Monday, February 25, 2008

Blu-Ray wins....and so do we

The biggest news to hit the video game industry last week really didn't have much to do with gaming.

Toshiba announced it is going to abandon HD-DVD, ceding the format war over next-generation players to Blu-Ray.

It's great news for most consumers, who can now upgrade to high-definition home video without having to worry about whether their new player will be a doorstop by Christmas. But it's also a big win for Sony's PlayStation 3 console.

Sony includes Blu-Ray compatibility in each PS3 console it sold. That was responsible for the initially high retail costs of the PS3 ($499 and $599, although the price point has since dropped to $399), but also for helping to create an instant installed base for Sony's new DVD technology.

With HD-DVD out, the PS3 -- for the moment -- has a big edge over the Xbox 360, which currently plays high-definition movies if you have the now-obsolete add-on HD-DVD drive.

But the 360 can rally back. Microsoft no doubt will continue to expand high-definition content distribution via the Xbox Live online network. And the company announced last week that Xbox Live is releasing software that will allow gamers to create their own games, and then share them over Xbox Live. Hopefully, it'll lead to the creation of a few innovative, mainstream hits.

Review: Need for Speed ProStreet

Street racing is back in this Electronic Arts game for Xbox 360 and PS3.You can compete in any of four game modes: drag, drift, grip and speed. I couldn't master all four because each requires different techniques, and I'm just a pedal-to-the-metal guy when it comes to racing games. You also can build your car, upload it to the Internet, and race against friends.

The graphics on both systems are startling -- particularly the damage effects. That damage can affect the cars and the drivers realistically, as can the smoke, flying dirt and dust clouds.

I liked the 360 version better because of the rumbling controller, but it's a cool little game on either system.


Review: Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action

Microsoft Game Studios' movie trivia game for Xbox 360 comes with four special wireless "Big Button Pads," which you and up to three friends use to buzz in "Jeopardy!"-style.

The challenges -- like trying to guess the names of films based on children's drawings or a list of actors and actresses in the cast -- are awfully fun to take on with a group. I brought this out during a party over the holidays, and it was the hit of the night.

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