Friday, 17 June 2011

A Retrospective

I’ve been playing Aliens Vs Predator recently. I remember all the fuss when it was about to come out, and then the slightly poor reviews it received, and as I didn’t have an Xbox or PS3 back then, it kinda just passed me by. However, I picked a copy up for about a fiver a few weeks back and I have to say that I’m very impressed with it. As a ma-hussive fan of the sci-fi genre and of the Alien franchise in particular (c’mon, I’ve got a Weyland Yutani jacket), I feel that I am qualified enough to say that it’s the best game set in the Alien universe that I’ve yet to play. And I’ve played a few – including the gash 8 and 16-bit era ones, Alien Trilogy, Alien Resurrection (which I’ve still got for the PS1), and even the previous iterations of the AvP license. And yes, I even had the Jaguar version back in the day. None of them though, match the atmosphere and feel of the dank and gloomy colony like this new AvP does. The sound samples of the weapons and Alien screeches are spot on; and the franticness of the marine missions is perfectly pitched whilst the Alien missions capture the experience of actually being on the other side of the battle. I must, however, admit that I haven’t touched the Predator missions at the time of writing. I’ll get round to them, but I much prefer the other two characters.

I’ve re-read some of the reviews that appeared upon AvP’s release and I can’t help but feel that a lot of them are just a little harsh. The graphics are actually really good and the aforementioned sound effects are straight out of the movies. Sure, the Alien’s controls do get a little confusing in the heat of the moment, but they’re nothing a fully dextrous, sober (cough) human can't handle. Basically, what I’m saying is that if you’re a fan of the Alien films and/or canon, then you have to get hold of a copy of this game as it is the most authentic way to fully immerse yourself in the xenomorph mythos. Fuck the reviews, come get some. Furthermore, on the basis of AvP, I have spectacularly high hopes for Aliens: Colonial Marines, which I believe is out later this year. But don’t quote me. I’m often wrong, and this is no different.

Remaking or rebooting old games seems to be the ‘in’ thing at the moment though, and I have to say that the subject is one that definitely interests this particular gamer. I’ve just been looking at comparison shots of the new Ocarina of Time for the 3DS and the original game on the N64. Saying that the new shots look amazing is an understatement – the level of detail lavished upon familiar and well-trodden low-res haunts is heart-warming, and may even sway me towards actually investing in a 3DS. It looks that good, in my opinion. Another retro-ish game getting the upgrade treatment is Halo. It was the first thing I ever played on the Xbox and it was a truly great game. Having it re-mastered for the current console is a masterstroke. Screaming around that little tropical island on a Warthog blowing the fuck out of Covenenant grunts in full HD glory will be nothing short of orgasmic, you mark my words. Obviously, rebooting an old favourite doesn’t always go well, as we have seen with the recent release of the new Duke Nukem game. So, it’s not technically a reboot as it’s a whole new game, but I see that the reviews have been a little harsh on the Duke. To be fair, a lot of the critics have lambasted the game simply because they view the central character as an archaic womanising asshole rather than because it’s a poor game. Erm, wasn’t the original reason Duke shot to fame because he was an archaic womanising asshole?! If Duke Nukem Forever had been set in a sanitised suburbia and featured a suit-wearing family man in the title role, I’m sure the same hacks would be complaining about the dullness of it all. Pricks.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

(Half) Marathon Man

Took delivery of my latest piece of running-based tech yesterday - a Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS watch. You may recall that I previously owned a Garmin Forerunner 405 (or you may not. In which case – I did.), but had to sell it in order to pay my rent when I lived in that fucking weird house-share last year. Anyway, I got my new Garmin 110 yesterday and went for my first trial run with it (13.6 miles, just in case you wondered), and the verdict is thus: It’s every bit as good as the Forerunner 405, and happily (in my humble opinion) omits the slightly fiddly touch-sensitive bezel and questionable water resistance.

As you may be able to guess from the numbers in the title of the device, the 110 is marketed as a ‘lite’ version of the 405, and as such it boasts fewer features (for one, it doesn’t support wireless data transfer to the PC software suite that collects your activity records), but to be fair I never used the advanced features of the 405 anyway. For me, the important factors of any run are covered: time taken, distance covered and speed. Don’t personally need any more than that to be fair. I’ve not updated this blog for a while (well, prior to last week) so you won’t know (or care) that I’ve been keeping on top of my running and even took part in last month’s Plymouth half marathon. According to the official timing website, I completed the 13 mile course in 1 hour and 31 mins, coming in 200th out of about 6000 runners. Which suits me fine, considering it was my first competitive run/race. I think the actual winner did it in 1 hour 5 mins, so I’m more than happy with my time. I can see why people get so addicted to doing those kind of events though, as even though I’ve done much longer road runs on my own, the sense of achievement when you cross the finish with a large crowd cheering is amazing. As a result, I’m also doing the Bristol half marathon in September and there are a few 10k runs I’m looking at entering between now and then.

On a slightly different note, last night I looked at the records from when I had the Forerunner 405. I only owned the thing for 5 months, but I appear to have run, jogged and staggered a grand total of 741 miles during that period. No wonder I fucked my leg up...

In other news: Wii U. Why? I know I said the same thing about the iPad when it came out, but for fuck sake Nintendo - who exactly is the Wii U meant to be aimed at? They're taking a console that alienated the hardcore Nintendo fans and then complicating it. I don't know about anyone else, but when I saw the promo videos for it, it just looked like too much hard work. What, by the way, is wrong with just having a normal console with a normal joypad that connects to your TV? Pfft. I already know I won't be bothering with the Wii U and it's not even out for another year or so.

Call me a morbid, depressing, nay-saying cunt-hole if you want, but the Wii U just looks like a gimmicky waste of time that'll be fun for a few days and then just end up sat under the telly collecting dust. Like most of the Wiis various mates own.

Right. I'm off for a run. Or a brew. Probably a brew. Knackered.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

A Brief Social Commentary

Have a look at this:

It's a snap of a page from the Argos Catalogue mini pamphlet thing that fell out of the paper this morning. Look closely at the picture. Right there at the bottom, below the image of a wallet containing at least 20 quid and a load of credit cards, and below the price tag of £6.49, it says 'contents not included.'

Contents. Not. Included.

Argos obviously felt the need to include this helpful notice. Think about that for a moment. Quite scary, eh?

Friday, 10 June 2011

Assorted Stuff from the Ether

Hello. It’s been ages since I’ve even thought about updating this shit. Mainly because no-one actually reads what I spunk out on here. But I’m a bit bored so I thought I might as well have a go at writing something to see if it makes any sense. To be fair, I’ve actually done quite a lot of interesting stuff since I last put anything on here (and looking down there at my previous entry, my amazing deduction skills tell me it’s been 9 months), so I may start updating again on a more regular basis just to boast about the exciting shit I’ve been up to. Maybe.

But anyway, here we are. I’m still in the employ of the navy, but hopefully not for very much longer. Why? Well, I’ve applied for voluntary redundancy. You may think this is madness in a time of recession, but I think I’ve definitely had my fill of being treated like an imbecile and living in ‘unsuitable’ conditions. I’m not one for being cryptic, so let me explain. When the powers that be in government decided to bin the Harriers and flog the Ark Royal for scrap, they also happened to shut down most of the Fleet Air Arm’s operations at several RAF bases around the country. As such, we had an influx of naval personnel sent back to Naval Air Stations. Where accommodation was already stretched. So the top brass decided that all junior rates should be taken out of single living accommodation and forced to double up – that is, cram two people into a room designed to house one. This might not sound like the end of the world, especially considering the cramped conditions people serving onboard ships have to live in, but when the only place you have to store all your belongings in suddenly has to accommodate the belongs of two people, you can imagine how crowded it gets. So yeah, along with hating my job, I now have to live in a cramped shoebox. With a bloke who snores so loud that the corpses in the graveyard at the back of the base probably have to wear earplugs every night.

To combat this, I have been sleeping on a couch in the mess square (basically a communal TV room), and it was during one such night a few months ago that I decided that I’d had enough of living like this, at nearly 30 years old. Doing a job I fucking hate, sleeping on a couch, living in the middle of nowhere and only getting to see my girlfriend at the weekend and never being able to go home to Manchester because it takes 5 hours to drive back there. So for me, the idea of taking voluntary redundancy has been a bit of a dream come true. People constantly ask “what are you going to do?” and I constantly reply “start living my fucking life again.”

So that’s the main thing going on at the moment – getting away from here, this job, this subservient lifestyle. Meh.

Got my car insurance renewal quote a few weeks ago. For some reason, the same company that last year demanded £550 for third party fire and theft cover wanted £2165 for the next. £2165 to insure the most undesirable car ever built?! To them I said “fuck you kindly,” and went on the hunt for a new insurance company. I eventually managed to get a quote of about £400 and I’m happy with it, but because I went on Compare the Finance Supermarket or whatever the fuck website it was, I’m now getting constant phone calls from dodgy insurance brokers asking me if I want a quote or, more worryingly, if I want to claim the accident I had recently. What fucking accident?! Has somebody stolen my identity and started having accidents? Sounds outlandish, I know, but there are shady fuckers around and they’ll stop at nothing to make a quick buck and bollocks to whoever’s life they screw up. Hypothetical cunts.

Also managed to acquire another Xbox360. Selling my old one cut me deep, but I had to in order to buy food or something. That was last year so since then, the only consoles I’ve been able to play have been my trusty old Dreamcast (respec’) and my crusty old PlayStation. But now I’m back in the game (excuse the piss-poor pun), but not without a bit of annoyance. You see, because I’m a cheapskate, I thought I’d go for a pre-owned Xbox 4GB from GAME. It was £139.99. And then a day later I saw that Argos were selling the exact same machine for about 10 quid more, but brand new. I then, after a few weeks of ownership, discovered that the 4GB hard drive fills up pretty quickly and have had to fork out for a hard drive that slots into the bottom of the console. That was another £30. So all in all, I would probably have been better off just buying a 250GB model in the first place. It’s not all bad though, as I now have a 250GB console, but in the preferred matte black, as opposed to the shiny, smear-prone actual 250GB. I’m confusing the hell out of myself now, so I feel for you, dear reader. The games I have bought thus far are such: Aliens v Predator, Alan Wake, Halo Reach, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, Forza 3, Fight Night 3 and WRC and I must say that I am impressed with all of them so far (and looky over there at my gamertag thingy! It's automatically updated itself! The wonders of modern technology, eh?!). Not so much Fight Night, actually, but it was only a fiver so I can’t complain too much.

The last thing I want to announce, proudly, is that I have finally defeated my Facebook addiction. I decided one day a few months ago, to go cold turkey and totally deactivate my account. I thought I'd only be able to last a few days...but here I am, three months later and I don't even miss the cunting thing! So you see, it IS possible to exist without updating the world on when you're having a shit! WIN!

That’s enough from me for now. I’ll probably write some more words next week or something.