Sunday, March 15, 2009

Annual vacation Xbox crash

One year ago, as my family began our spring break vacation, my son and I were looking forward to a week of relaxation and video gaming. Then, on the first day, I got the Three Rings of Death.

Knowing that our vacation would pass with no Xbox, my beautiful and thoughtful wife surprised us by buying us a new Xbox. We sent the Red Ring box off to be fixed, and when it was returned, I gave it to my brother jRySix for his birthday. Everyone was happy.

Now, one year later, on the first day of this year's spring break, our black Xbox 360 Elite has gone belly-up, too! Is Microsoft determined to sabotage my spring vacation? To say I am outraged is a thunderous understatement.

We turned the 360 off for a while to watch a movie yesterday, and when we turned it back on a few hours later, the red light in the 5 o'clock quadrant was flashing, and we got this error message: E 73. After some Googling, I found that this indicates a hardware problem with the Ethernet port. WTF? I thought the expensive Elite model was supposed to be built like a truck and immune to this nonsense.

I called the support line, and guess what I got? A robot phone tree with a dead-end, and NO option for talking to a human being. It told me to go to, and basically kiss off. Thanks Mr. Gates! Congratulations for your recent return to the top of the Forbes list of the richest men in the universe. I guess you saved up a few billion by firing the human beings who answered the phones.

Despite my preference to speak to a person, I ordered the repair box on The registration on my Elite said I had only two more days on the one-year warranty! The red light happened on March 14, I reported it March 15, and it says the warranty expires March 17. Can you believe it? Talk about "planned obsolescence."

So now here we are again, on the horns of a dilemma in our love-hate relationship with the Xbox 360. Do we use some vacation money to buy another one, as a backup? We could network it and use it for system-link games after the Elite is repaired. Or, my son and I can play at the same time online, if my recently-upgraded Charter cable connection has enough bandwidth.

As much as it irks me, there are advantages to having an extra machine, so I'm leaning toward that option. My son and I are already going crazy without our Xbox Live, and we're only two days into our vacation. Nevertheless, it blows my mind that the top-of-the-line Xbox crapped out at the START of vacation after 1 year, only three days short of running out the 1-year warranty.

I know some of my online friends have gone through several machines. Does anyone have a repair story to commiserate with me and help ease my anguish?

Friday, March 13, 2009

My own 50 Cents worth

My review of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is up on Techcetera.

It's a really fun shooter and the dialogue is hilarious, if you think a longshoreman who stubbed his toe has a funny way of expressing himself.

I personally find expressive longshoremen a hoot. My friend Shawn used to provide dialogue like this when we played Pictionary, so it's nothing new to me. Some folks might be offended, but if you've played any shooter online, you've probably heard worse -- or just as bad.

I did have some concerns about lyrics in the soundtrack, which are noted in the review.

Friday, March 6, 2009

In the trenches with Halo Wars

Halo Wars is fun, and the cutscenes will blow your mind. Read my full review posted today on Techcetera!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Keeping Killzone 2 under control

By Fartknocckker
Sythbane Squadron contributor

The wait is over and all of the hype has come to a head. Yes, Killzone 2 has arrived. It has won rave reviews and high scores from many web sites and magazines. There is no doubt this is a top notch first-person shooter.

Having said that, I must point out that Killzone 2 seemed particularly frustrating at first. Don't get me wrong. Killzone 2 is a fabulous game. But I have a feeling a lot of other people have experienced the same problem.

Control. The feel of a game is key to enjoyment. All first-person shooters are controlled by touch, by how fast and how far the player has to move the sticks to place the cross hairs on a target.

Killzone 2 has a very slight delay after stick movement. Because what you are seeing onscreen does not respond immediately, you tend to move the stick too far. On medium or higher sensitivity settings, you overshoot your target.

This delay adds a sense of weight to weapons, but it can be extremely frustrating in trying to make accurate shots quickly, especially when surrounded by enemies from all directions.

All my fellow gamers who have played Call of Duty or Halo and experienced the quick, very responsive controls know what I mean.

This is a small hiccup in an otherwise outstanding game. With the saturation of first-person shooters in the market, developers should devote a lot of consideration in development of their game engines to this very important element of game play.

It's come to light that Killzone 2 developer Guerrilla Games is looking into the possibility of changing the game's controls in response to player complaints about their sluggishness. They are aware of it, and that brings a glitter of hope for everybody having this problem.

I believe this issue is a direct result of the Call of Duty franchise's influence on the shooter genre. Standards have been set, and they are destined to be followed.

Shooter ace Fartknocckker has worn the uniform. He knows what a killzone is. And, he sets a high standard for his comrades at Sythbane Squadron!