Tag Archives: Playstation 3

Giveaway: Win 1 free month of PlayStation Plus

After I was banned from the PlayStation Network and forced to create a new account, Sony made it clear that they still appreciate me as a customer. What does that mean for you? It means I have two one-month trials of PlayStation Plus to give away.

I’ve covered PlayStation Plus before, and while I’m not wild about it myself, everything tastes better when it’s free. PlayStation Plus offers free games and nice discounts on a ton of content – it’s like free money in your pocket.

Before you enter, there are a few of stipulations:

  • The PlayStation Plus code must be redeemed by March 31st, 2012. If you spend too long waiting for the right discounts and free content to start your trial, you may be out of luck.
  • You are required to have a valid credit card linked to your PSN account to use the free trial.
  • If you don’t cancel your free month at least a day prior to the end of the trial, Sony will automatically bill you $17.99 and convert your membership to a 3-month plan.
  • Once your month is up, your free games will no longer be playable until you sign up again. Any discounted content you purchase (read: with REAL money) is yours to keep forever.

To grab one of these free codes, please leave a comment on this article about your favorite downloadable PSN game, and why it’s your favorite, by 12:00 PM CST on December 22.

Two lucky winners will be picked at random and will receive their code via email or direct message. Be sure to post with a valid account so we can get your code to you. If you post as a “Guest” we have no way of reaching you.

Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Gamer’s Edition

Temperatures are slowly creeping towards sub-zero. Radio stations and malls everywhere are switching on the holiday music. Pine trees and other decorations are going up all over the world. And once again millions of people are procrastinating on their holiday shopping.

Lucky for you, gamers are an easy bunch to buy gifts for. Skip the throngs of mad shoppers and harried store clerks and order everything online!

While buying the games themselves may be simple, deciding which ones specifically can be a bit trickier. To help you out, I’ve compiled a list of recently released, universally acclaimed games which almost anyone should be able to find some joy in.

Let’s get started!

PC: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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Dragons. A word that evokes images of majestic, fearsome, flying creatures. And in Skyrim you get to stab them in the face.

Skyrim is the fifth installment in the incredibly popular Elder Scrolls series. The Elder Scrolls games are all about freedom, and Skyrim proves to be no exception. Once past the relatively brief introductory quest you’re free to roam the province of Skyrim’s roughly 16 square miles of digital land mass. Exploration is encouraged, with dungeons littering the landscape and NPCs just aching to hand out quests. It’s pretty much expected that on your way to finish one quest your journal will fill up with five new ones.

Five years have passed since the release of the last game in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion, and it shows. Skyrim is packed with tons of little details that will continue to surprise you. Not to mention it looks gorgeous. With high-end hardware and a bit of tweaking you can capture some pretty amazing looking screenshots, but even on default settings with middling hardware you’ll often catch yourself staring in awe at Skyrim’s beautiful landscapes.

Skyrim is without a doubt one of the best games released this year, and pretty much anyone will be able to find dozens of hours of entertainment within its wintry borders.

Note: While the PC is probably the premiere platform to own Skyrim on, it is also available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. If your giftee’s PC isn’t powerful enough to play Skyrim, or if you aren’t sure, it’s still certainly worth playing on either of the other two platforms.

Alternate suggestions:

Minecraft (again)
Bastion (also available on Xbox 360)
Battlefield 3 (also available on Xbox 360 and PS3)

Xbox 360: Forza Motorsport 4

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Like last year’s Gran Turismo 5, Forza Motorsport 4 attempts to bring the expensive and dangerous sport of car racing into your living room in as realistic a fashion as possible, and for the most part it succeeds.

Similar to its predecessors, most of your time in Forza 4 will be spent in its extensive career mode, traveling the globe, winning races, and building up your impressive stable of cars. Forza 4 boasts an impressive roster of more than 500 fully modeled cars, so you’ll have your hands full trying to collect them all.

If you happen to own the Kinect add-on you’ll see some integration with that as well. Ditch the controller completely and steer with just your hands (I’m guessing it’s just as uncomfortable as it sounds), or use it to augment your existing experience and let it translate your head movements while still using traditional controls.

Forza 4 also features an in-depth paint job editor. Now you can finally own that My Little Pony themed Lamborghini Gallardo you’ve always wanted!

Alternate suggestions:

Batman: Arkham City (also available on PC and PS3)
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition
Saints Row: The Third (also available on PC and PS3)

Playstation 3: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception

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Drake’s Deception has you once again stepping into the shoes of Indiana Jon… I mean, Nathan Drake, as he circles the globe searching for some lost treasure or other. Along the way you’ll encounter the usual baddies out to kill you, scale crumbling walls, and generally experience the action and explosions of a standard Michael Bay film. The Uncharted series might be getting a bit formulaic at this point, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.

At its core the Uncharted series is a cover-based third person shooter, but there are some other gameplay elements like hand-to-hand combat and stealth sections that help to break up the monotony of shooting people in the face. While I may a joke about Uncharted’s striking similarities to Indiana Jones, there really isn’t anything wrong with that. Drake’s Deception perfectly captures that wonderful Indiana Jones-y feeling of adventure and intrigue.

Alternate suggestions:

Resistance 3
Dark Souls (also available on Xbox 360)
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (also available on Xbox 360)

Wii: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

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The Legend of Zelda is one the longest running currently active video game series, and holds a special place in many gamer’s hearts. Skyward Sword manages to shake up the traditional Zelda formula a bit, but many people are calling it the best game in the series since Ocarina of Time.

The biggest departure from previous Legend of Zelda games is how Skyward Sword controls. It requires the Wii MotionPlus controller add-on, and instead of just wildly flailing your arms to swing Link’s sword like you might have done in Twilight Princess, in Skyward Sword your arm movements are mapped directly to Link’s movements on-screen. Enemies in Skyward Sword are designed in such a way that you usually have hit them in a certain manner to do damage.

With its charming art style and top-notch gameplay, Skyward Sword makes an excellent gift for anyone on your list, regardless of their age.

Alternate suggestion:

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Conclusion

There you have it, four games that any gamer would be happy to find under the Christmas tree. If you have any additional suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Image credit: tsmall

How to get banned from the PlayStation Network in 30 days or less

PlayStation Network BAN
If you know what you're doing, it's not that hard to pull off.

I’ve written about the sorry state of customer service in the world today and PlayStation’s Customer Service Department is no different. In fact, Sony has assembled a highly talented team of individuals when it comes to bungling customer relations to the point of losing a loyal customer forever.

A loyal customer for 16 years that’s spent an unfathomable amount of money since the original PlayStation was released in 1995. A loyal customer that sold his Xbox 360 to buy a PS3 the week it came out.

This is how I described myself, before yesterday.

Yesterday was the day my PlayStation account was banned forever.

I’ve always wondered how one can possibly get their account banned. The PlayStation network is full of anti-Semitic, racist, sexist usernames, and none of these users seem to have any problems accessing the PSN so they can verbally abuse every person they ever meet online. Sure, there’s a system to report these types of individuals, but how often does Sony ever take action against them?

Being one of the lucky few who’s been banned, I’ve decided to compile a step-by-step guide of a sure-fire way to get banned from the PlayStation Network in 30 days or less. 

1. Store your credit card information on your PSN account.

In hind-sight, this was a stupid thing to do, especially after witnessing Sony’s highly talented team of network security specialists in action. However, this step is necessary for getting your account banned.

2. Wait for your PSN account to get hacked.

There’s not really much to do here except wait. But rest assured, Sony’s network engineers have all but guaranteed that it will happen sooner or later.

3. Allow the hacker to purchase $220 worth of content in 6 minutes.

The $220 will be charged to your credit card. I actually feel kind of lucky that $220 was all that was taken from me. I also feel lucky the hacker didn’t hijack my account by changing my password. Either way, the specific dollar amount doesn’t matter so much, but a larger amount will increase your chances of success.

The 30 days or less starts here.

4. Call PlayStation and report unauthorized use of your PSN account.

This step is fairly self-explanatory. You will get a lecture about fraud, and they will tell you to dispute the transaction with the issuer of your credit card. After being on hold for what felt like ages and finally getting to explain the situation, I was actually told “Sorry, I can’t help you.”

5. Dispute the transactions with the issuer of your credit card.

This was actually a surprisingly painless process. I spent 5 minutes on the phone with a representative from my bank, who asked me a series of questions about the disputed charges. About a week later, I had to sign an affidavit confirming my intent to dispute the charges, and I also received my new credit card.

6. Wait a few weeks for your credit card company to refuse payment.

The transactions should be removed from your account immediately, but you’ll find out in a few weeks if your dispute was successful or not. Make sure you didn’t fraudulently dispute legitimate charges, as you could end up in legal trouble.

7. Turn on your PS3, and be notified of your ban.

PSN Account Banned
Success!!!

8. Create a new PSN account, or buy an Xbox 360.

You will still be able to access your downloaded games as long as you don’t delete your banned account from the console. The only thing that will be lost is Trophies, so be prepared for your online ego to take a hit.

PlayStation Plus: Worth the fuss?

PlayStation PlusOn June 29th, 2010, Sony unveiled its premium service, PlayStation Plus, to its community of users. While many customers complain that it offers features that should be offered for every PS3 user, such as the ability to back up game saves to the cloud, the meat and potatoes of PlayStation Plus is the free and discounted content. Priced at $50 for 15 months, or $18 for 3 months, many gamers (excluding myself) have opted to pay the extra money for the benefits.

Is the service worth the price tag, or is it a waste of gamers’ hard-earned cash?

While PlayStation Plus has been out for a full year now, I didn’t get my first taste of the service until a few weeks ago, when Sony provided every active PSN account with a free month as an apology for their abysmal security architecture. None of the special offers through the service ever enticed me enough to fork over any money, but since it came my way for free, I gave it a shot.

Warning: The following article details my enjoyment, or lack thereof, with PlayStation Plus. Your enjoyment may differ greatly.

Premium Themes and Avatars

In the few weeks I’ve been able to download a slew of dynamic themes and premium avatars, which is undoubtedly cool. But would I spend my paycheck on them? Absolutely not. I figured I’d snag everything that I could while it was free, because the best tasting lunch is always free lunch.

  • Avatars: $0 value
  • Dynamic Themes: $0 value

Free Downloadable Games

I’ve also been able to download two stand-alone games for free. The first of which is Streets of Rage 2, which I enjoyed for about an hour and earned a handful of trophies. Yawn. The classic Sega Genesis game would have cost me $5 without PlayStation Plus, but I’ll probably never touch the game again. The other game was Magic: The Gathering, which I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it even a little bit. Free or not, I can’t help but feel I wasted a part of my life I can never get back.

PlayStation Plus also offers a feature called Full Game Trial, which allows the user to download a full retail game and play it for an hour. My problem with this feature is that I’ll spend four hours downloading a 7 GB game, and the trial only lasts for one hour. Spending 80% of my time downloading and 20% playing isn’t exactly my idea of fun. Whatever happened to demos?

  • Streets of Rage 2: $5 value
  • Magic: The Gathering: -$5 value
  • Full Game Trial: $0 value

Discounted Content

For the past few weeks, discounted downloadable content has been available for several games, all of which I do not own. Since I own none of the games, I haven’t been able to take advantage of the discounts. Aside from DLC, several downloadable games have been offered at a discounted price. However, since I had no desire to buy any of them in the first place, why would I buy them at a discount? I still don’t want them. While it’s not Sony’s fault that I don’t happen to like the provided selection, it still provides me with no value.

  • Discounted Content: $0 value

Qore

The other free content included with PlayStation plus is Qore. I was able to download and watch the May and June episodes. While it’s kind of cool to get an “inside scoop” into upcoming games and movie releases, there’s no real value here. I could just as easily hop on my laptop or my new HTC Trophy and find the information, along with a plethora of additional tidbits.

  • Qore: $0 value

Early Access Content

Everybody knows that the American consumer loves to feel special. As a society, we just eat it up. Naturally, Sony leverages this by offering early access to content such as demos, new releases, and even highly-anticipated Beta programs such as Uncharted 3 . Maybe I simply don’t have enough time on my hands to dive into all of this content, or maybe I’m just a chump, but again, I have failed to take advantage of this portion of what PlayStation Plus has to offer.

While none of the early access content has a real monetary value, there definitely is some value to be had here. But between work, being married, owning a house, and feeding my evil cat, I don’t have time to jump into the free stuff. I’m still finishing Dragon Age: Origins, after all.

  • Early Access Content: $0 value

Additional Features

Aside from downloadable content, there are a couple of “premium features” that PS3 users receive. One such feature is the aforementioned ability to back up game saves to the cloud. This is supposed to be nice if you want to game on multiple PS3s, or frequently play over at your friend’s house. However, I’ve never had a need to use the feature. I understand that it’s probably an invaluable feature for many users, but not for me.

Another feature is the ability to auto-update your 10 last-played games, even when you are not using your system. The idea behind this is that you won’t have to wait to download and install a patch before you can jump back online and trash talk some guy living in his mother’s basement.

  • Additional Features: $0 value

Overall

In the end, I’d have to say that unless Sony ups the ante with its PlayStation Plus offerings, I won’t become a paid subscriber any time soon. It seems to follow a very popular business model of getting consumers to spend more money than they otherwise would.

  • Grand Total: $5 – $5 = $0

There’s no doubt about it: PlayStation Plus is a great $0 value. I can’t complain about the few weeks I’ve been a member because it was free, but is it worth the price tag for me? Absolutely not. Is it worth the price tag for you? Maybe.

If you’ve yet to try PlayStation Plus, I hope you find my overview of the features and benefits to be useful, and you can make your own judgment. If, like me, you tried PlayStation Plus for the first time because of the Welcome Back offer, how was your experience? Will you become a paid subscriber?

‘Til the Blinking Red Light of Death Do Us Part

PS3

I can still remember the launch of the Sony PlayStation 3. While the supply shortage was nowhere near that of the launch of the Wii or Xbox 360, it was still quite difficult to get your hands on one. All I knew is that I wanted a PS3. I wanted one badly enough to pay $600 for one, even though I already had an Xbox 360. I found my PS3 on the second weekend after the launch, and I never looked back over the next 37 months.

Then, suddenly, tragedy struck. I was playing Fallout: New Vegas when the game came chugging to a halt, I heard a loud beep-beep-beep noise, and the game shut off. Fallout has a reputation for being very buggy and having frequent freezes and crashes, so I didn’t think too much of it. I restarted my PS3 and began to play Fallout again. After killing a couple Powder Gangers, it happened again. So I tried restarting the PS3 one more time, and within 10 seconds, before I could even get the game booted up, it crashed yet again. It was the dreaded “Blinking Red Light of Death.”

I spent the next few hours trying all troubleshooting ideas I could find on the internet. Some people have made claims that entering the debug menu and restoring the file system will fix the problem. No luck. Others claimed that removing the hard drive and re-seating it in the HDD slot will fix it. Nothing. I’d also read that it could be from the fans being clogged with dust on the inside of the machine, and that I should run a “fan test”. Not even close.

All of the other suggestions, tutorials, and walkthroughs suggested taking the PS3 apart and re-soldering the GPU and Cell Processor to the motherboard. Keeping in mind that I didn’t have the tools necessary to take on this job, and the fact that I thought Electric Engineering 201 & 202 were hard in college, I decided not to go this route. I didn’t feel like spending 2 hours attempting a fix that I would likely screw up and make things worse.

This left me with two options: send my console to Sony and have them repair it for $150, or buy a new PS3 Slim for $300. On the one hand, I could save a little money going the repair route. On the other hand, I could get a smaller, brand new console for only twice the money. My dead 60GB console has PlayStation 2 backwards-compatibility, but I realized that I never use it. The PS2 games that I still have are sitting exactly where they were when I first moved to Chicago, so it was unlikely I’d play them anytime soon. Also, I didn’t want to take the risk of the repair lasting only a short time before the console broke again. In the end, I decided to buy a new console.

PS3 Slim
The PS3 Slim is a lot sexier than the original model...

Going the route of buying a new console was not without its hurdles, however. The first challenge was retaining my game saves and purchased PSN games on the new console. Sony provides a “Data Transfer Utility” for transferring all content, even protected content, from one console to a replacement console. The challenge was getting the data off of the old console that doesn’t work for longer than 10 seconds. I thought I’d give it a try since I had nothing to lose.

In order to perform the procedure, both consoles need to be connected to different inputs on the TV, so I hooked the new one up to HDMI, and the old one up to Composite Video. This is when I discovered that my broken PS3 still worked fine running at 480i through the AV Multi Out port. I can’t imagine anyone would be satisfied gaming on a PS3 in 480i with a 55” Samsung 1080p LCD television, so I did the logical thing and just took advantage of the old console running long enough to transfer my data to the new console.

After the entire ordeal was complete, an astonishing 24 hours later, my new PS3 Slim is functioning as if it was the same console. If the Blinking Red Light of Death ever happens to you, I have two pieces of advice: dig out your composite video cable, and be patient with the data transfer utility. The result will be worth it, and will lessen the sting of dropping $300 on the replacement console.

Detailed information about all of the troubleshooting steps I attempted, as well as the ones I chose not to attempt, can be found aplenty on Google and YouTube, so I won’t go into further details here.

Techerator Holiday Gift Guide: Gamer’s Edition

The holidays are right around the corner, and if you’re anything like me you haven’t even thought about starting to shop for gifts. In the past this situation might have ended with you in tears at the mall, desperately fighting against throngs of soccer moms and biting children, hoping to grab the last of whatever this year’s best seller ends up being in the final days leading to Christmas.

This year, however, with our series of gift guides and the convenience of online shopping, you can buy gifts for everyone on your list in between matches of Call of Duty.

Gamers can be a tricky bunch to buy for. Taste in games varies wildly, and if you’re unlucky you might accidentally buy Kinect Sports for someone who was hoping to play Fallout on Christmas morning. Talk about embarrassing.

Thankfully, some games have near universal appeal, that any gamer would be happy to find in his or her stocking. I’m here to tell you about these games, one for each of the major systems available today.

PC – Minecraft

Do you have someone on your list who likes Legos? Of course you do, everyone likes Legos. It should then follow naturally that everyone likes Minecraft.

Minecraft has been around for a while now, but this past summer it saw an explosion in popularity, and it seemed like every PC gaming website on the planet was giving their take on the indie sensation. All this attention didn’t come without a reason, and Mincraft – though it’s still in the alpha stage of development – manages to live up to the lofty expectations set by its success.

In its current form Minecraft is a pure sandbox style game. There are no goals to accomplish except those set by yourself, and you can do anything you want, whenever and wherever you want. All the geometry in the game (including your character) is based around the simple Lego-style block, which can be combined with other blocks of different types to form new objects. Punch a tree for long enough and a block of wood will fall out. Combine two blocks of wood and you get a stick. Combine that stick with blocks of coal that can be mined, and you end up with a torch that can light your path.

Blocks of material can also be moved around to create structures in the game world. This comes in handy, as you can build yourself a house to protect you from the monsters that come out during the game’s nighttime.

On top of how fun and engaging Minecraft can be, until it’s final release the game can be bought at a discount. That means you can afford to buy yourself a copy as well!

Try building THAT with your Legos.

Xbox 360 – Fable III

Peter Molyneux, the mind behind the Fable series, is a bit of a controversial figure in the world of gaming. He’s the man responsible for some of the greatest games in the history of the PC, including Dungeon Keeper, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, and Black & White. More recently, however, he has a habit of making claims that his games cannot possibly deliver on (see his Wikipedia entry for more information).

Thankfully, Fable III manages to live up to most of the hype and offer an enjoyable gaming experience. If you played Fable II, you should feel right at home as you’ll be slinging the same spells at the same Balverines, working to level up your melee, ranged, and magical arsenals.

On top of the familiar gameplay, your character now also has to deal with the day to day management of a kingdom, with your decisions influencing the direction the game takes. Heavily tax your citizens and let criminals wander freely and the world responds by becoming visibly poorer. Take the opposite strategy and watch as your kingdom flourishes.

Fable III isn’t without its flaws, but is absolutely bursting with charm that makes it impossible to not enjoy, making it an excellent holiday gift for that gamer on your list.

Playstation 3 – Gran Turismo 5

Ok, I lied a little bit earlier. Gran Turismo 5 might not have universal appeal, but to the right person it might be just what they’re hoping for, and it’s definitely going to be a big seller this holiday season. Does the person you’re shopping for make their own motor noises while cruising around town in their purple Dodge Stratus? Get them Gran Turismo 5 and they’ll love you for life.

Any car/driving/racing enthusiast will find plenty to do in Gran Turismo 5. The fifth iteration (obviously) of the critically acclaimed driving simulation series Gran Turismo, GT5 is a game that’s been in the making for six long years. It boasts a roster of over 1000 cars (though some are more detailed than others), and you’ll be doing everything from go-kart racing at 75 MPH, to learning about NASCAR from Jeff Gordon, to, of course, lots of racing in cars you’ll never be able to afford on real world tracks you’ll never visit.

Gran Turismo 5 certainly isn’t perfect, but it still manages to succeed on a level never before seen in a racing simulator. If you want to know what went on during those six years of development, hop into your favorite supercar and take it for a spin around Nürburgring. As you open up the throttle on the track’s long straightaway, taking in the beautiful scenery, the roar of the engine loud in your ears, you’ll know you’re playing something special. Or at least whoever you buy it for will.

Yes, it's that pretty

Wii – Goldeneye

Ah, the memories. Four kids huddled around a tiny TV. Each looking at their quarter of the screen, pretending not to look at anyone else’s. Ripping each other apart with RCP-90s and blowing each other to bits with the dreaded proximity mine. That one kid who always (annoyingly) picked Oddjob. If you played video games in the ’90s, you know exactly what I’m talking about: Goldeneye. The name alone brings back waves of nostalgia.

Unlike Perfect Dark for the Xbox 360, Goldeneye for the Wii isn’t a direct port of the N64 classic. Instead, it’s more of a re-imagining. Throughout the game you’ll see some familiar areas, but there’s plenty of new ground to cover and people to shoot. Additionally, Pierce Brosnan’s visage has been replaced by the most recent actor to play James Bond, Daniel Craig.

Multiplayer can be enjoyed by up to four people on one console, split-screen style, or you can opt to take the more modern approach and play with up to seven other people online. All your favorite classic characters make an appearance (yes, even Oddjob), and even the one-shot-one-kill Golden Gun returns to wreak havoc. Any classic gamer on your list lucky enough to get it will certainly enjoy Goldeneye.

Nintendo DS – Super Scribblenauts

Before its release, the original Scribblenauts was set to be quite possibly the greatest game of all time (I might be exaggerating slightly). It allowed you to think of nearly any object, type it out, and watch it appear before your eyes. Particularly tough enemy got you down? Instantiate a time machine, take it back to the past, and ride back to the present on a freaking dinosaur and eat the problem away. Or just summon Cthulu and watch as one of the Great Old Ones demolishes your opposition. Only your imagination (and the game’s nearly bottomless dictionary) stood in the way of solving all the puzzles the game had to offer.

Unfortunately, infuriating controls and some lame levels marred an otherwise enjoyable experience. This year, Scribblenauts is back, bigger and better than ever.

Super Scribblenauts manages to solve most of the problems of the first game. The annoying touch-based only controls of the previous installment can now be replaced by more precise d-pad controls if you wish, and the level design is much improved. Additionally, adjectives can now be attached to objects you summon. Why wield a simple sword when you can instead brandish a much more intimidating flaming sword? Almost anyone can find joy in playing Super Scribblenauts, making it a perfect gift.

Sony PSP – God of War: Ghost of Sparta

The God of War franchise is known for its stellar gameplay and polished gaming experience, and this excellence carries over to its latest mini form, Ghost of Sparta.

Just like in past incarnations of God of War, you play as the demigod Kratos, and like usual you’re mad as hell.  Thankfully there are legions of mythical creatures just waiting for you to hack and slash them to bits and release some of your anger.

And boy is that hacking and slashing pretty. Somehow God of War‘s developers have managed to cram the graphical quality of a PS2 game into the aging hardware of the PSP. Ghost of Sparta is one of the must-have games for Sony’s portable console, so it’s a safe purchase for that special someone on your list.

And now for a bonus stocking stuffer idea:

Xbox 360/PS3/Wii Online Points Card, or iTunes Gift Card

If you’re having a tough time deciding what to get, take the easy way out and buy the gaming equivalent of a gift card. All three of the major consoles have an online service where plenty of downloadable games are available for purchase, so they’re bound to find something they like.

While iTunes might be most recognized for its music store, there are also plenty of games available. If your giftee owns an iPod Touch or iPhone, an iTunes gift card makes a great gift idea.

That’s it from me. If you have additional suggestions for good gifts for gamers, feel free to leave them in the comments section found below!

Image credit: wlodi

Netflix on PS3 and Wii is Finally Disc-Free!

More than likely you have heard of a little – I mean HUGE – company called Netflix. Yes, the company that runs on ingenuity and has made thousands of movies, TV shows and documentaries available via mail and instant streaming. While they are still mailing out movies and TV shows, it’s nothing compared to the amount of content that is streamed instantly every hour of every day.

Some of the different platforms through which a person can stream instantly include game consoles, streaming players, Blu-ray players, HDTV, DVRs, mobile devices and home theater systems. You can learn more about that here.

Over a year ago, Netflix decided to capitalize on gaming consoles.  Instant streaming was first available on the Xbox 360 via a software upgrade, and the feature was later brought to the Wii and PlayStation 3 by mailing out discs, upon request, that would allow access to Netflix instant streaming. This all changed recently, though, as Netflix has made a native application available to both PS3 and Wii owners.

The PS3 Netflix interface is very user friendly, intuitive and simple. The movie icons are on the right, while the menu is on the left. Finding a movie to watch has never been easier as flipping through titles takes no time at all. You will be able to browse through hundreds of titles within minutes.

You also have the availability to go through five “menus” including Suggestions for You, New Arrivals, Genres, Instant Queue, and Search.  Netflix instant streaming on the PS3 also boasts certain movies and shows available in 1080p HD, 5.1 digital surround sound, and the availability to watch a good portion of films with subtitles.

Below are some steps that you can take to get Netflix instant streaming up and running in no time so you can watch your favorite movies and shows.

To utilize instant streaming via PS3:

“Connect your PS3 system to the internet. Sign-up for or sign-in to your free PlayStation Network account. Go to the PlayStation Network section of the XMB then select “What’s New”. Click on the Netflix icon to download and install the Netflix application.”


To utilize instant streaming via Nintendo Wii:

“Go to your Wii menu, download and install the Netflix application from within the Wii Shop Channel, and follow the on screen instructions to connect your Wii to your Netflix account.”

To utilize instant streaming via Xbox 360:

“If you have these, go to your Xbox menu, download and install the Netflix application from within the Video Marketplace, then go http://www.netflix.com/Activate to activate your device.”

If you are a Netflix subscriber, then you know just how awesome Netflix really is! The fact that you can now instantly stream thousands of movies, TV shows, cartoons,and documentaries through multiple gaming consoles without the hassle of waiting for a disc to come in the mail, keeping up with the disc, and having to take a game out of the console every time you want to watch a movie is another reason why Netflix is slowly putting other movie rental places to shame. I’ve had my Netflix account for over two years and will continue to enjoy it.

Netflix currently offers several plans:

  • $8.99 a month: 1 DVD out at a time+ unlimited instant watching
  • $13.99 a month: 2 DVDs out at a time + unlimited instant watching
  • $16.99 a month: 3 DVDs out at a time + unlimited instant watching
  • $23.99 a month: 4 DVDs out at a time + unlimited instant watching

For more about Netflix or instant streaming, visit the Netflix website.

Review: Fat Princess

Have your cake and eat it too.

Developer: Titan Studios
Genre: Action
Release Date: July 30th, 2009
Number of Players: 1-32
ESRB Rating: T
Platform: PS3

Author’s Note: This review was written after the release of the first patch, using version 1.02 of the game. Since the connection issues from the original release have been almost completely resolved (for me at least), they won’t factor into my score.

Fat Princess is the first title from developer Titan Studios. I’ve heard it described as Team Fortress 2 in a medieval setting, and while that isn’t completely accurate, it does give a pretty good idea of how Fat Princess plays out. Two teams of sixteen players each (a mix of human players and bots) compete in a variety of different game modes, slinging spells and decapitating opponents along the way.

Players are able to choose from five different classes, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Newly spawned characters start as a neutral class with low health and weak attacks. Even this base class has its uses, however, as it’s faster than all of the other classes. Class changes are made by putting on the class’ respective hat. Hats can be found either from hat machines in the player’s base or from fallen combatants strewn about the battlefield. The hat machines can each be upgraded once, providing an alternate version to the respective machine’s class.

review_fatprincess_1The Warrior is your stereotypical tank, having the most health and packing quite a punch. The Ranger has a moderate amount of health and the longest attack range of any class. Healing duties are handled by The Priest, whose presence can turn the tide in a battle. The Mage can unleash a devastating area of effect attack, and can also launch fireballs directly at enemies in a one-on-one situation. The final class rounding out the cast is The Worker. The Worker harvests the game’s two resources, wood and stone. Workers can then use these resources to upgrade hat machines, build structures such as ladders to aid in attack, and construct doors to keep out the enemy.

Players will find themselves competing in five different game types. ‘Rescue the Princess’ is the most popular mode, and probably the one you’ll be playing most often. Each team has the enemy’s princess held hostage, and the goal is to rescue your own princess while retaining possession of the enemy’s. Hold both for thirty seconds and you’ll win the match. While this may sound like a fairly standard Capture the Flag match, a couple of variations keep the formula fresh. Pieces of cake are littered across the map. Carry a piece back to the captive princess and she’ll eat it, growing fatter and harder to move. She’ll get skinnier over time, so you’ll have to feed her a constant stream of confectioneries to keep the enemy from making a clean getaway.

‘Snatch n’ Grab’, another game type, gives you slight variation on Rescue the Princess. In this mode your aim is to rescue your captive princess a total of three times.  Your team doesn’t need to be in possession of both princesses to score.

‘Team Deathmatch’ is fairly self explanatory. The princesses are done away with; instead each team starts with a point pool. Every time a player respawns, a point is subtracted from their team’s pool. Force the enemy team to zero points to score a victory.

review_fatprincess_2Placed around the maps in strategic areas are capture points. Hang around them for a while and you’ll take control of the capture point for your team. Workers can deposit resources here, and your team can also use these points to quickly recover health. In the ‘Invasion’ game type, your goal is to control as many of these points as possible. Each team again starts with a point pool, and if your team controls more than half of the capture points your opponent’s point pool will slowly deplete. Completely drain the enemy’s point pool to win.

The final game type, ‘Soccer’, plays completely different from the previous types. Players spawn on a soccer field, and instead of retrieving hats from machines the hats are randomly spawned around the field. Soccer balls randomly appear on the field, and your aim is to kick it into the enemy’s goal. Like a game of soccer in the real world, you win by having the most points when time expires.

While most of the action takes place online, there are a couple of single player modes. ‘Legend of the Fat Princess’ will take you through basics and let you familiarize yourself with the controls and game mechanics. It can be completed in about an hour, and there’s essentially no reason to play through it again after doing so. The ‘Gladiate’ mode lets you pick one of the character classes and attempt to defeat increasingly difficult waves of enemies without dying. The third and final mode is titled ‘Mess About’, and lets you set up a custom single player game. You’re able to select the game mode, the map to be played on, and the number of bots among other options. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the game’s maps and try out different tactics under controlled conditions.

review_fatprincess_3Getting online is a breeze. You can host your own game if the mood strikes you, or you can let the matchmaker find a game for you. Either way, you’ll be slaughtering Mages and stuffing the princess full of cake in about twenty seconds.

Online matches themselves are hit or miss. If you manage to get into a game with a decent number of human players who can work together you’ll have a blast. The classes are relatively well balanced and each and every one is enjoyable to play. If you find yourself growing bored of healing your teammates, switch over to the Mage and start setting people on fire.

A few technical details can mar the experience. The most glaring offense is the atrocious bot AI. You’ll frequently find yourself running right past a bot without them even attempting to engage you. They’ll stand there stupidly while you attack them from a distance. The bots have no concept of strategy, and will happily take over a meaningless capture point while the rest of your team is attempting to return the princess. This can become a serious problem, since bots fill the empty spots on a team if no human player is available. Since players can change teams after matches, what inevitably happens is everyone switches to the winning team, leaving a few human players and mostly bots on the other team. An auto-balancing feature would be a very important addition to online matches.

Games will frequently end in a stalemate. If the number of bots in a match far outweigh the number of human players, or if neither team is able to work together to capture the princess, games will devolve into pointless killing matches that eventually end in a tie.

review_fatprincess_4Graphically speaking, Fat Princess delivers. Titan Studios went for a cartoony style reminiscent of last year’s Castle Crashers. Character models and backgrounds are simple but elegant. Character animations are anything but flashy, but do serve their purpose. Deaths are particularly exciting, with plenty of cartoon blood and dismemberment.

A helpful announcer keeps you informed on current events. He’ll keep you up to date on what’s happening (“We have the princess!”), frequently with a comedic twist (“They’re in our base! Killing our dudes!”). Characters speak in high pitched munchkin voices, and the princesses irritably scream for more cake. The musical score is pretty much what you’d expect, with various medieval sounding tracks playing throughout the game.

Fat Princess Shows a great deal of potential. If you check out Titan Studio’s blog for the game you’ll find that they’re committed to making Fat Princess as great a game as possible. They’ve already released one patch that fixes several issues, and they’re hard at work putting together another one. They quite obviously didn’t just release Fat Princess and turn all of their attention to the next project.

Fat Princess can be found on the PSN Store for $15. It doesn’t quite live up to expectations, but still provides solid class based multiplayer gameplay.

Pros:
Great sense of humor
Can be a tremendous amount of fun
Has graphical style
Developer continues to support

Cons:
Laughable bot AI
No auto balancing of teams (yet)
Stalemate endings

Bottom Line:
Fat Princess delivers a good amount of team based fun, occasionally spoiled by technical issues. It’s worth looking into for all PS3 owners, especially with Titan Studios working to improve it even more.

Final Score (out of 10):

7.9