Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rock Band's Sting in the Tail

I’ve decided that the creators of Rock Band actually despise the human race and created Rock Band as a gigantic ‘fuck you’ to the world.

Firstly, they create the world’s most awesome game…then they include a song that could actually kill someone.

I’m talking about “Green Grass and High Tides” by The Outlaws.

There are four difficulty levels: Easy, Medium, Hard and Expert. Here’s what it’s like to play this song just on medium:

Step 1: Hmmm, low tempo, but lots of interesting drum patterns. This is cool.

Step 2: Oooh, speeding up a bit now, this is getting a little tricky. This is shaping up to be a new favorite.

Step 3: Ok, I’ve got the basic beat patterns down now. This is easy! How much longer does this go on for?

Step 4: Shit! Did the speed just triple?! I lost the rhythm for a couple seconds and my crowd meter dropped to half…ok, concentrate!

Step 5: Who wrote this shit? How could any real drummer stand it? I’ve been drumming for what feels like a week, my right thigh feels like it’s about to explode and I think I may need a hip replacement.

Step 6: I’ve been playing this song for what? A day? A week? A year? It’s all blurring together. I’m convinced the note track is evil. There seem to be breaks in the beat that were put in for the express purpose of putting me off.

Step 7: Does Bruce Banner feel like this when he changes into the Hulk? Did I get bit by a werewolf and not notice? It feels like my muscles are about to burst out from under the skin.

Step 8: What the fuck is this shit? Why are the introducing a totally new beat pattern fifteen seconds before the end? I’m exhausted! My arms and legs are working on autopilot…quick, just get the new pattern down before….



Seriously, it’s that bad. It’s not fun…it’s torture. They could use it at CIA internment camps. ‘Tell me where the explosives are hidden Achmed, or we’ll make you play ‘Green Grass and High Tides’ on expert!’

For those of you who have no clue what I’m talking about, here is the aforementioned song from youtube:

Fast forward to five minutes in when the madness starts.

If you’ve no idea how rhythm games work, when the colored ‘gem’ hits the line at the bottom of the screen, you hit the same color drum pad. When the horizontal orange lines reach the bottom, you hit the drum pedal.

Yup, I’m not a big fan of any form of ‘entertainment’ that makes your legs explode.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One of Life's Simple Pleasures:

When you make yourself a cup off coffee, get sidetracked, forget about it...then ten minutes later you think "Damn, I wish I had some coffee"...and then realize there's a whole cup of coffee sitting right there!



Ok, I’m writing this blog post because if I don’t take at least a twenty minute from Rock Band, both my arms are going to fall off and my right thigh may explode…and you know what? It would worth it.

If you can’t be bothered reading the rest, just know this. Rock Band is a big old bowl of Awesome drenched in Awesome Sauce with Hell Yeah sprinkles.

The first thing I want to mention about Rock Band is just how accessible it is. I’ll be completely honest and state for the record that I absolutely sucked at Guitar Hero when it first came out and I’m still not what you’d call a ‘skilled player’ even after a fair bit of practice. I wanted to get Rock Band as a party game and as something for Sunny and I play together. Knowing Sunny’s tolerance level for frustration, I was a little worried about the difficulty level.

I shouldn’t have worried. Apart from the drums, which take a modicum of coordination even on easy…Playing Guitar on ‘easy’ is just that…easy. In fact, it’s incredibly easy…and Bass even more so.

Normally I’d consider this a negative…but considering Rock Band is a party game, the more people who can actually play it, the better. It’s a game an absolute beginner can pick up after a couple of beers and make it through a song.

That’s what Rock Band is all about. It’s not about beating a crazy-difficult song just so you can say you did…it’s about getting a bunch of your friends over, making an improvised headband out of a curtain tie and rocking out.

You know how awesome it is when you’re driving somewhere fun with a bunch of friends in the car…and that perfect song comes on the radio… and before you know it, you’re all belting it out at the top of your voice? Rock Band is that multiplied by exactly one squillion.

All that being said, crank the difficulty up to Expert and you’re going to be challenged, plain and simple. For the record, I decided to try a song on expert…and got booed off the stage in under ten seconds.

Basically, there’s something for everyone. This is a game your Granny can play after a few minutes instruction, and a game that’ll keep a seasoned Guitar Hero player entertained.

Ok, there’s not much point explaining what playing the guitar is like, considering every man and his dog has at least seen Guitar Hero, but before I talk about the drums (my personal favorite), let me state that the singing portion of Rock Band is a masterstroke.

Here’s the thing about singing. People get self conscious. Anyone’s willing to pick up a guitar-shaped controller or bang on a drum kit in front of strangers…but very few people are willing to sing in front of people they don’t know. Hell, I don’t know many (sober) people who are willing to sing in front of people they do know.

Rock Band has come up with an amazingly simple way around this.

Rock Band scores your singing performance on how in-tune your voice is. However, just because the console needs to ‘hear’ your voice to score your performance doesn’t mean it needs to put your voice out through the speakers as well.

Basically, you get to set the volume of your own voice and the original vocals seperately.

If you feel in the mood to show off, turn the original vocals all the way down and crank your own way up. This way, Rock Band works just like Karaoke. If you’re a little more self conscious, turn up the original vocals and turn the volume for your own voice all the way down. That way, you get to join in and play, but no-one’s going to hear your voice over the music and the original vocal.

Finally, let me talk about the drums:

Maybe it’s because I actually play the guitar, but playing guitar games like Guitar Hero never even came close to feeling ‘real’ to me. They’re a hell of a lot of fun, but I just feel like I’m pushing buttons, I don’t feel like I’m playing a guitar.

The drums are different.

A lot different.

Again, maybe it’s because I’m not a drummer, but banging away on Rock Band’s drum kit really feels like you’re playing the drums. In fact, one of the main things I’ve heard is that once you get up to Expert difficulty, you essentially are playing the drum part…albeit on a smaller drumkit. After playing a few songs just on medium, I’m perfectly willing to believe it.

It’s just an absolute blast. I’m not ashamed to admit it, but after Sunny left for work and I blasted through the driving drums of ‘Wave of Mutilation’…I threw the double-goat.

That’s right. Alone, in my living room, I threw the sticks down, thrust both hands into the air, index fingers and pinkies thrust out at the sky and proclaimed “RAWK!!!”.

It takes a very special game to make me do that, and Rock Band is it.

There are only two real negatives that I can see to Rock Band, and they’re more minor niggles than anything else.

The first is the track list, in that it’s not really long enough. There are roughly 45 songs (not counting the bonus tracks which are made up almost exclusively of ‘local’ bands)…and there are just a few too many B-Sides among the classics.

It just feels really odd to be rocking away to Black Sabbath or The Who…and then the next you’re playing Coheed and Cambria. Again, this might just be my personal taste, but even a lot of the big name bands seem to have brought their B-Material.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad songs…but you get the feeling the Rock Band crew turned up a little late to the Licensing party.

The good part is that there’s a ton of tracks available for download of Xbox Live at under 2 bucks a pop, or less if you buy a bundle, so there’s sure to be something to match your taste.

My only other little complaint is that the single player experience is a little light. Whereas with multiplayer you form a band, choose your gigs, earn cash, earn and try to keep fans, unlock tour buses and private jets etc, etc, all the single player mode allows you to do is play through progressively harder tiers of songs just like Guitar Hero.

Again, this is an extremely minor complain as Rock Band is first and foremost a party game. Complaining the single player mode isn’t as much fun as the multiplayer mode is like complaining that playing twister along isn’t as much fun as playing it with a bunch of oiled-up Victoria’s Secret models.

Anyway, long story short, if you own a PS3, Xbox 360 or a Wii and don’t own Rock Band, you should, so go out and get it…especially as the special edition (Game, Guitar, Drums and Mic) is now less than $130 a Wally World.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go inform some folks that they should not fear the reaper.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

This Is Not A Gaming Post

A couple days ago I downloaded a demo of the quad-bike racing game ‘Pure’.

So, this morning I got up and decided to go around the demo track a few times before Sunny got up. This time, because I was sitting in front of the console and not grabbing a drink as the game started up I noticed something I hadn’t seen before.

The ‘Don’t try this at home’ screen.

It was…comprehensive.

Don’t try this at home. Do not attempt to recreate any of the stunts you see in the game. Take an ATV riding course before riding one solo. Make sure you have the permission of the land-owner before riding. Don’t have a passenger on the back. Be sure to wear all necessary safety equipment, etc, etc.

…and did you know that ATV’s are not toys and can result in serious injury if ridden without proper care and attention?

You know, I honestly believe these ‘do not try this at home’ messages do more harm than good.

At one point on the demo track you literally jump off a mountain over a Yawning Chasm of Doom…and even if you make the jump, you’re landing on a flat surface about three hundred feet lower than the jump you started on. Of course, in the game, you land, your rider turns to the camera and pumps his fist in the air and shouts “Cool!” or “Awesome” or “Totally Rad!” or some other of 80’s cliché.

Now, because I have a brain, I know that if I were to attempt a similar jump in real life there is only one of two possible outcomes:

1) I don’t make the jump and fall a few thousand feet to my death at the bottom of a rocky chasm. When the authorities find what’s left of my body, the pieces are small enough to be carried away in a selection of sandwich bags.

2) I make the jump but quickly understand that the human body does not like dropping three hundred feet onto a flat, rocky surface, even if said human body is on the back of an ATV at the time. When the authorities find my body this time, it’s at the bottom of a large impact crater with a significant amount of ATV up it’s ass.

So why do I think these warning messages do more harm than good?

Because it totally negates Darwinism and Natural Selection…basically, the people who think it’s a good idea to drive off a cliff are stopped from doing so…and then they breed.

Do you want to live in a society populated with people who lack the basic common sense to not drive an ATV of a cliff?

We’re heading towards the end of the world. An end brought about because the world’s population is too goddamned stupid to live.

Think I’m exaggerating?

We already live in a world were people have to be explicitly told not to drive off cliffs.

Friday, October 24, 2008

No More!

Every time I click the stumble button I see yet another list of ‘observational comedy’ questions that are about as funny as open heart surgery without anasthetic. So, to finally put and end to this shit, and point out just how unfunny and annoying this shit is, it’s time to answer those questions.

Read the following, then never post, forward or publish another list like this again…or I will hunt you down and kill you.

· If the #2 pencil is so popular why is it still #2?

Because the number refers to how hard the graphite in the pencil is. Not it’s popularity.

· OK, so what's the speed of dark?

‘Dark’ is the word we use to describe the absence of light. As such it has no speed at all.

· Why do psychics have to ask for your name?

Because Psychics are frauds and do not have any kind of mind-reading ability.

· If a cow laughs hard, does milk come out its nose?

No. A cow’s udders (where the milk is produced) is not connected to a cow’s nasal passages. Also, as cows are simple animals, they have no concept of humor, and therefore wouldn’t laugh anyway.

· Why do they sterilize the needles for lethal injections?

Hypodermic needles come from the supplier pre-sterilized in sealed packaging. They are not specially sterilized for executions.

· If Wal-Mart is lowering prices every day, how come nothing in the store is free yet?

Because ‘lowering prices every day’ is just an advertising slogan.

· The "Psychic Friends Network" went out of business... didn't they see it coming?

I refer you to the previous question on psychics. Psychic powers do not exist.

· Is it possible for someone to become addicted to therapy? And If so, how would you treat them?

Yes, it is possible. You would treat them by advising them not to go to therapy any more.

· If someone with multiple personalities threatens to kill himself, is it considered a hostage situation?

No, it isn’t.

· Isn't is it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do "practice"?

No. It isn’t.

· When sign makers go on strike, is anything written on their signs?

Yes, because their strike would likely be caused by low wages or poor working conditions and not the simple act of creating a sign.

· Would a fly without wings be called a walk?

No. It would still be a fly.

· Why is the word abbreviation so long?

Because a word’s purpose has absolutely nothing to do with its spelling.

· If a word is mispelled in the dictionary, is it mispelled?

Yes. The Dictionary is not a magic document.

· And if it is mispelled, how would we know?

Because the vast majority of the English Speaking world would notice, and the offending dictionary would likely be recalled.

· Doesn't "expecting the unexpected" make the unexpected expected?

Because it is absolutely impossible to ‘expect the unexpected’. This is simple a popular saying which means you should be on your guard.

· If you are dialing from a touch-tone phone, Why do you call it 'dialing'?

Because by the time touch-tones were invented, the term ‘dialing’ had become synonymous with the act of putting a number into a telephone. The technology changed but the original term stuck.

· Do coffins have lifetime guarantees?

No. They do not.

· If the sky is the limit, then what is space, over the limit?

No. ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ is just another turn of phrase that is metaphorical, not factual.

· Isn't Disney World just a people trap operated by a mouse?

No. It’s a theme park owned and operated by the Disney Corporation. Mickey Mouse is simple a character and not real.

· Can you get cornered in a round room?

That would depend on how many people were attempting to capture you. As a round room has curved walls, it would be entirely possible for two or three people to ‘corner’ you…especially as ‘to corner someone’ is yet another common phrase that does not have to be factual.

· Why are people so scared of mice, yet we all love Mickey Mouse?

A) Because Mickey Mouse is an anthropomorphized cartoon character that has little in common with an actual mouse. B) Not everyone loves Mickey Mouse.

· Wouldn't it be smart to make the sticky stuff on envelopes taste like chocolate?

No. It would significantly raise the price of envelopes, and many envelopes would be wasted when children discovered the glue tasted like chocolate.

· You know the expression, "Don't quit your day job?" Well what do you say to
people that work nights?

This is yet another common saying which is meant to infer that you are not good enough at your chosen hobby/pastime to do it for a living. The actual time at which someone works is irrelevant.

· If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is he homeless or naked?

Neither. A turtle’s shell is part of its body and serves as armor…not as a home or clothing.

· Should vegetarians eat animal crackers?

It depends on the level of their vegetarianism, and whether or not the particular brand of animal crackers contain any ingredients made from animals.

· How is it possible to have a civil war?

Because ‘Civil’ means ‘of, pertaining to, or consisting of citizens’. As a Civil War is a war fought between citizens of the same country, it is absolutely possible to have civil war.

· Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?

Because the amount of bacteria in sour cream is eventually going to reach poisonous levels and therefore needs an expiration date.

· If you spin an oriental man in a circle three times, does he become disoriented?

Possibly. It depends on the man in question. Also, the effect would be similar with any man, regardless of ethnic background.

· If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?

‘Humanitarian’ does not refer to the person in question’s diet.

· Do they have reserved parking for non-handicapped people at the Special Olympics?

No, because non-handicapped people do not need special parking spaces as they have no disabilities.

· Why do kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Because the purpose of kamikaze was to damage enemy ships, not to end the life of the pilot.

· Why do people keep posting these stupid fucking lists?

Because they lack any real sense of humor and have zero creativity or originality.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Shia LaBeouf Is An Asshole Of Epic Proportions

Before Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out, I saw a one panel comic of George Lucas trying to draw on the script with crayons, and shouting “CGI Gophers!!!” while Steven Spielberg hit him on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.

I laughed. George Lucas has gone from visionary, pioneer cinematographer to ‘CGI obsessed creator of celluloid abortions’ in recent years…but Indiana Jones would be an incredibly hard movie to fuck up.

You have a race between Indy and some Nazi’s to find an incredibly powerful and mystical artifact. Throw in a car chase, a few fight scenes and a few exotic locales and you’re golden.

Then I saw the movie.

I would have preferred the CGI gophers.

Ok, people tend to forget that the original Indiana Jones movies were a little fantastical, what with the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grain and all…but ‘interdimensional beings’ (read: Aliens)… who’s disembodied crystalline skulls can telepathically talk to people and make them do things?

The other big thing about this movie is if you watch the special features, they decided certain things wouldn’t work…and replaced them with exactly the same fucking thing.

They didn’t want to do ‘aliens’, so they did ‘interdimensional beings’. Creature that just happen to look exactly like aliens and have a ship that looks like a fucking flying saucer. Only they’re not from space, so they’re not aliens, ok?

Then they said they didn’t want to do Nazis…So instead they did Russians. Creepy, menacing cold-war Russians. Ok, so they look, act and even sound almost exactly like the Gestapo, but they’re not Nazis…because they’re Russians and Russia is, like, totally nowhere near Germany.

If you’ve not seen Kingdom of the Crystal Skull yet, I can sum up the whole experience for you by describing a single scene.

Indy escapes the badguys by jumping on a rocket-powered train-sled type dealie, that accelerates him and one badguy to many times the speed of sound in seconds, before stopping in less than fifty feet. Indy is totally unscathed, but the bad guy who got onto the rocket-sled with him is either knocked out or dead. Indy doesn’t know and doesn’t care whether the bad guy is dead or not…that’s just how he rolls because he’s Indiana Fucking Jones…and he can take 500 G’s of acceleration and deceleration without so much as a seatbelt, unlike that pussy Nazi…I mean, Russian.

The trouble isn’t over when Indy discovers that the rocket-sled has delivered him to ground zero of the fucking Manhattan Project. (For the people who don’t know their history, the Manhattan project is where the US government set off a nuclear bomb out in the desert to see how totally cool it looked. The official records state the explosion was, and I quote, ‘totally bitchin’’).

So Indy has mere seconds to escape a fucking nuclear bomb. The type of bomb that instantly vaporizes everything within a ten mile radius and just rapes everything out to fifty.

What does our hero do?

He gets inside a fridge.

… Umm

… yeah.

Just to add a little extra realism to this already totally plausible and absolutely not batshit-crazy scene, as Indy ducks inside the fridge with mere seconds to spare, we see a small plaque on the outside that says ‘lead lined’.

What we don’t see is the other plaque that says “Inertial Dampeners Like Off Star Trek…you know, the never-explained gadgets that cancel out gravity and G-Forces so people can survive accelerating to the speed of light in less than a second”.

Obviously, the fridge has some sort of technological or magical force-fields inside it because despite the fact the fridge with Indy in it gets thrown for fucking miles. He just opens the door when it lands, and after a comedic shake of his head, he just walks away.

I was expecting Jar-Jar Binks to pop around from the back of the fridge at any moment

OMIGOSH Indy! Mesa tinkin yoowa gonna die! Dat was muey muey bombad explosion!”

C’mon, George. I’ll believe that a Jedi can jump a hundred feet into the air. I’ll believe that the Ark of the Covenant is real and will melt your face off if you open it up and look at it. I’ll even believe an intensely foreign looking guy can rip the heart from a guy’s chest with his bare hands. They’re totally over the top, but they’re consistent with the universe you’ve created.

However, there is no power on earth that will make me believe a 65 year old anyone can survive a nuclear blast by getting inside a lead lined fridge.

I mean, seriously. Why is Indy even remotely concerned when someone points a gun at him? Why does he stumble a little when someone punches him? The guy survived a fucking nuclear bomb! Not to mention getting thrown for fifteen miles with only an atom bomb-damaged fridge for protection. Shoot me, fucker…those bullets will just fucking bounce off…now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go jump of a building for fun!

My other big complain about this movie was Shia LeBeouf.

You wanna know a secret? Shia LeBeouf is a fucking awful actor. No matter what emotion he’s supposed to express, he gives the impression of a borderline special-needs kid trying to work out if he’s been insulted or not.

Pick any Shia LeBeouf movie. Go to any scene with him in, freeze it, and look at his face. You’ll see what I mean. Mostly confused with a hint of anger or aggression. Like a 4”9 alcoholic with a Napoleon complex who tries to pick a fight with you down the pub. The guy you’ll refuse to have a battle of wits with…but only because it’s unsporting to fight with someone so obviously unarmed.

Actually, I tell a lie. He has his shit-eating grin as well. Add to that the fact that he looks like a partially melted David Schwimmer, and movie material he ain’t.

Then there’s that scene at the end where Indy’s hat falls off a hat-stand and a sudden gust of wind blows it to Shia LaBeouf’s feet, and he leans down and picks it up.

In terms of subtlety, this is about as subtle a hint as a sledge hammer to your ballsack. I’m pretty sure in the first draft Harrison Ford actually handed Shia LaBeouf an actual torch and said:

“Here! I’m passing this torch, wink wink, onto you, wink wink.”

Well, I have something to say about that:

No. In fact, not just ‘no’. How about ‘Absolutely fucking not’ or ‘No fucking way, over my fucking dead body and I will personally burn Skywalker Ranch to the ground before salting the earth around it’s still-warm ashes before I see Shia LaBeouf as the new Indiana Jones’.

George, you already destroyed Star Wars with those badly written, badly acted toy commercials you had the balls to call ‘prequels’. Are you deliberately trying to piss me off with this shit? Have I personally wronged you in some way?

You honestly expect me to accept Shia LaBeouf…This guy:

As the new Indiana fucking Jones?

I think not.

What’s next? Are you going to make Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII and IX with the entire case of ‘High School Musical’. How about ditching Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill and having their parts played by Hannah Montana and a full CGI Spongebob Squarepants.

Anyway, in case you haven’t got the point of this post yet…Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull sucks, and Shia LaBeouf sucks like a black hole.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

America, I have to warn you, we really are taking the first steps on a very slippery slope…and it is one hell of a fall to the bottom.

This week, ‘LittleBigPlanet’, possibly the biggest and most anticipated PS3 release of the year, was postponed and with Sony issuing a full recall of the game.


Because one of the licensed music tracks in the game contained a couple of verses from the Koran.

This shit has got to stop.

As I’ve mentioned before, the US Constitution gives us all the right to free speech, but it does not give us the right to not be offended. It’s a double-edged sword. It gives you the right to say whatever you want to say, but it also gives that same right to the people you disagree with.

Its not even as if this song from the game is even offensive…but here’s the kicker, it wouldn’t matter even if it was. Contrary to what a lot of people would like you to believe, it’s not actually illegal to offend anyone.

Here’s my suggestion. If LittleBigPlanet, or any game, movie or book for that matter offends you, don’t buy it.

Now, if you find this situation unbearable and can’t stand a videogame ‘blaspheming’ and don’t like living in a country where people offending you isn’t against the law…and as an immigrant myself I feel I’m eminently qualified to say this…feel 100% completely and totally free to fuck off back where you came from.

As I said at the start of this post, this really is the first step on a slippery slope. When it becomes ‘accepted’ that you can’t speak negatively about one thing…what’s next?

America is supposed to be built on freedom and the foundation of freedom is freedom of speech and information. Constantly having to censor ourselves, or being censored by others, is eroding those freedoms.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wake up one morning and find myself living in China.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I was reading through IGN’s Top 100 Games of all Time….and found myself wondering what kind of brain-dead retards made this list.

Oh, user created...that explains a lot.

Half Life 2 didn’t even break the top thirty, the original Zelda wasn’t even on the list….and the original Halo, one of the most boring, unoriginal shooters of all time scored so highly I don't even wanna think about it.

This list really shows just what a diverse bunch of people gamers are. Trying to rank the top 100 games of all time is like trying to rank the top 100 movies or books of all time. It just can’t be done because you’ll never reach a consensus.

It may be possible to rank the top 100 PC games of all time, or the top 100 Nintendo games of all time…but the top 100 cross-platform, cross-generation games of all time? Can’t be done.

Take the above. I don't like Halo because, while Halo was absolutely groundbreaking for console gamers, it was just 'another shooter' for PC gamers. In fact, it was an incredibly mediocre shooter for PC gamers with it's cut-and-paste locations and unimaginative weapons.

Here’s the thing, I played my first videogame at two years old back in 1983 and in my lifetime I’ve owned a ton of gaming systems and computers:

Acorn Electron

Binatone Pong

Commodore 64

Atari 2600


Sega Master System

Sega Genesis





Those are just the ones I’ve owned. If I expanded that list to include the computers and consoles I’ve actually played…I’ve used pretty much every console and home computer made since 1983.

So, it’s hardly surprising that my idea of the top 100 games of all time are a little different to a ten year old’s who cut his gaming teeth on a PS2 and first experienced Pacman on Xbox Live Arcade.

I remember what it was like to pump my entire week’s allowance into Ms. Pacman or Afterburner at the arcade, or stay up all night beating Double Dragon on the Master System. Today’s kids only know Pacman from their cellphones…and try explaining to a ten year old today why Double Dragon is awesome.

Then, you have games like Doom. They look absolutely awful and are extremely simplistic by today’s standards…but Doom basically defined the modern first person shooter. We wouldn’t have Call of Duty 4 today if it wasn’t for Doom…but someone who cut their teeth on Call of Duty, Doom is just another crappy iPod or cellphone game.

This list reminds me of a similar one I read a few years ago about the best, most imaginative weapons in first person shooters. The weapon that scored number 1? Halo's pistol.

A handgun with a low powered scope is the best, most imaginative FPS weapon of all time? I don't think so.

I can name two better from a single game. How about the freeze gun and miniaturizer from Duke Nukem 3D? At a time when FPS weapons were just pistols, shotguns, machineguns and rocket-launchers, Duke Nukem gives you a weapon that freezes your enemies solid (and then kick and smash them), and another that shrinks them down to mouse size and lets you stomp on them. Duke Nukem was also the first shooter that gave the player a jet-pack to allow them to fly and one of the absolute first to release a level editor with the game.

So Duke had innovative gameplay, imaginative weapons, great level design, the ability to create your own levels, had a list of 'firsts' as long as your arm...but didn't even get on the list, never mind score high on it.

Long story short, 'best ever' lists don't work when it comes to games because a huge portion of the people voting only have experience of the past few years of a forty year plus industry.

Missing the point a little...

So tonight Sunny asked me to put on the 360 so she could play GTA IV.

I was a little more than surprised, but I happily turned on the console and got her started. After showing her the basic controls (she just wanted to drive around and explore, not do the actual missions), I hand her the controller.

About ten minutes go by and I notice something. She’s not actually stealing any cars…she’s just wandering around aimlessly.

“Why don’t you steal a car?” I ask. “See some more of the city.”

“I just wanna walk around and see what’s what.” She replied.

“Ok, you do realize that Liberty City is based on New York City and is roughly the same size? If you wanna explore it on foot, it’s going to take a while.”

“Yeah, I know.” She says.

After a few minutes cajoling, I finally convince her to steal a car. Unfortunately it’s a high-powered sports car, it’s been raining heavily… and Sunny didn’t quite understand what I meant about the right trigger being ‘just like a gas pedal’. In other words, she slammed the button down, spun the wheels and fish-tailed into a crowd of pedestrians.

Eventually she gets the hang of it, and really starts to enjoy herself when I point out that it’s pretty much impossible to drive anywhere in GTA without crashing into something. A few minutes later, she’s on another foot tour.

“Steal another car.” I said.

“There’s none I like.” She said.

“What about that nice white one.” I say, seeing a car that’s based on a Dodge Challenger, one of Sunny’s all-time favorite cars.

“Nah, I don’t like white cars.” She replied.

“Why?” I asked, perplexed.

“They’re really hard to keep clean, they show dirt too easily.”

I didn’t know what else to say:

“Well, considering it’s going to end up upside down, on fire in a ditch within five minutes, I don’t guess it matters.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I don't get it.

Today, I finally put my Xbox online to set up a Live account. As a bit of an added bonus, for signing up I got a one month Gold I played a little online Uno.

Anyway, for the moment, getting the console online means taking the modem from the PC and setting it up on the other side of the room with lots of trailing wires all over the floor. Long story short, getting the 360 online needs a little planning ahead and won’t be left connected all the time.

I either need to spend a hundred bucks on a wireless adapter, or about fifty bucks for an adapter so I can use the 360 with my PC monitor, so I can move the console to my desk within 'wire range' of my router. Neither of which will be happening very soon. Maybe my birthday in January.

I also heard about the 360 ‘Memory Upgrade Program’, where if you bought the ‘arcade’ version 360 (the one without a hard-drive), you can get a hard drive on the cheap. So, long story short, when Microsoft get round to shipping it, I’ll get a 20gig HD and four months of Xbox Live Gold for about thirty bucks.

Anyway, for anyone who’s interested, I’ve put my gamercard up on the top right, so if any of my fellow gamer-bloggers feel like adding me as a friend, go ahead.

There was one thing I just don’t get.

I was having a browse and I watched a couple of TV show previews (It was all I could do. Without a HD yet, there wasn’t much I could download that would fit on my little 246mb memory card).

My question is…why are there so many Xbox and Xbox live advertisements actually on Xbox Live? I watched a couple of ‘shorts’ and a few movie previews…and they all ended with an Xbox advertisement.

What exactly do they expect those ads to do?

In order to see them you have to have an Xbox and a subscription to Xbox Live…do they think I’m going to run out and buy a second console? That’s like buying a movie on DVD, and finding it stuffed with trailers and ads for the movie you’ve just bought.


Apple Sucks! There...I said it.

Before I owned any Apple-brand hardware, their ads used to annoy me.

Since buying an iPod, their ads annoy the ever living fuck out of me.

You see, their main selling point for all their products is how easy they are to use and how they never crash or break.

I call shenanigans. They crash, they break and they’re just as unreliable as any Microsoft product.

My iPod has frozen up at least once or twice a month since I bought it. I’d try to play a song, I’d press play, and the screen would change to that song for a nanosecond before snapping back to the menu.

It was on, I could look at all my playlists…I just couldn’t play any music, which kinda defeats the purpose of carrying it.

The only way to fix it when it did that was to hook it up to the PC, start up iTunes and do a complete reset…meaning every bit of content I had on the iPod would go bye-bye…and I’d have to sit there and wait for everything to re-synch again.

“It just works?”

Bollocks. It’s just like every other piece of consumer electronics out there. It breaks, it crashes and it stops working for no reason.

However, what happened just now took the cake.

I was sitting on the couch playing Uno, when I decided that it was the perfect time to listen to this week’s Webcomics Weekly podcast while playing. One of the great things about a 360 is you can connect an mp3 player to one of its USB ports and stream music through it.

I like it because it puts my iPod on my surround sound speakers and charges the ipod at the same time.

So I turned on the PC so I could sync up the iPod. I hadn’t put this weeks episode of Webcomics Weekly onto the iPod yet.

I plugged it in, and instead of hearing the usual chime and iTunes recognizing the iPod like and old friend and uploading lots of nice podcasts to it, it wouldn’t recognize it at all. I checked the iPod and the battery was dead.

Now, this shouldn’t be a problem. You have to plug it in to synch it anyway and it can draw power from the 360 just as easily as it’s supposed to be able to do from my PC. Only the problem was the good people at Apple hadn’t figured on one thing:

When the iPod battery is out of juice, it won’t turn on via the power button. When it is turned off, plugging it into your computer will turn it on, but because it’s plugged in before it’s booted up, it won’t recognize that it’s plugged in, and won’t draw any power from the USB port.

At least mine won’t.

Great, Apple, you’ve designed a device that won’t charge when the battery is empty.

In the end I solved the problem, but it honestly made me laugh at the ‘ultra reliable, ergonomic and easy to use’ mantra Apple love to recite over and over in their TV ads..

To fix it I had to connect the iPod to the PC, wait for it to start up, then as soon as the screen showed ‘low power’, I had to disconnect it, then re-connect it in less than two seconds. If I took longer that two seconds and the iPod would turn off and I’d have to start all over again.

It took a few attempts, but I finally got it to recognize it was plugged in and got it to draw power.

“It Just Works!” My ass.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Assassin's Creed...."Don't Offend Anyone"

This week I spent my ex-cigarette money on a copy of Assassin’s Creed for the 360.

This game made me thoroughly confused. The only way I could explain it at first is that when the game was half done, they turned production over to the studio head’s idiot grandson. Either that, or they called a meeting and decided to smoke a shitload of crack to get ‘inspired’.

You see, when I first saw Assassin’s Creed demoed, I saw an assassination game set during the Crusades. Now that was a good idea, for the simple fact that the medieval middle-east is perfect for a little cloak-and-dagger gameplay…and it’s a setting that’s just never been used before.

Then, I saw the game in action and my jaw dropped. Not only was it stunningly gorgeous, it had an amazing combat system, some great AI and a ‘free running’ game mechanic (go do a google search for ‘free running’ or ‘parkour’ if you don’t know what that it).

Then I bought the game, started playing it, and within five minutes had the mother of all WTF moments.

You see, this game isn’t set in the Middle East during the crusades. It’s set in the not too distant future.

Here’s the basic storyline, without giving too much away):

You play a guy who gets kidnapped. Basically the bad guys are looking for some treasure and one of your long dead ancestors had information about where it is. The bad guys have a machine called an ‘Animus’ that lets you relive your ancestor’s memories which are passed on to you through your DNA. They’re forcing you to use this machine and relive part of your Ancestor’s life to get at the information about the treasure.

Why? Dear God, why?

So, while we have that same awesome game we all saw demoed at E3, right from the get go, the level or immersion and the overall story takes an almost fatal hit because right off the bat we’re being asked to accept one of the most ridiculous premises ever (Genetic memory? Maybe it does exist to let birds know to fly south for the winter…but having your entire bloodline’s memories in perfect detail stored in your genes? Come on!)

Secondly, we have this wonderfully rendered version of Damasus and Jerusalem…that has futuristic ‘glitches’ superimposed over it, you know, just to make sure we get thrown out of the experience every five minutes.

I just couldn’t figure it out. I mean, this ‘twist’ is something that’s almost universally hated, so surely someone during development would have said “Uh, guys? This ‘animus’ crap? Genetic memory? It sucks balls. Why don’t we just do a straight forward medieval assassination game?”

Then, two things made it become crystal clear.

The first was I saw an interview with one of the creators of Assassin’s Creed who went to great lengths to explain the sheer amount of effort they put in to make the game as historically accurate as possible, even thought the story is completely made up. The bad guys you assassinate are all real historical figures who were either killed or went missing around the time the game was set.

An awful lot of effort considering the average gamer doesn’t have a masters in Medieval history and the game is a self confessed work of fiction, right?

Then, I turned the game on today, and caught something that came up in the screen just after the first loading screen:

“Assassin’s Creed was made by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs”

DING! I get it!

Can I have “Going way too far and damaging your own game to cover your ass from a minority of religious crazies” for two-hundred, Alex?

It finally hit me. This game was set during the crusades. A full on Christian versus Muslim holy war. That’s bound to rattle a few cages, right? Fox news would have a field day with it.

Tonight on Fox News. A murder simulator that teaches your kids how to kill minorities and people of different religions. Could this lead to another 9/11? Tune in at ten!

Yeah, a game where you play a Christian who goes around killing Muslims or vice versa might draw a little negative attention, so being complete and total pussies, they decided to almost ruin a perfectly good game.

You see, this way, the character doesn’t actually kill anyone. He’s just watching something that happened hundreds of years ago. It’s also ‘historically accurate’, so this is no more offensive and a TV documentary on the Crusades.

Hey, if the Germans aren’t getting mad about all those historical World War II shooters, no one can get upset about this historical game from the Crusades. Oh, and did we mention that your character kills people on both sides of the war instead of just muslims?

Am I right?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Man DIY Rides Again....Again.

A few days ago, we had a day-long storm hit us. It wasn’t a particularly bad or violent storm, but it did rain heavily for over 15 hours. It was during this time I noticed a leak in our roof just outside our bedroom.

So today, I got Sunny to give Frank a call, and we set out to repair the roof.

Before I get started I want to make it clear that I’m not afraid of heights. No way. Not in the slightest. Heights don’t bother me a bit. I can look up at them all day and not get even the slightest twinge of fear!

When I’m climbing a rickety, unstable ladder to stand on a roof I’m not 100% sure will take my weight that has no hand rails or anything to stop my clumsy ass falling off said roof…I find it a fun, exhilarating experience…and not brown-trousers terrifying at all. .

It was so much fun! Especially when I was halfway up the ladder when the damn thing started to shimmy from side to side. I laughed and laughed when Frank nonchalantly pointed out that the ladder had a crack in it near the top.

“Gah, look at that.” He said. “This thing could just fold up at any second.”

I let loose with my Shaolin Warrior-Monk Cry of Manly Happiness, to let the world know I was enjoying every minute and wasn’t even slightly scared.

Yes, it’s true… the Shaolin Warrior-Monk Cry of Manly Happiness is very similar to the sound a five year old girl makes when someone throws a big spider on her…but it definitely was a Shaolin Warrior-Monk Cry of Manly Happiness… no matter what that lying bastard Frank says.

I made it onto the roof and started to unscrew the siding we’d need to remove. I did this mostly because it was a job I could do sitting down. You see, when you’re absolutely not terrified and completely comfortable, it’s just showing off to do the jobs that require you to stand up or walk near the edge.

In fact, the most brave and manly thing you can do when up on a roof is to lie down, spread your weight over as wide an area as possible, and softly weep while holding on so hard you’re leaving permanent fingerprints in the shingles. You see, most people aren’t nearly as at home in high places as I am, so acting like you’re terrified is a way to make them feel better.

We did the job. Well, I say ‘we’ did the job, I didn’t do much myself, mostly because of Frank.

You see, I could tell Frank was terrified by the way he walked around with the ease and comfort of a man in his own living room. So to make him feel better I just did as much as I could from the very center of the roof… flat on my stomach with my arms and legs splayed out… with my eyes tightly closed… thinking as hard as I could about my happy place.

Frank laughed once or twice, which just shows how me pretending to be scared helped him through his own terror. Yeah, he’s a total wuss, but he’s family, so what can you do?

Getting down the ladder was almost as fun as getting up it, because this time it involved dangling my legs out over the gaping, hungry, sucking void of empty space between me and the ground. Awesome!

I contemplated how totally not scared I was, thinking about how I wasn’t the least bit concerned about how one slip would see me plummeting towards the earth with enough time to write my Last Will and Testament and compose a witty, self-deprecating speech to be read out at my funeral (where the casket would be a weird shape because the doctors would be unable to remove the two-by-four I landed on from my anal cavity).

I got on the ladder and it started to shake uncontrollably again. Some lying bastards (mostly called Frank) would say this was down to me shaking with terror…but Frank’s always been a great big dirty fat liar anyway. If I was shaking, it was only because my muscles were unable to contain the sheer power contained within them.

I got to the ground, crying my Shaolin Warrior-Monk Cry of Manly Happiness a couple more times for good measure…which is absolutely nothing like the cry of a toddler who’s just dropped his ice-cream or lost his helium balloon…and I want to state for the record that I slipped and fell when I reached the ground, and certainly did not hug and kiss the ground and beg it never to leave me again.

So, long story short…I’m ultra brave and manly and fixed the roof. Frank is a big fat liar, who’s pants are on fire, so don’t listen to a damn word he says.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Powerful odors and other stories...

One of the big things I’d heard about quitting smoking is that your sense of smell and taste improve dramatically.

Having not smoked for well over a week now, I was beginning to think this was a myth…until I got out of bed this morning.

You see, I assumed that if my sense of smell and taste was going to improve, it was going to improve gradually. Not so.

Have you ever been on a plane or something and your ears pop…then a few hours later you yawn…and your hearing returns to normal so suddenly that everything is unbearably and painfully loud? That happened to me, only with taste and smell instead of hearing.

Basically, it’s like I woke up this morning with an almost Superhuman sense of smell and taste.

Now this can be a good thing (For example, the Chicken Ciabata sandwich I had for lunch was awesome)…but when it started raining and I let Buddy in the house, the smell of wet dog was so powerful it almost made me throw up.

It’s like the world has become booby-trapped overnight and I have to be on constant guard for unexpected smells.

We went to Walmart today and a woman was wearing so much perfume I could smell her coming from thirty yards away. This is not an exaggeration. When she passed by me, I thought I was going to choke.

Hopefully this will ‘normalize’ a little over the next few days and I’ll get used to it. Otherwise I’ll have to make myself a costume and use my new-found superhuman senses to fight crime.

Now I just need a name… Olfactory Man? The Sniffler?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Gaming for Non-Gamers

Not surprisingly, I’ve been writing a lot of gaming related posts lately. If you’re one of the people who normally turns up here, says “Not another bloody gaming post!” then leaves…don’t…at least not this time.

This is a gaming post, but it’s one written specifically for non-gamers.

I got the idea for this post when I was first trying out the new 360 when my parents were here. My Mum watched for a few minutes and asked:

“So…what exactly are you doing?”

I wasn’t sure what to say. It was all there on the screen. I was controlling Darth Vader and killing Wookies with a Lightsaber and very large rocks.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well…are you steering that guy or is he just following a path?”

I instantly had a flashback to the early 90’s when my Mum was telling my to let my four year old cousin play X-wing on the PC. I tried to explain that it was a complicated game that would be too difficult for him…and she answered “Don’t be stupid, just tell him which button to press!”

I tried to explain that it wasn’t as simple as that. For X-wing, 90% of the keys on the keyboard did something, not to mention the five separate buttons and the throttle on the joystick…but my mum had it firmly lodged in her head that all videogames basically boil down to pushing a button at the right time.

I think this is the number one reason there aren’t more games consoles in homes. Non-gamers have one of two reactions:

1) They look at a controller with it’s two thumb-sticks, D-Pad and twelve buttons and decide instantly that it’s way to complicated and not worth the effort.

2) More commonly, they assume that all games are incredibly simple exercises in pushing buttons that are boring no matter how pretty the eye candy.

From that, I can understand why a lot of people don’t play games. If they truly were that complicated, I wouldn’t bother…and if all games where as simple as just pushing buttons, they wouldn’t hold my interest either.

Let me talk about ‘learning to game’ for a few minutes, then I’ll go on to why you’d actually want to.

Here’s the deal. If you can drive a car, use a phone or work a TV remote, you can learn to play a videogame. The problem is that when you look at a controller with all those buttons, you’re not seeing them ‘in context’, meaning it looks far more intimidating and complicated than it really is.

Think of it this way. The average controller has a couple of thumb-sticks, a D-Pad and anywhere from six to eight buttons. That’s a lot right? Well, yes…but not compared to the average TV remote.

My TV remote has exactly 46 buttons on it. I also have a separate remote for the DVD recorder and another one for the surround sound system. In other words, if you have a TV you use a controller with around five times the buttons of a control pad…yet you don’t find it intimidating.

Long story short, I’m not saying it’s super-easy, but if you pick a game a persevere for an hour or so, while you won’t suddenly be an expert gamer, you’ll be comfortable with the controls…and everything you learn in one game translates to most others.

The other thing to point out is that while controllers have all those buttons, not every game actually uses all of them. While there are some complicated games out there, there are also plenty that are nice and simple that anyone can just pick up and play.

So now we’ve talked about the mechanics of it, why would you want to game?

The problem here is that most non-gamers seem to be stuck in the 80’s when it comes to their ideas aboutgaming technology. They assume all games are about as deep as Space Invaders or Pac-Man.

While there still are a good few simplistic, button-mashers out there, with today’s technology and production values. it’s better to think of it not so much as buying a ‘game’ as buying an ‘experience’.

Games like Bioshock, Mass Effect, Half-Life and Oblivion are incredibly well written, atmospheric experiences that would be just as at home on the Silver Screen or at the top of the New York Times Best-Seller list as they are on a games console.

If the last game you played was Pac-Man, it might be difficult to think of videogames in these kinds of terms, but think of them as movies or novels that you play the leading role in. They’re worlds that you not only get to play in, but worlds youbecome part of and emotionally invested in.

Again, it can be difficult to imagine getting ‘emotionally invested’ in a videogame if your only gaming experience is Pac-Man…but it’s no different than becoming emotionally invested in a good book or movie

For example, Bioshock has an absolutely astounding plot-twist that would make M. Night Shyamalan crap his pants and feel like a complete amateur. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who’s not played it yet…but it made my jaw hit the floor and I shouted ‘NO FUCKING WAY!!!’ with my Mother-In-Law in the room.

Then, when Alyx Vance got seriously wounded in Half-Life Episode 2, it came as a real shock…and not because I thought a major character might get killed off, but because the game had made me care about Alyx and what happens to her.

Of course, the other major problem right now is the sheer number of fame-hungry morons who are using videogames as a nice soft target to attack in the name of ‘morality’ and ‘protecting the children’ in order to get on TV or secure support from uninformed voters.

I could go into this myself, but I’ve done that ad nauseum in the past, and the whole point of this post was summed up perfectly by Wil Wheaton in his PAX keynote speech. So to end today, here’s an excerpt:

(Talking about his Son’s experience with Grand Theft Auto 3)

“…he did, however, get emotionally invested in the characters and their stories. He was sad when the game was over and felt a sense of loss because he wouldn’t get to spend any more time with them.

I had an identical reaction when I finished San Andreas. I knew these characters, I cared about these characters and I was genuinely sad when their stories came to an end.

I frequently feel this way when I finish a long novel and occasionally when I come to the end of a movie trilogy…but never so acutely as I did after about a hundred and fifty hours of San Andreas.

So whenever I hear one of these aforementioned douchebags pontificate about how dangerous and anti-social and devoid of redemming quialities videogames are, I get a little stabby, because these games that we love to play so much are way, way more than the simplistic bloodbaths mass-media likes to portray them as during sweeps.

Just as the multiplayer games are social activities, so are the single player games narrative works of art, and they deserve to be treated that way.”

So, in conclusion, if you’re not a gamer, find someone who is and ask them to show you the ropes. If you don’t, you’re just cheating yourself out of an awesome experience.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Revenge of the 'tards

With Guitar Hero in my near future, last night, just for shitz ‘n’ giggles I decided to hop online and find track lists for each version.

Somehow, I took a wrong turn in the back streets of Googleville and found myself at a Youtube video of an 8 year old beating Psycho Freakout on expert.

I watched the video, and I have to say I was a little impressed. Yeah, I know it’s just a game and the kids not really playing an actual guitar…but whatever way you look at it, that kind of hand-eye coordination on an 8 year old is impressive.

Then I made the mistake of reading the comments.

Here’s my theory:

People of normal intelligence go to high school. People of low intelligence have ‘special needs’ classes at high school. People of really low intelligence go to dedicated special needs schools. The people who can’t handle the special needs schools go to special ‘centers’ where they spend all day gluing macaroni to construction paper while wearing football helmets to stop them hurting themselves when they head-butt the walls.

…and the people who don’t have the mental faculties for the ‘macaroni and construction paper’ school? They’re taken to a special room where they comment on Youtube videos all day.

If you can’t be bothered clicking the above link to the Youtube video, let me give you some highlights. I swear these are totally unaltered and just cut and pasted:

“i bet hes obbsest cus he can play witout lokin”

Yeah, and you’re obviously not obsessed with spelling, grammar or the English Language.

its not real notice how it never shows his hands and the tv at the same time and also if you caught a glimpse of the tv and him playing at the same time then it didnt sync up esspecially at the end you didnt even see his arm move when the 59 notes came up at the end of the song so hes fake ...oh and another thing if you look close the person put the cam down at the frets maybe to catch a bearing on the song. think about that. in lamense terms that was HORSESHIT!

Even if it is fake…so what? The kid’s eight years old. Oh, and in your last sentence, ‘lamense terms’…is that meant to be layman’s terms? I also love how you end with the big ‘HORSESHIT!’ as though you’ve just uncovered some outrageous, devilish conspiracy that everyone should be outraged by. Congrats…you managed to see through that eight-year old’s dastardly deception. Forgive me if I don’t think this is as big a deal as you think it is.

“Hope he fucking dies thats not fair hes gay anyway idk how good he is fuck him in the ass”

How does an oxygen-stealing waste of organs like you even exist? How do you even have the free time to waste putting up pointless shit like that comment? I mean, you see a fucking eight year old playing a game…and decide that’s enough provocation to wish him dead, call him a homosexual and then suggest sodomizing him. Honestly, go outside, make some friends…or at least spend some time with real people so you can get a sense of what a complete douchebag you are.

“u suck ass kid get a life my dick can play better than u could ever play bitch try playing one solo on real guitar its so easy but you cant play it cuz you don't know how fucker!”

Translation: “I’m an 18 year old who knows, like, four chords on a real guitar! However, because I’m a pale, friendless virgin, I’m going to take out my frustration on a random eight year old over the internet…because randomly insulting a stranger using the secure anonymity of the internet makes me a really tough bad-ass that could totally get a girlfriend if I wanted one. Yeah! I can totally play the first few notes of ‘Axel F’, which makes me a real guitar hero!”

Anyway…I left out all the usual ‘get a life’ comments (you know, because most 8 year olds are running multinational corporations instead of ‘wasting time’ playing videogames). Also, I just can’t figure out these people who think that someone who makes something and puts it online is a loser with no life…yet them spending their time to randomly abuse those people is perfectly okay.

I think the world would be a much better place if Randall Munroe of XKCD had his way:


Ok, so far, I have three games for my Xbox.

I bought Star Wars: The Force Unleashed when I bought the console, bought Dead Rising nice and cheap a few days later (God Bless pre-owned games) and finally just a couple days ago, I took the money I’d normally use to buy cigarettes for the week and bought John Woo’s Stranglehold.

Heh… it’s the one good thing about the process of quitting smoking. Not only do I suddenly have more money because I’m not buying cigs…I can file games under ‘quit smoking therapy’. They keep my mind occupied, give me something to do with my hands and blowing stuff up in a game is a great way to work out that irritability.

Anyway, today I’d like to talk about Stranglehold for a minute, just because it was a pleasant surprise for me.

You see, I’m a life-long Star Wars fan, and after seeing the commercials and following all the tech-demos that have been popping up over the past year or so, buying Force Unleashed was a bit of a no-brainer.

After playing it, however, my overall impression was just ‘meh’. It’s a good game, but not a great game. It has some amazing set-pieces and groundbreaking new technology…but the story was incredibly predictable and there was nothing truly earth-shattering about it (although crashing an Imperial Star Destroyer with the Force did come close). While I do like it and I’m glad I own it…I’m wish I’d waited and bought it later when it goes Platinum.

Dead Rising is pretty much the whole reason I wanted an Xbox in the first place… and I almost literally jumped for joy when I saw it on the pre-owned rack for fifteen bucks.

The reason I’m writing this post, however, is that neither of these games even comes close in pure enjoyment terms to Stranglehold.

I bought Stranglehold because we took my Dad to Circuit City so he could buy one of those RCA mini-camcorders like mine. I had twenty dollars in my wallet so just went to look at the games while we were there. In the twenty-dollar price range, it came down to a choice between Saint’s Row (a GTA clone) and Stranglehold. I decided on Stranglehold simply because I’m planning on getting GTA4 at some point in the future…and I liked ‘Hardboiled’, the John Woo movie this game is a sort-of sequel to.

I put it on, played the first few levels and thought it was just an okay third-person shooter. A day later (after many hours of Dead Rising) I put it back on and after getting past what were essentially just the tutorial levels… I was completely blown away.

Stranglehold makes you actually feel like you’re in a totally bad-ass, over-the-top Action Movie. This is the game that ‘Enter the Matrix’ or ‘Path of Neo’ should have been. Think of every awesome moment from every awesome action movie you’ve seen and multiply it by a hundred and you’re getting close to what Stranglehold is like.

The part that really made me sit up and take notice was a part where I slid down a banister in slow motion, shooting twin pistols at the bad guys as I went, then, still in slow motion, I leapt from the end of the banister, landed on my stomach a desert cart…and rolled the full length of the restaurant, shooting bad guys the entire time in a hail of bullets and exploding vases, tables and chairs.

What more can you ask for?

Well, I’ll tell you…

After fighting through a multi-story car park, taking cover behind concrete pillars that slowly get destroyed Matrix-style by incoming bullets…then fighting my way through a bad-guy’s penthouse…I finally had the guy cornered…and he fired a burst at the outer window…and leapt out with a manic cackle.

WTF? I asked myself…until the helicopter came into view.

Running for cover as he opened up with a rocket-launcher, I realized this was going to be difficult. I needed almost pin-point aiming, but needed to be moving constantly.

Then I noticed the chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

Let’s just say you’ve never experienced pure gaming joy until you’ve blasted away at a helicopter with a machine gun in one hand …while holding on to a swinging chandelier with the other as glass and fragments of furniture explode all around you.

I have to say I’m normally not a massive fan of shooting games, and I’m certainly not a huge fan of shooting games you play with a control pad instead of a mouse and keyboard…but at twenty bucks, Stranglehold is a game that should be in every gamer’s collection.

It’s a big chunk of awesome covered with kick-ass brand syrup, OMG sprinkles and served in The Ultimate Bowl of Ultimate Badassery.

In other words…it’s good. Buy it, rent it, borrow it…but play it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Shopping list

Last night I was looking at an Xbox game review online and something struck me:

Why don’t my games look that good?

Of course, I realized what it was just a few seconds later. On my PC I’m looking at a HD screenshot on a HD monitor. When I’m actually playing a game, I’m playing on my plain old regular TV. As a result, the picture’s a lot fuzzier and ‘muddier’.

Then something from the depths of time spoke in the back of my head.

Hey! When you got your new monitor, someone commented on your review, saying they’d bought it for their 360 and it worked great!

I had a ‘eureka’ moment. It would be no big deal to set up the 360 on my desk next to my PC. My monitor has both VGA and HDMI inputs…and this would have the added bonus of putting the 360 within ‘cable range’ of my router.

In other words, for the price of a HDMI cable, I could play my games in wide-screen Hi-Def, save a hundred bucks because I wouldn’t need a wireless adapter…and not have to fight with Sunny about who’s turn it is to use the TV.

Awesome, right?


I forgot one thing. The sound. My PC monitor is just that, a monitor, with no speakers. My PC speakers have a regular headphone jack, and my surround system…the one speaker system I have in the house with RCA inputs, would be back across the room next to the TV.

So it basically comes down to a choice. Leave things how they are and deal with a low-rez picture and no Xbox Live…or buy a forty dollar cable, get a nice sharp HD picture, Xbox Live and no sound…unless I want to also buy a fairly serious speaker system.

Yeah…I just don’t think Guitar Hero would be all that much fun without any sound…don’t you?