Tag Archive | "Xbox 360"

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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Beyond 360: Add More to Your Xbox

So, you have finally bought an Xbox 360, hooked it up to your HDTV and bought some of the best titles available. The question is: what would you need to further enhance your gaming experience? Here is a quick lineup of our much recommended additional purchases to help you make the most out of the Microsoft gaming system.

First off, buy an Xbox Live subscription card. These little things can be found in most gaming outlets and convenience stores –making them incredibly accessible. The big picture here is that players get to sign up for an Xbox Live account, take part in multiplayer games and of course, be part of the of the XBL community. With a majority of the 360’s best games featuring multiplayer functionality, this is a much needed feature. Of course, you will have to have a decent internet connection, and preferably, a good WiFi router. Another advantage of buying a card is that you will not need to input your credit card data online.

Gaming with batteries is hard, and anyone who has had a Nintendo Gameboy or a Sega Gamegear will tell you, those batteries will run out –sooner than you think. So what is a good plan for your wireless controllers when you tend to clock in several hours of gaming each day? Get rechargeable batteries. This is made easy by Microsoft, who sells official rechargeable battery packs that allow you to charge whether your controllers are in standby or in use. This means that you get to enjoy a more seamless gaming experience -and at the same time, save the environment since you will not be throwing batteries in the trash bin every two or three days.

Of course, it will take more than a fully charged controller to enjoy a session of online gaming – after all, communication is a the key to having a good time. Try to find a good Xbox 360 compatible headset in order to make full use of the system’s voice chat functionality. While you might have to bear with a few obscenities every now and then (well, a lot more often than we would prefer actually), this allows you to instantly communicate with your team mates in order to formulate strategies, cheer for your squad, or simply talk about how nice the weather has been while you are stalking out a target on your scope.

Speaking of chat (pun intended), you might not be too fond of a direct conversational approach. In this case, the Xbox 360 controller keyboard is a great add on. This chat-pad or “Messenger Kit” sticks directly between the controller grips and provides players with a fully functional QWERTY keyboard to make use of while you are gaming and cannot afford to put down the controller. While it does take a while to get used to, being able to instantly type out letters is significantly faster than having to use an onscreen keyboard.

Lastly, to add even more value to your Xbox 360 accessories (outside of gaming on the console itself) you might want to consider purchasing the Wireless Gaming Receiver. This is a great add-on, but only for those who love to play on the PC. This little USB receiver comes with Windows drivers that allow players to use various Xbox 360 accessories on the PC. Of course, you will still need to do a little joypad mapping in order to make full use of your controller, but it certainly is a lot better than having to shell out even more just to buy a separate joypad for your desktop system.

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Xbox 360: Surviving the Red Ring of Doom

We have all heard the horror stories and for many owners of early generation Xbox 360 consoles, the Red Ring of Doom/Death (also known as RRoD) is the eternal boogeyman lurking in the shadows of the Microsoft console.

What makes RRoD so ghastly for players is simple fact that it count compromise and destroy all your progress. But before we get into that, let us see what RRoD really is. The term “Red Ring” comes from the three quarter-circle red indicator lights that appear on the console once it experiences any form of general hardware failure. In short, RRoD is actually a visible symptom for a wide range of potentially dangerous issues with the console.

In a few very rare cases (such as voltage spikes/power surges), fixing the RRoD simply require plugging the device from the power outlet and giving it time to cool down before resuming play. Most of the time, users will have to send the device back to Microsoft for replacement or take it to a third party to have the console fixed.

Many players prefer to take the system to a third party developer. Despite the fact that Microsoft is manufacturer of the device (and is most suited to fix it) player tend to pass up on this service since they have a policy of completely wiping out all data on the console. This means that all game data, save files, media and more are completely removed from the system. With many games averaging at least 20 to 30 hours to finish, many gamers are not too happy with the prospect of having all their gaming hours be lost.

So what do you do when you get hit by RRoD? The first thing that players should do is to check on all the quick troubleshooting steps. This usually involves letting the device rest, checking if the vents are blocked or if the power brick is heating up. If the console still does not turn on properly, it is time to take it to a professional. While there are plenty of online tutorials and how-to guides to take apart your Xbox 360, applying thermal paste and even installing a third party cooling system, these are not recommended. Not only do they void warranty, but unless you yourself are a professional in handling delicate electronics, attempting to do this on your own could lead to disastrous results.

As always, an ounce of prevention is indeed better than a pound of cure. In the case of the Xbox 360, making sure that your system does not overheat is a key factor in maintaining a long life. First off, store the device in dust free area –if you can spare a small sheet to cover it with, do so. Keeping out the dust allows the system to cool itself better –naturally, remove the cover when you need to play it. Next is to ensure that you run the system in a cool, well-ventilated area. This means that all the vents should have ample room to ‘breathe’. Do note that not only does the console need to be checked; the power brick also requires similar attention as well.

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