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Monthly Archives: June 2007

Cross-branding

Looks like Viva Pinata has managed to sneak its way into Forza 2. This is a picture taken by Mr Fiddler on the New York track.

Welcome to the world of tomorrow

Well, I’ve finally made the leap into the world of hi-def; I now have all the HDs, HDMIs and numbers ending in ‘p’ that a boy could desire thanks to the 40” Samsung M87 LCD sitting proudly in the corner of my living room.

This isn’t something I’ve entered into lightly, either, as it’s been 18 months since I started my search for a flat-panel TV and it has taken so long because I’ve been holding out for an affordable 1080p set (read this if you’re confused by that number). Sure, there have been numerous 1080i sets that have been of high quality, but despite the arguments about the noticeable (or unnoticeable) differences between interlaced and progressive, I’m of the opinion that if I had settled for 1080i then I would have forever kicked myself at the thought of missing out of “true” hi-def.

Monday was the day of truth, and since its arrival I have been nothing but smiles all week.

For the first couple of hours I could only mess around with a tangle of cables and a myriad of settings, but the time invested proved worthwhile and I now have an AV setup at home that would cause a weaker man than I to weep due to its beauty.

The true pride of the setup has to be the Xbox 360 running in full 1080p through a VGA connection. Seeing Viva Piñata running on my new toy for the very first time was really quite shocking; this is a game I’ve stared at every day now for over three years, but booting it up at home in hi-def made it seem like a completely new game. You could see every bump and every papery strand in amazing detail, and the colours were possibly even more eye-watering than I had previously thought.

True, I have had access to a HDTV at work, but that is limited to a small screen with dubious connections, plus, as a friend says, it takes seeing something that you already know to truly appreciate the jump in resolution, size and quality.

Also looking amazing is DiRT, my rally driving purchase from last week, what with its bloom lighting, the high-polygon cars and the generous filters that overlay everything. The first time I tried a race I ended up crashing at several points thanks to the highly crisp trees that lined that track proving too much of a distraction.

Cheekily I’ve also borrowed a HD-DVD player from work and all I can say is that as soon as the format war between blu-ray and HD-DVD is decided, I can’t wait to join the next generation of video discs. All I’ve had access to is King Kong but the wide shots of the jungles and cities could be enough to make anyone put down a deposit on a HDTV right there and then, they’re that good.

Of course not everything is rosy. The Wii is currently looking an absolute mess through its basic connection, but I’m hoping that the component cables currently on their way through the post should sort that out.

And what does Ali think of it, I hear you cry? Well, the first thing she played on it was unsurprisingly Tomb Raider. Not on the 360, oh no. On the PS2. Through composite connections. Not only did I despair at this choice but I can assure you that this setup does not show off the power of the PlayStation.

S.H.E.D.

You may think this is too obvious an image, but after our friends told us they wanted a garden centred around an outstretched Terminator arm petruding from the turf, this was, of course, a natural progression for gardenware.

Gaming Friday!

Sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day to do all you want to do, and so it’s handy when you’ve built up almost a month’s worth of holiday to just take a Friday off, sit back and play games.

This was a much needed day-off, as in the prior 24-hours Shadowrun, Colin McRae’s Dirt and Forza 2 had all come through the post: when was a man supposed to find time to play all of these, otherwise!?

Forza 2 was always going to be the also-ran for me amongst this collection; I’m not a big fan of racing games as I find them far too repetitive and generally, especially in full simulation games like Forza, one mistake means that the next five laps are meaningless and a procession (F1, anyone?).

As expected, I felt no love for this game. I could appreciate how well it’s been put together, the depth within the title and why others would lap it up, but nothing sparked for me. The one portion of the game, however, that I did enjoy dabbling with was creating custom paintjobs for my cars. Some images of my BIGsheep logo and accompanying sheep are included below but this thing has real depth if you have the time to sink into it.

The exception to my apathy for racing games has always been rallying. I took great pleasure from Rallisport 2 on the original Xbox and the beautiful looking Dirt didn’t let me down.

In my opinion, racing round and round a track is tedium when compared to haring along a dusty track or damp woodland with your co-driver yelling out the course up ahead. You may get to learn all the corners and perfect your apexes on a standard course but I love the rush and panic that unknown corners and bends can bring as you find yourself sliding round the British countryside at 100mph.

Not only that, but it suits my gaming driving style a lot better, too; I’m all for a bit or argy-bargy in games as you contest position and that is seemingly frowned upon in PGR/Forza. I’m not that great with my aforementioned apexes, either, so handbrake turns and drifts are much more in my realm.

Last up, from my day of gaming decadence, is Shadowrun, which has surprised me greatly. To put it simply, I love it. There’s even a small part of me who is enjoying it more than the Halo 3 beta, but the rest of me is assuring that the small part saying such things is mad and it’s only because Shadowrun’s something new that it’s enjoying it and he’ll get over it soon.

Shadowrun is basically Counterstrike but with magic and bio-tech in addition to the more traditional weapons. Resurrection, teleportation and dropping down healing trees make up some of the magic skills whilst wired reflexes and enhanced vision fall into the tech category.

For me it is the numerous combinations of characters that these extra abilities can create that makes Shadowrun such a draw. You can roll a troll character who can absorb damage and fit him with a huge mini-gun and the ability to drop down the game’s equivalent of caltrops for when you’re on the defensive, a speedy elf with a katana and teleport for some hit and run action, or a human medic who resurrects fallen comrades and patches up the wounded: so many choices.

Admittedly the actual modes and maps are limited, but when you find a team that plays like a team and are backing each other up and all jumping through walls at the same time to surprise the opponents, the gameplay feeling cannot be rivalled.

Shadowrun may have reviewed poorly in the mainstream press but I think it is greater than the sum of its parts and I really do urge people to give it a chance. New players are going to find a steep learning curve if they jump straight in online and so they should check out a series of handy tutorials that not only guide them through the basics of this cyberpunk world, but give them a sense of empowerment right from the start.

Resistance

Despite Resistance: Fall of Man coming out over half-a-year ago in some areas of the world, it appears that Manchester’s Christian community have only just noticed it. It seems they are upset that Manchester Cathedral is used within the first-person-shooter and are worried that the city is already recognised for its gun violence and a videogame using such a backdrop can only compound matters.

Now, whilst glorifying guns violence may be the primary concern of the clergy, they seemed to have failed to spot, as pointed out in Sony’s riposte, that the game takes place in an alternate universe where aliens are invading the earth. Surely something that dilutes the glamour, some what.

Now whilst I see their point of view, they seem to have gone on a publicity drive that has blown everything out of proportion and stinks of knee jerk reactions, threats to take Sony court and demands for copies of Resistance to be pulled from shelves. Apart from the futility of a law suit, I can’t see how this was missed for several months if it was such a big deal; we’re not talking a hot-coffee mod, this game has been in full public view.

I admit that setting a shooter in a cathedral, especially a known cathedral, may not completely smack of thinking of others (imagine the outcry if it had been a mosque) and so whilst more thought should go into future design it’s interesting to see this is a topic that has caused the Prime Minister to his tuppence worth.

Yet again, following on from Las Vegas’ major’s criticism of Rainbow Six last year, I find it odd how organisations don’t mind violent or controversial movies to be set in and amongst their property. This includes every Las Vegas gangster film, Con Air and ones such as the Da Vinci Code in regards to the church; yet games are once again held up as a blot on their landscape. Whilst I reiterate the church has a point, it seems that there are certain double standards depending on which medium your fiction is produced.

Facebook

Damn it. Another week has gone by and I haven’t put anything substantial (if at all) up on this blog. What used to be my favourite source of whittering is now a site falling into disrepair.

Initially I blamed the VP forums for distracting me away, now I point the finger at Facebook. Whoever introduced me to this site is evil: Mr F, I’m blaming you.