Still a Just Cause?

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Just Cause on PS2 kinda passed me by. After GTA San Andreas I couldn’t face another huge open world game.

It’s a shame really as by all accounts it was a good game with a solid story and some inventive gameplay.

Well after watching GameTrailers pre-E3 special (which can be found here: http://www.gametrailers.com/gametrailerstv_player.php?ep=61&ch=1&sd=0) Just Cause 2 was one of the few games that wasn’t really on my radar.

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I remember hearing it announced but I suppose not having played the first one it maybe didn’t register with me.

Having seen the trailer (see below, originallyย from GameTrailers.com ) I’m pretty pysched for this game.

As someone who enjoyed the flawed Mercenaries 2 I think this could be really interesting.

The grapple reminds me very much of Pandemic’s blow ’em up but you seem to have a lot more freedom with it in Just Cause 2.

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I like the idea of turning factions, or even just individual allies, against you or each other as the game progresses.

Hopefully it’ll live up to the hype when it’s released next year.

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Eastern Promises – Review (Film)

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Eastern Promises tells the story of a driver (Viggo Mortensen) for the Russian mafia in London, who hopes to gain entry to the ‘family’.

His story intertwines with a hospital midwife (Naomi Watts) who delivers a baby one evening but loses the mother. Finding a diary in Russian she sets about solving the mystery of what relatives the baby has following the mother’s death.

This is bleak stuff, featuring what I imagine is a fairly realistic portrayal of the sex traffic trade – Russian girls being brought into London with the promise of a better life, only to be forced into prostitution. Kept under control by forced daily doses of heroin.

The characterisation is pretty strong in the film and fortunately they never slip too far into Russian stereotyping. Of course they all like a drink though ๐Ÿ™‚

Viggo Mortensen really plays his part well – with (from a non-Russian point of view) a convincing rather than comedy Russian accent.

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Armin Mueller-Stahl who plays Semyon, the head of the ‘vory v zakone’ mafia is brilliant. An older man, carrying a great deal of menace in his eyes, he fills the screen with a nasty undercurrent whenever he is involved.

As the story delves deeper into the dead girl’s diary it becomes clear that the ‘vory v zakone’ are involved and Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts) begins to wish she’d never got involved in any of it but feels she has to for the sake of the motherless child.

Eastern Promises is a depressing film, while Mortensen’s character tries to do good where he can the world he moves in is so murky that any positive gesture is soon wiped out.

There are a couple of great twists, the main one I did not see coming at all. ๐Ÿ˜†

Not my cup of tea but an enjoyable watch, mainly because of the good acting and well written dialogue.

If you can stomach an hour and a half of harrowing despondency and brutal violence then this could be the film for you.

Rating: 7/10

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InFamous Demo – First Impressions

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InFamous is one of those games that has flitted in and out of my ‘to get’ list, mainly because at times I’ve thought some of the footage looked fairly generic and other times I’ve been impressed with some of the ideas they have in the game.

Following on from generally favourable reviews in the press/blogs, I was looking forward to playing the demo myself and finding out if it was worth picking up the full game when it arrives at the end of the month.

The game opens with a lush visual of the huge explosion that rocks Empire City. From there on the cut scenes are done in a highly stylised comic book format which works really well and looks great in HD.

When the actual game itself started I felt a flush of disappointment. It looked good but not quite as spectacular as I was expecting.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no problem with the visuals, no slowdown etc, and I soon came to realise that this is a game to be played rather than marvelled at.

The parkour style of getting around was very easy to pull off – just jump in the direction of the object you want to climb and Cole (the main character) will cling to any ledge/pipe etc available.

It’s a good system and works well – repeatedly pressing x to jump will see you scaling buildings in no time. It is almost like the next step on from the parkour controls in Assassin’s Creed, it all feels a bit more natural in InFamous.

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Cole’s superpowers are in full effect in the demo, although I believe the full game will have you working you way up to all the powers.

You can throw electricity, create electricity grenades, throw out shockwaves and even perform electrical melee attacks if you can get close enough to your enemy.

Those powers use electricity up from Cole but he can recharge off nearby electrical items by holding R2.

By the time I’d gotten the hang of using his powers and combining them with the climbing abilities my initial disappointment was a distant memory.

The demo gives you a few missions to get to grips with and while they aren’t exactly groundbreaking (defend this / find this etc) they are solid and challenging. They also give you a chance to check out the city Sucker Punch have created.

Depending on your actions through the course of the game the public of Empire City will either love you or be scared of you.

Whether this will intervene in the actual storyline remains to be seen but even the superficial aspect seems interesting.

The biggest praise I can give the demo is that, like Red Faction: Guerrilla, it is great fun. You will be impressed as you shockwave cars and enemies through the air before blasting them with electricty.

InFamous has most definitely just flitted right back onto my ‘to get’ list.

Doo Doo Doo, Gary Alexander

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Millwall 2 – Scunthorpe 3

What a game. As our hopes of climbing back into the Championship disappeared on Sunday I couldn’t help but be impressed by the occasion.

45,000 odd Millwall fans singing and laughing before kick off, mingling with the Scunthorpe fans – everyone was out to enjoy their clubs day in the sunshine. ๐Ÿ™‚

Wembley itself was very impressive and our seats (ยฃ60) had a great view of the action.

It was great during the build up to see how much everyone was enjoying the occasion and the Scunthorpe fans, though lower in numbers, did make the odd chant inbetween us lot.

The game started at a fair old pace and Millwall looked like they were still on the team bus – 1-0 down in 5 minutes to a nicely worked goal.

It seemed to take about half an hour for us to get started and then a moment of inspiration from Gary Alexander sent us into rapture.

Chesting a throw in towards goal he struck an exquiste half volley that looped over the Scunthorpe keeper and into the net. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

A split second of disbelief hit the crowd before the place erupted. The noise was immense and I think that goal was celebrated just as much as Timmy Cahill’s against Sunderland in the FA Cup semi final back in 2004. Everyone was jumping up and down screaming ‘what a goal! What a goal!’ ๐Ÿ˜†

All of sudden we were taking the game to Scunthorpe, pressuring them all over the pitch and just two minutes later a cross floated in and Alexander rose highest to nod the ball goalwards. Their keeper spilled it into the goal and again Wembley roared. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

We made it to half time intact and the second half started with a quick flurry of Scunthorpe chances. We got back into it again and had a few great chances.

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Then came the leveller around the 75 minute mark, some really sloppy defending leaving the Scunthorpe forward with an open goal to pop the ball into. ๐Ÿ˜ก

After that we got back on the offensive and our chance to win it came when Hackett crossed for Alexander, who somehow headed wide from a couple of yards out. I think we knew then it was a chance we should’ve taken.

And with five minutes left some even more shoddy defending let Scunthorpe net the winner, this time a tame shot going under the body of keeper David Forde.

Even then we had a chance to equalise when Neil Harris found himself through but his weak shot was palmed away for a corner and the game was over.

Congratulations to Scunthorpe, I clapped them as they received the trophy. Either team could’ve taken this game and it came down to the chances we missed and the ones Scunthorpe took.

It was quite an odd atmosphere at the final whistle – apart from the players no-one really seemed to care? The singing continued and the applause was great.

All the way home there was singing – all back up Wembley Way and on the tube journey right back to London Bridge. I suspect if passers by didn’t know the score they would’ve thought we’d won! ๐Ÿ˜†

I suppose it was the effort of the players, we weren’t outplayed or well beaten, just unlucky and if Gary Alexander’s header had skidded into the goal rather than past it we might have been celebrating a win.

Next season will be extremely tough, there are a host of teams who could go for it and I think we’ll struggle.

We have no major goalscorer. Yes, Harris and Alexander will get 10 or 12 each but we’d need a lot more than that to aim for the playoffs.

Realistically I can see Charlton, Norwich, MK Dons, Leeds, Tranmere, Oldham, Brentford and Gillingham all finishing above us.ย 

If we can make the top ten, consolidate and then push on from there we will be on the right track.

Kenny Jackett is most certainly the right man for us – under him we’ve been great and played some lovely football. It just goes to show what having a proper manager can do for a team.

A good start next season is imperitive though, otherwise we’ll find ourselves dragged into a relegation dogfight. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

X-BOX360 SUXX LOLZ!!!!1111!!!!!

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Well as we head towards the game industry’s main event E3, where a plethora of games will be announced/shown, it seems the fanboy wars are heating up again (have they ever died down?).

Quite frankly I find it surprising that most people really care about this sort of thing – I never bought into it even back in the Sega Mega Drive / Super Nintendo days.

I find it a bit embarrassing that rather than focusing on what the console they own is doing a lot of people are more concerned with it’s rival.

Of course I understand the need for the companies to belittle their rivals, they want to sell more consoles and whilst I wholeheartedly agree that Microsoft and Sony pushing each other will benefit us with better products in the long run it just seems a little, well, childish for people to be fighting over which console is better.

It’s all about opinion – is a Yorkie better than a Mars? (Yes by the way ๐Ÿ˜† ) These arguments could apply to anything but it’s the style of dialogue, hence the headline of this blog, that condemns the fanboys.

There is no reasoned opinion – hardly ever any concession to the rival and the conversation usually turns to insults pretty quickly.

I have brand loyalty – used to be Sega, now it’s Sony – but I can appreciate what the XBox360 brings to the table. It’s just that what it’s offering doesn’t interest me.

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Halo and Gears of War might be amazing games but I can’t imagine they are too dissimilar to Killzone 2 and Uncharted. Different settings and stories yes but enough to switch consoles? Not for me.

People will point to some of the exclusives XBox have had but for a lot of them it’s a timed exclusive and appears on PS3 further down the line. Take Bioshock for example – great game but worth getting an XBox360 for? Not really, it then appeared on Sony’s console the following year.

Microsoft have taken a headstart with DLC (downloadable content) and GTA IV: Lost And Damned has been a success but does anyone really think this won’t appear on the PS3 at some stage? Of course it will.

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In the same vein us PS3 owners are getting Ghostbusters earlier than the XBox 360 owners. Well whoopie do. Don’t get me wrong I’m looking forward to the game but why not just release it on all formats at the same time? Money is probably the real answer but it makes no difference to me which consoles it comes out on.

At entry level, despite a few hidden costs, XBox360 is cheaper than PS3 and in today’s climate that will sway plenty of people to the console.

We’re really talking about two different products here – the PS3 is built for the longer term and I suspect it’ll be Microsoft’s next console (in 2011?) that may make people think twice about switching to XBox.

When the time comes that I look at the XBox360 release list with an envious eye I’ll seriously think about switching (and maybe if they do a redesign of the pads for the next console – geez they hurt my hands :mad:)

Essentially it’ll come down to first party exclusives – people will have to make the choice based on what games are coming out exclusively (and I mean full exclusive, not timed) on each console.

Or just buy both. And then shut the hell up ๐Ÿ™‚

La Roux Tear Up Koko

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Being a jaded music industry cynic ๐Ÿ˜€ย it’s not often I find myself caught up in the moment – especially at a gig by a new band.

But last night’s brilliant performance by La Roux at Koko gave me goosebumps. Literally.

Now I won’t pretend it was just the band, as awesome as Elly Jackson and her crew were, it was also the crowd reaction.

We’ve all been there – a gig by our favourite artist, they strike up the first notes of a hit record and the place goes wild. Cue goosebumps.

But working in the industry allows me to get the jump on this sometimes and I find myself in that situation with, in the case of La Roux, a band that I’m seeing live for the first time.

When they started ‘In For The Kill’ I thought the roof was gonna come off of Koko. It brings home the effect of music – how a great tune can lift your mood and make the day seem ok.

It’s nice to feel that from a new band. Obviously I’ve been listening to the tracks we’ve had in the office for months so am familiar with them but this isn’t about that as much as it is about feeling that moment – the connection between artist and audience.

As for La Roux, I’ll be interested to see what the full album is like – her voice is astounding and even the tracks I didn’t know sounded good, which bodes well.

La Roux’s debut album is out at the end of June and the latest single ‘Bulletproof’ is out now, so check them out and see what you think.

Going Solo?

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As gaming technology has advanced it’s given us a chance to experience a whole host of features and developments I could only have dreamt of as a child.

One of the biggest has to be the advent of online multi-player, which graced the PC a long while ago but is being realised for most non-PC gamers in the latest generation of consoles.

Firstly one of the things that amazes me about online gaming is that once you are set up it’s free.

My internet costs are the same as a non gamer’s costs… there is no extra fee for the bigger use.

The console itself is internet ready out of the box and no games charge to use the online part of their product.

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More and more game developers are taking advantage of this by focusing their efforts onto the multiplayer part of the game and a lot of people have suggested that eventually single player games will die out and be replaced by games that have a persistent online world.

I’m all for change but I find this idea slightly disconcerting.

Don’t get me wrong I love online gaming – being able to play against your mates when it’s impractical/impossible to meet up is awesome and I have lost days (yes literally, if you tot the combined hours up) to Killzone 2 online.

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But that was after I’d played (and thoroughly enjoyed – see here: Killzone 2 Reviewย ) the solo player campaign mode.

I find now that some of the best stories I’m being told are by games rather than film.

Killzone 2, Bioshock, Assassin’s Creed, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Dead Space are just a few of the stories I’ve thought were excellent over the last 6 months.

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Stuff like Bioshock and Metal Gear just couldn’t be told in an online environment, although I guess that wouldn’t be the aim of online versions of those titles.

I suppose persistant online worlds would lead to you creating your own stories within whatever overarching context was created but I feel I would miss the genuine story-telling.

Sometimes it’s nice not to login to PSN, to just slip a disc in the PS3 and enjoy a story on your own for a few hours.

For me single player modes of games are like reading a book, ultimately it’s something that you do by yourself and is a completely immersive experience.

I suspect it’ll be a long long time (if ever) before single-player games are completely eradicated and for that I’m glad.

Because for all the time I’ve spent enjoying online with friends I’ve spent more investing in some truly great storytelling.