Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I'm not dead

It's funny that pretty much every post I've made for the last few months has started in the same way: with me apologising for not posting more and generally promising to buck up my ideas. I'm not going to bother making that same promise this time around as I will inevitably break it and then come back to renew the vicious circle once again.

I will try harder though - honest.

Since I last put up a post I've been pretty busy in fact that I started writing this particular update on the 2nd November and I've only just got back to it, ha ha!

As ever I'm full of good intentions, and I had planned to do a regular blog to detail my progress through the murky world of Dark Souls. Considering I've had the full 1k for nearly two months now that would seem a bit redundant but I may do a retrospective on it at the end of the year (so not too long to wait). Suffice it to say that the game blew me away - so much so that it is probably my own personal Game of the Year.

However, that is a bit of an unfair label at the moment as there are so many top drawer games that, in typical fashion, I simply haven't had the time to get around to. The problem is that I tend to complete (as in, get all the achievements) every game I play on my tag. So all the terrible games I've been reviewing this year have somehow taken priority over a bunch of amazing releases that have sat gathering dust.

Batman Arkham City, Deus Ex, Skyrim, Dodonpachi Resurrection, Shadows of the Damned, El Shaddai - the list could go on and on. Hopefully I'll find some time over the festive period to sit down and sink my teeth into at least one or two of these bad boys, though as ever I'm still playing catch up to finish off a few outstanding bits and pieces. Namely the latest COD (spec ops stuff) plus a few bits and pieces on Gears 3 (not Seriously though, screw that) and Eternal Sonata.

Whether or not I really get anything done will depend on the other halfs tolerance for my gaming shenanigans, plus the fact it's Christmas and the fact we may be moving in the New Year so the dread prospect of boxing stuff up may rear its ugly head. Yay?

In a week or so I will do a bumper breakdown of how this year has panned out, especially as it's been a very hectic one both professionally and personally. Certainly I've done more gaming related writing this year than ever before, but hopefully I'll be able to transfer a bit of that time and effort back to some personal musings all well. You never know.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Been a while........

Suffice it to say that my recent blogging activity has barely registered as a blip on the heart monitor of life, but hopefully I'll be able to turn things around and become a tad more proactive in future.

Obviously August was a bit of a write off, as I was whisked away to Gamescom by x360a. It was probably the best year yet in terms of the social side of things, as I met up with Mr Webb and Alex once again, plus had the pleasure of meeting Mr Richard Walker as well (the man tasked with doing all of the news and writing on the site on a daily basis - pity and fear him).

Pretty much every night saw us going out to meet up with a variety of other games writers and PR staff, and it was nice to put some faces to names and meet so many awesome people. Enough brown nosing though, as I also had plenty of games to see and previews to write which is why I was a little snowed under upon my return.

Even after shifting the backlog I then had a bunch of reviews to get to grips with, such as the latest incarnation of Madden and NHL, not to mention Dead Island. In fact the scenic zombie slaying title led to a veritable barrage of messages, friend requests and hate mail on live. I've never played a game like it, with so many people wondering how I'd gotten a copy early and saying that I was a hacker and/or retarded. I kid you not. Obviously I invited such naysayers to read my pending review the following Monday when the embargo was up, but this being the internet it was obvious that some people were being dicks just for the sake of it.

I actually enjoyed the game to be honest, and the vast range of review scores does puzzle me somewhat. I can certainly appreciate that the game does have its faults, but when someone scores it a three out of ten then I have to question their sincerity. Reviews are opinions at the end of the day, but surely each writer will have to endure the same strengths and weaknesses of a particular title and draw fairly similar conclusions? Obviously personal preference and some bias may well creep in along the way but, personally I try and play each game on its own merits and discount whether or not I like zombies, or racing games, or banana peeling simulators. My job is to review the game based on its own merits, rather than perceiving slights based on other titles or my own personal feelings at the time. It seems that some reviewers do tend to forget that fact and people are left confused when a game can divide opinion so widely.

Anyway, in between smacking zombies around I've also had time to go back and polish off a few other titles that have been cluttering up the old gamertag. First onto the chopping block was Need for Speed Shift, well the DLC to be more apt. To be honest it took me a few hours to get everything done so it certainly offered value for money, though I would have to say that whoever decided on the lap time targets you need for some of the challenge stars could do with a swift kick to the nether regions. The amount of time and frustration that it took me to beat some of the times, even after recording flawless laps, is exactly why I tend to avoid racing games in the first place.

I also went back and knocked off the zero point achievements I needed for NBA Ballers and Battle for the Pacific, meaning they are now 'officially' complete in the eyes of both my peers and Jesus himself. I also found out there was a Ticker only style Horde event running on Gears 2 to celebrate the impending launch of the trilogy concluding finale. So naturally I suited up and went to town battling wave after wave of exploding manaces (though mildly irritating nuisances may be a better description). I roped in a few chums to help me get through the longer waves, and I also found a way to do some of the maps in autopilot (assuming they had a boomshield), though there were a few that required me to beat up my foes solo for 10, 20 or 30 waves which soon got old. Still I've now done all of the Horde achievements and managed to knock out 1999 rounds to boot - leaving me with just Seriously 2.0 to grind through before I can move onto playing Gears 3.

I'm a a bit of a lull at the moment, just finishing up some older games and playing whatever I choose, but the review season is well and truly upon us and that will mean a bevy of new titles to sift through and write about. Bring on the pain.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Zero points and completion

I have a bunch of games sat around on my tag that, while I have all of the gamerpoints available, still have a few annoying zero point achievements left hanging around.

Now back in the day nobody really cared about those little critters, but the most recent dashboard update has basically meant that a game does not show up as complete unless you have all of the achievements unlocked. This is a pain in the balls if you ask me, and I've never really bothered to go back and tidy things up. This week I decided to sort out the ones that would require minimal effort and leave the ones that would be more of a chore.

On my immediate hit list are the following, along with my expectations for difficulty:

Halo 3 - I have the full 1750 but still need two zero pointers for having 7XP on the 7th of the month (not too taxing) and completing the last level on 4 player co-op in Ghosts. The latter will be a touch trickier mainly due to the issue of finding required players as pretty much everyone I know did this ages ago. I have three peeps at the moment though so I'm hopeful that it can be knocked off in short order.

NBA Ballers - One zero pointer left, simply for losing five online games in a row. I can boost this in no time at all. Easy.

Battle for the Pacific - One achievement for being killed 250 times in online play. I can boost this myself but it will take a bit of time. Plus I'm actually a bit gutted as I was number one on the online leaderboards for ages due to the fact I'd never died, ha ha! Oh well.

Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts - One achievement for grabbing a mystery box. You cna only unlock these by completing the Banjo XBLA game, which I bought in a sale not long ago. So I'll gain 200 points for the arcade title AND finish up this game once and for all.

So that will be four games completed without earning a single point. Must be some kind of record. I also have zero pointers hanging over COD: WAW (for prestige - no chance) and Brothers in Arms (about seven, all for online, and requires at least six people. Bah!). So they will stay that way forever.

To be honest zero pointers do not bother me too much anymore (which seems hypocritical considering my plan to go out and get them) mainly because I have no chance of 100% completion anyway. With a few glitched/hard/closed server games on my tag I will never get much further than 98/99% completion at the very most, so no point stressing the small stuff. That said, I would like to complete as many games as humanly possible and this will go some way towards completing that goal.

In all honesty my main aim was to max out all Halo titles, and the others just kind of fell into line due to the ease of what was required. I'm sure most people aren't as anal about this kind of stuff but for me it is always nice looking on my profile and seeing 200+ completed games.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Finishing things off and heading to Germany

This week I'm making a last ditch effort to get through Call of Juarez: The Cartel for the third time in order to polish it off. To be honest the games seems to get worse each time I play it and some of the errors are bordering on the ridiculous. When the subtitles don't even match what is being said and are often riddled with spelling errors then you have to wonder who the hell put this through QA. As I completed it for the second time yesterday one of my partners glitched into the floor so that only his head was sticking out - I just had to laugh really.

I reviewed the game recently and it is easily the worst FPS game I've played in a long time. It trumps even Duke Nukem and at least that game had the excuse of being stuck in development hell for an age. On the plus side, Juarez is a pretty easy 1k barring the fact you need to complete it with each character. So I should get it done, and out of my house, some time this week.

I also blitzed through Cars 2 over the weekend, which was a fairly fun racing game although some of the A.I was a tad brutal in places for what is ostensibly a kids game. I'm not a massive racing gamer myself, but this was easy to pick up. However, that made the difficulty spike in later races even more perplexing as if you dropped down the field early on then you would struggle to get back to the front. It seems like there was a very specific style of rubberbanding in place - whereby the cars immediately in front of you and behind you would always be on your shoulder. While those a few places behind or in front would continue to fall away/surge ahead. It was rather weird and meant that if you were in fifth, for example, then you could potentially catch fourth and the sixth place car would be right behind you - however, your odds of then catching second or first were pretty much minuscule and they would often finish about 15-20 seconds ahead no matter what you did.

Still it was easy enough to max out and fairly entertaining in parts, so I'd recommend it for kids looking to have a bit of fun with their favourite characters - or anyone looking for an easy 1k of course, ha ha!

I probably will not do much gaming this week other than Juarez, as I'm off to Gamescom soon. I may well putter around on Eternal Sonata or Fairytale Fights seeing as I've started both of them, but other than that I'll probably not bother with anything new.

Gamescom is lining up to be as interesting as ever. There are more of us going this year which means the workload will be spread out a bit more, instead of having 15 previews to write up (As I did last year) I'll have about ten or so instead. It's good in a way as it means less pressure and more time to experience the show floor instead. However, it also means less time with developers and less games to see behind the scenes, which is a bit sad.

Still I'm sure it will be a kickass time once again, and I'm looking forward to seeing some quality titles first hand. As well as having a break from work of course AND getting to do plenty of writing and, hopefully, meet up with some of the journos that were out there last year.

If you are heading out and bump into me then be sure to say hi. I'll probably be wearing some kind of geeky t-shirt and making a tit of myself. Good times.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Job done and moving on

After taking eleven days to master Extreme mode on Lost Planet it only took me a few more to blitz through both Normal and Hard difficulties and find all the respective target marks on each. That snagged me the final, and rarest, achievement Master Pioneer for finding all marks. I'm surprised that a bunch of people have taken the time and effort to finish off Extreme mode but then not bothered with finding the rest of the marks.

Sure it can be a pain in the ass, but the other difficulties are soooo much easier that a player that suffered through extreme mode should find them a breeze. Plus there are a few handy guides to the exact locations of all the marks, which makes your life that much easier. I didn't miss a single one in either of my final run throughs.

Strangely enough this game is nowhere near the top of my completion pile when it comes to time spent, though the skill level was certainly higher than for things like Oblivion or Borderlands. It was certainly an entertaining test of my abilities and I never really got bored of the game, which is a pleasant surprise considering it requires four playthroughs as a minimum.

As my reward (kind of) I have gone back to Call of Jaurez: The Cartel in a bid to finish it off before I head out to Gamescom. I'm also hoping to polish off Cars 2 as well, mainly for review purposes, and even get a little bit further in Eternal Sonata and Fairytale Fights if I have the time. My to do list never seems to shrink but I'm hopeful that I can crack 95% completion by the end of the year.

I'm currently at about 91.50%, which includes all my available DLC. So my main aim is to finish up a few games that I have DLC sat around for (Tomb Raider Legend, COD WaW and Need for Speed Shift are the main culprits) as well as a bunch of easier titles that I started but never finished. After that my next big game will be finishing off either Risen or Supreme Commander as I started both and really should go back to them at some point. I'm also keen to get World Snooker 2007 polished off if I can.

It is certainly a lengthy to do list but one that I'm kind of chipping away at as I go along. Hopefully I'll get it all done and dusted as soon as is humanly possible, but frankly things have a way of cropping up and review titles will need priority and so on.

Oh, and I need to finish off Halo ODST and Gears 2 before the respective new releases land. Though trying to round people up for Firefight and Horde (which is all I have left to do) is a trial in itself.

So many games, so little time.

Monday, August 01, 2011


There it is. The little image that means I finally mastered Lost Planet's rather brutal Extreme difficulty and made it my bitch. To be honest it was a smoother ride than I ever could have expected and I am a bit surprised that more people haven't given it a go.

I'm not saying it was easy by any means, but assuming you have time and patience then it shouldn't be a problem. It also helps to learn the maps and where checkpoints are placed - then to exploit them to your own wicked ends. Did you realise that if you get to a checkpoint and then die, all of the T-ENG containers, VS suits and weapons up to that point will reappear? You do now. Using that little trick is the key to amassing tons of energy and making your life that much easier. If you just blitz through certain areas, hit a checkpoint and then kill yourself you can then back track to the previous area and scour it for useful items and target marks. What is better is the fact that pretty much every enemy vanishes too. Bliss.

Obviously some areas do not let you go back, so you can only use this is key spots but it can often be the difference between life and death. Plus, it makes getting certain taget marks that much easier.

What I would say as well is that you may as well tackle Extreme mode as soon as you unlock it. Some people might look at the fact you need all target marks on each difficulty and say that you should build up to it, but I disagree. It might seem logical to work your way up the difficulties and leave Extreme until last - but by doing so you may well waste some of your own time.

I say this because the difference between Hard and Extreme is massive. Hard mode was a joke in comparison and I breezed through it even faster than I did on Easy, though obviously that will partly be down to my familiarity with the maps. You lose T-ENG at a much slower rate, there are less enemies and they take far fewer bullets to kill off. The three big differences though are the fact that bosses are far easier (less damage given out and more taken), the target marks aren't as well hidden (so less time/energy wasted getting them) and you have access to data posts on each map. These posts give you upwards of 1k in T-ENG when you activate them and are completely absent on Extreme mode. The massive amount of T-ENG you have available on Hard means you can abuse VS suits more often and take way more damge. It took me eleven days, on and off, to clear Extreme mode whereas Hard mode took me two days. That was how big the difference was.

However, I appreciate that Extreme mode is not for everyone. A lot of people struggle on the first boss and give up there, which would be especially galling if you had gone all the way through Easy, Normal and Hard without breaking a sweat (which you won't). So I would recommend Easy first to get the lay of the land and then Extreme with a decent guide to hand if you can - especially for the marks. Then clearing up the other two difficulties will be a walk in the park.

I'm cruising through Normal now, in fact I've done the first four missions in about an hour. Due to how easy it is I can literally just run through and snag the target marks while pretty much ignoring anything else. As long as I snag the odd data post or energy tank then T-ENG is never an issue. It is amazingly satisfying to go back to the menu and start to see levels with every single mark full up, once that pioneer badge pops up I'll be extremely (ha!) happy.

In other news I've been playing Call of Juarez: The Cartel. It is shit. Please don't buy it. Don't even rent it. Hell, don't even look at it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Big mechs and annoying bugs

Still on the Lost Planet trail and things are going pretty well. Mission 8 was my latest challenge and it took me nearly two hours to complete once I'd finally dropped the boss - which is probably the longest of any level so far from start to finish.

The main issue was the fact that it was made up of a bunch of large areas all chock full of nasties trying to do me harm. Luckily there was a constant flow of T-ENG and a helpful checkpoint in one of the bigger rooms that allowed you to clear out the room, hit the checkpoint, and then delibrately die. This would let you respawn with all of the enemies still dead but all the T-ENG tanks and VS machines would respawn. Allowing you to stock up on energy and equipment before moving on.

In fact the trick of hitting checkpoints and then going back to empty areas for energ, weapons and target marks is vital throughout and one that people really should take advantage of in order to make things as painless as possible. It has certainly come in handy on more than a few occasions and is practically a neccesity in order to have the right set up to beat most of the boss fights.

In fact the mission 8 boss was made amazingly simple thanks to using a mech with two sets of homing lasers and leaping around on the higher ledges like some kind of madman. He only hit me once and that was due to me jumping into a wall (I think I got distracted by the pretty colours or something).

Mission 9 is next up and I'm hoping to get it done tonight, then move onto the last two level style challenges over the weekend. Shazam!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The quest goes on....

My drive to finish off Lost Planet is still as fresh as ever, though my progress took a bit of a hit last night. After slogging through the first two sections of Mission 7 and snagging all the target marks along the way I just had to negiotiate the last area and beat up the boss.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite realise that the only VS suit on the last map had an occupant that I really needed to dispose of first. Instead I just went ahead and blew everything up then found myself facing off against the boss on foot, the last checkpoint being just before he showed up. I had a few attempts to beat him this way, but it really was impossible, as most of my weaponry would do minimal damage while he could kill me in one or two hits, with pretty much no way for me to regain lost energy.

I finally threw in the towel and restarted the whole level, meaning I had to find all the marks I'd already gotten and redo the first two areas in their entirety. If anything this just highlights that preparing for the boss on each level is more important than anything else. Second time around I carefully shot the pilot from the last VS suit and made it my own, before I proceeded to pummel the boss in about fifty seconds flat. Job done.

While I will admit that certain sections feel cheap and frustrating on Extreme difficulty (like a giant worm eating you in one move and negating the last twenty minutes you spent building up T-ENG), on the whole I'm enjoying the mix of strategy, planning and skill that each area requires. When this game hits 1k it will be the best completion on my list by a long way. Hopefully I can get it done prior to heading off for Gamescom but time, and two more playthroughs, will tell.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Extreme difficulty and proving a point

I think anyone over a certain level of gamerscore has been on the receiving end of hate, usually revolving around having no life but also occasionally about the very games they play in order to get to said score.

The number of times that someone has said I play nothing but kids games is kind of annoying to be honest. Esepecially as a bunch of kids games can actually take more skill and time than any number of AAA titles that the self same gamers fall over themselves to play.

It is with that issue in mind that I've tried to go back to a few of the hardcore games sat around on my gamertag in a bid to finish them off and add a bit of a layer of respectibility to proceedings. Frankly this is more for my own satisfaction than anything else, as I know for a fact that very few people will have completed games like COD 3, Gears, Rainbow Six Vegas et al which I most certainly have. However, in my seemingly never ending quest to finish off everything I play I am determined to get some big guns finished off.

My first target is Lost Planet, a game that has one of the most notoriously difficult solo campaigns on the 360. Extreme mode may not be quite on a par with DMC4 or Ninja Gaiden 2, or even the crazy ass sequel Lost Planet 2 (which is just redonkulous), but it is most certainly right up there.

Many moons ago I sat down and did all of the online achievements and never even touched the single player side of the game. That was February 2007, which just goes to show that I never really give up on anything. Fast forward over four years and my first job was to run through the game on Easy in a bid to unlock Extreme and get my first tier of target marks out of the way. For those that do not know, there are four difficulty settings (Extreme is locked until you finish the game on any other setting) and each of them has a set of marks hidden on every level. The twist is that they are hidden in different places on each difficulty and can be notoriously hard to spot or reach. Fun times then.

Easy was just that, as you had plenty of weapons and T-ENG to keep you going, plus enemies were pretty easy to deal with and robot suits could be found around every corner to give you an advantage. The use of T-ENG is two fold, as it powers certain weapons and all the VS suits but also tops up your energy bar when you are wounded as well. Run out of T-ENG and you can expect a quick and messy death - hurrah?

Extreme mode is a different kettle of fish, as your T-ENG drops rapidly and there is much less of it to be found. Enemies do a lot of damage and there are more of them, plus you don't have the luxury and safety of VS suits to blast your foes with for the most part. Rapid shooting, careful energy management and finding target marks that are often in ludicrously out of the way places all make for a bit of a nightmare. Plus, some of the boss battles are staggeringly tough if you do not get to the preceeding checkpoint with the correct level of energy and weaponry.

So far I'm six missions in (out of eleven) and in some ways it is living up to its billing. I am still a bit impressed with how smooth my progress has been thus far though, as I've managed to get all of the marks on each level and do away with everything that has been thrown at me. Some of the boss battles came down to a mix of luck and skill, getting the right hit at the right moment and dodging at just the right time. With some fights taking me nearly an hour by themselves this is not for the faint of heart, but assuming you approach it in the right way then it shouldn't be a problem.

Of course, I still need to find all the target marks on Normal and Hard mode after I'm done with Extreme so my quest will not be quite over and done with if I'm to max out the game. Though after surviving Extreme I should be ready for anything and the marks are nowhere near as weirdly placed on the other difficulties. In fact if you really wanted to make Extreme mode easy you could just get a couple of marks on each level as you go, then replay chapters and snag the others - saving you having to make the perfect run to get them all at once. It may take a bit longer but would probably save on frustration, so I'd recommend that if you have the time and patience for multiple Extreme plays.

Suffice it to say that I'll be pretty proud of this bad boy once it gets done and it is certainly a refreshing change from all of the easy movie tie-ins that I've been reviewing recently. Green Lantern, Captain America and the latest Potter have all come and gone, with a bit of fun but relatively short playing times. At thirty hours into my Lost Planet commitment it is hard to say how much longer I'll be at it, but it will be time well spent and I'm thoroughly enjoying the challenge.

For all of you looking for something to stand out on your tag then I heartily recommend it.

My upcoming to do list includes Supreme Commander, World Snooker 2007, Fairytale Fights, Eternal Sonata and Risen. Quick and easy then. Though I may pop back to Lego Star Wars: Complete Saga and Republic Heroes just for a break and some easy points depending on my tolerance levels.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Big robots, funky t-shirts and busy times

This year has kind of snuck up on me a bit - I mean can you really believe that we are all the way into July already? Me either.

It turns out that I've actually been pretty damn busy so far this year and things are only likely to get worse in the near future, as Gamescom is right around the corner and that should lead to a plethora of content for me to wrap my head around. Still I cannot say that I don't enjoy sitting down and writing about games, and if I could find a job doing just that then I'd be all over that like a fat kid on cake. As it is though I'm happy chipping away at reviews and the odd event for and anything else is just a bonus.

In fact it is a bit of a surprise looking at just how many reviews I've knocked out so far this year. When I factor in the pre-Xmas rush then it will probably be my busiest one on record to be honest. Though at least I've managed to go ahead and fully complete most of the games I've stuck on my own tag from a review perspective - only FEAR 3 is still outstanding from recent times, but that is due to the fact I'm waiting for a co-op buddy to go through Insane difficulty with and do the few co-op only challenges I have left. Nothing too taxing, so hurry up and rent it already Rich!

Games like Green Lantern, Transformers and Dungeon Siege have come and gone - the last one looked like a fairly easy 1k but I just couldn't find a posse to do the 4 player stuff with, so I went ahead and just played it on my backup account and traded it in. I really don't want to get any more semi-complete games stuck on my tag if I can at all help it.

I also polished off Alice which I really enjoyed and LA Noire which I was a touch disappointed with. The story was entertaining enough (though the ending was extremely poor) but the actual gameplay was alarmingly repetitive. Plus, you had a wonderfully recreated 40's LA with very little actually going on - as the few side missions and collectibles really added nothing. A shame, but I'm glad I gave it a go considering the hype it received.

Moving forward I'm trying to go back and finish off a few more of my outstanding games with Fairytale Fights the first on my list. The game requires no less than six completions (one for each difficulty in both solo and co-op) so it will be a bit of a drag but at least I can coerce the wife into playing and she seems to be enjoying it so far. After that I may go back to Lego Star Wars and Republic Heroes - mainly due to the fact they are two easy games that shouldn't take too much effort for me to polish off. Hopefully.

I also have Captain America and the latest Potter game incoming this week, hence my reluctance to start anything outright new, so that's two more things to keep me occupied.

With the constant stream of games incoming it is a wonder that I have time for anything else, though I did splurge on some nice t-shirts from insert coin clothing. They do fuinky takes on a variety of games and I would highly recommend that you check them out if you can. They were so good that I ended up ordering four. Maybe I'm just weak......

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Poor showing recently

My blog has been kind of neglected for the last month or so, but that is mainly due to the fact that I've been bogged down with grinding few the same few games over and over again. I figure no one wants to read about that shit, and I certainly do not want to write about it and so here we are.

I have played a bunch of games for review recently which were ok but not great.

Green Lantern is a fairly decent movie tie-in for once, I mean it is hardly ground breaking stuff but I really did kind of enjoy playing through it - unlike Thor recently. I'd recommend it for anyone after a quick 1k as it will only take you about seven or eight hours if you stick with it. Plus, the gameplay is actually not too bad and Ryan Reynolds helps to keep things ticking over.

I also played Hunted: The Demons Forge which is a co-op dungeon crawler/RPG Lite in the diablo mould. It is decent enough, especially with a buddy, but does get kind of repetitive after a while. It is a shame as the characters are actually pretty well realised and really deserved something a bit more engrossing than a fair to middling hack and slash affair.

Both games slot into the 60%+ category as while they have their moments there are also a few flaws to stop them knocking on the door of being a true gaming neccessity. It is something I've spoken about with Webb before, as a lot of sites seem to think that 70% is a 'bad' or average game, whereas surely 50% is an average game and anything above that is above the norm while anything below that is clearly saddled with issues.

It just seems like few places use the whole 1-100 (or 1-10) spectrum in a good way, and most games will end up with a score of 7-10 with very few other scores being used except for on rare occasions. It's weird, but so is writing reviews about entertainment products which are highly subjective in the first place.

Away from reviews I managed to coax my lady into plenty of Lego gaming, so that we have finally finished off Lego Star Wars 3 and Lego Pirates. I only have the Complete Star Wars saga on my to do list now, so I really should get around to it. I also completed Green Lantern (shock) in double quick time and I'm FINALLY closing in on finishing C&C Kane's Wrath with 73/90 of the Kane's Challenge missions done. It will be nice to play the last mission for each faction one after the other and see those achievements pop up let me tell you.

I also recently started boxing up some of my old stuff with a view to moving house and it's impressive just how much gaming crap I have. I managed to discover my old PS2, N64, Xbox and a plethora of games for each of them. My PS1 and PS2 RPG collections are pretty huge to be honest and it upsets me that I was never able to get around to finishing them all off. Maybe when I retire........

Thursday, June 02, 2011

What's been happening?

Well after a good start to the year my blogging has kind of taken a hiatus in the last few weeks. I think the main reason is down to the fact I've done nothing but replay WSC Real 11 in order to finish up the last few achievements that I was screwed out of when my save corrupted. As a result I was pretty busy just plugging away at the same few events I'd already slogged through which is hardly the best way to get those creative writing juices flowing.

Luckily I finally finished the game off at the weekend, though there was one final twist in the tale. I unlocked the last trophy (which was, ironically, for winning ALL trophies) and didn't get the achievement. As you can imagine, my patience by this point was already worn pretty thin so I was not best pleased. My last resort was to try and play through one more event as a few people had reported success with that method. Fortunately it worked a treat and the relief was palpable.

I do find it odd that I will play a game for hours in order to get a review done, without even the slightest hiccup, and once I then go back to finish the game up a bunch of niggles and glitches will rear their ugly heads. It boggles my mind, and I recall this exact scenario popping up with VT09 back in the day too.

I also managed to smash through Morph X at the weekend too. In case you've never heard of the game, and why would you have, it is a pretty awful third person shooter that can be pimped for a full 1k in about a day if you were feeling up for it. Honestly the graphics are poor, the achievements and subtitles have spelling mistakes and the story is terrible - but at least it was something a bit different and got me moving in the right direction again.

I've also been playing some Lego Pirates with the missus as well, which is a lot of fun though I think my devotion to Lego games may be waning. Pirates is one of the best out there but it is still just more of the same really and I still have to go back and finish up Lego Star Wars 3 as well - which I'm not looking forward to at all, as I felt that game was a let down.

I'm actually at the point now where I'm toying with starting something new, but I'm not entirely sure what yet. I think an RPG like Eternal Sonata may well be in the frame, as I'm still hankering after something a bit different at the moment. I also have C&C: Kane's Wrath to finish up and I've decided to do a level on each of the Challenge missions at a time - as each of the nine factions take on the otheres in exactly the same order/maps so I may as well just do the same map for each faction and work my way up. As it will mean I can just find a successful strategy and stick with it. I've done 21/90 missions this way so far, so hopefully I can blitz through it in time. I also have Splinter Cell: Double Agent on the way from Lovefilm too - so I can get all the online stuff done on that bad boy and chalk another game off of my list. Boo yah!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

So what's the target?

I've been chipping away at a few old games recently, with the overall goal of improving my completion percentage as well as clearing the decks of a few games and creating some much needed space.

The thought occured today about what my overall goal would be, as I'd never really stopped to think about it. At the moment I have nearly 92% completion without DLC or nearly 91% with DLC, so fairly close really as I do tend to pick up all available DLC when I can. With that in mind it should be reasonable to expect a figure of at least 95% to be well within reach, as I can think of at least five games off the top of my head that are sat on my tag with less than 150 points unlocked.

In order to get there I will probably have to complete at least another five - ten games on my list and I'm aiming to do just that. Currently I'm still working on WSC 11, C&C 3 Kanes Wrath and Battlefield 2. All of which should see me creep up at least another half a percent. Then I may do some of the easier stuff I have lying around like Fairytale Fights, Lost Planet, Lego Star Wars and the like. These games should give up a bunch of simple points, though will also take plenty of time to complete in their own right as well. Choices, choices.

In positive news I did fianlly manage to hit 500 games played on Battlefield 2, so purely have single player stuff to focus on in future. I've also maxed out the multiplayer in WSC 11 as well, which is annoying really as if my game save hadn't been corrupted I would have the full 1k by now pretty much. Instead I will have to slog through the career a second time to get this done. Same goes for C&C with only the rather tedious Kane's Challenge tasks needing my attention. All of which are major time sinks. Perhaps I need to fall back on something nice and easy to tide me over?

Monday, May 09, 2011

A busy month

It has been another busy month both personally and gaming wise, hence my recent drought of blog posts. Though considering the current dearth of gaming blogs that I regularly follow then it appears that I'm not the only one.

I had actually toyed with the idea of moving my whole blog over to Wordpress as that would give me a more direct web address as well as a more professional layout. The main reasoning behind such a move was my increased interest in the blogs of full time gaming writers and the fact that a well done blog can generate a lot more publicity and interest.

For now though I'm more than happy staying where I am, as the initial phase of moving my work and formatting things just how I want them to be is likely to be a touch time consuming and I really do not have much spare time at the moment.

The main reason is the fact that I'm currently house hunting with my lovely wife, and we have spent the last week tidying our property and boxing up as much stuff as we could do without. You just do not realise how much crap you have around the house until you get around to cleaning and moving it all - honestly the amount of stuff that we have thrown away or donated is ridiculous.

Luckily I managed to keep all of my gaming gear present and correct so I've been able to chip away at a few games in the mean time.

My project of clearing up old games was helped by an event on Phantasy Star Universe that basically meant you can beat the hardest online boss at any level (if you have help). So I managed to get all 250 online points in a few hours, and then spend a few more hours helping a friend do the exact same thing. Nice and easy, and certainly easier than having to grind up to level 90 for the same thing. Yay!

I also went back to Battlefield 2 in a bid to polish off the online aspect of the game. I've managed to snag everything now barring 500 games played. Luckily I can chip away at those in clan matches with two consoles, which take a couple of minutes each as opposed to a full match of 20 minutes a time. At the moment I'm at 345 games played so hopefully I can have it done with by the end of the week. Then I can start with the single player stuff and see how I go.

In other, rage related, news it turns out that WSC 11 has a pretty major glitch. As it turns out that the game will sometimes be unable to find your save - which doesn't seem that bad until you realise that it will render said save unusable in the process. I lost two weeks work in this way and now have to basically start from scratch, backing up my save to a USB stick after every game just in case. To say I was pissed off when this happened is an understatement, as I was only two tournaments away from 100% completion of the single player aspect of the game.

In light of this tragedy the game has gone on the backburner for now, along with Kane's Wrath, as I've had Thor to review. Suffice it to say that the game is pretty poor, and is the perfect example of a bad movie tie in. Still it was a fairly manageable 1k in terms of points so should appeal to people on that basis alone.

I also went ahead and played the first Portal seeing as I'd overlooked it until now. I loved the game though it was far shorter than I'd expected. Still it was worth it for the ending theme alone. Pure genius.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pot as many balls as you can..........

Yes, I've been bashing some balls around......let me rephrase that.

Yes, I've been playing with my cue.......hang on.

Yes, I've had a Snooker title to review, better. To be honest it has been quite a lot of fun as well. It is nice and relaxing to play a game that relies on tactics and patience rather than balls to the wall action for once. Obviously it is not a title that is for everyone but for those with even the slightest interest in snooker or pool then I would heartily recommend it. Hopefully I can put in the time required to finish it off, and then I can go back to Snooker 2007 and finish that as well. Doh!

Still my OCD tendencies aside what else have I been up to? Oh yeah, even more OCD issues. I swear that some kind of medication may well cure me but until that day I will continue to chip away at all of those games that I foolishly threw onto my gamercard at one point or another.

Beautiful Katamari was first up and the main concern there is the need for 100 hours played. I seemd to get to 50 hours pretty quickly and Raptr claims that I've clocked 55 hours played recently (which didn't include all of my previous time spent) so I must be there or thereabouts. Hopefully this weekend will finish it off but it has been nice to dip back into the zany world of the King of all Cosmos. The random one liners, and stupid put downs are just the best of all time.

I also finished up Command and Conquer: Kane's Wrath. Well I finished off the story, and all the skirmish achievements to boot, but now I have to plough through Kane's Challenge with each bloody faction. Which is ten levels times by nine (ever so slightly different) groups. Oh joy. Whoever was the brain child behind that little set of tasks will feel my wrath one day, but for now I'll just plug away at it when I have a chance.

In fact the only thing I have managed to finish was The Club which proved to be fairly straightforward if truth be told. It was nice to get rid of one of the games I've had sat around for so long, and I may well have to dig out some other simple stuff and get them out of the door too.

In other news I think that I will try to aim for 250k before Gamescom (assuming I end up going this year) as that would be a nice little milestone to get done. Right about now 300k is looking like it is a long way off, but to be honest I don't have too many designs on rushing to meet it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Doing fine......

It has been a fairly busy period on the review front recently, with my latest offering (Tiger Woods) now up on x360a in all of its glory. This has eaten into my own gaming time a bit but at least lets me play a few games now and then where achievements aren't really an issue.

I've also been chipping away at The Club in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. Ha ha, basically any time I had available has been put towards the 10,001 online kills needed. Thankfully I managed to do the majority of the grunt work with a turbo pad and a second console. So my actual personal involvement was fairly minimal. The real surprise was just how short the single player aspect of the game was. I've completed 7/8 of the tournaments on Insane difficulty already and will hopefully polish off the last one tonight. My only task then will be to go back through the game on Casual in a bid to find all of the skull shots. If I'd known the game was going to be this easy to 1k then I would have started it sooner.

On the topic of ridiculous kill achievements I started to wonder just how many games achievement DEMANDED that I off a certain number of people in wierd and wonderful ways. Obviously The Club and Gears wanted me to butcher fellow players online, but there are also all of those games that demand X kills with a certain weapon. On that tangent how about sacrificing five people in Fable 2? Killing 53k worth of zombies in Dead Rising? Pulling the arms from your enemies in Lego?

Heck if I add them all together it would probably be computer game genocide of the highest order, and the temptation is there for me to sit down and do just that. Fun times or perhaps a sign that I have too much time on my hands one day?

I've also dredged up a couple of other older titles to compliment my quest to finish off the latest Lego game. My lovely wife has finally said that I can polish off Beautiful Katamari and a few hours of work saw me unlock the 50 hours played achievement. Unfortunately I will need to double that for one more achievement and polish off 200 requests for the other - nothing too taxing but a bit time intensive.

I also made a start on Command and Conquer 3: Kane;s Wrath. This is another of those games I dabbled with a couple of years ago and never went back to but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to stick with it and finish it off this time around.

All in all, it has been a fairly productive week and finishing up a mix of old and new titles is exactly what the doctor ordered and should see make making some kind of progress towards clearing out a bunch of my titles.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Game, Set and Match

It has been a good week for polishing off tennis titles, as not only did I finally get to Grade 15 online in Top Spin 4 (and finish up the few offline things I still had knocking about) but I also found the time to polish off Virtua Tennis 09 too.

Considering the fact that I was expecting to be playing VT09 for another five weeks this is a starling turn of events and came thanks to an anonymous tip from a guy who had been looking to boost but then found a faster way. Apparently every player you create on the game can access a new set of online tour matches, meaning that you can just keep creating new players winning 16 matches and so on. So you can snag the full 150 tour wins in a day or so, especially as the second player can just forfeit. WHY DIDN'T I KNOW THIS SOONER?

Still it meant a rapid conclusion to a game that has been ongoing for months, and I can finally play something else, ha ha!

So after getting tired of whacking balls about, I have moved onto The Club again. I'd briefly dabbled with the online but made an effort this week to get all of the online stuff done (barring the 10k worth of kills naturally). I figured that I can then spend an hour a day chipping away at the massive target of kills that I need in order to get it done ASAP. My only real concern is that the servers may be shut down which is what happened to the PS3 version, so I really need to get cracking. I have close to 600 kills at the moment so there is still a long ass way to go.

In other news I have reviewed both Lego Star Wars III and WWE All Stars. Both games disappointed me for different reasons to be honest. Lego was more of the same but the split screen mode was pretty broken and the story was appalling and severely lacking in direction - plus the game just seems to end, with no real conclusion.

WWE was a lot more fun but it has a very steep learning curve for a game that is meant to be a quick bit of entertainment. Mastering the controls is an art form in itself and for such a shallow game it hardly seemed worth it. I did love the Fantasy match ups and using all of the amazing old school characters but on the whole I cannot help but feel shortchanged.

Still, not every game can be an instant classic and I'm sure both will have their fans. For me though I'm still waiting for a game to truly blow my mind this year, whereas at the same stage last year I'd already had things like Darksiders, Bayonetta and Bioshock 2 to entertain me. Hopefully business will pick up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lazy time

I've been pretty slack on the blogging front recently, which is unusual as there has been a number of occasions when I have felt like writing about something but have never really gotten around to it. I even fired up my blog more than once with the intention to get some words down but sheer slackness prevented me.

So I suppose there is some catching up to be done.

I did manage to finish off Gray Matter, though I had to revert to an earlier save in order to get the last achievement (for 1,000 conversations) but it only took another hour or so so was no big deal in the grand scheme of things. My assessment of the game remains the same, as it is a cracking old school adventure title though one that is a bit lacking graphically and will probably last less than ten hours with very little replay value. Still well worth a play though.

I also managed to blitz through Pacman CE DX in double quick time. I really love the Pacman games and I've finished off every version available on XBLA to date. There is something about the CE versions of the game that really appeal to me, as the crazy high scores, shifting levels and tight time limits all combine to make a truly entertaining experience. Sadly the games are pretty brief in terms of achievements and points, which is a shame as with the amount of games I play I never really have a chance to go back to things like this.

In the same arcade style vein, I also polished off Plants vs Zombies which I totally loved. My better half actually cajoled me into playing it and I'm glad she did. It is a quality tower defense game, of sorts, and is pretty intense and funny to boot. The story mode pretty much just teaches you the basics of all of the plants and level types, then you can take that knowledge into the Puzzle and Survival modes. I actually found myself completing all of the little trophies in the games (for no achievement - which is a first for me) just for the hell of it. The ultimate accolade is doing well in Endless Survival and I managed to hang on for 70 waves, though I then got a little borde so went and dismatled my defences so I could go to bed. My score still shames everyone on my friends list, but I could have probably gone on further if I had the stamina - ah well.

In non-achievement news, I also went back to Geometry Wars for a dabble. I didn't manage to survive 1 million points - mainly because I suck. But I did manage to best two of my friends scores which was satisfying on its own. To date that is probably still one of my favourite arcade games, which is good going considering how old it is now.

In other gaming news I've been lured back into the sordid world of tennis. After coming so close to finishing off Virtua Tennis 09 (barring a few weeks of tournaments) it seems painful to have another tennis game come along so soon. Thankfully Top Spin 4 is a different animal and is much more tactical and realistically paced. I'm enjoying it thus far though I never knew that Tennis would lead to vast amounts of trash talk - the number of people who gloat when they beat me online, or moan if the opposite happens, is staggering. I fail to see why people take online matches so personally - if you beat me, well done, and I would expect the same response if the reverse was true. Instead people bitch and moan instead of just moving on and having fun. Hopefully I'll be able to finish the game up fairly soon and then be able to avoid the horror of online competitiveness.

Oh yeah, I also started up The Club but got interrupted by my tennis review duties so only managed to unlock a few online achievements before having to put it on the back burner.I'll get back into it soon enough no doubt. Well, there is some doubt, but not much.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Puzzling, culling and completing

The review business if finally picking up again. I spent the weekend playing through Gray Matter, a point and click game without that self same interface. In fact the fiddly controls were the major let down for me as the rest of the game was pretty fun - the graphics were not stellar, but the storytelling and plot were superb which is what really matters in old school adventure games like this.

It made me think of my old favourites like Monkey Island, Beneath a Steel Sky and Grim Fandango, and the fact that we just do not see as many games of that particular ilk anymore. Hopefully that will change but I'm not too hopeful. Though at least Gray Matter was something new to experience and hopefully it will do well enough to spawn a sequel, as the writing was genuinely compelling with some superb characters and voicework.

Yay, for somthing new and fresh to occupy my mind. It's nice to get away from the same old shooters now and then, rather than just going through the same motions in a game that looks amazingly like something else. If only more developers took a chance on games like Gray Matter then perhaps people would have a more varied choice of interesting titles.

In other news I have finally started to cull my ludicrously large collection of Xbox 360 games and probably not before time.

Obviously I have played a lot of games over the years, more than a few for gamerscore alone no doubt, and for every game I've actually played there have been two or three others that have been bought and shoved onto a shelf. The other day I actually sat down and browsed through my collection - pulling out a bunch of games still in the plastic wrap (15-20 at least) which is just embarrasing.

While I always believe that I will go back and play games given the time, the reality is that it is pretty unlikely to happen no matter what. Faced with that I decided to trade in a bunch of games that I've never even touched.

Virtua Tennis 3 (after slogging through 09 this is the last thing I want to play), Call of Juarez, Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa and Brothers in Arms (which I have completed, but kept in case I ever went for the 0 point achievements - I won't, so it goes) were the games in question, I also traded in de Blob 2 in as I had finished off the full 1k, but they are really just the tip of the iceberg. I actually brought VT 3 back with me as it was only worth £1, and if I trade it against a new game I will be guaranteed £5 so it was worth keeping back for that purpose alone.

I think my shelves will get another visit soon, as I really need to be brutal with some of the stuff I have sat on there. The only games that are safe are Collector's Editions and Steelbook stuff - which would explain why I still have Endwar and Far Cry 2. Considering I can think of another 5-6 games right now that I'd like to be shut of then it will not take me long to make my collection manageable again.

Though I do admit to feeling slightly bad about getting rid of things like Mirrors Edge, GTA 4 et al without ever even trying them out - but will I? Honestly? I doubt it, so better to get rid of them now than later.

On the plus side I have polished off de Blob 2 and Gray Matter in the same week so at least I'm making some progress on newer games this year. Virtua Tennis 09 is pretty much done with as well with only Tournament wins in my way now, as of this morning I'm at 64/150 which is some kind of progress at least. I've also gotten close to completing Plants vs Zombies and I'm working my way through the shorter Survival modes in order to unlock the Endless version for the last achievement.

This week I'll be firing up Two Worlds 2 at long last, plus in the mornings I will try out the new Pacman CE Dx edition which I've been looking forward to as well as playing some of the online stuff for The Club. Bring on the pain.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I now hate tennis......

Well maybe not, but we all love a dramatic headline that can then be examined and prodded like some kind of lab rat in the ensuing blurb. Well, that's my story anyway - and I'm sticking with it.

After a couple of weeks on toil I finally have my 250 Ranked wins in Virtua Tennis 09. To be honest the whole process veered between the simple and the frustrating, often in the space of a few minutes. The online community for the game is pretty much dead and the only people I seemed to find online were from France, Belgium and Spain (maybe tennis is more popular on the continent?) with the occasional newcomer from elsewhere.

In fact my second account has a Recently Played list that is pretty much all of the VT09 regulars at this point in time. Which made it easy for me to check when people were online or already in a match.

The best approach, in my opinion, was to play the game as early as possible. As I could rack up 30 wins in the hour before I went to work if I was lucky (7.30am - 8.30am GMT). The real issue was the fact that just ONE other person could wreck my efforts and some of these people were sneaky bastards with amazing levels of patience to boot. One guy literally sat searching for a game for 30 minutes - he would then go away and play one mini-game before coming back to do the same thing. I got around him by setting my status to Appear Offline though - which goes to show that he must have been looking at my profile to see if I was still online.

Still I got everything done and dusted this morning. So now I can just do Player matches at my leisure, and then play the game once a week for my Tournament wins - which means another seven weeks to go.

I've also been chipping away at de Blob 2, which is still pretty fun for the most part though after doing ten of the twelve levels the novelty has kind of worn off. Still I should complete it in the next few days, all going well, and that will be one more thing off my to do list.

Next up is The Club and another 10k worth of online kills - though at least I can do it solo which should ease the burden somewhat.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Games night and other tall tales

Every month or so, I invite a bunch of chums over to my house so that we can indulge in some gaming. Obviously everyone can get their kicks out of beating up/shooting others via Xbox Live, but there is nothing quite as satisfying as getting one over on close friends.

Basically I hook up my two Xbox consoles, set up the TV's and then we play Halo and Gears until the sun goes down. This time around there were seven of us and we pretty much played Halo from about 7pm until 2am. Good times. Most of the games were pretty close and there is always a good level of banter and ridiculousness. Not to mention enough cool moments to fill a highlight reel for life. Not to mention some dark times too - like when my idiot teammate managed to kill off one of our own team and then himself in the last second of a match, turning a victory into a draw. Nice.

We also order copious amounts of pizza, eat dubious nachos and drink far too many fizzy beverages than is good for us. Surprising then that pretty much every attendee is either married or engaged to be, which just goes to show that having a social life and having a gaming life do not have to be seperate entities.

I also managed to play some Horde with some of the early arrivals, finishing off the Blood on the Snad achievement in the process, and pimp the whole of Harm's Way on the Arcade. A fun night on the whole, plus the joy of pizza and a few achievements. What could be better?

After that I just kind of cruised through the rest of the weekend. I managed to finish off all of the single player tasks on Virtua Tennis 2009, though the last few minigames were a nightmare to max out, so now I just need four more Gold medals to get the full 1k. All of them are online tasks and two of them are tied to online tournaments specifically. Hopefully I will have the Ranked and Player matches done with by the end of this week - which will leave me needing 102 more Online tournaments wins to get that elusive completion. With a max of 16 tournaments a week, that means another seven weeks of toil (though the actual playing of the events only takes an hour). So roll on the end of April!

I also went back to de Blob 2 in a bid to continue my quest for collectibles. The game has far too many of them to be honest, and with no real way to save the game it can become a real chore if you die - I ended up having to redo a bunch of challenges three times due to constant deaths at one point which was hardly fun times. Despite that, I have fully completed eight of the twelve levels at this point so hopefully the end is in sight.

After that I will be turning my attention to Gray Matter and Two Worlds 2 - hopefully they can prove to be an interesting diversion, and a nice stream of points too of course.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Painting by numbers and hidden MP

My current review project is de Blob 2 - a sequel to a Wii game in case you didn't know. To be honest I was expecting the usual kiddy style shovelware and an easy 1k worth of achievement points. However, the game is actually pretty fun and I've already put 10 hours into the game and still have a bunch of stuff to do, so this is not a game for the quick completion pile.

The idea is that evil Comrade Black wants the world to be as drabbly black and white as he is, so sets about making that dream a reality. It is up to our paint charged hero to then restore the natural hues of the fair city and stamp out this monochrome menace once and for all.

In terms of how it plays then we are firmly in platformer territory here, with a side order of painting and decorating thrown in. Blob uses his powers to clean up the town, defeat foes and solve various puzzles along the way. It is a pretty nice change of pace from my usual fare and I'm really getting into it, though the collectibles and challenges on each level are becoming a major grind. Still I recommend people check it out and hopefully my review will be up shortly.

Next up will be Grey Matter, an old school point and click game which I'm quite looking forward to. It has been a while since I sunk my teeth into something new from that particular genre so I'll be taking my time and exploring every nook and cranny. The key for me will be the dialogue though, as such exposition heavy games need a great plot to drive them along.

In the mean time I'm still working away at Virtua Tennis 09. I'm pretty much done in terms of everything barring gold medals, as the only solo achievements I need are 3 Strikes in a row on the bowling mini game and to beat King (and unlock him). I should have those wrapped up at the end of my current solo season so I have downed tools on that for the moment. Instead I've focused all of my efforts on the online aspects of the game.

It does actually annoy me (considerably) that the devs saw fit to put two easy online achievements in the mix (simply PLAY 10 Player mataches and 10 Ranked matches - not even win) and then hid the real graft behind one achievement worth 25g. You could probably get to 975 points in less than 30 hours if you were so inclined, but then you are looking at 80+ hours for the last achievement. Madness.

Anyway, I've currently done about 50 Player match wins, out of 250, which is the easiest to do as I can invite a friend, and just play 1 game, 1 set.

Then I have 121 Ranked wins (again out of 250) which is more of a pain as there are still a few commited players and the lag in legit matches is horrendous. I tried playing a few people and more often than not I would hit the ball, it would show as going past the player on my screen and then the ball would suddenly reappear halfway across the net on my side of the court - point lost. What the hell?

Instead I set up matches with my second account, usually as early in the morning as I can to avoid other people, and then crank out as many wins as I can manage before getting interrupted. Considering I only started on Saturday then my progress is pretty good. I hope to have the required amount by the same time next week.

The real grind, in terms of time not difficulty, are the Online Tournament wins. As I can currently only manage 16 a week maximum assuming I play all of the two player events and no one else hops in, then the events get reset on a Sunday night. I managed to grab all 16 wins last Thursday and a further 16 on Monday. So I'm sat at 32 out of 150 needed. Meaning another eight weeks work at the very least. Damn it all to hell.

To say I will be super happy when I get to 1k is an understatement, plus I know for a fact this is a game that very few others have completed too. Double awesome. Hopefully, I'll have everything bar the Online Tournaments done by next week and then I can pretty much put it to bed except for sporadic play.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A community mourns

I think everyone that follows me will be au fait enough with gamerscore to know that MGC shut down for good last week.

I'm not going to lie and say that I used the site very often or that it held some special place in my heart, but I will remember it fondly for a number of reasons. It was one of the few sites that I would visit sporadically and I would often check my position on the global and UK leaderboards, plus the genre leaderboards were amazingly compelling though I never could commit to one type of game to mount any kind of serious challenge on any of them.

The real issue is just how such a huge site could possibly fail? Obviously people will point to the 5 million gamertags and say that should have generated enough money to keep things afloat. However, they would be missing the point. Not many of those people even visited the site - as friends could sign each other up, plus the only money was generated was via the forums as MS said that the site could not profit from the gamercards themselves.

Obviously rival sites would crop up too and that seems to be what rankled the most for Morgon (the sites founder). He had approached MS about being given access to the achievement feed, in the hopes of using the extra data to provide extra stats and information. He was turned down flat. I know a similar request has also been made on numerous occasions by x360a, with similar results. Other sites like Raptr and TA instead just went ahead and took the data directly from, via HTML scrapes, without even bothering to ask for permission. As a result they could offer information and stats that other sites did not have access to - and as a result traffic from MGC gradually slipped away.

I even saw more than a few posts on TA along the lines of "Who cares - this site is better anyway." Well of course it is seeing as you had an unfair advantage in terms of data whereas a site that played by the rules had to close it's doors. One person even posted up a message from Major Nelson that said, categorically, that scraping was highly disapproved of.

And yet here we are.

Now do not take this as an attack on scraping sites, or TA in general, as they do what they do to get traffic and provide an interesting source of stats and information. Heck - I'm a member of both sites though my use is sporadic. However, the truth of the matter is that their activities are not in any way endorsed by MS and as such things need to be changed.

The real issue here is MS themselves and the fact that they seem to refuse to make a formal decision on what is or isn't allowed. Some sites see the XCDL (community dev. licence) as carte blanche to do what they like, while other sites try to go through the right channels and get turned away. So MS have to sit down and either allow all sites the same access or none of them - as just turning a blind eye to such activities is really not doing anyone any favours, and I include Raptr and TA in that assessment.

Obviously a ton of page views from unmanned scanners, such as those sites use, will inevitably slow down. At the moment the numbers are probably not enough to be too much of a concern (TA has 120k members compared to the 5 million of MGC) so leaving the sites well enough alone is in the best interests of MS, as that leaves a couple more community driven sites that are generating interest in Xbox and all of its related products at zero cost to MS. Win, win.

Now what would happen if TA and Raptr suddenly had 1 million members (specifically with an Xbox 360 in the case of Raptr - as they are already over that mark thanks to the fact they cover PC, PS3, Xbox and even Flash games)? Or 3 million? Or more? That would be an awful lot of data requests on an hourly basis, which in turn would probably slow to a crawl. In that scenario do you think that MS would then act? Of course they would, the access for scraping sites would be blocked and all of a sudden two more thriving communities would be down the pan.

If MS do not want sites to access certain data then why don't they just come out and say so, rather than letting some sites get away with working outside the rules to the detriment of others? All of this could be avoided with the kind of community support that the XCDL was meant to provide, instead the current members some to be overlooked and ignored when it comes to new ideas and input. The data feed is currently woefully inadequate and unless it is bolstered and independent sites are given a lot more support then this cycle will repeat itself.

In the end MGC was a victim of its own success and other sites could inevitably follow suit which would be a sad state of affairs.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

When old games attack

Since I've started delving into my back catalogue for games to finish off I seem to have become more and more energised by what to play next. I never thought it would happen but I actually WANT to play Battlefield 2, Fairytale Fights and Project Sylpheed. At this point I cannot see a game on my tag that I'm not considering going back to, heck I even thought about playing Spiderman 3 this morning - SPIDERMAN 3!!!!

I'm planning on popping to the shops at some point in a bid to get a second copy of Virtua Tennis 09, as I managed to win my first 16 online tournaments today but will now have to wait a week before they are available again. It doesn't make sense for me to keep hold of a rental game for that long so I'd rather pick up a cheap pre-owned copy to tide me over.

I'm a bit torn after that, as I really want to go back to Battlefield 2 and finish up the MP stuff that I have missing (which is mainly playing 500 games). If I could do that then I could wrap up the solo stuff anytime I wanted to, plus it might give me the inspiration to do just that.

Other titles that are tickling my fancy right now include Fairytale Fights and Project Sylpheed. One of which will probably be my next main game after I'm done with VT09. To be honest it has been nice to play games at my own pace as well as making some strides towards finishing up some titles that I'd left hanging for far too long.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We have a winner........

The random finger of fate has chosen Virtua Tennis 09 as my next online project, which is funny really as I already have the online achievements for the game by playing legit. The issue is the rather ridiculous Gold Medal achievement which requires you to undertake a series of challengees that are all tied together for a paltry 25 points.

Tasks like 1,000 slice points won, Five Davis Cup trophies or making 25 friends on tour will all be fairly straightforward. However, amassing 250 Online Player wins, 250 Ranked wins and 150 Online Tour wins will not. So it will be a major grind that will only go towards an achievement. Yay?

The Player and Ranked wins can be done at any point, but I can only do a max of 16 Online Tour wins a week as once you have won an event you have to wait to take part again. Boo! So it will take me a minimum of ten weeks to get the number of wins I need. To be honest I may need to look at getting a second copy of the game permanently rather then renting it, as I really do not want a rental copy sat around for that long.

After that I can move onto my next partial completion, which at the moment is looking like being Project Sylpheed. Seeing as it is stuck at 60/1000 so far then I have plenty to do.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The fickle finger of fate

I was offered the chance to take part in some boosting for The Club over the weekend, but had to turn it down so I could spend some time with the wife. Plus, I'd only just finished grinding through Front Mission online so was not really in the mood to leap stright back into grinding something else as well.

However, I may well end up playing The Club this week anyway as the only two games on my Lovefilm rental list at this moment in time are that and Virtua Tennis 09. Both of them will give me a second copy of the game and enable me to boost the relevant tasks. If I get VT09 then I will grind out all of the online wins that I need and if I get The Club then I will get started with all of the easy stuff and then make my way up to 10k in my own time.

To be honest I would much rather do the game in a dedicated boosting party rather than solo, but that way means I have to be ready to play at set times - whereas if I go it solo then I can just do an hour here and there. We shall see if it pans out, though my choice is entirely in the lap of the Lovefilm gods.

I was also expecting to have a couple of review titles to deal with but it seems that Two Worlds 2 has been delayed yet again in the UK. Plus, the other game that was meant to arrive straight from the publisher hasn't turned up either. Sad face.

Last night did see me finish up all of the Keflings tasks except for having ten banner towers - still two short of that target, and I even resorted to hopping into random MP games and then messaging them to see if they would help out. I got no joy doing that at all, curses!

So let's roll the dice and see if it comes up VT09 or The Club. Exciting.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Helper monkeys

I finally managed to track down that last pesky sensor - thank you Jesus (assuming Jesus is a twenty foot tall mech with a sniper rifle and missile launchers).

With that nightmare FINALLY put to bed I have gone back into the soothing world of Virtua Tennis 09. I actually enjoy tennis games quite a lot, and I always seem to have one in my collection no matter which console I've had down the years. VT09 is a pretty decent game and one I had left in limbo for some time, mainly due to a number of achievement glitches that apparently had a chance of rearing their ugly heads at certain points.

At least now there is a patch so it should be smooth sailing, though apparently one achievement will only unlock if you remove the patch and play offline. Try and make sense of that if you can - an achievement that is messed up by a patch to fix other achievements? Nice.

Still I have managed to soar up from 150 in the rankings to being on the verge of the top 50. It is a bit of a grind in places as you can only enter certain tournaments until you are ranked highly enough - so I have already had to play a season and a half on the Pro tour just to get this far, and that is after winning every event I have entered too.

Assuming I get all of the single player stuff done then I have an almighty grind to get the required number of online wins that would net me the relevant Gold medals. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

In other news I made a start on A Kingdom for Keflings, which is a cute strategy game that sees you helping your diminutive subjects to build a nice place to live. It should be a fairly easy 200 points but my efforts hinge on the assistance of other people, as I need random strangers to join my game and build their unique banner tower. I managed to get eight helpers (out of ten needed) over the weekend but only four of those were from my friends list - come on chums, help a Kefling kicker out!!!

Friday, February 18, 2011


So this morning I sat down to try and finish off Front Mission Evolved before work. I had about forty minutes of free time and two levels to scour for the pesky buggers.

I managed to blitz through the first mission without too much trouble, I did miss one Sensor but it turned out to be the very first one on the list that I hadn't looked for closely enough. Then I hopped into the last level and all was going swimmingly, some of the little buggers were annoyingly out of the way but as I closed in on the end of the mission I was perfectly in tune with the list I was going by.

Until I got to the last one and found myself with 19/20. Arrrrrrgh! The real frustration here is the fact that I picked off a bunch of sensors when I was completing the game and never really paid attention to where they were (plus it was last year) so now I have to trawl through the level, step by step, in a vain hope of finidng the very last sensor in the whole game. I truly hope that it is somewhere obvious as I'm starting to grow tired of stomping around in mechs - which I never thought could happen in a million years. COS MECHS ARE AWESOME!!!!

Hopefully I will find that pesky little critter at some point this evening and then I can move onto something a bit different.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oh the irony.........

I wrote a blog post not too long ago about collectibles in games and how they can soon come to be amazingly tiresome if not implemented properly. Well it seems like the gaming Gods took offense at my harsh words and saw fit to smite me in the form of Front Mission Evolved.

This game has 20 Sensors hidden on each level which you have to shoot, plus a further three Emblems per level that need picking up. The real ball ache is the fact that the sensors are pretty damn small and are hidden in some ridiculous places - a bunch of them are actually off the playing area and can only be seen/shot if you use a gun with a zoom feature. Yay!

Normally in such a situation you would just leap onto the interwebz and find a really good guide, perhaps with videos, to help you along. However, the game is pretty much a non-entitty in terms of sales and the guides available are not great. Someone did do a bunch of videos for some of the sensors, but they stopped after about five levels (dammit) so I'm following a written guide on PS3T, which is pretty helpful but also has a few flaws and ambiguous descriptions. As a result it is taking me about an hour to scour each level for every item and, when you consider that I could probably complete some of those levels in about ten minutes, then it soon becomes a real ballache.

I even went and had a look at the Prima strategy guide and it is absolutely APPALLING for the sensor locations. They are not even numbered in the order you encounter then, so for one map number 20 on their list is actually right at the start of the level - meaning you will miss it if you progress too far. Who the hell thought that would be an acceptable layout is beyond me.

To be honest I've seen a lot of shoddy strategy guides for various games and I often wonder how those things get made, if they aren't going to include even the most basic information then what good are they?

Still after a lot of trial and error I have got through the first three acts with everything found. So now I have six more levels to endure before I finally have the full 1k.

After that I will be at a bit of a loose end. I really want to round up a posse to challenge the Firefight missions on Halo ODST, but other than that I'm not sure what I want to play at the moment. A couple of ideas have come to mind, mainly because I have a month of Live on my backup account now, so that I have all of the online stuff done in a couple of games.

My first choice would be Virtua Tennis 09, as this is a game I've already started and would dearly love to finish off. The main problem is that I need 650 online wins (no really) in order to get the relevant Gold medals - yes, 650 wins would only HELP me towards one achievement. It wouldn't get me any points in and of itself.

My other thought was The Club, as there have been rumours of the servers being shut down so if I want to get it done then I have to start fairly soon. I could probably knock out most of the online tasks in a day or so, leaving me with a gring to 10,001 worth of kills. Considering the fact I'll be doing it on my own then it shouldn't be too rough, but at the same time I really don't want to be stuck with another incomplete game.

Choices, choices.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What next?

I finally finished off FFXIII for the full 1k over the weekend. It clocked in at about 96 hours give or take - which may well be a few hours short as I remember reloading a few sections without saving when I was farming for gil and items.

Overall I enjoyed the game for what it was, but it really did not feel like a traditional FF game to me. It also annoyed me that all of the sidequests were little more than a series of battles against enemies that you had long since grown tired of. Even the final mark mission was not as tough as I had hoped, and my party made short work of the opposition to net me most of the points I was missing.

The lure of RPG games to me has always been the story and levelling up elements, but in this case it was only the levelling up that really kept me hooked. As once you hit post game then the story is non-existant and you are pretty much tasked with running around various areas to beat up on the Mark mission targets and grind enough money/components in order to acquire every accessory and weapon. Hardly the stuff of RPG legend.

The most positive legacy from the game is that I really want to delve into another JRPG fairly soon, although I do still have to go back to Fallout: NV at some point too. The most likely candidate at the moment is Eternal Sonata, as that game has been on my shelf for an age now (I bought it day one) so could do with some love. Plus, the fact it is meant to be gorgeous to look at and fun to play is no hardship either.

In other news I spent a fun 10 hours over the course of a few days playing through the online portion of Front Mission Evolved. You do need four players to start a game, but luckily Mechahertz and I had two consoles each and two copies of the game each too. So that cut down on the time required dramatically. With the ultimate goal being to get to rank 70 we settled into grinding out the kills in order to rack up the 179k worth of XP needed.

People often say that boosting is a form of cheating and disrupts geniune players, but I can honestly say that we barely ran into ANYONE as we played Front Mission. The online is truly dead and out of all the games we played, we probably only saw another four or five people online in total. To be honest I played the game online legit when it first launched and it was just as bad back then. I know that EA have come out and said publicly that online gaming is the future for ALL games, but I really do not think this is the case. There are some titles that will never thrive online and developers need to start realising that.

After that was done, well nearly I still have a bunch of collectibles to find throughout single player, I then moved back to Harry Potter. Seeing as it is a rental (and my wife wants to get Zumba for Kinect next, ugh) then I figured I should finish it off. I managed to blitz through my second playthrough in just a few hours and find the last set of items that I had missed first time around. I now only have my Easy difficulty completion to do and that will be another completion onto the heap. Yay me!

I think achievements have certainly made me play games differently in one respect as, back in the day, I would never play a game more than once no matter how good it was. Whereas now I will play it until the points are all mine - is that commitment or just OCD?

You be the judge.........

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stats update - sorry kids!

RETAIL - 37 games

Assassins Creed: BH – 270/1000
Battlefield 2: MC - 315/1000
Beatles Rock Band – 130/1000
Beautiful Katamari - 1050/1250
Bladestorm - 150/1000
Call of Duty: B. Ops - 1000/1150
Call of Duty: WaW - 1000/1500
C&C Kane’s Wrath - 130/1000
Dante's Inferno - 1220/1290
Fairytale Fights - 165/1000
Fallout New Vegas - 155/1000
Final Fantasy XIII - 625/1000
Front Mission Evolved – 750/1000
Gears of War 2 - 1420/1750
GRAW - 752/1000
GRAW 2 - 1000/1250
Guitar Hero 2 - 320/1000
Halo ODST – 870/1000
Harry Potter: DH Part 1 – 920/1000
Hellboy: SoE - 310/1000
Kinect Adventures - 85/1000
Lego Star Wars TCS - 260/1000
Lost Planet - 350/1000
Perfect Dark Zero - 150/1000
Project Sylpheed - 60/1000
Risen - 70/1000
Spiderman 3 - 10/1000
Splinter Cell: DA - 670/1000
Star Wars: Republic Heroes - 365/1000
Supreme Commander - 110/1000
Table Tennis - 630/1000
The Sims 3 – 150/1000
Tomb Raider: Legend - 1000/1250
Vampire Rain - 650/1000
Virtua Tennis 09 - 545/1000
WSC 2007 - 550/1000
You’re in the Movies - 140/1000

TOTAL - 18347/39440

ARCADE - 8 games

Boogie Bunnies - 115/200
Eets: Chowdown - 40/200
Geometry Wars - 40/200
Puzzle Quest - 200/250
Scott Pilgrim – 150/250
Texas Hold ‘Em - 105/200
Wallace and Gromit - 100/200
Where's Wally - 40/200

TOTAL - 790/1700

Overall - 19137/41140

Yes, I know that people do not really care how many points I have left to play for and they do not give a rats ass about my strategy for upping my completion percentage - but hey, I'm going to do it anyway.

Part of what draws me to playing achievements in the first place is my love of statistics and seeing an actual benchmark of my progress towards certain goals. So posts like this one help me to keep on top of the things I still have to do and also inspire me to pull out some of those older games in a bid to get them done and dusted. It is a helpful tool - albeit one that is kind of mind numbing for anyone reading it, so I apologise in advance for that.

I have 22,003 points available in games that I am actually likely to play. That is kind of a big number (and is even larger according to at 24,203 but that includes glitched stuff and games like Chromehounds that I can't score anymore points on) so obviously I need to whittle it down to size.

My main goal is, and probably always will be, getting that target down to 10k or less. Of the arcade games I'm only likely to finish off about half of those games and seeing as Scott Pilgrim will probably take a while then I don't know when I will get around to it. The real soncern is obviously all of that pesky retail stuff: though seven of those games only have DLC left to polish off to be honest.

At the moment I'm focused on three games in particular: FFXIII, Harry Potter and Front Mission Evolved.

FFXIII is a major time sink and I'm in the process of grinding towards the Item Hunter achievement with all of the others coming along the way. I find it ridiculous that a game should ask you to put in double/triple the time it took to complete the story in order to max out a game but there you go. Instead I am reduced to murdering a bunch of giant turtles in order to get enough cash to upgrade all of my weapons and accessories. What joy - and it is not helped by the fact that the drop rates for Platinum Ingots seems to be stupidly low at times. Still I'm hopeful that I will have the game done and dusted by the end of the month.

Next up is the latest Harry Potter game. A night of random flailing managed to net me all of the Kinect achievements, but now I am faced with the prospect of completing the game in its entirety on Easy and Medium difficulties to finish it off. Why not make thos achievements stackable? You've got me......

Finally I have started working on the online achievements for Front Mission Evolved. Luckily I am doing it with just one other person (we have two machines each) and after just over an hours work we both had 20k experience out of the 177k needed, so I think it should be fairly manageable. Once that is done I will go back through the game for all of the collectables to polish it off.

So maybe three games will be done with by the end of the month, which is a start.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

What is wrong with Kinect........

I'm sure that no one really cares about my opinion but that is the beauty of a blog - I get to tell you anyway, and you have to sit there and take it. Or at least click away from this page.....

Anyway, while I have to agree that the Kinect is an impressive piece of kit it seems to fall foul of the same issues that plague the Wii. Mainly whether or not you have adequate space to play the damn thing, the quality of the games and the accuracy of the technology.

The space issue is the real killer, especially if you want to play with more than one player. We pretty much cleared out our living room (and it isn't that small) in order to play and still ended up with very little space to work with and were constantly getting in one anothers way, which is hardly ideal. The main issue is the one of depth, as you need to be stood at least six feet away from the Kinect camera in order for it to pick you up. This means that a lot of the space you need is acTually not going to get used as the second you start moving too far forward then the whole thing stops working properly.

The games themselves are also not at a very high level at the moment. Admittedly so far I've only played Dance Central, Kinect Adventures and Harry Potter, so perhaps I'm not giving it a chance. Though having seen some of the reviews for third party games then perhaps it is just as well if I do steer clear.

From what I HAVE played, it is fair to say that Dance Central is arguably the best of the bunch. Though if you have zero co-ordination like I do then perhaps you will not find it as much fun. For my sister (former dancer) it was a walk in the park and much enjoyment was had. Kinect Adventures is pretty much a bunch of mini games that show what the machine is capable of, it gets old pretty quickly and does not really have the long term appeal that Wii Sports did. Finally Harry Potter is just awful. The Kinect aspect of the game is just a bunch of on rails sections where you flail your arms furiously to cast a bunch of spells and defeat enemies. The main problem is the fact that the game does not recognise what you are doing most of the time which led to some hilarious moments - especially when my wife developed a move to cast a spell that looked as though she had dislocated her arm. We laughed hysterically but not really because the game was in any way good.

The problem here is that people without large empty rooms are going to get very little enjoyment out of their new purchase, and the games kicking around at the moment do not offer much in the way of long term entertainment. It reminds me very much of the early days of the Wii, especially when I took the Kinect out to meet my family and the in-laws over Xmas. Everyone loved it, loved playing the various games and then got a bit bored after a while.

Since then it has pretty much gathered dust in my house, with the only use being from my wife playing an exercise game every now and then (Biggest Loser, which is also a bit naff about picking up certain movements - but at least it was cheap). Until we played Potter last night so I could mop up some achievements it had sat unloved for for nearly two months, which leads me to believe that the lure of motion control is perhaps not as great as the Wii had made out.

The Wii phenomenon was a simple one, people would play on a friends console and be hooked by the wonder of it all. They would then rush out and buy their own Wii, play it religiously for a few weeks and then never touch it again. I think it is telling that the Wii has the lowest software attach rate of all the current consoles, as people never bothered to look beyond Wii Sports and the console would soon be gathering dust. Unfortunately, MS and Sony simply looked at the hardware numbers with more than a hint of envy and decided motion control was the way forward.

Whether it will pay off in the long term is another matter. Both companies are touting good sales figures, but will the software keep up or will it fall by the wayside as people get tired of shovelware and titles that are little more than a few dull minigames, as happened on the Wii. I think, as with Nintendo, the onus is on MS to produce some amazing first party titles to drive things forward and until that happens it could well be lean times for those people that enjoy virtual dancing, flailing and spellcasting.