Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This Just In

Microsoft sucks shit.

Allow me to elaborate. I'm still working on getting that refund I was promised way back in December of last year. As it stands right now, I've got a case open with the Better Business Bureau, which I'm unsure is going to help. They didn't do anything last time, but apparently that was because whoever was working on the case didn't forward something or other, so the case got closed prematurely. I called Microsoft again to follow up, and that was a mistake. I waited on hold a number of times, and was told about the CSR's glorious plan to persuade MS to make a portable Xbox with Bluetooth headphones over the course of a half hour, only to finally be informed that I have to wait until August 14 to see if my refund arrives.

Some time ago, Peter Moore was talking about how the majority of 360 customers were satisfied, and a vocal minority was to blame for all the negativity. Well, I'm the vocal minority, apparently. So let me say this: if you're in the market for an Xbox, or think you might be at some point in the future, buy a PS3 instead. Sony needs the business.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Weekend Update

I've put in more time on the new games I got last week, plus some other stuff.

GH 80s was really fun (not that challenging, but still fun) until I got to the first song in the fourth set, "What I Like About You." I got booed off the stage a third of the way through the song. I backed out, breezed through the other three available songs in the set, came back to What I Like About You, and got booed off the stage again. I haven't picked it back up since, because it was at that point I stopped having fun. I'll give it another whirl sometime in the future.

Beyond the Sword continues to be awesome. I finished the Next War game with a space race victory, but not before I stomped all over the AI with mechs and dreadnoughts. I then started a game with the Gods of Old mod, which replaces the vanilla religions with ancient Mesopotamian gods that let their followers bring down meteor strikes, tsunamis, and tornadoes and shit. I don't know how many times I've nuked the fuck out of the enemy's capital city with meteors. Fun stuff.

I'm almost finished with the second book of The Dresden Files. I would have read it a long time ago if the library wasn't starved for copies. I haven't seen much of the TV show based on the books (just the pilot, which I don't remember all that well), but I bet they really had to tone it down. The books are filled with graphic, bloody violence, tons of swearing, and all manner of sex and nudity. In addition to those reasons, the books are fantastic. Main characters die, and Dresden himself gets the holy shit kicked and beaten out of him until he's on the brink of death.

I was so busy having fun this weekend, I didn't get a chance to do a new comic for the Tensided site. Whoops. Why do something today when you can do it tomorrow?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Release Date Calendar Update

Now that E3 has come and gone, the release calendar for the rest of the year is much more solid. Plus, I forgot some games (with this much good stuff, it's hard not to).

July 30:
Mario Strikers Charged (Wii)

August 7:
Boogie (Wii)

August 14:
Lair (PS3)

August 20:
John Woo presents Stranglehold (PC, 360, PS3)

August 21:
Bioshock (PC, 360)

August 27:
Metroid Prime 3 (Wii)

August 28:
Blue Dragon (360)
Warhawk (PS3)

September 3:
Mass Effect (360)
Blacksite Area 51 (PC, 360, PS3)

September 4:
Project Gotham Racing 4 (360)
Heavenly Sword (PS3)

September 11:
Jam Sessions (DS)

September 12/18:
skate (360/PS3)

September 15:
Phoenix Wright 3 (DS)

September 25:
Halo 3 (360)

October 1:
Clive Barker's Jericho (PC, 360, PS3)
Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass (DS)

October 2:
Ratchet and Clank Tools of Destruction (PS3)

October 9:
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer (PC)

October 17:
Grand Theft Auto 4 (360, PS3)

October 29:
Guitar Hero 3 (PS2, PS3, 360, Wii)

October 30:
Beowulf (360, PS3)
The Witcher (PC)

November 15:
Army of Two (360, PS3)

Sometime in November:
Rock Band (360, PS3)
Crysis (PC)
Haze (PC, 360, PS3)
Kane and Lynch Dead Men(PC, 360, PS3)
Assassin's Creed (PC, 360, PS3)
Turning Point Fall of Liberty (PC, 360, PS3)
Mercenaries 2 (PC, 360, PS2, PS3)

December 3:
Super Smash Bros Brawl (Wii)

Who The Hell Knows:
Manhunt 2 (PS2, PSP, Wii)

That's so much gaming goodness I think my head might explode. They're not all triple A titles, but there's certainly more than a few that are definite purchases. What gives me pause is how many games are slated for sometime in November. I'd say 3-5 of those slip to next year. If they don't, I feel sorry for any single or double A games that launch in November, because they're getting buried.

Also, I've pretty much resigned myself to dropping 500 bucks on a PS3 sometime in late September/early October. I'll be damned if I'm going to go without Rock Band and GTA4.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

GH 80s and Civ 4 BTS Impressions

I've barely scratched the surface of both these games, but I thought I'd toss up some impressions.

First up, Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s. There's a whole lot of vitriol being spewed towards this game, and I'm unsure as to why. Yes, there are only 30 songs. Yes, there are fewer characters. Yes, the venues are recycled (but with 80's style). No, there aren't any unlockable behind the scenes videos, character outfits, or bonus songs. Yes, the game is 50 bucks (or 40 at Best Buy, wish I'd known that before I pre-ordered). Yes, the songs are all from the 80's and most of them are covers.

My response to all that: so what? It's fucking Guitar Hero. Frankly, I could care less about behind the scenes videos and outfits and venues and all that shit. The bonus songs in the first two games were indie tunes. Seeing as how we're not in the 80's anymore, it would be a bit difficult to find indie 80's bands for the bonus songs. 30 songs isn't a lot, but it's enough, I think. Best Buy's pricing is very fair. If you don't like 80's rock, why'd you buy the game? It's pretty clear in the title that's what you're getting, if you're too stupid to read it, I can't help you. And finally, I've never understood why everyone hates the fact that most of the songs are covers. They should be. The idea behind the game is that you're the guitarist in a cover band. Why should you be playing along to master tracks? You're not Milli fucking Vanilli.

I'm definitely enjoying my time with the game. I don't hate any of the 10 tracks I've played so far, and I doubt I'll end up hating any of the other 20. There were at least a few songs in both GH 1 and 2 that I hated, so as far as the track listing goes, this game is actually better than the first two games.

Next, Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword. I've spent too many hours to count playing Civ 4. This expansion adds a bunch of new play mechanics for vanilla Civ 4, and a shitload of scenarios and mods to boot. I've only tried one mod so far, Next War, which expands the late game tech tree. I haven't even seen any of the new techs yet, but the re-balancing of existing tech and new features have already got me hooked again. I'm going to have that sweet Civ 4 juice pumping in my veins for a long time to come.

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's a Media Overload

And it shows no signs of stopping.

I saw the new Harry Potter flick. It was pretty damn good. Apparently, some people take issue that it wasn't very faithful to the book, but I could give less of a shit because 1) I'm not a nutjob fanboy, 2) I don't rightly remember all the shit that happened in book 5, and 3) it was a long ass fucking book and only a 2 hour and 20 minute film, so you're damn right they're not going to cram every little thing that happened in the book into the movie. Movies aren't books, and books aren't movies. Plus, I'll be damned if the Harry Potter films become some awful monstrosities like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Fuck that. On a related note, Emma Watson is hot. Yes, I'm aware she's 17, but so what? If there's grass on the field...

I also read the new (or should I say final) Harry Potter book over the weekend. Got it Saturday around noon, finished it around 4 pm on Sunday. Didn't stay up all night reading, I'm not a nutjob fanboy, remember? That was pretty damn good, too. It was a little of what I expected, a little of what I didn't, and a whole lot of awesome. I'm not going to spoil anything here, so I'll just say you should go read it. If, for some reason, you've avoided the Harry Potter books up to this point, you should read them, too.

Burn Notice continues to be enjoyable. The new fall TV season starts mid September, so in the meantime, I've been catching up on a couple of shows on DVD that I've been meaning to get into, like Psych and Everybody Hates Chris. I've fallen behind on The Dead Zone, too, so I'm getting reacquainted. Also, I acquired a screener copy of the pilot episode of Reaper, which is awesome. Should be a great show, but it in no way makes up for The CW canceling Veronica Mars.

Guitar Hero 80s edition should arrive tomorrow, with Civ 4 Gold and the Beyond the Sword expansion arriving either Wednesday or Thursday. Goodbye, free time, I knew thee well.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


*EDIT 7/19/10* Dunno what this used to be a video of, but the link got changed to porn. Nothing to see here, move along. Move along.

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's Friday Night, It's Time to Rock

I've been working on an E3 postmortem post, that's really bumming me out. E3 sucked. Virtually no new info, or bad info. What the hell is wrong with Sony? They do everything wrong with the PS3, then they cut the price, come into E3 riding high (or at least riding above sea level), put together a pretty damn good press conference, and then blow everything all to hell by saying that the price cut isn't a price cut, but a fire sale, because we want you to buy our newer, more shitty version for the same old $600 price tag. Jesus Christ.

So fuck video games for now. I don't want to talk about video games.

I saw Transformers last weekend. I tried to see a 6:30 showing, failed because it was sold out, bought tickets for a 9:50 showing (on a Sunday night), came back a full half hour early, and still had to sit in the third row. I have never experienced anything like that before at the movie theatre. Late Sunday night? After the movie's been out a whole week? No. Just doesn't happen. The movie itself was enjoyable, pure popcorn entertainment. Giant robots, fast cars, and shit blowing up. Can't beat that.

There's a new show on USA that's awesome. It's called Burn Notice, it's about an ex-spy, and it's got Bruce Campbell in it. I'm enjoying it.

I reached a milestone earlier this week: I paid off my student loan. Woo-fucking-hoo! I wanted to get that paid off first because it was pretty high interest (around 5%). Now it's just low-interest (like 2% cause I consolidated and I've got stellar credit) credit card debt left, and there's not a whole lot of that. Of course, since I bought a TV and entertainment system I won't be completely out of debt by the end of August like I'd originally planned, but that's ok. By my calculations, I'll be done after my first paycheck in October. That's still pretty damned close. Once I'm out of debt, I think I'll just cut up my credit cards. I'll keep the two big lines open (because I can), close the others, and never buy anything with credit again (excepting monthly recurring charges). It's gonna be fricking sweet.

Finally, I'm really starting to jones for the football season. I wish it would start already. Arena Football sucks, and what everyone else in the world calls football isn't full contact. Only 3 weeks til the Hall of Fame Game. The longest 3 weeks ever...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Shield

At the recommendation of a couple of people, I checked out The Shield. I really wish I hadn't. In the very first episode, the lead character, Vic Mackey, kills another cop because he was cooperating with an Internal Affairs investigation into Mackey's illegal activities. On a side note, another character compared homosexuality to pedophilia.

I wanted to see what others saw in this show, however, so I watched the second episode. I'm not sure what I expected. I mean, they couldn't have the lead character actually be punished for his crime, or the show couldn't continue. But I was sure they could work out something. I was sure they could come up with some sort of resolution for a fucking cold blooded murder of a police officer by another police officer.

I was wrong. Mackey got off scot-free. Oh, and there was also a scene with another character complaining about "those goddamn wetbacks taking my job."

The third episode? I didn't bother watching. Who greenlights this shit? More importantly, who watches this shit, and enjoys it? The Shield is the kind of show that conservatives watch while furiously masturbating. "Oh yeah, Mackey, stick it to those fucking niggers, wetbacks, and faggots. You show those lily-livered IA fucks who's boss."

I've seen the character of Mackey described as "morally ambiguous." Bullshit. He's a dirty cop, an asshole, and a pathetic excuse for a human being. He's not a goddamn hero, yet the show insists on portraying him as one. I didn't appreciate having to explore "moral relativism" in my philosophy class, I'm sure as hell not going to do it on my own time. The Shield sucks, and so does anyone who likes it.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Comments on the Next Gen

Or should I say current gen? Whatever you want to call it, the recently released consoles from the Big 3 have all been out for at least 6 months. I think it's time I posted my thoughts.

Microsoft was the first to the party with the Xbox 360. Way back when, I said I thought MS would ultimately come out on top this round, with Nintendo second, and Sony solidly in third. For now, that's the way the worldwide sales shake out. I say for now because I don't expect that to last. Why? After all, Microsoft has everything going for them. They've got a powerful machine (not the most powerful, but a good balance between power and ease of programming), they were first to market, they had a strong lineup of launch/first gen titles, they've got a steady stream of second and third gen titles on the horizon, they've got the best online scheme, etc. Too bad in their rush to market they didn't actually build a quality box.

Ever since launch, 360's have been dying. By the hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions. What does MS have to say about that? Let's talk to Peter Moore: "Y'know, things break. (We) can't comment on failure rates, because it's just not something - it's a moving target." Uh huh. Moving target. Things break. You know what MS hasn't said? They haven't said that there's a serious problem with the build quality of the 360, and they haven't said that it's been fixed or when (if) it will be fixed. I don't know about anyone else, but if I'm going to pay $400 for something, I expect it to work. 360's don't. So while there may have been 10 million of them sold worldwide, I can't see Microsoft winning this war, unless they fix their boxes and fast. Even that might not be enough, because of the juggernaut breathing down their neck.

The little, unassuming, underestimated box with the funny name from Nintendo, the juggernaut known as the Wii, is in second place currently. No one expected it to do this well. Everyone said it couldn't do this well, and was probably a fad. 7 months after launch with almost 9 million units sold and still not being able to walk into a store and pick one off the shelf is not a fad. The Wii isn't what you'd call powerful, it's saddled with an unfair "family-friendly" rep, it's got a control scheme that is highly unusual, and outside of first-party franchises, doesn't have a particularly solid software lineup. So why is the Wii hurtling towards the top of the heap?

It's the fun factor, stupid. The Wii is fun. That highly unusual control scheme? It's also highly intuitive, and feels like play. Pressing buttons and twirling a joystick makes sense to gamers, but not to ordinary Joes, and it doesn't feel like play. Playing Wii Sports feels like play, and the action of swinging the Wiimote makes sense, even outside the context of the game. Unless Nintendo reps release a statement saying everyone at the company eats babies and puppies while raping their mothers and daughters, I feel confident saying that Nintendo is going to take the top spot in this war eventually. They'll certainly win out over Sony.

What can I say about Sony and the PS3? They rode a wave of stupidity that is crashing onto jagged rocks. Bad design decisions, bad marketing decisions, bad licensing decisions, bad PR decisions, just bad all around.They're not getting any better, either. Just recently they announced that their production is now at full capacity. That's right, no more PS3 shortages. Um, what? So Sony's now churning out almost 1 million units per month. They're only selling 300k. Last I checked, that's called a surplus. A big one. A surplus that big can only mean one thing: price drop.

Sony needs to cut the price of the PS3 to $500, as soon as possible. And they need to do it before MS cuts the price of the 360. If they could, they should cut it to $400, but I'm not sure they can even handle a $100 price cut, let alone $200. The sales of the PS3 are pathetic, and they're not going to get better. Yeah, GTA4 is coming out, so what? MS has GTA4, too, and they've also got Halo 3. If a PS3 cost $400, I'd buy one. I'm sure quite a few other people would, too. I don't think there's anything Sony can do to dig themselves out of the number 3 hole, but they look like major league jackasses right now. MS does, too, but that's beside the point. Sony needs to suck it up and take it on the chin.

THIS JUST IN: In the time between when I started this post as a draft and when I actually finished it, two things have happened.

One, MS announced that the warranty period for the RRoD (that's Red Ring of Death) has been retroactively extended for 3 years. So anyone who's bought a 360 in the past that's died from the RRoD will get their box fixed for free up to 3 years after the time of purchase, and anyone who buys a 360 in the future will have that handy 3 year warranty to protect against RRoD brickings. They still didn't admit that there's a problem with the 360, however. Here's what my friend and yours, Peter Moore, said: "Good service and a good customer experience are areas of the business that we care deeply about. And frankly, we've not been doing a good enough job. We are taking responsibility and are making these changes to ensure that every Xbox 360 owner continues to have a great experience." When I first heard about this, I figured the reason they were doing it was because it's more cost effective to eat the warranty repairs and (not) refund previously out of warranty repair costs to the customer than to actually fix the problem. But then I read the bit about MS taking "a $1.05 billion to $1.15 billion pre-tax charge to its earnings for the quarter ended June 30." Know what that means? I'll let Bill Harris of Dubious Quality break down the analysis.
Essentially, Microsoft is reserving $100 for every console that's been sold since the system launched. I know--that's for future warranty extension as well--but it seems reasonable that Microsoft wouldn't be doing this unless they'd solved the problem. So the vast majority of the $1B charge is for existing consoles.

So that's 11 million consoles at $100 per=$1.1 billion.
Makes sense, right? They fix the problem in the new boxes, and allow for repairs on the old boxes. Plus, they turn a PR nightmare into warm fuzzies. Fucking assholes. They're still not going to win, though.

Two, Sony hasn't announced a price cut. Somebody leaked it. Sony finally does something right with regards to the PS3, and they got their thunder stolen. That's fucking hilarious. 100 bucks is a good start. Here's what I think's going to happen. Sony officially announces the price cut in the next few days. Next week at their E3 press conference, Microsoft announces they're lowering the price of the Elite to $400. Later this year, just in time for holiday buying, Sony announces they're cutting the price another $100, down to $400. Maybe that's wishful thinking, but it's the only thing that makes sense if Sony wants to make any sort of showing this round at all.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster

Err, make that "Gamer." How do I mean? Well, take a look at what's coming out in the next few months.

July 24:
Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword (PC)
Guitar Hero Rocks the 80's (PS2)

August 6:
John Woo presents Stranglehold (PC, 360, PS3)

August 7:
Boogie (Wii)

August 20:
Metroid Prime 3 (Wii)

August 21:
Bioshock (PC, 360)

September 3:
Mass Effect (360)

September 11:
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer (PC)

September 15:
Phoenix Wright 3 (DS)

September 25:
Halo 3 (360)

October 17:
Grand Theft Auto 4 (360, PS3)

Without a solid date:
Jam Sessions (DS)
Rock Band (360, PS3)
Who Knows:
Haze (PC, 360, PS3)
Smash Bros Brawl (Wii)
Guitar Hero 3 (PS2, PS3, 360, Wii)
Manhunt 2 (PS2, PSP, Wii)

There are a handful of games on that list that are exclusive to systems I don't have, although they just might be a system seller for me. I speak specifically of Rock Band and GTA4. I might have to buy a PS3 because of those games. Only once it's 400 bucks, though. I'm really hoping Mass Effect comes to the PC eventually. If it doesn't, though, oh well. The 360 can suck it hard.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Movies and a New Toy

After a long drought (much longer than I originally planned on), I went to the theatre today. Saw Live Free or Die Hard. I thought it was pretty good. Excellent summer movie fare. Improbable and implausible, yes, but also fun and exhilarating. Yippie ki yay, mother fucker! Plus, it had Kevin Smith in a cameo role. Everyone who reads this blog knows how much I respect that man's work.

Oh, speaking of Kevin Smith, I caught a flick he was in a few weeks ago on DVD. It's called Catch and Release, and stars Jennifer Garner and Timothy Olyphant (Olyphant was also in LForDH). For a romantic comedy, it wasn't bad. I think Kevin stole every scene he was in, and I'm not just saying that cause I'm a fan. If you like any of the actors in the movie, or are just a fan of romantic comedies (god help you), check out Catch and Release.

Finally, I got a new toy. Check this bad boy out:

That right there is a 37" LCD HDTV, capable of 1080p. I also got a set of nice 2.1 speakers (those are them on the top shelf, and the subwoofer is on the floor to the right), which came with a slot-loading style DVD player. I've got my PS2 on the middle shelf next to the DVD player, and my Wii on the bottom shelf next to the satellite receiver. I still need to get a system selector so I can hook my systems up with component cables (rather than the shitty composite ones they're currently hooked up with), an HDMI cable to plug the DVD player in with so it will upconvert, and in a month or so (just before the new fall TV and football season starts) have the Dish guys come out and swap in an HD receiver.

I was going to wait until I got my debt paid off to make a purchase like this, but Newegg was offering a line of credit with no payments for 6 months. My debt will be paid off in about 2, after which the Newegg credit can be paid off well before I would start accumulating interest.

And in case you're wondering, I christened the setup by watching the pilot episode of Veronica Mars. I've got the next few days off work, so I'm going to give it a workout, including, but not limited to, Buffy Season 6's Once More With Feeling, a couple episodes of Firefly, and a marathon showing of the Star Wars OT.