VIDEO STORE WATCH: Get into the Christmas spirit with “Fred Claus” and “Lethal Weapon 4”

The amazingly eclectic mixture of movies on the UK Video Store has been updated again, with such joys as Fred Claus, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and incredibly dull Hallmark Channel fodder like The Fugitive and Analyse This also appearing for download.

Of possible interest to all you specialists out there is Eyes Wide Shut, with the bleak Kubrick non-epic now yours (until it auto-deletes once you’ve watched it) for 380 MS Points (£3.20) and a massive 7.2GB download, should you want to scrutinise Nicole Kidman’s skin and nipples in HD. The SD version is a more manageable 1.7GB and marginally more reasonable 250 Points (£2.10).

Also “new” in the sense that it hasn’t been previously made available via Xbox 360 until now so is “new” to the Xbox 360 digital delivery download scene, is Lethal Weapon 4, available in standard definition only. At least now you don’t have to stay up until 1.15am to see the end.

First bit of FIFA 09 news dribbles out

Because dribbling is…oh, never mind.

Last year’s FIFA played a great game of footy. Thoughtful, considered, intelligent and well-made, for my money it knocked Pro Evo into a cocked hat for the first time in…well, ever. With UEFA Euro 2008 further improving on the formula – picking up the pace and making it slightly less impossible to score – my hopes at least are very high for this year’s iteration. So it’s nice to hear a bit of info about this potential world-beater – these following tidbits come from US mag GamePro.

FIFA 09
FIFA 09

Apparently, all movements in the game (like passing and jostling for example) happen much faster, allowing for more fluid and realistic play – leaving it closer to the frenetic pace of the Premiership than the slow, measured approach of the continental game. I hope the ramp up in speed isn’t too drastic – UEFA had it just about spot-on, and taking it too much further would take the tactical edge off. The game’s improved animations will now affect the gameplay too – if you see your player wobbling from an attempted sliding tackle, you can rebalance him, while a wrong-footed ‘keeper can now reach behind to save deflected shots.

The rest touches briefly upon Be A Pro but no further improvements are mentioned. I’m sure there will be a few tweaks to that particular mode, but otherwise things are looking and sounding good. Fingers crossed EA can build upon last year’s superb effort and give us a footy game that’s worth playing for the full year between updates. Or maybe – gasp – even longer.

Good news- Xbox Live studio to be launched by Microsoft

Microsoft has announced that a new first-party studio has been set up to make content for Xbox Live. Speaking recently to next-gen.biz, Xbox Live general manager Marc Whitten stated that “The main idea behind the concept is to invest deeply in developing original content that will be compelling and exclusive to Xbox Live.” He also stated that XBLA titles were in development.

It’s good that Microsoft is finally taking a more active approach in adding content to Xbox Live. It’s a service with an awful lot of potential, yet we rarely see titles that push the envelope in terms of taking advantage of Xbox Live’s online features. There’s a lot of fun stuff you could do with multiplayer gaming, but we’ve yet to see a really decent flagship title that really champions Live.

Resident Evil 5 to feature co-op?

Probably one for the rumour file at the moment, but it looks like Resident Evil 5 could be getting a co-op mode. The source is a Games Radar article that was mysteriously disappeared shortly after it went live. According to Eurogamer, the article stated that you’ll be accompanied by a female mercenary who’ll be computer controlled when she’s not being controlled by a player. A second player can apparently drop in as her at any time.

Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5

It’s a highly plausible rumour. We’ve seen Capcom experiment with multiplayer before with the Outbreak series. It didn’t work, largely because the infrastructure wasn’t quite there yet. Not a lot of people had internet-capable PS2s and there was no voice communication. With Live and its now almost ubiquitous voice chatting functions, an online enable co-op could work very well indeed.

Phil Harrison manages to sell the episodic format for Alone in the Dark

Originally, I was a bit pessimistic about the whole chapter structure of Alone in the Dark. There was something just a bit odd about being able to skip difficult missions, something that felt almost like cheating. He raises a good point though- so many people don’t play their games all the way through to the end. Developers sometimes lose it a bit at the end, knowing that a lot of gamers won’t get that far. Possible cutscenes would be an interesting way of getting around this problem. Can’t wait to see if it actually works.

SEGA Rally 3 – turbo-charged for an arcade return

There was quite a shocking press announcement late last week – SEGA Rally 3 exists and will be coming to arcades very soon. The game’s actually a tweaked, 60fps version of the recent remake for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, with a few enhancements designed to make it more thrilling for the arcade crowd.

Coin-op loving blog Arcade Heroes attended the launch event, walked away suitably impressed by the upgraded PC-powered arcade version and took the following blurry but well-meaning photograph:

Even though the console remake of SEGA’s classic racing series didn’t exactly set the sales charts on fire last year, it’ll be good to see the SEGA Rally brand back where it belongs – in the dark corners of the pubs and airport departure lounges of the nation.

XBLA Wednesday – a real snoozeathon

I’m sorry, developers of Buku Sudoku and Warlords. But I’m just not remotely interested in your games. Your titles are both coming out this Wednesday, the former for 800 points and the latter for 400. But I want Braid. I want Bionic Commando. 1942: Joint Strike. Those are the games to get excited about. Not a game recreating my dad’s favourite pastime, or a remake of an old Atari ‘classic’.

But that’s what I – and the millions of other Live users – are getting, so I guess I’d better get used to it. And who knows? Maybe these games are actually quite good. The former at least has some nice presentational touches.

Still: odds on this pair being delisted by this time next year? 4-1 on. A nailed-on bet, I reckon.

GTA graphics comparison shows 360 is marginally better

BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER AND-

Stop. I know that. I know it doesn’t matter that GTA IV apparently has “high[er]-quality textures and the depth/normal maps that go with them” on 360. Or, indeed, that the PlayStation 3 sometimes comes ahead with better shadowing and antialiasing”. But this last sentence – from Gamespot’s thorough comparison of the two versions – made me pause for thought.

“Overall, the PlayStation 3 outputs visuals that are either on par with the Xbox 360 or only slightly behind.”

Okay. So the PS3 just about matches up to the 360, or is only very slightly behind. But isn’t that nothing like it was supposed to be? Wasn’t the PS3 supposed to be the world’s most powerful games console? Wasn’t the power of the Cell going to blow Microsoft’s console out of the water?

Evidently, that’s not been the case, and there’s precious little evidence to suggest that any forthcoming title from Sony is going to do anything with PS3 that would trouble the 360’s processors. While graphical comparisons aren’t really the done thing when it comes to a game like GTA, for those obsessed enough with technology that they can only possibly have the best of the best, you can rest assured that with the 360 you’ve got a console that can – at the very least – boast of being the joint most-powerful machine currently on the market. And who’d have believed that when the PS3 launched?

Axed XBLA games still available – kinda, sorta

When Microsoft announced that they would start to de-list underperforming games from XBLA, there must have been a few people out there were a bit concerned that the not-great-but-fun title they once enjoyed but deleted wouldn’t be there if they fancied another go.

Happily, we can now confirm (via the Gamerscore Blog) that if you have bought a game that has subsequently failed to make the cut and accidentally (or otherwise) deleted it from your HDD you will always be able to re-download it.

Which rather begs the question – if the games are all still on the servers, why bother to delist them at all?

Sure, Microsoft want everything to be on brand and to present a nice high-quality face and all that, but haven’t they ever heard of The Long Tail?

There must be somebody who enjoyed Rocky & Bullwinkle, not to mention any of the other niche games out there. By leaving them up on XBLA (even if they stash them away in an ‘oldies/lame ducks’ section) there is still a small chance that developers could still see some income as games get rediscovered months or even years down the line.

By removing them as they have done, that chance will drop to zero. Where is the sense in that?

Motley Crue single selling more via Rock Band than real life

You can say what you like about Motley Crue – curse their lumpen, unreconstructed rawk, pity their receding hair or even quote Half Man Half Biscuit’s “Upon Westminster Bridge” :

Oh help me Mrs Meddlicot I don’t know what to do/ I’ve only got three bullets And there’s four of Motley Crue

Say what you like.. but don’t argue with their canny commercial instincts.

Their new single Saints of Los Angeles may have only sold a measly 10,000 copies via iTunes, but by releasing the track simultaneously as a downloadable for Rock Band the shaggy-headed glam warriors have clocked up an impressive 47,000 more sales from Xbox players alone.

It may not help their chart position (unless Billboard bend the rules considerably) but that is almost certainly enough to buy eight new cowboy boots, a barrel of hair dye and a catering pack of Jack Daniels.