Tag Archives: Xbox Live

Pick Up Left 4 Dead 2 & The Wolf Among Us For Free!

Morning all, hope you’ve had a pleasant Christmas with all the usual gifts and trimmings. The surprises aren’t just limited to Christmas Day in the gaming industry though!

Until 10am Pacific Time on December 26th, you can pick up Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 on Steam for free – go to the store page and click on ‘Install’, and you will receive the complementary license to have the game in your Steam library forever. You do not have to install the game straight off the bat as some reports have confusingly stated; if its in your Library, you can install it at your leisure.

Meanwhile on Xbox Live, the first episode of TellTale Games’ The Wolf Among Us is currently free to download for both Gold and Silver members, with the full season pass also discounted to just £6. The deal expires on December 31st, so download it while you can. I played through the first episode last night and thought it was excellent – you can see my review here.

Meanwhile, remember to keep your eyes on the Steam Winter Sale which updates each day until January 3rd. Happy deal hunting!

Xbox Live Dashboard Update Released Around The World Today

After a few months in beta testing, Microsoft is aiming to roll out the updated dashboard for Xbox Live over the next few weeks, starting with 3 million users around the world today. The update (which will be roughly the sixth or seventh one since I bought an Xbox 360 four years ago) will bring a few features that were highlighted in Microsoft’s presentation at this years E3 conference, including the addition of Internet Explorer as a web browser. The full list of changes is listed below, straight from the mouth of Major Nelson:

Refreshed Xbox 360 Dashboard. We’ve updated the UI with a few things, including an updated layout with more tiles, a combined TV & Movies channel and, in the US, a Sports destination.

Internet Explorer for Xbox. With Internet Explorer on Xbox, you can easily find and view internet content on the biggest screen in the house, including HTML5 videos.

Recommendations and Ratings. Recommendations will allow you to discover new favorites, generated based on a number of variables including the content you previously viewed, what your friends are consuming and what is most relevant and popular with our Xbox community. You can now rate content yourself and also see Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

Pinning. Pinning lets you personalize the dashboard by saving your favorite movies, TV shows, games, music, videos and websites right to the home screen. It’s as easy as opening an app or a favorite movie and clicking “pin.”

Xbox Video. Formerly called Zune Video Marketplace, Xbox Video offers hundreds of thousands of TV shows and movies for buying or renting in instant HD streaming.

Recent. Previously called Quick Play, the Recent view gives you a list of movies, games, apps or other types of content that you most recently accessed on the console.

Enhanced Search. The last Xbox LIVE update brought Bing voice search to Xbox so you could use voice to search for movies, TV shows, actors, directors and artists. This year we added genre search to the list, so now you can search for action, comedy, romance, drama or sci-fi. Bing voice search now includes results for video across the Web, including YouTube.

International Expansion of Voice Search. We’ve expanded our Kinect voice search capabilities to 9 new countries – Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Ireland.

Alongside these changes, the Xbox Music service is also now available for all Xbox Live Gold users. On paper, it doesn’t seem like a bad update; the pinning feature in particular has promise if it can remove all the adverts from the home screen. What you do you make of it?

FIFA 13 Demo Review

When I opened the curtains this morning, it was a grey and dull September morning that welcomed me. All the more excuse then to stay inside and pop onto Xbox Live to download the demo for the latest iteration of the most popular football franchise in the world, FIFA 13. It was released yesterday alongside a demo for F1 2012 (a quick word on that later) so chances are you have already played it a fair bit, but for those without the time to test it out yet this is a quick review of what’s going on with this years premium ball kicking simulation. Continue reading FIFA 13 Demo Review

An Hour With Gotham City Impostors

The over the top design helps this game from being just another XBLA shooter...

A few days ago, Gotham City Impostors was released as a downloadable title on both Xbox Live and the Playstation Network. You could be forgiven for being unaware of its existence – after all, the invitations to the beta where hidden away in copies of Batman: Arkham City, and I suspect the majority of people forgot about it as they rushed to play through the adventures of the Dark Knight. I downloaded the trial game yesterday, and happily found that it comes with an hour allowance to play against other people online. This is a quick review of what I found the game to be like.

Gotham City Impostors is an online only multiplayer game pitting up to at least eight players against each other. Players are split into two teams; The Bats (a group of vigilantes who fight under Batman’s code – only they use guns instead) & The Jokerz (a gang of crazies who fashion themselves after the Clown Prince Of Crime himself) in a series of game modes, including a traditional Team Deathmatch and Fumigation, which works a bit like Attack/Defend from Team Fortress 2. The game take place from the first person perspective and it is your objective to kill as many of the other guys as possible.

Even from a solitary hour’s gameplay, the influence of titles like the Modern Warfare series stands out. You gain EXP from doing all sorts of stuff including kills, capturing points and winning games, and using a level up system you can unlock new weapons, gadgets and modifications. You can also create custom load-outs and have a customisable ‘calling card’ that your enemies see when you kill them – again think titles and dogtags from MW. Even the control layout is near enough a rip-off of Call Of Duty, right down to using the R3 button to melee and using the bumper buttons to activate special equipment.

What stops Gotham City Impostors from being a complete rip-off is the character the game possesses. It takes a very light hearted approach to the Batman universe – as the gangs can’t afford the money for all the expensive gadgets that Bruce Wayne uses, equipment has a delightfully ‘homemade’ feel to it. You can use a wind up grapple hook to quickly manoeuvre around the maps (which are quite well designed it must be said), and some classes can use roller-skates to launch off ramps and zoom around. Bombs are sticks of dynamite, and to heal team-mates you shout down a microphone. All the while, you exchange hilarious pleasantries with the enemy while you shoot them in the face. It’s all a very fun experience, bound together with a sense of quality and polish you would expect from a game on a disc.

I came away from the trial but a big smile on my face and I must admit I am impressed with Gotham City Impostors – I thought it would be a low effort attempt at a downloadable game when I first heard about it, but Monolith Productions have done a good job. I think it’s a bit pricey at 1200 MS Points, but at least you aren’t getting massively short-changed for the experience. I would very much recommend getting the trial for yourself to test out this crazy little bag of fun.

Wii U To Be Released By The End Of The Year, Final Fantasy XIII-2 Gets Mixed Reviews & HD Remakes For 10th Anniversary Of Phoenix Wright

Good morning everyone; I apologise that I haven’t been able to get much out in terms of news recently as I have been beavering away on my dissertation. Consider this a quick round up of news from the past week or so:

  • Have you been looking at the Wii stashed in the corner of your room recently and thought ‘Man…I wish the Wii U would come out soon’? Well fear no more, because Nintendo President Satoru Iwata confirmed that the console will be released in this calendar year. Speaking at an investor meeting, Mr Iwata claimed that the console will be ready to buy in all regions by the time that 2013 rolls around. This is encouraging news for the Big N, who also had to swallow the bad news at the meeting that they will be making a loss this year…of 65 billion Yen (£535 million).
  • In other news on the eight generation front, the Marketing Director of Microsoft France has stated in a recent interview not to expect a console reveal from Microsoft this year. He makes the good point that the company has yet to slash the price of a Xbox 360 yet (usually a sure sign that the next gen is on the way), but this is all up against overwhelming feeling that we WILL see a new console at some point this year – possibly with Blu Ray support and ‘six times the power’ of the current console if rumours are to be believed. I maintain my opinion: they have to release at least something in order to not fall behind Nintendo in the race for the next generation of gaming.
  • The first big console release of the year, Final Fantasy XIII-2 has been getting a mixed reaction across the board. It seems the general consensus is that it’s a better game than Final Fantasy XIII, but in removing the linearity of that game Square Enix have left behind a sub standard story and retained the auto battle system. It’s all a bit disheartening – I played and quite enjoyed the demo (I like the whole idea of recruiting monsters and giving them hats to wear), but in a strange case of déjà vu, just like with XIII I have been put off a day one purchase. No doubt I will get round to playing it eventually.
  • Happy 10th anniversary to Phoenix Wright – the ace attorney who has made court cases fun and made shouting ‘OBJECTION!!!’ in the middle of a busy street an acceptable thing to do…well I exaggerate but you get the point. And to celebrate the birthday, Capcom are making a fifth game in the series, most likely to be an exclusive on the 3DS. Not only that, but the first three games in the series (Ace Attorney, Justice For All & Trials And Tribulations) will all be getting a HD remake for iOS and Android platforms. Early reports suggest that prices may be as low as 1,200 Yen ($15) for all three, which is a bargain considering the originals are quite rare and can be found going for about £30 apiece online at the moment. And that’s not even mentioning the upcoming Phoenix Wright/Professor Layton crossover being developed by the excellent Level 5 for 3DS.
  • If ever you needed convincing that Street Fighter X Tekken will be better on the PS3 than the Xbox 360, this week we got news that confirmed it – the PS3 and PS Vita versions of the game will be getting two exclusive characters, in the form of Mega Man and Pac Man.
  • The Witcher 2, the RPG that got some serious acclaim on the PC last year, has a confirmed release date for Xbox 360 – it will be arriving on April 17th 2012.
  • Finally, news from the realm of digital downloads – we learnt this week what the most popular titles were on both PSN and Xbox Live for 2012. On PSN, an old favourite took the crown as Tetris was the most downloaded game ahead of the HD remake of Resident Evil 4, while the god simulator From Dust shifted 375,000 units on Xbox Live to be the best selling title ahead of the still very-popular Castle Crashers.

A few shameless plugs to make before I head off – you may have noticed my new feature on the blog showcasing some of my favourite Video Game Music; all the tracks are split into individuals posts if you go to the ‘Best VGM’ link at the top of the page. Finally, I recently did a pilot pod-cast with Callum Loughlin, a good friend of mine from Lincoln University, where we talked about video games for about two hours. If you have time to burn, you can listen to the fruits of our labours for free by downloading the pod-cast from ITunes via this link.

SWTOR Earns New World Record, Pokemon Grey On The Way & What Was Most Played On Xbox Live In 2011?

G’day folks, hope you have all had an enjoyable start to 2012. Here’s a quick update of the more interesting stories form the start of the New Year.

  • The Christmas period has been a very successful time for Nintendo, certainly in its homeland of Japan. Last month they shifted 1,492,931 units of the 3DS in Japan, which broke records for the highest monthly hardware sales recorded in the country. This is a stark contrast to sales of the PS Vita, which similar to the 3DS has had a tough start to its life – only selling 402,704 units since its launch, which is below the anticipated numbers. It’s only taken a year, but the 3DS seems to be picking up steam now.
  • Speaking of Steam, its been pretty good numbers coming from Valve’s digital service in 2011. Year by year unit sales have improved by over 100% for the seventh straight year in a row, and they had 5 million concurrent users for the first time in late December, no doubt fuelled by the brilliant sales that were on offer. The big cheese of Valve, Gabe Newell, has promised there will be more free to play games next year as Steam continues to go onwards and upwards.
  • The good news continues in PC land for Star Wars: The Old Republic. It has already seen a steady growth in player base since its release late in December, and the enormous game has now been recognised by the Guinness Book Of Records for having the ‘Largest Entertainment Voice Over Project’ ever. With over 200,000 lines of dialogue recorded, its not hard to see why.
  • Are we going to see Pokemon Grey this year? It certainly seems that way at this moment in time. Several Japanese publications have been dropping hints that a new game will be on the way, and that inkeeping with traditional format it will be an update to the existing games of the generation, Black & White, with more of a focus on one of the legendary Pokemon in the story – in this case, most likely it will be the ice dragon Kyurem. A domain name was registered for the game last year, but the Pokemon Company have been tight lipped on the issue. The main issue is whether or not it will be exclusive to the 3DS or not; more news on this when it arrives.
  • And to finish with, we take a quick look back at 2011 – specifically, the most played games on Xbox Live for the year. It’s a depressingly solid set of statistics to back up the notion that gaming has become too orientated towards first person shooters, with the Call Of Duty franchise dominating the list. Black Ops took 1st prize, Modern Warfare 3 popped into 2nd, and Modern Warfare 2 took 3rd, while the original Modern Warfare is astonishingly high at 14th (not bad for a game released over four years ago). Another surprise is that Halo 3 still holds firm in 16th place. The full top 20 is listed below.

1. Call Of Duty: Black Ops

2. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

3. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

4. Halo: Reach

5. Battlefield 3

6. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

7. Gears of War 3

8. FIFA 12

9. FIFA 11

10. Madden NFL 12

11. GTA IV

12. NBA 2K11

13. Battlefield: Bad Company 2

14. Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

15. Battlefield 3 Beta

16. Halo 3

17. Gears Of War 2

18. Forza Motorsport 4

19. Red Dead Redemption

20. Call Of Duty: World At War

Keep your eyes peeled over the next few days for my review of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and feel free to browse all the other content I have to offer on the blog. Happy reading 🙂

Top 10…Most Important Games On Microsoft Consoles

Welcome to Part One of a new initiative on my blog – the introduction of guest writers! This initiative will be part of a small series looking back at some of the most pivotal games on all time, focusing on the efforts on Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft and PC gaming – if it proves to be popular, I may well extend the project to take in other great names such as Sega and Atari. The basic idea for this project came about because I wanted to take a look back of ten years of Microsoft in the games industry, and then thought that it would be a worthwhile effort to include the other major players in the industry. What you will be getting is a series of top ten lists looking at the games which have defined the companies and their consoles – not necessarily the best selling games, but those which the writers feel have had the biggest influence over time.

And so to the writers themselves – I will be looking back at 10 years of Microsoft, and I have enlisted some of my good friends to write the lists for Sony and Nintendo – they will be revealed in due course. You know, to make it more exciting when you read them.

And so without further ado, here is Part One:

Top 10…Most Important Games On Microsoft Consoles

When the 15th November 2011 marched by a month or so ago, it marked ten years since Microsoft decided to chance their hand at the games industry. Taking the fight to Sony’s PlayStation 2, Nintendo’s Gamecube and Sega’s Dreamcast with its powerful Xbox console (the first to have an in built hard drive), they enjoyed a great deal of success and with the introduction of Xbox Live in 2002, they created an early monopoly on online console gaming that remains strong to this day. The Xbox, despite being crushed by the PS2’s enormous sales figures, nevertheless came out of the sixth generation as ‘the best of the rest’ with 24 million sales, and Microsoft blinked first in the seventh generation of consoles by introducing the Xbox 360 in 2005. With the 360, Microsoft have continued to battle Sony and Nintendo on a level playing field, and the console remains strong to this day, shifting 57 million units – needless to say, Microsoft’s decision to take the plunge in the console wars has been a very lucrative effort. Continue reading Top 10…Most Important Games On Microsoft Consoles

Xbox Live To Get Iplayer And 4OD, FIFA 12 Breaks Sales Records & Elder Scrolls: Skyrim Achievements Are Leaked

Hello everyone! Yep, that’s right – I’m back and writing blog stuff. I’ve been pretty busy recently what with university starting up again for the third year, the new Games Society starting up as well (a great success thus far), and general housekeeping with friends and such. I’ve not posted for about two weeks, and there has been so much news pass me by that I’m not even going to bother trying to wrap absolutely everything up. Instead, here are the headlines that have caught my eye recently:

  • In the short space of a few days, there have been several big hitters be released across all platforms. These include Rage, Dark Souls, and Forza Motorsport 4. All of them have been receiving pretty high reviews, and the difficultly of course now is which ones to pick for purchase. It also seems that early reviews for Batman: Arkham City are overwhelmingly positive as well. Seems my student loan came just in time…
  • Microsoft have finally gotten round to unveiling all the entertainment links they promised at this years E3 – and the list of partners they have is pretty damn impressive. For people here in the United Kingdom, we will be getting the likes of BBC Iplayer, 4OD, Channel 5, Lovefilm and Youtube on our Xbox dashboards in the coming months, and they will be free for both Silver and Gold members. Of course, the PS3 has had these services for quite a while now, so Microsoft is playing catch-up. For a few list of who is getting what, check Major Nelson’s page here.
  • EA Sports must be feeling incredibly smug right now, because FIFA 12 is selling like hotcakes. In has shifted 3.2 million copies in its first week across all platforms, making it by far the biggest launch of this year thus far, and also the biggest launch for a sports title ever. It also now holds a new record in the UK for being the third biggest launch in history, behind Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops. I have had quite a bit of hands on time with it over the last week, and will be posting up my own review on it very soon.
  • On the DLC front, all of you who have kept a hold of your copies of Portal 2 will be happy this week as the ‘Peer Review’ content is now available. It is free to download and will take up 1.37 GB of HDD space, promising new co-op challenges and more GLaDOS. There has also been an announcement for Gears Of War 3 DLC in the form of the Horde Command pack, which will offer new fortifications and weapon skins.
  • The achievement list for The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim has been leaked. If you are a glutton for punishment, then click here for the full list. Without giving much away, it is structured more like Fallout 3’s list than that of Oblivion.
  • It appears that we may be getting yet another HD collection, this time from Naughty Dog in the form of a Jak & Daxter HD Collection. Details are very sketchy at the moment, but given just how many games recently are getting the HD treatment (Halo, Metal Gear Solid 2 & 3, God Of War, Ico & Shadow Of The Colossus, Zone Of The Enders, Final Fantasy X etc.) it wouldn’t surprise me at all. Still, this is one remake I would welcome as I never got round to playing the series when they originally came out (being a Ratchet & Clank fan instead). And while you are at it Naughty Dog, remaster Crash Bandicoot 1, 2, 3 and Crash Team Racing please. Then you can have all of my money.
  • Finally, today we were informed of the sad death of Steve Jobs, the co founder of Apple. I’m not one for Apple products personally, and would associate him more fondly with the rise of Pixar, but there is no doubt that mobile gaming has been on the rise for years especially on products like the IPhone and IPad, and he deserves a hell of a lot of credit for its success. The lineage goes back even further with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984, allowing Apple to get in on the gaming industry in the first place. R.I.P Mr Jobs.

And that’s your news roundup for the moment. Don’t despair, as in the next few days I will be posting up my Gears Of War 3 review, and will get down to writing up my opinions on FIFA 12 as well. It’s good to be back.

Happy Birthday For Sonic & Sonic Generations Demo Review

Today marks the day when one of the icons of the gaming industry celebrates its 20th anniversary. Yep, its time to wish a happy 20th birthday to Sonic The Hedgehog; he’s almost as old as me, and a damn sight more successful as well. It seems ridiculous that it was so long ago (June 23rd 1991 to be precise) that gamers were first popping the Sonic The Hedgehog cartridge into their Mega Drive’s and hearing the Green Hill Zone theme for the first time, but time stops for no man…or hedgehog.

One of the true hall of famers in the gaming world

Although I cannot consider myself a true fan of the series (my boyhood mascot was another marsupial, Crash Bandicoot), I can at least appreciate the impact that SEGA’s mascot has had on the gaming world; it was due to the impact of Sonic in 1991 against Nintendo’s Mario that we got the fantastic Mega Drive vs. SNES battle in the early 90’s (which led to the production of some of the finest games ever made and the advancement of the industry as a whole), and over the years he has come to represent all that is good (and bad as well it must be said in recent years) about SEGA. And to celebrate in style, SEGA are giving the world Sonic Generations, a game which aims to recreate the classic Sonic experience and mesh it together with the modern Sonic game that started with Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast.

Now I’ve covered Sonic Generations before on my blog, because it interests me whether or not SEGA can truly bring back the glory days of the franchise; Sonic The Hedgehog 4; which also promised to do the same thing, left a bitter taste in many gamers mouths. Happily, a demo of the first stage (a remake of the iconic Green Hill Zone) was released today for a limited period of 20 days on both Xbox Live Arcade and the PSN Store, and I have had some hands on time with it to see what’s up.

  • First things to notice; the classic menu music is present and accounted for, and there is an option for changing the camera for 3D televisions. Since I still live in the world of 2D, I’ll pass this over for now, but its nice to see they have already incorporated it for a demo. Time to start methinks…
  • The loading screen, which is heavily reminiscent of the original, comes on and boldly states ‘Green Hill’. And we are straight into the action, and they’ve left the classic music! This already improves my opinion of the game (the trailers showed had dance music and stuff).
  • You take control of Classic Sonic for this demo, and the controls are as beautifully simple as they always were: the A button lets you jump, you can spin dash by repeatedly pressing the X button and you move left or right. Everything that was present in the original is here: the rings, the crab and bees that serve as enemies, the bridge with the jumping fish, the spin dash tunnels and those loop-the-loops which stunned people 20 years ago, but then there’s lots more added. There are platforms to jump across which help to break up the level a bit, dynamic camera views on certain parts of the level (including a circular passage of a mountain and a big jump across land), and they even threw in a corkscrew from the Emerald Hill Zone right at the end. If you played the original, I can only think you will be experiencing an acute sense of nostalgia when you play this level.
  • The best thing about the gameplay though is that it feels fast, and that has always been what Sonic should be about. It’s a breakneck run through the level, and at the various checkpoints you get a time for the section that you just passed, encouraging faster runs through the level. If you remain stationary, Sonic will even start looking at the screen and tapping his foot, ready to get going like he did in the originals. A fantastic little touch.
  • There’s only one stage to look at, but my word this game looks good. The backgrounds are fully 3D, and full of colour and animation; you can see the water trickling along in the background as well as the trees swaying in the breeze. The foreground where you do the running also looks pristine as well, the aforementioned dynamic cameras are unobtrusive, and the game manages to keep looking good when Sonic is flying through the tunnels and loop-the-loops. I would be very impressed if the whole game looked like this.
It genuinely looks fantastic in action...perhaps this game can break the 'Sonic Cycle'?

Unfortunately you only get the one stage, but it was enough to leave me coming away with a smile on my face. I went back and played the level a few more times to explore what I had missed, and there’s a lot to look at. I think those who were sceptical of Sonic The Hedgehog 4 will be won over by this. Let’s just hope the rest of the game, and in particular the ‘modern’ stages, don’t let the game down.

So 20 years after its birth, it looks like SEGA have finally got it right again with Sonic Generations. Download the demo now (remember, it’s a limited trial demo) and see for yourself; I would be interested to see what people make of it and you can of course comment on this post to let me know what you think. And if you want more Sonic action, check out my post from yesterday which outlines details of the upcoming deals promotion that will be running on PSN and Xbox Live.

PSN Network Remains Down For A Fourth Day

I do not own a PS3, and so generally I do not follow too much news on the system; every now and again a great PS3 exclusive like Little Big Planet or Uncharted will pique my interest, but usually I tend to focus on news within the world of the Xbox 360. However, over the last few days the news of problems with the PSN network has been too widespread for me to ignore.

From what I can gather, something or someone external to the system has caused the PSN Network to crash, meaning that millions of PS3 owners have been unable to get online for four days and use the many features that the PS3 offers, such as television and film streaming. This is after Sony claimed that the system was undergoing maintenance. The head of communications for Playstation, Patrick Seybold, has recently said that the problem is ‘much more severe’ that initially thought, and that ‘we are working around the clock to bring it back online’. The group of hackers, Anonymous (who have a beef with Sony), have not claimed responsibility for the problems with the network.

I know that several of my friends have a PS3 because of the attraction to what the PSN Network offers: allowing gamers to play online for free, stream the BBC IPlayer and LoveFilm, and download classics from the PSOne store amongst them. The problems with the network must feel like a kick in the balls to them as a result, especially considering a few of them are itching to go online with Portal 2 and try out the co-op mode. It’s not the first time that the PSN Network has gone down as well, and it makes me wonder as someone external to the PS3 community as to how stable a service it is, considering that Xbox Live is for the most part bullet-proof. I also find it ironic that this week Microsoft have offered a free gold upgrade to all its members for a week to experience what their service offers. Sabotage on Microsoft’s behalf perhaps?

Overall, it’s a shame to see PS3 owners suffer from something that is beyond their control, and for their sake I would like to see the PSN Network back up to normal soon. In the meantime, I think I’ll just pop onto Live for an hour or two