Some things I've learned....

(1) An Engineer can do with 10 cent what a fool can do with a Euro.

(2) "Puff" - unimportant; insignificant; unworthy of study by engineering students; waste of time

(3) It's better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you're stupid than to open it and prove them right!

(4) Blockwork people and concrete people can never work on the same site... Apparently they don't like each other....

(5) It's official; I'm fantastic!

Monday 30 June 2008

In-game XMB and Trophies are HERE!!!!

Finally, after months of agonizing waiting, firmware 2.40 for the PS3 is here!

The difference in online community between Xbox Live and PSN has - until now - been a huge gap. Sony has at last got their act together and released the infamous 2.40 which will feature access to the In-game XMB allowing you to listen to your own music, send messages, view pictures, access the internet all while playing a game. The update also brings "Trophies" to the PSN, adding new replayability to past titles. The two videos in the link are excellent demonstrations of what to expect, so I won't bore you with trying to explain it here.

~The Damo

Friday 27 June 2008

AVGN - Superman

Ok there has NEVER been a good Superman game....ever! Not one on any console ever even merits being called a good game, and it's no surprise that the Nerd finally rips apart one of the worst gaming series in history. Oh God...Superman 64 is next.....


I promise there'll be proper blogs next week!!!

~The Damo

Sunday 22 June 2008

Metal Gear Retrospective: Parts 5 & 6

Apologies for no blogs in a while, I've just had a helluvalotta work at the moment and haven't had the time to write anything proper (no that the Metal Gear bonanza is almost over). So just as a brief post, here's the final two chapters in the Metal Gear Retrospective, enjoy!

Part 5: Handheld missions of Ghost Babel, AC!D and Portable Ops

Part 6: A final chronological summary of the games plot.


~The Damo

Sunday 15 June 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4 - The Review

I sit here now after 20 something hours of awesomeness knowing that I have, without a shadow of a doubt, played one of the greatest games ever made. Effectively a three year wait I can now say in hindsight that every moment of it was worth it. MGS4 rewrites the script for epic gaming and story telling, once more setting the standard that all games should aspire to through jaw dropping cinematics and plot events to intense non-stop action sequences all keeping the stealthy spirit of the series alive.

War has changed. That's the message that hits you in the game time and time again. War and soldiers are controlled by nanomachines which in turn control battlefield emotions, training, experience, weapons, everything. Practically everything you meet in the game is ID nanomachine related. Solid Snake, now an old man due to accelerated ageing from the cloning process, is called into action by his former CO Roy Campbell to carry out one final request - terminate Liquid. Liquid Ocelot has amassed the control of the world's five largest PMC's (Private Military Companies) and plans to use his massive army to launch an insurrection against the Patriots. PMC's have come to the fore in the War Economy, as Campbell says: "War is to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th". The cost of waging war has meant most countries cannot afford a permanent army, and so hire a PMC to fight for them. They are only driven by profit, not by ideologies or cause. In many situations it will be one PMC fighting another. Snake is sent into the Middle East to investigate.
The game itself is split into 5 acts and an epilogue, the epilogue being the controversial cut-scene everyone was talking about. The opening act brings Snake to the Middle East. Here we are introduced to the Gekko, fearsome bi-pedal walking tanks. We also meet Drebin and Rat Pt 01.

I'll talk a bit about the game mechanics. Basically, they work really well. Sneaking has become very effective with the whole new array of movements available to Snake. The Octocamo works exceptionally well, which is only further improved when you get the face camo. As a vetern of the other games in the series, the controls can be a little trick at the beginning, but you will get used to them very quickly. With the Triangle button now governing most of Snake's abilities, the on screen prompts are a welcome addition. The new over-the-shoulder shooting mechanics are an excellent addition to the game. From where shooting was in the previous titles in the series, this new system is much more accessible and somehow feels like an appropriate feature of the game. The SolidEye is also extremely effective, the only times I don't use it is when I'm on low battery! Combining the functionality of the scope, IR and NV into one device was an excellent decision, and coupled with its ability to feed Snake battle info it is a must use for anyone trying to sneak their way across the battlefield - of which there are many by the way.

These battlefields are as realistic as they get, and although I haven't played through the game a second time yet, I've been told that they are different each time, especially if you up the difficulty. Explosions are exceptionally realistic and after I got my hands on a Dualshock 3, rumble has finally made its glorious return to the Playstation brand. You can take sides of course, and I would recommend siding with the milita as the PMC's will never recognise you as a friend. Even if you decide early on that you won't take sides, you will find yourself getting dragged into a battle, be it by heavy incoming fire or simply having to press through an enemy defence to get to where you want to. This option of participating at will adds well to the replay value of the game.

One of the biggest new features to the game is Drebin points. After meeting him early on in Act 1, he offers to sell you unlocked AI weapons in return for collecting weapons for him on the battlefield. This system works exceptionally well, then allowing you to purchase upgrades for your current weapons or buy new weapons altogether. There are other features in the game where you gain Drebin points such as destroying a Gekko. At the end of each Act you are given an assessment of your performance and are awarded DP accordingly. Cleverly, the developers have this assessment system reward those players more who tried to play stealthily, thus giving new and old players to the series an incentive to play the game in the true manner of the genre.

Without giving the story away, I will say that it is simply fantastic. The resolution of issues raised in its predecessors aswell as its own gripping plot gives Guns of the Patriots a huge edge story wise over many games this generation. The addition of flashbacks triggered by the X button (and awarded with Drebin points) helps add to the interest in the cut-scenes, aswell as the interesting First Person easter eggs added to the game.... getting a look down Naomi's top anyone??? The inclusion of split screen action, where the player is playing in one half of the screen and other characters are shown in a cut-scene in the other half adds to the drama and emotion of the events in which they're used.

Whilst Act 1 and 2 are mastercrafts in game design, the change of pace in Act 3 is (for me anyway) a good thing. The recreation of Prague (I think) is excellent, and there's something very satisfying about the whole Act, especially the action sequence in the second half and arguably one of the most amazing cut-scenes I've ever seen. Act 4 is a trip down nostalgia lane for vetern gamers like myself. Whilst not as intense as Act 1 or 2, it is by no means a walk in the park, with Gekko crawling the place - which is in fact the first time you have to mandatorily fight the bleeding things on foot! And the conclusion of Act 4 is highly satisfying for anyone who has been with the series since MGS1 in 98. The sequence of events in Act 5 is what sets this game out from any others, I don't want to spoil it, but it is easily one of the most incredible moments in video gaming history. And finally the Epilogue....nah, I can't say anything, you have to see it, plain and simple.

What can I say about the sound and music? Flawless, not one bit of the game feels empty, each theme fitting each situation exceptionally well. Harry and co have done wonders for the series and his inclusion in the team since MGS2 stands as another notch in Kojima's already porous belt.

The Boss Battles, whilst not necessarily as difficult as others in the series, though Screaming Mantis was a right pain in the arse for a while, are also very satisfying. The final boss fight, though not a marvel of technology or gaming, still manages to pull of an incredible sense of emotion, nostalgia, pride and joy. The inclusion of Metal Gear Online is also an excellent bonus to this already bursting package. I haven't played enough to comment.

Kojima still hasn't lost his edge for adding unlockables and encouraging multiple playthroughs. With more things to unlock via skilled play through of the game and purchase from Drebin's shop than I can count, you simply won't unlock everything on your second playthrough. The inclusion of some very niffty easter eggs (jiggling Rose's breasts by shaking the SIXAXIS controller) is just one of many things that bring you back to the game looking out for things you might've missed on the first playthrough.

As a closing comment, Kojima and his team has created a masterpiece of gaming prowess, and it was no understatement when he said people will be talking about the ending for years to come. I've said in the past that all Metal Gear games are an experience, and that hasn't changed here. When a game is so powerful and emotional that it can bring a few tears to my eyes in its closing moments, you know you have a winner. When you finish the game you truly feel a sense of satisfaction at knowing you've experienced something that has been 20 years in the making. As for Snake? Well, you'll have to play and see....

Farewell my friend, you've earned your rest.

Graphics: 10
Gameplay: 10
Sound: 10
Longevity: 10
Presentation: 10
Extras/Unlockables: 10

Overall: 10

~The Damo

Wednesday 11 June 2008

AVGN - Star Trek

A video that has been in the works for some time, the Nerd takes an official look at the world phenomenon that is Star Trek. Can you guess what he thinks of the games? I can, and I only need to make one!

Whatever about the quality of the games and such, the special effects in the video are rather good! And I must say I'm rather impressed at how well the Nerd pulls off some Star Trek jargon.


~The Damo

Metal Gear Solid 4 Review Compilation

As promised, I've been searching for a list of all MGS4 reviews to date and courtesy of and I have the below summary:

10/10 PTOM (USA)
9.6/10 PSW
5/5 PS MANIA 3.0
10/10 PSM
5/5 TTP

NOTE: a lot of reviews are yet to come (IGN US, Gametrailers, Gamespot, etc) following the Konami Review Restrictions and will only become available post June 12th.

Plan for tomorrow: get to Smyths by 10am, vote, play MGS, play MGO, play MGS again, play MGO, etc, etc, etc. Yes, I know I have no life!

~The Damo

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4 - Preview: Gameplay & Features

Here's the last part of my MGS4 preview detailing new gameplay mechanics and features. Being the first Metal Gear game on the PS3, Kojima and his team have the added bonus of being able to rework the Metal Gear engine used in previous games. With greater processing ability and larger disk space on the 50GB Blu-Ray, Kojima has been able to cram MGS4 with enhanced controls, more levels and more features than ever before!

First and foremost, MGS4 is the first 50GB game for the PS3. In fact, that kinda makes it one of the biggest games ever (file size) if not the biggest. This space has allowed Kojima to split the game into 5 episodes/locations. This is a first for a Metal Gear game, as previously they have all revolved in the one part of the world. So far we know MGS4 takes place in the Middle East, South America, Alaska, a city in Eastern Europe (looks like Prague) and a.n. other location. This has meant that the styles of gameplay for each location will likely be different too.

From what I have seen, the controls have been hugely refined, with L1 moving to the over-the-shoulder aim and R1 being the fire button. SIXAXIS control has been implemented to allow the game to be played as an FPS (First Person Shooter) and the right analog stick now controls the full 360 camera. Additionally, the Triangle button now seems to focus on more actions than ever, including moving over objects, pressing against surfaces, playing dead, CQC, first person view amongst other things. Square's only function seems to be toggling auto-aim on or off whilst I imagine Circle will still deal with punches and kicks. The X button has gotten an overhaul as well, where now you have to hold x to lie down rather than the classic 3 taps system.

MGS4 is the first in the series which makes stealth an option rather than a necessity. Whilst I reckon I will still play it as a stealth game as I am accustomed to, the option of playing it in a very different manner - i.e. guns blazing - opens the game up to huge replayability.

New features in the game include:
  • Over 70 weapons, all of which are customisable from front grips to laser sites and scopes, to grenade launcher attachments and flashlight additions. That's more weapons than any game to date!
  • A new camoflauge system with Snake's Octocamo suit. Pressing up against a surface, the suit will adapt to match its texture, making Snake virtually invisible to the naked eye. With this Snake can also wear an Octocamo mask which will have also have predetermined patterns, one of which is "Young Snake"...
  • The Solid Eye is another of Snake's new toys which acts as an advanced sensor for the map, binoculars, thermo vision and night vision.
  • The MkII is a little drone built by Otacon to assist Snake. It can be used for reconaissance to stun enemies and gather enemies' weapons.
  • The Drum can replaces the old cardboard box, it can deflect bullets and Snake can use it to make rolling attacks.
  • The Threat Ring is a new sense for Snake which indicates the location and proximity of nearby enemies.
  • The in-game iPod is used to play music tracks which can be found throughout the game.
  • The Stress gauge represents the effect the battle is having on Snake. When peaked at 100% he will temporarily hit all targets with absolute accuracy before collapsing.
  • The Psyche gauge linked to the Stress gauge influences Snake's ability to heal and relax and aim correctly amongst other things yet to be revealed.
  • Interactive cut-scenes when activated following on-screen prompts will trigger flashbacks to previous scenes from the Metal Gear games before it.
  • Re-gain energy drinks to boost stamina.
  • A hidden costume of Altair from Assassin's Creed for Snake unlocked by doing something "very special".
  • A new codec screen which lets you rewind in case you missed any important points.
  • Drebin points allows you to buy new weapons and upgrades. The system adds to replayability as we know already that there are certain weapons that won't be available on first or second play throughs.

There's probably a tonne more but that's all I know from what I've read without dipping into any spoilers. And of course there's Metal Gear Online aswell but I don't know enough about that to comment.

That's it for now, tomorrow I'll post up all the review scores and remarks made by credited reviewers.

~The Damo

Monday 9 June 2008

Metal Gear Solid 4 - Preview: Characters

As the final chapter in the Metal Gear Solid saga, Guns of the Patriots sets out to bring all storylines to a close, rounding off each characters contribution to the series. As such, this Preview, the first of two, will analyse characters that we know will make an appearance, what impact they will have and what they have left to solve.

Old Snake - yes, it's still Solid Snake, only his codename (or at least that's what we think it is) has been changed. His appearance though is of an old man, advanced cellular degeneration caused by the cloning process used to create him has aged him prematurely. Having said that though, Snake has been giving a muscle suit to ensure that his movements in-game resemble those of previous incarnations. This is, more than likely, the last canonical game to feature Solid Snake, as the trailers have revealed that he has 3 months to live. He'll be on a mission to stop Liquid from launching an armed insurrection against the Patriots and the world.

Liquid Ocelot - now the entity comprising of Revolver Ocelot and Liquid Snake. Liquid has gained control of the 5 largest PMC's (Private Military Corporations) and plans to use them to launch an attack on the U.S. and the Patriots. Just how much Liquid or Ocelot is in control of the new entity is unknown, and will certainly be a prominent part of the plot.

Otacon - still Snake's intrepid ally, it's expected that he will have a much more hands-on role in the game this time. He has been taking care of Olga's daughter Sunny - who was mentioned in MGS2. Whether Otacon will be killed or not remains to be seen...

Raiden - the most controversial character in Metal Gear history is back, and by the looks of it he's set to earn the love and respect his creator hoped for afterall. All we know is that Raiden's body is falling apart, likely from the nanomachines placed in his body by the Patriots in MGS2, and now all that remains is his head and spine, encased in a Cyborg Ninja suit.

Colonel Campbell - returns working for a UN Security Council advisory body that monitors PMC activity, hence the interest in Liquid Ocelot and his five PMC's. It's understood that it is he who enlists Snake to carry out the mission to terminate Liquid.

Meryl - now in command of Rat Patrol Team 01, "the new Foxhound" as she calls it in one of the trailers. It's understood that she is there to monitor Liquid's activities and then take him by force.

The Patriots - strictly not a "character" per say, but as the central theme to the game they deserve a place here. Ever since MGS2 fans have wanted to know who and what are the Patriots. Other than the fact that we know they control how everything plays out in the world and that their origins began in MGS3, we know very little else. The closing lines in MGS2 which revealed they had all been dead for a hundred years only upped the expectation for the conclusion of this part of the story. The current theory now is that the Patriots have somehow managed to "digitize" life....

Mei Ling, Rose, Naomi Hunter - all return since their last appearence in MGS1. While Mei Ling and Rose are appearing as (from what we know) minor characters, Naomi is returning as a central character, as she is the only one who knows how FOXDIE and the nanomachine technology works, ie the control Liquid wants to launch his attack. Trailers suggest that she has already been captured by Liquid prior to the game's beginning.

Drebin - a new character who players will use to buy and sell weapons and upgrades. Little is known about him other than the fact that he can unlock ID weapons and make them available to you. His monkey sidekick is also interesting aswell as the nasty scar on the side of his head.

Vamp - "the blood sucking freak" is back. It is believed he is part of Liquid's private army, as he wears similar gear. All we have seen so far is him fighting Raiden and then a brief image of him glaring upwards with a huge bullet wound in the head.

EVA - or better known as "Big Mamma" in this game. Back from MGS3, now an old woman, EVA's role is as yet unknown, but trailers have suggested that she teams up with Snake and is therefore on the good side, fighting Liquid.
By the way, those screenshots above are all in-game. Yes, the game does look that good.
~The Damo

Metal Gear Solid 4: Official Soundtrack - Review


So it begins.... the flooding of my blog of MGS4 related stuff. Some might argue that has already happened but now I'm making it official!! First up is the soundtrack. I don't really do this kind of review, in fact the last music related reviem I did was Rammstein's Volkerball some time back. Anyway, to this review.

What's important to remember about Metal Gear games is that they are more than just games. I've mentioned countless times that Metal Gear is more an experience than anything else. Since cut-scenes became viable - circa the beginnings of the Playstation - each Metal Gear game has offered an incredible cinematic experience. Each game is up there with Hollywood blockbusters, with Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty earning the unofficial title "The Hollywood Game". As such, it is only appropriate that these games have a soundtrack to match. For MGS2, Kojima and his team brought Harry Gregson Williams on board, famous for scores for films like the Shrek Trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia, Veronica Guerin, Kingdom of Heaven amongst others. Since then he is now famous for his three Metal Gear tracks aswell!

The addition of such an accomplished composer brought the Metal Gear games to a level beyond anything else. So much so that he was brought in to work on the Game of the Year Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Below is the track list:

Disc 1
01 Old Snake 3:52
02 Love Theme 7:07
03 Gekko 2:53
04 Haven Troopers 3:40
05 BB Corps 3:43
06 Drebin 893 3:29
07 Vista Mansion 1:32
08 Laughing Octopus 2:19
09 Breakthrough 3:09
10 Endless Pain 2:46
11 White Blood 2:49
12 Call Me Hal 3:01
13 Midnight Shadow 2:58
14 Paradise Lost 4:13
15 Great Escape 2:14
16 Desperate Chase 2:57
17 Raging Raven 2:34
18 Confrontation 3:10
19 Mobs Alive 3:24
20 Violent Ceasefire 2:08

Disc 2
01 Next-Gen Control 4:40
02 Crying Wolf 2:10
03 One More Reboot 1:41
04 Sin 1:44
05 Atonement 4:48
06 Infinite Loop 3:35
07 Everything Ends 2:30
08 At Dawn 3:30
09 Screaming Mantis 2:38
10 Guns of the Patriots 4:05
11 No Place to Hide 2:36
12 Sorrow 3:50
13 Full Circle 1:38
14 Everything Begins 4:25
15 Father & Son 2:29
16 Metal Gear Saga 4:19
17 Here's To You 5:48
18 War Zone 1:28
19 A Rebellion Rests 2:44
20 The Hunter 2:05
21 The Hunted 2:00
22 Forced Hand 2:08
23 Under Curfew 1:49
24 Unmanned Army 1:28
25 Cold Memories 1:35
26 For Liberty 1:58
27 Surrounded 1:59

I guess it's hard to say what it sounds like in words, but if it means anything it will please any fan. The first thing that's striking is a lack of a song titled "Metal Gear Solid 4 Theme" - which featured in all its predecessors. It has been argued that "Love Theme" is the official theme song, as it has been the one most prominently featured in all the trailers. "Metal Gear Saga" is the more familiar Metal Gear song, which in this instance seems to be a culmination of each Metal Gear theme song from the last three games.

We can take a lot from it though. For instance, the list (if chronological) would suggest that you fight the Beauty and the Beast unit in the order of: Laughing Octopus, Raging Raven, Crying Wolf and Screaming Mantis. The "Father and Son" track is also interesting, could that be Snake and Big Boss, or perhaps Raiden and his son? Who knows! The "Gekko" track is already one of my favourites. If that music plays everytime a Gekko leaps onto the scream I think I might just be biting my nails in terror!

I guess that's all I can say really other than to recommend that if you can, go to Youtube and input the track title. In all likelihood someone will have made a video for them all. I know a good few of them are there already.

Stay blogged for more MGS4 related news, coming soon to a Master Engineer of Sigmar's Realm space near you!

~The Damo

Thursday 5 June 2008

The Lisbon Treaty

This day next week, the people of Ireland will vote whether or not to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. It's a fairly divisive issue, perhaps the most narrowly separated issue I've followed that I can remember. least in the space of time where I've had any remote interest in politics. Below is a description taken off EUROPA - Gateway of the European Union, ie. the official European Union website. So I don't want to hear any "That's not the right facts" or anything like that!!

The Treaty of Lisbon amends the current EU and EC treaties, without replacing them. It will provide the Union with the legal framework and tools necessary to meet future challenges and to respond to citizens' demands.

1. A more democratic and transparent Europe, with a strengthened role for the European Parliament and national parliaments, more opportunities for citizens to have their voices heard and a clearer sense of who does what at European and national level.

A strengthened role for the European Parliament: the European Parliament, directly elected by EU citizens, will see important new powers emerge over the EU legislation, the EU budget and international agreements. In particular, the increase of co-decision procedure in policy-making will ensure the European Parliament is placed on an equal footing with the Council, representing Member States, for the vast bulk of EU legislation.

A greater involvement of national parliaments: national parliaments will have greater opportunities to be involved in the work of the EU, in particular thanks to a new mechanism to monitor that the Union only acts where results can be better attained at EU level (subsidiarity). Together with the strengthened role for the European Parliament, it will enhance democracy and increase legitimacy in the functioning of the Union.

A stronger voice for citizens: thanks to the Citizens' Initiative, one million citizens from a number of Member States will have the possibility to call on the Commission to bring forward new policy proposals.

Who does what: the relationship between the Member States and the European Union will become clearer with the categorisation of competences.

Withdrawal from the Union: the Treaty of Lisbon explicitly recognises for the first time the possibility for a Member State to withdraw from the Union.

A more efficient Europe, with simplified working methods and voting rules, streamlined and modern institutions for a EU of 27 members and an improved ability to act in areas of major priority for today's Union.

Effective and efficient decision-making: qualified majority voting in the Council will be extended to new policy areas to make decision-making faster and more efficient. From 2014 on, the calculation of qualified majority will be based on the double majority of Member States and people, thus representing the dual legitimacy of the Union.A double majority will be achieved when a decision is taken by 55% of the Member States representing at least 65% of the Union’s population.

A more stable and streamlined institutional framework: the Treaty of Lisbon creates the function of President of the European Council elected for two and a half years, introduces a direct link between the election of the Commission President and the results of the European elections, provides for new arrangements for the future composition of the European Parliament and for a smaller Commission, and includes clearer rules on enhanced cooperation and financial provisions.
Improving the life of Europeans: the Treaty of Lisbon improves the EU's ability to act in several policy areas of major priority for today's Union and its citizens. This is the case in particular for the policy areas of freedom, security and justice, such as combating terrorism or tackling crime. It also concerns to some extent other areas including energy policy, public health, civil protection, climate change, services of general interest, research, space, territorial cohesion, commercial policy, humanitarian aid, sport, tourism and administrative cooperation.

A Europe of rights and values, freedom, solidarity and security, promoting the Union's values, introducing the Charter of Fundamental Rights into European primary law, providing for new solidarity mechanisms and ensuring better protection of European citizens.

Democratic values: the Treaty of Lisbon details and reinforces the values and objectives on which the Union is built. These values aim to serve as a reference point for European citizens and to demonstrate what Europe has to offer its partners worldwide.

Citizens' rights and Charter of Fundamental Rights: the Treaty of Lisbon preserves existing rights while introducing new ones. In particular, it guarantees the freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and gives its provisions a binding legal force. It concerns civil, political, economic and social rights.

Freedom of European citizens: the Treaty of Lisbon preserves and reinforces the "four freedoms" and the political, economic and social freedom of European citizens.

Solidarity between Member States: the Treaty of Lisbon provides that the Union and its Member States act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a Member State is the subject of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made disaster. Solidarity in the area of energy is also emphasised.

Increased security for all: the Union will get an extended capacity to act on freedom, security and justice, which will bring direct benefits in terms of the Union's ability to fight crime and terrorism. New provisions on civil protection, humanitarian aid and public health also aim at boosting the Union's ability to respond to threats to the security of European citizens.

Europe as an actor on the global stage will be achieved by bringing together Europe's external policy tools, both when developing and deciding new policies. The Treaty of Lisbon will give Europe a clear voice in relations with its partners worldwide. It will harness Europe's economic, humanitarian, political and diplomatic strengths to promote European interests and values worldwide, while respecting the particular interests of the Member States in Foreign Affairs.

A new High Representative for the Union in Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, also Vice-President of the Commission, will increase the impact, the coherence and the visibility of the EU's external action.

A new European External Action Service will provide back up and support to the High Representative.

A single legal personality for the Union will strengthen the Union's negotiating power, making it more effective on the world stage and a more visible partner for third countries and international organisations.

Progress in European Security and Defence Policy will preserve special decision-making arrangements but also pave the way towards reinforced cooperation amongst a smaller group of Member States.

I don't want to discuss what each side here in Ireland is telling us is right, because quite frankly I would give a biased opinion. I am in fact in favour of the Treaty so it would be unfair of me to say why I think the "No Campaign" is incorrect and so on. What I will say however is that I - me, personally - cannot fundamentally agree with Sinn Fein on anything. I never have, and don't plan to. Given that they are the only main political party opposing the Treaty, and the others (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, Greens) are all in favour, turns me to vote YES, simply on the principle of which political parties I respect. I may not agree with Fine Gael or Labour, but that doesn't suggest I don't respect them as a political party. Sinn Fein on the otherhand is a completely different matter.

I personally feel that it is Ireland's duty to pass this Treaty. We are the only country to hold a vote on the matter, and Europe is looking to us to succeed. I am of the opinion that Europe has been very good to us, and that we have benefited greatly from our membership in the EU. Now, the EU is asking us to do something, and I think we owe it to them to give something back for a change. I am afraid that the strength of the No Campaign is showing a very selfish side to Irish culture, no sense of giving back to others. I can't comment for everyone, but some of the people who I've spoken to who plan to vote NO don't really understand why they are voting NO. Not ALL are like that, most have iterated exactly why they are voting NO and I completely respect that. As I said I don't plan to illustrate what each side is telling us, but having now (FINALLY) read through the handbook, I can't help but feel that the No Campaign is just a tad misleading... I once again reiterate that I am not detailing why I believe this to be the case, I will leave that to yourself as the voter.

~The Damo

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Journalistic Integrity

As many of you know, I would consider myself a member of the gaming community. Indeed anyone who owns any console or PC (for games use) from any manufacturer is a member of this community. However, there is growing concern emmerging in this community over the validity of official professional reviews, and the matter has now come to the fore with the upcoming release of MGS4.

Most notably is EGMs refusal to review the game because of the restrictions put in place by Konami. All we - the general public - know is that this "list" contains reference to cut-scene lengths and install times. What is strange is how numerous reviews have been made without being hindered by this "list". Which raises the question of just why exactly EGM won't review it. Many are looking upon Konami's restrictions as preventing reviewers from mentioning bad points about the game - and hence EGMs refusal is based on not being allowed to illustrate these negatives. What seems more probable however is that these restrictions are centered on spoilers and plot - one of the key aspects of the Metal Gear franchise. Furthermore, cut scene lengths and install times are hardly negative topics a game should be reviewed on. In particular with install times. Surely by allowing an initial install on the hard drive to ensure better loading screens and overall fluidity of gameplay is a good thing? The same could be argued for cut-scenes, in that you can skip them if you want to...

The Eurogamer review of MGS4 is very questionable. The reviewer openly states that he is not a fan of the series - so why in God's name has been given the task of reviewing it? Not that 8/10 is a bad score, but many including myself feel that had it been reviewed by someone who likes the series, a more fairer score could've been given. Remember of course that MGS4 is really for the fans - not for money. If it was for money we'd be seeing it on PC and Xbox 360 aswell.

I've already commented in a blog below about the GTAIV review scores, and how shallow they were in the context of reviewing. Seeing the scores given you cannot help but ask yourself how much should we trust reviews anymore? The issue of bias has also come to the fore in the community. Some websites will favouor the Xbox over the Playstation and vice versa, and reviewing scores reflect this. The issue of bias came to the attention of everyone with the Gametrailers scandal - a website I once respected.

Bias had always been visible - multiplatform games being only reviewed with the Xbox version, Xbox boxart only being used for multiplatform games etc. The issue really unfolded with the famous GRiD comparison where a PS3 version was compared against....a PS3 version. I CAN'T EVEN SHOW YOU THE VIDEO BECAUSE GAMETRAILERS HAVE REMOVED IT FROM YOUTUBE!!!! The video tried to show the better looking PS3 version to be the Xbox one. The video showed that Gametrailers had a double standard when dealing with the PS3, and brought into question just how reliable all their previous comparisons had been. The issue of dodgey videos was first apparent in the Assassin's Creed comparison, where it was eventually revealed that one of the PS3's settings had not been turned off, resulting in a drastic difference in video quality.

There is too much talk now of money in the gaming community. We all know the stories about Microsoft pumping money out to keep reviews of HALO 3 in the 90 range. Is that right? Should companies be able to control reviewing? With the way GTA4 reviews have been, it wouldn't surprise me if we found out by the end of the year that Rockstar had spread a little green around to everyone...

At the end of the day the quality of a game is solely dependent on what you - the gamer - think it is. We shouldn't have to rely on other people to tell us what's good and what's bad. The only problem is that these reviews do hold sway for some people, and if these reviews are becoming increasingly biased and unprofessional, it will become more difficult for us to ascertain what is legitimate reviewing and what is not. Yes, I'm still actually refering to Eurogamer.

~The Damo

Tuesday 3 June 2008

The Metal Gear Retrospective II

Here's the latest two parts in Gametrailers MGS Retrospective, Part 3: Metal Gear Solid 2 and Part 4: Metal Gear Solid 3.

As the release of MGS4 is now just over a week away, it is highly likely that the blogs I will be writing will be focused solely on the Metal Gear franchise. I got my hands on the OST (Official Soundtrack) and plan to do a wee review of that aswell. I also expect to do a brief summary of what's to be expected with MGS4 - gameplay, controls and so on - much like a preview to my review and finally, on June 11th, I'll post a blog detailing all MGS4 related reviews and scores, as well as the official Metacritic average, which currently sits at 97/100.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence


~The Damo

Sunday 1 June 2008

Grand Theft Auto 4 and the Gift of Hindsight....

I said a while back that I didn't plan on doing a full review of GTA4 - and I still don't. But on Friday I finished the main single player story and on reflection of playing the game virtually to its end, there's a lot of things which have struck me about it. Rather than writing a proper paragraphed review, I'm instead just going to outline the pros and cons of the game in comparison to its previous incarnations and then give a score at the end like I usually do.


1. Graphics - a huge step up in terms of GTA. Still nothing compared to Metal Gear or Uncharted, but everything is well textured in GTA4 including water effects and generally just great.

2. Euphoria engine - the physics engine governing the game brings a whole new realism to the series. Collisions and damage are more realistic, physical interaction between objects, people and their surroundings is more natural, everything just feels like it should.

3. City - this incarnation of Liberty City is easily the best yet. Every corner, alleyway and building has its own feel to it. Modelled on New York, the developers have certainly put a lot of thought into making Liberty feel more like a real city. Taxis, buses, subway, overheads, everything adds to this bustling metropolis.

4. Technology - GTA4 includes an in-game internet, a mobile phone and GPS. This is the first game in the series that really feels it's more current and up to date. All of the above are used quite well in the game itself.

5. Story and Characters - the story in GTA4 is easily the best yet, leaving you wanting more and wanting the characters to succeed. You can genuinely feel compasion for some of the characters at times and the introduction of "choices" for missions in the games give the series a sort of moral side - something which it has been lacking for a long time. Allowing you to interact with your "friends" more is also interesting, as you can finally experience the effects of doing work all the time on your relationships with others in-game.

6. Controls - are very streamlined and are very comfortable. They are different to previous games but you easily adapt to them and appreciate just how well the developers worked on making it more fluid.

7. Multiplayer - a nice addition though a little chaotic at times, and equally fruitless at times aswell. The inclusion of multiplayer is an essential part of any game nowadays and for the first incarnation of multiplayer in a GTA game, it's not too shabby.


1. Lack of FUN - some of you might be surprised to see this, but its true. Once you finish the story there's virtually no "fun" things to do. There are no tanks, no wacky vehicles, no interesting weapons, no strange locations, nothing. Compared to what San Andreas had to offer in Harrier jump jets, jet packs and virtually everything else, GTA4 is just missing that "umph!".

2. The Taxi - while initally a great idea, the availability of reaching your destination immediately without driving begs the question "Why bother driving at all?". The inclusion of the Taxi as a usable vehicle has led me to feel that driving is actually boring in GTA4.

3. The GPS - again, the inclusion of GPS tells us the "fastest legal route to your destination", so when I AM driving I'm more looking at where the coloured line is leading me on the mini map rather than where I'm driving and learning the surroundings and geography of the city.

4. Money and Property - you get too much of it and have nothing to spend it on. This was a problem in GTA3, but when Vice City came out and introduced buying property and businesses, earning money in missions had a purpose and use, an idea that was further pushed in San Andreas. A lack of the above means not only fewer side missions, but nothing to do with all the money you earn. I now sit on a $900,000 bonanza with nothing to do with it!!

5. Extra activities - again, San Andreas had a lot to offer with buying clothes, gambling in casinos and warring over gangland, but in GTA4 everything has been pulled back. You can still buy clothes but it's much more restricted, and there is no working out and eating in restaurants is a case of getting health, the consequences of eating too much are no longer felt.

In short, GTA4 is very much a case of one step forward and two steps back. By making the game more realistic they have sacrificed things which people loved. Tanks, wacky cheats, planes and so on are all absent, leaving a very dull experience once the game is finished. The stand out point of GTA is that once you're finished, there's still stuff to do, but sadly that's not really the case here. There are nice features like hunting down wanted criminals and shooting radioactive pigeons to unlock the bonus vehicle but then, the vehicle is a FUCKING HELICOPTER. Like the Hunter in Vice City!!! We've seen that before...and in fact, the one in GTA4 isn't nearly as good as the Hunter. We expect something better at this stage.

GTA4 is also a case of "If it ain't broke don't fix it!". The GTA3 series catapulted Grand Theft Auto into superstardom and like so many others the anticipation for GTA4 was sky high. Now, I am left underwhelmed, eagerly anticipating MGS4 in two weeks time. Rockstar had a winning formula with Vice City and San Andreas, and while trying to revolutionise the genre, they have sacrificed the one element which is essential in all video games.... FUN! Yes the single player is FUN - to an extent, but a lack of planes for example and key interesting areas means the range of missions to complete is very short and shallow, leaving you wanting more. The tell tale sign for me that is a let down came very early on, when I found myself not overly bothered to try and finish the game - unlike when I was playing the previous installments. Now having finished it, I really couldn't be bothered to go back and pick it up.

I'm well aware that I've outlined more PROS than CONS, but really, the CONS equally match the PROS. I think reviewers were too quick to rate the game with 100/100 and 10/10's and so on, with only a few websites giving realistic scores of 9.7/9.8 . For me, GTA4 doesn't deserve the perfect scores it's getting, and it's a sign of how shallow reviews have become when games are rewarded such scores when they are not deserved.

Graphics: 10 (only because for a GTA game they are excellent)
Gameplay: 9.8
Sound: 10 (can't flaw it anywhere)
Longevity: 9.5 (short for a GTA game)
Presentation: 10
Extras/Unlockables: 8 (poor for a GTA game)

Overall: 9.6

~The Damo