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Ian Roberts's blog

10:47 AM on 03.06.2009

The Secret Origins of the Helghast

During a recent session on Killzone 2 I began to wonder on the historical starting point for the Bo Bells born collection of Space Nazis called the Helghast so I began to look at them a little deeper and came to a shocking realisation. Carry on dear reader as I delve into the . . .

First lets take a quick overview of Helghast society.

1. Politics
The Helghast are a far right wing monarchist society, a political philosophy which would appear to have the undying loyalty and support of the general Helghan population.

2. Speech
All Helghast speak with a heavy cockney accent with the exception of Scolar Visari who is a bit posher and probably from Highgate.

3. Miltary uniform
The Helghast wear an all black ensable with bright orange illuminated goggles.

It was after considering these three things I jumped to my conlusion.

The Helghast are decended from London taxi drivers. How this happened is anyones guess maybe the minicab drivers forced them out, maybe the the coach laid on for Fulham football club supporters to go to away games got lost, either way we can begin to paint a picture of how early Helghan society was formed. After arriving on the planet they set about turning it into a home away from home by setting up a monarchy to run things without all of that Parliament or democracy bussiness getting in the way of dealing with any "darkies" or "pufters" who might follow them there and start stealing thier jobs or any women who might forget thier place in the kitchen. Once this was done a rudamentory system was created using bits of copper and silver from the change box and some old Kit-Kat wrappers found in the glove box that replecated the gray drizzly weather of dear old England. When word reached them that the ISA (or as the Helghast where fond of calling them during peace talks "the Blahdy Yanks") were colonising a near by planet they began to form a strong military force basing thier uniforms, in tribute, off of the designs for the great British hackney cab wearing all black with bright orange illumination.

So the next time you play Killzone 2 and see a Helghast taking the longest possible route to gouge a hole in the back of your head with a machine gun, it's not the AI going funny it's just genetic instinct.   read

7:43 AM on 10.31.2008

Some thoughts on second hand games and BONUS things

First off let me begin by saying Happy Halloween and I hope you all have fun tonight.

So yesterday it came out that Lost Winds creator David Braben got a bit of strop on because of HMV doing second hand games so I'd like to share with you briefly a thought on this matter.

Big deal. Simple as that really because HMV did pre-owned games once before and failed at it hard mostly because they couldn't compete with Game, Gamestation and EB (when EB was still around) on the prices of pre-owned games so you'd end up browsing what they had and finding a dog eared copy of The Bouncer for 35. In Britain now they will find themselves having a much harder time than the last time they tried this becuase the market is already full of shops that are better associated with the sale of second hand stock and are better at it.

To start with you have Game and Gamestation both of whom have been around for a considerable time and have a bigger base of clientel that will sooner go to one of these stores because of theyre familiarity with them, you've also got a small chain of independant stores called CEX whose entire stock is made up of second hand sales and they are branching out with some considerable speed. On top of that you also have the likes of Cash Converters and Blockbusters, both of which can be found outside of large shopping complexes of town centres, in residential areas.

HMV couldn't compete when a second hand market was comparitvely niche, how are they giong to cope now that the market is much more saturated?

Although I disagree with the beliefs of Braben and much of the big corporate games industry, game shops do need to reign in just how much of what they sell is pre-owned. At present the shelves are more full of second hand games than box fresh copies and getting hold of older releases that don't look like they've been used as a beer mat is next to impossible at times, extra impossible if the game was a bit niche (stand up Elite Beat Agents), double extra impossible if you want a PC game older then a year that isn't WoW or available on Steam.

Despite the shops going out of thier way to sell me someones used tat at 10 off the price, the staff in most of these places arn't quite so heartless seeing as most of them are gamers too. A good example of this happened to me recently, I went into a GameStation and inquired about used Guitar Hero 3 with Guitar for the 360 in the window for around 50. Upon inquiring the gentleman behind the till told me not to go for it as they were sellng Guitar Hero 3 and guitar brand new for the same price (not that the shop was advertising the fact) with a free faceplate thrown in.

++Bonus things++
First up a stop motion animated paper craft Megaman hopping and shooting around levels made up of food and random stuff.
I havn't played Megaman 9 yet and am not really a Megaman person (RE: I suck at Megaman games) but that BG music is very catchy, speaking of catchy next up is 80's anime style live action music video for the Black Kids song Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo).
I saw this whilst sitting in a favoured pub of mine and was instantly won over by the washed out retro feel of the video and it's Battle of the Planets vibe, also: funky tune.[url][/url]   read

10:30 AM on 09.27.2008

EA/SecuROM going to court over Spore DRM

A class action lawsuit has been brought against EA and secuROM by a Mellisa Thomas, a resident of California, with regards to it's unsignposted use of DRM in Spore and the harm it does to the PC's of people who have installed it to they're hard-drive.

The case is outlined in a 37 page PDF file which details not just the lack of a heads up that you will be installing the DRM but also the complaints brought forward by the many many people who put reviews up on warning against installing the game bcause of it eating up memory and disabling essencial funtions like firewalls and anti-virus sfotware.

A succesful case against EA and SecuROM could prove expensive should other people effected by this choose to take simlar action.

Could this be the deatn knell of this whole farical DRM situation?   read

8:04 PM on 07.14.2008

Red Alert 3 - Empire of the Rising Sun footage

Amidst the hype and hyperbole of E3's opening moments a new video bringing the first real glimpes at the Red Alert universes newest waring faction, the Empire of the Rising Sun, was released (although mystifyingly only as part of Cashwhores E3 coverage.) In it we get to see the EotRS go Gundam on the Soviets and the Allies.

Oh and a new version of the series main theme "Hell March".


The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed the return of the Allied dolphin unit amid the unvailing of the new sides units, sadly though no visible Soviet bears.

So, I liked Red Alert 2. It's toungue in cheek B-movie storyline was preferable, to me at least, to the Tiberean sagas more straight laced sci-fi yarn and it infected the gameplay with a whistful charm. This looks set to continue with the Empire of the Rising Sun having equal parts an inspired and stereotyped design to thier units, in keeping with Japanese technological dominance here in the real world the EotRS has a much more futuristic look to it, all chrome and smooth edges.

Once again Red Alert 3's new move towards stronger sea battles is pushed with the appearance of a land and an air unit that can become a formidable force on the open waves in combat, with the very manouverable looking Sky-Wing capable of becoming a submersible unit although it appears in the video as nothing more capable than in a scouting or evasive capacity. At no point underwater does the Sky/Sea-Wing appear to attack enemy units.

One point of concern that I'd like to raise is that the King Oni unit fires what looks like a Prism laser. Those of you who played Red Alert 2 (more so the Yuri's Revenge espansion pack than the original game) will remember that if you attacked with even a small number of Allied Prism Tanks then there combined power ensured unstoppable victory every time. Hopefully the units apparently high cost will make it more like the Soviet Kirov Airship, taking along time to build and therefore never in huge supply.

One final thing is the occasional glimpses of a unit that is never addressed, the Dragonfly air unit that is fleetingly seen at 26 and 33 seconds in. I have no idea what it does but it's design has me intregued.

So any thoughts? What is you opinion of Red Alert 3's third side? Do you think that it will have a detrimental effect on the balancing of the game?   read

3:58 PM on 07.03.2008

You got pokemans in my classroom?


Sorry I know it's only a video but I just couldn't resist posting this. I mean his admonishment of "YOU WILL NEVER FIND TRUE LOVE" has to be one of the most outlandish things anyone could say in the circumstances.

Anyway I am working on an actual article of sorts that you will hopefully enjoy but I've been sidetracked by illness.

Also, Cocks.   read

7:08 AM on 06.21.2008

Could Super Mario get British citizenship?

Those of us who live and lurk on the rainy side of the Atlantic will be more than familiar with the rantings of right wing media that the White cliffs of Dover are under siege day and night by foreign types who want free Satellite television, a free car, cut price shopping at the tax payers expense and a three bedroom semi in Dudley provided that they pass the simple forms and checks to claim political asylum.

Well lets see if Nintendo's portly short arsed mascot could gain a British passport in a little segment that I like to call . . .

Here is the situation Mario jumps into a green pipe in the Mushroom Kingdom and pops out into the French end of the Euro tunnel, spotting some heavily armed Gendarmerie he takes his chances at the other end of the tunnel in Britain.

First off our boy Mario might be covered by one of the four freedoms of the European Union that, clearly as an Italian, he is entitled to the right of free movement (covered here by Directive 2004/38/EC
of the EC treaty) as long as he can prove that he is a student, self employed, an agricultural worker or a skilled worker. As we all know Mario is a professional plumber and possibly a doctor (though I've never seen his PHD) provided that those professions are on the Skills Shortage List he is top trumps for citizenship, however seeing as Mario didn't plan for this little excursion back to reality he has arrived with no proof of . . well anything. A stereotyped Italian accent and a pair of dungerees are hardly about to gain you entrance into the UK, couple that with the fact that he's been in the Mushroom Kingdom for the last 15 years and it is doubtful the Italian government even considers Mario Mario a citizen any more. Also explaining to immigration control that you've spent the last decade and a half or so "saving princesses from giant lizard kings and eating mushrooms that make me bigger" will at best get you a few funny looks, at worst some hospital time in straight jacket and a frontal lobotomy.

So what are Mario's other options? Well he could apply for citizenship as a stateless person however all of the options require him to have been of British decent and also Mario has to pay a fee (non refundable if the application does not succeed) and the only change he has on him is a few power coins, 6 golden coins, a few red and blue coins and one purple coin (like hell he's giving that one away considering how hard it was to get) all of which are not acceptable currency. He could attempt to claim political asylum at which point he will be placed into an asylum detention centre whilst his case is processed at one of the two asylum screening units in Croydon or Liverpool. Here he will be given his chance to plead his case to an interviewer, possibly citing living in constant terror of the Koopa regime, although with little evidence to support himself it looks unlikely that this will work.

Ultimately the authorities will ship Mario back over to the French side to be processed there where he stands a better chance of citizenship, whilst over there he might make a run for it and try to enter Britain illegally which some sources claim he stands a good chance of doing albeit these sources feature very little if no citation at all for their figures.

In conclusion the answer to could Super Mario; defender of the Mushroom Kingdom, scourge of the Koopa Royal family, race driver, tennis player, golfer, basketball all star, footballer, time traveller, skilled combatant, sporting referee, olympian and saviour of Mario World many times over, become a British citizen? No!

I'd speculate that rather like the last time Mario was missing Luigi will come looking for him to bring him back like the gormless tool that he is instead of leaving Mario to rot here and taking Princess Peach back his mansion for a "shoulder to cry on". The big tart.   read

9:13 AM on 05.28.2008

State of Play UK: Bye bye Wii Fit

The UK top 40 games chart listings are up for the week ending 24th May 2008 and it contains a few interesting points of conversation but most importantly that the Wii Fit has dropped fom it's top ten positioning to completely OUT of the top 40.

Here is the top 10:
1.Grand Theft Auto IV (Rockstar North-Xbox 360/PS3)
2.Age of Conan (Funcom-PC)
3.Haze (Free Radical-PS3)
4.Mario & Sonic @ Olympics (Nintendo-Wii)
5.Wii Play (Nintendo-Wii)
6.Rock Band (Harmonix-Xbox 360_
7.Pro Evo Soccer 2008 (Konami-PS3/Xbox 360/Wii/DS)
8.Mario Kart Wii (Nintendo-Wii)
9.Fifa 2008 (EA-PS3/Xbox 360/Wii/DS)
10.Guirar Hero III (Neversoft-PS3/Xbox 360/Wii)

Wii Fit
Now to that first point with Wii fit dropping from the sales charts all together apparently due to stock problems. Since it's release over here , during the week ending April 26th, it's held it's own slumping only to the number 2 position in the charts with it clocking in around £16.3 million of sales on the day of release. On the Wii sales chart front the stock shortage has seen Wii fit drop from the number one spot right down to 15th.

With three Wii excusive games in the top ten one of which, Wii play, has been on sales since the day the Wii was released and is still in the top five there is a good chance the Wii Fit will return to the top ten when Nintendo clears up the stock issue.

Nintendo and the Wii in general
Take one look at that list and and count the amount of games you see for the Wii. Out of ten games, three are exclusive to the Nintendo console while three more contribute to multiconsole sales of games. With that kind of influence on UK sales, it'll be interesting to see if the negative vibe surrounding Smash Bros Brawl european release will have any effect on it's sales and placement in the top ten.

Speaking of games with a negative vibe Haze, which some people have panned for various reasons after playing the demo and has recieved critcal backlash for it's instalation size and lack of full scale HD, debuts this week at number three making it the highest console exclusive game on the chart.

Rock Band
Yet more negative vibe for a game and yet another impressive debut. Currently the closest thing Microsofts console has to an exclusive in the chart with only a rumoured PS2, PS3 and Wii release date, the game was the focus of much anger from UK gamers when the price tag was revealed to be £180 (a point that was talked about on D'toids very own Podcastle). Though it would appear that most UK retailers decision to slash the price of the rockstar simulator to the £130 -£140 mark has made it more appealing to the point that is has trumped the multiconsole Guitar Hero III which is holding steady in tenth posistion.

Age of Conan
Congrats have to be given to PC MMORPG Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, which sits in second place and earns itself two big achievements. First it is the highest PC title launched this year and also the biggest MMO released here since World of Warcraft. It'll be intersting to see if sales continue as strong as they are or drop off in the coming weeks.

All the rest
As I mentioned before the Wii has strength in numbers here with Mario & Sonic and Wii Play hanging in there to it's numbers 4 and 5 spots respectively from last week, Mario Kart Wii however has taken a hit dropping from number 3 previously to 8th place.

As always with the UK chart the two biggest footbal games Konamis Pro Evo and EA's Fifa are still duking it out for dominance with Pro Evo standing highest this week. However the full time whistle is still some way away for these two as Pro Evo dropped a place from 5th to 6th to make way for Rock Band with Fifa jumping two places from 11th up to 9th. Also of note is that Englands failure to qualify for this years Euro International Tournament in Austria and Switzerland may have hurt sales of EA's Euro 2008 liscence with it moving up only three places from 23rd to 20th. With the tournament kicking off on the 7th of June will it make any difference?

Other notable mentions go to Big Brain Acadamy: Wii Degree and movie liscence Ratatouille both of which won't be threatening GTA IV's dominance anytime soon by debuting this week right at the bottom of the top 40 at 38th (Big Brain) and 40th (Ratatouille)

Full UK top 40 (all prices) for the Week ending May 24th   read

10:39 AM on 05.26.2008

In the Vita-Chamber: Body Harvest

In Britain recently we've had a little hot weather and with that event I had to dig to the back of my wardrobe past the jumpers, body warmers and thick combat pants to find the selection of t-shirts and shorts that last oddorned my body in 2006 (it pissed down all last year with the exception of two weeks in April). Whilst digging through the t-shirts I found a rare item that returned fond memories. It was a simple white t-shirt that was addorned on the upper left side of the chest area by a logo consisting of bullseye with a super deformed space marine in yellow armour in front of it. Below that simply the words BODY HARVEST.

This was a pre-ordering gift from EB, my assumption was so great that this awesome game would fly off the shelves that I fealt it needed pre-oredering. I meen free roaming sandbox environments, time travel, alien invaders and you could steal cars. A common occourance now but in the days of 1998 it was a revolutionary concept to see in full 3D as GTA was still in the top down world it had been presented in since the first Grand Theft was released roughly around a year earlier.

I still have the cart which has sat unloved since I sold my N64 some years ago. :(

What was Body Harvest
Body Harvest was a 3D action game from Scottish developers DMA Design (now known to me and you as Rockstar North) for the Nintendo 64. The games plot saw you as Adam Drake, a lone space marine and one of the few surviving humans, from the year 2016 being sent back to 4 key locations in the 20th century in order to prevent an alien race of insectoids from wiping out humanity.

The game viewed now is very much the spiritual older brother of GTA 3 in terms of graphics and basic gameplay. This was the first real experiment with sandbox gaming, with each of the time periods consisting of suprisingly large environments that you could move around at will in even commandeering any vehicles in the level to get around quicker. Parts of the level where cut off by alien shields until the shield generator for that section was destroyed a tactic that has been uesd to similar effect in GTA with the bridges being cordoned of by the police.

One of the distintive differeces betweent this and GTA is regard for human life. Where as Niko Belic and co can kill civillians without it being that concequential in the games outcome, Body Harvest required that you protect civillian life and a bar was present in your HUD displaying the current death toll for the level. Let too many die and it was game over.

Doing motorbikes, fighter planes and combine harvesters long before Vice City and San Andreas

Body Harvest II?
There have been no plans announced regarding a sequel, prequel or remake. Not even a virtual console/Live Arcade/PSN release. The last anyone made mention of it was in GTA: San Andreas in the mission "Body Harvest" which name checked the game and referenced a mission in the game where you had to mow down Zombies in 90's Siberia using a Combine Harvister.

Plot is never a small part of a Rockstar North game as many of you passing through Liberty City recently will have noticed. How plot is dealt with in a Body Harvest sequel is down to two things:

1 - Will Rockstar North want to continue continuity to a game only a few people played, potentailly alienating new players or a whole new plot based on the originals thus making it more of a remake?

2 - The original Body Harvest had a similar cartoony style to the GTA III series and so had a more B-movie plot line. With GTA IV the games became more realistic in appearance and so became deeper with better developed characterisation, so would BHII reflect this and have a more serious tone?

My personal take on it would be to have a new lead protaganist in a new story line that alludes on ocassion to the events of Body Harvest. Setting it in the same world but having it distant enough so as to not put off new players.

As I mentioned before one of the central mechanics of Body Harvest was the death toll bar that measured civilian fatalities in the level. However the civilians did little to hide from the onslaught and there was nothing you could do to help them either so frequently the innocent would blunder into the front of a vehicle that you were driving or into enemy fire. Introducing a command element for your hero that allows you to hurd people to places of safety would be a huge boon.

Combat would more than likely be very similar to that found in cult game Earth Defefnce Force 2017, a very similar run and gun style but with vehicular combat, maybe even the scale of destruction that EDF2017 allows just to really bring the sense of a full scale alien invasion into the battle.

Doing something with the time travel aspect would allow Rockstar to pay with the moral implications of our actions much like they did with GTA IV. GTA IV had moments where you had to choose between one thing and another, the resulting choice would ultimately affect the games outcome so why not have that in there too. Have our main guy or gal choose to save either thier best friends mum or Albert Einstien, something like that.

Progress between time zones was linear in Body Harvest, as you went from the far past and moved ever closer to the future. A choice as to which of the threatened times you wish to visit could the way the game plays as events in one time will effect the othersand again show us the implications of our actions. For example letting someone die in the past could turn a utopian future into a distopian one, this in turn having the effect of civilians not listening to your commands to take cover as they might view you as a fascist enforcer but you'll have access to more powerful weapons.

Will it Happen?
Will Rockstar North retire it's main money spining franchise if only for a short while to concentrate on a second interation of Body Harvest?

It's not very likely is it? With GTA being the centre of gaming (and some non gaming) media attention the chances of seeing a return by this or fellow N64 stable mate Space Station Silicon Valley before another GTA are slim. Sad but a truth we must accept. I have fired off an e-mail to Rockstars PR department asking if there are any plans for Body Harvest, as soon as I hear anything you'll be the first to know D'toid.   read

10:10 PM on 05.10.2008

Sonic the Zombie

With the front page currently sporting that very disturbing image of what Sonic would look if he were more realistic I thought it would be a good time to display this piece of fan art I stumbled across just recently by a fellow who goes by the name tigerfrog.

If you liked this then take a look at his deviantART profile. His art is mostly in this style and of either Sonic & co or TMNT.   read

8:30 PM on 05.09.2008

Before we give the Daily Mail some credit

Now I realize that everyones favourite Nazi Simulator (historically true, look it up) made a small leap recently by actually admitting that GTA IV wasn't violence for points and that the main character was a fleshed out person with motivation ect.

However I was recently pointed this news article here where a mother tries to kepp her children (all four of them) with a Nintendo DS. It slides into the usual "evil games" rubbish without pointing out the obviously poor parenting skills (and child naimg skills, I mean HUNNY? Really?) on display. The person who brought my atention to this article also pointed out somehting interesting. The more keen of eye amongst you will have spotted this whilst reading the article and it comes right at the start:

"When the pale blue, 150 Nintendo finally arrived last November, fresh from Hong Kong (I had bought it on the net), crammed with a 'bundle' of 20 games including Brain Trainer, Fifa 08, and Nintendogs, my children hugged me tightly. "

We are all well aware of what these 20 game "bundles" from Hong Kong are like. So did Englands pillar of moral excellence really support video game piracy?

Not that I have any proof that they did.

Not that lack of proof would ever stop the Mail.   read

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