If you see Sid, tell him

That synth melody gets into your head disturbingly quickly and, although Calvin Harris is trying too hard with the whole kitsch 80’s theme (he would have been, what, 12 years old or something?) 80’s mood + high pitched catchy melody = memories of C64.

That’s a win!

Waggle me don’t

Prophecy or irony?

It seems that, mere days after me ranting about the damning uselessness of a game like Resident Evil 4 being waggled onto the Wii, new of a game so astoundingly thin on playability is rumoured to be heading Wiiwards also.

The rumours come from two highly unreliable sources (1, 2) – the former having a reputation for promoting pretty much any Nintendo rumours and information and feeding their insatiable audience of trolls many times per day. The other is a gaming forum. No comment.

Killer 7 was a wonderful piece of gargantuan style over totally absent substance. The game was so focused on being special and different it totally forgot to be playable or that Nintendo fan’s buzzword of choice fun. For an example of a game that achieved all those things have a look at Sega’s REZ and then dash off to your nearest fanboy forum and tell everyone that “omg! REZ would be AMAZING ON WII! The Wii controller is PERFECT for it!”

Whilst I’m here, everyone pining for an Okami remake on the Wii because “omg! Okami would be AMAZING ON WII! The Wii controller is PERFECT for it!” are dumb. The paint-brush controls part of Okami would be good on a Wii controller. Unfortunately, they represent about 5% of the game’s playing time and, with the meat of the game being exploration, puzzling and a wide variety of combat techniques that far eclipse the depth that Zelda: TP waggled limply onto the Wii with, it’s simply not a worthwhile venture and would serve to show how remarkably inappropriate the Wii controller is for many aspects of already great games.

If you want to paint, get a paintbrush.

Do what I say, not what I do

OK, it’s been a little while since I’ve had an out and out rant over something and this one’s been stewing for a little while.

Today, I’d like to rant about the upcoming Resident Evil 4 for the Wii.

First of all, let’s cast our minds back to how the gaming community felt about the Wii this time last year. The notion that new and revolutionary gaming experiences were very strong. So strong, in fact, that many gamers simply couldn’t imagine how gaming would ever be the same. The Wii would break through the confines of ‘regular’ games and make good of Iwata’s promise of “You will say wow” (funny how gamers have stopped quoting that isn’t it?).

Let’s also remember that the wonderful Wii was a true gamer’s friend and claims 100% full backwards compatibility with Nintendo’s old generation Gamecube. Incidentally, writing ‘old generation’ sounds a bit silly. However, writing ‘previous generation’ would be inappropriate as, by Nintendo’s press releases, the Wii isn’t ‘next’ generation gaming but ‘new’ generation. Well, ‘old’ is to ‘new’ as ‘previous’ is to ‘next’. So, if Wii is new generation, Gamecube must be old generation, right? Right.

So, the Wii – the best of all possible worlds! New generation games, old generation classics. Who could ask for more?

I mean, if I wanted to play a game like Resident Evil 4 on my Wii then all I’d have to do would be to grab my disks and pop them in my Wii.

So a special Wii edition is pretty much pointless. Especially if the content is going to be the same. Hell, I’m not even sure that the content for the Wii version has been expanded to encompass the extras that were introduced in the PlayStation 2 version of Resident Evil 4. If it doesn’t then I can point a finger at Resident Evil 4 Wii and laugh at how it represents less than ‘old’ gen editions of the game and if it does have the extra content I can point a finger at the game and laugh about how the Wii is getting a port from the PlayStation 2.

Seeing as the Wii can run Resident Evil 4 perfectly, what benefit is there to be had in the new Wii edition besides waggle? It would seem that the answer is “nothing whatsoever”. I mean, that’s a simple and factual look at what this revoluationary console is bringing to gamers of this brave new generation.

Needless to say, the fervour with which Resident Evil fans embraced the news of a port and excitedly built up a froth over the idea of shooting zombies for 15 hours but now with added WAGGLE! was, I’m very sad to say, entirely predictable. The fact that, beneath the very pretty graphics Resident Evil 4 is a pretty shallow and unsatisfying gaming experience is a rant for another day.

Not wanting to suggest that certain news media sites have absolutely no backbone, objectivity, journalistic integrity or intelligence beyond desperately writing things they know their dumb readership want to hear, I read the following excerpt with complete contempt:

..the direct Wiimote-based controls offer a plus, making the game feel like something fresh and different. One reviewer said that the game offers the feeling of being closer to the action as well as upping the tension.

Multiple reviewers agreed on two points, that the new controls are simple and easy to get into, and that even those who played the original will be able to enjoy themselves.

We’ll be sure and spend some quality time with the title for ourselves when the RE4 Wii Edition hits Japan on the 31st and America on June 19th.

This quote was presented to me in quoted form. The quote is taken from an IGN piece (who else?) and, if you read more of the masturbatory drivel (which I’m deliberately not linking to) you’ll see that of a possible 40 points, the game scored 38. In a Japanese magazine. That’s known for handing out high-scores like candy. That also focuses exclusively on Nintendo games.

I learned of this article when it was reported as, of all things, a news article at another website. This so-called news was reported with a breathlessly excited headline stating “RE4 WII EARNS PERFECT SCORE!”. 38 out of a possible 40 does not represent perfection.

But what’s details like that got to do with anything when you’re busy whipping up excitement of a port (to Wii) of a port (from PS2) of a port (from GC) of a game that works perfectly (Gamecube to Wii) of a franchise that’s got THREE sequels (not including spinoffs) and therefore doesn’t need to exist at all? Oh, I forgot the revolutionary aspect of making the same stuff but slapping in a bit of waggle via the revolution of motion sensing.

But then, gamers were assured of innovation, originality and a whole new experience by Nintendo with their Uberbox weren’t we?

So what’s with this shit? Why is second hand dross (though the graphics are awfully pretty – even though ‘graphics don’t count! Wii = innovation!’) getting given the ‘mana from heaven’ treatment, being hailed as scoring perfectly when it isn’t and basically being lied about left right and center and being tarted up as being something special when, in cold, hard truth, it’s just the same old shit with waggle added on top.

This is gaming media. This is the crap that’s being pulled many times in every direction according to whichever agenda the author or site happens to have. And, let’s not forget – a chunk of that agenda is “get webhits, earn revenue”.

Once again, we’ve got a wonderfully clear example of how The Emperor’s New Clothes is being played out to the letter on a Nintendo platform and these oh-so-critical, oh-so-impartial, oh-so-knowledgeable gamers are lapping it up as though they’ve not eaten in weeks.

So what’s with the title?

Well who started this kind of behaviour? Who set the precedent for taking old gen games, slapping waggle into them and saying “Here is something totally new and amazing! Here is the realisation of the promise of the Wii!”

The answer, of course, is Nintendo, when they took Zelda and waggled it onto Wii. Perhaps if Nintendo want originality on their machine which they certainly tell developers to focus on, they shouldn’t have played such a cheap stunt with one of the most important titles they own. Sure, you get a strong initial sales quota but you also send an equally strong message to all your developers: if it’s good enough for Nintendo to waggle old generation games onto Wii then it’s good enough for us.

Iwata, I’m not saying wow. I never did. I’m still saying “What the fuck?” and still amazed that ‘true’ gamers are falling for this bullshit.

Events and spin such as the existence of Resident Evil 4 Wii and it’s reception is far more damaging to innovation and originality than anything else I can think of right now. If you already own Resident Evil 4 and buy the the Wii version instead of an original, new, game then you’re helping to stifle creativity and innovation too.

Buy Psychonauts or DRoD instead. Those guys have made more interesting games and would certainly benefit from the money more than Nintendo or Capcom right now.

Do your bit. Don’t help kill innovation and creativity. Learn to recognise it when you see it.

TIP: Resident Evil 4 isn’t it.

Odds! Ends! Osu!

This will be a shorter post than some of my recent epics and really serves to just give a quick update on some things.

Firstly, following yesterday’s post I recieved some criticism of the final point about using the mentality of “great sales = great game”. It was pointed out to me that this was a twisting of the original message. The correct message would have been to state that, had the games under discussion not been great games then they wouldn’t have sold like they did (we’re primarily talking about Halo here). Which, whilst an easier to swallow mentality is just as flawed as the sales=greatness one. A good game should sell well. However the suggestion that its quality is the driving factor for it’s sales is far too idealistic to be taken seriously – particularly of a game like Halo. This notion is further disproved when you look at the current game charts and see a game that’s scored very average reviews dominating the charts in the way that the Spiderman 3 game is. At the end of this week the poorly reviewed Pirates of the Carribbean 3 tie-in game will be released and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it mimic Spiderman 3’s performance. We have Shrek 3 to look forward to next. A game like Halo benefits precisely from the same status as a film-tie in – it’s profile has been manufactured to be very high indeed. Far higher than the quality of its content. Halo 2 and, of course Halo 3, will sell because they’re called Halo more than anything else.

Quality should sell a product – but it doesn’t. It’s a factor but it’s not going to make a difference if the carefully calculated positioning of media, tie-ins, promotions, publicity, and sheer might that some companies wield. Sorry, but that’s a fact and examples are everywhere. Now, it’s nice when that works in your favour and you’re a Halo fan. But gamers will argue the exact same things when they feel a game they like isn’t getting sales it ‘deserves’ due to a game they don’t like dominating the charts. Remove your emotional attachment to the game and look objectively at the product, the market and the economics and you’ll see how it works. Choosing examples selectively isn’t really a watertight argument.

On a less controversial note I’d like to let regular readers of Koffdrop.com know that the site will soon be publishing it’s first guest-written piece. At this time I have absolutely no information to share with you as to the tone or content. All I can say is that I know the author very well and have always appreciated his input into topics we discuss. Look out for it!

Finally, the Ouendan 2 soundtrack is available to you via the Koffdrop.com files area. This isn’t an official soundtrack but a collection of all the individual songs that feature in the game (yes, there’s a difference between the two). I’m enjoying this soundtrack as much as the original and favour tracks 19 and 16 in particular. 16 is an especially good example of some absolutely batshit bonkers over-the-top j-pop-screaming. The game’s not bad either. Enjoy.

Talk to the hand

I have a fair few names on my MSN messenger list and one of the more recent additions popped up to say hello and ask me why I had “Halol 3” as a suffix to my username. I responded to his query explaining that, after last week’s outburst I regard the game and it’s vocal fans as a joke.

I then went on to explain my complete apathy towards Halo and my overall distate at how such a generally underwhelming game (and its sequel) should be elevated to such lofty and, god help me, untouchable status in gaming circles.

What followed was a pretty intense brick-wall style conversation. The particular low-lights being the dismissal of pretty much any point I had about the game due to the fact that I worked for a company that made games this person didn’t particularly rate and, as such, meant that I really had no place criticising a game he did like. This, of course, coming from someone who has made precisely ZERO games and, by extension, has never made a game that anybody liked at all.

A few things became apparent throughout the conversation:

The person I was speaking with seemed to feel the best way of making any point about Halo was to compare it to a game he didn’t like. Certainly, it reinforces why you like one thing over another, I’m not arguing with that. However, making comparisons (particularly in such a one-sided way) is the laziest form of criticism available. If you want to convince me of the qualities or failings of a game then go ahead – but talk about the game and its content, don’t keep telling me how it’s not as good as brand X because you’re not actually telling me anything specific about your favoured brand. You’re not convincing me that you even understand what it is you like or dislike about one or the other – just that you have an opinion. I have an opinion too – if you want me to notice yours you need to learn to articulate your point of view in a far more relevent fashion.

Once things got heated a familar ploy reared it’s ugly head. This takes the form of knowing who I work for and then saying “Well, Halo is far better and sold far better than any of that rubbish you guys produced” or words to that effect. What does this achieve? In what way does this substantiate what you are saying? All it does is show that you felt, at that time, you felt the best and most reasonable response to the way the conversation was going was to direct a cheap shot at someone. It also damages the credibility of whoever said it. Credibility is pretty important if all you have to present an argument with is your personal opinion. That this little tactic got used a few times over the conversation really doesn’t impress me.

Here’s the thing though – the only people who ever use such a woeful ploy are the ones who don’t create and are directed at those who do. I’ve witnessed countless gamers tell me how developers don’t know how to make games. But I’ve never seen such people put any substance behind such claims. Gamers, it seems, have more right to criticise developers and industry than anyone else because (and here’s the most pathetic tactic of all) they pay our wages. It’s a knee-jerk reaction when you argue someone into a corner and it’s laughably desperate behaviour. It’s also rude and ignorant and always, always backfires. I know who pays my wages and it’s not gamers. Gamers pay my royalty bonuses – and I’m more than happy to top up my earnings by taking cash of arrogant shits who think $50 every couple of years means they own me or my right to an opinion.

The final, shameful tactic I wanted to mention in this post was the classic one of superiority-through-sales-figures. First of all, unless you’re a shareholder of the associated company then what the hell does it have to do with you as an individual. You’re using hi-score mentality to prove a point? Maybe it’s to be expected of gamers – hi scores mean something in those circles but, really, quoting how much money something made for someone else as a pillar of what a product means to you is hysterically misguided. Quoting sales-figures is just quoting a statistic. I have never seen any good come from quoting a statistic at another gamer. They’re open to interpretation and spin and, as some people have shown at this site, some will flat out deny the figures are real. The assumption that popularity equates to quality is simply broken logic. “This game sold loads – that proves how good it is!”. Arnold Schwarzenegger made movies that sold loads and were very popular. I wouldn’t call him a good actor. A popular actor? Yes. A good one? No – I’d say he’s pretty low on the scale of acting quality. Likewise, a game sells well so that must mean it’s good? No. Not automatically – that’s broken logic. That’s why loads of idealistic gamers cry “WHY??? HOW IS THIS HAPPENING??” when they see EA games dominating the all format top 10. That’s why the same cry is let loose when a great game doesn’t get the sales it “deserves”. In other words, for every example you show me that substantiates the argument that you can tell a game’s great by looking at it’s sales figures I will show you the same number of examples that proves that not to be the case.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. I’ve got someone on MSN that keep interrupting the composition of this post.

If you feel like chatting with me, be my guest, add comments below, find me on Xbox Live, use the discussion area. If you feel like employing some of the tactics outlined above then, please, don’t bother.

Beaten – Psychonauts

I guess, strictly speaking, I’ve also beaten Crackdown on the 360 as I’ve got through the core game. However, beating a 360 game isn’t like beating most videogames as there’s a sense of dissatisfaction in knowing there’s gamerpoints out there you haven’t earned. Does beating the core game equal beating the game or do you only qualify if you’ve maxed out your points? Either way, I’d gorged on Crackdown and decided to lend it out to a work colleague ahead of the Halol 3 Beta last week. IN YOUR FACE BUNGIE! HA!

I felt like I shouldn’t forget my older consoles – partly because they’re still great machines and partly because I’ve still got dozens of unstarted/unfinished games on them. I’d made a shortlist of titles I’d really wanted to spend some serious time with and Psychonauts found it’s way into my console and free time.

I’ve known of the pedigree of this game for quite some time. I, like many, am a big fan of Grim Fandango so I expected good things from the same creative minds. I knew of the game’s critical acclaim and limited commercial success. I was expecting something special.

Psychonauts, if you’re unfamiliar, is a platform game with a strong accent on item collection. The game mechanics are not that remarkable – your character runs, jumps, climbs, collects, double-jumps and so forth but he’s no Prince of Persia. Initially you’ll be doing your thing around a pretty safe woodland camp environment. The setting for the game is that you are Ras, a youngster at a woodland summer camp for psychicly gifted youngsters. You dream of being a Psychonaut – a sort of psychic ambassador, a righter of wrongs. The game sends you off on your first mission (Basic Braining) to show you some of the ropes. Whilst the run, jump, collect stuff is pretty basic fayre it’s the setting that makes the difference. All the plot-driving levels in Psychonauts take place within the mind of the protagonists. In this training level you’re in the mind of an over-zealous army captain. Bombs, scarred landscapes, planes, guns, and all the other iconic imagery of battle is present. Guidance and orders come in the form of black-and-white newsreel style projections against the landscape rather than some text at the bottom of the screen. Amongst all of this you have collectable items (figments of imagination) that will advance your character’s skills once certain targets are met. Other special collectables include cobwebs of old memories that you can only clean away with an item purchased later in the game. There is also emotional baggage that needs to be paired up with the appropriate luggage tag in order to be collected. Collection completists will have fun here – none of the collectables are essential (the closest to an essential are the figments and they are in abundance) and everything can be tracked on a helpful status page. Collecting all of a certain item will yield a reward in the form of extra information or advancements to your character. In my experience of the game none of these extras are necessary but getting them enhances the stories and characters.

As the game progresses you spend time with other trainers – each with distinctive mentalities – that arm you with extra skills such as shooting a mind-blast against distant foes or learning the incredibly useful skill of levitating which enhances running and jumping abilities and can significantly speed up navigation. Other skills involve telekenisis, shields and invisibility.

To the game’s credit, none of these abilities is wasted and in the later levels there is a strong problem-solving element that comes to play and you will call upon your arsenal of psychic powers to get the better of these challenges. Telekenisis, for example, can be very useful – allowing you to see what others are seeing. At one stage of the game you enter a totally pitch black area but you can hear camera lenses refocusing. If you engage your TK power you see what the cameras see (in all their green-screen, interlaced glory) and you can then navigate the room with relative ease.

Some of the platform challenges are pretty original. Part of this is as a result of the game’s disregard for the law of gravity in some stages. It’s a good example of taking the scenario of being in someone’s mind and taking full creative licence with it. There is one level set in a quaint, white-picket fence american style neighbourhood – except the layout of the level is like something from an Escher painting with a splash of Dali thrown in for good measure. Up equals up in many places but not all. An earlier stage is set on a large cube. Run off the edge and the cube simply rotates around so that its side becomes the floor. Shenanigans ensue.

This sense of cheeky creativity is what elevates this game from satisfyingly competent platform adventure to something in a class of its own.

Firstly, the structure of the game levels and story allows a degree of creative freedom. Each mind that you enter is it’s own story and doesn’t need to relate to a previous level. You spend time in the ‘real’ world, of course but that seem quite pedestrian by comparison. Secondly, the human psyche is a rich environment to draw inspiration from. As mentioned before, there are stages set in the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic but also others set in the mind of a traumatised fallen-from-grace actress, a delude, broken hearted artist, a character plagued by the weight of expectation due to the heritage of his family name and even the mind of a mistreated, malformed fish. This fish level is more fun that it rightly deserves to be as, in the mind of the character, you are a Godzilla-like giant rampaging across his homeland. The scale of the environment changes accordingly and there’s cute narrative jibes at the cliches you might see in a japanese monster movie in addition to anything directly relevent to the game and characters themselves.

It’s fair to say that every mind you enter is a small game in itself and there’s tangible excitement when entering a new mind as you really have no idea what you’re in for other than it should be inventive, contextually correct and very entertaining. Rarely have I seen such fun and cleverness combined to such degree for the pleasure of the end user – typically the most memorable examples tend to be from those legendary Lucasfilm adventures and, of course, that makes perfect sense given the heritage of the team behind Psychonauts.

Meet the team!
Meet the team!

There’s a startling number of distinctive characters in the game. Starting out in the summer camp you’ll encounter over a dozen fellow campers (complete with camp bully and sidekick) who have plenty to say and do. Your trainers are great characters and Milla Vodello, the woman who teaches Levitation class is a wonderfully accented 60’s plaything and easily a match for Austin Powers. You’ll meet a number of plot-pushing characters and, nearer then end of the game, spend some time in a lunatic asylum whose inmate are pretty interesting characters. There’s lots to see and do around these folk and everything works as a cohesive whole. None of the characters are fleshed out in epic war-and-piece detail but there’s more than enough going on to put plenty of flesh on the narrative bones. There’s even a bit of love-interest for our hero that isn’t as cringe-worthy as it might sound.

Visually this game is pretty different. The art style is consistently imaginative and unconventional (for videogames) with a splash of a saturday morning kids show appeal to it. It’s crude in some areas but always effective at communicating precisely what is required without limiting the game’s sense of fun or cleverness. I’d go as far to say the visual style of the game is as distinctive as that of a game like Shadow of the Colossus and works brilliantly. It may not be to everyone’s tastes but I truly feel it would be a shame to let a disagreement about style turn you away from such a rewarding experience. The game is as accomplished aurally as it is visually and narratively. Great music accompanies every area adding precisely the right mood for each. There’s some superb voice acting going on here too – there really is nothing to complain about!

Psychonauts is a game full of moments and observations. All of them positive. It would be very easy to have a long conversation about ‘favourite moments’ throughout the game as it’s endlessly charming and amusing. Hell, even the method you start the game outshines most others! It’s truly a game I’ve enjoyed from start to finish and my only regret is that I didn’t play it sooner.

If you want to learn a lot more about it, check out it’s Wikipedia page. Psychonauts is available for PS2, Xbox (backwardly compatible via 360) and PC. The PC version can be purchased through Valve’s STEAM service. You’ve no excuse!


As the eagle-eyed amongst will have already spotted, the Koffdrop.com sidebar now houses a ‘Currently Enjoying’ section. No prizes for guessing the nature of the content in that little area!

The two games I’ve been playing the most in recent times have been EA’s Tiger Woods 07 on the 360 and also Psychonauts on the PS2. Going from an HD 360 game to a PS2 game that, even on it’s release, was a little weak graphically and ran below 30 frames per second is a little unwieldy but I think it’s worth it.

Anyway, I’m a sucker for golf games. I don’t know why. I don’t watch or play the sport. I’ve enjoyed the games since before Leaderboard on the good old C64 with highlights being the original EA PGA games on PC and the Jack Nicklaus games. There’s a lot about Tiger Woods 07 that I like. I think the core golfing game is rock solid and, although it trips me up a lot, the swinging and aiming motion are a lot more appropriate the the 3-click method that used to be the staple control for golf games for aeons.

And whilst I believe EA’s effort plays a great game of golf there’s some really major blunders in some of the game’s interface and communications that leave me wondering what went on.

Now, I’m no EA hater. I don’t begrudge a company making heaps of cash (no, not even Nintendo). I respect a company that is smart and shrewd enough to know how to play the business game to maximum effect and I totally believe EA deserve to be where they are. I think they’re bloody great at what they do and receive an incredible amount of flak from people who neither understand games or the business of games. So I’m not going to rant and say EA suck, I’m going to detail the poorer aspects they’ve made in an otherwise very enjoyable and compelling golf game.

Menus are a bit of a pain to navigate. This is mainly as a result of the lack of wrap-around in them. You know the bit where you’re at the topmost item and tap UP on the controller and you expect the highlight to move to the bottom-most item? Doesn’t happen.

Having said that, the way you a sort of preview of the sub-menu before you select it can be useful and save a bit of to-ing and fro-ing.

Shopping is definitely something that is more trouble than it may be worth. You play the game, you earn winnings. You spend winnings on numerous items of clothing and accessories. You can choose clothing for it’s superficial qualities but many of the items you can buy modify your stats to some degree. When you’re looking through the catalogue you are shown what stat(s) may be modified and by what degree. So far, so good. The problem arises in that, if you are already using an item that modifies your stats the game doesn’t compare that item to the one you’re considering purchasing automatically. If you want to check this you have to navigate to the item you’re using, mentally note it’s qualities, go back to the new item and make a mental comparison.

This just makes the experience more longwinded and less helpful than it really needs to be. For example, you may have decided to push a specific stat up. Well, if you’re going to make the most of it you need to check all your in-use items to determine which ones affect the particular stat you’re interested in and then work through the items in other areas to see what works best.

This situation is actually made more unhelpful in that many items affect more than one type of statistic. Sure, this is common for games where you equip your character with stat-modifying items but, in nearly every game I’ve seen, you can see the effects on all your stats before you commit to any change. In Tiger Woods ’07 there is one screen to view each item’s stats (one at a time) and a totally seperate screen to display your stats. The bulk of the item select screen is occupied with your game avatar which displays and animates in accordance to the accessories you happen equipped with or previewing. This is completely superficial and, I imagine, could have been swapped with a stats display. The simplest way of having the best of both worlds would have been to add a button to change this area between stats and graphical avatar.
It’s kind of odd that there’s a very useful filtering option in the catalogue that allows you to display items that fit a certain criteria (own/don’t own, locked/unlocked, level 1/2/3/4 etc). I’m no stranger to the amount of work and thought that goes into a game’s interface design but it is almost immediately apparant that this is a far more uncomfortable experience than it needed to be. I’m led to wondering if this was made deliberately obtuse so as to make it a little less likely that players would modify their stats too easily. If that was the case then deliberately clunking up the interface is as graceful a way of controlling that situation as games using invisible walls to pen you in was.

All in all, the shopping experience is where you spend your prize money. You pick and choose your rewards. This should be simple and satisfying. It’s a shame that it’s not either of those things.

EA Trax – No. I’m not going to bemoan EA’s choice of muzak in their games. I totally understand their branding and efforts here. My TV has a volume control and the game has enough options to make this as unobtrusive as anyone wishes. Music is so ridiculously subjective that nobody will ever be totally satisfied with someone elses choice of playlist anyway so, really, bitching about music in EA Trax playlists is just a waste of time.

There is a reason I need to turn EA Trax off though.

When playing a round of golf in Tiger Woods ’97 the bottom left of the screen neatly and concisely displays information about your shot. The club, the distance from the pin, the lie of the ball, percentages and (I think) wind speed and direction. It’s all there. (although par and yardage wouldn’t have hurt either). It’s neat, it’s functional, it works.

Thing is, when a new track starts playing, this information panel is entirely obscured by the pop-up EA Trax information panel showing song, band and label information. This panel stays on screen for about 5 seconds before sliding away again.
When I say the shot area is obscured I don’t meant partially or that it becomes semi-transparent. The entire area, pixel for pixel, is replaced by the EA Trax panel. Now, considering there’s three other corners of the screen the game could be using its amazingly strange and inconvenient that EA chose to use the exact size, shape and placement of the essential shot information area to display their EA Trax information. The solution would be simple – use another corner!

Now, I’m absolutely certain that EA have to show the EA Trax information if they’re playing licenced music. That’s all probably detailed in a long and boring contract. That’s fine, I accept that. It’s also very possible that, since many EA games use the EA Trax thing that, development wise, there’s chunk of code that deals with this that’s simply plugged into varios EA games. It would make sense – why write the same code to do the same function over and over again – write it once, use it many times. So, maybe that’s what they do and maybe I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the placement of the EA Trax panel is hard-coded and simply has to occupy that area of the screen. OK then – you’ve still got three other corners – move the shot information panel to one of those!

Admittedly, five seconds of having the shot information panel being obscured by the EA Trax panel is not the end of the world. But when you’re playing a mode in the game with a time-limit per shot (such as online games or timed challenges) it really becomes an annoyance.

What’s next?

‘In The Cup!’ is a slogan that slides by in certain game modes when you get the ball in the hole (or cup). It’s presented nicely, scrolls for a few seconds and then fades out – giving you a sense of achievement. Great.

However, there’s some game modes where you attempt to complete three or four holes in a pretty tight time limit. You work fast, get your first hole and watch the ‘In The Cup!’ slogan do its thing. Then you realise that timer is still counting down while this is going on and you’ve lost three seconds out of your 60 and you’ve still another two cups to go (meaning you’ll lose another three seconds at the very least). Great. Another poor choice! Showing the message is fine – but it’s meant to convey achievement. In these timed game modes it actually serves as a penalty because you’re losing precious seconds as the game slaps you on the back. Another example of something good becoming something bad through a poor decision.

Online lag is somehow present. Now, I’ve only played a few games online and I’ve never hosted. I have a 4mb connection which I’m perfectly happy with. I’ve played Gears of War online and not seen any noticeable lag. Now, I’m guessing that Gears of War is a more demanding game with more to keep track of per-cycle (what with it’s faster pace and up 8 players running around at once) than Tiger Woods ’07. After all, golf is, by it’s nature, a turn-based game. Only one thing is going on at a time and, typically, it’s all done in the instant your shot is made. The rest of the turn is spent watching the shot played out. This part will certainly be handled locally – the calculations will have been taken from whichever player took the shot and then just played out on each 360 connected to the game. Sure, there may still be considering information to take care of but nothing along the lines of a more frenetic game.

So why is there lag? Why do I sometime fail to see a play swing or the ball move but see a spray of earth and then the shot change to view the ball flying through the air? Why does a friend’s ball come to the end of it’s roll and then disappear and reappear about a foot away? I suspect I know why, these are rhetorical questions.

Being silenced at the end of an online game is the final issue I want to mention. When joining an online game there is a simple lobby area. You can text-chat and voice chat. When the game and players are set you go and play. So far, so good. At the end of the game, after the last hole has been sunk you get thrown back to a result screen and then to the main menu. In doing so you are instantly cut off from the people you’ve been playing. No warnings, no second chances just dumped.

This can be worked around to some degree if you start a voice chat via the 360 dashboard instead of through the game’s lobby system. Even so, it’s a pretty abrupt way to end a game.

And that’s it. All of these points happen consistently in the game and are immediately apparent to most people. On their own they don’t really detract from the enjoyment of what is a really good, challenging, satisfying and rewarding golf game. There’s no doubt about it that Tiger Woods ’07 is a great golf game. A little more serious than the chibi-golf games you see from Japan but, hey, it’s official so there you go. I recommend it to anyone who likes a detailed game of golf and it’s great fun online.

These individual issues can all rear their heads through a single play session though and I can’t imagine any QA technician not spotting them, they’re simply too obvious. It’s just a shame such consistent and obvious quirks were not dealt with and were left to detract from what I think is a fabulous golf game. I’ll still be playing it day in, day out for a long time yet and I’ll still be enjoying nearly every second of it.

If you have the game, look me up and we’ll play a few holes!

It’s like 8.8 all over again

Dear me.

What a bunch of immature, pathetic, impatient, selfish, rude, arrogant, ungrateful little shits.

The backlash over the Zelda Gamespot 8.8 review by rabid Nintendo fanboys was such a fantastic demonstration of idiocy and herd mentality that, frankly, it was amusing. Particularly as 8.8 was an over generous score.

But yesterday, May 16th 2007, the day of the Halo 3 beta – I think equals it. Microsoft and Halo fanboys (and, let’s face it, if you know your FPSs then you know Halo ain’t all that, just like you know Zelda ain’t all that if you know your adventure games) showed themselves to be just as horrible a breed of human beings as the Nintendo fanboys.

Comments, complaints, threats, talk of how gamers are “suffering” or Crackdown owners who bought the game to play the beta were “ripped off” because their little Halo 3 button didn’t light up the instant they wanted it to, arguments about how everyone at Microsoft, Bungie and even Real Time Worlds must suck and not know anything about development..

..all because the download was hours (not days, not weeks, not months, not cancelled, not broken) late.

So much hate, hurt and spite thrown around because babys didn’t get their instant, free gratification that they felt they were owed.

All this energy and angst just to play an unfinished game.

Gamers of the world – well done! you’ve proved you’re still a bunch of selfish crybabies that can’t be trusted to think before you open your mouths.


Me? I’d rather play Halflife again. I lent my copy of Crackdown to a colleague yesterday and really don’t want to spend any time exposed to the ranting of Halo fans based on their recent outburst.

Funniest day in gaming for some time!


I’m sure you’ve all been wondering when I’d get around to fixing my archives page. You’ll be thrilled to read it’s now back to it’s former moo.fx-powered glory. You can now re-live great koffdrop.com moments all over again!