Something something dark side

Well, it seems that many others are watching this, so you may as well see it too. I can certainly vouch for its authenticity but I haven’t a clue how a full console build gets out into the wild.

Now that’s what I call an unfinished game.

My favourite bug during development were the overscaled Ewoks on Endor. You may think Ewoks are cute. Just you wait until you run into one that’s 10 feet tall.

I read it on the Internet.. it must be true!

Worse yet, the increasingly break-neck pace of internet news reporting – and the feedback loop it often turns into – has turned even some of the more wacky conspiracies into an odd kind of accepted wisdom. Monday’s left-of-field interpretation of an event becomes Tuesday’s “well, obviously!” comment on a thousand blogs (each just parroting the last, but none willing to admit it), and by Wednesday it’s enshrined on Wikipedia as historical fact.

A moment of clarity provided by in an article covering the Resident Evil: Mercenaries single-save ‘fiasco’.

Did I miss new year?

Apparently so!

Well, as far as is concerned, I’ve never been known for my punctuality.

I hope 2011 finds you healthy and happy and that you hangover has cleared up by now. I’ve been consuming a chunk of media this year and it goes a little like this:


Tron: Legacy

This is everything you’d expect of a commercial sequel. Cue folks on the internet talking of their childhood memories being raped (presumably these folks weren’t raped during their childhood otherwise that’d leading to quite the conundrum in comprehension).

I was invited to see this at an IMAX cinema with some friends and family. I’d never been to an IMAX screen before and was looking forward to the experience. I don’t know what I should have expected but went away feeling that it was nothing more than a really big screen. Is that it or did I miss something?

The movie itself was quite forgettable but looked very pretty (assuming black and neon is your thing). Young Jeff Bridges almost made it out of the uncanny valley but there was still something a little off with him. I guess there’s an artistic excuse in that it can be argued that the representation is of a character that isn’t strictly human anyway. Still, we’ve come a long way since the original Tron – as indicated by Bruce Boxleitner’s silver hair and improved eyewear.

One for the fans.

The Social Network

Whilst I may have been blogging since before it was trendy I really am happy to let Facebook and Twitter pass me by. I realise I’ve advanced from convincing the older generation to get excited about this cool new things you can do with a computer and have now become that disinterested older generation that just doesn’t get what the fascination is with all this new jiggery pokery and don’t see how it will benefit me.

As such, a movie about Facebook held little interest to me. That was until I heard that it was directed by David Fincher, who was responsible for one of my favourite films. The overwhelmingly positive reviews of the movie didn’t hurt either.

The movie was captivating from the outset and the character of Mark Zuckerberg was compelling stuff. The story arc was predictable enough though whether this was creative licence or actual events was unclear – something that doesn’t bother me too greatly. Without question, many things were played up for the entertainment factor. The hacking-drinking game, watching grads hack a system, downing shots in order to earn their right to work for Facebook whilst being cheered on by a crowd of youths seemed a little too social to be real.

With a Fincher movie you can be certain of a solid, well put together piece of work. There is always the easter egg to look out for – that understated but original and eyecatching moment where the ordinary is filmed to look extraordinary. Look out for the Taxi scene in Zodiac, the break-in scene in The Panic Room or nearly any scene in Fight Club. It’s here in The Social Network too, giving moments of a boat race the feeling of being little more than toys in water.

Overall, the movie was enjoyable but lacking much meaning. Few of the characters, to me, had any appeal and the product that made them famous has no more appeal to me than it did a couple of hours earlier. If there’s a moral to it all it is: don’t go into business with your mates.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil

Perhaps a subtitle of This is not Spinal Tap would be more appropriate as you can’t help asking yourself if this is a documentary or a mockumentary throughout the running time of this movie.

I’m still undecided. With a drummer called Robb Reiner, a visit to Stonehenge and a shot of an amp that, yes, goes to eleven it’s a tough call.

Anvil, a metal band that have repeatedly managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, are still thrashing and moshing at 50 and refuse to give up the search for their big break. This movie follows the principle members of the band as they tour europe on public transport (assuming they can get a ticket for their next train) and record their thirteenth album.

Utterly watchable and equally heartbreaking and hilarious.


Barely a week into the year and a few games crumble before my awesome gaming might! (The easy ones, that is)

Dead Nation (PSN / PS3)

A twin-stick shooter from the makers of one of my favourite PS3 games (Super Stardust HD). I was looking forward to this based on the developer’s pedigree despite it being zombie-based. Zombies seem to do it for a lot of people. I’m not one of those people.

What do you need to know? Besides the premise, not much. The game is split into large scrolling levels with checkpoints in each. Each checkpoint houses a weapon shop where you can spend the money that felled zombies inexplicably reward you with on buying and upgrading new guns and secondary weapons. Armour upgrades are found in the level and have different qualities – allowing you to forsake speed for durability, for example.

The core of the game, like Super Stardust before it, is the score multiplier. Every zombie you kill (besides the skinless peon types) releases a pair of dots that float towards you. The yellow is cash, the red is multiplier. As you stack up your multiplier, your score inflate accordingly. For the first third of the game I hovered around a 500x multiplier value. As the challenge ramped up and I took damage, both my character’s energy and multiplier suffered. It’s tough to say which hurts more. Multiplier carries over between levels. Should you die or quit mid-level then you forfeit your multiplier.

Visually, the game looks great. Being zombie-based, it all happens at night and exploits a number of good scenes such as a trainyard, hospital grounds and, of course, a graveyard. Hordes and hordes of the undead flood towards the player at various times, often lit up only by the muzzle-flare of the weapon you’re firing at them and the torchlight that serves to light up some of the environment near to you and act as I direction indicator.

The environments are littered with, er, litter and distractions as you find yourself constantly scanning for incoming threats. This small pieces of debris often do their job of convincing you something is coming when it’s not – only to take a few steps and find something is coming, but from a direction you’re not prepared for.

The lighting in the game is great, as is the music – gearing up during those moments of intensity to add more pressure onto the player. Slain zombies don’t fade away so, before long, you’ll find the screen piled with bloody pools of zombie-flesh as yet more of the undead rush towards you, hungry for your brains and your multiplier.

Some environmental elements are available too. Soda dispensers can offer you health or, if you shoot them, spill heaps of soda cans and serve to distract zombies. Likewise, civilian cars have boots you can ransack for money or you can shoot them to set of their alarms and have the baddies rush to the vehicle and attack it. Doing so will ultimately cause the car to explode and rip apart any zombies in its blast radius – their flesh comically flying toward the camera before raining back down onto the bloody floor.

Co-op mode is yet to be explored but, given that this was a key feature of the game, I’m looking forward to trying this out in the near future.

All in all, great trashy fun and another fine release from Housemarque.

Pixeljunk Shooter (PSN / PS3)

This is another PSN game that I nabbed during the Xmas sale.

It’s uncomplicated fun and has you traversing a planet’s cave structure with your twin-stick controlled ship in search of scientists to rescue. Hazard’s are present in the form of indigenous lifeforms and elements.

Whilst the initial appearance my remind people of games like Thrust, the game isn’t intended to be an echo of that genre. Control of your ship is simple and direct. You can shoot with one button and fire a grapple with another. Grappling is used to quickly haul scientists to your ship and also to pick up goodies like diamonds.

The game comes into its own with the introduction of fluids. In the first chapter you typically find yourself facing pools of water and flows of lava. When the two mix, these form a solid but destructible part of landscape. This type of landscape is peppered around the levels anyway so you’ll be familiar with its properties before you find yourself creating it yourself.

In spite of being called a shooter, the game is more of an environmental puzzler. Though, admittedly, most of your interaction is conducted by shooting. You’ll often see a scientist behind a brittle wall with a pool of lava on the other side. You can’t survive lava yourself and shooting the wall will surely result in death the the scientist. Invariably, there’ll be some water nearby and you’ll want to get the two fluids to meet in order to make the lava pool solid, shootable and safe. Then you just need to carve a path to the scientist and.. oh bugger. One fire too many and I zapped the poor bugger.

More fluids and elements come to play later in the game with different properties and threats. The depiction of these substances is great, moving and flowing convincingly. Your ship will also be given the chance to change properties which can have the effect of reversing environmental threats – making water deadly, for example.

I really enjoyed this game and intend to go back to it to replay levels and get my 100% rankings on each.

Righty, that’s it for now. I’m off to play some Nier which is both trashy and fun!

Three months later and..

..and I’m still on pretty much the same topic.

This is one of the most true things I’ve read all year:

The fact of the matter is that even the largest video game journalism outlets are pampered. They are too used to the conveniences of internet publishing: editing after publication, deleting dissenting comments, removing and banning problem users, easily finding (or stealing) image and text content from other similar journalism outlets or PR departments; so much so that they’ve developed the intellectual and critical tolerance of a preschooler. They make a mistake — sometimes small, sometimes egregiously massive — and are called out on it, get angry, pitch a fit, then after suckling from the teat of their overly sympathetic, equally misinformed fans, coworkers and thin-skinned apologists, they forget about it. They move on, ignorant to their actual mistake, and ignorant to what they could have learned from it; all the while assuming they were right and their critic was wrong and that the critic can take their “trolling/bashing/hating” for a long walk off a short cliff for all they care.


I might write something myself one day soon. Maybe.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice..

How does that phrase go again?
How does that phrase go again?

If you’re using the internet the chances that you can read are fairly high. If you can read, you’ve probably read a book or two in your lifetime. You may even be aware of classic books, books that made their mark in literature.

Yet how many of these classics were pop-up books?

I could research the answer but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the answer is a big fat zero.

But why? Why hasn’t the medium seen fit to exploit the richness of advances that pop-up engineering can added to the act of reading? Why do authors not see the potential of conveying their works in this advanced format?

Sadly, we may never know. Perhaps pop-up is yet to have its day. Maybe a popular author like Dan Brown, J.K. Rowling or Stephen King can awaken the masses to the enormous benefits that pop-up can bring to literature.

Or maybe you’re reading this and thinking that you already know the answers to those questions. Pop-up books are a nice distraction and pleasantly engineered, they’re clearly very good at engaging the younger mindset, but they’re not really up there with the effective simplicity of well chosen words printed plainly on a page.

So, I ask you, why should anybody give two shits about 3D gaming?

Admittedly, I’ve not had any first hand experience with 3D gaming myself. My only exposure to current 3D technology has been in the cinema. The results have been ok. I guess. Like pop-up books, it’s a cute enhancement that mostly adds a degree of visual depth. It doesn’t make a bad film good. It didn’t make Avatar any less formulaic. It wasn’t the reason I found How To Train Your Dragon one of the most entertaining films I’d seen all year.

I’m acutely aware of the differences between books, films and videogames. I know what qualities define a videogame and I simply can’t see 3D affecting any of them in any significant way.

But, you know, we’ve been here before haven’t we?

Remember a few years ago when our worlds were going to be revolutionised? How motion control was going to radically alter how we play games, the games that could be created, where games could go. Remember all that wonder and excitement?

I don’t. Because I didn’t get excited. I didn’t see how it was anything more than a gimmick. A few years ago many people made efforts to correct my thinking and assure me my view was limited. That I simply was just a hater with no vision. Years on, I’m still waiting for the moment when, as promised, I would say “wow”.

What the easily led saw as pessimism, I regarded as realism. My restraint has been rewarded because, in my opinion, years on we’ve still yet to see anything of motion control that make a genuine difference to what gameplay is.

And this was all going to come about from the ultimate gameplay masters. The geniuses at Nintendo. Who would dare to doubt their promises and integrity?

I guess that’d be me.

So, yeah, 3D. Whether it’s in your hand or on a new TV screen: Will it turn bad gameplay into good gameplay? Will it introduce a, pardon the pun, new dimension in gameplay?

Again, I could research the answer but based on how I felt about motion controls and the years that have followed since their introduction, I’m just going to go ahead and say no.

Now, really, are you all such suckers that you’re going to fall for the same promise all over again?

..shame on you.

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!

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!