Tagged "Xbox"

halo_boxshot_front
Nov 22

It’s easy to forget that there were four months between the American and European Xbox launches. US gamers gained their black beast on 15th November 2001, while we Europeans had to wait until 14th March 2002.

xbv_xm_3ds

The wait wasn’t an entirely bad thing – a few more games were added to the line-up, and it also gave something of an advance warning for the launch day stinkers.

The Xbox certainly did have more than its fair share. As we’ve noted numerous times before, Microsoft wanted the original Xbox line-up to feature games from every single genre. The bad thing about this is that quality wasn’t really an issue.

Nightcaster was called in to fill the RPG shaped slot, and was so poorly received that Microsoft was quite happy to let Jaleco handle the sequel. How Nightcaster gain a sequel is another matter entirely.

Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee fared far better. If your memory needs a jog, it was originally due out on PlayStation only to then become an Xbox-exclusive. Although arguably an adventure game, Microsoft intended it be the console’s premier platformer. Abe may not have been as well known as Sonic or Mario, but did – and still does – hold some creditability.

Like Nightcaster, Microsoft was seemingly happy to let another publisher take control of the sequel – the much celebrated Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. EA, in that case. The interesting thing about this is that according to a press release issued in October 2000, Microsoft originally planned to publish four Oddworld games in total.

SneakersXbox

The Japanese launch featured another platformer – Nezmix, a game starring a Stuart Little-alike that showed off the Xbox’s ability to pull of fur effects and nothing more. Nezmix did eventually gain a US release under the name of Sneakers, where it was a Toys R Us exclusive. A sure sign of quality.

There was also Shrek, from TDK. This was another system exclusive that Microsoft used to show off the system’s visual prowess. Proving that looks will only get you so far, review scores were middling.

Fuzion Frenzy filled the slot of being the ‘family friendly party game’ – should such a genre actually exist – and simply seemed to have been developed to justify the Xbox’s four controller ports. It went on to gain a sequel on Xbox 360, developed not by British studio Blitz Games but rather well-established Japanese developer Hudson Soft. Incidentally, both of these studios are now defunct with Blitz closing their doors in September.

Screenshot-04

Halo: Combat Evolved, Dead or Alive 3 and Project Gotham Racing were of course the big three launch titles. Halo had been in development for quite some time before Microsoft picked it up as an exclusive, going from RTS, to third-person shooter to eventually the first-person shooter than went on to turn the genre completely upside down. EDGE’s 10/10 review was a significant boon for Microsoft, particularly when taking into consideration that at the time the magazine had given very few other games a perfect score. We also gave it a 10/10. And yes, we have been around for that long.

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Bill Gates
May 21

With the third Xbox being unveiled this evening, it seems like a good time to look back at how Microsoft approached launching the first – over a decade ago now.

The tagline ‘Play More’ is well-remembered, mainly thanks to the Champagne TV ad. The print campaign was just as unusual, but has been largely forgotten. Fear not: back issues of Edge have been dusted off, so let’s have a bloody good look.

Pre-launch

There were a couple of pre-launch adverts in late 2001, quite different in tone from what was to come. The first, in the December issue (E104), promoted the Xbox Experience tour, and featured a nice bit of implied cartoon violence.

The second, in the Christmas issue (E105), was presumably intended to limit the damage the PlayStation 2 would do over the festive season. It attempted to convince readers that Christmas would only happen when the Xbox launched. It didn’t work. Microsoft 0, Jesus 1.

Launch

With the UK launch in March 2002, the February and March issues (E107 & E108) featured the launch campaign proper. Apologies for the following image.

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Atari Jaguar controller
Apr 12

The humble video game controller has gone through a lot of changes over the years. Compare the NES pad to the Wii remote, and you could argue that it’s come full circle. But there have been plenty of evolutionary dead ends along the way. Here are five we left behind.

Original Xbox controller

Original Xbox controller

The original Xbox controller has been the victim of some pretty significant revisionism. Words like ‘abomination’ and ‘disaster’ are bandied around, but really, at the time, it was fine. Yes, it was the size of a dinner plate, but that was its only real crime.

But the fact remains: never again will a controller be so unnecessarily large.

Gametrak

The Gametrak Game System just tried to do a little too much, a little too soon. We’d had the EyeToy, but keen to improve the accuracy of motion control, Gametrak tethered your hands to a base unit via a couple of cables.

Gametrak: Dark Wind Gametrak: Real World Golf

It was released in the UK in October 2004 with fighting game Dark Winds, but it was Real World Golf in August 2005 that caught the public’s attention. Though a rather plain game, it was critically well-received, and peaked at #12 in the UK chart.

You can now get it for £1.

Real World Golf didn’t hit the US until April 2006, by which time everyone knew what Nintendo had up their sleeve. As Ars Technica wrote in their review: “it really shows what we have to look forward to once the Nintendo Wii with its novel controller is released.”

And with that, cables were consigned to video game history.

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eBayT
Jan 25

Owning a rare game is one thing; owning a sealed version of a rare game is quite another. But to own something that was never commercially available to the public? That’s taking collecting to the extreme.

RocketDogGBA

Plenty of things only available to industry insiders have been sold on eBay recently. A good example is this prototype GBA cartridge containing an unreleased Capcom game – Rocket Dog – which was acquired by the seller from a liquidation asset auction. It ended up selling for $457.67 after 16 bids. The screenshot of the start-up screen informs that it was in development in 2002 at 3d6 Games, who bought Tetris Worlds to the GBA. They also worked on the better-than-you-may-expect Altered Beast: Guardian of the Realms.

A couple of consoles now. Firstly, a rental Atari Jaguar from Blockbusters that’s boxed in a padded briefcase. The seller claims it looks like new. We wonder if that’s because not many people took up the chance to rent it? As well as three loose cartridges it also comes with a Jaguar CD game (Dragon’s Lair) even though the auction doesn’t come with the toilet shaped add-on.

$(KGrHqF,!lcFCew-JP,lBQ3f,7pDqQ~~60_57

Secondly, and of slightly more interest, is this one of a kind Xbox launch package that contains amongst other things the first ever Xbox game to be submitted to Microsoft for certification. That game is Midway’s NHL Hitz, dated 28th June 2001. It’s curious to note that the Xbox didn’t launch in America until 15th November. The translucent green Xbox has Bill Gates’ signature underneath. The auction also contained a replica of the infamous prototype “chrome X” Xbox, plus a commemorative plaque given to all members of the Xbox launch team. This little collection comes from Howard Phillips, who worked at Nintendo for ten years – as senior editor at Nintendo Power – and then went onto spend another nine at Microsoft. The auction ended at $6,600 after six bids but the reserve wasn’t met.

Phillips listed a Nintendo Power lot at the same time, including the original version of the Howard and Nester comic. Likewise, it failed to sell.

Also failing to find a buyer was this bundle of SNES carts and a scarily authentic looking rifle light-gun that was originally used to train the US army. The two cartridges are the functionally named Moving Target Simulator and Multi-purpose Arcade Combat Simulator, each of which were developed by Sculptured Software. The seller notes that the light-gun is “incredibly accurate”. It’s almost certainly bound to cause a scare at the postal department if they chose to x-ray the package.

Here’s something slightly different to the above – a Skylanders Giant figure that was only handed out to Activision employees. Dubbed the ‘holiday 2012 edition’, it’s a gold version of Prism Break that has a layer of imitation snow on top. It ended up selling for a giant $620.00, attracting 18 bids.

PokemonSnapKiosj

Back to Blockbusters to finish us off for this month. At first glance this Pokemon Snap Station Blockbuster Kiosk would appear to be a Pokemon Snap dedicated demo pod. That’s not the case, however. After inserting either a Pokemon Snap or Pokemon Stadium cartridge into this device, Pokemon fans could then print off their favourite photos. The seller included a few rolls of paper, but at $3,000 it didn’t find a buyer. The auction didn’t include a copy of Pokemon Snap, but there was a ‘not for resale’ demo cart listed on eBay around the same time. Unlike a lot of auctions we’ve looked at here, this one did find a buyer – for $309.31.

If Blockbusters still offered unique services like this in their stores, perhaps they wouldn’t be in quite the mess that they’re currently in.

Aug 21

The philosophy of a video game corporation nowadays is that if a game doesn’t prove to be popular, then all support and everything to do with it should be dropped like a hot potato, and attention focused elsewhere.

This sort of thinking only started around ten years ago, when budgets for video games began to enter the millions. Or to be more precise, around the same time the Xbox arrived on the scene.

Even if Microsoft started work on a Super Smash Bros. clone we don’t think we’d see these faces again.

Azurik

The Xbox’s launch line-up read like one giant checklist of genres to cover. Azurik: Rise of Perathia was to fill the adventure game hole and starred a blue-hued warrior out to collect elemental fragments, thus giving him the power to command wind, water, fire and earth. As launch games go it was a passable enough endeavour.

We’ve never noticed before how similar the character artwork is to that of Avatar. We can’t be the first to notice the similarities, surely?

Nightcaster

Another launch game, this time designed to fill the role of being the Xbox’s launch-day RPG. Rather than play like Final Fantasy and the like, this had more in common with Gauntlet and other western RPGs.

Enemies were colour-coded – yellow enemies could only be defeated with lightning, and so forth. As a result, it was almost as if you were fighting toys which had escaped from a Monster in Your Pocket production line.

A sequel with co-op play was released but not published by Microsoft. Instead Majesco picked it up for a budget release.

Blinx

Ah, Blinx. Is it all right for us to say that the character design held some appeal? He was a menace with a cheeky grin, but at the same time quite adorable looking. We also liked the fact that his eyes were Xbox green.

Quite what Microsoft were thinking getting Japanese developer Artoon to handle what was supposed to be the Xbox’s mascot is beyond us. We assume that it was because the studio had a lot of ex-Sega staff at the time, but even so their previous games had been less than great, including Pinobee for GBA and PSone and Ghost Vibration for PlayStation 2.

Reviews were mixed but it sold well enough to warrant a sequel, which was a lot less frustrating to play. Gamers, having gullibly fallen for the hype behind the first game, stayed away however and it soon found its way into the bargain bins.

Stubbs the Zombie

A lot of fuss was made around Stubbs the Zombie prior to release, due to being developed by an ex-Bungie co-founder. It also ran on the original Halo engine – something the developer/publisher was so proud about that they mentioned it on the front of the box.

Eddie Stubbs was a highly unlikely video game hero, and that’s no bad thing – he was a travelling salesman, shot dead by the father of his over protective girlfriend. Skip forward thirty years and Stubbs finds his eternal rest being disturbed by the creation of a new city on his resting place, and so sets off to eat the citizen’s brains.

Arriving in 2006, Stubbs the Zombie is often referred to as one of the Xbox’s last hurrahs.

Cooper Chance

Grabbed by the Ghoulies had a whiff of a rush job about it even though it was at one point in development for GameCube. The character design of the protagonist Cooper simply wasn’t up to Rare’s previous standards, nothing more than a spiky-haired teenager with bad taste in clothing. It has even been reported that Rare came up with the name Grabbed by the Ghoulies first and then decided to base a game around it.

For Xbox gamers looking for something similar to Luigi’s Mansion though, it fit that bill quite nicely.

Brute Force

We’re kind of cheating here as Brute Force featured a quartet of characters. Tex was the heavy-arms expert, cyborg Flint provided sniper support, stealthy female Hawk could turn invisible while Brutus was something of an odd one out – a giant green lizard creature with thermal vision and healing abilities. One magazine at the time joked about why the hell gamers would want to play a game where you spend a lot of time staring at a lizard’s arse.

Microsoft must have sunk a lot of money into Brute Force, expecting it to be as big as Halo. Development started in 2000 as a PC title only for Microsoft to suggest it become an Xbox-exclusive. Three years later it finally emerged to mixed reviews. According to Wikipedia it did beat Halo’s launch day sale figures, which we assume was down to the Xbox having a much larger userbase by that point.

Voodoo Vince

Another failed attempt at providing the Xbox with a mascot, Voodoo Vince was a voodoo doll able to inflict pain on himself in order to harm the enemies around him. It sounded like an original feature on paper, but in reality it was no different from activating a smart bomb to kill everything around you.

The Xbox was never a console that could offer lots of quality platformers, but despite not quite living up to its potential this was one of the better ones. Microsoft never got around to releasing a patch so that it could be played on Xbox 360.

Apollo

When first shown Nezmix received quite a bit of press attention as it was considered to be the game that would help sell the Xbox to the Japanese market. The fur effects on lead character Apollo and his mouse cohorts were quite impressive at the time too.

Sadly, it was also one of the first games to suggest that Microsoft weren’t heavily focused on quality control – reviews were terrible. As such it was only sold in chains of Toys R Us in the US, under the new name of Sneakers.

IGN gave it 2.0, describing it as a video game version of ‘tag’ in which you could only move on-rails backwards and forwards.

The worst first-party launch game ever? We’re certainly struggling to think of anything else as bad.

Jun 14

The web made a step towards being a whole lot bigger yesterday, when ICANN revealed the full list of potential new generic top-level domains – because .com is terribly 1985.

Sony have gone for .playstation, .xperia and .sony. Microsoft are after a handful, including .microsoft, .xbox and .live – giving them the option of both xbox.live and live.xbox. Another Microsoft application is for .bing, which opens up the delightful possibility of badda.bing.

It’s presumably all a bit too online for Nintendo, so there’s no .wii or .virtualboy on the cards. But they’re in good company – Twitter, Facebook and eBay were among the other companies conspicuous by their absense.

At the other end of the scale, Google and Amazon have gone after 101 and 76 new gTLDs respectively. They’re both among the five companies interested in .game, but Google is one of only two parties interested in .dot – and I would have thought that dot.dot alone would hold more allure than that. But with just the application process costing $185,000, that’s a lot to pay for basically one novelty domain name.

The only other games company that jumps out of the list is Konami, but they’re only after .konami, which isn’t terribly interesting. Nothing from the likes of EA and Activision, for example.

There are some oddities in the list – which is worth a look if you’ve got half an hour to scan the 1,930 applications – but also some inspired choices. Who wouldn’t want a .ninja domain? Or what about .ooo – gamesasylum.ooo has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

No sign of .cotton though, sadly.

Jul 26

The discovery of a new Sonic game on an old Xbox development kit caused a bit of commotion on the internet recently because, well, it’s a Sonic game. It’s no shame Sonic Extreme was canned though. As this video shows, hedgehogs and skateboards don’t mix.

Another unreleased Xbox game has since surfaced too, and not much has been said about this one so we’re giving it some coverage. This game is Tiltronica, which features vehicles in orbs battling in what appears to be the insides of pinball machines. It looks pretty much finished but a bit on the crappy side, hence why it was probably never released. Perhaps developers Vision Scape Interactive should have spent as long on the game as they did for their rather elongated start-up logo.

Not exciting enough for you? Here’s a bonus video – a game based on Steven Spielberg’s A.I, discovered on an abandoned Xbox development system back in 2009. It’s not an adventure game or platformer but rather… a beat’em up. A.I: The Circuit, as it’s known, was in development at Radical, who are now owned by Activision and are best known for Prototype. Back when this game was still kicking around though they developed a lot of games for Vivendi, so it’s likely Vivendi bagged the license and passed it to Radical who didn’t have a bloody clue what to do with it. The video shows some very generic robots fighting in small environments. Have they even seen the movie? It could have only been worse if it were a kart racer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpsdioW4ZwY

Discoveries of these titles originally broke over on the uber hardcore ASSEMbler forums. If you ever want to spend an hour of your life reading about things you never knew existed, it’s a forum well worth a visit.

Dec 17

The title explains it all, really, here are five things that annoy me about my 360. Firstly…

The inconsistent stupidness of it all. The 360 can play DivX when I share my media through the cumbersome Windows Media Player, but the nice Windows Media Centre interface won’t play DivX at all. This is stupid. I like WMC, it updates everything and displays it all very nicely. Mind you, I mainly use my PS3 for media sharing because…

It’s louder then Brian Blessed. Seriously, Microsoft, sort it out.  When a disc isn’t in the drive the fans are already loud enough, but put a disc in and the 360 sounds like it’s about to take off. Mind you, sometimes I like hearing that noise because…

My console is broken. I didn’t do it. It’s been broken from day one. I’ve not had the dreaded three red rings, but my console is broken in much stupider ways.  Sometimes it forgets that it’s a 360 at all and displays a message asking me to put my disc in an Xbox 360 console. Which is stupid. This is what happens when you drive down costs, your product becomes about as reliable as women. Or maybe the problem is simply…

A lack of thought. Even after the new update navigating the marketplace is much harder than it should be. A simple example is the bad categorisation. If something is a shooter and an arcade game, put it in both categories. Because of the way things are categorised it can be hard to find things. Surely this can’t be too hard to implement and just shows a lack of planning. Why is Geometry Wars in the Action/Adventure category and not the shooter one? WHY? I downloaded Ikaruga the other day and it took me forever to find. I only wanted to play online co-op. Which leads into my last complaint…

Make Live free. I know Live is one of the only profitable bits of Xbox, but it needs to be free. I don’t play online a lot, only a couple of games of Team Fortress and a few games of FIFA a month, and yet I have to pay to play. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and ends up skewing the online demographic into the hardcore/obsessive gamer territory. If Live was free, everyone would be able to participate. Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the fact that people have to pay for Live is a barrier that stops people messing up the system. If people have to pay, maybe they’ll be more fearful of being banned.

So, in conclusion, I love my Xbox and I’m off to play Eternal Sonata which is literally the most beautiful thing ever.

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