Review: Sleeping Dogs (X360)

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Sleeping Dogs might never have come out if Square-Enix hadn’t snagged United Front Games’ latest project after Activision axed it. It was a bold move. The relatively young development house had only ModNation Racers to their name and they were working in territory urban sandbox specialists Rockstar and Volition called home. It wasn’t hard to see why Activision suddenly developed a case of cold feet over its prospects -  even when some of UFG’s members had cut their teeth within those same studios. But then again, no one thought that Rocksteady could pull off as legendary a take on the Dark Knight not once – but twice – with about as much on their resume, either.

UFG’s crime drama takes players to Hong Kong as Wei Chen, an undercover cop on loan from the States working to bring down the Sun On Yee triad. Having grown up along the city’s rough and tumble side streets before his family moved to America, his early education with the swagger and bark of its worst before graduating grade school make him a valuable weapon to his new HKPD boss. 
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Review: LEGO Batman 2 (PS3)

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Lego Batman 2 is Traveller’s Tales’ sequel to 2008′s Lego Batman. This time, Traveller’s has opted for an open-world approach while maintaining the mission-oriented focus of the previous title. And it even features spoken dialogue. But while it does a number of new things for the franchise, it also arrives with a host of annoying bugs that drag the experience down.
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E3 Thoughts: Microsoft’s Press Conference

Microsoft led off Monday’s rush of pre-E3 press conferences and observers may be forgiven if they got the idea that Microsoft forgot the XBox 360 is a video game console.

Sure, Microsoft opened their presentation with new Halo 4 footage, but company seemed to spend more than half of its time promoting anything the XBox 360 can do besides play video games, such as the aforementioned Halo 4.

Microsoft’s biggest announcement was for a forthcoming feature called SmartGlass, in which customers would be able to link smartphones or tablets to their 360 and access info related to a movie or television program while the content streams through their console. Microsoft also promised SmartGlass functionality with games, so it looks like somebody in Washington State liked Nintendo’s planned tablet controller for the forthcoming Wii U.


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Review: Forza Motorsport 4

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Forza Motorsport 4 is, quite simply, a lovely game.

The latest racing offering from Turn 10 Studios and Microsoft Studios, Forza Motorsport 4 is one of the most visually appealing games to appear on the XBox 360 console. From the scenic vistas of the game’s Bernese Alps track to the detail applied to each of the vehicles, Forza Motorsport 4 is a game that is wonderful to look at, but more importantly, boasts smooth controls and a variety of customization options that make it fun to play.

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Cable box? Microsoft says “Xbox”

Troy Wolverton at the San Jose Mercury News has a worthwhile article on Microsoft’s plans to market the XBox 360 as consumers’ go-to source for on-demand media:


Through a software update
available Tuesday, users will get access to a swath of new digital
entertainment content, including video channels from the likes of
YouTube, HBO and Epix, and digital music from iHeartRadio. Subscribers
to Comcast’s pay television service will be able to access all of the
company’s on-demand video via the Xbox.

The software update will
also include a universal search feature that will allow users to search
for movies and other content across various digital content providers.
And it will let owners use Microsoft’s Kinect accessory to navigate the
entire Xbox interface. Previously, users could access only a handful of
functions through Kinect.

In other words, Microsoft – as well as Sony and Nintendo – will be competing not only with each other, but cable companies as technology advances. Expect Nintendo’s Wii U, Sony’s (presumed) PlayStation 4 and whatever Microsoft calls its next console to have even more features designed to make their consoles have even more multimedia functions.


The San Jose Mercury News is The Sun and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin’s sister paper.




Review: Lord of the Rings – War in the North (X360)

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War in the North takes players back to Middle Earth to fight evil while Frodo and company head to Mordor to destroy the One Ring. Taking place in the North, would-be adventurers will play their part in stemming the tide of darkness waiting to erupt from the cold, wintry holds there.
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Happy 10th Anniversary Xbox!

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Today marks the 10th Anniversary of Microsoft’s Xbox, the console that launched a revolution and raised the stakes in the ongoing war between the gaming giants. To many, most especially its biggest fans, the Xbox brand has proven to be a worthwhile gamble on the part of Microsoft and a tremendous success in ousting rival Sony from the top spot and standing firm in its place as a serious challenger for billions of gaming dollars.

Halo became the killer app that would go on to become a multi-billiion dollar franchise. Western developers would make dramatic splashes through its hardware expanding on what players should expect from a console. Titles such as Bethesda’s Morrowind and BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic would help set the kind of foundations that would eventually propel these and other Western developers into superstardom. And when the Xbox 360 hit, fans only wanted more and Microsoft obliged – though RRODs were far less appreciated. Yet that didn’t even slow the Xbox juggernaut from rolling ahead on multiple social fronts.

Business site, Gurufocus, notes that CFO Kevin McCarthy has stated in a recent conference that its Xbox Live service now boasts over thirty million plus subscribers. Xbox Live was introduced in 2002.

In October, Yahoo reported on Microsoft’s quarterly report revealing that over 57.6 million Xbox 360s have been sold worldwide and remained the “top selling” console in the United States, a place it has held for nine months straight.

With Netflix and a host of other social tools introduced to the console since its inception and building on the Live model begun with the first Xbox, Microsoft’s foray into a high-stakes arena strewn with dramatic risks and billions of dollars has evidently paid off.

Helping to celebrate this anniversary, Xbox Live users get a free avatar prop up until this Saturday. Also, Venture Beat’s Dean Takahashi (Opening the Xbox: Inside Microsoft’s Plan to Unleash an Entertainment Revolution) has written up a two part piece on Microsoft’s Xbox journey from the first console and into today’s market with the 360.

It’s a remarkable success story that has propped the software company up as a member of the worldwide console triumvirate alongside Sony and Nintendo. As for what the next ten years will do for gaming, who can say? But one thing’s for certain – Microsoft’s Xbox will do everything it can to be there in making it happen.