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jstarzyk Blog

Should I get Guitar Hero II (360)

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This is my question of the week! I have the money for it, and a $10 off coupon good through next week. It would cost $88 total. I know that Guitar Hero is one of the best games of the year, but I'm not thrilled with the song list. I only recognize about one third to one half of them. How much fun is the game if you don't know the songs? I just got DDR and I haven't played it much. I'm also receiving games from Gamez N' Flix. Plus I have a huge 360 backlog to finish up. I don't know that it's really worth getting this moment. Can anyone convince me?

360: To Elite, or Not Too Elite?

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Most of you know by now that I'm a huge proponent of the 360. Since launch, I have been constantly impressed by the performance and game selection that Microsoft has offered. Although I bought a Wii at launch, I do not feel as strongly about it. I believe that the 360 has better games in terms of looks, length, and quality. The recent announcement of the 360 Elite model leaves me in quite a pickle. I don't really care about the color of my system (I'm more interested in what it can do), so the two major differences are the 120 GB hard drive and the inclusion of an HDMI port and cable. The debate has been raging in the forums as to whether these changes warrant a $479 price tag. I've decided to offer up some of my thoughts on the matter, since I will undoubtedly be taking the plunge sooner or later. The 120 GB hard drive is an indisputable improvement. Anyone who has connected to Live and downloaded content understands the limitations of the 20 GB hard drive. 120 gigs should afford enough room for saved files, downloaded games, and HD content. 20 GB's has not proven to be enough for most hardcore gamers and Live users. The inclusion of HDMI is a little bit more disputed. Many argue that HDMI is a better quality than component off the bat because component cables require a transfer from analog to digital signals, while HDMI transfers data digitally to begin with. I really don't know if I believe that this effects image quality or not. What may effect image quality is the resolution you can achieve with your TV through these various inputs. Component cables can only carry 1080i signals. Currently the VGA cable is the only one available for the 360 that can carry 1080p signals. The problem with this 1080p signal is twofold: games are upscaled from 1080i instead of being native in 1080p, and many HDTV's don't accept 1080p signals through VGA cables. I'm supposing that the HDMI cable will allow for an image upscaled to 1080p to be produced on most 1080p televisions. Whether the difference between 1080p and 1080i is substantial, especially when the signal is upscaled and not native, is entirely up in the air. All of that considered, I'm not sure that the Elite system is really all that Elite for current 360 owners. Sure, the 120 GB hard drive is a huge plus, but you could buy that a la carte and deal without the HDMI. The HDMI might not even produce such a huge difference, since 1080i upscaled to 1080p might not be such a huge difference. So really, the hard drive is the only Elite part of the system. It does not seem too Elite to me... Personally, the decision is pretty simple. Once Microsoft solves all data transfer issues, I will probably upgrade to the Elite system. I have a few reasons for this that apply only to me, and I think it is important that you do your own research when making your decision! My current 360 (which has survived without problem since launch) sounds like it is developing a problem with its disc drive. If I am going to have to replace the system, I might as well get the Elite one. Also, my HDTV's inputs are a major consideration. My Samsung ln-s3251d only has one component input, but it has 2 HDMI inputs. Currently I do not have any HDMI equipment. If I get this HDMI enabled 360, I can use my only component port for my Wii, which desperately needs any help it can get in the graphics department. If I can sell this 360 for a couple hundred dollars, the Elite system will be worth the difference to me. I am somewhat annoyed that Microsoft didn't get everything right the first time. This better be the last souped up model of the 360 that they release. That being said, as long as they can work out the data transfer issues, I will probably get the Elite system.

Watchdog Group Mediawise Publishes 2006 Buying Guide

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According to a recent report released by video game watchdog group Mediawise, violent video games can cause aggressive behavior in children. Although I do not necessarily agree with this view (for some, it is a release of aggressive feelings, rather than an educator), there are a bunch of studies cited that tend towards this general conclusion. The holiday buying guide for this year is not surprising. For the XBox 360, The Godfather, Saints Row, Dead Rising, and Just Cause all made the list. Round that out with Scarface, Resevoir Dogs, The Sopranos, Gangs of London, Mortal Kombat, and Gangs of London. Who would have thought that these games are violent, especially since they are all labeled "M" for mature by the ESRB. I'm personally not a fan of the current rating system. Children under 17 can't buy tickets for movies rated R, so why should they be able to buy games that are rated M? A parent should have to sanction the purchase of either, and educating parents is what this group seems to be about. As video games become more and more realistic, the problems only compound. It just happens that games on the recommended list tend to have a "childish" twist. They do recommend Madden 07, and two E10+ games made the list. Lego Star Wars II is one of these games. I'll play games from both lists, but most likely more from the mature list. I'm 21, I can do whatever I want. Lego Star Wars still appeals to me, but some of the others on that list are just not that interesting (i.e. Nancy Drew). I wouldn't give Dead Rising to my friend's 10 year old brother, but neither should his parents! Ultimately, the responsibility should fall to the parent. Mediawise misconstrues the problem. The problem isn't violent video games, it is a lack of parenting. If Mommy and Daddy buy their 8 year old the violent video game that has a big M on the front, then they probably need to start worrying about their parenting skills a little more. Mediawise does a good job of giving parents an idea of how to engage the material in games, but ultimately the parent needs to judge whether it is appropriate or not. Even after all of that, Mediawise overlooked some hugely popular, highly rated titles. Why they didn't make the cut, I'm not sure? Maybe the ones that made the list were just the most egregiously mature. That being said, here's a short list of games I would have thought should be on this years warning list: Gears of War -- Can someone pass me that chainsaw, I have a bit of an itch? Resistance: Fall of Man -- Anything to do with the end of mankind should probably be on the list, don't you think? Rainbow Six: Vegas -- Ultra-realistic, and directly linked to current political conditions. Burnout Revenge -- A violent racing game. We better be careful because those teens who play this might get their licenses some day! Red Steel -- Why not recommend one from the Wii? After all, it's a more visceral way of experiencing a game. WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 -- How can they overlook wrestling games every year? They are ridiculously violent, and they constantly degrade women. Hitman: Blood Money -- You play as an assassin... Need I say more? Just look at the box before you buy a game for a kid. You don't even need to know about the game, just be responsible. In the meantime, I'm getting Gears of War and Rainbow Six Vegas for Christmas. Sorry kids!

No Camping This Year!

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That's right, I've got pre-orders! I decided to sell my PS3 on ebay. I've decided I don't care for Sony so much, so I'm done with it. It's already listed! :-) As for my Wii... I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE! I might try to freeze myself and have my buddy wake me up on Sunday morning. Just kidding (and you are probably sick of hearing that episode quoted). I did pre-order it, with an extra controller/Nunchuck and Zelda, and I can't wait. I actually may have pre-ordered another one, on Amazon, by accident. If that's the case, it'll make a good Christmas gift for someone... I know I've had a 360 for a year, but.... NEXT GEN IS TOTALLY HERE AND I AM LOVING IT!!! Signing off, - JStarzyk P.S. I'm dying for Sneak King this weekend!

Playstation 3 Pre Order

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I preordered a PS3 at EB Games today. I didn't think I'd be able to, as I got out there at around 7:30 AM. To my surprise, no one was there yet! I grabbed some coffee and food, and went back for 8:30. A lot of people joined up after me. The store only took the first eight people. I was number one, so I put my $100 down (credit card style). The manager of the store told me that the preorder doesn't guarantee a PlayStation 3 on launch day, but he also said he is saying that to cover his bases. I guess if they get any launch allocation, I get one... Now I wonder if I will be keeping it or not...

Call of Duty 2!!!!

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WOW! I love it. I've already played most of the Soviet missions through on Veteran, and man is it awesome. I've never enjoyed a shooter this much. I just love the sense of scale that they worked into the game. Advancing across fields as part of an infantry assault is just amazing. And online is a lot of fun too. I'm REALLY impressed. It's a shame I bought Perfect Dark Zero first, because Call of Duty 2 is way better...

World Cup: US v. Italia

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Who will you stand with? :-P I've never really watched soccer until this past semester... Some Manchester United games were aired on FSNNY2. I didn't really understand the rules, just the basic don't touch with your hands and don't go Juggernaut on someone. I sat down to watch some World Cup soccer at my girl's house, and her dad was explaining all the rules to me (which was really helpful because we were watching it in Spanish, and "You know I don't speak Spanish.") I really like what I've seen so far. Today is the US v. Italia game. US has to win to move on from pool play, since we lost our first game. I'm routing for the US!

Unexpected Purchases!

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Walked in to Gamestop today and saw that they had the "Buy 2 Get 1 Free" sale running. Since I've never been able to avail myself of this (since they always seem to have only two games worth buying in any given store), I didn't expect to find anything. I was not surprised to see that they had only 2 out of 3 games I wanted. Later I passed by another Gamestop and decided to take a look. They had all three, and I unexpectedly dropped my plastic for them: Battlefield 2: Modern Combat Call of Duty 2 Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter Haven't played any of them yet, but sure am looking forward to it. I think this ends my video game purchases for the next couple of months though!

PlayStation 3 Pricing?

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Sony, are you kidding me? I barely scraped together $399 for an Xbox 360 back in November. There is absolutely no way I could put together even the $499 for your cheapest model. What happened? Is it the BluRay technology? Is it the Bluetooth motion sensitive controllers (which you so heinously pawned from Nintendo)? What is it? I am out. If you want my business, you need to make the price comparable to other things on the market. For $500-600, I could upgrade my current PC's video card so that I will be set for the next 3 years easily! I'm not going to spend that kind of cash on a console. Does anyone remember the days of $300 consoles? It wasn't so long ago... I wrote off the 360's pricing to "inflation" and rising costs, but this is way beyond that. I'm boycotting it. Quite frankly it's more than I'm willing to pay to play. Sony, you've betrayed me.

Xbox 360 Journal - Part I

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This space has been quiet for far too long, and an explanation is certainly in order. My last post is no longer valid. I did purchase Dynasty Warriors 5: Xtreme Legends, only to return it less than a week later in order to have enough money for a coveted 360. No gamer was sure how to get a 360 if they had not reserved it, and I was certainly no exception. I had originally thought that I would not be interested, but the current generation of games had finally lost my interest. It was time for something new and fresh, and a simple Xbox would not have done the trick. So, I hightailed it over to my local Best Buy on November 21 at 8 PM, only to find that they had already handed out their tickets for the consoles. I had heard similar stories from people at another Best Buy, and Toys R’ Us. Then again, what could I really expect? The first person was out in front of the midtown Manhattan Best Buy (the first place I tried) at 7 PM on November 20th. They had about 250 systems total. Turned away from the Midtown Best Buy’s midnight launch, I started to walk for the Chelsea one, thinking that my carefully laid preparations may have all been for naught (I had purchased a poncho, a new hat, gloves, and a small supply of pre-packaged food for the evening to come). While moving downtown towards Chelsea, I passed some campers in front of a Comp USA on 5th and 30 or 40 something-th. They told me that the store was expecting about 30 premium consoles, and as there were only about 15 people in line, I decided to wait. At around 9 PM, the manager came out of the store. The disheveled man told us that the store had only received about 10 premium consoles and 5 cores. I was getting a 360, but it didn’t look like it would be the one I wanted. When asked again, the manager said he had 5 premiums and 10 cores. A third time yielded a different result: no more than 12 consoles in total. I was on the cusp, but I was ready to wait. I had used my game theory from economics to deduce that he had to be lying, or an idiot. Both were proven true the next morning. One guy in line behind me said that he was going to go to his gaming “supplier” to get one. He had also considered driving out to Jersey to get one at a Kmart, but they were using a lottery system, and he had heard that there were 200 people there. He left the line shortly after 11 PM. As midnight approached, the rain grew heavier and it started to get colder. It reached about 35 degrees. We all started to chat, and decided that we would make a list of names so that people could leave the line to use the bathroom and such. Unfortunately, after establishing such a list people left and came back hours later. They went home and took hot showers, or spent hours in dry cars. The only time I left the line was to walk down to Penn Station to use the rest room and see who was camped at the Kmart there. My only trip was followed by a long space of silence from about 4 to 6 AM. I may or may not have fallen asleep at the time. At around 6 AM the line started to grow. At around 7 the woman who was managing came to the store. She did not look happy about the line that had formed, and you could tell she was not looking forward to the day. Workers started to arrive, and we soon saw them unpacking 360's from boxes behind the front counter. At around 8 AM the same manager from the night before came out to hand out vouchers and tell us how everything was going to work. I got number 11 of 26 premiums. He had lied, so one prediction came true. He proved he was an idiot by the way he treated the guy behind me, who was an employee of the store. This young man was removed from the line simply for being an employee, despite the fact that he had joined the line as soon as his shift has ended and waited all night (nearly as long as I waited!). Needless to say, I doubt I will be buying anything from Comp USA ever again. Not only did I feel lied to by the manager, but I can not condone what he did to that employee. He had queued up like everyone else, so he should have been treated as anyone else. At 8:30, the doors were opened, and we were admitted in groups of five at a time. They had a stand with some accessories and games, but I didn’t purchase any given that I was strapped for cash and unhappy with the way that employee had been treated. I purchased the 360, walked back to my dorm, and crashed onto my bed after a nice hot shower. Part II to come soon: How I came to open my 360, buy a game, and play for the first time.
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