Monday, March 20, 2006

VF4 - still the best

A tense 10-9 defeat by an aggressive Lau who showed me that Lau has equal measures of style, grace and brutality has reaffirmed VF4's position at the very top of my list of Greatest Games Of All Time.

Gaming, for me, absolutely does not get better than VF4 against an equal opponent.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Brunout Revnege 360 - first Hi-def review

It's Burnout Revenge on the 360. Looks a bit prettier, has replays. That's about it. I saw it on a massive HD telly. That's the Hi-def part of the review over.

Obviously, it's really really good. It's Burnout Revenge and it fixes most of the hideous wrongs that crept into Burnout Takedown. The content appears to be exactly the same as the current-gen version, aside the inclusion of the forementioned replays.

Thing is, the replay system is a spectacular disappointment.

It's a crushing tragedy that racing games these days have a stock group of cameras for any replays. There's the in-game views, maybe a track view, maybe a change car option. These are often just enough to leave you slightly unsatisfied. You can review the race, maybe see a choice bit of action with almost ideal framing, but I don't think I've ever seen a replay suite that genuinely lets me satiate my freakish urge to review any highlights from as many angles as possible.

My fetishisation of the replay stems from the mindfuckingly-good replay mode in Indy 500, that pioneering polygon racer back on the Amiga-era home machines. In that, I would calculate the best time to initate a massive crash, timed accurately so that the calamity plays out across the field of vision for a static trackside camera.

There's something brilliant about an optimal static camera and an easy rewind that lets you squeeze every ounce of entertainment and glee from unfolding virtual carnage. You can focus on the interactions between specific vehicles, tracing their path and then compare it instantly to the eventual fate of another. If that's a bit too much concentration work, you can watch the chaos explode in a global fashion, picking and choosing which parts of the mess to focus on, like some glorious buffet of polygonal disaster.

That's pretty much the opposite for Burnout Revenge on the 360. The cameras available are awful and do a really, really bad job of capturing the monumental amounts of action.

How difficult is it to place a camera at every deliberate kink-trap and brick wall on the tracks? Why can't I manually pan the action camera when I crash? RUBBISH.

The crash mode camera is even more annoying. In a mode you'd assume was an ideal fit for the most user-configurable camera system possible, you get fuck all. There's a couple of car views until you crash and then you get the same action camera you had in the gameplay. BASTARDS. It's really fucking awful. You pretty much end up hearing most of the interesting stuff rather than seeing it, the camera remaining immobile at all times.

As an aside, the fact that the physics drop from 1000 to -1000 once the crash gets properly going is a bit of a let-down. Set off a big explosion and it looks like the physics are being calculated on an Atari ST. You'd think the TRI-CORE MAJESTY of the 360 would be up to keeping the physics keyframes a bit nearer to matching the rendering frame rate.

Getting back to the crash mode replays, including a single static camera to give an overview would have been an obvious choice, right? It's not too hard to figure out where the likely hotspots are on the levels. Just one free-floating, placeable camera would have been fantastic. I'd even settle for a single overhead view of the likely crash spots. At least then I could get properly into it and examine the happy accident jsut like I did in Indy 500, some 15 years ago.

Instead I have to watch a burning wreck in amongst loads of others and review the continuing action via the sense of sound, apart from the occassional arrivals that the action cam deems suitable for my viewing.

JUST GIVE ME A FUCKING PAN FUNCTION.

RUBBISH.

SCORES:

Graphics: 300 out of 1000.
"Not quite graphics x1000. In fact, quite far off. This should really look better, right?"

Sound: -20,000 out of 1000.
"EA trax"

Addictabillity: 800 out of 1000.
"THAT BRUNOUT ACTION IS GREAT!"

Longness: 800 out of 1000
"It's quite long"

Replay camera funtions: -1,000,000 out of 1000
"The Cunts"

Overall: Some massive negative figure.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Definitive Animal Crossing Player's Guide

There are many guides for this game on gameFAQs detailing when you can catch what fish and where. You can get Redd's passwords, how to breed flowers, how much every item sells for and a calendar for when events occur in your town. But none of them, I repeat, none of them give tips for a player as advanced and as capable as Affectionate Diary attracts. So with that in mind, I give you -

The Definitive Animal Crossing Player's Guide

On control methods -
I prefer the dpad for running around at normal speeds. This prevents flower damage, which is important when you're going for the golden watering can. Also, if you go to someone else's town, don't run all over my finely tuned, colour coordinated flower patches you fucking CUNT, I've spent ages on them. Now you can fucking whistle for your coconuts and regal furniture.
Selling a full pocket of items is faster with the stylus if you're not on the train. If you're on the Victoria Line, you'll be lucky get within 2cm of anything you're aiming for so fuck it - switch to dpad. Y button will push an item directly into the pocket. Swear freely when you've cancelled a sale for the 12th time - Nintendo didn't put a "sell all" option in because they hate you.
I also recommend developing a technique that allows you to hold your stylus in your index finger while the rest of your hand holds the DS as normal. That way you can switch between control methods quickly and easily. If you're a claw gamer already this'll be no problem. If you're not it's because you've never played Tony Hawks, which basically means you're a cunt.

On Mr Resetti -
When you give your DS to someone else to play, they will turn it off without saving. It's not because they hate you (as such), it's because they're an uneducated imbecile. To avoid Mr Resetti, simply fuck about with your wifi settings before you turn it on again. This will take about as long, if not longer, than speaking to Mr Resetti and skipping all text with the B button but at least you won't want to smash your DS into little pieces.

On the million+ crowns -
One of them is 1.2 million bells and is SEX. Combine that with the king's beard and royal shirt and you basically transform your Animal Crossing cart into a dating machine. Once (12-year-old) girls see how rich you are, they'll be pulling your trousers off and shouting "give me money for chocolate." Do what any hot-blooded man would do in that situation.
The other one is 1 million bells. It is a girl's crown and if you're seen wearing it you'll be ridiculed. Unless you're an actual girl, in which case you're not likely to be reading this.

On body position -
Sitting down in a chair is ok for an hour or two but eventually you'll slump. Your arms get tired and the DS drops and you hunch over and your body starts the slow process of transforming into Quasimodo. To avoid that, switch to lying on your front. Your arms are supported and your back gets stretched in the other direction. If you find this position uncomfortable it's because you've been hunched over your computer desk wanking over porn for too much of your life. I prefer a 30-minute position-switching schedule, since any session at home generally lasts longer than an hour and that way I'm guaranteed 30 minutes in the correct posture.

On fishing -
You're not imagining it. There is a fish that is larger than the others, though not by much, and it is completely and utterly uncatchable. It doesn't appear very often but whenever it does it moves unnecessarily quickly and has the worst eyesight of any animal ever. If you've just had four coffees and are using psychic powers to determine when it will bite you will still not press the button fast enough to catch it. It's there specifically to fuck you off.

On other people's noticeboards -
The purpose of someone else's noticeboard is to provide a common space in the game to call each other gay. The only time you may deviate from this rule is if the village owner is actually gay, in which case you must call them a hetero. Any other deviation from the rule is a direct attack on the gay community because you're basically saying that they're not comfortable with who they are yet, implying their sexual preference is somehow wrong and that they'll probably be offended by being identified. You patronising fuck. You probably call black people "coloured".

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

While I've got images working...



I'm really sorry, I won't do that again. In my defense, I've just bought the royal crown, which costs 1.2 million bells. Last week I bought the regular crown at one million bells.

Itsy and Shigsy


Ok, I'll come clean - we didn't do this. But my friend who did do it doesn't have a blog so I've stolen it.

Hori's Dead or Alive 360 arcade stick

They're not really called joysticks these days, are they? I think the classification goes something like, if the base for the stick is small enough to fit in your hand, like a Quickshot II, say, then it's a joystick. If the entire base fits on your lap then it's an arcade stick, even though you don't put arcade machines on your lap. Unless you're The Rock.

Hori's DoA Arcade Stick for Xbox 360 - The Definitive Review.

Shit/10

Seriously. Even shitter than the shit Xbox stick that Lik-Sang tried to tell me is "made from Sega's Virtua Cab components". Perhaps my memory of Sega's cabs is a little wrong, but I can never ever remember the ball coming off the stick every single game. Nor can I remember constant squeaking and stiffness. Anyway, back on topic.

Hori's pitiful offering is made from the shoddiest components I have ever had the misfortune to feel beneath my wrists. Clunky, unresponsive buttons and a stick made from what feels like rusty screws sellotaped together by mentally handicapped children who think they're building houses out of stickle bricks. Anyone who needs a stick for the completely outdated Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting that is nearly with us (why, Capcom, why?) need to stay away from this like it's the plague. While it will technically be possible to perform Zangief's 360 after a standing jab thanks to latency issues and a hopeless server system that appears to favour US gamers, it will be as much fun as having your fingernails torn from your fingers one by one as the Russian mafia scream "WHERE'S OUR FUCKING COKE?" at your piss-stained face.

Wait for an adaptor so that you can continue to use your excellent Hori RAP, which shows that Hori can make a fucking amazing stick if they want to. Someone must be working on one.

I suppose one heartening thing about this stick is that it shows that Hori, the greatest stick manufacturer in the world, clearly thinks that nobody in the fighting game community gives a shit about the DoA series. Which means I've been right all along - it's fucking abhorrent, and always has been.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Revolution will not do this

The Revolution's front end will be rubbish, because it won't be what I'm about to suggest. I obviously know much better than Nintendo because I've scored more than a million in Geometry Wars and when I look at the 4000 names above mine I can't see Nintendo anywhere. Making me the best. I suppose that also means that 1337 PWN1SH3R is also better than Nintendo but I'm willing to overlook that right now.

Nintendo's home console's front end should be Animal Crossing. When you boot up you're in your house. All of your downloadable back catalogue of games are available downstairs on your telly. You can maintain your house and town just like in Animal Crossing, AND you can download the town to your DS's cart when you want to mess around with it on the move. When you get home, your DS uploads and updates. Every time you buy a full price game you're given items exclusive to that game for your little dude/dudette to wear/decorate/carry that you can trade. User-designed content is transferred via letters. People can visit each other, just like now. If you want to play multiplayer against someone in, say, F-FUCKING ZERO 30 PLAYERS AT ONCE then you go to their town and hang out till the game starts. Communal areas for strangers to meet in and play against each other will obviously also exist. I won't need them though, because I've got TONS of friends. Boss Nonnu will go there to groom young children.

There will be so many different types of fruit that you couldn't possibly have them all in your town at once. Blanca the cat wouldn't exist. Users could create their own haircuts. Lyle could be made to fall down holes and then covered in dirt, so that visitors could dig up his decomposing body and spit on him. The coffee shop would ACTUALLY be used.

As long as every option was made accessible from the first room you start in, then there's absolutely no reason why this wouldn't work. I would turn on my Revolution every day to see what mail was waiting, or what new downloads had been created, or what new fish were in the sea.

I suppose heteros could be given the option to turn it all off and have a sort of glowing blue neon trendy front end that looked like a cross between Tron and an iPod, but frankly, I want my Nintendo console to be a gateway into a world of wonder. Animal Crossing as the front end would be it.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Breaking the million

How long can I stay still and not touch the movement stick? Pretty long, actually. I stretch it out further and further every time I play. It's like my own version of pacifism, only I kill everything till it's DEAD. As soon as I'm forced to move, other games kick in. How close can I get to the bad guys? How many can I keep on screen without shooting? How long can I keep a black hole alive and active for? Then suddenly I'm fighting entire screens of bad guys, hopping from corner to corner, activating the black holes but letting them explode only to be sucked in by the next one. I hate those fucking snakes, at least this way they're less likely to kill me. A quick glance at the score - 600k, two lives left, no smart bombs. Death imminent. Shoot, shoot some more, some amazing dodging, shoot some more, I'm gonna die, reflex smartbomb OHMYGOD I HAVE ONE! A split second moment of calm allows another glance at the score - 930k. Four lives. OHMYGOD it's doable. Praying, shooting, spazzing out, a few lucky escapes, try not to look at the score, OHMYGOD it's 970k! 980k! 990K! Dead! DEAD! HOLY SHIT I REALLY NEED TO CLEAR THIS SCREEN FOR OHMYGODIJUSTHITAMILLION!

SPAZ.

GIBBER.

SPAZ.

DEAD.

I'm screaming, looking around the room for props but nobody's there. I'm all alone with my million plus score. Feeling fucking AMAZING.

In widescreen. Because I have honour.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I've just played BLACK for the first time and well,

FUCKING UNSKIPPABLE CUTSCENES ARE AN INSULT TO THE VERY FORM THAT SUPPORTS THEM.

I DON'T WANT TO WATCH YOUR PISSY ATTEMPTS TO 'BE' HOLLYWOOD.

I WANT TO PLAY YOUR FUCKING GAME, SO FUCKING LET ME.

My review is as follows:

10 marks out of 10 will be deducted for every unskippable cutscene and movie I'm forced to watch.

Black: The DEFINITIVE Review.

I don't care how good this game is, nor do I care if it holds my interest, despite being a console FPS. I'm sure Ferrari owners can get used to the handling of a 'street' hatchback, so I'll try and adapt to the hell of analogue sticks - but hey, as I mentioned before, I don't actually care.

All I care about at this point is the TWO unskippable cutscenes I've been forced to endure. In a spectacularly childish move, I deliberately opted to ignore the cutscenes and do something else instead, so fuck you Criterion and fuck you EA and fuck you Microsoft. One of you is at fault here and you'll pay the price when you read this:

Score -20/10

Under NO circumstances buy this game.

Spend the money on hiring a team of MMO-slaves to e-mail Electronic Arts, Criterion and Microsoft incredibly articulate arguments against unksippable cutscenes instead.

Right. I'll start the first level now.

Geometry Wars

A quick browse of the forums has revealed that most of the top scorers who post all play in 4:3. One forumite has counted the grids on both widescreen and 4:3 and found out that the play area is actually different for the two picture formats, despite the grid not fitting the viewing area anyway. This is obviously has serious ramifications on high score attackers.

One hand I'm excited. I have a better chance of breaking the million barrier now if I make the change. On the other hand, FUCKING HELL. I remember when widescreen first appeared and there was much talk about whether playing an FPS in widescreen gave you an advantage because of your viewing area, but generally speaking the world you explored remained unchanged however you viewed it, so it wasn't too much of an issue. 2D fighters are suffering from the change to widescreen at the moment, since the width of the playing area is obviously very important, so the play area has had to remain the same but the image is stretched, making the game ugly in any case. Geometry Wars, though, which encourages a constant circular motion, should not penalise widescreen players, I feel. Now to compete on a level field I'm going to have to fiddle with my settings every time I play this one game. It's not a deal breaker or anything but it's dashed inconvenient.

STOP PRESS

SamPenguin has just informed me that everyone already knows this. WELL I DIDN'T.

:(

So, to finish off - play in 4:3 if you care about scores. Play in widescreen if you're more about the experience. Play in both if you're bi-curious.

Everything else can fuck off

Disgaea 2 is out in Japan. So surely there must be an English language version hopping about for the US market to evaluate or some such. As if this game can be anything other than The Greatest Strat RPG Of All Time.

They tried to say Laharl wasn't going to be in it and then everyone shouted at them so they put out screens to show he WAS in it! YAY! Etna will probably still turn to the screen and tell me she loves me, like she did in the first one.

Why can't everyone else in Japan use Nippon Ichi's localisation talent - their US releases have the best voice acting I've seen yet. Obviously offensive US accents, but, you know. They're brilliant in spite of that. Hardcore gamers will probably switch to the original Japanese voices in disgust but personally, I like to understand what the fuck is going on.

Manipulation of the council for subtle changes that only make a difference when you hit the 100 hour mark for the win!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The promise of a new world

MMOs are supposed to have given us worlds we can go to together, romping around having adventures, doing Fun Things. I have to say, I really haven’t found that to be the case so far. The closest to a real world I’ve seen is World of Warcraft, which is obviously brilliant but fundamentally boring in so many ways. I suppose it’s brilliant because it makes its boredom compelling with its way of rewarding players.

I have found somewhere I can go, though, with my friends, and have fun and PLAY in communities of like-minded people. And the most amazing thing is, I can go to this world absolutely any time I like. On the bus, on the tube, in bed, anywhere, because it’s on the best console ever made till the next one, the Nintendo DS.

Although we don’t always share the same physical (for want of a better word) space, all Animal Crossing players play in the same universe. This morning spring started – butterflies are all over my town. A friend sent me a text this morning saying he’d caught a rainbow trout – a fish you can only catch in spring. So (outside of occasional wifi visits) we don’t share the same physical space, but we do share the same emotional space in that we’re going through the same things together and that we can help each other to achieve whatever it is we want to, be it a complete fossil collection or a fruit-themed room. We are living with our friends in Animal Crossing’s world in a way that resembles real life friendship processes, though with only happy, fun things going on. And that’s what MMOs should be aiming for, surely?