Plugged In

The Week in Review

As if there were any doubts to the link between video games and comic books, just take a look at this week’s Comic-Con in San Diego. From indie developers to established industry giants, the gaming biz was well represented at the annual convention. Here are some of the highlights from Comic-Con, and elsewhere, in what I like to call the Week in Review:

Microsoft has announced a $20 price drop for its Xbox 360 HD-DVD player, which will retail for $179.99 after Aug. 1. Also, anyone who purchases the add-on will receive five free HD-DVD titles from a list of 15 that includes such classics as Blazing SaddlesLara Croft: Tomb Raider and Constantine. A copy of Peter Jackon’s King Kong also comes bundled with the HD-DVD player, so technically you’re getting six free movies, but who’s counting.

French developer Ubisoft is partnering with NBC to adapt the hit sci-fi drama Heroes to the video game world. No specifics were announced, but I would like to see an RPG set in the Heroes universe. Hopefully the show’s excellent writers will have a say in the game’s storyline, regardless of the genre. Ubisoft also revealed that its other TV-based title, a take on ABC’s Lost, is on track for an early-2008 release. You can get an early look at the game in action here.

And finally, for those of you dreading the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones film franchise, I offer you this as a reminder that there’s still some good left in the world. You can thank me later.

Sam Fisher goes into hiding — until 2008

Those hoping to get their hands on the next entry in the Splinter Cell franchise will have to wait in the shadows a little longer. Splinter Cell: Conviction for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 has been pushed back until early 2008, according to French publisher Ubisoft. The announcement was contained in a release detailing the company’s first-quarter earnings Tuesday, which you can read here.Splinter Cell: Conviction is yet another departure from the series’ tried-and-true stealth-based gameplay. While players will still assume the role of super-spy Sam Fisher, this time our hero will no longer have his assortment of high-tech goodies to help save the day. Instead, Fisher will have to rely on his instincts and his surroundings to stay alive.

While I’m all for innovation in gaming, I don’t agree with Ubisoft’s decision to steer the Splinter Cell series away from its roots. Splinter Cell Double Agent wasn’t an altogether bad game, but it didn’t feel like a true Splinter Cell title. But maybe it’s just me. Check out this link for a view of Splinter Cell: Conviction and decide for yourself.

Every 360 dies…Not every 360 truly lives

At approximately 3 p.m. Thursday, I bid a final farewell to my Xbox 360.

By now, it should be on its way to its final resting place — a Microsoft service depot somewhere in Texas.

In about a month, a “new” console will arrive, but it just won’t be the same. My Xbox 360 and I shared countless unforgettable moments, like the first time we conquered Gears of War. Or the hundreds of hours we spent exploring the vast lands of Tamriel in Oblivion.

Now, all I have left are those memories — and a UPS tracking number.

I promised myself I wouldn’t get emotional, so I’m going to stop thinking about the past and begin looking forward. Starting now, I’m going to focus on the abundance of great games coming out in the next few weeks that I’ll get to experience with my replacement console. Deep down, I know that’s what my old Xbox 360 would have wanted.

So check out these clips of EA Sports’ NCAA Football 08, 2K Sports’ All-Pro Football 2K8, South Peak Interactive’s RPG Two Worlds, and 2K’s eerie FPS BioShock. And before you fire up your favorite game today, take a moment to remember those consoles that have passed.

A wise man once said, “Every 360 dies . . . Not every 360 truly lives.” Well, my bulky game-playing friend, you lived. Oh yes, you lived. And these clips are for you.

Two Worlds

All-Pro Football 2K8

NCAA Football 08

BioShock

Wow.

In a move that I doubt anyone saw coming, Peter Moore, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s gaming and entertainment division, has abruptly resigned his post Tuesday. What’s more bizarre is that Moore is leaving Microsoft to become the president of EA Sports — where he will help promote the publisher’s titles on all three next-gen consoles, including the Xbox 360’s primary rival, Sony’s PlayStation 3.

Moore’s decision to leave Microsoft comes just days after E3, and a little more than a week after Microsoft acknowledged serious problems with the Xbox 360 console and extended the system’s warranty to a full three years. Of course, it also comes on the heels of his performance during the E3 unveiling of Harmonix’s Rock Band:

Moore’s move can’t be good for Microsoft, but it should be great for EA. Rock on Peter!

Harry Potter and the Red Ring of Death

As an avid sports gamer, today should be a glorious day.  But instead of enjoying two of the most hotly anticipated sports titles of the year — EA Sports’ NCAA Football 08 and 2K Sports’ All-Pro Football 2K8— I’m mourning the untimely death of my Xbox 360 console.

And it’s all Harry Potter’s fault.

My 360 had been relatively bug-free since the day I brought it home. Yet with one swish of his wand, everyone’s favorite boy wizard turned my console into an ugly, pale-white paperweight.

OK, maybe I shouldn’t blame Potter directly. But after downloading the demo for his latest virtual adventure, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, my Xbox 360 began flashing the dreaded red ring of death, three blinking red lights that signal a general hardware failure. Expeliarmus, indeed.

Luckily, Microsoft recently announced plans to extend the warranty on the Xbox 360 to three years from purchase to protect consumers against just such failures. You can read the full announcement here.

If all goes well, I should have my system back within 4-6 weeks. In the meantime, I suppose I’ll read the final book in the Harry Potter series. And if there’s any justice in the world, “The Boy Who Lived” will meet the same fate as “The Console That Died.”

New Plugged In Gaming Blog Debuts

Welcome to Plugged In, a new gazz blog on video gaming by Jeff Rider.