Archives For Gaming

cod-modern-warfare2-2

At least 24 hours late to the party, I’ve finally (ha) picked up Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. After logging only about two and a half hours in combat, I like what I see. In multiplayer. While sacrificing literally days over the last couple years playing CoD: MW and WaW, I’ve never played more than a few minutes in the solo campaign mode. I just wasn’t into shooters (no Doom, no Quake) and online play (other than some dialup Daytona on Dreamcast) until landing up my first 360. And, now, it’s about the only way I use the console.

Modern Warfare 2 shows a whole lot of visual polish. Maybe a bit too much, in fact. And the maps are more complex and multidimensional, which I’m digging. The loadouts, perks, and kill streaks see a whole new level of sophistication and customization. In my limited exposure, player control and gun accuracy seem spot on. But, while Infinity Ward indicates they’ve taken steps to balance the gameplay, it’s only going to help seasoned veterans. As I seriously doubt a newbie would quickly find their way or hold their own. Of course, CoD still features the best online gaming lobby and matchmaking experience. However, I’d like to see the new Accolades (pic below) mirrored somewhere on the web. I won’t win too many matches as a sniper, but my kill/death ratio is usually amongst the best. So let me geek brag with a badge of some sort. Halo implemented in-game screengrabs two years ago; I assume IW can get some of their (my) content online too.

cod-modern-warfare2-1

As someone who typically sneaks and snipes, I’ve fared better than expected (k/d = 1.0+) early going in MW2. After leveling up just a few times, you’re presented with the pre-configured Scout Sniper class. Not only do you wield the powerful and accurate .50cal Barrett, but you also carry your own rifle-mounted radar while simultaneously blocking the enemy’s UAV. But wait, there’s more. An awesome new “tactical insertion” perk let’s you mark and respawn at your preferred sniper roost. Even more devastating (to your foes)… I discovered towards the end of my initial round of gameplay that a basic “overkill” perk is standard on all classes. Without having to sacrifice the “stopping power” perk. So I’m now building out a custom sniper class (pic up top) with a fully automatic sub machine gun to more effectively blast my way to a a sniping perch. See you online?

Click to enlarge:

As I wrote the other day, I can’t say I’m ever happy to see a product or company die. But I just don’t see a place in the world for Spawn Labs. Introduced at TechCrunch50 (video above), they liken their product to a Slingbox for video games. Making them a niche within a niche. The $200 Spawn Labs HD-720 hardware isn’t unreasonably priced for what it provides, yet I don’t see a sustainable market for remote console gameplay through a web browser. Additionally, as an Xbox Live Call of Duty sniper I worry what sort of impact network latency might have when trying to line up a head shot on a moving target from 100 yards.

spawn_hd-720

And speaking of misguided gaming innovation, does Sony really think we’ll line up to play in theaters? It seems like a pretty cool promotional tool for Uncharted 2, but I’d rather play 1vs100 from the comfort of my home. Where snacks won’t break the bank and pants are optional. From Technologizer:

Mike Fidler, Sony’s senior vice president of Digital Cinema Solutions and Services, suggests that this isn’t a one-off thing. In explaining that he wants more theaters to go digital, Fidler said that gaming “will be an important part of that equation.

gamestop-gamefly

While we rarely speculate on future products or report on rumors here at ZNF, it’s been a pretty quiet week and I haven’t seen this particular item pop up elsewhere. My source is rock solid, but his informants are possibly suspect. So file this under the unsubstantiated rumor category when I say GameStop is in talks to acquire the Netflix-ish Gamefly in a deal set to go down later this year. A link up like this seems logical, allowing the brick & mortar GameStop to get into the online mail order (and kiosk) video game rental business without reinventing the wheel (and without a competitor). Time will tell if an acquisition or partnership of some sort is worked out.

redbox-video-games

Late last year, our very own Davis Freeberg lamented the lack of a Redbox video game rental kiosk. Hope was renewed this spring when Redbox announced they’d begin testing combo DVD+gaming kiosks and postal mail game rental-co Gamefly launched a self-service machine at Texas Tech University. Now, as the Inside Redbox blog learned, Redbox’s long awaited video game inventory rollout has begun. And it looks like Reno is one of the first markets to offer video games.

PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and PS2 rentals run $2/nt which isn’t super competitive with Blockbuster’s rental fees – which is about $9 for 5 nights. And inventory seems limited (13 Xbox 360 games listed). However, the convenience factor could be huge. Not to mention, some (me) often use game rentals as a trial to determine which titles I’m going to need to purchase. However, I’m not yet convinced this model will fly. While games and movies utilize the same flat optical media, usage patterns and demographics differ.

Click to enlarge:

By and large the blogosphere doesn’t seem to have much of a long term memory if the excitement regarding Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Netflix streaming exclusivity language is any indication. A refresher: In addition to the “exclusive agreement” and “exclusive partnership” language found in Microsoft’s July, 2008 press release announcing Netflix streaming on the 360, it doesn’t get any clearer than this:

Xbox 360 will be the only game system that lets users instantly watch movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix.

Of course, exclusivity deals aren’t necessarily perpetual (just ask AT&T). And we know Netflix has run a few customer surveys and a suggestive employment opportunity pointing towards possible PS3 and/or Wii support. But, for now, Microsoft obviously still has the gaming console space locked up. Which works for me. Continue Reading…

netfilx-iphone

Multichannel News is out with a compelling Netflix report rumor:

The company will soon offer the Watch Instantly video-streaming feature on Apple iPhones and iPod touch devices and the Nintendo Wii gaming console, according to an industry executive familiar with Netflix’s plans.

We’ve seen the Wii pop up as a potential Netflix streaming video destination on a few occasions – specifically via online surveys and possibly via employment opportunities. What we don’t know is the period of gaming platform exclusivity Microsoft currently enjoys with the Xbox 360. But this is the first I’ve heard of an iPhone client. Hacking Netflix doubts it’ll happen. If we take AT&T’s (incapable?) network out of the equation, I could see Apple approving a WiFi-only client. Unlike the hobbled Slingbox software, a free app download coupled with Netflix’s free streaming (for subscribers) won’t hurt so much. In fact, bring it on!

Lastly, as I took the liberty of re-purposing CoolIris’ graphic (above) I suggest you give their site a visit. Mari’s a big fan of the visual media search and playback engine, which is also obviously available as an iPhone app.

Not exactly new, although still in beta, I wanted to mention 1 vs 100 on Xbox Live. It’s a console port of the trivia television show, which I’ve never seen but is similar to say a Who Wants to be a Millionaire with audience participation. As I commented on NewTeeVee a few weeks back, 1 vs 100 has me pretty excited – it represents the first true interactive television experience as far as I’m concerned, given the reach of the Xbox Live network and mainstream appeal of a trivia gameshow. Why watch a Jeopardy when I can participate directly?

Gameplay is pretty straightforward. There’s “The One” (player on the podium), the “mob” of 100 who compete against The One, and the “crowd” which is usually the rest of us. Multiple choice trivia questions are presented, points are tallied. Real prizes are up for grabs for The One or members of the mob (depending how the match plays out), although so far I’ve only seen Xbox video game downloads and Microsoft Points. The show is hosted by two human hosts, one is live (Chris Cashman) and the other (Jen Taylor, aka “Cortana”) may not be. We participants are represented by our personal avatars and we can chat within our quartet, although I’ve never donned the mic for this game.

1vs100-1

I’m not sure if 1 vs 100 offers Achievements – figured my round-spanning 15 correct answers streak would be good for something. But no dice. And I wish could change my answer to recover from those occasional itchy trigger finger moments (point bonuses for quicker responses). As an occasional trivia buff, I also wish MS had partnered with the NTN or licensed You Don’t Know Jack – as fun as 1 vs 100 currently is, it could feature deeper, more diverse gameplay and with more bite.

At the moment, 1 vs 100 is free to Xbox Live Gold members and augmented by commercial advertisements – mainly Sprint (Go Pre!). Hopefully, with enough participants Microsoft will find the advertisers to simultaneously keep it free, bump the prizes, and expand the winner pool once officially released.

(The video I shot above isn’t a true representation of the game: “Extended Play” isn’t hosted live and doesn’t actually feature The One. But, it should be enough to get an idea of how this works.)

Click to enlarge: