A Lengthy Return (Dead Space, my arcade, GTAIV & more)

It's finally time to dust off this old relic and give blogging another go.

I started this blog with the hopes of it being a regular thing, but then a number of circumstances, including a two-week visit to Egypt, derailed those plans. But I'm gonna get back on the horse, and since I have plenty to say about videogames at the moment, this seems like the best time to start. So, without further ado:

- Been playing a fair bit of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved recently. That game is so awesome. That's extremely addictive, fun and challenging, and it's so simple that it's really easy to just jump into a game and have fun. It's also how much better you get at the game as you go; when I was starting out, I was lucky to get past 50K, but today I set my new high score, which was about 520K, which unlocked two achievements (get 500K and survive 250K), which I was seriously stoked about. It's been a while since I've been so pleased with myself after setting a new high score in a game. That just goes to show how challenging and rewarding Geometry Wars is. That game does very intense at times, especially when bad geometry dudes start coming at you from all sides, and I love the added strategy of when to use your bombs. It's just such an excellent game, easily the best downloadable game I've played yet. I intend to get all my money's worth out of Geometry Wars, then I'll buy and jump into Geometry Wars 2, which I now have very high hopes for.

- I've focused a lot more recently on arcade and more casual games. I really like the idea of putting a proper arcade that I can access at any time from my Xbox, and Live Arcade does have plenty of good stuff that provides such fun. Other games I picked up include Golf: Tee It Up!, which is sorta cool I guess for a downloadable golf game. It's not much, but it's fun. I also finally bought Uno, which I've been playing quite a bit of and is seriously fun and addictive

I also bought Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, which I haven't spent much time with, but Street Fighter is completely new to me, and I'm seriously bad at it right now because I haven't really worked out how it works. I may never learn, as it takes quite a bit of time and dedication to get good at Street Fighter. Still, it's there, and every now and then I'll give it a shot. But for when I want a fun simple blast of fighting action, I've got the original Soul Calibur. Now Soul Calibur IV is one of my favourite games of all-time, and Soul Calibur may have much less content and may not look anywhere near as good, but it still features SC's superb and fun fighting engine, most of the characters I know and love, and still packs a hell of a punch. It's an awesome downloadable alternative to the full-disc version.

I also noticed that there was a gap in my arcade for a true blooded arcade racer, which led me to download Burnout 3: Takedown from the Xbox Originals space. Having spent a fair bit of time with Paradise, which was my first experience of Criterion's arcade street racer, I expected to like it, but Takedown really is an intense thrill ride, and is so much fun to play. It's a lot more tight and focused than Paradise, and despite the graphics not being quite so sharp, it still has a completely amazing frame rate and a tremendous sense of speed. It's just a ton of fun to play. Finally, I also dusted off a couple of old puzzle games, including Zuma, an old favourite, Jewel Quest and Bejewled. They're still fun. I also should really spend more time to see if I can get at Ikaruga, and find time to finish off the last couple of levels of Rez. Both of those games are awesome, but haven't quite drawn me in like Geometry Wars did.

- So enough about downloadable games, let's get to the full-disc stuff. I did mention that I was more interested in casual fun gaming at the moment, which led me to fall back into playing Rock Band. That game is still a laugh riot, whether playing by yourself or with other people. Used it a fair bit over the Christmas break whenever we had people over, which led to some good times. I also managed to get through the solo guitar tour on medium, so now I'll see if I can move up to hard. I also at some point really need to spend more time with the solo drums hard mode. I can actually play the drums to a fairly good standard, and I think I could complete the game on hard with some patience and practice. That aside, the game is still extremely fun, the song list is still very strong, with only a couple of real duds. Most of the bad songs are at least fun to play, and there are still some killer cuts on there, like Nirvana's "In Bloom", "Learning to Fly" by the Foo Fighters, and my favourite "Welcome Home" by Coheed and Cambria. Unfortunately, my mic is busted, so I can't play through the singing mode, which is really annoying me because singing is really fun in Rock Band, and I'd like to get those achievements as well. Maybe I'll send it back to get a replacement or fix, or buy a new one. I'm also torn between whether I should buy the new Rock Band game. One of the problems is that I've also got my eye on the new Guitar Hero, which I am to understood is inferior to Rock Band as a game, but does have a killer song list. The fact that Guitar Hero has At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta is really helping to steer me towards GH. It's a good question; just what is more important in a music game, songs you know and love, or better gameplay? Can I sacrifice my loyalty to Harmonix and superior gameplay in order to rock out to some great songs, or should I just forget about ATD-i and stick to the superior Rock Band?

- To go back to the slightly more serious games, I completed Dead Space yesterday. That game is a lot of fun. It took me about ten hours to play through the story on medium difficulty, and despite an occasionally bland and confusing story, the gameplay is completely solid. There were times when I was pulled out of the experience and felt like I was playing a video game, but at other times the game is very atmospheric and immersive. So in that respect, maybe you could call Dead Space inconsistent. I've also heard people say that the game is too repetitive and bland. I don't necessarily agree with that. Sure, you will spend a fair amount of game time with the same weapons effectively doing the same thing, but the levels, and in particular the enemies, are so well designed that it doesn't really become too much of a detriment to the experience. It also helps that the game concludes really well; the difficulty curve progresses nicely, and there are plenty of "oh snap!" moments along the way. I did find the last boss a little bit of a let down, but that really didn't detract too much from what was a fun, completely solid, atmospheric and entertaining ten-hour game. I wouldn't give it Game of the Year, but I can totally understand why some people would, and it still a hell of a lot of fun.

- Finally, today I plugged in Grand Theft Auto IV to begin what feels like my twenty-ninth attempt to try and get through. In the story I only just got to the second safe house, but that game is so frustrating, stodgy and bland that I always feel like putting it down after spending a mere 30 minutes with the game. I hate the way the game makes you repeat levels when you fuck them up, especially when you've got to follow a dude for 5 minutes only to get shot by his cronies after 5 seconds. There are just lots of time when GTAIV, Giant Bomb's 2008 GOTY, just isn't fun for me. But today I've been trying to spend more time just having fun that game. I spent most of my time running down pedestrians, dodging the cops, playing darts with Little Jacob, doing jobs for Brucie, going bowling with Roman and screwing Michelle. I can definitely see why people didn't like the sandbox-style chaos and destruction gameplay that the GTA series is known for in this game, and maybe Saints Row 2 or San Andreas is a better game to experience that. But messing around in GTAIV is still fun, especially if like me this is your first sandbox crime game. It's still funny and charming, although there are times when the game seems to try too hard to be edgy and funny, which just falls flat. But I think there is still a fun game here, and my plan is to try and play through the story, and whenever I get stuck or frustrated, I'll just go on a crime spree or whatever to inject some of the fun back into the game. If this doesn't work, I may just have to conclude that GTAIV just isn't for me, so maybe I'll sell it and use the money I get for it to buy San Andreas on Xbox Live Originals.

- So now there's the question of what to do next. Dead Space is done, and GTAIV may take a while to really get into, so I need something else to keep me going. My new arcade has been serving me well, but after the fun I had with Dead Space I think I want a more story based game at the moment. I've been waiting for Far Cry 2 to be patched before I really get into that game because I don't have to get several hours into it only for my game to be erased, which I am led to understand can happen. I also really need to spend some more time with my Nintendo DS. I've got that collection of new DS games I haven't touched, and I think I could have a lot of fun with them, especially Final Fantasy IV, The World Ends With You and the new Pokemon game. I've had some fun with Harvest Moon DS, but maybe it's time to give up on that one and move onto something else. Or maybe Chrono Trigger will be the game that really gets me to use my DS. That game isn't released in the UK for a couple more months, but it's definitely one I've got my eye on.

I also really want to get Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, mostly because it seems to be Giant Bomb's darling of 2008, and it does sound like a really fun game that I could enjoy playing. I've also had my eye on Project Gotham Racing 4 (because I love racers), The Orange Box (because I love Valve and achievements), and Madden NFL 09 (because I love football), but I'm not exactly loaded with cash at the moment, so since the upcoming releases isn't exactly stacked, there'll be plenty of time to get to those games. There's also quite a few games I've played recently and loved, but would like to spend more time with or play again. I'm waiting for their DLC to be released before I get back into Fable 2 and Fallout 3, probably my top two games of 08, and I'd also like to spend more time with Burnout Paradise, or maybe even Pure.

Of 2009's new releases, there's only really a few I've got my eye on. Street Fighter IV sounds really good, but I'm only going to get that if my time with Turbo HD Remix goes well. I really want to play Tales of Vesperia, which has been out in Japan and USA for months but doesn't get released here until like April. I also have some interest in playing Resident Evil 5; I've never really spent too much time with a RE game, but it looks like it could be good times. And then there's a few games I've been looking to rent recently, including Mirror's Edge and Prince of Persia. And finally, just like GTAIV, there are a few games I've had for a while but haven't really spent enough time with. I loved the first six hours I spent with Viva Pinata, but haven't touched that game since, and maybe I should make another attempt to get into Mass Effect and Gears of War, two games which I didn't really like on first impressions and so put down and haven't really picked up since. So there are stacks of games I could be playing, or will be playing in the coming months, but I'm not sure just what game I want to get into right now.

This might be one of those weeks of putting in like 10 games and trying to see which one sticks. It started today with GTAIV, maybe I'll plug in Mass Effect next. Or I just my rental copy of FIFA 09, so maybe I'll spend some time with that. We'll see. Regardless, I'm having a ton of fun with my games collection at the moment, hence why I decided to retry this blog. Not sure how often I'll update it - couple of times a week - so, yeah, stay tuned


Thoughts on Fable II (WARNING: contains spoilers)

As you may have been able to surmise from its presence on my top 20 list of my favourite games ever, even after only had it for just over a week, Fable II has completely captured my heart. Now allow me to explain why.

I've always been a massive RPG fan at heart, and the original Fable, which I completed earlier this year after acquiring it through Xbox Live Arcade's Xbox Originals serive, left a big impression on me. I'm fairly certain that Fable holds my record for most consecutive hours spent playing a video game at 10 hours, which I'm sure i a miniscule number compared to many others, but the fact that this game beat Oblivion in terms of consecutive hours played is amazing. While there were certain aspects of Fable I found irritating, especially how short the game is, it did achieve one massive goal decisively; it serves as perhaps the best possible endorsement/advertisement for Fable II, which quickly jumped to the top of my most anticipated list.

Early information about the game seemed promising. Bigger more interactive world - awesome. One button combat - alrighty. Better storyline - nice one. Bread crumb trail - fair enough. Inability to die effectively - fine. Online and local co-op - whatever. It was this sense of anticipation that led me to pre-order the collector's edition, which was disappointingly altered, removing some of the best content. No matter; still got it at a good price. First impressions were interesting; it clearly had the charm and humour of the original Fable, and it looked awesome, but it still felt maybe a little clunky. It was after more time with the game that I understood just what Lionhead had done with Fable 2.

I reckon I spent about half of the first six or so hours with the game doing sidequests, talking with villagers, gambling and doing one of the many menial jobs around. It's amazing that I could spend so much time with the work mini-games, which basically just involved hitting the A button at a certain time and is about as simple a game mechanic as possible. But Fable 2 makes it fun, and the reason it's fun is the prospect of making more money so you can buy better equipment, buy some real estate and start a family. It's an extraordinary feature, but it really adds something to the game, especially at the start, and it's one of the most bizarrely rewarding game features I've come across.

Of course this wouldn't be a Molyneux game without absurd British accents, toilet humour and whimsical characters, and Fable 2 brings all this and more. But it presents itself better than the original, partly because the graphics have been improved greatly, as has the amount of exploration you can do and the size of the map has increased. The combat is still basic but satisfying. It's rather button-mashy, at least to start, but there are interesting things you can do to mix it up. It feels to me a bit like the combat in Assassin's Creed, which loads of people hated but I found rather satisfying and simple fun. It also helps a games presentation when you have such a good voice cast; Stephen Fry's performance in particular is legendary.

It took almost exactly a week - and about 25 hours or so of game-time - for me to finish the story mode. I quite liked the ending. I know a lot of people didn't, but I really liked the drama of it. I chose the needs of the few, not because I wanted to save my family, although I did, but because I wanted to keep my dog, and felt it was a nice middle ground decision. So Albion is safe from the tyranny of Lord Lucien thanks to me, and having now amassed a real estate empire of around 3 million gold, I am the king of Albion. Kickass.

Fable 2 has its flaws, but as an experience it is totally breathtaking. There was a point at one time when I found out from my wife that my daughter had gone adventuring into a Hobbe cave, and so I went off to rescue her. And once I found the Hobbes who had her caged, I genuinely felt like tearing their fucking bollocks off for daring to touch my sweet little girl. It's rare that a game can get that kind of emotional reaction from me, but I care for that little pile of pixels, and I wanted to keep her safe. That's what makes Fable 2 so special. It has heart. It has depths that so few other games have. It's so much about the actual experience, rather than being bombarded with relentless combat.

I've only used one character so far, who I decided was going to be completely righteous and holy. I've had a halo over my head for virtually the entire game. I have made some bad decisions (I chose to sacrifice the girl in the Reaver quest for some reason, probably because I didn't want to spoil my immaculate looks), but I've pretty much played through the game as a model citizen. I think that reflects my personality. I have a ruthless streak, but I think I'm quite a nice person, and I like it when people like me. And everyone in Albion loves me. And I mean EVERYONE. I can be quite annoying walking through Bowerstone having to wade my way through a massive crowd of kids begging for my autograph and women begging for my hot dick several inches within them, and there are times when one considers just killing them all. But I quite enjoy it in a way.

However thenI made a slightly less pious and holy decision; I decided to get a second family. I married Kate the Stylist in Bowerstone and we have two kids, Will (named by the game) and Miranda (original name Daisy; renamed in honour of the Mars Volta song "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore", and just because I love the name), and we live in Bowerstone Market, just by my wife's shop. However I recently acquired Giles's Farm and decided that since I like Brightwood I really would like to have an excuse to come back often, so I wanted a family there. I didn't want to move my family because my wife and son both love Bowerstone and my wife works there, so I decided to get a second wife, Hannah the Housewife, whom I then relocated to Giles's Farm, and we have a daughter, named Natalie, who was named by the game, which is totally badass because I love the name, partly because it brings to mind the divine goddess known as Natalie Portman. To make matters even more interesting, I completed the Lady Grey quest today, and decided to keep her as my own. We moved into Fairfax Castle and we have another daughter, Rachel. That's right; Iz got ho's in different area codes. Iz totally pimpin'. Respec.

I know I care far more about this stuff than I should, but I genuinely love this aspect of the game. I wish Oblivion had a similar feature; it would make it so much less sterile and generic. Perhaps I only say that because I've spent about 1,000 hours with Oblivion, but aside from technical issues, the sterile nature of Oblivion is still my biggest criticism of the game. I genuinely believe that if you took Fable 2 and TES4: Oblivion and somehow smashed them together to make one game, the result would be, in my opinion, the greatest game ever made. Anyway, I'm pretty much all done with Fable 2 now. I've done all the quests and most of the smaller stuff, but at some point I definitely intend to come back to the game; I'd really like to play as a totally evil fucker and make everyone fear me, but I'd also like to mix things up and create a female character who is both good and cruel.

However there is one particular feature of the game which still has me somewhat addicted. I know a lot of people hated the Fable 2 Pub Games - its 1-star review from Giant Bomb is clear evidence of this - and I agree that charging 1,200 MS points was completely ridiculous, which is why I didn't buy it. That being said, I have really enjoyed playing the pub games in-game. Spinnerbox is a pain in the bloody ass because you have to play for ages to get anything right. Keystone is quite fun, but I never feel that compelled to play much of it. But easily the best pub game is Fortune's Tower. It sort of reminds me of Deal or No Deal, which I was at one point a huge fan of (for the record, the British DonD is way better than the dumb American version), and it's incredibly addictive. I've reacher 4-star gambler status all from playing Fortune's Tower, and I think I've probably spent about 5 hours of game-time just playing Fortune's Tower. It's strange, but it really is one of the game's best features. One of the things you also need to understand is that being someone who loves video games and love music, games which give me the opportunity of combining the two are often some of my favourites - Oblivion comes to mind. After one or two playthroughs with the sound on I hardly ever kept the sound off from then on, because it was so much fun to listen to music and play the game at the same time - and although I don't find I can do that with Fable II (at least not yet), I can definitely play Fortune's Tower with music. It's amazing how addictive Fortune's Tower. Speaking as someone who's played a lot of computer chess, solitaire and hearts, I would love to have this on my laptop, although without the added bonus of earning in-game gold would perhaps diminish the appeal. Anyway, I'll think I'll play more Fortune's Tower until I reach 5-star gambler rating, then I may well put the game to bed for now.

So those in a rather large nutshell are my thoughts on why Fable II is such a special game. I love almost everything about it; the combat is hella fun, the visuals and art design are gorgeous, I really enjoyed the story mode, and it has incredible charm and a great sense of humour. Yes, I wish it was a bit more intuitive, and yes, I wish that there weren't bugs in the game, including one which caused one of my daughter's to become fixed in one spot forever and she never reacted to anything, and yes, I wish maybe that it had more than 25-30 hours of gameplay, and yes, I wish it wasn't quite so easy to make ludicrous amount of money. But none of this matters, because Fable II has something that not a huge amount of games have; heart. Some may disagree, especially in light of the failed collector's edition and the extortionate cost of the Pub Games XBLA game, but Lionhead have clearly displayed a passion and love for their art with this game, and they have created a game that I shall certainly treasure for a long time. Fable II is gaming at its finest - an amazingly absorbing experience full of heart, charm and adventure.


My Top 20 All-Time Favourite Video Games

So I gave a general overview of my gaming tastes on my previous blog entry, but now I think it's time to go in deeper, with a full list of my all-time favourite games, in ascending order, so you can get a much more specific feel of my tastes. I'll include the game, the year of release, the developers, the system I played it on, and explain why I loved the game.

20) Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon - 1998, Konami, Nintendo 64

Blimey thinking of this game takes me back. This was my first experience of Japanese RPG's. I have no idea why I bought it, but I immediately fell in love with it for it's wacky story, it's great visuals, it's expansive world, solid gameplay and interesting characters. How could you not love a game where the antagonists are using a peach shaped spacecraft to turn Japan into a dance stage? Impossible. I'm fairly certain this was also one the first  games I ever played to completion which wasn't designed for kiddies.

19) Assassin's Creed - 2007, Ubisoft Montreal, Xbox 360

A rather polarising game, I loved Assassin's Creed for it's awesome visuals, it's compelling if occasionally frustrating story and it's great open world gameplay. I didn't hate the combat as much as most, and it's a game that presents itself so well. I did get bored towards the end, but the first 10 hours I spent with the game were a total blast. A guilty pleasure.

18) Burnout Paradise - 2008, Criterion Games, Xbox 360

A much newer game, and my first experience of Criterion's Burnout franchise. Sure the idea of an open world street racer is weird and a little daunting at first, but the driving is a totally intense blast. It's not a game you can play all weekend, but in short chunks with excellent driving music blaring, there aren't many games that are as fun as Burnout Paradise, especially since they added bikes, which made a great game even better.

17) Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell - 2002, Ubisoft Montreal, PC

I adored this game. The story was excellent, the visuals cool, the gameplay excellent and original. It was unlike any game I'd ever played. I played through it several times and never tired of it. It's a shame that none of the later games in the series have lived up to the standard set by this first game; Chaos Theory was good, but the ending was impossible.

16) The Darkness - 2007, Starbreeze Studios, Xbox 360

One of the most original and compelling FPS's I've ever played. In a world full of samey generic shooters, The Darkness was a breath of fresh air with its great aesthetics, excellent creepy story, terrific and fun gameplay and some of the best voice acting you will hear in the game. A truly excellent shooter.

15) WWF No Mercy - 2000, THQ, Nintendo 64

I was a huge wrestling fan for significant portions of my life, and this was by far my favourite wrestling game. It looked better, played better and felt better than all of the other games around at the time, and it stood as one of the deeper and more immersive wrestling games I've played for a long time. The first Day of Reckoning for the GameCube was obviously a better game, but for its time No Mercy was completely unmatched.

14) Fable - 2004, Lionhead Studios, Xbox 360 (Xbox Originals)

A stunningly well realised and utterly charming open-world RPG, Fable had so much going for it, it was a shame it was limited by a story mode which doesn't get going until the second half, and it was definitely too short. Despite this, few video games have entertained me and offered as much immersion as Fable did. A unique and wonderful experience.

13) Eternal Sonata - 2007, tri-Crescendo, Xbox 360

My all-time favourite JRPG. It takes a truly unique and wonderful story and wraps it gorgeous visuals, stunning music, and one of the most effective and entertaining turn-based combat systems in recent years. Eternal Sonata was an absolute dream, and stood out as a special experience, one that I could relive over and over again. True gaming magic.

12) Soulcalibur IV - 2008, Namco (Project Soul), Xbox 360

Soulcalibur IV wasn't my first game in the series, that honour went to the excellent GameCube version of SCII. However SCIV is clearly the most realised and outstanding game I've played in the series, and stands out as the best fighting game I've ever played. Fighting game purists will hate me for saying it, but Soulcalibur is the daddy for fighting games, and is a total blast to play, especially if you love boobs!

11) Forza Motorsport 2 - 2007, Turn 10 Studios, Xbox 360

Many driving games have come and gone, but few offer the depth and immersive quality of Forza. Having never owned a Playstation, I've never experience a Gran Turismo game, but now I don't need to. Forza offers so much that it's pretty much the only racing sim you will ever need. The driving is more fun in Burnout, but the depth of the career mode and the ability to collect exotic cars from around the world, coupled with excellent visuals and good gameplay, makes Forza 2 the best in its class.

10) Harvest Moon: A Wonderful LIfe - 2004, Natsume, GameCube

I've been a fan of the Harvest Moon series for a long time, and this in my opinion is the series finest hour. One of the most charming, immersive and deeply satisfying simulations I've ever played. Few games have the heart of A Wonderful Life, and even fewer could make something as mundane as farming so interesting and compelling. A special game.

9) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - 1998, Nintendo, Nintendo 64

It took me eight years for me to beat this game, but I spent many hours struggling through it and watching my sister play it when it came out, and I was totally in love with it. A stunningly beautiful, well realised and imaginative game, there's a reason why it's so often labelled the best game ever. It does have some shortcomings, but it's definitely the most groundbreaking and exceptional game of its generation, and even today it stands out as an excellent game.

8) Fable II - 2008, Lionhead Studios, Xbox 360

Call this judgement premature all you want, since I've only had the game for 10 days. I fucking love this game. I love everything about it. It's got the Harvest Moon quality of infinite charm and the ability to make the mundane rewarding, and it's completely addictive and compelling. It has quite a few flaws, although slightly less than its predecessor, but it's impossible not to love this imaginative and brilliantly ambitious game. An RPG fan's heaven.

7) Madden NFL 2005 - 2004, EA Sports, GameCube

Being a massive fan of both football and video games, I couldn't have a favourite games list without a Madden game, and 2005 stands out as a clear favourite. It has well refined gameplay, a deep and engaging franchise mode, great visuals, and most importantly, the create-a-playbook feature which has been so tragically absent in the most recent Madden games. Even today 05 is still the best football game I've played.

6) The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - 2000, Nintendo, Nintendo 64

Many will snort with derision with this game's placement above it's much more hallowed older brother, but while I'm more than happy to admit that Ocarina of Time was a better game, Majora's Mask is still my favourite game in the series. The story wasn't as good but I liked the fewer number of temples, the open and interesting gameworld, the unique time bending mechanic and the game's depth. Also, I'm a sucker for sidequests, and Majora's Mask had some damn fine ones.

5) Pokemon Gold/Silver - 2001, GameFreak, Game Boy Colour

When I was young, I was the biggest Pokemon fan. I collected all the cards, watched the anime, but most of all I loved the games, and Gold/Silver still stand as the best game(s) of the series. It had the same charm and excellent gameplay of R/B/Y, but with much more depth, more Pokemon and many more features. One of the best sequels ever. I loved this game so much I actually had both copies, so I could trade with myself. I was a lonely child...

4) Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings + The Conquerors Expansion - 1999, Ensemble Studios, PC

I have to add the game and the expansion here because the expansion added so much to the game that without it it would probably wouldn't be in the top ten. I love history, and so Age of Empires II appealed in such a big way. I've never played a RTS that was as compelling to me as AoE2. The campaigns were well realised, it looked great, it played phenomenally well, and it was incredibly addictive, so much so that I was playing right up to as recently as two years ago. A true classic.

3) BioShock - 2007, 2K Boston/2K Australia, Xbox 360

Me and FPS's have a love-hate relationship, but BioShock is possibly the most loveable I've ever played. It's certainly the most atmospheric, and features one of the best stories. You can't call it truly original if you've played a System Shock game, but for me BioShock was a completely new twist on the FPS formula which left me totally in awe, thanks to its amazing graphics, truly brilliant story, strong gameplay and its complete sense of immersion. I loved it so much I named my Giant Bomb profile from it.

2) Half LIfe 2 + The Orange Box - 2004, Valve Corporation, PC

I often go back and forth on whether I liked this or BioShock more, but perhaps because Half-Life 2 came first I have to give it the nod. Like BioShock it had an amazing story, a great atmosphere and great immersion. But its gameplay was where Half-Life 2 really shone. It was such a blast to play, and the two epilogue games made it even better. The sound of poison headcrabs still scares the shit out of me today. A truly legendary gaming experience.

1) The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - 2006, Bethesda, PC

This game was my first experience of the Elder Scrolls series, and it offered more immersion, intrigue and enjoyment than any game I've ever played. Many games have had better stories, and better combat, and better visuals, but no other game can bring all these features together and bring them into such a fascinating fantasy world as Tamriel. Oblivion is better than the sum of its parts, and its parts are pretty amazing on their own. It's undoubtedly got some flaws, but none of them matter, as evidence by the fact I've spent a good 1,200 hours in the past two years or so playing the game. Truly the best.

So there's a much deeper insight into my gaming tastes and a comprehensive list of my all-time favourite. I think that list tells you all you need to know about my tastes. I don't always like the most obvious or mainstream games (please note: an Xbox fan who doesn't care for Gears of War or Halo), but I know what I like, and this is it. So now that we all know each other and we're all friends, regular service will begin tomorrow. Until then.

P.S. Get used to long blog posts. If my other blog is anything to go by, there's plenty more where that came from. Consider yourselves warned.


Would you kindly read my first blog entry?

It's funny that I was actually one of the first Giant Bombers. I woke up on the 21st July and the site was online and running. I had to jump in. For the first two or three days I got addicted to posting on the site, hence the post count, but then I just sort of faded away from the site for unknown reasons. I've been a die-hard listener of the Bombcast for ages; I got into it around the time of the first proper Bombcast, so I never got to hear the Arrow Pointing Down podcast. Shame. Anyway, so in spite of this severe absence, I've decided to be more involved in the Giant Bomb community by posting more on the message boards and maintaining this blog.

I've already got a blog at a music website I regularly frequent, AbsolutePunk.net, but I've found in recent weeks I've spent much more time talking about games that I have spent talking about music. So I figured I may as well make a seperate blog for all my gaming musings and keep my other blog gaming related. On my other blog I also cover the NFL football season, wih predictions, recaps and other thoughts, and also do personal life updates. I think I'll probably post the NFL topics here as well, but I'll keep the personal stuff off to keep it as tight and relevant as possible - my other blog can get a little messy. So as of today, I am dedicated to joining the many dedicated bloggers we already have here at this fine gaming site.

So I guess this first entry had better be about introducing myself, giving some background, and explaining just what you'll be getting yourselves into if you read this blog.

I started gaming during the early 90's; we had a Sega MegaDrive in our house, which I loved, but then into the later 90's we had to get an Nintendo 64. From there I was a loyal Nintendo fan. I've had about 4-5 Game Boys of different types and sizes over the years, and coming into the early 2000's I got a GameCube. I also did quite a bit of PC gaming, although I never used online gaming, and still don't really to this day. Eventually I went off games for a bit until I got way into The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for my PC, which quickly became my favourite game of all-time. I obsessed with it for all of 2007, during which time I tentatively considered whether I should get a new games console, and which one I should get. For a while the Wii stood out as the obvious choice due to my history with Nintendo, but the gimmick never really appealed to me. So the choice was between the Hi-Def consoles, but they were rather expensive. Eventually though I made up my mind. Partly because I was so dispondent that Crysis wouldn't run on good graphics settings on my laptop, and partly because we just got a Hi-Def TV at my Mum's house, I had to join the next gen, and so I got an Xbox 360. I don't regret this decision in any way. It's broken down once on me, and I got it back in 10 days, which was rather annoying. In 2008 I have toyed with the notion of getting a second console, but I've resisted the temptation so far, and aside from Oblivion, Half Life 2 and Portal, I've spent very little time playing PC games this year.

So that's pretty much a recap of my general gaming history, but I'll get a little more specific later on. I'm looking forward to doing this blog; it should be a fun ride. For now though, peace.


Love the site

The site looks awesome. It looks like such a great community to hang out in. 5 star rating for the site. The tech guys did a great job.

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