More RB3 news + Natal

I’ll get to the Natal news first.   As you can imagine, it most likely will not be called Natal and I suppose we’ll here the official name announced at E3 next month.  The disapointing news, however, is that the price point may indeed be higher than expected….much higher.

Early rumors had hinted Natal maybe as low as $60, although I for one never believed that.  I thought a street price of $79-89 was more realistic (as a stand alone without and AAA titles), but recent speculation coming out of a mole at MS indicates that Natal may be at a price point of $149!  Hopefully this does include a title with games ala Wii Sports.  This may put a damper on my early adoption, definetly having me sit back and see the games announced and actual performance after initial release. 

Since it may drop in October/Novemeber, here’s to hoping that MS has some real hands on demo’s at E3.

Now Rock Band 3.

My earlier post this week indicated that we’d be seeing the inclusion of a keyboard of some type.  Well, it appears my guessing was a bit closer to the truth afterall.  It sounds like a ‘keytar’ will be the instrument debuting meaning a concentration on 80’s pop, funk, and new wave music.  I think many acts back in the 80’s including Devo, Thomas Dolby, Thompson Twins, Morris Day and the Time, and many more used the Keytar (think keyboard on a strap much like a guitar) in their songs.

Peripheral manufacturer MadCatz is teaming up with Activision to concentrate on the various intrument offerings where as the game developer itself says it will focus on the actual software.

The game will also offer a new ‘Pro’ mode, and while the actual facts are somewhat vague it seems there will be an emphasis on technique more than button mashing.  And three microphones for harmony are pretty much a lock at this time.

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Keyboards for Rock Band 3?

Harmonix released a teaser picture for it’s upcoming Rock Band 3.  Notice the new icon including a keyboard?  Hmmm….sounds interesting and makes perfect sense.  I figured it was only a matter of time before this happened, but I wonder how many instruments can actually be plugged in at any given time?  With my current RB 1 & 2 on my 360 the USB peripheral allows for upto 4 devices, but then again, the 360 has anotehr USB port on ther front as well, so maybe 5 devices isn’t a stretch afterall.

But also notice the microphone icon….it has multiple mics….Is it possible we’ll be singing harmony ala Beatles?  I guess we’ll find out more details come mid June when E3 2010 drops.

I’m looking forward to RB3, although my friends and I have’t finished RB1 or 2 yet.  Not sure why as we always have a blast playing.  It’s just been getting harder and harder to round us all up.

In other music gaming news, I’ve almost completed DJ Hero on medium.  I have no fricken idea how people are scoring 5 stars on Hard or Expert modes.  Now that I’m ending my tour on medium, I just think how hard my hand/eye cooridination was on a few beats/sonsg in the Vinyl Cuts section, especially with the cross fader.   Here’s hoping that Activision throws a few more songs our way before DJ Hero 2 drops as well.  I understand the game didn’t deliver the sales numbers they were hoping for this past holiday season, but come on…the game did retail for over $120 on debut during a recession and just after The Beatles and sucky Tony Hawk’s Ride dropped.  Tough market to compete in, and thus they didn’t follow up with DLC support for months.  It was months before a second set of DLC was released after the initial offerings.  That’s just not cool when RB & Harmonix are pumping out tracks on a weekly basis.

Games I’m currently working on: Dragon Age Origins, Assassins Creed II, Modern Warfare 2, and beleive it or not, I still have an un-opened copy of Mass Effect 2.  Haven’t even had time to play Tiger Woods 2010, let alone think about Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake, Splinter Cell: Conviction, and Borderlands.  By the time I get to those, hopefully the price will drop on all of these to $29.99-$39.99

And Natal?  I can’t even think about that right now.  Though I am curious to any news of upcoming games for it.  I think it has a ton of potential, but I’m just really scared that there may be a lot of shovelware crap like the Wii.

E3 2009: Microsoft Impressions

Since I own a 360 myself (and still waiting for Sony to drop their price), I was really looking forward to what on tap from Microsoft.  In today’s climate of financial skepticism, shovelware (Wii), and over-hype with little delivery, one has to be very careful in picking and choosing were one is going to drop their $60 for a title.  And as a side note…why again are next gen console games anywhere from $10-15 more than their PC counterparts?  I think that if Microsoft really wants a leg up on Sony, since Sony doesn’t look like their going to reduce the cost of a new Playstation, that Microsoft should drop the price of new games by $5-$10 to a price point model closer to Nintendo.  I myself have a psychological aversion to spending $59 on a new game, and would feel much more willing to gamble one a title if it was $49, but that’s just me.

Anyway, onto the Microsoft press conference:

  • LAST.FM: Later this year, we can expect to stream music from the online service at no extra cost.  Seems like a pretty nice bonus for those that don’t already having digitable cable or sattelite radio in their homes.  I for one will be checking this out for dance channels and a little something else.
  • Twitter: Well there’s a new interface to use here, but with lack of a full keyboard, I’m not going to be sitting there using my controller to hunt and peck out messages.  I understand why Microsoft is doing this, but since I have an aversion to Twitter, I don’t see myself using this, nor most of my friends.  If we already have live chat, cell phones, email, FB and more, do I really need yet another way to read micro blog posts?
  • Facebook: Not sure exactly what to think about this move.  It uses the new NBE layout to navigate, and it looks good for viewing pictures and ties in smoothly to your Xbox friends profiles…but again, I just can’t see myself using it to type updates or all the other apps, when I have a PC that is so much easier to use for this type of thing.  Again, I understand why Microsoft is leveraging the popularity of Facebook, but the too early to tell how easy it will be to use or what people will use it for.  This one could go either way.
  • Avatars:  Microsoft said that you can expect unlockable items, (finally), in titles that will be appearing starting this fall to further customize your avatars.
  • 1 vs 100: The beta finally hit, and after we saw a glimpse of it when it was announced last year…and then delayed for whatever reason…I guess we can finally expect to see some live gameshow style events later this year.  I’m actually looking forward to this, and still wonder why it will take almost 1.5 years from it’s initial announcement to launch (pratically a year late from it’s intial planned debut).
  • Microsoft Points: May be going the way of the Do-do bird…meaning it’s rumored that MS points will lose their ‘point’ status and revert to ‘real money’….thank God.  I always hated tring to figure out the conversion that something cost , 160, 800, 1200, 1600 pts.  Just tell me how much already, I don’t want to think about it.
  • Zune: Looks like the next version of Zune hardware/software will integrate even more by the end of this year and loads of new content will be available through Xbox marketplace making Zune more of an extension of the Xbox similar to what the iTouch is for Apple and PSP Go is for Sony.  Video services will be relaunched at this time as well, and expect more HD content than ever.
  • Netflix: Update to make queing movies directly from Xbox instead of a PC.  Easier navigation as well.
  • Xbox originals: This service will be discontinued soon, or at least no new titles from first gen Xbox will be appearing.
  • Crackdown 2 (Ruffian Games): I’m jazzed about this as the first game was so much fun.  It didn’t get the recognition it should have as it was over-shadowed by Halo 3 at launch, but it has quite a cult following and is a blast!.  Anyway, expect better graphics (of course), 4 player co-op!, and 16 player versus modes.  Not too much details were given yet, just a teaser.
  • Halo Reach (Bungie): Just announced for a 2010 release and open beta for those that pre-purchase Halo ODST.  No details…just a tease.
  • Halo ODST (Bungie): Show some gameplay, of course looks great.  The setting is 3 weeks before the events in Halo 3, and you play a new character (not Master Chief).  Expect new weapons come Septermber 22nd, 2009.
  • Left 4 Dead 2:  Wow, I’m surprised how fast this sequel was announced and it’s progression in development.  Makes me wonder if some of the ideas/content was originally slated for the first, but didn’t make the deadline.  Or they new the 1st was going to be a hit, they had already started working on the sequel before the 1st was released.  Expect new weapons including chainsaw, melee weapons, characters, etc.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Announced for Xbox, but no details.  Just a big fat tease that have MG & Xbox fanboys screaming.
  • Rock Band Beatles (Harmonix): Opening trailer looks really neat and stylized to compliment the look of old school Beatles graphics.  Yoko One and Harrison’s widow comes out on stage…they wave…and walk back.  WTH?  How much did they pay them just to wave.  Could care less about them, and they didn’t sell me the game….waste of money and PR in my opinion.  Wait….Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney walk out as well…Why the hell is Paul chewing gum…I don’t care if he’s an icon or not…looks silly chewing gum.  He and Ringo say something unintelligible and then leave just as fast.  Wow…I would have hated to write them a check for that worthless appearance. “All You Need is Love” will be an exclusive Xbox track.
  • Joy Ride: XBLA arcade style kart game.  It’s free and utilizes your avatars, but lokks ‘okay’.  Good thing it’s free.
  • Shadow Complex: XBLA exclusive.  Pretty side scroller which will debut this summer.
  • Forza Motorsport 3: Shipping this fall.  I don’t know what to say about these racing games.  To me, they all look amazing whether it Project Gotham or GT or whatever.
  • Alan Wake: Gameplay footage is shown from this game that seems to have been in development forever.  They say Spring 2010, but we’ll see.  Not holding my breath, but looks pretty awesome nonetheless.  Look like a cross between Silent Hill and other freaky, tense, horror stealth titles.  Good solo game for playing at night near halloween.  Yeah, that type of scary and tense game.
  • Knights of the Old Republic (Bioware): Oh, nerdgasm.  Showed an epic trainler set in the SW universe.  Jaw dropping and Xbox exclusive.  I am really looking forward to this one.
  • Mass Effect 2 (Bioware): 2010 release.
  • Project Natal (MS): Working title and most likely change.  Looks like MS is entering the motion control arena
    Natal

    Natal

    with there own sensor bar that you don’t need any controller at all….just your body.  They demonstrate some prototype games including racing sans steering wheel, a version of the classic ‘breakout’ called ‘Ricochet’, skateboarding, etc….Looks slick, but no launch date or price is mentioned or games for that matter.  Does voice and face recognition and can automatically sign you into XBLA when you walk into a room.

While I was indeed happy with what I saw (and I’m not metioning many of the cross-platform titles, ala Modern Warfare 2, DJ Hero, Assassins Creed 2, Bioshock, etc.), Microsoft seems to be focusing a lot on social networking this time around.  While I am happy with some of the AAA titles and some of the exclusives mentioned, I have a feeling that Sony may have a bit more up their sleeve this year than they did last year and may up the ante on Microsofts offerings.  Nintendo also better deliver this year as 2008 was disapointing and underwhelming.  They may have a lock on console sales, but the games are mostly crap right now with only a few bright spots in their IP offerings.

Personal Gaming Journal #3

So I’m kinda excited that my OXM subscription kicked in yesterday and I recevied my 1st issue.  It’s a pretty good deal to get the magazine along with the disc for $24.95 for the whole year as opposed to paying $9.99 an issue at the grocery store or bookstore.

I’m happy to see some offical pictures of all the new Rock Band 2, Guitar Hero World Tour, and Konami’s Rock Revolution peripherals (well Konami only showed the drums kit, and it looked a little strange).  The nice thing is that Konami stated that both RB and Gh’s guitar will be compatible with their game.  I’m getting pretty psyched that these will start launching next month, and I’ll have a whole new bey of songs to play and download.

Ion is introducing there own uber drum kit for the Rock Band series which just looks crazy mad.  By itself, it’ll be $300, metal, and ships with 4 drum pads, 2 cymbals and kick peddle.  For even another $50 you can buy yet a 3rd cymbal!

Harmonix’s new Stratocaster looks pretty sweet, and they promise it will be much more sturdy than the original, meaning overdrive sensor and strum bar, plus it’s wireless.  A fine addition to my colllection.  However, RedOctane’s new axe for World Tour may be the one to get.  Also wireless, it has an additional touch sensitive neck for hand sliding and an oversized ‘star power’ button (thank God!) so you won’t have to tilt your guitar to achieve star power.

I played RB last night for a bit and tried multiplayer online play.  I experimented with both ‘Tug of War’ and ‘Score Duel’ modes and had my as handed to me all four times, but it was fun.  I have to get out of the competitve mindset and just enjoy it playing a song with someone else.  The problem for me is that Tug of War is very unforgiving…miss one note and it’s very difficult to recover against the other player.  This resulted in a True Skill point value of ‘1’ for me, even though on medium I was pulling perfect solos and completing like 97-98% of the song.  Seems a bit harsh to ever recover and be motivated to continue playing…you find yourself praying the other guy misses one note as well just to give you a chance.

I may need to buy a new HD soon with all the songs coming down the pipeling.  My 20GB drive is already 75% full lest I remove some other games and demo’s.

On the horizon for me: Force Unleashed, Rise of the Argonauts, GH WT, RB 2, Too Human, Fracture, GoW2, Lego Batman, CoD 5, Clone Wars (Wii) and a few others.  Man, I don’t even have time now….or money.

Speaking of money….I was so planning on buying a new PC today.  A new Dell XPS system to replace my 5year +, but then my wife told me yesterday she is behind on bills.  Dammit.  Well, there that goes for now.  I was eyeing a 2.4 GHz system with 3GB memory, plenty of L2 cache, and a 20″ widescreen monitor for my WoW and CoH habits.  Looks like that’s put on hold….yet again.  ::Grumble::

Been getting back into my PSP again too…playing Metal Gear Solid Ac!D and enjoying it.  My coworker was showing me his new God of War PSP slim and gameplay and it looks pretty sweet as well.

Wii: Okay, so my store didn’t get the Wii Fit today, but I also have an alert from Amazon.com sent to my phone.  If any Fit’s become available, they send you a TXT message to whcih you simply reply ‘Buy’, and they send one to you based on your Amazon account.  Well imagine my surprise when I got my alert today (WooHoo!!) at 10:17am saying they are available.  I reply at 10:20am with my text.  At 10:22am I receive a reply back saying they are now ‘unavailble’!!!  DOH!!  WTF?  So between the time I received the alert and I responded (3 minutes!) they were already sold out again.  What….did they only get 2 in stock?

Ah well, there’s always next week.

Video Games: Guitar Hero Aerosmith

Admittedly I’ve never been a huge fan of most rock.  Bands like AC/DC, Ratt, Motley Crue, GNR, and so on do little for me, and the bands that are more thrash, hardcore, heavy metal do nothing for me at all.  There are a few memorable songs here and there that I don’t mind so much, let alone tolerate or hum on occasion, but I’ve never been known to be a ‘rocker’.

When I was in college I actually had some free time on my hands as a senior and had the luxury of taking a few fun or ‘fluff’ classes.  I wanted to learn how to play an instrument and seeing that I liked jazz music a lot, I was actually thinking about picking up the trumpet.  I even asked my roommates at the time, which they would prefer me to learn – the guitar, or trumpet?  They unanimously voted for the guitar, so I ended up taking a semester of beginning guitar.  And I was pretty good.  Far from being a prodigy by any means, but I did end up with an ‘A’ in the class.

That was 1993.

It wasn’t until earlier this year I went over to a neighbors house one evening and they had broken out Guitar Hero II for the Sony Playstation 2 that I had my first laid my hands on anything Guitar Hero.

It was the first few songs and holding that hunk of black plastic in my hand, desperately trying to match the scrolling notes on the track coming at me that I became enamored with the game and the whole concept.  It wouldn’t be long thereafter before I purchased GH III for my Xbox 360 and tried my hand at becoming a solo appreciated rock star within my own living room.

Another funny thing happened as I slowly worked my way from a GH III newbie who could barely hit a note early on in his ‘easy’ career to someone who just recently finished the games on medium and looking to now attempt ‘hard’ mode….I learned to appreciate and even like some of the songs.  So much so in fact, I began dropping my CC number on valued MS Points and began a library of DLC content.

In March, I obtained Rock Band.  Now I could beat the drums (albeit horrendously), sing off-key, jam a bass groove with my neighbors, and love every minute of it while throwing back a beer or two.  We began to play so much we even started our own living room band where we all get together every other week and take turns singing and playing instruments as we unlock new venues, arenas, and prizes…we recently just got the plane.  I’ve downloaded quite a few tracks over the months for both games, and eagerly await each Tuesday to see what DLC is being offered.

So imagine by heart fluttering just a tad when they announced GH III: Aerosmith.  I’ve been eagerly awaiting this new expnasion since it was first announced, and today, June 30, 2008 it has been released.  I was even thinking about scheduling my lunch in such a way as to be able to swing by Best Buy to pick up a copy and ruch home to drop it in and begin playing by this evening.  I couldn’t wait to be on stage with Run DMC and play songs like ‘Kings of Rock’ and ‘Walk this way’.

So why didn’t I rush out an hour ago and get it as I had been planning on it for months, counting down the days up until now?

Well I suppose it came as a combination of a few things, namely the early reviews I read.  I wasn’t expecting Neversoft/Activision to reinvent the wheel here, but early reviews more or less said it’s much of the same, and unless you’re a diehard Aerosmith fan, there’s nothing really here that justifies the $59.99 for a disc.

And I guess when I read that and let it sink in a bit, it started to make sense.  Why exactly should this be $59.99 and not considered a true expansion and maybe come in at $39.99?  I could easily justify $39.99, but $59.99 for a band that really doesn’t generate any actual buzz for me.  I mean I don’t dislike Aerosmith, but I’d never go out and buy a CD or MP3 of their songs either. 

As I write this entry, Eurogamer gave it 6 out 0f 10, and IGN gave it 7.5 out of 10 and even stated that many of the riffs are very repetitive, slightly easier to play, and no other innovations.  So why not spend the money of songs I do like for Rock Band or other GH III tracks?  Though I do want to play Run DMC….

It doesn’t help the cause either when I read that Guitar Hero World Tour will be out in mid October of this year, and now Harmonix has announced Rock Band 2 for September.  Both will bring out new features and many more songs than this outing does.  As a matter of fact rumors are floating that Rock Band 2 may ship with close to 200 songs, or at least have that many available as DLC by the end of the year!

I guess I may just wait now and hope that in a few months GH: Aerosmith will drop in price or become an Amazon.com Deal of the Day.

So let me hear what you think.  Did any of you buy GH: Aerosmith and are you happy with it?