It’s a new year but before leaving 2022 behind here’s some of my favourite’s from the last 12 months, one dominated by some cracking TV shows. So in no particular order…
The Rest is Politics A new for 2022 podcast from Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell has fast become my favourite pod. Good rapport between the odd couple and a variety of topics from around the political world and some cracking guests. Admittedly helped by the UK having increasingly bat shit crazy politicians.
Industry Stepped up a level in season 2 – great soundtrack, loads of backstabbing and a move into politics alongside the financial industry.
Everything Everywhere All At Once My favourite movie from last year. Clever, funny and far more inventive than any of the multiverse offerings from the big studio’s. Hope it gets the recognition it deserves at the award shows.
Glass Onion Only just out, but I really enjoyed the follow-up to Knives Out. Could be watched stand alone too.
Knotwords Zack Gage can do no wrong. Fill in a crossword puzzle without clues, only letters. Simple and another daily habit game.
We Own This City Can still hardly believe this was based on a true story. Another classic from David Simon – Jon Bernthal also owned every scene he was in.
The Responder I’m not a massive fan of Martin Freeman, but he was immense in this show based in Liverpool. Small cast but really delivered over a few episodes.
Bad Sisters Binged this in a couple of days and loved it. Sharon Horgan really can do no wrong and this is a great black comedy. Shout out to Claes Bang who was an excellent prick throughout.
Peacemaker A gem of a show, a bit like The Boys in that it’s adult superhero show…and it’s funny. The titles alone are worth a watch but my favourite parts were the banter between the various characters.
Derry Girls Stuck the landing – a superb comedy that finished on a high.
For All Mankind Still loving this – season three was pretty ambitious and they pulled it off.
Apple Watch Ultra Thanks to my fat wrists, this doesn’t look huge on me. Love the flat and slightly larger screen, bigger battery life and the overall look of the watch. Do I do any of the extreme sports that Apple market the Ultra around? No. But it’s the best version of the Apple Watch so far and that’s good enough for me – and I like the orange pop.
Karen Pirie One of the better ITV drama’s of recent years – great story based on a Val McDermid book, but it was the performance of Lauren Lyle that kept me interested. Deserves a second series.
Black Adam Lots of people said this was a dud but I’m here to tell you…they were right. What a waste of time and money this was. I would say it was a waste of talent too, but there was little of that on screen apart from Pierce Brosnan – the rest were all very forgettable.
The Boys Superhero satire at it’s best – a real refresher in amongst the Marvel shows.
Playdate It’s by no means perfect – the screen needs the ideal light to be playable, but what’s not to love about a small handheld device that’s yellow and has a crank. First season of games very hit and miss, but a couple have been nice to play through.
Severance I slept on this until last week – I’d dismissed it as some work place dystopian sci-fi but it’s so much more. Really asks “Who are you?” but the tension that builds throughout the series is so well done and the twists and characters threads that unfold are so good. Could have done with some more answers in the final episode but thats being picky.
This Is Going to Hurt Funny, raw, emotional – you’ll come for Ben Wishaw’s performance but it’s Ambika Mod as Shruti that will live long in the memory.
Plex Meta Manager I love Plex and have used it for years to manage my home media library. PMM takes it one step further, making your playlists far more dynamic. Great community behind it – it’s geeky and can be a bit tricky to setup but it makes my media library feel alive. Need to blog about this and my Plex setup someday.
Wordle Blew up in late 2021 but I’ve kept playing it through 2022 alongside some friends. It’s a nice start to the day, gets the brain engaged and what other games have so quickly spawned companion versions – Heardle, Framed, GuessTheGame. Ended the year with a 3.8 average.
The Bear Set in a sandwich shop in Chicago, this is stressful but funny and a must-see. Great cast, you root for the characters, flaws and all. Cousin!
The Capture Second series was a real step up on the first – a good take on where deep fakes could take us.
Andor I put off watching this as it was a prequel to a prequel – do we need this? What an idiot – it was fantastic and by far the best Star Wars TV series so far. Darker and deeper than other Star Wars titles. A nice follow-up is this episode of Soundtracking where Edith Bowman talks to Andor show creator Tony Gilroy.
Steam Deck Pre-ordered when it was announced and sold it to a friend within days of getting it. When would I use it? What would I game on it? A few months later I bought his Steam Deck pre-order and never looked back. Great for the smaller indie titles on Steam alongside playing AAA’s wherever I am, but I also use Emudeck on it and have a library of classic games that only take a few seconds to launch. I love this handheld and while a higher res screen would have been nice, the compromise in battery life wouldn’t have been.
Top Gun Maverick Better than it deserved to be – watched it 3 or 4 times this year and enjoyed it all the more.
The Batman Gritty 70’s detective movie featuring Batman – what’s not to like?
The English Fresh take on a western, Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer are fantastic.
Slow Horses Another show I slept on and binged it over 48 hours. Great cast, good plot and there’s a second series already broadcast and a third filmed.
Vampire Survivors I blasted this on the Steam Deck – saw a headline the other day that said the thing holding back the Steam Deck was the lack of exclusives. Clickbait headline, but everyone who has a Steam Deck should play Vampire Survivors. Simple (even basic) graphics , but its gameplay is so moreish that it’s hard to put down.
Back in 2005 I posted my bestest games (horrible title) from the last 20 years. A couple of months back I felt it was due a refresh so here are my bestest games from the last 30 years.
Flickr have stopped supporting their hover notes so instead the list is below. A few iOS games have crept onto the list as well as some 360 and PS3 updates but some classics have never really been bettered.
F-Zero – 1991 SNES – An almost perfect futuristic racing game. Time trialling was a real challenge. Wasted far too long trying to shave a few hundredths of lap times. Future F-Zero’s never recaptured the magic.
Portal 2 – 2011 – Xbox 360 – Follow up to Portal this was a great first person puzzle game that had a batch of single and co-op puzzles as you battled against GLaDOS.
Super Mario 64 – 1996- N64 – Never been bettered. Still enjoy firing up the emulator and tackling another couple of levels as it’s such a fun game.
Bioshock – 2007 – Xbox 360 – A first person shooter with an original story, stylish graphics and a way of getting in your head like no other. Loved it.
Ferrari F355 Challenge – 2000 – Dreamcast – One of the hardest console racers, not just of it’s time, but across the various consoles I’ve played. Looked great at the time but it’s sobering to think how 1 car and 10 tracks were enough to satisfy everyone. Now we want double the tracks and hundreds of cars.
GTA V – 2013 – Xbox 360 – Latest in the series and by far the best. Play as one of three characters, take part in heists and a truly massive world to roam around complete with multiplayer. It looks better than it should have on a 360 and I’ll probably pick up for the PS4 when it get’s re-released this year.
Head Over Heels – 1987 – Amstrad CPC 464 – A cracking isometric game that I played to death. Graphics were groundbreaking at the time and it was pretty humorous too with a great soundtrack and effects.
The Last Of Us – 2014 – PS4 – Action and survival game with a great story, graphics and music. Best game on PS3 and looks amazing remastered on the PS4.
Ico – 2011 – PlayStation 3 – I ignored this title on the PS2 finally picking it up on the PS3. Puzzle/platformer with each room viewed from a fixed point but a camera that focuses on your character. One of those games that doesn’t appear to offer much but leaves an impression that is hard to forget.
Fez – 2012 – Xbox 360 – A puzzle platformer that looks more at home on a SNES than current consoles and relies less on pixel perfecting jumping than puzzle solving at a more relaxed pace. A classic.
Pro Evolution Soccer 3 – 2003 – PlayStation 2 – The best football game on a console. Local multiplayer only but it was the game of choice at the time for football fans and it was fantastic. Later versions added online but it was awful…and Fifa eventually took Pro Evo’s crown as it beefed up on gameplay and in particularly won online.
Goldeneye 007 – 1997 – N64 – For me still Rare’s best game. Perfect Dark was good but always enjoyed Goldeneye more, maybe because it was first.
The Secret of Monkey Island – 1991 – PC – Still my favourite Lucasarts game. It was funny, captivating and great to look at. The music was also memorable.
Burnout Paradise – 2009 – Xbox 360 – Best of the Burnout series and the best open world racing game so far. Developed by Criterion it featured great challenges, a memorable soundtrack and an online party system that worked really well.
Super Mario World – 1990 – SNES – My first SNES game and probably the one I played the most (behind any multi player). The level design was perfect, so many shortcuts in the game – you really could play it any way you want. When it was complete there were still coin challenges to do. A masterpiece.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – 2007 – Xbox 360 – The best Call of Duty multiplayer for me. Great maps and some innovation with games modes made it really enjoyable. Later versions just never captured me the same way that Modern Warfare managed.
Forza 2 – 2007 – Xbox 360 – This was such a complete racing game. Lots of tracks and car’s so if you liked to race you were well catered for. Add to that a detailed tuning and setup option for each car which were a tinkerers delight. Finally a skinning engine that allowed for 1000 layers of graphics so artists could spend there time in that part of the game. With a marketplace to buy and sell setups and skins I had a friend who never raced but spent all his time creating amazing skins for cars….and made far more money than I ever did racing.
Elite – 1985 – Amstrad CPC 464 – Space trading epic. Almost 30 years since I played this and I can still remember what a pig it was to dock all while the Blue Danube played in the background. Just bought Elite Dangerous which will hopefully recapture the magic.
Tetris – 1985 – Gameboy – Has any other game sold a platform more then Tetris? The Gameboy was an essential purchase just to play this. Multiplayer at school with this (using cable to connect two machines) was amazing.
SoulCalibur – 1999 – Dreamcast – The reason I bought a Dreamcast. It’s graphics remained untouched for a couple of years, it’s fight mechanics were great and it had a lot of depth for a beat em up.
Halo 3 – 2007 – Xbox 360 – I love all of the Halo games but this stands out the most. First Halo release on the 360 and the graphics were great. Bungie also addressed the de-ranking issues that had plagued Halo 2, the multiplayer was deep and well supported with lots of downloadable content and it also coined the phrase ‘get out’. Probably my most played online game.
Left 4 Dead 2 – 2009 – Xbox 360 – A co-op first person shooter that was one of the first to really emphasise co-op so much so that you needed friends to get you through levels and there was a great feeling if you did manage to complete a level. The amount of enemies thrown at you was mental and every so often you’d hear one of your buddies shout ‘Tank!!!’ or ‘I’ve woken the witch……run!!!!!!’.
The Bards Tale – 1985 – Amstrad CPC 464 – Simple graphics but more of a text adventure, and the first role playing game I ever played – weird – I’ve hardly played one since although I completed this at the time and loved it for weeks.
Unreal Tournament – 1999 – PC – Came out at the same time as Quake III Arena and spanked it’s arse. The first FPS I played online and it’s something I’ll never forget. So fast, so addictive and the follow ups just never clicked for me as much as this.
Red Dead Redemption – 2010 – Xbox 360 – GTA set in the wild west, Red Dead Redemption was so much more. Lots of sub games, a great story and horses. Sunsets. Zombies!
Mercenary – 1985 – Amstrad CPC 464 – I played this on the Amstrad. Graphics are awful when you look at them but the plot and adventure was great and the sense of achievement when escaping the planet was massive. The overview map is fantastic and shows you the scale of the game which was ambitious for it’s day.
Fifa 12 – Xbox 360 – 2011 – Fifa has become the best football game on consoles and I could have picked almost any year, but Fifa 12 saw a big step forward in online play and the mechanics were refined more than any other yearly release too. Importantly, the online actually worked too unlike some other years which have been buggy upon release and sometimes taken 3-4 weeks to resolve.
Transport Tycoon – 1994 – PC – Another Uni favourite and was a massive time sink. Loved it.
Carcassonne – 2010 – iOS – A slick single or multiplayer iOS game based on the German board game. I’ve been playing this for 4 years and it’s still compelling especially with the droop feed of add-on’s released by the games developers, The Coding Monkeys.
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 – 2008 – Xbox 360 – Geometry Wars was a small game available in PGR2. A year later and this full title was released. It’s a shooter which is fast paced and the screen gets very, very busy as enemies and explosions fill the screen.
Super Bomberman 2 – 1994 – SNES – Golden Bomber. I knew when to stop the roulette wheel…allegedly. If theres one game where I would expect to win before I start, this is it (and Pro Evo). Still love it to this day. Wasted sooooo many hours at Uni playing this. David and his speedy boots. Those were the days.
Wip3out – 2000 – PlayStation – The whole Wipeout series was great but the third edition was the best on the PlayStation. Where is Wipeout for the PS4?
Madden NFL 10 – 2009 – Xbox 360 – I’ve played Madden for years from early version on the SNES right through to current consoles. Madden 10 stands out as they made a number of improvements to gameplay which has been incrementally improved since. I’m also convinced that I played this version more than previous/future versions. A great game and very deep if you give it time.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – 1998 – N64 – Fantastic design, massive play area and it was great to play Zelda in a 3D environment.
Street Fighter II – 1992 – SNES – I loved it. So did Shakeel. Unfortunately for me I hardly ever won on this game – still kept coming back for more and might have thrown the odd pad or two.
Super Hexagon – 2012 – iOS – A twitch game that consumed many hours on the iPhone. Simple graphics and seemingly impossible at first but then you get better, figure out patterns, and it gets faster and faster and faster. A classic.
Uncharted 2 : Among Thieves – 2009 – PS3 – Stunning adventure game that looked and played great. Preferred this to Uncharted 3.
Sega Rally Championship – 1995 – Sega Saturn – A great game that saw some mighty local multiplayer games between me and Shak. Had much better feel than Daytona which was another Saturn classic.
Half Life 2 – 2004 – PC – A game to upgrade your PC for. I loved this more than the original. The set peices were far more involving, the use of physics blew me away. 10 years on and we still await Half Life 3.
Moto GP – 2002 – Xbox – Originally a demo for Xbox Live beta testers, Moto GP was a great showcase for Live. League racing and friendships made that are still there today. This took me back to F-Zero days – time trialling has never been so addictive and frustrating. Mugelllooooooo.
Super Mario Kart – 1992 – SNES – So simple yet deep. So easy yet hard. So much fun. None of the follow up’s captured the feeling from this title nor the fun.
Doom – 1993 – PC – My first FPS and it was such a step forward from what had come before.
Gran Turismo – 1998 – PlayStation – First of the series and arguably the best as the others that followed have added very few new idea’s. In it’s day nothing could touch it and it ate up so much time.
Descent – 1995 – PC – First true 3D game. Never has flying through passageways been such good fun. Played this so much at Uni. DESCENT!!!
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter – 2006 – Xbox 360 – A first person shooter but this was far more slow paced and tactical. No game could offer gameplay like this – 8 mins of crawling around in bushes to then get shot and killed…or tens mins of sitting in a shed waiting for an attack. Online chat was legendary during this game but our group loved it. Blind siege was our online mode of choice.
Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past – 1991 – SNES – One of the few console games that I’ve played through to a finish. Got the puzzle/arcade balance absolutely spot on and kept me captivated from beginning to end. A game I was sorry to finish.
Command & Conquer:Red Alert – 1996 – PC – Classic strategy game. More came with better graphics but none were as much fun.
Battlefield 3 – 2011 – Xbox 360 – It was a close run things but this was my favourite Battlefield and moved the FPS genre forward. It brought massive destruction to environments, there was no where safe on the map really and the vehicles were great. Battlefield 1942 back in the day was great but this was the best version of Battlefield for me.
Project Gotham Racing 2 – 2003 – Xbox – The best online racer on consoles at the time. Despite the 30 fps and the dullish palette this is still my favourite online racer. Myself and David getting top 50 times in a Paris track is still a standout moment.
At around 2 hours of gameplay many will dismiss Monument Valley but they are fools. FOOLS! This is a 10 level puzzle game that is more akin to a living M.C. Escher image than a game. The premise is simple – guide Ida to the end of the level by sliding and rotating elements of the level to allow her to complete the path.
It looks and sounds stunning and is such a satisfying fun game. In many ways the length is perfect as repetition is removed unlike so many games that are longer just because they can be, not for any good reason. If it still sounds too short and the screen above doesn’t convince you, the developer has announced this week that more levels are coming. There are no excuses left – just buy it.
A PC favourite, FTL is a real time strategy game based on your spaceship. Maybe more a resource management game but you take part in a variety of quests, battles and make choices throughout the game with the aim to save the galaxy with you in charge of your spaceship. It’s tough, especially as when you die you start from the beginning again. Works so well on the iPad benefiting greatly from the retina screen and the touch controls.
This is really addictive and each play through is unique adding to it’s shelf life. You can also take charge of different spaceships, again extending the game. Out of all the games on this post, I’d buy this one. Love it.
I had zero expectations for Hitman Go, expecting an arcade game or first person shooter but what Square Enix has released is a great looking turn based strategy. You control your agent, dictating which path he takes through a level solving various puzzles as you go.
The game is a looker and can be viewed from any angle and it’s great to see some of the big game developers developing unique mobile games rather than rushing out a crappy port. One note of caution is that there is an element of in app purchasing for hints and unlocks but they aren’t needed to play the game and it doesn’t get in the way when I’m playing. An impressive game which will take some time to complete.
Hearthstone is a card collecting 1 vs 1 battle game. Collect cards and play friends or strangers in a number of different game modes. Presentation is fantastic and it’s a very addictive game. There is in app purchasing but it doesn’t blight the game and to be honest I’ve not needed to spend any money on the game. Excellent game and you can play against PC p;ayers too.
Final game worth trying is Dungeon Quest. Don’t let the free and IAP tag put you off. This is a great little Diablo lite dungeon crawler that supports various classes and plays really well. Great for blasting through a few levels if you’ve got 20 mins to spare.
Hopefully there’s something in that list to tempt you and after months of meh, it’s a great time to game again on iOS.
tl;dr – The Xbox One is a good console marred by frustrating usability issues and a lacklustre set of launch games. Wait 6 months, let some of the issues get addressed and choose between a PS4 and Xbox One after E3 in June 2014.
It’s been over three weeks since the Xbox One launch, the start of next gen console gaming (sorry Nintendo) in the UK. This time I’ll be smarter I said. This time I’m only buying one console (I had the 360 and PS3) as my gaming time has reduced and the first party titles will dictate the platform, not the hardware.
On paper, and from initial reviews of hardware and games, the PS4 is superior from a hardware perspective. Third party games on the PS4 look better and also perform better however looking at launch titles, the only first party game I wanted to play was Forza 5 and looking ahead, Titanfall and Halo 5 are also must haves. Coupled with the 360 being my console of choice for the last few years, Live being a far superior online experience and most of my gaming buddies plumping for the Xbox One, the choice was obvious and the Xbox One was ordered. While I’m not regretting the choice, the Xbox One is unbelievable in so many area’s.
The Xbox One gets off on the wrong foot straight out of the box. The hardware is big, boxy and can be best described as industrial. Even ugly. The console is big and the power pack is external…and surprisingly it’s bigger than the 360’s power pack too. Bitten by the red ring of death, I think Microsoft have greatly increased their engineering tolerances with the One.
Also huge is the Kinect 2. Not just the camera and sensor itself, but the cable connecting the Kinect to the Xbox One. It’s so thick! It’s as if Microsoft found a job lot of RGB scart cables and decided to repurpose them. Worse, Microsoft are using a proprietary connector for the Kinect, which is really just USB 3, to stop you plugging it into a PC. That’s the only reason I can see and smacks of the same attitude when the original Kinect was launched.
Thankfully the Xbox One pad feels great in the hand. It’s seen small improvements over the 360 pad and is really comfortable. Rumble in the triggers is a really nice addition and thankfully they haven’t tweaked the layout too much. The dpad is much improved and even the addition of ridges on the sticks really helps.
Switching on the Xbox One and it’s pleasingly silent, well my second box was, more on that later. With it tucked away under the TV the offensive design is hidden from my eyes and instead I’m left with a powerful console that promises much. Microsoft are focussing the One not just on games, but as your entertainment hub. While this sounds good in principal and the demo’s of the voice controlled TV channel switching are compelling, in practise the UK isn’t supported at launch and even without the voice and channel integration, the Xbox One doesn’t play well with 50Hz UK broadcast signals. Oh dear.
Before going on to the operating systems and games a word on the hardware. After a couple of hours a noisier than expected fan was becoming annoying. I thought this was the Xbox that was silent? Over the launch weekend it didn’t get any better so after seeing an MS rep asking people with noisy fans to get in touch I raised a support call. 10 minutes of chat and troubleshooting (which involved rebooting the Xbox – that was it) and I was to raise a ticket and a new Xbox would be dispatched. The new one is certainly a lot quieter but with a few reported cases of really noisy drives it’s disappointing that hardware issues continue to affect Microsoft consoles. My pad also disconnects but not consistently. Sigh.
Setup and OS
Switch on the Xbox One for the first time and you’ll be asked to download the day one patch. At 500mb it’s not too bad but once downloaded it takes a few minutes to install. With that done the home screen is finally launched. Well this is different but familiar at the same time. Random tiles placed around the screen with no order to it. Move right to the store or left to your pins. Microsoft hasn’t learned from Windows 8 and instead has extended tiles to the Xbox platform and rather than touch is hoping that voice commands will be used to drive the console.
Are they insane?
To be fair, navigating around via the pad is fine. The pins make sense although I’m sure they will get quite messy over time as more games and app’s come out. However it is a quick way of getting to a new demo for example which in the latest 360 dashboard is a navigation nightmare. By reducing the UI to 3 top level screens it’s also made it quicker to jump to various app’s and features, with the home button on the pad always taking you home.
Navigating via Kinect isn’t as successful. You can use voice commands or gestures to swipe and select. This doesn’t feel comfortable at all and is still pretty inaccurate. When voice works it works really well. The One is always listening so saying Xbox followed by a command will, as long as your voice is recognised, launch that action. So ‘Xbox record that’ will record a 15 second game clip, ‘Xbox Go Home’ will take you back to the home screen and ‘Xbox Snap [app]’ will snap an app to the right of the screen. Some of the phrases don’t make sense to me though. ‘Xbox show my stuff’ takes you back to the Home screen. Show my stuff is the best they could come up with? ‘Xbox On’ will wake up the Xbox, ‘Xbox off’ will switch off the Xbox. Actually, no – it’s ‘Xbox turn off’ to switch it off – why not turn on and turn off – why the difference? Why is there no ‘Xbox Eject’ to eject a disk? ‘Xbox Mute Chat’? ‘Xbox Screenshot’? It all feels a bit rushed and for me I have real difficulty in getting voice to work reliably. I’m Scottish. Cue Burnistoun.
Trying to get voice commands to work while friends are listening and shouting 11 clearly doesn’t help. Funny, but irritating. Navigating a UI via voice which only works every third or fourth attempt leads me to never trying voice and relying solely on the pad for navigating around the UI. A UI that has been developed to encourage voice and gesture not control via the pad. This doesn’t feel like a step forward, more like a design that forces you to use voice even when it isn’t reliable. Frustrating.
The dash performs quickly enough although it can stutter from time to time and some app’s can take a while to launch. A real step forward is that the One can multitask and while this is a benefit I’m sure some of the stutter and slower launches are down to the app’s or games that are currently running in the background. The multitasking is best seen with Snap. You can snap an app, web browser, party to the right hand side of the screen while your game or video is displayed on the rest of the area. This is handy but on first use it can be tricky to get rid of the snapped app – say Xbox Unsnap or press B and the snap will be removed.
I was surprised at how apps work on the Xbox One. Want to play a Bluray movie? Download the Bluray app. Same for music cd’s – there’s an app for that. You’ve recorded a game clip and now want to share it with the world – download Upload Studio. Third party app’s, games, demo’s etc are expected in the store but not some of these app’s which I see as core functionality. A strange decision from Microsoft.
One final point to touch on is the boot time for the Xbox One – it’s long. You have two options regarding power management. You can select a standby mode where updates are downloaded while the One is switched off but the reality is that the console isn’t really off – it’s in some sort of low power mode. The advantage is that boot times are far reduced, around 15-20 seconds but I don’t want my Xbox to be on all the time especially as updates aren’t that frequent so I opt for the full off option and that means boot times are around a minute. Ouch.
The Xbox has always offered the best online console experience. Matchmaking was better, party chat saved many of us from the inane drivel from countless Americans and with everyone having a headset it made for a more collaborative experience in comparison to the PS3. How would Microsoft improve Live for the Xbox One?
Parties are now difficult to setup and manage compared to the 360. It is bizarre that on joining a party you then have to go into party options and enable chat. WTF? I joined a friend on Fifa last night after receiving a party invite and it involved so much faffing about while I was playing another match that I was almost dropped from the game. He even felt the need to send a message in case I’d missed the party invite as thats been the norm over the last couple of weeks but getting that message wasn’t easy either. For me the biggest step back is around Friends.
The Friends application shows your Friends and your Followers. Followers are new, so like following someone on Facebook rather than friending you can keep up to date with what they are playing and doing on their Xbox. For me though the main point of the Friends app isn’t to see what my friends have been playing over the last few hours but to quickly see who is online and then making it easy to start a party with a few of them. However Friends starts by displaying notifications, not who is online. So it’s a list of crap like Cheesy was on his dash. Cheesy played Forza 5. Cheesy won a race. Cheesy is playing Battlefield 4 and so on. But is he online? Thats all I want to see. So I have to select Friends, wait for that to load and then I can see who is about. Microsoft is promoting notifications so again this has moved front and centre of the application but for me it’s step back.
There is also no notification that a Friend has come online. I’m assuming they have switched of these notifications as you can now have 1000 Friends, so if you do have that many there will be constant notifications as you are playing a game or watching a movie. But it now means that we could be playing a game and have no idea that a couple of friends have come online and we should invite them in to the game. Compare to the 360 – a friend comes on and we can quickly and easily send them a party and game invite as we know straight away that they are on Xbox Live. At least give the user an option to disable notifications if they are annoying.
It says a lot that the easiest way to invite friends and create parties is via SmartGlass which is an app for your iOS, Android or Windows tablet or smartphone for controlling your Xbox One. Well done Microsoft. Well done.
The one fear I did have, using Skype for voice over Live, has proven to be unfounded. The quality is a step up from the 360 and it hasn’t failed once. Well done Microsoft. Well done.
So far, so average. Surely the launch games will lift the mood? The launch games were fairly disappointing to be honest. The one true next gen game looked to be The Division which was put back until 2014. With Titanfall also not due until March it was left to Forza 5 to be the main launch title on the Xbox One.
Forza 5 looks and sounds great. 1080p, 60fps and the tracks and cars (interiors too) look gorgeous. The handling is great and the new force feedback triggers really add to the game. However so much feels missing compared to Forza 4. It feels like tracks have been halved as the list of missing tracks from Forza 4 is extensive – Nurburgring, Nurburgring F1, Road America, Suzuka, Maple Valley, Mugello, Sunset, Camino and Fujimi. Worse is the grind and payment model that has been added. Car rewards that permeated the previous game have been removed, or so it seems so far. Cars have to be bought using in game credits or tokens and while credits are earned at a steady rate, you need to own a car to play it online and earn more credits and you start with one or two cars only. If the game was free and being funded by in game purchases I would be more comfortable with the model but Forza 5 is a full price game with a ridiculously expensive method of purchasing content built in.
The first online challenge was only available if you bought the first downloadable content at £7.99. For 6 cars. Fuck off Turn 10 and Microsoft. I won’t be buying tracks either as I’m sure thats why so many have been dropped. While they have retained the great tuning and livery editors they have removed the auction house. Again, I’m not sure if this was all to meet the Xbox One release date and we’ll see those features added but it’s a strange omission. Forza 5 – a good enjoyable game marred by grind and in app purchase issues. Thankfully some of those issues may start to diminish as the first patch due soon will increase credits you can win at each race, reduce the price of cars and add a couple of game modes. Add in a track or two for the next patch and all will be well. One special mention to the day one patch you get when running Forza 5 for the first time. It’s 6GB in size. That is ridiculous and hopefully it’s a sign that the console release date was brought forward and it’s not a sign of things to come going forward.
The two other games I picked up were Battlefield 4 and Fifa 14. Battlefield looks great (not as great as PS4) but has been marred with bugs, admittedly across all platforms, so it’s still early days. I’ve been impressed with the maps though and it looks significantly better than the 360 version.
Fifa 14 feels like a 360 game with better animation. Stadiums have improved as has the overall presentation of the game but on the pitch it feels quite different, more realistic, a more fluent game than the previous versions. Corners and free kicks are noticeably different too – more than one defender challenging for a header for example. Small differences but they all add up to a more enjoyable experience. The crowds in the stadium are excellent and audibly react to the game. Nothing beats silencing a home crowd by scoring in a game. So not a huge step up but it has made a great game even better.
A final concern with these first releases is pricing. The next gen platforms has seen games move to a £50 – £60 RRP price which has meant Fifa 14 costing £47 on Amazon for example. That feels steep, but not as steep as the digital pricing for games. Both new platforms allow you to purchase and download games digitally. However with Fifa being priced at £55 on the Xbox One and £60 on the PS4 why would anyone bother? Some of the games come in at around 40GB too so its not a trivial download. One bizarre price is Angry Birds Star Wars – £35 on the Xbox One. £34 – £33 more than the iOS and Android prices…for the exact same game! Unbelievable and hopefully sales have reflected the ripoff pricing. Microsoft tweaked the pricing for launch titles in the last week…upwards. The reason – digital content pricing is subject to change. No shit.
The Xbox One is a good console marred by frustrating usability issues and a lacklustre set of launch games. Over time I’m sure the UI will improve as will Kinect voice commands and much of the frustration in using the One day to day will disappear. The PS4 seems to be more powerful/easier to program for than the Xbox One and that is something Microsoft will have to address going forward. Stating that ‘the power of the cloud’ gives the Xbox platform an advantage reeks of bullshit.
Due to the lack of true next generation games I’d recommend holding off from buying either the Xbox One or PS4 right now as there is nothing that jumps out as being a must have title. That hasn’t stopped both consoles selling out and there is no doubt there is an appetite for next gen machines….there’s just not much to do with them right now. Let 2014’s E3 take place and decide on a platform based on the games that are out and are announced. If you are desperate for one right now and don’t have any allegiance to a platform then try and get the PS4. Good luck and happy gaming – there’s lots to look forward to.
I’m really enjoying Bombermine. Take Bomberman, tweak the rules, make it playable via a browser….and allow up to 1000 players to join a room. It is so much fun and makes me yearn for games of old.
Bomberman more than any other game reminds me of my University years. A Super Nintendo with a multi-tap and usually Richard, Lewis and Dave (speedy boots) all suspecting that I was cheating to get the hand each and every time I was golden bomber. Honest – no cheating:-)
So Bombermine can lag sometimes and it can be really random at times but I was enjoying it all the same. Then it hit me. It’s running in the browser. A browser that can go full screen. Full screen on my iMac is 2560×1440. It wouldn’t still be playable would it?
I’ve uploaded that at full resolution so if you can view it at it’s native resolution rather than 1080p. It’s amazing when you see so much running while remembering it’s all in the browser. If you don’t want to watch the video, at least click on the screen below to see it in all its glory. There’s also some support for gamepads.
It’s given me an itch to crack out the emulators and pay some classic games – Pilotwings, F-Zero, Zelda etc. When games were fun.
Edge magazine was first published in 1993. Today the 200th issue popped through the letterbox. For a reason only really known to me I have every issue. I did think about dumping them when i moved house but I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. Despite the arrogance and the twatty writing that can sometimes get in the way of a good review, i still enjoy the magazine and get a lot out of it even in this age of t’internet reviews and Metacritic ratings.
To celebrate, Edge are using 200 different covers for their 200th magazine. Quite a novel idea with no way of anyone collecting every cover issue. However they have published all the covers which I’ve grabbed and loaded into this Edge 200 Flickr set. My fav covers and/or games are listed below.
Head Over Heels how I loved thee. This was a great game that I played on my beloved Amstrad CPC 464. Got to love that tape drive.
This was when isometric gaming was all the rage but it was the mixture of graphics, puzzles and pixel perfect jumping that made for such a great game. Isometric Batman was also a great game at the time but nothing compared to Head Over Heels.
A remake was made available for the PC, Mac and Linux. It’s available from this website. Playing the remake now and it’s just not the same though. Slow gameplay and very dated graphics show just how far things have moved on.
I played F-Zero to death on the SNES. This might have been my most played game thinking back. I completed it over and over, chasing times that were published in magazines at the time and beating them.
I can still remember the music even now. Where’s my SNES emulator? Even better, the SNES is in the attic. Might get dusted off this weekend.
Thinking back through all my consoles, surely the SNES was the best overall? Great pad, a real step forward in graphics and some classic games – Mario, Zelda etc.
Doom – played the demo when I was at uni. In fact I’ve got my mum to thank for buying the demo. She was at the post office, felt sorry for me and picked up a PC mag which had the 8 or 9 level demo on the cover. One install later and I was on the PC for the rest of the night. I guess it brings back memories of my first multi-player games over at Lewis, Dave and Ricky D’s flat. Descent. Can still hear Ricky shouting it even to this day. In fact I’m sure it was Ahhhhhh Descent ya bastard. Those were the days. Dave’s lucky arse has also just popped into my head. The joys.
Bomberman was the multiplayer game of choice on the SNES where we were at uni. Dave and his speedy boot obsession. Me and my golden bomber obsession. This was a game that never got dull.
Even loved the recent Xbox Live version. Also need to clarify something – I didn’t cheat golden bomber. Honest. I was that good.
A few years ago I went a game’s exhibition in Edinburgh where they had the 10 player version that came out on the PC Engine. I still remember Graham noticing when I was playing even though I was four or five players away from him. Simple game but so much depth, strategy and fun.
Wipeout – first game on the PS1 and one that sticks in the head even today. Ground breaking visuals, great design throughout the game thanks to The Designers Republic and sound like I’d never heard in a game. The gameplay was solid too. Really did take gaming forward and sold many a PS1.
Roll on many a year and Wipeout HD on the PS3 is still pretty ground breaking. Graphics to die for and solid handling via the much maligned PS3 pad. Good choice of tracks, a good online mode and custom soundtracks had me scouring the internet for all the soundtracks o previous Wipeout games. One of my favourite PS3 games so far.
Halo 3. Multiplayer perfection. It’s now served over a billion online games in it’s short life and new maps that have just come out have extended the game even further. I don’t know what it is about Halo that appeals so much to me. Even when I used to do split screen multiplayer with Graham and Roy it was great despite shady Roy colouring his character especially so he could screen watch. Happy days. Happy, happy days. So much of my time on Halo 2 and Halo 3 was spent with Robert aka Foe Real. So many class gaming moments. Will he ever return?
So that’s my fav’s. My subscriber cover will have to do although I may take a spin out to the shops later this week just in case a fav cover is lurking on a shelf. Yep, very sad but I don’t care. So is there anything that you like in the Edge covers that I haven’t mentioned? Any great gaming memories triggered by the artwork? Comment away please!
Home on the PS3 has been out for well over a month now. Since then there have been updates to the software plus additional content so it seems more appropriate to scribble down my thoughts.
Home is downloaded and installed on your PS3. It’s accessed from the XMB as if launching a game or separate app. Initially I couldn’t connect to Home but after the first update I’ve been find. Some of my friends have still been unable to connect though. After 5-6 weeks. Sony admitted recently that they had released Home too early – it certainly looks that way based on my experience.
Once in Home you start off in your house. You can buy other homes and also furniture for your current home. I used the word buy – get used to it. While there are some things for free in Home, a lot of the content is pay for only. One other aspect to get used to in Home is waiting.
As you move from your Home to the shopping centre, cinema, bowling alley, arcade games, basically any new area, you need to download and install that area. I found this tedious and took away any feeling of inversion in a virtual world. Even worse, the bowling alley, pool tables and arcade machines – you need to queue to use them. If they are in use you need to wait your turn. I do not jest.
In a virtual world Sony have implemented queue’s. Unbelievable. Who thought this was a good idea?
It would be bad enough if the games were worth playing but they aren’t. Virtual Pool on the iPhone is leaps and bounds better than the pool found in Home. A new addition is Red Bull Air Racing but this is no better than a few years old Flash game. Very disappointing.
Add to this a cinema where you can watch movie trailers and quite a few shops where you can buy clothes, furniture and features for your house and you have one of the worst features of the PS3. I can’t believe this was once talked about as a dashboard replacement.
I’ve not blogged for a long time. Been very busy and not really had too much to post about that Twitter can’t take care off. Still, in times of post crisis I always resort to this kind of thing. Lot’s of bullets and lot’s of bite sized….tweets. Ahem. Anyway, on with the nonsense:
O2 broadband has been up and running for two weeks and so far it’s all good. Great for online gaming and I’m getting a rock solid 8-9Meg with no throttling. I’ve now left Virgin so saving quite a bit of cash each month. Take that credit crunch!
Speaking of which – crazy times eh! Makes me question the pension I’m in. Eats up lot’s of my salary and I’m again questioning what I’ll really get at the end of it. At the same time I know I need to do something for when I eventually get old. Or do I? Could anyone have predicted banks being nationalised, taxpayers bailing out the massive institutions and the global demise in the stock market? I guess Alistair Darlings warning at the end of August doesn’t look so negative now. Brown is also coming out smelling slightly better than he was just a few short months ago. Is this finally turning the tide for Labour? I have my doubts as ultimately they will be portrayed as the guys that got the economy into this mess. Still, interesting to note how quiet the man with the plan is. Knobber. Also nice to see shareholders moaning that they have been wronged. Ho ho ho.
I’m enjoying Fringe.
New Apple laptops. Macbooks, Macbook Pro’s and…thats it. While everyone wants a tablet I still can’t see it happening. To much of a clash with the iPhone. I don’t think we’ll see a glass touchpad either. Just doesn’t sound right but you never know. I won’t be buying whatever they release (that was bold!). Although I do want to replace my current desktop and laptop with a new laptop at some point. Time will tell.
Had a nasty migraine this morning. First in quite a while. Annoying.
Fifa 09 is superb online. Best online footie game by quite a margin. This will probably be the first year that I won’t buy Pro Evo. Only thing that sucks is people who quit games early because they are losing. I still get the win but it’s pretty unsatisfying. The club options where you and friends get to play in the same team against others is a real highlight. Highly, highly recommended.
Wipeout on the PS1 heralded a generational leap in home consoles. It was the essential launch game for Sony and it left a long and satisfying impression on me. Updates over the years have ranged from middling to good with the two games on the PSP being particularly good. WipEout HD has now finally arrived for the PS3 as a downloadable PSN game. Does this mean it’s a cut down game? Far from it.
The screen above is from the actual game. Jaw droppingly good. Screens however can mask how a game actually moves but in WipEout’s case (why the uppercase E???) the game is so smooth, fluid and best of all fast that it’s a joy to behold. I’ve been playing it since Thursday and I’ve yet to see a drop in frame rate or a graphic effect that seems out of place. The menu’s and overall graphic design is excellent. Each new mode or track offers something new and fresh. Coupled with that is a great soundtrack. The original Wipeout changed how game music was used. Established bands like Leftfield and Chemical Brothers provided some of the tracks and it was so fresh and different from other game at the time. WipEout HD doesn’t have the same impact but it’s still quite good. You can also use your own music by creating playlists on the PS3. Unlike the Xbox though you can’t listen to music streamed from from Mac’s or PC’s but at least there is an option. More important than any audio or visual concerns is the handling and feel of the craft. Mess that up and the game is a waste.
For me the handling is spot on. The craft have a real weight to them. As the game speeds up it can get difficult and there is a pilot assist mode to help but don’t use it – once you get used to the handling it just feels so right and getting it right without any assists is so satisfying.
There are a few game modes but strangely less than on the PSP versions. You have the normal race and tournament modes and fastest lap, time trial modes. Thankfully the zone modes from the PSP games are included. The graphics are stripped down (see above screen) and you have to try and clear as many zones as you can, your craft getting faster and faster as you clear the zones. It’s a real challenge and is very hypnotic. You unlock more tracks and challenges via the Campaign mode. As you progress in this mode there are more options unlocked in the Racebox mode. You can basically set up any style of game for any track and then race it. Great flexibility which also applies to the online mode.
I’ve only had a few online games but they have all been excellent. Still very quiet compared to the Xbox due to a lack of headsets but online felt very smooth with little signs of lag. It’s also a lot more competitive than the offline modes.
So, any negatives? Well there is a reported bug that the game locks up if you have a friends list of more than 50. There’s also people reporting general lock-ups but I’ve not seen any. There’s also only eight tracks, which can be reversed, which feels a bit tight especially as they are lifted from the PSP games.
However the tracks have been totally remodelled and look superb. Eight tracks also doesn’t sound so bad when you hear the game costs £12. It’s available as a download only but this is an absolute bargain. Don’t let the fact it’s available on PSN put you off. This is a high quality game full of customisation and unlockables to keep you playing all the while adding a superb online mode. There’s also a photo mode which allows you to take pic’s and save them to the PS3’s hard disk and I’m sure there will be future track packs available to extend the game even further.
This is an essential purchase for the PS3. Cheap, great gameplay and some sublime graphics makes for a really good package. The PS3 would have got off to a much better start if, like the PS1, this had been available as a launch title. Looking like a strong period for PS3 with Little Big Planet coming in October. About time. I’m off to create a Wipeout playlist or two. Hopefully see some of you online soon for a race or two.
I loved the first Geometry Wars (Retro Evolved to give it it’s full title) which has been out for ages on XBLA. The sequel came out on Wednesday and it easily surpasses the original. Geoms are now dropped by each shot enemy which changes the gameplay ever so slightly. Collect geoms to increase your multiplier. There are also a couple of new enemies. Rockets fire both horizontally and vertically across the playfield which I’m sure is added to stop you rolling clockwise through the game racking up points. Local multi-player has been added but the biggest addition is there are now six different game modes.
Deadline: Score as many points in three minutes. You get unlimited lives but if you want a decent score don’t die.
King:One life and no bombs. Safety zones appear randomly which enemies cannot enter while the player can only fire and cannot collect Geoms while inside a zone. The zone shrinks and disappears a short time after it is entered, forcing you to move zone to zone. Think strategic chicken.
Evolved: Similar in style to Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, score as many points as possible with no time limit. The old classic but with more enemies on screen than before. I think.
Pacifism: One life and cannot shoot. Fly through gates to destroy nearby enemies, and earn extra bonus points by flying through gates in rapid succession.
Waves: You have one life and must avoid and destroy waves of rockets that fly horizontally and vertically from the edges of the playfield.
Sequence: Twenty levels, each with a predetermined pattern of enemies. You have thirty seconds to destroy all of the enemies in each level. If the player loses a life, they are taken directly to the next level, but the game ends if the player loses all of their lives.
Each of these is pretty unique and add’s a depth and variety that the first game didn’t have. Also polished is the graphics and sound. Screenshots are pretty pointless as they don’t show the game in motion. When the screen is busy the game looks amazing. So colourful, no slowdown, all in HD. Sound has also stepped up from the original – each mode has it’s own soundtrack which fit so well, especially deadline.
However Geometry Wars claim to fame was it’s gameplay and that’s been retained…in spades. Even more so with the new modes which only add to it’s charms. There’s also some subtle little touches that add to the game. It supports online scoreboards which can be accessed as usual but while playing each of the modes your friends highest scores, not yours, alongside their name is displayed at the top right of the screen. Just to niggle you that bit more as you try and better them. Genius.
This game is like a drug. Each and every time you have just one more go, each and every time thinking you can better that score. For me it’s as pure a game as you can get. Simple, addictive and great to play. Remember that this only costs 800 gamerpoints…£6 or so. Unmissable.