Saturday, July 31, 2010

New Xbox 360 Fall 2010 dashboard update coming soon! + Screenshots

Recent screenshots have surfaced on the internet from the French website which show new possible images for an upcoming dashboard update for the Xbox 360. The new update is designed to integrate the Kinect accessory into the dashboard (although referred to as NATAL in these early developmental screenshots). Among the other changes are a vertical orientation between selectable items on the dashboard, a newer sleek theme that surrounds menu options and the guide button menu, plus added options to the system settings menu.

This new dashboard update will surely be a part of Microsoft's fall system update which should arrive before Kinect's launch date of November 4th.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Xbox 360 S 250GB Console Bundle ... Reviewed!

Just about a month ago, Microsoft made a big splash in the water by releasing the new, redesigned, 'slim' version of the Xbox 360. The new console, dubbed the Xbox 360 S, is sold with WiFi compatibility built in and includes a 250GB hard drive. The Xbox 360 S also takes on a new appearance, sporting a sleeker form factor that includes a slight redesign of the physical appearance system itself, while maintaining the same basic shape of the original Xbox 360.

The New Xbox 360 S

Many current 360 owners will ask themselves, "Is it time for an upgrade?"... "Is it worth it to upgrade?"... "Yes, no, maybe so...".

First off, considering how the new Xbox 360 S sizes up against the original Xbox 360, there is really not much of a true physical difference. While it's definitely no Playstation 2 turned slim transformation, the new Xbox 360 S manages to cut about an inch and a half of height, a sliver of width, and actually increase a third of an inch in depth. Microsoft also decided to cut down the weight from 7.7 pounds on the original to 6.3 pounds on the new redesigned Xbox 360 S. The actual physical resemblance between the two systems is very clear, although the newer 360 S takes on a slimming and more futuristic look.

The Xbox 360 S sports all of the same cable connections as on the original system, while also adding an optical audio jack, a dedicated kinect port, and a redesigned hard drive bay. With memory cards entering the final waning days of their lives on the 360, Microsoft decided to ditch the mem-card ports in place of two extra USB sockets. Interactive buttons on the front of the system, such as the DVD tray eject button have been made capacitive (touch sensitive). Overall, the system does make slight improvements physically speaking, although there is nothing that really goes as far as to stand out.

The most useful addition to the 360 S is the built in 802.11n WiFi connection, which allows for downloading and online gaming on par with a direct Ethernet connection. The hardware, although slightly updated, does not make any noticable improvements on processing speed (loading or installing games). Fortunately, the 360 S redeems itself by acting as a more efficient incarnation of it's older brother. Tests have shown that the redesigned system uses a third less power when playing and installing games or watching DVDs, and close to nothing when sitting idle at the dashboard. The 360 S is also stealthy quiet compared to even the newer Xbox 360 Elite systems, it hardly makes a whisper when playing games that have been installed onto the hard drive. Unfortunately, it still manages to act as a makeshift space heater when left on for long periods of intense gaming.

So is the new Xbox 360 S truly worth getting? For first time Xbox 360 buyers, the answer would be a definite yes. With many new games coming out this fall that are sure to make a splash, as well as the built in Kinect compatibility, it is hard to overlook such a powerful system. For current 360 owners looking to upgrade, the question is a bit more debatable. Most Xbox 360 owners will be satisfied with their 120GB hard drives for now, and a system redesign alone doesn't hold much weight in the eyes of most casual gamers. Sure it may be quieter and use less power, but those perks alone are most likely not enough for the current 360 owner to make the splash, unless you are own a Xbox 360 arcade or 20GB Pro and are looking to make the step up, or just have deep pockets.

Pick me! Pick me!

Fortunately, for those current owners who are interested, there is are ways to get the 360 S for less. A 'old' 20GB system complete with cables and a game or two (something you don't really play anymore) can be sold for $150 on eBay. You can even try asking if any of your friends are interested in the system, possibly through a social networking site, or even post it on craigslist (to avoid eBay's fees). Couple that nice return with an online retailer who is running a free shipping promotion and you pick up the Xbox 360 S for $299 flat. Not too shabby I'd say, but I'll be sticking with my trusty 120GB system for now, but I can't say I don't see a possible upgrade in the near future.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Medal of Honor Beta for Xbox 360 is live!

Well folks, it looks like EA was finally able to get the Medal of Honor beta online for Xbox 360 users this past Friday. Gamers who had already pre-ordered the game through GameStop will have received a hard copy of the code upon checkout or through an email (for those who pre-ordered online).

When starting up the beta for the first time, you will notice two available game types, Team-Assault and Mission. The Team-Assault game mode is essentially a team death match with a few interesting differences. The winning team is decided by reaching an overall score total, which in this case is 1200 points. The scoring system gives a base of 10 points for each kill, plus an additional 5 for a head shot, melee, and or redemption or savior kill (of a teammate). These bonuses add up quickly, making it possible for a team to win the match while having less overall kills than their opponents. Many Battlefield Bad Company veterans will recognize the Mission game type as having great similarities to the Rush game mode on BFBC and BFBC2. Attackers try to destroy a certain objective in the map, if they are successful in doing so, a new objective will appear and players advance to a new point further along in the map. There are a total of five objectives to destroy in the Mission game type on the beta. Defenders must stop the attacking team from destroying the objective by withering away the opponents ticket count, which when reaches zero, equates to a victory.

The game play is essentially a hybrid between the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. The game is produced by DICE and EA, using the frostbite engine, leaning closer to the Battlefield series in terms of game design and weapon feel, while maintaining a fast pace and rewarding "point streak" rewards give it a resemblance to Call of Duty. Bullet damage seems to resemble BFBC2 more closely than in the Call of Duty series. Head shots on the MOH are deadly, let me repeat that deadly, because chances are if you don't head shot the other player in a firefight, you will likely be seeing the respawn screen. Although the hit detection system is still a bit flawed, and it is frustrating to deal with the 'delayed deaths', the beta still does a good job of finding a niche in the balance between the two FPS games. The frostbite engine combined with DICE's game developers have led to the creation of 'Call of Duty sized maps" with BFBC2 style texture and environment design. The beta maps are relatively well designed, providing a good balance for both teams.

Users can choose between three pre-determined soldier classes, Rifleman, Special Ops, and Recon. Players start out with a limited ability to customize their equipment, but as they progress by earning points with the respective class, unlocks such as combat scopes, silencers, muzzle brakes, extended magazines, and open-tip ammunition become available. Players rank up their own skill level separately from kit classes. The player ranking system is based on a 'skill level' which changes depending on the dynamic performance of the player in ranked games. Posting a 40-5 kill death ratio in a lobby filled with lower leveled opponents (in comparison to your own) will only net you a 10 point bonus on your overall skill level. Yet placing mid table in a lobby filled with players way above you in terms of skill level can net you a large bonus.

For anyone who has yet to try out the beta, I highly recommend giving it a shot. It may not be the most ground-breaking FPS to hit the 360 scene, but it sure is a nice change of pace from the usual MW2 or Bad Company. For those who would like to catch a game with me before the beta runs it's course, my gamertag is listed in the right hand column of the page.

Until next time,
- BakEd

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