RSS icon Bullet (black)
  • E3: Harmonix Reveals Dance Central, Gaming Becomes Too Expensive

    Posted on June 14th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    Towards the end of the new Xbox 360 Kinect unveiling today at E3, the MTV Games logo popped up on the big screen, and a purple bubbly HARMONIX logo followed. No, it was not for Rock Band 3, but instead the first new game out of Harmonix in several years, Dance Central.

    It’s very easy to describe the game. It is Dance Dance Revolution without a dance pad. But wait, there’s more. Since it uses the camera of Kinect to identify your dance moves, it also challenges you with full body dancing. No longer are we limited to the positions of our feet. Arms, hips, head, you name it, is all involved in this.

    SOURCE: www.1up.comThe game concept is not revolutionary. Once again, Konami is missing the boat on its own invention and Harmonix is jumping all over it.

    Now, like many others, I’m a Harmonix fanboy. I’m also a DDR closet addict. This game may initially look like a must have for me right? Wrong.

    It simply comes down to money. Gaming has become a very expensive hobby. For 99% of us gamers (unpaid bloggers too), it’s just that, a hobby.

    Rock Band 3 Pro GuitarKinect will be available this November for $150, and I’d expect Dance Central to be the standard $60. $210 to get this new experience is unbelievably steep. Fortunately, I have a decent paying job, and could likely squeeze the cash to get this.

    Now, let’s look at the biggest crux for me. Rock Band 3 is slated to be released one week earlier. This is a guaranteed pre-order for me. There is going to be a bundle which includes the game and new keys peripheral for $130. There will also be an Xbox 360 MIDI box for pro drummers to directly connect for $40. I will no doubt be pre-ordering all of those for $170.

    Are you starting to see the problem? To add to the Rock Band costs, there will be two new guitar controllers. One for $150 and the other is TBA (but I will make a bold prediction and say it will be $300). The good of that is, I’m not much of a Rock Band guitarist. The bad of it is, I do play the real 6 string guitar on occasion. This makes these new guitar controllers (likely the $300 model) very appealing to me.

    After I have dumped $470 into Rock Band 3 gear (and wife wife throws me out of the house), I’m not going to be able to consider Kinect or Dance Central for a long time. It’s all about cost-benefit analysis for my financial friends (That’s you @RockBandAide).

    To keep this tirade going, as a former real world DJ (back in my yout’) and a lover of hip-hop, I have yet to pick up DJ Hero. Primarily, because I have been holding out hope that Harmonix would make support for turntables in the Rock Band games. I’d still like to pick up DJ Hero and now DJ Hero 2 has been announced coming….of course, this Fall.

    So, please tell all my family and friends that I need some Amazon gift cards before October. I will return the favor by moving in with you when I get thrown out of my house.

  • E3: Kinect

    Posted on June 14th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    Let’s see some of this Kinect stuff now. Move your hand around to navigate the Dashboard.  Also, use your voice to turn on basically anything. Looks cool for the “future living room”.

    Look, Laura Massey (from Major Nelsons Podcast) is demoing Video Connect. I really didn’t pay attention to the sound. ;-)

    Kinectimals.  My kids are going to absolutely love this.  This will be great and obsessive for them, possibly.  But, we have to keep in mind that the Wii motion control games never get played in my house.

    Let’s not forget Wii Sports 3, um I mean, Kinect Sports. Graphics look like what I’d expect from a Wii HD. I would bet the 5.1 sound will be real nice too.

  • E3: Gears of War 3

    Posted on June 14th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    I will start by saying, I’m not a Gears of War guy. But, here is a screen shot of GAW3 game play at E3. Let’s us know what your initial reactions to it is. Click the image for a giant screen shot.

  • E3: Call of Duty Black Ops, kicks it off

    Posted on June 14th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    Call Of Duty Black OpsTo kick off the Microsoft Press Briefing at E3 2010, we got to see game play of Call of Duty: Black Ops.  It’s about helicoptors!  Ooooooo. Click the image at the right for a giant screen shot.

  • E3: Xbox gets Slim, Kinects with us & Rock Band goes Pro

    Posted on June 14th, 2010 Shawn 1 comment

    E3 2010There is likely to be some of the most amazing gaming news in history made this week. Let’s kick off with some of what we already know.

    • Xbox 360’s code named “Project Natale” was unveiled Sunday night, and renamed Kinect. This is the camera-based controls, which allow game play and other cool Xbox uses without any controller in your hand. I’m expecting this to be a huge family hit, but not a big deal with hard core gamers. This should hit the Wii crowd below the belt. It was unveiled, and definitely is focusing on kids, especially with the Webkinz like, plush stuffed animals (Kinectimals) that unlock in-game content.
    • All signs point to an Xbox 360 Slim being fully unveiled this week. Many already at E3 early, have confirmed the unconfirmed Xbox 360 Slim. That’s great news to anyone with a red ringed (or E74’d) Xbox 360 that’s well out of warranty. Maybe Microsoft got the hardware engineering right this time, and we will see an end to the more than 60% console fail rate.
    • Harmonix people are in L.A., and stating that the Rock Band booth is amazing. They will be showing the world all that is Rock Band 3. See Rock Band Keysour other posts for nitty-gritty details, but expect professional new controllers (i.e. real 6-string guitars, full size electronic drum sets, real piano/keyboards) with major advancements to the software.
    • In more Harmonix news, there are solid rumors floating around that the game developer has created a dance game, dubbed Dance Central, for the new Microsoft Kinect.  If you are like me, Harmonix could release a pile of poop and I’d still buy it. [thanks @RockBandAide for the tip]

    There should also be many other announcements, which we will post about through the week. Stay tuned for Shawn and Simon’s coverage (from afar).

  • Green Day: Rock Band – First Impression

    Posted on June 9th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    Ok, every game blogger has written a review for Green Day: Rock Band already. So, why should I? Well, I’m pretty sure I will have a different spin on it, plus I will definitely focus on some different aspects of the game.

    Opening Cinematic

    Let’s start at the very beginning, the start up video when you pop in the disc. Lot’s of red and black imagery with bizarre looking characters, grenade explosions, and a make-out scene. My first take ,”boy that was short.” And then, “this is going to scare the sh** out of my kids”. I’m underwhelmed by that opening. It’s not very vibrant, it’s short, and not very welcoming…of course it is reflecting the dark lyrics of Green Days songs, so I suppose it’s fitting.  Though, it does not hold a candle to The Beatles: Rock Band opening cinematic.

    Rock Band Stage Kit

    I have very bad news here.  Just like with The Beatles: Rock Band, the light/fog capabilities on the Xbox 360 Rock Band Stage Kit do not work with Green Day: Rock Band. This (to me) is a HUGE disappointment. Especially since Harmonix was trying to recreate the live Green Day experience in this game. Why would they not include the lighting effects of this device?

    Drumming

    Drummers out there, you will struggle on many Green Day songs…and other songs will be a breeze. Needless to say most of you will play through this once and come back again to perfect it. It follows the traditional Rock Band 4-lane drumming, so it’s still the very familiar and comfortable format…though you will have some lightening fast hi-hats and fills.

    Vocals

    The 3 part harmonies are wonderful. Keep in mind, I love singing Green Day during drunken karaoke outings…so this is fitting territory to me. Even the 6 songs previously released for Rock Band DLC, have been updated with 3-part harmonies. It’s done well, and very fun to sing with others in the same room.

    If you want to lower Billie Joe’s vocals to hear your own, you have to pause the game and select “Lower Vocals” from a menu, just like The Beatles: Rock Band. That’s unfortunate, where Rock Band 2 would allow the vocalist to lower/raise vocals during game play.

    Set List

    I’m super biased. American Idiot, Bullet In A Bible, and 21st Century Breakdown are three of my most listened to CD’s over the past five years. Oddly enough, after Insomniac came out in 1995, I stopped buying Green Day albums until Idiot came out.  The on disc set list, for me, is the best Rock Band on disc set list to date. Now, you know my bias…I will move on.

    Pre/Post Song Visualizations

    There are three venues. With each venue, there appears to only have one or two pre-song and post-song visualizations. The visualizations get old fast, watching Tre stand on his drum throne. I’m wishing those visuals were more varied.

    Online

    Playing Xbox Live last night, I saw about 15 people on my friends list playing. I played with some, and searched for players as well.  Match making was fine.  There were times when no one was available for match making…I’m hoping it’s just because the game is new and not many were online yet. I did have a couple players disconnect mid song, and the old typical issues still exist. If a player gets disconnected, you slowly fail out of the song…versus my suggestions to drop that player and continue on.

    Extras

    I have seen some of the photos that are unlockable. The photos are cool, but the text to go with them sucks.  The text just says “Photo unlocked by achieving 3 or 5 stars in XXXXX song”.  Instead of The Beatles: Rock Band where unlocked photos would have contextual info about the photos origin. I haven’t unlocked any videos yet, but am looking forward to them. I haven’t played any challenges yet, but I know there are full album challenges which I can’t wait to try out and hope the song transition visualizations are more varied.

    Overall

    I love the set list, I love the graphics, I love the harmonies. I love the speed and menuing. It’s a lot like TB:RB with Green Day in place. The export capabilities and hints of more DLC continue to add future life. For $50-$60 (depending where/when you buy), it basically is the cost of DLC with added capabilities. If you love Rock Band and like/love Green Day, it’s a must have.

    I am disappointed with a few things, most notably the lack of Stage Kit support.  I will get over it, as I enjoy the music above all else.

  • Rock Band Stage Kit – Review

    Posted on June 7th, 2010 Shawn 3 comments

    If you read my earlier post, you already know that I picked up the Rock Band Stage Kit on a whim (and on the cheap). Now, based on popular demand, it’s time to let you in on my first and thorough impressions of this add-on for Xbox 360 and Rock Band.

    Rock Band Stage Kit

    Yes, it works with Lego Rock Band!

    WHAT IS IT:

    The Rock Band Stage Kit is an add-on light and fog system for Xbox 360 and Rock Band games. It’s made by PDP, a peripheral manufacturer for video games and other toys. As far as Rock Band goes, you know PDP as the makers of drum silencers, pedals, and other gear. The RB Stage Kit was released in the holiday season of 2008, with some excitement from the die hard RB community, but little external marketing.

    What it does, is shines colored LED lights (red, blue, yellow, red, orange, and green) in specific patterns to the music of Rock Band songs.  The actual “authoring” (as the cool kids call it) of a song in a Rock Band venue determines which lights and which pattern will display during a song. On top of the LED’s, there is also a strobe light/fog machine, which is also activated by the venue authoring of a Rock Band song.

    This thing works automatically.  As a user, you plug the Fog Machine into an AC outlet, add some fog juice (more on that later), connect the fog machine to the LED/controller via an included cable, and plug the LED/controller to your Xbox 360 with a permanently connected USB cable. Other than turning on the two power buttons on the back of the fog machine (one for light power, one for fog power), that’s all you have to do to use this system. Setup is a breeze.

    From there, play Rock Band like you’d normally play, and enjoy what I like to call a 3-Dimensional Rock Band Experience. Fog, strobe lights, colored patterns of lights really gives the illusion that you are on the stage in the game.

    WHAT COMES IN THE BOX:

    • Fog Machine (water based) / Strobe Light, with built in AC power cord.
    • Fog Juice (1 quart, small bottle)
    • LED/Xbox 360 Controller
    • Connector cable
    • Funnel for Fog Juice
    • Manual

    WHERE TO BUY IT (on the cheap):

    This was released during the 2008 holiday season for $99.99. I do not believe it was a huge seller, due to lack of marketing, it basically being a peripheral with no actual added-value to the game, and the price being too high.  Now, the Stage Kit is being discontinued by some retailers, while others are still stocking it.  I have seen price ranges from $99.99  to as low as $19.99.

    GameStop – $19.99, discontinued but still available in some stores. Call and check before you go. Not available online.
    BestBuy – $24.99, discontinued but I saw many in the BestBuy I visited this weekend. Call and check before you go. Not available online.
    Amazon – $79.99, free shipping. In stock online.
    WalMart – $97.63, In stock online.

    You can get extra 3rd party fog juice at Guitar Center, which the Rock Band forums are saying is cheaper and gets even better results. I haven’t tried it yet, but will soon, for $24.99.

    WHAT GAMES DOES IT WORK WITH:

    This works with most, but not all Rock Band games. It does not work with any Guitar Hero or Lips games.  I’ve confirmed that it works with Rock Band 1, Rock Band 2, Rock Band AC/DC Track Pack, and Lego: Rock Band.  It does not work with The Beatles: Rock Band and does not work with the demo of Green Day: Rock Band.

    WHAT IS MY TAKE ON IT:

    I would have never bought it for the retail price of $99.99.  But at the sub-$30 mark, it pays for itself at your first party.  The LED light are bright and do a great patterned effect on your walls and ceilings. The strobe light, surprisingly comes on at only the perfect spots. The smoke machine is awesome.  Though, the fog juice that comes with the Stage Kit will fog up your room in less than one song, to the point where you won’t be able to see the TV after 3 songs.  People have watered down the fog to get a lesser effect. Others, like me, just turn the fog off after 2 songs, while leaving the lights on.

    One thing to note, if you have four players, the light controller must act as one of your Xbox 360 controllers.  This means the singer will have to use the light controller to make their selections.  This is only true if you have 4 players.  If you have 3 or less, the singer can user a standard Xbox 360 controller, as you’d expect.

    Now that I have it, every time I fire up Rock Band 2 or Lego: Rock Band, I always turn on the Stage Kit (excluding the fogger). I save the fog juice for parties, but use the lights daily.  It truly makes for an immersive experience. I do hope thay Harmonix continues to support this for Rock Band 3, as it would be a shame to end support for this great 3rd party add-on.

  • RB: DLC 06/15/10 – The Ozzy Six-Pack

    Posted on June 7th, 2010 Simon No comments

    And I totally called it!  It was only a matter of time before one of my predictions was accurate.  Since releasing Rock Band DLC and retail albums on the same day/week has become so trendy in the last two years, quite simply I just check Metacritic, lining up the release dates, and make a best guess as to what the most likely candidates are.   Ozzy is a shameless promoter and since his new album is out on Tuesday, it seemed like a pretty good bet.   Turns out….

    On Tuesday, June 15, Ozzy Osbourne makes his ‘official’ debut in Rock Band.  You may be thinking “Wait a minute, Ozzy is already in Rock Band”.  You may then recall that the original Rock Band 1 disc had a pretty decent cover of  “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, and later the Black Sabbath track pack which was, again, all covers.   It’s true that Ozzy’s music has been in the game since the beginning, but this is his first official appearance.   Harmonix is treating us to a few tracks from his brand new album, as well as some of his hits from the latter half of his solo career.

    • Ozzy Osbourne – “Crazy Babies”
    • Ozzy Osbourne – “Diggin’ Me Down”
    • Ozzy Osbourne – “I Don’t Wanna Stop”
    • Ozzy Osbourne – “Let Me Hear You Scream”
    • Ozzy Osbourne – “No More Tears”
    • Ozzy Osbourne – “Soul Sucker”

    John Michael Ozzy Osbourne is also known as the “Godfather of Heavy Metal”, the “Prince of Darkness”, and to Brutal Legend fans “The Guardian of Metal”; Ozzy rose to fame as the iconic and controversial front-man of Black Sabbath.  After multiple platinum selling records, Ozzy was fired from the group and embarked on his solo career.  Over the years he has teamed up with many legendary guitarists, including Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee and Zakk Wylde, while continuing to revolutionize the genre throughout the 80’s and 90’s.   Ozzy has stated in his 2009 autobiography that this will be his final record and tour, and 2010’s Scream is a reunion album of sorts which has many of his former contributors and band-mates making appearances.

    As for the song selection, certainly “Crazy Babies” and “No More Tears” were popular hits of their time, but the rest of the music sounds a bit formulaic, perhaps a bit like they were manufactured in a computer lab, and are missing the distinct “Ozzy-ness” that I associate with his earlier work.   I do love the riff on “Tears” so that one is a must-have for me.

    In my opinion, this is very likely to be his first and only appearance in the game.  Guitar Hero has a small handful of his songs (notably a re-recording of Crazy Train), but the lion-share of his hits from the 80’s and early 90’s are mired in legal proceedings surrounding unpaid royalties.  Classic albums like ’82’s Speak of the Devil and ’86’s The Ultimate Sin (to name a few) are currently unavailable from any source and have been essentially pulled from his catalogue.  Couple this with the reported troubles with releasing 20th anniversary editions of these early masterpieces (you guessed it, poorly archived master tapes), there doesn’t seem to be a great case for further DLC from his repertoire.

    Enjoy the Ozzy!  Next Next Week’s Predictions:  Oh Please let it be DANZIG.

  • RB: DLC 06/08/10 – Deftones, Crown of Thorns, Boys Like Girls

    Posted on June 4th, 2010 Simon 1 comment

    Deftones make their long awaited debut in Rock Band on Tuesday, June 8, 2010, with a three-track pack of hits from their 2003 Self-Titled album and  2006’s “Saturday Night Wrist”.  Joining Deftones are Rock Band newbies Crown of Thorns and Boys Like Girls with a song each.  With three brand-new artists coming to Rock Band, Harmonix is not slowing down one bit with Green Day and E3 just around the corner.

    Available June 8, 2010

    • Deftones - “Cherry Waves”
    • Deftones - “Hole in the Earth”
    • Deftones - “Minerva”
    • Boys Like Girls - “The Great Escape”
    • Crown of Thorns - “Rock Ready”

    Deftones are a bit late to the party, but it’s still great to see them, especially when you consider the bands and music we’ve been given in the last six weeks alone.  Still, it’s very curious to me that a major new act is introduced to the game with a multi-song pack, that doesn’t include music from their new record.  I speculate that this could be an indication that more material was held back, either for Rock Band 3 or another track pack down the road.  Their singles “Rocket Skates” and “Diamond Eyes” (from the 2010’s “Diamond Eyes” album) are two recent Billboard-charting songs, I expected to see at least one of them in this pack, in fact those two songs plus “Minerva” would have been an instant-buy for me.  I was never a huge fan of “Saturday Night Wrist”, I’m definitely more interested in playing their earlier music in the game.

    “People are gettin their freak on, all night long!”  (Actual lyric from “Rock Ready”)  L.A.’s eclectic metal band Crown of Thorns make their debut with their first single “Rock Ready” from their upcoming album “Faith”.  The video for “Rock Ready” certainly feels and sounds like a tribute to 80’s lipstick & hairspray metal.  I think this band is in good company with the likes of Spinal Tap, Thunderdikk, Electric Six and perhaps even Bang Camaro.  This is the first band I’ve mentioned on the MyGGGO blog that doesn’t have their own Wikipedia page, which makes me wonder if this obscure, gimmicky band isn’t better suited for a release on RBN instead of the main DLC channel (no disrespect to RBN).

    Boys Like Girls also make their debut in the game, who sound very similar to Fallout Boy, Good Charlotte or Simple Plan; BLG is carrying the pop-punk mantle from acts like Blink 182.   In other words, nothing to scream about.   “The Great Escape” is as forgettable as any of the tracks from those bands.

    Next Week’s Predictions:  New music from old-School rockers Steve Miller, Tom Petty and the always-evil Ozzy Osbourne makes his RB debut.

  • RB: DLC 06/01/10 – Spoon’s Rock Band Debut (plus P.O.D.)

    Posted on May 28th, 2010 Simon 2 comments

    This Tuesday will mark the Rock Band debut of one of my favourite indie bands, Spoon!  Harmonix is bringing four tracks from this excellent band to the game, plus a track from Christian metal band P.O.D..

    Available on June 1, 2010

    • Spoon - I Turn My Camera On
    • Spoon - Don’t You Evah
    • Spoon - Got Nuffin
    • Spoon - Trouble Comes Running
    • P.O.D. – Alive

    Spoon has been a very popular band in the indie music scene since their first album, 1996’s Telefono, and the band acheived moderate success in the mainstream with the release of 2005’s Gimme Fiction.  Many of the songs from Gimme Fiction and their previous Kill the Moonlight were re-written as instrumental versions for the soundtrack to the excellent Stranger than Fiction starring Will Farrell.  Their sound has been connected to many other mediums; Spoon’s music has been featured on countless TV shows (like Chuck, Smallville, Scrubs, and How I Met Your Mother to name a few), several blockbuster movies (among them are Cloverfield, 17 again, and I Love You, Man) and a handfull of videogame soundtracks (like Matt Hoffman’s BMX and Madden 2009).   I’ve had selections from their various albums on my mp3 player for years, they are definitely one of my favourite bands of the new millennium.

    “I Turn My Camera On” has falsetto-style vocals for much of the song, and I believe it’s very reminicent of the band Scissor Sisters.  It’s instantly catchy, simple, melodic and fun to listen to.  Quite a few of Spoon’s songs feature keyboards as a lead instrument–which begs the question, can we expect more from Spoon in Rock Band 3?  I think this is highly likely given the recent rumors of a new keyboard perhiperal.  2002’s “The Way We Get By” would be an excellent song to transcribe to Rock Band 3’s keyboards.

    P.O.D.’s “Alive” was nominated for a grammy, and was definietly the band’s most popular song.  I’ll admit that I was not certain that I’d heard the band before, but a quick listen of the song showed me that I had; it’s uplifting certainly, but it is fairly forgettable.   It’s notable mostly for the vocals, and the sound reminds me of the bands Incubus or early Papa Roach.

    Next Week’s Predictions:  followup tracks from RB alumni Hot Hot Heat, Against Me! and Iggy Pop.

Get Adobe Flash player