Friday, 29 January 2010

Joke of the Week

A waiter asks a man, 'May I take your order, sir?'

'Yes,' the man replies. 'I'm just wondering, exactly how do you prepare your chickens?'

'Nothing special, sir. We just tell them straight out that they're going to die'.

Blast From the Past: Firelord

Released in 1986 by Hewson, (founded by British born Andrew Hewson in the early 1980’s), for the ZX Spectrum, C64 and Amstrad CPC, Firelord was an instant hit with gamers.
Casting you in the role of Sir Galaheart, your aim was to traverse the Kingdom of Torot to obtain the four charms of eternal youth for the 'Wicked Queen' in exchange for her releasing the Kingdom of Torot from its curse.
Like many of games of the time Firelord was very difficult compared to today’s standards; as much as a single scrape from one of the many ghosts roaming the land would deplete Sir Galaheart's health at an alarming rate, so quick reactions and a keen eye were an absolute necessity in guiding our would be hero through his adventure, especially as you begin the game with absolutely no spell power in which to deal with foes.
For all its difficulty though, Firelord was a joy to play and is as addictive and as fun as it ever was. Firelord also boasted some of the finest looking visuals on the scene with its vibrant and colourful medieval hamlets.

As well as the popular isometric shoot-em-up Uridium, (1985), Hewson also went onto create many more classics such as Stormlord, Marauder, Cybernoid and Impossaball before shutting its doors in the early 1991. Surprisingly, Andrew Hewson went on to become the founder of ELSPA, (European Leisure Software Publishers Association). While Andrew may now be retried from the games industry his legacy remains, with Firelord standing out as one of the many fond memories for many an 80’s gamer and as such remains a surefire classic.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Artwork of the Month-January 2010

This cake has been far too long in the oven

If there is one thing that is abundantly clear about video gamers is that they're quite possibly the most difficult people in the world to please when it comes to entertainment.

Take a new gaming project, heap praise upon its preview code, add into the mix the kind of hype that would make George Lucas blush and then-even when said project actually delivers the goods-watch it get torn apart by its target audience the moment it hits the shelves. And if you're a publisher whom has decided to add a couple of years, (or more), onto the release date of your shiny new IP, well don't expect a warm reception unless what you finally ship is the most fantastic and audacious creation since the microchip.

Sometimes though, gamers do get it right.

For example: In the case of Silicon Knights’ Too Human, gamers and the gaming press alike were bang on the money. Originally penciled in for the Playstation back in 1999, it was then announced for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2000 before slipping into development hell and then resurfacing in 2005 for the Xbox 360. By the time Too Human was released in August of 2008 many gamers had lost interest in the project and for those who did still have their eye on Silicon Knights ‘ground breaking action-RPG’ ended up being very disappointed when the game turned out to be decidedly average. Too Humans’ most notable flaw was that many of the features on display in the game, (that were state-of-the-art ten years ago), had been done and improved on tenfold over the pursuing years leaving Too Human an uninspiring gaming experience to the point of being trite. A case of “This cake has been far too long in the oven".

So, let’s get down to it. Gran Turismo 5.

With yet another announcement that Sony’s seminal racing game was to put back for almost another whole year and given that the demo currently available on PSN showed that what was on offer was ‘good’ but not ‘great’ one has to ask, is this yet another case of an over baked IP?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that GT5 will be as uninspiring as Too Human, far from it, but it’s not too difficult to see why many gamers, (Playstation fans particularly), are more than a little concerned when a franchise as lauded as Gran Turismo sees the latest installment, (the first on PS3), move into its fifth year of development and not be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. (It’s worth pointing out that Xbox 360 gamers have had luxury of two very accomplished racing sims during the same time frame in the shape of Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport).

For a few fans of the series the main source of frustration will no doubt come from Polyphony Digital putting the game back even further as supposed to what the finished product turns out like. As long as it plays like a Gran Turismo, looks pretty, has hundreds of cars to tinker with and the recently included damage physics work to an acceptable level it’s safe to assume that a small proportion of fans will be more than happy. For many gamers though a new lick of paint, a few incremental changes, the use of Playstation Eye and the some well known sports personalities thrown into the mix [most likely] won’t be enough, especially for those who have already experienced the delights of Forza Motorsport 2 & 3 on the Xbox 360.

Having said all that, maybe this extra development time is what’s needed to raise Gran Turismo 5 into the stratosphere of current generation racing games? I mean, if we’re honest that’s what we’re all telling ourselves, isn’t it?

Gran Tursimo 5: Pulling up into a garage near you soon...well, maybe.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Bankers, Politicians and all those who live freely off of the tax payer...

I think all that can be said about these modern day bandits has been said so I will simply put across my view of these unscrupulous chracters in the form of a picture.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you have no shame.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Movie Review: Max Payne

While this particular movie came out in 2008 I've only just seen it myself and as someone who enjoyed the video games this film is based on I thought I'd do a review.

Max Payne 2008, Directed by John Moore.

Max Payne is a 2008 noir action film loosely based on the popular 2001 video game of the same name. The video game was hugely popular at the time with its gritty, graphic novel styled scripting, pulse pounding cinematic action sequences and being the first video game to properly use 'Bullet Time' ala Matrix style with great effect. Such was the games popularity that it has spawned two sequels: "Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne" and "Max Payne 3", which is to be released later in 2010 on the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. Such a shame then that in tune with many video game to movie adaptions John Moore's attempt to bring our brooding hero to the big screen is a bit of a disaster.

Like the game the plot revolves around cold case detective Max Payne and his ongoing search for those behind the murder of his wife and child. So begins a tale of intrigue, untrustworthy colleagues and a corrupt Government science division that has been dosing up its soldiers on a powerful drug called "Valkyr" which makes its users feel 'invincible'.

Max is played by Mark Wahlberg who lends himself to the role with a surprising amount of believability; a man haunted by his own feelings of guilt, knowing that had he been home ten minutes early his wife and child may still be alive. Angry and vengeful, Wahlberg's depiction of Payne is of a man who is not to be crossed and, much like the game the film is based on, will gun down anyone stupid enough to cross his path. Unfortunately both the rest of the cast and the plots focus more on 'super soldiers' rather than the murder of Max's family leaves Wahlberg floundering in a mire of convoluted and unexplained twists, bizarre plot lines and hackneyed dialogue.

Beau Bridges, (of recent 'My Name is Earl' fame), plays one BB Hensley, a trusted friend to Max and the ex-partner of Payne’s deceased father in the NYPD. Beau Bridges has played some convincing roles during his career but here he just plods from one scene to the next, in fact I was half expecting to see Earl Hickey make an appearance shouting "Don't do it Dad! Payne's not worth it!", or something equally 'Earl' like.

Chris "Ludacris" Bridges plays the role of Jim Bravura, an internal affairs lieutenant who is investigating Max and some of his un-explained night time 'police' activities amongst other things. Bridges is unconvincing in in his depiction of Jim Bravura and you're left wondering what his actual part is trying to bring, (beyond fingering Payne as the lead suspect in some recent, unexplained murders), to the already shaky tale unfolding before you. Other well known faces that crop up in Max's world are Chris O'Donnell and Nelly Furtado, both of whom fail to light up the screen by any measure, in fact come the later part of the movie you’ll be wishing that they might catch a few of Max's stray bullets. The only other role that actually manages [just] to raise their head above water is that of Mila Kunis who plays 'Mona Sax', (Payne's love interest in the games), but even her part in the film is very loosely thrown together to fit the ridiculous 'Super Solider' plot after her sister is brutally murdered.

Max Payne's story trundles along at a snail’s pace offering up only bite size chunks of the action packed gun fights and set pieces found in the original video game. The Bullet time is practically non-existent as though the director has purposely avoided it for fear of seeming clichéd, but for a film based on a game where 'Bullet Time' was an integral part of the draw it seems almost clichéd not to include it. Throughout the feature there a numerous scenes where Max and Co. are hallucinating on "Valkyr" leaving the few action sequences broken, disjointed and genuinely struggling to get ones pulse racing. Combine all this with the unexplained plot holes that are dotted throughout and you're left wondering what it's all about, if anything at all.

With such a simple premise to work with it's amazing that, (Mark Wahlberg's convincing depiction of Max Payne aside), such a hash has been made of Max Payne. Max Payne [the video game] is about revenge. About a man with nothing to lose other than his sanity as he pursues a just cause of blood, guts, guns and mayhem to bring justice to those who took his loved ones from him. Sadly screen writer Beau Thorne and Director John Moore have chosen instead to try and lift the plot above more than just a good old fashioned revenge movie and in doing so have delivered something confusing, dull and pretentious.


Not all Commodore computers were success stories...

The Commodore +4. That was my first games machine. A great little computer but with two major draw backs:
1) It wasn't as popular as the C64 and Spectrum, which all my so called 'friends' had.

2) The only good games for it were those that came with it, about 20 all told.

Still, niether of those two setbacks didn't stop me from hammering the absolute hell out of it for an entire year .
My Mother and Father, seeing that even though there were less and less games to be found for the C+4 as the months went by and that I had fully appreciated my Christmas present by being happy to play those games I did have, decided to buy me a Spectrum 128+2 the following Christmas.
By that point that though video gaming was wholly considered the pastime of geeks and nerds and so it didn't matter which computer/console you owned you were ripe for a beating from your non-gaming peers. Ho hum.