Plugged In

Review: ‘Rock Band’


If you’re unsure whether “Rock Band”, the next big thing in music games, is for you, ask yourself these three questions:

Do you enjoy playing “Guitar Hero”?

Do you have friends?

Do you know all the lyrics to “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” “Roxanne” and “Dani California”?

If you answered yes to any of the above, “Rock Band” is probably for you.

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New ‘Grand Theft Auto’ gets dated

Rockstar announced today that “Grand Theft Auto IV” will be released April 29 worldwide for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

You can find out everything you need to know about the first next-gen “GTA” title at the game’s official site here. Also take a look at IGN’s latest hands-on preview, complete with fresh screenshots, here.

‘Devil May Cry 4′ demo dropping this week

Capcom will pull back the curtain on what could be one of the year’s biggest hits this week when a playable demo for “Devil May Cry 4” hits Xbox Live and the PlayStation Store Thursday, Jan. 24.

In this latest installment of the “DMC” series, gamers will control new protagonist Nero and wield the power of his Devil Bringer. The demo “consists of a sampling of sections from the full game, chosen to showcase Devil May Cry 4’s varied locales, allowing gamers to familiarize themselves with Nero’s unique abilities,” according to Capcom’s press release.

“Devil May Cry 4” is currently slated to ship to retailers Feb. 5.

If you tried to log on to Xbox Live during the past few weeks, chances are you’ve encountered some problems. Laggy gameplay, an inability to connect and constant disconnects were among the issues suffered by many gamers — yours truly included.  

Microsoft has acknowledged the issues with its online service and is ready to make amends. No, you won’t be getting back the time you spent staring at your television while waiting in vain for your console to connect to Xbox Live in order to play “Call of Duty 4” or “Halo 3,” but Microsoft is offering the next-best thing — a free Xbox Live Arcade title!!!

For five days, beginning Wednesday, Jan. 23 and running through Sunday, Jan. 27, both Gold and Silver Xbox Live members will be able to download Chair Entertainment’s action shooter “Undertow” free of charge. The game regularly costs 800 Microsoft Points, or about $10.

‘Super Smash Bros. Brawl’ delayed


Those gamers lucky enough to find a Wii for the holidays will have to wait a little longer to play one of the console’s most anticipated titles of the new year.

“Super Smash Bros. Brawl” has been pushed back to Sunday, March 9 — more than a month later than its previously announced February release date. If it makes you feel better, the Japanese release was also delayed, though only by a week.

To make the wait even more agonizing, consider that Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu scored “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” a perfect 10 in its most recent edition. Yes, the Japanese love their Nintendo, but a 10 is a 10 in my book.

It looks like the extra month’s wait will be well worth it.

Today is indeed a sad day for fans of 2K Sports’ “College Hoops” franchise. Take-Two Interactive, the parent company behind the 2K Sports label, announced Monday that it had broken off negotiations with the Collegiate Licensing Company, which represents more than 200 major universities, and cancelled future editions of its college basketball simulation. There will be no “College Hoops 2K9.” Take-Two released the following statement to Monday afternoon:

“2K Sports has decided not to continue negotiations with the CLC for the license for its top-rated College Hoops franchise, which would have been released next in November 2008. We are committed to providing fans with high-quality, critically-acclaimed sports games, but given our disciplined approach to the business, we do not believe the current discussions would result in an acceptable outcome.”

2K fanboys immediately pointed the finger at rival publisher EA Sports, which shut 2K out of the NFL gaming market by securing exclusive rights to the NFL license following the release of “NFL 2K5.” Let’s hope that scenario isn’t playing out again — exclusive licenses are nothing but bad news for sports gamers. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the decision, there’s no denying the “College Hoops” franchise will be sorely missed.

Microsoft singing the Blu’s?

Microsoft’s stance in the ongoing high-definition DVD war has been well known. But in the wake of some rather stunning recent developments, that stance appears to be softening. 

At this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, a spokesman for Microsoft — a longtime supporter of the HD-DVD format — said the company wasn’t against the idea of releasing an add-on that supports the Blu-ray discs currently playable in Sony’s PlayStation 3.

The Blu-ray camp got a significant boost this week when Warner Bros. announced plans to support the format exclusively, shunning HD-DVD altogether. Other major studios are expected to follow Warner’s lead and, if that happens, HD-DVD’s days will be numbered.  

“It should be consumer choice; and if that’s the way they vote, that’s something we’ll have to consider,” Xbox group marketing manager Albert Penello told Reuters.

While that’s not an out-and-out endorsement of the Blu-ray format, it’s certainly a sign that Microsoft is leaving the door open for the future.

So much for that Xbox 360 with a built-in HD-DVD drive.

Is it 2008 already?

Wow, where does the time go? One minute, it’s the middle of November and then BAM!, January. While the New Year holds some promise for gamers (can you say “Grand Theft Auto 4,” “Devil May Cry 4,” “Rainbow Six Vegas 2” and “Super Smash Bros. Brawl”?) it will be hard top 2007 for the sheer number of AAA titles released. Let’s hope 2008 doesn’t disappoint.

Of course, what would the New Year be without a gaming resolution or two? For me, I resolve to:

  • Complete all the side quests of “Mass Effect.”
  • Cut back on the amount of time I spend playing “Call of Duty 4” online.
  • Spend more quality time with my Wii — really, isn’t that something we should all do?
  • Give peace (and the PS3) and chance.
  • and blog more often (though I think I’d have a better chance losing weight … lol).

Until next time …