November 19, 2009

“1 vs 100” Season 2 Premieres Today! Things are About to Heat up - News

The doors to Sprint Theater open, your Avatar begins to amp, Season 2 of the hit show “1 vs 100” on Xbox LIVE premieres today! Are you ready to win?

This week, join tens of thousands of Xbox LIVE members on the largest interactive game show stage in the world, where you’ll once again be pitted against “the One,” "the Mob” or “the Crowd. ” Do you have a competitive streak? We know people love to compete and most importantly, win, so we’ve added new features that will have you jumping off the couch to answer the next trivia question.

Get the scoop by answering the following:

Question 1: You know you’re good at “1 vs 100” and you’ve got the Achievements to prove it! In Season 2, what other bragging rights will you receive?
A: You will be able to notify the people in your Xbox LIVE Party of your success by pressing a button on your controller.
B: Your Avatar will grow taller or shorter depending on how well you play.
C: You will receive Badges based on your accomplishments to show as a sign of pride.

Question 2: In “1 vs 100” Season 2, you’ll be able to keep track of how well you’ve played throughout the season by:
A: The number of golden eggs that appear at your front door.
B: A scoring ladder that illuminates when your Avatar takes the stage.
C: Which level you’re on – One through 50 – based on your score throughout the season.

Question 3: At the end of each round, how will you know how you stack up against others in your Xbox LIVE party?
A: The Avatars of everyone in your party will stand on a podium – if you’re the best, you’ll be on top!
B: The Avatar of the highest scoring player does a belly dance at the end of the round.
C: The Avatar of the highest scoring player will jump up and down in celebration.

Question 4: Avatars like to celebrate too! What will you be able to unlock for your Avatar throughout “1 vs 100” Season 2?
A: “1 vs 100” Avatar emotes – now you can really tell the crowd what you’re thinking.
B: “1 vs 100” Avatar dances – among the smooth moves, “the Carlton” and “the Elaine.”
C: New “1 vs 100” hairdos – the fohawk, the beehive and the bowl cut.

The answer to question 1 is…. C: You will receive Badges based on your accomplishments to show as a sign of pride. We love Achievements! In “1 vs 100” Season 2, Xbox LIVE will award Badges that will appear in your personal stats for outstanding accomplishments, including if your accuracy is 90% or higher.

The answer to question 2 is…. C: Which level you’re on – one through 50 – based on your score throughout the season. Want to know how well you’ve played this season? Your cumulative score determines what level you’re on from one through 50 – you know a level 50 contestant is on fire!

The answer to question 3 is…. A: The Avatars of everyone in your party will stand on a podium – if you’re the best, you’ll be on top! For instant bragging rights, if you’ve got the best score in your Xbox LIVE party at the end of the round, your Avatar will stand triumphant at the very top of a podium.

The answer to question 4 is…. B: “1 vs 100” Avatar dances – among the smooth moves, “the Carlton” and “the Elaine.” And yes, get ready to dance. Your Avatar will be breaking it down on the “1 vs 100” dance floor, with classic moves from pop-culture.

Get your game face on because the competition is going to be hot! See you at the “1 vs 100” Season 2 premiere on Xbox LIVE, today, November 19 at 5:00 pm PT.

Courtesy of Microsoft

November 18, 2009

Facebook, Twitter, Zune Launches - News

Xbox 360 Delivers Unparalleled Games and Entertainment Experiences

What: Unlock a world of friends, entertainment and games from the comfort of your couch, displayed on the best screen in the house, using Xbox 360® and Xbox LIVE®. Tomorrow, members of Xbox LIVE around the world will have their Xbox 360 consoles transformed and plugged into great value in home entertainment, with access to Facebook, Twitter and Zune® video with instant on HD, all right in your living room.
• Facebook*– Update your status to share what movie, game or entertainment you’re enjoying, connect with friends and view their Facebook stream, status updates and photos on the big screen – all seamlessly integrated and custom-built for Xbox 360. You can even compare your Xbox LIVE and Facebook friends lists to see which of your friends are on Xbox LIVE.
• Zune – Zune video on Xbox LIVE offers a full fidelity experience with on HD in 1080p and 5.1 channel surround sound. You can also share the experience with up to seven friends through voice chat and Avatar integration on the TV screen – it puts a whole new spin on “movie night.”
• Twitter*– Stay in the know by discovering, posting and replying to Tweets right on your Xbox 360. You can even view friend profiles, trends and conversations, or search to see who’s tweeting about your favorite game.
• TV on Your Xbox 360 – Canadians will now have access to more entertainment content than ever before, including the purchase of full-length TV shows from Xbox Live that can be streamed on-demand at any time. The network line-up includes original content from CBC Television, Nickelodeon, MTV, NBC Universal, Comedy Network and more.
Don’t have an Xbox 360? Now, more than ever, Xbox gives you great ways to stay connected, share fun and entertainment, starting at $199 (CDN ERP; reseller pricing may vary).

We’re continuing to evolve Xbox LIVE to bring more games, more entertainment and more social experiences all from a single device. As a Gold member on Xbox LIVE, you get access to Facebook, Zune Video and Twitter - providing you with a pipeline of content that is always being updated and refreshed. For just under $5 per month, Xbox LIVE Gold membership is great value in home entertainment.

When: Launching on November 17

Courtesy of Microsoft Studios

Forza Motorsport 3 - News

After launching to universal fan and critical acclaim on Oct. 27, the “Forza Motorsport 3” engine is still firing on all cylinders as today marks the release of the “Hyundai Genesis Coupe Car Pack,” downloadable for free on Xbox LIVE Marketplace. Additionally, Turn 10 and Microsoft are giving fans even more reasons to celebrate with the “Hot Holidays Car Pack” Game Add-on, including 10 late-model year cars available on Dec. 8.

The “Hyundai Genesis Coupe Car Pack,” now available for free on Xbox LIVE Marketplace, includes the Rhys Millen Racing Red Bull Hyundai Genesis Coupe, the HKS Genesis Coupe, and a one-of-a-kind “Forza Motorsport 3” Genesis Coupe. Now fans have the opportunity to expand their already-epic “Forza Motorsport 3” car rosters and experience for themselves several iconic variations of the 300-horsepower Genesis Coupe.

The “Hot Holidays Car Pack,” releasing Dec. 8 for 400 Microsoft points, will feature some of the world’s most anticipated super cars and purpose-built race cars of 2010, including the recently unveiled Ferrari 458 Italia. To give players a taste of the “Hot Holidays Car Pack,” the brand new 2010 Audi S4 will be available as a free download.

Since each of the vehicles in the “Hot Holidays Car Pack” comes with its own fanfare and unique place in motorsports’ present and future, the team at Turn 10 will be unveiling and diving deeper into each car over the next two weeks on Auto aficionados should be sure to tune in for daily photo trivia contests to guess the model, make, and year of each car, with the chance to win real prizes and other in-game rewards within “Forza Motorsport 3.” Check for more info on this and all future Game Add-on news.

Courtesy of Microsoft Studios

A Christmas Carol - Nintendo DS/DSi

Overall Rating: 8
Author: JohnnyXeo
Genre: Adventure
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Follow the adapted Charles Dickens tale of Scrooge and his chance for redemption as it comes to life on your DS this holiday season. Appropriately released in conjunction with the newest movie adaptation, Disney’s A Christmas Carol allows you to control the fate of Scrooge as you navigate the story through action and effect puzzles, mini games, and action sequences. This game is sure to put you into the holiday spirit and also includes some added bonuses like a special advent calendar to help you count down the days until Christmas and also the full version of Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol that you can peruse for your reading delight.

Presentation (8)

The graphics take on a very illustrated style one might expect to find within the pages of a book. There is the use of both still images and some animated cut scenes when the story is being retold which gives the story mode a special feel to it. It may even be just the eyes of the character that are in motion drawing you in to their expressions. The images feel as though they are taken straight out of the 1800’s when the text was originally released and the scenery and settings hold true to this time period. The colours are for the most part muted due to the solemn mood of the game, but will brighten in festive scenes such as Fred’s holiday party. At times the images are on the blurry side and lack some definition but this could certainly be a deliberate effect to again set the mood for the scenes.

One of the great portions of the sound included in A Christmas Carol is that when the game plays through the cut scenes there is a narration of the story done with voice acting. The game instructions will be provided in text much like the story that is read in the cut scenes but these will not be read out. There are also certain mini-cut scenes within a level that will not include a vocal reading of the text. Throughout the levels there is music that plays in the background, again as with the images, the music is classical and is right out of the time period in which the game was set and sets the mood for the scene. There is the use of some basic sound effects to add to the scenes music including things such as the cracking of the roaring fire, the banshee cries of the ghost, and also the sounds resulting from the actions you take on items in the environment such as books dropping to the floor or the shutting of a window.

There is also specific use of sound within the game in the mini-games Fiddle, Piano, the Bell game and also Christmas Carols. In Fiddle and Piano you must hit the notes displayed on screen in order to play the melody. If you miss a note you will hear the effect as the song will not play. In the Bell Game you must follow the crisp and clear ringing of the bells and repeat the pattern in order to earn points. Lastly, in Christmas Carols, you will be asked to sing into the microphone in time with the melody of three songs We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Silent Night and O’ Come All Ye Faithful.

Gameplay (8)

There are several different puzzle types that you will come across in each of the fifteen levels of Redemption Mode (Story Mode) while you play through Scrooge’s story. These can range from action and effect, mini games and also action sequences which are equally distributed throughout the levels.

After an animated cut screen which provides the context of the scene and the story up to that point, you will most likely be given a task to complete by performing a series of actions in order to obtain the required result and continue the story along. For example, in the opening sequence of the game you are asked to find a way to warm Bob Cratchit. In order to do so, you will have to scan the environment and determine how to accomplish this goal. In this case, it will be to obtain a piece of coal from the firebox by Scrooges fire. Seems simple enough, but Scrooge would much prefer Bob stay cold in order to save the coal. It then becomes a challenge to find actions within the environment which will cause Scrooge to become distracted enough such as pushing objects off Scrooge’s desk so he has to go and pick them up, or opening the window so that the candle blows out and Scrooge must get up and light it again so that the coal can be obtained without Scrooge’s knowledge. A lot of the times you will have to move objects by shaking, displacing, or lifting them with your stylus.

The game will provide you with some written hints if you tap on an item with your stylus that might be able to help you, or if you blow into the microphone several sections on the screen will begin to shimmer indicating that the could possibly be used to solve the puzzle. Personally, I found these puzzles the most frustrating to complete as at times these actions must be performed in a specific sequence or you will be unable to continue or achieve the end effect.

Throughout the scenes there are also hidden mini-games. There is a huge variety of mini games ranging from action games (Coin Flip, Snowball Fight), puzzle games (Tile Puzzle), memory games (Scratch Card, Pairs) or even cooking games (Cooking). Each mini game begins with a set of instructions and a point value to hit in order to win a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal. The mini games are fun, quick and at times challenging especially the piano game which requires you to hit notes across a regular keyboard much more difficult than similar games which only have a few notes you are responsible for. The mini games are played both in Redemption mode and can be accessed on their own through the mini games menu once unlocked. If you play the mini-games on their own you have the option of playing single player or Pass the DS in which you can choose to play with up to four players and the game will be passed from one player to the next.

The action sequences vary but a good portion will require you to make items or individuals in the environment interact with and fall on or in front of a moving object or person while the screen scrolls forward. For example, in one scene you will be required to make Scrooge’s walk home as miserable as possible and to do this you will drop icicles on his head, cause dogs to bark, ravens to crow, water to be spilt from buckets all along his path. These actions are performed by using the stylus to tap or drag items in the path of the object or person.

Within the levels there will also be added objectives that can be completed but do not prevent the progress of the game. One of these objectives is to catch a ghost that appears on screen. There is one ghost per scene/level and to catch the ghost the stylus is used to continuously circle around the ghost until it is caught. This is an easy enough objective to complete, unless you are in an action sequence that might make it more difficult to take the time to catch the ghost and complete the required actions for the sequence itself at the same time. There will also be hidden items throughout the scenes that you will find by tapping your stylus throughout the scene. If you are able to collect all the hidden items from a scene you will earn a surprise.

Recreational Rating (8)

Disney’s A Christmas Carol not only contains a great redemption mode which is sure to attract fans of the original story but also contains such a great variety of mini-games and puzzles there is bound to be something for everyone to enjoy. The story mode takes some getting used to as the action and effect puzzles are a little frustrating but wanting to see how the rest of the story will unfold really keeps you at work getting the actions right in order to solve the puzzles.

Apart from the Redemption Mode and the Mini-games there is also the Advent Calendar. This advent calendar will unlock one puzzle for every day in December that you play. The puzzles are all images in which you must spot ten differences between the top and bottom images. If you are in the holiday spirit, you can wait until December and count down the days to Christmas with the calendar enjoying a new puzzle each day, or if you become curious like me, you can always alter your date and time settings on your DS to access the puzzles right away.

Buy It – Try It – Forget It

This is definitely a great title for the holidays and especially great for kids with the addition of the advent calendar and some of the mini games which were even easy enough for my youngest child to play who is almost four. Due to the large amount of gameplay options available in this title and the overall quality of the game, we would definitely recommend picking up this title.

November 17, 2009

Forza Motorsport 3 - Xbox 360

Overall Rating: 9.3
Author: The Outcast
Genre: Racing
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Microsoft’s Forza series has become one of the premier driving simulators in a very short time. Having started its life on the original Xbox, I remember playing the first iteration of this driving game for many, many hours. Since that time the series has progressed into one great driving-sim and Microsoft has recently released the third chapter of the Forza franchise. I have been playing the game for about a week or so and I have to say that I am duly impressed with what developer Turn 10 has done with the series, as they once again have upped the bar in this genre.

Presentation (9)

Visually, I would have to say that Forza 3 is definitely a looker. The two areas that are most important in a racing game are the cars and the tracks. The cars have been stunningly recreated, right down to each interior. For each one there are your typical racing views including behind the car, bumper, hood and cockpit cam. The latter is new to Forza 3 and it is sharp looking. All the gauges work and there is an amazing amount of detail in all the knobs, buttons, and dash features specific to each car. I know that there are a few videos online showing how much work goes into recreating the vehicles (e.g. Bugatti Veyron video comes to mind) and the final results show. Even more surprising is that the details can even be found in the drivers for each car too. This was very evident to me as I was watching fellow staffer Shad F race. He wanted to tap and spin one of the cars in front of him, and as he did I watched in amazement as the AI driver tried to correct the spin and you could see that he was actually moving the steering wheel in such a way that you could tell he was trying to correct what was happening. It was pretty neat.

As for the tracks, they too are amazing. All 24 environments are solid looking. Personally I was looking forward to seeing the tracks that were new to the Forza franchise, but surprisingly enough I was also caught off guard with how the tracks that had already been featured in previous versions looked so good too. I can’t explain what is different, but when I was racing such well known Forza tracks as Laguna Seca or Road Atlanta, there was just something different about them that made them look enhanced over Forza 2’s versions. I know that the track surfaces themselves were different, and even more realistic, but the rest of these familiar tracks seemed to look better as well. It was nice to see such things as the Ferris Wheel at Suzuka Circuit in Japan actually move this time around. Regardless of what it is, the all the environments look great for old tracks, and new, and the work that went into them really pays off.

Technically speaking Forza 3 is a beast. The framerate is locked in at 60 frames per second and all the cars move silky smooth, no matter what view you play in. There are seven other cars on the track with you and each one moves and reacts to the bumping, grinding, and the corners with individuality. There were no graphic anomalies that I could pick up on either. The collision detection was solid and I did not find any clipping or framerate issues that affected my gameplay experience. Heck, even a pet peeve of mine seems to be gone. The track view in the rearview mirror does not just ‘pop-out’ of view as you race down a long straightaway; in other racing games it does. Overall the use of lighting, shadows and reflections (e.g. off the hood) was impressive and much improved over the Forza 2. This game really does shine in visual department.

As with the visuals, the detail in the sound for the cars and environments is impressive. Each car has its own distinct resonance and you can tell that Team 10 spent a lot of time and care making sure the sound for each vehicle was as accurate as possible. Again, I know that there are videos all over the internet showing what went into recreating the vehicle sounds, and in the end it really does pay off for each and every car. A mid-engine car’s sound is very different from a traditional front engine car. It was nice to hear that the sound of the latter was in the front speakers where as the mid-engine car has the sound from behind the driver. It sounds simple to do, but when done right the effect is immersive.

As for the environments, they too have their own distinct sounds. For example, when I was racing on a particular section of Fujimi Kaido in Japan I passed a large waterfall. As I did the sound of the water crashing to the ground was evident, but as I moved down the track the sound travelled through the various speakers and slowly diminished as I got further away. Interestingly enough, the water from said waterfall flowed down the track as a river and the sound of the running water was heard as I approached the finish line. This is just one specific example of how the environments of each track sound great. From the crowds to the other cars on track, each environment is brought to life and adds to the racing excitement.

Gameplay (9.5)

Forza 3 comes to the table riding the success of the previous release two years ago. As development started on the third version of this series I really wondered where the game’s direction would go. Forza 2 was enough of an improvement over the first in terms of physics and customization, I didn’t think that there was much more wiggle room for enhancement; however I can honestly say that I was wrong.

At E3 in June of this year I got to sit in on a Forza 3 presentation where I was first introduced to some of the details of what was being offered. During that time it was clear to me that Turn 10 was attempting to make a driving simulator that was not only for the hardcore, but for the casual race fan as well. Well, after playing with the game over the past week or so I have to say that Forza 3 does indeed offer the chance for so many different levels of racing fans to play.

What was prominent when first starting is that there is a bevy of options to allow the most novice of driving game fans to have fun. Most notably there is a new assist found called Autobrake. This is exactly what it says as it automatically brakes for you as you drive around. Now this may sound silly to the hardcore racing fan, but for those who don’t know how to find that perfect entry into a tight hairpin turn, this is even more helpful than the well recognized driving line that you can use any Forza title. This Autobrake feature can be considered the ultimate set of training wheels, and they can be turned off when one is comfortable with what they are doing. And like the Autobrake feature, and something most Forza fans already know, you can turn off or leave on other types of assists, as well as turn on some other features, to make this a true driving game (e.g. ABS, Traction Control, Realistic Damage, etc.). Overall Forza 3 brings to the table many different options to make this game as hard or as easy as you like.

Control in Forza 3 is also noteworthy. Racing fans are a fickle bunch and they can be broken up into two camps: controller or racing wheel. Although I cannot comment on the latter I can say that I found Forza 3 very playable using a standard Xbox 360 controller. I found I was able to be take cars through the various tracks with great results. At no time did I find myself cursing at the screen while blaming the control of the game for my fate. Cars controlled very smoothly and I could tell the difference between the various cars as I progressed deeper into the game. Overall I have to commend Turn 10 for developing a racing game that plays so well using a controller as I know a lot of people don’t have the ability (e.g. room) to play with a racing wheel.

Should you find that you can’t keep your car going where you want too, Team 10 has added a new feature in the form of a rewind button. Just hit the back button on the controller and you can rewind from where you messed up. This is a purists nightmare, but a casual racers dream. Purists believe that you shouldn’t be able to rewind as you can't do this in real life; however casual fans enjoy this feature as it can be helpful to someone who does not race that much, virtually speaking. In the end this feature is a nice addition and it is up to you if you want to use it or not.

Something else that is worth commenting on is that the majority of the 400 plus cars that are to be found in this game are available from the start. You heard me right; the majority of the cars are available right from the get-go. That being said, you’ll need to earn in-game credits to buy the really fast cars, but in the end you can buy them when you have the money. I was somewhat amazed how only four hours or so into my career I was able to buy the Audi R8 FSI V10 Quattro, which is a signature car that is also on the cover of the game. If memory serves me right, this car is a bonus for those who pre-ordered the game as well. Anyhow, what I am trying to get at here is that there is no more having to log through hours and hours of gameplay just to get that one particular car you may be looking for. Once again, Turn 10 shows that they have made Forza 3 an accessible game for all those who play it.

There are 24 different track locations such as Spain, Italy, Japan, France as well various settings in the good old US of A. In total there are around 136 total tracks. This total is made of up the various tracks in the game with many of them being found in different configurations. Tracks range from some those in previous Forza games such as New York Circuit, Nurburgring, Road Atlanta, Maple Valley, Mugello or Laguna Seca, to the addition of new ones such as Amalfi Coast (Italy), Camino Viejo de Montserat (Spain), Sedona Raceway (USA), and Iberian International Circuit (Spain). Overall the track selection is staggering. You have access to these right off the get go in the ‘Free Play’ mode found in the main menu.

As with most racing games the Career mode is the meat of Forza 3, and here Turn 10 have made changes for what I believe is the better. The career mode lasts for six seasons with each season getting progressively longer to complete. During each season you are not forced to race a specific series with a specific class of car. Each season does have a class specific bi-weekly championship that takes place each weekend, but in between these championships is the opportunity to race one of three different series of races depending on what you feel like. These three different series actually have a purpose. As you look at each series you will see that you can either race in the car you already are in, you can experience new tracks, or you can experience new cars. With this in mind you control your Forza 3 experience. It is so simple but yet so effective. It adds variety into the game while allowing you to choose your own path. And for those who worry that once you complete your career it is all over, well it is not, as there are over 200 events to compete in and I highly doubt you’ll do all of them first time through. There is some longevity in this area for sure.

The computer AI found in the game is very competent. You will face off against seven other opponents in each series you race. Turn 10 one again employs the “Drivatar” system which has been said to teach the AI to race against your specific racing style, as such it is a different AI for each player who picks up and plays this game. Now I cannot comment on the complexities of such a claim, but what I can comment on is what I faced. The AI was a definite notable presence during the game. At times they would impede my progress as they either found the same line I did or they just didn’t want me to get by. On the other hand, there were times when they were prone to making mistakes too such as going into a corner too fast or making an error when trying to pass. It was pretty neat to watch an AI car in front of me spin out in the grass allowing me to drive on by. Overall the computer AI does have a realistic feel to it, as I have raced friends online in other racing games that act out in the same manner. Of course changing the skill level of the game affects how the AI drivers drive.

As you progress through your career you are rewarded in different ways. The most obvious is in-game credits. These credits can be used to buy new cars as well as upgrades to your existing ones. You are also rewarded with experience points for each race, and as you climb towards the ultimate goal of level 50 you are ‘gifted’ a car each time you level up. These cars are usually one of the more desirable ones found in the game and it is an incentive for you to race one more race in an effort to reach the next level and see what car you maybe gifted next.

Along with the strong single player comes some great multiplayer modes as well. Forza 3 can be played split screen with another player, or you can head onto Xbox LIVE for some true multiplayer action for 2-8 players. I will be focusing on the online play given that is what so many people do nowadays. There are your standard lap races to be found along with elimination types for online play. There are also more specialized race modes such as Cat and Mouse, Timed Races, Point-to-Point, Drift, and Tag. Each of these modes allows the host to set up various features in an effort to fine tune the experience. Of course you can set up your own distinct game types as well allowing you to add AI drivers if there are not enough humans, choose the track, set the teams, type of damage, rewards, etc. There are basic levels of customization for you to choose and you can then dig even deeper into the ‘advanced’ rules allowing you to choose even more options such as starting grid, head starts or locking the types of cars for players to use. Overall the customization in the multiplayer modes is impressive.

As with most driving simulators, Forza 3 offers up a lot of customization options. Of course you can tune your car to your heart’s content. From simple things like swapping out an air filter or set of sparkplugs to adjusting your timing or changing the camber of your suspension, all is present and waiting for the virtual mechanic to weave their magic. Should you be somewhat intimidated in this aspect of Forza 3, there are a couple of different options available to you. The first is the auto-upgrade feature. Here the game offers you a chance to just press the A button for this option before a race and the game will automatically upgrade your car in specific areas to make it the best it can be in for the class you are about to race in. Of course this is not as finely detailed as manually changing specific settings, but this does add parts to your car that you may not have considered that do improve its performance. The other option available to you is the ability to go to the Forza 3 Storefront and purchase tuning set-ups that other Forza 3 owners have put up for sale. Shopping the Storefront in this area may help you find that one tuning set-up for a specific style of track (e.g. test ring or winding road with lots of sharp turns). Be prepared to use your in-game credit though as nothing is for free in the Storefront area. Regardless of how you tune your car, there are different options to allow you to do so, and each of these makes the game more, dare I say, accessible to different levels of gamers.

Returning to Forza 3 is the ability to create custom paintjobs and liveries to give the vehicles in the game some added class or individuality. Of course the tools to do so are back, and in my humble opinion seem the same. That being said, if people purchase the Special Edition of Forza 3 there is supposed to be some added feature sets for those who love to create custom cars. Unfortunately I cannot comment on this as we only received the standard copy of Forza 3 to review. Regardless, there were some great designed cars in Forza 2 so I can only just wait and see what will be done this latest version of the game.

Of course one of the most innovative and well used features of Forza 2 was the auction house. Here the Forza community was introduced to the ability to go and bid on cars. One of the biggest reasons to do this was to get the aforementioned paintjobs and liveries that can be created. Well this year the new Storefront looks to improve on this feature. Instead of having to bid on a whole car, Forza 3 fans will now be able to enter the Storefront and find decals and paintjobs that can be sold just as is. Once purchased you can put these liveries on any car in your own garage. Of course once purchased they are yours and yours only to use. You can also search for designs and other stuff using keywords or by flagging designers who you think are good. All in all this area has also been improved upon.

Recreational Rating (9.5)

I for one found that I enjoyed the Career mode a lot more than I did in Forza 2. The combination of the variety, the freedom to decide my own path, and the whole “what is next” feeling, really did make it a much better experience. It was not as much as a grind this time around. That being said, you will still find that there are times when you will feel like you are plodding along, but this is because the races will get so long that a lot of time will get eaten up finishing them. I think a lot of people will find the career something they will do in chunks, and that this game will last longer because of this as you can’t just race through it (editor’s note: pun not intended).

I did not get a chance to play online nearly as much as I hoped given that the game was not in stores during the time of my reviewing the title, and I really hate going into public rooms with people I do not know. That being said, the few games I did play online were as smooth as silk even prior to the release to the public. I look forward to playing with my online friends in the next few days, and should I encounter any negative aspects online I will add it here, but I do not foresee any issues in this area.

Buy It – Try It – Forget It

Forza 3 is by far one of the most accessible racing simulators ever released onto the masses. The amount of assist options available makes this game playable for any level of racing fan, from those who don’t play at all to those who play too much. The improvements to the career mode are also noticeable too as they allow you to feel like you have some control in your progression. Turn 10 has done a great job of improving on an already great product and I have no problem telling all of you out there to head down to your local videogame store and pick this game up as you won’t be disappointed at all.

DJ Hero - Xbox 360

Overall Rating: 8.3
Genre: Music/Party
Release: October 2009
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Average Cost: $129.99 Standard Edition, $199.99 Renegade Edition

The music gaming genre has exploded over the past few years with each title adding to the genre with the addition of new instruments and over a dozen new games. DJ Hero brings a brand new element to this genre with the introduction of the turntable controller that provides a new and exciting innovation. This game allows you to tap and scratch some of the best beats you will ever play as you make your way through over 90 songs mixed together by some of the top DJ’s in the world.

Presentation (8)

The graphics for DJ Hero are exactly what I expected to see in a music title where the focus is more geared on the sound and the gameplay rather than sporting high quality graphics.

With that in mind the graphics are well done and have been polished to create a slick club feel to the game. There are a total of nine venues that you perform your shows at and they range from dance clubs, subways, a mansion and even Times Square. Each venue has a crowd that is dancing and cheering to each of the tracks and a bit of a show with some dancers on the stage, but you don’t really notice them while you are focused on completing your song.

It is more likely that you will notice your character than the background of each venue as they are much more detailed and boast quite a few DJ celebrities. The stock characters you start off with are Jugglernort, DJ Kid Itch, Cleetus Cuts, and Candy Nova. There are thirteen more DJ’s that can be unlocked as you complete songs and earn stars based on how well you perform. Most of the unlockable DJ’s are artists that include the late DJ AM, DJ Shadow, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Daft Punk, DJ Z-Trip and Grandmaster Flash.

Without great music any music game is likely to disappoint and inevitably fail. DJ Hero does not disappoint and features a great variety of over 100 original songs and a whopping 93 original mixes.

With a lot of music games there is a bound to be a few tracks that you do not especially enjoy, however, I can honestly say that there is not a single track that disappointed me and I enjoyed the mixes that DJ Hero brought to my ears. The song selection spans the decades and includes a lot of my favourite artists like the Beasties Boys, Jay Z, Daft Punk, Benny Bennassi, Foo Fighters, Queen and Weezer. If you would like to see the full list check it out at

Gameplay (9)

The whole point of DJ Hero is to simulate the usage of a turntable and uses the gameplay model of Guitar Hero. The controller looks like a turntable and has three buttons that are blue, red and green. There is also a special effects dial, a crossfader and a “Euphoria” button (which is used to double your multiplier). Along with the great design of the controller you are also able to detach the two halves of the controller to set it up for left handed players so they can use it as naturally as possible.

The two buttons on the turntable to the left and right represent the two songs that you are mixing together, where the middle button represents the samples that you add in to the mix that can be adjusted by the effects dial. Mixing in the songs is either performed by tapping the corresponding button, or when you see the scratch symbol you hold down the button and move the turntable back and forth to scratch in the music until it is finished.
All of the DJ controls are learned through two tutorials called Learn to DJ – Basics, and Learn to DJ – Advanced, with both being narrated by Grandmaster Flash. The advanced controls mainly apply to the Hard and Expert difficulties, so don’t worry about those techniques until you have mastered the Medium difficulty.

Local co-op play is either done DJ to DJ, where you would need two turntable controllers to go head to head play or with a guitar controller. Fans of the guitar will be happy to know that you can join in on 10 songs with a guitar for co-op play or if you just prefer the guitar you can play the select DJ/Guitar songs solo as well.

There is also online play through Xbox Live where you play in a Quick Match, jumping into the first available game and Custom Match where you select one of the themed setlists to play out against an online opponent. There is also Create Game and Create Private Game which is similar to Custom Match, but you get to edit the order of the tracks in the setlist and get to choose if it is against a random opponent or someone on your friends list.

Recreational Rating (8)

DJ Hero is a lot of fun when it gets down to it with the unique remixes, the DJ/Guitar songs for an easy way to get your friends playing and online multiplayer options to put your DJ skills to the ultimate test. Unfortunately there is no story mode to participate in, which I think is something that is missing from DJ Hero. A story of an up and coming DJ working his way from the trenches to become the DJ Hero would have been a nice addition, but what we do have is a bunch of different track lists of themes like Party Rockin’ & Hip Hop Rules, DJ specific lists for the playable DJ’s like Daft Punk & DJ AM, Custom Setlists and any downloadable packs you have downloaded. Working your way through each of the themed set lists will unlock more set lists and plenty of unlockable customizations for your DJ. Aside from unlocking more songs there are no other obtainable goals to give the game the added edge that is somewhat lacking from this title.

Buy It - Try It - Forget It

Where the game lacks in story mode or additional objectives, the game makes up for it in the uniqueness of the gameplay with the turntable controller and the greater variety of song genres included. Being an avid music genre player, DJ Hero was a must have for my collection and gamers like me who couldn’t get enough of titles like Guitar Hero will likely equally enjoy the game. The game does have a high price tag though so you may want to try the game out first if you are unsure about it. I had the opportunity to test it out on two previous occasions which solidified my desire to buy it. I hope to see the creators release some follow up titles that make use of the turntable controller in the future to make the most of my investment. In the meantime there has been downloadable content already released and more coming in the future which will help you get more gaming from this title.

November 3, 2009

Band Hero Released Today

Santa Monica, CA – November 3, 2009 – Hitting store shelves throughout North America today, Activision Publishing, Inc.’s (Nasdaq: ATVI) Band Hero™ for Wii™, Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 and PlayStation®2 computer entertainment systems and Nintendo DS™ Lite explodes onto the scene with the most exciting and accessible set lists everyone can enjoy at home or on the road, featuring chart-topping tracks from the most popular bands of yesterday and today. With the console versions, up-and-coming pop superstars can create the band of their dreams with any combination of multiple guitarists, bassists, drummers and vocalists or hit all the high notes together in the new karaoke-style Sing-Along mode. Fans can also step into the spotlight as their favorite popular music stars with Taylor Swift and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine making appearances as playable characters.

Band Hero takes the critically acclaimed Guitar Hero® 5 game features to new heights and delivers the most popular artists into your living room,” said Dan Rosensweig, president and chief executive officer of Guitar Hero®. “As our first E10+ rated console game, Band Hero will become the new soundtrack to family game night.

Hit the road with Band Hero as Nintendo DS Lite owners join the band with an all-new gameplay experience that allows full band play on-the-go for any combination of guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Featuring an exclusive set list, Band Hero for Nintendo DS Lite extends the renowned guitar-only gameplay from the Guitar Hero® On Tour® series to full band play with the introduction of the innovative Drum Grip and use of the built-in microphone for vocal play. Band Hero for Nintendo DS Lite players can also connect to the Wii version to unlock extra gameplay and content including Fan Request challenges.

Band Hero for Wii also features multiple exclusive game modes for Nintendo fans that will allow living room rock stars to interact with their music and friends in a new social gameplay experience. While players and their bands are rocking away on the Wii version of Band Hero, family and friends who own Nintendo DS or Nintendo DSi can update and change the band’s set list on the fly giving them the ability to experience the performance they want in DS Party Play. Nintendo DS fans can virtually live the life of a band roadie thanks to Roadie Battle mode which allows up to two Nintendo DS players to connect with two Band Hero Wii guitarists for an intense competition of navigating from one side of the stage to the other trying to sabotage opponents’ equipment while repairing any damage to their own. Band Hero also features Mii™ Freestyle Mode made popular in Guitar Hero 5. In addition, an all-new drum kit controller featuring a slimmer, more sturdy design and quiet ‘floating’ drum heads will be available at launch, bundled exclusively with the Wii band kit version of Band Hero.

Band Hero also offers a great value to owners of multiple Guitar Hero games by allowing players to import select songs from Guitar Hero® 5, Guitar Hero® Smash Hits and Guitar Hero® World Tour. In addition, Guitar Hero fans can play most of their purchased Guitar Hero World Tour or Guitar Hero 5 downloadable content in Band Hero, for a music library that consists of hundreds of tracks.

Brought to you by the makers of Guitar Hero, one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time, Band Hero features the hottest chart-topping hits from everyone’s favorite bands including Fall Out Boy, Nelly Furtado, Lily Allen, The All-American Rejects and Jackson 5. Band Hero is the ultimate party game where friends and family can choose to join the band or “take five” at any time without interrupting the performance in Party Play mode. Band Hero allows fans to create the band of their dreams, using any combination of vocals and guitar or drum controllers, providing budding pop stars the chance to customize how they interact with and experience their favorite music.

In addition, Band Hero players can step into the spotlight as their own Xbox Avatar in the Xbox 360 version of the game. Taking full advantage of the latest technology available from Xbox LIVE® online entertainment network, pop hopefuls can create the ultimate pop super-group and mix and match their Xbox Avatars with all-new character Quincy Styles, redesigned Guitar Hero favorites like Judy Nails, Midori and Axel Steel, or even alongside in-game talent.

Band Hero was developed by Neversoft Entertainment for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 system, by Vicarious Visions for the Nintendo DS Lite and Wii and by Budcat for the PlayStation 2 system. The game is rated “E10+” (Everyone 10 years and older – Mild Lyrics, Mild Suggestive Themes). Become a fan of Band Hero on Facebook at and for more information about Band Hero, please visit For a chance to win a trip to meet Taylor Swift and see her in concert as well as other Band Hero prizing, enter at

Courtesy of Activision