October 24, 2009 § 1 Comment
Last weekend Robert Bowling, Creative Strategist for Infinity Ward, casually dropped a large, megaton-sized bombshell on the PC gaming community: Modern Warfare 2 – sequel to 2007’s critically acclaimed, best-selling hit – won’t have dedicated servers or mod support built-in.
Since then, e-petitions have been signed, journalists have tweeted, and other industry figures have weighed in. Public opinion seems to be split into two camps: most are outraged; others are nonplussed. Meanwhile, Bowling has attempted to calm the waves of discontent through a blog post, defending Infinity Ward’s decision and reassuring the PC community that this is, in fact, a step forward.
Tom Bramwell, editor of Eurogamer.net, had this to say in response:
IW man’s blog about why IWNet is a good thing suggests he doesn’t understand why the concept so upset people in the first place.
And this is the point. The heart of the issue doesn’t lie in a list of pros and cons; it lies in a philosophy – a set of principles that have been at the core of the PC gaming experience for as long as it’s been alive.
October 17, 2009 § Leave a comment
Got a cold, so I won’t be up to much this weekend. I will probably be attempting to finish off Halo Wars while starting Red Faction: Guerrilla on the 360. I’ll also be going back to Empire: Total War, since I’m kind of curious to see what all the updates inbetween have done to the game. I’ll also be watching The Lookout, which supposedly showcases rising-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s talents as a Proper Serious Actor in Hollywood. (I kid. If anything, Brick did that for him in 2005.)
I’m just going to say a quick few things about Halo Wars. I rented the game to see how well Ensemble succeeded in making a traditional RTS game for a console. The answer is that it’s pretty functional and, in the majority of times, works fairly well. However, when you need swift, nimble movement, when you need to select troops on an individual basis quickly and efficiently, the game can’t accomodate that. If only they’d hid this flaw better, but they actually created a level where you do have to be able to do this, and when the pathfinding fails and you aren’t able to react in time – through no fault of your own, but the controls – it’s a bit of downer.
Halo Wars is fun, and the presentation is really excellent, and Ensemble should be commended for their strong efforts, but this isn’t the game to revolutionise RTSs on a console.
Oh, and Peep Show was excellent last night. Best yet for the series.
October 12, 2009 § Leave a comment
So, I just watched Vicky Christina Barcelona, and it’s surprisingly good. Penelope Cruz is amazing in it and won a well deserved supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal as the batshit crazy Maria Elena; likewise, Javier Bardem exudes sensuality and an emotional intensity as Juan Antonio Gonzalo. Woody Allen weaves actually a quite complex narrative involving two American tourists – the Vicky and Christina of the title – who have very different ideas of love and whose philosophies are thereupon shaped by a chance encounter with the magnetic, sexy, Juan.
October 11, 2009 § Leave a comment
From Mid-September, US viewers have been treated to several new seasons of award-winning television. Americans are knee deep in high quality drama, with House, Mad Men and Heroes back on screens, while Curb Your Enthusiasm and How I Met Your Mother are filling out the comedy space. Meanwhile, in the UK, we have Peep Show and… well, that’s about all I can think of at the moment.
It’s interesting to note that all of the series I’ve mentioned that are now playing in America are, at the very least, on their third or fourth run. Whereas in the UK we tend to stick to six or twelve episode series with a general shelf-life of two to three series max, the US generally favours eighteen to twenty-four episode seasons, with a show going on until it’s milked bone dry by the networks. This all leads to my point of “season fatigue”, something US shows often fall foul of while UK shows avoid – and the subject of today’s sermon.
October 6, 2009 § Leave a comment
TV, TV and more TV!
The last month has seen the release of new seasons for a lot of great American television shows, and I aim to give some of my thoughts as to what’s out there – what’s hot and what’s not [steady now, beginning to sound like the E! network – Ed.] – this weekend.
Hopefully I’ll also have watched Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), so I’ll be able to share some thoughts on that, too. Once again, Woody Allen makes a film, casts some beautiful young women and, this time, writes in a scene where they indulge in some lesbian schexy-ness (or so I am informed). Woody Allen: pervert? Genius? Creepy genius? Creepy asshole genius? Probably all of the above and then some more. I can hardly say it matters all that much, though – just as long as he makes a good film and doesn’t waste my time with too much dribble-y, neurotic, ramble-y whining. (God knows, he’s made plenty of the films riding the coattails of that schtick.)
I’ve also decided to a new feature to the blog called Off the Cuff, which has already featured in a form some might better know as Impressions. The only difference here is that Off the Cuff is worded worse, probably contains more typos and grammatical errors, and is very, very probably likely to express views I will later renounce in a court of law, in front of a man wearing a paper mache mask with an eagle’s head painted on, while standing there semi-nude.
Goo goo ga-joob indeed, and I hope everyone has peaceful, playful week.
October 6, 2009 § Leave a comment
Off the Cuff is a new segment I’ve dedicated to in depth (and hasty!) critical analysis of anything I’m interested in. Essentially, it’s just like my Impressions posts but, hopefully, more focused and more definitive. These are to serve as micro-reviews in space of my full length features, and they are written almost immediately, with little editing or drafting. It’s probably not the best way of writing a review of… well, pretty much anything, but I don’t have that much time at the moment and sometimes I just want to express an opinion, to get it out there as fast as possible. At least this way I get to write more regularly.
I’ve really been up to so much it’s difficult to know where to start. I finished Bionic Commando in a matter of a couple of days, and it’s okay. The gameplay and swinging mechanic generally work well, which is good since it’s pretty much essential to what a Bionic Commando game should be.
There’s also a lot holding the game back. Surprisingly, one of those things is how quite charmless it is, especially in light of Rearmed. The tone is that grungy, faux-mature aesthetic that isn’t ridiculous enough to laugh at, so it just ends up appearing as ugly. There are also a couple of gameplay contrivances, one being invisible barriers, preventing you from exploring too much, in the form “radiation” zones– problem is, if you wonder too far out too fast you end up dead, again, and again, and again. The story and everything about it is also just total balls, and the characters are ALL unappealing, each and everyone unreservedly taking the opportunity to throw out some very crap dialogue.
One of the things they did get right, though, is the music, which sounds awesome. And the game is fun, when you aren’t falling to your death over and over. The in-game challenges that also double up as achievements are a very cool way of getting the player to experiment with their arsenal of moves and weapons, and it’s really very compelling. The graphics are also impressive, as are the set-pieces.
Still, it’s way too short, and, once again, GRIN have made a game that shows potential and a general understanding of what makes gameplay work, but it’s still too rough around the edges and short (did I already mention that?) for it to be worth anything over ten pounds. Nevertheless, a weekend rent is definitely the best bet here.