Category Archives: xbox
The controller is the gamers’ most important weapon. Finding a controller for your system that you LOVE often takes some serious gamers out of the realm of the stock options that are shipped with their systems. It becomes equally difficult if you own multiple systems, and prefer the layout of one controller over the other. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a controller that emulated both distinct layouts? (Hint: There is.)
Gaming has evolved a ton since the Pong era. Its widespread popularity has taken it to a variety of mediums: Consoles, PC’s and mobile devices have all officially become gaming machines. You really can’t argue that gaming is one of the biggest industries out there. But with all of these platforms, what is truly the best place to get your gaming fix? Let’s take a look.
A few months back Japer and I compiled a list of our 5 favourite albums of 2008. At the top of mine was Chinese Democracy, the first studio album of original material from Guns N Roses in 17 years. I loved the amazing production, the dense layers, the memorable musicianship, and the sheer ambition of Axl Rose, who is the sole original member of the band. I kept Chinese Democracy in my car stereo for weeks, just listening to it on repeat. While many reviled the album for what it wasn’t and it quickly fell of the charts, I’m of the mind that if people would just get a chance to hear it without the baggage, they may actually think it’s a solid piece of work.
Enter Rock Band.
Today Chinese Democracy was released as a download for Rock Band. And while it had been some time since I’d played that particular game, when it was announced just about a week or so ago that Axl opus’ was going to be available, I have to admit I was psyched. So when I got home from work today, I flipped on the Xbox 360 and made my download (1600 xbox points, by the way). From there I proceeded to spend a solid hour playing Chinese Democracy all the way through (minus Shakler’s Revenge, which I have yet to unlock in Rock Band 2). Not only was the experience as good as I hoped it would, it was significantly better.
In an interview with Billboard a few months ago, Axl Rose talked about the process the creators of Rock Band were going through to bring the album to the game. According to Rose, “they felt the record-based on the nature and complexity of the depth of instrumentation-deserved a bit more attention and some more involved elements than they’ve generally dealt with.” Believe it or not, you can feel the depth of the music when playing the game. Various songs seem to have been remixed to bring up certain guitars (the majority of tunes all feature layered instrumentations); in the case of Madagascar, the various film clips that are part of the songs middle section have been excised, likely for rights issues. But this actually works to the player’s advantage because we’re given another guitar solo to master.
I played through Chinese Democracy on guitar and did pretty well for myself, I must say. I truly felt a part of the music (you can call me Buckethead) and found my appreciation for Chinese Democracy continue to grow. The question is, will other people who may have dismissed the album upon its initial release finally discover it? There’s a better chance than not. Even in today’s declining musical climate, new music is getting noticed in the various rhythm games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero everyday. With the complexity and sound of Guns N Roses latest album, a plastic guitar and drum kit may just be the way to spread democracy to the masses.
I was away earlier this year. Maybe you noticed.
I was away from writing short stories and comic book scripts. I was away from Life On Mars, Mantracker and The Office. Sure, work had kept me extremely busy but it was my disappearance from “regular” life, from the writing of blog articles for Biff Bam Pop! that my good friend Andy B reminded me about on numerous occasions. He wasn’t the only one who noticed.
I had gone away for a time. Where was I, you ask? Well, let me tell you.
For a short amount of time in early January, I was busy being a bit of an adventurer, trying my hand at archeology, avoiding poisonous snakes and spiders in South America. It might sound dangerous but really, it was a lot of fun. Then I got busy playing football in the European Champions League, arguable the world’s most competitive sports tournament, setting up goals while scoring a few myself. Exciting, huh? I joined the army next and fought Japanese infantry across blood-stained beaches in the Pacific. When my personal call of duty ended and I finally came home, I found my city overrun by crazed zombies and had to either battle my way to freedom or be left for dead.
For a while there in early 2009, I found myself in an unyielding grip, a powerful desire for adventure, for horror, for thrills – for a youthful exuberance. This feeling would not yield, would not ebb. It hooked me with a sense of accomplishment, enthralled me with a sense of pride. Surprisingly, it also came with a sense of community.
My XBOX 360, of course, came with a wireless router.
It’s the wireless router, you see, that makes it all worthwhile. Yeah, I know I was living the stereotype: locked in the basement, staring at a television screen, oblivious to the real world. But I was still being social! I had my XBOX headphones accessory on and was talking to my friends online or messaging their gamer tags with attempts to set up evenings where we would attempt to emancipate the South Pacific from Imperialist Japan in Call of Duty: World At War or escape the city underground system, destroying the walking dead in the process in the shooter game, Left 4 Dead. This was a whole new way to interact with my pals now that we were all grown up and living in an adult world of jobs, family and responsibility.
Guys like Andy B, Denny B and Geflon Don had been playing on-line with their XBOX’s for years before me. I was virtually the last to the party but not before I brought a friend or two along with me.
It’s a different world online. I’m a rookie with games like these, fumbling with a controller, not sure how to move a character on the screen, poor with marksmanship and strategy. I was warned by Geflon Don to not use the headphones when playing games like Call of Duty in open forums as a beginner. Unless, of course, you enjoy being called names that question your masculinity by 12 year old boys who all posses uber skills in the games they play.
Our buddy Pete, who got online at the same time as me didn’t heed that message. He had been playing Call of Duty against all of the brats in the world secretly so that he could get better than the rest of us at the game. Still, the poor guy set himself up as a “serious gamer” even though he was the furthest thing from. He attracted all of the hardcore crazies that populate the Xbox 360 Live world, eventually confessing that they regularly belittle him, his skill, his age and his manhood every chance they get. So cocky were these punk kid players that they wouldn’t even pull a gun when playing against him. They’d simply run up to him, Pete defensively letting bullets fly helter skelter into the air, finishing him with a simple and belittling knife to the chest or worse, the back. Needless to say, his kill-to-killed ratio was a giant turd of a number and I’m sure there were times where he wept a single tear each time he turned his XBOX off.
Serves him right for secretly practicing.
Over time, Pete’s gotten much better at the games and I have too. I’m the proud recipient of the “Blind Luck” achievement in Left 4 Dead and not many have unlocked the “Jump Shot” kudos like I have. I’m quite proud of that one, although it was probably blind luck too. While collecting these achievements like virtual hockey cards or comic books, I’ve also met up with old friends Scrubby Lee and the Gaz while playing these games online, not to mention having conversations with my pal, The Sultan, who currently resides in Dubai. Not a long distance charge to be found, either.
Over time, the novelty of the console has worn off a bit. I’m no longer getting messages from my internet provider telling me I’ve exceeded my allotted bandwidth usage for the month. Still, I haven’t spoken to some of those guys in a while. Maybe it’s time to set up another game night. If life keeps us from physically getting together, my friends and I can still have our beers and our stories and our jokes via the XBOX 360. Besides, I’d love to show off my new uber game skills to them. No knife in the back for me. I’ve secretly been practicing.
Until that happens though, I’m just a guy with a lot of talk and a console.
Growing up, my favourite story was “the gingerbread man.” I would insist that my mother read the tale to me every night before bed. The story of an anthropomorphic cookie fleeing from various pursuers coupled with my mother’s measured delivery was a delight to a young me. To this day, I still get a twinge of joy whenever “run, run, as fast as you can” is said aloud. While I appreciated the fantasy of the tale, it was its’ familiarity, coupled with the repetition of the telling, that would eventually lull me off to sleep.
Fable II reminds me of my gingerbread man childhood memories. For all of Lionhead Studio’s attempts to make an open-world fantasy experience, ultimately it feels like a linear tale that works better as a bedtime story than a gaming experience.
Peter Molyneux, lead designer in the Fable series, promised the world in the first Fable game. While Fable was a fun experience, it failed to match the hype that had been laid down prior to the game’s release. Molyneux promised to rectify this with the second game and in many ways accomplished this feat. The narration and art direction makes the game feel like a living fairly tale. All of the characters are voice acted (with British accents) which brings personality and a certain vibrancy to the game itself. The art style is straight out of a fairy tale with people represented in a somewhat cartoony aesthetic. The camera is in constant soft focus and as such surfaces shimmer, water gleams, and sunsets are picturesque. It feels like a living picture book.
Fable II works hard to imbue itself with a sense of freedom. The player is free to marry off to whomever (and as many times) they please, wear various outfits, work odd jobs, take up side quests, and converse with the numerous colourful NPCS. The combat system also allows for robust customization. Players can build skills in magic, sword combat, gun slinging or a combination of all three and their choices will affect the character’s outward appearance. Magic users, for examples, will develop a blue glow around their characters. All this customization is a nice distraction, however, the very linear main quest always lurks in the background.
Unlike many other RPG’s, the game supplies a helpful breadcrumb feature that will lead the player to their next objective. An unfortunate side affect is that the sense of exploration is curtailed. Players will spend the majority of their time following breadcrumb from location to location, mindlessly moving from story event to story event.
That’s kinda the problem with Fable II. The story is typical RPG fare (save the cheerleader, save the world) and just goes on and on and, despite the distractions of a wife and odd jobs, the story hook just isn’t strong enough to pull you through to the end.
The dilemma with recreating a fairytale is that they’re pretty, comfortable and familiar but ultimately, they’ll just end up putting you to sleep.
Here’s what happens when Biff Bam Pop contributing writer Canker Canison, who bought an Xbox 360 with his wife for Christmas, finds himself addicted to a game series he never thought he’d like.
I dug through the pile of games my wife and I have acquired for our Xbox 360 and found the previous third installment of Guitar Hero, Legends of Rock. I popped it in the machine.
I began to play.
And I played.
And I played.
A delicious assortment of audio candy filled my living room as I strummed my guitar-shaped controller. My body thrummed as the chords of the Smashing Pumpkins, the Sex Pistols and Weezer moved through me.
Tom Morello challenged me to a duel. To mis-quote the Tenacious D song from the game, “He failed, as I threw him to the ground.” Not one to hold a grudge, we played the encore together.
Time was passing, but I kept playing. Venue after venue, my digital roadies hauling my electrons across America.
I was again challenged to a duel, this time by the top-hat wearing, gnarled-haired Slash of G’N’R. To my chagrin, he beat me to the ground. Dusting the pixilated dust from my jeans I got back to my feet, and we face off for a second time. This time I was the victor.
My campaign continued as the dinner hour came and went, piles of unwashed laundry languishing in its baskets.
Finally, in an apocalyptic convulsion, my living room split asunder and I was sucked down into the bowels of Hell to face the devil himself (known to his friends as Lou). Like countless fiddler and guitar players before me I was forced to do musical battle with the Father of Lies. He tried to distract me with dancing devil girls, but I managed to keep my mind on the task at hand. I forced him back, his hoofed feet digging for purchase in the stony soil. I was relentless in my attack, and soon my mastery of the plastic musical instrument in my hands was too much for the old sinner to take, and he was plunged into a lake of fire.
I was victorious.
I found myself sitting back in my living room, staring dazedly at the clock. The spirits had done it all in one evening (of course they can, they’re spirits). I sat back for a moment, relishing my victory.
Then I saw the case for Guitar Hero II, and I was lost again.