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To hardcore or not to hardcore.

Have you ever played Call of Duty 4 online? Then you'll instantly be at home with World at War multiplayer. In fact, its pretty much identical except for the World War Two setting – different maps, Seelow, Makin, Berlin etc and authentic World War Two weapons. You begin life as a bog standard private and must gain four ranks before you unlock the create a class option. Here you can choose to create classes with different weapons and perks; skills that increase your effectiveness on the battlefield, from flak jackets to protect you to making your chosen weapon more dangerous with Deep Impact and Stopping Power and similar perks. Also like Call of Duty 4, the more kills you rack up unlocks weapon challenges which in turn gives you extra experience points and weapon upgrades such as suppressors, sights, bipods etc....as you rank up through the levels, you unlock more weapons and more perks. Like I said, very similar to Modern Warfare.

Are you Experienced...?

Today sees the launch of Microsoft's New Xbox Experience, and having just completed the installation thought I would write a few words about it. Like most updates, you simply follow the on screen instructions when you first sign into Xbox Live; from here it takes approximately three minutes for the installation to be completed. And what a radical overhaul it is. The first aspect you will notice is that you no longer have a small picture attached to your gamertag as you did previously. Now you construct your own animated avatar, in a step that reminds me of the Mii on Nintendo's Wii console. Here you build a small mini version of you. Likewise, all you friends are presented like this, so when you check to see who is online, you will scroll through to see their own personalised animated avatar.
The presentation is also radically different with different themes available; from colour schemes to game themes which includes Halo and PGR and is a big change to the previously bland appearance of the last dashboard. Also the manner in which you navigate the dashboard has been changed to a system that now resembles the moving windows that is seen in the Microsoft Vista operating system with the options now smoother to navigate.
For further information on the New Xbox Experience, clickety click here;

Truly a World at War.....

So I have completed World at War, and despite its rather short length, it was a memorable one. A short, sharp shock to the system and a game that will overload your senses and at the climax of many levels, will make you feel drained. Its a truly intense shooter that never gives you time to relax, and in the rare moments of calm, you will constantly be on edge as to where the enemy will emerge from next. Treyarch have managed to get the combination of action and suspense absolutely spot on; it simply doesn't let up. From the first moment you get your hands on a rifle as Private Miller in the Pacific campaign, to the heart pounding assault on the Reichstag as Private Petrenko, you are plunged into a world where life is cheap and the game play reflects this. There is no room for John Rambo here, running into the open with guns blazing is a sure fire way of contracting a massive dose of lead poisoning; firefights are often drawn out, bloody affairs where patience is rewarded as you drive the enemy back, each square inch of land taken towards your objectives feels like a victory, its a war of attrition, of patience and of seizing the initiative to push the enemy back.

Hyper-Post Colonialism and Far Cry 2

After spending some considerable (and often unnecessarily extended) time driving around the environments of Ubisoft’s Far Cry 2, it becomes apparent that the hybrid genre it champions, that between First Person Shooter and free-roaming Role Playing, reveals something very telling about the new sociological terrain that videogaming is (or rather isn't) heading in.

New Wii Service Policy with Firmware Update

A recent spate of firmware updates trying to stop the Homebrew Channel has finally ended up with a change of the Wii Network Service Privacy Policy. It gives details how your Wii may now download updates without your permission or even without notifying you first.
Old Policy
"To ensure that your Wii Console is operating properly and efficiently, we may download updates, patches, upgrades and similar software to your Wii Console. In addition, we may disable unauthorized or illegal software that has been placed on your Wii Console without notifying you where necessary, in order to comply with applicable laws, assist law enforcement, protect us and our customers, and prevent the use and distribution of software obtained through improper channels."
New Policy
"We may without notifying you, download updates, patches, upgrades and similar software to your Wii Console and may disable unauthorized or illegal software placed on your Wii Console to ensure that your Wii Console is operating properly and efficiently, comply with applicable laws, assist law enforcement, protect us and our customers, or prevent the use and distribution of software obtained through improper channels."
There are also some other changes due to the update, including;
USB keyboard support in the Mii Channel.
Enhanced Parental Controls.
Twilight Hack version 0.1 beta1 can't be copied to the system memory.
Improved SD card read/write speed.
Improved disc reading.

The Masochistic Side of Brain Games.

Over the last few weeks I have been thoroughly hooked on ‘Brain Training' type games. My favourite of which has been the newly released ‘Brain Challenge' on Nintendo Wii. This 1000 point WiiWare title has plenty of give with its five categories of puzzles: Logic, Math, Memory, Visual and Focus, and 43 different mini-games which include;
‘Balance' where different objects are shown on scales and the player must determine which is the heaviest object.
‘Trout Route' where the player must follow a path based on the progressive numerical relationship given (ie. +2, -3, etc.)
‘Travelling' requires the player to memorize a route of arrows.
‘Bouncing Ball' has the player determining which ball bounces highest.
Of course all of these have to be played as quick as possible to receive the highest score. Your score then gets turned into a percentage of brain power, and with the game starting with a quote "They say humans only use 10% of their brains..." don't expect to see huge numbers.

PETA says no to Mama

Animal rights organisation PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has turned its vengeance away from the fashion industry and vast Japanese whaling fleets and honed its ire on the videogame industry. In particular, it's unhappy with that paragon of domestic virtue, Cooking Mama.
In a bid to raise awareness over the conditions in which many farm animals are kept and treated during slaughter, the group has launched its own Flash version of the game, Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals, where Mama's wholesome twinkle-in-the-eye is replaced by a malevolent, icy gleam. Players are first invited to prepare a sad-looking turkey by plucking it, stuffing it and cooking it. To emphasise the plight of the poor birds, each mini-game is followed by facts and videos describing the appalling condition in which livestock is sometimes kept (you can play the game here - http://www.peta.org/cooking-mama/index.asp?c=pcmgb08). It then invites you to contact Majesco, the DS title's North American publisher, to let them know that you'd like to see Mama be a bit more ethical in her sourcing of ingredients and perhaps throw a few vegetarian recipes into her culinary repertoire. "If you take just a minute to think about what happens to the animals who are killed for Mama's meals, a fun cooking game no longer seems quite so innocent," says a statement from PETA.

New Football Manager goes to Goodison

In what can only be seen as another step along the road to the day when even our most treasured hobbies are played out by free-thinking robots, Everton football club has signed a deal with Sports Interactive, creator of the Football Manager series, giving the Toffee Men exclusive access to the latest FM incarnation's database of foreign talent.
David Moyes has gained himself access to the opinions of over 1,000 worldwide scouts who compile the data for the FM games; instantly getting his hands on the vital statistics of more than 370,000 individuals from the world's favourite sport. In the past, Football Manager has predicted the rise of such talents as Wayne Rooney, who began his playing career with Everton, Barcelona wunderkind Lionel Messi, and Aston Villa's Ashley Young.
No doubt Moyes' Premiership rivals are choking on their Ready Brek at the prospect of Goodison Park's youth academy being stuffed to the gills with burgeoning footie talent. Even more so because, claims Sports Interactive, this wasn't the first time it's been approached by a team looking for the inside edge. It won't have harmed Everton's cause any that the founders of SI, brothers Paul and Oliver Collyer, are die-hard Everton fans.
If nothing else, the story sheds light as to how Alex Ferguson got his red nose. All those hours staring at his PC screen looking for the next Cristiano Ronaldo have given his schnozz a healthy glow.

I'm playing all the right notes....

........but not necessarily in the right order.

They often say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but in a market already near dominated with the Guitar Hero and Rock Band game series, it seems that Wii Music, the latest 'big' release from Nintendo, isn't doing itself any favours by imitating its bigger and far more successful cousins. Despite an intensive advertising assault to promote Wii Music, just under 81,000 units had been sold by the end of October, a mere drop in the ocean when compared to the initial figures of both Wii Fit and Wii Sports in their first month of sale.
So what's behind this poor start of sales? Well, for a bit of a chuckle, head to Youtube and see for yourself the E3 video of Wii Music's introduction........the end 'symphony' sounds very much like a cat being neutered with nothing but a rusty cheese grater and a book on DIY cat surgery, its painful to say the least yet highly amusing.

War is hell....

Call of Duty; World at War was released on Friday, and I, like many Call of Duty fans, was eager to get my hands on this much anticipated release. Now, this isn't a review of the game, I'm about 60% through and will write one on completion, but for now I just wanted to get across how the game feels; Treyarch have done an astounding job on capturing the essence of war. and for the first time, I fully believe that the the true confusion and horrors of war have been included in a video game.
Modern Warfare's theme was of a fictional terrorist plot whereas the events portrayed in World at War really played out during the Second World War. As a keen World War Two buff and writer, I find it fascinating and actually find myself stopping during firefights to check the authenticity of the uniforms....