NFL Blitz available for download today

NFL Blitz, the game in which NFL football players can catch fire and compete against robots while playing a 7-on-7 game, is available for download today.

The intentionally ridiculous game started as an arcade title and evolved into a console game. Stores sold console versions from 1998 to 2003, and NFL Blitz now returns as a downloadable game for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360.

The game costs $14.99 on PlayStation Network or 1200 Microsoft Points on XBox Live.

XBox Live “House Party” to begin next week

XBox Live’s “House Party” promotion is scheduled to begin Feb. 16 with the online release of “Hard Corps: Uprising.” Four additional games are scheduled to be released on successive Wednesdays.

In this writer’s opinion, the re-release of “Beyond Good & Evil” is the most interesting of the five House Party games, if only because I never had time to finish the game when it first came out in 2003. It’s a shame too, because the title seems to have the reputation as being one of the best games of its generation that very few people played.

That said, the action RPG “Torchlight” has gathered some rave reviews and may also benefit from a chance to find a wider audience.

Here’s the full House Party release schedule:

  • Hard Corps: Uprising (Konami). The action 2D side-scroller in the “Contra” tradition is set for a Feb. 16 release. Price: 1,200 Microsoft Points.
  • Bejeweled Blitz Live (PopCap Games). Why are casual games popular? Because the addictive ones are easy to figure out, quick to play and tempt players to keep coming back and beat their last score. American productivity may very well come to a halt when the XBox live version of this game, featuring a 16-player “Party” mode is released Feb 23. Price: 800 Microsoft Points.
  • Beyond Good & Evil (Ubisoft). Originally released during the GameCube/PlayStation2/XBox generation, this is a futuristic action-adventure that puts playersin the role of a female photojournalist on a mission to expose a government conspiracy. There are also aliens. Somehow ,this game was not a hit, but it gets a second chance March 2. Price: 800 Microsoft Points.
  • Torchlight (Runic/Microsoft Game Studios) An action RPG with more than 800,000 units sold, according to the people at Xbox. Game Informer reviewed the game as the “best Diablo clone in years” and praised its difficulty, character progression and “clever enemy design.” The XBox Live release is scheduled for March 9. Price: 1,200 Microsoft Points.
  • Full House Poker (Microsoft Game Studios, XBox/Krome Studios, Windows Phone 7) This is a Texas Hold ‘Em game with multiple play modes for the console and Windows Phone. Release is set for March 16. Price: 800 Microsoft Points.

 


“First Strike” maps released for CoD: Black Ops

XBox Live players can buy five new multiplayer maps for “Call of Duty: Black Ops” (Activision, Treyarch) as of today’s release of the new “First Strike” DLC.

CoD fans who actually played Black Ops’ well-made, entertaining and insanely unrealistic* single-player campaign will remember most the game’s action taking place in Cold War scenarios such as the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam and Laos. 

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The new map pack continues the Free World vs. Commies theme with a map featuring fighting on both sides of the Berlin Wall. The remaining four maps are “Stadium,” the Antarctic setting of “Discovery,” the high-rise cityscape of “Kowloon” and “Ascension,” which is a new setting for players to shoot at zombie communists and monkeys.

“First Strike” retails for 1200 Microsoft Points on XBox Live.

*Had anything like half the missions in this game actually happened, World War III would have happened. (And let’s not talk about that plot twist.)

Xbox Live to be more expensive

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I kind of had a feeling that this would eventually happen.

The more successful Xbox Live has gotten over the past year had also made me think that maintaining all of that fancy hardware was going to eventually get very expensive. What I didn’t like was how laissez faire Major Nelson was in announcing this change.

I think he’s done a great job as a community face that we can look up to for the latest Live news, but I wish he was allowed to say more than this on why the change is necessary before we simply pay up. But this part struck me as particularly funny as if it were a concession to the rest of the world:

This price increase only affects Xbox LIVE Members in Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom or the United States.

Only? Considering that the countries named also happen to be within the largest regional markets for Live in the first place, that’s kind of like saying the common cold only affects people with a pulse. Having little other than the usual boilerplate that “Xbox LIVE Gold membership will continue to offer the best value in the industry” to work with, I can understand the fury from the posts in his announcement thread.

If you need an idea of where the prices are headed, here’s the chart that’s expected to go into effect on November 1st of this year:

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So how is this going to affect you? For regular subscribers, probably not too much other than the queasy feeling of not knowing just why its going to be more expensive. And with attacks on the used gaming market by EA and THQ, it’s going to be an expensive hobby for those of us that want to keep playing while watching our wallets at the same time.

Xbox Live’s LGBT policies get changed

According to this, one can now express their sexual orientation via their gamertag or Xbox Live profile. Stephen Toulouse, the director of Live’s policy and enforcement, announced the changes. The new regs state you can use the words lesbian, gay, bi, transgender or straight in your profile or gamertag.

On one hand, it would be easy to see this as a progressive and commendable step for the Xbox Live community — a chance for people to know more about you and, as a friend of mine put it, a chance for someone to at least stick his or her toes out of the closet.

However, while there are certainly regular, level-headed people on Live, there’s also a staggering amount of duncery coupled with idiotic, racist and sexist drivel that populates a lot of online gaming sessions. I’m not sure what the incentive would be for some to post that kind of information and give the dregs of the online community more bullets in the chamber. A femaIe co-worker of mine can’t get through one Modern Warfare session without some spoiled, brain-damaged 12-year-old telling her to go make a sandwich.

At the same time, there’s no progress without pain. We’ll see how this unfolds.

Xbox Live online support ending for Xbox originals

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“Originals” as in the games that were made for the first Xbox according to this open letter from Xbox Live’s general manager, Marc Whitten. From the announcement, it sounds like this is being done in order to pave the way for more positive changes in moving forward with Xbox Live as a whole on the Xbox 360 and those changes simply weren’t compatible with what was leftover from the old Xbox.

You’ll still be able to play a majority of your old Xbox games on the Xbox 360, but forget about any multiplayer support that you might have enjoyed with them particularly if you’re still hooked on Halo 2. On April 15th, it all ends, so get in as many of those online match ups as you can with your favorite classics before it’s over.

And as big as Halo 2 is, Bungie’s also planning to mourn the passing of an era in their own way with plenty of gaming goodness on April 14th, so be sure to keep an eye on their site for the latest news on how that’s going to go down.