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By Le Chupacabra

While good old Niloy will be writing to keep you guys informed and anticipating MicroSoft's new console, I'm not going to do any such thing. Instead I'll be taking various, below-the-belt and unnecessary pot-shots at the X360. Why? Well, umm… because I was bored!...

So, what to pick on first, hmm? How…about… the name! No, seriously. The Xbox 2 was acceptable. Xbox Next was kind of catchy and maybe, people could have somehow called it Xenon (the codename) as well. But, nooo. Micro$oft (M$) had to think of something 'fresh' and 'original'. Isn't 360o a full rotation? Doesn't that mean that the new Xbox will go full circle and end up second to Sony again?

Now comes the console itself. I'm not going to bother with technical specs since both PS3 and X360 are scarily powerful. However… the aesthetic design of the Xbox 2 leaves a lot to be desired. Okay, what I really meant was: how the heck did M$ get away with that! Fine, the PS2 and Xbox weren't exactly stylish pieces of hardware (though PS2 Slim sure is), but they could have done something more original this generation, right? Right? Wrong. While the PS3 has opted for a sleek, printer-like look, M$ pulled an Apple and ended up with something that looks like a prototype for a new iPod. Infact, if the 'X'-logo wasn't there, I could've sworn it was an iPod. Shame on you, Gates. Even with all that money you can't afford to get someone more creative to design your new console. Maybe all that success is getting to you, right Bill? It's pitiful indeed.

Next up, we have the games. While M$ plans to release about "40-50 games on launch", only a handful have been announced and a fewer have been shown. The ones shown have been "Meh!" at best. If the X360 was coming out next year, it would make sense. But for a console that's being released in a few months, the games are looking mighty pathetic. Graphics are good indeed (nothing "next-gen" though), but why-oh-why is the animation stuck in a limbo of bone-shattering spasms? There are also games that claim to be able to output thousands of characters on-screen. That's a great thing… if the characters weren't all just copy-pasted a zillion times! No variety, no nothing. Every single enemy is just like the next. Seeing a game like that in action or even in a screen shot makes one dizzy. At least the Clone Troopers in Star Wars have rank colours so you could make out Clone#45 from #569. Nothing doing on X360, guv'nor. Coupled with the stop-motion animation, it looks like you're wading through a bog made entirely of the same goon. Not nice.

So what if Halo 3 is coming out. It's still far off. While 'Gears of War' and 'Perfect Dark: Zero' have people drooling online, note this: Gears of War is really nothing special and Rare haven't really been able to do anything brilliant since the N64, despite their pedigree (007: Golden Eye, Perfect Dark and Conker's Bad Fur Day). If you think X360's cutting it with sports games you'd be wrong again. Since EA is the monopoly there, expect all the FIFAs and NHLs to be out on all the consoles. Even the old ones. Also, while Japan has 'pledged' [read: been heavily and not-so-secretly paid to] support for the X360, the games in development have been lacklustre at best. Tecmo main-man, Itagaki-san (Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive series, Fatal Frame series), always keen on working with M$ only had scathing remarks about his contemporaries. Not a good sign, indeed. I know the Xbox had only 1 good game to like 20 of the same on PS2, but isn't it embarrassing for M$ to be repeating the same mistake twice?

Lastly come M$'s announcements of the X360. So what are we expecting from the next generation? Ultrahyperuberlicious (is that even a word?) graphics, superb gameplay and extreme multiplayer action are some. Besides that we definitely want our fair share of media options, connectivity, backward-compatibility (basically being able to play last gen's games on the new one… a good way to finish that RPG you've been putting off for years) and wireless controllers. After all, all three (Ninty, Sony and M$) have been putting a lot of emphasis on controllers in this, the next generation. However, some of M$'s "strategic announcements" kind of change a lot. First off the bat were some mumblings about "selective backward-compatibility". Ears were pricked and eye-brows were raised. Hehe, we all knew what was coming. Due to "technical difficulties" M$ would only allow select Xbox titles to be played on the new console. Well, it's not too bad, considering that most people play only Halo 2 anyway. But they were still shafting a few million others. That wasn't the end. Recently they announced something else. The Xbox 360 is coming in two versions. Remember all M$'s assurances of how the Xbox 360 would be affordable and cheap? Well here's the real picture. There's a "Value" edition at 299$ (typical console launch price). Of course, the "value" version of anything usually has to "sacrifice some 'minor' components for the sake of cost-effectiveness". In this case, the "value" edition comes with a wired controller (in the next generation? For shame…) and NO backwards compatibility!

That's right, so if Johnny Knotagamer, the quintessential casual gamer, wants to play his still-shiny copy of Halo 2 on the Value pack… well, tough luck kid. However, he can still have the option of selling his kidney to earn a hefty $400 (nan dattebayo! And people say the PS3 is going to be expensive!) so he too can enjoy the benefits of playing old games with a new wireless controller! And a face-plate! Another one of M$'s announcements was to be able to customize your Xbox 360 by purchasing (at "affordable" prices) face-plates that change the front palate of your console. So yeah, if you happen to like pink flowers or something you can shell out 15$ for a face-plate with such. A "perfect" distraction on those long Xbox 360 game loads, eh? If you don't like it, well too bad, buy another one. The word "superficial" can be accompanied by a resounding slap on the forehead for this one. Let's not mention how M$ will let you buy game skins, models, etc. at "cheap" prices on Xbox Live! Marketplace… with real money. Oh boy, a Rusty Dagger +2 for only 2.99$? What a deal! Meh.

While, I'm not saying the Xbox 360 is going to fail, it does have some glaring flaws, as do the PS3 (what is it's real performance?) and Ninty Revolution (does it really exist?). Let this article not anger you who are of Xbox fanboy blood. It's all in good fun.

I think.
Comments, suggestions, flames and hate mail can all be directed to:baka.ero.sennin@gmail.com

By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam

Nearly three months ago I promised readers updates on whatever was happening in regards to the most anticipated cricket series in years. Yes, I am talking about the ICC Super Series an annual event which shall pit the best team of the world in that calendar year against the best of the rest of the world.

At that time, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the team the ICC World XI would be pit against even in the next year would be Australia. It was one of those things that you know was bound to happen. Australia were miles ahead of the chasing back and looked good to stay there for at least the foreseeable future. How much has changed in three months!

The Australians fall from grace has been quite spectacular and I shall not shirk away from mentioning the importance of Bangladesh in this shockingly meteoric drop. What the Bangladeshi's did in that unforgettable day in Sophie Gardens was break the Australian resolve and shatter the illusion of immortality that seemed to hang around the men from Down Under. Despite an easy victory in the Ashes opener, the Australians have been falling ever since. And with that the expectation and the mouth-watering anticipation of the ICC Series has also fallen slightly. Most people now believe that should the World XI play to their strengths, a victory against the Australian's would be almost a formality. Even the bookies have shortened the odds but then again, count out the Australians at your own peril.

Well, lets get back to the subject in question now shall we? Yes, the ICC team has been announced, as most of you by this time already know. I am sure that they have been the topic of much heated debates all over the world. Even the amateur looking at it from a wider perspective would find some shocking irregularities in the selection process.

Now don't get me wrong here. I think that the team announced is a fascinating one and playing to their potential shall overcome the Aussies. I also understand that however unbiased the selectors like to be it is almost impossible to select a player solely by his on-field demonstrations of class and endeavor. Commercialism has evolved into one of the most important factors in selection and therefore your presence and clout on-field matters almost as much as what you do on it. In other words, there is no place in the World XI for grafters- as with the defensive midfielder in football- they are the forgotten men of cricket.

Which probably explains why Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who averages almost 74 in the last two years and 80 as the captain of the woeful West Indies, finds himself out of the reckoning, while Graeme Smith is not only picked but also captains a side that contains the likes of Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar. On the topic of Lara and Tendulkar, neither have played much cricket over the last six months or so but it was almost a foregone conclusion that they would be in the squad. After all they are the greatest players of the last decade. But then, what of Inzamamul Hoq?

The gentle giant has been an outstanding performer over the years but finds himself out in the cold- a decision that has understandably shocked him. Granted a poor record against Australia hasn't helped his cause but then again that hasn't hampered Jacques Kallis's cause.

Shaun Pollock is a high caliber bowler but it is surprising how he gets into the Test squad ahead of Chaminda Vass who has taken more wickets at a much better average than Pollock in the last year and half. Of course Shaun can bat but then so can the Sri-Lankan. And it is a matter of open debate how Mark Boucher of all people can keep wickets with the brilliant Kumar Sangakkara finding no place in the squad.

As far as the one-day squad is concerned, it is again a matter of open debate as to how Inzamamul Hoq, one of the greatest ODI players of all time, finds himself ignored while Herschelle Gibbs gains a position in spite of his tainted reputation and unspectacular record. And what of the rejuvenated Shane Bond who is ignored while the South African Makhaya Ntini is selected.

I could go on and on but what would be the use. It's not that the selectors have sinned in some way or the other. It is quite understandable that in the media friendly world of today it is the dashing sportsman who raises the ratings, who is most preferred. Everyone understands that. What we hope is that the higher ups stop telling us that selection has been done on merit and merit alone. It's never the case. As they say, in the end - money talks.

(Send your mails to zulquarnain.islam@gmail.com)





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