Thursday, 30 September 2010

Why It's Awesome Being Me

Right, well, the title of this entry might be a bit misleading. Sure, you might be thinking ‘What makes you so fucking awesome, Mr. Kill?’ and I assure you, there isn’t enough storage on the internet for me to properly answer that particular question, but what I really meant to explain is: Why it’s awesome being a gamer.

But before I get into that, I must apologise for the lack of new posts recently. You can blame Halo: Reach multiplayer. I find myself in a strange situation, namely somewhat addicted to a game I’m shit at. I plan to review the multiplayer elements of Halo: Reach at some point in the future, because it does have its flaws, but maybe not anytime immediately soon. I don’t know. Shut up.

There’s also been tons of gaming news recently that I should mention: Sony showing that they still hate their customers, a release date for the 3DS, positive reviews for the Sony Move system, a HD re-release of cult classic Beyond Good and Evil, and a whole bunch more.  

Anyways, on to the task at hand. Now, if you are a gamer, you probably already know what I’m talking about. Most of us stride throughout the land, towering over lesser mortals, reacting to things with the reflexive speed of a Jedi on Ecstasy, giggling at jokes about George Lucas, while pirate wenches and zombies fall at our feet (the former from hysterical lust, the latter from a well-placed headshot).
But it has occurs to me that not all of our digitally-inclined brethren are aware of just why it’s awesome being a gamer, so I’m gonna point out a few things.

We are never, ever bored

It’s true. While other people may wake up on a Sunday with a hangover, lazily watch T4 for four hours and then catch the Eastenders omnibus before getting a Bargain Bucket from KFC in their pyjamas, finishing the day off by wanking themselves into oblivion and then crying themselves to sleep, this isn’t true of the gamer. Bored? Fire up a game of Fallout 3 and play it as an evil lady who only kills with a pistol while wearing a summer dress. Or boot up your favourite online shooter and belch down the microphone while repeatedly killing your team mates with grenades until you get permabanned from the server. Great fun, and before you know it, it’s time for bed. Obviously, I can’t guarantee you won’t still wank yourself into oblivion and cry yourself to sleep, but at least you didn’t have to watch Big Mo’s bulldog face banging on about her haemorrhoids for two hours. Maybe I should take that back. The actress that plays Big Mo is Gary Oldman’s sister, and that cat is Sirius Black and I wouldn’t want him to Jinx my Bubotuber. Maybe I would, it sounds sexy.

We are the first point of call for tech stuff

Generally speaking, if the non-techy people in your life have a problem with their printer/laptop/calculator, they will come to you. Why? Because identifying yourself as a gamer is equivalent to identifying yourself as knowledgeable in tech. It’s great when it comes to earning points with your work colleagues. Sure you never get invited to the park for an office kick around on account of your wheezing and deathly pale complexion, and you aren’t included in the office football sweepstakes because you can’t tell your Sheffield Tuesday from your Charlton Automatic, but when Dean, the beef-cake in Accounts who everyone thinks is cheating on his wife with the intern in IT can’t sync his Blackberry with his mail server, you can charge in like a polygonal white knight and save the day. And next time Dean is popping out for a fag, he’ll offer you one, but you’ll have to say no because you had polio as a child and using your lungs too much makes your heart sore.

Small talk is a doddle
Personally, when I meet someone for the first time, I tend to ignore them. This will continue for some time. It’s not because I am an ignorant fucker…well, I am an ignorant fucker…but that isn’t responsible for my reticence. No, I just feel awkward making small talk when sober. When I’m drunk, I’ll be all up in the new persons grille, blowing smoke and breathing Buckfast fumes on them and touching them in a slightly inappropriate manner, but sober, I’m mildly sweaty and quiet. Unless said new person expresses even the slightest interest in games and then I’ll be all like ‘NO WAI!’ and we can talk for ages. To ensure this tactic has the widest spread possible, it’s best to play as many different types of games on as many different systems as possible. That way you can converse on everything from the best builds to take on 4-1 in Demons’ Souls, to the most effective way to ‘catch ‘em all’ in Pokemon on the DS. Also, it pays to familiarise yourself with the likes of PES and Fifa. That way, if you ever find yourself surrounded by manly men who like to talk about fighting on buses and playing sport in the fresh air, you can pose this question: Which is better, Fifa or PES? You’ll immediately be one of the gang and the men will buy you beer and fight people for you.

You’ll have improved spatial awareness and reflexes

It has been shown in scientific studies, by scientists, that people who regularly play certain types of videogames have higher levels of spatial awareness and quicker reflexes than non-gamers. This is only half true for me. Sure, my reflexes are like a cobras. At all times I am coiled and ready to go off, like a bomb or a carton of milk that’s been left out. No seriously, give me plenty of notice, and a lot distance, and call my name and then throw something gently toward me and 45% of the time, I’ll catch it. That’s what 20 odd years of gaming will do, make you a fucking catching supremo. However, as for spatial awareness, maybe not so good. I can’t reverse around a corner without hitting the kerb and I still manage to piss all over the floor when I pee, even if I’m sitting down, but I figure one out of two ain’t bad, like that Meatloaf song.

You are at the cutting edge of media
In post-WWII America, kids were flocking to cinemas to watch movies like the Wolfman, or Boris Karloff sucking. It was a new form of media, an art form refined far beyond what was initially thought possible. It was a great time to be alive, apart from all the socially-acceptable racism and threat of atomic kitten war. And who would have been raised on these sorts of films? I’ll tell ya, people like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and shit. Now, despite the fact that Stevo has daddy issues and George Lucas would stamp ‘Star Wars’ on dog shit and try to sell it, these guys were partially responsible for revolutionising cinema and have made some truly awesome movies. Now, imagine the generation of kids who are being raised on games like Call of Duty, or Mass Effect, and one can’t help but look at the future and smile.

Finally, a riddle 

 How many bears would Bear Grylls grill if Bear Grylls could grill bears?

Monday, 13 September 2010

Reach Around: My first one and a half hours with Halo: Reach

So, ya, I ordered Halo: Reach when I bought my 360. On Saturday I had an email from Amazon saying delivery would be delayed, and today I came home from work to find it awaiting me amongst an envelope from the Reader's Digest (apparently I have won £100, 000 in a draw I don't remember entering) and associated other shite from local businesses.


I've played the first hour and a half, maybe, and figured it might be a good idea to give you a grasp of the initial stages and my first impressions.

Before I loaded up my first game, there was a message for the beta testers explaining that, as it is ahead of release date, some features aren't working, mainly multiplayer. Not that I'm bovvered, it'll take me a week or so to get my head around multiplayer and I just wanted to talk about a few things that had struck me during play.

Modern Warfare, you have a lot to answer for

Seriously though.

The influence that games like Modern Warfare exert is particularly telling in Halo: Reach.

From the outset it is clear that Halo is a half-step outside the Halo formula we have come to know and love and that is definitely no bad thing.

For a start, Halo: Reach is darker. I hate to use that term, but it is the only one that fits. In it's own way, Halo: Reach is much more military shooter, somewhat less sci-fi shooter, and benefits considerably from it. If you've come to depend on the bright colours and vibrant environments familiar to the Halo franchise, you may have to adjust a bit. Sure, the plasma grenades are still neon blue, the Jackals carry Mardi-Gras shields but there is definitely a more understated, realistic palette put to use here. It could divide Halo purists but I, for one, love it. The counterpoint of gritty rifle fire, explosions and hot pink Needler rounds is excellent. There is so much more of a sense of humans fighting against a thoroughly alien foe.

A further addition is your squad. You can pick up rank and file marines to join your fire team as you go along, but the story is driven by other members of Noble team, and so far their characterisations are very good. I'll need to play more to determine whether the player will connect with them, but so far I am pleased.

Towards the beginning of the game you are warned by a colleague that your 'lone wolf act' won't work on Reach. Heed these words carefully. The beautiful one-man-army gameplay of Halo, running into a crowd of Covenant flinging grenades and spamming melee attacks, is here in all it's glory but you must pick your battles carefully and make more precise use of tactics if you wish to succeed.

And with good reason, as the enemies I've encountered so far have learnt some new tricks. The Grunts are a lot more grenade happy and also much more keen on the plasma kamikaze attacks. The Elites Seriously. Whilst the roll mechanic was something new in Halo 2, they clearly learnt from these guys. Not only are they rolling, but they are jumping, dodging your gunfire and generally being a wee bit sneakier.

I must also mention the equipment you can now select for your character. One of the features of Halo 3 was the ability to get a single use out of various pieces of equipment, bubble shields etc. The same principle returns in Halo: Reach, only this time the player can use these items repeatedly, dependent on a cooldown. So far I have encountered Sprint (bog standard sprint ability) and one that makes you invincible for a few moments and can allow your shield to regen whilst fully immobilizing you. These are great wee additions and I can't wait to find more and also see how they play out in multiplayer.

There are some negatives so far.

Back when Halo released, it was at the cutting edge of graphics. Not so much the case here. Don't get me wrong; they are great and very sharp. It's just they aren't mind-blowing. I also noticed some drops in framerate when there was a lot going on, which is a particular pet peeve of mine which I hope doesn't carry over into multiplayer.

Also, as with Halo: ODST, the ability to dual wield is gone. I'm personally not fussed, never used it much, but that may annoy fans of the system.

In all, Halo: Reach is great. I cannot wait to see how the story pans out and I'm itching to have another bash at it. I had a browse through the multiplayer menus and that, and there appears to be a HUGE amount of unlockables, as well as a dearth of new game modes.

From this early taster, it would seem that Halo: Reach is the perfect game to end the Halo franchise and I sincerely hope I am proved correct.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Shit the bed, Andrew Telford got free toffee bon-bons at work today.

NEWS JUST IN: Oil magnate and convicted sex offender, Andrew Telford, today announced that he had received free toffee bon-bons from his place of work. Many world leaders have yet to comment on these developments but Pope Benedict has described the situation as 'fucking mental'.

If you wish to congratulate Andrew, you can do so through his facebook page.

More to follow on this exciting story.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Bytes: What's keeping you up?

Right, yeah, so this is my first blog post in a little while. Sorry.

Ha, I’m not really sorry. I recently became the proud owner of an Xbox 360 Slim and have spent a lot of time playing Halo 3 online and no time writing about games.

So far, mightily impressed and looking forward to Halo: Reach. I know that's pretty behind the curve, but fuck it, I only play what I pay for, so it's all new to me.

Xbox Live is a lot more robust than my experiences with the PlayStation Network. Also, it doesn’t require frequent mandatory, non-background updates to maintain its online functionality, so that’s a novel experience for someone more used to the PSN. Of course, I’m paying for the privilege, so to the long-pondered question of who has the best online service between Sony and Microsoft, the answer is they are both wankers.

So I’m a little bit out of the loop when it comes to all the latest gaming newses.

Here are a few things worth reporting on:-

Duke Nukem Forever is coming in 2011: One of the most anticipated games of all time, and one which has been in development for pretty much a decade, Gearbox Software have recently announced that they will finish (?) and release the oft-delayed and twice-unofficially-cancelled Duke Nukem Forever at some point in 2011. I was a little too young for Duke Nukem 3D, so I haven’t thrashed myself into a spunking frenzy the way some gamers appear to have, not least Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford. For someone who was just a bit too young at the time, the reason why Duke Nukem appears to have been so popular is due to the boobies and scatological humour of the earlier games. I like boobies and poo-poo-fart jokes as much as the next child, but the internet is full of boobies and poop and we might be a bit numb to it, and whilst you could view Duke Nukem Forever as a kind of satirical humour, games like GTA IV have shown us that video games can handle satire in a more restrained, sophisticated manner.

Also, seeing boobies and farty bum words in games is no longer uncommon. 

Another factor in my ambivalence is that it has been ten years. TEN FUCKING YEARS!! Even if Duke Nukem Forever is released in 2011, to live up to expectations, the game will literally need to be the Second Coming of a Jesus Christ that is capable of turning into a jet to fly you to the nearest ATM to get money out of your bottomless bank account before flying you to your private tropical island where Elton John and Rihanna are performing a cover of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’, backed by the Allman Brothers Band.

Sony Fights Back Against Jailbreaking: To the lasting surprise of no-one, this week Sony released a mandatory security update designed to counter the piece of software going around the intertubes that allows users to jailbreak their PS3s. I’m sure that this security fix will prove to be a lasting barrier against this form of piracy. HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH!

Look, Mr. Sony, if you don’t want people to resort to these types of measures to mod their PS3s, then here is a hint: STOP REMOVING FEATURES, ASSHATS! First it was backwards-compatibility, then Linux. Fuck knows what’s next. Maybe support for removable memory and old SingStar mics. You’d better not though, or I’ll get mighty pissed when I can’t holler ‘The Greatest Love of All’ into an unhearing machine at 3:00am and then save it to a memory stick which I then mail to my mother. Love me, Mummy, LOVE ME!

Lots More Hype About Reach and Black-Ops: Both Bungie and Treyarch are in overdrive mode with hyping their big releases, Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops respectively. There's no doubt that Black Ops is going to be the bigger seller of the pair, but Halo: Reach is a formidable opponent. Treyarch took over as the main developers of the Call of Duty series after an acrimonious split between original creators/developers Infinity Ward and publisher/overlord Activision. There is huge demand on them to produce something perfect, and if Black Ops isn't up to snuff, a better-reviewed Halo: Reach will only exaggerate its flaws.

What I really wanted to talk about was food. But maybe not just food. I dunno. Gamers sustenance maybe?

You know, if you are sitting down to a long session, what do you need within easy reach at all times? The foods/drinks/whatever that gets you through to the end? What works well and what doesn't?

My needs are simple. 

I need some sugary drinks. Preferably energy drinks: Red Bull, Relentless, a litre of Tescos Kick is good and reasonably priced. If I can't get that, then just something fizzy. Or water. Fuck it, I don't know. I just need something to drink.
I need my smokes. You might be one of those healthy people, good for you, you'll live like an extra ten years. Years you'll spend crapping your pants and wondering why no-one comes to visit at Christmas, but hey, ten years is ten years. I, however, am a filthy smoker. So I need my smokes. Marlboro Red please. And cigarettes are controller friendly too! Easy to dual wield. Also, I read in one of my sisters books that smoking makes you look cheap and men will think you're easy, which is fine by me.

I don't eat much when I game. There's rules to eating though, and it all depends how dirty you are. I can't stand grease on my console controllers yet my mouse is grimey Rascal. So, for me, it means no greasy crisps, no chips, nothing like that. Dry food only. Like a dog with an upset stomach.
One wonder food that fits the bill perfectly is hotdogs. They are easy-to-make, require little technical know how and can safely and easily be eaten while gaming. No grease on them, wooo! 

Here's my favourite recipe for hotdogs:

1) Buy some hotdogs and buns.
2) Cook hotdogs according to instructions on packet.
3) Place hotdogs in buns.
4) Eat hotdogs.

My lovely other half has astutely pointed out another one. Sweeties, preferably gummy things. Haribo or Wine Gums or some such shit. I had a great blast on the Halo 3 campaign the other day with just a can of shandy and a packet of Fruit Pastilles. Epic times were had.

[EDIT] Something has gone fucked up with the formatting on this page. Dunno what. Oh well.