Grand Theft Auto has a social conscience (no, really)

21 07 2010

I bought GTA IV a couple of days ago. I know, I know – I’m behind the times and even followup the Ballad Of Gay Tony has been out for ages, but better late than never, right? Besides, I was busy playing Fallout 3 for the longest time, I didn’t really have room in my life for another free-form behemoth of a title, but I’ve caught up now. I’ve only been playing it a couple of days and while early impressions are great, there is one side of the game that feels slightly alien to me: realism.

More realism, sir? I’m not sure – I’ll tell you later…

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Halo: Reach BETA is going for silver

6 05 2010

My cousin was being incredibly smug a few days ago. He’s been playing Halo: Reach BETA pretty much non-stop since it launched, and was laughing that I couldn’t play it because I haven’t gotten around to renewing my Xbox Live Gold membership yet. Well guess what – Silver members are going to get their turn! Admittedly, it’s only for a very small window, but between the 14th and 17th of May everyone gets to have a go at the most talked about Xbox 360 BETA title so far. Not so smug now, Gold members!

Thanks to for the tip-off!

Final Fantasy XIII, one week on

17 03 2010

This is going to sound slightly ridiculous given how excited I was by Final Fantasy XIII’s release, but I’ve only actually racked up 7 hours of play-time thus far. When I was held up at work last week due to industrial action and didn’t think I was going to be able to buy it on release day, a copy arrived in the post that very day. My lovely girlfriend had pre-ordered it for me for my birthday the previous week (I’m 25 now, I fill in a different ‘age range’ box on forms – that’s depressing) and it was waiting for me when I got in from the office. It’s funny though, that when you’ve got a busy job, a few freelance articles on the go, and rather inexplicably you’ve somehow ended up running the London Marathon on April 25th this year (with training taking up so much of your free time so you don’t die in a sweaty heap on national television), you don’t have the time to do things you used to, or at least in the way you used to do them. I think as a kid when I first got Final Fantasy VII, I racked up something like 20 hours in the first few days, but I’ve had a whole week of Final Fantasy XIII as a grown-up and I’m only managing an average 1 hour/day play time. At least it gives games some longevity, even if it is a tad manufactured by circumstance. Maybe rationing play-time is a good way to get your money’s worth? I’ll revisit that thought another time…

Final Fantasy XIII's Lightning Waits

I've finished my hour's play for today - Lightning will just have to sit and wait until I get my hour tomorrow...

So how am I finding Final Fantasy XIII? What are initial impressions, feelings and attitudes towards it? Is it (even at this early stage) any good? Please also be advised (if you were worried) there will be no spoilers here – this is my house, my rules, and I won’t be a part of the problem. Read this article from Richard Cobbett (PC Plus Features Editor) and this article by my old friend Michelle (owner of for some interesting thoughts on the issues surrounding keeping games a secret. And with that elephant firmly out of the room, back to Final Fantasy XIII…

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The Search For Jasper… (XBOX 360)

8 02 2010

It was decided. We were getting an XBOX 360, and we definitely weren’t getting a second-hand one, for reasons outlined here.

So I started shopping, in the only way I know how – I turned off the TV, grabbed a mug of hot coffee/an ice cold beer (delete as appropriate, dependant on the position of the sun relative to the yard-arm), settled down into the sofa with my laptop, and hit Google. Hard. I found good prices, bad prices, ridiculous prices and unbelievable prices (which, upon closer inspection, usually turn out to be faulty RROD machines that people are trying to offload as spares/repair on eBay). I found incredible deals, with extra controllers, headsets and a choice of titles, I found decent deals with last year’s most middle-of-the-road game thrown in, and I found consoles on their own that to be honest, seemed a tad expensive. What I didn’t find, though, was any concrete evidence of the elusive Jasper…

XBOX 360 and the search for the Jasper chipset

That's an actual photo of me (not really). Although I was actually reduced to such insanity (almost).

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Indiana Jones and the System Board of Doom (XBOX 360 Red Ring of Death/RROD)

2 02 2010

So, having come to a multilateral decision with the real brains behind the operation (my girlfriend) to get an XBOX 360, the next difficulty we’re presented with is “well, which one?”

Given my predisposition towards recycling, and my feeling that pre-owned really can be just as good as new (if you’re picky enough with it), ordinarily I’d be more than happy to plump for a pre-owned console. I buy plenty of pre-owned games, after all. When I was a poor, embittered student, I bought a slim PS2 for something in the region of sixty notes, when the new ones were still retailing around £150 – I was skipping all the way home with that bargain, and it was well worth putting up with the urine smell in the multicolour (if you count different shades of brown) swap-shop that was CEX in Leeds (and I’d just like to say, for the record, since they’ve moved to new premises it no longer reeks of stale urine like an old people’s home, so hopefully I’ve not upset them too much!) When my other half sent me an email from her work noticeboard listing a 360 with 60GB hard drive, two controllers and a couple of games for £120, I was very nearly that delighted again, but then something struck me. What if this guy is selling it because it’s out of warranty and it’s starting to malfunction? What if he’s felt it getting a bit toasty, and thinks he can cut his losses and get part of the money towards a new one before it dies completely? Then he’s laughing, and I’m out a considerable sum of money with an overheating, unusable console.

XBOX 360 Red Rings of Death

I went to bed thinking I was going to go for the second hand XBOX 360 - then I had nightmares that looked a little like this...

It comes back to (as it always seems to) the old XBOX 360 spectre, the Red Ring Of Death (RROD).

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Grand Theft Auto has a lot to answer for…

22 04 2008

Well, actually, no it doesn’t. Or at least, not the things that we’re lead to believe. Read the rest of this entry »