Monday, July 28, 2014

Random Thoughts

  • Someone got to my blog by searching this:

          Someone is out there googing Sonic's "peen."

  • All of that PCMASTERRACE business is unbearable. It's ten times worse than any Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo fanboys ever were. No one gives a fuck if your games look better. No one except other people engaged in the same frenzied masturbation as you though, I guess. Keep posting those screenshots.
  • Speaking of that, why are mods seen as an advantage to PC gaming? I understand some genuinely expand on a game, but a large amount of modded content out there seems to be dedicated to "fixing" games. So, the developer tricked you into fixing their game? Whenever I downloaded mods it was because I was 12 and I wanted my Sims to be naked before I took the ladder out of the pool and ended them.
  • Gearbox Software doesn't make very good games. Borderlands is pretty heavily derivative of Fallout with more of an action taste. Not to mention they basically made Colonial Marines suck to make Borderlands.
  • Capcom probably hasn't made an HD ports of any of the older Resident Evil games besides CODE: Veronica and 4 because of the pre-rendered backgrounds. The backgrounds in Resident Evil 3 for Dreamcast are stored as JPEGs. 
  • Apple has made handhelds irrelevant and Sony and Nintendo are holding on to a dying breed. There's not much justification in the average person purchasing a handheld when you can (in some cases) pay nothing for an iPhone with a contract and have a wider variety of gaming experiences in addition to getting a device that'll be used for many things. Of course touch screens aren't ideal for many games, but that doesn't affect the proverbial average person.
  • Anime culture being so heavily ingrained with gaming culture is a huge hurdle to the medium.
  • The Super Nintendo is only viewed as superior to the Genesis online because of the abundance of excellent RPG games. Both the Genesis and Super Nintendo have an abundance of throw away garbage. There's not a huge difference in the quality level of their libraries when it comes to AAA titles vs. shit.
  • Indie gaming is not the future of gaming. It's a fad, just like indie music is. It adapts to the times and needs of the people who feel important identifying with it, and then exceptional musicians (or developers) become mainstream. The cycle repeats.
  • Another huge problem with gaming culture is the internet. Have you spoke with many people online who don't think they're experts about games? This is a medium that attracts the worst of the worst who parrot shit that other people say. Let's take a look at the term "Metroidvania." I've talked about this term before; it's bullshit. What happened with Metroid and Castlevania in 2009? Nothing. Except the birth of that term. 
  • Speaking of which, I've seen the term "Zeldalike" get thrown around recently. Expect that to go to the top of gamers' circle jerk terms they identify each other with along with "roguelike." Perhaps soon we'll see "CODlike."
  • What I played of Destiny was wholly unimpressive. Note that it was 10 minutes (if even).
  • Gears of War (with the exception of 3) is horribly overrated.
  • Sony's flagship shooters (Resistance and Killzone) are pretty generic. That's not to say they're bad, but they seem to be a kneejerk reaction to Microsoft's success with the genre.
  • Fuck Nintendo's non-response to localizing games that would help push their consoles here. It didn't end with Operation Rainfall.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (PlayStation Portable) Review

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker basically opens with Kaz saying "Finally, we can leave all that crap in San Heironymo behind us." ...and the series has basically done that. Why? Why was Peace Walker included in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Portable Ops was left to rot on the PSP?

We have an answer. Spoilers follow.

Kojima wants you to forget about this..

First off, Hideo Kojima didn't have an active hand in this game. Next, if you read any fan summary of the series (it's needed even if you're a huge fan; this shit is convoluted), Portable Ops seems to hold down a key plot point. So key that at one point in time, Metal Gear Solid 4's story was contingent on Portable Ops' story. Portable Ops is the story of how Zero secured the Philosopher's Legacy in order to fund the Patriots. Now, I just said a lot of shit and if you're not a fan you have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about. Basically, the Patriots are a shadow government that ends up significantly controlling the world and you sort of need a fuckton of cash to do that. That's what the Philosopher's Legacy is; a fuckton of cash. Sort of a dramatic name for a pile of benjamins so huge it would make Alex Rodriguez blush.

Solid Snake huh? Sounds kinky.

This eventually makes Big Boss go apeshit and the rest of the world collapse in insanity. You would expect this to be a plot heavy game. Not really.

I spent the first 2 and a half hours looking for a cure for Malaria. Cue white lady asking for money.


Yeah, so you meet Roy Campbell in this game (the colonel from Metal Gear Solid), and he's some sort of.. haggard looking perv with Malaria. So, you have to find the cure and you need help to do this. This leads directly into the game's first huge problem. Maybe it wouldn't be so huge if I hadn't played Peace Walker first, but I did. Peace Walker features a really great base/army building mechanic. You use a fulton recovery system (that shit in The Dark Knight when Batman fucks up that Chinese dude's shit) to recruit soldiers to your army and build Mother Base. Portable Ops also has an army building mechanic. It fucking sucks.

See, Kojima was smart. He knew you wanted to build your army, so he made that shit like Pokémon. You were catching soldiers left and right. Portable Ops forces you to drag the fuckers all the way back to the truck, and dragging soldiers is slooooow. Yeah, you don't actually have a base in this game. It's a truck. I'm not sure where your army goes in the meantime. Are they all in the truck? Is it like the trucks in Metal Gear that are as big as a house on the inside? You can recruit soldiers who carry people faster, but it's still not fast enough. The time that you spend pausing the game, switching soldiers, walking to the soldier to be recruited and dragging them back will probably equate to the time spent carrying them back with Big Boss.

It puts a terrible damper on the game, and it's basically required. One clever aspect of this is that if you play as a recruited soldier, they'll retain their fatigues they wore when they were captured. This means you can walk right in front of enemies, and as long as you're not being suspicious they won't care. This has some odd caveats to it. Sometimes they seem to just attack you if you go into or out of some areas. I really don't know why. I guess you're just not supposed to be in there. What kind of a soldier just automatically shoots an apparent comrade for going in a room though?

That camouflage mechanic seems like it would make the game too easy, but it doesn't. You have to use it. The game is too difficult at times because the controls are the worst kind of asshole.

This kind. They flip-flop.

It's really sort of hard to explain them. Mechanically, there's nothing wrong with them. They're laid out correctly. They just do not work. I think it's because the game maintains the same difficulty as its console counterparts, but it's just damned hard to play on that level without a good way to manipulate the camera. The d-pad handles the camera, but it's just not easy to do while you need to think on your feet since the d-pad is above the stick which controls movement. Another huge problem with the controls is the aiming. You have never aimed a gun so slowly in your life. I cranked the sensitivity all the way up and I couldn't discern any difference in speed. This makes boss fights frustratingly impossible.

Anyways, once you're cured of Malaria the plot sort of starts. There's a man named Gene staging an uprising and attempting to use Metal Gear to nuke Russia. Of course Big Boss has to stop this. So, you start recruiting his soldiers and using them against him. This is actually clever. You can deploy spy units to scout locations and give you a view of the map. The spies will occasionally collect supplies as well. Everything in Portable Ops has an ugly downside though, and at times the game will force you to place spies to scout areas in order to find your next mission. The game makes it obvious that you should do this, but the location is sometimes vague as are the requirements. One mission arbitrarily requires you to place four spies in one area to proceed. Of course this loops back around to the problem with collecting soldiers; it is a requirement and it sucks.

Anyways, the story doesn't really become relevant until the end. The story is also ridiculous even for Metal Gear standards. We've got psychic girls running around, some kind of dictatorish guy who has special powers in his voice for people to listen to him, the somewhat odd introduction of Gray Fox, a last minute Ocelot appearance.. oh, and Malaria.


The title honestly says all you need to know about the game. Let's take a look...

Metal Gear
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Okay, so the first three titles don't tell us much. Sons of Liberty, the group responsible for the Boston Tea Party (no libertarians, please). Also relevant to the title as the Patriots first become known here and the terrorists at the tanker refer to themselves as the Sons of Liberty. Snake Eater, sort of nonsensical but important. This apparently referred to soldiers who went into areas so deep that they had to forage for food, and sometimes ate snakes. You also do this in the game. Portable Ops. This has no meaning. Guns of the Patriots... I actually haven't played Metal Gear Solid 4. I'll assume it has meaning, though. Peace Walker refers to The Boss AI's self sacrifice at the end of the game in order to prevent nuclear war. I'm assuming Ground Zeroes refers to the start of Big Boss' active descent into villain (a ground zero of his life). The Phantom Pain refers to a pain felt in a limb that is gone, and Kaz can be seen in MGS V trailers missing limbs. Not to mention Big Boss' robot hand.

Notice anything? All of those titles have some bearing on the overall theme of the game. Portable Ops means nothing. That's really all you need to understand this game.

Portable Ops isn't worth it. The ending is really the only interesting plot of the game. Gene ends up giving Big Boss the necessities to found Militaires Sans Frontieres in Peace Walker as Gene notes similarities between the two of them. This is actually very interesting, as Gene's intention was to start an independent nation of soldiers called Army's Heaven. Big Boss' attempts at this are called Outer Heaven. I think this is an interesting plot point, but Portable Ops seems to be largely forsaken at this point in time. I doubt it'll resurface and it probably shouldn't since Gene wasn't terribly well developed as a character to have such a huge influence on Big Boss' psyche. 

Go ahead, try to ignore the fact that I am Steven Blum and the only thing Steven Blum does is sound like Steven Blum.

I can't really recommend this game. Your time would be better spent just watching some YouTube videos with the cutscenes. It's a frustrating game that occasionally becomes incredibly enjoyable. There's really nothing more angering than a game that can go from brilliant to rage inducing.

I didn't even mention the fact that you can only carry four items at a time. That sucks too.

The Score: 6/10

Monday, July 7, 2014

Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360) Review

Grand Theft Auto V was probably the most hyped game of all time. People totally lost their shit, even more so than Grand Theft Auto IV. I tend not to buy into video game hype; I get excited, but I want. Especially with Grand Theft Auto. Grand Theft Auto IV was an ugly, lifeless game. Rockstar spent all of their time building a city, and they forgot to put any character into it. This was rectified with the superb DLC releases (The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony), but it was still an empty experience compared to III, Vice City and San Andreas. Initial reaction to Grand Theft Auto IV was good, but cooled over time. Hype is something that wildly skews reactions to games. Sometimes a game will be insanely hyped and then disappoint and the reaction is vile. Case in point: Too Human. Too Human is a serviceable, enjoyable game for the most part. Catch a discussion in the comment section of a game website, and it'll be called the worst game ever by many. 

Those people never played Quest 64.

Look shitty? It is shitty. 

Grand Theft Auto V almost lives up to the earth shaking hype it generated, which means it's a damn fine game. I've mentioned before that the first game console I had was an Atari 2600. One of my earliest game memories is Kaboom!

Kaboom is a simple game, and the graphics are about as good as they can be for 2600. We've come a long way since one button joysticks where you move buckets of water left and right.

The graphics in this game are stunning. Nothing we've seen yet in a released game compares. The lighting effects are incredible, they're not just shapeless blobs of shadows that we see so often. They match every movement of what you're seeing on screen. I'm not one too gush over graphics too much, but what Rockstar has done here is absolutely stunning. When Rockstar announced the RAGE engine that the game runs on, it was impressive for its time and they even released a game whose main intention was to show off the engine. Rockstar Table Tennis actually turned out to be a very excellent game, and got ported to a few other consoles.

It started to seem like Table Tennis was just a well tuned tech demo when Grand Theft Auto IV came out. Red Dead Redemption showed that RAGE had some legs and six years later, the engine lived up to its full potential. I'm not one to gush over graphics, but this is a game that looks so good you can get caught up just driving around the countryside. You'll want to get to the tops of mountains just to look out over the horizon. It seems weird to marvel at a video game environment like this, but how often do you get the chance to go to the top of a mountain in real life? That's part of the fun of GTAV. The technology has caught up with Rockstar's ambitions, and they've successfully created a city that not only looks alive, but feels alive. All of the shortcomings of GTA IV have been rectified.

The story is also the most compelling of a GTA game yet. Switching between the three characters feels odd at first, but once you get into the groove of it the system feels natural. In my opinion, Michael is the most compelling character. Michael is a retired bank robber who worked with the in-game equivalent of the FBI (the FIB) to get out of the life. A chain of events leads Michael to meet Franklin, who feels like a poorly executed version of CJ from San Andreas. Eventually, this brings Michael's deranged former partner Trevor into the mix. Trevor is a bit too over the top. His insanity can be charming in a weird way (his over the top emotions in particular), but the schtick wears thin relatively quickly. 

The three characters let you experience Los Santos in different ways. Michael seems like a call back to Tommy Vercetti from Vice City. As I mentioned earlier, Franklin seems like he's meant to reference CJ but just doesn't work as well as a character. Trevor is just... Trevor. There hasn't quite been a character this insane as a playable character in a video game.

Michael's story is the glue that holds the plot together, and is probably the most interesting. He seems to be a character from a Michael Mann movie filtered through Quentin Tarantino. His physical presence recalls Robert De Niro's Neil McCauley from Heat, albeit a bit less stiff. His characterization is hard to put a finger on exactly, but there's elements of all of the best crime movie characters run through a satire of middle age in America. His family sucks, his kids are shitty and he hates his life. His therapist offers little to nothing, and the only time he seems to enjoy life is when he's back into the life he wanted to be out of. The psychological realism of the characters helps ground the events. Each character has some kind of issue in their past that set their lives on the course that they're currently on.

The overall plot is a bit odd to put together as a whole, but the pieces of it are excellent. It can get a bit redundant with characters disappearing to lay low for a while getting a bit old, but it's generally well paced. The fact that the whole environment is open from the start does a lot to change the flow of the game.

The biggest improvement to the game is the missions. Grand Theft Auto IV was also massively disappointing due to the nature of the missions. Instead of taking advantage of the extra horsepower that the 360 and PS3 brought to the table, the missions continued the same format of "get mission to kill someone, find person, person gets in car and runs, chase after person in car until they stop, try not to lose them." Grand Theft Auto V abandons these missions for the most part, which is the biggest breath of fresh air. The centerpieces of single player are heists, which have set-up aspects and different plans of attack. The set-up is relatively mundane for most of the heists, but helps build anticipation for the heist. Once you actually execute the plan, it's tense. The heists play out like the best... well, heist movies. It's never exactly clear what will happen, and the heists are one of those rare gaming moments where you can feel your heart beating.

It's never clear what will happen in the heists. Maybe a crew member you hired is too inexperienced. What if he loses some of the take? What if some part of the plan fails? Its the kind of excitement that a game of this type should bring. One heist ends up with a private military on your tail, while you tear through a small town with a minigun and tanks in pursuit. It's fucking insane, and it's a blast.

One major criticism of mine for GTA IV was how the cars handled. The handling has been greatly improved in GTA V, working as a cross between the classic PS2 era games and GTA IV. It's actually fun to drive again, and motorcycles have been made less sensitive. It's possible to have a minor impact without flying off of your motorcycle and dying. One thing that has changed for the worst is the police. They are incredibly sensitive to anything you do in the game, and they are aggressive. Escaping the police has improved, and you can now hide from them. It adds some intensity to the situations where you're trying to escape from the police. I guess it's understandable that going on murderous rampages in the game has been made more difficult; the realism of the game makes it a bit hard to do this and just have fun. The colorful blocky characters of the PS2 era made it easy to do and have fun with. The realism here? It feels a bit sadistic unless they're shooting at you.

I don't have much to say about GTA Online yet. It seems like it's an idea still, and not a fully fleshed out game. Rockstar has been working on GTA Online over time, but it still doesn't seem to meet its full potential. It all seems sort of...aimless. I don't really understand the point of it. Either way, it doesn't change any feelings I have toward the core game.

Grand Theft Auto V is a triumph. Its technical aspects, storytelling and gameplay all rose above any expectations I had. This is one of gaming's finest moments.

The Score: 9.5/10

Friday, July 4, 2014

Dr. X-Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Xbox 360 E

When I think of an Xbox 360, I think of this:

No Kinect. No Netflix. When you check your friend list, people are playing Halo 3 and they aren't just watching Netflix. They want to actually play games. You'll constantly get requests to play a different game than you're actually playing, and for the most part, you'll actually stop and change games to play with the person.

I've played video games for as long as I can remember, starting out with an Atari 2600 clone, the Sears Video Arcade II.

The Video Arcade II was actually made by Atari. It was sold as the Atari 2700 in Japan, and rebranded by Sears to be sold in the US. Then I moved on to a Sega Genesis, a Nintendo 64, and a Gamecube. When I got an original Xbox from a friend, that was when games really started to click with me for some reason. When the Xbox 360 was announced, I could not wait. Everything about it was better than the Xbox in all the right ways. I didn't get one at launch, and not too many people did. Supplies were scarce. Strangely, I started dating a girl on the day it launched. I don't know if that was coincidence or not. I ended up getting one for Christmas in 2006, and it was probably a perfect time for it since the 360 was at its peak for the next few years. I had my appendix taken out a day or two before Christmas so my response was muted, but I was ecstatic. It probably would've been lamer than the Nintendo 64 kid video since I was 16, but thankfully I was in pain and on drugs. I nodded approval and leaned back on the couch.

Since a 360 was a pricey acquisition ($400 for the premium package), I didn't get any games. So, I played some Hexic HD and Scarface (which is a fantastic game) on the Xbox emulator. The next day I gathered up some money and bought Gears of War, which ended up not being a favorite of mine.

2007 ended up being an incredible year of gaming. Mass Effect, Halo 3, Crackdown, Bioshock, Rock Band, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter II, Project Gotham Racing 4, Forza 2, holy shit. Six of those were Xbox 360 exclusives at the time. Now we're lucky if we get two 360 exclusives a year.

I read Ayn Rand because of you.

Special mention goes to Crackdown. Everyone bought it for the Halo 3 beta; everyone ended up playing Crackdown more. I played enough with a friend of mine that we leveled up enough to get to the top of the agency tower. The game has a special lighting renderer that it uses only at the top of the tower, so it was a bit more impressive than just "well, we did it." We stood at the top for a while, then he slowly turned towards me and kicked me off the side. Probably one of the funniest online gaming moments I've ever had. It still gets brought up sometimes if we're talking about working at that shitty pizza place we worked at.

I didn't really have a natural way to work this in.

2008 was stacked with games as well; Devil May Cry 4, Grand Theft Auto IV, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts 'n Bolts, Mirror's Edge, Fable II, Fallout III, Gears of War 2, The Last Remnant, Silent Hill: Homecoming, Too Human (it didn't suck). I don't want to recap every year here, so I'll just say that my 360 came along with me to college, and there was a lot of drinking and a lot of Halo 3. After 2008 the exclusives started to dry up a bit and lose variety, and it was sort of a slow decline from there.

Aside from nostalgic reasons, let's talk about why I'm so stuck on that beastly, loud old white 360. Besides just being how I see an Xbox 360 since that was my original experience with it, it's actually a well designed piece of hardware (crippling heating issues aside). It was the first Microsoft product that had a real unity of hardware and software.

Take a look at the original dashboard (I MISS YOU). Note the curves to the blades and the area that shows what disc is in the drive. Now take a look at this crappy 3D render of the console that was the best example I could find:

While the curve of the blades are more extreme, it's clearly meant to recall the physical form of the device with its inward curve. The indicator for what disc is in the console on the dashboard also mimics the physical disc drive, making the purpose of the button in the software immediately obvious. I'm not saying this is absolutely fantastic design of the console or the blades UI, but it is highly functional and the software is an extension of the hardware.

Microsoft is Microsoft though, and blades wasn't enough. The Wii was outselling the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, so just as Microsoft matched Apple's philosophy of combining hardware and software, they decided to match Nintendo's philosophy of "hey, let's make little digital people." So came the New Xbox Experience.

It sucked.

You can tell just by looking that this is less functional. Avatars were everywhere, I guess Microsoft was banking on those helping to sell more 360s. What the fuck is going on here?

So... we go up and down to move to different categories... then left and right for different subcategories within categories? What the fuck. You can't even see all of the main categories because they aren't on the screen. You can see they start to fade out at the top. This was truly horrible and one of the worst interfaces I have ever seen. It was on my Xbox for years and I never figured out how to navigate it. Every time I wanted to do something other than play a disc I was flipping through pages like a moron. Let's look at blades again..

Want to buy stuff? Go to marketplace. Xbox Live shit? Go to Xbox Live. Games? Go to games. There's five blades, and everything is neatly contained. You can see on the NXE picture there's three different marketplaces. This is excessive.

The 360 returned to being usable with the don't-call-it-that-anymore Metro interface.

This... makes sense. It's got a lot of ads, but it makes sense. I'm okay with it. Stop fucking with it, Microsoft.

The NXE was sort of a turning point. Microsoft stopped caring about games. They realized that people were stupid enough to buy an Xbox 360 as a Netflix box, when there were much cheaper alternatives. Games fell by the wayside (except for Call of Duty DLC exclusivity). The Metro interface works, but would you think that it's running on a system dedicated to games? Not really.

Anyways, the Xbox 360 E. My Xbox 360 was resilient enough to make it to 2011 without experiencing a RROD. I did a bolt fix, which held up pretty well until about a year ago. Then it started freezing about every hour. I found a "reliable" website doing reballs to repair the GPU. I won't explain this here. I sent away my original 360 for a reball, because I really, really hate the 360 S.

It looks like a glossy Transformer took an angular shit. I really hate everything about this thing. I hate the stupid chime noise it makes when you open the disc drive, I hate the angular's just too sharp. It's tacky.

Long story short, if you find a website doing Xbox 360 reballs and they're located in Pennsylvania, you run the fuck away. They have the worst customer service I have ever dealt with. They told me it was repaired after being in "heat testing" for about a week. I got it back and... same problem. I don't know what the fuck heat testing means. Apparently just turning it on and off, or they would've realized the problem still existed. God forbid they took any time of that week to play a game for an hour. Anyway, they had it for about two and a half months and then I tried to get them moving on a replacement board for two more months. When I was told they would "change my order" when I didn't even have a current order since I was trying to get my prior "repair" rectified, I was over it. They were clearly just jerking me off.

I went and bought a 4gb Xbox 360 E with a 320gb drive later that day.

Not so angular, sort of looks like a flatter original Xbox 360. Takes some design cues from the Xbox One (not necessarily a good thing). Doesn't make a stupid chime noise when you open the disc drive. I can deal with it. I gotta take a moment here and point out something that I do not understand.

The circular disc scratches. This started with the Xbox 360 because Microsoft decided to cut a corner and leave out a tiny component. Most DVD drives have rubber bumpers on the top part of the drive. This prevents the disc from wobbling to the point that it scratches against the laser. This probably saved them a buck or two. People started scratching their discs immediately from the console wobbling for one reason or another. I actually fixed this in my original 360; I just opened up the drive and put some rubber up there. You can shake the fucker while it's playing a game and it won't scratch. I actually did it just to see if it worked. Microsoft still refuses to put those little rubber pieces in the drive though. The 360 S didn't have them; the 360 E doesn't have them. They even put a warning sticker on that tells you not to move it in any way. Is that sticker really that much cheaper than just putting a few pieces of rubber in there and avoiding any negative reactions from consumers? I guess it is.

Anyways, I actually like the E. It's really quiet and it seems to be well ventilated. It puts out a lot of heat, but it doesn't concern me too much since it seems to be getting the heat out of the console instead of leaving it trapped like the original model. There are some things that reek of "final console revision corner cutting," though.


It's not as bad as the Genesis 3, but there's some stuff worth pointing out here.

It's a fair amount smaller than the original 360. It's not a vast difference, but it is more noticeable than the difference between the original 360 and the 360 S. It is slightly longer than the original 360. The glossy bits are a magnet for fingerprints and dust.

On the back we've got two USB ports, an ethernet port, a Kinect port, an HDMI port and a 3.5" headphone jack for SD video output. The lack of an AV out is sort of disappointing as it limits your video options, but I can live with just HDMI. Speaking of that, I've been surprised at the HDMI output. My original 360 had a Xenon motherboard; the days before HDMI. The component output never bothered me much, but it did look a bit blurry if you were seated close. The clarity boost with HDMI is pretty astounding; colors are a lot richer and the image is sharper. The power connection is sort of a weird oversized AC adapter looking plug, which seems cheap.

The HDD is hidden away on the bottom side of the console. That would be dust and some paint from our entertainment center already dirtying my ~week old console. That small corner piece pulls down to reveal the drive bay like so:

Microsoft also did away with the proprietary connector on the end of the drive. The 360 HDD has always been a standard laptop size SATA drive, just with an arbitrary connector attached to the SATA plug. You can see the regular SATA ends here:

With that, it should be possible to just format a regular SATA drive with HDDhackr and simply slide it into the console without an enclosure. It might be a bit loose, but if you don't want to spend $10 to get a knockoff Chinese enclosure, then you can rig something up.

All in all, I'm pleased with it. It's really not too feasible to use a Xenon 360 anymore. The XGD3 copy protection that newer games use is pretty hard on the old 360's laser. I had to lower my resistance quite a bit to get it properly reading new games without throwing up dirty disc errors. Besides that, I think there have been some revisions to how the hardware actually functions. I've noticed that the dash responds more quickly on S and E 360s and they just seem to be a lot more responsive overall. The only huge downside I've seen so far is the license transfer. Even if you transfer your content licenses to your new Xbox, you still have to redownload all of the content for it to work offline. Which really sucks.

It may not be the 360 I remember, but it at least plays the games I remember. Plus it's a lot better looking than this atrocious ass: