Tom Bramwell has a preview for the upcoming Burnout Paradise that is surprisingly thoughtful and critically considered as far as previews go. He discusses the challenges faced by Criterion Games in re-inventing a popular series practically from the ground up and asks some pertinent questions where they ought to be asked. For example, when the topic of the Crash mode comes up and Criterion mentions that they have scrapped the original concept of the popular mode, Bramwell presses the point, getting Criterion rep Matt Webster to confess they don’t yet know exactly how it will all work out:
Asked whether they’re opting for a Burnout 3 approach of trying to manoeuvre the car in slow motion between power-ups and Crashbreakers, or a Burnout Revenge “golf swing” of perfect start and target cars, Webster admits it’s not all there yet. “We’re still throwing ideas around. I think we’ll be talking about it more in the coming weeks.”
The preview isn’t about sticking it to the Burnout devs, though, it reads more like a fan of the series seeing drastic changes and slowly coming to the realization that if executed properly, these could make for a remarkable game. Among the more exciting aspects of Criterion’s open-world approach to Burnout is the focus on seamless online play that works the way most gamers prefer, by putting the folks in your Friends list first.
Read More | Eurogamer
The Hidden Fronts map pack for the popular Xbox Live title Gears of War, originally offered for 800 Microsoft Points several months back over some protestations from gamers and Epic themselves, is now available for free as promised.
Hidden Fronts includes four new multiplayer maps, Bullet Marsh, Garden, Process and Subway. For those looking to stretch a bit more life out of their Xbox Live multiplayer experience until Halo 3 hits, this may be the way to do it.
Starting on midnight Sunday four Xbox Live Arcade titles will be getting a brief 50% price cut. Small Arms and Zuma Deluxe, normally 800 Microsoft Points, are getting reduced to 400 and coin-op classics Dig Dug and Gauntlet are going down from 400 to 200.
The price reduction will last through Monday.
Microsoft has had price reductions and these kind of limited-time sales before, but usually they have been reserved for game-specific downloadable content. This is the first time they’ve extended price fluctuations to full XBLA titles, although the announcement does vaguely hint that this may be a semi-regular occurrence.
Read More | Major Nelson's Blog
The image you see above isn’t some generic image we grabbed off the net - it’s my personal Xbox 360. I know what you might be thinking - another one? Yeah, another one - but there is a bit more to this story. This Xbox 360 you see above has been used for all of 20 minutes. You see, about three weeks ago my old box 360 crashed and was giving me the three Red Lights of Doom. I sent it in for repair, and today I finally got a replacement. This actually is a replacement - they didn’t fix the one I sent in, they just sent me a new one. This one happened to have been manufactured on 8/15/2007. Anyway, I got it in the mail, hooked everything up, went through the Dashboard configuration, and started playing a demo. Fatal Intertia. We got tired of that after about ten minutes, and decided to boot up the demo of Stranglehold. We got through the opening sequence when everything froze. Fair enough. I had to manually turn the Xbox 360 off because it wouldn’t even respond to the guide button. I turned it back on, and was presented with yes another Three Red Ring Circus.
I think that there is a lot of confusion with the consumer in exactly how this issue has been remedied. Not just with the extension of the warranty but with the hardware. Exactly what has had to go on to fix the problems that people have been having?
I’m not sure that the consumer needs to understand the complex technical fixes that we need to do for the multiple different problems that come together to create the three flashing red lights. I think the ability for us, all the consumer cares about is my console going to be ok? And if it isn’tm are they going to fix it and take care of it immediately? And if I [already] paid them to fix it, will I get my money back? And the answer is yes to those questions.
But are you guaranteeing or insuring that the systems that are rolling off the assembly lines now and the systems that will be returned to consumers will be fixed properly this time. It won’t be a situation where there are multiple replacements.
Yeah. I mean, nothing is perfect, guys. And the other two hardware companies have their problems as well. I can’t guarantee everyone in the world that we go fix one thing and then something else [won’t] happen. No I’d be stupid to make that guarantee. But I feel very, very good about the quality of hardware now. You guys know this, every day in the factories where we are building these and where we are learning more about it. Sony’s very good at it, Nintendo is very good at it, and we’re very good at it. You’re constantly tweaking, moving parts around, you’re renegotiating with suppliers because your goal is to continuously raise the quality of the box, and bring the price down. Because you have to get your costs down to be able to move your pricing to the level you want. If your costs never came down, then price would never change.
So yes, you can’t guarantee that something won’t go wrong - we get that. But at the very least, Microsoft, you should be able to guarantee that if something like this does happen, that you have some sort of expedited method for dealing with it so that your consumers who spend hundreds of dollars on your hardware aren’t sitting without it for 8-12 weeks because of your hardware problems. Also, I think it is a fair expectation that if you said everything would change in mid-July, that a console manufactured a month later would be clear of these issues.
UPDATE: As always, there are trolls who are claiming that this story must be made up, because a console manufactured over two weeks ago could in no way make the 8 hour plane trip from where it was made all the way over to here in Seattle in that timeframe. I must be some sort of Sony or Nintendo fanboy, just making up the story - they want images to prove I’m not lying. I grabbed a couple of shots of the back of the console, which you can check out after the break.
The long wait for Mass Effect is about to come to an end. Microsoft has announced that Bioware‘s highly anticipated sci-fi RPG will release on November 20th in North America, exclusively for the Xbox 360. The game, which incorporates GRAW-style action with role-playing elements familiar to anyone who played Knights of the Old Republic, has been one of the 360’s most-wanted games since the day it was unveiled. Until now, it had been pegged with the precarious and open-to-delay release time frame of “November.” So the news that the game will officially be here in just a few short months is definite cause for celebration.
Read More | Microsoft's Gamerscore blog
Any gamer with even an inkling of interest in Halo 3 should head over to Gamersyde right away and check out some of that site’s stunning off-screen campaign footage, a sample of which we have posted above. This video shows off the game’s unique replay feature, which allows you to record and play back entire levels of the single player campaign, as well as multiplayer matches, at your leisure. Players can then use the footage to analyze their enemy’s defenses, exploit weaknesses, and polish their own skills to a Legendary sheen. Note how the Bungie representative in the video uses the feature to check up on the exploits of a group of Marines on the other side of the battlefield! This is awe-inspiring stuff.
Halo 3 hits the Xbox 360 on September 25th, but of course you already knew that.
Read More | Gamersyde
Dean Takahashi has a write-up regarding the upcoming 65nm microprocessors reportedly shipping on new Xbox 360 units. The more efficient processors are included on the new Falcon boards that are included standard in all units going forward. Of course, Microsoft still needs to sell its existing stock of 90nm chip systems and as a result is being, shall we say, coy about the new processors and their availability.
Also of note is that these new Falcon boards curiously do not include replacement 65nm ATI graphics processors, which some have speculated are at least partially responsible for the frequently discussed Red Rings of Death issue that Microsoft recently took steps to correct. Takahashi remarks that he expected the 65nm chips—both processor and graphics—to have appeared long before now but speculates that the problems with the 90nm boxes may have pulled Microsoft’s engineers away from the efficiency shift to concentrate on damage control.
The crux of the report is that buying a new Xbox 360 right now is probably not the wisest consumer decision, at least until someone determines how to effectively differentiate between the chip sizes from the outer boxes. Once the last of the 90nm systems have been liquidated from stock all 360s sold will include HDMI and the more efficient chips, which many believe (or perhaps hope) will be more reliable than 360s have historically been. The moral of the story then is for those considering an Xbox purchase to wait for a few months for the holiday buyers to clear out the older stock, something Microsoft hopes you won’t do which is why they remain so elusive with details on the new chips.
Read More | San Jose Mercury
Bizarre Creations’ Project Gotham Racing series has always masterfully toed the line between out-and-out arcade racing and actual driving simulations. And now, with the fourth installment in the series and second for the Xbox 360, Bizarre is adding motorcycles to the mix. Yes, the road isn’t just for four-wheelers anymore, as the scruffier set can now take to the streets of St. Petersburg, Shanghai, and Macao (to name a few cities) and snatch up those elusive Kudos. Throw in dynamic weather effects and a revamped career mode, and you’ve got the 360 PGR that we should have gotten the first time around. Better late than never, I suppose.
PGR 4 speeds onto the Xbox 360 in North America on October 2nd, and in Europe on October 12th.
Read More | Xbox.com
“It is always darkest before the dawn.”
Those were Denis Dyack‘s melodramatic words in a forum post as a reply to someone expressing frustration and disappointment over the outspoken Silicon Knights founder’s latest project, Too Human. After a disappointing show at the 2006 E3, Too Human fell from view and was conspicuously absent from this year’s E3 aside from a logo displayed during Microsoft’s press conference.
Then, shortly after E3, Silicon Knights filed suit against Epic over their Unreal 3 Engine, licensed by SK, claiming among other things that Epic had withheld valuable resources in favor of working on their own projects like Unreal Tournament 3 and Gears of War. Epic countersued claiming that Silicon Knights was misrepresenting the original contract and lots of public trash-talking and childishness ensued.
People with virtual currency burning pixelated holes in their alternate reality pockets can check out the Xbox Live Arcade and the Wii Virtual Console this week for some new (or perhaps old) titles. The most exciting offerings this week look to be the Jeff Minter shooter Space Giraffe and the wonderful SNES classic, Super Metroid.
Read More | Nintendo Press Release
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