9 out of 10 isn’t bad

Over the Easter bank holiday a good friend paid me a visit. We ate, we drank, we were merry. Unlike me, he was gainfully employed throughout 2009 and he had bought many games that came out in that period. He left me with ten games and an arrangement to meet again at the start of June.

Since that visit I’ve ploughed through a number of games and as observers of my “Recently Completed” column on the right may have noticed, I’ve beaten almost all of them. Here’s a quick summary, in sequence, of my findings:

Uncharted 2 (PS3)

A lot has been said of this title that I don’t need to repeat here. I enjoyed the first game and expected greatness from the sequel. What I got was a supremely well put together piece of entertainment that was consistently very very good. It was surprisingly light on truly memorable moments and set-pieces though. Perhaps it’s an sign that I prefer peaks and troughs in my gaming experiences as opposed to a steady stream of quality. [4/5]

X-Men Origins – Wolverine (360)

It’s perhaps a little harsh to call a game based on a spinoff-film based on a franchise based on a comic series derivative but that’s the word that seems to spring to mind with this one. The production quality is very good but there was more content than the gameplay could support.  Too many levels, too much unnecessary long-windedness, not enough variety overall. Wolverine fans will get the most from it. [2/5]

Darksiders (360)

Zelda gameplay meets chunky comic-book stylings. I had really enjoyed the demo to this game and the full title lives up to the demo’s promise. Minor quibbles with the responsiveness of the controls doesn’t dampen the striking visual style, engaging theme or rock-solid gameplay. A reasonable amount of challenge combined with grand spectacle kept my playing right through to the open-ended climax. They even threw in some Portal-style gameplay too! [5/5]

The Darkness (360)

Going back before 2009 here but a game I’d been recommended nonetheless. Reasonably solid FPS mechanics laced with some special powers of the dark set this apart from regular fayre. The game succeeds in making you feel most comfortable in the shadows but some powers are poorly explained leaving the player to fumble around arbitrary gameplay spikes. Good back then, not so hot now [3/5]

Killzone 2 (PS3)

Pretty and featuring a more varied palette than many naysayers would lead others to believe. Like its prequel, it starts out quite clumsy and throws you into battle without giving you a proper preparation. Once over that hurdle a solid-feeling FPS awaits. All the elements are there along with some interesting efforts at character development. Rico sense of judgement being an unexpected turn in particular. [4/5]

Spiderman – Web of Shadows (360)

Better and more fun that it has any right to be. It’s goofy and its characters, particularly the peons, are a little off but its heart is in the right place. Some of the signature characters look superb. The development of side-missions is very poor – merely upping the numbers in a challenge and nothing else. Crucially, web-slinging your way around the city is a delight in itself – effective transport and true to the character. Absolutely worth checking out. [4/5]

Condemned (360)

Another pre-2009 title and it shows. Not just in its graphics but across all its presentation. FPS mêlée is novel but too limiting to support a full game – even a relatively short one as this. The narrative carrot being dangled in front of the player never becomes a true reward and the slog through relentlessly grim environments awaiting attack or a grisly discovery was something I failed to find entertaining in any way. [1/5]

Batman – Arkham Asylum (360)

A big 2009 title and by far the finest Batman game in decades. Great visuals and voice-work (though a patchy script). The gameplay is solid and makes great use of the Batman legacy for gadgets and characters. Combat feels superb with the player feeling empowered and confident when surrounded by a dozen thugs. Great execution of item-hunting, giving hints without being too explicit. Bags of fun. [5/5]

inFamous (PS3)

Finally, a game with a good excuse about why water should kill the protagonist! Far more climbing than I expected. Solid but not exactly thrilling third-person combat makes up the bulk of this game. Variation offered in the side missions where skills other than shooting are put to the test. Great comic-book style cinematics pace the game well though don’t quite fit the in-game visuals. Good, but room for improvement. [3/5]

Condemned 2 – Bloodshot (360)

Given my feelings on the prequel I didn’t even start playing this game.

All of the above have certainly done wonders for my gamerpoints and trophies. A shame then, that I don’t care for either. Final Fantasy XIII has had a viewing but it’s too early to give a verdict – it is what I expected it would be so far. Mario Galaxy 2 drops in a few days and, by then, I’ll probably have another 10 titles to go with it courtesy of the same generous friend.

Looks like I won’t be going outside for a while!

Watch me not care

Following on from my previous post, the fallout from the sheer apathy towards the discussion of the Digital Economy bill is, in my opinion, quite justified.

Given the significance of the bill and what it means (and the path if paves for further actions against freedom of speech on the internet) it is deplorable that so few politicians could even be bothered to turn up and discuss it.

The old discussing the new

More feedback can be observed at

BBC – Digital Election, day one

Debillitated (heaps of images, bandwidth intensive)

And if you’re wondering whether your mp was one of the 600+ that failed to turn up for work you can check on this page.

Mine didn’t. And I very much look forward to asking him why when he hits his campaign trail hoping to secure my vote.

I already find it hard to care about the forthcoming election.

Call this a democracy?

The Digital Economy bill – which includes plans for the PEGI ratings system to be passed into law – is set for a crunch debate in the House of Commons today.

The controversial plans, which include the infamous ‘three strikes’ rule for pirates and file-sharers, have been labelled by some as a “rush job” – with Labour keen to get the bill through Parliament before it effectively closes its doors on Thursday for the General Election period.

Speaking at last week’s ELSPA Question Time event, Conservative shadow minister Ed Vaizey indicated that it was important for the bill to be passed before the election, because – in his eyes – it would difficult for a new Parliament to introduce it afterwards, while Labour MP Tom Watson accused the two main parties of cutting a deal, and branding the actions as shameful.

I’ve highlighted the part I find most pertinent. Source.

The attitude here is not whether the bill should be passed or not – as though that aspect of it is a foregone conclusion that needs no further discussion – but how much trouble it will be to pass it later rather than sooner.

Well, sorry politicians, just because it might mean a bit more work for you that’s no reason to cut corners or compromise the standards by which you are meant to govern and represent the interest of your constituents (you work for us, remember?) to slap some legislation through nice and quickly.

I’m a consumer. I’m also someone that’s worked in a creative industry, working on products aimed at the consumer and protected by copyright law. I know for a fact that people have stolen the work I’ve toiled for months and years over.

I also abhor censorship and am also in full favour of net neutrality. I don’t agree with the idea that a person or a group of people can dictate what information I may or may not be ready to deal with, that they know what is best for me. Such a mentality has repeatedly been proven to have the man-on-the-street’s interests last and control of information for a far less noble agenda first.

Piracy is wrong. It is a form of stealing. Regardless of how the moral pirates wish to spin it, they know that it is wrong. It is a result of opportunistic greed and desire. No pirate is ‘teaching the company’ a lesson by stealing their product. I’ve heard every pirate excuse under the sun and they’re all fundamentally flawed.

By extension, DRM and copyright protection is justified – and a response to piracy, not a cause of it (as some pirates would hope to convince you of). Admittedly, the execution of DRM needs some work, but it is a justified as the lock on your front door.

Given my stance on digital theft and on the openness of the internet I am interested in the Digital Economy bill and see it as something to be handled with care, not rushed through the legislative process for the convenience of people elected to serve me and my best interests.

The subtext of “when” and not “if” in the views expressed and the motives behind them are deplorable and show a worrying disparity between the decision makers and the people who will be affected by such decisions.

How would some of these politicos respond if it were being discussed “when” and not “if” they were going to return the expenses they scammed off the public?


UPDATE: Just saw this in my RSS feeds. I can say it’s especially comforting.

Another facelift

iNove WordPress Theme. Gone but not forgotten

WordPress, how I love thee!

The iNove theme I’ve been running this site with for a considerable amount of time has done a fantastic job. It’s been a decent balance of swishy graphics and open space for lengthy, ranty content. The time has come, however, for a change.

I’d been looking out for something rather spacious and generous with how it presents text. So many sites seem to use teeny-tiny text in cramped spaces. I can understand that you need to keep a lot of supplemental content on major sites, your “Follow me on Twitter” icon, your adverts and so forth.

As for me, I have none of that concern. Just a nice spacious bachelor-pad of a website to lounge around in and do as I wish. Hey, it’s not like anyone ever visits this place directly anyway, right?

The issue I face is that many of the typography-centric WordPress themes were a little too spartan in their design and, more often than not, completely monochromatic. Yes, I could play with the CSS and tweak another’s theme to suit my own ends but I’m not sure I have the energy and I tend to find that if you ever upgrade your modified theme with a new release of the original you have to take care to re-apply your edits. It rather dents the convenience of snap-on, snap-off themes. Even more so given the convenience with which WordPress lets you install, preview and apply them.

So, if you’re reading this in your RSS reader go and have a quick visit to the actual koffdrop.com site. See? I even linked it for you just now. Aren’t I nice? It’s graphics-lite so will load reasonably quickly and I’m sure it’ll add a momentary splash of colour to your day.

And if you’re wondering why anyone should give a hoot about typography then there’s hundreds of designers that’d like to talk to you. But, perhaps a more immediate example will give you an idea of the impact it can wield:

The Perfect Gaming News Website

I’ve expressed on more than one occaision my utter disdain at the state of the games media today.

A lot of this stems from watching all these hack ‘journalists’ letting their egos and bias get in the way of what’s most important – the information. Reading some new article presented as a 800 word fictional short-story depicting two people talking in a pub about a piece of information is 95% ego. If you want to write fiction then you’re in the wrong career. If you want a break from copy and pasting PR statements then, by all means, get another job. Don’t think your effort at ‘proper writing’ in the completely wrong context is what anyone actually wants to read. It’s like watching some no-hoper audition in X-factor claiming ruining an iconic song, crashing, burning, looking like an idiot and then claiming they sing their way instead of the proper way because “I make the song my own”.

There’s the point.

There’s you.

And there’s about 50 miles between the two.

I even read a recent article on one of those “gotta post everything” games blogs asking its readers if games were being spoiled by having too much information about them made available too early. At no point did the author ever consider that the gaming websites such as their own play a fundamental part in the oversaturation of information. No – it was everyone else’s fault but theirs.

Lack of accountability. What a cushy number that is. “But I’m just the messenger, I’m not to blame”. Bullshit and you know it.

…and breathe

So, out of nowhere comes a gaming news website that has no ego and no bias. Hell, there’s not even a flock of so called gaming intelligensia to argue over each other’s misinformed guesswork after every post.

It’s just a picture, a statement and absolutely nothing else. Draw your own conclusions. Think for yourself. What a lovely change from the rest!


That I should live to see this day..

That's one small tweet for a man, a giant tweet for mankind. ENLARGE YOUR PENIS NOW!

Space. Endless void. The remote inky darkness of a cold vacuum. Now with the added thrill of some nobody telling you what he just bought for lunch in Starbucks.

Nostradamus, it seems, has nothing on Douglas Adams.

Given the way technology has evolved since the dawn of time with discoveries like the wheel, fire and the astounding feat of visiting other planets, I can’t help but feel this is very much a step back towards the primordial soup.

Day of the Cat

I’ve always been a cat person, a trait I possibly inherited from my parents. There’s always been pet cats around me – since growing up, moving out, visiting family. They’re everywhere. It’s just as well I’m rather fond of them.

In fact, it seemed that we were pretty much the only people we knew in the area that didn’t a pet cat. Not that this was a factor in Dexter’s arrival into our first-floor flat last week. Dexter’s found his way into our home courtesy of a rescue centre as the poor fellah had a rough start in life. Fortunately he was found, looked after and is in good health today. He’s a handsome devil too.

Although Dexter is still wary of big clumsy humans and unfamiliar environments it hasn’t stopped either of us putting on silly high-pitched voices and coo-ing at him and making encouraging sounds at almost anything we see him do.

Pathetic isn’t it? 😀

Yet another bout of inactivity

There’s not been too much action at koffdrop.com in 2010.

I recently started a new job and there’s a lot to learn in the role. I don’t mind admitting that I’m rather brain-drained at the moment and not really up to doing anything cerebral in my free time – even something as undemanding as writing a blog post.

I am, as always, checking my RSS subscriptions and cherry-picking the stuff that catches my eye. You’ll see those reflected in the “Newsbites” area of the side-column. If you like, you can subscribe to the Newsbites as an RSS feed too.