Tag - microsoft

Halo Reach – Birth Of A Spartan Extended Commercial

Bungie and Microsoft have launched the first commercial spot for Halo Reach titled ‘Birth Of A Spartan’. The commercial is just in time for the multiplayer beta which hits May 3rd for Halo ODST owners. Check out the extended version of the commercial below and Halo Reach hits store shelves this fall for the Xbox 360 console.

Bad Company 2 Kit Upgrade DLC Starts Tomorrow

EA DICE has announced that the Kit Upgrade DLC codes will start being accepted tomorrow for their shooter, Battlefield: Bad Company 2. These codes can be found on specially-marked cans of Dr. Pepper and will unlock new uniforms and weapon camouflage. European gamers can purchase the kits on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for 160 Microsoft Points per kit.

Gears of War 3 Gets Solid Release Date

Epic Games and Microsoft have announced that Gears of War 3 will be released on April 5th, 2011 in North America, April 7th in Japan, and April 8th in Europe. This news comes a day after ‘Cliffy B’ unofficially announced the game and screened its debut trailer on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Kasumi Announced for Mass Effect 2 – New Screens

BioWare and Electronic Arts have announced that gamers will be able to purchase a new team member for their Mass Effect 2 games via the Cerberus Network, come April. Kasumi is the ‘galaxy’s most enigmatic and cunning master thief’ and her DLC pack will also come with missions surrounding her character specifically. The Kasumi – Stolen Dreams DLC pack will retail for 560 Microsoft Points, or $7 dollars.

Checkout more Kasumi screenshots, After the Break!

FIFA 10 Ultimate Team (X360) – A Review

Last year, the FIFA team at EA Sports introduced an interesting concept with the DLC pack called ‘Ultimate Team’, a card collecting and team-building game with the goal of increasing the lifespan of the FIFA series. With the success of Ultimate Team in FIFA 09, the team at EA Sports brought it back again for FIFA 10, with a slew of changes.

In fact, almost every aspect of the DLC pack has had some sort of alteration. The basics of Ultimate Team are pretty simple: Your squad is built by collecting packs of virtual ‘cards’ filled with players, coaches, kits, and more. When you start the game, you are presented with your first pack of cards to start building your team. A nice touch for 2010 was added by the FIFA team giving some recognition to people who bought last years version. If you happened to buy it on day one your name has a nice ‘FUT Founder’ nameplate next to it showing you off to those you play against.

If you were not a day one purchaser, but still got the pack, you will receive two packs of gold cards instead of the normal bronze packs. There are three tiers of card packs available for purchase for via game coins or real money/MSN points: Bronze, silver, and gold. As you would expect, the quality of the items and players in these cards increases as you move from bronze to gold. The new addition to this system is that each tier of card packs also has a ‘premium pack’ option, which for additional cost can produce a rare set of cards.

One big problem with these packs is that you really only get about two or three players in each. The pack is mostly filled with consumable cards like contracts or training. It would be nice to see a few more players in there. The way you earn in-game currency is simple: By playing in matches or tournaments. Your bounty at the end of the game can also change depending on if you are playing online or offline. No matter how you do it, the amount of coins you get for winning tournaments or important matches seems low. I have heard that, at some point in future, special/tournaments will yield a greater amount of coin.

Once you open your first pack of cards you will need to build your squad. One of the new features in Ultimate Team 2010 is that you can set up multiple squads. This is really cool because different tournaments have different requirements. Some tournaments will only allow a max player level of silver status participate. Having a squad of all silver packs will be able to get you into that tournament. As you set up your squads you will want to make sure you not only have enough players but managers as well. Another new feature is that you can send all cards to your ‘My Club’ book and, instead of them being un-playable, you can still use them at-will. This essentially makes it possible for you to have and use every card in the game.

Consumables are worked a bit different this year as well. Long gone are the days of out-of-contract players being worthless to you. Instead of losing those players, you can swap them into your club book until you pick up a new contract card. Training cards work a bit different as well. Instead of training cards giving a permanent boost to your players, they are instead only boosted for your next match. This really balances out the gameplay in online matches.

One of the most important new features to Ultimate Team 2010 is the way ‘chemistry’ works. How many times have you gone up against an all-gold team, only to be obliterated on the pitch? Count your lucky stars, my friends, because those days are over. I witnessed first-hand as my team of mainly bronze and silver players beat an all-gold team because our chemistry was right. No longer do you need to have the best players to be the best on the pitch. Chemistry is important because it boosts how your players do on the field. Making sure players are in the right position, formation, and matched up with fellow countrymen is the key to success in this game. Not only that but some tournaments require you to have a certain number of players from the same country to enter. Kudos to the FIFA 10 dev team for balancing this aspect out and keeping the game fun for all skill levels.

In this Ultimate Team edition, you can play in a variety of offline and online matches, including tournaments. The cool new feature for this year is the ‘featured tournament’. Every week, a new tournament for offline matches and online matches is released. Each tournament has a special set of requirements to enter and the amount of coins you earn is ramped up by a bonus amount. This is a great new feature that will keep the lifespan of the game going as long as the community supports it. Thankfully, the FIFA community is huge and the FIFA team has also decided to release special packs that you can only buy at certain times. This is an interesting idea, however I was disappointed with the lack of North America support for these packs. The first special pack that went on sale was a kit and badges pack. Unfortunately, only a small amount of packs were available and they were given away on a GMT-based time schedule. This is not very friendly to us North Americans as I tested this out by rushing home at 10am PST to try and score a pack. They were gone in about 5 minutes and I was left with nothing.

The FIFA team should look at giving away these packs for both regions of play. The North American fan base may not be as huge as the Europeean base but we are still very strong. Another new feature is the ‘players of the week’ card sets with increased stats. Each week, a list of players who did really well in the ‘real world’ will have their stats increased if you find them in a pack of cards.

The last revamped feature worth mentioning is the auction house. The auction house is a place where you can trade your star player or get rid of your duplicate cards for in-game coinage. Unfortunately, the auction house really is not needed in Ultimate Team 2010, what with the changes they have made to the game’s chemistry system. It would be better just to trash duplicate cards for higher coin value instead of trying to put it up for sale. Here’s to hoping that, in next year’s release, they decide to get rid of the draconian auction house completely.

Overall, Ultimate Team is perfect for any fan of the FIFA series. Not only does it continue the life span of FIFA 10 but it also adds some great community aspects that help bring everyone together to compete. Ultimate Team 2010 is worth the 400 Microsoft Point price tag, so get out there and I will see you on the pitch!

Turtle Beach Ear Force X41 – A Review

Turtle Beach has been in the gaming headset business for a while now, and their previous Xbox 360 wireless headset, the Ear Force X4, was a solid solution for gamers. However, they have released the new Ear Force X41 and blown the lid off of the console headset market.

DESIGN
The Ear Force X41 features a hard plastic frame with the head band wrapped in comfortable, padded material. The ear cups are primarily foam mesh with also a good amount of comfort and fit nicely around the ear so that you do not get earache after a few hours of usage. The snake microphone protrudes from a pylon on the left ear cup with a limited pivoting ability. On the bottom of the left ear cup you will find the headset controls. You will find a power button, game controller jack, bass boost button, and game volume slider. The right ear cup slides open to reveal the unit’s power source: Two AAA batteries.

The base station features an array of status lights on the front of the unit as well as an input sensitivity volume dial. Conveniently, extending from the top of the base station is a metal stand which you rest the headset on. This makes storing the X41 much more feasible and attractive, visually-speaking. The base station connects to and is powered by the Xbox 360 console via USB cable.

INSTALLATION
Installing the X41 is very simple. Just plug the USB cable from the base station into the Xbox 360, then put the included AAA batteries into the headset unit. Turn it on, set your volume levels, and you are all-set for gaming goodness. Also, don’t worry about turning the headset off when done playing, the unit will detect the inactivity and turn itself off shortly after playing ceases.

SOUND
The ear cups each contain one 50mm driver with neodymium magnet. The frequency response is good, with a range of 20Hz – 20kHz, and the unit even features a bass boost. Utilizing Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, and Dolby Headphone surround processing technologies, the virtual 7.1-channel sound in the Ear Force X41 is believable and crisp, due in part to the 2.4GHz radio connection to the base unit. This is in contrast to the X4’s IR connection, which needed a line of site path to the base station. With this new connection protocol line of site is not a necessity.

Additionally, the in-game voice chat is exceptional as the headset features several automated functions to help this aspect along. The headset features a ‘Chat Boost Dynamic Talkback Expander’ module, which dynamically increases or decreases the voice-chat volume as the actual game volume changes. This system works very well and when things got hot and heavy in Left 4 Dead 2, other players were still audible as opposed to when they were drowned out by gunfire without the X41. The headset also features microphone monitoring which allows you to hear your own voice/volume levels while you speak. This helps avoid ‘shouting’ syndrome, where you lose control of your own volume, having your hearing hijacked by the headset’s closed audio environment. Another wonderful feature of the Ear Force X41 is that the voice-chat volume and game audio volume are controlled by different rotary knobs. This means that you can customize a balance between the two based on your preference, not what the hardware or game company preset it to be.

ISSUES
There are only two real issues with the X41, one of which is not even the fault of Turtle Beach. The first issue is that the new headset uses standard AAA batteries. I would much rather the X41 come with a rechargeable battery and a charger on the base station. One way to circumvent the battery issue is just to use your own rechargeable AAAs but I digress. The second issue which is not the fault of Turtle Beach is the use of the Xbox 360 game controller cable to tether the controller to the headset in order to get voice-chat capability. Unfortunately, this is one of Microsoft’s rules and won’t be fixed until they allow voice-chat to be sent wirelessly as well.

OVERALL
The Turtle Beach Ear Force X41 gaming headset is the best wireless headset solution you can get today on the Xbox 360 when looked at from a dollar to value ratio. You would be hard-pressed to find any other system out there capable of what the X41 can do for less than its $200 dollar price point. If you are in need of a wireless headset for your Xbox 360, you need to get one of these – you will not be disappointed.

*DISCLOSURE: Turtle Beach sent GamingShogun.com an X-41 unit for the purpose of this review.

Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Gaming Keyboard – A Review

The Microsoft Sidewinder X4 keyboard boasts a super-slim design and tons of features to make gamers everywhere jump into some fast paced games. Being an avid gamer I was excited to get this keyboard in my grubby little hands for a test drive. Let’s jump in and check out how the Sidewinder X4 held up to our challenge.

TECH SPECS
– Super slim design
– Advanced anti-ghosting capability
– Mode Switching
– Automatic profile switching
– Programmable macro keys
– In-game macro record button
– Automatic macro repetition
– Backlit keys
– Media keys

DESIGN
The Sidewinder X4 is a glossy black keyboard with an ultra slim design. It has a contemporary look which could be paired up with any fancy-looking computer system. It matched really well with my office space and fit well in my slide out keyboard tray. The X4 is designed with a bit of a tilt that keeps your wrists comfortable when typing. The X4 is a very light keyboard that does not feel clunky when you need to move it. The connection cord for the X4 is not braided and could see some damage over time if you were rough with your system.

One complaint I have with the design of the X4 would be the key backlighting. The eerie red backlight has three different brightness settings and, even so, was never bright enough for me. There are plenty of times where I am gaming or working in the dark and need that little bit of extra light. I found myself having a hard time locating keys at times.

INSTALLATION

Installing the Sidewinder X4 was easy and painless. After placing my keyboard where I wanted it and routing the cable I just plugged the USB connector right into an available port. Since I am running Windows 7 it picked it up right away and installed the necessary drivers. To get the most of the X4’s features you will want to install the software that comes with it. Install time for the X4 took around 5 minutes total.

GAMING TEST
One of the big features in the Sidewinder X4 is its anti-ghosting technology. Most people are going to say ‘I have no idea what this means’. For you non tech savvy gamers, the easy explanation is that you can press all kinds of key combination without fail because each key is scanned on its own. No more macros messing up because your keyboard can’t recognize what is going on through all your key-mashing.

So the big question is does this really work? The answer is yes, yes it does. The anti-ghosting feature works really well and I was able to hit all kinds of keystrokes and macros with a really fast response time. During one test I was able to fire off 3 macros and use a push to talk button in the middle of one fight. While this wasn’t a full keyboard test it was pretty impressive that there was no lag in response time.

I am a MMO gamer and macros are a key for high level playing. Setting up the macros is really easy using the included software and I had no problems hitting what I needed on the fly. The great thing about the X4 is that you can set up different profiles depending on what games you play. The Sidewinder X4 offers gamers up to three profiles to create and switch between on the fly. The profiles also auto switch so if you enter a different game it will recognize that profile. I tested the profile switching going from a MMO to a FPS and it worked great. Very easy to use and very fun for every level of gamer. If you wanted to switch profiles mid game for different events it is easily done via the keyboard.

For non hardcore gamers you probably wont use the macro or profile features quite often. Fear not fellow gamers this keyboard is still great for the casual gamer. The response rate from the keyboard is fantastic and it works great for all user levels. As standard with most gaming keyboards these days there are media controls along the top of the keyboard to control your media files. I did find that the caps lock button was way too close to the main keyset for my large hands. There were plenty of times where I found myself hitting that caps lock key while typing only to have to go back and erase the ‘yelling’ words. A little bit of spacing between the main keyset and the side keys would have been nice. If you have small or normal sized hands this should be no problem for you.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The Sidewinder X4 keyboard is a great keyboard for all levels of gamer. If you are a hardcore, tournament-gamer you are going to love all the options as well as the quick response rate and anti-ghosting technology. For casual gamers, the keyboard’s ease of use will have this sitting on your desk for a long time. Microsoft’s Sidewinder X4 is a solid product and a welcome addition to the gaming keyboard market.

*DISCLOSURE: Microsoft provided GamingShogun.com with one Sidewinder X4 keyboard for this review.

Games for Windows Sale Begins with Batman: Arkham Asylum


If you missed picking up Batman: Arkham Asylum on the PC (shame on you), here is your chance. The Games for Windows team has announced a sale-a-week for the next five weeks. The sale kicks-off with, get this, seventy-five percent off Batman: Arkham Asylum! That makes the game a very cheap $12.49 to pickup. The next sale will be announced on March 5th.

In the meantime, head over to the sale page and buy B:AA right now!