Wednesday, February 13, 2013

[Accessory Review] Xtendplay by Xwerx

Look, I hate to be the one to tell you this but it’s for your own good: you are diseased.

I feel perfectly healthy!  you might say.  It’s fine.  That’s everyone’s first reaction when they find out they’re GC positive.  The whole “denial is the first step on the path to acceptance” thing. 

I went through the same thing when I found out I had GC, carrying on like everything was perfect sunshine lollipops in the Land of Happy-Dappy Smilefairies, but it didn't last.  The signs were sporadic at first: a cracked knuckle here, a sore wrist there.  Then things started to build, quick.  The symptoms became impossible to ignore.  It got to the point where even seeing the boomerang-esque shape of the Xbox 360 controller caused me to fall to my knees, put my sweaty, tendonitis -infested arms to the sky and curse the cruel God who designed such an arcane device.  I couldn’t eat, sleep, bathe, Scrabble. I was a total wreck.

Now hold on, don’t get all teary-eyed and confine your 360 to a dusty prison closet just yet: I found a cure.  You just probably haven’t heard about it thanks to the massive Microsoft-financed conspiracy keeping medical professionals from recognizing the GC threat.  Don’t believe me?  Fine, then go to your doctor’s office; have her tell you that “It’s just tendonitis; take some aspirin and stop clutching your vidyagame joystick so damn much.”  But before you leave, riddle me this: what operating system is installed on her computer?  That’s right: Windows XP.  By Microsoft. The same company that made your Xbox 360 controller.  I told you this was big.

There is only one thing that will save you now: Xwerx’s XtendPlay for the Xbox 360.  Its “Soft-touch fleXlite™ shape” and “Airflow Channels” are the magic cure that “the man” doesn’t want you to know about.  We must act quickly though, because Microsoft has already struck: Xwerx has fallen and the underground resistance network has been reduced to Amazon.  So please, spend $20 (plus shipping) on a giant foam controller cushion and help me help you.  Join together with your arthritic brothers as we strike down the global Gamer’s Claw threat!  Because Gamer’s Claw is totally a thing.  Yep.  Totally a thing.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

[Accessory Review] Kontrol Freek's FPS Freeks

Precision is everything in first-person shooters; when even a millimeter or two can mean the difference between a headshot and impotently hitting the wall behind your target, dedicated deathmatchers need every advantage they can get. A particularly brutal night of Halo 4 made me realize that I had simply plateaued in my ability to use a stock Xbox 360 controller, so I started looking for a way to gain that extra edge without shelling out hundreds of dollars for a tournament-level controller. Amidst the snakeoil promises of products like screen targets and illegally modded controllers stood a constant recommendation: Kontrol Freek's FPS Freek line of analog stick extenders. They sure seemed like an attractive option given their sub-$20 pricetag and numerous positive reviews but the important question remained: would they actually work? The  answer is a resounding hell yes.

[Xbox 360 Review] Medal of Honor: Warfighter - One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Medal of Honor: Warfighter is a complete disappointment.

Not a very flattering way to start a review, huh?  I just wanted to state the truth that I wish I had been told leading up to this game’s October 23, 2012 release.  Instead of flashy Photoshopped trailers of shaky-cam multiplayer footage, I wish EA would have shown me videos of sloppily designed maps and numerous game-breaking bugs.  Instead of highlighting how many different special operatives I could unlock, I wish EA would have highlighted Warfighter’s terribly unintuitive menu system.  Instead of touting how realistic and heartfelt the campaign’s narrative would be, I wish EA would have provided a flowchart of the game’s many confusing timeline jumps. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  The point is, Danger Close and EA were given the perfect opportunity to improve upon the franchise’s 2010 reboot, and they dropped the ball: the few genuinely exciting new features Warfighter introduces are completely overshadowed by the same technical problems and lack of polish that irked me two years ago combined with a slew of new bugs that take the experience from bad to worse.  It’s a shame: instead of standing out as a competent competitor to Call of Duty, Medal of Honor: Warfighter joins the long list of failed shooter franchises that were smothered by their own design mistakes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

[Xbox 360 Review] Karaoke Revolution Glee: Volume 3 - A-Glee-giously Mediocre

Long before they were cranking out tasty riffs in Guitar Hero or revolutionizing paid console downloads with Rock Band, developer Harmonix was inviting gamers into the karaoke bar with the Karaoke Revolution series.  This series has always held a special place in my heart: my first taste of music gaming was belting out Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” because the original male singer sheepishly backed out of his rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (and believe me, I killed it).  Sadly the series peaked in 2005 with Harmonix’s last installment (KR Party) and never really recovered once gamers moved on to the greener pastures of other karaoke games. 

Although the series has languished through years of crappy franchise tie-ins, stagnating gameplay design and stiff competition, publisher Konami scored a major coup in late 2010: the exclusive rights to produce KR-branded karaoke games for the television show Glee.  Glee is a musical phenomenon with many of its songs regularly breaking sales records (including some set as far back as the Beatles!) so this arrangement seemed like a match made in heaven: Glee fans would be able to belt out their favorite covers from the show with the tried-and-true KR formula, while KR gamers would get a huge boost in song quality from the hits of the show. 

The series got good marks with its Wii incarnations but it wasn’t until last fall that the series crept into “must-own” territory for me: KR Glee was finally moving into the modern age with Karaoke Revolution Glee: Volume 3 for the Xbox 360. This was the KR game I had been waiting for: high quality Glee songs with full hi-def video from the show and new songs available via paid downloadable content, all in time for the holiday season.  So was it worth the wait?  Frankly: no.  Although Konami and developer Hijinx Stuidios provide a serviceable karaoke experience, KRG3 simply fails to live up to its potential and drags the series even further behind its modern competition, offering little incentive for fans of the show and even less for music game junkies.