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Christopher Grant
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Chris Grant lives and games in Philadelphia. His weekly column on videogames appears Wednesdays in the Philadelphia Weekly.

Totem Ball gesticulates onto Xbox Live Arcade

In case you missed it, yesterday's Xbox Live Arcade Wednesday title was the gesture-controlled Totem Ball, released for the low, low price of 0 Microsoft Points (that's $0 USD). The catch: you need Microsoft's Xbox Live Vision camera to play the game.

Totem Ball was announced as a free download for all camera purchases but, considering the device hit retail a little early and the game's release is a little late, the retail box came with no Totem Ball registration key. No worries, that's why they stuck it up on Live as a free download (you need the camera either way). The first gesture-based XBLA game proves that the Vision camera is capable of being using as an input device, but is it more than a simple proof of concept?

CliffyB's got your jump button right here

F*** jump.

That's what he said and, in a recent interview with CVG, CliffyB elaborates on his original theory that Gears of War is more Bionic Commando than Mario. You are jumping ... just with a grappling hook ... and on a different plane. He explains, "In GoW you're essentially jumping but you're jumping on the X and Y axis. So you're leaping into the environment. If you were to look at a GoW battlefield from an overhead view, it would almost look like a Sonic or Mario level because that's how all the cover plays out."

That's a pretty novel way of looking at the game's construction. Though Cliffy does his best to appear otherwise, he often reveals a thoughtful side. Our favorite part of the interview: when he eschews the sentiment that a Hollywood adaptation means your game has made it. "I love movies but I believe I'm working in the most exciting sector of the entertainment industry." Oh snap! Take that movies! But he still offered up his candidate for the role of Marcus: Clive Owen. Really? He seems like he would need to put on about 150 ell-bees of muscle. And what's all this about Scarlett Johansson?

SmackTalk automates your Xbox Live profanity

If there's one complaint we always hear about the Xbox Live experience, it's that there isn't enough profanity. In fact, we've heard reports of entire Uno matches being finished sans swearing! So we've put our collective heads together, and arrived at the only possible reason for this dearth: people have gotten tired of swearing so often. For every problem, there's a solution, so we're proud to introduce: SmackTalk.

This $30 bundle of spontaneity is designed to connect between your controller and your headset, and is able to record five sound clips "over and over." What sort of thing would you record? They recommend "wacked out clips to drive your opponents nuts!" Greeeat. Now we can finally get some profanity or, if we're really lucky, racial slurs back into our boring online gaming experiences. Not only that, but it'll be the same snippet, looped, over and over and over and over and over and over ...

[Via Joystiq]

Win a date with CliffyB and play some Gears *squeeeeeal*


We missed telling you guys about the "Match Made in Hell" Gears of War promotion, but we'll make it up to you by cluing you into another opportunity to get your mitts on the 360's upcoming chainsaw-sim. According to a now missing Xbox.com page (helpfully clipped after the break), you'll be able to win a chance to play Gears a full week before the unwashed masses. And that's not all, you'll get to play it with CliffyB himself at Epic Studios in beautiful Raleigh, North Carolina.

Rules are simple: you must be a resident of the US or Canada (sorry Hungary!); you must be 18 or older; you have to enter before October 15th; and you need to fill out this form. Hop to it! If any Fanboys win, make sure to wear something nice ... and bring flowers!

[Via TriXie]

Continue reading Win a date with CliffyB and play some Gears *squeeeeeal*

EGM dry humps Halo 3 before Nov. 14th issue


Consider this teaser a preliminary dry humping, because next month, we'll get to see venerable video game mag Electronic Gaming Monthly "f***ing Halo 3!" Those are their words, folks. We're not sure what form this issue will take, but we imagine centerfolds of Cortana, with her accompanying likes and dislikes (likes: holographic projectors, dislikes: Gravemind's grabby tentacles), wrapped up neatly in an opaque brown sleeve, and tucked away on the tallest shelf of your local convenient store. The December issue -- in which Bungie "breaks their silence" -- oughta hit newstands November 14th, which means we should hear all about the naughty goings-on well before then ...

... on second thought, I'm not sure we read that right.

Need for Speed Carbon demo vrooms onto XBLM


Been looking for something to fill up that free space on your increasingly crammed 360 hard drive? Download the demo for the latest Need for Speed, dubbed Carbon, and watch 1GB disappear. Of course, this only applies if you live in an area that's not Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Sinagpore or Taiwan ... but we know what to do about that, don't we?

Promotional blurb from the Dashboard hidden after the break.

Continue reading Need for Speed Carbon demo vrooms onto XBLM

Xbox 360 can support HDMI, but will it?

After Microsoft's announcement in Tokyo that the Xbox 360 would support 1080p natively this Fall (we already knew it was capable of it), the FUD hit the fan. Was this "native" 1080p? Was it just upsampled? Would it work with DVDs over component? Wouldn't the long-rumored HDMI cable be appropriate now?

Though they didn't answer all of the above, IGN got a hold of Microsoft to try and clear some of the smoke in the air in a short Q&A. So now that we know it can handle "true HD" at 1080p, what about that HDMI cable. MS says, "Our platform is flexible enough to allow support of a digital connection in the future should we choose to do so. When the Xbox 360 was being developed HDMI was nascent and with our current connections we support what the overwhelming majority of consumers have available to them."

Yup yup. True. The reality is, 1080p over component ain't really happening, and 1080p over VGA is only possible for an even smaller minority of HD television owners than the already small 1080p subset. If 1080p support is going to be more than a bullet point, we're going to need to see some HDMI love in the near future. Microsoft on releasing a cable: "We are watching the market closely and will continue to evaluate our solution in the face of consumer demand, but have no announcements regarding additional cables or connections."

We've all been dismissing 1080p as a marginal standard, and a convenient rallying cry for Sony's latest and greatest, but now that we've got the carrot dangling just in front of our gnashing teeth will we actually run for it? Have we gone from "1080p, who cares?" to "give us our damned HDMI cable so we can experience true HD"?

[Via digg]

Duke Nukem on XBLA sounds cool, they know

This is really the sort of thing that would be perfect for Richard's "That should be on XBLA" series, yet here we are. Some of you correctly guessed Doom as the secret Xbox Live Arcade franchise, so good for you. Some other forward thinking Fanboys guessed Duke Nukem 3D which, I think we can all agree, would be similarly welcomed. Anyone who's spent sleepless nights playing multiplayer Duke knows how great Arcadification could be.

Well, we're not the only ones who think it would be cool. The guys at 3D Realms are well aware how great Duke Nukem 3D was ... in fact, they've been working on a sequel for some time*. Following the release of Doom on XBLA, the prospect was raised on the 3D Realms forums to which a patient staffer replied, "It's already been discussed here. Whether it happens or not I can't say. It's ultimately up to Microsoft as to whether they want it or not." He elaborates here and here.

Indeed, the XBLA approval process (as we know) can be pretty intense. The porting process and integrating Xbox Live is no cakewalk, and that's if the title even passes portfolio muster. With the big dog of early FPSs already on the platform, shouldn't Microsoft be looking elsewhere? Not to mention, we'd rather not have 3D Realms do anything to further delay Duke Nuke Forever. Let's just keep our eyes on the ball ...

*Nominee for understatement of the year award.

[Thanks, Shizzle]

Assassin's Creed's brains exclusive to 360

Assassin's Creed, Ubisoft's erstwhile PS3 exclusive, has finally been confirmed for the Xbox 360 and, just a few short weeks later, they were even showing off gameplay at Microsoft's X06 event, with nary a PS3 in sight. When they weren't enjoying the fun and sun in Barcelona, Ubi producers, like Jade Raymond, were doing walkthroughs of the game and even comparing platform strengths. From IGN:

"While the PlayStation 3 and 360 versions of Assassin's Creed are virtually identical, Raymond did say that on the 360 the team is putting a special emphasis on achievements. The hardware also allows for improved threading, which will improve even further the crowd AI."

We're not sure what this means? Is it that the triple-core processor in the 360 is more powerful than Sony's Cell (we don't think so) or that it's simply easier to extract power from the 360 due to a more streamlined development environment? John Carmack says it's "a really sweet development system," and in the game development community, that's like money in the bank. So, since the crowd is going to be such a major part of Assassin's gameplay, can we expect a better experience on 360? Or is this just developers nitpicking over the minutiae of cross-platform development?

[Via 360stuff]

Emergence Day emerges as *gasp* Nov. 12


Ken and Richard are both serving community service today for two totally unrelated crimes ... one of which involved the oozinator. Since they're unable to post this aye-mediately, I borrowed this post from Joystiq and made the trek back to my old stomping grounds. So in case you haven't seen this yet (like, OMG, where have you been? It's only the biggest news, uh ... this morning) here you go:

The reason viral gaming campaigns bug us is 'cause the hype never matches the delivery. Last Monday Epic's Mark Rein declared, with a theatrical wave of a rather ham-shaped hand, that there would in fact be a "BIG announcement coming next week." At the same time, in another corner of the gamerverse, XBL gamertags using the fictitious names of fictitious characters pleaded with eager (or disinterested) gamers, "We need your help. Can't talk now. Don't know who to trust. Will send more tomorrow."

Codes were delivered, codes were broken, retail sites were apparently updated a little too early and now, on Thursday of the foretold "next week," we know the truth: Gears of War is coming out this fall ... specifically, November 12th! And gone is the Microsoft-published pricepoint of $49.99. This fall, $59.99 (with $69.99 special edition, natch) is the new $49.99. Yay?

You see? It's just not that exciting. We already knew it was coming out this fall and educated guesses would have pegged November, just prior to the Nov. 17th PS3 launch, as a likely candidate. And announcing a higher than expected price isn't usually received very well (just ask Sony). Then again, maybe this isn't the BIG announcement. Maybe this is all part of a cleverly orchestrated plot by this guy to get our hopes up, dash them against the rocks like so many brains, and then, when we've hit bottom, throw a face melting Gears of War demo in our very melt-able, exceedingly cynical faces. Your move, Epic.

Continue reading Emergence Day emerges as *gasp* Nov. 12

A look at the first major Dashboard upgrade


In case you missed it, I put up a post at Joystiq last night, concerning the recently announced Spring update. Highlights include background downloading (dubbed Active Downloads), boot to Dashboard, improved media playback, and general interface enhancements. Head over to the 'stiq to get all the details.

Hitman: Blood Money demo hits XBL


Set to ship next week, the demo for Eidos' latest Hitman title, Blood Money, has hit the Xbox Live Marketplace. Stop everything you're doing on your 360 and give it some time to download the 783Mb demo.

Can't wait until that active downloads functionality starts working fo' real. Our sources are whispering any day now.

XBL background downloads coming yesterday?

We already suspected it was supposed to drop this month, but Microsoft's Knowledge Base (KB article #919421) has revealed the feature set and the release date for the Xbox 360's long anticipated background downloading functionality. The date: yesterday.

Alright, so they're running a little late (at least it's not Vista-late), but the feature set is promising. Instead of the compromised functionality many of us expected (Arcade games or videos only while downloading), the newly re-dubbed "Active Download feature" is fairly robust. It appears the only thing one can't do while background downloading is play online games, for obvious reasons. Actually, you can play online games -- the system just pauses your download to be resumed later. We've included the contents of the KB article after the break, lest someone at Redmond gets wind and decides to remove it.

Microsoft: roll it out and we'll gladly cross this one off our list of Xbox 360 annoyances (both of em ... this was really annoying).

[Thanks, Gary]

Continue reading XBL background downloads coming yesterday?

Use 360 wireless peripherals with a PC

Elsewhere in that Word doc hosted on Xbox.com that listed all the upcoming accessories, was the (as yet still unannounced) Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows. What is the Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows? From the doc:

"Gamers can get the most out of current and future Xbox 360 wireless accessories with the new Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows. By plugging the compact receiver into a USB 2.0 port on the PC, the Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, Xbox 360 Wireless Headset and Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel can be used on a second platform (ERP TBA)."

That means you won't need to get the (now increasingly marginalized) wired 360 controller if you want to use it with your PC. Question is, how long before the Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows gets support for other operating systems?

See also:
360's Mem Unit getting a bump to 256MB?


Read - Xbox.com's Xbox 360 Accessories (.doc)

F.E.A.R. confirmed for 360 this fall


We already knew it was coming, but Vivendi finally let us know that they know that we know and officially confirmed Monolith's spooky FPS. The port was originally anticipated due to developer Monolith's other creepy FPS, the Xbox 360's Condemned: Criminal Origins, having a similar code base to F.E.A.R. When Condemned was ported to PCs, the logical assumption was that F.E.A.R. could be ported to the 360.

The port is being handled by "Chicago-based Day 1 Studios, who worked on both MechAssault and MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf" and is due out this fall and will be on display at E3 next week. We'll let you know if the graphically demanding title appears to be making the transition smoothly.

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