To XL or not to XL … that is the question …

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Portable gaming appears to be my main source these days, mainly sneeking in a quick session of whatever’s the flavour of the day during a lunch break.

The Playstation Vita‘s been doing a very good job recently of relegating my 3DS (which I’ve had since launch) from it’s spot inside my bag to the one next to the TV unit at home.

The main reason for this is the size, I know I know, the Vita’s got better graphics etc. but I’m focusing on this. The size of the Vita fits better for me and provides a more comfortable gaming experience so I’ve found myself using it more as a result. The 3DS is great for small bursts but for me the compact nature of it’s form results in what can only be described as “gamer’s claw” if played for an extended period of time.

Now Nintendo have gone and issued a revision to this, the 3DS XL

Basically they’ve increased the size of the thing, that’s it. No other extra features, just a good ol’ fashioned increase in form factor and screen size. This pleases me, finally I’ll be able to put in some serious time on Dragon Quest without crippling myself in the process. Also thanks to the screen size it should be a more comfortable viewing experience too

The only complaint I have about the XL or rather puzzling question is why have Nintendo chosen not to include a charger in the box ? I mean really …. it’s not like it’s an optional extra is it ?

Weird move Nintendo … Weird move but it’s not stopping me from “going large” I’ll be picking up my XL soon so I can enjoy the likes of New Super Mario Bros 2 in a more comfortable fashion.

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A little Vita this and a little Vita that …

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately you’ll probably be aware of the new handheld from Sony, the Playstation Vita

I got some hands on time with it at last year’s Eurogamer Expo and was mightly impressed with it then so a pre-order was placed and launch day was marked on the calendar.

That was a little over a week ago now … so now that the initial “new shiny gadget” euphoria has cleared from my head what do I t.

Well to be frank, I love it … I honestly believe that on the whole Sony have finally managed to do something right.

I do have a gripe concerning the use of a proprietary memory card for the Vita that’s shockingly expensive and a required piece of kit if you’re planning on playing anything on it, but putting that to one side the rest of it is in my opinion brilliant.

Firstly I opted for the 3G version over the plain WiFi flavour, yes it was a bit more expensive but with Vodafone throwing in a sim and giving you a copy of Wipeout 2048 for the price of a £5 topup it actually worked out only a few pounds more for me than just the WiFi only version. The data connection has been pretty good so far, decent signal strength and the actual data usage isn’t as hefty as I thought it would be so the 250Mb that I got for my £5 I can see lasting for the month.

Graphically I can’t fault it .. the display is just stunning. I got Rayman: Origins with my bundle and could see no difference between this conversion and it’s 360/PS3 big brothers (I would also go so far as to say that if you’ve got a Vita you really should have this in your collection). Wipeout and RidgeRacer both performed smoothly and had no visible drop in framerate at all.

Downloadeble titles areon the cards for it too, and this is where the gripe comes in about the memory cards.

Available in 4,8,16 and in the US 32Gb they’re essential for saving your games and installing downloadable titles.

However at the prices they’re charging (£47 for 16Gb anyone ?) it’s a rather pricey “extra” that’s actually a required purchase. The 4Gb will probably be fine if you’re not planing on downloading any of the games from the Vita store. I got an 8Gb with mine and so far it’s got a load of DLC for RidgeRacer, full games for Escape Plan, Motorstorm RC and Wipeout 2048 along with demos for Lumines and Dungeon Hunter Alliance and there’s still some space left over.

Essentially the first run of true DL titles (MotorStorm RC, Escape Plan) appear to be quite friendly in the file size department. Downloadable versions of the full retail titles can be a bit more savage, Blazblue Continuu, Shift Extend weighs in at around 3.5Gb which kind of makes a good argument for buying the physical card version of the game.

The other argument to some of the downloadable titles is related to the price, it’s fine for the titles that are download only like Motorstorm RC which is an utter bargain at £4.79 (especially as they throw in the PS3 version too) but for the titles that are available on cards there’s the distinct possibility that you’ll find the game for a few pounds cheaper at one of the numerous games retailers out there in the wilds of the internet.

I should also point out that at this moment in time I’ve yet to play Uncharted Golden Abyss, which many are saying is the “killer launch title”, I’ll get round to it but to be fair I’m impressed enough at the moment without getting my mitts on that one.

Remoteplay functions in the same way as it does on the PSP so no changes there, other than on the lovely crisp OLED screen it looks that much nicer 🙂 PlayTV and also the PSOne games installed on the PS3 run well and look as you’d expect, only tried it over a local Wifi connection so far more testing on a wifi hotspot (or more likely the work wifi network ;D) is on the cards.

Generally it’s had a good start out of the gate, finally there’s a portable unit that can deliver an almost home console quality experience. It’s up to Sony now to prove that they can follow through and deliver the goods going forwards with content that makes full use of all the PSV has too offer.

And for those of you on the fence, Little Big Planet is on the horizon … and it’s awesome !!

 

Raiders of the Lost Block

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So last week saw the release of the latest in Travellers Tales Lego inspired game …. Lego Indiana Jones – The Original Adventures

Previously they’ve turned out highly enjoyable recreations of the Star Wars universe, with both humorous takes on classic scenes and engaging game play for kids of all ages. So there were high hopes for this one.

And they haven’t disappointed ….

If you’ve played any of the previous Star Wars Lego games you’ll know what to expect in the graphics department. The only thing they’ve done here is change the setting to match those of the 3 original Indy movies (no Kingdom of the Crystal Skull nonsense here). The cut scenes again take memorable/key scenes from the movies and render them in “3D block-o-vision” and inject the humour that was found in the Star Wars games.
The Lego versions of Indy and Co. are pretty good and you’ll be able to tell which character is which quite easily. The scenery is detailed and well thought out as well. It’s the little graphical touches that’ll make you smile thought .. Indy’s whip, for example, is a lego piece complete with a connector on the end.

The audio is good too …. You’ll be spotting segments of the movie scores throughout the game, normally at crucial/dramatic moments. As with the Star Wars games there’s no voice acting for the characters at all (well you try moving your mouth when your heads made from plastic) but given the expressions that are painted across their faces you won’t miss it. The audio fits in well without it overpowering the sound effects associated with what’s going on on screen.

So we’ve established that the look and sound of the game is pretty much what you’d expected when you picked up the game. The same Lego-based shenanigans you saw in Star Wars but with an Indy theme …. and that is no bad thing, but how did the game play.

They had to change the puzzle mechanic for the Indy games for the obvious reason …. you don’t get Indy messing about with “The Force”
This rules out any magic waving of arms to pull items from afar and flip switches, what you end up with is a wrench (or it might be a spanner) and a shovel. With both of these you can dig up buried items and fix machines that activate little platforms and vehicles.
You’ll find quite a lot of co-operative puzzles for your characters to get plastic noggins round following the staple of switches to activate, gaps to traverse and things to locate to allow you to build bigger things.
Weapons are aquired by reducing the enemies that have them to their component parts (and I still don’t get tired of seeing them explode into a little shower of Lego bricks) but if there aren’t any of those around you can often throw objects or just resort to good old fashioned fisticuffs. Co-op is at the heart of this game, although also a bit of a question as well but I’ll get to that in a minute, and if you’re not playing with a friend it doesn’t detract from the gameplay. The AI controlling your companion is capable of dispensing as swift a blocky end as you are, and they always know what to do and where to jump when it comes to the puzzles (once you’re on the right track of course). You’ll also find yourself being forced to switch characters due to their “phobias”, for example, Indy is scared of snakes and cowers when he gets too close to them and you have to back him away from the hissing reptile.
This mechanic works fantastically both within the realms of the “world” that this is set in and for the puzzles themselves.

Intialy you’ll run through the game on Story Mode to unlock the levels in Free Play mode .. which allows you to go back and fully explore the environment outside of the character constraints of the story on the quest for treasure chests and studs to buy extra characters and clothing.
The game features the build-a-character mode which resulted in many a weird creation Lego Star Wars, the parts are a tad more restrained here but it’s still amusing to switch Indy’s head onto Short Round’s body. The “menu” itself is a museum which is too be explored as well, as that too contains secrets and things to collect.

Yes, they had to tweak the formula that worked so well in Lego Star Wars but it doesn’t detract from the overall feel of the game which is one of fun.
You still get the “unlimited lives” to allow the younger (or less skilled older) player to progress through the game and there’s an adaptive AI to make it harder for the better player, but it’s got all the pieces it needs to be a good game and it makes good use of them. There are however a couple of negative points ….. The first one being the camera. In some instances it’d be nice to be able to move the camera more freely so we can get a better idea of the scenery and the hidden treasures. Several times I found myself making a “leap of faith” towards what I hoped was a ledge … only to find myself plummeting to my demise. It’s not bad to the extent that the game’s unplayable, not at all, in fact it’s pretty good for the vast majority of the game. It’s just those little instances that you’d like it to move a tad more than it actually does. The second gripe is related to Co-op play. The final incarnation of Lego Star Wars had online Co-op which was great fun, yet for some reason they chosen to omit this from Lego Indiana Jones which mystifies me …. but the fun is still there, you’ll just have to invite a mate over to come and enjoy it with you.

In a nutshell, this is a (whip) crackingly good game with plenty for kids of all ages. If you enjoyed Lego Star Wars you’ll enjoy this.

I can’t wait for the next offering from Traveller’s Tales …… Lego Batman

Access Granted ?

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So this week saw the release of firmware 2.30 for the PS3

Most of us were excited about the redesign of the Playstation Store, with good reason as it now loads significantly faster than before along with being much more user friendly in the navigation stakes.

The other little tit-bit that had people counting down was the news that with the store update they’d be opening up the Metal Gear Online beta to Europe officially (instead of having to sign up for a Japanese account and going through a very odd/confusing process all in Japanese)

This brings me to the topic of this post … Access ….

A lot of people have been very vocal about the fact that PSN is free for users and allows them to play with others online in the same way that Xbox Live does. A lot of other people have been very vocal about the quality of service offered by Xbox Live and it’s “user-friendliness” ….. I think that the later of these two sets are going to be very happy with what’s happened.

In order to play Metal Gear Online you’re going to need to do the following …

1) Have a playstation network ID (pretty much a given I know but there’s a point here)
2) Sign up for a Konami ID on a separate website
3) After signing up for a Konami ID, you then need to create a Game ID

It’s also worth noting that you need to create a password for both the Konami and Game ID’s. The Konami one needs can be alpha-numeric but the Game one can only be numeric.

So, realistically, you need 3 ID’s and passwords to get MGO running … and before anyone suggests it the Konami ID and Game ID cannot be the same ….

On Xbox Live everything is tied to your gamertag .. that’s it …. that is your online “presence” for that console.
And that’s it … no going to website “X” and signing up for account “Y” ….
Admittedly with Phantasy Star Universe you have to pay a monthly fee for a “hunters licence” but you don’t need to sign up for another account, you can do it all using your gamertag and from the Marketplace blade of the 360 itself.

This in my opinion is why the Live service is worth the money .. after all it’s £40 for a 12 month subscription (which works out at roughly £3.35 a month) so it’s not exactly breaking the bank.

I’ve got my account ready and the client for Metal Gear Online downloaded so once it goes live on April 21st we’ll see how it performs ….

The death of Rock …….

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Rock Band that is ……

All across the web a wave of discontent and disgust is heading in the direction of EA because of what they announced this week concerning this game.

The game was originally released in November last year for the US and since then the other markets have been waiting patiently to partake of the fun that this game has brought to our US brethren ….
This week they announced that date for us European types, May23rd.
Although it’s going to be a “timed exclusive” and that date only applies to the Xbox 360.

“Great” thinks I .. “I was planning on getting it for that anyway” mainly due to the fact that the Guitar Hero guitars I have for the 360 will work with that version of Rock Band, so four player band based fun was going to be mine.

I say “was” … Not because it’s due out and I haven’t got it yet, but because I no longer plan to buy this game which generated so much excitement in the US and here and looked to be a game I would be playing and buying DLC for for quite some time.

The reason behind this sudden about face in desire …. Compare the following ….

In the US right now on Amazon you can buy the “special edition” which is the game, a guitar, a USB microphone and a drum kit for $147.99 (and the RRP or “list price” is $169.99).
Using current conversion rates for the $ to £ that works out at around £85. Now I wasn’t expecting that sort of price for all those goodies as it never works like that. I was expecting it to be around the £100/120 mark ….

I wasn’t even close …….

EA in their infinite wisdom have decided release it in the following manner and to set the RRP for it to the following ….

An “instrument edition” that retails for £130 which consists of a guitar, USB microphone and drums BUT NO GAME !!! The game’s set to retail for £50.

So in total to get the same Rock Band experience that the US got we’ll have to shell out £180 ….

Quite frankly this is an attrocious choice of price point. I know various online retailers are going to cut money off the game itself bring it down to £40 and Play.com have already dropped the instrument bundle to £100, but that’s still £20 more than I was prepared or able to justify paying for it.

Given the out cry that this has generated amongst European gamers (I’m not going to link anything here … check any of the gaming blogs or even the forums on EA’s website) I find it hard to believe that EA is going to sell all that many units.
Petitions are being created and apparently the EA forums have stopped accepting new accounts as many are registering just to voice their complaint.
I myself will be showing my displeasure at their decision by “hitting them in the wallet” and will refrain from purchasing any EA published games from here on.

Rock Band was going to be fantastic …. Guitar Hero was looking scared …. Today it seems to be switched.
With one announcement they appear to have sealed the fate of ,what was, one of the most eagerly anticipated games of this year …..

Rock and Roll may never die … but I’m afraid, in Europe at least, Rock Band looks like it may ….

Incoming Tangos !!!

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Rainbow Six: Vegas was a staple for the lads from work and I on Xbox Live for a long time.

Then Halo 3 hit followed by Call Of Duty 4 and the group splintered amongst the two titles.
Follow this up with the glut of releases that hit in the last couple of months last year and you can kiss our Wednesday night gaming sessions goodbye …

However this week sees the release of Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 ….

I managed to snag an early copy of the game and spent a little time with it last night.
As the reviews have stated the core game hasn’t changed that much at all.
The controls are identical to the first. The graphics have had a bit of a polish but there wasn’t much wrong with them in the first place.

The change that people will notice is in your character …..

In the first game you were able to scan your face using the Xbox Vision camera and put your own face on your avatar for the multiplayer portion of the game, like this.
That feature is back, with the twist that you can use it on your avatar in the single player game as well, and as they’ve added jump-in/out co-op play to the mix it’s a very nice touch indeed.

The XP system that featured in the multiplayer portion of the first game has also been overhauled. Where before you got XP for winning matches online (with a very meager amount awarded if you were on the losing side) now you get to level up your character by playing through the single player “offline” campaign, which means you won’t get stuck heading into an online match with a pea-shooter when everyone else is packing nukes !!!
The other addition to the XP system is the “A.C.E.S.” rewards.
Split across 3 categories “Marksman”,”C.Q.B.” and “Assault” you have a selection of tasks for example “Headshots at a long distance” or “Take out an enemy when blind firing”.
The more of these that you complete the more you level up in that particular category and open up extras available only to that category. So for example if you level up in “Marksman” you start unlocking new and improved sniper rifles and other such goodies unique to that category.
Maxing out one category won’t open up every weapon to do that you’ll need to complete all of them, which sort of gives the game an “RPG-esque” quality with your character evolving to your style of play.

Well this is only a brief “first impressions” as I only got to spend about half an hour with it.
I’m looking forwards to getting my teeth into it properly over the next week so we’ll see what happens …..

And remember …. what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas 😉

Tango Down !!!

Impending Wealth Diminishment

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So we reach the month of November ..
Que the local “yoof massive” purchasing fireworks that they shouldn’t be getting their grubby little mits on and setting them off on the green outside the flat.
Now the majority of the time I’ll turn a blind eye and let them mess about with explosives as they’re not my kids, however when they’re doing it at midnight it’s not exactly inspiring goodwill towards them … but as yet my wishes to hear a scream resulting from a skin graft enducing burn haven’t been fullfilled
(does this make me a bad person ?)

The other thing about November …. The pre-holiday season gaming flood !!
It seems that the gaming industry is conspiring to make me a very very poor person indeed …
After PGR4 and The Orange Box arriving at the end of October they’re now forcing me to purchase Call Of Duty 4 this week (no honestly they are .. there’s a gun to my head and everything).
Next week I get a week off but the week after that there’s Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action on the 360 and Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii
The week November 23rd sees the release of Guitar Hero 3 and Mass Effect. The words essential purchase spring to mind for these two. To say that I’m excited about Mass Effect would be an understatement and Guitar Hero 3 ….. Well it’s Guitar Hero .. Nuff Said 🙂

So in the space of about 6 or 7 weeks I’m spending approx. £300 on games .. OUCH !!!

I know Christmas is just around the corner and all that ,but to be honest, given the track record of certain parties (who shall remain nameless) not getting the most obvious of hints it looks like the only way I’m going to get hold of all these goodies is if I buy them myself.
Then the only problem is finding the time to play them all !!!! I know I don’t sleep much but this may stretch even my capabilities …..

Hopefully I’ll be able to get my mits on Call Of Duty 4 this evening …. Sometimes I love working for this company 😉
So stay tuned for some first impressions