Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 Review

Another year and another yearly review. So without further introductions:


Top 3 films of 2012


I think when I went to watch this, I was expecting an action film, a good action film, but still an action film all the same. It turned out that it was a very different beast than what I was expecting, with the vast majority of the last half of the film being set in a house in the countryside.

Although it was not a perfect film and it could be easy to pick apart several aspects of it, I still believe that the premise and the execution of the film was excellent and it is certainly my favourite Sci-Fi film for many years.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight was a very tough act to follow, and to my mind at least, the Dark Knight Rises is a weaker film than the middle film in the trilogy, however this isn’t to say that it isn’t still an excellent film in its own right. What Rises has done, however is crafted an excellent finale to the trilogy, not shying away from shutting the door on this aspect of the franchise, and in that respect it does a very fine job indeed.

I have always been a big Batman fan and as such, it ticked all the right boxes for me (except maybe for Bane – whom I’ve never been fond of as a villain). Overall, however, it is an epic film that takes things at its own pace and is an enjoyable ride (for me at least) from start to finish. I also have to add that it is by far the most enjoyable cinema experience that I have had this year (watching it twice at the IMAX in London)

Pirates: An Adventure with Scientists

Probably a bit of a bizarre choice for my top 3, but my goodness this was just such an inventive and joyous film that I think that it belongs.

It has often been the case that an animated film of some sort has made it into my top 3, often from Pixar, but this year (and last) Pixar's films have not been up to their usual standards. This year, it is time for Aardman to fit the bill.

Notable mentions (for good or bad)

The Avengers
A great Superhero film, but I still preferred The Dark Knight Rises.

For the life of me, I can't think of many other films that I have seen over the course of 2012 that are really that worthwhile mentioning!


Top 3 games on 2012

The Walking Dead (PS3)

Without a shadow of a doubt, this has to be my top game of 2012.

There seem to have been a lot of games of late where decisions that you make during the course of the game have an effect on the outcome in one way or another (The Mass Effect games and Heavy Rain spring to mind). The Walking Dead, however played this better than most, because you really cared about the characters, and while the end result of the game may have been similar despite your actions, the ongoing interactions with the characters certainly seem to matter.

It’s quite something when I can say that this game probably exceeds both the graphics novels, and TV series that has come before it. I can also unashamedly say that this is without a doubt the game that I have been most emotionally invested in ever.

Journey (PS3)

This is a very short game. So short, that I think I finished it in a single play through. Despite this, I still believe that this belongs in my list of the top 3 games of 2012.

First of all, the fact that you share your journey with a complete stranger, where communication is very limited between the two of you is absolute genius. It’s hard to explain why, but it just fits in so well with the game

Borderlands 2 (PS3)

I played the first game to death, and the same can be said for the sequel.

This seems to iron out the few problems that existed in the first game and at the same time ramped up the humour and story (which to be honest was a little lacking in the first game). I went as far as far buying the season pass for the game and whilst I have finished the first DLC, I'm still working my way through the second (although the Wii U has distracted me).

Overall, this is the pinnacle so far of the shooter/RPG blender genre.

Notable mentions (for good or bad)

Gravity Rush (Vita)
Very almost made it within the top 3 games of 2012 and by far the best game available on the Vita IMHO.

ZombiU (Wii U)
The finest game from the Wii U launch line up. This is the first time in ages where there has been a proper survivor horror game out there since the likes of Resident Evil became a third person shooter. In fact it plays very much like Resident Evil 2 but from a first person perspective.

The Unfinished Swan (PS3)
Another great downloadable title for the PS3, which is also back by rather a moving story.

Mass Effect 3
A fantastic end to the game series, which had a great payoff (despite all the online moaners)


A few bullet points of memorable things in my life from 2012:

  • Overall I have been in good health for the year, barring a spate of Labyrinthitus (vertigo induced extended dizzy spells).

  • I have (somehow) managed to get further promoted at work this year, which I have been finding somewhat of a challenge.

  • I've been very proud of both Roz and Elliot over the year. Roz for the effort that she has put into establishing a charity which is clearly close to her heart and also Elliot for doing so well at school.

  • I also turned 40 this year, and boy am I starting to feel it... I'm not sure if it is a psychological sign of turning 40, but I certainly have been feeling older over the course of this year.

    Our holiday in 2012 unfortunately started with us all falling foul of Flu and as such, much of LA and Las Vegas was pretty much a washout. By the time we reached San Francisco we were all feeling better and we all had a great time during the last few days of our holiday  

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Wii U review

So, I've had the Wii U for a few days now, so I thought that I would take the opportunity to post my initial thoughts.

First of all, the console itself. To be honest, there isn't really a lot to be said about the physical console, it looks very similar to the Wii, but slightly longer and black (I have the premium model). The focus is really on the controller and as such, I shall cover that is greater detail.

When I first took hold of the controller my initial impression was that it seemed smaller than I'd imagined it would be, secondly it felt much lighter than I'd imagined. Although the screen is smaller than that of the iPad, and the resolution is just 480p, the quality is still excellent and more than sufficient when playing games solely off of the controller. The placement of the control sticks and buttons takes a little while to get used to, but after a whole it becomes second nature. Overall then, I have been very impressed with the controller and the console so far.

I have to mention the fact that the Wii U requires a large firmware update before you can use all the functions. This comes in at approx 1gb to download and will probably take around 1-2 hours to download. You can if you wish, when asked by the Wii U, cancel the download initially, then this will download automatically in the background, allowing you to spend the first few hour of your console experience playing games, rather than watching a progress bar. This is not very clear in the text shown by Nintendo and as such a good many people have been frustrated by this initial setup. Luckily, it was all fine for me, but all the same, it is not an ideal start and it is something that Nintendo really should have had in place when releasing the Wii U.

The really killer app with the Wii U (besides the unique controller) has to be Miiverse. This is installed following the firmware update and is the Nintendo social network that runs alongside the Wii U. It comes across as a mixture of Twitter, pictochat and a forum and works very well. I've also been very pleasantly surprised that so far there has not been any negative sides to Miiverse (such as online trolls and the normal idiots that you often find online). Instead Nintendo seem to have fostered a very positive community with Miiverse, and I hope that this continues. An example that I would give would be that I was struggling with a particular enemy in the Zelda minigame in Nintendoland, so pressed the home button, went into Miiverse and posted asking for help (including a screenshot showing where I was struggling), within minutes, I'd already received a few helpful replies. So overall I have been very impressed with Miiverse as well as the creativity of some of the artwork posted on this.

There has been some debate as to the actual power of the Wii U when compared to the PS3 and 360. From my experience I would say that the graphics do exceed that of the PS3, but only marginally so (I can't really comment in relation to the 360). So not a huge leapt, but then again I'm not someone who is craving anything that much more at present and as such, this hasn't been an issue for me in the slightest.

A quick note on the games that I have played.

Nintendoland - I have to say that I didn't have that high expectations for his and if it wasn't included with the premium pack, I probably wouldn't have bothered with it. I have however found that I have been very pleasantly surprised. There is a good mix of games included, all of which make good use of the different game pad functions. It is great on your own, but even better with a group of people. An essential purchase with the Wii U.

New Super Mario U - I have only played a bit of this so far, as I am saving this to play together with my family, but what I have played so far had been great fun. If you enjoyed that Wii version, I would also recommend this.

ZombiU - This is how Survivor horror games used to be. It's hard, very hard. This, however is a good thing, just don't go into it expecting your regular FPS, this is more like the old Resident Evil games but from a first perspective view. It also makes excellent use of the controller. So if you are looking for an old school difficult game, which is inventive and interesting, I'd also recommend this.

Sonic Racing - Got this as part of a bundle, but wasn't very impressed, as such returned it quickly and instead got:

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 - I haven't played a COD game in ages, but what I have played of this so far has impressed me. The campaign seems impressive and online works smoothly, the only complaint that I would say is that the online community is not as large as the other 2 consoles, but then again the Wii U is only just out. If you haven't go this yet and are interested, I can confirm that it works a treat on the Wii U.

Nano Assault Neo - a great twin stick shooter. Reminds me very much of Super Stardust, and that is good praise indeed.

Trine 2 Director's Cut - Have only had a quick go of this do far, but boy are the graphics impressive. It also seems to make good use of the gamepad. I'm really looking forward to putting more time into this.

I haven't mentioned yet, but the ability to be able to play a large percentage of the games without using a TV is also a killer feature. Should my wife wish to watch TV whilst I am playing, this is not an issue at all, I can just continue playing on the gamepad. I can see that this would be a huge bonus for most families.

So that's it, my initial impressions. To sum up, I would say that I have been very impressed so far. Once more Nintendo are doing there own thing, the console is certainly unique and different and I can't wait to see how developers utilise this further down the line.