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The Gaming Rant 9

May 25, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

Contains strong language, drug references and sexual references. This article is satire and does not reflect the views of TheSixthAxis or myself. Actually this week they pretty much are my views. Sue me, bitches.

I thought we’d start this week by summarising what we’ve accomplished in the first couple of months of this column. So far, we’ve slagged off most of the major games developers and publishers (a quick skim reveals Sony, Microsoft, Activision, Sega, Polyphony Digital, Square Enix, London Studio, Infinity Ward, Future Publishing, EA and Crytek so I think we’ve covered most of the bases there), PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Brent Gocke the FPQA lead for Sony in the North America region, most people who play video games with a special emphasis on the TSA staff and Modern Warfare 2 players (they are both scum so it is safe to lump them into the same category), DRM advocates, OtherOS naysayers (also known as people who aren’t interested in personal freedom), European air traffic control, Germans, Belgium, most parents in the western world (notice how I’m assuming most parents are stupid there? Well they are), everyone who uses eBay, the iPhone and iPad, Natal and the PlayStation Move vibrator. We have also proposed the introduction of FPDs (first person drinkers) and I compared myself to Hitler.

All of which made me realise that these articles have been pretty weak and don’t contain nearly enough inappropriate content. Last week it was suggested in the comments that we throw in some Madeline McCann jokes, and I thought to myself, yeah, I just wish whoever kidnapped that annoying little brat had gagged up the parents as well so we didn’t have to listen to them whining every 5 minutes. Of course, that was never gonna happen, because we all know it was the parents who did it anyway.

Can you imagine the fallout if, instead of them raping and killing her, that they had just waited a few years then bought their teenage daughter a copy of Call of Duty? You can bet they would be on TV saying it was like buying her her first shot of whisky and calling for all video games to be banned. Throw in some crying and a highly charged emotional appeal to the public for good measure. Then a few months later The News of The World exclusively reveals that the parents were actually West & Zampella’s bastard love children and were in a clandestine pact to put CoD in the hands of as many underage kids as possible to get round the age rating laws. Yeah, that sounds like typical parents these days alright. Assholes.

An Unlucky Strike

Right, let’s get this out of the way first. I WANT A FUCKING CIGARETTE. CAPS INTENDED.

On Sunday afternoon, I had smoked 13 cigarettes by 3pm and decided enough was enough, threw my ashtrays, lighters and last smoke on a hidden corner of the window sill and decided to be done with it.

Let’s not be under any illusions here though: I love smoking and would recommend it to anyone as a great way to relax, relieve boredom, socialize with like-minded smokers on the street*. Quitting is like losing a dear friend, or your favourite hobby. I quit for one reason and one reason alone: money. Smoking a pack a day in Norway costs approximately £240 per month, and money has gotten tight lately after I bought that island I mentioned a few weeks ago, so I had a choice: feed my smoking habit that has given only pleasure, reduced my daily stress level, had no side effects on my health and much like alcohol actually led me to making new friends; or feed my video game addiction that has ruined my life, drained my wallet, kept me socially isolated, increased my violent tendencies and is a perfect example of why my parents should have monitored how long I was playing for. Quitting smoking was therefore the obvious choice: for £240 I can buy, well, erm, a lot of video games every month, which as a general rule of thumb I’ll play once then never touch again.

Smokers, I call you to arms. We aren’t supposed to admit this, but come on, cigarettes taste good don’t they? Just picture yourself now, ingesting the smooth, rich, well-rounded full-bodied finely roasted taste of a Lucky Strike, puffing it out and surrounding yourself in a beautiful haze of fog. You sit back in satisfaction and say, ahh yes, this truly is a great day to be a smoker!

So, I realise of course, that I have disappointed all of you out there who indulge in my hobby too. I can assure you that as soon as my financial situation improves I will be right back on those fags faster than a cheetah on Speed. Keep the faith in me gentlemen and ladies, I will return to form as soon as my personal global economic crisis permits. Consider my temporary abstinence as emergency austerity measures.

What was it like to quit? Fucking horrible. By the time you’ve read this I’ll have been clean for 5 days (or, realistically speaking, I’ll have gone down to Shell at 1am to get some fags like normal). I knew it would be hard, but for anyone considering starting smoking let me just say that getting 4,000 chemicals out of your body including ammonia, formaldehyde, arsenic, butane, hydrogen cyanide, lead, mercury, vinyl chloride, methane, carbon monoxide and not least nicotine – all of which are present in every puff – is something that had me crawling the walls, going to bed, getting up, pacing around, hitting my desk, binge eating, taking tranquilizers to cheat and eventually a quite nasty bout of depression and some crying on day 3 that got me quite worried. The craving is almost insatiable and it’s almost impossible to re-focus your mind on anything else. Just now on my 5th day I am starting to feel comfortable writing about it without too much temptation to light up. Trust me, you don’t want to go through this unless you have to.

So for most of the last few days, my conversation with everyone has been pretty much the same:

“Hey Katy how’s it going?”

“I want a cigarette, fuck off”

Succinct and to the point I feel.

My therapist on Tuesday told me I was ‘deflecting from my true issues’ (it’s somewhat normal to have a therapist in Norway – if you’re a crazed psychopath bitch like me). No, really Sherlock? Fuck me did they pay you to tell me that? Maybe it’s because I WANT A FUCKING CIGARETTE! CAPS INTENDED! (cruise control for awesome)

Why do people always cite health as a reason to quit smoking? Chocolate is bad for you, alcohol is bad for you, coffee is bad for you, I don’t see people bitching at me to quit those. Yes, if you smoke a pack a day for life you have a 50% probability of cutting your lifespan by 14 years. What’s your point? Do I want to be sitting in an adult diaper in a pool of my own piss and excrement when I’m 90, unable to remember my name much less operate Gran Turismo 5 which will have just been released after some unexpected delays to support the new 3rd generation holographic displays and sex gloves? No, I don’t, I want to be in a blissful state of death before that happens. People are living too long anyway because we’ve artificially tricked out everyone’s average lifespan with drugs and other medical interventions. Cigarettes are just nature’s way of restoring the balance. And by nature, I mean Marlboro – who I believe co-invented nature in an alliance with Microsoft and Google. Patents pending.

Why would you want to quit something that both gives you pleasure and helps to ensure you won’t have to go through the Alzheimers years? Surely it’s a win-win situation?*

Mickey/Mouse: Postal Service

And so with the trauma of my week outlined above in mind, you can imagine the toll that the events which followed took on me.

It started when I went to pick up Split/Second: Randomly Appended Word Nobody Uses and Red Dead Redemption from two different stores in the mall.

Hitler: “Hi, I pre-ordered Split/Second: Last-Minute Word Added By Marketing To Sound Cool”

Man in GameStop: “Oh, we don’t have that in because there’s been a postal strike. We have Red Dead Redemption though.”

Hitler: “Hm… I pre-ordered that from Platekompaniet.”

I walk around the corner.

Hitler: “Hi, I pre-ordered Red Dead Redemption.”

Man in Platekompaniet: “Oh, we don’t have that because there’s been a postal strike.”

They didn’t have Split/Second: Unnecessary Word Which Just Makes The Title Longer either. So I walk to Spaceworld.

Hitler: “Let me guess, you don’t have Red Dead Redemption because of the postal strike.”

Man in Spaceworld: “Oh, yes we do – but only for the 360.”

Hitler doesn’t want it for the 360. Hitler wants it for PS3. Hitler knows that although the 360 version is vastly superior in every way because Rockstar are lazy gits who are too busy smoking cigarettes to do a proper port (can I have one?), Hitler (who for convenience is now a woman) likes to keep all her games on one platform. Usually, the one that sucks the least.

Hitler: “Do you have Split/Second: Something To Make It Sound Even Faster?”

Man in Spaceworld: “Yep!”

I stand there for a few moments assessing the predicament. These three shops are all within 90 seconds’ walk from each other. How in the name of Benson & Hedges can the postman deliver product A to store 1, product B and product A-360 to store 3, and nothing to store 2, when I’ve ordered product B from store 1 and product A from store 2 and nothing from store 3. Stephen Hawking didn’t answer his cellphone to help me decipher that, so only careful thought over a nice cigarette would allow me to unravel this problem as I put my Blue Toad detective skills to work! If I didn’t get these two games today, there was going to be…..a MUUUUUURRRRDAAHHHH!!

Long story short, I got it all sorted out, on the day, with some deft negotiating and a dollop of white lies. What? You know what addicts are like, they will lie to get their fix. This was an emergency situation, cut me some slack.

Split/Second: Something Something Something AWESOME! Steering wheel support

There was a time – again before I bought that island – when I had more money than sense. Now I have more video games than money, when counted in pennies. And a £400 steering seat and wheel. I love driving games, they are my favourite genre. My mouth watered at the prospect of Split/Second: Advertising Trollspeak, Blur, SBK X and ModNation Racers all in the same month – although we’ll come to that latter insult to the human race in a few moments.

So you might imagine then, that when I bust out £50 on a new racing game for a current-gen platform that presumably cost many millions of greenbacks to produce, that they might actually bother to support a pretty bog-standard Logitech steering wheel and pedal set. After all, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, GRID, Pure (which incidentally is produced by the same studio), Dirt 2, Burnout Paradise, Need For Speed ProStreet, Need For Speed Shift, hell even Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing and MotorStorm Pacific Rift work fine on it, just to name some of the games I’ve played through with it – although I wouldn’t recommend using a sim wheel for those last two unless you also enjoy poking your eyes out with toothpicks. In this day and age, steering wheel support is a given, right?

Well, no, because it would appear our favourite prophylactic-eared friend has struck again by accidentally omitting this particular feature. Which for those of us with more gaming peripherals than furniture, makes it kinda useless.

What kind of moronic software developer comes up with a wicked driving game and then says, I know what will be a good idea, let’s leave out support for the most fundamental and natural control mechanism for the object the player is controlling. It’s like releasing Modern Warfare 2 on consoles without mouse support. Oh. Erm. Well ok, it’s like releasing EyePet without a motion sensor device. Hm. Ok hold on hold on I’ve got this: it’s like releasing ModNation Racers without a knife to practice slitting your wrists with while you’re waiting for the loading screens. There, nailed it (you only get the knife in the Special Edition).

With this epic failure, Split/Second: No Wheel Support gets exclusive access to the same elite league as just two other PS3 “classics”: Fuel and Anarchy: Rush Hour. Well done.

*golf clap for Black Rock*

ModNation Racers: Part 1

Phwoar. And I thought Damnation was bad.

I know 99% of the world does currently disagree with me on this somewhat sensitive point, but you may remain quiet now as I extoll the merits of my argument that ModNation Racers is about as entertaining as watching paint dry, as skill-based as satisfying a woman (hell, even I know that is based purely on the luck of which woman you pull), and as conducive to online play as an orchestra of Modern Warfare 2 players all singing YMCA by the Village People to their webcams in unison.

While United Front Games’ unfortunate pantie-shield accident – which has now been packaged and sold to unsuspecting casual gamers as entertainment – will no doubt be patched up over a period of months with many thicker towels and wings to keep it more stable, I don’t think less than exactly slightly over 95% of people who have had to disinfect their PS3s after trying this particular product would disagree that this is in fact one of the worst games ever to disgrace our shelves as gamers, with the worst online experience of any PS3 game, period (haha, get it? Period? Never mind)

Their first mistake was marketing this game as a kart racer. It’s not a kart racer. It is in fact a game of chance. It’s a game where you hold down R2, occasionally press left and right on the extraordinarily wide and nearly always gently curving roads, and hope that some rocket or other miscellaneous unavoidable weapon more potent than a Russian nuke peppered in chilis doesn’t send you spiralling to the back of the pack. If it does though, don’t worry, because if you’re in career mode – and believe me, you will be in career mode because the online is more broken than a BP clean-up operation – the rubber band AI is so harsh that it would be quicker to just go back to the main menu and toss a coin to determine the outcome of each race. Actually it wouldn’t, because going back to the main menu does actually take over an hour.

“Oh, we do some really clever things to keep the filesize down, and some pre-rendering bla bla”, to probably slightly misquote the developers. Alright, well let’s look at the facts shall we? The graphics in MNR are shit – sorry I meant “simple” – and I don’t see God of War 3 or Final Fantasy XIII taking 2 minutes to pre-load every scene, do you? Nor do they have the mandatory 4GB install that MNR has, in fact they have no install at all in both cases. So, I think, if that is the best you can do, you should pack up your PS3s, take them back to GAME and quit coding while you’re ahead.

Now I know some uninformed plebs are going to write in the comments that it’s all to do with keeping the filesize down when online. It’s not. The level file sizes are dead small because they just contain co-ordinates. The textures and 3D models are all stored on the hard disk, and due to low polygon count (that’s a euphemism for shite graphics) don’t take up much space as a 3D model is basically just a list of vertices and some diffuse and specular lighting information. The textures are also very small in this game. Some arguments about pre-compositing were thrown around, because of the uber customization available. Sorry, but since when did a machine with 7 usable SPE cores need to pre-composite textures that are probably no bigger than 256×256 each? It doesn’t. Plain and simple: this is poor programming by UFG.

So, what is it actually doing during those loading screens? And why does it love 40% and 85% so much? I think, that they didn’t figure out how to save tracks onto the disk, and also they didn’t know how to save them on their own servers. Instead they wrote all the track co-ordinates down on a piece of paper, and every time someone around the world starts a game, it connects to their server and an operator quickly types in all the co-ordinates and sends them to the player. Think about it, it makes sense: not only does it explain the loading times, but also why the online play is so screwed up. Their connections are overloaded from sending career mode tracks down the wire. The 40% and 85% parts are where they stop to pour a cup of tea or if another operator has to borrow the piece of paper with the track co-ordinates on for a different player.

Controlling this game is like trying to solve the Vulcan game of Kal-toh while skiing downhill blindfolded. On banana peels. This game doesn’t do subtle. It does left 90 degrees, right 90 degrees and forwards. If you’re very gentle with the controller you might be able to squeeze out the odd 45 degree trick. The karts feel like they are hovercrafts floating 6 inches above an ice rink with invisible curling players scrubbing the track constantly in front of you.

We’ve established then that the loading times are awful, the graphics are awful, the track design is awful, there is hardly any skill involved in winning and that the controls suck. The cut scenes are boring as hell too. Overall I’d have to say I’ve had more entertainment picking scabs at an autopsy (it was a weird day, don’t ask).

Unfortunately I’m running out of print space, so next week I’ll come to the diabolical sham that is ModNation Racers’ online play. Last week I said the game’s name rhymed with Castration Razors and now I know why: if I was a guy and I’d bought this, castration as a form of self-cleansing might be an option right now.

Epilogue

Steve Pope (http://www.thesixthaxis.com/2010/05/25/2-hrs-of-killzone-1-line-of-cocaine) – the psychologist named after his penchant for touching little children then blaming the subsequent personality disorders they develop on video game addiction – was a lucky sod this week because I didn’t have space to slam him down into the gutter where he belongs. Fear not, however, I know many of you out there are huge fans of his after this week, so rest assured that a finely-crafted piece of visceral about him will be forthcoming in next week’s column. Steve, you are now Kill on Sight. I can’t kill you with my priest though because that’d be a bit ironic. In the meantime, let me just say that I’m personally glad 2 hours of Killzone 2 substitutes for a line of cocaine because it really helped me and my kids get off cocaine and onto something cheaper. Secondly, please remember that my views won’t kill you, but I might if you piss me off enough.

* Smoking causes emphysema, lung cancer, makes your fingernails yellow, your house yellow, your clothes and breath stink, increases stress and anxiety, interferes with your daily routine, increases the chance your teeth will fallout by a factor of 2.5, makes you out of breath when walking far or exercising, increases your blood pressure, makes you cough constantly and costs a fortune. Do not begin to smoke. If you would like help to quit smoking, I found www.whyquit.com to be extremely motivational during my withdrawal period and a good distraction. It takes about 72 hours for the nicotine to be metabolized with a half-life of 2 hours.

Review: Catan

May 19, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

A board and card game re-invented on PS3. Sounds like a recipe for boredom, right? Wrong. This game is excellent.

Catan is a 4-player board game of building and resource management. The aim is to be the first to reach 10 victory points – or VPs – before your opponents. The board is arranged as a grid of hexagonal tiles, each with a randomly assigned number and resource type, with port tiles around the outside. Players build settlements and cities on the intersections of tiles and roads on edges. A roll of the dice at the start of each player’s turn results in the acquisition of resources from any tiles with a number matching the dice throw to any players who have settlements or cities on th

Deskohraní 08s4 230 - Settlers of Catan (card ...

Board game version of Catan

e tile corners, in the form of playing cards. You then use these cards to construct and upgrade.

There are five resource types – brick, lumber, wool, grain and ore – and four things to build: settlements, cities, roads and development cards. A settlement is worth 1 VP and a city is worth 2; settlements must be upgr

aded to cities. Development cards are one of five types of special card, giving you the option of building two roads, stealing one type of another player’s resource, gaining 1 free VP and so on.If someone rolls a 7, anyone with 8 or more cards has to discard half of them (rounded up), but then has the opportunity to move the Robber, a special chip on the board which, when placed on a tile, prevents any players from acquiring resources from that particular tile. After moving the Robber you can choose one of the players with buildings on the affected tile to steal a single random resource from. There is also a development card called Soldier which lets you move the Robber.

That is the basic gist of it, how does it play? Well, superbly. I was fortunate to get a free copy of this and I would never have bought it based on the game description, but I quickly discovered this game is crammed with subtle nuances and strategy.

At the start of the game each player has the opportunity to place 2 settlements and 2 roads (in the player order 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1, with the players being decided at the start by rolling the dice). Immediately strategy comes into play. Do you go for the rare resources? Do you try and straddle tiles with the most likely dice roll numbers (for example, there are more ways of rolling an 8 than a 3), or do you try to monopolize a single resource?

Monopolizing a resource is a clever ploy for two reasons: firstly, if you have four of a resource you can trade it in for one of any other kind of resource. Secondly, if you own a port you can trade in three of a source for one of any other kind, or if you own a special “2:1” port, you can trade two of a specific resource for one of any other kind. On top of that, you can trade with other players, which is a core feature of the game.

Trading works brilliantly. A negotiation screen allows you to specify what you want and what you will give in return. Other players can accept, or negotiate by placing their own demands instead. This can be used in many ways: you can specify just what you want and see what the others will offer; or if another player wants say grain in

exchange for lumber, you can require him to give 2 lumber, or 1 lumber and 1 brick for the single grain. The cycle of negotiation can go on for a while (up to the time limit specified when creating the game) until the players come to agreement or agree to disagree. Trading happens on almost every round; if more than one player agrees to a trade, the initiator can choose who to trade with.Tactical placing of settlements and roads, clever positioning of the Robber, smart trading and use of ports, thoughtful use of development cards, tactical resource monopolization, and blocking of trades if a player is getting too close to victory are all essential.

Upgrading a settlement to a city doubles the resources you acquire from neighbouring tiles. You can also have more than one settlement or city on different corners of the same tile for even greater multipliers. As a twist, there has to be at least two roads between any two settlements or cities, which means judicious placement of settlements can also prevent your opponents from expanding on the map, as settlements have to be placed adjacent to one of the player’s own roads. Finally, you can only have a maximum of 5 settlements, so you need to choose the right time to upgrade to cities.

If you have the most number of Soldier cards exposed with a minimum of 3, you earn the Largest Army bonus; if you have a road with a minimum length of 5 tiles and it is the longest of all the players’ roads, you earn Longest Road. Both of these are worth 2 VP, but if an opponent builds a larger army or road, the bonus is stolen by that player. Since only 10 VP is required to win, keeping control of these is also very important, as well as deciding whether to focus on army and road building, or standard play.

Graphically, the game is functional with 3 skins to choose from. It looks pleasant eno

ugh and does its job. There are only two songs which grate pretty quickly but you can always turn the music off.The learning curve is pretty steep and the tutorial is a bit of a slog; the hardest part is remembering which resources you need for which items, though fortunately there is a hint sheet with this and other information accessible from within the game. On my first 10 minutes of the tutorial I thought the game was going to be trivial and boring, but once you get further into it you quickly realize it is a tactical masterpiece.

Playing against the AI is decent enough, but this game is really designed to be played online, and it really is amazingly addictive. A game lasts quite a long time, from 45 to 90 minutes depending how the board develops, so don’t expect to play in quick 10 minute bursts. The online options are completely configurable in every way, even down to whether the dice is weighted. Other players can of course see these options before joining. The multiplayer includes a special multiplayer cursor which players can optionally use to suggest trades or tiles to other players, or opponents to target. Voice chat is bundled in and there are some shortcut text message keys for quick comments. A

ll very well-designed.Unfortunately, there is no way to create a private match online, so if you have 3 friends to invite and the slots fill up, you’re done for. Althoug

h you can play with less than four players, the game is by far at its best with a full house. Much more worryingly, there is no local multiplayer and this is really a great shame.Pros:

  • Absolutely brilliant strategy game
  • Well-designed and polished throughout
  • Highly customizable online play
  • Excellent value for money

Cons:

  • No offline multi-player
  • Steep learning curve

If Catan sounds tactical, it is, if it sounds boring, it isn’t. This is probably one of the best uses of £4 you can find on PSN. The only reason I haven’t given this a 10 is because of the local multi-player. Catan is so addictive just writing about it has made me want to have another go. Even if you’re not usually into board games, it’s hard to imagine that anyone who has ever played a Tycoon, Theme, C&C, Dune or other RTS-type game wouldn’t like this. For the money, what’s not to like?

9/10


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Review: Need For Speed Shift Exotic Racing Pack

May 19, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

DLC add-ons that add substantial content don’t get enough review coverage. So, I decided to have a look at one of the recent releases: the Need For Speed Shift Exotic Racing Pack.

AR8C-Competizione

The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione – a car enthusiast’s wet dream

What do you get for your 799 pennies? Quite a bit actually:

  • A new tier in career mode with a total of 306 stars to earn
  • Four new tracks for offline and online
  • 7 new cars

The cars are the BMW M1 Procar, Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, Acura NSX, Gumpert Apollo, McLaren MP4-12C, Maserati GranTurismo S (yes, I misread it too), and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Stirling Moss. Slightly strange choices for a supercar pack – especially the Acura – but it’s cool to see niche cars like the Gumpert making an appearance. All of the cars are tier 2-3.

The tracks are varied. Monument Loop is a simple oval-ish course with minor kinks. Casino Riviera is an extension of Monument Loop with more twists and turns and somewhat longer. Port Boucle is a tricky L-shaped track with a number of sharp U-turn corners. Monte Grande is a long, demanding technical track that will keep you frustrated for hours to come.

All race types are included in the new career – Hot Lap, Time Attack, Eliminator, Endurance, Car Battle etc. as well as standard races – and the difficulty varies from easy to very hard, so there’s something for everyone. The races include a mixture of existing and new tracks, including an exotic car Nordschleife tournament. There are also five new trophies to collect for various achievements in the expansion pack, but no new in-game badges, so you’ll still have to stick to the original game if you want to earn those epics.

There’s really nothing to dislike about the new content – if you like racing games and own NFS Shift, this is easily one of the best £7.99’s you can currently spend on the PSN.

9/10


The Gaming Rant 8

May 14, 2010 Leave a comment

This is an unedited, uncensored re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that fans can read the uncensored versions.

WARNING! This article is intended as a piece of satirical diatribe. Some readers may find the language and themes within extremely offensive.

Contains strong language, sexual references and politically incorrect commentary that some readers may find offensive. This article is satire and does not reflect the views of TheSixthAxis or myself. This article has not been endorsed or approved by the Third Reich. This disclaimer may be false, but it probably isn’t.

Last week my best friend told me that my rant didn’t have enough anger in it. Well, trust me my little bunch of anti-social loser gaming imbeciles, this week has no such anger shortage, I am literally oozing visceral at the moment. I’m so adjective I’m verbing nouns right now, for 3 excellent reasons.

Hard disk upgrade

Sub-ordinate 1: *pointing at map of Germany on the table* “Game Data and PSN games have sprung up in several locations. We have tried to slow their progress but they are using too much of our resources. At the current rate, we estimate full disk space consumption within 2 weeks.”

Me: *waving finger in the air* “Not a problem, a hard disk upgrade will solve that.”

*long pause*

Sub-ordinate 1: *sweating* “Mein Führer… The restore utility…”

Sub-ordinate 2: “The restore utility does not work properly. You will have to re-download and re-install everything, and lose all your game saves.”

Me: *takes off glasses, my hand shaking* “All of you who have successfully upgraded your PS3 hard disks, please leave the room.”

Yes, the week got off to a good gaming start as I got stuck in to Lost Planet 2’s online co-op. Then a man appeared at the front door with a new hard disk. My 250GB PS3 is rammed with data to the point where I had deleted all my demos, videos, FirstPlay episodes (no real loss there though) and had to resort to deleting Game Data files, and still had no space left. So I whipped out my cheque book and splashed out on a 640GB drive.

Remember the Indonesian tsunami of 2004? The Indonesians were running around on TV saying “God will protect us”. Some of us might think, orly? Who do you think sent the tsunami in the first place, asshole? That loss of 250,000 lives, however, was nothing compared to the shit God pulled on me this week*. What part of his Grand F*cking Plan says that I have to piss around for three whole days trying to get my stupid PS3 to backup and restore properly. Is this a character building exercise? Are you trying to make me a stronger person? Or are you just bored and trying to piss me off, in which case it’s working admirably.

So the little divine gremlins in my PS3 decided to test me like Job. Backups not working. Restores not working. Firmware refusing to install. Freezes. Crashes. Copyright validation errors. Activation errors. I won’t bore you with all the sordid details suffice to say on day 3 I got bored of it being hung at 70% restored and rebooted. The hard disk was blank, I took it out, put the old one in, deleted all my Game Data as advised on the forums (apparently some Game Data makes the restore fail, God knows why – but conveniently, the little bastard isn’t telling *shakes fist in air*), backed up, put the new hard disk back in, booted up and lo and behold approximately 70% of my games and Game Data were present. What the…. IT WAS BLANK FIVE MINUTES AGO! How annoyed was I.

This presented a dilemma. Do I keep my botched restore and re-install the remaining 30% but lose 30% of my game saves, or do I restore again and have all my game saves intact but have to re-download all the DLC? These game saves represent thousands of hours of hard labour on my part. Needless to say I’d callously deleted the old backup thinking it was broken and was suitably annoyed. Again.

Well, to cut a long story short I eventually got everything sorted out with no loss of any data. But, seriously, what the f*ck?! HOW HARD IS IT to make a simple backup utility:

  1. Compress and encrypt the files
  2. Copy to storage device

Restore:

  1. Copy to PS3
  2. Decrypt and decompress

So why does it freeze for 2 hours at a time at arbitrary percentages on the restore progress bar? Why does an estimate of 4 hours to restore suddenly turn into 12? And why is it so biblically slow (ah – God again, that explains everything, he just loves to screw with a winning formula). It is so slow that if I was Hitler, I could take over Europe in less time; and while I’d be pleased with my impressive victory in England, I’d be very unhappy when I got back and found the rest of the Gestapo was still screwing around waiting for the PS3. I’d be so unhappy I’d probably have to post a rant on YouTube about it, same as when I got banned from Xbox Live and when the iPad came out. And tell that Sony employee bitch in the corridor to stop crying.

The restore utility is an absolute sham. I had to delete and re-install / re-download 66GB of Game Data. My patience was tested to the limit, I had missed my Lost Planet 2 meets, the SingStar Beta night and the week’s PSN update. I have no TV except via my PS3 either, this was a recipe for absolute boredom.

Screw you Sony. And screw you God as well. Go Hitler, er I mean, Go Me!

Modern Warfare 2

Lost Planet 2: no idiots.

Battlefield Bad Company 2: no idiots.

MAG: no idiots (I’m lying I have no idea, never played it since the beta, but I was running out of options)

Modern Warfare 2: Penile-Challenged Knob-Face Monkey Twat Central.

I’m seriously considering trading in Modern Warfare 2 after my experience a couple of nights ago, where I realised I can no longer get any fun out of the online play on this tepid excuse for a shooter. I’ve completed the campaign twice so that leaves little left to enjoy.

It seems like every time I put this bloody game in I have to report someone. This latest episode was no exception as a “your shit” email appeared in my PSN mailbox. Really? Well f*cking done Einstein, I know I’m shit, I’m actually just here to socialise with my friends and have a laugh. Would you like a medal? Not a grammar medal obviously, though I did resist the urge to use the classic “it’s spelled you’re” response. Instead I took the mature approach: “FYI I work for Sony, keeping your mouth shut is advised”. It’s a good job he wasn’t messaging Hitler, you don’t want to rub that guy up the wrong way. Trust me, I was on the receiving end of his briefing on YouTube about the Gran Turismo 5 release date. That was some nasty shit.

The response was “haha fuk u gimp”. Good job I wasn’t a real Sony employee eh? Ps3reporting.com was quickly engaged. If you’d like to share your opinion feel free to drop a pm to crazycracked, I’m sure it will be met with a suitably whimsical grammatically incorrect response.

I wondered if the child would say that to my face in a bar, where he would promptly get his faced smashed in by my fist. Evidently his parents don’t mind him playing an 18-rated game – seems to be a running theme this – so he should obviously be able to go get drunk in bars as well and see how his Class A1 Wanker comments go down in a room full of burly drunk adults. Die in a fire crazycracked.

Anyway, I get this kind of abuse every single time I play MW2. It was the first time I’d played online for a while and it reminded me why I never go online with it. It is truly saddening, but, I also realised that the rest of us actually need MW2 because it’s a nice honeypot that attracts all the adolescent low-life scum and sort of keeps them segregated in one place so that the proper gaming community doesn’t have to concern themselves with being bothered by them. It’s like, we’re the superior race and MW2 is like Auschwitz. The only problem is, the gamers on MW2 don’t die from gas poisoning afterwards. There’s safety in numbers it seems; but as Jimmy Carr once said, try telling that to 6 million Jews.

Have you noticed the nicks of the people who play MW2? I proclaimed on my headset that “the list of nicks in the lobby really speaks volumes about the kind of people who play Call of Duty”. A slight sweeping stereotype I admit, but you’ve got to concede: SuperKilla87, Megal33t, Ikillj00_pwned354783. There’s a pattern there, no? If you missed it: they are all nicknames made by toss-pots.

Screw Modern Warfare 2. Long live World At War – although I don’t like the way the Germans are portrayed. They were just doing what I told them.

Chatting up girls

Oh my God.

Oh my F*CKING God.

A couple of weeks ago my gaydar went off in GameStop as a clearly geek gamer girl bought a ton of PS3 games and was asking astute questions to the staff – clearly she knew as much about release dates and gaming as any member of the TSA staff. Man I’m digging sweeping generalizations today! She’s a girl, she wins by default, shut up.

I was too shy to talk to her of course and kicked myself on the way home for it.

Today I was in a different game store (Platekompaniet), and as I perused the PS3 section looking for ModNation Racers I noticed two rather beautiful girls next to me discussing the merits of Oblivion. I was somewhat impressed they would be into long, drawn-out, slow, complex RPGs, but far be it from me to stifle the enthusiasm of newly-formed girl gamers.

After I’d paid there was one customer in the queue behind me before the girls. So I took the plunge and braced for impact.

“Are you gonna buy Oblivion?”

“Yeah”

I tried to be as helpful and non-patronising as possible, fearful they may not be happy with their purchase:

“You know it’s a really complicated, slow, old-style RPG game right?”

“Yeah”

The conversation shifted from Norwegian to English and they obviously loved my classic British accent.

“Have you played Fallout 3?”

“Yep, I heard this is the same but with less shooting”

“That’s exactly right.”

“Hm ok – well then you know what you’re getting into. Have fun!”

The reason I remember the conversation line by line so vividly is because, much like Gregory House who I aspire to be like, actual human contact with females is sort of a once-in-a-year occurrence, so any sort of interaction gets immediately committed to memory and over-analyzed for months.

I left the store feeling absolutely devastated and grumbled all the way home and for some time afterwards. We all know how awkward it is to strike up a conversation with a random stranger in a store, and I’m sure we’ve all had those moments where we see a nice-looking boy or girl and wish we had the stomach to approach them.

I was pleased I had the guts to even say anything, it took me a few minutes of silent procrastination next to them before I managed it, but why oh why oh why did I not just say “Listen I don’t mean to be rude but do you wanna play sometime?” Games, obviously. I got the feeling they would definitely have agreed and yet I still managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Is it part of God’s plan to make me a pussy, rather than give me pussy? What’s your point God?

All I had to lose was two minutes of dignity, tops. *bangs head on desk*

So I thought to myself, What Would Hitler Do? I video conferenced with him on YouTube, and it turns out he would’ve first asked the bitch out, then forced her if she didn’t comply. So I think I’m gonna do that next time.

Screw dignity. Long live German efficiency.

Conclusions

Never upgrade your PS3 unless you want a burst blood vessel. Delete Modern Warfare 2, put the disk in the microwave, then shred it up with a chainsaw and frisbee it out of your window – sharp end first – at any passer-by who looks like they might be a MW2 player. Always sacrifice your dignity when the opportunity of a potential shag arises. I have learned these lessons the hard way so you don’t have to. Also, on reflection, I should probably stop watching so many Downfall parody videos.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just picked up a copy of my secret new project. I can’t tell you what it is, but, let’s just say it rhymes with Castration Razors.

Tschüss!

* I made a substantial donation to the Indonesia relief effort.

Review: Anarchy Rush Hour

May 12, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

It’s a bit of a strange period for the driving genre. Last fall we had two great games to enjoy in the form of Need For Speed Shift and Forza 3. There followed a dearth of releases except for a couple of side titles like MotoGP 09/10 and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, and now in May 2010 we are facing a glut of forthcoming releases: ModNation Racers, Split/Second, Blur and SBK X Superbike Championship. Each unique in their own way, it seems a bit of an odd choice to release a racing game on PSN now, and this one has come as a bolt from the blue with nothing but a trailer on the US store one week before release to go on.

The dilemma is that Anarchy: Rush Hour costs a paltry $7.99 (£5.20), which for racing fans may make it irresistible on price alone.

Anarchy: Rush Hour is perhaps best described as a budget-level cross between Burnout and the old Midnight Club series on PS2. The game features an open world city, with the aim being to impress your rivals enough to get in their good books. You will be invited via in-game email to various types of events hosted by your competitors, including straight circuit races, point-to-point sprints, hot laps, eliminator rounds and stunt runs. Those of you who hate certain race types will be glad to hear that you can accept races whenever you want in any order, so modes that don’t suit your tastes can be readily skipped.

There are a bunch of cars to collect – unlicensed of course – and have a standard raft of customisations available: colours, decals, tuning, performance upgrades etc. There is not any great level of detail here but the game’s price must be borne in mind. Collecting all the cars is part of the aim of the game, with a gold trophy available for finishing the job.

Your car can be fitted with up to four devices, each upgradeable to three levels, to help you in the races. You can auto-repair, boost, emit shockwaves to disrupt opponent cars and use the front brakes to do some mad stunts. This is really the only part of the game that differs from the norm of the genre – it is a bit reminiscent of the forthcoming Blur.

Graphically, this is a decidedly non-descript affair, with very basic black, white and orange menus and information screens, the in-game graphics are perhaps slightly better than a PS2 game but are absolutely nothing interesting or comparable to Bluray offerings. Once again though, we shouldn’t really compare as Anarchy: Rush Hour is not trying to compete with full price releases.

The soundtrack is more pleasing with a decent if unremarkable mix of dance, house and rock music. It’s nothing special but it does the job and complements the gameplay well enough.

On a first quick play of Anarchy: Rush Hour, you may be forgiven for thinking that it’s a yawnfest. The tutorial is decidedly boring and the initial races have no flair. Your car slides around like it’s on ice with handling somewhere between Ridge Racer or Outrun, and a rally game. Drifting well is absolutely critical to winning in later races, however it’s not nearly as annoying as the drifting style in Ridge Racer 7 and once you get used to it you’ll likely enjoy it.

For solo play, the game is decidedly unspectacular with nothing particular to hold your interest. You do have a nice easy set of trophies to collect– including a platinum which is unusual for a PSN game –  which will probably give a lot of people impetus to finish it. Where this game shines is in the online multi-player, which with some like-minded players is an absolute blast.

Comment must be made on how good the multi-player is for such a cheap title. The voice chat is 100% smooth, the game is totally lag free and it doesn’t seem to take too long to get a match. There are three modes: circuit, hot lap and deathmatch. The deathmatch mode involves ramming and destroying your opponent; you set the frag limit at the start and the cars acquire health bars. This mode does not work at all well as you generally end up driving round in circles trying to ram each other, but the other two modes are superb.

All of which makes it very sad that the online design suffers from some pretty serious flaws. If you stray off track a bit during a race, you’ll be told you’re going the wrong way, even if you just took a minor shortcut, and you’ll need to trek back (or reset to track) to the last checkpoint, and the checkpoints are invisible, although the quasi-3D GPS mini-map in the corner does show a green line to indicate which part of the track you have covered so far. This is an annoyance that only crops up with certain tracks and only periodically as you play, so it is tolerable although it definitely should not be present.

The real problem with online play is that you can’t change the game settings (track, race type, car limits etc.) once you’ve created a game without exiting the lobby and making a new game – which of course kicks everyone out including your friends. You can’t make private rooms but you can send invites, so there is no way of keeping strangers out of your friends-only race. Irritating, but not devastating. On the upside, the host can instantly kick any player if they sit around failing to click Ready, which is very handy.

When online races end, the remaining players are given 60 seconds to finish, which is rather a long time especially if they are messing around doing donuts, and you are forced to spectate until the 60 seconds are up. 30 would have been a better choice.

While the closed tracks work well, in the open world tracks that have the directions shown by arrowed signposts as in Midnight Club 2 and 3, you are going to get frequently lost, and when you do you’ll probably end up spending more time looking at the map than the road, because the signposts become bugged and point in all sorts of directions that don’t make sense.

Working in its favour, Anarchy: Rush Hour is very accessible. There are four or five difficulty levels, the easiest being so trivial that you can crash at almost every corner and still win, and the hardest being insanely difficult, so the AI can be tweaked to suit anyone’s skill level here, which is a nice plus.

Pros:

  • Plenty to do, lots of events and tracks (13-17 online tracks depending on mode, more offline)
  • Race types you don’t like can be skipped
  • Online play is really fun
  • Terrific value for money

Cons:

  • Poor graphics for a current-gen game, very average interface
  • Average and un-engaging single player campaign
  • Online play has some lobby design flaws
  • Being told you’re going the wrong way when you’re not due to invisible checkpoints you missed is stupid and annoying

I have really mixed feelings about this game. It’s not fair to compare it to Bluray titles, but if you’re going to buy one of those this month, is there any point in buying this? On the other hand, it’s so cheap you can’t really go wrong, as long as you aren’t looking for anything particularly new and fresh in solo play, or if you have some buddies to play online with and can tolerate a few foibles.

My opinion of Anarchy: Rush Hour was quite bleak until I took it online. That changed the game completely and I’ve upped my rating in consideration of that. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this game, but if you’re not buying any of the big racing titles at the moment, or if you just have some loose change burning a hole in your PSN wallet, you could do a lot worse than Anarchy: Rush Hour.

7/10


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Review: Groovin’ Blocks

May 12, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a re-print of an article originally posted on another site, included here so that the blog is a complete repository of my written work. The article is reproduced without pagination, formatting, images or editorial changes made on the original site prior to original publication.

PlayStation Network is awash with puzzle games these days, and it’s getting harder and harder for us puzzle fans to find versions of our favourite block-sliding games that stand out and offer something different.

Groovin' Blocks

Groovin’ Blocks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Groovin’ Blocks has a very simple gameplay mechanic that would become quickly boring if it wasn’t for one unique twist: to get the big scores, you have to play in time with the music.

The premise is a doddle: groups of coloured blocks drop from the top of the classic bucket layout, and making rows of three of the same colour makes them disappear. There are three difficulty levels: in casual the falling blocks are always vertical columns of 3; in normal they can be vertical columns of 3 or squares of 4, and expert is the same as normal only faster. So, hardly original then. The interesting part comes from the fact that a Virtual DJ-style rhythm bar which flows in time with the music is scrolling along the centre of the screen, and dropping blocks on the beats increases your multiplier. There are also key beats which double your multiplier for a short while.

There are a few power-ups, you can drop these whenever you like but to activate them, the row of 3 you make with the same colour of the power-up must be completed on a beat.

That’s basically it. There are online leaderboards but no online play; there is however local split screen. Online play is a bit of a core omission from this I feel, and the leaderboards unfortunately can’t be filtered to show only your friends, as much of the motivation to play comes from beating the high scores.

The music is a mixture of old-school electro, techno and psytrance with songs such as I Love My C64 and Black Solition. If you’re looking for dance and trance you’ll be disappointed, but nevertheless the songs are quite head-bopping if you like electronica in general, and the levels end when the song is completed (or you fill the bucket and fail as in Tetris).

I’ve made the game sound quite dull, but actually it’s rather entertaining. Best played as a quick diversion in short bursts, I strained my neck at least twice bopping my head trying to keep my controller movements in time with the music; timing is everything in this game, and striving for the highest multiplier can be quite addicting.

Pros:

  • Simple, accessible gameplay – not too taxing on the brain
  • Timing mechanic is excellent and well-executed
  • Electronica fans who like puzzle games will love it

Cons:

  • No online play
  • Gets quickly repetitive – best played in short sessions
  • A bit on the expensive side

Groovin’ Blocks has 17 music tracks for the sum of $9.99. If you prefer, you can instead grab yourself the iPhone version of which the PSN release is a (good) port. For the money, there are plenty of games on the store with a longer shelf life; $5.99 or $6.99 would have perhaps been a more appropriate price point. The game has basically one trick up its sleeve, but a trick that it executes very smoothly. If you like Tetris, Bejeweled or Lumines Supernova – the latter of which most resembles Groovin’ Blocks but has far more features for the same price – and you are a fan of electronica, you’ll likely enjoy this.

6/10


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