For the last couple of months, my shiny new Xbox One has been lounging under the TV in the lounge, while my old battered Xbox 360 has comfortably remained beside me at my work desk. However, the downside of this arrangement is that the Xbox One mostly gets used as a Netflix, YouTube and media player, somewhat of a waste for it. So a swap around was needed, but here’s the thing – my Xbox 360 is one of the older models without built in Wi-Fi – and I don’t have a network point anywhere near the lounge TV!
I could of course purchase the Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Adapter, but that’s a painfully expensive purchase for a pretty old device.
Instead, I turned my attention to wireless bridge devices, eventually turning up the TRENDnet TEW-640MB Wireless 4-Port Media Bridge from loot.co.za (for R594). Although a currently discontinued product (I didn’t realise this at the time of purchase), The TEW-640MB is a four port wireless bridge, that allows me to connect to a Wi-Fi network and then share that connection to four networked devices – in this case my Xbox 360, my old Samsung Blu-ray player, and the old PC I utilize as a Kodi media server for when I want to save on the bandwidth cost of my girls incessantly watching the same old episodes of Peppa Pig on Netflix.
The best feature of this actually quite decent wireless bridge is the fact that it supports One-touch Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) wireless connection – brilliant because my relatively new TP-Link TD-W8970 modem router has WPS as a feature, meaning that setup was literally pressing a button on the router followed by a button press on the TEW-640MB!
Oh, and the Internet connection itself works like a charm. The Xbox 360 is now happily on the network thanks to it plugged into the TEW-640MB that sits all innocuous next to my TV, streaming Netflix pretty much all evening long!
Related Link: TRENDnet
2012 saw the release of the troubled Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning RPG game from Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, which despite some big names attached to it (R.A. Salvatore, Todd McFarlane, Grant Kirkhope, Ken Rolston), and more than just a few high ranking review scores achieved on release, didn’t seem to get much traction with gamers.
It’s currently on sale from the XBOX store as a digital download for a mere R89, and as a lover of bargains I immediately grabbed it, seeing as it’s always been somewhat lurking on my list of games that I eventually need to get around to experience one day.
After downloading the game and booting it up, every time I tried to start a new game the XBOX would just hang and then completely freeze on the loading screen.
Annoying, but thankfully something that Google quickly turned up a cause for.
It turns out that if you buy the digital download version like I did, then you most definitely must NOT download the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning Online Pass as well (it’s listed as being free on the main Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning page).
The digital download version already has this bundled in, and so if you install the standalone online pass – well let’s just say the system doesn’t really handle that at all very well!
To fix the issue is relatively simple – just delete the downloaded Online Pass.
To do this, from the main XBOX 360 dashboard, head to the Settings menu, select System, select Storage, and then pick Games and Apps. Scroll down to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and press A to enter the menu. Select the item marked House of Valor and delete it.
Fire up Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and voilà, you can happily start a new game, craft your hero, and proceed to slaughter monsters left, right and center!
This post is going up for the express purpose of appearing on my Facebook feed and thus appearing in the timelines of the people that I play FIFA with, in an effort to goad them just a little and in so doing, action our next FIFA with the Boys night.
This picture in particular will help with that goading goal:
In reality, we have played very little FIFA this year, and had even fewer FIFA evenings to boot, though in retrospect I have had a particularly good year in terms of palming in at least one trophy per get together. Not bad at all, and annoying enough to the others to legitimately paint a large target on my back. (Activity like this blog post, doesn’t help either :P)
While we are still playing FIFA 15 on the XBOX 360 for our evenings, there has been a shift in our play location, eschewing Ryan Lotter’s bachelor pad in favour of newcomer Michael Garret’s comfortable setup. Ryan is also playing less with us than before, with the slack being picked up by a capable Kurt Lehner – who is more than able to bag a trophy on the night if needs be:
(Note my inclusion in this winner’s photo once again).
Damen Oosthuizen still joins us whenever he can, Dean Stapelberg is a rarity (Karl-Heinz Storbeck even more so), and Evan Granger and Michael Garret continue their quest to actually win a trophy and not lose out by a single point or technicality as the case has been the last couple of evenings. (Terrance Brown for some inexplicable reason still refuses to fly down from Japan and join us for a game night)
The FIFA evening themselves continue their epic form in terms of length – we usually start around 19:00 and play straight through to 00:00 – ridiculous if you consider that I then still have to drive back to Gordon’s Bay and work the next day. Still, I am rather enjoying my victorious streak at the moment…
(There, job done. I now eagerly look forward to checking my inbox come Monday morning!)
Officially kicking off way back in July 2013, Microsoft’s Games with Gold programme has since then steadfastly been rewarding gamers who fork out their monthly XBOX Live subscription with two or more free games a month – a pretty decent reward in my book.
Some months are certainly better than others in terms of the free games being given away, but if you are an XBOX 360 owner with an active XBOX Live account in April 2015, then you’ve most definitely got some pretty decent freebies to look forward to!
(To be fair though, March 2015 was pretty damn good too – the superb Tomb Raider (2013) from Crystal Dynamics was available for the first half of the month, followed up by the excellent BioShock Infinite (2013) the latter!)
To celebrate the Games with Gold programme as a whole, Microsoft is giving away an unprecedented four free XBOX 360 titles for April, three AAA releases and one hit indie title.
This is the list as it stands right now:
I have to say, I’m thoroughly loved the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Whilst I certainly enjoyed the 2010 edition back in our own backyard, last year’s edition in Brazil seemed to be nothing but continued improvement upon improvement over the 2010 version. Exciting goal line technology, cool little innovations like the referee’s temporary line spray, and of course the SUPER exciting football itself!
So many big upsets, so many goals, and so, so many spectacular pieces of football mastery on display – plus, a very deserved Germany walking away as the ultimate champs!
Of course, watching the football over this period came with its own unique challenges: If I wasn’t away on a weekend out in Piekenierskloof, then this would happen whilst trying to watch the footie in my lounge…
Needless to say, Chantelle was rather pleased when the month of soccer was FINALLY over!
Somewhat related, 2014 also saw a lot of FIFA on the XBOX 360 take place, with a more or less formalized competition now in place for the likes of Evan, Damen, Ryan and myself. I’ve masterfully converted some old karate trophies into stunning football trophies, and every so often the guys will get together at Ryan’s place (being a bachelor has its perks), throw in some snacks, and battle it out in a two-on-two rotational basis which sees us recording points for every win and every goal scored.
Although I showed some early promise in the year, the damn trophies remained completely out of my grasp for absolute ages, with Ryan, Evan and Damen all taking turns in holding the trophies aloft and basking in the glory and bragging rights that comes with coming out on top after a long evening of digital ball kicking.
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However, my luck did eventually turn on the very last FIFA gathering for 2014 before everyone split off on their holidays, when I managed to capture not one, but BOTH trophies on the night! (Moment immortalized below – you can see that I take better photos with my camera than what Evan does…)
Anyway, for the longest time we’ve been sticking it out with FIFA 13 on the XBOX 360, but towards the end of last year Ryan picked up the new FIFA 15, prompting me to also pick it up a little while later (on a nice half price Christmas deal that XBOX Live was having). I know the new version of EA’s venerable football franchise totally kicks ass on the new generation XBOX One consoles, but seeing as that isn’t going to happen for quite a while in my household (not unless some money falls out the sky anyway), the updated team rosters, tweaked game play, AI, and animations will suffice on the 360 for now.
Some aspects of the new version do annoy me though – like the all too often messy scrambles initiated by silly ball physics – but overall FIFA 15 is a solid play and I have to say, I’m enjoying my season managing Norwich City in the Championship (top of the table baby!).
Of course, Ryan, Evan and Damen could construe this as practicing and thus call me out for cheating, but hey, I have to do what I have to do in order to retain those trophies! ;)
Now the challenge for this year I guess is to expand our group and get a few more faces involved.
Karl-Heinz, Dean, I’m looking at you…
I joined the XBOX 360 game quite late, purchasing my first (and only to date) XBOX 360 console back in December 2009. I very quickly purchased an official Microsoft Charge and Play rechargeable battery pack for my wireless XBOX 360 controller, and this evening as I was about to play some Gears of War 3 online co-op with Ryan, it became quickly apparent that my very long lived rechargeable battery pack has indeed now finally gone the way of the dodo.
I certainly can’t complain though. This battery pack was the power source for my primary controller for just short of five years, an achievement that for some or other reason makes me rather proud, not to mention the further bolstering of my faith in rather purchasing genuine manufacturer-produced add-ons instead of generics whenever possible.
However, that said, I am now in the need of a hasty replacement, and seeing as I’m pretty sure that my XBOX 360 will be upgraded to a new generation console sooner than later, this time around I don’t necessarily need a solution to last quite as long.
In other words, generic solution time.
A year ago (July 2013) my order with Loot.co.za for a Nitho Charge and Play Kit for the 360 was cancelled due to stock shortages, so I guess this time around I’ll need to hold thumbs that they can actually sell me something that they advertise on their site!
Finally. I like Microsoft’s Games with Gold initiative which rewards XBOX Live members with two free games every month. It certainly introduced me to a number of titles I might not otherwise have tried, and it definitely laid the groundwork for further digital game purchases from me.
However, it has more often than not felt like a very lacklustre, half-hearted baby brother to the way more exciting rival Sony’s PlayStation Plus programme, primarily because the free games given away by Microsoft are either ridiculously outdated, or deemed to be cop-outs thanks to their lighter Arcade status.
But all of a sudden Microsoft seems to really be taking it up a notch again. April 2014 Games with Gold saw the usual combo of an Arcade and AAA title release, the first being Deadlight (2012), followed by Hitman: Absolution (2012). May 2014 Games with Gold followed that good offering up with Dust: An Elysian Tail (2012), and the super silly but fun Saints Row: The Third (2011).
And now for June 2014 Games with Gold (in which XBOX One now also joins the party), Microsoft is giving away on the XBOX 360 platform three excellent titles: Dark Souls (2011), Charlie Murder (2013) [Arcade], and lastly, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition (2011).
At this rate I might even become interested in gaming again!
I have a confession to make. I’m pretty much over single-player gaming these days. Blame lack of diminishing returns, or just pure apathy, but I no longer find it hugely entertaining to sit down by myself with controller in hand for an hour or two at night. Maybe I’m simply tired of it, or maybe I’ve simply outgrown the hobby or whatever you want to call it, but the fact of the matter is that I no longer enjoy the pastime as much, and as such, probably won’t be doing a hell of a lot of gaming on my own going forward any longer.
That said, I do still enjoy the multiplayer gaming experience to a fair degree, but that is a completely different kettle of fish mind you – it’s the social interactions that keeps it enjoyable, not the gaming necessarily itself!
All of that said and done though, my blogging hiatus means I’ve spent some time on a fair bit of titles without mentioning them here yet, meaning it only seems fair to do a quick round-up.
First up there is Capcom and Ninja Theory’s awesome action adventure, hack and slash genre entry, Devil May Cry (DmC) (2013), a re-imagination to the original Devil May Cry series, this time from a Western perspective. There was a lot of online moaning about how much people despised the changed story and character designs, but you know what, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story was tightly woven and nice and involving, the characters were actually quite believable in their motivations for a change, and just to drive the awesomeness home, Ninja Theory got the Devil May Cry game mechanics spot on, leading to a raucous, gorgeous looking, stylishly executed button-mashing gaming experience.
I’m a big fan of the original Devil May Cry franchise, and quite pleasingly, this new addition to the stable is just as fantastic as the rest!
Battlestations: Pacific (2009) is a action real-time tactic World War II game from Eidos Hungary, which basically allows you to tackle either a US or Japanese campaign by working through a variety of airborne, seaborne, and combined missions.
Although the voice acting is a little cheesy and the graphics aren’t particularly fantastic, if you are part of the target market for this game like I am (in other words, love World War II planes and boats), then it is an absolute joy to take to the sky in some classic beasts of the air, like a Mitsubishi Zero or a Lockheed P-38 Lightning to name but a few!
Naturally the single player skirmishes do get a little boring after a while, but for me (and Jessica mind you – my little 3 year old likes nothing more than taking a plane up into the sky, doing some rolls, and then ploughing straight down into the see. She screams in delight literally every single time!), the flying time was all that I was really after anyways!
There is a huge selection of ships, submarines, fighter planes, sea planes and bombers to be piloted, and the simplified arcade controls makes for an easy enough title to pick up, though I suspect only lovers are the genre will really get some entertainment value out of this one!
Shoot Many Robots (2012) from Demiurge Studios is an Xbox Arcade release recently featured as part of Microsoft’s Games with Gold initiative. It’s a typical action platformer that sees you and a partner or two, strap on some silly big guns and costumes, and then run through a variety of stages shooting at pretty much anything that moves, before taking on the slightly bigger bad boy boss at the end of each level.
It’s a redneck-themed game which means the appeal is probably quite limited (seriously, rednecks just aren’t my idea of funny), and as such a lot of the items are geared in design, appearance and function to fit in with the theme.
Ryan and I had some fun shooting down robot after robot, and I have to say, the art direction on the game is really well done, though by that I mean the implementation, not necessarily the stupid theme. Overall, it’s a competent and polished XBOX Arcade title worth picking up if you are looking for some mindless side-scrolling shooting to be had.
If you are a RPG fan then without a doubt CD Projekt RED’s The Witcher 2 (2012) is a must play. Massive world, gorgeous graphics, classic RPG elements, enjoyable fight mechanics, and engaging and mature storyline, the Witcher 2 is undoubtedly a RPG done right.
Sadly for me though, it turns out I’m not that really into RPG games any more, meaning that it didn’t have my full attention nor a decent enough allotment of my time. Despite that, I do have to recognise just how good an entry into the RPG genre this game actually is, and it is definitely worth the recommend.
(One small gripe though. Why in the world did this game not have better movement mechanics. Seriously, I should not have to trigger a context button for the character to hop down a stone ledge or climb up a simple ladder in this day and age!)
UPDATE: (2014-05-28) I ended up coming back to this one and spending a whole lot more time with it. In the end, same result: great, mature RPG that’s an enjoyable play, but with some slightly annoying control issues. Well worth recommending though!
Next to Devil May Cry, Sleeping Dogs (2012) from United Front Games and Square Enix sits squarely in the list of favourite games played recently. Turns out I rather enjoy Asian-set action games (like John Woo’s Stranglehold, Yakuza and the True Crime series – which I only recently found out are technically forerunners for this game – to name but a few), and as such I’m quite enjoying the open world action-adventure video game, running around doing jobs for the Triads, helping out the cops, boosting my stats, and in general just causing absolute mayhem, all the while wrapped up in a brutal but engaging storyline of crime and justice.
In essence it is pretty much like playing any installment of Grand Theft Auto, except that this time around you are the good guy, doing bad things to fit in, and with a lot more focus on martial arts-based hand to hand combat than what you would see in a GTA title.
Driving, shooting, and fight mechanics are all well implemented, and combined with some good graphics, a fantastic sound track and great voice artist work, this is definitely fast becoming one of my big time favourites.
I like having someone sitting next to me and playing a game against them, face-to-face so to speak, now and then, hence the fact that I have two XBOX 360 controllers for my system. Although I regularly rotate between the two controllers to ensure even usage, I always play with my rechargeable battery kit installed on the controller that I’m using, leaving the second one to run off the standard AA battery pack as it lays in the cupboard awaiting its time to shine.
Anyway, the other evening Chantelle offers to battle against me in some Joy Ride Turbo, so I eagerly accept the challenge, turn on the XBOX and hand out the controllers. However, no sooner had we picked out our rides and started the first race, when the controller that Chantelle was using started repeatedly turning itself off, leading to a lot of frustration and the eventual abandonment of our gaming session in what I can only describe as a fit of annoyed rage.
Of course I swapped out the batteries a couple of time to ensure it wasn’t something as simple as dead batteries, swapped in the rechargeable battery pack to ensure that it wasn’t the controller at fault, as well as did a couple of checks to ensure that the battery housing wasn’t just loose and pulling away from the controller body, thus causing the power failure.
Nothing, nada, zip.
So I turned to the Internet and based on my searches, it looks like the problem might lie with the battery contacts fixed at the base of the battery housing, which is obviously breaking the power connection to the batteries and thus turning off the controller.
Now the suggested fix is to take a small piece of fine grained sandpaper, fix it to the back of a pencil and then gently push the sandpaper down the housing and twist a couple of times to ‘scrub’ the metal contacts clean, followed by the careful insertion of a pick of some sorts to try and bend the contacts upwards, in the hopes of creating a better connection to the batteries.
Unfortunately this hasn’t quite worked out for me yet, meaning that I’ve opted to go for the easier (though obviously not quite as cost effective) route: now I just have to wait for the delivery date of my knock-off Nitho rechargeable battery pack from Loot.co.za!