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Dec. 29th, 2007

wb3

What I Scored for Christmas: A Samsung HDTV.

A lot of people on 1UP have been posting blogs about their Christmas loot, so I'm going to do the same. Actualy, I didn't get a lot of stuff this year, mainly because the one thing I did get for Christmas was a pretty big deal:


194610507653Yep, I scored a Samsung widescreen HDTV from this year -- which is ironic, considering that I just wrote a post three weeks ago bitching about not having a proper monitor to play my PlayStation 3 on.

The two things I really love about this TV are the relatively high contrast ratio for an LCD monitor (5000.1), and the number of inputs that I have available: 2 HDMI, 1 VGA, 2 Component, and a bunch of other inputs that I'll never actually use like S-video, etc...



Right now, I have my PC connected to the VGA port (as my secondary PC monitor), the PlayStation 3 connected to an HDMI port and my Xbox 360 connected via a Component input. I moved my other LCD computer monitor to my dresser for IRC, IM, and other secondary stuff.


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So far, I have to say that I'm really impressed by how my PS3 looks in HDMI. In fact, I'll even go so far as to say that the picture quality of my PS3 destroys my Xbox 360! Really, I'm shocked by how deep the colors are, and how sharp everything is when viewing HD movies and playing Uncharted. I've actually considered trading in my old Xbox 360 in for one of the newer ones with HDMI; but alas, if I do that, I'll get hit with Microsoft's stupid DRM bullshit again, so I guess I'm stuck with the 360 I currently have...

As a PC monitor, this TV holds up surprisingly well. While it only a max resolution of 1360 X 768, the high contrast ratio compared with my older monitor makes up for it. my only problem is that some of my PC games won't run until I switch back to my old monitor and change the resolution down from 1690 X 1050; but it's only a minor annoyance.

I haven't watched too much TV since I got this TV; but so far, I have to say that my impressions on HDTV broadcasts range from 'meh' to 'WOW!' Oddly enough, the programs that have impressed me the most are the local newscasts; hopefully though, that will change once I watch my first NFL game later today.

Anyway, other than the TV, I got some clothes and other minor stuff. Unfortunately, I also got a cold that hammered me on Christmas Eve. The good news (I guess) is that the cold went away right when I had to return to work... yay!


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Burnout: I still haven't decided if I'll get Burnout on either the Xbox 360 or PS3. While the Burnout demo does look a little nicer on the PS3 hooked to HDMI, all my friends will probably be playing the 360 version on live.

Cross-Examination: I have no clue when the next Cross-Examination will posted.

Oh, and one more thing: PS2 games upscale nicely on the TV -- but Final Fantasy 12 still has those annoying jaggies.

That's it for now. I'll try to post something before the new year, but no promises.

Dec. 15th, 2007

wb3

Burnout Paradise Demo: 360 vs. PS3 (Update: PS3 Fails Again).

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The Burnout Paradise demo came out today for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. So why is this such a big deal? Well, other than being able to try out a game that I've been eagerly anticipating, Burnout Paradise is also the first game that's been hyped to look and play better on the PlayStation 3.

Now personally, I don't really care if a multiplatform game runs better on either the PS3 or the Xbox 360, as I own both consoles; but I am curious to find out if the PS3 version is really the version to get or not. The problem for me is that if given the choice between getting a game for either the 360 or PS3, it's simply a no brainer: I'll always get the Xbox 360 version. The reasons for this are twofold...

1) Xbox Live -- Quite simply: Xbox Live blows away the PSN Network away. Yes, you actually pay for Xbox Live; but I always go by the old adage "You get what you pay for." Currently, I have 54 friends on Xbox Live compared to 10 friends on my PSN friends list. More importantly, there's always someone I know who is on Xbox Live anytime I happen to log on; more importantly, none of my friends who I actually know on PS3 is ever on, and if they are, their playing either Warhawk or Resistance.

2) Multiplatform Games Simply Look Better on the 360 -- Every game that I care about simply looks -- and more importantly -- runs much better on the 360. Graphics aren't everything; but if given the choice, why should I buy an inferior version of the same game?

But supposedly, Burnout Paradise changes all of that, Not only is the game expected to run better on the PS3; the online is better too -- on the PS3 version, you can invite any or your friends while in the game without using the (sometimes annoying) Xbox 360 guide button.

I downloaded the 360 version of the demo this morning, and I'm downloading the PS3 version as I write this. After I play around with both versions, I'll update this blog with impressions of both versions of the game.

Does the PS3 version flex the power of the Cell processor while putting the 360 to shame?

Or are reports of the PS3's version of Burnout being superior to the 360 simply BS?

Check back in a couple of hours...

Update: PlayStation 3 Fails Again!


It took me exactly ten seconds after booting-up the PS3 Burnout demo to come to a decision on which version I'm getting -- the Xbox 360 version.

Apparently, the PlayStation 3 version of Burnout Paradise only runs in 480P and 720P. If your monitor/TV only supports 1080i or 1080P, the Burnout automatically reverts to 4080P. let me repeat that... </b> Burnout Paradise for the supposedly more powerful PlayStation 3 does not support up-scaling to 1080</b>! So I guess Burnout is another game -- along with Resistance: Fall of Man and Motorstorm -- that I'm not getting on the PS3 because the supposedly more powerful PlayStation 3 dose not have a fucking hardware upscaler!

By the way: The Xbox 360 version of Burnout Paradise looks just fine on my 360 running in HD, via my VGA port.

For the record: I'm using a VGA cable to connect my 360 to a monitor, while I'm forced to use component to connect my PS3 to the same monitor -- because my DVI port is not HDCP compliant (copy protection). i can run my PS3 in 720P; but if I do that, then 15-20 percent of the screen gets cut-off -- so I'm basically stuck at running in 1080 on my PS3.

Bottom Line: screw-you EA, and especially screw-you Sony; it's now apparent that I'm going to be forced to buy another HDTV just to play many PS3 games past 480P resolution.


PS: Cross-Examination was posted last Monday. Be sure to check it out! Personally, I'm sort-of regretting not selection Mass-Effect as my personal game of the year, as I'm playing the game again on my second time through -- and I'm still hooked!

GameFly has finally seen fit to send me Uncharted: Drakes Fortune to me. Hopefully, I'll get it tomorrow and send back Ninja Gaiden Sigma back, as that game is not hooking me in at all (It doesn't help that I played the game years ago on the Xbox).

I just saw the sales figures for Call of Duty 4... Wow!!!

Dec. 7th, 2007

wb3

Choosing my Game of the Year.

Last week, Kat and I decided to do a "game of the year" topic for our next Cross-Examination. It's actually sort of a two-part of sorts: One part will focus on the best game that we've yet to play; the second part will be about our personal game of the year. Unfortunately, neither of us can play every game that came out this year, as I don't have a Wii and Kat doesn't have a 360 or PS3, so we thought that this would end-up being a good compromise (that, or we'll end-up writing about a game that we haven't actually played).

The first part -- Best Game that I Haven't Played -- is pretty easy to write-up. I won't spoil my decision here, but the game is pretty much a no-brainier -- especially for long-time readers of my blog -- but the second part totally has me stumped. For the past couple of days, I've been going back-and-forth between 4 games that I want to choose as my personal game of the year: Mass Effect, Orange Box, Call of Duty 4, and... Persona 3.

My main criteria for game of the year is a simple one: Any game that has kept my attention the longest is pretty much the front-runner for game of the year. Last year, Oblivion was easily my game of the year for the simple fact that I spent more time playing that game than all of the other games that I bought combined. In fact, I still play the game occasionally today. On the flip-side, Bioshock will never be on my short-list of game of the year candidates for this simple reason: After playing -- and completing -- the game in a week, I came to the conclusion that I'll never play the game again, so I traded it back in. Bioshock was a great game, but games are expensive, and I can't select any game as game of the year -- particularly a 60 dollar one -- that only gives you a week of compelling gameplay.

One thing that each of the above mentioned games have in common, is that I've spent almost an equal amount of time with them. So with my number one reason negated (length of play), I'm pretty much forced to look at each games negative aspects and measure compare them with the competition.

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMass Effect - My main problem with Mass Effect is that while the quest and story itself is groundbreaking, parts of the actual game itself are pretty average: Actual combat is pretty clunky, as more often than not, a bad guy will charge straight at you while your moronic teammates focus on the one guy who isn't actively attacking your party; this is compounded by the fact that the game has a habit of "freezing" for a second in the middle of a battle, causing you to mess-up your aiming/timing at precisely the wrong moments.

Speaking of frame-rate, another major problem with this game is the graphics -- mainly the ugly pop-in. Everytime a new scene is loaded, the characters will end up being a flat-shaded mess until the game load's the bump-map textures. In fact, there were times when entire scenes would play out without the textures -- ruining the entire scene. In fact, mass Effect is quite possibly the first console game that I've seen that allows you to change graphic settings in order to increases the games performance! After I turned off motion blur and the grain effect, the game actually ran much smoother!

Those two issues aside, another problem that I have is the games horrible inventory's system. basically, you get to carry 150 items, and if you go over, any extra item that you find must be destroyed; you don't even get the option of destroying any current item in your innovatory to make room!no, you're forced to destroy the item you just found -- annoying.


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketOrange Box -- Yes, the Orange Box is a great value, no question about it. The problem is that unlike Oblivion, the orange Box's value is based on the inclusion of five separate games -- games that would never be considered game of the year material on their own.

Two of the games automatically get disqualified for the simple reason that I played them over a year ago: Half Life 2 and Episode 1. Episode 2 -- while an incredible game -- suffers from the Bioshock syndrome: After you beat the game, there's a good chance that you'll never play it again.

So that leaves Portal and Team Fortress 2. I can't judge TF2, as I have had no desire to play the game at all since I got the Orange Box for the PC. Right now, there are just too many games to play, and Teem Fortress 2 (Read: Graphics style) just didn't appeal to me. As for Portal: It's ground breaking, innovative brilliant at times, and... 2 hours long. The game mainly consists of 19 training levels with one large "real" level.



Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketCall of Duty 4 -- A month ago, I would have never considered buying COD4, let alone consider it as a candidate for GOTY; I was, quite frankly, getting sick and tired of 1st person shooters when the game came out in early November. The final nail in the coffin was when I heard that the games single-player campaign only lasted "five hours."

But two weeks ago I decided to subscribe to gamefly, and the first game that I received was COD4. Two weeks later, I ended-up buying the game. Why? Simple, the single-player campaign of COD4 ended-up being so good, that I ended-up replaying some of the earlier levels just to experience some of the games incredible moments. I won't get into any of them now because of spoilers, but I will say that COD4 is the first military game where I actually felt like I was in a middle of a battlefield.

The feeling of immersion was helped by the fact that the game not only looks incredible, but also ran at a solid 60 FPS, something that all future 1st-person shooters should inspire to.

Ironically, my only real problem with COD 4 is something that many people would consider the games greatest asset: Multiplayer. There really isn't anything wrong with the multiplayer mode except for one major annoyance: the games leveling system. Let's just say that I have a major problem with ant game that gives the experienced players more weapons and options than new players who are just starting out. I've been reluctant to dive into multiplayer for the simple reason that while some guy who's played the game for five billion hours will always slaughter me with the latest high-tech weapon, while I'm stuck with my simple M1 rifle -- annoying and discouraging to say the least.


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPersona 3 -- "A PlayStation 2 game?" Yep, not only is Persona 3 the hands-down, the best PS2 game of the year (I'm not a huge fan of God of War personally), it's also the best JRPG and quite possibly... maybe... my favorite game this year. While most RPG's story take place in either a medieval setting or a futuristic "Star-Trek" world; persona 3 is unique in that the game takes place in present day.

Everything from the characters, the story, and even the music separates this game from virtually every other RPG that I've played. You're a new transfer student who quickly finds out that you have a special power to summon Persona's -- demons/shadows/whatever. By day, you're just a regular student going through the trials and tribulations of life; but at night, you and your team/classmates travel to the dark-hour to discover the secrets of the mysterious tower: Tartarus.




A little fact: I've spent more time playing this game on my PS3 than I have playing actual PS3 games. In fact, this game would be a shoe-in for my personal favorite game of the year, save for one major problem: the battle system.

Basically, you only have control over your character -- all the other characters are controlled by the computer. This wouldn't be so bad except that your teammates are, well... total morons. Example: An enemy attacks you and leaves you with 20 HP, one more hit will kill you. What does your teammate do? Simple, he/she raises your defense. To be fair, most of the time, they do the right thing and actually heal you, but not always.



What makes this little A.I. problem even worse is the simple fact that if your character dies in battle, it's an automatic game over! Your teammates can be killed and revived, but for some reason, if you die, then that's it. Somehow, your enemies seem to know this, but your teammates seem to miss this obvious point, which makes Persona 3 aggravating at times.


Which of these games will end-up becoming my game of the year? Check out Cross-Examination later this week or early next week to find out.

Nov. 15th, 2007

wb3

Cross-Examination; PS3 Themes.

Well, after a two month absence, Cross-Examination is officially back. The New installment was just posted a few minutes ago: Cross-Examination: The Big Three Console Run-Down of 2007.

Anyway, it's an interesting run-down on how well each console did this past year. Look for additional "up and down" segments featuring 3rd-party publishers, developers, media sites, etc...

Anyway, on to another topic: PS3 Themes!

While the (over) hyped 2.0 Firmware that Sony released last week was largely a bust, there was one feature that I've been very interested in as of late: The ability to edit your PlayStation 3 dashboard with new themes!

Unfortunately, the theme included with the update was pretty "blah", and the extra ones available on the PSN weren't much better.

Thankfully, Sony has released a neat little tool that will allow anyone with some basic XML skills to make their own personal themes.

Now if you don't want to go through the trouble of building your own themes, there are already many custom made available online. One cool site: PSThemes.com has a bunch of really cool XML themes available: examples include a cool Apple Leopard theme; a slick Metal Gear Solid 4 theme, and an incredible Okami theme.

Edit: I found another site with more PS3 themes: All PS3 Themes.com.

Here are a few screenshots...

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Nov. 13th, 2007

wb3

Portal User-Created PC Mods/Levels.

Because someone ordered me to....I decided to re-post some of my blogs from 1up.

Like many people, I've been playing a crap-load of Valve's The Orange Box; more specifically, I've been playing a crap-load of Portal. Unfortunately, there is only so much that you can play of Portal before you'll start to get a little board of the 19+ levels in the original game.

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While owners of the Xbox 360 version of The Orange Box are pretty much stuck to replaying the same Portal levels over-and-over until Valve releases charges for some downloadable content; PC owners on the other-hand have access to a bunch of free mods and extra user-created levels.

After downloading and playing the cool ren_test2 map a few days ago, I decided to search the tubes for any sites that are dedicated to creating extra user-crated portal mods/levels.

The results: Here are a couple of sites that stuck out...

portalmaps.net

portal-mods.com

I've been trying out a few of the maps, and while they're a little rough around the edges, some of these maps are starting to show some progress.

A couple of screenshots that I took....

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I've been thinking about playing around with the source SDK to see if I can make my own Portal map (or two), my past experience with learning how to program pretty much turned into a big bust.

Jun. 26th, 2007

wb3

There!

I updated the damn page; happy? Now GTFO!;)