Category Archives: Games

New Valve game trailer

Portal Trailer at YouTube

I was really impressed by the Gravity Gun in Half-Life 2, but this Portal Gun looks like it could be even more fun.

Apologies for the lack of embedded video. I couldn’t seem to get it working properly, and as this was supposed to be a quick lunchtime blog post, I didn’t want to spend hours sorting out the problem.

Recent gaming diversions

I don’t find much time to play games, and rarely finish them, but here’s a list of some gaming related items that have caught my attention in the last 3 months or so:

  • Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion on Xbox 360 – beautiful, deep, but also curiously artificial. Only about 10 hours into it, and I doubt I’ll ever find the time to get much farther. A pity as there’s so much to see
  • Amped 3 on Xbox 360 – Underrated in my view. Huge mountains, loads of missions, bizarre (in a good way) cut scenes, and the controls just feel right. Great to just pick up and play for 1/2 an hour
  • Battlefield 2 on the PC – I still keep coming back to this one. I don’t play it a lot, but I find little can compete with the feeling you get when you’re playing well. I’m rather anti social though… I don’t fly things, and I don’t join squads. I much prefer just being being a lone wolf (probably says something profound about me), and trying to help my side capture or hold bases
  • Outrun 2006 on the PC – I loved Outrun 2 on the Xbox, and was disappointed that Outrun 2006 wasn’t available in any form for the Xbox 360. I waited for the PC version, and despite a few issues (such as stuttering audio with my Audigy 2 card unless I disable DirectSound acceleration), I’m very happy. Wonderful levels and handling, and it looks great on a good PC monitor. Arcade racing perfection – it’s like a child’s fantasy about driving a Ferrari brought to life on your screen
  • Which brings me onto the Xbox 360 Wired Controller. The best joypad ever in my view, and it works in Windows (via USB), with Outrun 2006. Just a pity that the Wireless Controller bundled with the Premium Pack Xbox 360 doesn’t work with Windows, not even through the Plug & Charge (USB) kit
  • My new GP2X is everything I hoped it would be. Perfect emulation of the Sega Megadrive, Atari ST, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, lots of other interesting programs, and expansion via SD card. Need I say more?
  • As well as picking up a GP2X, I recently traded my Nintendo DS in for a DS Lite. I wouldn’t normally have bothered, but there were some great deals available, so once I factored in the bundled copy of New Super Mario Brothers, the upgrade only cost me £34.99. No regrets as the screens are much improved, and the smaller form factor works very well. And I can’t help but notice, that it looks rather like a new Apple Macbook that has been shrunk in the wash

Xbox 360 Impressions

Finally managed to get an Xbox 360 just over a week ago. let me down with my pre-order, but I found one available in the Newcastle branch of Virgin (Premium Pack).

I’ve currently got Perfect Dark Zero, Project Gotham 3, Call of Duty 2, and Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (purchased through Xbox Live Arcade). The 360 is connected via a VGA cable to a Sony HS50 front projector (720p native resolution), and is also connected to the Internet over a 2 megabit ADSL link.

Below is a list of my general impressions, positive and negative:


  • No 1080p or HDMI support. With support for these becoming more available this year, I think this is going to be a mistake in the longterm
  • Poor legacy support: I tried my copy of Forza Motorsport on the 360 – not good. The emulation was quite jerky. And there’s no support at all for the masterpiece that is Outrun 2. They should have done better here
  • Not that impressed with Perfect Dark Zero. It looks nice, but the controls aren’t great, and the level design is confusing
  • Call of Duty 2 looks like it’s running on a high end PC, rather than anything truly next generation
  • Why can’t I schedule downloads in the background? The box has three core processor capable of running 6 threads – why can’t it multitask properly? With large downloads, I don’t want to leave it on for hours on end without the ability to play games in the meantime


  • Despite looking like a high end PC game, Call of Duty 2 is still very impressive on a big screen in high definition. And it’s silky smooth.
  • Project Gotham 3 looks suitably next generation in high definition. It just feels like far more of the environment is actually modeled than previous generation titles
  • Xbox Live works very well with Project Gotham. It’s easy to get into a race, and I haven’t noticed any lag issues. I’ve never had so much fun in a racing game as I have with Project Gotham 3 online
  • Xbox Live Arcade is wonderful. Good games and instant gratification. Demos of everything too. This is definitely the future of games distribution
  • 720p trailers on Xbox Live. More please…
  • Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is the bargain of the decade. Just over £3 for one of the most pure and intense games I’ve ever played. In a dark room, on an HD projector, it’s absolutely stunning. However, much as I enjoy it, I am also useless at it, so my pitiful high score will remain confidential
  • The controller is wonderful. Definitely the best I’ve ever used. Using a PS2 DualShock now feels terrible

In summary, I’m pretty impressed. It’s not perfect, but it does move things on a good way. But to get the best from it, you need a good sized high definition display, the hard disk, a decent broadband connection, and an Xbox Live Gold account.

Alter Ego

I recently read an article about this C64 game from 1986 in Edge Magazine (issue 158). It’s basically a life simulator (a little like “The Sims” I guess), but it was developed by a psychology graduate student, based on research he did with hundreds of people. You play a life though from beginning to end, facing lots of social and moral choices. It’s rather like one of those choose your own story books that were popular twenty years ago, but without the dragons.

There’s now a web based port of this game available, so having found the Edge article intriguing, I played through a game. This took just over an hour, and was a very strange (and slightly unsettling) experience. Not sure I learnt anything profound (except that playing baseball while in old age is a BAD IDEA), but I thoroughly recommend the experience.

Warning: The content of the game isn’t completely work safe, so it’s probably best experienced at home.

Animal Crossing: Wild World

For the last month or so, playing Animal Crossing: Wild World on my Nintendo DS has been a daily activity for me.

I’d heard all about its precedessor on the GameCube, and was suitably intrigued. Basically you live a fairly mundane life, in a small village, surrounded by eccentric animals, who are deeply obsessed with fishing, insects, fossils, and furniture.

That sounds like a terrible idea for a game, but that’s rather missing the point. Animal Crossing is a strange parallel life rather than a game. You play it because surprise and delight are always just around the next corner. Perhaps the best way to illustrate my point is a few examples:

  • The sky takes up the top screen of the DS. You can see clouds glide past and the constellations at night. A few weeks into the game, you suddenly see a meteor. Blink and you miss it. It’s such a surprise that I half wondered if I had really seen it
  • On New Year’s Eve, a large clock appears in front of the town hall counting down till New Year. If you have your DS on at midnight, you get to join in the celebrations and watch a fireworks display. The next morning everyone you see wishes you Happy New Year
  • Animals arrange parties for inconvenient times, and are offended if you don’t turn up. Even more worrying is the fact that you start to feel a little guilty about this

Those are just three examples of the hundreds of clever devices this game uses. If the above description intrigues you even slightly, you should seriously consider buying this game.