Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thought for the day

What does the "HD" stand for if you're playing Rez HD on a 480p telly?

Monday, January 28, 2008

What's next?

From the Eurogamer comments thread on the news that Call of Duty 4 sold very well.

COD4 isn't revolutionary in any way. And I just hate franchises that release new installments every year. COD is turning into something like FIFA. What's next, COD8, COD11...?
I would imagine CoD 5 is next. Just a wild stab in the dark, like.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Christmas games roundup

My short(ish) views on what I was playing just before Christmas:

Call of Duty 4: Brilliantly exciting single player with some very inventive set pieces and levels. Makes you wonder how all war games aren't this exciting. I thought the Multi-player would grab me, but it didn't in the end, and I've kind of given up with it after only a handful of sessions. Final score: 8/10.

Assassin's Creed: Disappointing, but overall I enjoyed it a lot. The cities were breathtaking in places, and I thought the free running and combat were well implemented, and made me feel every bit the bad-ass I was meant to be. Still has plenty of room to improve though - I'm sure Assassin's Creed 2 will be incredible if the team are given enough time. Final score: 75%

Mass Effect: Fantastic story and dialogue, let down horribly by the engine it runs on. One of the only games I can think of that had an ending that was both an obvious set-up for the sequel, and also incredibly satisfying. Final score: A+

Orange Box: Portal, as you probably know, is short but very sweet. Team Fortress 2 never worked that well for me the few times I tried it, and I'm finding server browsers a chore after getting used to Halo's party and matchmaking systems, so I kind of gave up with that. Half-Life 2 single player (and in that I include all of the episodes) is really showing its age, I think. Stop using see-saw 'puzzles'. Final score: ****

(Incidentally, and please either indulge my ego for a minute or skip this paragraph, if you're wondering why there were no updates in December, it's because I was getting fed up with writing and thinking about what to write, and thinking that I hadn't written enough. I have a regular job, this is just something to keep me entertained and spew forth opinions, and I wanted a break.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Men of Achievement 2008

Just a week before my 30th birthday, I have finally completed the one and only thing on my "things to do before you are 30" list.

I am better than 550 other people at Voyage mode Easthaven 3 Deck in Soltrio Solitaire. I was so happy I almost cried.

(To be fair to me, I did only add this to my list about a month ago - it's not something that's taken me 29 years to achieve.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Message for box artists

Yellow sports cars driving away from an explosion at a slight tilt, with the game's title angled up to the right above, look cool! But then, I guess you already know that...

Also, if your game's cover looks the same as your competitors, it's not really going to jump off the shelves.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

In the middle of our street

Majesco have announced a game called "Our House" - probably some sort of "just like the house-building bit of the Sims" thing for the Wii.

I found the press release disappointing, mainly because when I heard the news I was expecting something with a Madness license - surely a hot IP for video games. Just think of the possibilities: Our House (a Sims clone), Driving in my Car (a racing game obviously), Shut Up (a small-time crime thing set in London), Uncle Sam (the inevitable WWII FPS in the range), Baggy Trousers (a Bully rip-off), and .. er .. probably others.

Someone get me Suggs' agent!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"More than 4000 still pictures"

Sony have announced a new 16GB memory stick for the PSP - "Users can store up to 110 minutes of high-definition video recorded in 1920 mode, almost 6 hours of HD video when shooting in 1440 LP mode, and more than 4000 still pictures in 10 Megapixel resolution."

What people are really going to use it for is their massive collection of pirated PSP games. Which will further shaft software sales on the platform, and end up turning more devs away from it. Great move.

I wonder how many PSP games have ever broken even.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Xbox Dead more like, am i rite?

Having a unified online system like Live, as opposed to having every game do their own thing, is a great idea. When it works. Unfortunately Live is undergoing some troubles at the moment (apparently due to an influx of new users, which suggests that either a staggering number of Xboxes were sold this holiday, or that the system was perilously close to falling over anyway).

I say at the moment, because despite Mircosoft's assurances that it's all back to normal now that Christmas is over, as of today it's still a very hit and miss experience.

What I find baffling is the way the systems are spread out. For example, I can log in to Xbox Live, but the bit of Live that tells my friends I'm online might not work. I can log on to Live Messenger from the computer, but my Xbox is stumped by it. Marketplace is a no-go zone - most of the time it's telling me that I'm not connected at all. Apparently XNA is also flaky, insisting that some users aren't online (despite them being able to see their friends' activity).

Most annoyingly, the bit of Live that tells games that there are title updates available is working, booting me off Live until I've updated them. But the bit of Live that actually holds and installs the upgrades is screwed, so I'm unable to play any of those games. In the case of Xbox Original titles this means that I'm completely unable to play the game, even offline (the message tells me that apparently the game won't work on my Xbox, despite it being fine a couple of days ago).

Microsoft has promised all users a free Arcade title to make up for the trouble - though usually this means a particular title is made free, rather than just giving all users 800 free points, so bad luck if you've already bought the game they're offering, and let's all just hope that it isn't a stinker.

This afternoon I would have settled for just being able to play games that I have already bought, on the online network I have already paid a subscription for.

(And before anyone chimes up with "it's just your connection is flaky" - the network test on the Xbox runs fine, and confirms that I am connected to Live. Or what's left of it.)

Friday, January 04, 2008


I had a play of the demo for Frontlines: Fuel of War recently. I thought it was quite good - a nice take on the Battlefield "capture point" mechanic, but in single player. In particular I liked the demo level, and the way it allowed you to go off the beaten track, and rewarded you for finding good routes to flank the enemy positions. The tank bit was rubbish, but it was also over much more quickly than the good bit.

So overall I would be looking forward to the full game. I say "would be", because I noticed a disclaimer on the title screen with words to the effect of "this demo is not representative of the finished product".

I'm not sure what to take away from that since the demo seemed quite finished, I wouldn't expect to see the finished game being a formula 1 racing sim, for example.

It seems like someone at THQ has no faith at all in the demo - they're second guessing that you won't like it, but are trying to persuade you to buy the game (despite knowing that you probably wouldn't like that either).

Or possibly they mean that the full game isn't one third rubbish tank bit.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Burnout Paradise

"Holy crap, there's a demo of Burnout Paradise available - This'll be great, I love Burnout games, me!" was roughly what I was thinking the other Thursday morning.

Oh dear, that'll teach me.

The crashes are very nice, and I like that the camera while you're racing is very dynamic, with lots of shake and stuff when you nudge other cars and do other exciting things.

The main complaint I can see coming up again and again is they're reintroduced the "sassy" DJ voice over man who tells you that you're doing shit, and wow what an awesome time you're going to have here, and is generally much more excited about the entire thing than you are.

Since nothing gets added to your map until you find it the whole thing feels completely directionless. This might just be a symptom of the demo, where you're essentially dropped into the city and left to find the three events yourself, and hopefully the full thing will at least direct you towards events that are at your level of ability.

There is stuff like billboards to crash through, but it doesn't give you a nice camera view or any exciting text or anything when you do it (just a plain "1 out of x billboards" message - where's the Burnout flair gone?), so you get no feeling of having done something good. Smashing a billboard doesn't even fire off any particles -they just switch instantly from fine to smashed.

Plus it's really easy to get lose, I found. Who has time to look at a map and a little compass when they're boosting along trying to smash people off the road? And when you have lost you have to drive all the way back to the start yourself. The events seem to be arranged roughly top to tail around the map (so there's always something that starts near the finish point of another race), which is clearly meant to occupy you for the return journey, but what if I've finished the return event? What if I just want to keep hammering the event I lost in order to nail it?

What, exactly, is wrong with menu screens?

Edit: Since I originally wrote this Alex Ward of Criterion has released a bit of a rant explaining that anybody who thinks the same things as me is wrong, and that this is clearly the best game demo of 2007. Sorry Alex, but the Crackdown demo was released last year too, and you're very wrong about the "retry" option.

The Definitive Unarguably Best Game of 2007 That Only a Moron Would Be Without or Disagree With

Well, everyone else is doing it so why not, eh?

This last year's been an odd one for me, mainly because of this blog - I've never been able to sit back at the end of a year and look back over what I've played, and what my thoughts on those games were at the time, in such detail. It is an oddly reassuring and peaceful thing to do, to the point that I would actually recommend other people do it too.

Xbox achievements give extra insight too - looking over my played list shows which games that, though I might look fondly on retrospectively, I never bothered to get more than halfway through.

If it was based on time spent then I would have to go with either Slitherlink or Soltrio Solitaire, both of which have been constants since I got them. But they're essentially time wasters (well, moreso than all games) in that they're something I pick up when I only have 10 minutes to spare, when I'm sat somewhere with only my DS on me, or when I'm too drained to play anything with a more hectic pace.

So after thinking it all over, I would probably go with Crackdown. Though I haven't picked it up in ages, I played it solidly for a couple of months, and enjoyed it every time. In fact, I might even give it a bit of a go this afternoon.