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Introducing the Widow Maker Bass

Guitar Hero/Rock Band PS2/PS3 Bass

Canadian peripherals and accessories maker The Ant Commandos (TAC) have unveiled their new bass guitar for use with Rock Band or Guitar Hero on Sony’s PS2 and PS3. According to the official press release, the $69.99 wireless Widow Maker Bass Guitar not only features FeatherTouch Fret Buttons, but also uses AutoSense wireless technology using 2.4GHz radio connectivity and offering a largest and longest body design, resembling the classic body style of a real bass guitar. Here’s a cut from the official press release

“TAC is committed to providing the best possible peripherals to players for their favorite music video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and with the Widow Maker, gamers are getting the best quality wireless bass guitar on the market today,” said Jesse Manwill, Senior Manager, Product Management at TAC. “The Widow Maker is 100% compatible with all versions of Guitar Hero and Rock Band for the PS2 and PS3-including rock Band’s effects switch and solo functions- so consumers are truly getting their money’s worth for a top-notch bass guitar that they can rely on for years to come.”

The product is now available at select retailers. No word on the possible release of a Wii or Xbox 360 version.

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X-Men Legends… A different kind of superhero title (X-men Legends Review)

Brace yourselves, as one of Marvel comics’ most unusual fighting teams of all time returns to a gaming console near you. Published by Activision and developed by Raven Software, the X-Men return in a new interactive tale dubbed “X-Men Legends”, which appears on the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PS2 and Microsoft Xbox. This time around, instead of your typical comic book brawler, the folks at Raven Software have cast our favourite group of mutants in a different kind of adventure, a role-playing game (RPG) where you get to build-up your characters’ abilities and strengths while dishing-out some comic book mayhem in the process.

You start off by controlling Wolverine, who must rescue the young Allison Crestmere from the clutches of the evil Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants. As you progress, you’ll get to control a team composed of up to four heroes, choosing their skills and powers as they advance in their respective missions. Each character has his or her own skill set, including distinct combat styles, special powers, and even combination attacks. Combo attacks can be accomplished in tandem with other X-Men characters on your team resulting in devastating assault on whoever chooses to block your path.

The game features a strong RPG element where you’ll get to level-up your character by gaining experience points through successful battles. When enough experience points have been accumulated, your character graduates to the next level. The level-up will allow you to upgrade your mutant skills. The game sports a nifty auto-upgrade feature that will automatically upgrade your player’s attributes and skills by simply pressing the “Y” button on your characters menu screen.

One of the most unique features of the game is actually its multiplayer aspect. Up to three friends can join your quest at any time during a single player escapade by simply tapping one of the buttons on an extra controller. Each player will have his or her own heads up display, which features such items as your health and power meters. The only restriction in the co-op mode is that you need to have enough X-Men on your party to accommodate the number of players willing to participate. The neat thing about this aspect of the game is the fact that players can join the game (and also leave at any time) without disrupting the single-player story mode.

It would have been interesting to see an Xbox Live or PS2 online mode to the game. An extra challenge would have arisen with the fact that you would have been able to play cooperatively with people from across the globe. Still, the current multiplayer aspect is more than satisfactory.

Graphically, the game sports a comic book feel thanks to its cel-shaded feel. The characters and environments look like they’ve been taken directly from the pages of a comic. The game looks like no other title on the market. X-Men Legends might not be the best looking game out there, but it bolsters some interesting visuals that surely won’t disappoint.

X-Men Legends features a slight learning curve, but even the casual gamer will be playing the game comfortably in no time thanks to the game’s easy control system. Overall, X-Men Legends is a very interesting title that will satisfy comic book and RPG fanatics with its captivating storyline and immersive gameplay. A must-have for action/RPG fans who want to stray away from the traditional medieval scenarios that are prominently featured in the genre. A definitive 4 out of 5 star title.

X-Men Legends features a Teen ESRB rating. For more information on the game, visit its official website at www.x-men-legends.com.

Andre Barriault lives in Dieppe and is co-editor at the gaming website www.XGR.com – Originally published in [here] magazine in Oct. 2004

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Crashing without consequences (Burnout 3: Takedown Review)

I honestly never thought crashing cars could be so much fun, that is until I got my hands on the Xbox version of Criterion Software’s “Burnout 3: Takedown”. Published by Electronic Arts, Burnout 3 delivers some serious arcade-style racing that will put a smirk on any player’s face.

Burnout 3 awards points for crashing into opponents’ vehicles, which either results in minor fender benders or complete take downs. Achieve a takedown and you’ll be awarded with a full boost bar, which gives you a speed advantage over your opponents. Steering your car in oncoming traffic and crash-defying antics will also help you fuel-up your need for speed with some coveted boost power.

The graphics in this game are simply amazing. Everything from the backgrounds to the car models look extremely detailed and are among the best seen in a racing title to date. What sets this game apart from other racers are its crash sequences. The game features the most realistic crashes ever produced in a video game. These crash events utilize real-time physics that result in extravagant sequences that produce different crashes during every instance.

Burnout 3 features some of the most addicting gameplay modes to ever grace a racing title. Not only do you get your typical racing and grand prix modes, but you also have such challenges as Road Rage and Crash. The goal of the Road Rage event is to take down as many opponents as possible until your car is totaled. Meanwhile, the crash mode is an all-round crash fest where the goal is to create the biggest traffic pile-up possible and rake-in the most damage cash amount possible.

The single player experience is amplified thanks to the addition of the World Tour mode, which spans a few continents around the globe. The World Tour mode basically gives you challenges derived from the racing and crash modes. To advance to the next challenge, players must capture the at least bronze medal.

What keeps players coming back for more are the unlockables. In total, the game features 67 vehicles, 17 game modes and 40 race tracks. With such a vast amount of bonuses, Burnout 3 will keep players occupied for months.

The sense of speed in Burnout 3 is unique. You feel like you’re going at break-neck speed. To add to the overall effect, developer Criterion Software added motion blur to complement the overall feel.

The game delivers some of the best sound effects in the racing genre. Everything from the engine noises to the crash effects sound realistic. The sound work even adds to the element of speed by generating lifelike swooshing effects from the oncoming traffic.

On the negative side, Burnout 3 features one of the most annoying commentators I’ve ever seen in a video game. The announcer, known as DJ Striker, delivers line after line of boring monotone dialogue that would put any real-life driver to sleep. Luckily for us, the announcer can be turned off and is only present in World Tour mode.

The game’s soundtrack is also left to be desired. The soundtrack features various alternative artists vying for mainstream spotlight. A little bit of variety wouldn’t hurt. Xbox users will be able to remedy this situation by throwing in their own custom soundtracks. Sadly, Playstation 2 owners are left out in the cold and can’t manipulate the soundtrack to their likings, but they can always turn off the music.

The online portion of the game is also enjoyable. It’s actually rather funny to hear others ramble about their latest take down or crash. It’s also interesting to play against human players instead of your typical, and at times predictable, A.I. Overall, the online portion of the game is among the best I’ve played in the racing genre.

Burnout 3 is definitely one of my favourite titles of the year. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that Criterion’s latest racer will be among the year’s best titles (if not the best). Not only is Burnout 3: Takedown an extremely fun title, but it’s also a very addicting one. The game is so entertaining that even non-racing fans will enjoy it. Burnout 3 is so good that many major online publications have dubbed the game as the best arcade racer of our generation, which I’d have to agree with. A definite five star title!

Andre Barriault lives in Dieppe and is co-editor at the gaming website www.XGR.com – Originally published in the [here] magazine in Sept. 2004

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ESPN NFL 2K5 hits the field for another phenomenal football season (NFL 2K5 Review)

Sega and ESPN Videogames are taking their NFL competition seriously this year. Not only have the publishers released “ESPN NFL 2K5” a few weeks before its main rivals, but they have also dropped the game’s suggested retail price to $19.99US in a bid to haul football fanatics to their camp this season. Does the game have enough firepower to bring down the Madden NFL franchise, which has dominated the football scene for over 15 years, or will the title fumble early on?

Available on the PS2 and Xbox, ESPN NFL 2K5 features seven game modes to choose from including the franchise mode (where you get to control every aspect of your team, which involves roster manipulation and unique coaching features) and the ESPN 25th Anniversary mode (which lets you take charge of 25 classic NFL situations that have occurred in the last 25 years of the sport).

Visually, the game looks stunning and is the best looking sports title to date. Everything in this game is so well detailed that you can almost smell the artificial turf in the stadiums. The player models are well detailed and articulate with precision, which makes their movements look so realistic that you get the feeling you’re actually watching a televised ESPN event.

The game’s audio portion is also top-notch and features quite possibly the best play-by-play commentary in a video game. Commentators Chris Berman and Suzy Kobler describe the plays perfectly and aren’t too repetitive when compared to other sports titles. The sound effects are also quite realistic and compliment the visuals accordingly. ESPN NFL 2K5 includes the custom soundtrack feature which lets you import your favourite tracks in the game.

For those who aren’t too familiar with the sport, the game offers an excellent tutorial mode that lets you practice the title’s offensive and defensive maneuvers. You will need to complete every move perfectly in order to progress to the next challenge. All of the challenges are accompanied by an easy to follow step-by-step description of the moves you must accomplish to move one. Thanks to the tutorial, you’ll be playing like a seasoned veteran in no time.

One of the most interesting features of ESPN NFL 2K5 is the Virtual Identity Profile System, or V.I.P. System for short. This system lets you save your friends’ profiles in order to compete against them when they’re not online. The V.I.P. System mimics their strategies, maneuvers and reasoning, thus creating a virtual image of your opponent to study and train against from before the big game. This is a great way to learn your opponent’s weaknesses in order to defeat that friend of yours who always ends-up having the upper hand against you.

ESPN NFL 2K5 kicks-off the 2005 battle of the gridiron with a worthy lead against heavyweight Madden NFL 2005. Will the underdog keep the reigning champion at bay this year? Or will Madden NFL 2005 take home yet another championship? The race should get even more heated in a few weeks when EA unleashes the new version of Madden football to the masses. But if you’re looking for a fun and exciting NFL title that won’t unbalance your monthly budget, then ESPN NFL 2K5 fits that description to perfection.

Andre Barriault lives in Dieppe and is co-editor at the gaming website www.XGR.com – Originally Published in the Metro Marquee in July 2004

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The Most Important Week in Gaming (E3 2004)

This week, the Los Angeles Convention Center is host to the biggest and most exciting gaming event of the year, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Each year the trade event serves as launching pad for publishers and developers to reveal and showcase their upcoming products to the media. In short, E3 is as important to the gaming industry as the Academy Awards are to films.

This year’s event will be particularly special as the big three console makers (better known as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) are expected to unveil crucial information about their next generation of gaming consoles, which are expected to launch in early 2006. During the last couple of months, the Internet has been running rampant with rumours of what to expect out of these upcoming couch potato enhancers.

Nintendo and Sony will also use the event to showcase their upcoming handheld devices. The big “N” will be showcasing its dual screen product aptly known as the “Nintendo DS”. While Japanese rival Sony will take the stage with its media centric iPod killer the PSP. Both companies are expected to have working prototypes on display at the show. So far, most major developers have pledged their support to both units.

Two other companies will attempt to enter the crowded console market with new innovative, but pricey units. Digital Interactive Systems will be at the show demonstrating their DISCover console and Infinium Labs will have its Phantom Console on exhibit. It’s believed that both companies will be brandishing their devices with fully functioning units.

On the software side of things, publishers will be on hand with a complete list of their forthcoming titles. Canadian developers Bioware and Digital Extremes will be showcasing two of the most anticipated titles of the year in the form of Jade Empire and Pariah, respectively. Many significant releases such as Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Metroid Prime 2, Final Fantasy XII, Resident Evil 4, and Metal Gear Solid 3 should be among the most sought-after titles on the show floor.

It’s also interesting to note that software developer SEGA has promised that it will make a shocking announcement on May 12. Revealed by the company as “big news you’d never guess,” its still unclear whether or not the announcement is software or hardware based. SEGA’s last hardware venture was the Dreamcast, which was discontinued in 2001. It’s highly doubtful though that SEGA will make a return on the hardware scene. Expect an announcement to be in the form of a merger or an acquisition.

It remains to be seen whether or not their will be any surprises at the event, but rest assured that this year’s event will surely be the talk of the industry for months to come. If all the hype turns out to be true, this year’s E3 trade event will end-up being one of the most interesting trade events in recent years. And don’t forget to pick-up next week’s issue of the Metro Marquee for a complete rundown of the event.

Andre Barriault lives in Dieppe and is co-editor at the gaming website www.XGR.com – Originally published in the Metro Marquee in May 2004

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