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Halo Wars Demo Coming Soon

Posted by haunt506e on January 24, 2009

Halo Wars

Just as I, and presumably thousands of other gamers, had hoped, a Halo Wars Demo has been announced, and will be avialable for download off of the Xbox Live Marketplace in less than two weeks.  I’ve done several other posts on the game, but, as far as gameplay goes, not many game sites have had the chance to play Halo Wars.  On February 5th, gamers around the world will be able to experience this revolutionary title for themselves.

The demo includes a “Beginner” Tutorial as well as an “Advanced” Tutorial, which will allows new players to get the hang of the game’s controls, which have been specifically designed for the 360’s controller.  When you’ve figured out the basics, Ensemble has also packaged the first two Campaign missions with the demo as well, so you can get a brief view of Halo War’s deep story, set 20 years before the events of the first Halo.  When you’re done playing the Campaign modes, the demo is also packaged with Chasms, one of Halo Wars’ 14 multiplayer maps.  However, the announcements were a little fuzzy on whether the demo would feature multiplayer over Xbox Live, like the real game will.  I do know that players can play against the A.I. as either the Covenants or the USNC Marines, so players will be able to check out both armies.

The game looks very promising, and the demo will either guarantee more sales or less, depending on how well the game plays.  For me, the only way that this game could get screwed up is if Ensemble’s control schemes were a little on the cumbersome side.  However, I’ve read in several magazines and on several news sites that, despite RTS Games generally failing on the 360, Halo Wars’ will hopefully break that mold.  Check out the Halo Wars demo this February 5th, and, if you can’t wait, you can check out the Halo Wars Video Documentary on Xbox Live in the Video Marketplace.

Posted in News, Xbox 360 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Resident Evil 5 Demo Infecting the U.S. on January 26th

Posted by haunt506e on January 15, 2009

Resident Evil 5Japanese players have had their hands on this demo for a long time, but the Resident Evil 5 demo is now making its way across the Pacific to the U.S., so we can finally check it out. The demo will be making its debute on the 360 on January 26th, the PS3 demo following a week later, on February 5th. There wasn’t any mention as to why the demo was made available only on the 360, but it really shouldn’t be considered a big deal. After all, in Japan, the only way to access the demo on the PS3 was with a bonus disc that came with the system.

What’s actually in the demo? Well, I’ve got details on that as well. Joystiq‘s report lists the demo as featuring two levels that can be played in solo mode or cooperatively, online or offline. I don’t know how long each of these levels will last, but I’m guessing that the entire demo will be completable in under an hour, so it shouldn’t take too long to finish the two playable levels. The cooperative aspect of the game will no doubt extend the replayability of it, and the game’s overal “experience,” but I’m not really sure it’ll make it a buy for me. I like the survival horror genre, but Resident Evil, at least the way these games are set up, has become more action horror than survival horror.  Or maybe it was always action horror. Either way, at this point in time, I’m unsure about myself purchasing this game.

Anyways, be sure to check out this demo when it becomes available at the end of January. In addition, be sure to check out the Resident Evil 5 TGS Trailer, that will be available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for a free download this January 16th, tomorrow.

Tips N4G

Posted in News, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Lord of the Rings: Conquest Demo Now Available

Posted by haunt506e on January 4, 2009

ConquestSo after checking all my feeds and news sites for something to blog about, I happened upon word of a demo for LotR: Conquest being available on Xbox Live.  I figured it might be worthwhile to check out, as, if you’re a listener of the show, you’ll recall us discussing the game earlier on in.  So after the long download, I jumped into the training mission of the demo.

This segment was done pretty well actually, letting you know how to play while also putting you into the action from the start.  LotR: Conquest’s tutorial puts you into the first final battle with Sauron (don’t know what it’s called, I’m not a Lord of the Rings buff), and allows you to choose between four classes, which are focused on throughout the tutorial.  The warrior, my personal favorite class, is introduced first.  He can chain together some pretty cool combos and use a fire sword ability to dish out some major damage.  Unfortunately, it gets boring somewhat rapidly, and you’ll soon be stuck waiting for more goblins to spawn because you are killing them off too quickly.

Conquest

Tree Ents are one of the many player-controlled vehicles of the game, and can only be taken down by executing a series of randomized button presses, akin to God of War.

The next class introduced is the archer, the basic ranged unit.  He can’t do too much, and has to attack from afar with his poison, fire, and multi-shot arrow attacks.  His only melee attack is a weak kick, serving only to push enemies backwards so you can kite them around.  Next up is the scout, a rogue-like class that can stealth himself and assassinate enemies.  He’s pretty fun in the tutorial, and also in the multiplayer, but, aside from his assassination attack, he seems a bit useless.  The mage, playable lastly, is a fireball throwing, shield conjuring, shockwave master.  In short, he sits back and cast spells, which may seem fun at first, but due to the clunky gameplay (to be explained later), even the mage’s otherworldly powers become dull fast.

Now, these classes may or may not seem fun, but what killed this game for me was the clunkiness of this game’s actual game play.  This clunkiness first makes its appearance to us in the menus, where in order to play a multiplayer match, you must register with EA.  I mean really, this is Xbox Live people, we shouldn’t have to register with a third-party company just to play a game.  And its even worse because EA only uses these accounts to spam out previews for all the sub-par sequels that they’re publishing.

Regarding actual game play, two battlefields will be available in the demo: Minas Tirith and The Shire.  These environments are pretty well constructed, and, while the level designs could have been better, they offer a nice balanced field of play.  When fighting with large amounts of players on the screen, the game gets clunky, and not in a frame-rate-dropping-sort-of-way.  When I mean it gets choppy, I mean that when characters attack, their combos are so “cinematic,” that you could be executing a lengthy 5 or 6 button combo when suddenly, mid-combo, your character gets knocked flat by some random arrow and must lay around on the ground, rolling around for a few seconds, before he can get back and restart his combo.  By that time, the person you were fighting will have either finished you off or will have fallen victim to the same sort of interruption.

The game is like trying to play a fighting game with 16 fighters instead of 2.  The combat is slow and clunky, and the combos take entirely too long to pull off, resulting in slow moving characters that have to stop for an unimaginably long amount of time just to swing their sword at an enemy.  With a game like Starwars: Battlefront under their belts, you’d think Pandemic would be able to not only make this game chaotic, but also fun to play and somewhat face-paced.  Lord of the Rings: Conquest is just chaotic.

I realize that this is only a demo and therefore I’d like to remind you that this is just a demo review/ game preview, and that no final opinions have been disclosed in the above text.

Tips N4G

Posted in News, Previews, Xbox 360 | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Left 4 Dead DLC Officially Announced

Posted by haunt506e on December 29, 2008

Left 4 Dead

Yes, it’s true,  DLC (Down-loadeable? Content) has been announced for my favorite game of 2008, Left 4 Dead.  The hit post-apocalyptic zombie shooter isn’t yet 2 months old and some new content has been announced for it.  A video podcast from Kotaku reveals an interview with Chet Faliszek, one of Valve’s writers.  In the interview, Faliszek hints at the announcement of specific DLC for both the 360 and PC versions, possibly the ability to play the other additional 2 campaigns (Dead Air and Death Toll) in versus mode.  If we’re lucky, we might even see a new campaign.

On an earlier post by 1UP (I’m sorry, don’t have the link), another Valve member hinted at a new weapon, the flame thrower, to be included soon in DLC.  This DLC was to be free on the PC version, but apparently Valve has had some difficulties with Microsoft’s allowing them to do the same on the Xbox 360.

There’s not a whole lot of information yet, but we’ve been told that the new DLC will be revealed “really soon,” so we’ll just have to wait until Valve unveals exactly what’s going to be made available to its customers.  Expect more news and blog posts on any future Left 4 Dead news and reports right here at The Update.

Posted in News, PC, Xbox 360 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Xbox Live Updates

Posted by haunt506e on December 20, 2008

I’ll start off with a quick apology before getting into the actual blog post real fast.  Sorry that I haven’t been updating the blog with any new stories or posts recently, but it’s been pretty hectic for me this week with finals and things like that, things that add up.  But yeah, I’m back and have a quick story to cove, with some word on the podcast after the main post.  Here we go!

New Xbox Experience Updates

Alright so if you’re an Xbox 360 player who’s connected to Live or who has bought a 360 within like the last month or so, you’ll be playing your console using the newest dashboard update, nicknamed the “New Xbox Experience.”  You will have also created your Avatar, the little Mii-like figure that represents your online self.  Well, as promised, Microsoft has already released several new clothes packs for free to their customers, the first being an actual clothes pack that was released a couple weeks back, and the second a clothes pack featuring “fancy” clothes, including tuxedos for men and various dresses for women.

I don’t really want to focus too much on the clothes, because they’re there if you want to check them out and customize your avatar, but I’d rather like to talk about how Microsoft actually seems to be taking these characters seriously.  Nintendo released their little Mii guys with the standard clothes and sets of eyes, faces, etc., but to the best of my knowledge, I don’t think that Nintendo has released any additions (none free at least) to these Mii things.  Microsoft has not only added several new items (for free) to their Avatars, but they’ve also tossed a few freebies our way via the marketplace, taking the form of a free winter premium theme and a snowglobe.

The theme is pretty neat for being free.  The background is a small town filled with holiday lights and covered by snow, and it fits the season very well.  In addition, when you look at your friends list, you’ll notice present rappings and other seasonal items behind each of your friends or their parties.  It’s a nice touch, and its free, so check it out.  The snowglobe is kind of a waste, but its pretty much a virtual snowglobe…  That’s about all I have to say about that.

Holiday Snowglobe

The Snowglobe is... Cool...

My point is that Microsoft is actually updating and taking care of their consoles and their customers, and, while yes, the 360 still succumbs to the dreadful red ring of death fatal system error, it remains one of the best consoles on the market because of this kind of support.  Live is what makes the 360, and these updates are what make Live.  The NXE was a huge success, and Microsoft shows that they want to continue making it a success in the eyes of its customers.  Kudos to Microsoft for putting this kind of stuff out for free.

As for the Update This podcast, it’s still going, but we’ve been having difficulty scheduling times over the holidays, so it may be postponed until after the holidays.  Until then keep track of all the happenings around here by checking back on the site and following me on twitter (Haunt506e).

Posted in News, Xbox 360 | Leave a Comment »

Halo Wars Gets a Delayed Release Date

Posted by haunt506e on December 8, 2008

Halo WarsHalo Wars, Ensemble Studio’s last project as Ensemble, takes the Halo franchise to the real-time strategy battlefield, where players assume control of hundreds of units, rather than just one single character.  If you haven’t heard of Ensemble studios, you’ll perhaps recognize them by their flagship franchise, Age of Empires.  While Age of Empires has lost its appeal and steam over the past few years, Halo Wars has done nothing but gather up its own layer of hype.  It always astounds me how the gaming community gets so excited for each successive Halo release, yet get pissed off at the developers when the game finally releases.  It doesn’t make much sense to me, but maybe gamers should just stop setting their hopes up so high.

Halo Wars Screenshot

Originally intended as an RTS, the Halo franchise finally makes its way into the strategy genre in Halo Wars.

Anyways, an earlier post here at The Update has outlined the game’s various release packages, the two of which are aimed at the casual gamers and hardcore collectors, respectively.  The game, while exclusive to the Xbox 360, is shaping up to be one hell of a purchase, for RTS fans or Halo fans alike.  For those interested, Halo Wars delves further into Halo’s rich lore (most of which has been developed over time in the Halo novels), and puts you in command of different units from the Halo universe, some of which are taken from the novels in addition to the games.

There have already been several videos posted up around the net on Halo Wars, as well as a few trailers posted up on the Xbox Live Marketplace.  If you’ve got the time, I encourage you to check them out, there’s several good ones in there, including a lengthy game play preview.

So yes, Halo Wars is coming out, but now, the reason for this blog post.  Halo Wars was originally slated for a release date near the end of February.  The U.S. release has now been delayed, however, and Halo Wars’ release has now turned into one of the only times I have seen the European players get the game before the U.S. players (in Xbox 360 releases that is).  For those interested, Halo Wars will debute on February 27th for European players, and on March 3rd for U.S. players.  The game is pretty high up on my list of games to buy for 2008, so I’ll have to see how well it turns out.

Posted in News, Previews, Xbox 360 | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Halo 3 Overtakes Gears of War 2

Posted by haunt506e on December 5, 2008

Halo 3For even as great a game as Gears of War 2 it appears that unseating the multiplayer king from its throne was just too difficult a task.  Or was it that great of a game?  According to a recent blog post by Gamecyte, it looks like Gears of War 2 was more on the mediocre side, at least in terms of online play time.

Xbox 360 Top Live Titles (based on UU’s)
1    Halo 3
2    Gears of War 2
3    CoD: World at War
4    Call of Duty 4
5    GTA IV
6    Fable II
7    Left 4 Dead
8    Madden NFL 09
9    Fallout 3
10   FIFA 09

Top Arcade Titles (Full Versions purchased)
1    Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
2    A Kingdom for Keflings
3    UNO
4    Castle Crashers
5    Worms
6    Portal: Still Alive
7    Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
8    Aegis Wing
9    Bomberman Live
10   Assault Heroes

The above arcade list is based on full versions purchased.

Original Xbox Top Live Titles (based on UU’s)
1    Halo 2
2    Star Wars: Battlfrnt 2
3    Fable
4    Counter-Strike
5    Call of Duty 3
6    Battlefield 2: MC
7    Conker: Live Reloaded
8    Street Fighter Anniv.
9    Star Wars: Battlefront
10   Splinter Cell Chaos

These lists are based on global unique users connected to Xbox Live or in the case of Arcade, full versions purchased that week.

Judgement DayFor Call of Duty 4, it took several months of a constant back and forth battle before Master Chief could reassert his rule over the Xbox Live domain.  Grand Theft Auto IV was the only other game to knock Halo 3 off of the #1 position, but after a reported 3 updates, even GTAIV couldn’t stand up to Bungie’s creation.  Gears of War 2 had its chance to remain at the top after it briefly took the #1 spot, but EPIC threw away that chance by maintaining a laggy, slow, bug-filled multiplayer experience that was just a hastle to even think about playing.  After the smoke cleared, Halo 3 regained its title after less than a month of the whole Gears of War 2 ordeal.

Gears of War 2 now stands at #2, and by the looks of it, it’s dropping.  The only guys on my friends that I notice playing the game now are people that were huge fans of the original Gears, back when Gears 1 was the #1 most played game on Xbox Live.  I think what happened to Gears of War 2 is that players finished the single player campaign, played a few matches of multiplayer, got agitated by the whole mess, ejected the disc, and put in another game, most likely CoD5 or CoD4, which are now fighting each other for the #3 spot.

Chainsaw DuelSo what exactly happened to Gears of War 2?  We’ve established that the multiplayer sucks, but I will give it kudos in that its take on multiplayer is an improvement over the original Gears.  Improving on garbage isn’t difficult to do, but despite being garbage, the original Gears of War held its position at the top for several months, until Halo 3 came along.  It seems kind of strange that Gears 2, an improvement over Gears 1, couldn’t even hold #1 for even a month, and even more shocking, the game was overtaken by Halo 3, a game that’s not only been out for a year, but one that’s also been heavily criticized by the gaming community as being “overrated.”  (I don’t think Halo 3 deserves some of the punishment it has been getting, but I could talk about why all day long).

New multiplayer matchmaking systems have been layed down by games like Halo 3 and the two Call of Duty games.  While Halo 3 arguably “started it all,” and still maintains an incredible online community, CoD4 and 5 have both contributed to the development of matchmaking in their own way.  Gears of War 2, on the otherhand, seems to have taken a step in the opposite direction, and, because of this, has already suffered from obvious drops in its online play time.  For me and hundreds of thousands of other players, Gears 2 is singularly a single player experience, not because the multiplayer is a bad concept, but because the multiplayer was carried out horribly.

If you’re looking for a great multiplayer game, DON’T BUY GEARS OF WAR 2!  Halo 3 and CoD4 (or 5), despite both being over a year old, are still your best bets.

Posted in News, Xbox 360 | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Mytheon, New Free-To-Play MMOG, Announced

Posted by haunt506e on December 2, 2008

Earlier today Petroglyph, makers of RTS games such as Star Wars: Empire at War and Universe at War: Earth Assault, announced their development of a brand new MMOG called “Mytheon.”  With a release date set during the third quarter of 2009, Petroglyph hopes to make this RTS/RPG/MMO hybrid game available for free, making their profits off of paid micro-transactions within the game.  A teaser site has a bit of info up, but not a whole lot, and I’ve only managed to find a few screenshots of the game, all of which are concept art, and I’m too lazy to post those up at this moment.

Players collect orbs in the game and use these orbs to do different things, carry out attacks, summon monsters, etc.  Using their game store, you will be able to purchase new orbs for cash, and can use these special orbs to bolster your collection and gain the edge on your opponents.  The game is slated to include all the basic forms of play that is common in most MMOs today, including PvP, Raids, Parties, Dungeons, and more.  There’s not a lot of information on it’s “hybrid” game play mechanics, but it sounds like it could be interesting and it definitely has potential.

We’re starting to see this micro-transaction market structure more and more often in free games, and Mytheos seems to be the first one developed in the U.S. using this strategy.  I kind of like it, in a way, but I don’t ever see myself actually paying for ingame items, and therefore it is doubtful that I’ll get into this game.  I know a lot of people like being able to buy items or equipment for real world money, but the way I see it, if I’m playing a game for “free,” I don’t want to be paying money for it, even if it’s almost a necessity to keep up with the rest of the game.

Sorry for the short post lacking pictures, but it’s late tonight and good pictures are almost impossible to find for the game at the moment.  In addition, I’d also like to apologize for not having a lot of posts up lately, but I’ve been a little busy setting up things for future additions to the blog, including The Update’s podcast, simply called “Update This,” which will be airing hopefully this Friday (we’ll record tomorrow).  Come back and check out the podcast when its up, and be sure to check back regularly for blog posts.  Thanks.

Posted in Bargain Bin, News, PC | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Other Consoles Still Trail Behind the Nintendo Wii in Sales

Posted by haunt506e on November 30, 2008

System Sales, November 2008Nintendo has recently reported selling just over 35 million Wii units since its inception in Fall 2006.  10 million units ahead of the 360 and 18 million ahead of the PS3, the Wii continues to outsell both consoles worldwide.  Even more interesting however is the console battle in Japan.  The PS3 has, since its launch, sold almost 3 million units to its home territory.  The Wii, on the otherhand, has sold almost 7 million units, doubling the PS3’s sales.  In Japan the Xbox 360 is still struggling, but GameDaily reports a 157.1% increase in 360 sales during the past 7 months.  Since its launch date in 2005, the Xbox 360 has sold only a measly 750,000 units to Japan, and, despite the 157.1% increase in sales, the Xbox 360 still trails behind the competition in Japan.

In Japan, console sales are as follows.  This quote has been taken from the original post on GameDaily.

Xbox 360: 748,992
PS3: 2,369,484
DS: 6,449,206
DS Lite: 17,080,747
Wii: 6,826,612
PSP: 10,181,888
PS2: 21,454,325

What makes the Wii so succesful is its huge market group.  The console is aimed at just about everybody except actual gamers (that’s why this is the first Wii post on this blog).  For real gamers and even the markets that the console is selling to, the console won’t last.  I’ve got a few friends with Wii’s, and, even when the Wii is the only console in the house, it still collects dust.  Its controllers are great at first, and prospective users are wowed by the simplicity of its design and gameplay, only to be disappointed when these great features are really only applied to a select few games (very select, very few).  One of my pals has bought a game for the PS2 rather than buy the same game for the Wii because of its unrealiable controls (unrealiable meaning the controls only work for less than 5% of the Wii’s games).

Xbox 360 sales and PS3 sales trail behind the Wii sales, but, if you take it from a longevity and gamer’s perspective, the 360 and the PS3 aren’t really doing that bad.  As far as software sales go (the games), the Wii is doing a little worse than the Xbox 360 but a little better than the PS3.  MyBroadband News reports the following.

The Xbox 360 has sold an average 6.6 games for each console that it has sold in the past 23 months. Nintendo’s Wii in comparison has sold 5.5, and the PS3 comes in last with 5.3 games sold per console.

While yes, the Xbox 360 has been around a bit longer than both the Wii and PS3, I seriously doubt the Wii’s games per console sales to pass up the 360’s.

Console WarsRight now at the current state of the console wars, the Xbox 360 seems to be doing reasonably well, outselling its predecessor and is dominating the “hardcore” gamer market.  In addition, the 360 is outselling the Wii and the PS3 as far as game sales go.  The Wii seems to be destroying the competition on console sales, but seems a bit behind the 360 on game sales, which is to be expected.  I doubt I will ever own a Wii, but, for the people that do own one, enjoy it now because it gets old pretty fast.  And the PS3, on the otherhand, is doing alright, holding its own in third (last) place.  I think the major problem with the PS3 is just that it got off to a bad start, keeping it from making headway early on, and the PS3 is now playing “catch up” with the rest of the consoles.  Now it’s got the games and the hardware, but Sony’s PS3 just hasn’t made as large of an impact as the Xbox 360 or the Wii.

In short, the Wii sells a lot, but, for actual gamers, fails as a console.  The Xbox 360 is still the best console for gamers, with the PS3 struggling (I wouldn’t say struggling, but I couldn’t think of the right word) to keep up.

Posted in News, Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 | Leave a Comment »

Recent Gears of War 2 Patch Supposedly Speeds Up Matchmaking

Posted by haunt506e on November 28, 2008

Gears of War 2Earlier today EPIC released the first patch for Gears of War 2, a patch focused almost entirely on fixing the game’s ridiculously slow matchmaking system.  I’ve gotten some time to test out the new patch, and, I’ve gotta say, it didn’t really change much.  The matchmaking is still riddled with those “wtf?” moments, long search times, and infinite search loops.  For my friends and I, getting into a Gears of War 2 match kind of goes like this…

  1. Matchmaking is started.
  2. After 2 minutes, matchmaking is restarted.
  3. After 2 minutes, matchmaking is switched to a different game type.
  4. After 2 seconds, a match is found.
  5. When the match is over and you’ve waited the useless 25 seconds in the post-game lobby (why?), repeat the process.

Gears of War 2 is a great game, better than the first even.  However, where it fails is not in some game mechanic or concept, but in its terrible truskill or whatever matchmaking system.  Truskill doesn’t work, every developer needs to get that into their heads.  Matchmaking is fine by me, but destroy the steaming pile of excrement that is truskill (I don’t know if that’s the correct spelling, but whatever).  I’ve been playing Left 4 Dead a lot the past couple of days, do you know how long, on average, it takes to find a match via matchmaking (without truskill thank god)?  Around 3 seconds.  No restarting the matchmaking, no switching playlists, all it takes is a simple select game type, difficulty, and level, and a match is found almost instantly.  Yeah, I know L4D uses dedicated servers, but that has nothing to do with the actual matchmaking (as in finding a game) part of the deal.

So really EPIC, fix your product, because for the time being, it is unplayable by myself and no doubt hundreds of thousands of others.  The game’s great, but right now I’d kinda like to continue the multiplayer experience, but unfortunately cannot because of the s*** servers.  I could forgive this poor quality on launch day and even a few days later when I was writing my review, but I can’t overlook the terrible performance 21 days after launch.

But I guess I must give credit where credit is due.  After all, the title update did do something.  Instead of having to restart matchmaking three times to get a match, now you only have to restart it twice…

Posted in News, Xbox 360 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »