Things and Stuff
25Nov 08Well, it's here.... that's about it really. I will concede it does look pretty sexy but ultimately it's just a bit of a re-jig for me. My 20GB HDD won't stand up to many game installs so that rules that out and I can't see me using the party chat much.
One thing I am impressed with is the friends list thing where your friends avatar stands in front of a load of items. Not sure where they come from but I like the idea that each friend's "room" (for want of a better word) is generated by their playing habits. Nice.
Avatar-wise I realised I wasn't iconic enough to have one that looked like me and wasn't hopelessly generic so I went for pure goofiness. Meet INK1ing
Mario is back in the INKling household in the form of my brand spanking new Nintendo Wii. I have been thinking about getting one for ages and now that I have paid off my San Francisco holiday (God, that was back in April!) and got a bit of overtime money I thought I would treat myself to an early Christmas present (the ones you buy yourself are always the best).
Amazon have a pretty good deal on at the moment so I now have Mario Kart Wii and Mario Galaxy jostling for attention with Far Cry 2 and Dead Space. It really is a light and dark approach to gaming. Turn on the 360 and I can expect dark menacing corridors and violent landscapes whereas the Wii is all bright charming colours and harmless puffs of jaunty fire. It's all good. The sad thing is that there aren't enough hours in the day what with this pesky job taking up all my time!
I am really in two minds about Far Cry 2 at the moment. From a technical perspective the game is great. Vegetation sways in the wind and the various scruffy towns and outposts look and feel suitably windswept. The problem is getting around. Every guardpost will attack you on sight and even guys randomly tearing around the countryside are from the "shoot first ask questions later" school of militia. This means approaching each mission as a series of stages but there are plenty of save spots around the place and my best bud Josip is always ready to bail me out.
However, even with all these games I still want more! No More Heroes, Warioware, Gears 2, Mirrors Edge and Ace Combat 6 are all on the inevitable list. Am I a victim of media pressure or just a greedy gamer? Probably the latter....
It's scary, just plain scary and I'm loving every minute of it.
Yesterday was a bit of a cracker for top releases with quality titles like Fable II and Far Cry 2 jostling for my hard earned beer tokens but for me Dead Space was the outside winner. I almost went for Far Cry but my enthusiasm was tarnished when my girlfriend noted that "it looks like every other game." She had a point.
Shooters are often guilty of being generic and even though I will definitely be getting Far Cry 2 at some point I realised I was crying out for something a little different as all those miles of desert made me feel a little, well, tired. Braid filled a little hole but it was like eating a fun-sized Mars Bar as slowly as possible. Dead Space is a bloody steak that you can tear into. The USG Ishimura is a giant haunted house with monsters lying around every corner. Leaping around in zero-g or stomping around in a silent vacuum is really atmospheric and if anyone has an interest in horror then I say go for it.
My opting for Dead Space seems to be a little symptomatic of my game choices at the moment. Whether it's because I feel I have less time or I am more impatient, I am just not inspired by the idea of working as an Albion blacksmith for a couple of hours. After finishing the story in GTAIV I have hardly touched it whereas a couple of years ago I scoured the whole of Vice City looking for hidden packages. Crackdown seemed to be an exercise in repetition and although you could say that almost every action game boils down to "fight monster, get object, fight monster, use object" at least Dead Space does it in bone-chilling styIe
Currently there seems to be a greater emphasis towards larger and larger environments as if bigger is always better but to me that can harm a good narrative. Although the idea of a linear experience seems a bit unfashionable at the moment, surely (if done right) it's much better than just chucking in a load of extra land. If I was being really controversial I would say that the sandbox is the greatest illusion in modern gaming - that's right, I went there
17Oct 08Anybody into Braid? I just clocked it the other day and it's best described as "small but perfectly formed." We all know that 1200 microsoft points is a bit on the steep side but it sure beats the hell out of all those Live Arcade games I have demo-ed and subsequently deleted. The presentation is great - the visuals, story and music all have a sort of fairy-tale like quality that really lifts the game and for puzzle fiends the timebending mechanic is used in so many neat little ways that there is never a repeated idea used in all 60 puzzle pieces.
Unfortunately it means I am floating in gaming limbo at the moment. After Braid I have 900 points left and nothing that takes my fancy. I downloaded the demo for Megaman 9 and almost wept. I mean, I like a bit of a challenge (and completing Ninja Gaiden shows some credentials surely) but it was just excruciating. I know it's supposed to be old school but there is a reason why games are a bit more forgiving these days. When I finally made it to the top of a ladder only to be instantly squashed by a giant rubber ball sneezed out by a mechanical elephant I decided this wasn't for me. Shame.
There are quite a few big releases over the next month or so like Fallout 3, Gears of War 2 and Fable 2 but I am suffering from a bad case of sequel-itis and the numbers are putting me off. The only other game that has me excited (completely out the blue) is Dead Space which has reviewed so well that I can't wait to get my grubby mitts on it. It ticks all the right boxes for me as you can't make a sentence with the words survival, space, horror, zombie and shooter in it without giving me a little tingle in my nethers!
16Sep 08That's right, it's not just that Jesus bloke that can turn water into wine, you can do it from the comfort of your own home! After receiving a homebrew kit for Christmas 06 and doing nothing with it for 2 and a half years I am seriously regretting my laziness. It's great! For just a few quid and about three man hours I became the proud father of 40 pints of malty goodness. I gave a fair few bottles away (to rave reviews I might add) but drank the lion's share over a sodden week or so. The second brew of banana beer is almost ready and a sneaky preview-half last night tasted ace.
Any other Gamespotters into the homebrew? As the UK slips into recession it just makes sense. I wonder if it's easy to make gin.....
As for games and that, I clocked Bioshock a few weeks ago and loved it. Then I bought The Orange Box and completed Half-Life 2 again, then worked my way through Episode 1 (good but not great) and I am just nearing the end of Episode 2 which is absolutely fantastic. I am seriously blown away by this installment. The second act was a bit of a trudge but once you are back on the surface it just gets better and better. Also, Portal is a real gem. I am yet to try Team Fortress 2. Do many people play this much anymore?
Sadly, I am still having my ass handed to me on R6: Vegas. My pride hurts. Any tips would be welcome.
21Aug 08I noticed that there has been a lot of wrangling from Gamespotters about the Too Human review that appeared a few days ago. A lot of users have (spuriously) connected the low score with an alleged drop in quality in Gamespot. Comments along the lines of "You've lost all credibility," and "We can't trust you anymore" have been slapped under Kevin VanOrd's review and I think this is a little unfair because I think that the review is great. The reason why is that I completely agree with it.
Although I have only played the demo, I found it distinctly annoying. Let's be honest, the story and character setup made no sense whatsoever. In fact, it was bewildering. I have since discovered that it is a retelling of Norse mythology and I am still none the wiser. Comments under the review stated that of course, those interested in the game have a good knowledge of Norse mythology. That's nonsense, I think there are a few 'Google Experts' overstating the case here. I enjoyed Return of the King (game and film) but I will concede that the storytelling in the game was sketchy at best and if that knocked a few points off the review, so what. I knew the story and it enhanced the game experience but as a stand-alone game it was confusing and I'm not offended by that fact.
The gameplay for Too Human was fun, scooting around with melee attacks and using the right stick to target enemies was exciting and the demo had a good compromise between the two. However the cracks showed when Baldur continued to target fallen enemies and after suffering at the hands of the odd inescapable and subsequently fatal petrification in Jade Empire I can totally understand the frustration with those status effects.
These design choices could be a hangover from when the game was initially conceived (over 10 years ago) but as the game industry matures we demand more from it. I loved Resident Evil 2 but on playing Resident Evil 0 five years later I won't let any nostalgic haze convince me that the control system was anything but cumbersome. Similarly RE4 seemed like complete freedom in comparison at the time, but now I will admit that Leon's tank-like controls demanded a lot of compromises. I won't get snooty because something I loved has flaws because I have grown up with the technology.
Ultimately, a lot of people have been waiting for Too Human for a very long time and in their minds it's already good. It has to be or what were they waiting for? This is a bit silly, isn't it? Just because your long awaited game isn't what you had hoped don't lash out in an effort to soothe your disappointment, just buy the game and enjoy it. I loved the Ghost in the Shell PS2 game but if someone were to point that in fact it's derivative, repetitive and bland I would agree. The faults are glaringly obvious but so what? I had a good time with it.
When a game isn't as well received as we had hoped there are two choices, acceptance or denial.
Acceptance: Give the game a go and if you still like it, stick at it and who cares what Gamespot thinks. If not, shrug your shoulders, walk away and don't take it personally.
Denial: Give the game a go and just like it whatever the case and if you fancy, use the faceless anonymity of the internet to irrationally slate all dissenters. Lock the door to truth and cosy up to ignorance.
The choice is yours
25Jul 08I finally clocked Gears of War last night and in all honesty it was a struggle as the final boss was an absolute nightmare. I must have failed about 20 times before I finally managed to nail the bastard and then I had to employ game-bending tactics to do it. The 2 foot square concrete block between us didn't stop me blind-firing two clipfuls into his chin but thankfully (and miraculously) it did stop him from looking down to shoot! It was like in Goldeneye where you could run right up to Jaws and he couldn't shoot you because his arms were too long.
I have been putting a few hours into Rainbow 6: Vegas online recently and it has been fun. I have been tentatively putting the word out on Gamespot to see if anyone else still plays it but seeing as it has a sequel I think it's one of those games that is gradually dropping out of sight. I had a few games of Survival last night with some American guys and it was hilarious. As players are knocked out they appear on the mic to help, hinder or otherwise the surviving players. The only problem was that I couldn't concentrate as they were so funny.
The only game time I will be having this weekend is a few blurry games of Wii Tennis as I am off to my mates in Brackley to attend their village beer festival. Hopefully this time tomorrow I will be sitting outside the town hall with a lovely pint of Skullsplitter talking absolute nonsense with all my mates. As Frankie Howerd would say, Salutay.
This used to the buzz word that we couldn't get enough. According to pedants friend Wikipedia, it was first used in Jurassic Park: Trespasser and now giants like GTA, Halo and Gears of War are flinging limp corpses around with abandon. When bodies were flailing all over the place in Psi-Ops, I couldn't believe my eyes. "Wow, that dead guy looks so real!" Well, I don't know about you but even though i have never seen a dead body I am pretty sure it wouldn't collapse like a tea towel. It's hard to see why we fixated on something as morbid as cadaver physics, I am sure that there is some macabre psychology behind it and on a purely technical level it is impressive. However, in a quest for realistic body physics we have got a more unrealistic looking result.
Limp: Halo, Rainbow Six: Vegas
Limber: Perfect Dark, Mortal Kombat
GOOD VS EVIL
Peter Molyneux has a lot to answer for. In Black & White a subtle change of appearance indicated your familiars personality, no scale and no good or bad-ometer. Then came Fable and we got the sliding scale that made measuring morals a cinch. I must be one of the few players out there that does actually spend a few minutes over the moral choices that some games pose. The last decision in GTAIV had me tied up in knots and I even approached my girlfriend with a 'What would you do?' Introducing a quantifiable scale encourages a lot of my gaming peers to see how far they can push the indicator into the black because we all want to be the cool bad boy, it just doesn't work. Let's have some shades of grey.
Sinner: Fable, KOTOR
Saint: GTAIV, Mass Effect
LEVELLING UP AND GRINDING DOWN
A controversial one but to my mind, completely redundant. To clarify, I am not talking about the unlocking of abilities or items here but the gradual and tedious grind to get that magic number up by a point or two. In an extreme case you could argue that a level boils down to difficulty setting that can only be adjusted by hours of tedious repetition. Any concept of skill is stripped away and the game becomes work for works sake. Having trouble with a boss? Just run around fighting grubs for a couple of hours and you'll have no problem. There are so many more sophisticated ways of giving games a balanced difficulty curve like new enemies, more enemies, newer weapons, increased AI, more complex locations and so on. Personally, I think the grind has had it's day.
Grinds my gears: FFXII, Pokemon
Grinds my booty: Ninja Gaiden, Psi-Ops
THE (SO-CALLED) DEATH OF THE SINGLE PLAYER GAME
Playing online is excellent and as a recent subscriber to XBox Live I have enjoyed some great moments playing Sharpshooter on Rainbow Six: Vegas. Hopefully I will overcome my reservations about communicating with scary strangers and have a go at the various team modes on offer as well. However, for me gaming is mostly about the single player as being a part of a story arc adds to the whole experience. Those that claim that the single player experience is a thing of the past have obviously missed out on the delights of Mass Effect and Half Life 2. In fact, the whole tone of games like Silent Hill or Bioshock totally lend themselves to the solitary experience. I believe that for the most part, a strong emotional connection to a game (or character within it) can only be achieved in it's story element - primarily a one-person pursuit. In the past, games would have a lacklustre multiplayer mode crammed in as an afterthought to the main adventure, I hope that things don't go too far the other way.
Tonto: Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, Halo 2
Lone Ranger: Portal, Resident Evil
Anybody else got any tired old gaming traditions that should be consigned to the archives of gaming history? I am sure there are plenty out there. Just don't say exploding barrels, I still love the exploding barrels......
I finally connected to Live the other day and have been punishing my poor hard drive with as many demos as it will take. In fact, I am going for it so much that the other night I dreamt that my broadband supplier contacted me to say that I had exceeded my download limit and would have to wait another month to download any more!
I feel a bit weird about the idea of being involved in a game with complete strangers that I can't see but who may want to speak to me over a flimsy headset. I want to try some Rainbow Six: Vegas but have a feeling that I will be completely battered by Rainbow veterans who will punish every mistake I make and then scream how crap I am. Could a grown man be reduced to tears by jibes on his joypad skills? If you see the username in the title running about like a headless chicken you may find out.
The main reason that I decided to take the plunge was because I completed the story in GTAIV and the remaining side missions just don't have the impact that the story had. The last mission was an absolute killer - extremely long and with the potential of an instant fail during a tricky motorbike section which led to a couple of child-like tantrums (I actually stamped my feet at one point). However, it was all worth it in the end as once the titles rolled the whole experience came into focus from the seemingly underwhelming start to the bittersweet finale.
With hindsight the other GTA games seem empty compared with the next-gen Liberty City experience. As Tommy Vercetti you felt that you were the only person in the city and pretty much dictated the entire pace of the game but with GTAIV trouble can come to you and the phone can ring at any time. Put aside any notions that you will be ruling the city, this game is all about starting at the bottom and trying not to sink another 6 feet. Great stuff.
30May 08In personal news, the Cambridge Beer Festival was a hit. It was great to catch up with a couple of old mates and meet some new faces as well. The festival actually ran out of beer on the Saturday so we strolled to one of Cambridge's nice pubs and made a dent in the landlord's Hoegaarden stocks. That stuff tastes too good. Brackley is the next festival on my beer calendar.
The only downside to the weekend was one of my mates who (true to form) flaked out at the last minute with an illness. This is becoming a habit with him and it is getting quite annoying. I think he uses these mysterious coughs and colds as a bit of an excuse not to come out. It gets worse though as he has now progressed from last minute pull-outs to pre-emptive lazy boy measures. After arranging to meet up in August he has stated that he thinks he might be ill in three months time and may not come! Eh?!
In gaming news, Rainbow Six: Vegas came in the post yesterday and after 10 minutes I had been killed three times... on the training mission! There is something about this sort of masochistic gameplay that I hate and love in equal measures. I can't stop myself. It was the same with Black Arrow and Ninja Gaiden, my blood pressure goes through the roof and my bladder control gets stronger than ever. You know a game is addictive when the minute you pause to save you realise that you are on the verge of peeing yourself. Anybody else done that? No? Just me then!
In other news, straight men everywhere still can't understand the appeal of Sex and the City. The BBC agrees.
20May 08Let's not beat about the bush, GTAIV is good, very good in fact but it certainly isn't love at first sight. It's like being set up on a blind date with someone your mate says is wonderful. At first you don't know what the fuss is about but after a couple of courses and a glass of Pinot Grigio it all falls into place.
Everybody knows about the improved detail, clever vehicle handling, mobile phone, new wanted system, etc. but for me the big highlight is the main character Niko Bellic. Amongst the shootings, beatings, executions and cop-killing he seems likable and down to earth but what I really like are his morals - he doesn't have any. Rather, the morality of the game comes from the players actions and while it would be ridiculous to say that you could play the game without hurting anybody, Niko's missions are handed over to you and it's up to you who you hurt on the way. Even executions that could be handled purely by a cutscene make you, the player, pull the trigger. It will be interesting to see how the story progresses.
Another game I have been sinking some time into is F.E.A.R., which is at the other end of the spectrum entirely. There's no moral pondering in this game, it's all about blasting your way from A to B and eliminating every soldier in the way. Where GTAIV fills the senses with vibrant city-scapes, F.E.A.R. does the opposite and deprives you of large spaces, bravely giving you nothing. Attacks by soldiers are a welcome from the nerve-jangling stillness of dark corridors filled with ghostly voices and butt-clenchingly disturbing hallucinations.
I haven't connected to Live yet but at the moment I am not bothered too much. However, I do plan to get Gears of War and Rainbow Six: Vegas in the not too distant future so hopefully I should be able to raise all your highscores with my multiplayer incompetency in the next couple of months.
2May 08I know I shouldn't but I am checking the Parcel Force tracking site almost every hour. Somewhere in Merseyside there is a parcel force van going about it's daily business and in that van is a 360 and a copy of GTAIV with my name on it. It could be yards from my house as I write these very words.
I ordered it last week and Play were suspiciously quiet until this morning when my hopes were scooped from the pavement of despair and scraped into the bin of hope. First came ecstasy - bargain 360 deal and the girlfriend out all Saturday - then agony - Thursday and still no word plus my mother may visit (don't have the heart to say "Too busy, 360 on the way") - then ecstasy again - status: processing, place: South Liverpool Depot.
The excited child within me has been bound and confined to a rubber cell for his own safety but the pessimistic old grouch is mumbling from his bathchair, convinced the neighbours will sign for it, play it and sully it. Angels and devils, good and bad. Will I ever receive my yearned for 360, or will I just be sat reading the manual for F.E.A.R. which I may have bought too hastily? Tune in next week for more inconsequential INKling adventures on (dramatic pause) Gamespot
23Apr 08Warning: unpleasant subject matter
I don't know what was worse, the punch, the fact I couldn't do anything, the inevitability of her going back to him or the fact that it all happened at 8.30 this morning. While waiting for the train I saw a lad shouting at a girl on the other side of the platform, as they disappeared out of view I heard a wet, meaty thump; the sound of him punching her. A guy chased him off but he carried on shouting insults from the safety of 100 yards and a metal barrier before strutting off. A few seconds after I thought "I bet she follows him back," she did and my heart sank. Here were two people who defined each other by their violent relationship, a mutual callous need feeding on itself. Children trapped in adult bodies with adult feelings that most of us learn to deal with during puberty.
The fact that she followed him out of the station made me feel so angry. Why ? Drugs? Probably. Only the selfish and ignorant carry on in such a way and the consuming animal spectre of addiction puts everything else in second place. The psychology of abuse says she could irrationally see his aggressive behaviour as punishment for her failing in some way. What would it take for her to escape from violence and dependency? Undoubtedly his childish, bruised ego from being chased off would lead to reprisals later, when does helping become not helping? A cold Travis Bickle voice inside me sees two smackhead parasites and wants them removed from the society that I am a part of but what they really need is help, but how can we help those that refuse to help themselves? What would it take to do that?
I have decided to give into this tagging craze. I was going to make a really clever point about the state of games and gaming and then postscript it with a reluctant "for all you fans out there" comment before giving my five gems, under duress of course because, you know, I'm too cool for all that stuff. However, I can't think of anything clever or cool to say so here are my five things for all you fans out there.
1 - I have a cat called Marmite (although technically it's my girlfriends cat)
2 - Even though I am 28 I still can't drive
3 - I lived in Tokyo for two years and attended two Tokyo Game Shows
4 - I don't own a mobile phone
5 - I am the only British male who doesn't find Monty Python at all funny, including The Holy Grail
Thanks for the tag Big_Bad_Sad. I am not going to tag anyone else as they might get angry with me.
27Mar 08One word kept springing to mind when playing through Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door, a word that summed up the whole experience nicely. Joyous. As a game it is all colourful and cutesy but this light touch hides a cleverly built RPG. In fact the touch is so light and the build so clever that at times you forget you are playing an RPG at all. It's a weird hybrid of platformer and RPG turn-based battles. Sounds awful but in practise it works really well. This is a game that will make you smile.
So from the magical to the mystical I have moved onto Jade Empire, an RPG in the more traditional sense. At the start of the game I did something unusual for me and chose a female character. Before the cries of "male chauvinist" and "misogynist scum" start ringing out I would just like to point out that I have no issue with female gaming protagonists. Jade from Beyond Good & Evil, Carla Valenti from Fahrenheit and of course Lara Croft are all excellent leads and it was great being a part of their stories. The problem that I have is that when faced with a choice, it feels more natural to go for the male character.
I don't know where this comes from. Back in the days of Golden Axe, picking the hot valkyrie seemed a bit..... pervy and those male WoW players that pick sexy elves and kit them out in revealing clothing strike me as odd. In Jade Empire during a matchmaking sub-mission, Ai Ling started talking about "our female intuition" I felt like a fraud, it didn't help that charm and intuition options both failed on two potential suitors but intimidation worked a treat. What's going on there?
Am I alone in this? I deliberately picked Wu the Lotus Blossom as she was a balanced character but not the hottest looking of the lady characters. Do I have some kind of fear of attractive pixellated ladies? Nina Williams was never a problem in Tekken. Maybe I should approach a psychiatrist....
7Mar 08I finally finished Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth and I have to say it was a good experience.... I think. The trouble is that a lot of it's good points were also it's bad points. For example, it had very little signposting which could prompt me to say "I wandered around for ages not knowing what to do" or I could say "It was so satisfying figuring out what to do next." Tricky. It definitely had one foot in quality old school adventure gaming and the other in modern first person storytelling and the last level was excellent. Either way I would heartily recommend it to anyone who still has an XBox (and a bit of patience).
Hopefully, I will be getting Jade Empire soon so I can sink my teeth into that but I do have a habit of quickly falling in and then out of love of RPGS. FFVIII, Fable, FFVI Advance and Zelda are all on the black list of unfulfilled dalliances. I am also thinking about giving up on Jet Side Radio Future as well. It looks amazing but it is just so infuriating, from my inability to get off rails to the banal japanese hip-hop "Extra sugar, extra salt, extra oil and MSG" Even typing that out annoyed me. That's it, it's going back on the shelf.
On a non gaming front, I have booked my holidays and will be heading to San Francisco in April. I can't wait. I have always wanted to go there and some of my favourite films have been set on it's steep hills and swarthy bars. I suggested to my girlfriend that we should watch Dirty Harry and Bullitt to get us in the holiday spirit but she didn't seem so keen. If anyone knows any other San Francisco based films then I would love to hear about them (not Mrs Doubtfire though).
Have a good weekend all.
22Feb 08Smelly beards, straining ale guts and beer that you could tar the roads with. No, it's not an England cricket team pre game warm up but another lovely beer festival. Last Saturday me and a few mates spent a precious few hours at the Liverpool Beer Festival which is held annually in the crypt of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool. The beers on sale are from all over the country and range from zesty, fruity wheat beers to dark, heavy stouts. Some are great and some are awful but that's half the fun.
Four hours, five pints, six wees and one commemorative glass later I stumbled into the bracing mid-afternoon sunshine and scuttled to the nearest pub to continue the merriment. After the good landlords of the Philharmonic, Fly in the Loaf and Roscoe Head had supplied my friends and I with more party juice we piled into the local curry house followed by a cab home for a well-earned rest. A great day all round.
So I would thoroughly recommend getting on this new-fangled interweb and finding out where your nearest beer festival is because you are bound to have a good time and who knows, you might even see me there tucking into my third pint of Skullsplitter. Any beer fans out there?
After almost 5 years of loyal service I have finally put my PS2 to bed. The last hurrah started a few months ago with the easy-going charm of Canis Canem Edit and finished just days ago with the savage thrills of God of War II and visceral gunplay of Black. All solid titles with a special nod to God of War II which must represent some pinnacle in the PS2's life and a game that I played through far quicker than I should have.
My original plan was to have bought an X360 by now and but I recently discovered Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door for the GC and Call of Cthulu, Jet Set Radio Future and Street Fighter Anniversary Collection for XBox going cheap in local gameshops and all for bargain prices as well, for example Jet Set Radio only set me back 4 quid. Hopefully these titles should keep me entertained for a while but after seeing them through I am definitely going to make the leap to the new generation.
I have wanted a 360 for a while but it seems to be lacking the more diverse titles that I like to try. I love shooters but the 360 seems to be flooded with them and I have heard grumblings that Assassins Creed isn't quite as exciting as I was hoping. On the flipside the Wii offers my only must have next-gen experience (Super Mario Galaxy) but little else that really appeals to me. Do I go for the safe bet I know I will like or the risky choice that I just might love?
17Jan 08If you were lucky enough to have played Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay you would probably agree that it is excellent. Anybody can see from screenshots that it looked phenomenal, but it was the gameplay that earned it such high scores. A post-MGS sneakfest meant that many games had stealth sections clumsily shoehorned into them, but in Riddick stealth was woven into the nature of the game itself. There was no radar or any kind of artificial shadow-ometer just a simple change in perspective to show the player how well hidden they were.
Starbreeze put other developers to shame by handling tricky gameplay elements like first-person hand-to-hand combat with apparent ease and there were a host of other great touches like the minimal HUD presentation and a great change of pace in the last level or two when Riddick gets his hands on some pretty destructive hardware. This was all wrapped up in a game world that was dripping with animal menace and Butcher Bay itself became one of the stars of the show, albeit a star that would shiv you in the spine for spilling it's pint. Sadly, it sold in small numbers and will be remembered as a great game that nobody played but everybody knew about.
It's odd that many box office smashes have generated shoddy games which sold like hot cakes, but if you were to reverse every part of that sentence then you would end up with the sad plight of Chronicles of Riddick: EFBB. It's a kind of talented son to the film's oafish father, putting people off his boy's potential popularity through his drab jokes and body odour. Weird analogies aside though it seems obvious that Butcher Bay's only crime was to be part of an average movie license.
So don't leave this game to languish amidst the wires of your local game store bargain bin. Free it from it's imprisonment behind walls of second hand copies of Halo or FIFA. Give it another chance and it will become a valuable member of your home collection. If you can't find it then save a few pennies to parole the copycat-killer X360 remake when it's released and you will not regret your decision.
Verdict: Guilty ... of being a quality title
3Jan 08That's it. Christmas is over and it's back to work. The tree is put back in it's box for next year, the presents have all been put away (except the crap ones which went straight in the loft on Boxing Day) and only the Toffee Pennies are left in that tin of Quality Street. That's right, no more lie-ins, chocolate for breakfast or beer for brunch.
But I am determined to look on the bright side. 2008 is going to be great. Liverpool has been crowned Capital of Culture and instead of grumbling about the resulting increase in my council tax I am determined to get my moneys worth. This means attending all those free events I have paid for even if it means seeing Ray Quinn opening a Lidl in Huyton or something. Other ways to get my money back include calling ambulances for paper cuts and the fire brigade for burnt toast.... of course I am joking and 2008 will be a great year for Liverpool although I am still remaining neutral where the footie is concerned (sorry Big_Bad_Sad!)
In fact 2008 has started pretty well already. Buried in Santa's ample sack was a copy of God of War II just for me and it is phenomenal. Kratos makes Leonidas look like a big nancy. Sparta? You can keep it cos I've got my eyes on Olympus baby. Mwahahahahahaaaaaa.