Friendz for xbox & iPhone

App Shopper: Friendz (Social Networking).

Friendz is the iPhone/iPod Touch version of the popular mac app. Friendz shows you which of your Xbox Live friends are online on Xbox Live. You can then check what they’re doing, view your messages and send new messages to anyone in your friends list.
(You need a Xbox Live Gold Membership to send messages, but you can still view them with an Xbox Live Silver Membership).

Friendz is different from the other Xbox Live apps because it doesn’t require you to add your friends manually, it will also work if your friends are set to private.

Friendz will also download your friends’ gamer pictures and display them neatly next to the player. That’s great, but what if you have a lot of friends? Even over 3G it would take a while to download everything, so Friendz grabs the gamer pictures in the background and loads them in as they are received. This means you can still see what your friends are doing, even if things are still loading.

Friendz will also send messages in the background, meaning no obtrusive alerts while sending takes place. Friendz will, however, let you know once the message has been sent, just so you can be sure your message has reached the recipient.

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PS3 v xbox 360

PS3It’s been a few months now since I bought the PS3 and I have been very pleased with it. Initially, it was an odd feeling getting to grips with the new style controller but now it feels just fine. In fact, its more compact size is more appealing now than the bulkier xbox one. I feel the PS3 has some advantages for me over Microsoft’s finest. For starters, it is virtually whisper quiet whereas the xbox chugs and wheezes and that incessant whirring noise is both annoying and worrying. A second advantage is that the PS3 has built in wifi whereas you have to buy the xbox add on and it is not cheap at £59. I get a much better and stronger signal too when connected to my home network on the Sony console and it has not dropped yet. Getting a signal on the xbox xould be hit or miss. I never used xbox Live so not having that is not a miss for me but for many who are addicted to online gaming then the PS3 is still well behind on that front. Could be a deal breaker for many…..

Games-wise, most of the newer releases are available for both consoles so it is not such a big deal now. Console exclusives do not appear to be so prevalent these days and there is not a game coming out soon that I wish to get that will not be out on the PS3. Obviously, the Blu Ray support is appealing and is a big advantage at the moment, it is just a pity that the film discs remain so expensive. One annoying PS feature relates to the demo discs that come with the “official” UK mags. On the xbox you just needed to shove the DVD in the drive, pick your demo and start playing whereas on the PS you need to download the game first to the hard drive, which can take 2/3 minutes, then install it onto the hard drive before playing. I don’t understand why you can’t just play it straight off the disc? Graphically, I don’t notice any discernible difference between games on either console in terms of visual quality but I have fewer “crashes” when playing on the PS3.

One other factor that may be relevant is that there is a better choice of xbox themed iPhone apps. I downloaded one the other days that links to my xbox live account. It shows stats such as games played, achievements and you can browse stuff for sale/download. There is nothing similar for the PS3. For those of you who use a mac there is little or no inbuilt help for streaming music and video but luckily NullRiver software offer solutions for both. I’ve tried 360 Connect with the xbox and it worked quite well but have not tried their MediaLink PS3 software yet. To be honest, this is an area I should make more use of but can’t be bothered or just aren’t interested enough. I did however burn a cd full of images an loaded it up on the PS3. The pics looked amazing, too amazing in fact for my wife’s liking as she complained they were too “detailed” which is testament to the quality of the PS I suppose.

I have had problems with xbox reliability down the years, three have needed to be replaced but the PS3 also went back after a few weeks as it just packed up. This is unusual apparantly. I read a post from one of the gaming sites very recently, can’t recall where, which suggested there is a 53% failure rate with the 360 console which if true, is fairly damning on Microsoft. The same arti cle suggested it was less than 10% on the PS3. Just also read too that Sony have announced the PS3 “slim” which looks like a winner both on looks and price.

quelle surprise…xbox 360 packs up (again)

Xbox 360 console
If people ask me why I don't particularly like Microsoft my xbox experiences down the years just about sum it up. Our first 1st gen xbox packed up about a week after the warranty expired and the first xbox 360 console also packed up within a year. The xbox 360 we got for my son's xmas in December 2007 has just also packed up, showing the fabled 3 red rings of death. It's not exactly been pummelled to death useage wise either, it rarely gets more than an hour a day use.

You can say what you like about the PS3, about it being more expensive in comparison, but failure rates, if you believe what you read on the internet, are much lower and that is a fact. I'm starting to believe other facts too, one being that Microsoft, in search of ever larger profits, use junk components in their hardware. Luckily, this one has the extended guarantee which was purchased at the time it was bought so I have some protection.

That's it though with the xbox 360 and my next gaming console purchase will be a PS3. Three out of four consoles packing in tells its own story in my view, the reliability level is obviously dreadful and they won't be getting another penny from me.

FarCry 2

I've been struggling of late to find an xbox game that I wanted to play. There is a game coming out shortly that I quite like the look of, Velvet Assassin, as it promises to bring something slightly different to the rather tired 1st person shooter genre and also appears to have a large element of stealth action it it. Oh, how I love a bit of skulking around in a video game. In the meantime, having re-played the stunning Dead Space and the good but slightly flawed Half Life 2, I needed to get something new.

Far-cry-2-
Enter FarCry 2, intended as nothing more as a stop-gap until something better appears. I have to admit I disliked the original FarCry as I found it hugely frustrating. I kept getting stuck and eventually gave up about 2/3rds of the way through. This one though is different, completely different in fact as the developers have revamped it nearly beyond all recognition. First up, graphically it is amazing, with lush graphics and near video quality scenery. Although it is basically a first person shooter the pace is somewhat more relaxed with numerous side missions and a great deal more tact and planning needed to advance. You also get to level up weapons by finding the only currency that counts, diamonds and using them to buy upgrades and new stuff. It's set in Africa and you can take advantage of the huge open playfield by zooming around from zone to zone either using the numerous vehicles left lying around or using the transporter like "bus" system which gets you from A to B in a flash. I like the fact that so far, the game lets you play it how you want and does not force you down certain paths like most other xbox titles.

Yep, there's a lot to do and mucho planning needed. You can, for example, just barge into enemy camps with all guns blazing on a mission but that can get a bit messy. Scoping around looking for an alternative and less gung-ho approach can pay dividends and is more satisfying, for me at least.

So far, this has been a pretty deep game. There's lots to do and you can pick and choose missions to suit your approach. You get extra assistance by making "friends" who are there to help you out of scrapes. I've been playing it for nearly a week now and according to the info in my saved game, I have completed less than 4% of it! This tells you two things, firstly that it is a big game and secondly, that I am basically crap at these games.

Internet Sharing – Mac to xbox 360

This may be useful to those who have a mac and use an xbox 360 and who wish to be able to connect via xbox live but do not wish to fork out for the £59 wifi adaptor. Courtesy of MacApper website…

A very hidden and somewhat unused feature of Mac OS X is the internet
sharing application which can be found in System Preferences >
Sharing > Internet Sharing.  This feature is very basic and easy to
setup but it allows you to share the incoming internet connection on
your Mac with other computers in your vicinity.  You can even turn your
Mac into a wireless hub using this feature.  We’ll help show you how to
set this up properly in this guide, along with a step by step tutorial
of how to use your Mac’s internet connection in order to get your Xbox
360 online without having to purchase a wireless adapter.

On another xbox related matter, I finished off Tomb Raider Underworld the other night and was left feeling a bit disappointed. This game has some terrible glitches and some dreadful camera angles. Laura gets randomly stuck near scenery and can walk/jump through rcoks and stuff. When climbing and you need to use the camera to look around to see where to jump or move to next, the camera can go haywire, jumping around randomly. terrible for a 2008 next gen game.

Lara Croft Underworld

Lara-ann-xbox
I read somewhere recently that the developers have been disappointed with sales of the latest and not so greatest instalment of the delectable Miss Croft adventure. This comes as no surprise to me as the game, which I got from Santa, is good but is a little predictable and brings nothing new to the franchise. Games have moved on immensely over the past 18 months, look at the innovation in titles such as BioShock and Dead Space, yet these developments appeared to have washed over the Lara Croft people.

I played BioShock again recently and it's light years ahead of most other games. There is so much to do and the ability to buy power-ups and ammunition with your money adds another dimension. Not only is there a limited amount of cash floating around but this becomes more relevant when you the game forces you to make choices…what do you do with your money, what to spend it on, what will help me in this current level most? The next level, it could be completely different. Not only is this a dilemna with cash but it also applies equally to the plasmid power-ups you can purchase by obtaining "Adam", which is even harder to come by. You could play this game through 3/4 times and depending on which items you buy, the experience will be different each time.

I'm afraid though the developers played very safe with the latest Lara Croft adventure. Sure, it is graphically wonderful but there is no depth to it. It desperately needs a revamp but it is as if they are scared to tinker with the basic gamplay for fear of upsetting the cosy franchise. Games like this were fine 3 years ago but are in danger of getting left behind now. They need to introduce the ability to equip Lara with different weapons and powers, as in BioShock and Dead Space, introduce decisions in this respect that can influence how the game plays out and which make the gamer feel more involved in the outcome.

It's not a bad game, far from it, but compared to others I have played of late it just feels a little shallow and too simple. It is very similar to all the other Lara Croft games I have played down the years and that is its biggest drawback.

Is Blu-Ray taking off?

I was reading a post at the weekend about the PS3 and how sales are lagging behind that of its main competitor, the xbox 360. Some guy from a gaming website gave several reasons for this. One, it's more expensive than a comparable xbox model, £299 here in the UK compared to a top of the range xbox at around £229….debatable when you think the former includes a Blu-Ray player. Two, there are very few PS3 exclusive "must-have" game titles, which may be true, that would make a gamer buy it over the xbox equivalent and three…and this is the most surprising and possibly contentious, Blu-Ray discs are only worth watching and only show their superior video quality on TV's with a screen size of 50 inch plus. All the blurb for Blu-Ray players I've read says that they are 5 times superior to DVD in terms of picture quality, which I'm inlcined to believe more than the word of some xbox 360 fanboy

Blu-Ray logo Now, I don't know if this guy is right as regards picture quality, if so it is a shock to me. The players are still relatively expensive with only the most basic being under £200 when a good quality DVD player can be had for £70 or so. The discs are around £20 plus which is way too high when compared to new release DVD films being available for a tenner. How many folk, when money is tight as it may be now, can justify paying twice the price for something they may not even notice is of an appreciably better quality. We got a Sony DVD player about 6 months ago, for under £100, that "upscales" DVD films to near HD quality and, when combined with a good quality HDMI cable, I suspect that this level of quality is plenty sufficient for the majority of buyers, myself included, and probably helps to contribute to the low take up level of BluRay to date.

If you go into the likes of Currys or Dixons here in the UK there aren't many Blu-Ray players on display and this a year or so after the format triumphed in the noughties version of Betamax v VHS video. I just get the impression that the cost of players needs to fall to DVD levels as does the cost of films or else DVD will be hanging around a heck of a lot longer, at Blu-Rays expense, than was originally thought.