Thursday, December 11, 2008

Xbox 360 NXE Review

The Xbox 360 has been around for a few years now and has had a good run of it. It beat the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii to the market by a good year and has been going strong since. (It’s my favorite console thus far…and I’ve had ‘em all!)

With Xbox going so strong and no new console on the horizon, I was rather shocked that Microsoft would offer a complete overhaul of the Xbox 360 firmware for free via the Xbox Live service. This update, released this past November 19th is called the “New Xbox Experience” (or NXE for all you hipsters with your acronyms) and offers updates on the old system and a handful of new features.

Let’s discuss.

Updated Features

The Dashboard in General
Gone is the blade system Xbox 360 owners have grown to know and love. It’s been replaced with a navigation system that I can only describe as “iPod-like”. This isn’t a bad thing. I love the iTunes 3D album flipping and the new NXE navigation is exactly like that. It’s a little disorienting at first, having grown accustomed to the blades, but I rapidly got the hang of it.

The basic layout is an up/down menu in the top left of the screen listing the main areas of the Xbox. As you scroll through these, the 3D images change accordingly and you use right/left to select whatever it is you’re looking for. The areas available are:

Spotlight: This is what opens whenever you turn on your 360 and is basically a nice little cross section of updates from al the other categories. My only protest to this area is that you can’t select anything other than this to be your default screen upon powering up. I’d much rather just hop to…

My Xbox: This is where you’ll spend more of your time. It allows you to select from your games, XBLA, your profile, media and system settings.

Video Marketplace: This is exactly what it sounds like. You’re able to view videos that are available on XBL (including the amazing and hilarious web series The Guild…which is bloody FREE for download! Go get it!). Sorry got sidetracked. You can also view videos from your HDD and access the new Netflix feature which I’ll discuss below under “new features”.

Game Marketplace: Again, this is what we’ve come to know from XBL. You’re able to browse XBLA games, demos, game videos and the like and download them to your hard drive. Simple enough.

Inside Xbox: Here you’re linked into Microsoft’s shows like Major Nelson’s Minute and such as well as 360 video previews and movie trailers. The nice thing added here is that you can now browse the archive of past showings. Miss that IGN Insider covering getting the easy achievements? Just hit X and you’re able to browse through all the old shows and watch whatever you like. Keen!

Events: This is a link to upcoming XBL events including Game with Fame, Gamerchix and Family Playnights among others. I haven’t used this at all yet. And lastly but definitely note leastly…

Friends: Shows all your XBL friends and their avatars. If they’re online, they’re awake and waving at you. If not, they’re snoozing. Cool enough and easy to find what you’re looking for.

Shortcut Menu
The last bit of navigation update is the simple shortcut menu accessible by hitting the Xbox button on your controller. This one harkens back to the previous blade design. You just flip left and right to find whatever you’re looking for. You’re able to access games, profiles, themes, active downloads, friends, parties…you name it. Best of all, it can be done while playing a game! Simple and effective.

Themes
Yes. You can use your old themes on the new NXE. However, all the cool themes you had with multiple images are all but useless since you’ll only see one image most of the time. The extra images are only seen in certain instances where you are looking at video marketplace or settings and the like. Yeah. Kinda lame but the new premium themes are sweet…check out the info below under “new features”.

Alright…now onward to the…

New Features

Avatars
This is the one everyone was waiting for and talking about. Sure. It’s a total and blatant rip-off of Nintendo’s Miis from the Wii console but amped up full on Xbox style. As opposed to the Wii, you’re able to customize your Xbox avatar to a crazy degree. You can change not only the look of the character all the way down to what kind of mole you may have on your face (which I wouldn’t suggest advertising to the world) but you have a full wardrobe at your fingertips. There’s enough here to get everyone started no matter your style.

My first thought was that it would be easy to get updates to the wardrobe via XBL Marketplace and I was certain that Microsoft would have us trade XBL points for them. I was proven wrong thus far when a new “winter” wardrobe update was released last week for free.

My only suggestion here would be game specific t-shirts and/or costumes. How cool would it be to have a H.E.V. suit from Half Life 2? One can wish.

Parties
This is a cool feature accessible from either the “friends” tab or the Xbox shortcut menu that allows you to link up with your friends and hop from game together without any slowdown or to simply chat when you’re not playing the same game. I haven’t used this much yet since my multi-player experience is usually limited to playing Uno on XBLA.

Premium Themes
As mentioned above, these new “premium” themes are actually really cool and will, in time, replace the traditional “wallpaper” type themes were used to. These themes change more than just the background. This is most noticed on the “friends” tab. Normally, you’d see your friends avatars standing next to a pile of Xbox regalia. However, install a premium theme, and all changes. For example, the “Castle Crashers” theme now has your friends standing next to game graphics like trees, barns and the like. Very cool effect.

Netflix
The Video Marketplace has added the ability to view Netflix films via your Xbox (assuming you’re a Netflix subscriber of course). This is a cool feature but not one I’ve used yet since I haven’t used Netflix in over a year. I may review this feature in full on a later date but for now, the gist is that all those films you were able to watch instantly on your PC are now available to watch right on your television. See? Cool if you have Netflix. No more waiting on discs or paying XBL points to rent a movie! Huzzah!

Full Game Installs
This feature allows you to install games directly to your HDD. I thought it was an awesome idea until I realized that you still had to have the original game disc in the drive for it to work. (Which makes sense as it would be a game-pirate paradise otherwise.) The objective is to reduce load times with games. I installed Elder Scrolls IV and didn’t notice that much of a difference. There are a few seconds differences here and there but not worth wasting HDD space for. This isn’t something that I’ll probably ever use.

That’s it folks! The New Xbox Experience in a nutshell!

Final Thoughts
Yes. The NXE rips off both Apple and Nintendo. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. It makes for a unique experience that I am very pleased with and one that I’m glad I didn’t have to wait for the next gen Xbox to hit to get. It’s functional, elegant and simple and a huge step above the previous Xbox OS. In the end, it’s well worth getting and, if you’re planning on using XBL, it’s not an option anyway. You have to get it to connect. So…I’m off to play.

See you online!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Forrest J. Ackerman RIP 1916-2008

Earlier today I first read a twitter from @wilw that announced the death of horror legend Forrest J. Ackerman.

The Ackermonster (as he was lovingly called by his fans...myself included) had been ill of late so it wasn't entirely a shock when I heard this, but it's still a sad day for horror geeks everywhere.

For those of you who don't know, Mr. Ackerman was the publisher of THE horror magazine that started it all...Famous Monsters of Filmland. Any monster kid growing up in the late '70s/early '80s will always hold fond memories of this shrine to all things horrible and fun.

I never had the chance to meet "Uncle Forry" but, nonetheless, he will be missed.

Rest in peace, old friend.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Ghostbusters the Video Game Trailer!

Alright!

Ghostbusters the Video Game finally has an official release date of June 2009!

...and the new trailer is up! OMG! This look so amazing!



I want this so bad that I am currently working feverishly in the lab and searching e-Bay for a DeLorean. Dr. Brown, if you read this, Twitter me!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mario Kart Love Song

If you have a geek girl in your life, play this for her. It'll melt her heart. I promise. Frickin' brilliant!



Having a sweet 'stache wouldn't hurt either.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Few Quick Changes to the Blog (UPDATED)

I tweaked the blog layout a bit tonight and I hope it'll be a little easier to navigate and fun for my readers. (Who am I kidding? Can it get any more fun than reading the ramblings of an old geek? Nah!)

Look! Over on the right-hand side of the page! No! Not there! Scroll down a bit. There ya go! Yes! I added some new links to websites and blogs that I like! You're welcome!

More importantly, I added a section where I can post from Twitter when I have random news and/or musings that don't require an entire blog.

Enjoy! I'm off to watch The Guild: Season 2 Episode 2 on Xbox Live...and that's something I recommend that you do as well. I can offer a 100% guarantee that it'll make your day brighter!
Update: Bah! Episode 2 of the Guild was not on XBL last night as expected. BUT...it IS on The Guild website right now! And yes...it is still worthy of making your day brighter!

(Oh! And yes...the new Xbox Live Experience is friggin' sa-weet! I'm still planning on posting a full review soon...but don't hold your breath as I'm too busy playin' it!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kirk and the Matter Hatter(?) Arrive! (UPDATED)

Okay.

So I've been lax here for a few weeks.

I've no excuse other than having a day job.

But I'm back now and I'm here to present to you some cool goodies!

First off is the newest trailer to J.J. Abrahms "Star Trek" flick! I'll replace this with a higher quality version once I find one. Until then, enjoy! Update: Added higher quality video



As I suspected, Kirk was a bad ass even as a kid!

Anyway...on to the next goody. Ain't it Cool News reported an image this morning that may or may not be Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's upcoming "Alice in Wonderland" movie. Fake or not, it does look cool!












Click on the image for the full size version.

That's it for now, gang! I'll be back more with more some fun stuff later.

(The new XBox Live Experience will be unveiled tomorrow so I'll try and report on that once I get a few days to test it out.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ghostbusters Picked Up by Atari

I just read that Ghostbusters: The Video Game that was due out last October and delayed because of an Activision buyout was picked up by gaming giant Atari for distribution.

The new rumor is that the game will come out sometime during the summer of 2009 with the 25th anniversary of the original film.

The footage that's floating around online of the game looks amazing and I, for one, can't wait to do some bustin'!

For those unfamiliar with the game, the gist is this. It's based on a story written by original writers Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis. The voices of the original Ghostbusters cast have returned to voice the game. It's essentially Ghostbusters 3 as the story takes place after the second film.

Here's a cool gameplay video for your viewing enjoyment...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How Geeky are You?

I scored: 56.21302% - Extreme Geek

...on THIS TEST

Take it and let me know what you get?

"Smallville" to be Replaced with a Dick?


Batman-on-Film just announced that the CW is looking towards our favorite Boy Wonder to fill the slot vacated by Smallville leaving after the upcoming season.

The show'll be called "The Graysons" and take place during young Dick's time and adventures with his high-flying acrobat family before their untimely death and his adoption by Gotham's favorite son.

Could be good if well done. Hey! I actually enjoyed the "Aquaman" pilot!

Click Here to Read the Full Story at Batman-on-Film.com

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Keen Fan-Made Trek Poster


I found this while browsing the interwebs.

It's something a Trek fan mocked up in Photoshop and I like it better than the official posters that have been posted by Paramount.

That's it. Nothing more.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

To Those Dissing the New Trek Film

Okay.

As with any movie based on a beloved franchise, the internet is awash with discussion about J.J. Abram's new Star Trek film.

A lot of it centers around those that are bitching that Trek shouldn't be rebooted or that William Shatner isn't in the film or that Simon Pegg is Scotty.

Here's my thoughts of the moment...

1. This isn't a prequel or a reboot. The basic plot is that a Romulan travels back in time to kill Kirk. Spock travels back and warns his younger self so that the assassination can be stopped. It's in continuity...not a reboot! It is, however, a way to get a fresh crew of the Enterprise out there without pissing off people with simply starting over. I think it's brilliant.

2. Being that it isn't a reboot or prequel, there's no reasonable explanation as to why Shatner would be in the new film. Kirk died in Generations a few films back. Of course, there is the rumor that Kirk was asked to play the new Kirk's father but, as much of a geek tribute that would be, it's not happening. Shatner says so in his interview in the latest issue of Star Trek Magazine.

3. Simon Pegg is a comedic actor and that's lent a lot of people to bitch about his being cast as Scotty. Two things...(1) Scotty is often used as comic relief and (2) Simon Pegg is enough of a fan of Trek that I would like to think he would do his best to honor James Doohan's original portrayal.

Until next time...

Live long and prosper!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Scotty, Bones, Chekov and Sulu! Oh my!


The first benefit of our Star Trek Webmaster program arrived today!

Here's the new images (clockwise from top left) of Sulu (Harold & Kumar's John Cho), Scotty (Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg), Bones (Doom's Karl Urban) and Chekov (Charlie Bartlett's Anton Yelchin).

I don't know about you, but this looks amazing!

I haven't had this much excitement for a Trek movie since First Contact.

And this image is actually the 2nd batch. The first one was this one of Kirk, Uhura, Spock and Romulan baddie Nero .


More to come as it comes in!

Live long and prosper!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

We're a Star Trek Partner!


Hyde & Geek was officially accepted today as part of Paramount's Star Trek webmaster program.

What that means for you, dear reader, is that you'll be getting first news, goodies and whatever else Paramount provides us with right here on the Hyde & Geek blog!

For those of you who've been living under a rock, the quick skinny is that the new film is a prequel to the original series telling the tale of the early adventures of Kirk, Spock and Bones (played by Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban). It's directed by J.J. Abrams who made a little television program about plane crash survivors "Lost" on an island...but I can't remember the title.

Oh! And the new Scotty? Simon Pegg!

I'm keepin' my eyes peeled on this one and you'll get all the news here as I get it.

For now check out the teaser trailer below...

video

Don't forget to bookmark the official Star Trek movie website at StarTrekMovie.com

More to come...

Monday, July 28, 2008

TR2N

Yes.

The title implies exactly what your fevered geeky mind thinks...they're FINALLY making a sequel to TRON!

Here's the bootleg crap video quality teaser from Comic-Con. I won't say anymore. You just have to see it.

It's hosted on YouTube, so watch it before the big-wig movie guys find out it's there and pull it.

Update 08/01/08: The trailer's gone again. I'll try to find one that I can host here instead of using YouTube.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The US Officially Gets "Spaced"


I've been a fan of Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" for years now but, amazingly, I'd never seen their television program "Spaced" until this last week.

This program aired on the BBC's Channel 4 in the UK in 1999-2001 and apparently became a big bootleg DVD hit with geek culture on both sides of the big pond since then. I'd heard of it in relation to "Shaun of the Dead", but never took the time to track it down.

When I heard it was being released with region 1 DVD coding this past week, I figured "why not?" and picked it up.

Over the next two days, I watched all 14 episodes of the 2 season set and I have two words to say to Simon and Edgar:

FUCK YOU!

Fuck you for making only 2 seasons! There should've been more! Where the Hell is season 3!?

There's a reason this show has such a geek following. It is simply brilliant!

The first thing that shocked me was how closely the characters resembled pieces of myself and my friends about 10 years ago...and even now to an extent. Yes. This is a British comedy, but the characters are spot on with the kind of slacker/geek culture that you'll find in any country around the globe. It's a kind of universal language.

The other cool thing is how many inside homages, jokes and film references are hidden throughout.

I'm currently watching season 1 a second time and listening to the commentary track and I'm already finding film references that I missed the first go 'round.

This is definitely taking a treasured place on my DVD shelf along with "Arrested Development" and as a series that I can watch time and time again.

I don't know if I'd say it's my new favorite yet, but it may take that honored spot if it can hold up to my repeated viewings.

At least it'll give me something to watch until Simon and Edgar get off their asses and make a 3rd season...or another movie!

Oh. And one last cryptic note for those of you who, like me, want more "Spaced"...skip to the end.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is Now Online!

Don't ask questions. You only have until MIDNIGHT TONIGHT to see this one-of-a-kind hilarious, musical comic book comedy! (Yes...I said musical...and one that I enjoy...bite me.)

Watch it by clicking HERE!

'Nuff said!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillon Back Together!

Joss Whedon is working on a new webisode series called "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" starring Neil Patrick Harris as a z-grade comic book mad scientist villain who's constantly getting pummeled by hero Nathan Fillon as he logs his day-to-day life. Hey! It's Whedon and Fillon...and comic book humor...and it looks funny...just watch!

Teaser for "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog":

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin: 1937-2008

Comedian George Carlin, one of my all-time personal heroes, died last night of heart failure.

Carlin ranked among the pantheon of comedic geniuses along with Andy Kaufman and Richard Pryor.

He may be gone, but his insight and the wisdom he imparted on the world will live on.

Wow...I'm just in shock. I feel like my favorite crabby old uncle has left me. He will be sorely missed.

Click here to read the full story at AP news.

In memory, here's one of my favorite Carlin routines. I couldn't find the actual video, but it's the words that matter anyway (and the words are NSFW in case you were wondering):

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Best Video I've Seen on YouTube

Lazy Geek's Cushion

Wow! I didn't know there was people out there that actually thought up crap like this! A supposedly ergonomic cushion created specifically for lounging on the floor while playing on your laptop, reading the 4e D&D manuals, your weekly comics or whatever geeky activity you happen to be doing.

This is just awesome! If anyone is looking for gift ideas for that lazy geek that you know (even if s/he is in the mirror), look no further!

Click Here for the Full Story on CNET.com

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Romans Played D&D

I found this while perusing the interwebs!

The site I found it on claims that it was found in Egypt in the 1920s and it originates in the 2nd century CSE.

It also says that "Modern scholarship has not yet established the game for which these dice were used"...but any geek worth his salt knows the answer to that one. Hail Caesar! Now pass the pizza and roll up a d20!

Pretty friggin' cool. I'd love to have this baby sitting on the bookshelf in my living room.

Click here to visit Christie's and find out how you can bid to get this one of a kind piece of geek history!