Xbox LIVE Wrap-Up for January 14th, 2010

After two straight weeks of Xbox LIVE Wrap-Ups under our belt, the segment is well on its way to becoming a staple column on Diehard GameFAN as last week’s entry surprisingly had some visits and feedback. As impressive as the turnout was last week, though, the Xbox wrap-up was still crushed in the ratings by the Nintendo and Sony columns, so gather up Microsoft fans – we’ve got a bundle of new content this week just begging for your attention. The deal of the week chops one of 2009’s best Xbox LIVE Arcade additions to half price, Xbox LIVE Arcade gets an update to a cult classic, prices are dropping, updates are impending and more, so there is no excuse to pass up on Xbox LIVE this week.

Xbox LIVE Arcade – Serious Sam: The First Encounter HD
Last week we saw a fictional classic video game character re-imagined for today’s consoles; however, this week, a legit cult classic is making its way back onto consoles. Serious Sam was always pretty bad-ass, even if some of its art was pretty cartoony. While he stuck mostly to the PC format, there were a few home console releases that hit the previous generation and this generation sees his original adventure re-imagined with HD visuals for the Xbox 360. The title surely takes inspirations from the Doom series, however, Serious Sam gives players a high-speed alternative with waves of crazy enemies and a cache of ridiculous firepower. With the scores of enemies, you just might need some backup, which, thankfully, can come in the form of four-player online co-op play.

The Croteam-developed title was polished up and re-developed by Devolver Digital and offers 15 levels of run-and-gun gameplay. Now for the price of 1200 Microsoft Points, players can once again take control of Sam “Serious” Stone as he goes back in time to ancient Egypt to battle Notorious Mental and the Sirian army. All of the mobs of enemies and towering monsters included in the original have been welcomed back for one more chance to take Sam down in this fast-paced action FPS. Serious Sam always fit the bill for players looking for no-nonsense action so the hopes are high that The First Encounter HD won’t disappoint.

Game Add-ons – Dragon Age: Origins – Return to Ostagar
While as of this moment, no official announcement has been made, word has quickly circulated around message boards and sites that this delayed expansion to Dragon Age: Origins is now available online, even though it has yet to be advertised as such. If you were truly upset by the delay of this expansion, hopefully it will now be there for your downloading pleasure.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, due to some snags in an title update to prepare the game for Return to Ostagar, the expansion is temporarily removed from Xbox LIVE. Apparently, there was an issue that made the specialization classes work incorrectly, so, if you did download the expansion and was affected by this, just know that Bioware is quickly working on a remedy.

Xbox LIVE Deal of the Week: Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers is now 400 Microsoft Points
Say what you will about the stereotypical Magic: The Gathering crowd, but it’s hard to knock this extremely well-done downloadable that brings an authentic experience to consoles for what is essentially the very first time. Seeing as the game is 50% to Gold members for one week, Magic fans can use this opportunity to download the full game plus its expansion for the original, full price of the game. The title has since been updated to remedy its online functionality and multiple staff members will tell you Magic: The Gathering is more than worth the money:

“Magic is excellent now that they cleaned up some of the bugs. It’s a fun online game and a great way to casually play for people like me that liked to play but gave up on shelling out cash for the cards a long time ago.”Adam Powell

“Magic: The Gathering is definitely worth picking up if you already haven’t. Now being only $5, you can pick this and the DLC with additional decks and cards for $10(DLC is $5). This is one of the top downloaded arcade games for 2009 so there are plenty of players to play with online. For old fans of the card game like myself and for newcomers looking for quick fantasy card game experience, this is the ticket. The tutorial is pretty detailed and gives you a good lesson on how the card game works. Now that Magic has also been patched enough that it rarely freezes like it did when it first came out, it has improved the experience.”Michael Merhar

Normally an expensive hobby, $5 is a steal for a Magic-based game and you don’t even have to deal with all of those cards lying around. Surely, it will annoy fans of the TCG that you cannot edit custom decks, but the authenticity definitely makes the experience worthwhile for casual play. If you’re looking for more information on Magic: The Gathering, take a gander at Michael Merhar’s full thoughts of the title in Diehard GameFAN’s Magic: The Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers review.

If you haven’t purchased this title yet, don’t miss out on this week’s deal. Last I week I did end up picking up A Kingdom for Keflings and greatly enjoyed it with around six hours already put into it. Hopefully you’re not regretting missing out on that title right now and, if so, don’t make that mistake two weeks in a row.

Games on Demand: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2, Price Drops
We’re hitting pretty close to the system launch window on this one, especially considering we don’t have a review on file for this week’s Games on Demand selection. Regardless, the Xbox 360 precursor to Rainbow Six Vegas is now available for 1600 Microsoft Points. If you dig the Tom Clancy shooters, then you might be interested in giving this title a shot, however, pre-owned copies of this title are struggling to scratch for $10. This is one of the clear cases where slapping down $20 instead might be less attractive, especially as the age of this title will most likely make it difficult to find new copies. Do your research – as of the typing of this column, I’ve found the title as low as $5 plus shipping online.

While we’re on the subject of Games on Demand, we have a few other tidbits. First, Major Nelson is reporting Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is also being given the Games on Demand treatment, however, I have yet to find this on the actual download service and no price is given for the download. Also, exclusive to Japan, Xbox 360 owners in the territory can download Raiden IV as a Games on Demand digital copy. We’re unsure if the U.S. will get the same treatment, but, hopefully it’s in the cards as Raiden IV was Diehard GameFAN’s 2009 Traditional Shooting Game of the Year.

Lastly, BioShock, Saints Row, MX vs. ATV Untamed and Prey have dropped to $20 on the service, while Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution is now at $30. Wait … Prey is still at $20? Can someone please tell Microsoft you can find used copies of that title for $3?

Xbox Avatars Marketplace – New Items for the Week
Can’t get enough of your avatar? It seems Microsoft is steady on releasing regular weekly content for the Avatar Marketplace and if you haven’t taken a look today, you should see new items endorsed by the Burton label as well as outfits inspired by the game Darksiders.

Freebie Period for Xbox LIVE Silver Members – Last.fm and Left 4 Dead 2
Are you feeling left out because you don’t want to (or can’t) pony up money to Microsoft for its Gold service? Luckily for these players, they will be able to catch a double break this weekend by having free access to one service and one game all weekend long. Starting Jan. 15 and running through Jan. 18, Xbox LIVE Silver members will have full access to Last.fm on Xbox LIVE as well as free online gameplay on Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2. These are some stellar freebies for Xbox LIVE Silver members, so make sure you take advantage of them.

Music Game Marketplace
With many music game titles receiving expansion content on a weekly basis, it may start to become hard to follow, especially with these updates usually covering up the entire line of recent updates on the Xbox dashboard. This week Guitar Hero gets back into action with new downloads for 2010 and, as always, Rock Band and Lips are there to greet us with new downloads, just like always.

Rock Band
Alice in Chains Track Pack
“Grind”
“Heaven Beside You”
“Last of My Kind”
“We Die Young”
“Your Decision”

Lips
“Homecoming” – Kanye West feat. Chris Martin
“Baby When the Light” – David Guetta feat. Cozi
“Lean On Me” – Club Nouveau

Guitar Hero – Jan. 14
Vampire Weekend Track Pack
“Holiday”
“Cousins”
“The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance”

CES Updates for Xbox LIVE
As an added bonus this week, we’ll leave everyone with a couple of Microsoft announcements that will be affecting Xbox LIVE users in the near future:

It was announced that this spring, the first Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 expansion content packs will hit Xbox LIVE first for an exclusive time period.

Also this spring, Microsoft will be releasing an application called Game Room. Players will be able to download this Playstation Home-like environment for free, however, players will have pay for each individual arcade cabinet they would like to place in their game room. It has been said players can pay 500 Microsoft Points to place a cabinet in a player’s game room for use on both PC and 360 or purchase one for 240 to keep it in one format or the other. Another option is to pay 50 Microsoft Points in order to receive two tokens that give players one full gameplay per token. Right now Atari is shown to be onboard and classics such as Centipede are shown in videos, but Microsoft is claiming to have around 100 classics onhand and will be releasing at least one new cabinet every week. Of course, players will handle their avatars in the environment and will be able to invite friends over where they can compete head-to-head if they own the same cabinet or offer game demos to friends that do not own a cabinet. It’s also looking like a set of achievements will be paired with the application.

See, there was a lot to go through for this week. Fortunately, that’s not a bad thing for Xbox LIVE users, so get out there and enjoy the sales and new offerings. Of course, we’ll be back next week to bring everyone the newest content available on Xbox LIVE.

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