Gears of War – where’s the depth?

The post title is pretty negative so let’s get the good stuff out of the way…

  • Gears of War (GOW from now on) is a fantastic looking game – not seen anything on the 360 that gets close. Some of the textures and effects are very realistic. Loving the rain in act 3!
  • The single player mode has got me gripped more than I expected and certainly more than Halo 2.
  • Online co-op adds so much to this game. Playing through chapters with friends over the last few nights has been great – hopefully more games in future will allow you to play any level via co-op.
  • The look and feel of the levels so far (half way though the game) has been varied with some stunning cityscapes and architecture on display. You can easily see the influence that cities and in particular London have had on the game.
  • Lack of story. Yep – thats a positive for me. I’d rather a company focused on gameplay and good content throughout the whole game than a good story, great cinematics towards the start and then a rehash of old content and textures towards the end of the game as publishing deadlines start to bite.
  • Weapons! The chainsaw on the gun is inspired – I’ve still to tire from killing and covering my screen in blood. The active reload of ammo is also far better than I expected. As you reload you need to time a button press to get a faster reload and increased ammo power. Miss it and your gun will jam – get it right and you do more damage. On paper it sounded really tacky. In practice it makes for a great feature that adds to the pressure in the heat of the battle.
  • Online has been fun. Loving the destructible furniture and the encouragement of good team play. Been some great finishing moves to the matches too.

Sounding good so far but now my moans…

  • Biggest and loudest is multiplayer. Three measly options which are all derivatives of team deathmatch. Through play we tend to end up only playing warzone which really is team deathmatch.
  • Online Maps – although there is a fair number there isn’t much variation, probably due to the style of gameplay. Hide, shoot. Hide, shoot. Hide/Camp, chainsaw.
  • Best way to play the game is with friends. Can really take advantage of people’s strengths and weaknesses and employ some tactics. Think a slightly dumbed down Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six. So it’s good to know that I can’t play ranked games with friends. Only with randoms. Thats very poor, especially when ranked games with friends is rumored to be a feature being worked on while another story said you couldn’t do ranked games with the True Skill features in Xbox Live. Thats just bull.
  • Ultimately a lack of depth. Although I’m enjoying the single player mode and co-op, and online has been fun, I’ve been finding it a bit tiring after an hour or so. Very samey gameplay with not much variation. It’s got some teamwork depth but thats about it. Halo was is far more satisfying.
  • Forward rolls are the new jump. I remember when Perfect Dark Zero came out. rejoice – people can’t jump. True but they can forward roll all over the place. Has lead to some quite bizarre fights with 3 or 4 players rolling, shooting, rolling away, taking stock, rolling, shooting etc etc etc. What a pain in the arse. Far more annoying than jumping.
  • Downloadable content is inevitable. How much?

Should you buy the game? Absolutely. Fun will be had, the single player mode rocks and the online side is fun but limited. Just don’t expect to be playing this in two years time. A recent interview with Bungie shows why I think Halo 3 will still be the game to beat on the 360. Can’t wait.

Flickr Love

Flickr MobileFlickr added some new features over the last day or so, one of which combines my love of stats and technology. Firstly the two mundane updates. They’ve updated their Flickr mobile site ( making it easier to type and use while adding some new options. This feature hasn’t changed in ages so it’s nice to see it getting some attention.

Also new is ‘Guest Pass’. Invite up to 50 other guests to view your friends and family pictures. A great way to invite non Flickr members to see your photo’s. The nice part of this feature is that you are in control of who gets the pass, what they can see and how long they have access for. Finally onto the geek feature.

Camera Charts

Using Camera Finder you can see the most popular camera’s in use at Flickr and also find photo’s from actual users of the camera your thinking of buying. What better way of confirming a good review than seeing other people’s results for yourself. Whats nice is that browsing through each camera (my DSC-P200 for example) you can filter not only interesting shots but also from a range including macro, night and landscape. Great to see what each camera can be capable off in the right hands.

Flickr’s use of photo metadata is really smart – it will be interesting to see how new camera’s affect the charts over time and also what other stats and search options can be added to Flickr. Can it get better? Yes! Subsets please! While I’m alkinh photo’s, interesting post on The Truth about Digital Camera’s – comments also worth a read.


5 years since the Xbox, and hence Halo was launched…

4 years since Xbox Live was launched…

Just over 2 years since Halo 2 was launched…

I guess it’s not a big stretch to expect Halo 3 to launch around this time next year but there was some news today of upcoming developments. Firstly there’s a multiplayer Halo 3 demo coming next spring and to wet the appetite a new screenshot was shown.

Halo 3

More of a surprise is that there are new maps for Halo 2 coming next spring. I still regularly play and enjoy Halo 2 so it’s great to see a more than two year old game get extra content, even if it is paid content and a final chance to extract some money from Halo 2 players. The only restriction is that you need a 360 to enjoy the new content.

Reading about the Xbox Live anniversary brought back memories of my first time on Live. I was beta testing the UK service and it was a Friday afternoon when I first plugged in the headset and booted up the beta Moto GP. I had no idea what to expect so picked a random game (there were only a few available) and joined. Only three people in the room, one of which was a Climax developer. This was amazing. Silky smooth, no lag although it felt a bit odd talking to other gamers. The next Moto GP session had around eight players. Still great although the voice chat was brought to a crashing, jarring stop. ‘Who’s that fanny thats in front’ could be heard…from the mouth of a wee Glaswegian ned. Unmistakable. ‘Oot the way ya prick’. Ouch.

Funnily enough those two sessions sum up all thats been good and bad about Xbox Live. Great online gaming with real and virtual friends with the occasional (slightly more than occasional on Halo) annoyance of some wee turd running his mouth off. Americans in particular. Still, it was a revelation and revolution that is now being copied by Sony and to a certain extent Nintendo. Console gaming just wouldn’t be the same without it. For all the abuse that Microsoft received (and still gets) it should be applauded for bringing out Xbox Live. Roll on the next four years.

Oh no….ReviewMe

The following is not a paid review

Time to get used to that (without the not) or the words sponsored review appearing on blog posts from now on. ReviewMe is a new pay per post venture for bloggers and advertisers. Bloggers register at the ReviewMe site and once they have added their blog to their account the site works out the price your site is worth depending on Technorati, Alexa ranks and subscriber numbers. Advertisers can then ask you to review a product on your site – review it (good or bad) and you’ll be paid half your site value. I registered and my site price is $40. So if asked to review a product and if I did so I would be paid $20 into my paypal account. Indeed I could be paid $20 from ReviewMe by linking this review to my account. I won’t.

The whole thing just stinks. For me paid reviews will always be devalued. For each blogger that reviews honestly there will be another ten that will review positively so that advertisers use them in the future. How many blogs will be set-up just to do paid reviews? For me it’s another form of viral marketing that will only devalue the usefulness of bloggers and their tech reviews. Ventures like ReviewMe only increase the value of forum sites – AVForums, Apple Discussions for example, where most people are reporting honestly about products and issues and helping other users. Would you trust a blog post that someone’s been paid to write?

New WordPress Plugins

I’ve installed a couple of new WordPress plugins that are very useful so I thought it was worth sharing the goodies.

The first one is best applied to WordPress 2.0.5 and above and is called Clutter Free. It’s role in life is to allow an author to disable unused components of the create post screen in WordPress, so giving a faster loading and clutter free page. Works a treat and gets rid of a lot of unused functionality…for me at least.

Second is Secure and Accessible PHP Contact Form v.2.0WP. Certainly a mouthful but is saving me from more spam, this time via the old comment form I used to employ. Over the last few days I’d received over 200 comments via the Contact form linked to at the top of the site. It was making it difficult to pull out good comment from spam. This new plugin seems to have done the trick and since implementing last night has seen two good comments succeed in reaching me and 25 spam comments being removed. Joy. Hopefully others can get mileage out of them too.

Sky by Mobile on the k800i

I’m still loving the k800i but Sky haven’t updated their Sky by Mobile app to support the new phone. No matter – there is still a way to run the app and remote record.

Firstly download the following file to your pc – Then transfer the file to your phone. Running the app on your phone will ask you to install it. Say Yes and pick a location that suits. Running the app for the first time will allow you to enter your username and password. From then on it should connect with no issues (unless the Sky site is down). I didn’t have to change any other settings (with T-Mobile UK) although your mileage may vary depending on your carrier. More info can be found on AV Forums for getting it to work on O2. There is now really no excuse for missing that recording.