Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Xbox 360: A month of ownership, a month of opinions

Weekly updates ahoy! Also, in case you missed it, here's my thought process for deciding upon the Xbox 360 as my next console... Although I suppose my suspenseful writing means nothing now that you know how it turns out. Oh well.

Also, an important thing to note is that my 360 is not online, and it will remain offline for a while for a few reasons. I may update this post once I do finally connect it to the internet.

Back at the beginning of March I grabbed myself a 360 Holiday bundle, and since then I've put many gameplay hours into my new console. After a month of playing it nearly every day, I'd say I've garnered enough hands-on time with the system to deliver my view on it. Keep in mind, though, that this isn't a console review; This is more like a loosely-arranged collection of opinions. No fluff, no suspense, no bull. Just my raw opinions of Microsoft's current console, the Xbox 360.

First off, the console itself looks great. The sleek, jet-black case with the chrome disc tray is certainly easy on the eyes. Not so easy on the ears, however. The 360's internal fans are the loudest I've ever heard in any console or computer, sometimes even drowning out the quieter sound effects and voice acting of a game. Whatever that person just yelled in Dirt 2 probably wasn't all that important, but I'd still like to have heard it!

When it comes to controlling the games that I can hardly hear, the 360 controller does a pretty good job. It's well-shaped and comfortable to hold, and the buttons are all easily accessed. It took me a while to adjust to the X button being where I'm used to finding the Y button, but that's probably just because I've been playing too many DS games. One actually valid issue I have with the controller concerns the battery pack. No, it has nothing to do with battery life (Batteries actually last incredibly long in this controller, easily passing the twenty hour mark per set), but the location of the battery compartment itself. Its placement throws the center of gravity off entirely, causing the controller to tip forward in all but the tightest of grips. I've pretty much gotten used to this, but once in a while it does become a problem.

In the middle of the controller lies the Guide button, which grants access to the 360's simple-to-use yet greatly versatile menu. This menu can be accessed at any time, even in the middle of gameplay, without interrupting a thing (Some games even pause automatically when it's accessed). The Guide permits access to just about anything someone could ever need while in game, from reading messages sent by friends to checking out achievements for the game currently being played. It's quite the feature, and it sure comes in handy when I get an achievement I was entirely unaware of (Killing a bunch of barnacles with an exploding barrel is an achievement now? Heck, I'm not complaining!).

The menu seen when launching the 360 is equally accessible and eye-pleasing, as well as partially customizable, granting the ability to change the background image. Sadly, that's just about as far as customization goes, with no possibility of altering the colours of the menu options. That post-apocalyptic Fallout 3 background image would look great without these bright, cheery buttons floating around in the foreground!

Cheerily greeting me every time I start up my 360 is... Me. Well, my Avatar, at least. Most certainly inspired by the Miis of the Wii, the 360 Avatars are cartoony little characters tied to a user's profile. Due to this, users are restricted to one Avatar per account, eliminating the possibility of populating games with them as is possible with Miis. Also different from Miis is the art style, which, while not being super-realistic, does make the Avatars look a bit more structured and mature. The range of customization is also greater, resulting in my Avatar looking far more like me than my Mii. It's not perfect, though, as I've seen one or two Miis that look more like their real-life counterpart than the same person's Avatar. They also don't have quite the same charm as Miis, looking a little less friendly than Nintendo's take on the concept. In the end, though, I'd say Avatars are pretty cool, but they've yet to grow on me like Miis have.

Now then, with all that being said, it's time to move on to the most important part of a video game console: The games. I currently have eight games for my 360 (Thirteen if you count compilations separately), spanning multiple genres and several developers, so I'd certainly say I've put the 360 through its paces as far as gameplay variety goes. The controller is well suited to just about any genre, and the hardware is certainly capable of delivering a stunning experience both technically and visually. There's no end to the variety and quality of software for this console.

My gameplay experiences haven't been without their issues, however. Occasionally a game will stutter momentarily then return to normal for no apparent reason. I've also had it freeze entirely on one occasion when loading a new level in Half-Life 2, forcing a manual shutdown of the console. Finally, I've also experienced the audio cutting out for a second or two several times over the last month, but that's apparently due to outdated firmware, something I'll fix when I manage to get my 360 online.

Weighing the good against the bad, I'd say I've had a fairly positive experience with my 360 so far. There have been some problems, and I'm sure I'm missing out on a whole lot without having it online, but I'd still say it was well worth the purchase. I've barely even begun to scratch the surface here, so I'm sure things will only get better from this point onward. If only I didn't have to share the big TV with everyone else in the house...

Friday, April 2, 2010

April Fools' Day wrap-up, site news

Ah, isn't April 1st a wonderful day? Nothing like some organized insanity to brighten up one's life. Yes, folks, everything published here yesterday was a complete lie. This isn't becoming a news site, all Nintendo-related hoaxes aren't true (Or are they?), Miyamoto wasn't caught getting Shiggy with it, Sony didn't announce the PSP 3D (But it's only a matter of time), and Microsoft did not, in fact, buy the moon. I figure this should all go without saying, but after hearing some people believed last year's fictitious PETA vs Nintendo lawsuit, I just wanted to make sure everyone gets the straight story.

Now then, moving on to the matter of this blog's nearly bi-monthly update schedule... That's something that actually will be changing. Starting now, there will be at least one post published to One Duck's Opinion every single week. I hope eventually to nail updates down to every Wednesday, but for now, once a week is how the schedule's going to be.

I suppose that's all that really needs to be said here... Oh, with the exception of one thing. Just in case you believe anything I said yesterday... APRIL FOOLS'!

This is Psycho J. Duck for ODDLY News. Goodnight everyone!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Microsoft buys the moon, plans radical redesign

In the most massive purchase of all time, Microsoft today gained the rights of ownership to Earth's moon. Their plans for the natural satellite? The universe's biggest billboard. "What better place to advertise than in a place people see every single day of their lives?" asks Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "In addition, we'll make it into the record books for sure, making absolutely positive that nobody on Earth won't know the words 'Xbox 360'!"

"We've been thinking about this for a while, and the time has finally come for us to start work on this tremendous undertaking. We're sending ten thousand of the finest imported workers into space, along with eight trillion green LED lights. The next Lunar Eclipse is going to be great!"

"Of course, this isn't the sort of thing you'd think up and execute in a hurry. Many designs were considered for the billboard, and we were surprised at the negative reception one of our prototype designs received." This rejected design can be found below.

In addition to the above, Microsoft will also be altering much of the technical lunar terminology. A partial list of the changes can be found below, with original terms on the left, and new ones on the right. Explanations are provided in brackets:
  • Apogee = Bungie (Rights to the name "Apogee" could not be acquired from 3D Realms)
  • Blue Moon = Green Moon ("There's nothing blue about this moon!" -Ballmer)
  • Crater = Blood Gulch (In honour of the map in Halo: Combat Evolved)
  • New Moon = X Moon (As it's the time at which the logo will be most visible)
"The moon isn't the only thing being changed here. We at Microsoft will change the world!"

Not to be outdone, Apple is now working on purchasing the Sun, which they plan to name "iSol". Some casualties are to be expected when it comes to stamping the logo on the yellow star's surface. "Hey, you can't make an iSol without melting a few interns!" commented Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Sony Officially Unveils the PSP 3D

Today Sony pulled back the curtains on their newest creation, the PSP 3D. I was lucky enough to grab an interview with a spokesperson for the company, Soniraji Osuteshon, where I was allowed to ask any question I wanted about this revolutionary new product.

ODDLY News: Before we get into the real interview, I'd first like to know a little more about how the PSP 3D actually works.

Soniraji Osuteshon: The PSP 3D utilizes solar radiation to power its light-speed quantum energy core, which superheats the air within three inches of the screen's surface, causing spatial distortion and creating the illusion of 3D imagery. It also doubles as a portable barbecue.

ODDLY: I'm just going to pretend I understood that and move along. From the few words I actually understood, I've come to the conclusion that this sounds incredibly dangerous to handle. What sort of testing has been done to ensure the safety of the player?

SO: We haven't really had a change to test the PSP 3D just yet, as we only finished up the design last night.

ODDLY: Last night?!

SO: Yes. As you've no doubt noticed, there isn't really much of an R&D department at Sony. It's pretty much just a bunch of people sitting at computers, constantly refreshing Nintendo news sites waiting for something new and interesting to be announced. Whenever Nintendo announces a new product, we jump right into the development stage, building off of whatever was just revealed. The only difference is, this time around, we're beating Nintendo to the punch, as the PSP 3D is slated for release in approximately... Ten minutes.

ODDLY: So soon? And without testing it for consumer safety?

SO: Consumer safety? What does that matter? We've finally managed to beat Nintendo to the finish line, and we're not looking back. The PSP 3D will be released today at 5:00 PM sharp, for the completely reasonable price of $14,000.

ODDLY: F-f-f-fourteen thousand dollars?!

SO: Yes. We at Sony offer luxury versions of the competition's products, and you truly get what you pay for when you invest in our technologies. Whether or not the consumer can actually afford it is none of our concern.

ODDLY: Well, for that price, the PSP 3D had better do a lot more than make things pop out of the screen!

SO: Oh, but it does! The PSP 3D will be twenty times as powerful as the PS3, with graphics becoming even more detailed than reality itself. In order to accommodate all these texture files and high-end models, the PSP 3D will ship with a separate 50TB hard drive and a complementary backpack in which to carry the massive storage device. This unit will allow the storage of up to five PSP 3D games at once. The PSP 3D will also come with seven car batteries, which can be carried around in a shopping cart, also included in the package with the hard drive and backpack. These batteries will allow for up to twelve minutes of gameplay/barbecuing.

ODDLY: But I thought the PSP 3D was powered by solar radiation... Or something?

SO: No, that merely handles the 3D capabilities of the product. This is some high-tech stuff here. No mere pushover like the Sun is capable of powering this kind of horsepower!

ODDLY: Well then, uh... Getting back to the planet Earth for a moment, I've noticed the PSP 3D is nearly identical to the original PSP and its minor hardware revisions. Is there a particular reason for this?

SO: The PSP 3D is visually identical to the PSP for two major reasons. First, it's because we got lazy and just gutted a lot of old PSP units we had sitting around, and second, it creates confusion among the consumers. They might go out in search of a PSP 3D, and see a regular PSP on the shelf, buying it thinking they're getting the newest handheld.

ODDLY: You want to confuse the customers?

SO: Of course! We put out the visually-identical PSP 3D, and the consumer goes out buying a PSP thinking it's the same thing!

ODDLY: You're really banking on the consumer being so foolish?

SO: Yup! Look how well it worked out for the PSP Go!

ODDLY: But the Go sold terri-


ODDLY: I take it our interview is over?


ODDLY: ...I'm just going to leave now.


The PSP 3D is now on sale at all major electronics retailers for $14,000. Games that actually take advantage of the PSP 3D's abilities have yet to be announced, but are expected to cost between $100 and $500 apiece.

Shigeru Miyamoto caught in sex scandal!

In a shocking development, Shigeru Miyamoto was found earlier today in a seedy downtown-Kyoto "soapland" with dozens of naked prostitutes. This story is far too explicit to post in its entirety on this blog, so in order to see it all, click right here! Interviews, eye-witness accounts, shocking pictures and more lie within!

Believe everything you read: All Nintendo-related April Fools' Day hoaxes are real

From the fake Zelda movie trailer of 2008 to the "WiiDS" of this year's Game Infarcer, every Nintendo-related April Fools' "hoax" was actually a calculated market-testing exercise executed by the Big N itself. "It's cheap, risk-free market testing. It's brilliant!" said Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime. "It's the most ingenious move by the company since the very creation of the Nintendo Entertainment System!".

"Yes, every single one of these 'hoaxes' is entirely true," admitted Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. "We use this day to gauge public opinion of our in-development products, and we adjust or cancel these projects according to reception."

Every year, Nintendo sends out these in-production ideas to news outlets around the world, then monitors the comment section over the next 24 hours and takes notes on the public's reactions. At the end of the day, the news is "revealed" to be nothing more than a joke, and Nintendo returns to work on the project with the commenters' criticism's taken into consideration.

"Once all suggestions are implemented, the project often takes a turn in an entirely different direction," elaborates Iwata. "For example, the Zelda movie trailer we released with IGN turned into the mere addition of a few extra cinematics in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. We realized that no film we made could possibly live up to the expectations of the people in that comment section, so we turned our film-making attention to our upcoming DS game."

"In fact, most of our ideas are often met with less-than-perfect reception, meaning no 'controlled hoax' so far has ever been released looking even slightly similar to its beta form, if it ever even saw release at all. The Super Smash Bros. Brawl X: Extreme prototype we also demoed with IGN was canceled entirely after an incredible backlash over peoples' childhood idols being brutally massacred. The 'Wii Expand' idea detailed in the same article was also canned, as it just seemed too much like what the players wanted."

But what of the 3DS, announced mere days before Nintendo's annual testing of the public's opinion? "This was just too costly a project to alter in any way," says Iwata "We can't change anything about the 3DS as, sadly, we've exhausted the project's entire budget. All we can do now is release the 3DS as it is and hope the public embraces it. In addition, if we take it back into development now, Sony will undoubtedly get the jump on us and release their own 'me too' handheld in no time. We can't let them win!"

"This is an important yearly exercise for the company, and we'll continue to execute it for many years to come," says Fils-Aime. Now that the secret's out in the open, though, the test results will be contaminated, will they not? "There's no need to worry about [that]. Now that this practice has been made public, we'll be sending several actual hoaxes out with every fake hoax, and we'll refrain from telling the recipient which is which. All will be published as April Fools' articles, the readers won't know what's what, and things will be back to normal. We're Nintendo. We think things through."

A change of direction for One Duck's Opinion

Starting today, instead of my few-and-far-between opinion articles, I will be writing news stories, with exclusive news coming straight from industry insiders. Let's face it, people; Even if I did manage so somehow get off my ass and write more than once a millennium, this blog would never manage to go anywhere. Exclusive news and stories are where it's at, people! I need the hits and I need the money. Writing isn't about the readers, it's about the profit! Why I've bothered to stick around writing opinionated crap for nearly three years is a mystery to me. Being honest and heartfelt in my writing is getting me nowhere, people! Nowhere!

Under this new self-leadership, One Duck's Opinion (Soon to be renamed One Duck's Daily Literature Yielding, or ODDLY News) will surely rise to the top of the gaming news circuit, with updates appearing every hour, on the hour, from 2PM to 6PM, starting with this very post!

Cutting-edge journalism, folks, that's what takes you to the top! That's exactly what you're going to be seeing here, with my many industry contacts in every gaming company on Earth constantly supplying me with the newest, most exclusive news in the world! And you'll find all of it, right here, at ODDLY News, every day until we all die in a fiery apocalypse!

Keep in mind that this new direction will mean some changes. In addition to the earlier proclamation of decreasing how much I care about the readers, I will also stop caring about myself, for the greater good of my profits. I will be living in my bedroom 24/7, like any god of the internet, living off of Hot Pockets and warm soda, constantly refreshing my inbox for the latest in breaking gaming news!

A healthy diet, exercise, basic human contact... All of it, I'm throwing it all away, in the pursuit of internet riches! It's all anyone really needs in this world!

So then, you may be thinking "That hardly sounds like a life worth living", and you know, you'd be WRONG. COMPLETELY WRONG. It's all about the MONEY, people. Hasn't rap music taught you ANYTHING? JEEZ!