Category Archives: Gaming

2010 a year in review

SSDY


Well the last time I updated this blog was for the 2009 review. I think I’ve started three or four blog entries since then and they’ve ended up left as incomplete drafts. Same excuse as before, Twitter is such a quick and simple way of updating. Also it’s amazing that WordPress still haven’t come up with a decent offline editor for iOS devices.

Work

It was a much busier year for the Work IT dept. with several large projects between the two of us. I’ve spent most of the year replacing our old servers with new ones and getting my head around all the new software. It’s certainly been a learning experience, a support company has done our previous server upgrades but this time it was pretty much down to me to upgrade all 10 offices. Overall it’s gone well, there’s still some issues and a couple of mistakes I need to fix but I’m reasonably pleased with what I’ve done, especially as I had no training on installing or using the new software. Once that’s finished (hopefully end of February) we’ll be doing a major replacement of most of the desktops and laptops, with upgrades to Windows 7 and Office 2010.

Back to Mac, the next step.

iMac

This year I continued to be sucked in to the Apple product line. Having been very pleased with my MacBook Pro in 2009, I decided to purchase an iPad, originally I’d not intended to get one, I felt it didn’t offer anything my laptop or iPhone didn’t already provide. However after trying one out at the Milton Keynes Apple Store I ended up walking out with a 3G 64Gb version, such a simple device, hardware wise it’s well put together but as with the iPhone it’s really the software that makes it great to use. Some of the apps are quite brilliant, and offer real innovation and functionality. I often lay in bed watching films, reading books, or just browsing the web and it’s been great at all of that, though I’ve woken myself up several times after falling asleep holding it and dropping it on my face! There’s also no heat build up like a laptop. While on holiday the 3G kept me connected and full screen satnav and great battery life got us around.

Completing the collection as a Christmas present to myself, I bought an iMac, a stunning piece of hardware and the performance compared to my ageing PC is brilliant, I don’t intend to play games on it so have hooked my PC up to it. Unfortunately about 10 days after unboxing it, it broke! A lovely pink line down the screen, it seems to be a well known issue and as it was less than 14 days old they are going to replace it. Just glad I bought the 3 year warranty…

Photography

Had quite a few visits to places this year, we went back to Cornwall on holiday, plus trips to little villages and National Trust properties. A lot of the photos I’ve taken I’ve been happy with, however I’m still not making the time to process and put them on to Flickr. I really want an A4 photo printer this year so that I can get some of them printed out and framed to brighten up the house. Here is my Photostream from Flickr featuring about 3 new photos I took last year, must get some more uploaded!

Gaming

Been a pretty inconsistent year for gaming. While this year I’ve played some of the best games I’ve ever played, quite a few games I was really looking forward to turned out to be total crap.

Stunning games this year have included;

  • Assassins Creed 2, & Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, I’d played the original Assassins Creed on the Xbox and hadn’t really got on with it. However I decided to try AC2 when it was in a Steam sale on the PC, the game just sucked me in, fantastic storyline, brilliant graphics, the cities felt truly alive. I was pleased to discover upon completion Brotherhood was months away, and while it wasn’t superior to AC2 it improved a lot of things including the combat. I cannot wait for Assassins Creed 3
  • Mass Effect 2 was another sequel to a game I’d played and not really got on with. However in my opinion Mass Effect 2 is a much tighter game, the storyline is much clearer, the combat much more flowing and your team much more rounded. So far I’ve played the game through 4 times on both the PC and the Xbox taking nearly 40hrs a time. Just waiting for Mass Effect 3!
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was a bit of a surprise hit, I’d decided to try the multiplayer beta and thoroughly enjoyed the game, visuals where great, sound was awesome on the 5.1, and team play was well promoted. Once I got the game I decided to give the single-player a go expecting not much more than bots in the MP maps, but it actually had a nice little storyline and I really enjoyed going through it.

Disappointing games for 2010;

  • Medal of Honor was a total waste, clearly EA trying to have a piece of the Modern Warfare game market, but it’s just boring, I’ve only played it through once, it had several annoying glitches that would break scripted sequences, the storyline was thin and felt like it had no real meaning. Plus with these kind of scripted games it’s important to constantly push you forward otherwise the game loses it’s immersion as you stand in an empty map, but in MoH there was several times where the instructions weren’t clear and left you standing around unsure if you’d missed something or the game was broken again. The multiplayer was also a let down, though the multiplayer was made by the same people as Battlefield Bad Company 2 it didn’t feel anywhere near as good, far too often I was dying without any idea who killed me or where they were it makes the game really frustrating.
  • Fallout: New Vegas was a crushing disappointment, after thoroughly enjoying Fallout 3 I’d been so looking forward to it, however towards release there were several trailers that looked really naff, the graphics engine was quite old even when Fallout 3 was released but the game played to its strengths. In New Vegas they seemed to have ignored it’s weaknesses and it really shows in the game. Areas that are described in the dialogue as highly populated areas only have 4 or 5 people in as that’s all the engine can handle. There’s also a lot of structures, interiors, and textures from Fallout 3 reused in New Vegas, the map is also mostly empty, it says it all when a point of interest marker leads to a piece of corrugated iron and two sticks holding it up and describes it as somebodies shack! When you look in to the interviews it seems that the game had been in development for less than a year, and for a game of that size that’s just not long enough.
  • Mafia 2 was another total waste, a large city to go around and absolutely no reason to bother doing so. The opening moments are great; as you arrive back at your mothers from the war, there’s snow, people running around the streets, traffic jams steam from drains and exhausts, people talking to you and each other, a couple arguing over their broken car, all while Christmas music carries through the air. Then the next day, nothing! There’s still snow, still cars, but people are just silently walking around, every 30 seconds a person slips over on the sidewalk and completes the same animation to get back up. The city feels completely dead, there’s a railway, but no trains, there’s taxis but you can’t hail them, there’s a few shops but they all have the same identical interior with the same products you don’t need. You start a mission in your flat, you drive to a friends house you pick them up you drive to the mission, you go in you kill everyone, you leave, you drive your friend home, you drive yourself home, you go to bed, you wake up and do the same thing again, over and over until the game ends a few hours later. The biggest insult is a week later the developers start churning out basic DLC which should have been in the game anyway. It seems again the developers were forced to rush the game out and so most of the game world was cut back to only what was required for the missions.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops I didn’t like either. While I bought it for the PC and spent the first three weeks unable to even play it due to poor optimization on dual core processors, the storyline wasn’t as interesting as Modern Warfare, and it didn’t have the polish that MW2 had. Multiplayer was also uninspiring again, preferred MW2 over it.

Quite a lot of games to look forward to in 2011; Portal 2, Dead Space 2, Crysis 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mass Effect 3, Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3, Assassins Creed 3, maybe well even see Half Life 2: episode 3 this year?!

TV & Films

2010 probably wasn’t as good as 2009 for TV & Film.

Film wise there was only one film warranting a trip to the BFI IMAX and that was obviously Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Really enjoyed it but there was always the feeling that this was the setup to the epic final film in 2011. Three other films I saw this year at the slightly revamped Bedford Cinema were Iron Man 2, The A-Team, and Tron: Legacy. All were good; Iron Man 2 wasn’t quite as good as the first but there was Scarlett Johansson so can’t complain. A-Team felt very much like the TV series, a little silly but great fun, and I hope that we do get a sequel. Lastly Tron: Legacy was really good saw it in 3D and while it wasn’t as good as the IMAX 3D it was pretty impressive some amazing visuals and the soundtrack has been looping in my iTunes for 3 or 4 weeks now.

Good TV this year; a much improved Series 5 of Doctor Who, I felt overall the stories were much better, like the doctor and companion, and much more playing around with time this series which I’ve liked, plus at the end not everything had been neatly tied up. The big surprise in 2010 was Sherlock (by the same person behind Doctor Who), which I absolutely loved, even though it was only three episodes long! Other series I got in to in 2009 were Chuck, The Big Bang Theory, and The Walking Dead. I also continued to endure the ever inconsistent Stargate: Universe, after a first series full of criticism, they didn’t listen to any of it and produced another series almost completely the same, it came as no surprise that it has recently been axed. The Inbetweeners seemingly finished this year, however it seems we are going to get at least one film and several TV specials, probably one of only two shows this year that’s had me in tears of laughter. The other show being Mongrels, which was genius, airing on BBC3 it’s a puppet show featuring animals living behind a pub in London. Aimed at “grownups” and featuring some brilliant jokes and one-liners. There’s not much to say, better to head over to YouTube and watch all the clips that people have posted.

Another piece of TV that had me in tears this year was the announcement that Lacey Turner who played Stacey in EastEnders for the last 6 years was leaving the show. It was her character and the unlikely relationship with Bradley that got me watching every episode, and Stacey was the only character in the show that had the ability to make me blub! Now she’s left I’ve not decided if I’m going to carry on watching, the current baby swap storyline is a real turn off.

Life

Things seem to have got a little bit better this year. It looks likely well be able to keep the house after all and so without the need to save all of my money I’ve had some spare to by a few luxury items!

This year saw both my Nan and one of my Uncles die. My Nan had never really fully recovered from cancer; she had a long life though and died in October. My uncle had also been suffering from terminal cancer and died of a complication the day after his birthday in December, just before Christmas. One of the scary things that’s come from these two deaths is how little they’ve affected me. When my gran died a few years ago I was really upset, I still clearly remember sitting in a hospital office crying my eyes out and internally raging at the sky fairy while some poor nurse tried to get on with her work. This time though I’ve felt nothing, when I’ve attended the funerals and the family are recalling their lives, where before this would get to me, now I don’t feel anything, even things on TV where 18 months ago I’d be welling up now I feel very little if anything. It’s quite unnerving, I’ll probably end up losing it with someone at work, I came close to it last year so it’s only a matter of time!

That’s it, next blog post 2011 a year in review to follow!

Roundup of events…

Haven’t updates here for ages, getting a very bad habit!

Life:

Not much going on at all to be honest. Trying to save money, though I do have a little holiday booked in the next few weeks. Works been a bit depressing lately, had two rounds of redundancies cost cutting measures which has killed morale. Plus the woman who came to work in IT with me and boss six months ago has had a better/more secure offer and left us last week, I think she’d been a pretty positive influence on us both so it’s a real shame that she’s left. House prices are going up again, so the house hunt continues to be something of a long running unfunny joke.

Winter setting in now, temperatures dropping and we are still holding out on putting the heating on, got a hoody I now wear at home with the hood up, but haven’t had to resort to the two pairs of socks… yet!

Photography:

GiraffesNot had much chance to take pictures, camera bag has been sitting in the corner of my room looking dusty and unloved. Did manage to go out to Whipsnade zoo a few weeks ago, haven’t been to a zoo in years so was pretty interesting, went during the week so very few people around which was even better! Took about 140 photos and whittled them down to about 20 which I tweaked a little. Photos are here, as well as Picasa and Flickr (I’ve not decided which service I prefer yet!), still not entirely happy with all my shots, really need to practice more and pay attention to the settings when taking the photos.

Films:

Harry Potter and the Half Blood PriceAfter seeing Star Trek at the IMAX earlier in the year, I went back again with my dad to see it. Since then I’ve returned to the IMAX to see Transformers 2 and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Transformers 2; wasn’t as good as the first, impressive effects, but I wasn’t a fan of the in-the-action camera work, even on the IMAX screen!

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, probably the best Harry Potter film so far, the opening 10 minutes were in 3D so we all sat with stupid glasses on. I was surprised how good the 3D looked but was disappointed it only lasted the first 10mins. Wished they had shown Dumbledores funeral but beyond that was impressed and look forward to seeing The Deathly Hallows part 1 next year!

Now waiting for all of the above to come out on BluRay.

Other films I’ve seen in the last few months: Terminator Salvation = meh, nothing special at all. How to Lose Friends & Alienate people = It has Simon Pegg and Megan Fox in it, what could go wrong?! Very funny, loved it. Knowing = really enjoyed this to, bit weird but good mystery film. Seven Pounds = didn’t like it, thought the ‘twist’ was pretty obvious from the very beginning. The International = enjoyable action/thriller. X-Men origins: Wolverine = meh, same as Terminator Salvation, no surprise Star Trek beat both of these at the box office.

Gaming:

It’s been a very quiet summer for gaming this year. I got Killzone 2 for the PS3, hated that, really should have cancelled my pre-order when I didn’t like the demo. Played Prototype for the PC, was enjoyable enough but pretty much a throwaway once it’s done. Played through the DLC for Fallout 3, that was fun but I’d agree with the developers that the DLC has reached it’s natural conclusion. Looking forward to Fallout 4 whenever that turns up. Ghostbusters, great game really sticks to the films spirit (pardon the pun). Also ran through Half Life 2, and Episode 1 & 2 again, as good as always. Even played through Call of Duty 4 again.

Needed the distraction this weekend so plonked down £39 for Uncharted 2 for the PS3, a truly excellent game which shows other PS3 developers programming on the PS3 can be done properly. No 15 minute game cache installation, no load times between levels. Beautiful graphics and level architecture, excellent 5.1 sound, an awesome soundtrack, and great story & voice acting. I think I’d definitely put it up there in my top 10 single player experiences.

uncharted2a1

Games to look forward to in the next few months. Got Left4Dead 2 for PC pre-ordered, Modern Warfare 2 for PC. Assassins Creed 2 and Mass Effect 2 coming along later. Will probably wait for the reviews of BioShock 2 as it’s not being made entirely by the same team. Jury is still out on Max Payne 3, could go either way at the moment.

Not much else to report really, feeling miserable at the moment so hope that hasn’t reflected in my writing, that and the fact I typed it all up at 2:30am of a Monday morning!

Recent updates

I’ve been absent from my blog for quite a while now, mostly down to Twitter where I can moan in short bursts. I therefore thought it might be a good idea to do an update with all the things I have (or haven’t) done since the last update.

Star Trek @ IMAX

On Thursday 7th May I travelled in to London to go to the BFI IMAX to see a film I’d been waiting years to go and see – Star Trek! I’d reserved my tickets back at the beginning of April and it was lucky I did, the showing at 3pm I attended was sold out, even the rubbish seats in the front corners were sold.

I’d never been to an IMAX before but I was sure that I didn’t want to see it at the Bedford Cineworld fleapit. Walking in to the IMAX auditorium not only was there no coca-cola sloshed up the screen or popcorn stuck to it, it was bloody huge! The seat I’d booked (K19) was perfect dead centre, the screen occupied my total field of vision. This was the 2nd showing of the film (the previous being at midnight) and the place was packed with Sci-Fi fans discussions about Fringe, Lost, Cloverfield, BSG, DS9, Voyager, TNG, and Babylon 5 were banded about like Britains Got Talent and Big Brother are in the ‘real’ world!

After a few trailers (annoyingly no Transformers 2 trailer) the film started. Amazing film, looked and sounded great, the storyline was good and the new actors bought the old characters back to life, lots of in-jokes for the trek fans but still fresh for everyone else to enjoy. I did have a couple of complaints, I wasn’t fond of the music, mostly down to preferring the cinematic Star Trek theme rather than the TOS wailing theme. Also wasn’t fond of Scottys ‘tube trip’, or the new Engineering. Overall though, I really enjoyed it, so much so I’m paying to go in to London again and see it on June 8th.

I’m also rather in love with the IMAX Experience, and would consider going back to see Transformers 2 and Harry Potter, so long as they don’t fall during School Summer holidays!

Photos

FlowerHaven’t really had chance recently to go through them properly but have been out and about to take a few photos. Still getting mixed results, I really need to ask on a forum what I’m doing wrong! I’ve uploaded the latest sets of photos to my Blog gallery and to Picasa. Also want to get a small portable tripod as lots of my photos are still betting blurred because I can’t hold it still, just don’t want some massive 4kg thing that will be awkward to carry around.

Gaming

It’s been a quiet few months on the gaming scene, nothing new has come out that really caught my interest. Been playing some Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2 again, both have recently had content additions. I was more than a little disappointed that L4D didn’t introduce any new campaigns only one proper new map and a bunch of modified ones for the Survival game mode. Survival does exactly what it says on the tin, you have to survive against unlimited attacks of zombies, and assorted monsters, it is fun for a quick game and you aren’t stuck playing a campaign for two hours. Team Fortress 2 update has been interesting, some new weapons and maps, not sure about the time release weapon upgrades but we will see.

Also been playing a lot of Supreme Commander/Forged Alliance with friends online, a tough challenge with some games lasting three hours! Only issue we’ve had is the rather inconsistant AI, several games the AI seems to simply give up or get stuck. Could do with more decent maps as well.

With E3 just finished I’m definately looking forward to Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Alan Wake, and Supreme Commander 2. I was a little disapointed that there was no mention of Half Life: Episode 3 but I’m still hoping for a release in November this year! Also Unknown Worldshave finally officially announced Natural Selection 2 which I’ve already pre-ordered, loved the original Half Life mod.

Home

After my last entry life has continued much the same, only now I’m getting daily alerts from Rightmove.co.uk about houses I can’t afford or mobile homes I don’t want!

That’s about it for now, hopefully the next blog post won’t be so delayed. Off to play Supreme Commander Forged Alliance now, I’m getting moaned at for delaying the game!

Left 4 Dead

Tomorrow, apart from bringing me another year closer to death, marks the release of a game that has had my attention for the last couple of weeks since I started playing the demo, that game is (obviously) Left4Dead, despite my initial reservations that the game would get old and stale within a couple of plays I’ve so far, according to Steam, spent 10.5 hours in the last two weeks mercilessly slaughtering the living dead, and it has been immense fun! The real ‘fun’ is in the Expert difficulty mode, and until last night survival had alluded us, however after a tactical rethink we got through both demo levels just, although the team has yet to make it to the end without at least one sacrifice.

Going to be an unusually ‘busy’ week. Today at 5pm sees the release of the official HD trailer of the new Star Trek movie, a little nervous of what I’ve seen so far, but I’m getting the feeling it’s going to be a reimagining of the franchise, which will probably upset a lot of fans but bring in a lot more, which is probably what it needs, after all it’s not like the Star Trek movie franchise is a particularly stand out collection!

Tuesday is my birthday, the release of the aforementioned Left4Dead, and I should see the arrival of the components for my new Windows Home Server, my current server is stuffed to the brim with videos, music, photos, and backups. Hopefully with nearly 3TB of disk space it should make live easier storing my data and keeping up to date backups of the family PCs.

Then on Friday we have the release of Need for Speed: Undercover, a guilty pleasure of a game, I really enjoyed Need for Speed: Most Wanted and this game seems to be more of the same, which for me is no bad thing. I just really like the cop chases, no matter how much the AI cheats.

I suppose I should post a follow up to my last post “The Gamble”; well, my hand was forced as I’d suspected it might, as the person announced she was leaving! Took the ‘easy’ route and sent an email, got the nicest let down email I could have hoped for and after a couple of weeks of awkwardness things seem to be settling down.

Christmas leave is booked so it’s now just a case of powering through to mid December. Only 18 working days remain for 2008!

Grand Theft Auto IV


What can I say that hasn’t been said by everyone else? I got the game on Tuesday and haven’t stopped playing yet.

There has been a lot of complaints about the graphics personally I can’t see the problem, during the night all the buildings are clear to see, their lights twinkling. In the day the smog and heat make them harder to see.

Last week I sent Niko out on to the roof terrace of his new penthouse apartment in the early hours of the morning, thunder rumbling through the city (and the 360 controller) while lightening lit up the sky and rain pelted down, in the distance the sound of the subway trains rumbling by, the hot tub steaming and bubbling to my left and the electrical substation buzzing on my right. Niko didn’t seem that impressed with it all, he was shaking his arms to rid himself of the water and tilting his head whilst slapping it with his hand to get the rain out of his ears. A few minutes later the storm had moved on and there was almost no sound at all as the cold air caused Nikos breath to steam. Then the sun broke on my left and the buildings began to glimmer in that early morning orange light, after a few more minutes I became aware of car horns sounding on the street below and sirens wailing further out in the city. I checked my mobile and it was just gone 8am – Liberty City was experiencing rush hour. I was amazed, I’d been playing for several days and not really taken in just how real everything felt. Realising this caused me to adjust my tactics, during the day I’d stick to the simpler missions and other non-essential activities, then when the sun set I’d play the more difficult missions knowing that should I need to make a quick escape from the cops there would be less cars on the road to avoid!

The Apple iPod touch and The Orange Box

hl2ep2.jpg 

Ya see it?! Apples and Oranges!!

H’anyway yesterday was the release of Half Life 2 : Episode 2 the second part of the episodic content that followed up Half Life 2. Also released was Portal and Team Fortress 2. Hopefully this will be better than the woeful Halo 3, hell it couldn’t be much worse!

I’ve also completed my review of my new Apple iPod touch which you can read here, I had intended to add some pictures of my own however the digital camera has gone on holiday so I may as well post it with the official images instead.

*goes off to kill hunters*