Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 review

As with previous years, I have reviewed the past year and decided upon my 3 favourite films and 3 favourite games from the past year.

Obviously (especially for the games), I have not had the chance to play/watch everything that 2008 has to offer, so this is based solely on my experiences so far.

So here goes:

Films

Top Three

The Orphanage

It really is a very simple tale which starts out seemingly as a classic ghost story, but then around 1/3rds of the way through it changes and blossoms into something much greater, a film with a very human heart. As a parent, I believe that this film probably has a greater impact, but all the same there is no denying that it is both a moving tale and beautifully told.

I’m not to proud to admit that it was the ending of the film which really got to me, making me shed a tear or two. The ending is just so well constructed and such a brilliant payoff to a great, great film.

Once again a foreign language film has taken the top place as film of the year for me (that’s 4 years on the trot now that this has been the case).



The Dark Knight

Much more than just a steady progression from Batman Begins.
The best description I have come across from reading various reviews is by comparing this to Heat. It really is much more than just another superhero film, it’s an epic crime drama with a message or two about society.

Just like Batman Begins all the principal cast give great performances, but I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Heath Ledger in particular. I had my dounts about his casting, mainly because I love the character of the Joker and had never felt that it had been given proper justice in a live action move (the joker in the animated series, however, was spectacular). Ledger nailed it however. The Joker is an agent of chaos, unpredictable, uncaring yet calculating and devious. A perfect villain. It’s just a great shame that we will never get to see him reprise the role.

I’ve also got to add that I had the blessing of being able to watch this at the IMAX in London, which was simply phenomenal. There was such an atmosphere at the cinema, with so many Joker t-shirts being worn (including my own – I’m equally sad) that lost count. Also watching it on such a massive screen in full IMAX format was something else, and has convinced me that I MUST go and see Watchmen at the IMAX when it is release in 2009 it was trailered before (The Dark Knight).

A memory that has also stuck with me is that so many people (including me) stayed in the cinema to watch the whole of the credits. I don’t know why, but for some reason this is a strange little memory which just won’t budge.



Wall-e

Once again Pixar comes up with the goods.

Although this film has a very strong environmental message (which at times can be a little overbearing), the real story here is a simple love story between a clumsy and awkward robot (Wall-e) and a sleek chic robot (Eve). The fact that Pixal can construct such a touching tale between these two robots is a credit to them, when you consider that they have practically zero dialogue. When it comes to animation, Pixar have never, ever put a foot wrong (yes I like Cars), and I have no reason to doubt that Up will likely be in my top 3 for next year.

If I had any complaint, it would be that the first third of the story is so much stronger than the remaining two-thirds, but then again, almost 2 hours of no more than three words of dialogue would probably be a little too much to ask of modern audiences.


Notable mentions:

Teeth

A coming of age horror / drama about a girl with a vagina dentata (razor sharp teeth in her vagina). For this reason alone, it is worth mentioning again. But all the same, it is a very well acted and thoughtful film. It must also have the quota on lopped of penises of any film.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Worth mentioning purely because it didn’t live up to my (and most other peoples) expectations. That’s not to say that it isn’t a good film, it is, just a wide mile away from being great. I really did expect much more from Steven Spielberg.

The X-Files: I want to believe

Again, mentioned because it fell short of expectations. Really, what were they thinking? I can understand that the budget for this needed to be less than the original movie, but still, you don’t need a budget to make the plot even the slightest bit interesting. Even the worst later episodes were better than this film.

Planet Terror

I know that this was actually release last year, but I just had the chance to watch it this year, so I’m including it okay! Anyway, an immensely fun and slick B-movie pretender will plenty of blood and guts (and cheesy acting) for 10 movies.

Gaming

Top Three (not in order)

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Every bit as good as I had hoped, with the only sour moment being the overly long and overdramatized epilogue. The change in perspective from (relatively) top down to third person is handled very well, with shooting done in an over shoulder perspective, or first person depending on preference. The earlier stages are probably the strongest, but returning to Shadow Moses was also a great addition. This also have some of my favourite boss fights from the entire series in the shape of the Beauty and the Best unit.

Also MGO was great to boot and I also ended up spending quite some time online playing this.

Overall the best game on the PS3 (IMHO) during 2008, which is pretty impressive considering the numer of good titles during 2008.


Final Fantasy Tactics 2

Takes everything that was great about the first game and expands upon it, whilst at the same time correcting some of the minor flaws, just about everything you need from an effective sequel.

About the only complaint that can be levelled against it is that it doesn’t have the strong storyline of the normal final fantasy games, or the Disgaea games (which it more closely resembles), however, this is more than made up by extremely tight strategic gameplay with many aspects which I actually prefer over Disgaea (as a rule Disgagea doesn’t just let you bend the rules, but actually break them in places, FFTA2 is much more structured).

Overall this is my most played game on my DS this year and as such, more than deserving to be in the top 3.


Mario Kart Wii

I simply love pretty much all Mario Kart games and have played all of them (now including the arcade version which I had the chance to play during my last visit to London), so I was obviously looking forward to the Wii version. The addition of the Wii Wheel is an interesting add-on to the game and for those players just joining the series from the “casual” Wii crowd as it allows them to jump into the game probably a little more swiftly. The Wii Wheel also doesn’t work too badly (especially in manual mode), at first I tried playing the game solely with this, but ultimately found that my preference remains with the gamecube pad.

The online racing is also a great addition to the game and the application of this is simple and user friendly, as I should be. Unfortunately battle mode is a big disappointment, as the levels are too big and also the fact that you have to be in a team and also just lose points, not lives is a shame. Then again, battle mode hasn’t been god in the series since the N64 game and I’ve always played for racing, so not loss there.

I’ve also got happy memories of waiting outside HMV on launch day with Elliot and us both rushing home as quickly as possible to play it.

I’ve just notice that my top 3 are shared equally between my 3 systems, namely PS3, DS and Wii. This wasn’t intentional, but there you go!


Notable mentions

Bioshock

At long last I finally got the chance to play this… A great and atmospheric first person shooter, even if the ending is a little weak.

Little Big Planet

Your first experience of this is utter joy – unfortunately, occasionally, as you progress through the story levels, this joy changes to frustration. This is my only complaint with the game, as for a game which appears at first glance to be very casual, it is in fact extremely difficuly. Thankfully the nearly endless user generated content more than make up for this.

Also, very recently, I have started to create my own levels and it's here where the game really starts to shine. It's really quite pleasing when you have seen that your level has been played and ranked (and even hearted). The create aspect of the game really brings it to life, so much so that this very nearly made it into my top 3 this year.

The MGS4 DLC is also great with a fantastic addition of the "paintinator".

Wii Fit

Help to motivate me to get in better shape and lose over 2 stone… not many games can make claim to that!

Disgaea 3

I haven’t completed this yet, but have enjoyed it immensely. It has, in my opinion, probably overcomplicated itself a little too much when compared to the prior two games, but it is still a blast.

Super Smash Brothers: Brawl

I have been playing this a lot more recently with Elliot than when I first purchased this. It is in fact, great fun played co-op in the Adventure mode.

Life

The highlight of this year for me has just been watching Elliot grow up another year. It’s amazing how much he changes and how quickly. This year he has really grown into such a sweet, caring, clever, funny and wonderful little boy that both Roz and I are proud to call our son.

This year I have also faced several health issues, be they blood pressure related, gallbladder and also other issues, which at times has had me a little depressed. Hopefully (fingers crossed) most of that is behind me now. My gallbladder operation seems to have gone okay, and I’m probably fitter now than in have been in the last 18 years!

Following on from this, I have also lost a fair amount of weight. I cannot be certain how much, as I didn’t dare weigh myself at the start, but I’d guess that I was probably over 13 ½ stone. I’m not around 11 stone, which means I’ve lost approximately 2 ½ stone during the course of the year, which is a good feat in my book.

During 2008 we also had a short trip to London with Elliot, which was fun. He really enjoyed the likes of London Zoo, the London Eye and also Tower Bridge and as such we are going again next year (as well as hopefully a trip to Canada).

Anyway… onto 2009!

Happy New Year!



Monday, December 29, 2008

Fantastic Wind Waker cover

I stumbled across this follwoing video today.

It is a stylish cover of the main theme from Zelda: The Wind Waker performed by just one person, namely Fredrik Larsson, and what a fantastic job he's done of it:


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Just a quick post to wish everyone a very merry Christmas...

Here's hoping that Santa brings you all something good :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Greatest DLC EVER?!?

Quite possibly the greatest idea for DLC ever is inbound for Little Big Planet... Simply explained by the following formula:

LBP + MGS4 = GREATEST DLC EVER!



Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Mist

Film watched:
The Mist


Excellent old school Stephen King, with a brutal, BRUTAL ending!

7.5/10 (previously 8.5/10)

Edit: Score change…

Okay, I’ve been thinking a little bit more about the ending of The Mist, which as I understand it was rather controversial. My mindset has changed a little, and I’m now of the opinion that it is a little TOO brutal (yes this is me speaking). I think if it was me writing it, I’d probably left the ending a little ambiguous and maybe cut out the last minute. This would result in a horribly depressing ending (which would be good), but not an “oh my freaking God how could they” ending.

Also, Roz came and sat next to me for just the last 5 minutes of the film and watched the conclusion with no sound (I had headphones on) and STILL it reduced her to tears, without even watching the rest of the movie to build up any type of relationship with the characters. That's just an indication of how brutal, crushing, (possibly) unnecessarily shocking and plain mean the ending is.

As such, I’ve knocked a point off my original score.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Goo rules!

Okay - purchased World of Goo today and I have to say...

World of Goo rules!

This has to be by far the best downloadable game I have purchased this year... I'd also like to add that it is also one of the best puzzle games that I have played in a long, long time. It deserves all the praise that has been layed upon it.

It is just the type of game that suits the Wii perfectly, with simple (but very attractive) graphics, a control scheme which suits the system perfectly and gameplay which is accessable, yet incredibly deep. It also has to be said that the physics based gameplay is great. Why on earth can't anyone else get so much out of the Wii!

Anyway, won't rabbit on much more. But all I will say that this game is well worth the price. Anyone who has a Wii derserves to treat themselves to this game...

Well done 2D Boy, well done...



Thursday, December 18, 2008

Go Goo!

Well, I do not have any Wii games in my Xmas list this year, but come this Friday I will be immediately spending my last 1500 available Wii points without any hesitation on my most wanted downloadable game this year.

That’s right 2Dboy has confirmed that the game World of Goo will be making its EU debut this coming Friday.

Let us all rejoice in the gooeyness!

Immortal and power steering

Film watched:
Immortal (ad Vitam)

Fifth Element lite. Mix of CGI and real characters = Bad.

3/10

I also, rather stupidly, managed to leave the lights on my car on all day yesterday, resulting in a flat battery (doh!) As a consequence, I had to borrow my Mum’s car last night. My conclusion, I cannot stand cars now that don’t have power steering.

Luckily my battery is now charged up and I’m back in my old faithful car (or Luigi as I affectionately call him – it’s a male car).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A next Metal Gear is...

Well it would appear that the next Metal Gear game is an offshoot of MGS4 and will be heading to the iphone/itouch and will be called Metal Gear Solid Touch...

It's just a shame that'll unlikely get to play it.. unless my current ipod dies and they bring out an ipod touch greater than 30gb (I have zero interest in mobile phones - so the iphone would be lost on me)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dexter, Bioshock and the problem with PS3…

I finished watching Dexter last week (the first series anyway). I just wanted to post that this has to be one of my favourite new series that I have watched lately (I know that it’s onto its third series – but I’m playing catch-up). It is, however, a bit of a hard sell. After all it is a series with the main character as a serial killer, which you are expected to sympathise with, but without going into the specifics of the series, it works, and it works pretty damn well! By a combination of great characters and fantastic scripts it had me gripped. I would really strongly recommend that everyone gives it a go, and at least stick with it for a few episodes.


I've also got to add that Michael C Hall is absolutely fantastic as the lead role, giving a great performance for a character that spends most of his time faking being "normal".


I'm just hoping that the second season (and also the third) are also of an equal high quality. I'll likely star watching these next year.

Also completed Bioshock yesterday, which I really enjoyed. I was, however, a little disappointed by it’s ending. It seemed a little rushed, clich├ęd and also rather easy. Compared to the initial stages of the game, I felt that the last quarter of the game seemed to lack in style and challenge. Other than this, it was a fantastic game, and I’m looking forward to the sequel which was trailered at the end of the game. I’ve also got the DLC to give a go, which looks like it will be interesting.

I read (online) the following comments made by an analysis on CNN Money which made the following points:

“So why is the PS3 flopping so badly?

1) It's the most expensive console on the market, $150 - $200 more than its rivals. Even if you believe the video game industry is "recession-proof" (it isn't), a tanking economy makes consumers more price-conscious.

2) The PS3's big bonus is its ability to double as a Blu-Ray player. Too bad no one seems to care about hi-def DVDs. The differences between Blu-Ray and DVD are hard to see on a TV less than 50".

3) The PS3 just doesn't have any must-have titles exclusive to the console. "LittleBigPlanet" has generated decent buzz but isn't a game-changer, and neither is Sony's new virtual world "Home."

There's really only one option left for Sony to remain in the game: deep price cuts, and not just for people with good credit. Tell yourself the PS3 has superior graphics if it makes you feel better, but a $400 console with a mediocre game library simply cannot compete against an Xbox 360 priced at $200 in this economy.”

While I definitely don’t agree with points 2 and 3, I do agree with point 1.

I shall address each

2) I would say that Blu-ray is actually doing rather well for a still relatively new format. In the UK The Dark Knight sold 20% of its initial day sales on Blu-ray (several hundred thousand), which isn’t too shabby. While I doubt that Blu-ray will completely replace DVD, I think that it will likely live alongside DVD for those growing numbers who prefer a Hi-Def experience. As for the comment “The differences between Blu-Ray and DVD are hard to see on a TV less than 50”, this is frankly wrong. Even on my smaller 26” LCD (when I owned it) I could easily notice the difference. While a good HD upscaler does good work of a DVD, Blu-ray is still a big improvement. Maybe he needs his eyes checked!

3) I wouldn’t say that the PS3 has any less must have exclusives than either the Wii or the 360. What I would say is that maybe Sony hasn’t quite captured the imagination of the general public like the Wii has with the likes of Wii Sports and Wii Fit, but then again neither has the Microsoft. The PS3 has some fantastic exclusives, namely: Little Big Planet, MGS4, Uncharted, Disgaea 3 only to name a few. Again like the 360 exclusives, these appeal to a certain audience, but not necessarily to casual gamers (I would argue that Little Big Planet is not a casual game, even if it looks like one). I’ll likely post my thoughts about Home now that it is open beta in a few days, after I’ve had a little more time with it.

1) This is it… This is Sony’s real problem. Money. You get a hell of a lot with a PS3, and if you bolted on the extra’s that a PS3 (those that you can) the value of the PS3 looks reasonable, even good (hell I didn’t resent spending the original purchase price for it). The problem is that most people just don’t want these extra features from a games machine, they just want to play games.

As much as I hate to say it, but in the current economic crisis the PS3 is going to lose at its current price (and I have to add that by UK standard the US price is cheap). The general public just can’t warrant the cost and this is hurting the PS3 sales. Even if it had the best exclusive games and the best features, it would still be the price which is holding it back. The PS2 sold at its best when its price was below the magical $200.00 mark and I don’t think that the PS3 is going to start selling big until it also reaches this milestone.

I think that the situation is made that much worse at Christmas. Quite frankly the PS3 is too expensive as a Christmas present and as such the sales for the Wii (massively) and the 360 have far exceeded the PS3.

The price of the PS3 really needs to come down a LOT by Easter next year, otherwise I doubt that Sony will ever be able to make up the ground.

I feel I must add, amongst this doom and gloom, that I still think that the PS3 is a fantastic machine and deserves so much more in sales.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

2009 games, Roz Degree and Elliot plays

I’ve recently been to see two plays (well one was a short play) in which Elliot has been in for Christmas. He was absolutely brilliant in both plays and was even the only soloist singing in his Christmas school play, In one he played the part of Santa and the other the Angel Gabriel. Previously he has played Joseph in a nativity (which is slightly amusing considering our Wiccan / atheist background). It seems to me that he seems to be climbing of a celestial ladder of starring parts, I’m gunning for him getting the part of either Jesus or God next year!

Just the other day, Roz received confirmation from the Open University that she had passed her Degree (Bachelor of Science (honours) Open). Of which we were all delighted to hear. So I just thought I’d add my congratulations on my blog.

Well done Roz :)

Top ten anticipated games for 2009:

Okay, so as 2008 is starting to draw to a close, I thought I’d take a quick look ahead for 2009 and more specifically my 10 most anticipated games for 2009 and list these from 10 to 1. Now obviously this doesn’t take into account any unknown games at this point, so this will likely change, but here we go:

10: Dragon Quest IX (DS)









9: Street Fighter 4 (Multi)







8: Wii Sports Resort (Wii)







7: No More Heroes 2 (Wii)









6: Killzone 2 (PS3)







5: The Conduit (Wii)








4: Uncharted 2 (PS3)







3: Resident Evil 5 (Multi)









2: The Beatles Music game (Multi - likely)












1: Final Fantasy XIII (Multi)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Doomsday

Film watched:
Doomsday

British mishmash of Mad Max, Braveheart and Escape from NY

6/10

For your consideration…

Well, that time of year is just around the corner, namely Oscars, and many studio’s are lobbying for their films to be considered for various categories. One film which in my opinion, should be up for nomination is The Dark Knight. Now this is not your normal Oscar film by a long stretch, but hell, if The Return of the King (a hyper successful geeky fantasy flick) can win best film, then why the hell can’t The Dark Knight (a hyper successful geeky super hero flick)?

Anyway, Warner Bros have just put out a new “for your consideration” poster for the Dark Knight, and I have to say it’s absolute genius. Using the often repeated phrase by The Joker in the film and adapting “The Oscars” from the standard Oscars poster in the normal joker fashion is just class.

Kudos to Warner Bros advertising department.


Next Metal Gear !

So, the Konami website has been updated with the following image:


This would seem to hint at a new Metal Gear game, and what's more the colour scheme and a the power button would seem to hint that this is heading to the 360 (although, for my sake I hope not - at least not exclusively, as I have no wish to buy a 360 just to play Metal Gear). It could possibly just mean the much rumoured MGS4 conversion is headed to the 360, but then again the "next" in the text would seem to suggest otherwise. Also the "i" would seem to hint that it is either heading to the Wii or possibly ipod... Hell, I don't have a clue.

Presuming that a Metal Gear game is heading to the 360, the incredibly prompt strip from Dueling Analogs made me laugh...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Amazon MP3's

I note with interest that Amazon have recently launched their MP3 store:

Link

I have to say that this look rather good, for the following reasons:

1) Most importantly it is DRM free (which always puts me off buying from itunes)
2) It's cheap - there are brand new albulms selling for just £3.00... and not rubbish albulms.
3) It has a MP3 downloader software (which I haven't tested), which automatically updates itunes for you.
4) It has a good selection from the get go.
5) It's Amazon, so if you have any hassle, you know that their customer service will be top notch.

So, all in all... Looks good.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Home

So, I've been invited by Sony into the Playstation Home beta... This is a little on the late side considering that it is meant to be going open beta within the next few weeks, but all the same, it's good to be included.

Unfortunately by signing up to the Home beta I am unable to discuss this at lenth, i.e. post my opinions be they good or bad on this blog. As such, I just wanted to say that I'm in. Presumeably once it goes open I'll be able to post a little more...


Monday, December 01, 2008

Films and back to work

Well I’m back to work today and feel not too bad following my operation, a little tired, but otherwise okay…

Films watched:
Funny Games

A very violent film with a message, but still disappointing.

5.5/10

Rent

Enjoyable musical adaptation. Although Team America spoof was funnier.

7/10

Teeth


Thoughtful and intelligent vagina dentata, willy amputating, teen drama.

7.5/10