Thursday, November 15, 2007

Nintendo Wii Review: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock

Unless you've been living under a rock, then you'd probably know that Guitar Hero III is available now, and that it comes in four different flavors. While the PS3 version builds off the PS2 version, and the Xbox 360 version is basically built off the 360 port of Guitar Hero II, no Nintendo console has ever had a Guitar Hero game, and along with the Wii remote, this leads to an interesting question: is Guitar Hero III for the Wii as good as other versions?

Only if you are a graphics whore, achievements whore, or someone who loves being nickeled and dimed to death with downloadable content will this be a disappointment, because underneath, it's still the same fun game play we've grown to know and love.

Guitar Hero III brings 71 songs to the table, 46 on the main set list, and another 25 bonus tracks. Of those 71, a whopping 51 are the master recordings. Most of these are the bonus tracks, but 26 master tracks on the main set list is welcome. There's also the introduction of Battle Mode, which replaces Star Power with different weapons that can be activated to make your opponent screw up.

As for the controller, it makes good use of the Wii remote's accelerometer, wireless capabilities and rumble features, which might mean cheaper controllers for the Wii version down the road. The internal speaker is also used creatively to emit a sound when wrong notes are hit, rather than having that sound come from the TV. It's a small feature, but a nice one. Unfortunately, downloadable content is not featured on the Wii version right now, but everything is there for it to happen in the future.

Also of note is co-op career mode, which is the same basic premise as solo career mode, but splits the game play between guitar and bass or between and and rhythm guitar on certain songs. Better yet, you get to decide which part you want to play before you start up, so you may want to decide ahead of time who is going to play what.

Not much has changed since Guitar Hero II, and not much is different between the Wii version and other versions of Guitar Hero III in the game play department. Like always, the further you get into the game, the harder the songs get, so while "Slow Ride" might be easy, "Raining Blood" and "The Number of the Beast" will rip into you.

There are some issues with product placement, though, which seems to be just about everywhere. While companies like Zildjan and Guitar Center make sense because of their connection to music, companies like Pontiac don't. It's a little bit annoying, and I wish they hadn't sold out Guitar Hero so much.

When it comes to how the game looks, the Wii version is a step backwards from the 360 and PS3 versions. It looks good, but there are some issues with textures not looking as good, or things like the helicopter in the backyard stage being replaced by a static image. To me, that's not so much the Wii's fault as it seems to be RedOctane and Activision's for just being a bit lazy, because the Wii can do helicopters. Most of the game's sounds are from Guitar Hero I and II, but it's no big deal, as the game still sounds great, and some of the cover tracks sound very close to the master ones. Others? Well... they could've used a lot more work, but that's the same for all versions of the game.

Since it's Guitar Hero, there's plenty of replay value in just going back and trying to better your score or pass a harder difficulty level. Guitar Hero III comes with plenty of things to purchase, meaning you'll need to rack up enough money to get it all. While there's no downloadable content yet, online game play is here. Yes, friend codes are back as per usual, but the overall online experience isn't too bad once you get past that.

Which version of Guitar Hero III you pick up will ultimately depend on what consoles you own and how much not having certain features or top-of-the-line graphics will bother you. In the end, the Wii version still does everything its brethren do, and it does it well. Don't overlook this just because it's on the graphically weakest of the current-gen consoles.

Pros: Core game play identical to just about any Guitar Hero game out there. Still incredibly fun. Online game play works well.

Cons: No downloadable content at this time. Graphics not as great as on 360 and PS3 versions. Product placement is overdone. Oh, and friend codes, but come on... you know to expect this by now.

Rating: 4/5. Pick this one up.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mistranslation causes diplomatic problem

Online translation engines, like Altavista's BabelFish translation service, are not only well-known for being free, but for sometimes coming up with very incorrect translations. For example, translating the phrase "Hello, how are you? I am well" from English to Japanese and back to English on BabelFish turns it into, "Is today vigorous? I am good." Close, but not close enough.

So it might not be the best to rely solely these engines when you're trying to communicate with someone important who speaks another language. Like, for example, the Dutch Foreign Minister.

A group of journalists in Israel found that out the hard way last weekend. According to The Register, the journalists used a translation engine called Babylon to translate an e-mail from Hebrew into Dutch. The e-mail was supposed to contain questions concerning an upcoming visit to the Netherlands for a seminar on Dutch politics. What came out of BabelFish, though, was very different.

According to the story, the e-mail began as follows: "Helloh bud, Enclosed five of the questions in honor of the foreign minister: The mother your visit in Israel is a sleep to the favor or to the bed your mind on the conflict are Israeli Palestinian, and on relational Israel Holland." It then went on to make several more mentions of the minister's mother.The problem appears to have been caused because of a different spelling of the Hebrew word for "if", which is spelled identical to a word meaning "the mother" in Hebrew. The engine simply could not tell the difference between the two words.

Unfortunately, it's not all funny, as the Dutch Foreign Minister is now considering canceling the trip completely along with filing a complaint. The Israeli Foreign Ministry is also apparently embarrassed about this whole situation and is trying to patch up any relations with the Netherlands that may have been damaged by the incident.

As for the journalists? They are apparently too embarrassed to make the trip now.

BG team competes as part of global computer programming competition

Tomorrow, a team of students from Bowling Green will be taking part in the first part of a international contest. The three-person team will be heading to The University of Michigan to compete in a regional round of problem solving for the 32nd annual ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), sponsored by IBM. This year, approximately 6,100 university teams from 82 countries on six different continents will be competing.

In the regional round, they will have to solve several complex problems using their skills within five hours. To win, they must solve the most problems correctly in the least amount of time.

If the team wins, they'll be one of 90 regional finalists who will compete in the finals next April in Banff Springs, Alberta, Canada. Finalists will compete for awards, scholarships, prizes, and of course, bragging rights to be the best in the world.

I wish the BG team well, and if they make the finals, I'll keep you all informed.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Disc Format Wars continue: HD-DVD players drop below $100

Or, more specifically, the Toshiba H2-A2 HD-DVD player, which will be on sale at Wal-Mart for $100 starting Friday, November 2 (better known as today). Considering that the unit normally retails for $200, it's a pretty good deal, the kind of deal Wal-Mart seems to love to offer its customers.

For those of you who don't really know what this HD-DVD buzz is all about, it is a new format of DVDs that allows for a higher density. To do this, it uses a blue laser, which reads the disc at a shorter wavelength and allows for more data to be read. Or, in other words, you can fit more content onto these new discs, including movies with better resolutions. It is in direct competition with another format known as Blu-Ray, and the two sides have been locked in a "format war" for the last few years. The winner of this war - if there is one - will basically have control over the next major format for things like video games and movies.

The current cheapest Blu-Ray player is Sony's Playstation 3, and that'll set you back $399 for the cheapest version. Considering how bitter the war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray has been, it will be interesting to see how much of an effect this has. Or if the average consumer will actually even care.

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This is Plugged In, the official technology news blog for The BG News. I’m BG News Web Editor Brian Szabelski, and I’ll be updating this blog over the next few months with news, features, reviews and more about all things technology. Whether that’s about the newest computers or games or technology that you might be seeing in the near-future.

I'll be updating it as often as possible, so please keep checking back for the latest news!