Tag Archive | "Xbox 360"

Covering Your Gaming Needs with the Xbox 360

The home video game console market is currently dominated by two powerful giants: Sony’s high end Playstation 3 and of course, Microsoft’s Xbox 360. While some may argue that Nintendo’s Wii console is a third alternative, many often see the motion gaming system as a secondary platform designed mostly for casual players. On its end, Microsoft is taking all of the lessons they learned from the original Xbox system and bringing all the great things back for their new console –plus plenty of great innovations.

One of the first massive improvements of the 360 is its size. The original Xbox is considerably one of the consoles of its time. Many complained about its robust size and the shelving space it occupied. Microsoft addressed this problem by creating a smaller system with the additional option of being able to decide whether you want it flat or standing upright (a feature that was first used in the original Playstation 2).

The Xbox 360 also brought in new hardware that pushed the gaming capabilities of the home console well and beyond that of high end PCs. This helped usher in great games such as Mass Effect, Halo 3, Gotham Racing and many more as developers now had faster processors, better graphic cards and bigger storage space to work with.

Speaking of storage space, the 360 makes use of the HD DVD media format. While this is much smaller than the Playstation 3’s Blu-Ray discs, it still provided a significant amount of freedom that standard DVDs could not afford.

Beyond its lineup of great titles, the 360 itself is a gaming marvel fit to be in the center of your home entertainment system. The device hooks up to the internet through LAN or WiFi and allows players to connect to the Xbox Live network –a paid service which allows users to access Microsoft’s online gaming platform and various media services. The console also works as a media hub of sorts –able to playback varying types of image, music and video file formats.

The 360’s wireless controllers are well made for fast paced gaming, with color-coded buttons which allows players to easily create a mental map of the layout. The only drawback is that it makes use of standard batteries. Microsoft does sell an official rechargeable battery pack kit (complete with specialized chargers) for those who love to have long gaming sessions.

Microsoft has also launched a second version of the Xbox 360, the “S”. This new slim version has a lower energy consumption rate, built in Kinect support and more importantly, is rumored to be resilient to the issues that caused RRoD failures for the first batches of 360 systems.

RRoD, or Red Ring of Death, is a nickname given to the indicator lights of the 360 that indicates a complete system failure. There are plenty of theories and hypothesis as to the varying causes of RRoD, though all conclude that once the system hits this stage, recovery is nearly impossible. This issue has caused demand for the Jasper edition of the unit to soar, as its lower voltage rates appears to make the system immune from the much dreaded Red Ring of Death.

Being Microsoft’s second platform in the home gaming console, the 360 has shown how far the PC software developer has come in terms of being able to expand. In terms of gaming, Microsoft is now one of the biggest names in the gaming industry, with their high end console, impressive games and impressive online service, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 community continues to grow each day.

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Your 360, Your Style: Special Editions of Microsoft’s Gaming Console

Your 360, Your Style: Special Editions of Microsoft’s Gaming Console

Halo Reach Xbox 360 Limited Edition
The Xbox 360 is an extremely impressive gaming machine featuring high end video graphics hardware and a library of games that is sure to satisfy any hardcore gamer’s needs. But function is not there is to Microsoft’s very successful seventh generation video game console. The Xbox 360 also delivers plenty in terms of form. The new sleeker design (as compared to the original Xbox) of the original 360 and the highly stylized 360S bring to users a devices that will fit perfectly well in the center of your home theater. But if you have been looking for something more, something extra special, you might want to take a quick peek at these special edition versions of the Xbox 360.

No list of Xbox 360 special editions can be complete without the Halo 3 special edition; this system is considered to be the top choice of Xbox fans for its specially designed colors –made to look like Master Chief’s armor. Even the pack-in controller, headset and charger has been designed in a similar fashion to fit with the overall look. Halo fans will love the slight contouring of the side plate to match the style of the Spartan armor.

Final Fantasy fans have also been given a special console as well. The Final Fantasy XIII 360 special edition comes in a basic white color scheme with an imprinted design. Being white, it looks a lot like the standard 360 edition until closer inspection. The package also comes with free game related DLC and of course, the game itself. While we cannot exactly recommend this one for aesthetic functions (since it is still mostly white), hardcore fans of Square Enix would certainly want to have this in their playroom.

For those looking for a strikingly good color for the Xbox, a special Resident Evil 5 edition of the console has been released and this one comes in a solid red finish. In terms of overall design, there are no RE-specific designs on the console itself, making it a great alternative for those who simply want a red version of the console. As a special edition, this Xbox 360’s controller and headset accessories are also colored red.

Really hardcore collectors might want to watch out for a few very limited edition versions of the Xbox 360. The special launch edition is a very exclusive version of the system that has only been given to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 launch team. These editions were never available commercially and can only be obtained from the Launch Team members themselves –in the unlikely event that they are willing to part with the console itself. According to reports, the launch edition is mostly white like the original but comes with a customized faceplate, a date engraving, and green highlights on the console (which is gray in the commercial release of the 360). Currently, only one launch team edition has been reported to have been sold by the original owner.

Of course, buying a brand new special edition console is not the only way to get the style you want. There are plenty of custom faceplates and skins for the Xbox 360 available both from official sources and third party manufacturers. The designs also range from simple flat colors to well detailed art (gaming-related and otherwise). If the above special editions are way off your budget, you might want to invest in a skin instead.

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Full Circle: Completing Your Xbox 360 Setup

Microsoft’s Xbox is an impressive gaming system. It packs quite the punch in terms of hardware power, and provides players with an incredible amount of games to choose from. But simply owning the system and several games alone is not all that you need to get the most out of your Xbox 360. Here are a few useful tricks that we found for players to try out.

Your Game, Your Music

Now this is actually a documented feature: you can play MP3 files on your HDD through the console menu from within any game. Of course, you would have to check if your game allows you to turn off the music (usually found in a game’s sound/audio settings page). This is a pretty neat trick for games which do not rely so much on the in-game music to deliver a story (racing games, sports titles, etc). But do remember to use it with a little moderation, it would be odd playing Alan Wake to a Lady Gaga song.

It Also Plays the iPod

If you own an Apple iPod, you can hook it up to your Xbox 360 and play the track straight from the iPod itself. This may seem a little strange; after all, Apple is one of Microsoft’s biggest competitors (basically, they are industry rivals). But yes, the option is available on the Marketplace. Once loaded on your console, you will be able to browse your media easily. This will also allow you to charge the device while plugged in.

Create a Special Name

Is the alphabet too limited for your Gamercard? Then fear not. While Microsoft has not allowed the use of special Ascii characters, they did actually use support for eastern languages. Simply switch over your input settings and you can choose from a wide range of unique characters.

Remove Excess Data

Much like the PC, the Xbox 360 is prone to storing random stuff in its memory. Indeed, there will come a time when your system will start slowing down a bit. If you think your 360 is being encumbered by a load of unneeded files, you might want to try this out. Select your HD from the user interface and press Y. From there, press X, X, L Bumper, R Bumper, X, X. This will allow you to clear the memory as well as some of the game system data –just be warned that you might need to re-download any important DLC content you lose in the process.

Go Blogging

Tired of telling your friends what you have been playing –or not have been playing? Then get a blog that will instantly update them on your gaming habits. Of course, it would be such a hassle to manually create blog posts each day, so the best thing to do is to have your Xbox 360 console do it for you. Sign up for an account at 360 Voice, and you will have access to a special service run by the folks at Gamer DNA. 360 Voice will create an automated blog for you that is updated by your 360. It will list down the stuff that your Xbox publishes on your Gamercard and post it online for you to share. Of course, you should set your Gamercard info to “public” instead of “private” for this service to work.

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Legends Face Off: Xbox 360 vs Playstation 3

When Microsoft first entered the home console gaming arena with the original Xbox, many felt as if the world famous software developer has lost its marbles. The Xbox was big and bulky. Despite its obviously powerful hardware capabilities, many gamers used to Nintendo and Sony’s consoles felt that the cumbersome device was nothing more than a watered down gaming PC. Within weeks of its launch, the Xbox showed that it had tremendous potential as a dedicated gaming system, and what followed was history.

Now, Microsoft is considered to be one of the three main companies of the gaming console industry (along with competitors Sony and Nintendo), and Microsoft’s most recent system, the Xbox 360 is considered to be one of the most powerful gaming devices ever launched. It, along with the Sony Playstation 3, is expected to be main systems for this generation of gamers and it is said that they hold that post for years to come.

So how good is the Xbox 360 compared to the Playstation 3?

There are several factors to consider, and first up is the hardware and cost. Without a doubt, Sony’s use of GPU technology, accessibility features and more ergonomic controller gives it an edge over the 360’s much simpler system. This little advantage however, comes with a price –literally. The 360 console itself is significantly cheaper than the PS3 (though many argue that with the additional charger packs or batteries, XBL subscription, etc, the 360 has a higher overhead and long term cost) and is a great choice for those who want to set aside budget for more games. Still, this does leave the 360 a little lacking in terms of full potential. Take the case of its use of HD-DVDs; this media storage has a lower capacity than a Blu-Ray disc, making some games impossible to port to the 360 without using multiple discs.

Of course, judging a console simply because of its hardware is not the way to go. After all, it is the games that truly matter at the end of the day. And for the Xbox 360, despite facing off against a system with a more powerful hardware configuration, they have been able to make a pretty even stand because of the game selections.

In terms of multiplatform games, the Xbox 360 plenty of edge thanks to the fact that the system is easier to develop for. In most cases, there are fewer bugs in the Xbox 360 version of a game when compared to its PS3 counterpart. Also, Microsoft’s close relations with developers give them a slight advantage in terms of patch availabilities.

The Xbox 360 has several exclusive titles of its own. Bungie’s Halo and Gearbox’s Gears of War series are among the top favorite titles for the system. Several made for Windows titles and series have also been brought over, such as the original Mass Effect from Bioware (the first game was an exclusive since it was co-produced by Microsoft, the sequel was created, developed and published entirely by Bioware and EA, allowing the title to be available on multiple platforms).

Online, the XBL service takes a bit of a hit for being a paid service –unlike Sony’s free to use PSN. But after the events of the massive PSN hacking attack during late April of 2011, Microsoft’s online service was put in a better light. Since the features on both networks are quite similar (achievements and trophies, friends lists and private messages), the two are often compared to each other.

All in all, the 360 is a much preferred and recommended system for players who love to go online and compete with others. Most of the 360’s best exclusive titles tend to be first person shooters with a strong online multiplayer component. Also, a vast majority of existing players in the community share a similar passion. This highly competitive environment allows players to find varying challenge levels that single player titles are unable to provide.

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Online Games on Demand: Xbox Live Arcade

Microsoft’s Xbox Live gaming service is one of the largest online game markets –along with the Playstation Store and Steam. Featuring a wide range of games that is constantly updated on an almost daily basis, XBLA provides players with a game library that is available almost every day, at any time. But what is good about downloadable games? After all, the common connotation about these (literally) smaller games is that they lack the depth and content that is available in many hardcore titles. This however, is not true. And here are a few of our top picks from the Xbox Live Arcade service.

Marvel VS Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes

Originally available in retail for the older Xbox system, MvC2 has been updated and upgraded for the XBLA and of course, HDTV gaming with the 360. The game now supports 720p graphics, online match support (for finding matches and even watching other fights) and more importantly, it fixes many of the bugs and slowdowns that plague the original version when used on the 360 (despite being a backwards compatible title, Marvel VS Capcom 2 suffers from plenty of performance issues when played on the 360). This fighting game brings back all of the air combos and chain commands of Capcom’s famous gameplay engine. With a full roster of 56 characters from both the Marvel and Capcom universes, players get to mix and match their favorite characters for the ultimate team combinations.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair

In today’s age of high end video gaming, sprite based 2D games are often considered as primitive works or novelty items. But the same cannot be said of the Castlevania franchise. While there are already plenty of games in the series that feature 3D graphics and gameplay, the 2D titles pretty much stand well on their own. XBLA offers Harmony of Despair, a unique, semi-mission based Castlevania game that brings back characters from Portrait of Ruin, Symphony of the Night and more in a single game. Players (and a friend) get to choose from varying lead characters as they track down the various monsters and bosses that plague Dracula’s castle. Each character plays differently, using different types of equipment, skills and even their own leveling system for increasing stats. Thanks to the optional cooperative game mode, this game is a definite must-have for Castlevania fans.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

Combining fast paced action, stylish retro graphics and a bullet-hell type of gameplay, Geometry Wars: RE2 proves that it has what it takes to go toe-to-toe with many other hardcore shooters such as Raiden, Gradius and more. Retro Evolved 2 brings back many of the core elements that has made the original game a hit: multidirectional movement and shooting, along with massive waves of enemies. New to the sequel is six new game modes varying from surviving waves, earning as much points within a time limit to surviving without firing a single bullet. Creatively fun, addictive and hard to put down, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is certainly highly recommended for XBLA players.

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Achievements, Gamerscore and Multiplayer – The Best of Xbox Live

We all love our games, and we certainly love being able to talk about gaming experiences with our friends. Microsoft brings these two and many more great features together in a single online connectivity service, and this, is Xbox Live.

Originally debuting back in 2002, a year after the launch of the original Xbox home gaming console, Xbox Live officially went online. Better known under the nickname, XBL, this Microsoft-run online feature brought together multiplayer features, social networking, online achievements, media downloads and so much more in a single location. Within days of its launch, gamers scrambled to log in, create their own Gamertags and become part of the quickly growing community.

Today, XBL is mostly accessed by Xbox 360 users –which currently account for the largest portion of the XBL community. They are joined by users of the older Xbox system, PCs and new users of Windows Phone 7 mobile devices. All in all, the XBL community currently plays host to over 30 million users (as opposed to over 70 million for the PSN). This has made Microsoft’s online community a strong, self-sustaining, online industry for many developers and game publishers.

One of the main functions that XBL provides is the Gamerscore count. This is basically a numerical tally of in-game achievements accomplished by players. While the Gamerscore count cannot be used or consumed in any manner, many players often use this as a basis of comparison of their skill and progress as compared to others on their friends list. In order to ensure that the Gamerscore is not tampered with, Microsoft employs several undisclosed tracking methods in order to seek out cheating players. When found, those caught manipulating Gamerscore data are stripped of points and are publicly labeled as cheaters.

When it comes to skill comparison however, Microsoft has a much better tracking alternative: the TrueSkill match finder system. This little feature allows Xbox Live to keep track of a player’s in-game performance and ranks players according to their actual skill level. This allows the system to create match ups of players of similar skills levels in order to balance the game difficultly. While there are some known exploits in the system, many players often prefer TrueSkill’s ranked matches as a way to gauge their own playing levels.

Aside from providing players with bragging rights, the XBL service also provides plenty of content for players to download. Netflix, Hulu and other media sites can instantly be accessed with the XBL account for video content (some media services are restricted depending on the region of the player). Other social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are also incorporated into the service as well. More importantly, the XBL service also provides additional game related media and content. Trailers, downloadable demo versions and expansion packs are all available on the XBL service (though some will require payment).

With the Xbox Live service, Microsoft has been able to provide a comprehensive gaming experience for players on the Xbox 360, Windows PC and WP7 smart phone users with its great library of media channels, game add-ons and online community. If you own one of the abovementioned systems and have yet to make your own account, you should create one immediately and catch up on all the great content that you have been missing out on.

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