Friday, March 30, 2007

Doesn't George Lucas Have Enough Money?

Star Wars has been feeling kind of left out lately. These days, all the talk is about cool new video games and weird internet related crap. The force has grown weak, and the galaxy far, far away seems even farther than ever. Luckily, it's the U.S. Postal Service to the rescue! Strong with the force, the Postmaster General is. (I don't know the Postmaster General's name, and neither do you - let's call him Obi-Wan just for the hell of it.)

Sensing this weakening in the force, Obi-Wan called George Lucas before the intergalactic senate. Hearings were held, and a treaty formed that would guarantee a resurgence in the force. It called for the Trade Federation to suspend the use of their current postal designations, in favor of special limited edition Star Wars stamps. George got a truckload of money for his troubles, and Obi-Wan was hailed as a hero throughout the universe for restoring the force.

Now you can do your part to strengthen the force. Go to the official Jedi Master website to vote on your favorite stamps, and then go buy them when they drop on May 25. It'll probably be the first time some of you actually step foot inside a post office. And probably the last, at least until the limited, exclusive, legendary, collector Star Wars stamp set comes out two weeks later. And don't forget about the special edition DVD featuring footage of the thrilling treaty negotiations between Lucas and Obi-Wan. Oh, and the collectors edition glasses from Burger King signifying the 20 day anniversary of the signing of the treaty. Okay, that's enough of that...

Seriously, is there anything that George Lucas can't make money off of? This guy could market Star Wars toilet paper and he'd make a bundle. Oh wait, there is one thing he's not so good at. Prequels. Actually, I guess that would be three things. Let the flaming begin!

Friday Freebie - No Glove, No (Internet) Love

When you surf a webpage, you're surfing every page that the page you're on has been with. And you don't know where that page has been. Maybe it's sold itself to the highest advertising bidder. Do you want that kind of filth in your system? Of course not. That's why you need to protect yourself against viruses and ITDs (internet transmitted diseases). So wrap your Dell at all times...with anti-virus software.

Every computer today should be running some type of virus scanner. Most new PCs come bundled with a version of Norton or McAfee, for all the good they do. But once the free trial expires, you're left holding the bag. Well not anymore, thanks to AVG Free:

Believe it or not, there is reliable, dependable, free anti-virus software available, and you're looking at one of the best. This bad boys offers real-time scanning of your files and email, as well as full system scans. Plus, you get regular free updates to keep all the scary new viruses away.

But viruses don't just come from the net. You can get them whenever you have contact with another piece of hardware - flash drives, CDs - you get the point. So even if you're not out cruising the interwebs night and day, good virus protection is still a must.

So don't live with that burning sensation anymore. Go get you some AVG Free (downloads here), and surf with the confidence that you're protected. But hey, be smart. Just because a site tells you you're the first visitor doesn't mean that other users haven't logged on, and off, before you.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

An Ipod It Ain't

Apple is one of those companies that you either love or hate. They have die-hard fans that will defend them to the end, and harsh critics that wouldn't piss on Steve Jobs if he were on fire. But, no one can deny the fact that they put out some nice looking products.

This weekend finally saw the release of Apple TV, once known as iTV. The box, originally promised to be released in February, quietly went on sale at Apple stores across the nation and on the website, and the Apple faithful started snatching them up like they are the second coming. But looks aside, just how useful is this thing anyway?

Before purchasing this box, you need to ask yourself a few things. Do you use iTunes religiously, purchasing both music and movies, and shun all other online services? Do you like having only a few options available to you (the as simple as possible approach)? Is Apple white your favorite color? Do you wish you had a black turtleneck collection? Answer no to any of the above, and this thing is a pass.

Apple TV is essentially just an extension of iTunes. To use it, you must have iTunes running on a computer at all times, and you must have your entire library of music and movies accessible to it, which means that if iTunes won't play it, Apple TV won't play it. Also, you have to have a widescreen TV to use this. Despite that, the HDTV support is fairly limited right now, as all the movies on the iTunes store are optimized for the video iPod. I'm sure that will change in time, but for now, you're limited to grainy movies and a few trailers.

The interface is slick, but simple - power tweakers need not apply. Of course, that isn't Apple's target audience. They're looking to get Joe Sixpack to purchase this device, and to that end, they've managed to make something that's accessible to just about anyone that can configure a home network.

My verdict? Do you really care? Odds are you've already made up your mind on this box, perhaps on hype alone. The truth is, this is a decent unit, but for the price, you're not getting much. I'd say wait for the Netgear Digital Entertainer if you're looking for more flexibility and support, or an Xbox 360/MCE combo if you like a somewhat "walled garden", but are itching for some HD content now. In the end though, it all comes down to one question - are you a Mac guy, or a PC guy?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tuesday Trainwreck - Go Master Someone Else's Universe

It's Tuesday, and you all know what that means - it's time for a new round of movie, music, and video game releases. So, we here at the Atomic Playground (and by we, I mean me) have decided to start a new feature. No, we're not going to tell you the best new release to spend your hard stolen money on. There are plenty of other, more reputable sites that are willing to do that. Instead, we're going to tell you which one to avoid like the plague. That's right - every week, we'll tell you which piece of trash to pass on, so you can put your cash toward more useful things like smokes and that shampoo to get rid of those crabs. May I present, the Tuesday Trainwreck:

Everyone remembers He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, right? It was a hell of a show. In fact, when I was about four, it was probably my favorite show. Sure, the characters were stupid and the plots as thin as Kate Moss (zing!), but it was a fun show. So why did it get the crown in the first ever Tuesday Trainwreck? See, this is not the original He-Man. This is The New Adventures of He-Man. Yes - the gay one.

At some point, a few big wig execs decided there was still money left in the franchise, and that the defender of Grayskull just need a fresh new image. Enter new He-Man. He's fab-u-lous. What had been a trippy-fun cartoon in the original incarnation just became a lame attempt to push product. These shows were little more than a half hour commercial for an action figure no one wanted. Basically, there were no redeeming qualities at all.

This is Vol. 2 of the DVD release - Vol. 1 came out a few months back. For those of you that were suckered into buying it, you have my condolences. Don't make the same mistake twice with Vol. 2, just to be a completist. Trust me, it's not worth it. Instead, wait for the release of the Cartoon Network series that ran about 6 or 7 years ago. It was actually a decent modern interpretation of the old cartoon, and only suffered due to the lack of marketing knowledge by the folks at Mattel. If anyone can drive a franchise into the ground, it's them.

So Skeletor junkies, resist the temptation and just pop in a DVD from one of the old box sets. You'll enjoy the half hour much more.

Monday, March 26, 2007

News Flash! The PS3 Is A Video Game Console (In Europe, At Least)

Apparently, Europeans aren't satisfied with Sony simply producing a device for consumers to watch movies on. Oh no, they insist on having their Blu-Ray players play games as well. Talk about snooty. Wait, you're telling me that U.S. PS3's play games too? Wow. Here I thought it was just a movie player with a weird looking remote.

It's sad to say, but Sony has finally acknowledged, in a round about way, the fact that the PS3 gaming catalog S-U-C-K-S. Aside from a couple decent titles - Resistance and MotorStorm (a couple is two, after all) - there's no fun to be had. And so, faced with a European launch, Sony did the only thing that it could do. They pitched the damn console as a movie player, that just happens to play games. Oh, how the mighty PlayStation has fallen.

There used to be a time in the world when the PlayStation meant something about games, and not just poor business models. There was a time when video game nerds would proudly proclaim ownership of a PlayStation console to their fellow nerds. But now, that time is no more. PS3 owners hide in the shadows, weeping, and hoping for a day when their overpriced console will deliver on the dreams promised at E3 so many years ago.

When will that time be? I don't know - how long until God of War 3 is released? Or Gran Turismo 5? Or Killzone? It's all just a waiting game. So for the time being, you'll just have to enjoy that BR copy of Casino Royale, and imagine what could be...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

No PS3s For The Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys

You've got to start feeling bad for Sony at some point. Sure, they made their own bed with this whole PS3 disaster, but nothing seems to go their way. Case in point - the PS3 finally launched in Europe this week, and it went badly. Really badly. As in, no one even bothered to show up badly.

The worst turnout appears to have been in France. I say "appears" because I can't read all the websites that are in french to confirm, but the photos paint a pretty clear picture. Basically, Sony was left with thousands of consoles unsold due to the outrageously high price that the PS3 is commanding in Europe (around $850 USD).

Should this even be news though? I mean, is anyone really surprised by this? First, Sony disses Europe by dropping them from the worldwide launch. Second, they announce an enormous price for the console, and the lack of a "low-end" version (the 20 GB model is not currently offered in Europe). And last, they yank the chip that allows for full backwards compatibility. Did anyone expect this to go well?

Sony needs to remember that success doesn't just mean Asia and the Americas. Those Euros have a pretty good exchange rate. I think it's time for Sony to start giving people their money's worth. And just a quick note to Kutaragi - that doesn't mean bundling a can of deodorant in with every PS3 sold in France. Yes, we all know that they need it, but something tells me it wouldn't go over very well.

Turtles Make Great Pets. Ninjas, Not So Much...

Everybody loves turtles. Those little green guys are nature's underachievers. Sure, they're slow and not too bright, but they're so darn cute! That is, until they grow up and become pizza eating teenagers. Then the cuteness fades, and they get tossed down a sewer drain. For most turtles, that would be the end. But for four lucky green dudes, it was just the beginning. And they would be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Now this was a hell of a concept...15 years ago. Fast forward to today, and the concept has been resurrected in a film that opened this weekend. Yes, everyone's favorite surfer dude turtles are back for more kung-fu action against the Foot clan. Between pizza breaks and poor catch phrases, of course.

The film is done entirely in CGI, so those of you having flashbacks to the live-action films from the 90's need not worry. It's also supposed to be a "darker" flick, geared more toward the adult audience that remembers the turtles from way back when. Still, was anyone clamouring for this project? The turtles were great in their heyday, but much like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, their ship has sailed.

I'm not saying that this is bad movie. If you're a big TMNT fan, it's worth seeing on the big screen. But for the casual fans, it's probably best to just rent the DVD. And beyond that...well, that's the problem with this movie. If you weren't a fan of the franchise before, you're probably not going to see this film. It's just not the type of property that will draw in newcomers.

It's nice to see Hollywood branching out and bringing back old franchises that deserve another go at the big screen (like the upcoming Transformers movie), but not every property needs that treatment. Next thing you know, they'll be making another Inspector Gadget movie. I'm sure Matthew Broderick could use the work...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Freebie - So Much Gaming Fun, You'll Party Like It's 1982

For most of this generation, 1982 seems like the stone age. There were no cell phones, no DVD players, and the PC was basically in no way related to the rigs that fill our houses these days. There were still plenty of computer games to enjoy though. But like that early hardware, the software was also in no way related to the games of today. Of course, no one knew what they were missing, so we all had fun.

Most of the games were text based, with little to no graphics. Instead, the games had actual story lines that made you want to play - what a concept. One such game was Taipan. In it, you play the part of a trader in the orient in the 19th century. Your job is to travel to different ports, buy and sell goods, and fight off or evade the pirates. And now the game lives again on your modern PC:

Yes, all the fun of 19th century commerce is available for your Windows rig. You think WOW is a game, wait until you play this! Then you'll appreciate WOW even more...

Seriously, for those of you old enough to remember this game, it's worth the download. Just playing it takes you 25 years back in time, when games were simple and fun. Hell, I still remember the first time I played Taipan, on an Apple IIe in a friend's basement. Sure, the graphics were terrible and the sound was non-existent, but it was a blast. And that's what gaming should be about.

The game is faithfully reproduced, down to the original moneylender bug in the original, where you earn extra interest. Of course, you can disable the bug if you consider that kind of thing cheating. You can also choose to start the game as in the original version, with no cannons, or with some cannons but no debt.

Go grab yourself a copy of the game here. It's a journey back in time that's worth the trip...if only for a little while.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Once You Go Black, You Never Go Back

Microsoft has been at this video game console thing for a while now. Since 2001, in fact. And while that does technically make them the freshman of the big 3, I think it's safe to say that Bill Gates has been around the boardroom enough times to know how to make an impact. And steal a market.

With all the problems and PR that Sony has had for the past year or so, MS has been quietly cleaning up. Their console was selling strong, good games were appearing, and long-time PS exclusives were coming to the 360. Then Nintendo had to go and rock the boat. But leave it to Microsoft to come up with a winning plan to take back the market. And what's that plan, you ask? Well, it's a sexy, new, black 360...that costs even more than the current one. Yeah.

Pictured above is the long-rumored XBox 360 Elite. New details surfaced this week, suggesting this might actually happen. The details? The console will sell for a limited time, be all black, including the controller, come with a 120 GB hard drive, and have an HDMI port. Oh, and it will also command an $80 premium over the current premium console. That's right, the price will be $480.

With all the trouble Sony is having moving their high-priced hardware, does anyone in Redmond actually think a more expensive 360 is a good idea? What's worse is that after the limited run, the Elite hardware will become the new premium model, presumably at the standard $400 price point. So, you're basically paying $80 for a black paint job. Now that's value.

The better way to play this would be to just scrap the current premium hardware altogether, and make this version the new premium. Offer it in black for a limited time, and when that's over, go back to the white shell and drop the core unit's price to $250, further distinguishing the new premium as high-tech hardware. But no, apparently that makes too much sense. Instead, they'd rather muddy the console waters even more with a third XBox SKU.

Microsoft has a real shot at the top spot in this console generation, so it's baffling to see them shoot themselves in the foot with stuff like this and the Halo 3 Legendary Edition price. Do they think gamers are made of money? All they need to do is look to the Sony camp to see that's not true. If millions of PlayStation fanboys won't pony up for the sexy beast that is the PS3, what chance does the 360 Elite have?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Master Chief Is A Sellout

There's been a lot of special edition and collector's edition video games released over the past few months, including Madden and Gears of War. They usually come with a bonus disk of some kind, and are really just an excuse to charge the fanboys ten extra bucks for the same damn game. But we're hitting a new low with the much anticipated release of Hal0 3, and it's called the Legendary Edition.

Now this isn't a replacement for the special edition. No, that's still available. Instead, this release is even more special. What makes it that way, you ask? You get your very own replica Master Chief helmet. Oh, and you get to spend $130 on an Xbox 360 game. $130!?! Talk about legendary. That's more than double the price of a standard game, and all for a stupid helmet? For that kind of cash, I want the CEO of Bungie to personally deliver the game to my house, place it in the console, get me a beer, and scratch my ass for me. And I'll still want some change back!

Seriously, this is getting a little over the top everyone. Do people actually see this as being some sort of collector's item, or a piece of history? Does anyone think that a sealed Legendary Edition is going to rake in the large coin on eBay in 10 years? By that time, we'll be waiting on Halo 6, with it's oh-so-affordable $470 Apocalypse Edition featuring a replica Master Chief trucker hat. Get 'er done, Bungie.

Gamers really need to take a step back and focus on what's important here - video games. Who cares about a behind the scenes movie that you're never going to watch, and a stupid helmet that's just going to collect dust on a shelf somewhere until your girlfriend throws it away. Use that money to buy another game that you can actually have some fun with. Or a hooker - you can have fun with them too. The point is, show all the video game execs out there that you're smarter than that, and use your money wisely. Cause if you just buy all the crap that they put in front of you, the good stuff is going to disappear, and that crap is all we'll be left with.

Friday Freebie - Open A Whole Bunch Of Extensions You've Never Heard Of

Do you deal with a lot of morons that don't know much about computers? If you do, odds are one of them has sent you a file in some god-awful format that practically no one has ever heard of, yet they expect you to open it.

If one of those formats is 7-ZIP, A, ACE, ARC, ARJ, BH, BZ2, CAB, CPIO, DEB, GCA, GZ, IMP, JAR, LHA (LZH), LIB, RAR, RPM, SQX, TAR, TGZ, TBZ, TAZ, YZ1, or ZOO, then you're in luck with this week's freebie. It's Tugzip, an all-purpose compression utility for Windows:

Now you may think Winzip is the stuff, and that it's got you covered. Well, yes, it does - for the popular formats. But Tugzip supports just about everything that Winzip supports, including ZIP files (duh), so you can drop Winzip and their stupid "Evaluation Version" button and enjoy the totally free goodness of Tugzip. Hell, it even supports RAR files, so you can ditch WinRAR while you're at it.

Tugzip isn't just about viewing archives. You can create them too. It will also let you create self-extracting archives, to send file packages to those friends that wouldn't know a compression utility if it bit them in the ass.

To check out all the features of the program, head to the Tugzip homepage here. And the download page can be found right here. So go grab it, and finally open that file your friend emailed you last year. Maybe it's some "naughty" pictures.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Don't Throw Away Your PS2 Just Yet

Those who thought the PS2 was destined for the scrap heap got a rude awakening this week at the hands of Kratos - better known as the God of War. And that's because GOW2 dropped this past Tuesday. Let me tell you, the rumors of the PS2's death have been greatly exaggerated.

This game is one of the most visually stunning titles released on the PS2. The scenery looks great, the bosses look great, the blood looks great. Oh yes, there's blood - rivers of it. Oh, and there's naked chicks too. What more could you want in a video game?

Beyond just the looks, the game plays really well. Some of the kills that Kratos pulls off really make you jump out of your seat. Basically, if you loved the first one, this is a must have title. But even if you missed the first one, this is still a must play.

Downsides? It's pricey for a PS2 game. Most are being released at the $30 price point now, so coughing up $50 for this one might be tough on you cheapskates. My advice? Get a used game, borrow from a friend, steal from your mother's purse, whatever. Just get this game.

In the meantime, check out the Gamespot review here. Then go get the game, cause playing is a hell of a lot more fun than reading. It's more fun than writing too, so that's the end of this article. So why are you still reading? Go play with something already. And if it has to be with yourself, so be it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Do You Like Movies About Gladiators?

I don't know about you, but it looks like a few million people find something appealing about a bunch of sweaty guys in shorts. Damn, I hope we're talking about women here...

Opening this past Friday, 300 earned $70 million in its first weekend, making it one of the top grossing R-rated movie debuts in history. The kicker? The movie only cost $60 million to make, thanks to shooting just about everything in front of a blue screen. Here come the money.

300 follows the 300 man (get it?) Spartan army in their battle against the million man Persian army. The movie is based on a graphic novel, aka fancy comic book, written by Frank Miller, the man who also brought us Sin City. And when I say based on, I mean based on. Many of the shots in the movie are direct recreations of panels in the comic. Whether this is a good or bad thing is hard to say - some fans will love that the film says true to the novel, while others will feel it's just a Hollywood rip-off. Make your own decision.

Despite all the partial male nudity, this is a good film. The blood and gore are over the top, so this is not a film for the youngins', but truthfully it's all just CGI. The action sequences are great, but I'm not thrilled with the overall "look" of the movie. The colors and tones are all very muted, and it just doesn't pop. Maybe that's a good thing, since more vibrancy might make the CGI aspects stand out as totally fake.

Gladiator movies have never really been big-time, but 300 seems to be bucking the trend. Despite the shirtless action. Have I mentioned that there's way too much male skin in this thing? Sure, there are a couple of hot ladies there as well - like the oracle - but directors need to remember the audience this type of movie plays to. How about a sequence with warrior women, where they all wear skimpy little leather bikinis and dance around the fire pit at night? I smell a sequel.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Nothing Says Snazzy Like A Cape

Captain America may have just bitten the dust, but it's still a good time for superheroes - even old school ones. And when you think of a superhero, who else comes to mind but the one, the only, Superman. But this time, it's not about a crappy live action movie. No, sir. This time, it's a crappy, direct to DVD, animated movie. Yeah, now we're talking.

Actually, the whole death motif is rearing its ugly head once again, as this movie will be a film adaptation of the comic book "Death of Superman" ark from back in the 90's. This was an excellent story, about Superman's battle with Doomsday and his subsequent death. Okay, maybe that ending wasn't so good...

Despite my initial reaction, this movie does have a shot at being good. Anyone who remembers the Superman animated series from a decade ago knows that it didn't suck. And the Justice League/JLU series recently on Cartoon Network was critically acclaimed - by comic book geeks and nerds everywhere. But hey, those guys have high standards.

I'd be more excited about this project if it premiered on TV first, since it would suggest higher production values. Then again, it's possible this could be aimed at an older audience, and could be drawn in a darker, more modern perspective. I think a lot of the fans would appreciate that. It would go a long way in making up for steaming pile of kryptonite that was the last live flick.

This should at least be worth a rent - the man of steel has earned that. And as for Captain America, don't shed too many tears. Superheroes don't tend to stay dead for very long.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Mud Is Purdy

Okay, something is going on here. It seems like time after time these days, we're hearing nothing but good news for the PS3. It's shocking - what has this world come to? Could it be that the big-a$$ console that couldn't actually can? Maybe. In any event, here's one more for the plus column - MotorStorm.

This game was originally thought to be a launch title, which would have done wonders for the console - the preview videos were spectacular. But that wasn't to be for the U.S., though Japan has had the game for months, albeit without online play. But this one was worth the wait - MotorStorm is possibly the second must-have title for the PS3, right after R:FOM.

Set in the mid-west, the game is all about desert racing. You can ride either a bike, quad, or truck, and hit the trails. Cool item #1 - about a dozen vehicles are in each race, so there's plenty of competition. Cooler item #2 - all of the above vehicles race against each other. That's right, it's mixed action. Like to run those punk motorcyclists down? Get in a truck and go for it. Like to get in fights while going 70 MPH? Get on a bike and lay the smack down. Cool item #3 - riders can fight each other during the race. Yeah, this game spanks it.

There is some bad news. The single player "campaign" kind of bites. One would expect that after unlocking some tracks, you could jump into any course in any vehicle at any time. Wrong. You need to actually play through each event to get to the next, meaning you'll always start with the same races. So you'll get to know those first couple of courses really well. Luckily, the free online multiplayer rocks, so get your jollies there.

Another potential bit of good news - the developer has stated that there will be free downloadable content coming, which could mean new game options and a fix for the single player hijinks above. It could also mean new icons (yawn). They also said paid content will be available, so you can bet that's where the new tracks and cars will be.

Despite the few shortcomings, this game is worth the price of admission. It's somewhere between arcade and sim racer, so it should please all the drivers out there. And the fact that your car and body are totally destructible makes for some excellent in-game views. Don't believe me? Go check out a full review over at IGN here.

Is the PS3 on the road to success? Like I said, maybe. But it's certainly starting to look like a good time to own the console.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Friday Freebie - Who Needs Next-Gen Graphics?

Retro gaming is all the rage these days. Old arcade games can be had on the 360's XBLA, old Nintendo, Sega, and TG16 games (and soon NeoGeo - yeah!) can be found on the Wii's VC, PS1 and PS2 games can be played on the PS3, at least for now, and some PS1 games can even be downloaded to the PSP. Sometimes it seems like there are more retro games available on these next-gen consoles than there are next-gen games...

Alas, the same cannot be said for the PC. Granted, the state of gaming on the PC is in the toilet, but still, what little focus on games that exists is pointing straight to the future. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing - old games get old after a while. But what do you do when you just need a classic Leisure Suit Larry fix?

In the last freebie we talked about virtualization, which allows you to run multiple OSes at once in order to run older software. Some of you may be thinking that's a perfect way to run old games - just install DOS in a virtual machine, and away you go. Well, not really. True, some games will run, but they won't be pretty. Here's the deal: (1) VPC 2007 doesn't officially support DOS, so yes, while you can install it, you won't have a mouse or CD driver, which pretty much leaves you stuck; (2) the virtualized hardware is usually newer than the game, and is more Windows-friendly; and (3) virtualization is a resource hog. So what's a boy to do? Get yourself a DOSBox.

DOSBox is a program that's specifically designed to emulate a DOS environment suited for playing games. Unlike virtualization, emulation does not require a separate client OS - that's built right in. Also, emulators are usually stripped down to just the basics you need, so the performance is better. Here's a screenshot of what DOSBox looks like:

Kind of looks like a command prompt, doesn't it? That's cause it's literally a "DOS Box". From here, you load all your DOS games, and they run in the emulated environment of the program.

Unfortunately, this software doesn't come with any games preloaded - you get what you pay for - so you'll have to dig out those old floppies. And probably connect a floppy drive to your PC to use them. But once you do, you'll be in retro gaming heaven, enjoying those classics like Monkey Island, King's Quest, and Spectre. Does anyone out there actually remember Spectre?

You can find out all the details about DOSBox here, and hit the download page here. They've got packages for just about every OS. And yes, even the FreeBSD guys are covered this time. So comb your hair real high, fire up some Def Leppard, and go get your retro game on.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The PS3 Experience That We've All Been Waiting For

The tides can turn quickly in war. One day, you're advancing on the enemy, slaughtering all that get in your way, and the next you're ducking for cover and watching your best friend get turned into a pile of goo. There are a lot of war video games out there...

The console wars are no different. Since the PS3 debuted just a few short months ago, everyone has been beating up on it. And for good reason - the hardware was unproven and expensive, the OS was buggy, and the launch lineup was a joke. But that's all going to change over the next few months (except maybe the price), with the final bomb hitting this fall - PlayStation Home.

This year, GDC, or Game Developer's Conference for those of you that play video games under a rock, has been all about the future of the PS3. They premiered a new virtual landscape called the PlayStation Home, which is basically the best of Second Life, the Wii, and the 360 all rolled into one. The interface is a fully rendered 3D world that a character you design can roam around in. You can chat with other users (by voice or text), hang out in virtual theaters and game rooms, and even throw parties in your very own virtual apartment.

Speaking of your apartment, it houses a trophy room. Starting this year, all games will feature unlockable achievements. So, you hit a milestone, you get a trophy. A custom, 3D trophy that you can show off to your virtual friends. Depending on the game, you may even win items that can adorn the rest of your virtual pad.

And the best part about all this? Access is totally free. There's no monthly scratch to lay down as in Xbox Live, so everyone gets to hang out and play. There will be premium items available for purchase, probably relating to how you decorate your apartment or accessorize your character, but you won't be required to lay out any funds.

Needless to say, everyone is very excited about this. And for good reason - this is a big deal, and just what the PS3 needed. That being said, this should have been ready when the console launched, as it would have made the thin game lineup and high price tag a little easier to swallow. But better late than never.

If all goes according to plan with the new interface and the games that are on the horizon, the PS3 could be a real contender in this war. It wasn't long ago that the Wii was all anybody was talking about. Now, no one's talking about it, and won't be until Mario or Metroid come out. The PS3 may turn out to be the wolf in sheep's clothing that all the fanboys and Sony execs were praying for. Now, let's hope the execution is as good as the hype.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

It's Sexy Time In Your Very Own DVD Player

No one expected it to be a hit. A character from a little-known HBO series on the big screen? It had disaster written all over it. Even the production company didn't think it would fly, releasing it on a limited number of screens. But for some reason, people liked it. And it was Borat.

The premise is simple - a representative from the country of Kazakhstan comes to America to see all that the land of milk and honey has to offer. And, in the process, makes a whole bunch of Americans look like idiots. I can't believe that in this age of reality TV, people thought this recipe wouldn't be a hit...

You're supposed to believe that Borat is a real person, and that the film is really a documentary. That's the real reason the execs thought the film was doomed - cool kids don't like documentaries. Too many opportunities to learn something in those. But this is what's known as a "mockumentary". In the end, no really learns anything, and the stars make a lot of money. Win freakin' win.

And speaking of money for Sacha Baron Cohen, there's more to be made. The DVD came out this week, and will undoubtedly sell a whole pile of copies. So don't be left out - go pick one up. All the cool kids are doing it.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Let's Get Ready To Rumble!!!

Okay, so it's nothing but internet fanboy rumors at this point, but it's still worth mentioning - rumble may be coming back to the PlayStation controller.

For those of you that don't know, let's get you some education. A while back, Sony was sued by a company called Immersion for patent infringement of its rumble technology. Immersion patented the rumble technology that all consoles use to make that lovely bouncing happen in your controller. It seems that Sony implemented rumble on its PS2 controllers (aka "Dual Shock") without licensing the technology from Immersion. So Immersion sued, and Sony got tied up in a court battle.

All this was during the time that the PS3 was being developed. Since they were at odds with Immersion, Sony couldn't put rumble in the PS3 controller. So, instead of Dual Shock 2.0, we got SixAxis. But now, finally, the two companies have agreed to a settlement, and Sony is back in the good graces with the fine folks at Immersion (a $150 million paycheck will do that).

Sony has not actually come out and publically announced that rumble will be incorporated on any future PS3 controllers, but they have stated that they will work with Immersion on future projects. And the timing of this has to be considered a little suspect - with GDC coming up later this week, an announcement about rumble may be a possibility.

There's just one thing. Sony, if you do decide to bring rumble back to the PS3, please do it right. Don't alienate the existing console base by making a hardware change to the console. Figure out a way to implement this on a software level in a free firmware upgrade, and let people just buy a new controller. If you leave all the early, die-hard fans out in the cold on this one, you'll be shooting yourself in a place much worse than the foot. Yes, I'm talking about the yam bag.

Even if this just means that we'll see rumble on the PS4, this is still a good thing. I'm not a huge fan of rumble, but I don't like seeing features removed from a console. Especially when the console's direct competitors are offering those very same features. With any luck, this will be the first step on Sony's long road back into the good graces of the fans.

Now can we have a price drop?

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Get Your Carjacking Gear Ready, Cause It's GTA Time!

News dropped from Rockstar Games earlier this week, confirming that GTA 4 was on track for an October release. But, the bigger news is that we can expect the first glimpse of the game on March 29. That's right boys and girls, it's time for some next-gen pimpin', cause GTA 4 is coming to town!

Gamers have been waiting a long time for this one, since not everyone was happy with the 1980's story ark that the last few titles have taken. Honestly, I don't remember what order the games are supposed to go in. All I know is that pistol whipping someone is fun, and it's about time we'll be able to do it in hi-def.

The only question that remains is which console do you grab this on, the PS3 or the 360? That's right, GTA is no longer a Sony exclusive. There were rumors that there would be some extra downloadable content for the 360 version, courtesy of Xbox Live, but that could be a mute point now that the PlayStation Network is off the ground. Having said that, do the majority of players even follow the missions? It's usually more fun to just drive around the city and blow people's brains out. But maybe that's just me. What do you guys think?

Friday, March 2, 2007

Friday Freebie - Get Your Virtualization On

Windows is Windows, right? I mean sure, the new versions are pretty and everything, but under the hood, things are still pretty much the same, aren't they? Well, yes and no. Windows is a strange beast - a program may work fine one day, and not the next. Thanks to the wonders of the Windows registry, it's tough to tell just what's going on. And that only gets worse when switching to a new version.

So let's say you just scored a new PC, and of course, it has the latest and greatest from Redmond, Vista. What happens when you realize a beloved old program no longer works? Do you dig out that old machine? Nope - you virtualize, with Microsoft Virtual PC 2007.

Hardcore computer guys love virtualization - it's the process of running multiple operating systems at the same time on a single computer. No rebooting necessary. And now, you can do it easily (and free). Check it out - here's a shot of XP being "virtualized" on Vista:

And here's how Windows 98 looks on that same Vista machine:

Groovy, right? Useful - maybe not so much. Virtualization is marketed toward businesses and enterprise-level customers, where development and hardware costs can be prohibitive, and certain pieces of software may be required despite their age. For the average user, it's usually easier to just upgrade that old program to a newer version. Still, this is a cool technology to play around with, and a must for the serious PC guys out there.

Now the bad news. Officially, the product only supports operating systems back to Windows 98, so DOS is at your own risk. I can tell you that DOS will work (just pick "Other" as the OS, and install away), but the Virtual PC Additions that were available for DOS in the 2004 version have been removed. So, there's no mouse driver, CD support, processor throttling, etc. Also, no versions of Linux are officially supported - what a shock - but some do work. Check out the site What Works and What Doesn't in Virtual PC for tips and details to get certain versions of Linux up and running (the site is officially for Virtual PC 2004, but the compatibility is basically the same). For robust Linux support, you'll need to stick with, and pay for, VMWare.

On the hardware side, USB devices aren't supported, so no flash keys or external hard drives. Also, you're limited to a fixed number of hard disks and optical devices. Finally, the drivers aren't quite as good as VMWare (they've had more experience), so the performance isn't as blazing. Still, it's more than competent for casual use.

One neat item about the 2007 version - server support has been rolled right in, so there's no need for a separate Virtual Server app anymore. Now all your OSes can live in the same place, which was a smart move.

Jump to the MS Virtual PC 2007 site here to get your free download. Just remember - you need a licensed copy of Windows to install on the virtual machine. You can't just install another copy of the Vista or XP OS you're currently using, as you'll run afoul of product activation. Of course, there's no activation in 2000 or 98, so use your own judgment there...

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Best Reason To Get A PSP Just Came To Your PS2

Recently, it seems as if Sony is actually trying to do a really bad job with its video game division. Take the PSP and the PS3, for instance. Overpriced hardware? Check. Less than stellar game lineup? Check. Few compelling exclusives? Check. Do you see a pattern here?

If you own a PSP, chances are you have Lumines, the break-out puzzle game hit (and if you don't, why did you buy a PSP?). The game was very addicting, featuring good music, good visuals, and fun gameplay. Let's face it - the game is Tetris on acid. And that's a good thing.

The game was so popular that it spawned a sequel on the PSP, the originally-titled Lumines II. The game was...basically the same game as the original, but with new music. It wasn't something to run out and buy the day it came out, but still, it was a good game. Either title would give your PSP meaning.

But now, all that has changed. You see, Lumines Plus has just been released for the PS2. Essentially, it's the original Lumines game, now available on a console you already own. And the best part - it's cheap! So, you've got a full-on, acid trip puzzle game, for a console you already own and love, and is playable on your big screen TV. What's not to like?

And that's the point. Why should anyone go out and spend the cash on a PSP or PS3, when great games are there for the taking on the older console? I appreciate the fact that Sony is keeping developer support alive for the PS2 - it still has a lot of life left in it. But from a business standpoint, it just doesn't make sense.

Of course, Lumines was already available on Xbox Live Arcade, so it can't be called a PSP exclusive by any means. Still, Sony needs to be smarter about using their brands. And I say all this with love - I want there to be a PS4 and a PSP2. More consoles means more games, more choices, and ultimately, more fun. So Sony, do us all a favor - get a clue!