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1:11 PM on 01.28.2010

iPad DisAPPointments

So we've been waiting for the official announcement on the iPad for a long time, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who was pretty miffed with the reveal. There are a number of ways the iPad could and should have improved on the original design of the iPhone. Firstly, multi tasking. My biggest gripe with the iPad is that I have to do one thing at a time. Considering this was supposed to be the bridge between internet phone and laptop- you'd expect to see at least that one feature coming in from the laptop side. There's no way you can say that you're getting the best internet experience - even though you've got the 'internet in your hands' - when you have to log off msn or stop listening to music to do so.

Secondly and almost as importantly, we're still getting no flash. Apple seems to have a phobia of relying on Adobe's integral web browsing video plugin. Most likely because of some deal they must have with youtube. That and their apparent fear of giving any freedom and control to the user. Freedom and control they can easily keep from us by keeping the iPhone OS. Which brings me swiftly onto my third and final point..

The operating system on the iPhone was ridiculously limited, and excusably so- it was an internet phone not a tablet pc. But on the iPad just feels constricting. And you're supposed to feel like you're using a laptop? Of course if they did give us a real operating system, we'd be able to a flash plugin, and be free to use the wealth of open source programmes on the internet instead of just sticking to apps.

"But what can we do?" I here you whisper, whimpering softly in the corner and stroking your iPhone. The HP Slate is what we can do! Wait until the end of the year and buy HP's Windows 7 running masterpiece, and get full control over your tablet with multi tasking, and a full, flash filled web experience!
Do it. Dicks. Sorry about the pun..   read

5:06 PM on 01.05.2010

Alyx Vance: How I was tricked into liking her

Itís widely agreed that Alyx Vance is one of, if not the best AI partner in video game history. She doesnít have a handful of catchphrases she randomly spouts, you donít need to protect her like a baby(except in that one bit where you do), and she kills her fair share of enemies. But a lot of people also agree that they feel tricked into liking the characters in the Half-life series, even though most of the time you canít help laughing as they rattle on about how you all got on so well in black mesa(that is, if your remember playing the first game and how the scientists would mostly tell you they couldnít be bothered to talk to you). Well, this is the relatively long story of how I came to like the characters, specifically Alyx.

I've always been a gamer, but I only started 'seriously gaming' about three years ago. And during that time I've made it my quest to play the best and most influential games I missed out on, as well as playing all the good games that are coming out(quite a mean feat as some of you will know). In all that time, probably the best two games I came across were Half-life 2 and Shadow of the Colossus. Shadow of the Colossus was such a powerful game and Ė to my shame Ė I actually dropped the controller and momentarily considered not playing anymore when Agro fell of the cliff. Obviously I picked it up again quickly and carried on playing.

I played the first Half-life in about 2006, and was immediately a fan, shocked that all my friends had given up on the first one near the half way mark. It was a simple game compared to the second, I was later to learn, but it was still an amazing shooter. Who doesnít remember with how exhilarating it was to have to quickly turn full circle when you heard a Vortigaunt teleport behind you, knowing you had one shot to kill him before he halved your health with an electric shock.

After finishing it, I went straight onto Half-life 2 on the pc and was amazed at how different it was. Again I was in love, completing it in a number of days. When I first met Alyx I was actually shocked that I hadnít died, thinking the guards were going to kill me and I was going to have to restart at a checkpoint. Throughout Half-life 2 though, youíre pretty much alone, and itís for the best as you wouldnít get the eerie feeling of en empty countryside, or the feel the terror of traversing Ravenholm, if you were with Alyx.

After that I went straight to portal - it's that easy Samit(oh wait he's played it now)- and loved that.
Deciding that I now loved fps games on the computer, and not knowing how out of date my laptopís graphics card was going to turn out to be, I plunged right in to Episode One. Either it didn't load at all or was so unplayable I had to exit it, but either way I had to grab The Orange Box on the 360 the next day. I completed Episode One, went straight to Episode Two and quit 20 minutes in. Iíd played almost all four Half-life games in a week and a half and I was out of steam. I was fed up with the series and found myself getting angry most of the way through Episode One at little things I would later realise were my favourite parts of the entire series.

By the time I decided it was time to give the series another try it was too late-my 360 was red ringing. It was only in November of last year that I finally came back to the series, now owning all three consoles after much saving. I played Half-life 2 again to reacquaint myself with the story, and fell in love once more. Again I rushed straight into Episode One, but this time I enjoyed every second. The parts I thought I had hated were the parts where I was alone in the dark and fighting hordes of zombies. I did still hate those parts, but only because there was a part of me that was terrified of facing them all alone. And ironically, that was when I realised how much I liked Alyx. The comments she made Ė which Iíd always thought were pointless Ė now gave me a sense of companionship in contrast to the horrible loneliness I felt when facing the head crabs without her beside me. I realised then just how good a character Alyx was.

Then I beat Episode Two and it was even better- though Iím sure Iíd have preferred it on PC because although the awful car controls didnít really get in the way until the end, they made the ending horrible for me. Although I did get an amazing feeling of achievement when Iíd completed it, which is probably the point.

Also, if Iím being a complete noob and thereís a way to change the driving controls in the 360 version, laugh at me. But then tell me how :|   read

1:26 PM on 01.05.2010

3 Changes for God of War III that probably won't be made

Taking the 'Open crates/Doors/Drag Items' button, and making it the dodge button
Using the right stick to dodge around was very innovative, and admittedly quite a fun way to dodge once you managed to train yourself to snap your thumb away from the attack buttons every you're faced with an unblockable attack. But its so much simpler to have a dodge button that dodges the way you're already moving. With the LEFT stick. The act of dodging should be a reflex: unblockable attack-move away-mash dodge button! Having to throw your thumb across feels like like a reflex action and is therefore less immersive. Also we should have been using the right stick..

To look around with!
Another problem with trying to immerse yourself in God of War occurred when trying to look around at the beautiful world you were playing in. You'd just struggled through a room packed with enemies, dodging, blocking, parrying, slashing, bashing, using your latest magical upgrade, and really feeling like the God of War (unless you were playing the first game, in which case really feeling like the Ghost of Sparta). The fiery demon mouth thing guarding the exit disappeared, and you rushed off to the next room full of enemies or puzzles(or more likely both). In the corner of your eye you notice some awesome scenery you want to check out and dodge forward in a vain attempt to get a better look. And you'll do it again to.. at least once more. It made the game feel far more linear than it was.

Opening crates and doors
Chains of Olympus had the right idea. It also had an improved method of dodging, forced upon it by lack of a right stick. The opening of crates and doors- as well as the initiating of QTEs- should have been performed by the circle button. But instead of mashing the it like a QTE on predictably easy(not a real game mode), how about holding it down?! I'd argue that Chains of Olympus had the best control scheme, and if had been a console title with the same controls it would have been the best game of the three.

What are you hoping for in the final chapter in the God of War series?   read

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