Short but sweet

A comment below has led me to share the following.  To the less than casual interneter, none of these may be a revelation at all.  Even so, i reckon they are well worth a visit.

Here a few of my favourite short films :

The hole

Alive in Joburg by Neill Blomkamp

Alma by Rodrigo Blaas (warning : pretty creepy)

And, although possibly technically not a short film :

Smile around the face music video for a track by Four Tet

Enjoy! ūüôā


Published in: on 06/11/2010 at 9:13 pm  Comments (1)  
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[Edited version of a long email i sent.¬† Trying to make it less current tense while talking about last year! I’ve also put Demon’s Souls in a proper position. It’s a lot higher than it was! Now i know it got a bit of a anti-hardcore backlash from a few dissenters on the internet, but i geniunely enjoyed it. You know you are really deeply into a game when the clock strikes 3am and you’re still gripping the controller with palms sweaty from the tension!]

Last year was a pretty good year for gaming, in spite of the “run away” mentality of almost every publisher at the end of the year, as the assumed omnipotence of Modern Warfare 2 loomed greatly over what could have been a fantastic final few months. ¬†Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2, Bayonetta, God Of War 3, Split/Second, and many more all turned their tails and bravely run away into 2010. ¬†It means we’ve had a great beginning to this year, but it meant the pickings were a bit thin at the end of last year. ¬†Not that this has stopped lots of great games coming out anyway, just only from the brave, the niche, or those that just knew that they already had a strong enough fan base.

Aside from this, it’s been a year of my gaining two pretty sweet new consoles. ¬†
Nintendo’s DSi came out in April and was a day one purchase for me. ¬†Although some of the new features are pretty easy to ignore, it’s new feel, better ergonomics, and improved online capabilities made it quite desirable to me, in spite of it not really being a massive technological jump. ¬†More dramatic than this was my succumbing to Sony’s charms once more and finally getting a PS3. ¬†When the much smaller slim was announced with a very appealing price drop, the lure of Little Big Planet, God of War 3, and DC Online Universe overwhelmed me, i could resist no longer and i had to get one. ¬†Although i’m still keeping to my “exclusives only” rule, i’m finding that there are plenty of absolutely great games available on it, show casing a greater power when it comes to processing and graphics in some games, as well as an often more enjoyable, and free, online experience. ¬†It is often a fairly lonely one, with very little in the way of comms, but people are generally friendlier and less annoying.

10) Disgaea DS (DS) РA fun, involving, and practically bottom-lessly deep strategy JRPG.  Great, if insane, characters and a fun and easy to use combat system.  The difficult necessitates a lot of grinding, which can get a little dull, but the levelling options are neatly incorporated in the strategy elements.

9)   Battlefield 1943 (XBLA) РA much anticipated download that just had a lot of well thought out ideas to make it as fun as possible.  A mixture of vehicles, a basic and easily changed set of classes, and simple combat made this a real blast to play and at very little cost.

8 ) Mario and Luigi in Bowser’s Inside Story (DS) – A curious mixture of Mario platforming and RPG type combat, but a lot of fun with a good story and likeable and often funny characters. ¬†Completely bonkers but absorbing.

7) ¬†Assassin’s Creed 2 (Xbox360) – Such a massive improvement over what was a rather dissappointing first game. ¬†A wealth of new features, much more likeable characters, and a fun world in which to explore.

6) ¬†Batman Arkham Asylum (Xbox360) – Rare is the game that does the right thing with a superhero franchise. ¬†Most just mess it right up with either bad story, improperly used characters, terrible controls, or just rubbish ideas. ¬†Batman Arkham Asylum avoids so many of these problems, creating a likeable Batman voiced by proper voice actors who’ve made the characters their own, a decent story, and a simple but exciting combat system.

5)  Borderlands (Xbox360) РA fun, breezy shooter with absurd weapons, bizarre characters, a well judged difficulty curve, and a unique graphics style.  Nice online co-op as well, if the local co-op is spoilt by a cluttered display.

4) ¬†Killzone 2 (PS3) – When i first booted this up, the graphics blew me away. ¬†It does just look gorgeous, unfortunately the single player campaign is like Gears of Wars’ spoilt idiot son, but don’t let that put you off, the online mutliplayer is excellent. ¬†Huge, gorgeous, interesting matches, and plenty of levelling up to do that’s not just handed to you. ¬†A lot of fun and well worth putting the effort into.

3) ¬†Uncharted 2 (PS3) – I managed to get through the brilliant prequel before this came out and already had a big soft spot for Nathan Drake. ¬†As Bourne is to Bond, Nathan is to Indy. ¬†Aside from a likeable lead, this has a great cast, female characters that approach Alyx Vance in terms of strength and doing good for computer generated Woman-kind, beautiful and exciting set pieces, and a lovely control scheme. ¬†It’s also got a wealth of online modes, with a tonne of free DLC available. ¬†Absolutely awe inspiring and exhilirating.

2) Demon’s Souls (PS3) – This is a curiousity. It’s a game that, well, i really shouldn’t have played when i did. You see, i bought it for myself as a Christmas present. It’s only available on import from the US from what is likely to be a limited run, but the word of mouth and reviews were seriously glowing. Most of it’s praise however, was due to it’s unashamed hardcore nature. Never being one to shy away from some sort of elitist niche ūüėČ , or at least give it a go, i got it on import. While i was off sick, i was naughty, and in a fit of illness induced self-pity i started playing it. My thinking being, what if it’s just too hardcore for me. What a frustrating dissappointment that would be. I owed it to myself to give it a go. ūüėČ

Well, it is pretty hardcore, but it is definitely fair. In fact, it takes most of the quite unrealistic things from RPGs that help you get by, and gets rid of them. No wolves dropping spoons for you to sell, all monsters are a threat to the unready, carelessness costs you lives, in fact, this is a game that embraces your characters death. At the end of the tutorial there’s boss which is supposed to kill you. Really. (It will kill you on your first playthrough at least.) It will scare you when you see this enormous beast swining a huge axe at you. Then you get to start playing.

You spend most of the game, in soul form, with a depleted health bar, fighting things that can easily kill you with a few well placed blows. There’s a lot to be said about this game, mainly because it’s got a wealth of refreshing and original ideas all packaged up in the unassuming guise of a standard dungeon crawling RPG. For me, it’s the fantastic combat that allows you to be graceful if you can master it, and the fact that every move you make, every step, every retread is filled with intrepidation and fear. Thrilling but demanding and destined to be a classic.

1) ¬†Left 4 Dead 2 (Xbox360) – Bit of a no-brainer. ¬†Very much the social online game as far as i’m concerned the new version adds so much to the game and is definitely much more than just a collection of add-ons to an already excellent game. ¬†With so much done to fix the original, not that it really needed much fixing, this is a game that deserves praise for taking it’s own ideas in exciting new directions. ¬†Also, hurray for Valve, DLC is already planned for next spring, bringing back Zoe, Bill, Francis and Louis for a zombie packed meeting (including a new Campaign for Coop and Versus, Scavenge and Survival) and extra weaponry!

Published in: on 29/03/2010 at 9:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Playing with randoms

I reckon my first ever online gaming experiences came playing MUD’s (Multi user dungeons) at university.¬† Way back in the glory days of 1993/4 the internet was something not many people had really heard about.¬† You could tell by the type of people who you found playing MUD’s back then.¬† Mostly helpful and keen to enjoy the shared experience, other players you met within would tend to be there for the game.¬† Yes, the odd noob would show up and just cluelessly ruin things for a while, but usually an admin would be nearby, and they would swiftly issue a kicking or banning.¬†

It was a short-lived experience.¬† I moved away from the gaming to making friends with random people across the globe in IRC, taking full advantage of the social experience offered to a typically shy guy by anonimity.¬† Then, as time went by at University, i became more likely to be in a pub or club than in the computer room, but that’s another story.¬† (Which some of you may well feel like you’ve lived through as well.) ūüėČ

The next time i returned to the online experience was playing Socom 3 on my PS2.¬† Aside from the fact that i did myself no favours, by going in having just about scraped through the first level in single player, playing online was VERY different.¬† Gone were the helpful others.¬†¬† Gone were admins regulating the gameplay and looking out for others.¬† What you got instead was inane chatter, swearing, verbal abuse, glitching and far too many pre-pubescent, self-proclaimed “experts”.¬†

I stuck with it and after a while i was rewarded for my perserverance.¬† It did take a long time.¬† It did take a lot of hate from fellow players.¬† Yet, i started to find that just by focusing on the game above all else, i could start to win or at least assume fairly commanding ranks in the games i played.¬† The strangest form of abuse i found was from people who just plain didn’t like my choice of weapons.¬† If i was playing a long range game¬†(note : I hate sniping and snipers) i would change to heavy machine guns – hated for their rates of fire, strength of firepower, and large clips – and for the close, something light but with a high rate of fire.¬†

I knew what it was that drew so much ire.¬† They were the weapons that were believed to make playing the game easy.¬† What i didn’t understand was that these weapons were available to everyone.¬† If you wanted to get revenge, then you could use them yourself.¬† If you couldn’t beat them, then you just weren’t as good as you thought you were.¬† Did these people believe that in the proper warfare that was supposed to be simulated, soldiers would hurl abuse at each other if they had an unfair technological advantage?¬† No.¬† You just work out how to deal with it.

In the end I think one too many spawn-campers and glitchers made me give up on it, but i’m still glad to have had that particularly lawless right-of-passage to console gaming.¬†

I don’t tend to play with randoms that much any more.¬† With a group of fellow gamers to go online with, there’s usually someone else who has the same game who’ll be willing to play a friendly versus or co-op game.¬† Oddly,¬†i do miss the days of struggling against the odds, fighting against those who just take the easiest route or are in it for the griefing or bragging.¬† The fact is, although the affectionately named “randoms” are often irritating and sometimes just plain offensive, i find struggling against the odds and eventually coming out on top is far more satisfying than any number of achievements.

Posted by Bob

Published in: on 21/05/2009 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bob’s 2009 gaming wish list

Si asked for it and here it is.¬† I’ve always got my finger on the gaming pulse and this year there’s plenty to throb for!¬† (By which i obviously mean your pulse.)

Batman : Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360) – If the videos are anything to go by this could well be the definitive Batman game.¬† There haven’t been many good ones, although the one on the Amiga was alright, but this has got everything.¬† A nigh on perfect voice cast (Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy provide the voices for Joker and Batman as per all decent animated versions of the two characters from the last two decades), gorgeous looking graphics, some very exciting looking gameplay, and a great back story (based on the Arkham Asylum graphic novel).

Prototype (Xbox 360) – Fighting as an amnesiac, genetically modified, free running killing machine in a busy city sounds like a lot of other games. Looking at it the protaganist resembles Altair from Assassin’s Creed, but his powers are like nothing i’ve seen in a game before.¬† A glorious looking mash-up of Incredible Hulk : Ultimate Destruction, GTA IV and Assassin’s Creed.

Bioshock 2 (Xbox 360) РAll it needed was to just sound as good as the first one, but it looks like Bioshock 2 could be even better.  Playing as the prototype Big Daddy this time fighting against a grown-up little sister/uber Big Daddy with the added joy of mix and match plasmids!  Also, online multiplayer!!! Woo hoo!

Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360) РFrom Rockstar comes another massive world to explore, this time set in the (wicky wah wah) Wild West.  Looks gorgeous and hopefully will play great as well.

Final Fantasy XIII (Xbox 360) – Although probably restricted and on multiple disks on the Xbox 360, if it’s anywhere near as awesome as Final Fantasy X on the PS2 was, then this will be a joy.¬† Early FMV footage looks INCREDIBLE.

DC Universe Online (PC) РFight alongside Batman against Lex Luthor.  Use super speed to run up a building to join Superman in a fight against Doomsday.  This might be the first MMO i get.  Maybe.

Ghostbusters (Xbox 360) – With a story penned by the original cast, starring the original cast – except Sigourney – and with hopefully good online co-op and a good gameplay mechanics, it could be a unique movie/gaming crossover experience.

Call Of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360) – Little is known of this, except that some of it’s likely to be set in snowy conditions judging by early footage.¬† Hopefully it will have the same great online gameplay and maybe some online co-op as well.

Infinite space (DS) – A DS game that sounds like it ticks many of the right boxes for me.¬† A space strategy JRPG with a wealth of customisability in terms of both the ship you fly and the crew you lead spanning two galaxies there should be plenty to do.¬† No idea what the gameplay mechanic will be like, but i’m hoping for something that will make good use of the stylus and maybe be in realtime.

Scribblenauts (DS) – If you can think of it, and it isn’t rude, you can use it in this game.¬† Solve puzzles your own way.¬† Brilliantly playing to the DS’ strongest points, a very simple and potentially endless puzzle solving game.

Moving Notepad (DSi Ware) – Not really a game but a free application exclusively for DSi.¬† Unfortunately we’re still waiting for Nintendo Europe to get their act together and set up the infrastructure for it, but this is a basic tool that sounds like a lot of fun.¬† It’s just a basic animation package and it’s free.¬† Hopefully when we get it, there’ll also be the feature to send your animations to people as well as to post them to the online theatre! ūüôā

[Edit]¬† Sacred 2 : Fallen Angel – This game moved onto my gaming radar recently.¬† It’s reviews aren’t great but it falls into a category that i’m fairly sure will make it a win for both myself and Michelle.¬† Local co-op.¬† Not only that but with a relatively decent camera – ish – and plenty of hack’n’slash action.¬† It’s also got local co-op online, if you know what i mean, which opens the window to further winnery.


Posted by Bob

Published in: on 13/05/2009 at 6:05 pm  Comments (2)  
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Back to Gears of War 2

When it first came out Gears of War 2’s online multiplayer just didn’t work.¬† I tried several times to just get into a game, with no success whatsoever.¬† Then it was patched.¬† So i tried again.

I then played one extremely laggy, highly unsatisfying game, and decided to leave it for good.  As i said in my review of games of the year from 2008.  Epic, you fail.

Since then all i’ve known of Gears of War 2’s online multiplayer has come from my boss’ feedback.¬† Often he¬†would post angry messages on the Epic forums about how annoyed he was,¬†only¬†persisting in playing Gears of War 2 online purely due to the loyalty he felt to Epic based on the first game.

Then one day, he turns to me and says “I was playing Gears of War 2 online last night…” – which was often the start of another diatribe about broken gameplay, frustrating lag, and excessive matchmaking times – “…and they’ve fixed it.¬† It works now and it’s brilliant.”

After this, i kept meaning to go back to it.¬† On Friday i did, and yes, it is brilliant.¬† It’s hectic, frenetic, and possibly not perfect – i had one game ruined by unbelievable lag and sometimes the matchmaking times go on a little too long – but it’s certainly a LONG way away from the terrible non-game it once was.

The matchmaking is very good – i’ve never played so many evenly balanced team games – and whilst highly competitive it’s also possible to rank up decent scores.¬† I’ve only really spent time playing Annex/King of the hill, but a reasonable enough pre-game voting system keeps things fairly varied.¬† I’ve also not encountered too much annoying smack talk, but don’t think it’s devoid of teenages whining and griping, it is an online game after all! ūüėČ

Question is, should a game really require being live for 6 months before it’s actually playable?¬† And why did Epic deny anything was wrong with the game originally?

Published in: on 10/05/2009 at 1:33 pm  Comments (3)  
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