Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Battlefield Vs Modern Warfare.

Ok, so it's Stimulus Pack day today. Infinity Ward releases it's 5-Map pack to the world, including 2 older maps from the original Modern Warfare game, one of them my favourites (Overgrown. Snipers Delight). I am level 3 Prestige in the game, and have clocked up an unhealthy amount of time shooting American Teenagers. But here I am, and I haven't bought it, and I have no real impetus to. I've thought long and hard about it, and I'm reaching conclusions as to why CoD just doesn't grip me anymore.

Firstly, the price. 1200 MSP. If we wanna look that in rough dollar terms, let's say roughly £12. 12 fucking pounds. For 3 new maps, and 2 re-hashed ones. I am ALL FOR the older maps, but they required very little in the way of development by the team, and I think £4 a map is a bit much, in my humble opinion. I've always stuck up for DLC. It means people get a bit more life out of their favourite games, after they thought it was all over. It's like finding that extra beer in the fridge, that fiver in your jeans. It's a triumphant feeling. But at this price, it's a bit too much.

Secondly, I just think it's losing it's edge, it's lustre, it's fun factor. It seems to be a WoW-like treadmill these days. People showing off how much time they've spent on it, and illustrate this by playing a game of humiliation, and one-sided expertise bullying. It's still fun, but it feels a bit like a game in which no-one wins. The people who are constantly getting the AC130's are winning in-game, but haven't seen daylight for 3 months, all for that special little title you get at level-9 prestige.

In a wonderful coincidental vibe, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has also released a map update.

For Free.

Now, it's only 2 maps, indeed maps that have already been done, but released to be played in different modes. It's also only free if you're in the 'VIP Club', meaning that you basically bought Battlefield brand new, to try and stem the unrelenting trade-in business. So, it's nowhere near as much, in fact it's no new content, and it has stipulations to it's free-ness, but nonetheless it is free. And their schedule looks to be pretty jam-packed with downloadable content, too.

But lets get to the meat and gravy as to why I can't put Battlefield down at the moment...

It's a team game. The term 'Team Deathmatch' on Modern Warfare 2 should gain Infinity Ward a visit from Trading Standards, on the grounds of misleading the customer. It isn't at all. It's completely selfish, with people stealing your care package, sending you out into sniper fire to locate them, and just general bastardry. We all know it, because we've all done it. But Battlefield is different. It's streamlining into the classes is such an interesting choice, and an initially unnerving one. After so much customisation and load-out choices in COD, to be given this stripped-down system, based on a measly four classes at first seems a step backwards. But that's all it needs.

It's like a giant game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Except there's four, so it's more like Rock, Paper, Scissors, RPG. All four classes have their weakness, and a team only wins if everyone is playing a wide base of specialisations. A team full of snipers is going at it is going to get absolutely smashed, and aren't going to get anywhere. The game encourages you to play together, by pushing the competitive element into teamwork. Assists to your squad get you almost as much points as an actual kill, and medic heals and revives often gain you much more points than actually killing. People are generally selfish. Introduce a levelling scheme, and everyone turns into a poor man on the Titanic, stamping on children to get to the prize. But DICE have cracked it, offering an experience that makes teamwork FUN. YAY! Kids should play this shit at school.

Everything is harder in Battlefield 2, also. None of this quick-scoping, pirouetting sniper bullshit, because Battlefield offers enough challenge in actually killing somebody. Real bullet drop for Marksmen and bolt-action killing rifles mean that when you get a headshot from a distance, you've really earnt it. Same with every other class, and nothing feels quite so good as sneaking up on somebody and resuscitating them to death with the Defribulator. Magic.

So, one of COD's biggest fans, and I have a completely nonchalant view of the new map pack, but am actually looking forward to what DICE can offer us to expand the Bad Company multiplayer experience. Funny that.

Monday, 29 March 2010


Hey kids, hope your all staying glued to these pages because over the next few weeks I'll be turning my attention to the delicious world of COMICS!! I'm a late bloomer as far as the graphic novel goes but as a good friend of mine is knee deep into his 'Walking dead' and after several recommendations I gave it a try. Now im hooked, so watch this space as i delve into the pages of Invincible, Kick ass, Scott Pilgrim, The Walking Dead, Batman, HellBoy, The Amazing Screw-on head and others. OOohhh im so excited my spider-sense is all-a-tingling!!

Speak soon,

The good Dr Lucian Sanchez

Any suggestions and comments try - @dr_lucian (Twitter)

Marc lonsdale (facebook) +

Thanks for reading

Retro Monday: Micro Machines 2 - Turbo Tournament.

Now here's something I hope a lot of people will recall fondly...

Yes, Micro machines for the Mega Drive. What an achievement from the studio that now gives us the Grid and Dirt series of games. Not only does it give you an extra 2 controller ports (built into the cartridge!) for 4-player madness, it came with an absolutely excellent track editor that simply let you go crazy with placing objects and laying out huge tracks.

With a massive variety, not only in the generous list of vehicles to choose from (from F1 style racers, to hovercrafts and helicopters), but also the locations that went with each one. Personal favourites being the kitchen sideboard complete with cheerio track markers (see below) and the garden, which could double as an off-road course for the big 4x4s and a Pond for the power boats.

If racing is Codemaster's forte, then they most certainly started showing it here, creating one of the finest top-down racing games ever made, with excellent handling (dare I say, realistic in some places) on everything but the damn hovercrafts, which I'm aware do handle like fully loaded shopping trolleys, but still manage to bash around on every single corner. The A.I had a penchant for cheating, too but mostly they could be outraced by all but the most cautious of sunday drivers. Which meant I lost, a lot. :(

All in all, if you still have a Mega Drive, and you don't own this game and four controllers, I ask you why. If you do own it, break it out and invite your 3 most competitive friends around for a go on the most fun multiplayer racer quite possibly ever. (And you can quote that on the box, if you want).

Monday, 22 March 2010

God of War III: EPIC

Ok, so I rented it on Saturday (Too skint to buy it at the moment), and I've just completed it. And lordy LORDY, what a ride.

The game is magnificent. A true triumph in cinematic videogaming. I'm a novice to the franchise, with this being my first God of War experience. Mental I know, but they were released at a time I was at University, and only played Mario Kart, and got drunk playing it. A LOT. But I digress.

The game is excellent. Truly, truly brilliant. A tight, well-guided experience, with true cinematic vision. Enough to make me talk about it so excitedly. Every single shot in the game, from FMV's to in-game stuff is all perfectly shot, like film shot. Like when Tarantino pulls off an angle that makes you step back and actually think about it? Yeah, like that. I found myself in awe, frantically trying to keep up with the cinematic techniques and amazing tricks being thrown at me.

Similarly with the plot, this game is film-class. A twisting, intricate plot that thrusts the story along with sharp dialogue, intricate lore and excellent speech. In computer games, we often aspire to that gold standard, that the game is like a film.

Well, this game IS a film.

So sharp in it's visual style, so excellent in it's crassness and wonderfully violent, this game really is something else.

I'm sure other game sites are going to gush on about the gameplay being as impeccable and addictive as it is, and your friends will recount in gruesome detail just how that Centaur's guts come spilling out of the floor, but I want to put across the visual aspect and plot of it. The real meat and gravy of the game. Dante's Inferno was flawless in it's gameplay, but with a game of this category, it's not hard. Santa Monica studios know this, and have made a game that is astonishing. Truly, and utterly. Blockbuster have shitloads of copies to rent, so whatever it takes, get on it. For god sakes, steal a Playstation, you need to. This game really is sensational.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

God of War III


I'm going to do what gamers do best, and spend my time playing this. It is UNBELIEVABLE so far.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

A follow up thank you

WOW !! I'm just posting a quick follow on to what Brapscallion has already posted, regarding how chuffed to pieces we are about YOU GUYS!! A great big hugs and kisses style thank you from me Dr Sanchez.
It's a top competition and an even topper prize. Assassin's Creed 2 is a stunning game, I completely agree with everything 'scallion posted about it previously. You're gonna love it!
I apologize for not posting any blogs during the past week or two, had some mad home stuffs to sort. In my absence the boys have done me proud, Retro Monday is going strong and we've had two new bloggers join us (welcome!). Again thanks for reading, for your comments and support. Tell your family and friends about us and we can continue to grow bigger and better week after week.

Finally a big get well soon to our very own blogger Paddy. Hope your caged beast heals real quick. All the best mate.

Gainboy Says Thankyou: A Competition!

Ok, so we started a Facebook group, to get the word out, and to let people know about our lovely little blog. I (BrapScallion) foolishly thought it wouldn't get anywhere, and so as a bit of a laugh mentioned running a competition if we got to the 200 fan mark. I thought it was impossible, and that it would take almost forever, if we ever got there at all. We did it in just over a day. Incredible. Thankyou SO much to everyone who's supported us, who reads us, and all the awesome people currently contributing. We're having an absolute ball, and love that people are complementing the site, and digging it. So I got a prize, and now we're going to have a competition. It would be rude not to give a game away, wouldn't it? Fancy winning this?

My personal game of 2009, and one of my favourite games of all time. We're giving away the absolute masterpiece that is Assasin's Creed 2, on Xbox 360. If you haven't played it before, then here's the perfect chance, to play it for absolutely free.

The game is a masterpiece. Cast any aspersions you may have from playing the original away, this game is amazing. The designers took on all the criticisms from the original game, and built a sequel that surpasses it in every way. A compelling story, brilliant gameplay and the most gorgeous scenery in any game ever, this is a real treat. And we're giving it away. For absolutely nothing. Nadda. Zilch. NOWT!!!!

So how do you win this? Simple! Become a fan of us on Facebook if you're not already (Click the handy box on the right if you're not) and answer this question by posting on Gainboy's Wall. It couldn't be simpler! The winner will be announced next Friday, and will recieve this fantastic game. So the question? It's a tough one:

Do you want Assassin's Creed 2?

Remember, post your answer on the Gainboy Facebook wall, and you can win this stunning piece of Italian Assassin Action. Who says we don't look after you?

Monday, 15 March 2010

Retro Mondays: Hunter (Amiga)

Ok, so this is where Nostalgia gets really deep. Back in the golden days of the Amiga, it chose the floppy disk on which to publish it's games. Unfortunatley for any software developers, the medium of the floppy disk was not only an easy thing to copy and reproduce illegally, but also cheap to do, meaning the piracy of games was pretty much standard at the time. Luckily for kids like me, this meant a SHITLOAD of games. I'll never forget my uncle handing me a lock-box full to the brim of games, the titles hurredly written on the office labels. With such a choice of games, and such a young mind, titles were obviously everything. Imagine my intrigue when I found the word 'Hunter' scratched onto a disk in biro. Then I loaded it up...

This game is completely bizzarre. If you wish to be kind, it's an important milestone and inspiration for sand-box games, and has been essential in laying foundations and groundwork for these games to take over the world in future years. In a more cynical light, the game is a confusing, barren landscape, which is either too boring, or too difficult. I'm somewhere in the middle, as I spent hours on it, desperately looking for action, island-to-island, square block to square block.

The basic game consists of going to find the enemy leader, killing him, and coming back to base in a seemingly endless world. The world is a set of islands, that you travel to and traverse by various means, or quite often by foot. FOREVER.

It's such a curious game. The compulsion to keep going is so strong, yet I struggle to recall why. Finding a gun was such a rare occurrance, it was genuinely cause for celebration. The problem is, that with this power-up was the lack of an opponent to use it against. Same with getting in an armoured boat. Fantastic to be so well-prepared, but against what? The only time I ever encountered other people I got killed in seconds. Such an odd game then, that not only I carried on playing, but has stuck with me all this time, and has buried itself so deep in my gaming psyche.

With a box full of games at my fingertips, I still played this. I still gave it my time. Rainbow Road, Lemmings, Dynamite Dux, Xenon, all sat there, and I chose this. And I still bloody loved it. I think it's because of it's direction, it's sheer originality and approach that made it so loveable. It was a choose-your-own-adventure book, for lads. It was a fantasy adventure in fatigues, and precariously introduced people into the world of free-thinking who were told they don't belong there. Hunter proved that you didn't need Goblins and Wizards to enjoy thinking for yourself.

Well, it worked for Tommy Vercetti.

Friday, 12 March 2010

How to make each part of a series individual.

The BrapScallion said I have to introduce myself before I make my first post, so here you go. I'm ParaLyze (some should know me by that name), I'm in my mid-twenties and I have a deep fostered love of storytelling in both games and film. That said, I'm also a big fan of online gaming, regularly playing an Online RPG called Guild Wars, and I've played a great many different online games, from shooters, to MMOs with strategy games in between, sometimes to a tournament level. I'm what people in suits call a "hardcore" gamer, and I like it that way.

So it's new out this week, and having hit the 30 hour mark, I'd say I'm in a good position to give my views on SquEnix's latest iteration of the world-munching Final Fantasy series. It'll be tough going, and I may let a few spoilers slip, but I'll do my best not to...

First and foremost, the number one thing I've heard people get worried about is the 'linearity' of it. Yes, FFXIII is linear, but only to a point. At around the 20 hour mark, the game opens up (a little) and gives you a taste of the side questing and 'Mark' missions. Before that, the game guides you along the paths of the 6 characters, swapping and changing fairly regularly. At one point, you're exploring a dense jungle research facility with Lightning and Hope, which is followed by a visit to a waterbound floating theme park with Sazh and Vanille, complete with chocobos, chocobo theme music, and miniature sheep, which are adorable... Sadly missing are the wealth of mini games fondly remembered from Gold Saucer (FFVII) though the pace is neatly wound down to suit with a nice little game of hide and seek.

I was going to say a big long rant about how the game is linear and that's a good thing, but that can be saved for another post as it's a bigger issue than just here. Suffice to say, the game flows well and doesn't feel constrained at any point.

What I will talk about are the things that are almost iconic. Firstly, this is quite definately the most beautiful thing to grace my TV screen (and I've played Uncharted 2), the in-game engine is sharp, very detailed and full of colour, the cutscenes are mostly rendered in-game, where you sometimes notice the detail lacking (especially on close ups with hands), and I've noticed a stutter in frame rate just once, which was in a battle with some 9 or so enemies when unleashing a rather flashy spell. The pre-rendered stuff is, as we'd come to expect from SquEnix, beyond compare. This is Pixar level animation with the extra touch of human proportion that you don't see in cartoons.

Secondly, the battle system. I had my reservations about what the battle system would be until I saw it being used in a small snippet of footage from e3 a couple years ago, which got me more worried about it. Then, someone informed me that it was actually an active time battle (ATB) system, similar to that of FF games of old (Pre-FFX). So when I finally hit the first battle, I was a little suprised with what it did. The game does indeed run on the ATB system, with a timer filling up until you're ready to go. What they didn't tell me, however, was that the ATB is split into sections (2 at first), which allows you to perform multiple actions each time the bar fills up. Most actions take up 1 section, with more powerful spells and attacks using up 2 or even 3 sections. At the start of the game (as you are without magical assistance) you rely on using potions to heal your group. So very kindly, item use does not count towards your ATB sections, and you're free to use them. This also counts for 'techniques', which contains toolbox skills like Libra (provides info on enemy strength & weakness) and Summons. The game only gives you control of the 'leader' of the group, with the AI filling in for the other members of your team. Usually at this point, you'd think "oh god, that's horrible", but I would have you hear me out on this one. Firstly, the AI is fantastic in choosing actions, testing the enemy for weaknesses first, then preying on them for maximum effect, not once have I felt like I wanted to swap character because I could do it better. Secondly, the battles move at such a pace that it wouldn't be possible to get the best out of the segmented ATB system if you had to set actions for every team member, and even if you did, you wouldn't get to watch the stellar effects and animations in play when your group launches into action. The next feature is the Chain/Stagger meter. Essentialy, if you keep a string of damage going on a target, you deal more damage with each hit. Starting at 100%, the chain goes up to the enemy's stagger point (which is different depeneding on the enemy), the guage decreases whilst not being hit, but as long as you keep the hits coming, each hit tops up the meter from where it was when you last hit. Leave it too long though, and the meter resets to 100. When you stagger the enemy, the chain gives you +100% damage on top of what you already were on and continues to rise up to 999.99% (which you won't see very often until later in the game). Some enemies have other effects when staggered, such as being disabled, or change in weaknesses, which gives a reason to keep that chain going.

Now at the start of the game, as I previously mentioned, you are without magic and rely on your physical prowess to get by. But it's not long before you get access to the role system of the game and are introduced to a new feature called 'Paradigm Shift'. Essentially, each character has a set of roles (starting with just a couple, building up to all 6 being available to everyone), which are Sentinel, Commando, Ravager, Medic, Synergist and Saboteur. To read them in another way and explain them at the same time; Tank/Damage Sponge, Physical Damager, Magic Damager, Healer, Party buffer, Enemy Debuffer. Each character is well suited to at least one of these roles, with a few being suited to 3 at most. Unfortunately each character can only perform one of these roles at a time. So if Lightning is a Commando, she can't heal the others. Thankfully, Paradigm Shift provides you the means to swap the roles in your team between different 'decks', which is 6 customisable setups of different roles. This allows you to have some extreme setups, with 3 damage dealing roles that can, suddenly, form into a defensive setup to heal any wounds, swap to a section to apply buffs/debuffs whilst keeping the attack chain going, and then launch a new assault to stagger the opponent. Character development comes in the form of the 'Crystarium', which is basically the Sphere grid from FFX, which requires you to spend CP (read: Exp) to unlock nodes which provide attribute boosts or new abilities. Each role has it's own 'grid' so they are all tailored in mind to be mostly beneficial to that role, with some other nodes giving access to attribute boosts with a more 'all-round' feeling.

The paradigm system is probably my favourite aspect of the game, as it gives rise to a new method of tactical combat in RPGs. Swapping roles on the fly to deal with changes in the opposition is a real joy, and like items and techniques, it's a free action, so you can do it as much as you want (or swap quickly if you picked the wrong one).

For the other elements that make this a Final Fantasy game, there are a number of elements. The characters each have their own unique stories and offer different perspectives as the story unfolds. Each one develops as a character in some way and the revelations and twists in the story still have me unsure how it's going to end. Fang perhaps suffers a little, due to being the last character to be introduced, some 10 hours in, where the rest are introduced in the first chapter. Though she still manages to provide an interesting story, and makes up for it by being an extremely versatile character to use in combat. The music (another FF staple), is wonderfully orchestrated, and suprisingly a lot of sections even have vocal parts (though not always legible, which I lean towards being a good thing), and I'm yet to hear that damn Leona Lewis song which plauged the TV ads. Continuing with sound, the voice acting is actually good, and conveys the emotions of the characters well without having to spell things out.

All in all, this is a game that was quite easily worth the price tag, and even if I finish it tomorrow, I'd say it was money well spent. If you're still unsure and have been waiting to see what other people think, I'd recommend it.

p.s. Thanks IGN for the pics.

Near-dead genre breathing once more

If you're anything like me, you love a good scare. A jump-out-of-your chair, fill-your-pants, heart-in-your-mouth scare. It reminds you that you're alive. Sometimes it reminds you that you're a big wimp, but mostly it reminds you that you're alive.

I remember these moments vividly from years gone by whilst playing my favourite type of game – survival horror. These games are designed to do exactly what you expect – you have to survive, and it's scary. Hella scary. How about when the dogs leapt through the window in the original Resident Evil, or when you encountered the sharks? Perhaps seeing the Licker run across the window in Resident Evil 2, or the moment you saw the poor cop you couldn't save stumbling towards you as a zombie? Maybe the odd collection of wheelchairs tipped over with wheels still rolling in Silent Hill did it for you, or even when the creepy nurses walking awkwardly with knives in their hands began looking your way.

But let's be honest. Over the last few years, fans of survival horror haven't really had much to cheer about. After a glut of excellent games on the PS1/PS2 (Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Siren and many more) and original Xbox (the incredible Call Of Cthulu: Dark Corners Of The Earth), recent offerings have been sparse and under par..

You aren't from round here, are you boy?

Even the daddies of survival horror began showing signs of fading enthusiasm and confidence in the genre - Resident Evil 4 & 5, whilst both excellent games, favoured fast-paced action in place of the genuine unease and fright in earlier titles, and the Alone In The Dark franchise did itself no favours with an interesting but ultimately highly flawed and bugged next-gen offering.

Taking the aforementioned Alone In The Dark title as an example, it seemed innovation was being favoured over storyline, playability and common sense (don't even get me started on the tree stump section in central park). Sure, a neat inventory system and the ability to create your own ammo using seemingly random items you've collected along your quest is a neat touch, but when that ammo can only be fired using an awkward control scheme with horrendous camera control, the novelty wears off.

Believe it or not, that's an inventory screen

Imagine my delight then, whilst searching for a bargain in my local game shop last year, to discover a game that not only re-invigorated my passion and faith in the genre but that has seemingly coincided with a return to form of survival horror. The game? Dead Space.

Dead Space was released multi-platform in October 2008 with little fanfare. How little fanfare can be best summed up by the price I paid for a new copy, only 7 months after release - £7.

It's premise is simple – the Concordance Extraction Corporation receives a distress call from the USG Ishimura, a deep space mining ship. All attempts to contact the ship have been fruitless, and so the USG Kellion is dispatched on a rescue mission. Enter the hero of the tale, Isaac Clarke, an engineer with a handy array of laser cutters and a mighty impressive space suit. Whilst docking with the Ishimura, your ship crashes in the landing bay, leaving you stranded and with no option left but to explore the deserted ship (oh noes!). On your way you encounter the horrendous Necromorphs and uncover shocking truths about the real reason for the communication blackout.

What follows is 13 or so hours of one of the finest gameplay experiences of my entire life. From the gripping and engaging plot and the graphical beauty of the degraded Ishimura, all the way down to the sound Isaac's feet make whilst clunking around the mining ship, this game is, quite simply, incredible. The developers have balanced action against shit-your-pants scares with aplomb, proving along the way that a strong plot, beautiful graphics and back-to-basics, atmospheric and exciting gameplay are still the most important components when creating a survival horror game. That's not to say the game isn't without it's neat touches – there's no HUD to speak of, instead replaced with real time holograms that appear next to Isaac's suit. The health bar is displayed via a tube that runs down Isaac's back, and there are some real neat features like the Stasis and Kinesis modules that add another dimension of gameplay.

It's worth noting that despite not being a particularly high-selling title, the game has won countless awards and critical acclaim since it's release, and has a direct sequel in the offing (although the prequel Deadspace: Extraction was released on the Wii as a House Of The Dead style FPS). Dead Space 2 is due this year, and I for one can't wait.

And for all you fellow survival horror fans out there, there's a whole host of titles to get excited about – Alan Wake (Remedy Software - multi-platform), Siren: Blood Curse (SCEJ - PS3), Deadly Premonition (Ignition – PS3/Xbox 360), I Am Alive (Ubisoft – multi-platform) and countless more.

Get ready to turn the lights off and frighten yourself silly.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Gainboy Goes Casual: Looking A Gifted Horse In The Mouth.

Ok, so I've got started. Basically, it's Harvest moon, without any button pressing, and all based on time-lapsing. I've planted myself a serious Soybean patch, as they are quick-growing and good-yielding crops. I've also been gregarious with my hard-earned coins and bought myself a chicken, and a tree. I really am living the life.

My Farm. And My Moustache.

It's very slow to get going though. It seems the main factor in this game is time. You have to leave things to mature, grow, ready to harvest. Common sense, really, as this game is clearly built to be a task you do in the day, a little pleasant chore when you get in from work. Bizzarre, as most games I've played allow you to dive in, and have to make you tear yourself away from the game, whereas Farmville actively encourages you to turn it off. So why is it so addictive? I guess I need to carry on.

I've also been befriended by a neighbour (a friend on Facebook who plays it), and they gave me a horse. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with the horse. Maybe make glue. We'll see.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Gainboy Goes Casual

Fuck WoW. How many players has it got? 11 million. Pathetic. What an amateur MMORPG. What childs play. How about 88 Million? How about just over 1% of the entire population of the earth playing it? Sounds more rugged, sounds more hardcore, sounds more like a real game doesn't it? A real, well-rounded game that defines gaming, and proves the hardcore fans right, that gaming is true art, right? Well, you're wrong. It's Farmville, on Facebook.

20% of ALL Facebook plays this game. In fact, reading up on it scares the life out of me. Is THIS the real future of gaming? With such a massive installed base of fans and loyal gamers, are the mainstream right, is this a fun, addictive and free way to get your gaming fix. Unfortunately, I'm going to find out.

In the interests of Fairness, I'm going to play Farmville, to find out whether or not the masses are right, and if I can get my gaming kicks on a web browser, for free. I'm not looking forward to this, I have Heavy Rain sat on my desk, along with Battlefield: BC2. But I've got to take one for the team. I'll be reporting my findings as and when something happens/doesn't happen, and I'll play it for as long as I can stand it. Who knows, I might get addicted, and move to a smallholding in Dorset to realise my dreams.

Wish me luck.

Monday, 8 March 2010

He's Got A Head Like A Fucking Orange

OK, so right here we are tackling a big one. As far as media goes, this is probably one thing that consumes the most time I spend listening, watching or playing. I listen to this every day, and nothing has made me laugh quite like it. For four years now, I have been listening to and in awe of Ricky Gervais' Radio/Podcast endeavours, backed up by writing partner Steve Merchant, and the quite unbelievable Karl Pilkington.

It started out as a coincidence. Whilst Gervais and Merchant were working at London radio station XFM, they were finding their feet and floundering slightly as shock jocks, presenters constantly getting rapped for saying the wrong things, at the wrong time. Enter Karl Pilkington, jingle producer who was on hand to be caretaker button-pusher for the boisterous pair. Slowly but surely, the chaps started talking to Karl, and realised they'd discovered a mind unlike any other.

"If you go on a world cruise, the problem is,
where do you go next year?"

The man is extraordinary. I'm sure you've half-heard of him from people extolling his virtues and making half-arsed attempts at explaining his genius. One thing people never do justice to, however, is his delivery. Fully serious, his deadpan monotone adds to the comic effect, and makes everything his says that little bit funnier. His musings and thoughts are fully pushed to the front by Gervais and Merchant, gently prodding him, sometimes abusing him, always encouraging him.

"After nearly choking on that Ice Pop,
I couldn't go back to eating 'em.
It's like asking a fella who's been run over if they wanna play Frogger."

It would be nothing though without the talent and chemistry that Gervais and Merchant bring to the table. The chemistry between the trio is nothing short of exhilerating, especially in the XFM days. The frenetic pace, the sense of the show collapsing at any moment and the genuine on-air thinking mean the show is charming, really fresh and feels 'real'. It never feels scripted, or proposterous, it genuinely feels as if what Karl is saying is real. And it is. I understand though, that for some people, just audio isn't enough. Step forward HBO...

"Little disabled fellas playing on the centre court at Wimbledon.
They couldn't get a rally going. They should of played Swingball."

HBO have set some of the best moments of the first series to a Cartoon, showing the action on the small screen, and bringing Karl to the masses. Already on it's 3rd episode in America, we get in in April, on Channel 4. The diehard fans are already loving it, but will the mainstream take it into it's bosom, and herald Karl as a genius? Or is it just too obscure for a family to understand? I'm unsure, but part of me kind of wants to keep this little gem a secret, a pleasure I divulge in, my own little secret club where I'm the fourth member, and we're just mates having a laugh.

Whatever happens, I URGE you to pick up the XFM shows, just to get a taste of what you may have been missing. Multiplayer games have never been the same for me, and games of COD or Battlefield are given a new dimension by turning the sound off, and being whisked away to the land of Pilkington. Pilkipedia, the number one resource on all things round-headed, have the archive of shows for your downloading pleasure, for free. You NEED to get stuck into these, please. They are so good, and so life-affirming, and so genuinely hilarious.

"You'll never see an old man eating a Twix. Think about it."

This deck of cards is a little frayed around the edges, but then again so am I and I've got fewer suits...

Going back a long way, I've been a fan of the point and click adventure. From the really early stuff, like Loom, going through the Monkey Island games, Day Of The Tentacle, Sam And Max Hit The Road... yeah, I think we can all agree that LucasArts are the masters of the genre - though let's not forget the Discworld adventures, or Leisure Suit Larry (or any of a vast number of P&Cs from Sierra, actually).

My personal favourite (and I think the favourite of many) is Grim Fandango, charting the journey of Manny Calavera through the afterlife. It was written by Tim Schafer, the guy who later brought us the marvellous Psychonauts. There was one major problem with Grim Fandango, though, and that was one particularly difficult puzzle: THE GOD DAMNED FLAMING BEAVER DAM.

It's my belief that the point of games is to have fun, and when you come across a puzzle so obscure and irritating and apparently insoluble, the time comes when a player should just refer to a walkthrough and get themselves past a logjam. After all, there is nothing fun about beating your head against a brick wall for more than a couple of hours. That's not to say you shouldn't have a proper crack at it first, of course, but in these games, having got some help on a puzzle or two shouldn't (if you ask me) put any shadow over the accomplishment of completing the game - especially when you're not going to finish the game without checking out that help.

And there's nothing worse than an unfinished story.

Perhaps you disagree? Maybe you think that if you consult a walkthrough for one puzzle it invalidates the whole achievement of the game? Well how appropriate, you fight like a cow. Let us know what you think in the comments.

BONUS FEATURE: Just found this original Grim Fandango Puzzle Document which shows just what a fiendish genius/demented sadist the boy Schafer is.

Retro Mondays: Punch-Out (NES)

One of the finest games ever to grace the little grey dust-eating dream machine, this Monday sees us looking at the incredible Punch-Out.

Back in the days of no advertising, box art was pretty much all you had to go on. Especially if you shopped at Toys R Us, where the little carts of hopes and dreams were locked away in trophy cabinets, so greasy little fingers couldn't get them. With this in mind, just look at that box. Jesus Christ. How this thing acutally shifted units is beyond me. Mario was the chuffing Ref for god's sake, and he doesn't even get a look in! It looks more like Pit Fighter than it does Punch Out. I pity the poor macho fools, buying this to impress their mates when they came in from the pub. Boy were they in for a suprise.

The first rhythm action game, with no rhythm. Punch Out was brilliant. The basics of Boxing, mixed with the tells of Poker, and the sequencing of a Gregorian Dance, this game was something different. The basic mechanic of it was well-timed boxing, with Mac the protagonist remaining in the centre of the screen. Ducking, blocking, high and low punches were all you had to worry about, but the gameplay mechanics were clever. The system had its limitations, and Nintendo knew this. They didn't try to over-achieve, they didn't try to make a game that was wildly ambitious and didn't deliver. They made a game with heart, with flair, and with incredible characters.

Every opponent was a puzzle. A mountain to climb. Without ringing the Nintendo Hints line, there was little help, and no hints from the game itself. It was a brick wall, but the clues were there. Every opponent had their own unique charm, their own look and their own incredible character design. We look back now at characters like 'Piston Honda' and 'Von Kaiser' and see the naive stereotyping, but the characters were really interesting, and brilliantly designed.

And the THEME MUSIC! Never have I wanted to bust some serious chops than when listening to the 8-Bit tuneage of Punch Out. Never fear, I've even included it. We spoil you here at GainBoy...

Not even Mike Tyson could ruin this game. That's how good it was. Voted by Nintendo Power as the 17th best game ever on a Nintendo System, the game is proof that simplicity is sometimes best, and that if you're given a nickname like 'Glassjaw Joe', you really are going down in the first.

Retro Mondays: Mostly Harmless

So today I want to have a bit of a chat about Elite. I think back to Elite as a magical, almost perfect game - but on reflection this is a rose-tinted reverie, and that's the default setting for anyone who played the game back in the old days.

Sure, it had 3D graphics, using hidden line vectors, which when you consider the platforms it was working on was nothing short of miraculous. In fact, nothing much moved forward in that field until the release of Driller with it's filled polygon structures (and Driller was a crap game as well). I could digress and talk about Starglider, which was a pretty cool 3D wireframe game as well... but Elite was the big one.

Here's the facts though - Elite was, under it all, a pretty boring game. It was, like World of Warcraft, a treadmill the made you fatter. You'd find a trade route and you would hammer it round and round and round to build up the credits to get new stuff. That Type 3 Mining Laser, for example... mining in Elite draws definite comparisons to mining in WoW - it's just grinding for cash. You could buy yourself a Docking Computer, brilliant - the fact about docking in Elite is that you could choose between irritating and frustrating (no docking computer) or get the docking computer and enjoy long winded and dreary docking sequences.

Hey wow, get a Galactic Hyperdrive! Travel to another galaxy, different in every way but its base level of tedium!

Then there were the Vipers. Jesus, guys, I know this is a democratic planetary system, but I'm only trading slaves because there's a demand - maybe you should take a closer look at your own society before judging me. Besides which, if you shoot me out of the sky, then you're also shooting the slaves to oblivion as well. This makes me think that the space police care a little less about the value of human life than they'd like to admit.

And don't even get me started on the fictional missions that the fanboys raved about, where you have to blow up a space station with a special missile. I don't believe it for a second.

The more I think about it, the more I see the parallels between Elite and World Of Warcraft, they attract a certain kind of player - players like me, who's CV could include the words "Paddy greatly enjoys performing repetitive tasks". But despite the joy of playing both games for hours upon endless hours there is one major attribute both games have, and it's this - I've never reached L80 in WoW, and I never ever reached the rank of Elite.

I guess that I'm actually just bitter. Braben and Bell laid the groundwork for so much that followed, and made an entire generation of young men fat and sunlight-intolerant. The way the galaxies were generated algorithmically from seed values was a moment of genius in a time when 16K was considered a lot of storage. Graphically, it was a revolution. Even the marketing was a new level in the world on computer games, including a science fiction novella by Robert Holdstock in the packaging, and offering a prize for the first person to reach the legendary rank of Elite.

Damn it Elite, you're a bad wife. I love you even now, but I still want to smash you with a shovel.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Whedon, we salute you!

MAMA MIA! I just love T.V at the moment, not just for the new wave of U.S comedies. I'm rediscovering some gems i haven't watched for a while.

Currently chomping down on (for only the 2nd time), the whole first (and last) season of the awesome space western - Firefly. Created and written by Joss 'I have done other things, bar Buffy!' Whedon.

Aihhhh, forgot how good it is, if you haven't witnessed this classic piece of cult T.V, STUPID YOU! A Question? Do you like Space, Guns, Hot soon-to-be-terminators, men called Jayne and agood 'ol fashion smuggling story? Yes, well this is for you. Great characters, great wrting and of course it spawned the brilliant 'Revenge of the Sith' crushing Serenity.

Next week me thinks i'll do the same right here for Deadwood.

Love on the Battlefield

I'm a Call of Duty freak. A CODHEAD, as we're commonly known. I don't know why I find it so compelling, but the idea of levelling up and getting those sweet sniper headshots from a mile away just pushes my gaming buttons no end. I love it. That competitive edge, that repetitive yet changing environment and circumstances make for a gaming experience I love, and enjoy thoroughly.

The problem is, is that COD has thrown down a gauntlet of massive proportions. So solid in it's approach, so thorough in it's fairness and balance, it's often hard to even consider anything else when looking for the definitive FPS Multiplayer experience.

But over the Summer I, like most people, took a little chance on a curious little game on the Xbox Live Marketplace, known as Battlefield: 1943. 3 Levels, one mode, a little slice of WW2 Multiplayer for people to dive into. The developer DICE hoped for moderate success, fully unaware of it's impending success. In fact, they were so unsure of it doing well, they offered an incentive: if the community reached 43 million kills, they would unlock another level. Expecting this to take months, and to perpetuate the game, and hopefully help it gather momentum.

They did it in 4 days. It went on to be one of the biggest-selling Downloadable games of the modern age, and a benchmark in bitesize gaming.

So now it's DICE's turn to bring the next thing to the table. Enter Battlefield: Bad Company 2...

And it's brilliant. It's different, it's solid and it's damn playable. So far, I'm a few levels into the single-player, which I'm currently enjoying. Well-crafted level design, good weapons and excellent destructibility in the levels means the game is an enjoyable and satisfying experience. The story is relatively interesting, and the dialogue is nice and snappy. It's not ground-breaking, let's not get that misunderstood, but it is good. It's not going to win any innovation awards, but it's a fantastic excercise in gameplay and of solid shooting mechanics.

It's the multiplayer where things start getting really interesting. Clever game modes, incentives to progress and maximum carnage ensue for a difficult but rewarding experience.

The vehicles are fantastic. The UAV helicopters, the tanks, the quad bikes. Fantastically balanced. Tanks are tough, but a clever-thinking engineer with an RPG can take them out easily enough. All the weapons are nicely balanced, The Sniper Rifle's trajectory means that shots have to be aimed above the head, varying on the distance. The classes skills are all valuable, with each being important. All in all a well-rounded and deeply satisfying little shooting jaunt, and one which I look forward to investing some time into in the near future.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

The street artist, his film and the chimp mask!

BANKSY, The worlds favourite street artist (and mine) released his brand new documentary this week to selected cinema's across the country, 'Exit through the gift-shop'.
I haven't seen it it yet but early reports suggest only good things, a sweet trip to Manchester's Cornerhouse should make short work of this. If your not onboard with any of BANKSY's projects i suggest you check the link's below for maximum coverage. This film looks amazing...
full review coming soon

They're back...LOVE IT !!!

Aaaahhhh, that deep sigh of satisfaction can signal only one thing for me. The Winter Olympics have finally finished. I'm not a sports fan and i have nothing against those that like it. BUT having said that, the hosting country Canada and it's toothless hockey players can pack their shit up and fuck off, leaving me to one again enjoy NBC's amazing T.V schedule.
This week was like welcoming an old friend home for supper, DING DING DING, thats the sound of dinner being served.
Both the return of Parks and Recreation and The office bring that fuzzy feeling about my person once more, and boy they delivered (office pun, watch it!!) Next week NBC will also have the great and magnificent 30 Rock bring about it's joyful face. This poor sod hasn't had an episode aired since Valentine's day for christ's sake! Goddamn Vancouver and it's shitty snow sports.

So yes, i like T.V at the moment it's the simple pleasures i look forward to in life, all we need now is for HBO to pull their finger out and green-light season 4 of Deadwood and i'll be in hogs heaven.




Ok, so I was in the pub the other night, and I went to the Gentleman's wash room. In the last few years, the stroke of genius of advertising above the urinals has become more commonplace. I mean, perfect space. Trying to literally mind your own business up in the toilets, a little bit drunk, this is the absolute recipe for concentration of the highest order. That advert could be about Prune Juice, and my gaze would be fully transfixed on it. This advert, however, was about a new telephone, and LG. The model in question is the LG KM900:

Now, this is where we reach the cut-and-thrust of this post: Why make products that try and imitate an already successful product, with inferior results?!?!

I am an iPhone user. They have their faults (I'm pretty sure the battery leaks out the back, it's the only explanation I can think of), but I personally think it's a brilliant piece of kit. Regardless of your opinion agreeing or disagreeing with me, you HAVE to conclude that people who want an iPhone, will buy an iPhone. Right?!?!

I stared at this advert for a fair while. Thinking. I must of looked all kinds of special stood there looking intently at a picture of a phone, but everything about that advert kinda just said 'Hey look! It's an iPhone. Kinda! Buy it, it's not the same, but it's trying to be!'. It just baffled me. Surely people aren't dim enough for this to work? Surely. Surely they'd just buy the real product, or a Blackberry? Surely?!?!

I guess it's aimed at those people who buy those consoles down the market that look like a Wii, that plug straight into the telly, with the Commodore 64 games loaded already onto it. That kind of sham-fake stuff that almost looks half-legit from a distance, but is about as obvious as your dad at a Warehouse Project, trying desperately not to be found out.

So next time you're in the pub and you see someone using what you think is an iPhone, just have a sneaky look. It could be one of those rare individuals who's been fooled by the Korean masterminds at LG. Mind you, you'd probably be able to spot them anyway, they'll be drinking a pint of urine, after being told it was 'special beer'.

Point. Click. Repeat.

I Would Like To Pre-Announce My Disappointment With Portal 2

This was a triumph, I'm making a note here, huge success. It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.

And that summarises the original Portal experience. A game of remarkable simplicity, but it is easy to argue that it's a perfect gaming moment. You could complete it without giving up your life. It had humour running all through it, but it was no joke. GLaDoS, your passive/aggressive computer opponent was one of the most magical and terrifying characters in video game history, like a cross between HAL9000, Norman Bates and Nurse Ratched.

Remember when the platform was sliding into the fire pit and I said "Goodbye" and you were like "No way!" And then I was all "We pretended we were going to murder you?" That was great!

I don't know one gamer or non-gamer who played Portal and wasn't totally enthralled, entertained, and astonished by it. But for all the humour, and fantastic characterisation, and falling in love with a cube with a heart on (admit it, when you threw bits of GLaDoS in the furnace, you thought "this is for my Weighted Companion Cube, you bitch!" each time) - this wasn't what made Portal the amazing game that it was (and still is).

Remember the first time you flung yourself across the room using a gravity-throw?

That's what made Portal the game it was - not just gravity throws, but the underlying mechanics of the whole game. The basic physical game concept. Combine that with the impeccable learning curve of the game - by the final level you found yourself doing things you could not have imagined yourself doing even five levels previously - and you see why Portal rightly deserves to be treated as a classic in every aspect of its design.

Well, you found me. Congratulations. Was it worth it? Because, despite your violent behavior, the only thing you've managed to break so far... is my heart. Maybe you could settle for that, and we'll just call it a day. I guess we both know that isn't going to happen.

And now they're making a sequel. I'm making a prediction here, massive failure. Not because the game will be bad. Simply because all of the things that made Portal work can't work again. Unless they have come up with some incredible new mechanic, something completely unique, something that isn't just an extension of Portal. Thing is, if they've come up with that... it shouldn't be a sequel to Portal. It should be its own thing. To put it another way: If Portal 2 is good enough to be a sequel to Portal, what the hell is it doing being a sequel to Portal?

Cake, followed by grief counseling, will be available at the end of the testing period.

I hope I'm wrong, I really do, but I'm older and more cynical now. I believed in the cake once, and I don't think I would believe in it a second time.

Portal 2 Announced

Valve finally came out with it. An announcement we've all been waiting for.

Yep. Portal 2 has just been announced. Announced for Christmas this year, the game will be a sequel to the life-changing, medium-altering, genuinely funny original. I remain slightly skeptical, however, as it's hard to see how they can improve or even equal the ingenuity and general suprise of the original.

Then again, it is Valve.

Monday, 1 March 2010

PS3 Servers Down. Modern World Collapses.

Last night and this morning, the PSN network has been witnessing catastrophic errors. The vast majority of PS3 owners have been unable to access the PSN. Even more worryingly, some gamers have been telling forums and message boards that not only could they log on, but the errors have erased achievements, and even saved games.

This is when the PS3 needs to shine. Heavy Rain is killing it in the shops, and people are buying consoles just to play this game. Come on Sony, keep it together and stay strong.

The problem is largely ok now. I've logged on today with no problems, so you should be alright also. If not, vocalise your opinions. Like this guy: