The Banhammer

Ouch – after boasting about playing well in Halo and folk reporting me for cheating I logged onto Halo tonight to find I’ve been temporarily banned. Bastards. I wouldn’t mind if I had cheated but I haven’t – no mods, no standby by nonsense – nothing. Not even the occasional super jump like so many others tend to do.

If it was a one off then so be it but at the Bungie site they say that a repetition of the cheating will mean a permanent ban. Totally agree when your cheating – harsh when you’ve done nothing wrong except play well. I’m now looking forward to the 360 more than ever – might even dust off PGR2 for a spot of ‘in anticipation’ gaming.

Hard Yards

Yesterday was the first round of Christmas shopping. Jenny & Rasool were visiting so to the shops we went. Ouch – feet still sore from the 8 hours of shopping that we did. The main point is that we were pretty successful so only another couple of small trips are required.

I know folk think I’m mad doing real life shopping when Amazon can make it so much easier but it is so impersonal to order Christmas gifts that way. I hate to think of presents arriving at the house like that when I can easily pop into town and make an effort to buy them – makes it feel more like a gift. Also allows you to browse and see things you just wouldn’t see online.

Online I tend to go to certain sites, search for specific items – I find it hard to just browse. Shopping in the real world….things catch my eye, idea’s pop into my head, apple cake tastes really nice. Today was also another task that I HATE doing. Wrapping presents. It’s such a pointless exercise but we all still do it. Better watch – ghost of Christmas past will be visiting if I keep this up.

GTA Liberty City Stories - Custom Soundtracks

Picked up GTA:Liberty City Stories for the PSP today. Great game – if you liked any of the other GTA games you’ll love this. One warning – it gets of to a very slow start but then the missions start to pick up. Another warning – the soundtracks included in the game are mince which is something of a letdown as the GTA games have become renowned for their use of music.

However Rockstar have included a custom soundtrack feature which allows you to play your own tracks from the PSP’s memory disk. Way! The problem is this feature won’t play mp3’s from the memory stick – you need to use Rockstar’s software (download from IGN) to convert music to their format and transfer that to the PSP. An added twist is that the utility will not covert mp3’s to their own format – only music ripped from a bought music CD using their utility can be used. Boo! There is another way…

Codemasters also had a custom soundtrack feature for their Toca game on the PSP. They also used a utility to convert music to a PSP format – the difference is that their utility allowed you to convert mp3’s from your hard disk as well as music CD’s. Therefore:

1) Download the Codemasters utility – ftp://downloads.codemasters.com/upgrade/Codemasters_EACSetup.zip

2) Make sure you have a game save for GTA on your PSP memory disk

3) Install the Codemasters utility on your PC

4) Connect the PSP to your PC in USB mode.

5) Goto the folder PSP and then SAVEDATA – look for the name of your GTA gamesave folder. For me it was ULES00151S0

6) Now you need to create a new folder in SAVEDATA that holds the custom soundtracks. Using the name of the game save folder remove the final S0 and add CUSTOMTRACKS – create a folder using this name. So for me my GTA music folder is called ULES00151CUSTOMTRACKS. Note that is a new folder – NOT the game folder renamed. For Vice City name the folder ULES00502CUSTOMTRACKS.

7) Fire up the Codemasters utility on the PC, select mp3’s from the hard disk or a music CD, select the custom tracks folder created above and convert your music.

8) Once converted, goto the custom tracks folder and rename all the files from *.toc to *.gta

9) Fire up GTA, select custom soundtrack in audio options and enjoy your own music.

It’s ironic that Rockstar, a company who have made money out of glamorizing drug trafficing, prostitution, stabbing, shooting, car theft, killing of innocents and now gang violence, have taken the moral high ground and limited their software to bought music only. You really have got to laugh.

Happy Birthday

Today Halo is four years old. Halo 2 is one year old. To celebrate Bungie has posted some historical background and also some news about how both games will look on the 360.

Halo sold the Xbox for many and got a controversial 10 in Edge. It was the start of a series that Microsoft now depend on and has spawned a movie. The gameplay in the first one for me was flawed, dull and repetitive. Halo 2 fixed that by providing Xbox Live support. I can’t think of many games that I have played regularly after 1 year. Halo 2 is unique in that not only do I still play it, I look forward to playing it. Anyone up for some Team Snipers?

360 Hour Tour

PGR3 - Out of car
Visited the 360 Hour Tour at The Lighthouse this morning. Turned up at 10AM thinking it would be busy but it was pretty quiet – just a few other geeks and two loud neds…welcome to Glasgow. Finally got into the show at 10:30. First impressions were very good – around 50-60 360’s all with hi-def screens were spread around the room – some on stands and some with sofa’s to allow more comfortable gaming. Pictures from this morning can be found at Flickr.

Made a dash (brisk walk really) for a PGR3 console. After getting through the very impressive menu’s it was into a street race round London. Graphics are excellent although there seemed to be a few ‘jaggies’ on view. The background detail is amazing – the environments are so rich that it’s hard to take it all in. There was no slowdown to be seen even with the other five cars on track. Certain sections of the tracks were very dark – so dark that you couldn’t make out the track and that wasn’t down to the room lighting or reflections. I’m hoping that it was more due to the screens MS were using. Played this game the most this morning but seeing as I loved PGR2 that’s no surprise. Speed of the cars was good and the handling model was similar to PGR2 if not a little more tricky – the TVR Cerbera was a beast to handle and also very very fast. One odd point – background textures. Compared to the screens that I’d previously seen they looked a bit low-res. We were told that this was a 90% complete build so maybe there was more to be done but they looked a bit ‘tacky’. It also didn’t feel hi-res. Certainly a lot more could be seen and you knew you were playing a more powerful console – Graham commented on the feeling it was a 480 rather than 720p game. I tend to agree.

Next I tried Perfect Dark Zero. This is the one game that’s had most pre launch hype and also been the most disappointing. Ramped up the difficulty to max and found it was just too tough. Graphics looked very good though – a lot better than I had expected. The level started indoors and again looked very dark though. Some really nice touches though – I was hiding behind a jeep and zoomed in on an enemy – he too was behind a jeep but I could see his legs. I shot him in the leg – he leaned down to feel his leg and I was able to shoot him in the head – really nice moment. Explosions were also great to watch. Tried an outdoor level too – bright, colourful clear graphics and zooming in and around this level showed just how big the environments were. We tried to set-up a co-op game but it wasn’t for doing it. Menu’s felt a little clunky. I want to play this now.

Other games got a small bit of time each:

  • Kameo – Graphics were very impressive. A bit confusing as to what you had to do but I played it for all of 5 minutes. Depending on reviews this looks to be an essential purchase
  • Call of Duty 2 – Very sharp graphically – got a quick shot as there were only 3 machines set-up with this game. As it’s a FPS I htink a lot of it’s sales will go to Perfect Dark Zero.
  • Condemned – Needs a lot of time – more than I could afford but very pretty graphics
  • Fifa 06 – Nice menu’s, nice grass, really crap game. I thought this felt worse than the Xbox version
  • NBA 06 – Didn’t have time to play it – player models were very detailed including sweaty faces
  • Need for Speed – Actually looked very good – some playtime showed a slight jerkiness in the graphics – PGR3 really showed it up to be honest.
  • Tiger Woods – A prettier version of the original – not much to say really

The pads were excellent. With the black and white buttons now moved to above the triggers they felt very comfortable – even the guide button in the middle was easy to get to. The guide itself was disabled in the demo pods although you could access it on the machines next to the sofa’s. Reboot times were ok and felt roughly the same as Xbox. Loading times too were pretty average – not too long but not short either. One notable exception – Fifa 06 took an absolute age to load.

You’ll notice there is no mention of sound. The demo pods were all muted but there was space for two headphone sockets so if you do get to visit one of these events take a set of headphones. When my PGR screen was finally turned up I was very impressed with the engine sound of the TVR. It sounded great and that was even with the DJ in the background doing his best to drown everything out. Also the demo pod screens are very close to your head – the pads used aren’t wireless and are fixed meaning that you will pay more attention to the graphics than you would at home. Perfect Dark Zero when I played it on the sofa looked amazing – far better than when I played it on the pods. The screens are hopefully the reason why some of the games looked dark – artificially so. I would have thought MS would have made sure that the screens selected would show of the games at their best….who knows – maybe they are and games will be ‘dark’. EA games seemed to all have a graphical filter on their games – like a shadow around the main object. You could see it on NBA and Fifa but it was most noticeable on Need for Speed – any background object seemed to have a shadow effect around it. Don’t know why but it was definitely there.

So after all that – do I want a 360. YES. Without a doubt. Do I wish I had pre-ordered. YES. Will I get a 360 this year – probably not but I’ll still try and get one. However this event didn’t blow me away as much as I thought it would. It made me want to play the games but I feel that the leap forward to the next gen won’t be as big as SNES to PS1/N64 or PS1 to Xbox. Roll on December 2nd when the hunt for my 360 will begin.

 

More Apps

Last post on this (for now). More portable apps: