GTA IV

Just watched the trailer. Wow. Available at:

http://www.rockstargames.com/IV/

http://www.thegtaplace.com/

GTA IV
Graphics looking very detailed (Flickr set here), much more impressive than I expected. This really does look like a city (New York?) thats alive. Good to see the Rockstar humour is still present – check out some of the billboards. The trailer music reminded me of Matrix. No gameplay details but still…roll on October 16th.

GTA IV

Sky Anytime

Sky’s much lauded new feature Sky Anytime was finally made available to Sky HD customers today with Sky+ boxes to follow soon. Launch the TV Guide and press the red button to access the Sky Anytime content. Downloaded overnight and refreshing daily it will showcase Sky’s ‘best’ content and allow you to access this at anytime. Finally the missing 140GB from my Sky box is being used.

It probably also explains why my HD box fans have been on at 6AM for the last few days. I thought it was a buggy firmware release but this makes more sense. One nice aspect of this content is there are no DOG’s or adverts. While I was initially sceptical it is a nice way of catching some shows that I may have missed, especially some of the one off shows. There’s just too many channels to keep track off. It’s also free which is pretty rare for Sky.

However if I do turn it off I would have loved the option to reclaim the 140GB for my normal recordings. It’s also a bit weird how much SD content is included for Sky HD users. Finally, does it download or record off the channels as the programs are broadcast? I guess that doesn’t really matter. For the moment I’ll keep it enabled and review the content on offer. If it’s offering content outside my normal viewing then it will be worthwhile. If not then at least my box will resume it’s normal quiet life overnight.

PS3 - The Hardware

PS3 StandingSince it’s announcement in 2005 the PS3 has always had a rough ride. It’s too big, it’s too expensive, it’s too late. I’ll start of my thoughts on the PS3 by first looking at the hardware. I’ll then follow up with a post on the software and operating system and finally the games. Phew.

The first thing that strikes you is how shiny the PS3 is. Not just the little silver sections but the whole thing – piano black shiny that is a magnet for dust and fingerprints. Then you notice that there is no ugly power brick that sits out with the console. Everything is contained within the not inconsiderable PS3 case and while the case is bigger than the 360 it’s not overly so as first touted by the media. The design also hides it’s size well in my eyes and looks pretty good. If you add the 360 power brick to the 360 then it’s probably a bit bigger than the PS3. Still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some people think it’s butt ugly. I guess it’s one of these love or hate designs.

Annoyingly even though Sony touted the PS3 as ‘true HD’ it doesn’t come with an HDMI cable which is a bit cheap after paying £425. With everything connected up you then plugin the sixaxis controller via the charge cable. For me this is another issue as the cable is really small at only 3ft. While a longer one can be purchased (Maplin sorted me out) it’s another little bit of cost cutting although the 360 didn’t come with any recharging capability – the plug and play kit was a separate purchase so it’s a small gripe really.

Once you switch on the PS3 it will auto detect video settings and then you are in the PS3 front end. One of the more lauded features of the PS3 is 1080p playback. However many launch games do not support 1080p and there are still precious few users who have access to a 1080p screen. If you’ve used a PSP then the interface will be instantly familiar although thats for another post. One of the problems with the 360 is the noise it makes and I was expecting the PS3 to be worse as it uses more power. Surprisingly it’s pretty quiet. After some play it does increase slightly but no where near the noise of the 360 which is down to fan and disk activity. It does generate slightly more heat but nothing thats too alarming if you’ve felt the back of a PC before. It’s quietness is a real strong point and is ideal for movie and music playback unlike the 360.

Another sleek feature is the touch sensitive power and eject buttons. While it’s a gimmick it works really well and adds to the overall finish of the hardware. Disks are loaded via a slot loading mechanism which works like a mac. Put the disk in half way and it’s pulled in by the PS3. The disk when loaded is fairly quiet, impressively quiet compared to the 360. The disks are one of the more contentious features of the PS3. The PS3 is a Blu-Ray player and all games will come on Blu-Ray disks too. This feature undoubtedly added to the delay and cost of the PS3 and only time will tell whether it was worth the wait.
Continue reading “PS3 – The Hardware”

PS3 Quickies

Day 1 of the PS3 has seen mostly highs, a few lows and enough time to jot down some quick thoughts…

  • The hardware looks fantastic
  • Power brick is integrated and side by side with the 360 it’s not that much bigger
  • It’s oh so quiet compared to the industrial noise coming from the 360
  • It’s hot.
  • Blu-Ray movies look great
  • Flow isn’t up on the store – fools
  • Rumble is a big miss – I guess by Christmas though that will be resolved
  • Stripped down menu system is a joy to use
  • Motorstorm is a great game both offline and on. Again online is pretty quiet as there’s no standard headset.
  • It crashed once during an online game.
  • The lack of an integrated online service like Live is a real step backwards when you try to meet up with friends and play online. Xbox Live is years ahead of this.
  • For first gen games the graphics look really good.
  • The charging cable for the pad is too short. Off to Maplin tomorrow to resolve that little issue.

I’m more impressed than I thought but I’ll play some more with the system before putting up a more extensive post.

Let's Fight

It’s the eve of the PS3 launch in the UK but there’s been two cracking games launched recently on the 360 that are highly recommended.

Firstly is GRAW2 (thats Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter….2). This plays like any other first/third person shooter and at first is dissapointingly familiar. Especially compared to GRAW. However the multiplayer options are far more comprehensive than the previous version. The online graphics have also been improved. By adding better shadows and lighting the depth and difficulty has also increased. Environments are far more realistic and it can be really difficult to spot enemies now. Clan support has been added along wth more maps, more gameplay types and allegedly a great single player game although I have to depend on friends opinions for that one as I’ve yet to strike a blow in the offline game. Still – a great game and this is the best in the series so far.

The achievements also deserve special mention. Small rewards that are drip fed the more you play although one that stood out is the one hour defend. Defend a base against infinite enemies for one hour. With no ammo drops. It was tough but when six of us completed it last night…well…there was a great sense of achievement which is what it’s all about.

After a tense game of GRAW what better way to relax than a game of Worms. The classic game surfaced a couple of weeks ago on Xbox Live Arcade and it’s just…perfect. It first came out in 1994 and for those not in the know it’s a turn-based strategy/arcade game. You take command of a team of four worms and the aim is to destroy the other worms. Simple. Up to four players over Live can take part over an almost infinite set of levels.

The beauty of this game is it’s simplicity. Controls are easy and the physics all pretty realistic but it’s the variety of weapons and ways of killing your enemies that lift the game. Standard weapons are bazooka’s, grenades, air strikes. However there are super punches, jet packs, ninja ropes and exploding sheep that make killing other players an absolute joy.

On Live you can name your team and individual worms and also select a voice pack for your worms. Online games are so unpredictable. Even when ahead the other three teams can easily team up to knock you out. It’s also easy to kill yourself in the most unpredictable way but it’s a great laugh. Single player is frustrating though as the computer AI is far more accurate than fallible human opponents. Get three mates and you could spend hours on this – a bargain for only 800 gamer points.

Packaging and other rambles

I’ve always had a thing for nice packaging. The Apple packaging is hard to beat and gives you a great impression of the product you’ve bought before you’ve even switched it on. Likewise a great CD case (Thom Yorke, Lemon Jelly) has always given the CD a greater worth. All in the head as it doesn’t change the music, but there you go. My first Blu-Ray movies have now arrived and again the packaging is interesting. The cases are smaller than DVD, nicely rounded, slightly transparent and just feel better quality than a DVD. Which ties in with the fact it should be of better quality. All in the head but I like it.

Thats why I’ve always liked Japanese game packaging. Far smaller than western equivalents and to be honest far better. I look at my DVD collection – it could take up a quarter of the room that it currently does. Nevermind.

Speaking of room, I’m still tempted to ditch all my cd’s as I have them all digitally available. I would probably re-encode some of the disks at a higher rate but apart from that I have no need for the physical disks. Apart from the nice packaging that in my head adds value. Doh. So do I dump the disks and save room or not?

Finally, a quick bit on the Blu-Ray disks. I imported them from the states using DVDWorldUSA. They delivered within 7 days and there was no import duties to pay. They also guarantee to pay import duties if you do have the misfortune to get caught. It’s a long time since I imported and I was a bit worried about region playback issues. However this site lists the region free or restricted titles released so far. Very handy. Just need the player now.

Blu-Ray

Shaggy Blog Stories

Shaggy Dog Stories

Press release….

Bloggers publish book for Comic Relief.

100 bloggers have published a book to raise funds of the BBC’s Comic Relief appeal on Friday 16th March.

‘Shaggy Blog Stories’ features hilarious contributions from Richard Herring of ‘Fist of Fun’ fame, BBC 6Music presenter Andrew Collins, comedian Emma Kennedy, and James Henry, scriptwriter from Channel Four’s ‘The Green Wing’.

Authors Abby Lee, David Belbin, Catherine Sanderson and The Guardian’s Anna Pickard have also contributed pieces to the book.

The vast majority of contributions, however, are the work of many of the lesser known and unfamiliar heroes of British blogging; going under pen names such as Diamond Geezer, Scaryduck, Pandemian and Unreliable Witness.

Also contributing to ‘Shaggy Blog Stories’, and hoping to raise funds for the Comic Relief Appeal is local writer INSERT YOUR NAME, LOCALITY AND BLOG DETAILS HERE.

The book is the idea of blogger Mike Atkinson who writes the ‘Troubled Diva’ weblog. ‘Shaggy Blog Stories’ features comic writing from not only the cream of British blogging, but also the best up-and-coming and undiscovered writers publishing their work on their own websites.

Giving himself a “ridiculously short” seven days from idea to finished product, Atkinson admitted that he was overwhelmed with the response, which gleaned over 300 submissions for publication.

With a pool of talented writers, and the latest publishing-on-demand technology, Shaggy Blog Stories bypasses the usual snail-paced publishing industry, and offers a mail order service to customers who will receive their finished copy within days of placing their order, and only a couple of weeks after the original idea.

“Blogging creates complex, worldwide networks of friendship and contacts on the internet”, says journalist Alistair Coleman, one of Shaggy Blog Stories’ contributors. “By creating a buzz about this book, we can reach out to hundreds, thousands of readers who’d be willing to part with a few quid for this very good cause. Mike’s got some excellent writers on board here whose work deserves a wider audience. Everybody wins.”

For details of how to order the book, visit www.shaggyblogstories.co.uk.

For the background story on the creation of Shaggy Blog Stories, take a look at www.troubled-diva.com.

Buy it here.

Shopping

Just back from Braehead – what a miserable day it is out there. Amongst the Mothers Day shopping I couldn’t help notice that the PS3 isn’t sold out. Anywhere. HMV and Game are still taking pre-orders. In fact HMV were sure that you could stroll in next Friday and pick up a PS3 without pre-ordering as demand is pretty slow. Coupled with the Game announcement that only 2/3’s of their pre-order allocation has been bought should hopefully put a stop to any hopes of the eBay sellers hoping to ‘double their money’. Makes you wonder how many will actually sell as no doubt there are many that have bought two or more just to sell one on eBay.

In preparation for the PS3 I’ve ordered a couple of Blu-Ray titles – MI3 and The Departed. Both films have reportedly excellent video quality and I’m looking forward to watching them on the PS3. Thats as long as they work as they are American imports. I’ve also picked up a Bluetooth headset for the PS3 as it doesn’t come with one as standard and I don’t want a wired one plugged into the PS3.

Final bit of shopping news is regarding my Edge subscription. With all the money hassle recently there was a direct debit problem. One phone call later and it was all sorted…or so I thought. This months hasn’t appeared and on calling the subscription team the next direct debit isn’t until May. SO no issues this month or next month. Doh! They could have at least explained that at the time. I’ve now had to make do with a shop soiled copy. Nevermind…only one week until PS3 arrives.

Orb Hunter

Crackdown turns out to have more depth than I gave credit for. It’s great for short bursts of play which is what I do more of now. One challenge I’ll never complete is the Orb Hunter – finding all the hidden orbs dotted around the islands. Thanks to Herman Gatevold though this has become slightly easier. He’s posted a map(hi-res version) of where they are hidden and a screenshot for each orb. All 300 of them.I’d hate to think how long it took to do this.