Play 07

Finally, following on from Listen 07 and Watch 07, a round up of my favourite games from 2007.

Orange Box
Half Life 2This is really five games for the price of one. Usually a box set is an indication of average games being sold together but all of the content here is AAA. The main meat is provided by Half Life 2 (HL2), HL2 Episode 1 and HL2 Episode 2. While all three are new to the 360 and PS3, HL2 has been out for a few years on the pc. With slightly slicker graphics being the only main change in HL2 I was a bit worried it would feel stale. However the story still feels fresh and it’s been a joy playing through HL2 again. I’ve enjoyed the story more on the console than I did on the pc – I’ve no reason why, it’s just what I’ve found during play. I’ve yet to complete HL2 yet so Episodes 1 & 2 remain untouched but I am really looking forward to them.

PortalPortal is a puzzle game that is unique to Orange Box. Using a portal gun the player creates two portals. Walk through one portal and you appear through the other. Using this simple concept a number of puzzles must be solved eventually enabling the player to escape from the Aperture Science Labs. Gameplay is pretty short coming in well under five hours. However this is a unique and enjoyable gaming experience that I hope everyone will get the chance to try. Portal alone is worth buying Orange Box for – that’s how much I enjoyed it. Even the end credits are pretty special. The game length is also perfectly judged and once completed you get the chance to go for quick times through each of the challenges or try some of the advanced puzzles which are pretty tough. Stunning.

Team Fortress 2The final game is Team Fortress 2. This is multiplayer only featuring a totally different set of visuals and sounds. Very cartoony with some great audio and presentation. What differentiates this from the other FPS on the market at the moment are the variety of classes. There are nine options and there is a much larger emphasise on team play to win when compared with Halo or Call of Duty. I’ve only played a few games but they have been lag free (thanks to an update) and great fun. Initially everyone will go for the Soldier or Heavy but over time you realise the importance of Medics, Engineers, Spy’s and Scouts. I think there are only six maps which feels a bit tight but they are pretty large and due to the variety of classes there is a huge amount of replayability in them. Over time I would expect more maps to become available.

So that’s Orange Box. If it was just the Half Life series or indeed Portal alone it would have been in my games of the year but to have all five for the price of one is great value. Even at double the price it would have been in my list. So what’s next?
Continue reading “Play 07”

Watch 07

Following on from Listen 07, here are my favourite films and TV from 2007. Again, no order to the list.

Hot Fuzz Hot Fuzz

Better than Shaun of the Dead for me, this was laugh out loud comedy at its best spliced with in gag’s and nod’s to the buddy cop films that we all know and love. You have seen Spaced haven’t you?

Bourne Ultimatum Bourne Ultimatum

When the Bourne Identity came out I didn’t hold out much hope for it – how wrong I was. The final part of the trilogy has delivered a great ending, neatly wrapping up the question of who Bourne was and the people that made him who he is today.
A great end to the Bourne series…I hope. Don’t ruin it by taking it one film too far.

Heroes Heroes

My favourite American import this was a great watch from beginning to end although it had a touch of the Lost season 2’s about it in the middle. Season 2 though has been disappointing only picking up pace as it nears the end. Still worthy of watching when the BBC gets their act together and airs it later this year.

Life on Mars Life on Mars

While showing signs of running out of steam compared to series 1, Life on Mars was still a drama highlight. The series finale was a news worthy item and many speculated on what actually happened, including me. A great watch and sadly missed…although Ashes to Ashes starts in Feb on BBC. Time for an 80’s revival?

Blade Runner Blade Runner – The Final Cut

Why is a 25 year old movie in my list of great watches for 2007? Well in many ways Blade Runner still feels unsurpassed even today and the final cut (especially on Blu Ray) is a visual treat. If you have an HD player this is a must buy. While some scenes have been re-shot and some small changes made it’s the fact that they are in HD and re-scanned at a really high resolution that makes the biggest difference. A classic.

There were other highlights well worth catching. Knocked Up and Superbad were pretty funny films and Top Gear was consistently good. I don’t care if they stage all their reviews, challenges, stunts. I enjoy them. Lost also picked up the pace and was back on form. Dexter was a good watch, all the better for being a short series. 30 Rock is usually pretty funny as is Mock the Week (Frankie Boyle being the highlight for me). Finally, try and catch Friday Night Lights – very different to the film but pretty good.

I just hope stalwarts like 24 and Battlestar show a return to form once the writers strike finishes. Especially 24 – it was pants this year.

Listen 07

A run down of some of my favourite music from 2007. Albums first, then best tracks. No ‘best of the year’ as it’s to hard to pick just one.

Radiohead Radiohead
In Rainbows

This got a lot of hype due to it’s method of release but to be honest it should have got the press for the quality of the album. Easily their best work since OK Computer it’s hard to find fault. The bonus second cd that comes with the boxset also has a couple of gems too. A must buy.

Ronson Mark Ronson

They might be covers but this was one of the brightest and freshest albums I’ve heard in a long time. A couple of the tracks were pretty poor but as a whole it’s a great album.

Maximo Maximo Park
Our Earthly Pleasures

Far stronger than their first album this was a real grower throughout the year. Great lyrics and strong melodies throughout.

Biffy Biffy Clyro

Confident album from these Scots rockers. A stunning opening track but the best thing was the variety of styles throughout the album. Some ‘rock’ albums can sound samey but not this one.

Enemy The Enemy
We’ll Live And Die In These Towns

Before I listened to this album I had written off The Enemy as the next great indie thing, three young lad’s looking to be the next Arctic Monkeys and probably failing? How wrong was I. If I had to take one album away from the year it would be this or Radiohead. Great energy and superb lyrics.

Other albums that are well worth purchasing are…

Digitalism – Idealism
Kate Nash – Made of Bricks
Justice – Cross
Simian Mobile Disco – Attack Decay Sustain Release
Crash My Model Car – Ghosts & Heights
Band Of Horses – Cease To Begin
Arcade Fire – Neon Rainbows
Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare

Favourite tracks are…

Jigsaw Falling Into Place – Radiohead – In Rainbows
Is There A Ghost – Band Of Horses – Cease To Begin
Roc Boys – Jay-Z – American Gangster
Shooting Star – Air Traffic – Fractured Life
Do Me A Favour – Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare
Machines – Biffy Clyro – Puzzle
Pogo – Digitalism – Idealism
Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors – Editors – An End Has A Start
You’re Not Alone – The Enemy – We’ll Live And Die In These Towns
Standing In The Way Of Control – Gossip – Standing In The Way Of Control
Song 4 Mutya – Groove Armada – Soundboy Rock
Pioneer To The Falls – Interpol – Our Love To Admire
Stronger – Kanye West – Graduation
Genesis – Justice – Cross
Foundations – Kate Nash – Made Of Bricks
Beauty Of Uncertainty – KT Tunstall – Drastic Fantastic
Oh My God – Mark Ronson – Version
Sandblasted And Set Free – Maximo Park – Our Earthly Pleasures
Hustler – Simian Mobile Disco – Attack Decay Sustain Release
Wide Awake – The Twang – Love It When I Feel Like This

Next up will be a viewing and playing review but it might be next year before they are posted.