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zgreenwell Blog

Halo 3 Review Correction.

I had to correct my review of Halo 3. It turns out there was some kind of promotion going on while I was first playing that allowed the Xbox Live silver accounts to play online. I'm a very dissapointed in this and think Microsoft really missed out on some easy xbox marketing, but my complaints aren't going to change anything. For families like mine with multiple people playing on the same Xbox 360, you can upgrade a second profile to gold and still play together online. This is better than having to buy another Xbox 360, another copy of the game, and still needing an xbox live subscription, but not as good as I had originally thought.

Also, the game is limited to only two local players for the story. I think this is kind of annoying, but most people probably wont notice.

Call me a fanboy...

I just reviewed Halo 3, and I gave it a 10/10. Click here to read the review.

Yes, I know I'm a microsoft pawn and do everything they tell me without question. :P Anyone who believes that is an idiot.

Anyway, the reason I gave it a 10 is not because I am so in love with the series, because up to this point I was not. I also would understand if someone out there didn't like the game. While playing the Solo-Campaign waiting for my brother to get home to help, or at least for someone to sign on live, which they did. No the reason I gave it a 10 is because this game shows the complete maturation of the Xbox Live service and is everything I have ever wanted a multiplayer game to be. It is the perfect combination of local and online play. For me, the game is perfect.

I do have some quams with graphics. I dont think they look much better than Halo 2, but they function really well. Would I like for the game to look a lot better? Maybe, but I wouldn't want that at the cost of longer load times and framerate issues. Maybe I'm a bigger fan for not having player Halo 2 extensively. The game is not as good looking as Gears of War. Anyone who says it is must be blind. I do feel that if it fails in any category its graphics. I don't review strictly on graphics, but even if I did this game is still much better than the 1.0-5.5 reviews its being given (and no I did not give it a 10 to cancel out those reviews).

So go ahead and flame me if you want, I know I've given more than enough reason lately. The game is good though. It is the best combination of local and online play that has ever been made on a console, and for that reason it might end up being the greatest game I've ever owned.

Happy Halo Day!

I will be taking a tomorrow of work, using one of 2 personal days I have left to use before the end of the year. Consequently, I will probably not post or be online at all tomorrow. I will be on live though.

How I fell in love with the Xbox 360 (part 2)

It was around May 2006, I was newly married and unemployed. Suffice to say, I had NO money. None! A new video game system was actually the furthest thing from my mind. I had still managed to play a few games. I had the Xbox at my house, but I only played it when someone else came over. I wanted to play games, but I felt a little guilty for doing it. I knew I should be working somewhere, but with all the free time from not working, I had to do something. I found myself getting out my old Super Nintendo to fill the empty hours playing some of my old favorites. It was completely unsatisfying and I was ready to quit on video games for good. So, when my older brother came back from training for the Marines suggested trading in the Xbox for an Xbox 360, I had no objections. I wasn't using the system and if he could get some enjoyment out, then that was a good thing.

I surrendered my original Xbox and went to Game Crazy where we were going to make the exchange. Even with all the Xbox equipment there was still a pretty significant amount left to pay towards a 360, but my brother gladly paid it. He also picked out our first 360 game, Enchanted Arm, to my objections (I really wanted Top Spin 2). I figured he was paying for it he should be able to pick it out. So we took the new system home and hooked it up at my parent's house, on a 20" tube TV, the old kind with the curved screen. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. Apparently neither was anyone else in my family. My brother went back to work with the Marines and left the Xbox 360 behind, where it remained largely untouched for months.

So time goes on and I don't give a thought to the 360 for about five months. Then in November I manage to find a full-time job and set to work. Soon I discover that I have a lot more money available now that I'm working (go figure :p). I feel a lot better about my situation and don't feel like I'm totally wasting my time if I sit down for a while just to play video games. Of course, this gets me thinking about all the fun I had with my old Xbox and I am a little resentful about trading it in. So, the next time I've over at my parent's house I notice the neglected 360 and ask if anyone minds if I move it to my house. No one there objects and this magical gaming machine makes its way to my house. So, I hook it up to my system, the same one I used with the original Xbox, and... I just leave it sitting. I only turned it on to make sure I had it hooked up right.

So, Christmas goes by and I discover that when you've moved out on your own you're responsible for buying your own presents. So, I was still without a video game I actually wanted to play. In January, I was moved out of my temp status at my new job and was given a raise. I felt pretty good about myself and figured I deserved a reward. I had seen some commercials on TV for a new 360 game coming out that looked like just the right trophy to top off my recent success. I took a few of the original Xbox games we had kept, along with the unwanted Enchanted Arm game, and headed off to Game Crazy again to pick up Lost Planet! With the trade in credit I decided to go with the Collectors Edition, mostly for the bonus multiplayer stage included, and headed home, very excited about my purchase.

So when I finally get to sit down to play my new game I turn it on and am reintroduced to the Xbox 360. The graphics and sound is every bit of what a next generation system should be. However, upon starting to play I have mixed reaction about my game of choice. I feel like the game plays really slow and actually had a little trouble with the control scheme (I didn't even know you could roll at first). I turned the game off after about an hour and was only frustrated and slightly upset. However, I didn't spend $70 on a game to let it sit, so I decided I'd give it another chance. I'm glad I did. Lost Planet might not be everyone cup of tea, but the production values are through the roof. The games boss battles are so well made. The combination of the heart pounding battles and amazing visuals and amazing 5.1 sound had me enthralled. I was now an official Xbox 360 fan. There was no denying it.

Now I had the Xbox 360 and a game I liked, but I was still missing something; I did not have internet. Because of my previous experience with Live, I wanted to sign up again, but I wasn't about to get high speed internet just so I could hook it up to the Xbox. So, I decided to buy a computer. I figured I would need a computer eventually anyway. It worked out to be a good time as I had just filled out my income tax return and found I was getting a $650 refund (I had a whole $1000 of taxable income in 2006). So I did some research and decided on a Windows Vista Home Premium Desktop PC from Compaq and used the money from my tax return to pay for it. It was a good choice and provided me with the perfect excuse to add internet to the Xbox.

It was around March by the time I received my computer I had ordered and gotten the internet set up. I had played through the entire campaign on Lost Planet and was just itching to try the online. It took some work, but I managed get my hands on an Xbox Live Gold pack, complete with vision camera and Xbox Live Arcade titles (and yet another headset). I picked up a $20 wireless router and some ethernet cable and was ready to get on Xbox Live. I spent an afternoon getting everything plugged in and sat down that evening to my first session on the 360. Once again, however, my first impressions were not that great. I got my butt kicked in my first few matches on Lost Planet. That, added to the long wait times in the lobbies was enough to stain my original impressions of the service I had enjoyed so much on the original Xbox. I felt almost like I had wasted my money.

I'm sure now you're wondering how I ever got to liking this device with all these mixed first impressions. Well, there were two things that surprisingly endeared me to the 360. The first was achievement points. Microsoft was running an Xbox Rewards program that gave you prizes if for increasing your gamerscore by 1500 points. The challenge got me to play several different games and different game modes for the games I did have in order to unlock achievements. In the end I didn't get much except a gamer pic and a free copy of the Xbox live Arcade game Contra, but it was enough. I had fallen in love with achievement points and was already trying to unlock more. The second thing that made me a believer was the Xbox Live Arcade. Initially I was totally turned off to the idea, but when I saw that there were some fun titles on it I decided I would try it. I had gotten a copy of Uno and Robotron for free with my Xbox Live membership and really liked them. I downloaded Ninja Turtles Arcade and Geometry Wars, and pretty soon the XBLA became my favorite feature on the new Xbox.

Since then I've managed to find even more fun features and uses for my Xbox 360. I got a new 19" LCD HDTV monitor to display it on. Also, I have added a TV tuner in my computer, for over air HD (I don't have cable). Since Windows Vista has media center built in I am able to use my Xbox as a Media Center Extender. It's cool because my TV is in the basement and has no way of getting HD programming. Of course I've bought a few more games and rented several more. I have also discovered the numerous amount of demos for Xbox 360 games in the Xbox Live Marketplace. Downloading demos has actually become my method of choice for deciding if I'm willing to try an upcoming game. Of course I have made a few friends on Xbox Live. I find it amazing how well you're able to organize matches using the voice chat, even while watching TV in Media Center, or while playing completely separate games. It's nice!

Now, here I am today. After work I'm going to go out and place my preorder for Halo 3. I am very excited about it! I am absolutely in love with the 360. I love Xbox Live. I love the Xbox Live Arcade. I love achievements! I love the large selection of games on the Xbox 360! After all I've been through I know I am pretty fortunate to have this video game system and I couldn't be happier with any other product.

Thanks for Reading!

-zgreenwell

How I fell in love with the Xbox 360

I have owned pretty much every major console, and several non-major consoles, since the Atari 2600, and I have had my favorites in every system generation. For the most part, I've always stuck with Nintendo, and I still like them. I must admit that I also enjoyed owning a PS2. I did own an Xbox but I didn't buy it until late in the systems life. Well now were on this generation, and I've had an Xbox 360 for about a year and a half and although currently I really enjoy owning an Xbox 360, but this has not always been the case. In fact if it would have been up to me I would have never to come own this wonderful gaming machine.

Well, my affair with the 360 actually starts in the last system generation with the original Xbox. My family had purchased a PS2 shortly after the launch in 2000, because our original Plastation had broken and we needed something to replace it. So by the time the Nintendo Gamecube launched we had built up a good library of PS2 games. Well, that was not enough to deter me from purchasing the new Nintendo system and I bought it on the day it launched along with Waverace, and I was happy. I knew that the Xbox was out, and I definitely didn't want it.

I enjoyed the two systems we had a spent tons of time playing games like, Super Smash Brothers: Melee, and Final Fantasy X. The PS2 and the Nintendo Gamecube had so many fun games on them, but after a while my brother and I got sick of our current collection and decided to trade in some games for something knew. Well, we did a real clean out and I don't know how many games we traded in, or how much money we got, but it was enough that the price of a used Xbox didn't seem very expensive. We bought one, on a whim, and also picked up Rainbow Six 3 as a game. I was a little uncertain about the purchase, but looking back, that is where it all started.

I was working at a local electronics retailer at this time and I had managed to gather a nice TV and a 5.1 sound system. I was still living with my mom at the time and I wasn't the smartest with my money. I spent a lot of it on electronics and video games I didn't need, but it was a fun time. The home theater system I had seemed to be largely going to waste watching DVDs. We were using the PS2 in another room, and the Gamecube was fun, but didn't impress me with it graphics or sound. So when we got the Xbox I hooked it up to my system using the optical cable I had for sound and a component cable that we had purchased (partly because we could use component, partly because it had an optical out). I was no longer unsure of our Xbox purchase.

When I first turned it on I was totally amazed. There probably couldn't have been a better choice for out first game than Rainbow Six 3. It was great! That game made the Xbox look great! The graphics were stunning and the in game audio was superb. It came with an Xbox Live headset which allowed you to hear your team-mates in the one player game (I thought that was particularly cool).

Of course it wasn't long until I got curious about Xbox live and got a long ethernet cable to run the internet to the Xbox. I bought a live account and got playing. I was impressed. I had only played a few online games before and they all used text chat. This was totally different. Not only could you use voice chat, but the characters in the game moved their mouth to match what the payers were saying. Neat!

So, time went on and I got a few more games for the Xbox. I eventually got around to playing several games, including Halo (which I didn't like :P), but my biggest obsession was DDR: Ultramix, which I played online and downloaded all the additional songs for. I played through and beat Knight of the Old Republic 1 and 2. After a while, I was getting tired of playing Xbox, but then came Star Wars Battle Front II. My family andI fell in love with that game. We would play four player games for hours on end. In fact we still play the game occasionally. Even when no one else wanted to play, we'd play online (and we were really good online). I felt really happy to own an Xbox and felt like there were some very good games on the system.

It was at about then that the Xbox 360 came out, and I was actually very upset by it. I had just revived my relationship with the original Xbox and felt like Microsoft was abandoning the system. It was the most powerful system of its generation, if any system was in need of an update, I was sure the Xbox was not it. Additionally, the new Xbox 360 came out at $399, and that was way too expensive! I promised myself I would not buy a 360 and turned my attention towards the PS2, which had, and still has, several new games coming out for it.

When I moved out of my parents' house in 2006, I really had become a little disillusioned with video games. I wasn't making as much money and I was getting married (I shouldn't be playing video games anyway). I decided to take my Xbox with me because I still liked DDR, even though I didn't play it much, and still played SWBF2. I had no plans on buying and new video game systems and knew I would never own the Xbox 360.

Well, how did I get from this to both owning and loving an Xbox 360? I'll tell you, tomorrow.

-zgreenwell

Additional Thoughts on Blue Dragon

I've been playing Blue Dragon very extensively as I only rented it and want to get as far as possible in the five days I have it. I've already made it to the second disk and am loving the game, and I wanted to share a little of my impressions of it. I already wrote a review for it, and am appalled by Gamespot's low score (especially when compared to Two Worlds, which I also reviewed). Still, since its been my obsession over the past three days there are some additional tidbits I'd like to share.

First, I'd like to say that Blue Dragon bears an uncanny resemblance to the Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest Series. The game could have been titled Blue Dragon Warrior IX and been lauded with much more praise for its innovative take on turn-based battle systems and lack of random encounters. Not only is it animated by the same person that did Dragon Quest VIII, but the enemy design is similar, the only real difference is the slimes are replaced with poos. Now, I've played DQ8 and beat it, completely (as in I've done everything there is to do on that game) and I can tell you Blue Dragon is 100x better. For anyone who has played both would probably agree. Some might miss the "Sexy Beam" though.

The other thing I'd like to share is about Japanese RPGs VS American RPGs. In Blue Dragon, there have already been plenty of times where someone forced me to go somewhere, or just simply stood in my way so I couldn't get in a specific place. If this were an American RPG, and I really was annoyed by those characters, I could just simply kill them and continue on my merry way. I do miss that. Still, as a fan of Japanese RPGs I know this simply means, "Sorry you need to continue in story line". I take note of these places because I'll probably want/need to come back to them later. I guess I'm somewhat used to it. Another difference is that in Blue Dragon, items are hidden in just about everything. In one major town I spent house walking into random peoples houses and simply searching for items and taking everything I found. The people in those houses simply smile at me and tell me some random information I'll never use for anything. This would never happen in Oblivion or and other American ****RPG. In this case I prefer being able to take everything. These witless individuals are just waiting around for me to save the world; they should be bringing any useful possessions they have to me and laying them at my feet. That only happens occasionally on Blue Dragon, but I get a slight Ego Trip every time it does. Consequently, I tend to like the Eastern Flavored RPGs better myself, but I've built up quite a taste for both.

I still feel that Blue Dragon was given a poor review. It seems especially odd when compare to Two World, which is the glitchiest messed up poor looking RPG I've ever played (not to say that it isn't fun). Two worlds did not deserve a higher grade the Blue Dragon! I guess it is just proof that you can't go by the professional reviews for a game. I am glad that I've been able to play Blue Dragon and am debating buying it, the only reason I'm wavering is because I only have enough money for one game and there are so many I want to buy. I hope that anyone reading this that is at all interested in Japanese RPGs will give Blue Dragon a try. It is the best I've played in a long time.

Do M rated games sell more?

Gamespot's recent article M Rated Games Sell Best got me thinking a little. I'm a conservative in every sense of the words. Which means the while I am definitely not for government censorship, I do find the strong language, sexual themes, and (to a lesser extent) violence, slightly disturbing. Its those apprehensions that keep me from owning games like Bioshock and Gears of War. Almost contradictorily, I do own Rainbow Six Vegas and Perfect Dark, which oddly enough is rated M. Additionally, have always been a fan of the Resident Evil and Time Splitters series. So, while I'm not against buying a game just because it is rated M, I will not buy it just because it IS rated M.

The reason I believe M rated titles have been doing so well, is because of the large amount of very good M titles that have been released recently. Take a look at this quote:

"One of the more noteworthy findings from the study was that titles that received a M for Mature rating had the highest average review scores and the highest average gross sales in the US."

continued...

"The study also noted that games that score above 90 on Metacritic grossed sales of up to 531 percent more than the industry average, even though games of such caliber accounted for less than 2 percent of the titles released"

The truth of this study is that in recent history the best rated games coming out on any of the three major systems have mostly been M rated. While some people use this as a point to argue that reviews are more inclined toward more adult titles, the truth is that these games are just better. "Good Games Sell Best" would probably have been a better title for the article, but then that would have gotten my attention, and definitely not warranted me writing this blog post. So why are these games better? Is it because they have more blood and gore? Is it because of the foul language and sexual themes? While those might play a part in the overall game experience the real reason these games are better is because the developers are putting more work into them. Even looking at the Wii, a notoriously child oriented system, we find Gamespot puts Resident Evil 4 at the top of the list of games. So if the developers are putting their best best work into M rated game Then the question really becomes, "Why?".

The short answer would be because that's where the money is a, but that isn't really the whole truth. A discerning adult, such as myself, has to really consider what games to buy and what games not to buy. I don't want to waste my hard earned $60 on a game I'll be bored with in a few short hours. To appeal to an adult audience a game MUST BE GOOD! To earn my dollars a developer must create something worth buying,and because this is true, a developer knows they can't hold back when approaching an M rated title.

This is not true though for a younger audience. Movie tie-ins are notorious for being poorly made, yet they continue to sell well because they target a younger audience. A game like Spider-Man 3 doesn't have to accomplish much more than being released and the appropriate time and allowing a six year old to pretend to be Spider-Man for a couple hours. Problems like repetitive gameplay and mediocre graphics wont prevent a title like that from being successful. So, there is less focus placed on the game itself and the final product suffers as result. This is not necessarily a bad situation for a manufacturer. Because of the limited resources spent on the title and the timely release, the game is overall more profitable than if it were held to AA or AAA standards.

In the end, the games that have the most potential are games that are made for everyone that have been polished to perfection. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one example of a game that was greatly enjoyed by young and old alike. However, its hard not to alienate the ever aging core gamer audience. Many fans of LoZ:OoT were not so very enthused about the sprite graphic Nintendo decided on for the next game in the series, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Also, it doesn't matter how good a game like Nintendogs is, I could never bring myself to play it. That, however,isn't enough to hinder the game's sales, over 14 million worldwide.

So, in the short term M rated games may rule the day. With as many good ones as have been released in recent history it is little surprise they are doing so well. The reason so many M rated games are good though might just be because if they weren't no one would buy them (Vampire Rain, anyone?). Children's titles can get away with a lot more, by playing off loved characters from movies, TV, or Video Games (games like Pokemon Dash are proof). The best selling titles, however, have been, and will always be, great games rated E or T.

Halo 3 will top the charts this year, but those Pokemon games wont stop selling, and once all those Wii owners have a chance to get their hands on Mario Galaxy, we will see drastically different numbers. There will always be great M rated titles, and they will continue to sell well (I will continue to buy them), but any victories they have in sales will be short lived.That's my opinion anyway.

Thanks for Reading!

-zgreenwell

My PSP is broken.

I write this not really to bash on the PSP because I really like it and want it to work, but my PSP has seemingly stopped working for some unknown reason. I'll be getting a replacement from Sony for $90 sometime, but I didn't want to spend money on a system I've actually already bought twice (my first one was stolen when someone broke into my parents house). I guess I've just had bad luck, but I'm still upset about it. If anyone wants to offer me some sypathy I'd gladly accept, especially since there are all kinds of great PSP games comming out now.

How the Wii Competes in an HD World

With Nintendo's Wii outselling its competition by a large margin it's no doubt that the Wii has worked it way into the hearts, and homes, of many happy gamers. Still, with articles like Gamespot's recent Metroid Prime 3 focus, it's obvious that Wii has yet to impress some. I grew up as a Nintendo fan and still am, but after getting a Wii for myself I must say graphically I feel underwhelmed.

I've been using my Xbox 360 since near launch and have stepped up to an HDTV (a $250, 720p 19in widescreen HDTV Monitor to be exact) to better display the crisp graphics the system offers. I'm still just using the component video cables that came with they system, but have experience several games at 720p, and I really enjoy it. When I used the included video cable in the Wii, I got a picture that looked blurry. I know the picture would be improved if I switched to component cables, but Nintendo isn't getting another chance for a first impression. Now, you can quote me as saying gaming isn't all about graphics, I know I've said it before, but after struggling so hard to get my hands on this little white box I was honestly expecting more. So, how does this affect my feelings on the Wii? Honestly, it doesn't change much.

Oddly enough I got my Xbox 360 as a gift. My Brother bought it before joining the Marines and when he left he gave it to me. The reason that is important is because in reality I would not be able to afford an Xbox 360, not while keeping up on my mortgage payments at least. While I really enjoyed playing my Xbox 360 on one player, and have even had a really great time playing against strangers online, I have yet to find someone I know in person who has an Xbox 360. As much as Microsoft promotes it system as being very social I find myself unable to play games on it against my family or friends. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part local multiplayer is non-existent in Xbox 360 games. Now, if they all had their own 360 this would not be an issue, but have you ever tried to convince someone to go out and spend over $400 just so you could play games together? It doesn't usually work.

Enter the Wii. This grossly underpowered system virtually begs for more than one person to be playing it. Its low cost makes it an easy purchase for families, like mine, struggling to stay within their budget (though I practically went without food for two weeks to be able to afford mine, something my wife was just thrilled about). Unlike the Xbox 360, there is essentially nothing more required than the Wii, an extra controller, and any old TV to have fun playing games with your family and friends. It even includes a game to make sure you're having fun playing right out of the box. I would feel like I was missing out if my 360 were not on an HDTV with an additional Dolby Digital sound system (which I have from my single days that I spent working in an electronic store, in the audio department). So the Wii is simple and easily approachable by anyone regardless of their knowledge of electronics, and because of that it is universally appealing.

So, anyway, I'm giving my Wii away. Sorry, you can't have it. I'm giving to my parents. Actually that was the plan all along. My 4 siblings still live at home (4 siblings, 4 controllers, Mario Party 8... you get the idea). As a bonus I might get to play video games against some people I could recognize if I saw them and don't have to refer to by their gamertags. They don't have an HDTV and they don't have surround sound and they won't be missing out on a thing. I might actually have to go over to their house to play, but I guess those are the breaks. However I'll still be spending time in my basement playing my Xbox 360, in all its HD picture and 5.1 sound, and be getting schooled by people who have never even worked a full time job and don't know why people complain about the price of video games.

-Z Greenwell

Introduction

I've been playing games for a long time and had many game systems. I got involved back in the super nintendo days and have continued since, owning almost every console system to date. Some of my favorite systems were the Super Nintendo, the N64 and the PS2. I currently have an Xbox 360, Wii, PSP, and PC. I spend most of my time on the Xbox 360. I don't own a PS3 and don't plan on getting one until it become more affordable. I have nothing against the PS3, I just don't have the money.

Some of my favorite games are RPGs, but I've broadened my spectrum recently. I now also really enjoy shooters and sports titles. Also, since I have a very large immediate family I play local multiplayer a lot. I used to be a hardcore gamer, devoting eight hours a day to gameplay, but now I'm married and have a job and a family so I am more of a casual gamer. Still, I enjoy playing competitively online and am always trying to win. I tend to play more on the weekends.