Saturday, April 28, 2007

All New Remake Ninja Action Is Now On Your PS3

It's a bit sad when the hottest properties on a consoles are the demos. But unfortunately for Sony, the games just keep getting overshadowed. Many agree that GT:HD puts normal titles to shame, and now, there's one more demo available that can make a similar claim. It's Ninja Gaiden: Sigma, and it looks freakin' awesome.

Some of you old school gamers will remember the original Ninja Gaiden for the NES. The game looked good for it's time (except the wind effect - what the hell was going on there), but that was 8-bit territory. There were numerous sequels on various consoles, and that's all led up to the stunning release on the PS3...of the demo.

Now one thing must be said before anything else - this game is not exactly brand new. Instead, it is a remake of Ninja Gaiden Black from the original Xbox. That being said, the graphics of the game have been completely overhauled, and visually, this is a completely new experience. The demo is running at a full 1080p at 60 fps, and it doesn't get any more hi-def than that. And let me tell you, the frame rate is solid - thank you very much Cell processor!

Even if you've never played Ninja Gaiden before, if you have a PS3, you should download this demo just to see how good a game can look. And if you are a fan, then you've already got the demo, and should be playing it instead of sitting here and reading this like a little bitch. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to enjoy the next generation of gaming...courtesy of a demo.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Freebie - Live Your Dream Of Editing Video Like The Pros

Some kids watch TV and movies when they're young and think to themselves, "someday I'll be in that show". Those kids are stupid - they're way to ugly and homely to ever make it in Hollywood. But you were the realistic one. You thought to yourself, "someday I'll be making that show". Well, it turns out you were stupid too - just not quite as stupid as the other kids. It's okay, though, because your time to shine has finally come, courtesy of VirtualDub:

With this program and the hardware you probably already have, you can capture, edit, and create your own movies. Or, you can make existing movies better. Think the director's cut of Blade Runner was too out there? Make your own director's cut, and show Ridley Scott what you really think of his so-called talent.

Now I know there are probably some people out there claiming they don't need this program because they already have Windows Movie Maker. And we all know if Bill Gates approved it, it must be gold. Now technically, WMM is an excellent piece of software, and can do a lot of great things with it. But, it also has a lot of limitations. You won't find those in VirtualDub. Here, you're going to get many of the same tools that the pros get when they edit in Vegas or Premiere Pro. It's just not as pretty, is all.

The interface is clean, with most of the options accessible through the file menus instead of toolbars. This keeps things uncluttered, but can make it difficult for a noob to find exactly what they're looking for. Thankfully, there is some basic documentation to help you get started on the website, but if you can't figure out the more advanced tools on your own, you'll need to enlist help from a site like Doom9.

There may be a steep learning curve, but the results are worth it. You really can create professional looking videos if you take your time and do things right. So grab a copy of VirtualDub for Windows right here, and start channeling your inner Steven Spielberg.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sony Releases A Camera For The PS3 - Did Anyone Ever Buy The PS2 Version?

For those of you that have been on the fence over whether or not to pick up a PS3, you just got your reason - Sony is releasing a new PS3 camera! Can you taste the excitement? Okay, this isn't exactly the peripheral that everyone was clamouring for...or anyone was clamouring for, for that matter. But, it's here, so we might as well talk about it.

The first thing you'll notice is that they changed the name from EyeToy to PlayStation Eye. The second thing is the huge, honkin' microphone that is now strapped to the top of the camera. According to the press release, this is a "four microphone array", which supposedly allows for location tracking as well as some noise canceling features. Meaning, no need for a headset. That's a good innovation.

Now, some bad news - it's not an HD camera. While it does support higher resolutions than the old EyeToy did, it's only 640 x 480 at 60 fps (or 320 x 240 at 120 fps, which would make it suitable for fast-paced action games). Also, while it can record video to the PS3 hard drive, which you can edit and add effects to with the free included software, you can't export it to another device - it can only live on the PS3. I'm sure they'll let you do something with it in the upcoming Home service, but still, the ability to save files to a USB flash key or external HD would have been nice.

Ultimately, the success of this peripheral will come down to how developers support it. The only games associated with the original EyeToy were simple, waste of time games. If the PlayStation Eye gets the same kind of lineup, you can expect this thing to fall flat on its lens. That being said, it could have some life in Home, as the Xbox 360's Vision camera does on Live's video chat. Time will tell.

No price has been announced, and no release date, though it's expected that this will hit sometime in the summer. You can pimp the full press release and some pics here. In the meantime, better get a hair cut and some acne medication, because soon enough, you'll be live for the whole world to see.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Get Yourself A God Of War Demo On UMD For The PSP - For Free!

I know that UMDs aren't selling all that well these days, but I never thought Sony would actually start giving them away for free. Well, that's exactly what's happening now, in the form of a God of War: Chains of Olympus demo, which Sony will send you - free!

Everyone knows that GOW is a system seller, so I'm sure Sony is banking on the goodness of this title moving more than a few PSPs. And what better way to get the word out on the game than to release a demo. But, this isn't a downloadable demo - this one is on UMD. Why do that? Well, there's a good chance that the file size of this demo would be more than the average person's Memory Stick can handle, due to the killer graphics. So, Sony is giving it away gratis on UMD. They're even picking up the shipping (there's no word yet on how long it will take to get your copy).

Head over to the God of War: Chains of Olympus website to get your disk. If you have a Playstation Underground account, you're all set. If not, it's free to sign up. Then, just click the link, and you're golden. But don't wait on this one too long, cause "supplies are limited". So get off your ass, click the mouse, and enjoy some GOW on your 4 to 6 weeks, probably.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

And Here I Thought Robin And Aquaman Were The Only Gay Superheroes

Ever notice how Spiderman's "spidey sense" only tingled when he was around other men? It looks like Marvel's favorite son is finally coming out of the closet, and he's heading straight for Broadway. That's right, it's Spiderman: The Musical.

Let me say that for you one more time: Spiderman: The Musical. Let's wait a minute before we go on, to give the comic fanboys a chance to calm down, breathe, and pick their jaws up off the floor. Okay? Great. I guess all those years of wearing tights and shooting men with his sticky goo have finally caught up with everyone's favorite webslinger. Now Spidey's fabulous, and he's gonna shout it from the stage.

The music for this monstrosity will be developed by U2's Bono and The Edge. Don't these guys have a tree to go save or something? And as of right now, there's no release date.

Honestly, I'm just as surprised about this as you are. Sure, the costume's a little fruity - a real man wears a cape when he fights crime. But still, between Mary Jane and Black Cat, he always had a hot chick on his arm. Still, you've got to wonder about a grown man that lives with his aunt. That's never a good sign.

Halo 3 In Full HD - Hope Master Chief's Armor Is Nice And Shiny

For Sony and Microsoft, this generation of consoles is all about the graphics. And for good reason - with more and more homes switching to HD, sharper graphics are becoming important to more people. Not to mention, nicer looking games tend to provide a more realistic experience than their 8-bit ancestors ever could.

The current rumor hitting the net has MS mandating that Bungie, the developer behind the Halo series, deliver the game in full 1080p HD at 60 fps. For the noobs out there, that means really kick-ass graphics. But two questions have to be asked - can Bungie deliver, and is the 360 up to the task?

Everyone is expecting Halo 3 to be absolutely gorgeous, so even if it's not "full HD", Bungie should come close (that being said, they could release something ugly as sin and it would probably still set sales records). But assuming Bungie can deliver that full HD experience, I don't think the 360 can support it. The console just doesn't seem to have the hardware to make those numbers happen, and still deliver a rich gaming experience with detailed landscapes and hordes of enemies.

Hopefully I'm wrong, but we'll see. I will say that it's best not to judge based on the upcoming demo, as that is sure to be rough. Of course, if Halo 3 were a PS3 title, this would be a whole different story...

Let the flaming begin!

Tuesday Trainwreck - These Damn Pokemon's Are Ganging Up On Us

I won't lie to you - Pokemon scares me. All those kids with "pocket monsters" - it's just not right. Personally, I thought the whole trend would die long ago, especially when all the knock off versions started to appear (of the hundred or so that were spawned from hell, only Yu-Gi-Oh comes to mind - I guess the alcohol is doing its job). But just like with New Coke, I was wrong, and those Japanese factories are still pumping out Pokemon games by the truckload. And now there's a new one to add to the mix - Pokemon Diamond Version:

Oh, crap - are you telling me there's a second one? F*ck. Apparently these things travel in packs, cause also making it's way out of Japan this week is Pokemon Pearl Version:

So why two games? A couple reasons: Japanese games developers (a) want to make me hang myself, and (b) know how to separate money from a consumer. For some unimaginable reason, Pokemon fans are die hard, and will purchase anything and everything containing those stupid little monsters that they can get their hands on. It must be some kind of mind control or something...

Thankfully, I can report that I've never played a Pokemon game, and with any luck, I never will. So you'll just have to trust me on this trainwreck. I'm sure the games are very amusing, in a totally demented, IQ smaller than your shoe size kind of way, but this is not a path you want to head down. So when you see these things sitting on the shelf at Best Buy, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and grab a copy of Armored Core 4 instead - it's the lesser of two (three?) evils.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Next Next Gen In Gaming Starts...A Couple Days Ago

Not content with the current crop of next gen consoles? Do you think the Elite is just a way to make you buy the same damn console a second time? Well then, maybe an Xbox 720 is just what the doctor, and Bill Gates, ordered.

A patent application for a "multi-component gaming system" was recently filed by Microsoft, and some are claiming that it could be the next major console offering from the Redmond gang. MS has confirmed that they're developing the next console, with a tentative release date in the 2010-2011 time frame, but there's no evidence that they've gotten beyond the planning stage. So, this could easily just end up being a patent for a way to connect your Zune to your 360. But who the hell cares about something like that?

So what will the next-next gen bring us? Let's have some speculation from you guys in the comments. Personally, I'm thinking glow in the dark consoles, 17 axis control, and microtransactions - lots and lots of microtransactions. Want to turn on that console? That'll be 100 MS points sucker.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Time To Buy That Wheel For The Xbox 360 - Forza 2 Is Coming

We all know that Forza Motorsport 2 is coming to the Xbox 360 in May, but what we didn't know is what we'd be driving when that happened. The Forza team has been leaking car lists for months now, and finally, the full list is out. Posted Thursday on the official Forza website, the full list can be found here.

The list is impressive to say the least. Just about every major manufacturer can be found, and the offerings include new and classic cars, as well as special edition racers. No less than 20 Ferrari's are featured on the list, along with such other notable names as Maserati, Lotus, Shelby, Porsche, and Aston Martin. Heck, even the Honda Civic in on the list (the racing version, of course).

Forza is a true racing sim, and is perhaps the purest sim to be had on any console. Racing fans everywhere have been waiting for this one since the 360's release, and it's sure to live up to the hype. But as I mentioned, driving those beauties with anything but a wheel is a tragedy, so seriously consider picking up the Wireless Racing Wheel to go along with this title. The game is scheduled to feature force feedback, in order to take full advantage of what the wheel has to offer.

Face it, you'll probably never own a Porsche or Ferrari, so this is as close as you're going to get. And if you think the wheel is too expensive, just think of all the money you'll save on speeding tickets.

Proof That Some British Comedy Is Actually Funny

Try as I might, I've just never been able to find Mr. Bean funny. There's just something weird about British comedy - it's not funny. But, there are a few exceptions. One of them was the exceptional flick Shaun of the Dead, about the lighter side of zombies (I've said it before, and I'll say it again - zombies are always a hit in a movie). Now, that same team is back in Hot Fuzz.

Hot Fuzz is about a police force in a small British town, where crimes just don't seem to happen. Unfortunately, that's because the "fuzz" are too stupid to see what's going on. Luckily, a former big city super cop is now on their team, and he's setting things right. But that's just the story - the comedy is what makes the movie.

Don't misunderstand here. This isn't some slapstick police movie along the lines of Police Academy. And no, just because that movie wasn't funny doesn't mean that it was British. The comedy in Hot Fuzz is secondary, almost played down, and that's what makes it so laugh out loud funny. Trust me, you will like this movie.

If you haven't seen Shaun of the Dead yet, now is a great time to snag the DVD. And then hit the theaters for Hot Fuzz, which opens this weekend. But be sure to check the net, as the film seems to have a limited release.

Come to think of it, I guess all British comedy isn't bad. After all, Benny Hill was a Brit, and he was great. Or was it just the half naked girls he used to chase around? Now that's good TV.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Happy 420 From The Atomic Playground!

Once again, that most special of days is upon us. No, not Christmas or Guy Fawkes Day, it's 420. For those of you that don't know what today is, you really need to find out. For the rest, I hope you've already enjoyed the day a few times, if you know what I mean.

This is the first 420 for the Atomic Playground, so we're celebrating in style. Too bad we won't remember any of it tomorrow.

And if you're groovin' at home tonight, you should tune in to a special night of 420 programming hosted by our friends at G4. Check out special 420 editions of Attack of the Show! and X-Play. AOTS is coming to you straight from Amsterdam, where it's 420 every day of the year, and X-Play will follow with a one hour special. Then, it's the greatest 420 movie of all time, and a Playground favorite, The Big Lebowski.

So from everyone here at the Chronic (I mean Atomic) Playground, Happy 420!

Oh, and in case you were wondering what the official 420 theme song is, wonder no more:

Friday Freebie - Defend Your Tower (Not That Tower)

Gaming is an essential part of the PC experience. Without games, you're left to do nothing on the computer but work, shop, and download pictures of naked ladies in compromising positions. You need to keep things fun, and that's where the games come in. But what do you do if you need a quick gaming fix at work? You hit the internet games, like Desktop Tower Defense, a simple yet surprisingly addictive strategy game:

You start out with a certain amount of gold, and you need to buy and position various weapons to kill the enemies that advance on you. For every enemy you kill, you get more gold to buy new weapons or upgrade your old ones. Of course, as you level up, the enemies get tougher, so you need to keep your hardware in top condition.

Regarding strategy, you need to arrange your weapons so that they slow the enemy down. This usually involves creating a sort of maze, as seen above. This gives you more time to blast the hell out of those little creeps. And, while the game can be paused at any time, you can't work on your map with the game paused, so upgrades need to be done in real time, and therefore, timed just right.

The game features numerous difficulty levels, as well as fun and challenge modes. All in all, this is a fun little distraction, and is especially good for killing 15 minutes when you're supposed to be working. You can play Desktop Tower Defense online right here.

Now, for those of you complaining that this isn't much of a freebie, as it's not an actual program, you can grab the Flash file out of your browser's cache and play it at any time, even when no internet connection is available (you'll have to manually load it into your browser). That being said, Adobe will be releasing a standalone Media Player later in the year that will allow users to interact with all their Flash content while offline, so be sure to look for that in a future Friday Freebie.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Another PS3 Firmware Update - Time To Dig Up That Damn USB Cable

All the Sony fanboy chatrooms were abuzz today, what with the release of firmware 1.70 for the PS3. It's hard to believe that people still get excited about these releases - they're so frequent, you could practically set your watch by them. And there's nothing I like more than the opportunity to brick my console as many times as possible.

Here's what's included in version 1.70:
  • PSOne downloaded games are now playable on the PS3
  • Saves from the PS3 can now be used on the PSP (i.e., PSOne saves)
  • Vibration support has been added to emulated PS1 and PS2 titles (all older titles now support vibration when you put the disc in your PlayStation 3)

Personally, there's nothing there that really sparks my interest. New games cost enough that I don't need to throw money at downloading old ones, no matter where I can play them. And if I want to play a PS1 or PS2 game that I already own, I'll use that console, and have all the rumble I want. But, I guess that makes too much sense.

It's worth mentioning that in order to take advantage of said rumble on legacy titles using the PS3, you'll need a USB controller, or a USB adapter for your PS2 controller. They're easy enough to find on the web, but it's just one more thing to buy.

I realize that it sounds like I'm ragging on Sony, but the truth is, I'm happy to see these updates. Sony has always said that they're thinking long term with the PS3, and it's great to see them continuing to develop and refine the software. And all for free, no less. They've still got some catching up to do with regard to Microsoft, but they've made significant progress over the past six months. At this point, it's probably just a matter of time.

I do have just one request for Sony, though - stop making me plug in the damn controller every freakin' time I do a firmware upgrade! It's a total PITA! I realize it probably has something to do with the way Bluetooth works, but come on - you guys are smart - figure out a solution. If Japanese engineers could defeat Godzilla, surely they can slay the Bluetooth dragon as well. Just get some help from Mothra.

Looking For An Xbox 360 Elite A Little Early? Target May Be Your Hookup

Are you a gamer looking for something to plug into the HDMI port on that shiny new flat screen? Or maybe you're running low on HD space due to all that horse armor. If so, the Xbox 360 Elite may be for you. Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until April 29 to grab yours. Or you could just go to Target right now.

A story recently popped up on Digg, where someone was able to pick up the Elite at his local Target - he's even got the receipt to prove it. It's no surprise that someone was able to get it early. This kind of thing always happens with special editions. What's surprising is that someone was able to buy the console this early. If it's already made its way to stores, what are they waiting until the 29th for?

But do you want to know the best part of all this? You can walk into a Target and buy a console that's not even officially for sale yet, but you can't buy a Nintendo Wii there, a console that's been on the market for six months! Looks like Microsoft cornered the market on Chinese sweatshops.

For the record, I stopped by my local Target here in New York earlier today, and there were no Elite's (or Wii's) to be had. Plenty of PS3's and Core/Pro 360's, though. Oh, and the display 360 was on the fritz, having overheated, and was giving a "red lights of death" warning. They must have left it on for more than two hours. Gee, I can't wait to brick an even more expensive version of the 360!

Command Your 360 To Get This Demo, And Conquer All Who Stand In Your Way

Who wrote that title? Anyway, it was announced recently that one of the best RTS franchises, Command & Conquer, is coming to the Xbox 360 with C&C 3: Tiberium Wars. The game, already available for the PC, is scheduled to arrive for the 360 on May 10. But, there's a demo coming to the Live Marketplace, and rumor has it that it could be available as early as tonight.

This installment is the first all-new C&C game in a while, and it's just what the series needs to wake things up. It also features FMV cut scenes starring such greats as Billy Dee Williams and Michael Ironside. The FMV thing hasn't been popular for a while, but they set the stage well for the rest of the game, and are not out of place.

The recent announcement of Games for Windows Live by Microsoft means that we could see 360 and PC interoperability on many future titles, but unfortunately, C&C3 is not scheduled to have this right out of the box. Of course, a Live update could change all that, so don't lose hope of pwning 13 year olds on 360s and PCs everywhere.

The download will probably come in at around 1 GB, so be sure to clear off some HD space. After all, the Elite isn't out yet. Or is it...

And The Violence Continues - Bomb Threat At G4 TV Studio

It's difficult to make a joke about a bomb threat, especially considering the kind of violence that this week began with. So, despite the graphic, let's just cut to the chase. A bomb threat was issued this morning at the G4 TV Studio in Los Angeles, a favorite network of gamers and gen x/y'ers, and home to such shows as Attack of the Show! and X-Play. The story was broken earlier today by our friends over at Destructiod.

Thankfully, it appears to have been either a hoax or a misunderstanding, and there don't seem to be any injuries related to the scare. Nonetheless, our thoughts are with all our friends at G4 today.

This was just the latest in a series of bomb threats this week, most of which have been targeted at college campuses. Honestly, I think the public at large has been through enough, and especially the kids at these schools. There's no point in terrorizing innocent people like this, so the idiots behind it need to grow up, pull their heads out of their asses, and get a life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

If You're Not Down With Jeremy Piven, He's Got Two Words For Ya - Smokin' Aces

You've probably heard of this little HBO series called Entourage. It stars Jeremy Piven as movie agent Ari Gold, a Hollywood player that wheels, deals, and makes all the big moves. Sure, there are a few other characters on the show - some actor dude and his friends - but Piven is where it's at. He's the man, on screen and off.

That brief yet frightening journey into the realm of Jeremy Piven's universe was brought to you by the Atomic Playground. We now return you to your normal dimension, where Jeremy Piven is just a small-time schmuck with a chip on his shoulder. He thinks the world revolves around him, and even industry jerks think he's nothing but a d-bag. Despite that, Smokin' Aces is a decent movie, and an even better DVD.

In the flick, Piven plays a Vegas magician turned snitch against the mob, and gets a contract put on his head. This brings all the low-lifes out of the woodwork, with each one trying to take him down and cash in on the bounty, and it's up to two FBI agents to keep him safe for the trial. The flick stars such names as Ben Affleck (it's a good movie despite him), Ray Liotta, Jason Bateman, Andy Garcia, and of course, Jeremy Piven. It's packed with great action sequences, guns, a unique cast, and is overall a really fun movie. Just don't expect too much from it.

But as I said earlier, the DVD is where this one shines. It's loaded with extras, including commentary, deleted scenes, and more. So don't hesitate to pick this one up - just don't pay more than $15 bucks for it, unless you're going the hi-def route.

And after you watch it, get down on your knees and thank the good lord above for blessing us with an acting talent like Jeremy Piven. He's as good as (Ari) Gold. That was terrible...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tuesday Trainwreck - If Chevy Chase Were Dead, He'd Be Spinning In His Grave

What in the hell happened to the once proud name of National Lampoon? The franchise that gave us National Lampoon's Vacation, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and probably some other good movies too, is apparently just a distant memory. Almost all the releases over the past decade or so have been nothing but B-quality crap with some T&A thrown in (not that I have anything against T&A - I'm just making a point here). And this flick fits that formula to a tee: National Lampoon's Pucked:

Now I know what you're thinking: "kidd, you're just a hater. How can a flick starring Jon Bon Jovi, David Faustino, and Nora Dunn be anything but awesome!" What can I say, I have a low opinion of others. And for those of you scratching your heads, David Faustino is the kid from Married...With Children.

The movie's about a guy who decides to live his dream by creating a female hockey team. Take a minute and read that again. Go ahead, I'll wait. Got that? So, long story short, he ends up in court after falling helplessly in debt, and must use his legal skills (he used to be a lawyer, by the way) to get himself out of hot water. At least, I think that's how it ends - I fell asleep about an hour into it, and just couldn't bring myself to hit rewind. It's that kind of a movie. Feel free to leave a comment and confirm the accuracy of this one.

About the only redeeming quality of the movie is that it stars the delicious Estella Warren, who's probably best known for her role in the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes. That girl can play with my hockey stick any time she wants.

In short? Amazon wants a full $20 for this, so I wouldn't waste my time. Anymore than I already have, that is. But, if you and your buddies need to have something on the TV while getting smashed, this makes a good something - especially when it hits the bargain bin in three months.

Come to think of it, I haven't heard anything from Chevy Chase in a while, so maybe he really has gone to that great multiplex in the sky. But even if he isn't dead, his career - and his residuals - certainly are.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Guitar Hero 3 - Cause Two Guitars Just Wasn't Enough

It seems that one Guitar Hero story wasn't enough for this week, so here we go, two in a row! Fast on the heels of the Harmonix announcement last week, Red Octane has announced that Guitar Hero 3 will premiere later this year for no less than 4 consoles - the 360, PS2, PS3, and Wii. So no matter what type of fanboy you are, Red Octane's got you covered this fall.

The big news with this one is two-fold. First up, GameSpot is reporting that online play will be co-op this time around, meaning there will actually be some "online play". Second, the Wii version will not make you shred using a Wiimote. There will be a guitar controller for all the consoles, but there's no official confirmation yet on which ones will be wireless. Good money is on the PS3 version, while the Wii could be a "hybrid" wireless setup, as with classic controller. Count on MS to attach a cord to the damn thing one more time...

And for those of you wondering about the microtransactions, don't worry, they'll be there - the three next-gen consoles will have a full marketplace with downloadable songs (at least). It'll be interesting to see if pricing is uniform across all the online services.

You can't blame RO for cashing in on a goldmine like GH. It's rare that a peripheral sells as well as the guitar controllers do, so they might as well make the scratch wherever they can. It reminds me of an old saying: "A gamer and his money are soon parted."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Activision Issues A Fix For Guitar Hero 2 Whammy Bar - 360 Rock Wannabes Raise Axes In Victory

Ever since Guitar Hero 2 was released for the 360, next-gen rock gods in training have been complaining about a problem with the whammy bar on the guitar controller. Apparently, it was laggy and unresponsive. Activision issued a statement that they were looking into the problem, and even released the model numbers of the problem guitars. But now, salvation is at hand, and a fix is as close as your 360 console.

It seems Activision has released an update to Xbox Live that supposedly fixes the problem with the whammy bar. There's no word on exactly what the update does, since this was widely believed to be a hardware problem, but I guess the good folks at Red Octane have figured something out. If this is truly a fix, the good news is that buyers will no longer have to fight with the Best Buy sales guy to return a defective controller.

While it's nice to see the company working hard and issuing a fix, it would have been nicer to see the fix appear on Live before the expansion packs did, but I guess that would be asking a little too much. Broken controller? We'll fix it, but first, buy some songs that you can't really play yet! Ah, capitalism.

As a proud owner of GH2 for the PS2, I won't be able to test this one, so drop us some comments and let us know if everything's kosher now. Cause let's face it - no guy can live with a defective whammy bar.

Update - Destructoid is reporting that the GH2 update is bricking 360's left and right, so it's probably a good idea to not install this bad boy. Well done, Activision - way to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

Super Paper Mario Is A Hit - Okay, That Makes Two Good Games For The Wii...

The big N has got a real problem on its hands these days. Sure, the console seems to be selling well, and Super Paper Mario appears to be a hit. But the fact is, it's a desperately needed hit. The Wii needs a serious infusion of some good games stat, or this system may follow in the GameCube's footsteps.

Think about this - when the Wii first launched, it was all that anyone was talking about. It had an innovative new control system, and it had a new Zelda game. What wasn't to like? And yes, Zelda was great, but a console can't survive on one game. It needs a steady stream of new titles, especially from third party developers, in order to thrive. That's part of the reason why the GC failed, and is also part of the reason why the PS2 was the runaway success last generation.

So how are things starting out this gen for N? Well, so far no good. Third parties haven't come to grips with the new control system yet, and that's held back some of the more promising games (do I really need to mention Red Steel?). Not to mention that online play is completely nonexistent at this point. Oh, and there's a console shortage. Is that enough for now?

Obviously, it's too soon to proclaim the Wii DOA. But Nintendo, it's time to start getting on the ball and making this console the long-term success that it could be. Bring on Metroid, bring on Mario Galaxy, and for the love of god, bring on online play for something other than Pokemon.

Michael Douglas Fans Rejoice - The Box Set You've Been Waiting For Has Arrived!

DVD sales are a billion dollar industry. Hollywood is making money faster than they can count it off of these things. But movies on DVD aren't the big seller - TV is. A few years back, someone finally had the idea to start releasing TV series on DVD, and consumers started eating it up. It was a great decision for everyone, only now, things are starting to get out of hand. It seems that just about every TV series is starting to get the DVD treatment. Even those that don't need it, such as The Streets of San Francisco.

For those of you too young to remember, which would probably be everyone reading this, the show starred an old Karl Malden and a young(er) Michael Douglas, a pair of cops trying to clean up the crime ridden streets of San Fran. Hence the title. Malden played the vet, trying to keep the brash Douglas in line, as they solved such capers as "I Left My Rice-A-Roni in San Francisco", "A Trolley Car Named Desire", and "Gangs of the Golden Gate". Yes, it was truly...a really boring hour of television.

So here's a message to Hollywood - just because a show is old, that doesn't make it a classic. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of great old shows out there that deserve a nice box set for us to drop $40 bucks on, but this crap is not it. If you're gonna release crap, give us some In Search Of... with Leonard Nimoy. That's some crap that we can all enjoy.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Master Shake And The Crew Finally Hit The Big Screen - Boston Put On High Alert

Everyone's favorite late night, low budget, basic cable cartoon is finally hitting the big screen this weekend. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters promises to be 90 minutes of bullshit the likes of which you have never seen. And what else would you expect from the Adult Swim gods?

We all remember the nonsense involving the viral marketing campaign for the movie in Boston, and I'm happy to report that the city hasn't blown up anything because of the release of the movie...yet. This is only the opening weekend, after all, so the city still has at least two weeks to go overboard and pull some crazy ass crap again.

Anyone who's an Aqua Teen fan needs to see this movie. Anyone who's not a fan needs to watch the show. Yes, it's weird at first, but after a few episodes, certain brain cells will die off, and you'll be able to enjoy the mind-numbing splendor that is Meatwad, Carl, the Mooninites, and Master Shake (no one cares about Frylock - he's a drag).

So that's it. No reviews, no inside info - just go see the damn movie. It's got to be better than Grindhouse was.

Friday Freebie - More Versatile Than Betamax

Got a bunch of videos on your computer? Sure, of course you do. In fact, what with all the BitTorrent movies, Comedy Central clips, and porn, I'll bet your hard drive is overflowing with video. Too bad it's all in different formats, requiring different players. It makes watching your favorites a hassle. Luckily, there is an answer, and it doesn't involve re-encoding everything. All it takes is VLC:

VLC is a media player capable of playing back just about any video file type you can throw at it. You can play one file at a time, or queue up a full play list, and sit back and enjoy an entire season of 24 without ever touching your mouse. The player is sleek and uncluttered, and while the interface is a little boring, it's just one less thing to distract you from the actual video.

And best of all (besides the whole free thing), there are versions available for 16 different operating systems! So unless you're on an Amiga or some other weird ass OS, you should have no trouble getting VLC up and running.

Check out VLC's website here, and grab your downloads here. Do it now - those Jenna Jameson vids aren't going to play themselves.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tuesday Trainwreck - What's So Hard About Bending Air? Look, I'm Doing It Right Now

A couple years back, anime (aka Japanimation) became huge in the states. Thanks to it, we have such gems as Pokeman and Yu Gi Oh - however the hell you spell that. But apparently, all that authentic Japanese anime wasn't enough for Nickelodeon. Yes, the network does still exist, and it's more craptacular than ever. And they're bringing us pseudo-anime in the guise of Avatar - The Last Airbender:

Now I admit, I don't know that much about the series. In fact, I hadn't even really heard of it until seeing a review of an Avatar game over on X-Play. But I can tell you this - it's stupid. Apparently, some kid gets frozen in snow, and wakes hundreds of years later to find the Earth taken over by the forces of fire. So, Avatar starts bending air in order to defeat them. Yeah, I don't get it either. I mean, I'm no scientist, but doesn't pushing air into a fire just make the fire stronger?

As I mentioned earlier, this isn't even real anime anyway. This stuff was created right here in the U.S. Okay, it was probably made in Indonesia or something, but that doesn't make it anime, cause it was conceived here in the states. So even die-hard anime fans need not apply for this stuff.

Short story shorter, don't even bother getting started on this one. While the show does seem to have a loyal fanbase, it's just a group of guys that were oxygen deprived due to all the air bending going on around them, so they don't know any better. What's your excuse? Exactly. Go bend something else. I don't really care what, just do it with style. You know, like Beckham.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Someone Tell Good Charlotte That Goth Is Over

We all know that music is half about the artist's image, but some bands just seem to try too hard. The Stones still pretend to be young, Diddy still pretends to be fresh, and Justin Timberlake still pretends that he can sing. And then there's Good Charlotte, who dropped a new album a couple weeks back called Good Morning Revival. As if enough people didn't hate these guys already, they're playing the tortured souls. Do 13 year old girls even care at this point?

This group has taken a lot of flack since day one. Many thought of them as Green Day junior when they first hit the scene, and that's not too far off. But the rip is, that wasn't really a bad thing. Of all the bands of the time to be compared to, they could have done much worse. And, to top it off, they had a good sound.

The fact now is, they still have a good sound. Their music has evolved over the years, moving to an alt/rock mix that's all their own. And yet the image holds them back. Even gamers, the very people that understand what it's like to be outcasts, don't run with them (and I say that as a proud gamer, so all the haters can lay off). Case in point - Microsoft gave them Artist of the Month status on XBox Live to debut the single Keep Your Hands Off My Girl from the new album, and everybody talked trash about them. Granted, that's not exactly the hottest cut off the new disk, but I don't remember that many people mouthin' off when Jessica Simpson was Artist of the Month. I guess having a nice rack lets you get away with shit...

While it's true that the "tortured loner" feel is all over this album, the tracks are still catchy and easy to groove to. Break Apart Her Heart and Dance Floor Anthem are two definite standouts, so if you're not willing to pony up for the whole album, at least consider dropping a couple bucks for those singles at your download service of choice. And remember, this kind of image crap is all just record company PR bullshit. At the end of the day, you should make your music choices based on the music, and not who's singing it. Of course, that doesn't mean I encourage anyone to go out and listen to Madonna - that bitch is crazy.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Where Have All The Wii's Gone?

We live in a country built on mass consumerism. If you've got money to spend, there's a store with a product to sell you. It's the American way. But apparently, it's not the Japanese way. And this brings us to our question - where the hell are all the Wii's?

According to Wikipedia, the Wii was released here in the states on November 19, 2006 to rave reviews. Everyone and their brother had to have one. Lines stretched for miles, the black market was overrun with Wii's, and men and women alike performed unspeakable sexual acts just for the opportunity to purchase a console. Combine that with the holidays, and the console supply was understandably scarce. But that was 6 freakin' months ago.

Here we are, April 2007, and the Nintendo isle is still surprising bare at most retailers. Small shipments arrive once every few weeks, and sell out faster than the Rolling Stones during a halftime show. About the only store that gets a steady supply of stock is the Nintendo World Store in NYC.

So what's going on? Some are speculating that N is holding back consoles so their profit margins don't get too out of whack. At this point, that's about the only reason there could be. There's certainly no manufacturing issues - the damn console is a GameCube in a rectangular case.

Whatever the reason, this nonsense has to stop. Gamers have been waiting patiently for months now, but the frustration levels are rising. Nintendo needs to ship a whole bunch of these things ASAP, and retailers need to put them on the shelves immediately. No more of that waiting for the Sunday sale crap. As an American, it's my right to throw my money away on frivolous items that I don't really need. God Bless America!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Friday Freebie - Spies Like Them

For one day only here at the Atomic Playground, we're running a Friday Freebie special - two for the price of none. That's right, we're giving you a 2-fer, just like at Ruby Tuesday. But if you're getting buzzed off of this, you're either doing something really wrong, or really right.

This week's freebie picks up where last week's left off, with computer security. You may think that virus protection is all you need to keep you safe while trolling the interwebs, but I got news for ya pal - there are spies out there, lurking in the shadows, just waiting for you to make the wrong move. And when you do, they'll be all up in your grill. Yes, I'm talking spyware. The fact is, even if you play it safe, you're still at risk. So here are two tools to help you evade the spies and keep you flying under the radar. First up is Ad-Aware:

This one is probably the best known spyware killer, and it works great. It offers intelligent scanning and full on-demand system scanning. There are new definition updates available all the time, and the automatic spyware removal is quick and painless. Plus, it's got a slick looking interface. For the casual user, it's easy to fire up and start scanning. But for the advanced nerd, there are plenty of options to tweak out your scanning preferences.

But that's not the only game in town. Next up is Spybot - Search & Destroy:

While perhaps not as widely known, this scanner has a large following. It's great at tracking down that pesky spyware and adware that's hiding deep in the recesses of your registry. It too offers frequent updates and automatic removal of the bad stuff, so usage is a snap.

So which one of the above should you get? Both. And I'm not saying that just because they're free, although that is a pretty good reason. The fact is, while each of them does an excellent job, they each do their jobs a little differently. So what one scanner may miss, the other will catch. By using both, you're getting some damn good protection. One item to mention though - neither of these scanners will protect you in real time. They're both "after the fact" scanners, meaning they'll remove spyware and adware that has already infected your machine. So, don't go clicking on anything just because you've got these guys installed. That's just asking for trouble.

You can check out Ad-Aware here, and download it here. And Spybot can be seen here, and downloaded here. And for those of you internet vets complaining that you already have this stuff, and want a different freebie, tough. We've got to help the noobs out from time to time too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

It's A Sony Price Drop - No, Not The PS3, And No, Not The PS2

Sony has finally listened to the masses, and issued a price drop on one of its video game devices. Unfortunately, it's the one that nobody cares about. No, I don't mean the PS3. It's the PSP, and the core unit - the one that doesn't come with any accessories - is now $169.99.

Rumor has it that the price drop came because big-box retailers couldn't sell the damn thing, and were threatening to pull it from the shelves. So, will the new price point make this the must have portable? No. What, you want an explanation why not? Well, there's practically no decent games, the controls are a pain, the battery life sucks, and it's still $40 more than the DS. But hey, it sure looks good. Too bad gamers are ashamed to be seen in public carrying one of these things.

This is definitely a step in the right direction, but there's still a long way to go if Sony wants to conquer the portable market. And it's the same story as with the PS3 - they need good games. Yes, price is a factor, but people will shell out the cash if they have a compelling reason to. And right now, that's just not there. So while the price is low enough that this could be considered an impulse buy, there's just no reason to go for it at this point.

If you're looking for a good portable gaming system, the DS is still the way to go. Sorry Sony, but looks aren't everything.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Tuesday Trainwreck - Baseball Is Boring

The GameCube is dead. Yeah, I said it. So what? You wanna fight about it? I didn't think so. Hell, even the big N themselves have kicked the little cube to the curb, in favor of the shiny new Wii. God, I hate that name...

So what does console death mean in this day and age? It means no decent games are coming out. Instead, we get trash like this - Backyard Sports Baseball 2007:

Can't afford a real baseball game for your console? If that's the case, this game is targeted at you. It's also targeted at children under 3, people suffering from some sort of mental retardation, and anyone who enjoys eating lead paint. Basically, those too dumb to know any better, or too poor to care.

Having said that, there's nothing redeeming about this game. Hell, there's nothing redeeming about the sport of baseball. It's just a bunch of prettyboys "adjusting" themselves on a field. They even run and hide inside when it starts raining. Nothing but a bunch of wussies if you ask me. And talk about boring. If I wanted to watch a bunch of guys stand around and do nothing for 3 hours, I'd watch C-SPAN, or go to Home Depot. Now there's a workforce that knows how to kill time.

I guess I should get on with the game review, but honestly, I just don't care about this one. Just trust me when I tell you it's bad. It's really bad. If you're desperate for a cheap baseball game, go hit the used stores and grab a copy of MVP or 2K Baseball from a couple years back. Otherwise, you're just throwing your money away.

(Note: If this feature were called Wednesday Trainwreck instead, the winner would be Luxor 2 on the XBLA. It's an Egyptian-themed puzzle game that's just really boring - baseball boring. You've probably never heard of the first one, since only about 4 copies were sold worldwide. But, since it was a PSP title, 4 copies means that it qualifies as Player's Choice. In any event, stay away, and buy TMNT with those points if you haven't already.)

Monday, April 2, 2007

I Want My MP3!

Digital music downloads have been a controversial topic for some time now. Sure, they let you grab only the tracks you want, when you want them, for about a buck a song. But, those songs are basically crippled thanks to the loveliness that is DRM. Depending on where you buy the songs from, you might not be able to burn them on CD, play them on another computer, or put them on your mobile device of choice. But finally, the tides are turning.

Back in February, I commented on an open letter from Steve Jobs asking the recording industry to drop DRM in favor of a more open business model. I was skeptical of his motives, and frankly, I still am, but the proof is in the pudding. Yum, pudding.

As if people didn't have enough reason to use iTunes, they just got one more. EMI and Apple, in a joint announcement over the weekend, stated that DRM free music would be coming to iTunes this May. How much music? All of it. That's right, EMI's entire digital catalog will now be available DRM free. That means you can do anything you want with the files after you buy them, including posting them on P2P sites. As if that weren't enough, the music will also be encoded at a higher bit rate than it currently is - 256 kbps.

Of course, there are downsides. The biggest is that this new format will cost more - $1.29 per song. Also, the tunes will only be available in AAC format, so no MP3 for you. Still, that's a fairly small downside. And for those of you that like your music cheap and restricted, the original 99 cent, FairPlay locked files will still be available.

If you've already purchased EMI music through iTunes, you'll have the opportunity to "upgrade" to the new files for 30 cents a song when the catalog goes live. Of course, that assumes you live under a rock and haven't figured out how to remove the DRM yourself. Google is your friend.

There's no word yet on when the other labels will get on board, but it's only a matter of time at this point. And for those of you morally opposed to using iTunes, the DRM free EMI catalog will be making its way to other digital music retailers after the iTunes release. Each retailer will even get a say in what file type and bit rate are used, so there should be plenty of choices in the market once everything shakes out.

Finally, the sun is rising on the digital music horizon. How many years did it take? Still, better late than never. And you've really got to hand it to Jobs. He makes things happen. Take that Bill Gates - you got served!