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3:05 PM on 05.19.2008

Yearly, Self-Destructive Gaming

The month of May is, for me, a month of feverish gaming. I would suspect that it is also a month of feverish gaming for each and every student out there for one reason, and one reason only: there are things that we should be doing otherwise.

Yes indeed, I'm talking studying for exams, finishing projects and handing in assignments. It would seem that, in order to escape the horrors of college reality, I throw myself wholeheartedly into binge gaming; replaying old games that you got so close to finishing seems to be a favourite topic.

This year has been no exception, as this has been hand-in-your-fucking-assignments month. Oh yes, I have completed my assignments, but all have been done in the wee hours the morning before they are due. What really matters is that I finally started (and completed) Metroid Fusion, bought a new copy of MGS2 and completed it on Hard with the vast majority of dog-tags, started Pokémon Sapphire and Pearl and am now challenging the Elite Four in both. Fucking Pokémon. Fuck you.

Anyway, I seriously doubt this is something that affects only me. Does anyone else binge-game in an effort to avoid/forget assignments and exams?

**also, Metroid Fusion is so fucking good. Why did no one tell me?   read

4:57 PM on 03.30.2008

Unreal Chains Of Solid Gears: The Graphic Novel

This weekend, being forced to head home to help out my family in the garden, I decided to do something that I haven't done in a while. You know- buy games.

With my DS and I in marriage counselling, I picked up Chains of Olympus, Portable Ops Plus, the MGS Graphic Novel and Unreal Tournament 3 for the PC. €100 spent without remorse, it's been a while since I felt so wonderfully buried in a sea of games.

All games covered fairly well. Chains; Beautiful but uncomfortably short (like Natalie Portman), Portable Ops Plus is an old friend who has some new stories to tell and Unreal Tournament 3 splutters and wheezes like an exhausted greasy hooker when I try and run it on my laptop. What I was really surprised with was the Digital Graphic Novel.

I really like it.

Having read some comics on my PSP before and mildly enjoying them, I assumed that this would be much the same. Static images, flicking through the pages, yadda yadda. But wait (!), the same springy cardboardy motion that was in Portable Ops, but telling the MGS1 story? Hell yes! Why they didn't draft in Mr Hayter et al to do the voicework for it is beyond me though. They worked so well in PO, the static cutscenes with dialogue, that it seems a bit... empty without it. Anyone who has seen those ads for Audio Description services will know what I mean, ambient background noises with mute characters is disconcerting.

Still though, I really like it.

Have you guys played it? What do you think?   read

5:21 AM on 03.20.2008

The Problem With Prov (And Society)

Pro Evolution Soccer ('Prov' in the circles I move in..) is perhaps the game that I have dedicated the most time in my 20 years. Well, either that or Red Alert 2.

Having picked up the game in it's first incarnation as Pro Evolution Soccer on the PS2 (from ISS) I was enamoured with it. Prov was a game that placed emphasis on simulation rather than an Arcade experience, the kind already provided with FIFA. The game wouldn't let you do ridiculous tricks at the press of a button, it didn't have giant arrows and players leaving vapour trails behind them when they ran. This was a game in which a small yellow cross, showing where a long pass would land, was the only thing betraying the realism on-field. The ball had a physical model and wasn't stuck to what looked like a rubber ring around the players feet. Prov was revolutionary and, as you'd expect from something so deep, provided the most enjoyable multiplayer experience you could have with 4 vibrating controllers without voiding your warrenty.

It was a hoot.

And it remained so for the next 3 or 4 years, each release improving the game almost exponentially, improving gameplay, adding team and league licences, streamlining the game and improving the graphics. They improved it so much that to play the previous game in the series, coming from the newer incarnation would feel like playing with some primitive artefact, whose jagged edges were horrendously sub-par compared to this smooth, rolling wheel of a new release.

FIFA remained its only competitor. FIFA had the full FIFPro licence and this meant that Konami could only ever keep slowly updating its library of teams, and never buy the whole 'package' as exclusivity had been bought by EA Sports. This threatened to keep the game down, as the uninformed shopper would be happier to pick up a game with all of the teams in it than one with all leagues but the Premiership. The flashier game always won out, but to those that really value a game that requires tactics, rather than the pressing of the goal button to score, there was no contest, it was always Prov.

Let's fast-forward to this years Pro Evolution Soccer 2008.

What. The. Fuck.

It seems, not to be outdone in the league table of petty pilfering, where once EA Sports was so far in the lead that they were mere specks on the horizon, Konami has now done some stealing of their own from their rivals. Unfortunately, they have stolen most of the things that make (or at least have made) this arcade monstrosity such a footballing abortion.

The game now panders to the lowest human denominator. Once upon a time there was a proud, tasteful game with moderate sponsorship and ambitions to deliver faithful football simulation to the console. Not so anymore. The game is becoming the same benign, steroidal, over-sexed nonsense in an effort, it would appear, to steal some of FIFA's audience, that is, ignorant fucking men who's check-list for a football game would read as such:

* Jiggling Mammaries in the opening video!
* Kaiser Chiefs in opening video
* Sponsored by Zoo Magazine
* The ability to dive!
* Cristiano Ronaldo

Zoo magazine have even managed to squeeze a quote from their review of the game on to the back of the box. How on earth Konami thought "hey, let's put a quote from the Magazine that is plastered on every ad-board in the game on the back of the box, that won't arouse any suspicion!" is beyond me.

The soundtrack emulates the unsavoury FIFA 'Jukebox' and announces ceremoniously the track that is being played, even though the tracks themselves are made in-house and are, as such, unremarkable. Even the supposedly diverse genres of these songs seem to be a lie, as all tracks eventually break down into thumping 'foot-eh' songs. This wouldn't be a problem, but why the ceremony of announcing 'Bongo Wango' and telling us, in no uncertain, terms that it is a 'Drum and Bass' song? The mind boggles. Give me anonymous J-pop any day.

Thankfully, the gameplay hasn't succumbed entirely to the same spirited retardation so prominent elsewhere. It is still rather good and, despite attempting to shoot itself in the foot with the baffling addition of Diving, it is still fun to play and I am actually looking forward to next years addition because, I think, they have some real potential to make an excellent title with all of the power of the new consoles.

So, to quickly summarise, what is the problem with Prov?

Well, at the moment the game just seems so confused. Perhaps it is symptomatic of the jump from one generation of consoles to the next and, with resources stretched thin they are running dry on the 'new ideas' front. Perhaps it is just industry pressure as the game is still, I would guess, selling less than FIFA (whose popularity boggles me) and so they steal in an effort to get the upper hand.

Well, Seabass, Stop! What made the series so good in the first place was the move away from the FIFA series' stupidity, obnoxiousness and redundant arcade gameplay and presentation and respecting football as having an inherent beauty, not one manufactured with a chart-topping soundtrack, a library of whooshing noises or players that look all to be made from the same 'roided out mannequin.

Konami ... this is nonsense. Also, fix the fucking network play on PS3. Thank you.   read

5:29 AM on 03.05.2008

Bland of Brothers

Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions on the PSP is a wonderful game, of that I have little doubt, but it has two very distracting flaws. They are by no means game ruining but, for me, they detract from a game that is otherwise incredible.

The first (and far and away the most discussed) is the very noticeable lag whenever anything utilises the archaic particle system. It becomes more remarkable further into the game because where once you'd cast fire on an enemy and have him engulfed in a small puff of flame-y particles, you now cast Firaga and are treated to epileptic blobs, seizure-ing down from the skies when you should be witnessing hell's fury raining down upon your foes.

The second, and the one I consider to be criminal, is the horrendous lack of colour and contrast in most of the game's arenas.

Now, before the hateful comments come flooding in (ahem), I am fully aware that the game is a port of the Playstation's 'Tactics' with all new (!) widescreen aspect ratio , job classes and cut-scenes but, when the game's battlefields and menus are so desaturated and drab, surely the developmental focus was slightly off. Would it have totally ruined the authenticity of the port to have run the terrain tiles through a contrast filter or... something? I mean, this game is to be played on the PSP, a portable console whose screen desperately needs contrast and bright colours to aid anyone trying to play it on the bus with the sun glaring onto the screen.

This is personal experience speaking. I am besotted with the wonderful dialogue and the new cel-shaded cutscenes are fantastic but the two problems I mentioned (and I am well aware that the second one could just be me being an arsey little nit-picker) take the shiny gleam off a game whose Final Fantasy moniker demands nothing less than a brilliant shine.

Perhaps I should go back to Tactics: Advance! Where is that darn DS...   read

8:25 AM on 03.04.2008

Patapon Invades Europe, Ireland Surrenders.

Fuck Ireland. Or perhaps, fuck Europe.

Patapon's release hype contained the nourishing information that the game would cost a mere $20 in the US on it's release. This is roughly 14 Euro which is the cost of about 3 pints.

3 Pints of sweet Guinness.

But whoa now, wait a second! One glance at the website tells me that the game won't cost me a quiet evening alone drinking but will, indeed, cost me 40 fucking Euro.

Apparently, according to, this is just about $60. It would appear that if Europe is not getting fucked on a release date, they are getting fucked on price.

Would you pay 40 Euro (or indeed, 60 dollars) for Patapon? Should I?

And come on, us Europeans know a thing or two about invasions. Not the Irish of course. We're all just passive, neutral drunks who got our dickholes filled by Cromwell. Maybe this Patapon game will bring back wonderful memories... That is, if I can afford it.   read

4:12 AM on 03.04.2008

Burnout Paradise is a Dirty Pervert

So, we finally got a Wireless Router in the apartment allowing my PS3 to once again know the unbridled joys of the internet. Now, not having the money to actually download anything of use from the PS Store (read: full games), I decided to treat myself Burnout Paradise demo.

Best part of the game for me? The game tried to, without even asking if I had a camera, snap a photo of my mug for my drivers licence with the Playstation Eye that I got bundled with Eye of Judgement (which I may go back to, but I think I may hate...).


Naturally, didn't want a picture of my gaunt, hairy face grimacing at me as I tore up Paradise City so I took a picture of a bundle of wires. Adding insult to (technologically impressive) injury, the game attempted to take a snapshot of my excited mug after another driver had ploughed into me online and severely dama-, sorry I mean Wrecked my.. (ahem) Ride.

Marvellous again!

But, I have a dream. This wonderfully effortless exercise in interoperability has given me wild ideas about how future racing games could work.

(For the sake of argument I'm using my PS3 and other Sony things as an example, I'm sure the 360 and Live Camera etc. could be used similarly)

One loads up a game such as Burnout Paradise, the game asks to take your picture for your licence and allows you to fill in details about your age, weight and such. The game then maps your face onto the driving protagonist, making your character unique (In a massive online arenas such as those in Burnout, individuality is a treasured commodity). Further still, the camera allows you to capture graphics that you may have drawn, or may find in magazines, allowing you to adorn a prized car with them.

Take the PSP; it's inbuilt wireless could allow you to set it up for use as a rear-view mirror as a remote play option (as was. in part, reportedly happening with F1 Championship Edition, but never materialised). Further still, you could use the PSP's buttons to tune your engine or to change the radio station. Imagine also connecting a Sony Walkman to your PS3 and have access to your entire collection of music in-game!

This is undoubtedly the future, but with game development times seemingly becoming longer, how much impetus will the authors of these titles have to include features which may be deemed tertiary to the actual gameplay? I think all we can do is wait for the first real innovative use of the technology, and see if the others follow suit.   read

3:46 PM on 03.03.2008

Sweet Dreams My SS-Ex

My love of SSX is at odds with my hatred of EA and their 'totally wicked like Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch' sports games. The games in the series have, for the most part, balanced the obnoxious EA ethos with a game that is incredibly fun and rewarding.

My love for SSX is also at odds with my dislike of real snowsports, although I put this down to having my first skiing experience after I had played an SSX game. The images I had of zipping down a sheer descent and then pulling a combo-breaking Uber Trick were quickly dashed as I stumbled onto the beginner slope, lost control and ploughed into a child. The noise of a wailing child and the snow in my jacket, burning me, dissuaded me from ever attempting to better myself at skiing and convinced me that I should stick to SSX.

A wise choice.

So, as of 2008, what have we on our gaming platter? The last SSX game was, technically, SSX Blur on the Wii but, from what I could tell, it seemed to rehash a lot of the SSX 3 and On Tour tracks runs. The 'innovative' control scheme (a symptom of any game lashed to the Wii with duct tape and staples, reminiscent of early DS Stylus-wankery syndrome) is one I have yet to try but I fear the precision of the analog sticks and shoulder buttons would be lost. Oh, prior to Blur there was On Tour, which was a snowboarding abortion pandering to morons... so let's brush over that one.

And what can we expect in the future? Well, although no announcements have been made, I expect that EA will continue the series on the newer consoles. It seems very likely, as they have done so commercially well. I cannot wait for the newer incarnations. The thought of a snowboarding game powered by delicious new technology is enough to send me into a frothy mouthed state of delirium. Let's just hope that they avoid the use of motion controls. I don't want to lose my love for virtual snowsports because I have just ploughed into a group of virtual child-skiers and it is bringing back a strange burning sensation in my chest...   read

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