Sunday, 28 September 2008

FIFA 09... What a turnaround!

"Well Brian, the Wii version was playing a bit of a blinder early doors and looked to have this sewn up in the closing stages, but it's a game of two halves and the 360 version has come from nowhere, knocked in a couple of pearlers and blow me down he's taken it!"

Yes... after much pontificating about the merits of the Wii version of FIFA 09 and how disappointed I was that the Be-A-Pro offline multiplayer mode seemed to be missing from the 360 version I have changed my mind. My Wii pre-order has been cancelled and I have ordered the 360 version instead.

So, you may be asking, what prompted this action? GamesMaster. Yes, GamesMaster. I picked up a copy of the latest issue for some reading over the weekend and it included a review of the 360 version of FIFA 09. After digesting that I turned the page and skimmed through a review of the PS2 version. There I spotted the following line; "The Be A Pro mode allows you (and up to three friends, should they fancy it) to take control of a single player each and to build up their stats as you guide their career to glorious new heights..." I theorised that if multiplayer Be-A-Pro is available in the PS2 version, it MUST be in the 360 version!

So while I prey that I am correct in my theory, and I continue to scour the net for evidence to back it up, I am also feverishly hoping that my pre-order lands on my doormat on release day, October 3rd...

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

FIFA 09 Comedy Goal

I'm not going to ramble on again about the merits of the Wii version over the 360 version, just suffice to say that this video on it's own is making me seriously reconsider:

Little Big Planet




I've posted here previously about how excited I am about Little Big Planet, so I won't bore you with details of how I intend to purchase this game for my PS3 and that it will be the ONLY game I am intending to purchase for it and yet I have 4 PS3 sixaxis controllers ready to go in multiplayer for this!

What I do want to talk about is the beta that was released yesterday. I was browsing the rllmukforums and decided to check the Little Big Planet thread for any updates or new videos that may have been released since they confirmed the release dates (October 24th in UK!). Looking at the last few posts it seemed to suggest there was some sort of demo out there. I scrolled back through and found a link to Eurogamer where they were giving out beta keys. I hit the link and thus began a very tense 45 minutes or so!

You see, Little Big Planet looks like being a wildly popular game, so as you would expect it wasn't just me that was desperate to get a beta key. The interest seemed to have brought Eurogamer's website to it's knees! I was getting time outs and other error messages and frantically hitting F5 to refresh the page in the vain hope that it would load this time.

Over at The DVD Forums I found another link, this time to the actual page on Eurogamer where you got your beta key. The rllmukforum link was a news story on Eurogamer regarding the beta key release. So now I was desperately trying to load both pages with very little success! I finally got part of the pages loaded and noted that I needed to login to Eurogamer's website to get my key.

Now if I hadn't already signed up to Eurogamer that would have been the end of it as there was no way I could have got through the sign-up process. Fortunately I had signed up a few years back when Eurogamer had the exclusive Sensible Soccer 2006 demo, so I tapped in my details and hoped.

More timeouts and error messages and things were not looking good...

On a whim I checked my e-mail and had a message from Eurogamer congratulating me on obtaining a beta key and giving me a link for my message!! YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!! Now I just had to get the message to load to find out what the key actually was and what I should do with it!

After much frantic refreshing, the message eventually popped up on screen and I scribbled down the key and brief instructions on what to do with it. Dashing downstairs I found the kids glued to something on the TV and in no mood to let me switch over to the PS3. In some ways this was a bit of a blessing as I've got both of them well hyped up for Little Big Planet and there was no way I would have got them to bed if they had known what was going on!

With the kids tucked up in bed I followed the instructions (which included a dash back to the study to confirm whether they were 2's or Z's in the key) and got the beta downloading. To busy myself while I waited I did the ironing and watched CSI Miami and when the BBC News finished, Player Mum let me switch over.

Oh my.

Little Big Planet is utterly fantastic! It's everything I hoped for and so much more. I was just sat there giggling too myself at the antics of Sackboy and with a big childish grin slapped across my face.

I'll probably post more thoughts on it later, but for now just now that I love the game already and am really looking forward to getting my hands on the final release in a little over 4 weeks.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Vegas, Fable and FIFA

Player Two came over last night and we spent a fair chunk of time playing Rainbow Six Vegas in split-screen co-op terrorist hunt. It was fantastic! Admittedly we didn't manage to complete a single mission and we were disappointed that we couldn't re-spawn and there was no AI backup. Admittedly you've never been able to re-spawn in R6 (except in Lockdown if I recall) but that was why the AI backup was always great because if your main man went down you could just jump into the next one and carry on. Good stuff regardless though and I can see us playing it a lot more. In fact I am going to give GRAW another chance to see if it can change my mind!

I have been hearing a lot lately about Fable 2 (mostly on the Gamer Dork podcasts!) which to be honest I hadn't really paid attention too, having never played Fable. The enthusiasm I am hearing for Fable 2 has made me want to check it out and I am now actively looking for a cheap(ish) copy of Fable The Lost Chapters to play on my 360. I have put Fable 2 on my wishlist and taken it off several times already, so who knows what will happen there...

As we close in on the release date of FIFA 09 I am finding myself panicking slightly yet again over whether or not I am doing the right thing in going with the Wii version. But after another top night of playing Euro 2008 with Player Two I keep coming back to the same thing. If they had just kept the Be-A-Pro/Captain-Your-Country mode from Euro 2008 it would be a sure thing.

Without it... Well, let's see what the Wii version can offer!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Another Bubble

Loaded up Blue Dragon this morning for the first time in ages. I didn't have a clue what I had been doing last time I played it or what I should do next. I don't think I can be bothered to start over so it's on the At Risk list.

If I'm going to play a role-playing game I think I'd rather play Mass Effect which is still sealed on my shelf. I also quite fancy Fable 2, but may pick up Fable The Lost Chapters first...

In other news, Player Boy has discovered Star Wars The Force Unleashed. I fear I may never get to play it again!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Bubble Update

I've decided to slide Tomb Raider Legend into the To Trade pile. Life's too short to play games that you're not really into! I must remember that in future, it'll probably save me a pile of money...

Speaking of money, CEX will give £5 trade for TRL so I've not lost anything on it at least.

No decision yet on WWE or PDZ, they both only get £3 trade value at CEX so I'm thinking I might as well keep them at that price. For now at least...

The Force Unleashed

I've just spent the last hour or so playing Star Wars The Force Unleashed on Wii. I had pre-ordered it from Game a couple of months or so back and it turned up today, a day early!

First impressions are very positive. I'm thoroughly enjoying the game and the storyline. I had played the 360 demo and was very impressed by that and having just played the corresponding level in the Wii version they are completely different, so I may end up picking up the 360 version too in due course. (Actually there seems to be a lot of negative feeling out there towards the 360 version and the game in general on all formats, so this could be cropping up in sales or relatively cheap pre-owned sooner rather than later. I will have to keep my eye on it...)

The reason I plumped for the Wii version was the two-player duel mode that's exclusive to the Wii. I am slightly disappointed to discover that this is two-players only, i.e. there is no AI opponents to fight against, but I guess this is due to Clone Wars Lightsaber Duels arriving in November.

The force is strong with this one...

In other news I spent a few minutes cancelling some pre-orders at Game to replace them with cheaper ones over at The Hut. Every penny counts!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

On the bubble...

With my "To Trade" pile drastically reduced after Saturday's visit to CEX I have started to build it back up again. I currently have three 360 titles sitting in a pile halfway between where they would usually be (neatly slotted into a wall mounted storage unit) and the "To Trade" pile. All three are "on the bubble" and could find themselves back in their slots or in the pile.

The three titles are:

  • Perfect Dark Zero
  • Tomb Raider Legend
  • WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2007

I'll start with Perfect Dark Zero. It seems a sound enough game but I just found it all very uninspiring. I never played the original Perfect Dark on the N64 so I don't know any of Joanna's back story which may have helped, but also the setting of the opening level and the action incorporated in it didn't really excite me like I would expect a FPS to.

My only major complaint is that I did find the little changes from first to third-person perspective and back jarring. Just make up your mind, first or third!! Now I know other games do this, Rainbow Six Vegas for instance, but there it just seems much smoother and less obtrusive than it does here.

Tomb Raider Legend was purchased on a whim when Game had it in their sale. It cost me all of £4.99 brand new. Interestingly I had purchased TRL previously, it was one of the games I stockpiled prior to receiving my 360 at Christmas last year. Unfortunately I originally had my 360 rigged to a 4:3 VGA monitor and for some unknown reason TRL was squashed on the screen as if it was in the wrong aspect ratio, so I traded it in. I've since switched to a 16:9 CRT (sacrificing the lower quality image for the aspect ratio) with an RGB scart cable so I decided to try it again and picked it up when I spotted it in the Game sale. The game displays perfectly now, but I am finding the action in the game very frustrating.

I don't find repeating the same section over and over because I was just a teeny-tiny bit out on the jump that made up the very last bit of the section enjoyable. I also find games like this, i.e. where I am controlling a very acrobatic and versatile character, frustrating when I want him/her to do something that hasn't been planned for by the designers. Yes, I know that rock is slightly taller than Lara's waist, but it's not exactly smooth I'm sure she could manage to clamber onto it if she made an effort! No? Oh well...

Finally WWE. Me and Player Two have a long history of wrestling games, mostly purchased in an effort to recapture the fun on an old N64 wrestling game. The name of the game itself has been lost in the mists of time (but I believe it was one of the WCW/NWO titles) and Player Two was recently speculating that perhaps we remember it a little too fondly and if we went back to it now we would find it to be terrible.

What I do recall is that you could take on a series of fights in two player to ultimately try and win the tag team titles. If you then decided to go for the titles again with two different wrestlers, the last pair that you won the title with would remain the title holders until you fought them. I always thought that was brilliant!

Hideously complicated controls meant that myself and Player Two gleaned little enjoyment from our admittedly brief playtime with WWE. The big question is whether we can be bothered to apply ourselves and learn the controls in order to get anything from the game? I think we will need to explore the range of matches available to us within the game first. If we can embark on a series of bouts in pursuit of the tag team titles, it might just be worth it!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Less than seven weeks to go...

Less than seven weeks until Little Big Planet is released!!!


I have an XBox LIVE Gold account, so would I recommend it to a friend?


Of course, it should be quantified that my recommendation is based on my own personal experience and different people will have different feelings to me, but this is my blog and not theirs so I will now attempt to justify this...

Firstly I am not particularly "big" on on-line play, whether I have to pay for it or not. I have a fairly decent PC, by no means cutting edge, but able to comfortably handle something like Unreal Tournament III. Looking at my shelf of PC games I have around 10 popular on-line games that are free to play on-line but I have only ever played off-line. Why? Well, for starters I don't think I am skillfull enough to compete with some of the players out there and my idea of fun is not to a game of, say, Quake Wars Enemy Territory where I am constantly killed and re-spawn only to be killed again. I have better ways to spend my time, so games such as this I play in any available single-player mode and/or botmatch modes where I can tailor the difficulty to suit myself.

Of course, the reverse can be true and my opponents aren't as good as me and throw their toys out of their pram when they lose. On the Wii I have Mario Strikers Charged Football which has an on-line play mode that I have used exactly once on the first day I got the game. You play a series of 3 matches. My opponent won the first game but I won the second and the third was a tense affair that I won in sudden death extra-time. As soon as my goal went in my opponent disconnected from the match which meant I wasn't credited with the win. Ho hum, sore loser.

So if I'm not really interested in on-line play, why did I get the Gold account in the first place? The answer is FIFA 08. You see, EA made the roster updates only available to those players with Gold accounts, which I think is a pretty poor thing to do. With me switching to the Wii version for FIFA 09 I expect that I won't need to have any special account and/or have to pay for the roster updates on that version, so I am happy to let my Gold membership lapse to a silver account when it comes up for renewal.

The only other benefit is getting access to game demos a week early with a Gold membership, but I'm sure I can wait a week, can't I?


I have been playing the 360 demo for FIFA 09 and it's pretty good. I couldn't get on with it at first, some of the controls are slightly different and the crossing just isn't working for me so far, but I have really started to enjoy it. Some of the new things in it are great, e.g. the tackles and the way players fall, etc.

However, I have to remind myself that I have pre-ordered the Wii version. Here's hoping that it doesn't disappoint...

Fingers crossed it won't! And let's not forget the Wii-specific modes, like Footii Match:

Roll on October 3rd!


Took most of my "to trade" pile to CEX yesterday and came away with £39.20 in store credit. Promptly spent this on:

Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2 (Wii)
Madden NFL 07 (Wii)
Rainbow Six Vegas (360)

Plus 3 DVDs that I won't bother to name!

The only one of the above that I've tried so far is Rainbow Six Vegas, which is fantastic. Far better than Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter, which was consigned to the trade-in pile yesterday. Looking forward to trying DBZ and Madden 07. I'll admit that selecting Madden 07 was a bit of a risk as I'm not that into NFL (hence why I'm not fussed about rosters or other details being two years out of date) but am hoping it will still be enjoyable, especially in multiplayer with Player Two.

So what DIDN'T I pick up? I had Conan (360) in my hand for a long time and I took a long hard look at Battalion Wars II (Wii), however I later found that both of these are in the 2 for £20 range at Gamestation, so my next trade in may be done there with a view to picking these up.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Bad Company

With the fantastic offer at Morrisons where all their 360 titles are 25 quid I was considering what else I should pick up.

With this in mind I downloaded the demo of Battlefield Bad Company. I'd tried it when it was first released and didn't really get on with it. Trying it again I got further than I did previously, but still came away unconvinced.

I'm not saying it's a bad game. It's clearly very popular, but the challenges it presents don't really interest me, unfortunately.

Oh well, what's next?

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Maybe Madden?

Testing out the mail-to-blog feature I've just activated, which means I can post from my mobile phone!

After enjoying Tiger 09 so much on Wii last night, I'm considering other sports titles.

I've already ordered Fifa 09 for Wii, but am now planning on picking up Madden too. I can't afford the 09 version, but with some games to trade in I'm hoping to pick up the 07 or 08 version.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Tiger Woods (part 2!)

Morrisons currently have a fantastic sale on where you can pick up chart Wii titles for £15 and 360 titles for £25, amongst others. With this offer out there I couldn't resist picking up Tiger 09, but for which platform?

Arriving at the store this morning I still wasn't sure. Waiting for the doors to open I used the mobile internet on my phone (which is brilliant by the way! Remember when WAP was a joke and was more like teletext than the supposed mobile internet? Well now there really is such a thing as a mobile internet, and it is good!) to read up on a few more opinions.

Even in the store I had both copies in my hand at one stage and seriously considered buying both. In the end, the lure of motion controls and a price tag £10 lower meant the Wii version won the day.

Having just finished my first nine holes on Tiger, I am satisfied I made the right choice! Phew!

For the record, I ended up six over par. One birdie, 3 pars and... well, you can probably guess the rest...

I also picked up two copies of a DS game for Player Boy and Player Girl to unwrap at Xmas and also a 360 copy of GTA IV for me to unwrap!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Tiger Woods

With the Ryder Cup looming my interest in golf hits it's peak. I am considering sorting myself out with some lessons again and maybe dragging my golf bag out of the bag of the garage for a trip to the driving range. More to the point, I'm also looking to play some video game golf!!

With that in mind I've taken Tiger Woods 07 for my 360 down from the shelf for a play. I got it before Christmas 2007 when I was stockpiling 360 games in preparation for the big day and consequently I've played it once since then which didn't go too far beyond loading it up and making sure it worked.

I've played a few rounds over the past few days, enough to get a good feel for the game certainly, but tonight it's hit the "to trade in" pile!

The game is beyond frustrating! All my shots seem to be coming up way short of the target, not to mention the predicted "yardage" of the clubs. I'm having no end of problems actually driving the ball in a straight blooming line for starters!!

I don't know whether it's me, the 360 controller or the game or a combination of all three. I do know that I didn't have these problems with Tiger 04, 05 or 06 in the GameCube and am now regretting not having any of those to fall back on.

My thoughts turn, somewhat predictably, to the recently released 09 version. I've downloaded a demo of the 360 version and have found it much more comfortable than the 07 version. However, I can't decide now between the 360 version and the Wii version.

I quite like the idea of the motion controls for the Wii version as this could bring some level of actual skill into the game in multiplayer. I found on the Cube versions in multiplayer that myself and Player Two rarely ever hit a bad shot, any differences were usually down to poor club selection or getting a bad lie, etc. So the idea of having to execute a swing correctly (even if it's not a 1:1 reproduction of an actual golf swing) might be quite cool. Plus the Wii version is cheaper than the 360 one.

However, there are likely to be days when I just can't be bothered to stand up in my study and swing my arms around like a lunatic. Days where I just want to slump in a chair and press buttons, etc. Days when I can't get the kids off the Wii so I can play what I want to play, dammit! So the 360 version has it's appeal...

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Spider-Man : Friend or Foe Review (PC)

Thought I would post this here, it's a review I wrote over at rllmukforum last November:

I thought I'd jot down a few thoughts on this new title by Activision as it seems to have garnered a lot of (in my humble opinion) unfair negative criticism. A good example of this is in the latest issue of ONM, in the release dates section. They say (paraphrased, because I've left it downstairs and can't be bothered to go and get it) "We've not mentioned it before, and with good reason because it's rubbish."

Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not.

Okay, so it's no Halo 3, Bioshock, FIFA 08, Super Mario Galaxy, etc. But it is a fun little game, very much on a par with Lego Star Wars. In fact that's pretty much the template for the game and if Lego hadn't lost the Spider-Man licence to Mega Blocks a few years back then this might have been put out by Traveller's Tales. So it's a fairly simple game. Lots of combat, some very simple puzzles, boss fights, cool cut scenes, a fair smattering of unlockables, etc.

I'll talk about the things that bother me about this game first. Top of this list is that when playing, one of the two characters HAS to be Spider-Man. Okay, so his name is on the cover so you'd kind of expect that, but you can't even go back and re-play the level as, for instance, Blade or Iron Fist instead of Spidey. It would have been really nice to have had a "Free Play" mode similar to what is offered in Lego Star Wars. If you're playing in 2-player co-op (the way it was meant to be played, IMHO, just like Lego Star Wars) then someone always has to be Spidey, which could lead to arguments. At least if you are playing solo you can switch between characters so could just pick your fave as the AI backup and switch once the game gets going, but still...

Second on the list of niggles is the character list. There are some excellent choices in there (IRON FIST!!!) but I just wish it was larger, more on a par with... you guessed it... Lego Star Wars! Like I said, what is there is great, but I just wanted more!

It's also a relatively short game. If you die, you quickly re-spawn, unless you are in a boss fight, in which case if both characters die then you have to start the fight over, so it's not going to take you too long to complete.

On to the positives...

This is a brilliant game to play with kids, especially if they are Spidey fans. I'll admit it, I bought this primarily to play in 2 player co-op mode with my son, and we have had loads of fun with it. We've completed the story mode and unlocked all the characters, but we're now going back to re-play levels where we didn't collect all the items so we can tick off everything and upgrade all the characters to their maximum levels.

Combat is very simple, which is no bad thing if you're playing with a kid as your partner. But it does look really good and some of the moves the characters pull off had me and my son smiling and cheering.

The story line is fun, especially if you are into Spider-Man and know some of the background to the characters in the game. The storyline sets up a sequel nicely and I'm really hoping we get one, especially if it tackles some of the niggles mentioned above.

There is also a one-on-one 2-player mode where you can use any of the unlocked characters (and there is no requirement for one character to be Spider-Man like in the story mode) which works well. It plays very similarly to Power-Stone, which I think is a pretty good recommendation. Again, if there is a sequel I'd love to see this expanded to 4-player mode with free-for-all and team fights, etc.

Graphics are good. They're not going to win awards, but the art style is fun and consistent. All the characters are easily identifiable and it's just plain great to see some of the lesser known characters (Iron Fist, for example) represented in a game.

The game's also relatively cheap. I picked it up for £15 on PC and I saw the PS2 version in Game on Friday for £20.

Bottom line... Highly recommended, particularly if you have kids to play the game with and/or you liked Lego Star Wars.