Tag: xbox (page 2 of 12)

GTA IV – It’s Here

Some initial random thoughts from my first 30 mins on single player…and first three hours on multiplayer. If you want it summed up in one word – unmissable.

  • Very cinematic intro – don’t skip it!
  • Rich environment, great graphics. Lot’s happening around you that you need to spend time looking at and taking in. So big. So much to see. Massive scale.
  • Cars are varied and handle superbly. Different and takes time to get used to and you need to brake. Loving the wheelspin’s and momentum of vehicles.
  • Not done enough single player to say any more. Same old GTA fare by the looks of it which isn’t a bad thing!
  • Multiplayer takes a bit of getting used to. it probably helps to have done some offline missions first and get used to targeting, cover system, changing weapons. I didn’t and i suffered!!
  • Multiplayer offers the whole of Liberty City if you want it. Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and a few other modes that I didn’t have time to try. Cops and Crooks is a great game mode though. So much fun! So many ways to kill/die. It can feel overwhelming though.
  • Thankfully there’s an option to respawn nearby where you died. Keeps you close to the action – anything else could lead to boredom crossing the map to get to enemy team.
  • Racing modes are fun. Losing car after death though and getting a scooter can be frustrating but superb for your frineds.
  • Rockets on a small map is frantic. Rockets look superb!
  • No mute. Loud Americans! XBox Live should allow you to default voice communications by region/countries. Mute all yanks!
  • Helicopters! A great way to travel.
  • In just one night so many memorable moments. First time I used the sniper to stop a car was superb. Seeing and driving cars with no tyres. Cheesy in the fire engine. Me not being able to kill anyone. Me not being able to drive. Class
  • It’s a sandbox game so don’t expect the honed multi-player of Halo, CoD, Forza etc. it really is up to you how you want to play.
  • Soundtrack ticking boxes so far. Heard Queens One Vision and some Phil Collins tonight.

So. Some initial thoughts mostly all positive. One also closing note. Glad I picked up 360 version over PS3. Some reviews have mentioned better graphics on the PS3 but this comparison between both shows me that any difference is hard to spot. It’s also been found today that the res of the PS3 version is 640p against the 360’s 720p, that the PS3 multiplayer service has been down and had connection issues today and also that the PS3 version is freezing. Solution – delete your game save and also the game install. Nasty. Xbox Live (for me anyway) performed without a hitch tonight. Great to login and see 15 friends all playing the same game. Can’t wait to really get into the game. More thoughts probably next week on how it plays after a few days.

Achilles Heel

The 360 is a fine console with excellent games, great online community and a fine multi-media machine. However it’s failure rate is atrocious yet Microsoft have always denied there is a big issue with returns. Now comes news that the UK repairs team is receiving 1500 – 2500 per day according to this article published on 360 Gamer.

1500-2500 per day in the UK alone

That sounds really high but tie’s up with my own findings. I game regularly with a group of guys and almost all of them have had at least one 360 fail. Two of the group are onto their 5th 360. That’s five machines in less than 20 months. If it happened to one guy only you would put it down to bad luck but not two. I’ve also had mine fail, Shakeel’s has just gone, Graham’s on his third and as already said most of the guys have had theirs fail two. If it’s not the red ring of light it’s scratched disks, which is definitely caused by the 360 as the guys that I know it’s happened too haven’t even removed the disk from the machine for two weeks. It started to fail and on inspecting the disk concentric scratches were clearly visible.

These problems have now transferred to the 360 Elite which was Microsoft’s chance to address the issues which look to have been sadly missed. A couple of folk I know are now thinking it’s time to ditch the 360 and move to PS3 despite that platforms lack of current games – at least it seems more reliable. Time to come clean Microsoft. Early adopters deserve better than this. Consumers deserve better than this. You no longer have a monopoly when it comes to HD games and a busy online console community and gamers are becoming tired of the failure’s.

Halo 3 Thoughts

I felt it was worth playing more than a handful of games before commenting on Halo 3 as it takes time to get used to some of the more subtle changes. The most noise on the net at the moment is with the quality, or lack of, of the graphics. I’ve been happy with them but they aren’t mindblowing. I’ve been impressed with the bubble shield, the increased detail on all the maps, the water effects and the higher res that everything is presented in. While it’s a beta I don’t expect them to change much between now and September although the single player may have an extra sheen as seen in previous Halo games when compared to multi-player.

The three maps in the beta are all very different, new and provide fresh challenges. Most disappointing is Snowbound as it’s fairly small with not much detail. The snow effects are nice but there isn’t much cover on the map leading to quick deaths. Still, the Ghost on this map does allow me to mow down folk.

Highground is a fantastic map consisting of a beach, with a main path heading up to an abandoned base. Lot’s of hiding places, multiple routes to the base and also the chance to try the Mongoose. Think smaller, aster more vulnerable Warthog. Great fun. Finally there is Valhalla which is a more traditional Halo map – large with a base at each end and in a valley with undulating terrain and a stream running through it. The water really slows the Warthog down and when you die in the water your body is carried by the currrent and the sound is muffled…a great touch.

First Halo 3 Match

The new weapons are a mixed bag at the moment. The Spartan Laser is very powerful but balance is provided in that it takes 5 seconds to charge. Machine gun turrets are now removable but really slow you down – still makes an effective weapon for mowing down groups. The Brute Spiker is a great new weapon close up – dual wielding seems to be most effective and does a lot of damage.

Most notable is that the pace has dropped slightly. It feels a tad slower than Halo 2 but if anything this has made the game feel even better. One of the early rumours was that the game physics could be altered by the host so that gravity, speed, weapon power etc could be altered so if true it would be easy to adjust running speed. I’m not convinced by offerring these variable options though – every game could feel different, odd even for all those playing apart from the host. I guess this won’t apply to ranking matches if there is such a feature.

Certainly the first 20 or so games for me have been excellent and are a great taster for the full release in September. In an attempt to beat the de-rankers you now have experience point (Ranking Points) which allows matchmaking to be refined and be based not just on your current skill level but also your experience.

After the lack of party features in Gears of War it’s great to form your own party and take your friends into a game. If this was in Gears of War I think I and many of my friends would have played it more. It makes for a great game online when it’s your friends rather than strangers your fighting with. The speech is a little awkward though. By default team speak is off with only proximity chat on. Most games with strangers have been fairly quiet so far. With friends in your team it’s a bit more vocal but I would have preferred that team speak was default rather than a button press.

I guess the most annoying feature is the time limit as the beta ends on June 10th. The last three nights have seen some fantastic online games – mostly close games and a great laugh. Maybe it’s for the best as no doubt we would be tired of the maps by September. I’m in no doubt however that this is another classic that will eat up as much time as Halo 2 did. Roll on Sep 26th – my pre-order has already been made.

Let’s Fight

It’s the eve of the PS3 launch in the UK but there’s been two cracking games launched recently on the 360 that are highly recommended.

Firstly is GRAW2 (thats Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter….2). This plays like any other first/third person shooter and at first is dissapointingly familiar. Especially compared to GRAW. However the multiplayer options are far more comprehensive than the previous version. The online graphics have also been improved. By adding better shadows and lighting the depth and difficulty has also increased. Environments are far more realistic and it can be really difficult to spot enemies now. Clan support has been added along wth more maps, more gameplay types and allegedly a great single player game although I have to depend on friends opinions for that one as I’ve yet to strike a blow in the offline game. Still – a great game and this is the best in the series so far.

The achievements also deserve special mention. Small rewards that are drip fed the more you play although one that stood out is the one hour defend. Defend a base against infinite enemies for one hour. With no ammo drops. It was tough but when six of us completed it last night…well…there was a great sense of achievement which is what it’s all about.

After a tense game of GRAW what better way to relax than a game of Worms. The classic game surfaced a couple of weeks ago on Xbox Live Arcade and it’s just…perfect. It first came out in 1994 and for those not in the know it’s a turn-based strategy/arcade game. You take command of a team of four worms and the aim is to destroy the other worms. Simple. Up to four players over Live can take part over an almost infinite set of levels.

The beauty of this game is it’s simplicity. Controls are easy and the physics all pretty realistic but it’s the variety of weapons and ways of killing your enemies that lift the game. Standard weapons are bazooka’s, grenades, air strikes. However there are super punches, jet packs, ninja ropes and exploding sheep that make killing other players an absolute joy.

On Live you can name your team and individual worms and also select a voice pack for your worms. Online games are so unpredictable. Even when ahead the other three teams can easily team up to knock you out. It’s also easy to kill yourself in the most unpredictable way but it’s a great laugh. Single player is frustrating though as the computer AI is far more accurate than fallible human opponents. Get three mates and you could spend hours on this – a bargain for only 800 gamer points.

Xbox 360 Network Issues

I know a few folk that have recently or are about to get a 360. While it generally works a treat without much issue, getting on Live for the first time can be problematic depending on your router or use of Internet Connection Settings. Annoyingly it may work and you think everything is OK but it’s only when you start playing games with others that you really find out if it’s 100%. The following steps should help make the experience a little better.

1) Check your NAT
Whether you connect to Live first time or not, visit the System blade on the dashboard, then Network Settings and finally Test Xbox Live Connection – here’s a link to the official Microsoft help page detailing this step. The key setting I’ve found is NAT. There are three possible values for NAT settings – Strict, Moderate and Open.

  • Open NAT means that either the port-assignment policy is minimal or the device has a fully compliant version of UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) enabled by default. This is the ideal setting and should give mostly trouble free online gaming.
  • Moderate NAT means that the port-assignment policy is minimal, but the device is filtering addresses or ports. Will work with most people but can lead to conflicts.
  • Strict NAT means the port-assignment policy is aggressive. Can lead to lot’s of issues. No voice, disconnects from games.

A more detailed explanation of NAT can be seen in this Microsoft help page.

2) Fixing NAT
If your NAT is open then your fine. If moderate or strict then try the following, but don’t mix and match and try a few of these in parallel. Try them in order as they are presented here, switching back to where you started before trying the next option. Also, reboot router and 360 after making changes to make sure that the changes are in place and have been detected by both router and 360.

  • UPnP – Universal Plug and Play. This networking standard should allow the router and the 360 to open the correct ports and communicate efficiently. If your router supports this then enable it.
  • If that doesn’t work then try forwarding the Xbox Live ports to your router. The ports that require to be forwarded are 88 and 3074. Every router works differently but there’s an excellent website called PortForward that allows you to select your router and the application or service (Xbox 360) you want to use. It then provides step by step help in how to configure your router.
  • If that fails then try putting your 360’s IP address in your router’s DMZ. DMZ stands for Demilitarized Zone and means (for me) that a device in the DMZ is taken out of your protected network, allowing it to connect to the internet without restriction while maintaining your PC and other devices behind a secure firewall (Wikipedia DMZ explanation). Couldn’t really find many guides on the net so this looks like a ‘consult the manual’ job.

3) Still Having Issues?
The best advice from Microsoft and others is to go and buy a new router, or if your using Internet Connection Sharing, definitely go and buy a router and make sure it’s one on the Microsoft Xbox compatibility list. In fact this is Microsoft’s first step but I reckon this is always a last resort if you’ve already got a router and it works fine for everything else. Still, if your mad keen on gaming this may be the only choice. Note that the list contains those routers that have been tested and certified by Microsoft and also those that have failed and been deemed incompatible. If your router isn’t on the list it doesn’t mean it won’t work – just that it’s not been submitted and tested by Microsoft.

If your on cable broadband try connecting the 360 directly to your cable connection, cutting out any router or other equipment. This will at least tell you whether the issues your getting are down to hardware or your broadband connection.

Finally, a link to a really good site – Xbox Live – The Guide. It contains lots of useful information and has some guide’s on NAT settings and DMZ setup’s for popular routers. An excellent site and I should probably just link to that site and remove all the other text here, but it’s written now. Hope this helps.

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