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Scrutineering SONY

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So the PlayStation network has spread its joy once again across the USA with my country (Australia) either following very shortly or up as I type this. While many are just glad to have online gaming back this whole situation will leave a bad taste in not just gamers but consumers in general.

Despite the claims that Sony was the victim of a malicious attack and cannot be held responsible is only partly true. They can't be held responsible for the external attack, but they can and should be held accountable for not doing their best to protect 77 million account details.

This rebuild of their networks, which still exclude use of the Store, let's not forget, is as near on an omission you can get that they didn't have adequate measures to store users personal information.

Technical Issues aside this has been an unmitigated PR disaster for Sony too.

The first inkling we got was that the Network was down, no warning not even a hands close to the chest Blog post saying there was unscheduled maintenance in fact there was even a post on the 24th of April, 5 to 7 days after the attack was detected saying 'we decided it was worth the time necessary to provide the system with additional security.' If only we knew then what we knew now.

All the while rumour and speculation was rife, admittedly Sony had bigger things at hand, but the reason they exist, the user base was becoming more uneasy, had my details been stolen? Did I need to worry about cancelling my credit card?

It wasn't until the 27th the came out and said the network had been compromised, and that personal details were exposed and Credit Card information may or may not have been taken. Even to this date it is hard to determine what we should be worried about. 'No evidence' of credit card information being taken (as is the official Sony line) does not allow me to rest easy especially relating to details as sensitive as Credit Card info. Not only that but they categorically stated that CCV numbers were not even asked for, a statement that is categorically false even if it isn't stored on their servers.

Then to add insult to injury they announce servers will be coming back online on the 6th of May 'in the next few days' as a few days goes it wasn't a bad week. If ever there was a time for Sony's unusually quiet (there were 86 blog posts in April and at time of publishing a paltry 13 have been posted in May admittedly a quieter month for releases and no PSN releases to tout but the discrepancy is worth noting) PR department to keep holding their tongue, this was it and they failed yet again.

The announcement of free bonuses from the PSN Store for both PS3 and PSP owners is a step in the right direction, as is news of insurance coverage against identity theft, although the full details remain to be seen and the insurance details have not been sorted through in the AU/EU region.

Despite the measures Sony puts in place to ease themselves back in our trust they have a long way to go, this past month has undone quite a lot of trust built over 15 years, only time will tell if they can fully win us back.

Farewell to an old Friend

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Farewell dear old friend you shall be missed, yet you have not departed this world you have been a shadow of yourself for a while.

You were born unto this world with so much promise, but from the outset it would seem that this world was not enamoured with your good looks, you were ambitious and it seemed that at every turn that ambition would not, and could not be rewarded.

You always did have a thirst for power, but that thirst was partly your undoing also. Spinning, whirling, twirling you were probably much more suited to be a dreamer rather than what you wanted to be. Then you reassessed, downsized, trimmed down, there were several times where we watched you whittle away, sometimes for the good, ultimately you went too far. Everyone had made their decision yours was not the way forward, at least not yet.

You loved the movies. Unfortunately your friends never shared your love, in the end you could not even get to see them any longer, sure you streamlined your life but you forgot what made you so unique.

You were cut down by pirates in your prime, a shame as they were not that aggressive merely talking advantage of your more than good nature. Your parents tried to support you and they supported you well, even if it felt like they were only giving you what your bigger brothers did not want. Unfortunately you found that when you needed it most support from outside parties was lacking, these were the same people that told your bigger brothers that they were true friends and always would be. It appears that your unbeknownst association with pirates was something they could not forgive.

Unfortunately you always came up against an opposition that was every bit your inferior but they had cunning and were wiley they had been in your game for years prior they knew how to be ruthless, and most of all everyone would support them through thick and thin. Above all that they gave everyone what they wanted, and even to the end you still failed to realise that.

The time in the presence of those few that loved you is drawing to a close, already someone is lining to take your place, sure they may be nameless, and promising us so much, but never fear we will remember you, for better or for worse.

Farewell, PSP, you shall be missed.

2010 Game of the Year

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It is a little late but many things have conspired to keep my from my 2010 game of the year musings until 3 weeks into the new year for this reason I will keep this list short and attempt to limit myself. Also quick apologies to Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, both of which I have played but gotten nowhere near finishing, so I couldn't really consider these for my top 6. Oh and this list will be biased as I haven't played and finished every game finished in the last year.

Best Downloadable game

While I have kept a top 5 I wanted to also give plaudits for the best game to grace PSN Live Arcade and some of the smaller releases on Steam.

There was some good competition with the likes Super Meat Boy, Deathspank and Limbo. In the end Limbo takes it for me, the art style is minimalistic but conveys exactly what it needs to. Death is around every corner but that does not halt progression, but rather death in Limbo is a learning tool, you fall victim to that trap once, but you won't a second time.

Just behind was Super Meat Boy which doesn't redefine the platforming genre but it refines the mechanics so much that you can't help but marvel at how great it is.

5. Alan Wake

At first I was disappointed with Alan Wake, possibly filled with promises of what it could have been. As I went along though I discovered a game that is desperately beautiful, extremely well paced and a genuinely creepy vibe, something that has been lacking in horror games of late.

4. Heavy Rain

I wrote in my review of 6 months ago that it wasn't the best game of the year but it was the most significant, I stand by that statement even with hindsight on my side. Heavy Rain is by no means a flawless game but it gets so much right, it looks fantastic and the narrative, while a little slow to begin with is a strong point, plot holes and all.

Oh and it has move support which actually makes sense, so if you needed one, there's another reason to go back to it.

3. Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 was a game that, on reflection, didn't hold up as well as it might I had this pinned down at number 1 or 2 for the longest time, but reflecting on the narrative, it's actually not that complex for an RPG. The story is of you essentially building a team and making them loyal to you. That's it there is a bit of a story surrounding the abduction of human colonies but it seems almost peripheral and it doesn't feel as fluid as the first game. You know it's a really good game for me trying to justify a top 3 spot.

Everywhere else this is an exceptional game, the horrid inventory system is gone, and so are the more complex RPG elements (that's more of a disappoint me to me). The squad based cover shooting elements are done exceptionally well and the choices you make feel like they have real impact.

2. Bayonetta

Bayonetta is f****** ridiculous. There glad I got that out of the way. A witch that has been survived centuries in a coffin, battling Angels and Gods, switching between dimensions and time, all the while wearing a catsuit made out of her own hair which can transform into an all powerful creature to smite enemies. Yeah just that old one. Oh and did I mention she straps guns to her feet?

Bayonetta essentially borrows the third person button maser, al a God of War and contorts it into its own twisted version and damn is it good. The art and character design are all first rate and the game is so much fun that it hardly matters that the story nears the incomprehensible level.

1. Read Dead Redemption

As soon as I played this game it was going to be number 1 in my eyes, and nothing proved worthy enough to move it. Everything this game did was near enough to perfect, and despite all the complaints of bugs and glitches, I had not a one in some 40 hours of gameplay.

It is easy to level at this game as just GTA with horses and that is about as unfair as it is wrong. This game has so much thought that has gone into it, it had me riveted to the screen just waiting to see who John Marston would meet next and what he would be asked to do for the sake of his family. From beginning to end the game looks fantastic it is obvious that so much time went into creating the world that you traverse., The activities are so varied and the challenges keep you on the look out even on the longest of cross country treks.

I could go on forever singing its praises but I won't, if you haven't played it yet do so.

Honourable mentions to God of War 3 and Civilisation 5 both of which was just pushed out of the top 5 by Alan Wake. It was almost literally a coin toss for that position.

So that's it for 2010. Bring on 2011 and all the wallet destroying action that brings. For the record my 5 most anticipated games at this stage are (no particular order despite being numbered):

1. Bulletstorm

2. L.A Noire

3. Uncharted 3

4. Mass Effect 3

5. Infamous 2

2010 A year in the life

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First an apology…or not as no one is anticipating my game of the year blog but things, like life, have conspired against me getting my summaries of 2010 up. Hope you enjoy these trite pieces of prose.

I know that most people don't care about my own private life but tough. 2010 was a good year for me it was the year in which I (finally) got a permanent full time position after a year of filling in with an ample amount of praying and relative uncertainty. I now have a chance to make plans professionally and embark on the first phase of my career proper.

I also took my first extended break from working since I finished University and went (sort of) backpacking around Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. Such an amazing part of the world I recommend anyone who can to get there as it is beautiful Halong Bay in Vietnam is something that must be done before you die and likewise for Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Truly remarkable places which I could not recommend highly enough.

Add to this I brought a new car (well new to me) as my old car was beginning its death cry and had started leaking oil. A 2006 Ford Focus beats a 1991 Nissan Pulsar any day and with only 25,000km's on the clock not bad at all.

Lastly but certainly not least I moved out of my family home of 25 years and am now living with a few friends out near my place of work. Free from the overbearing shackles that are my parents and on to pastures greener.

That's it (very briefly) for the year that was. Look out for my Game of the year blog in the next day or so.

8 Steps to success in Demons Souls

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Having picked up Demon's Souls recently for the second time, I though this is a game that requires quite a few tips and tricks that can help ease you in the experience, for those who are just picking it up or have been reluctant to pick it up because of its difficulty.

Playing it for the second time has made me realise how daunting the experience can be, with out further ado here is my starting out tips

1. Learn your moves

As silly as it might seem, spend some time beyond the tutorial getting used to the speed you swing your weapon at, how far you roll. I can recommend running through the first walkway a few times just to get used to what you can and can't do, and recommend doing this everytime you equip new weapons or shields to gauge changes in timing. It's important you know how your character moves, it could save your life.

2. Slow and Steady

When entering a new area move slowly, and keep looking for possible traps, hiding spots ect. There will be enemies that pop out from around corners and traps that you will trigger, if you run into a new area you will almost certainly die. To minimize your deaths never run unless you know the area and know that you are quite safe.

3. If it looks dangerous, it is.

As obvious as it may sound if a situation looks dangerous or deadly it probably is. I have seen countless bloodstains of people falling into bottomless pits, lava pools and the like. Here's a tip if you wouldn't do it in Real Life don't do it in Demon's Souls.

4. Shield up

Your shield will be one of your most valuable tools, keep it up as often as possible, especially when moving around in new or unfamiliar territories. It goes hand in had with point 2 above. Your shield will minimize damage greatly (or completely) and blocking an attack will almost always open up an enemy for a counter attack.

5. Swallow your pride and cheat

Cheating is normally a dirty word to most gamers. In Demon's Souls if you find an exploit don't hesitate to use it, feel dirty afterwards? Good, at least you progressed. This game is tough and I have a feeling that there are a few things here and there the developers left in just to make our life a little easier.

6. Farming is good

Grinding is a word I fear most when I think about gaming, but I have never had so much fun doing it than in Demon's Souls.

Souls are used for buying items, levelling up and upgrading items so it becomes painfully obvious you will not get all the souls you need to just by running through each area once, run through levels multiple times, it helps with memorization of levels and will provide you with many more valuable souls.

If you find an enemy that is pretty easy, gives you a lot of souls each time you kill them do it, exit the level and start again.

7. Take backwards steps

If you are running low on health or are struggling, head back there is no shame in doing so and it may be for the best. Any enemies you have killed will not return while you remain in world so back is always a safe option, and remember you fully heal when you get back to the Nexus, so you may also save some of those precious healing grasses.

8. You will die

I'm not going to lie even following these steps you will die, plain and simple. Using these techniques I have got past the 2nd Boss dying 3-4 times. The key is to decipher where you went wrong, the game may be hard but it isn't cheap. You can avoid death for the most part by paying attention and learning from mistakes.

So there are my 8 steps to ease you into Demon's Souls hopefully this helps anyone who thinks the game might be a little too daunting to get into properly and enhance your enjoyment of this excellent RPG.

A call to arms

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Ok now I've got your attention, I've been gaming on steam for over a year and have not yet managed to have any friends on it.

If you wish to check out my profile go here and feel free to add me or altenatively leave a message below :)

Gaming Update March 2010

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Sorry in advance this post is harly going to be riveting but I thought I sould make sure no one thinks I am dead :P.

So I finishe GoW3 it is amazing and the best game this year to date (and it has some stiff opposition). In it's honour I have posted a review of the original here.

I haven't been gaming quite so much the first 3 months this year but have managed to finish Heavy Rain, Mass Effect 2 & Bayonetta which are great games and Dante's Inferno which is fun but not quite as awesome.

Of late I have had a JRPG craving so I've mad starts on FF XIII, FF I on the PSP and Dragon Age: Origins. Enjoying them all, although FF XIII is super linear but has a hugely fun battle system.

I'm keeping my eye on a few games in the coming weeks & months namely Alan Wake, SMG2 & 3D Dot Heroes on each of the respective consoles.

Well, there's my brief update and yo know i am not head ;).

Game of the Year 2009

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Well it's that time to recap the year that was and give out my own personal picks of the year.

It was a quieter year than last year, we can probably thank Modern Warfare 2 for providing us with slightly less choice through October and November.

It was the year that Sony finally lifted itself from the whipping boy of the generation to become more competitive in terms of both the game library and price point but then took a step backwards with the PSPgo. We're all still wondering about the price point.

The 360 had the finest racing simulator to date released and precious little in terms of other exclusives.

The year also saw the Wii bubble burst a small amount. Have we found out that it was a fad or is it just a blip on the otherwise impressive sales figures, and of course it was the DS that sold, and sold and sold some more.

In terms of games this year was dominated by a handful of big titles. Most notably Modern Warfare 2 and Uncharted 2. It was possibly the year that confirmed that super violent games on the Wii don't sell with Madworld failing, despite being warmly received by reviewers. It was the year of rhythm game burn out. There was something in the order of 5 or 6 'Hero' games, and a Rock Band. Time to say enough me thinks.

Well without further ado, here are my picks for awards this year around. As always this reflects games I have played and completed at this point in time (with an exception or 2). The list is not necessary final, but I will not be revisiting it on my Blog. The categories are discretionary.

Best Graphics (Technical): Uncharted 2. There is no contest here. You could argue that Forza 3 is better, but considering that it deals with single tracks at a time and cars I find it much harder to give it. Uncharted was beautiful, had varied locations and character models that were second to none. You always knew you were playing a game, but some of those backdrops did come close to realistic.

Best Graphics (Artistic): Muramasa. This is one of those exceptions I was talking about. I have yet to finish this game due to its late release here in Australia. Despite this it is a stunningly beautiful game. The anime style is perfect the backdrops give you the feeling that they were lovingly created in water colour. Again nothing really came close Machinarium was the best of the rest a charming flash based game but still couldn't get close enough.

Biggest Improvement: Assassin's Creed 2. It is unbelievable how much better they made this game. While I liked the first I was one of the detractors too. It was repetitive, and therefore hard to finish. The developers must be applauded, sure it still wasn't perfect but with the side missions to the tombs, there was so much to do and see and it was a much more interesting game for it.

Best Game I didn't Play until 2009: Mass Effect. Yes this one just kept getting put back and back, it finally made my play list and boy was I blown away. It is an amazing story telling experience and an awesome game to boot. For me it is Knights of the Old Republic, sans the Star Wars licence.

Biggest Disappointment: Scribblenauts. This was an extremely difficult decision for me. This year was surprisingly short on gaming disappointments. Scribblenauts stands out as a missed opportunity. The control scheme, while not as bad as everyone makes out was cumbersome and should have given the option to use the D-pad. Add to this the was no real incentive to use the same 3 or 4 items over and over again.

It was possibly my hype meter that built this up too high but as a sandbox this game was great, as an actual game with goals and objectives it wasn't everything it could have been.

Best Downloadable Game: Flower. Sure I finished this game in around 3 hours and in two sittings but that doesn't make this game any less impressive. It used the SIXAXIS in a meaningful way and it worked and felt right. It was beautifully simple, X to speed up and tilt the controller to move up and down in the world and from side to side. As you guide your petal throughout the world you pick up more and more petals, bringing life to desolate cityscapes.

It also has something to say about the state of our world and the impacts we have on it but it never forces the issue. All in all this is a breathtaking and thought provoking game.

Best Handheld Game: This year I greatly neglected the handheld side of gaming (although I acquired a few). There was one main stand out and that was Chinatown Wars on the DS. It was a return to form for the series (with GTAIV falling relatively flat, imo). It was slick, funny and an awesome game to boot. I must admit I was a bit sceptical with the return to the old top down but it works on this platform. There is no doubt this game pushes the DS to the limits, with car damage, night/day cycles and almost everything you would expect from a GTA game.

This is one great package if you own a DS or PSP you must own this game.

This only just beat out the PSP version of Little Big Planet. It keeps the same charm as the original, and some say with only two planes to move between some may say it controls better than the original.

Top 5 of the year:

5. Forza 3 – This is easily the best racing game this year, I only really invested time in Dirt 2, admittedly but this trumps it in every regard. So many tracks and variations, a massive selection of cars and customization and tuning options that can easily keep you occupied for just as long off the track as on it.

It caters for everyone no matter what your skill, just interested in hitting the right lines, well then turn all the assists on including auto braking? You the most hardcore racing fan? Turn them all off and watch your race cars bite back and punish you for a slow gear change, or just touching the grass. All in all there was no finer racing game.

4. Assassin's Creed II – What can you say about Assassin's Creed 2? To sum it up as an improvement over the original would be an understatement to say the least. In every single conceivable way it is better. When you are exploring Renaissance Italy, the game looks spectacular. Unfortunately, out the animus isn't as good looking, but you are hardly ever out of it. The developers really addressed the issues from the first there is so much to do, be it assassin's toms, which focus heavily on platforming, to the variety in weapons and even the mission structure has been overhauled. The open world also gave you plenty of direction, sure you could just wander aimlessly but I always felt compelled to continue.

3. inFamous – The game that has oft been compared to Prototype, which is very unfair. It is a hell of a lot better and a hell of a lot more fun. The game encapsulated everything that is good about open world games, the developers realised that side missions do get repetitive, so they limited the number that are available and tied them into you 'cleaning the city'. Even though you can't drive vehicles moving about the city is unbelievably easy, and just plain fun. While the story is a little convoluted, there is one moment that brings it all together that was truly inspired. The one thing that held it back was it was a very black or white morals system that almost punished you for not sticking to the good or bad path. The powers were fun and got progressively more 'bad-ass' no matter which side you chose and you didn't feel that you were underpowered if you chose the good side. A great game, and the best open world game by a long shot.

2. Uncharted 2 – It was with great pains that I put this at number 2. This is a fantastic game, just about everything in this game is right. The story is blockbuster popcorn movie, but it somehow just works. The voice acting is excellent, is one of the prettiest games in a long time, and not only that but people look like people, and have realistic facial movements, and on top of that the set pieces are outstanding. Who would forget the train scene? Or the gun fight in a collapsing building?

The platforming was similar to the first, but refined, and the gunplay and general combat was vastly improved, although still a little on the unrealistic side with enemies that would take almost a whole clip. The puzzles were not that challenging on the whole but worked, and the note book would always give you a clue in the unlikely event you were stuck.

The multiplayer was an excellent addition and it worked surprisingly well, it was good to see the multi-player did not detract from the single player experience.

About the only downside is the length for what it tried to achieve, it was overly long for an action game and by the end I was getting near the end of my patience with the story.

This being said it is still a game you must own if you have a PS3.

1. Batman: Arkham Asylum – I had some reservations about this game when first announced. I have been bitten by licensed games previously and while it had potential, I was sceptical. Needless to say this game surprised and delighted me. The combat was awesome, it was simple to learn but hard to master and chain those hits together effectively. There were some great locations and puzzles to solve, and the choice of location and limiting your movements was an excellent choice although the inclusion of a bat cave was a little baffling.

The game looks absolutely fantastic, it is grimy and dark and captures the comics perfectly (in my limited knowledge of them).

There are some awesome moments, like the sections with the Scarecrow, and one in particular that blew my mind.

The voice acting is perfect. Mark Hamill does an excellent Joker and it pays off as does including other voice actors from the cartoons. Hamill's performance is head and shoulders above anything else this year.

The collectibles are well thought out and pay massive fan service, but that being said this game is accessible to everyone.

I was actually disappointed when the game ended and I had found all the secrets, Arkham Asylum is just that good a game. The challenge rooms add extra life to the game, where you try to build big scores with combos, or take out thugs silently and in various ways to earn bragging rights.

This was a great game from start to finish. It was the best game that I played this year, and quite simply, no matter what platform is yours of choice you need to play this one.