. Unlock in Arcade Challenge.

      Dominion - 25 gamerscore points.
      Finish SuperNova mode.

      Endurance - 15 gamerscore points.
      Win a Survivor event with maximum health. Unlock in Arcade Chllenge.

      Evasion - 15 gamerscore points.
      Win a Hounded event without anbody else being The Hounded. Unlock in Arcade Challenge.