Xbox 360 250gb Spring Bundle Unboxing

I’ve never recorded any sort of unboxing or video like these so please excuse the very amateur nature of them. It feels pretty awkward having a one way conversation with a camera / phone. Videos were shot with the iPhone 5 using YouTube Capture, which means as soon as the videos were done they were uploaded (in other words, it’s raw, unedited footage).

It’s nothing special, I just recorded these videos for fun as I’d like to get more into vlogging. Enjoy! Or Don’t!! ­čÖé

The unboxing:

The Xbox 360 data transfer process:

The $99 subsidized Xbox 360 confusion

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So I’ve had a 360 Elite for 3 years and have been looking to replace it (and give it to my girlfriend so she could use it as a streaming player for Netflix and play games on it every now and then). The $99 subsidized Xbox sounded appealing. If you’re unfamiliar it’s a promotion by Microsoft and GameStop where you can get either a 250gb Xbox 360 or a 4gb Xbox 360 w/ Kinect for $99 if you agree to a 2 year Xbox Live agreement for $14.99/mo.

Now I know $14.99/mo sounds steep especially when at its highest price a year of Xbox Live is $60 (sometimes as low as $40 through Amazon), but this deal offers a low level of entry and the ability to pay for the Xbox over two years while enjoying Xbox Live Gold.

Also you might wonder why anyone would do this when the Xbox One is coming out, but Phil Harrison has confirmed that all current Xbox Live Gold subscriptions will carry over to the Xbox One, therefore you’re paying for something you can still use on the Xbox One and 360.

So here’s where it gets tricky. The deal specifies it’s only available for the specific models shown, which are the plain 250gb Xbox 360 and 4gb with Kinect. The 250gb console is no longer available at any GameStop within 100 miles of me (I checked other cities as well and none have it in stock) and it is no longer for sale online. Why? Because it was replaced by the 250gb Xbox 360 Spring Bundle, which includes 1 month of Xbox Live, Darksiders II and Batman Arkham City all for $299.

This $299 is the same price as the formerly offered 250gb console, and yet this isn’t the model specified in the offer. I contacted Xbox Support via Twitter and they were very helpful addressing my concerns (@XboxSupport is THE best customer support on Twitter, always quick to respond) but in the end they were unsure whether the Spring Bundle would qualify for the deal.

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I walked into my local GameStop this morning and asked them about it and they told me that for awhile they were selling the Spring Bundle with the coupon for $99, but they received a notice from corporate that their POS (point of sale) would no longer accept the coupon for the Spring Bundle. I asked if they could try anyway so I wouldn’t have to cancel my contract, and they were nice enough to try.

Upon scanning my coupon and the Xbox 360 Spring Bundle it turned out that the POS DID in fact accept the coupon and they let me purchase the bundle for $99! I also renewed my PowerUp Rewards card since they were so helpful and worked with me.

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In the end I wish GameStop and Microsoft would be more clear on this matter. Apparently GameStop is not supposed to accept this coupon for the Spring Bundle, and yet they no longer receive regular 250gb consoles. The Spring Bundle replaced those at the $299 price point. It would seem they should indeed accept the coupon for those consoles since they one specified in the offer advertised no longer exists.

Buy prepaid Xbox Live subscription and get 800MS points free!

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Amazon is currently running a promotion where if you buy a prepaid Xbox Live subscription card you’ll get a code e-mailed to you worth 800 Microsoft Points! It’s pretty sweet, and a 3-month subscription is just over $22 right now on Amazon (compared to the $25 you’d pay through Microsoft) and you basically get $10 back in MS points. I picked up 3 months for my account and 3 months for my girlfriend’s (it took a day to receive the first code, I’m waiting to see if I’ll be sent another code for 800 more points).

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Star Trek: The Game…is not that bad

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Like most I was at first excited about the new Star Trek video game but quickly lost interest once reviews and quick looks started rolling in. Currently the game (360 version) has a 43/100 critic rating on MetaCritic and a 2.5/10 user score. Pretty bad. Despite knowing better, I rented the game from Red Box anyway. $2 a day isn’t that bad, and if it turned out to be terrible I’d cut my losses early.

I’ve invested $6 in the game so far (three days) and I have to say it’s not as bad as I imagined it would be. I started out playing co-op with my girlfriend and the level design and gameplay is ugly right from the start. The game makes it very clunky to get into and out of cover and for someone who isn’t well versed in video game mechanics is guaranteed to have a very difficult time early on. If that weren’t bad enough, oftentimes the game will react in strange ways to your inputs. You can push to jump in one direction and your character will jump off a cliff to his death for no good reason.

There’s a sequence early on where you have to run as a series of explosions chases you. This is a point in the game where I really wanted to put down the controller and take the game back to Red Box. For some reason every time the game starts you off with the camera backward and your character facing in the wrong direction and you have to quickly reorient yourself and get running in the right direction or you’ll die. This was more inconvenient than difficult for me as I quickly realized the game was trying to kill me. For my girlfriend, however, it was incredibly frustrating. When the game isn’t being helpful at all it’s much more difficult for someone who doesn’t play video games often to get oriented and do what you’re supposed to do. What’s worse is doing what you’re supposed to do can get you killed as often as not in this game because of bugs and bad design.

I started playing solo after the first level (with AI controlling Spock) and for awhile this was less frustrating. Until I ran into climbing sequences where it’s almost completely unpredictable where your character is going to jump even if you’re pressing in the right direction. Several times Captain Kirk simply jumped to his death for no good reason. I guess I’d want to end it all too if I were stuck in this horrible game.

Once the action picks up the game plays a little better. Of course I’m playing on easy so I can run and gun, because if I had to rely on the clunky cover system my blood pressure would rise even further than it already does while playing this game. There’s a moderate variety of weapons you can pick up as you go, and it’s satisfying to kill the Gorn enemies. As a Starfeet Captain you’re “supposed” to ‘set phasers to stun’ when facing possessed human enemies, however I find it more enjoyable to simply kill them (not to mention easier). You can only fire off two “stun” shots before your weapon has to recharge and when you’re facing a large number of enemies it’s not practical to stun them all. Furthermore a stunned enemy only remains so for a few seconds and you have to run up to them and melee them to knock them out or they’ll return to shooting at you. Interestingly the achievements reward you for getting X number of kills with each weapon, so again it’s more beneficial to just kill everything.

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Like the movies, there’s lots of lens flare here.

One thing I like about playing with an AI partner is that you can have them perform all of the hacking and unlocking in the game. The mini-games are excessively long and get annoying so it’s nice to just have Spock do everything for me. The co-op doors get incredibly annoying and boring, however. Why can’t I just open the damn door?

The game has been a decent experience so far. It would be nice to actually be able to pilot the Enterprise rather than just play a sort of Space Invaders game where you fend off attacking ships with the Enterprise’s weapons. It’s an okay section, but they could’ve done more with the Enterprise. There are several sections of the game that encourage stealth, however it’s more of a pain in the ass to try to pass by stealthily than it is to simply kill the enemies. There’s also an upgrade system where you can spend XP in order to improve certain equipment, but as far as I can tell the upgrades make barely any impact on gameplay and I’ve stopped bothering even opening the menu.

Lastly, and probably least important, the names of the achievements in the game are lazy and this bothers me. “Beat Helios-1”, “Beat New Vulcan”… They could’ve at least had better names for the story completion achievements. This has no impact on the game, it just really stood out to me.

In the end I would say you should not purchase Star Trek at its retail $60 price tag. I wouldn’t even recommend buying it used until it drops below $20. You’re best off renting the game at Red Box and you could probably complete it in a night if you wanted. I’d say I’m about four hours in and more than half way through the game, I only have three missions left. Overall the game has been decent, but at times it can only be described as terrible. There are just enough good sections to make the bad parts bearable. The voice acting is pretty good (the characters are voiced by the actors in the movies) but at times the dialogue is either repetitive or poorly written. The story isn’t as good as an average Star Trek episode, but it’s not the worst in the world. The game is passable, not memorable, but not as horrible as some people would have you believe.

Now playing: Tomb Raider

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I’ve never been very interested in the Tomb Raider series and I’ve only played about ten minutes of the original Tomb Raider on the PlayStation, however something about the new reboot got me interested. There’s just something about the style of the new game that caught my eye in all of the commercials and early reviews. I decided to head out to a Red Box and try it out for myself and so far I’m very impressed.

I’m about three hours into the game and it certainly has a ‘flash’ that I never expected from a Tomb Raider game. The environments look amazing and the scenes in the rain just look awesome. Fire in the game is very important and it looks great whether it’s simply a burning torch or huge explosions.

Speaking of explosions, who knew there could be so many in a Tomb Raider game. This is definitely not a slow paced adventure game. There are HUGE set pieces which get your adrenaline going big time. Some of the most thrilling parts of the game so far involving running, jumping and climbing as the environment crumbles around you. It’s satisfying in a huge way.

Combat is great, especially with the variety of weapons available to you. The bow is incredibly satisfying, especially nailing guys in the knee (an ‘arrow to the knee’ achievement would’ve been amusing). The pistol and machine gun are great for when your cover is blown and an army of enemies has you pinned down.

There are quite a few stealth sections of the game so far which are nice breaks in the fast paced story. It’s just as satisfying to strangle a guy with your bow string as it is to shoot an arrow through their head.

The game looks absolutely amazing and it has some great cut scenes even if the story is a bit awkward.

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If there’s one thing I don’t really like it’s all the QTE’s (Quick Time Events) in which you have to push a button on time or die. I don’t like these because half the time I’m not expecting them and can never react in time to survive. I’d rather let the game let me decide how I deal with the decision than have it force me to push a button in order to reach the desire outcome. Most of time these QTE’s set up some pretty cool cinematic kills so I can see why they’re in the game, I guess it’s just frustrating to die because I wasn’t expecting to have to push a certain button.

I recorded me playing the first few minutes of the game, though I couldn’t quite get it set up to record right (just used my iPad to record my TV screen and didn’t quite have it close enough). I figured I’d post it below just for the heck of it. Enjoy.

Now playing: Need for Speed: Most Wanted

So I rented Most Wanted from GameFly for some reason. I tend to absolutely hate arcade racing games. I want the most realistic experience possible, therefore I prefer Forza 4 (which is absolutely amazing). Anyway Need for Speed is what you’d expect from a modern arcade racer…Flashy lights, nitrous, dubstep, cinematic wrecks and more dubstep.

One thing that really bugs me is that during a race your car will literally change colors multiple times just because you drive through a repair booth. What the hell is that? Anyway, I recorded a gameplay video, though it doesn’t look great. I recorded it using my MacBook camera using the Windows 8 camera app…I’m not sure if it’s something to do with the software, or just being a laptop webcam (though I thought the MacBook camera should be pretty decent…maybe it’s just because I’m in Windows right now).

Xbox 360: 750,000 units sold last week!

 

USA Today has reported┬áthat Microsoft has sold 750,000 Xbox 360’s last week. This number is quite impressive considering Nintendo’s “next-gen” (more like catch up with current gen) Wii U sold only 400,000 units during the same week. For some people the Wii U was hard to find, but I’ve seen them all over the place in EVERY story I’ve been to since its release. They don’t seem to be selling. Those who are buying them aren’t even that impressed with them (listen to the last few Giant Bomb Bombcast’s for example). Giant Bomb reports in their current podcast that in Black Ops II they haven’t seen more than 700 people playing on the Wii U while on the Xbox the number sits around 600,000 online players at any given time. Just saying. Go Xbox!

Now playing: Assassin’s Creed

It may come as a surprise, but for as popular as the Assassin’s Creed series is, I’ve never actually played any of the games until yesterday. Well I played maybe an hour of Assassin’s Creed II once, but I never sat down and got into it. Yesterday, however, I finally started at the beginning, with the first Assassin’s Creed (released in 2007). Five years have come and passed and this game has only made it into my library this week. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because five games have come out so quickly I felt overwhelmed and though I’d never catch up. And maybe there’s something a little disconcerting about having to play FOUR games just to get to Assassin’s Creed III (I don’t even know which game comes after II, Revelation or Brotherhood.. Furthermore I don’t know if either have anything to do with the story…Since they’re not numbered I’d assume I could skip them and go right to III, but who knows).

Anyway, here I am and I’ve finally played a few hours of Assassin’s Creed. So far it’s been fun, but I don’t feel like an Assassin at all. Every battle just turns into an anything but quick and silent sword fight against numerous enemies at once. I might as well just roll in with a bomb because there’s no way to be any less obvious. Maybe there is a way to actually assassinate people, but it sure doesn’t seem like it. Also the whole climbing thing feels very slow and annoying a lot of the time. When I’m trying to escape I climb like I’m in no hurry at all and often fall over and over again trying to actually get somewhere (or I’ll just bounce off of walls and end up getting stabbed in the back).

Other than that the only other thing that’s annoying me is how slow travel is in the game. Every time I have to leave the main hub it feels like I’m riding a horse for ages just to get to the next area. It’d be really nice to have some sort of fast travel system, because I’m tired of riding around over and over again. It’s not as bad once you get into a city (though again, climbing is a tad too slow) but it’s a pain to actually get there.

Otherwise I’m enjoying ┬áthe game. I just don’t think it’s as amazing as everyone makes it out to be…And I have absolutely no idea what’s going on story wise…I’m just killing people I’m told to kill.

I’m hoping Assassin’s Creed II will be a slightly improved experience and then I’ll just have to figure out whether to skip straight to III or play the two games which I can only assume are side stories, first.

 

 

Black Ops II ‘Nuketown 2025’ NOT a pre-order exclusive?

So the Nuketown 2025 map for Black Ops II has been advertised for months as a ‘pre-order exclusive’ map, available only to players who pre-ordered Black Ops II. And yet today I walked into the Bx and purchased Black Ops II and still received the Nuketown 2025 map. Could it be that not enough people pre-ordered the game so they just stuck all the pre-order copies on the shelves? I don’t know. Anyway I got the ‘exclusive’ bonus days after the game was released. No money down, no pre-order, nothing. Just walked into the store and I was rewarded with the map. Win?