Casual Friday: BD-Live Goes Live

Of course, any story discussing system modding begins and ends with Benjamin J. Heckendorn (aka Ben Heck). This madman has a full stable of ingenious projects making gaming consoles behave in ways their creators never intended. You may have heard of his Xbox 360 notebook project. He's now taking on custom projects, such as a one-handed Xbox 360 controller. I'll take two, please.

Unreal Contest

Speaking of mods, if you know how to code your way out of an ASCII box, I might know a way for you to snag a million bucks. Intel and Epic Games (makers of Gears of War and Unreal Tournament III) have kicked off a new "Make Something Unreal" contest. In short, it encourages wannabe game makers to use the Unreal editor to create new mods (game modifications), levels, character models, weapons--you name it--to work with UT. Prizes and engine licenses will be awarded to the best submissions.

As a former judge, I always look forward to seeing what the community can dream up. Why, people created everything from puzzle games and racing sims to full face-lifts for Unreal Tournament 2004. Curious to check 'em out? All you need is a copy of UT 2004 (which, fortunately, you can buy dirt cheap).

Among my favorite mods of the bunch are the World War II combat game Red Orchestra--which won the last contest and has since moved on to store shelves--and the steampunk Wild West game Damnation, which is now being revamped for a retail release in the UT3 engine later this year. Keep your eyes peeled at places like FileFront.com for the latest Unreal Tournament III mods, too.

Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core (Sony PSP)

It's a slow release week for games, so I finally had time to sit down with a high-quality action role-playing game that came out recently, Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. If you've played the other Final Fantasy games, you'll find a lot of fan service and backstory here, but for anyone else new to the series this still is a great stand-alone adventure. Oh, sure, the game will throw lots of terms at you and expect you to understand what's happening in the world around you, but it does try to give some context.

The graphics are really solid for the PSP, and the gameplay is anything but stale hacking-and-slashing. You can dodge out of harm's way and earn bonuses for using your head in combat. That's saying nothing of the solid story that will make your morning commute--or cross-country flight--melt away into the background.

As a guy who has a hard time sneaking in hard-core RPG sessions with my wife around, this is a great way to blow off a little steam.

Until next week...

Senior Writer Darren Gladstone geeks out over gadgets, games, and odd uses for humdrum tech. In other words, he's a nerd--and he's okay with that.

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