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!

Wednesday 31 December 2008

2008 In Review

Much like I did this time last year, I'm going to cap off the year's worth of blogs with my Top Five Best and Worst Moments of the year, these can be anything from Sport, to Politics, Gossip whatever, let's go!

Top Five Worst Moments of 2008

5. Ronaldo to Madrid?

Not necessarily the idea of Ronaldo leaving, but the behaviour of Real Madrid and anyone associated with the club was very disappointing, and has severly tarnished the reputation of a great club.

4. Ahhh Lisbon

Bad enough that most people supported Sinn Fein on this one, but now we have to vote again...

3. Football and Racism

If you know me, you know what happened here....

2. Managers Getting the Sack

I think this year has quite possibly been the worst year for managers in football, off the top of my head right now, in 2008, Avram Grant, Kevin Keegan, Roy Keane, Paul Jewell, Sven Goran Eriksson, Bernard Schuster, Gary McAllister, Juande Ramos have all got the sack. And even though some of them are now back in management, the fact that they were sacked so readily in the first place is a bad sign for the future.

1. Money, Money, Money

Got no money, in this recession world. Yeah, a bit cliche making this one the number 1 but its true. Most are suffering in some way shape or form, and by "most" I'm talking about everyone. Be it jobs, finances, lifestyle, whatever, we all know its bad (and indeed it could be worse) and we all knew it was coming, except now it's here, and we have to deal with it.

Top Five Best Moments of 2008

5. Getting the grant...again

Almost thought I didn't have it this year, but the relief I felt that afternoon when it dropped in the post, knowing that I had maintained my standard from last year was just brilliant for me.

4. America is a little bit cooler again

Without a doubt the coolest American politician I've seen in my lifetime (all 20 years of it), seeing Barack Obama win the US Presidential Election is without a doubt one of the best moments of the year. The historic significance alone makes it a great thing but the fact that its Barack just makes it cooler.

3. Games, Games, Games

I don't think I've ever been able to afford the amount of games I bought this year, but the majority of them were quality through and through. MGS4, LBP, R2, Bioshock, Fallout 3, Uncharted, just all savage. That €600 for the PS3 was well worth it.

2. Metallica

I knew the new album would be good, but not THAT good. Add in one of the best experiences in my life at Marlay Park on August 20th this year, I really can't think of anything better that happened....except for number 1 below of course....

1. Man Utd Kings of Football

Man Utd kicked anyone and everyones ass this year when it comes to trophies. Premiership, Champions League and now the World Club Cup. Nothing can be better than having infinite bragging rights....

So what's to look forward to next year??? Well, unlike my blog this time last year, I really have much to write this time round. No, serious. I'll - hopefully - get my degree and start my Masters. Loads more kickass games next year. Obama will be sworn in as President, another Lisbon referendum, probably a war in the Gaza strip, hopefully I pass the Cadet Leader exam, Megadeth's new album, the Lions Tour of South Africa and probably a whole host of other crap I just can't think of.

Here's to 2009!!

~The Damo

Saturday 27 December 2008

AVGN: CDi Parts 2 and 3 + Christmas Special

No long time no Angry Video Game Nerd....

You would think you couldn't make a bad Zelda game....but Philips did, 3 in fact!

And did you ever think there would be so many games about Jesus???

~The Damo

Friday 19 December 2008


OH YEAH!!!!!!!!!

5 New costumes: Old Snake, Meryl, Raiden, Screaming Mantis and Gurlukovic Solider

Plus tons of new stickers (72), materials (12), decorations (10), and objects (18).

Media Molecule teamed with Konami to create 5 new Story Levels and 1 new Challenge Level for you to enjoy.

Plus:1 new background music track3 new interactive music tracks1 new Metal Gear Solid themed 'sound object'New Plasma Ball 'danger element'New Laser Sight 'gadget'New functioning Searchlight lamp - for those special 'exclamation mark' momentsand finally, the piece de resistance THE PAINTINATOR (and Paint Switch) Add to all that, there are 12 new Trophies to unlock (and if you pay attention to the story at all, we're not a big fan of Trophy Levels).Tons of new gameplay, tons of new game-changing objects, and tons of create materials all for just $5.99

Metal Gear Solid 4 + LittleBigPlanet = AWESOMENESS!!!!
~The Damo

Friday 12 December 2008

Resistance 2 - Review

This is how to finish the fight!

Resistance 2 is the sequel to 2006's best selling PS3 title Resistance: Fall of Man. R2 continues the story of Nathan Hale who is infected but resistant to the Chimeran virus. The game takes place across the United States (the last free area in the world) over 7 chapters and a prologue. It begins immediately with the last cut-scene from Fall of Man and makes a seamless transition into R2. Hale is brought to Iceland by Major Richard Blake, head of tactical ops at SRPA (Special Research Projects Agency) and from there Hale joins the Sentinels, a group of soldiers like himself who are also resistant to the Chimeran virus.

The story then picks up two years later in San Francisco and from there the game transports you to select locations in the U.S. such as Twin Falls Idaho, Chicago and Louisiana. The story is quite good overall and unlike the first game it is centered entirely on Hale with no narration. Focusing the story strictly from Hale's perspective works fine but there are instances where you wish you understood character motivations and thoughts. The progression of the events is well paced and much like the first game you certainly feel as though you are fighting a losing battle. However, R2 succeeds in driving home just how large a conflict the war with the Chimera is. There are moments in every level where you will just pause and go "Wow...". Be it a scene of utter chaos or a confrontation with a swirling swarm ripping the flesh of anyone foolish enough to step near it.

A moment that comes to mind is in Twin Falls, Idaho, where you land in a residential estate and find it completely covered in Grim cocoons. Unlike the first game, the Chimera no longer need to send humans to conversion centers to turn them into Chimera. Instead, they send in Spinners, tiny creatures - about the size of a large rat - that spin people into a cocoon and bake them into mindless Grims. The scale of just how many cocoons are in the area is gruesome, not helped by the fact that in some places you will find a "baby" sized cocoon as well. When one of your comrades comments "Makes you miss when they needed conversion centers...", you can only nod to yourself and agree. The scene over San Francisco is unlike anything I've seen before (below) and I found myself just staring aimlessly around the area, watching the fleet tear the city apart. The shear scale and ambition of the game is incredible to behold.

To compliment the incredible atmosphere, in several points of the game you can listen in to the broadcast of Henry Stillman, the last man alive in Philadelphia. Your story, as you progress through the game is mirrored events of Henry's means of trying to survive. We learn he watched a Spinner wrap his wife in a cocoon and watched on helplessly as grims devoured a young boy and his father. I found myself wanting to listen to what Henry had to say, as though I was experiencing the war from another persons perspective. While you never truly envelope yourself in the 50's setting, as you are constantly under fire and so on, the game succeeds in creating a sense of urgency about everything you do and everything that is happening around you. For instance, there is a moment in Chicago (which is entirely flooded by the way) where you jump over an embankment and as you hit the otherside you knock a beam which bursts the barricade holding back the water. You suddenly find yourself frantically running from high points to the next high points to stay out of the water. Why you ask? Well it's not that you'll drown, it's the fact that there are Chimera, called Furies, which infest the waters and if you're down there too long, BANG, your dead, instantly. What's more, you can't shoot or kill them either. You don't want to die, and there is a genuine sense of fear everytime you have to step into water that a Fury will pop out of nowhere and mince you. Fortunately for you, the Chameleon, which can also kill you with one hit is much easier to take down. They make strange noises, almost like an owl or a pigeon, when they're near you and as they approach you will hear a rumble and your controller will shake before they become visible and try to land the killing blow.

The gameplay in R2 is a step above its predecessor. Gunplay is more fluid and controlled and there is an overall reinfinement of the shooter mechanics to bring the game in line with modern shooter standards. The 4 part regenerating health bar is gone replaced by the now common red blurry ring fully replenshing health system. This also works well into plot, as now that Hale has been infected with the Chimeran virus for so long, it seems only natural that he can now replenish all his health, as opposed to just a quarter. The weapon system is now strictly down to a pair replacing the weapon ring from Fall of Man. Sometimes you will find carefully placed weapons, like the Rossmore before you go near some Chameleons or a LAARK in an area where you face a Titan. Nevertheless the weapons feel fantastic, with added tweaks to some originals from the first game such as the Auger's new heat vision ability aswell as the Rossmore now using a clip of ammo as opposed to single rounds. Insomniac have also thrown in a heap of new weapons which fit well into the Resistance universe and are equally fun to use. Be it the magnum with explosive rounds, the Marksman battle rifle or the Wraith mini-gun, you'll find plenty of new toys to play with as you blast through the single player campaign - which is about 10 hours I might add.

The Chimera feel as bad ass as ever and a bump up in the visual department is welcome. The inclusion of Daedalus - effectively the Chimeran leader - gives a sense of a more organised Chimeran force. While I'm disappointed to see that Angels, Widowmakers and Howlers didn't make it into this game, the challenge the Chimera put to you more than makes up for it. Resistance: Fall of Man was hard, Normal mode felt like Hard mode, and Hard mode was...well....VERY hard. That hasn't changed here, and it's one of the reasons I love the Resistance games. Even on easy mode there were times where I was genuinely challenged, and the Chimera don't make it any easier by attacking strategically in packs and exploiting your own cover when they can. Many reviews I've read have commented on there being too many "cheap deaths", and while I feel that the statement is fair to an extent (I'm looking at you - the 3 Titans in Twin Falls and your surrounded by cars that when they explode they've a 90% chance of killing you section.) this shouldn't be used an excuse for people finding the game too hard. No pussies allowed is how it is. If your going to play R2 you better be freakin' good.

And that's why it's great. Resistance 2 pushes you.... HARD. There are far too many games coming out now that cater for the casual audience and are simply too easy. This only partly extends to the boss fights in R2 which were one of the main advertising points. Let me get one thing clear - there are boss fights, and they are BIG. Some boss fights are disappointingly easy, but some are a genuine challenge. I'll be discussing them in a future post as right now I don't want to talk about spoilers or anything.

Normally this is where the review would end, but guess what??

That's only a THIRD of the whole game!!!!!

Even before I had finished the single player, I had already stabbed at the online Co-op campaign. Initially I was slightly disappointed to find that you couldn't play the story mode co-op style, but once I stared playing the online co-op I almost forgot the game had a single player to begin with. Put simply, the Cooperative is phenomenal, and is unlike anything I have ever played before. In fact, I'll go on the record right now and say it is probably the best online experience I've had to date.

The campaign runs a parallel story to what is going on in the single player. There are several locations such as Chicago, Axbridge, Holar Tower and unlike the single player they make reference to the fight against the Chimera in Europe, from none other than Rachel Parker, the female narrator from the first game. You play as a member of Spectre - like the Sentinels - and fight through a heap load of missions with up to 8 players. Each map is modularised, and each time you play a certain map, the mission objectives will be different and you will experience different sections of the maps in different orders. This adds greatly to the variety and replay value of this mode. Furthermore, at the beginning of each mission you get your intel story - there could be anything up to 12 parts for each map, meaning that at the very minimum you need to play each location that number of times. And with several locations that means a lot of hours spent online.

To add to the diversity the number and types of enemies you face depends on the number of players playing and the various levels of those players. Even after starting the co-op after a lot of people, I have yet to feel like I'm out of my depth in these missions. (Or that could be a testament to just how damn good I am at the game - ignore the vanity). When playing, you have a choice of 3 troop types: Soldier, Special Ops, Medic. The Soldier is your damage sponge, and he can also dish out tonnes of damage. His special ability is to bring up force barriers which can protect the rest of your team members. The Spec Ops can deal out a lot of damage with the Marksman but can't take much, and he is the only team member who can supply the others with ammo. The Medic, uses the Phoenix weapon to sap energy from enemies and then convert it into health for other team members. It is absolutely 100% essential that you have at least one of each type of class and that you all work together to get through this mode. What's more, you gain experience points for everything you do, meaning you're constantly progressing. Levelling up unlocks new weapons, new equipment and new berzerks which all improve the Cooperative experience. It is just amazing how much depth and player support this mode offers.

Finally, we have the competitive online multiplayer. While there are typical modes like Team Deathmatch and so on, it's Skirmish mode you want to look out for. In case you didn't know, Resistance 2 is capable of having up to 60 players on one map at any one time, and Skirmish mode takes full advantage of this. The game splits the 30 Vs 30 teams into 5 man squads, and these squads are then given objectives across the map which will often have one squad vs another competing for the same objective. The maps are so huge that at times you wouldn't realise that there are another couple of dozen players on the map. As the timer counts down, the game then funnels all the squads to a certain location and all hell breaks out. Like Co-op, there is XP to be obtained for kills and so on and all this adds to the development of your character, but XP can only be earned in ranked games.

Presentation: 9.9
The game looks and runs great and is leaps and bounds above the original in every department. The only thing keeping it from a perfect score is minor low-res textures in places and a bit of screen tearing.

Gameplay: 10
Solid through and through and more importantly a hell of a lot of fun. Weapons are creative and it'll be tough to find a favourite. The Chimera put up an ample challenge.

Story: 9.8
A little weaker than the original but not much, and still very good by modern standards.

Design: 10
Bigger is better. Everything about the game is well made and runs great, with no lag whatsoever online either.

Content: 10
If I could give it an 11 I would, a 10 hour single player, unthinkable replay-ability in online coop and competitive it's hard to imagine what else they could've put in and still only charge €50!

Overall: 9.9

Resistance 2 is a top quality production with tonnes of replayability and player support. It successfully continues a gripping plot moulded in the first game and compliments it with impressive performance and gameplay. With multiple difficulties, great trophies and all that XP to earn you really couldn't ask for a more complete package. Kotaku reports it will take on average 420 hours to complete! Let's hope the sequel can somehow do even better....

~The Damo

All Nightmare Long

Zombies. Soviets. Spores. Oh yeah!

~The Damo

Wednesday 3 December 2008

LittleBigPlanet - Review

There comes a time when something new and fresh hits the scene. Sometimes it's a new twist on established genres, or a completely new genre altogther. But then you have something else. Something which revisits most of our own precious beginnings in gaming, expands on it, makes it better, and then lets you do it yourself. That game, is LittleBigPlanet.

What I'm talking about is platforming. All the classics were platforming - Mario, Metroid, Sonic etc. and LBP is the first game in a long to time to revisit this almost forgotten genre and reinvent it in a whole new way. You play as Sackboy (or indeed Sackgirl) and inhabit the LittleBigPlanet. Your adventures thoughout the story mode take you all across the globe, to a greeny/castle themed Eurozone, to the African Savannah, across the Altantic to the haunted South American section, up north to the bustling metropolis, then west to oriental Japan and a quick stop off in India before you make your way to the Tundra wastelands. Each area has its own unique feel and theme, all beautifully created using the LBP tools, and each section starts you off with a little costume zone to dress for the occasion. The story-mode in itself is rather good, though I can't say the game really has a story and really, the story mode levels are there to inspire you, the real creator of the LittleBigPlanet.

As Sackboy, you can do a couple of things. The controls are basic and can easily be taken up by anyone - I'm sure my 6 year old sister could even play it - X is jump, R1 is grab, move with the Left stick and change your emotions with the D-Pad: Up = Happy, Down = Sad, Right = Tough, Left = Scared. While the emotions don't change how you play the game, they can make the online mulitplayer experience more enjoyable and funny. If you hold L2 and move the left analog you control Sackboy's right arm, the R2 button and the right stick control his left hand. Combining these and tilting the SIXAXIS/DUALSHOCK 3 you can animate Sackboy by dancing, waving to other players, pointing to a direction or whatever. The default tilt controls Sackboy's head, while clicking L3 then changes the tilt to control his hips. It's remarkably intuitive and clever. By pressing SQUARE you can open your Pop-It, from here you can dress your Sackboy in all manner of things (too many to name, but at one stage I was a half Roman Centurion-Ninja type guy with a lions tail). You can open your sticker collection and decorate the levels or indeed decorate your pod. The pod is where you enter LBP, it hovers above the planet in the stars and online acts as the waiting room while you (or indeed whoever is the host) picks the next level.

While you don't have to play the story mode, I can see no reason why you wouldn't. Playing through the story unlocks costume elements, materials for contruction, level elements (as in pre-built stuff) and bonus levels. And like I said, you can get incredible inspiration from playing. You need to play through the story to unlock trophies and it is absolutely essential you play online or with friends if you want to get the illusive Platinum trophy. Speaking briefly on the trophies, many are rather straight forward and encourage community interaction as well as playthough of the story. Some also encourage creation and others are approriately graded for the challenge, example: you earn a gold trophy if you complete each level without dying once. Take it from me, that is NOT an easy thing to do. Any preconception you may have of this game being kiddy or childish or not for hardcore gamers is ridiculous. LBP is surprisingly challenging at times, and also frustrating it might be said. A shallow review would comment the difficulty at points being a flaw, and I will admit I planned to include it as a flaw when I first began this review (some weeks back I might add) but it isn't unfair difficult, it is challenging. I think many of us in this modern gaming generation have forgotten that games should challenge us, just because we keep dying does not mean the game is unfair!

Anyway, back on track here, LBP is intended to be used online. If you only plan to play the game offline you are cutting yourself off from an incredible experience. LBP allows you to make your own LEVELS!!! In this respect the game can never end. Each level in the story is made using these tools, and that is why playing through them is essential for inspiration and additionally in understanding how the tools work.

Before you begin you have to sit through tutorials which teach you how to build. Stephen Fry's narration can seem a little slow at times (we're not idiots) but it's a nice touch. The tools themselves are easy to use but difficult to master. I would recommend simply messing around and playing with different machines and objects before setting out to make a level. Some tools require a fair amount of understanding to nail perfectly, and it is highly recommended that you plan out what you're going to do, rather than jump in and see what happens. Doing that can lead to frustration and broken controllers. From my experience the building is a hell of a lot of fun, especially being an engineering student. The thermometer limit on the left really isn't a hindrance at all. Assuming you played through the story well you will have a whole host of objects, materials and stickers available to make your level as brilliant as possible. Expanding what's in your "Goodies Bag" is all the incentive you should need to collect everything in the story. What's great as well is you can make your own objects, then save it (like a car, or a bike, or a catapult - whatever!) and place it as a prize that other people can win when they play your level.

You don't have to upload your level, but as I mentioned earlier there are trophies to be earned when you do - for simply publishing a level, getting a certain number of people to play it, getting hearted and so on. Hearting a level is simple and quick to do. You can access other people's levels from the pod. All these levels are original content created by other LBP players from across the globe. Much like Youtube, the levels on "Planet 1" are either very new or the cream of the crop and you will often find that they have been played in the thousands of times. Pressing R1 leads you to "Planet 2", then 3 and so on. The idea is that the better levels are kept closer to the top while the bad ones sink to the bottom. It works well and hasn't met any hitches yet. There are already tonnes of levels online, and I must say at times I was blown away by the quality. While the story levels are still the most polished, I have no doubt that we will start seeing better levels over the holidays as people master the tools more.

The community experience is simply brilliant. Completing a level, even on your own, ends with a scoreboard, and your score is uploaded to the worldwide rankings. Playing with more players makes it into a competition. As Media Molecule call it "Co-opetition". Whilst you're still competing, you need each other to complete the level. It makes for a great experience all round. After you play someone's level you can heart it and leave a description tag. Naturally the more hearts a level has the higher it will be up on the "Planet" rankings. You can even leave comments and like I said, there are trophies rewarding good community interaction.

What makes LittleBigPlanet special is its innovation. Not to mention top notch graphics and physics. Just because it looks simple doesn't mean the overall presentation should be, LBP is a beautifully crafted world, full of colour and animation. I can't even do it justice in my review; LBP is something you simply have to experience. I can assure you there will be laughs, smiles, tears and above all FUN. How can you not love that face???

Presentation: 10
It is a beautiful game with vibrant colours and environments and excellent fire and electricity effects. And let's not forget excellently programmed physics and material interaction.

Gameplay: 10
What more could you want, platforming with simple yet entertaining puzzles and innovation the industry hasn't seen in years. And don't forget the creation tools.

Design: 9.8
Surprisingly no major technical issues and perfect frame rate throughout, jumping mechanics could be a tad better.

Content: 10
A MASSIVE amount for a game that doesn't know if it's little or big, potentially infinite play time and the ability to craft your own world and play online, I don't think you could have anymore.

Overall: 9.9

It really is The Next Big Thing. I can't begin to imagine how HUGE the sequel is going to be... Yes, a sequel is already in the works!

~The Damo

Reviews Have Changed....

Or at least mine will be. From here on out I've set out to clarify my scoring and review techniques.

Before I write a review, I try to play as much of the game as possible, for example if a game has a single player component, I will try to finish that so I have good ground to discuss. If a game also has an ample multiplayer component, I will play it to the point where I feel I have formulated a good enough opinion of my experience playing the game.

What I've found in the past is that I have been changing the categories under which the games I review are rated, such as Unlockables or Multiplayer etc. So what I am now trying to do is tie up my system to consist of basic units which can be counted for every review, and thus allow if a game doesn't come with multiplayer or specifically isn't designed with unlockables. So below is the criteria for all future reviews:

Presentation - this deals with graphics, appearance and sound. Basically it deals with all elements into which the game looks. This won't deal with my personal taste for style choices as I will leave that to the design element.

Gameplay - this scores how well the type of gameplay being presented is executed and allows for innovation in the genre. This score will not be hampered by performance issues but is subject to a FUN factor.

Story - as you may have guessed deals with the storyline if there is one, but also entails any voice acting, character design, atmosphere, setting and architecture. For example - even if the character models don't look "good" they can still be good characters to interact with, and any unimpressive visuals are accounted for in Presentation.

Design - mainly deals with framerates and game peformance and general score for the idea or style behind the game and whether I feel the developers have successfully implemented what they advertised they would do and whether or not they could have achieved more.

Content - covers anything from unlockables, trophies/achievements, length of the game, replayability, multiplayer etc, anything which can give you an idea if you've got something that's worth your money. A game won't be critiqued on all of them, for example Bioshock is 20 hours long, but has no mulitplayer and no unlockables for completing the game, but that doesn't suggest your not getting a great experience for your money.

Hopefully these changes will turn out for the better, check out the LittleBigPlanet Review above to see how it works.

~The Damo