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GOW knocks Halo 2 from Live top spot

Today is a momentous day. For the first time since, well, ever, Halo 2 has officially been knocked from the number one slot on Xbox Live. If you keep track of Major Nelson's weekly updates on the most played games on Live, you'll know that Halo 2 consistently trumps all other Live titles, even all the fabulous titles on 360. That's right, one original Xbox title is routinely played more than any 360 title. Until now, that is. Of course, now the question is: how long will it stay there?

We'd like to extend our congratulations to Epic and to Microsoft for their success. So, have you made the switch from Halo to Gears?

[Via Joystiq. Thanks, Sherveen Mashayekhi]

You got Halo in my Oblivion!

If you thought a Spartan was out of place in Dead or Alive 4, your head just might explode when you see one in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Entitled the "Spartan Project," this Oblivion mod adds a brand new Halo themed mission to the game. The story actually borrows from Bungie's official explanation for a Spartan in DOA4. A ship from the future gets caught in a timespace rift, and crash lands in Oblivion's timespace. As the hero, you find a broken energy sword, take it to the local (mad) scientist, and he asks you to investigate further. After all is said and done, you wind up with the energy sword, Mjolnir armor, and even a Covenant plasma shield. All in all it sounds pretty cool. Unfortunately, this mod is PC only. Check out a video after the break.

Continue reading You got Halo in my Oblivion!

March Madness demo (in November?)

We missed this earlier today because we were busy checking out the Rainbow Six: Vegas demo, but it looks like a demo for NCAA March Madness 07 is now available on Marketplace. That's right, the wind is bitterly cold, the sky is gray, and the leaves are falling, so it could only mean one thing: March Madness! Seriously, last time we checked it was November, so it's just a wee bit early, donchathink? At least this demo, unlike the Vegas demo, is available to all Xbox Live members and not just Gold members -- assuming you're in the US or Canada anyway. Go grab the demo and tell us what you think. Is it a worthy basketball title, or should it be put back on the bench?

Metareview: Viva Piñata

Microsoft's Pokémon inspired children's title, Viva Piñata has finally hit the market and is picking up some reviews. Most of the reviews are very positive, though some note that Viva Piñata probably won't satisfy the twitch-happy Gears of War crowd. Then again, it's not really designed for action fans, though many reviews are claiming that it's actually very complex. Sitting somewhere between The Sims and Animal Crossing, Viva Piñata is performing admirably. It currently has an average of 85 on Metacritic.
  • Gamespot (8.3/10) - "It oozes charm and personality from its every papier-mâché-covered pore. While it's accessible enough for those with very little gaming experience (and their children), it also has enough depth to keep any of you with a Pokemon-style "gotta catch 'em all" mentality--or perhaps a penchant for gardening--entertained for many hours."
  • IGN (8.5/10) - "... it seems like a serious oversight to not include the ability to show off your garden in some way to your friends. Here is a game where you spend all of your time cultivating and shaping your garden space -- and you can't show it to anybody on Live. The only way for them to see it is to be right next to you."
  • 1UP (9/10) - "Rare has certainly recaptured its former glory here, and in producing one of the most misunderstood games of the year, it has also produced one of the finest in its history, and certainly one of the most intriguing on 360. To dismiss it as "just for kids" would be foolish. You are not too cool to enjoy this game."
1UP wasn't the only review to share the ironic sentiment that Viva Piñata -- a franchise specifically designed to rake in your kids' cash -- is one of the best Rare games in years. Will Microsoft's famous investment finally pay off?

H3: Everybody run! He's got ... a Needler?

If you've been scouring the Halo 3 information around the web, you may have heard a few things about the needler. The needler -- a weapon that shoots slow moving, homing crystals that explode after a certain duration -- is generally regarded as the worst weapon in the Halo series. In fact, most consider it so useless that they will only pick it up as a joke or for some lucky humiliation kills. Bungie now intends to turn that around. In Halo 3, the needler is no longer dual-wieldable. Because it's now a two-handed weapon, Bungie has room to make it more powerful. We don't know exactly what's been changed -- whether the needles move faster or track better, for instance -- but we do know it's now a weapon to be feared. In the words of Bungie's KPaul:

"These factor in significantly, as once the needles are flying you're pretty much done unless you've got some cover to get behind before they reach you. Yeah, we've said it before, but this time we mean it. You will hear someone scream "OH SHEETS HE'S GOT A NEEDLER" at some point during your Halo 3 experience and for once, it will not be sarcasm."

Needler fans rejoice, come Halo 3, you'll actually have a reason to pick one up. Then again, Bungie said they were going to fix the needler last time, too. Here's hoping they keep their word this time.

[Image via Brickshelf]

European Emergence Day festivities begin

To all of our European readers, happy Emergence Day! It's been a long time coming, but now you can finally celebrate Gears of War with the rest of the world (we hope you enjoy all of the cheaters). Huzzah! As an extra special treat, European 360 owners (except Germany) can now download the special Emergence Day theme and picture from Xbox Live Marketplace. So, now that you finally have your hands on Gears of War, what do you think? Does it live up to the hype we Yanks have been generating? Is curb stomping everything it's cracked up to be? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think.

[Thanks, honz12]

Rainbow Six: Vegas multiplayer impressions

We just spent the last hour playing the Rainbow Six: Vegas multiplayer demo, and so far it's pretty damned good. First of all, the character creation and outfitting is surprisingly robust for a demo. There are plenty of faces available -- sorry, no Vision support in the demo -- lots of facial hair options, as well as a few different camouflage options. The amount of weapons and armor is very impressive for a demo. There are multiple types of rifles, machine guns, pistols, grenades, and plenty of armor and clothing choices for the whole body. What's more, there are even some gadgets and custom weapon attachments, too. Finally, the game lets you add a three character prefix to your Gamertag. This is great for those who haven't appended Clan prefixes to their tags (or those who don't want to). Unfortunately, none of these options are saved when you quit the demo, so you may not want to get too attached to your avatar.

Continue reading Rainbow Six: Vegas multiplayer impressions

What are you playing: Old School edition

This is an interesting week. We are fast approaching the hectic holiday season, the PS3 finally launched today, and the Halo 3 hype train is at full steam. I was a little disappointed that my wild speculation about Bungie's Marathon coming to Arcade was wrong, so I decided to download it for PC. It is free, after all. It takes a tiny extra step to make it run on PC (it was originally a Mac title) but it's worth it for a piece of Halo history (does that hand in the screenshot look familiar?). If you're having trouble installing, go here.

Back on 360, of course there is Gears, I'm still collecting gold bricks in Lego Star Wars II, and chasing after the "Bulletproof" Achievement in Contra. Frankly, winning with one credit is hard, but I won't be satisfied until I can do it in one life. How 'bout the rest of you? What are you playing this weekend? Hit me up if you want to play some Gears or the Vegas demo. (Any 360 fanboys brave enough to admit they're hoping to play Resistance?)

Leaderboards (time for Mk. III?):
Xbox 360 Fanboy Leaderboard
Xbox 360 Fanboy Leaderboard Mk. II

What were you playing (WRUP archive)

Vegas multiplayer demo infiltrates Live [update 1]

There's nothing quite like a nice Friday demo. For those of you who can't get enough of the Rainbow Six: Vegas demo, you're in luck, because a multiplayer demo just dropped on Live Marketplace. According to the description, there are tons of modes available, including Adversarial, Attack & Defend, and Terro Hunt. Terro Hunt, 4 player co-op game in which your team slaughters hordes of terrorists, sounds particularly fun. We haven't finished the download yet (almost a gig), so we don't know if character creation -- or face mapping -- is available. We'll update you with our impressions as soon as possible.

Update: It looks like this demo is only available for Gold members. Silver members can get this on November 24th. Still, considering it's online multiplayer, how would Silver members play it anyway?

[Thanks, Chris Hipple]

Video: Blue Dragon non player characters

The official Blue Dragon website has been updated yet again with a new video (and new screenshots, too). The video features some of the game's non player characters (NPCs) that the player can interact with. They range from weird looking Snifit doppelgangers to minotaurs. Our favorite in the video is what appears to be a living mural on a wall. Check out the video after the break. Oh, and be warned, the music is ... different.

Continue reading Video: Blue Dragon non player characters

Xbox 360 finally in the black (PS3? No.)

In an article detailing the overall parts cost for the PS3, iSupply reveals that Microsoft is no longer losing money on the Xbox 360. Last year, the company reported that Microsoft lost $126 dollars on every 360 sold. Due to a reduction in overall component costs, iSupply estimates that it now costs Microsoft $323.30 per Premium Xbox 360 manufactured. Thus, Microsoft actually earns $75.70 on each unit sold.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sony loses a lot of cash on each PS3. The high end PS3 costs $840.35 to build, losing Sony $241.35 per console. The cheaper PS3 actually costs nearly the same to produce, so Sony takes a hit of $306.85. According to the article, the primary pricing differences between the 360 and PS3 are the processors, and of course, Blu-ray. The PS3's motherboard and Blu-ray drive cost Sony $500, whereas the 360's motherboard and DVD drive cost Microsoft $200 -- down from $370 when the 360 launched. Naturally, Sony's costs will decline over time -- especially if Blu-ray is adopted.

At any rate, we're happy that Microsoft is finally making money on the 360, because that means we get a price drop, right? Right?

[Via Joystiq]

Retro Arcade stick releases next month

IGN has the skinny on the retro Arcade stick that was revealed a few months ago, including a few tidbits that we didn't know about in August. The biggest of which is the addition of a "spinner" control around the smaller analogue stick on the right side of the controller. Older fanboys will recognize the spinner as a "paddle" controller, allowing accurate control in games like Pong and Tempest. Unfortunately, the stick still doesn't look well suited to old school fighters like Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, or the announced Fatal Fury. On the other hand, it looks like it would be great for older titles like Pac-Man and Defender. The stick will be bundled with Frogger, Time Pilot, and Astropop for a suggested price of $49.99. Assuming the build quality is up to snuff, it sounds like a good deal for retro Arcade buffs. Anybody want one?

360 Command & Conquer 3 is official

We reported that Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars was bound for 360 way back in June. 4 months later, it looks like EA has finally seen fit to give official confirmation. Building (and hopefully improving) upon the control scheme developed for Battle for Middle Earth II, C&C3 promises a great campaign as well as a huge multiplayer component all in a futuristic setting. Two screens, including the image above, have been released and they look awfully nice -- see hi-res versions on Xboxyde. No doubt, RTS enthusiasts will prefer to play on their PC, but it's nice for 360 fanboys to have a more couch-friendly option. Read the full press release (politely borrowed from Fraggerock) after the break.

Continue reading 360 Command & Conquer 3 is official

Presenting some sweet Viva Piñata swag

The package pictured above showed up on Gamertag Radio's doorstep yesterday. The box had a copy of Viva Piñata, a "passport" to Piñata Island, some purple Easter grass, and of course, the piñata. A sweeter piece of game related swag we haven't seen in a long time. Yes, we're afraid that it even tops RoboBlitz T-shirts. Sadly, packages like this rarely make it past the automated Nerf turrets outside Fanboy Towers -- they're not lethal, just really annoying. It's too bad really, because it's a nice bit of kit we could have given away. Speaking of Viva Piñata, has anybody picked it up yet? Is it any good?

COD3 is best on 360, in more ways than one

If you're a 360 fanboy who's curious about the PS3, there is always one question on your mind: "what's the online like?" If you've been paying attention to Resistance, you'll know that it can be great. However, Call of Duty 3 paints a different picture. Gamespot's review of COD3 for the PS3 cites a couple of noticeable differences between the PS3 version and its 360 cousin. The first difference: the PS3 has a choppy frame rate that makes the game a chore occasionally. We'll chalk that up to Treyarch being unfamiliar with the PS3. The differences in online play, on the other hand, are more fundamental. The PS3 version offers 24 players online, just like the 360 version. Unfortunately, only one person per PS3 can go online versus the 360 version's four. Also, there is no ranked play available, a feature that is standard on 360 thanks to TrueSkill.

If Sony continues to put the onus on developers to create online features, we can only assume that online options will always be superior on the 360, at least when it comes to cross-platform titles. What do you think? Does the fact that Sony's service is free outweigh the depth of features available through Xbox Live?

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