Archive for the ‘Games Consoles’ Category

Motorola can’t ban the Xbox 360 in the US, judge rules

Good news for gamers stateside, and for fans of common sense everywhere: a judge in the US has ruled that Motorola can’t ban the Xbox 360, The Verge reports.


Motorola wanted to ban the console on the grounds that it infringed its patents. Microsoft claimed in return that Motorola was trying to charge too much to license said patents. And now, two weeks after the trial started in Seattle, US District Court Judge Robart has dismissed Motorola’s case.


Instead of banning the console, Motorola will have to make do with asking for royalties.


Judge Robart ruled that Motorola couldn’t show “irreparable harm or that monetary damages would be inadequate”, and so sided with Microsoft. A ban wouldn’t make sense, he reckoned, because “it is now clear that a license agreement will result for all of Motorola’s H.264 standard essential patents.” (The patents concern the video compression standard.)


The case could spell the end of using FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) patents to ban products, too. The whole point, as the name suggests, is that patents are licensed on fair terms to help widespread adoption, so devices work with each other and us consumers benefit. For companies to then start suing each other over them does seem a bit counterproductive.


Hopefully this will mean fewer court cases over patent disputes, and the companies can get on with making their products as good as they can be.


It’s not all plain sailing for Microsoft, though. The same case is ongoing in Germany, so we’ll have to see how that one pans out. Being a European court, it could have more repercussions for us Brits, too. Watch this space.


Do you think it’s right that Motorola can’t ban the Xbox 360? Should greater steps be taken to stop cases like this reaching court in the first place? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.



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Posted on December 2nd, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Sony patents hybrid PS Move/DualShock control

What madness is this? Our pals over at sister site Gamespot have unearthed a patent for a Sony controller that combines the standard DualShock with its Move wand.


The result looks a little like a cut and shut, but it could make for a handy space saver, giving gamers the best of both worlds.


The controller would snap together to work as a standard DualShock. But then pull it apart, and you’ve got both parts of a PlayStation Move controller, for motion-sensitive gaming. A magnetometer and accelerometer enable the motion controls, and there’s vibration feedback too. Audio would also play through an embedded speaker, which would be great for receiving radio commands from an ally in a first-person shooter, say.


The patent was originally filed in May last year, but was only published yesterday.


According to one of the diagrams accompanying the patent, the PlayStation Eye camera will work with it, too. It’s not clear whether the controller is meant for the PS3 or PS4, so we could be in for a bit of a wait before it hits the shelves. If it ever does, that is.


The PS4 is rumoured to be ‘very affordable’, unlike the PS3 and other Sony consoles before it. But that doesn’t mean it’ll scrimp on the specs. It’s said to have a Blu-ray drive, 256GB hard drive, and up to 32GB of RAM. But it could have a fight on its hands. Microsoft is said to be working on an Xbox set-top box for casual gaming, as well as the Xbox 720. Nintendo, meanwhile, launched its Wii U in the UK yesterday. It’s bringing out a Wii Mini console in Canada as well, offering casual thrills on a budget.


Would you use this hybrid controller? What next-gen console are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments, or on Facebook.





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Posted on December 1st, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Wii Mini confirmed, brings cut-price gaming to Canada only

No sooner had Best Buy leaked it than Nintendo officially confirmed the existence of the Wii Mini. With a smaller physical size than the existing Wii console, the Mini cuts out various features to achieve a $100 (£62) asking price. It’s sadly only available in Canada for now though.

One of the main features the Mini loses over its big brother is an Internet connection. That means that you won’t be able to access services like YouTube or Netflix, nor will you be able to download extra games. Instead, the Wii Mini is a no-nonsense console for families to enjoy the arm-waving fun without splashing too much cash.

Oddly though, the Wii Mini will be “available exclusively in Canada during the holiday season”. Bad news if you were hoping to snag Mario on the cheap this Christmas. When I asked Nintendo to clarify if it will be permanently exclusive to Canada or not, it simply stated, “No announcements have been made regarding other regions.” I really can’t think of any benefit of restricting it purely to Canada, but evidently Nintendo has its reasons.

Along with its smaller size, the Wii Mini also comes with a bold black and red colour. A matching red Wii-mote and Nunchuk will come as standard, but presumably you’ll have to match them with other existing add-ons, most of which are white. It isn’t bundled with any games, but no doubt some stores will knock up their own package deals.

If you’re keen on a cut-price console but don’t live in Canada, keep your eyes on CNET UK. We’ll be sure to report any news of a UK launch as it happens. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on the Mini in the comments below and over on our Facebook page.




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Posted on November 30th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Best games and gaming accessory gifts

Gamers are arguably the easiest group to shop for at Christmas because games console manufacturers and software houses tend to wait until December to launch their flagship titles and hardware.

I’ve rounded up the big releases below, plus some not-so-obvious gift ideas that would be appreciated by anyone who spends far too much time hunting down alien foes in virtual universes.

Nintendo Wii U

Price: £248 from Amazon.


Nintendo likes to do its own thing, especially when it comes to designing games consoles. It has a knack of getting it right, as it showed with the original Wii and its ingenious motion controllers. With the launch of the Wii U, Nintendo is shaking things up again.

The console will come with a large gamepad that has an integrated touchscreen and allows players to continue playing games when their TV is turned off. The system will be the first of a new generation of consoles to appear, and so is likely to be a massive hit this Christmas.

X Rocker
Pro Gaming Chair

Price: £160 from Argos.


If you’re settling down for a serious gaming sesh, you’ll want to do your posterior a favour and get a proper gaming chair. X Rocker is the specialist in this field and the Pro Gaming Chair is one of its best models. It features a cool swivel base and comfortable gunstock arms.

The headline feature is the 2.1 integrated audio system that wirelessly connects back to your games console or PC to provide hassle-free, top-notch sonics. There’s even a supplementary rumble generator built into the chair, so you’ll literally be feeling booty-shaking bass.

Turtle Beach
Ear Force X42 Wireless Headset

Price: £110 from Simply Electronics.


The Ear Force X42 is a great-looking headset that’s able to recreate enveloping 360° sound to put you right in the thick of the action, thanks to its built-in Dolby surround sound feature. The large 50mm drivers produce booming bass, but you can also fine-tune the sound of the headset using multiple equaliser presets, including bass and treble boost options.

A dynamic chat boost mode automatically increases the chat volume as the in-game sounds get louder. And the headset is wireless so you don’t have to deal with annoying cables when you’re in the midst of a frantic fire-fight. The range is good too — they’ll work at up to 30ft away from the transmitter.

Razer
Imperator

Price: £56 from Pixmania.


Razer was the first company in the world to take seriously the need for gamers to have high-precision peripherals. It started off by creating gaming mice, but has grown to offer a whole host of products including keyboards, headphones, controllers and even gaming notebooks.

Its gaming mice are still first-rate, as the Imperator shows. It features a dual-sensor system that uses a combination of optical and laser technology to produce exceptionally sensitive 64,000dpi tracking. So if you get blown to bits in a frag fest while using the Imperator, you can’t blame the tool.

Dress Down
Evolution of Man: Arcade Gamer t-shirt

Price: £13 from Amazon.



There’s a fine line to tread between out-and-out nerd-dom and ‘quite cool’ when choosing a gaming t-shirt. I failed at the latter so I’ve chosen this one instead. It shows our personal evolution from ignorant hairy ape to sentient gaming genius, or something like that.

It’s available in a range of 10 colours, so you can buy one for every day of the week, and then some. Sizes run from small through to XXL.

Gametel
GameTel

Price: £45 from Amazon.


There are some cracking games now available for mobile phones, from simple but hugely entertaining puzzle games to first-person shooters like Nova. The problem, though, is that some games aren’t that suited to touchscreen controls and leave you longing for the immediacy and tactile feedback of real buttons.

This is where the Gametel comes in. It’s a control pad add-on for Android phones that connects wirelessly via Bluetooth to your handset and allows you to play a huge number of games using real buttons. It can also be used with iPhones running iOS v4 or later, but there aren’t quite as many iPhone games that are compatible with it.

Halo 4

Price: £38 from Amazon for Xbox 360.


Halo has played a huge role in making the original Xbox and the follow-up Xbox 360 such a success. All of the Halo games have been consistently excellent, but Halo: Reach, in particular, was a peach of a game, so there’s a lot of expectation surrounding the new Halo 4, which will be released on 6 November.

The game, which is the first to be developed by 343 Industries instead of Bungie, is set four years after the ending of Halo 3 and sees the return of Master Chief as the main protagonist.

Just Dance 4

Price: £40 from Amazon for Nintendo Wii U.


Just Dance 4 will be one of the launch titles on the new Nintendo Wii U console. It fits in nicely with Nintendo’s more family-orientated gaming image, as it allows the whole family to make idiots of themselves by recreating choreographed dance moves in time to hit songs.

This time around there’s an all-new Battle mode, an upgraded Just Sweat mode and new alternative dances. The Battle mode allows you to challenge friends across six rounds of dance battles. Ubisoft has also crammed in 40 new tracks, ranging from 2 Unlimited’s Tribal Dance to The B52s’ Rock Lobster.

PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

Price: £40 from Play for PlayStation.


PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale is a bit like the Avengers Assemble of video games, except with extra fighting thrown in for good measure. It’s a brawler that lets up to four players duke it out on screen at once. All the in-game characters are drawn from other PlayStation games and the arenas where battles take place are also influenced by other classic PlayStation franchises.

Iconic characters that you can take charge of include Kratos, Sweet Tooth, PaRappa, Fat Princess, Colonel Radec and Sly Cooper. Similarly, the fight arenas are based on levels from games such as Jak & Daxter, LittleBigPlanet and Resistance.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Price: £30 from Steam.


This game is a reworking of an old cult strategy title called UFO: Enemy Unknown. It’s a turn-based strategy and tactics game that puts the player in charge of a multi-national military force called XCOM, which has to defend the earth against invading alien forces.

As well as commanding troops in the field, the player also has to direct military R&D, manage the force’s finances and expand XCOM’s base of operations. Phew. This game is a perfect last-minute Christmas panic buy because you don’t need to rush out to the shops to get hold of it — you can gift it electronically through the Steam website.






















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Posted on November 29th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Nintendo Wii U launches without TVii streaming service – Console news

Recent news:

Nintendo’s Wii U launched yesterday in the US and will arrive in two weeks here in the UK, but the console will initially lack its TVii service, according to details in a press release about the launch.

The TVii service, which lets you watch telly on your Wii U, will be activated in December, according to the release. The streaming apps — Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Netflix and YouTube — will be arriving in “the coming weeks”. If any of our American cousins were looking forward to watching TV shows and movies on their Wii U on day one, they’ll likely be disappointed.

In the UK though, there’s no word on when we can expect to get video streaming services, as Nintendo hasn’t sealed the deals with the right partners yet. Realistically, it’s also highly unlikely it will manage to do so before the end of the month either. Head to the UK Nintendo site, and you’ll see the message that “Nintendo is working with other partners to bring video experiences to Wii U that will take advantage of the integrated second-screen experience. Additional details will be released at a later time.”

The delay doesn’t bode will, although many other features such as the Miiverse — which lets you share with friends what you’ve been up to — Wii U Chat and the web browser will be enabled at launch. You should obviously be able to play games without any problems as well.

Nintendo showed off its Wii U recently, and revealed it only has 3GB of storage, which means you’ll need streaming to be up and running if you want to store more than a handful of movies on it. It also recently aired the first Wii U advert “How U Will Play Next” on YouTube and Facebook, which you can see below.



Will you be handing over your cash on launch day? Or do you agree with my esteemed colleague Luke Westaway that the Wii U doesn’t have all that much going for it? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.



Our site is updated several times each day with the latest console news, reviews and features.

Posted on November 24th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

GTA Vice City to hit iPhone, iPad and Android in December



A decade after we first burned rubber onto the sun-drenched, neon-scorched streets of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, the classic 80s-tastic drive’em’up is coming to iPhone, iPad and Android.



Rockstar Games is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Vice City with a souped-up version of the original game that you can take anywhere. Now you can go and steal a car when you’re in a car! Just try not to get confused between the two and start mowing down pedestrians on the high street while singing along to Sunglasses at Night.



The iOS version of the game comes complete with retina display graphics, while all versions of the game have improved character models and enhanced lighting effects. You also get new and more precise targeting and shooting.

It’ll echo the epic scale of the original game, letting you roam the entire Miami Vice-inspired open world. All that will cost you just a fiver. 



You’ll need at least an iPhone 4, fourth-generation iPod touch or any iPad to play. If you’re more of a Grand Theft Android type, compatible phones include the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, S2 and S3, or the HTC One S and One X. Samsung Galaxy Note and Tab tablets also play the game — click here for the full list.

Rockstar is currently gearing up to unveil Grand Theft Auto 5, with a new trailer showing off buckets of train-crashing action. And a dog. For more on that and all the biggest, smallest and in-betweenest new games, check our our button-bashing buddies at GameSpot.

The mobile version of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City runs over a passer-by and hijacks your phone or tablet on 6 December. What’s your best GTA memory? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.





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Posted on November 23rd, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

30 best iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone games this week

Humble Bundle, Real Boxing, Skylanders, Arranger, Verticus, Words With Friends, Draw Something and more

It’s starting to get a little crazy now. The longlist for this week’s “best games” post included more than 60 titles – and that’s after filtering out uninteresting releases to leave just the notable ones. More than 60.

It’s a sign of the bustling mobile games market, but also slightly unsettling: how many of these games will sink without trace on the app stores, even though they’re good?

Anyway, making the hard decisions to get that kind of longlist down to 30 is what this weekly post is all about. Here’s this week’s selection:

Real Boxing (£2.99)

Already receiving rave reviews from critics, Real Boxing is a beat ‘em up starring beefy 3D boxers, gestural punching controls, online multiplayer features and lots of fighter customisation. The spiffing motion capture and deep career mode are worthy of the praise.iPhone / iPad

The Humble Bundle for Android 4

No price on this one, because like previous Humble Bundles, you pay what you think the games are worth. This is a compilation of five Android games: Splice, Eufloria, Waking Mars, Crayon Physics Deluxe and a beta version of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. Pay more than the average price – $6.38 at the time of writing – and you get more games: Machinarium, Canabalt, Cogs, Swords & Soldiers HD, Zen Bound 2 and Avadon: The Black Fortress. Innovative games, super value.Android

Hunters: Episode One (£2.99)

Ported from iOS, this turn-based strategy game puts you in charge of a team of mercenaries in the future, kitting them out and upgrading their skills for a series of missions, with a new one delivered every day. The XCOM series is the most apt comparison, and one that Hunters isn’t overshadowed by.Android

Skylanders Lost Islands (Free)

Activision’s Skylanders have been a big hit with younger gamers (and have made a big dent in many parents’ wallets thanks to their use of toy figures too). Now there’s a new Skylanders game for iOS, which involves building your own Skylands islands CityVille-style, completing missions and – if you own the toys – importing those characters into the game.iPhone / iPad

Arranger (£0.69)

Arranger is a quirky, musical mini-game collection that’s fizzing with ideas. Sporting pixelly retro graphics, it’s part RPG where you’re exploring a magical land, and part WarioWare-style surreal mini-games – all with a focus on music. It may be an acquired taste, but fans won’t be able to get enough.iPhone

Ingress (Free)

Here’s a curveball: an ambitious location-based game with quests, codes and multiplayer features that gets you capturing real-world territory within the game. The developer? Google. Well, the Niantic Labs division within Google. It’s launched in closed beta, but invites can be requested from its official website.Android

Words With Friends (£2.29)

Zynga’s popular multiplayer word-puzzler Words With Friends has made its way to Windows Phone, with Scrabble-esque gameplay that sees you making words from tiles. The hook, as on iOS and Android, is that you can be playing several separate games against friends at once, taking turns at your leisure.Windows Phone

Draw Something (£2.29)

It’s been a good week for Windows Phone when it comes to well-known social games: Zynga has also ported Draw Something to Microsoft’s platform. If you missed its initial success earlier in the year, it challenges you to draw pictures to illustrate words, then watch friends try to guess them. And vice versa.Windows Phone

Candy Crush Saga (Free)

Talking of popular social games… Candy Crush Saga has been a big hit on Facebook, where it has more than 5m daily active players. It’s a sweetie-themed puzzle game by King.com which follows its Bubble Witch Saga onto the App Store: 100 levels, lots of power-ups, and friends’ scores to outdo.iPhone / iPad

DragonVale (Free)

Backflip Studios’ DragonVale has been an enormous hit on iOS, but now it’s available on Android too. The gameplay is all about breeding and raising dragons, before setting them racing to win prizes. Lots of customisation and social features provide depth to all this virtual pettery.Android

Dream of Pixels (£0.69)

“Tetris in reverse” would be the high-concept pitch for this game, where you have to unpack lines of tetromino blocks from the sky rather than just slot them into place on the ground. It’s actually one of the most relaxing-to-play mobile games released this year, in a good way.iPhone / iPad

Coaster Crazy (Free)

Our enduring fascination with theme parks and rollercoasters has made itself known in a variety of games down the years. This new game comes from Frontier Developments, which has form having made RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 for PC back in the day. This new game sees you building rollercoasters in 3D to satisfy customers, while unlocking pieces and cars to fuel bigger and better ones in the future.iPhone / iPad

Shadowgun: Deadzone (Free)

This multiplayer third-person shooter is available for the first time on iOS this week, and emerging from beta on Android. It offers 12-player online deathmatches, a good choice of maps and characters to play, and a hatful of weapons with which to blow the bejaysus out of rivals.Android / iPhone / iPad

Waking Mars (£3.15)

Tiger Style’s wonderful grow ‘em up is included in the latest Humble Bundle (see earlier entry), but can also be bought on its own from the Google Play store. It sees you bringing Mars back to life by growing plants and aliens, experimenting with different combinations to create an exotic ecosystem.Android

Gear Jack (£0.69)

Here’s more space-action, albeit this time not on Mars. You play Jack, a robot who has to save his spaceship from being marooned in a Black Hole by running, jumping and sliding along 30 platform levels. A nice touch is the way you can customise his abilities, better at running, rolling or jumping according to how you like to play.iPhone / iPad

Sonic CD (£3.99)

The release of Windows Phone 8 seems to have kicked off a flurry of game releases, with Sega’s remastered Sonic CD game joining Draw Something and Words With Friends on Microsoft’s Marketplace. It’s a faithful recreation of the classic game, and hardcore fans will love the inclusion of its Japanese soundtrack as an option.Windows Phone

Chip Chain (Free)

This is also a good week for accessible puzzle games – a genre that tends to do well on mobile phones. In this case, you’re trying to match poker chips in quantities of three or more, with combos and lots of power-ups to spice up the gameplay.iPhone / iPad

Beat Hazard Ultra (Free)

Another example of music being used as a key gameplay element, rather than just background. Beat Hazard Ultra is a frenetic shoot ‘em up that constructs its levels from your own music collection, something that’s as hypnotic on Android as it was on iOS when the game was released for that.Android

Bastion (£2.99)

Well-loved action-RPG Bastion has been iPad-only until now, but it has just been updated to be a Universal app so iPhone gamers can join the fun. It’s a lush, engrossing adventure with beautiful scenery and music complementing the challenging gameplay.iPhone

My Little Pony (Free)

Yup. My Little Pony is riding high as a brand for children and adults (including bronies) alike in 2012. I featured the iOS version last week, but the Android edition has since gone live too. It’s part FarmVille (well, Ponyville in this case) but with mini-games thrown in starring the My Little Pony characters.Android

Bloons TD 5 (£1.99)

The Bloons series of tower-defence games have been very popular on iOS and Android, with iOS first to get the fifth title in the series. It sees you building towers, hiring defenders and seeing off enemies with a variety of weaponry, with more than 250 random missions to work through.iPhone

Sky Burger (Free)

NimbleBit is best known for its Pocket Frogs, Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes games, but Sky Burger was around before all them on iOS. Now it’s got an Android port, as you catch ingredients falling from the sky and build huge, wobbling burger stacks.Android

Guess! (Free)

The flippant way to describe this game from TinyCo would be “Draw Something without the drawing”. Which means an asynchronous multiplayer word game where you have to describe a word without using a set of “banned” words, then a friend has to guess it correctly.iPhone / iPad

Predators (£1.87)

You can’t keep a good Predator down (let alone a very bad, slavering killbeast Predator). This game brings the infamous movie villain to Android, with you playing as the Predator rather than as the humans trying to kill him. It’s a neat twist, with an array of weaponry to help.Android

RPG End of Aspiration (£3.99)

Not a brand new Android app, but available in English for the first time this week. It’s the work of Kemco Games, which already has a fine reputation for making the kind of lovingly-crafted Japanese RPGs that make fans of the genre go moist-eyed. Expect lots of battling and a suitably epic storyline.Android

Ruby Blast (£0.69)

This is Zynga’s latest game: a colourful jewel-puzzler that sees you digging through a site of ancient treasures, collecting power-ups as you go. Social features are, as ever, a big part of the gameplay, as you compare your score to friends.iPhone

Anger of Stick 2 (Free)

This is fun from casual games firm Miniclip: an action game starring a stick figure who at various points wields a baseball bat, UZI gun, grenade launcher, flamethrower and sword. Oh, and helicopters and robots are thrown in for good measure as you fight your way through stick-enemies.Android

FreeSkate Xtreme (£0.69)

Aiming for “A Kinect-like experience on iOS devices”, this is a skateboarding game that gets you tilting your iPhone to steer, but also moving your head – the game uses the front-facing camera to detect your movements and translate them into controls. It could be a gimmick if the game wasn’t fun, but this has plenty of legs.iPhone

QatQi (Free)

Just when you think there can’t be much more new ground to be broken in the word-games genre, along comes something like QatQi with an inventive take on letter-based puzzling. It’s hard to explain in a paragraph, but the game sees you exploring maps by laying tiles, scoring points for the words you make. Social features, daily new levels and characterful music and visuals make it stand out.iPhone / iPad

Lazy Raiders (£0.69)

And finally this week, another brainbending puzzle game, this time with an archeological theme. It sees you hunting down relics and avoiding traps with Doctor Diggabone, as you move the world around him, rather than the actual character. Namco Bandai’s 60-maze puzzler looks good fun.iPhone / iPad

Phew. That’s this week’s selection of 30 games, with apologies to some good titles that didn’t quite make it in (Pocket Festival, Word Wonders, Animal Academy: Fairy Tails, Icy Tower 2, Scrubs, Max Awesome, Word Bird, Gem Smashers, Total Recoil and others would all have made the list on a normal week).

What have you been playing on your smartphone or tablet though? Make your recommendations or give your views on the games above by posting a comment.

Apps

Games

Mobile

Mobile phones

Smartphones

Tablet computers

iPhone

iPad

Android

Windows Phone

Stuart Dredge

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Posted on November 18th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

OXM Breakdown – how an official Microsoft magazine has challenged the concept of gamer videos – Console news

Released this week, the latest edition of OXM Breakdown is a hilarious take on the issue of sexism in games. Just how did an official magazine pulls this off?

For an entertainment medium that is effectively dominated by space heroes, military macho men and stocky plumbers with terrible Italian accents, the video game industry can be awfully serious sometimes. News sites speculate endlessly – and with sombre gravity – over the latest jingoistic military shooters, while video reports usually consists of re-packaged game trailers and flattering developer interviews. Believe me, once you’ve seen one clip of a dead-eyed executive producer intoning “we’re not talking about multiplayer right now” until the cameraman passes out, you’ve seen them all.

But OXM Breakdown is different.

This irregular series of videos, created by the Official Xbox Magazine, provide bizarre, ribald and hilarious commentary on games and game players. The latest episode, released last week, tackles the perennial subject of women in games, but instead of an earnest debate on the endlessly regurgitated issues, it has writer Jon Blyth donning a dress and savagely parodying all the horrendous sexist nonsense that games put us through. It ends with him shouting ‘”Oh, will you shut up and let me save you, woman!” at a bewildered female colleague. It is the funniest and smartest thing I have seen on YouTube since, well, since the last OXM Breakdown.

“With the possible exception of Mega 64, there isn’t really anybody out there doing gaming videos with a view to actually being funny,” says the magazine’s editor Jon Hicks. “There’s lots of serious gameplay analysis but we thought there was room for a bit of comedy”. Blyth has form too – a couple of years ago he was making brilliant satirical videos for IGN under the title The Blyth Report, but the series was canned and he joined the staff at OXM. Hicks decided to kick off a series of videos in the same vein and the first episode, a scathing analysis of THQ’s ridiculously macho UFC Personal Trainer appeared last September.

The impressive thing is, this is not the sort of content you expect from an official game magazine; they tend to be perfectly approachable and well-produced, but usually shy away from video content that involves staff members, say, critiquing Skyrim while standing behind the counter in a porn shop. And yet that’s exactly the sort of thing that happens in OXM Breakdown.

“The concept behind the show evolved quite organically,” says Hicks. “We’ve done episodes based on single games that we thought were interesting and that we had something to say about, and it’s moved on from there into covering issues that are being talked about in the industry. With the ‘Women’ episode, I was apprehensive about publishing it at first, but it’s good to approach such a serious topic in a way that’s not tremendously self-righteous or po-faced, which is how this argument tends to pan out”.

Laying into everything from Bioshock Infinite (an intelligent game with gratuitous cleavage) to Asura’s Wrath (a dumb game that gives the player Achievement Points for staring at some breasts), sexism in games is something Blyth has wanted to tackle for a while. Several months ago, game sites got caught up in a series of controversies about scantily clad models at trade shows as well as a trailer for the game Hitman which inexplicably featured sexy nuns. “I didn’t write it while everyone else was kicking off about booth babes,” he says. “I just thought it would be another voice thrown into the big shouty pot. So I thought I’d wait until it all died down so I could stir the pot again”.

Blyth tends to write each episode over a period of weeks, usually away from his day job on OXM. The scripts then get passed to cameraman and editor Gav Murphy. “It’s good to have someone you trust who can tell you that you’re not funny without you wanting to punch them,” says Blyth.

From here, everyone on the magazine’s editorial team tends to get roped into the filming. “The time it takes to make each episode varies a great deal,” says Hicks. “The most time-consuming element of the whole process is finding archive footage to illustrate the jokes; Gav has to spend hours trawling through royalty-free archives finding something relevant, and then treating it so it works with the HD footage that we shoot”.

And the most challenging aspect of the process so far? “Trying to find a sex shop owner who’d let us film in their store was a particular challenge,” says Hicks. “As was training Jon to be capable of doing hand movements while walking around on camera, which turns out to be more of a skill than we’d give people credit for”.

The big question of course is Microsoft make of it all. This is, after all, the official magazine and the official video of XBox gaming in the UK. “They’re a great partner, they’re extremely hands off, they kind of trust us to get on with it,” says Hicks. “The discussions we’ve had with the company about Breakdown have been positive, and they have run some of the episodes on the Xbox dashboard. They’ve always been supportive even if in some cases they probably wouldn’t endorse the things we’ve said. And Future has really expanded its digital and video output over the years, so we’ve been able to draw on internal resources to get Breakdown made.

“It’s just been nice to produce something that gets away from the stuffy reputation that official mags tend to have”.

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Posted on November 17th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Xbox SmartGlass features shown off in video tour

Microsoft’s Xbox SmartGlass app looks very cool, but what does it do exactly? In this video, CNET’s own Andrew Hoyle joins forces with games connoisseur Mark Walton from our sister site GameSpot to take a tour of its main features.

SmartGlass syncs your Xbox 360 console with your phone or tablet, allowing you to use it as an extra controller. The app currently works with all Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8-compatible devices, and will be coming to iOS and Android devices early next year. Also rumoured to be in development is the Xbox Surface, a 7-inch tablet optimised for gaming, which will no doubt take advantage of the SmartGlass technology.

Mark and Andrew demonstrate how to use SmartGlass in conjunction with the newly launched Xbox Music service, as well as various video services. One of the primary benefits of the dual-screen Xbox experience is being able to control other Xbox features while gaming, so there’s no need to pause and hop out of Trials to load up your Gangnam remix playlist, for example.

As you might expect, SmartGlass also works as an actual games controller. The usefulness of this is limited at moment, but if Microsoft manages to get more developers on board with the dual-screen concept, future releases could see SmartGlass functionality being incorporated from the get-go. This could be particularly exciting in games, such as Grand Theft Auto, which require lots of pausing to jump into menus or maps.

Will we see two screens baked into the Xbox experience anytime soon? Or will it remain an optional extra, to make use of if you happen to own a compatible device? Are you impressed with SmartGlass so far? Take a look at the video above to see the app in action and swipe down to the comments below, or across to our Facebook page to let us know what you think.







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Posted on November 13th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and the history of CoD in pictures



Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is set to be another hit in the soldier-simulating game series. The Cold War and future-set special forces shooter is the latest CoD game to let you blow foreigners’ heads off in increasing levels of detail, so we don our dress uniform, salute the regimental colours and think of fallen comrades as we look back over the history of Call of Duty and its junior officer Modern Warfare.


The Call of Duty franchise was born from EA’s Medal of Honour series, which had its origins in the resources and development of Steven Spielberg’s epic film Saving Private Ryan. The team that had developed Medal of Honour: Allied Assault formed Infinity Ward, and was recruited by publishers Activision.

In 2003 the first Call of Duty tapped a full magazine on its helmet, cocked its rifle, and planted its combat boots onto the battlefield for the first time.




Call of Duty (2003)

PCThe first Call of Duty looked similar to the Medal of Honour games, as a first-person shooter set during World War 2. You play as an American, British and Russian soldier, following the three men on different missions throughout the war from the Normany landings to the Battle of the Bulge, commando combat, and fighting from Stalingrad to Berlin. Throughout the game, you play alongside a squad of computer-controlled comrades.




Call of Duty: United Offensive (2004)


PC

An expansion pack, developed by Gray Matter Studios, added the ability to sprint, and ‘cook’ grenades. New multiplayer modes included Capture the Flag and a ranking system that gave better characters to higher-scoring players.




Call of Duty: Finest Hour (2004)


Xbox, PlayStation 2, Gamecube

Ironically, Finest Hour proved to be anything but. The first console version of the game was something of a disappointment, even if it did feature AC/DC singer Brian Johnson as one of the voices.




Call of Duty: The Big Red One (2005)


Xbox, PS2, GamecubeCoD:BR1 was again developed by Gray Matter Studios, which was renamed Treyarch before the game came out. The game saw you sign up for the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division, also known as the Big Red One because of their distinctive insignia. Cutscenes were intercut with documentary footage. It was voiced by Mark Hamill, who had starred alongside Lee Marvin in the 1980 film of the same name, as well as several members of the cast of the BBC and HBO WW2 drama Band of Brothers.



Call of Duty 2 (2005)


PC, Xbox 360
In 2005 it was Infinity Ward’s turn again, as Activision decided the series would continue with the two sets of developers releasing a game in alternate years. In a dramatic upgrade to the gameplay, CoD 2 introduced a proprietary engine replacing the previous games’ Quake III engine. Smoke and fog became an integral part of gameplay, while your squadmates could now react more realistically to the battle. A new health system was also introduced, in which you healed gradually rather than searching for health packs.




Call of Duty 3 (2006)


PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Treyarch developed the first game that was designed for next-generation consoles and not PC. The story follows American, Canadian, British and Polish troops breaking out of the Falaise Pocket after the Normandy landings.




Call of Duty: Roads to Victory (2007)


PSP
The PSP version took the war mobile, following the Americans, Canadians and British from Arnhem to Salerno and Belgium.



Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)


Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Wii
For Infinity Ward’s next entry, the developers decided it was time to drag the franchise into the modern era. The game follows SAS and US Marine Corps special forces soldiers in a geopolitical story of espionage and combat in an unnamed Middle Eastern country and across Russia, but it was the online multiplayer game that really got the blood pumping. Modern Warfare went on to sell over 13 million copies.




Call Of Duty: World At War (2008)



Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS
Treyarch took it back to the old school, setting the fifth instalment of the series in the Pacific theatre and on the Eastern Front. A tweaked physics engine meant you could lay waste to your surroundings with impunity. The game was made, however, by the inclusion of a Nazi zombie multiplayer mode. Nazi zombies: we hate those guys.




Call of Duty: World at War – Final Fronts (2008)



PlayStation 2
The PS2 version added a British campaign advancing on the River Rhine. It was developed by Rebellion, the studio which also owns long-running British comic 2000AD.


Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)


PS3, Xbox 360, PC


The multiplayer game featured bonus killstreak options if a player achieved a set number of consecutive kills in a row, from a supply drop or an airstrike all the way up to a tactical nuke after 25 kills. The game also kicked off a storm of protest over a level that allowed the player, embedded undercover with terrorists, to massacre civilians in an airport.

Despite the controversy, it had sold over 10 million copies in the US alone by March 2010, and earned Activision well over $1bn dollars. Things weren’t so rosy behind the scenes, however, as the bosses of Infinity Ward were unceremoniously booted out by Activision.

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare Mobilised (2009)



Nintendo DS

A spin-off to the story of Modern Warfare 2 for the DS, Mobilised boasted new kit to play with such as UAV drones and Lockheed AC-130 shootyplanes.



Call Of Duty: World at War – Zombies (2009)

iOS

It was only a matter of time before CoD came to the iPhone 5 and iPad, and took the form of the popular zombies mode from World at War. Play with your oppos nearby over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or go online and find recruits to continue the Nazi zombie-blasting.







Call Of Duty: Black Ops (2010)



PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS
Treyarch’s next entry to the series fills in the time between the wars depicted in the series, putting you in the balaclava and tiger-stripe camo of Cold War special forces troops in Cuba, Laos and Vietnam, and Soviet-era Russia. If you weren’t there, you don’t know what it was like.

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)

PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Wii

Developed by Sledgehammer Games and written by Million Dollar Baby and Casino Royale scribe Paul Haggis, the third Modern Warfare outing sees you play, among others, a Delta Force operator attempting to drive a Russian invasion out of New York. It featured a new mode, Survival, which sees you beset by increasingly tough waves of bad guys. Oh, and it grossed $1bn in 16 days.


Call Of Duty: Black Ops – Zombies (2011)

iOS

More iPhone and iPad zombie-zapping.


Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 (2012)



PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U

Treyarch’s Black Ops 2 continues the Cold War adventures before skipping forward to 2025 to control unmanned drones and robots in a new cold war with China. It’s the first time the Black Ops series has put boots on the ground in the future, and it’s also the first to include branching storylines. Known as Strike Force missions, these branching stories change the outcome of the game based on your choices. Wager matches have gone, but Kill Streaks have been replaced with Score Streaks that reward you when you complete different actions.





Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified (2012)



PlayStation Vita

A twin-stick-twiddling spin-off from Nihilistic includes Vita features such as holding your breath using the rear touchpad.



Fall out, soldier! Our brothers-in-arms over at GameSpot UK keep the flag flying for CoD, Modern Warfare and all your favourite games. Is CoD still the top brass of gaming or is it time to be dishonorably discharged? Will you be signing up for another tour, and which was your favourite in the series? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.



Pictures: GameSpot UK











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Posted on November 13th, 2012 by  |  No Comments »