Thursday, August 20, 2009

System prices falling, and more video games than you can shake a stick at.

Gamescom 2009 kicked off earlier this week in Cologne, Germany. You may remember in years past the Leipzig Conference (think E3 just in Germany, and a smaller) this is the "new" version of it. Some big (smaller?) Sony news hit Tuesday, including the new PS3 'slim' will hit early September, coupled with a price drop on the current models by $100.00. The slim will retail for $299.99 and comes with a 120GB drive, evidently the current 80GB/160GB units will be discontinued with only the slim sku available in the market. According to the press event the slim will still not be backwards compatible, and you can no longer put another operating system on the hard drive like current/older models.

There has also been changes in the 360 camp (maybe Microsoft's fortune teller was predicting Sony's future) the Elite model has been repackaged, dropping the included HDMI cable. The current thought/speculation flowing through the Internet is the Pro (60GB unit) will be discontinued, and the Elite will drop to $299.99. Hmmm... $299.99 for a 360 w/120GB drive or a PS3 w/120GB drive for $299.99, I think even I can tell the future. :)

Well the summer doldrums on the video game front are finally drawing to close (unless your a big fan of sports games), the kids have gone back to school, and the AAA titles are on the horizon again! There has been a demo of Batman Arkham Asylum on the PS3 kiosk around town for at least the last 3-4 months, but is was only a playable "challenge map", pitting Batman against waves of enemies. I will be the first to admit the graphics were impressive, but the beat-em up style would get old really quick. Luckily for me, when I got back from hellish road trip 2009© a new demo had graced the PlayStation Network, and 360 Marketplace. I was concerned that it would be the same kiosk demo, but was informed it was actually a game play level and worth checking out. I've stated it before, a game demo can swing my opinion on game 180° or cement my devotion (Bioshock...) more than anything else. I've played through the demo 3-4 times now, and while I still fell the combat is 'button mashy' the game looks great, and there is enough stealth/puzzle (they call it detective mode) game play to satisfy me. I went out and pre-ordered the game after deliberating over which version to get for a couple hours (360 achievement's FTW), so next Tuesday!

The Batman:AA demo kinda overshadowed the other release I was looking forward to, Wolfenstein came out this week for 360/PS3. It was weird that Batman:AA was 2 weeks out yet reviews were already all over the web, Wolfenstein was a week earlier, but no reviews could be found. They started hitting Tuesday morning, and weren't great... 73 from Game Informer, and 75 from IGN, with the current metacritic score sitting at 78. I enjoy the mythos of the series, so I picked it up anyway, having played the original Wolfenstein 3-D on PC ages ago, and the more recent Return to Castle Wolfenstein on Xbox. I'm only about an hour and half in and the first thing this game reminded me of was Prey on the 360, an eerie feeling of déjà vu, not that I mind because I really enjoyed Prey though. My only worry so far is at that 1 hr 1/2 mark it shows my overall progress at 17% complete meaning it may only be 6-7 hours long, but there are 'collectible' items to replay the levels for so that may keep me going.

More demos are flowing now also, Lost Planet 2 co-op demo level from E3, Mini Ninjas, and Dirt 2 are currently downloading to my 360 so impressions coming later. The new NXE dashboard update has hit also with overpriced classic 360 'Games on Demand', avatar marketplace, and some Netflix enhancements. 'Games on Demand' lets you download full Xbox 360 games to your hard drive ranging in price from $19.99-$29.99, I'm of the opinion that these are a little high considering most of them can be bought brick & mortar for the same price. Not to mention you could pick up a used copy for even less, get a printed manual, case, and disc that you could resell down the road when you beat the game, or what if you don't like it? Remember this clause (There are no refunds for this item.) on every piece of download content from the marketplace?

The avatar marketplace lets you accessorize, and dress your avatar (for a price). They include themed shops (Bioshock 2, Assassins Creed 2, Halo ODST, etc) where you can buy toys, t-shirts, outfits, and more. The lower end stuff (t-shirts, hats) run 80 MS points ($1.00), the accessories and outfits can run up to 400 MS points ($5.00). I had a friend buy the Star Wars lightsaber, and was cracking up listening to the last episode of ListenUp! where they spent 5 minutes wondering who would buy this stuff (the light saber specifically) even though I did purchase a t-shirt for $1.00. I've been giving him a hard time since last week so why stop now?

On the positive side they have also stated that games can have unlockable avatar clothes, and items. I think this could be extremely cool, buy Game XYZ beat a certain level and you get a Game XYZ t-shirt for your avatar. The only game known so far to do this will be the Xbox Live arcade 'Splosion Man and only after an upcoming update. It seems like they are tied to achievements so if you've already finished the game (and got those achievements) you will get them when the update hits.

I dropped my Netflix account a while back so I don't know about the enhancements included. I noticed today though someone on my friends list today was watching a movie, and instead of the red Netflix box, it showed they were watching Grosse Point Blank (excellent choice!).

Lastly, I had been contemplating for a month getting an Ipod Touch 2G (retiring my 30GB Zune). I had been reading about the Ipod generations on various web sites, and forums, and came to the conclusion that I would better off waiting until September when hopefully/maybe Apple announces the third gen Touch (equivalent to the IPhone 3GS - the phone of course). Then Microsoft sends me the announcement about the upcoming ZuneHD with HD video (720p) playback to a TV/Monitor, and probably the biggest draw to me HD Radio. Decisions, Decisions...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Off the road again.

Had about a week to recoup from my last road trip now, and everything is pretty much back to normal, I think I've decompressed sufficiently. I already knew it was a bad idea, but 1100 mile road trips (Kansas to Utah) with family are a bad idea. :( I think my boss stated it pretty good, the first 2-3 hours are okay you have something to talk about, everyone's cordial, and getting along after that who knows?

It wasn't all bad the first night we stopped in Hays, KS. found they didn't have any rooms so we drove on to Wakeeney. The second day we made it to Rawlins, Wyoming (which in my mind was probably the high point). Rawlins is home to the Wyoming Frontier Prison, which we toured the next morning. The prison has a interesting history, and I found they had made a horror/thiller movie there Prison in 1988. I've been looking for a copy ever since we left, and it's never been put on DVD here (the guide informed us that the movie pretty much tanked), so I'm going to have to import a copy from Europe to see it. The third day we finally made it to Ogden, Utah. Notes of interest the first leg, Wyoming is a very desolate place, Kansas may be flat but at least there are fields, plains, trees, a varied color palate. Wyoming is brown, sure every once in a while there will be a mountain hill range, but that's about it. It does however "green" up a little the closer you get to the Utah boarder. We entered Utah through the Wasatch Cache National Forest so it was scenic, but only a 2 lane windy road up, over, and through the mountains. We spent three days there before turning around and heading back home, which by the end of the week I was ready for.