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Cactus_Matt Blog

Three-Six-Five

One year ago today I joined this place, I was so wide eyed by the sheer quantity of the forums and threads that I felt I'd get amongst the fanboys. Through all the madness however, I found a place of refuge, where the people were friendly and funny and the topics didn't change every second like in OT. I've spent a year within the virtual world of GSAU, my time here having its ups and downs, with more than a few disagreements and moderations. I've learnt new words and phrases, a year ago I would've thought a ROFLCOPTER was a South African military helicopter and been bewildered at the thought of an HnH.

Though when it comes down to it, it's the people that makes this place worth coming back to, the regulars, the noobs, the mods, all with their own unique personalities, who've all made my time here enjoyable or at the least memorable. This blog is for you, my friends, my enemies, the people who voted for me in the favourite member thread last year, the people who've made the film and tv discussion threads a place of intelligent and interesting discussion, the starters of controversial threads that end up with a 100 pages of back and forths, my fellow trophy hunters and the boys in the lounge, all of you, I thank you.

It's happening all over again!

I'm not sure how many of you know this, but I'm onto my fourth 360, none of them were replacements, instead, when a console broke I'd get angry, sell all my games only to buy them all over again 6 months later. A horribly expensive way to be a gamer, but if I'm anything its impulsive and indecisive.

A fact many of you would probably be aware of by my comments on the forums is that I haven't played my current 360 console in something nearing 3 months now, despite having 30 more than functional games. My attention, since the beginning of this year has been completely on my PS3, now I'm not here to start a fanboy argument, these are just the facts of the matter.

On to the reason for this blog, while my 360 is still functional (I assume, I haven't turned it on in a long time it may have turned to dust inside :P) I don't see the need for it anymore and as much as I hate to admit it, I think I could be happy with *gasp* one console. The 360 exclusives do nothing for me, Gears is tired and drab, Viva Pinata was fun for a minute and the less said about Halo the better. And there's not a single exclusive title on the horizon that I am looking to (except maybe Crackdown 2 but with it being MP focus, I'm less than enthusiastic). So now I wonder, would I be happier trading in my 360 and its games, for a bunch of PS3 games? Or should I just tough out this drought, and hope for a flood (though not of the Halo variety). Because one things for sure, I certainly don't want to be finding myself at EB in another 6 months, buying another 360...

A Rush of Coldplay to the Head

As many of you may know I attended Coldplay's Viva La Vida tour at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre last night, having never been to a concert before I didn't quite know what to expect, though what transpired over the course of the four hour event was certainly one of my most memorable nights of my life.

I was attending the concert with my girlfriend Jess and my good friend Steven, both of whom are (like me) large Coldplay fans. So skipping the tedious two hour train commute, I'll get straight down to the concert itself. We were standing on the floor in front of the stage, barely 20 meters from the front, and luckily for us a mere five meters from the side stage (the stage was U-shaped, allowing the performer to walk up and down each side. First to go on stage was the opening band from Australia, known as Decoder Ring, their music comprises of the instrumentals you'd usually here backing an Indie film, indeed most of their work is for movie soundtracks. Despite, the lack of lyrics they were a good band and set an interesting mood amongst the sellout crowd.

Unfortunately, there was a second opening band, Mercury Rev from the United States, the unfortunate part being the lead singer was absolutely cringe-worthy, prancing around the stage like it was he who we'd paid to see and with a helium high voice straight out of a cartoon. And after a forty minute set, which seemed like all eternity and certainly agitated the crowd, we waited as the stage was surrounded in a black curtain.

15 minutes later, the opening twangs of Life in Technicolour began and the crowd erupted, behind the curtain the dancing silhouette of Chris Martin and the others appeared and even though it seemed impossible the crowd got louder. Then the curtain dropped and once more the crowd let it's love for the band known, roaring with applause and cheers. Straight after the song segued into Violet Hill and for the first (and certainly not the last time) it sounded like the entire audience was singing along. As it got to the end of the song, the music dissipated and Chris continued singing the lyrics, "If you love me won't you let me know", which he changed to "If you're from Queensland won't you let me know!" much to the excitement of the very vocal crowd. And with that bit of improvisation, so began one of the most impressive examples of interaction I've seen from a band as big as Coldplay.

From Chris joking with the audience about writing The Hardest Part for the Shane Warne musical, to the thoroughly surprising moment when the entire band ran off stage, up through the stairs to the back of the tiered seats at the back where a makeshift stage had been erected right amongst the crowd, to show that without all the smoke and lights that they are just four normal guys who love music. And from that stage up in the grandstand they played Green Eyes as well as a cover of I'm a Believer by the Monkees before returning to the stage.

The highlight of the concert however was when they moved the piano down to the end of the U-shape where we were standing and after exclaiming that this was the part of the show where "the rest of the band go back stage for a massage, and champagne and a smoke, while I'm left to keep the show going by myself" at which point he began a beautiful acoustic rendition of The Hardest Partthat was genuinely moving. So close we were that we could see the individual drops of sweat dripping from his nose onto the piano. Another similarly excellent moment (and lucky for us it was at the same end of the stage) was when the entire band came down to the end to perform God Put A Smile Upon Your Face and Talk, but combining them as one back to back epic, with seamless transition.

Apart from being a treat for the ears, it was a visual one as well with an amazing amount of work put into the lights and other facets of the show, but words can only say so much, luckily I have photos (taken by my friend Steven)!

Politik with Chris on the piano.

Yellow complete with giant balloons filled with confetti! Lots of fun!

Strawberry Swing with the giant turning picture globes behind them with constantly changing images, there were five others located around the arena.

42 with Chris on piano and live footage of himself behind him.

Probably the best quality shot of the entire band performing Cemeteries of London

Lovers in Japan first photo with video backdrop.

One of the most magical moments of the aforementioned song as tens of thousands of paper butterflies floated down from the ceiling.

Beautiful.

And finally...

The band performing Talk on the side stage, there was only one row of people in front of us, it was so excellent to be so close!

I could go on for ages about how amazing Coldplay was, how after the band said goodnight the entire audience began chanting 'oo-oo-oooh-a-oooh' from the song Viva La Vida until they came out to perform an encore, but I think you get the idea. I will remember that night for the rest of my life. Thanks for reading, hope I didn't bore you too much with my prattle.

'Belligerent and Oppressive Boredom Ensued...'

Good word that, belligerent, ah but I digress, from what though? I haven't even started, and that'll give you and idea of what kind of blog this will be, disjointed, impulsive, irrational, pointless, additional adjective. I don't like blogs about people's lives, but when in Rome! (Rome reference #1!)

Ah, where to begin. I'm bored, though unlike everyone else here, not with the forums, they are but one of my small enjoyments that I can indulge in throughout the day, and as far as indulging i'm practically Roman these days (the people, not the GTA character). Gorging myself on the delights of Gamespot AU with sick and hedonistic enjoyment, oh my.

I'm bored because I'm working two shifts a week on average (yes I know Turbo, better than none) and this week my girlfriend went back to uni (which she does pretty much five days a week) so I only get to see her once or twice a week now, which is a massive boner-kill, both figuratively and literally. Though I do have to get used to it, so no use wallowing like some, great...wallowing...thing.

I went for my first (sober) drive on Sunday (yes I know I'm 21, I'm just a bit late to the party). It was interesting, my mother tells me I drive like I'm playing a video game, but I don't recall hitting any pedestrians or doing any drive-by's, maybe she meant in my heavy foot-ed-ness. I was never eager to drive in the first place and my mind hasn't really changed, and probably won't unless Santa gets me a Bugatti Veyron for Christmas this year! (PLEASE!)

Coldplay concert this Sunday (8th), kinda looking forward to it, not looking forward to the fact that I have to catch a 2 hour train trip to get there but I've done crazier things for smaller rewards so it should be a good night. While on the subject of music, Suede is the greatest band ever! :D 'nuff said!

If you're still with me, congratulations, as reward you won't be fed to the lions.

I really should be writing, I'm far behind in my novel writing (I like to get 5,000 words done a week). Hopefully this spontaneous burst of words will open the proverbial floodgates. Hmm, there's another good word...

'And so the boredom, of a most belligerent and oppressive kind, waded off into the oceans of insignificance as Cactus Matt wearily pressed "Submit" and waited patiently for an out pouring of comments from his fellow gamers of the Australian persuasion.'

drumroll please...

Presenting Cactus_Matt's Game of the Year awards 2008!

This year is the first year I really got into gaming, I've always been one to play a game and trade it in a month later, but I've decided this is a wasteful habit and as such it's forced me to play games longer than I normally would and give games far more chances than I usually would. It also helps that this year has been a monumental year for big titles, especially for the 360. Unfortunately for myself, I've only recently gotten back into the Microsoftbox and haven't bought many of the newer titles which grace a lot of GOTY lists this awards season. This means, that over the coming months, into 2009 this list is subject to change, however it would take a lot to knock some of these games of their pedestal.

Firstly, the runner-ups.

#5 - Fable II (360), I do enjoy a really good RPG, something that immerses you in a world of fantasy and magic, and it doesn't hurt if it's got a bit of humour. Fable II has it in spades, and it's my favourite type of humour too, dry British wit. The game itself has its charms, however the game ultimately falls back on the dog, your furry companion who would give his life for you. The only thing this game did that annoyed me was being in 3rd person, if it were in first person, this could very well be higher up the list.

#4 - Singstar vol. 2 and 3 + DLC (PS3), Perhaps a controversial addition to the list, after all, it's a game where you sing...but it's easily the game I've put the most hours into this year thanks to the addition of the Singstore, which has given me 8 Coldplay songs, 4 a-ha songs, 4 Editors songs, 4 HIM songs and a couple of Radiohead ones, not to mention the plethora of cheesy 80's hits. For sheer fun and longevity, Singstar deserves #4.

#3 - Crysis Warhead (PC), It's not just a sequel/expansion, it's every bit the equal of the original, albeit not as epic. More action and more interesting main character gives Warhead a refreshing spin on the familiar, it is probably the year's best shooter if it wasn't for...

#2 - Fallout 3 (PC), So close...the game that deserves GOTY if only for its gameplay, but looses out on the top award for a terrible ending, that seems to get worse the more you think about it. Fallout 3 succeeds in the sheer scope of its vision, the brilliant realised apocalyptic wasteland, in addition to morally questionable and thought provoking side quests and not to mention the wholly bonerific V.A.T.S system, it's so much fun to play I'm getting it on the 360 in the new year.

I considered leaving my GOTY to another blog, since practically everyone seems to be doing it this year. Cliffhanger fever perhaps? But to award you dear reader, hear it is, without delay (except for this increasingly long introduction) my Game of the Year for 2008.

#1 - Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts (360), Few games this year lived up to their expectations, be in from any number of issues, from gameplay to story to game stopping glitches. The one game, however that not only far surpassed my expectations but also was like nothing I expected was the third in the Banjo Kazooie series, and the first non-platforming, current gen games, Nuts and Bolts. I'll save you all from explaining what the game is and why it's different, what's important is the challenge it provides, the creativity of creating a vehichle from scratch, then racing it or using it to accomplish a task (or failing spectacularly) and the sheer fun and uniqueness of this game. If it wasn't for innovation we'd all still be playing Pong except in HD, Nuts and Bolts tried something new and not only did it succeed in this it is also my Game of the Year.

Thanks for reading!

Addicted to Achievements

As some of you may be aware, yesterday (the 19th) I bought an Xbox 360 Pro! Not my first 360 console (fourth in fact) but I'm determined to keep it this time, come hell or high water. There were a number of reasons I succumbed to buying it (again), the main three being, Crackdown (love it!), superior racing game catalogue (PGR fan since the first) and as ashamed I am to say - achievements. As much as I hate to say it, I'm addicted to achievements, there's something delightfully satisfying about hearing that little 'bee-boop' and watching your score increase.

As for what I bought yesterday, specifically I purchased the GAME pro pack with bonus Kung Fu Panda (bleh) and Lego Indiana Jones (lol) and also got a free copy of Fable II (which I'm enjoying a LOT more than the first one). I also picked up 5 second hand games: Crackdown, Dead or Alive 4, Kameo, Lost Odyssey and PGR 4 - all for under $100. And if that wasn't enough money spent I also got a Limited Edition Red and Black controller, it's very spiffy (I call it my Emo controller :P).

I'm sure the question of LIVE would come up sooner or later so I'll simply say I will be getting Gold soon but not until I buy a Wireless Adapter for the 360 (and that won't be til Christmas), so I'll most likely get gold on New Years Day. (and yes I know I have both a free month of gold and a ethernet cable but I'm only allowed to steal the wireless modem at very brief intervals - enough to download updates and such).

However, please don't hesitate to add me on XBL. My name is CactusMattAU (can you believe CactusMatt was already taken?!) If you add me leave a comment below saying so, I'll be on Live tomorrow during the day to download the 'Experience'.

"Good news everyone!"

Good news indeed. As some of you may have gleaned from the occasional comment on the boards I lost my job about 3 months ago, while I relished the free time for a while (and still do) the lack of money (especially leading up to Christmas) was a real killer. So many great games and Blu Ray's and albums, plus it doesn't help that I'm still paying off my new computer, my old computer, my Bravia and my PS3 (interest free FTW) so my savings account has dwindled to an almost non-existent sum. And while I applied for many jobs QBD (bookstore) and EB games (gaming store pariah) I had no luck with either.

There was, however, another store I applied to, so long ago (well 2 months) that when I didn't hear anything I just assumed again I was unsuccessful. That was until today when I received a call from the manager telling me that I've got the job and I start on the 24th. That's right, you're looking at Lowes newest employee! Having previously worked at Best and Less for over a year, Lowes isn't much of a stretch in terms of my retail abilities (and was probably the reason I got the job in the first place). But nonetheless I am glad to be once again among the employed.

Falling for Fallout (3)

Garnering rave reviews upon its release, Fallout 3, made by Bethesda Game Studios (of Elder Scrolls fame) is the third in the Fallout series, but the first to be made by the aforementioned company and by all accounts the new developer and the new era (the first two were made in 1998 ) have made for a very different game than its predecessors.

'Oblivion with Guns' is a phrase that was thrown around pre-release and perhaps fairly so. Initial videos showed a first person combat style, and several game mechanics similar to the famous 2006 game and while some saw this as a bad thing, others relished in the idea of such a game. The reality is however, far more complex. The Oblivion flavour is present through much of the game, mostly in small touches. 'How long would you like to rest/wait?', 'You cannot fast travel from this location' and the fact that the main guard at Tenpenny Tower sounds suspiciously like Baurus... These similarities are not game breaking, they are hardly even distracting, these are things that worked in Oblivion and work even better in Fallout 3.

Immersion is important, to become a part of a game world, to see your actions having active consequences on the world and story and to become emotionally invested in the story. In this regard Fallout 3 does not disappoint. It's been said in previous reviews but the decisions you make in this game will test the morals of even the most ruthless gamer, yes it's just a game, but somehow Fallout 3 manages to make every decision feel real. After one particuarly game changing decision early on in the game, I actually felt remorse and regret for my actions as I lay in bed that night, something I'd not felt before from playing a video game. Fallout 3 is worth playing for this alone.

And then we come to V.A.T.S (The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) and perhaps the games most innovative and purely fun feature. Being able to target limbs, cripple them and watch your enemy limp towards you before blowing their head off in a gory explosion is infinitely satisfying and never gets old. If there is one gripe I have with V.A.T.S (and this is with a gun against my head, pun intended) is that it makes the game easier, not easy but easier. The range of weapons, are impressive and inventive and you'll find yourself switching between them frequently for not only strategic reasons but just to see the awesome slow motion devastation that particular weapon bequeaths.

This game is perfect...up until the final minutes and this is the greatest shame, I will refrain from spoilers but suffice to say the usually stellar story falls apart towards the end, not in a way that leaves a sour taste in the mouth but just in a way that makes me wonder why more time wasn't spent perfecting it. Perhaps all the moral and story choices given to the character made it difficult for the developers, but I won't dwell on the negatives.

I could go on, but this review is getting a bit long so I'll wrap up:

If you haven't played Fallout 3 because of some loyalty towards the original games or a dislike for Bethesda's handling of the game, get over yourself and get Fallout 3. If you're undecided, do yourself a favour and pick it up - and soon you'll be falling for Fallout 3 just like me.

9.6/10

Max Payne - best film of the year?

Let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat, I am a huge Max Payne fan, if there was a Max Payne cereal I'd eat it for every meal, I even considered writing a Max Payne Musical sometime ago but was stumped on what rhymed with "those bastards murdered my wife and baby". But I digress, Max Payne is a film that is impossible to describe and even harder to recommend, because to be quite honest, even though I am a huge Max Payne fan, other Max Payne fans will probably hate it for its deviations from the source material. It's not even noir anymore, it's action/drama, however film noir is hardly the most commercial genre to sell to the masses. In thinking about writing the review I contemplated discussing the films merits, its artistic style, direction, action, all of which I believe it excelled in. But this is the type of film that will have many detractors and more than a few from this site who might read this review. So to be honest there's no point in telling you how much I loved this film, how it was one of the most wholly entertaining, and fulfilling film experiences of recent years because whatever I say will be cut down by critics and naysayers alike. All that's important is that I enjoyed it - immensely.

Best film of the year? Yes, but I'm sure you probably guessed that even before starting this review.

9.3/10

Oh and be on the lookout for a very cool cameo by James McCaffrey - the voice of Max Payne in the original games.

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