Posts tagged with xbox - page 5

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion on the Xbox 360 – first impressions

Last night I went home with Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for the Xbox 360, wired up to the projector producing 720p high definition imagery that dominates the darkened room.

You start off with an incredibly comprehensive character generation where you can choose race, sex, hair color, eye color, age… and a bewildering number of options to customs your face. So many options in fact it’s quite difficult to come up with something you like. Hitting the random option until you see a good starting point is probably the easiest way to progress.

The narrative starts and you find yourself in a prison cell at the royal palace. If there was a reason for my being here it must have been in the as-yet-unread manual.

The plot initiates with Patrick Stewart voicing the emperor of the Imperials and we descend into the sewers and tunnels beneath the city. For the next twenty minutes you scramble around in the dark with the occasional pointer on getting to grips with the control and game-play mechanisms. During this process you must choose your star sign which gives you an extra ability/bonus and a class to determine your core abilities and role.

I thought I’d have a bit of fun and choose thief for a change. Lots of creeping round, lock-picking the many chests and doors and generally just, well, thieving. For the record I normally play some form of ranger or melee class.

Having acquired a minimal set of adventuring kit from the residents I met along the way, now deceased, I step outside…

The sun is setting and it’s vibrant hues of purple and red are reflected upon the rippling lake in front of me.

The wind is stirring up and the branches of the trees bob back and forth casting shadows upon the ground.

A started deer looks up and jolts away from you through the thick grass and disappears behind a boulder reflecting the suns last rays.

The adventure begins.

[)amien

Why I haven’t yet ordered a MacBook Pro

My aging Dell 8100 is struggling with the recent demands of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 mostly due to the fact it only supports 512MB RAM. Paging is bad enough on a desktop but on a laptop with slower drives and battery drain…

MacBook Pro

Apple’s first x86 laptop is based on the Intel Core Duo processor and will be available later this month. The enclosure is very similar to the previous aluminum PowerBooks with some changes to the socket line-up but retaining the backlit keyboard and wide-screen aspect ratio.

Connections include a new magnetic power connector, FireWire 800 has been dropped and PCMCIA makes a departure to be replaced by ExpressCard/34. Optical digital output makes an appearance too while wireless connectivity is suited by both Bluetooth 2 and 802.11G networking.

Familiarity ends on the outside with the internals sporting a 667MHz front side bus equipped with DDR2 memory sitting round Intel’s latest chip which curiously Apple only supply up to 1.83GHz despite Intel having a 2GHz part. The hard-drive has gone SATA with Apple offering 120GB 5,400RPM or 100GB 7,200RPM drives.

Apple are now offering the 2.16GHz processor option (14/07/2006).

But what about Windows?

There is no way at the moment to run Windows XP on this at the moment. Apple went with Intel on their new replacement for the aging BIOS called EFI. EFI isn’t all-new having already made its début as part of Intel’s 64-bit Itanium platform but at the moment Windows XP doesn’t boot on it.

Microsoft have always claimed they are about shipping software and they don’t care about the platform but I can’t see them bending over backwards for Apple on this one. If Intel are pushing other OEMs to use EFI Microsoft could be pressured into back-porting the EFI support from Vista into a Windows XP service pack or EFI edition.

Virtualized Windows?

Dual-booting would be good but speedy virtualization like Virtual PC or VMware would be even better… but the Mac’s number one x86 emulator for the PPC, Virtual PC, was brought out by one Microsoft a couple of years ago.

For Microsoft this was a win-win-win deal; it gave them control over the Mac’s entry into the Windows world, gave them virtualization software for Windows and a code-base to work from for getting their x86 based Xbox games running on their PPC based Xbox 360.

The situation for Apple was much more bleak. The PPC G5 processor came from IBM and as such didn’t have some of the Motorola G4’s features that Virtual PC used… and Microsoft wasn’t quick in coming out with a new version although they eventually did.

There is of course the possibility somebody else will deliver that virtualization. I can’t see Apple itself compromising by providing it but VMware is one option although that would need substantial porting.

Another option might be Transitive who provided the technology behind the PPC emulation in OS X x86 called Rosetta although their product line-up currently consists of emulated processor and virtualization, not just pure virtualization as would be required.

While we’re on the Apple subject check out the responses to the original iPod announcement over at MacRumors forums.

[)amien

Xbox 360 – More thoughts

Okay, so I’ve been living with my 360 for a little while now and was able to pick-up a hard disk and a headset from Kmart while in the USA (they’re a little scarce here in the UK at the moment).

Backwards compatibility

Now I have a hard-disk I can play my old Xbox games (it died a while back). I gave Buffy: Chaos Bleeds a shot and it seemed okay apart from the unexplained slow-downs in some parts. Alas it seems about half my collection isn’t supported -Outrun 2, Shenmue 2, Buffy (original), Soul Calibur 2 and Headhunter: Redemption. I can however play KOTOR, NFSU2 and Fable apparently.

All these games are now supported, thanks guys!

Gamer cards

The gamer card system is pretty cool, mine is shown here;

Basically everybody you play against on-line has something like this and you can see what games they have and what achievements they have met. You can also review a user if they were good or bad which affects whether the live system will put you with them again. If a number of people review you good or bad, it affects your star rating with 5 stars being an all-round nice guy I gather.

Dashboard

The dashboard that I found so cool to start with is leading to a number of annoyances. The first is content management – it can be confusing to locate items you have downloaded or if you just want to delete/transfer stuff between hard disk and memory card. Basically it could do with two lists – what’s available to download and what you have on your disk – each with a filter of content types (music/video/games).

Another major niggle is the downloading which seems to occasionally abort mid-download with no automatic retry and also the fact that it ties your whole 360 up while downloading something. Rumor has it that background downloading has an outside chance of turning up on the next dashboard update.

Xbox Live Arcade

The live arcade consists of small downloadable games you can buy for “credits” which cost real money. By using credits MS think you won’t notice how much you spend? Anyway, I’ve tried a few…

Gauntlet

One of my childhood favorites marginally enhanced to improve the text readability and allow 4 player on-line gaming. This should be good fun but it is marred by a few issues. The first is the multi player game suffers major lag problems. Secondly you only get 700 health points per level – hard work when constantly teamed with people who don’t know what they’re doing. The final issue is that diagonals and avoiding objects are trickier unless my memory is rose tinted.

Quite why the developers chose to do Gauntlet and not the superior Gauntlet 2 I’m not sure. With Gauntlet one of the top sellers on arcade at the moment no doubt we’ll see the sequel soon.

Hexic HD

This game came pre-installed on the hard disk and is very similar to Bejewelled 2 in that you have various colored pieces that need to touch to explode and be replaced by more pieces. They are both kinda fun but rather slow to get going and the only on-line interaction is a leader board and achievements. There is no head to head mode – a missed opportunity indeed.

Voice communication

The headset is quite comfortable although covers one ear effectively killing off your stereo/5.1/7.1 surround systems in one clean swipe. It’ll no doubt be putting a drain on the battery in the wireless controller too.

Speech quality is variable. In PGR3 I’m normally paired with other Brits – often northern guys who laugh for the duration although not always at my PGR3 skills. Gauntlet on the other hand seems to consist of broken speech with young American boys and possibly girls – it’s hard to tell the difference.

[)amien

Xbox 360 – first impressions

As previously blogged I got my hands on a Xbox 360 Core package just before Christmas – and yes I know the Premium is better and if one of those was available at the time I would have brought one. For now this must suffice…

Packaging

The 360 core is packaged in a surprisingly heavy bright green box that draws enough attention at airports and towns when not serving as a make-shift seat. Inside are the curvy 360, the chunky power supply, a wired controller, a basic composite-video only cable with separate SCART converter and a couple of manuals. Surprisingly no demo disk is included and the box handle can detach rather easily when not digging into your skin. 7/10

Dashboard

The dashboard lets you play movies, mp3’s off your iPod or hard-disk, download live content, chat to your friends and see what they’re up to etc. It’s pretty good although some of the functions are a little bit too tucked away. 8/10

Controllers

The core comes supplied with a single wired controller (the Premium has two wireless ones) but I picked up a wireless one. Initially they feel comfortable when navigating menus and playing driving games however a quick bash on the Kong demo left my hands aching. The way the wireless controller quickly finds the 360 which doesn’t need ugly wireless modules dangling out of the front is a bonus. 8/10

Project Gotham 3 Racing

It’s clear this title is pushing a lot of polygons and runs smooth… the problem is the graphics look neither realistic (Gran Turismo) or stylized (Need for Speed). Instead the game actually looks like an arcade game and so keeps you at arms length immersion-wise. The detail in the car is impressive – especially if you take the realistic sitting-in-the-car view where you can watch your driver steer and shift as you wrestle with the controller. The crowds look impressive too, as is the live interaction which includes various rankings, an on-line career and a variety of race modes.

The main problem with PGR3 is the depth. It boasts a little over 70 cars and they’ve all been chosen for being 170mph+, a far cry from the 700+ models in Gran Turismo 4 which boasted old, new and concepts together so you could try out your real life car against a Skyline for a laugh. The result in PGR3 is that every on-line race seems to consist of 5 of the 8 players having identical red Ferrari F50 GTs – the car the game denotes as the number 1. Thankfully many online players can’t handle it for toffee and my little DBR9 slips though to the podium.

The final problem with PGR3 is the car’s physics. They don’t behave how you might expect, lending more credence to the whole “it’s an arcade-racer with a career mode” argument. I can understand how Xbox owners who’ve never touched Gran Turismo might be impressed but GT3 offered depth and play-ability that put this to shame.

Single player score… 6/10… multi player 7/10.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

The NFS series eschews the strict racer ethic of PGR and gives you a city to roam around in, cars to tune and rework, police chases, road blocks, destroyable scenery and a whole host of race modes varying from simple sprints to checkpoints, speed checks and drag mode.

The graphics are rather beautiful and stylized, it’s a deep autumn and the action never really ends. Some of the races start to get a little long even before you are too deep into the title but you can always just mess around in the city and do something else.

My only complains would be that after Underground the selection of car modifications is a little thin although the new ultra-reflective paintwork and the deep engine roars go some way to address this. The on-line modes exist and can be quite fun too. Overall 7/10.

Conclusion

Looking at the current launch titles doesn’t inspire the desire to purchase. Microsoft have managed to hype the console itself up enough to sell what they can make purely on it’s technical specifications but the Japanese aren’t fooled and are waiting for something they want to play.

It is interesting to note that the biggest selling console at the moment is the Nintendo DS, not because its specifications are the best but because games such as Nintendogs and Wario World are fun and different.

I wonder how long Sony and Microsoft can push games that are simply what you played last year but with better graphics?

[)amien