Thank You, Ryan Davis.

Today, we as a global community united through games, journalism and where these trades meet we shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of Ryan. I don't know that I can say anything that hasn't already been expressed by anyone. Firstly though, I'm sorry for what those closest to him have had to endure this last week. Hearing the news is bad enough first time around, but to sit on it for it almost a full week, knowing you'll have to write about it, announce it on the site, thinking through the right words to say. That must be truly devastating. You're stronger than I would have been, if faced with that task.

It almost feels ridiculous writing an obituary of sorts for a man I never met, yet after following Giant Bomb for a good six years now, hearing his voice almost every day, I feel like a know him. He always spoke with conviction and passion, never without the cajones to say something controversial, or without the means to back it up.

He was one of those rare people; a very busy man who found time in the day for anyone and everyone. My major interaction with Ryan was when I asked him to check out some writing I'd done on my (now defunct) website. It was a review for Just Cause 2. I'd written it not too long before the subscription feature was introduced, so I knew afterwards how busy he'd have been at the time. I was not expecting an email back just a couple of hours later, with quotes of what he liked about my writing, and a few snippets of advice on what I could improve. One sentence stuck out particularly for me.

"Your flow's all over the place. Fix that first"

Ryan Davis

That simple line of constructive criticism has stuck the longest, and it's still the first thing I address with anything I do.

That's the sort of fellow Ryan was. Helpful, considerate and never not happy. Many a time I've led in bed with the bombcast ringing through my headphones, knowing that at some point, something would tickle him, and he'd laugh that infectious, childlike, glee-filled giggle of his. That laugh always brought a smile to my, and I'm sure many others' faces.

We're all hurting today. We've lost an icon, someone who impacted our lives in some way, no matter how big or small. A man with a heart as big as his personality, radiating a constant warmth.

Look at that, my flow's all over the place.

Thank you, Ryan, for everything you did for everyone. Rest in peace.

Start the Conversation

Thank You, Ryan Davis.

Today, we as a global community united through games, journalism and where these trades meet we shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of Ryan. I don't know that I can say anything that hasn't already been expressed by anyone. Firstly though, I'm sorry for what those closest to him have had to endure this last week. Hearing the news is bad enough first time around, but to sit on it for it almost a full week, knowing you'll have to write about it, announce it on the site, thinking through the right words to say. That must be truly devastating. You're stronger than I would have been, if faced with that task.

It almost feels ridiculous writing an obituary of sorts for a man I never met, yet after following Giant Bomb for a good six years now, hearing his voice almost every day, I feel like a know him. He always spoke with conviction and passion, never without the cajones to say something controversial, or without the means to back it up.

He was one of those rare people; a very busy man who found time in the day for anyone and everyone. My major interaction with Ryan was when I asked him to check out some writing I'd done on my (now defunct) website. It was a review for Just Cause 2. I'd written it not too long before the subscription feature was introduced, so I knew afterwards how busy he'd have been at the time. I was not expecting an email back just a couple of hours later, with quotes of what he liked about my writing, and a few snippets of advice on what I could improve. One sentence stuck out particularly for me.

"Your flow's all over the place. Fix that first"

Ryan Davis

That simple line of constructive criticism has stuck the longest, and it's still the first thing I address with anything I do.

That's the sort of fellow Ryan was. Helpful, considerate and never not happy. Many a time I've led in bed with the bombcast ringing through my headphones, knowing that at some point, something would tickle him, and he'd laugh that infectious, childlike, glee-filled giggle of his. That laugh always brought a smile to my, and I'm sure many others' faces.

We're all hurting today. We've lost an icon, someone who impacted our lives in some way, no matter how big or small. A man with a heart as big as his personality, radiating a constant warmth.

Look at that, my flow's all over the place.

Thank you, Ryan, for everything you did for everyone. Rest in peace.

Start the Conversation

So I Done Made A Thing For University.

I study Games Design, so naturally I got told to make a film trailer.
 
Bitching aside, I shot the first part and edited this all within about 3 hours, excluding the freerunning/parkour involved, which was done over a whole day some time ago.
 
 
 

 
 
If you search 'Redemption Song' on Vimeo, you should get another HD version as well.
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I'm Confused About Pricing...

Well, not so much the issue of pricing itself, that's relatively straight forward; more a case of confusion over the majority of gamer's fickle, wishy-washiness when it comes to pricing about Digital Download Content, be it original or an extension of a retail game.
 
It was the in the first few comments of this Kotaku article that made me think about this. It [the article]'s  about Game Room pricing. The majority of people seem to be fine with the notion that 240MS/$3/£2 (roughly) is a legitimate and acceptable price for these games that came out in the 80s. These are games that are between 20 and 30 years old, at the most extreme ends of the spectrum. If not now, then feasibly so in the future as more games are added.
 
Whilst of course, there are people who believe it is a cynical and exploitative price point that's completely unacceptable, the vibe seems to be on the whole, positive.
 
One of the major factors is noted by MadGenius who states:
 

While the games are emulated, there is a set team that is dedicated to the Arcade Room. How do you expect them to get paid? 
Which is a sentiment I can completely agree with, and am sure everyone else can as well, people are working on getting this running smoothly, maintaining leaderboards etc... they deserve their money, they've rightfully earned it. 
 
However, when the Stimulus Pack for Modern Warfare 2 was announced at it's price of 1200MS/$15/£10, this is considered completely unacceptable, and heads should roll for whoever set that price. Why?
 
The Stimulus Pack consists of five maps, which individually would cost, 240MS/$3/£2. It's the same price, there is an equally talented team of people behind making these maps, maintaining sevrers etc, and ensuring that they're compatible with the online protocols and will patch glitches within them as well. Yet, suddenly these people don't matter. They don't deserve our money for the work they've done. Why? Why or how the fuck is this the case!? It doesn't make sense to me.
 
Okay, I will concede, you're paying 480MS for two maps that you most likely got two years ago within the game. 
 
But why should this change anything, you're paying the same amount of money for games you potentially played 25 years ago as a child. I can appreciate a certain nostalgia factor for the slightly older gamers among us, and a curiosity factor for people more inline with my age who were unfortunate enough to not have an arcade in their home towns, or parents who couldn't afford to give you pocket money/allowance.
 
Sorry, but I can't see the logic in complaining about paying the same amount of currency for five games from the mid 80s as paying for five new maps to one of the biggest online multiplayer games around, regardless of whether two maps are old, albeit need some behind the scenes updating to work on the new protocols etc.
 
So, can someone explain to me why one team deserves your money, when another doesn't, when you would feasibly spend the same amount of time with each in the long run, and potentially need the same people who made it all exist work for as long as it has to.

And for the record, whilst I do own both Game Room and Modern Warfare 2, I have bought no games for my arcade, and I will not be purchasing the stimulus pack yet. For the fact that buying anything at the moment will completely bankrupt me.
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These Are The Defining Albums Of Me.

**Long read ahead.**
 
People, by their very nature are defined in a very intimate way buy the music they allow themselves to be engulfed in, and is, for the vast majority of people, the strongest cultural connection they have, as it is readily available, for a relatively (sometimes) reasonable price, and free on the radio. I am a great believer that whilst you can know a person for years, unless you discuss music in depth, without it resorting to "Your favourite band 'X' sucks because....", you can become firm friends with strangers in fifteen minutes as opposed to fifteen days, months or years. It's almost unspoken though, this deep connection we have to complete strangers through a group of four or so people, who we will likely never meet.
 
This aside, for the moment, I will tell you the albums that have defined my life, and made me who I am, if I can remember, I will tell you where or who from, I found out about the band, and why these albums have changed my life, for better or worse.
 
 

1. Feeder - Echo Park (2001)
This album came along at the right time for me, not long after my Grandfather died, I must have been about ten or eleven at the time, and it had hit me pretty damn hard, it was almost completely unexpected. I mean, we knew he wasn't well, but he was a tough old guy, even at 84. He used to fascinate me as a young whippersnapper with his war stories, going through Ethiopia in WW2, and being in one of the first squads to advance into Rome to end Mussolini's tyrannous regime. 
The album itself deals a lot with depression, which I was convinced I had at the time. (I didn't, I was upset, but didn't fully understand it). Nevertheless, I always felt I could relate to the sentiments in the music and the lyrics, but the whole album holds a fantastic silver lining quality, gently reassuring you that it's all going to be okay in the end. It may not have worked for their drummer at the time, but it helped me through a lot. This was the second album I ever bought. Incidentally, Feeder are amazing live, despite me not liking anything they did after Echo Park. 
Most Influential Track - Under The Weather (even if the most famous track is 'Buck Rogers').
 
(In case you're wondering, Slade's Greatest Hits was the first album I ever bought).
 
 
2. The Clash - Combat Rock (1982)
It wasn't until I was in year 8 or 9, so I would have been about 12 maybe 13 at the time, that I began to take an active interest in music, and exploring what felt right for me. I sat on a table in French Language classes with some left-wing people, who I found shared the same political ideals as me, and got recommended The Clash as being a band I should listen to. After a shift at my Saturday job (which didn't last long, I was fired for being too short), I picked this up in HMV for about £7. 
The album completely blew my mind, it was nothing like anything I had heard on the radio, and it wasn't until I looked closer that I found the reason. It was from 1982! This blew my mind. I owe a lot to this album. If it wasn't for this album, I would never have been introduced to Joe Strummer's brilliant lyrical powers, his passion was nothing I'd noticed in any other bands that were being touted as amazing at the time. (Stereophonics, Travis, Maroon5 to name a few lackluster examples doing the rounds). I would never have discovered just how much I love modern political history, and the resulting impacts it had. Paul Simonon's fretwork inspired me to pick up and learn to play Bass, even though I'd never own one until 6 years later. It's fair to say, that this album completely changed my life, and I don't think any album will ever have an impact that holds such gravity on me again.
 
The most amazing thing about this album? Just how much of it is still relevant today, save a few minor details.
Most Influential Track - Just listen to the whole damn album. (Spotify link, will hopefully work, if I'm not a total klutz).
 
3. The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy & The Lash (1986)
This is a brilliant album about death, thinly disguised as a jolly old jaunt through a mix of traditional and more modern Irish folk songs, with a wonderful punk twist. The Pogues helped form the genre 'Paddy Punk', with this being arguably the genre's most defining album. 
I find it hard to say what makes this album so special in shaping me, perhaps because it's possibly the first album I turn to when I'm feeling down, or if someone I know dies, this will always be wheeled out. 
This is invariably because it never fails to keep things in perspective. It reminds me that there's always an upside, even if you have to search for it, and no matter how bad things can seem, there are people out there, willing to have a good time, and lift your spirits, and even in death, there's a party to be had. Without The Pogues, and this album specifically, I wouldn't have been exposed to the wonderful fusion of Celtic Folk and UK Punk. Shane McGowan is undoubtedly one of the greatest poets of this generation.
A fantastic album that makes you feel for the characters involved, from the abused rent boy, to the wounded soldier. I should also point out I loved this album before one of it's tracks was featured in cop drama The Wire.
Most Influential Track - Body Of An American
 
 
4. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Streetcore (2003)
This pretty much affirms my love for Joe Strummer's lyrical prowess, and skill as a musician all round. From the guitar arrangements melding with his superbly crafted lyrics in 'Coma Girl' to the chapel-esque nature of 'Arms Aloft' and the greatest tribute to Bob Marley, with a sublime cover of 'Redemption Song'. This album has been key in decided my last year of my life. (As in, last 12 months I've lived, past not future tense. I'm not going to top myself). It has divine beauty in it's subtlety, and is a fantastic album for getting you in the mood for festival season. This is a brilliantly uplifting album, which retains just the right amount of seriousness. I have smoked my fair share of marijuana to this album, and I love it just as much as I do sober, which is a testament. This album seemed to teach me the pleasure of moderation, and if anything prevented me from going off the rails, which I was on the verge of doing recently.
Most Influential Tracks - Coma Girl, & Redemption Song.
 
5 - Streetlight Manifesto - Everything Goes Numb (2003) 
A few of you may have noticed, I seem to mention Streetlight Manifesto a fair bit, if too much on the main forums, so it's only natural for them to appear in this list somewhere.
I have my friend from college, Tommy to thank for introducing me to this band in 2007/8. Without this sudden refresh of ska in my ears, I'm not sure how many gigs I'd have been to by now, or if I'd even be studying at Leeds Metropolitan University right now. I have been a fan of ska for a long time now, but only really known 'two-tone' bands like Madness and The Specials. This album was transferred to my laptop, and I listened to it, within two days I was introduced to Capdown's 'Civil Disobedients' album, and in less than a week, I was going to their penultimate gig. Ever. It should stand to reason then, that that album holds this place, rather than Streetlight, but no. EGN was the album that completely opened my ears up to third-wave ska-punk, and without it, I wouldn't have bothered with Capdown. This album is probably the most defining of my college years before university, and without it, I would not own Sonic Boom Six, Capdown, Random Hand albums now. 
Everything Goes Numb is one of my most listened to albums to date, falling behind only London Calling and Rum, Sodomy & The Lash.
Most Influential Track - Point/Counterpoint.
 
There are naturally, going to be a few honourable mentions on this list so here they are.
Metallica - Ride The Lightning (My favourite Metallica album yet).
The Clash - London Calling (My favourite album, ever, but not as influential as Combat Rock was).
Capdown - Civil Disobedients
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde, Blood On The Tracks
Johnny Cash  - The Essential. (I know it doesn't count as an album, technically, but hey, all of Cash is gold).
 
Well, if you made it this far, you must have more time on your hands than I do, but thanks for reading. I've probably bored you now with my sentimental, drunk, self-absorbed bullshit, so I'll leave it with this.
 
Definitely check these bands out, if you haven't already. And if you only check one song on this list, make it Redemption Song.
Oh, and if any links are broken, leave a shout.
4 Comments

Insomnia.

Okay, recently, I've suffered pretty badly from this, and this thread made me think I should possibly write something about it.
 
Insomnia is, as most of you know is the inability to sleep. This particular affectation can cause so many varying and potentially untold effects on people, depending on the individual. I write this, partly to try and help others understand a bit more about it, despite not being an expert myself, and how it affects me, and could affect others.
 
First, some background information on me and my experiences with insomnia. I am twenty years old, and believe I have suffered with insomnia since I was approximately fourteen. At 14, I was going to bed at about 2130/2200 but not getting to sleep until between 0200 and 0330, having to get up at 0700. Now I am 20, I have no set 'getting up' time, but still try to go to bed at a consistent time, usually 0100-0200 hours. Sometimes I get to sleep at about 0500 hours. Often I stay awake all night, rarely I'll sleep within an hour of going to bed.
 
Over the years, this has had an obvious effect on me as a person. I find myself very angry throughout the day, and much calmer at night, as my body went through a seemingly unconscious sleep phase, where it rested more during the day than it did at night, owing to a lack of sleep. This, of course, meant I didn't fulfill my full potential in secondary school. (High School I believe in America), with a steady decline over the last 3 years, as my problem got worse. After one year of sixth form, I dropped out and went to college, I was 18 by this point, and of legal drinking age in the UK. Despite being in better conditions generally, I was still suffering, and going to college on ad little as two hours sleep. I quickly turned to drinking heavily. I'm talking between 3-5 cans of very strong cider every night, just in order to sleep. This meant going to college with a hangover, which obviously didn't help my situation. 
 
Now, I am in university, and my problem is the worse it has been for a long while, but still manageable. I am attended classes, and using my insomnia to polish my projects off. I have a psychiatrist in my uni town, who is on speed dial if I need them.
 
The biggest problem I have, is that the major active ingredient in all sleep aid/remedies, I am allergic to, so I will get a couple of hours sleep, but spend longer in the bathroom later. A major factor is diet, however university student's diets are limited by a strict budget, so diets are similar, the majority are lucky enough to not have a full blown issue with the affectation, and I envy them.
 
My problem is at the point where I hallucinate often, usually as a resultant depression caused by a lack of sleep. I often get to a point where I wonder why I choose to remain here. After 40+ hours no sleep, you wonder what the point is, and you question everything in your life, and you shrink down the good points, overshadow them, make mountains out of the molehills in your life.
 
Now, in some posts in sleeplessness-related threads, I speak about much more physical aspects of health affection as a result of insomnia. Fortunately, most people pass out and get sleep before this happens. Unfortunately, I cannot offer a solid cure or more robust help on the subject matter, as this depends largely on the individual.
 
All I can say is this: If you start hallucinating vividly, or feeling physically unwell through an inability to sleep not choosing not to sleep, consult your doctor.
If you start to feel depressed, don't dwell on the negatives, but focus on the positive things in your life, no matter how small.*
Try a more balanced approach to your diet, you'll be amazed at how this helps.
 
 
*I have recently dwelled up the bleakness of my life - my massive debt, how I can't get financial help, how nothing wants to go right in my life. BUT. I recently signed a contract to get a house for my next year of university study, with some friends of mine. I focused on this contract, how good it felt to have some security, no matter how small, and it helped. A lot.
 
I am almost certain this isn't as comprehensive or as helpful as I intended it to be when I started, but hey, I'm at 41 hours awake right now. Get some sleep folks, and feel better.   

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'Sick' Games.

This is not a blog about games which are 'sick' in the wrongness sense, no, this is a post about games that you play when you're ill, sick, feeling shite, or just skiving off work/school/whatever. Sorry if you feel letdown by the title already. So, I recently wrote a review for The Saboteur, in which I stated that this is likely to become my new 'sick' game.
 
A sick game, from my experience generally comes from a game that has so much stuff to do in it, that you can't be bothered to rinse all 200+ items you need to find or whatever the objective may be. Most recently for me, this took place in the form of Assassin's Creed. Yeah, you guessed it. Those damned flags. During a long, bedridden week with some severe flu, this July or August gone ('09) I popped AC1 into my 360, and spent a good 7 hours going through, finding all those flags, and Templars, four of which glitched out, didn't appear, so I had to go through their 60 locations again.
 
Similarly, Crackdown had this sickness effect, I've spent several sick days trying to beat the races, and collect those cursed orbs, I believe I am just one away from collecting all the Agility orbs, and about 100 from the hidden orbs.   
 
The Saboteur is likely my new sick game simply because of the frankly insane amount of tasks to do. I am nowhere nears destroying all the Nazi stuff, finding the crates, the cars, let alone finishing side quests and the perk trees.
 
But what makes a sick game? For me, it has to fulfill three criteria:

  • It has to be fun.
  • It should, ideally, have mad collectibles.
  • It shouldn't be too stressful to play through and get these collectibles (you aren't well, after all, and we don't want you getting any worse).
 
This got me thinking - am I the only person who has games purposely left unfinished, knowing that finishing the game can be achieved with a few hours dedication? Or am I not as mad as I thought?
 
If I'm not mad, what games do you play to take your mind of vomiting, or whatever your ailment is? If so, for what reason (other than mind occupation), gamerscore? High scores? If I am mad, tell me so.
 
(Also, I thought Batman: Arkham Asylum fits in this category, but I already have all the riddles solved).
29 Comments

CandleJakk's Games Of The Year Awards (2009).

Yes, I know, I've arrived a little late to be posting one of these, but I often receive video games that are released later in the year for Christmas, and as such, I like to spend a little more time with some of these before posting 'A Best Of The Year' blog before at least  sampling the best of the year.
 
This post is comprised of games that I have played this year, that were released this year, as such titles I wish to play, and will do soon are missing.

So before I get straight to my personal favourites from this past year, a few other categories that I feel a lot of places are more likely to overlook than others.

BEST PORTABLE VIDEO GAME, INCLUDING MOBILE PHONE GAMES.


I've bunged what would otherwise be two categories together for the simple fact that I didn't buy many portable games this year, apart from a load on my iPhone.

5 - Sky Burger (iPhone)
This is most likely unknown to the majority of iPhone users around here. This is a simple game whereby you make burgers by catching falling ingredients to a specification, using nothing more than the iPhone's built in accelerometers. The UI for this is simple, elegant and very functional. A great little time waster.

4 - Bejeweled 2 (iPhone)
It's Bejeweled. 2. There's not a lot really more to say, other than this has killed some 9 hour train journeys marred by delays and breakdowns for me.

3 - Scrabble (iPhone)
It may be a pretty portable board game already, but I recently got this on it's limited sale price of £1.19, and has re-ignited my faith in mobile gaming, with functional, though occasionally clunky controls, EA has implemented them well, and with the ability to have the dictionary updated as language evolves faster than a dictionary can be, this helps maintain it as a staple. I cannot stop playing Scrabble.

2 - Canabalt (iPhone, PC)
Most of you are probably aware of this game. It's the one that's in grey-scale and uses one simple tap or button press for controls. This game is great as it's deceptively simple, and can be used to hone reaction times, and timing of jumps, which also aids deftness of touch. Very, very addictive.

1 - Grand Theft Auto - Chinatown Wars (DS, PSP)
I picked this up not long after release, and whilst I feel the story falters in places, and the controls can be a bit of a pig at times, the immense fun that can be had with this game, and the inclusion of the drug-dealing mini game is superb.

Honorable mentions: Word Fu, Rolando, Tetris.

GAMES OF THE YEAR THAT I'VE ONLY HAD A CHANCE TO PLAY THROUGH A LITTLE BIT, BUT NOT COMPLETE.


5 - Left 4 Dead 2 (XBox 360)
I would have played this by now, as it was my birthday present. (My birthday was in the middle of November, but the UK's shite postal system meant it never reached me until I came home from university, without my XBox). However, I played the hell out of the co-op demo that was available at the Leeds Eurogamer Expo, and again once I downloaded the demo.

4 - Tekken 6 (XBox 360, PS3)
Again, I played this at Eurogamer, for quite a while, it took ages to get on, and when you inadvertently end up in a tournament, I felt like I was 8 again, playing Tekken 3 for the first time. I can't help but feel that Tekken 6 is the return to form that disappeared since Tekken 4 or Tag Tournament.

3 - New Super Mario Bros Wii. (Wii)
I only played a few hours of this with my mother and brother over Christmas, and we haven't had quite so much fun playing a game together, due to partial ineptitude and the main conversation that involved yelling and laughter as we all managed to fall down the same hole and bubble ourselves.

2 - The Saboteur (XBox 360)
I played all three demo missions that were available at the Eurogamer Expo, and loved every minute. I am aware there are imperfections in the title. I found the art style brilliant and well implemented, despite all the gaminess that you're always aware of, I had far too much fun playing this game, and wanted it the second I put that controller down.

1 - Uncharted 2 (PS3)
I know this will be an awful lot of users GOTY, but I received this for Christmas, and haven't had much free time to play this yet, I only managed to squeeze an hour in last night, and I loved it. I was completely immersed in this game, but damn New Year's meant I had to stop playing to watch the last bit of Jools Holland on BBC2.

Honorable mentions: Dante's Inferno, Killzone 2.

THE CandleJakk AWARD FOR KIDNAPPING.


A special award given to games that have stolen something from me over the last year.

3 - 50 Cent: Blood On The Sand. (XBox 360, PS3)
This game stole my dignity. Receiving near constant lampooning for playing such a game, especially given my disdain of 'Fiddy' and his music, to be caught playing his game was a tad embarrassing, despite the game actually being quite fun.

2 - Peggle; Peggle Nights expansion) (XBLA)
Given for stealing too many hours of my life, and ironically, many sleepless nights have been caused from these games, and I have received better value for money from the £15 or so I have spent on them. Pure, simple, addictive. Peggle.

1 - Street Fighter IV (XBox 360, PS3, PC)
For stealing my money. I never played Street Fighter II when it first came out, I didn't have a console then, and possibly even not a PC, as a result I was horrifically unfamiliar with the control style, but that's not it so much. I couldn't help but feel that this game was ludicrously unfair to those unfamiliar with the controls, and the lower difficulty levels are rock solid hard, and Seth is one of the cheapest boss fights I've ever struggled through, taking about 40 minutes to beat the bastard. It caused me to break two controllers through sheer Nerd Rage, and I ultimately traded it in, which is a shame as I think, had I not raged so much, I could have grown to love such a revered series.

MY GAMES OF THE YEAR.


5 - Shadow Complex (XBox 360)
A shining example of what can be done within the limiting specifications for an XBLA game, given a decent budget, enough ambition & passion. A game that has re-play value, and what is already a challenging and lengthy title for the size. This was a welcome addition to the 'MetroidVania' style of side-scrolling, action-adventure-platforming-shooter that housed a fantastic collectibles system that challenged your lateral thinking as well as gaming abilities. This is worthy of a place in anyone's list.

4 - inFamous (PS3)
I bought my PS3 in April, with Little Big Planet, but after playing that, it lay dormant for quite some time, until this title came along. I have long been a fan of graphic novels, and whilst this isn't based on one, I can't think of any game I have played that pulled off the feel of one so well as inFamous has done. Whilst the characters are not wholly believable, they are fun and larger than life, who do possess a human element that isn't quite fully realised, I whiled away several hours working through the game, with it's intense combat, tough 'boss' fights, and a crackling use of electricity as a not fully obvious choice of super power, but an idea that is perfectly realised.

3 - Skate 2. (XBox 360, PS3)
The first new game that I purchased in 2009, and it remains possibly my most played game this year, excluding Call of Duty 4. It is certainly one of the titles that I have had a lot of fun on, whether going through it's weak, tacked-on story that is ultimately forgettable, to completing the Hall Of Meat challenges, or just freeskating online with friends. Skate 2 is a highly polished sandbox game that improved on the original and raised the bar once more for the Tony Hawk franchise. Despite the poor on foot controls, just having that ability there was a blessing enough, and something I could tolerate the small amount of time I spent off board. I will get those last four achievements on this game.

2 - Assassin's Creed II (XBox 360, PS3, PC)
Hands down, without question, the best sequel I have played (to completion, before I get flamed for not giving Uncharted 2 that honour, it could change), this year. This game takes everything that the original did correctly, improves on it, and strips out the shit that came bundled with the original, to create a better, more rounded experience that lasts about 2-3 times longer, and makes you relate to and feel for the Characters. I'll stop now before I spoil it, except I can't wait for the DLC.

1 - Borderlands (XBox 360, PS3, PC)
I followed Borderlands ever since I saw a couple of pieces of concept art about 2 years ago on Joystiq, and have waited for it for a long time, and it inevitably became a 9a.m day one purchase for me. I decided that I would play through the game at a leisurely pace, savouring every morsel of it. Some four days and too many hours later, I had collected all 1000 Gamerscore within the game, 100%ing the game twice in this period, which included two all-night sessions. My plan may not have worked, but the overall feel of the game, the art direction and the way the game oozes out early Tarantino style & charisma builds up into a fantastic experience like no other that I have played. From collecting Tannis' frankly hilarious tapes scattered throughout the Borderlands of Pandora, and working out all the references to pop culture, from Pulp Fiction to Lord Of The Rings, it is unabashedly shameless about paying a wonderful homage to everything, creating the best character to come from a game in a long time.

Honorable mentions: Modern Warfare 2, Red Faction: Guerilla, Splosion Man, Worms 2: Armageddon, The Secret Of Monkey Island.

Games I wish I'd had the chance to play this year: Demon's Souls (Very expensive to import), Dragon Age: Origins (This could be the game to get me to like RPGs), Noby Noby Boy (PAC-MAN PAC-MAN BUTTON!)

Sorry for length, cheers for reading my ramblings.
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Eurogamer Expo 2009 Roundup - Leeds.

Apologies if some things don't sit right with you in terms of content delivery, I just wrote this for some friends on Google Wave, (No, I don't have invites), who knew I was there, and I'll be damned if I'm writing it out again.
 
 The first thing that hit me was the size of it. Both days fully sold out, with a total of around 1300-1400 people in attendance each day, across the two buildings.
<In here on the Google Wave, are some poor photos taken at the expo, when I could sneak them in. If you're that interested in seeing these, I'll add them later.> 
 
 

Assassin's Creed II (PS3)

There was an understandably large demand for people to play this game, so logically, they provide a whopping four screens for it, and we were getting turfed out fairly quickly when I got my chance to play it, apparently it had been fifteen minutes. I don't believe that for a second. It was only available on PS3, where I dislike how they've mapped the controls out, however the game is desperately pretty to look at, and runs at a silky-smooth constant 60fps. Combat is relatively unchanged in it'smechanic , but has been made a lot smoother, and free-running is better than ever, being more immersive than in the original. I can't wait for this one.

Bayonetta (XBox 360)

This demo was short-lived for me, as it didn't explain the controls at all, and left you guessing what your objective was. Just a hack-n-slash with tits,guns and glasses. This will probably end up being a rental, as the story seems quite interesting, but I can imagine the gameplay getting boring quickly.

Blue Toad Murder Files (PSN for PS3 & PSP)

I played this game with no expectations, only really to get swag from the pretty women promoting the game, (T-Shirt and Beanie), only to find myself thoroughly enjoying it. The whole game was available for play through, as it's only a PSN game created by Relentless Software (creators of the Buzz games), though I resisted playing it through all the way. Despite some irritating voice-acting and sub-par lip syncing, this is a tremendously enjoyable, charming title.

Dante's Inferno (PS3, XBox 360)

The first game I played from the 18+ area of the expo, which I was eagerly anticipating, what with it being created by EA Redwood Shores (EARS) studio, the minds behind survival-horror, Dead Space. I left the small plastic stool with mixed feelings about it. Yes it was another Hack-n-Slash, the second of three atthe Expo, which got repetitive in the stage that I played, which was a very flat, monotonous scape , (I think I was only in the second circle), so the limited weapons and abilities may have led to this feeling. Despite this I remain hopeful due to some fantastic characterdesign , fluid gameplay which runs at a constant 60fps, with 30 enemies on screen in full 1080p viewing. I am hoping there is just one morehook that will make this game a sure-fire purchase.

Dark Void (XBox 360)

Was absolutely rubbish. The inability to run at more than a light jogging pace, the terrible voice acting, jerky framerate issues, and a sub-par story made this my biggest waste of time at the expo.

Forza Motorsport 3 (XBox 360)

Admittedly, I didn't play this, but if you've played Forza 2, you know what you're getting, but much, much better looking, and with better sounddesign to boot.

God Of War III (PS3)

This was an absolute fucking joy. Despite being the third Hack-n-Slash at the expo, it far excelled the rest, and was worth the forty minute wait to play, even if the demo only lasted me about 13 minutes. The fighting is intense and fluid, running almost too smoothly. The games looks glorious, and the gameplay is intense. I can even forgive it the relatively liberal use of Quick Time Events, due to them actually being tough, and marking the Square, Triangle, X and Circle buttons at the appropriate side of the screen, (left, top, bottom and right, respectively), add into this equation a short time within which to react to the prompt, make even a QTE and intense experience. Given also, and already excellentstoryline in the first two games, which continues with 3, will no doubt be great makes me want to ship my PS3 up to me, just for this game.

Heavy Rain (PS3)

Another fantastic exclusive that Sony has managed to bag, this game really does look incredible, very realistic. In case you're unaware, this is a detective game about a killer who kidnaps children and then sends their victim's families a box with a piece of Origami in it, earning them the title of 'The Origami Killer', hence the games subtitle. Gameplay is focused almost entirely on QTEs, but works as a point and click adventure for the modern day. This game oozes style, andthe voice acting and lip-syncing is phenominal, probably the best I've ever seen in a video game. My one concern with the game is that it is so graphically intense it caused the four PS3s it was running on to freeze. A lot. There were no console problems at all apart from those running Heavy Rain. If Naughty Dog think they 'maxed out' the PS3, they've probably worked so hard that they've not seen this masterpiece. Oh yeah. I'm one of the unfortunate ones who it crashed on.

Left 4 Dead 2 (XBox 360)

Time to make my brother jealous. (:D) This steals my Game Of The Show award, purely for the fact that I played it about four times over the two days, despite an often 30 minute wait, though the queues maxed out at one hour. Approximately half of a campaign was available to play, (two safe houses worth), in single player or offline co-op, where I played every time. It is very much more of the same, (no bad thing), butabout 12 times better as well. With 3 more special enemies than the original, and walking witches, the game is a lot more intense, and the new enemies make you jump a lot more, especially the Jockey and the Charger. The jockey works on a similar principle tothe hunter, jumping on you, usually just after you've taken down a massive horde, and want to heal, it seems, but rather than pin you down, it steers you (quickly) towards the nexthorde . The charger appears from nowhere, is half the size of a tank, and knocks you for a lot more than six. The addition of Melee weapons is a great one, although it does sacrifice your pistol, and when you find a machete, it gets insanely brutal. This game is insane heaps of fun.

MAG (PS3)

Massive Action Game. Another PS3 game. This was the last new game I got to play at the expo, and I'm not sure how to feel about it. The online beta has been around since just after E3 now, and people still playing know the maps inside out, and are really, really good. This was a case of spawn, run for a minute and promptlydie again. For about ten minutes. I died too often to count, and got no kills. Whilst I can see a lot of promise in this game, given 256 people online per server, divided into squadrons, in two teams of 128, I didn't really enjoy playing it in such a public environment, or without a headset, which was irritating, since communication is a HUGE part of this game. Then the servers crashed.

Monster Hunter Tri (Wii)

Terrible controller mapping, and it's stiff and blocky at best in terms of everything. Rubbish.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)

This, like most Nintendo booths were disappointingly empty for most of the expo, though this was clearly the busiest of Nintendo's showcase, and with good reason. After this was announced at E3 earlier this year, I admit I was very skeptical about it, but after playing with 3 other people, 2 of whom were complete strangers, we had a fantastic time. There were eight levels to play through, but you only had ten minutes to play on the demo. The game retains the old-school Mario charm, albeit a bit updated, and the visuals are bold, but smooth, and it runs great on the Wii. The object is to get more points than you competitors, by getting coins, flowers, mushrooms and beating enemies. There are no penalties for dying, though you only have five lives to make it through the levels. It sounds like plenty, but gets tough, especially as the screen follows the player in the lead. This, I will be getting at some point.

Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time (PS3)

Whilst I joined a game that someone had left running half-way through, the controls are simple enough to quickly figure out and get going with in an instant. The art is vivid and bold, yet despite vomiting bloom in you face, it remains tasteful. The sound had gone on my TV, so I can't comment on that, but the gameplay was solid and straightforward, which is nice in today's gaming climate. What's even nicer is that what I feel will be an accomplished and excellent platforming game, will stand out as a beacon in today's shooter-dominated climate. A breath of fresh air, which looks fantastic and plays even better.

Red Steel 2 (Wii)

This is a vast, vast improvement on the original, actually delivering what we wanted from the first that we didn't get. The new graphic styling suits the Wii a lot better than the original, semi-realistic approach that was previously taken. The Motion Plus attachment makes the sword play much more enjoyable, and detects power much better than the original did as well. I will wait for reviews on this one, though. They said the first was great, but they lied then.

Saboteur (XBox 360)

This probably steals second Game In Show. It had by far the largest demo on the floor and the graphical stylings are simply a treat to look at. From the Monotone in non-liberated sections of France, save for the red Nazi bands on theGestapo forces, and fire effects, to the very colourful and bright sections of liberated Paris. The controls are excellent, despite taking some getting used to. Combat is tight, and the cover system is brilliantly effective, and non intrusive to gameplay. Damage, as far as games are concerned, is relatively realistic, you can't take many shots before going down, and the Nazi's have the same health amount as you. Voice acting is brilliant, and despite putting on the accents, they sound more realistic than cliched. I really cannot wait for this game.

Split/Second (XBox 360)

This only had one track playable on the demo, the airport, which featured in the unveiling trailer earlier this year. The graphics are simple, but functional and good to look at, and the way they've incorporated the HUD just behind you car is a brilliant idea, meaning it's not a distraction as it's where you're looking at anyway, and only displays what you need to know; laps, score, position and effects meter. My one complaint is that the controls are touch too twitchy for my liking, which results in imprecise drifting, which is a shame as this appears to be the main way you fill up your special bar in order to activate the track effects.

Tekken 6 (PS3, XBox 360)

The final in the list of new games I played. (I also hit up Borderlands, despite sinking 26 hours into it, since Friday (22nd) evening). This is Tekken, finally on a return to the form that gave the series it's well-respected name in the first place. It runs fantastically smooth, and the combat feels fluid, even using the control stick, something odd considering other fighting games that have made this transition *cough* Street Fighter IV *cough*. The visuals are stunning to look at, and the addition of Mortal Kombat style changing arenas through breaking walls and floors, creates an altered atmosphere, that makes the series feel fresh again. There is also an absolutely MASSIVE character roster, probably close to 50 characters, including all old and some new characters, which means I can't help but wonder, 'Is this going to be the last ever Tekken?' I mean, going out on a bang with improved fluidity, no framerate issues, a huge roster and on both consoles?

So that's it for the games that I played at the Expo. Sorry for the essay on this, but there's more just below this.

Developer Sessions.

I saw three of these over the two days, all of which were very interesting to attend, and one that left me feeling very priveleged.

Ask Eurogamer! - Tuesday 27th

With Tom Bramwell & Johnny Minkley, online editor and main man of Eurogamer TV, respectively.

This was, as is fairly self-explanatory, a Q&A session with Tom & John about the expo, and video games in general, whilst nothing new was learned, particularly, it was interesting and provoked some mild debate, and made me realise just how many people had lucked it into the games business, especially as journalists.

Splash Damage, " BRINK ", Wednesday 28th (XBox 360, PS3)

With Paul Wedgwood, CEO of Splash Damage, creators of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory for id Software .

This made me feel like one of a priveleged few, the second group of people to have ever seen in game footage and the UK unveiling of Splash Damage's upcoming game, Brink. Brink is a futuristic shooter that features 8-player drop-in co-op gameplay, with two campaigns to complete. Brink is set in a fictional city built at sea, and was the pinnacle of green living. But the world outside went to shit, and left this place, called 'Ark' cut-off from everything else, and a load of refugees turned up and started living in the shipping containers of the docklands. This left them poor, and trying to seek a fairer distribution of wealth, whereas the security see them as nothing but terrorists. The gameplay features intuitive 'free-running' depending on where you look whilst sprinting at an obstacle. The visuals are fairly generic for a futuristic, struggle shooter, in a dystopian world, that was once the shining beacon of the human race.

From what I have seen of this, I am excited for it, as there is so much depth to it, so much more that I don't have the time, and I expect you don't have the will to read through, to explain. Keep your eyes out for this one. Brink is published by Bethesda Softworks.

Just Add Water, Gravity Crash, 28th (PSN)

With Stewart Gilray, CEO of Just Add Water.

Just Add Water is a small digital-distribution games company, with a team of just six staff, only three of which made Gravity Crash, a PSN exclusive, retro-style game. This is a game is nice to look at, but boring to watch people play. Using the classic 80's formulae of space shooters involving, Gravity. Inertia, Thrust and Vector Graphics, they bring the 80's back, and put it in Hi-Def for all to enjoy. This session was the shortest of those that I attended because most people didn't have questions to ask at the end, and a fairly dull powerpoint presentation explaining how the game was made and what influenced it. Meh.

That was it for the developer sessions that I saw, and all of them, with the possible exception of Brink, will be available to stream on the Eurogamer website soon.

I left at the end of the second day after about 18 hours of Video-Game testing, watching and listening. I was (and still am) exhausted, but I almost wish it couldn't have ended. It was a truly magical thing to attend, and I can see this getting larger, but hopefully not too large, as I feel it would lose the brilliant atmosphere where it's run by gamers and game journalists, and where security and other officials there love video games.

I can't wait for next year.

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