A Parents' Guide to Gaming


Today, according to the American Library Association, is National Gaming Day at your Library. As a person who has grown up gaming, I see the confusion in some parents’ eyes as they try to determine what games are right for their children.

Your kid already knows what they want – but just because it’s a game doesn’t necessarily mean you should cave in, especially if you’re the type of parent that pays close attention to the movies your child watches or music they listen to. Why should video games be any different?

So today, I’ll be at my local library presenting, for parents who wish to attend, A Parent’s Guide to Gaming. I will be discussing ESRB ratings, as well as how the individual consoles handle their parental controls. For those unable to attend (the extreme majority of the people who view this website), I’ve prepared a few links that might help you.

Below are videos from the Entertainment Software Association of Canada – now these videos are a little old, but the majority of the information is still the same. I wish I had the ability to record today’s demonstrations, which will all show case the latest revisions of the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. Since you can’t attend, below the videos are also step-by-step guides from the manufacturer’s themselves, describing in detail how to manage the Parental Controls of each console, with their latest updates.

Video Demonstrations
Configuring Parental Controls video for Microsoft Xbox 360
Configuring Parental Controls video for Sony PlayStation 3
Configuring Parental Controls video for Nintendo Wii

Written Guides
Setup Parental Controls step-by-step guides for Xbox 360
Setup Parental Controls step-by-step guides for PlayStation 3 (PS3)
Setup Parental Controls step-by-step guides for Wii

Sony's Webmaster Insulting you, or PlayStation.com hacked?

Visitors to this URL (http://us.playstation.com/PS3/dearplaystation/) today have been greeted with a the above message, insulting your computer comprehension.

The message, telling you to “stop wasting [the webmaster’s] time,” shows up whether you have javascript and/or flash enabled or installed, respectively, contrary to the error message itself. The message is extremey blunt, rather than a helpful message intructing you on how to fix the issue, or linking you to the Adobe Flash website, the message simply insults visitors.

At first I began to think a self righteous webmaster is tired of troubleshooting other people’s problems. Based on that train of thought, I’m sure it was thought that the message would never be seen by Sony’s customers, but after all of the problems they’ve been having with the PSN this weekend, this just seems like the wrong time to be offending the people visiting your website for information.

Then I looked at the web address, and the message… “Dear Playstation, get flash and/or enable javascript and stop wasting my time.” The message could have been left by someone else. But if that’s the case, that means it was left by a website hacker. Even if it was done with some basic script hacking, SQL injections, whatever – it makes you question the security of Sony’s website – and therefore the security of your information. Sony prides themselves on their regular currency transactions, but that may of course mean you have your credit card on file with the PSN. How do you feel, now?

Potential data (trophy) corruption, PlayStation network being down and causing problems with games, and now a hacker loose on PlayStation.com? Bad form, Sony. Bad form.

3D Dot Game Heroes: Gameplay promo video #2

3D Dot Game Heroes consistently seems to find itself in some kind of controversy. Familiar characters, music, settings… but if I happened to be Nintendo or anyone from the Zelda teams, I would be flattered.

While I’m not big in to RPG’s, I always thought the pure concept of this game looked great. Screen shots were great to look at, but I have to say, it’s the gameplay video that makes me most interested in someday getting a ‘hands on’ with this game.

Take a look at some great game play footage from Promotional Video #2. It’s another video from mid-October, like the Heavy Rain video we showed yesterday, but I have just been interested in taking a look at some of the more creative titles coming out of Japan, and hopefully arriving in the states some time soon!

[zdvideo]http://NuAngel.net/video/3D_DGH_PV_vol.2_PS3.flv[/zdvideo]

Heavy Rain dev interview: "special presentation"

Just in case you missed it, this video was released on the Japanese Playstation Network in October of 2009. At the time I really didn’t care that much, but the more I hear about Heavy Rain, the more interested I get. I’m actually getting very excited to get my hands on this game, and this video really helped boost the interest level. They talk about the sheer amount of time spent in motion capture, they show a good deal of game play footage, without being too ‘spoilery’ (though if you’d prefer to play the entire game knowing as little as possible, you may not want to watch).

It’s been about 2 months since this video was originally released, but it’s release was not entirely wide-spread, and, again, the closer we get to the launch of Heavy Rain, I figure more people might be looking for things of this nature. Enjoy!

[zdvideo]http://NuAngel.net/video/HEAVY%20RAIN%20special%20presentation.flv[/zdvideo]

Xbox Live vs. PSN: you get what you pay for!

My head just hurts, sometimes. Whether it was this weekend’s Belicheck’s Bad Decision, or problems in the video games industry, I just want to lock my doors and hide sometimes. Infinity Ward Community Manager Robert Bowling says that the Playstation Network collapsed under too many players in Modern Warfare 2. He explained in multiple Tweets that they had to bring more servers online, supporting 20,000 users at a time. Even Glenn & Mark over at PS Nation Podcast spent more than a couple of minutes venting about the problems. My biggest complaint is that the folks at Sony clearly had no idea this was coming.

Even Sony is so used to their attachment rate being so low that the glorified BluRay player stigma has even reached into the depths of their PlayStation Network operations center.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s people were on hand and watching the numbers climb, they were prepared, and they set the record of 2 million concurrent users on Xbox Live. Two million people using one unified service at one time. Meanwhile, the PlayStation network experienced so many problems that they had to start enabling extra servers. Go green as much as you want, but you didn’t think that maybe you should have had those servers online in preparation for such an event, then toned down the extras later?

Sony just proves, time and time again, that they are racing to play catch up with Microsoft’s Xbox Live service. Just weeks after announcing the Netflix Disc, Sony has confirmed that t heir next Firmware update will include a standalone Facebook program. Great, they get to mimic one of Xbox 360’s least demanded features, good for them. Oh, I’m sorry, when was the feature demanded since the 2007 launch, cross-game chat, coming to the PS3? Oh, right, it’s still not. It is even to a point where, even as a PlayStation 3 owner, I’m genuinely disgusted with their service. I don’t care how tired this argument is, I’m going to state the simple fact again. If it would make it better, CHARGE ME FOR IT! People are ready to take that hit, it’s obvious.

Sony passes up a gigantic revenue stream in favor of trying to look like Mr. Nice Guy. While Xbox Live costs $50 annually, and games like World of Warcraft end up costing their players a minimum of $150 each year, Sony insists that they should remain free, but it is obvious that this budget minded plan is only hurting them, and if they want to be taken seriously as anything more than my BluRay player, Sony is undoubtedly going to have to step things up in 2010, or pack in the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Network and start laying all new groundwork to make the PlayStation 4 regain the pride the the Sony PlayStation name once carried.

The Backorder: Killzone (PS2)

I’ve got some kind of OCD when it comes to series. If it’s music, I prefer to collect entire discographies and rare albums. When I was in to trading cards, I had several complete series in my collections. If it’s a movie, I’ll buy the boxed set! Games are rarely different. I want to know about a game, it’s history, it’s characters, it’s story. I had no idea that picking up the original Killzone for PS2 was going to be such a terrible decision.

I won’t waste any time with a long “review” of this game, since not many people are going to care. Graphically, the game could have larned a lot from Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64. The game used very low resolution textures that were very grainy, some characters looked down right polka-dotted in an attempt to optomize graphical memory. The most visually impressive thing in the game was how many people were displayedon the screen at one time. When the Helghast began storming you, true, they would come in waves of 4-8, but for the time it was a technical feat! Unreal Engine 3 might allow hundreds to thousands of characters on screen at one time, but I was admittedly impressed with this feature.

That’s where it ends, though. The sound effects were terrible, the voice acting was a joke. Even the banter in-game got old in the first mission. I hoped that in later levels, the game would pull from other sound libraries, but it’s more annoying than Left For Dead players anouncing that they’re reloading… again.

The story hasn’t been bad, so far, but the volume of levels is something I never thought I would complain about in my life. I love single plaer campaigns. But this game feels so much like torture, it’s hard to go on. I have not completed the game, and I don’t know that I will. The level design is the most painful thing about the game. The checkpoints are in odd, distant places. If you die, you could end up replaying a 20 minute chunk of the game. Characters repeatedly say “we should go that way” – but the AI never takes point, and the Heads Up Display in the game has absoluely no navigational markers. I spent ten minutes trying to figure out where to go, before giving up on the game for the night. The next day, I realized I was trying to go the correct way all along, but some disc error had prevented me from continuing through the level!

Killzone 2 is an award winning title, and when I get my hands on it, it had better not let me down. I had heard it was a mediocre sequel to a mediocre shooter. But in m experience with Killzone on the PS2, even mediocre will be a step in the right direction!

Netflix Disc on the Playstation 3

Netflix recently announced they would be releasing a disc that let you play Netflix Instant Que movies directly on your PS3. All you had to do was sign up and get a free disc. The discs have already shipped and I’ve had a little bit of time to play around with it.

The disc does not recognize as a PS3 game as I had expected, but instead of a movie disc. BluRay’s BD-Live features enables a lot of new abilities for physical media, so I believe this makes up the backbone of the disc. However, I did place this in a Blu-Ray capable PC. It loaded up as a standard BluRay movie, displayed the Netflix logo splash screen, then froze the software. I may continue down this path just to see what else the disc offers.

As far as using the disc on the Playstation 3, it will prompt you to visit the Netflix website and enter a hardware identification code that thge PS3 displays on your TV, once you do this, it will log you in to the Netflix system. Your queued movies will be available, along with several lists of new releases ande popular movies.

The interface is very similar to the web-based interface that Netflix offers, with horizontal sliding tiles. Unfortunately, I found it to be very slow and clunky. This process could have been made much more fluid, and scrolling through large lists seems to take it’s precious time. Netflix passes on key information about videos watched, or if you were part way through watching a movie, it will even offer you the ability to resume the movie from where you were on another device (Xbox or web-baed player).

The video controls the output resolution of the playstation, and while I have not checked on any high definition video content, it seemed to work well for widescreen and completely standard definition (4:3) videos that I have watched.

Friday, while tinkering, I had run in to an interesting problem. I tried to watch a movie on my Xbox 360 – for some reason, no matter how many times I stopped and rebuffered the, the audio never came through. When I tried on the PS3 Netflix disc, the video played, but there was a few seconds of delay in the audio. I did not proceed to check the video on the web-based player.

Pressing the triangle button during movie playback will bring up the familiar DVD/Video controls of the PS3, but pressing the wrong button will take you back to the Playstation’s XMB, not just back to the Netflix Menu.

While I think the Netflix disc is a good start, the better decision would have probably been to make it more of a PS3 game disc, rather than a BD-Live disc. This way, patches and title updates could have easily been applied to the disc – I do not know if BD-Live affords them the same options. A new discmay have to be manufactured every time they want to change the format, it seems as though it could become very costly. All in all, I want a little more experience with it, but it’s a decent little addition to my netflix playing abilities (my 360, my PC, and my PS3 all hooked up to the same TV!). I was glad to check it out, but I don’t expect to get up and pop in my disc every time I want to watch a movie that’s supposed to be “On Demand.” I’ll most likely stick with the Xbox 360 client.

The Backorder Bonus: Need for Speed… Shift (PS3/360)

This first Backorder Bonus is a bit of a lie. I have recently been digging in to my stash of games and playing Need for Speed Undercover. But since I also recently just upgraded from my old 20GB Xbox 360 Pro console to an Elite console, I figured I would combine the occasion in to one big blowout and give away the NFS Shift Elite Series codes I have! Skip ahead if all you want is the contest details!

First, the game. Need for Speed Undercover is the culmination of the “Underground” saga. Rather than a continuation of the Need for Speed Most Wanted and Carbon stories, it seems, so far, to be a spin off into a world of double crossing racers, crooked cops, and personal vendetta. It plays much like the Underground series, more like a racing action game, and not a racing simulator. Need for Speed Prostreet and Shift, it’s sequels, are more like the latter. These games aren’t my style, I love the consequence free ability to crash in to a wall, smash in to an opponent, and take out water towers.

With the familiar “escape” game modes and a few new outrun modes, the game has more to offer than the transition from Most Wanted to Carbon did. Though it seems to encourage less “free roam” than it’s predecessors, continually prompting you to “press down on the d-pad” to skip to the next campaign related race.

The acting is among the same quality we’re getting used to seeing in the Need For Speed saga, but much like the other games in the series, I’m forced to feel like people are talking AT me and not TO me. You have no personal connection to the character you’re playing, so even when a potential love interest looks into the camera with her puppy dog eyes and feelings of betrayal, I don’t feel like the guy who turned on her… if that’s even what just happened!?

Graphics and sound of course what you’ve come to expect from Need For Speed, but this game does leave a little wanting – the environments just seemed to stale, and all of the day time racing made me wonder who really likes the color brown? Over all I’m enjoying it, but so far, I’ve stayed offline and stuck to the campaign, as I’m sure there are people who have been playing it every day since it’s release still waiting online to leave me in the dust.

BACK ORDER BONUS: This one’s easy, folks. To enter, simply leave a comment on this thread. That’s it. I’m not even going to be a jerk and force you to register on the site… not yet! I have a whopping TWELVE codes to give away. The first 6 people to leave a PROPER comment (your PSNID or Gamertag, and/or your Twitter ID. Follow @NuAngel so that I can DM you the code if you’re a winner), will be contacted with a code. After that, the remaining 6 codes will be given away at random, with the remaining winners being decided NO EARLIER than Tuesday, November 10th, 2009. The contest runs until I’m out of codes, even if it takes longer. If you only see 11 comments and it’s January, be number 12!

What you’ll win: Need for Speed Elite Series Unlock Code. The code is entered IN-GAME. Simply go to the main menu, then the options menu, then select Redeem Code. Once entered, go to Career, then International Events – the first career race must be completed before this will show. Elite Series gives you access to FIVE special races with pre-tuned cars, available nowhere else in the game. This was a preorder exclusive offered to Gamecrazy and Amazon.com customers.

PROPER COMMENTS: All you need to do is tell me how to reach you! Leave your Gamertag / PSN ID / Twitter ID, and I can DM you the message or leave it in your inbox on any of the gaming platforms.

Preview: Bayonetta First Climax Demo

A demo was recently released on Xbox Live and Playstation Network in Japan. Luckily, we were able to get ahold of that very same demo. The game is presented by Sega, and that part becomes laughably obvious very quickly, as your character seems to have an affinity for little Gold Rings (ala Sonic the Hedgehog). I didn’t see a purpse for them in the demo, though I quickly racked up about a thousand!

I played through the demo very quickly using it’s default settings. It’s quite easy to get a basic grasp of the controls, but the tutorial mode lets you know that there is a long road ahead to becoming a master.

A few unanswered questions loom from the Bayonetta demo. Fore most in my mind, why the semi-transparent angels won’t interact with you, but fire your weapon and they’ll run like pedestrians in a Grand Theft Auto game. Still, the game play was a very fun experience.

Gameplay was very much like these 3rd person action games thrive on. Mash away at the buttons on your controller, and watch your on screen character seamlessly weave a quilt of combos.

Stealing gigantic weapons from angels, including a trumpet that acts as a rocket launcher, is a quick and easy way to turn the tables of a fight that isn’t going your way. I actually wish the battles were a little more hectic and there were a few more baddies to ping-pong your combos off of.

Anyone who has seen a review or a preview here at WinBreak before, knows that two of my pet peeves are graphics and voice acting. And unfortunately, this is where the game suffers. The music is fantastic, and picks up when you enter combat, much the way the game Wet does. Sadly, the battle clashing sounds aren’t anything ground breaking, your standard crash bam boom stuff. Voice acting is laughably terrible, including the taunt “I’ve got a fever, and the prescription is dead angels.”

The graphics also seem very PS2 era. The environments are much more beautiful and scaled more to the size we expect these days. But I can’t get over the fact that the graphics just don’t meet expectations. They feel washed out, and even the cut-scenes / FMV’s which are pre-rendered, show signs of compression – something that a game on DVD or BluRay probably shouldn’t need! It all looks too much like a PlayStation 2 era game.

The game is extremely self-aware, much like the game I already compared it to, Wet. It’s funny, a little bit camp, but it’s actually quite fun. It plays to Sega fans, and falls right in to the “hot chick kickin’ butt” category that it wants to be a part of oh so well. It’s worth checking out, but don’t expect the wonderful graphical adventure that Heavenly Sword was. But you will certainly enjoy using your feet to shoot semi-automatic weapons!

PS3 "Slim" – Re-Confirmed by KMart


click to enlarge

We’ve heard a lot of rumors, people snickering in podcasts, “guessing” that there will be a new “slimmer” PS3 launching soon… but if you want any further kind of confirmation, take a look at the KMart website, today! No pictures, yet, but seems pretty official, don’t ya think?

Nothing super special here, but just wanted a simple news post to show that the site is still alive and I’m working on some fun stuff.