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PS3's Slim Chance

This Tuesday Sony officially and finally announced the PS3 Slim.  It’ll use less power and fit into smaller places than the current models.  But it will still have the smaller library of games, the Playstation Network will still be inferior to Xbox Live and you still won’t be able to play any PS2 games on it.  I’m sure Sony is pleased that this will help them catch Microsoft for the number two spot of current generation consoles.  It probably won’t.

If anything is able to help Sony it’s the price drop.  The slim model will cost less and they finally came to the realization that no one wants to pay $400 for a videogame console right now.  It’s just too bad for them that their competitors figured that out last year.  Not to mention that now that they’ve dropped their price, Microsoft will probably do the exact same thing.  And since the Playstation brand is nowhere near what it used to be, saying that you still have the most expensive machine but now it’s smaller, isn’t going to help you get them out of the hole they dug themselves.  It’s not like this thing is coming with a book reminding Sony how to sell systems.  A redesign doesn’t fix all the problems they’ve had with marketing the last few years.  The problems with the PS3 have never been about the hardware.  Only fanboys and people with a taste for ignorance would say the PS3 isn’t great hardware.  The problems are coming from the people running the show.  You can’t say the upcoming lineup for the PS3 doesn’t look amazing… well you can say that because whoever’s doing the ad campaigns for Sony is an idiot.  Now when people think videogames they think Nintendo and Microsoft and that company with the expensive console.  Even though the price difference between the PS3 and the 360 hasn’t been that big since the PS3 launch.  People still think of it as the $600 console.  Microsoft has gotten people to think of the 360 as a hip device with glorious amounts of synergy.  Sweet delicious synergy.  Success of products rarely rests on one’s quality it has to do with convincing your products better than the alternative.

To me making a smaller, streamlined system is not a surprise.  Both the original Playstation and the PS2 eventually got the same treatment.  However both of those came out as the successor was known to be in the works.  The slim is coming out much sooner than I thought it would and it seems that Sony is reaching into their bag of tricks a little too soon. Dropping the price too late and bringing out a redesign too soon makes me see how poorly Sony is handling their products.   Maybe this will do really well and companies will start making more games for the PS3.  We’ll start finding out in September whether or not the Slim will matter.  With Microsoft and Nintendo still far ahead redesigning your hardware may not be enough.     
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Ready or Not Here Comes Halo

Come September of 2010(probably), Bungie will release Halo: Reach for the millions of Halo fans.  With this Microsoft will finally be free of the burden of restraint that Bungie has bullied onto them when it comes to the franchise that made Xbox.  The shackles will be taken off and the monster will be let loose.  No longer will we have to wonder what crazy shenanigans Master Chief is really intended to do,  pump cash into Microsoft’s greasy hands.  It’ll be like free money.  Sure there will be overhead from developing the dizzying array of tie-ins and schwag but, really, who’s gonna care. 

Attempts at extending the brand have been in effect for years now with the novels, comics, cd’s and different types of games with Halo Wars.  While this sounds like a lot all of these products were still (to an extent)meant to meaningfully expand on the fiction.   A spartan made its into DOA 4 and that was clearly a warning sign.  Soon there will be an anime, someday a movie, and more games that look less and less like what the first game was.  Bungie has been able to keep busy, forcing Microsoft to keep things in check so far, everything has at the very least been something you could entertain yourself with.  That’s already beginning to change.  Mark Ecko is coming out with some ugly t-shirts.   And in an effort to prove synergy is always awesome, Halo waypoint is going to give you everything you need to know about Halo, where to buy it, when to buy, and how to buy it, all in one convenient on-line destination.  All this before Bungie is even, completely, gone.

I, for one, can’t wait to see Halo vs. Sonic at the X Games sponsored by The Dew.  The Arbitor will go for the gold in skateboarding and Rally racing against his new arch nemesis, Tails.  The prophet of Regret will face off against Dr. Robotnik in floaty chair street luge.  More and more games with less and less effort and care going into them.  On the bright side, we’re just a few years away from the inevitable and glorious reboot of Halo.  Remember last year when EA said they were going to change how they were handling the Need for Speed series.  Remember how they immediately announced four different games in the series.  Soon you’ll remember great games like; Halo 8, Halo: Black(by Criterion, don’t ask how), Halo Stealth and Halo: Spartan Jump rope.  This is how things work and it’s what makes America great.  Whenever bullies, like Bungie, step out of the way of progress we all succeed.  Poor Microsoft has been sitting on their hands and twiddling their thumbs for the day that Bungie packs their crap and leaves Halo behind.  And Master Chief and Cortana are gonna get married and have holographic cybernetic seven foot tall space marine babies, and they’re going to fight Army Men.  Hallelujah.     
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Left 4 Dead 2 Gets Two New Enemies. First Screenshot

You guessed right kids, it’s Madonna’s arms.   You may be wondering how Valve was able to license the arms of someone so famous?  But I think it’s safe to say all parties involved know that there’s nothing scarier than what this chick is packing.  It will be interesting to see how they will be used in the game and what exactly will their attacks be like.  Will they even attack you at all?  Just getting close enough to creep you out could give the horde the advantage it needs.  Think about it.  If these monsters were to get near you, would you be able to concentrate at the task at hand?  I sure as hell couldn’t.  I’d stop doing everything I was supposed to because I would be very nervous and frightened.  They’re like Cousin It’s gross cousin that he won’t associate with because they’re too weird and disgusting. 

Perhaps they’ll be like the flood from Halo.  You know, the enemy that your enemy fears.   Tanks and Boomers are no match for these things.  How could Madonna’s arms be afraid of something that vomits if they’re the things causing the vomiting.  How will a Tank be able to strike them?  No Tank will want to touch them.  What happens if you touch them?  What if you caught what they have?  No one, humans and infected alike, wants a raging case of Madonna arms.

So, I say, lets end this boycott now!  It’s obvious that Valve isn’t bringing us a quick cash-in sequel.  This isn’t something they could have offered as DLC.  If they were to send these to your 360 or PC, it could cause crashes and freezing and explosions.  Keeping it on a disc is the safest way of giving us old fashioned scares.

So now I”m even more anxious get my hands on L4D2.  This could be the first truly truly scary video game.  We'll know for sure November 17th.

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Modern Warfare is Call of Duty

Turns out that Modern Warfare 2 is a pretty dumb name for a video game.  It’s actually a bad name for pretty much anything.  When it was revealed that it would say Call of Duty on the box inerest in the product skyrocketed.  Now I’m not one to normally criticize others for giving something generic boring titles but, Modern Warfare 2 is a boring and generic title.  It sounds more like a description for a show on the military channel.  When was the last time you watched the military channel?  Probably never.  Because it’s boring.  They might as well have called it, “Shooting Guns 2: The Sequel to Shooting Guns”.  Modern Warfare works only as a subtitle because people expect subtitles to describe what the product is to a certain extent.  Just look at Call of Duty: World at War.  If it were just called “World at War” no one would ever want to play it.   What on Earth has propelled Infinity Ward to simply call it Modern Warfare 2.  There should be no controversy about this.  Since it’s now on the regular edition’s box you can call it what it is, a Call of Duty game.  Quit being all pissy because Activision lets another team work on games called Call of Duty.  There are enough people who realize that if the box doesn’t have the Infinity Ward logo on it that it’s not as good as a Call of Duty game can be.  Hell, calling it Call of Duty 6: Modern Warfare 2 would be better than just Modern Warfare 2.

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Modern Warfare 2: The Art of Being Ridiculous

As you probably already know,  Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is following the trend of having multiple retail sku’s when it’s released this November.  However with it’s release it has raised the bar on ridiculous crap to be included with its Prestige Edition.  It even trumps “Halo 3 Spartan Helmet Edition”.  This will be the first, and hopefully not last, game to come bundled with fully functional night vision goggles.  While there is no need or practical reason for me to purchase this particular edition of the game and the fact that asking $150 is too much to purchase the game, I will still be purchasing the Prestige Edition.  No one buying a video game needs a pair of working night vision goggles along with their purchase.  It’s unneccessary and dumb.  But that isn’t going to stop me.  I’m gonna walk around in the dark with my Infinity Ward branded night vision goggles and not bump into anything.  I don’t even have any reason for night vision goggles.  If I wanted I could even get a better less expensive pair.  However I’m an idiot and I’m just fine with that.  Also you get a voucher to download the very first Call of Duty and that’s rad.

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I'm O.K. at Being Terrible: The Story of Battlefield 1943

Since this Wednesday I’ve been playing quite a bit of Battlefield 1943.  It’s the only game I feel like playing right now but the thing is, I’m absolutely awful at it.  I’m completely useles with the sniper rifle, moreso than I usually am with a sniper rifle.  I can’t fly a plane to save my life, though that seems pretty common for people in a Battlefield game.  I can sort of do alright with the infantry class but I’m still not very good.

Being bad at an online game has usually made it much harder for me to actually enjoy the game.  However even when I’m doing badly I’m still enjoying myself.  A kamikaze attack on Iwo Jima can be one of the more exciting moments even if you didn’t do it intentionally.  If I fly in the third person it’s not a total nightmare but it’s still ugly.  I’ve probably killed myself more than I’ve killed other people with planes.  Luckily, I can drive the tanks and the jeeps without screwing my team over.

There are some things that I don’t understand though.  Like why when you zoom in with the sniper rifle there’s a second or so when you are not able to see.  It’s like after you put your eye to the scope the lens cover hasn’t been taken off yet.  And since the sniper rifle only shoots one bullet at a time you regularly can’t see for a second when you want to shoot.  I still wouldn’t be any good with it if I weren’t blind for that second but I just don’t get it.  Does the game not count your kills unless you kill them with your main weapon?  There have been a number of times when I would kill someone with a grenade or destroy an enemy tank with the bazooka and my killcount wouldn’t increase. 

I’m really hoping that as time goes on DICE releases more maps.  It seems likely that they will.  I’ve always liked the European theatre more than the Asian theatre.  Old European architecture is good for fighting others on my television.  Coral Sea just isn’t my cup of tea since I can’t fly a plane..

I’ll probably do better the more I play but right now I’m finishing games with five kills and ten deaths more often than not.  Being bad at an online shooter almost always makes it harder to enjoy but so far Battlefield 1943 is the rare exception.  Anyways, if I get too bad and want to play an online WWII shooter I can still go back and play COD 2 and kick the crap out of the last 12 people playing that.

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My Memories of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker

When I was a kid the most popular musical artist on the entire planet was Michael Jackson.  For the most part I didn’t listen to his music since I just wasn’t into dance R&B.  But there was one thing that I loved him for.  When I was eight years old I went over to a friends house because he had a Sega Genesis and I only had my eight bit NES.  When he said he wanted to show the Michael Jackson game I thought he had lost his mind.  First of all, he knew I wasn’t a Michael Jackson fan.  Not only that but he wasn’t one either.  Apparently his mom got it for him because she thought that it would help him learn to dance or sing…or whatever, I don’t know.  But I know she thought it would be family friendly.  Anyway when he turned it on and the screen read, “Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker” and the music started playing I immediately became intrigued.  It looked like some kind of futuristic robot war with fantastic music was about to go down.  Or at least that’s what I imagined from seeing the font as a little kid.

The first level you spin through a door as Michael and toss a quarter into a jukebox from ten feet away and the music starts.  That may have been the single greatest entrance in the history of gaming up to that point.  It was also immediately the best music I had heard in a game.  It’s still the best music in any game to this day.  Smooth Criminal just translates to midi Genesis recordings so well. 

The gameplay up until the last level is a fairly standard beat em up where you have to rescue kidnapped children from the evil Mr. Big, but you do have a few special attacks.  You can slide down banisters taking out several enemies at once.  You can perform a spin move where if you spin long enough you can use your fedora as a boomerang and take out anyone that it hits.  My favorite and one of the most enjoyable moments you can hope to have comes when you get all the enemies around you to dance with you.  Depending on the level it will play a different Michael Jackson song.  When the dance is over all the enemies drop to the floor and you can move on.  It’s really fun to do but it does take away some of your health.

The game also incorporates other aspects of Michael’s moves and friends.  When you perform the standard attack, a kick, it looks like the dance move that he performed during his career.  It also shoots something out of his foot.  I can’t tell if its stars or ninja stars but it doesn’t matter.  When he does this or practically any other move he shouts, “WOO”.  The last level you get to play as the robot from the movie.  It’s a first person section where you’re shooting at Mr. Big.  It’s ridiculous in concept but great in execution.  Just like the rest of the game.

I can’t believe that a game based on a movie that had Michael Jackson as a robot fighting Joe Pesci is as fun as it is.  The movie is great in its own way to.  Eventhough I was never a big fan of his music, I, along with millions of others, managed to entertained.  Not in the way most were but, I still have fond memories and they’re in part due to Michael Jackson.

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The PS2: The Most Interesting Console Today!

Nine years after its release the PS2 remains without a doubt the most interesting console on the market today.  It’s not the most powerful and most of the high profile big budget franchises have moved on.  However, if you look closely you’ll see that since it’s so cheap to develop for that small unique companies are making games that otherwise may have never seen the light.  I can’t defend the quality of many of these games but there will always be an audience for something different.  If a game developer wants to lure non gamers, the PS2 is where you do it.

You can look at games like Biathlon 2008 or Secret Saturdays: Beast of the 5Sun and see that the PS2 is still releasing wide range of different games.  I realize almost no one is interested in those but it’s nice to see that extremely niche games have a place where they can find a home.  Someone somewhere really wants to go cross country skiing and shoot from their living room and now they have their chance.  Biathlon 2008 even has some competition.  Ski and Shoot was released earlier this year.  Now there are two versions of the same boring sport available to you.

The PS2 is the place to go if you’re into jrpg’s.  Persona 4 came out last holiday season and is the best recent example of a turn based rpg.  At the rate publishers are still putting out jrpg’s, soon the PS2 will be the very best place for you to fight orcs and griffons with your mages, knights and thieves in the history of gaming.

While you won’t find the Metal Gear Solid’s or the God of War’s landing on the PS2 shelves at your local Gamestop anymore, you’re still able to find your Guitar Hero’s and your Madden football.  In a time where people are trying to crack the casual mainstream audience,  the answer has been right under their noses for the last decade.  People aren’t just interested in shooting aliens.  Some people want to try out virtual bull riding in their house.  Now they have a place to find it.

So I’m not going to try to convince that the XBOX360, PS3, and the Wii aren’t getting the best games being released at this point.  They are(maybe not the Wii).  What I am trying to tell you is that, if you want to see something different from a game.  If you want to play a game just because it looks really stupid and cheap, because those can still be fun.  Go with the PS2. 

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New XBOX in 2010? Don't Count On It.

Recently there have been rumors flying about a brand new XBOX coming in 2010.  Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer even went ahead and confirmed one for us.  But you shouldn’t get your hopes up because next year won’t see the release of any 360 successor. 

First off Microsoft has no reason to come out with all new hardware next year.  They’re coming out with Project Natal but that isn’t being designed for a new system.  It’s being designed for the 360.  It’ll work with standalone 360’s.  I’m positive that Natal will be bundled with the current hardware and that Microsoft will treat it as a new hardware launch but it won’t be new hardware.  If Ballmer was speaking about all new hardware why would he simply mention it in passing at a non gaming event where it wasn’t the centerpiece to his speech.  When Microsoft announces new hardware they make a show about it.  There’s a party.  They try to get people really excited about what they are coming out with.  They don’t have someone go to the Executive Club of Chicago where people are talking about the recession.  No one goes somewhere to talk about a recession and how they’re going to release brand new expensive hardware.  It’s simply the wrong setting for such an announcement.

The 360 still has legs.  The games coming out this year look better than they did last year and the year before that.  What’s wrong with letting devolopers stay on the current generation and continuing to improve and make money before game production costs go up again for a new system.  Developers don’t want new hardware yet and since Microsoft is trying to be the best friend they can be to them, they won’t want to force them onto something new they have to learn.  It’s only been out for three and a half years and this console cycle is going to be longer than the last one.  Sony and Nintendo aren’t coming out with new hardware for a very long time.  Microsoft had to rush their console to market to be the first one’s out.  That need to rush their system onto shelves led to the Red Rings of Death.  The console wasn’t finished when they sent it out.   This time they’ll have more than enough time to properly test and re-test whatever it is they want before they start selling it.

Aaron Greenburg, Director of Product Management for XBOX360 and XBOX Live, has said that Ballmer was talking about Project Natal.  I’m more inclined to believe someone who is specifically working with the 360 than the CEO of the whole company.  Why?  Because a CEO has far more to worry about.  Someone who’s working directly on the project is going to know more about that specific project. 

That being said, it’s pretty obvious that Project Natal will be in a bundle with the 360 starting next year.  I’m sure the hardware in that box will be less prone to breaking and over heating.  But it will be the same hardware running the same games.  I’m sure millions of people are going to flailing around their living rooms with You’re In The Movies II.  I’m sure I’ll buy one because I’m a sucker.

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