Thursday, November 30, 2006


...Please stop. You are The Proclaimers with different accents. That is all.

Sweet Lord

I finally got through the application process for the Shadowrun beta. One part of the criteria they're using to pick applicants is 'willingness to participate in forums'. Now, I've never liked forums for the most part, as giving people license to say anything in an almost entirely anonymous fashion seems to bring out the very worst in the vast majority of people. People have claimed the increase in blogging, friends sites, etc is the main reason the signal:noise ratio of the internet is ever-worsening. It's not. Huge, huge sprawling forums (where by law, at least seventeen participants must have Dragonball Z-themed names), rapidly filling with the worst sort of tripe imaginable are the cause.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying: if wading hip-deep in nerd spray is the cost of participating in the beta, then I don't want to do it. Today it was revealed that the Halo 3 multiplayer beta would have a similar process. The idea of playing Halo 3, lets face it, anything up to a year and a half early is appealling. Dealing with a rabid Halo 3 forum: good lord no. I can wait, thanks all the same.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New ways of p(l)aying

I was sat pondering, as I so often do, what sort of a game to purchase next. A shot of the Ninja Gaiden update for the PS3 made me think of popping into Gamestation and picking up a cheap copy of Ninja Gaiden Black, on the assumption that this, the third time I would have purchased essentially the same game, the camera would work, and I wouldn't be reduced to tears at a series of inexplicable, unpreventable deaths that occured whilst my character was off-screen. At least that was the theory.

Then I saw that an online Co-op version of Double Dragon was being released on Live Arcade. That kind of made the decision for me - I would spend the miniscule amount of spare cash that Christmas allows me on Microsoft Points. Double Dragon isn't up yet (I don't know if Live Arcade Wednesdays are still in effect, but there have been shiny new things the last few Wednesdays) but I bought the new Oblivion expansion pack, and look forward to getting myself lost in that again. It also means I can throw myself into the cheaper, smaller bits and pieces I've been stockpiling for the time that I deem it neccesary to return to the game. I know it'll take away large chunks of my time. I kind of relish that though.

I'm also trying to sign up for the Shadowrun beta test on Live, but Microsoft Connect keeps crapping out on me. No huge loss if I can't, as by all accounts it's not great, but I would like to get a few beta tests under my belt, just to see how the whole process works.

Monday, November 27, 2006


I just applied for a job writing for a proper gaming website. I'm terrified at the very idea of having to do this without being able to rely upon the word fuck, the phrase twatbottles and of course lots of italics. There is also a possibility that I would have to work at least partially clothed.

In all seriousness, I want that job really quite desperately.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sour Defeat

So, it turns out Lost Planet multiplayer isn't that good. I'd not go so far as to say it's dire, but the controls are spongy and unpleasant. It's also the easiest game since Quake 2 to just sit around and spawn camp in. There are so few spawn points, it seems, that you can die, and sit there waiting for someone else to spawn there (a matter of seconds) to get a quick and easy kill.

It's a shame, as I love the grappling hook dynamic (I've been a fan of grappling hooks ever since Bionic Commando on the NES), and I really enjoyed the single player demo. The single player has the same controls, but it doesn't matter so much, as your enemies are simply stupid and numerous. The single player feels like someone made a mod for Resi 4 that shoved Starship Troopers on top of it. Which is a good thing.

I'll still buy it. But I was really looking forward to a decent Multiplayer experience. So I'm sticking with Gears of War for a while on that one, it would seem. Playing a bit more of that today (having finished it on Hardcore), and it's still brilliant. It's the only game I've come across where real-world tactics can be easily and effectively implemented at short range. No jumping around, no circle-strafing, just being shot and thumped. I love the fact that it's 4 vs 4 (at least in warzone, which is all I'm going to be playing), meaning that it never gets too chaotic. I like my shooting ugly alien things to be tactical. Or my shooting grizzled bandana-sporting cliches. You know, whatever suits.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gears Multiplayer

I put off playing this for quite a while, wary of the phenomenon of 'raging jackasses' that has blighted Xbox Live ever since frat boys realised that this Halo thing was quite good fun.

So I went on this afternoon, fairly safe in the assumption that anyone playing would be British (nearly right) and therefore not make me want to wrench my own head off through sheer frustration. And it's fantastic. If anything, it's slower paced than the single player, and you really, really have to make use of cover. I did suck for quite a bit, but redeemed myself by taking out the entire other team in one round. Two headshots, one chainsaw death, and a mighty kerb stomp to finish the whole thing off. There's no reason to post this, of course, save for the fact that it'll definitely cheer me up every time I look at it.

Another thing that I really liked about Gears multiplayer was that it uses the full version of the game engine. The last three or four games I've played on live have all had a cut-down or ccompletely different engine. It's lovely to see a multiplayer game that still actually looks good.

Now I'm going to check out the Lost Planet multiplayer. I loved the E3 demo that went up in the summer, so I have high hopes for this. Capcom, of course, not being known for shoddy multiplayer experiences.

Friday, November 17, 2006

And another thing...

Apparently the PS3 is no longer some sort of hypothetical joke, and has moved into the realm of being an actual joke. What's suprised me is how little noise the launch has made. It's barely noticeable, even in the gaming press. I looked on the BBC website this morning, and there was no sign of anything on the US launch. There was however, a natty article on the Wii right there on the front page.

Sony, having heavily criticised everything their competitors have ever done in a hilariously bullish manner, came out with this today, which is just hilarious. What's that Jack? The Wii has no backwards compatability? I think there are a few folks at the back who didn't hear you. Just brilliant. When your Vice President basically just comes out and lies, in a manner that's going to be fairly obvious to anyone reading WIRED FUCKING MAGAZINE, of all things, then you are in trouble. Now, he probably didn't do it deliberately, but if he doesn't know the facts (it plays all Gamecube games Jack, even takes the controllers and memory cards) then he shouldn't be speaking on the topic. And since he's being interviewed by the nature of backwards compatability by the premier tech magazine on the newsstands, you'd hope it's the sort of thing he'd brush up on. And since it isn't... why is this man Vice President of Sony America? Surely he'd be better off in some sort of circus, or masturbating for loose change down at the docks? I'm just putting it out there.

Resistance: Fall of Man is the only launch title getting any good press, which is unsurprising. An Untold Legends sequel? Really? Hmm... no. There seems to be a real dearth of quality software for Sony machines. It was four years into the lifespan of the PS2 before I bought one, and I'm someone who will pretty much buy a console for that one game i cannot be without. I still don't have a PSP. I'll let you know how my PS3 is circa 2009.

Gears of War

Well, it's arrived in the UK. And it's good. Really good, in fact. Beyond the hype, this is really one of the most polished games I've ever played. It's not complex - you move into cover, you shoot, you move again. But it does that really well. I've been playing it for about 5 hours now, and my eyes are getting a little bleary, I'm starting to think about real world problems in terms of flanking them. There's a good chance that if someone's in my way tomorrow, I'm going to run behind the nearest car and start pelting them with whatever comes to hand.

It's not a perfect game. The uber-butch voice acting is occasionally hilarious. That's about it though, in terms of problems. I haven't tried multiplayer yet, but assuming I can see tonight, that's what I'll be up to.

Oh, and one of your guns has a chainsaw on it and another is an orbital satellite. Shit yeah!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


And the great microtransactions debate marches onwards. My two cents (or Microsoft points - sometimes, I'm so witty I have to have a little sit down and a biscuit).

I was one of the many who bought Lumines on Live Arcade when it was released a week or two ago. Having played the demo, which quite clearly contained all the information about how the game was structured, in terms of the base pack and advance pack, I wasn't too surprised when this turned out to be exactly how it was released. A lot of people were very surprised indeed, however, and have been exceptionally vocal in their disgust.

It's one of the more expensive games on Live arcade, with the base pack weighing in at 1200 points, or about £10. Having spent £30 on meteos, which has about the same amount of content, this seemed like a pretty good deal to me. You get your straightforward, unending falling blocks mode, timed, vs, missions, puzzle, and all that jazz. You can play multiplayer locally or online (I'll admit, this was originally going to be excluded). This costs £10. Meteos - £30, same stuff. You see where this is going?

Now, the PSP version of Lumines - also £30 - had a little more. Some more levels, another mode, i believe. You can get the equivalent for another 600 points, or £5 on Live Arcade. So, to recap: £10 + £5 = £15 = Cost of Lumines on Xbox 360. £30 = cost of same game on PSP. And yet, people still believe that we're somehow being made fools of. That things are being withheld. And so, the toys come flying from the pram. Regardless of the fact that the two downloads together exceed the maximum allowed download size for an Arcade title (something I'm not fond of - Symphony of the Night had better have the full soundtrack, or the internet may collapse from sheer nerd rage), paying half the original price of a game - especially one as good as Lumines, which has been hailed as a modern classic by pretty much anyone who's around to hail such things, is not unfair.

It basically boils down to this: do you believe someone should be paid for their work? I think they should. I don't think the amount charged, in general, for Live Arcade games is excessive. I would probably buy more if they weighed in at the 400 point mark. But it does not upset me to part with the cost of four or five pints of beer to play one of the finest puzzle games ever made from now until the robots come to kill us all.

I'm not buying the Madonna pack. If anything, the game is more complete without it.

Splinter Cell

Anyone who knows me will know that I've spent the best part of the last two years playing Splinter Cell virtually non-stop. The single player game has never really done it for me THAT much. They're good, but not outstanding. However, the multiplayer that first appeared in Pandora Tomorrow grabbed me with some force, and helped me get over the fact that Ghost Recon didn't really love me anymore (until GRAW, anyway - you came crawling back, didn't you, you little tart?)

So then, a new Splinter Cell. I've been playing it for a few days now, and so far haven't been let down. The single player seems to have taken a little bit of a step back from Chaos Theory, but the A.I. is massively improved - case in point, they no longer fall for the same traps over and over again. A hired goon might go for basic distractions, such as whistling, but soldiers won't. They find you and kill you. So the improved A.I. kind of balances out the return to a more linear structure - no multiple routes anymore, but you do have to think harder about how to clear each section.

The actual 'Double Agent' part of the game seems to be window dressing. I'm hearing various things bandied about that it actually plays a greater part in the Xbox version of the game, but here in 360-land, it doesn't make a a huge difference. Screw up too much for one side, and it's instant game over. Pretty much the same as 'screw up for one side, and it's instant game over', which is how the series has worked in the past. The fact that the Xbox version is so different is starting to worry me, because I just don't have the willpower not to get it, should it turn out to be different enough to warrant it. I'm also concerned that different enough may actually turn out to be only slightly.

I've played a bit of multiplayer, and it's quite clearly a very different beast from previous games. It's still Spy on Merc, but spies no longer have a raft of gadgets, nor can they engage in any close combat, other than grabbing the mercs and breaking their necks. So you have a dichotomy between one very hard to execute, but one-hit-kills manouver, and lots of very, very killy bullets. Spies can no longer really afford to be anywhere near as aggressive as they could before. Similarly, mercs no longer have the defensive gadgetry they had previously, meaning they have to move around a lot more, and actually find the spies to kill them. I'm not going to pretend I won't miss the soft thud of a distant mine going off, but it's not put me off the new game.

I'm hopeful that this new multiplayer will be sufficiently appealling that it will draw in more players than previous editions. Whilst I love the last two games, it was often a deeply frustrating experience trying to find a game. After about six months you could guarantee the only players you would find would be either people still playing purely because they could cheat and win (mercs now categorically cannot get into the spies' spawn zones, thank the lord) or they'd be playing it for the first time, and would be pretty much certain never to play it again after a rich, full evening of not really knowing why they died.

As I say, here's hoping. It's a great game.