Microsoft has offered Zune players and music services for a long time, but with the passing of the Zune player, the Zune pass is also being retired. Xbox Music launches for Xbox 360 October 16th as Microsoft’s answer to music streaming like Rdio or Spotify. Offering unlimited (DRM‘d) music downloads from the 18 million song database (for the US), the service is impressive. Down be confused, though. Xbox Music is both the streaming/download service and the store, which will be available on Windows 8 (being released on October 26th) and Windows Phone 8 devices.
The Xbox Music service provides a variety of features, but also has a downside. Actually – there’s two or three. First, the (US) price of the subscription is $9.99 a month, but you can alternatively choose to purchase a full year of service for $99.99. Second, you are required to have an Xbox Gold account, which is of course a separate, paid subscription. If you can bear to shovel the dough, the service is probably superior, offering intelligent “Smart DJ” channels based on your specifications, which will use both your current music, including your unlimited downloads, and your unlimited stream of music. ‘Unlimited’ is the key word, and that factor probably provides the best chance in helping Xbox Music become a real competitor for music. Read more.
Surprise! The majority share of Sprint Nextel was just bought at over $20 million. What does this mean for the future of the yellow carrier? For those of you, like myself, on the carrier which provides the only “truly unlimited data” network, this change in majority stock means that the Japanese company SoftBank has the biggest say – 70% – in the goings-on of the carrier, and more importantly, Sprint now has $8 million to blow on getting its name back. Whether this means better 4G LTE, more phones, or just better commercials, this investment can hardly be a bad thing for Sprint. Read more.
Neurologists from the Belgian National Research fund may have discovered a more definitive method of determining whether a patient is actively conscious. Many patients may be put into a state of minimal consciousness, called a vegetative state. Melanie Boly and her team presented a new method to measure the amount of consciousness that someone in a vegetative state may have; doctors may soon be able to measure just how actively someone is thinking while in a state resulting from something like brain trauma or cardiac arrest. At a point at which there is no option for resuscitation, families of patients may which to decide whether their family member should remain on life support, or be let off. This method involves emitting brief electromagnetic pulses through cranial electrodes and measuring the resultant brain activity. Doctors can then see into the minds of patients just a little, and can better inform the conscious of the unconscious mind. Read more.
Halo 4, the newest game in Microsoft’s flagship franchise, will pick up exactly where Halo 3 left off, with Master Chief and Cortana in the Forward Unto Dawn drifting toward a planet. The game is packed with new stuff starting with new enemies and weapons and the start of a new story. In fact, there will be a whole new faction, the Prometheans. These strange robotic creatures are somehow related to the forerunners, a species of human-like creatures that lived in the galaxy in the past. The Prometheans fight very differently than Master Chief’s previous enemy, the Covenant. The Prometheans use many new tactics to bring you down, which should add new depth to the game. The crawlers, the Promethean equivalent of grunts, can crawl up any surface, so hiding behind pillars, walls, or on ledges won’t be as useful as it used to be. The knights, the Prometheans main unit, use their shields, speed, watchers, and teleportation abilities to destroy you. Watchers are an aerial support unit that are deployed by knights, they can use a tractor beams to throw grenades back at you, put a hardlight shield between you and a knight, or they could heal the knight. There are different types of knights and crawlers, so there should be plenty of variety. Halo 4 also has a new take on story telling by making the game more personal. Finally, the game will be in full HD. Before you say that Halo Reach was in HD, recall that true high-definition skins and textures to cover an entire game’s levels and maps would never fit on one game DVD like we buy. That’s why Halo 4 is almost undoubtedly coming on multiple disks. Halo 4 will be not only the must-have game on Xbox when it comes out on November 6, but looks to be a game to remember.
Though we may all have mixed feelings on the first Epic Mickey, I hope the second will change that. That’s right–the second Epic Mickey, innovatively called Epic Mickey 2, is expected next Christmas season.
The game will be coop, first player being Mickey and second player being Oswald. We don’t know if it will pick up where the previous story left off or if it will have a whole new story. The game will be available on Wii, Xbox 360, and PS3. Naturally the Xbox and PS3 will be HD, but they won’t have the motion controls that the Wii has.