Some bits and pieces from this weekend.

  • Microsoft support reckon it’s a paid for repair on the 360. While I argue my point (which will take a few days at least by the looks of it) my patience gave in after less than 24 hours and I picked up a new core 360. Gaming is getting more expensive! Roll on PS3.
  • Fence is now fixed.
  • The weather has been atrocious and anyone would be crazy to not think global warming is affecting us all and that new patterns are emerging. November and December last year were Glasgow’s wettest on record and January isn’t looking much better. Couple that with more frequent and stronger gales and a new winter is emerging that’s wetter and windier. Feb and March look more to be our traditional winter months now. I wonder if we’ll get late snow like last year.
  • Great article in today’s Herald highlighting Flickr and the amateur Scottish photographers that can be found there. Unfortunately the online version of the article doesn’t contain the photo’s or links to the Flickr site of those chosen for the piece. However you can find the photo’s at the Flickr Scotland group or the Flickr Scotland Blog where the best pictures from Flickr are published. Highly recommended.
  • Google Maps app for mobiles. This is a great java app for phones although it’s probably best to have a high speed net connection and also a good data plan before you start browsing around the maps.
  • The first four episodes of 24 are superb – looks like another cracking series. Usual caveat of switching off brain before watching does however still apply.

Hope everyone else had a good one.

Gaming Thoughts

A few random thoughts not worthy of a single post…

  • Halo 2. Loved this online since it came out, one of the best multiplayer games on Live and that’s despite the cheating that’s has plagued it. One of the reasons is that the unranked playlists have been great – no one quits early, games are fair as the cheats are chasing rankings and the overall game is so much improved because of it. Imagine the disappointment last week when one of our favourite game modes moved to a ranked mode. Cheating, lagging, leaving – a game mode ruined.
  • Test Drive Unlimited – this is now one of my favourites of the year and surprisingly it’s the single player game that I’m liking the most. Multiplayer is awkward to get going with friends and full of cheats (spot the trend?) if you play with randoms. Despite this it’s easily the game I’ve played the most and got reward from it – still lot’s of challenges left too.
  • Rainbow Six Vegas – looking forward to it lots. One option that looks to lift it is the player customisation. Not only can you use the usual options in game but you can plug in the 360 camera and use it to build a character. This video says it all.
  • A couple of weeks away from the annual Pro Evo Soccer highs and lows. Highs this year – widescreen at last, better graphics, more moves. Lows – online lets it down again? I hope not.
  • PS3. With the delay in Europe and the stream of news coming out now it looks more appealing. Still not convinced of it’s online credentials although the fact that online gaming is free is nice (and makes me think that MS may make that move too). Some of the in game movies look superb though and a notch above current 360 titles. Considering they are a year into developing on the 360 it bodes well for future PS3 titles.
  • Wii sports looks great – again videos say it all. Can’t wait to play it. However there’s nothing else, not even Zelda, that sounds interesting. Ok – Zelda is a bit interesting but I can see me getting bored of using the remote for firing arrows etc. Is £179.99 too much for one game?

This is Living?

Thats the official PS3 slogan for Europe but I’m sure there’s something missing. This is living on the breadline? This is living in a world where the 360 does not exist? This is living in a world of crap fonts and 3d renders? (check out the launch video for Spiderman and clothes label fonts – quality). Firstly the price of the PS3 looks expensive at £425 and the launch games are looking average with no exclusive OS3 title standing out as a must have. Launch titles are never the best judge of a platform but with the 360 titles coming along over the next 6 months the PS3 looks weak in comparison.

Now there’s news that there will be no HDMI cable included in the box and also confirmation that the lower end PS3 will not play copy protected Blu-ray discs at 1080p due to lack of HDMI port. Add in the lack of 1080p screens, the dismal launch of Blu-ray and HD-DVD outperforming the Blu-Ray movies so far and thats a far from appetising console. Add in a non-rumbling pad that isn’t a patch on the 360 design and an internet service that in my experience hasn’t been a patch on Xbox Live and I’m struggling to find reason to part with the cash. Where is the next gen Wipeout? That game alone sold me on the PS1 and truly differentiated the PS1 from other consoles of that period. There seems to be nothing of that ilk on the PS3. Maybe the Tokyo Game Show will tell a different story later this month.

In fact the only reason I can see me buying one is that there will be a shortage at launch which usually means a profit on Ebay. Oh, there is another. My ‘habit’ of needing the latest and greatest which after all these years I’ve not managed to break. Yet. Maybe the PS3 will be my cold turkey.

HD Stuff

A few bit’s and pieces on HD. Firstly, my TV. Had no real issues with it apart from a bug with the 360 (and maybe hi-def content in general) in that the colour red (and oranges) would cause some ghosting of the image on the screen. Nothing major and certainly nothing that could be spotted in game. You could see it especially on the dashboard and in PGR menu’s although changing the dashboard theme removed the issue.

However I picked up TopSpin last week which looked gorgeous until I played my first tournament on clay. Uggggggghhhhhhhhh. Fugly and difficult to watch – felt the whole image was blurry. Luckily for me the next day saw the latest firmware release for the TV which solved the problem. Good stuff Philips – only took 4 months.

I still don’t know whether providing the facility to upgrade your TV’s firmware is a good idea. In one respect it allows Philips to address issues through the life of he TV. However it also allows them to ship a ‘buggy’ product knowing it can be addressed in the long term. How many users though will:

  • Know about the firmware release
  • Know how to apply it
  • Have the confidence to do it

People I know have issues applying a firmware release to a DVD writer worth about £60 never mind to a TV worth £1800. For me it’s great but I’m a geek. For average users it’s just not good enough.

Other HD news is a rumour – Microsoft will announce their HD-DVD add on at E3 next month and it will be priced at $100. That sounds stupidly cheap. If it’s true then I can see a lot of people picking up the device. Hopefully they’ll add an HDMI socket to the player as well – HDMI is the new scart and I’m still surprised they went with component rather than HDMI on the 360. Time to make amends.

I’m still looking for an HDMI switch box. As I’ve mentioned HDMI has become the standard way of hooking up HD sources yet most screens still only have one socket. If your a switch box manufacturer then the next couple of years is the time to make money. By year end I’ll have the DVD player, Sky HD, PS3 and probably the 360 via the HD-DVD add on all using HDMI. So it’s definitely a five way switch box which looking at those on the market will cost between £150 and £350. Ouch. Octava is my first choice as there is now a UK distributor and it’s the cheapest. Gefen do a 4 way HDMI and audio switch box but it’s over £300. I would rather get a new amp with some HDMI inputs than pay that much. So it looks like Octava unless I turn up a bad review in avforums. I’ll post an update once I have the box and tested it.

Project Gotham Tournaments

An update last week to Project Gotham enabled online tournaments, the first of which started today. From today until the 2nd May you must set a time that will hopefully end up in the top 64. Thereafter there will be an elimination round with prizes for those involved.

I’ve got no chance of getting into the top 64 (last time I checked I was in the top 300) but it’s events like this over Live that extend the lifetime of a game. Hopefully there’s more to come. Just a shame that it’s locked to auto gears and the car (Lamborghini Gallardo) sucks. Reminds me of the Paris pack on PGR2 – me and Piglet raced one track until we were both in the top 50. Those were the (sad) days.

Sony Goes Global

Nice surprise – Sony will release the pS3 this year in November and it’s a worldwide launch. There is coverage everywhere but Joystiq have pulled most of it together. It’s really quite a mixed bag of news. Main points for me…

  • As already mentioned there will be a global release in early November. Early money on Nov 11th. Pre-order to avoid disappointment and e-bay sharks who have already started.
  • Blu-Ray. Every game will be supplied on a Blu-Ray disk – lot’s more room than a normal DVD. More importantly this will be the cheapest way of getting a Blu-Ray player for the foreseeable future.
  • Hard disk….60Gig. Linux OS will be pre-installed. No clarity on whether it’s a standard feature or an add-on.Now confirmed as a standard feature with rumour that a larger disk may be optional. Make it standard Mr Sony – bump up the price but give us one standard platform rather than the Xbox Core and Premium fiasco.
  • Mmmm – Linux. At the same time Sony have talked about the PS3 as a home server that you can store media on and play from elsewhere (PSP?). This could be a killer feature if you can also play media (of any type) from anywhere in the house. Sony would have almost certainly THE best media center player and games console in the one device.
  • HDMI….time to upgrade the amp
  • Online service. Sounds like Xbox live. Basic free service included. Voice chat, messaging etc etc.
  • Backwards compatible
  • Price at least $425. Sounds reasonable given the technology to be included.

No screenshots, no (hopefully redesigned) controllers. Yet another console launch just before my birthday. Joy. Roll on E3 for actual screenshots.

Curse of the Online Gamer

Stumbled upon a blog where the owner did a bit of stat taking. Not the normal number of kills, number of head shots. No – this was the number of times he heard someone cursing or being sexist/racist while playing Halo 2 (the worst game for this type of thing). Stats make for interesting reading and certainly ties up with what I hear on line. I wouldn’t be comfortable with juniors hearing some of this stuff. Bitch talking is not something I normally get involved in – Roy still holds the title for most abusive in a Halo session.

That’s where The Lickers kick in. It’s a league for folk that aren’t obsessed about being number 1 and where cheating and glitching isn’t tolerated. Certainly friendlier than random Live games although looking at the forums sometimes you wouldn’t think so. It’s also full of folk that are over 20 so you don’t feel like an old duffer when posting at the forums or playing online with them. If interested pop over to the forums and sign up.