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9:52 AM on 03.10.2013

Has the encouraging end-game speech in a video game ever inspired you to victory

I went paintballing yesterday as part of my brother's stag festivities. It was quite fun, but beforehand i was quite nervous about being shot. I reached out to an ex-military guy on another forum i frequent, and he told me something i had long suspected. That the real-life fear of being hurt is a powerful tool for the front-line soldier.

Unfortunately once you've been hit a few times it's hard to be that worried, but it reminded me of a quote from Dragon Age II, where Hawke tells his party 'i don't know if we can win this, or if we even should, but i do know i can fight harder scared than they can angry'.



So obviously i decided it would be advantageous to subtly rile up our opponents, who happened to be a mixed-gender party of 12 celebrating someone's birthday. This took place in Essex, so imagine they were quite chav-like.

Anyway, in the first game i eliminated two of the women (like a big man) before being shot myself and having to sit out the rest of the round. I got hit in the neck, which really, REALLY, f*cking hurt. As i was tending to my wound in the sit-out area i overheard the two women talking. 'Yeah, some guy hit me in the arse... it was you wasn't it?'

'Sorry. The weapon instructor did say we'd get better results aiming for the larger areas of the body as opposed to always going for head shots'.
'You cheeky gi...'
'It was a compliment. You're quite callipygian'

She didn't know what that meant, so i told to look it up at dictionary.com when she got a moment.

Which she must have done, as after the break for lunch she approached me to say that it was quite a 'fancy way of telling me i have a nice bum' before adding she isn't used to that kind of language.

The rest of her party were watching, so i made a point of slowly looking at the men before telling her that doesn't surprise me. She laughed in agreement.

(at this point i understand that it seems like i was flirting, which might seem a little shady considering i have a girlfriend of my own, but i'd like to point out my brother's fiancée is having strippers at her hen party')

As you can imagine the guys didn't appreciate that, and during the next game seemed to make a point of going after me. Which they did quite successfully when they flanked me. I looked like a Kandinsky painting, and noticed in the shower just now that i have about half a dozen red marks on my back.

However, this was an objective game. Capture the flag. In focusing so heavily on me, they didn't give due thought to the rest of my team who managed to retrieve it and win the game.

And all because of messir Hawke (and my tactical brilliance and ability to charm a woman - i feel a bit like a cross between James Bond in Goldfinger and Sun Tzu).

It's also notable that the things i learned on Dragon Age helped me more than anything i had learned on Call of Duty, while playing paintball at a place which prides itself on having a recreation of a Modern Warfare 2 map.   read


4:47 AM on 01.27.2013

What's in a name?

My girlfriend started Dragon Age: Origins over the weekend. I was hovering in the living room and noticed that she opted to name her female human noble 'Cherrie'. Before she could finalise her choices are stopped her.

'You know that Cherrie is the French spelling of Sherry? Well, the in-game analogue of France, Orlais, invaded and occupied Ferelden for 100 years. There is no way a member of the Ferelden nobility would take such a name for his daughter. I think you should reconsider.'

This seemed to annoy her, and she sarcastically asked why the name i used for my Warden was any better. Even though she didn't want me to answer, i did anyway, because i'm quite proud of it.

Many human characters in Dragon Age have names taken from Celtic mythology. Morrigan being a prime example. In legend, she is a goddess of war, strife and sovereignty, and is said to take the form of a crow.



In the game, she is shown to have had a very tough upbringing (strife) and her position as an apostate and general hater of the Chantry demonstrates how much she values her independence. Sovereignty. Also, notice the black feathers on her shoulder.

So knowing this, i gave my male human noble the name 'Taranis', who was the Celtic god of Thunder.

I made sure to always equip his primary weapon with a lightning rune, and as the god is usually depicted as holding a wheel, i went with a 'sword and board' build, to emulate the look.

Also, and this is what i was most proud of, a lot of old Celtic coins had wheels on one side. And nobility tend to have quite a lot of money.

She concluded that i was insane to put so much thought into it, but it made me realise just how much i enjoy really thinking about the game world and choosing a name that not just fits it, but also the type of character i want to build and role-play as.

I'm about to start Divinity II and am currently racking my brain in an effort to come up with something. It has become a big part of the rpg experience for me. Even though the game will always refer to me as 'the Warden' or 'Shepard' or 'Vault Dweller', i always get a kick out of seeing my perfectly devised name on the character screens.

I guess i'm wondering if anyone else takes it this seriously.   read


3:56 PM on 01.10.2013

Where it went wrong for the BioWare Social Network.

I read an article on Eurogamer today, claiming that a head writer at BioWare finds the company's forum to be 'increasingly toxic' and that as a result he largely ignores it these days. My first thought was fair enough - Mass Effect has the worst fan-base in all of gaming - but now that i think about it, i believe that BioWare only have themselves to blame.

I think back to that femshep polling fiasco, where we were asked to vote upon a face for the female version of our favourite space marine. As most will remember, a blonde model prevailed and that should have been that. BioWare gave no indication that more votes would be held to refine Shepard's visage.



Yet large numbers of fans took the BSN and Twitter to complain. Apparently the blonde looked as though she was more concerned with her nails than the state of the galaxy, or as though she should be carrying a small dog around in a designer handbag. And BioWare caved.

Imagine the storm such a change to the terms would have caused if the black Shepard character model had won the vote. No doubt BioWare would have had to stick to their guns, but prejudice against blonde women is largely accepted and somewhat institutionalised, i have learned.

Quite rightly, many blonde female players were left feeling a bit let down that BioWare would crack under such pressure, and let prejudiced, borderline-misogynistic whining dictate design policy. BW can claim that more people wanted a non-blonde Shepard (which isn't true - less than half as many people who took part in the first vote did in the second) but when you do such an injustice to a small portion of the fan-base to please the masses you send a message.


It's just not possible to be blonde, attractive, female, and a strong leader.

It's little wonder that any bigot with a keyboard and an interest in their games takes their narrow mind to the BioWare Social Network. It has a toxic atmosphere because BioWare enabled it, and to a certain extent rewarded it in quite a big way.

Forget the recycled environments of DAII, and the ending of ME3 (which i quite liked). This was the moment when BioWare really screwed up, in terms of maintaining some semblance of rationality and decency in its community.

On a lighter note, i'd like to thank them providing me with confirmation that i'll probably end up marrying my current girlfriend. She was looking at some celebrity column a few days ago and saw that Tricia Helfer had posed nude for some calendar.

I said that i don't really like her as a brunette. She agreed, adding that Tricia looks better with her hair as a flexible, bio-mimetic nano-material, cohered into a solid piece.   read


6:29 PM on 01.02.2013

I think that playing violent video games as a kid helped my development.

I've just read an article about how a small Connecticut town has set up a voluntary video game return program, seemingly aimed at collecting violent games. On the surface this seems like a dumb, reactionary response to a recent atrocity... but considering that the School superintendant behind the idea is quoted as saying

'We're suggesting that for parents who have a child or children who play violent video games, to first of all view the games. We're asking parents to better understand what their child is doing. Have a conversation about next steps. If parents are comfortable (with their child's gaming habits), we're comfortable.'

ignoring the fact that the donated games are likely to be burnt, it doesn't actually seem too bad. It does seem to imply that many people see a link between video games and real-life crazy and violent people though. So i've had a little think about how games with an emphasis on violence affected my development.



And the truth is that i have always found that games with really visceral and involved combat often leave me looking for less bloody ways through a quest.

Like in Dragon Age: Origins. I firmly believe that in order to get the most out of any RPG you need to play on a difficulty level that is slightly outside of your comfort zone, because this makes certain choices far more harrowing and important. Like in DA, when you have the option of sacrificing some elven slaves in order to receive a big buff to your health. On easy, it's barely a decision. If i'm playing as a good guy, i don't do it. But on Nightmare, because combat is that much more difficult, even though i was playing as a good guy, i had to consider it. The Wardens say to do whatever is necessary to battle the Blight, after all.

Anyway, there are some really combat-intensive parts of the game, such as in Orzammar and the Deep Roads. Because of this, i ended up letting a lot of petty criminals flee with their lives.

Of course the Darkspawn scum can never be given that option, but i can honestly say that a lot of violent games leave me looking for more peaceful means to resolve an issue. You need to pick your battles and be more discerning when it comes to deciding who really needs to die or be beaten to within an inch of their lives.

To that end, video games echo and enforce real life realities.

When i was at school, unbelievably other children would sometimes make fun of me. I knew that fighting was hard and mana potions were scarce, so wasn't about to engage every hoodlum that mocked me.

I saved my stamina for the big issues, like when some bastard-child nicked my yo-yo. And even then, i knew it was best to not get my hands dirty and instead paid the Cannon brothers two weeks worth of pocket money to beat him up and get it back for me.

After my associates were done with the young rapscallion, he was laying on the grass crying and i was presented with an opportunity to kick him in the head. But i didn't. I not only taught him a lesson about not taking things that don't belong to you, but i also taught him a lesson about mercy. Because as games told me, often you need to take the paragon/light side/way of the open palm path if you want to unlock the best ending.

It really is like games taught me. There is always a better way to solve an issue than with your own fists. And i am happy to report that games like Dragon Age are teaching my 13 year old brother similar lessons.



Also, as there have been a lot of 'top games of 2012 lists' i'd just like to add that my absolute favourite game of the year was Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, which just did an amazing job of bringing back the G1 characteristics of my favourite robots. Risen 2 and Mass Effect 3 run it close.   read


6:42 PM on 11.01.2012

A strange thing happened to me at GAME yesterday.

I went into GAME yesterday to get some Microsoft points so that i could download the Sleeping Dogs DLC, and because as yesterday was obviously Halloween, the employees there were dressed up.

I was browsing the xbox games and some guy who was in a devil costume came over and asked if i needed any help. I told him that i was just looking, but that i kind of wanted to buy Medal of Honour but have been making an effort recently to not buy so many games, and with two that i'm really looking forward to coming over the next fortnight i should probably try to be more responsible and wait.

He basically said that i should ignore all that and just buy the bloody game, but then somebody else told me that i should probably just wait. I recognised the voice as belonging to a girl named Sarah. This is the shop my girlfriend works at too and they're friends, so i said 'maybe' and went to put the game back.

The displays have this sort of reflective surface towards the top, and i never pass up an opportunity to look at myself, so as i was putting the game back i looked up and noticed that Sarah was dressed up as one of those Lynx angels.

It was so bizarre. I had a devil on my right shoulder telling me to ignore my doubts and act irresponsibly, and an angel on my left shoulder telling me to do the good thing.



This kind of made my mind up fully on the matter, and i left the game on the shelf before walking to the checkout to get my Microsoft points. Sarah isn't divine, but because of the occasion the imagery was quite powerful.   read


3:25 PM on 10.26.2012

An introductory post.

I've posted a few blogs already, but as i'm probably going to be sticking around i would like to introduce myself properly. To help do this i'd like to share a story from my day.

______


I went to see Skyfall today (don't worry; there are no spoilers) and it was fantastic.

Not quite as good as Casino Royale, and the action scenes were a little bit lacking… but it showed a more clever side to James Bond and re-introduced some of the traditional elements associated with 007 films before the reboot. It was very funny too… though one scene included for laughs left me a little confused in regards to continuity.

Also funny is that i went to the first screening of the film, which was in the morning of a weekday, so you can imagine that the other people there were pretty big fans too. While we were waiting for the theatre doors to be opened my girlfriend was reading from a ‘50 years of Bond’ trivia panthlete.

I got every question right, naturally, but as i looked around i could see the other people were answering them in their heads. One guy in particular - a hairy man with a comb-over - had a ‘i answered that quicker’ look in his eye, and eventually he joined in.

I had just been asked ‘which actor played 007 in the most films’ and answered Roger Moore. The guy then said ‘actually, Connery also portrayed Bond 7 times… once in the non-eon Never Say Never Again’, and then gave a smile that seemed a bit menacing like Jaws’.



My girlfriend then pointed out that these only pertained to the official films, and declared me the victor, so i gave a smile very much like the one Moore replied to Jaws with in the Spy Who Loved Me.

Moments like that stay with you. I will never forget the day i beat a jumped up ape at Bond trivia on a technicality in front of at least four other fanatics and their embarrassed-looking wives on the day Skyfall opened to the public.

______


Some of you may have read my blog about how i read the Drell prayer from Mass Effect 3 at my uncle's funeral, or how i used a Dragon Age analogy to offer some relationship advice to a friend. The point i'm attempting to illustrate is that when something captures my imagination it really pulls me in, and to an almost pathetic degree. Words like 'saddo' and 'anorak' are often used to describe me... but given the amount of enjoyment my passions bring me and how much i can glean from the world through them, i can't say i care.

In addition to James Bond and video games, my big passion is the Moon, and i would like to pose a question if i may.

Have you ever seen a total solar eclipse? And if so, have you ever wondered as to the mathematics that allow this celestial miracle to occur?

Do you not find it weird that the sun and the moon and the earth are just the right size and just the right distance apart to allow this to happen? Because i do find it weird. I also find the fact that none of the major accepted theories on the Moon's origin sufficiently account for the fact that every tested sample of Moon rock has had an identical oxygen isotope signature to that of Earth rock... a fact which demonstrates that both bodies originated at the same distance from the sun, and completely discredits both 'big whack theory' and the idea that the Moon was somehow captured by the Earth's gravity.

This, in conjunction to the complex mathematical message encoded within the Moon and its relationship with the sun and the Earth, has led me to believe that it is an artificial object, built with the intention of acting as an incubator with which to promote intelligent life on Earth.

This is the closest thing i have to a religious belief, and have been writing a 'space ballet' to tell the story. It's like a regular ballet, only instead of traditional instrumentation, i'm using synthesisers, electric guitars, drum machines and the space-age equivalent of a cannon (sort of an ode to Tchaikovsky - my musical idol).

______


As far as gaming goes, i have been doing it for a long time. My first console was a Sega Master System II (the one that had Alex Kidd in Miracle World built in) and i remember loving Psycho Fox especially, though i would have been very young at the time. My household remained loyal to Sega all the way to the Dreamcast, and games i enjoyed from this time are Fantastic Dizzy, Cosmic Spacehead, Road Avenger, Chu Chu Rocket and Shen Mue.

I had an original xbox, but didn't play it very much. I kind of lost interest in gaming for a while, but was sucked back in 2008 when i bought Mass Effect with a 360. Now some might say i'm a little too into it.

Not least of all my girlfriend, who sometimes dresses up as video game characters and enacts elaborate roleplays. She often makes requests in return though, so we both enjoy it... although the time i was dressed as Samwise Gamgee and got clipped around the ear for not saying 'oooh Miss Frodo' in a convincing enough West Country accent is definitely one of the weirder moments of my life.

Anyway, that's me.
Seleznyov out.   read


10:24 AM on 10.24.2012

Dragon Age-related relationship advice.

A good online friend of mine, who i met on BioWare's Dragon Age forums, confided in me last night. He has been married for ten years, but the relationship has slowly turned cold and he has found himself falling in love with another woman. He's a good man, and doesn't want to hurt his wife but admits that he just isn't in love with her any more. This is what i told him:

______


The first time i played Dragon Age: Origins, i took an immediate liking to Morrigan. She was hot and wore a cool outfit and as she was the first female to join my party, and the only human member aside from that whiny bitch Alistair, i really got to know her on the way to Lothering. A relationship was forged.

But then, in the Lothering tavern, i saw her. A dual wielding red-headed vixen with an adorable French accent. After butting into a fight and talking me into allowing my foe to flee with his life, she introduced herself as Leliana and joined my party.

The adventure progressed and i continued chatting up both Morrigan and Leliana, and with each 20 point increase in our relationship i was awarded a new ability bonus. Extra cunning for getting on with Leliana and extra magic for getting on with Morrigan.

Things were great. I had Leliana to tell me what a good boy i am and Morrigan on the other side of camp for when i wanted something a little more physical… and because of the ability bonuses, i was kicking more Darkspawn arse than i ever thought possible.

But then Leliana confronted me and said i had to make a choice. Her or Morrigan. The bard or the witch… i wasn't sure who to choose.

I preferred Leliana’s personality, but Morrigan had the looks. I knew that i would lose, like, 50 relationship points with whoever i dumped, and decided that Leliana’s additional cunning would serve me best as i was playing as a warrior. Plus she had the personality. So i decided i’d choose her. I went to Morrigan’s tent to break the bad news, but i just couldn't do it. I’d learned about her tragic upbringing, and how her mother intended to steal her body, and i just couldn't hurt her like that.

So i changed my mind, thinking that Leliana would be just fine without me.

And it was the biggest mistake of my Grey Warden’s life. Not only did Morrigan stop putting out, but as a result of my lost cunning i was getting hit more frequently and taking more damage. I started to resent Morrigan and stopped taking her with me into dungeons.

The moral of this story is that you have to decide what is best for you, and not your partner. Of course you should minimise the hurt you cause her, but you only have one life with which to slay the archdemon and stop the blight, so should choose the love interest that you like more.

______


I doubt that his decision was based solely on my analogy, but i received an email today thanking me for the talk and letting me know that he has decided to make a go of it with the other woman.   read


5:02 PM on 10.21.2012

How i'd have made 007 Legends good: Thunderball.

When i bought 007 Legends on Friday, the girl at the checkout asked if i was going to see Skyfall when it comes out. 'Of course' i told her. 'I'm not buying a James Bond game at 9am on its day of release because i'm a fan of second-rate Call of Duty clones'.

I don't like speaking for other people, but i'm fairly sure that no Bond fan does. We buy these games to play with Q's gadgets and to explore exotic locales and fantastical hidden bases... hoping to throw out some dry one-liners in the presence of a stunningly beautiful woman whilst foiling the mad schemes of a criminal mastermind (who probably suffers a physical deformity) along the way. You know, Bond stuff.

With 22 films worth of solid gold to draw inspiration from, it's shocking - positively shocking - that Eurocom failed to deliver on virtually every front. I will never get over how disappointed this game left me, but i have never been the sort of person to point out problems without having an idea or two on how to improve a situation, so would like to share my thoughts.

Films and games are obviously quite different, and you need to make changes in order for a FPS action game to be fun to play, but if you choose the right films you can do this while staying true to the source material. As an example:

Thunderball.

Eurocom didn't fail completely. They built a game around the iconic Bond finales of the older films. The villain's personal army, usually in bright outfits, fighting ninjas or the US military or the loyal followers of a likeable Greek smuggler, in a bizarre hidden lair.

The final Moonraker mission was probably the highlight of the game. In zero gravity, Bond, Dr Goodhead and Jaws battle Drax's guard with lasers on a crumbling space station. Then the US army shows up. It was ridiculous, and not at all fitting with the current Bond, but at the same time kind of fantastic. Like much of Moore's tenure as 007.

The spectacular underwater finale of Thunderball, in which the US coast guard fight Largo's men with harpoon guns could work in much the same fashion.



Getting to this point would require drastically reworking parts of the film however. I would make the game's very first level a somewhat-faithful adaptation of the films pre-title sequence.

Bond and his french contact are attending the funeral of Jacques Boitier, A SPECTRE agent responsible for the death of two of James' colleagues. Similar to the opening of Dragon Age II, a short clip would play before the screen faded to black revealing a developer/publisher credit.

-Bond on a balcony overlooking the funeral service-
Contact: You sound disappointed you didn't kill him yourself.
Bond: I am, Jacques Boitier murdered two of my colleagues.
-fade- Activision presents -next shot-
-Bond is now on an outside balcony, overlooking Boitier's widow entering the funeral car-
Contact: Is there anything else the French station can help you with?
Bond: Later perhaps. -notices the widow open the car door and it drive off-
Bond: Like i said, later.
-fade- A Eurocom production -next shot-
-The widow is shown entering her estate. Shuts the door behind her as Bond's silhouette can be made out in a chair in the room-
-fade- 007 Legends -game begins-

James punches the widow, revealing he knows it's actually Boitier in drag, and then a quicktime event fight breaks out. It is important that it's the good kind of QTE, like in Shen Mue and Heavy Rain, where some failure is acceptable but will alter the way the scene plays out. After killing Boitier, his goons arrive and Bond flees, in the jetpack, naturally.



In the film this trip is rather short, but for the sake of gameplay i would make it sort of like the helicopter section of Black Ops. Bond's height is set, but you otherwise control his movements, and would be required to shoot at Boitier's men as you make your way to the Aston Martin. The level ends as the scene in the film did, with Bond using his car's water cannons to knock the goons over. Maybe this could be incorporated into gameplay as a sort of turret section.

I don't think that you can make a game that features Thunderball without including the scenes from the health clinic, but i'm also pretty sure that there isn't enough material to get a whole level out of it. This problem could be overcome with creative use of flashbacks.

The second level would start with James entering the MI6 building and running into Moneypenny, who asks how the health clinic was. Flashback of Pat Fearing strapping Bond onto the traction machine - and of course quipping 'there, first time i've felt safe all day' - which Count Lippe then turns up in an attempt to murder him. Bond then attends the emergency conference called to bring the double-0s up to speed on the stolen nuclear missiles. This would be like one of those cut-scene levels in Call of Duty almost.

At certain points of the conference Bond would flashback to the key moments in the health clinic (Bond's revenge when he locks Lippe in a steam bath, and when he unmasked the dead, bandaged man) until he realises that the events there are connected to the current crisis. He is then sent by M to investigate Domino, the sister of the man murdered at the health clinic.

I know. Not too exciting but all the best FPSs have moments like this to further the story. It is important to know what's going on and i'm a fan of 'playable cut-scenes'.

In the next level Bond spots Domino and follows her to Largo's compound, which he infiltrates. This one will play very much like the usual levels in Bond games, but with an emphasis on stealth. A key part of the level will have Bond sneak past Largo's pool, while he's berating Quist, one of his henchmen. In the film this was for failing to kill Bond, but there wont be time to explain that here. All we know is he messed up, and we witness Largo drop him into the pool which is full of sharks. It's rare for any Bond game to take the time to demonstrate how ruthless the villain is.

During the level Bond finds evidence of Largo's involvement in the stolen nuclear missiles, and at the end follows Domino once again as she leaves the compound and stops at a beach a (very) short way away. As she's preparing to go into the ocean James confronts her, informing her that Largo killed her brother and pleads with her to give him anything that can help locate the stolen missiles. She agrees, but gives a quick gasp at something behind the player. It's Vargas!



The player is given one shot to make sure Largo's man gets the point. A bit of a gimmicky mechanic, but the player needs to get to relive this moment.

With Domino on board, and the location of Largo's base, it's time for the final level. I've already spoken about the underwater battle between the US military frogmen and Emilio's private army, but before that part of the stage i think it important to include something that makes use of one of the films other memorable gadgets: the watch with the built-in Geiger counter. 007 is on the hunt for some stolen nuclear missiles after all.

Perhaps Bond needs to use it to traverse a maze-like warehouse, before being caught by Largo's men. Domino is then taken to Largo while Bond is tied up, though quickly freed by Felix Lieter and his men, who then gear up and dive into the ocean to take on Largo's army.

During the underwater battle Bond would have to make his way to Largo's vessel, the Disco Volante, and kill him. I see this encounter as another QTE, but again, the non-lame kind, like Heavy Rain. With multiple paths and differing outcomes - though if you hit the notes you'll win, just in different way. or example, one route to victory may end up with Domino making the kill with a spear gun, like in the film, but another may end with Bond taking the shot himself.

I don't like to rely on QTEs, but a big part of Connery's period as Bond was the ferocity of unarmed combat. The fight on the train in From Russia With Love was brutal, and there isn't really any other way to recreate that.

Other villains lend themselves to other methods of play. I think that The Man With the Golden Gun would be a fun one to include, for the climactic battle with Scaramanga in his funhouse. I see this as being a bit like Metal Gear Solid's The End battle, with a variety of ways offered to draw Bond's target out, but just as many to give away his position allowing Scaramanga to hit him with a golden bullet.

Anyway, i think that this is a pretty good way to break down one of the best 007 films into 3 and a half levels while conveying the plot, building the key characters and making sure Bond acts like Bond. It has the gadgets, interpretations of the iconic moments and couldn't possibly be any more difficult to make than what we got with Legends.   read


9:06 PM on 10.19.2012

007 Legends.

My appreciation of the Bond franchise borders on being a bit sad.

Prior to picking the game up yesterday, i made the conscious decision of taking my GAME reward card out of my wallet and leaving it in the car so that whoever served me would have to look up my details manually... which they do by asking your postcode, and then your name. 'The name's Seleznyov. Valentin Seleznyov.'



The point being i was determined to love this game. And having now played it this fact makes me feel like an idiot.

Firstly, Bond isn't voiced by Daniel Craig. The guy who played the Architect in Dragon Age does. This wouldn't bother me, but he doesn't sound like a Bond, and it's weird to see Daniel Craig's lips move and that abomination come out. The man who played Gustav Graves in Die Another Day provided the voice of 007 in Sebastian Faulkes 'Devil May Care' and did a great job. I'd have rather they used him as James and found someone else to play Gustav in the game... or anyone whose voice fits the character and Craig's likeness.

There aren't enough Vodka martinis in the world to wash away this bitter taste of disappointment.

They went to all the trouble of getting guys from the films, like Richard Kriel (Jaws) and Robert Davi (Sanchez) and had David Arnold (every Bond film since Tomorrow Never Dies) compose the theme, but couldn't be bothered to ensure the main man himself sounded right. It brings what would have otherwise been rather excellent production values down. Way down.

The second criticism would be that each film only has two associated levels... and in some cases they are vehicular ones, and as such incredibly short. To give an example, the On Her Majesty's Secret Service portion of the game opens with a downhill ski chase, that lasts about ten minutes, and the ends with an assault on Blofeld's mountaintop base. Which in fairness lasts almost an hour. The bigger levels are big (especially by FPS standards) and do feature some of the best 007 gameplay - but it is hard to get over the more disappointing aspects.

Each 'mission' seems to be based around the finale of its associated film. The locations are iconic and do look pretty cool, and you can make your way through them in a variety of ways. Stealth is emphasised with a collection of gadgets that allow you to fry electronics to cause distractions and scan for enemy locations through walls, but this can be totally ignored if you'd prefer. On the higher difficulties you're offered side objectives which can also be ignored, but yield additional XP which can be spent upgrading Bond and his arsenal.

There are a lot of set-pieces, which help to make things feel a bit more like the movies too. Only it instantly doesn't feel like a movie any times Bond talks. I've delivered lines like 'you expect me talk' to a higher standard in my bedroom mirror.   read


10:34 AM on 10.11.2012

100,000 gamerscore. A look back.

Believe me when i say that i am aware of just how sad this headline sounds and that i am quite sure that nobody cares how (relatively) high i have managed to drag the virtually meaningless number attached to my gamertag.

However, achievements have become a big aspect of gaming, and they have left an indelible impact on this generation. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. This is a little look back at how achievements have punctuated, and in some cases genuinely enhanced, my gaming experience over the past 4 years.

The Beginning.

I didn't get an xbox until the 17th August 2008. I know because the first game i played was Mass Effect, and the timestamp on the Distinguished Service Medal says so.

I wish i could say that it was a special moment, but in reality, when the notification popped up i had no idea what was going on. The experience left me a little confused and ultimately wasn't very satisfying. Much like my first cigarette, so it's just as much of a wonder that i got so into unlocking achievements as it is that i'm a smoker.

Hopefully the rest of this list will shed some light.

Some Achievements Are Perfectly Named.

This is the aspect of achievements that has brought me the most joy. A cleverly named one is like a taunt to me.

They can even make games that aren't fun seem more enjoyable. One of the biggest letdowns of this generation was Aliens versus Predator, but i couldn't help but smile when, for killing five enemies with one burst of the smartgun, up popped Let's Rock.

War For Cybertron featured a multiplayer achievement entitled Wait I Still Function! which is one half of my favourite quote from the 1986 film. I didn't like the game's multiplayer at all, but i played it anyway because i had to have that on my list.


Wanna bet!

Treyarch's Quantum of Solace may have the most perfect achievement list of all time. Each achievement is named for a Bond film, or a famous line from one, and they are (mostly all) actually relevant to the task required to unlock it.

Any Thug Can Kill - In Casino Royale, reach the spa room without alerting or attacking the guards; He's Playing His Golden Harp - Melee the player with the Golden Gun... i had to have these on my gamercard. Which brings me onto:

When Games Make Fun Of Me.



I love it when games use the achievement system to poke fun at those who play on the easiest difficulty. Force Unleashed II did something similar by using Jar Jar Binks as the achievement graphic for beating the game on Easy.

Embarrassment.

The pursuit of one achievement in Call of Juarez: The Cartel led to one of the most embarrassing moments of my adult life. There is a level set in a strip club with actual nudity, and there is an achievement called “Peeper” which you get for watching one of the dancers for thirty seconds.

I wasn’t sure i was in the right place, so i decided to count the seconds in my head, and to help time it i jumped every second, which brought the dancer’s womanly splendour to eye level, and obviously this thirty second window would be the exact time my girlfriend and a couple of her friends would walk in.

Thankfully i was in the right place and the achievement notification popped up shortly after they barged in, so it was slightly less awkward than the time a previous girlfriend walked in on me unlocking Bully: Scholarship Edition’s “Over the Rainbow” achievement.



I Just Can't.

Alpha Protocol is one of my all-time favourite computer games. I love everything about it and have played through at least 6 times.

I've played it stealthy, i've played it all guns-blazing. I've aligned with Leland, and i've told him to go f*ck himself. I even let the ex-Stasi agent rape me on one playthrough... but there is one thing that i just cannot do.

I can't 'alienate Steven Heck'. Not even for 5 gamerpoints.

For those that don't know, AP is a bit like Mass Effect, in that you get to choose how you wish to speak to other characters and make decisions that affect the plot. In Taipei, you meet a contact named Heck and there is an achievement for making him dislike you.

But how am i supposed to knowingly make a guy dislike me, who when asked for assistance in a mission in the Taipei underground, delivers said assistance in the form of a gattling gun crudely mounted on a subway carriage?



I just can't. I also cannot harvest the Little Sisters in Bioshock. Sometimes not being able to do something, even though you will be rewarded, is a reward in itself. I love Steven Heck so i wont be mean to him, and i'm not a monster so i wont kill any little girls, and i don't have a little badge on my profile to prove it.

The Lowest Point.

You don't get to 100,000 gamerscore without going out of your way to mop up a fair few incredibly easy achievements. This all came to a head for me on the night of December 1, 2011, when i bought the Who Wants to be a Millionaire xbox arcade game, and there was an achievement for getting the very first question wrong.

I couldn't believe that i did something so degrading just for a measly 5 gamerpoints. It would be different if it was worth 20… but as it was, afterwards i felt like a crack addict that had to do unpleasant things to secure his next hit. Like sucking off unsavoury characters in a car park, or something.

I recall being really disgusted with myself, and made a promise that from then on, i would only actively attempt to unlock achievements that are awarded for skill. Like beating every stage on Sonic Generations with an S rank (which i did several days later).

It wasn't exactly kicking the habit, but i told myself that at least that way it was more like breaking up an exchange between drug barons and stealing a suitcase of cocaine than fellating a 2-bit dealer for a tiny little bag of heroin. And darn it, i have stuck to this resolution to this very day.

When It Actually Feels As Though You've Achieved Something.

As meaningless as they are, sometimes unlocking an achievement means you can do something that a lot of other people can't. According to TrueAchievements.com, i'm one of a mere fraction of Rocksmith players to successfully hit 750 consecutive notes.

As silly as i've felt doing, and getting caught doing, ridiculous things to enhance a stupid number, this felt good. There is much to enjoy about the mechanic, and i'm unashamed to be so into it.   read


8:32 AM on 10.10.2012

Guide this one.

A month or so ago, my uncle died, After he was cremated we took his ashes to the crematorium and they were scattered over the same area as his wife's who passed on several years earlier.

It wasn’t windy out, so instead of scattering they mostly ended up in a pile on the grass. We were standing around them and i think it was my mother who said “would anyone like to say something”.

My uncle’s daughters were too upset and it didn’t seem as though anyone else was going to, so i stepped up. I held my arm out over the ashes and said:

Kalahira… guide this one to where the traveller never tires, the lover never leaves, the hungry never starve. Guide this one, Kalahira, and he shall be a companion to you as he was to me.

At the wake a lot of my relatives who i normally have no time for came up to me and said that it was a nice thing to say. And i swear, it’s the first time some of them have looked at me with anything resembling approval… and all because i memorised a line from a computer game.

Also, just after i said my prayer, a gust of wind came along and blew the ashes away a bit. I don’t think this is a sign that the Drell goddess of oceans and afterlife really exists… but they did land on the bottom of my aunt Veronica’s dress, who is a bitch.

It was a beautiful moment, and an example why video games are important to all of us and are capable of having a very positive effect on society.   read


6:20 AM on 10.09.2012

The pinnacle of my gaming career.

Today, i shredded the 100,000 gamescore barrier. Maybe shredded is the wrong word, as i did this while playing Where is My Mind by the Pixies on Rocksmith. Anyway, i got to thinking about how achievements are generally worthless and the highlights of my gaming life haven't been related to them at all.

I'm sure that we all have gaming moments in which we feel we have done something impressive enough that even non-gamer friends might enjoy the dramatic tale. Unfortunately my non-gamer friends didn't, so i'd like to talk about it here.

Allow me to set the scene: I had just brought my newly created wrestler, Valentin 'the Vampire' Seleznyov, into Smackdown versus Raw's multi-player arena. I could beat the AI with ease, even on the hardest difficulty, so i was anticipating, at the very least, a competitive bout... though in all honesty i was expecting to win easily. It was not to be though.

My opponent chose Rey Mysterio as his wrestler, and as the match started he said a few words over the headset, allowing me to tell that he was fairly young, and he kicked my arse. After three minutes or so of being thrown around the ring it became clear to me that there was no way i was going to win in a straight up fight.

But if i was to liken myself to any real-life wrestler, it would be Triple-H: the Cerebral Assassin. So i used the ridiculous amount of time my wrestler spent knocked out on the mat to concoct a plan.

He attempted to clothesline me, but i was able to flukily counter it with a bodyslam. He was down, so i rolled out of the ring and began rooting around under the mat for a weapon. As i pulled out a shiny steel folding chair, he wheezed over the mic 'you'll get disqualified'.

I told him that i wouldn't, as it was a no DQ match, and rolled back into the ring. For a little added dramaticism, i waited for him to slowly get up and said 'oh, you look tired, you should take a seat'... but before i could smash it over his face he had punched me, knocking me down, and the chair was now firmly in his grasp.

He hit me with it. And the bell rang signalling his disqualification. He went apesh*t over the mic and accused me of cheating.But i did not cheat.

What i did wasn't 'cheating'. It was providing an example of just why humanity is the dominant species on this planet. I overcame a physical limitation with my intellect. Mastering game mechanics is no match for good old fashioned craftiness.

If i buy another wrestling game, i should definitely create a character called Stephen Hawking. His nickname could be 'the rolling hawk'.   read


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