Wednesday, 31 March 2010
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!!
The good Dr Lucian Sanchez
Any suggestions and comments try - @dr_lucian (Twitter)
Marc lonsdale (facebook) +
Thanks for reading
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
Saturday, 20 March 2010
Thursday, 18 March 2010
Monday, 15 March 2010
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
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.
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..
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.
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.
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
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
Monday, 8 March 2010
This deck of cards is a little frayed around the edges, but then again so am I and I've got fewer suits...
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.
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
Saturday, 6 March 2010
- http://www.banksyfilm.com/ - official site
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.
Oh yeah, I LOVE TINY FEY and JENNA FISCHER
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'.
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.
Monday, 1 March 2010
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: