Author - Jerry Paxton

Rock Band 3 Release Date, Pre-Order Incentives Announced


MTV Games and Harmonix have announced the retailer-dependent, pre-order incentives for their upcoming Rock Band 3. The incentives are available at Amazon.com, Gamestop, and Wal-Mart.

GameStop:
GameStop shoppers who reserve Rock Band 3 for PlayStation 3 system or Xbox 360 in advance receive three downloadable Rock Band songs at launch:
· Burning Down the House by Talking Heads
· My Own Summer by Deftones
· Blue Monday by New Order

Amazon:
Amazon shoppers who reserve Rock Band 3 for PlayStation 3 system, Xbox 360 and Wii in advance will receive access to an exclusive in-game guitar. Additionally, for a limited time only, PlayStation 3 system and Xbox 360 owners who pre-order Rock Band 3 in advance on Amazon will receive $10 off a future videogame purchase.

Wal-Mart:
Walmart.com shoppers who reserve Rock Band 3 for PlayStation 3 system, Xbox 360 and Wii in advance will receive a $10 eGift card for a limited time.

Rock Band 3 is due out October 26th across North America.

DC Universe Online Begins Beta Registration


Sony Online Entertainment, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and DC Entertainment have announced that the upcoming MMO, DC universe Online, has begin beta registration. Please not that a Station account is required for signing up to enter the beta test. While no official date(s) were mentioned as far as when the beta would take place, we do know that the retail game is set to launch this November, so stay-tuned!

DC Universe Online beta registration link.

Armed Assault 2: Operation Arrowhead – A Review

War-gaming enthusiasts rejoiced when they first heard that Bohemia Interactive was developing a stand-alone expansion to the realistic Armed Assault 2. Dubbed ‘Operation Arrowhead’, this expansion would add a new theatre of operation as well as new factions and units to command.

Visually, Operation Arrowhead has definitely been refined over its predecessor, with my gaming rig handling a lot more eye candy for the same frames-per-second. Units are excellently detailed, however human textures still seem a bit… unnatural. Just look at some of your compatriot’s faces and you will see exactly what I mean. Thankfully, the new terrain of Takistan, its capital, and a cool (albeit small-ish) desert map complete with oil derrick all hold tons of replayability. As always, the game audio is incredible, with sound ranging to source being spot-on accurate. See an explosion in the distance, don’t expect the noise of the blast to reach you instantaneously. The new music for Operation Arrowhead follows suit with the original ArmA 2 score, being made up of hard-hitting instrumentals and taiko drums.

The mission editor has been left fairly unchanged. However, with the new units and maps, it too seems to take on new life. The most fun addition to the game is the UH-60 MEV helicopter. This chopper allows for a completely different type of mission in the game: casualty evacuation. After setting my character up in this new chopper, as my mission unfolded, I would receive calls from around the battlefield from AI troops in need. It is up to the pilot and copilot to navigate to the correct grid reference and land. The entire trip to the requested LZ was fraught with danger – AA fire flashing past the cockpit. After successfully touching down at the location, I was shocked to see AI players rushing up to the nose of my chopper to heal and get back into the fight.

Even better, you can put a squad of medics and combat soldiers into your passenger seats, having them disembark and render aid/fire support where needed. The experience was so much fun, I wish Bohemia Interactive would create a full-fledged casevac DLC pack for us.

The story campaign mode takes place in the fictional county of Takistan, which has committed hostile actions against its neighbor.In response, the United States launches an invasion of the rogue country to remove its leadership. One major complaint regarding the original ArmA 2’s campaign was that it was VERY difficult. Movement in the ArmA series has always been a little clunky as players are kept within the bounds of realistic movement for a human being – almost rigidly so. This, coupled with overly-intelligent enemy AI and a slew of gameplay bugs made for an ‘iffy’ experience. Thankfully, the campaign in Operation Arrowhead is very much improved, with no bugs encountered and a brand-new difficulty setting for novice players.

One feature which I found myself enamored by was the implementation of infra-red imaging systems like FLIR (Forward-Looking Infra-Red). While some games have attempted to recreate this kind of system, Operation Arrowhead is the first game which has realistically-done so. In fact, watching scenes of carnage unfold through the sights of this kind of system brings an eerie memory of FLIR pod footage from actual war videos.

For fun, I whipped up a mission in the editor of a fictional US assault into an enemy country. Listen for details such as the ‘GO’ alarm sounding and the rush of choppers and vehicles ‘across the berm’ into enemy territory. You can do all this and more in Bohemia Interactive’s included mission editor. This title is worth the entire price of admission for this feature alone – not to mention all the rest of the awesome entertainment that ArmA 2: Operation Arrowhead will provide.

STM Scout Extra Small Laptop Shoulder Bag – A Review

STM Bags has been making tech bags since 1998. Over the last twelve years, the company has refined their assorted bags and adapted them for the latest devices and PCs on the market. Their latest designs are centered around Apple’s highly-coveted iPad tablet. In this arena, they are touting five designs, ranging from simple sleeves all the way to messenger bags. Looking for a bag that fit somewhere in the middle, allowing us to carry not only our iPad but also other various reporting tools, we got ahold of their Scout Extra Small Laptop Bag.

It’s called a ‘laptop bag’ because it can hold an iPad or up to an 11-inch netbook. The bag is a durable canvas that will repel a bit of water and stand up to the elements – shipping in wither an olive drab or ochre coloring. The outer flap of the bag locks closed with a heavy plastic fastener and the removable shoulder strap even comes with an adjustable padding to help customize it for your body type and carrying style.

Internally, the bag is made up of three major pockets, all at a different Z-plane in order to better facilitate organization. The highest and deepest pocket is the one made for carrying the iPad or netbook. This pocket features dense walls to protect the device, but is lined with a very soft layer of fabric to cuddle it like an angel baby wrapped in a cloud. The iPad users will be happy to know this pocket does not strangle their hard-to-find tablet, but gives it breathing room – accommodating even the thickest skin case. This pocket also features its own flap which is fastened by a velcro strip. The inner flap allows you to open up your bag without fear of outsiders knowing exactly what lies within. It also helps the device from flopping around to much if the wearer gets into a game of b-ball with their friends while wearing it (we do not recommend this, by the way).

The middle pocket is a great place to store books, pamphlets, or important documents and features no internal grips or holds to interfere with this purpose. The last pocket is a great place to store notebooks, pens, or other small electronics and we even got our detachable Apple iPad keyboard dock in here comfortably! Also to be found in this pocket, aside from loops for the aforementioned pens, is a detachable key chain loop. This pocket also has an inner zipper which is home to a small pouch.

Using the Scout is a blast and, with the iPad and keyboard dock inside, is still very light-weight and comfortable. The Scout Extra Small Laptop Shoulder Bag is a great value at $49.99 and is the perfect accessory for students, bloggers, and iReporters alike. You can find this bag and more over at STM Bags’ official website.

Ballmer to Give Microsoft Keynote at 2011 Consumer Electronics Show

The Consumer Electronic Association has announced that Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, will be a pre-show keynote speaker at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. The 2011 CES will take place in Las Vegas and run from January 6th through 9th. The Microsoft keynote will take place on January 5th at 6:30 PM, Pacific Time.

Microsoft recently squashed the plans for their highly-anticipated Courier tablet PC, leaving the only other marveling technology in their stable to be the KINECT system. Will Ballmer announce something revolutionary and completely out of left field? Time will tell as we learn more of Microsoft’s plans in the months leading up to the event.

Transformers: War for Cybertron Review (X360)

When I think of how Michael Bay and Co. butchered one of my beloved childhood franchises with the two modern-day Transformers films, I just shake my head in frustration. I don’t recall ANY Transformer once urinating fluid on anyone for any reason – not even to put out a fire. But, I digress…

Thankfully, Activision’s new Transformers: War for Cybertron, feel much more like a story inline with the original animated adventures from the 1980’s than the new films, even though it it supposed to be a prequel to those monsters. The story chronicles the epic battle between the Autobots and Decepticons to control their home world of Cybertron. Megatron, leader of the Decepticons, is on a mission to reach gain ‘dark energon’, a corrupt and evil variant of the energon power used by all Cybertronian technology. When interfaced into normal machinery, dark energon will bend the machine to the will of the Decepticons.

The game is laid out into ten levels, each taking roughly an hour to complete – the first five being the Decepticon campaign set and the last being the Autobot campaign. Each level is made up of several checkpoints and at the start of each level, you can pick between three Transformers which will be featured throughout. Usually, you can choose between a ‘leader’ class, a ‘scout’ class, and a ‘scientist’ or ‘soldier’. Each of these ‘bots has their own strengths and weaknesses, with many having extra abilities on top of built-in weapon systems and Transformer forms. Throughout each level, players can pick up power-ups to heal themselves as well as swap out hand-held weaponry as they come across different ones.

One area of the game’s combat system which felt nowhere near fleshed-out enough was its melee weapons. Each Transformer has a melee attack, but these were apparently not meant by Activision to be primary combat attacks – even though they are some of the most fun in the game to pull off. For instance, when using Optimus Prime’s ‘slide’ ability when charging enemies, it would be great to go off into a flurry of spinning attacks with his twin-bladed energy axe, which crashes through Decepticons with a pleasing ‘schwak!’, often sending Transformer-giblets flying. Unfortunately, you get one attack and then have to recover for a few seconds, which leaves you open to enemy fire. Ranged weapons are definitely more numerous, with sniper rifles, energon pistols, plasma cannons, machine funs, etc. Each has its own pro and con in terms of range, damage, and usage which you will have to pick up along the way. Despite this array of ranged weaponry, much like the melee system the game’s combat is fairly simple and anyone familiar with third-person shooters should be able to pick it up quickly.

Changing back and forth between humanoid and vehicle forms is accomplished by simple pressing the left analog stick in. Vehicles mainly provide a quicker way to traverse levels and are not always necessary unless the game is requiring you to make a long jump across a broken highway segment or chasm. Players will find they really don’t need to rely on ground-based vehicle modes. However, the jet-forms in Transformers like Starscream, for example, are usually very handy as they provide two different types of weapons to switch between – each with unlimited ammo. There is also something very satisfying about diving towards an enemy at full afterburner and, just before crashing into him, transforming into humanoid mode for an up-close kill.

Visually, the game features a very detailed levels with plenty of greebles to help make the whole world feel mechanical. Transformers look great and are completely recognizable in their Cybertronian forms – although changing some of the ‘bots appearances a bit more could have been fun, it helps players keep that connection with the Transformers. Throughout the game, players encounter boss sequences and larger-than-life set pieces such as Omega Supreme and Zeta Prime’s armature. Aside from these, however, levels are fairly straight-forward. Thankfully, these linear levels are often set within a larger area full of action. During the Battle of Iacon, while the level is very linear, players can see all sorts of battle raging around them in the background. This helps give these levels a bit more life.

Transformers: War for Cybertron has an excellent cast, and well-acted throughout the entire experience. Background Transformers on both sides throw banter back and forth where appropriate and help you feel immersed into this world under siege. Megatron is voiced by long-time video game voice-over veteran, Fred Tatasciore, who puts up a strong performance with his over-the-top evil always seeming slightly under control in a calculated manner. And then there is Peter Cullen, reprising his role of Optimus/Optimus Prime…

Unlike the films, where Peter Cullen was given over-the-top pompous and self-righteous lines of dialog to spew forth, here, Optimus actually has some character development in his rising up through the Autobot ranks and every so often it would send a chill through this geek’s spine to hear him yell ‘Autobots, roll out!’ right before I hit the ‘transform’ button to those memorable synth-metal noises and stepping on the throttle.

The game features some really solid multiplayer modes as well, with gamers being able to not only play the campaign co-op with a friend via Xbox LIVE, but also to create their own custom Transformer for play in the larger-scale multiplayer battles. Multiplayer battles are fun and offer a quick pick-up-and-play style which most gamers should not have issues with getting a handle on.

Overall, Transformers: War for Cybertron is a fun third-person actioner which will appeal more to fans of the original animated series than those who’s first experience with the franchise was the Bay films – and that is more than fine with this geek. Shogunites, roll out!

Review: The New Microsoft Xbox 360 S

We had been hearing the rumors of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 re-design for a little while prior to this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. In fact, we got confirmation of this re-design thanks to an overseas ad which was released the day before the Xbox 360 Press Briefing (oops!). Our LIVE blog of the press briefing came off without a hitch on June 14th and at the end of the event, you can imagine our shock when Microsoft’s Don Mattrick announced that everyone in the building would be receiving one of the new Xbox 360s, free-of-charge. Well, our free, redesigned Xbox 360 Slim has arrived and our thoughts are overall: very positive.

First thing you will notice about the new Xbox 360 ‘S’ or ‘Slim’ (technically it has no marketing designation aside from Xbox 360) is its re-designed form-factor. Being roughly two inches shorter than the original Xbox 360 model, the new unit also features a more angular concave shape in opposition to the original’s smoother curve. Also of note is the new model’s shiny black exterior which, while seriously prone to fingerprints, looks incredible in your home entertainment cabinet or sitting upright next to your HDTV. Gone is the push-button optical drive tray, no replaced by a touch-sensitive button that does not really depress.

The backside of the new Xbox 360 also has some surprises of its own – first and formost being the AUX port which will be utilized by Microsoft’s Project Natal KINECT, which is scheduled to release later this year. The back panel also has HDMI and TOSLINK S/PDIF output ports as well as the power connector for the new PSU brick design.

Internally, the Xbox 360 is actually more impressive than its already-impressive exterior. The new model features an on-board Wireless-N network interface card, 250GB HDD, as well as a new 45nm XCGPU unified Intel processor. Additionally, the inside of the new Xbox 360 S is well ventilated and features only one, large fan to cool its processor heatsink down. This more efficient, lower-power cooling system is also very quiet and almost eerie when compared to the semi-truck like whale of the console’s previous models.

The internal 250GB HDD is great with its large storage area however, unlike the previous model consoles, this hard drive is not as easily removable and could force an increase in sales of the lackluster-performing Xbox 360 memory cards. The increased space, however, means more room for all your important XBLA titles, not to mention movie rentals, saved games, and optional game installations.

Of course, with this internal drive, you will not be able to insert your old HDDs into this one. You will need to transfer those saved games instead, so that is the largest drawback to an otherwise well-crafted redesign.

Included in this console package was also one black, wireless controller as well as a headset and A/V hook-up cable. The unit did not ship with an HDMI or optical cable, which would have been excellent additions. One of the big draws for owners of original model Xbox 360s is the move to an HDMI interface and having to shell out tons of cash for over-priced cables is not altogether appealing.

Even the power brick has been upgraded to a much less weighty design. Physically, however, it is roughly the same size as the older brick. Thankfully, this new adapter runs much cooler when in-use than its predecessor.

Overall, the new Xbox 360 S redesign is well worth the $299 dollar price point – especially if you are still running a gen 1 unit!

*DISCLOSURE: Microsoft sent us a new Xbox 360 as promised in their E3 Press Briefing.

Blizzard Announces Closed Beta of Cataclysm

Blizzard Entertainment has officially announced that they have begun closed beta-testing of their upcoming World of Warcraft expansion: Cataclysm. The expansion will launch later this year and will feature a complete overhaul of much of the game’s existing maps via phasing technology in which higher-level players will see the world in an entirely different state than lower-level ones. Invitations to this test are randomly going out to those who registered their Battle NET accounts with the opt-in for beta test programs.

‘Our focus with Cataclysm has been to build on the knowledge we’ve gained through the previous expansions to deliver the best, most compelling World of Warcraft content for our players to date,’ said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. ‘Gathering focused feedback during the beta test will go a long way in helping us reach that goal when we launch Cataclysm later this year.’

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will focus on a the apocalyptic return of Deathwing to the world of Azeroth.

New DJ Hero Dance Party Mix Trailer Puts Lady Gaga Against Duran Duran

In this new trailer showing off just one of the mixes in the newly-released Dance Party Mix pack for DJ Hero, we get to see the mashup of Lady Gaga’s ‘Pokerface’ and Duran Duran’s ‘Girls on Film’. The new DLC pack retails for 640 Microsoft Points and also features two new ‘beat juggles’ with Rhianna and The Pussycat Dolls.